Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Texas Cookie Cookin’ February 28, 2010

Filed under: cookies/brownies,dessert,easy,locavore — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:47 pm

Texas cookies

Now that I’ve discovered the technique of sifting most of the bran out of Richardson Farms locally grown, fresh-ground whole wheat flour (see Texas Bread) I’m really on a roll.  Or a cookie.  Here’s a crunchy, buttery Texas cookie filled with local pecans.  Easier than pie, a batch bakes up ’bout as fast as you can eat ’em.  Tell your sweet tooth to go local!


  • 8 ounces (about 1 2/3 cup) sifted Richardson Farms flour (most of the bran removed)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder, sieved.  I use Rumford, aluminum-free and non-GMO.
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda, sieved
  • 6 ounces local or organic butter, cut up.  Organic Valley‘s my standard.  Click for a coupon. Look for Lucky Layla (that’ll make a very rich cookie!) at Central Market or Way Back When at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market and Elevated Artisanal at the Austin Farmers Market.
  • zest of one well-scrubbed Texas orange (optional)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 152 grams (¾ cup) organic brown sugar.  CM’s brand sells for $2.99 for a 1½ pound bag.
  • 150 grams (¾ cup) organic sugar.  Costco has cornered the market on Wholesome Sweeteners 10-pound bag for only $7.77.  Otherwise, CM’s 2-pound bag still sells for $2.99.
  • 1 local egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  I like Nielsen-Massey.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar.  Whole Foods 365 brand usually sells for the best price.  I buy the big ole quart bottle.
  • 2 2/3 cups Texas pecan pieces.  At the downtown farmers market, Star J Farms sells a 3-pound bag of sweet nuts for $22.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cream the butter with the next four ingredients (including optional zest) until well blended.  Beat in the egg, vanilla and vinegar.  Stir in the flour mixture and pecans until well-mixed.

Drop dough by 2-Tablespoonfuls (a spring-loaded scoop works great here) onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet (I use If You Care brand), spacing cookies about 3″ apart.  Bake for about 14 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking, until browning around the edges.  Cool on pans on cooling rack for 5 minutes.  Place cookies on racks to finish cooling.


Cabbages! February 26, 2010

Filed under: easy,fast,Indian,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:11 pm

eat your veggies!

The kindergartner’s basketball schedule keeps interfering with our farmers market visits.  The little hotshot’s worth it though, and luckily we can pick up Texas produce at the grocery store.  Central Market is still selling Cora Lamar’s triple-washed spinach, Kitchen Pride mushrooms, and Texas greens, herbs, sweet potatoes, citrus and the occasional leek bunch.  Just this afternoon we purchased Texas-grown broccoli (not always widely available, even in season) from Whole Foods.

Here’s an easy, exotic but accessible, inexpensive and quick stir fry to take advantage of Texas cabbage, readily found right now.


  • one quarter of a medium (’bout 3-pound) Texas green cabbage.  You can find these at our local grocery stores as well as farmers markets.
  • ½ teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 or 2 Tablespoons high smoke point oil.  I like Spectrum‘s organic peanut oil.
  • about 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste.  I use Diamond Crystal.

Cut the cabbage wedge in half (so you have two eighths!) and slice each wedge into ¼” or finer shreds.  Place the spices in a large (12″) skillet (NOT nonstick) and get it going over high heat.  You’re dry toasting the spices here.  The mustard seeds will lighten color, wiggle and pop as they roast and the cumin seeds will darken and develop a toasted aroma.  When the spices are as roasty as you like—you can take them all the way to black if you dig that bitter edge—add the oil, followed quickly by the cabbage.  Stir fry until the cabbage picks up some brown spots.  You’ll smell the Maillard and the tantalizing caramelization taking place.  Add the salt and continue to stir fry until the cabbage is as wilted as you please.  Serve.


Texas Bread February 25, 2010

Filed under: bread,bread machine,locavore,rice — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:25 pm

100% wild-cultured sourdough leavened

local loaf

Texas slice

I recently read about Carla Crownover‘s “No Grocery Store Challenge for a Year” on the Austin Farm to Table blog.  Inspired by her quest for bread, I began developing a 100% wild cultured sourdough starter with Richardson Farms locally-grown, fresh-ground whole wheat flour.  I succeeded in baking up two small, but well-risen loaves, sweet(!) and tasting nuttily of fresh wheat.  I strengthened the dough with organic white flour for my wild starter’s virgin attempt at leavening, intending to advance to a 100% naturally leavened, 100% whole wheat loaf next.

Despite the confidence-building rise of these initial breads, however, the light bulb part of my brain flickered and I thought, why not just sift out most of the bran from my whole wheat flour?  The sharp edges of the bran particles slice into the dough’s gluten strands, reducing volume and creating a denser texture.  Less bran=lighter loaf (not factoring in additives ).  Plus, according to BBC’s TV program Gardener’s World, bran is the best slug deterrent.  You needn’t throw it away.  Apparently the gooey pests eat it up and expire.  And then your chickens gobble the slugs.  Gotta love that food chain!

Here’s a not-necessarily-but-possibly totally local sandwich loaf (except for the salt—only Tuscans can get away with saltless yet edible pane, and yeast). Light-textured and wheaty, this bread makes fine sandwiches, fluffy/crisp toast and of course, an accommodating base for a thick swath of butter.


I used the bread machine to mix and knead the ingredients.  Place the ingredients into your bread machine in the order indicated by your instruction manual.  In my machine, that would be the order listed.   When the machine stops, take the pan out, cover it with plastic and let the dough rise.  A cooler first rise promotes flavor development, so I banished the dough to the cold laundry room for a couple hours.

With buttered hands, press the dough down and shape it into a loaf.  Cradle your bread baby into a buttered 9″ X 5″ loaf pan, cover the pan with a very large upturned bowl and let rise until the dough feels puffy when you poke it.  It should be risen to 1″ over the edge of the pan in the center.

Slash the top of the loaf and bake in a 350º oven for about 40 minutes, until well-browned.  Remove the loaf from the baking pan and let it cool on a cooling rack before slicing.

Keep it local!


Pepper in Your Pot: Dai Due Kielbasa and Rice with Cabbage February 19, 2010

Filed under: Dai Due,Indian,meat,rice,slow cooker,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:56 pm

sausage and rice is nice

The house smells great right now.  I’m brewin’ up some pepper broth (finally!) with the frozen bag of pepper trimmings that has rested undisturbed since the last local bell graced our kitchen—some weeks ago, at least.  Before a friend enlightened me about her family’s practice of distilling sweet peppers’ essence from the stems, seeds and ribs, I had always tossed the remains into the compost.  What a waste!  Now the pepper parts warrant their own freezer bag.  Augmented by the occasional onion end (not too many, please), the bag broths up savory and deeply aromatic, with nary a meat scrap or bay leaf.

Taking it easy on myself (somebody has to), I just dump the capsicum contents into the crock and slow cook ’em on HIGH for a couple hours or so.  The mouthwatering fragrance fills the air with a delectable scent that promises a delicious dish ahead:  Dai Due sausage and rice.  Again?  Yes.  Thankfully, again!  And an easy Indian-style cabbage side for a bonus.

You’ll be using 2 separate large skillets for this two-pot meal.  Remember you can purchase most spices in small amounts from your grocery store’s bulk department.  I bring in my own containers.

SAUSAGE AND RICE serves the family plus leftovers

  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed well (3 times!) soaked in water and/or pepper broth for 10 minutes, drained (save the soaking liquid) and rested for at least 10 minutes
  • 4 Tablespoons ghee.  I make my own ghee from Organic Valley butter.  Click for instructions.
  • 1 Tablespoon high smoke point oil, preferably organic.  I like Spectrum‘s oils.
  • 1 pound excellent local sausage links, such as Dai Due’s kielbasa (which blends seamlessly with these seasonings)
  • 1 local or organic onion, halved and thinly sliced pole to pole.  Hillside Farms, at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, was still selling reds and yellows the last time I checked.
  • a couple of thin quarter-sized slices of organic ginger root.  I almost never peel fresh ginger.  Handle your own root as you please.
  • 1″ piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 black cardamom pods (or 3 or 4 green, but I prefer the large smoky pods of black cardamom for this dish.)
  • 1 bay leaf.  Get growin’!
  • 1 star anise
  • pinch of turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at Central Market.

Heat 2 Tablespoons ghee in a large (12″) skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt (I like Real Salt) and stir and fry until the slices are well browned.  Remove pan from burner and replace with another large skillet (not nonstick here).  Heat it up on HIGH and add the tablespoon of oil followed quickly by the sausage linksBrown the sausages on both sides .  Place the links on a plate and set aside (they shouldn’t be cooked through).  Set the pan aside, as well.

Transfer the onions to a separate plate and put the onion pan back on the burner over medium heat.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee and the spices and toast them until they smell good and roasty to you.  Add back the onions plus the ginger slices and drained (and rested) rice and stir and saute until the rice grains glisten and separate.

Pour in the soaking liquid (use 1 2/3 cups) and sugar plus another ¼ teaspoon salt, turn the heat to HIGH and bring to a boil.  Place a tight-fitting lid on top, lower the heat to lowest and cook for 10 minutes.  Quickly remove the lid, slide the sausages on top of the rice and replace the lid.  Continue cooking for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes before fluffing the rice and removing the whole spices.  Serve with the cabbage.

This easy cabbage preparation, revelatory in its combination of caraway and cardamom, plays cross-cultural ambassador with the Indo-European flavors of the  kielbasa and rice.

NORTHWEST INDIAN STYLE CABBAGE serves the family, with leftovers a possibility depending on their love of kohl

  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons ghee
  • 1 local or organic onion, halved and sliced pole to pole
  • ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • heaping ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds (from green cardamom pods).  You can buys these already popped out of the pods (decorticated) but I just crack the pods and pick them out myself.
  • heaping ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika or cayenne—I have to keep this dish rated G for the young ‘uns
  • 1 cup organic canned whole tomatoes, crushed.  I use a potato masher for this.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen when it was on special recently, you can find Whole Foods 365 brand and Central Market brand organic canned tomatoes at reasonable prices.
  • 1 clove organic domestic garlic, pressed or minced
  • half a 3-pound local cabbage, outermost leaves removed if tough, cored, quartered and sliced into shreds.  You’ll find plenty of affordable Texas-grown cabbage at our farmers markets and local grocery stores.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • several Tablespoons fresh chopped local cilantro, easy to find right now.  Try growing your own.  Tis the season, before it gets too hot.

Heat the ghee in the sausage skillet on medium heat.  Add the whole spices and fry until toasted to your taste.  Add the onion and saute until softened.  It’s quite alright (and deliciouser) for the onion to pick up some brown patches.  Dump in the ground spices (except garam masala), give ’em a stir and then add the tomatoes and garlic.  Cook and stir until thickened, then add the cabbage and salt.  The pan will be very full.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is wilted to your liking.  If the sauce sticks to the pan and browns a bit, that’s fine.  Just add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze.  The tomato fond will enrich the dish, deepening the flavors.

When your cabbage is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.  Correct the salt if necessary and serve.


Fast, Cheap and Out of the Pantry February 17, 2010

Filed under: beans,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:58 pm

western spaghetti

brittley at attention

There’s a reason why kale chips are trendy:  addictive taste!  Lumpy-leafed lacinato kale, purchased from Johnson’s Backyard Garden at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, positively supplicated for the treatment.  Carefully rinsed and dried, soothingly smoothed with olive oil, lightly sprinkled with kosher salt and heedfully arranged in a single layer on baking sheets, the softly crinkled slips yielded to gentle roasting at low heat (275º), vacuoles dessicated to a crisp after about 20 minutes.

Frilly flatterings for what is actually a fun food!  Wispily crackling and boasting deep green flavor, the nori-esque (Hmm.  That gives me an idea!) kale chips provided a contrapuntal alternative to salad for a recent code red pantry dinner.

Which was


  • ¾ pound organic dried spaghetti.  I find Central Market’s brand to be a consistently good value.
  • 2 cloves organic domestic garlic
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons  plus 1 Tablespoon organic olive oil.  I mostly use CM’s organic olive oil for cooking.
  • pinch or so crushed red pepper, optional
  • 1 to 3 anchovies, mashed
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 28-ounce can organic diced tomatoes.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen during recent sales, Whole Foods 365 brand and CM’s brand sell for reasonable prices.
  • ½ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • ½ bay leaf. You can find bay leaf plants at our local nurseries and farmers markets.  This bush is easy.  Get growin’!
  • ¼ teaspoon turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at CM.  Remember to bring your own container and have the staff tare the weight.
  • 25-ounce can of organic beans, well drained.  I used kidney beans this time around.  Cannellini and great northerns also work well.  By the way, I don’t bother to rinse canned beans before cooking further and neither does Jacques Pépin.
  • generous teaspoon dried basil

Get a pot of salted water going for the pasta.  Some folks agonize and debate over when to add the salt.  I put the salt in right away and then I don’t have to remember it later.

Combine the garlic and 2 teaspoons water.  Heat up the 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a 3 -quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and stir until fragrant.  Add the anchovies and smash around for a few seconds.  Stir in the oregano and then dump in the tomatoes.  Add the salt and bay leaf and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, until thickened some.

Remove the bay leaf.  Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce into a coarse puree.  Add the sugar and beans and simmer a little while the pasta finishes up.  (Oh yeah.  When the pasta water comes to a boil, go ahead and add the spaghetti.  Let the pasta cook while you work on the sauce.  You probably know how to cook your noodles already.)

Finish the sauce with the basil and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  I like to embellish with my better oil—the still reasonably priced organic Villa Blanca from Spain.  I buy it at Central Market for $9.49 for a 17-ounce bottle.  Correct the salt if necessary.  Mix together your (cooked and drained) spaghetti and sauce, adding a little pasta cooking water if you wish to thin the sauce some.

Serve hot with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and freshly cracked black pepper.


(Ground) Peas Be My Sweetheart February 14, 2010

Filed under: cookies/brownies,easy — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 3:15 pm

nutty hearts

Chunky heart-shaped brownie-style peanut butter (ground ground peas) cookies—studded with chocolate bits if you wish (who doesn’t wish for chocolate on Valentine’s Day?)—sweeten the deal.  Easy and satisfying, these substantial cookies contain no chemical leavening.  If you prefer all your desserts sans sodium bicarbonate, check out Pamella Asquith’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake Book.  Asquith eschews chemical leaveners and provides plenty of gateau goodness in her compendium of cocoa cakes.

Back to the brownies.  Have a heart and bake up a batch of these cupidly cute cookies.


  • 4 Tablespoons organic butter, softened.  I love Organic ValleyClick for a coupon.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 200 grams (1 cup) organic sugar.  Central Market’s brand in the two-pound bag usually sells for the lowest price.
  • 104 grams (½ cup) organic light brown sugar.  Central Market again.
  • ½ cup organic natural peanut butter, crunchy or creamy.  Whole Foods 365 brand is a good value.
  • 1 Tablespoon local honey.  I like Good Flow.  We enjoy many local options fer hunny ’round here.
  • 2 local eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 323 grams (2 2/3 cups) organic all purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the 5# bag is generally the best buy.
  • 2 ½ ounces chopped chocolate, milk or dark.  Green & Black’s wonderful 3.5 ounce organic chocolate bars are on sale right now for 2 for $5 at Whole Foods, Sprouts, Sun Harvest and Newflower Market.  About 2/3 of the bar cacaos your ca-cookies.  Use more if you can resist nibbling the rest of the bar away!

I use two four-cavity Wilton mini heart pans.  Wilton currently makes only the six-cavity model.  I bought my pans at the thrift store and both styles are easy to find at resale shops and of course on ebay.  Grease and flour the cavities.

Cream together the butter, sugars and salt.  Beat in the peanut butter and honey.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well blended.  Mix in the flour and chocolate until thoroughly incorporated.

Fill the pans evenly, pressing the firm dough into each cavity.  Young sweethearts can help here.  Bake at 350º for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking time, until the edges are browned and the centers appear set.

Let cool to just warm before unmolding.

Be mine!


Dai Due Salt Pork Hams Up Your Baked Beans February 12, 2010

Filed under: beans,easy,slow cooker — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:27 am


Our half-pound hunk of Dai Due‘s savory salt pork, hacked into slim slabs and rendered crisp, didn’t even reach the bean pot.  We munched every last baconey strip.  Herbal and meaty, sumptuously marbled, Richardson Farms pork belly is spun into gastronomical gold by alchemist Chef Jesse Griffiths.  As the crunchy distillation yielded about ½ cup of luscious pig fat, the crème de la gras, plenty of bean-enhancing magic remained.  Sign up for the Dai Due weekly e-newsletter so you can pre-order locally sourced creations from their imaginatively compiled offerings.  Then pick up your goods at the Saturday Austin Farmers Market, or try your luck and just show up at their booth to see what’s still available.  Impeccably seasoned, with no MSG or nitrates added, and sustainably produced, these meats will righteously fortify your cooking.

AUSTIN BAKED BEANS makes a potful

  • 1 package (½-pound) Dai Due salt pork,  cut up as you please.
  • 1 pound organic navy beans or great northern beans, soaked 8 hours (or overnight) and drained. You can do this a couple days ahead and store the beans, well sealed, in the refrigerator.  I buy these bean varieties in bulk at Whole Foods.  Remember to bring your own container and get the weight tared at the front desk.
  • 2 medium local or organic onions, chopped.  Hillside Farms at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market is still selling red and yellow onions.
  • 2 bay leaves.  Try growing this easy bush.
  • small pinch dried thyme
  • ¾ cup organic tomato puree or sauce.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen during recent sales, check Whole Foods and Central Market’s store brands for a good value.  In this last batch of beans I used the leftover puree from draining canned chopped tomatoes for pizza.  Some folks use ketchup.  People that put tomato products into their baked beans are not from Boston.  It’s up to you!
  • ½ cup organic maple syrup, cane syrup (such as Steen’s or Fain’s) or sorghum (Fain’s)
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar or organic brown sugar. Central Market’s own brand is usually the best buy.
  • 1 Tablespoon organic coarse grain mustard.  Ditto on the CM brand.
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, smoked is quite complementary,
  • ½ teaspoon quatre épices, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 3 cups very hot water
  • 2 teaspoons organic apple cider vinegar.  Whole Foods 365 brand sells for less.

Render the salt pork.  Start the pieces out in a cold pan and fry over medium heat to cook them evenly .  Drain, saving the fat, and return several tablespoons of grease back to the pan to saute your onions.  Cook your onions until translucent, adding the bay leaves and thyme about halfway through.

Dump the onions, drained beans and the remaining ingredients into a Dutch oven (’bout 6- or 7-quart size) or your slow cooker crock.  You can add the cooked salt pork, too.  We devoured ours, though!  Either place your Dutch oven into a preheated 300º oven and bake, covered, for about 4 hours (stirring halfway through) or set your slow cooker on LOW and cook for 4 to 6 hours.  Either way, check for adequate liquid and add more (very hot) water if necessary to avoid scorching your frijoles.

When the beans have cooked and tenderized sufficiently, stir in the vinegar.  If the sauce needs further thickening, remove the cover (for either cooking method) and continue to cook until as thick as you like.

Taste for salt, sweetness and tang and adjust as required to please your palate.  We like to serve our baked beans with plenty of fresh cracked black pepper.

Enjoy Sunday’s marathon!


Little Cake February 11, 2010

Filed under: cake,cookies/brownies,dessert,easy,fast — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 12:49 pm

"Here Fluffy!"

sweet stack!

Here’s a little fancy cake that pulls together quickly, once you have all the components.  These constituents can vary, depending on what you have on hand and need to use up, or your whimsy.  And most components can be made well ahead of time.  A three-layered dainty, sized just right for the family and maybe a guest or two (yeah right, like I’ve been having company to dinner in the last two years.  Or has it been six?  Do cookouts count?), this petite gâteau (not to be confused with le petit gâteau) plays your palate big time, with light layers of whole grain sponge cake moistened by a refreshing syrup, and contrasting/complementary filling and frosting.  Your funny valentine might appreciate a sweet slice!

For using up odds and ends of leftover fillings, glazes, etc. (the “leftover layers” version below was filled with the last of some buttercream whipped with the three tablespoons or so of leftover chocolate èclair glaze), or for simply spreading and stacking with preserves from the pantry—and maybe frosting with whoop cream, this is your go-to gateau.

WHOLE GRAIN SPONGE CAKE makes one 4″ X 7″ loaf-shaped assemblage,  about 2″ to 3″ high

  • 3 local eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 100 grams (½ cup) organic sugar.  Central Market’s brand sells for $2.99 for a two-pound bag.
  • ¼ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons local or organic butter, melted and cooled a bit.  I love Organic Valley Click for a coupon.
  • 48 grams organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder, sieved.  I prefer Rumsford, non-GMO and aluminum-free.

Preheat the oven to 350º and line an 11″ X 7″ baking pan (the old-fashioned brownie pan size) with a thin nonstick liner (I don’t recommend a Silpat style liner here) or a piece of parchment paper.

Combine the eggs, salt, sugar and extract and whip at high speed for about five minutes.  A stand mixer is very handy here.  While the eggs foam and lighten, whisk together the flour and baking powder.  When the eggs have maximized in volume and form ribbons that disappear after a couple seconds or so when the whip attachment is lifted, be ready to fold.  Lightly sprinkle a third of the flour mixture onto the eggs and quickly and gently fold it in with a large whisk.  Repeat twice.  Whisk a cup or so (just eyeball it) of the batter into the butter before folding the butter mixture into the rest of the batter.

Fill the baking pan right away, smoothing and leveling it with a small offset spatula or just a spoon.  Bake for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned and the center barely springs back when gently pressed with your finger.

Place the pan on a rack and let it cool completely.  This cake is small and light so that won’t take too long.

Unmold the cooled cake onto plate or cutting mat.  Using a sharp knife, actually I like to use a finely serrated steak knife, cut the layer crosswise into three slabs, each about 3½” wide (by about 6½” long).  The top crust of the cake will be sticky, which is great fun for your fingers, so lay the bottom layer onto your serving dish top side down.  Brush with a little soaking syrup (see below) and spread with about ½ cup of filling.  For the middle layer, brush one side (either side) of the cake piece with syrup and stack that piece on top of the filling, syrup side down.  Now brush the top of that layer with more syrup.  I use about 2 Tablespoons of syrup per side.  Some folks like a juicier cake and some folks like a drier cake, so go with your gut.  Top with another ½ cup of filling, and the last cake layer, brushed with syrup on the sticky side first and set syrup side down.  Brush the top of the cake with syrup and frost the whole thing—you can use a different component .  Or just frost the top—in which case I’d keep it the same as the rest of the filling.  (Or maybe not.)

leftover layers

Here’s a simple formula for a


  • ¼ cup organic agave nectar.  Madhava brand’s on special at Central Market right now.
  • 6 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons water

Stir together til well mixed.  You can flavor your syrup with liqueurs or liquor—Amaretto, Frangelico and dark rum are my favorites, or a small amount of compatibly flavored extract.  This recipe should moisten your little cake sufficiently.

The “Fluffy” cake pictured above was filled with crème patissière (already on hand) and frosted with a maple Italian meringue—the Bonus!

Beware of hygroscopic high jinks.  Make meringue on a clear (low humidity) day.  The bluer the sky, the better.

Excess frosting can be formed into “kisses” (with or without chopped toasted Texas pecans folded in) and baked in a low oven (250º) until set.  Use a pastry bag, a spring-loaded scoop or two spoons to dollop your meringue onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (I like If You Care brand unbleached parchment paper.)

MAPLE ITALIAN MERINGUE FROSTING: enough to generously frost your small cake, plus extra for kisses

  • 2 local egg whites
  • 1 Tablespoon organic sugar
  • ½ cup organic  maple syrup, preferably grade B.  Whole Foods 365 brand is often the best buy.

Pour the maple syrup into a small saucepan, ideally nonstick or enameled.  Bring to a boil on medium heat and clip on a candy thermometer to start measuring the temperature of the syrup.  When the bubbling brew reaches 230º (we’re talkin’ Fahrenheit here), begin to whip your egg whites on low-medium speed.  Once again your stand mixer will perform honorably .

When the egg whites look foamy, add the sugar and raise the mixer speed to medium.  Check on the syrup temperature.  When the boiling syrup reaches 238º it’ll be ready to add to your egg whites and you’ll want your egg whites to have reached the firm peak stage by then.  You can adjust the mixer speed to help synchronize the processes.  Be careful not to overwhip the whites to the “dry” curdled stage.  Slow ’em down if you need to.  When syrup and whites are ready to unite, slowly pour the syrup into the mixer bowl in a steady stream, whipping on medium as you do so.  Avoid pouring the syrup directly onto the beater.

The meringue will expand as you add the hot syrup.  Continue to whip the mixture for at least 5 minutes after you’ve added all the syrup, allowing the meringue to cool to room temperature.  Use right away to frost your cake.


Be My Valentine February 10, 2010

Filed under: cookies/brownies,dessert — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:00 pm

my hearts belong to you

kiss and a hug

For the kindergartner’s classroom Sweetheart’s day celebration I figured I’d bake up some edible valentines for my young heartthrob to proffer—heart-shaped cookies tagged with each student’s name.  This whole grain recipe, not too sweet and crisply perfect for glazing, delivers the bright sparkle of Texas citrus with orange and/or lemon zest shaved off in-season fruit.  Glazed or not, monogrammed or not, will you be mine?

WHOLE WHEAT CUTOUT COOKIES makes about 60 2-inch cookies

  • 4 ½ ounces (a generous 1 cup) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the 5-pound bag generally sells for the lowest price.
  • 4 ½ ounces (1 cup) organic or local whole wheat flour—I love Richardson Farms locally-grown freshly ground whole grain flour, available at Sunset Valley Farmers Market.
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder, sieved.  I use Rumford, non-GMO and aluminum-free.
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) organic butter, softened.  I love Organic ValleyClick for a coupon.
  • 75  grams (3/8 cup) organic sugar.  Central Market’s brand costs $2.99 for a two-pound bag.
  • ½ teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 1 teaspoons fresh zest from a Texas orange and/or lemon
  • 1 local egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk together flours and baking powder.  Cream the butter with the sugar, salt and zest.  Mix in the flour—I like the stand mixer for this dough.  It’s very dry at this point.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended and the dough masses together.  Rest the dough in the refrigerator, covered, overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it soften up at room temperature for awhile.  A couple of hours may not be too long if the kitchen’s cool.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Roll out dough to about 1/8″ thickness on a sheet of parchment paper sized to fit your baking sheet.  I like to lay a cut open plastic bag on top of the dough to protect the rolling pin from sticking.  Cut out approximately 2″ cookies,( I chose hearts this time, of course) spacing the cuts fairly close all over the surface of the dough.  Remove the dough surrounding the cookies and place the parchment onto your baking sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes, give the cookie sheet a 180º spin and bake for about 5 more minutes.  The cookies should be beginning to brown and will feel set when pressed lightly with your fingertip.

Place the parchment paper with cookies on a cooling rack.  Let cookies cool for a minute before removing from parchment and cooling completely on the rack.  Glaze when cool.

Patch together any leftover dough scraps, reroll and cut out and bake the remaining cookies.

glazy day


  • 115 grams (1 cup) organic powdered sugar.  Central Market’s brand is usually the best buy.
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons local or organic milk.  I like Swede Farm Dairy and Wateroak Farm‘s goat’s milk.  Way Back When is selling their local cow’s milk at our farmers markets.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons organic agave nectar.  Madhava brand’s 23.5 ounce container (light or dark) is on sale at Central Market for only $5.49.

Stir sugar, milk and vanilla together until smooth.  Stir in agave.  Tint with food coloring if desired.  Whole Foods sells India Tree natural colors (not cheap!).  Glaze cookies right away.  I usually use a small clean paintbrush or a small icing spatula.  Let dry before monogramming.


Dai Due Double Duty: Secret Ingredient Stuffed Portobellos February 8, 2010

Filed under: Dai Due,meat,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 8:06 pm


Dai Due‘s Chaurice sausage stuffed our ‘shrooms.  Texas portobellos, on sale at Central Market for $3.99 a pound through February 9, served as the foundation for a meaty mound, topped with crunchy toasted bread crumbs.

What’s the secret ingredient?  Dai Due’s own persimmon Worcestershire sauce.  Now that’s a concoction I would have never thought of!

Thanks to Wendy, Foodie at Central Market, for suggesting I stuff my mushrooms.


  • 8 large and 1 medium to large Kitchen Pride Texas-grown portobello mushrooms
  • 1 pound package Dai Due’s chaurice sausage, or other local sausage.
  • 4 Tablespoons organic or local olive oil.  Try Texas Olive Ranch, available at our farmers markets.
  • 10-ounce bag Cora Lamar’s triple-washed spinach from Poteet.  Available at Central Market for $2.99 a bag.  Or use 10 ounces of another local spinach.  Wash it very well.
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • zest of one small local or organic  lemon.  Check with your neighbor.  Get growin’ if you can!
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 large clove of domestic organic garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa.  I like to season quinoa with ½ teaspoon ground turmeric for 1 cup of raw quinoa.
  • ½ cup organic or local heavy cream.  Organic Valley is great.  Click for a coupon.  Look for Way Back When’s local dairy products at our farmers markets.  You gotta get there early to get cream or butter!
  • ½ cup organic or local ½-n-½ yogurt or sour cream.  To read how to make your own, click here.
  • 1 teaspoon organic mustard.  I usually buy Central Market’s own brand.  Use whatever style you have on hand or prefer.
  • a generous Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce—Look for Dai Due’s peppery persimmon Worcestershire sauce.  Tangy and savory, it boasts that familiar kick.
  • generous teaspoon kosher salt.  I use Diamond Crystal brand.
  • 1 cup bread crumbs.  I crumble up stale bread and freeze it.  Cornmeal bread, crumbled and lightly toasted, makes incredible bread crumbs.  Sometimes I just eat ’em with a spoon.
  • 3 to 4 Tablespoons organic or local butter, melted

Remove stems from mushrooms.  Chop stems and the medium to large whole mushroom finely.  I use the food processor.

Brown the sausage in a skillet and simmer, covered, with about ¾ cup water for 5 minutes.  Remove the sausage and place on a plate to cool a bit while you continue with the recipe.

Heat up ½ Tablespoon olive in a large saute pan with the red pepper flakes and ground coriander.  Add the spinach and wilt, turning frequently.  Stir in lemon zest and place spinach on a plate.  Return pan to heat and add another ½ Tablespoon olive oil.  Stir in the chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the garlic and heat through until fragrant.  Remove from heat.

Halve each sausage lengthwise and then slice each half into ¼” pieces.  Add sausage to the pan and return the pan to the stovetop on low heat.  Chop the spinach and stir it into the skillet along with the garam masala, paprika, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Heat through to finish cooking the sausage.  Stir in quinoa, heavy cream, yogurt, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.  Taste for salt and adjust as necessary.

Prepare the mushrooms.  Place a rimmed baking sheet, large enough to hold the eight portobellos, into the oven and preheat the oven to 400º.  Using a sharp paring knife, slice ¼” deep cuts, spaced ½” apart into the mushroom caps.  Slash again at right angles to the first cuts to create a crosshatched pattern.  Brush the mushrooms on both sides with a total of 3 Tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with a generous teaspoon kosher salt.  Place the mushrooms gill side up on the hot baking sheet, and return the sheet to the oven.  Bake for about 8 minutes, until the portobellos are browning around the edges and have released some of their juices.  Carefully flip the mushrooms over and place back in the oven for another 8 minutes, until the juices have evaporated and the portobellos have browned.  They should smell great!

Mound about a ½ cup of filling onto the gill side of the mushrooms.  Mix the bread crumbs and melted butter together.  Top each mound with about 2 Tablespoons of the bread crumbs.  Place the portobellos back on the baking sheet and return them to the oven under the broiler for a couple minutes to brown the tops.  Serve hot.