Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Do the Math. Hit it! Houston May 27, 2010

butter up!

It’s simple arithmetic.  Not Going To The Y plus Not Writing equals More Time For Cleaning.  When a second batch of yogurt turned out curdly and separated, I knew the yogurt maker needed a scrub, so I gave in and hit the housework.  I just can’t do it all, unfortunately, and with our recent road trip to H-town rounding out a whirlwind spring season, the house (and my figure) reveal embarrassing signs of neglect.

The next time you find yourself in Baghdad of the Bayou (I just had to throw that one in ), check out chef Monica Pope’s T’afia restaurant for Czech-inflected Clutch City cuisine, locally flavored with the bounty of the Third Coast.  Joined by another mom and gradeschooler, we enjoyed kind service, tasty food (loved the chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates!) and a noisy atmosphere impervious to energetic kids.  On a rare night of imbibing, Austin Frugal Foodie gratefully knocked back a flight of five Texas wines to accompany the five-course local tasting menu.  Our party partook of silky Swiss chard, heavenly cream-drizzled grits, fat shrimp, great bowtie mac-n-cheese, balsamic caramel beef(!) and more.  On Saturday mornings, T’afia hosts a farmers market that sounds incredible.  We might pencil that in for our next trip to Space City.  By the way, Motel 6 on the Katy Freeway furnishes THE most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on!  (I like ’em firm.)

If you’re hauling your kids to the Energy Capital of the World, be sure to visit the amazing Children’s Museum of Houston.  Our frugal friend, Austinfrugalmom, recently purchased a Premier Membership from the Austin Children’s Museum, and the reciprocity program allowed free entry into the Houston location for all of us.  Great savings for itinerant summer-breakers!  Check it out before you hit the road with young ‘uns.

Back to that “yogurt”.  I can’t bear to throw away honest local goat milk (from Wateroak Farms), even if I did screw up the preparation.  Well-whisked, the fine-lumped fluid still works as a buttermilk substitute for most recipes.  Like this here easy, easy quick bread fortified with Richardson Farms freshly ground whole wheat flour.  Crunchety-crusted and sweetened just enough to highlight the fresh wheat, this craggy loaf craves the caress of rich and lightly salted Organic Valley Pasture butter.  Accompany this bread with Dai Due‘s meaty hot boudin and you’ve got lunch—don’t forget the Texas peaches for dessert!

IRISH-STYLE BROWN BREAD makes one 8″ or 9″ round loaf

  • 182 grams (1½ cups) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the 5-pound bag is usually the best value.
  • 3 3/8 ounces (1 cup) organic whole wheat pastry flour.  Look for this in bulk departments or try Arrowhead Mills or Bob’s Red Mill.
  • 6 ounces (1½ cups) Richardson Farms whole wheat flour (available at their Barton Creek farmers market location) or organic whole wheat flour.
  • 1½ teaspoons cream of tartar, sieved
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda, sieved
  • 1½ teaspoons salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 3 Tablespoons organic sugar.  Buy this in bulk or look for Central Market’s brand in the 2-pound bag.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic butter, softened, plus 1 Tablespoon melted.  Organic Valley is my favorite all-purpose butter.  If you didn’t stock up when Natural Grocers offered their near-clearance-priced sale, click for a coupon.
  • 1½ cups organic or local buttermilk or yogurt.  I make my own yogurt from local goat milk and I usually do a better a job than the last two batches.  Click to see howSwede Farm Dairy is back from babymaking (SFC market at Sunset Valley).  Wateroak is taking a market break but will still be available at Wheatsville Co-op and Whole Foods.

Preheat the oven to 400°.  If you bake your loaf in a handleless pan, you can use the toaster oven.  A heavy 8″ or 9″ round pan works best and cast iron is ideal.  Lube the pan how you please and sprinkle the bottom with wheat bran or cornmeal.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flours through the sugar) or just dump them into the food processor and let ‘er rip.  Add the butter and process to blend or rub the fat in with your fingertips.  I recommend the machine if small children are about.  They have a way of knowing just when to soil the carpet or bust their lip and you might not want to get caught butterfingered at that moment.

Pour the flour mixture back into your bowl and add the buttermilk or yogurt.  Stir quickly with a fork to evenly moisten the dough, then use a flexible dough scraper to fold the dough over itself just a few times to bring it all together and develop a bit of structure.  Using the scraper, place the dough mound in the pan.  Slash a large “X” in the top of the loaf with a sharp knife before placing the pan in the oven.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until browned and the center of the loaf tests done when probed with a long bamboo skewer.

Carefully remove the loaf from the pan, brush it with the melted butter and let it cool for at least 30 minutes.  Serve warm or let cool completely.  This loaf tastes best the day of baking.  Chunk, crumble or slice leftovers to freeze for stuffing, bread crumbs or toast.

Welcome home!

 

Happy Birthday! May 14, 2010

Filed under: cookies/brownies,dessert,easy — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:07 pm

this image will have to suffce for now

Welcome to Savor the Earth’s one-year anniversary—two days late!  An untimely modem failure befell our household (when’s a broken internet ever not untimely?), and I tried to snail this post along to bring you another delicious dessert recipe, but alas, my connectivity wouldn’t allow it.  We’re back online again (and badder than ever, of course) so now this tasty treat’s comin’ at ya!

The folks at Maranatha have come out with a couple of new all-natural products:  a dark chocolate peanut spread and a dark chocolate almond spread.  Inspired by Italy’s famous Nutella, that smooth gianduja’d spread of chocolate and hazelnuts, these chocolaty nut butters contain no hydrogenated fats and no artificial anything.  I’ve only tried the peanut version so far (work perk!) and I found it deeply cocoa’d, well-burnished with roasty goober depth.  A little much for me straight outta the jar, but then again, I’m not even a Nutella kinda gal.

I smelled potential and adapted a recipe from eatmycakenow.blogspot.com for these crumbly bar cookies.  Rather irresistible, the pan was banished to the laundry room, lest I show up at work sans samples!

These scrumptious sweets helped keep my mind off my disconnect.  In fact, my mind/belly became so disconnected that I forgot to take a photo before we ate all the bars.  Sorry!

CRUMBLIN’ CRUMBLEBARS makes one 9” X 13” panful

  • 242 grams (2 cups) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods usually offers the best value with their 365 brand in the 5-pound bag.
  • 160 grams (just over 1¾ cups) organic quick oats.  I stocked up with sale prices on bulk oats at Newflower Market last week.  Their regular prices on bulk oats are fair, too.
  • 270 grams (1 1/3 cups, packed) organic light brown sugar.  Central Market’s own brand in the 1½ pound bag typically sells for less than other brands.
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder.  I use Rumford, aluminum-free and non-GMO.
  • ¼ teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 2 sticks organic butter, melted. Organic Valley makes about the best standard butter around.  Today’s the last day for Natural Grocers incredible sale on OV 1-pound blocks for $3.99.  Stock up!
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 13-ounce jar Maranatha all-natural dark chocolate peanut (or almond) spread, no cooler than room temperature.  Available at Central Market for $ 4.29.  I haven’t looked elsewhere yet.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9” X 13” baking pan with aluminum foil.  I do this by fitting the foil to the outside of the pan (upside down) and before placing the foil inside the pan.

Thoroughly combine the first 5 ingredients (flour through the salt).  Stir the vanilla into the butter and stir the butter into the dry ingredients until well distributed.  Reserve 1½ cups of this mixture for the topping and spread the rest onto the bottom of the lined pan.  Gently press the crumbs down so no foil shows through.

Dollop the chocolate spread all over the base and carefully spread it out to the edges.  The sticky stuff will grab the crumbly bottom and give you a little bit of a hard time, à la La Brea, but spacing out your dollops helps minimize this.  Evenly crumble the reserved topping all over the surface.

Bake on a center rack in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the crumbles are golden brown and firm.

Here’s the challenge.  You’ve got to let this pan of temptation cool off for at least 1¼ hours!  Go walk the dog, do some chores, take a nap, whatever will keep you away from that molten mass of messy mmm.

When the time’s up, lift the whole piece out of the pan using the foil.  Cut into serving size bars (how big a serving’s up to you!) preferably with a bench scraper, or you can use a large chef’s knife.

Enjoy! Happy birthday to my blog.  Happy birthday to my blog…

 

Can’t Beat Beet Greens May 11, 2010

Filed under: easy,fast,locavore,thrift,Uncategorized,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:04 pm

good greens: good and green!

Local beets be ’bout gone, but big ruby beauties beckoned this past Saturday, all coyly coiffed with scarlet-striped greens atop scarlet stalks.  Who would dream of throwing away those leafy lagniappes?  I save the edible greens from most of my produce:  all the root veggies plus kohlrabi, and leek tops go straight into the freezer to await the stockpot.  Carrot tops I utilize the least, but I try to get to them as well.

Easy for creamin’, beet greens quickly cook up tenderly toothsome without disintegrating.  For my last batch I  wilted the rinsed leaves in hot olive oil (Central Market’s organic brand offers a great value or try Texas Olive Ranch for local), added a splash of organic cream (Organic Valley’s my top choice) and a small chunk of organic cream cheese (CM’s own brand is usually cheapest).  Seasoned with a dash of garam masala and salt to taste, these greens didn’t even need a squeeze of fresh lemon for brightening at the table, but it’s up to you!

 

Cornporked—a Texas Casserole May 10, 2010

Filed under: Dai Due,easy,eggs,locavore — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:34 pm

this was one (c)ornery subject!

My long lost relatives from Wisconsin came down for the weekend, bringing with them a welcome, if blustery, dip in temperature.  We met at the SFC farmers market in Sunset Valley, affording me the opportunity to show off not only the kindergartner’s soccer game across the street, but Austin’s own Dai Due.  Naturally they ordered the brats!  The unexpected chill called for a steaming cup of gumbo, comforting and thick with local meats and shrimp.  A hearty way to warm up for a Saturday of reconnecting, and enjoying and entertaining children.  This week’s charcuterie offerings from Dai Due included salt pork and tasso (fashioned from local Richardson Farms pork), so I stocked up (both keep fine in the freezer), armed to enrich my flexitarian diet.

Tomorrow’s the last day of HEB’s sale on Texas-grown corn at 4 for $1, and the days of comfortably heating up the big oven are becoming a memory.  So grab yourself a couple bucks of ears and pud(ding) ’em together with that salt pork.  Add local cheese and eggs, backyard herbs and organic creams and you’ve got an easy side dish that you might even make a meal out of.  We did!

CORN PUDDING serves plenty

  • 6 cups local corn kernels, from about 8 medium ears of corn.
  • 6 local eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup organic cream.  I like Organic ValleyClick for a coupon.
  • ½ cup organic sour cream. Farmers’ Creamery brand of luxurious slow-cultured cultured cream, crafted without thickeners or stabilizers, is available at Natural Grocers uptown.
  • 6 ounces local cheddar (1½ cups shredded).  I love Full Quiver Farms extra sharp version.  Look for their booths at Barton Creek and Austin Farmers Markets.
  • 7 slices Dai Due salt pork, rendered.  I slice and fry the whole chunk ahead of time and refrigerate whatever we don’t eat or use right then.  Remember to save that precious grease!  Fry your eggs or saute your bean base in it and feast like royalty.
  • 1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk and bring in my own (large) container.  The staff tares the weight.
  • scant teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.  Whole Foods sells this in bulk for the best deal.
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika.  For the lowest prices, I buy the majority of my spices in bulk, usually at Central Market.
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh backyard herbs.  Basil, chives and thyme combine well.

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Butter up a 2-quart casserole dish.  Set it inside a roasting or cake pan (at least 9″ X 13″) to configure a bain-marie (water bath).  Start heating up water, most coolly accomplished in your microwave.  I use a 1-quart Pyrex glass measuring cup.  A couple or three of those should give you enough very hot water to come halfway up the sides of your casserole.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the corn and return to a boil.  Cook the kernels for 1 minute and drain well.  Process about 3½ cups of the corn in your food processor to yield a rough puree.  Combine the puree with the whole corn kernels and the remaining ingredients.  Turn the mixture into the casserole dish.

Place your bain-marie setup on a middle rack in the oven and pour the heated water into the roasting pan.  Bake for 45 minutes or so, until the pudding is set and browned.  You can test it for doneness with a bamboo skewer to be sure.

Carefully remove the casserole from the water bath and place it on a cooling rack.  Let cool and set for 10 minutes before serving.

Tastes great at room temperature too!




 

Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive May 6, 2010

Filed under: capital area food bank,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:39 pm

booty for my bag

Time again for the 18th annual National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, the largest one-day food drive in the country.  Your mail carrier has already dropped off a paper grocery bag with your mail.  On May 8, you just leave your bag, filled with healthy non-perishables, next to your mailbox.  Your mail carrier picks the bag up and the post office delivers it to your local food bank (Capital Area Food Bank for my area).

I like this setup.  Picking out whichever nutritious foods you can afford and keeping an eye peeled for special finds, you can really personalize your donation.  No need to break the bank when shopping for your bag—hit up your nearby BigLots.  You never know what exactly you’ll come across there.  Organics, exotics, and even luxuries like Poppycock (I am a total sucker for toffee popcorn!)—all this and more for bargain prices at your local closeout store.  After filling your donation bag, you might even have some cash leftover for a couple of goodies for your own household.  The kindergartner picked out a big bag of sunflower seeds for only 80¢, and I went ahead and bought two jars of all natural Peruvian red and green chile relish at $1 each—one for the bag and one for me.

I was shooting for a $20 load.  Here’s what $20.45 got me:

  • 3 cans assorted tropical fruits—mango, papaya and tropical mix
  • canned peaches
  • canned mandarin oranges
  • raisins
  • canned green beans
  • canned peas
  • 2 cans organic garbanzo beans
  • 2 cans organic black beans
  • 4 jars organic turkey veggie baby food
  • 1 large can pink salmon
  • 1 can sardines in water, 1 can sardines in mustard sauce
  • 1 large can spaghetti sauce
  • 1 jar all natural Peruvian red and green chile relish
  • 1 bag walnut pieces

I went straight for the fruits first, as I saw from the Hunger Awareness Project that fresh produce can be lacking in food pantry allotments.  I was thrilled to find the tropical fruits.  BigLots offered even more varities than what I purchased.  Raisins are great on the go, couldn’t pass ’em up.  Canned veggies and (organic!) canned beans  are true staples.

Organic baby food was another good deal.  I wonder if the food banks get enough baby food.

I’m big on canned salmon (although I’m lucky to be able to shell out for the red stuff—sockeye reigns supreme in the world of shelf stable salmons.  Even so, it’s still cheap!), and $2.70 for the 14.75-ounce pink is a decent deal.  Sardines are another very healthy (one of the few foods to boast a naturally high vitamin D content), sustainably fished resource.

The spaghetti sauce is an obvious choice for getting nutritious tomatoes into hungry bellies.  Easy money.  And that jar of Peruvian chile relish?  Chiles are great for you (with vitamins A, B’s and C) and they sure do perk up a meal.

Lastly, the walnuts.  I love all kinds of nuts and eat a handful every day.  They store well in the freezer so you can stock up when you find them on special.  Walnuts are particularly good for you, and I hate to think some folks never get to eat any.  I’m happy that a hungry person here in Central Texas will enjoy them.

I had a blast shopping for my donation bag, even with the kindergartner helping!  It made my day.  I hope my effort does the same for a fellow Texan.

Please remember to set out your bag of non-perishable foods by the mailbox Saturday morning.  Let’s Stamp Out Hunger!

 

Wing-it Bicuits May 4, 2010

Filed under: biscuits,bread,breakfast,easy,fast,locavore,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 1:34 pm

Why yes, I would like some biscuit with my butter!

OK, so I was VERY hungry and late on my lunch this afternoon, having flowered and delivered a cake for the Teachers Appreciation lunch at my kindergartner’s school.  (My carrot cake really “rose” to the occasion—see photos.)  But biscuits never fail me—butter and starch, spread with more butter and maybe even some honey?  Bring it on, honey!

Richardson Farms locally grown whole wheat flour (available at their Barton Creek location) shines its fresh and sweetly wheaty glow onto every recipe it touches.  These super easy, quick as a flash, homey drop-style biscuits are no exception.  With a light and fluffy texture (not at all heavy, despite their whole grain content), these fast little breads fill you up like royalty when spread with great butter and local honey or your favorite fruit preserves.  Let ’em cool down and you can even shortcake ’em!  Plenty of local strawberries teasing at our farmers markets lately.  And dewberries!  We’ve been keeping an eye on our patch in the woods and so far have collected two—berries that is.  But our pint from Naegelin Farms (SFC market at Sunset Valley) this past Saturday helped put the color in our kids faces, literally!

WING-IT BISCUITS makes 8 biscuits

  • 140 grams organic all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams organic or local (Richardson Farms) whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder, sieved.  I prefer Rumford, aluminum-free and non-GMO.
  • ½ Tablespoon organic sugar.  Widely available in bulk departments around town.
  • generous ½ teaspoon baking soda, sieved.
  • scant teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 1 cup yogurt.  I make my own from local goat milk.  Check out how.  The folks at Swede Farm Dairy just had a baby and Wateroak Farms will be taking a two-month break.  I’ll let you know how our options are faring.
  • 1 stick organic butter, cut into bits and well-chilled.  Organic Valley is my favorite.  Natural Grocers has OV butter on special for only $3.99 a pound through May 15.  Closer to my hood, Sprouts counters with a price of $4.49, through May 5.

Preheat your toaster oven to 425°.  You can use your full-size oven, of course, but it’s May and warm here already.  I use the toaster oven whenever I can in hot weather as it heats up the kitchen less.  Plus it uses less energy than the big oven.  Have a 9″ round cake pan handy and get out your ¼-cup scoop.

Combine the dry ingredients (flours through the salt) in the bowl of a food processorRun the machine to thoroughly mix them.  Add the butter and process for a few seconds to cut it in.  Turn the flour mixture out into a bowl and pour on the yogurt.  Stir together quickly to moisten all the flour.

Using your scoop, preferably spring-loaded, scoop out 8 rounds and place them in a 9″ pan.  You’ll have seven mounds around the perimeter and one scoop in the middle.  Bake at 425° for about 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 400° and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until biscuits are browned and cooked through.

Place pan on a cooling rack for a few minutes before carefully loosening biscuits from pan.

Fill your belly!

 

Rosy Carrot Cake—cover me with roses

Filed under: cake,gardening — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:12 am

bed of roses

organic roses from our backyard---easy to grow, pretty to show

petal power

See Broccoli Bonus for cake recipe.  Triple the frosting recipe at Broccoli Brings It for the easy and luscious cream cheese icing.