Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Quickaccia—The Bread of Redemption July 5, 2010

Filed under: bread,easy,locavore,Texas produce,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 8:13 pm

Everybody makes mistakes.  We learn this the hard way, as we commit our own follies, and we may suffer this lesson the even harder way when someone else blunders.  But wise new-agers and seasoned old-timers alike assure us that life isn’t what happens to us, it’s what we do with it.  So we not only learn from our bungling and our disappointments, but we grow and improve, when we open up to take advantage of new insights and explore new paths.  Often life’s missteps serve to remind us what is important, what we need and what we love.

slice o' life

That’s enough preambling for one post.  What’s this lapsed loaf about?  Recently I prepared a round of my Irish Style Brown Bread and noticed as I mixed the batter-y dough that it didn’t seem quite right.  Even as I poured (rather than plopped) the mixture into the pan, I knew I had erred.  But I forged ahead, placing the loose mass into the oven, hoping something edible would emerge.  I rechecked my recipe and realized I had left out the whole wheat pastry flour.  Weighing in at more than one-third of the flour called for, surely this omission spelled mealtime failure!  To my surprise and my family’s delight, the bread was delicious, if slightly imperfect, and then of course the light bulb lit up—a quick focaccia!

Little local cherry tomatoes, abundant and sweet, top this easy round with pop and zing.  This season we’ve been enjoying Sungolds from Hairston Creek Farm, Finca Pura Vida and Flint Rock Hill at the SFC farmers market at Sunset Valley.  Local red onions, local cheese and backyard herbs flavor your flatbread in a flash.

So turn that trip-up around and get back on track with this easy round of manna.

life in the round

QUICKACCIA makes one 9″ loaf

  • 182 grams (1½ cups) organic all-purpose flour.  Whole Foods 365 brand in the 5-pound bag is usually the best value.
  • 3 5/8 (1 cup minus 1½ Tablespoons) ounces 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
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 1½ Tablespoons organic sugar.  Buy this in bulk or look for Central Market’s brand in the 2-pound bag.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic butter, softened.  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.  Click to see howSwede Farm Dairy is back from babymaking (SFC market at Sunset Valley).  Wateroak Farms is taking a market break but will still be available at Wheatsville Co-op and Whole Foods.
  • shredded local or organic cheese of your choice.  For local queso check out Full Quiver Farms at the Barton Creek Farmers Market or  Brazos Valley Cheese Co. at the Austin and Sunset Valley Farmers Markets.
  • local cherry tomatoes, halved if round and halved or quartered if oblong.
  • local red onion, sliced thin.  We’ve been buying these up from Jackie at Flint Rock Hill (Sunset Valley) for $1.25 a pound.  She’s got potatoes—red or brown—for the same price, too.
  • fresh backyard herbs, chopped.  Oregano pairs perfectly.  Sage and rosemary remind us of fall and work well also.
  • coarse salt, preferably flaky—we love Murray River Pink.  Check out the bulk salts at either Central Market or Whole Foods and find your favorite!
  • local or organic olive oil.  Check out Texas Olive Ranch for the Lone Star State lube.  I like Central Market’s value-priced organic brand for cooking.

Preheat the oven to 400°.  If you bake your loaf in a handleless pan, you can use the toaster oven.  A heavy 9″ round pan works best and cast iron is ideal.  Lube the pan with the olive oil and sprinkle the bottom with wheat bran or cornmeal.  I sift the bran out of Richardson Farms flour for certain recipes and have amassed a stash in the freezer.

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.  Pour the flour mixture back into a 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.  Spread and flatten the dough with a small offset spatula, or use the back of a spoon.

Toss the onions and herbs with some olive oil.  Top the dough with cheese, tomatoes and the onion mixture.  Sprinkle with the coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper, plus red pepper flakes if the kids are out on a sleepover (lucky you!).  Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes, until well browned.

Loosen the sides of the quickaccia with a metal spatula or butter knife before turning the bread out of the pan.  Re-invert onto a cooling rack and let cool a few minutes so y’all don’t go scalding your tongues!

Enjoy this bread, the fruit of my flub.  Be happy and carry on!


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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!

 

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!

 

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!

 

Cheap Tricks—Maximizing Micronutrients on a Budget April 27, 2010

Filed under: capital area food bank,hunger awareness project,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:03 pm

For folks in direst need, the main food goal is obtaining sufficient calories.

We Texans face another frustrating dichotomy in that our citizenry ranks 14th nationally in obesity rates for adults despite our next-to-the-bottom food security standing.  Again, problems with resource distribution and food quality (to oversimplify the situation, mind you) pave the path to an underfed/undernourished population.  Coupled with a pandemic lack of knowledge of nutrition and health, often compounded by inexperience in good food preparation and lack of time to cook, these features of the modern Western world lead to both an unhealthy, overfed burden on our health care system as well as the unacceptable hunger accompanying poverty.  Regardless of circumstances, education or income, an empty belly begs for fullness, without any bargaining power to negotiate macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), let alone micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytochemicicals.  The USDA’s MyPyramid Food Guidance System may as well be in Egypt, as far as the hungriest Texans are concerned.

spaghetti special supper

Fortunately for the hungry in central Texas, a respectable 80% of the Capital Area Food Bank’s provisions place in the top 1 or 2 nutritional scoring categories (out of 5).  But for fresh produce, the sample food pantry distribution for our Hunger Awareness Project offered only a five-pound bag of potatoes.  Fairly full of nutrients, and certainly belly-filling and high in energy value, spuds have nearly single-handedly sustained entire populations.  We humans derive maximum health benefits, however, from a polychromatic plate—taste the rainbow.  (Skittles® was right!)  A typical food bank allotment provides deep red in the spaghetti sauce, the sunny yellow of canned corn, and even a bit of green from canned green beans (and jalapeño slices for those who can take the heat).  The canned fruit, with its diluted pastels, certainly seems to promise less nutrition than peak of season local glories such as strawberries, peaches, melons, apples and citrus, but current theory (and the gastric growlings of empty bellies) behooves us to accept its comparability to fresh.

But what’s for dinner?

Spaghetti and “spaghetti sauce” of course.  There’s our scarlet, loaded with lycopene, actually rendered more bioavailable by the cooking and canning process.  Tonight there’s no meat on the table (remember the food pantry allowance must be stretched for an entire month), but we’ve got our brown in the form of meaty Texas-grown portobello mushrooms, purchased on sale (today’s the last day!) at Central Market for $3.99 a pound.  That comes out to about a dollar per large ‘shroom, each one sufficient for an adult.  Quickly sauteed with a spot of olive oil plus a pinch of thyme and antioxidant champ oregano (bought dried in bulk for just pennies), the seared chunks lend textural and nutritional heft to our simple pasta meal at minimal cost.

these roots were made for plantin'

We’re fresh out of canned green beans around here, and in the spirit of the challenge I’m shopping minimally.  So broccoli stems it is!  Hastily trimmed and coarsely shredded from a $2 locally grown (and chemical-free) head, this throwaway vegetable contributes good green while bulking up our sauce.  Brown it a bit in a hot pan, the same one you just used to cook your mushrooms, with a restrained drizzle of olive oil.  Add a little more verdigris to the mix by topping each portion with fresh basil chiffonade.  Basil grows easily in our long season here, even in a pot.  For our garden we never purchase a plant or even seeds.  We buy fresh local basil from the produce department (located with the other herbs) for a dollar or so and root the fecund fronds in a glass of water at home.  Pluck leaves as you need them, and the readily rooting cuttings will be primed for transplanting in three weeks or so.  Fancy and nearly free!

Buon appetito!

 

Food Pantry Manifest—Provisions To Live By April 24, 2010

Here’s the list of groceries participating bloggers received of items typifying a share of food provided recently by a local food pantry.  This allotment represents a family’s one month allowance:

2 cans spaghetti sauce
4 cans veggies (choice of green beans and/or corn)
4 fruit cans (choice of sliced pears and/or mixed fruit)
1 meat selection: Anything and everything HEB has. Most of what was available was whole chickens, fryers and pork chops. But we really get everything from pig trotters to ham.
3 drink items: choice of large bottle of cranberry apple juice and/or powdered milk (shelf stable milk) boxes and/or apple juice boxes
1 bag spaghetti or bag of egg noodles
1 bag of pinto beans or white navy beans
1 bag of white rice
1 package of jalapeno slices
1 ready-made dinner (hamburger helper)
1 bag/container of rolled oats
1 bag of cheerios
5 lb bag of potatoes

I see potential here!

spoonful o' oats

We already eat oatmeal almost every morning.  I’ve come up with a method for cooking rolled oats that conveniently yields a less-sticky texture, with the individual oat groats nearly separate.  For my two children and myself (my husband’s not on board for this breakfast), I measure a rounded cupful of oatmeal into my pan and turn the burner on to HIGH.  I swirl in ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and let the oats toast a bit.  Then I pour in just over ¾ cup water and swirl the pan to distribute the liquid (do NOT stir to achieve this texture).  As soon as I can hear the water steaming, I turn the heat off and let the pan sit there for a couple minutes (my stove is electric).  For the fluffiest texture, you can soak and steam the oats over boiling water, but I find my method a texturally-satisfactory compromise.

Lactating moms appreciate medium-chain fatty acids so in my normal life of luxury I dollop some coconut oil on top.  The kindergartner enjoys honey on his share.  A qualifying food pantry recipient’s food stamp benefits, which max out at $50 per week for one adult, may not leave room in the budget for such gilt, but the canned fruit off the list would complement the morning’s porridge.

I had stocked up on organic bulk rolled oats, quick oats and steel-cut oats when Newflower Market last had a great sale on those items.  We had already eaten our way through the rolled and quick oats (the quick oats I buy for baking but I’ll cook them for breakfast when necessary), and now are working on the steel-cut.  In the spirit of the challenge, and frankly, keeping within my  own budget, I am trying to hold out on purchasing more oatmeal until another sale comes along.  So, steel-cut it is!


 

Whole Foods Recipe: Cabbage and Cheddar Gratin April 18, 2010

Filed under: easy,locavore,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian,whole foods — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:16 am

cabbage casserole

Last night I baked up a recipe from the Whole Foods website for a cabbage and cheddar gratin.  Using Texas-grown cabbage (only 69¢ a pound at Central Market), Full Quiver Farm’s medium-sharp cheddar, Arrowhead Mills organic yellow cornmeal and Central Market organic Dijon mustard ($2.09 for the 9-ounce jar), plus a dash (about 1/3 teaspoon, actually) of homemade garam masala, I baked up this easy, hearty and tasty vegetarian dish.  Nearly vegetarian in my kitchen, anyways.  I used my homemade turkey broth instead of the vegetable broth called for.

For the herbs I snipped backyard sage, rosemary and thyme and just for funsies threw in a minced large basil leaf—’cause we’re growin’!  A scant teaspoon of salt (Real Salt) seasoned the lot just right.

We enjoyed this mustardy, filling main course and the preparation was simple.  I forgot to take a photo of the whole completed dish (sorry!) but you can get a gander on the link.  I did use a bigger baking pan than the recipe suggested.  I don’t know how they fit all that into an 8″ square dish.  I buttered up my 2.5-quart Le Creuset buffet casserole, over 10″ wide, and baked the gratin in the toaster oven.  For the initial baking, I put the lid on it, instead of using foil.  I raised the oven temperature to 400° for the last 15 uncovered minutes to promote browning.

Texas cabbage won’t be around much longer.  So get your hands on a head—it’s cheap!—and enjoy a cool afternoon of carefree baking.  You’ll be glad you did at dinnertime.