June 15, 2009

turkey and kale mole tacos

My mother's favorite vegetable growing up was kale, but she never cooked it when I was growing up. Apparently, we were too picky... wouldn't eat artichokes, cauliflower, or even tomatoes. Thus, tonight marked my first endeavor with kale. I was pleased with the outcome, even though Adam's response was the usual, "It's alright," earned by my red-meat-alternate meals.

Turkey and Kale Mole Tacos

1 lb ground turkey
1 small onion
3-4 stalks kale, chopped into small pieces
2 t chili powder
3 t cumin
1/2 oregano
3 T mole spice/paste
1 T tomato sauce
1 c vegetable broth
salt, to taste

In a large skillet, brown the turkey and onion together. Drain, and return to the pan.
Add kale and soften on medium heat 2-4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, combine well, cook, and reduce for another 3-5 minutes.

Serve with warm tortillas and the cheese and goodies of your choosing. I had mine with corn tortillas, lime juice, avocado, and a bit of the first tomato out of our garden (not pictured, because I added it as an afterthought!).

June 4, 2009

vegan potato cashew soup

[Source: FatFree Vegan Kitchen]

Last month, I embarked on a 3-week allergy-testing elimination and reintroduction diet. It was awesome. Seriously!

The elimination piece of the diet had me taking any potential allergy or GI irritants out: animal products (meat, dairy, eggs), wheat, soy products, corn, tomato, and all sugars but agave nectar. Now, on a normal week, I probably eat most of these--particularly wheat and tomato in one form or another--on a daily basis.

As a result, I had to learn to eat very differently. The first few days, I relegated myself to simple salads, my prescribed shakes, and almond milk 10 different ways. They were good, but boy, was I craving something savory or starchy after a while! My two indulgences (oh, in addition to almond butter, and more almond butter) were oat bran and potatoes.

I'll tell you first about potatoes: I almost never cook them these days, but in those weeks, I happily rediscovered the humble potato. My favorite find was a vegan soup as found here from FatFree Vegan Kitchen. It was so savory and satisfying, and was the inspiration for me to continue pursuing vegan cooking.

I followed her recipe pretty closely, just cooking up some Yukon gold potatoes till firm, and then adding 2/3 of them to the remaining ingredients after they're blended in a mixer. I substituted plain almond milk for the milk, and didn't have any nutritional yeast so didn't add it. I didn't miss it! I also used fresh rosemary and a swirl of olive oil, since oils and nuts were my only source of fat in those weeks. Oh, and I really enjoyed it with chopped scallions as you see above.

I'll definitely be making that one again, possibly with some sweet potatoes or curry incorporated.

June 3, 2009

BPA aversion

Today, someone I follow on Twitter posted an update about this study by Harvard scientists that confirms that hard plastic bottles most likely put BPA into people's systems. (Of course, I'm not sure whether presence of the chemical in the urine actually proves that it's setting up shop somewhere in the tissues, but that's another issue.)

Despite my attempt to deflect fear-mongering chain mail about BPA hazards, this whole thing still kind of bothers me. I drink from one of Camelbak's BPA-free plastic bottles, which instead uses Tritan copolyester, which is supposed to be safer. But as I read the press release about Tritan copolyester, I noticed a reference to the new plastic's ability to withstand "crazing, cracking or hazing from continual exposure to high heat."

Well, after a recent trip to the beach where my bottle may or may not have been left in the sun for a little bit, it's grown a hazy area with little bubbles on one side. I guess I should be concerned. (?)

Well, as I'm in a mindset toward health these days, I may consider changing my ways. One option is this, the new Camelbak bottles, as covered on Treehugger.com:

They have the nice drinking straw setup I enjoy in my current bottle, not the narrow neck that's tough to clean offered in the most aluminum drinking bottles. (Bonus!)

Another option is... start drinking water during the day at work, home, etc., and don't rely on carrying a little bottle around like I need to sip water 24-7. Honestly, I haven't really thought about this. I noticed a coworker fills a cool little carafe each morning with water. How classy is that? I might just try this out instead... getting off of the bottled-water grid, one might say. Plus, looking for a cool carafe set in a vintage store or the Goodwill sounds like fun.

Here's a groovy carafe set from the A+R Store:

Or, I rather like this clean little set from CB2.

But, really, any old glass bottle would do! I have a fun, faded OJ pitcher from my childhood (you know, the one with the little oranges dancing around the circumference?) at home that my partner-in-crime doesn't particularly like. Perhaps it will soon make an appearance at the office.

April 22, 2009

for the love of avocados

Fresh-from-the-dryer jeans, comfy tank top, new haircut.
Ripe strawberries, fresh corn tortillas, and a perfectly ripe avocado for lunch.
Today it really is all about the simple things.

I might even be inspired to make my first chilled soup, in honor of the mighty avocado and of the rather warm weather we're having...

A few avocado inspirations:

Must... return... to... work. Happy eating, and happy Earth Day.

April 21, 2009

i got garden

Month 6 in our house, and we're beginning to make some progress on the exterior.

Aside from my recent acquisition of a large rope hammock and ladder ball game, here's how the front planter's looking.

I tucked in some herbs--thyme and flat-leaf parsley so far--amongst the other drought-tolerant ornamentals and succulents.

We also put in one 4 X 8' raised bed so far in the back. (Plans for a second one, time-permitting.) Here are a few photos.

Italian basil. (I harvested much of it last night for some pesto! Hope it grows back quickly.)

Eager little cucumbers.

Also put in some flowers for cutting. I have high hopes for lovely Dahlias! (Also put in a lot of Zinnias and another flower whose name is new to me and escapes memory...)

April 15, 2009

tx wine and food festival and austin's cake balls confectioner

Ahh, springtime in the Hill Country: Clear blue skies, balmy temperatures, wildflowers, and... a crazy number of food events in which my occasionally-food-blogging self wants to participate!

I've been pleased, though sheepish due to my scant number of posts this spring, to catch wind of a handful of food-oriented fetes this month. I am excited this week to check out a few events for the Texas Hill Country Food and Wine Festival. This evening, the first I was able to get to, was a reception at the new Hotel Saint Cecilia in South Austin, a boutique hotel that emerged this year from a beautiful old bed and breakfast in our old Travis Heights neighborhood.

Lovely photo of the pool, oaks, and oh-so-classic awnings by benfu.

Of the three hors d'ouevres I sampled, I really liked the watermelon wedge served with goat cheese, pickled onions, and a bit of balsamic vinegar and greens. However, I'm not even clear as to who was preparing the food: Was it the staff at the hotel? Another restaurant in town? Either I missed something, or it was just not *that kind* of gathering. Curious.

UPDATE: I realized the invite credited Whole Foods for the catering, and Bonterra and Sterling vineyards provided the wine.

So here's where I expose myself as the neophyte you likely already know me to be: I was WAY excited about the schwag bag!

The festival folks put together the nicest bag of local snacks, wine, gift cards, and goodies, the best of which so far has been a box of delectable cake balls (giggle) by Austin confectioner, Cake by Bridges. Where have I been? Has everyone known about these, but kept them from me all this time? What a great idea, but better yet, what great execution! I had a chocolate cake ball, and the cake was moist and fudgy with a hint of cherry or coffee to it. As my godfather signs all his e-mails, "Rock ON," Cake by Bridges!

These would be such a great alternative (or addition) to cupcakes, petit fours, or truffles at a party or wedding. Has anybody seen or made these before, or used Cake by Bridges for an event?

Next up, we're off to the Sunday Fair of the festival. I'll either be buying or borrowing a camera for that one. Fingers crossed for good hill-country-driving weather.

February 19, 2009

catalina coffee... from houston... in austin

We were gifted last weekend--intentionally or not, I'm not sure--with some great beans from Catalina Coffee in Houston. My brother- and sister-in-law are big fans, and I'm with them. I hope they weren't too sad to arrive home and realize they left their favorite coffee behind in Austin.

Someday, we'll add an espresso machine to the new kitchen. A start would be to buy milk and dig out my frother, though!

The perfect cappuccino by { sara }.

I stumbled upon this gorgeous and fluffy cappuccino at { sara's } flickr page.

February 15, 2009

of chocolate tarts and countertops

Well, despite my inactivity here online, I have begun to cook a bit again. Why?

OUR COUNTERS ARE FINALLY DONE! Yes, the kitchen is fully functional.

And there was much rejoicing...

Last weekend, as planned, I finally made the recipe for Chocolate Ganache Tart with the pretzel crust that Krysta (aka Evil Chef Mom) posted a few weeks ago. Here's a rather inferior, blurry photo, probably taken with someone's cell phone. Note the new countertop in the background.

We had a great group date (kinky, eh?) at III Forks, followed by Ballet Austin's performance of Hamlet, which was really pretty incredible. I thought it would be fun to come back to the house for dessert, and it was indeed. I think we were up until 2 or 3 am talking, drinking wine and armagnac, and going back for little nibbles of this awesome, rich tart.

(Here they are, awaiting said tart while I serve it.
P.S. The crust required a serrated knife; pretzels made it a bit dense and crunchy.)

Thanks for Krysta's myriad warnings, I didn't have any problems with this tart. It's a bit time consuming, but I just set aside time the Thursday before Valentine's day, made sure I actually set an alarm for each phase of baking, cooling, etc., and paused the ol' DVR when the bell told me it was time for the next step.

To avoid the issues with this sticky and tear-prone crust, I kept it between the plastic wrap until the last moment. To start, I did roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap. (At one moment, it slooshed out of the wrap and my rolling pin immediately stuck to any dough it contacted. Seriously: Keep the dough covered at all times.)

I also only refrigerated the dough for about 10 minutesafter rolling it out. I then carefully transferred it, using the plastic wrap to place it and then as a glove of sorts to press the dough into the fluted tart pan. That way, the dough could finish cooling in the refrigerator already prepped in the pan.

Also, if you want to try this recipe and don't have pie weights (I actually don't know what they are yet! Note to self...), you can weigh down the shell while baking with uncooked beans.

Thank you, Krysta! This was the first dish I've cooked in the new kitchen that was more complicated than black bean tacos, and it was really pretty glamorous.

February 1, 2009

things I saw this weekend

Well friends, for the time being, I have no camera. We were burglarized recently, and amongst the theives' spoils was our Nikon. Wah! All's well, thank goodness for homeowner's insurance and our brand-new alarm system. (Ah, hindsight.)

Still, I have some good blogging energy and wanted to share a few things that inspired me this weekend:

1. Austin's Botanical Garden's vegetable garden and composting demonstration. I don't know who's responsible for the happy and healthy garden next to the composting demonstration, but it was the best part of the garden today. Lettuces, broccoli, beets, radishes, herbs, cauliflowers, strawberries, and kale: Oh, my! Really, it was a gorgeous little garden; teeming with life and green goodness. I wanted to run home and build a bed right away. (Of course, I didn't. Still, the... er, seed has been planted! I've got a good sketch worked out and a list of plants was begun.)

2. Early spring visit to The Great Outdoors. I thought a garden in our new house wasn't going to happen this year, but I really want to get something started soon. My mom, the gardener and flower designer extraordinaire, drew my attention to blue ice cypress (also spotted at the botanic garden), lemon trees, wisteria, and a handful of cool grasses.

3. Beautiful rugs at SoCo Designs. I realize this has nothing to do whatsoever with coffee, queso, or anything else edible, but I'd love to host a bohemian feast atop one of SoCo Designs' gorgeous hand-tufted wool rugs. They also had an incredible variety of shags that can be cut to size and other interesting and glam wall-to-wall options. Oh, to have a trust fund (or any extra funds, these days!)

4. Sago's blackberry cocktails. The Zarzamora and the Blackberry frozen margarita are both high on my list these days. We arrived with my parents in tow in the busy Triangle area--hungry and cranky--at 7:30 on a Friday night. Usually, this is something of a gastronomic death sentence in Austin, because most of our favorite spots come with a minimum 30-minute wait in the evening.

Within 15 minutes at Sago, we were seated in a cozy spot at the bar, halfway through our tasty beverages and enjoying fresh guacamole and chips. Whether you like the controversial Triangle development or not, I recommend this spot for it's great drinks (and happy hour specials), tasty dishes, warm and sexy interior, and very nice staff.

All in all, it was a most productive and pleasant weekend! I even found two Jonathan Adler mugs on clearance at a favorite boutique (Mercury Design Studio) that perfectly match his elephant teapot that we received as a gift last year and love. Sahweet.

It was a warm and sunny February 1st here in Austin. A friend said today, Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l'hiver est par derriere, meaning If February is clear, winter is behind us.

Happy Spring!

January 8, 2009

going green, eventually

The sample of our revisited concrete counter top was ready today. It's full of recycled glass. Is it possible that I may soon have something other than plywood on which to prepare food???

Concrete work is being done by the enthusiastic and talented Eric Billig of Eric Billig Works.

(Or do you care about the status of my kitchen? I just can help but chronicle this with great anticipation...)

love me some Trudy's Mexican martinis

Now that I've recovered from the sugar, fat, and alcohol indulgences of the holiday past, it's almost time to get my drink on again. In moderation, of course.

I came across this Mexican martini at Trudy's Restaurant that I photographed (poorly, but with great enthusiasm) last summer and on which I intended to post. My favorite involves the following, shaken with plenty of ice: gold tequila (I like Cazadores for a fairly priced but tasty version), Cointreau, plenty of fresh lime juice, olives with a little extra olive juice, and plenty of salt.

I don't know how popular Mexican martinis are in other regions or states, so you like tequila or lime at all and haven't had one, please do so! AND if you live in Austin and haven't tried Trudy's version, add it to your to do list.

Mmm... it's kind of warm out today. Might have to find someone to grab one of these after work.

January 7, 2009

excuse: good enough?

Well, maybe you'd say I don't have to apologize, but it was kinda sad.  I was just cruising along last summer and the move to our new house killed my cooking momentum.

So here's my excuse, aside from the fact that it took weeks to get floors and walls in and restored: Our kitchen is not yet done. We're working slowly with a local artist who works in concrete and wood to get some bitchin' counters in, and we won't be able to install our sink or hook up the dishwasher until the counter arrives. As a result, I offer you exhibits A and B below.

Exhibit A: Someday soon, a lovely, deep stainless under-mount sink will appear here, surrounded by a built-in drainboard and cutting board:

Exhibit B: The current dishwashing area. Appetizing, no? Did I mention that this sink is the nearest water source to the kitchen, and it's about 40 feet away. Try getting a roasting pan in THAT sucker.

Well, wish me luck. And while you're at it, any advice for these last stages of the kitchen renovation?