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Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Local Lovelies: Persimmons

local texas persimmon greenling.com

Second only to peaches, persimmons are my favorite local fruit.  Find them at farm stands or CSA boxes in the fall.

local texas persimmon greenling.comLittle Sister devoured more than her allotment!  Big Brother was on the fence but liked the few slices he tried.  You can taste the sunshine in these orbs, slightly sweet with a hint of diluted apricot.  I’ll be hunting for persimmon trees (if I can manage to keep it alive long enough to bear fruit!).

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What’s the connection?

Well, Paramount set up shop east of Austin to film portions of the anticipated fourth installment of Transformers. I went to Taylor to check out the digs. The filming ended weeks ago, but the aura of Mark Wahlberg remained, like when you walk by people smoking, the fumes linger in the hot humid air.

It would have been exciting to see Bumblebee up close, or from the barricades a few blocks away, same difference.

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The new Bumblebee?

I asked the bartender/waitress in Taylor Café about Transformers, she said much of Taylor was shut down during filming including the café. It’s neat to realize a film was being made about 10 miles from my house! Of course there have been other great films set in Austin, Office Space for example. That’s a whole other topic.

Food. BBQ, specifically, is what I was hunting today. (Man meat aka Mark will have to wait.)

Taylor Café is on the list of Texas Monthly’s BBQ lineup for BBQ week, going on now through Friday.

We tested two plates: ribs and turkey sausage.

Rib BBQ Plate @ Taylor Cafe

Rib BBQ plate @ Taylor Café

Turkey Sausage BBQ Plate @ Taylor Cafe

Turkey Sausage BBQ Plate @ Taylor Café

I’m a sucker for ribs.

These ribs were moist and seasoned well. A good amount of smoke permeating the meat. Quite a bit of fat, but that comes with oinker territory. It didn’t stop Little Sister from picking the bones clean! And then stealing her brothers beans.

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He didn’t care, so long as he had the last of the Dr. Pepper.

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The turkey sausage was plainly seasoned with pepper, I couldn’t decipher many other spices in them. The BBQ sauce was mildly sweet and very tangy.

The beans were named “crazy beans” by my son because they had quite a bit of black pepper on them. He’s sensitive to spices, what 8-year-old isn’t. I can’t blame him, he’s half Canadian, bland runs in his genetic makeup. Yet he loves beans, go figure.

The potato salad was alright, not convinced it was made in-house. Does that matter?

For less than $20 we had ourselves an evening out, complete with a tour of a Hollywood movie set and Texas rainstorms. Quite an exciting Monday!

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As a Mom of two rambunctious kids I know full well that “camping” means work for me and fun for them.  But Moms already know that it takes a lot more effort to go our there and have fun than to sit at home.  These days I’m so busy with day-to-day life, it was refreshing to turn off the phone and not bring any electronics to Inks Lake State Park.  The trip was a Scout Pack activity but everyone in the family is welcome, and most of the parents were Moms!

Camping did have me a little worried.  Little Sister likes to play in the dirt, with bugs, and chases butterflies.  She could easily get lost!  All the families kept an eye on the heard of kids as they explored our piece of heaven.  I went to the rescue of a boy while taking pictures of this flowering cactus, he fell on to the very same species I was admiring.  My trusty multi-tool with pliers came in handy as I played field EMT removing thorns and pins.  I was thankful it wasn’t one of my kids.  Sure enough though, Big Brother took a spill and scratched up his knee.  I could tell it was him by the yelp through the trees.  Can’t have fun without someone getting hurt.

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I prepared some beef carnitas the night before we left, froze them and carried it in the cooler.  Wrapped in two layers of foil they sat on the coals until heated through.  On the side, a mixture of potatoes, sweet onion, and tomatoes cooked in foil.  A very satisfying meal.

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Campfire Carnitas

  • 1 pound skirt or flank steak
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3-4 chilies in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup marinara sauce

Sear the beef on both sides, remove to a plate to rest.  Sauté the carrot and onion in the pan with olive oil.  Add the garlic powder, chilies and marinara sauce.  Slice the meat against the grain and return to the pan.  Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the carrots are soft, about another 10 minutes.  Cool and pour into a ziptop bag, freeze overnight.

Remove the carnitas from the bag.  Double wrap the mixture (it can be frozen) in foil.  Heat over medium coals until bubbling hot again.  Serve with tortillas and your favorite toppings like avocado, pico de gallo, or cilantro.

 

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Breakfast was fruit salad (mango, banana, pear).  I was still stuffed with s’mores from last night.  The kids had cereal and milk, as well as some of my fruit.

The park was unbelievably beautiful.  Real toilets with showers, albeit a short hike away, were nice since we were tenting.

For more ideas on food outdoors, check out the Texas Parks Picnicking Page.  I’ll leave you with a slideshow of the trip.

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I missed this swap last year and was looking for a comeback this year.  The Austin Food Blogger Alliance and several Boston bloggers have organized a gift swap.  I love getting packages in the mail!

Without further ado, here is my box full of Austin goodies to send to my counterpart in Boston.

Melanie at Kiss My Glass will be receiving locally roasted Third Coast Coffee, Fara Coffee, Rudy’s Rub (gotta have BBQ in there somewhere), Texas Honey, Organic Raw Blue Agave Nectar, Benitos Chips, and Thunderbird Energetica Bars.

If you are from Austin, what other local products do you like to share with distant friends?  I’ve adopted Austin as home for now and found it rather difficult to narrow down what I wanted to send!

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Wild Fire (812 South Austin Avenue  Georgetown, TX 78626  (512) 869-3473) was the only place I could find open after 6pm while wandering around downtown Georgetown.  I was taking a page from my blog friend, The Edmonton Tourist, to be a tourist in my neck of the woods.  All I could do was window shop and take note of any stores that look interesting for future visits during business hours.

Lucky for me, Wild Fire had a nice assortment of desserts including Black Forest Cake!  I bought a slice with a cup of coffee.  Who in their right mind gets coffee when it’s screaming hot outside?  Well, I thought it was a bit early for Chardonnay.

I had to hold myself back from devouring this luscious chocolate mouse layer cake.  I was expecting more kirsch flavor but the extra cherries on the side made up for that.

Relax and enjoy duck quesadillas, bison, or just dessert like me, while Frank Sinatra woos you via the constant stream of music overhead.  A quaint atmosphere in old downtown Georgetown, I had the feeling there are quite a few regulars (probably lawyers and retired folks) who meet here.  I had a very friendly waiter who let me snag a table in the window.  He said it was a slow night and they typically serve the 80+ crowds, I seemed to be a part of a freak wave of youthful patrons.

The lovely elderly woman who left while I was in the middle of picking away at the chocolate cake said to me “Are you going straight to the gym after that?”  I was flattered, really, because I’ve neglected to go to the gym for years.  I smiled brightly and replied “No, I pick up my kids after this.”  She agreed. “That’s a workout in itself!”

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A heavy cantaloupe melon from the garden.  I hope the other baby melons grow this big!

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I’m still learning about what it means to live in Texas.  I never knew cactus was edible (or even BBQ’d) until I’d been here a while.  Cactus “leaves” as well as the purple “fruit” called prickly pear!  Once your brain stops fighting the urge to shrivel up and die from the heat, you can see the glorious variety of locally grown food.

When we bought our first home our friends K&R gave us a plant.  K said to plant it anywhere and it should grow just fine.  At the time I had no intentions of growing much in my new clay and rock bed aka back yard so the gift was plopped in a hole the first place I could dig into the soil.  There it sat, all alone along the back fence of the yard.  This little gal almost met her maker when the fence was ripped out and replaced by higher-than-standard fencing.  She grew a bit each year without so much as a drink of water from me.

This spring there was fruit.

Fruit that was astringent and sweet.  This fruit reminded me of crab apples I grew up eating on the farm.  But the flesh was softer than an apple and yellow.  The neighbourhood birds flock to feast on the small clusters of mysterious golden fruit.  I remained puzzled for a few days until I saw a post on the AFBA Facebook page about Loquat Jelly.  Loquat?  It that what they’re called?!?  I have the Golden Nugget variety which is supposed to taste like apricot.

Now that I know what these are called, I made jam!

I followed the recipe for jam on the Ball No-Sugar mini package (it’s for two 8 oz jars) and used water, fresh lemon juice, loquats, and honey.  Since the pectin formula does not rely on a bunch of sugar you can adjust the jam to your taste.  I’ve found this method makes the fruit sing and you won’t have a sugar buzz from eating you jam with toast.   It’s best to carefully follow the directions on the package when it comes to home-made jams, trust me I’ve made some weird stuff trying to wing it.

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Bluebonnets and Nachos remind me that I’m not in Canada anymore.

We are steadily approaching the nine-year mark of my immigration to Texas.  Ironically, my first day on the job was Canada Day.  Everyone back home was enjoying the warmth of the elusive summer season while I sorted out paperwork for HR.  One of my colleagues was from my neck of the planet and told me that there are others in town, other ex-pats, and there would still be a celebration that evening.  The CIA (Canadians In Austin) throw parties at pubs who will have them.  There’s a lot of red, white, and Labatt’s Blue at these shindigs.  One time they had imported cheese curd and prepared poutine as part of a special CIA menu, I had two orders and reveled in their cheesy gravy glory.

Personally, it’s a lot of work to duplicate most of the holidays except Thanksgiving.  Turkey dinner with several festive side dishes is welcome any time at my house!  I’ve kept up Thanksgiving in October, when it should be held, every year and don’t plan on stopping.

Fields of purple clover and golden canola have been replaced by bluebonnets and whatever those other weeds wildflowers are.  Poutine, one of my favorite mini-meals to keep you going during -20ºC weather, has been replaced with corn tortilla chips covered in cheese and mashed avocado (a.k.a guacamole) on the side.

The upside to warmer days (and nights) in Texas is the ability to grow more variety in your garden, and longer growing seasons.  I plucked fresh cilantro and chives for the nachos straight from the yard.  A few extra bugs are acceptable instead of shoveling snow, too.

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Nites Out: Sprouts Market

Sprouts Market is not a place you can sit down and enjoy a tasty organically fed roast beef on rye.  It is however somewhere you can pick up a tasty organically fed roast beef on rye and eat it in your car or take back to work and have your colleagues peek around the tiny cubicle walls to see what you’re eating.  Jealousy achieved.

Today I found a meatloaf with veggies on sale for $2.99, cheaper than drive-thru and healthier too.  Having access to a fridge and microwave at the office is a much-needed resource if I’m going to maintain a curvy figure sans deep-fried lunches.

Wednesdays is the best day to pop into Sprouts, it’s double deal day.  This is the day of the week that two full color flyers collide, those in the know will be milling around eagle eyeing the sale tags throughout the store.  My plan was to pick up blueberries and avocados, two of our favorites.  You can’t send me, a food blogger and fruit freak, to a grocery store without a few “extras” ending up in the cart.  My only squabble about Sprouts is the lack of bulk quinoa flakes, they have the whole grains but not the flakes.

Who could pass up a deep purple eggplant for 88 cents?  Oranges for 49 cents a pound, pshhh!  Texas grapefruit 4 for a dollar, getouttaheeere!

And I have to pick out some treats for the kids, right?  Yogurt covered raisins, dried apple, and toffee coated peanuts.  Buy a little or a lot from the bulk isles.  You’ll have to dig your way through the elderly people who tend to look at every single bin, then ask each other “Are we needing some rice, dear?”  It’s cute and I hope that I will be there with my dearest in our golden years, but not on Wednesdays when the store is buzzing with working people on lunch breaks who are just there for the blueberries.

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Hearing about the wildfires back home was torment enough, this time the disaster can be seen from my current home in Texas.

We have one of the worst droughts since 1925, as we surpassed that 86-year-old record many days ago.  Signs along the I-35 corridor flash EXTREME WILDFIRE CONDITIONS… CONSERVE WATER.  Over 500 homes have been destroyed by the flames, and there’s no end in sight.  This summer’s heat wave sucked the moisture out of the trees, grass and the Earth itself.  Everything surrounding the fires only feeds its fury.  Meanwhile firefighters from all across the state have converged to help fight these fires.  The plume of smoke can be seen for miles.

As we returned home from our Labour Day weekend, helicopters with water headed east and out of view from the car window.

Tomorrow we will return to the recipes you all tune in for.  For today, please keep our neighbors in your prayers.

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