Posted by: Rachel | April 28, 2020

better the devil you know…

Last week I attended, virtually of course, a happy hour. It was the monthly Austin Food Bloggers Alliance get-together, and this time our host/sponsor was Devil’s River Whiskey.

Now, if you know me, you know I’m not really much of a drinker. And if you know me well, you know I won’t drink when I’m out if I have to drive myself home. But you also know I’m curious. So, when the opportunity to participate from home showed up I grabbed it.

I must say, the folks at Devil’s River were very generous! They shipped me (and each of us, of course) a variety of their products, each product tagged with informative cards – very helpful for a neophyte like me!

I had no idea that bourbon had a “nose”. I thought that was reserved for wine (about which I also know very little). I’m not sure that *my* nose could discern what they described (“slightly peppery with ripe fruit, vanilla and nutmeg”), but I certainly did like the flavor.

My fellow bloggers mostly made fancy cocktails involving ingredients I didn’t have on hand. Me, I had ginger ale, so bourbon and ginger it was! I used Canada Dry with lemon. The bourbon cut the sweetness of the ginger ale, the ginger ale lightened up the bourbon. A fine marriage, in my opinion.

I’m looking forward to using the rest of the samples in different ways. I’m pretty sure there will be bourbon brownies, possibly bourbon-flambéed bananas, perhaps a chicken dish… I’m really more about eating than drinking. But I feel I have a new world of possibilities opening up here. Many thanks to Shveta, aka atx-bites for setting this up, and thanks again to Devil’s River Whiskey for expanding my horizons!

Posted by: Rachel | April 21, 2020

good and good for ya!

Sometimes the simplest foods bring comfort. For me, one of these things is carrot salad.

Now when I was a kid I must admit, I wasn’t a fan. That too sweet even for me shredded carrot and raisin with mayo stuff just wasn’t my cuppa. It was often soggy and just uninspired.

I was never really a fan of carrot salad until I had it in France. There you can buy it prepared in the supermarkets in little tubs, if you don’t have a kitchen. Divine!

I think the secret is two-part. One is the texture, the other is the dressing. Here’s the thing, this version, which is basically David Lebovitz’s recipe is as close to what I call perfect as I have found. And it couldn’t be simpler, really.

See how the holes are round? Makes all the difference!

If you only have a box grater, fine. But, if you want the French carrot salad texture that I crave (and it is very different, believe me), I find that using the grater that I use for hard cheeses does the trick. It creates the perfect slim rounded shred that makes me happy. The bites of carrot are crunchy, sweet, juicy, and did I say crunchy? Mmm…

So, here’s all it takes.

Franco-Texan Carrot Salade

1 carrot per person, grated
chopped parsley (ideally flat-leaf)
lemon juice
olive oil
pinch salt
3 pinches of sugar (opitonal)
pepper (optional)

carottes râpée

Mix the carrots and chopped parsley. Make a dressing with everything else. Add, but not too much – don’t drown those carrots!

All amounts are up to your taste. I like a dressing heavy on the lemon juice and easy on the oil. If your carrots are young and tender you can skip the sugar but I like a pinch (or 3) to balance the lemon. I also like lots of parsley, as you can see. I often leave the pepper out. One could, I suppose, add raisins or currants… I won’t tell.

In any event, good and good for you indeed. Take care of yourselves, stay safe, stay home, and more soon!

Posted by: Rachel | April 4, 2020

far too easy lemon bars

I must admit that it would be easy to give in to temptation and just bake my heart out, but I’m trying to be reasonable, which if you know me you know is not my best thing! Still, when life hands you lemons… well, you know.

So I started casting about for an easy (because I’m lazy) lemon bar-ish recipe. I found a ton of them! Seems I’m not the only one hungering for tart with sweet.

This is my riff on the one-bowl idea. (Un)fortunately it couldn’t be simpler. I think next time I’ll add a half tsp or so of lemon extract, and maybe some mini-chocolate chips, and yes, there will be a next time – these are good!

One Bowl Far Too Easy Lemon Bars

1 C flour
1/2 sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/4 C plain yogurt (not fat free)
3 T olive oil
zest of 1 lemon, chopped fine
2 T fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 or 9×9 pan with foil. Add all ingredients to one bowl. Mix well. Pour into the baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack. Cut in squares and demolish enjoy with tea on a rainy afternoon, or most anytime.

Posted by: Rachel | March 22, 2020

walk with me (Austin edition 1)

Stuck inside? Bored? (You must be if you’re reading this ;-)) Well, it is spring here and I thought you might like to share a bit of my morning walk. Here we go!

It has been raining. My neighbors have a red yucca in their yard and this morning it was, if not covered exactly, at least being visited by lots of big snails. I’ve never seen this before. Maybe they were trying to get out of the wet grass? No idea.

escargot, anyone?

Did I mention that it is spring? Oh, the flowers… everywhere! Some were pretty beat up from the rain, but lantana is tough.

lantana

Then there are bluebonnets.

wish this was my yard…

And wisteria. I wish you could smell it!

this just smells purple…

And, a very happy ladybug breakfasting on aphids on the artemisia that grows sort of wild around here.

I saw my first hummingbird of the season yesterday. If I can I’ll snag a photo for the next installment. That’s about it for now.
Stay well and stay in touch!!

Posted by: Rachel | February 29, 2020

leaping into spring

Yes, well it is leap year and today is leap day, so I really had no choice. Groans aside, my yard is definitely thinking that spring is on the way, or perhaps already here! I hope we don’t have another freeze…

Care to walk with me? My peach tree is in full bloom. It blooms early every year, and despite trying not to worry over things I can’t control (like the weather), I always expect that one last freeze that will undo all the fruiting possibilities for the year. This year, though, we might just be lucky.

There are none so optimistic as those who plant fruit trees.

My fig is flashing a peach sign.

dona nobis pacem (et de ficis loci)

My Puglian fennel is having a good hair day, in my opinion! It comes back every year, and often makes offspring in the sort of path-like areas I try to mow. I then try to mow around the new baby fennel, but when my hand slips, oh does the yard smell delicious!

I need to get back outside. There’s plenty more going on out there, so stay tuned! Enjoy your spring, or whatever season you’re having where you are, and stay healthy!

Posted by: Rachel | February 17, 2020

lazy cooking

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or if you live here (central Texas) you know that February (and hopefully March) is our fleeting spring and therefor is yard clean-up season. I try to jump on it before it gets too hot out, weed while the earth is soft and plant now now now!

That said, a girl’s gotta eat, and right now the weather is cool enough that having the stove or oven on is actually pleasant. But, time is another matter and if you know me, you know I don’t have time for fussy recipes no matter what time of year. That is what brings me here today. Yes, I’m a lazy cook.

I have never tried any of those meals-shipped-to-your-door deals. I enjoy doing my own shopping, picking my own produce, and often deciding what dinner will be while I’m in the store. It may not be considered best practice, but I’m just not a “plan meals for the week” person. I like my local grocery, and I love their olive bar.

A few days ago I took a break from spreading cedar mulch and pulling up cleavers and went to the store. The chicken dish I made was so good and I was so distracted by my yard that I forgot to take pictures for you! But I’ll give you the short version of my “recipe” and let it go at that. Then I’m heading back outside!

I bought chicken thighs, bone in and skin on. I also bought, from the olive bar, a mixture of pitted olives, some roasted garlic cloves, and a handful of chickpeas in olive oil with herbs. I had on hand rice and French green lentils (the only kind I buy, I confess – they don’t get mushy and gray like most lentils seem to) and, of course, olive oil.

I got out my big heavy Dutch oven, put in some olive oil and browned the chicken on both sides. Removed the chicken to a plate and put 1 cup each of rice and lentils in the pot. Stirred for a minute and tossed in my olive bar goodies. Stirred again, added 2-1/2 cups of water, placed the chicken back on top. Simmered, covered for about 45 minutes then a few minutes with the top off as it was a bit wet still. Took it off the heat, had some and was well pleased. It reheated just fine too, over the next few days.

Easy enough? If you have access to an olive bar or an olive vendor at your local market, it certainly is!

Sorry about the photo dearth. I’ll try to do better next time, but for now the yard is calling me! Enjoy your season and let me know if you try this, ok? Happy gardening!

Posted by: Rachel | December 6, 2019

the long and short of it

I love persimmons. They are gorgeous hanging on a tree in the fall sun, and they are gorgeous on a plate. Sometimes, though, they’re hard to find.

I got lucky when I was visiting my sister a week ago and scored some there. Aren’t they pretty?

mmm!

There are two kinds that are most common in groceries, Hachiya persimmons and Fuyu persimmons, the long and the short. In France they are both called “kaki”, which is from the Japanese “Diospyros kaki” In any event, no matter what you call them and no matter which sort, they are sweet, delicious, and good for you.

When I can find them, I let them ripen well, to almost mushy. Then I cut them in half and just eat the flesh with a spoon. I hear you can make pudding or preserves, or a host of other things with them, but, like, figs, they just never last long enough around here. See what I mean?

so pretty!

and so gooooood!

If you can find them, I hope you enjoy them! Let me know what you think, ok?

Posted by: Rachel | November 29, 2019

and then…

In case you somehow missed it, yesterday was Thanksgiving. That means, at least in my world, that today, in addition to being a mad-dash shopping day (no thanks) it is time to live up to my blog’s name.

Ok, maybe not soup exactly, but stock from yesterday’s beautiful bird. Do I really need to say much more? If a picture is truly worth 1000 words, this should do it.

Here’s hoping everyone had a safe and happy holiday and a good start to the holiday season! Love your leftovers, stay warm, and bon appétit!

Posted by: Rachel | October 20, 2019

a tale of two chowders

I promised you tales of my travels, and finally here we go. This summer I was lucky enough to go to Ireland for the first time. I expected to enjoy it, of course, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with it.

I did.

The people, the countryside, the food, the cider, it was all wonderful. Especially the chowder.

The first night, after a long plane ride, I was happy to eat at the hotel. I needed food, but not too much, so I asked if I could just have the seafood chowder appetizer. Of course, no problem. Cup or bowl I asked, and the server motioned something in between with his hands. Fine.

It was a perfect serving. Hot, creamy, full of fish, mussels, other seafood bits, and just a few (very few!) chunks of potato, it was the perfect elixer for a good night’s sleep.

Based on this, I made it a point to try it everywhere it was offered, and in Ireland that meant most everywhere!

Here are two of the versions. You can find plenty of recipes for Irish seafood chowder out there, but (in my opinion) any that call for olive oil rather than butter can’t really be trusted. 🙂

hotel chowder (mmm!)

one of many I tried in the interest of research (mmm)

They were all wonderful. If you have access to good fresh fish and seafood and want a hearty (but somehow not heavy, how do they do that?) meal, I highly recommend trying this!

Posted by: Rachel | October 2, 2019

a delicious evening

I know, I know, I promised last time to tell you about my travels. I will, I promise, but first I want to tell you about something closer to home.

I’m sure we’ve all done it. You drive by a place often, sometimes for years, and you think sometime I will stop and check it out. I’m certainly guilty!

Long story short, I finally visited Thicket Food Park. They invited a number of memebers of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance to visit and enjoy samplings (oh, very generous samplings indeed) from the various food trucks. What a lovely evening it was!

I’ve been driving by this place once or twice a week for a few years (4, they tell me) but never stopped. I was always on my way to somewhere else, usually either shopping or maybe Texas Keeper Cidery. In any event, I knew exactly where it was and often thought, oh, I’ll stop there when it is warmer/cooler/drier… you get the idea. But, thanks to their generous offer to host us and my good luck at grabbing a spot, I ended up having a perfectly lovely evening.

It is a great little (actually, not so very little) food truck, hair salon (yes, really) and playground venue! And, although it has only been on site for a few years (ok, 4) it feels like the best of old south Austin!

We sat at picnic tables in a shady and somehow seemingly cool and quiet cedar grove and enjoyed (enormously!) the variety of foods and drinks. Options range from Hawaiian (about which I know nothing but what they served us was delicious!) to Italian, to Vegan, to Thai (a very cool concept – a food truck that sells meal kits (complete with appropriate curries and spices) you take home and prepare, rather than prepared food!).

There were sandwiches (burgers, meatloaf…), pastas, avocado toast, golden milk, hibiscus tea, mango lassi, a couple of curries, I can’t honestly remember everything. What I can remember, though, is that luckily for me Thicket is only a couple of miles from my house, there’s plenty of parking, it is kid friendly, and there’s pretty much something for everyone to enjoy! I’ll definitely be back! Many thanks to all the folks who shared their delicious offerings with us and I’ll see you again soon!

not far away but far out!

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