Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

No Grocery Store Challenge, Day 29 January 31, 2010

For a nice hot hearty breakfast this morning, I had some of the bulk pork sausage from Richardson Farms and 2 duck eggs scrambled with market tomatoes.  Then I layered up and headed to the Downtown Farmer’s Market in Republic Square Park, which was to debut its new layout and deck under a huge oak tree, with tables and chairs and live music.    I’ll post some pictures later, I just realized I haven’t downloaded them yet.  It was great!  That venue is perfect for the growing market, and I ran into so many friends there, grocery shopping has never been more enjoyable.  I got home with the Kocurek torchons and andouille I bought Wednesday and forgot to bring home, as well as some Texas Hot Sausage and molassas bacon.  I bought pepper jack and cheddar cheese from Full Quiver, butter lettuce from Bella Verdi, (and he gave me some microgreens to try) an enormous Napa cabbage and shallots, and Texas Coffee Trader’s coffee.  Oh, and more pasta from Texas Pasta Company.  I need to make my own from local wheat, but haven’t gotten to that yet.)  It was a really fun farmer’s market today.

For a late lunch, I had a Whole Wheat tortilla made from scratch with Richardson’s wheat, with some full quiver cheese folded over into a quesadilla.  I need to work on the tortilla recipe a bit to give it more flavor.  Today was the first time to try that recipe.   I used an electric tortilla press, which allowed me to get it thinner than I could have otherwise, I think.  It was pretty good.  The recipe called for cooking it in oil, which would have added flavor, but I was trying to keep the calories down, with the dinner I had in mind.

Dinner, was a bit odd.  Trying to adapt existing recipes to what I have on hand,  is not as smart as trying to come up with new recipes to highlight what I do have.  Lesson learned.  I had watched Tyler Florence make Stroganoff, with pasta, mushrooms, garlic, sour cream and cream, and the beef was short ribs.  I had thawed Bastrop Cattle Company short ribs and cooked them in the oven at 300 for 2.5 hours.  They were great, with lots of olive oil, my garden thyme and rosemary.    I had the rest of the wheat pasta from the downtown market a couple of weeks ago, and cooked that.  I sauteed market mushrooms and the shallots I got today in Kocurek duck fat, thyme and red wine.  (The absence of garlic in everything was noticible.)  Then for the cream sauce, I attempted to make one from goat milk thickened with chevre.  The result was an oddly purple colored (from the wine) thin sauce that didn’t taste bad, but wasn’t really that good either.  I wish I had just stuck to my homemade pesto that the freezer is full of.    Oh well. Now I know.

So today was interesting.  I’m full of good, healthful, local food, it just wasn’t the triumph I had hoped for.  I do have wheat tortillas that are ready to go, in the fridge now, which is a bonus.  Pizza crust is next.  Tortillas and pizza are not on my regular menu, I just seem to need to know they are available.  More hoarding mentality I guess.

 

No Grocery Store Challenge, Day 27 January 30, 2010

Nearing the end of the first month of this challenge and I have no complaints.  I think I’ve settled in.  I still miss some things, but my diet is healthier and I’ve lost 5 pounds.  Granted, that was holiday weight gain, but still!

Breakfast was a scrambled duck egg.  Countryside Farms.

Lunch was the other link of Kocurek Jalapeno smoked sausage from the day before, and a small salad using my lettuce harvested just before I covered it for the freeze, Texas Olive Ranch olive oil and Figalicious Balsamic.  Their vinegars are wonderful!  I also have pomegranate and orange flavored.

Dinner was a bison burger, on the last of the whole wheat bread that I made a while back and had frozen, with market tomatoes, CAEDA Farms I think, tons of Bella Verdi Lettuce, and my pickled peppers from the bumper crop I had in late summer.

 

No Grocery Store Challenge, Day 26 January 29, 2010

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Breakfast, 1 scrambled egg with Texas Olive Ranch olives chopped and mixed in.

Lunch, Kocurek Jalapeno Sausage and Full Quiver Colby.  I made myself a little charcuterie plate.

Dinner, garden salad (my lettuce, market tomato, market green onions), garden broccoli,  and Amberjack, from the downtown farmer’s market sauteed in Texas Olive Ranch olive oil.

From the Triangle market I got more green onions, hydroponic tomatoes,  some andouille from the Kocurek’s and a ribeye and some ground pork sausage from Richardson Farms.  With the really cold weather coming, I’ve got some yummy comforting winter meals planned for the next few days.

Almost one month, and this is getting easier.  It is hard to believe that I have not set foot in Central Market, Whole Foods, Fresh Plus or Costco since December.

 

Watermelon Radish Seedlings January 25, 2010

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You’d think I would get used to seeing seeds sprout, but I never really do.  I’m always so excited to see little green signs of life (and food) emerge from their underground starting place.  Some never do come up, despite my coddling.  I don’t think the Buttercrunch Lettuce germinated, but the carrots I planted next to it the same day have sprouted.    Radishes are so very easy to grow.  The Watermelon Radish seeds I planted this week are emerging every day.  In just a month or so, they’ll be an edible addition to my (non Buttercrunch) salad.  They actually started coming up in clumps, which means I dropped too many seeds in one spot and they also get washed around when I water the first time.  I’ll have to thin them, which pains me, because I hate to waste one little radish life.  But, it must be done to ensure the others will have room to grow.

Watermelon Radish Seedlings

 

No Grocery Store Challenge, Day 20 January 22, 2010

Wow, three full weeks tomorrow and I am happy as can be with my decision to do this little challenge.  I just got home from an extraordinary event by Slow Food Austin.  It was a happy hour at Cipollina Bistro on West Lynn, a spot I’m quite familiar with as it is on my daily traffic route.  I used to frequent the Fresh Plus Grocery Store next to it, a little spot that has felt like my own personal little shop for years and years.  Cipollina has gone through some transitions in the last few years, and I felt, struggled to find its identity for a bit.  But now, they are using as much locally sourced foods as they can, and I will go there again and again, because the meals they prepare with local food are outstanding.  (I need to go on a never use the word “awesome” again challenge, too)  I had a wonderful time hanging out with my Slow Food buddies, learning about the movement to allow roosters in backyard gardens, the grading of farm eggs and the like.  It was a really well attended event, and there were lots of new faces.

So, for my food today, I had big plans to get up a bit earlier and scramble a duck egg with my leftover Kocurek sausage from last night.  I did get up early, but my curiosity got the best of me and I poured my coffee and headed out to the backyard (in my robe no less) to check the progress of the seeds I planted last week.   It doesn’t seem to matter how many seeds I’ve planted over the years, there is little more exciting to me than a tiny seed, breaking through the earth above it, determined to get some sunshine and become a plant.  And even more exciting, is that it will be food.  From a pack of seeds.  I just marvel at the process every time.  The carrots were up, but not the lettuce, no matter how closely I looked.  Then I noticed some weeds in the strawberries, and pulled them.  Then I decided I should water the herbs in the greenhouse and did that.  By then, it was too late to cook an egg before heading downtown.  I did eat some leftover cold sausage, just so I could say I had improved my breakfast habit.

The Watermelon Radish seeds arrived today, so I was anxious to plant them.  So, I ate locally for lunch, munching brocolli from the garden while planting radish seeds.  I didn’t wash it, because I know how it was grown.  I didn’t cook it, because fresh raw brocolli is really sweet and tender.  I ate the crown, bit by bit, then pulled up the plant and composted it, because it was done and I’ve got more greens than I can handle.  Grazing in the back yard, no silverware, no cooking,  just good eats from the yard is very cool.

For my dinner, I shared appetizers of Brazos Valley Farms brie, and a duck liver mousse (duck from Countryside Farms) at Cipollina, at the event mentioned above.  Then I had a ceasar salad and shared a couple of pieces of pizza with my Slow Food friends Kristi (www.austinfarmtotable.com) and Freddy Marshall (www.eatthislens.com).  All in all, a good food day.   I’m glad I didn’t restrict my challenge to no eating out, because I have a really fun group of foodie friends, and if I couldn’t eat out for a year, I would either fail or cheat, so I’m good with the way I set this deal up.  A challenge, but not an impossible imposition on my social life.  Lots of my friends like to eat local too, so it works.  And perhaps over the course of the next year minus almost 3 weeks, I can inspire someone to think a tiny bit harder about where their food comes from, what is in it, and maybe even to try their hand at growing some of their own food.

 

Winter Garden with the Help of Shady Hollow Farms January 20, 2010

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Since my goal is eat only what I grow and what I can get at farmer’s markets and from local farms, it more important that my garden be as productive as possible.  I eat a lot of lettuce, and $5.00 for a bag at the farmer’s market seems high, and my garden is between seedings.  So, today, I did something I don’t do very often – buy transplants.  Half of the 8 foot garden was seeded for Buttercrunch lettuce about 4 days ago, but the seedlings have yet to appear.  So I called my favorite transplant supplier, JJ at Shady Hollow Farms to see if I could come out and raid his new greenhouse.  He was happy to oblige, and so off I went.  The farm has had a major upgrade since I saw it last, with a huge greenhouse and a substantial rainwater collection system.  It is full of things to plant now, like lettuce, but more exciting to me, is the 2500 or so heirloom tomato seedlings he started recently to be ready in March.  I placed my order for tomatoes so they don’t get away.

Once home, I planted two kinds of lettuce in the 8 foot garden, to get a jumpstart on the other half of that garden that has been seeded.  I also planted some broccoli in the large garden.

Shady Hollow Farm is by appointment only, but sells wholesale and also to the public.

 

Gardens is Closing, Plant Sale January 16, 2010

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My go-to place for peaceful stress relief, Gardens on 35th, Street is closing. From now until the 23rd, they are having a sale 50% off all plants and 40% off the goods in the store, including vegetable seeds.  As of yesterday afternoon, they had a full supply of seeds, and some vegetable transplants.  I got Swiss Chard, Garlic, Chives, and multiplying onions.  I’m going to miss that place.

 

No Grocery Store Challenge, Days 11 and 12 January 14, 2010

So, I got behind with all the dang tax documents due this week.  Yesterday, Day 11, I had a scrambled duck egg from Countryside Farms for breakfast. The duck eggs are so much silkier and more luscious than chicken eggs, I’m a total convert.  I learned today from Sebastian, that ducks pretty much lay 1 egg a day, and they do it at night.  His ducks are free range during the day, then he corrals them at night, which makes sense, since there are duck predators that roam out in the country where his farm is.  Carrying on, I just had a chunk of chedder cheese from Full Quiver Farms for lunch, because I was hunkered down doing paperwork.  For dinner, I had leftover smoked chicken over a salad with a boiled duck egg (I know!  lots of eggs), a slice of Kocurek Rosemary Bacon and an oil and vinegar dressing, with olive oil and basalmic from Texas Olive Ranch from the downtown market.

Today was a banner day!  I used the last of my goat milk in my coffee this morning, which was disturbing.  I’m not a black coffee fan, just yet.  I had a boiled duck egg for breakfast, which was quick.  After the office, I drove immediately to Boggy Creek Farm in search of more goat milk.  I bought a quart last week, but used most it in a feeble attempt to make butter.   And even more feeble, instead of researching making butter from goat milk, I just jumped right in and pretended it was cow’s cream, poured it in a jar and started shaking.  And I shook, and shook.  Then I told myself, stop trying to be your grandmother, and got out the immersion blender.  I blended, and blended, and blended, and that goat milk never even began to change structure.  Finally, after sitting on a stool, with an immersion blender that was too hot to hold any longer, I gave up.  Total fail at goat butter.   So I was dairy free after coffee this morning.  Boggy Creek Farm was out of goat milk.  I was deflated at the thought of black coffee, and contemplated buying some goat yogurt thinking that might be OK in coffee.  Instead I bought some Full Quiver Chevre, which I also contemplated putting in  coffee.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.   Might be a little tangy and clumpy, but at least it wouldn’t be black!   Decided to ponder that predicament later, and went to lunch with my mom to Cippolina.  All of their food is sourced locally.  Score!  I had a ceasar salad with chicken from a farm whose name I’ve forgotten.  Then I walked with my 68 year old friend in the rain for 4 miles.  I tried to get out of it, but she’s an exercise hard ass, and wasn’t letting me off the hook.  And I’m always glad, after the fact.  Thanks Sue from Antlers, Oklahoma!  So then off to the Triangle Farmer’s Market for weekly shopping.  It was cold, and raining, but I went early because the Kocurek’s were being interviewed for KEYE, and I love that market.  I had a well planned dinner laid out, Richardson Farm’s ribeye to be cooked on the Big Green Egg, and a huge market and garden salad, with steamed garden broccoli.   Best laid plans.  I ended up volunteering to the man the new Trash/compost/recycling station in the place of a wayward volunteer.  It takes the Egg a long time to come up to temp as it is a charcoal grill.  I didn’t get home until after 7:00.  BUT, I did get milk!  Lee Ann had gotten some goat milk for me at the last market and it is in my fridge now.  I got home with fabulous duck eggs from Countryside Farms, amazingly sweet carrots from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and all kinds of charcuterie from the Kocureks.  Oh, and rendered pork fat with rosemary and sea salt.  Pahleese.  I’m stuffed full of carrots, but am going to go cook up a bit of the gifted nilgai summer sausage and a salad.  I’ll have the giant steak tomorrow, perhaps with sweet potato fries cooked in pork fat or duck fat.  Yum.

I met a wonderful blog follower today at the market.  Now that I know someone actually reads this thing, I’ll try to be more interesting.  I love my little eat local challenge, and I know that I will continue to learn more and more from it.    Hopefully, I can find a way to inspire more folks to get in touch with their food, and think about where it comes from, and to eat locally a bit more often.

 

January Vegetable Planting Guide for Austin, Zone 8 January 2, 2010

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January is time to plant many vegetables in our neck of the woods.  Here is a list of what to plant in January, along with dates to maturity.  Callahan’s General Store had lots of onion starts today.

Asparagus           (won’t produce until 2nd year)

Cabbage               65-80

Carrots                 70-80

Lettuce                 60-80

Mustard                40-50

Onions                   100-120

Peas                        60-80

Potatoes                70-80

Radish                    25-30

Spinach                  40-45

Turnips                  45-65

 

My Eat Only Local Challenge-Day 1

Last night I was pondering whether I could go a year without buying anything from a grocery store.  I have a large garden and I frequent farmer’s markets on a weekly basis.  Several folks chimed in on Twitter, that it could be done.  Today, I decided to try it and see how it goes.  I have a freezer full of Thunderheart Bison, Richardson Farms beef and pork, Kocurek Family sausages, stock, and gumbo, and in the fridge are local eggs, chicken and duck, Pure Luck cheese, a pitcher of hibiscus tea from the farmer’s market, tomatoes and radishes from the farmer’s market, and my own lettuce and broccoli.  I have olives, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar from the market and today I bought tangerines, mushrooms and green onions at the market.  So, I think I’m good to go.

What I’m not going to do:  I’m not going to only drink Texas wine.  Just not going to.  I’m not stop using toothpaste, shampoo, or my favorite soap, although I could get soap at the farmer’s market.  And, I’m going to continue to eat out, because that’s not part of this challenge.  I’m not going to be overly concerned with where the restaurants get their food either, that is a challenge for someone else.  I will say that most of the places I eat out, get their meat and vegetables from local sources, but not all do.  I already know that I could not go a year without eating salmon, and I can’t get that at the farmer’s market, although I can get shrimp and fish.

So, this morning I had fresh tangerine juice, I had lunch at a local mexican food restaurant with my mom, and dinner will be grilled Thunderheart bison steaks, local mushrooms cooked in local duck fat and basalmic vinegar, my own broccoli and a salad with my lettuce, market tomatoes, Pure Luck Farms Chevre, and local olive oil and vinegar.  I’m already anticipating what I’m going to miss, sandwiches at Fresh Plus, lots of things from Central Market and Whole Foods prepared items.  I just bought a smoker, in anticipation of missing the smoked brisket from Whole Foods.

 

 
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