Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

No Grocery Store Challenge, Day 378 – BLT and Fajitas! January 14, 2011

Ok, I know I was said I was tired of typing “No Grocery Store Challenge, Day ___” , but in reality, I kind of miss it.  So, I’ll insert one every now and then when I get excited about a new find or meal.  Today was both.

For breakfast, fresh squeezed tangerine juice from the farmer’s market.  This will dwindle soon, as their season is nearing its end.  I’m contemplating ordering grapefruits and oranges from C&S Groves, but haven’t done so yet.  For lunch, I knew I wanted a BLT, but wanted to make it healthier than it could have otherwise been.  I had Barrie’s bread from Antonelli‘s Cheese Shop, an abundance of cheese as well, and some already cooked Kocurek Family Czech Bacon, local farm tomatoes and my garden lettuce.  In my cheese box, was some Pondhopper and it smelled like the perfect party with the bacon.

The result was the Pondhopper BLT.

Pondhopper Cheese

I cut off a smaller end of the Ciabatta than I wanted, but intended to load up on veggies.  I slathered on some Texas Olive Ranch olive oil, and toasted it in the oven.  The resulting sandwich was Kocurek Bacon, Pondhopper Cheese from Antonelli’s, a Milagro Farm’s tomato and my home grown lettuce. on toasted Barrie’s bread.  I can’t think of anything better.

BLT with add ons

If you salt and pepper the tomato and lettuce, it really makes a difference, as does toasting the bread.  Just sayin’.

So after too many errands to deal with this afternoon,  I finally stopped by the house around 3:00 to put some dried black beans in to simmer.  The beans were a gift from my oft mentioned friend Kristi, from one of her farmer’s market visits outside of Austin.

I dumped them into a pot of water, threw in some garden herbs, and the biggest smoked hock thing I’d ever seen, which was from Salt and Time.

smoked hock

I also threw in salt, pepper, chopped jalapenos, a bit of chopped green onion, and some chopped tomatoes.  Then, I left the house for 3 hours and they were almost perfect when I got back.

I then went out again for more chores, then turned them off and decanted them in to tupperware for later.

I met a friend at Bar Congress for a glass of wine, then home for dinner.  We also shared fried green tomatoes, an appetizer.

Then, I had thawed some Richardson’s Farms Fajita meat.

Richardson Farms Skirt Steak

It looked like a single package, but once out, if was a lot of meat, thinly sliced and tenderized.

Richardson Farms Skirt Steak

I seasoned it with salt, pepper, cumin and some red cayenne seasoning seared until it was medium rare.  I heated up a little of the black beans.

Black Bens (from farmer's market not here))

I built two beef fajitas with black beans, Full Quiver Cheddar and of course, a drizzle of Taco Deli dona, on two flour Tortillas from El Milagro on 6th Street.   Garnish is garden cilantro (from under its freeze protection). Voila! Fajita dinner!

Taco Dinner

And there are leftovers of everything!


I Heart Antonelli’s Cheese Shop January 5, 2011

This is no surprise to anyone who reads this blog.  But here’s further evidence why the Antonelli’s Cheese Shop rocks my socks off.  I’ve spent many hours in the hospital with my dad following surgery the last week. Prior to his injury, I had agreed to host the monthly Austin Food Journal a/k/a Bola Pizza night at my house.  It was time to give AFJ headquarters a break, and besides, the wine glasses we trade back and forth were already at my house.  So, I didn’t cancel.  However, things being as they are, I didn’t have time to do much planning.  I emailed Kendall the night before the party and asked if it was enough notice to do a cheese tray, and gave her my budget.  She said “no problem”.  When I showed up earlier than I was supposed to yesterday to pick it up there were two and they were stunningly gorgeous.


Gorgeous cheese plate

Another beautiful plate

Each plate came with a descriptive page, with cute stickers detailing whether the cheeses were cow, goat, sheep, or buffalo.  They thoughtfully included some of my very favorite cheeses, which are not local, so I had been deprived during my No Grocery Store Year.  (I had made the decision to also just eat local cheese for that year.)


One plate included an amazing Quadrello di Bufala, a washed rind Water Buffalo Milk cheese from Italy, along with my favorite Carr Valley Menage, which is cow, goat and sheep milk cheese from Wisconsin as well as Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin.  The other plate included the last of the Hopelessly Blue from Pure Luck Dairy which is local.  The goats stop producing milk until around March or April, so this was a wonderful addition.  My all time favorite Clothbound Cheddar was also on this plate with more delicious cheeses, Proscuitto and Crespone.


Cheat Sheet

One plate was accompanied by Confituras Apple Preserves, the other with Kocurek Mustard.  The Plates came with 2 loaves of Barrie Cullinan’s fabulous bread.  The plates were devoured in no time, and everyone was happy.


So, the story doesn’t end here.  Toward the end of the evening, John and Kendall announced that they had something for me in the car.  They had meant to help me celebrate the end of my No Grocery Store Year on New Year’s, but my dad was in the hospital.  So they brought in this:


Huge Box of Glorious Cheese!

Yes they did.  I haven’t even begun to dig in.  I’m thinking of a cheese of the day blog series to celebrate this amazing gift.  For now, I just keep looking at it in awe and with an amazing amount of gratitude.



No Grocery Store for a Year – Last 2 Days January 1, 2011

The last few days certainly didn’t happen as I’d expected, but I did my best.  Friday, the day following my dad’s surgery, I had Kocurek Czech Bacon for breakfast.  I had to take my mom South for a hair appointment, and picked up lunch (and a snack) at La Boite to take to the hospital.  So, for lunch I had half a chicken salad sandwich, and a bite of one of Barrie Cullinan’s fabulous almond croissants.  Delicious.  I’m not sure if Barrie makes the bread for La Boite’s sandwiches, but I know they buy local and organic products, so I was happy.

I was able to sneak a hour of friend time in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve and met some folks at Black Star Co-op for a beer and some English Chips a/k/a garlic french fries.  Very cool place, and it was so nice to see friends.

By dinner time, we were so dang worn out, we didn’t know what to do.  I defrosted some ribeye steaks from my parents’ freezer, (from Omaha Steaks), and brought over some Boggy Creek Farms new potatoes, and farmer’s market lettuce.  I cooked the steaks on the grill, made a lettuce, Springdale Farms green onions, and Milagro Farms tomato, salad,  and roasted the potatoes in the oven.  I smashed the potatoes with salt, pepper, CKC Herbed Chevre and butter.  Dinner.  Not totally local, but the best I could do given the circumstances.


Steak Dinner


Actually, I think Friday was the last day, but I’ve lost track.  Breakfast Saturday, was a slice of Kocurek Czech Bacon.  I was able to go to the Barton Creek Farmer’s Market and the SFC Market downtown early, before spending the day at the hospital.  We left for lunch and drove out to Jack Allen’s.  I had the poblano burger and sweet potato fries and it was delicious.  I had purchased the Black-eyed Pea Cassoulet from Kocurek Family Charcuterie, and had some of their Rabbit Pies in the freezer, so for dinner a la Kocurek Family, we had the Cassoulet, Rabbit Pie, and salad.


Casoulet, Rabbit Pie, and Salad


The Rabbit Pie is more delicious than the photo does justice.  The crust is amazing.


Rabbit Pie


Think grown up, gourmet chicken pot pie, only really delicious, all local and, and with rabbit.

Trying to plan the next couple of days of local meals for my mom and aunt, but I’m dog tired.  I’m very much looking forward to lots of good, fun and delicious things in 2011.  Can’t wait to get back to my normal schedule which doesn’t include spending the day at the hospital.  Very soon.  Happy 2011!


No Grocery Store Challenge, Almost There December 31, 2010

The end of my No Grocery Store Challenge year, is not going to happen as planned.  I had hoped to prepare some elaborate meals to celebrate all the local wonderful food I’ve discovered in a year, but my dad’s hip replacement failed and he had surgery yesterday, so things are happening differently.  So:

Wednesday, I missed breakfast, had leftovers from my wonderful meal Tuesday night, for lunch and for dinner I got takeout from Cafe Josie.  Dad wanted seafood to be his last meal pre-hospital, and so we obliged.  My mom, aunt and I went to Cafe Josie, ordered a glass of wine and crab cake appetizer while we waited for our dinner.  I had the pepita redfish, my favorite dish there.

I had picked up some hydroponic strawberries at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market at the Triangle, and had big plans to eat well while at Seton.  So for breakfast Thursday, I had strawberries and they were delicious.  My plans to go home and make a sandwich at lunch didn’t happen, and we all walked across the street to Santa Rita for lunch.  I had shrimp tacos.   After 15 hours in the hospital, I was exhausted.  I did manage to make a sandwich for dinner.  Barrie Cullinan’s amazing ciabatta bread from Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, Kocurek Czech Bacon, Milagro Farms Tomato, my garden lettuce, and Full Quiver Cheddar.  It was the perfect end to a really long day.






Celebrating Local Good Food Day, Thunderdogs and Quail December 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 9:19 pm
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Since I’m off count, I’ll just call this celebrating local Good Food day!  For Breakfast, Dai Due Wild Boar Chorizo, with scrambled Milagro Farms eggs on an El Milagro flour tortilla, with some Taco Deli Dona Sauce.  I was puttering around the house, wanting to cook, updating the blog, tweeting, doing laundry, pondering dinner for my folks and me, (they have eaten some odd food lately).  I was thinking I should pay a visit to HOPE Farmer’s Market, for their last market of the  year, but really being rather lazy.  Then, it happened.  HOPEAtx tweeted, Thunderdogs! from Salt and Time.  I was off like a light, knowing exactly what a Thunderdog would be.  My beloved Thunderheart Bison, worked into a hot dog.    So, I wasn’t hungry, but there it was:


I’ve been to the Salt and Time kitchen, twice, and installed a garden behind it.  I know how pristine it is, and what an amazing person Ben, is.  The thought of a hot dog, with no mystery meat, no chemicals, no preservatives and meat from a source  I know personally, and trust, and with Ben’s amazing pickle, it was delicious.  Look for new and good things coming soon for Salt and Time.

I had several ideas for a cooking afternoon.  I wanted to make a large dinner to share with my folks, so that they would have leftovers for tomorrow.  I opted for a mushroom theme, having in my possession Dai Due Chicken and Mushroom Sausage, Dai Due Bacon and Mushroom stuffed Quail, and Mushrooms from Kitchen Pride from the farmer’s market yesterday.  So, I got started.

I did a fairly small dice on the mushrooms, and also diced the last two of my home grown shallots, and some garden thyme.

Crimini Mushrooms

The last two garden shallots and garden thyme

Taking a clue from Bola Pizza‘s mushroom pizza, I first sauteed the shallots in some Kocurek duck fat, then added the mushrooms and some white wine and garden thyme.

Adding liquid to mushrooms always confuses me, because they release so much liquid of their own, and I didn’t want a liquid mess.  I actually thought I over did it, and poured some off, later realizing that it would have eventually cooked off if I had left it alone.

So, next up I took the Dai Due Chicken Mushroom sausages from their casings and sauteed until done.  Once done, I added the sausage to the mushroom mixture, and set it aside.

Chicken mushroom sausage with mushroom mixture

I realize this is looking like a lot of food, but that was the goal.  Dinner for me, my parents, and leftovers for them.  So quit hating.

Next up, the mushroom and bacon stuffed quail from Dai Due.  There were four.

Dai Due Stuffed Quail

I took them out of their package, rubbed them with olive oil, and salt and pepper, and put them in a 375 degree oven.

Next, I cut up a slice of Kocurek Czech bacon and cooked it in a separate pan, then started cleaning the Springfield Farm spinach.

Springfield Farm Spinach

By this time, the water was boiling with the Texas Pasta Company pasta in it, and I needed to make the sauce for the chicken sausage.  I was out of local cream, so I borrowed a cup from my parents.  I threw that in the mushroom and sausage mixture, with a little VeldHuizen Farms Paragon cheese, and some Full Quiver  Neufchatel, for thickening and a bit more flavor.  Once I drained the pasta, I doused it with about a tablespoon of Con’ Olio Porcini Olive Oil for depth.

Then, I took the stuffed quail out of the oven to rest.

Yum, Stuffed Quail

I gave the spinach a quick turn in the Kocurek bacon, until it had wilted a bit, then packed up the meal for my parents, with enough for leftovers.  After taking dinner up the street, I came home and ate mine.

All local dinner



Tamalada! Making Tamales December 6, 2010

(This was day 349 of the No Grocery Store Challenge.)

A couple of months ago,  I decided it would be fun to make tamales for Christmas and invited a few folks over for a Tamalada.  Stephanie has mad tamale making skills, so with her at the helm, we worked out the details.  Everyone would prepare the filling of their choice and bring it already prepared.  Stephanie would prepare the masa, and we would meet to assemble over snacks and drinks, ending the day with tamale dinner.  So, on Saturday, I made my filling, green chile shredded pork, enhanced with an entire tub of Taco Deli dona sauce for heat, because the chiles were very mild. Addie made some imaginative pumpkin, squash and pepper filling.   Stephanie made smoked pork with an espresso sauce, Lisa made chicken mole, and also brought some amazing cornmeal cookies and a very large cheese ball, the recipe from Edible Austin.   Lisa always brings thoughtful dishes to complement the theme of the day.  The cornmeal cookies were a perfect example of that.  Rachelle made an Indian inspired pork filling.  Christian provided drinks, and humor and helped with the heavy lifting and child care.  We had some Austin Slow Burn queso and El Milagro chips, Duck and Fig Rillettes from Kocurek Family Charcuterie, Pure Luck Chevre with Confituras Strawberry Preserves, and Kocurek Duck Bacon.  We snack well.

I soaked the husks overnight in a big tub.  I kept having to push them down to keep them wet, there were so many.

Soaking the husks

Stephanie decided the best way to tell our tamales apart, for our trade later in the day, was to fold them each differently.  She made little boats with hers, and tied them on each end.

Gorgeous tied tamales

We stuffed tamales, laughed, and talked about food.  And about Lisa’s giant cheese ball!  This was delicious and we managed to put quite a dent in it.

Daunting, yet delicious!

Addie's Vegetarian Purses

We shared big tins for our uncooked tamales.  Here are Lisa’s and Rachelle’s.

Mole and Indian

Mine were the plainly folded ones.  This was my second time to make tamales and I felt very unskilled in the early going.

My plain ones

Once the tins started to fill up, Christian fired up the outdoor turkey fryer, which we used to steam them.  And we kept stuffing, and folding.  The cold weather kept the outdoor pot from getting as hot as we would like, so we brought it inside and put it on the stove with the second pot, for better heat control.

Round one, outside

That's a lot of pot!

The larger one was taller than I am.  I couldn’t even see down in it.

We tidied up a little, snacked, had drinks and visited while the tamales steamed.  Once the first ones were ready, we took them out and started to dig in.   Stephanie had made a green sauce, and I had a quart of Dai Due Venison Chile on the stove, for serving with our tamales.

Plate o tamales

We quickly filled up my kitchen island again, with plates, condiments, and tamales.  They were all good, enhanced especially by Stephanie’s fluffy and tender masa.  This is not the greasy, orange compacted masa I’m used to.  This whipped masa was as light as can be.

"Money Shot" taken by Christian Bowers

This was a wonderful day, and I hope to do it again next year!


Bola Pizza to Heat Things Up at the Farmer’s Market November 26, 2010

There is an exciting new addition to the SFC Farmer’s Market at Republic Square Park, Bola Pizza.  If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ve watched as have I, the evolution from bi-weekly private parties, to pizza making classes, to a full scale pizza catering business. Tomorrow will be the first day that Bola Pizza will be available to the general public.   The menu and other useful information is available at  I’m anxious to try the breakfast pizza, and have already put in orders for lunch for my folks.     The farmer’s market just got better!


Bola Pizza

MMM Pizza

More amazing pizza


This pizza was the best I’ve ever had when Christian was still making it in his oven.    Once the mobile wood fired pizza oven was up and in business, the pizza got even better, which is hard to believe.


Mobile Wood Fired Pizza Oven

Don’t trust me though, head down to the Farmer’s Market at Republic Square tomorrow and warm up with some amazing pizza, topped with locally sourced ingredients, from Kocurek Family Charcuterie, Full Quiver Cheese, Milagro Farms and more.


No Grocery Store, Days 333 and 334 November 21, 2010

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Friday, I managed some fresh squeezed tangerine juice for breakfast.  After work, I picked mom up for lunch and the Junior League’s Christmas Affair Shopping.  We ended up at Little Mexico for lunch, after a failed parking attempt at Polvo’s.  I had two tacos, a la carte.  The Christmas Affair was packed, on Friday at 1:00, so I can’t imagine what it was like yesterday.  We took the bus from Barton Creek.  I did manage to find Delysia Chocolates, and got some chocolate gift boxes, which was one goal.    After that adventure we decided against Friday night dinner out, and I ended up at a friend’s house for some amazingly good pasta with bison meatballs.

Saturday, the first day of Dai Due’s return to the farmer’s market with hot food, and I was in line half an hour before the market opened.  The hungry masses all ordered the famed Sausage, Biscuit with gravy.  Not me, I had the Duck Egg, and Boar Chorizo Torta with salsa.


Boar Chorizo, duck egg torta


This picture doesn’t do the dish justice.  It is a messy pile of goodness on a soft, toasted roll.  Trust me.  The return of hot food to the farmer’s market was a big deal, after the city yanked the permit several months ago.  The people responded to the hot food return by showing up and waiting in line.


Line for Dai Due Hot Breakfast


Worth the wait.  In exciting new hot food news, if everything goes well with the permit folks this week, Bola Pizza will be at the SFC Market Downtown 11/27 with wood-fired pizzas.  Rumor has it this will include a breakfast pizza which sounds divine.  I’ll post an update later in the week.

After that for breakfast, lunch was not a possibility.  For dinner, I had a garden salad with my homegrown lettuce, farmer’s market tomato and cucumber, and Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil and Vinegar, and a Kocurek Smoked Pork Pie.


No Grocery Store, Day 321 November 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 8:40 am

Not much to talk about for day 321.  I missed breakfast and spent lunch between the Chiropractor for me, and Austin Radiology with my mom.   While I was waiting for her, I did actually get hungry, but the only food available was from a vending machine.  Candy bars, chips and cokes.  I thought that was a pretty sad situation, that even at a medical facility, there weren’t many good options.  So, for lunch, I had water and a cup of coffee.  And for another sad situation, my doctor has asked me not to work in the garden for a while.  Boo.

Dinner was good though!  Kocurek Family Bhan Mi sausage, and stir fried broccoli, green onion, and garlic.  Simple, fast, and really tasty.  You can see all the flecks of color in the sausage – it was spicy and very flavorful.  I have struggled in the past with how to eat their sausage, but over stir fried vegetables works well, and I love broccoli.  They also have a drunken chicken sausage I’m looking forward to trying.

Bhan Mi with broccoli


No Grocery Store Day 318 – Kocurek Whole Deer Class November 15, 2010

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My favorite weekend brunch has become migas.  Sauteed onions (this week green onions) and garden serranos and/or jalapenos, tomatoes, scrambled with 2 eggs, 1 or 2 crack tortilla chips from the Barton Creek Farmer’s market, then topped with a bit of grated Pepper Jack from Full Quiver Farms, and a dollop of Dona green sauce from Taco Deli.  Traditional migas have lots more corn tortilla, but using fewer yields the same flavor and crunch result with fewer calories and carbs.

The Kocureks are friends of mine, and since their charcuterie business has taken off, they are busy all the time and we rarely get to spend time together, aside from distracted visits at the farmer’s markets.  Chef Larry conducted a Whole Deer Class yesterday, and I was invited to hang out at the kitchen with Lee, while she prepared the buffet the class attendees would partake in after class.  I did not attend the class per se, as I’m not likely to deal with an entire animal again any time soon, after all the whole pig drama.  Instead, I spent the afternoon in the commercial kitchen, visiting with Lee, then after class, visiting with the attendees, all foodies in training.

The buffet presented after class was a beautiful presentation of the Kocurek’s offerings, several kinds of charcuterie: Cheek to Cheek terrine, Brawn, Pates, several of their sausages, house made mustard, Cheese with Apple Butter, and wine, all served under a huge oak tree on the lawn near the kitchen and the Swoop House, where their dinners are held.   It was lovely.  I am signed up for the classic sauce class in December, and am looking forward to it very much.  I really enjoy spending time in a commercial kitchen environment, surrounded by pots, pans, and everything else related to cooking.  And it was a great way to spend time with friends I don’t get to see enough.    I didn’t eat there, since the buffet was for class, but it looked delicious.

For dinner, I had a Thunderheart Bison filet, with Hopelessly Blue from Pure Luck Dairy, and steamed broccoli from the farmer’s market.  It was a good day.