Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Kung Pao Chicken, at Home January 7, 2015

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I’m working on becoming a better cook, with a goal of conquering some Asian cuisines.  My first effort, was Indian Butter Chicken, which turned out great, so now I’ve turned my sights on Kung Pao Chicken.  This happens to be one of my dad’s favorite Chinese dishes, so he will act as my test taster.

I chose one of the easier recipes I found, from Food & Wine Magazine, online. (link above)  I was looking for a recipe that didn’t venture too far astray from my eating philosophy, which is eating seasonally and using produce and proteins I can get from my local farmer’s market.  Although I grew peanuts last year, I had to purchase the ones I used here.

The main ingredient is chicken, and I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Smith and Smith Farms, which I got at the Mueller Farmer’s Market.  This chicken was beautifully trimmed and incredibly fresh.  (Learning to properly debone a whole chicken is also on my lists to conquer, but I’m dreading that one).

Smith and Smith Farms Chicken

Smith and Smith Farms Chicken

The first part of the process is to cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and marinate the chicken in Soy Sauce, sherry and Cornstarch. (I bought Tamari for the soy sauce and Bob’s Red Mill Cornstarch.)

Once the chicken was cut marinating in the fridge, I chopped the onions and Bell Pepper.  The recipe didn’t call for Bell Pepper, but B5 Farms at the farmer’s market, had some beautiful bell peppers, grown in the greenhouse.  I couldn’t resist.

B5 Farms Tomatoes and Peppers

B5 Farms Tomatoes and Peppers

I cut one bell pepper into the same sized pieces as the chicken, and separated the green onion whites and greens and set those aside.

Next, I made the sauce, which consisted of Tamari, Rice Vinegar, Sherry, Sesame Oil, Water, Cornstarch and a little sugar.

Ingredients

Ingredients

The Sauce

The Sauce

I wisked the sauce to get the cornstarch incorporated and set it aside. At this point I made the rice, and set it aside as well.  I could tell that the next steps would happen quickly.

Time to start cooking.  First, I poured a Tablespoon of Avocado Oil, (recipe called for Peanut or Vegetable Oil), into my wok, and let it get hot.  Once hot, I quickly cooked the raw peanuts until they were golden brown, then set them aside.

Cook the Peanuts

Cook the Peanuts

A little more oil into then pan, and I quickly cooked the scallions, bell pepper and chili flakes.

Cook the vegetables

Cook the vegetables

To the vegetables, I added part of the chicken.  It was clear the amount of chicken I had cut up (doubled the recipe), would be more than should go into the wok.  It was still crowded, which made it take longer to cook, and caused some sticking to the wok.

Cook the Chicken

Cook the Chicken

Once the two batched of chicken were mostly done, I put them back into the wok with the sauce and stirred as it thickened.

Add the Sauce

Add the Sauce

At this point, I tasted the sauce, and wanted more heat, so I chopped up a garden Serrano Pepper and added it to the mix.  I then turned off the heat and threw in the peanuts.

Once the sauce had reached what seemed like the appropriate thickness, and the chicken was done, I plated some up for myself, then bundled the rest to take to my parents up the street.

Serve over Rice

Serve over Rice

I enjoyed this dish, but felt as it it lacked some complexity.  While I would make it again, I would like more heat, more onions and peppers, some ginger and perhaps some garlic.  I’ll also revisit some of the more complicated recipes I looked at, to see how it could be made more interesting.  It was very easy and fairly quick to make.  My taste tester called after finishing his dinner to give the recipe an A+.  My mom liked it as well, and she is the pickiest eater I know.

 

No Mystery Meat Here! February 26, 2013

I am aware that other cultures eat horse meat, but I choose not to, having grown up with horses as pets and companions.

The recent (and widening) scandal about horse meat making it’s way into the food supply, (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21569645)   has people up in arms and wondering “how can this happen?”  Hopefully, like the major egg recall a few years ago, that sent many people to their local farmer’s markets in search of safer eggs, this will have people paying closer attention to their meat supply.  I have a friend living in London, where lots of the horse meat disguised as beef, showed up in the local food outlets.  She reports that people are flocking to their local butcher shops for safer cuts of real beef.

If you buy your meat at a local supermarket, you can get to know the butcher there, and ask about their sourcing, and if they grind their own meat in-house, and what not.

If you’d like to take it a bit further, we Central Texas folks are so lucky to have so many of local sources of all variety of meats available.  You can meet the farmers, ask them about their practices, visit their farms and see for yourself how the animals are raised and what you are going to get.  This way, the chain of control is diminished and the chance of shenanigans is next to zero.

Here is a list of some, certainly not all of our local protein purveyors, all from whom I purchase meat.  I have met all of these farmers, ranchers and purveyors and trust them 100%.

I’ll attempt to list all of the locations where I know they are available, but this will not be exhaustive either, so click the name and it will link to their site.  Many on this list are available for delivery through Greenling and Farmhouse Delivery.

Richardson Farms, Grass-fed beef, pastured pork, chicken, turkeys (seasonally), and sausages.   SFC Farmer’s Markets downtown, Sunset Valley and at the Triangle, Barton Creek Farmer’s Market, and Waco Farmer’s Market, (Jim Richardson is a veterinarian, which gives me great comfort in how their animals are treated) (they also sell eggs, popcorn, wheat and sorghum flours, cornmeal and sesame seeds)

Hausbar Farms  Freedom Ranger Chickens – Boggy Creek Farm Farmstand

DearRun Land and Cattle Longhorn Beef – Boggy Creek Farm, Farmstand – All cuts of beef as well as Summer Sausage

Dewberry Hills Farms, pastured chickens, (and they are delicious) – SFC farmer’s market downtown and Sunset Valley

Thunderheart Bison, All cuts of grass-fed bison (including the hump!) –  SFC Farmer’s Market Downtown, Pearl Farmer’s Market, San Antonio

Full Quiver Farms, Grass-fed beef, whey fed pork – Barton Creek Farmer’s Market (they also make yogurts and some of the best farmstead cheeses I’ve ever had)

Windy Hill Organics, Goat, Beef, Lamb – HOPE Farmer’s Market

Countryside Farm, Duck, Guinea, Chicken – SFC Farmer’s Market Downtown and at the Triangle

Smith and Smith Farms, Chicken, Lamb, Eggs – SFC Farmer’s Markets downtown, Sunset Valley, Triangle, Cedar Park Farmer’s Market, Mueller Farmer’s Market  and Barton Creek Farmer’s Market

Peeler Farms, Chicken – HOPE Farmer’s Market

Bastrop Cattle Company – All cuts of delicious beef – HOPE Farmer’s Market, Mail Order Delivery over a certain amount, Bastrop Producer’s Market

Madrono Ranch  Bison – Boggy Creek Farm, People’s Pharmacy

Broken Arrow Ranch, Broken Arrow Ranch sells wild game such as boar, antelope, nilgai, and quail, online and ships

Salt and Time Butcher Shop and Salumeria  Austin’s newest brick and mortar butcher shop, which also specializes in-house cured salumis

Dai Due Butcher Shop  Dai Due doesn’t sell cuts of meat, per se, but makes delicious things with them, charcuterie, sausages, pates terrines and lots of other wonderfulness.  SFC Farmer’s Market downtown, and Mueller Farmer’s Market

Now days, you can buy all of the same cuts of beef, pork, chicken, lamb and goat that you’d be able to buy at the store, directly from the farmers/ranchers.  They come in plastic vacuum wrap, without the styrofoam and “juice catcher” pad underneath that you’d see in the store.  The meat is normally frozen as soon as it is processed, for maximum freshness.   Less packaging leads to less waste in the landfill, which is an awesome added bonus.

Consumers have choices, and hopefully, if you are looking for local proteins for you and your family, this will be a help.  Is it more expensive?  Yep.  Is it important enough for you to pay more?  That’s for you to decide.

Just so you know that I practice what I preach – a sampling from my freezer:

Thunderheart Bison

Thunderheart Bison

Bastrop Cattle Fajita Beef

Bastrop Cattle Fajita Beef

IMG_2971

Smith and Smith Lamb

Smith and Smith Lamb

Richardson Farms Ribs

Richardson Farms Ribs

Richardson Farms flank steak taco

For dinner last night, I quickly defrosted a slab of Richardson Farm’s Flank Steak, seasoned it with salt and Springdale Farm’s smoked pepper mix, seared it in a screaming hot cast iron skillet, for about 3 minutes on each side; let rest for 20 minutes, squeezed some lime over it,  then sliced thinly, and served on  Blanco Valley non-GMO corn tortillas, with some Full Quiver Cheddar and my own pickled jalapenos and pickled onions.  So easy and good.

 

One Chicken, Many Meals January 23, 2011

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I have often been asked about the cost of shopping only at farmer’s markets and local farms, versus shopping in the grocery store.  I have not kept track of the difference, but I decided to pay more attention.  Prior to my No Grocery Store Challenge,  I bought prepackaged chicken breasts, some bone in, skin on, some boneless and skinless, and some tenders.  Now I just buy whole chickens, even though you can now get parts from Smith and Smith.  I hated dealing with the whole chicken at first, but since I’ve gotten addicted to making stock, the whole chicken is essential.

On Thursday, I roasted a chicken, for dinner, and to fuel my addiction to making stock.  This large chicken was $16.00 from Smith and Smith Farms.  I have not bought chicken at the grocery store in over a year, but someone told me you can get a whole chicken for $5.00.   The thought of how a $5.00 chicken might have been raised, in a commercial feed lot, or in total darkness, possibly beakless, and most likely modified to grow really fast in a short period of time, doesn’t make it worth the $11.00 difference for me.

I know how my $16.00 Smith and Smith Farms chicken was raised, in a pasture, free to roam and forage until its last day.  I’ve seen pictures of these chickens in their habitat, and speak to the family who raises them at least once a week, sometimes twice, at the SFC Farmer’s Market downtown and at the Triangle.  They are lovely people and their chicken and eggs are delicious.

These last few days, of making the most of my one chicken, I have felt a certain amount of respect for the bird that lost its life so that I could eat.  And I think I have made the most of that one chicken.

First meal, dinner of roasted chicken.

Piri-piri Chicken Dinner

The next night, I stayed in and made a big bowl of chicken noodle soup, with the stock I’d made the night before, some shredded chicken, and Sweetish Hill Pasta. I forgot to take a picture of the soup.  It was pretty boring to look at, but was delicious.

For dinner Saturday night, I defrosted some of the Tomato, Basil Pasta Sauce I made in the Spring, when tomatoes and basil were in season.  I don’t remember what kind of tomatoes they were.  I chopped up some of the chicken and tossed that into the heated sauce with some Vodka (why not?).  I let that simmer until the pasta was done, then tossed it all together with some parmesan.  (Pasta was from Pasta & Co. from the downtown farmer’s market.)

Chicken and Pasta in Tomato, Basil Sauce

This was delicious, and there were leftovers, which will make a quick reheated fast meal.

On Sunday, I made chicken salad with the remainder of the salad.  Chopped chicken, local pecans, garden tarragon,  a leek from the farmer’s market, and some yogurt from Sand Creek Farm at the downtown farmer’s market, over garden lettuce.

Chicken Salad

So, there is still stock left from this chicken, and one meal in the freezer.   That makes a minimum of 5 meals from one $16.00 chicken, so I feel pretty good about that.

I watched the Chefography edition on Nigella Lawson, recently and found it interesting that something she learned from her mother, and still does today, is that she roasts 2 chickens at once – one for dinner, and the other to put in the fridge for eating as leftovers.  She did this in college and her friends remembered her always having chicken in the fridge to eat cold.

Something that had not occurred to me, that I heard at the market yesterday from a person buying chicken stock from the Smiths, is that consuming chicken stock is really good for  your cartilage.  I didn’t know this and will look into it.  It makes sense to me!

Today is the 388th day that I have not shopped at the grocery store.  Still don’t miss it one bit.

 

Confessions of a Stockaholic January 22, 2011

Apparently, I’m addicted to stock.  So much so, that I’ll plan several meals around a roasted chicken, every week,  just so that I can have the carcass to make stock.  I’ve used my homemade stock a lot lately – to make soup, to cook rice in, for my oven paella.  Last night I just had a cup of stock before bed.  I know that sounds strange, but it’s like having a cup of soup, just with nothing else in it.  And it is so much better than the chicken noodle, chicken with rice, chicken with stars, or whatever else comes in the red and white can, and it is a lot less salty.  There is something very gratifying about making something delicious from what many folks discard, the leftover bones, skin, vegetables that might be losing their crispness, and herbs from the garden.

So, I roasted a Smith and Smith farms chicken, seasoned with Piri-Piri Spice from Savory Spice Shop on Sixth Street.  Piri Piri is a blens of Pequin chiles, Spanish paprika, salt, lemon peel, garlic and Greek oregano.

 

Piri-Piri Chicken

 

For dinner, I also roasted some Boggy Creek Farms potatoes, and smashed them with a little Way Back When Butter, and CKC Farms Herbed Chevre, salt and pepper.  I wilted some Springfield Farms  spinach and topped it with some parmesan.

 

Chicken dinner

 

I normally prefer the white meat, but I had plans for most of this chicken, so I had a leg and thigh.  I reserved the rest of the meat for soup, and chicken salad for the weekend.

Then I commenced the stock.  I put the chicken carcass in a large pot with carrots, garlic, some onion, salt, a bay leaf  (my bay tree is nearly naked), some thyme, and sage from the garden.

 

Starting the stock

Four hours later, and it had reduced to less than half.  I strained it, discarded the remnants, and put the large jar of stock in the fridge.  I started writing this post yesterday morning.  Last night, I made chicken noodle soup, with the stock, some Sweetish Hill dried pasta, and leftover chicken.  Delicious, hearty and so simple.  I can’t wait to have leeks to put in my stock.  I guess I should get them in the ground.

 

 

Sometimes Simple is Best – Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup January 12, 2011

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It has been so cold and I’m still off kilter from spending two weeks out of my normal realm, and in the hospital with my dad, then at my parents house, that I needed some home style grounding today.  I was inspired by my friend Kristi‘s post this morning about Bison Short Rib Borscht, although not nearly that ambitious.  I roasted a Smith and Smith Farms chicken last week for my visiting aunt, mom, and me, and reserved and froze the carcass with quite a bit of leftover meat on it.  When I got home at around 3:30, I pulled it from the freezer and stuffed it in a pot of water, chopped carrots and onions from the farmer’s market, garden thyme, sage, bay, salt and pepper and let it boil on high for a few hours, before turning it down to simmer for the last hour.

Making Stock

When I was finally ready to eat, I strained out the bones and herbs and whatnot, and let the stock drain into a bowl, then I returned it to the pot, with some of the obvious pieces of chicken.    I broke off a handful of Sweetish Hill‘s dried Stone Ground Whole Wheat Spinach Basil Garlic Pasta and tossed that in.  The ingredients of the pasta are, semolina, stone ground whole wheat flour, spinach, basil, garlic, spices and olive oil.    I poured the soup into the bowl, topped with some of my garden parsley, and a grating of some Dante Cheese from Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.

The result was a hearty, yet light bowl of delicious soup, with no mystery ingredients, no shelf life, and at least a fourth of the sodium that a can of store bought soup would have.  And it tasted so much better.

MMM Good Soup

Well cooked pasta, not mushy noodles

I know people think they are too busy to make stock.   I roasted this chicken a week ago, and stuck the carcass in my freezer.  I literally stuck it in a pot of water with some garden herbs and vegetables and left it to simmer for hours.  I cleaned the house, I ran errands.  I did not tend to it until it was time to strain it, which took no work at all, just a strainer and bowl.  And the flavor was so much better than stock in a box or can.

About the Dante Cheese.  This was one of my gift Cheeses from the Antonelli’s after my no grocery store challenge officially ended. (Or did it?)   This is a Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Coop cheese, and it was slightly dry and nutty.  I thought it would complement the pasta and add a bit of depth to the soup.  And it was delicious on its own, and in the soup as well.  I might go have another bite.

Just for grins, I looked up the ingredients in Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, which I grew up eating.  Here is what I found:

Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup

  • in 2 reviews
  • Made by Campbell Soup Company show contact info
  • Ingredients

    Chicken Stock, Cooked Enriched Egg Noodles (Wheat Flour, Whole Egg, Egg Whites, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)Cooked Chicken Meat, contains Less than 2% of the Following: Water, Modified Wheat Starch, Salt, Chicken Fat, Monosodium Glutamate, Dehydrated Cooked Chicken, Onion Powder, Spice Extract, Modified Food Starch, Yeast Extract, Beta Carotene for Color, Soy Protein Isolate, Sodium Phosphates, Chicken Flavor (contains Chicken Stock, Chicken Powder, Chicken Fat)Dehydrated Garlic, Soybean Oil, Soy Lecithin, Mono and Diglycerides, Mixed Tocopherols (to Protect Flavor)Ascorbic Acid for Flavor, Flavoring.

 

La Vida Local January 9, 2011

I’ve grown tired of calling my posts “No Grocery Store, Day 147” etc.    I’m struggling to  keep this blog interesting, and with all the new folks interested in my eating locally.

I’ve eaten out a lot the last few days and nights with my dad in the hospital.  I tried to eat local wherever possible, and avoided hospital food, except for a couple of chicken salad sandwiches.

I had a great day at the SFC Farmer’s Market on Wednesday at the Triangle, and yesterday downtown.  I gave a couple of tours, and I think the folks enjoyed themselves, bought some good food and will be back.

Here is my haul for the week:

Farmer's Market Haul

Richardson’s Farm pork chops, CKC herbed chevre, Way Back When butter and cream, Kocurek Family Czech Bacon, Thunderheart Bison Tenderloins, Full Quiver Cheddar, Smith and Smith Farms chicken, (6 pounds!) Springfield Farms Carrots and Spinach, Tangerines and Tangelos.

What more could you want?  I have a garden full of lettuce, broccoli and some cabbage.  I’m all set!

 

 

The Egg Came First January 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 6:36 pm
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I’m accustomed to reporting my meals, so for breakfast, a piece of amazing quiche, made for us by my friend Rachelle, with Salt and Time  Lonzino on top, and a gluten free crust.  I’m still amazed at the crust and the quiche was delicious and greatly appreciated.

 

The Gift of Quiche

I’m trying to cook for my mom and aunt while my father is in the hospital. This has taken some planning, but I’ve learned a lot in the past year.  I had thawed a Smith and Smith Farms chicken for dinner.  We had a little jaunt out to Con’ Olio and Barnes and Noble in the Arborteum.  I picked up some Tuscan Herbed Olive Oil, and some Mushroom and Sage Olive Oil, and several cookbooks.

 

I brushed the chicken with Tuscan Herbed Olive Oil and baked it in the oven.  I sauteed some Kitchen Pride Mushrooms from the farmer’s market with some amazing huge green onions from Springdale Farm, and garden cilantro.  I tossed those in with some Lowell Farms rice and with some leftover salad, we called it dinner.