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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

DIY Canning & Preserving 101

When I was growing up my mom grew her own vegetables and fruit, raised chickens, canned tomatoes and made everything from bread to soap. I have not quite followed in her footsteps, but now and again I take on a project or two. I've made orange marmalade and lately I've been making batches of tamales. I've dabbled in window box herb gardening and last year I bought a kit to make cheese. I'm not alone. Activities like preserving, canning, DIY, gardening and even raising chickens are all surging in popularity. Whether it's a desire to get back to nature, or to just feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with making something to your own taste, these experiences can be deeply satisfying. If you're not sure where to start, or if you are looking to take the next step, there are plenty of good resources out there to get you going. Here are some of my current favorites: Williams Sonoma recently launched  Agrarian , which is designed to get you up to speed in ...
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bison Tacos with Avocado & Radish

American bison are an important part of the prairie ecosystem and after a decline almost to extinction  around the end of the 19th century, today there are many ranchers working hard to bring them back. I enjoy cooking and eating bison (sometimes referred to as buffalo). The brands I've tried thus far have all been grass fed, lean, raised in a more sustainable manner and well, delicious. You may be able to find ground bison at your supermarket and it's pretty easy to use in recipes that call for ground beef. Bison steaks however are another story. Because most bison is grass fed, it's leaner, like grass fed beef. Considered a highly nutrient dense food, it's lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than even chicken, it has 40% more protein than beef and is high in iron, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Without rich marbling, it needs more tender loving care. Wild Idea Buffalo recently sent me some samples of their products. Their ranch is located in South Dak...
Friday, May 25, 2012

Favorite Bites - Burgers, BBQ & Beer

The final event of Culinaria was possibly the most popular or at least the best expression of of San Antonio--an outdoor barbecue with a casual, fun and friendly vibe. The theme was burgers and there were several that broke the mold. I picked up some tips and ideas for places to visit on my next trip, as I did at the Grand Tasting (which you will find bolded ), best of all it gave me another excuse to visit the Pearl. The Pearl is the name of what was once a landmark brewery in San Antonio. The grounds which are set on the river, are now home to the latest campus of the Culinary Institute of America , shops, restaurants, bars and a thriving farmers market and small but lively amphitheater. A visit to San Antonio is not complete until you've been to the Pearl . First up, the venison burger with onions, cucumber and a pickled pepper. It was so rare and juicy. I'd want to check out The Esquire Tavern based on this burger alone. Another top pick came from chef Johnn...
Thursday, May 24, 2012

Favorite Bites from the Grand Tasting at Culinaria

One of the most elegant events at Culinaria , the wine and culinary arts festival in San Antonio, is the Grand Tasting at the Convention Center along the River Walk. Attending an event like this (or even just reading about it) allows you to pick up some great tips and ideas for future culinary explorations--both dishes to try on your own and a head's up about restaurants that are worth seeking out on future visits (find my tips in bold text). At the Grand Tasting I had three favorite dishes. First was something very creative and tasty, compressed watermelon with pop rocks! Mainly it was just a lot of fun, juicy and crunchy and crackly. It's definitely a dish with a sense of humor, and while prepared by the chef at the hotel La Contessa restaurant Las Ramblas , it is available from their food truck, Tapa Tapa. I believe it also had a dab of black garlic. Pretty too. Compressing watermelon is a technique to try using a vacuum sealer, no sous vide necessary! The next dish I ...
Friday, May 18, 2012

Food Trucks at Culinaria

I'm in San Antonio for Culinaria , an annual food and wine festival with events that range from BBQ to beer and burgers to a grand tasting. For the first time, the events included a food truck round up (hey, it is Texas after all). A $10 ticket got attendees into the event and included beer and wine--including some wines from Texas hill country. I waited in line the longest for the Say-She-Ate , a food truck chosen best food truck of 2012 by the San Antonio Current. They were serving Akaushi beef sliders with grilled onions and blue cheese and duck fat fries. Akaushi is a Japanese wagyu style beef, and cattle are raised in Texas. While I would have preferred the slider a little less well-done, it was still flavorful and delicious. The fries were great too, though another truck was cooking them in beef tallow and they were crispier. My favorite bite of the night was from the Duk truck . Duk stands for Dady's Underground Kitchen, but you wouldn't know that from look...
Friday, May 04, 2012

20 Things to Do with Leftover Guacamole

Is there anything sadder than guacamole and no chips? And yet, it happens. Instead of stashing the guacamole in the refrigerator, this list of ideas should get the green out of the bowl and onto your plate! Just remember to season to taste before serving your new creation... 1. On a baked potato instead of sour cream or butter 2. On a BLT as a sandwich spread instead of mayo 3. Whisked into a vinaigrette or ranch salad dressing 4. On toast with a fried egg on top 5. Layer on a sandwich with mozzarella and tomatoes (good hot or cold) 6. As a topping on chili 7. Dollop on top of pizza, really! 8. As a pasta sauce, combine with olive oil, season with salt, serve hot or cold 9. On top of crab cakes or potato pancakes 10. Cold guacamole soup, just combine with chicken broth and chill 11. Make chicken salad by combining guacamole with chunks of cooked chicken and chopped scallions 12. Use in place of mayonnaise to make guacamole deviled eggs or guacamole egg salad 13. Combine...
Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Hot Chocolate Cookies Recipe

The drinks and dishes I tried on my trip to Avery Island inspired me to think about Tabasco in new ways. Of course you can use it in things like in guacamole or in a bloody mary, but how about something unexpected, for example, cookies? I made Fran├žois Payard Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies twice during Passover this year and they were gobbled up so quickly that I didn't even get to snap a photo. After following the recipe closely, I decided to put my own twist on it. The cookies are mostly powdered sugar, cocoa powder and egg whites. They are crisp and crackly on the outside but moist and fudgy, almost like brownies on the inside. But perhaps not surprisingly, they are a bit sweet. To temper the sweetness I added Tabasco and cacao nibs. The Tabasco gives just a hint of heat in the background. You'll barely notice it, but it definitely takes these cookies to the next level. While the toasted walnuts add crunch and a contrasting bitterness, unsweetened cacao nibs h...