Tuesday, April 19, 2016

In the Garden: April
Monthly guide for gardening tasks, forecasts, and more

UPDATE: This In the Garden, monthly guide for April has been updated with new gardening tasks and scheduled plantings, and Farmers' Almanac weather forecasts and moon phases for April 2016. 

Thinking about starting a new hobby? Maybe grow a bit of your own food or flower this year? Get growing and going with this post from the archives, Preparing Your (New or Existing) Garden.

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

  ~William Shakespeare

The subtle signs of the season are springing up around the Texas Hill Country. Chilly mornings warm to sunny afternoons.  Tender green-leafed branches provide the perfect stage for the trill of birdsong. Winter's thaw yields a riotous profusion of color soon-- the bluebonnets are already dotting roadsides, to be accompanied by wildflowers of yellows, oranges, reds, and purples so vivid they seem to have been hand-painted.  

It promises to be another glorious Texas spring. 

In the Garden: April 

In this post, find information about gardening in general, and planting advice specifically for USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8. To find the USDA zone in which you garden, consult the map, below, or visit usda.gov, and adjust planting dates accordingly.  

Fertilize: Tomatoes and peppers should be fed with a liquid fertilizer. Feed crape myrtle beneath the branch spread with 1/3 cup complete fertilizer per sq. yd. After second mowing, fertilize lawn with 3-1-2 ratio product; aerate first, if needed. Fertilize all houseplants with complete fertilizer.

Mulch trees, shrubs, vegetable garden and flower beds (after soil has warmed) with 2-4 inches of mulch. Pine needles and oak leaves make a good mulch for acid-loving plants. Spread coffee grounds around azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

Water: Water as needed.

Transplant: Divide and transplant late summer-and fall-flowering bulbs. Container-grown plants (almost any kind) can go into the ground now. Plant summer annuals to get their root systems established before the extreme heat arrives.

Lawn Care: Plant grass sod or plugs. Water daily for one or two weeks to establish. Begin regular lawn care. Mow every 5-7 days, leaving the clippings on the lawn. Keep St. Augustine grass at 2-1/2 to 3 inches.


1st-3rd. Stormy weather conditions. 4th-7th. Sunshine, dry weather. 8th-11th. Blustery winds spread east. 12th-15th. Fair skies prevail for most areas. 16th-19th. Unsettled weather. 20th-23rd. Potentially severe thunderstorms for Arkansas, down into Louisiana. Storms may be capable of cloud-to-ground lightning, damaging winds, large hail, even tornadoes. 24th-27th. Abundant sunshine. 28th-30th. Clouds, showers move in from the West.


1st-3rd Excellent time to kill weeds, briars, poison ivy, and other plant pests.
4th-5th Set strawberry plants. Excellent for any vine crops, such as beans, peas, and cucumbers. Good days for transplanting. Favorable days for planting root crops.
6th-7th Poor planting days. Break ground or cultivate.
8th-9th Favorable for planting beans, corn, cotton, tomatoes, peppers, and other above-ground crops.
10th-11th Poor days for planting, seeds tend to rot in ground.
12th-13th Plant seedbeds and start flower gardens. Plant tomatoes, beans, peppers, corn, cotton, and other above-ground crops on these most fruitful days.
14th-18th Grub out weeds, briars, and other plant pests.
19th-20th A favorable time for sowing grains, hay, and fodder crops. Plant flowers. Plant corn, melons, squash, tomatoes, and other above-ground crops.
21st-23rd Start seedbeds. First day is a favorable day for planting above-ground crops, especially cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, celery, and other leafy vegetables. Last two days are good days for transplanting. Last two days are also good days for planting beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, peanuts, and other root crops. Also good for Leafy vegetables.
24th-25th Neither plant nor sow on these barren days.
26th-28th Favorable days for planting beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, onions, and other root crops.
29th-30th Excellent time to kill weeds, briars, poison ivy, and other plant pests.

Flower Plants: Ageratum, ajuga, joseph's coat, balsam, wax begonia, blue daze, blue cardinal flower, boltonia, scarlet bouvardia, calico plant, chocolate plant, cigar plant, cockscomb, coleus, columbine, coneflower, copper plant, coreopsis, cosmos, dahlia, shasta daisy, feverfew, geranium, gomphrena, hibiscus, hollyhock, impatiens, jacobinia, lantana, marigold, nierembergia, penta, periwinkle, persian shield, plumbago ,phlox, portulaca, purslane, rudbeckia, salvia, sedum, stokes aster, sunflower, wishbone flower, yarrow, zinnia.

Flower Seeds: Ageratum, balsam, castor bean, celosia, cleome, cockscomb, coleus, coral vine, cosmos, cypress vine, dahlia, coneflower, feverfew, four-o'clock, globe amaranth, gourd, impatiens, linaria, nasturtium, marigold, moonflower, morning glory, periwinkle, petunia, pinks, portulaca, scabiosa, sunflower, sweet pea, tithonia, torensia, vinca, zinnia.

Bulbs: Achimenes, acidanthera, allium, alstroemeria, amarcrinum, amaryllis, ground orchid, caladium, calla, canna, crinum, dahlia, daylily, dietes, ginger, gladiolus, gloriosa daisy, host, spider lily, hyposix, liriope, monkey grass, rain lily, society garlic, tigridia. 

Vegetables: Early to Mid-Month: Pepper, Radish, Squash, Tomato
All Month: Amaranth, Bean, Corn, Cucumber, Eggplant, Muskmelon, Okra, Peanuts, Pumpkin, Southern Pea, Sweet Potato, Tomatillo, Watermelon

Herbs: Anise, star anise, basil, bay, borage, bouncing bet, caraway, catnip, chives, comfrey, costmary, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, scented geranium, germander, horehound, horseradish, lamb's ear, lavender, lemongrass, lemon verbena, mexican mint marigold, monarda, oregano, perilla, rosemary, sage, santolina, summer savory, winter savory, sesame, sorrel, southernwood, tansy, tarragon, thyme, common wormwood, roman wormwood, yarrow.

Fruit: Container grown fruit and nut trees, vines, bushes



Tuesday, April 5, 2016

About Town: Austin | Belle Vie Farm & Kitchen
Recipe: Portuguese Migas Salad

On the 40-acre Belle Vie Farm and Kitchen, located just north of Elgin, Texas, ducks, geese, turkeys, and now pigs peacefully share the good life with humans Aubrey and Perrine Noelke with a sweet cherub of a baby girl, and another baby on the way. They are dedicated to humane, sustainable farming practises and feed only certified organic GMO free grain. They never chemically treat constantly rotating pastures. Read more about 2 of my favorite Central Texas farmers at Edible Austin.

The offerings from their kitchen, which expand deliciously and often, are available for sale at the Texas Farmers' Markets at Lakeline and MuellerAntonelli's Cheese Shop, and for purchase directly.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with one of their newest sausages, lively-spiced turkey chorizo with the full flavor you'd expect of chorizo, but with less fat....and perhaps less unknown.

It is a pleasure to cook with assurance the products from trusted folks and farms, like the vendors with which I have the honor to work and cook at Texas Farmers' Markets.

Portuguese Migas Salad with Belle Vie Farm Turkey Chorizo
Yield: 4 entrĂ©e-sized salads 

Chorizo, a highly-spiced sausage found in Mexican and Spanish cuisines, is a perfect choice for those who aren't quite ready to take the meatless plunge, yet would like to reduce their consumption of animal fats. a little goes a long, flavorful way. 

Portuguese and Spanish Migas are different from the Tex-Mex Migas we traditionally enjoy for breakfast in the Southwest. The word migas means crumbs. Tex-Mex cuisine takes the tortilla chip route. Portuguese and Spanish cuisines follow a more literal route of bread crumbs-- fried bread crumbs, more specifically. The slight crunch stands up nobly to the textures and flavors of this hearty salad, high in fiber and chock-ful of vitamins and minerals, and ready in around 30 minutes for busy weeknights.

1 pkg Belle Vie Turkey Chorizo
1 cup stock or water
½ c chopped spring onion
2T chopped green garlic
2 bunches lacinato kale, chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed, drained

Migas (see below)
Dressing (see below)

In a medium skillet, gently braise chorizo, onion, and garlic, turning chorizo frequently to cook through, but remain in casings. When firm, browned, and cooked to an internal temperature of 150°. Remove sausages and cool until easily handled. Slice and reserve.
Add kale to simmering stock and toss well to coat, heating until slightly wilted. Remove to serving platter.
Add black beans to skillet; reduce heat to medium low, stirring frequently to warm through, about 3 minutes. Mound atop kale on platter. Top with chorizo.
Add a few drizzles of dressing and top with toasted migas, both below.


Juice of one grapefruit
Juice of 2 limes
1t cumin
2T chopped cilantro
1 avocado, diced

Combine all ingredients in a blender and whirl together on low until well blended. Correct seasonings, adding a touch of honey if a little sweetness is desired.


Day old baguette, crumbled
1T extra virgin olive oil

Warm olive oil in a medium high sauce pan until shimmering. Add bread crumbs, tossing to coat and toast until golden. Remove to paper toweling to absorb excess oil. 

NOTE: If you're observing a gluten-free diet, try a gluten-free bread for the migas. If you skip the bread altogether, well, it's not migasBut it wouldn't be bad........

Vendor Sources: 
Belle Vie Farm & Kitchen
Johnson's Backyard Garden

If you're looking for a little inspiration for the seasonal selection from your market haul and find yourself in the Austin area, stop by the Texas Farmers' Market Lakeline on Saturday, April 16, and the TFM Mueller, Sunday, April 17, where I will be celebrating Earth Day, and demonstrating techniques for solar cooking, including a quick solar cooker for use in the hot Texas sun! I'd love to see you there.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Enter to Win 2 Tickets to NOLA*Texas Food & Music Festival, This weekend!

In partnership with Cedar Park Center and NOLA*Texas Food & Music Festival, I am delighted to offer area readers both discounted and FREE chances to get a big, happy helping of the Big Easy!

GIVEAWAY: Win 2 tickets to the NOLA Texas Food & Music Festival, in Cedar Park, Texas, this Sunday April 3, AND use code "FARM" to receive a $15 discount on admission for additional tickets! Information on contest entry and promotional discount prior to the comments section, below. 

NO PLACE does a festival quite like South Louisiana and they're sending their finest food and song to Austin this Sunday, April 3, 2016. 

I have a stingy list of requirements for a personal hero, and John Besh fills the bill. And then some.

Chef Besh creates culinary magic within the swampy, most mysterious and lyrical regions from which I hail. He is a native son, and his lush and story-rich cookbooks serve as a retelling of his personal history and romance with the region. His devotion to those roots, and the foods which celebrate them, creates a love song that enchants me, and likely all of us who love the fauna and flavor, language and lore of South Louisiana. To open a Besh cookbook is to take a leisurely saunter through Creole culture.

"Growing up, I learned life's important lessons at the dinner table." - Chef John Besh 

Where Chef Besh moves from admirable icon to regional hero status, however, is through the John Besh Foundation which provides scholarships, grants and loans to individuals in the New Orleans community with the passion, creativity and knowledge to enact change in New Orleans and Louisiana. A program supported by the foundation, Chef's Move! provides two fully paid scholarships per year (in Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts) to minority residents of the Greater New Orleans area to attend a nine month program at the International Culinary Center (ICC) in New York City. Milk Money selects local farmers for a series of micro-loans that provide them financial support as well as marketing and business strategy. In short, Chef Besh puts his money where his mouth is, and brings meaning and philanthropy to the dinner table, along with a damn fine bowl of gumbo. Read more about John Besh


But WAIT, there's MORE! And I mean LOTS more. No place combines great food with joyful revelry better than South Louisiana, and the NoLa*Texas Food and Music Festival aims to provide a big taste of the Big Easy with some big names and big plates!

All-you-can-eat CRAWFISH (tickets sold separately) will be provided by THE Crawfish King, Chris “Shaggy” Davis and the musical lineup blends the best of the two worlds with NOLA and ATX local favorites, alike. 

Laissez les bon temps rouler, y'all!

TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE: Tickets for the NOLA*Texas Food & Music Festival are on sale now through Ticketmaster, the Cedar Park Center box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and charge-by-phone at 800-745-3000.

USE PROMO CODE: FARM for $15.00 discount on General Admissions ticket door price, WHEN PURCHASED IN ADVANCE.

Ticket Prices: $30 Advance Tickets; $40 Day of Tickets; $150 VIP
Children 10 years and under are FREE with a paid general admission ticket. * The free general admission child ticket must be obtained from Box Office before entry.
Parking Prices: General $15; Valet $20. Cash only.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Quick Stovetop Jam
Strawberry | Lemon | Rosemary

Home-prepared jams and jellies may conjure thoughts of steamy, day-long canning sessions, but who has time for all of that during the busiest days of Spring? This bright and herbal sweet spread can be prepared in around 30 minutes, for a lighter touch with less sugar, and less sweat, than traditional preserves.

Strawberry | Lemon | Rosemary
Quick Stovetop Jam
yield: 2 pints

Tis the season for plump, sweet jewel-toned berries to show themselves off at the market. I'll be playing around with my favorite fruit and herb combinations this season, beginning with one of my favorites. If this savory green flavor isn't your thing (gasp!), go sweet all the way with the addition of a small strip of vanilla bean. Take it a spicier direction with the addition of sliced jalapeno, or go mysterious and exotic with a splash of rosewater. Let your saucepan be your laboratory!

  • 1 quart ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

In a large mixing bowl, combine strawberries and sugar. Cover, and let macerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Prepare 2 pint jars by washing in hot, soapy water, rinsing well, then placing in a 250° oven on a sheet pan to sterilize while jam cooks.

Transfer sugar and berries to a large saucepan. Add lemon zest, juice, and whole rosemary sprigs, and bring to a low to medium boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mash strawberries slightly as they begin to break down in the boil.

Allow jam to continue its steady medium boil, watching closely, until spread begins to thicken.  

Remove from heat, fish out rosemary sprigs and discard. Ladle into sterilized jars, wipe jar threads clean, and seal with lids. Keep refrigerated and consume within 2 weeks.  If it lasts that long.

Friday, March 25, 2016

About Town: Austin
The Colossal Curry Cook-Off

I'm pulling out all of the spices and working on my Curry game for an upcoming cook-off of which you, too, can be a part! Whether flexing your culinary chops, or joining us as judges and tasters, you're certain to enjoy a spicy great time among Austin food-lovers.

The Colossal Curry Cook-Off, hosted by the Austin Food Blogger Alliance will be held Saturday, April 16, 2016, from 2:00-4:00pm at Shangri-La, in Austin.

What is Curry?

While there is no rigid definition of "a curry," it is frequently used as a generic term for sauce-based dishes that can vary in spice content and heat, and can contain meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, coconut milk, onions, fresh ginger, kaffir lime leaves and other ingredients. 

The origins of Curry begin with the British in India, as a name for the myriad savory dishes they encountered, however the dish, itself, can be traced back hundreds of years, before.

With increased trade across Asia, curry is now prepared in so many cuisines it's difficult to name them all, however they are now popular in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Japan and Ethiopia.

Sponsors of the event include American Lamb Board, Wheatsville Co­op, Whole Foods Market, Ace Mart Restaurant Supply, and TRACE at the W.  

Learn how to compete and/or enjoy one of Austin's most flavorful events of the year in the official press release, below, and be sure to follow along with the action on social media under the #ATXCurryOff hashtag.
Colossal Curry Cook-­Off Brings the Community Together to Raise Funds for Local Non-­Profit
AUSTIN, TX (March 22, 2016):​ The Austin Food Blogger Alliance (AFBA) announces their first ­ever Colossal Curry Cook­-Off fundraiser, occurring Saturday, April 16, 2016, from 2:00pm­-4:00pm at Shangri­-La.
Open to the public, this irresistibly spicy event will give Austinites the chance to vie for the coveted title of Curry Champion of Austin. Everyone from professional chefs to home cooking enthusiasts are encouraged to enter the cook-off and compete for prizes by emailing AFBA atcookoff@austinfoodbloggers.org by April 1, 2016. All curry styles from across the globe are welcome. Entries will be eligible to win People’s Choice awards as well as Judges’ Choice awards (the latter based on taste and originality).
For those who aren’t ready to flex their own curry cooking muscle, tickets to the Colossal Curry Cook­-Off are on sale now on EventBrite and cost $15 per person, or $20 at the door the day of event (venue restrictions limit attendees to 21+ only). Guests of the cook­-off will enjoy tastes of all the curry recipes and tunes from DJ Dolomike, and will cast their votes for the People’s Choice award.
“Everyone in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance is so excited for this cook­-off,” says Kristin Sheppard, President of AFBA. “We think this will be such a fun event for the community and a unique way to raise some funds for a quintessentially Austin non­profit. We appreciate our local friends’ support however they can provide it, whether it's buying tickets to attend the cook­-off or entering as a contestant and showcasing their curry-­cooking chops!”

Sponsored by the American Lamb Board, Wheatsville Co­op, Whole Foods Market, Ace Mart Restaurant Supply, and TRACE at the W, the Colossal Curry Cook-­Off is sure to be a flavorful afternoon no one will forget. To enter or get more information on this event, please email AFBA atcookoff@austinfoodbloggers.org.

About Austin Food Blogger Alliance:
The Austin Food Blogger Alliance (AFBA) seeks to support a local membership of food bloggers and the community through educational initiatives, social events, philanthropic endeavors, and by upholding a commonly shared code of ethics. Formed in 2011, AFBA has over 100 active members blogging on a range of topics, including:
∙ Cooking or baking
∙ Restaurant reviews
∙ Beverages
∙ Special diets, gluten ­free, vegan, vegetarian
∙ Food photography
∙ Food trailers
∙ Farming and gardening
∙ Sustainability
AFBA is a 501(c)7 nonprofit organization led by an all ­volunteer Board of Directors. Membership is available to Central Texans who have a blog that is at least four months old when they submit their application, and who blog at least twice a month on a food ­related topic. Benefits of membership include:
∙ Invitations to members­ only events, classes, and informational panels
∙ Volunteer opportunities within the Austin food community
. Opportunity to contribute to the AFBA City Guide, which averages about 15,000 views per month
∙ Blog promotion via the AFBA website, Twitter feed, and Facebook page
∙ Access to the members ­only Facebook group
∙ Monthly newsletter with news, event announcements, and job opportunities
∙ The opportunity to connect with more than 100 like­minded Austin food writers
. ...and more!
To learn more about what the food­ loving group is up to, follow AFBA on Facebook (Austin Food Blogger Alliance) Twitter (@atxfoodblogs) or Instagram (@atxfoodblogs).

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