Archive | December, 2013

Invest locally: Food nonprofits for year-end gifts

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As the year winds down, many are contemplating nonprofits to receive a year-end gift.  You might consider putting your money where your mouth is and make an investment in an organization that furthers the local, sustainable food movement. Three of my favorite causes engage youth, refugees and veterans in farming – widening the umbrella of the sustainable food community.

Urban Roots holds a special place in my heart, teaching kids leadership skills through farming and running a farm stand in Austin. I am continuously impressed with their program and he confidence and enthusiasm it breeds in the kids. Any donation to Urban Roots is money well spent.

Urban Roots volunteers courtesy of Urban Roots

Urban Roots volunteers courtesy of Urban Roots

In Houston, Plant It Forward Farms provides refugees a path to economic viability through farming. I first read about this program in CultureMap and Sugar & Rice magazine and I cannot wait to visit the farms.  Houston is such a melting pot and I can’t think of a better way to welcome new residents than help them become part of an active, thriving food community.

Last year I had the chance to see the documentary Farmer Veteran and was intrigued by efforts to engage and place veterans in small family farms. Eat the Yard farm in Oak Cliff (Dallas) is a great example of such an effort and they credit the  continued support of the Farmer Veteran Coalition for their success. A donation to FVC is a direct investment not only in our future food supply, but in our veterans who deserve our gratitude for their service.

Eat the Yard crew courtesy or Farmer Veteran Coalition

Eat the Yard crew courtesy or Farmer Veteran Coalition

Sustainable Food Center (Austin) and Urban Harvest (Houston)  host farmers markets, provide farm to work and school services and many other vital programs to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, fresh food.  Green Corn Project (Austin) is helping create a new generation of citizen gardeners by installing gardens and teaching gardening classes.

And, of course, the food banks across the state – Capital Area Food Bank, Houston Food Bank, San Antonio Food Bank and North Texas Food Bank – battle hunger every day in our communities, a large focus of which is to get healthy, nutritious food on to every plate.

Last, but not least, Foodways Texas is doing amazing work chronicling the food history of our great state, capturing and preserving what is so special about the flavors of Texas.

Whichever organization you choose, you can rest assured that every dollar you invest is a vote for local food and a healthy, happier community in the new year. 

Happy New Year!

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Cookbooks for your favorite food enthusiast

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Still have unfilled stockings on your holiday shopping list? For some of us, reading about food is almost as fun as eating it – almost. If you are still looking for a holiday gift for your favorite food enthusiast, or considering some a little something for yourself, these collections will inspire greatness in the kitchen.

tacobookjpgWhen I travel, the food I miss most is breakfast tacos. Other places try, but no one has breakfast tacos like Austin. Fortunately, Mando Rayo and Jared Neece of Taco Journalism penned the Austin Breakfast Tacos to help you whip up some of Austin’s best at home. ($14.99)

I’m a big fan of San Antonio’s Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market and I often use their website to search for the creative recipes they’ve collected. I imagine my delight when they decided to compile a cookbook and for $22 you can share a seasonal fare with your favorite locavore.

tipsy texanUntil I met David Alan, aka the Tipsy Texan, my idea of the perfect cocktail was bourbon over ice (and it still ranks pretty high in my book). I’ve learned more from David about the history and art of cocktails than I ever thought possible like simple, well-made ingredients make divine drinks. You can share his mixology wisdom with your favorite cocktail enthusiast with his book, Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State.  I highly recommend pairing it with a premium bottle or fabulous bar accessory.

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I love Austin and am so happy that it is my home, but I dream about New Orleans often. This year, I took a Central Market cooking class with writer and New Orleans native Lolis Eric Elie and was given a copy of his fascinating tome, Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans. Now, when I miss the Crescent City, I pick a recipe, read a story and savor the Big Easy on my plate.

issueoneMagazine subscriptions make a great gift and Sugar & Rice out of Houston will intrigue and titillate. I thoroughly enjoyed the premier issue and cannot wait to devour the next set of stories.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the folks who let me write for them. A subscription to Edible Austin is a great way to share our exciting food scene with friends, particularly Austin expats, as is the The Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook.

Now go finish that shopping! Happy Holidays!

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Give Austin This Holiday Season

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With the holiday season in full swing it is time to start working my way through the gift list. Thankfully Austin makes it easy to find unique and local gifts varying from treats and eat to home decor. Here are a few local treasures I will be sharing with friends and family this year!

 

1. Yellowbird Sauce

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My life was forever changed the day I met Yellowbird Sauce. Made with habanero peppers, carrots, onions, tangerines, vinegar, lime and garlic this stuff is HOT. This Austin based, all natural sauce is perfect for loved ones who are into sassy sauces! At about $7, this makes for a great little gift to show you care or stocking stuffer. You can buy it online or around Austin at Wheatsville Co-op, Counter Cafe (this is where I discovered it), Hillside Farmacy and more.

2. Lenoir Gift Basket

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The ever fabulous LENOIR who hit Austin by storm in 2012  has put together a beautiful gift basket this year. This great gift idea includes a bottle of Beaujolais, a set of 2 vintage kitchen towels, homemade finishing salt, coconut caramels, candied pecans, persimmon hot sauce, 2 complimentary drink tickets to LENOIR, a super-cool metal basket and top-secret recipe card for Clinton’s Magnificent Mulled Wine. Order a basket today for $95. This is a gift people won’t soon forget.

3. The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking

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Kate Payne is the new age homemaker that gives a humorous and creative guide for a chic home that is easy on your wallet and the planet. Basically, she keeps it real which I think all us ladies appreciate.  Visit Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking to order a copy for under $20. Kate also offer canning, pickling and other classes through out the year so don’t forget to sign up for her Austin e-mail list.

4. Delysia Chocolatier

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I was first introduced to Delysia chocolates at the Austin Food & Wine Festival last year. Not only is Nicole Patel ( the proprietor of and chocolatier) a delight, but her truffle collections make for a perfect gift. The New Years Collection includes champagne, strawberry, and cigar flavors while the Texas Truffle Collection includes lavender, prickly pear and honey flavors.  I highly recommend checking out the collections for only $20 and the rest of the Delysia treats.

5. Coffee Lovers Gift Box from Greenling

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Greenling strives to offer the largest array of local and organic goods and this coffee lovers gift basket is keepin’ it Texan and sustainable. Caffinie freaks will love this local, fair-trade organic coffee, locally made cookies and a signature mug. The festive packaging even uses eco-friendly materials. Check out these great Greenling local gifts starting at $25.99.

6. Carolyn Kimball Decor

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I discovered Carolyn Kimball during this years East Austin Studio Tour. I was drawn immediatley to her Tea Towels with Texas succulents and plants I am fond of seeing at Big Bend National Park. Her nature inspired prints are hand-painted with non-toxic ink and would look great in any bathroom or kitchen. Shop her goodies on Etsy or locally around Austin.

7. Confituras

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Confituras is the real deal with small batch, locally sourced jams, jellies and preserves. Their seasonal selection is killer from salted caramel pear butter to my favorite, tipsy cranberry cranberry pecan sauce. You can find Confituras locally at many of the Farmers Markets around Austin and other local shops. You can also shop online for  jam boxes starting at $25 and canning class gift certificates for $75.

A few more tidbits…

I also love giving the gift of farm to table. Consider a gift card to introduce someone to JBG, Greenling, or Farmhouse Delivery for a loved one. Subscriptions to Edible Austin, Edible Dallas & Fort Worth, Edible San Antonio or Sugar & Rice make a great gift to connect friends and family to the local community.

Enjoy and happy hunting for local gifts!

 

 

 

 

 

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