Tag Archives: postaday2011

#20: Untitled Nothing Factory

Girl standing in front of artPhoto: Liz Love

This wall was just part of a really inspiring, ephemeral art project called “Untitled Nothing Factory” by Amanda Ross-Ho at the Visual Arts Center on the UT campus. Unfortunately, the exhibit’s gone. But it’s being replaced by “Apparent Weight,” an exhibit showcasing the work of students in the UT MFA program. I can’t wait to see the new works in a few weeks at the gallery opening. If I’m not finished with 30×30 by then, you’ll get to see them, too!

10 Things I Learned at TECHmunch

I spent the past weekend volunteering at TECHmunch, a conference for food bloggers held here in Austin. The whole experience was terrific; I had a chance to catch up with a lot of my Austin food blogger brethren, I heard lots of expert perspectives on technology and blogging, and I networked my way towards some new friendships and professional connections. Here are 10 things I learned from the panelists and bloggers at Techmunch Austin:

  1. Successful bloggers build communities of like-minded people online and in person. This network is comprised of readers, the press, companies, other bloggers and PR professionals.
  2. Bloggers can engage that community via blog comments, twitter, emails, events, livechats, video, and myriad other channels. Whether you choose to communicate with your real name or an online persona, authenticity and kindness are key to the success of community engagement at every level.
  3. Monetization opportunities are scarce for small publishers, according to Ben Huh. Other panelists were more encouraging, and recommended building relationships with specific brands as a strategy for small blogs to monetize. Banner ads are another source of income, with iSocket, OpenX, and BlogAds available as tools to bloggers who do not want to do their own coding.
  4. I learned from several fellow bloggers that not everyone wants to monetize their blog or partner with big brands. A lot of us are in this as a hobby for fun, as a way to meet new people, and in the hopes that our blogs will lead to other revenue streams, like a full time office job or a book deal.
  5. Twitter was mentioned by nine separate panelists as their favorite way to interact with bloggers
  6. As you’re getting started, find a blogging mentor. Emulate her. But don’t copy her exactly, since it’s important to have your own point of view. Several panelists mentioned emulating a mentor as a strategy for writing your bio, identifying valuable press contacts, targeting potential brands, and getting inspiration for content.
  7. Video, mobile apps, tablet computing and social interaction were mentioned as up-and-coming technologies. Very few of the bloggers attending Techmunch were actively engaged in these technologies, indicating that implementing new technologies can be a good way to for new bloggers to get noticed.
  8. Editorial Calendars won out as the most-mentioned technique for organizing content. Editorial Calendars are used by PR professionals, press, and successful bloggers to manage time and plan effective content.During a conference break, I found a useful free WordPress Plugin called “Editorial Calendar” that simplifies long-range planning and calendar management on the WordPress platform.
  9. Along those same lines, consistent content creation was identified by several panelists as a key to blogging hapiness. Ben Huh put it best when he said, “The secret to success is creating quality content day in and day out.”
  10. Finally, the biggest theme I took away from the weekend is to treat others the way you want to be treated. That means using kind words, creating inclusive local communities, leaving comments on other people’s blogs, proofreading your pitches, building relationships with sponsors BEFORE asking for favors, and following through on promises to readers.

I’ve seen some other great TECHmunch wrap-up posts by Rene Lynch, Gemma MatherneJessica Elizarraras, Megan Warncke and Natanya Anderson. If you’re a blogger I met this weekend and you’ve written a wrap-up post, please let me know in the comments so that I can add you to this list of recappers.

Turnip & Collard Green Frittata

Picture of frittata

Frittatas are one of the most powerful tools in the home cook’s arsenal. They are extremely forgiving and easy to adapt to whatever ingredients are in the fridge. Plus, you can serve a frittata at pretty much any meal. Pair it with muffins and fruit salad, and there’s brunch. With crunchy green salad and wine, dinner is served.

Lately I’ve been turning to frittatas at the end of the week to use up the veggies straggling in the crisper drawer, both for quick dinners and make-ahead breakfasts. No matter what specific ingredients I have on hand, I always make frittatas using the same basic formula:

  • 2 cups chopped, cooked vegetables, onions, potatoes or meat
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup liquid dairy- milk, cream, or half and half
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • salt, pepper, garlic and other spices to taste

The recipe fills a 9-inch deep dish pie pan and bakes up in a 325 degree oven for 50 minutes

For this particular frittata, I took inspiration from the traditional southern preparation of turnips and collard greens and I paired those cruciferous veggies with garlic and heavy cream. Some Romano cheese added a bit of bite to the recipe, and I opted to use a mix of duck and chicken eggs since that’s what I had available. Next time we get turnips and collards in the local box, I’m planning to make this dish again and add some smoky bacon to the mix– I’ll just fry it up at the start of preparation and use the bacon fat to saute the veggies.

Picture of Frittata Ingredients

Turnip and Collard Green Frittata
yield: 6 servings

olive oil
1 yellow onion
2 turnips
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch collard greens
6 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup shredded Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Peel and dice onion, turnips and garlic cloves. Chop stems off of collard greens, wash the leaves thoroughly, and chop them into 1/4 inch ribbons. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and use olive oil to grease a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Saute chopped onions, garlic and turnips until they begin to soften. Add the chopped collard greens to the skillet, and cook them with the other vegetables until they are wilted and soft. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Beat the eggs and cream together in a large mixing bowl. Fold in the cooked vegetables, cheese, salt and pepper to the egg mixture and pour frittata batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes in preheated oven, until eggs are firm.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

Menu Plan 2/23-3/1

Photo: Liz Love

Woohoo! I’m finally feeling better. I missed making a menu plan last week because I was sick, so I’m extra enthusiastic with this week’s menu preparations. It helps that we’re getting our first round of local strawberries this week. All the vitamin C in the strawberries will chase away any lingering ickies for sure. And although every time I buy strawberries I want to make popsicles (see above), I’m going to use this week’s haul in a very responsible and healthy spinach salad. Here’s what we’re getting in our Local Box:

Strawberries – Gunderman Farm
Avocado – G&S Grove
Spinach – Orange Blossom
Planting Onions – Orange Blossom
Collard Greens – Gunderman Farm
Fennel – J&B Farm
Mushrooms – Kitchen Pride
Bok Choy – Gunderman Farm
Grapefruits – G&S Grove
Meyer Lemons – G&S Grove
Multicolored Carrots – Animal Farm

Here’s what I’m making! Note the large amounts of social activities coming up this week. Basically all of March will be a marathon of SXSW-related food fun, so I’m considering this week a ramp up.

Wednesday: Avocado Soup
Thursday: Gluten Free Pizza Party!!
Friday: Boiled collard greens, cornbread
Saturday: Strawberry Spinach Salad , roasted fennel
Sunday: Oscar party! Eating pizza with my friends. Making greyhounds and salty dogs with our grapefruits.
Monday: ATX Food swap! I’m using my Meyer lemons for these cookies and also taking a few sweet potato pound cakes and some ground wild venison from my family’s farm in Iowa to the swap. There will be plenty of noms for dinner there, too.
Tuesday: Bok choy with mushroom sauce
Breakfasts: Sweet Potato casserole with oatmeal strudel. (Probably healthier than McOatmeal, but not by much. At least my eggs, sweet potatoes and pecans are local and organic.)

#10: Mueller Park

Photo Credit: Liz Love

#9: The Daisy Argument

Photo credit: Liz Love

This awesome art installation is “The Daisy Argument” by Natasha Bowdoin. It’s free to visit at the VAC on the UT Campus.

Meal Plan 2/9-2/15

Oh, happy day. My Greenling Local Box arrived today just like clockwork, even though I didn’t get home from work until 7:30 tonight.  The next few nights are very hectic here in the El-Farrah/Hutchison home, so I’m aiming for super quick and easy suppers until this weekend, when I’ll have a little more time to cook. Monday’s Valentine’s Day Dinner is a surprise. Top Secret. My lips are sealed. But there may be some chocolate. And also garlic…

Here’s what’s in the Local Box:

Bibb Lettuce – Bella Verdi
Leaf Lettuce – Acadian
Microgreens – Bella Verdi
Collard Greens – Gunderman
Fennel – J&B Farm
Portabella Caps – Kitchen Pride
Multicolored Carrots – Animal Farm
Grapefruit – G&S Grove
Tangerines – Orange Blossom
Beets & Carrot Juicing Bag – My Father’s Farm
Sweet Potatoes – Naegelin

Here’s what I’m making:

Wednesday: We ate takeout tonight since I was a day late with the meal plan.
Thursday: Lettuce salad & microgreen salad with carrots and shallot & grapefruit dressing
Friday: Beer braised bratwurst and collard greens
Saturday: Portabella pizzas, lettuce salad with shallot and grapefruit dressing
Sunday: Roasted fennel and carrots, pita bread with beet hummus
Tuesday: Leftover awareness day!

#8: The Parking Garage

Photo credit: Liz Love

#7: Northwest Hills

Photo credit: Liz Love

Queso Cheese Dip (with a secret ingredient)

I love queso, but I am not a big fan of the “processed cheese product” that is typically used to give this dip its creamy consistency.  Besides being high in sodium, many processed cheeses are made with hormone-laden dairy and lots of preservatives.  I avoid these pitfalls in my recipe by creating a creamy organic cheese blend from scratch, using locally-grown organic peppers, spices and cheeses, sans the chemicals.

Like the velveeta version, this queso recipe will stand up to hours of heat in the crock pot without separating, and it’s a snap to put together. I kept this recipe of queso covered on warm in the slow cooker for four hours yesterday before serving, and it held steady the whole time!

The secret ingredient that makes it so creamy and low maintenance is butternut squash puree.  The squash adds a lovely golden color to the cheese and enhances the texture, keeping it from getting stringy as it melts. A basic roux in the early part of the recipe also helps to stabilize the cheese.

As you can see, I added venison taco meat, guacamole made with local avocados, and sour cream to my queso just before serving yesterday.  The resulting appetizer was similar to the Bob Armstrong dip served at Matt’s El Rancho in Austin and Dallas.

I probably would have ended up with Kerbey Queso (cheese dip topped with guac and pico de gallo) if tomatoes had been in season at the market this weekend.  Since butternut squash is so easy to find here in Austin, I suspect I’ll get a chance to make this fabulous queso again for some Texas Longhorn tailgates, when fresh tomatoes are a plenty.

Butternut Squash Queso Cheese Dip (serves 6)
1/2 large onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butternut squash puree
2 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz. roasted peppers (I used organic canned, chopped hatch green chiles; fresh roasted would probably taste better, but they’re not in season right now)
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, saute minced onions in butter over medium heat until onions begin to soften.  Add flour to the pan and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, until flour is golden brown.  Add milk 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly.  Cook until milk is warmed through and turns light brown. Next, add the squash puree, stirring until combined, followed by the cheeses, peppers, and spices. Continue stirring for about 5 minutes until all the cheeses are completely melted and the mixture is creamy.  Remove queso from the stove and serve immediately or transfer to a slow cooker, covered and set to “warm” until ready to serve.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.