It’s Cookie Time!
Ah, baking with your loved ones during the holidays.
We all have this idyllic vision in our heads of a happy family crowded around a kitchen island, clouds of flour in the air, colored frosting and bright sprinkles scattered about, listening to Bing Crosby croon about snow while laughing with sparkling eyes and big smiles.
But that’s not how things ever go in my family (Do they go that way in any family? Probably not).
My most favorite and most cringe-inducing Christmas cookie-making memory comes from the 1990s, when my mother decided we were going to make empanadas with fruit filling. The dough would have cream cheese, the filling would be various jams. It sounds delicious now that I’m a 31-year-old woman, but when I was 12, all I wanted was classic cutout cookies covered in sticky canned frosting and encrusted in silver nonpareils and red and green glittery sugar. After a good bit of nagging my mother to add cutouts to the list, it was decided that we would make them on the same day.
Things started fine, until we realized how laborious empanadas would be. My sisters and I begged our mom to just give up once it was clear we’d be up all night folding and baking, filling and decorating.
"No." My mom insisted. "You bitches wanted both cookies, you’re GETTING BOTH COOKIES."(Okay, so maybe she didn’t say bitches, but I’m pretty sure she was thinking it.)
To be honest, I mostly remember slogging through the cookie-making process and experiencing it quickly devolve from a fun holiday activity to what felt like the equivalent of a task in which several child labor laws were being broken. One distinct memory of the turn in mood is when crisp sugar cookies went from being decorated as Santa Clauses with twinkling blue eyes, white beards and red suits to being decorated by smashing handfuls of red sprinkles over the tops of them. I think I got away with my shenanigans by calling them “artistic” renderings in the style of Jackson Pollock. Now I know the lack of memory is likely due to PTSD.
We did eventually make it through the cookie-baking process. There were no bells jingling. There was no laughter. There was, however, a heaping serving of frustration and eye-rolling. Also, there was no damn snow—sigh—there never is any damn snow!
So maybe the experience was mostly terrible and still makes us all cringe when someone brings up that terrible, terrible day (and night), but the memory is a classic Gonzalez/Martinez one, and I wouldn’t trade it for Bing Crosby himself delivering a basket of homemade cookies to my doorstep.
Despite my misgivings about family baking time, I still absolutely love baking during Christmas. Here are a few recipes that are catching my eye:
A modern do-over for those sugar cookies with no garish sprinkles in sight,
A chewy and crisp, buttery and nutty, pecan cookie from Gina DePalma,
Some spiced, chocolaty s’more-like marshmallows from Joy the Baker and
An almondy variation on a jam thumbprint cookie.
It’s my Tumblr birthday! Terry’s Texas Table turned 5 today!
It’s the Little Things
An overwhelming sense of joy came over me today.
It was that heart-warming feeling you get when things perfectly fall into place in an ideal situation. The kind you get when the guy you have a huge crush on finally texts you and therefore acknowledges your presence and then he says something that’s actually charming. Or when you’re at a concert watching one of your favorite bands and not only are they great live, but the crowd is great too, and you’re all singing along to every song like a giant choir. Or even better, like when you are sitting around with your friends, having a drink on a patio, the weather is just perfect, and the conversation is cracking you up so much you’re crying with laughter and you kind of freeze frame in that moment and think “I love these people.”
Only this time, it was when I realized it’s almost Halloween, which means it’s almost time for Count Chocula to be brought back to store shelves.
This might have been my profile picture at one point in my life.
YOU’RE WELCOME FOR THE INFO! Also, there are two new flavors being re-released this year, and one is supposed to be pretty tasty. But really, why would you try to improve on such a magnificent feeling?
Why Eat, Drink, Love is Not So Terrible For Journalism After All
If you’re interested in food and fan of Bravo, you very likely have at least heard of Eat, Drink, Love, the channel’s newest offering. If you haven’t… well, I’ll just let Bravo explain the show in its own words:
Eat, Drink, Love follows five single ladies as they claw their way to the top of the male-dominated Los Angeles food scene. Eater LA editor Kat Odell, pastry chef Waylynn Lucas, culinary publicist Brenda Urban, private chef Nina Clemente, and culinary marketing specialist Jessica Miller, are sharp, single and successful, mixing business and pleasure in pursuit of the perfect meal and the perfect mate. In the ultra-competitive culinary world, this tight-knit circle of friends must support each other or else risk eating each other alive.
There are so, so many things wrong with this series (immediately bringing up the weight of the women, highlighting the cattiness and jealousy the women have regarding men, minimizing the success of some of the cast members), but I don’t want to address them all right now. I’d rather focus on Kat Odell, LA editor for Eater, since she bills herself as a food journalist when she really is just a food blogger.
Look, Eater is not a journalistic endeavor, as much as Lockhart Steele would like to believe it is—it’s a blog. The site posts about restaurants that are opening and closing, does a few “best of” lists, highlights reviews actual food journalists publish elsewhere and generally trolls the food scene for news bits to pick up and publish. I am not hating on this model. Eater is popular and it has a pretty secure place in the food world—even I read it to keep up with the food scene in Austin. But, I feel like a distinction must be made.
To all journalists who have seen this show and are cringing and wringing their hands over this issue: Let’s stop addressing this as if it’s a “bad journalism” argument—it’s not. Journalists adhere to a code of ethics and standards. They would never openly flirt with their interview subjects (especially while being filmed) or make huge errors in stories only to ignore them.
The Society of Professional Journalists specifically addresses conflicts of interest, stating that real or perceived conflicts of interest should be avoided. Odell seems OK with the fact that people all over the Internet think she is dating or having “flings” with the people she writes about. In fact, she has said on the show that she has had flings with some of the men she’s written about. The fact that she has not made an attempt to address this issue says a lot.
A basic standard of journalism is to get facts right. This is a cardinal rule of the profession. Any journalist I know who gets their facts wrong is horrified when they find they screwed something up. They don’t ask if they should make a correction after they find this out, they make the correction. Especially if your interview subject comes up to you to complain that you got facts totally wrong. Odell didn’t seem too bothered by the fact that she messed up quoting Waylynn Lucas on Eater’s “One Year In” column highlighting Fonuts when she was confronted. In fact, she is still, almost a year later, saying that Lucas did not want the facts changed and so she did not issue a correction on the piece (she still has not, actually). The move a journalist would make would be to correct the piece immediately and note that corrections were made. Again, the fact that Odell essentially pretended the mistake never happened is telling.
Eat, Drink, Love is not so terrible for journalism after all because Odell is not a journalist. Eater is obviously a whole other animal with different rules, ethics and standards. As far as I’m concerned, Eater is free to allow its writers to do as it pleases—let’s just all stop calling what the site does journalism.
This installment of Polished Off features cheetah print nails and ….a muffin. OK, so they are not sooo similar, unless you really think about it and conclude that cheetah print nails have spots and the Raspberry Ricotta Buttermilk Muffin I’m holding from Pacha is spotted with raspberries and ricotta cheese. In which case, the two are totally similar!
Anyway… On to the subject at hand.
I used this post from The Beauty Department for instructions on my cheetah print manicure. First, I painted my nails with I’m Wired, a Sephora by OPI color that’s a bright, pinky coral-red. I used Julep’s Oscar*, which is a clear base with lots of medium-sized gold glitter to make the dots and a black Sally Hansen Nail Art Pen for the finishing touches (essentially, squiggles and tiny dots). Then I used my favorite top coat, Sally Hansen Insta-Dri, to seal the mani and make it nice and shiny. I absolutely LOVED this manicure and I need to re-create it soon in different colors—the versatility and color combos are what make this type of nail art fun! And I swear—it’s NOT as hard as it looks. It’s just sploges and squiggles. Try it!
Now, on to this amazing muffin. I absolutely cannot rave enough about Pacha’s muffins. Their Raspberry Ricotta Buttermilk Muffin ($2.25) is just one of my favorites (the other is Raspberry Bran). First of all, the muffin is huge. I took a photo of it after I had eaten about three-quarters of it, for some perspective. Secondly, and most importantly, it’s delicious. Large pockets of creamy ricotta and tart whole raspberries are packed into the muffin, which has a delicate and lightly tangy crumb. I literally clapped my hands when I saw they had this the day I bought it because (this is important), their muffins are baked at the whim of their baker, so you kind of never know when it’ll be around.
Oh! I almost forgot to address my *. I just wanted to let you nail polish lovers know a little about Julep. Their polishes are insanely expensive for the amount of product you get, but if you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, they have lots of super cheap deals for first-time subscribers. I got six polishes for about $15 and I know they have $.01 specials sometimes, too, so look into it! But be warned—to cancel, you have to call them directly.
Until next time, food and nail polish lovers!
Welcome to my nifty new idea for a semi-regular column-esque post called Polished Off! I will be featuring both a food item I’m loving and a nail polish I love in my Polished Off column. I hope you enjoy. Please leave a comment if you want to see any specific polish or food item and I’ll do my best to write up a post!
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is an Ohio-based company that uses high quality, mostly local ingredients. Jeni’s ice cream is especially rich and creamy because the recipe doesn’t have eggs—instead, cream cheese, tapioca starch, and tapioca syrup are used. The result is an ice crystal-free product with bold, straightforward flavors.
I picked up a pint of Dark Chocolate ice cream for $5 at Central Market in Austin during a very rare sale—the pints usually retail for $10. This is the type of ice cream that works best in small doses because of its fudgy, rich quality. It actually melts into almost a pudding-like texture. It’s great on its own or topped with anything you please (a homemade raspberry coconut macaroon was especially tasty, as I found out last night).
I’ve recently fallen in love with bright polishes, and this Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear shade in Blue Me Away called my name when I saw it in person. I’ve noticed that in the shade, Blue Me Away takes on a darker color, but outdoors, it looks much brighter. My hands are pretty tan right now, so the polish doesn’t have the neon effect I’ve seen on lighter skin. I wish it was a tad brighter on me, but I still love the shade.
Application was incredibly painless—it was opaque after just one coat, but I used two just to be safe. My topcoat is (always) Sally Hansen’s Insta-dri Anti-Chip (in the clear red bottle). I’ve been wearing Blue Me Away for three days now and have not had any issues with chipping and have only noticed very minor wear at the tips of my nails. I picked Blue Me Away up for $2.59 at Ulta.
Beauty shot of the FamWich, composed of Hawaiian bread, pickles, cheese and Italian dressing, pressed overnight in the fridge. I enjoyed this while sitting on the beach in Galveston last weekend.
Just a quick post to show I am still thinking of this often neglected blog…
GRATUITOUS PIZZA PHOTO
First, my latest post for Austinist is up! You can check it out here.
I also co-wrote the cover story, Some Like it Hot, a feature about the city’s best tacos, salsas and guacamoles with fellow food writer Jodi Bart of Tasty Touring for Austin Monthly’s March issue. That’s available locally anywhere people are selling magazines these days.
Did ya hear? Paul Qui won Top Chef Texas, while in Canada! I rooted for him all season not only because he’s from this great city, but also because I personally know his food is amazing. My mom even e-mailed me and said we should go to Uchiko, the restaurant where he’s executive chef, so she can try it out (Good luck to us. I’m sure it’ll be swamped soon—but his East Side King trailers are still an option!).
The following isn’t food-related unless you like to eat nail polish, but I’m obsessed with this Vintage Roses nail art tutorial posted by Julep and this cheetah print nail art tutorial by The Beauty Department. Let’s see which one I try out this weekend!
Finally, I leave you with some inspiring recipes that I haven’t tried yet, but vow to make soon.
1. Tartine Bakery’s Lemon Cream, which was just posted on Food 52 (though I’ll need to attempt it with a food processor since I don’t own a blender).
2. This ice cream recipe with a toasted coconut twist and perhaps a drizzle of melted chocolate folded in at the last minute.
3. A S’mores Pie, for my Seester’s birthday later this month.
4. And finally, another Food 52 link to Molly Stevens’ recipe for Braised Whole Scallions, from All About Braising (I actually have this cookbook and I don’t use it nearly enough).
Enjoy your weekend, kiddies. Let’s see what gems I post in the near-future. Perhaps some links to my Instagram’d food photos? An ACTUAL post with a recipe or my thoughts on a restaurant? Only time will tell!
Homemade Flour Tortillas
First of all: Sorry I Haven’t Posted. ;) Now, on to the task at hand!
When I was in a creative writing class in college, I wrote a short story about making tortillas in my grandmother’s kitchen. It was an idealistic scene for me: My plump granny standing next to me at her counter, instilling in me her wisdom about life and how to roll out a perfect tortilla, in one complex metaphor. Plus, she wore her hair in a bun and had on a frilly apron.
A girl in class said the scenario sounded too real and asked if it was taken from a memory.
Ha. Not in my grandmother’s house.
My granny consistently said that we are not Hispanic. “We are of European descent,” she would say.
"But grandma," I once argued while sitting at the kitchen table, eating a deviled egg with a petit shrimp perched atop the sunny yellow filling, "your last name is Gonzalez. My last name is Martinez. We are Mexican!"
My grandma then went on to say that we had distant relatives who came from Spain or France or somewhere, but to always remember that first and foremost, we were Americans.
And she really was very American, or at least very much her idea of American. This is a woman who made chicken fricassee for lunch and Cornish game hens for Christmas dinner. I do not ever remember her making pots of bubbling frijoles a la charra, much less have memories of her standing at her counter, making tortillas.
I wrote that story for my class because it was something I missed out on as a kid. I wanted that kind of scene in my life.
This is what La Abuela tortillas looked like in my youth. Thanks to Gabe Hernandez for taking this photo. Please don’t sue me for using it on my oft-neglected blog.
My mother also did not make homemade tortillas. In fact, for a very long time, she only bought crappy packaged tortillas from H.E.B. that tasted like plastic. Then, she began buying some par-cooked tortillas by a brand called La Abuela. These, miraculously, did not taste like plastic. They felt kinda homemade because you had to peel the tortillas off of the stack they came in and cook them on a cast iron griddle (comal, in Spanish), where they’d puff up, just like the real thing. They were almost like granny made them (La Abuela translates to the grandmother in English).
Now, I don’t blame my grandmother for denying a part of her Mexican heritage. As the only dark-skinned girl in a family full of guero (light-skinned and blue eyed) siblings, she was teased and discriminated against by her family and the community. She once told me that she couldn’t go into the public pool because she looked Mexican. Her brothers and sisters could, though, and they made sure to let her know how amazing that cool water was while she watched from the other side of a fence.
I can’t hold the lack of tortilla making against my mom, either. She is a single mother who was constantly at work (as a teacher, then vice principal, then principal—I’m proud of her trajectory). She had three girls to raise by herself. She carted us to extra-curricular activities after long days at school. She put all three of us through college. I can’t blame her for not stopping to teach me how to make me a few flour tortillas in the middle of all of that.
I do blame myself for not sooner realizing that I, a person who loves food and has no serious hang-ups about my culture, had never made flour tortillas.
My granny is gone now and my mother still doesn’t really know how to make flour tortillas. Maybe, using this recipe, I can stand at her kitchen counter with a frilly apron on and give her a lesson.
adapted from Gourmet
This recipe is part of my quest to find the best homemade flour tortilla recipe. I was holding out to use my mom’s copy of the South Texas Mexican Cook Book by Lucy Garza (listed here on amazon.com), but I kept forgetting about Lucy, so instead I looked the recipe up on Epicurious, which is where old Gourmet recipes now reside. I’ve made the Gourmet recipe a good five to six times, once with abysmal (specifically, yellow) results, when I accidentally used baking soda instead of baking powder. Don’t do that. Some commenters on the site say to add a teaspoon of baking powder to the flour, but I feel like that gives the tortillas too much heft. The recipe works just as well without the baking powder, but I like the slight puff half a teaspoon gives the dough.
Makes about a dozen medium-sized tortillas
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
In a medium or large bowl, blend the flour, baking powder and the shortening until the mixture is the texture of cornmeal.
In a glass measuring cup, stir together the salt and 2/3 cup hot water. I usually put the water in the measuring cup, add the salt and then pop it in the microwave until the mixture is hot to the touch (I faintly remember the recipe in Lucy’s cookbook saying to use hot water).
Add the salted water to the flour mixture, and stir the mixture until the liquid is incorporated.
Form the dough into a ball and knead it on a lightly floured surface for two to three minutes, or until it is smooth.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and form each piece into a ball. Put the dough balls back in the bowl and let them sit, covered with plastic wrap or a slightly damp towel, for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour.
Heat a cast iron skillet or a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Test the heat of your skillet by dropping some water on the surface. When it sizzles and quickly evaporates, it’s ready for the first tortilla.
Grab one of the balls of dough and use your hands to slightly flatten it out. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a seven-to 10-inch circle. A good method to use is to start from the middle of the dough and roll upwards, then give the disc a 1/4 turn, and repeat. This method is more of a goal of a method for me, since I try to do this and it NEVER WORKS. My tortillas are usually crazy looking blobs. I love them anyway.
Place the tortilla on the griddle and cook it for 30 seconds to one minute, turning it once, until it puffs and is lightly browned. Oh, and when your tortilla puffs, use a spatula to push down on it. I’ve suffered more than one steam burn while feeling overconfident in my tortilla making skills and pushing down on the pocket with my bare hand. Leave that to professional abuelas. Also, in my experience, the hotter the comal, the less likely the tortilla is to get hard. Try to only turn it one time as well.
Wrap your finished tortilla in either a kitchen towel or place it in a tortilla warmer with a napkin or paper towel inside to absorb any excess moisture and continue rolling out and cooking the dough until you’ve used up all of it.
The tortillas can be cooled and placed in a zip-top bag in the fridge and re-warmed on a comal. They’re good for about three days.
Random thoughts during breakfast (at my desk): I love fruity, oaty bars—especially when paired with bracingly strong coffee.
I have to admit, I sometimes feel like I’m flailing. Usually, I flit along in life, hopping from one restaurant to another, writing about one restaurant or another, going to one concert then another, hangin’ with one group of friends, then another, and blogging about one dish or another and it’s enough for me. But then, I run into an “Is this seriously all my life is???” wall.
Which leads me to think:
1. I should volunteer somewhere. Maybe
a) at a pet shelter or
b) teaching English to adults.
2. I should get a part-time job at
c) Central Market
d) Whole Foods or
3. Am I living up to my potential if I stay at my current job?
a) Do I love my current job?
b) Does that matter whether I love it if it affords me the time to do other stuff
4. I want a pet.
5. Nah, I don’t want to take care of a pet.
6. What ever happened to writing the Great Mexican-American Novel?
7. Also, I should write a memoir.
a) The only thing I can really write about at this point is Varun.
A) Am I ready for that?
8. Writing a collection of essays that are food-related could also be fun.
9. Isn’t that what a blog is, only self-published?
10. And then I’m back to where I started, but with renewed vigor.
In short, what I am saying is that I am going to update this space more often. Stay tuned, friends. I will blow your mind.
I don’t mind waiting in line for an hour if it means I get Franklin BBQ’s brisket and ribs. I totally appreciate that I got extra, extra bark on my moist brisket. So very tasty.
I have a nice bit of leftovers to munch on later today so as to extend my meat coma for as long as possible, too! :)
Some Random Linkage
I’ve procured a copy of The White Queen, written by Phillipa Gregory. I love semi-trashy historical fiction.
Yelle is playing in Austin Friday at Mohawk, and I’ll be there. You should go, too. Even better? Go to the after party!
The New York Times’ Cold Sesame Noodle recipe is in my regular rotation. I can eat these garlic-y, gingery, sesame noodles at least twice a week.
The entire Buffy the Vampire series is available on Netflix Instant.This is my official public service announcement.
Pop Culture Happy Hour on NPR is full of dorky (but lovable) types who comment on fun stuff going on in popular culture each week. Give it a listen.
I’m on the hunt for a citrusy Easter treat. I’m leaning toward making a simple lemony French Yogurt Cake, or perhaps some lemon muffins with raspberries.
Finally, Serious Eats posted a super helpful Guide to Dim Sum, which put me in a dim sum mood. Anyone out there wanna go with me and brave the crowds (and the jumble of carts)?
Remnants of a St. Patrick’s Day treat.
Fried clam strip basket at Quality Seafood (Taken with instagram)