Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I am already more worried about the folks panicking and throwing the "P" word around injudiciously than I am about getting the swine flu.

Besides - apparently they located Patient Zero today. Here is an early photo...The stress of worrying about getting sick is truly hard on your immune system. Wash your hands, drink lots of water and STAY HOME if you feel ill. Past that there is no point in getting in a lather over this. Except when it comes to washing your hands. Ok, can we move on now? Good!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Board Silly

Last week I shared with you some of my patriot's purchases from a local thrift store I frequent.

This store also holds a small auction every Saturday afternoon at 2:30 PM. 

There are people visiting "my" thrift shop routinely just to check out the auction. What goes up for auction is anything deemed more valuable than usual, at times true antiques, larger pieces of finer furniture or original art work. Potentially whatever the staff at this store eyeballs and envisions "Auction-worthy!" goes into the mix.

In the run-up to each auction they place on display a black binder filled with one page for each item going up for bids. At the top of every page they write out what they are calling the item (often less helpful than you'd imagine) along with a number (numbers being harder to confuse). 

They list a starting bid, an amount derived from the same completely stupefying process used to price other regular merchandise sold on racks and shelves.  People interested in bidding are instructed to enter a name, a telephone number and a bid, on the corresponding item's page.  

Typically the bidding goes up one dollar at a time but periodically some enthusiast will narrow the competitive field by jumping the dollar amount up into what I consider the Thrift Store Stratosphere. 

I tried attending the auction a few times but had to swear off. My stubbornly competitive nature is a definite drawback when it comes to bidding to buy.

Swept up in the process, I come perilously close to bidding prices potentially much higher than reasonable and absolutely higher than the ceiling I'd pre-determined. Keeping track of the cost faded as the object of the auction morphed to become "do whatever it takes to beat out that b*stard trying to buy my treasure!".  

The auctions were not a good way for me to shop, clearly.   

But I do still covet, dearly, several items I see on auction from time to time. Not to be totally foiled by my competitive nature, I have devised an alternative.I make a bid in the notebook. I don't do this by any particular formula, I go up one dollar over the last bid in the book and leave it there. 

If on the following Saturday afternoon somebody shows up willing to pay a dollar more than I bid (if I am still the highest bid in the book), then so be it.  I lose.  If on the other hand, this is one of those items that seems to appeal to me more than anybody else around - and that does happen rarely - then I win! 

A store employee dutifully calls me to say my bid was the winner and I have until Tuesday to come in and pay and pick up my treasure.  This tends to trigger a several hour to days long spell of being inordinately pleased with myself.  If I win an auction item without going through the in person bidding, in my book, that means the universe decided.   The universe agreed I deserved to win!

Who am I to argue with the universe?

Which is how I ended up with this beauty.A Howard Automatic Folding Ironing Table. "The Finest of Them All". I think it is completely cunning and cannot imagine why nobody else wanted it.   They didn't and I did and I got it for about what it costs for two people to eat burgers and fries at a fast food spot. 

I cannot find anything that tells me how old it is. I am guessing most ironing boards went metal by the 1960s or thereabouts. I can't unearth any information on the original company other than some auctions for equipment which may mean they've gone out of business.

I don't really care. This Automatic Folding Ironing Table is valuable to me. I find older household laundry or kitchen tools and equipment charming, and I am happy happy happy to give this old board a new home.

I may be wrong to idealize the naiveté of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, but I do. Items from that time span are appealing in a way I can't quite explain. It is partly a feeling of connecting through the items to my mother, her sisters, their mother and aunts before them. But that isn't all of it.

The appeal also rests in imagining the original purchaser, male or female, setting up a home, out buying these items with all optimism that these tools and conveniences were going to be part of how their home would function "just so". I believe we all do that with our shopping to one extent or another. It is later perhaps when we realize we've more or less missed the mark once the day to day reality of laundry or meal preparation settles in.

But at the moment when we are out doing the shopping, just then, at that point, it is all still a hypothetical. Our interaction, our relationship with the product is as yet an unrealized vision. As such, it is all still potentially perfect. I believe that is what tugs at me.  That sense of unrealized perfection draws me in like a bee to nectar.

How about you? Do you find any particular type of item appealing in a strongly emotional way? What embodies "perfection" for you when out shopping? It is your turn now and I'd really enjoy hearing from you.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Fine Print at the End of the Show

I told you a few days ago I was going to branch out a bit here.

"Uh-oh", some of you may be thinking, here she goes again about that frackin' Bottle Tree".

No..... no. I mean it is fabulous, my bottle tree is, thanks very much for asking, but today I want to share with you not only my own work and my own words, but also the work and words of another, off a site I found I believe is well worthy of your notice.

(Shhh don't tell anybody, this is actually part of a diabolical plan for world domination which includes having other people spending minutes to hours gazing open mouthed at the wonders of other websites as I too often do...)

There may be a predictable pattern to "send you off to another site", etc. days that will evolve eventually. Friday or Saturday may become "Fill-in-Blank-Here Day" so you have something to look forward to, a feature I've noted on other much more organized sites (which shall remain nameless until I name them but, you know who you are).

Until then you may have to check back regularly just to see what in the world I am up to over here. Because clearly yes, reading here has become that important to you that you do not want to miss a n y t h i n g. Yes? Yes.

Today I will share a site that has brought me a lot of relief not only because it has settled a bit of an ongoing irritation between the Hub and Yours Truly.

At the end of several of our favorite shows, which we typically watch via DVR (thank you 18 years too late technology for making it possible to control dinnertime versus the demands of early evening network series), there would be a briefly shown screen with some sort of diatribe in relatively teensy print.Ever curious, I let the first few slip past but [cue forehead slap] eventually collected my wits enough to realize I could freeze the screen and see what was there. Me and the Six Million Dollar Man makers, we had the technology, we could rebuild him and make him better (him in the this case being the briefly appearing screens and yes I probably did watch too much TV growing up, your point?).

As I froze the screen in place I came to realize each one was a hilarious (to me) diatribe about varying topics from the producer, Chuck Lorre (producer and sometimes writer for old favorites such asDharma and Greg, Roseanne, and new favorite Big Bang Theory, among many wonderful others). Referred to as easter eggs or vanity pages depending upon who is writing, each one was a jewel to me, a peek into the mind of the man who has helped create many of my favorite programs. I was hooked. I was also curious.

Would there be, I wondered, some wonderful place in the interweb where these pages were stored, digitally stacked as it were, so I could go back and find a favorite or catch up on the pages I had missed before recognizing their genius?

You already know the answer - of course there was and here it is! Chuck Lorre's Vanity Pages.

TIME HOLE ALERT! These are fascinating, varied, addictive and there are many many many of them. Do not get started reading these pages if you have, for instance, your end of first year law school finals to study for (again, you know who you are), or say, need to finish dressing in time to leave for work. Do not stop here rather than filing your amended tax returns or getting that online Defensive Driving Course completed if the deadline is today. Bookmark the site and save it for those rainy days. As far as I can tell this site is not going anywhere (nor will you once you get to reading) and the pages will simply keep piling up delightfully, indefinitely. You can extend your pleasure, read them as slowly as you wish.

Which is also where the irritation enters. We all read at different speeds, sometimes dependent upon the nature of the subject matter.

Have you ever called somebody over to read something on your computer screen with you? Or even had somebody walk by, their eye is caught by something you are looking at and they ask to view it with you? If it is anything that requires multiple screens or scrolling it will immediately become apparent that people's reading styles and speeds are different.

So different that if you are in any way intimately connected to that other the variation may seem to yawn like a vast chasm there between you, its sole purpose to point out how different you and this person you love nonetheless really truly are.It was this way with the Lorre pages. Some more dense than others and all of them fitting upon one screen yet the length of time it took one person here to read all the way through was never matched by the other. One would read, finish, look to the other and say "done?" to be answered by silence as the other was still reading. The inquirer would then idly straighten things on the table before her, re-read the screen s l o w l y again, and then glance back up to the other, who was apparently still engrossed in reading.

It is annoying to have to hide your annoyance with a slower reader when you are the one who invited them to read something in the first place. It is churlish to chide a person for actually reading what you pointed out they might enjoy at their own speed. I don't like being churlish. It makes me feel, well, resentfully churlish. Doubly churlish with extra foam.

My coping strategy is now to read the screen, alert others present the screen is "up and ready!" and then leave the room for what feels like a mini-eternity. Generally by the time I amble back in to where the set exercises dominion we are all equally ready for "next!". Problem solved, case closed.

What about you? Are you a speedy reader? Would you have left all those Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics types in your dust? Are you a skimmer and a re-run reader? A take it easy until you determine you are OK with a faster run through type? Do you move your lips when you read? Share it all in the comments section dear readers, and let the world know. Proclaim your reading type, stake your territory, let it all hang out. We're friends here and fast or slow, what really matters at the end of the day is that you do read. Agreed? Oh, and if you have a favorite page feel free to note that here and folks will have a starting point for their (neverending) adventure in reading.

PS - here at the end, [just like for the shows!], is my current favorite (slow to rent movies fans, spoiler alert!) just to whet your appetite in case these vanity pages have not already caught your eye and you have no earthly idea what I am ranting on (and on and on) about:


(spoiler alert)

It's that time of the year when movie studios seeking Oscar nominations for their films start asking for my consideration. Every trade ad and mailing begins with the words, "For your consideration." It's kind of a Hollywood tradition. Anyway, this is what I've considered so far: Milk (a well-meaning gay guy is shot to death by a homophobe), Doubt (A really mean nun accuses a really terrific priest of being a pedophile), Revolutionary Road (a married couple fight a lot, cheat on each other, then the wife bleeds to death following a botched abortion), Slumdog Millionaire (incredibly poor kids subjected to unthinkable evil, but with a happy ending), Defiance (starving Jews fight Nazis in the woods), The Wrestler (a broken-down, over-the-hill wrestler on steroids has a tough life), Changeling (a woman's son is abducted and the police put her in an insane asylum), Gran Torino (a dying widower commits suicide to help his neighbor), Benjamin Button (a guy grows old in reverse and then dies), Rachel Getting Married (a drug addict kills her baby brother and then pisses off her family during a wedding), and The Reader (Nazi atrocities, under-age sex and illiteracy prove to be a lethal combo). So, what am I considering? Well, for a moment or two I actually considered hanging myself. But then I thought, if I do that, the movies win.

Friday, April 24, 2009

If I Could Put Time

in a bottle... Ah Jim Croce. I couldn't find a high quality video to embed of his "Time in a Bottle" song - an instant favorite of mine back in the day... You go find a version to listen to if you are a fan like I am and I'll get back to....wait... what was I doing before I spent umpty-nine minutes searching for that video...oh yes! The Bottle Tree!My daughter, who has a nasty habit of being smarter than her Momma, when I was describing to her how I'd repurposed a mostly chopped down hackberry tree into a folk art Bottle Tree in the back of our property (our yard really but "property" sounds much grander, agreed?) gently asked me "But won't the tree limbs just grow and leaf back out?" to which I sagely replied "er....we'll see!".

Well Miss Smartyplants was right and the hackberry tree is demonstrating the persistence of life that has it posing such a threat in the landscape to begin with.Trying to get rid of hackberry trees conveys one of many lessons that landscaping attempts to teach.
Houston, we have a problem.
Like, the plants you do not want may thrive while the ones you covet will either wither or produce fruit that will end up feeding the bugs who have constant access.
Cue Doris Day.
Or, when an onion sprouts and you plant it a flower will come (that smells like...an onion!).Or, because a plant is called "obedient" does not mean it will do what you say (I told these guys specifically not to crowd out the winecup!).Anyway...my point, and I did have one, is that gardeners make plans while God laughs. As do cooks.

I planted two heads of cabbage months ago as part of a "winter" garden. We are in a severe drought and live in an area with high water rates so secondary to that are trying not to supplementally water much.  It has not been until very recently that the heads of cabbage have come to resemble anything that might be reasonably harvested and eaten.  My cabbage heads are not so much Winter as they are late Spring arrivals.  But arrive they have.

When I decided, due to repetitive cravings for Orangette's Cabbage with Hot Sauce, to get one of those heads indoors today I knew I could not only put that craving to rest over the weekend, but if my timing was right, I could put it into a post as part of a Grow Your Own entry for April.  I took my camera out to the garden with me to get a shot of the cabbage "in situ" for the GYO post, and that is when I noticed the hackberry tree had begun to reassert itself as a leafy tree into the bottles I'd so (caff!) artfully placed upon limb ends.

Once I start looking closely at my garden a lot of things happen. My sense of time dissolves, I stop to take a 429th close up shot of poppies whose colors reduce me to silent wonder.  I simply lose track of who I am, where I am, and why I came out of doors in the first place.

Which is precisely what a garden is good for, aside from producing the occasional late head of cabbage.   

I'll try to get back with a post that is actually about Cabbage with Hot Sauce. It is a savory side providing one more lively excuse to have eggs for dinner. 

As the economy circles the drain while the White Coats signal eggs are not only "not bad!" for us but rather really quite the perfect food the Egg Council maintained all along, eggs for dinner make quite a bit of sense. 

Unlike this meandering post.My time, bottled or not, has gotten away from me for today. I will leave you with this for now:
"The time has come,' the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot --
And whether pigs have wings.'

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In the Bag

I have already confronted the cold hard truth that I am a thrift shop junkie.

Me: "Hello, my name is Texas Deb and it has been 25 hours 3 minutes since I last set foot in a thrift store."
Attendees at 12 Step Program for Shopaholics: "Hellooo, Deb!"

Yesterday I had a great run. I was careful (for me) and didn't buy everything I saw that I liked.

Not taking advantage of every bargain I bump into  is consistently an area where I must exercise some discretion. Just because something is great, at a great price, does not (according to nearly everybody I ask) mean I should buy it. Apparently, I am supposed to need it or have some immediate use for it. Obviously I have not thoroughly internalized that process but work continues. 

I decided to share with you some of the treasures I unearthed yesterday. I have fun looking at what other people have found as they add to their various collections so I figured this might be fun for you too. If not then just move along, no harm no foul, something different will be here next post I promise.

So - first up? 5 (probably from an original set of 6) reverse painted souvenir coasters from Puerto Rico.
[click to enlarge any photo for a better view of details]
I don't have a close association with Puerto Rico and I don't need any more coasters but each one is such a little masterpiece I think and I especially admire how the degradation in the backing actually has enhanced the appearance of my favorite one.I am not sure how I will mount/display these yet. Suggestions are welcome.

I found a small enamelware coffee pot.No lid. It could be a reproduction and may be from a child's set. It was a good size and a great color and price so I snagged it for a windowsill collection.I think it adds a great non-glass touch here.

Then there are the painted three legged bowls - probably Nahuatl but provenance is often difficult in thrift stores.I already had three and these two filled in quite nicely.I have seen others marketed with ceramic spoons as "salsa bowls" but those did not have holes in the "legs" which I believe indicates these are meant more for hanging than food service. If I get more information I will update the post. [Anybody who knows feel free to comment and educate.] I take a safety-first stance when it comes to using Mexican pottery for food service. As far as I'm concerned every paint is lead based unless I know otherwise.

A small carved wooden angel [7 inch wing span] again most likely Mexican in origin.A belt with what appear to be silver conchos.I will detach and re-use these in another project (....eventually.....).

There were some blueware plates I would ordinarily have snagged for potential shard projects but seeing as I have only ever "collected" the potential pieces to break and used them in one large freeform mosaic mulch area in the back yard, I decided to wait until I actually actively successfully produce a mortared piece before I pick up any more plates. (At least that was what I was telling myself yesterday - my resolve comes and goes.) I told you I exercised restraint yesterday [for me].

Our President says we cannot all save all the time or the economy really will collapse. I think of myself as quite the patriot today.... Naturally thrift shops are not the only places to find great deals. How about you? What is the "great buy" you most recently stumbled across? Did you give in to it? Share in the comments section and we can all feel like Proud Americans.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Family Planning

No no, not what you are thinking when you first see the term. I am talking about Mother's Day and more specifically WHAT YOU WILL GET YOUR MOTHER FOR HER BIG DAY.

Mother's Day is Sunday May 10th and that is not so far away. If you are busy (and who isn't?) then you will want to plan ahead and I have some helpful advice and linky love to share to help make that happen.

Yes, many of you might say (and mean) "well, as a result of becoming a mother my Mom got me, and I am quite possibly not only gift enough for her, but for many many others as well, perhaps the entire world..".

To which I will reply nicely (for now) "Be that as it may, if you are indeed intelligent enough to be a gift to the world at large, then you are surely smart enough to know that a gift to your Mother is always a good idea. A. L. W. A. Y. S." This is not about deserves this is not about needs or wants, this is about what kind of person you are going to be. I promise you. You WANT to be that person who gets your Mom a nice gift for Mother's Day. Trust me on this one.Or you may have some not quite suitable for public sharing legitimate claim because your Mom makes Agusten Burrough's Mom look like Mother Teresa by comparison? Well let me state again. This is bigger than just you and your Mom. This is about what kind of person you are, or are going to start being, beginning this Mother's Day. You with me?

OK. Now we have established that you ARE going to get Mom a gift, let's take a quick look at what you will get her. This is where the planning portion of the title applies.

If your Mom is at all like me (or is, in fact me) that means she is of the Old Hippie genus. Old Hippies (in common with younger ones) like to think that whatever gifts they are given are simultaneously improving the universe in some way. Old Hippies, if they are old enough, also still have the occasional hankering for flowers and/or candy and/or both. But (and this is important children so pay close attention please) they do NOT want factory farmed flowers or chocolates that are the result of child slave labor.

In fact, they do not want ANYthing that while delicious or gorgeous or stylish or whatever, has been grown or produced in some way that is adding to that huge "don't care if we destroy the earth before our children have children of their own" pile.

Before you throw your hands up and start thinking about how it is already too late to make your Mom a matching decorated plastic cup/pencil holder or a homemade card on recycled paper (which you know, she would like very much as long as it came from YOU) here's a little bit of a head start.First, FLOWERS. There is a source to help you find responsibly grown and produced posies. Check out VERIFLORAChocolates and other gifts? They need to be Fair Trade Certified. Try GLOBAL EXCHANGE for a sampling and they also have links there for all sorts of other responsible gifts for your Mom.

If your Mom is not the flowers/candy type but is still one who would be pleased to know that you hold her and other women in high esteem, try The Women's Bean Project out for size. This organization offers food kits and gift baskets, the production of which helps disadvantaged women get on the job training so they can get back on their feet and become self-sustaining. Your Mom would like that!

Finally, if your Mom is anything like my mother was, she might be overhead saying something like "I don't need anything at all, really, not a thing. All I want is for you and your brother/sister [or father/aunt/uncle/cousin etc.] to get along. Really!". 

This may be a genuine sentiment, I am sure my Mom meant it every time she used it on me, but I always found it frustrating. I wanted to get her a present and I wanted her help to make sure that gift was meaningful, dammit! The whole "I just wish you'd get along better with..." gambit did not strike me as a fair way to respond to my earnest inquiries. 

I mean, OK OK, I promised I WOULD work to get along better with, well, everybody, you know, but I wanted to try to do that AND get her a good gift to boot. Just in case the whole "getting along better" thing didn't pan out long term.

Here is a Good Gift option that might melt the hardest heart. KIVA. You can make a gift to KIVA in your Mother's name, in her honor, or if she has already died and you want to do something for her day anyway, you could make a gift to them in her memory.  

Let the KIVA folk tell you more in their own words (from the site)
Loans that Change Lives:Choose an Entrepreneur, Lend, Get Repaid
How money gets from you to a developing-world entrepreneur, and back.
1) Lenders like you browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need, and choose someone to lend to. When they lend, using PayPal or their credit cards, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of our microfinance partners worldwide.

2) Kiva's microfinance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur. Often, our partners also provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur's chances of success.

3) Over time, the entrepreneur repays their loan. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and emailed to lenders who wish to receive them.

4) When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.

Very cool, yes? So, unless you are reading this and are actually one of my own kids (hey kids! I promise - I don't want a thing - I just want all of us to get along better!) now you have something of a head start to make this year's Mother's Day the BEST EVER. Just like your Mom is.

No, no, don't thank me. I don't need or want your thanks. I just want us all to get along bet............

PS - there is one gift my oldest could "give" me - ChefSon, I love you more than words can say. I am incredibly proud of you for who you are not for what you've done with your life. If you could pretty please start lying about your age? Thank you forever, Moms.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Letting that Dork Flag Fly

I have decided to branch out a bit.

I'll still have the occasional foody bit here but also want to share some of the other fun we have around here, back at the Agrodolce .....

Today's preview?

Sixty minutes you will never get back...but you will probably never miss, either...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Unexpected Company

Some hostesses with the mostesses just love it when folks drop by unexpectedly. They are consistently ready with frozen cookie dough and a pantry stocked with gourmet ingredients to satisfy the needs of up to 15 guests at a go. These are the women who make the rest of us more normal gals (yeah - there - I said it - so sue me!) look bad. They don't mean to put pressure on other less ambitious hostesses really, most of them are that nice and simply do whatever it takes to make a guest feel welcome.

I woke up early as usual this morning and was meandering around my house, pilfering artwork and other object d' curiositie (I think I just made that up - email me if you don't get my drift) to re-stage a condo we are currently trying to sell.

I say "re-stage" because we thought we had it sold once, and we actually did have a contract on the place, but the buyer was being financed by Mom/Dad and somehow they miscommunicated and Mom/Dad finally said "nope!".

After getting my arm out of the sling where it had been to address a sprain/strain for premature congratulatory back patting on my part, I was preparing to go over to the unit, put some art work up on the walls, and generally spiff the place back up so it would stand out in folks' minds after a day of wandering in and out of countless "for sale" situations.

Imagine my delight and surprise (and sure, a little bit of shock and horror too) when I opened my email to find a note from my friend Charlie Hills, bon vivant, man about town and author of not only an extraordinarily painless diet blog entitled Back to the Fridge, but also the book "Why Your Last Diet Failed You (and how this book won't help you on your next one)".
Charlie has been posting occasionally on his own quest to find the better burgers in Austin and on my subtle recommendation (caff caff) agreed to try out P. Terry's. Since he was blogging about it he emailed me to let me know he would link to my blog and I could expect a couple dozen additional visitors today.

Well great except I had today all marked out for a combination of CONDO CLEAN-UP and reverent meditation on the nature of life and death and the resurrection of Christ (seriously...it is Good Friday today folks and the more serious side of my nature considers this to be perhaps the most important day on any Christian calendar imaginable).

Which meant I did NOT have a clever and welcoming blog post all set up for an unprecedented bump in readership.

Ah well. Best laid plans.

In lieu of anything else, I did want to throw out the following:

(drum roll please.....)

3) Amaaaaaazing french fries. Admittedly not the burger, but a burger without good fries is like...well you get it.

2) They are local, not a national chain. When you spend money on a local shop some 45 percent more of what you spend stays right here in our local economy. Plus, P. Terrys is a proponent of the Live Here/Give Here approach. From their website:
We've been very lucky to be embraced by the Austin community and we try very hard to give something back. So far we have donated over $46,000 to various causes within the city. From Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Texas to Dell's Children's Hospital, lots of schools and other organizations. They are a big part of who we are and we are delighted to make a contribution to help them with their sucess.

1) First and foremost? The folks behind P. Terry's care about the food. So do I. This is one of the few places in Austin I can grab a burger and still hold my head up afterward. Again, from their website:
Our Hamburgers
The patty is the foundation of a great hamburger. So we spent a lot of time deciding what to serve. We chose All-Natural Black Angus beef from Harris Ranch. Here is the rundown on what that means:
100% hormone free
100% antibiotic free
100% vegetarian fed
All cattle are verified by certified ranchers and humanely treated
USDA Approved
We then inspect and season each patty in our store. 

So yeah, this may read like an extended ad for P. Terry's. Well, honestly, if it is a good burger you are looking for, you can do a lot worse, you know? I am not related to the Terrys and I don't get a discount or a kickback from them for any of this, I just happen to be a huge fan (which is why I try to stick to salads at home but that's another post for another day).

So WELCOME! Back to the Fridge readers, especially if this is your fist drop in on the Austin Agrodolce site. I encourage you to shop around in past posts and see if you don't stumble across something you like enough to get you to drop in again one of these days.   And, well, have a reasonable Good Friday if that is your inclination.  If not, well, have a good weekend anyway and drop in again on us here at the Agrodolce soon, won't you?  Thanks!

Monday, April 6, 2009


Google "salsa" and you get: Results 1 - 10 of about 46,300,000 for salsa [definition]. (0.13 seconds) with the first hit pulling up a bicycle company, and the next three hits dealing with Salsa dancing, salsa music and videos of salsa dancers.

I was surprised, I'll admit. I really thought the rest of the webiverse would have shared my construct that when a person says "salsa" they are nearly always talking about various combinations of chopped vegetables served as a spicy condiment.

Maybe I ought to get out more.

Salsa as a condiment is so much a way of life for me, part of how I used to predict if I was going to get along easily with a person was by how they reacted to the salsa served with chips in any/every Mexican food restaurant in Texas. If they would dip deeply and enjoy then I knew odds were we would probably get along just fine. If they timidly wet the tip of a chip and then choked up and needed water then I knew we may be in for more of a bumpy ride.  It is a rough calculus I admit, but it has served me pretty well for the better part of three decades.    

All by way of which I am explaining to you why it was particularly disconcerting to have the Hub announce recently that several of the dishes I routinely prepare for us are hereby deemed "too spicy".

I get that a person's tolerance for pepper induced heat may shift over time in theory, but most of the folks I know have developed a gradually increasing tolerance for peppers. I never thought I'd be facing a need to cut back on using peppers as a home cook.
Do I have three different kinds of salsa in my refrigerator already? Yes, yes I do.

Live and learn. The Hub, who used to down mass quantities of large seedy slices of jalapeños without a problem is now proclaiming himself to be somewhat pepper sensitive. I love the guy and want to please him with our meals rather than cause him gastric distress, so that means I am now looking much more carefully at salsa recipes that never would have garnered a second glance years ago.

Like the following recipe from Mayberry Magpie.This is a Radish Salsa and Ms. Magpie herself indicated it was way low on the heat scale, which is no shock given the ingredient list.

This recipe was shared as part of one of Mayberry Magpie's series of "Sunday Supper" posts. The M-Pie is a firm believer in the many advantages afforded by a nice Sunday Supper prepared with love and eaten at home. I am in full agreement although at times our schedule requires a bit of flexibility.

Like this week when for instance, we are having our nice Sunday Supper on Monday. Hey, it is the thought, not the timing...

Radish Salsa
6 large radishes, chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded & chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 garlic clove, diced
1 TBLS fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
Splash of olive oil

Toss together all ingredients.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours.  Recipe makes about two cups of salsa and easily doubles.

I made a half recipe since it is only the two of us for dinner tonight and will serve this beside a nice steak. I subbed in a bit of parsley for some of the cilantro since much of my cilantro had bolted. I added some red onion I had on hand thinking it would add a little bit of extra "Zippedy" on top of the "Doo-Dah" of the radish, garlic and cilantro/parsley.  

I was happy to score organic radishes and cukes at Wheatsville which, by the way, is partly settled in to their new larger, better lit digs now.  If you haven't been in there lately be prepared for a delightful adventure.  If you have never been to Wheatsville, then no better time than now to try out the Co-op experience as they continue to expand in wonderful ways.  

To me this preparation honestly tastes a bit more like a salad or slaw than a typical salsa but that is matter of my being habituated to eating predominately pepper laden salsas (try saying that fast aloud 3 times and annoy the hell out of somebody in the room with you). 

While I do like peppery hot foods, I'll confess a salsa does not have to make my eyelids sweat to please me. I can always throw hot sauce on my helpings if I want. Getting that capsicum burn out, once it has been introduced to a dish is, however, impossible.  This salsa may be a no-burner, but it is pretty, has a great crrrrunch to it, and will round out our dinner quite nicely.Tonight we will enjoy grilled steaks and onion along with a baked sweet potato and a little special "not going to push your pepper buttons" Radish Salsa specifically to please the Hub, on the side.  

I can pretty much guarandamntee you we won't be dancing before or after dinner either one, but our taste buds should be quietly happy. And happy taste buds, sitting still or otherwise, are plenty good enough for me.Post Dinner Update: So how did we like the salsa? Honestly we found it a bit too mild. It did have a nice crunch to it and the color was pleasing, but this is one recipe we will give over to the webiverse to find itself a good home elsewhere. C'est la vie!Cheers to Orquesta D'Soul and thank you, Mayberry Magpie.  Home cooked meals shared with the folks you love are a great idea any day of the week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I'd've a Baked a Cake! - But Nancy Did it for Me

I previously shared with you the delicious breakfast casserole recipe I so enjoyed at a recent college dormitory reunion with old friends. The last two reunions have been held at this breathtaking home built in Fredericksburg a few years ago and aptly named Inspiration Hill.We gather, we reminisce, we eat, we drink, we laugh, we cry, and we eat and drink some more.

Another recipe we always request is for this Rum Cake baked by our friend Nancy.Every year Nancy brings this and we stand or sit around it promising how this year we swear we won't eat another 4 slices over the course of 2 days, typically all muttered while eating yet another slice. We make excuses - if we eat it standing up, it doesn't count. If we eat it off a napkin and not a plate, no worries. Or, if the slice is teensy enough it doesn't matter that we are having our 11th serving.  Truth be told, this cake has our number.  Big time.  

Here is the recipe with notes from Nancy:
Nancy’s Rum Cake
Pound Cake
3 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon soda
Pinch salt
1 cup butter
3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour large bundt or tube pan.
Sift flour, soda, and salt together; set aside. Cream butter and sugar.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add
vanilla. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk,
beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat only until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50 - 70
minutes, or until cake tests done. (Baking time will depend upon size of
pan. I always like mine to be a little less dry so if the toothpick does
not come out completely clean, I am not too worried.)

Rum Glaze
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/16 cup rum (or a little more - can't hurt)

Melt butter with sugar over low heat while stirring constantly. Remove
from heat and stir in rum. Pour over WARM pound cake while it is still
in the pan. Let stand in pan approximately 2 hours before serving. (I
usually do the cake the night before when I actually want to eat it so it has
plenty of time to absorb all of the glaze. I also run a knife around
the pan before inverting to remove - I do not want the edges of the cake
to stick).

You can see for yourself this cake is no low calorie deal. But when you are visiting with friends, or having a cup of coffee, or better yet doing both, there is something about the buttery, sugary, rum laden goodness that simply can't be beat. You won't want to wait until you are visiting with friends to try this out.But if you are worried about the calories, sharing with a group of friends is as good a way as any to make sure you don't eat the whole thing yourself. This cake is that good.

To close today, here is a mystery poppy that has shown up as part of a wild flower mix that I typically buy each year at Wildseed Farms when this group of friends gathers in Fredericksburg to visit.I am uncertain what type of poppy it is specifically - but it sure enough gorgeous, don't you think? If you like to look at floral photos and read about garden spaces, then check out an April report from our own gardening efforts right here. Bye for now and Y'all come back!