Looking for a locally sourced caffeine buzz? Lost Pines Yaupon Tea has you covered

Lost Pines Yaupon Tea harvests yaupon from the lost pine forests near Bastrop that were damaged during the 2011 wildfires. They sell the tea in two roasts: light and dark. Photo by Addie Broyles.
Lost Pines Yaupon Tea harvests yaupon from the lost pine forests near Bastrop that were damaged during the 2011 wildfires. They sell the tea in two roasts: light and dark. Photo by Addie Broyles.

After first hitting retail shelves a few years ago, yaupon tea is starting to build momentum as a locally harvested alternative to traditional tea and coffee.

Yaupon, which is related to yerba mate, is North America’s only native caffeinated plant, and though people have been drinking yaupon tea for hundreds of years, only in the past few years has it become commercially available.

Last year, another company joined the fray. Lost Pines Yaupon Tea harvests its yaupon from the area around Bastrop affected by the 2011 wildfires. Thinning the yaupon helps the pine trees grow back and restores habitat for animals like the endangered Houston toad, the founders of the company say. Once they harvest the yaupon, they roast the leaves to two different levels: A dark roast that has a rich, nutty flavor that coffee drinkers will enjoy or a light roast that has a lighter, sweeter, tea like flavor. Both the dark and light roasts can be brewed for shorter or longer periods of time to bring out the complexities of the yaupon, and you can drink the tea either hot or cold.

You can buy the loose tea (about $15 for a 2 oz. bag) at the Herb Bar, Monarch Food Mart, Springdale Farm Market and a handful of local farmers markets, including the Sustainable Food Center Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley. To order a freshly brewed cup of it, check out Redbud Roasters in San Marcos, Chaparral Coffee in Lockhart and Bouldin Creek Cafe in South Austin. For more information or to order online, go to lostpinesyaupontea.com.

Lost Pines Yaupon Tea is available at a handful of local outlets, including the Sustainable Food Center Farmers' Market at Sunset Valley. Photo by Addie Broyles.
Lost Pines Yaupon Tea is available at a handful of local outlets, including the Sustainable Food Center Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley. Photo by Addie Broyles.

Skip the box and make this DIY cake mix instead

61yt6NY0JXLReady to totally change how you bake cakes?

Good. Me, too.

I’ve been stuck on boxed cake mixes for as long as I’ve been baking. They are just so easy! And cheap! And remind me of my childhood!

Well, Caroline Wright’s childhood was filled with baking cakes from scratch, so it’s no surprise that her new cookbook “Cake Magic! Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations” (Workman, $17.95) aims to help scaredy-cat bakers like me get over their fear of baking cakes that aren’t from a box.

All the recipes in the book revolve around a DIY cake mix that you then use to make hundreds of different cake variations. In today’s food section, we ran an interview with Wright that included a bunch of baking tips, but I wanted to share the base recipes on the blog.

carolinewrightcakeCake Magic! Cake Mix

You can double or triple this recipe and keep the mix on hand in an airtight container or resealable bag.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together well to combine. Whisk the mix again before measuring to make a cake. Makes 4 cups, enough for one 8- or 9-inch two layer cake, one 9-inch-by-13-inch sheet cake, one 10-inch Bundt cake or 24 cupcakes.

Vanilla Cake

In “Cake Magic,” Wright uses the base cake mix to make eight basic cakes, including lemon, chocolate, coconut and mocha. Here is her recipe for the most basic of cakes: vanilla. You’ll see that the main recipe calls for full-fat plain yogurt, but you can substitute buttermilk.

Unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pans
All-purpose flour, for dusting the pans
4 cups Cake Magic! Cake Mix, whisked well before measuring
3/4 cup full-fat plain yogurt (preferably not Greek yogurt)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, or 1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and side of the pan(s). Dust with flour to coat, then invert and tap out any excess. (If making cupcakes, use liners instead of greasing and coating the tins.)

Place the cake mix in a large bowl. Stir in the yogurt, butter, water, vanilla and eggs until moistened and no lumps remain (be careful not to overmix). Divide the batter between the prepared pans.

Bake until the layers are domed and golden brown, and a few moist crumbs cling to a skewer inserted in the center of the cake, about 35 to 40 minutes (40-50 minutes for a Bundt, 25-30 minutes for a sheet cake, 20-25 minutes for cupcakes).

— From “Cake Magic! Mix & Match Your Way to 100 Amazing Combinations” (Workman, $17.95) by Caroline Wright

Love Sara Moulton? She’ll be in Austin for book signing on Aug. 1

Sara Moulton is one of the most experienced and trusted TV hosts and cookbook authors in the country. She’ll be in Austin for a sold-out class at Central Market next week. Photo by Lucy Schaeffer.
Sara Moulton is one of the most experienced and trusted TV hosts and cookbook authors in the country. She’ll be in Austin for a sold-out class at Central Market next week. Photo by Lucy Schaeffer.

Sara Moulton has been a fixture on television for many years now. She’s not quite as well known as Rachael Ray or Giada De Laurentiis, but Moulton is one of my favorite TV personalities because she’s so focused on making you a better cook, not just giving you a recipe or quick dinner idea.

In today’s food section, we have a story from freelancer Beth Goulart Monson about Moulton’s new book, “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better” (Oxmoor House, $35), as well as six summertime recipes.

Moulton will be in Austin on August 1 for a sold-out cooking class at Central Market, but you can meet her ahead of the class at a public book signing from 5 to 6 p.m. at Central Market, 4001 N. Lamar Blvd.

 

Austin360Cooks: Poke bowls rival Pokemon Go in summer popularity

Peter Tsai (@supertsai) posted before and after pictures of his poke, a dish he's been making for long before it was the Insta-dish du jour. Photo by @supertsai
Peter Tsai (@supertsai) posted before and after pictures of his poke, a dish he’s been making for long before it was the Insta-dish du jour. Photo by @supertsai

“Pokemon Go” is all the rage right now, but in kitchens across America, so are poke bowls.

Poke is the raw fish salad from Hawaii that might make you think of ceviche, but it’s actually quite different, in both ingredients and technique.

Unlike ceviche, the raw fish in poke — most often ahi, or yellowfin tuna — is not “cooked” in lime juice. The cubes of fish are marinated in sesame oil, soy sauce and a number of other ingredients that vary from home to home and island to island in Hawaii.

Now that sashimi-grade tuna is widely available in the continental U.S., cooks are making poke using high-end fish and other ingredients they can find in grocery stores near them. Fresh tuna is ideal, and frozen works, too, but avoid tuna that has lots of white connective tissue in the meat. White rice is the traditional bed on which the marinated tuna rests, while some people prefer chopped cucumbers or vermicelli noodles.

The family behind @thefoodiekids recently made a poke bowl with mango, black sesame seeds, cucumber, avocado, peanuts, a little cilantro and thin slices of jalape os. Photo by @thefoodiekids
The family behind @thefoodiekids recently made a poke bowl with mango, black sesame seeds, cucumber, avocado, peanuts, a little cilantro and thin slices of jalapenos. Photo by @thefoodiekids

When I was checking out the #Austin360Cooks photos that readers have been posting in the past week, I was surprised to see as many poke bowls as grilled peaches. And who is to say you couldn’t put grilled peaches in a poke bowl?

In fact, Amanda Harville’s husband used peaches in a poke he made last week and served on a bed of rice. (She’s @modestvail on Instagram.) Just a few days later, the family behind @thefoodiekids made a poke bowl with mango, black sesame seeds, cucumber, avocado, peanuts, a little cilantro and thin slices of jalapeños.

Nicolai McCrary (@thenicolai) serves his poke on top of avocado slices with a seaweed salad on the side. Photo by @thenicolai
Nicolai McCrary (@thenicolai) serves his poke on top of avocado slices with a seaweed salad on the side. Photo by @thenicolai

Peter Tsai (@supertsai) posted before and after pictures of his poke, a dish he’s been making for long before it was the Insta-dish du jour. He said he likes to get his tuna and salmon from Quality Seafood and insists that the key ingredient for really great poke is avocado. Nicolai McCrary (@thenicolai) served his poke on top of avocado slices and with a seaweed salad on the side.

What new dishes have you been trying lately? Share your photos on Instagram with #Austin360Cooks. Each Wednesday, we run some of our favorites in the print food section.

Amanda Harville's husband used peaches in a poke he made last week and served on a bed of rice. Photo by @modestvail
Amanda Harville’s husband used peaches in a poke he made last week and served on a bed of rice. Photo by @modestvail

This voicemail will make you rethink your foodie-ism

You can learn a lot about a place and the people who live there by grocery shopping. You can also learn a lot about who you are and who you want to be by what's in your cart. On this day, I was all about strawberry shortcake. Photo by Addie Broyles.I don’t know about you guys, but it’s pretty easy for me to get wrapped up in foodie-ism.

That’s the made-up word I just used to describe the crazy food world we live in, with breathable chocolate and 18 kinds of shaved ice and dinners that cost the equivalent of a paycheck.

I’m not writing this post to say that these ways of eating and thinking about food shouldn’t exist. I love that our modern world allows us Modernist Cuisine and homemade kombucha and trips to Mexico City to eat ant larvae.

But we also live in a city where one in four Austinites isn’t sure where their next meal will come from. A few weeks ago, that news came out of a study from Raj Patel and his peers at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

It’s a sad statistic that is always in the back of my head, but like nearly everybody who writes about food, I can get wrapped up in writing for the haves as I go about my day.

Last week, I wrote about Full Fridge, a tech/food startup that wants to deliver a fridge worth of food (OK, 15 meals) for $75. I think they thought their prime demographic would be hyper-connected eaters who are just too busy to cook for themselves. That’s what I thought, too, until I started getting phone calls from readers asking for Full Fridge’s phone number, which wasn’t on their site or in my story last week.

After about half a dozen of these calls, I called the founders of Full Fridge, and sure enough, they’d received lots of inquiries from people outside that core demographic they thought they might serve.

Who are those potential customers?

To explain, I share this voicemail I got over the weekend from a reader, who was so out of breath while she left the message that I wasn’t sure she could finish:

Ms. Broyles, this is (REDACTED). I have tried to get in touch with the Full Fridge to no avail. I am very interested in ordering the food. I pay a cook to come and fix my evening meals for $12 an hour. And I would love to have this food because then I wouldn’t have to hire somebody to take me to the grocery store and pay somebody to cook it for me. I have COPD, I’m diabetic and several other things. I would sure love to be able to get in touch with these people and get this food. Meals on Wheels, I don’t feel comfortable ordering from them because I get two incomes. Too much to get on Medicaid and I don’t get much from Medicare, so I’d be really interested in getting these people’s numbers so I could get this food.

While we’re debating which is the best superfood, millions of Americans like this woman just want to get food. Period.

Something to keep in mind while we go about our foodie business.

PS: The Full Fridge phone number is 512-710-6766 if you or someone you know needs it.

Recipe of the Week: Feasting on an Italian summer with this lemon spaghetti

You can use cream in this lemon spaghetti or leave it out. Photo by Lauren Volo.
You can use cream in this lemon spaghetti or leave it out. Photo by Lauren Volo.

For many of us, hot afternoons mean simple dinners.

This lemon spaghetti is a light, easy meal, not to mention a great way to use up any lemon olive oil you might have in your pantry. “Preserving Italy” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23) author Domenica Marchetti suggests cutting back on the cream or cutting it out altogether, if you’d prefer. Regular olive oil and spaghetti are fine to use. Serve with shrimp or fish, or a salad, or both.

Spaghettini al Limone

Sorrento and the towns along the Amalfi Coast spill out into the Bay of Naples in a riot of color. This slice of southern Italy, famous for its beaches, profusion of flowers, staggering cliffs and narrow coastal roads with hairpin turns, is drop-dead gorgeous. The food is fresh and zesty — think tomatoes, garlic, seafood and lemons. Lots of lemons.Sorrento’s aromatic and sweet lemons are known the world over. And they appear in many dishes. This one, spaghettini al limone, has become something of a tourist must-have for people visiting the region, but with good reason. It’s simple, and simply delicious. Use the best organic lemons you can find to give this dish its due.
— Domenica Marchetti

1/4 cup lemon olive oil
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 Tbsp. juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for sprinkling
1 Tbsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt it generously.

While the water is heating, make the sauce. Heat the lemon oil and lemon zest in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring now and again, until the zest starts to sizzle gently. Stir in the cream and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the cream is thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

Cook the spaghettini according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot and add the sauce. Toss gently to combine. Add the cheese, parsley, basil and a few grindings of pepper and toss again. Add a splash or two of cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Toss once more and serve, sprinkling a little more cheese on each serving. Serves 4.

— From “Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions” by Domenica Marchetti (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23)

Austin360Cooks: Freezing watermelon cubes, strawberry slices to make margaritas

Lucy’s Fried Chicken serves a watermelon margarita, but a reader recommends making them at home with frozen cubes of watermelon. Photo by Addie Broyles.
Lucy’s Fried Chicken serves a watermelon margarita, but a reader recommends making them at home with frozen cubes of watermelon. Photo by Addie Broyles.

A few weeks ago, when I wrote about my not-so-great blender, several readers chimed in with their recommendations of blenders and how to make margaritas.

Another reader, who happens to be my mom, saw that I was in the market for a Ninja, which a number of people had told me was the best choice for a blender that is top-notch but not a pricey Vitamix. When I arrived in Missouri two weeks ago, she’d bought me the exact model I’d wished for.

(Yes, she wins Mom of the Year. Every year.)

We got to work making margaritas on the back porch. My dad, who has had several stints as a bartender, makes really good margaritas, but he always uses a mix, which I wanted to avoid. It took me several tries to get the consistency and sweetness right — I crushed too much ice and used too much lime juice and not enough agave syrup — but I really liked using two products I brought with me from Texas: the new Paula’s Texas Grapefruit (instead of triple sec) and Twang’s Twang-A-Rita Hatch Chile Salt, which didn’t add any heat but did add a nice savory element to the salted rim of the glass.

Statesman reader Eileen Liedeker sent in a great margarita recipe a few weeks ago that involves using frozen cubes of watermelon instead of the ice. She’d sent it as a possible solution if you have a blender that doesn’t really crush ice, but it also helps use up any extra watermelon (or cantaloupe) you might have after a picnic or party. (Another reader commented that she does the same thing with strawberries.)

“The watermelon blends into a wonderful slushy consistency very easily,” she wrote. “Do this anytime you have a little more watermelon than you need, and keep the frozen cubes in a freezer bag for whenever you’re ready for a margarita.” The best way to freeze the cubes is by placing them on a baking sheet or tray and freezing, and then placing the already frozen cubes into a zip-top bag.

The original recipe came from Epicurious, but she adds Cointreau and cuts back on the sugar, depending on how sweet the watermelon is.

Watermelon Margaritas

5 cups frozen watermelon cubes
1 cup tequila
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1/4 cup Cointreau

Pulse ingredients in a blender until smooth. Makes about 4-6 drinks.

— Adapted from an Epicurious.com recipe by Eileen Liedeker

Full Fridge wants to bring you a week’s worth of prepared foods for $75

Full Fridge is a new delivery service that sells 15 meals’ worth of prepared food for $75. Photo from Full Fridge.
Full Fridge is a new delivery service that sells 15 meals’ worth of prepared food for $75. Photo from Full Fridge.

Having a full fridge of ingredients and one that’s full of already prepared food are two very different things.

When we go to the grocery store and come home with a week’s worth of food to prepare, we still have to do the cooking. The founders of a new Austin company called Full Fridge know that there are plenty of us who don’t like, want or have time to cook and would rather just have a fridge full of prepared food to eat.

“We are bringing homemade delicious meals to people who don’t really care about grocery shopping or cooking,” says co-founder Mokshika Sharma. To keep the price at $5 per meal — or $75 for 15 meals a week, the only option currently available — Full Fridge doesn’t package each meal in its own container, which cuts down on packaging waste and is a departure from many prepared meal delivery services in operation.

Customers don’t have any choices about which meals they receive, another tweak to how many similar companies operate that is designed to keep the price down. Each 15-meal order contains about nine different dishes, including those you might eat at breakfast, lunch or dinner. A recent menu included smoky sweet potatoes, pork chops, pasta casserole with cauliflower, chickpea salad, pork stew and bangers and mash, the British breakfast dish with sausage and beans.

“We wanted to offer convenient and affordable meals, but we’re not going for the gourmet crowd,” Sharma says. “You can mix and match the sides, breakfast, lunch and dinner items to make different meals” and the quantity of your serving can vary, depending on how hungry you are. Customers can place an order as late as Sunday for delivery in much of the Austin area on Tuesday. You can find out more about the service at fullfridge.com.

WATCH: Why lamb isn’t as gamey as it used to be, plus Costco’s epic edamame noodles

Sorry to post two livestreams back-to-back, but I have a feeling that nobody really cares about that except for me. <insert smiley self-deprecating emoticon>

In today’s Deskside Dish, I talk about this week’s food section, including that frozen v. rocks margarita science story, an #Austin360Cooks tip about making watermelon ice cubes for margaritas and a new delivery service called Full Fridge.

I also dug into why I just cancelled my Costco membership and tried some edamame noodles I picked up during my last shopping trip there, which were so good, I might have to reconsider.

WATCH: Trying boozy ice pops from Qui, ghost pepper chips from Paqui

I was out of town earlier this month, and it was fun to get back to the Austin and revive my weekly Facebook livestream videos. We’ll do another one today at noon, but here’s last week’s, where we tried Paqui’s ghost pepper chips, Jif’s chocolate peanut butter whip, the world’s best peaches and a boozy ice pop from Qui.

What do you want me to try in an upcoming video? Let me know in the comments below, in a comment on FB or on Twitter.