Herbs are fascinating plants. They season our food, they scent our homes and, with the right application, they can heal our bodies.
Medical plants have been around for even longer than humans have been using them, but since 1988, the Austin-based American Botanical Council has been sharing research and educational resources about herbs, teas, medicinal plants, essential oils and other beneficial plant-derived materials.
The organization has called 6200 Manor Road home since 1997, and for the past 13 years, the nonprofit has opened its doors every spring for HerbDay, a free celebration of all things herbs.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 5, you can hear from local botanists, herbalists and teachers about the healing power of plants at Austin’s HerbDay event. (Click here to find other HerbDay events in Oregon, Florida, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.)
In addition to the free talks in the council’s many gardens, they’ll have plants and books for sale, a May pole, art and herb planting activities for children of all ages and free refreshments. You can find out more at herbday.org.
Here’s the schedule for the event on Saturday, May 5:
10:30 – 11:30: Herb walk with JoAnn Sanchez and Beth Ebbing Johnson, herbalist and owner of Sacred Moon Herbs
11:45 – 1:15: Herb talk with JoAnn Sanchez, botanist, herbalist and teacher of herbalism at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, presentation on Nourishing our Nervous Systems.
1:30 – 2:30: Herb walk with Ginger Webb, Owner of Texas Medicinals and Sacred Journey School of Herbalism
2:45 – 3:45: Herb talk with Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, presentation on Humorous Health: Conventional & Alternative Medicine, Pharmaceuticals Drugs, Diet, and Lifestyle as Seen through Cartoons
CBD does, however, reduce stress and anxiety according to many consumers, which is what draws them to both supplements and infused commercial products.
On April 25 at Barr Mansion, the company is hosting a “pollinator-to-table, CBD-infused, dinner extravaganza” to raise money for its bee rescue efforts.
From the site: You’ll be surrounded by a symphony of scents, live music and delightfully social people, all excitedly awaiting the arrival of a live honey bee colony, rescued just moments before the event. We’ll stage the final act of the rescue at Barr Mansion for all of our guests to see. Our rescue operators and beekeeping experts will be joining us as well, happy to share stories, compelling news and answer any of your questions. During the event, all of our attendees will have access to four complimentary masseuses, henna artists and other live entertainment. Beverages will be infused with hemp including New Belgium’s new Hemperor HPA.”
For my weekly Facebook livestream today, I’m trying something unusual: Taste-testing 14 products in 14 minutes.
Thanks to several cooking demonstrations and field trips lately, I haven’t done a taste test in a while, so I had quite a few products lined up to try. It’s a little crazy to go from flavor to flavor so quickly, but I’m setting up the products so I don’t jump from sweet to savory (or healthy to junk food) so quickly.
Walmart topped the list with a B, thanks to its work to standardize expiration labels into two categories: “Best if Used By” for nonperishable products, and “Use By” for food that can spoil. In an interview with NPR, Jordan Figueiredo, who runs the Center for Biological Diversity’s “Ugly” Fruit and Veg Campaign, said that Walmart has also made small changes that are adding up, such as replacing a single broken egg without having to throw away the entire carton.
Figueiredo also said of the chains such as Whole Foods that scored lower that “it’s not necessarily that they’re not trying to reduce food waste, it’s that they’re not reporting what they’re doing. But if they’re not reporting that data, then we have no idea how effective these programs are. And something that’s just done here or there isn’t really meaningful.”
The companies were graded “based on their efforts to address the problem, from tracking and publicly reporting data to initiatives such as selling ‘ugly’ produce,” and Whole Foods seemed to take the biggest hit from not publicly reporting data about how much food ends up in the trash.
Whole Foods has more zero-waste certified stores than any other certified company, but “the company lacks any clear commitment to food-waste reduction and provides no data on the amount of food wasted, recovered or recycled.”
“If Whole Foods is serious about sustainability, it needs to be honest about the amount of food it wastes,” said Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center. “Until the company gets transparent and makes measurable commitments, its efforts are merely lip service.”
Although the company has food donation and recycling programs as well as initiatives in some stores to repurpose “ugly” produce, the report recommended that Whole Foods “institute food-waste reduction practices in its supply chain and across all stores to prevent excess, wasteful production before it happens.”
Nine out of America’s 10 largest grocery companies fail to publicly report their total volume of food waste. Ahold Delhaize was the only company that publicly reported its total food-waste volume.
The four companies that earned a C grade or higher overall were the only ones with specific food-waste reduction commitments. Kroger leads the way with a commitment of zero food waste by 2025.
Four of the 10 companies have no “imperfect-produce initiatives,” which can prevent the waste of fruits and vegetables considered too “imperfect” for retail sale.
Walmart was the only company with a variety of clear in-store efforts to reduce food waste, such as improving store fixtures, standardizing date labels, and educating associates and shoppers.
All 10 of the companies have food-donation programs, with the majority operating company-wide. ALDI was the only company that did not report a food-recycling program (e.g., composting or a program to reuse unsold food as animal feed or for other industrial uses).
I love checking out other people’s kitchens. Sometimes, it’s because I’m lucky enough that the host is cooking for me, but last weekend, I was just breezing in to drop off my kids for a sleepover at a friend’s house.
The boys disappeared to play with their friend as soon as I got there, and my attention turned immediately to a bottle of Lone Star beer sitting on the countertop.
Thanks to the availability of those spout porers that fit in the top of glass bottles, I’ve seen countless homemade olive oil (or dish soap) bottles, but I’d never seen anyone use the iconic (and beloved, if you’ve lived here long enough) Lone Star beer bottle. These are the spouts that are also used in liqueur bottles at bars, so you’ll find them at restaurant supply stores and everyday kitchen stores, such as Bed Bath and Beyond.
When the label inevitably gets dirty or greasy, he simply replaces the older bottle with a new one. I’m filing this one under “Why didn’t I think of that?”
That’s the reasoning that came to mind when I ran out of all purpose flour over the weekend. I had baked some applesauce muffins — more on those later — and, when I set out to start a loaf of my quick no knead bread recipe, I didn’t realize I didn’t have a backup bag of flour in the pantry.
With 100 grams of white flour already in the bowl, I needed another 330 grams to hit the required mark for my go-to formula: 430 grams of flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon yeast and 345 grams water.
I had some wheat flour in the freezer. Upon reflection, that’s what I should have stuck with. Whole wheat flour makes a really dense loaf of bread, so I usually only swap out up to a fourth of the overall quantity of flour. I did, however, have an extra container of old fashioned oats in the pantry that I’ve been trying to use up. Oat flour is a common ingredient in sandwich bread and many gluten-free bread recipes, and I’d read that you could pulverize oats at home to make your own.
I’ll just do that, I thought.
That’s a phrase that has gotten me in trouble in the kitchen. Like that time in college when I tried to craft a lid to a smoker out of a plastic laundry basket and aluminum foil — It was bad. There were flames. — or those early cookie-baking attempts to use honey instead of sugar in a cookie recipe.
Don’t get me wrong: Taking shortcuts and trying new ingredients, tools and techniques is an important part of everyday cooking, but sometimes our best attempts to make do don’t work out.
I suspected as much on Sunday after I pulled out the food processor and powdered a few cups of oats. Because I was weighing the ingredients, I just kept sifting my homemade oat flour into the bowl on the scale. About half of the flour was wheat flour — part white, part wheat — but the other half was this shaggy oat flour that I knew was going to weigh down the bread.
I kept going.
Not giving up is an important tenant in our house, so much so that my 7-year-old recently wrote it as one of his rules to life on a set of yellow sticky notes. With that Post-it hanging on a wall nearby, I kept going, hoping for the best, that the loaf might be more “rustic” than “rough.” I took some mental notes about the oversaturation of the flour and lack of gluten development in the dough.
After rising all day, the dough wasn’t looking much better, but — like Dory — I just kept swimming. I’d already come this far.
In the loaf pan went this wet brick. I thought of Caroline Ingalls, a favorite literary character who baked coarse, unleavened breads every day of her adult life. I thought of every other home cook who continues to do so today, working from a pantry that has to last, not a pantry that can be replenished at the touch of a button on a phone.
When all you have is cornmeal — or oat flour, you’ll find a way to make it taste good, even without an egg or yeast or baking soda. It’s OK if it’s not a perfect loaf with a light, airy crumb, I told myself. It’s also OK if this one turns out like a dense, crumbly shoe.
I’d given myself permission to fail. What an unusual gift for a person who has struggled with that please, perfect, repeat cycle that Brene Brown talks about. If the bread magically came out of the oven with the wonderful chewiness of a hearty rye bread, I would be thrilled. It it looked like something like belonged on the Netflix show, “Nailed It!,” that would be OK, too.
When the loaf, in fact, came out heavier than a doorstop and mealier than mud, I took one bite of one slice and laughed out loud. The bread was terrible. Easily the worst loaf I’ve made in years and likely the ugliest to ever come out of my oven. I thought back to every golden loaf I’ve pulled out of that oven. I know how to make bread, I thought. This miss doesn’t change that.
I couldn’t go back in time to correct course, so the loaf went in the trash. Rather than dwelling on the wrong turns I took — and the right turns I missed — I made plans to get a bag of flour the next time I went to the store.
The next day, I was able to rely on what I knew, not focus on what I didn’t. The loaf came out perfect, at least to the loving eyes of its baker.
I can be so insistent on patching what’s broken or determined to find workarounds that I end up with a lumpy, not-so-attractive experiment that isn’t really worth keeping. Thank goodness cooking gives us a chance to try again.
She also compiled a helpful green-by-green guide, which can help you figure out when is the right time to use, kale instead of bok choy or collards instead of chard. For instance, mustard greens and chard cook much faster than collards and bok choy, so you’ll want to add them at the end of a stir-fry. Also, mustard greens are usually too spicy for smoothies, but spinach has a light enough flavor to mix well with bananas, peanut butter or other smoothie ingredients.
Dandelion Greens: These easily foraged greens have a surprising amount of moisture in the thin leaves, which make them a great base for pestos. Really yummy sautéed, but the green from the leaves does bleed into other food.
Flavor/Texture: Mild and grassy with delicate leaves.
Pairs well with: Citrus, vinegars, pumpkin seeds
Good for smoothies: Yes
Kale: The tougher texture of this green is an asset if packing salads in advance. The greens hold up well even when dressed for at least a couple of days. Slice very finely, similar to slaw, if you are looking for a finer texture and for easy adds to scrambles and cooked foods.
Flavor/Texture: Relatively mild taste with a tougher texture.
Pairs well with: Citrus, vinegars, potatoes, smoked flavors, garlic
Good for smoothies: Yes
Bok Choy: Blanched in broth is my favorite way to eat bok choy. Saute both the stems and greens in peanut oil with lots of garlic for a great addition to your bowls or over steamed rice.
Flavor/Texture: Sweet with crisp edible stalks and tender leaves.
Pairs well with: Garlic, ginger, nut oils, peanuts, cashews, chilies, soy sauce, ferments like miso and kimchi
Good for smoothies: No
Collards: These hearty greens are best simmered, but the smaller leaves are more tender. Slice collards into thin ribbons for quicker cooking times.
Flavor/Texture: Mild flavor with leathery texture (similar to green leaf cabbage).
Pairs well with: Smoked paprika, roasted peanut oil, toasted sesame oils, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, butter, whole wheat pasta, potatoes
Good for smoothies: No
Spinach: With a quick cooking time, spinach is one of the more flexible greens our Texas spring offers. Use it in salads, add to pestos if you are short on basil, and add ribboned handfuls onto your spring stews for a bright green pop.
Flavor/Texture: Fairly neutral and as it gets warmer out, lightly sweet
Pairs well with: Dairy (butter, cheeses, cream), eggs, potatoes, mushrooms, lemon, basil
Good for smoothies: Yes
Escarole: Similar to endive, escarole is easy to shred and use as a compliment to other greens in your salads or bowls. A quick sauté helps to ease the bitter.
Flavor/Texture: Slightly bitter with texture of a much thicker lettuce.
Pairs well with: Beans, pasta, olive oil
Good for smoothies: No
Arugula: Eat this first when you get home from the market as it has a very short life. In salads is best, but can make for a really exciting pesto base.
Flavor/Texture: Peppery bite and very fragile leaves.
Pairs well with: Earthy flavors like mushrooms, beets and tubers; pasta, saltier cheeses
Good for smoothies: No
Mustard Greens: These cook down quickly compared to other brassicas so they make for a great weeknight side. Try mixing with milder greens like spinach and kale for a slightly less aggressive flavor if eating fresh.
Flavor/Texture: Strong and spicy
Pairs well with: Peanut oil, sesame oil, ginger, chilies, garlic, peanuts
Good for smoothies: No
Texans know the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican food, but do you know the difference between Oaxacan and Yucatecan food?
Mexican food is as varied as American food, and you can explore some of that diversity at Mexic-Arte Museum‘s annual Taste of Mexico event on May 2. From 6 to 9 p.m. at Brazos Hall, 204 E. Fourth Street, you’ll find food from more than 40 Austin restaurants, food trucks and beverage purveyors. Organizers have asked participants to showcase indigenous ingredients and techniques found throughout Mexican cuisine.
Proceeds from the event benefit the museum’s kid- and family-friendly art education programs, which benefit more than 10,000 participants in Austin. You can find tickets ($50 for museum members; $60 for general admission; $75 for VIP) at mexic-artemuseumevents.org.
Zilker Botanical Garden is one of Austin’s natural treasures, but it closes at 5 p.m. every single day. (And, heads up: You have to get there by 4:30 to get in the gate.)
That means if you want to check out the garden, you have to visit during the sunniest (and warmest) part of the day. But next week, the Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy is hosting a Starlight Social event from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on April 12 at the gardens, which are located at 2220 Barton Springs Road in Zilker Park.
For a $100 ticket, you can sample foods and drinks from Amy’s Ice Creams, Bamboo Bistro, Chez Zee, The Grove, Independence Brewing, Malone Specialty Coffee, Revolution Spirits, Salt Lick Cellars and Wheatsville Co-op. With garden party attire, complimentary valet, live auction and live music from Tomar and the FCs, this will surely be a treat, especially if you’ve always wanted to visit the botanical garden at sunset.
Tickets are available at zbgconservancy.org. The organizers are accepting gently worn athletic shoes at the event, as well.
We’re talking chilaquiles and elote shrimp dip, dulce de leche chocolate cake and a pecan old fashioned, mole and capirotada.
With each recipe, Rodriguez, whose first book was “Latin Twist,”a compilation of more than 100 cocktail recipes, gives a glimpse into her own kitchen, including these green enchiladas. The book includes recipes for her homemade green and red enchilada sauces, too, but store-bought is just fine, especially on a busy weeknight.
Mi mami started making enchilada casseroles as her familia grew and grew, and she tired of hand-rolling all those enchiladas individually. I can’t say I blame her — we’re a big crowd. This enchilada casserole can be made with either green or red enchilada sauce, and feel free to swap out the shredded chicken for beef or pork. You can also use shredded rotisserie chicken.
1/4 cup vegetable oil, for frying
15 to 20 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 cups red enchilada or enchilada verde sauce (homemade or store-bought)
4 cups shredded chicken (see recipe below)
2 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack
1 cup diced onion
Warm the vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. In batches, lightly fry each tortilla on both sides for about 1 minute each side; they should still be pliable when done. Transfer each from the pan to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Continue until all the tortillas have been fried and then remove from the heat.
Liberally spray a slow-cooker liner with cooking spray. Place a fourth of the tortillas in a layer on the bottom of the slow cooker and then cover it with a fourth of the sauce. Add a fourth of the Shredded Chicken and sprinkle a fourth of the cheese and the onions over the chicken. Repeat until all of the ingredients have been used. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Serve warm. Serves 6 to 8.
Shredded chicken is an essential base ingredient for many of the recipes in this cookbook. This recipe is an easy way to make it at home and bypass those boring frozen or deli rotisserie chickens. Use this chicken to make tostadas, tacos, flautas, tortas, enchiladas or pozole.
4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and tied together with kitchen twine
Water to cover
Place the chicken in a slow cooker and sprinkle it with the salt and black pepper. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic and cilantro, and cook on low for 6 hours, or until the chicken is tender.
Shred the chicken with forks. Use in your choice of recipes or freeze for later use.