Austin360Cooks: What cooking advice do you wish you’d heard when you graduated?

With so many graduates leaving home right now, a reader with a grandson finishing school called me to ask if I might do a column on cooking tips for cooks heading out on their own.

I found a few inspirational posts on the #Austin360Cooks hashtag on Instagram, but I’d love to hear your thoughts: What’s the one cooking tip you wish someone had told you when you left home?

Nelly Ramirez (@thereal_aneelee on Instagram) uses a Mason jar to shake up homemade salad dressing. Hers included finely chopped shallots, capers, parsley, red wine vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard and a little creme fraiche to remind you of the ranch dressing you might have grown up on.

Holly Postler (@hollypostler) knows that every good batch of meatballs starts with ground beef and an egg, but she also adds cilantro, garlic, horseradish and sunflower weeks. Here’s the recipe she used, and below that, our ever-growing gallery of your cooking-at-home photos. (Just add #Austin360Cooks to your pics on social media, and we’ll do the rest!)

Cilantro-Horseradish Meatballs

1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. kosher salt
4-8 garlic cloves, minced (amount depends on size of cloves and/or love of garlic)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan (or romano or asiago)
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 egg
1/4 cup roughly chopped sunflower seeds

Combine ingredients in a bowl and bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes, or drop into a chicken broth-based soup or stew.

— Holly Postler


First taco emojis, now a taco art show

These flying tacos will be on exhibit at Jerry's Artarama next month. Photo from Brenda Armistead.
These flying tacos will be on exhibit at Jerry’s Artarama next month. Photo from Brenda Armistead.

Oh, tacos, how we love thee, let us count the ways.

We have a taco cannon, a taco cook-off, taco emojis and now a taco art show.

Starting June 5 at Jerry’s Artarama, 6010 N. Interstate 35, more than a dozen area artists will display their taco drawings, paintings and sculptures. Some of the featured artists include Haley Bonner, Shan Fannin, Rebecca Borrelli, Luis Hurtado and Brenda Armistead, who made the taco sculptures on the right.

The show, which runs through the end of June, will have a free opening event from 6 to 8 p.m. next Friday that will, of course, feature tacos that you can eat, and the artwork will be for sale. You can find out more on the Facebook page.


Shan Fannin's taco artwork that will be on display at the exhibit in June.
Shan Fannin’s taco artwork that will be on display at the exhibit in June.

Texas Olive Festival rescheduled for Nov. 14

Olives at the Texas Hill Country Olive Co. Photo by Julia Robinson for the Austin American-Statesman.
Olives at the Texas Hill Country Olive Co. Photo by Julia Robinson for the Austin American-Statesman.

The Texas Hill County Olive Co. near Dripping Springs announced last week that due to inclement weather and flood recovery efforts, it would postpone last weekend’s Texas Olive Festival.

Organizers say that they now plan to host the three-day event starting on Nov. 14. You can find out more at

Recipe of the week: Creamy kale dip perfect for a graduation party

Hot creamy kale dip from “Superfood Snacks” is great for a graduation party. Photo by Oliver Barth.
Hot creamy kale dip from “Superfood Snacks” is great for a graduation party or backyard celebration. Photo by Oliver Barth.

Graduation season is upon us, and if you’re hosting a party to celebrate someone in your life moving from one stage to the next, here’s a nutrient- and protein-rich recipe from “Superfood Snacks: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Nutrient-Dense Recipes” by Julie Morris (Sterling, $16.95).

Cashews, hemp seeds and nutritional yeast all lend both flavor and heft to this dip, a vegan-friendly substitute for a cheesy spinach artichoke dip. You could use other leafy greens instead of or in additional to the kale; it’s the technique of blending the cashews to make a cream-like sauce without the cream that makes this dish stand out.

Hot Creamy Kale Dip

1/2 cup raw cashews
1 Tbsp. yellow miso paste
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
6 cups packed curly kale leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/4 cup hemp seeds, plus additional for garnish
Place the cashews, miso paste and water in a blender and blend until the mixture is as smooth as possible.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until onions are softened and translucent. Add the cumin, cayenne, kale and a big pinch of salt and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute or until kale is wilted to about half its original size and bright green.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and pour in the cashew mixture (don’t clean the blender — you’ll be adding ingredients back into it shortly). Cook the mixture for 3 to 4 minutes longer, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Remove from heat and spoon the kale back into the blender.

Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast and hemp seeds, and blend to partially puree while still leaving small textural bits of the vegetables intact. (You will likely need to stop the blender several times and manually stir the ingredients back down toward the blades before blending again.)

Taste the dip, add additional salt as needed, then serve warm with small toasts, crackers or raw vegetables. Also works in wraps. Makes 2 cups.

— From “Superfood Snacks: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Nutrient-Dense Recipes” by Julie Morris (Sterling, $16.95)

Photos of tree destruction at Central Market’s playground, flooding near Whole Foods

The Memorial Day weekend storms hit homes and businesses hard, including the beloved playscape at Central Market North that is shaded by a number of heritage oak trees. (That store also lost power for several hours, which caused them to have to destroy some dairy and frozen products.)

For a while on Monday, shoppers at Whole Foods Market downtown were stuck when Shoal Creek flooded Lamar Boulevard. Here are some of the photos I found on social media of the chaos and aftermath.


WATCH: Urban Roots Farm floods under Boggy Creek

IMG_7936Farmers can’t farm without rain, but too much of it is causing just as many problems.

I’m still gathering reports from area farmers on how their fields are faring after the Memorial Day deluge, but this morning, I went out to Urban Roots Farm, just east of U.S. 183 and north of the Colorado River, to see how they were recovering after Boggy Creek flooded yesterday and overwhelmed their fields.

At the lowest point in the fields, the creek rose eight feet above the crops, and though the water had receded by Tuesday morning, workers and volunteers were trying to harvest as many leeks, potatoes and onions as they could before they started to rot in the ground. Farm manager Lea Scott said that the floods didn’t cause any permanent damage to the greenhouses or structures, but they could lose hundreds of pounds of food if they can’t get it out of the ground. UPDATE: So far today, the Urban Roots crew and volunteers have harvested 1600 pounds of produce, which will be donated to local charities.

IMG_7943It’s a similar story over at Green Gate Farm, which posted on Facebook that though the tornado missed them, their fields were swamped. (And the animals weren’t too happy about all this rain, either.)

Tecolote Farm posted Instagram videos this morning of their animals happy to see glimpses of the sun.

Up the stream from Urban Roots, Boggy Creek Farm had a flooded cooler and some flooded fields, but they have still been able to harvest some produce between the rainstorms, including sweet corn.

Around the corner from Boggy Creek, the flood-prone HausBar Farm had some standing water, but after losing dozens of bunnies during past storms, they have built up their rabbit coops off the ground to avoid a similar loss.

Johnson’s Backyard Garden had already written about its struggle with the mud, and today, owner Brenton Johnson focused on the positive side of things. “I have my rose-colored glasses on. I can’t see anything but good,” he said.



Rain spoiling your Memorial Day plans? Maybe it’s time to bake

Tired of all this rain? Maybe it’s time to bake. In recent months, we’ve published recipes for jam crumble bars, blueberry cream cheese bread, key lime shortbread cookies, small-batch vanilla cupcakes and currant scones.

But maybe all these clouds are causing your seasonal affective disorder to kick in, and you’re in the mood for a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. Here’s a homemade version to keep you busy this Memorial Day weekend.

Oatmeal and Turbinado Cream Cookie Sandwiches from “Real Sweet” by Shauna Sever. Photo by  Leigh Beisch.
Oatmeal and Turbinado Cream Cookie Sandwiches from “Real Sweet” by Shauna Sever. Photo by Leigh Beisch.

Oatmeal and Turbinado Cream Cookie Sandwiches

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup firmly packed dark muscovado sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk (reserve egg white for filling)

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, grind the oats to a flour. Add muscovado sugar, flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg and pulse to blend. Toss in butter and process until the butter is well incorporated and dough begins to clump and pull off the sides. Add egg yolk and pulse until dough comes together with no dry pockets.

Line a work surface with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Turn out the dough onto the plastic wrap and form it into a log about 10 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the dough tightly. Chill the dough until firm, at least 3 hours in the fridge.

When you’re ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a thin, sharp knife to slice the dough log into 30 rounds, each about 1/3 inch thick. Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheets. Bake until golden and firm, about 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling:
2/3 cup turbinado sugar
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, soft but still cool
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Combine turbinado sugar, egg whites and salt in the metal bowl of a stand mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Whisk until mixture is slightly foamy and sugar has completely dissolved. Attach bowl to the mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until the meringue is stiff and glossy and the bowl is cool to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes depending on your mixer.

Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time, giving each knob of butter ample time to incorporate into the filling before adding the next. About the time that all the butter has been added, the filling will look like a curdled and separated mess, and you might start to panic, but don’t — it will come together with another minute or so of whipping time. (If the filling isn’t whipping into shape after a couple of minutes, the mixture may be too warm. Pop the bowl into the freezer for a few minutes to chill it down and try whipping again.)

When the filling is smooth, beat in the vanilla extract. To fill the cookies, either load the filling into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip, or use a small scoop or 2 spoons. Flip half the cookies over and top each with 2 teaspoons of the filling. Sandwich with the remaining cookies and press gently to adhere. Store at room temperature for the first day, and refrigerate them for longer storage, up to 3 days.

— From “Real Sweet: More Than 80 Crave-Worthy Treats Made with Natural Sugars” by Shauna Sever (William Morrow, $27.50)

Hey Cupcake founder starts bottled water company benefiting those in recovery

Wes Hurt was at the forefront of Austin’s cupcake craze.

As the founder of Hey Cupcake, Hurt stayed plenty busy peddling sweet treats to the masses from his memorable cupcake-topped Airstream and then a North Austin brick-and-mortar. The business was growing, but so was a secret drug habit he’d been feeding since he was a teen.

Clean bottled water is available at Royal Blue. Photo from Clean.
Clean bottled water is available at Royal Blue. Photo from Clean.

By the time he sold the majority of his business in the company in 2014, he was ready for yet another stint in rehab. This time, his recovery inspired something deeper: A commitment to staying sober and a desire to dedicate his life to helping others get there, too.

When he decided to get busy livin’, as he puts it, he started Clean, a bottled water company that uses half of its profits to support people in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse, including by hiring them to work for his company.

Hurt currently has three Clean products: two sizes of bottled water sourced from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, plus a sparking mineral water. You can buy them at Royal Blue Grocery, Juiceland, Jo’s Coffee, Cuvee, Homeslice, Walton’s Fancy & Staple and, starting in a few weeks, Central Market. They cost about $2 for 1 liter, $1.59 for the 20 oz. bottle and $1.75 for the bubbly water packed in a glass bottle. You can find out more about Hurt’s story and his vision for the company at

No Blue Bell? Try making this blueberry muffin ice cream

I hate to keep revisiting the Blue Bell story, but when the emotional floodgates opened last week after I ran our own taste test of non-Blue Bell vanilla ice creams, I knew there was still more to tell.

In today’s food section, I recapped some of the responses from readers, which ranged from anger and bitterness to non-nonchalance because they stopped eating that “artificial flavored crap” years ago. (OK, so that one was a voice mail I got today and didn’t have a chance to include in my column.)

Blueberry Muffin Ice Cream

From author Claire Thomas: I had been knocking around this “blueberry muffin ice cream” idea for a bit, mainly because I love the challenge and also because it fit into my cousin Rachel’s red-white-and-blue birthday theme. Bringing out the essence of a blueberry muffin in ice cream form, without just blending muffins into the batter, was a fun task, and like most fun tasks, it started with brown butter.

Brown butter, vanilla and brown sugar to give the base that “just baked” flavor, sweet-tart blueberry compote for that perfect swirl, and cinnamon streusel crumbled throughout for a bit of texture and that muffin-top taste. The brown butter ice cream is great by itself, but the blueberry muffin tweak is definitely worth a shot.

Blueberry muffins inspired this ice cream from Claire Thomas.
Blueberry muffins inspired this ice cream from Claire Thomas.

For the compote:
4 half pints blueberries
Juice of 3 limes
2 cups sugar
For the streusel:
1/2 cup flour
4 Tbsp. butter, cold and cubed
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt
For the ice cream:
1 stick butter
3 cups half and half
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup blueberry compote or jam
3 Tbsp. cinnamon streusel

To make the compote: Combine the blueberries, lime and sugar in a bowl to coat, and then heat over a medium flame until the blueberries liquefy and if you stir a spoon through it, you can see the bottom of the pan for a beat. Basically, it should look kind of syrupy. Pour into jars, tighten the lids, and flip upside-down until room temperature. Keep refrigerated.

To make the streusel: Using your fingers or a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon and then mix in the butter until crumbly. Place on a baking sheet with a silicone mat and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Break apart and mix the streusel up, and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Crumble and cool.

To make the ice cream: Simmer the butter on medium heat until takes on a nice golden brown color. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. In a large pot, bring the half and half up to an almost boil over medium high heat. Meanwhile, whisk together the yolks, sugars and salt until smooth. To temper the egg mixture, carefully whisk in about 1 cup of the hot liquid into the egg mixture until smooth. Then whisk the egg mixture into the remaining amount of half and half in the pot.

Return to medium low heat, and cook up to 170 degrees, constantly stirring along the bottom of the pot to ensure even cooking. Once it has reached the 170 degrees, remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and brown butter. Strain through a wire mesh strainer. Allow to cool to about room temperature in an ice bath and pop in the fridge.

Once the mixture is chilled through, put it in your ice cream maker. Once it’s gotten pretty firm, pour the ice cream into a large bowl and fold in the blueberry compote and then the streusel so it ribbons through it. You’ll have leftover compote and streusel that you can reserve for other uses. Put in a container and freeze until firm. Makes 2 pints.

— From “The Kitchy Kitchen: New Classics for Living Deliciously” by Claire Thomas (Atria, $26)

Quesoff seeking cooks for fifth annual queso competition

chorizo_quesoThe fifth anniversary of the Quesoff is approaching on July 11, and founder Adi Anand is putting out the call for cooks.

This food competition held at the Mohawk has several different categories for professionals, but home cooks have been included for several years now. This year, he’s adding a guacamole category.

You can sign up to compete by emailing by July 1 and specifying which category you’d like to enter: meat, spicy, veggie, wild card and guacamole.

The event will be free, and attendees can pay $5 for a bag of chips to sample the entrants’ dips.