That’s a lot of cookies: The Big Bake Sale raises more than $12,000 for RAICES

Over the weekend, dozens of bakers set up bake sales at Austin-area restaurants and cafes to raise money for RAICES, the organization assisting families that have been separated at the border.

Austin-area bakers made treats at home and then sold them at several locations through the city on Saturday morning. Contributed by the Big Bake Sale.

Including donations from partners, including, Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ and Crema Bakery & Cafe, the group raised $12,482.77 that will “go directly to RAICES to help immigrant and refugee families at the border.

Austin Bakes, which is the Big Bake Sale’s sister organization and started after the Japan tsunami, has raised more than $80,000 for humanitarian relief.

You can find out when the next bake sale is through the Big Bake Sale’s website or Facebook group.

The Big Bake Sale raised more than $12,000 over the weekend. Contributed by The Big Bake Sale.

One of the delightful treats we picked up from the Valentina’s location on Saturday morning was this churro Chex mix from Kristina Wolter, my food stylist friend behind She shared the recipe she used to make this sweet snack.

Churro Chex Mix

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 1/2 cups Rice Chex cereal
4 1/2 cups Corn Chex cereal
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Heat oven 350. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a pot, add the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Bring to a boil for 1 minute and then add baking soda and set aside.

Put the Chex in a large bowl, and pour the hot caramel over the cereal and mix until all cereal is coated. Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Mix granulated sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the cereal. Bake for 15 minutes. Stir and bake for another 5 min. Let cool before breaking up. Store in an airtight container.

— Adapted from a recipe on

Fiesta Mart acquired by one of country’s largest Hispanic grocery chains

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For the second time in three years, the Houston-based grocery chain Fiesta Mart has been sold.

Fiesta has two stores in Austin, a small market compared to the 32 stores in the Houston area and several dozen in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. According to the Houston Chronicle, Bodega Latina Corp and its Mexican parent company Chedraui will acquire 63 Fiesta stores in Texas if the $300 million sale goes through, which is expected. The buyer already operated 59 El Super stores in the Southwest and is one of the largest Hispanic food retailers in the country. Fiesta was sold in 2004 and then again in 2015 Acon Investments, a Washington, D.C.-based private equity firm.

From the Chronicle:

Although Fiesta Mart has revamped some stores to broaden its appeal, the grocer has been outgunned by well-capitalized giants H-E-B, Kroger and Walmart and newcomers such as Aldi, who have been aggressively courting Hispanic customers with competitive prices and a more international selection of produce, meats and canned foods.

RELATED: Why Austin’s new H-Mart is a ‘grocery shopping game changer’

International markets offer glimpse of a growing Austin

A little history: This internationally focused grocery catering to the Hispanic market first opened 46 years ago in Houston. Its flagship Austin location opened in 1993 at 3909 N. Interstate 35. A second location followed in 2001 at 1120 S. Lamar, where the Alamo Drafthouse now stands, but it closed in 2003. Another second location opened on Stassney and Interstate 25 in 2005.

You’ll remember that Fiesta recently won a rotisserie chicken taste test and then tied in a follow-up taste test.



One of Austin’s longest-running organic farms is taking a ‘breather’

After 25 years, Tecolote Farm is taking a break.

David and Katie Pitre have owned Tecolote Farm since 1993. They announced last week that they were pausing their community-supported agriculture program, which is the longest-running CSA in Texas. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

In the mid-1990s, when Katie and David Pitre planted their first crops at their land just east of Austin, no one had heard of a community-supported agriculture program or an email newsletter or a locavore, but that didn’t stop them from starting what is likely the longest-running CSA in the state of Texas.

RELATED: Texas’ oldest CSA has seen community, farm industry transform

Happy 175th to the French Legation and Boggy Creek farmhouse

The CSA officially started in 1994, and despite all the ups and downs that come with running a farm, the Pitres have kept the CSA going, even as more farms, farmers markets and CSAs opened in the area.

Boggy Creek Farm, considered one of the earliest urban farms in the country, opened in 1992 and still operates with several farmstands a week. Hairston Creek opened near Burnet in 1990 and got its organic certification in 1993. In 2006, Green Gate Farm opened its organic farm on the other side of what is now the SH 130 toll road.

But this year, they are taking a “semi-sabbatical” to take a “breather,” and that includes stopping the produce delivery program. “We won’t be doing our CSA this year, so production will be lessened,” they wrote. “Our kitchen garden will be a farmer’s version of one, so we will definitely have surpluses from time to time in the next year ahead, and will show up at market at those times. We are excited for this opportunity to reassess the farm’s direction. We are not retiring, simply looking at how best to shape Tecolote moving forward.”

David Pitre examines herbs and other young plants in his farm’s greenhouse. KATIE URBASZEWSKI/WESTLAKE PICAYUNE

This news comes just a few weeks after Springdale Farm announced that it had sold to developers and would close at the end of summer to make way for some new buildings on the property that is now used to grow food for the farmstand.

AUSTIN FOUND: What did Austin’s farmers markets look like in the 1970s and 1980s?

Amid the ‘farm-to-fable’ controversy, what does it really mean to ‘eat local’?

Here are a few more details from the Tecolote newsletter:

Keeping 20 to 30 crops growing sufficiently well at any given time so as to ensure diversity, plan for abundance, as well as anticipate loss (bugs, weather, pestilence, disease) is an amazing feat here in Central Texas. Don’t mind if we do admit that we do it pretty well. We will continue growing this year on a much smaller scale, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear that we’ll be at a farmers market here and there via our email newsletter, or that we’re supplying a local restaurant with some of our surplus produce. However, the CSA and large scale market production is definitely on hold for 2018, and we will let our future plans be known after we scale back, step back, and assess our plans, hopes, and dreams for the next 25 years.

We appreciate y’all so very much. We will miss seeing you every Saturday in 2018:  it’s what we’ve been doing since we were as old as our son Zachary is now! However, there is much work to do on the farm that gets neglected when we’re busy 24/7. Our fall/winter “off-season” has been shrinking every year, as our wholesale and restaurant business has grown, and the projects are piling up. We will be playing catch up on those projects, taking on some odd jobs (David’s already lining up work doing electrical wiring and mechanical repairs), and venturing into other sustainable farm projects. You have fed us with your loyalty and support, and we will miss feeding you in 2018. Thank you for your understanding, and please stay connected with our other farm endeavors in the meantime. Please keep your Tecolote loyalty intact until further notice! We hope to host some celebrations this year on the occasion of the farm’s Quarter Century Anniversary.

Royal Blue Grocery expanding to downtown San Antonio

Austinites who spend any time downtown are so familiar with Royal Blue Grocery that we take it for granted.

A wine and flower selection sits just beyond on open door at one of the Royal Blue Grocery stores downtown. Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

There are seven Austin locations of these small specialty stores that carry tons of local products and lots of quick and ready-to-eat options for people looking for a meal, a snack or a last-minute ingredient needed to make dinner.

Today, the San Antonio Express News broke the news that Royal Blue will be opening its first location in downtown San Antonio later this year. The company already has two locations in Dallas.

Royal Blue Grocery in downtown Austin. Contributed by Royal Blue Grocery

The 2,500-foot store, which won’t open until September, is under construction in the Savoy Building on Houston Street. “We are not a substitute for a full-size grocer, but we are the three trips in between for one or two things,” Royal Blue owner Craig Staley told the Express News.

With Jack in the Box Super Bowl commercial, Martha Stewart’s transformation now complete

Martha Stewart came out of prison a changed woman.

No longer confined to the precious perfectionism of her previous culinary career, the famed TV host first hit the news shows to talk about the friends and crafts she made while serving five months back in 2004. “I’ll be back,” she promised, not for committing a crime — she always maintained innocence to the insider trading claims — but as a member of the community.

She was 62 then, and in the past decade, Martha has reinvented herself, most notably with her friendship and business partnership with Snoop Dogg, with whom she hosts a cooking show.

In yesterday’s Super Bowl, however, Stewart took it one step further: Appearing in a commercial for Jack in the Box.

As much as I liked the H-E-B commercial for its Quest for Texas Best competition — or its “Spurs Retirement Vehicle” ad promoting the store’s curbside pick-up — I think I’ve decided this Martha Stewart commercial might be my favorite of the night.

What was your favorite Super Bowl Commercial? Did Martha make the right move by agreeing to promote fast food?

RELATED: Best, worst Super Bowl LII commercials

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is co-owner of this downtown Austin restaurant


East Austin’s Springdale Farm announces it will close at the end of summer

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East Austin is poised to lose one of its urban farms.

Glenn and Paula Foore announced in a newsletter today that they planned to “retire Springdale Farm and move on to the next phase of our lives with a focus on health and family.”

Springdale Farm has hosted countless events in the past 10 years, but the owners announced on Wednesday that they would be closing the farm at the end of the summer. They did not announce any plans to sell or develop the property on Springdale Road. Contributed by Springdale Farm.

For the past 10 years, the Foores have run an urban farm with crops available for sale at a twice-a-week farmstand. About six years ago, they opened part of their land to chef Sonya Cote, who now runs her outdoor restaurant Eden East next to the house where chefs and home cooks alike can be found on Wednesday and Friday mornings.

Although the land has always been zoned for commercial use — the Foores first moved their landscape business there more than 26 years ago — Springdale Farm was part of the controversial effort in 2013 to revise the city’s urban farm ordinance.

Along with Boggy Creek, Rain Lily and HausBar, Springdale Farm has hosted an annual fundraiser called the East Austin Urban Farm Tour, which will continue this year, the Foores said in the email:

“These past 10 years in particular have been such an amazing journey. The food community has shown us tremendous support, and we have been so honored to be a part of this wonderful group of people,” they wrote. “The adventures were grand, to be sure: the fun times at the farm stand and the friends we’ve made, the fundraisers, the farm tours and school kids of all ages… The documentaries, the photo shoots, the supper clubs, the politicians on the porch, the celebrities on the grounds. Our daughter’s wedding, and any minute, God willing, we’ll christen the farmhouse with the birth of our first grand baby.”

Springdale Farm is one of four urban farms in one corner of East Austin. Laura Skelding for the Austin American-Statesman.

Springdale Handmade, an offshoot soap and skincare business from farmstand fixture Carla Crownover, will continue to operate, with the products available online and at other retail outlets. The email to customers did not say what would happen with the Springdale Center for Urban Agriculture, a non-profit project that was a recipient of an Austin Food & Wine Alliance culinary grant.

We asked if they had plans to develop the property, rent it out to a new farmer or sell the land, but have not received additional information.

A new year, a new need for donations to help pay off school lunch debt

Remember when paying off school lunches became something of a viral form of activism last year?
Austin ISD serves about 80,000 meals a day, including about 700 to students who are far enough behind in paying for their lunches that they receive a “courtesy” meal that the district absorbs into its operating costs. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Students who can’t pay for their lunch has always been an issue, but it’s on Americans’ minds as school funding and other assistance programs are cut. In the Austin school district alone, the nutrition and food services department serves 80,000 meals per day, including about 700 meals that the students receiving them can’t pay for.
hose courtesy meals, as they are known, cost the school $350,000 each year. In late 2016, AISD opened a crowdfunding campaign that went viral and eventually raised more than $20,000 to help with students’ lunch.
Austin Independent School District provides healthy, nutritious lunches to thousands of students, even if they can’t afford to pay for it, but the courtesy meal ends up coming out of the nutrition and food services budget. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman
Anticipating a similar need this year, AISD launched another crowdfunding campaign with a goal of $10,000 to help students during this school year.
Right now, 24 backers have donated $1,735.
If you’re feeling generous with that post-holiday glow, you can donate here to help alleviate even more student lunch debt in Austin.
Here’s how you can help other Austin-area schools with lunch debt.

What food rescue group Keep Austin Fed really wants for Christmas this year

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Keep Austin Fed has been preventing food waste and reducing hunger in Austin since 2004, but it wasn’t until last year that they could hire their first employee.

Lisa Barden, program director for Keep Austin Fed, left, hands Melissa McClure prepackaged food from Snap Kitchen as Anne Hebert, a volunteer from Keep Austin Fed, sorts through a cooler. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Thanks to winning the Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s top grant of $10,000, the organization was able give more hours to Executive Director Lisa Barden, who became the organization’s first full-time employee a little more than a year ago.

RELATED: Keep Austin Fed keeps food out of the trash, gives it to Austinites in need

Melissa McClure, 36, bakes leftover bread she turned into croutons. She says she avoids wasting food by making juice from bruised fruit and turning extra bread into breadcrumbs or croutons. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

For more than a decade, Keep Austin Fed operated entirely on volunteer effort. Founder Ira Kaplan gathered the first volunteers in 2004, and the nonprofit became official in 2014. It wasn’t until 2015 that Barden started volunteering.

“I’d watched a movie called ‘Just Eat It’ and was overwhelmed by the amount of food waste, but I was a little incredulous that that much food waste actually exists,” she says. After picking up excess food as a volunteer, she saw what the statistics tell us: Forty percent of food doesn’t actually get eaten.

Lisa Barden, program director for Keep Austin Fed, collects apples and other food donations from Austin Achieve Public Schools to donate on Dec. 1. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The quantity of food surprised her, but Barden says she was most shocked by just how many people needed it. “That blew me away even more than the waste,” she says. “I got hooked. The warm fuzzies when you deliver the food is a powerful thing.”

Every month, about 20 to 25 businesses donate about 56,000 pounds of food — that’s almost 50,000 meals — that Keep Austin Fed volunteers pick up and deliver to more than a dozen partner agencies, including Foundation Communities, Caritas, Salvation Army, refugee communities, day habilitation programs and church food pantries.

Anne Hebert, a Keep Austin Fed volunteer, puts donated food from Snap Kitchen into a cooler before dropping prepackaged meals to La Reunion in Austin on Dec. 1, 2017. La Reunion received about 30 pounds of food from Snap Kitchen that day. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The highest-volume donors, including Snap Kitchen, Trader Joe’s, Eddie V’s and the Westin Hotel, have scheduled pickups every week, but many donations come in by phone.

After they learn of a donation, Barden puts out the call to volunteers to see if someone is available to transport the food. The organization hasn’t been able to buy trucks or a van to move food, so volunteers, who have been trained in food safety and handling, use their own vehicles. They deliver hot food hot, and most organizations distribute it that way.

Keep Austin Fed relies on a small pool of about 70 volunteers, so they do have to turn away food sometimes, especially on the weekends. “We could rescue so much more food if we had volunteers with flexible schedules,” Barden says. “There’s so much more to be done. We’re hamstrung” by a lack of volunteers. (Interested in volunteering? Go to to find out more.)

At some point, she’d like them to have their own trucks and cold storage, so they could keep donations cool overnight. For now, Keep Austin Fed’s lean machine will keep moving as much food as it can to fight hunger.

Keep Austin Fed accepts donations from anyone, but the food must prepared in a commercial kitchen and can’t have been served on a buffet or to an individual. Barden reminds potential donors that, thanks to laws passed in the 1990s, there are federal protections for people who donate food, so there’s no liability.

In 2016, Snap Kitchen donated more than 200,000 individually packed meals to Keep Austin Fed, and they are on pace to meet that this year. With such high volume, a Keep Austin Fed volunteer comes every day to the Northwest Austin store, where meals from all the area stores are consolidated.

Shaady Ghadessy, brand director for Snap Kitchen, says that the company has similar partnerships with food rescue organizations in Plano, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

Ghadessy says Snap Kitchen employees become invested in the donation as they get to know the volunteers and learn more about where the food is going. “There’s an immediacy. You know they are headed to this place and this is what’s for dinner tonight.”

H-E-B accepting cash register donations for Sutherland Springs’ victims, families

When something good or bad happens in Texas, H-E-B tends to be there.

All H-E-B stores in Texas are accepting donations for the victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting, which took place outside H-E-B’s home city of San Antonio. Jay Janner/American-Statesman

This weekend, the San Antonio-based grocery store hosted a tent at the Texas Book Festival, but after the church shooting in Sutherland Springs outside San Antonio on Sunday, where 26 people were killed, the grocery announced that it would be accepting donations at the cash register for victims and their families.

Click here to find the latest news on Sutherland Springs shooting

HOW TO HELP: Sutherland Springs Church shooting

According to the San Antonio Current, it’s part of H-E-B’s Helping Here campaign, which raises money through $1, $3, $5, $50 or $100 donations paid for at the check-out. One hundred percent of the funds donated will be given to the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, the store announced today, and all H-E-Bs in Texas are accepting donations.

Sweet dreams are coming true: Toy Joy opening store dedicated to candy, ice cream

If you’re a kid, the only thing better than walking into a toy store is walking into a candy store, and Toy Joy is getting ready to serve you up with both.

Longtime Austin toy shop Toy Joy is opening a candy store called Yummi Joy next to the shop on Second Street. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The longtime toy store, which moved from its campus-area home to a space on Second Street several years ago, announced this week that it is opening a candy shop next door called Yummi Joy, 409 W. Second St. in the space that formerly housed Cafe Ruckus.

Later this month, you’ll find a rainbow of nostalgic candies, bulk sweets, gummies, lollipops, chocolates, as well as ice cream from Sweet Ritual, whose co-founder Amelia Raley first worked at Toy Joy when it was up on Guadalupe and 29th Street. They will have classic sodas, coffee and hot chocolate.

The ice cream will be for sale via a walk-up window on West Second Street, and the window will be open later than the candy shop to accommodate late night restaurant patrons and concert-goers leaving ACL, according to a release.

The candy section at Toy Joy will expand into its own store later this month. Contributed by Toy Joy


“Candy has been a very popular item at Toy Joy and our creative staff has loads of fun ideas for tasty new treats to bring to our customers, including artisan fudge products,” co-founder and CEO Fred Schmidt, who also owns Wild About Music.

Toy Joy manager and partner Robby Pettinato added: “Three years ago this toy business found itself in foreclosure under prior ownership but is now doing better than ever as longtime regulars have found us again and, at the same time, we are now discoverable by all the throngs of tourists, conventioneers and residents in this new downtown location.”


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