Mostly about food, this blog is just a place for me to throw things that are of interest to me. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by an look around. This represents just some of the stops on the various pathways that this amateur home cook finds himself.

You may find that these foods tend toward protein and away from carbohydrates - this is due to diabetic issues, so I try to only sparingly use carbs, and good ones at that. Of course, sometimes I forget....

Feel free to drop me a line with any suggestions or just to let me know what you think. Thanks!

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I want to thank you for the time that you spend here, and hope that you can find useful things here.


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another year closes

As this year comes to a close, and before the festivities start this evening, I took a little time to reflect on how blessed I am, especially in this year of social and economic turmoil. I live 50 miles from work, and people always ask me why I drive so far. Lately, its been less of a strain, as I am able to work from home a few days a week now. Anyway, here's why I drive so far:

Here's a view to the southwest. The hills in the far distance are about halfway to San Antonio from here. Also in that direction is the closest cell tower, 5 miles away.
A view to the south. The ridge in the background is several miles the other side of the Medina River. A cool refreshing place to be in the summer!
Partway down our road. It's about 1/10th of a mile to the pavement. It cuts down through layers of limestone and caliche, and is nearly impossible to keep graded because of it. The rough road and the gate at the bottom do help to keep the riff-raff out, though.
A view due north. In contrast to the balance of the hill, this side is all cactus and cedar breaks. Turkeys, armadillos, deer, and rabbits and other edible treats abound here.
A look towards the utilitarian northwest. Here you can see more cedar, the curve of the well house, the odd blue pyramid and the ubiquitous pipe rack.
It's views like that which keep me living here and working there. Here's to hoping all of us can take some time and appreciate what we have been given. The secret to happiness is simple - rather than having what you want, want what you have.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sausage Ranchera

Here’s a little piece of Tex-Mex cooking I haven’t seen or heard of outside South Texas. I adapted it from an old Mexican cook that worked in the cafeteria kitchen at my place of employment. He was a little vague on some things, but after much experimentation I think this is about a perfect copy of the dish. He tasted it and thought it was great – that makes it good enough for me! It's a great option to regular old breakfast tacos, but is good anytime. It is served especially at our New Year's Day cowboy breakfasts.


2 lb. smoked pork sausage, cut into 3/8” medallions, halved

1 T real lard or highly filtered bacon grease

1 lg. white onion (or 2 medium), cut into 2” strips

1 lg. green bell pepper, cut into 2” strips

1 lg. red bell pepper, cut into 2” strips

3 lg. Hatch chiles, , cut into 2” strips

1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes, chopped

3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce

1 T tomato paste


2 T round chili powder

1 T round black pepper, coarse-ground

1 T round paprika

1 T round cumin

1 T round garlic powder

½ t level cayenne pepper


Place lard into a large skillet and melt over medium heat. Add cut-up sausage, stirring often and frying until sausage develops a crust (not blackened).

Add onions and cook until translucent.

Add next 6 ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally until softened.

Add spices, stirring to incorporate. Mix in some water (about 8 oz or so) and reduce to a low simmer. Cover and simmer (without boiling) for 2 hrs. This is really necessary to incorporate flavors and remove the acidity of the tomatoes. Remove cover and cook to desired consistency. You don’t want it too liquid, as it is served in tortillas and you don’t want it running down your arm!

I like to serve it with salt and more pepper, chopped white onion and cilantro, and maybe a dash of lime juice. Feel free to adjust heat factors, but try it this way first as a baseline.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in Corpus Christi

Back from a long weekend. It was a long, trying time, with ups and downs along the way. It started with a Christmas morning departure for the Texas Coast. If you go through Corpus Christi you enter Padre Island, and following the road to it's end, you arrive here:

The only camping available is without utilities - if you want it you take it with you. The campground was about 3/4 full, surprising given the temps in the 50s & 60s and the steady 25-35 MPH winds! The Adventure 1 truck tent did a yeoman's job, withstanding the gale winds and rains with aplomb. Nice and cozy in the hi-loft sleeping bag, too. Here is the rig, set up for action:

The humidity was pervasive, but the cool temperatures lessened the impact. what was truly amazing was that it went from overcast to fogbound in less than 20 minutes. Look at the above picture again, and then look at the one below. There was supposed to be a Star Party Saturday night at the Visitor's Center, but there was no way for the starlight to get through this:

The best part was that it was time away from the crowds and craziness that Christmas has evolved into, and was a good time to just disengage and relax. In the summer, Padre Island is sun, tourists and craziness - in winter, it's a few hearty individuals and the sea. Not a hard choice.

The worst part was that some poor unfortunate decided that he needed my laptop more than I did, and broke into the truck to take it during an excursion into town. It was under wraps and locked up but I guess that wasn't good enough. Fortunately, it was password protected and I have changed my online account passwords. Live and learn. Here's to hoping that the balance of 2008 remains uneventful for all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas, y'all

It's that hurried-up, bunched-together, too-many-irons-in-the-fire time of year. First came Halloween, and then the next day it's Christmas already - with a pit stop at the family trough for Thanksgiving. Sometimes it seems like the scurrying around that society encourages at this time of year might be contagious - I for one don't want to catch it.

So this year, the plan is to leave early Christmas morning and head to the beach for the weekend - four days of tent camping without electricity, plumbing or neighbors. Maybe some time away will help overcome the oppressive crush of secular insanity at Christmas. If I think about it, I'll take a few pictures to share. Have a wonderful Christmas, y'all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Texas Weather

Lately, the weather here in the Hill Country and the surrounding area has been crazy!

12/11 - 36 degrees - evening freezing rain, sleet and snow
12/12 - 76 degrees - lots of wind
12/13 - 60 degrees - 35+ MPH wind
12/14 - 75 degrees - gorgeous
12/15 - 78 degrees - gorgeous
12/16 - 40 degrees- freezing rain

Supposed to be back in the mid-70s this coming weekend.

Like they say, "If you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait a few minutes..."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lord Love a Disco


Cooking in a used tractor disc? It's not some weird farm cook's joke. It is actually called 'discada' (Spanish for cooking in an agricultural disk or 'disco') and originated in Mexico many decades ago. While technically any meal so prepared is discada, there is a traditional dish that actually bears the name - although the dish has many variations depending on locale and what family is doing the cooking. I found and will present later what is an archetypical recipe for it, served wrapped in warm, fresh tortillas and topped off with crisp cilantro and a splash of lime.

The disco was originally made from plow disks as they wore out and were replaced. After being unbolted from the tillier, the hole(s) in the disc must be welded shut. Sometimes a rim is welded along the top edge and often legs of varying length are attached to the bottom. Mine has no legs, but has a couple of horseshoes welded on for handles. They stay cool enough to be handled as they are pretty far from the fire. The size of discos seem to vary, with a contour that is more curved than a skillet and more shallow than a wok. My disco was made for me by the South Texas welding wizard Bobby Bridges. Some (mine included) actually has a depressed center section that can be used for oil frying. I use a turkey fryer burner to heat the disco, as it takes a decent flame and a camp stove won't cut it. They can be used over a campfire, though, and charcoal or wood fires are the traditional method.

An important feature is that the steel is usually 1/4" thick, so unlike a wok doesn't require the huge flame that a wok does. Being that heavy allows the center to remain piping hot, with a gradual decrease in temperature as food is placed nearer to the rim. This allows food away from the center to stay warm while not getting overcooked or burned. On my disco there is a ring of welding beads placed a couple of inches from the rim. This is one of Bobby's innovations. While you are oil frying, this little addition allows you to pull cooked items, like fish fillets, up on them to drain without worrying about them sliding back into the center.

Here's the bottom of my disco, showing the welded up mounting hole and the horseshoe handles:

Here's the business side, showing a well-seasoned interior and the beads welded around the edge for retaining larger items:

The disco in action as a fryer, showing a camping friend from St. Louis using it to prepare that town's signature dish - Fried Ravioli:

They are also great for frying fish, hush puppies, or anything in a similar manner. Another treat is using them for doing fajitas - the ability to control heat by moving food around works well between the meat and veggies, and you can heat the tortillas up around the outside. This tool is only limited by your imagination.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Traditional Discada

In some ways discada resembles a paella, as all is cooked in one pan and there are many ingredients. Discada appeals to my inner carnivore, because instead of a lot of rice and vegetables as a filler, it is mostly meat. One interesting note is the use of Vienna sausages and/or diced pineapple in many recipes, inexpensively adding to taste, texture and volume when you need to stretch your dollars. This will probably server 25-30 people, so the cost per each is really pretty small.

***Version from Durango, Mexico - not my recipe or my disco***

How to serve 30 people with $75"


5 pounds of lean beef round or other affordable cut

7 pounds of not-so-lean beef round or other affordable cut (think juicier & tastier discada)

2.5 pounds of baked ham

2.5 pounds of Vienna sausages

1.5 pounds of smoked bacon

1.5 pounds of chorizo

5 medium sized tomatoes

2 medium sized onions

14 jalapenos

Garlic powder to taste

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

Paprika addded for color


I don't know what the Spanish term for "mise en place" is, but it really applies here. Prepare all the ingredients first, it will make it much easier as you go along.

Slice tomatoes into thin wedges. Same goes for onions. Roast and peel a dozen jalapenos, and then dice for the discada. Remember to save other jalapenos for the Pico de Gallo. Dice both types of beef, as well as the ham, bacon and Vienna sausages. Remove casing from chorizo if it has it. Reserve each meat on a separate plate or bowl.

Turn up the heat and add a bit of vegetable oil, and when hot add the chorizo, cooking and stirring until it comes apart. Move the chorizo out of the center of the disco and toss in the bacon. Once the bacon starts to render, move it out of the center and toss in a handful of onions

When the onions are translucent, make a hole in the middle and add ham and the sausages. They are already cooked, so you don't want to overdo it. You just want to get that great bacon fat all over them!

Now push all that stuff out toward the rim, opening a large hole in the middle. Toss in the fattier beef, then the lean beef on top of that.

Onions, tomatoes and peppers go on to of everything. Add first batch of seasonings and paprika to color. Without mixing it up, turn the fire down low and cover for 7-8 minutes.

Then you can mix it all up and cook covered for another 10 minutes or so. Mix again, and cook for another 15 minutes.

While you are doing all this mixing and waiting, you can make your Pico de Gallo, ready your beans and gather all the toppings. When time's up, all the veggies and meat have given up their juices, and it's ready to eat. If youo want, you can continue to cook over a medium heat if desired to reduce the liquid, but that's optional - you just don't want to saturate the tortillas. When it is how you like it, turn heat to low, heat the tortillas and serve it up!


Serve with Borracho or basic pinto beans, Pico de Gallo, guacamole, cilantro, lime wedges, crema, chiles and salsa. Corn tortillas are traditional, but I confess I am a flour tortilla man. If you really want to impress your guests, make them yourself. In the interest of full disclosure, I don't use the ham or Vienna sausages, my palate just doesn't understand them in this setting.

I picked up a couple of Hot Chicks!

I ran across a special deal at the store – a pair of young hens together for under $4.00. Not Cornish game hens, rock or otherwise, as a whole rock Cornish game hen is about the size of just the body of one of these. They were crying out to me to visit the smoker, so I had to oblige them

Here they are getting ready. They have just come out of a 4-hour brine and been rinsed. The one on the right is ready to go, and the one on the left is just being prepared. Note the right bird all nicely tucked in. The knife in the left one shows the location of one of the two ‘vest pockets’ I make in the skin of the bird, not too big. Then I tuck the wingtips into these, and since the slots are snug, the wings are retained for the duration of the cook. This keeps the wings from flying around all over, and makes a nicer presentation (see last foto). I do this for anything from game hens to turkeys – works like a charm!

A remote thermometer was inserted in the thickest breast and was set to 165 degrees, They went into a smoker at 275 degrees and smoked until the temp was reached. Then I pulled them, foiled them and let them rest for 15 minutes.

I also took advantage of the smoke and loaded 4 hamburger patties on the tray above the birds. Try smoked burgers instead of grilled sometime – a great treat. They will be used for quick meals later, just microwave them and instant fresh smoked burgers! The burgers dripping grease as they cooked apparently worked well to keep the birds lubed and moist - never had a bird this moist cooked in any fashion.

Well, here they are. The little patch on the breast of one was the thermometer entry point. Golden brown, delicious, juicy and just the right smoke level and pink flesh. These may go into heavy rotation at our place!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Las Colinas Green Chile Stew

This is actually a stew based on a Navajo dish. Not quite a chili, nor a stew. Pretty good stuff though. One thing a fiend adds is cubed squash as well.

4 strips bacon
1.5 lb cubed mutton, venison, pork or beef
5 cloves garlic, diced
2 onions, chopped
1 can beer, stale
5 bay leaves
dash vinegar
1 t cumin seed
2 T dried leaf oregano
3 potatoes, cubed
2 cups cubed squash
1 t sugar
2 C peeled and roasted poblano or other large green chiles, in approx. 1-2" pieces
ground black pepper
water (or stock) to cover

1. Make the base: fry bacon in heavy pan. Remove and reserve crisp bacon. Brown cubed meat in remaining bacon fat. Add garlic and onion, sautéing until onion begins to brown.

2. Start the stew: add beer, bay leaves, vinegar, cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until meat starts getting tender, 1-2 hours.

3. Finish the stew: add potatoes, sugar and water/stock to cover. When potatoes get tender, add green chiles and squash. Simmer another 5-10 minutes and serve.

4. Service: garnish stew with reserved bacon and serve with heated flour tortillas. Other garnishes that work include crema (or sour cream), pico de gallo (as always), wedges of lime and minced cilantro.

Carne con Chiles (y Cerveza?)

This is my heritage chili recipe. It hearkens back to the chili made long ago by folks on the trail, or those of little means. Note the absence of both beans and tomato products. It can be a bit spicy, what with the all the chile products - you may adjust them either way. For total authenticity, replace the beer with water.

Note: at no time does this recipe, or any other true chili recipe, call for the inclusion of beans! If need be, good pinto beans may be served on the side.

3 T olive oil
2 large sweet onions, diced fine
3 Poblano peppers, seeded and diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 t kosher salt
4.5 lb beef chuck roast, trimmed and in 1" cubes
2 bay leaves
1/4 C New Mexico chile powder
4t chipotle (or cayenne) chili powder
4t ground cumin
12 oz. good Mexican beer
2 qt. beef broth

1. Heat 2T oil in skillet over medium high heat. Cook onions until soft, add Poblanos and cook until soft, reducing heat if necessary to prevent browning. Add garlic and salt, cook 5 more minutes.

2. Heat remaining oil in Dutch oven, add beef in batches, browning well on all sides. Return all beef to pot, add remaining spices until they form a thick paste on meat. De-glaze with ale.

3. Add broth to Dutch oven, cover loosely and simmer until meat is tender (~3 hours).

4. Remove 2C of beef chunks with slotted spoon, shred with fork and return to pot along with pepper/onion skillet mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Uncover Dutch oven and reduce liquid to desired consistency.

Serve with Pico de Gallo (see Recipes) on top of chili for garnish.

Pico de Gallo

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 My favorite topper for Mexican and Tex-Mex food - doesn't keep all that long so make it fresh!

1/2 red onion, minced
6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 C fresh cilantro, minced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and finely minced (or try using the Green Tabasco sauce)
1T lime juice
salt and pepper and garlic powder to taste

Combine and chill before service.


I don't know if any of you have done these, but it makes a nice little treat if you are looking for a change. I call them "piglets" - what could be better than tender pork wrapped in bacon?

After picking up two nice-sized pork tenderloins, I trimmed them up and removed the silver skin. Starting at the thick end, I sliced them about 1 1/4" thick, and as it got smaller I made the slices thicker. These smaller slices I pounded a bit to get them the same dimension as the other slices. Each of these gets wrapped with a nice slice of hearty bacon.

A litter of piglets just produced:

Tonight's guys thawed and ready to go:

When cooking, I treat the piglets to some EVOO and fresh ground sea salt and coarse-ground pepper. The pork is super-tender, and the bacon and seasoning make a nice little crust. They are pretty rich, and two is a decent serving per person. Pretty inexpensive if you need a fancy item for a dinner or a party. My next time out I am going to run them on a skewer for grilling, that might be easier than turning them individually, and it would look cool. Here's the result:


Parisa - A Texas/Alsatian microtreasure

I have some friends that live just south of me in Medina County where the Texas Hill Country meets the Texas Grassland, in an area known as "Little Alsace". People settled there after coming from the Alsace region of France. Their French/German traditions live on in the area including the cities of Hondo, D'Hanis, Castroville and Quihi. If you live in the area you are bound to pick up some of the local things, and in this case, that's a good thing.

One of the things that came to the area along with them is a dish called Parisa. I haven't heard that it can be found anywhere in the US but in this small area.

Alsatian Parisa

* 1 lb. exceptionally lean beef

* 1 onion, minced very fine

* 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, de-veined and minced
* 6 ounces cheddar cheese, very finely grated
(I have even tried pepper jack - pretty good too, but not authentic)

juice from a couple small limes
(or one big one!)

** 2 t fresh ground sea salt
- coarse (can use kosher salt if youhave no salt grinder)
** 1 T fresh ground black pepper
- coarse
** 2 t garlic powder

Regular crackers or Ritz for serving the goodies


1. No matter where you get the meat or who grinds it, it should be ground through the fine plate of the grinder. You don't want this chunky.
See important note at bottom of post. Work quickly so meat stays cold through the entire process.

2. Have all ingredients prepared in advance. Combine first four ingredients(*) and mix well to incorporate. Add lime juice, mix again to distribute. Refrigerate.

3. While meat mixture is resting, mix remaining three ingredients together(**). Feel free to experiment with additions and quantities, but it's worth making it this way once as a baseline. Sprinkle spice mix over meat, and mix once more to incorporate well througout the parisa.

Feel free to adjust the spices to suit your taste! Mix it very well, and chill. It tastes best if you make it at least a day before you plan on eating it, as it lets the flavors all mingle. Yo will want an airtight cover over it, or at least press plastic wrap down on the surface to prevent oxidation and picking up srange fridge odors. Goes down best when served on regular crackers or even a Ritz!

IMPORTANT - Meat Grinding Basics:

1. The most important thing to remember in making any fresh ground meat dish is that everything must be excruciatingly CLEAN. I can not stress this enough. This meat is served *raw*, so there is no compromise here. Also, it should be as lean as possible - you want no fat, connective tissue or anything else in there with the meat.

2. Keep the meat chilled as you work with it, whether hamburger, sausage or sirloin. Some people even pack an ice pack around the grinder head while grinding. You can also keep the meat bowl chillled in an ice bath or the like so that it's temperature stays low.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sunday - Luckenbach, Texas

December 7th represents a final hurrah for the Sunday afternoon concerts held for the last 3 years and hosted by Butch Morgan. He'll still be there occasionally, but still...

It surely worth the drive and the time, so come out from 1 to 5 p.m. and join the farewell party!

I essentially live...

... a boring life. So for the time being, many of my posts here will center around a passion - food! Prepare for a few recipes of mine, and together we'll have a repository of my quasi-unique culinary efforts.

Hopefully before too long something will actually happen in my life, and in that case I will happily report it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Navajo Tacos

Indian fry bread is the foundation of a popular dish called Indian Tacos. Originally known as Navajo Tacos, they have been adopted by other tribes. The Navajo taco was voted the State Dish of Arizona in a 1995 poll conducted by the Arizona Republic newspaper. Indian tacos are the universal modern powwow food. They are also popular attractions at many fairs, festivals, and outdoor summer shows held in the southwest. People will line up to wait their turn to buy some freshly made tacos. Indian tacos are a combination of beans or ground beef, chopped lettuce, sliced tomato, shredded Cheddar cheese, and optional green chiles atop plate-sized rounds of crispy Navajo or Indian fry bread. No plates or silverware are need, as you just fill the fry bread with your desired filling, roll it up, and eat.

1 pound lean ground meat (beef, lamb, venison or pork)

1 cup diced onion
4 cooked Navajo Frybreads
1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded

3 tomatoes, diced

2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1 (3-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained

Sour cream (optional)

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, brown ground meat and onions until cooked; remove from heat.

Place Frybread, cupped side up, on separate plates. Layer ground meat, lettuce, tomatoes, Cheddar cheese, and green chiles onto top of each Fry Bread. Top with sour cream, if desired, and either roll up or serve open-faced with a fork.

Makes 4 servings.

Navajo Frybread

Indian fry bread is tradition to the Navajo, and comes with a story of great pain and suffering. Though the tradition of fry bread is common among many Southwestern Tribes, it is the Navajo who developed this recipe. After forcing nearly 10,000 Navajo from the reservation on "The Long Walk", they were interred with the Mescalero Apache. The government supplies of lard, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder or yeast, and powdered milk were meager and often rancid. This was supplanted with any game that could be taken. Creating what they could from adversity, fry bread came from these few foods that were provided during the 4 years of captivity. Since that time, it has become common food at most all PowWows of numerous tribes and has truly become a pan-Indian food that most all tribes now enjoy. Also provides the basis for Navajo Tacos.

1 cup unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon powdered milk

2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup water, more as needed

Vegetable oil for frying

Sift together the flour, salt, powdered milk, and baking powder into a large bowl. Pour the water over the flour mixture all at once and stir the dough with a fork until it starts to form one big clump. Flour your hands. Using your hands, begin to mix the dough, trying to get all the flour into the mixture to form a ball.

NOTE: You want to mix this well, but you do NOT want to knead it. Kneading it will make for a heavy frybread when cooked. The inside of the dough ball should still be sticky after it is formed, while the outside will be well floured.
Cut the dough into two to four pieces, depending on the size frybreads you want to make. Using your floured hands, shape, stretch, pat, and form a disk of about 1/4" inches thick. Don’t worry about it being round. It isn't a wheel, and it won't be in one piece long... Heat the vegetable oil to about 350 degrees F.

NOTE: You can check by either dropping a small piece of dough in the hot oil and seeing if it begins to fry, or by dipping the end of a wooden spoon in and seeing if that bubbles. Your oil should be about 1-inch deep in a large cast-iron skillet or other large fryer.

Take the formed dough and put a hole in the center about the size of your index finger. This has a spiritual significance, but the reason to do it is that it evens out the oil heat and prevents the frybread from bubbling up in the center.

Now gently place it into the oil, being careful not to splatter the hot oil. Press down on the dough as it fries so the top is submersed into the hot oil. Fry until light golden brown, and then flip to fry the other side. Each side will take about 3 to 4 minutes.

Indian Fry Bread can be kept warm in a 200 degree F. oven for up to 1 hour. They refrigerate well and can be reheated in a 350 degree F. oven for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.