As if surviving a listeria outbreak wasn’t enough, Blue Bell is facing the wrath of its fans for a different reason this winter.
The company’s big holiday flavor this year was supposed to be Christmas cookies — chocolate chip, snickerdoodle and sugar cookies combined in a sugar cookie ice cream with red sprinkles and a green icing swirl — but, as KUT pointed out today, fans are quickly discovering that there’s no Christmas cookie ice cream to be found, in part because it went on sale before Halloween.
In the nearly 8,000 comments on the Facebook post announcing the flavor, many customers requested other holiday flavors they miss or can’t find, but some got pretty worked up about the lack of the promised Christmas cookie flavor.
Hugh Acheson jumped into the national spotlight when he competed on “Top Chef Masters,” but after he went on to become a “Top Chef” judge and cookbook author, he’s become a food celebrity in his own right.
Inspired by the recent revival of slow cookers, the Georgia-based chef has a new book called ““The Chef and the Slow Cooker” (Clarkson Potter, $29.95) that includes recipes for restaurant-inspired dishes made in the humblest of kitchen appliances.
Acheson will be in Austin this weekend for a cooking demo and book signing from noon to 2 p.m. at Whole Foods Market, 525 N. Lamar Blvd. He’ll be making tacos with a slow cooker, and proceeds from taco sales will go to Seed Life Skills, a non-profit that Acheson started to help get kids cooking and connect science to real life problems.
Pot Roast with Charred Onion and Chickpea Salad
This is a perfect early fall meal, capturing the abundance of peppers and onions that the harvest has brought. Pot roast sometimes gets a bad rap for being dry, boring and bland. I understand the hesitation with dishes that maybe you had bad versions of growing up, but this recipe shines a new light on a classic. Using chuck and cooking it slow-and-low allows it time to fully develop its flavor. Pair it with a fresh chickpea salad to brighten up the dish.
— Hugh Acheson
1 boneless beef chuck roast (about 3 pounds)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 medium carrots, large-diced
1 large sweet onion, large-diced
6 garlic cloves, smashed
6 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 quart beef stock
1 quart dry red wine
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
For the onion and chickpea salad:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large red onion, halved lengthwise, root end of each half left intact
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (from about 1 bunch)
4 red jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Place a large braising pan, such as a Dutch oven, over high heat and warm the canola oil in it until it shimmers. Add the chuck roast and sear it for about 5 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Transfer the roast to a plate to rest, and add the carrots and onion to the braising pan. Cook for 3 minutes on high heat, stirring, until the vegetables are starting to soften; then add the garlic, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs and cook for 1 minute more. Add the stock, red wine, and ground coriander and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the contents into a slow cooker. Add the chuck roast, cover with the lid, and cook on the low setting for 8 to 10 hours, until very tender. Season with additional salt, if desired.
While the roast cooks, prepare the salad: Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil, and when it begins to shimmer, add the onion halves, cut-side down, and char for about 10 minutes — you want them to be well blackened. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the onion halves cool to room temperature; then slice each half into ¼-inch-thick half-rings.
In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, cilantro, jalapeños, charred onion slices, lemon juice, olive oil, and cumin. Toss well and season with salt to taste.
When it’s time to serve, pat the chuck roast dry and season it all over with salt and the pepper. Transfer the roast to a platter, discard the bay and thyme, and serve with salad on the side.
You might never have to set foot in an H-E-B again.
For many Texans, not shopping at H-E-B is like not watching the Longhorns or not eating breakfast tacos, but as the grocery delivery industry ramps us, the grocers themselves are coming up with ways to save customers time and money on delivery fees. That means trying to compete with them.
With its H-E-B Curbside service, rather than deliver the groceries all the way to your house, H-E-B is betting that you’re OK with spending a flat $4.95 fee to swing by the store on the way home and pick up your food. You can’t use coupons or in-store discounts, but the prices are otherwise the same as in the store. UDPATE: From an H-E-B rep: “On some items H-E-B Curbside adds a nominal price increase to an item to underwrite this service, but not more than 3% on average.”
H-E-B now offers curbside grocery pick-up at 17 of more than 40 stores in the Austin area, and to encourage new users this fall, the company is offering four free curbside pick-ups, no matter how large the order.
I tried the service for the first time on Sunday, and it was seamless. It was nice to see familiar prices and packages online, and the set fee makes it easy to understand what I’m paying for. Any extra prices I paid weren’t high enough for me to notice. I picked out the groceries online at lunchtime on Friday, but all the pickup times for that afternoon were taken, so I picked one on Sunday. It took longer than I thought to click my way to a decent grocery cart, but I was relying on my memory of the store and my fridge back home. I know this step will be faster once my order history is set and many of the items I buy week after week will be easy to reorder.
When I went to pick up the groceries at the Oltorf and Congress H-E-B, I parked in one of the spots outside the mural-covered trailer they’ve converted into a curbside building. A sign instructs you to text a code to a number, and then you get a message saying someone will be out to load the groceries into your car. A few minutes later, a store employee came to my window, where I signed for the groceries and then he loaded them in the trunk. I didn’t even get out of the car.
He wouldn’t take a tip. The store’s service saved me about half an hour. That’s worth $5, especially when I’m swamped, but there’s no way I’d give up the pleasure of pushing a cart through a store, looking at the groceries and thinking about what I’m going to be eating the week ahead. I can do that at a computer using my imagination to walk through the store’s colorful, tactile inventory, but where’s the fun in that?
The company has been working on this convenience feature at stores throughout Texas, and by the end of the year, 100 stores will offer it. As they expand and invest into each curbside pickup locations, there’s no doubt that many customers will find it helpful now and then and some who will find it indispensable for everyday shopping.
Today is the last day you should be eating Thanksgiving leftovers.
The USDA says that Sunday should be the last day to eat turkey that was cooked on Thursday. I’m on the generous side when it comes to leftover food, so I’d say today — tomorrow max, people — should be the last day you’re eating all those delicious casseroles, side dishes and meats from last week.
For dinner last night, I used puff pastry to make Thanksgiving Hot Pockets. The puff pastry doesn’t taste identical to the breading in the Hot Pockets of your youth, but it was good enough for at least one of my kids. (The other one didn’t like the cheesy broccoli inside. Tough crowd!)
I can think of few comfort foods I love more than my family’s chicken and noodles.
My mom learned how to make handmade noodles from one of my dad’s co-workers in the 1990s, and the recipe instantly became a family classic.
It’s a quick dough made with eggs, oil, flour, salt and baking powder, and a pizza cutter makes quick work of cutting the noodles once the dough is rolled out. Drop the noodles in the boiling liquid, cover and cook for 15 minutes if the noodles are really thin or as long as 30 if they are thick.
This is the perfect noodle for a post-Thanksgiving pot of turkey soup, so make sure you’ve saved those turkey carcasses.
As I learned from Maggie Perkins recently, roasting the turkey bones before making the stock really does make all the different in the flavor. For the first time in the history of my homemade broth-making, I didn’t have to add any salt (or additional bouillon) to the liquid, in part because the turkeys had been brined.
RELATED: The secrets to really good post-Thanksgiving turkey gumbo
2 eggs, whisked
2 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
In a measuring cup, mix together the eggs, oil and water. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and make a stiff dough. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. Use a pizza cutter to cut into thin strips. Place into boiling broth or soup, cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes or until the noodles are cooked. Serves 6 to 8.
The biggest food week of the year is here, but you might already be feeling overwhelmed.
Cooking breakfast for guests who are staying in your house can be a tricky affair. When you’re busy trying to make sure their stay is enjoyable, deciding which meals to make can be one of the more challenging pieces of the puzzle.
She uses challah, but you could use any kind of bread. I wouldn’t skip the pumpkin, though, because it adds moisture to what is essentially a bread pudding. Many slow cookers heat a little unevenly, so DiGregorio explains how to avoid accidentally burning one side of the dish by adding a foil collar around the base of the insert.
Pumpkin Challah French Toast Bake
This is basically a pumpkin pie breakfast bread pudding. It will not look pretty coming out of the slow cooker — don’t worry, a dusting of powdered sugar and a sprinkling of pecans do wonders.
— Sarah DiGregorio
1 challah loaf (10 to 12 ounces), cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks (about 9 cups)
6 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
Powdered sugar, for topping
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped, for topping
Pure maple syrup, for serving
If the bread is not already stale, heat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until they are very dry and crisp, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker: Fold a large piece of foil into a 3-inch-by-12-inch strip and press it against the side of the insert that runs the hottest, using the foil like a collar or a shield. The hot spot is probably the wall of the insert farthest from the control panel. This will keep that side of the French toast from scorching or cooking too quickly. If your slow cooker runs very hot and tends to overbrown on all sides, line the other side with a foil collar as well.
Then line the entire insert with a piece of parchment, making sure the parchment comes up at least 2 inches on all sides. This is to prevent sticking and also to make it easier to reach in and remove the French toast. (You’re using 1 piece of parchment so that the egg mixture doesn’t run between 2 layers of parchment when you pour it in.)
Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, granulated sugar, half-and-half, vanilla, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Put the bread into the prepared cooker. Pour the egg mixture all over the bread, keeping all the liquid contained in the parchment liner and making sure all the bread gets moistened, pressing the bread down into the liquid if necessary. Cover and cook until the custard is just set: on high for 2 hours 30 minutes, on low for 4 hours, or on high for 1 hour 30 minutes followed by warm for 7 hours. Serves 6 to 8.
Roasting (or frying!) a turkey on Thanksgiving isn’t nearly as hard as people make it out to be, but one thing that often trips people up is thawing the bird.
Turkeys weigh upwards of 10 pounds. They are almost always sold frozen solid and thawed slowly over 2-4 days in a refrigerator. You can also thaw a turkey using the cold water method in the sink, but that requires far too much hands-on work and wasted water for this cook.
If you plan to brine your turkey, you’ll want to factor in an extra day so that the turkey can sit in the salt water overnight or at least 4 hours before you roast it. You don’t want the turkey in the brine for more than 12 hours, so plan accordingly.
What’s the lesson here? No matter how you’re going to do it, you should start thinking now about how you’re going to thaw the turkey now. If you’re using a fridge, you should put the turkey in there this weekend or no later than Tuesday.
It’s worth noting that the USDA says you can use a microwave to thaw a turkey, but many cooks don’t know that you can actually cook a frozen turkey, unthawed. The baking time will be at least 50 percent more than if you’d thawed it, so think 4 to 6 hours instead of 2 or 3.
Which method do I use when I roast a turkey? Because I have a small fridge and the cold water method wastes too much water and it too tedious, I thaw turkeys in a cooler packed with water and ice bags three days before I plan to roast the turkey. When it’s time to brine the night before, I place the turkey in one of those big plastic zip-top brining or roasting bags and put the bag in an emptied vegetable drawer.
A reader called this morning with a very important Thanksgiving question:
Can I bake a sweet potato casserole and drive it three hours to my daughter’s Thanksgiving in Fort Worth?
Michael Brown’s daughter had specifically requested that he make the family’s beloved sweet potato casserole, but he was understandably concerned about the food safety of a warm casserole sitting in his car and then on a buffet table.
When I returned his call, we talked about the situation, and I advised him against driving the warm casserole to the DFW area. That’s a drive that thousands of Austinites make every holiday, and I’m sure many of them have food in the car. Some of them might have even recreated this exact scenario without anyone getting sick, but the USDA says that you really shouldn’t serve food that has been out for more than two hours.
I suggested Michael bring rolls or another dish that he didn’t have to keep warm or cool on the drive, but there is one possible option. Because the “danger zone” of cooked food is 40 to 140 degrees, which is when bacteria can grow rapidly, Brown could bake the casserole the night before, let it cool and then refrigerate or freeze overnight. He could pack a cooler with ice packs and wrap the casserole in foil to try to keep it as cold as possible on the drive and then reheat it when he gets to his daughters house.
Pretty impressive for a company that only started in 2012.
I picked up a pint of Halo Top’s sea salt caramel ice cream, which was just a few doors down from another product I’d been wanting to try: Téo Gelato’s pumpkin pie flavor.
Téo is the Central Austin gelato shop that entered the grocery market a few years ago in partnership with H-E-B. (They won the grocer’s 2015 Quest for Texas Best competition.)
Téo’s pints have also been flying off shelves, and even though these two products don’t claim to compete, this ice cream lover wanted to know if the stevia-sweetened Halo Top was even in the same universe as Téo, which is made with cane sugar and locally sourced milk and isn’t marketed as healthy enough to be consumed in one sitting.
I tasted both in my Facebook livestream this week. As you can see — around the 6 minute mark — I was quite surprised when I tasted them side by side.
I’d love to hear what you think about Halo Top and Téo, if you’ve tried them. From what I’ve heard on social media so far, the Halo Top is one of the more divisive foods in the market today.
No matter if you call them butter beans or lima beans, those large, creamy beans you’ll find in cans or dried at the grocery store are a hearty legume that should be part of your cooking catalog.
In Spain, you’ll find them simmered in a savory broth that’s just begging for the company of a fresh baguette. Even though I spent time in Spain, I’m not convinced you’d miss 1/4 teaspoon of saffron, so feel free to leave it out. The almonds, however, add a complementary texture to the beans. But don’t feel like you have to spend the extra money on marcona almonds; plain almonds are fine.
To speed up prep for this recipe, use canned beans instead of dried ones. Just rinse and drain four 16-ounce cans butter beans and stir in to the tomato mixture as directed . Use 2 cups fresh water instead of the 2 cups bean cooking liquid.
1 lb. dried gigante or large butter beans (lima beans)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 pints grape tomatoes
1 cup jarred roasted red sweet peppers, chopped
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. saffron threads, crushed
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup marcona almonds or salted roasted almonds, chopped
For the garnish (optional):
1 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Rinse beans. In an oven-safe 4-quart pot combine beans and 8 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 1 hour. (Or place beans and water in pot. Cover and let soak in the refrigerator overnight.) Drain beans; rinse and return to pot. Add fresh water to cover beans by 1 inch. Cover and bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Drain beans in a colander, reserving 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Set beans and liquid aside.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Add the next five ingredients (through bay leaves). Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes or until tomatoes start to break down, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans, salt and the reserved liquid. Bring to boiling. Move to oven and bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Top with almonds and, if desired, a parsley garnish. To make it, combine parsley, olive oil and garlic in a small bowl. Mash with the back of a spoon. Serves 6.