I saw a clever snack hack on the internet the other day. With the Texas Craft Beer Festival coming up this weekend and several more UT home games this football season, you might find yourself drinking beer outside and wishing you had a snack.
And let’s be honest, no one will judge if you make a snack necklace for watching Netflix on the couch.
What’s a snack necklace? The Austin-based blogger behind Big World, Small Girl posted a photo of a pretzel- and snack mix-lined ribbon that served as an easy way to snack while drinking beer at the Great American Beer Festival. Like the candy necklaces of our youth, this salty snack necklace provides easy access to a quick nibble on Gardetto’s, pork rinds or even chips whenever you feel like it.
Some things to keep in mind: Thin, oily chips aren’t a good idea for this, but pretzels and the hardier snacks in the snack aisle are. If you’re worried about your shirt getting greasy, don’t use pork rinds. If you don’t care, you’ll be the most popular person at the party. Popcorn isn’t a bad idea, but you might feel like a Christmas tree if you only use popcorn. Cheez-Its will play a prominent role in any snack necklace I make for my future beer festival-going self, but I’d also be tempted to put some beef jerky on there, too.
Caitlin tied Twix bars to her necklace because she wanted something sweet with the savory, but she said she might reconsider it this year because the chocolate melted.
You could use string, thread or ribbon for this, depending on what you’re trying to string together. I use a needle and thread to make popcorn necklaces at Christmastime, but one commenter on Caitlin’s post said they use bamboo skewers to poke holes in artisan bread so they can thread it on butcher’s twine.
The Austin chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier has always offered scholarships for local culinary students, but this year, the organization of women in the food industry is offering stipends for culinary professionals who are already in the industry and who want to seek educational development, such as take the Certified Cheese Professional Exam or attend TEXSOM, the annual Texas wine conference.
This is the second year that the group, which was founded in 2003, has expanded the scholarship offering to include stipends and examination fees. Applications are open to Central Texas women who are pursuing full-time culinary coursework in a culinary arts or food- or wine-related professional development. You can find the application at ldeiaustin.org. The deadline to apply is Aug. 31.
“For years we’ve been helping students finish their studies and pursue their dreams in the culinary, beverage, and hospitality industries. We’re excited to continue doing that, as well as recognize and assist those professionals already in the industry seeking to further their education with our Beyond The Classroom stipends“ said Kendall Antonelli, scholarship committee chairperson.
According to the website, “LDEI is an international organization of women leaders who create a supportive culture in their communities to achieve excellence in the food, beverage and hospitality professions.”
Scholarship applicants must have completed at least 20 credit hours, have a G.P.A. of 35 or higher, and be enrolled currently in a local certificate or associate’s degree program in culinary arts, baking and pastry, or hospitality and restaurant management. Scholarships are awarded based on academic accomplishments, references, financial need, goals, aspirations, initiative, and culinary-related experience. Scholarship funds may be used for tuition or program fees only. Checks will be issued directly to institutions. Funds may not be applied to living expenses.
The Blind Cafe has been hosting dining-in-the-dark experiences in Austin for nearly a decade.
Its founder, Brian Rocheleau, who goes by “Rosh,” is a musician and community-builder who travels around the country to host dinners where guests eat and enjoy a musical performance in complete darkness. The servers are legally blind, and diners are encouraged to ask questions about their experience in a world where most people can see and share about their experience not being able to see the food in front of them or look at the other people at the table or their cell phone.
According to a release: “The aim is to inspire and initiate positive social change in the lives of everyone involved in the experience, using the concept of darkness to break down societal norms that typically exist as barriers.”
More than 20,000 people have experienced The Blind Cafe since its inception in 2010. All the food is vegan and gluten free.
The next Austin dinners are scheduled for July 12 and 13 at American Legion Travis Post 76, 404 Atlanta St. There are two performances and dinners each night, 6 and 9 p.m. You can find more details about the event at theblindcafe.com/austin and tickets (suggested cost is $85) are available through AirBnB experiences.
I hadn’t heard of this confection until last week, when one of my kids insisted I watched a how-to video they’d seen on YouTube.
“It’s like hand-pulled cotton candy,” they explained as they searched for a video to show me. The most popular one appears to be Inga Lam’s video for Buzzfeed, which was uploaded in April and already has more than 4 million views.
As you know, I’m a big fan of taking on YouTube-inspired projects with my kids, from homemade slime to Angry Bird cupcakes. (Those Jell-O cookies were kind of gross, though.)
The host says she grew up seeing this candy in Hong Kong and had always wanted to try it. Through her trial-and-error, I knew we’d need a lot of cornstarch and that we couldn’t heat the candy to over 270 degrees. (Her first attempts, where the rings broke apart as she pulled them, looked like the sugar had gone too far into the soft crack stage, which is between 270 and 289 degrees.)
We found a few other videos to add to our research and then set out to make this delicate, ultra-sweet, bird’s best of a treat.
Taking a cue from Clifford Endo of Eater, who posted his how-to video in September, we added blue food coloring to the water and added a splash of vinegar to the pot. We used 500 grams sugar, 1 cup water, a splash of vinegar and 3-4 drops food coloring. As everyone always points out, don’t stir the sugar and water mixture as it heats, although to be totally honest, I didn’t follow that rule for a long time and didn’t notice much of a difference in the caramels and other sugar-based sauces and candies I’ve made.
We didn’t stir the pot this time and watched carefully as the temperature climbed to the 220s, where it stalled, and then inched closer to 270. We pulled the candy from the heat at about 268 degrees and let it cool slightly before pouring into silicon molds and a nonstick mini muffin pan.
The silicon molds were bigger and the candy took longer to cool, but the blue discs of sugar in the mini muffin pan were ready to pull in about 30 minutes, when they were warm enough to still stretch, but cool enough to handle easily and start to hold their shape.
This is where the fun began. We each took a small disc of sugar and poked a hole in it with our fingers. Then, slowly and steady, we started to pull the candy into a larger loop, twisting like an “8” or an infinity look once the circle was about 6 or 8 inches in diameter. The idea is that you gently pull and twist the loop 14 times, which gives you more than 16,000 tender strands of sugar.
As the videos demonstrate, this technique takes a while to master, but our first dragon’s beard candy was actually the best one. We enjoyed using the smaller discs to practice, but if you want the full “beard” effect, you can use a larger quantity of the heated sugar mixture. Many people online use doughnut mold so the sugar already has a hole in the middle.
We crushed up some peanuts, which is how these dragon’s beards are usually served, and the whole package was fun to eat. We ran out of steam to pull all of the sugar mixture we’d made, so I’m glad I cut the original recipe in half. Will we make these again? Maybe, especially if we’re looking for a hands-on project on a rainy day.
But in reality, my kids watch enough YouTube tutorials that there will probably be another project they’ll suggest soon, and, fully aware that we only have so many summers left with this kind of play, I wouldn’t trade these random mom-kid experiments for anything.
What summertime food projects are you working on with your kids?
Ella made her Aunt Opal’s banana pudding and the chocolate chip cookies from her mom’s cookbook this week, which got me thinking, which recipes would I make and sell — in jars or otherwise — for a summer business?
Cake pops! For an even easier project, you could make “deconstructed cake pops in a jar” and net a pretty penny in sales.
These gluten-free chiffon cake and chocolate ganache recipes would be perfect to serve inside a small Mason jar. You could even take a cue from Ella and tie some twine and a spoon around the top to boost sales.
My very favorite summer cake recipe is that upside down peach cake, which I’m sure I could figure out how to bake in the jars, for easy transport and presentation. Maybe I could even figure out how to bake it in an Instant Pot…
That cherry cheesecake from earlier this week could also easily be baked into small jars or containers.
My favorite summer drink is probably going to sound, well, gross.
At least that’s the response every time I tell someone about calimocho, the Spanish drink that rivals sangria in popularity there. But their opinions change as soon as I serve them one.
When I was living in Spain in college, I was surprised to find this mixture of red wine, Coke, lemon juice and ice was seemingly as popular in southern Spain as the well-known sangria. I don’t love chewing on pieces of fruit that have been soaked in wine — and sangria often has a lot of added sugar that makes the drink almost too sweet to enjoy.
Calimochos, though sweet, are more balanced and lighter to drink on these hot summer days. They originated in the northern part of Spain in the 1970s, where the Basques spell the name, kalimotxo.
The drink is quite literally a wine cooler, and though the combination of wine and Coke sounds odd, the tangy tanins of both are surprisingly complementary. The tartness of the lime and the cool water that melts off the ice cubes combine for a refreshing, lightly boozy cocktail that you can sip on while grilling, tubing, camping or curled up on the couch watching “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
To make one — or a whole batch — mix together about half cola and half wine, and you can use any red wine you like. I’m sure there are some kinds that work better than others, but calimochos are a blue collar, utilitarian drink, so the cheaper, the better. A fresh, effervescent Coke can brighten even week-old wine that’s been sitting in your fridge. I insist on adding lemon, but according to the Wikipedia page, there are countless variations with added liqueurs and zest.
Just don’t forget the ice. And a seat in the shade.
Ramen Sliders: Leave it to Taste of Home to come up with crunchy “sliders” made with small burgers, hard-boiled eggs and “buns” made with raw ramen noodles. Or you could just slice the eggs and serve them in a bowl of regular ramen noodles.
Open-Faced Sandwiches: Serve with any kind of spread you like, from pate to hummus.
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, you can help paint them at the farmers market at 3200 Jones Road in Sunset Valley. The following Saturday (Feb. 25), the hippos and painting party will move to the downtown farmers market at Republic Square Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s part of a launch for the Austin-based insurance company, Hippo, which is opening its second headquarters downtown.
The hippos will be auctioned off to benefit the Special Olympics of Texas.
Editor’s note: This story originally ran for Valentine’s Day 2011. For date night that year, my ex and I took a knife-skills class, and I wrote about it, finding parallels between love and knowing how to properly use a knife. We aren’t married anymore, but I still like the story. It has some helpful knife tips, but also some observations on love and trying to make it in a marriage. For what they are worth. PS: I’m still using that $130 Wusthof.
They say love cuts like a knife, but anyone who has ever been married knows that it’s words, not love, that are required to get the proverbial dinner on the table.
But words are also what can do the most damage. The sharper they are, the swifter the cut, and if you don’t use them right, you’ll eventually draw blood.
To learn a little bit about using knives — both metaphorically and literally — as they are intended, I took my husband to a knife skills class at Whole Foods Market’s culinary center just a few weeks before Valentine’s Day.
Slicing a mango and bringing up the fact that your husband still hasn’t gone to get the car registered both require a delicate handling to pull off without doing any damage. There’s a right way to go about it that is both careful and intentional, and a wrong way, in which you hold the knife at the wrong angle and, in a split second, set the whole night off course. (Let’s just hope stitches aren’t involved.)
Instructor Jay Cusick quickly settled the score on one long-running issue between us: Knives and wooden utensils don’t belong in the dishwasher.
“Look down the blade at what you are about to cut,” Cusick tells the dozen or so students who have gathered around a large kitchen island. Not what you have cut or what you’d like to cut next. Focus on the consequences of your actions. Right. Now.
“Let the knife do what it is supposed to do.”
Choosing the right tone is like choosing the right knife, and there is a time and a purpose for all kinds: the quotidian butter knife (an off-the-cuff “What’s for dinner?”) and the electric knife that only comes out once a year (the grave “We need to talk”). “Many knife injuries occur when laziness induces us to use the knife at hand rather than the correct knife for a job,” the class handout explains.
And then there is the chef’s knife. The everyday sturdy-handled silver workhorse that you can’t cook properly without but that needs proper maintenance to do its job. The day-to-day exchanges you have with your partner around which your lives rotate: planning vacations, paying bills and yes, figuring out what’s for dinner.
Chopping the knife up and down like a jackhammer is not what a chef’s knife is for. You are supposed to slide your knife through whatever you’re cutting, leaving the tip on the cutting board and pushing the blade back and forth, back and forth, dragging the tip of the knife on the wood. You should be able to glide the blade through even a hard sweet potato without too much pressure or force.
If you find yourself pushing too hard, your knife needs attention, and there’s a big difference between honing a knife and sharpening it.
It’s natural for a knife blade to curve to one side or the other after heavy use. By using a round steel rod at home, you can bring the still-sharp knife blade back to center and keep on cutting. But eventually, the blade in fact becomes dull and the only way to sharpen it properly is to take the knife to an expert who spends all day putting fresh edges on tired blades. (You can use a whetstone or electric sharpener at home, but both require a certain expertise.) But because sharpening a knife eventually whittles down the metal, you can only sharpen a knife so many times before it is worn beyond use.
The more frequently you hone your knife with a round steel rod at home, the less frequently you have to take it in for a big adjustment.
Over the past five years, Ian and I have done a lot of honing on our relationship. With two young kids and a still relatively new marriage, we’re constantly adjusting – in knife terms, realigning — how we handle even minuscule tasks like who takes out the trash and how socks should be folded. If we go too long without giving proper care and attention to our marriage, it just gets harder and harder to figure out how to get back on track.
Cusick tells us what a marriage counselor might tell a troubled couple: It’s not in class where you’re going to perfect your skills; it’s at home. Every grapefruit you cut into segments for breakfast, every slice of bread you saw off a French loaf for a sandwich, every onion you dice for dinner, you have to be aware of your technique and your tools.
And you don’t learn to turn a spiky pineapple into perfect cubes after one lesson. Proper knife skills take time to develop. “You have to make a correct attempt at it over and over again until the muscle memory sets in,” Cusick says. If your garlic isn’t perfectly minced one day, by all means don’t give up garlic altogether. “With time, practice and confidence, your speed will increase, but you do not need to look like a TV chef.”
Every person will grip a knife in a slightly different way, Cusick says, and inexpensive blades will get the job done, but it isn’t pleasant to use them. Treat yourself to a serious, well-made chef’s knife – I finally bit the bullet and bought a $130 Wusthof last year -- and you’ll reap the reward for years to come.
Get one that feels right when you hold it. Then work with it in a way that maximizes comfort, control and safety while minimizing fatigue. Sound familiar?
When grocery stores started carrying rotisserie chickens, most Americans stopped roasting chickens ourselves.
Why bother when you can buy an already roasted chicken for not much more than it would cost to buy a raw one?
Rotisserie chickens are now sold in nearly every grocery chain, right up near the front where busy shoppers can pick one up in a hurry.
That’s what I did on Wednesday morning, trekking to six local grocery stores to buy seven rotisserie chickens for a livestream taste test at the office. My colleagues tried all six of them and ranked them. To my surprise, they had an unequivocal favorite, which you’ll see pretty quickly into this video we made.