The Dirt

The Happy Kitchen's Egg Primer

Monday, September 15, 2014

The incredible, edible egg: versatile, affordable, low in calories but packed with nutrition, eggs are an essential element of a culinary repertoire and something any home cook can master. Eggs are easy and quick, but making great eggs is about managing time and temperature, and learning some basic techniques. Read on for our egg primer!


On the one hand, this means having everything ready at the same time. You don’t want your eggs getting cold because your grits still have 20 minutes to go! But it also means knowing how long to cook something, which means not just setting a timer, but also developing your senses by learning the look, smell, feel and taste of perfectly done eggs.


In the kitchen, time and temperature go hand in hand. Too hot or not hot enough cooking temperatures can make your eggs turn out rubbery, dull or dry. Putting the temperature of the pan, water or oven aside, there’s also the temperature of the eggs about to be cooked. Cold eggs can crack, curdle or may not take on as much air as room temperature eggs.


Whisking, folding, stirring, flipping and straining – the techniques used for preparing eggs apply to all kinds of other dishes. Use your wrist and make swift but gentle movements with your utensils.

Let’s put these into action with three basic egg preparations: Scrambled, fried and poached.


Done in less than 5 minutes. Whisk the eggs (and milk or other ingredients) enough that they are slightly foamy with uniform color. Heat the pan to medium high, add butter or oil (or a little of each) and when it starts to bubble, add the eggs. When the eggs are in the pan, stir slowly to form the curds and then lower the heat and gently fold the curds or shake the pan for about 30 second. Let cook undisturbed for a minute and they are ready to eat. Best practice: serve on a pre-warmed plate. They should look soft and moist, not gooey, dry, browned or pale. Use a wooden or silicone spatula.


Done in less than 5 minutes, as little as 2 minutes if you like your eggs runny. Pre-crack the eggs into bowls if you’re worried about shells in your eggs. Preheat the pan to medium low, add butter and a little oil, and wait until the butter just starts to foam. Add the eggs, one at a time. Once in the pan the whites will be set by the 2 minute mark. From there, it’s all about the yolk. Cover the pan to gently steam the yolk or flip the eggs to fry them. Test the yolk by gently poking it – the more give it has, the runnier the yolks will be. The eggs look full, bright and glistening, even if they are browned, not pale and shrunken.


Fill a medium saucepan with an inch of water, add a pinch of salt (and, some say, a splash of white vinegar) and set on high heat. Pre-crack the eggs into individual bowls. Once the water is just at a boil, swirl the water and gently add the eggs, one at a time. Simmer the eggs, undisturbed, 3-5 minutes. Just set a timer on this one. Less time means runnier yolks. A perfect poached egg holds together and looks like a little pillow: soft and a little fluffy.

Our Suzanne

Friday, September 12, 2014

It takes a village. No one understands community like SFC's own Suzanne Santos. A tireless advocate for local farmers, ranchers, and food vendors, she's been integral to making sure Austin has access to local, healthy food and that farmers have the opportunity to make a living growing good food. In the many years with our organization, she’s fed us with peaches and figs from her own trees and inspired us with her enthusiasm for local food, always looking for ways to help others. And now she needs us.

After some unsettling symptoms over the past week, hospital tests revealed a mass in her brain, and she required surgery this week to better determine a diagnosis and course of treatment. The procedure went well and her surgical team successfully removed all of the tumor; she still has a long road ahead of her, though. True to her nature, her first thoughts are for her beloved food community and our farmer friends who are currently facing challenges of their own. She called asking that we express her gratitude for the love and healing thoughts so many have shared, but also her hopes that we remember that we're stronger together, a lesson she's taught by example for as long as we've known her. Keep her close in your thoughts, and know as you also remember and reach out a helping hand to our friends at Springdale Farm, Green Gate Farms, Swede Farm, and Hairston Creek Farm, that we're building the kind of community that will make her proud.

Breakfast Like a Champ at SFC Farmers' Markets

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Our favorite place for weekend brunch or breakfast? SFC Farmers' Markets! Visit early for a leisurely coffee, juice, lemonade or tea accompanied by treats from our artisan prepared foods vendors. Read on for some of our favorite picks, make a plan to meet friends, and settle in for the most delicious people-watching and newspaper-reading opportunity you'll have all week!


  • Cake & Spoon' s rich, flaky breakfast tarts are made with seasonal ingredients, local cheese and local, pastured eggs.
  • Zippy Buddha's Brew Kombucha will wake up with a healthy dose of zippy flavor and probiotics.
  • Blackbird Bakery's gluten free treats have a cult following.
  • Easy Tiger offers sandwiches with seasonal fruit preserves and butter or goat cheese on their award-winning bread.
  • Fete Accompli offers refreshing, ice cold freshly-squeezed juice blends and lemonades.
  • Get healthy with Juice Land freshly pressed juices. 
  • Nothing says you can't have popsicles for breakfast! We fully endorse Mom and Pops frozen coffee treats.
  • Line up for Taco Deli's justifiably famous breakfast or hearty brunch tacos on warm tortillas, laced with their Dona or Roja salsa.
  • Texas Coffee Traders offers steaming, aromatic coffee in a variety of roasts and blends.
  • We love warm, hearty tamales from Tamale Addiction by The Gardener's Feast for breakfast--choose meat-filled, vegetarian, vegan, or sweet offerings.
  • Texas French Bread is stocked with flaky pastries and crusty, just-baked bread for breakfast noshing.
  • Kolaches from The Zubikhouse are an SFC Farmers' Market classic breakfast. Try one of their heritage Texas treats--soft, pillowy dough stuffed with either sweet or savory fillings--or a heartier offering from their cooked-to-order menu.
Sunset Valley
  • Happy Vegan Baker has legions of fans among the vegan (and omnivore!) community.
  • La Leigh Patisserie's cinnamon rolls and croissants make Saturday mornings warm and sweet.
  • St. Philip is the new kid on the block. The newest branch of the Uchi/Uchiko family, St. Philip offers bialys, pastries, and 
  • Line up for Taco Deli's justifiably famous breakfast or hearty brunch tacos on warm tortillas, laced with their Dona or Roja salsa.
  • Tamale Addiction by The Gardener's Feast
  • Texas Coffee Traders offers steaming, aromatic coffee in a variety of roasts and blends.
  • Texas French Bread is stocked with flaky pastries and crusty, just-baked bread for breakfast noshing.
  • Zippy Wonder-Pilz Kombucha will wake up with a healthy dose of zippy flavor and probiotics.

Five Healthy Grab-and-Go Breakfast Ideas from The Happy Kitchen

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

If you're the sort to listen to your mother, you know how important breakfast is. Finding the time to make it happen, though, can be a challenge now that we're all grown up. Eating a healthy breakfast provides a foundation for making smart food choices all day and offers energy for physical activity and smart thinking. There are lots of choices out there--a little pre-planning can help to make sure you're making the right ones. With a few go-to ideas in your toolkit, you'll be ready to meet the challenges of the day every day!

Read on for five healthy grab-and-go breakfast ideas from The Happy Kitchen

  • Make it easy - keep a full bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or in the fridge for the world's easiest, most portable fast food!
  • Think protein - Boil 5-10 eggs at beginning of the week, keep them in the fridge, and grab 1 or 2 in the morning for protein. You can even just peel off the top part of the shell and eat the hard boiled egg right out of a shell with a spoon.
  • Layer it - Make yogurt parfaits layered with fresh fruit in to-go containers and store in fridge overnight; make up bags or small jars of granola to accompany.
  • Blend & go - Toss ½ cup yogurt, ½ cup rice/almond/soy milk in fridge in the blender container the night before and keep in fridge overnight. In the morning, add ½ cup frozen berries or other frozen fruit + 1 banana. Blend and sprinkle granola or rolled oats on top for extra energy and protein.
  • Think ahead - Cook steel cut oats, then divide into 1 cup portions in containers and store in fridge. Grab a container, add some milk (dairy or non), fresh fruit, a handful of nuts, and a teaspoon of honey and go!

Giles Smith Shares Inspiration for School Gardening

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Giles Smith is a teacher in a SBS (Social Behavioral Skills) unit in an Elementary School in the East side of Austin. He has participated in three courses offered at SFC-Citizen Gardener, Community Garden Leadership and School Garden Leadership. This week, he visits the SFC blog to share why he engages in the important work of teaching children where food comes from, sharing with them the pleasures of gardening and the importance of food justice and sustainability.

by Giles Smith

Aristotle tells us, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Since I have been working in education, this quote has taken on a deeper meaning for me. As a new teacher in an Austin public school, I have dared to incorporate a gardening component into my curriculum. As this article is being written, the school garden where I will be planting my "bitter roots of education" is still overgrown with local perennials interspersed with endangered remnants of the spring planting of one of our second grade teachers and her class of mini-gardeners. The overgrowth is teeming with sunflowers, providing shelter and sustenance to a host of beautiful and useful friends who burrow, buzz and fly around our school’s interior patio. Our garden oasis is home to six raised garden beds neatly lined with rectangular blocks of limestone. 

A school garden is a wonderful tool, and can be used as an anchor to which many lessons may be tied. For example, math lessons taught around a well-organized garden bed can be introduced to teach the concepts of geometrical shapes, measurement, such as finding perimeter, area and volume. In science, discussions concerning reproduction and the life cycle of plants and insects, photosynthesis, water-cycle and conservation among others may be had. Students can also be engaged about important socio-economic issues surrounding sustainability, access, food sovereignty and social justice, issues that have become constant topics in our local, national and international discourse. Lastly, a garden that will be shared by several people or groups of people, provides many opportunities to develop social skills. Among them are effective communication, planning, organizing and conflict resolution techniques. 

This calls to mind another favorite quote: “Las semillas caidas al pie de los arboles germinan.” This proverb from the Afro-Cuban Lukumi tradition, an ancient spiritual tradition preserved by enslaved Africans and their descendants, is translated as, “The seeds that fall at the feet of trees germinate.” If one asks an elder what this means, they don’t speak of a garden or a forest. Here, the seed is a metaphor for children. This proverb speaks to the relationships of elders with children. Just as a child, a seed needs good, fertile conditions to be conceived, and as a plant sprouts, a child grows. Thus, the elder is to a child as the gardener is to a seedling. The stewards of this geocentric ancestral tradition understand the importance of teaching the next generation the knowledge of survival and thriving. They also know the importance of the “oko,” the farm or garden, in the life of all inhabitants of the earth. Perhaps that is why it is the central idea to one of their most important teachings--and to mine.

Build a Raised Bed for Fall Gardening

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

This fall, raise your spirits and get that garden off the ground! Raised garden beds, or garden boxes, can be a great addition to your backyard, school, or community garden. Constructed from non-treated, naturally rot-resistant, long-lasting wood, these beds can offer gardeners a variety of benefits while taking the strain off of your back or knees. They're also accessible for kids in school or family backyard gardens. Read on for six reasons to build one yourself!

Inspired, but afraid of power tools? Don't be! Register for our Deep Roots: Raised Bed Construction class in the SFC Teaching Garden on Saturday, September 13th. Participants will try out building different types of raised beds with the help of the SFC Teaching Garden Coordinator, and will also discuss raised garden bed care and which materials to use, including reusing household items for bed borders.

  • Keep it accessibile – Raised garden beds can built only a couple inches off of the ground, but they can also be built as high as 3 or 4 feet for increased accessibility for the disabled, elderly, or any other gardener needing a break from bending over. Also, with certain designs, the gardener can sit on the side of the bed and plant and harvest with even more ease!
  • Block those weeds! – When constructed correctly, raised beds can act as a weed barrier and decrease the amount of time needed to weed around vegetables.
  • Keep it loose – Stepping in and around a garden bed in the ground can cause soil compaction and make it hard for growing plants’ roots to form fully and for soil insects to thrive. Having a raised bed will decrease soil compaction by making it obvious where not to step.
  • Good drainage – By raising your garden up, you will be increasing your drainage, especially when compared to a clay soil that you may find in your backyard in Austin. It will at the same time decrease soil erosion by creating a natural barrier during rainstorms.
  • Control critters– Tall raised garden beds, at least 4 feet tall, can discourage critter such as rabbits and any underground rodents from invading your garden.
  • Looking good! – Raised garden beds can look tidier and more visually appealing that a sprawling in-ground garden.

How to Clean and Care for an Iron Skillet

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Like a loyal old friend, a cast iron skillet never lets you down. Cast iron pans can literally last for generations; considering you’ll have it for a lifetime, the initial investment of around $20 seems like almost nothing. 

Offering a super hot cooking surface and even heat conduction, the trusty and versatile iron skillet is perfect for searing steaks and can just as easily bake up a cornbread or everyday cake in the oven. It’s just the right tool for pan-frying, and we love to toss in vegetables for roasting. It even offers health benefits, adding trace amounts of iron to your diet. With so many reasons to love it, make sure you show your cast iron pan lots of love in return and treat it right. Read on for The Happy Kitchen’s tips for the care and feeding of your new BFF!

  • The first commandment: never use soap on your cast iron and never put it in the diswasher.
  • To season your skillet: wipe pan with a damp cloth and dry completely. Rub a generous amount of any neutral-flavored cooking oil on both inside and outside surfaces. Put in oven at 325 and bake, upside down, with a baking pan underneath (to catch any drips). Leave in oven for one hour.
  • Use it! The more you use it and season it well, the less food will stick.
  • To clean: after use, cool pan enough to handle and sprinkle coarse salt on the bottom. Use salt to scrub away any food stuck to the pan. Rinse with a damp cloth and water and dry thoroughly. Coat inside and out with a layer of oil and and rub in; wipe off any excess oil. Repeat this process every time you use it.

Can You Help Us Find L'il Sprout?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

L'il Sprout has joined our SFC Farmers' Market Crew! We keep losing him, though--he spends the whole day at the market hiding out in a farmer's stall snacking on delicious, healthy fruits and vegetables. In fact, he's so hard to keep track of, that we need your help! Each market day, help us find L'il Sprout--he'll be somewhere different every time. When you find him, tell the farmer, and you'll get bragging rights with an "I Found L'il Sprout" prize sticker! Happy hunting--you never know where he'll turn up next . . .

Mpowered Youth Cook Up Food Justice Stories in the SFC Kitchen

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Aaaand . . . Action! This summer, SFC was thrilled to host MPOWERED, a youth program that focuses on Media Literacy, Food Justice, and African American Quality of life. The program engages black youth actively in developing and implementing solutions to health and wellness issues in their community, through creative media. When they asked if they could use the SFC Teaching Kitchen to make a film about food justice, we couldn't say yes fast enough.

The Scene:

For this youth media and food justice camp, the kids crafted a short film about health and wellness issues affecting local African­ American communities to be screened at the Capital City Black Film Festival, which was held August 21-23.

During their visit to SFC, youth partners experienced a cooking demo of the "A Taste of African Heritage" Program with Oldways. Program Manager Sarah McMackin and chef/curator/author Toni Tipton Martin prepared a meal with the youth, and the youth shot scenes based on a script they created.

The Background:

Austin’s black community faces a multitude of health and wellness related concerns: lack of physical and economic access to fresh fruits and vegetables; overexposure to high calorie/low nutrition food options; and institutional, systemic, and environmental racism. MPOWERED engages black youth actively in creating solutions to these issues as community ambassadors through media. The group specifically works with black youth because they are a demographic that is disproportionately impacted by health and wellness complications across socioeconomic backgrounds. Additionally, they partner with black youth because of their ability to guide and set societal trends, as well as serve as influential role models to children and adults in their community. As such, this program seeks to positively impact the quality of life of all African Americans in Greater Austin regardless of age and income.

Meet the Producers:

Black Media Council

Founded in 2008. Since that time has (co)facilitated a number of community programs including the Blackness and Media Project, Kuumba Scholarship, Krew12 (in partnership with African American Youth Harvest Foundation), and Youth Media Project @ SXSW (in partnership with E4 Youth and MVMT50).

Cinema du Cannes Project

A nonprofit organization created to provide current and recently graduated high schools students with hands­-on film production and marketing experience and the opportunity to travel to the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Food for Black Thought

Founded in 2012, this community based organizations works to sustain and maintain Black access to food resources, knowledge, and policy making through critical dialogue, programs, and symposia.


Oldways guides people to good health through heritage, using practical and positive programs grounded in science tradition and real foods.

The SANDE Youth Project / Toni Tipton Martin

SANDE is a nonprofit mentoring and training organization promoting the connection between cultural heritage, food and a healthy environment.  They cook up healthy futures for vulnerable families through cultural exhibits, mobile, hands-on cooking experiences for adults and kids, and community events.

Build Healthy Soil with Grow Local

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Soil Health

Dirt is dead. Soil is different . . . soil is alive! Inhabited by millions and millions of microorganisms that bind clay, sand and silt together, soil forms a crumbly structure that holds water like a sponge and provides a perfect growing medium for plants. Read on for important-to-know facts about healthy soil.

Want more inside dirt on healthy soil? Click here to watch our first “Garden Bites” video with SFC Teaching Garden Coordinator, Ellen Orabone, who will talk a little bit more about soil health and the Classes in the Teaching Garden series.

Compost: Soil organisms are our composters. They eat wood, leaves, plants and other organic materials and, in the process, turn these materials into soil.

  • Water retention: Bacteria and fungi, which are the foundation of soil ecologies, exude goo and create webs that bind soil into a crumbly structure containing pockets that store water. Without soil organisms, you get either dirt that is very compact and so does not absorb water or dirt that has no structure (i.e. it is loose and sandy) and so does not hold water.
  • Aeration: The pockets created by soil microbes also store air, which is essential for plant growth. In addition, when larger soil organisms (e.g. arthropods and earthworms) move through the soil, they act as biological aerators.
  • Nutrient retention and cycling: Healthy plants require a range of nutrients, including nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, but they cannot access these nutrients without bacteria and fungi. Many of the nutrients found in organic matter exist in forms not accessible to plants. As bacteria and fungi consume organic materials, they change the chemical makeup of nutrients into forms that plants can access.
  • Disease suppression: Healthy soils contain a diverse range or organisms that out compete pests by eating them and by filling their niches. The healthier your soil, the fewer pest problems your plants will have.

Want to learn even more about this topic? Register for our Soil Health & Composting class on Sept. 3 »