The Dirt

2014 Farm to Plate Chefs Announced

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

At this year's Farm to Plate, in The Land of Green, the best-of-the best from Austin’s culinary world will be serving up tastes and samples of creations inspired by the local, seasonal abundance from our farming and food-producing community. So, put on your emerald colored glasses, click your heels three times, and get swept away to The Land of Green at this year’s Farm to Plate, and discover just how delicious it is to work together for a sustainable and just food system!

Click here for chef bios and interviews!

Drink Your Greens

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

No time to cook? There are still plenty of great ways to get your greens in and make sure you're still on the happy plate plan! This sweet green smoothie is one of our favorites. Fresh, in-season greens, sweet fruit and tangy, creamy probiotic-rich yogurt blend up quickly for breakfast on the go or a nutrient-dense and filling snack anytime. Want more fresh ideas? Check out The Happy Kitchen's Cooking Classes for spring!

Green Smoothie

  • 1 c kale or collard greens, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 c loosely packed parsley leaves
  • 1 Tbs. almond or peanut butter
  • 1 c plain yogurt
  • 1/2 c apple juice

Combine kale, apple, bananas, parsley, nut butter, yogurt and half of juice in blender. Blend until smooth, then add remaining juice until you reach desired consistency.

Mushroom Reuben with Homemade Sauerkraut

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

You might or might not have a jar of homemade sauerkraut in the fridge. If you don't and you want one, The Happy Kitchen and Hip Girl Kate Payne can help you remedy that! No matter, whether you make your own or pick up a jar at the SFC Farmers' Market (check out Indian Hills, Hat Creek Pickles or go wild and rogue with Oh Kimchi!), grab some mushrooms too to make this super quick, deeply satisfying, good-enough-for-supper sandwich. If all this sauerkraut talk has you wanting more, check out this post for more genius ideas for probiotic sauerkraut!

Mushroom Reuben

For each sandwich:

  • 1/3 c. sauteed mushrooms (use crimini, white button, portobello, shiitake or a mixture)
  • 3 Tbs. sauerkraut or kimchi
  • 2 Tbs. Russian dressing (homemade if possible--see recipe below)
  • 2 slices swiss cheese
  • 2 slices rye or whole wheat bread
  • butter or olive oil for the skillet

Spread bread slices with Russian dressing and pile on mushrooms, cheese and sauerkraut. Grill on both sides over medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown.

Russian Dressing

  • 1/3 c. best-quality mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs. ketchup
  • 1 Tbs. minced parsley
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 tsp. minced capers (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Basil: A Hot Weather Hero

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

It won't be long before we bid adieu to greens--our summers are just too hot for most of these tender leaf crops. Creative cooks and gardeners can compensate though, with a few varieties that withstand high temperatures (Malabar spinach, chard, arugula) and big-leaf, colorful basil! Basil thrives here in Austin—get it well established in the spring, and it will brave our hot summer like a hero, producing tasty leaves to flavor your dips, dishes, and beverages all the while. And it doesn't just tolerate heat, it loves it! Read on for tips for planting now and harvesting all the way up to next year's first freeze.

  • If you are a beginner, start with the Genovese variety. This variety produces abundantly and is ideal for a variety of dishes. Once you gain confidence, there are many varieties to choose from, including purple, Asian, dwarf and citrus!
  • You can plant basil in-ground, but it is a perfect plant for container gardens, particularly if you are just getting started.
  • To plant in a pot we recommend about a one gallon container that drains well, filled with quality potting mix.
  • Moisten the mix and add it to the container, leaving an inch of space at the top to make watering easier.
  • Plant basil either from seed or transplant onto your pot. To conserve water, top with mulch. If you are growing from seed do this after your seedling has come up.
  • Water consistently as basil grows best when it is watered regularly though it is hardy enough to withstand a mild drought.
  • Due to its tough nature, it requires little fertilizing once potted in a quality mix. You can fertilize with compost or liquid fish emulsion if you notice a decrease in growth or quality of color.
  • You can begin to harvest as soon as you have a plant that has enough leaves that it could spare a few; the larger the plant gets, the more you can harvest from it.
  • Pick leaves from the top of the plant to encourage additional bushy growth from the sides and pinch off the flowers as they start coming in.
  • Basil in Texas it is considered an annual, meaning it will only grow during the warm season between March-November, so allow your plant to flower when it nears the end of the season so you can collect seeds for the next year.

Greens, Eggs & Ham: Market Specials for April

Monday, April 07, 2014

"I do so like Green[s], Eggs and Ham! I do so like them Sam-I-Am!" Us too! This month, we celebrate greens, eggs & ham--and it's a great month to try a new item at the market! Some of our vendors are offering special to shoppers this month--check them out and make your shopping list!

Pasta & Co.

  • $1 off Peppercorn, Prosciutto & Parmesan Ravioli in Kale Duck Egg Pasta
Round Rock Honey
  • Three words: honey baked ham! Buy 3 pounds of honey and get a free besswax lip balm.

Eden's Cove

  • Free doggie bones! At Sunset Valley Farmers' Market only.
  • Making real Green, Eggs & Ham this month for the kids! Ask for them when you order.
  • Eden's Cove has a limited number of Easter hams available ($13/per pound avg 8-10 pounds)--stop by their booth to reserve.

Dream Bijoux

  • 10% off "forest floor" jewelry made with petrified wood, dried mushrooms and mosses.

Indian Hills Farm

  • 10% off Garden Medley fermented veggies when you mention "Greens, Eggs & Ham"!

Richardson Farms

  • Pasture raised eggs $5/dozen
  • Pasture raised pork pan sausage $8.50/pound
  • Pasture raised pork link sausage $8.50/pound
  • Pasture raised pork smoked bacon $9.50/pound
  • Pasture raised pork sliced belly $7.50/pound

Hemp 360

  • Buy one olive lotion, get $2 off any soap!

Chef John's Tuna Nicoise Tartine

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Today we have a special treat for you! A delightful recipe from one of Austin's best chefs! 

Chef John Lichtenberger, Head Chef of Peche, was a member of the second graduating class from the French Culinary Institute in New York. He has extensive experience in French cuisine and specializes in simple, yet elegant French fare.

Chef John was recently on Good Day Austin making Tuna Nicoise Tartines, a fresh springtime treat packed with fresh herbs and it tastes as good as it looks! We are thrilled he was willing to share this recipe with us.

Tuna Nicoise Tartine

For tuna salad:

  • 12 oz Tuna packed in oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced cornichons
  • 1 tablespoon minced nonpareil capers
  • 1 tablespoon chives
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons flat parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper

For the tartine:

  • 2 slices of bread cut on a bias
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup aioli
  • Lettuce green leaf or Bibb
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 radishes
  • 6 nicoise olives
  • Chives chopped for garnish
  • Strain tuna


Add shallots, cornichons, capers, chives, parsley, tarragon. Add lemon juice and mayo stirring gently.
Season with salt and pepper.
Toast bread slices.
Spread aioli on each toast, top with some lettuce, season salt and pepper.
Place tuna salad on top of bread.
Cut hard boiled egg and place on top of tuna salad, top with radish slices, add nicoise olives pitted and halved to the tuna salad.
Garnish with chives.

Food in Jars: Homemade Mayonnaise

Monday, March 31, 2014


Here at SFC, we are big believers in food in jars. We love processed and pre-made food--to make it fresh and healthy, we just prefer to be the ones processing and pre-making it! Once you start making your own pantry staples, you'll be amazed at how simple it is to have healthy, real-food condiments, sauces and flavor boosters at your fingertips. Read on for our favorite homemade mayo recipe and five genius ways to use it (and ideas for making use of leftover egg whites). Want more? Check out our upcoming Inside the Chef's Pantry: Staples, Condiments and Sauces cooking class on April 14th for everything you need to become your own pantry wizard! Click here for details and to register »


5 Genius Ideas for Homemade Mayonnaise

  1. Roast potatoes until crisp and serve with a dollop of mayo and a sprinkle of Spanish paprika.
  2. Combine tuna or cooked chicken with mayo, lemon juice, minced celery and curry powder.
  3. Serve as a luxurious dip with grilled or steamed vegetables.
  4. On thick-sliced sourdough bread, homemade mayo is a BLT game changer.
  5. Stir up some variations! Try anchovy and capers for a Mediterranean twist; minced shallot, pickle and extra lemon for homemade tartar sauce, or saffron and pureed red bell pepper for a quick rouille sauce.

And what about those leftover egg whites? You can freeze them as you make batches--when you have enough, whip up some coconut macaroons or meringue cookies.


Homemade Mayonnaise


  • 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. mild mustard
  • 2-3 tsp. fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 c. canola oil
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. seasonal fresh herbs, finely chopped (parsley, oregano, basil, cilantro, etc)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt and pepper


Place egg yolk in medium bowl and whisk vigorously until it becomes thick and sticky.

Stir in mustard, salt, pepper and vinegar.

Whisk in canola oil slowly by droplets until the egg and oil have begun to thicken (when 1/3 to 1⁄2 of the oil has been added), then whisk in the remaining canola oil in a thin, steady stream.

Stir in the olive oil.

Add garlic and parsley and stir.

The mayonnaise can be served on sandwiches, cooked vegetables or fish.

Mayonnaise will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.

*Consuming raw eggs increases the risk of food-borne illness.


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6 Tips for Conserving Water in Your Vegetable Garden

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hey . . . what's that wet stuff on the weather report? Spring is here, and that means perfect gardening weather and occasionally a little rain, too. For those of us growing food here in community and backyard gardens and farms here in Central Texas, water is a precious commodity. When it falls for free, right out of the sky, it's great to have a plan for making the most of it. Read on for tips for harvesting and putting that water to good use--your garden will thank you!


6 Tips for Conserving Water in Your Vegetable Garden:

  1. Don’t let that precious rainwater go to waste! When it rains, capture that water for your garden! Veggie gardens thrive with rainwater. Use rainbarrels or other harvesting systems to capture water from roofs. Click here for City of Austin Rainwater Rebate program info.
  2. So important it bears repeating: don’t let that precious rainwater go to waste! You can best capture rainwater by slowing it down as it moves downhill through a garden site by building a rain garden. Learn about "earthworks" techniques to capture rainwater here. Want more? We'll be teaching a Rain Garden Class on April 5th--click here for more info and to sign up »
  3. Mulch, mulch, mulch! Mulch is a biodegradable substance like wood chips, straw, pine needles, or simply shredded leaves raked from your yard (we like this kind best, because it’s free!), used to blanket the soil in your garden. Mulching minimizes evaporation and regulates soil temperature, which is vital for root development and healthy plants.
  4. Choose the best time of day to water. Water in the morning and evening to minimize evaporation and shock to plants.
  5. Get to the root of it all! Deliver water directly to the soil--use drip irrigation, soaker hoses, buried clay pot (olla) irrigation, wicking beds or hugelkulture. These are techniques that greatly minimize evaporation, thereby greatly enhancing the efficiency of your watering.
  6. Enrich the soil. Amending the garden with nutrient-rich compost helps with water retention and grows healthier, stronger plants!


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SFC Program Replication

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Let’s work together to change our food system—one community at a time!

Interested in bringing Grow Local, Farm Direct, The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre®, or Sprouting Healthy Kids to your community? Sustainable Food Center announces our 2014 Program Replication Training, to be held June 9-11, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

SFC will offer in-person, hands-on Program Replication Training in each of our food systems program areas. The intensive three-day workshop will be held at Sustainable Food Center’s training facility in Austin, Texas Monday, June 9 through Wednesday, June 11. The trainings, led by SFC staff and partners, are designed for community-based organizations, local government entities, and other groups interested in sustainable and local food systems programming. Participants will leave with comprehensive planning, implementation, and evaluation tools and resources needed to start or expand:

  • community and school gardening 
  • farm direct marketing 
  • Farmers’ Market SNAP and Double Dollar programming
  • healthy cooking programs 
  • school-based nutrition and gardening programs

Program Replication Training includes access to SFC staff for ongoing technical assistance and consultation throughout the year. Is Program Replication Training right for you? Check out resource requirements for program replication, such as staffing needs and estimated start-up costs here, along with more information and a breakdown of costs for attending the training.

A limited number of scholarships will be available, based on interest and need. Registration deadline is April 30, 2014.

What's in Your Bag?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Marina Thomas and Sam Hellman-Mass know good food. The couple works at the newly-opened Odd Duck, where locally-sourced ingredients are Chef Bryce Gilmore's inspiration. This Saturday found them loading up on springtime bounty at SFC Farmers' Market Downtown--a big bag of sunflower sprouts to eat with hummus and to toss in broccoli salad, honey and hemp for smoothies, snacks and breakfast and, of course, strawberries (some to eat in the car and some for indulging in later). What's in your bag? Share with us in the comments below--we love to know what you're cooking up!