Sunday, January 30, 2011

Evolution

I'm fascinated by the process of evolution.

The Texas Hill Country is ribboned with rivers.  Most spring from permeable limestone formations imprisoned by dense rock. The rivers make this land habitable.  And desirable.

Denny and I drink water from the Edwards aquifer, a formation of limestone created and eroded as shallow seas rose and fell, until water could pass through the limestone, trickling, flowing through cracks, fissures, crevices, caverns.  

The Edwards was eventually surrounded in dense layers of rock, until it became a captive limestone vessel.  
Map from the Edwards Aquifer Website. 

One imprisoning layer, the Del Rio Clay, "consists primarily of windblown ash that originated with volcanism on the Pacific coast of Mexico." (1)

I don't think of Pacific coast volcanoes when I go down to the Guadalupe River and dabble my toes in the swift cold water.  But if, somewhere in the stretch  between 248 to 65 million years ago, ancient volcanic ash had not erupted and been carried here, the Texas Hill Country would support little human life.

Today the Hill Country is a land of stark beauty, a good place for contemplation and exploration.  
We came from yesterday, but today is ours.

(1) from Hydrogeology of the Edwards Aquifer

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Cardinal Moment

I get excited about the endangered golden-cheeked warbler which occasionally graces our gardens in summer.  And our escarpment black cherry and big red sage (Salvia penstemonoides), small salvations from extinction. 

Yet I'm so accustomed to the cardinals thronging our yard that my eyes skip past.

 But today I had a cardinal moment, 
And remembered the beauty of now.
 What everyday gift are you seeing today?

 Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Aunt Flossie's Jalapeno Cornbread

Food isn't love.  But it is culture and history, the warmth of belonging and tactile 'Yes!' that says you're home.  And where home is.  Ask any ex-pat. 

Most folks have food traditions.  One of our family favorites is Aunt Flossie's Jalapeno Cornbread. She was my grandmother's cousin's wife and in those Hill Country days, Aunt was pronounced Aint.  Just like Mrs. was Miz.  As in, "The Golden-Age Club voted Miz Bragg 'The Girl I Most Want Under the Apple Tree' the year she was 96.  Most of the Golden Age guys were  under 80 but Miz Bragg was cute and strong and smart and knew how to cook.

I never knew Aint Flossie but judging by her representation in our family cookbook, she knew her way around the stove. I know her cornbread has a fan base --some variation of it comes to table at most of our gatherings.

Aunt Flossie's Jalapeno Cornbread

Before stirring up the cornbread, spread a couple teaspoons oil in a #8 cast iron skillet (mine is 8 3/4" across the bottom and approx. 10" rim-to-rim) and put it in the oven while you preheat it to 400 degrees.  Starting the cornbread in a hot greased skillet gives a nice crisp bottom crust.

Ingredients
1 c yellow cornmeal
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 c creamed corn (I use frozen corn kernels & add a dollop of buttermilk if the mixture seems dry.)
1/4 c bacon drippings (nowadays we use canola oil)
1 med onion, minced
2 lg jalapeno peppers, minced. *The jalapeno heat mellows in cooking so leave the seeds in for a bite.  If I'm in a hurry I substitute a tsp or so of  red pepper flakes. 
1/2 lb. grated cheddar cheese ** I usually omit the cheese layer and add a light sprinkle of low-fat cheddar on top. A hit of toasted cheese flavor, fewer calories.

If you want to make it like my mother does, use the creamed corn and layer the cheese.

Directions:
Mix all ingredients except cheese.  Pour 1/2 batter into hot skillet.  Spread grated cheese over this.  Pour remaining batter over the cheese.  Bake 20-25 minutes until top is brown.  Let stand to set.  Slice and serve from skillet.

Enjoy with loved ones, and memories. 

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dodging Duck Brewhaus & Pub - Boerne, Texas

Boerne sits a comfortable drive from almost everything--if a person's idea of almost everything means the best of the eastern Hill Country and the gateway city of San Antonio.

Travelers arrive in Boerne to find a quaint historic village, appealing scenery, unique shops and great food and drink.

There are more good eateries than you can enjoy in a weekend but among my favorites is the Dodging Duck Brewhaus & Pub on SR 46 across from Cibolo Creek.  In nice weather, drinkers and diners can see the quacking action.

Keith, owner, brewmaster and smile-maker behind the Pub says the ducks from the creek named the establishment.  I'm wondering if they knew he'd put in a Ducky Hour weekdays from 3pm-6pm with discounts on house-made beer wine and appetizers.

There's a laid-back appeal to outdoor seating, particularly when you have time to watch the sky change colors at sunset...and you're sipping a new-to-you international wine, especially if you're taking the edge off your hunger with an interesting cheese plate, gratis with the purchase of the bottle of wine.  

I've been to the Duck a couple of times.  Loved it all except the fried green tomatoes, which had a breading rather than my favorite deep-South prep of cornmeal crusting.

My friend Kitty and I split an antelope burger--a juicy, flavorful meal-for-two-sized affair from regionally-raised game--served on a sweet cheddar jalapeno sourdough bun. That bun is worth a trip all by itself. No I don't have a picture.  We ate the composition before I remembered the camera...but I recommend you go try it, remembering to take a picture first if you can wait that long.
Another day I tried the salmon burger and grilled chicken lettuce wraps.  The tastes-like-it-was-swimming-this-morning salmon is flaked and pattied without filler then grilled and served on that previously mentioned scrumptious bun. With sweet potato fries.  Best salmon burger I've ever had.  The chicken lettuce wrap had a just-right sauce--peanutty with a hint of heat at the end.

Keith brews four beers at a time in a building behind the pub.  Over the course of a year, he'll brew 20 different kinds so you'll probably get something other than those I tried.  

Every palate is different, so I hope you'll take my preference as just that.  I enjoyed the Quackinator Doppelbock which reminded me of a good German bread--yeasty, balanced and deep, with a bonus chocolaty finish.  It was the one I'd order again.  The others included a vanilla beer and an orange beer which weren't bad but I'm not looking for those flavors in beer.

I'm thinking of taking Denny to the Duck for his birthday.  I think he'd like the saucy menu, fresh-brewed beer and sitting on the porch.  He'd probably like the owner's motto too--

Carpe Anatem (Seize the Duck)!!!
  
If you go:
The Dodging Duck Brewhaus & Pub
402 River Road, Boerne, Texas 78006 
dodgingduck.com 
phone: (830) 248-3825
Sun-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.,  Fri-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Armchair Travel -- Palo Duro Canyon and Blanco, Texas

When I'm not writing here, I'm traveling and writing about it.  Almost too much fun to call it work.  I like to do the trips with a companion--another set of eyes and thoughts and dinner entrees.

Last weekend in the cute Hill Country town of Boerne, my sister Jane helped out. No, I didn't send this picture with the article.  Although I was tempted to send the other one, the one taken from behind as she was bending over... 

Don't know when Boerne will be published but today the San Antonio Express-News ran my Palo Duro explorations, here and here.  AND my Blanco profile here.  

I was so tickled, we went out for pancakes this morning, my treat. 


Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Laissez Faire Gardener

He doesn't carry a pickaxe.
 Thinks my raised beds are perfect for planting. 

This is the result:

Peanut plants
Everywhere.
Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Texas Scenery

Is that not the coolest cow you've ever seen?

What kind of scenery do you see on the way to school/work/grocery?

Copyright 2009-2011 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011

I wrote a great post (click here) last year about old resolutions and other things; it wandered as all good trails and stories do.  

So now I'm freed from public resolution obligation--a good thing since I don't make them.  Except this annual resolution, at which I've been spectacularly successful:

To make new mistakes this year.

Feel free to claim it as your own.

Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.