Last spring, my husband and I spent a few days in San Antonio – a city I had wanted to visit for over 30 years.
As soon as we arrived and dropped off our luggage, we went directly downtown to see the San Antonio River Walk. From street level, one can only see the downtown office buildings and such, but walk down any of a multitude of staircases into the park that lines the riverbank and it’s like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. A glorious Disney-like world that’s hidden from above appears. Many of the major downtown buildings back onto the River Walk, along with hotels, busy restaurants and shops. We enjoyed a delicious Mexican lunch at a River Walk restaurant that was recommended to us by the hotel.
After lunch, we experienced a 35-minute narrated river cruise, where we discovered amazing foot bridges, heard mariachi bands performing, viewed the art decorating several buildings and enjoyed seeing wonderful sculptures.
Unfortunately, heavy rain curtailed some of our sightseeing over the next few days. But weather did not stop us from checking out several outstanding Texas-style restaurants, or from exploring the colourful and noteworthy Mexican market at Historic Market Square.
On our last day in Texas, we took a day trip to Fredericksburg, a city that features a number of museums, plus a quaint main street full of interesting boutiques and restaurants, not unlike our Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., but a cut above.
Southern Black-Eyed Peas (Beans)
ο 900 g (2 lb) dried black-eyed peas
ο 30 ml (2 tbsp) Canola oil
ο 1 medium or large onion, chopped
ο 1 carrot, peeled and diced
ο 1 clove garlic, minced
ο 1.2 g (2 tsp) dried tarragon
ο 1 g (1/2 tsp) fresh ground pepper, or more to taste
ο 1 g (1 tsp) dried oregano
ο 5 g (1 tsp) salt, or to taste
Pre-soak black-eyed peas overnight.
In large stock pot, heat oil. Add in onion and carrots and cook until tender. Add drained peas to pot. Add water to cover peas, plus an additional 5 cm (2 inches) over top. Add garlic, oregano, tarragon, black pepper and salt. Stir well. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
Uncover and cook for an additional 30-40 minutes, or until peas are tender. Add water as necessary to keep moist. Add salt (if desired) before serving. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Serves 8- 12.
Tortilla Chip Macaroni and Cheese
ο 450 g (1/2 package) elbow macaroni
ο 15 ml (1 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
ο 1 medium or large onion, finely chopped
ο 1 can (680 ml) chili-flavoured diced tomatoes
ο 4 g (1½ tsp) roasted garlic powder
ο 7.6 g (1 tbsp) chili powder
ο 120 ml (1/2 cup) margarine or butter
ο 40 g (1/4 cup) flour
ο 475 ml (2 cups) 1% milk
ο 329 g (2 cups) sharp shredded cheddar cheese, divided in half
ο 250 ml (1 cup) grated Parmesan cheese, divided in half
ο 150 g (2 cups) tortilla chips, crushed slightly
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Prepare a 23-cm-by-33-cm (9-inch-by-13-inch) Pyrex pan sprayed with Canola oil spray.
Place a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and onions. Sauté until onions are wilted and starting to brown. Add tomatoes, garlic and chili powder. Bring to a simmer for 6-8 minutes. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to minimum time on package directions.
In a separate frying pan, melt margarine or butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until mixture is smooth and cook for 1 minute. Add milk and whisk thoroughly for 1-2 minutes to thicken. Remove from heat and stir half of both cheeses into milk mixture, whisking until melted.
Drain noodles. Rinse with cold water and drain again. Return noodles to pot. Combine tomato mixture and cheese mixture, then combine with the noodles. Pour into the greased pan. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips. Cover and refrigerate for later, or bake immediately.
To bake immediately: place in oven for 15-20 minutes, just to melt cheese and toast the tortilla chips. If it is cold from the fridge: bake in preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes.
Texas Black Bean Soup
ο 2 cans (454 g) low-fat refried black beans
ο 900 ml (32/3 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
ο 5 g (2 tsp) cumin
ο 2.8 g (1 tsp) roasted garlic powder
ο 540 ml (2 cups) undrained black beans
ο 480 ml (1¾ cups) tomato sauce
ο 1 ripe avocado, diced
ο 1 large tomato, diced
ο juice from one lime
Mix refried beans, stock, cumin and garlic powder in pan until blended. Bring to a boil and stir in black beans and tomato sauce. Cook on medium-high for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Drizzle with lime juice. Serve in bowls topped with diced tomato and avocado. Serves 6-8.
Terrific Texan Lemon Pecan Pie
Cream cheese pastry
ο 60 g (1/2 cup) low-fat cream cheese, softened
ο 1 stick (60 g) butter, softened
ο 2.4 g (1 tbsp) sugar
ο zest of one lemon
ο 150 g (1 cup) flour
ο 3 eggs
ο 150 g (3/4 cup) brown sugar, firmly packed
ο 0.5 g (1/8 tsp) salt
ο 250 g (3/4 cup) corn syrup
ο 80 ml (1/3 cup) butter or margarine, melted
ο 5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla
ο 30 ml (2 tbsp) pure lemon extract
ο 282 g (2¼ cups) pecan halves
To make the cream cheese pastry: Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Blend all ingredients thoroughly. Press into a 23-cm (9-inch) pie plate. Trim around the rim and then flute dough with your fingers.
Bake for 15 minutes. Cool.
To complete the pie: Slightly beat eggs in medium-sized bowl. Blend in sugar, salt, corn syrup and margarine. Add vanilla and lemon extract. Arrange pecan halves on bottom of crust. Gently pour filling over them. Bake 50-60 minutes, until centre of pie is almost set, but still soft. Do not over bake, as filling will continue to set as it cools.
Cool on wire rack at least 1 hour before cutting.