Tag Archives: charro beans

Central Texas Foodie and Sightseeing Tour ~ Part 2

30 Jun
Wimberley Deer

Deer at my parent’s house in Wimberley

Next stop: Tubing the San Marcos River, just 20 minutes down the road from Wimberley. It’s a spring-fed river and a nice and cooling 72-degrees year round, as it was in the mid-90s. It’s also a great bargain for your money. Just eight bucks gets you a Lion’s Club float tube and a shuttle back to the parking lot. It’s about an hour and a half lazy float to the end, where you are greeted with three thrilling waterfalls to splash down… and hold on to your hat and sunglasses! Wow, what a blast!

San Marcos River Tubing

First falls on San Marcos River at Rio Vista Park ~ photo credit Jesse Knish

You can exit the river after that and walk back a short distance and go down the falls as many times as you want. I went down them twice, but the kids must have made 10 runs down them. We even got a personal lecture earlier in the float from some conservation folks who travel up and down in canoes to tell us about the endangered wild rice plants that are found only in that river, and to stop pulling them up and throwing them at each other. Whoops! There was plenty of wildlife to view along the float, including great blue herons, various hawks, ducks, and some other interesting birds I could not identify. My brother brought his underwater camera and caught lots of good video and photos, but he’s out on a film shoot this weekend so I don’t have any of his photos of the tubing trip. I’ll update this post later when he has a chance to send them to me.

As most of the relatives have now made it into Texas, we had our first formal gathering at my parent’s house in Wimberley for cocktails, and then headed off about 15 minutes away to Driftwood to an Italian Restaurant and Winery, called Trattoria Lisina. My daughter said, “Are we finally not having any Tex-Mex?? Is that all you eat here?” Well, yes, sometimes. 🙂

Arriving at Trattoria Lisina

Arriving at Trattoria Lisina

Upon arriving there you really feel you’ve been transported to another place and time. Beautiful scenery, beautiful restaurant, fabulous food and wine. We all ate delicious and finely presented meals and drank plenty of good wine, then toured around the place and even played Bocce Ball on one of their many courts on the premises. So many beautiful young couples were sipping wine at the various picnic tables scattered around the property, and I can only imagine how many proposals have happened there!

Wine and Laughs at Trattoria Lisina Fountain

My sister and family friend enjoying wine at laughs at the Trattoria Lisina Fountain

Big Family Reunion Day: This was the day we spent all day at 7-A Ranch just outside of Wimberley on the Blanco River. This is a once-private ranch that has recently opened up the to the public. Five bucks for parking gets you unlimited use of the river-side ranch park, Cowboy Town and the Pioneer Museum.

Floaters on Blanco River

Floaters on Blanco River

We got there early to grab some prime shaded spots under the trees, and enjoyed the day floating the river and eating deli sandwiches and such. So much fun! We even watched a kid pull in a huge fish from the river right next to us! The Cowboy Town was quaint and just what you would expect, and the Pioneer Museum came complete with a real-sized Jackalope and a mummified Indian. Only in Texas, I tell you.

Jackalope at the Cowboy Museum.

Jackalope at the Cowboy Museum.

We ended the day once again at my parent’s house, where we feasted on 20 pounds of Texas-style BBQ brisket that my mom had started on the grill, then cooked all day in the oven to finish it off.

Platter of BBQ Brisket

One of Several Platters of Mom’s BBQ Brisket

Pot of Charro Beans

Sister’s Big Pot of Charro Beans

My sister made some outstanding Charro Beans, and my sister-in-law made mounds of pasta salad and other side dishes. BBQ and Tex-Mex were definitely the theme of the week, the Italian restaurant aside. After all day in the sun, we all pretty much passed out by 11 pm to our various residences.

Last Day: We have to go shopping/sightseeing on South Congress! Our flight wasn’t leaving until 7 pm, so we got packed up in Wimberley and traveled back to Austin to do the hip tour of the various boutiques, thrift shops, and restaurants on SoCo in Austin.

South Congress Austin

South Congress in Austin ~ photo credit overyonderlust.com

My daughter said she HAD to find a pair of white cowboy boots. After stopping in Allen’s Boots, nary a white boot was to be found. But just as well. They have pretty much every boot you can imagine (besides white), but after picking up a few pairs and glancing at price tags from $500 to $2,500, we quickly scooted out of there. No wonder they had a cop at the front door. But we ventured into a trendy thrift shop called New Bohemia, and lo and behold three pairs of white boots were staring us right in the face.

New Bohemia Austin

Vintage Boots at New Bohemia ~ photo credit amyinaustin.blogspot.com

One pair fit my daughter perfectly, and we left beaming with the new purchase on her feet and her sandals she was wearing in a bag. At another hip shop called Parts and Labour, I bought my one and only personal souvenir of a ceramic coaster with a photo of the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue taken at night along the Austin Town Lake park. My drink sits next to me on it now.

We walked up and down SoCo, amazed at how many people are out and about on a Sunday afternoon on a 95 degree day. What’s nice is many of the shops have water misters that cool you down as you traverse up and down the street. We wanted to stop for a slice of pizza at Home Slice, but the line at the window was about 15 deep. Then the burger joint HopDoddy across the way had almost 30 people in line just to get in to the establishment. Are their burgers really that good? I was wondering if a celebrity was in there dining.

We settled on grabbing a bite to eat at the Lucky Robot, some hip Asian-Fusion place where you order your meals from an iPad, which has serious warnings that the iPad will self destruct and robots will attack you if you leave the place with one of them. We didn’t. I sampled some of my sister’s Asian dumplings in a plum and cranberry sauce, while I ordered a big bowl of steamed edamame with Himalayan salt.

Jo's I Love You So Much Austin

i love you so much ~ Jo’s graffiti on South Congress, Austin

I had my daughter snap a photo of me on her iPod of me standing on the side of the iconic Jo’s coffee shop graffiti. This graffiti shows up now on everything from t-shirts to coasters, and wedding photographers use it as a backdrop. So Austin.

Darn, it was time to leave to the airport at this time for our flight back to Oregon. We missed the finale of the day of watching the bats exit out from under the Congress bridge at dusk, which most everyone else got to do. But I do remember that phenom from my college days, but I hear their numbers are 10 times more what they were back when I lived there.

So here I am back at home, back to the grind of work and every day life, but I’ll never forget that week in Central Texas. Oh, one last note: My daughter was able to tour the University of Texas at Austin campus with my sister while the rest of us watched a family reunion slide show.

UT Austin Campus

UT Austin Campus ~ photo credit University of Texas

UT is my alma mater, and she’s now expressing great interest in attending there. We’ll see how that goes in the next four years as she’s just entering high school this year, but I swear if she decides to go there and gets in, we are moving back to Austin! Woot!

Thanks for persevering these two long posts, but it was fun to journal this. Happy Trails!


Grilled Tri-Tip Steak and Charro Beans

1 May
Tri-tip and Drunken Charro Beans

Tri-tip and Drunken Charro Beans

I had it in my mind to cook some dried pinto beans in my pressure cooker on Sunday, and as luck would have it my husband had it in his mind to grill a tri-tip steak during the absolutely beautiful spring weather we had this past weekend. They paired together beautifully for a scrumptious dinner served with a side salad.  The process to cook this dinner started Saturday evening, as you’ll need to marinate the steak and soak the beans overnight.  Although cooking dried beans in a pressure cooker reduces the cooking time vastly, you really do need to soak them overnight then rinse them thoroughly to reduce the foaming and sputtering (and potentially dangerous situation) caused by the natural release of starches and gasses. The recipe for the beans can also be cooked over the stove top, but you’ll have to increase the cooking time to several hours.

Marinated Tri-Tip Steak

1 or 2 pounds tri-tip steak (also called roast)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Original Blend

Tri Tip Steak Resting

Let that steak rest!

Combine all the ingredients in a glass or rubber container with lid, big enough to fit the tri-tip. Whisk really well, then add the steak and flip around on both sides to cover it in the mixture. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, turning the steak several times the next day. A few hours before grilling, take the steak out and set on a plate and cover with plastic wrap to let the steak come to room temperature. Grill on high heat for about 5-10 minutes each side until a meat thermometer registers between 125-135 for medium rare. The trick to having this come out perfect in the end is to let the steak rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. After resting, carve across the grain into thin serving slices.

Dried Pinto Beans

Dried Pinto Beans (Soaked and Rinsed)

Charro (or Drunken) Beans

2 cups dried pinto beans
2 cups homemade or low salt chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 slices cooked bacon, chopped (or bacon bits)
1 can Rotel tomatoes (or diced tomatoes and green chiles)
Black pepper to taste
1 bottle or can of beer (preferably Mexican)
2 sprigs of cilantro, and more for garnish

After soaking and rinsing the beans overnight, add them to a pressure cooker with the chicken broth and enough water to cover the beans by an inch or so. Cover the pot with its lid tightly with the pressure regulator on top, and heat over medium high heat until the regulator begins to rock. Turn the heat down until regulator is rocking gently, then cook for 25 minutes.

Rotel Tomatoes, Onion, and Bacon

Rotel Tomatoes, Onion, and Bacon

Meanwhile, add the oil, garlic, and bacon to a heated skillet and saute until the onion starts to get translucent. Add the can of tomatoes and black pepper, and cook for about five minutes longer and set aside. After the beans have cooked 25 minutes, take the pot off the heat and let the pressure reduce on its own. Do  not cool it by running under water, you will have to let the pressure come down naturally or you will have a foaming mess on your hands. When you can open the lid easily, stir in the tomato mixture and the rest of the ingredients and cook again according to the above directions for another 25 minutes. (If you have two or three fresh Roma tomatoes and serrano chiles on hand, you can chop them and substitute for the Rotel tomatoes.) Once you can open the lid easily again, add the tomato mixture and give it a good stir, and your beans are ready to serve! Garnish with additional cilantro,  if you prefer. This makes a mess of beans, but they are so yummy you’ll find they will disappear quickly. These taste even better the next day, too.

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