A Taste of Home – South Texas Kolaches

Texas sausage jalapeno kolaches

I’m not sure what got me on the subject, but when I was in the States recently, I failed to eat any kolaches. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, these are sausages with various fillings (or none at all) wrapped in a sweet dough, introduced to Texas by Czech immigrants (and we thank them for that).

The bakery in San Antonio that made me fat

Just about any bakery or doughnut shop will have these and almost anyone will gladly accept one or two when they’re brought into the office to share. My favorite was jalapeno and cheese. I would pick one up at a bakery I’d frequent on the way to work once or twice a week. When I started gaining weight, I knew what to blame (it never occurred to me that could REALLY happen). I had to cut back. They were pretty huge sausages in there and mighty greasy but boy, did they go down easy and kept me from getting hungry for lunch 6 hours later.

Oh, I know what got me on this kick…I made my boyfriend an omelette with chorizo in it and that’s what reminded me of kolaches. I searched a few places for a recipe and they all looked involved and messy. One suggested using Crisco (which we don’t have here) so I bought some from the American store (a one pounder for $8.50nzd), which I didn’t even use. Found another recipe using butter which appealed to me more. Of course, this came from the Homesick Texan site, which I’ve frequented in the past.

Anyway, there was a small package of sausages which were NOT chorizo, but thought they were as close as I could get to ‘Lil Smokeys (also not here). Seeing that the recipe was going to make quite a few, I cut up one of the chorizo sausages into 3 pieces (I’ll probably regret not doing more) and set off to work.

The first part wasn’t so bad…simply mix together warm milk, sugar, a bit of flour and yeast, then let it rise until doubled, which happened just like it said it would. In the meantime, I cut up some jalapenos and grated some cheddar cheese.

Letting the magic happen

Now the fun part, which was to stand there with a mixer for 20 MINUTES. No way….I have a hand mixer and I just didn’t see this happening. I’m extremely lazy when it comes to making dough of any kind. I hand mixed the rising dough with eggs, butter and salt until it was ready to be given over to the mixer. Dough hooks attached, I checked the time. It was 18 after. I added some flour, mixed and mixed then tested the tackiness of the stuff. When it stuck to my finger, I added a bit more flour….then a bit more…then more again.

kolache dough
Still a bit sticky
My favorite line from Kids in the Hall
kolache dough
At least a cup of flour more added until it felt “right”

It was becoming ‘pillowy’ as it said it would and no longer stuck to my finger. They said, ‘Do the windowpane test,’ which involved taking a little bit of dough and stretching it until you could see daylight through it without it breaking. Well, good enough for me. The clock now read 32 after. Amazing.

Let’s see if we can find yet ANOTHER bowl to oil up and put this doughy beauty inside of. As that did its thing, it said to fry up those sausages in a bit of olive oil and drain. Well, folks, this isn’t the prettiest sight, I’ll admit. Thankfully they’ll be hidden in some yeasty, sweet bread!

If you hate cleaning up, this recipe is not for you

Sure enough, the dough rose nicely and as I formed them into rectangles (instead of triangles since that seemed like way too much work), the dough was indeed pillowy and due to all of the butter, didn’t stick to my fingers AT ALL.

I’m ready to take a nap right on top of this
Five finger punch that thang

I managed to use about half of the dough and all of the sausages which filled up the pan.

I’m not obsessed with making these perfect

kolaches ready to bake

In my infinite wisdom, I thought I could do some fruit ones with the leftover dough so got out the brambleberry and boysenberry jams and did another pan with those (with a couple left plain to turn into rolls).

The moment of truth was 15 minutes away. The kitchen started getting that yeasty, bakery smell and the little guys looked great in the oven! Puffing up and turning brown on top due to the egg wash they got.

And what, only 3 hours later, I’m happy to report that this homesick Texan is happy with the sausage kolaches and stuffing my face as I write. The dough turned out perfectly light, slightly sweet and tender. Now the sausages could use some work…I haven’t found the chorizo ones yet, but hey…this is progress! Not to mention, lunch.

By the way, my boyfriend came home from work and picked out two of the three that had chorizo in them! How’d he do that?? They were much spicier and didn’t even need jalapeno in them. I think I’ll stick with that if I ever summon up the energy to make these again.

I think Kiwi’s would probably go nuts over these, being such sausage fans. If only my bakery guy was still in business! Maybe one day I’ll finally open that bakery I’ve always dreamt of. Although the hours turn me off. I’m a danger to myself and others before 10am.sweet kolaches

Well, it’s now time for dessert! These came out pretty well, too. I took a few to my Kiwi neighbor to see her reaction. I caught her as she was home for lunch and about to stuff a lamington in her mouth. She put it back and tried the sausage kolache. I got the seal of approval from her, so that’s promising.

The bonus is that the house smells great now. I’m willing to bet there will be 1 or 2 left by tomorrow morning. This isn’t something I’ll be making often, but glad I did. I guess another batch of flour tortillas are in order which is another 3 hours of labor for not much reward. Once again, you guys in Texas are seriously blessed (and don’t you forget it!!!).

sweet kolaches


Back To The Stomping Grounds: Part 2 – Virginia & Texas

BBQ at last!

Virginia: the place I spent my formative years until I left in 1989 (or was it ’90?). Although I couldn’t wait to leave, looking back, I’m glad I grew up there. A place rich in history and no end of interesting museums to visit in Washington, D.C., it was a melting pot of ethnicities which shaped who I am today.

My mother, knowing full well my love of BBQ (and specifically, Blacks BBQ from Lockhart, Texas) placed an order of my favorite ribs and brisket for a post birthday celebration. These Flintstone sized ribs easily make for a few meals and are fall apart tender.

blacks bbq ribs

Since I only get these when I come to the States, I try to get my fill as much as possible. Having quite a few things on my foodie wish list, a couple of things fell by the wayside so I could eat these ribs as much as possible (it wasn’t easy).

Camille enjoying the friendly banter

Bob and Camille arranged their trip up north to coincide with my arrival in Virginia and we played catch up after 4 years. We had met at mom’s while we hashed out our book together. Although it was too chilly to go for a walk around the lake (she was hoping I’d encounter another snake), we snuck out for a short walk up the street.

Cute as a button mushrooms

After a lovely dinner (and chocolate souffles), Camille unwrapped birthday gifts ranging from New Zealand honey products to an assortment of flavored lip balms (something she’s never without).

Bob and I exchanged stories of Belize and reminisced of how it used to be which gave me the warm fuzzies. Maybe someday we can all go back there together!

Here’s to our 12 year friendship and many more!

Another thing I look forward to when visiting is going to the grocery store. While you guys take this for granted (and see it as a chore), my eyes light up like it’s Christmas and I could spend way too much time seeing the amount of STUFF available for purchase.

I was absolutely blown away by the different kinds of fruits I saw in the store in my mom’s small town. A testament to the amount of immigrants who want a taste of home. I had never before seen jackfruit anywhere but Central America, yet here it was, among dragonfruit, huge aloe leaves and many other fruits. I love the idea of dragonfruit and always want to buy it when I see it, but forget how it can often be quite bland. Mom told me to get it since she had never eaten one. We weren’t impressed. With a name and look like that, it should be extremely exotic tasting. I combined it with a mango for breakfast and the colors looked great together.

Now here’s a little example of the difference between the U.S. and New Zealand:

Ice cream aisle in the U.S. (yes, it goes all the way to the end)
Ice cream section in New Zealand
Cheese selection in the U.S.
Cheese selection in New Zealand

Now some may say, “How many choices do you really need?” And honestly, I can say I miss Monterey Jack, Velveeta on occasion and some types of swiss cheese. But other than that, I can’t complain too much. Plus, I rarely eat ice cream so that doesn’t bother me. But when I want a decent cheddar, a very small piece can cost $12 here which doesn’t thrill me.

This display, however, stopped me dead in my tracks:

Ohhhh yeah

Being that mom lives far from a major town, a lot of driving was done and we visited some smaller towns nearby, like Woodstock.

It was fun looking at the antique shops and I even picked up a “new” computer from my childhood days!

A “computer” from 1972 which worked in mysterious ways

We popped into a vineyard one day and immediately found #48 row to mark my current birthday. I’m still getting through 48 therapy.

There was a crazy Trump house along a road we’d pass by often, so I just had to take a photo. I’d be mortified to be a neighbor.

I also spent a lot of time going through my stuff in storage. Mom was great about keeping things that were important to me as a child; one of them being this giant teddy bear I received from my Great Uncle when I was a few years old.

Not as plush as he used to be, but heck, he’s as old as me (and I’m not as plush either!).

Unfortunately, the time went by quickly and I was off to the great state of Texas to visit with dad at his lakehouse.

7 out of 10 people prefer a truck

BBQ was first on the list so we went to Opie’s and parked right next to the meat smokers….YUM!

Upon entering, you’re presented with the board of choices and a big pit where they kept a selection on hand.

I opted for the ribs as usual. That pork loin at the top puts NZ’s to shame.

Although it doesn’t look like much, it sent me over the edge as far as getting hungry again anytime soon. We took a lot home (other stuff not pictured).

The lake was lovely and buzzing with animal activity! Things I used to take for granted like lizards, birds, fish and deer all caught my attention as if I had never seen them before. I’m really deprived in NZ of this stuff.

No room for you!

Too many turtles to count! I liked feeding the little fish off the dock and seeing all varieties of water birds and hummingbirds go about their day. The deer were all over the place with little Bambi’s running around with them.

We took his boat around the lake for a tour of the upper 3% and pretty much found nobody to be home.

We visited a nice winery with the most immaculately manicured vineyard I think I’ve ever seen. A gentle reminder not to carry your gun inside was present at the gate.

A fat lizard chased ants around the patio and sat still long enough for a shot.

Cashing in on my recent birthday, Dad arranged a dinner at the old Chainsaw Massacre house for me! My friend and I had gone there a long time ago to meet the cast, have dinner (not THAT kind of dinner) and watch Chainsaw Massacre outside on a big screen. We even spent the night in one of the railroad cars on site. It was nice going back. They had added on and there was a large bar area, separate from the house itself.

The original Chainsaw Massacre house in Kingsland, Tx.
Me being choked by Leatherface on the first trip there

Craving seafood, I got the fried shrimp and huge baked potato and was surprised by a chocolate brownie cheesecake with amazing mascarpone cheese topping.

With my time nearing an end, we drove into San Antonio on a typical 100 degree day.

Ahhh it was already feeling good to be back home. It had been five years since I was there and where my new life began in Costa Rica. I hardly recognized 281 when approaching the city limit due to the amount of stores and housing going up. We passed by the Thousand Oaks exit near where I used to live and work and the memories came flooding back.

Seafood fondue at Bourbon St. Cafe

My friends indulged me and my craving for seafood fondue at a restaurant that was down the street from my old house. This is my “death row” meal, consisting of shrimp, crawfish, mushrooms and plenty of cheese and garlic bread. Far too much for me to eat this time around for a mere $12.

Fondue at the Melting Pot was another place on my list and was just as good as I remember it. We could’ve used more chocolate (although my thighs were screaming NOOOOOO!).

Dad was staying downtown at the Emma hotel near the Pearl, which was pretty unrecognizable to me with a lot more buildings having gone in since I was there last.

Pool at the Emma Hotel

I went back to this area of the riverwalk over the next couple of days and took advantage of the river taxi to take us down to the original section of the river and save my feet.

Little duckies look like bumblebees

I also made a visit to the Witte museum and saw these animatronic dinos.

My last day in San Antonio provided a final lunch of BBQ across the street at the Smoke Shack. The line was out the door so you know it had to be good.

I can still taste those ribs and that mac n cheese with brisket was brilliant. What I’d give for this again.

As I was being driven to the airport to begin the long journey back, I became a little misty. Feeling like I didn’t have enough time to do everything I wanted and the memories of leaving five years ago only served to remind me of where I am now. I still don’t regret any of my choices I made back then and know that San Antonio will always be there when I want to come back. I miss the people and places I knew so well and will try not to stay away so long.

Thanks to friends and family for making my visit the best ever! It means so much to me that you took the time and indulged me in my culinary desires. You’re welcome any time to this side of the world (just be sure you eat plenty of Mexican and BBQ before you come)!


Merry Christmas from Costa Rica!

P1030385It’s a beautiful day and figured I’d get a photo with the wild poinsettia’s that I noticed growing here about a month ago!  The butterflies were enjoying them as well.  I’d never seen them growing in the wild, only in pots during Christmas, then left to dry out and die by the time New Year’s came around.  I always tried to save them, but it was a hard fought battle.  They simply weren’t meant to be in pots in dry, hot offices with no sun.  So it’s nice to see them flourishing here.

Bet you've never seen one with a butterfly on it!
Bet you’ve never seen one with a butterfly on it!

The other day, I got a present from Mother Nature when a yellow-throated Euphonia flew into the house and I was able to catch it and spend a little time with him.  Sure was a beauty!  Small too…only a little larger than a hummingbird.  He had beautiful dark blue feathers and the contrasting yellow really made him stand out. Of course, I had to sniff it and sure enough, he smelled good too!  I’m beginning to think all birds must smell good!?  They all seem to have a similar scent.  He turned out to be ok and flew off fairly quickly.  So that was a nice gift!

P1030362 yellow-throated Euphonia

Well, Merry Christmas to all and thank you for sticking with me through everything, commenting on posts and for giving me encouragement.  It means more than any tangible gift ever could!!

The Next Move


Sorry for the radio silence there, had a friend visit from the States and we trekked back to my little town near the beach then up to Arenal for some hiking, hot springs and waterfalls!  I’ll post some pictures after the latest update.

In preparation for not being able to find a house sitting job, I decided to look for a Serpentarium in Panama I could volunteer for, since reptiles are my ‘true love’.  The one I found was in a town called El Valle de Anton which resides within a crater of an extinct volcano.  I didn’t hear back from the guy, but decided to look around at housing options and was lucky enough to email just the right person, who passed me on to another person and then BINGO!!

This ‘other person’ was starting a butterfly farm on his land (a couple from the U.S.) and had already been building it in preparation for a January opening.  Everything just sort of fell in place after that.  I will be able to live on the property and volunteer doing many different things, but first and foremost, raising butterflies!  How cool is THAT?!  I’m really looking forward to the experience.  He will also have a cafe which is another thing I wanted to do…bake, cook and make fruity drinks.  I’ll just be helping on the side with that, as well as giving tours, I assume.  Maybe if I have time I can do some paintings of some butterflies and sell those to help with his income.

I wanted to mention the strange occurrence of the names of the towns I’ve been living in…it goes like this:

1. San Antonio, Tx

2. Cocles, Costa Rica

3. Tronadora, Costa Rica

4. San Antonio, Costa Rica

5. Province of El Cocle, Panama

Of course none of these had been planned, just odd how I end up living in the same names of places somehow.

With my house sit being up here in early January, I’ll be in Panama the second week to hit the ground running!  It’ll be a great experience and exactly the type of thing I had in mind before ever leaving the States.  So look forward to some interesting posts in 2014 along with a new country to explore and experience!

Here are some photos from the trip last week with captions

Family of coati's near Arenal park
Family of coati’s near Arenal park
As close as you can get to Arenal volcano
As close as you can get to Arenal volcano
This was a river you could get into for FREE with hot water running through it
This was a river you could get into for FREE with hot water running through it
The huge waterfall at La Fortuna
The huge waterfall at La Fortuna
Nice beach dog in Puerto Viejo with beautiful eyes
Nice beach dog in Puerto Viejo with beautiful eyes
The old barge in Puerto Viejo
The old barge in Puerto Viejo
My favorite beach in Cocles/Playa Chiquita
My favorite beach in Cocles/Playa Chiquita
Sweet dog who loved to have sticks and coconuts thrown. She started burying this one
Sweet dog who loved to have sticks and coconuts thrown. She started burying this one
Cute crab on Punta Uva beach
Cute crab on Punta Uva beach
Sloth next to the pulperia in Playa Chiquita (wild)
Sloth next to the pulperia in Playa Chiquita (wild)
A gate down the street from my house in San Antonio de Turrialba
A gate down the street from my house in San Antonio de Turrialba
Me next to my favorite tree
Me next to my favorite tree
Steam rising from the Turrialba volcano
Steam rising from the Turrialba volcano