Culinary Trends that are Shaping the Olive Branch

Here at the Olive Branch we like to try cooking trends and experiment with new flavors and recipes. Last month Leah explored the world of southern cousine and whipped up some chicken and waffles. It was a true success and you can make it yourself, just find the recipe here. This month Leah’s looking a little further into cooking fads that are taking over the culinary world. Nation’s Restaurant News recently posted the Top 10 Culinary Trends of 2013. Leah’s excited to experiment with these trends so stayed tuned for recipes featuring these fads! For now, read on to see how you can get creative in the kitchen and impress your friends with the trendiest cook techniques of 2013.

DIY chocolate

This one caught our eye: Healthy Kid’s Meals. With new food regulations, we’ve seen schools improve on their lunch options. At the Olive Branch Leah makes sure our menu includes healthy and delicious meals for kids. Our grilled cheese is served with fruit so your little ones get all the nutrients they need!

Greek yogurt can be found at any grocery store these days; there are so many brands it’s hard to know which one to choose! But Greek yogurt is more for just eating by itself, now it can be used as a substitute for many traditional ingredients. Anything consisting of mayonaise or sour cream can be substituted with plain Greek yogurt. We don’t currently have any recipes with Greek yogurt, but we’re excited to try using it in our homemade mac & cheese or even putting it on top of a baked potato!

It can be challenging to find gluten free items in Central Texas, but due to the increase in demand and popularity, gluten free foods can be found almost anywhere these days! Most manufacturers have started developing not only GF bread, but also GF sauces, desserts and snacks. Leah has been working on creating items that are gluten free and enjoyable for everyone! For those that have celiac or gluten sensitivities, we’re hoping on board with this trend so you can eat at the Olive Branch too! Many of our salads are made with our homemade gluten free dressing. Items like our quiche and chicken salad are free of the protein composite as well. Although our whole menu is not gluten free, we continue to think of ways to accommodate our customers!


For a chef, new culinary trends are an exciting thing. Leah’s mind is constantly turning with new ideas for ingredients and recipes. This month, we’ve even added an appetizer menu! Our Italian queso,  garlic bread, chips, hummus, and salsa are available for you to snack on before you enjoy your dinner. And they’re all homemade recipes by Leah! Stay tuned for more recipes to come, but until then, stop by the cafe to see how we’re putting these culinary trends to use!

(Photo’s curtsey of Nation’s Restaurant News)


Gracious Gifts

There are so many things that I love about food. The smell, the taste, the way that it gives you a reason to linger and chat with friends… But one of my very favorite things about it is its value … Continue reading

Summer Superfoods BBQ

Seeing as how summer is TRYING to die here, (and by that I mean it has been under 105 for 2 days in a row) I was feeling nostalgic and wanted to throw one more summer bar-b-que outside.  I was committed, though to a final run on the superfoods list.  This posed a challenge since, to me, summer bar-b-que is chicken in a sweet, smoky sauce, mayo-laden cole slaw and creamy potato salad.  Not sure that any of those things made the superfoods list!  So I decided to start improvising…  Here is the menu I came up with.  Boneless Beef ribs, jalapeno cole slaw and twice baked potato skins.  The menu now has: beef, jalapenos, kale, and olive oil. There.  That’s better!

I love beef ribs.  Especially when they are fall apart tender and well seasoned.  I don’t care for BBQ sauce so that isn’t a temptation for me, but it means that seasoning and cooking the meat well becomes even more important because it’s not going to get covered up.  As for the slaw, most people seem to hate cole slaw.  I don’t blame them.  The sweet, mayo filled dressing glopped onto bland cabbage is utterly unappealing.  It really has very little nutritional value, either.  I created a version using kale, sweet corn, grilled onion and jalapeno.  It has little resemblance to traditional slaw and the nutritional and “superfood” value is really upped.

For the ribs, I seasoned them well with my own steak seasoning blend.  Feel free to use whatever seasoning you prefer.  I put them in a roasting pan.  To the pan, I added 4 cloves of fresh garlic, 1 T beef base (or 2 T beef bouillon), 1 T liquid smoke, and poured a beer into the pan.  I used a dark shiner.  The darker the beer the better the flavor.  You want the liquid in the roasting pan to come about 1/3 of the way up the side of the ribs.  Cover the pan tightly and put it in a 225 degree oven for 8-10 hours.  They will be tender and delicious.  You can do these the day before and refrigerate them.  You can re-heat them on the gril the day of the BBQ and people will think you spent all day smoking them!  Before serving, lay them on a hot grill, turning once, to lend some texture and flavor to the outside of the meat.

As for the slaw…  I started with a bag of angel hair cole slaw mix from the grocery store and added a small bag of pre-shredded carrots for color and sweetness.  Here’s the kicker.  Cut a red onion in half and then half again.  Peel it and place ¼ of the onion into a bowl.  Shuck and clean an ear of fresh corn.  Place it in the bowl (on the cob) also.  Wash a bunch of fresh kale and add it to the bowl.  Drizzle all of the veggies with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Throw all of the veggies onto a medium hot grill.  Keep turning them as they cook.  You want them to get slightly charred and crispy.

Remove them as they are ready and put them back into the bowl.  Once the veggies have cooled enough to handle, finely dice the onion, slice the corn off of the cob, and chop the kale.  Add them to the slaw mix.  These smoky veggies will add a deeper flavor to and boost the nutrition value of that cabbage mix.  The dressing for the slaw salad will follow.   This slaw is a delicious side dish, a topping for tacos, or a great substitute for lettuce and tomato on a guacamole burger.  The dressing can be poured over grilled chicken or roast pork tenderloin, too.

Jalapeno Cole Slaw Dressing


4 Tomatillos, peeled and washed

1-2 large jalapenos (depending on how hot you like it)

2-3 T mayo

1T chili powder

½ T granulated garlic

Juice of 1 lime

1 T of white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1.  In a small saucepan, boil the tomatillos and jalapenos until the skin on the tomatillos starts to loosen.
  2. Put them into ice water once finished to cool them down and stop the cooking
  3. In a food processor, process the tomatillos and jalapenos.  (start with 1 jalapeno.  You can add more after the first tasting if you want more) While the processor is running, add 2 T of mayo.  Continue to add the spices, lime juice and vinegar until it is all pretty smooth.  (A few small chunks may remain – that’s ok)
  4. Taste the dressing and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add more mayo if you like it creamier.

Use this dressing over cole slaw mix or other roasted vegetables.  It is also great as a salad dressing with mixed greens, tomatoes, corn, black beans and cheese.  It is a yummy sauce for grilled chicken and roast pork tenderloin too.  Or offer it with fajitas instead of salsa or guacamole.

I hope this inspires you to make the most of the last, lazy days of summer.  Enjoy!!

Grilled Tuna Steaks + Kale Salad + Goat Cheese Lentils

I like kale!  No. Really.  I do!  I am admitting, in writing, that I had never tried kale until yesterday.  I bought some to tackle for this week’s super foods recipe.  I had intended to crisp it in the oven for kale “chips” or to stew it and stir it into a sauce.  So before starting on either technique, I decided that I had better try it.  I mean, how else would I know how to season it, or what sauce to put with it?  Well – WOW!!  You know what it tastes like?  Bear with me here…  It tastes like clover. Yep.  Clover.  The kind you found in your backyard and ate as a kid.  At least until your mom caught you and told you a dog had probably peed on it and you should never eat it again.  You guys know what I’m talking about, right?  It’s not just me?  Anyway, if you never had the childhood experience of eating the sweet (albeit dirty) clover in the back yard, let me try to describe the taste.  Of kale, I mean.  Kale has a firm texture, which I admit, is part of what doesn’t appeal to me.  It brings back vivid memories of having to wash off those plastic kale leaves that “decoratively” lined the Wendy’s salad bar.  But it has a distinctly sweet flavor.  I was instantly intrigued.  My plans for the kale changed all at once.  Instead of having to hide its flavor and change its texture I decided it would be a perfect complement to my fresh salad.

This is what I did…

1.  In a large bowl, I put baby spinach leaves, and torn butter lettuce.  I chopped the kale very small to combat its tough texture and added it to the greens.  (I used spinach as a base for the salad because it was once a superfood and is so good for you.  The texture of the butter lettuce is a perfect contrast to the kale and the sweetness enhances the sweetness of the kale.)

2. To my greens, I added an assortment of sweet cherry tomatoes (all different colors) and diced avocado.  Again, the sweet cherry tomatoes are a perfect salad staple and the avocado (another super food) adds a creaminess to your salad for a “good” fat.

3.  The best part was the cheese I added.  One of my salad favorites.  A Wensleydale with blueberries.  (blueberries are also a super food!) It is a semi soft cheese that has a rich, sweet flavor.  It also adds creaminess to a salad.

4.  The dressing I used was the house Caesar dressing from The Olive Branch.  (That recipe is available in my cookbook.)

It was delicious.  My original intent for the salad was to make a savory salad with parmesan and red onions.  But once I tried the kale and decided to make a salad with it, the plans changed!  However, the garlicky Caesar dressing created a great sweet and salty experience.

I did use 3 other superfoods in my meal.  Lentils, quinoa and olive oil (of course).

I discovered that lentils (which I had never experimented with) cook the same way that quinoa does.  So I cooked it together!  I did equal parts of quinoa and lentils in the pot and added double that amount of chicken broth.  Brought it to a boil, turned the heat down, popped a lid on the pot and let it go.  (about 30 minutes) It worked!  They both need a lot of seasoning and flavor added to them.  I decided to use my goat cheese sauce and stir it in to create a” risotto-esque” texture.  I think it turned out well.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t risotto, but it worked. You can leave the quinoa lentil mixture as is, too.  It is similar to having beans and rice mixed together.  Be sure you add some seasoning though.  A hefty dash of salt and pepper and maybe a drizzle of that olive oil!  It would make a relatively easy and filling vegetarian or gluten free main course.  You could stuff it into peppers and bake it with cheese!  (Everything is better with cheese.)

My main course was grilled tuna steak that we served over our goat cheese lentils.  I brushed the steaks with the olive oil, garlic salt, parsley and course ground pepper before grilling.

Tuna Steaks have about 130 calories, 1 gram of fat and 28 grams of protein per 4 oz serving.  It didn’t make the super foods list, but it is a pretty darn good choice!

Another super foods experiment that turned out OK.  Healthy stuff CAN taste good! (LOL adding goat cheese helps)  Next week we will try to tackle a few more.  I hope you are finding good ways to add these foods to your repertoire.  I love a challenge and it has been fun to experiment.  This week we used kale, avocado, quinoa, lentils, olive oil and a couple of blueberries.  I think next time my friend Genevieve will be tackling the buckwheat pasta, almond butter and yogurt!  She has a delicious recipe variation to show us!