Pedernales River Chili

(a.k.a. LBJ Chili)

February: Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

We took a road trip to the Texas capitol city, Austin, one year. We used to just drive through it many times from San Antonio to Dallas when visiting Highlander’s cousin in North Texas. We finally stopped for a state staycation. 

While in Austin, among other tourist attractions, we wanted to see the Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Texas. Like the other presidential libraries and museums, LBJ’s had exhibits chronicling his life and career in public service. LBJ’s wife, Lady Bird, also had some displays of her campaign clothing and ball gowns and information about her accomplishments in the community and world as well. 

We ended up at the gift shop as all tourists seem to do. Islander browsed through the cookbooks and recipe postcards but was too cheap to buy anything. Besides, several of LBJ-related recipes are online for free. For this blog post, we prepared Pedernales River Chili in honor of the 36th president of the United States who grew up in the Hill Country where the river runs through it. Politics aside, try Pedernales River Chili today for Presidents’ Day!


(Adapted from the LBJ Library)


  • 2 pounds chili meat (roughly cut or coarsely ground chuck steak)
  • Vegetable or other oil for frying
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2+ teaspoons chili powder or to taste
  • 1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1+ drops of hot sauce or to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat a little oil in a pan and brown the meat. Set aside to drain. In a pot, add a little oil and saute the onions with garlic. 

Stir in the meat. Season with oregano, cumin and chili powder.

Stir in the tomatoes. Season with hot sauce. Pour hot water and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat to simmer for about an hour until meat is tender. Skim off some fat on the top during cook time and stir. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.


  • We were fortunate to have visited all three presidential libraries and museums in Texas (LBJ, Bush 41 and Bush 43) and one in California (Reagan). We also visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza which chronicles the assassination of JFK. 
  • We halved the original recipe to feed the two of us with lots of leftovers to share with foodie friends.
  • Texas chili does not typically contain beans like other recipes.
  • Search our blog for other recipes associated with the U.S. presidents.

Elvis Sandwich

January 8: Elvis Presley’s Birthday (1935)

Islander’s Mommy is a huge Elvis Presley fan. She went to Graceland (twice!) when she was on a work trip in Tennessee and she has amassed a large plastic bin full of Elvis memorabilia (publication clippings, books, ornament figurines, keychains, etc.). Her beloved bin still sparks a lot of joy for her, and she says she will only part with those material items when she passes away. May God bless Mommy with many more years (born in 1942)!

As her birthday is in the same month as Elvis’s, we decided to have an Elvis themed birthday for her using the items in her plastic bin to decorate the table. We streamed-watched the “Elvis” movie together as a family. We took her to see the Elvis statue at the Blaisdell Center where he had his “Aloha from Hawaii” concert in 1973. And we cooked some of Elvis’s favorite foods to eat for her birthday, the most popular of which is the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.

There are various versions of this sandwich, but it basically includes peanut butter and sliced bananas on buttered bread that is fried till golden brown. Some recipes include bacon (like ours—because, well, bacon just makes things better!). 

In honor of the “King of Rock ‘n Roll’s” birthday, we made the Elvis sandwich to celebrate Queen Mommy’s early birthday. Long live our Queen!



  • 2 slices bread
  • Butter
  • Peanut butter
  • Bacon, cooked and sliced in half (optional)
  • Half banana, sliced into rounds (or lengthwise)


Generously butter one side of each slice of bread. On the other side, spread peanut butter. Cook and slice the bacon in half (if using). Slice the banana.

Arrange bacon and banana slices on top of the peanut butter. Heat a skillet on medium high. Place the bread slices on the skillet buttered side down. Cook till brown and crispy, around 3 minutes per side. Sandwich the bread together and transfer to a cutting board. Slice in half. Serve hot.


Hogmanay Shortbread Cookies

December 31: Hogmanay/New Year’s Eve

Whenever we are too lazy bake a black bun out celebrating with family and friends on New Year’s Eve, we still like to add something Scottish to the festivities. A simple shortbread seems to satisfy, after indulging in all the heavier appetizers, main dishes and drinks.

We used a rustic recipe—only three ingredients: flour, powdered sugar and butter—just like the old Scots did when harsh winters limited their resources and ingredients. Traditionally baked in round tins, our shortbread was shaped into mini circles to resemble lucky coins to wish everyone good fortune in the new year. We also decorated a few of the cookies with chocolate fondant cutout alphabets. They make for a good conversation (and an edible education) about Hogmanay, the last day of the Scottish old year, which does not just include the singing of Auld Lang Syne. Learn more about the rich traditions from

We are happy to share a little bit of Highlander’s food and culture with everyone. Happy Hogmanay!


(Adapted from


  • 1 ½ cups pastry flour (see Notes)
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ cup butter, chilled
  • Chocolate fondant (optional)


Sift the pastry flour with the powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Grate the chilled butter into the flour-sugar mixture. 

Knead for several minutes until the dough comes together. Roll into a ball. Flatten the ball of dough into a disc between two sheets of wax paper. Roll into ¼-inch thick. 

Cut into round shapes. Re-roll dough and continue cutting out shapes. Place onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes, being careful not to overbake or burn the bottoms. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Optional: Dust a clean surface with powdered sugar. Roll out a small piece of chocolate fondant to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut out letters to spell Hogmanay. Brush the top of the shortbread with water. Position a letter on the cookie. Arrange on a serving platter.


  • We purchased pastry flour from our local grocery store. But a good alternative is to mix half all-purpose with cake flour.
  • We were at Islander’s parents’ house in Hawaii when we baked these Hogmanay shortbread and forgot to bring round cookie cutters. So we improvised and used the lid of a spice jar to cut shapes. They were the perfect size for this festive food.