Christmas in the Texas Outdoors
CHRISTMAS IS VERY MUCH a special time of year.
No matter how much certain interests have tried to strip the first five letters from the word, the intent of the holiday is very much alive, and the giving spirit transcends societal trends and political debates.
Every year we try to come up with something new for you during this season and this year we have a list of places doing some special themed celebrations as well just Christmas type places to go.
Christmas Bay Coastal Preserve
Kerville's "Empty Cross"
Concho River Christmas Celebration
Zoo Lights at the Houston Zoo
Explore a Christmas Tree Forest
Christmas on the Bay
First up for the fishing purists is the Christmas Bay Coastal Preserve, in Brazoria County.
It is a shallow 4,173-acre embayment in the southwestern portion of the Galveston Bay system according to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department officials.
“The bay is a unique high-quality subsystem of estuary that has not yet been greatly altered by human activity,” officials said. “The waters of Christmas Bay to the mean high tide line constitute the preserve. It is approximately 5,700 acres in area. The preserve is one of the most ecologically productive bays of the Galveston complex.
“Nearly level prairies are contiguous to extensive fresh and saline marshes and are transected by meandering streams that flow southeast into the western Galveston Bay estuary. Christmas Bay benefits from Brazoria NWR, a 42,000-acre protected wetland, which contributes to the preserve’s productivity and helps protect its water quality.”
Sculpture and Prayer Garden
A unique and truly beautiful place to celebrate the Christmas season is The Coming King Sculpture and Prayer Garden off of Interstate 10 in Kerrville.
“The non-profit, non-denominational, Christian art garden, which is not a church or ministry, is drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from all 50 states and at least 44 countries,” according to their reports.
The 24.5-acre art park is the only place in the world where the 77-foot, 7-inch contemporary sculpture called “The Empty Cross” can be seen. It is the “Most Symbolic Cross Sculpture in the World” according to the organization.
“In addition, seven other monumental sculptures can also be viewed at this location. It is also the only place in the world where all of Greiner’s monumental sculptures are on display. A ‘Path To Heaven’ uses 77 scriptures, in multiple languages, to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The free garden is open from 7 a.m. until midnight, 365 days a year. Tax deductible donations are welcomed to help complete the garden.”
River lovers will enjoy the Concho Christmas Celebration that was founded in 1994 to enhance the enjoyment of the Christmas Season by providing an annual light display.
The event also contributes to the economic vitality of the Concho Valley area by providing and promoting a destination event which brings people into the City of San Angelo. The first Concho Christmas was established as a walking tour in the El Paseo de Santa Angela area featuring several lighted scenes and 21 sponsored Christmas cards.
“Today, the light display, or ‘Tour of Lights’ as it is known, has grown into a 2.5-mile drive along the banks of the Concho River and features over 3 million lights. Concho Christmas has evolved its programming from a small static light display, to consist of a Live Nativity scene; the Community Tree Lighting Ceremony; the Lights of Christmas Parade; Bike Through the Lights, a bicycle ride with Santa; Run Rudolph Run, a walk/run event; the annual Tuba Christmas concert, FM radio broadcast and an extraordinary light show.”
Those in the Houston area will love to see the Houston Zoo transformed into a winter wonderland during their annual Zoo Lights event.
“Sip hot chocolate as you stroll through the beautiful Houston Zoo grounds and take in the sights and sounds of the season,” zoo officials said. “Fifteen miles of earth-friendly LED lighting illuminates our ancient oak trees and decorates the paths to light your way.
“Sights to delight you include our giant Holiday Tree presented by TransCanada. Other features include the Holiday Train Village presented by Macy’s, the Enchanted Forest presented by King & Spalding, and Candy, the interactive talking zebra, presented by H-E-B.”
And finally, you might consider an old-fashioned Christmas tree cutting with the family.
The Elgin Tree Farm is listed as one of the top places in the state to do this and offers a unique opportunity for families.
“We grow Virginia Pine in the field and Leyland Cypress, according to management. “We have a very limited supply of Leylands. We provide a bow saw and shake and bale your tree. We have twine for use in tying jt down to your vehicle.
For our customers who love Fraser Firs since they don’t grow in Texas. We import them from North Carolina from a friend’s farm. They come freshly cut (cold storage transport). and we immediately put them in water, so they can stay nice and fresh until you get home.”
When you arrive, you will be given a tag and once you cut and find your perfect tree, you will cut it then tag it.
A nice hayride will take you out to the cutting fields, so you can begin your search. Someone will pick your tree up once you cut it, your tree will be shaken and baled and ready for its ride home.
There are many more Christmas-themed outdoor opportunities around the state, but we found these particularly interesting and staying with the theme of the most wonderful time of year-especially for those who love the great outdoors.
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More Gift Ideas for Anglers
Finding Christmas gifts for the angler in your life can be challenging.
Most anglers will be satisfied with a new landing net or a few packs of their favorite lures. However, you might want to do something spectacular for your favorite fishermen. If you’re the big gift giver of the family you might want to think about going high tech.
Several different kinds of gifts in the technological realm could make an angler’s Christmas bright and his fishing trips more successful.
Serious anglers need a digital scale. Whether they fish weekend tournaments or simply want to be accurate in bragging on the weight of their catches, digital scales are a must. The good news is they are relatively inexpensive and you don’t need a rocket science degree to use them.
Every angler needs a fish finder of some type. The ability to locate fish and analyze cover and structure is vital in catching more and bigger fish. You might think, “Well, my favorite fisherman doesn’t have a boat.”
Several fish finders for bank fishermen can be thrown out like a bobber. For the first time in history bank fishermen can now scan the water as well as those in boats.
Waterproof Phone Case
This isn’t high tech, but it protects high tech. Everyone has a smart phone, so finding a quality waterproof case for yours can save both money and frustration. Take that from someone who once jumped into the water to wadefish with a phone still in my pocket.
An App Store gift card can be a real hit for your fisherman. Many fun and effective fishing apps are available, and every tech lover enjoys the time spent learning new ones. Whether it’s a digital fishing logbook app or special weather app, your gift card might be the ultimate stocking stuffer for the growing number of high-tech anglers.
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There are many ways to cook venison, this chili recipe will warm you up on a cold winter day and makes for great football game day food as well. This is great the day you prepare it, but I think its twice as good the next day, it freezes well too.
2 lbs. “Chili Grind ” Beef Chuck Roast
1 lb. blackstrap- cubed in 3/4 inch pieces, you can use top of round instead, if you so desire.
4 tbs Chili Powder-(Dark Ancho, It’s rich in flavor) Substitution shown at bottom
3 cloves of garlic
1 medium white onion
1/2 tsp.-Black Pepper,
1/2 tsp.-Cayenne Pepper
For a milder flavor use 2 dried Ancho peppers and 1 dried New Mexico Red instead of the powder. Remove The stems and seeds, chop coarsely and boil for 15 to 20 minutes in 3/4 cup of water, then transfer all to food processor and blend into a paste. Then add to recipe.
3 tbs Texas Gourmet’s Sweet Chipotle Season All
2 tsp.-Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp.-Oregano Leaf
2 Fresh Jalapenos- seeded and chopped
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) Swanson Chicken Broth
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) Swanson Beef Broth
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) Stewed Tomatoes
1 can (8 oz.) Hunts “No Salt Added” Tomato
1 Knorr Beef Bullion Cube
1 Tspn Light Brown Sugar
1 Beer [Bock Style]
Add “room temperature” meat to a hot cast iron skillet. Brown it until it starts to make its own juice.
Stir continuously; add both cans of broth, and Bag #1. Cook covered at a medium boil for 45 minutes.
Uncover and stir every 10 minutes. Add water and beer as needed. Drink one or two for me. Add tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes and add Bag #2. Add 1 Beef bullion cube. Add 1/2 tsp. light brown sugar.
Use the following to season to taste:
Cayenne Pepper – for hot front taste
White Pepper – for hot front taste
Brown Sugar – for a sweeter taste
Ready to eat—Better next day!
—Bryan Slaven, The Texas Gourmet
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This one comes from the Department of Natural Resources in Ohio.
• 2½-3 pound venison roast
• Creole butter marinade, injected
• Lawry’s seasoning salt
Inject creole butter marinade into the roast. Add the seasoning salt and pepper and place the roast into a medium sized cooking bag with potatoes. Cook the roast for 1½ hours. Remove the roast from the bag, cut and serve.
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Wild Boar Schnitzel
This recipe is from Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD).
• 2 lbs. raw, boneless loin of boar (makes 6 medallions)
• 2 tablespoons Smoke Rub
• 2 cups breadcrumbs
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1-cup milk
• 1-cup flour
• ½ cup clarified butter
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1-1/2 cups Hudson’s Apple Cider Brandy Sauce (see below)
• 1 Granny Smith apple, julienned
Season the loin with the Smoke Rub and smoke it 1 to 1-1/2 hours until medium rare to medium, an internal temperature of 140º. Slow smoking helps to tenderize and imparts a delicious flavor. Remove from smoker and refrigerate whole.
Grind dried breadcrumbs in food processor. We use crumbs from our pumpkin bread, but a dried French loaf or sourdough is fine.
Slice loin into medallions ½” to ¾” thick. Between plastic wrap, pound with a mallet to an even ¼” thickness. Season the pounded medallions with salt and pepper.
Combine eggs and milk and beat to make egg wash. Pass seasoned medallion through flour, then egg wash and then breadcrumbs.
Heat the clarified butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering (325º — 350º).
Carefully lay in 3 cutlets and cook 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side until the crust is set and golden. Turn and cook the other side for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and hold warm. Repeat with remaining cutlets.
Combine Apple Cider Brandy sauce and julienned apples in a saucepan and warm through. Spoon onto plate and top with schnitzel.
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Crispy Pecan Redfish
For those who love fish, I had to throw this one in. It is one me and my wife Lisa found years ago searching out ways to cook the red we were catching. It’s a good one.
1-1/2 lbs. redfish fillets
2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4-cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Wash fillets under cold running water and place in a bowl with milk, hot sauce, and salt. Allow to sit 15 minutes at room temperature. Heat 2 Tbs. butter and vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
Drain fillets and dredge in cornmeal. Fry until crispy and brown, about two minutes on a side; do not crowd the pan. Pour grease out of skillet and add remaining butter.
Place over medium heat, add nuts when butter melts. Stir constantly while the nuts brown.
Add parsley and lemon juice, stir to combine. Pour sauce over fillets and serve immediately.
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Texas Bandera Smoked Quail
This is another cool one from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.
• 6 boneless smoked quail, small dice
• ¼ cup Bronze Rub
• ½ cup diced green chilies, Hatch or Anaheims
• ½ cup goat cheese
• 1 tablespoon shallots, minced
• 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
• ½ cup jicama, small dice
• 1 bunch green onion tops, fine dice
• 2 bunches cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
• 2 limes, juiced
• 1-teaspoon salt
• 1 egg
• ½ cup milk
• 16 eggs roll wrappers
• 1-quart canola or vegetable oil
Smoke quail using ½ Bronze Rub. Set aside.
Dice the smoked quail and mix with remaining Bronze Rub.
Combine chilies, goat cheese, shallots, and garlic and reserve.
Mix jicama, green onion, chopped cilantro, limejuice, and salt and reserve.
Whisk the egg with the mil to make egg wash.
In center of each egg roll wrapper, place 1-tablespoon quail mixture, 1-tablespoon goat cheese mixture, and 1-tablespoon jicama mixture.
Fold egg roll wrappers around fillings. Follow the directions on the package. Brush last fold with egg wash to seal.
Deep fry in oil until golden brown. Do this in batches of 4 so the oil doesn’t cool down. The egg rolls will float, so you will have to keep turning them to get even browning. It will probably take a couple of minutes to crisp the outside and heat the innards. If rolls have been refrigerated, increase cooking time to 3 — 4 minutes.
—story by CHESTER MOORE