Gift guides

Homesick Texan holiday gift guide 2007

It’s that time of year when people are scratching their heads trying to come up with gift ideas. Here are some options sure to warm the hearts and fill the bellies of any homesick Texan.

Grapefruit: Everyone knows the juiciest, largest and sweetest ruby red grapefruit comes from the Rio Grande Valley. And while there are many farms that ship, South Tex Organics has a leg up on the competition by being the only grower to not use pesticides. Prices start at $22.00. South Tex Organics

Turkey: A few years ago, some New York City alumni of my college had a gathering. We were all well behaved until the hostess produced a Greenberg’s smoked turkey. Then we all pounced on the bird, eating like fools until there was only a pile of bones. Greenberg—based in Tyler, Texas—is an odd company. They don’t have a toll-free number and they don’t take credit cards. But they sure do know how to smoke a turkey. Turkeys are $3.60 a pound, ranging in size from six to 15 pounds. Greenberg Turkey

Ranch Style Beans: Canned beans may not be something to get excited about, but if you grew up with the smoky, spicy flavor of Ranch Style Beans, you find it’s hard to eat other brands. Guaranteed appetite pleasin’! $1.25 a can or $26.00 for a case.

Corn tortillas: Finding decent corn tortillas outside of the Southwest can be a challenge, but when you have your own tortilla press and a bag of masa harina, whipping up a batch of tortillas is a snap. $17.99 for an iron tortilla press, $5.95 for a 4.4 pound bag of masa harina.

Cookbooks: No homesick Texan’s bookshelf is complete without Robb Walsh’s Texas trilogy—The Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook, The Tex-Mex Cookbook and The Texas Cowboy Cookbook. These excellent books are more than just a collection of recipes, they’re a beautiful history of both the state and the foods we love.

Charitable gifts: We lost some fine women in the past year, but if you want to give a gift in their name here are a couple of options: Keep Texas Beautiful is offering a lovely Christmas ornament in honor of Lady Bird Johnson. The ornament features a bouquet of wildflowers and proceeds from sales of the ornament will help fund projects of KTB affiliates who focus on litter prevention, waste reduction, and community beautification programs. It’s a perfect way to honor a woman who championed tirelessly for the environment. Back here in New York City, the New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit founded by Bette Midler that converts vacant lots into community gardens, is raising funds to create the Ann Richards Memorial Garden. These public spaces created by the project—often found in lower-income neighborhoods—are a source of life and joy to the community. And I just know that Ann Richards, a part-time resident of New York City and an advocate for more green spaces, would approve. Keep Texas Beautiful

Is there something else that should be on this list? Give a holler in the comments!

  1. dannym

    don’t forget the fruitcakes from collin street bakery…and there are a couple places that will fedex blue bell ice cream, although since it’s 29 degrees in newark, i’m just going to buy some at h-e-b when i get to san antonio in a couple weeks. love the blog, by the way.

  2. Yup, you missed at least one truly Texan food gift.


    I have two personal faves in this department (Other than my own, that is!)

    Cin Chili & Co. Chili Mix, for a taste of the chili that almost took down Bobby Flay, and;

    Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit, I’ll honestly admit that his original recipe is the base for my own chili, whether it be made as Texas Red, or Texoma Style with beans and a whole slew of other ingredients.

    Happy Holidays!

  3. All good choices certainly…we make a call to Brenham this time each year and send some Blue Bell ice cream to Michigan.

    It still holds true, you actually talk to a person when placing your order…I swear two years ago I spoke with “Mable” or was it “Ethel” ???

    It was as much fun placing the order as it is eating the gold rim goodness.

    Take care, excellent post per usual

  4. I ordered my mom a basket of pralines from El Fenix in Dallas. She’ll be so excited!

  5. KellyinTX

    What a great website. I stumbled upon it truly by accident! I can’t wait to find the time to pour over your archives.
    Another great gift is from Opa’s Smoked meats in Fredericksburg, TX. They have the best peppered tenderloin! Serve with a sleeve of soda crackers, a big hunk of cheese, and a six pack of Shiner Bock beer!!! Yum…yummmmm.
    A new fan,
    Kelly in Sonora, TX

  6. once again, great tips. thanks.

  7. Opa’s for certain !! The place has stood the test of time no matter how dang touristy Fredericksburg has become !

  8. I heartily approve of the Dublin Dr Pepper. We included bottles of these in the gift baskets for the out-of-staters and out-of-country-ers at our wedding. They were addicted and some of them have already ordered their own cases of the website. 🙂


  9. Thanks for those links! Now I’ve moved away from Texas, I can never find Ranch style beans, and I loooove them. Oh, and Dublin Dr Pepper is truly a taste of heaven.

  10. Don’t forget the kolaches from The Czech Stop in West!

    I HAVE to get my hands on some Blue Bell Pecan Praline. YUM.

  11. I’m from Texas and have lived here all of my almost 70 years and love it. I tried to click on the Dublin Dr. Pepper link but it doesn’t work. Everytime some of our folks go thur Dublin, they stop and stock up on the drink. I burst out laughing when I saw the Ranch Style Beans….I buy them every week at the store. Then, it dawned on me, people in NY and other places may not have ever had them..I grew up on ’em so it struck me as funny.
    Thanks for a delightful post.

  12. Hmm, something went wrong in my first post. Anyway, I vote for PICKLED OKRA! My late great-grandma from Wichita Falls made the best, but this ain’t bad:

  13. oooh..I wanna try ranch style beans!!

    happy holidays!

  14. I’d love anything on this list! In fact, I’m going to print it out and slip it onto my husband’s to-do pile….

  15. tamales

    you can order them from pedro’s tamales in lubbock and they ship them all over the place. delish

  16. Well, not exactly from Texas, but you can buy them in Texas, and maybe even in NYC: Coca Cola hecho en Mexico. Most are made with real sugar, although they’ve switched over on some. You have to read the label.

  17. Bosco da Gama

    You better get the New York Restoration Project folks educated about Ma Furguson , who was the FIRST woman elected governor in Texas…

    seguro que hell yes!

  18. Mmmmmm… I want sausages and Dr Pepper please! That sounds like an awesome combo. I’ve had those Elgin hot sausages at the Big Apple BBQ and they are truly drool worthy…
    I hope you get one of everything on this list Lisa! Happy happy!

  19. Lisa,
    I would add a great little brewery in Texas(hehe), but those darn archaic laws here in TX forbid shipping of beer, but your choices are great. I’d throw in a Grady Spears cookbook( to go with Mr. Walsh’s, and maybe a box set of Fisher Weiser sauces from Fred-burg! Have a great Holiday Season!

  20. I LOVE YOU! LOL. I lovelovelovelove grapefruit, especially Texas ruby reds, but we very rarely get organic ones here (although I have seen them). Thank you so much! I try to eat locally, but for this I will make an exception!

  21. homesick houstonian

    Maybe next year you can include some things that are available in nyc that texans may not have found?

    For example:
    Rick’s Pick’s Pickles has a “Smokra” which is pickled okra with paprika, its a little slimy, but a nice twist on the classic. Sold at whole foods.
    Wheelhouse Pickles also has Pickled Okra,its funny, they advertise it as “slimeless”, but i’d never encountered slimy pickled okra until i came to new york! Also at whole foods.
    Jack’s Dollar stores carry Hot Cheetos.
    Tethuizingo on 48th and 10 ave carries Mexican Coca Cola which is coca cola with real sugar and many of us in texas would travel to mexico to get it if we couldn’t find it at a mexican bakery or central market.
    Leon’s Mexican Produce (and bakery)on 48th and 9th ave has tamales for $1.25/ea. Choose from chicken, cheese, or spicy chicken. They also have wonderful Pan de Juevo.
    If you ride the L train back and forth from williamsburg to union square you’ll eventually run into the churro lady, and you can buy fresh churros from her.
    Steve & Barry’s in the Manhattna Mall sells “Everything is bigger in Texas” t-shirts for $7.

    I think a gift basket of all these things would be a lovely gesture and maybe cheaper and easier to acquire for an nyc gift giver.
    and i can’t wait to post your links on my lj!

  22. Don’t forget, Albert’s Hot Sauce!!!
    Locally made in Kilgore, Texas. My dad worked with some of these people 30-something years ago, that’s when we started enjoying it.
    You can order it online or find a list of stores that carry it.

    Molly, in Longview

  23. Well crud, forgot to tell you that I’ve tried your cheese enchiladas both ways now, with grated regular cheese and with velveeta. Definitely going to stick with the grated cheese. The sauce is to die for!!! If I’d seen that recipe years ago it would have already been one our our staples, I never even thought of making my own chili gravy! THANK YOU!!!


  24. I’m ordering the grapefruit! Texas`pecans?

  25. Shipleys Donuts – like eating clouds! The bestest in the world…

    (Krispy Kremes don’t hold a candle to them, yet they are taking the UK by storm.)

  26. Julie (Texana's daughter)

    Shipleys? Have you ever had a Round Rock Donut from Lone Star Bakery?? Little round golden pillows from Heaven!!

    Also need to add to this list: fajita meat from the Texas A&M Meat Lab and Lammes Pralines. And Trudy’s green hot sauce. If I wasn’t homesick already, I certainly am now…oh and Flamin’ Hot Limon Cheetos.

    I have to tell you too – I was up super late Saturday night working and was absolutely craving a decent tortilla. I found your recipe from several months ago and was rolling tortillas on my North Carolina kitchen counter at 4 am.

  27. I always loved ranch style beans, but it’s funny I hadn’t even realized that we don’t have them in Oregon (at least where I’m located). Good list!

  28. I dont see Christmas Tamales!

    This is the local favorite in San Antonio.
    Whenever I Go home for Xmas I bring along several dozen .

    They ship Nationwide and do a booming business around the Holidays.

  29. Oh the local gifts I could tell you about in Austin.

  30. texana

    And New Canaan Farms Jellies–I remember the first time I tasted their Jalapeno Jelly at their kiosk in NorthCross Mall about a gazillion years ago. It is still a Christmas favorite with club crackers and cream cheese!

  31. I really enjoyed this post, and it gave me some great holiday gift ideas. Thank you.

  32. Thanks so much, y’all, for all these WONDERFUL suggestions!

  33. Anonymous

    Mmmmm…. Dr. Pepper, Ranch Style beans – two of my favorite things in the whole wide world! No surprise – yep, I’m from Texas!!!

    I do have to add that around our area the only sausage to be eaten is from Chappel Hill!!! Thought you might want the link…

    Also, I have to agree with the Grady Spears cookbook. He makes the best chocolate cake – made with Dr. Pepper of course!!! The best ever!!!

    I lived in England for a few years – so I know what it means to be a truly homesick Texan!!!

    Love your blog!!!
    Kathy… :o)

  34. Anonymous

    fyi: harina = flour, maize = corn

  35. OK, I know it’s not from Texas, but I do miss the sausages, cheeses and crackers that come out in gift hampers at Christmas over there. I guess a rather German thing that the Brits would not do, even though Xmas trees are!

  36. TrinaBeana

    I didnt know blue bell ice cream was not available everywhere? But then again I have always lived in the Southwest.

    FYI Masa Harina is Corn FLOUR.

  37. Anonymous

    Love the list. But a few things missing for this Homesick Texan are Big Red and a Poor Boy from Bill Miller’s in San Antonio.

  38. Anonymous

    Did you ever get the recipe for Randall’s Chocolate Chewy Cookies? I would love to get a cope of the recipe – one of my favorites, too!

    email: [email protected]

  39. Anonymous

    Big Red and tamales. I work in the SAT Airport info center, and during the holiday season, the most phone calls for getting through the TSA gauntlet is, “Can I carry tamales?”

    You can’t get Big Red past the TSA screen (ship it via UPS/FedEX/DHL), but you can take dozens of tamales, frozen and wrapped in foil, through the TSA screen.

  40. Oh what about McCraw’s Peanut patties or Peanut Brittle or Taffy!

    Can you get those in NY?

    if not here’s a link

  41. Hey Lisa,
    it is funny that someone on here should mention Ma Ferguson since we are related to her!!!!

  42. tripletmom

    Definitely kolaches, Shipley’s donuts,and tamales. The best taco shells in the world come from Ventura’s in Victoria, TX. You have never had any like them. You will never again eat store-bought. They also have great tamales. I don’t know if they ship, but I get my mom to send me some a few times a year.

  43. I occasionally make my famous pinto beans, up here, but these central NY yankees (though lovely creatures) don’t care much for them.

    My normal past method was to serve them for two days (the second day the juice was nice and thick), and then put Ro-Tel tomatoes in them if there was anything left after day 2.

    Shoot, I’d just love to SEE a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, much less use them.

  44. Just moved to Pittsburgh. I already miss “La Hacienda Ranch” (Dallas area) fajitas. They are the best. I can go to their website but I don’t think they will ship. Anybody know?

  45. *Whine* *Whimper* Oh I could so seriously manage tears. Dublin Dr Pepper…Ranch Style Beans…GOOD Tex Mex…oh hon. It’s not Christmas Eve without enchiladas.
    Shel, a fellow Texan stuck in the frozen north (Illinois)

  46. What about a koalache? (sp?) I’m intrigued by those and their seemingly limited availability everywhere else but Texas!

  47. Kolaches from West or Schulenberg definitely! I don’t know if any of those places ship though.

  48. Cakespy & Callie: The Czech Shop delivers. Here’s what I wrote about it last year.

  49. Anonymous

    Thanks so much for the link to the Dr.Pepper. I have missed the original formula. I was born and raised in Temple.
    Now live in Wa. state. I can’t wait to taste
    the Dr Pepper of my childhood. I ordered a case of the bottled. I love your site, it just takes me home to Texas to read about the food.
    another ex-pat. Texan

  50. Remember when the little dude at the top of Ranch Style beans said, “Husband Pleasin'” instead of “Appetite Pleasin'”? Guess they’ve gotten hip over the past few years.

    Love your blog.

  51. What a delicious roundup of gift ideas! The tortilla maker is really tempting me . . .

    Happy holidays to you, too!

  52. If you remember…Ranch Style Beans used to be”Husband Pleasin”!!! And my aunt used to pack them in her suitcase and use them when she catered meals to famous New Yorkers on my cousins sailboat(big) that ran out of Battery City.

  53. The Green Sauce from Casa Ole and Green Tomato Chow Chow from David Beard’s Catfish.
    Wow, how East Texas can you get!

  54. I am so happy us Texans’ stick together and are so proud of our state! I love your blog. I also LOVE Ranch style beans!! yumm…

    You should have included, Big Red! Yum

  55. Anonymous

    I know this is eons after the fact, but you can’t leave out the Lamme’s candy from Austin, TX- I know they’ve gotta be available online and Rudy’s BBQ has some great rubs & sauces for your Texas style BBQ! Enjoy!

  56. Anonymous

    How about Wolf Brand Chili and Frito Pie? For authentic Frito Pie, take a small bag of Fritos, cut a slit down the side, pour in chili, grated cheese and onions. Eat it right out of the bag. No Little League baseball game is complete without Frito Pie.

  57. Anonymous

    I just happened upon this web site and I love it! Moving from East Texas (Longview) 20 months ago (notice how I keep track!!!!) to Phoenix, AZ I’ve yet to find the fabulous dining that’s found in TX. Tex-Mex is the ONLY Mexican food I like (I’ve discovered). I deeply miss endless, easy access to Bodacious BBQ, Posados Mexican food, Albert’s hot sauce, China Pearl chinese food, Jucy’s Hamburgers and so much more. I guess when you’re raised on a certain flavor (East Texas flavor) you don’t realize how different the other areas of the country are! I love where I live but I am planning a trip just to eat the best cuisine in the country!

  58. Bellverde

    Found this blog while looking up tortillas, and I'm thrilled. I missed the kolaches (up here they're fruit pastries), cheese enchiladas and Tex Mex in general, HEB, and the Hibiscus Mint tea that's all over Austin. Been in Indiana for almost 5 years now, and I mostly make do with short trips home, but I have found the tea online. Also, they started selling Shiner here a couple years ago.

  59. Anonymous

    So, i found this very randomly! I am an exchange student in Germany. Im from Laredo, deep in the south (border) and YES I MISS DR. PEPPER AND CHILI!! Dr. pepper here is so hard to find, and it doesnt even taste good.. Great site.. Tortillas, HEB, 🙁 los extrano!

  60. I was just looking at some of your older posts and found your mention of Greenberg Smoked Turkey. They now take credit cards(yeah!) so I ordered one for Thanksgiving. I can't wait to give it a taste! Thanks for the suggestion.

  61. Pink peanut patties found at all the gas stations and mini markets. Pepper jerky from the Hill Country. Oh, in Oregon you can find Ranch Style Beans (Husband Pleasin'!) at Super WalMart. 🙂 I have be known to take a suitcase to East Texas when visiting from Oregon and fill it with food, like R.S beans, hot sauce, chow chow and cornbread mix. 🙂 I'm from Galveston. ♥

  62. I can't find David Beard's ( used to be Cox's) hot sauce! The phone at Great American Food Co. In Ore City is disconnected – help! I'm from Tyler/Longview and used to bring it by the cases to Atlanta and Charleston. Now I'm out! Seriously, since leaving Texas in 1995, I have not found good Tex-Mex! Any suggestions from anyone??!!!

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