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Miss Alice’s Magic Beans

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Welcome to another edition of What’s She Up To This Time? A lot, as it turns out.

I’m back with another dispatch from the wilds of rural Louisiana. (OK, OK, we do have “city water.”)  Yes, I’m still missing Houston terribly, but I’m getting better. A little. Maybe. OK, not so much. (BF helps a lot.) We finally went back to get the rest of my stuff from Neighbor E’s place in Houston last Wednesday, who graciously stored it in every nook and cranny of his place since I moved. Many thanks, and we finally got it all out and into the new HeatCageKitchen location. But I’m glad to finally bring you this incredibly delicious recipe courtesy of friend of the blog AC, complete with a printed PDF for you on the Recipes page.

But first, some news.

Once we loaded everything on the trailer and in the truck, which took about 2 hours, I made BF take me back to our fabulous HEB in Clear Lake for one last trip. (It was on our way to SH 146, which took us to I-10 anyway.)  In addition to some good HEB milk, applewood smoked bacon and 3 dozen extra large eggs from Texas chickens, I got 2 more jars of Mom’s Hatch Apple Pie Filling for our special cake (he loved it), so I can make it again for him one day. Also picked up a turkey breast (they were out of thighs, darnit) some chicken leg quarters, pork chops and a few other things I can’t get here. Had just enough room in the ice chest for the meat, milk and a bag of ice; the eggs and the new basil plant sat in the truck with us–and not one broken egg, either. I was only able to bring four plants with me, and you know I want more basil for pesto, so I bought the basil since the one at E’s didn’t make it.

I was planning to publish this a week ago, after a trip to nearby Hammond for a job interview. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, we went to Houston the next day, and we’ve been quite busy ever since. I’m nearly finished clearing out the back room, and setting up my new “studio” back there. I’m hoping to paint it soon, too, soon as I figure out what color scheme would be good for a cool, sophisticated office look back there.

In a part of the US that doesn’t even have recycling.

BF had a special request for me the other morning. “Would you make me some breakfast before I head to work?”  Of course! Immediately, I saw myself putting on an apron and sweeping through the kitchen to make a full English breakfast for him, sending him off to work happy he asked. However, this is what he requested:

Yes. Pancake Mix from Walmart.

Yes. Pancake Mix from Walmart.

Oh, yes, she did. Didn’t take long. (You can see my coffee brewing, right?) Appropriately, he put this on top of it:

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You don’t want to know what makes it “taste like butter.” It’s primarily soybean oil, GMO and hydrogenated and all that. He did get an earful, don’t worry. It’s a crock, that’s for sure—but he likes it, so I fixed him up, and he was happy with it. I’m working on it.

Anyway. . .I’m sleeping a little better these days. That’s a gift that doesn’t come wrapped in a box.

I still haven’t replaced the drip tray on the Griddler, but I have used it (carefully.) It’s a $10 part, and probably another $5 or $10 for shipping, but right now, it’s gotta wait. Last night I made Stuffles, or stuffing waffles, from that book, (his fault, he asked for stuffing with the pork chops, and I couldn’t resist) with “stuffing mix” from a box, and waffled a ham & cheese sandwich the other night after he came home from work.

Long story, but it’s looking like the mighty Cuisinart counter top oven may need to be replaced. It survived the trip, but it is at least 6 years old, and traveling in the back of the White Knight may have done it in. More on this story later.

I just wish I could have landed in The Woodlands, but, oh, well. It’s a hideout from the world here, that’s for sure. Cow Road is always a nice little drive, complete with numerous judgmental bovines that look at you like you really don’t belong on their turf. BF likes to call it “Cow Patty Road,” and he’s got some other funny names for things.

Oh, and BF prays a lot more now. Usually when I get behind the wheel of the White Knight.

Friend of the blog AK made a suggestion while I was writing the last post (I was at the library, and we were chatting on Skype.) AK said, “make this detour part of your blog. People are so tired of fake Barbie-style women bloggers. ‘I’m a busy mom four boys and married to my high school sweetheart! I’m obsessed with making everything from scratch, from meals to home décor. I do it all!’” I do hope that I’ve done that, particularly with The Dislocated Texan, and I’ll continue to write it as I see it. After I finished that post, and after chatting with AK, I realized, as I always say, “I’m not FoodBabe.”

HeatCageKitchen is the real thing. It’s about the good, the bad, and the absolutely disgusting. I’ve written about all three. I’m a Texan, now and forever, and I don’t mess around. (I hung up that sign in the kitchen, BTW.) Maybe I should learn to make real Texas kolaches for BF one of these days. We didn’t stop for kolaches while we were there, but maybe next time.

Enough of that.

You may remember that earlier this year, AC was coming to dinner nearly every week, and I was trying out new things on her as an new official taste-tester. AC enjoyed everything, then things changed and she just stopped coming by. I though I’d insulted her, but it was just that her schedule changed. She’s happily working now in a new job, at the same place as her new BF. They just moved into a house so they can be closer to work. AC will be in a district with many SGI members I used to know when I first moved to Houston in 1998, as well as be within a few miles of Central Market, IKEA, two locations of Trader Joe’s, The Container Store, and a number of other great places that I no longer have short-drive access to. Well, there’s always the websites, and Baton Rouge.

I went to the SGI Community Center in New Orleans a couple of weekends ago, and since me and BF have been a bit skint (that is, “kind of broke”) I couldn’t just stop somewhere for a coffee—I didn’t have coffee money! (I’m used to stopping for a coffee occasionally, so this was a bit of a shock, but we know it’s temporary.)  On the way there, I facetiously thought to myself, “now, where can I mooch a free coffee today?” I wasn’t going anywhere to ask, of course, it was just a stray thought, being silly. I was OK, I had some at home, and I was fine. Soon as I find my little green vacuum bottle, I’ll be taking Pea & Pesto soup with me on longer trips like that. Especially since BF does *not* like Pea & Pesto Soup.

Once I got to the Center and backed The White Knight in the last spot available, I sat down in the back corner of the main room, hoping nobody would recognize me. I really didn’t want to explain that my life has completely unraveled, I left behind everything I knew for 18 years, a wonderful man drove to Houston to move me to his house, and I’m embarrassed to be anywhere near New Orleans. (I’m still getting those “no thanks” emails from places in Houston that I’ve applied to.) That didn’t work, and I left after the first hour. I just didn’t feel like I belonged there. I was recognized by a couple of the members I used to hang out with years ago, and figured it was time to leave. I didn’t get to talk to NM, who was there, and texted her that I fled.

Friend of the blog E Man knew I was there, and he was sitting up front while I sat on the back row, in the corner. Guess it was too soon for me to go. Driving on I-10 West, E Man called, and asked me to stop by and see him before I returned to my new rural hideaway. I was at the Bonnabel exit, and he told me how to get to his place from where I was, just a few exits away. Eight years is a long time to remember the directions to someone’s place, but E Man is better than Google Maps, and I arrived just before he did. I got to play with his cats, met one of his friends, and fiddled with his computer and printer so he could print again. After downloading the updated print drivers, it still didn’t work, but the printer might be too old for a Windows 10 laptop.  Since this was now beyond my skills and expertise, I suggested he talk to his brother who is a bit more tech-savvy than I am. Despite the headache I developed, at least I felt a bit useful before I took the 60+ minute drive north. (I-10 West is also how you get to Houston.)

One of the things I needed to do was get a bottle of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for this recipe. I forgot when I was in Baton Rouge two weeks ago, darnit, and I’m sure Whole Foods would have had it. (I didn’t get that job, either.) They had nearly everything else I needed, but of course, I plum forgot after the ridiculous ride through traffic-clogged Baton Rouge to get there. (Almost like driving on I-610 West near the Galleria in Houston.) After I walked out of the Buddhist Center on Sunday, I relied on Apple Maps to get me to Whole Foods Uptown, and it was a straight drive up Prytania Street. Well, everything was fine until I got to Louisiana Avenue. Since there’s construction going on, you can’t take a left at Louisiana, you can only turn right onto it. The app doesn’t mention that little detail, either. This means you now have to drive down Louisiana Avenue to find a way to make a U-turn elsewhere so you can drive in the other direction to Whole Foods. Well.  . .I didn’t make it that far, I only got to the corner of St. Charles and Louisiana and stopped. What’s at that corner?

The Fresh Market.

See, they didn’t close the stores in Louisiana, only Texas and three other states. (Baton Rouge and Mandeville also have one.) But it didn’t dawn on me to try The Fresh Market, only Whole Foods.

I walked in and felt a little more at home. There, in a smaller space than the one we had in Clear Lake, was everything I remembered. (The wine section is upstairs, but I didn’t need to go up there; the Clear Lake store had everything on one floor.) I prowled a bit and saw. . .the coffee. Oh, but darnit! No money for coffee, only for the Bragg’s! Except. . .there are also sample cups. So, I picked up a sample cup, added a packet of pink and a little half-and-half and sampled some delicious, welcome hot Chocolate Cherry coffee. Walked around for a minute and found the Bragg’s, then circled back to refill that sample cup, Bragg’s in my hand.

I did that four or five times while I looked at the fully stocked shelves of goods not available at Winn-Dixie. So I actually *did* get hot, fresh, free coffee, and Chocolate Cherry flavor, too! It just wasn’t all at once. There weren’t many people in the store on Sunday morning at 11:15 am, and they looked rather sullen when they saw me. (Red-haired Texans get that look a lot.) My nice male cashier had a “man bun,” too, which greatly amused my military buzz-cut BF when I told him.  Otherwise, nobody said anything.  However, this particular trip, I just said “thank you” to the Universe for giving me some free coffee, in Chocolate Cherry flavor. It was greatly appreciated on a day where I was not feeling up to it.

BF was at work all day Sunday, and since I got home about 2:30 or so, I decided to take a nap before he returned. I didn’t hear him arrive, and he didn’t wake me or tell me he was home, he just got busy with it in the kitchen and cooked some delicious dinner for us. I smelled the cooking, but thought it was part of the weird dream I was having. What a sweetie. I did all the dishes for us.

Finally, I got all the ingredients together, since that was the last bit of the puzzle.  I can show you how to make this amazing, delicious and easy bean dish that I’ve been talking about for weeks, and we can have for years to come. (Well, I will, anyway.)

The setup (minus the Balsamic vinegar, I forgot.)

The setup (minus the Balsamic vinegar, I forgot.)

Yes, this is a lot of stuff for a pot of beans. But it’s worth it. (And of course, I forgot to include the Balsamic vinegar in this picture.)

Neighbor E, who is still a good friend but is no longer a “neighbor,” has been volunteering at the Clear Lake Food Pantry for some time, and has occasionally given me things that he either doesn’t want, has too much of, or wouldn’t ordinarily use. This wasn’t all the time, just on occasion (and I loved all the coleslaw, too.) Pinto beans are a staple in Texas, but I haven’t tried to buy them in Louisiana just yet. These are the last of them that he gave me before I moved to BF’s place,  so he gets credit here, too.

There are a few steps, but it’s really simple. Start by rinsing the beans, of course.

Clean beans are best!

Clean beans are best!

And add them into the slow cooker thingy, then fill it ¾ with water:

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And add the diced onions and garlic:

Peeling garlic is so easy with one of these.

Peeling garlic is so easy with one of these.

 

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Any excuse to use the garlic doo-dad!

 

Success!

Success!

 

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This was a small onion, but I think it was too much.

 

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Toss it all in.

I put a whole small onion in this batch, but I think it should be less than that, maybe no more than a third or a scant half cup of chopped onion. Also, I’d chop it a little finer, maybe use the food processor next time. Next batch may include green onions, since I’ve already started growing some in the kitchen window. This batch, I put too much onion in it, I think.

Cook up the half-cup salt pork or bacon (this was Trader Joe’s bacon pieces from my Houston kitchen.)

Bacon!

Bacon!

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Chop and add that in.

The paper bowl helps with the drainage. And, it just happened to be really handy.

The paper bowl helps with the drainage. And, it just happened to be really handy.

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Getting there!

Then shake in the salt, pepper, Balsamic Vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Aminos, and chicken stock:

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Stir it up a little:

Just a little stir, nothing serious.

Just a little stir, nothing serious.

And follow Amy’s directions for any slow-cooker recipe: Put the lid on, plug it in, turn it on and leave it alone. For at least eight hours, but of course, longer won’t hurt them. (Just don’t forget, OK?)

Hours later, you’ll smell them first, then have this:

Miss Alice's Magic Beans!

Miss Alice’s Magic Beans!

Of course, *before* I got to cooking them, BF took me into town for some errands. . .which should have happened after I put the beans in the slow cooker. They really do take at least 8 hours to cook. He cooked a pot of rice, but the beans were still kind of hard later in the evening. Next time, prep in the morning. But on the taste factor, it was two thumbs up.  Finally, I made something else he liked!

When you smell these beans, you’ll understand why I make a big deal about them.  They really are the best beans I’ve ever had. You’ll say the same thing when you make them. They really are that good.

Sunday family dinner? Make a double batch. You’ll need it.

Of course, I didn’t wash dishes beforehand, so this is what was waiting off-camera:

Oh, well.

Oh, well.

But all was well at the new HeatCageKitchen.

Another Sunday brought me to a Buddhist meeting on this side of the world, and found. . .The Fresh Market in Mandeville! So there’s a new adventure to tell you about in the quick dinner department. Of course, my Texas readers will be green with envy. . .plus, there’s Hatch chilies involved!

As always, the printable PDF is available on the Recipes page. I hope to bring you more tasty recipes and ideas again soon.

Many thanks to AC for not only letting my try these wonderful beans, but giving me the recipe so I could share it with everyone.

Enjoy!

The Dislocated Texan

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

OK, so it’s been a month, and you’re probably wondering what happened to me. Join the club, me too. And by the title of this post, you’re probably getting a fair idea of how it all went down.

To follow up on the last post, I eventually did bring back the oversized microwave and got. . .another small Rival microwave. But it’s not even plugged in. There’s a reason for that.

I’ll be as blunt as I can be: I am not living anywhere in Texas. Will I ever return? I don’t know, that depends on a number of factors. I hope to at least be able to go back and visit occasionally, since Houston is a five-hour drive from where I am now in. . .rural Louisiana. Someplace I never thought I would ever see, and never planned to be. But sometimes life takes you in different directions, no matter how you try to take your preferred path.

Take in this scene, which I politely call Cow Road:

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That’s not the real name of it, of course, but I didn’t know that until the third time I went on it. But there are two farms on the right side of this scene, and one of them, I think, is a dairy farm. Do they sell raw milk? He doesn’t know. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Texas, and in particular, Houston, is changing fast. (Just today there was a shooting in a high-dollar affluent neighborhood, with six people injured, one of those neighborhoods where “this sort of thing never happens.“) Things have been changing quite radically for a few years now, and if it continues, well, Texas will probably not be Texas anymore, and then the rest of the US will be hosed too. Lots more people moving in than there are jobs available, and a lot of people are being left on the side of the road. Governor Gregg Abbott’s office estimates 340+ families migrate into Texas every month, primarily from California. It’s obvious with large numbers of new, high-end vehicles you see driving down the street, and paper dealership tags riding around Clear Lake and in Houston. Everywhere I went, someone talked about “how it works down here in Texas,” or the more offensive, “you people down here in Texas.” Without showing my ruffled feathers, I politely asked each one of them, “and where are you from? What brings you to Texas?” They’re quick to tell, and I’m quick to say, “oh, so that’s why I can’t find a job for more than 2 years.” Yeah–don’t mess with Texas women. (I now have a coffee cup and a small sign that say that.) After 18 years of living in the Houston area, I’m a Texan, and nothing will change that, including a change of address form.

People like me, over 50, are routinely being shunted out of the workforce in favor of the so-called millennials and those under 40. Neighbor E is still looking for work as well, and while we hope he finds work soon, it’s not looking good.  That folly will catch up to industry eventually (and if you click around the ‘Net, you’ll see articles on both that and the forced removal of over-50’s), but it means that I have had to take refuge in a different kitchen, if you know what I mean.

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A cute little calf comes by to see what I’m up to. Cows startle easily, if you didn’t know that.

I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with a nice man for quite some time now, but haven’t mentioned it much here. He’s cute, smart, funny, lovable and a pretty handy manly man. We’re not connected “in a relationship” on Facebook at his request just to keep things private. I’m OK with that, and I won’t say too much about him here. OK, I have to–but I’ll have to keep identifying details to a minimum, because he’s a rather private person. (I know–what was he thinking?) This came as a complete surprise, and he knew my situation at the outset. He has offered for months to drive to Houston and “rescue” me, and every time he said it, I said “no.” Louisiana was someplace I escaped from and never wanted to go back to. When I visited him in January, it was the first time I’d been over the Sabine River since evacuating from Houston for Hurricane Ike in 2008. I always presumed that things would, eventually get better, and he would visit me in Houston, but it didn’t happen that way. At least not until this month, and he showed up with his white Chevy truck (we call it “The White Knight“) and an 18-foot trailer.

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Scenes like this are common along the small-town roads I now travel.

I waited until the last minute, hoping that the last interview would be a successful hire. When that didn’t happen, then I pulled the trigger on the “rescue.” It was a writing job, and as part of the interview process, I was required to take two sets of tests–one grammar, one writing–and I did well with the first one, I was told. The second I worked off and on all Labor Day weekend. Sent it back to the recruiter, and then I waited, but not for long. A couple of days later, I got that “no thanks” email, for which I have a less polite name. With only a phone interview with someone in Ann Arbor, it was decided that I “wasn’t a good fit for the position.”  Never met anyone. That’s when I called BF and said, “OK, it’s time.” It was not a decision I made lightly, but when you’re backed in a corner, there aren’t always many ways out.

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Cow Road, farther down

Neighbor E and AC offered lots of help with packing, and we packed as fast as we could. Correction, THEY did, and I looked at what they did and realized I didn’t really do anything. (That’s what it felt like, anyway.) They worked their paws off, and as much as I appreciate their generous time and help, it’s a favor I may never be able to return. The GER came by with some tarp, too (I still owe him $28 for that) met my BF, and gave him some help tying down cargo. They started talking about cars, because both are petrolheads, and I knew they were bonded at that point.

And that’s how I came to be The Dislocated Texan. Friend of the blog AK says that I should start another blog on being over 50 in America now; she’s not far behind me. I’m still thinking about it, but if I do, you can bet that’ll be the blog’s name. I’m returning to Houston this week to retrieve what I hope is the last of my stuff, which is now stored in Neighbor E’s place. If I can, I’ll get me another one of those coffee cups from Buc-ee’s that says, “Don’t mess with Texas Women.” Preferably one that isn’t pink, to keep on my desk at my next job. I’ve also got a small sign with the Texas flag that will be going up in the kitchen where everyone can see it.

I am a Dislocated Texan.

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These cows are actually in Louisiana. You can tell by the look. (Yes, that’s a joke.)

I hope I can go back and visit Houston, and Texas, again one day, do some shopping at IKEA, Central Market, and maybe even my fabulous HEB. Get some Texas pecans from Buc-ee’s or Frohberg Farms one day. I finally took my BF over there to see my HEB, the day we started moving me. I said goodbye to the nice ladies who always helped me out and fed me deliciously every Saturday after the Buddhist meetings at LK’s. (Even HEB turned me down for part time jobs.) BF was impressed, enjoyed the sampling and the company, saw what I’d been telling him about for a long time, and then we left. For now, locally my choices for grocery shopping are Walmart and Winn-Dixie. In Baton Rouge, there is a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods, thank heavens, and if I find myself working down there (I have an interview tomorrow and continue to apply there and other local cities), there will be regular grocery runs on the way home from work on payday or Fridays. I’ll eventually find the equivalent of an HEB, or something as close as I can get to it. If not during the week, it’ll be when he’s working on Saturday or Sunday, and he can’t stop me. (HA!)

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The Cow Posse

If HEB or Publix ever make their way into Louisiana, it’ll be a happy day for me. But Albertson’s, Rouse’s Walmart, Winn-Dixie and other local chains are likely to dominate for many years to come. Still, if they’d build an HEB in Baton Rouge like the one on Clear Lake City Boulevard. . .I’m just saying. But if you like HEB coffee, or lots of their other great branded products, you can buy much of HEB’s things online now.

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More suspicious cows.

I will, at some point, try to get back to see Dr. Davis and Woodlands Wellness, because I’d really rather not change doctors, but that may be what I have to do to get back on my hormones and back on the health track. (I have just started sleeping a little better after 4 years of not sleeping well at all.) We’ll see. I really, REALLY need to get back on all that, I’m feeling it, and it hurts.

Moving into someone’s house, away from everything I know in Houston, also means I now have ONE taste-tester, and he’s what us foodies call a “fussy eater.” This morning I offered him a bite of my Wheat Belly Apple Quick Muffin, which he sampled after having a bowl of some kind of sugar-coated wheat cereal with whole milk. (UGH.) He said it “tastes funny.” Interesting, since I made it with almond flour, just like the pork chops I made on Saturday, at his request, along with some black-eyed peas in the Crock Pot and some hurriedly cooked white (!) rice. He went back to work, I turned the classical music station back on the TV (there is no radio in the house, and cell phone service is spotty) and I later received a text message: “Lunch was awesome.

YES!

He wasn’t wild about me using up that sausage in his freezer and pairing it with the last packet of Halloumi cheese from Trader Joe’s, out of my kitchen in Houston. (He thought the jarred roasted red bell peppers were tomatoes.) The next day’s slow-cooker meatloaf went over a bit better, but the pork chops and black eyed peas made up for all that.

I have more room to cook in. However, I will need to eventually clear out all the cabinets, put down more shelf liner (I think I have plenty), and organize everything so that we can put our hands on the stuff we more frequently use. There may be shelves hung at some point, and the pantry space will be getting more of those white wire shelves to use up the wasted space (I’ve done that before for stock and seldom-needed things.)

But I’m telling you, that George Foreman thing has to go–it’s a huge pain to clean! And somehow, I’ve got to replace the grease trap on my Cuisinart Griddler–I just waffled a pizza the other day, but now I can’t find it! GRRRR.

His sparse pantry, not much bigger than mine in Houston, has been filled to overflowing with everything that came out of my smaller kitchen in Houston, including what are the last few remaining cans of SomerSweet in existence. I just found out today that Somersweet, through a series of events, is no more. I’ll visit the Baton Rouge Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods soon for reconnaissance on powdered erythrytol and powdered agave, as well as other possible solutions.

The look on BF’s face was pretty funny when he looked at organic this and gourmet that stacked up around his boxed stuffing mix, macaroni cheese and canned chili. I said to him, “I know there’s a lot of new things in your pantry, but please, if you don’t know what it is, don’t mess with it. Many of these things are expensive and will be hard to find around here.” He just smiled and shook his head. What did you expect a foodie to bring to your house–a checkers set? He doesn’t know what most, if any, of it is, but he knows I need it for cooking. Eventually we’ll be adding more of that white-wire shelving in there to use up the wasted space, like at the top and on the sides, and maybe something new for the inside of the door. I’ve added some small shelves I bought at IKEA several years ago that doubles space in spots, and he really likes them. I just wish I could get a few more of them for us.

I offered to make him some Overnight Oatmeal, but he passed–he prefers the “instant” sugared stuff out of a box. UGH!! When I mentioned getting organic milk at Trader Joe’s, he said, “Don’t go changing my diet!” Just improve, not change, that’s all.

I removed my Suzanne Somers’ EZ Gym from the suitcase last night, but it’s all rolled up in the storage bag. BF took one look and said, “are you going to kick my butt with that thing?” No. . .I suggested he go look at it on her website, but I don’t think he did. I hope to start using it again, and maybe hit the bike now and again, once things settle. No bike lanes in rural Louisiana, though, so I’m a bit skittish about riding on these skinny two-lane back roads. A bike trainer might be in my future.

I now have four slow cookers at my disposal–two oval four-quarts (one mine, one his), my large round six-quart and the small “Little Dipper” I bought a couple of years ago to help get rid of the cooking odors in the condo kitchen.

Oh, and here’s the ultimate irony: the cat lady now lives in a house with three big dogs, one of which is a 75-pound pit bull that just loves me. No kidding. I keep telling him I’m a cat person, but he doesn’t seem to care.

I’ve also met my new Buddhist leaders, PB and NM. I’ve known PB since 1988, and NM I only knew by reputation. They’re a couple, like me and BF, and came by to do a “home visit” last week. I was so glad to see both of them, and have also been in touch with LK since the move, too (plus she reads this humble blog when she has a chance.) I hope to make a Buddhist activity this weekend, but if not, it will be soon. Priority is getting all of my things out of E’s place, immediately, and getting unpacked and organized. Somehow. On his paycheck, at least for a while.

Because he’s such a manly man, he makes occasional furniture pieces from wooden pallets. You know, the stuff they use for shipping. I’m trying to get him into the mindset that we could pretty much rebuild the house with pallets, but he doesn’t see it that way yet. I helped my father when I was a kid in his workshop, so I’m not completely green on woodworking (oh, look, a pun!) I’m working on it. . .because I’d love to have a patio set, another kitchen rack, and lots of other lovely things that I see on Pinterest made from pallets. One thing at a time, of course.

So what does a food blogger write about once everything has changed? Well, restaurants–I’ve been treated to breakfast at a local place called Master Chef, a local fast-food place run by a very nice man named Tony. I’ve also been in a Waffle House–no kidding, again, for breakfast. I don’t think I’ve been in a Waffle House since the 1980’s, but last week, that’s where he took me to breakfast on our way to visit his cousin in nearby Mississippi. Know what? Some of the best scrambled eggs ever–they use American cheese. And it was gluten free–because I told them to give him my toast, ha, ha. Our waitress had no idea that some Waffle Houses take reservations for Valentine’s Day. She’d just moved to that location from a New Orleans store, and had never heard that.  In some very remote areas, Waffle House is the only place in town, and they serve steaks, so, yes, they do. (I wrote about that a couple of years ago but can’t find it now.)

I’ll also be trying out more new recipes as I can, and bringing them to you as fast as I can get to the library. We don’t yet have Internet in the house, and as soon as I can pay for it, we’ll have it! Meantime, I have to find Wifi somewhere, and the local library is pretty nice too. Not nearly as big as my beloved Freeman Library on Diana Lane in Clear Lake, and certainly no gardening lectures that I’ve seen yet, but they’re every bit as helpful and nice.

There’s no Starbucks here (the closest is in Hammond), but there is one PJ’s Coffee, a New Orleans based coffee chain that was my first introduction into gourmet coffee shops with a fellow SGI member who now lives in Boston. (They also have Wifi.) So, if I’m working in Baton Rouge or Hammond, there will be trips to PJ’s or CC’s Coffee, the retail arm of Baton Rouge-based Community Coffee. Community is donating to help with flood relief here in Louisiana, so if you’re of a mind to do so, pick up a bag or two of your favorite Community blend next trip, please.

Hey–maybe I can take a ride and go visit Community Coffee sometime. I’m a food blogger, right? DUH. I did ask BF if we could, on his occasional Saturday off, take a ride one day down to Avery Island and visit Tabasco. He didn’t seem enthused about the idea.

I have not been well, for a long time, but I’m getting better, bit by bit, and I have the great support of BF. Even though he doesn’t read my humble blog.

Not long before I knew I was leaving, AC asked me to give her some help with her home computer, and uploading some videos of her work to YouTube for a job interview. I took care of everything, and I also installed an antivirus program and did a few other things to make it run better. When I got there, I smelled some deliciousness going on. You see, AC, too, has a new BF, and was cooking some pinto beans in the slow cooker for dinner that night. “You want to try some?” (GIRLFRIEND–You have to ask?) Oh, my GAWD, they were the best beans I’ve ever had! I told her that too–no joke, they really were delicious, I wasn’t just telling her that to be nice. She texted me the stuff she uses to make it, and the only thing that’s holding me back is a bottle of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. I can’t find it here, so I’ll try to get it either in Baton Rouge or on my next trip to Houston. I can’t wait to make them for my BF, and show you how to make them, too.

My biggest challenge as a home cook and blogger is going to be reconciling BF’s love for junk food and processed stuff containing wheat and toxic chemicals with making healthy, tasty food that he’ll enjoy and not turn up his nose at. I haven’t yet made him the Pea & Pesto Soup, but I plan to. . .soon as I can find the blender. (I managed to bring five containers of my beloved pesto with me, and will have more land to grow more basil, tomatoes and anything else I want.) The other issue is that he’s quick to purchase things that are loaded with wheat and other rubbish, which I mentioned already that I won’t consume. I also warned him about the “no beans in chili or you can get shot” thing, but he doesn’t believe me.

So. . .that’s where I’ve been, where I am and where I think I’m going. I hope that I’ll at least be able to visit Texas occasionally if I don’t move back to it, and write about more new recipes and things as I get settled in and unpacked.

I am now the The Dislocated Texan. I’m working on it, and making the best of it. Fortunately, BF has my back, and reminds me frequently that he’s there for me. I hope to be doing things like baking fresh bread for him soon, and since I found the Hatch Apple Pie Filling, making that fabulous cake that Neighbor E and I had in HEB recently. I’ll do that  when he has a day off.

Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope to be bringing more new things to you soon.

Happy Dining!

Sampling Saturday: The Hatch & Pesto Weekend

Happy Monday, Dear Readers:

My apologies for being so late in posting again. . .it gets away from me sometimes.

If you’re in Louisiana and reading this, please stay safe and dry–the situation is dangerous in many areas, and I have friends who have been impacted. Mechanic friend JK’s house is fine, but his vehicle isn’t. JK is in touch with many of his friends who were impacted, one person he knows has been evacuated, and his brother’s place of business took on a foot or so of water on Saturday. Heck, even the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge took on an inch of water! This is some of the worst flooding Louisiana has ever seen, and it wasn’t even due to a hurricane. Most of the flooding is north of Lake Ponchartrain and in the Baton Rouge area, rather than New Orleans, where it normally occurs.

Mercy Chefs is heading to Baton Rouge to help serve food to affected people and first responders. If you’re interested in making a donation to help, Mercy Chefs is a good place to start. They have professional-grade mobile kitchens and drive to disaster areas and COOK FOOD. I have not personally had dinner with these folks, I don’t know them, but I have donated to them a few times. I do know they prepare hot, fresh gourmet food for people who can’t cook for themselves and can’t get home to eat.

I haven’t forgotten floods that I’ve been through in Louisiana previously, including one that kept me and my now-ex-husband upstairs in our apartment for three days. We didn’t have cable TV, or Internet, or a computer, we only had each other and the cats. And then we ran out of coffee. . . .

While we here in Houston are now getting some rain after a hot dry spell, it’s not Louisiana’s excess rain. Neighbor E and I have had a couple of adventures last week, and it involved two trips to our local and fabulous HEB. We both had errands to run on Tuesday, and decided to go together. We also visited the Lego Americana Roadshow, which happened to stop in our own Baybrook Mall last week. One of E’s friends liked a post on Facebook, and E saw it. Otherwise, neither of us would have known! It was quite interesting–ten American icons are built in. . .Legos.  No kidding. The Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, The Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson Memorials, and other historic structures are all made of Legos, most of them white. It really was something to see, it was FREE, and I’m glad we got to go.  (You can check out our pictures here.)  If you want Americans to see something, you put it in the mall.

We also made a quick run to HEB for a few things, where we were introduced to a few things in the upcoming Hatch Chili weekend. Oh, BOY. At the Cooking Connection area, where chefs are constantly preparing tasty things for sampling, we were among the first to try a “Dump Cake” made with a Hatch Apple Pie Filling. No kidding. Three ingredients: the filling, which I’ll show you later, a box of Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix, and a stick of unsalted butter, chopped and laid on top. You pour the pie filling into a 9×13 baking pan, then the cake mix on top of that, then the butter pieces atop that. You’re just layering here, not mixing anything, and make sure they’re evenly spread, including the butter. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Of course, that Hatch Apple Pie Filling is only around for a limited time. I got a jar and the recipe in the pantry for a special occasion, which hasn’t happened yet.

Don’t judge me. We were floored.

I think that was the day we were also treated to ice cream samples with mini-M&Ms and some of this delicious elixir:

2016-08-09 12.39.30

It says “Peach Bellini,” but there’s no alcohol in this. (I pass on the wine samples anyway.)

Miss Kathryn, who is usually in the Cooking Connection area daily, told us that Saturday was the big Hatch promotion, and there would be everything with Hatch chilis all over the place. She was actually working on the Hatch Apple Dump Cake while we were there, and asked us to try it to see what we thought–and of course, gave her two thumbs up. We were among the first to try it! So E and I made plans to return on Saturday and have lunch. Because, quite frankly, that’s what you do in HEB on a Saturday.

I had to head into town on Thursday, and well, I needed some chocolate. Since I was in town anyway, I made a quick stop at IKEA for some catalogs; Neighbor E is happily looking at his, and JK, The E Man and PK will all be receiving theirs later this week. I went up to the Second Floor Cafe, and got a look in the fridge case.

The Chocolate Conspiracy Cake.

Oh, dear.

Yes, I fell off the wagon. It’s called–the Chocolate Conspiracy Cake. I have no idea why, and maybe it was the dry, gentle Swedish humor, but it sure was good. Again, don’t judge me, I had a bad day. Chocolate helps. And I rode for 16 miles that night.

Saturday I headed to LK’s for our monthly Buddhist study meeting, and texted Neighbor E when I was leaving. I dropped by the complex, E hopped in my ride and off we went. My pictures are only iPhone shots, because, DUH, I forgot to bring my regular camera, darnit. But they came out pretty good. Come on with us on Sampling Saturday, Hatch Edition, and enjoy the sights. (Sorry I can’t help you taste the food.)

When you turn into the parking lot off El Dorado, the tendency is to park there, but that’s at the “back end” of the store, where the pharmacy is. No, it’s better to park on the other end, by the Clear Lake City Blvd. entrance, so you go in through the door by the floral and produce areas. Bring your bags, and don’t forget your “cold bag,” the one that keeps your milk and other perishables cold. (I also made this Butterick grocery bag that keeps things hot *or* cold.) Of course, that’s where they also keep the “grab-and-go” meals, where a very nice lady is frequently sampling them:

Miss Sunie is always a friendly face, and always has the best samples.

Miss Sunie is always a friendly face, and always has the best samples.

This weekend Miss Sunie was sampling delicious Hatch Meatball Stuffed Mushrooms (that’s what she’s scooping up in the picture) and chicken breasts stuffed with green beans and, what else, Hatch Chilis. Two thumbs up from both me and E. YUM. Next up is Miss Lei, who was serving a most incredible Salmon Hatch Burgers on a toasted bun:

Miss Lei was serving up delicious Salmon Hatch burgers.

Miss Lei, doing what she does best, and she’s always nice to meet too.

If I had to pick a favorite, which would be difficult, I would probably have to pick this sandwich. But since E is “not a fish guy,” he passed on it. Darn shame, but I’m not twisting his arm for anything.

These Hatch Salmon Burgers start with, what else, the Hatch Salmon Patties at HEB, and are served on their delicious Onion Rolls, which are buttered and grilled. While those are going on, you mix a cup of sour cream with a box of Boursin Garlic & Herb Cheese, and when the buns are toasted, spread some on the bottom. Add the cooked Hatch Salmon Patty, place some Dill Dip on top the patty, and put the top bun on it.

And you have just become enlightened, folks. It’s that good.

Now, while we were waiting for the burgers to finish cooking (they only had a couple of minutes to go), we got to talking about the Hatch chile. Longtime readers may remember my last post on the Hatch Chili last year, (and a previous post from 2014), and I gave you some insight and history into these little green babies. Miss Lei went online and did some more research into them and found out a number of neat facts–like one Hatch has three times the Vitamin C of an orange. (I should have taken a pic of that flier she had posted, darnit.) That when you visit New Mexico, as I did with friend of the blog Aunt Ruth in 2012, they ask, “red or green?” Meaning, red or green sauce–and they really do put it on everything. And that only those peppers grown in Hatch, NM can be called “Hatch.”

Also available is one of their “Entree Simple” lines, Hatch Chile Stuffed Salmon. They weren’t sampling that, but it’s available in the oven-ready section by Miss Sunie. (That’s where the countertop oven comes in handy.)

Next up was Miss Carolyn, who was sampling delicious breads. (What I eat in HEB stays in HEB!)

Miss Carolyn had hatch cornbread and sliced bread you'd have to taste to believe.

She wasn’t wild about me taking her picture, but I did explain it was for the blog.

Miss Carolyn not only had store-baked French bread, she had Hatch Corn Bread and some Hatch Sliced bread too, which you must taste to believe:

Yes. Hatch chili breads.

Yes. Hatch chili breads.

Don’t tell my doctor. It’s like going to a birthday party or a wedding. You know you’re going to eat some cake, right? Same thing.

With the French bread, she buttered it, but not the sliced or corn bread. Good thing–butter would be wasted on them. Don’t cover the flavor of the delicious Hatch breads. Ever.

Next up was over to the Cooking Connection demo area, where another one of the store chefs was cooking up more delicious things:

One of two in-store chefs that are always cooking up good stuff. (And there's the Mom's Hatch Apple Pie Filling.)

One of two in-store chefs that are always cooking up good stuff, and handing some food to Neighbor E.  (And there’s the Mom’s Hatch Apple Pie Filling.)

I can’t find the recipes for what we sampled, but yes, we had more of that Hatch Apple Dump Cake! Cooking Connection also features recipes using new and interesting ingredients like the Hatch Apple Pie filling, and that mustard sitting right next to it. Oh, and a delicious Hatch Chile Jalapeno Jam topping some softened cream cheese. Oh, I can’t stop eating whatever they put with cream cheese–it’s always addictive, and is perfect on top samples of tortillas from the bakery, right across the aisle.

Mom’s Hatch Apple Pie Filling is, as they explained repeatedly, “only here for a limited time.” It’s also made in Fredricksburg, Texas–so you know it’s good! Both E and I bought some, and as I said, mine’s in the pantry with the recipe taped to the lid. It’s so “limited edition” that it’s not even on the company website!

Past the Cooking Connection and into the Meat Department was a nice guy offering Hatch Empanadas:

Hatch empanadas. Oh, YEAH.

Hatch empanadas. Oh, YEAH. And a bit of Hatch cheese on top, too.

Delicious, and they’re available in the meat case right behind him:

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Heat & Eat Empanadas! (They’re not pepper-hot.)

We also saw Hatch Chiles used to season chicken:

Hatch chicken!

Hatch chicken!

You can also get Hatch Rotisserie Chicken if you don’t want to be bothered cooking it yourself.

Delicious sausages that we also sampled (but I forget where):

Hatch sausages and cheeses.

YUM.

And even cheese:

CHEESE!!!!!

CHEESE!!!!!

Yeah, they put Hatch chilis in everything at HEB, and some of their Hatch chili products are available year-round.

We also did a spot of shopping, and while we don’t buy the same kinds of things, I got a look at this section:

Packaged seasonings

Packaged seasonings

Since I was getting some un-seasoned chicken leg quarters, it was quite tempting to get a packet of slow cooker seasoning mix. Really, it was. Then I looked at the ingredients on the packet. . .and put it back.

But outside of the sampling, the most fun we had was seeing this little abandoned item. E had some fun and put his shopping in it:

Just need a few things?

Just need a few things?

I should have taken a picture of the warning label on the front–but the sign facing the corn flakes box says something about the basket being “reserved only for future HEB shoppers.” Cute, isn’t it? Of course, it’s for the wee ones, so they can shop right along with Mom, Dad, Grandma, or Grandpa.

No, we didn’t have that when I was a wee one shopping with Maw Maw O’Donnell at Schweggmann’s. I wish.

I forgot to get a picture of it, but HEB is also selling various pepper plants, including Hatch Chile peppers, for $9.98 a pot. The Hatch plants were about 2 feet high and had peppers growing on them. I didn’t buy any, but if I can get those seeds to sprout, I’ll have my own. And if they drop the price down, well, I might get one anyway.

Next: I went to town on Serve-It-Up-Sunday, where I cooked for the week. I bought three of those huge Hatch chilis:

Perfect for Texans. BIG.

Perfect for Texans. BIG.

I could have just seeded and chopped them to throw into the breakfast quiche, but I decided to roast them again. First up: cut them open and remove the seeds and ribs:

Looks like most peppers.

Looks like most peppers.

Check out how many seeds I saved from those three Hatch peppers:

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Planting!!!

I cut them flat so that they would roast nicely.

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Stuck them in the toaster oven under the broiler for a little while, until the skin starts coming off. You can also roast them over an open flame, using the burner on a gas stove or even on an enclosed barbecue grill, if you like. After a few minutes under the heat, this is what you should see:

See the skin turning white?

See the skin turning white?

The skin is starting to dry out, and that’s what you want. I don’t know how long it took, but of course, don’t walk away and forget them. This is what came out:

Neat, huh?

Neat, huh?

Let them cool completely in an enclosed dish, or plastic bag (I put my paws on this first.)

The skins will start to separate n here

The skins will start to separate in here

Once they cool off and the skin starts to sweat, they look like this:

Getting there.

Getting there.

Then you just slip the cooled flesh from the skin by hand.

The stuff on the left gets chopped and goes into the egg/milk/cheese mixture and into the slow cooker for a week of breakfast. The right side is. . .tossed, until I figure out a good use for it elsewhere.

The stuff on the left gets chopped and goes into the egg/milk/cheese mixture and into the slow cooker for a week of breakfast. The right side is. . .tossed into the trash, until I figure out a use for it.

Delicious, not hot. And about the same amount as I would get from a small can. OK, I admit, it’s the long way round. But it’s worth it.

After I roasted up the chicken leg quarters (nothing exciting) I decided it was Pesto Time again. The basil just became plentiful, particularly with the elephant-ear leaves, so I started the harvest:

I almost hated cutting this. Almost.

I almost felt guilty cutting this. Almost.

As instructed in the Green Thumb gardening lectures, I left five leaves on each one of those plants. This is what I had to work with:

Hmmm. . .think that's enough basil?

Hmmm. . .think that’s enough basil?

I did pick the bad spots out of the leaves.

I actually had enough to make a full one-cup batch, then a half-cup batch. Both went directly into the freezer.

Delicious, magic, green pesto.

Delicious, magic, green pesto.

Yeah, I’m good. Didn’t think about adding a Hatch chili though; maybe next year. Maybe I’ll get one more batch of pesto before the plants all go to sleep for the winter. Just need to head to Bed, Bath and Beyond for more of those little square glass containers I like. I used up the rest of the sage butter on two turkey thighs, so I had one free for this pesto batch. But I always hope for more. . . .

Hatch chilis aren’t around for too long, so if you’re a Hatch fan, or you’ve never tried them, get them while they’re, um, hot. Available. Around.

Happy Hatching!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oatmeal

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

No, I haven’t been swimming in the deluge of water that’s come to Texas. It finally stopped raining for a couple of days, and I’ve gotten back on the bike. I missed it. We’ve had some off-on showers, like the one that passed over us yesterday afternoon. It was the length of an average song by The Monkees.

Haven’t drowned in a vat of melted chocolate, either–I wish. In fact, I haven’t had chocolate in a while–but that’s a good thing. The most dangerous thing I’ve done recently is go visit Neighbor E and mess with his newly adopted cat. Big, fluffy and sweet, even to the dog, but she does like to bare her claws, too.

I found this funny online somewhere a while back and have forgotten to include it. I’ve made some kitchen mistakes, as everyone has, but despite what might the GER might tell you, I’ve never been this bad.

We've all been there.

We’ve all been there.

Thought you might enjoy that one.

The HeatCageKitchen garden is very green and very happy these days. Looks like I might get a few more Key limes after all. In addition to the one little bud growing:

20160614_093704

There is a sudden bunch of little flowers at the top of the tree that should yield a few more of them.

That's not a corsage!

That’s not a corsage!

The 3 Meyer lemons are getting bigger:

One of three.

One of three.

And there are a few tomatoes around:

Whenever it ripens, it will be red.

Whenever it ripens, it will be red.

Plus more behind them:

20160614_093753

And these are little yellow SunGolds.

The basil has grown up pretty well, and it’s time to make some pesto from the big plant. Don’t worry, there’s more basil coming (I just need to plant these little rootlings):

See? It works!

See? It works!

I’ll plant them in this pot, and eventually I hope they become two feet tall:

See the previous rootlings that are growing?

See the previous rootlings that are growing?

Although it’s officially summer, we’ve been warmed up for a while. Now that it’s June, well, you won’t be wanting to turn on that stove anymore, will you? Have you dusted off your Crock Pot and started cooking in it yet? Why not? Check some of my older posts for some recipes, or hit Pinterest and search there. You’ll never run out of recipes for your Crock Pot or waffle maker there–trust me on that. (No grapes into the Crock Pot=wine yet.) Seriously, though, there’s no reason to heat up the kitchen if you don’t want to. And I found another “forget it” thing to tell you about that can keep you cool this summer, and make mornings a little easier, whether you’re single or married with children.

But first. . . .

Sue Moran of The View From Great Island just posted something she calls “Vegan Breakfast Bowls.” Now, they do look tasty, but they’re not the tofu-and-bean combination that might spring to mind. Sue’s breakfast bowls are more like granola types of mixtures with fruit, nuts almond milk, chia seeds and the like. (The post is sponsored by the producer of the non-dairy milk she uses. I’ve never seen 1915 BoltHouse Farms products, and they are available here–but I’m not touching soy milk.)  I’m a bit skittish about using chia seeds after my experience a couple of years ago, but occasional chia dishes might be OK. I haven’t tried them since, but I would always urge caution and suggest backing off if you find yourself with gut pains.

So, another item I’ve seen on Pinterest and places like Facebook is something called “Overnight Oats.” Bloggers have been doing them for some time, I just never paid attention because. . .I generally don’t eat oatmeal. I got some coupons on Friday, and in the flier, I see that Quaker Oats is getting in on the act. It’s really simple, you just soak them overnight in milk with some other ingredients to make a full meal. Quaker’s page has a primer on how to put them together, including a YouTube video. Got any Mason jars around? There you go–toss it together the night before and stash in the fridge. (But it’s not mandatory–any big enough bowl or container will do.) Your breakfast is waiting for you in the fridge. How easy is that?

But it can get boring. . .so I head over to Pinterest and find some new stuff. Oh, boy, did I find some, too–not all of them Paleo/Sugar-Free versions, but who cares?

I’d forgotten until just now that Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, has made two recipes on her Food Network show for Overnight Oatmeal–one for her daughter’s Dorm Room Dining episode, and another when she found herself alone on the ranch.

Two of the more photogenic and interesting recipes I found on Pinterest are the Lemon Cream Pie Overnight Oats from Destination Delish, and the very decadent Hazelnut Brownie Batter Overnight Oats from Life A Little Brighter.

Lemon Cream Pie Overnight Oats | Destination Delish – Oats, chia seeds, lemon zest, and maple syrup are soaked in almond milk for a healthy breakfast inspired by a lovely lemon dessert

Lemon Cream Pie Overnight Oats | Destination Delish – Oats, chia seeds, lemon zest, and maple syrup are soaked in almond milk for a healthy breakfast inspired by a lovely lemon dessert (Source: Destination Delish)

Hazelnut-Brownie-Batter-Overnight-Oats-6

Hazelnut Brownie Batter Overnight Oats from LifeALittleBrighter.com. OMG–Chocolate!!!! (Source: LifeALittleBrighter.com)

Granted, using coffee creamer in your breakfast oatmeal might be a bit unusual, but. . .if it’s what floats your boat, so what? I think that would be a “special occasion” kind of recipe for me. I don’t buy that kind of thing, never did. Just give me milk or half-and-half for my coffee, please.

After seeing the Quaker website for it, I decided to try Overnight Oatmeal for myself. I had to head to Target last night, and picked up this container of oatmeal for $2.04:

Plain, old-fashioned oatmeal.

Plain, old-fashioned oatmeal.

As a rule, overnight oatmeal is not made with the instant/microwave kind, which is already packaged with sugar, flavorings, dried fruit, etc. (You can try it, but results are not guaranteed.) This is what you’re looking for, just. . .oats:

See it? 100% oats.

See it? 100% oats.

The suggested container is a Mason/Ball jar, and the point of the Quaker ad was to offer a “free” jar for you to make said Overnight Oats in. However, I’m sure any bowl or kitchen container would work well. I just happened to use one of the Ball jars that I bought for the lettuce experiment.

The setup.

The setup.

Quaker’s website says to use a one-to-one ratio of oats and milk (or water.) That goes in first, a half cup each:

Oats

Oats

 

Milk

Milk

Then it’s just a choice of ingredients, really. In my case, I wanted to try it with whatever I had on hand, which included the dreaded chia seeds:

20160613_224118

Just a tablespoon, although next time, I might try less.

And a tablespoon of peanut butter. Crunchy, of course, or what’s the point?

I just prefer crunchy, that's all

I just prefer crunchy, that’s all.

I should point out if you are planning to add nuts as a garnish or crunch, like slivered almonds or chopped walnuts, don’t add them until you are ready to eat. That way they don’t get. . .soaked. But since crunchy peanut butter is my preference, well, it was crunchy enough for me. Then I tossed in a tablespoon of cocoa powder:

Chocolate!

Chocolate!

Two tablespoons of agave syrup:
20160613_224401

And some vanilla extract:

Mexican vanilla, not the homemade stuff this time.

Mexican vanilla, not the homemade stuff this time.

Although I grabbed the homemade extract at first, and left it in the setup picture, I later realized that adding a tablespoon of vodka in an uncooked breakfast dish was probably not a good idea. So I added a tablespoon of the grocery store stuff. (Were I cooking the oatmeal, the vodka-based vanilla would have been fine.)

At this point, you can also add fruit if you like: berries, bananas, cherries, whatever you like. If you add frozen fruit, don’t thaw it out–the liquids given off by the thawing fruit will flavor the oatmeal. Recipes abound, so take your pick. Banana? Go for it. Blueberry? Drop them in. Yogurt? Go for it. I’m sure it would be difficult to do this “wrong.”

I could have also added some cinnamon, or other sweet-enhancing spice, I just didn’t think about it last night. But it all went into the jar, and I gave it a stir:

20160613_224627

OK, this was prior to the stir.

Put the lid on it, and stashed it in the fridge before bed. (Even though I had some breakfast quiche there that I made Sunday.)

Most of the reading I’ve done says to leave the oats for at least 8 hours so they soften up enough. It’s a bit like ceviche, really–there’s no heat involved, but soaked in liquid overnight, it’s “cooked.”

So what happened? I was looking forward to this. After I stirred it last night, I licked the fork. . .it was pretty tasty, but I waited. So when I fumbled into the kitchen, (after some coffee) I took it out of the fridge:

Good morning!

Good morning!

A closer look.

A closer look.

At this point, it doesn’t move without help. The chia seeds also absorb a whole lot of the liquid, so it’s like you added powdered gelatin. If you want your oats a bit thinner, you could add a little more milk or water at this point.

Because it really won't move.

Because it really won’t move.

I used that big silicone spoon-type spatula to get it all out of the Ball jar and into a bowl. Scraped every drop of it out.  I’m not fishing it out with an iced tea spoon. I want some food!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

Amy’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

It was pretty good, and filling, too. If I were still working downtown, I’d take some of this with me to eat mid-morning.

Now, if you’re the kind who likes to make breakfast ahead of time like I do, Overnight Oats will hang out in the fridge for a couple of days (that’s what I read), but I don’t think it will be that good at the end of a week. So, you’d make enough for Monday through Wednesday, and on Wednesday evening, make some for Thursday through Saturday. (And on Sunday, it’s waffle time! Or out for brunch.)

And where has this been all our lives? Hiding out in someone’s grandma’s idea factory, I guess. But now that it’s out on social media, the idea is available for all of us to enjoy, just like the great waffling ideas.

See, we as Americans, or maybe some of us, have this thing where we want to make things better. Sometimes, it’s a blogger like me messing around with a new way to do something, or like Elena Amsterdam, making easy, tasty grain-free foods. Sometimes it’s a kid who looks to solve a problem and ends up inventing something new and highly useful. And sometimes it’s an engineer, project manager or IT person who just knows there’s a better way to do things and changes the direction of an entire company or industry. But we all think about it–there’s got to be a better way.  As Americans, we look to do that. I know it’s not always Americans, though–our “better way” ideology has spread, thanks to things like social media, and now one good idea can be spread across the world to those in need of it.

Now we know that we can make oatmeal without the stove or microwave, and a hot breakfast on a 95F day can be turned into something delicious and cool. And it’s easy! (I plan to tell Neighbor R about this, in case she wants to try it.)

So, like slow cooking and waffling, Overnight Oatmeal is one more new trend to make life–and your breakfast–easy, and keep your kitchen from heating up in the long, hot summer. (Especially in Texas.)  Do a search, or get on Pinterest and find something you like for breakfast tomorrow, so you can set it up this evening. With Pinterest recipes, you could literally eat a different variety of oatmeal every day and never have the same thing twice.

This is a screen shot of just typing in “overnight oatmeal” into Pinterest:

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See? (My first screenshot on the blog!)

Now, you see the pictures (or “pins”) that come up, but look above that. Just under where I typed in “overnight oatmeal,” you see all those little rectangles with different descriptions in them. “In A Jar,” “Healthy,” “Crockpot,” “Frozen Fruit”–all those are buttons that refine your search by those topics. (That’s a thing when you search for something on Pinterest–very useful.) Touch the arrow to the right, and you’ll see more refinements. Keep going until you hit the end, if there is one. Just takes a little getting used to, and you can find just about anything on Pinterest. Type in something else you’re interested in if you don’t believe me.

And here’s something else to think about: if you make it while you’re either making dinner or doing the washing up, you’re done for the night.

So–what will you try first?

Do you have a suspicious spouse/partner who will look at you funny when you put that jar in the fridge, or will you have to hide your new breakfast? (Not me!) If you do, don’t be surprised if you try or create something tasty and it turns out *they* like it too (as Krista from Destination Delish found out.) Make enough for two (or more, if necessary.) If they don’t like it, well, like my father used to tell us. . .”more for me.”

Enjoy!

 

Bread of the Clouds

Happy Friday, Dear Readers:

I’m sorry I’m late finishing this post. I did *not* float away or become waterlogged this week; that was the north side of town, where they took a month’s worth of rain in an hour. You’ve probably seen the pictures of people rescuing terrified horses through several feet of water, a confused armadillo, some dogs, as well as people being pulled from their cars. I’m on the south side of this huge metropolis, where we had that kind of water last May. Twice.

Good thing that adorable baby tiger found wandering in Conroe, also north of Houston, wasn’t in my neighborhood. I might not give it up. . .until it reaches 100 pounds or so. (I love tigers.)

The garden has been enjoying all the rain, but I do need to get out and do some tidying up soon.

I also have been otherwise occupied this week, as well as not feeling up to any task. I didn’t attend last night’s gardening lecture at our local library, and missed seeing Miss Shirley again. If you’re reading this, Miss Shirley, my apologies–I just wasn’t up to going anywhere.

I’m sure all of you have heard by now that the musician Prince passed away yesterday at the age of 57. Like David Bowie a few months ago, fans are downloading his music from iTunes as fast as they can. I haven’t followed him in a long time, and the last new song I heard by him was called Black Sweat, in about 2006, I think. I got it from iTunes a few years ago, and it’s one of those wild, weird fun songs he was known for. I pulled out my copy of The Hits/The B-Sides that I haven’t listened to in a very long time, and will put some of them on my iPod to listen to.

So what’s going on in food?

Remember when I discovered Epic Bars a couple of years ago? I was in a shooting range in League City. No kidding. Guess what? You’ll be seeing more eateries in retail establishments starting this year, and it’s not just Epic bars. This article on SmartBlogs discusses retail eateries in the age of online shopping, and the revival of things like the old Woolworth’s lunch counters. Pasta consumption is down, and chefs are now doing the Spiralizer thing with veggies, something I haven’t tried yet.

It’s all in the Baum + Whiteman’s 2016 forecast. Increases in “clean” eating, dishes, and boasting about ingredient lists also figure in the paper. One buzzword this year is falafel–but you heard that word *last* year, right here, when I showed you how to make Waffled Falafel. Maybe 2017 will be the Year of the Waffle.

I’ve also read (elsewhere) that old-time soda fountains are making a comeback, but with a modern slant. Modern flavors like guava are added to what used to be a simple drink. Look for this to be the next “gourmet coffee,” where you order a custom-mixed non-alcoholic drink. I haven’t seen any of these in Houston, but if I find one (or more), you’ll read about it here.

Now, I’ve written frequently about gluten-free, sugar-free, and healthier versions of favorite foods. This one is apparently “sweeping the Internet,” so they say, and it’s all over Pinterest (but somehow escaped my detection.)  I’m a bit late to the game, but if you’ve never heard of Cloud Bread, I’m going to give you a primer, and show you how to make it yourself at home. And, let’s face it, anyone who loves bread is always wishing they could have it, right? So here we go.

I happened across this article in the Daily Mail recently, a London-based tabloid that has some pretty interesting articles from time to time (not to mention more real news than most US-based news organizations.) Of course, their writing can be pretty bad, which makes me think it’s outsourced, but that’s another matter.

Cloud Bread is made similar to a pancake recipe I used back in the 80’s in Sharon Claessens’ Lose Weight Naturally Cookbook. It was a pretty good book for the time. The pancakes I loved to make involved whipped egg whites, then mixing the yolks with cottage cheese (eek!) and a few other ingredients (I don’t remember if wheat flour was involved.)  They cook up like regular pancakes, but were described as “light little souffles.”

Darnit, now I wish I had my copy of it. Oh, well. . .I can buy it again one day. (Soon as I buy a house with a big enough study in it.) Many of these recipes had things like whole wheat flour in them, but it was the 80’s. Still, I remember them being mostly pretty good.

Finally, I made some. Verdict: not bad, good recipe to make all the time, if you can keep cream cheese around. I can’t, I keep nibbling on it. If I keep buying it, maybe I’ll get sick of it and just keep one or two in the fridge. I followed the basic recipe of 3 eggs, separated, 3 tablespoons of cream cheese, a quarter-teaspoon of cream of tartar (some suggest baking soda) and a packet of sweetener.

So, what do you do when you want to make this bread? You hit the grocery and buy eggs and cream cheese:

The setup

The setup

Separate the eggs, carefully:

Yolks and whites need to be completely separated.

Yolks and whites need to be completely separated.

Then add a packet of sweetener, if desired, to the yolks:

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Next up, three tablespoons of room-temperature, soft cream cheese are mixed into the egg yolks:

3 tablespoons of cream cheese

3 tablespoons of cream cheese

Right into the bowl:

Cream cheese. . .so delicious.

Cream cheese. . .so delicious.

Mix well:

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And set it aside. Next up, wash the beaters VERY clean and VERY dry. You’ll be whipping egg whites next. (You can also whip the egg whites first.) If your bowl and beaters are not absolutely clean, or have even a speck of yolk or fat, they will not whip at all. (I *was* paying attention to all those Martha Stewart shows.)

First, add the cream of tartar to the egg whites:

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And whip like you would any meringue-like recipe:

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Whip all the way until you get the stiffest peaks you can get.

Once that’s done, you mix the yolk mixture into the beaten egg whites:

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Mix carefully so you don’t deflate the egg whites. It should look like this:

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Next, take a parchment-lined baking sheet, (or spray with non-stick spray) and use the batter to make rounds:

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They won’t spread out when baking like cookies will, so what you see is what you get with these babies.  Bake for whatever time your recipe says (mine was 300F for 30 minutes) and they come out like this:

Cloud Bread, a bit over-baked but still good.

Cloud Bread, a bit over-baked but still good.

They’re not “tasty” on their own, but they do taste good. I just spread soft cream cheese on the first few I ate. Will they make a sandwich? If you’re careful. I’ve also toasted them in the toaster oven, and they came out a bit crumbly, but I’ve not not tried a standup toaster (because I don’t have one, actually.) My thinking is if you’re going to take them for lunch, wrap everything separately, and make the sandwich when you are ready to eat it. On Momables, she gives instructions on how to use them for kids’ lunches.

This video shows you exactly how to make these rounds.

In this DM article, one of the paper’s writers actually tries the recipe–and bungles it. Here’s where the writer messed up: she added agave syrup to the mixture. It’s fine as is–introducing more liquid into whipped egg whites does what? Flatten them. It’s extra weight and extra moisture, since agave syrup is heavy like honey. Big DUH–the young blonde girl didn’t think. Adding anything that brings in extra weight or moisture will mess the whole thing up. Wait until they’re baked and make a sandwich with them.

One comment from the Daily Mail’s article: “it’s NOT a new invention. . .it’s a lift of a recipe from a diabetics cookbook from before they had insulin…” What your grandma told you is true: everything old is new again, isn’t it? 

This is the recipe from Momables:

Grain Free Cloud Bread Recipe

There’s also this article from Yahoo, and this one from Woman’s Day. Apparently Cloud Bread is “the next trend taking over Pinterest.” Yeah, well, I want to know why all the Pinterest folks haven’t yet figured out how to add grapes to the Crock Pot and have it turn into red wine, OK?

And here’s a different recipe on Food.com, which tells you to put the bread into a Ziploc bag overnight. THEN it becomes more soft like sandwich bread.

Checking out Pinterest, I’ve also seen pizza and breakfast sandwiches made with Cloud Bread, but I haven’t gotten as far as trying them all out. Mostly, it’s a case of Amy wanting to have her cake and eat it too. You can–go look on Pinterest!

Now I wonder–will it waffle? That was the other delay, I was going to make a breakfast sandwich with eggs and bacon and the like and see how it waffled. Well. . .I haven’t gotten around to it yet, OK? If I do, I’ll let you know.

But honestly, I thought they were pretty darn good, and even if you’re not doing low-carb, diabetic, grain free eating, these wouldn’t be a bad little addition to your cooking routine for a quick bread and something different. And all you need is some cream cheese on your grocery list to make it.

Enjoy!