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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:

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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!

Creole Aioli

Happy Monday, Dear Readers:

Once again, apologies for being absent. Life has pulled me in other directions. I’ve still got one post I’m trying to get to finish, but it requires research, and I haven’t sat down to do much of it. But if you like to read about foodie subjects, it’ll be worth it. I like to make sure I give all of you something interesting to read.

I keep thinking I don’t have anything to write about. Then something else shows up, and I write a blog post about it.

This post involves some garlic, and I’ve been meaning to mention this important point for a while. I read recently that when you’re buying garlic, there’s a simple way to know if you are getting domestically produced garlic or garlic grown in China: the roots. If you are buying garlic that has roots attached, it’s domestic, grown in California, Texas, or somewhere else domestically. But if the roots are scraped off, and the bottom is concave, it’s China-grown. This article on the Living Traditionally blog explains it further. Garlic from China is bleached, and even organic garlic is grown under questionable conditions. I have not yet been successful growing garlic here in the HeatCageKitchen garden, twice buying some from Territorial Seed and finding nothing in the spring. (Not their fault, of course, I’m an obvious amateur.) I put the question to the lecturer at our last monthly Green Thumb klatch, and she told me to just look for local garlic, probably grown in nearby Dickinson, and let it sprout. DUH, Amy.

I like to read myself, if you didn’t know that, but most of it is online now. I think I mentioned that I cancelled my 20-year subscription to Martha Stewart Living earlier this year; it just wasn’t “Martha” anymore. But I do read other things, and one of them is a wonderful publication called Mary Jane’s Farm. What? You’ve never heard of it? Me either, until I got a flier from them a few years ago. I wasn’t particularly interested, since I was reading Hobby Farms, along with the now-defunct Hobby Farms Home and Urban Farm, all at the same time. The second and third magazines were eventually rolled up to the first, and I later subscribed to Mary Jane’s Farm. It’s a replacement, I suppose, for Martha Stewart Living, although the content is somewhat different. The target demographic for Mary Jane’s Farm are women who live on farms, those who want to live on a farm, and those, like your humble blog author, who dream about living rural in the future.

I received the August/September issue last week, but finally got around to reading it on last Tuesday. Oh, BOY! A feature article on. . .Farmgirl Barbecue! Being a naturalized Texan (September will be 18 years since I moved here), I appreciate good barbecue. Even though I have my favorite barbecue sauce from one of Suzanne Somers’ books, and my favorite barbecue rub from the May 2002 issue of Martha Stewart Living, I’m open to considering new forms of barbecue. Mary Jane’s Farm delivers.

What first got my attention was the Blackberry Barbecue Sauce on page 46. WHAT?? (Warning: that recipe also has fresh ginger.) Unfortunately, it also calls for “2 cups ketchup,” and the recipe for said ketchup is on page 43. (GRRRR.) OK, so I look at that recipe but would have to buy 6 large tomatoes parsley, coconut sugar and lemon juice (I generally have limes around.) Not going to make this today. . .but the recipe for yellow mustard is next to it, and I have everything I need to make that. I’d like to try it soon.

Then on page 44, I see a beautiful picture and a recipe for Creole Aioli.

How could I resist? (Recipe available on the Recipes page.)

How could I resist? (Recipe available on the Recipes page.)

I’ve got everything I need to make it! Almost.

Now, hang on. . .I’m sure there’s at least one person who’s thinking, “what is Aioli, and can I get arrested for making it?” Relax, it’s legal (at least, for now.) Aioli is a French version of mayonnaise, made by hand (usually) and is more of a dressing than mayo. There is a good version of it in Suzanne Somers’ first cookbook, and she explains it. However, this farmgirl “Creole” version packs a seriously garlic punch. (Not all “Creole,” “Cajun,” “New Orleans”and “Louisiana-style” food is burning hot.)

So what excuse did I tell myself for making it? Well, there were four:

  • I can write a blog post about it
  • It’s from the new issue of Mary Jane’s Farm
  • I have everything I need to make it right now
  • It would taste great with some waffle maker hash browns

 

And here we are!

I don’t normally have sour cream in the fridge, and that’s one of those things that goes great with potatoes. (Thanks, Neighbor E!) So the first thing to do is get some hash browns cooking, since it takes about ten minutes or so once you put the lid down.

Nothing like the loud, satisfying sizzle when this hits the waffle plates. (The potatoes might not have been dried out enough, either, but they were still pretty tasty.)

Nothing like the loud, satisfying sizzle when this hits the waffle plates. (The potatoes might not have been dried out enough, either, but they were still pretty tasty.)

Ready to rev up nearly anything you’re having for dinner–or any other time–and make a big mess while you’re at it?  Let’s make some.

The setup

The setup

As you can see, I had everything handy, with the exception of a lemon, so I used lime. (You can do that in many recipes, unless you’re making a Mojito.) Normally, I would not cut that much basil (you see the size of them leaves?) but when I saw Miss Shirley last week after the gardening lecture, I told her about the big, leafy basil I was getting, and she suggested cutting a third off.  So. . .I did. And that fresh oregano plant needed a bit of cutting, too.

I started out doing Mise en Place, or prepping everything and setting up. (I heard Martha Stewart say that on the show years ago and never forgot it.) There’s someone on set on those cooking shows and morning-show food segments doing this before they go live, you know. Neighbor R gets upset watching cooking segments on those get-together TV shows because she knows how long stuff takes. But, she says (while gesticulating with both hands), “when you watch them cook on TV, it’s boom-boom-boom and it’s all done!” They’re set up before the cameras turn on so that everything is ready to go, and the cooking host can make that dish in a matter of seconds. For more complicated things, like bread, several are made so that you can see how it’s supposed to look in various stages of completion.

Anyway. . .mise en place. I do it all the time.

I measured out the spices and put them in a pinch bowl, then separated out the eggs:

IMG_3193

Makes life easier when you prep first.

Went to town on the basil and oregano:

IMG_3194 IMG_3195 IMG_3196
I cut a little too much basil, so the remainder went in the fridge covered in some olive oil and I used it to coat some chicken leg quarters I roasted yesterday. Along with two egg whites in another pinch bowl, which went into the weekly slow-cooked breakfast quiche.

Once everything else was done, I set out to deal with the 3 cloves with a half-teaspoon of salt. In a mortar and pestle. No kidding.

When was the last time you saw me use one of these? I don't know either, but I have one.

When was the last time you saw me use one of these? I don’t know either, but I have one.

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you could try smashing it in a small bowl with the back of a wooden spoon, mixing with the salt to make the paste. I haven’t tried that, it’s just the first thing off the top of my head.

The salt acts like an abrasive while you grind it into a paste. That’s right, a paste. It takes a few minutes of elbow-greased grinding, but it does come out that way:

Garlic/salt paste.

Garlic/salt paste.

Once that’s done, the recipe says to add it to a small bowl with the egg yolks and whisk them while you slowly pour in the olive oil. However, I decided to not to entertain the possibility of making a huge mess with eggs and olive oil and spending the rest of the night scrubbing them off the floor.

This is a non-standard deviation.

The alternative, aka “direct-application” method.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is Amy using an immersion blender for this?” Answer: because Amy also has no patience.

I’ve made mayo before, either like this or with a regular stand blender. It’s not difficult, but I have no idea why they don’t suggest a blender. So I did it.

POWERRRRR!!!

POWERRRRR!!!

First you whiz together the egg and garlic paste. Then you add in a half-cup of olive oil, whiz that around (or whisk it by hand if you prefer) then add the spices, herbs and lemon juice, and blitz it again (or just mix it well.) If you’ve ever made mayonnaise from scratch, you know how this works. (Placing a small cut of rug backing under the bowl helps keep it in place and prevent sliding, just like the anti-slip cutting board trick I mentioned in my last post.)

You end up with this:

You really, REALLY need to like garlic for this one.

Holy Shish Kebab. You really, REALLY need to like garlic for this one.

What does it taste like? WOW–Garlic! Pepper! Spice! Herbs! You don’t need much–this Aioli will knock you over. The recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, but I used about a third of that. (In other words, not very much.) You can leave it out altogether, if you like–the garlic stands on its own, and will still throw you off your chair if you’re not ready for it.

Proceed with caution, and dip carefully. You’ve been warned. (The good news: it’s gluten free!)

This is very tasty on the waffle hash browns, (like the hash browns themselves) really, REALLY creamy and so good. There’s a lot of taste in this little cup of sauce. It keeps for about a week in the fridge. A little goes a LONG way. But dip with care–the strong taste will compete with other flavors like sweet potatoes. I tried it with baked sweet potato fries, and the tastes compete too much. But it’s great on the regular white potatoes.

I need to make more soon.

I gave some to Neighbor E to try. (I didn’t give any to Neighbor R, since she’s elderly and the cayenne pepper might bother her stomach.) He forgot to pick up a potato to bake on his last food forage, so he could try it that way. E finally decided to use it on a sandwich and loved it.

WARNING: Remember that there are raw eggs in this aioli, so anyone who is allergic to eggs, is very young or elderly, or has a compromised immune system, will need to leave it alone. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but you don’t want to surprise anyone who can’t have raw eggs for any reason. Unfortunately, my longtime friend The E Man is allergic to eggs. . .sorry, Dude.

But if you don’t have a problem with the raw egg yolks, enjoy garlic, and can handle the pungency, Creole Aioli is a delicious spread or dressing for you, any time. As always, the printable PDF is on the Recipes Page for you.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

The Cool Post

It’s summer in Texas. Heck, it’s summer everywhere–people are frying steaks and eggs on sidewalks and car hoods. They’re not in Texas, either.

Never fret–I have some nice recipes to keep you cool and comfy.

I caught Valerie Bertinelli’s cooking show last Saturday, and her good friend Faith Ford came by for lunch. Apparently, it was hot in SouCal when they filmed this episode (or they were just pretending) because Valerie didn’t want to turn on the oven. However. . .she did turn on the stove. I mean, how else do you cook lobster tails? While I’m not suggesting anyone go out and buy fresh lobster (I know I’m not, crawfish are the same thing), if you want some, many stores will steam them for you. (I think HEB does.) Valerie’s Lemon Icebox Cake was pretty fast and looked nice and cool. (It does call for Vanilla Wafers.) The episode is called Too Hot To Cook, but cook she does, albeit on the stove top–but not for very long. Want some real fresh-brewed iced tea? They make some, there’s a honey-sweetened recipe in this episode too.

Naturally, I’m up to my summer coffee making:

This will be iced coffee once it cools down.

This will be iced coffee once it cools down.

Now, if you’re thinking about going iced on your coffee, as always, The Coffee Detective has articles to get you started. This one explains how to make iced coffee at home, and this article has specialty  cold coffee-based drinks. (Warning: Nick uses alcohol in some of these recipes.)  How long does it stay in the fridge? Until I finish it. Which is going on twice a week now.

If you are in an area where it’s that hot, do you now see the wisdom of the Crock Pot? Even my mechanic friend JK is thinking seriously about making nice, cool Overnight Oatmeal after I told him about it. (I forgot to ask The E Man if he’s tried it.) Don’t be embarrassed–get one or two if you don’t have a slow cooker, and if you have a family, consider a larger waffle maker, too, for making brownies, hash browns and all that kind of thing. There is no need to turn on that oven, unless it’s a toaster oven.

Still looking for recipes for your slow cooker? Sign up at All Free Slow Cooker Recipes and get them in your inbox every day. (In addition to my favorite, Pinterest.) A searchable recipe database means you can go find what you want on a dime. Don’t heat up your kitchen in the summer, please.

I’ve already made my first batch of basil pesto for the year, which I didn’t document, because, well, I’ve done it more than once. However, the rooted basil cuttings have now been planted, and I expect a large amount of basil, and subsequently, pesto, in the near future. Last year I was lucky enough to get extra from my visit last year to the Genoa Friendship Garden, so I kind of made out like a bandit with the pesto. I have five containers in the freezer, and since we didn’t have a really cold winter in Texas, I didn’t make as much Pea & Pesto Soup as I thought. However, at some point, I’ll need to get more of those square containers I use to freeze individual batches. Earlier this year, I also broke one, darnit.

Speaking of the garden, I got more tomatoes:

And that was it.

They were delicious. And that was it.

Four more are behind it, and I’m watching the newly planted basil cuttings too. No more strawberries, and the jalapenos are taking their time. The lettuce, is, of course, gone now.

Anyway. . . .

Last weekend, for whatever reason, I pulled a couple of old cookbooks off the shelf and started flipping through them. I wanted to make something different, and wondered if there was anything I could make that I had on hand, or with minimal shopping. Something I hadn’t made in a while, or never tried. Turns out there was. The first recipe, Cool Lentil Salad, is a good one. Why have I never made this before?

The first book in question is Martha Stewart’s Healthy Quick Cook. Published in 1997, this book features elegant but somewhat “lighter” menus, including desserts, that are low fat. (Not all the customer reviews are positive, but that’s OK.) “Casual but sophisticated,” it says on the inside cover. Well, we know what “low fat” usually means–higher in carbs, sugar, salt, and other additives to cut the fat but make it taste good. In these recipes, most everything is made from scratch, as Martha usually does, although I admit to making just a few recipes from the book. Maybe I need to go back and read it again. This salad is made from simple ingredients, quick to make and is a nice, cool addition to a summer dinner.

I can still hear my ex-husband say to me, “You expect me to eat that??” Ah, memories. . . .

Recipe 1: Lentil Salad

Unfortunately, you do cook the lentils on the stove, but only for 10 minutes. After that, it’s just tossing everything together.

The setup.

The setup.

The parsley and celery came from the garden, and I really, really needed to cut the parsley. I’m forever telling LK to water the parsley plant she has out front of her house, and. . .mine is watered, but it really needed cutting too. Finally, I cut it. The re-grown celery also needed to be cut, and I took half of that off. (I’ll use the rest in something else.) The lentils. . .well, they’re in a sealed jar, OK? Next trip to Phoenicia, and I’ll re-stock. I haven’t made any lentil dishes since I made Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes earlier this year.

So I started out by boiling the rinsed lentils and garlic in salted water:

I rinsed off the lentils first.

I rinsed off the lentils first.

And let them simmer for 10 minutes. Meantime, I started chopping celery:

This is re-grown celery from the garden.

This is re-grown celery from the garden. I actually don’t like the leaves.

You’ll need half a cup:

Made it!

Made it!

When the lentils are, as the book says, “crisp-tender”, that is, cooked but not mushy with a textured bite, drain them:

IMG_3063

Discard that garlic, then run the cold water over them:

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I’ll toss that garlic clove later.

And toss the lentils into a bowl (your serving bowl, if you like.) Finely chop that red onion (or as best as you can get it):

IMG_3065

And add it with the chopped parsley into the bowl.

Now, I have to tell you about my recent little benefit: I was at HEB on a Saturday, and when I was walking into have lunch, I mean, get my shopping, I noticed that someone dropped a big, beautiful red bell pepper. It was just sitting there! I figured someone would go back for it, but when I left HEB, someone carefully perched it on the short concrete pylons in front of the door. So. . .it came home with me. And I said, Thank You.

My benefit bell pepper

My benefit bell pepper

I put it on the Butusdan for a few days, but noticed it was getting a tad wrinkly. Into the fridge until I figured out what to do with it, and so I tossed it into the lentil salad. The bell pepper was an addition, not part of the recipe:

IMG_3068

Now for the dressing: It’s just 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of warm water. I whizzed that all together with the frother:

And sending it flying everywhere because the bowl was too small

And sending it flying everywhere because the bowl was too small.

Poured it over the salad in the bowl and mixed it together:

Cool Lentil Salad

Cool Lentil Salad

It’s pretty darn tasty, and will complement many summer dishes perfectly.

Recipe 2: White Bean & Olive Salad

This tasty throw-together salad only appeared in the Houston Chronicle via The New York Times many years ago. It was an Everyday Food recipe, and was never in a book or on their website–despite my request to add it. Fortunately, I kept the newspaper section in my personal notebook, and have enjoyed it for many years. It’s simple, and uses just a few simple ingredients for a cool, tasty side dish.

The setup.

The setup.

There’s a reason I put out three kinds of mustard–because, quite frankly, I think you should have a choice. The original recipe calls for Dijon mustard. However, the first time I made it, I only had Creole Mustard, and have been using it in this recipe ever since.

If you can find this mustard, its strong flavor may make you a convert.

If you can find this mustard, its stronger, unique flavor may make you a convert.

I think it’s a lot more flavorful than the Dijon, but that’s just me. You could certainly try the grainier variety of Dijon, too.

Why do I have two kinds of Dijon? Because at Trader Joe’s, it’s cheap.

So, you rinse two cans of cannellinni beans, and add them to a serving bowl:

YUM!

YUM!

Chop (or halve) a quarter cup of Kalamata olives:

IMG_3087

I just prefer them chopped, that’s all.

These are the olives, available in most markets:

Kalamata olives. Watch out for pits, some have them.

Kalamata olives, also from the olive bar in your grocery. Watch out for pits, some have them.

Add them to the bowl. Now thinly slice half a small red onion (in this case, left from the Cool Lentil Salad):

Red onions!

The red onion has a less acrid bite than standard white or yellow onions. But I don’t buy them often.

Time to mix the dressing–and I used my secret weapon again.

IMG_3070

Wash VERY carefully by hand, with hot soapy water when you’re done.

Into a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and one tablespoon of mustard. In my case, I like the Creole mustard in this dish, but the original recipe calls for Dijon:

Almost dressing

Almost dressing

And out comes the Aerolatte milk frothing tool to mix and emulsify the dressing.

Whiz!

Whiz!

Note that you MUST wash it carefully by hand to get it clean. Don’t want olive oil in your frothed-up latte, do you?

Then it’s just a matter of pouring it over the salad, and mixing it up:

IMG_3090 IMG_3091

Voila! A tasty no-cook salad that’s quick and delicious anytime. It makes four servings, by the way:

Yum.

Yum.

This, too, will hold up in the fridge for a few days. If you can keep your paws out of it. It’s THAT good.

Recipe 3: Ginger Ice Milk

The third recipe, also from Martha Stewart’s Healthy Quick Cook, is Ginger Ice Milk, and takes a bit of prep work before it’s ready to eat. Remember that this book came out in the 90’s, when low-fat was still the prevailing mindset in “healthy.” It calls for 3.5 cups of  “low-fat” milk–which is mostly or all sugar, if you didn’t know that. (I’m guessing it’s either skim, 1% or 2%, but it’s still more sugar than fat; whole milk is both sugar and fat.) No way am I going to put a half-cup of sugar into a pitcher of sugar. So, much like lattes and iced coffee, I made it with whole milk, and sweetened it with SomerSweet. (Yes, I still have some.)

The setup

The setup.

I’m not sure whether to call this “ice milk” or “ice cream.” Whatever you call it, you’ll enjoy it in the summer heat.

Warning #1: fresh ginger has a real bite! And, you should observe sitting times and probably not leave it for 2+ hours while heading out for a bike ride. Just 45 minutes of infusion should have done it. (I forget these things.)

Warning #2: If you have an ice cream maker like mine, that requires the freezing of a component (in my case, the bowl) make sure you freeze it ahead of time as instructed. That’s in addition to making the base for the iced treat you’re freezing, and letting it chill completely. Mine from Cuisinart requires 24 hours for the bowl to freeze up properly, and I actually put it in the freezer on Wednesday. If you have one of the fancier ones with an internal compressor (that is, it’s plug-and-play like this one with no freezing beforehand, which cost more), then you don’t need to freeze ahead. One day. . .I’ll get a plug-and-play ice cream maker, or a bigger freezer so that I can keep *two* of the freezer bowls frozen at the ready and make my own ice cream a lot more often. At least I don’t have to make ice for days in advance like I did with the one I used to own.

Warning #3: Ginger can develop a mold on the surface if you leave it too long in the fridge. Like I did:

Yuck! Cut that off!

Yuck! Cut that off!

I only made this to use up the ginger. And, because I like making my own ice cream.

This recipe is dessert for a meal inspired by Japanese cuisine. The protein is <cough> tofu, and there is nori (flat dried seaweed) involved in a “Vegetable Handwrap.” Now, I’ve eaten burritos for quite a number of years, but even I know that it is not possible to chew through the nori wrap! (It’s like chewing aluminum foil lined with plastic wrap–it’s too stiff to make burritos.)  Obviously, the rest of that menu will never happen in my kitchen, but the dessert is a good one.

So, it’s pretty simple to make: heat up 3.5 cups of milk with a half-cup of sugar (I used SomerSweet), and stir, but don’t boil:

IMG_3097

Warm until the sugar or sweetener dissolves, and whisk occasionally to make sure it does.

While that’s happening, peel the ginger (recipe calls for a 3-inch piece, but good luck finding that to spec). I learned from Martha to scrape the peel off using a spoon. Then slice it like the red onion above:

Yes, like that.

Yes, like that.

When the sweetener has dissolved, add the fresh ginger, lower the heat and let it lightly simmer for 15 minutes. Then take it off the heat, add the grated ginger, and let it infuse for 45 minutes:

IMG_3105

We don’t say “steep” anymore, we say “infuse.”

It was at this point that headed out on the bike for 90 minutes. That’s where the powerful ginger taste came from. It’s almost hot, no kidding.

After 45 minutes, remove the ginger pieces (I had to strain out the tiny bits):

IMG_3111

Those tiny browner bits are the ground ginger. I used a small spatula to push them through the sieve and back into the milk mixture.

Then let it cool, then chill it thoroughly. (This is why you plan ahead.)

Once it’s cool (and you’ve frozen your bowl, if need be), it’s time to make this into a sweet treat.

IMG_3115

Now, there’s something I found unusual with this recipe. See where the milk level is? Well, start to finish took about 40 minutes (and thank heavens for earbuds, that machine is loud.) But as it churned, the mixture sort of expanded:

Second picture. See it?

Second picture. See it?

Now get a look at it right before I turned the machine off:

Close to the top.

Close to the top.

I’ve never seen that happen before. But it was time to shut it off, and I did.

Ginger Ice Milk!

Ginger Ice Milk!

Theoretically, the square glass container on the right should have been elegant sufficiency. However, I had to resort to putting the “overflow” in another container. Well, that’s OK–it’s sugar free, I’ll have it whenever I want some. (I also have some cantaloupe sorbet in a separate glass container, sitting underneath these two.

One thing I noticed is that when I put this dish in the freezer with a spoon, it didn’t freeze hard like ice cream does:

Ice cream with a BITE!!

Dessert with a BITE!!

Checking the containers in the freezer, they’re not frozen hard, either. So, you’ll have to eat this quickly before it melts.

Oh, and I also ate the “crumbs” I scraped off the inside of the freezer bowl:

Or maybe I should have let it churn longer?

Or maybe I should have let it churn longer?

Delicious–but let me repeat the warning that ginger can be quite spicy, and it gives a bite to this frozen dessert. I may have left it infuse too long. But it’s SOOOO good!

Recipe 4: Quinoa, Pea & Mint Salad

The last recipe is actually on page 17 of Martha Stewart’s Dinner At Home, a book similar to the ill-received Healthy Quick Cook, but without the “healthy” connotation. Like the first book and one or two before it, the menus are arranged by season to take advantage of what’s available. They don’t call this a “healthy” cookbook, but for the most part, it is–elegant made from scratch dishes using easy to find fresh ingredients. I made this from what I had already, plus mint from the garden, and I have to say, it’s quite good. So let’s make some!

The setup

The setup

I bought that chicken stock for something else a long time ago, and I finally used it. Peas I try to keep around for Pea and Pesto Soup, so that’s only a cup. I have quinoa as well, and that’s a cup. The mint, of course, came from the garden. So, let’s make this one.

First, put the chicken stock (or broth) in the pot, then rinse the quinoa:

One cup of quinoa, rinsed.

One cup of quinoa, rinsed.

 

I know, not the prettiest picture. Keep reading.

I know, not the prettiest picture. Keep reading.

Heat it to boiling, cover and simmer for 10 minutes:

IMG_3128

After 10 minutes, add the peas, fresh or frozen:

Quinoa isn't quite cooked yet.

Quinoa isn’t quite cooked yet–see the little holes where the bubbles are?

Cover and let this simmer for another 5 minutes.

IMG_3133

After 5 minutes, remove it from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and then 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil:

IMG_3136

Mix well, and then add into a serving dish (which is probably cool):

IMG_3137

Let this sit for five minutes or so to cool a bit, uncovered. Then stir in the mint. I just added the leaves whole, since they weren’t big. If you have big leaves, tear them a little or even chop a little:

Mint!

Mint!

Mix it up well, and serve either warm or room temperature. If you’re doing the weekly cooking thing, this will sit in the fridge all week and hold up just fine. Best to cook after the sun goes down, or if you’re the hardy type, before the sun comes up. (I used to do that.)

Now, if you’ve got grilling on your mind, the July/August issue of Hobby Farms magazine has a quick recipe for Grilled Bell Pepper and Tomato Kabobs with Herbs and Olive Oil. I haven’t tried this one, but it looks tasty and is simple. It would go well with an outdoor grilled dinner.

More farm-type recipes are available on their website. This month’s issue also includes a Letter to the Editor about foot rot in sheep. EWWWW, poor babies! If you see a sheep kneeling to graze, that means it’s in pain and needs immediate medical attention. But if you do have sheep, you’ll likely smell it, too.

What will you have that will keep your house from feeling like a HeatCageKitchen? (Go to the Recipes page for PDF files for all these tasty dishes.)

Happy Dining!

 

The slightly late catch-up post

Happy Friday, Dear Readers:

Well, I’m sorry it’s been 11 days since my last dispatch. I’ve been busy, and not on foodie things. I’ve got three posts in the draft folder that are waiting for me to do research, one involves chatting with a friend of Neighbor E.  I’m getting there.

Friend of the blog AC came over again last night. She was having a bad day, and I pretended to be mad that she was “late.” I wasn’t really mad, and she wasn’t really late. I’d done so much tidying up yesterday, and she’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, hence her thinking that she was “late.” I actually finished everything, and I was ready to start ironing if she didn’t show up soon, just to keep the housekeeping momentum going for a while. I fixed a holder she has for her Windows phone, it’s sort of a frame that clips on to her belt. One of the corners broke, and I repaired it with the single girl’s new BFF: Gorilla Glue. I think the holder may out last the phone, but we’ll see.

Neighbor E gave me this item the other day, because it was sprouting. Care to guess what it is?

It's ALIVE!

It’s ALIVE!

No, it’s nothing bad–this isn’t Huffington Post, you know. I’ll give you a hint: it’s on my list stuff I hate and won’t eat.

Give up? It’s a big, red BEET. Yuck. Neither E nor I like them, but guess what? AC loves beets–so I will attempt to grow it for her.

Looking for the beet thing, I also found this article on 15 different veggies you can re-grow like I’ve done with celery, lettuce and green onions.  I still have a little lettuce that I will cut and eat soon, but the GER reminds me that lettuce is a winter crop, so I don’t know how long it will keep growing back. Cilantro, unfortunately, doesn’t grow well here in south Texas, and I’ve tried, because I love cilantro, too. Anyway. . . .

We had some chili I made in the Crock Pot (nothing to write home about) and Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Olive Oil cake, made with SomerSweet. Gluten free AND sugar free, and it came out just right.  The chili recipe called for  <cough> beans and a 12 ounce bottle of light beer. I really didn’t want a six-pack, and wondering where I could buy one 12 ounce light beer to add to the pot. And then it hit me:

Beer. Is. Made. From. Wheat.

That little item would really invalidate my otherwise gluten-free dinner. So I used chicken broth, and added a half-cup of wine and a couple shakes of Chipotle Tabasco. I’m thinking next time, add 12 ounces of red wine, and a shake or two of Chipotle Tabasco. Although that might change the low carb nature of the chili. . .or, maybe I’ll never make it again.

Well, anyway. . . .

Texas, and particularly Houston, has had some wonky weather lately, as you may have heard, but we’ve had no flooding in my neck of the woods. (The mosquitoes are readying their ambush.) I almost feel guilty when I escape a disaster like that, having been through it a few times, because I know that someone else took the brunt of it.

I haven’t forgotten the recent pictures of terrified horses being led through the deep flood waters to safety at the hands of helpful, concerned horsey-loving Texans. I’m a cat person down to the bone, but I would certainly be happy to help out a horse who needed a way out of the water.

The north side of Houston got hit again overnight, but down here in the Clear Lake area, there was some rain falling down in the HeatCageKitchen garden. I’ve only been out on the bike a couple of times recently, preferring to stay in and use the kettle bells, and binge-watching either Hot In Cleveland (all of them, again) or my newest discovery from PBS, an Australian production called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It stars a gorgeous actress named Essie Davis (I know, who?) and an ensemble cast that brilliantly brings the stories to life, much like they do in Sherlock. I don’t know why I’m interested in mystery-police-drama kinds of things, but I am. This one is about a “lady detective” in the 1920’s in Melbourne, Australia, complete with jazz music, fabulous fashion, a fancy motorcar and a very nice house with servants.

There is the final season of the BBC police drama New Tricks I haven’t seen yet, and the library has it, I just have to order it. While the Houston PBS station runs season 1 of this Aussie jewel, I am binge-watching season 2, thanks to the Harris County Library System. I even checked, and the Jefferson Parish Library System in Metairie, LA has the Aussie series, and I’ve informed two member friends there that they should request the DVDs and watch. A bit R-rated, so it’s not for kids, but if you like that sort of thing, find Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and try to watch them in order, if you can. (Don’t forget about inter-library loans–ask, and you shall, eventually, receive.)

Last weekend was our monthly district meeting, and I asked LK if she’d like me to bring anything; she said, “if you want to.” So I baked up the Lemon-Poppyseed Tea Cake from the first Babycakes book, only to find out LK doesn’t like lemon as much. (Sorry about that.) Well, everyone else enjoyed it! However, something weird happened when I baked it this time, not sure how. What came out of the pan looked lovely:

Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cake from Babycakes

Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cake from Babycakes

Unfortunately, it overflowed the pan five or ten minutes after I put it into the oven, giving me a real hot mess:

2016-05-20 22.41.01
Fortunately, I put the baking sheet under it, since it looked a little full. I ate the stuff that baked onto the pan, which was about the top third.

Turns out there were only five of us in attendance, but that’s OK, LK had. . .watermelon. YUM. I had plenty of that, and LK gave me some to bring home, as well. It didn’t last long, as you might imagine. And the husband and wife who made it five attendees appreciated the gluten-free, agave-sweetened cake that wouldn’t knock his blood sugar.

OK, speaking of the garden. . .our monthly gardening lecture last week was cancelled due to some really bad weather that blew through. I was kind of glad, because I didn’t want to go out in it, but I missed the topic of Plants of the Bible. Oh, well. But the HeatCageKitchen garden benefits from all the rain, with a few tomatoes and strawberries so far. I’ve got tomato plants:

2016-05-27 10.51.07

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes!

Not pictured are the two SunGold plants that I got at HEB, also on sale. I’ve nibbled a few of those, since the plants were producing when I bought them. There are a couple of “racks” on both, so I’m anxiously awaiting more once I put them in a bigger pot.

The recent rains knocked off all the Key lime buds from my tree, but I found one tiny flower this morning:

ONE lime this year?

ONE lime this year?

I’ll end up with three Meyer lemons later this year:

My favorite, Meyer lemons.

My favorite, Meyer lemons.

I’ll soon harvest my garlic:

That really is garlic under there.

That really is garlic under there.

Last week, after the cancellation of the gardening lecture, I found myself on the phone to Territorial Seed Company talking to a “garlic expert” about when to harvest these babies. I’ve used up all the scapes (they were delicious) so now I just need to know when to harvest. First thing: stop watering them, so I moved the bucket to the area under the balcony so it wouldn’t rain on them anymore. She said two weeks after I stop watering (which will be next week) I should carefully dig them up with a spade, and set them somewhere to dry for a couple of weeks or so. Here’s a primer on Territorial Seed’s website; I just called so that I could get more specific information. Last time I tried to grow garlic, I got nothing, no idea why, and I don’t want to mess anything up. But soon, I’ll get some.

Next time, I’m planting more garlic. I might try it with grocery store garlic, but Territorial Seed sells many varieties of garlic, some organic, available for planting in the fall.

And by putting two strawberry plants in the hanging planter, I might actually get a few more. I’ve nibbled them one at a time so far:

Yes, those are strawberries.

Yes, those are strawberries.

The Anaheim chili pepper plant has finally passed on after one more pepper, but new bell pepper plant is growing and has flower buds, and plus there are more jalapenos popping up:

Can we call these "jalapeno poppers?"

Can we call these “jalapeno poppers?”

Check this out (no, not the Boston fern):

2016-05-27 10.51.18

That’s parsley on the left, which may be used in pesto soon.

And despite giving AC some big rosemary and sage cuttings last week, neither show any signs of slowing down:

Yes, I know I need to do some weeding. If it would ever stop RAINING for a few days.

Yes, I know I need to do some weeding. If it would ever stop RAINING for a few days.

And of course, basil, which has nearly doubled in size with all the rain:

Pesto coming!!

Pesto coming!! (Possibly with parsley added.) One of those plants is left from last year.

Longtime readers know my love of pesto, and growing basil for the sole purpose of making pesto. Well, I’ve found out how to go about growing increased amounts of the stuff. HEB has had a lot of plants marked down, and tomatoes weren’t the only thing on sale. So one more basil plant came home with me, and it even had a bit of purple basil in it.

What do I tell you about Pinterest?  You can solve many of your life’s problems with it. Pinterest can tell you how to do nearly everything, just do a search. After a lecture last year on propagating plants, I found out I could propagate basil. A quick check on Pinterest to make sure I was doing it right, (this article tells you how) and I went after it. Get a good-sized plant, cut them with a longish stem where you see little green leaves coming out, and put the clippings in water. Within a couple of weeks, roots start growing:

More!

More!

This morning I cut a few off the potted basil plant and put them in fresh water:

2016-05-27 10.50.03

Do change the water every other day.

I did not know this before. Now I do, and will continue to do this instead of fooling around with seeds and buying one plant and hoping for a miracle. Grow more basil for world peace! (I’ll let you know how it goes.)

You can propagate other plants in the same fashion. Note to the GER: are you paying attention for the Funk House/Junk House garden this year?

I also found some recent interesting things while out and about. On my last trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond a few weeks ago (I went for Neighbor R), I buzzed by the slow cookers and found Crock Pot’s new technology:

i-Stir?

i-Stir?

Seriously? It’s called iStir? Okay.  . . ever since the iPod, iPhone, iPad, new stuff has to have an “i.” At least it doesn’t hook your dinner up to your WiFi. And more from the microwave popcorn arena:

Seriously?

Seriously?

I suppose if you want one, use your coupon. . .but I’m perfectly happy with a mixing bowl and a plate on top.

I discovered a few photos on my phone that I forgot to share last time, taken during my adventure with Neighbor E. We wandered through a store called Arhaus, and, well, I’d never heard of it. (Not that it means much.) High-end home furnishings, and not the sort you’d find in IKEA, that’s for sure. Lots of chandeliers around, and lots of somewhat odd things to decorate your home. My favorite was this chandelier, called the Anabella, priced at $499 in the store and $549 online:

Yes, a very modern chandelier.

Yes, a very modern chandelier.

Now, E liked this particular setting too, but he said, “come over this way and see how the light sets everything else off.” So I did, and, well, take a look:

Yes, those are aluminum deer heads.

Yes, those are aluminum deer heads.

I like the way it looks, and I like the way the cord is covered in a nice sheer fabric. But I’m just a fan of the Magnus deer heads, that’s all.

Lastly, I will leave you with this amusing little thing, which, I believe was in my local Kroger, but I’m not 100% sure. I don’t think it was in HEB, and it’s too late for The Fresh Market (they took the sign down from outside the building last week.) But I saw it. . .somewhere. And it was too cute not to share:

Music and cheese!

Music and cheese!

Admit it, you read that with the song in your head, didn’t you?

I hope to have my regular researched posts done soon, but in the meantime, if there’s a topic you want covered, you can always email me at heatcagekitchen@gmail.com or leave a note in the comments.

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the US, and it’s not all about cookouts, beer, and sales on mattresses and plasma TVs. If you are outside of the US, or simply unfamiliar with its origins, here’s a short primer on it. Memorial Day is a somber occasion observed to respect our war dead from all wars and conflicts. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the beginning of summer and doing the BBQ/cookout party thing, but at 3:00 pm local time, pause to remember (and maybe say a prayer, if you are so inclined) those who fought and died for the United States.

And if you are going to do a cookout, picnic, or other activity with various types of food involved, you can find food safety fact sheets here. We all like to have fun, but do factor safety into it–trips to the ER or urgent care clinic with food poisoning are NOT fun. You’ll be there with the rest of the injured people. . .for quite a while.

I hope to bring some new stuff to you next week. . .I really do. Let’s see how my week goes.

Meantime, have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, and have some enjoyable food, too.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

Green stuff that isn’t pesto

Hi, again, Dear Readers:

Well, spring is definitely here in south Texas, even though many folks north of the Mason-Dixon line are still holding onto their hot coffee with both hands. It’s that time of year for opening the windows or patio doors to let the fresh air in, and having dinner outside, if you have the space.

Neighbor E and I took a ride to our lovely new HEB this morning and got a few supplies we both needed. It was slim pickings in the nibbles department, so we were a bit disappointed. I mean, it’s Friday! We only had a little of the guacamole and corn chips, and at the Kitchen Connection, some cabbage, crusted fish and sauced chicken. Not bad, but not the usual stuff we find in that HEB.

After he put away his groceries and took his adorable but slightly neurotic Chihuahua Speedy for a walk, we headed over to Chipotle for some lunch. Why Chipotle? We each had a coupon for a free meal! He got tacos, I had a steak bowl, and I’m telling you. . .delicious. Wish he hadn’t offered me some of the chips. Oh, I could go back for a few bags of those–salt and vinegar–but I won’t. A couple of blocks away is one of our local post offices, where I shipped out a bag of HEB Breakfast Blend (decaf, and I ground the beans in the store) to my sainted aunt, who moved into a senior apartment building last week.

Coffee!

Coffee!

My brother bought her a new couch and a new coffee pot; her sister bought a two-chair bistro set, and someone else bought her a new mattress and box spring. I can’t do much right now, but today I sent her delicious some coffee to enjoy in her new coffee pot.

I’ve got some pictures from the garden, which didn’t go dormant much this past year, since our “winter” was pretty mild. It really was 80F on Christmas Day, pretty much the same as Melbourne, Australia–go figure. I was cooking it up in shorts and a t-shirt two days before our next cool front. But spring brings all kinds of new things, and the HeatCageKitchen garden is full of them.

Remember last year when I had an overload of Anaheim chile peppers? That could happen again this year–the tree is coming back with new growth:

That's the top, and the biggest pepper on the tree so far.

That’s the top, and the biggest pepper on the tree so far.

Speaking of peppers, these bell peppers may be as big as they’re going to get. “Baby bells?” Who knows, but they look like they’ll be ready to pick soon:

I hope they get bigger.

I hope they get bigger.

That plant may be ready to pull, but we’ll see. I went looking for another bell pepper plant this morning in HEB, and I found one. Pinot Noir Peppers!

IMG_3023[1]

I don’t expect them to taste like wine, but I wouldn’t mind if they did. (No alcohol, of course.) Fingers crossed for a bumper crop of these.

The jalapeno plant is blooming again, too, but I didn’t get a picture of that. Now, I’m really hoping to have some fresh garden garlic this year, and it looks like I probably will–the garlic scapes never dried up:

Garlic!

Garlic!

Regular readers of this humble blog have long known about my love for about re-growing cuttings from grocery store produce, particularly onions. I don’t know where I got the last batch, but they’ve been real over-producers:

Green onions to your heart's content.

Green onions to your heart’s content.

Now what’s with the bulbs on the top? Flowers! No kidding.

The top of a green onion. First time that's ever happened to me.

The top of a green onion. First time that’s ever happened to me.

As many times as I’ve done this, I’ve never had them flower. Hopefully they’ll drop seeds in the soil and I’ll have onions forever.

I’ve actually eaten a couple of strawberries from the new plants, and I really need to get out there and put them in a bigger pot so I can pick them all summer:

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Ditto for the basil, which I discovered can be re-propagated by cutting parts and putting them in water, just like celery and lettuce. Oh, and look what I just found!

My first tomato!

My first tomato!

Here’s hoping these two plants are also prolific producers once I get them in a bigger growing facility.

Remember the gifted oregano plant from Neighbor R?

Fresh Oregano!

Fresh Oregano!

It’s doing pretty well since I cut it:

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Mint’s doing great too, all I need to do is make that Mojito, darnit.

Remember The Lettuce Experiment? Well. . .the stubs didn’t last long, but something strange happened. Maybe one of those heads wasn’t romaine after all, because it’s growing back differently:

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Lettuce! (Mint at the upper right.)

I haven’t tried it yet, but maybe when the sole tomato ripens. In any case, the GER reminds me that lettuce is a winter crop, so I hope it lasts.

Just above the mutant lettuce is the celery that I recently cut and used in a salmon salad.

Celery, redux

Celery, redux

Let me point out that this was was made like tuna salad, with canned salmon, boiled eggs and the like. I didn’t think to take a picture of it before I cut it, but I can tell you that the other two celery stubs that were growing well were hidden by this one, and they didn’t make it. So I have to wait until this one grows back, or maybe move it where it will get more sun. Soon as I get back in the garden and pot all the plants that are still in the tiny containers. And spray DIY weed killer.

The citrus trees are doing well. The flowers have fallen off, and the fruit buds are starting to appear. I am hoping for a bumper crop this year, and I’m diligently watering them to prevent the remaining buds from falling off. This is the biggest bud on the Meyer lemon tree:

Meyer Lemon bud

Meyer Lemon bud

I only got two of these fantastic lemons last year, so fingers crossed. This tree had 7 buds at last count, but the Key Lime tree gives me more hope:

Key limes

Key limes

Key lime buds

Key lime bud closeup (there are more buds elsewhere.)

E and I saw the citrus plants for sale today at HEB, and there were lots of buds on the Meyer Lemon plants. He doesn’t have room for one, and I’ve already got one. If I were able to buy one for a gift, the GER might have gotten one for the Funk House/Junk House back garden. (Not this time, sorry.)

Now, the Italian flat-leaf parsley has been a prolific producer, and I just cut what I want and let it grow back. It happens pretty quickly:

Italian flat-leaf parsley

Italian flat-leaf parsley

Good for all kinds of things, including pesto, either as a base herb or as an additive to the pesto if you don’t have enough basil. However, I found another use for parsley when I went looking for something to use fresh oregano for. It’s green, it requires a blender, but it is NOT pesto. Not Italian, either. But it sure is tasty.

Chimichurri Sauce.

If you’ve never heard of it, that’s OK, not everyone has. It’s green, but it’s not pesto.

Since I’m not remotely familiar with Argentinian cuisine, I’ve never had the occasion to have it. However, when I went to Pinterest to research fresh oregano recipes, that’s what kept coming up. So I made some for dinner with AC last week, drizzling the sauce of roasted chicken breasts. She said it was good, but I haven’t heard from her since. Neighbor E enjoyed it too. I like it, although admittedly, the recipe I used makes a lot of it, so I’ve put it on more stuff. Chimichurri is traditionally drizzled on steak. But it’s so good, who cares what you put it on?

This is the recipe I used, and if you’re interested, there is also a list of 20 additional ways to use it. Like pesto, it’s a raw sauce that’s versatile and adds a great flavor to whatever you put it on. If you’re one of those people who likes dipping bread in pesto or olive oil, chimichurri is a different flavor to savor.

I had regular oregano, not the spicier variety, but didn’t bother with the pepper flakes. I thought it was good enough on its own, and didn’t need it. Want to try it? I didn’t take enough pictures, but here goes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup hot & spicy fresh oregano leaves (or regular with a large pinch of red pepper flakes)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Place all ingredients into a high-powered blender and blend until very smooth. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Use as desired.

Since I didn’t have enough parsley growing out back, I headed to my fancy HEB for a few ingredients, only to be told, “we don’t have any parsley today.” HUH? No parsley? No kidding. So after I finished my shopping, I still had to stop at Kroger to get parsley. All Kroger had was organic parsley, at $2 a bunch. I wasn’t taking any chances at a third grocery on my street, so I just got two. And I washed it really good and sliced it off the stems:

Don't chop too much, the blender will take care of most of it.

Don’t chop too much, the blender will take care of most of it. Just make sure your parsley is rinsed CLEAN.

Toss it all in the blender, no kidding, and it’s DONE:

Tah-dah!

Tah-dah!

We had chicken breasts and a nice salad with it, as well as the Cashew Bread. The next day, I used the rest of the lettuce and made a chicken salad. Just chopped up the remaining chicken breast:

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Tossed it over the salad green:

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And added more of the Chimichurri sauce.

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Whether your dinner is hot or cold, this stuff is GOOD.

Also discovered that it was time for a new gasket on the ol’ blender. It leaked despite a new cutting assembly and neck collar. The gasket was the only part I haven’t replaced yet. Well, I have now, it arrived yesterday. More karma of spare parts. I really hope that’s the last of it–I made some Pea & Pesto Soup last night, and it worked just fine, no leaking. Lesson learned: the gasket should be the *first* thing replaced if your blender is leaking, or, bought along with any additional spare parts ordered.

If I didn’t make it home safely from HEB or Trader Joe’s one day, at least all my appliances will be in good working order, right? That’s important, as the GER will tell you, when you’re having an estate sale.

If you’re considering what to have for dinner, especially if you’re cooking for more than one, consider whipping up some chimichurri sauce this evening, or this weekend for a quick flavoring for something next week. It’s fast, easy, tasty, and will give a fresh flavor to whatever you add it to or drizzle it on.

Enjoy!