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Slow Cooking: Christmas Edition

Slow Cooking–great all year long!

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

Well, I’m back again with more slow cooking. Recently, I was introduced (online) to a lady who is a pro at the slow cooking thing. She’s written books and has blogged about it for many years. And I just found her. She’s going to help us with our holiday dinners!

But first, a lesson in irony.

Recently, I had an errand in Hammond, and of course, made a quick stop in the closest  Starbucks there. Take a look and tell me if you see the irony here:

Seriously?

Seriously. . .

This was, of course, in the ladies room after a tanker full of coffee (free refills with your Starbucks card!) If you’re not seeing it, allow me to explain: the sign is an instruction on how to wash your hands. In it, you are told to dry off your hands with a paper towel, then use said paper towel to turn off the water when you’re done.

In the sticker on the hot-air hand dryer, you are told about the energy efficiency of using the hand dryer. It eliminates the paper towel, but gives you nothing to turn off the faucet (or open the door to leave) with to protect your freshly-washed hands from someone else’s hand germs.

Does no one think about this?

Louisiana is the only state I’ve ever been in that posts hand-washing instructions in the bathrooms, nearly everywhere. I never saw those in 18 years in Texas. Draw your own conclusions.

Sewing!

I took out one of my sewing machines this week, mostly to test it out. With a few fat quarters from Walmart, I made this item:

The State flag of Texas

That’s right. A Texas flag.

Funny how you don’t notice them until you don’t see them anymore. (The sign underneath is a WWIIposter that says “Sew for Victory.”)  There will be more of them, if for no other reason, to use up the stars. But BF has been told that when the day comes that he puts up an American Flag on the property, as many neighbors have, there *will* be a Texas flag flying next to it. And if the Texit business happens, I do hope they take Louisiana with it so we can have more great barbecue!

Cleaning up

For the record, Whole Foods isn’t kidding about encouraging you to “shop local” and all that. Not a bad idea, of course. This big guy’s grin greeted me as I checked out of the Mandeville store this past weekend:

Who's that?

Who’s that?

William Terry, the founder of Bayou Soap, is on board with natural soaps and creates them right in New Orleans.  (You can read more about them here, and their Facebook page is here.) I couldn’t resist looking at the many bars—lovely soaps, and they all smell wonderful:

Lavender--good for evening showers to help you sleep.

Lavender–good for evening showers to help you sleep.

Don't these look yummy?

Don’t these look yummy?

I have no idea what

I have no idea what “African Black Soap” is, but maybe one day I’ll give it a try. Long as it doesn’t paint me.

Mango soap? Mango!!

Mango soap? Mango!!

Yes, these are pricey, but handcrafted artisan items usually are. (You can also order them online.) Mr. Terry doesn’t have the manufacturing muscle of Proctor & Gamble, and he uses natural ingredients without harsh chemicals. (I used to buy some very nice soaps from a lady at the farmer’s market in Nassau Bay on occasion, too.) Plus, they’re very big bars. My thinking is to cut them into one or two smaller bars to make them easier to handle and last a while. I’ll get some one day soon. I do like to shop local when I can, and patronize local businesses.

While others have seen Jesus’ face in a grilled cheese sandwich, and the Virgin Mary in a mobile home door screen, I see BF’s cute face in this bar of soap:

Can you see his face in this bar of soap?

It’s BF!!

I can’t possibly use that to wash my hands now. . . .

Christmas is SUNDAY.

How did this happen? I mean, wasn’t it Turkey Day just a week or two ago? Carols have been playing nearly everywhere I go. . .that stuff has been out in Walmart for weeks. . .yesterday I told BF I wanted an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas, ha, ha. Being the smart aleck he is, he might just get me one–but where do you get the refill packages for it? I’ve never seen them, but I guess because I don’t have to.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and all through the house

The A/C was running, for we live in the South.

Yep. We’re waiting to see how Mother Nature treats us this year. It was quite warm last year, and I was in shorts Christmas Day. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like icy cold watermelon chunks. That could be the case this year, even though we’ve been shivering cold for quite some time–and so have my friends in Houston, too.

Let’s get serious with our slow cookers, shall we?

Longtime readers know about my affinity for slow cooking, and my more recent affinity for the waffle maker. Last weekend I used my Cuisinart Griddler not for waffling, but for making BF some pancakes. I used the flat griddle plate to make them right on the counter top. (I still haven’t replaced the drip tray, but we weren’t making bacon or anything that required it.) He got the biggest kick out of it–“you and your gadgets!” he said. Look at it this way: I didn’t have to turn on the stove for a little bit of cooking.

Yesterday was a 2 pound pork loin roast slow cooked with some olive oil and Italian seasoning. BF ate that right up with some baked sweet potato fries.

That’s the thing about the slow cooker–you really do just set it and forget it. It takes some advance planning, but so does cooking a standard meal. The other day I put two turkey thighs in BF’s 4 quart slow-cooker, and dinner was done when we got home. Added some Waffled Hash Browns, which took about 15 minutes to create, and we had. . .meat and potatoes, ready to have in less than 30 minutes.

Then I got ahead of the game by slow cooking.

I also started cooking the next day’s meal that night, before we sat down to the turkey and hash browns. There is a back-story to this.

Recently I was introduced, on Facebook, to a lady named Stephanie O’Dea, who is the author of a number of books and a blog called A Year of Slow Cooking.  I write a food blog, and would cook every day in the slow cooker if I could. . .how did I miss this?

Apparently Mrs. O’Dea decided she would be slow cooking every day for a year, and blogged about it. She’s since written several books on the subject, and has more slow cookers than we do at Casa de Rurale. So I eagerly signed up for her emails, and read them. This lady goes all out, OK? The other day, she sent one about making tamales in the slow cooker. I’ll try that one day, too, when we’re in the mood for Mexican food. But the one that caught my eye was the Crock Pot 16-Bean Soup Recipe.

Say what?

Mrs. O’Dea admits to being somewhat lackadaisical towards many things. . .OK, she’s lazy.

I have walked by the bags of soup mix in the grocery store a hundred million times. I’ve even picked one up, read the print on the bag, and taken it for a ride in the shopping cart. 

But then I chicken out and put it back on the shelf with it’s friends.

It just seemed like a lot of work.

I, um, actually don’t really enjoy work. 

I’d really like a house full of forest creatures like in Snow White or in Enchanted to come do it all for me so I can spin around in circles singing. 

So far the closest I’ve gotten to that dream is a six-year-old wearing a two-sizes-too-small rooster Halloween costume running around with a feather duster…

But it’s a nice dream, nonetheless.

We all think like this from time to time, right? Well, after reading this email, I had some time before I had to pick up BF, so I stopped at HEB. . .I mean, Walmart. . .on the way home and picked up a few ingredients I needed.

Unfortunately, this is Louisiana, so we only get 15 beans, not 16 beans in our soup packages. (I miss my HEB.) I take what I can get, check out, and head home to the Casa.

And I started cooking tomorrow’s dinner!

When I picked up BF later that evening, I told him, “I am on it.” He gave me that cute look of quizzical confusion that he often does, and I explained myself.  I saw this email, and I acted on it! The turkey thighs were ready when we got home, but the soup would cook all night, and he could have some to take to work the next day. Thumbs up on this one. . .but no pictures this time.

slow cooking

Really–just let it go.

I did as she instructs, tossed out that chemical “flavoring packet,” (no need to tell me twice) and altered it slightly. No tomatoes, BF has a problem with them sometimes. Beef stock and water from the pantry, and an inexpensive one-pound packet of cubed ham from the meat case. Boiled the beans and let them sit for an hour, and then started loading up the 6-quart slow cooker.

This soup smells wonderful while it cooks. The soup was slow-cooking all night, and we really enjoyed it the next day. BF became “all beaned out,” so I froze the rest for another day.

This soup is highly recommended. Slow cooking it makes it really easy. Check out the recipe and the “customizations” for making it yours. Yum.

Slow cooking a full holiday meal?

Absolutely–Mrs. O’Dea has you covered! Check out this Christmas Ham in the Slow Cooker with honey and ginger. Ham not your style? Heck, she’s got a myriad of slow cooker recipes for the holidays parked right here on this page.

Slow cooking apples

Slow cooking apples

Need an extra slow cooker? Borrow one a day or two before if you’re afraid of going out to the mall this holiday season like I was in Houston. If you haven’t planned anything yet, well, better get a move on! Both links have recipes suitable for holiday gatherings, but you have to plan ahead.

Please note that despite the fancy fixtures that come attached to modern slow cookers, they are not essential. Last time, I told you about the web-enabled model with the smartphone app from CrockPot. I don’t have one of those, nor the one where you can brown and bake before the slow cooking. Mine are 13-year-old Crock Pots bought in 2003 or 2004 at Big Lots in Texas before I moved out of the GER’s house. I also have a “little dipper” I bought to get the cooking smells out of the kitchen. BF’s is a Hamilton Beach 4 quart, just like my Crock Pot. I refer to them as “dumb terminal models,” because you control them from the little knob on the front after you plug them in. (Eight years in IT, I know stuff like this.)  I know, I know, there are slow cooking marvels with all kinds of bells & whistles and apps and all that. You do not NEED it. If you spend that much on a slow cooker, that’s less you can spend on food. Your choice.

Wrangling the whole thing together.

The best advice I’ve ever heard for planning any kind of special occasion was from The Barefoot Contessa in Foolproof. Write it all down, figure out how long everything will take to make, create a schedule and work backwards. In other words, if your turkey will take 4 hours, and dinner is at 5:00 pm, you put it in the oven about 1:00 pm, making sure your oven is at the temperature you need (usually 350F.) Potatoes will take an hour, so those go into the oven about 4:00 pm–and at 350F, you can easily bake them at the same time on a different rack. I mean, why not?

And you can always drop the potatoes in your CrockPot, right? Slow cooking can indeed help with Christmas dinner as well as parties and other celebrations.

What’s on the HeatCageKitchen menu for Christmas?

Well, nothing yet, but there likely is going to be some slow cooking going on. Especially if I don’t make much.

BF mentioned the other night that he wanted to have ham for Christmas. I wouldn’t mind if it was *this* ham, but he says he wants it “baked.” How is this not baked if it’s slow cooking at 300F or 350F for several hours?

If he wants something with Coke and sugar all over it, or requires the use of any kind of “enclosed packet,”  I’m roasting a Lemon Chicken for myself. And I’m not doing *everything* I did for Turkey Day, although I wouldn’t mind making those Perfect Mashed Potatoes again. But we haven’t heard from the kids, nor anyone else, so it might just be the two of us with the critters.

But whatever we do, there’s a good chance a slow cooker’s going to be involved. And there’s a good chance that something will be waffled.

Remember too that there are recipes posted on this page. Most are favorites that I’ve tried many times, and that may be just what you’re looking for, including some slow cooking, too.

And if you’re not hosting. . . .

Are you going to someone’s house for Christmas lunch/dinner? Bring something tasty and delicious, whether you’re slow cooking or not. A Year of Slow Cooking is a great place to start, as is Pinterest.

And if it’s looking like you’re going to be home alone on Christmas, as I was for many years, enjoy it. Enjoy the peace and solitude, watch whatever TV shows you want, (I highly recommend British TV, especially a comedy if you can find some, turn on the CC,), enjoy the best meal you can cook up,  and don’t feel “alone.” Slow cooking something delicious will free you up to watch your favorite holiday DVDs, listen to your favorite music, and spend time with yourself. There are folks who will be working on Christmas and would be happy to be home. Many are first responders (fire, police, medical personnel, etc.) so please don’t make their job harder.

It’s OK to be alone on Christmas.

If you’re really not happy about the holidays (there are more than one) remember that Christmas comes but once a year. . .and in a week or so, it will all be over. No more carols blaring from the PA system everywhere you go. No more drunks wishing you a “Cherry Mistmas.” No more red and green everything. Come January 2nd, the trees will be heading to the recycling bin, the lights will come down, and people will start packing stuff up to put away for another year. Some might not finish until March, but you get the idea.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy New Year!

I’m probably not going to publish a post again until after Christmas, so I will wish all of you Happy Holidays, whatever holiday you want to celebrate. (Hey–if there’s food involved, there’s a good chance I’ll be celebrating it, no matter what religion it’s from.)  Whatever it is you like to cook, make it tasty, healthy, and make enough for everybody, OK?

There’s a good chance I’ll be in the back doing some sewing while I’m doing some slow cooking.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Are you ready to Swerve?

Hi, again, Dear Readers–let’s Swerve!

I’m sorry to be late again, *life* has happened, and there are dogs involved. We’re getting that sorted out, and I’m always looking for new things to bring you.

As I alluded to in a recent post, there is something available for folks who miss SomerSweet, and anyone who’s looking for a sweet alternative to sugar that isn’t toxic or make you feel ill after eating it. An alternative sweetener that allows you to sweeten foods naturally without wondering what will happen in an hour. And one that’s somewhat accessible without ordering it from somewhere else. I found it: and it’s called Swerve.

I still miss my HEB.

Now, y’all keep hearing me say this. I really do, and here’s one of the main reasons:

Notice the drink holder spots?

That’s right, I’m really ticked off about this. HEB, Kroger, Randall’s, and other stores in Houston (and around the country)  have cup holders for your coffee. Many stores, like Kroger, Randall’s and Target, have Starbucks locations in the store. (The Walmart on I-45 has a McDonald’s in the front of the store as well.) I mean, coffee is a thing now, right? People shop with their coffee, especially during the cold winter months, so why not?

See? They all have them!

When I went to Winn-Dixie a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I stopped in at the PJ’s in front of the store for a coffee. Once I grabbed my basket, I realized–no place for coffee! I had to be very careful balancing a coffee in one hand, or balancing it in the “seat” part of the basket. It’s 2016—child seating areas have been in grocery store baskets since I was a kid—so why don’t they have coffee cup holders in the rest of the US?

Neighbor E graciously took these pictures for me last Saturday, and included a pic of of our friends there, Miss Lei:

Hi, Miss Lei!!!

She made a different version of the hatch apple cake, and E got me the recipe for you:

Note: this isn’t the dump cake version. You don’t use the whole jar, either.

And check out the display that’s right in front of the bakery, inside the store.

NOW do you see why I miss my HEB? (And many thanks to Neighbor E for the great pictures, too!) Well, I’m getting there. And, BF makes it easier. He’s been to our HEB, so he understands why.

Turkey thighs found!

I did find more turkey thighs at the Rouse’s on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, and I bought both packs—they were under $2! Next trip to NOLA, I’ll go look again. The newest Trader Joe’s is across the street; I just went there for a couple of bottles of water for the trip home (and I know they’re 17 cents each.)  But it’s nice, just like the one in Baton Rouge, and the one in The Woodlands. If you haven’t been to a Trader Joe’s, and there’s one in your area, might be worth a visit. I very nearly brought home a packet of their Pork and Beef Tamales. They actually are a product of Mexico. They’re real tamales, and very tasty too.

Anyway. . . .

Do *you* have a coffee while you shop?

I did notice that my Whole Foods in Mandeville has coffee cup holders in their baskets—the little “urban” baskets, as I call the smaller ones with two compartments, have them in the handle like HEB does. The bigger baskets, the ones with the child seats in them, have these plastic holders, which also hold things like flowers:

This will hold coffee or a bunch of flowers.

I know, I know. . .these are “first world problems.” But DARNIT! When there’s a PJ’s right in front of the store, why can’t Winn-Dixie shoppers have holders for coffee too?

What’s this foolishness?

Speaking of Whole Foods, I saw this little gem last time:

Not Beef? Not interested!

No kidding, “Not Beef.” OK, riddle me this, Batman—if you’re truly a vegan and/or vegetarian, and you do not partake of a product that comes from “anything with a face,” why are you in need of a product that tastes of simulated beef? Is this to go with your “plant-based burger meat?” Not a joke, and it’s $3 a box!

Yuck.

No, OK? And that recipe for “Not Beef Noodle Soup” starring cut bits of tofu? Yeah. . .not happening in the Casa. Even if I weren’t allergic to soy, I wouldn’t try it. What’s the point? Besides, BF would run me up the street for bringing tofu into his house.

I know, I know–Whole Foods is giving customers what they want, or what they think they want. This is America, the land of invention, so. . .spend your money where you like, but I still think it’s silly.

Resistance is futile

Oh, and, despite my refusal to do so, I now have a Winn Dixie Customer Reward Card, similar to the ones I have for Kroger, Randall’s, Vitamin Shoppe, Petsmart, Petco, IKEA, and a myriad of other stores in Houston and elsewhere.  I added the app to my phone, too. Lucky me, they have “fuel points” that we can use to save a few rubles when we fill up The White Knight. So I hope to be able to use the points soon. I spoke to Winn-Dixie today to resolve an issue with duplicate cards.

While I on the phone with the nice lady, I expressed my discontent with having no place to put my coffee cup while shopping. (The PJ’s is right there, for heaven’s sake!) She didn’t know why that was, but she promised to pass along the suggestion to management. So maybe during the next upgrade of baskets, Winn-Dixie will get with the 21st Century and have a place for customers to put their coffee cups while shopping there.

Enough of that—this is the post you’ve been waiting for.

Let’s do the Swerve!

If you’re one of those folks who is missing SomerSweet, isn’t happy with stevia, or would like to move away from the Splenda, Equal or other chemical sweeteners you’ve become accustomed to using, Swerve might be what you’re looking for.

 

As I mention in my last post, I found Swerve in the Mandeville Whole Foods on my first trip. Swerve is erythritol, a natural sweetener that doesn’t have any nasty side effects like chemical sweeteners, and no, um, gastro issues. This is great news for diabetics and anyone who wants to cut down or eliminate sugar from their diet. You can have some sweet stuff and not be tempted by something you know you shouldn’t be eating. It’s especially useful this time of year, when you know how all the well-laid plans go pear-shaped when someone shows up with anything called “Black Forest,” “Chocolate Cherry,” “Peppermint,” or the thing that makes me knock a big guy out of the way, something with chocolate and raspberry in the same place. (BF knows to move if I spot that combo, but I haven’t been in the company of the esteemed Shaquille O’Neal; I’m sure he’d move out of the way just as fast.)

The ingredient list.

Here’s a closeup:

How does it compare to the now-defunct SomerSweet?

Very similar, but not exactly the same.

Here’s a peek in the bag:

Swerve!!

The day I bought it, I paid $7.99 for this bag:

My receipt. Thankfully, BF doesn’t look too closely sometimes.

No, it’s not cheap–but it’s useful if you’re looking for healthy ingredients.

Not everybody cares.

Please note that in my own experience with healthier foods, not everyone cares that it’s sugar free, gluten free, carb free, or yeast free. This was especially true at Thanksgiving, when my favorite Cranberry Ginger Relish wasn’t well received, and the vegan cornbread made for BF’s Dad wasn’t well received. I’m not doing that again, I’ll make all that stuff for myself. BF “kind of” liked the vegan cornbread, but the “regular” cornbread wasn’t all eaten, either—about half went to Hound Training.

Another example: A few years ago, I brought former Neighbor R a pan of yeast-free brownies at her request (she’d given me a big favor.) She thought that little pan was “too much,” and she gave half to another neighbor. That other neighbor, I was told later, brought them to her booth at a flea market, where “everybody loved them!” No kidding—that neighbor didn’t know they were more expensive, sugar free and all that, because she was accustomed to making brownies from a box. I’ve said this before: alternative ingredients are pricier than the usual white-flour/white-sugar stuff. So unless you know someone who would appreciate yeast free brownies, gluten-free cornbread, or other non-standard healthier recipes, it’s probably better to keep them to yourself, or at least in your family’s kitchen.

It’s all good.

Granular Erythritol is available in a number of places, including Amazon and Dr. Hotze’s in-house vitamin store (called Sweet-N-Natural.) This 2-pound can is $50; SomerSweet was considerably less expensive. But if you don’t have the inclination to pop for that much Sweet-N-Natural, Swerve is a great option to try erythritol. A 12-ounce bag was $7.99 at Whole Foods, and you may find it on sale occasionally for less.

So what do you do with it? Use it like sugar. Between the Swerve website and their Facebook page, you’ll find lots of ideas for using Swerve to satisfy your sweet tooth. They don’t yet have a downloadable PDF file of recipes; you just go there, or to their Facebook page, and pick out what you’d like. I’ve seen some tasty desserts on their site, but I haven’t tried them yet. This one, for Pecan Pie Biscotti, looks pretty tasty.  (Access all their recipes here.)

I had a chat with the very nice Natalia at Swerve, and she says that although they’ve been around since 2001, they’ve only stepped up their marketing since 2012. Swerve is available nationwide as well as in Canada, and is also available at places like Amazon, iHerb and Vitacost if your local market doesn’t carry it. (They currently don’t have an e-commerce function on their own website.) You can also use their handy online store locator to find it in your neck of the woods. I  had no idea that it was available in Clear Lake, but it is!

Swerve comes in 12 ounce packages, in granular and powdered.

What makes Swerve special?

The cup-for-cup measure is a distinct difference between Swerve and other similar products. Swerve is the only product of its kind that comes in not only granular, like you would put in your coffee, but also powdered for confectionery creations (i.e., truffles.) No one else has a “confectioner’s sugar” version. It’s also gluten-free and non GMO (two big sell factors for me.) Erythritol doesn’t promote tooth decay the way sugar does, and of course, it TASTES LIKE SUGAR! No metallic aftertaste like stevia—I’m sorry, but stevia kind of tastes funny to me. So, I’m liking Swerve a lot.

Unlike xylitol, erythritol is also safe for the dogs who might get under your feet and nibble a bit of crumbs you didn’t know you dropped. Xylitol is very toxic for animals, so if you have some or might use it, do keep an eye out around the critters. Last thing you want is an emergency vet bill for a poisoned animal.

So what does Swerve taste like?

It tastes like sugar! No, really, it tastes like sugar. No aftertaste at all.

I tried Swerve myself recently when I made some coconut oil chocolate to nibble on. With It worked perfectly, and there was no difference between the one I made with SomerSweet and the one I made with Swerve. They were equally tasty, and melted all over my hands as coconut oil is wont to do.

This much coconut oil

Some cocoa powder:

Two tablespoons of cocoa powder, then mix well with a fork:

Chocolate first

Now add Swerve, just stir it in:

See? Works like sugar. Just stir it right in.

I think I added two of those tablespoons, just like SomerSweet. And because the coconut oil was unflavored, a little almond extract does wonders:

Chocolate. . .er,”candy.”

Please note that almond extract is VERY potent, and you only need a tiny drop for this.

Freeze until hard, and carefully break it into chunks to eat like candy. Well, it pretty much is, isn’t it?

I’m thinking it might be time for another crack at the YeastFreeBrownies, sweetening them with Swerve. I haven’t made them in a while. Maybe BF might even like them, just a little.

So, now you have an alternative, and if you’re like me, a replacement for the beloved SomerSweet. (Or if you’re looking to permanently ditch the toxic chemical ones.) I’ll use the rest of the SomerSweet over time, and will pick up my sugarless cooking and baking with Swerve. BF will probably not like me buying many bags of it at a time, but you know I hate to run out of anything.

Be sweet and enjoy!

 

Amy’s Sunday Drive

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Bet you weren’t expecting *that* ending, were you? Nope, me either–and that was before I wrote it. But all’s well that ends well in the HeatCageKitchen. He still likes me.

I think I’ve lost about 10 pounds since moving. I got my scale out after we visited Neighbor E a couple of weeks ago to get my stuff, and have been using it almost daily. It’s the sleep, and not eating a lot of carbs or eating too late at night. The housework is helping, too. Eventually I’ll be using the kettlebells again, doing some yoga, and utilizing the EZ Gym, which I plan to put up on a wall. Might be bikini-ready next summer, but we’ve got some time. Meantime, my set of 3-Way Ponchos are pressed, washed, and ready to wear. (Glad I bought them when I did–the purple one is no longer available, but I have a Simplicity pattern to make more of them later.)

We have not yet replaced the toaster oven, and while we have plans to, it’s a matter of. . .money. It’s OK–I’m not doing a lot of specialty baking right now, but BF promises that there will be a replacement soon. Maybe not a $200 Cuisinart (but I have coupons from Bed, Bath & Beyond if we do go), but he will get me another one–he told me he will, and he doesn’t break promises. I knew it was going to need replacement months ago, I just put it off, hoping things would improve and I could buy one myself. Well. . .BF knows to put a bug in Santa’s ear, if nothing else. And I’ll make him those boxed brownies again, too, if he asks.

I would have published this post two weeks ago, but, well, the pictures weren’t coming out straight. Then I had to leave the library and pick up BF from work. Then I couldn’t make it back to the library. Then, last Monday morning. . .I pulled a back muscle, and couldn’t move much. I was crab-walking for nearly a week! Finally. . .my back is better, albeit still a little bit sore. Crab-walking over, I’m back at the library. I’ll be working on more new subjects to write about to bring to you. I just don’t find out about new “things” like I used to. Guess I need to go read more.

The back room is finally cleared out, and we hope to do some painting before setting up my studio–sewing room, exercise area, media room and “corner office.” We have a few of my things in there, plus some of my clothes, but. . .we’ll try to get some painting done first. Then, over time, more book shelves, a china cabinet (maybe from IKEA), another big rack for kitchen stuff (I’ll make that cover, finally), some shelves above the doorways, and some other things to turn the former “man cave” (and I do mean“cave”) into a house for a man and a woman to happily live together in. My IKEA Fusion dinette will sit by the front door and become a breakfast nook (soon as we get the car parts outside and replace the damaged miniblinds.) One thing at a time, right? Once we get a lot of my things in the back to furnish the studio, the rest of the house will be neat, tidy and company-ready.

That silly 60-pound pit bull knocked the Meyer lemons off the tree, one at a time! They are now in the kitchen window, hopefully ripening, and I’ll take any seeds and propagate them into more trees. (Meyer lemons are $4 a pound at Fresh Market, so why not?) Last night the Hounds of Baskerville also knocked over the cut celery stubs I cultivated into re-growing. I hope that they weren’t too far gone and that I can save them, but celery is cheap. I told him I would “whip that dog into shape.” Yeah. One look in those eyes and you know I won’t be whipping anything. (We don’t really hit the dogs, of course, but we know someone did once.) But I’m giving them occasional treats so they’ll get used to me, and listen when we start doing doggie boot camp training. (BF gets some treats, too.)

The basil plant I bought from HEB to cut and propagate is now in the kitchen window, and I hope to have more plants growing soon. (PESTO!!!!) I haven’t talked BF into building me a cold frame yet, but that Plexiglas out in the shop isn’t scrap (darnit.) I really, REALLY need to plant the green onions and start more of them, but I haven’t gotten to that yet. The Hatch chili plants are now all outside; soon I hope to start planting stuff, I just keep saying “tomorrow.” But it’ll happen, and BF will stare at it with buggy eyes wondering what the heck is going on, just like the pantry.

I read BF the last blog post, and he said that I was wrong on one thing: he does not drink more than a cow produces in a day. Seems that when he was a kid, he worked milking cows. A cow produces 25 pounds a day, he says, and a gallon weighs 8 pounds. (BF was in the Navy, you know.) Well, a quick check at DairyMoos.com shows that his math is a bit off, BUT–BF drinks about half a gallon a day, I think. Seriously, he really does, and <nails on chalkboard> Coca-Cola at work during lunch. I told him we should get our own milk cow. (I’ll be the one taking it for walks and cleaning the litterbox.)

I had another trip to Baton Rouge a couple of weeks ago, but BF and I also had an errand there one night as well. I begged, PLLEEEEEEEEZZZEE???? and he took me to Trader Joe’s for a stock-up run afterwards. He didn’t know what that was, and I promised him it would be faaaaaaabulous.  (I’m guilty of over-using that word.) He saw the Petco two doors down, and we buzzed in there first. THEN we grabbed a beautiful red basket and headed into TJ’s. Got more olive oil, a packet of uncured bacon ends, some chocolate for my birthday cake, (the one from Suzanne Somers) and a few other small things. On the way out, I saw something in the freezer case–frozen quiche. This one is about the size of a pot pie, except the crust is on the bottom. So he would finally understand, I showed it to BF. “You are NOT going to get me to eat that!” he exclaimed. I wasn’t asking him to, I just wanted to show him what it looked like, so he can have a frame of reference, and understand frittata. Yeah, that worked.

I brought my own cloth shopping bags, including the cold bag I made a couple of years ago, and we were right at home with them. I explained to the (male) cashier that this was BF’s first time in TJ’s. BF protested: “I was ambushed.” It’s not the mall, for heaven’s sake–TJ’s is the size of a large convenience store. But I won’t drag him into one ever again, he’ll only go if he wants to (or he wants to keep an eye on me.)  BF’s verdict: “It’s just a grocery store.” Oh, well–he eats good. Like this chocolate delight from our last trip to my HEB in Clear Lake:

Yeah.

Yeah. All chocolate, all the way through.

As I mentioned in the last post, I visited the Mandeville Fresh Market a couple of Sundays ago, and boy did I bring home some goodies. BF was impressed with dinner–and I didn’t have to work too hard, either. Much like my years of living in Clear Lake and shopping after an in-town SGI activity, I went to a study meeting at the lovely home of PB and NM and went shopping afterwards, since I was in the vicinity. (They are the nice folks who came over and home visited me a week or so after my abrupt, unfortunate departure from Texas.) This time, I was on their turf. It was a small meeting, just seven of us, in the middle of an idyllic wooded setting.

I asked PB about getting to Whole Foods, and once again, I ended up at The Fresh Market, but that’s OK. (I got there a couple of weekends later after the district meeting.) See, once you get off the freeway, you go left for Whole Foods and right for The Fresh Market. . .and I got those directions mixed up. Oh, well.

I went primarily to get something for Sunday dinner, and *maybe* to mooch a little more free coffee, too. Well, I had some, but this time I could have coffee. Well, I bought some–a half-pound of decaf Hazelnut Creme. Yum. BF, as always, was not impressed. But it smells so good!

Yum.

I didn’t waste any time.

I walked around and examined the glass meat case and thought about different things I could make for dinner. I also picked up a few favorites:

Cannellini!!

Cannellini!!

I’ve since discovered that the local Winn-Dixie stocks Bush’s brand cannellini beans. Woo hoo! (No shelf-stable unsweetened chocolate almond milk yet, but I’ll keep looking around.)

I haven’t yet made any hummus, but when the time comes, I am ready to rock and roll:

Great to have on hand for a quick batch of hummus.

Great to have on hand for a quick batch of hummus.

Originally, I was going to cook up Nigella Lawson’s Pollo alla Cacciatora, but I would need to buy more than I’d planned on, plus I wouldn’t know where the white wine was. Looked a little more, and prowled more, and by the meat case, I saw the jars of Frontera “chili starters.” Different types of base sauces where you brown meat, add the jar, cook it a little more, and it’s done. Well. . .BF has an issue with tomatoes and heartburn after a certain hour of the night, so I passed on the first one. Then I saw the jar called “white chili.”

Never saw these in Houston, or maybe I just didn’t go to the right places. Chef Rick Bayless has a line of Frontera  food products, which includes three types of chili starters, and the “white” chili has. . .Hatch Chiles!

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See? Good stuff here.

 

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Very simple instructions for a tasty dinner.

I asked at the meat case, and was assured that it was not a hot kind of chili. So, those two items were loaded into my little hand basket along with the cans and the coffee.

I was so proud of myself–a healthy, delicious dinner inside of 20 minutes! I hoped BF would agree that it was tasty and fast. I kept him in suspense, and let him know dinner was, um, “in the bag.” Now to convince him it would be good.

On the way home, I thought it would be a good day to finally make our “special cake.” You know, the one with the Hatch Apple Pie Filling. I already had the cake mix and the butter, so why not? (There goes the “healthy” part.)

This beautiful jar contains some delicious apple pie filling that’s accented with the flavor of Hatch chilis. You didn’t think you could do that? HEB carries lots of Hatch products that are sweet–the cookies come to mind as well.

The secret to a very special cake!

The secret to a very special cake! (Yes, his “antique” house has a stove that’s avocado green–but it works, so who cares?)

Here’s what’s on the rest of the jar:

img_3413 img_3412 img_3411 img_3410

I used the whole jar, of course, because that’s what the recipe calls for:

The recipe!

The recipe!

Yes, it’s worth it, for an occasional splurge. RARE occasions.

BF was at work until 4:00 pm, but one of his car guys was coming over. I asked BF if the man would be joining us for dinner, and he said “yes.” When I got home, the man was outside napping in his truck, waiting for BF to return to the homestead. I went inside to get started.

I got started on the cake first, since that would take 45 minutes to bake. Here we go:

The setup.

The setup.

This is what’s called a “dump cake,” in which you dump everything together and bake it. The recipe was provided by the HEB Cooking Connection folks in the Clear Lake City Blvd. location, and it’s the same one Neighbor E and I were privileged to try before Hatch weekend. (E has since made his own at home to enjoy.) First, I cut the butter into bits buy cutting lengthwise, turning the stick and then cutting it lengthwise again, to make these little squares:

img_3420img_3421

Two lengthwise cuts and you get little squares!

Next, I put the little squares into a bowl and stashed them in the freezer to keep them cold.

Now,  preheat the oven to 350F, and butter a 7″x 11″ pan. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I needed that specific size, so I used the 9″ x 13″, which was too big. I made do, though:

This dish is, unfortunately, too big.

This dish is, unfortunately, too big.

img_3425

I used the spatula to keep the filling to one side of the baking pan. It worked.

Since the pan was big, this is what I ended up with:

img_3426

Carefully pour the cake mix on top, but don’t mix them:

No. . .this not gluten free, wheat free, or in any way healthy.

No. . .this not gluten free, wheat free, or in any way healthy.

Carefully pour the cake mix on top of the pie filling--but don't mix it.

Carefully pour the cake mix on top of the pie filling.

 

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Done!

 

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The spatula made it easy to spread evenly.

Now retrieve your butter squares from the freezer, and start laying them on top the cake powder:

Butter!

Butter!

 

Until it looks like this.

Until it looks like this.

Drop this baby into your preheated oven, set the timer, and about 45 minutes later, this is what you end up with:

Aaaahhhh. . . .

Aaaahhhh. . . .

It’s hot, so you might want to let it cool a little–or completely–before eating. The top is sweet and crispy, while the bottom is soupy and sweet with the flavor of Hatch chilis (but no pepper heat.) Serve it with whipped cream, ice cream (BF’s preference) or just plain. However you serve it, you’ll be popular. It’s that good.

While that was baking, I got busy with the rest of dinner:

The setup

The setup.

 

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With ground turkey or ground chicken, you really need a bit of oil–they don’t have enough fat like ground beef or pork.

 

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Just one pound was all that I needed.

Can’t get much easier than this–get it into the hot pot:

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And brown that ground turkey up:

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And you end up with this.

Once the meat is browned well, add in the starter and a cup of water:

Here we go!

Here we go! (Don’t get this jar mixed up with the Hatch Apple Filling, or your results will be very, very different.)

Yes, you need water or it's way too thick.

Yes, you need that cup of water or it’s way too thick.

Cook it for 20 minutes, and this is what happens:

White bean chili!

White bean chili!

By now, the Hatch Apple Dump Cake has come out of the oven, and has cooled.

Yum.

Yum. (No, I didn’t eat it out of the baking pan.)

The “cake” actually forms a bit of a crust, since it’s baked on top with the butter. More like a pie crust than a cake–but don’t kid yourself, this is REALLY worth the splurge, folks.

Now, with these two manly men on the patio working on a car and making lots of noise, I brought dinner out to them, fresh and hot, and we had dinner together:

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

Unfortunately, they didn’t get this point, and walked into the kitchen. . .I yelled, I mean, called, at them to come outside to the patio. Both were a bit surprised that I would bring dinner out *to* them, particularly the friend, who, apparently had not been briefed on my mannerisms and habits. I try to be polite and helpful, you see, and I thought it would be better to bring it out to them so they wouldn’t have to stop for too long. When car guys get together, they don’t like interruptions. They just want to do CAR STUFF. So I did what I could to make that happen and make clean up easy (hence the paper bowls.)

BF knew all about the Hatch chili thing because, well, I told him. More than once. However, his “car guy” friend got the lecture, and I joked with BF that he was going to go home and tell his missus all about it. Know what? He did–we got a call from him on the way back from Houston the next week, and I answered since BF was driving. I asked him if he’d told the missus, and he said, “Oh, yeah! I told her all about them, and how good it was.” See? Education is a great thing, and one more person in the world knows about the wonderful Hatch chiles.

Now, despite my love for Pinterest and new trends, I have apparently missed the phenomenon known as a “Dump Cake.” Well, I’m not baking cakes terribly often, unless it’s sugar-free and gluten-free, and they’re usually for me or a specific group of people (like the recent vegan stuff I made to bring to LK’s place in Clear Lake for district meetings.) But checking Pinterest just now, there are hundreds of “Dump Cake” recipes, in which you assemble a few ingredients–dump them into a pan–and bake them. There are even Dump Cake recipes that go into. . .a Crock Pot. No kidding. Wonder if there are any Paleo versions? I’ll be checking that for sure.

This article from Buzzfeed lists 15 “super-lazy” dump cakes that require nothing more than a bowl to mix them in and an oven or slow cooker to bake them. Two highlights are this Black Forest Dump Cake that makes me want some (but I know better, I gained a pound and a half!) and a gluten-free Blueberry Dump Cake from Nicole at Gluten Free on a Shoestring. And then there’s this very sweet one from Moms With CrockPots.

Diabetics–start your insulin!

Once again, the holidays are coming up quick, and it will soon be time to be firing up your slow cookers and waffle makers to keep it all going. Office parties, family get-togethers and all manner of other social events will show up quick. So, a “Dump Cake” can be one more arrow in your arsenal of recipes for the holidays or anytime you need something quick.

See? You learned something today. Well, I did, anyway.

Happy Eating!

 

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!