Big Little Fudge–if you’ve seen it and haven’t tried it, do you know what you’re missing?
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Remember when I told you I was also doing work on Upwork? Well, I’ve been published–with a byline! Off The Grid News has published two of my articles! There is another in the pipeline, and I’m thinking about the next natural health topic to suggest to them. There’s a whole section of natural medicine on this website, where my articles are located. Look at this–tea tree oil! I didn’t write that one, but I just bought some for BF’s icky toenail fungus. He says the oil “stinks,” and says he’s “just humoring me.” (I’m using it straight.) He refers to his socks and shoes as a “containment field.” Wait til the stuff actually works. . . .
The Griddler is fixed!
I am SO happy, and yes, we’ve used it–for grilled pork chops, waffled burgers, and pizza waffles so far.
I couldn’t resist, it was just there, and I could cook those pork chops on the counter top and not worry about dripping grease anywhere. Waffled burgers just happened because the waffle plates were on the machine already.
It’s so quick and easy! We have ready-made crusts, pizza sauce and grated mozzarella cheese at the ready in the freezer. BF knows how much I enjoy using this appliance. He just smiles when I mention using it.
How about some foodie news?
To bounce off two previous posts, it seems that Libby’s canned veg will now be marked as BPA-free. Good move by Seneca Foods. We definitely need to know these things when we’re choosing canned goods.
Mug cakes go corporate
Someone at Pinnacle Foods, a/k/a, The Company That Owns Duncan Hines, has been paying attention to Pinterest. You can now buy your “cake in a cup” experience in a boxed mix. Seriously. They’re now making “cake in a cup mixes.” Isn’t the whole “cake in a cup” thing so that you don’t have to buy a box of cake mix?
No kidding. I just found this in Walmart the other night. So if you’re too lazy to mix two tablespoons of flour and sugar, an egg and some oil, here you go. Just remember that you’re still going to be mixing this mix in a cup. Anyone get that irony?
Ho, ho, ho!
The Green Giant brand has been bought by B&G Foods, and they’ve got some new things coming, including new Ortega products! They also sell some food products in Sur La Table stores and on their website.
Blue Bell’s new idea
Finally, Texas’ own Blue Bell now has an ice cream flavor to answer the conundrum of, “should I have a cone or put it in a bowl?” The new Ice Cream Cone flavor solves that problem for you. The cone is IN the ice cream, so you can have it whether or not you have a cone handy.
I kid you not.
More Texas sweetness
I had a little bit of home just recently when BF took us out for a little “date night.” About a month ago, we went to. . .Cracker Barrel in Hammond. If you’ve never been in one of these “country-style” themed restaurants, it’s quite nice with home-style food (think meat, potatoes, fried okra and gravy like your grandmother made), and salads. There’s even a fireplace in the dining area, which I appreciate, but they didn’t light it when we were there. He loves Cracker Barrel, and honestly, I can’t complain, either. There is also a “general store” attached where you can buy some nice things, a little bit like Buc-ee’s. As we were checking out, I noticed something on the counter. There are lots of things on the counter, but this one caught my attention. Oh, my GAWD. A little bit of Texas, here in rural Louisiana.
Big Little Fudge.
Back in 2011, I was lucky enough to attend the Houston Metro Cooking & Entertainment Show, and went with the Boeing Teammates Association, so it was a bus trip. No parking issues! Basically, it’s a trade show for food vendors and open to the public, primarily from Texas, but some from other places, too. Grass-fed beef. Premium olive oils. Himalayan Pink Salt. Gourmet vinegars that taste like wine. Community Coffee (no kidding!) and delicious coffees from everywhere–no Starbucks here. And of course, sweet stuff–artisan chocolate, especially. I told the folks on the bus driving home that most of what I ate was olive oil, garlic and chocolate. I wasn’t yet blogging, but if I were, you would have heard all about it here.
A quick search doesn’t show any evidence of a food show in Houston since 2013, so they may not be held anymore. I’ll have to start looking for “food shows” in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. You never know what you’ll be sampling, and you meet all kinds of people. Like any trade show, you go home with bags of cool stuff–but some cool stuff you get to eat. Wear comfortable walking shoes.
Wait–I’m a blogger now. Wonder if I can get a press pass for one?
Yes, Texas has great desserts too
One of those vendors was a company called Big Little Fudge, and they were giving out samples! Well, they gave me some of their delicious fudge to try, and I bought a couple of them too.
This deliciousness has been around since October of 2010, started by two longtime business partners, Robin Strickland and Kevin Graham, who had just sold their *other* business, and decided to launch a business making. . .fudge, in 2009. Naturally, you bring something chocolate to a food show, and people show up. There they were. Nice people, and they make a smooth, creamy fudge that you won’t soon forget. I know I never did.
Sweet, but not overly sweet
This is the one called Heavyweight Champ, which has dried cranberries in it. I haven’t seen it since, but you can order it from their website.
I’ve bought it a time or two since that date night in Hammond, but I have to be careful or I’ll be a BIG blogger!
Big Texas flavor in a little square
These pack a lot of flavor in a little chunk. I GASPED when I saw it in Cracker Barrel, and even BF was a bit concerned.
The blue one, Chocalot, was the first one, and Big Wally was the second one. I think those were the only two they had. One lady standing behind me wanted to know what the big deal was, and I told her–delicious fudge from Montgomery, Texas, here in Louisiana! I also mentioned that I’d met the owners at the Food Show in 2011. . .she wasn’t impressed by that, nor the fact that it’s gluten-free.
She responded that someplace around Hammond also had very good fudge, but she wasn’t sure if it was gluten free. I have no idea what place she was talking about.
Turns out that these two were part of a promotion in November to benefit the G.O.V.E.T.S. Foundation, and sold in Cracker Barrel nationwide. This is a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of our military veterans with things like job assistance. (Surprisingly, it didn’t register on BF’s radar for this sort of thing.) I’m guessing the Hammond store just had some left, and I was lucky enough to find them.
The rest of the story
You see all my pictures from that day at this external link–it’s on Facebook, but you don’t need to sign in or have an account. I’m only in one of them, when I took a picture with a man whose cookbook I bought and had autographed:
I looked pretty good in that picture. That shirt was way too big. . .soon, one day, it will be again.
Big Little Fudge, anytime
A little something sweet right now, party favors, holiday stocking stuffers, or corporate gifts for clients, or fundraiser sweets, Big Little Fudge has you covered. Just hop onto their website and take a look around. They also have a map function for you to find out where you can find these delicious morsels in your area. They’re available in some Sam’s Club locations, too. In my neck of the woods, the closest places showing are in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but of course, online ordering makes nearly *anything* available.
This is Prize-Winning Fudge
Big Little Fudge was chosen as the 2016 Buyer’s Choice winner for “Best New Chocolate” at ECRM’s (Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing) annual Candy Planning: Everyday & Summer Seasonal event held in New Orleans, August 28-31, 2016. Um, yeah! (Source: company press release.)
For a little treat for yourself, or for someone else, Big Little Fudge may be just what you need. Look on their website to find out where they’re sold in your area to satisfy your immediate chocolate craving. Need more? They ship anywhere, and made right in lovely Montgomery, Texas. I’ve been up there, although not to their factory. (Now, I wish I had.) This fudge is definitely worth seeking out, whether a single wrapped piece for yourself or buying a batch for corporate gifts or special occasions like parties and weddings.
Serve these babies at a wedding and your guests will ignore the wedding cake, OK? At least until they’re all gone.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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 not only had store-baked French bread, she had Hatch Corn Bread and some Hatch Sliced bread too, which you must taste to believe:
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:
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:
Delicious, and they’re available in the meat case right behind him:
We also saw Hatch Chiles used to season 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):
And even 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:
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:
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:
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:
Check out how many seeds I saved from those three Hatch peppers:
I cut them flat so that they would roast nicely.
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:
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:
Let them cool completely in an enclosed dish, or plastic bag (I put my paws on this first.)
Once they cool off and the skin starts to sweat, they look like this:
Then you just slip the cooled flesh from the skin by hand.
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:
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:
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.
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.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Do you eat bananas? I used to, until I discovered they have a high starch/sugar content. Don’t get me wrong, bananas taste delicious, but. . .it’s like eating sugar out of the sugar bowl. Same with white potatoes–too starchy for me. But if you’re a banana fan, here’s an interesting article about how the banana became an American grocery staple in about 100 years.
My grandmother used to tell me to take the “seed” out of the bottom of the banana when I peeled it. I’m not sure that’s a seed, since the plants reproduce asexually–on their own, no pollination required. Every banana sold in the world is a clone, but I’d still take the bottom part off if I were eating them. Read it and give it some thought.
Soon I’ll be posting an update on the HeatCageKitchen garden. This year I’m trying for tomatoes–again–as well as strawberries, basil and hoping for more bell peppers. Heck, peppers of all kinds. Soon as I get the weeding done, which requires several dry days and my favorite cheap & easy DIY non-toxic weed killer. And a lot of time to move the buckets around so I can spray the whole plot.
I went out this morning, and I have two bell peppers that are getting bigger but also changing color. There are spots on each that look to be turning dark purple, and I’m not sure why. I hope it’s just a genetic anomaly and not some disgusting disease or an annoying creature that’s ruining them. Fingers crossed, and I’ll likely have to buy another bell pepper plant anyway. But the Anaheim chili plant is starting to develop more leaves and lots of flowers. That means peppers are coming. They will take a while to get big enough to pick, but when they do, it’s OrangeOnionSalsa (probably using grapefruits) for me.
The Meyer Lemon tree has seven viable buds on it, one of which has gotten a little bigger, and I’m hoping they all stay, and maybe more develop. The Key Lime tree has plenty of little buds, too. And the green onions, which are growing quite well, are developing buds on the tops of some of the blades. What the heck? I’ll take some pictures.
This week AC came for dinner again, and since I’ve been thinking about other things, I was caught a bit short. Last week, Neighbor R gave me an oregano plant with lots of leaves on it, and soon I’ll plant it in a bigger pot, maybe with the basil:
But I wanted to trim it and use the excess, so I headed over to Pinterest and did some searching. One recipe kept coming up: chimichurri sauce. Generally used on steak, I grilled some chicken breasts and it was magnificent on top of them. So that’s going to be an upcoming post. Of course I didn’t take pictures, but I’ll do what I can.
In addition to salad, I also decided to make her a taste-tester and made something I found on Facebook by Elena Amsterdam. I frequently look at Elena’s recipes on Facebook, and save the link on the ones that look interesting. Well, when I looked at this one, it had five ingredients–and I had them all in the pantry. I bought cashew butter by mistake one day, and it’s been there for a while. This recipe is really easy, bakes up in 45 minutes, and comes out of the oven smooth and light. No sugar, flour or dairy, either.
Let me show you how simple this is to make.
First up: grease your loaf pan (I think mine is 9″ x 5″ like the recipe suggests)
Set that aside, and start making the bread.
You need one cup of cashew butter, which is widely available in most grocery stores. I thought I was buying almond butter that day, DUH, but I’m glad I had it now. (I’d already measured it out before I realized I was supposed to take a picture. Another DUH.) So you add that one cup of cashew butter and five eggs into the food processor and pulse it until it’s mixed well:
Then you add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg):
Then pulse it again. After the ACV, add in three-fourths of a teaspoon of baking soda:
And a quarter teaspoon of Celtic sea salt:
Then just pour it into your greased loaf pan.
Put the pan in a 350F oven for 45 minutes:
And this is what it looks like when it’s done:
Let this cool for 2 hours before removing and slicing. Once you do, this is what you end up with:
To store, wrap it in a paper towel, then seal it in a bag, and store it in the fridge for one week.
I didn’t know what to expect when I tried it, but I’m guessing anything Elena Amsterdam makes is going to be good, if you follow the directions like she tells you. This time, I did.
By now you’re asking yourself, “That’s nice, Amy, but what does it *taste* like?” Verdict: pretty good, quite delicious, with a light texture that toasts up well. Even AC said it tasted like bread. “Major thumbs up,” AC says. Not real salty, just enough to be enjoyable. Honestly, it tastes like BREAD, although not *exactly* like wheat bread. It’s not sweet (obviously, since no sweetener is involved), but it’s light like white bread, and tastes like. . .bread. No kidding. I toasted it up and made a meatloaf sandwich with it, too. Oh, YEAH. More cashew butter on the grocery list.
Neighbor R said that it was good, “but I’ll never get used to this gluten free food!” Neighbor E said that it “the texture is good, but it tastes like bread if you took the sugar out.” I’ll agree with that assessment. Again, it doesn’t taste exactly like regular wheat bread will, but if you can’t have regular breads, maybe you’ll enjoy having Cashew Bread. It tastes a lot better than some of the “gluten-free bread” you can buy in the grocery store.
In my local Kroger, cashew butter is found in the natural food section, and that jar ran about $6, if I remember correctly. I can’t find it on the app in my local HEB, but they may have a setup to grind cashews fresh like they do peanuts and almonds in their Healthy Living section. I haven’t checked that yet. However, I did see where Jif now has a cashew butter. . .much like peanut butter, always, always, read that label, especially if you or someone in your household might be allergic to something in it.
This recipe is also Paleo, which is kind of a second cousin to low-carb. I have a very basic understanding of Paleo, which is to eat food that would have been regularly eaten by Paleolithic Man. Yes, “cave man.” Since cave men didn’t have formal agriculture, and things like dairy products and grains, bread, cheese, and other modern conveniences–even low-carb or gluten-free–are out of the picture. Remember that breakfast casserole I made a couple of months ago, which included a shredded sweet potato? That’s a Paleo recipe (but not one of Elena’s.) I know, cave men didn’t have Crock Pots either, but it’s the principle of Paleo, even if it’s far removed from the practice of hunting and gathering. We just roll with it.
Unless I’m wrong, there’s not gluten in cashews or cashew butter, so it’s also going to be gluten free (read the label in case there are thickeners or additives.) The only persons who should avoid cashew bread are. . .people who either don’t like cashews or are allergic to them.
If cashews don’t agree with you, then, yes, you’ll have to leave this one alone. You have my sympathies. I love cashews.
Would almond butter work? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it would. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have some in the fridge, so I just might one day. For now, I’m enjoying the cashew bread. I have some cashew meal in the fridge I bought at Trader Joe’s a while back. I might try using the food processor to turn that into cashew butter later. Can’t hurt. I’ve done it with hazelnut flour before.
No, I don’t think I’m going to try making waffles with this. . .or will I? Let me think on that one. For now, a loaf of bread in the toaster oven makes me pretty happy.
This recipe can be found here on Elena’s blog, and a printable copy is on the Recipes page (scroll all the way down.) There are a number of comments, and a lot of good information in them. Do read them if you’re interested in baking this bread for yourself.
One of these days I’m going to get Elena’s cookbooks and start using them. Especially the cupcake book. Yum.
If you’re missing bread, this might be your ticket It’s easy, delicious, no letting the yeast rise or lots of ingredients. You put them in the food processor and pulse, pour it and bake. Doesn’t get any easier than that.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
It’s already March. Nearly the end of the first quarter. How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Or have you forgotten them already? (Most people have, so if that’s you, you’re not alone.)
I’m sorry I’m late–I had mucho trouble getting the pictures uploaded into the site! Thank heavens for Dropbox.
I took a ride back into my fabulous new HEB to do some research for this story, but I couldn’t resist taking a few extra pictures. On the patio, I was greeted with this lovely setting:
Those wooden square things stacked up by the wall with the Texas star on them are actually coolers. No kidding. No, of course I didn’t buy any–yet. But I did take a picture of it for future reference. HEB has a number of those wooden Texas-star adorned pieces, and they’re just fantastic.
For dessert, these lovely cakes are available in the bakery. No, I didn’t sample or buy one, but aren’t these absolutely gorgeous?
When I see a cake like that, especially a wedding cake, I wonder why anyone would need a special occasion to enjoy a cake like that. But they’re not gluten-free, so I keep walking.
Walking over to the fish and meat area, I had a conversation with the guys behind the fish counter. Huge Dungeness crabs and east-coast lobster snap and swirl dangerously in tanks behind the counter, and lovely presentations like this in the case abound:
If you’re a coffee fan, you’ll be enthralled with the coffees available:
Want your regular brand? Here you go:
I also found this curious item:
I checked the ingredients and found out:
Um, what? How does adding sugar, soy and other chemicals make it “better than peanut butter?” This is why I stress reading labels. Just give me plain old peanut butter, with just peanuts, preferably unsalted and chunky, thanks very much.
I have a couple of posts in the draft file, and I hope to get a new recipe tested soon. But in the meantime, I have something more important to talk about.
I called Neighbor E the other night, to ask if he wanted to go with me to HEB. No, and he was just finishing up. . .a bag of microwave popcorn. Eeewwwwww!!!
If you haven’t had popcorn in a while, well, there’s a lot more to it than there used to be. You can still buy those Jiffy Pop pans to put on the stove and watch the foil expand–if you’re old enough to remember that.
You can pop popcorn in a big heavy pot, a little oil, with salt and butter when it’s done. But you’re probably more familiar with microwave popcorn, because these days that’s what everyone does, right? You can buy single bags in office vending machines all over the US, and you always know when someone in the office “just wanted some.” And I know a couple of folks who thinks buying it in a big tin can is the best way to have popcorn, or from the microwave.
But I’m here to tell you to ditch the chemical-infused microwave popcorn. I’ll tell you more about that shortly.
We’ve been eating popcorn in the US since the 1820’s. It comes from a variety of corn that produces hard kernels that can’t be eaten fresh (unless cracked teeth is your thing.) Heating the kernel, and the water inside–either in a pot on a stove or in a microwave–causes the water to steam and the corn to turn inside out in a flash.
Food writer Tori Avey, in this article on the PBS website, explains where it comes from:
The popcorn variety of maize was domesticated by Pre-Columbian indigenous peoples by 5000 B.C.E. It is a small and harder form of flint corn, most commonly found in white or yellow kernels. The stalks produce several ears at a time, though they are smaller and yield less corn than other maize varieties. The “pop” is not limited exclusively to this type of maize, but the flake of other types is smaller by comparison. Popcorn likely arrived in the American Southwest over 2500 years ago, but was not found growing east of the Mississippi until the early 1800s due to botanical and environmental factors. Today the Midwest is famous for its “Corn Belt,” but prior to the introduction of the steel plow during the 19th century, soil conditions in that region were not suitable for growing corn.
She also explains that although most corn in the US is genetically modified, popcorn isn’t. That’s a little good news. Popcorn became a favorite when it was introduced into movie theaters, and, well, it’s just *there* now, isn’t it?
I quit eating popcorn many years ago because of the high carb content, but a couple of years ago, I just had a craving for it, darnit. I walked up to folks and asked, “Have you ever tasted. . .popcorn?” I’m not eating it daily, but I do have it sometimes after exercising with the kettle bell and I’m watching something on TV, or in the afternoon when I’m in the mood for it. Sometimes.
If I’ve given you the idea that popcorn is something you need in your life, let me show you what I found at the lovely new HEB the other night:
Look carefully at the bags of popcorn in the center of the bottom shelf:
Yes, that’s the way we used to buy popcorn, and pop it on the stove in a big pot. Let me point out that the bag on the right, that sells for $2.66, is a four-pound bag. No kidding. FOUR POUNDS. If you pop half a cup at a time, how long will that bag last in your pantry?
But most Americans unthinkingly go for the expensive “convenience” of microwave popcorn. Take a look at what’s actually in one of those bags:
Yes, it’s “gluten free,” but what’s TBHQ? Read what FoodBabe has to say about it in this article:
TBHQ that is found in Smart Balance, stands for “Tertiary Butylhydroquinone.” It’s a dead giveaway that you shouldn’t be eating this, if food companies have to use an acronym for a long chemical name on the ingredient label.
TBHQ is a chemical made from butane (a very toxic gas) and can only be used at a rate of 0.02 percent of the total oil in a product. Why is there a limit to this? Maybe because eating only 1 gram of this toxic preservative has been shown to cause all sorts of issues, from ADHD in children, to asthma, allergies and dermatitis to dizziness and even has caused stomach cancer in laboratory animals.
Here’s a Smart Balance box–she’s not kidding.
Admittedly, there are *less* chemicals, and annatto is a natural coloring agent, but still. . .there’s one chemical you don’t need. And even if it wasn’t there, for $1.99, you could have more popcorn than that.
This, I believe, is the Central Market’s organic brand, which looks a little healthier than the rest. You can see more of the chemical breakdown that’s in most microwave popcorn in this infographic from the article on FoodBabe.com:
Still want that stuff? Seriously. . . .
Now, I’ll tell you the best reason to abandon microwave popcorn in an office setting. It’s dangerous. Don’t believe me?
There were several instances during my stint at Boeing where we were evacuated from the building because the fire alarm went off. Heat of summer, cold of winter, daytime or after dark (I tended to stay in the office after 5 pm sometimes.) During the day there could be more than 2,000 people in the building, and we all had to go out to the back garden with the duck community, making the poor creatures wonder what was going on and why we weren’t handing out snacks to them. We sat and waited whilst the Pasadena Fire Department went through EVERY floor (in full gear) and checked every inch of the place. I should point out that the building is a quarter-mile long, and six stories high. This took a while, causing work stoppage.
And what was the cause of these incidents? On several occasions, it was. . .microwave popcorn, that was either forgotten, over-popped, or someone just set the timer too long, causing it to smoke. Not everyone follows the directions exactly. I didn’t hear about any fires caused, but the smoke from microwave popcorn incorrectly popped set off fire alarms and the whole evacuation thing.
NOW do you see why? Work stoppages cost the company money, and waste the time of firefighters called to deal with it. It’s a pain in the butt. And it just stinks up the place, too.
Vani (the lady behind FoodBabe) also gives a recipe for a “superfood popcorn.” I haven’t tried it, but I did find the red palm oil she talks about:
Vani also talks about using organic popcorn. I did find some, but since popcorn is NOT GMO, it might be fine using regular. But if you want “organic,” it’s available:
HEB also has it in their bulk section. Check your local grocery if they have bulk items, and you may be able to find it:
Whatever you do, put real butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or whatever on your popcorn. Don’t use this and ruin it:
To me, this is like putting Cool Whip on the fresh berries of spring. Why?
A pound of REAL butter costs less than that bottle in HEB. Why would anyone put that on popcorn? Yuck. Can’t have dairy? Use olive or coconut oil. Not this drek.
Anyway. . . .
You can also buy popcorn already popped, in bags just like potato chips.
Several brands are available, including HEB’s own Central Market Brand:
Convenient, but certainly not cheap. However, BOOMCHICKAPOP brand is made with all-natural ingredients, and they’re very open about that. I haven’t tried any of these; I just prefer to make it at home.
Here’s an article from Austin Women’s Magazine about. . .popcorn.
Now you’re thinking to yourself, “Okay, Amy, you’ve ruined my microwave popcorn. Now what do I do?”
Well, you re-learn popcorn.
I’ll be the first to admit that the microwave, derided by many as a bad thing, is a spot-on convenience that’s hard to beat. I do, in fact, have one–I’ve had to replace mine twice in the last year; the last one, a Rival, got a demonic possession or something and started acting funny. I now have that huge 900-watt red West Bend one that’s too big for my kitchen. (Long story.) Vani, as well as Dr. Mercola, advise getting rid of microwaves completely; I’m not on board with that yet, but might be in the future.
I have indeed discovered how to make microwave popcorn without the expensive, chemical-laden bags. I have heard of people making it with brown paper bags, but then you’d have to buy the bags. What if you’re out of them? Use a bowl!
I took Jillee’s advice from One Good Thing By Jillee and tried it myself. The first time I made it, I used a flat-bottomed casserole dish with a cover. No. It has to be a bowl (microwave-safe, of course.) You can use oil, but I’ve tried this several times and it doesn’t require oil (although I just made some with a teaspoon of coconut oil in the bowl, and it works well.) Put about a quarter to a third cup of popcorn kernels in the bottom:
And cover it with a microwave-safe plate:
You’ll have to play with the timing a bit–in my 900-watt microwave, 5 minutes was about it:
When it’s done, the bowl and plate will be VERY HOT.
Use potholders and caution when you remove it from the microwave. If you want butter, melt it now, in a smaller container in the microwave. (You can also do it ahead of time.) To prevent the butter from popping while melting, use a lower power, like 40%, and start at a minute. If it’s not melted, go another 30 seconds at 40% power. You don’t need to melt it all the way; if there’s a little bit left, swirl it around a bit in the bowl and let the warm part melt the rest of it.
If you’re more a stove-top popcorn person, here’s how simple it is: get a heavy-bottomed pot (like a wide chili pot, about 5 quarts or so) and put a couple tablespoons of coconut or olive oil in the pan, heat it on high. Add in up to a half-cup of popcorn, and put the lid on. If you want melted butter, microwave it now and get out your serving bowl. And do NOT go anywhere else! Soon, you’ll hear popping from the pot, and you’ll need to keep an ear close by. When it slows down, and you’re not hearing a lot of active popping, it’s time to turn off the heat and get that popcorn into the bowl–carefully! Pour your butter, salt, or whatever else you want on it, and enjoy.
And here’s a kitchen tip I figured out recently, for whatever kind of popcorn you make. Add your oil/butter and salt, or other seasonings, and stir it with. . .your salad tossing tools.
Why did we never think of this before?
If you find some “old maids” in the bowl, you can just put them back in the microwave for one more go-round. Many will pop, some will not. But this only works once. Keep an eye on it to make sure you don’t open your microwave door to flames.
But if you do, I want to hear about it!
I tried re-cooking the old maids with microwave popcorn with a friend of mine at the SGI Community Center in New Orleans. No fire, but it was a mess. She passed away a year later and kept that secret. What happens in the kitchen. . .stays in the kitchen, right, Regina?
I used to have one of those countertop air poppers, and should not have given it to the Salvation Army. I have bought three of them from both Wal-Mart and Target and returned them. Why? The plastic top melted, stunk up my kitchen and made the popcorn taste nasty. However, I have found the best popcorn popper yet:
I got it last year on eBay, and while I have tested it, and it works, I haven’t made popcorn IN it yet. The instructions tell you to put a flat plate out, but I could just elevate it and open the spout over a bowl. I’ve taken it apart and carefully cleaned it, so I could make popcorn in it if I wanted to. This lovely toy works with a heating element in the base under that cone assembly. It heats the kernels much like a pot would do. It’s 50 years old, and it works better than three different modern air-poppers I tried.
Sur la Table has a selection of popcorn tools and accessories, including this bigger (and pricier) Waring popcorn maker with a “melting station.” It makes 20 cups of popcorn, more than I need, and melts butter at the same time. Popcorn spices are also available, as well as the infamous Nordic Ware bowl and a couple of other silicone accessories that Amazon has. They’re not available in my local Sur la Table, so it’s on my Amazon wish list. There is an air popper from Cuisinart, and a couple of movie-theater-style machines adapted for home use.
Did you think there was this much available for popcorn? Me either.
Now, what if you’re at work and wants some popcorn, but don’t have anything but a microwave? I’ve got you covered there, too.
First thing you want to know is to get something made of SILICONE. I made the mistake, before I found Jillee’s blog post, of buying a Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper. (It was Target, so it was red.) Used it once, worked great, washed it and returned it. My popcorn was ruined by a nasty chemical taste imparted in the bowl. No thanks. However, the silicone models, from what I’ve read, don’t do that. (I can’t seem to find one locally, so I’ll order one or two in the future.)
There are a number of different types of popcorn poppers for the microwave, including many made of glass–but if you’ve got glass mixing bowls at home, well, try that first. From silicone, though, you can get this 10-cup popcorn maker for under $20, and like the glass bowl method, doesn’t need oil. If you’re in an office of folks who like popcorn, you can be their new BFF (“best friend forever”) and make popcorn for the folks.
But if you’re not, and just want to make some for yourself, there are also several options available in silicone. One I found is made completely of silicone, but I don’t know how much it actually makes. I thought this small popper cup was a good item, but discovered that it is only partly silicone and contains plastic. This one is all silicone and makes a quart. I guess it would be a matter of figuring out how much popcorn you want at a time and popping less than a quart. It’s a little pricey, but it should last forever, if not until you retire. My advice would be to try it out at home before you take it to work. Then you can have popcorn all you want, no fire department involved.
There’s always the brown-paper-bag method although I’m a bit leery of it. Just make sure you know exactly how it works before you bring that to work, OK? The whole point is *not* to call the local fire department!
Soon I plan to do a review on Giada de Laurentiis’ new book, Happy Cooking. However, I’ll give you this recipe (on page 43) that I have tried and absolutely LOVE to make. It uses parsley, which I have growing on my back patio. While it’s thoroughly delicious, if you are caught short without fresh parsley, dried parsley will work too, although not quite the same as the fresh parsley.
You pop the popcorn first, then follow the directions. I prefer the stovetop method with the oil and half a cup of kernels, but microwaving the kernels will work too.
Warm & Spicy Popcorn
Serves 4. (Gluten free, vegetarian and vegan)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I just use a little dash, less than a quarter of this amount)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 7 cups popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup of kernels)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, stir together the cumin, parsley, coriander, cayenne and salt. Put the popped popcorn in a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss thoroughly to distribute. Sprinkle with the spice blend and toss again to coat the popcorn with the seasonings.
So there you have it–a long story about something most people don’t think about too much.