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CAKE
CAKE! (Gluten Free!)

Red Truck Bakery. . .let me tell you all about an incredible cake they make.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I’ve got a few minutes to tell you about a cake surprise I received recently from longtime friend of the blog AK. You may remember a few years ago that she sent me a Suzy Homemaker washing machine I found on eBay and posted on Facebook just for fun. I still have it, and it still works, but it’s still packed in a box right now until I get more bookshelves and have a place to put it. Well, she sent me something else.

But first. . . .

I’m still working on Upwork, and BOOKED UP. I’ve been making money, not a fortune, but able to buy groceries and take care of some stuff for us. It’s not a lot, but we’re not on just his paycheck anymore. I’ve had some technical problems too, which I hope to solve soon so I can get on with it. I haven’t bought any more glasses, but that will happen again soon, probably after the holidays. I hate having just one pair. . .but it’s temporary. I’m hoping to surprise BF with a nice little (inexpensive) present for Christmas, too.

The Royal Wedding!

By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Megan Markle. This was a big non-event to BF, but I have ordered a McCall’s pattern that is a very close copy to the white one she wore from Line The Label. (View D) The pattern happened to have been on sale that day, and I ordered a couple of other patterns while they were cheap. (I miss Hancock Fabrics!) You can’t even buy that coat now, because they’ve all been bought and the company’s website crashed that day.

BF asks, “How does this affect my life here in Louisiana?” I responded that it’s a positive event happening in the near future. He didn’t agree.

I also came up with a new fitness goal for us. We need to get in shape for the Royal Wedding! Now, I’ve been busy and haven’t been exercising, but I’m planning to change that this week. I thought it would be a great way to set a fitness goal for both of us. But the minute I said “Royal Wedding,” that went over like a lead balloon.

For the record, I am still The Duchess Of El Dorado. In case you were wondering. . . .

And, BTW, wedding cake in the UK and Australia is traditionally fruit cake, if you didn’t know that.

Not The Same Thanksgiving

We didn’t host this year, and although I ordered two jars of Sur La Table’s turkey brine, I was glad. After last year’s mixed-bag of likes and dislikes, I kind of felt like my time as the star turkey maker was over. BF’s daughter is expecting her second child, and her partner had to work that day, so it kind of fizzled out. We went to his father’s place up the road, where BF’s sister-in-law made ham, potato salad with green olives and something else, and some other stuff I didn’t try. No, not traditional, but I like ham and the occasional potato dish. Maybe next year.

Pesto!

This summer, much to BF’s chagrin, I made three batches of fresh pesto for the freezer. The basil was growing wild again, so I made some, along with a batch of Pea & Pesto Soup for myself. BF called me from work one day and I told him I was making some. His response: “Oh, I can hardly wait.” Smarty-pants.

I’ve got what I hope is a good supply for the winter. Y’all know I love Pea & Pesto Soup!

Our #StarbucksDate

If you read this on Facebook. . .my apologies.

Back in July, we had to head to Hammond for a couple of things, including a stop at the new Petco to get a “cone of shame” for the pit bull, who managed to injure himself and get caught in an fire ant pile. He looked like he’d been dog-fighting and lost, but that’s not really what happened. Poor puppy. We cleaned him up and applying some topical antibiotic stuff, but he kept scratching it. For three days he tried to pull the thing off, but BF’s ingenious use of zip-ties ensured that he couldn’t.

Petco is right there in the strip mall where Starbucks is. I also get the emails that let me know about goings on. For various reasons, BF is not a fan of Starbucks, but I am. So when I got the email announcing the free tea tasting that day, I made sure BF knew about it, and that we were going. Reluctantly, he agreed.

He Indulges Me

Starbucks was offering free 12-ounce (“Tall”) cups of their hand-shaken iced tea infusions, one per customer. I requested the peach-white tea infusion; BF, after some confusion, requested strawberry with green tea. I’m not a fan of the green tea, but he’s had it. They served us our tea, and I suggested to BF that he try a sip first, then add a packet of the stevia they have, since it dissolves instantly and completely. That’s what I did, and it worked perfectly. BF. . .not so much. He didn’t take my suggestion of the stevia, instead, opting for a half cup of white sugar. It didn’t help. I drank most of it, but the sugar sinks to the bottom and doesn’t dissolve. Not wild about the taste, either, but I think stevia would have been a better option. He probably would have liked the peach teabetter. Oh, well. At least he gave it a shot, and it was free.

BF has frequently told the story of being in Kuwait and seeing his fellow service members stand in line in 100F heat waiting to get a hot coffee at Starbucks. Baffled, he asked them, why? “It tastes like home,” they said.

Yes, Starbucks DOES support service members, veterans and their families. There’s a long-running rumor that’s still rolling around the world. I’ll say it again–I’m not always wild about what the company puts out, but they are still a good company and mean well. Starbucks has always been great to me, and they do support our US troops. Anyway. . . .

Brownies. . .

Sometimes fast food is brought into BF’s place of employment. Usually it’s pizza, fried chicken or something else of the same nature. Sometimes management pops for food, sometimes they pool money. Recently BF walked in after work with this box:

Red Truck Bakery

What’s this foolishness?

It seems some of the folks had been to the new local Pizza Hut, and bought these, anticipating the finest creation from a patisserie. BF took them after they told him these brownies were “a little too rich.” Well, they look normal:

Brownies. From Pizza Hut.

Yes, I tried a bit. (Cake-like texture.) Yes, they look like brownies. No, they don’t taste anything like brownies. They have no taste to them at all. Seriously. They taste like chocolate flavored rubbish.

Maybe it’s my age–I’m not 16 anymore. (My birthday was in October, nevermind how old I am!) Maybe it’s my tastes that have changed, or I know rubbish when I taste it. Or maybe. . .I dunno. BF ate them one at a time with his lunch, and they’re gone. Yuck.

Here’s my professional blogger/foodie advice: if you want pizza, go to Pizza Hut, your favorite Italian restaurant, buy a frozen one or make it yourself. If you want brownies, find a recipe or buy a mix and bake them yourself. Get a recipe from Pinterest and make waffle brownies. Stop at a bakery, coffee shop or even the grocery store. Or make some Yeast-Free Brownies with Swerve Sweetener. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t buy brownies in a pizza joint when you’re having a chocolate craving.

I mean, think about it. Would you ask your mechanic to decorate your house? Would you hire an interior decorator to tune up your car and change the CV joints? How about ask a dog trainer to babysit your cat? NO! So don’t buy brownies in a place where they specialize in pizza. Brownies from a pizza place are generally not what you’re looking for.

Speaking of brownies

I found the last picture of the lot from the einkorn article. Dunno what happened, but here it is:

Both were well received. But that’s a lotta brownies! (Duncan Hines on the left, Amy’s einkorn on the right.)

More Hatch Chiles

I’ve been busy with writing and everything else, and I just never got around to really cultivating the Hatch chiles. Darnit. You Texas readers appreciate the Hatch chiles. I was thrilled to find them in this area, and even happier to find out that a few people actually know what they are. (Buddhist friend JL knows all about them and gets it.)

BF’s BFF, Big H, was working in New Mexico this summer and has discovered Hatch chiles after I told him *all* about them. I warned him about the “red or green sauce” thing, and he found out I wasn’t kidding.  One day he sent me a picture:

Big H’s first outing with the beloved Hatch chiles.

Hot dawg! He tried it–and he liked it! Which is more than I can say for BF, who I believe is just the victim of way too many MRE’s in the Navy.  I only seek to educate, and in Big H’s case, he discovered that the mild green chile is a pretty good addition to a burger. BF, on the other hand, has taken to telling everyone, particularly *my* friends, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!” He’s still alive. If I was, he wouldn’t be!

The Red Truck Bakery Surprise

A few months ago, mid-summer,  I got a FB message from AK, a fellow copywriter asking for my home address. I gave it to her–I’ve known her in person for several years–and she said that I should expect a package on Thursday. Oh, BOY! But what was it? She wouldn’t tell me. She would only tell me that it was coming via UPS.

Well, Thursday came. It was raining and it was getting late. UPS runs late, especially at the holidays, so I knew it might be night before the brown truck arrived. And about 7:30 that night, it did. The UPS guy was even interested in what it was, because I told him my friend in Idaho was anxiously awaiting my text of receipt. (He knew when he saw “Red Truck Bakery” on the shipping label!) When I saw where it was from, I thought, “oh, I don’t normally do this kind of thing.”  But then I opened it up and discovered this cake:

CAKE! And yes, it was gluten free! AK knows me. Immediately, I sent a picture to BF at work.

And naturally, let her know immediately that I’d received her kind and generous gift.

Red Truck Bakery is a mail-order bakery in Virginia, and they ship nationwide. They even have a testimonial from former President Obama, who apparently loves pie. Hey–it’s like the royal crest, right? (Even if you didn’t like him–trust me, on this, the former POTUS has very good taste.)

AK has had a number of treats from Red Truck Bakery, including some gluten-free ones that she’s highly recommended.

I texted BF and let him know too, and what it was, and cracked open the box:

CAKE

The carefully wrapped cake

Now, I promise I’m not being ungrateful when I say this–but it doesn’t look like the picture on their website:

CAKE

That’s what it looks like when it leaves their bakery. Shipping does funny things to the appearance

It comes in Red Truck’s lovely and classic bakery box too:

CAKE

Classic presentation

However, when you cut into it, you really won’t care what it looks like. I carefully unwrapped it:

CAKE

It was all I could do *not* to cut into it until BF got home!

You smell the delicious aroma of almonds and amaretto when it’s opened. However, I didn’t cut into it, I simply put it in the fridge and waited for him to get home from work that night.

After we had dinner, I cut us each a slice.

CAKE

Oh, yes. Who needs frosting?

This almond cake has no flour and is called “gluten free,” but I’m telling you, serve it to just about any group and don’t say anything–they’ll never know. It’s not a “diet cake,” because there is sugar in it. A very, VERY delicious cake it is, and you definitely won’t miss any frosting. Great anytime, or with a cup of coffee or tea, this is the kind of cake you hope for when you buy one.

CAKE

With cappuccino. . .oh, yes, please.

Red Truck Bakery is in Marshall, Virginia, and they ship nationwide. This delicious Almond Cake With Amaretto would be just the thing for holiday gifts for friends far away, whether or not they’re gluten-free. Red Truck also offers a menu of other delicious baked goods AK assures me are just as delicious as this cake is. Whatever you decide to order, apparently, you won’t go wrong.

I can highly recommend this cake to send as a gift, or to order for your holiday table. It really is incredibly delicious.

A Congratulations

I talked to AK later and asked her what the occasion was. Well, I’ve been bragging on Facebook about the clients I’ve gotten, the work I’ve been doing and the fact that I’ve made a little money with it. (It impressed the heck out of BF.) She said the cake was a gift to celebrate my recent successes, and hopes for many more.

I wouldn’t say I was “crushing it,” but apparently folks think I have been. That’s good. I really am working and making a little money. Sometimes I have more than BF–but it doesn’t last long. <smirk>

He Likes It, Too

BF had one slice, and decided it was very good, too. After dinner, I made a cappuccino, poured him a glass of milk, and we had dessert. But he only had one slice. I asked him if he wanted another slice of cake, and he said, “Well, it’s delicious, but it’s really for you.” 

Awwww. . .I did finish it, eventually, one slice at a time.

Christmas Is Coming. . .

It’s coming whether you want it to or not, so think about Red Truck Bakery if you’re either stressed out, or would like to send a delicious gift to someone (including yourself.) This almond amaretto cake would be a perfect gift.

I’ll try to blog again soon–but if I don’t, please have a delicious and Merry Christmas this year.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BigLittleFudge
Finding Big Little Fudge

Big Little Fudge–if you’ve seen it and haven’t tried it, do you know what you’re missing?

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

More writing!

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!

Finally, finally, my beloved Griddler, aka, waffle maker, has a new drip tray. The part arrived last week, it’s been replaced and in place.

Finally!!!

I am SO happy, and yes, we’ve used it–for grilled pork chops, waffled burgers, and pizza waffles so far.

And there it is!

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.

All fixed now. Isn’t it beautiful?

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?

Remember when the “cake in a cup” went around email?

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.

Big Little Fudge

The folks from Big Little Fudge. The blonde lady is Robin Strickland, one of the co-owners.

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.

BigLittleFudge

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.

Big Little Fudge

Big Little Fudge!

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.

They’re Gluten Free, too!

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:

Me with Robb Walsh, the author of The Tex-Mex Cookbook, September 2011. (I wasn’t blonde; at the time, I was using a different kind of hair color that washed out quickly.)

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.

You can also see more articles on this Texas’ own company on the news part of their website. They also have some celebrity fans, most of whom I’ve never heard of, but what do I know?

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.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sampling Saturday: The Hatch & Pesto Weekend

Happy Monday, Dear Readers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t judge me. We were floored.

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

2016-08-09 12.39.30

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

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

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

The Chocolate Conspiracy Cake.

Oh, dear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Lei was serving up delicious Salmon Hatch burgers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Hatch chili breads.

Yes. Hatch chili breads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hatch empanadas. Oh, YEAH.

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

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

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

We also saw Hatch Chiles used to season chicken:

Hatch chicken!

Hatch chicken!

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

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

Hatch sausages and cheeses.

YUM.

And even cheese:

CHEESE!!!!!

CHEESE!!!!!

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

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

Packaged seasonings

Packaged seasonings

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

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

Just need a few things?

Just need a few things?

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

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

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

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

Perfect for Texans. BIG.

Perfect for Texans. BIG.

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

Looks like most peppers.

Looks like most peppers.

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

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Planting!!!

I cut them flat so that they would roast nicely.

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

See the skin turning white?

See the skin turning white?

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

Neat, huh?

Neat, huh?

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

The skins will start to separate n here

The skins will start to separate in here

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

Getting there.

Getting there.

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

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

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

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

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

I almost hated cutting this. Almost.

I almost felt guilty cutting this. Almost.

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

Hmmm. . .think that's enough basil?

Hmmm. . .think that’s enough basil?

I did pick the bad spots out of the leaves.

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

Delicious, magic, green pesto.

Delicious, magic, green pesto.

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

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

Happy Hatching!

Elena’s Cashew Bread

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:

 

Fresh Oregano!

Fresh Oregano!

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.

The setup.

The setup.

First up: grease your loaf pan (I think mine is 9″ x 5″ like the recipe suggests)

IMG_2953

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:
IMG_2949

Then you add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg):
IMG_2950

Then pulse it again. After the ACV, add in three-fourths of a teaspoon of baking soda:

IMG_2951

And a quarter teaspoon of Celtic sea salt:

I don't know why it has to be Celtic, but I have some, so I use it. I also have Maldon's sea salt flakes.

I don’t know why it has to be Celtic, but I have some, so I use it. I also have Maldon’s sea salt flakes.

Then just pour it into your greased loaf pan.

Pours really easy.

Pours really easy. Scrape all that batter out!

Put the pan in a 350F oven for 45 minutes:

IMG_2955

And this is what it looks like when it’s done:

Looks like regular bread, doesn't it?

Looks like regular bread, doesn’t it?

Let this cool for 2 hours before removing and slicing. Once you do, this is what you end up with:

Tah-Dah! Cashew Bread! (It even looks like Elena's.)

Tah-Dah! Cashew Bread! (It even looks like Elena’s.)

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.

Enjoy!

 

 

Meatballs at Starbucks!

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Well, I finally did it and tried out the new Starbucks Evenings Menu at a nearby Starbucks. (The one on my street isn’t yet up and running with it, so I went to the one across the street from Ellington Field.) What did I have? Meatballs!

Why meatballs? Heck, I don’t know, I had to think fast when I ordered. I had to first head to Jiffy Lube for a Texas state inspection. After that I was on my own.

Let me back up a little. . .first of all, I had a coupon. No kidding, a few weeks ago, after getting a coffee one morning, I was given a coupon to try one of their Evening menu items for $2.50. Then I lost it. I cleared out my purse, and found it. Hot dawg! Well, no, it was meatballs, so let me tell you about it.

Neighbor R also generously gave me another gift card recently. Coupled with the coupon, it was a nice treat.

I’ve mentioned the Evenings menu before, and you can see the menu here. Everything that’s currently being offered is shown, including the wine list. (You’ll have to enlarge it and wait for a few minutes, or download it and pull it up in Adobe Reader.) While I was there, a couple of other customers were also having something. When I was leaving, one gentleman had a glass of red wine with what looked like a small quiche (but I didn’t ask or take pictures.) The wine was served in a stemless glass with a small bowl of toasted pumpkin seeds in the top. The nut bowl served as a”cover” on the wineglass on the way to the table. Nice! I didn’t take that picture either. Maybe next time.

Now, they were nice enough to accept the coupon, so I wasn’t going to fuss when the barista served it to me in a to-go box. He just forgot I was eating in. (But had he remembered the plate, it was a little round white one that I’ve seen on the menu.)

IMG_2994[1]

He was really nice, apologized and offered to get me a plate. Nah–this was fine. However he did bring me a very nice stainless steel fork to enjoy them with. So what did I get in the little box?

IMG_2993[1]

Five meatballs. About the size of golf balls. In a tangy sauce that’s slightly on the side of barbecue but not entirely. (The little round white dish would have made a better picture, I know.) However. . . .

Understand that the Starbucks Evenings menu is not intended to be a full meal, like their Bistro Boxes or breakfast sandwiches. These are small plates of savory evening meals, similar to ordering an appetizer in your favorite restaurant. And, to be honest, I was not disappointed, either. They’re made with a mix of ground beef and Italian sausage, and not spicy hot.

The outside was a tiny bit dry, and takes a bit of force to stick the fork into, but not bad. Once you tear it open, it’s fine. And the fork was stainless steel, not plastic.

IMG_2998[1]

So why would you want small plates after 4:00 pm at a Starbucks? Well, lots of reasons–if you’re single, you just might be on a blind date. (When I was doing that, I was in town, and had them meet me at Central Market, including the GER. I had no idea how far south he lived.) Might it be the closest place for a date night when the kids are elsewhere? Now they have more options for people who don’t drink coffee at all, and think of Starbucks as “just coffee.”

If you’re in downtown Houston where I was a couple of years ago, you could duck down to one of the two or three Starbucks around for some food and work later until you’re ready to leave. Maybe you’re meeting friends or clients after work. You’re a little hungry, but not for a full meal. It’s an idea. But let’s turn it up a little.

Live in Texas? You might find yourself in a horrendous traffic jam on the freeway, and you see a bunch first responders rushing to the scene on the shoulder of the road. (That actually happened to me many when I headed to Beaumont one day for shopping; I was on I-10  so long I was doing yoga stretches on the freeway after 3 hours of being parked.)  You know what that means. Hop off at the next exit and wait it out at Starbucks with a small plate, some iced tea, your laptop, tablet and/or smartphone. (Make sure to call home and let someone know where you are.) You might listen to the radio or check the traffic before you leave your office and discover that you’re about to head into it. That alternate route is going to take longer than your normal route, and you’re hungry as it is. Or, as one of my friends experienced many years ago, you’re in the middle of a kitchen renovation, (or heaven help you, damage of some kind) and you can’t get in there to cook for a few days (or weeks.) There are any number of reasons to keep the Starbucks Evenings Menu in your back pocket for the day you might need it.

Or–I just thought of this–if you are single and of the ingenious variety, and didn’t feel like cooking that night, one order of these meatballs with some pasta you boil and drain at home might not be a bad thing. Just order them through the drive-through. It’s sort of “home cooked,” right? Your call.

Amy’s Note of Caution: since I don’t drink if I even think I have to drive. . .use your own discretion on trying wine or beer in Starbucks. I am not suggesting anyone drink and get behind the wheel of a car, but I know there are those who may be able to handle a single glass of wine with food and drive without a problem. Not everyone can. If you can walk home, that’s a good thing (but probably not alone.) I err on the side of caution and only drink at home, or where I will not have to drive or be with anyone who has been drinking. Just be safe, that’s all I’m asking.

Of course, if you’re not interested in the Evenings menu, but you just want some food, you can always ask if they have any breakfast sandwiches left from the morning. Yes, I’ve done it on occasion, particularly one with a croissant bun, and even later in the evening. Sometimes they have them, sometimes they don’t, but all they can do is tell you no, so ask.

It’s a bit unusual, to have a light dinner at Starbucks–but why not?

The nice barista who waited on me said that they have been selling quite a bit of the Evenings menu selections, but their biggest seller is, of course, coffee.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering what these delightful little things cost. (Mine was $2.50, but that was because I was lucky enough to have a coupon from a previous visit.)  Honest, the most expensive one I saw was $6.95, and I think that was what I had, and perhaps the Chicken, Sausage & Mushroom Flatbread. Others were $3.95 and up. A glass of wine or beer will set you back about the same, but if you add in a dessert like a muffin, cake or something else big, you may be looking at $15. Up to you. I do know that the Michigan Cherry Oat bar is about $2.50 here in Houston. (I saw it recently, and well, I like cherries, too.) But if you just have one of the small plate dishes and a cup of water, or maybe a smaller coffee, (not a big Venti Frappuccino with lots of sugary add-ins) you’ll be under $10, and you can call yourself a “cheap date.”

Remember that a plate of meatballs or a flatbread could be the thing that stands between you and starvation after work one day, too.

I did notice a new bistro box in the case while I was waiting in line: the Southwestern Style Steak Wrap. No kidding:

IMG_2992[1]

It’s considered a “lunch item,” but I found it after 6:00 pm. Interesting, no? (I put it on the table to get a better picture.) It does have wheat and soy, darnit.

I know, I know, I go on about Starbucks too much. I need to get a life, too. But with so many tasty things available, I feel the need to try as many as I can.

Then again, I remember that Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, would love to have a Starbucks on her street. . .but I don’t think they’re expanding into Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Yet. Ree laments about missing Starbucks at home on the ranch, but she and husband Ladd are restoring an old building in downtown Pawhuska. Hmm. I wonder if she’s going to get Starbucks to go there? Oh, that would be interesting! Ree would be blogging about that daily.

Starbucks is also a good company. They give back to their communities, their employees, and also to veterans. If you’ve heard the repeated urban legend that “Starbucks hates our troops,” click here to read how that got started and how they worked to right it.  Much like the old Proctor & Gamble rumor about the logo containing satanic images, urban legends like these take on a life of their own, especially now with social media. Starbucks is a socially conscious company that also works to do good in the world.

OK, enough of that. No, this is not a sponsored post. I wish!

Just checked my email, and there’s yet another offer for bonus stars for cardholders who buy a Carmelized Honey Latte from March 29th through April 4th. Um, pass. . .that sounds too much like the exalted Pumpkin Spice Latte. No, I’d do it if it were my favorite Molten Chocolate Latte (description here) but that’s gone away for a while. May have to learn to make it myself one day. . .but I’ll pass on the new one, especially since my Starbucks has a sticker on the outdoor menu saying that they’re “sold out” of the Honey Latte.

But if you’re a Starbucks fan, and you’re bored or something, head to a Starbucks that serves the Evenings Menu and give it a try. You might find a new favorite.

Happy Dining!

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