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HEB: The New Clear Lake Marketplace

Hello again, Dear Readers:

Welcome to the first new post on my new website! I got most of the pieces put back together, and will finish the Recipes page soon. Do you like the new Food & Drink theme? (I hope so–the old one isn’t available anymore.) I think it works like the old site, but if it doesn’t, do get in touch at heatcagekitchen@gmail.com.  Ditto if there are any topics you’d like me to cover here, or you can’t find.

Now. . .on with it.

I hope your Valentine’s Day went well and you enjoyed yourself, whatever that meant to you. Me, I really did take myself out for a #StarbucksDate, at the Starbucks on my street:

My fabulous, delicious Molten Chocolate Latte on Valentine's Day. #StarbucksDate

My fabulous, delicious Molten Chocolate Latte on Valentine’s Day. #StarbucksDate

Now, let me remind you that I know how to get free coffee from Starbucks. . .here’s how I did it: I purchased a Venti (“large”)  Molten Chocolate Latte, as planned, and enjoyed every hot, chocolaty sip. (This was the expensive cup, about $5. But wait, there’s more.) Then asked for a refill with plain brewed decaf. Then, as with the first one, I used the Starbucks App to pay for it. And my Venti rang up $0.00. Five times. No kidding. I really did drink that much decaf coffee on a Sunday afternoon, reading two books.

It was a nice day, and there were a few couples that came in for a #Starbucks date. They even had props so you could take pics and show that you were actually in Starbucks:

Just what you need to make your #StarbucksDate complete for social media!

Just what you need to make your #StarbucksDate complete for social media!

I only saw one couple actually use the frame to take a picture. But it was nice. And I sure do wish that Molten Chocolate Latte would come back for good. You can have the rest of them, including that new butterscotch stuff. (I don’t like butterscotch either.)

Oh, and the Starbucks on my street will soon be serving the Evenings Menu. Still haven’t tried it, don’t know when I will. Never think about going there for dinner, you know? But that place is still busy nearly all the time.

And I think that’s where I got my lovely bronchitis–I started needing naps the next day, had sugar cravings and nearly every day last week, except one–the day Neighbor E and I went shopping at the new HEB. (I was standing up and walking a lot, so it kept me awake.) Let me tell you all about this place!

I probably have mentioned this on the blog before, but I’ll mention it again. My Grandmother O’Donnell used to take me grocery shopping when I was a little bitty kitty. We would head to Schweggmann’s early on Saturday morning and. . .shop for groceries. No kidding. To a pre-teen girl in those days, it was great fun–because my mother did not want to take *anyone* grocery shopping. (It was likely her only “alone” time.) Maw Maw taught me grocery shopping at an early age, and, unlike many folks, I’ve enjoyed it ever since. Now do you understand my affinity for Suzy Homemaker toys?

Nestled at the end of El Dorado Blvd, where it meets Clear Lake City Boulevard, it’s on a huge expanse of land, which will include more shops in the future, and a petrol station (it’s not finished yet.)

Longer view of the store from one side.

Longer view of the store from one side.

The store itself is now open, with more and more of what HEB has.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take enough pictures.

Something E noticed that I didn’t at first, was the addition of a false front wall, complete with sliding entrance doors:

The first set of entrance doors

The first set of entrance doors

Looks normal until you realize that it’s just a front, with sliding electric doors and everything:

Why a false wall? (You can see the little plants in the background on the left.)

We’re still scratching our heads at this one. But that’s OK.

Once inside, we were treated to a coupon for a $25 gift card for bringing a new prescription to the pharmacy, or transferring one. (This came in handy when I was sick last week, and I haven’t used the gift card yet.) We went in on the pharmacy side and worked our way around to the other side. We were treated to samples of health care products, including three from Dallas-based MopTop Natural Hair Care, which is being sold exclusively in HEB stores. I haven’t tried the samples yet, but I was supplied with an instruction sheet. I’m particularly interested in the Curly Hair Custard, since my hair will curl in the most unflattering and unnatural ways at the mere hint of humidity, no matter how much I straighten it with the hair dryer.

Another sample set was from a company distributing health & wellness products imported from Mexico. I have two little packets of Broncolin honey from Mexico with “natural plant extracts,” in it, and I haven’t used it yet. Not sure what I’m supposed to use it for, but. . .I have it. (Guess I should have tried it when I started getting sick.)

Both Neighbor E and I had things to get (including cream cheese for an upcoming recipe test), so we just wandered around hither and yon, sampling where they were offering food and finding new stuff. E also found his favorite Vanilla Chai, less expensive than Target, as well as some FreshPet things for his sweet little Chihuahua, Speedy. We found a number of new things, and, well, literally ate our way through the store, really. We tried cheeses, pesto, chicken, fresh juice, samples of HEB’s ready-to-cook meals, and I can’t remember what else. Everything was delicious, of course, and when I went back on Friday to get my prescription filled, I also had ice cream!

From the cheese department, I introduced E to Manchego Cheese, which he’d never had before. He’s now a fan. I explained Roasted Sage Turkey Thighs to one lady while looking for more turkey thighs in the meat case.

Neighbor E also noticed something I didn’t: the aisles are wider than most of the other stores we’ve been in. Definitely an improvement.

On the other side of the store lies the bakery, meat and fish areas, (including a sushi case with fresh samples) and a huge produce department that has not only a lot more product, but freshly squeezed juices as well. We were able to sample some of them, and one had raspberries in it. YUM. This HEB also has fresh lemonade, orange juice, apple juice, carrot juice and a few others I don’t remember–all freshly made daily, in neat little bottles. In addition to the apples, oranges and other fruits we were sampling.

Then we found it–coffee! We were elbow-to-elbow with everyone else interested in the grand opening, and they had plenty of fresh coffee for us. Well, I was going for the decaf, and once I got the sweetener and cream in mine, I looked over and there’s E having some coffee. Which was fine, until I realized that E doesn’t actually drink coffee. . .except this time, he did, and enjoyed the heck out of it. (And it was free coffee, so that was the best kind, right, E?)

Well, after we saw everything and sampled everything, and got what we needed to purchase, we headed out. . .or so we thought.

Lots of checkout lanes!

Lots of checkout lanes!

I don’t know how many checkout lanes they have, I think it’s 20 or 25. Most, if not all, were open that day, and one of the cashiers told me that on Monday they brought the new employees in for a walk-through. They had three cakes for all the employees–does that tell you how many people it takes to run the place?  We left with our purchases, but stopped to look at these lovely decor pieces that we wanted, but passed on:

Oh, yeah!

Oh, yeah! (I know just where to hang it in my place.)

I’d love a place to park this cute truck:

IMG_2811[1]

And this adorable rooster will get you up in the mornings:

IMG_2809[1]

As you can see behind the rooster, there are a number of Texas-themed and Americana pieces. . .which we also wanted but didn’t buy.  (Yet.)

What we did buy (groceries and such) we put in the trunk, and realized. . .we forgot to look for plants. So back we went, and E got a small tomato plant and some mint, while I got two tomato plants and a basil. (And checked out a second time.)

The new tomato and basil plants from HEB

The new tomato and basil plants from HEB, a week later. I’ll plant them soon.

We also noticed this out front:

Recycling!

Recycling!

Easy and convenient, and right where you can find it.

The new Clear Lake Marketplace is 100,000 square feet of nearly every kind of grocery shopping you can think of, and is open daily from 6:00 am to 12:00 pm.  In addition to a pharmacy, there is a much larger Healthy Living section, as well as catering and wedding services (just for cakes and flowers.)  There isn’t yet a Redi-Clinic, but there should be within a year. When I realized I was sick and needed to get treated, I drove to the Friendswood store to see a PA, then to this HEB to fill the prescription. And with the 100F temperature I was carrying around, I didn’t enjoy the walking the place like I did the day we went!

I also discovered that this pharmacy offers compounding services–just like the ones I use in The Woodlands for my hormones. However, they don’t compound on site, they send it to a lab. But more and more pharmacies are offering compounding–why? Because we’re asking for it. This pharmacy also offers pet medications. That’s new, too.

This new HEB is not your grandmother’s grocery shopping. And I still wish I could take her to this grocery, as well as Central Market. But I hope she’s with me in spirit when I’m shopping.

Happy Shopping!

Valentine’s Day–again???

Good afternoon, Dear Readers from everywhere:

I just realized that Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and that I should drop in and talk about it just a bit. But first. . . .

There are some changes coming to this humble blog, and a big thanks to friend of the blog AK and another one of our writer friends, whom we know on Facebook, but I haven’t met in person. I don’t know if JM reads this blog regularly, but I know she has once, for sure. I’ve got a Facebook page set up just for HeatCageKitchen, as well as other social media accounts. I’ll tell more once I get it all done. The blog is growing up.

Last week was the open house for the Drs. Davis at Woodlands Wellness and Cosmetic Center. Much as I enjoyed it last year, this year I didn’t go. BUT–they posted pictures on Facebook, and once again had an appropriate show-stopper of a cake:

PeacockCAke

A good time was had by all, and I’m glad, even if I didn’t go. But I’m sure I’ll be visiting again one of these days for blood testing.

In other news. . . .

This isn’t really food related, but it might have been. When I say a cat is a cat is a cat, I’m not kidding. This wily cheetah decided that the back of a Jeep was a great place to hang with the humans recently. Honestly, it’s no different than when Catmandu and Kismet used to hop up on the back of my futon and park it there for a while. Cheetahs, as I understand from comments on the Daily Mail site and Facebook, are much friendlier to humans than other species of big cats. But as Big Cat Rescue will tell you, approaching big cats is never a good idea–and anyone caught petting one at their Tampa, FL facility is escorted out immediately, including staff. If you have a kitty cat that has ever turned on you while you were petting it or scratching it behind the ears. . .imagine the force behind a paw-swat from a 500-pound Siberian tiger. It can, as they say on FB, “escalate quickly.” ‘Nuff said. But this time, it turned out fine, and the short video is pretty amusing. Because. . .that’s a cat for you.

Now back to Valentine’s Day. Or as my brother called it yesterday, “women taking advantage of men” day. Oh, well.

If you’re looking for advice on romancing, proposing, or how to ask out someone you fancy, that’s someone else’s blog. This blog is for the day you decide to cook for that someone special, you already are going to cook for them, and you’re looking for something special for your date. You’re on your own on the romancing/proposing part, so search through WordPress for that kind of advice blog.

Do you have plans for Sunday? Are you going to hang out at home and watch a good DVD or two with your sweetie, or risk your life and head to a restaurant? I can hear it now: “Oh, Amy–what’s wrong with that?” Even Waffle House serves steaks and takes reservations on Valentine’s Day–and in some more rural areas, that’s the best and only–restaurant in town. (NOTE: I am not disrespecting Waffle House by any means.)

I’m not going to deny that it’s something special to go out for Valentine’s Day. But hear me out–when I was an administrative assistant, I was required to “go out with the bosses” for Administrative Professional’s Day. I really didn’t want to do this (particularly at an insurance company I worked for, where they took us to McCormick & Schmick in the Galleria and didn’t give us a choice) because it was a reminder that I was still in the steno pool. But at Boeing, that wasn’t always a bad thing. My Boeing supervisors were frequently busy, so we didn’t always go on that Wednesday–and that was a good thing. Why? Because you’re elbow-to-elbow with everyone *else* who’s doing the same thing; service is going to be slower, too. The last time, I had to request that Monday, because the next day, I was getting on a plane to go somewhere, and I wouldn’t be in town for AP Day. (I got to choose the restaurant that year.) Another time, we went two weeks later. Know what? We nearly had the whole place to ourselves! We could chat without yelling, and the service was better.

Want proof? This article from The Kitchn verifies what I just told you. Like retail stores on Black Friday, nobody *wants* to work that holiday, so you may get pinch-hitters who aren’t as experienced. And you’ll be elbow-to-elbow in a crowded restaurant on that one day a year when things could go wrong for you. Just something to consider if this is a really special date.

Once again, Starbucks is at it again with the #StarbucksDate. Create a special .GIF file (similar to an e-card, they’re all the rage now) to send to someone you’d like to meet up with (it could be your best friend, your elderly neighbor like Neighbor R, your brother/sister, or, heaven help you, the GER) and make a date to meet them at the Starbucks on your street for one of the new chocolate drinks they have this week, through Sunday. (They’d like you to put it on social media with #StarbucksDate, too.)

You know, I probably shouldn’t say “Starbucks on your street.” We have several in my neighborhood, including one two blocks from my front door. But I have a friend in semi-rural Louisiana who is about 20 miles from the closest Starbucks. I’m sure he’s not the only one.

This year’s offerings are three new seasonal chocolate-infused drinks:

And because I couldn’t wait, I personally sampled the Mocha Chocolate Latte this morning. Highly recommended. Unlike the famed Pumpkin Spice Latte, this was very good and not overly sweet. If your honey doesn’t drink coffee, there is the Molten Hot chocolate option as well as other dessert options. But remember, Starbucks has their “signature” hot chocolate all year long. Yes, they really do–it’s just that this particular variety is a “seasonal offering” for Valentine’s Day.

I am actually planning to take myself out for a #StarbucksDate. I’ve got a couple of books to read, (one by master copywriter Bob Bly, his newest book of great witticisms) and that might just be the place to do it. I’d like to have another Mocha Chocolate Latte, then get brewed decaf coffee (and free refills in my stainless steel travel mug) until I’m sick of coffee, or I finish the books. They’re not long books, but. . .there are less distractions in Starbucks than at home.

What if you’re going to camp in with your honey?

I’ve got some recipes posted on the Recipe Page, and there are others scattered throughout the blog; a search will help you find them. (The Sweet Potato Supper is a good one, and quite simple.) Then again, websites like The Food Network, MarthaStewart.com, AllRecipes.com, and TheKitchn are great places to start if you don’t find anything listed here. Really–the culinary world is at your fingertips, and a quick search will show you that.

Looking for a special treat? Found on The Pioneer Woman’s Facebook feed this week, these Chocolate Sugar Cookie Hearts are an easy treat, especially if you have kids.

chocolate-sugar-cookie-hearts-09

Source: The Pioneer Woman website (note: NOT gluten free!)

These are really easy, because there’s no rolling out the dough–you bake it as a sheet cake, then cut them from the baked cake. Frost them, put some sprinkles on top, and you’re ready for your honey. NOTE: keep this recipe in your back pocket for other occasions, cut them in squares, rounds or other shapes, and you can frost them like cupcakes and use other appropriate colors and designs for, say, a birthday, graduation, or something else like St. Patrick’s Day (which happens in about a month.) Heck, your dog’s birthday, just don’t feed them to the dog. But for now, they’re for your Valentine.

Now, if these cookies aren’t your thing, there are a couple of things in the HeatCageKitchen archives that are delicious and gluten-free, including my all-time favorite, YeastFreeBrownies (I just uploaded it.) The recipe is no longer available on Dr. Hotze’s site, but I’ve got the PDF file for you on the Recipes Page.

Another good choice is last year’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes. First, I re-blogged a post from GF and Me last year, and then I made it myself. Of course, mine didn’t come out as pretty as Brenda’s, but they sure were good–even the fussy GER said so. The trick is finding hazelnut flour, or buying the hazelnuts, roasting and skinning them yourself, then grinding them up really good in the food processor–but not so far that you get a paste.

Click around on Brenda’s GF and Me site and you’ll find lots more delicious food and desserts for Valentine’s Day.

If you have more time to prep, I highly recommend the sugarless, Crock-Pot made Chocolate Fudge Custard I talked about last summer. You have to make it a day or two in advance, but it’s quite tasty and easy to make.

You didn’t forget your waffle iron already, did you? If Santa brought you a waffle maker (or the Cuisinart Griddler with the waffle maker plates, like mine) consider waffle brownies. If you haven’t read that previous post I linked to, please do, and you’ll learn more about waffling. You’ll also find this recipe in the post that I made and reviewed. However, if gluten-free isn’t your thing, brownies from a box–yes, like Duncan Hines or Jiffy brand–can be made in the waffle maker, fast and easy. You can also use boxed chocolate cake mix. If you’re thinking about a waffle maker,  Bed, Bath and Beyond also (still) has the Cuisinart Griddler bundle package, and if you have a coveted 20% off coupon, use it.

Still another optioin–a bit healthier than most–comes from none other than Graze.com, this dual-layered Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie might be just the ticket. It has a few steps, so make sure you read the recipe before proceeding.

What to make for dinner for the two of you? There’s a myriad of options available, just pick one–but don’t overthink this or make it too complicated. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll probably *want* to try something really fancy, complicated, and extremely gourmet. Foodies are like that. But if you’re a fan of the easy, make dessert early, maybe the day before (especially the custard) and consider Nigella Lawson’s Flash Fried Steak with White Bean Mash. I’ve written about this delicious white bean mash before, it’s one of my absolute favorites, and I even made it Monday for AC with mild Italian sausages from HEB. (I called it “Bangers & Mash,” which is actually sausage and mashed potatoes in the UK.) She loved it too, and will probably start looking for cannellini beans next grocery trip. Add a tasty salad like we did, and you’ll be all set. Wine? Your choice, but make it a good one, if you do.

One thing I started doing with the white bean mash is grating the lemon zest first, then grate in the garlic with your Microplane Zester. The garlic is more evenly distributed, spreading the flavor throughout the mash.

And you can say that you’re inviting him/her over for a steak dinner–it’s just not filet mignon, that’s all. (No, I’ve never cooked that one, for myself or anyone else.) And why not? If you’re cooking steak, say so! (Unless he or she is vegetarian. . .then you’ve got some extra work to do.)

Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day: if you and your partner get along fabulously and enjoy each other’s company all year around, going all-out on Valentine’s Day is probably not needed–a nice dinner at home with a nice bottle of wine, a small, inexpensive gift, whatever you like. But if one or the other isn’t such a great partner all year long, but spends a lot of money on flowers, candy, jewelry, dinner out, etc., on Valentine’s Day. . .it’s money wasted. Be kind to each other, and, I hate to say it, but if things are just not working out well, you’re discovering you’re mis-matched, or you just don’t get along after the “honeymoon phase” is past, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. (Or, in my case, file a restraining order, ha, ha. Yes, I’ve had that kind of luck.)  It takes two to tango, and usually, neither is totally innocent, but if you’re wondering why you’re in this relationship, maybe Valentine’s Day will be awkward. Better to be alone on V-D than stuck with someone you don’t want to be with–ask me, I know. (No, not the GER.) “Better off as friends” is not a bad thing, if that’s the case.

I’m not telling you to break up with your significant other on Valentine’s Day, (that happens occasionally) but if that’s where it’s headed, or things have significantly changed. . .take some time to think and consider. Next year things could be completely different–you could be single and unattached, you could be with someone better, or you and your Significant Other will have a better relationship by then.

I know, Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, is merchandised to death in the US, but it doesn’t have to bully you (or your partner) into spending too much money.

Again, I’m not a relationship author–but I speak from experience on being in bad relationships. I’d rather be by myself on Valentine’s Day than stuck with someone who let their “good face” down and I discover that I can’t stand. The longest relationship I ever had with a male was. . .Catmandu, the Russian Blue. (RIP.)

And if you’re single and alone on Valentine’s Day–remember, you too could be stuck with someone you wish would just go away forever. If that’s the case, and you can, take some time and take yourself out for a #Starbucksdate. Better yet, use the .GIF creator and send it to one of your *real* friends for a #StarbucksDate and get something chocolate on Sunday. It’s OK to be single and unattached on Valentine’s Day, I promise.

You might be making these cookies or something else for someone next year, so be ready.

Enjoy!

 

 

Paleo Breakfast Pie (from the Crock Pot!)

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Are you warm? Are you snowed in? I’ve alternated between T-shirts/shorts and jeans/sweaters this week. At least we have the final season of Downton Abbey and the limited-run 10th series of The X-Files to keep us entertained. Oh, and the Superbowl is upon us again, and. . .I don’t care.

Got a message from Neighbor E this morning. He’s found the Dark-Chocolate-Raspberry Cupcakes, and now, E is happy:

Is that coffee?

Neighbor E doesn’t drink coffee, so I asked him what was in his coffee cup. . .he whipped up his version of the Starbucks Chai Tea Latte. Never had one, because I always go in for coffee. But hey–I duplicate the Hazelnut Macchiato on the stove top, so why not? (E also told me that a  longtime local Starbucks location has also closed, but there are at least three more in the vicinity to take its place.)

Remember the new delivery vehicle being developed for Domino’s? I saw one in Clear Lake this week:

Since I was on the wrong side at a stop light, I could only get this side. But check out what it says on the fuel tank:

It says, “Unleaded Fuel Only. No Pizza Sauce!”

Makes you wonder if it’s a joke or if someone actually tried it.

In the Valentine’s Day department, Kroger had this jewel:

Perfect size for whom? Guess it’s supposed to a polite size for when your honey comes over, and you eat “the whole cake with two forks.” OK.

My kettlebell workouts ceased for about a week when I had a mysterious floodwaters in the bathroom–and it wasn’t the tub or commode. It was discovered, finally, and the blockage has been cleared. I couldn’t figure out how the water was coming into the area under the AC unit. But I’m back on it, with a heavier 15 pound kettle bell. The 10 pound weight wasn’t heavy anymore. (Other than the initial stiffness, I haven’t hurt myself, either.)

So, is anyone doing a Paleo diet this year? “Paleo,” if you’re not familiar with the term, is short for Paleolithic, as in Paleolithic Man. Yes, cave man, and not necessarily the ones I’ve dated. A Paleo diet is, as I understand it, a diet of food that Paleolithic Man would have consumed–meat, veg, little fruit, and nothing processed or the product of agriculture or manufacturing, like grains (and bread), cheese and butter (but I think milk is OK, because it’s just. . .milk.) Like low-carb and gluten-free, lots of folks have taken the proverbial ball and run with it, with books, blogs and articles abound on the subject. Once you learn the basics, go from there.

Some time ago, I stumbled onto a recipe via PaleOMG, written by Juli Bauer. She’s not only a foodie, she’s also a blogger, fitness person and bride-to-be. She blogs about all these things and creates some delicious Paleo food in the process. She’s also published a couple of cookbooks, something I haven’t aspired to doing yet. If you go check out her blog, be aware that she does use language I reserve strictly for the process of driving around in Houston (especially with the huge inbound migration we’ve received in the last few years.) I don’t really do that on this blog, but that’s just me (except I know I said “fart” once.)

As I’ve mentioned here before, I am very happy to toss a bunch of things in the Crock Pot and let it cook all day, particularly in the summertime, when you don’t want the kitchen to heat up past 80F (when it will feel like a “Heat Cage Kitchen.”)  I went back to review the site, and to see what else Juli had, and came across a recipe for Sweet Pulled Pork Waffle Sliders. WAFFLES? Yes, waffles used as sandwich bread with freshly made mayo and slow-cooked pork shoulder. In this case, the waffles are made with almond flour and some other Paleo-friendly ingredients. I think I’m going to have to make this soon. . .my waffle maker has been put up for a few weeks, darnit. I haven’t forgotten it, of course, I’ve just been doing other stuff, like tossing stuff in the Crock Pot and making phone calls all day long.

But this weekend, I found one of Juli’s recipes I’d printed some time ago and forgot about. The Easy CrockPot Breakfast Pie has just a few ingredients, but is easy to make and is dairy-free. Why dairy-free, you ask? Well, it’s good to have handy if I have to do yeast-free again, and if I run out of milk or something. It’s a little different, because I got used to cheese and milk or cream in my breakfast cookery. But this is a welcome change, and it contains. . .sweet potato. THAT got my attention!

The recipe is as follows:

Easy CrockPot Breakfast Pie

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
  • 8 eggs, whisked
  • 1 sweet potato or yam, shredded
  • 1lb US Wellness Meats Pork Sausage, broken up
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • any extra veggies you want to put in there: peppers, squash, etc.
Directions
  1. I greased my Crockpot with a bit of coconut oil to make sure none of the egg stuck to it. (Amy’s Note: I also used one of those slow cooker liners, as you’ll see in the pictures.)
  2. Shred your sweet potato. I used the shredding attachment on my food processor to make it super quick, but you could use a grater as well.
  3. Add all ingredients to your CrockPot and use a spoon to mix well.
  4. Set it and forget it.
  5. Place on low for 6-8 hours. I cooked it for more than 7 to make sure the pork sausage was completely cooked through.
  6. Slice it like a pie.

I skipped her smart-alecky final line, and eventually I’ll have it up on the Recipes Page as a printable PDF file for anyone who wants it. So let me tell you how easy this is to make.

The setup

The setup.

Not a whole lot of ingredients as you can see, but I forgot the dried basil in this shot. Now, as I said, I used one of these:

Keep your dirty-mind comments to yourself, please.

Keep your dirty-mind comments to yourself, please.

They’re kind of hard to find, so I get 2 boxes when I head over to that nice HEB in Friendswood. When you set it up, it looks like this:

Yes, looks silly but it works great, especially in this recipe.

Yes, looks silly but it works great, especially in this recipe.

I greased it with either coconut oil by hand or sprayed on olive oil, I don’t remember. Then, get on with it:

Shredded sweet potato

Shredded sweet potato

I do love my little shredding toy. When you’re done with that, dump it into the crock, and get on with the onions in the same fashion (and why not?)

Shredded onions are so much easier, and less tears.

Shredded onions are so much easier, and less tears.

Because the last part of the ingredient list calls for “any extra veggies you want to put in there: peppers, squash, etc.,” I added a bag of frozen veg from Kroger:

These bags are $1 each for 12 ounces.

These bags are $1 each for 12 ounces.

I added in the spices next:

IMG_2900

Yes, I know what it looks like.

Now, Judi’s recipe calls for some mail-ordered pork sausage that’s clean, antibiotic free, gluten- and sugar-free, and all that. However, since I just wanted to try it, I used readily available sage pork breakfast sausage from Kroger. Knowing that I was going to make this dish, I left it out for several hours to take the chill off and let it soften up. (One day I’ll be buying stuff like that again.)

Let me point out here that in most of these slow-cooker breakfasts, you brown and crumble the sausage on the stove top in a cast-iron pan, then toss it into the CrockPot, then add the eggs, milk or cream, and other stuff. In this recipe, the raw pork sausage is added directly in and the dish cooked for a longer amount of time.

Yes, it was still sticky and hard to work with, but I did it.

Yes, it was still sticky and hard to work with, but I did it.

Take your spoon and mix it up well. Now get on with the eggs–you can whisk them, as the recipe states, but I’ve discovered that the lovely immersion blender works better:

Eggs!

Eggs! (I had a coupon for Egglands Best, I promise.)

Mine came with this beaker, but I’ve also done this with mixing bowls:

Blitz!

Blitz! (Start on low speed to make avoid egging your own kitchen.)

This recipe doesn’t have milk or cheese, but when you are adding milk to eggs, the immersion blender works really well to make sure it’s all incorporated. Now, just pour it over the mixture:

Almost ready to cook.

Almost ready to cook.

Give it another stir and pack it in a little:

Ready to roll! (Well, cook.)

Ready to roll! (Well, cook.)

Mine took about 7 hours to finish, but I also turned off the heat, unplugged it, then left the lid slightly off to let the heat escape and help it cool. When it was just warm, I removed the pie from the crock, and this is what I got:

See how easily it lifts out of the Crock Pot?

Yes, I know it looks a bit strange.

One advantage of the slow cooker pot liners is the ability to lift this baby out, drop it directly onto a cutting board, peel off the sides of the liner, flip it, remove the rest of the liner, then cut it just like a cake or a pie. If you’re single like me, you just pack it up in containers and have a microwave-ready breakfast every morning right from the fridge.

This is more or less what you end up with:

The Crock Pot Breakfast Pie

The Crock Pot Breakfast Pie

Now, you get out of this what you put in, and you see two cut red beans there on the bottom, and probably a bit of cauliflower there, too. Those, of course, were from the frozen veg mix I added to it.

And you know what? It was pretty good. I was wondering if it would be disappointing, but it’s not–it’s really different. Not like the kind with eggs/cream/milk/cheese, but pretty darn good. I got two thumbs up from both Neighbor R and Neighbor E, who added:

“. . .it fascinates me. For healthy eating I doubt you could do much better. But all the ingredients blend in together and there isn’t one that stands out (kinda like cake without the icing). A restaurant I go to for brunch has some incredible vegetarian sausage. Thinking if piled a bunch of that in there to give it some spice, it would be a hit.”

Thanks, E! I noticed too that there wasn’t one thing you tasted over another, it just kinds of all blends up. Much as I love sweet potatoes, I didn’t really taste them like you do when you eat them “straight.”

Three thumbs up for this one! And since it’s done in the Crock Pot, it’s easy, too. Looks like we have a winner here, a great warmer for cold winter mornings, wherever you are.

Enjoy!

The Mystery of Hubig’s Pies

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

Did Santa bring you everything you wanted? Yes? Good–that means he liked the cookies. No? You were a little too naughty last year. Change that, and learn to bake. Me, well, Santa knows I can bake, so he’s always nice to me, no matter how naughty.

Did you ask Santa for a waffle maker? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Of course, in Houston, it was 80F Christmas Day. I turned on the AC. Good thing I didn’t need the big oven. Because nothing says “Christmas” like ice cold watermelon chunks. It was roast chicken, sweet potatoes and yeast-free brownies this year. Nothing special.

At the last minute, I decided not to bake a pan of Nicole’s gluten-free Cranberry Bliss Bars. I did manage to get one of them at Starbucks, though. . .maybe another time. At least I know I can bake them for my birthday or another time if I really want them, right?

If you’re thinking about a new diet this year (and who isn’t?) this article in The Times of India discusses new diet trends for 2016. And. . .I think I’ll pass. I don’t care if it does make me “out of step,” I am NOT eating seaweed and bugs unless I’m in an emergency situation, or on a TV show like Survivor. I’ll stick with “last year’s fashion,” low-carb, somewhat paleo, wheat free, gluten-free and as close to natural as I can get with the occasional chocolate bit thrown in.

If you like Tex-Mex, your new year diet can be the Taco Cleanse. OK, honestly, it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a book of vegan taco recipes, including tortillas, which may contain flour, corn and other high-carb stuff. Blonde celebrity Jennifer Aniston is all over this book, so you know it’s a winner, right? Yes, it’s a real thing, and comments like these make me actually want to buy the book for the sheer humor involved:

Many people don’t know that pictures of tacos can also be detoxifying to your body. From the moment I got this book I could instantly feel the leftover organic dinosaur kale in my body start to be pushed out to make room for tacos. The taco cleanse isn’t just a diet, it’s a way of life. If you have a dream board, put a picture of a taco on it, order this book, make a taco, and revel in a fulfilled dream.

Diet humor in a cookbook. Who’d-a thunk it?

Don’t forget about the yeast-free diet. Dr. Hotze’s people are doing Yeast Free With Me again this year. I may have to do yeast-free again soon (goodbye whole milk in coffee!) But I’ve written about it before, so if you want to try yeast free, you’ve got plenty of information available.

I did, on Christmas Eve, go to Academy Sports & Outdoors and found a kettlebell with a DVD by GoFit. I got the 15-pound model, and while I’ve only watched the DVD, I have been slinging it around using different routines I find on Pinterest to get used to using it. No bikini yet, and it hasn’t been every single day, but I did start my first workout with it on Christmas Eve–by walking around Academy looking for socks and other things I needed for 20 minutes. By the time I got to the register, I was panting, so that was my first “workout” with it. I did start slinging it around on Christmas Day, and have been using it most days ever since. I’ve seen a bit of muscle definition, and a couple of new little muscles showing. I was so sore I couldn’t move after my first set of Goblet Squats, but I’m getting used to the different muscles being activated. When I get better at it, I’ll start using the DVD.

The next big merchandising holiday is, of course, Valentine’s Day. I have seen Valentine’s Day things in Wal-Mart and one of the fabric stores (I think it was JoAnn’s on Bay Area.) Both stores were setting out V-D stock while the holiday decorations were being sold. Weird.

And if you are a New Orlenian (expat or living at home), you’ll notice king cakes coming out. Bakeries in Houston produce them, but they’re more like coffee cakes decorated in green, gold and purple, with the plastic baby not baked in the cake, as it should be, but taped to the cake board. WHAT?? (Liability issues.)  Well, anyway, the ones here are not as good as the ones in New Orleans, sorry. And the mix stuff you get in Cost Plus World Market may be passable, but it’s not the real thing.

It's Mardi Gras Time!

It’s Mardi Gras Time!

But bakeries like Randazzo’s and Haydel’s will ship them to you nationwide, all year long, no kidding. (Cream-cheese filled with blueberry or strawberry filling is a personal favorite, but I haven’t had any in many years.)

This post is about another New Orleans favorite that seems to have evaporated. But more on that later.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day. . .OK, remember a couple of years ago when Twinkies came back, and there was a lot of speculation about what the new owners were going to do with the Hostess line of treats? They’ve brought back the original Twinkies and treats, but have also added to the repertoire, partly thanks to their newly streamlined manufacturing practices.

A couple of months ago, there was Pumpkin Spice Twinkies. Well, they’re at it again–now Hostess has two new limited edition flavors for Valentine’s Day. Ladies and gentlemen, those who know me recognize that I believe the ultimate dessert combo is chocolate with raspberry. Well, I’m in big trouble:

I am sunk if I find these.

I am sunk if I find these. Gluten-free doesn’t even figure in here.

Yes, that’s right–dark chocolate and raspberry. Amy’s ultimate dessert combination. Here’s a close up:

Close up of the most dangerous junk food in history.

I really don’t like pink but how am I going to keep my paws off these?

And they’re dolled up to show the one you love. . .your love. Raspberry not your thing? There’s also chocolate and strawberry, which may also need to be sampled in the HeatCageKitchen:

If the chocolate raspberry wasn't enough to get your blood sugar spiking.

If the chocolate raspberry wasn’t enough to get your blood sugar spiking.

I first had the chocolate and raspberry combo sometime in the early 90’s in the form of flavored coffee. I think that’s when I discovered Orleans Coffee Exchange, which was in the French Quarter at the time. One of these days, I’m going to order more of their delicious decaf flavored coffees, including Chocolate Raspberry, of course. (If I win the PowerBall this week, I’ll order 5 pounds of each.)  Naturally, not everyone sees it that way–I made the mistake of giving my parents a pound of Chocolate Raspberry coffee for Christmas one year, and I never heard the end of it. My dad complained for months: “It took three days to get that taste out of the pot!” Obviously, I never did that again.

But if your one and only (or one of a few) brings you some of these limited-edition sweet things, you KNOW it’s for real. (Let’s hope the GER doesn’t get a wild idea and drop some of these off at my door.)

Oh, and I received the February issue of Martha Stewart Living last week. Guess what? Six chocolate cake recipes for V-D, one gluten-free, and one. . .chocolate raspberry cake. No kidding. That one may be made soon for testing.

Anyway, you can read more about the new limited edition Hostess Cupcakes here on Delish.com. (Try not to drool on your keyboard.)

Now, remember the fury that surrounded the Twinkie’s absence and return? People selling them on eBay for hundreds of dollars, just a couple of months before they came back? New Orlenians have been subjected to a similar torment, but this one has lasted a lot longer than a few months. There aren’t any pies on eBay, but if you type in “Hubig Pie” in the search box, it shows two pictures for sale and a beaded necklace with a number of New Orleans food icons on it.

If you’ve ever visited New Orleans, you likely saw (and maybe tasted) a Hubig’s Pie. They were sold at convenience stores all over the metro NOLA area, and they were just. . .always there.

Just like this.

Just like this. (Source: WVUE New Orleans)

I had a few when I was a kid, but knowing they were, shall we say, “not a health food,” kept me from eating one too often (not to mention frequently not having an extra 60 or so cents to spare for one–how long has that been?) I preferred chocolate, apple, cherry, and occasionally lemon, peach or pineapple. Really, it was whatever was available at the convenience store you were visiting at the time.

Yum.

Yum. Is that chocolate?

They also offered seasonal flavors like coconut, sweet potato (no thanks), and at one time also made and sold whole pies. But like a lot of things, Hubig’s Pies are what locals will call “real New Orleans.” They just are. They’re just there.

An original Hubig Pie.

An original Hubig Pie. (Source: Facebook)

Until one day, they weren’t.

A lot of people don’t know that the pie company actually started in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1922 by a man named Simon Hubig, a WWI vet who emigrated from Spain to the US. Yeup–Texas. (Source: Wikipedia.) There were actually nine locations, and the New Orleans location was the only one to stay open during the Great Depression, since it was the only profitable bakery of the lot. It stayed in the original location until. . . .

The original bakery on Dauphine Street.

The sign in front of the original bakery on Dauphine Street.

The filled, fold-over pies were fried, then coated with a glaze that made the crust a little extra sweet and gave it a light crunch when you bit into it. There were a number of flavors, including apple, cherry, lemon, peach, chocolate (with a curd-style filling), pineapple, and a few others. They were a part of the landscape, like a view of the Lakefront.

And if you snickered when you read  “the Lakefront,” I know you’re from New Orleans. (Please keep those details to yourself.) Anyway, this is what emerged when you opened the waxy wrapper:

The perfect Hubig's Pie.

The perfect Hubig’s Pie. (Source: WVUE New Orleans website)

First, Hurricane Katrina knocked them out in 2005. From Wikipedia:

When the city of New Orleans was struck by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the bakery’s ventilation system, an exterior wall, and the roof were damaged. Production of Hubig’s pies was halted and did not start again until more than four months later, January 4, 2006, after the neighborhood had clean water, reliable electricity, and sufficient gas pressure. Hubig’s pies increased slightly in cost after the storm, and the variety of flavors offered changed. About 30,000 hand-sized pies were made a day to be delivered on the next day.

And New Orleans was happy again. Until July 27, 2012, in the early morning hours, when a fire completely destroyed the factory.

HubigFire

Source: WVUE New Orleans website

And, to date, Hubig’s Pies are no more. A new location has been acquired, but. . .that’s it. Nothing more. And New Orlenians are sad. Twinkies? PFFT–Hubig’s Pies are more important.

What’s happened since then? Well. . .not much. Hubig’s Pies are still a mystery, and a memory.

They say they will rebuild. They keep saying it, too. In October of 2012, the owners met with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and posted it on Facebook:

Hubig's Owners with the Mayor.

Hubig’s Owners with the Mayor. (Source: Hubig’s Facebook page)

The owners have settled on a new place, and received approval from the New Orleans City Council, but there have been. . .delays.

There are two “official” Facebook pages for Hubig’s. Neither have been updated in well over 2 years. I’ve attempted to contact the owners of both pages, to no avail. Nobody responded to my private messages. (Not like I’m Hoda Kotb, though.) The company’s website is a blank page as well.

A recent article in The New Orleans Advocate quoted the last factory manager, Drew Ramsey, as saying he “has no good answer” for when the pies will be made again. They have no idea, despite the new location they found, because they just can’t get all the gears together yet.

I asked an unnamed friend of this blog if he’d heard anything–he hears stuff and knows people, you see–and he has a friend of a friend who knows stuff about the Hubig’s folks. What he’s heard through the grapevine is that the Hubig’s team is now looking for the manufacturing equipment they need to get the pies rolling again, but are having difficulty finding exactly what they need. That, too, is understandable, since it will likely be custom-built equipment for the new facility which hasn’t been built yet. So fans cross their fingers, wish for a Hubig’s, and patiently. . .wait.

Honestly, in my experience, everything takes a lot longer in Louisiana. Always.

Additionally, the article states:

Tangling things further is an ongoing lawsuit filed in late 2012 by Hubig’s against the supplier of its plant’s fire suppression system, alleging that the system failed to protect its facility. While that suit continues, Ramsey said, options to dissolve and reform the brand are off the table.

I hope that if and when they do come back, they don’t mess with anything like the new Hostess folks didn’t. New Orlenians will absolutely HOWL. Guaranteed.

Remember back when the Twinkies went away, and suddenly there were similar products being produced? Recipes and pans were also available to make your own DIY Twinkie-style cakes at home. You know. . .that option is available, too.

Hubig’s Pies are what we now call “hand pies.” I’ve seen them in Martha Stewart Living on occasion, but have not made them myself. According to this article, they’re becoming more of a “thing” nationwide. And you can also find out what restaurants in New Orleans have been making something similar to a Hubig’s, although some are more of a fancier dessert than the absent paper-wrapped confection.

For the DIY crowd, you can easily make your own by getting yourself a pie crimper tool that makes these easy to put together. (This version gives you square hand pies, and for Valentine’s Day, here’s a heart-shaped mini-pie maker.) I have no experience making these. Admittedly, I bought two from my former Avon Lady the last time I had a boyfriend, intending to make either a star-shaped or heart-shaped pie for him. That never happened, he’s gone now, and I eventually gave them to the Salvation Army.

I also found the blog ProbablyBaking and the guy who writes it. He decided to duplicate the Hubig’s Pie (warning: a bit of language) and made apple, lemon, and in a tip to Vietnamese food, Pho. (“Faux Pho?” OK, Dude.) The recipes are also listed, and got blogger and Loyola student Beau Ciolino a write-up in The Times Picayune. (No, I’m not jonesing for the TP to pick up HeatCageKitchen, and sure as heck not waiting for the Houston Chronicle!)

Not interested in DIY? As I detailed in the previous Twinkies post, there are alternatives. I found one this weekend in my local Food Town:

From the same company that makes duplicate Twinkies.

Chocolate? Really? (No, I didn’t.)

From the same company that makes Twinkies duplicates, TastyKake also has similar hand pies.  Apparently they’re baked, not fried, but they are about the same size as a Hubig’s. I don’t see Chocolate on their webpage, so maybe it’s a regional flavor, or leftover from the holidays. But they’re available if you’re really missing the Hubig’s. I know, they’re not the same, but they’re something.

People have indeed been missing Hubig’s Pies pies something awful:

T-shirts, anyone?

T-shirts, anyone?

And there’s also this bikini if you’re daring enough. Babies have been dressed up as Hubig’s pies, as well as. . .bread:

HubigTribute

But it hasn’t happened yet.

The original Hubig’s site on Dauphine Street is slated to become. . .condos. Yes, earlier this year, the former Hubig’s site was approved to become fancy condominium development called Bakers’ Row. Because, after all, in a city with a per-capital income of well under $50K a year (US Census estimates of Orleans Parish median household income at $44,874, and per-capita money income at $26,500) New Orleans needs more half-million dollar condos. Because they’ll be snapped right up and occupied in no time, right?

It’s been done before, with the same result–long-term empty real estate. Developers found that out the hard way after Katrina.

So while fans of the fried confections wait patiently for the bureaucratic red tape to be untangled. . .well, there’s nothing to do but wait, if you really want them back. There are alternatives, as I mentioned, including making your own or finding similar versions.

But If Hubig’s Pies were going on sale first thing tomorrow, I might be tempted to go and find me one, like we did with Blue Bell Ice Cream, but it’s been so long since I had one that I’m not sure I’d be interested. (Note that they’re NOT in any way gluten free, adding to my disinterest.)  They’re sweet, crunchy and filling, like a good pie should be. . .but it’s a New Orleans thing, like king cake.

OK, let me clarify–REAL king cake, the kind they make in New Orleans, not the tri-colored coffee cake you get here in Houston.

And much like the absence of Blue Bell ice cream on Texas this past summer, I feel your pain. If you’re a reader in New Orleans, and you know someone involved, you’re welcome to forward this post to them. Remember, I’m just a little ol’ blogger in Texas, I’m not Food Babe or The Pioneer Woman, but I’m holding up the flag for you, too.

You know what? I’ve written nearly 3,000 words on sugary snack foods. I think I need some insulin! But never fear, I’m thinking about making my next column not only healthy, but easy. Meantime, if you’ve not been waffling anything, you know there are some healthy things you can waffle. If you haven’t tried it yet, go back and read the first and second blog posts on the subject and give it some thought. I did manage to waffle a pizza last week, from the dough I put in the freezer last year, and it came out great after a bit of fiddly rolling.

So, Happy New Year! Let’s make 2016 a better year for food, clean eating, health and wellness, fitness, and all the other things we resolve for this time of year.

Enjoy!

Short post–Cranberry Bliss Bars

Happy Sunday, Dear Readers:

I know, I said I wasn’t going to publish again until after January 1, but you know how these things go. This is a shorter post than usual. I am, as always, anxiously awaiting this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Husbands of River Song. When I found out what the title was, all I could think of was, “she’s had more husbands than me? I thought she was just married to The Doctor.” Well, at least she gets to travel in time and space. I get to drive around Houston occasionally. Mostly in my little knothole.

I also have an idea for another post that I may publish next week about a New Orleans foodie-related mystery that’s been going on for more than 3 years. Heck, my humble blog may get it moving again. More on that later.

Now to answer why I’m posting on a Sunday. This is an EMERGENCY blog post–I have to tell you what Nicole over at Gluten Free on A ShoeString has done.

I’ve written about Nicole before (see this re-blog on Gluten Free Donuts), and I get emails when she publishes. Of course, she’s always baking up delicious things for us gluten-averse folks. If you’re interested in more gluten-free baking, hop on over and follow her blog, for she has lots of tricks up her sleeve to keep your baked goods dreams fulfilled.

Today, she reached the pinnacle of gluten-free re-makes.

Nicole has created a gluten-free version of my personal favorite, Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bar. Why is this significant? Because. . .Cranberry Bliss Bars are a seasonal treat at Starbucks that are something to LIVE FOR. Seriously. (Unlike the heavy-sugared Pumpkin Spice Latte.) Take a look:

From the Starbucks website.

A Cranberry Bliss Bar, picture from the Starbucks website.

This is, of course, not a big treat, but it is big on flavor. One taste and you are a goner.

I first tasted this treat when I was sick, and coming home from the only doctor’s office I knew about near Hobby Airport. (This was a no-questions-asked walk-in clinic that would take non-insurance patients, long before I was going to see Dr. Davis at Woodlands Wellness.) They had an on-site pharmacia for patients, but it was closed that day. Driving my sick self home down I-45, I thought, “now where the heck am I going to get my prescription filled?” And then it dawned on me.

TARGET.

The Baybrook Super Target has a pharmacy AND a Starbucks! So. . .while I waited for my prescription, I got a nice, hot coffee. I was really sick, you see, with yet another painful swollen-gland throat infection (including fever) and I figured I deserved a little something sweet that day. It was that time of the year, and I just pointed to the red and white thing. It was carefully packed in a bag and handed to me as I paid my tab.

I sat in the corner, like the sick cat that I was, slowly sipped my coffee and took a little bite of this heavenly and festive triangle. I had never tasted such a combination, and immediately fell in love with it. I sought out at least one every holiday season (for they are not cheap and the price has nearly doubled this year) but ran into an issue in 2013 when. . .I went gluten free.

I passed on them in 2013, but I did manage one of them last year. Only one. And I may do it this year too, whilst they’re available. But now, I don’t have to worry–because Nicole has figured out how to make them gluten free. (Note: we get them down here in Texas at Starbucks, so I’m sorry they aren’t available everywhere, from what Nicole says.)

Nicole uses something called Better Batter, which I admit I’ve not heard of before (she uses a lot of different and cool stuff that I don’t know about.)  However, what I can put my paws on quickly is Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour, which has similar ingredients and does include Xanathan gum. (If your local grocer doesn’t carry it, you can also buy it from Amazon.)  It’s the flour I used for one of the recent pizza waffle recipes. One caveat Nicole points out is that if your GF flour doesn’t have Xanathan, you’ll need to add half a teaspoon (included in the recipe.)

I think there’s a bag of this flour in my grocery list this week, along with dried cranberries, cream cheese, and white chocolate. Holy Shish Kebab!!

If I make some, there will be some taste-tester deliveries. I doubt that the GER would be interested in something like this–he tends to prefer gas-station dining for some reason. (No, it’s not my cooking. It’s just his idea of convenience cooking.) But if I do manage to make them, I’ll be crowing about it here. Because now that we have a gluten-free work-around, Cranberry Bliss Bars are not just for the holidays anymore.

If you’re one of those people who loves the Cranberry Bliss Bars, now you can make them yourself, and even in gluten-free.

Merry Christmas!!

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