Shishito peppers really are a thing, and I’m not swearing. They’re delicious, and generally not hot.
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Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Just popped in for another blog post, this time on something new I can’t believe I discovered. Thank heavens for streaming and Philo TV. Shishito peppers are a new item in the US produce market, and of course, I’m one of the last people to know.
Let me tell you what’s been happening.
A Zucchini Recipe
If you’re seeing lots of zucchini, I have a simple recipe for you. The inspiration is out of the book from which my favorite cheesecake comes, The 30-Minute Low-Carb Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen.
I had some leftover roast chicken and zucchini. I flip open this book and there is this recipe using pesto, chicken, and zucchini.
You have my attention.
So I read it and realize that I have the ingredients, including the basil and other ingredients for pesto. I probably have 25 containers of pesto in the freezer dating back to 2018 (or maybe 2017.) Why should I make more? (I will, because I need to cut the basil soon.)
The recipe calls for spiralized zucchini, but I don’t have a spiralizer. What I do have is a Norpro Apple Master, which does much the same thing. Sort of. I’ll get a spiralizer one day, OK? For now this is what I have to work with.
Two cups of cooked chicken are called for, and so I managed to pick and chop exactly two cups from the chicken carcass in the fridge. I used some of the recently made tarragon butter. BF really enjoyed the chicken, and it was really tasty, but he didn’t want to know what was in it.
Once I finished with the zucchini (cutting the cores into matchsticks and cleaning the machine), I sauteed it in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for two minutes. Then, I added in the chopped chicken, sauteed for another couple of minutes. Then I added in an entire container of my home-made pesto from 2019, which was I presume to be a cup, but I think was more. It was the first one I grabbed when I opened the freezer. It was probably too much. Next time I’ll just use measure out one cup.
Well, when I finished it, this is what I ended up with:
The recipe also suggests serving it with additional Parmesean cheese (because you would have put some in the pesto) but I forgot to add some. It was delicious as-is, and if you’re a fan of zucchini and pesto, this is highly recommended for a quick dinner.
If you don’t have chicken already cooked, you could also pick up a rotisserie chicken (or chicken parts, if HEB still sells them that way) or cook a couple of thighs in the toaster/convection oven, air fryer, or heck, even poach it if you’re really in a hurry.
It’s low-carb, gluten-free, and without cheese, it can be dairy-free, too.
BF’s reaction to this delicious dish was to exhibit another of his retching noises.
Speaking Of Him
We’ve had another flora and fauna fiasco.
It seems that although BF remembers his Dad having a garden and a bounty of fresh produce every year, he doesn’t remember everything. I should have seen this early on and paid closer attention to what he was doing.
BF wanted some green beans, and he planted them. These beans grow on vines, and so at some point, he asked for a stake to let them grow up onto. The corn, watermelon, beans, and potatoes were pretty much BF’s domain, so I didn’t ask questions.
Last week after our garden massacre, I was out there looking for the cucumbers, zucchini, and any peppers ready to pick. Pulling up more dead cornstalks, I thought to myself, “we should have been picking those beans by now.” I look over at one stake, where I saw one bean before, and realize that it’s about dead. Not only are there no beans, but there are also no leaves.
On the other stake, there were plenty of leaves and little purple flowers. No beans, just flowers, and leaves. That’s when I realized it.
He Staked Weeds
The next day I brought him outside to ask him about it, and said, “Show me the beans.” He turned around and walked inside without a word!
I pulled out as much of the weed as I could find, and there was a considerable amount. Even off the stake, there was so much that it was like pulling a heavy quilt off a bed.
When I got inside, he said, “you don’t have to be so judgmental.” I wasn’t trying to be, but if it was indeed, planted beans, I want to harvest some.
I’m not mad at him–it’s actually funny. So now I ask him, “where’s the beans?” It’s along the same lines as asking, “didn’t you pay the light bill?” when we have a power outage like we did this past weekend. (Yes, we paid it early and everyone else was out of power, too.)
Well, anyway, we’re nursing some tomato plants. The Chocolate Cherry plants have flowers and are looking good so far.
We really need to get an earlier start next year.
On another note, the wife of one of his car-guy friends posted a picture of something they cooked out of their garden. BF mentioned that this friend keeps his garden free of Mother Nature’s creatures with the use of an electric fence. I like it.
The Shishito Discovery
As always, I’m watching Ina Garten while sewing, and it’s a show I’ve never seen before.
She starts talking about this tasty appetizer and these little peppers that you just saute up and eat, seeds and all (skip the stems.) They’re not big, about the size of a lipstick. Picked green, they’re sweet, but if left to turn red, they’re hotter.
Ina also says that there is always an occasional hot one, and she seems to get that one.
So I did a little reading on the subject. Although Ina says they are from Japan, they’re actually grown all over Asia. They’re small, with thin walls, and cook quickly.
Of course, nobody has them here, but I remembered them when I saw the plants at Tractor Supply.
If you’re in Houston, you may be lucky enough to see these small, spark-plug sized peppers in Central Market, select HEB stores, Rice Epicurean Market, Whole Foods and maybe Trader Joe’s. This being Louisiana, I can’t imagine where you’d find any unless you were in a bigger Rouse’s, or maybe Whole Foods, since they sell Hatch chiles in late summer. And of course, they would be in Baton Rouge or New Orleans–IF you found them at all.
But in our case, the local Tractor Supply store had some, and I grabbed two of the plants. I was on my fruitless search for more Anaheim chile plants, but I really wanted to try these.
Oh, am I glad I did!
They took a while to start producing. But once they did:
I just let them grow for a while, but one Friday night, I realized I had to pick them. The larger of the two plants had so many peppers that it was tipping over. I picked them and came inside to find the recipe.
Turns out the recipe is in Ina’s last book, Cook Like A Pro. I’ve used this book for several recipes, but this recipe passed me by. It’s my first introduction to these delicious peppers.
Fast And Easy Saute
Of course, I didn’t take pictures, but it’s a quick one. You can find the recipe here on The Food Network’s website.
But it really was simple, you saute them on a fairly high heat with olive oil. While they cooke, add salt and pepper. Remove them from the heat, squeeze over some lime juice, sprinkle on some flaked sea salt, then toss. (Yes, I have Maldon’s Sea Salt as well as a few other types.)
I had to do them in two batches because I didn’t have a really big skillet. No matter.
One of BF’s car-guy friends was over, and we were also having some Texas Tamales. BF offered him some tamales, and I asked him to try one of the peppers. He had one of each, and loved both.
No, BF didn’t want any, but I did:
My little surprise was that there were no hot peppers in the bunch. I some of them, and the rest I had a couple nights later. NO HOT ONES. Woo hoo!
Ina’s Next Book
The next Barefoot Contessa cookbook comes out in early October, titled Modern Comfort Food. She announced it on social media a few months ago, and Clarkson Potter moved up the publication date by a couple of weeks because of the current events. We all need comfort food, yes?
Has the fair Ms. Garten discovered alternate waffle maker recipes? It seems so–in the description, it says:
In Modern Comfort Food, Ina Garten shares 85 new recipes that will feed your deepest cravings. Many of these dishes are inspired by childhood favorites–but with the volume turned way up, such as Cheddar and Chutney Grilled Cheese sandwiches (the perfect match for Ina’s Creamy Tomato Bisque), Smashed Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions, and the crispiest hash browns that are actually made in a waffle iron!
It’s gonna be great. All of Ina Garten’s books have delicious food with great directions, so this will also be a good one.
If You See Some, Get Some
When I went looking, I noticed that Giada de Laurentiis also has a recipe for these, but she makes a “baked salt” with olives to go with it. I haven’t tried that one yet. Like Ree Drummond, Giada is doing her show at home. I’m catching up with all my favorite shows as I can, hence Philo TV.
A Google search will turn up more results for you, like this blog from Paleo Scaleo. Jessica is in South Carolina, and also grows them herself. I will be saving more of the seeds before the season is over so I can grow them again next year.
Don’t forget that if you buy them, you can save the seeds in a Ziploc bag and start them next year. Ditto for Hatch chiles. That’s always my plan.
Shishito peppers are a delicious thing to have, whether you’re snacking on them in front of the TV, or serving them at your next cookout or dinner party (whenever that is, right?) They’re healthy, gluten-free, low-carb and keto, so why wouldn’t you? Just make sure you have some dairy milk around, even skim, for the possibility of a hot one.
Don’t worry about BF. He’ll either come around one day, or he’ll keep eating ravioli from the can. He likes that stuff.
Corn–picked fresh–is a summer favorite. We picked some.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I had something else planned for this blog post, but don’t worry, it’s coming soon. I already told Aunt Ruth, and she’s going to be looking at the screen funny when she reads this. Besides, just about everyone knows what corn is, right?
We had to pick some of our corn today, but we should have picked it earlier.
The Garden Massacre
When Tropical Storm Cristobol knocked over a stalk of corn, we didn’t think much of it.
About two weeks later, a very bad storm system passed through. We had about three days of very heavy rain, including lightning. One strike was VERY close to us, but we don’t know where it landed. Our neighbor doesn’t, either, but it scared all of us.
A day or so later, we noticed that there were more stalks knocked over, and this morning, it was worse:
Two of BF’s car-guy friends were here this morning borrowing tools. The elder man said, “Looks like the ‘coons found a place to eat.”
Raccoons. On TV, they’re cute and cuddly, but don’t let that fool you. They’re destructive little buzzards that pull over the stalks, then nibble on the corn. They don’t eat the whole thing, mind you, just pull back some of the husk and nibble on what they see. Then they move onto the next cob, leaving most of it to waste.
Nevermind what I was calling them this morning when I was pulling the yellowed stalks out of the ground. It wasn’t nice.
So that means we started picking the remaining corn. We should have picked it before, but BF remembers how his Dad grew corn. . .and we lost some. But we got 11 ears that were in pretty good condition.
What We Got
BF began pulling the husks and the silk off the corn right outside. I don’t know why he did, but you shouldn’t do that.
Ideally, pick them right when you’re ready to cook them, or at least, leave the husks on until you cook them. By the time I got to cook them in the evening, they were starting to dry out a little, but they were OK.
In the evening, I had to get out the biggest pot I had, which isn’t a heavy-bottomed pot from The Martha Stewart Collection At Macy’s. No, this big tin pot was given to us, and it’s the biggest one around. It doesn’t even have a lid, and it sits atop the fridge most of the time. I filled it with water, salted it, and waited forever for it to boil, even though I put the universal pot lid on it.
Of course, it’s been many years since I did this, so I had to look it up. But BF, ever so helpful, offered, “I think you just boil it.” So that’s what I did.
After I looked it up.
Help Me, Martha!
Years ago I made corn on the cob for my then-fiance and used a recipe out of Martha Stewart’s big green cookbook. We boiled the corn with a touch of sugar in the water and made a butter-lime combo to coat it. It was unusual but very delicious. I don’t believe I’ve made it since, even for the GER.
A quick search today on Martha Stewart’s website gathered 203 recipes, all for corn on the cob, and I skimmed through a few of them until I found what I wanted.
I followed the directions for boiling them, and they came out fine.
But when I saw the article on “upgrades,” I was intrigued. The one that caught my eye, of course, was the basil-mint pesto. I have plenty of basil and mint, and decided to go for it.
This is the mint after I cut it. Those stalks are over a foot high:
I only needed a quarter-cup of basil, but I need to make more pesto soon:
I thought I had too much, but it turns out I had cut exactly enough. I’m getting good at this:
After pulling leaves and measuring them out, I washed them:
Then started the process.
Now Make It
You add the 3/4 cup of olive oil into the blender with two cloves of garlic and blend.
Leave the mixer running:
Then start adding the mint and basil leaves:
To avoid a possible big mess, I just used the removable cap in the lid and added them in there, a little at a time. Let it blend for another minute.
There are no nuts, just herbs, oil, and garlic. Next, I poured it out into one of the many containers I have for regular pesto:
I felt like it needed salt added at this point, so I did, just a shake, then mixed it.
Pesto On Corn
The corn was still hot, so I had to try it out. Brush it right on like melted butter.
I made sure to add plenty:
It was at this point that I discovered the pesto needed some salt, so I added some directly onto the corn before adding a shake to the pesto.
I didn’t wait for BF. I had mine right away.
It’s worth the trouble, honest.
The Fourth Of July
It’s this weekend. If you’re making corn on the cob. . .you’re welcome. Pick some, buy some, go to the farmer’s market if you have access to one. If not, your usual grocery store will have some too. Try out the basil-mint pesto if you’ve got herbs, or try out one of the compound butter recipes, like this chive butter. (One day soon!)
I also offered to make this delicious looking dish for us, Ree Drummond’s Fresh Corn Casserole. I hate that word, but it’s simple and uses fresh corn. From Facebook, I sent him the link and asked if he’d like me to make half the recipe so I could use the small oven.
His response: “I know you’re trying to enlighten me. You’re trying to drag a caveman out of his cave.”
I followed this comment with several amusing caveman GIFs.
Don’t forget about using your:
To make things easier this weekend if you’re entertaining or meeting up with family and friends.
Terry Boyd’s Blue Kitchen blog today sent an email that offers 15 recipes for your July 4th holiday menu. He always has some good food to share, and he publishes more than me, too. He and his wife have been busy and not blogging as much lately, but that’s OK.
You’re also welcome to check out the recipes page here, of course. Looking for a blog on a particular subject? Use the search function on the right-hand side of the page if you’re looking for something specific–I may have written about it previously. If you’re looking for something related to the slow cooker (aka Crock Pot), that’s the best way to find it.
The *next* blog will be about another delicious garden-based topic, and probably something you’ve never heard of.
Have a great holiday weekend.
Cheesecake–the word conjures up images and tastes of sweet and creamy, and with good reason.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
As promised (and way too late), here is my blog on cheesecake. Today’s post comes with two separate recipes from two different books, one of which was a gift from Callisto Press.
I don’t remember the first time I had cheesecake, but it was probably one of those frozen numbers. I remember being in a restaurant somewhere in New Orleans in the late 80’s and ordering blueberry cheesecake for dessert. I got the last slice they had. That didn’t go over well with my dining companions, but today I couldn’t tell you who they were.
I’ve bought many of them until I learned how to make them from Suzanne Somers’ cookbooks. From her first book, Eat Great, Lose Weight, I started making the Sugarless Cheesecake on page 186, but with Somersweet when it became available. The original recipe called for Nutrasweet, which I would never use. Later, she discovered that Nutrasweet wasn’t the best option and eliminated it from subsequent books.
From Get Skinny On Fabulous Food, I also like the Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake, which involves some sugar, so it’s “Level Two.” This means you’re incorporating some carbohydrates into your eating plan. I always made it with Somersweet. But with the wide availability of sugar-free chocolate and chocolate chips, I might revisit this recipe and try it again with erythritol (Swerve.)
In her Sexy Forever Recipe Bible, which is partly a “best of” compendium book but with other new recipes, there are three cheesecake recipes. On page 343, the New York Style Cheesecake is from one of her smaller books, Desserts. The next one is called Cappuccino Cheesecake on page 345, and is similar to the Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake. All of these recipes used Somersweet. I’ve never made it, but on page 344, there is also Peppermint Cheesecake With Chocolate Crust from another book.
There may have been one or two others here and there, but until recently, Suzanne Somers recipes have been the standards by which I make cheesecake.
Today I offer two more delicious offerings that are also healthier options.
Cheesecake #1: Keto In The Instant Pot
I’ve mentioned the multiple keto cookbooks I’ve been gifted, but there is one that I bought: Keto In An Instant by Jen Fisch.
Last year I reviewed her book Keto In 30 Minutes. I later got her first book, The Easy 5-Ingredient Ketogenic Diet Cookbook: Low-Carb, High-Fat Recipes for Busy People on the Keto Diet while on a Target run. She has one more book that I plan to get soon.
After her 30-Minute book, I subscribed to Jen’s emails and found out about the upcoming IP book, and later pre-ordered it. Jen promised, and this book delivers with some tasty food, some of which BF likes.
One particular delight, of course, is her Vanilla Bean Cheesecake on page 197.
Because it’s an Instant Pot, you’ll need a six-inch springform pan. Naturally, I happen to have one, bought about 1996 or 1997 to make a no-bake cheesecake for “company” from a Martha Stewart magazine dinner. (I was a newlywed at the time.) Used once, I’ve dusted it a few times, so I was glad to find a reason to use it.
The crust is made from almond flour, a tablespoon of erythritol, and two tablespoons of melted butter. Jen’s trick to ensure a nice crust is to encase the bottom in foil that’s lined with a paper towel. Press the crust down in the bottom of the pan, just as you would with graham cracker crumbs.
I don’t have any pictures of what comes next, so I’ll have to tell you: mix up 12 ounces of softened cream cheese, the insides of a vanilla bean (or a little more than a teaspoon of vanilla extract), 3 large eggs, a quarter-cup of heavy cream, a teaspoon of grated lemon zest, and two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice with your electric mixer (a hand mixer will work.) Then pour this over the crust.
Into And Out Of The Instant Pot
Ok, as with most pressure-cooker recipes, you’ll need to add a cup of water into the pot. Add the trivet with the lifting handles, then carefully put the pan on top of the trivet in the pan. Cover the top of the springform pan with foil.
Put the lid on and secure it, then set it to cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. When the 45 minutes is done, let it depressurize on its own for 15 minutes, then quick release to pop the pressure completely. Now you can remove the lid.
You’ll first remove the pan with the trivet from the pot–be careful, it’s hot–and remove the foil and paper towel from the bottom. Let it sit out for an hour to cool, on a wire rack. After an hour, cover the pan with foil and put it in the fridge for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours.
Yes, I know, sometimes I don’t do it exactly right or I don’t read the directions correctly. It happens. At this stage, it’s light and fluffy, but it hadn’t been refrigerated. Once it’s refrigerated, it’s a little flatter, more solid, and more like a cheesecake, as in this picture.
There is never a bad time to have a delicious cheesecake, especially if it’s a healthier version:
If you’re just wild about the Instant Pot, as BF’s sister and sister-in-law are, this is a great dessert anytime. Remember, it’s only a six-inch diameter, and you’ll need that size of a springform pan if you don’t have one already. They’re not expensive, and that’s the perfect size for the Instant Pot. Plus you’ll have to plan ahead.
But that’s not the only way to do this.
Cheesecake #2: Even Easier
Ok, so now you know how to make a delicious, low-carb/keto/sugarless/gluten-free cheesecake in your Instant Pot.
What if you don’t have an Instant Pot, or don’t want to mess with yours? Ladies and gentlemen, I have yet another solution: The Everyday Vanilla Cheesecake from The 30-Minute Low-Carb Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen. It’s on page 126, and I’ve been making it since December 16th of 2019. How do I know? Because whenever I got the book, in October, I think. I flipped through it and kept thinking I needed to try this out. Finally, I did, loved it, dated the recipe, and I’ve been making it ever since.
Literally. When I make one, I seek out the ingredients for the next one. That is, I get more cream cheese, and check my supplies of almond flour, cream, lemon, and butter.
What’s so great about this cheesecake when you’ve got Jen Fisch’s deliciousness? Well, for the following reasons:
- There is little baking/cooking–the crust is baked for a short time, but the filling isn’t
- No eggs are involved, good for people like The E Man, who is allergic to eggs
- You can eat a slice of cheesecake in an hour
- It’s two inches bigger than Jen’s
Not that Jen’s cheesecake isn’t worth it, because it is. But even Jen may like this one, even though it’s not hers. (I don’t know, I haven’t asked. Just an opinion.)
This version happens in two parts, essentially. Unlike the Jen’s Instant Pot cheesecake, you’ll make the crust first, bake it, then mix up the filling. But before we get started I need to tell you about the sweet part.
Swerve Or Erythritol?
Like most of the newer low-carb and keto dessert recipes, they tend to call for Swerve brand sweetener, which I wrote about a while back. It’s a great replacement for the extinct Somersweet, and it works just like they say it will, cup-for-cup.
However, erythritol is available in a number of forms, and from a number of places, including Whole Foods, Amazon and Vitacost, who has a 3-pound bag for $13.99. From what I’ve seen, that’s not bad. Vitacost also sells other brands, as well as Swerve for about the same price as other stores, including Walmart.
Should you decide to pass on Swerve and buy plain erythritol, you may find that it’s like regular granulated sugar. It doesn’t dissolve or “melt” like regular sugar would, so you have to grind it yourself. It doesn’t take much to do, just drop it in the food processor until you get the consistency you need.
Remember my little blender/food processor combo?
It’s perfect for this task, because then I empty out the powdered erythritol and blend up the crust. It works like this–first I grind up the sweetener:
I dump the whole thing into a pinch bowl:
And then get on with the crust, starting with the half-stick of melted butter:
I pour it into the food processor first:
Then add two cups of almond flour:
A small bit of salt:
Then add the two tablespoons of sweetener:
Now blend it up:
It takes a couple of minutes for the whole thing to mix up perfectly. It took longer if I put the butter in after the almond flour.
Once it’s well blended, add it to your ungreased, unlined springform pan.
You’ll need to press it into the pan. A trick I learned on The Food Network was to use the bottom of your measuring cup. It’s fast and easy as well as a lot more even. If you have arthritis, you’ll likely prefer that too.
It doesn’t take long, and once you get the hang of it, you’re done.
Now in the process, you’ll see some of the crust move up the sides. I like to take that off so that it doesn’t break off and make a mess when the cheesecake is done.
When you’re done, it’s nice and neat.
Bake it at 350F for about 8 minutes:
When it’s done, you’ll have a lovely crust.
When the time is up, put it in the freezer. In my case, I put a cork trivet underneath to keep it from melting the ice trays. Our kitchen fridge and freezer doesn’t have a lot of room.
Be careful not to grab the clamp–I did that once. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, even though the pan was very hot.
Now time to get on with your filling.
Making The Filling
I start this while the crust is baking, and in the middle, I have to stash the crust in the freezer.
Your sweetener is already measured, so now just squeeze out your lemons and measure out the heavy whipping cream:
Add your ingredients to the bowl, starting with your room-temp cream cheese:
Add in your previously ground sweetener, one-third cup:
Then the cream:
Then the lemon juice and vanilla:
Now start mixing:
You’ll know when it’s ready:
Take a taste and see if you like it.
Secret Weapon: Liquid Stevia
Ok, if you feel like the filling isn’t quite sweet enough, here’s what you add to the filling, one drop at a time:
I put about six drops in and blend it along with the erythritol. It doesn’t change the taste, and makes it a tad sweeter, but not overly sweet. If you want more, add a little more–but one drop at a time, or you’ll ruin the cheesecake.
And if you’re alone in your kitchen, you get a special treat at this point.
At this point the crust may still be hot, so you might leave the filling off to the side and do a little cleanup, maybe fill up the dishwasher or set some things aside to soak. Doing so will give the crust a little more time to cool off.
Filling And Freezing
Ready? Carefully pour and/or scoop the filling into the not-so-hot-now crust:
Use a spatula or other tool to smooth out the top:
Back into the freezer:
The book says 15 minutes in the freezer to “firm up,” or an hour in the fridge. Your choice. I usually leave it for more than an hour, but of course, it’s hard as a rock.
BF had to repair this hinge for me because one day I pulled out the rivets with a frozen cheesecake:
But generally, it pops right out:
This is what you end up with:
Because I consume this cheesecake a sliver at a time, I cut it in quarters first:
And then with a smaller knife, I cut a slice out:
It really is that easy and that good. You could eat the whole cheesecake if you wanted to (even I can’t do that) but it’s very rich and delicious, so you don’t need much.
BF said he had a small bit of it when I wasn’t looking, and he agrees that it’s quite delicious. I’ve served a bit to one of his car-guy friends who has been here for dinner several times (because he was here at the right time.) He was quite impressed because I did warn him it was gluten-free and sugar-free.
Other Cheesecake Notes
The first thing I should mention is that in order to make the cheesecake quickly and make sure the filling comes out smooth is to leave the cream cheese out for a good long while.
My suggestion is a minimum of four hours. But if you’re making a cheesecake after work, just take it out of the fridge and leave it on the stove in the morning and get to it when you’re ready. If you want to make it first thing in the morning and have it at dinner that night, take leave the cream cheese out all night.
Make sure that if you have critters, they can’t reach the cream cheese packets. Nevermind how I know that. You probably don’t need to leave it out for two days as I do sometimes. Unintentionally.
Use ONLY fresh lemon juice for this, or lime, as I’ve done a few times. If you use lemon extract, you will regret it. Immediately. Nevermind how I know this.
Conclusion: Cheesecake Is Delicious
I also took the opportunity to do a bit of updating on the recipes page, and it’s a little easier to find things now.
If you really like cheesecake, there is no end to the recipes you can find online. Check Pinterest, AllRecipes, do a Google search, or any website you prefer, recipes are available with a few clicks. Whether you want gluten-free, low-carb, dairy-free, or you want the best cheesecake there is, go looking for it, you’ll find it. (I just can’t vouch for them all!)
Remember my slow cooker post a few years ago when I made a low-carb chocolate custard? Slow cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea has two recipes on her website for cheesecake, one standard type, and one for pumpkin cheesecake. Both can be made anytime–canned pumpkin is available year-round in the grocery store, likely on the bottom shelf.
Stephanie’s aren’t keto, but if keto isn’t your thing, that’s OK too. I’m thinking maybe a pumpkin cheesecake if we meet up with BF’s family at his Dad’s place up the road. I brought what he calls the waffled “Awful Falafel” to Thanksgiving last year and loved watching him cringe when his sister, brother-in-law and sister-in-law enjoyed it. That’s what he gets for yakking to his friend in San Diego about my “horrible” cooking. I’m sure a pumpkin cheesecake might be a welcome addition this year, too.
The “Keto House”
On a related note, Jen Fisch’s first book was highly successful and allowed her to buy and renovate a house in Arizona. It’s now available to rent on AirBnB and Homeaway, a beautiful desert oasis that makes me want to plan a trip with BF sometime. It’s big, so we could go with several people, but maybe I just want to go with him, too.
That’s a ways off right now, but darnit, it’s a goal!
That’s all for now. More tasty food coming.
What to do with that tarragon plant in the garden? I found something to start with.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
After I published my June Updates post, it dawned on me that I could do something right then with some of the tarragon: a compound butter. Then it became digging out that lone chicken breast from the freezer and cooking it with the compound butter, and adding some cut sweet potato fries.
Hungry yet? Let me tell you how I did it.
I was actually walking the dogs when I realized that I could do this. Compound butter!
If you’re not familiar with compound butter, it’s simply a stick of softened butter with some herbs, spices or other flavorings mixed in. They can be savory or sweet, depending on what you want to use it for. There’s a longer explanation here on The Pioneer Woman’s website with some recipes. You can always make a recipe on your own.
But I didn’t have a recipe, it was mostly for using some of the tarragon. And it was easy!
I let the butter soften up for a while, and just dropped it into a bowl. You don’t want to melt the butter, because then you have to chill it and let it get malleable again.
I simply cut two stalks of the tarragon, washed them, and began chopping it with a big, sharp knife, until it was very fine. Dumped it into the butter, mixed it up well, and, voila:
I added a small amount of salt for taste–like maybe 1/8 teaspoon of that salt. Just taste it to make sure it has enough, but not too much, to your taste. And mix it VERY well, of course.
At the same time I took out the butter, I took out the bag with the lone chicken breast in it and let it thaw as well. It was just a plain, boring, flavorless chicken breast on its own.
Because it was damp, I dried it off:
Using two small spatulas, I dug some of the butter out and dropped it on to the chicken and rubbed it on each side:
Then I added it to a baking sheet with some cut sweet potatoes coated in a bit of olive oil and salt:
Once I got the sweet potatoes in one layer, it was ready to bake:
And because I wanted to eat soon, I heated the little oven to 425F. It was ready in about 25 minutes.
Freezing The Remainder
Now, this “recipe” didn’t use the entire stick of butter. If I were cooking for me and BF, or more people, I probably would have used the whole thing. But this time, it was just me, and I froze the rest. You could also do this if you were making several types in advance.
Get some waxed paper, parchment paper, or butchers paper, and plop it down on the paper:
Because it’s soft but not melted, you can turn it into a roll, just like on the Pioneer Woman’s website:
Now roll it all the way up and twist up the edges like a Christmas cracker:
I stashed mine in a freezer bag to hopefully prevent freezer burn.
If you wanted to store multiples, just use a felt-tip pen to write the type on the waxed paper. You don’t want to mix up tarragon compound butter with orange honey butter, right?
When you’re ready to use it, just slice off what you need to add delicious taste to anything you’re cooking.
Dinner Smells Good
About the time I finished this up, dinner was ready. I plated it and it was perfect:
The chicken was perfectly cooked, tender and moist, and the butter also made it over to the sweet potatoes. Maybe I should have left off the small bit of olive oil, but it tasted fantastic.
Where was BF, you ask, when I was making this deliciousness? He was at work, and got a pizza for his “pit crew.” He came home with three slices left of it for lunch.
Ok, not everyone is going to appreciate a couple of branches of the plant–that’s OK. But I did do some checking on Pinterest for some more ideas.
I also discovered that the tarragon I’m growing is called Texas/Mexican tarragon. (Being a naturalized Texan, I bought it.) It’s not the French tarragon we’re used to buying. I found the plant. . .somewhere, and stashed it in the ground when it was time to plant. No complaints.
Tarragon vinegar is a longtime favorite, and I may check into making some of that. I did that once, a long time ago, so maybe it’s time to do that again.
Tarragon oil may not be a good idea for long-term storage because of the possibility of bacteria. I learned that back in the 90’s when I made seasoned bottles of vinegar one year for Christmas. I had fun collecting wine bottles from one lady I used to know in New Orleans–she drank a lot of wine and kept me supplied with empty bottles for months.
I also saw a reference to adding tarragon into pesto, so next batch, I’ll be trying it out. I have plenty of basil to work with, trust me.
Maybe compound butter as gifts? It’s an idea, and it’s quick. Just have to make sure it stays frozen until use.
That was just a quick glance at Pinterest, I’ll do a more in-depth look soon. If I have to start making gifts now, it’s a great time to do so and have them ready for the holidays.
Which will be showing up sooner than you think.
Need a dinner idea tonight? Here you go–try some tarragon compound butter on your next chicken, turkey or other poultry dish for a delicious herb taste.
Finally some news, including Hatch chiles, sort of.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Well, it’s summer again, and you know what happened. I’ve been writing, cooking, washing, and cleaning, and generally not blogging. For three weeks, the blog was actually broken. Finally, I created a service ticket for my hosting service, and they fixed it quickly.
After finishing the post on the John Walton Celebration of Life, a little catching up is in order.
My new copywriting website is still not finished. It’s one of those big, hairy things I don’t want to deal with, but I have to, eventually.
The good news is that my Upwork Job Success Score (JSS) just went back up to 100%.
I also finally finished two certifications from Digital Marketer: one for SEO (Search Market Mastery), the other for Content Marketing. The SEO course is the one that I’d been fiddling with for over a year, and Content Marketing was the other one I wanted.
These will be added to the new website. . .eventually.
Because Digital Marketer had a hard-stop ending on the free access on April 15th, I had to finish them ASAP. Nothing like a deadline to make you complete something, right? Well, I almost didn’t get the SEO finished because there was a bug on their website that gave me an error message when I went to take the test. Finally, it was fixed, and I was able to finish the certification. I did the content marketing course in two days, and I have notes and handouts and downloads to refer to.
World Gone Mad
I’ve got to be careful about how I phrase this next section. My hosting company sent out an email in March that included a comment on how they were removing *those* disease-related search terms from their domain search tool so that nobody could set up a website to take advantage of the situation, including alleged and likely fake “cures.” So, here goes.
Last time I wrote a blog post that bug was just affecting some folks on a cruise ship overseas. Now it’s a worldwide thing that has seen all manner of disasters, including economic. While people are starting to emerge from their homes, many because they can’t stand it anymore, the powers that be are continuing to scramble to try and find the right answers.
Part of our preparations included some panic shopping at Walmart for “essentials.” However, what he considers “essential” and what I consider “essential” are frequently not the same. But we were able to get some foodstuffs to pack up under the counter. They’re packed in boxes along with some other foodstuffs that were given to us from BF’s Dad’s house when his sister cleared out some things in favor of “low-sodium” for their Dad to help lower his blood pressure.
Everyone needs cans of chili with beans, right? (Don’t forget the Gas-X!) I added some cans of salmon, which BF wouldn’t touch. For a while, we couldn’t get canned tuna or salmon at all. There were also nationwide shortages of things like yeast, flour, cleaning supplies, and those were evident here. BF was concerned about not being able to get bread, so I bought an extra bag of flour. . .but there was no yeast. I have some in the pantry that I brought from Houston, but that was it. Might be good, might not be, but I haven’t tried proofing it yet. When I found some, I bought it.
We’ve kept ahead of the game on the most coveted item, toilet paper.
Managing The Pandemic
Louisiana has been one of the states with higher rates of cases, but as of this writing, the fatality rate is about 6%, and the recovery rate is high. (I did the math, so be proud of me.) We are fortunate to be in one of the outlying parishes that’s close to the Mississippi border. Our parish has seen a total of 58 presumptive cases, and one fatality due to the bug.
Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Tammany have seen the greatest numbers of cases and deaths, with all 64 parishes now reporting infections. The New Orleans Advocate has a page that’s updated daily with the latest numbers, and the Houston Chronicle also has regular updates for Houston and for Texas.
The most awesome Dr. Sakina Davis at Woodlands Wellness recently had a Zoom call with some of us interested folks to talk about not only what it was, but how to defend yourself against *it* with supplements, healthy eating, and of course, getting some sun as well as supplementing with Vitamin D. I greatly appreciated that. I had to get some Vit C from them, and got a couple of bottles of their very posh-smelling hand sanitizer as well. (I have the most incredible hand sanitizer for miles around!) Another thing: turn off the TV and don’t have a steady diet of “news.”
And if that isn’t enough, it’s now hurricane season. Tropical Storm Cristobal was the first storm to come this way. We just had some rain, nothing serious.
It’s Jumanjij Level 6!
We’re starting to come out on the other side of the pandemic, and slowly, places are reopening around the US. We’ve been to our local Tex-Mex place, La Carreta, once, and have bought curbside takeout from them twice. They’ve reopened with masks on servers. We’ve not been to any of the other local places, which have since reopened, including BF’s favorite Cracker Barrel in Hammond. Yet. But eventually, we all hope to get back to some kind of normalcy.
Trending Egg Bites: Starbucks Leads
Once again the Big Green Coffee Company of Seattle leads the way in trends. First, it was the much-lauded (and maligned) Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL, complete with 50 grams of sugar). Now, they’re leading with their famed egg bites.
I’ve done egg bites in the Instant Pot, but they’re a bit of trouble and I’ve not made them in a while. (I even bought two of those silicone egg molds to do make them in.)
Egg bites are quite popular for a lot of reasons, and it’s probably the one thing I buy the most when I visit Starbucks, other than coffee.
They’re now considered an “emerging food trend,” meaning that everyone is getting on the bandwagon after Starbucks started it. Finally, you’ll soon be able to get egg bites in your grocers’ freezer case. Organic Valley will begin shipping frozen egg bites to stores in late July with an MSRP of $3.99 a pack. Nestle and Valley Fine Foods will soon follow with their own brands.
NOTE: Starbucks has begun to re-open their stores, but our Hammond store has a drive-thru curbside service, Although the store is actually open, there is no seating. You can just go to the counter and pick up your order or hit the powder room (I think.) They aren’t allowing seating outside under the patio, either.
Understand that when I first got here, the center of my universe in Hammond was the Starbucks on St. Thomas. I was very surprised to see a PJ’s in our town, right by Winn-Dixie, and that was a small comfort. It still is, and both have free WiFi.
Admittedly, I only visit Starbucks sporadically, usually, when I’m going to Hammond anyway, or if I’m headed to New Orleans. If there are extra points to be had or some other kind of “special” reason to go, I might make a trip and hit Target at the same time. I’ve utilized the mobile app ordering, and it worked fine.
Mostly, though, I’ve been going to our local PJ’s Coffee on Fridays, ordering their $1-any-size hot coffees through the drive-through and adding a bigger tip or the folks working there.
The cafe just re-opened a couple of weeks ago. But I was doing what was asked, helping out by going through the drive-thru to keep them in business throughout the shutdowns.
BF and I went through one day and I got him a delicious breakfast croissant. A couple of times, I bought BF a double-chocolate muffin, including one for his birthday. He was happy with that. We also bought a gift card to help keep our PJ’s in business, and I’ve just started using the money on it. Their drive-thru has been quite busy so I guess it worked.
Like a lot of fast-food places, PJ’s has been following the guidelines set out by the CDC and the State of Louisiana. They just re-opened the local cafe a couple of weeks ago, with limited indoor seating and the same abbreviated hours. There is also a bigger PJ’s in Hammond, but not near Starbucks, although I haven’t been to that one in a while. Situated next to military recruiting offices, they have a second-floor seating area, and also offer lunch items. They too have abbreviated hours, but chances are, the same as ours.
PJ’s also offers discounts to military personnel and veterans, at least here. That’s a plus for BF, except that he doesn’t drink coffee.
But guess what? PJ’s is, through expansion and franchising, moving into other states, including Texas! I couldn’t believe how many PJ’s there are now around the US. California? Maryland? Georgia? Arkansas? Alabama? I had no idea. There is one “coming soon” to Katy, TX, and I notified longtime Boeing brother RR to be on the lookout. There is also a location in Pearland, which is kind of near Miss Alice, but also might be somewhere in the path of the GER. I let him know about it, and that it is a great alternative to Starbucks (his least favorite place.)
Could PJ’s become the new go-to place for coffee and topple the reigning coffee empire? It’s possible. You could find a PJ’s in your neighborhood one day soon.
The HeatCageKitchen Garden, 2020
Partly in response to the worldwide crisis, BF decided we needed to step up our homesteading game at the Casa de Rurale. I just say it’s about time.
After gardening in buckets, small patches of land, and getting some “toilet-tank tomatoes” two summers ago, we now have a more formal garden. I’ve already made two batches of fresh pesto for the freezer, which he is, as always, unhappy about.
The plant on the right has already been cut for both pesto and for cloning. I’ve got to plant those rootlings soon and get them out of the window. I’ll fill the chest freezer with pesto for the winter, or I’ll end up giving some away. Now to figure out what to do with the burgeoning tarragon. I’ll start with a compound butter for chicken.
Our neighbor across the street, Mr. JD, brought over his tractor and dug up some land for us in front of the shop, and we’ve been planting and planting again. Some things don’t work but we keep trying. We’ve planted a number of things, some of which are actually doing quite well. Right now we have actively growing:
- Potatoes, including some from the grocery store we let bud
- Green beans
- Yellow teardrop
- Chocolate cherry, from seeds I saved in 2015 in Houston (no tomatoes yet)
- Mexican Oregano
- Purple bell peppers
- Shishito peppers (a small, sweet pepper from Japan)
- “Coolapenos,” a variety of jalapenos without the heat
- Anaheim chili peppers, aka, Hatch
Between the plants and the seeds, there have been some that were successful, and some disappointments. We just keep planting stuff and hope it works.
The agreement with Mr. JD was that we would share the harvest, and that’s fine. But when I picked the first of the bounty, three French breakfast radishes, he never stopped by for them. So I washed them and ate them:
Note: eat radishes right after picking. I’ve planted more, and they’re coming up quickly. I’ve got both French Breakfast radishes and some older seeds of some other type, and both are growing.
The Anaheim, or Hatch, Chili Pepper Plant
Remember a couple of years ago I did some reading into Hatch chiles? Well, I am finally getting some from the garden, after three years of trying to grow the darn things from saved seeds from Hatch seasons past. They’re not exactly Hatch chiles, but they’re pretty much the same thing.
I’m convinced this was a mistake, but our local Tractor Supply had Anaheim “Hatch” chili pepper plants about two months ago, and I got the last one. I keep going back to see if they’ve received any more, but nothing yet.
At the moment, there are four small peppers in various stages of growth, and I’ve got four in the fridge. I’m planning to roast them soon, and save the seeds. I used the first two peppers to try and plant more–get a load of these:
Miss Raylina, who works at our local Tractor Supply and puts up with my harassment about “setting up the coffee bar,” told me how to plant any pepper. It’s simple: cut it in half lengthwise and fill the cavity–seeds and all–with soil. Then bury the dirt-filled pepper in your garden. The seeds will germinate and feed off the flesh of the pepper while growing. Simple, right?
I really want more of these peppers this summer, so I’m willing to sacrifice the first two for the greater good of the garden (and give me more “Hatch” peppers, darn it.) But nothing yet. I’ll be saving the seeds out of these during the summer to try and grow Hatch chiles again next year.
But so far, nothing yet. At least we have New Mexico’s harvest in August, at which time I will be able to harvest more of the Hatch chile seeds for next year.
More Garden Pictures
Of course, Anaheim “Hatch” chili peppers aren’t the only thing we’ve got going on. BF insisted on growing corn and potatoes because that’s what his Dad always grew when they were kids. Mind you, BF just turned 50, has been married twice, owned a house once, but has never had a garden of his own. So far, the corn is doing well, with just one stalk knocked over a bit when Cristobal passed through:
How can we incorporate Hatch chiles in with corn? Well, for starters, do it when BF isn’t around.
Because the little yellow teardrop plant didn’t seem to be doing well, I went ahead and moved it. I figured if it was going to die anyway, I might as well try and give it a fighting chance. Not exactly a bumper crop, but it’s a start:
Earlier this year I found three bell pepper plants called Tequila. They turn purple when ripe, not red. I thought it was interesting so I bought a flat of three. Well, one plant didn’t make it, one is still in the shadow of the bigger one and needs moving, even though it’s got one pepper growing on it. But the big plant has three purple peppers, in various stages of ripeness.
Interesting, yes? And then there are the Shishito peppers:
I only saw Ina Garten make these on her show recently, and apparently it’s also in her last book. (Giada de Laurentiis also has a recipe for them.) When I saw the plants at Tractor Supply, I bought two. One is doing better than the other, so I’ll be trying them out when they get bigger. Surprise! One of them is going to be HOT.
Have you ever heard of someone being overrun with zucchini? That hasn’t happened to us yet, we’ve only gotten two off this plant.
And because the leaves are so big, I may have to move the oregano–again.
BF doesn’t eat them, so of course, I’ll be happily feasting on them soon. Zucchini noodles, and preserved zucchini are right on my list.
We’ve also had blackberries growing wild, but BF has never told me how to cultivate them. (Mr. JD said they were “dewberries,” but whatever–they’re delicious.) I gathered berries every day during the brief season, and I have about two quarts in the freezer. That’s the berries left from when I go out berry-picking with the now 80-pound pit bull. We eat berries together. He loves them, right off the vine. I also drop them into his huge, muscular mouth for him to enjoy.
Salad Greens And Other Ingredients
I love salads, and I have long wished to be able to walk outside, pick my salad, walk back inside, wash everything, cut and toss everything into a bowl. I’ve sort of done that twice so far, but there were no cucumbers yet, and I bought some grape tomatoes at Winn-Dixie:
I think I may have dipped into the remaining stash I have of Meyer Lemon EVOO and Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar from Oil & Vinegar in The Woodlands. Just this once, it was a special occasion. But this salad didn’t need much. Those bottles have been at the top corner of the pantry behind everything. BF has strict orders to never touch it, but he probably won’t anyway.
I miss that place. I wonder if they ship.
I tried to grow Romaine lettuce in Houston but was always unsuccessful. The GER told me once that lettuce is a “winter crop,” which put me right off trying again. One day I had a nice big leaf growing, and an hour later, a slug took it out.
Then I moved. Here, we’ve grown some “gourmet” lettuce as well as what doesn’t really look much like iceberg lettuce, but is quite tasty.
The seed for the iceberg lettuce moved when it rained or I watered, so it’s in an odd place. I might try to move it again soon, or move both lettuces away from the outer part of the garden plot so they’ll grow better. There’s a reason for that.
See, I did sprout some Romaine and some celery in the kitchen recently, but they disappeared after I planted them outside. Not died–disappeared. BF said it looked like either deer, possums, raccoons or some other nocturnal creatures came to feast and dug them out of the ground. Without one of those outdoor cams, we have no way of knowing. I’m not 100% sure I want to know what’s going on outside with Mother Nature, anyway.
We also planted cucumbers, which, along with watermelon, are threatening to take over the lawn.
You’ve got to check those cucumbers regularly–if they turn yellow, they’re awful. I know this because the GER grew cucumbers once, and we missed one. He found the yellow “ripe” one, and of course, I had to try it. NOPE! So I’m on them daily for the ones that are ready to pick. If I see some yellow, they get harvested.
No watermelons yet, but we’ll be enjoying those hopefully later in the summer.
I do keep watering and pulling ever-present indigenous weeds out of the plot. There’s some over-grown grass to be removed as well, and I take out some every morning when I water. At some point, I hope to do a mass removal of everything and get some of that black fabric to put over the ground to keep the weeds from getting sun. Fingers crossed.
Books, Books, And More Books
Callisto Press has blessed me with oodles of books since last July. The variety of topics include:
- Weight lifting
- Wine, spirits, and cocktails
- Professional poker
- Aromatherapy (three books, but I’m not allowed to do that in the house)
- Spells for new witches (I kid you not, it was interesting)
- The Law Of Attraction
- Weight training/fitness
- Cannabis edibles (not legal here)
- Successful aging and retirement
- Fung shui
- Essential oils
- Multiple cookbooks, including:
- Italian cooking
- French cooking and baking
- Scandanavian baking
- Baking, including cakes and donuts
- Barbecue and grilling, including sauces
- “Five-Ingredient” cookbooks
- “For two” cookbooks
- Quick-cooking, 30 minutes or less, including “healthy”
- Instant Pot cooking
- Air Fryer cooking
- Slow cooking
- Gardening (including urban gardening)
- Convection oven cooking
- Dehydrator recipes
- Cooking for your dog (absolute truth, including recipes for “doggie date nights” for you and the pup)
- Psychology in different forms, including three “couples” books and one on “willpower”
- Sleeping (and how much sleep have I lost reading them? None.)
- Cookbooks for pecific diets, including:
- Keto (including vegetarian)
- Thyroid disorders
- Intermittent fasting
- Mediterranean (I have three, including one for Keto)
And that’s just the ones I’ve been able to put my hands on just now.
Amazingly, we’ve found a few new “winners” for me to make again, with two thumbs up from BF. This includes one called Roasted Calabrian Chicken, which I made last week. It was really just chicken and diced potatoes with some dried oregano, fresh rosemary, and (don’t tell him!) a squeeze of lemon juice, on a sheet pan in the countertop oven. Needed to cook the potatoes longer, though. Next one is an air fryer recipe with. . .chicken and diced potatoes. The potatoes go into the bottom, and the chicken goes on top on a little rack. Maybe next week.
How Many Books?
Honest, I have no idea. I haven’t counted or organized them yet. They’ve been coming hot and heavy since last July, and until they started limiting people to four books, I got as many as seven at once. I have given a couple of them away as Christmas gifts, and some may be donated to the library eventually.
I need a new bookshelf now, and I’ll have to organize them accordingly. That means BF will be moving some of his boxes of ju. . .I mean, things, for me to put the bookshelf up. I plan to put a nice china cabinet up next to the bookshelf one day, preferably from IKEA, but that’s going to be a while yet.
I wondered if I would need more bookcases. And then one day, it became e-books. I’m guessing it’s because of the expense, but the reason Callisto gave was because of the delivery times. So now it’s about reviewing e-books, and they offer a very short time window for it, too.
I’ve sent one or two of these e-books to Miss Alice in Houston since she’s now vegetarian, a gift from Hurricane Harvey.
I do appreciate all the physical books they’ve sent me (and now, some of my writer friends) to read and review, and will keep them in their own bookcase. LOTS of delicious food in these books as well as really good info, which I hope to digest before my 90th birthday.
I missed two books out of the last batch of physical books that I really wanted, so I’ve got them on my Amazon wish list. I’ll try to fit them in my next Amazon order (whenever that is.) One was a 3-ingredient cocktail book, the other another “for two” kind of thing. Oh, well–they’re not expensive.
I’m a good six months late on this, but I think the next post will be about the cheesecakes. KJ is impatiently waiting for me to write it up, and I need to blog a little more regularly anyway. Plus I’ve got to tell you about the air fryer and the Instant Pot that’s taking up way too much room on the countertop. At least when I use it I can “let R2D2 handle dinner.”
Please take care of yourself, wash your hands, take necessary precautions, and stay far and away from trouble. It’s everywhere, lurking around corners. I’ll be back soon with more delicious recipes to share.