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Shishito growing on vine
Have You Tried Shishito Peppers?

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:

Pesto Chicken And Zucchini

It’s so GREEEN!!!

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. 

Growing Shishito

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:

Shishito pepper with bell

To the left are some Anaheims and one little bell pepper called Tequila.

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 cook, 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:

Tamales and shishito pappers on red plate

A truly diverse, multicultural dinner!

My little surprise was that there were no hot peppers in the bunch. I ate some of them that Friday night, and the rest I ate with dinner 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.

Enjoy!

corn on the cob with basil mint pesto
Corn On The Cob From The Garden

Corn–picked fresh–is a summer favorite. We picked some.

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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:

Corn stalks knocked over

Oh, the humanity!

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.”

Downed corn stalks

Heartbreaking

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.

Freshly shucked corn

Beautiful, yes?

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:

Mint in bucket

It just gets water, honest.

I only needed a quarter-cup of basil, but I need to make more pesto soon:

Basil growing

Some of the zucchini leaves were cut to give the herbs more sun

I thought I had too much, but it turns out I had cut exactly enough. I’m getting good at this:

basil on counter

When you eliminate the stems, you find out how much you have.

After pulling leaves and measuring them out, I washed them:

Washing basil and mint

All nice and clean.

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.

olive oil and garlic

I didn’t use EVOO in this one.

Leave the mixer running:

 

mixer running making pesto

Doesn’t look like much yet.

Then start adding the mint and basil leaves:

adding herbs to blender

Carefully, of course.

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.

Pesto blended

Not your normal pesto.

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:

Basil mint pesto in container

This will stay in the fridge for a few days, then I may freeze it.

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.

Brushing pesto on corn

Oh, yes!

I made sure to add plenty:

Brushing more pesto on corn on cob

Cover the whole thing

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.

Shaking salt onto corn

Coarse kosher salt, right on top.

I didn’t wait for BF. I had mine right away.

corn on the cob with basil mint pesto

Tah-dah!

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.

Slow cooker guru Stephanie O’Dea has oodles of recipes available on her website and they’re indexed here. You can sign up for her emails too.

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.

Enjoy!

Cooked chicken tarragon with sweet potato fries
Last Night’s Dinner With Tarragon

What to do with that tarragon plant in the garden? I found something to start with.

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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.

The Realization

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:

Tarragon butter mixed in container

Tarragon compound butter.

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.

Making Dinner

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.

chicken breast on cutting board

That doesn’t look terribly exciting, does it?

Because it was damp, I dried it off:

Raw chicken breast in paper towel

This gives a better surface for the butter to stick to.

Using two small spatulas, I dug some of the butter out and dropped it on to the chicken and rubbed it on each side:

Compound butter and chicken

It looks easy because it IS.

Then I added it to a baking sheet with some cut sweet potatoes coated in a bit of olive oil and salt:

Sweet potato fries on baking sheet

Just the perfect amount

Once I got the sweet potatoes in one layer, it was ready to bake:

Chicken and sweet potatoes on baking sheet

It was just enough for me, but you could always make more.

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:

Tarragon compound butter on waxed paper

Just like that, but it’s not ready to freeze yet.

Because it’s soft but not melted, you can turn it into a roll, just like on the Pioneer Woman’s website:

Rolling the compound butter into a log

It takes a small amount of fiddling and rolling, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it.

Now roll it all the way up and twist up the edges like a Christmas cracker:

Rolled up butter in waxed paper

Twisting the edges keeps it in place for when it freezes

I stashed mine in a freezer bag to hopefully prevent freezer burn.

Tarragon compound butter roll in freezerbag

That’s all there is to it.

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:

Cooked chicken tarragon with sweet potato fries

It was delicious!

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.

Tarragon Gifting?

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.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Cut garde lettuce with grape tomatoes
June Updates And Hatch Chiles

Finally some news, including Hatch chiles, sort of.

Hi, again, Dear Readers:

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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.

Copywriting Updates

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%.

UpworkProfilePicAt1002020

I did it again.

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.

 

Content Marketing Badge

Search Marketing Specialist

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 in red mold

Aren’t they cute? Right out of the pot.

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. 

Cooked egg bites in red dish

Ready for breakfast!

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.

PJ’s Coffee

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.

Basil plants

Basil is back, and there is more to come.

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.

Tarragon with ruler measuring 12 inches high

What am I going to do with all that?

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:

  • Corn
  • Potatoes, including some from the grocery store we let bud
  • Green beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini
  • Radishes
  • Tarragon
  • Basil
  • Lettuce:
    • Gourmet
    • Iceberg
  • Tomatoes:
    • Yellow teardrop
    • Chocolate cherry, from seeds I saved in 2015 in Houston (no tomatoes yet)
  • Mexican Oregano
  • Peppers
    • Purple bell peppers
    • Shishito peppers (a small, sweet pepper from Japan)
    • Poblanos
    • “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:

Three French Breakfast Radishes

They are gorgeous, yes?

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.

Anaheim Hatch chili pepper plant with pepper

Looking forward to more of these

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: 

Two Anaheim Hatch chili peppers on red cutting board with knife

The first two Hatch peppers that were used to try and regrow more peppers

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:

Corn stalks growing

These are about six feet high

 

Up-close shot of corn on the stalk

Looks like we will be having plenty of corn on the cob soon, whether we want it or not.

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: 

Small tomato plant

There it is! One little tomato.

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.

Tequila bell peppers

You won’t find these at HEB, Rouse’s, Publix, or Walmart.

Interesting, yes? And then there are the Shishito peppers:

Shishito pepper

Ever heard of these? Me either until recently.

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.

Zucchini plant

The leaves are as big as dinner plates.

And because the leaves are so big, I may have to move the oregano–again.

Zucchini growing

That’s the next one that I’ll harvest. They seem to double in size overnight.

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:

Cut garden lettuce with grape tomatoes

This was so delicious with a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing and a touch of salt.

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.

Green and red lettuce growing

I was quite surprised that this grew as well as it did. Then I cut it for salad.

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.

Iceberg lettuce growing

It’s re-growing after being clipped. Again.

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.

Cucumber and watermelon growing

They’re everywhere!

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
  • CBD 
  • Weight training/fitness
  • Cannabis edibles (not legal here)
  • Successful aging and retirement
  • Fung shui
  • Essential oils
  • Visualization
  • Multiple cookbooks, including:
    • Italian cooking
    • French cooking and baking
    • Scandanavian baking
    • Baking, including cakes and donuts
    • Sauces
    • Barbecue and grilling, including sauces
    • “Five-Ingredient” cookbooks
    • “For two” cookbooks
    • Quick-cooking, 30 minutes or less, including “healthy”
    • Desserts
    • 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:
    • Vegetarian/Vegan
    • Keto (including vegetarian)
    • Pescatarian
    • Dairy-Free
    • Gluten-Free
    • Sugar-free
    • Thyroid disorders
    • Intermittent fasting
    • Lowfat
    • 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.

What’s Next?

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.

Enjoy!

 

gluten free starbucks
Starbucks’ New Gluten Free Breakfast Sandwich

I’m sampling Starbucks’ new gluten free breakfast sandwich today.

Follow me on Bloglovin’

Hi, again, Dear Readers:

Well, I found another thing to write about. If you’re one of my gluten-free readers, this one’s for you.

But first, some news

Remember my blog post on einkorn wheat, the original form of wheat that’s being grown again for a hungry world? My einkorn article for my client OffTheGridNews has been published, just this week, and you can read it here. There are two more articles in the queue that haven’t been published yet.  I’ve been paid for all of them, so they’ll be out eventually. On Facebook, that article garnered about 10 comments (not all nice), 79 shares and 80 likes. So I guess I can write. . . .

Food Redux

It’s long been known that the food industry throws out a lot more food during the selection process than they keep. Farmers know they can’t sell a funny-looking tomato that will taste incredible, because appearances are everything. Misshapen produce is a big one, but there are other bits and bots that are, shamefully, discarded, adding to food waste and landfills. Ever think to yourself, “we could be feeding hungry people with that”?  (Or said to a child, “there are starving people in. . .so eat it?”) Well, turning leftovers into food is a trend that’s happening now–but it’s startups that are leading the way.

From the Washington Post, food waste is the “hot” new trend in food. Edible but ugly produce is turned into jam, flour is milled from the remains of coffee beans, and stale bread is turned into beer. It’s not dumpster-diving, because nothing has gone that far, and a lot of “waste” has been kept out of landfills. These innovative folks are just taking something that’s usually discarded, but useful and still edible, doing something new with it. I like that.

My question: why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

Teaching Lettuce

Zeponic Farms, part of George Mason University, is a little gardening operation in a re-purposed shipping container that grows lettuce, other green stuff. They work with folks in the Mason LIFE program to offer education and work experience to those with special needs. The lettuce they grow is sold to the campus food service company, Sodexo, and served in the campus dining hall. Can’t get any more “local” than that, and it benefits a lot of people. Eventually, they hope to offer employment to the special needs community as well.

I’m sure they’re not growing *that* kind of herbal in there. Not where anyone can get to it. But Louisiana’s own LSU is getting on that medical pot bandwagon to–what?–generate revenue. Because revenue from alcohol and gambling casinos only goes so far.

Starbucks, again

On a lark, I decided to head to Starbucks in Hammond for the day, since the library closes early and BF works late. I’m sure he won’t mind. Knowing that I had two free things, I figured that I could try their new gluten free breakfast sandwich today. Originally, I wanted BF to join me so he could try it with me, but. . .well, I think I need a new taste-tester for this humble blog, since he complains about it a lot. He doesn’t want me near the Crock Pots again for a while, and he’s all but banned me from waffling anything for him, so. . .that’s enough of that. BF is now retired as the  HeatCageKitchen taste-tester. Problem is, I don’t have anyone else to use, so I tried the darn thing myself.

The issue with a lot of the “gluten free” stuff, like many “alternative” foods (diet, diabetic) is that they taste bad or have a dreadful texture. One bite, and you realize that you’re better off chewing your nails. The market share and demand for decent-tasting gluten-free food increased when more people went gluten-free. It’s not just folks with the allergy anymore. The more people read about what modern wheat really is, (i.e., Wheat Belly), the more they leave it alone.

They finally made one

A couple of years ago, I called Starbucks to ask them about doing something gluten-free. The response was that they were unable to because they couldn’t guarantee against cross-contamination with other gluten-laden products. Some of that problem has been dealt with, as I’ll show you.

Hungry, I sauntered up to the counter and requested one along with a refill of hot brewed coffee. When the little oven went off, I was handed this little package inside one of their standard white envelopes:

gluten free starbucks

That’s how they solve the cross-contamination issue!

Yup–sealed in a parchment pouch that can withstand the heat of their mini-ovens. No mistaking which one this is, either. But how do you know it’s really gluten-free?

Gluten Free Starbucks

That’s how.

And this means?

Certified gluten free means that, depending on the regulating program, this food product contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million), although the Celiac Support Association (formerly the Celiac Sprue Association) requires foods to have less than 5 PPM. According to this article, anything less than 20 ppm is not detectable, and most people with the allergy don’t have a reaction at that rate.

The FDA also has official rules on what constitutes “gluten free,” setting that bar at 20 ppm.

Companies that jump through the hoops to get certified are usually catering to the gluten-free crowd anyway, so they want to make sure you’re getting what you asked for. Knowing what kinds of foods are gluten-free already helps.

The Starbucks Gluten Free Breakfast Sandwich

Drum roll, please.

Tearing open the envelope, I carefully removed this:

gluten free starbucks

The Gluten Free Breakfast Sandwich at Starbucks

OK, so it’s a little lopsided. They get jostled about in those little packets. They can’t straighten it out because that would require opening the packet. Then I took a bite:

gluten free starbucks

Looks like the regular breakfast sandwich, doesn’t it?

And another bite. . .

gluten free

No. . .it’s not mold.

What did it taste like?

For a gluten-free item, it’s pretty good. The same tasty fillings you’d expect in their regular sandwiches. The bread is only slightly stiffer than regular bread–think ciabatta or French bread. Then there is the matter of a little bit of flour on it, something the regular sandwiches don’t have. Just don’t eat it too close to your keyboard, I’d say.

Oh, yeah.

The fine print

If you’re wondering what’s in these, well, this is the back of the packet:

gluten free starbucks

I know, I know. . . .

Bread normally has a lot of ingredients, but because it’s also egg, cheese and Canadian bacon, well, you know.

You can read more about this sandwich on Starbucks’ website, and it should be available nationwide. Hey–if they have it in one way out here, you should be able to find it anywhere.

They sell about 12 of these a day  in Hammond, I’m told, so there’s definitely a market, even in places where people don’t follow the food trends. Southeastern Louisiana University is also in Hammond, so that may also be a factor. Bigger cities like Houston probably sell 12 an hour, if not more.

Rejoice!

Starbucks carries a myriad of things, many of them gluten free, as I’ve mentioned before. But now, you can get a gluten-free breakfast sandwich in Starbucks, too.

It’s getting on time to go and pick up my former taste-tester from work.  He had a frozen dinner today for lunch after his rampage through Walmart this morning. Tomorrow will probably sandwiches.  His choice.

Until next time. . . .

Enjoy!

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