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Baked blackberry galette
Blackberry Cheesecake Galette

Are you a blackberry fan? I’ve got a great dessert recipe for your upcoming Labor Day outing, or just anytime you want something easy, sweet, and tasty.

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

How did it happen that it’s the end of August? Well, while were busy with other things, Father Time kept moving. Labor Day is Monday, and that kicks off the fall season in the US. Kids go back to school, fall fashions arrive, regular schedules resume, and the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) returns to Starbucks. Then social media memes about pumpkin spice everything arrive, as well as other products with the flavors and spices of pumpkin pie.

Cooler weather will be coming to the South sometime around late October to mid-November, whereas our neighbors above the Mason-Dixon Line will be reaching for their winter gear in the next few weeks. Until then we can still enjoy some summery things, like today’s featured recipe from The Pioneer Woman Magazine. I know, I’m late doing this one. I finally got around to not only buying the ingredients but also baking the thing. BF is happily licking his paws and enjoying it this week.

I’m also late writing this post because for the last two weeks we’ve experienced a serious “rainy season.” No kidding, long periods of heavy rain every day, which takes down the Internet for a while. The rain kept the temperature in the low 80s, so I did turn on the big oven once or twice.

Flooded land

See? The Brazos River returns, and this was a couple of hours after the rain ended.

Never fear—I’m told that there’s a new Internet company that’s installing fiber optic cables in the area, and they’re going to be installing them on our little country road soon. After five years of the Internet that’s knocked out every time clouds roll in, I’m hoping for better service. Maybe I can finally use my little MagicJack and the (now-discontinued) Plantronics phone instead of just the iPhone app.

Prime Time For Hurricanes

It’s been a year since our Hurricane Ida adventure started. We survived that, plus The Big Freeze in February, so maybe we’ll survive anything—we’ll see.

Others aren’t so fortunate and are still not back in their homes nearly a year later. Many don’t know when they’ll be going home again.

Hurricane season isn’t yet over, because it runs to November 1st. But this is the time of the year (August through late September) to keep an eye out for things happening in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the same season where other storms have happened:

  • Hurricanes Laura and Marco, 2020 (there were more, and the National Weather Service ran out of names)
  • Hurricanes Gert, Harvey, Maria, and Irma, 2017
  • The Big Flood in Southern Louisiana, 2016 (not a hurricane but a weather system just as destructive, even this far north of the coast)
  • Hurricane Ike, 2008 (Houston and Galveston were seriously impacted; I was in New Orleans with The E Man and his wife for nine days)
  • Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 2005 (I drove through the Rita evacuation to Austin, it took 11 hours)
  • Hurricane Ivan, 2004

Just to name a few. We’re ready, we think, especially with all the tea light candles I bought last year, but I also think we need to stock up on batteries soon. As one of my Boeing Brothers posted on Facebook over the weekend, there are things that happen, and you don’t think about those possibilities ahead of time. He shared it on the date they were devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. He and his family had to quickly evacuate their home with what they could carry, including three cats and two dogs, one of which didn’t make it out.

If you’re thinking about hurricane preparation (better late than never), here are some checklists:

If it sounds like I’m becoming a “doomsday prepper,” then I’ll take it after two power-out periods last year. Better ready than being caught unaware, right? Ask anyone who went through Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

I’ve got a post coming up that can help with those possibilities, too.

Hatch Chiles

Recently I headed to our local Winn-Dixie for a few things and bought a couple of Hatch Chiles. I was so happy to see the display:

Hatch chile display in Winn Dixie

They’ve arrived!

However, I went back last Friday and planned to buy more, but they were gone. One of the very nice employees said that they were all spoiled and had to be thrown out. I said, “because nobody knows what they are and I’m the only one who bought them?” She nodded.

What do I need to do—start a PR campaign?

Albertson’s and Rouses will have some, and maybe the Winn-Dixie in Hammond, too. Walmart hasn’t carried them locally, but they do have Anaheim chili peppers from Mexico all year around.

Another Year Of Blackberries

As I’ve done for the last couple of years, I picked the wild (and free) blackberries that grow around here.

Even more berries growing on vines

I pick as many as I can reasonably reach.

I walk out with my colander, suited up with gloves, heavy jeans, and my knee-high black Muck Boots to pick them. (The vines have sharp thorns on them.) Once inside, I wash them gently, drain them, and put them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then I put the tray into the big freezer on top of everything and let them freeze. If you just toss them into a freezer bag, they’ll freeze into a huge block, and you can’t get them apart to eat or use.

When that’s done, I start adding them to a large Ziplock bag, marked with the date I started the bag, and of course, the contents. The berries are frozen until I am ready to use them. This year’s harvest was pretty good:

Bag of blackberry harvest 2022

Look at all those berries!

I guess I’d have more of them if I would quit eating them and hand-feeding a few to Buddy (aka “Broccoli Stirfry”) when we went outside.

What To Do With The Blackberries

I like the bragging rights that the blackberries are “organic,” because we just let them grow on their own, and they’re “locally grown,” because they’re right outside. They’re picked for our own consumption, and certainly not for sale.

BF never paid attention to them until I found out that blackberries were growing wild. Then I let him know not to mess with the vines until blackberry season ended. Mother Nature provides you with fresh, free fruit—why wouldn’t you pick and enjoy them? Respect the berries, pick them, and freeze them for later. They thaw nicely in the fridge for a day or so, or you can leave them out on the counter for a little while. Don’t leave them too long or they’ll get mushy.

You may remember in my review of Emilie Bailey’s The Southern Keto Book that I made Granny’s Blackberry Cobbler. I still make it occasionally, and both BF and I really enjoy it.

Slice of blackberry cobbler

It is as good as it looks.

But sometimes, BF doesn’t want the keto/gluten-free/sugar-free stuff. He wants “the real thing, with real flour and sugar.” Lucky for me, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, came through with a recipe in the Summer 2022 edition of her magazine on page 80: the Blackberry Cheesecake Galette.

Warning: today’s recipe isn’t keto, low-carb, sugar-free, gluten-free, or in any way “diet” or “healthy.” Except for the use of the blackberry.

What’s A Galette?

Well, it’s like a pie but a bit simpler. Made free-form, it’s a French-style dessert that just has crust with an open top. You can see a short explanation on Delighted Cooking. If you want something more thorough, Wikipedia has a detailed explanation.

Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, has a recipe that’s similar, called Apple Crostata, which is also very good.

In Ree Drummond’s case, her galettes use an ingenious shortcut: store-bought pre-made pie crusts. So that’s what I did. BF is enjoying the second one piece by piece as he did with the first one.

The magazine has recipes for three different fruit galettes:

  • Blackberry Cheesecake, pages 80-81
  • Blueberry-Raspberry, page 82
  • Strawberry Basil, page 83

All three use the same basic crust iteration, and different fillings with fruit, sugar, and cornstarch. They also start out by using the bottom of a baking sheet, adding parchment paper, sticking the two crusts together, and rolling them to a 12-inch circumference.

Note that these recipes are not on her website, but there are five other fruit galette recipes there. On the affiliated Tasty Kitchen collaborator website, there are a total of 79 recipes for galettes, both sweet and savory, as well as 276 blackberry recipes.

I haven’t tried the other two galettes myself, but I think nearly any sweet (or even savory) filling you tossed together would work well in this crust. Make sure to leave a two-inch border when adding the filling to the crust so you can fold it up easily.

Making The Blackberry Cheesecake Galette

So, let me just say that it does take a bit of prep work to get this going, especially since I prefer to measure things ahead of time. But the smile on BF’s face makes it totally worth the trouble. He’ll keep me around for this one, even if I didn’t do it exactly correctly.

Here’s the printable recipe, re-typed from the magazine’s instructions.

Baked blackberry galette

Blackberry Cheesecake Galette

Amy
From the Summer 2022 edition of The Pioneer Woman Magazine, page 80-81
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Cooling time 1 hr
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 14-ounce package of refrigerated pie dough
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar

Instructions
 

  • Place an oven rack in the bottom position and preheat to 400F. Flip over a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Unroll the pie dough on a work surface, then stack the two rounds, gently pressing to adhere. Roll out into a 12-inch round and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
  • Combine the blackberries, cornstarch salt, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a medium bowl and gently mix until the cornstarch has dissolved
  • Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, egg yolk, remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into another medium bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until combined and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes
  • Use a slotted spoon to remove six or seven blackberries into a separate bowl. Spoon the remaining blackberry mixture into the center of the pie dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Drizzle the cream cheese mixture on top, leaving the border uncovered. Gently fold in and pleat the dough edge, taking care not to rip it. Scatter the reserved blackberries on top of the filling. Brush the crust with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
  • Bake the galette until the crust is a deep golden brown, the cheesecake is set and the blackberries are slightly bubbling through the cheesecake in spots, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the galette cool completely about 1 hour.
Keyword blackberry, cheesecake, galette

So, gather up your ingredients, including your blackberry bowl:

Ingredients for blackberry cheesecake galette

The setup

Preheat your oven to 400F, with the oven rack in the bottom position. Flip over a baking sheet and add a length of parchment paper on top, weighing it down so the paper doesn’t fly off.

Baking sheet and pie dough

Like this

Unroll your pie crusts and stack them on a work surface—a cutting board, or another flat thing.

Unrolling pie crusts

This isn’t how you’re supposed to do this, but it was at night.

Now the second:

Stacking two pie crusts

Just like that. . .I think.

Here’s where I went wrong: you’re supposed to use a rolling pin and roll them out to a 12-inch round and get them to stick together. But because “rolling pin” isn’t in the recipe directions, I didn’t think about using one. So I just kind of pressed them together by hand to make them stick:

Flattening the pie crusts

Like this

It worked OK. Next time. Now move that base onto your parchment paper, if you’re using a flat surface, and go fiddle with the blackberry mixture:

Ingredients for blackberry filling

The setup, part 2. The reason the coffee cup is upside down is to let me know that my coffee is all set up and ready to go, all I have to do is push the button in the morning.

Add the berries, cornstarch salt, ¼ cup of granulated sugar, lemon zest, and a tablespoon of our lemon juice into a bowl.

Adding cornstarch to blackberry mixture

Just like this.

Carefully mix them so you don’t mess up the berries (especially if you use thawed frozen ones as I did.)

Mixing blackberry mixture

Careful!

Mix until the cornstarch dissolves, set it aside, and move on to the cheesecake part.

Ingredients for the cheesecake topping mixture for blackberry cheesecake galette

The setup, part 3

Into another bowl, add the 3 ounces of cream cheese, a tablespoon of sour cream, vanilla, the egg yolk, the remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar, and the rest of the lemon juice. Use a hand mixer on medium-high speed to blend that well, two to three minutes.

Mixing the cheesecake topping for the blackberry cheesecake galette

LIke this

Now you’re ready to bake.

Galette Assembly

First, remove a few berries from the other bowl and set them aside. These will make the top look pretty.

Removing a small amount of blackberries into a small white bowl

Mine aren’t quite as photogenic, but they sure are tasty.

Then add the rest to the flat piecrust, leaving a two-inch border for the up-folding.

Adding blackberry mixture to pie crust

Careful! Especially if your baking sheet isn’t flat.

Grab a roll of paper towels, because the blackberry liquid is now running all over the place. (Thank heavens it’s pink and not red. Next time I’m using the inside of the baking sheet or buying new ones.) No, I didn’t get a picture of that–I was busy trying to catch all that dark pink liquid rolling down the stove.

At this point I transferred the galette and the parchment paper to a flat baking sheet with an air cushion underneath that I’ve had for many years but ruined on the first use. Parchment paper makes everything all right.

Now carefully drizzle the cream cheese mixture over the berries, keeping it within the confines of the center and away from the two-inch border. Start folding the border inward, creating a nice looking. . .ok, whatever you can do with it, but don’t tear or rip the pie crust.

Folded piecrust on blackberry cheesecake galette

Post-cleanup. Obviously, I’m not a pastry chef.

If you haven’t done so already, beat the whole egg, and brush it on the crust you just folded up over the side:

Brushing egg white on galette

Carefully

And sprinkle some coarse sugar on top of the egg-washed crust area:

Sprinkling coarse sugar over crust

This is the coarse sugar, not the granulated we used in the fillings.

The coarse sugar gives the galette a nice, crunchy crust when it’s done. Into the oven for 30 to 35 minutes:

Galette baking in oven

He’ll be enjoying it soon as it cools.

Bake until the crust is golden brown, the cheesecake part is set, and the blackberries are bubbling up through the cheesecake part in spots. Alternately, you can just wait until it oozes all over your baking sheet and your oven like I did:

Baked blackberry galette

Right out of the oven!

I think I forgot to take more pictures at this point. BF was sniffing around during the commercials during that gory “true crime” show he was watching. But using a large spatula or two, transfer the galette to a baking rack and let it cool completely, which will take an hour or so. If you try to eat it right out of the oven, you know you’ll be paying for it with terrible mouth pain for days, right?

Oh, and you’ve got a bit of a mess to clean up. But it’s totally worth the trouble:

Big mess in the sink after finishing the galette

You know you always have this after making a delicious thing like this one.

Let  cool, then slice it into six or eight slices (or even twelve if you’re trying to serve more people.) I found that my large round pizza cutter made the job simple. Packed up pieces in individual containers for BF to take with his work meals and enjoy some then. He’s already let one coworker try a bite–thumbs up.

Whether you’re having a little get-together or going to a Labor Day celebration, the Blackberry Cheesecake Galette will be a favorite. Ask BF, and he’ll tell you.

Until Next Time

I’ve finally finished testing five recipes for Emilie Bailey’s newest (and possibly final) cookbook, Easy Dirty Keto. BF refused to try any of the recipes this time, including dessert. I’ve had no other willing taste-testers around. So you’ll have to go on my comments alone.

Miss Alice in Houston also has her own copy of the book but hasn’t yet tried anything. However, she’s anxious for her and her daughter N to have some new and easy recipes to enjoy, irrespective of keto. Since she’s a teacher, and N is a teenager, school started last week, and it’s now “crunch time” for them both. I asked her to let me know what they try and how they like the recipes. Maybe I can talk her into some pictures, too.

Once I finish writing and uploading all the pictures, you’ll be able to see what some of these new “dirty keto” recipes are like. Even if BF wouldn’t taste any. I’m sure I’ll eventually find something that will please his ornery, manly, and non-keto taste buds.

I’ll also tell you more about our newly renovated Winn-Dixie soon. It’s in the same building and has the same floor space but seems to have doubled in size. Our little store has a wider variety of things than before and may also mean less driving for me to find ingredients that were not previously available locally.

Until then, Happy Dining!

 

 

Hawaiian Island Map
The Foods Of Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii. The name conjures up pictures of beautiful beaches, surfing, snorkeling, pineapples, and coconut. It’s what most people believe is paradise. No, I’m not going to Hawaii anytime soon. But as I’ll explain, the Aloha State is important for agriculture and the food that’s brought to your table.

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

Have you tried Mint & Parsley Pesto yet? It took a while to get that mess cleaned up, but it’s all done now. BF is still acting the way he does when I mention pesto. Aunt Ruth wrote back and said she likes mint in her tea, but never thought about making pesto with it. Sit tight, Aunt Ruth—a blog post on tea is planned and in the draft folder.

A Little Birthday Cake

BF’s birthday was Sunday, and I made him a delicious—and little—birthday cake from scratch.

Small yellow cake in a springform pan

Fresh out of the oven

His favorite is the boxed yellow cake mix with the prepared chocolate icing. I made it from scratch from the Easy Cake Cookbook by Miranda Couse, both the cake and the chocolate frosting. It’s a great book for making small, easy, everyday cakes.

Frosted cake on a white plate

This cake really is only six inches in diameter. I sliced it in half lengthwise and added some chocolate icing in between the layers.

Sure, books like the Death By Chocolate series have some amazing creations—even a chocolate raspberry wedding cake (who needs a groom?) So do many of Martha Stewart’s books. But for a quick bake that comes together quickly and doesn’t require a long ingredient list, the Easy Cake Cookbook is a great go-to cake book.

Amy’s Cake History

Now, most people buy a cake, and that’s fine. Aunt Ruth will probably remember this one.

Years ago while at Boeing, I somehow became the “IT Party Girl” for all department celebrations. I didn’t mind, it was kind of fun, although I was pretty tired when it was all over. When a cake was requested, I just went to HEB and bought one, or ordered it if I had enough time. I always ordered buttercream icing, and everyone loved it. They were consistently delicious and the most requested cakes.

Then one day, there was a celebration I wasn’t involved in when someone was transferring to Boeing’s DC location. After starting the yeast-free diet, complete with prescriptions, I wasn’t about to touch a piece of cake. (I’d also shrunk a couple of dress sizes.) But I sat down next to the lady from Facilities, and she leaned over and said in a low voice, “did you have anything to do with this?” I said, “no, why?” She said, “I can tell.” I asked, “how?” Her response: “the cake.” I just smiled.

It seems that while the cake was beautifully and expertly decorated, the taste did not match the appearance. Being the nosy person I am, I sauntered up to the table and asked one of the women responsible for the event, “nice cake—where did you get it?” The proud response: “Sam’s!”

I wasn’t about to give BF a birthday cake from Walmart or Winn-Dixie.

White plate with crumbs and frosting

He really enjoyed it.

Happy Birthday, Honey.

It’s Over

Yes, I know—the verdict in Depp v. Heard came in the day after I published. The plaintiff is working—on a tour with Jeff Beck in the UK. He reportedly went to a Birmingham (UK) Indian restaurant this past weekend with Jeff Beck and 20 of their friends. He paid a dinner tab of about $62,000. The owners closed the restaurant for the private party and swore all employees to secrecy. Imagine their surprise—and there was Johnny Depp asking questions about not only the place but even their CCTV system. The owner said he had a nice chat with the man and was quite friendly.

In fact, JD enjoyed the dinner so much that he asked them to make him a takeout meal for him, based on what they served. No hotel room service that evening.

The defendant has disappeared for now.

Now that the trial is all over, we can all go back to our normal, everyday lives.

Celebration Across The Pond

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, celebrated 70 years as the reigning monarch in the UK this past weekend. There’s never been a Platinum Jubilee before. (I know, I know—but she’s the Queen.)

Incidentally, if you haven’t noticed, it’s been four years since the most famous royal wedding in recent history involving an American. Four years on, nobody seems to care about these two. At the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this past weekend, they were actually booed leaving a church service. They’re back in California now with the kids, after reportedly having a very short meetup with Her Majesty at their UK home, Frogmore Cottage.

On the flip side, have you seen Her Majesty’s short video having tea with Paddington Bear? It’s SO CUTE!! (Marmalade sandwiches!) Listen, I know she’s THE QUEEN, but at 96, I don’t see why she can’t have a little fun with Paddington Bear. Her sketch 10 years ago with Daniel Craig as 007 was great, but this was even better. Even her family didn’t know about the sketch. She kept it a secret from everyone, and the BBC spent half a day with Her Majesty. Prince William’s three grandchildren were thrilled, as were all the other children who love the adorable Paddington Bear. (If you’re not familiar with PB, here is a background bit on him.)

Hawaii, the 50th State

Let’s take a long plane ride to Hawaii, shall we?

Spring and summer bring thoughts of vacation time. People from all over the world travel to the Islands every year. Although it’s an individual state, it’s a collection of several islands that have a long history and culture. There is a total of eight islands, but a few of the smaller islands are uninhabited.

Hawaii is one of those places that many people say, “I’m going to go there one day.” Actually, some people say they’re going to go, and they do–and they never go home, as I’ve discovered. Howard Hughes was one of them. Sounds like Texas, but it’s different when they swarm in on The Lone Star State.

One of my agency clients has two non-legal clients on the island of Maui, the second-largest island in the state of Hawaii.

Maui map

One map of Maui (source: The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau)

So, I do a lot of writing about The Valley Isle, as it’s called. The content is about different things that are either Hawaiian or Hawaiian but relative to Maui. I’ve learned a lot, and it’s interesting reading.

Detailed Maui map

Map of Maui with more details (Source: MauiHawaii.org)

BF and I occasionally talk about where we want to go one day, and Hawaii is one of those places. I said no, I want specifically to go to Maui. We’ve never been there, not yet. I’m still trying to make a trip back to Houston to visit.

Where I Got The Idea

Recently one of my client project managers, who lives in Florida, found out about my little food blog. She said, “hey, why don’t you write a blog post for our client about traditional Hawaiian recipes?” Who am I to say no? So I did. And I thought I’d keep the idea in the draft folder for a later blog post here. Because Hawaii also has an interesting food scene, in addition to agriculture. (I’ve also suggested topics for their various clients occasionally, too.)

Everything has to be shipped at least 2,000 miles to the Islands, so it’s quite expensive to live there. Yet everybody keeps moving there and building. Like former President Obama, who is building a home on the island of Oahu. (Because he was born there, so he said.) Just last week one of my legal clients said he was headed to Oahu with his wife and kids–he met and married her there. Other well-known celebrities have homes in Hawaii, particularly on Maui, which isn’t as developed as The Big Island (the island that’s called Hawaii.)

The state participates in the Hawaiian Electric’s Clean Energy initiative, in which the state works toward all clean energy, including:

  • Wind
  • Solar
  • Water, also called hydropower or “ocean energy”
  • Biomass
  • Waste To Energy
  • Geothermal

No, I’m not copying and pasting one of those articles here, but I am referencing some of the research. It would ruin the SEO for both my site and the client’s site. (I know better.)

Brief History of Hawaii

Prior to becoming a US state on August 21, 1959, the collection of islands was a territory, and before that, it was a sovereign kingdom. It had a monarchy between 1810 and 1893 but was overthrown in 1893 by European capitalists and landowners.

Hawaii offered considerable assistance to the United States during World War II and pushed for statehood. People living there did not wish to be subjects, but citizens, and voted to become a state rather than stay a territory.

Hawaiian Island Map

The Aloha State (source: Hawaii-guide.com)

Like Texas, Hawaii was an independent Republic until August 12th, 1898, when the US made it a territory. For 60 years after that, it became it remained a non-self-governing territory until becoming the 50th state. Since joining the United States, it has become an integral part of the US, even though it’s 2000 miles from the California coastline.

Note: don’t refer to people who live in Hawaii as “the natives,” it’s considered insulting. They’re called “locals,” because not everyone was born there, and therefore aren’t “natives.” Also, don’t say “back in the States,” because you are in the States. What you mean is The Mainland. There is also a language called Hawaiian Pidgin that’s spoken by people both born there and relocated there. Folks don’t normally speak it in front of tourists, but if they do, just smile.

Maui itself is both an island in the state of Hawaii and an entire county by itself. With 64 parishes in Louisiana, and 254 counties in Texas (Houston’s Harris County is the largest), it’s a bit different to wrap one’s head around one county, one island. But they do it, and Maui is only 728 square miles. Galveston Island, by contrast, is only 27 square miles, although Galveston County is larger.

Agriculture

So, what does that have to do with my silly little food blog? Well, for one thing, the State of Hawaii grows quite a few crops that are exported all over the US and the world. You’d expect things like pineapple, bananas, avocado, coconut, and macadamia nuts to be grown there. And, you may not realize that some of the food you buy could have been grown in Hawaii, or even on the Valley Isle.

Cut guava on a board

Guava (source: Google)

While Maui has a considerable amount of coastline, it’s not all beaches. The Valley Isle also has several different ecosystems, called “microclimates.” This means that you can go from a coastline to a desert area in a car ride, and then pass through a tropical rainforest on the east side of the island. You can also go straight up a mountain and find yourself shivering at a higher elevation. It also means that different crops grow in different spots. It’s Terroir, as the French call it in relation to winemaking.

PIneapple growing on a branch

Pineapples growing (source: Google)

But Maui also grows and exports other crops that you may not realize, such as:

  • Alfalfa
  • Avocado
  • Beets
  • Cacao (chocolate)
  • Coffee, particularly Kona Coffee
  • Eggplant
  • Guava
  • Jackfruit (hard pass for me)
  • Lemons
  • Lettuces and other green leafy vegetables
  • Limes
  • Papaya
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Taro, a locally grown starchy root like a potato that’s used in a range of traditional dishes

 

Maui and Hawaii’s crops are consumed around the world.

Maui’s Agriculture Today

Until 2016, sugarcane was a prominent crop and industry. The former sugarcane land in north-central Maui is now owned by a California-based company. They have plans to turn that area into sustainable farming with non-GMO crops, bring more jobs to the area, and increase the amount of locally grown crops for Maui and possibly for export.

Jackfruit growing

Jackfruit, growing on a tree. (Source: Google) Yes, I know it looks funny–tell Mother Nature.

Ironically, Maui imports about 90% of its food from the Mainland US. Everything is flown in from elsewhere, hence the higher cost of living. This includes food, medicine, fuels, and pretty much every consumer good you want to buy. Don’t forget the postage.

Cut jackfruit

Jackfruit, cut open. None for me, thanks. (Source: Google.)

Should Hawaii’s supply chain become seriously disrupted due to a hurricane, tsunami, or another disaster, Hawaii would have no more than three to ten days of food available. People who live there want to make sure that the entire state of Hawaii can develop a more self-sufficient food supply that isn’t dependent on 2,000-mile trips from the Mainland. Remember, it also takes fuel to get the food and supplies to the Islands.

Island Fare

If you go, what can you expect to eat? Seafood, according to one of my former Boeing coworkers who just went to Maui. But, surrounded by ocean, what do you expect? No complaints out of me, that’s for sure.

But if you go, Maui as well as the entire state has some fine dining using locally produced ingredients. There are organic family farms on the Valley Isle and plenty of local coffee shops and other places to eat. Don’t expect Texas-style anything, that’s for sure, but you’ll find a range of delicious local options.

There are some unique foods you’ll see that will catch your attention. Some will likely turn BF into a dieter whenever we get to Maui.

Poke’ and Poke’ Bowls

Poke’ bowls (pronounced “POH-keh”) began with Hawaiian fishermen who would simply cut some freshly caught fish and vegetables, season them a little, and eat their lunch. That’s it. The word means “slice or cut” in native Hawaiian, and of course, is one of those things you get everywhere on the Islands.

If you remember my post on Spam last year, you’ll recall that this canned meat is quite popular in Hawaii. The company has a recipe for poke’ using Spam.

In the Mainland, poke’ is new and trendy, and there is even a poke’ place in Hammond. We haven’t been in it yet, I guess I’ll do that on my own one day—no way BF will touch that, he already told me. A couple of weeks ago, we had to run an errand in the Baton Rouge area and saw one near Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. I couldn’t get BF to go in with me, but we needed to get home anyway. Next time.

I’m going to admit that I prefer “bowl food” because it’s just easier, and poke’ sounds like a winner in that category. Here’s a primer on how to make a poke’ bowl at home, if you are so inclined. This poke’ primer is from the infamous People magazine, but it’s also basic.

If you go looking for cookbooks on poke’, be prepared to see books on “poke cakes.”

Eating Poke’

The USS Nemo Restaurant in Naples, Florida offers a primer on how to eat a poke’ bowl, too. Hint: it’s not like spaghetti and meat sauce.

The basics are:

  • Cooked rice
  • Fresh salmon or tuna, sushi-grade, or a non-raw protein like cooked chicken or shrimp, canned crab or tofu
  • Sesame oil (just a little—it’s very strong)
  • Toppings such as soy sauce
  • Anything else you want to add, like veggies, sunflower seeds, etc.

 

Of course, if you’re making poke’ at home, you can use whatever you like—quinoa instead of rice, for instance. I’m not interested in chopsticks, although I do know how to use them. Have at it.

Banana Bread

Believe it or not, banana bread is a really big thing in Maui. No kidding. You see, the entire state grows lots of bananas. They grow everywhere, especially in Maui.

Banana bunch growing on tree

Bananas growing in Hawaii (Source: Google)

One reason that Maui banana bread tastes the way it does is because of the apple banana grown there. Many bakers also use organic sugar that’s harvested on the Valley Isle. And, well, there’s also a little Aloha baked into every loaf, making Maui banana bread unique.

Large bunches of bananas on trees

More bananas growing in Maui (source: Google)

That’s not to say your own banana recipe isn’t any more special. It’s just that Maui’s is special, too, for a few reasons. Bananas thrive in Maui, and the locals take their banana bread very seriously. If you go, make sure you try some and don’t forget to say “Mahalo.”

The Rise Of Hawaiian Banana Bread

Why is banana bread a thing in Hawaii? During the Great Depression, growers found themselves overloaded with more-than-ripe bananas. Hawaiians simply started baking banana bread to keep them from going to waste.

Banana stems

Bananas in Maui (source: Google)

When baking powder became available, it was easier than using yeast. So, home bakers could make the bread easier and faster with all those brown bananas. Since then, banana bread is a beloved tradition in Maui that’s loved by locals and tourists alike.

Incidentally, banana bread is one of the most popular recipe searches online. Check out Pinterest, Martha Stewart’s website, and The Food Network, or just do a simple Google search for “banana bread.” You’ll find millions of recipes and never run out. Your biggest problem will be picking one.

BF’s favorite is in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. It includes shredded coconut and walnuts, but I use local pecans instead. This bread freezes well. I need to bake more soon; we gave away the last loaf in the freezer.

If you can’t go to Hawaii this year, enjoy some homemade banana bread at home while planning next year’s trip. Make sure to try the banana bread while you’re there.

The Luau

You’ve probably heard of this but might not know what it is. Sure, it’s a feast, but it’s way more than that. It’s a celebration of Hawaiian culture, food, and an ancient way of life that’s been preserved through the ages.

Modern luaus are big parties held at the beach. Traditionally, they are for celebrating things like marriages, births, and other milestones. But now they’re available for visitors, just find one, make your reservations, pay in advance, and go.

They are traditionally held at sunset, and of course, you’ll be given a lei upon arrival. Etiquette note: do not remove this lei, it’s considered an insult. Pregnant women are given an open-ended lei since it’s considered bad luck for her to have the closed one.

Guests sit on ground mats by low tables, although tables and chairs are available upon request at some luaus. Dress casually and comfortably, of course. Luaus now run for about three hours and include food, some drinks (or may have a cash bar), and traditional Island entertainment. Fire dancers, hula dancers, or traditional dance that tells the story of Hawaii are the most common. You’ll learn more when you make your reservations.

Food At The Luau

What kind of food is served? You’ll dine on traditional slow-roasted pork, roasted all day in an underground pit with hot rocks, no kidding. Sweet potatoes are also included in the pit. Other traditional foods include:

  • Chicken long rice
  • Fish dishes, naturally, including Lomi salmon and Poke’
  • Coconut custard, called “haupia”
  • Kulolo, another pudding made with steamed and grated kalo and coconut milk
  • Poi, a traditional Polynesian dish made from the native taro root
  • Salads from locally grown produce
  • Rice (which is probably all BF will eat anyway)
  • Desserts made from locally grown tropical fruit, i.e., mango, pineapple, papaya

Cocktails include Mai Tais and other tropical drinks along with non-alcoholic drinks for children and those of us who prefer not to drink.

Always at least try some of the native dishes, as it is a sign of respect. Native Hawaiians and longtime locals are big on respecting traditions, the culture, and the land, and that includes beaches.

Hula dancing is traditional and also taken seriously. If you’re of a mind to do so, get up and hula dance with everyone else. Just don’t make fun of the other dancers, it’s considered rude.

Recipe Redux: Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clusters

Macadamia nuts are synonymous with Hawaii. So if you’re having a hankering for some, I’ll help you out here.

Remember a while back when I reviewed Emilie Bailey’s vegetarian keto cookbook? I made those lovely-looking chocolate macadamia nut clusters. Unfortunately, we weren’t crazy about them. Well, I figured out why.

Normally, when I buy nuts for cooking or baking, I get them from the baking aisle. But that’s not what I should have done with this recipe. What I should have done, and I did the second time, was to get the roasted and salted nuts from the snack food aisle. That’s why the first batch of chocolate nut clusters just didn’t taste all that great–the nuts were raw.

But roasted and salted macadamia nuts made all the difference, and the result was so much better.

Bag of macadamia nuts

What I should have used before

They were quite delicious on their own, too.

Jar of macadamia nuts

I bought extra to make sure I had enough

I also chopped the nuts this time.

Chopped Macadamia nuts on cutting board

It made the final product easier to eat.

We really enjoyed them the second time, so that’s another back-pocket recipe we have for Valentine’s Day and other date nights at home. What can I tell you? They were so much better with the roasted nuts and extra salt inside and on top:

Macadamia nut clusters on parchment paper with salt.

The way I SHOULD have made them.

Here’s the recipe if you want to print a copy for later. (So glad I found WP Recipe Maker!)

Macadamia nut clusters on parchment paper with salt.

Dark Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clusters

A simple keto dessert from Emilie Bailey's Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

  • cups sugar-free chocolate chips I used Hershey's but there are several brands, including Lily's
  • cups roasted and salted macadamia nuts From the snack aisle
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract look for no sugar brands
  • Flaked sea salt

Instructions
 

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Place the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high. Stir every 20 seconds for about 1 minute 30 seconds, or until completely melted.
  • Once melted, stir the vanilla extract into the chocolate mixture.
  • Pour the macadamia nuts into the chocolate mixture, and stir until coated.
  • Use a tablespoon to drop mounds of the chocolate-macadamia nut mixture onto the parchment paper. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt, and chill for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm. Store in an airtight container or zip-top bag in the refrigerator.
Keyword chocolate, keto, low carb, macadamia nuts, no sugar

It isn’t Maui, but it’ll do for now.

Until Next Time

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s culinary visit to Maui. Right now it’s the closest many of us will get to the Valley Isle, but that’s OK. I bought a nice pineapple today for my Buddhist altar.

As I mentioned, I’m planning a blog post on tea soon, because, well, I like tea, too. But I’m picky. It’s got to be British tea, which comes with a lot more history than American tea. Well, except for the Boston Tea Party, of course. At this point, I think we’re on better terms with Britain, with long-term mutual respect in place. At least if Harry and the American Duchess would please mind their own Spotify- and Netflix-sponsored business.

And if you like iced tea—time to make some, yes?

Enjoy!

 

Ming and parsley pesto in freezer container
Mint & Parsley Pesto

Did you know that pesto isn’t always made from basil? Many fresh green herbs can be turned into a delicious addition to your meals. Come see what I made with what I had in the garden.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

My apologies, I’ve been away. After the last post from Beverly, I’ve been busy with a new client who gives me a chunk of work every week. I’ve been concentrating so much there that I haven’t had much time to do everything else. The only sewing I’ve been able to do is minor repair work.

Before I forget: I updated last month’s Spicy Calabrian Shrimp. I found the missing pictures and they’re now in the blog post.

Current Events

Speaking of work: don’t get me started on Depp V. Heard. I’ve been paid to write two blog posts on the subject, and like a lot of people, I’m anxiously awaiting the verdict. That case has captured my attention but not for the reasons you might think. It’s extremely interesting, especially with my legal background. Livestreamed online, it’s real life, not a movie or TV show. I’m not a big “Depp fan,” but the case is intriguing. Then again, I do a lot of research and writing for the legal industry, so you understand why I’m so interested.

You probably don’t want to know about the insanely X-rated language, or the distinguished attorneys on both sides reading it all aloud in front of the judge and jury. Scriptwriters couldn’t write that kind of thing on purpose, but will probably try now. The court reporter–who has to record every filthy, nasty word of it–got a standing ovation from Depp, his legal team, and the people in the public gallery. I’ll say this for him–Depp is certainly a creative writer when he’s fired up.

Enough of that.

Downton Abbey

As for our wonderful friend Beverly, she is planning to write another guest post, this time on the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, which, she says has food you can actually cook. The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook series is more pictures and stories from the show, rather than recipes you’d want to make. Like me, Beverly reads cookbooks the way others read novels. So that’s coming up soon.

BF and I went to see a matinee of Downton Abbey: A New Era last week, and let me tell you—if you loved the series, you’ll love this movie. It ties a bow around the entire Crawley family saga, I think. Not sure if there will be any more from the DA saga or if this is the conclusion, I haven’t heard. I won’t give away any secrets that weren’t in the trailers, but there are a couple of things I didn’t see coming. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention. If you go—BRING TISSUES. Trust me.

On the way home, BF reminded me: “Never forget how much I love you.” In other words, if he didn’t, there would be no way he’d be going to see that film. Ever. Next up we’re planning to see Top Gun: Maverick. I hear it’s as good as the original, and I’ll need to re-watch the original because I haven’t seen it since 1986. Fortunately, BF has the DVD.

But today I’ve got a post on a discovery that you might be interested in trying even if you don’t like basil.

Berry Picking Season

The wild blackberries that grow here are ripening a few at a time, so I’ve started picking them around the property.

Berries growing on vines

Look!! Berries!!

I showed these pictures to Neighbor E this past weekend, too.

More berries on vines

These are ripening bit by bit

These, of course, are not yet ripe, but they ripen individually. There are occasions when I walk outside with this beast.

Buddy The Dog outside in grass

He’s always around, looking for food. He’s taller than the pit bull now.

And pick a handful or two for us. (BF doesn’t much care unless I bake the berries into something.) Broccoli Stirfry and I eat berries together, and he loves them. The pit bull doesn’t seem to get as excited about them anymore.

But when I go out to pick for the freezer, I’m wearing a pair of these gloves, a pair of knee-high Muck Boots, jeans, sunglasses, and a hat. I can reach more ripe berries that way unless I’ve been out with the silly dog and we’ve had the “low-hanging fruit.”

Even more berries growing on vines

I pick as many as I can reasonably reach.

But I still get scratches and mosquito bites.

So far, I’ve nearly filled a gallon freezer bag with this year’s pickings, and BF is asking me to make something for him with them. I moved last year’s crop into the kitchen freezer so I can do just that for him. I just received the new edition of The Pioneer Woman magazine today. There’s a blackberry cheesecake galette recipe that I’ll be trying soon. Unfortunately, it’s not on the website. (Blog post?) I’ll also be making my favorite keto blackberry cobbler again, too.

Making Pesto Out Of Anything

Last week on Facebook, Giada de Laurentiis’ Giadzy online magazine re-published an article from 2020 called How To Make Pesto Out Of Anything.

Anything? As in chocolate and raspberry anything? No, not that anything, but fresh herbs and greens that you may have on hand, like I do.

The point of the article is that, although it’s traditional in Genoa, pesto isn’t necessarily made from basil. Pesto is not an exact science, nor is it rocket science. “The true beauty of pesto,” the article states, “is that it’s greater than the sum of all of its parts.” In other words, the combination of all the ingredients is what makes it so delicious, not just one specific ingredient.

It’s a bit like a puzzle really—one piece is just that, but when you put together 10 pieces of the puzzle, then 100 pieces, then more, you get the entire picture.

Well, that’s how I think of it anyway. I hope that makes sense.

No Basil, But Lots Of Mint

So I recently planted the two little basil clippings that I rescued from last year’s crop. I kept them in the kitchen window for months, and I recently planted them outside along with a packet of basil seeds in the same pot. Those seeds have started to grow, and the rescued clippings are doing just fine.

Basil growing in pot

More pesto this year!

Additionally, I planted two packets of lettuce seeds in a different pot, and they’re coming along just nicely.

Lettuce in pot

The return of salad days

Not ready to cut yet, but I’m looking forward to having some with a tomato or two.

But the mint plant that I’ve had for quite some time became overgrown.

Giant mint plant in white bucket

That’s mint. Mojito, anyone?

I had plenty, but just didn’t know what to do with it. The stuff just grows, and I don’t want to make that many Corsican Omelets with goat cheese and Mojito cocktails. Keep it watered and you’ll have more than you know what to do with. Every time I went outside, I told myself to cut it and do something with it, but I didn’t know what. Thanks to Giada, I now have the answer.

Her standard pesto recipe that I’ve used for many years is

  • 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ cup of toasted pine nuts
  • 1½  teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
  • About 2/3 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil

Once you blend that all up, mix in a half-cup of grated parmesan cheese. Use it, refrigerate it for a week or so, or do what I do and freeze it as long as you want. Right now I think I have frozen pesto going back to 2018 or 2019. It’s still fantastic.

Using that as a guide, and then taking the information from the article, I went on to make pesto in a new form.

How It’s Made

So, it started out with walking outside and clipping what seems to be a mountain of mint growing. You always keep mint in a container. Otherwise, you’ll find out what happens, as Banana Rat did many years ago when he planted it in his backyard.

Mint takes over wherever you plant it. A few years ago, he posted it on Facebook one day with a question: “Can you say endless mojitos?” He literally had mint growing in about half of the yard. I don’t know if he still has mint growing everywhere, but it is pretty difficult to tame and remove. So, if you like mint, keep it in a container, or you better really, really love mint with all your heart.

Next, I gathered up all the ingredients I had.

Setup for pesto ingredients

The Setup.

I didn’t have any Parmesan cheese because I hadn’t been to the grocery yet. I also took Giada’s suggestion to use walnuts instead of pine nuts.

So I clipped and I clipped and I clipped, filling up the salad spinner inner basket.

Mint in basket

Yes, that’s all fresh mint.

Buddy doesn’t care for the mint

Buddy and mint

He tried it, though.

Then I washed the leaves well, spun them, and began picking the leaves from the stems.

Check out the water that comes out after you spin it. You don’t want this in your pesto.

Water in bowl

That’s a lot, but you know the leaves are clean.

All told, I had about three cups of mint once I finished de-stemming. Perfect.

Making Pesto

Then everything went into the blender just as you would with basil pesto.

Mint In Blender

Don’t forget the salt and pepper

I like walnuts, so I figured I’d try them this time. Yes, pine nuts are delicious, but they are also pricey. Just for once, I figured walnuts would be OK. And you know what? They worked quite well. Plus, I could snack on them and not feel guilty. Toast them first, don’t burn them:

Toasting walnuts in the pan

Watch them, they can burn, but they do take longer than pine nuts.

And put them in a cold bowl to stop the cooking and cool them off.

Walnuts cooled in bowl

Ready to go

Next, add them to the blender:

ADding walnuts into blender

Just like the pine nuts

And blend!

Blending mint into pesto

Just like that.

I tasted the finished product, and it was quite minty. The garlic and the olive oil sort of tame the extreme mint flavor, but you could still taste the inherent “mintiness.” I decided to put it in the freezer until I could figure out what else to do with it. I still needed to add Parmesan cheese, but I wanted to give some more thought to what else I would add.

The Next Step–Parsley

I needed to go to the grocery anyway, and we were indeed out of Parmesan cheese. So, after giving it some thought, I decided to add some Italian flat-leaf parsley.

Chopping parsley on chopping board

I think that was half a cup

Then I got on with it.

Blender with olive oil

Add a little at a time until you get the consistency you want.

First, I had to thaw the pesto because it froze quickly. I ended up having to microwave it for about 30 seconds just to soften it up. Even then, it was cold, and it was still kind of like a sludge.

Pesto in freezer container

Still frozen

Once I got it out of there I started with the parsley.

Adding parsley into pesto

It was a bit easier this time.

But I managed to get it into the blender just fine after adding the requisite Parmesan cheese.

I just sliced the parsley leaves clean from the bundle at an angle with the blade of the knife. I didn’t take the bundle apart. Pulled the stems out to make sure it was just leaves and I added it all in after washing and spinning.

Because it was much thicker now I had to add a little more olive oil a couple of times. I also added in a couple more cloves of garlic, too.

I blended, and I blended, and I blended, stopping the motor to move it around with the blender spatula to make it catch everything. Finally. I had a nice emulsion.

I removed it from the blender, very carefully, as much as I could get out of it, and then added a little more of the Parmesan cheese.

Adding Parm Cheese To Pesto

This was the second addition of cheese, about a third of a cup I think.

Then mixed it well, and tasted it. I think I’ve got four cups of this stuff, which is great, I’ll have it for a while.

Mixing parm cheese into pesto

Take your time or you’ll make a big mess

And then you have this, in a larger container than the usual one-cup or two-cup containers I use:

Finished pesto

Done!

Verdict: incredibly delicious, and the parsley tames the mint flavor.

Where has this been all my life?

The Recipe

OK, so I can’t say I was trying to create a new recipe. But guided by the article and my previous experience making standard pesto from basil, here is my recipe for mint and parsley pesto.

Ming and parsley pesto in freezer container

Mint & Parsley Pesto

Amy
A fresh take on the Italian favorite with herbs that aren't basil
Prep Time 30 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine Italian

Equipment

  • Blender Essential when you're making pesto
  • Salad spinner This takes much of the water off the herbs after washing

Ingredients
  

  • 3 cups Fresh mint
  • 1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 to 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • ° Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup Walnuts (increase or decrease as you like)
  • ¾ cup Parmesan Cheese (increase or decrease as you like)

Instructions
 

  • Toast the walnuts (or other nuts) until they are warm and fragrant. Do not burn. Add to a cold bowl and set aside.
  • Remove mint leaves from the stems. Wash and spin in the salad spinner to remove excess water.
  • Chop parsley leaves off the bunch, then repeat in the salad spinner to remove excess water.
  • Add the herbs to the blender, along with the garlic, toasted nuts, and a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the lid to the blender with the center part removed.
  • Measure out 3/4 cup of the extra virgin olive oil. Slowly pour into the running blender through the open top until the cup is empty. If the contents don't seem to be chopping and mixing, turn OFF the mixer and use a spatula to move things around in the bottom. Remove the spatula, replace the lid, and try again. Add more olive oil a little at a time until the blender moves and you get the right consistency.
  • Pour the pesto into a bowl, and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir until completely blended. Add to a storage container and either refrigerate for a week or freeze for later.
    Makes about 3 to 4 cups of pesto.
Keyword Pesto

It’s as simple as making standard pesto, and the flavor is outstanding. I’ve got the finished product in the freezer, marked for identification. Of course, I did, so that there’s no question about what’s in it. I recommend using square or rectangular glass containers to freeze the pesto because they’ll fit better in your freezer and there’s no loss of flavor. I speak from experience on this one.

OXO makes some good ones, as does Target. I think I found a few at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Denham Springs, too. But I do miss the Pro Glass squares I used to get at Bed, Bath And Beyond, they don’t seem to have them anymore.

Uses

What am I going to do with this new version of fresh pesto? Well, my first thought is to add a small amount on top of a grilled or a roasted chicken breast, chicken thigh, grilled shrimp, or baked fish. One could also add it to some freshly cooked pasta (gluten-free for me.) Granted, BF insists on frying all fish in the house, so I would have to do this when he wasn’t around.

I also think it would be good in or as a dip. So if I was in the mood for some cut vegetables, a little bit of this pesto would be good for dipping. Maybe I could mix some in homemade mayonnaise, or some sour cream, or something else that would work as a base. Or I could turn it into salad dressing—I’ll think about that one too.

Note that it tastes like a pesto, not specifically like mint and parsley, so you could probably use it as you would basil pesto if you wanted.

Cause And Effect

I was quite happy to tell BF about this discovery. However, he was not as happy about hearing about the new recipe, as usual.

I described to him the process of cutting down all that mint, then blending it together. In between sentences, he gave me his requisite verbal retching sounds. This is the same guy who is very particular about his toothpaste and the type of minty-fresh Listerine mouthwash he buys.

While he was at work, I told him via text that I’d finished making it.

Text messaes between Amy and BF

Thanks, Honey.

Well, more for me, I guess. I marked it so there’s no question about what’s frozen in the container. Of course, BF won’t touch it, because he’s been around my pesto-making for more than five years and declares it an abomination or something.

Still, I’m glad I made it, and I can’t wait to try it in or on something. It’s not the strong basil flavor, but it sure is tasty.

If you’ve got a good amount of herbs growing, a combination of the herbs would also work, given the garlic or other aromatic Giada recommended in the article. You could use any type of oil, but extra-virgin olive oil is the best for this. Walnuts—well, they’re tasty roasted in the pan, that’s all I’m saying. But you could use almonds, or leave the nuts out entirely.

Until Next Time

It’s pretty much summer here, so wherever you are, enjoy summer while you can. Of course, in the south, we enjoy it six to nine months out of the year. (Winter hung on a little longer this year.) It’s a great time for grilling and enjoying the outdoors. Don’t forget the berries.

Enjoy!

 

Cover of Apartment Kitchen Gardening book
Book Review: Apartment Kitchen Gardening

Think you can’t garden because you live in an apartment or other small space? Well, think again—I’ve got just the book for you.

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

My apologies for being tardy again, it’s been a busy couple of weeks.  I just wanted to make this blog look good.

But the good news is that suddenly I have several topics to blog about. This includes a couple of recipes that will use the new Recipe Maker plugin for WordPress. Those will be coming soon.

First, I have two disclosures:

  • The publisher kindly offered me a complimentary copy of this book to review and to request my opinion; yes, I’ve read it
  • As with many of my blog posts, there are multiple Amazon links to the book and other supplies here that, if used, earn me few commissions (aka “coffee money”)

Just thought I should mention it.

Amy’s Gardening Experiences

Longtime readers have been amused by my various gardening adventures since the inception of HeatCageKitchen in 2012.

Right now, I’ve got a bunch of purchased plants in the kitchen window, along with two basil sprouts in a pot that were salvaged from last year’s crop. I’m waiting for the nighttime temps to stay above the 50-degree mark so I can start planting them. Need to start some seeds as well.

Plants in window for gardening

Tomato, basil, cilantro, and a strawberry plant

We don’t yet have a place for an outside garden. There are flowers and green berries on those blackberry vines that are all over the place, so I’m anxiously awaiting their ripening and a bumper crop for the freezer.

Blackberry vines with flowers

Berries are coming soon

Some are already forming:

Green berries on vines

The first ones of a great wild berry season.

I’m hoping we can get out there and dig up a gardening spot soon, but I think it’s still a bit too chilly.

In my urban garden in Houston. I attempted to grow as much as I could in a 5’ x 8’ plot of land that had plenty of sun most of the year. Some plants did well, like basil and the Anaheim chili peppers, while I struggled with tomatoes and other plants.

Anaheim chili pepper on a vine

Not really a “Hatch” chile, since it wasn’t grown in Hatch, NM. But close.

I relocated to rural Louisiana in 2016, and gardening here has also been a mixed bag.

Current And Future State

While BF contends that “we suck at gardening,” that’s not really the case. I did well in Houston, but that was also part experimentation and part paint bucket gardening because I knew that I would be moving out at some point. Most of my plants are currently in big white paint buckets, but we’re soon going to use a tractor to dig a garden.

Giant mint plant in white bucket

That’s mint. Mojito, anyone? (I live with a mechanic)

 

More plants in paint buckets with flowering onions

See the flowers on the onions? that one was over two feet high.

The 10-year-old Meyer Lemon tree that came with me from Houston with me froze over this winter. But—surprise! It’s now flowering and coming back to life. We finally planted it in a nice spot this past Saturday.

Neighbor E still does some patio gardening, although his condo has only one patio, and not a large amount of sun. His patio is mostly or all concrete slabs. He doesn’t have any vegetables like tomatoes since Houston’s heat makes it somewhat inhospitable for them. There’s always Anaheim (aka “Hatch”) chili peppers, which grew like gangbusters my last two summers in Houston. I keep saving the seeds every year and keep trying to have a bumper crop here. Only BF and another SGI member in nearby Albany know what Hatch chiles are.

From Across The Pond

So, a few weeks ago I noticed an email from someone I’d never talked to before, Christopher Crompton of Pelargonium Press. I didn’t realize at first that he is in the UK, not the US. Somehow, he found me and my humble blog, and asked if I would review their new book, Apartment Kitchen Gardening by James Jacques.

Cover of Apartment Kitchen Gardening book

The cover (may be different than the one on Amazon)

And why not? Of course, I said yes. Spoiler alert: it’s a pretty good book.

Christopher was even kind enough to send me a physical copy of the book as well as the digital. It’s not a long book, but it’s quite informative and, I have to say, interesting.

The book is geared to a UK audience, but most of it is relevant to US readers as well. Plenty of folks live in apartments, like the one I lived in for 7.5 years before I moved to Houston in 1998. It was a whopping 400 square feet, making the Houston place look like a small house. Somehow, I lived there with two cats, finished five years at Tulane University and graduated twice, cooked, sewed, and got married, all while working 40 hours a week. Then we moved all that to a larger Houston apartment. The best I ever did in Metairie was a few herbs in the windows, and unfortunately, killed an aloe vera with insufficient sunlight. This book would have been a great help.

I did give Christopher the business about the “incorrect spellings,” such as “colour.” But I’m used to those after 25+ years of watching British TV on PBS (now Britbox too) and reading overseas news.

Apartment Kitchen Gardening

This book packs a lot of information into the 133 pages of this 5” x 8” paperback. If reading more than 100 pages seems intimidating, it shouldn’t be—some pages have very nice hand-drawn illustrations, and not all the pages are full of text. The book is specific to people who live in apartments, not houses with nice-sized plots. But any gardener can benefit from the book. Author James Jacques gets straight to the point.

The book is divided into five chapters:

  • Growing in an apartment
  • Choosing your plants
  • Growing places
  • Taking things further
  • Conclusion

In these chapters, Jacques describes everything you need for a successful indoor garden. And no, you don’t need to spend lots of money doing it, because he offers suggestions for repurposing household items for low-cost equipment, such as empty yogurt containers. Clear clamshell containers used for lettuces and berries are also good for starting seeds.

Gardening In Your Apartment

Yes, it is possible. But it takes some thinking on your part to figure out how you’re going to go about creating and growing your indoor garden.

Consider what you have available. Is it just a single windowsill, can you use a window box, or do you have a small patio/balcony available? Even a small balcony can grow quite a bit.

The most important factor is sunlight. The Metairie apartment had four windows because I was in the corner of a small apartment building. There were two windows in the bedroom that got good sunlight, and two in the living area, but only one with sunlight. In my first place in Houston, I had two large windows but none in the kitchen. When I moved to an El Dorado Trace condo in 2004, there were two large glass patio doors on either side of the unit to the fenced-in patios, plus the front door.

The back patio in El Dorado Trace had the sunlight that was good for growing, so that’s what I used. I was only able to grow a few houseplants on the front patio, and those were gifted houseplants on an old washer and dryer covered in a tarp. I tried growing tomatoes and rosemary out there, but nothing happened.

Here’s one suggestion I never would have considered—growing in the bathroom. And why not? It’s usually warmer and more humid than the rest of the house, right? Pineapples, vanilla orchid, figs, and mint love this kind of environment, Jacques says. So, take advantage of it if you have a sun-lit window in yours.

What You Can Grow

Ask yourself what you want to grow and go from there. Do you love fresh pesto (like me) and want to make it yourself? Obviously, sweet basil is on your list—buy one nice plant, cut it, and start rooting them in water so you’ll have plenty. Alternately, start growing your basil from seeds.

Depending on how much room you have and the incoming sunlight, you can grow a nice variety of plants inside. Jacques explains the need for sunlight, how much, and what you’ll need for different types of plants. And if your place doesn’t have enough light, there’s always the option of grow lights.

Salad Days

If you like salad the way I do, Jacques suggests what he calls “cut and come again” lettuce. I’ve only heard that term once before, from cookbook author Nigella Lawson, who used it to describe a cake in one of her earlier books. You bake the cake and keep it for company, then put it away until the next company visit. Jacques uses this description for lettuces that grow quickly and need to be cut frequently. Otherwise, you have the mess I’ve created in a paint bucket:

Assortment of plants in white buckets

That is, or was, a Romaine lettuce plant

I didn’t cut it before because it attracted honeybees and gave them something to eat. One of BF’s car-guy friends has a bee box at the back of the property. When the plant flowers, we see the bees. I don’t think he’s getting the “bee action” he thought he would get. The flowers are gone, the plant dried up, and I pulled all the roots out a few days ago.

Recently, I bought a few more seed packets of different lettuces to plant. Hopefully I’ll I hope to have more “cut and come again” lettuce soon, even if it is in a paint bucket.

Hydroponic Gardening Systems

If you’ve ever seen grocery store produce called “hydroponic,” it means simply that it was grown in water. No kidding. Some plants can be grown only in water with added nutrients. I haven’t done hydroponics myself, although the author does discuss it at length for the indoor gardener. It’s ideal for the “cut and come again” lettuce.

You’re probably familiar with the hydroponic gardening setups by AeroGarden and the like.

Photo of countertop growing system

You’ve probably seen these, but no, I don’t have one.

There are many brands of them now, and they’re also expensive. The cheapest model is under $100 but doesn’t grow as much. One of the top models sells for nearly $900. If you have the means and the room, and really want one, go for it. I considered buying one when I lived in Houston.

Jacques points out the differences between all the different types of kits, and that they may be a bit overwhelming at first. Some kits are basics that you can build upon, and others have more bells and whistles. Mostly, it’s dictated by budget. Like most endeavors, don’t spend more than you can afford.

Caveat

Understand that even when you buy one of these units, you’ll also have to buy the seed pods to replant. You can’t just drop by Walmart, Tractor Supply, or your local gardening spot and buy seeds. It’s a bit like the Keurig or Nespresso coffee makers—you must buy the pods to make more coffee because it’s not like making coffee in a French press. If this works for you—and I know folks with these kinds of coffee makers—go for it. I’m not criticizing anyone for buying either, just pointing out that the pod thing is a consideration if you’re thinking about buying one.

The author addresses these setups, but in the last chapter. Guess what? These systems aren’t necessary for you to garden in your apartment. From recycled milk and yogurt containers to fancy pots with grow lights, there is a way for nearly anyone to garden indoors.

Why Garden?

You’re probably thinking, “Amy, gardening books aren’t really interesting.” If you’re not into gardening and don’t think it’s worthwhile, chances are NO gardening book is going to catch your interest no matter how well it’s written.

But understand that people have an interest in gardening for different reasons:

  • Supplement their grocery shopping and cooking with fresh produce
  • Include more organic foods in their diet
  • Get outdoors more and get some exercise
  • Become more self-sufficient and secure their own food supply
  • Learn a new hobby
  • Increase their own food security in an insecure time (like right now)
  • They grew up gardening and want to continue for the enjoyment and the harvest

My interests are a little of all these reasons. I started my little urban garden in 2008 or 2009. The GER offered advice, and he still gardens in his backyard next to the fence. The man I was dating at the time also had some gardening experience and helped when he visited.

You’ve seen the unusual gardening results BF and I had in the blog—like the septic tank tomatoes. We didn’t plan those. But I’m hoping we can dig up a garden plot in the next few weeks.

Re-Growing Veg

Jacques also discusses re-growing vegetables, which I’ve also done and blogged about. Right now, I’ve got several green onions re-growing outside, and three have flowered. I cut the flowers off and added them to the soil, so I hope they’ll grow more onions. I recently planted a sprouted celery base. There are two basil sprouts from last year’s plants that are also re-growing in the kitchen window. However, I had to cut that for dinner last week for a recipe that I’ll show in an upcoming blog.

Celery growing illustration

One of the nice illustrations from the book

On page 25, Jacques talks about growing pea shoots from “cheap, dried supermarket peas.” I haven’t tried that yet, but darn it, now I want to! (When I do, the next comment I hear from BF will be, “is this another one of your science experiments?”)

Jacques also talks about the science of soil, including mixing your own. There’s even a chapter on compositing and even a wormery! In an apartment? Well. . .I don’t know if I’d go that far. Depends on how into gardening you are.

Gardening can also yield a few flops, like when BF staked the weeds instead of the green bean vines. But it can also be a great activity that leads to a delicious meal, too.

Stretching The Limited Food Budget

With inflation getting worse, chances are you’ll see more people gardening again as they did during the last economic downturn. Who can blame them? They’ll also see the benefits in freshly grown produce that’s readily available. But the people who need it the most may not realize that they have the ability, and just need some guidance.

If you know someone who is on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the government assistance program formerly known as “food stamps”) let them know that they can also buy seeds and plants to grow foodstuffs with their benefits. I bet you didn’t know that, but it’s true.

Anything that grows and produces food can be purchased with SNAP benefits. Planting seeds and plants along with re-growing purchased produce like green onions, celery, and potatoes, and saving seeds from peppers, tomatoes, and other fresh vegetables can help a limited food budget go further.

Gardening is also a great project to do with children and will teach them where food comes from at the same time.

Further Reading

Apartment Kitchen Gardening is not only a great little book but also an easy read, too. Not everyone is up for 1,100 pages of War And Peace anymore, including me.

While Jacques touches on re-growing vegetables from purchased produce, several years ago I found a book called Don’t Throw It—Grow It! by Deborah Peterson and Millicent Selsam. The authors describe 68 different types of grocery-store bought food plants that can be re-grown on a windowsill and eventually grown in pots or even turned into a full-fledged crop.

Successes & Failures

I’ve tried to grow avocados three ways—with the toothpicks in water, with the sphagnum moss they suggest, and then just planting the seeds. I’ve had little luck here because it’s just not warm enough and does get cold in the winter. The seeds eventually sprout when you bury them in the soil. But once it gets cold, that’s the end of it. Avocados are also good for houseplants—if you can keep pets from destroying them.

I have some organic dried chickpeas I bought so many years ago to plant, and they’re still in the pantry. They might be viable, but I’ll have to plant them to find out.

Because I love pomegranates, I have some from last fall still in the fridge. Time to harvest those seeds and plant them, along with garlic, bulb onions, and other frequently used things. I also saved the top of a purchased pineapple, too. The last one I grew in a paint bucket got to be quite large:

Pineapplel plant in orange paint bucket

The monster pineapple plant.

Let’s see if I have better luck this time, and maybe get to have some fresh pineapple, eventually. Jacques says it will take about two years before you’ll be able to “harvest” the fresh pineapple.

Until Next Time

I’m always looking for new topics for blog posts. I do have a few in the queue, including a couple of recipe updates and one recipe that I finally made for BF. Amazingly, he was quite happy with it, despite not understanding what was in it beforehand.

Coming soon is also a guest post! A fellow copywriter and a friend of the blog asked about doing a guest post, and I accepted her offer. We’ll be talking about it in the next week or so, and I’m sure it will be fantastic. She understands the blog’s tone but has a different idea on a blog post, so that’s in the works. Plus, she gave me another topic idea.

Springtime is here, so don’t procrastinate. Plants are in the stores now, so grab them while you can. Whether you’re an avid gardener or just thinking about a garden, get started so you can enjoy fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs from your apartment.

Enjoy!

Misfits Market Box
Misfits Market

Misfits Market is another player in the online grocery game, with a twist. The company partners with farmers and food producers to get potentially wasted organic produce, meats, and other sustainably sourced grocery items right to your front door at a discount. Do they deliver on that promise? I ordered my first box recently. (NOTE: this is NOT a sponsored post.)

Follow me on BlogLovin’.

Hi, again, Dear Readers:

After last week’s blog post on soup—which I sent to two potential clients because it was SEO-optimized—I thought about the next blog. I do that a lot, and sometimes it gets away from me. (Sorry about that.) It’s chilly again today, so soup is a great idea.

I had a couple of vague ideas which will likely manifest here later. But I did what most people do now—I checked with our old friend Google, who led me down several merry paths and to more bunny trails. That’s OK, it’s time I added to my blogging repertoire, anyway.

The New Stove

The new appliances are wonderful. This morning, BF decided to bake some canned biscuits while he cooked us a delicious breakfast. But I was kind of concerned because I didn’t show him the controls for the oven. Well, he figured them out, and baked them all by himself:

perfectly baked biscuits on baking sheet

Done!

The controls are simple and you just need to remember to turn the oven off when you’re finished. But today, he proudly declared his biscuits “perfect.” I was so happy for him! Next up, I’m sure he’ll tackle a cake or brownies.

New Plugin For Recipes

The first thing that sparked my interest in the research was a plugin for WordPress called Recipe Maker. It’s a thing where you type in the recipe once, it shows it in the blog post, and allows the reader to click and print. Chances are you’ve seen it nearly every *other* food blog you’ve ever read, but not mine. There’s a reason for that.

I was this many years old when I discovered WordPress Recipe Maker. It never dawned on me to look for such sorcery, and of course, nobody ever told me, either. I blame the Banana Rat, who knows all about this kind of thing.

In a Zoom call last week with overseas guru WF, she told me, “now there’s a WordPress plugin for just about everything.”  So now I want to look at plugins for hours on end, just to see what I can find. But I’m busy elsewhere.

You can see a similar example of this type of plugin on AllDayIDreamAboutFood. You can click the little box that says “Jump To Recipe” and go directly to it, or you can read the whole blog first. However you get there, the recipe plugin allows you to see it in one place and print it for yourself if you like. I don’t know if Carolyn uses WordPress or not, but it’s the same thing as the one I installed here.

And today you get a recipe for keto peanut butter eggs, sugar-free, complete with chocolate. You’re welcome.

Ready To Roll

Installing the plugin into WordPress was easy. I tested it and it works great. Going forward I’ll be using it whenever I post about a recipe—which might be more often.

And who do I have to thank for this? Aunt Ruth, sort of. She emailed me after the soup post and said that she couldn’t find the measurements for the onion and celery for one of the recipes. I emailed back and told the Recipes page had the PDFs, but I attached both PDF files to the email. Then it clicked, and I went back hunting for Recipe Maker to install.  

With the new plugin, I won’t need to make PDFs—it will be a section I type in, and you can print them right from the page.

Where has this been all my blogging life? Well, I have it now. But I’m still blaming Banana Rat for not telling me about it previously.

Shopping At Misfits Market

The second suggestion from this research was to order something like a meal kit (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, etc.) and write about your experience.

That’s it!

I’ve not ordered from the meal kit companies. But I have been seeing ads for some time from Misfits Market. What the heck—go check it out! So I did (and had the money to do so.)

Misfits Market Box

Just arrived!

I told BF about it. He just gave me that smile he has when he’s not sure what to think about what I just said. Finally, he said, “it’s OK, that’s your thing.” Really, he wasn’t at all interested.

Organics For Less

Misfits Market is all about organic food—primarily fresh produce—that’s either surplus or isn’t “pretty.” I did write about organic recently, and how it’s distinguished from conventionally grown and produced foods.  

They also stock a variety of other organic pantry items, including meats and plant-based proteins, that are either surplus stock or near the sell-by date. On things that aren’t “raw,” like baking powder or salt, that’s probably safe. Meat out of date probably isn’t, but you knew that already.

Misfits Market Box

One side of their branded box

Think about this the next time you go to your local grocer. Whether it’s HEB, Randall’s, Kroger or Food Town for my Texas readers, or Rouses, Winn-Dixie, or Walmart for my non-Texas readers, look at all the lovely produce that’s pretty and perfect. It’s especially true in Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and The Fresh Market. Few if any irregularities exist in the avocados, apples, limes, lettuce, tomatoes, and zucchini, much less any other produce.

So, what happens to the veg that isn’t as pretty? Chances are it’s discarded and becomes landfill waste. Even though it’s of the same nutritional quality as the aesthetically and cosmetically perfect veg, it’s tossed out. But if you’re going to cut them up and eat them, or cook them, or make guacamole anyway, what difference does it make? Apparently quite a bit.

Misift Market box side 2

The other side

An estimated 40% of fresh produce is discarded and goes to waste because it’s not cosmetically perfect. Why does this happen in uber-efficient America? Enter Misfits Market, and several other vendors like them.

Rescued Food

Many grocers and suppliers donate to food pantries and charities that help people who are in need, This is frequently called “food insecurity,” or not knowing where your next meal is coming from. Neighbor E used to volunteer at a local food pantry in Clear Lake, packing boxes and helping with the grunt work. Local grocers donated all manner of things, including The Fresh Market (this was before they closed their Texas operations.) He was also gifted some nice things that were extra, some of which he kindly shared with me. I loved making coleslaw, since he, like BF, doesn’t like cabbage.

You’d think that all these growers and producers would be taking advantage of food pantries to gift food to those who need it. Unfortunately, most small farms and producers don’t have the logistics to get everything everywhere before it goes bad, especially on a weekly basis. That’s where companies like Misfits Market help people buy quality food that isn’t the most attractive.

Founded in 2018, they just published their first annual report. They just opened their Texas facility last June, which explains why we’re now able to buy a box. The company also supports hunger relief programs, putting their money where their mouth is, literally. I like that.

Amy’s First Order

When you sign up, you’ll see a variety of pre-selected produce in your cart that comes to the required minimum of $30. You can add, subtract, and edit what’s there, as long as it comes to at least $30 before you apply any discounts.

There was no way I wanted beets! So those were replaced with a salad bag, extra avocados, and one or two other items. You can “shop” the website’s “aisles” and select from other available produce, meats, and dry pantry items. (More on the meat order later.) I clicked the button, and I was charged the next day when it shipped—from San Antonio, or Fort Worth, I’m not quite sure. The FedEx app first showed SA, but later it was FW. So, it came from somewhere in Texas.  

Saturday Arrival

My first Misfits Market package arrived that Saturday. The delivery lady from FedEx said, “I see a lot of these.” So, it must be popular around these parts. I offered to open it so she could see the contents, but she didn’t have time. Thanking her, off she went.

BF was at work the moment I opened the box:

Cutting open Misfits Market box

The great reveal

There was a lining in the box to help keep everything at cold temperatures throughout the 72-hour trip: 

Lining in box from Misfits Market

This worked well

And the cold pack on top to continue the refrigeration:

Cold pack in Misfits Market box

Worked pretty well, too.

I stashed that in the freezer to use later. Why not? Then I removed the top layer:

Box contents from Misfits Market

Ta-dah!

Not everything was wrapped in a package, but that’s OK. But everything on my list was in the box, like the purple sweet potatoes:

Purple sweet potatoes from Misfits Market

Cute, yeah?

More purple sweet potatoes

There were just four, making about a pound of them.

No kidding, those aren’t something left by Broc. . .I mean, Buddy the puppy. And Fuji apples:

Fuji apples from Misfits Market

Look pretty normal to me. Tasted delicious. Fuji and Braeburn are two of my favorite apples.

A bag of carrots that maybe was too far gone:

Carrots from Misfits Market

Well, fortunately, they were salvageable.

Some sugar snap peas, another one of my favorites:

Sugar Snap Peas from Misfits Market

Organic, but not locally grown, like most of the produce in the US:

Misfits market produce

Yup

A bunch of avocados—a bag as well as two loose ones:

Avocados from Misfits Market

Oh, boy!

Small avocados in a bag

BF is not going to like these, but they’re all mine.

Avocado label

I’ll be enjoying avocado anything I want for a while. Guacamole, anyone? And some bagged salad:

Bagged salad from Misfits Market

This was actually pretty good, but not keto.

I bought a similar bag of salad from Walmart the night before, and of course, HE wouldn’t eat any. “It doesn’t have Thousand Island Dressing on it,” he said.  We had a bottle in the fridge, but he wasn’t budging. So, I enjoyed both myself, although not all at once.

They Didn’t Have Pears

I was supposed to get some Anjou pears, but they were out of stock. That’s OK, since it’s past pear season, and I knew that. I guess the website hadn’t been updated. The company refunded the $4.19 to my account. The company doesn’t substitute things and thank heavens—I would have tossed any beets that they sent.

Everything from Misfits Market

Nice selection, yes?

I forget where I found it, but I also had a $15 discount code. I may have got it from Honey, since there was no benefit from Rakuten.

Limes

I drink limes all day long. What I mean by that is that I just stopped drinking iced tea in 2012, right after I left Boeing (long story and I still don’t.) Because I’d been adding limes instead of lemons to my iced tea for several years, I just kept drinking water with fresh lime and Sweet ‘N Low. Now I’m used to drinking this. It’s confusing to people here because I don’t drink Coke as BF does. I keep a small bowl of cut limes in the fridge all the time, on top of the iced coffee maker. Running out of limes is like BF running out of Coke or milk, it’s not a happy occasion.  

Limes in box from Misfits Market

But buying limes in Houston grocery stores isn’t the same as buying them in Central Louisiana. They’re expensive because lemons are more popular here. Good luck getting a slice of lime in a restaurant—IF you can get lemon, they bring a garnish slice. Only one Mexican restaurant gave me enough lime slices once, and it wasn’t the local establishment. With more Hispanic folks moving into the state, we may see more lime availability and better pricing.

Even though I’d bought a couple of bags in the prior week, I still ordered more from Misfits Market. I have enough to last a while. They’re different sizes, and still green, but will ripen in the fridge over time.

And, BTW, if you didn’t know—they sell limes green in this country so that people can tell the difference. Ripe limes are also yellow, but bright green when you cut into them. So, if you’re buying limes for juice, look for some that have a little yellow on them, or are kind of yellow. Those are ripe and juicy.

Cooking the Sweet Potatoes

Unlike BF, I prefer sweet potatoes without the stuff people add to it in the South—marshmallows, pineapples, etc. I think that baked, split, and served with melting butter and salt is good. But my favorite is the sweet potato French fries. I frequently buy sweet potatoes for this reason. They are usually locally grown, even in Winn-Dixie. BF knows someone who grows them, and we’ve both bought from the man and been gifted some. My new nickname for this man is “Mr. Sweet Potato Head.” (Well, I couldn’t resist.)

Make the sweet potato French fries: cut them, put them on a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet, drizzle a bit of olive oil on them, a bit of salt, toss, and bake at 400F for 40 minutes. If you have the convection setting on your oven, use it. You can also use an air fryer (Neighbor E now has a small one for himself.) Just don’t overdo it.

So I cut these little oddballs for the same purpose:

Four oddly shaped Purple sweet potatoes from Misfits Market

There they are, ready to cook.

Did the same thing, cut, olive oil, and salt:

Cut purple sweet potatoes on cutting board with knife

Cut purple sweet potatoes on baking sheet

Ready to roast.

Baked them, and this is what happened:

Baked purple sweet potatoes

Done!

If you burned them, how can you tell?

They tasted the same as the regular locally grown ones I buy. There is the novelty of the purple coloring, and they are organic. I did over-cook them a little bit because I didn’t take them out of the oven right away. Even though the countertop oven shuts itself off, it doesn’t cool right away, so they keep cooking for a bit. There was some burning, and the dogs enjoyed those. Or, as I call it, “Cajunizing.”

The Carrots

As I mentioned, the carrots looked a bit past it, but I wasn’t about to throw them away if there was some part that was useful.

Carrots in bag from Misfits Market

Just to use up these carrots, I cooked deer roast in the Instant Pot last night with this recipe from Corrie Cooks.

First I cut the ends off and got to the “good part,” sampling them to make sure they didn’t taste bad:

Carrots on cutting board with knife

They weren’t all bad, just the ends.

Then cut them into smaller parts to put in the IP.

Instead of the fresh thyme, I substituted Everything But The Leftovers seasoning from Trader Joe’s, sold in the fall. It worked well in this dish. The seasoning is modeled on their very popular (and inexpensive) Everything But The Bagel seasoning blend and is quite good. BF really enjoyed the dear roast this time, so I must get more of that seasoning mix when it comes back around later in the year. If you can’t wait, you can find it on eBay, and of course, it’s also being sold on Amazon

Pros

OK, so what are the good things about Misfits Market? First: it’s a great example of American-style capitalism. Find a need and fill it. They’ve done that well and grown in the process. Misfits Market delivers to nearly every zip code in the US. Amazingly, including ours.

For the organic consumer: you’re able to buy “not so perfect” organic produce and other products at a discount of as much as 40% off regular retail prices in exchange for getting the “not so pretty” agricultural products. Like those funny-looking purple sweet potatoes.

You choose everything in your shipment—there are no surprises.

They ship it right to your door. However, I haven’t compared prices to my local vendors, partly because organics aren’t widely available. Sure, I got some organic celery last week, but there isn’t enough availability here to do an apples-to-apples comparison. I do think the sugar snap peas were a good price at $3.45. (BF doesn’t like those, either.) If I were in Houston, I could compare it to HEB or Kroger and get a better idea.

The company uses eco-friendly packaging, which includes insulation made from recycled plastic bottles:

Up-close of insulation in Misfits Market box

It is recyclable if you have that capability in your area.

Unfortunately, we don’t live where curbside recycling is available. I’m not even sure where we can recycle this stuff. The box was nice enough to re-use in the house or burn with other paper waste. The lining? I’ll try to find a recycling place that takes it or use it for something else.  

Making The Trip

Everything is packed to withstand a 72-hour trip from the packing facility to your door at a refrigerated temperature, and that lining helps. Understand that the contents may very well be a bit banged up on the trip. The box really shouldn’t sit out for long periods, particularly in warmer weather, even with the ice packs or cold packs. Bring it in as soon as you get it, if you can, to avoid spoilage. If you work away from home, it’s best to get your delivery on Saturday, if you’re going to be home, of course.  

The bigger benefit is that that food that would get tossed out is re-sold. This offers healthy and high-quality food to a wider group of people who might not otherwise have it. By sourcing food that wouldn’t sell in a regular grocery store, it’s going to dinner tables instead of to landfills. By buying from Misfit Market, you’ll contribute to the fight against food waste in the US. You can read more about their mission to offer good food at better prices on their FAQ page. They discuss their sourcing here, and their farmer-to-customer process here.

Cons

Unfortunately, I’ve found Misfits Market’s website to be a bit wonky. Signing in is difficult and changing browsers doesn’t help. If you put the wrong password in, it keeps looping around to the login page. The site doesn’t tell you that the password was wrong. It took several tries on a different browser to access my account this afternoon.

Additionally, I can’t figure out how to go back to the “shop” function, but I guess it must be in the window of a shipment. In my case, the billing date is a Wednesday, and so I have until Tuesday at 10:45 pm to change the contents of the next box. On Wednesday morning, they charge me, and the shipment arrives on Saturday.

As I mentioned, the carrots disappointed me. A sharp knife made them salvageable.

Carrots in bag on cutting board

At least they were organic.

While Misfits Market does claim to be 40% off regular retail, I haven’t really compared prices with local grocery stores. I wonder about buying groceries that are shipped and trucked from Fort Worth, TX all the way to central Louisiana. I’m not saying it’s a bad service—it isn’t, it’s actually a good idea that checks a lot of boxes. But is it socially responsible? Well, that’s kind of a conundrum—I don’t know if it’s better or not, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it again.

Shipping was $6.99, so not too bad, and in addition to sales tax of $1.57 for Louisiana. The box went many miles to arrive at my door. Most produce is shipped from elsewhere into every grocery store in America, and I realize that. But Misfits Market also works directly with farmers and producers, bypassing grocery stores and bringing quality foods directly to America’s doorsteps, wherever they may be, helping to improve the food chain.

I’m thinking the Pros outweigh the Cons on this one, but that’s just me. If you’re considering ordering a Misfits Market box, may I suggest a little more reading so you can decide for yourself. Signup is free, but they do ask for a payment method.

Warning

Misfits Market is a weekly subscription service, so you must pay attention and cancel this week’s box if you don’t want it. (The company also offers the option to buy and donate a box of food to a family in need instead of buying the box for yourself.) Otherwise, they charge your card and you get another box of produce and things you weren’t ready for.

I’ve skipped this week’s order because I wanted to see what was in the first box before the next one. And I wanted to make sure I had the money for it, too. If you decide to order, be aware that you are signing up for regular weekly deliveries, and you have to cancel them manually. Should you not want to continue, you’ll have to cancel your subscription entirely.

Our Next Order

We’re planning a “meat box” for the next order to see what that’s like, probably next week. BF likes to cook breakfast for us, and that generally means bacon and eggs. Since bacon has been on the high side around here, I’d like to see what Misfits Market has in the way of bacon, ground beef, and other items. If we like it, we’ll buy some to stash in the freezer, right next to the Texas Tamales.  

For meat, you must order a minimum of $30 “cold pack” items. That is, to make it cost-effective, certain items like meat and plant-based protein must come to the $30 minimum, which counts toward your overall $30 minimum. But if you order less than the $30 minimum of produce or other things, you’ll still need to order $30 of “cold pack” items to make the box. You could order more, of course. Just watch your total, which is easy on their web site’s shopping interface.  

I’ll let you know about our “meat box” in a future blog post.

Until Next Time

No, BF wasn’t particularly impressed, even though most of the contents, if not all, were organic. He just doesn’t appreciate it when I buy organic for us. Oh, well. Maybe the meat box will give him a little more to look forward to next time.

If you want to try new things, or make your grocery shopping a little easier, Misfits Market might be a good thing for you. I do have a referral code if you want to try it, and you’ll receive a $10 discount on your first order. That code is COOKWME-GK3IAXCZOGR. Again, it’s a subscription service for weekly deliveries, not a one-time purchase like Amazon or other online retailers, so you can’t just order once and go back later.

You also choose what’s in your shipment so that there are no surprises, and you don’t get something you didn’t really want. Like beets. And they ship it right to your door.

More to come on this blog. Meantime, enjoy!!

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