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.
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.
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
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:
- Houston Office of Emergency Management, with information and checklists including a “shelter in place kit”
- Southern University of New Orleans Police Department
- Hurricane Safety from the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University (IHRC)
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA)
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Blackberry Cheesecake Galette
- 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
- 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.
So, gather up your ingredients, including your blackberry bowl:
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.
Unroll your pie crusts and stack them on a work surface—a cutting board, or another flat thing.
Now the second:
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:
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:
Add the berries, cornstarch salt, ¼ cup of granulated sugar, lemon zest, and a tablespoon of our lemon juice into a bowl.
Carefully mix them so you don’t mess up the berries (especially if you use thawed frozen ones as I did.)
Mix until the cornstarch dissolves, set it aside, and move on to the cheesecake part.
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.
Now you’re ready to bake.
First, remove a few berries from the other bowl and set them aside. These will make the top look pretty.
Then add the rest to the flat piecrust, leaving a two-inch border for the up-folding.
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.
If you haven’t done so already, beat the whole egg, and brush it on the crust you just folded up over the side:
And sprinkle some coarse sugar on top of the egg-washed crust area:
The coarse sugar gives the galette a nice, crunchy crust when it’s done. Into the oven for 30 to 35 minutes:
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:
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy Birthday, Honey.
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.
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.
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:
- Water, also called hydropower or “ocean energy”
- Waste To Energy
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.
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.
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.
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.
But Maui also grows and exports other crops that you may not realize, such as:
- Cacao (chocolate)
- Coffee, particularly Kona Coffee
- Jackfruit (hard pass for me)
- Lettuces and other green leafy vegetables
- 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They were quite delicious on their own, too.
I also chopped the nuts this time.
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:
Here’s the recipe if you want to print a copy for later. (So glad I found WP Recipe Maker!)
Dark Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clusters
- 1½ cups sugar-free chocolate chips I used Hershey's but there are several brands, including Lily's
- 1½ 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
- 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.
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?
Charcuterie boards are showing up everywhere. It’s not a new idea, it’s just another way of serving appetizers, hors d’oeuvres. They’re a delicious new art form, coming to a party near you.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with a web page project that has left me burning the midnight oil for quite a few nights. I just turned in the last page on mass torts last night, so I’ve got other stuff to catch up on, including this blog.
Our regular rainy days have given way to days of the long, hot summer with occasional cloudbursts, some torrential. I told you we’d be talking about the big freeze when summer came. Twice this week Mother Nature brought a very heavy monsoon of a rain shower, and the power went out for a few hours. Those Rotera tealight lanterns were deployed, with a reminder that I need to order more. BF’s sister may do an IKEA run for us one of these days.
I’ve been trying to get some sewing done on Saturdays as I used to in Houston, but there’s the matter of housecleaning. One bit at a time. I’ve still not returned to using the circa-1996 White sewing machine Big Joel sent me since it’s been back from the repair guy in Denham Springs. It works perfectly, I’m just afraid to use it. But I need to, because the one I use now isn’t great on buttonholes.
This year’s heavy rainy season lets me know that I need to make a more utilitarian raincoat than fabulous fashion raincoats I made in Houston. One is a poncho-like Donna Karan model from 2003, and the other a regular double-breasted, both from ripstop nylon. (The GER laughed at me when I made that Donna Karan raincoat.) They aren’t really suitable for life at the Casa de Rurale.
I bought some heavier raincoat fabric for this MimiG pattern, but I still haven’t cut it yet. Need some strong buttons and a couple of separating zippers, as well as a few other supplies that aren’t locally available. It means the mail ladies will be dropping off more packages.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to attend a gathering this summer, hosting one, or planning for the holidays, I’ve got something you’ll need to know about: the Charcuterie Board.
Has anyone used the word “charcuterie” in front of you? It’s certainly showed up in several of my Instagram feeds, so I knew I had to take a look for myself.
Charcuterie is a French word that has to do with preserved meats–bacon, ham, sausages, etc. It’s the practice of preserving meat used long before refrigeration was available. The practice may have originated with the Romans, but has been used in France for hundreds of years. The types of preserved meats varied by region.
The person who makes these things is called a charcutier, and their repertoire may also include pate’, as well as what’s called “head cheese,” or in Louisiana, “hogshead cheese,” as it was called when I was growing up.
It just so happens that Central Market in Texas is celebrating “Charc Week,” celebrating all the things you’ll need to make a charcuterie board at home. In a week or so, they’ll be celebrating their yearly Hatch Festival, with all things hatch chilis. I’ve got a few Anaheim chili peppers growing in a paint bucket now but will be heading to Hammond to partake of more Hatch chilis for us. Ok, for me.
Building The Board
First thing you’ll need: a board. No kidding, but not just any old cutting board that you’ve had since your first apartment. Unless, of course, you’re making it strictly for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that, either–why wait for a party? But for entertaining, you’ll want something nicer. (Warning: affiliate links ahead.)
In the HeatCageKitchen, I could make do with a large, seldom-used cutting board I bought back in the 1990’s from Macy’s in downtown New Orleans. (On my lunch hour, of course.) But now that charcuterie boards are a thing, you can choose from more upscale models like this one from Smirly:
They also make an expandable version for a little more:
The Spruce also has a list of their best board choices for 2021.
Just do a search on Amazon and you’ll find about 3,000 results for them, with similar results from other places like Wayfair (also called “cheeseboards.”) You’ll find one that suits your tastes and fits your budget. And no, there’s no need to spend a fortune on one of these, either–find some suitable and less expensive cutting boards at both Cost Plus World Market as well as IKEA.
The Meats, Cheeses, And More
So, there are about a million ways to make one, and chances are there isn’t a “wrong” way to make them (not that I’ve found, anyway.) AllRecipes explains it simply here, and this article from WebRestaurantStore.com explains it in more detail.
The basic premise is that it’s small bites, with flavors and textures that go well together. Choose one or more types of meats, such as:
- Salami and other hard sausages
- Prosciutto or ham
- Spanish Chorizo (this is a fully cooked sausage like salami and not raw like Mexican chorizo)
- Mousse or pate’
And pair it with cheeses (I like Manchego), as well as:
- Spreads, like home-made hummus, mustard and chutney
- Pickles (those tiny cornichons are cute and tasty)
- Bite-sized fruit (think grapes, dried apricots, pineapple chunks)
- Veggies (grape tomatoes, small sweet peppers, cut carrots and cucumbers, etc.)
- Cut bread, the size of Melba toast
- Other tasty bite-sized things you may like.
Remember that everything needs to be bite-sized and easy to pick up, since it’s self-served on small plates.
How To Make It
Of course, there is a myriad of recipes for these on Pinterest, AllRecipes, YouTube, and The Food Network, to name a few. And if you want a book for your collection, there’s this one, Beautiful Boards. I don’t have this one myself, and I never saw charcuterie referenced when I was a reviewer for Callisto. I guess that explains why I never saw it before now, either.
Once you have your ingredients, It’s simply a matter of assembling everything so that it’s attractive and easy to get to (preferaby with forks, right?) You can follow a picture or detail it the way you like it.
Don’t have time to make them? Check your area, you may be able to pick them up already made, like in Central Market. In Baton Rouge, there is a place called Bites & Boards, and in Houston, there are GrazeHTX and Charcuterie Houston. Do a Google search, because they’re ready to make one for your next get-together if you’re too busy or just want someone else to handle it.
Check your local grocer for “party trays,” because many will have something similar. HEB also has recipes for them, like this Texas Sized Charcuterie Board. Where do I get that board?? (Yes, I still miss Texas, but that’s another story entirely.) I haven’t checked Rouses, but they probably either have them or will make one to order.
British Charcuterie: The Ploughman’s Lunch
Let me point out that I have not been to Europe, and only know what I read, research, and see on Britbox, The Food Network, and other sites about any manner of European, Australian, and other non-US cuisines.
I found it interesting when Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, visited a British pub in London and shared a Ploughman’s Lunch with her husband, Jeffrey. She’s a big fan of visiting Paris and they even own an apartment there, so I guess London was a day trip. The recipe on the Food Network’s website is more for a party, rather than for one person. Note: It’s not in any of her cookbooks that I found.
But a ploughman’s lunch is a cold and generally portable meal that’s intended to eat out in the fields, literally, when the ploughman gets a break. It consists of bread, cheese, onions, cold meat, pickles, and other items not needing refrigeration for a long period.
And what does it look like? In many cases, a lot like a charcuterie board. Really. With much the same things.
It’s been a thing for hundreds of years. But since the 1950’s, after WWII rationing ended, the “ploughman’s lunch” became a thing in pubs to sell more cheese. In recent years, gastro-pubs, which emphasize food rather than just beer, have elevated this humble meal to something more gourmet. So if you’re in a British pub (which could be anywhere, including The Blue Anchor in Delray Beach, FL), you may find it called “ploughman’s lunch” or something similar.
A Little Charcuterie Humor
You know people can’t leave things alone on social media, right? I won’t mention the memes made after the recent commercial space flights, complete with well-known public figures.
This article on Mashed talks about why charcuterie boards are now so popular. The pandemic lockdowns in 2020 saw a lot of people looking for new things to do. Making the boards became a pasttime, showing up on everyone’s Instagram feeds but mine. Apparently the “craze” began with author Marissa Mullen’s Instagram account, and it became the next big DIY craft project–and it’s edible.
Of course, there are multiple versions of charcuterie boards, such as these targeted to. . .um, individuals less gourmet inclined than myself:
And you know that’s Velveeta, right? BF can totally get behind this one.
In my Tuesday night Zoom call with my wonderful writer friends, I mentioned that the next topic for this humble blog would be charcuterie boards. And Bev in Georgia was very nice to find this amusing pic:
See? Social media isn’t all bad.
I know, I know, “boomer humor” and all that. I found it quite amusing, and so do a number of other folks. Better than some of the nastier stuff I see online.
For Next Time
I have a recipe I want to try and take pictures of to post. Because it’s something that will work well on a charcuterie board as well as a number of other things. Call it a “condiment.” But I’ll say this–when I tried it, courtesy of one of my Buddhist friends, I believe I became enlightened. I’ll explain when I can make it for you, complete with pictures and the story of how the stuff made it here. You will not be sorry.
Stay cool, stay hydrated, and be ready for anything if you’re on the Gulf Coast. You know what time of year it is, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a few extra things for your pantry and home.
Meantime, have fun this summer as much as you can. Because you know in a few months we’re going to be embracing hot chocolate, pots of chilis and stews, and nearly everything Pumpkin Spice.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I hope you’re feeling better by now. The election, and all the associated nastiness, is over for a while. Now it’s time for transition, and hopefully, getting back to whatever passes for “normal.” It was a nail-biter, and for some reason, I couldn’t stop eating BF’s ice cream. (I didn’t eat all of it, just a little.) We stayed up until 3:00 am or so watching the results, and back-checking CBS News on our phones against what was showing up on Facebook in our feeds. Bizarre–I’ve never done that before, but we finally hit the sack once it was all over. Good thing we didn’t have anything planned for the next day, and he was off work. No more sugar-laden ice cream, and the weight is going back down again, thank heavens.
Time for some comfort food, OK? Keep reading, there’s a recipe for you shortly.
We’ve been doing some renovation type of cleaning in the Casa, which includes having one of his, um, ex-girlfriends finally come get her stuff out of his house. She’s got some of it, but some still resides for a few more days. (What are we, Public Storage?) His daughter took the things she wanted and I helped her clear out stuff she didn’t want. All that’s left is his friend from the Navy. Well, with moving stuff around and out, painting the back room for my soon-to-be studio office, and clearing car parts out of the house, we’ve set up a little breakfast area by the kitchen:
This is my IKEA Tarno patio set that we just put there and put a tablecloth over, and BF decided to add my tiny lamp (Lampan, also from IKEA.) I repaired the miniblinds which had been damaged by a passed-on pooch, and cleaned the window really well. Know what? It’s kind of nice to have breakfast right there, or dinner. When we get things better situated, we’ll put my regular dinette there, and I’ll repair more of the miniblinds, now that I know how. (Looked it up on eHow and learned on the fly.) The blinds are closed so you don’t see that the Casa “beautification project” has not yet carried over to the patio out front.
After my trip to New Orleans on Sunday, where I bought some lovely pork chops, chicken sausage and chicken thighs for us, BF decided Monday to get. . .one of those “kits” to make tacos for lunch on Tuesday. I kid you not. At least he had the sense to get the crunchy taco kit, which has corn tortillas. No word about “gluten free,” but there was no wheat or its derivatives in any of the ingredients that I saw, so I was glad about that and reluctantly took part. (It does say that it was partly produced with GMO ingredients; my guess is the corn, which I rarely eat.) He asked me to brown the ground beef to get started, and of course, twenty minutes later, we had tacos–because he went into the living room to watch more TV. GRRR. . .but I got the job done.
Dinner was Mustard Pork Chops in the Crock Pot, which I may post soon. It was pretty good, and worthy of doing again. Because he really wanted. . .tacos. . .the chicken shifted to lunch on Wednesday, where I made him, for the first time, Nigella Lawson’s Pollo alla Cacciatora, or “The Hunter’s Stew,” which, in Nigella’s case, is “lazy hunter’s stew.” (It only takes 30 minutes.) Although it’s long been a comfort food favorite for me, this was his first taste of it. Thumbs up–he likes it, and I can make it again for him. (Thanks.) The next day for dinner at work, he took some with a cup of rice, since he thought it “needed” some. No problem, I cooked up a small batch of white rice for him and added it to the container. Along with a slice of made-from-scratch pound cake from his friend’s birthday, he was all set for work.
Now, if you’re interested in making this “hunter’s stew,” I want to point something out that’s not immediately obvious: although the printed recipe calls for a half-cup of pancetta cubes–which is perfectly acceptable, albeit expensive and hard to find here–you can also slice up 3 or 4 slices of bacon in place of it. That’s the way I’ve always made it since I saw the original show. The show may be on YouTube; you’d just have to look for it.
It really is a nice comfort food. Even if it does come from across the pond. You’re welcome.
I’ve been in the larger Winn-Dixie in Hammond, and indeed they do have more organic produce. Surprise–they even have fresh sushi. I still hate sushi, but–they have it! I did some recon in the morning, and then did some shopping later in the day, mostly meat, eggs, butter, cheese, etc. I almost–ALMOST–thought I was in Kroger. And I kept saying “I live down in La Marque. . .” which, of course, is in Texas. Well, it’s probably because I felt like I was in Kroger. I sure do miss my HEB, though–the pork loin roasts I used to get on sale for $3 in HEB are something like $12 here. What’s up with that? I did find a nine-pound pork loin that was about 3 feet long, but we don’t have any place to store that monster. Another time.
Rouse’s has purchased a rival grocery store chain, so there will soon be a Rouse’s in Hammond for me to visit, right near that Winn-Dixie. That’ll be good, too.
A quick look at the calendar tells me that Thanksgiving is coming. It’s next week! I really have lost my sense of date and time. For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I won’t be cooking turkey. That’s OK, I cook turkey all year long (I just wish I could get turkey thighs here; maybe Albertson’s has them.) I asked BF the other night what our plans were for Thanksgiving; he said his brother usually does a big spread, and we would attend. (Just have to figure out what I’m going to wear.) Well, if I’m allowed, I’ll bring some of that fantastic Cranberry-Ginger Relish and maybe one or two other small things, but I warned BF that I would likely eat before I went. Longtime readers know that things like sweet potato pie, sweet potatoes with other abominable things added to it and all things bread, pie and gravy are not coming my way. I’ll be happy to have some turkey–maybe a little mashed potatoes, too–but no gravy, please! Gravy, to me, kills the taste of everything under it. So this will be interesting, and maybe I’ll pull the Nordic Track out in the morning before we go.
Think I should just stay home and watch Britcoms?
So, what do you do when you’re hosting such an occasion and have health concerns to consider? (Besides panic, that is.) Or, surprise, his new girlfriend is a vegetarian, and he’s going vegan soon too? Knowing this in advance helps, of course, but sometimes you don’t, so having some extra vegetable dishes helps (just don’t use chicken stock!) I’ve written about these kinds of things before, and you can also get some help on Martha Stewart’s website, under “All Things Thanksgiving.” Sur la Table has also published its annual Thanksgiving Guide, and it’s available online or as a free download to print. BF and I caught a bit of the Rachael Ray Show the other day, and someone named Clinton Kelly was making dishes you could make in advance: Turkey Meatballs, a Roasted Vegetable Soup (which looked pretty good, actually), which you could make in advance and freeze, then serve from the Crock Pot and some popover kinds of things with smoked salmon. The Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash is really good, too. Of course, if you’re looking for something specific, please check out the worlds’s biggest idea database, Pinterest.
One thing I can’t emphasize enough is getting started on your Thanksgiving planning early. Get that turkey NOW, if you haven’t already. Get your brine mix, or make it, NOW, because the turkey has to thaw first, AND you have to make the brine ahead of time. Buy your ingredients early, especially the unusual stuff, like puff pastry or something else that everyone will be looking for like fresh or dried sage. Doing potluck? Ask and assign people a specific dish–dressing, veg, cornbread, whatever–so you avoid the problem of everyone stopping at the grocery and picking up a cake or cupcakes at the last minute. All dessert and little turkey does *not* make happy dinner guests, you know? A broad variety of different vegetable dishes, and maybe including maybe a pilaf or risotto (using vegetable stock) can keep everyone happy and well-fed while including the vegetarians and not calling them out for it.
Brining a turkey? Here’s one from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman (warning: it has brown sugar) and one from Martha Stewart’s website. If you want to brine a turkey–and I highly recommend it–get going. Now. Juniper berries might be hard to find soon.
It’s also a great time to dust off the slow cookers and the waffle makers if you’re not using them regularly. Make sure all your appliances work before the big day, too. And isn’t there something you can slow-cook or waffle ahead of time? (Cranberry Ginger Relish can be made a few days in advance, thank heavens.)
Yes, it’s time to get your thinking cap on. Quick. Whether you’re hosting or just attending, it’s time to take inventory so your Thanksgiving will go well and everyone, including yourself, will enjoy themselves. (Here’s some advice I wrote about last year that may help.)
Here’s another tip: READ your recipes and understand them before you shop and get started. Case in point: last night I decided to make something new for me and BF. Seems he’s never had eggs with tomatoes in his life, despite his claim of “I’ve been all around the world!” So, I found this recipe for Skillet Eggs and Tomato Sauce in one of the Everyday Food cookbooks last night, and asked him if he’d like to try it. He said he would try it, with a bit of reluctance in his voice. (Next question I asked: “Do we have any anchovies?” Oh, the look on his face was priceless.) In the book, this recipe makes two servings, not the four that’s on the website. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the book called for a HALF can, 28 ounces, of tomatoes. Skimming over the ingredients, I just figured I could use two cans of tomatoes, 14.5 ounces. That’s pretty much the same, all right? WRONG–it was, indeed, way too much tomato, and that was his first comment. (I ate them, though.) I noticed the difference when I put the book away–and then made a note of it. He said he’d like to have it again, with half as much tomatoes. Done. (And maybe an anchovy, too, but don’t tell BF–I hide that kind of stuff in a drawer of the fridge.)
The point: please READ carefully and understand before you do something dumb like I do sometimes. Especially for Thanksgiving. OK? Don’t forget the hot mess I made when I invited The GER over a few years ago. It can happen to you. READ. Please.
Now, would I leave you without help for Thanksgiving? Of course not.
Remember last time, when NM handed me a bunch of apples to take home? Well. . .I did put them in the Crock Pot, and darnit, they were pretty tasty! I made them at the same time as the pork chops, but not because I had pork chops. BF wasn’t wild about them cooked, he’d rather have fresh. But, it’s fall, and it feels like fall, so I wanted to try something different.
I actually made two batches, in two different slow cookers, to see what would happen with two different sweeteners–SomerSweet and Agave Syrup. I think this would make a great lower-carb/gluten-free alternative to the traditional apple pie. Either for everyone, or just for guests like me who would rather keep the calorie count down.
If you’re planning to have an apple dessert, or more than one, for Thanksgiving, this is an easy one to toss in and forget for a while. I actually made it a second time with bigger, fresh red apples so I could take pictures and show you how it’s made.
When I cruised through Pinterest to find apples in the Crock Pot, I didn’t find much in the way of healthy versions–mostly, they were loaded with sugar. GRRRR. . .but of course, we have alternatives in our world, don’t we?
Yes, that’s the same sherry vinegar I have around to make Cranberry Ginger Relish, but since I don’t use it often, and it only takes a small amount, I decided to try it in this apple dish. You could use red wine vinegar, or just leave it out if you wanted. But I found that the sherry vinegar added a nice depth of flavor that’s not often in apple dishes.
I started out by washing all the apples, of course:
The first time I made this, I used just cinnamon. I decided to use apple pie spice for this incarnation, because I’m glad I did. I made some using this recipe, but because not everything is unpacked, I couldn’t find any allspice. So, it was back to Winn-Dixie for more after I picked up BF from work Sunday afternoon. He wanted some hot chocolate because the weather had turned cold. While he was prowling around looking for that, I went to the spices. Hmmm. . .should I get the stuff called “natural,” which is a rather nebulous word on food products, or get the brand I frequently bought in Houston?
I picked up that bottle that was $1.64 and put it in the little hand basket. Then BF returned to the spice aisle and was of the impression that I’m not getting what I wanted. He then said to me, “Look! Here’s all the ‘allspice’ you could ever want, right here!”
Oh, he was so funny, gesticulating towards all those spice blends. Giggling, I took the little bottle out of the hand basket and showed it to him:
BF was in the Navy, you know. Fortunately, he was *not* on KP in the galley (kitchen), or he would have been keel-hauled for making that mistake. He only had to put up with me laughing at him all the way home.
This apple pie spice mix recipe from Life Made Sweeter is quick and easy, and I made a double batch to make sure I had enough:
And use it like you would the store-bought stuff. No sugar or other additives to worry about. (Of course, yesterday, I found another carefully packed box marked “Amy Pantry,” which had not one, but two bottles of allspice. GRRR.)
Back to it–I started by putting a bit of olive oil in the bottom of the crocks:
Now, I’ll bet you’re wondering if there’s a deliberate reason for a black and white crock. Well, yes, and I used it–the black one was mine, a replacement during a Karma of Spare Parts incident, last year, I think, when I sent the 4-quart crashing to the floor on a Sunday. They no longer had white, so black it was. The white crock belongs to BF. The difference came in handy: the black one had apples cooked with Agave Syrup, and the white one had apples cooking in SomerSweet.
Neat, huh? (Worked for me!)
Then started cutting the apples and adding them to the crock, and rolling them around in the oil:
Then I added in the apple pie spice mix to both crocks:
Added about a tablespoon of vanilla extract:
Then added in a tablespoon of the sherry vinegar to each one:
And then I added the respective sweeteners:
Mix it all up again to coat the apples with the rest of it:
And cooked it on low for about 4 hours. What happened? Well. . .it was interesting, and BF gave me his honest opinion (I only had to needle him a little bit.)
Hmmm. . .looks like Miss Food Blogger forgot to take a picture of the results. Oh, well. I had three things going on at once. . .and we just ate them!
While BF would prefer eating apples raw, he said that the apples cooked with SomerSweet were a little less sweet, and still somewhat crisp, although they weren’t hard like a fresh apple. The agave syrup crock apples were softer and sweeter than the others, and that’s the one he preferred.
If I had cooked them longer they would have probably been a lot softer, and maybe even soft enough for applesauce. But peeling all them apples? No thanks. It was just something to use them up the first time.
Agave syrup works for a lot of different things, including a replacement for honey, with less of an insulin spike than honey would give. (Remember: I’m not a doctor, I just read about these things.) SomerSweet’s primary ingredient, erythrytol, is a sugar alcohol that’s also quite sweet and works like regular sugar, also without the insulin spike.
For you and your guests who don’t want pie or other heavily-sugared dessert, baking apples in your Crock Pot may be a good alternative to have around, and in the Crock Pot, couldn’t be easier. But why wait for Thanksgiving? Apples are in season now, and available all year around–make some this week or this weekend, and see how you like it. Tweak it to make it yours, and offer it with pride on Thanksgiving Day. It’s one of those things you can set and forget. You may be asked to make it again next year, or even before then–and what would be wrong with that?
Now for another side dish that’s also low-carb. Spaghetti Squash. Have you tried it? I have. They’re hard as a rock and can be somewhat dangerous to cut, especially the larger ones. Easiest method I knew of, until now, was to cut it in half, scrape out all the seeds and strings, coat the inside with a touch of olive oil, and roast at 350F cut side down for an hour. I used to use the toaster oven to roast even the larger ones, but now I don’t have a toaster oven. What to do? Well. . . .
I also follow a blog called Half Baked Harvest. I found a recipe there a while back, and I may have posted it here, but I can’t find it now. HOWEVER–a few weeks ago, this recipe for Crockpot Spaghetti Squash with Lasagne Bolognese showed up and got my attention. I haven’t made the Bolognese sauce yet, but I might one day.
But cooking a spaghetti squash in the Crock Pot? Why haven’t I tried this before?
Tieghan makes up her sauce, adds it into the Crock Pot, then puts the whole, untouched spaghetti squash right on top the sauce. No kidding. So I pulled out the big one and put the (little) squash in it, because the ovals were needed for the apples.
I just pulled off the sticker, washed it off, dropped it in, turned it to low and left it alone for a good 8 or 9 hours.
You put the food in, put the lid on, plug it in, turn it on, and leave it alone:
I did this early on Monday, and about suppertime, this is what came out:
And out comes a perfectly cooked spaghetti squash:
Either use a good potholder or wait til it cools, then cut it in half to remove the seeds. Once you’ve got the “guts” out of it, scrape out the “spaghetti” with a fork into your serving bowl:
Add some butter, salt and fresh herbs:
Mix it up well, and if needed, re-heat in the microwave or on top the stove, or leave in the oven to keep it warm:
And you’ve got delicious and perfectly cooked spaghetti squash for your vegetarian guests. (You could also use olive oil if you don’t want to use butter.) But don’t be surprised if the non-veg folks dig into it–spaghetti squash is delicious when cooked well and seasoned right. (If only I could get BF to try a bite of it; he hates squash across the board.)
So, did I give you some new ideas for a great Thanksgiving meal? Alternatives for your guests, maybe? Or just something different and deliciousi for dinner this weekend? (November also has 29 *other* dinners to prepare besides Thanksgiving, you know.) I hope this helps, and I hope everyone has a tasty and happy Thanksgiving next week.
Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, “Amy, there you go again, banging on about SomerSweet again. You have the last three cans of it in existence!” Well, here you go. I hope to finish the post on a new replacement for SomerSweet for you, but I want to reach out to the company and find out more from them. I will tell you that I found it in Whole Foods in Mandeville, it’s called Swerve, and the company is located in New Orleans!
More to come on this, hopefully soon.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Bet you weren’t expecting *that* ending, were you? Nope, me either–and that was before I wrote it. But all’s well that ends well in the HeatCageKitchen. He still likes me.
I think I’ve lost about 10 pounds since moving. I got my scale out after we visited Neighbor E a couple of weeks ago to get my stuff, and have been using it almost daily. It’s the sleep, and not eating a lot of carbs or eating too late at night. The housework is helping, too. Eventually I’ll be using the kettlebells again, doing some yoga, and utilizing the EZ Gym, which I plan to put up on a wall. Might be bikini-ready next summer, but we’ve got some time. Meantime, my set of 3-Way Ponchos are pressed, washed, and ready to wear. (Glad I bought them when I did–the purple one is no longer available, but I have a Simplicity pattern to make more of them later.)
We have not yet replaced the toaster oven, and while we have plans to, it’s a matter of. . .money. It’s OK–I’m not doing a lot of specialty baking right now, but BF promises that there will be a replacement soon. Maybe not a $200 Cuisinart (but I have coupons from Bed, Bath & Beyond if we do go), but he will get me another one–he told me he will, and he doesn’t break promises. I knew it was going to need replacement months ago, I just put it off, hoping things would improve and I could buy one myself. Well. . .BF knows to put a bug in Santa’s ear, if nothing else. And I’ll make him those boxed brownies again, too, if he asks.
I would have published this post two weeks ago, but, well, the pictures weren’t coming out straight. Then I had to leave the library and pick up BF from work. Then I couldn’t make it back to the library. Then, last Monday morning. . .I pulled a back muscle, and couldn’t move much. I was crab-walking for nearly a week! Finally. . .my back is better, albeit still a little bit sore. Crab-walking over, I’m back at the library. I’ll be working on more new subjects to write about to bring to you. I just don’t find out about new “things” like I used to. Guess I need to go read more.
The back room is finally cleared out, and we hope to do some painting before setting up my studio–sewing room, exercise area, media room and “corner office.” We have a few of my things in there, plus some of my clothes, but. . .we’ll try to get some painting done first. Then, over time, more book shelves, a china cabinet (maybe from IKEA), another big rack for kitchen stuff (I’ll make that cover, finally), some shelves above the doorways, and some other things to turn the former “man cave” (and I do mean“cave”) into a house for a man and a woman to happily live together in. My IKEA Fusion dinette will sit by the front door and become a breakfast nook (soon as we get the car parts outside and replace the damaged miniblinds.) One thing at a time, right? Once we get a lot of my things in the back to furnish the studio, the rest of the house will be neat, tidy and company-ready.
That silly 60-pound pit bull knocked the Meyer lemons off the tree, one at a time! They are now in the kitchen window, hopefully ripening, and I’ll take any seeds and propagate them into more trees. (Meyer lemons are $4 a pound at Fresh Market, so why not?) Last night the Hounds of Baskerville also knocked over the cut celery stubs I cultivated into re-growing. I hope that they weren’t too far gone and that I can save them, but celery is cheap. I told him I would “whip that dog into shape.” Yeah. One look in those eyes and you know I won’t be whipping anything. (We don’t really hit the dogs, of course, but we know someone did once.) But I’m giving them occasional treats so they’ll get used to me, and listen when we start doing doggie boot camp training. (BF gets some treats, too.)
The basil plant I bought from HEB to cut and propagate is now in the kitchen window, and I hope to have more plants growing soon. (PESTO!!!!) I haven’t talked BF into building me a cold frame yet, but that Plexiglas out in the shop isn’t scrap (darnit.) I really, REALLY need to plant the green onions and start more of them, but I haven’t gotten to that yet. The Hatch chili plants are now all outside; soon I hope to start planting stuff, I just keep saying “tomorrow.” But it’ll happen, and BF will stare at it with buggy eyes wondering what the heck is going on, just like the pantry.
I read BF the last blog post, and he said that I was wrong on one thing: he does not drink more than a cow produces in a day. Seems that when he was a kid, he worked milking cows. A cow produces 25 pounds a day, he says, and a gallon weighs 8 pounds. (BF was in the Navy, you know.) Well, a quick check at DairyMoos.com shows that his math is a bit off, BUT–BF drinks about half a gallon a day, I think. Seriously, he really does, and <nails on chalkboard> Coca-Cola at work during lunch. I told him we should get our own milk cow. (I’ll be the one taking it for walks and cleaning the litterbox.)
I had another trip to Baton Rouge a couple of weeks ago, but BF and I also had an errand there one night as well. I begged, PLLEEEEEEEEZZZEE???? and he took me to Trader Joe’s for a stock-up run afterwards. He didn’t know what that was, and I promised him it would be faaaaaaabulous. (I’m guilty of over-using that word.) He saw the Petco two doors down, and we buzzed in there first. THEN we grabbed a beautiful red basket and headed into TJ’s. Got more olive oil, a packet of uncured bacon ends, some chocolate for my birthday cake, (the one from Suzanne Somers) and a few other small things. On the way out, I saw something in the freezer case–frozen quiche. This one is about the size of a pot pie, except the crust is on the bottom. So he would finally understand, I showed it to BF. “You are NOT going to get me to eat that!” he exclaimed. I wasn’t asking him to, I just wanted to show him what it looked like, so he can have a frame of reference, and understand frittata. Yeah, that worked.
I brought my own cloth shopping bags, including the cold bag I made a couple of years ago, and we were right at home with them. I explained to the (male) cashier that this was BF’s first time in TJ’s. BF protested: “I was ambushed.” It’s not the mall, for heaven’s sake–TJ’s is the size of a large convenience store. But I won’t drag him into one ever again, he’ll only go if he wants to (or he wants to keep an eye on me.) BF’s verdict: “It’s just a grocery store.” Oh, well–he eats good. Like this chocolate delight from our last trip to my HEB in Clear Lake:
As I mentioned in the last post, I visited the Mandeville Fresh Market a couple of Sundays ago, and boy did I bring home some goodies. BF was impressed with dinner–and I didn’t have to work too hard, either. Much like my years of living in Clear Lake and shopping after an in-town SGI activity, I went to a study meeting at the lovely home of PB and NM and went shopping afterwards, since I was in the vicinity. (They are the nice folks who came over and home visited me a week or so after my abrupt, unfortunate departure from Texas.) This time, I was on their turf. It was a small meeting, just seven of us, in the middle of an idyllic wooded setting.
I asked PB about getting to Whole Foods, and once again, I ended up at The Fresh Market, but that’s OK. (I got there a couple of weekends later after the district meeting.) See, once you get off the freeway, you go left for Whole Foods and right for The Fresh Market. . .and I got those directions mixed up. Oh, well.
I went primarily to get something for Sunday dinner, and *maybe* to mooch a little more free coffee, too. Well, I had some, but this time I could have coffee. Well, I bought some–a half-pound of decaf Hazelnut Creme. Yum. BF, as always, was not impressed. But it smells so good!
I walked around and examined the glass meat case and thought about different things I could make for dinner. I also picked up a few favorites:
I’ve since discovered that the local Winn-Dixie stocks Bush’s brand cannellini beans. Woo hoo! (No shelf-stable unsweetened chocolate almond milk yet, but I’ll keep looking around.)
I haven’t yet made any hummus, but when the time comes, I am ready to rock and roll:
Originally, I was going to cook up Nigella Lawson’s Pollo alla Cacciatora, but I would need to buy more than I’d planned on, plus I wouldn’t know where the white wine was. Looked a little more, and prowled more, and by the meat case, I saw the jars of Frontera “chili starters.” Different types of base sauces where you brown meat, add the jar, cook it a little more, and it’s done. Well. . .BF has an issue with tomatoes and heartburn after a certain hour of the night, so I passed on the first one. Then I saw the jar called “white chili.”
Never saw these in Houston, or maybe I just didn’t go to the right places. Chef Rick Bayless has a line of Frontera food products, which includes three types of chili starters, and the “white” chili has. . .Hatch Chiles!
I asked at the meat case, and was assured that it was not a hot kind of chili. So, those two items were loaded into my little hand basket along with the cans and the coffee.
I was so proud of myself–a healthy, delicious dinner inside of 20 minutes! I hoped BF would agree that it was tasty and fast. I kept him in suspense, and let him know dinner was, um, “in the bag.” Now to convince him it would be good.
On the way home, I thought it would be a good day to finally make our “special cake.” You know, the one with the Hatch Apple Pie Filling. I already had the cake mix and the butter, so why not? (There goes the “healthy” part.)
This beautiful jar contains some delicious apple pie filling that’s accented with the flavor of Hatch chilis. You didn’t think you could do that? HEB carries lots of Hatch products that are sweet–the cookies come to mind as well.
Here’s what’s on the rest of the jar:
I used the whole jar, of course, because that’s what the recipe calls for:
Yes, it’s worth it, for an occasional splurge. RARE occasions.
BF was at work until 4:00 pm, but one of his car guys was coming over. I asked BF if the man would be joining us for dinner, and he said “yes.” When I got home, the man was outside napping in his truck, waiting for BF to return to the homestead. I went inside to get started.
I got started on the cake first, since that would take 45 minutes to bake. Here we go:
This is what’s called a “dump cake,” in which you dump everything together and bake it. The recipe was provided by the HEB Cooking Connection folks in the Clear Lake City Blvd. location, and it’s the same one Neighbor E and I were privileged to try before Hatch weekend. (E has since made his own at home to enjoy.) First, I cut the butter into bits buy cutting lengthwise, turning the stick and then cutting it lengthwise again, to make these little squares:
Two lengthwise cuts and you get little squares!
Next, I put the little squares into a bowl and stashed them in the freezer to keep them cold.
Now, preheat the oven to 350F, and butter a 7″x 11″ pan. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I needed that specific size, so I used the 9″ x 13″, which was too big. I made do, though:
Since the pan was big, this is what I ended up with:
Carefully pour the cake mix on top, but don’t mix them:
Now retrieve your butter squares from the freezer, and start laying them on top the cake powder:
Drop this baby into your preheated oven, set the timer, and about 45 minutes later, this is what you end up with:
It’s hot, so you might want to let it cool a little–or completely–before eating. The top is sweet and crispy, while the bottom is soupy and sweet with the flavor of Hatch chilis (but no pepper heat.) Serve it with whipped cream, ice cream (BF’s preference) or just plain. However you serve it, you’ll be popular. It’s that good.
While that was baking, I got busy with the rest of dinner:
Can’t get much easier than this–get it into the hot pot:
And brown that ground turkey up:
Once the meat is browned well, add in the starter and a cup of water:
Cook it for 20 minutes, and this is what happens:
By now, the Hatch Apple Dump Cake has come out of the oven, and has cooled.
The “cake” actually forms a bit of a crust, since it’s baked on top with the butter. More like a pie crust than a cake–but don’t kid yourself, this is REALLY worth the splurge, folks.
Now, with these two manly men on the patio working on a car and making lots of noise, I brought dinner out to them, fresh and hot, and we had dinner together:
Unfortunately, they didn’t get this point, and walked into the kitchen. . .I yelled, I mean, called, at them to come outside to the patio. Both were a bit surprised that I would bring dinner out *to* them, particularly the friend, who, apparently had not been briefed on my mannerisms and habits. I try to be polite and helpful, you see, and I thought it would be better to bring it out to them so they wouldn’t have to stop for too long. When car guys get together, they don’t like interruptions. They just want to do CAR STUFF. So I did what I could to make that happen and make clean up easy (hence the paper bowls.)
BF knew all about the Hatch chili thing because, well, I told him. More than once. However, his “car guy” friend got the lecture, and I joked with BF that he was going to go home and tell his missus all about it. Know what? He did–we got a call from him on the way back from Houston the next week, and I answered since BF was driving. I asked him if he’d told the missus, and he said, “Oh, yeah! I told her all about them, and how good it was.” See? Education is a great thing, and one more person in the world knows about the wonderful Hatch chiles.
Now, despite my love for Pinterest and new trends, I have apparently missed the phenomenon known as a “Dump Cake.” Well, I’m not baking cakes terribly often, unless it’s sugar-free and gluten-free, and they’re usually for me or a specific group of people (like the recent vegan stuff I made to bring to LK’s place in Clear Lake for district meetings.) But checking Pinterest just now, there are hundreds of “Dump Cake” recipes, in which you assemble a few ingredients–dump them into a pan–and bake them. There are even Dump Cake recipes that go into. . .a Crock Pot. No kidding. Wonder if there are any Paleo versions? I’ll be checking that for sure.
This article from Buzzfeed lists 15 “super-lazy” dump cakes that require nothing more than a bowl to mix them in and an oven or slow cooker to bake them. Two highlights are this Black Forest Dump Cake that makes me want some (but I know better, I gained a pound and a half!) and a gluten-free Blueberry Dump Cake from Nicole at Gluten Free on a Shoestring. And then there’s this very sweet one from Moms With CrockPots.
Diabetics–start your insulin!
Once again, the holidays are coming up quick, and it will soon be time to be firing up your slow cookers and waffle makers to keep it all going. Office parties, family get-togethers and all manner of other social events will show up quick. So, a “Dump Cake” can be one more arrow in your arsenal of recipes for the holidays or anytime you need something quick.
See? You learned something today. Well, I did, anyway.