Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
Well, it’s happened again: an unintentional and accidental hiatus, hence a catchup post. I was doing good but became OBE, or overwhelmed by events. My apologies. I had some new work from new clients and just got swamped. It’s a long one, so settle in with a cuppa before you begin reading.
BF has had to step up and make dinner more than once, and we’ve had frozen pizzas too. I’m way overdue for last year’s wedding trip posts, as well as a few others. I have a couple of posts that are in progress as well.
I’d love to say we won the lottery. Well, we have, and winning $4 with both the PowerBall and MegaMillions drawings is a confidence booster. If we won the bigger pots, we’d be new anonymous people overnight.
This blog site has some issues going on too, and I need to get Raf to help me fix those. If you’ve signed up for emails, that’s one of the issues I can’t seem to fix. The other is the missing table of contents that I can’t seem to get back in place—none of the seven plugins seem to work. Plus, we have a couple of business things to start on both my side and his, and Carmen may be involved.
This is the catchup that I’ve been writing here and there for a while.
Artificial Intelligence In Everyday Life
So if you haven’t caught the AI bug yet, here’s one good use of it: keeping ice cream in stock.
No kidding, the Unilever company owns over 3 million freezers worldwide and they’re adding little cameras to each one of them to make sure the ice cream never runs out. From the article:
“The camera fitted inside our cabinet takes a photo periodically, sends it into the cloud, and it’s analyzed using AI to let shopkeepers know what to restock and submit orders in a frictionless way,” explains Berty Jacob, an R&D cold chain specialist with Unilever, in a blog post.
They’re also adding this exclusive technology <cough, cough> to vending machines and their supply chain, too.
What’s next—AI-enabled slow cookers and Instant Pots? I don’t put it past anyone, really, after they started with the Wi-Fi-connected slow cookers. “Alexa, turn on the CrockPot on low heat for seven hours.” Big no from me, and BF concurs.
If you say, “Alexa” around this little cabin in the woods, you’ll be talking to yourself. Not having that here. ChatGPT is a tool, nothing more, and if you use it, be cautious of copyright infringement.
Around The Casa de Rurale—The Visitor From Texas
Two weekends ago, we had a surprise visit from Miss Alice! We expected her this week following a road trip to Florida with her daughter. The plans changed, her daughter flew to Austin, and Miss Alice ended up spending a weekend with us with just B-Dog, a half Chihuahua/half Dachshund.
We were very glad to see Miss Alice, and hopefully, we didn’t scare her (much.)
Broccoli Stirfry enjoyed meeting B-Dog and had a great time once they got past the uneasy initial meeting. The cats weren’t thrilled with this little yapper and stayed clear. B-Dog quickly figured out how to climb up the couch to get to the cat food. I had to make sure not to step on him.
When she gave me a future date for her visit, I was thinking about what I might make for dinner. What I was considering was a meal I made for BF a while back from Emilie Bailey’s Easy Dirty Keto; Miss Alice also owns a copy. The dinner with the BBQ chicken, deep-fried Brussels sprouts, and maybe the chocolate-mint whipped topping dessert was top of mind.
Well, that’s not what we had, but there was chicken, and last year’s mint & parsley pesto was also brought out from the freezer. Oh, and some quinoa, too. Plus, I picked and cooked the only three little Shishito peppers for Miss Alice. That went well, especially since BF worked late that evening.
And that little salad was from the garden, but that’s all the lettuce and tomatoes that were ready to eat. No matter, it was tasty with a light vinaigrette of EVOO and fig-infused vinegar. Just enough for two small salads.
While Miss Alice took a nap, I went out and got her more of the PJ’s K-Cups she likes. Winn-Dixie had Pumpkin Spice on sale, so I got her a box of those too. Once she got under the magic Snap-On blanket, she was out like a light.
Saturday Shopping And Catchup
BF worked the day shift on Saturday, made our breakfast, and also made dinner, his favorite jambalaya (from a locally produced mix) on Saturday night. We all enjoyed that plus some good conversation. During the day I took Miss Alice to our local Tractor Supply and Dirt Cheap. It was kind of an on-the-fly thing, and she found some lovely things for her new place. I also wanted her to see the great pet stuff at Tractor Supply for B-Dog.
Turns out there is a Dirt Cheap in Pasadena, TX, and a Tractor Supply within 5 miles of her new apartment, where you may run into friends like these:
Also told her about Ollie’s Bargain Center, one of which is now open on El Dorado Blvd, not far from El Dorado Trace. They do seem to have a big selection of K-Cup coffees for a good price, and I figured she’d want to know about that. Neighbor E has recently paid them a visit, too.
BF took care of her oil change and changed the air filter on her car after dinner. He had to be to work early, and Miss Alice left early Sunday morning not long after BF did. During the trip home, Miss Alice got some RaceTrac coffee around Lafayette, arriving home safely around noon. We were so busy with our catchup that we didn’t get to take any selfies. Fortunately, she’s been able to make it to the beach since she’s been home before school and work starts up again soon. We anxiously await her return visit.
Illness And Injury
Back in February, we got sick again, with my convalescence spanning two weeks and requiring an inhaler for bronchitis. BF got over it quickly, but my sore throat moved down into my lungs. I thought I’d never quit coughing.
But while BF recovered from the sore throat, he managed to get a bit of metal from a brush grater stuck under the skin on the back of his right hand. It hurt like any splinter, but of course, it was also rusty. It began swelling badly and hurt him when the infection took hold.
I’m not putting any pictures of that awfulness up for you to see.
The full treatment took two trips to the local urgent care center and one to a local emergency room, along with antibiotics, minor surgery, a tetanus shot, and a couple of sick days from work. Then he had to put large bandages over the wound to protect it and keep it from view during the healing process. It took a while to completely heal, and it was awful to look at for a time. But BF is fine now, thank heavens, and back immersed in his car guy activities.
Concurrently, Tab E. Cat had an urgent medical matter, a ruptured blood vessel in his ear that was swollen and painful. A trip to the vet resolved the problem—it involved surgery to drain the blood and stitch it back flat. They literally quilted his ear with stitches. He is all healed up now, and his ear will be forever wonky. Otherwise, he’s still the same fussy old boss cat.
Unfortunately, during Tab E. Cat’s situation, we didn’t realize that our beloved 10-year-old pit bull, Titan, was in distress.
He passed away before we could get him to the vet, and with lots of tears, we buried him near Spencer on a chilly Monday morning.
We called Titan the “pussycat of pit bulls.” While he was a loyal and protective animal with a deep, throaty bark, he wasn’t vicious or dangerous. Obviously, we are still heartbroken, and not looking for another dog just yet.
We miss our sweet pooch, all 82 pounds of him. He enjoyed hanging out with me in the back room and listening to jazz music. Maybe one day there will be another “velvet hippo.” But for now, Buddy, aka Broccoli Stirfry, has only us and the cats to hang out with.
While everything was going on, I was on my feet taking care of BF and the animals—all while doing client work. But that sore throat wasn’t getting better. The day after we buried Titan, I just collapsed. Then I discovered that the same local urgent care center offered telemedicine visits, so I scheduled one.
I met with a doctor via video link at their Mandeville clinic, where they handle the telemedicine calls. He prescribed an inhaler and the antibiotic Z-Pack, which I ultimately didn’t need. The antibiotic was a just-in-case thing. They called the prescriptions into the local Winn-Dixie, I went and got them, and a week later I was much better. I’ll do that again any day of the week.
Speaking of Broccoli Stirfry
He’s now just over 18 months old, and weighs about 75 pounds.
A couple of weeks ago he began furiously barking at what turned out to be two bulls on the neighbor’s property.
Obviously a threat to everyone, right? They did get out one day and were wandering around outside the house, but the neighbor came and rounded them up.
Buddy is still chewing on anything he can find, and acting a fool frequently.
To date, he’s destroyed two remote controls, more papers, towels and other textiles, a wooden handle, several plastic things from the kitchen, and an Otterbox case for an iPhone. We discovered that he also likes the taste of the iPhone 12, which belonged to BF’s brother.
While BF was in bed after his ER visit, his brother dropped by, bringing several boxes of Girl Scout cookies for BF. He went into the bedroom to talk with BF but set his phone down by the easy chair.
That’s all this dog needs. He saw it as something left for him because it was within his reach.
Thirty minutes after he left, (if that long) BF’s brother came back to ask if he’d left his phone at the Casa de Rurale. We didn’t see it, so we rang it. The dog had the iPhone IN the bedding of his kennel, where he’d chewed the Otterbox case off the phone and started in on the iPhone. The glass encasement was shattered but the phone still worked fine. BF and his brother were both shocked, but I wasn’t.
It’s normal for this dog, but nobody listens. No word on whether he’s repaired or replaced his iPhone.
The Thwarted Berry Season
This was a bummer, but Mother Nature does whatever she wants.
Our early and long-term spring weather brought out fresh greenery and began the process of budding blackberries. They were everywhere, and I was anticipating a huge harvest. If Broccoli Stirfy the dog didn’t eat them all first.
Then, just like that, we had another short but hard freeze in mid-March. The early berries didn’t make it, but there were more flowers that turned into berries that slowly began ripening.
Unfortunately, because of that freeze, the newer berries didn’t have a chance to ripen before the vines turned brown as they normally do at the end of their season.
So once again, the berries are gone. We only got a handful of ripe ones to eat, which I shared with the dog, while I waited for the fruitless harvest. (Get it? Fruitless?) The few we could reach and enjoy were delicious.
BF was asking for another “non-healthy” blackberry dessert. I reminded him of last year’s Blackberry Cheesecake Galette, which he loved. I’ll be happy to make him something again this summer. But anything made with blackberries will have to be from prior years’ harvests in the freezer or bought from a grocery store.
After a cold winter, summer is here, and a hot one. Texas has been experiencing temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and we’ve had some as well. Several memes let transplants from other states know that this only Texas’ “preheating.” The bad news is that the Texas electrical grid is again at risk of failure or at least not keeping up with increasing demand. This may mean brownouts, blackouts, and anyone with a smart thermostat to lose control of it until the demand lessens. Many people found that out the hard way last year and quickly learned how to “opt-out” of that.
Our friend Beverly in central Georgia has had the same 100+ degree heat. She’s staying inside building little dollhouse things for now.
Houston has also had some significant rainstorms like we have. But I haven’t forgotten the spring/summer of 2011, when drought conditions developed in H-Town. It was my third or fourth year gardening behind the condo, and I had plants both in the ground and in pots. But even with watering twice daily before and after work, many of those lovely plants in the little back patio garden, especially zucchini, cantaloupe, and cucumber, dried up in the heat.
We’ve had hot temperatures, with only occasional rain, including some intense storms, too. I’ve been watering the plants myself in the morning and occasionally in the evening except when it rains. April and May have been the usual months for heavy rains, but we didn’t have as much this time around. I’m still planning to make a sturdy, utilitarian raincoat for our colder rainy periods. I’ve got all the supplies and cut the fabric, just need to start stitching. Those lovely lightweight designer raincoats I made for office work don’t cut it here.
And of course, hurricane season began on June 1.
The HeatCageKitchen 2023 Garden Catchup
As he did last year, BF wouldn’t give me a commitment on where to put our garden. So, once again, the garden is in 5-gallon buckets at the edge of the patio. I need to get more. Some are a bit broken but still serviceable.
I kept buying plants and putting them in the kitchen window by the sink where they would get sunlight. The chilly nights kept coming back, so I was reluctant to put anything outside, especially tomatoes and peppers. Finally, I did, mostly because BF was complaining about the “science experiments” in the kitchen window. He says that about anything I’m doing that he doesn’t understand.
One cherry tomato plant was about two feet tall before I put it outside, and now it’s about four feet high with branches and leaves. I’ve harvested many tomatoes so far, and only a few remain in the window to ripen. It’s tied to three stakes to keep it upright, and I trimmed off the brown parts. Hoping for some more new growth with more tomatoes before the end of the season.
A smaller golden cherry tomato plant with a couple of flowers is not yet flourishing like the bigger one. I’ve been using Garden Safe botanical insecticides because a couple of Mother Nature’s hungry creatures found it and were enjoying both leaves and tomatoes. I found it at Tractor Supply, but you can also buy it on Amazon.
Peppers, Sage, And More
So far, I’ve harvested two little Poblano peppers, one tiny red bell pepper, and two small Anaheim/Hatch chili peppers. More flowers and buds are developing.
Surprisingly, Tractor Supply had Shishito pepper plants again, and I bought two. I’ve harvested one batch and cooked them, then clipped the three smallish peppers to cook for Miss Alice. That’s all I had available for her. If her visit was later we might have had more.
The plants are full of buds and flowers, and I’m anticipating a bumper crop soon. On a recent jaunt to Baton Rouge, (keep reading) I bought a bag at Trader Joe’s to cook up before my garden ones were ripe:
The green onions are growing nicely with one flowering, and I also got a sage plant again. My huge mint plant died in the last freeze, so I bought another one. It’s coming along, and I’ve already used some mint for a Corsican omelette.
Basil, BF’s nemesis, is also growing well. The two original plants were strong before I put them out, then I cut them to propagate more. Those cuttings are well-rooted and planted but still tiny. I’m waiting to see how many will turn into more basil for pesto. I had a hard time finding the 1 cup small square glass type containers with the tight lids, but I finally went to Pyrex’s website and found them on sale. They arrive this week, and I’ll make my first batch soon.
I also made it back to Aldi about a month ago. Got another cauliflower pizza, and lots more delicious things. A couple of weeks before that I headed to Baton Rouge for a Joann/Trader Joe’s run. In addition to the Shishito peppers, I also met this nice lady named Brittani at TJ’s:
Who was sampling this wonderful blueberry cheese:
Yes, blueberry cheese, and a piece came home with me. It’s something I’ll savor when BF is out of the house, for sure. I also found this Salmon Rub:
Used it on a piece of fish I got at Aldi, and it was absolutely delicious.
Just ask Tab E. Cat.
I finally ate the “quinoa meal” from my initial Aldi trip when BF was out, and it wasn’t bad. You heat up the quinoa and add the other bowl, and stir.
Not bad, and only memorable because of BF’s reaction. It even came with a foldable spork:
Once again I went to Aldi on my own. They do a brisk business and it was not nearly as crowded as opening day. BF was not as impressed with my grocery hauls, reminding me, “It’s just a grocery store.” I feed him good food, no matter what he says.
Since I’ve been on Instagram, I have entered a lot of contests for fun. Frequently, the contest requires you to tag someone you’re friends with as a requirement, and sometimes I tag several people. Miss Alice always gets tagged first.
You may remember a couple of years ago that I won Fiesta Spice’s contest during the holidays and received their tamale kit. It’s still in the pantry, but one day I’ll be making tamales. Probably all by myself because BF thinks it’s better to buy them already made.
But I’ve won again—twice in just a couple of months!
Back in April, I entered the contest held by The Pioneer Woman Collection’s account for a Tumbler giveaway. They did a random drawing for two of the Pioneer Woman 40-ounce tumblers—and I won.
These days, you’re nothing without your Tumbler, so I read somewhere. Ree’s daughter Alex loves the Stanley brand tumblers. These PW tumblers were never offered here in our local Walmart, but Hammond had them. They’ve also been quite popular because they seem to be out of stock frequently.
I forgot about the entry, and a couple of days later I was notified that they had picked me. They were shipped from Dallas, and I figured Alex was the shipper. When the box arrived, sure enough, the sender was “Alex Drummond.” Well, it could have been anyone using Alex’s account. But they arrived a few days later:
I’ve been using the blue one, and the pink one is a backup. The straw in mine actually came from Target on sale many months ago. The ones that come with the tumbler are clear.
Then I messaged Alex on Instagram and told her that the tumblers arrived safely and that I do appreciate them. The tumbler is great and keeps drinks cold for hours. I’ve been using them ever since.
Showing the #DashStash
Then a few weeks later, the Dash company had an Instagram contest: show us your #DashStash, “for a chance to win anything from our product line that’s in stock.” So, I took a picture and added it to my Instagram stories, which I won’t show here because it’s embarrassing (and it’s gone now, I think.)
Later in the afternoon, I got a message from someone on their social media team that they picked ME. They actually picked two winners, me and another lady with a few of the aqua appliances, including their mini rice cooker. (We need one of those—in red—but BF thinks we don’t.) No word on what the other winner picked, but maybe we were the only two who entered.
Earlier in the day, I mentioned the contest to BF. I asked what he thought about getting a Dash dehydrator if, by slim chance, I was picked as a winner. He said, “Sure, that’s fine.”
So I asked Dash I could have a dehydrator, and they said “yes.” They asked for the mailing address, so I messaged back—and does it come in red? No, it doesn’t but that’s OK. (It used to, though.) I downloaded the manual from their website and gave it a once-over. The package arrived about two weeks later:
I knew when it was coming thanks to the UPS app. That morning I went to Walmart and bought a bag of organic apples. That night I set out to dry them:
Twelve hours later they were done:
BF then suggested bananas, so that was the next night:
Pretty tasty, although I didn’t add anything. I’ve also dried pineapples and mangoes, which are delicious dried as-is. The trick is thin slices, no thicker than a quarter-inch. You also need patience. I set it up to run overnight and the dried fruit is ready in the morning. Are a couple of trays not quite done? Let it run a little longer for just those trays.
I sent some home with Miss Alice, and her daughter enjoyed both apples and bananas. But BF wasn’t interested in dried fruit. He wants to know when I’m making beef jerky. I’m not adverse to making it, and there are recipes in the accompanying recipe book for making some. Plus, I have a copy of The Complete Dehydrator Book by Carole Cancler, which I received from Callisto a couple of years ago. When I got the book, BF said to me, “That’s OK, I had enough dehydrated food in the military.” After the dried fruit, he’s a little interested but is requesting beef jerky, so that’s planned.
The accompanying booklet has recipes for beef, chicken, turkey, and salmon jerky that I hope to try, and of course, the cookbook, which has recipes for using dehydrated food. I’m planning to do more dehydrating in the future, including the beef jerky for BF.
My #DashStash gets bigger. Need a new shelf. Yup, you know. Blog post coming.
Prepping For Possibilities
That dehydrator was something I’d planned to buy at some point anyway. But there’s a reason for it, and not just because I already have a book on the subject.
As I mentioned, hurricane season is here, and anyone in or around the Gulf Coast watches the weather a little more closely this time of year. We just had a big storm blow through last week that left major damage around here:
Not a hurricane, but enough wind and rain to cause plenty of scenes like this. (We were fine.) If you talk to someone in New Orleans, they may tell you all about the big memorable hurricanes:
- Betsy, 1963
- Camille, 1969
- Katrina, 2005
Plus, a whole lot more. Then there was the flooding in May of 1978 and 1995, still remembered by many. In this area, there was the unnamed storm in 2016 a month before my move here which didn’t impact New Orleans like it did Baton Rouge, and this area which is northeast of the city. Nearby friends J&B in Albany had to move into the second story of their home for months until they were able to get it all repaired. It happens that way.
In our case, there was Hurricane Ida in 2021. Albany friends J&B told me recently that they were out of power for six weeks before their power company Demco restored their service. Then last year, Hurricane Ian went to Florida where one of my client’s project managers lives. She went through the same thing we did, although it wasn’t as long because she’s in an urban area.
Texas Gets Hurricanes Too
In Houston, there was Hurricane Harvey in 2017, less than a year after I moved away, and Hurricane Ike in 2008, during which I spent 9 days with The E-Man and his wife at their place in the New Orleans area. Plus there were other hurricanes that grazed the Texas coast and had people scrambling into grocery stores for water, batteries, bread, milk, and bathroom tissue. (Points if you get that joke.)
That’s just what I remember sitting here writing about this subject. Along the way, we’ve learned some things and relied on BF’s knowledge of such things. While I can’t say we were absolutely ready for either Hurricane Ida, the aftermath, or the big freeze we experienced six months earlier, we did OK, and probably better than others. I’m not complaining, but there is always room for improvement.
Two of my upcoming posts will focus on preparing for emergencies and other things that can uproot your daily routine. Will you have enough food? Will you have enough time? BF and I talk about this sort of thing occasionally and discuss things we can do to prepare.
If that makes us “preppers,” so be it. But when you live in an area prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters, you must have some level of readiness, or you’re caught short.
More To Come
I have several ideas in various stages of development, and they will also depend on when I can get the pictures uploaded into WordPress and the content completed. I’m working on it, including the two blogs on our trip last year, honestly. Plus, I’m hoping we get to go back to Houston at some point, maybe head to the beach with Miss Alice.
As always, if you have a topic you’d like me to write about, by all means, leave me a comment here.
Until next time. . . .
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.