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Baked blackberry galette
Blackberry Cheesecake Galette

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

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

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

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

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

Flooded land

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

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

Prime Time For Hurricanes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hatch Chiles

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

Hatch chile display in Winn Dixie

They’ve arrived!

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

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

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

Another Year Of Blackberries

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

Even more berries growing on vines

I pick as many as I can reasonably reach.

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

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

Bag of blackberry harvest 2022

Look at all those berries!

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

What To Do With The Blackberries

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

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

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

Slice of blackberry cobbler

It is as good as it looks.

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

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

What’s A Galette?

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

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

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

The magazine has recipes for three different fruit galettes:

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

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

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

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

Making The Blackberry Cheesecake Galette

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

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

Baked blackberry galette

Blackberry Cheesecake Galette

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

Ingredients
  

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

Instructions
 

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

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

Ingredients for blackberry cheesecake galette

The setup

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

Baking sheet and pie dough

Like this

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

Unrolling pie crusts

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

Now the second:

Stacking two pie crusts

Just like that. . .I think.

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

Flattening the pie crusts

Like this

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

Ingredients for blackberry filling

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

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

Adding cornstarch to blackberry mixture

Just like this.

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

Mixing blackberry mixture

Careful!

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

Ingredients for the cheesecake topping mixture for blackberry cheesecake galette

The setup, part 3

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

Mixing the cheesecake topping for the blackberry cheesecake galette

LIke this

Now you’re ready to bake.

Galette Assembly

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

Removing a small amount of blackberries into a small white bowl

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

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

Adding blackberry mixture to pie crust

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

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

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

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

Folded piecrust on blackberry cheesecake galette

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

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

Brushing egg white on galette

Carefully

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

Sprinkling coarse sugar over crust

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

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

Galette baking in oven

He’ll be enjoying it soon as it cools.

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

Baked blackberry galette

Right out of the oven!

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

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

Big mess in the sink after finishing the galette

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

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

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

Until Next Time

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

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

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

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

Until then, Happy Dining!

 

 

Ming and parsley pesto in freezer container
Mint & Parsley Pesto

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

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

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

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

Current Events

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

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

Enough of that.

Downton Abbey

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

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

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

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

Berry Picking Season

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

Berries growing on vines

Look!! Berries!!

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

More berries on vines

These are ripening bit by bit

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

Buddy The Dog outside in grass

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

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

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

Even more berries growing on vines

I pick as many as I can reasonably reach.

But I still get scratches and mosquito bites.

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

Making Pesto Out Of Anything

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

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

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

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

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

No Basil, But Lots Of Mint

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

Basil growing in pot

More pesto this year!

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

Lettuce in pot

The return of salad days

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

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

Giant mint plant in white bucket

That’s mint. Mojito, anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

How It’s Made

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

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

Next, I gathered up all the ingredients I had.

Setup for pesto ingredients

The Setup.

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

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

Mint in basket

Yes, that’s all fresh mint.

Buddy doesn’t care for the mint

Buddy and mint

He tried it, though.

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

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

Water in bowl

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

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

Making Pesto

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

Mint In Blender

Don’t forget the salt and pepper

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

Toasting walnuts in the pan

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

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

Walnuts cooled in bowl

Ready to go

Next, add them to the blender:

ADding walnuts into blender

Just like the pine nuts

And blend!

Blending mint into pesto

Just like that.

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

The Next Step–Parsley

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

Chopping parsley on chopping board

I think that was half a cup

Then I got on with it.

Blender with olive oil

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

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

Pesto in freezer container

Still frozen

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

Adding parsley into pesto

It was a bit easier this time.

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

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

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

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

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

Adding Parm Cheese To Pesto

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

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

Mixing parm cheese into pesto

Take your time or you’ll make a big mess

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

Finished pesto

Done!

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

Where has this been all my life?

The Recipe

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

Ming and parsley pesto in freezer container

Mint & Parsley Pesto

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

Equipment

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

Ingredients
  

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

Instructions
 

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

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

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

Uses

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

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

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

Cause And Effect

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

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

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

Text messaes between Amy and BF

Thanks, Honey.

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

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

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

Until Next Time

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

Enjoy!

 

Meat box from Misfits Market
Misfits Market: The Meat Box

The Meat Box from Misfits Market arrived. Come see what I got!

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Hi again, Dear Readers:

I said I was going to do it, and I did–I ordered a box of mostly meat from Misfits Market. BF was rather pleased, and we’ve got a little more stashed in the freezer. In this post, I’ll open the box and show you what I received.

Blast from the Past

The other night, BF went somewhere, and I was flipping channels on the big TV. We actually have access to two, and sometimes three, sets of PBS stations locally. Generally, they have much the same thing. This evening, I happened to catch an old episode of Baking with Julia. Guess who was the guest? None other than Martha Stewart.

Martha Stewart With Julia Child On TV

Seriously! Martha with the iconic Julia Child.

Let me point out that this is Martha Stewart from back in the day, like the late 1980s. It’s not the current Martha Stewart that hangs out with Snoop Dogg.

Julia Child herself passed away in 2004. When this was filmed, Julia was all over public television, and Martha Stewart was best known as a caterer in Westport, CT, a few years after her first book, Entertaining.This show was likely filmed around the time of her original Weddings book.

In the show, Martha Bakes a beautiful three-layer wedding cake with apricot filling and a crisp dacquoise center. The wedding cake episode is in two parts because the cake takes quite some time to bake and construct. Martha baked the cake in the first show, along with the dacquoise, and made the buttercream icing. That’s what they’re doing in the picture above. The finishing and decorating with marzipan fruits are completed in the second show. I came in about halfway through the first episode.

I don’t know where to find the recipe she made, but you can see the second half of the show in this video on YouTube. Although there is no wedding cake in my future, it certainly was interesting to watch from an artistic standpoint.

Pets Update

Buddy, the weird little dog, is growing quite quickly. If you don’t believe me, look at this picture from his first day here:

Buddy sleeping on James's chair

Awww. . . .

Now, look at the size of his paw. This picture was taken just a couple of days ago.

Buddy's paw

They’ve doubled in size, like his legs.

He’s learning to bark and frequently has barking fits for no reason. The cat has let Buddy know he’s not the favorite. The pit bull frequently needs more breaks from being around this hyperactive puppy, even though he’s a little bigger than Spencer now. And if we’re not careful, Buddy likes to use the pit bull as a chew toy. Poor thing has teeth marks in a few spots.

And the cat doesn’t care about anything else but himself.

Tab E. Cat sitting in window during the day

Our little Apex Predator.

Speaking Of The Cat

Over the weekend I went shopping in Hammond. I know, it’s just Hammond, but it’s what we’ve got here. I made it to Hobby Lobby first, then to the Target for some provisions I normally buy there.

One thing I prefer to buy at Target is the Fancy Feast cat food for Tab E. Cat, because they have a wider range of flavors for our resident apex predator. The big-name brands aren’t particularly healthy, I’ve found, and even vet’s offices use FF. Except for this past weekend, there wasn’t any:

Nearly empty shelves with little cat food

No Fancy Feast to be found!

And that wasn’t the only food they were out of this time:

Empty cat food shelves in Target

Where is all the cat food?

So, I had to get something else in cans, and Tab E. Cat isn’t liking it much.

Tractor Supply is also experiencing similar shortages, as well as our local Winn-Dixie. I’ve bought some of Tractor Supply’s brand of canned cat food, but even that’s kind of scarce, too. I’ve seen comments on Facebook about shortages of cat food all over the US, and it’s particularly concerning for shelters. Fingers crossed that this will soon resolve and it doesn’t spread too far.

The Meat Box

So this past Saturday, my second order from Misfits Market arrived:

Box from Misfit Market With Meat

It’s here!!

I was a little concerned because the box did not appear to be completely taped shut.

Top of box from Misfits Market

Is it open?

Thankfully, it wasn’t a big deal. I was also concerned because the box didn’t feel cold. This is particularly worrying because I ordered meat in a “cold pack.” But that also was not a big deal. Let me show you why.

Opening it carefully, I saw much the same thing I saw in the previous box:

Open box from Misfits Market with meat in cold pack

Looks like the last box

But that’s not the only cold pack.

Insulation in box

Insulated just like the last one, too

Once I lifted off the cardboard, I saw why it wasn’t a big deal. Inside the box was a Thermal lined foil pouch:

Foil wrapped cold pack

See?

That’s where all the meat was. Much like a mailing envelope, it was sealed shut with a sticky flap:

Sticky flap on envelope

Just like a mailer

Inside were more cold packs keeping the meat cold:

Ice packs surrounding meat

More ice packs!

Two go into this envelope:

Two ice packs inside a thermal cold pack for meat

Like that.

And some of it was still frozen! Once I removed the meat and ice packs, I could see that the package was also insulated:

Cold Pack For Meat

Everything fits nicely

Now we have more ice packs, which we will keep in the big freezer for the occasional power outages. But you can recycle them:

Icepack for meat

You can recycle these, sort of, but they might be worth keeping.

Everything arrived in good shape.

The Other Stuff

Of course, I ordered another bag of sugar snap peas.

Sugar snap peas

They’re SO good!

I washed them, dried them, drizzled on a tiny amount of sesame oil,and sprinkled in a tiny bit of salt. Tossed them around and enjoyed them immensely, because that’s the most delicious way to eat them. If you have black sesame seeds, toss in a few with the oil and salt.

I also ordered a bag of those tiny bell peppers, which are sweet and great for snacking.

Bag of small snacking sweet peppers

They’re delicious!

BF, of course, likes neither of these things.

From the Pantry section, I ordered another bag of Xanthan Gum, which was nearly 50% off:

Bag of Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum

If you’ve baked nonstandard things, you know what this is.

And no, it’s not past its sell-by date, either.

Date on Back of Xanthan Gum bag

See?

Good to know. I use this in some of my alternative baking projects like the ones in the Babycakes books.

The Meats

OK, so, to have a good round of protein, I got some of BF’s favorites—pork chops:

Pack of two pork chops from meat box

Just two, and boneless, too.

Bacon ends, cost, $4.99:

Bacon ends in meat box

These are great to use in recipes, and sometimes when you run out of regular sliced bacon.

Our next stirfry is in the freezer (no, not the dog, that’s sarcasm):

One pound of grass-fed ste beef

A nice bag of frozen veg, and you’ve got dinner.

This is where the meat comes from:

Back of meat package

The company that sells this brand of meat.

Two pounds of grass-fed ground beef, destined for the freezer, but I don’t have a picture of, along with a couple of sirloin steaks:

Grass fed sirloin steak from meat box

Not too big.

Read the next section for more on these. This is the entire contents of the box:

The entire meat box

This was everything I ordered and received.

This was $67. . .I don’t know if it was a bargain or not, but the website said I saved $27.

The Little Steaks

Now, when we get steaks on occasion, they usually look something like this:

Pack of two sirloin steaks

Taken at Target in Hammond on Saturday, March 19, 2022.

But these little grass-fed models are smaller than that:

Two grass-fed sirloin steaks on stovetop

They’re about the size of cupcakes.

These two steaks were $9.99, which I thought was pretty nice. (They’ve since sold out.) Not exactly Texas-sized, are they? But don’t be fooled.

Originally, I intended to make them for dinner on Saturday evening when the package arrived. However, BF’s sister came to town, so there was no cooking that night. I mentioned them to BF last night. After a couple of jokes, he said, “Why don’t you have the little snack-sized steaks for lunch tomorrow?” Really, the packages aren’t that big, so the steaks can’t be terribly large, right?

Until I cut the packages open, unfurled them, and discovered that six ounces of grass-fed sirloin is a good six-ounce steak:

Two six-ounce grass fed sirloin steaks on a pan and OXO rack

Not what you thought, eh?

So, I texted that picture to BF and asked if he’d like to have steak and mashed potatoes for dinner. He was quite happy to see that, and said “yes.”  I stashed them in a food storage dish and put them back into the fridge.

BF was impressed with the meat we got this time. The rest, not so much, but that’s OK. There’s probably going to be another order soon if I can pin him down in front of the laptop to look and see what’s available.

Order As Much As You Want

I should point out that I ordered two sirloin steaks because that’s what I wanted. Remember, this was the first time ordering meat from Misfits Market. In a future shipment, I can order six, if I want that many (assuming they have some.) Stash four in the freezer and keep two in the fridge for dinner. The pork chops are a package of two, so that’s a dinner for us as well, and I can re-order those if I want.

But I could just as easily order more—or less—than that if I wanted. If BF decided he wanted me to stock the freezer a little more, we could order more of the steak, bacon, pork chops, or any of Misfit Market’s chicken selections. Of course, the same rule applies to the $30 minimum for the cold pack, and a $30 minimum overall for the order. This last order was about $67, and I didn’t have any promo codes.

The shipment is totally customizable for the single person all the way to families. For instance, Neighbor E or The GER might order just enough meat and things for a week, whereas someone with a family of four (or more) would probably order a larger amount for a week of meals. It’s what you want, how much of it you want, and paying for it, just like your local grocery store. But with Misfits Market, you’re buying food in a more direct fashion than grocery shopping while helping the supply chain and cutting down on wasted and discarded food.

I’m guessing they’ve done well during the last couple of years.

We’re talking about another box, and we’ll decide on Tuesday if we want to order again, or skip until next week.

Coming Soon To HeatCageKitchen

Well, actually, I don’t know what’s coming up just yet. But I’m working on these things. I have a couple of topics in the pipeline. But of course, I’m always open to researching and discussing anything you’re interested in, too.

If you’re considering ordering from Misfits Market, you can use my promo code: COOKWME-GK3IAXCZOGR for a discount on your first shipment. Just remember that it’s an auto-ship subscription, and you must manually cancel weekly if you don’t want a box.

Meantime, it’s officially spring, and time for me to quit making and wearing sweaters all the time. But Walmart keeps bringing in these incredible cut bundles that are just the right yardage for sweaters. . .I’ll try.

Enjoy!

Misfits Market Box
Misfits Market

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

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

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

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

The New Stove

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

perfectly baked biscuits on baking sheet

Done!

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

New Plugin For Recipes

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

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

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

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

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

Ready To Roll

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

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

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

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

Shopping At Misfits Market

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

That’s it!

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

Misfits Market Box

Just arrived!

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

Organics For Less

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

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

Misfits Market Box

One side of their branded box

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

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

Misift Market box side 2

The other side

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

Rescued Food

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

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

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

Amy’s First Order

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

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

Saturday Arrival

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

BF was at work the moment I opened the box:

Cutting open Misfits Market box

The great reveal

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

Lining in box from Misfits Market

This worked well

And the cold pack on top to continue the refrigeration:

Cold pack in Misfits Market box

Worked pretty well, too.

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

Box contents from Misfits Market

Ta-dah!

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

Purple sweet potatoes from Misfits Market

Cute, yeah?

More purple sweet potatoes

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

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

Fuji apples from Misfits Market

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

A bag of carrots that maybe was too far gone:

Carrots from Misfits Market

Well, fortunately, they were salvageable.

Some sugar snap peas, another one of my favorites:

Sugar Snap Peas from Misfits Market

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

Misfits market produce

Yup

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

Avocados from Misfits Market

Oh, boy!

Small avocados in a bag

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

Avocado label

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

Bagged salad from Misfits Market

This was actually pretty good, but not keto.

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

They Didn’t Have Pears

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

Everything from Misfits Market

Nice selection, yes?

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

Limes

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

Limes in box from Misfits Market

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

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

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

Cooking the Sweet Potatoes

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

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

So I cut these little oddballs for the same purpose:

Four oddly shaped Purple sweet potatoes from Misfits Market

There they are, ready to cook.

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

Cut purple sweet potatoes on cutting board with knife

Cut purple sweet potatoes on baking sheet

Ready to roast.

Baked them, and this is what happened:

Baked purple sweet potatoes

Done!

If you burned them, how can you tell?

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

The Carrots

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

Carrots in bag from Misfits Market

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

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

Carrots on cutting board with knife

They weren’t all bad, just the ends.

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

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

Pros

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

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

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

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

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

Up-close of insulation in Misfits Market box

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

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

Making The Trip

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

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

Cons

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

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

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

Carrots in bag on cutting board

At least they were organic.

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

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

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

Warning

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

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

Our Next Order

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

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

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

Until Next Time

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

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

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

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

Fiesta Arroz Con Pollo
Fiesta’s Arroz con Pollo

Today’s post is not sponsored, but more of a love letter to Bolner’s Fiesta Spices Company. If you like a good chicken and rice, you’re reading the correct blog today.

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

If you’re in Texas, you probably look at Fiesta Spices like you look at the shelves when you shop–it’s in every grocery store, everywhere. Of course, it is, because the company is in San Antonio, and their spices are widely available throughout Texas. But when you find it in the middle of Louisiana, where Hatch chiles are not embraced, that’s something to celebrate.

I can get a small selection of Fiesta spices and products at Albertson’s, which includes their River Road brand of Cajun-style spices. I had no idea that River Road was a Texas company until recently.

BF’s Seasonal Mantra

Yes, he’s saying it: “I hate cold weather!” Repeatedly, and more often if there is an implication and/or inference of snow in the forecast. Despite my sincerest hopes, snow has not made an appearance, and for this BF is happy. However, despite the incredible Arctic chill, we’ve fared well. And as BF is fond of saying, “it gets cold in the piney woods.” He’s not kidding, either–it was 17F when that cat showed up five years ago.

Still, the closest thing I get to a fireplace is streaming on my Roku through YouTube or another streaming channel. I look for the ones with music, but there are some with just the crackling sounds. PlutoTV’s fireplace channel is now just a loop of commercials until Christmas.

For many years I’ve asked BF for a space heater that looks like a fireplace. I’ve shown him multiple available models that look and feel like a fireplace but don’t carry as many risks as a real one. We could even build a nice little wooden mantel for it and put the “fire” inside. Nope–didn’t think it was a good idea.

But last week saw the purchase of exactly that–a space heater with a fireplace-like inset. We got the last one at Walmart. All the rest of the heaters were gone in anticipation of the sub-freezing weather. Obviously, last year’s big freeze is still on everyone’s mind, both here and in Texas. I use it in the back room where it gets really cold, and the pit bull pulls his little cushion in front of it to stay warm. Awwww. . . .

Powerless

Sure enough, last week we woke up to no power. The weather was fine, just really cold. BF got up, started the camp stove like he’s done many times before, and got cracking on bacon and eggs for us. After a short phone conversation with his brother, he went back to sleep. He had to go to work at noon. Meantime I started dusting because I don’t need power for that.

Entergy said the power would be back about 9:30 am, which came and went. About 11 am, I asked him to please get the generator set up so I could plug in a heater. He dragged it to the house, filled it, and started it up. I went inside to get an extension cord, only to see the ceiling fans start turning. Nevermind! I flipped the switch to turn it off and that was the end of it. BF was out in the shop snickering because he knew what happened. I plugged the heater in for the back room, the HVAC system kicked on, and he went off to work.

BF also purchased another indoor heater this week, one that runs on the same propane bottles as the camping stove. It will keep us from freezing if we have another outage, and no need to go into town for petrol if we don’t need it.

Mr. Heater propane heater

And it works well, too, because we tested it.

Since it is winter, though, we always need something warm and comforting for dinner. Luckily, I found something that’s easy and fast.

Finding Fiesta Spices

Living in Texas as long as I did, I got used to buying certain things. When I moved here, I had to find what I needed locally or order it online. Ask our mail ladies how many packages they handle from all over the US with my name on them.

A few years ago I found in Winn-Dixie one spice brand I used to buy, but not many of the Mexican variety. What am I supposed to do with a tiny bottle of cumin?

I always bought Fiesta because it was there, it’s good stuff, and readily available. I brought a fair amount of it with me when I moved. Leave Texas and the brands are all different–and you can’t always get those big containers of ground cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Then one day I stumbled on Fiesta Spices in Hammond. Oh, Happy DAY!!

It was kind of an accident–I went into the Albertsons to look for something Rouses didn’t have available. I walked down the spice aisle and there it was! A whole section of the shelf of JUST Fiesta Spices. And River Road, too!!

I was so happy, I didn’t know what to buy first. (I think I bought a big container of chile powder.) BF stayed in the truck while I went into the store since he’s not enamored with grocery shopping. Really. He’d rather not be bothered with grocery shopping, ever.

Foodies Of Instagram

In the quest to make a good dinner for both myself and BF, it’s frequently a hit-and-miss proposition. Really, the thing I think he’ll dislike is the thing he asks for again. And the thing I think he’ll enjoy is what he’ll turn up his nose at, loudly. (“She’s tryin’ ta kill me!”) But this time, things went well, and all because of an innocent Instagram post a couple of weeks ago.

I follow a myriad of people and companies on Instagram, including some food bloggers and culinary celebrities I’ve mentioned here. Jen Fisch of Keto In The City and Emilie Bailey, The Texas Granola Girl, are two of them. Others include Stephanie O’Dea, Ina Garten, (The Barefoot Contessa) her protege Lidey Hueck, Rachael Ray, Valerie Bertinelli, Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) plus her two daughters, and of course, the Goddess of the Home, Martha Stewart.

I originally joined Instagram to follow sewing maven MimiG, who occasionally posts foodie stuff, some of it in sponsored posts. I also follow her talented sewing/designing husband Norris Danta Ford, both of whom are very nice folks. Since then I’ve followed more like Emilie Bailey and Jen Fisch, both of whom are active on IG.  I even follow a couple of personal injury lawyers who produce interesting video content. Many will answer questions if you ask (the lawyers don’t give legal advice) and interaction seems to be easier on Instagram.

Of course, food companies are all over Instagram, including Caulipower, and a Texas favorite, Fiesta Spices. And that’s where it started.

Fiesta’s Instagram

So this particular day, the folks at Fiesta Spices posted a picture of Arroz Con Pollo, or Spanish chicken and rice. The post (and the recipe) featured Fiesta’s Spanish Rice Seasoning.

screenshot of Arroz Con Pollo on Instagram

Oh, don’t you want some?

That sure does look good. . .so I asked:

Screenshot of questions on Instagram

They answered.

Dinner is solved! The recipe is also on Fiesta’s website.

We had another reason to head to Hammond, and a quick trip to Albertson’s was added to that trip. There it was, the Spanish Rice Seasoning right on the shelf. Also got some chicken thighs on sale, broth, and promptly forgot the cilantro.

Bottle of Fiesta Spanish Rice SEasoning.

Found it!

Recipe on side of Spanish Rice Seasoning bottle

There it is!

Wait, hang on–you mean they have it in the big bottles? For $8.72? Yep, that’s good to know.

Making Arroz Con Pollo

This couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s faster than the jambalaya BF insists upon making occasionally. (I know, keto what?)

Ingredients for Arroz con Pollo

The setup

BF isn’t a fan of chicken thighs the way I am, but that’s been the least expensive option lately:

Two bags of chicken thighs for the freezer

Ready to freeze.

Ideally, boneless and skinless chicken thighs would be the best option, but I got what was on sale and just removed the skin myself.

Skinless chicken thights

Usually, the bones fall off anyway, but not this time.

Just get all your ingredients together, and get started.

Arroz con Pollo setup

The setup, part 2

I used my chili pot, and it worked perfectly. First, add the olive oil:

Adding oil to the pot

Not a whole lot

Then start frying the rice in the oil:

Toasting rice in oil

Just like this, until it starts turning brown

Then add in the tomato sauce:

Adding tomato sauce

Just like that, 7 ounces

Then the seasoning:

Adding Fiesta seasoning to pot

One tablespoon

The 2.5 cups of chicken broth:

Adding chicken broth to pot

Instead of just water.

Carefully add the chicken thighs:

Adding chicken thighs to pot

Just lay them on top

Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the chicken is cooked. I think.

Covering pot with Fiesta chicken

And don’t mess with it, either.

I actually don’t know how long I cooked it for, I just looked at it a couple of times. I cut open one of the chicken pieces, and it was done. Might have been 25 minutes, but of course, the chicken is the barometer. You can add a little more water or broth to the rice if needed.

When you open your pot, this is what you get:

Fiesta Arroz Con Pollo

Oh, YEAH!

The rice is deliciously cooked:

Fiesta cooked rice

Just like that.

And you’ve got a tasty one-pot meal that’s on the table in less than an hour.

Feeding Arroz Con Pollo to BF

Now comes the scary part: will he like it?

Two plates of Arroz Con Pollo

Arroz con Pollo a la Fiesta, or Spanish Chicken & Rice

I’m happy to report that it was a two-thumbs up! BF really enjoys this dish and will be happy for me to make it again. I better order a restaurant-sized bottle soon. He’ll keep me around for this one.

Arroz con Pollo could be a perfect dish for our Valentine’s Day “dinner and a movie” night.

Now that I think about it, I bet you could make this in the Instant Pot, too, although maybe not using the pressure cooking function. I’ll have to fiddle with it and see how it works. If the power goes out, I can plug the IP into the generator, saute the rice, add everything, and then cook it normally until done with the glass lid. Maybe pressure cook it for 15 minutes? I’m thinking ahead to the next winter power outage, and if we can do this on the generator.

What Happened Next?

Two days after this success, Fiesta posted a picture of a spatchcocked chicken seasoned with their Chicken Rub, featured by a different poster.

Spatchcocked chicken

Featuring their Chicken Rub

As you can see, I also mentioned the previous night’s dinner from their post. And when I went to Hammond the next morning to run errands, I picked up a bottle of their Chicken Rub for us.

Bottle of Fiesta Chicken Rub

There it is!!

A few days later I took two chicken thighs out of the freezer and used this chicken rub:

Two chicken thighs coated with chicken rub

Ready to roast

I forget what else I made with it, but BF enjoyed this dinner and said I should make it again.

Two winners in a week! (Although BF may soon complain that he is “clucking” from all the chicken.)

Fiesta’s Tamale Kit

During the holidays, lots of companies have online contests for different things. In the case of Fiesta Spices, it was a bottle of this or a that. Not expensive things, but it was fun, so I entered and tagged people every day.

Then on December 19th, at 8:37 in the morning, I got a message on Instagram from Fiesta. I won their Tamale Kit!!

Fiesta Tamale Kit

Here it is, right from the factory in San Antonio!!

As requested, I sent them the address, and it arrived on December 28th. Woo hoo!! But checking their website, it’s out of stock right now. So I guess I got the last one.

Now for the bad news: making tamales is a long-term commitment. Seriously. Lots of labor and a little hand cramping. But done correctly, well-made tamales are delicious. At this point, I don’t know when I’m going to be making our own tamales. When I do, I will need to get a Food Saver to freeze five dozen of them. Meantime, Texas Tamales will have to take care of our cravings for real tamales.

Buying Fiesta Spices

If you’re in Texas, you already know where:  your local HEB, Kroger, Food Town, Randall’s, Fiesta Mart (the grocery store chain, I miss them too), and every other little place that sells Hispanic foods and goods. Toss a quarter in any direction in the state of Texas and you’ll likely find at least a few Fiesta Spices products.

Locally, there are two stores I’ve found that carry Fiesta Spices. The first is Albertson’s in Hammond. Chances are the other Albertsons carries them too, but I’ve only been in the Hammond store. Amazingly, the Walmart in Covington also carries a huge selection of Hispanic foods and spices, and I believe they had some as well.

I don’t remember seeing Fiesta products in Los Primos last year, but I may have also missed something. In my defense, I was just wide-eyed at all the wonderful things from Mexico they have. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but I should make more Salsa Macha soon.

But if you’re in a place like, say, Idaho, chances are Fiesta Spices aren’t something in your regular grocery store. For that, you have the option of a) buying from their own website, or b) ordering from their Amazon store.

Prior Exposure

Now, this wasn’t the first time I’d ever had Arroz con Pollo, nor will it be the last (now that HE likes it.) My mother had a complete set of The Betty Crocker Recipe Collection, circa 1971. In it was a recipe she used, sort of, and made many times when we were growing up–Arroz Con Pollo.

Recipe card for Arroz Con Pollo

This was one of the few I remember her making from the hundreds of cards.

If I remember correctly, she didn’t use pimientos or olives:

Back side of recipe card for arroz con pollo

The 1970’s version of haute cuisine.

It was pretty easy, so that was the draw, plus everyone ate it. The recipe was scaled down for a family night dinner for six. But we didn’t know it was simply Spanish chicken with rice. This was New Orleans in the 1970’s, before Paul Prudhomme and Emeril and all that.

Recipe “collections” like these were sold as a small package bought monthly for a small price, and the storage box usually came with the first package. Over a year or two at that price you’d have the entire collection in your kitchen. Most people didn’t add up the total cost of these little “collections” that you bought for a small sum every month. My father bought the whole thing for my mother, and I only recall that recipe ever being used. Maybe one day I’ll go through all the cards and if there’s anything else that rings a bell.

Then one day, about 15 years ago (and probably more) my mother decided to get rid of her Betty Crocker Recipe Collection. I convinced her to give it to me instead of tossing it in the trash. As a fan of the always amusing and occasionally crass Vintage Recipe Cards website (also on Instagram), I might actually use one of these recipes one day. But nothing with aspic, gelatin, or other “gourmet” techniques of the day. Occasionally recipes from this collection show up in the postings.

Until Next Time

If you’re looking for something new and different for dinner, Fiesta’s got you covered. Their website has a huge library of recipes featuring their spices and products, both Mexican and Cajun. Let’s face it, a muffuletta has nothing on these Fishing Sandwiches.

Wait. . .did someone say Chorizo? Hang on, is that an Overnight Oatmeal recipe?

There are also keto recipes featured, and guess what? The links take you to The Texas Granola Girl’s website! These were two of the many recipes that feature Fiesta Spices (and of course, sponsored by the company.) Keto Deep Dish Pizza and Keto Shrimp Etouffe look like two dishes I need to try really soon, especially the second one. Oh, wait, there’s a Mexican Shredded Beef recipe for the Instant Pot.

Wonder if he’ll *almost* want to yell at me as he wanted to the first time I made the Wheat Belly Gumbo recipe.

Another warm and delicious vegetarian recipe is coming, along with a couple of cookbook reviews and another Spencer story. Right now, we all need warm comfort food, and I’m looking for more of those too. Don’t worry, spring is on its way, and soon we’ll be watching the Gulf of Mexico again. Meantime, make some delicious Arroz con Pollo and find something funny to watch.

Happy Dining!

 

 

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