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Big Jar of Salsa Macha
Salsa Macha!

Salsa Macha–a most delicious thing to make any time. It’s perfect for your charcuterie boards, too.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Apologies again for being later than I wanted, but I’ll explain myself shortly. It’s summer, and the living is easy (we hope.) As always, fall is coming, and certain people in the US population are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Latte season. Heck, everything pumpkin spice–you know who you are.

If you just can’t wait, you can make that PSL at home with a recipe from Starbucks’ own website. Who would have thought it?

But remember–while y’all are sipping your hot PSLs, I’m still trying to enjoy my iced coffee and avoid heatstroke.

With all the rain we’ve had this year, I don’t think we’ve seen a day of 100F temps here. Houston, and most of Texas, has seen multiple 100F days.

This Year’s Gardening Attempts

We have not attempted to repeat last year’s gardening disaster.

I really haven’t mentioned the paint-bucket garden, but we’ve got basil and a few other things growing. I really need to plant the sprouted avocado seeds so they can grow into actual trees.

Avocado Trees in paint bucket

Just plant the seed into the dirt. . .and wait. No kidding, I’ve sprouted several but lost a couple.

Think of how many friends we’ll have when they find out we have avocados growing! Well, except for BF and his brother. Say “guacamole” and BF starts retching.

Two batches of pesto were the result of the last basil cut, and I’ll likely have that much when I cut this batch.

Basil in paint bucket

Think I have two cups here? (Yes, that’s an automotive jack behind it.)

I’ve also got two Anaheim chili pepper plants growing, and one has two medium-sized peppers on it.

Anaheim peppers growing in paint bucket

Darn bugs! I’ll get two if nothing else.

Unfortunately, the little peppers that began forming when the flowers dropped off became slug food, and so I may only have those two. We’ll see, since “cold weather” probably won’t start until at least October. And then there’s lettuce:

Lettuce growing in paint bucket

I need to turn this into a salad real soon

I’ve also bought some plants:

  • “Coolapeno” peppers, the heat-free jalapenos
  • Green onions, as always, but I need to add more to the pot
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Strawberries (the slugs have really decimated this one)
  • Mint (a plant that is overgrown in the bucket and we recently buzz-sawed with a hedge trimmer)
  • Parsley

And as always, sage:

Sage in paint bucket

I try to keep it around for fall dishes

Unfortunately, I didn’t plant them all right away, leading to more of BF’s smarty-pants comments about “science experiments.” I remind him that none of his previous female companions ever brought urban agriculture or other improvements into his house and his life.

Home Visit Nibbles

So a few weeks ago, our district leader OR decided she wanted to make the drive to do a home visit. It’s an SGI tradition of visiting members at home, particularly those who have recently begun practicing Buddhism and offering support. The leaders chant with the members and they discuss. . .whatever. In this case, it was the upcoming district meeting. And, I suppose OR wanted to get outta the house for a while.

Now, because of where I live, nearly everyone is an hour away. The closest members are J&B, who live in Albany, near Hammond. Basically, I’m practicing by myself out here, although most are a phone or Zoom call away. Since I’ve been practicing since 1986, though, I think I’ve got the hang of it. I don’t understand why they want to drive an hour–each way–to do a home visit, but I gave up protesting.

While we were chanting, BF showed up. But he quickly bugged off to the shop and left us alone to talk. He doesn’t mind the home visits, of course, but he does enjoy acting up when people are visiting me.

When someone does drive out here, I try to make sure I have some food and coffee to offer. I’ve baked some delicious treats from the first Babycakes book. I also have the second book but haven’t looked at it in a while. Maybe next time they come by I’ll make that Pineapple Upside-Down Cake on page 116 again.

On this particular day, since it was just OR, I told her I’d make a couple of those little keto chocolate cakes in the Instant Pot for her, and of course, coffee. OR is from Los Angeles, and is Hispanic herself–her parents came from Mexico years and years ago, and she has been in Mandeville since about 2006.  Knowing that I’m a fan of Mexican and Tex-Mex food, she decided to bring something special. Naturally, I didn’t think to take pictures.

Salsa Macha

So OR made a stop at The Fresh Market for a few things, including a box of little gluten-free nut crackers, a small tub of chicken salad, and a couple of slices of Swiss cheese. Why Swiss, I don’t know, I like it fine, and I just said “thank you.”

Along with these nibbles, she brought this:

Bottle of Salsa Macha

It was full when she brought it

Then she asked for a very small spoon, which I happened to have:

Cocktail spoon and regular spoon for Salsa Macha

The spoon on the left is a cocktail spoon, and the one on the right is a regular teaspoon from our flatware

Puzzled by her request, I went to the only one I knew I could put my hands on, in a box of Maldon Salt Flakes in the pantry. I have more of these tiny spoons, but I don’t know where they are.

We sit at the table and she explains:

  • Take a cracker
  • Fold a slice of cheese to make smaller pieces
  • Add a bit of cheese onto the cracker
  • Add a bit of chicken salad to the cracker on top of the cheese
  • Drip a bit of this incredible stuff on top of the cracker stack
  • Eat and enjoy

What the heck is this amazing thing you’ve brought here? OR responds, “It’s called Salsa Macha.

I have eaten it and become enlightened.

The Recipe

OR is a fan of Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS. I like to watch her when I can, her food looks delicious. Pati is actually from Mexico and is married to an American. They have three sons and live in Maryland. They have, however, lived in Texas.

Pati has three books, which will be going on my “wish list” soon. Her newest will be released in November, called Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets. Her most recent book graces OR’s kitchen, and all three will eventually grace mine.

This recipe is from a longer TV show segment on Cali-Baja Fish Tacos. You can see the whole segment here, and she starts making the Salsa Macha at about the 3:55 mark.

While the tacos look absolutely delicious, they are not gluten-free–she uses regular flour to batter the fish, and makes flour tortillas as well. Just thought I’d warn you.

OR said that since she made the salsa the first time, she carries around a jar of it and puts it on EVERYTHING. No wonder she has that glow of enlightenment.

I’m also writing about this recipe to piggyback on my last post on charcuterie boards. Because you can easily put this on any charcuterie board–just add a warning that it’s a bit spicy as well as contains peanuts. You don’t want an allergic person unknowingly ingesting it and having to go to the hospital.

If you do put this on your charcuterie board, I highly recommend putting the little cocktail spoons out for Salsa Macha. Because if you put a regular teaspoon out, someone will grab a large amount not realizing it should be consumed in small amounts. It does have enough of a bite from both the garlic and the chile peppers that a big tablespoon will overwhelm even the most tolerant of spice-lovers.

Making The Salsa Macha

Let me say at the outset that I am by no means an expert on Mexican and Tex-Mex food. I make no secret of the fact that it’s just one of my favorites. Living in Texas for 18 years, it’s all around, in the same way that red beans & rice, jambalaya, and gumbo are here. You know what I’d rather have, starting with the chips.

When most people hear the word “salsa,” it’s usually accompanied by the word “chips.” It’s either a freshly made tomato garnish, or it’s the kind out of a jar. Either one is good, especially if the chips are hot, fresh, and salty. However, this salsa is different.

Salsa Macha is cooked, and has no tomatoes. In fact, it has. . .peanuts. No kidding.

Ingredients for salsa macha

The Setup (part 1)

Of course, getting all the ingredients together was a challenge (I’ll tell you about that in a minute.) When I mentioned to OR that I was making some, she said she used a whole cup of peanuts, so I cracked open more before I made them.

Prep work involved a few other things, including peeling garlic and deseeding and deveining the dried chile peppers. That took a while:

Cut open dried chipotle pepper

Since it’s dried, they pretty much fall out.

By the time you get them all done and get to this point:

Cut chipotles in bowl

Ready to add

You’ve had a snootful of the pepper dust and have sneezed multiple times. Just cut the tops off, cut in half, or cut down one side, and the seeds are easy to remove.

The packet I got is actually 2.5 ounces, and the recipe calls for 2 ounces. Well. . .by the time you remove all those seeds, I’d say you got exactly 2 ounces.

I also measured out the sesame seeds, white vinegar, brown sugar (just for the first round, I think a sugar replacement like Swerve would work too), and salt for later.

Cooking

First: add 1.5 cups of olive oil to a pan:

Olive oil, 1.5 cups

It’s gonna be good!

And heat over medium heat:

Olive oil heating in pan

Once it’s heated, but not boiling, add the peanuts and the four cloves of garlic:

Garlic cloves and peanuts in hot olive oil

Like this; there are actually four cloves in the pan

Now, don’t walk away from it–you’re actually frying these ingredients:

Closeup of frying peanuts and garlic

Don’t let them cook too long

Pati says that peanuts are cooked long before you notice them, so that’s why it’s important to stay at the stove for this one.

Next, add the seeded and deveined dried chile peppers:

Adding chipotles into the pot

Right in there

Along with the sesame seeds:

Adding sesame seeds to the pot

Right in there

Cook a little longer until the chiles are toasted and done, about another 30 to 60 seconds, then take off the heat. (I just moved it to an unused burner.)

Pot and food processor work bowl

A safety tip is coming.

Grinding And Processing

Here’s where you should pull out that big food processor, you’ll need it.

Let me iterate here that this is HOT oil, and you’ll need to exercise great caution at this point. Hot oil burns badly, and nobody wants to check into the burn unit, ever. If you have small children or animals, shoo them out of the kitchen and away from the stove for their own safety.

Because I was using a cast-iron pot, I brought the food processor bowl to the stove and scooped it in a little at a time. Better safe than sorry, and I don’t want to get injured.

Scooping out of the pot

Just like this

I used a couple of tools to clear the pan:

Clearing out the pan

I got all of it out!

And dumped the last little bit into the work bowl.

After putting the bowl on the motor unit, I added the last ingredients:

Adding brown sugar to the food processor

Brown sugar

White vinegar:

Adding white vinegar to the workbowl

Right in, 3 tablespoons

And of course, kosher salt:

Adding kosher salt to the food processor

Just a teaspoon, but you can add more if you like.

Then hit the ignition:

Running food processor

Grind it up to a nice paste

What you get is this lovely and delicious thing that you won’t want to live without:

Salsa Macha finished

Delicious!

It makes a good bit, and so I filled one big jar and two small ones:

Jars of salsa macha

Into the fridge! (Store it in the fridge if you’re not using it immediately.)

When I clear out that jar on the right, I’m going to wash it well and return it to OR. BTW, those little Ball jars do come in handy for lots of things. Walmart, Amazon, and sometimes Tractor Supply has them.

Finding Ingredients

Raw peanuts are called “green boiling peanuts” here. Why? People boil them in salt and eat them like that. I can’t say they’re bad, but I never had them before I moved to this area.

Now you may be thinking, “Amy, how did you get that kind of thing in rural Louisiana?” Good question–I almost didn’t. That’s why this post is a bit later than I intended. I stayed up a little late last night to make it, too.

OR has access to not only a “Hispanic foods section” in the Mandeville Walmart, but there is also at least one “Mexican grocery store” in the area, too. I’ve been in that Walmart and seen it myself, bought masa harina and corn husks there for our chicken tamales I made once. But Mandeville is nearly an hour one way. Not a good option.

I went to our local Winn-Dixie and Walmart looking for the dried chiles, to no avail. I was on the phone doing a FaceTime call with OR looking for them, but they really don’t have that kind of thing here.

Then I remembered that there IS a Mexican grocery store nearby–in Hammond. So after being up since 6:00 am, and driving an hour from Franklinton to get home from work, BF took me to the little Mexican grocery in Hammond and then brought me home. Once back at the Casa de Rurale, BF went into hibernation for a while.

If you’re in an area where you can’t find these chiles, you can get them online at Fiesta Spices’ website. They have a whole section of their website just for dried chile peppers. Now that I think about it, Albertson’s in Hammond carries some of Fiesta’s spices, so maybe I’ll drop by there next time and see if they have the chiles, too. If not, everything is available online, thank heavens.

Will BF Eat It?

That’s always the question. I didn’t really make it for him, anyway. But he alternates between “I’ll try anything you make” to “I don’t think I’m gonna like it, I’d rather not try it.” Whatever. I’ll let you know.

If you eat this, you, too, will be come enlightened. I’m being silly when I say that, but that’s how good it is.

For my next blog post, I’ll tell you all about Hammond’s Tienda de comestibles, or little Mexican grocery store. We’ve recently seen folks speaking Spanish here, no English. Aside from the other considerations, it could mean more Hispanic foods may become available locally if the migration trend continues. Maybe it’s time for me to finally learn Spanish, even if I have to use DuoLingo. But for now, I can get some of these wonderful Mexican ingredients, along with ready-made chorizo, on the same trip as visiting Hobby Lobby, Rouse’s, and Target.

Until next time–Disfrutar! (Enjoy!)

Shishito growing on vine
Have You Tried Shishito Peppers?

Shishito peppers really are a thing, and I’m not swearing. They’re delicious, and generally not hot. 

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

Just popped in for another blog post, this time on something new I can’t believe I discovered. Thank heavens for streaming and Philo TV.  Shishito peppers are a new item in the US produce market, and of course, I’m one of the last people to know.

Let me tell you what’s been happening.

A Zucchini Recipe

If you’re seeing lots of zucchini, I have a simple recipe for you. The inspiration is out of the book from which my favorite cheesecake comes, The 30-Minute Low-Carb Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen.

I had some leftover roast chicken and zucchini. I flip open this book and there is this recipe using pesto, chicken, and zucchini.

You have my attention. 

So I read it and realize that I have the ingredients, including the basil and other ingredients for pesto. I probably have 25 containers of pesto in the freezer dating back to 2018 (or maybe 2017.) Why should I make more? (I will, because I need to cut the basil soon.)

The recipe calls for spiralized zucchini, but I don’t have a spiralizer. What I do have is a Norpro Apple Master, which does much the same thing.  Sort of. I’ll get a spiralizer one day, OK? For now this is what I have to work with.

Two cups of cooked chicken are called for, and so I managed to pick and chop exactly two cups from the chicken carcass in the fridge. I used some of the recently made tarragon butter. BF really enjoyed the chicken, and it was really tasty, but he didn’t want to know what was in it.

Once I finished with the zucchini (cutting the cores into matchsticks and cleaning the machine), I sauteed it in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for two minutes. Then, I added in the chopped chicken, sauteed for another couple of minutes. Then I added in an entire container of my home-made pesto from 2019, which was I presume to be a cup, but I think was more. It was the first one I grabbed when I opened the freezer. It was probably too much. Next time I’ll just use measure out one cup.

Well, when I finished it, this is what I ended up with:

Pesto Chicken And Zucchini

It’s so GREEEN!!!

The recipe also suggests serving it with additional Parmesean cheese (because you would have put some in the pesto) but I forgot to add some.  It was delicious as-is, and if you’re a fan of zucchini and pesto, this is highly recommended for a quick dinner.

If you don’t have chicken already cooked, you could also pick up a rotisserie chicken (or chicken parts, if HEB still sells them that way) or cook a couple of thighs in the toaster/convection oven, air fryer, or heck, even poach it if you’re really in a hurry.

It’s low-carb, gluten-free, and without cheese, it can be dairy-free, too.

BF’s reaction to this delicious dish was to exhibit another of his retching noises.

Speaking Of Him

We’ve had another flora and fauna fiasco.

It seems that although BF remembers his Dad having a garden and a bounty of fresh produce every year, he doesn’t remember everything. I should have seen this early on and paid closer attention to what he was doing.

BF wanted some green beans, and he planted them. These beans grow on vines, and so at some point, he asked for a stake to let them grow up onto. The corn, watermelon, beans, and potatoes were pretty much BF’s domain, so I didn’t ask questions.

Last week after our garden massacre, I was out there looking for the cucumbers, zucchini, and any peppers ready to pick. Pulling up more dead cornstalks, I thought to myself, “we should have been picking those beans by now.” I look over at one stake, where I saw one bean before, and realize that it’s about dead. Not only are there no beans, but there are also no leaves.

On the other stake, there were plenty of leaves and little purple flowers. No beans, just flowers, and leaves. That’s when I realized it.

He Staked Weeds

The next day I brought him outside to ask him about it, and said, “Show me the beans.” He turned around and walked inside without a word!

I pulled out as much of the weed as I could find, and there was a considerable amount. Even off the stake, there was so much that it was like pulling a heavy quilt off a bed.

When I got inside, he said, “you don’t have to be so judgmental.” I wasn’t trying to be, but if it was indeed, planted beans, I want to harvest some.

I’m not mad at him–it’s actually funny. So now I ask him, “where’s the beans?” It’s along the same lines as asking, “didn’t you pay the light bill?” when we have a power outage like we did this past weekend. (Yes, we paid it early and everyone else was out of power, too.)

Well, anyway, we’re nursing some tomato plants. The Chocolate Cherry plants have flowers and are looking good so far.

We really need to get an earlier start next year.

On another note, the wife of one of his car-guy friends posted a picture of something they cooked out of their garden. BF mentioned that this friend keeps his garden free of Mother Nature’s creatures with the use of an electric fence. I like it.

The Shishito Discovery

As always, I’m watching Ina Garten while sewing, and it’s a show I’ve never seen before.

She starts talking about this tasty appetizer and these little peppers that you just saute up and eat, seeds and all (skip the stems.) They’re not big, about the size of a lipstick. Picked green, they’re sweet, but if left to turn red, they’re hotter.

Ina also says that there is always an occasional hot one, and she seems to get that one.

So I did a little reading on the subject. Although Ina says they are from Japan, they’re actually grown all over Asia. They’re small, with thin walls, and cook quickly.

Of course, nobody has them here, but I remembered them when I saw the plants at Tractor Supply. 

Growing Shishito

If you’re in Houston, you may be lucky enough to see these small, spark-plug sized peppers in Central Market, select HEB stores, Rice Epicurean Market, Whole Foods and maybe Trader Joe’s. This being Louisiana, I can’t imagine where you’d find any unless you were in a bigger Rouse’s, or maybe Whole Foods, since they sell Hatch chiles in late summer. And of course, they would be in Baton Rouge or New Orleans–IF you found them at all.

But in our case, the local Tractor Supply store had some, and I grabbed two of the plants. I was on my fruitless search for more Anaheim chile plants, but I really wanted to try these.

Oh, am I glad I did!

They took a while to start producing. But once they did:

Shishito pepper with bell

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

I just let them grow for a while, but one Friday night, I realized I had to pick them. The larger of the two plants had so many peppers that it was tipping over. I picked them and came inside to find the recipe.

Turns out the recipe is in Ina’s last book, Cook Like A Pro. I’ve used this book for several recipes, but this recipe passed me by. It’s my first introduction to these delicious peppers.

Fast And Easy Saute

Of course, I didn’t take pictures, but it’s a quick one. You can find the recipe here on The Food Network’s website.

But it really was simple, you saute them on a fairly high heat with olive oil. While they cook, add salt and pepper. Remove them from the heat, squeeze over some lime juice, sprinkle on some flaked sea salt, then toss. (Yes, I have Maldon’s Sea Salt as well as a few other types.)

I had to do them in two batches because I didn’t have a really big skillet. No matter.

One of BF’s car-guy friends was over, and we were also having some Texas Tamales. BF offered him some tamales, and I asked him to try one of the peppers. He had one of each, and loved both.

No, BF didn’t want any, but I did:

Tamales and shishito pappers on red plate

A truly diverse, multicultural dinner!

My little surprise was that there were no hot peppers in the bunch. I ate some of them that Friday night, and the rest I ate with dinner a couple nights later. NO HOT ONES. Woo hoo!

Ina’s Next Book

The next Barefoot Contessa cookbook comes out in early October, titled Modern Comfort Food. She announced it on social media a few months ago, and Clarkson Potter moved up the publication date by a couple of weeks because of the current events. We all need comfort food, yes? 

Has the fair Ms. Garten discovered alternate waffle maker recipes? It seems so–in the description, it says:

In Modern Comfort Food, Ina Garten shares 85 new recipes that will feed your deepest cravings. Many of these dishes are inspired by childhood favorites–but with the volume turned way up, such as Cheddar and Chutney Grilled Cheese sandwiches (the perfect match for Ina’s Creamy Tomato Bisque), Smashed Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions, and the crispiest hash browns that are actually made in a waffle iron!

It’s gonna be great. All of Ina Garten’s books have delicious food with great directions, so this will also be a good one.

If You See Some, Get Some

When I went looking, I noticed that Giada de Laurentiis also has a recipe for these, but she makes a “baked salt” with olives to go with it. I haven’t tried that one yet. Like Ree Drummond, Giada is doing her show at home. I’m catching up with all my favorite shows as I can, hence Philo TV.

A Google search will turn up more results for you, like this blog from Paleo Scaleo. Jessica is in South Carolina, and also grows them herself. I will be saving more of the seeds before the season is over so I can grow them again next year.

Don’t forget that if you buy them, you can save the seeds in a Ziploc bag and start them next year. Ditto for Hatch chiles. That’s always my plan.

Shishito peppers are a delicious thing to have, whether you’re snacking on them in front of the TV, or serving them at your next cookout or dinner party (whenever that is, right?) They’re healthy, gluten-free, low-carb and keto, so why wouldn’t you? Just make sure you have some dairy milk around, even skim, for the possibility of a hot one.

Don’t worry about BF. He’ll either come around one day, or he’ll keep eating ravioli from the can. He likes that stuff.

Enjoy!

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

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

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I had something else planned for this blog post, but don’t worry, it’s coming soon. I already told Aunt Ruth, and she’s going to be looking at the screen funny when she reads this. Besides, just about everyone knows what corn is, right?

We had to pick some of our corn today, but we should have picked it earlier.

 The Garden Massacre

When Tropical Storm Cristobol knocked over a stalk of corn, we didn’t think much of it.

About two weeks later, a very bad storm system passed through. We had about three days of very heavy rain, including lightning. One strike was VERY close to us, but we don’t know where it landed. Our neighbor doesn’t, either, but it scared all of us.

A day or so later, we noticed that there were more stalks knocked over, and this morning, it was worse:

Corn stalks knocked over

Oh, the humanity!

Two of BF’s car-guy friends were here this morning borrowing tools. The elder man said, “Looks like the ‘coons found a place to eat.”

Downed corn stalks

Heartbreaking

Raccoons. On TV, they’re cute and cuddly, but don’t let that fool you. They’re destructive little buzzards that pull over the stalks, then nibble on the corn. They don’t eat the whole thing, mind you, just pull back some of the husk and nibble on what they see. Then they move onto the next cob, leaving most of it to waste.

Nevermind what I was calling them this morning when I was pulling the yellowed stalks out of the ground. It wasn’t nice.

So that means we started picking the remaining corn. We should have picked it before, but BF remembers how his Dad grew corn. . .and we lost some. But we got 11 ears that were in pretty good condition.

What We Got

BF began pulling the husks and the silk off the corn right outside. I don’t know why he did, but you shouldn’t do that.

Ideally, pick them right when you’re ready to cook them, or at least, leave the husks on until you cook them. By the time I got to cook them in the evening, they were starting to dry out a little, but they were OK.

Freshly shucked corn

Beautiful, yes?

In the evening, I had to get out the biggest pot I had, which isn’t a heavy-bottomed pot from The Martha Stewart Collection At Macy’s. No, this big tin pot was given to us, and it’s the biggest one around. It doesn’t even have a lid, and it sits atop the fridge most of the time. I filled it with water, salted it, and waited forever for it to boil, even though I put the universal pot lid on it.

Of course, it’s been many years since I did this, so I had to look it up. But BF, ever so helpful, offered, “I think you just boil it.” So that’s what I did.

After I looked it up.

Help Me, Martha!

Years ago I made corn on the cob for my then-fiance and used a recipe out of Martha Stewart’s big green cookbook. We boiled the corn with a touch of sugar in the water and made a butter-lime combo to coat it. It was unusual but very delicious. I don’t believe I’ve made it since, even for the GER.

A quick search today on Martha Stewart’s website gathered 203 recipes, all for corn on the cob, and I skimmed through a few of them until I found what I wanted.

I followed the directions for boiling them, and they came out fine.

But when I saw the article on “upgrades,” I was intrigued. The one that caught my eye, of course, was the basil-mint pesto. I have plenty of basil and mint, and decided to go for it.

This is the mint after I cut it. Those stalks are over a foot high:

Mint in bucket

It just gets water, honest.

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

Basil growing

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

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

basil on counter

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

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

Washing basil and mint

All nice and clean.

Then started the process.

Now Make It

You add the 3/4 cup of olive oil into the blender with two cloves of garlic and blend.

olive oil and garlic

I didn’t use EVOO in this one.

Leave the mixer running:

 

mixer running making pesto

Doesn’t look like much yet.

Then start adding the mint and basil leaves:

adding herbs to blender

Carefully, of course.

To avoid a possible big mess, I just used the removable cap in the lid and added them in there, a little at a time. Let it blend for another minute.

Pesto blended

Not your normal pesto.

There are no nuts, just herbs, oil, and garlic. Next, I poured it out into one of the many containers I have for regular pesto:

Basil mint pesto in container

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

I felt like it needed salt added at this point, so I did, just a shake, then mixed it.

Pesto On Corn

The corn was still hot, so I had to try it out. Brush it right on like melted butter.

Brushing pesto on corn

Oh, yes!

I made sure to add plenty:

Brushing more pesto on corn on cob

Cover the whole thing

It was at this point that I discovered the pesto needed some salt, so I added some directly onto the corn before adding a shake to the pesto.

Shaking salt onto corn

Coarse kosher salt, right on top.

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

corn on the cob with basil mint pesto

Tah-dah!

It’s worth the trouble, honest.

The Fourth Of July

It’s this weekend. If you’re making corn on the cob. . .you’re welcome. Pick some, buy some, go to the farmer’s market if you have access to one. If not, your usual grocery store will have some too. Try out the basil-mint pesto if you’ve got herbs, or try out one of the compound butter recipes, like this chive butter. (One day soon!)

I also offered to make this delicious looking dish for us, Ree Drummond’s Fresh Corn Casserole. I hate that word, but it’s simple and uses fresh corn. From Facebook, I sent him the link and asked if he’d like me to make half the recipe so I could use the small oven.

His response: “I know you’re trying to enlighten me. You’re trying to drag a caveman out of his cave.”

I followed this comment with several amusing caveman GIFs.

Don’t forget about using your:

To make things easier this weekend if you’re entertaining or meeting up with family and friends.

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

Terry Boyd’s Blue Kitchen blog today sent an email that offers 15 recipes for your July 4th holiday menu. He always has some good food to share, and he publishes more than me, too. He and his wife have been busy and not blogging as much lately, but that’s OK.

You’re also welcome to check out the recipes page here, of course. Looking for a blog on a particular subject? Use the search function on the right-hand side of the page if you’re looking for something specific–I may have written about it previously. If you’re looking for something related to the slow cooker (aka Crock Pot), that’s the best way to find it.

The *next* blog will be about another delicious garden-based topic, and probably something you’ve never heard of.

Have a great holiday weekend.

Enjoy!

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

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

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

After I published my June Updates post, it dawned on me that I could do something right then with some of the tarragon: a compound butter. Then it became digging out that lone chicken breast from the freezer and cooking it with the compound butter, and adding some cut sweet potato fries.

Hungry yet? Let me tell you how I did it.

The Realization

I was actually walking the dogs when I realized that I could do this. Compound butter!

If you’re not familiar with compound butter, it’s simply a stick of softened butter with some herbs, spices or other flavorings mixed in. They can be savory or sweet, depending on what you want to use it for. There’s a longer explanation here on The Pioneer Woman’s website with some recipes. You can always make a recipe on your own.

But I didn’t have a recipe, it was mostly for using some of the tarragon. And it was easy!

I let the butter soften up for a while, and just dropped it into a bowl. You don’t want to melt the butter, because then you have to chill it and let it get malleable again.

I simply cut two stalks of the tarragon, washed them, and began chopping it with a big, sharp knife, until it was very fine. Dumped it into the butter, mixed it up well, and, voila:

Tarragon butter mixed in container

Tarragon compound butter.

I added a small amount of salt for taste–like maybe 1/8 teaspoon of that salt. Just taste it to make sure it has enough, but not too much, to your taste. And mix it VERY well, of course.

Making Dinner

At the same time I took out the butter, I took out the bag with the lone chicken breast in it and let it thaw as well. It was just a plain, boring, flavorless chicken breast on its own.

chicken breast on cutting board

That doesn’t look terribly exciting, does it?

Because it was damp, I dried it off:

Raw chicken breast in paper towel

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

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

Compound butter and chicken

It looks easy because it IS.

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

Sweet potato fries on baking sheet

Just the perfect amount

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

Chicken and sweet potatoes on baking sheet

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

And because I wanted to eat soon, I heated the little oven to 425F. It was ready in about 25 minutes.

Freezing The Remainder

Now, this “recipe” didn’t use the entire stick of butter. If I were cooking for me and BF, or more people, I probably would have used the whole thing. But this time, it was just me, and I froze the rest. You could also do this if you were making several types in advance.

Get some waxed paper, parchment paper, or butchers paper, and plop it down on the paper:

Tarragon compound butter on waxed paper

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

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

Rolling the compound butter into a log

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

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

Rolled up butter in waxed paper

Twisting the edges keeps it in place for when it freezes

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

Tarragon compound butter roll in freezerbag

That’s all there is to it.

If you wanted to store multiples, just use a felt-tip pen to write the type on the waxed paper. You don’t want to mix up tarragon compound butter with orange honey butter, right?

When you’re ready to use it, just slice off what you need to add delicious taste to anything you’re cooking.

Dinner Smells Good

About the time I finished this up, dinner was ready. I plated it and it was perfect:

Cooked chicken tarragon with sweet potato fries

It was delicious!

The chicken was perfectly cooked, tender and moist, and the butter also made it over to the sweet potatoes. Maybe I should have left off the small bit of olive oil, but it tasted fantastic.

Where was BF, you ask, when I was making this deliciousness? He was at work, and got a pizza for his “pit crew.” He came home with three slices left of it for lunch.

Tarragon Gifting?

Ok, not everyone is going to appreciate a couple of branches of the plant–that’s OK. But I did do some checking on Pinterest for some more ideas.

I also discovered that the tarragon I’m growing is called Texas/Mexican tarragon. (Being a naturalized Texan, I bought it.) It’s not the French tarragon we’re used to buying. I found the plant. . .somewhere, and stashed it in the ground when it was time to plant. No complaints.

Tarragon vinegar is a longtime favorite, and I may check into making some of that. I did that once, a long time ago, so maybe it’s time to do that again.

Tarragon oil may not be a good idea for long-term storage because of the possibility of bacteria. I learned that back in the 90’s when I made seasoned bottles of vinegar one year for Christmas. I had fun collecting wine bottles from one lady I used to know in New Orleans–she drank a lot of wine and kept me supplied with empty bottles for months.

I also saw a reference to adding tarragon into pesto, so next batch, I’ll be trying it out. I have plenty of basil to work with, trust me.

Maybe compound butter as gifts? It’s an idea, and it’s quick. Just have to make sure it stays frozen until use.

That was just a quick glance at Pinterest, I’ll do a more in-depth look soon. If I have to start making gifts now, it’s a great time to do so and have them ready for the holidays.

Which will be showing up sooner than you think.

Need a dinner idea tonight? Here you go–try some tarragon compound butter on your next chicken, turkey or other poultry dish for a delicious herb taste.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

The slightly late catch-up post

Happy Friday, Dear Readers:

Well, I’m sorry it’s been 11 days since my last dispatch. I’ve been busy, and not on foodie things. I’ve got three posts in the draft folder that are waiting for me to do research, one involves chatting with a friend of Neighbor E.  I’m getting there.

Friend of the blog AC came over again last night. She was having a bad day, and I pretended to be mad that she was “late.” I wasn’t really mad, and she wasn’t really late. I’d done so much tidying up yesterday, and she’d taken a wrong turn somewhere, hence her thinking that she was “late.” I actually finished everything, and I was ready to start ironing if she didn’t show up soon, just to keep the housekeeping momentum going for a while. I fixed a holder she has for her Windows phone, it’s sort of a frame that clips on to her belt. One of the corners broke, and I repaired it with the single girl’s new BFF: Gorilla Glue. I think the holder may out last the phone, but we’ll see.

Neighbor E gave me this item the other day, because it was sprouting. Care to guess what it is?

It's ALIVE!

It’s ALIVE!

No, it’s nothing bad–this isn’t Huffington Post, you know. I’ll give you a hint: it’s on my list stuff I hate and won’t eat.

Give up? It’s a big, red BEET. Yuck. Neither E nor I like them, but guess what? AC loves beets–so I will attempt to grow it for her.

Looking for the beet thing, I also found this article on 15 different veggies you can re-grow like I’ve done with celery, lettuce and green onions.  I still have a little lettuce that I will cut and eat soon, but the GER reminds me that lettuce is a winter crop, so I don’t know how long it will keep growing back. Cilantro, unfortunately, doesn’t grow well here in south Texas, and I’ve tried, because I love cilantro, too. Anyway. . . .

We had some chili I made in the Crock Pot (nothing to write home about) and Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Olive Oil cake, made with SomerSweet. Gluten free AND sugar free, and it came out just right.  The chili recipe called for  <cough> beans and a 12 ounce bottle of light beer. I really didn’t want a six-pack, and wondering where I could buy one 12 ounce light beer to add to the pot. And then it hit me:

Beer. Is. Made. From. Wheat.

That little item would really invalidate my otherwise gluten-free dinner. So I used chicken broth, and added a half-cup of wine and a couple shakes of Chipotle Tabasco. I’m thinking next time, add 12 ounces of red wine, and a shake or two of Chipotle Tabasco. Although that might change the low carb nature of the chili. . .or, maybe I’ll never make it again.

Well, anyway. . . .

Texas, and particularly Houston, has had some wonky weather lately, as you may have heard, but we’ve had no flooding in my neck of the woods. (The mosquitoes are readying their ambush.) I almost feel guilty when I escape a disaster like that, having been through it a few times, because I know that someone else took the brunt of it.

I haven’t forgotten the recent pictures of terrified horses being led through the deep flood waters to safety at the hands of helpful, concerned horsey-loving Texans. I’m a cat person down to the bone, but I would certainly be happy to help out a horse who needed a way out of the water.

The north side of Houston got hit again overnight, but down here in the Clear Lake area, there was some rain falling down in the HeatCageKitchen garden. I’ve only been out on the bike a couple of times recently, preferring to stay in and use the kettle bells, and binge-watching either Hot In Cleveland (all of them, again) or my newest discovery from PBS, an Australian production called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It stars a gorgeous actress named Essie Davis (I know, who?) and an ensemble cast that brilliantly brings the stories to life, much like they do in Sherlock. I don’t know why I’m interested in mystery-police-drama kinds of things, but I am. This one is about a “lady detective” in the 1920’s in Melbourne, Australia, complete with jazz music, fabulous fashion, a fancy motorcar and a very nice house with servants.

There is the final season of the BBC police drama New Tricks I haven’t seen yet, and the library has it, I just have to order it. While the Houston PBS station runs season 1 of this Aussie jewel, I am binge-watching season 2, thanks to the Harris County Library System. I even checked, and the Jefferson Parish Library System in Metairie, LA has the Aussie series, and I’ve informed two member friends there that they should request the DVDs and watch. A bit R-rated, so it’s not for kids, but if you like that sort of thing, find Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and try to watch them in order, if you can. (Don’t forget about inter-library loans–ask, and you shall, eventually, receive.)

Last weekend was our monthly district meeting, and I asked LK if she’d like me to bring anything; she said, “if you want to.” So I baked up the Lemon-Poppyseed Tea Cake from the first Babycakes book, only to find out LK doesn’t like lemon as much. (Sorry about that.) Well, everyone else enjoyed it! However, something weird happened when I baked it this time, not sure how. What came out of the pan looked lovely:

Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cake from Babycakes

Lemon Poppyseed Tea Cake from Babycakes

Unfortunately, it overflowed the pan five or ten minutes after I put it into the oven, giving me a real hot mess:

2016-05-20 22.41.01
Fortunately, I put the baking sheet under it, since it looked a little full. I ate the stuff that baked onto the pan, which was about the top third.

Turns out there were only five of us in attendance, but that’s OK, LK had. . .watermelon. YUM. I had plenty of that, and LK gave me some to bring home, as well. It didn’t last long, as you might imagine. And the husband and wife who made it five attendees appreciated the gluten-free, agave-sweetened cake that wouldn’t knock his blood sugar.

OK, speaking of the garden. . .our monthly gardening lecture last week was cancelled due to some really bad weather that blew through. I was kind of glad, because I didn’t want to go out in it, but I missed the topic of Plants of the Bible. Oh, well. But the HeatCageKitchen garden benefits from all the rain, with a few tomatoes and strawberries so far. I’ve got tomato plants:

2016-05-27 10.51.07

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes!

Not pictured are the two SunGold plants that I got at HEB, also on sale. I’ve nibbled a few of those, since the plants were producing when I bought them. There are a couple of “racks” on both, so I’m anxiously awaiting more once I put them in a bigger pot.

The recent rains knocked off all the Key lime buds from my tree, but I found one tiny flower this morning:

ONE lime this year?

ONE lime this year?

I’ll end up with three Meyer lemons later this year:

My favorite, Meyer lemons.

My favorite, Meyer lemons.

I’ll soon harvest my garlic:

That really is garlic under there.

That really is garlic under there.

Last week, after the cancellation of the gardening lecture, I found myself on the phone to Territorial Seed Company talking to a “garlic expert” about when to harvest these babies. I’ve used up all the scapes (they were delicious) so now I just need to know when to harvest. First thing: stop watering them, so I moved the bucket to the area under the balcony so it wouldn’t rain on them anymore. She said two weeks after I stop watering (which will be next week) I should carefully dig them up with a spade, and set them somewhere to dry for a couple of weeks or so. Here’s a primer on Territorial Seed’s website; I just called so that I could get more specific information. Last time I tried to grow garlic, I got nothing, no idea why, and I don’t want to mess anything up. But soon, I’ll get some.

Next time, I’m planting more garlic. I might try it with grocery store garlic, but Territorial Seed sells many varieties of garlic, some organic, available for planting in the fall.

And by putting two strawberry plants in the hanging planter, I might actually get a few more. I’ve nibbled them one at a time so far:

Yes, those are strawberries.

Yes, those are strawberries.

The Anaheim chili pepper plant has finally passed on after one more pepper, but new bell pepper plant is growing and has flower buds, and plus there are more jalapenos popping up:

Can we call these "jalapeno poppers?"

Can we call these “jalapeno poppers?”

Check this out (no, not the Boston fern):

2016-05-27 10.51.18

That’s parsley on the left, which may be used in pesto soon.

And despite giving AC some big rosemary and sage cuttings last week, neither show any signs of slowing down:

Yes, I know I need to do some weeding. If it would ever stop RAINING for a few days.

Yes, I know I need to do some weeding. If it would ever stop RAINING for a few days.

And of course, basil, which has nearly doubled in size with all the rain:

Pesto coming!!

Pesto coming!! (Possibly with parsley added.) One of those plants is left from last year.

Longtime readers know my love of pesto, and growing basil for the sole purpose of making pesto. Well, I’ve found out how to go about growing increased amounts of the stuff. HEB has had a lot of plants marked down, and tomatoes weren’t the only thing on sale. So one more basil plant came home with me, and it even had a bit of purple basil in it.

What do I tell you about Pinterest?  You can solve many of your life’s problems with it. Pinterest can tell you how to do nearly everything, just do a search. After a lecture last year on propagating plants, I found out I could propagate basil. A quick check on Pinterest to make sure I was doing it right, (this article tells you how) and I went after it. Get a good-sized plant, cut them with a longish stem where you see little green leaves coming out, and put the clippings in water. Within a couple of weeks, roots start growing:

More!

More!

This morning I cut a few off the potted basil plant and put them in fresh water:

2016-05-27 10.50.03

Do change the water every other day.

I did not know this before. Now I do, and will continue to do this instead of fooling around with seeds and buying one plant and hoping for a miracle. Grow more basil for world peace! (I’ll let you know how it goes.)

You can propagate other plants in the same fashion. Note to the GER: are you paying attention for the Funk House/Junk House garden this year?

I also found some recent interesting things while out and about. On my last trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond a few weeks ago (I went for Neighbor R), I buzzed by the slow cookers and found Crock Pot’s new technology:

i-Stir?

i-Stir?

Seriously? It’s called iStir? Okay.  . . ever since the iPod, iPhone, iPad, new stuff has to have an “i.” At least it doesn’t hook your dinner up to your WiFi. And more from the microwave popcorn arena:

Seriously?

Seriously?

I suppose if you want one, use your coupon. . .but I’m perfectly happy with a mixing bowl and a plate on top.

I discovered a few photos on my phone that I forgot to share last time, taken during my adventure with Neighbor E. We wandered through a store called Arhaus, and, well, I’d never heard of it. (Not that it means much.) High-end home furnishings, and not the sort you’d find in IKEA, that’s for sure. Lots of chandeliers around, and lots of somewhat odd things to decorate your home. My favorite was this chandelier, called the Anabella, priced at $499 in the store and $549 online:

Yes, a very modern chandelier.

Yes, a very modern chandelier.

Now, E liked this particular setting too, but he said, “come over this way and see how the light sets everything else off.” So I did, and, well, take a look:

Yes, those are aluminum deer heads.

Yes, those are aluminum deer heads.

I like the way it looks, and I like the way the cord is covered in a nice sheer fabric. But I’m just a fan of the Magnus deer heads, that’s all.

Lastly, I will leave you with this amusing little thing, which, I believe was in my local Kroger, but I’m not 100% sure. I don’t think it was in HEB, and it’s too late for The Fresh Market (they took the sign down from outside the building last week.) But I saw it. . .somewhere. And it was too cute not to share:

Music and cheese!

Music and cheese!

Admit it, you read that with the song in your head, didn’t you?

I hope to have my regular researched posts done soon, but in the meantime, if there’s a topic you want covered, you can always email me at heatcagekitchen@gmail.com or leave a note in the comments.

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the US, and it’s not all about cookouts, beer, and sales on mattresses and plasma TVs. If you are outside of the US, or simply unfamiliar with its origins, here’s a short primer on it. Memorial Day is a somber occasion observed to respect our war dead from all wars and conflicts. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the beginning of summer and doing the BBQ/cookout party thing, but at 3:00 pm local time, pause to remember (and maybe say a prayer, if you are so inclined) those who fought and died for the United States.

And if you are going to do a cookout, picnic, or other activity with various types of food involved, you can find food safety fact sheets here. We all like to have fun, but do factor safety into it–trips to the ER or urgent care clinic with food poisoning are NOT fun. You’ll be there with the rest of the injured people. . .for quite a while.

I hope to bring some new stuff to you next week. . .I really do. Let’s see how my week goes.

Meantime, have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, and have some enjoyable food, too.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

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