Chorizo–a delicious, flavorful form of sausage from the Mexican and Tex-Mex culture. I love it.
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Hello, again, Dear Readers:
No, BF and I have not fallen off the face of the earth, but I’m busy and he doesn’t write. So, apologies again.
If you went out and got one of the wonderful Kitchenaid Cold Brew Coffee Makers this summer, I do hope you are enjoying it as much as I do. BF’s car-guy friend Jenny came by a couple of months ago and was thrilled to find out about it. She took her kids to the local PJ’s and spent $30 on iced coffee for the three of them, that’s a bit pricey for this young widow. She’s probably going to be getting one if she hasn’t already. But for me, I love my iced coffee in the morning, even though I’m not drinking much of it now that it’s getting chilly! But it’s so easy, even BF could make it.
The Work Of Copywriting
I’m doing a fair bit of SEO writing for law offices and attorneys, with a little of this and that thrown in to keep it interesting. A few weeks ago, a regular client asked me to write a blog post about the things that can affect a paternity test. That’s the “who’s your daddy” DNA test. Well. . .a lot, actually. Besides lab errors and tampering, multiple genetic mutations and anomalies mean two siblings–even twins–test unrelated. Never mind what a “chimera” is. How’s *that* for dinner party conversation?
The Parts Catalog
One client had me writing descriptions for parts. That’s right, hardware, primarily air conditioner parts. Really exciting, yes? I didn’t mind–it pays, and it gives me a break from the occasionally heavy legal subject matter I normally write.
I don’t know what all these parts are for, so I have to look them up. If I don’t know what a capacitor is, I can’t tell you, now can I? (It puts jolts of power into things like fan motors, similar to a battery.) So now I know what that is, and I can create a short description. I also learned a new term: PTAC, or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner. The kind they use in hotels.
One description I wrote was for a metal clip that holds the plastic front onto the air conditioner. This was one I had to use the parts diagram for. Once I realized what it was, I came up with an interesting description, using the phrase “never again will you have to stare at the grisly innards of your air conditioner.” It went over well, and I even posted that one on Facebook. AK says I have “the writing chops.” That made me feel good.
I created content for him for about 3 weeks, and the project ended with five stars from the client.
The Unconventional Garden
I haven’t written about gardening in a while, but I did manage to do some this year. The cool spring meant I was hesitant to put plants out, and I got a late start. We’re now getting bell peppers, and while I’ve picked three or four red ones, I’ve got three more that are still growing, and one is turning red. They could be at our Thanksgiving dinner. (More on that later.)
The Meyer Lemon and Lime trees are still in pots, along with rosemary, scallions, mint, and a lone tomato plant with one tomato growing. They’re at the front of the house.
We dug up a little patch over by the garage, about 5′ by 5′. Mostly basil, a couple of bell pepper plants, some sage, and parsley. I’ve made five or six recipes of pesto while BF complained about the “smell.”
I’m hoping for at least one more container for the winter before it all goes away, but we’ll see. All those little rooted pieces of basil worked and most of them survived.
BF planned to dig more grass up for the rest of the plants, but he’s up to his elbows in car parts and motors. He’s been busily building motors for people and doing some repair work for a few folks, too.
Additionally, we’ve done some updates to the Casa de Rurale. Specifically, replacement ceiling fans (including a new one with a big light and remote control in my office), two new exterior doors with new frames, a new kitchen and bathroom faucet, both Moen (I’ll tell you why Moen in a minute) and. . .a new septic tank.
Not the most interesting stuff, but the septic tank was very important. I’ll spare you the details.
The garden plot had a few tomato plants, but I only got one or two little tomatoes. Must find a better place next year, but they were delicious. One was a teardrop tomato, and the other was a little round one. But we’re getting some tomatoes, finally, in a most unusual fashion.
Because the original builders of this house were able to get away with it, the only septic tank was a single 55-gallon drum. The house was built for a mother-in-law, so it was all the local zoning required. (Yes, they really do stuff like this in Louisiana.)
BF knew that at some point a new, modern tank would be needed. We were having some issues, but nothing too severe. He previously did some digging, but the only way to solve everything was the new septic tank. With all the work he’s been doing in the shop, he was able to get a new 500-gallon cement tank installed in early July.
After the tank business was all over (it really didn’t take long), BF put some dirt over it, and hopefully next year we will have lots of lovely green grass growing over it.
While BF’s car guy friend was visiting, he looked over by the tank, pointed and said, “That’s a tomato plant.” Where? “Over there, under the tree.” At first, I told him he was crazy, but upon closer inspection, he was correct, it was a tomato plant. “If you stake it, you might get some tomatoes off of it.”
Well, I did stake the plants, and this one has given several “racks” of tomatoes in various stages of growth. (This is the first one, near the bottom of the plant.) They’re obviously yellow grape tomatoes, and I have picked a number and eaten a few when ripened. I watered them regularly.
A month or two ago, the wind knocked them over, so I did a little digging to put the stake farther down. Unfortunately, I must have hit the root system, because they started turning brown. There is one tomato that’s thriving on what’s left of the green part and a few more flowers. But the rest were picked and will be seeded before I eat them.
I’ll spare you the details of how these tomato plants came to be, but I’m sure you can figure it out.
BO, a gentleman I used to work with at Boeing, lives in the Clear Lake Area and posted a pic of a tomato plant growing out of the gutter on his house last year. Apparently, the seeds got up there in much the same fashion, but with birds. He posted a picture with a comment about maybe it was time to clean out the gutters. He actually got a half dozen or so tomatoes off that plant. I guess he cleared the gutters later.
So tomatoes are pretty easy to grow, yes?
Fingers crossed for a bigger, better planting and harvest next year, and not by the septic system.
Well. . .remember when I bought the dishwasher? BF changed out the kitchen sink faucet for me right after I got it. He sent me to the local hardware store and I bought what we could afford at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a top-of-the-line model. (The dishwasher is still running great–we’re both happy with it.)
The dishwasher’s “delay” function is great–you set it and forget it, and I was setting it to go off at 3:00 or 4:00 am. That way we could take a shower, and we’d have plenty of hot water. (OK, it only uses 3.5 gallons for a cycle, but BF is persnickety about it.) Unfortunately, well, the faucet. . . .
I bet you see where this is going–the water pressure eventually led to the faucet leaking, and one Saturday, the kitchen was flooded. So no more overnight dishwashing, and lots of old towels around when I did use it.
BF sent me to Lowe’s, and I got a very elegant Moen faucet that doesn’t leak (but is not that expensive.) Unfortunately, he’s had to tear out the cabinetry, and we discovered that the leaks attracted. . .termites. There was no structural damage, but some of the wood has been replaced. The termite problem has been taken care of by his gracious uncle. The kitchen cabinet has been put back together, along with some additional shelving under the sink. At some point, there will be new vinyl flooring (it was already planned.)
I was glad that we were making progress in the house, but. . .well, that’s the karma, isn’t it? More plumbing issues. . .I hope they’re solved now. The Crock Pots were used regularly until we could get back in there.
Let’s talk about something tasty.
One of the many things that I’ve bemoaned the loss of outside of Texas is the availability of chorizo. If you’re not familiar with chorizo, you’re probably not reading this from Texas, or you’ve never been to Texas. If you’ve never had chorizo, you’re missing out.
Most shoppers know about the ubiquitous Italian sausage that’s available just about anywhere in the United States. Different areas have different ways of making it. For instance, the Italian sausage I used to get H-E-B was wonderful. It tasted better than Johnsonville’s version, and I would always keep a couple of packets in the freezer.
Unfortunately, the Italian sausage that I found in Winn-Dixie left a great deal to be desired. (Read: it was awful.)
What It Is (For The Unfamiliar)
Chorizo is a similar thing, except it’s Hispanic. I say “Hispanic” because there are two different types. One is a cured sausage, similar to hard salami, which is Spanish chorizo. I’ve found it in Cost Plus World Market a few times, and it may also be available in gourmet grocery stores.
The second type, which is more common to the southwest, is Mexican chorizo. It’s a raw sausage from pork, like Italian sausage, but made with a different series of spices.
Chorizo may be served with anything from tacos to burritos to a breakfast plate with eggs in place of bacon or regular sausage. It may be in links, like the Johnsonville type, or it may be un-contained like I’ll show you here.
One day I was in Rouses in Mandeville, and I found out that Johnsonville now makes chorizo. I was ecstatic! So I bought some and check at home.
BF was not happy to see this, and I refuse to let him try it. But that’s OK, he didn’t want to anyway.
Result: it’s passable. It’s certainly not as good as anything you get in Texas, but it’s better than nothing. And it doesn’t have the usual amounts of fillers and other things like cereal that you find in some local brands in Houston.
Then my district leader sent me a picture of some chorizo she found in Sam’s Club in Mandeville. That’s an hour away, and I don’t belong to Sam’s. But, it’s a Texas brand and it’s fresh chorizo. I looked up the brand online and it’s pretty good it’s well-made and all that.
Now, Make It
About a week later, I was reading one of the many many food-related emails that I get every day. On this particular day, it was all about tacos. So, I had to open it up and look at it.
One of the recipes in the email was called Amaya’s Tacos. So I looked it up because it was from a cookbook I have. I found it, but on the next page was the recipe for El Chico’s Chorizo. According to the author, it was from a previous cookbook from El Chico restaurant chain many years ago.
This recipe is from a book I’ve talked about before, Rob Walsh’s Tex-Mex cookbook. You’ve seen the picture of me with Mr. Walsh a couple of times from 2011 when I met him at the Houston food show.
That was a good picture–I had recently lost weight, and that new top was suddenly too big. He autographed my book. I was happy. . .anyway. . . .
I had no idea that all this time, I had a recipe for chorizo, and it’s pretty easy.
I had to make it. Went to Winn-Dixie and bought the ingredients. Pork chops. The recipe calls for the use of ground pork, which makes it a little bit easier, but the author prefers to grind up pork chops. The recipe makes a half pound, so for my weekly breakfast quiche, I double the recipe. What I used to do in Houston was to buy HEB’s sage breakfast sausage, and vary it with chorizo occasionally. Not anymore! (I still miss my H-E-B.)
So, if you’re going to use pork chops or other pieces of pork, you put everything in the food processor, and mix in the spices.
Then you turn to the stove, sauté up an onion, then put the pork mixture into the pot, and brown it like you would ground beef.
And this is what you end up with:
Here’s the printable recipe if you want to make your own.
El Chico's Chorizo
- ½ pound boneless pork chops, cut into 4 or 5 pieces You can also use ground pork or grind other boneless pork
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp ground cumin Also called "Comino"
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive or other oil Book uses vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp chopped onion
- Combine all ingredients except the oil and onion into a food processor Process until coarsely ground, about 20 seconds. (NOTE: if using a different recipe, stop here and proceed.)
- Heat the oil in a skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the chopped onion. Add the chorizo mixture and brown for 5 minutes or so to the desired doneness.
This is SO good. . .and no, it’s not pepper-hot. If you want spicy hot, add some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. I’ve used pork chops, ground pork, and even pork stew meat. I’ve just gone with the ground pork since it’s readily available and usually pretty cheap.
I also figured out by accident that I can buy multiple pounds of ground pork, mix the appropriate amount of spices in, and then freeze it in quart-sized freezer bags in one-pound increments. That makes life easy, too.
After all the chorizo I’ve ever had in my life, I have to say this is really darn good. It was a happy accident that I happened to find such a thing, and wish I had found it before. Well, I have it now. And BF won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.
Rob Walsh has a series of cookbooks out, and I may investigate buying more of them. His chili cookbook may be next. After all, it’s better to have recipes if you’re going to go attempt to make some Tex-Mex food, isn’t it?
Bonus: Hatch Chile Time!
I managed to get some Hatch chiles this year and put them into my breakfast quiche again. YUM. I bought a lot of them and roasted them all at once in the oven. With the windows open. When BF was not around.
I’ve got a jar full of seeds, in addition to seeds I saved previously. (Bell pepper seeds, too.) I’ve planted a few in the little garden spot, but nothing grew. There’s always next year and that big area behind the garage.
Rouse’s has started to pick up the banner for Hatch chiles, although last year, I got them at Whole Foods. Winn-Dixie had the last of the crop because October is way too late. Many of them were red, which means they were hotter.
This year, a customer in Rouse’s produce department asked me to explain the Hatch–and I did. Extensively. Turns out the lady and her husband were headed to Carlsbad Caverns. I told her about my and Aunt Ruth’s trip to Albuquerque in 2012, and the warning from a fellow flier about “red, or green?”
Hatch Infused Foods
While Rouse’s will never be HEB, they had some Hatch-infused meats available, as well as Hatch roasted rotisserie chicken.
Of course, we can get canned Hatch chiles here all year long, and you can always order all things Hatch from HEB on their website.
Because we’re in Louisiana, this sits right next to that meat case:
Many Louisiana recipes start out with celery, onion, and bell pepper. With a nod to the state’s Catholic roots, people started calling that combination the “Trinity.” Naturally, someone came up with the idea to market it in dried form, and, well, there it is. I haven’t bought any, but I have bought some dried bell peppers; I needed them for a Stephanie O’Dea recipe recently.
Ready To Make Chorizo?
I know, I know, you can buy it all over the Lone Star State. Heck, I even found some in Rouse’s, one of the brands you can get in Texas–had no idea:
Oh, and look what else I found nearby:
I usually get this brand of Queso Fresco, but soon I’ll be trying that Manchego to see what it’s like. Fortunately, BF has no interest.
And I’m doing yeast-free for a while. Almond milk and Yeast Free Brownies. No dairy. All that.
Here Come The Holidays
Whether you want them to or not.
BF notified me that the kids would like me to brine a turkey and do a Thanksgiving dinner. Can’t imagine why–other than turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes, they turned their noses up at everything else the last time. I’ll take care of it, and the rest can be out of a box or frozen. They love the instant stuffing mix. There may be a pie from The Pioneer Woman’s latest magazine.
Longtime Buddhist friend KJ posted this on Facebook recently:
If anyone complains about Thanksgiving, I’ll source these for Christmas dinner. If I can find a countertop dishwasher, I can find this online, darn it. And why not? Can’t be any worse than Feetloaf:
Yes, I’m a smart-aleck.
I’ll try very hard to get some of the other drafts out and published; I’ve just been very busy. Sorry about that.
Go make some easy chorizo, and have a delicious meal tonight or Taco Tuesday tomorrow.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
It’s been 15 days, and I apologize. Life has kept me tap-dancing on the bar, if you know what I mean. I wish it would knock it off, I don’t want to dance anymore.
I have a couple of posts that I’m still not finished researching. . .they’re in the draft folder.
I have been told that three ladies from my favorite, fabulous HEB have begun to read this humble blog. I saw Miss Sunie yesterday, and she’s read the last post, where she also appears. Miss Lei lost the URL, so I gave it to her again, and Miss Carolyn. . .I think she found it too. Welcome to this humble blog. I hope you enjoy in what’s presented. Please feel free to read through the archives. You can also sign up with the widget on the right side, if you like.
When I saw Miss Lei the other day, she was sampling ice cream. . .yum. However, when she offered one customer some ice cream, the customer asked, “It doesn’t have Hatch in it, does it?” No. . .butter pecan. The two-weekend Hatch chili promotion is over, although there are some Hatch things left hanging around. The Hatch plants have gone down to $4, and I bought one with several peppers on it. I might just make some of that Hatch Pesto, but I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with the red pepper on that tree.
I managed to get shots of the Chili Fun Facts Miss Lei had posted in her booth:
OK, admittedly, I was in a hurry taking these pictures. Sorry about that.
Oh, and don’t mix basil and Hatch chilies. I took that half-cup of pesto I made a couple of weekends ago, let it thaw a bit, and added a roasted Hatch chili. Tastes good, but you can’t taste the basil anymore–the basil is completely obliterated. I’ll use it with roast chicken or something.
Sue Moran at The View From Great Island created this delicious looking Cheesy Hatch Green Chili Dip. This looks perfect for football season, with some crunchy, salty chips. (Gluten free chips, of course.) Sue is the creator of the delicious Meyer Lemon Cake I made a couple of times with Meyer Lemons I grew out back. I’ve subscribed to her blog ever since, and her recipes are pretty easy. I may have to try this dip one day, even if I have to get canned chilies from HEB. I’ll be trying the whole bowl, OK? You want some, you MAKE some.
Let’s talk about something else. The Demonic Possession of the Microwave Oven. For whatever reason, I’ve been plagued with it.
Honestly, it’s hard to believe how long microwave ovens have been around. It’s like a light bulb, we just don’t think much about them anymore. Invented by an engineer at Raytheon by accident, they’re now just everywhere–homes, apartments, offices, commercial kitchens, campers, frat houses, bachelor pads, you name it.
When I was in the Girl Scouts (never mind how long that’s been, because I don’t remember) my troop was taken on a field trip to an LP&L facility in La Place, LA. I didn’t know what it was, but we were given a demonstration of the microwave by one of their home economists, which was one of the “next big things.” The HE opened a can of corn, poured it into a bowl, and when it came out of that contraption, it was hot and the butter melted.
A few years later, they were everywhere, and you couldn’t watch much TV without seeing an ad for the Amana Radarange. My Dad bought our first one about 1976, when it was advertised as “The Greatest Cooking Invention Since Fire.” (I love Google, don’t you?) With four of us, Mom needed a bit of help in the kitchen, or maybe that’s what my Dad decided. This page says they cost $595: that was quite a sum in those days, probably like a good $3K or more is now. Whatever the reason, we had one of these gleaming, modern miracles:
And the touch panel, similar to a modern smartphone screen:
It was a big deal–it was like being the first family on the block getting a TV just 3o or so years before. I remember going to my aunt’s place and while my Dad talked to my uncle about it, the uncle replied, “well, I’ve thought about microwave cooking, but I’m just concerned about radiation.” No. . .but eventually, they became synonymous with “kitchen appliances.”
That thing lasted until the mid-90’s, when my parents finally bought another, more contemporary model, and probably for a lot less than the original.
Fast-forward more years than I care to admit to, and things have changed considerably in small kitchen appliances.
Some time ago, I wrote about the Karma of Spare Parts, a continual issue of minor repairs that I’ve been doing, mostly out of necessity. There have been a number of issues, like my slow cooker incidents. However, this one is more serious. It’s the microwave.
When I started this blog in 2012, I was happily using an old Sunbeam microwave that I’d bought for $10 in 2004 from the JSC Swap Shop, a Craigslist-type site for folks in the space program who had access to that part of the Johnson Space Center’s (NASA) Intranet. The GER benefitted from the Swap Shop too–I searched it every Monday and sent him numerous ads that I thought he could use. He bought many things to sell on eBay, and I was glad to help.
Now, you might remember that the original microwave blew out. I’d bought a replacement glass plate for it, and a roller ring to go under it. (I returned those for a refund.) What I didn’t know at the time was that the kettle I was using to make coffee was leaking. The water went under the microwave and eventually ruined it. I put some food in it, I heard a noise (BOOM!) and smelled something that didn’t smell anything like food. I realized later that it could have started a fire. Talk about protection from the Buddhist gods! That faithful microwave was toast, pardon the pun. Time for a new one. Well, it was made in 2003, and this was, what, 2014? So it had a good run.
First place I went: Walmart. I’m not a big Walmart shopper, even though some of the goods and services they offer go beyond Target’s. But I go there sometimes for different things. The first one I bought was this Rival model:
It worked great–simple, clean, and just slightly complicated to operate. Until it didn’t. A few months after I bought it, the light started strobing on and off, and so did the power. It also made a weird noise. Oh, brilliant. I pulled the plug, removed whatever was in there, and marched it back to Wal-Mart.
My reason for return: it’s possessed by the Devil.
I didn’t want another Rival, because I didn’t want that to happen again. I should have replaced it with an identical model, but I didn’t. I liked the red one.
The one I brought home, however, was a West Bend, but looks identical to this HB. Then recently, I was making some microwave popcorn, and darnit, it was only half-popped and the light was out. It was plugged in, but. . .nothing. Being a bit of a computer nerd, I unplugged it and plugged it back in. You know, just like you do with Windows 10–restart it, right? Yeah, that worked. But even though it pretended to run, it wasn’t popping popcorn. The magnetron tube, apparently, had blown, for some unknown reason. The rest of the mechanics seemed to be fine, including the electronic bits.
I pulled the plug, packed it into the car, and hauled it back to the Friendswood Walmart for a replacement. Reason for return: demonic possession.
OK, admittedly, I have no way to check and see if demonic possession is real. I just figured it sounded better than explaining it the way I just did. And it got a giggle from the return desk folks. But one young lady in appliances, who happened by while her coworker went to the warehouse to look for the exact same model I was returning, gave me a detailed explanation about demon possession. I kid you not. She insisted that the demon wouldn’t possess the microwave, it would possess me. Really–ask anyone! But after three microwaves went POOF! in the same spot, I can’t give you any other explanation than demonic possession.
And because the Friendswood customer service employees were less than enthused about my dilemma, I packed it back into the car and went down to League City, where I found a much friendlier and helpful group of folks. The greeter, a young woman about 18 or so, said, “Oh, I love your hair color, it’s gorgeous!” I thanked her, of course, and I wasn’t dressed to the nines. The next girl in Customer Service enjoyed my comment about the microwave being a victim of “demonic possession.”
After a short discussion and comparison with a nice man named Chris in appliances, I found my replacement. So this is the one that came home with me last week:
Bigger, badder, hotter. WAY bigger. A nice Hamilton Beach model, 1000 watt microwave.
All three times, I was able to exchange the microwave for something different. Unfortunately, Walmart’s variety is a bit. . .better on their website, but I was not about to wait.
What I had in mind was something like this:
But no, I had to go “up,” long story. Now I have this huge, honkin’ microwave in the HeatCageKitchen.
I have to move it over to the left to use the kettle; I have very little counter space to work on now. Maybe I’ll just sell the Hamilton Beach on Craigslist for its MSRP or something close to it, and go to Target and get the smaller, less expensive one. . .but right now I have, if you’ll pardon the expression, bigger fish to fry.
It’s what I get for thinking. Just the other day, I was thinking to myself, “hey, make sure the next microwave isn’t so big.” Next thing I know, I was getting a new one. Just not the one I envisioned, that’s all.
I may be taking a break from blogging, since life isn’t letting me alone. So if I don’t get back here soon, well, you know I’m thinking about other things.
And maybe getting myself an original Amana Radarange one day, along with some Suzy Homemaker appliances. Then I will have a truly fabulous kitchen, right? (Just kidding.)
Happy Monday, Dear Readers:
My apologies for being so late in posting again. . .it gets away from me sometimes.
If you’re in Louisiana and reading this, please stay safe and dry–the situation is dangerous in many areas, and I have friends who have been impacted. Mechanic friend JK’s house is fine, but his vehicle isn’t. JK is in touch with many of his friends who were impacted, one person he knows has been evacuated, and his brother’s place of business took on a foot or so of water on Saturday. Heck, even the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge took on an inch of water! This is some of the worst flooding Louisiana has ever seen, and it wasn’t even due to a hurricane. Most of the flooding is north of Lake Ponchartrain and in the Baton Rouge area, rather than New Orleans, where it normally occurs.
Mercy Chefs is heading to Baton Rouge to help serve food to affected people and first responders. If you’re interested in making a donation to help, Mercy Chefs is a good place to start. They have professional-grade mobile kitchens and drive to disaster areas and COOK FOOD. I have not personally had dinner with these folks, I don’t know them, but I have donated to them a few times. I do know they prepare hot, fresh gourmet food for people who can’t cook for themselves and can’t get home to eat.
I haven’t forgotten floods that I’ve been through in Louisiana previously, including one that kept me and my now-ex-husband upstairs in our apartment for three days. We didn’t have cable TV, or Internet, or a computer, we only had each other and the cats. And then we ran out of coffee. . . .
While we here in Houston are now getting some rain after a hot dry spell, it’s not Louisiana’s excess rain. Neighbor E and I have had a couple of adventures last week, and it involved two trips to our local and fabulous HEB. We both had errands to run on Tuesday, and decided to go together. We also visited the Lego Americana Roadshow, which happened to stop in our own Baybrook Mall last week. One of E’s friends liked a post on Facebook, and E saw it. Otherwise, neither of us would have known! It was quite interesting–ten American icons are built in. . .Legos. No kidding. The Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, The Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson Memorials, and other historic structures are all made of Legos, most of them white. It really was something to see, it was FREE, and I’m glad we got to go. (You can check out our pictures here.) If you want Americans to see something, you put it in the mall.
We also made a quick run to HEB for a few things, where we were introduced to a few things in the upcoming Hatch Chili weekend. Oh, BOY. At the Cooking Connection area, where chefs are constantly preparing tasty things for sampling, we were among the first to try a “Dump Cake” made with a Hatch Apple Pie Filling. No kidding. Three ingredients: the filling, which I’ll show you later, a box of Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix, and a stick of unsalted butter, chopped and laid on top. You pour the pie filling into a 9×13 baking pan, then the cake mix on top of that, then the butter pieces atop that. You’re just layering here, not mixing anything, and make sure they’re evenly spread, including the butter. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Of course, that Hatch Apple Pie Filling is only around for a limited time. I got a jar and the recipe in the pantry for a special occasion, which hasn’t happened yet.
Don’t judge me. We were floored.
I think that was the day we were also treated to ice cream samples with mini-M&Ms and some of this delicious elixir:
Miss Kathryn, who is usually in the Cooking Connection area daily, told us that Saturday was the big Hatch promotion, and there would be everything with Hatch chilis all over the place. She was actually working on the Hatch Apple Dump Cake while we were there, and asked us to try it to see what we thought–and of course, gave her two thumbs up. We were among the first to try it! So E and I made plans to return on Saturday and have lunch. Because, quite frankly, that’s what you do in HEB on a Saturday.
I had to head into town on Thursday, and well, I needed some chocolate. Since I was in town anyway, I made a quick stop at IKEA for some catalogs; Neighbor E is happily looking at his, and JK, The E Man and PK will all be receiving theirs later this week. I went up to the Second Floor Cafe, and got a look in the fridge case.
Yes, I fell off the wagon. It’s called–the Chocolate Conspiracy Cake. I have no idea why, and maybe it was the dry, gentle Swedish humor, but it sure was good. Again, don’t judge me, I had a bad day. Chocolate helps. And I rode for 16 miles that night.
Saturday I headed to LK’s for our monthly Buddhist study meeting, and texted Neighbor E when I was leaving. I dropped by the complex, E hopped in my ride and off we went. My pictures are only iPhone shots, because, DUH, I forgot to bring my regular camera, darnit. But they came out pretty good. Come on with us on Sampling Saturday, Hatch Edition, and enjoy the sights. (Sorry I can’t help you taste the food.)
When you turn into the parking lot off El Dorado, the tendency is to park there, but that’s at the “back end” of the store, where the pharmacy is. No, it’s better to park on the other end, by the Clear Lake City Blvd. entrance, so you go in through the door by the floral and produce areas. Bring your bags, and don’t forget your “cold bag,” the one that keeps your milk and other perishables cold. (I also made this Butterick grocery bag that keeps things hot *or* cold.) Of course, that’s where they also keep the “grab-and-go” meals, where a very nice lady is frequently sampling them:
This weekend Miss Sunie was sampling delicious Hatch Meatball Stuffed Mushrooms (that’s what she’s scooping up in the picture) and chicken breasts stuffed with green beans and, what else, Hatch Chilis. Two thumbs up from both me and E. YUM. Next up is Miss Lei, who was serving a most incredible Salmon Hatch Burgers on a toasted bun:
If I had to pick a favorite, which would be difficult, I would probably have to pick this sandwich. But since E is “not a fish guy,” he passed on it. Darn shame, but I’m not twisting his arm for anything.
These Hatch Salmon Burgers start with, what else, the Hatch Salmon Patties at HEB, and are served on their delicious Onion Rolls, which are buttered and grilled. While those are going on, you mix a cup of sour cream with a box of Boursin Garlic & Herb Cheese, and when the buns are toasted, spread some on the bottom. Add the cooked Hatch Salmon Patty, place some Dill Dip on top the patty, and put the top bun on it.
And you have just become enlightened, folks. It’s that good.
Now, while we were waiting for the burgers to finish cooking (they only had a couple of minutes to go), we got to talking about the Hatch chile. Longtime readers may remember my last post on the Hatch Chili last year, (and a previous post from 2014), and I gave you some insight and history into these little green babies. Miss Lei went online and did some more research into them and found out a number of neat facts–like one Hatch has three times the Vitamin C of an orange. (I should have taken a pic of that flier she had posted, darnit.) That when you visit New Mexico, as I did with friend of the blog Aunt Ruth in 2012, they ask, “red or green?” Meaning, red or green sauce–and they really do put it on everything. And that only those peppers grown in Hatch, NM can be called “Hatch.”
Also available is one of their “Entree Simple” lines, Hatch Chile Stuffed Salmon. They weren’t sampling that, but it’s available in the oven-ready section by Miss Sunie. (That’s where the countertop oven comes in handy.)
Next up was Miss Carolyn, who was sampling delicious breads. (What I eat in HEB stays in HEB!)
Miss Carolyn not only had store-baked French bread, she had Hatch Corn Bread and some Hatch Sliced bread too, which you must taste to believe:
Don’t tell my doctor. It’s like going to a birthday party or a wedding. You know you’re going to eat some cake, right? Same thing.
With the French bread, she buttered it, but not the sliced or corn bread. Good thing–butter would be wasted on them. Don’t cover the flavor of the delicious Hatch breads. Ever.
Next up was over to the Cooking Connection demo area, where another one of the store chefs was cooking up more delicious things:
I can’t find the recipes for what we sampled, but yes, we had more of that Hatch Apple Dump Cake! Cooking Connection also features recipes using new and interesting ingredients like the Hatch Apple Pie filling, and that mustard sitting right next to it. Oh, and a delicious Hatch Chile Jalapeno Jam topping some softened cream cheese. Oh, I can’t stop eating whatever they put with cream cheese–it’s always addictive, and is perfect on top samples of tortillas from the bakery, right across the aisle.
Mom’s Hatch Apple Pie Filling is, as they explained repeatedly, “only here for a limited time.” It’s also made in Fredricksburg, Texas–so you know it’s good! Both E and I bought some, and as I said, mine’s in the pantry with the recipe taped to the lid. It’s so “limited edition” that it’s not even on the company website!
Past the Cooking Connection and into the Meat Department was a nice guy offering Hatch Empanadas:
Delicious, and they’re available in the meat case right behind him:
We also saw Hatch Chiles used to season chicken:
You can also get Hatch Rotisserie Chicken if you don’t want to be bothered cooking it yourself.
Delicious sausages that we also sampled (but I forget where):
And even cheese:
Yeah, they put Hatch chilis in everything at HEB, and some of their Hatch chili products are available year-round.
We also did a spot of shopping, and while we don’t buy the same kinds of things, I got a look at this section:
Since I was getting some un-seasoned chicken leg quarters, it was quite tempting to get a packet of slow cooker seasoning mix. Really, it was. Then I looked at the ingredients on the packet. . .and put it back.
But outside of the sampling, the most fun we had was seeing this little abandoned item. E had some fun and put his shopping in it:
I should have taken a picture of the warning label on the front–but the sign facing the corn flakes box says something about the basket being “reserved only for future HEB shoppers.” Cute, isn’t it? Of course, it’s for the wee ones, so they can shop right along with Mom, Dad, Grandma, or Grandpa.
No, we didn’t have that when I was a wee one shopping with Maw Maw O’Donnell at Schweggmann’s. I wish.
I forgot to get a picture of it, but HEB is also selling various pepper plants, including Hatch Chile peppers, for $9.98 a pot. The Hatch plants were about 2 feet high and had peppers growing on them. I didn’t buy any, but if I can get those seeds to sprout, I’ll have my own. And if they drop the price down, well, I might get one anyway.
Next: I went to town on Serve-It-Up-Sunday, where I cooked for the week. I bought three of those huge Hatch chilis:
I could have just seeded and chopped them to throw into the breakfast quiche, but I decided to roast them again. First up: cut them open and remove the seeds and ribs:
Check out how many seeds I saved from those three Hatch peppers:
I cut them flat so that they would roast nicely.
Stuck them in the toaster oven under the broiler for a little while, until the skin starts coming off. You can also roast them over an open flame, using the burner on a gas stove or even on an enclosed barbecue grill, if you like. After a few minutes under the heat, this is what you should see:
The skin is starting to dry out, and that’s what you want. I don’t know how long it took, but of course, don’t walk away and forget them. This is what came out:
Let them cool completely in an enclosed dish, or plastic bag (I put my paws on this first.)
Once they cool off and the skin starts to sweat, they look like this:
Then you just slip the cooled flesh from the skin by hand.
Delicious, not hot. And about the same amount as I would get from a small can. OK, I admit, it’s the long way round. But it’s worth it.
After I roasted up the chicken leg quarters (nothing exciting) I decided it was Pesto Time again. The basil just became plentiful, particularly with the elephant-ear leaves, so I started the harvest:
As instructed in the Green Thumb gardening lectures, I left five leaves on each one of those plants. This is what I had to work with:
I did pick the bad spots out of the leaves.
I actually had enough to make a full one-cup batch, then a half-cup batch. Both went directly into the freezer.
Yeah, I’m good. Didn’t think about adding a Hatch chili though; maybe next year. Maybe I’ll get one more batch of pesto before the plants all go to sleep for the winter. Just need to head to Bed, Bath and Beyond for more of those little square glass containers I like. I used up the rest of the sage butter on two turkey thighs, so I had one free for this pesto batch. But I always hope for more. . . .
Hatch chilis aren’t around for too long, so if you’re a Hatch fan, or you’ve never tried them, get them while they’re, um, hot. Available. Around.