Hello again, Dear Readers:
Welcome to the first new post on my new website! I got most of the pieces put back together, and will finish the Recipes page soon. Do you like the new Food & Drink theme? (I hope so–the old one isn’t available anymore.) I think it works like the old site, but if it doesn’t, do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ditto if there are any topics you’d like me to cover here, or you can’t find.
Now. . .on with it.
I hope your Valentine’s Day went well and you enjoyed yourself, whatever that meant to you. Me, I really did take myself out for a #StarbucksDate, at the Starbucks on my street:
Now, let me remind you that I know how to get free coffee from Starbucks. . .here’s how I did it: I purchased a Venti (“large”) Molten Chocolate Latte, as planned, and enjoyed every hot, chocolaty sip. (This was the expensive cup, about $5. But wait, there’s more.) Then asked for a refill with plain brewed decaf. Then, as with the first one, I used the Starbucks App to pay for it. And my Venti rang up $0.00. Five times. No kidding. I really did drink that much decaf coffee on a Sunday afternoon, reading two books.
It was a nice day, and there were a few couples that came in for a #Starbucks date. They even had props so you could take pics and show that you were actually in Starbucks:
I only saw one couple actually use the frame to take a picture. But it was nice. And I sure do wish that Molten Chocolate Latte would come back for good. You can have the rest of them, including that new butterscotch stuff. (I don’t like butterscotch either.)
Oh, and the Starbucks on my street will soon be serving the Evenings Menu. Still haven’t tried it, don’t know when I will. Never think about going there for dinner, you know? But that place is still busy nearly all the time.
And I think that’s where I got my lovely bronchitis–I started needing naps the next day, had sugar cravings and nearly every day last week, except one–the day Neighbor E and I went shopping at the new HEB. (I was standing up and walking a lot, so it kept me awake.) Let me tell you all about this place!
I probably have mentioned this on the blog before, but I’ll mention it again. My Grandmother O’Donnell used to take me grocery shopping when I was a little bitty kitty. We would head to Schweggmann’s early on Saturday morning and. . .shop for groceries. No kidding. To a pre-teen girl in those days, it was great fun–because my mother did not want to take *anyone* grocery shopping. (It was likely her only “alone” time.) Maw Maw taught me grocery shopping at an early age, and, unlike many folks, I’ve enjoyed it ever since. Now do you understand my affinity for Suzy Homemaker toys?
Nestled at the end of El Dorado Blvd, where it meets Clear Lake City Boulevard, it’s on a huge expanse of land, which will include more shops in the future, and a petrol station (it’s not finished yet.)
The store itself is now open, with more and more of what HEB has. Unfortunately, I didn’t take enough pictures.
Something E noticed that I didn’t at first, was the addition of a false front wall, complete with sliding entrance doors:
Looks normal until you realize that it’s just a front, with sliding electric doors and everything:
We’re still scratching our heads at this one. But that’s OK.
Once inside, we were treated to a coupon for a $25 gift card for bringing a new prescription to the pharmacy, or transferring one. (This came in handy when I was sick last week, and I haven’t used the gift card yet.) We went in on the pharmacy side and worked our way around to the other side. We were treated to samples of health care products, including three from Dallas-based MopTop Natural Hair Care, which is being sold exclusively in HEB stores. I haven’t tried the samples yet, but I was supplied with an instruction sheet. I’m particularly interested in the Curly Hair Custard, since my hair will curl in the most unflattering and unnatural ways at the mere hint of humidity, no matter how much I straighten it with the hair dryer.
Another sample set was from a company distributing health & wellness products imported from Mexico. I have two little packets of Broncolin honey from Mexico with “natural plant extracts,” in it, and I haven’t used it yet. Not sure what I’m supposed to use it for, but. . .I have it. (Guess I should have tried it when I started getting sick.)
Both Neighbor E and I had things to get (including cream cheese for an upcoming recipe test), so we just wandered around hither and yon, sampling where they were offering food and finding new stuff. E also found his favorite Vanilla Chai, less expensive than Target, as well as some FreshPet things for his sweet little Chihuahua, Speedy. We found a number of new things, and, well, literally ate our way through the store, really. We tried cheeses, pesto, chicken, fresh juice, samples of HEB’s ready-to-cook meals, and I can’t remember what else. Everything was delicious, of course, and when I went back on Friday to get my prescription filled, I also had ice cream!
From the cheese department, I introduced E to Manchego Cheese, which he’d never had before. He’s now a fan. I explained Roasted Sage Turkey Thighs to one lady while looking for more turkey thighs in the meat case.
Neighbor E also noticed something I didn’t: the aisles are wider than most of the other stores we’ve been in. Definitely an improvement.
On the other side of the store lies the bakery, meat and fish areas, (including a sushi case with fresh samples) and a huge produce department that has not only a lot more product, but freshly squeezed juices as well. We were able to sample some of them, and one had raspberries in it. YUM. This HEB also has fresh lemonade, orange juice, apple juice, carrot juice and a few others I don’t remember–all freshly made daily, in neat little bottles. In addition to the apples, oranges and other fruits we were sampling.
Then we found it–coffee! We were elbow-to-elbow with everyone else interested in the grand opening, and they had plenty of fresh coffee for us. Well, I was going for the decaf, and once I got the sweetener and cream in mine, I looked over and there’s E having some coffee. Which was fine, until I realized that E doesn’t actually drink coffee. . .except this time, he did, and enjoyed the heck out of it. (And it was free coffee, so that was the best kind, right, E?)
Well, after we saw everything and sampled everything, and got what we needed to purchase, we headed out. . .or so we thought.
I don’t know how many checkout lanes they have, I think it’s 20 or 25. Most, if not all, were open that day, and one of the cashiers told me that on Monday they brought the new employees in for a walk-through. They had three cakes for all the employees–does that tell you how many people it takes to run the place? We left with our purchases, but stopped to look at these lovely decor pieces that we wanted, but passed on:
I’d love a place to park this cute truck:
And this adorable rooster will get you up in the mornings:
As you can see behind the rooster, there are a number of Texas-themed and Americana pieces. . .which we also wanted but didn’t buy. (Yet.)
What we did buy (groceries and such) we put in the trunk, and realized. . .we forgot to look for plants. So back we went, and E got a small tomato plant and some mint, while I got two tomato plants and a basil. (And checked out a second time.)
We also noticed this out front:
Easy and convenient, and right where you can find it.
The new Clear Lake Marketplace is 100,000 square feet of nearly every kind of grocery shopping you can think of, and is open daily from 6:00 am to 12:00 pm. In addition to a pharmacy, there is a much larger Healthy Living section, as well as catering and wedding services (just for cakes and flowers.) There isn’t yet a Redi-Clinic, but there should be within a year. When I realized I was sick and needed to get treated, I drove to the Friendswood store to see a PA, then to this HEB to fill the prescription. And with the 100F temperature I was carrying around, I didn’t enjoy the walking the place like I did the day we went!
I also discovered that this pharmacy offers compounding services–just like the ones I use in The Woodlands for my hormones. However, they don’t compound on site, they send it to a lab. But more and more pharmacies are offering compounding–why? Because we’re asking for it. This pharmacy also offers pet medications. That’s new, too.
This new HEB is not your grandmother’s grocery shopping. And I still wish I could take her to this grocery, as well as Central Market. But I hope she’s with me in spirit when I’m shopping.
Good afternoon, Dear Readers from everywhere:
I just realized that Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and that I should drop in and talk about it just a bit. But first. . . .
There are some changes coming to this humble blog, and a big thanks to friend of the blog AK and another one of our writer friends, whom we know on Facebook, but I haven’t met in person. I don’t know if JM reads this blog regularly, but I know she has once, for sure. I’ve got a Facebook page set up just for HeatCageKitchen, as well as other social media accounts. I’ll tell more once I get it all done. The blog is growing up.
Last week was the open house for the Drs. Davis at Woodlands Wellness and Cosmetic Center. Much as I enjoyed it last year, this year I didn’t go. BUT–they posted pictures on Facebook, and once again had an appropriate show-stopper of a cake:
A good time was had by all, and I’m glad, even if I didn’t go. But I’m sure I’ll be visiting again one of these days for blood testing.
In other news. . . .
This isn’t really food related, but it might have been. When I say a cat is a cat is a cat, I’m not kidding. This wily cheetah decided that the back of a Jeep was a great place to hang with the humans recently. Honestly, it’s no different than when Catmandu and Kismet used to hop up on the back of my futon and park it there for a while. Cheetahs, as I understand from comments on the Daily Mail site and Facebook, are much friendlier to humans than other species of big cats. But as Big Cat Rescue will tell you, approaching big cats is never a good idea–and anyone caught petting one at their Tampa, FL facility is escorted out immediately, including staff. If you have a kitty cat that has ever turned on you while you were petting it or scratching it behind the ears. . .imagine the force behind a paw-swat from a 500-pound Siberian tiger. It can, as they say on FB, “escalate quickly.” ‘Nuff said. But this time, it turned out fine, and the short video is pretty amusing. Because. . .that’s a cat for you.
Now back to Valentine’s Day. Or as my brother called it yesterday, “women taking advantage of men” day. Oh, well.
If you’re looking for advice on romancing, proposing, or how to ask out someone you fancy, that’s someone else’s blog. This blog is for the day you decide to cook for that someone special, you already are going to cook for them, and you’re looking for something special for your date. You’re on your own on the romancing/proposing part, so search through WordPress for that kind of advice blog.
Do you have plans for Sunday? Are you going to hang out at home and watch a good DVD or two with your sweetie, or risk your life and head to a restaurant? I can hear it now: “Oh, Amy–what’s wrong with that?” Even Waffle House serves steaks and takes reservations on Valentine’s Day–and in some more rural areas, that’s the best and only–restaurant in town. (NOTE: I am not disrespecting Waffle House by any means.)
I’m not going to deny that it’s something special to go out for Valentine’s Day. But hear me out–when I was an administrative assistant, I was required to “go out with the bosses” for Administrative Professional’s Day. I really didn’t want to do this (particularly at an insurance company I worked for, where they took us to McCormick & Schmick in the Galleria and didn’t give us a choice) because it was a reminder that I was still in the steno pool. But at Boeing, that wasn’t always a bad thing. My Boeing supervisors were frequently busy, so we didn’t always go on that Wednesday–and that was a good thing. Why? Because you’re elbow-to-elbow with everyone *else* who’s doing the same thing; service is going to be slower, too. The last time, I had to request that Monday, because the next day, I was getting on a plane to go somewhere, and I wouldn’t be in town for AP Day. (I got to choose the restaurant that year.) Another time, we went two weeks later. Know what? We nearly had the whole place to ourselves! We could chat without yelling, and the service was better.
Want proof? This article from The Kitchn verifies what I just told you. Like retail stores on Black Friday, nobody *wants* to work that holiday, so you may get pinch-hitters who aren’t as experienced. And you’ll be elbow-to-elbow in a crowded restaurant on that one day a year when things could go wrong for you. Just something to consider if this is a really special date.
Once again, Starbucks is at it again with the #StarbucksDate. Create a special .GIF file (similar to an e-card, they’re all the rage now) to send to someone you’d like to meet up with (it could be your best friend, your elderly neighbor like Neighbor R, your brother/sister, or, heaven help you, the GER) and make a date to meet them at the Starbucks on your street for one of the new chocolate drinks they have this week, through Sunday. (They’d like you to put it on social media with #StarbucksDate, too.)
You know, I probably shouldn’t say “Starbucks on your street.” We have several in my neighborhood, including one two blocks from my front door. But I have a friend in semi-rural Louisiana who is about 20 miles from the closest Starbucks. I’m sure he’s not the only one.
This year’s offerings are three new seasonal chocolate-infused drinks:
And because I couldn’t wait, I personally sampled the Mocha Chocolate Latte this morning. Highly recommended. Unlike the famed Pumpkin Spice Latte, this was very good and not overly sweet. If your honey doesn’t drink coffee, there is the Molten Hot chocolate option as well as other dessert options. But remember, Starbucks has their “signature” hot chocolate all year long. Yes, they really do–it’s just that this particular variety is a “seasonal offering” for Valentine’s Day.
I am actually planning to take myself out for a #StarbucksDate. I’ve got a couple of books to read, (one by master copywriter Bob Bly, his newest book of great witticisms) and that might just be the place to do it. I’d like to have another Mocha Chocolate Latte, then get brewed decaf coffee (and free refills in my stainless steel travel mug) until I’m sick of coffee, or I finish the books. They’re not long books, but. . .there are less distractions in Starbucks than at home.
What if you’re going to camp in with your honey?
I’ve got some recipes posted on the Recipe Page, and there are others scattered throughout the blog; a search will help you find them. (The Sweet Potato Supper is a good one, and quite simple.) Then again, websites like The Food Network, MarthaStewart.com, AllRecipes.com, and TheKitchn are great places to start if you don’t find anything listed here. Really–the culinary world is at your fingertips, and a quick search will show you that.
These are really easy, because there’s no rolling out the dough–you bake it as a sheet cake, then cut them from the baked cake. Frost them, put some sprinkles on top, and you’re ready for your honey. NOTE: keep this recipe in your back pocket for other occasions, cut them in squares, rounds or other shapes, and you can frost them like cupcakes and use other appropriate colors and designs for, say, a birthday, graduation, or something else like St. Patrick’s Day (which happens in about a month.) Heck, your dog’s birthday, just don’t feed them to the dog. But for now, they’re for your Valentine.
Now, if these cookies aren’t your thing, there are a couple of things in the HeatCageKitchen archives that are delicious and gluten-free, including my all-time favorite, YeastFreeBrownies (I just uploaded it.) The recipe is no longer available on Dr. Hotze’s site, but I’ve got the PDF file for you on the Recipes Page.
Another good choice is last year’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes. First, I re-blogged a post from GF and Me last year, and then I made it myself. Of course, mine didn’t come out as pretty as Brenda’s, but they sure were good–even the fussy GER said so. The trick is finding hazelnut flour, or buying the hazelnuts, roasting and skinning them yourself, then grinding them up really good in the food processor–but not so far that you get a paste.
Click around on Brenda’s GF and Me site and you’ll find lots more delicious food and desserts for Valentine’s Day.
If you have more time to prep, I highly recommend the sugarless, Crock-Pot made Chocolate Fudge Custard I talked about last summer. You have to make it a day or two in advance, but it’s quite tasty and easy to make.
You didn’t forget your waffle iron already, did you? If Santa brought you a waffle maker (or the Cuisinart Griddler with the waffle maker plates, like mine) consider waffle brownies. If you haven’t read that previous post I linked to, please do, and you’ll learn more about waffling. You’ll also find this recipe in the post that I made and reviewed. However, if gluten-free isn’t your thing, brownies from a box–yes, like Duncan Hines or Jiffy brand–can be made in the waffle maker, fast and easy. You can also use boxed chocolate cake mix. If you’re thinking about a waffle maker, Bed, Bath and Beyond also (still) has the Cuisinart Griddler bundle package, and if you have a coveted 20% off coupon, use it.
Still another optioin–a bit healthier than most–comes from none other than Graze.com, this dual-layered Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie might be just the ticket. It has a few steps, so make sure you read the recipe before proceeding.
What to make for dinner for the two of you? There’s a myriad of options available, just pick one–but don’t overthink this or make it too complicated. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll probably *want* to try something really fancy, complicated, and extremely gourmet. Foodies are like that. But if you’re a fan of the easy, make dessert early, maybe the day before (especially the custard) and consider Nigella Lawson’s Flash Fried Steak with White Bean Mash. I’ve written about this delicious white bean mash before, it’s one of my absolute favorites, and I even made it Monday for AC with mild Italian sausages from HEB. (I called it “Bangers & Mash,” which is actually sausage and mashed potatoes in the UK.) She loved it too, and will probably start looking for cannellini beans next grocery trip. Add a tasty salad like we did, and you’ll be all set. Wine? Your choice, but make it a good one, if you do.
One thing I started doing with the white bean mash is grating the lemon zest first, then grate in the garlic with your Microplane Zester. The garlic is more evenly distributed, spreading the flavor throughout the mash.
And you can say that you’re inviting him/her over for a steak dinner–it’s just not filet mignon, that’s all. (No, I’ve never cooked that one, for myself or anyone else.) And why not? If you’re cooking steak, say so! (Unless he or she is vegetarian. . .then you’ve got some extra work to do.)
Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day: if you and your partner get along fabulously and enjoy each other’s company all year around, going all-out on Valentine’s Day is probably not needed–a nice dinner at home with a nice bottle of wine, a small, inexpensive gift, whatever you like. But if one or the other isn’t such a great partner all year long, but spends a lot of money on flowers, candy, jewelry, dinner out, etc., on Valentine’s Day. . .it’s money wasted. Be kind to each other, and, I hate to say it, but if things are just not working out well, you’re discovering you’re mis-matched, or you just don’t get along after the “honeymoon phase” is past, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. (Or, in my case, file a restraining order, ha, ha. Yes, I’ve had that kind of luck.) It takes two to tango, and usually, neither is totally innocent, but if you’re wondering why you’re in this relationship, maybe Valentine’s Day will be awkward. Better to be alone on V-D than stuck with someone you don’t want to be with–ask me, I know. (No, not the GER.) “Better off as friends” is not a bad thing, if that’s the case.
I’m not telling you to break up with your significant other on Valentine’s Day, (that happens occasionally) but if that’s where it’s headed, or things have significantly changed. . .take some time to think and consider. Next year things could be completely different–you could be single and unattached, you could be with someone better, or you and your Significant Other will have a better relationship by then.
I know, Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, is merchandised to death in the US, but it doesn’t have to bully you (or your partner) into spending too much money.
Again, I’m not a relationship author–but I speak from experience on being in bad relationships. I’d rather be by myself on Valentine’s Day than stuck with someone who let their “good face” down and I discover that I can’t stand. The longest relationship I ever had with a male was. . .Catmandu, the Russian Blue. (RIP.)
And if you’re single and alone on Valentine’s Day–remember, you too could be stuck with someone you wish would just go away forever. If that’s the case, and you can, take some time and take yourself out for a #Starbucksdate. Better yet, use the .GIF creator and send it to one of your *real* friends for a #StarbucksDate and get something chocolate on Sunday. It’s OK to be single and unattached on Valentine’s Day, I promise.
You might be making these cookies or something else for someone next year, so be ready.