Hello, blog! Summer ahead.

WordPress sent me a notification that my stats were booming. While “booming” is relative, and I typically don’t get tons of visitors, it’s darn cool to know I’ve reached a few somebodies out there searching for an answer in the sea of information that is the www. Hopefully these visitors found a useful bit of info or maybe chuckled. Thank you!

I haven’t posted in a while. My daughter has been in her junior year of high school plus she participates in activities like dancing and tutoring which means it has been a super busy year for her. As I am mom-taxi, and I worry a little right with her, it was a busy year for both of us. I’m proud of her for pushing through some challenges. There are 8 days and 2 hours left in her junior year. Senior ahead!

My balcony garden is growing. I cut back the number of herbs, peppers, and tomatoes and added a couple mighty little trees and a jasmine from friends. Much like my stats were booming, several plants are blooming. Orchids inside. Comfrey, tomatoes, and a hydrangea outside. They are pure garden magic, sparkles & all.

Last week I purchased and put together a portable gas grill. I tried to video the process. I’ll edit that. Maybe post it. But mission accomplished. I have a grill! And it should work much better than the inefficient community charcoal grill.

Then I cooked food on that very cool (hot) and compact grill. If there’s a food that encapsulates the joys of summer, it’s food cooked on a grill in open air and the mosquitos bites that go with it. In my case it was chicken marinated for 35 hours and cooked to deliciousness with a few hickory chips and skewered zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, and sweet onions. So good!

Set sails for summer!


It’s the End of the World As We Know It

In a few short hours my daughter will officially turn 16 years old. As I have felt with increasing intensity for the past 15.9 years — time goes by so quickly!

Perhaps as nod to the compressed time I’m feeling, my daughter decided to have a time-travel-themed birthday party. It includes dinosaurs, space travel, swords, 50s-style diner baskets, and medieval goblets. Things you might encounter if you trapesed across time and space collecting random bits.

She and a group of friends have been stuffing themselves full of gummy dinosaurs, Star-shaped fruit, aged cheese and a classic dinner of baked descendant of dinosaur (aka chicken) with assorted side dishes. There’s astronaut ice cream. And banana split birthday cake! They’ll enjoy games and time-travel-themed movies as they discuss the thrills of starting their junior year of high school. And I overheard mention of the wonders and problems of thawing permafrost. Ancient viruses have been released. 

School began about two weeks ago. Like a broken record, I wonder where the time went? 

The summer flew by! 

I feel like it just began. I would like more! 

I grew peppers, tomatoes, and lots of basil in a balcony garden. I may have been visited by a ghost … at least twice. And I did a few things I haven’t done in years. 

This summer my daughter relaxed or studied instead of being carted to or from camps. We hung out, watched a few movies, played fun games including a great assortment of video games and pinball at ReplayFx in Pittsburgh. Talk about a blast from the past.

ReplayFx is a classic video game and pinball festival held at the David L. Lawrence convention center in the heart of Pittsburgh. I got to play hours and days of some of my favorite games, a few of which I haven’t played in forever (or in many cases since the last ReplyFx). And my daughter got to enjoy pinball and games like Centipede, Rampart, and Time Crisis that I played when I was her age or a little older. We even played a new board game. 

I stayed up late. Got up early. And basically ran myself ragged in the most enjoyable way possible. 

We ate Thai, assorted meatballs, fresh seafood, and some of the best tacos ever. We saw friends, family, and parts of Pittsburgh that were new to us like The Strip and Carnegie Mellon University. We stayed at a hotel that was once a federal reserve where we were offered complementary breakfast as well as evening drinks and dinner. There was a pool, a hot tub, and a rooftop terrace with a fantastic view of the sunset behind the city. Can I just stay there? Forever? Okay, no. 

Closer to home, we spent a weekend at the beach where we got to play in the sun, sand, and ocean. Zillions of baby jellyfish swam past us as we marveled at their clear bodies. Too young to sting, we caught a few of the strange critters in our hands and examined them close up. 

We spent time with friends and stuffed ourselves full of yummy food. I was especially happy to visit one of my favorite restaurants, the Hobbit, where we had delicious dip, exquisite entrees, and a dessert called Merry’s Delight. Next we scarfed down crispy Thrashers fries with vinegar — so yummy. Once again, can I just stay there? I would like to.

For all these reasons and more, there are most definitely days I would like a time machine. I could visit my favorite times and spots again and again. But now summer is winding down. High School is spinning up. And my little girl will be sweet 16. Happy birthday! 

We will have all-new good times ahead. 

Mushroom Popcorn

This is a follow up to my post on types of popcorn.

I ordered and received a two-pound bag of mushroom popcorn.

Not having read my previous post on popcorn, my daughter thought I’d ordered mushroom-flavored popcorn. It is not. But mmm,  we might have to try that sometime. I’m not sure how I would add mushroom-flavor but it could be interesting.

It is also not some kind of 1960s psychedelic snack food.

The “mushroom” part refers to the shape of the popcorn when it’s popped. Butterfly or snowflake popcorn is the kind found in most grocery stores for popping at home. Mushroom popcorn is generally used by commercial poppers for caramel corn, kettle corn, or other kinds of popped popcorn that benefit from a rounder, more durable popped kernel (also called a flake).

I ordered JustPoppin’s Tru-Pop brand Mushroom popcorn from Amazon because it came in a 2-lb size — manageable for at-home consumption. Plus it had generally good reviews as well as popping tips and a hotline in case you had trouble achieving a mushroom-shaped flake with their kernels. It costs a little more than typical popcorn but is still pretty economical for snacking.


Just-Poppin’s Tru-Pop Mushroom popcorn with instruction sheet and a hotline for help.

In the bag, it doesn’t look much different from standard yellow butterfly popcorn. But side-by-side unpopped kernels are a little larger.


Clockwise from top: White kernels, standard yellow, and mushroom kernels.

The popping instructions said there’s a narrow temperature range for optimal results. We followed the recommendation of using a higher heat and adding the kernels only once the oil was hot enough. Readiness is determined by putting three kernels in the pot. Once they’ve popped, add the remaining kernels.

The oil used should be one that tolerates a higher cooking temperature like peanut or coconut. We like refined coconut oil — no coconut flavor, but a good cooking oil that tolerates high temperatures and may have some health benefits.

We use a three-to-one ratio of oil to kernels and cook it in a single layer in an ordinary medium-size stainless steel cooking pot with a lid. We love multitasking kitchen utensils, so we don’t have a specialty popcorn maker. (Except my daughter, she likes making it.)

Our results were excellent.

A bowl of mushroom popcorn, lightly seasoned.
Mostly shaped like little balls.

As you can see, our flakes look rounder with fewer little blobs protruding. This looks a lot like the kettle corn or caramel corn we’ve purchased at fairs and festivals minus the carmel or sugar coating. We had very few unpopped kernels, on par with other quality varieties.

In the photo (below) the top flakes are white kernel popcorn that I purchased at a farmers’ market. It’s also available at many supermarkets. The bottom right flakes are standard yellow popcorn — the most common variety at grocery stores. The bottom left is Mushroom Popcorn with large, round flakes and a few that look like standard butterfly popcorn too. It’s available online and may be carried at some gourmet and specialty shops.


Comparing three varieties. White (top) is a little smaller and brighter white. Yellow (bottom right) is typical size and shape, not quite as white. Mushroom (bottom left) is similar in color to yellow popcorn but larger, rounder, and with more noticeable husks.

As you can see, the mushroom popcorn has more husks attached to the flakes themselves as well as left behind in the bowl or pot. I included a few husks in the photo. The husks are pretty tough. You can shake out a lot of the larger pieces and/or let them collect at the bottom so you don’t get a mouthful of husk. But there are still little bits attached to the flakes themselves. In caramel corn, those husks will be masked by the sugary coating. The white and yellow flakes have fewer husks attached and left behind in the pot. The husks they do have don’t seem as tough.

Along with the difference in shape, the flakes themselves have a slightly different texture. As previously reported, the mushroom flakes are a little tougher. They have more of a crunch whereas the standard butterfly flakes have a lighter crispiness to them.

The flavor was better in the butterfly kernels. It’s a small difference, but if I was eating plain popcorn then I would definitely choose butterfly popcorn. It was a little sweeter and cornier tasting. The mushroom kernels had a slight styrofoam taste. That sounds terrible. But it wasn’t bad, just not as good — a little blander overall. Naturally, adding salt and a sugar coating will overcome a lot of the difference in taste. For now, we tried it with our usual salt and butter- and cheddar-flavored topping.

I can definitely see how the mushroom popcorn would work better for commercial popping purposes and even homemade caramel corn. The rounder shape allows for a thinner, more even coating of sugar. When I made kettle corn at home using standard popcorn, there were some fairly thick globs of sugary coating stuck in the deeper nooks and crannies of the butterfly shapes.

The mushroom popcorn includes a notice that it should only be used as intended — for eating — and that, while not GMO, it is a specially bread popcorn and is proprietary. So they don’t want you to use these as seeds to plant a crop. No worries for me, I don’t have room for growing corn on my balcony.

It was fun to try. We’ve made a couple of batches now and like mixing the two varieties. I would definitely suggest mushroom popcorn for homemade caramel corn and kettle corn. But if you just want a nice snack, butterfly popcorn is still the way to go.

Pop Popped Popcorn

Well, I learned something new about popcorn today. I’ve known there was a difference between the shape & size of popcorn that we make at home and the stuff that is coated in caramelized sugar yumminess on carmel corn or kettle corn that we get from fairs and other commercial popcorn vendors.

One is type larger and rounder — more ball shaped. The other is more irregularly shaped, less round, with more poofs sticking out like lobes or wings.

What I didn’t know, was what the actual difference was. Color? There are yellow varieties and white. There’s multi-colored popcorn too with reds and blues.

We made a nice batch of home-popped popcorn yesterday for an impromptu movie night which was really just an excuse to make popcorn. But then, MOVIE! So bonus. Anyway, I’d purchased some white popcorn from the farmer’s market a month or two ago, and I hadn’t used it. So yesterday we used both yellow and white popcorn.

There are differences between yellow and white, but they are still the same basic shape. So I looked up more info about popcorn online. Thank you, Internet.

Apparently there are two major kinds of popcorn shape.

There’s Butterfly-shaped popcorn and Mushroom-shape popcorn. Both can grow on the same cob of corn, but there are also hybrids that produce more-or-less exclusively Butterfly- or Mushroom-shaped popcorn. The Mushroom-shaped hybrid was developed only as recently as 1998. Growing conditions can make a difference too.

By the way, a popped kernel is called a “flake.” (Something I also learned today. So if anybody ever calls you, “a flake,” maybe you should consider it a compliment. Popcorn is pretty and yummy. And it’s popular for movies. So another plus.)

Butterfly-shaped popcorn (sometimes called, snowflake-shaped) is the kind usually popped at home. It is reported to be more tender, be more fragile, and have fewer noticeable husks than Mushroom-shaped popcorn. So it may feel better in your mouth when you snack on a bowlful of light & fluffy Butterfly-shaped popcorn. All (or almost all) of the (un-popped) popcorn that you find in a typical grocery store will be Butterfly-type popcorn.

Mushroom-shaped flakes are rounder, more like a ball or a bell, with far fewer protrusions. These flakes are denser, have more noticeable husks in the popped product, and are more durable. Since they’re tougher, they hold up better for pre-popped commercial popcorn purposes especially the kind coated with sugar like carmel corn or kettle corn. Some of the pre-popped popcorn you find in grocery stores may be Mushroom-shaped popcorn. But you’ll have a hard time finding this variety un-popped to pop at home. It can be ordered online, and may be available from some gourmet providers.

Yellow and white butterfly popcorns have differences too though.  Along with the obvious one, kernel color, there’s a slight difference in taste and texture. Some people prefer one over the other — much like some people prefer white corn-on-the-cob and others, yellow.

Generally, white flakes are a little smaller, more tender, and, some say, more flavorful. Both look white when popped, but side-by-side, the white popcorn is a brighter white than the yellow.

There are other factors that make differences too like freshness, growing conditions, and popping technique.

Any kind of popcorn can be a healthy snack with a large amount of fiber, as long as you don’t load it up with too much butter, salt, or sugar.

Hot-air-popped popcorn is healthiest because it’s popped without oil, but I find the texture to be tougher and overall not as appealing.

Microwave popcorn is, probably, the easiest to make, but offers few options to experiment with different types of popcorn kernels. I’ve also heard that the fumes aren’t healthy to breath (individual results may vary). So it’s good but not the best.

You don’t need a special popcorn popper to make popcorn at home. We go for a balance of ease and flavor by cooking it in a pot with coconut oil and adding a variety of toppings. We’ve purchased white, yellow, and multi-color popcorn and tried organic and conventionally grown. I plan to order some Mushroom-shaped popcorn soon too.

How we pop:

To make yummy popcorn, we add about a rounded Tablespoon of coconut oil along with 3 Tablespoons of un-popped kernels to a medium-sized stainless steel pot that has a tight-fitting glass & metal lid. It’s nice to see the kernels as they pop. A plain metal lid will work fine too though.

Heat on medium-high heat (depending on your stove). Too low, and the kernels won’t build enough pressure inside for the steam to make them explode (which is the mission-critical pop). The kernels will just lightly toast and mostly remain un-popped. Heat that’s too high will burn the oil and your popcorn too. Adjust as needed.

You can heat the oil first and add three kernels of popcorn to the pan. When they pop, add the rest of the kernels to the pot.

Keep the lid on (or you’ll have a mess), and shake the pot back & forth several times per minute. Kernels should start popping in a minute or two. Shaking keeps the un-popped kernels rotating in the heat at the bottom, so they can pop. The fluffy popped kernels will rise to the top up off the hottest heat so they don’t burn.

When the popping stops or slows to only a few pops in 20 seconds (or when the pot looks full), remove it from heat and take the lid off. You don’t want it to burn, and you’ll want to let the extra steam escape. (If you start to smell something burning that’s another good time to remove it from the heat.) Turn off your stove. Put the finished popcorn in a bowl or other heat-resistant container, and season as you like.

We add salt, pepper, butter-flavored seasoning, white-cheddar seasoning, garlic powder, dried herbs, or even a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. (Not necessarily all at the same time.) Sometimes we add no oil after it’s popped, but a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or a hint of real melted butter is extra yummy. These also help the other seasonings to stick better. Yummy!


Copyright 2017 Deb L Kapke. Sharing is permitted with attribution and stuff. Contact for commercial use.

The Visitor

Over the past few days one of the pumpkins on our balcony has been nibbled more and more.

I got the pumpkins and winter squash partly because they’re pretty, but I also plan on eating most of them. I’d rather they weren’t pre-eaten. I’m glad the visitor is sticking with only one.

I’m pretty sure the little visitor is a squirrel, not a bird. Something also dug into one of the flower pots. Birds don’t dig.

Most squirrels can’t make it to our balcony anymore.

It used to be an easy climb. The exterior siding of our building was artificial stucco. It was rough and bumpy and the squirrels could scale it like furry little Spidermen. Ravenous Spidermen that would eat all my tomatoes and some of the plants including strawberry plants (not just the fruit). Sometimes there would be two or three critters on the balcony at one time. (Like they were having a party and laughing at us just a little.)

Now we have smoother siding, and the squirrels can’t scale the walls. So we’ve been mostly squirrel-free.

But there is a tree not far from the balcony. The branches have been growing a little closer each year.

Last year, I saw one squirrel on the balcony one time. We scared each other.

Our cat Fletcher had gone out on the balcony a little earlier. I went outside to let him in and check on plants. I was on the far side of the balcony when I heard a strange noise. I turned around and a squirrel was sitting in the middle of the balcony. He looked as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

I think the squirrel must have been hiding from the cat (maybe behind a plant), and when the cat went inside the squirrel thought the coast was clear. That’s when we spotted each other.

I thought I might be able to chase him off if I ran toward him. I took two quick steps forward.

The squirrel had the same idea at the exact same time. (That’s right, I must be squirrel-brained).

So the squirrel and I ran straight toward each other. Which scared us both, again. We each stopped dead in our tracks and looked at each other for a few long seconds. I thought, “oh, crap.” And I’m pretty sure the squirrel did too.

I stomped my foot a couple of times thinking that might get Mr. Squirrel to leave. He stood frozen.

I thought the squirrel would just run off the side of the building. But, it turned out, that wasn’t the way he got there, and he couldn’t just climb down. He was stuck.

The squirrel needed to get back to the tree which was on the other side of me. He pondered his options as I pondered mine (the door back inside was on the other side of the squirrel).

There are bricks around most of the edge of our balcony. After a few deep breaths, Mr. Squirrel jumped onto the bricks and ran, as fast as his little squirrel legs could carry him, past me and flung himself out into the tree from which he came.

The branch bounced so hard I thought he’d be launched back into the sky. But he held fast and then ran, jumping to another branch and then another. Each swinging in his wake as he chattered away.

That’s when my daughter walked outside. She was laughing. Apparently she could see my shadow from inside (like a giant shadow puppet) and saw the whole episode. “Was there a squirrel or something?” Yep.

Mr. Squirrel stayed away for a while after that. In fact, I didn’t see another on the balcony for the rest of that summer. (The branch he jumped too may have cracked a little.) I could see several squirrels in the tree nearby twittering away.

Well, at least one of the furry little critters has figured out how to get on the balcony again. I saw one squirrel earlier in the summer (he promptly ran back to the tree). Now it appears he’s back. What’s more, he found food, so he’s returned several times now. We appear to be his new favorite fast-food place.

I’m hoping the green tomatoes still on the vine will be left alone. Squirrels usually leave hot peppers alone after the first bite or two.

It’s just the one pumpkin that has been nibbled. But first it was a tiny nibble. Now it’s bigger (and bigger). I’m a little worried that Mr. Squirrel will be bringing friends along for a winter feast. Hopefully, they won’t all be such good jumpers.

But I am worried about next spring and summer. I may have to learn to prune trees (from ten feet away and four floors up).


Nibble, nibble little, squirrel. Who’s been nibbling on my pumpkin?


Copyright 2016 Deb L Kapke

Sweet and Tart and Vegetal; I’m Your Garden Huckleberry 

For Novemeber 15, the Wordpress Daily Posts’s Daily Prompt is Tart.

This post also uses the Daily Post’s prompt from November 10, so I’m adding that. That Daily Prompt was Vegetal.

Both of these prompts work well to describe the second food experiment we did over the weekend. The first was the squash.

The next food experiment involved berries called Garden Huckleberries.

Raw, ripe Garden Huckleberries.


If you’re familiar with regular huckleberries, then you might think, “oh, yum.” I’ve had true huckleberries in Montana, and they are similar to wild blueberries. Sweet and very yummy.

The Garden Huckleberry is different. It’s a nightshade plant similar to tomatoes.

I think I may have had some of these self-plant in flower pots a few years ago. Once I identified them as from the nightshade family and realized they weren’t tomatoes or peppers, I wasn’t really sure if they were edible, and I pulled them. They were probably safe if birds left the seeds behind (which is probably how the seeds got there), but I didn’t want to take any chances.

These Garden Huckleberries were grown by a farmer, and I purchased them at a farmers’ market. So I felt pretty confident that we could eat them.

But they did come with special instructions, and I looked them up on the Internet at home.

Garden Huckleberries must be cooked before they are eaten. They also need to be fully ripe (the green, unripe berries are toxic). Raw they taste a little like a green tomato, except I’d prefer green tomato to the taste of a raw Garden Huckleberry. They weren’t just tart or sour, but also bitter with a strong, unpleasant vegetal flavor.

After removing the tenacious little stems from the Garden Huckleberries, we boiled them in enough water to cover and added a pinch of baking soda (per many instructions).

Blueberries and red cabbage both contain pigments called anthocyanins that change color depending on the pH. It’s redder in acid and turns bluish-green or green in alkaline (basic) solutions. It can be fun for at-home science experiments and can even be used to dye Easter eggs.

Garden Huckleberries have an abundance of anthocyanins.

So we got a little surprise as the water with baking soda boiled away. Green foam began to form on top of the water. And as the berries continued to burst, dipping a spoon into the water showed us a vibrant blue-green water.

As Halloween is not long gone, it felt like we were cooking up a strange and exotic witches brew that might be used for unsavory purposes. You might think I wouldn’t let that stuff anywhere near my mouth.


But we kept on.

Recipes for Garden Huckleberry all suggest adding lemon and sugar, so that’s what we did after straining out the creepy green water from boiling the berries. (And after doing a mini-science experiment before throwing all the fascinating water away.) Red cabbage can be these same colors. 

I tasted the cooked berries before adding the lemon and sugar and was not impressed. They were still somewhat tart, bitter, and vegetal tasting but much less so than when uncooked. Now they had a hint of berry taste & aroma to them. So we were getting closer.

Garden Huckleberries parboiled with a little baking soda.

Then we added the sugar and lemon juice and let them simmer away again. Adding the lemon juice turned all the greenish shades back to a reddish purple. The berries became a beautiful, deep, dark purple.

Now when I tasted them, some of them were delicious and others were still a little off. I’m pretty sure the best tasting ones were the most ripe berries that had also burst very early in cooking. While the ones that weren’t as good were either less ripe or didn’t burst (or both). Regardless, I decided to add more lemon juice and sugar and simmer longer.

The end result was fairly close to a fruit preserve or pie filling. It tasted a little like blueberries, but also had its own sweet & slightly tart berry flavor.

The longer we cooked with lemon and sugar the better they got. It wasn’t just covering up the weird taste. The end result didn’t taste like lemon really. But I think the combination of lemon juice and sugar transforms some component in these berries, so that the flavor actually changes. 

So Garden Huckleberries were good. We put the goop in jars. I may add some to a pie or fruit tart. I’m not 100% sure if I’ll get them again. I like berries that I can eat raw. But these were fun to try and the colors (all of them) were pretty amazing.


This post is also for NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo November 2016


Oops! I was trying a new squash, and there was a little incident.

This was labeled a Kabocha squash, but I’m pretty sure it’s a Red Kuri or orange Hubbard that had been mislabeled.

Kabocha have a fairly soft skin. Hubbards (and Red Kuri which is related to a Hubbard) do not.

The soft skin of the Kabocha allows the skin to be eaten once cooked and also allows the squash to split open easily so that pressure doesn’t build inside if, say, you put it in the microwave.

I tried my first Kabocha squash this fall. The local H mart had a great sale, and I was looking to try a new winter squash. 

Kabocha are wonderful. They’re sweet, flavorful, and dense. If you’ve never tried one and you like winter squash, this is hard to beat.

A few years ago, I started partially cooking winter squash in the microwave before slicing it open and scraping out the seeds. I poke a few holes — a lot easier than trying to cut an entire stubborn squash in half — then pop it in the microwave for 3-6:00 minutes. This softens the squash enough to cut a lot easier.

Then seed and cook the rest of the way in the microwave or roast in the oven.

So I was trying to soften this new squash which had been labeled Kabocha. I thought maybe it was an orange Kabocha. (I’ve only cooked green Kabocha so far). I’m not an expert. What do I know?

I could tell the shape was a little different. 

Another name for Kabocha squash is Japanese Pumpkin. They are shaped like a squat pumpkin and have dark green or deep orange skin. This new squash, however, was somewhat teardrop shaped — a shape much more common to hubbard or (I would learn) red kuri squash.

I only managed to poke just one smallish hole in this squash because it was one tough cookie, er, squash. I thought it would be fine. All the other Kabochas have been fine.

Then I put it in the microwave for about 6:00 minutes because I figured it was pretty big (and three minutes didn’t seem to have done much to soften it).

It was that second half of the time that did me in.

“Boom,” I heard from the the kitchen.

Then I heard the sound of the glass base rocking in the microwave. I hoped it hadn’t broken.

It turned out that the skin on this squash was hard, tough, and thick (even once cooked). It held the steam rather impressively even with the little hole bubbling a little.

The squash had exploded. The plate and microwave glass were fine, but squash guts were splattered all over in various sizes. I had a quite a mess to clean up … after I got done laughing.


My family laughed too. Then my daughter helped me clean the squashed squash from the inside of the microwave.

(I once exploded an egg in the microwave on purpose. It was for science. Luckily the squash was much easier to clean up.)

This squash tastes quite yummy, but does not appear to be a Kabocha squash. So my guess is it’s a red kuri or orange hubbard.

Part of this bright orange exploding mystery squash (the parts that weren’t plastered to the inside of the mircrowave) went into a roasted veggie mixture. The rest went into a lovely squash soup (just bouillon and pureed squash). Yum.

I purchased two of these and the next one is even larger. So I better poke much larger holes — several of them — or watch out.

NaBloPoMo Day 4, Wax update and Patti LaBelle Pie

Well, I’m may not be posting my Day 4 post before midnight on the East Coast, but I posted an update about Glade wax melts to another post well before midnight on Day 4. I think that will just have to count. See my updates to the Glade Winter Scents by clicking here. Maybe I should have made the wax melts update a separate post. And technically, I’m posting this post before midnight Chicago time so …  maybe this counts for Day 4 too. (Gah, long week. Want sleep. Started to doze and bolted awake at 12:00 because I knew I needed to post.)

My topic for the rest of the Day 4 post is just a simple post on pie. In this case it’s the Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pie. Maybe you’ve heard if it.

I work very close to a Walmart. Last year I saw the Patti Labelle Sweet Potato Pie in the store but didn’t buy any. Then I read about the internet sensation of YouTube personality  James Wright Chanel reviewing, eating, singing, and praising the Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pie. See that on YouTube by clicking here. By the time I thought, “Hey, maybe I should try it,” there was no more Pie to be had anywhere. Pies flew off the shelves after that YouTube video.

So this year the pies are back! I love pie and had to taste one. Is it worth the hype?

Yes and no.

The pie filling is quite good for a grocery store pie that costs under $4. It is a beautiful vibrant orange. It’s a brighter orange than pumpkin pies, but might otherwise be mistaken for one.  The pumpkin pies nearby looked almost sickly and anemic in comparison. The Patti LaBelle Pie is even prettier than a lot of other sweet potato pies I’ve seen in stores.

The flavor is also similar to pumpkin pie. The packaging on the Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pie says it is made with “sweet potatoes, butter, and spices.” Many of those spices are the same as pumpkin pie, but the ratio is a little different. So this has its own flavor too. This pie is well spiced and somewhat sweet. 

While pumpkin pie filling has a texture closer to that of custard. This pie is somewhere between custard and sweet potato casserole in texture. It’s like a brighter, slightly starchier-textured, first cousin of pumpkin pie. Everybody thinks they look alike. But they are also unique.

As far as nutrition, the Pattie LaBelle Sweet Potato Pie has some vitamin A and iron as well as fiber and protein. Nutrition value in pumpkins pies is similar. The downside is that both are loaded with saturated fat. (There are some pumpkin pies out there that somehow avoid having much vitamin A but I don’t know how.)

The Patti LaBelle pie slices beautifully. It’s not runny and not dry.

The pie crust is where this sweet potato pie comes up short. It isn’t the light, flaky crust you’d expect in a homemade or gourmet pie. The texture and flavor ring “grocery-store prebake.” It’s not horrible, but this pie would be amazing in a flakier crust.

But it is still beautiful and the filling is really good if you enjoy that kind of spice. The price is very nice too. So I can live with the crust for now. Our pie will get very well eaten.

And it has.

It was yummy!

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Northern Girl in Nashville

Earlier this month I drove to Tennessee for a high school reunion. It was one of those x0th reunions. I won’t say which number. It was great to see friends, take in a few sights, and enjoy some southern cooking. I was nostalgic even before I hit the road.

Being born in Chicago, Illinois and living there until the age of 12 meant my tastebuds experienced childhood and early puberty in the up-north-and-Midwest then took an abrupt dive south as teen angst and adulthood hit me in the heart of Tennessee (and later the Carolinas and Virginia). 

Part Chicagoan and part Nashvillian, I am now 100% mishmash of north and south.

The flavors of the south sunk their roots deep in my soul and regularly give a little wiggle to make sure I’m paying attention. So when I crave comfort food, it is usually southern or country dishes. (Though, I will gladly accept pizza or sushi or tacos too.)

I love fried catfish and okra. Corn bread. And more recently pimento cheese spread (but it better be the good stuff). Tree-ripened peaches and homegrown strawberries…

While in the Nashville area (Lafayette, Mount Juliet, and Cookeville), I ate delicious, genuine southern biscuits and garden-grown corn-on-the-cob picked a few steps from the door and grown surrounded by a century farm (one in operation for over 100 years). I got to enjoy good food with dear friends. 

I drove a long way in a short amount of time (1300 miles crammed in to three days). But driving had its advantages.

Along the way there, I went through Sevierville, Tennessee. Sevier County is the original home of Dolly Parton. It has some beautiful land and views and is now filled with tourist attractions and outlet stores too. The one that caught my eye and pulled me off the interstate was the factory outlet store for Lodge Cast Iron.

I have long loved a good, well-seasoned cast iron skillet, and a cast iron Dutch Oven has been on my wish list for some time. The factory outlet store was filled with all these and more. I felt like a kid in a candy store with really heavy candy. I got a lid for my skillet at home and a very small Dutch oven. Just think of all the yummy food these heavy treasures can cook! 

I have a specific fondness for southern beverages too.

Iced tea is one of those. If you’re from the south you know that I mean sweet tea. Because in the south, if it isn’t sweet then it’s just a hot beverage gone cold.

So I’ve been on a mission this summer to make perfect ice tea and peach tea. Be in the lookout for a new Tea for Tuesday! 

My dialect is perhaps a bit more north than south, but it can jump almost all over the place. A little twang will pop out when I’m not expecting it (especially if I’ve talked to any southern friends recently).

It’s not just the drawl. In the south, for example, grown women can call each other “girl.” 

“Hey, girl!” “How y’all been, girl?” All sprinkled with a dash of twang that makes it seem perfectly okay to call somebody “honey” or “sweetheart” even if you just met and don’t even know their name.

Y’all are probably familiar with the term, “y’all.” In Chicago we said, “you guys.” It was unisex and if you had a strong Chicago accent it was pronounced, “youse guys.” Singular is “you” or “youse.”

I can say, “you,” or, “you guys,” just fine. And I occasionally say or write, “y’all,” too. (Maybe more times than I care to admit.)

But I have a hard time calling any grown woman, “girl.” Picture Arnold Schwarzenegger (as the terminator) saying, “hey, girl,” with a little southern twang. (Look at me! I’m trying to do slang!) Yep, that’s how I feel, and I’m pretty sure that’s how I sound too. It’s best if I just step away from the expression. 

But food is free game! My game. My tastebuds speak many languages.

My gracious hosts sent me on my way with an ample supply of yellow squash, tomatoes, pears, cucumbers, and corn too. 

Recipes ensued and there was much yummyness. 

There were happy memories too. I might have to go back again soon. (Or at the very least visit a Cracker Barrel.)

Cucumber and Tomato Salad (a mix of genuine southern-grown cucumbers and tomatoes with northern-Virginia, balcony-grown tomatoes, red peppers, and fresh herbs) – totally refreshing yummyness on a hot day.

Late Night Run

Pretty sure I should be embarrassed by this late night run to Harris Teeter for cat food. The cats wouldn’t have let us sleep if they didn’t get their food. So I bought their favorite flavors. But what I didn’t need was two flavors of ice cream, a box of frozen fudge bars, and four slices of Edwards frozen pie slices — two packs of two, one of cheese cake and one of key lime pie. 

The cats would have been happier if I’d avoided the frozen food aisle entirely. They’d have had their food a few minutes earlier. At this point, they may be getting lightheaded from eating so late and meowing so hard.

But it’s hot and very humid. I might have called it sultry if it were more interesting. It was just flat and heavy and warm. So I guided my cart to the frozen food section.

Like a sparkling oasis, the ice cream cooler sported dangling reduced-price labels — Breyers and Harris Teeter brands were on sale as were the fudge bars and Edwards frozen pie slices. (I’d never had their cheese cake slices before.) It’s not like we have to eat all of this at once.

And yeah, I should probably just stop making excuses and cut right to embarrassment. I feel a little guilty. I made the check out girl laugh, so that’s good.

I shall now make myself feel better by enjoying a fudge bar. They’re fat free and generally pretty darn yummy. 

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