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Amy’s Starbucks Weekend

Starbucks–I spent the weekend in Hammond, sort of.

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Happy Monday, Dear Readers!

A local festival locked up the library last week, so I told BF, “heck with it–I’m headed to Starbucks.”  So I did. Transferred some money from PayPal into my Starbucks account–yes, you can do that–and while BF worked at his place of business, I worked at Starbucks. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and a quick stop on Sunday at the Mandeville Starbucks on the way home from Whole Foods for an iced coffee.  Let me tell you all about it.

But first, some news.

We’ll be seeing some new “functional” foods in the US soon, called Freedom Foods. If you’re thinking it’s for patriotic Americans, well. . .think again. It’s an Australian company, and will be distributed in the US by AFT Holdings. They’re a “major player” in the “functional health cereal,” snack and beverage market Down Under, but my guess is that you won’t be getting the same thing you get in Australia–the formulations will be “Americanized.” Just a guess.

American Quinoa?

Ardent Mills is promoting North American-grown quinoa, including products made with quinoa flour: nutrition bars, cereals, chips, gluten-free pastas and other snacks. Can they keep the quinoa from becoming GMO or contaminated with GMO? Part of the appeal is that it’s not grown in the US, so it usually isn’t. Fingers crossed.

Less sugar, more starch. . .right.

A British ingredient company has a new sweetener called avante that claims to allow bakers to use less sugar in their products. This tapioca-based product, which is being called a “clean, non-GMO starch,” is still going to be a sugar, especially if they continue to reduce the fat content in these sweets. (Diabetics already know this.) But sweets aren’t something we consume every day, right? Right?

Anyway. . .

The local festival used to be at what they call the “fair grounds,” up the street, but now it’s in the street in front of the library. Rides, vendors, etc., like every church fair you’ve ever been to, except in the street. Whatever–all I know is the library was blocked off Thursday, closing early on Friday and closed all day Saturday. I’m back in the library today, getting back into the swing of things.

Crawfish Night

BF has been “having a craving” for crawfish lately, and Friday night he gave in. Took us to one of those places up the street from the library that doesn’t have a website, they just have seafood and laminated menus. Me, I could take it or leave it. . .but a nice plate of steak or chicken fajitas, some good guacamole, pico de gallo, and maybe some crispy corn chips? Oh, out of my way!

He bought six pounds of them, a couple of chunks of corn on the cob and a few potatoes, which are traditionally boiled in with the crawfish. We took them home and carefully kept them away from the pit bull on the way in the front door. Admittedly, as indifferent as I was to having crawfish again, they were pretty darn good. We sat at the big dining table with some of those big round trays he keeps for such a purpose and dove in. The cat was very interested in what she was smelling, but when offered a bit, turned her nose up. And the leftover shells and corn cobs? BF put those outside near a huge drainpipe for the night creatures. Next morning it was clean. We have visions of possums and raccoons cheering for such a special meal. But they don’t say much, they just enjoy it.

Working. . .in Starbucks

No kidding, I just set up my laptop and stuff, take my black stovepipe coffee mug and walk up to the counter. Since I’ve been in there a lot, and Hammond’s store doesn’t seem to have much turnover, the folks who work there seem to know me when I hit the front door. With earned money on my app, I asked for coffee and one of their breakfast sandwiches. I was hungry, so. . .I had one. (Three, actually, one a day.) That’s not a regular thing, but these were unusual circumstances. I dropped my honey off at his place of employment and hit the road.

Hammond is about a 30-minute drive from Casa de Rurale, and I’ll either listen to the radio, stream music or chant for a while. (In Houston, we called that “windshield diamoku.”) Starbucks is kind of my “Hammond Central,” just because I know where it is. I also know where Winn-Dixie, Tuesday Morning, Rouse’s, Harbor Freight Tools, Lowe’s, RaceTrac (subject of an upcoming blog post) and. . .drum roll. . .Walmart is. They’re all up the street from Starbucks!

I really was working

Today my newest client just gave me two more jobs, and I have another article due next week for the natural health folks. That article is going to spawn a blog post here, BF will be treated to some new food, and possibly another taste-tester or two. I’ll have a backlink for you to read the client article in the blog post, too–but I haven’t finished the article nor the work for the blog post yet. That baking may be this week or at the weekend, so keep your fingers crossed for that one.

I got some coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and got to it. I finished up the last article for my natural health client first, and sent it off to them. They’ve accepted it, and I’ve been paid for it. After a message exchange, I asked about the next one. Checking my milestones, I realized that the next the next article was due on the 29th, and another April 4th, I think. But my newest client’s work work was due sooner. She was supposed to send it, but I hadn’t heard from her, so I checked in. Whoops! Someone slipped up, it was late, and she sent it shortly thereafter. With a free refill on the decaf I put down the next article that I’ve already started, got right on her web copy re-write.

Starbucks Rewards–it pays!

I don’t know if it was just the Hammond store or what, but they’ve been running a special with the breakfast sandwiches–a couple of them are $5 with a coffee. That’s going on until something like April 5th. Well, the sandwiches run about $4.50, and coffee is anywhere from $2 on up, so yes, it’s a good thing. With my own coffee tumbler, there’s a ten-cent discount as well (not just for Rewards members, either.)

I learned to work the system

Then there is what they call a “Star Dash”–a period of time where you buy or do certain things or make a certain number of purchases–and you receive a sum of “bonus stars” (points) in return. Sometimes it’s using their mobile ordering app, which I’ve done. Sometimes it’s getting a breakfast sandwich, a certain type of coffee (i.e., a Flat White) and a dessert item, either separately or together, for those stars. But this particular time, it was from March 14 through March 20. If you make 5 separate purchases, no matter the dollar amount, you would receive 75 bonus stars, in addition to the stars you already receive by the actual purchase (say, 10 stars.) If you make 7 purchases, you would receive 200 bonus stars. These stars also count towards the continuation of your “gold” status for another year.

If you went into Starbucks every day for a coffee, as many Americans do, you would probably reach 125 stars, after spending $62.50. That’s how much you spend normally to reach 125 stars and get a free thing. But if you hit one of the star dashes, well, that goes up quick. I already had a free thing from a previous promotion, and I used it last week. But I still managed to rack up the 200 bonus points.

I got hungry

There was the coffee and breakfast sandwich first thing, and then free refills as long as I was there. But woman does not live on free coffee alone. And dinner was hours away, after BF got off work. We did have one day of CrockPot dinner. There was also a leftover night and Pizza Waffles on the Griddler. But in between, I did some investigation on what was available. In addition to the breakfast sandwiches, which are *not* gluten free, they have panini, but no sandwiches or salads. Pass. And of course, they have the cake pops, cookies, muffins and other baked goods available in the case, but I decided to go out of the case and try something new.

Emmy’s Organics

Something sweet was just the ticket, and I found these while waiting in line:

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Chocolate cookies!

There are three chocolate cookies in this package, and I have to say they were not only tasty, but filling, too. Never seen them before? Me either–but they were good. They’re organic, gluten free and vegan–what could be wrong with that? Nothing, from what I saw:

 

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They even use Agave Syrup

Healthy nibbles that were definitely worth it:

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See?

So what’s in the package? These cute little rounds:

Chocolate!

No frosting, no fancy design, just a cute little round. What do they taste like?

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Yum!

These really are good–sweet but not *too* sweet. They’re about $3 a packet, so I wouldn’t be doing these daily. (Remember this was kind of unusual.) But they’re a pretty good thing to have with afternoon coffee.

The blonde version

I also found the Vanilla Bean version right next to it, and had them the next day:

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These are good, too

The ingredients are similar:

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But no chocolate

They’re good, but I prefer the chocolate version.

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Same as the chocolate one, only lighter.

Emmy’s Organics makes a variety of flavors, available on their website, of these coconut cookies. You can read more about Ian and Samantha’s little company here, how they got started and how they’ve grown.

So what else did you find?

If you are missing Girl Scout Cookies, or wish they came gluten free, here’s a fake-me-out version that you might be interested in:

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Can they say that?

They’re non-GMO and gluten free, but what’s in them?

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The usual starchy replacements.

Tread carefully, since these are high in carbs. I didn’t try these because I found the coconut cookies, but I might have. I was thinking about it, anyway.

There is also meat:

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Meat!

I didn’t try these either, because I didn’t notice them early enough. Maybe next time. My choice would have been beef, of course:

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Gluten free, grass fed beef, but I don’t know what that flavoring is.

I didn’t ask the price for these, either, but I should have. Next time.

All around me, things were coming up spring:

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Spring coffees, new cups and new stuff!

And a lot of telling information here:

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Base?

They don’t sell soft drinks, but some of these specialty beverages are every bit as sugary.

They also have new cups for Easter:

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Aren’t they cute?

This is what one of them says:

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Awww. . . .

The total

So after all that, I found myself with 304 points, which meant two free things. Yesterday I headed to Mandeville for my district meeting, and after a quick forage in Whole Foods, I hit the Starbucks across the street. I was really, really hoping they had salads, but no. It’s warmed up again here, so I decided on a large, fancy iced coffee. The Iced Cinnamon Almond Milk Macchiato looked good to me, and it was–mostly.

Starbucks

Yes, that’s the way it was handed to me.

I asked for decaf *and* sugar free syrup, so I guess it was not exactly to spec. I added a packet of pink and it was still a bit strong, so I added some half & half. Now it was perfect! I put it in the cup holder and headed back to the Casa. It was a pretty good day.

Stop Hating on Starbucks!

OK, so, I know the GER is reading this and gritting his teeth, wondering why I keep going in there. And there’s probably one or two other readers who don’t agree with me on going in. First, well, it’s the best place to go in these parts and get as much free coffee as they’ve given me. And they do a lot of good.

There’s a rumor that has been around for many years that says “Starbucks doesn’t support our troops.” True, they do have their political leanings, but they also do a lot of good. Not everyone can get hired on, but there are good benefits for people who do. But for our military folk, Starbucks does step up to the plate.

It started with an email

The story is here on their website, how how it all went down with a U.S. Marine. Starbucks has facilities all over the world, including military bases. They’ve made the goal to hire more vets and vet spouses. And they deliver coffee to service members overseas.

Yes, I remember #RaceMatters, and the blowback they got for it. Nobody’s perfect. And I know about their preferences in states with concealed carry. But it’s still a nice little place to go sometimes.

Why?

The people who actually work in the Hammond store are pretty darn nice, and are happy to make my decaf. So are the customers. I had mostly the same experience in Houston, except for that one down in the Tunnel. You meet some nice folks in Starbucks. My friend BS, who left Boeing to move back to New Mexico about ten years ago, met his wife in there not long after he moved there. They’ve been married for, what–eight years now? Maybe not that long. I’m not looking for another boyfriend, of course, but I’ve talked to some really nice folks in there. There’s one man I see frequently who’s polite, and in between projects, we talk about stuff sometimes.

Still missing Texas

I still miss my HEB, and the Starbucks on my Street, and of course, my friends. I know some people here, and just accepted a friend request from a lady who is leaving the library for a better job on Friday. I finally got a rack for my kitchen stuff, and unpacked a bunch more boxes yesterday.  BF gave me some help moving things around after I got all that taken care of, and we are both sore today. I’ll take a couple of pictures when I get it all finished.

I’m getting used to things, I guess. We realized the other day that it’s been six months since BF drove to Houston for a “rescue mission.” It’s not always smooth sailing, but we’re getting there. And the garden will be happening soon–the citrus trees have lots and lots of buds on them.

Meantime, I’m back writing for clients, and hanging out at the local library. It’s kind of nice to get out of the local vibe and hit Starbucks sometimes, or go work on a Sunday because I can get ahead on things.

I’ve got more stuff coming, so stay tuned.

Enjoy!

A Monday Post for the Water Cooler

Hi, again, Dear Readers:

Yes, I know. . .we’re all sick of it. Tomorrow, it’s over. Got to be the worst ever. Yes, I early-voted. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Many of you have probably noticed the inclusion of adverts on HeatCageKitchen in recent weeks. This is no accident. I read an article about how to simply do this, and, while I’ve got the widget set up and the desired ads in place. . .I’m not really good with the placement. So I’ve been fiddling with it and hoping it all comes out somewhat more aesthetically pleasing.

I can’t say that it’s necessarily worked. But the ads are there. I signed up for a number of additional affiliate programs, including Suzanne Somers’ website, but I don’t have the ads placed yet. I’ll get on that soon. And for some reason, I can’t see all the ads when I look at the site on the Mozilla browser, but they all show up on Google Chrome and Safari. Go figure.

There is a disclaimer on my About page that I do participate in affiliate programs. For the Amazon ads, I specified kitchen-y things for my site; if you click on the link and end up buying something, i think I’m supposed to get something out of it.  I haven’t received any checks in the mail yet, but that’s OK. I probably need to get back into Google AdWords and mess with it a little more. I hope none of the ads are anything bad. . .this is a polite food blog, after all. I am primarily focused on kitchen stuff, foodie things and an affiliate link from my site host. But if you see something truly offensive, do take a screenshot and let me know about it.

Okay, let’s talk food.

Do you like potatoes? Do you hate the fact that if you don’t dunk them in water or use them fast enough after you cut them, they turn brown? Well, now you can rejoice. . .the FDA is approving potatoes that don’t turn brown. That’s right, two companies have received permission to create, market and sell genetically modified (GMO) non-browning potatoes. The idea is to keep more potatoes in the food supply, and reduce the number that are rejected for foodstuffs like potato chips. Or, more accurately, as one of the commenters stated, “So the chance of eating old or rotten potatoes is much better than it used to be for consumers.” Hit the nail on the head, she did. If you’ve read Wheat Belly, you know that your first clue is the term “genetically modified.” (Second would be “GMO.”) Nothing good comes out of this GMO business, despite what they say about it–allergies, mysterious illnesses, etc. Of course, you may not be told you’re buying anything GMO, but it’s there. BF recently bought a bag of potato chips that stated on the label that it was partially produced with GMO ingredients. Do you think he noticed it? Of course not–he can’t read print that tiny, nor would he pay attention to it. But I saw it and mentioned it. He only said that they taste good.  One of these days he’s going to come home from the doctor and give me a list of things he’ll need meds for. Then, like Dr. Hotze says, he’ll be on a pot full of drugs. . .but of course, I’ll be intervening long before then.

Anyway. . . .

Last month, the local library hosted. . .a jazz concert. No kidding, the Reggie Sanders Trio came out and played for a couple of hours:

2016-10-01-11-31-53

This is a small terrace upstairs, and on a normal day, it just has tables and chairs. But this particular day saw these folks play some nice music. The host, Mr. Sanders, gave us a bit of history about jazz and the area, too. We’d had a cool front, it was a beautiful day with dry weather and a nice breeze up there. BF had to work, which was a good thing, because he preferred to be at work than at a jazz concert.

But all I could think of was that as bad as everything was, and how life kind of crashed around me, I landed in a place with a small but fabulous library that hosts a jazz concert for me. (Well, other people came too.)

Now, it wasn’t just a concert–there were munchies as well, as well as some delicious iced coffee courtesy of the nice folks at Community Coffee, who also provide the free coffee available in the mornings:
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I prefer the Mocha; the French Vanilla is a little too sweet for me. But I didn’t over-do it, and I stuck with the fruit, cheese and salami nibbles and left alone the mini-muffins.

Bad as it all is, I got to do this. So I give many thanks for that, as well as the opportunity to attend, and the BF who says, “sure, go ahead, just pick me up after work at. . . .”

After what I saw this past weekend with the area’s “community traffic congestion,” I’m definitely sticking to my low-carb/Paleo/gluten-free eating plan! I would rather just not eat than have something with wheat, soy or other stuff I know I need to avoid. The city had a “yard sale” that went for 15 miles on a two-lane highway, primarily residential. It’s apparently annual, but I only found out Wednesday night. I sold a few small things, BF made $100 for something he built, but we were required to get up before the chickens and be at his brother’s property for 6:00 am. (I still want to buy new dishes, darnit.) People were already lurking about when we were setting up and trying to thaw our feet from the early morning chill. BF had three handmade pallet items for sale, but only sold one, despite my best marketing. I called them “sustainable,” “recycled,” and “handmade by a local artisan,” but we only sold one. It didn’t help when I mentioned to the female shoppers that he was handsome, because, well, they’re all out looking for baby clothes. One lady said to me, “it must have been made by your husband or your brother.” I replied, “my boyfriend, and please don’t let him hear you say that.” Well, we’ll use them on the patio, and the pit bull has a place to hang out. Maybe I’ll find a nice belt sander and apply it so we can stain them later.

As the sun came out, we saw people with less and less clothes–shorts, t-shirts, etc., until finally I could take my jackets off and switch to a baseball cap. Of course, other folks did too–and many of them should *not* have been wearing shorts, if you get my drift. BF made a comment about it, and I said, “now do you understand why I eat the way I do?” I passed on the “honey bun” kindly offered to me at 5:45 am, and not because I wanted to be rude. I have extra weight I’m working on shifting, and I’ve lost about 10 pounds so far, but. . .good heavens, I look borderline anorexic here. Lots of women smoke, too. When I told The E-Man yesterday about one particularly impolite woman who smoked half a dozen while she was on the property, he said, “ask if she’s working on her smoking-hot body.” BOOM! That’s The E-Man.

Well, anyway. . . .

During this local community traffic jam, I had to go right through it to bring BF to work, and return to his brother’s place. We made it, and had a lovely early lunch at a local eatery. On the way back, I noticed vendors closer to town selling artisan jams–on the other side of the road. There was no way to get over to see what they had, darnit. Guess BF has to stick with the stuff from the grocery for a while.

Before stopped to eat, I’d decided I would stop at PJ’s Coffee for a yogurt parfait. Cool, sweet, and fruity, and just enough to hold me over until dinner. I didn’t know BF was going to do that, so I thought that I’d have it after the activity. I did, of course, after the traffic jam was over, all the stuff was picked up and everyone went home. I think we packed it in about 3:00 pm, and about 4:00 pm or so, I made it to PJ’s. There was my yogurt parfait, but on the counter was something I’d never seen before. Oh, can it be? Yes, it is:

 

Image result for haydel's hand pies

Help for the Hubig’s deprived! (Source: Google Images)

Haydel’s Bakery, renowned for their king cakes, has picked up the banner where Hubig’s left off four years ago. A box containing a couple dozen of these, in four flavors, was prominently perched on the counter by the register. I asked if they were new; the barista said that they’d just arrived the day before (Friday.) They’re priced at $3 in PJ’s. I paid for my yogurt and sat down to consume the cool, sweet refreshment, and texted BF.

“If I told you I was going to buy a pie, would you prefer Chocolate, Lemon, Cherry or Apple?” 

BF responded: “Chocolate.”

So I bought a chocolate hand pie, and had them put it in that fancy PJ’s bag and took it home, leaving it by his chair. When I picked him up, I told him I had a little present for him, but didn’t elaborate. He was very tired, more than I was, but he tore open the wrapper and bit in. Thumbs up from BF, so it’s got to be pretty good. He wasn’t aware of Haydel’s venture into the hand pie. And, he deserves a nice dessert in a fancy coffee shop bag sometimes, too.

Note that I didn’t touch it myself, other than to purchase it. Not after what I saw on Saturday at the community yard sale! No, they are *not* gluten free, and don’t hold your breath on that one. New Orleans doesn’t seem to care about gluten free anything, but maybe I haven’t looked far enough.

Apparently, Haydel’s Bakery started selling them back in September to customers happy to have them. The first day, they sold out. There are currently only 4 flavors, with seasonal Sweet Potato Pie being sold only at the bakery (source: Haydel’s Facebook page.) I had no idea, but, I’m a gluten-free Texan–I only pass along this info, and I’m not touching them.

Haydel's hand pies flavors

The four flavors of Haydel’s Gourmet Hand Pies. (Source: NOLA.com)

The pies are slightly different than the original Hubig’s–Haydel’s bakes their pies instead of frying them. And Haydel’s has made them for many years. But according to news reports, baking the pies is not stopping anyone from enjoying them every day. And finally, north of the lake, folks can enjoy them too.

Oddly, these pies are *not* mentioned on Haydel’s website, and their blog consists primarily of wedding related topics (it hasn’t been updated in a while, either.). So if you’re of a mind to try them outside of the greater New Orleans area, you’ll probably have to call them directly. They’re not open today, so my “news gathering” came primarily from. . .news websites.

For the record, I have attempted to contact Hubig’s folks by the usual outlets, but have never heard from anyone. It’s been 4 years, and as much as fans want them, the market share may be lost forever as more bakeries step up to re-create the Hubig’s treat.

Sunday saw me drive back to New Orleans for a monthly activity at the SGI-USA Community Center. I felt better this time; I guess it was just too soon last time. I also took a freshly made flask of my favorite Pea & Pesto Soup with me for later, and had plans to stop at either Whole Foods or Fresh Market for dinner something. Knowing that BF was really tired, I did morning prayers at home, in case I ended up being late. When it was obvious I would be, I was covered. I called The E Man and told him that I was coming but not on time. (Next time, I leave at 8:00 am instead of 8:30.) He said, “I’ll take you to lunch. . .” and that’s all I heard. Lot of noise going on behind him, so I didn’t get everything he said.

After the meeting, there was mingling and chatting and I was talking to people I haven’t seen in many years. At the first meeting I went to at PB and NM’s place last month, I met a lady who talked about someone else whose name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place the face. I mean, it’s been 18 years. . .but yesterday, there I was, talking with the lady, JL, like it was yesterday. Turns out JL and her partner have six cats, and live. . .within a 15 minute drive of BF’s house. Woo hoo! So I’m feeling just a little bit better about it. I always say BF makes it easier, and now I find out JL is also nearby, and she invited me to go chant with them, despite their flooded house that they are working on fixing. Awesome. Might not be a bad idea on a night when BF works late. Now I’m wondering what I can make to bring, and if I have enough scrap fabrics to create something nice for these two ladies. (I had to leave a couple of bags of scrap fabric behind when I left Houston, so I may not.)

There was also a big cake after the meeting, along with some cookies, and fruit. NM gave me fruit and told me to take it home for my altar, which I did, after eating a couple of them. Tomorrow, I plan on putting them into the slow cooker for some dessert. If it turns out good, I’ll tell you more. But I definitely passed on the cake and cookies, much to the amusement of NM, who couldn’t stop licking the icing off the cake board with her fingers when the cake was gone. (I sang to her, “DI-AH-BETES!”) Honest, it was not at all a temptation after seeing lots of very large women walking around on Saturday. (I told BF it should be called “Obesity, LA.,” but I’m sure that name would go to several more cities.)

I took The E Man into the back room and. . .told him to find a cup or something. He found two small cups, and I shared my Pea & Pesto Soup with him, just to see if he’d like it. Know what? He liked it! The E Man has a wider palate than BF, or maybe he’s just a little more open-minded, I dunno. I told BF’s brother about the magic green soup, and he responded with a huge grin and said, “Oh, well–Yeah, he’s a simple guy, just meat and potatoes.” More soup for me!

Eventually, the crowd thinned, and I hopped in E Man’s car and we went to a longtime New Orleans institution–Mother’s Restaurant on Poydras Street in the Central Business District. Honest, I think the last time I was there was the 80’s. No kidding. Back when I was *much* younger, and a newlywed (the first time) I worked at the Lykes Building across the street, and would occasionally get (no kidding) biscuits with their exclusive ham. Delicious, but didn’t know that the biscuits weren’t the best thing to be eating. I put on a little weight, but not a lot, and a year later, moved onto a job elsewhere that I was better qualified for. (That’s not saying much, though.)

I had no idea what to order, and when we finally found the menu, I saw lots of bread–oh, dear, I’m going to be eating later. Suddenly, I saw the saving words:

Breakfast (served all day)

Thank you!!

Then I found the “Build Your Own Omelet” and I knew I could eat safely. So, I asked for tomatoes, mushrooms and bell pepper, and roast beef, which was served on top. (Mother’s is also known for fantastic roast beef, and serves something called “debris,” using up cuttings and served in au jus gravy.) Because of the rushed atmosphere, I am not aware that this breakfast plate is accompanied by a small bucket-load of cooked grits and a biscuit the size of a hubcap. Clueless, I asked why these were served to me when I didn’t order them. “Oh, it comes with the omelet plate.” This was in no way obvious. But later, our nice server came by with a couple of take-out containers, and E Man took home the hubcap-sized biscuit and grits for breakfast, along with half of his fried seafood po-boy sandwich for Monday lunch. (I wondered how he was going to down that whole sandwich.)

When we were ordering, we were also asked what we’d like to drink. E Man ordered root beer, I ordered water and asked for a couple of slices of lime from the bucket of lime slices behind the counter. I didn’t think it was an unusual request; I never had a problem in Houston getting limes. But in NOLA, limes are uncommon except maybe in Mexican-style places. Mother’s is a place where tourists abound–why would it be out of order to ask for limes, especially if they’re available? You would have thought I’d asked for crystal meth. The stare I received from the woman serving the water told me I shouldn’t have asked, and after five minutes of waiting, she begrudgingly put a single lime slice in a cup and banged it on the counter at me.

That, Dear Readers, is real New Orleans. I had a similar experience with the Dunkin’ Donuts on Florida Avenue in Baton Rouge week before last, looking for my birthday drink, receiving a curt response: “we don’t do decaf here.” (I’ve already contacted DD about it.) On both occasions, I told E Man and BF, “that’s your ‘Louisiana Strong.'”And it’s why Louisiana will never be as good as Texas. On a basic level, it never really changes. Texas people get it. Louisiana really doesn’t. What a shame.

Yes, I mentioned it to E Man when we sat down. Much as I appreciated going to Mother’s, it was the subtle reminder that New Orleans was never the place for me, and never will be.

But, yes, if you don’t mind that sort of thing, Mother’s does serve quite good food, and always has.

After we left, I mentioned that before I headed home, I wanted to stop at one of the New Orleans grocers to get a few things for dinner. (Walmart and Winn-Dixie aren’t HEB, trust me.) Well, we went into a Rouse’s Supermarket. . .downtown. No kidding, there are enough people now living downtown New Orleans that Rouse’s opened up a location there. And I thought Phonecia Foods was forward-thinking when they opened a location in downtown Houston. 

I was not expecting it to be so. . .urban, I guess. Clean lines, smaller than a “supermarket,” but with plenty of nice things stocked. We ran into one of the SGI members we saw in the morning; she was planning a roast chicken. I thought about doing that for BF, but decided to make it easier. (Maybe she thought I was cooking dinner for E Man, too.) After losing my companion a couple of times, I picked up some chicken thighs, some center-cut pork chops (going into the Crock Pot tomorrow) and some Richards’ Chicken Sausage. I really like the chicken sausage I get in Trader Joe’s, so I figured this would be at least as good. (I mean, there was a $1 off coupon on them.) Just because it’s “Cajun” does not mean it’s hot. Same thing as anything “Texas.”

Now this is what they mean when they talk about “shopping local,” but. . .I couldn’t help but notice the Texas-made products, too. I didn’t buy those Texas beef and venison sausages, because I have bought them in HEB and know they’re delicious, but a little spicy. BF doesn’t like spicy, it upsets his stomach.

Another thing I found, but didn’t purchase, was something called Hugo Naturals. This looks like the kind of thing you find in Central Market. In fact, for a minute, I forgot I wasn’t *in* Central Market, and then E Man came back from the gents. Everything smelled so good, and I very nearly bought a bar of that lavender soap. Well, maybe next time. Their products are vegan, soy and gluten free, cruelty free (not tested on animals) and minus all the synthetic ingredients in regular toiletries. Rouse’s had soaps, bath salts and bath “bombs,” but we only have a shower stall. Lavender is great for sleeping, and I like to shower at night with lavender. (And I hope I soon find the lavender bags I had in Houston tucked under my pillows.) Whole Foods and Sprouts carries these products as well, but you can also order online.

Much as E Man reads this humble blog, he still suggested going to Cafe du Monde for beignets after lunch–yes, donuts! I thanked him, but declined–I don’t eat donuts. I did tell him I wanted to head to Dunkin Donuts on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, and he said “just follow me.” On the I-10. (They don’t like it when you call it “the freeway” here. And they only have one.) Once we got of  I-10, we went this way and that through the back streets, and finally arrived.

This location of Dunkin Donuts is right next door to a Starbucks. I kid you not. We walked in between the cars in the Starbucks drive-thru to get to Dunkin Donuts. Only in New Orleans, folks. There is also a Baskin-Robbins in the building, so I had. . .a single scoop of dark chocolate in a cup–no cone, mix-ins or sprinkles (Ice cream has less sugar than yogurt with fruit on the bottom–if you don’t believe me, check the nutrition information on them.)  THEN I ordered my birthday drink–large decaf Macchiato with sugar-free hazelnut flavoring. They didn’t even blink–no problem, and it was delicious all the way home.

The house is still a mess, but we’re working on it. Soon as we paint the back room, including the concrete floor (don’t ask) and then move all my stuff back there, I’ll have an office and will be able to hopefully write more and sew again. Darnit.

It’s a big week in the United States. Take it easy on the caffeine, calm your nerves, and have some comfort food. Not too much, just some, and make it your favorite, whether it’s popcorn, peanut butter, Pea & Pesto Soup, or a grilled cheese sandwich. (BF says I make the best grilled cheese. Because I do.) And, if you’re of a mind to, do as Dr. Sheridan says when he’s on the radio filling in for Dr. Hotze: pray for your country today. Yes, I do too.

Enjoy.

 

The “Use It Up” Frittata

Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers:

I’m quite happy to receive two very nice comments on my last blog post, one from Miss Alice herself. I hope you try Miss Alice’s Magic Beans soon and enjoy them. I’m looking forward to the next time I can make some, but BF says “I’m all beaned out for a while.” But I made something fast last night that I thought I should tell you about.

I also mentioned that my beloved Cuisinart toaster oven is now. . .toast. Oh, it still works, but. . .not well. Let me explain further.

The model I have, I think, I bought about 2009 or 2010. It’s a well-built workhorse, and it’s done a great job for me since I bought it. The one I had before was a Christmas gift from the GER, and I used that heavily until the electrics went. Well, the front panel on this one, which contains the circuit board, come loose a while back. It was fine, I guess, until it got a little jostled in the move. We moved it to Neighbor E’s place, and it sat for a month until we moved it last week to my new location, and it was moved around a bit more, in the back of the pickup. I plugged it in, and the readout acted a little wacky, but after a couple of unplugs and re-plugs, it seemed to be working fine.

I’ve been cleaning out the back room that will soon be my “studio”, and going in and out of the main part of the house. Not suspecting there was any reason to be concerned, I put a lovely pork loin roast into the beloved toaster oven and went about my business. I checked on it periodically, and the Herbes de Provence-coated roast was cooking along just fine.

Until it wasn’t. I had an emergency. And BF was at work.

I went back into the main part of the house and saw thick, heavy smoke. (Thank heavens the dogs are outside.) I went into the kitchen, and just saw more smoke–no flames, thank heavens, but SMOKE. Now, I’m accustomed to a little of it, particularly roasting things like turkey and chicken at 400F–my eyes burn a little, and I had to open up the patio doors to let that all out. Took a few minutes with the air conditioner cranked down to about 65F. Then the odor and smoke is gone, and I can go back to what I was doing. But this was the thick white smoke that comes from something burning.

I rang BF at work for help, and he told me what I needed to know. He has a big floor-stand fan that’s missing the front (I’ll get that cleaned and back together soon), and I had that plugged in and blowing fresh air in as well as one from my place by the front door. Opened all the windows and sat on the patio with the curious pit bull who kept  licking my face to let me know it was OK while BF texted me and said, “Relax.

The pork roast was charred, but tasty once you cut past the burned bits (which the dogs happily munched.)

The next day I did some forensics–cleaned the whole thing up, but didn’t take any pictures. It was that bad! The drip tray was full of grease, and grease was baked onto the glass door. The square ceramic IKEA baking dish (similar to this one) was burned and broken into about six pieces from the center out, much like a large cookie–not shattered in a lot of little pieces. It was old, so I wondered if maybe it just had micro-fractures I didn’t notice and the heat did it in. Everything gets jostled around in a move, and we did have a few minor casualties, including broken glass. The breaking apart allowed the rendered-off fat to drip to the heating elements, then fill the drip tray and smoke up the house. Right?

Not exactly.

This where all my root-cause analysis and detective skills come in. See why I like to watch shows like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Burn Notice?

After I’d cleaned up that disaster and made it look shiny, I turned it on and set the temperature at 400F, which is what I use frequently (although the pork loin roast was set to 350F.) I left I it alone, and watched it while I washed dishes. I noticed that the convection fan was running, and it was getting pretty hot–but at no time did the readout indicate “temp ready,” which is what it’s supposed to do.

So I got to thinking–maybe it wasn’t the dish? After I left the library on Monday, we stopped at Walmart for milk (as we do every couple of days, because he drinks more milk than a cow produces in a day), and I went to the kitchen stuff section to get a little inexpensive oven thermometer. I just sat it in the baking pan and repeated the test. Guess what?

Now we know why.

Now we know what happened.

The temperature regulator is toast. The oven “works,” but it doesn’t stop at 350F or 400F, it just keeps getting hotter. That’s what fractured the baking dish into six pieces and allowed the grease to drip onto the heating element, smoking out the house. Had I used a stainless steel or aluminum pan, the roast probably would have still been charred, and it may have indeed smoked, but the metal wouldn’t have fractured like that.

So. . .we’re debating on spending money on a new, and for now, less expensive toaster oven from <gulp> Walmart or Target. Or should we send this nearly $200 model to the Cuisinart repair place in Arizona, and spend a currently unknown amount of money to have it repaired? The circuit board will have to be replaced, and likely the entire front panel, since it’s not exactly attached anymore and hangs by two wires. Is it worth it to have this one repaired, or would it be better to buy new? If we do, it will likely be an Oster, Black & Decker, or Hamilton Beach; I would just take measurements on this one to make sure I get one that’s relatively the same size. Meantime, I’m using the big oven for everything, or the little one on the left. That oven thermometer will be used to check the temps on those ovens as well.

This is what happens when life unravels. And sometimes, it’s highly annoying. Oh, well. . .so let me tell you about last night’s dinner.

I may have mentioned this, but we don’t have cable TV in our rural hideaway. (No Internet yet, either, until I can pay for it. I’m working on that.) We have two, and occasionally three, sets of PBS stations at our disposal–New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the one from Mississippi comes in occasionally (along with a radio station.) The other night, I turned on one of the stations to see cookbook author and chef Lidia Bastianich cooking with eggs. (It was a rare night when something called NCIS something-or-other wasn’t on.)  PBS now has multiple stations, and one of them is called @Create. It’s where they run lots of cooking shows, including Martha Stewart’s, most of the day. (There area also other craft shows, as well as shows like this interesting one called Urban Conversion.)

I haven’t made a frittata in a long time, and I figured, now is a good time to start making them again. Especially since there’s a hungry man in my environment. He was out in the workshop for a while, elbow-deep in some kind of car grease, and came in halfway through the show. Lidia was taking the frittata out of the oven, and turned it upside down onto a plate, much like you would a pineapple-upside-down cake. She’d sliced up some large tomatoes and put them on the bottom of the pan, added a couple of other things, and then poured the eggs over the whole thing. When it comes out, and you flip it, it has a lovely top. BF didn’t know what that was, and I told him–a frittata. He said he could do without the tomatoes.

Lidia also answered a viewer’s question about using leftovers to create frittatas. Lidia said that was a great idea, because leftover meat and veg are perfect for creating one-of-a-kind frittatas whenever you want. That’s when I realized–I could make them too! Why haven’t I done this in a long time?

If you’re like BF and have no earthly idea what that word means, well. . .let me ask you, do you know what a quiche is? (He doesn’t know what that is, either.) If you do, it’s basically a quiche without a crust under it. That’s the biggest difference, and they are prepared differently. Quiche is French while Frittata is Italian. Paleo, gluten-free and low-carb folks have adopted frittatas as one of their own, because they’re low-carb and fit right in. Purists may prefer the quiche, and the crust that comes with it (and it can be gluten-free with the right crust, but have a lot of carbs.)

If you really don’t know what either one is, think “egg pie.” Vegetables, meat, or a combination of the two, in a baked egg/milk or cream/cheese base that’s cooked on top the stove first, then put in the oven to finish it. It’s great for breakfast and brunch, of course, but also good for a quick lunch or dinner. The trick is to get started on it soon. . .and don’t wait until late like I did last night.

I found a very basic recipe for frittata on The Food Network’s website, as well as more recipes and an explanation of the difference at Chowhound. Here’s a primer on them from The Kitchn, which I will probably bookmark on my phone so I can refer to it again one day. Lidia also has a YouTube channel, and you can search it for a number of frittata recipes, too–I just can’t find *the* one I saw last week. If you search Food Network’s website for “frittata,” you also will find a myriad of recipes. But I’ll show you what I did with ours so you can see how easy and varied they can be when you’re wondering what you can make that’s new, or you have leftovers to use up.

I call it The Use-It-Up Frittata. Because that’s what I did–and I didn’t want to mess with a Red Baron Pizza.

The setup

The setup.

We had two pork chops left from the weekend, (recipe is here, but I used almond flour) and I figured BF didn’t want any more of them, so I used them elsewhere. Of course, for this, I wanted those HEB eggs from Texas chickens, green onions that are growing on the kitchen windowsill, and a hatch chile pepper that came from my garden in Houston. (It’s the only one that isn’t bright red, but I’ll use the rest for myself later.)

I started by grabbing a handful of green onions:

I didn't use all the green onions, but don't worry, they'll grow back soon.

I didn’t use all of them but don’t worry, they’ll grow back soon.

Chopped them up really well, then moved onto the pepper:

Hatch!

Hatch!

And you know I saved those seeds, too:

Always, always. I'm determined to grow Hatch chiles in rural Louisiana.

Always, always. I’m determined to grow Hatch chiles in rural Louisiana.

Chopped them up really fine, too:

Always, ALWAYS wear gloves!

Always, ALWAYS wear gloves!

Then I chopped up the two pork chops:

These really are delicious!

Delicious.

You want to chop meat small like this because bigger pieces will make it harder to eat once you cut the frittata. Next up, I added the onions and Hatch into a cast-iron frying pant to cook for a bit:

A little butter, a little olive oil

A little butter, a little olive oil, a little heat

Turn the oven on when you’re starting to cook on top the stove. You don’t want to wait for the oven to heat up. I recommend 350F, I think 375F was too high.

I think this was a bit too high of a temp.

Pretty soon, the veg will be cooked:

This is good.

This is good.

At this point, I added in the chopped pork chops to heat them:

See why you chop it small?

See why you chop it small?

And let them heat while you deal with the eggs:

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

I think I used 8 of these babies, from Texas chickens (yes, it’s a prejudice.) I also used my huge 8-cup Pyrex mixer so I’d have plenty of room. (You’re going to wash something anyway, right?) I cracked them right in and added a bit of milk:

img_3463

The eggs and milk work well together, especially here.

And because, DUH, I had this handy, I shook in about a quarter cup or so:

Yes, the infamous green bottle.

Yes, the infamous green bottle.

I have some Manchego in the freezer, but guess who doesn’t like that, either? So this is what went in:

Into the pool with it:

Into the pool with it:

Plugged in the immersion blender:

This is why the 8-cup bowl is best for this kind of thing.

This is why the 8-cup bowl is best for this kind of thing.

And hit the button:

Blitz! The egg mixture doesn't go flying all over the place. And it pours easily.

Blitz! The egg mixture doesn’t go flying all over the place. And it pours easily.

Now you’re ready to pour the egg mixture into the pan. Carefully, please:

NOW it's happening!

NOW it’s happening!

Your frittata is almost ready:

img_3476

Don’t forget to use the spatula to get every last bit of egg, milk and cheese out of the bowl and into the pot!

I put the universal pot lid on it so that it might cook a bit faster on top:

I'm sure BF looks at this and thinks to himself, "of course, she bought the red one."

I’m sure BF looks at this and thinks to himself, “of course, she bought the red one.”

Then I put it directly into the preheated oven to finish cooking (minus the lid) slicing through it to make sure it was completely baked:

Done!

Done!

With cries of “I’m hungry” from BF, and apologies for the the delay, I served this to him:

Use-It-Up Frittata

Use-It-Up Frittata!

I love it. It’s quick, easy, and because the pork chops were already cooked and seasoned, I didn’t have to do much of that. But what did the man of the house think?

“I don’t really like it. Can I have a grilled cheese sandwich instead?”

Yes, he really said that. And I did make him one, in the same skillet. I’ll be eating frittata for breakfast this week while he has some cereal and milk. That’s what he likes.

I asked him why he didn’t like it, and he said that it was “just too many flavors going on at one time.” So if I ever attempt a frittata again, I’ll have to tone down the flavor combinations and follow a recipe. (Not like there aren’t many around.)  I felt bad that it didn’t live up to expectations, and it wasn’t as special as I thought it was. He appreciated the effort, but just didn’t like the finished product.

And now the word “frittata” will be, in his mind, synonymous with something awful.

He did mention something about stuffing the other night, the kind out of a box. I consulted Will It Waffle? and made him. . .Stuffles. When I mentioned that I *could* waffle the stuffing, he got this smile on his face and asked, “Are you serious?” I nodded, and he said, “OK, go ahead.” And, you know, that was a pretty darn good thing to do. You just add some melted butter and water to a packet of the stuffing mix in a bowl, mix it up well, then heat up the waffle maker. Add a half-cup to each section, close the top for a few minutes (watch it, of course) and you’ve got hot, salty, greasy, crunchy, tasty Stuffles. If anyone wants the recipe, send me a note and I’ll write a post on it. (No, it’s *not* gluten free.)

Meantime, we’re doing what we need to around the homestead. BF has taken vacation time next week (the “use it or lose it” type) and it also happens to be. . .my birthday! Gifts don’t always come wrapped in a box. No Denny’s around, but I’ll be getting my yearly free salad (or something) from Starbucks, and maybe one or two other “birthday free things” I can find. Well, I knew I would miss some things when I moved here.

Y’all, frittatas are a great way to make a quick egg dinner for yourself, your family, as well as breakfast, brunch or lunch. Heck, really, anytime you’re hungry and have a few minutes.

Except for The E Man. Unfortunately, he’s allergic to eggs. My sincerest apologies to you, my friend.

So will you try it this week? If you’re in an area where it’s already cold, frittatas can really fit the bill any time. Here in the south, it’s not a long oven time, either.

Enjoy!

 

 

Miss Alice’s Magic Beans

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Welcome to another edition of What’s She Up To This Time? A lot, as it turns out.

I’m back with another dispatch from the wilds of rural Louisiana. (OK, OK, we do have “city water.”)  Yes, I’m still missing Houston terribly, but I’m getting better. A little. Maybe. OK, not so much. (BF helps a lot.) We finally went back to get the rest of my stuff from Neighbor E’s place in Houston last Wednesday, who graciously stored it in every nook and cranny of his place since I moved. Many thanks, and we finally got it all out and into the new HeatCageKitchen location. But I’m glad to finally bring you this incredibly delicious recipe courtesy of friend of the blog AC, complete with a printed PDF for you on the Recipes page.

But first, some news.

Once we loaded everything on the trailer and in the truck, which took about 2 hours, I made BF take me back to our fabulous HEB in Clear Lake for one last trip. (It was on our way to SH 146, which took us to I-10 anyway.)  In addition to some good HEB milk, applewood smoked bacon and 3 dozen extra large eggs from Texas chickens, I got 2 more jars of Mom’s Hatch Apple Pie Filling for our special cake (he loved it), so I can make it again for him one day. Also picked up a turkey breast (they were out of thighs, darnit) some chicken leg quarters, pork chops and a few other things I can’t get here. Had just enough room in the ice chest for the meat, milk and a bag of ice; the eggs and the new basil plant sat in the truck with us–and not one broken egg, either. I was only able to bring four plants with me, and you know I want more basil for pesto, so I bought the basil since the one at E’s didn’t make it.

I was planning to publish this a week ago, after a trip to nearby Hammond for a job interview. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, we went to Houston the next day, and we’ve been quite busy ever since. I’m nearly finished clearing out the back room, and setting up my new “studio” back there. I’m hoping to paint it soon, too, soon as I figure out what color scheme would be good for a cool, sophisticated office look back there.

In a part of the US that doesn’t even have recycling.

BF had a special request for me the other morning. “Would you make me some breakfast before I head to work?”  Of course! Immediately, I saw myself putting on an apron and sweeping through the kitchen to make a full English breakfast for him, sending him off to work happy he asked. However, this is what he requested:

Yes. Pancake Mix from Walmart.

Yes. Pancake Mix from Walmart.

Oh, yes, she did. Didn’t take long. (You can see my coffee brewing, right?) Appropriately, he put this on top of it:

img_3375

You don’t want to know what makes it “taste like butter.” It’s primarily soybean oil, GMO and hydrogenated and all that. He did get an earful, don’t worry. It’s a crock, that’s for sure—but he likes it, so I fixed him up, and he was happy with it. I’m working on it.

Anyway. . .I’m sleeping a little better these days. That’s a gift that doesn’t come wrapped in a box.

I still haven’t replaced the drip tray on the Griddler, but I have used it (carefully.) It’s a $10 part, and probably another $5 or $10 for shipping, but right now, it’s gotta wait. Last night I made Stuffles, or stuffing waffles, from that book, (his fault, he asked for stuffing with the pork chops, and I couldn’t resist) with “stuffing mix” from a box, and waffled a ham & cheese sandwich the other night after he came home from work.

Long story, but it’s looking like the mighty Cuisinart counter top oven may need to be replaced. It survived the trip, but it is at least 6 years old, and traveling in the back of the White Knight may have done it in. More on this story later.

I just wish I could have landed in The Woodlands, but, oh, well. It’s a hideout from the world here, that’s for sure. Cow Road is always a nice little drive, complete with numerous judgmental bovines that look at you like you really don’t belong on their turf. BF likes to call it “Cow Patty Road,” and he’s got some other funny names for things.

Oh, and BF prays a lot more now. Usually when I get behind the wheel of the White Knight.

Friend of the blog AK made a suggestion while I was writing the last post (I was at the library, and we were chatting on Skype.) AK said, “make this detour part of your blog. People are so tired of fake Barbie-style women bloggers. ‘I’m a busy mom four boys and married to my high school sweetheart! I’m obsessed with making everything from scratch, from meals to home décor. I do it all!’” I do hope that I’ve done that, particularly with The Dislocated Texan, and I’ll continue to write it as I see it. After I finished that post, and after chatting with AK, I realized, as I always say, “I’m not FoodBabe.”

HeatCageKitchen is the real thing. It’s about the good, the bad, and the absolutely disgusting. I’ve written about all three. I’m a Texan, now and forever, and I don’t mess around. (I hung up that sign in the kitchen, BTW.) Maybe I should learn to make real Texas kolaches for BF one of these days. We didn’t stop for kolaches while we were there, but maybe next time.

Enough of that.

You may remember that earlier this year, AC was coming to dinner nearly every week, and I was trying out new things on her as an new official taste-tester. AC enjoyed everything, then things changed and she just stopped coming by. I though I’d insulted her, but it was just that her schedule changed. She’s happily working now in a new job, at the same place as her new BF. They just moved into a house so they can be closer to work. AC will be in a district with many SGI members I used to know when I first moved to Houston in 1998, as well as be within a few miles of Central Market, IKEA, two locations of Trader Joe’s, The Container Store, and a number of other great places that I no longer have short-drive access to. Well, there’s always the websites, and Baton Rouge.

I went to the SGI Community Center in New Orleans a couple of weekends ago, and since me and BF have been a bit skint (that is, “kind of broke”) I couldn’t just stop somewhere for a coffee—I didn’t have coffee money! (I’m used to stopping for a coffee occasionally, so this was a bit of a shock, but we know it’s temporary.)  On the way there, I facetiously thought to myself, “now, where can I mooch a free coffee today?” I wasn’t going anywhere to ask, of course, it was just a stray thought, being silly. I was OK, I had some at home, and I was fine. Soon as I find my little green vacuum bottle, I’ll be taking Pea & Pesto soup with me on longer trips like that. Especially since BF does *not* like Pea & Pesto Soup.

Once I got to the Center and backed The White Knight in the last spot available, I sat down in the back corner of the main room, hoping nobody would recognize me. I really didn’t want to explain that my life has completely unraveled, I left behind everything I knew for 18 years, a wonderful man drove to Houston to move me to his house, and I’m embarrassed to be anywhere near New Orleans. (I’m still getting those “no thanks” emails from places in Houston that I’ve applied to.) That didn’t work, and I left after the first hour. I just didn’t feel like I belonged there. I was recognized by a couple of the members I used to hang out with years ago, and figured it was time to leave. I didn’t get to talk to NM, who was there, and texted her that I fled.

Friend of the blog E Man knew I was there, and he was sitting up front while I sat on the back row, in the corner. Guess it was too soon for me to go. Driving on I-10 West, E Man called, and asked me to stop by and see him before I returned to my new rural hideaway. I was at the Bonnabel exit, and he told me how to get to his place from where I was, just a few exits away. Eight years is a long time to remember the directions to someone’s place, but E Man is better than Google Maps, and I arrived just before he did. I got to play with his cats, met one of his friends, and fiddled with his computer and printer so he could print again. After downloading the updated print drivers, it still didn’t work, but the printer might be too old for a Windows 10 laptop.  Since this was now beyond my skills and expertise, I suggested he talk to his brother who is a bit more tech-savvy than I am. Despite the headache I developed, at least I felt a bit useful before I took the 60+ minute drive north. (I-10 West is also how you get to Houston.)

One of the things I needed to do was get a bottle of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for this recipe. I forgot when I was in Baton Rouge two weeks ago, darnit, and I’m sure Whole Foods would have had it. (I didn’t get that job, either.) They had nearly everything else I needed, but of course, I plum forgot after the ridiculous ride through traffic-clogged Baton Rouge to get there. (Almost like driving on I-610 West near the Galleria in Houston.) After I walked out of the Buddhist Center on Sunday, I relied on Apple Maps to get me to Whole Foods Uptown, and it was a straight drive up Prytania Street. Well, everything was fine until I got to Louisiana Avenue. Since there’s construction going on, you can’t take a left at Louisiana, you can only turn right onto it. The app doesn’t mention that little detail, either. This means you now have to drive down Louisiana Avenue to find a way to make a U-turn elsewhere so you can drive in the other direction to Whole Foods. Well.  . .I didn’t make it that far, I only got to the corner of St. Charles and Louisiana and stopped. What’s at that corner?

The Fresh Market.

See, they didn’t close the stores in Louisiana, only Texas and three other states. (Baton Rouge and Mandeville also have one.) But it didn’t dawn on me to try The Fresh Market, only Whole Foods.

I walked in and felt a little more at home. There, in a smaller space than the one we had in Clear Lake, was everything I remembered. (The wine section is upstairs, but I didn’t need to go up there; the Clear Lake store had everything on one floor.) I prowled a bit and saw. . .the coffee. Oh, but darnit! No money for coffee, only for the Bragg’s! Except. . .there are also sample cups. So, I picked up a sample cup, added a packet of pink and a little half-and-half and sampled some delicious, welcome hot Chocolate Cherry coffee. Walked around for a minute and found the Bragg’s, then circled back to refill that sample cup, Bragg’s in my hand.

I did that four or five times while I looked at the fully stocked shelves of goods not available at Winn-Dixie. So I actually *did* get hot, fresh, free coffee, and Chocolate Cherry flavor, too! It just wasn’t all at once. There weren’t many people in the store on Sunday morning at 11:15 am, and they looked rather sullen when they saw me. (Red-haired Texans get that look a lot.) My nice male cashier had a “man bun,” too, which greatly amused my military buzz-cut BF when I told him.  Otherwise, nobody said anything.  However, this particular trip, I just said “thank you” to the Universe for giving me some free coffee, in Chocolate Cherry flavor. It was greatly appreciated on a day where I was not feeling up to it.

BF was at work all day Sunday, and since I got home about 2:30 or so, I decided to take a nap before he returned. I didn’t hear him arrive, and he didn’t wake me or tell me he was home, he just got busy with it in the kitchen and cooked some delicious dinner for us. I smelled the cooking, but thought it was part of the weird dream I was having. What a sweetie. I did all the dishes for us.

Finally, I got all the ingredients together, since that was the last bit of the puzzle.  I can show you how to make this amazing, delicious and easy bean dish that I’ve been talking about for weeks, and we can have for years to come. (Well, I will, anyway.)

The setup (minus the Balsamic vinegar, I forgot.)

The setup (minus the Balsamic vinegar, I forgot.)

Yes, this is a lot of stuff for a pot of beans. But it’s worth it. (And of course, I forgot to include the Balsamic vinegar in this picture.)

Neighbor E, who is still a good friend but is no longer a “neighbor,” has been volunteering at the Clear Lake Food Pantry for some time, and has occasionally given me things that he either doesn’t want, has too much of, or wouldn’t ordinarily use. This wasn’t all the time, just on occasion (and I loved all the coleslaw, too.) Pinto beans are a staple in Texas, but I haven’t tried to buy them in Louisiana just yet. These are the last of them that he gave me before I moved to BF’s place,  so he gets credit here, too.

There are a few steps, but it’s really simple. Start by rinsing the beans, of course.

Clean beans are best!

Clean beans are best!

And add them into the slow cooker thingy, then fill it ¾ with water:

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And add the diced onions and garlic:

Peeling garlic is so easy with one of these.

Peeling garlic is so easy with one of these.

 

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Any excuse to use the garlic doo-dad!

 

Success!

Success!

 

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This was a small onion, but I think it was too much.

 

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Toss it all in.

I put a whole small onion in this batch, but I think it should be less than that, maybe no more than a third or a scant half cup of chopped onion. Also, I’d chop it a little finer, maybe use the food processor next time. Next batch may include green onions, since I’ve already started growing some in the kitchen window. This batch, I put too much onion in it, I think.

Cook up the half-cup salt pork or bacon (this was Trader Joe’s bacon pieces from my Houston kitchen.)

Bacon!

Bacon!

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Chop and add that in.

The paper bowl helps with the drainage. And, it just happened to be really handy.

The paper bowl helps with the drainage. And, it just happened to be really handy.

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Getting there!

Then shake in the salt, pepper, Balsamic Vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Aminos, and chicken stock:

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Stir it up a little:

Just a little stir, nothing serious.

Just a little stir, nothing serious.

And follow Amy’s directions for any slow-cooker recipe: Put the lid on, plug it in, turn it on and leave it alone. For at least eight hours, but of course, longer won’t hurt them. (Just don’t forget, OK?)

Hours later, you’ll smell them first, then have this:

Miss Alice's Magic Beans!

Miss Alice’s Magic Beans!

Of course, *before* I got to cooking them, BF took me into town for some errands. . .which should have happened after I put the beans in the slow cooker. They really do take at least 8 hours to cook. He cooked a pot of rice, but the beans were still kind of hard later in the evening. Next time, prep in the morning. But on the taste factor, it was two thumbs up.  Finally, I made something else he liked!

When you smell these beans, you’ll understand why I make a big deal about them.  They really are the best beans I’ve ever had. You’ll say the same thing when you make them. They really are that good.

Sunday family dinner? Make a double batch. You’ll need it.

Of course, I didn’t wash dishes beforehand, so this is what was waiting off-camera:

Oh, well.

Oh, well.

But all was well at the new HeatCageKitchen.

Another Sunday brought me to a Buddhist meeting on this side of the world, and found. . .The Fresh Market in Mandeville! So there’s a new adventure to tell you about in the quick dinner department. Of course, my Texas readers will be green with envy. . .plus, there’s Hatch chilies involved!

As always, the printable PDF is available on the Recipes page. I hope to bring you more tasty recipes and ideas again soon.

Many thanks to AC for not only letting my try these wonderful beans, but giving me the recipe so I could share it with everyone.

Enjoy!

The Dislocated Texan

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

OK, so it’s been a month, and you’re probably wondering what happened to me. Join the club, me too. And by the title of this post, you’re probably getting a fair idea of how it all went down.

To follow up on the last post, I eventually did bring back the oversized microwave and got. . .another small Rival microwave. But it’s not even plugged in. There’s a reason for that.

I’ll be as blunt as I can be: I am not living anywhere in Texas. Will I ever return? I don’t know, that depends on a number of factors. I hope to at least be able to go back and visit occasionally, since Houston is a five-hour drive from where I am now in. . .rural Louisiana. Someplace I never thought I would ever see, and never planned to be. But sometimes life takes you in different directions, no matter how you try to take your preferred path.

Take in this scene, which I politely call Cow Road:

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That’s not the real name of it, of course, but I didn’t know that until the third time I went on it. But there are two farms on the right side of this scene, and one of them, I think, is a dairy farm. Do they sell raw milk? He doesn’t know. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Texas, and in particular, Houston, is changing fast. (Just today there was a shooting in a high-dollar affluent neighborhood, with six people injured, one of those neighborhoods where “this sort of thing never happens.“) Things have been changing quite radically for a few years now, and if it continues, well, Texas will probably not be Texas anymore, and then the rest of the US will be hosed too. Lots more people moving in than there are jobs available, and a lot of people are being left on the side of the road. Governor Gregg Abbott’s office estimates 340+ families migrate into Texas every month, primarily from California. It’s obvious with large numbers of new, high-end vehicles you see driving down the street, and paper dealership tags riding around Clear Lake and in Houston. Everywhere I went, someone talked about “how it works down here in Texas,” or the more offensive, “you people down here in Texas.” Without showing my ruffled feathers, I politely asked each one of them, “and where are you from? What brings you to Texas?” They’re quick to tell, and I’m quick to say, “oh, so that’s why I can’t find a job for more than 2 years.” Yeah–don’t mess with Texas women. (I now have a coffee cup and a small sign that say that.) After 18 years of living in the Houston area, I’m a Texan, and nothing will change that, including a change of address form.

People like me, over 50, are routinely being shunted out of the workforce in favor of the so-called millennials and those under 40. Neighbor E is still looking for work as well, and while we hope he finds work soon, it’s not looking good.  That folly will catch up to industry eventually (and if you click around the ‘Net, you’ll see articles on both that and the forced removal of over-50’s), but it means that I have had to take refuge in a different kitchen, if you know what I mean.

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A cute little calf comes by to see what I’m up to. Cows startle easily, if you didn’t know that.

I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with a nice man for quite some time now, but haven’t mentioned it much here. He’s cute, smart, funny, lovable and a pretty handy manly man. We’re not connected “in a relationship” on Facebook at his request just to keep things private. I’m OK with that, and I won’t say too much about him here. OK, I have to–but I’ll have to keep identifying details to a minimum, because he’s a rather private person. (I know–what was he thinking?) This came as a complete surprise, and he knew my situation at the outset. He has offered for months to drive to Houston and “rescue” me, and every time he said it, I said “no.” Louisiana was someplace I escaped from and never wanted to go back to. When I visited him in January, it was the first time I’d been over the Sabine River since evacuating from Houston for Hurricane Ike in 2008. I always presumed that things would, eventually get better, and he would visit me in Houston, but it didn’t happen that way. At least not until this month, and he showed up with his white Chevy truck (we call it “The White Knight“) and an 18-foot trailer.

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Scenes like this are common along the small-town roads I now travel.

I waited until the last minute, hoping that the last interview would be a successful hire. When that didn’t happen, then I pulled the trigger on the “rescue.” It was a writing job, and as part of the interview process, I was required to take two sets of tests–one grammar, one writing–and I did well with the first one, I was told. The second I worked off and on all Labor Day weekend. Sent it back to the recruiter, and then I waited, but not for long. A couple of days later, I got that “no thanks” email, for which I have a less polite name. With only a phone interview with someone in Ann Arbor, it was decided that I “wasn’t a good fit for the position.”  Never met anyone. That’s when I called BF and said, “OK, it’s time.” It was not a decision I made lightly, but when you’re backed in a corner, there aren’t always many ways out.

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Cow Road, farther down

Neighbor E and AC offered lots of help with packing, and we packed as fast as we could. Correction, THEY did, and I looked at what they did and realized I didn’t really do anything. (That’s what it felt like, anyway.) They worked their paws off, and as much as I appreciate their generous time and help, it’s a favor I may never be able to return. The GER came by with some tarp, too (I still owe him $28 for that) met my BF, and gave him some help tying down cargo. They started talking about cars, because both are petrolheads, and I knew they were bonded at that point.

And that’s how I came to be The Dislocated Texan. Friend of the blog AK says that I should start another blog on being over 50 in America now; she’s not far behind me. I’m still thinking about it, but if I do, you can bet that’ll be the blog’s name. I’m returning to Houston this week to retrieve what I hope is the last of my stuff, which is now stored in Neighbor E’s place. If I can, I’ll get me another one of those coffee cups from Buc-ee’s that says, “Don’t mess with Texas Women.” Preferably one that isn’t pink, to keep on my desk at my next job. I’ve also got a small sign with the Texas flag that will be going up in the kitchen where everyone can see it.

I am a Dislocated Texan.

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These cows are actually in Louisiana. You can tell by the look. (Yes, that’s a joke.)

I hope I can go back and visit Houston, and Texas, again one day, do some shopping at IKEA, Central Market, and maybe even my fabulous HEB. Get some Texas pecans from Buc-ee’s or Frohberg Farms one day. I finally took my BF over there to see my HEB, the day we started moving me. I said goodbye to the nice ladies who always helped me out and fed me deliciously every Saturday after the Buddhist meetings at LK’s. (Even HEB turned me down for part time jobs.) BF was impressed, enjoyed the sampling and the company, saw what I’d been telling him about for a long time, and then we left. For now, locally my choices for grocery shopping are Walmart and Winn-Dixie. In Baton Rouge, there is a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods, thank heavens, and if I find myself working down there (I have an interview tomorrow and continue to apply there and other local cities), there will be regular grocery runs on the way home from work on payday or Fridays. I’ll eventually find the equivalent of an HEB, or something as close as I can get to it. If not during the week, it’ll be when he’s working on Saturday or Sunday, and he can’t stop me. (HA!)

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The Cow Posse

If HEB or Publix ever make their way into Louisiana, it’ll be a happy day for me. But Albertson’s, Rouse’s Walmart, Winn-Dixie and other local chains are likely to dominate for many years to come. Still, if they’d build an HEB in Baton Rouge like the one on Clear Lake City Boulevard. . .I’m just saying. But if you like HEB coffee, or lots of their other great branded products, you can buy much of HEB’s things online now.

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More suspicious cows.

I will, at some point, try to get back to see Dr. Davis and Woodlands Wellness, because I’d really rather not change doctors, but that may be what I have to do to get back on my hormones and back on the health track. (I have just started sleeping a little better after 4 years of not sleeping well at all.) We’ll see. I really, REALLY need to get back on all that, I’m feeling it, and it hurts.

Moving into someone’s house, away from everything I know in Houston, also means I now have ONE taste-tester, and he’s what us foodies call a “fussy eater.” This morning I offered him a bite of my Wheat Belly Apple Quick Muffin, which he sampled after having a bowl of some kind of sugar-coated wheat cereal with whole milk. (UGH.) He said it “tastes funny.” Interesting, since I made it with almond flour, just like the pork chops I made on Saturday, at his request, along with some black-eyed peas in the Crock Pot and some hurriedly cooked white (!) rice. He went back to work, I turned the classical music station back on the TV (there is no radio in the house, and cell phone service is spotty) and I later received a text message: “Lunch was awesome.

YES!

He wasn’t wild about me using up that sausage in his freezer and pairing it with the last packet of Halloumi cheese from Trader Joe’s, out of my kitchen in Houston. (He thought the jarred roasted red bell peppers were tomatoes.) The next day’s slow-cooker meatloaf went over a bit better, but the pork chops and black eyed peas made up for all that.

I have more room to cook in. However, I will need to eventually clear out all the cabinets, put down more shelf liner (I think I have plenty), and organize everything so that we can put our hands on the stuff we more frequently use. There may be shelves hung at some point, and the pantry space will be getting more of those white wire shelves to use up the wasted space (I’ve done that before for stock and seldom-needed things.)

But I’m telling you, that George Foreman thing has to go–it’s a huge pain to clean! And somehow, I’ve got to replace the grease trap on my Cuisinart Griddler–I just waffled a pizza the other day, but now I can’t find it! GRRRR.

His sparse pantry, not much bigger than mine in Houston, has been filled to overflowing with everything that came out of my smaller kitchen in Houston, including what are the last few remaining cans of SomerSweet in existence. I just found out today that Somersweet, through a series of events, is no more. I’ll visit the Baton Rouge Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods soon for reconnaissance on powdered erythrytol and powdered agave, as well as other possible solutions.

The look on BF’s face was pretty funny when he looked at organic this and gourmet that stacked up around his boxed stuffing mix, macaroni cheese and canned chili. I said to him, “I know there’s a lot of new things in your pantry, but please, if you don’t know what it is, don’t mess with it. Many of these things are expensive and will be hard to find around here.” He just smiled and shook his head. What did you expect a foodie to bring to your house–a checkers set? He doesn’t know what most, if any, of it is, but he knows I need it for cooking. Eventually we’ll be adding more of that white-wire shelving in there to use up the wasted space, like at the top and on the sides, and maybe something new for the inside of the door. I’ve added some small shelves I bought at IKEA several years ago that doubles space in spots, and he really likes them. I just wish I could get a few more of them for us.

I offered to make him some Overnight Oatmeal, but he passed–he prefers the “instant” sugared stuff out of a box. UGH!! When I mentioned getting organic milk at Trader Joe’s, he said, “Don’t go changing my diet!” Just improve, not change, that’s all.

I removed my Suzanne Somers’ EZ Gym from the suitcase last night, but it’s all rolled up in the storage bag. BF took one look and said, “are you going to kick my butt with that thing?” No. . .I suggested he go look at it on her website, but I don’t think he did. I hope to start using it again, and maybe hit the bike now and again, once things settle. No bike lanes in rural Louisiana, though, so I’m a bit skittish about riding on these skinny two-lane back roads. A bike trainer might be in my future.

I now have four slow cookers at my disposal–two oval four-quarts (one mine, one his), my large round six-quart and the small “Little Dipper” I bought a couple of years ago to help get rid of the cooking odors in the condo kitchen.

Oh, and here’s the ultimate irony: the cat lady now lives in a house with three big dogs, one of which is a 75-pound pit bull that just loves me. No kidding. I keep telling him I’m a cat person, but he doesn’t seem to care.

I’ve also met my new Buddhist leaders, PB and NM. I’ve known PB since 1988, and NM I only knew by reputation. They’re a couple, like me and BF, and came by to do a “home visit” last week. I was so glad to see both of them, and have also been in touch with LK since the move, too (plus she reads this humble blog when she has a chance.) I hope to make a Buddhist activity this weekend, but if not, it will be soon. Priority is getting all of my things out of E’s place, immediately, and getting unpacked and organized. Somehow. On his paycheck, at least for a while.

Because he’s such a manly man, he makes occasional furniture pieces from wooden pallets. You know, the stuff they use for shipping. I’m trying to get him into the mindset that we could pretty much rebuild the house with pallets, but he doesn’t see it that way yet. I helped my father when I was a kid in his workshop, so I’m not completely green on woodworking (oh, look, a pun!) I’m working on it. . .because I’d love to have a patio set, another kitchen rack, and lots of other lovely things that I see on Pinterest made from pallets. One thing at a time, of course.

So what does a food blogger write about once everything has changed? Well, restaurants–I’ve been treated to breakfast at a local place called Master Chef, a local fast-food place run by a very nice man named Tony. I’ve also been in a Waffle House–no kidding, again, for breakfast. I don’t think I’ve been in a Waffle House since the 1980’s, but last week, that’s where he took me to breakfast on our way to visit his cousin in nearby Mississippi. Know what? Some of the best scrambled eggs ever–they use American cheese. And it was gluten free–because I told them to give him my toast, ha, ha. Our waitress had no idea that some Waffle Houses take reservations for Valentine’s Day. She’d just moved to that location from a New Orleans store, and had never heard that.  In some very remote areas, Waffle House is the only place in town, and they serve steaks, so, yes, they do. (I wrote about that a couple of years ago but can’t find it now.)

I’ll also be trying out more new recipes as I can, and bringing them to you as fast as I can get to the library. We don’t yet have Internet in the house, and as soon as I can pay for it, we’ll have it! Meantime, I have to find Wifi somewhere, and the local library is pretty nice too. Not nearly as big as my beloved Freeman Library on Diana Lane in Clear Lake, and certainly no gardening lectures that I’ve seen yet, but they’re every bit as helpful and nice.

There’s no Starbucks here (the closest is in Hammond), but there is one PJ’s Coffee, a New Orleans based coffee chain that was my first introduction into gourmet coffee shops with a fellow SGI member who now lives in Boston. (They also have Wifi.) So, if I’m working in Baton Rouge or Hammond, there will be trips to PJ’s or CC’s Coffee, the retail arm of Baton Rouge-based Community Coffee. Community is donating to help with flood relief here in Louisiana, so if you’re of a mind to do so, pick up a bag or two of your favorite Community blend next trip, please.

Hey–maybe I can take a ride and go visit Community Coffee sometime. I’m a food blogger, right? DUH. I did ask BF if we could, on his occasional Saturday off, take a ride one day down to Avery Island and visit Tabasco. He didn’t seem enthused about the idea.

I have not been well, for a long time, but I’m getting better, bit by bit, and I have the great support of BF. Even though he doesn’t read my humble blog.

Not long before I knew I was leaving, AC asked me to give her some help with her home computer, and uploading some videos of her work to YouTube for a job interview. I took care of everything, and I also installed an antivirus program and did a few other things to make it run better. When I got there, I smelled some deliciousness going on. You see, AC, too, has a new BF, and was cooking some pinto beans in the slow cooker for dinner that night. “You want to try some?” (GIRLFRIEND–You have to ask?) Oh, my GAWD, they were the best beans I’ve ever had! I told her that too–no joke, they really were delicious, I wasn’t just telling her that to be nice. She texted me the stuff she uses to make it, and the only thing that’s holding me back is a bottle of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. I can’t find it here, so I’ll try to get it either in Baton Rouge or on my next trip to Houston. I can’t wait to make them for my BF, and show you how to make them, too.

My biggest challenge as a home cook and blogger is going to be reconciling BF’s love for junk food and processed stuff containing wheat and toxic chemicals with making healthy, tasty food that he’ll enjoy and not turn up his nose at. I haven’t yet made him the Pea & Pesto Soup, but I plan to. . .soon as I can find the blender. (I managed to bring five containers of my beloved pesto with me, and will have more land to grow more basil, tomatoes and anything else I want.) The other issue is that he’s quick to purchase things that are loaded with wheat and other rubbish, which I mentioned already that I won’t consume. I also warned him about the “no beans in chili or you can get shot” thing, but he doesn’t believe me.

So. . .that’s where I’ve been, where I am and where I think I’m going. I hope that I’ll at least be able to visit Texas occasionally if I don’t move back to it, and write about more new recipes and things as I get settled in and unpacked.

I am now the The Dislocated Texan. I’m working on it, and making the best of it. Fortunately, BF has my back, and reminds me frequently that he’s there for me. I hope to be doing things like baking fresh bread for him soon, and since I found the Hatch Apple Pie Filling, making that fabulous cake that Neighbor E and I had in HEB recently. I’ll do that  when he has a day off.

Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope to be bringing more new things to you soon.

Happy Dining!