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Bowl of Pozole, "dressed."
The Buddhist Christmas Party

Remember the Buddhist Thanksgiving I used to do in Houston? This past weekend, there was a Buddhist Christmas Party. Sort of. There was FOOD. So that makes it a Christmas party to me!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Merry Christmas! Are you ready for Santa to drop by? Sorry I’m late again. There’s a lot going on. . . .

Snow At The Casa de Rurale!

Ladies and Gentlemen, on Friday, December 8, 2017, we had four inches of SNOW. No kidding. I was happily camped in with a pit bull, a rust-colored mutt and a fussy old cat. BF braved the four mile drive to work and made it home safely. He hates cold weather and absolutely abhors it after waking up in a snowstorm while stationed in Afghanistan many years ago. He was not amused, that’s for sure.

Houston got a half-inch of snow, as did New Orleans, but certainly not the four inches we had. I have a new client up the freeway in Jackson, MS, and we were chatting on Skype about it. This project manager has young daughters who had an absolute blast making snowmen.

The local Baton Rouge news and weather wonks called it “Sneaux Day 2017.” (“Sneaux?” It’s a thing, I suppose.)  So glad I stocked up on chocolate almond milk the weekend before while I was in New Orleans. It was only supposed to be a freeze, but snow was a gift.

Snow Covered Hay Bales

These hay bales looked like frosted jelly rolls! They’re on the property behind us. Don’t they look delish? (Taken with my iPhone 6, no kidding.)

You can see the pictures I took in the two Facebook albums (you don’t need an account, it’s an external link) and the videos I took online. These were taken during the actual snow,, and these were taken the day after. My YouTube snow videos are here, and, yes, I narrate the videos, too. I’m going to use the Shutterfly app soon to get those pictures printed up for the price of shipping. (This one may be an enlargement, too.)  It was SO much fun. First time in a long time I’ve made a snowman hood ornament.

The Royal Wedding!

By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Meghan Markle, and their wedding is set for May 19th. Well, he was always the “fun” one, right? Harry has definitely had a little more fun than he should have. . .but this beautiful actress captured his heart.  I’ve burned my signs that say Marry Me Harry!

But still BF isn’t excited about a royal wedding. And like me and BF, Meghan is working on Prince Harry to get him healthier. She’s told him he’s got to quit smoking (something I didn’t have to do with BF because he never smoked.) She’s a longtime fan of yoga, partly because her mother is an instructor. I suggested we start doing couples yoga, and I could get a DVD for us. Yeah. . .that went over like the proverbial lead balloon. But I also suggested that we should get in shape for the royal wedding. BF: “Yeah, I’m all over that.” Well, it’s a goal, right?

The day after their engagement, the McCall’s Pattern Company posted on Facebook a pattern for a coat exactly like Meghan’s:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle First Engagement Picture with White Coat

Since the patterns were on sale that day on their website, I ordered it immediately  and it arrived a week later (McCall’s 7480, view D, if you’re interested.) I am hoping to go buy fabric to make it after Christmas. This one is unlined, so it should go pretty quick. Not making it white, that’s for sure. I’ll see what Joann’s in Baton Rouge has to offer in coat fabrics. Then I’ll be wearing the coat of the future Duchess of Sussex.

Right away, the company posted the pattern on Facebook so we could all “sew the look.” Someone asked if it was newly designed, or just a coincidence that they had a pattern like the one Meghan was wearing. One of the employees with the social media team at McCall’s answered the question with, “Lucky Coincidence!” I’ll take it. . . .

Ms. Markle wore a very nice beige skirt the next day (under a different coat) that one lady in the private Facebook group for McCall’s patterns has already re-made and is ALREADY WEARING IT. But McCall’s has announced that they are working on a “sewalong” for 2018 with the theme of #royalwedding, with dresses and hats and the like. Let’s see if I can keep up.

The New Star Wars Film

Speaking of the Princes. . . .if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ve probably already seen The Last Jedi. But if you didn’t, I won’t spoil it for you. We went to Hammond the day before it opened to run errands, and BF walked right up to a kiosk outside and bought the two tickets. Nice–and we even had assigned seats, apparently.

I’d read a few things online, but not anything that gave away too much. But Princes Harry and William are both fans, and have cameos in the film as First Order (formerly Imperial) Stormtroopers. No kidding. They were visiting the set, and someone said, “hey, you guys wanna be in the film? You can be Stormtroopers!” The Princes were suited up and stood in the film.  They’re in the scene where Finn gets captured with a female character, and since they’re both over six feet, they kind of stand out. (Stormtroopers have to be 5’10”.)  I saw them. BF didn’t care.

I will also say that it was heartbreaking to see Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, knowing that it’s the last time we’ll see her and her character. (I know, a bit of irony to say that, since she died of cardiac arrest.) Spoiler alert–she does *NOT* die in this film, as some have reported. But in the next film, they’ll address the end of the character’s story arc. They won’t digitally re-create her like they did at the end of Rogue One, or some of the other long-departed characters.  I read about this before we saw the film–there is a dedication in the credits that says, “For Our Loving Princess, Carrie Fisher.” And we saw it. Awwww. . . .

Here’s a small spoiler: there is one scene where Chewbacca is very hungry, and he’s about to eat a barbecued bird. It happens to be one of the newest birdie characters with big, puppy-dog eyes, called the Porg. And one Porg stares down the Wookie with those sad eyes, because the Wookie was about to eat one of his friends. Chewbacca was so hungry, but he couldn’t do it. I wanted to give Chewy a hug at that point–he reminded me of BF.

If you love Star Wars, you’ll be thrilled with it. Lots of action, storylines like moving parts, different things going on. Some like it, some hate it, you’ll just have to decide for yourself.

Random Grocery Sightings

I texted this picture to Neighbor E from our local Walmart the other day, but he didn’t respond. I’m guessing he’s enjoying these way too much:

Hostess Christmas Pastries

I hope he’s enjoying these!

There was a trip through The Fresh Market the other day where I found these:

 

Jars of French Prunes

FRENCH prunes?

Yeah. . .I’m all over the French prunes. I’m sure they’re great. . .if you like prunes.

Our Buddhist Christmas Party

Buddhists having a Christmas Party? I suppose I shouldn’t use this term, because, technically, it was our December district meeting. As an “end of the year” celebration, our district leader, who is a Hispanic transplant from LA, made a mildly flavored soup called Pozole, and we all brought some other delicious stuff.

Where has this stuff been all my life? And how did I miss it in TEXAS???

Bowl of pozole without toppings

Straight pozole

If you’re not familiar with Louisiana “po-boys,” people order them either “dressed,” with lettuce and tomato (some places add pickles, too) or “un-dressed” with just the sandwich and fillings (i.e., fried shrimp, oysters, roast beef, etc.)  So what OR did was to offer cabbage, cilantro, radishes and onions (all well chopped) to add to the top:

Bowl of Pozole, "dressed."

This amazing, mildly flavored soup is just what we all need during winter, yes?

Oh, Holy Shish Kebab.

We all gobbled some up, and OR is definitely going to have to teach me to make this, especially if she wants me to keep doing the district calendar. (Just kidding!) Seriously, though, she’s on the hook for a cooking lesson here. It’s not a strong flavor, which is why I think BF will like it, cilantro or no. But because I’ve been busy, and cooking a lot of pork and chicken, BF complains that he’s “clucking” and “oinking.”  I try hard to feed him well, despite his protests, and sometimes, every dish is “new.” Oh, well.

A quick search brought up this recipe for Pozole, and I may actually try it soon. Like tamales (yum!) OM says it’s “laborious.” Well, after seeing Stephanie O’Dea’s recipe for tamales in the CrockPot, I might try Pozole in it, too. (I haven’t made tamales yet.)

I wonder what he’d say if we were given a fair amount of venison and I cooked a lot of it for him. Oh, wait–would he grow antlers?

The Rest Of The Party

Other folks brought some delicious things, and I made some of Nigella’s delicious Chocolate Christmas Cookies:

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits (cookies)

The delicious and fairly simple Christmas Chocolate Biscuits (Cookies)

I assure you, these are not gluten-free, sugar-free or fat free in any way. They are, however, egg free. I still haven’t found any “Christmas sprinkles,” so I’ll have to order some next year. I mean, I was looking for them in HOUSTON and couldn’t get them. What made me think I could get them here? So, once again, we have the everyday multicolored sprinkles that probably contain every allergen known to man. Oh, well.

Sprinkles

That’s what I had, so I used them.

Pictures from the rest of our celebration:

Table shot

Tea and non-alcoholic sangria and. . .carrots.

 

Guac and chips

Someone brought guac and chips just for me! I just say “thank you.”

 

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits On A Plate

OK, so I couldn’t resist another shot of the cookies I made. Everyone loved them, and I gave the recipe to three people.

We had a great time, and all our Buddhist activities are finished for the year. We’ll start back again on New Year’s Day, and we’ll be back doing our regular activities.

If You’re Jewish

I know a few Jewish folks, but I can’t say that I’m particularly knowledgable on the faith. I know that in kosher cooking, you don’t serve beef with a cream sauce, and that some meat has to be “koshered” using the salt. Some folks keep a “kosher kitchen,” but I don’t know any more than that. I actually use kosher salt, because, well, I learned about it from Martha Stewart, and it’s great stuff. (I explained to BF the other day that if I ask him to get “salt,” kosher is generally what I’m asking for.)

I’d heard stories about Jewish people going out for Chinese on Christmas, because, well, they don’t celebrate Christmas, as a rule, and Hanukkah doesn’t always fall on Christmas Day, either. So, since a Jewish family probably doesn’t have a Christmas Lunch/Dinner, they’ll go out to the only place likely to be open on Christmas: a Chinese restaurant.

You’re probably thinking, “Amy, why are you bringing this up?”

Online magazine Mental Floss published this story on Thursday about why Jewish folks are frequently at Chinese restaurants on Christmas Day. I thought it was an interesting read, and wanted to pass it along And, it’s a tradition! Well, here in the US, anyway. And is there ever a bad reason to have Chinese food?

And For A Buddhist

Well, Buddhists in the US can do whatever they want for Christmas Day. As longtime readers know, I have spent many Christmas dinners alone, watching TV (frequently the Doctor Who Christmas specials), cooking and sewing, and maybe having a drink before going to bed. Honestly, I can’t say it was a bad thing.

I did manage to get the Christmas specials DVD for Keeping Up Appearances from the local library a couple of days ago. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Hyacinth!

But for the second year, I’ve got BF. We’ve not decorated the Casa–the decorations are way to hard to get to right now–but we’re going to visit his daughter and his Dad’s place up the road. And maybe we’ll come home and watch TV for a while. I’m not cooking anything, unless I put beans in the CrockPot and let them roll.

I got him a little present, but when I told him not to get me anything, I meant it. If someone goes all out for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc., but then treats you like dirt the rest of the year, who cares?

BF indulges me–like taking me to Mandeville the other night to meet up with a guy who was giving away Meyer lemons from his backyard, because he had way too many. He posted it on Facebook, and said, “come and get ’em!” I thanked him, and set aside some for our neighbor who also loves lemons. We also hit Whole Foods, and I offered to get him something from the cookie bar, but he wanted a milkshake. A quick tap on the phone, and we were at a Sonic. I bought his milkshake for him.

BF will take me nearly anywhere I want to go (although we haven’t made it back to Houston yet) and makes no bones about going to work hours early so I can make a Buddhist activity in New Orleans or Mandeville. He takes me to Starbucks, even though he doesn’t agree with their, um, CEO’s spoutings. (I don’t either, but you know I love to go.) If we’re in Hammond for an errand, there’s a stop at Starbucks–especially if there’s a double star day during a star dash.

You can’t box that and put a ribbon on that, you know? So, yeah, I don’t mind if he doesn’t get me a “Christmas present.

So when he’s off, I let him sleep in like the grizzly bear he is, and don’t bother him much. (When he wakes up is a different matter.)

If you’re alone this Christmas, do whatever it takes to enjoy it, whether it’s watching TV, making some delicious food, or even heading out to your local Starbucks for some food. I know the ones in Houston were open, but I’m not sure about the ones here in LA. Whatever you do, don’t sit around and brood about “being alone on Christmas.” It’s OK, I’ve done it. Getting together with some other folks in the same predicament would also be a good thing. And then there’s volunteering.

Merry Christmas To One And All

From the Casa de Rurale in Central Louisiana, I raise a glass and hope everyone has a great Christmas, whatever you’re doing. I am hoping to have more interesting subjects to write about in the new year. (Have you found your new “diet” yet?) I’ll be back soon.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

CAKE
CAKE! (Gluten Free!)

Red Truck Bakery. . .let me tell you all about an incredible cake they make.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I’ve got a few minutes to tell you about a cake surprise I received recently from longtime friend of the blog AK. You may remember a few years ago that she sent me a Suzy Homemaker washing machine I found on eBay and posted on Facebook just for fun. I still have it, and it still works, but it’s still packed in a box right now until I get more bookshelves and have a place to put it. Well, she sent me something else.

But first. . . .

I’m still working on Upwork, and BOOKED UP. I’ve been making money, not a fortune, but able to buy groceries and take care of some stuff for us. It’s not a lot, but we’re not on just his paycheck anymore. I’ve had some technical problems too, which I hope to solve soon so I can get on with it. I haven’t bought any more glasses, but that will happen again soon, probably after the holidays. I hate having just one pair. . .but it’s temporary. I’m hoping to surprise BF with a nice little (inexpensive) present for Christmas, too.

The Royal Wedding!

By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Megan Markle. This was a big non-event to BF, but I have ordered a McCall’s pattern that is a very close copy to the white one she wore from Line The Label. (View D) The pattern happened to have been on sale that day, and I ordered a couple of other patterns while they were cheap. (I miss Hancock Fabrics!) You can’t even buy that coat now, because they’ve all been bought and the company’s website crashed that day.

BF asks, “How does this affect my life here in Louisiana?” I responded that it’s a positive event happening in the near future. He didn’t agree.

I also came up with a new fitness goal for us. We need to get in shape for the Royal Wedding! Now, I’ve been busy and haven’t been exercising, but I’m planning to change that this week. I thought it would be a great way to set a fitness goal for both of us. But the minute I said “Royal Wedding,” that went over like a lead balloon.

For the record, I am still The Duchess Of El Dorado. In case you were wondering. . . .

And, BTW, wedding cake in the UK and Australia is traditionally fruit cake, if you didn’t know that.

Not The Same Thanksgiving

We didn’t host this year, and although I ordered two jars of Sur La Table’s turkey brine, I was glad. After last year’s mixed-bag of likes and dislikes, I kind of felt like my time as the star turkey maker was over. BF’s daughter is expecting her second child, and her partner had to work that day, so it kind of fizzled out. We went to his father’s place up the road, where BF’s sister-in-law made ham, potato salad with green olives and something else, and some other stuff I didn’t try. No, not traditional, but I like ham and the occasional potato dish. Maybe next year.

Pesto!

This summer, much to BF’s chagrin, I made three batches of fresh pesto for the freezer. The basil was growing wild again, so I made some, along with a batch of Pea & Pesto Soup for myself. BF called me from work one day and I told him I was making some. His response: “Oh, I can hardly wait.” Smarty-pants.

I’ve got what I hope is a good supply for the winter. Y’all know I love Pea & Pesto Soup!

Our #StarbucksDate

If you read this on Facebook. . .my apologies.

Back in July, we had to head to Hammond for a couple of things, including a stop at the new Petco to get a “cone of shame” for the pit bull, who managed to injure himself and get caught in an fire ant pile. He looked like he’d been dog-fighting and lost, but that’s not really what happened. Poor puppy. We cleaned him up and applying some topical antibiotic stuff, but he kept scratching it. For three days he tried to pull the thing off, but BF’s ingenious use of zip-ties ensured that he couldn’t.

Petco is right there in the strip mall where Starbucks is. I also get the emails that let me know about goings on. For various reasons, BF is not a fan of Starbucks, but I am. So when I got the email announcing the free tea tasting that day, I made sure BF knew about it, and that we were going. Reluctantly, he agreed.

He Indulges Me

Starbucks was offering free 12-ounce (“Tall”) cups of their hand-shaken iced tea infusions, one per customer. I requested the peach-white tea infusion; BF, after some confusion, requested strawberry with green tea. I’m not a fan of the green tea, but he’s had it. They served us our tea, and I suggested to BF that he try a sip first, then add a packet of the stevia they have, since it dissolves instantly and completely. That’s what I did, and it worked perfectly. BF. . .not so much. He didn’t take my suggestion of the stevia, instead, opting for a half cup of white sugar. It didn’t help. I drank most of it, but the sugar sinks to the bottom and doesn’t dissolve. Not wild about the taste, either, but I think stevia would have been a better option. He probably would have liked the peach teabetter. Oh, well. At least he gave it a shot, and it was free.

BF has frequently told the story of being in Kuwait and seeing his fellow service members stand in line in 100F heat waiting to get a hot coffee at Starbucks. Baffled, he asked them, why? “It tastes like home,” they said.

Yes, Starbucks DOES support service members, veterans and their families. There’s a long-running rumor that’s still rolling around the world. I’ll say it again–I’m not always wild about what the company puts out, but they are still a good company and mean well. Starbucks has always been great to me, and they do support our US troops. Anyway. . . .

Brownies. . .

Sometimes fast food is brought into BF’s place of employment. Usually it’s pizza, fried chicken or something else of the same nature. Sometimes management pops for food, sometimes they pool money. Recently BF walked in after work with this box:

Red Truck Bakery

What’s this foolishness?

It seems some of the folks had been to the new local Pizza Hut, and bought these, anticipating the finest creation from a patisserie. BF took them after they told him these brownies were “a little too rich.” Well, they look normal:

Brownies. From Pizza Hut.

Yes, I tried a bit. (Cake-like texture.) Yes, they look like brownies. No, they don’t taste anything like brownies. They have no taste to them at all. Seriously. They taste like chocolate flavored rubbish.

Maybe it’s my age–I’m not 16 anymore. (My birthday was in October, nevermind how old I am!) Maybe it’s my tastes that have changed, or I know rubbish when I taste it. Or maybe. . .I dunno. BF ate them one at a time with his lunch, and they’re gone. Yuck.

Here’s my professional blogger/foodie advice: if you want pizza, go to Pizza Hut, your favorite Italian restaurant, buy a frozen one or make it yourself. If you want brownies, find a recipe or buy a mix and bake them yourself. Get a recipe from Pinterest and make waffle brownies. Stop at a bakery, coffee shop or even the grocery store. Or make some Yeast-Free Brownies with Swerve Sweetener. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t buy brownies in a pizza joint when you’re having a chocolate craving.

I mean, think about it. Would you ask your mechanic to decorate your house? Would you hire an interior decorator to tune up your car and change the CV joints? How about ask a dog trainer to babysit your cat? NO! So don’t buy brownies in a place where they specialize in pizza. Brownies from a pizza place are generally not what you’re looking for.

Speaking of brownies

I found the last picture of the lot from the einkorn article. Dunno what happened, but here it is:

Both were well received. But that’s a lotta brownies! (Duncan Hines on the left, Amy’s einkorn on the right.)

More Hatch Chiles

I’ve been busy with writing and everything else, and I just never got around to really cultivating the Hatch chiles. Darnit. You Texas readers appreciate the Hatch chiles. I was thrilled to find them in this area, and even happier to find out that a few people actually know what they are. (Buddhist friend JL knows all about them and gets it.)

BF’s BFF, Big H, was working in New Mexico this summer and has discovered Hatch chiles after I told him *all* about them. I warned him about the “red or green sauce” thing, and he found out I wasn’t kidding.  One day he sent me a picture:

Big H’s first outing with the beloved Hatch chiles.

Hot dawg! He tried it–and he liked it! Which is more than I can say for BF, who I believe is just the victim of way too many MRE’s in the Navy.  I only seek to educate, and in Big H’s case, he discovered that the mild green chile is a pretty good addition to a burger. BF, on the other hand, has taken to telling everyone, particularly *my* friends, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!” He’s still alive. If I was, he wouldn’t be!

The Red Truck Bakery Surprise

A few months ago, mid-summer,  I got a FB message from AK, a fellow copywriter asking for my home address. I gave it to her–I’ve known her in person for several years–and she said that I should expect a package on Thursday. Oh, BOY! But what was it? She wouldn’t tell me. She would only tell me that it was coming via UPS.

Well, Thursday came. It was raining and it was getting late. UPS runs late, especially at the holidays, so I knew it might be night before the brown truck arrived. And about 7:30 that night, it did. The UPS guy was even interested in what it was, because I told him my friend in Idaho was anxiously awaiting my text of receipt. (He knew when he saw “Red Truck Bakery” on the shipping label!) When I saw where it was from, I thought, “oh, I don’t normally do this kind of thing.”  But then I opened it up and discovered this cake:

CAKE! And yes, it was gluten free! AK knows me. Immediately, I sent a picture to BF at work.

And naturally, let her know immediately that I’d received her kind and generous gift.

Red Truck Bakery is a mail-order bakery in Virginia, and they ship nationwide. They even have a testimonial from former President Obama, who apparently loves pie. Hey–it’s like the royal crest, right? (Even if you didn’t like him–trust me, on this, the former POTUS has very good taste.)

AK has had a number of treats from Red Truck Bakery, including some gluten-free ones that she’s highly recommended.

I texted BF and let him know too, and what it was, and cracked open the box:

CAKE

The carefully wrapped cake

Now, I promise I’m not being ungrateful when I say this–but it doesn’t look like the picture on their website:

CAKE

That’s what it looks like when it leaves their bakery. Shipping does funny things to the appearance

It comes in Red Truck’s lovely and classic bakery box too:

CAKE

Classic presentation

However, when you cut into it, you really won’t care what it looks like. I carefully unwrapped it:

CAKE

It was all I could do *not* to cut into it until BF got home!

You smell the delicious aroma of almonds and amaretto when it’s opened. However, I didn’t cut into it, I simply put it in the fridge and waited for him to get home from work that night.

After we had dinner, I cut us each a slice.

CAKE

Oh, yes. Who needs frosting?

This almond cake has no flour and is called “gluten free,” but I’m telling you, serve it to just about any group and don’t say anything–they’ll never know. It’s not a “diet cake,” because there is sugar in it. A very, VERY delicious cake it is, and you definitely won’t miss any frosting. Great anytime, or with a cup of coffee or tea, this is the kind of cake you hope for when you buy one.

CAKE

With cappuccino. . .oh, yes, please.

Red Truck Bakery is in Marshall, Virginia, and they ship nationwide. This delicious Almond Cake With Amaretto would be just the thing for holiday gifts for friends far away, whether or not they’re gluten-free. Red Truck also offers a menu of other delicious baked goods AK assures me are just as delicious as this cake is. Whatever you decide to order, apparently, you won’t go wrong.

I can highly recommend this cake to send as a gift, or to order for your holiday table. It really is incredibly delicious.

A Congratulations

I talked to AK later and asked her what the occasion was. Well, I’ve been bragging on Facebook about the clients I’ve gotten, the work I’ve been doing and the fact that I’ve made a little money with it. (It impressed the heck out of BF.) She said the cake was a gift to celebrate my recent successes, and hopes for many more.

I wouldn’t say I was “crushing it,” but apparently folks think I have been. That’s good. I really am working and making a little money. Sometimes I have more than BF–but it doesn’t last long. <smirk>

He Likes It, Too

BF had one slice, and decided it was very good, too. After dinner, I made a cappuccino, poured him a glass of milk, and we had dessert. But he only had one slice. I asked him if he wanted another slice of cake, and he said, “Well, it’s delicious, but it’s really for you.” 

Awwww. . .I did finish it, eventually, one slice at a time.

Christmas Is Coming. . .

It’s coming whether you want it to or not, so think about Red Truck Bakery if you’re either stressed out, or would like to send a delicious gift to someone (including yourself.) This almond amaretto cake would be a perfect gift.

I’ll try to blog again soon–but if I don’t, please have a delicious and Merry Christmas this year.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BigLittleFudge
Finding Big Little Fudge

Big Little Fudge–if you’ve seen it and haven’t tried it, do you know what you’re missing?

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

More writing!

Remember when I told you I was also doing work on Upwork? Well, I’ve been published–with a byline! Off The Grid News has published two of my articles! There is another in the pipeline, and I’m thinking about the next natural health topic to suggest to them. There’s a whole section of natural medicine on this website, where my articles are located. Look at this–tea tree oil! I didn’t write that one, but I just bought some for BF’s icky toenail fungus. He says the oil “stinks,” and says he’s “just humoring me.” (I’m using it straight.) He refers to his socks and shoes as a “containment field.” Wait til the stuff actually works. . . .

The Griddler is fixed!

Finally, finally, my beloved Griddler, aka, waffle maker, has a new drip tray. The part arrived last week, it’s been replaced and in place.

Finally!!!

I am SO happy, and yes, we’ve used it–for grilled pork chops, waffled burgers, and pizza waffles so far.

And there it is!

I couldn’t resist, it was just there, and I could cook those pork chops on the counter top and not worry about dripping grease anywhere. Waffled burgers just happened because the waffle plates were on the machine already.

All fixed now. Isn’t it beautiful?

It’s so quick and easy! We have ready-made crusts, pizza sauce and grated mozzarella cheese at the ready in the freezer. BF knows how much I enjoy using this appliance. He just smiles when I mention using it.

How about some foodie news?

To bounce off two previous posts, it seems that Libby’s canned veg will now be marked as BPA-free. Good move by Seneca Foods. We definitely need to know these things when we’re choosing canned goods.

Mug cakes go corporate

Someone at Pinnacle Foods, a/k/a, The Company That Owns Duncan Hines, has been paying attention to Pinterest. You can now buy your “cake in a cup” experience in a boxed mix. Seriously. They’re now making “cake in a cup mixes.” Isn’t the whole “cake in a cup” thing so that you don’t have to buy a box of cake mix?

Remember when the “cake in a cup” went around email?

No kidding. I just found this in Walmart the other night. So if you’re too lazy to mix two tablespoons of flour and sugar, an egg and some oil, here you go. Just remember that you’re still going to be mixing this mix in a cup. Anyone get that irony?

Ho, ho, ho!

The Green Giant brand has been bought by B&G Foods, and they’ve got some new things coming, including new Ortega products! They also sell some food products in Sur La Table stores and on their website.

Blue Bell’s new idea

Finally, Texas’ own Blue Bell now has an ice cream flavor to answer the conundrum of, “should I have a cone or put it in a bowl?” The new Ice Cream Cone flavor solves that problem for you. The cone is IN the ice cream, so you can have it whether or not you have a cone handy.

I kid you not.

More Texas sweetness

I had a little bit of home just recently when BF took us out for a little “date night.” About a month ago, we went to. . .Cracker Barrel in Hammond. If you’ve never been in one of these “country-style” themed restaurants, it’s quite nice with home-style food (think meat, potatoes, fried okra and gravy like your grandmother made), and salads. There’s even a fireplace in the dining area, which I appreciate, but they didn’t light it when we were there. He loves Cracker Barrel, and honestly, I can’t complain, either. There is also a “general store” attached where you can buy some nice things, a little bit like Buc-ee’s. As we were checking out, I noticed something on the counter. There are lots of things on the counter, but this one caught my attention. Oh, my GAWD. A little bit of Texas, here in rural Louisiana.

Big Little Fudge.

Back in 2011, I was lucky enough to attend the Houston Metro Cooking & Entertainment Show, and went with the Boeing Teammates Association, so it was a bus trip. No parking issues! Basically, it’s a trade show for food vendors and open to the public, primarily from Texas, but some from other places, too. Grass-fed beef. Premium olive oils. Himalayan Pink Salt. Gourmet vinegars that taste like wine. Community Coffee (no kidding!) and delicious coffees from everywhere–no Starbucks here. And of course, sweet stuff–artisan chocolate, especially. I told the folks on the bus driving home that most of what I ate was olive oil, garlic and chocolate. I wasn’t yet blogging, but if I were, you would have heard all about it here.

A quick search doesn’t show any evidence of a food show in Houston since 2013, so they may not be held anymore. I’ll have to start looking for “food shows” in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. You never know what you’ll be sampling, and you meet all kinds of people. Like any trade show, you go home with bags of cool stuff–but some cool stuff you get to eat. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

Wait–I’m a blogger now. Wonder if I can get a press pass for one?

Yes, Texas has great desserts too

One of those vendors was a company called Big Little Fudge, and they were giving out samples! Well, they gave me some of their delicious fudge to try, and I bought a couple of them too.

Big Little Fudge

The folks from Big Little Fudge. The blonde lady is Robin Strickland, one of the co-owners.

This deliciousness has been around since October of 2010, started by two longtime business partners, Robin Strickland and Kevin Graham, who had just sold their *other* business, and decided to launch a business making. . .fudge, in 2009. Naturally, you bring something chocolate to a food show, and people show up. There they were. Nice people, and they make a smooth, creamy fudge that you won’t soon forget.  I know I never did.

Sweet, but not overly sweet

This is the one called Heavyweight Champ, which has dried cranberries in it. I haven’t seen it since, but you can order it from their website.

BigLittleFudge

I’ve bought it a time or two since that date night in Hammond, but I have to be careful or I’ll be a BIG blogger!

Big Texas flavor in a little square

These pack a lot of flavor in a little chunk. I GASPED when I saw it in Cracker Barrel, and even BF was a bit concerned.

Big Little Fudge

Big Little Fudge!

The blue one, Chocalot, was the first one, and Big Wally was the second one. I think those were the only two they had. One lady standing behind me wanted to know what the big deal was, and I told her–delicious fudge from Montgomery, Texas, here in Louisiana! I also mentioned that I’d met the owners at the Food Show in 2011. . .she wasn’t impressed by that, nor the fact that it’s gluten-free.

They’re Gluten Free, too!

She responded that someplace around Hammond also had very good fudge, but she wasn’t sure if it was gluten free. I have no idea what place she was talking about.

Turns out that these two were part of a promotion in November to benefit the G.O.V.E.T.S. Foundation, and sold in Cracker Barrel nationwide. This is a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of our military veterans with things like job assistance. (Surprisingly, it didn’t register on BF’s radar for this sort of thing.) I’m guessing the Hammond store just had some left, and I was lucky enough to find them.

The rest of the story

You see all my pictures from that day at this external link–it’s on Facebook, but you don’t need to sign in or have an account. I’m only in one of them, when I took a picture with a man whose cookbook I bought and had autographed:

Me with Robb Walsh, the author of The Tex-Mex Cookbook, September 2011. (I wasn’t blonde; at the time, I was using a different kind of hair color that washed out quickly.)

I looked pretty good in that picture. That shirt was way too big. . .soon, one day, it will be again.

Big Little Fudge, anytime

A little something sweet right now, party favors, holiday stocking stuffers, or corporate gifts for clients, or fundraiser sweets, Big Little Fudge has you covered. Just hop onto their website and take a look around. They also have a map function for you to find out where you can find these delicious morsels in your area. They’re available in some Sam’s Club locations, too. In my neck of the woods, the closest places showing are in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but of course, online ordering makes nearly *anything* available.

You can also see more articles on this Texas’ own company on the news part of their website. They also have some celebrity fans, most of whom I’ve never heard of, but what do I know?

This is Prize-Winning Fudge

Big Little Fudge was chosen as the 2016 Buyer’s Choice winner for “Best New Chocolate” at ECRM’s (Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing) annual Candy Planning: Everyday & Summer Seasonal event held in New Orleans, August 28-31, 2016. Um, yeah! (Source: company press release.)

For a little treat for yourself, or for someone else, Big Little Fudge may be just what you need. Look on their website to find out where they’re sold in your area to satisfy your immediate chocolate craving. Need more? They ship anywhere, and made right in lovely Montgomery, Texas. I’ve been up there, although not to their factory. (Now, I wish I had.) This fudge is definitely worth seeking out, whether a single wrapped piece for yourself or buying a batch for corporate gifts or special occasions like parties and weddings.

Serve these babies at a wedding and your guests will ignore the wedding cake, OK? At least until they’re all gone.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you ready to Swerve?

Hi, again, Dear Readers–let’s Swerve!

I’m sorry to be late again, *life* has happened, and there are dogs involved. We’re getting that sorted out, and I’m always looking for new things to bring you.

As I alluded to in a recent post, there is something available for folks who miss SomerSweet, and anyone who’s looking for a sweet alternative to sugar that isn’t toxic or make you feel ill after eating it. An alternative sweetener that allows you to sweeten foods naturally without wondering what will happen in an hour. And one that’s somewhat accessible without ordering it from somewhere else. I found it: and it’s called Swerve.

I still miss my HEB.

Now, y’all keep hearing me say this. I really do, and here’s one of the main reasons:

Notice the drink holder spots?

That’s right, I’m really ticked off about this. HEB, Kroger, Randall’s, and other stores in Houston (and around the country)  have cup holders for your coffee. Many stores, like Kroger, Randall’s and Target, have Starbucks locations in the store. (The Walmart on I-45 has a McDonald’s in the front of the store as well.) I mean, coffee is a thing now, right? People shop with their coffee, especially during the cold winter months, so why not?

See? They all have them!

When I went to Winn-Dixie a couple of days before Thanksgiving, I stopped in at the PJ’s in front of the store for a coffee. Once I grabbed my basket, I realized–no place for coffee! I had to be very careful balancing a coffee in one hand, or balancing it in the “seat” part of the basket. It’s 2016—child seating areas have been in grocery store baskets since I was a kid—so why don’t they have coffee cup holders in the rest of the US?

Neighbor E graciously took these pictures for me last Saturday, and included a pic of of our friends there, Miss Lei:

Hi, Miss Lei!!!

She made a different version of the hatch apple cake, and E got me the recipe for you:

Note: this isn’t the dump cake version. You don’t use the whole jar, either.

And check out the display that’s right in front of the bakery, inside the store.

NOW do you see why I miss my HEB? (And many thanks to Neighbor E for the great pictures, too!) Well, I’m getting there. And, BF makes it easier. He’s been to our HEB, so he understands why.

Turkey thighs found!

I did find more turkey thighs at the Rouse’s on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, and I bought both packs—they were under $2! Next trip to NOLA, I’ll go look again. The newest Trader Joe’s is across the street; I just went there for a couple of bottles of water for the trip home (and I know they’re 17 cents each.)  But it’s nice, just like the one in Baton Rouge, and the one in The Woodlands. If you haven’t been to a Trader Joe’s, and there’s one in your area, might be worth a visit. I very nearly brought home a packet of their Pork and Beef Tamales. They actually are a product of Mexico. They’re real tamales, and very tasty too.

Anyway. . . .

Do *you* have a coffee while you shop?

I did notice that my Whole Foods in Mandeville has coffee cup holders in their baskets—the little “urban” baskets, as I call the smaller ones with two compartments, have them in the handle like HEB does. The bigger baskets, the ones with the child seats in them, have these plastic holders, which also hold things like flowers:

This will hold coffee or a bunch of flowers.

I know, I know. . .these are “first world problems.” But DARNIT! When there’s a PJ’s right in front of the store, why can’t Winn-Dixie shoppers have holders for coffee too?

What’s this foolishness?

Speaking of Whole Foods, I saw this little gem last time:

Not Beef? Not interested!

No kidding, “Not Beef.” OK, riddle me this, Batman—if you’re truly a vegan and/or vegetarian, and you do not partake of a product that comes from “anything with a face,” why are you in need of a product that tastes of simulated beef? Is this to go with your “plant-based burger meat?” Not a joke, and it’s $3 a box!

Yuck.

No, OK? And that recipe for “Not Beef Noodle Soup” starring cut bits of tofu? Yeah. . .not happening in the Casa. Even if I weren’t allergic to soy, I wouldn’t try it. What’s the point? Besides, BF would run me up the street for bringing tofu into his house.

I know, I know–Whole Foods is giving customers what they want, or what they think they want. This is America, the land of invention, so. . .spend your money where you like, but I still think it’s silly.

Resistance is futile

Oh, and, despite my refusal to do so, I now have a Winn Dixie Customer Reward Card, similar to the ones I have for Kroger, Randall’s, Vitamin Shoppe, Petsmart, Petco, IKEA, and a myriad of other stores in Houston and elsewhere.  I added the app to my phone, too. Lucky me, they have “fuel points” that we can use to save a few rubles when we fill up The White Knight. So I hope to be able to use the points soon. I spoke to Winn-Dixie today to resolve an issue with duplicate cards.

While I on the phone with the nice lady, I expressed my discontent with having no place to put my coffee cup while shopping. (The PJ’s is right there, for heaven’s sake!) She didn’t know why that was, but she promised to pass along the suggestion to management. So maybe during the next upgrade of baskets, Winn-Dixie will get with the 21st Century and have a place for customers to put their coffee cups while shopping there.

Enough of that—this is the post you’ve been waiting for.

Let’s do the Swerve!

If you’re one of those folks who is missing SomerSweet, isn’t happy with stevia, or would like to move away from the Splenda, Equal or other chemical sweeteners you’ve become accustomed to using, Swerve might be what you’re looking for.

 

As I mention in my last post, I found Swerve in the Mandeville Whole Foods on my first trip. Swerve is erythritol, a natural sweetener that doesn’t have any nasty side effects like chemical sweeteners, and no, um, gastro issues. This is great news for diabetics and anyone who wants to cut down or eliminate sugar from their diet. You can have some sweet stuff and not be tempted by something you know you shouldn’t be eating. It’s especially useful this time of year, when you know how all the well-laid plans go pear-shaped when someone shows up with anything called “Black Forest,” “Chocolate Cherry,” “Peppermint,” or the thing that makes me knock a big guy out of the way, something with chocolate and raspberry in the same place. (BF knows to move if I spot that combo, but I haven’t been in the company of the esteemed Shaquille O’Neal; I’m sure he’d move out of the way just as fast.)

The ingredient list.

Here’s a closeup:

How does it compare to the now-defunct SomerSweet?

Very similar, but not exactly the same.

Here’s a peek in the bag:

Swerve!!

The day I bought it, I paid $7.99 for this bag:

My receipt. Thankfully, BF doesn’t look too closely sometimes.

No, it’s not cheap–but it’s useful if you’re looking for healthy ingredients.

Not everybody cares.

Please note that in my own experience with healthier foods, not everyone cares that it’s sugar free, gluten free, carb free, or yeast free. This was especially true at Thanksgiving, when my favorite Cranberry Ginger Relish wasn’t well received, and the vegan cornbread made for BF’s Dad wasn’t well received. I’m not doing that again, I’ll make all that stuff for myself. BF “kind of” liked the vegan cornbread, but the “regular” cornbread wasn’t all eaten, either—about half went to Hound Training.

Another example: A few years ago, I brought former Neighbor R a pan of yeast-free brownies at her request (she’d given me a big favor.) She thought that little pan was “too much,” and she gave half to another neighbor. That other neighbor, I was told later, brought them to her booth at a flea market, where “everybody loved them!” No kidding—that neighbor didn’t know they were more expensive, sugar free and all that, because she was accustomed to making brownies from a box. I’ve said this before: alternative ingredients are pricier than the usual white-flour/white-sugar stuff. So unless you know someone who would appreciate yeast free brownies, gluten-free cornbread, or other non-standard healthier recipes, it’s probably better to keep them to yourself, or at least in your family’s kitchen.

It’s all good.

Granular Erythritol is available in a number of places, including Amazon and Dr. Hotze’s in-house vitamin store (called Sweet-N-Natural.) This 2-pound can is $50; SomerSweet was considerably less expensive. But if you don’t have the inclination to pop for that much Sweet-N-Natural, Swerve is a great option to try erythritol. A 12-ounce bag was $7.99 at Whole Foods, and you may find it on sale occasionally for less.

So what do you do with it? Use it like sugar. Between the Swerve website and their Facebook page, you’ll find lots of ideas for using Swerve to satisfy your sweet tooth. They don’t yet have a downloadable PDF file of recipes; you just go there, or to their Facebook page, and pick out what you’d like. I’ve seen some tasty desserts on their site, but I haven’t tried them yet. This one, for Pecan Pie Biscotti, looks pretty tasty.  (Access all their recipes here.)

I had a chat with the very nice Natalia at Swerve, and she says that although they’ve been around since 2001, they’ve only stepped up their marketing since 2012. Swerve is available nationwide as well as in Canada, and is also available at places like Amazon, iHerb and Vitacost if your local market doesn’t carry it. (They currently don’t have an e-commerce function on their own website.) You can also use their handy online store locator to find it in your neck of the woods. I  had no idea that it was available in Clear Lake, but it is!

Swerve comes in 12 ounce packages, in granular and powdered.

What makes Swerve special?

The cup-for-cup measure is a distinct difference between Swerve and other similar products. Swerve is the only product of its kind that comes in not only granular, like you would put in your coffee, but also powdered for confectionery creations (i.e., truffles.) No one else has a “confectioner’s sugar” version. It’s also gluten-free and non GMO (two big sell factors for me.) Erythritol doesn’t promote tooth decay the way sugar does, and of course, it TASTES LIKE SUGAR! No metallic aftertaste like stevia—I’m sorry, but stevia kind of tastes funny to me. So, I’m liking Swerve a lot.

Unlike xylitol, erythritol is also safe for the dogs who might get under your feet and nibble a bit of crumbs you didn’t know you dropped. Xylitol is very toxic for animals, so if you have some or might use it, do keep an eye out around the critters. Last thing you want is an emergency vet bill for a poisoned animal.

So what does Swerve taste like?

It tastes like sugar! No, really, it tastes like sugar. No aftertaste at all.

I tried Swerve myself recently when I made some coconut oil chocolate to nibble on. With It worked perfectly, and there was no difference between the one I made with SomerSweet and the one I made with Swerve. They were equally tasty, and melted all over my hands as coconut oil is wont to do.

This much coconut oil

Some cocoa powder:

Two tablespoons of cocoa powder, then mix well with a fork:

Chocolate first

Now add Swerve, just stir it in:

See? Works like sugar. Just stir it right in.

I think I added two of those tablespoons, just like SomerSweet. And because the coconut oil was unflavored, a little almond extract does wonders:

Chocolate. . .er,”candy.”

Please note that almond extract is VERY potent, and you only need a tiny drop for this.

Freeze until hard, and carefully break it into chunks to eat like candy. Well, it pretty much is, isn’t it?

I’m thinking it might be time for another crack at the YeastFreeBrownies, sweetening them with Swerve. I haven’t made them in a while. Maybe BF might even like them, just a little.

So, now you have an alternative, and if you’re like me, a replacement for the beloved SomerSweet. (Or if you’re looking to permanently ditch the toxic chemical ones.) I’ll use the rest of the SomerSweet over time, and will pick up my sugarless cooking and baking with Swerve. BF will probably not like me buying many bags of it at a time, but you know I hate to run out of anything.

Be sweet and enjoy!

 

Short post: Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Saturday, Dear Readers:

Well, after having a nearly complete post deleted–POOF!–here I go again.

Here’s a study that ties chocolate consumption to cognitive function. We need a study for this?

Yum.

Yum.

Seriously. . .chocolate is The Food of the GODS, although BF doesn’t think so. Of course, that doesn’t stop BF from asking me to make brownies. . .from a box. As I explained, I’m accustomed to making brownies from a BOOK. And because he was busy with something else in the morning, I got to make them. One of those mixes with a packet of fudge that you mix in the middle, producing a “molten lava” center. Yeah. . .I’m not eating that.

While this week is focused primarily on whole turkeys, the Butterball company is looking to next week, and expanding turkey all year long. Ground turkey goes up against ground beef, and so the CEO is focused on winning that battle. Plus he tells you not to thaw your turkey in the dryer. (No kidding.) I’m still hoping to find turkey thighs around here–they really are the best part of the turkey. But if you’ve got a whole bird, get thawing.

And wine aficionados can rejoice: this years supply of Beaujolais Nouveau has started to ship, and while I don’t know if I can find it here, it’s a rather inexpensive bottle. If you’re not familiar with it, BN is a “young” wine, not intended to age. I used to hear Martha Stewart talk about it every year about this time, and it’s produced in time for Thanksgiving in the US (although that’s not the original intent.) You can read more about it here.

Well, we got a little surprise last night–BF’s daughter is coming to Turkey Day with her spouse and child. (BF is actually a grandfather, too.) So, all of a sudden, I’ve doing turkey and everything else. Well, not all of it–she’s bringing some pumpkin (or is it pecan?) pie, and mac and cheese. Me? TURKEY! While we were on the phone with her, I told BF I was going to brine (it will probably be a turkey breast or two.) He said, “she’s going to brine it, whatever that means.” It means, darling, that I will knock your socks off. I know I have a jar of this brine somewhere in the pantry along with brining bags, but if I can’t find it, I’ll make this one from Martha Stewart’s website. Of course, there will be Cranberry Ginger Relish, some (non-gluten-free) cornbread, sweet potatoes (probably this recipe) and maybe one or two other things I’ve made before.

I’m also thinking about what I might be able to waffle and/or slow-cook ahead of time. Cornbread waffles?

Thankfully, BF is off Monday and Tuesday, so we will be working at the Casa on the proyecto embellecimiento (or “beautification project,” thank you, Google Translate.) We will primarily be clearing an area for the five of us to dine in, rapidly moving my things into the studio and many of this automotive things back to the garage where they belong. (A house is not a car repair shop.) We’ll find a designated spot–and a box–for the things that he can’t put outside. I hope to share studio pictures one of these days.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s some chocolate with my name on it at my local Winn-Dixie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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