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Tox-Sick
Tox-Sick: Suzanne Somers’ illness book

Are you Tox-Sick?

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

The holidays are all over now, thank heavens. Have you considered getting “healthy” for the new year? We all do that, don’t we? Before you get too involved in your new diet/gym membership/exercise plan/other expensive resolution, I have a book for you to read, if you haven’t yet. It’s an eye-opener, and will make you think twice before you have a cheat again. I’m not kidding.

Enter The Resolutionists!

When I was at Boeing, there was a small fitness room for employees. Not a whole lot, just some treadmills, spinner bikes, free weights and a few other weird torture machines I wouldn’t go near. There was one TV, and whomever got there first got to watch what they wanted. We had basic cable available, and boy, did people get upset with me when I was watching The Food Network!

This time of year, people are all about “eating healthy” after the rich, heavy foods of the holidays. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you understand what constitutes “healthy.” Bread, pasta, pizza, potatoes, rice, and all the rest of the starchy stuff, along with sugar you didn’t know you were eating are going to derail any “diet” you start. Ever seen Advo-Care? Last time I saw those direct-marketing things, they were all loaded with sugar. Reading labels, as I’ve long mentioned, is key to whatever is in that stuff you’re eating.

Sugar is still sugar

Look at it this way: if you’re going to a party, or something bigger like a wedding, and you eat cake, candy, etc., you KNOW you’re getting sugar, right? If you’re diabetic, you know to avoid it, or if you’re otherwise watching your intake, then you have that cake/ice cream/candy/dessert knowing exactly what it is. But finding out it’s in tomato paste, or some other non-confection you’ve bought is more than annoying, especially if it’s labeled “healthy,” “natural,” or “organic.” Yes, there is “organic sugar,” even if it’s coconut or monk fruit sugar, so it has to be taken into consideration when you’re talking grams of sugar.

But what if you’re doing all the “healthy” things, exercising, drinking more water, getting enough sleep and still not losing weight? You wouldn’t be the only one. Or you start feeling ill and don’t get better despite antibiotics or other prescriptions your doctor gave you? Is it “all in your head?” What’s going on?

We’re all Tox-Sick, that’s what.

Seriously.

Tox-Sick

Photo credit: SelfHelpDaily.com

Before I go on, I want to issue my standard disclaimer on all things I write about that are health-related:

I am not a doctor, nurse, scientist or other medical professional. I am a patient who reads and pays attention.

Ms. Somers has a number of best-selling books on health and wellness under her belt. Like Ms. Somers, I’m primarily interested in keeping myself healthy and well, and not spending the rest of my life on the pharmaceutical drug train. While drugs have their place, there is too much emphasis on “better living through chemistry,” that is, a pill for literally everything. It’s one thing when I get sick with a throat bug. But I want no part of toxic, dangerous and expensive prescriptions that I would be told to take the rest of my life when there are actual treatments for debilitating illnesses. Many chronic conditions have organic causes, but are simply managed with drugs that are not a “cure.” I’ve seen way too many people go down that road, and it’s not for me. That’s why I’m a pain in the backside about these things, and I avoid the SAD, or “standard American diet.”

That includes the boxed stuffing mix or macaroni cheese mess I’ve made for BF–at his request. He doesn’t see that, or the sodas he drinks all day long, as a reason he suffers with chronic heartburn. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We all need to know this

I don’t know what made me think about reading Tox-Sick, but I’m SO glad I finally did. I got it as an e-book from the library and downloaded it onto my tablet. (Sshhh. . .nevermind *which* library; the free Kindle app makes it easy.)  Transfixed from pretty much the first page. Environmental toxins are causing all manner of health issues, destroying the intestinal system (“gut”) and modern medicine hasn’t kept up.

Aisles are filled with of over-the-counter medications in drugstores, grocery stores and places like Walgreen’s, Walmart and Target. Other stomach problems? Other kinds of meds can help. But the standard allopathic methods only mask the symptoms–they don’t deal with what’s causing the ailment in the first place.

What’s in this book

Tox-Sick doesn’t discuss medical conditions that have established protocols and treatments. It’s more about the kinds of illnesses that we suddenly see a lot more of, such as peanut allergies in children. I never met anyone who had a peanut allergy when I was a kid–but that was sometime ago. I was talking to a lady on Facebook yesterday about something else, and she mentioned that she was born with a heart defect. That’s not the kind of conditions Ms. Somers discusses in this book.

The Doctor Joke

There’s an old joke that used to go around:

Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this!

Doctor: Well, don’t do that.

It’s sort of like that. But it’s really not funny.

Do you know someone who takes a lot of sick time? Someone who never really feels “right” but teams of doctors can’t find anything “wrong?” Or is it you? Have you been given the nebulous term “chronic fatigue?” Have you been called a “hypochondriac?”

You may be Tox-sick.

No, you’re not crazy.

I know, Charlie Sheen claimed the same thing.

You’ve heard the comment about people who drink a lot as “pickling their liver.” Actor Larry Hagman was a serious alcoholic who received a liver transplant later in life. Your liver is quite important, as any doctor will tell you. In fact, on his daily radio show, Dr. Hotze frequently mentions that when you take a pharmaceutical drug, even OTC (over the counter), your liver has to detoxify it. That’s true of something as simple as aspirin or as heavy-duty as a cancer drug. It’s also true of any other substances you may ingest, such as fluoride from tap water or from your dentist. Even if you’re not a drinker, don’t smoke the occasional you-know-what or ingest dreadful things you shouldn’t, your liver, GI tract and brain is under assault from everything from various environmental toxins, chlorine and fluoride in the tap water to inhaled allergens like mold.

Your liver can only do so much. Until it can’t.

And then you’re sick and nobody can tell you why. Your blood tests “are all normal.” Your PCP sends you to any number of specialists, who run various tests and you start hearing that “there’s nothing wrong with you.” Some may even imply you should see a psychiatrist, because it’s “all in your head.” It is if it’s a headache, of course, but if one of them gives you a psych referral, just toss it. Talking about why you don’t feel well is NOT going to solve the problem. Neither is an antidepressant.

You’re Tox-sick. You just don’t know it yet.

Suzanne Somers delves into the topic of illnesses caused by environmental toxin overload and the problems it caused her husband, stepdaughter and two of her granddaughters. They are not “mysteries,” they are illnesses with a specific cause and treatment. She knows where to find these doctors who do the kind of cutting-edge medicine who successfully treat these conditions.  Her investigation into environmental illnesses led her to find an entire arena of issues that can be cured, but usually aren’t.

How many times has this happened to you?

You go to the doctor and spend five minutes with him or her and leave with a prescription. Headaches? Here’s a pill. Rash that won’t go away? Here’s a cream. Weight gain? A (dangerous) diet pill. Mood swings? Go to a psychiatrist, get prescribed a dangerous antidepressant, stay on it forever.

Your symptoms have become the diagnosis. “We can’t find anything wrong with you, so maybe you need a psychiatrist.” Because they don’t know where to look. And then it’s just a straight path to the drug train station, starting with the first antidepressant or statin drug.

It happens every day in America.

That’s no way to live

I’ll repeat what Ms. Somers says in a few of her books: pharmaceutical drugs have their place, for things like infections and curable diseases. But a drug you stay on forever, “managing” your condition? Not so much. But medicine hasn’t kept up, and it’s highly likely your doctor hasn’t, either.

Toxins not only make you sick, they can weaken your system.

Make Friends With Your Gut

BF chews Tums a lot, especially at night. He also takes an OTC generic form of Zantac, called Ranitidine, every night with a glass of milk. No kidding. He does not see the irony, nor does he understand that he’s feeding the yeast buggies in his gut while tamping down the acid they bring up through his alimentary tract into his esophageal area. But he’s not the only one. I’m told his brother, sister and father all have “acid reflux.” And they drink soft drinks all day long. His father drinks diet sodas because he’s diabetic. (EEEWWW!!!) It’s a shame, because there’s an easy fix, and the benefits go beyond ending the acid assault on your throat. But BF refuses to give up his Cokes, and drinks whole milk because it’s “healthy.”

BTW, any kind of sugar, including lactose, or milk sugar, feeds the yeast overgrowth in your gut. Same with wheat and other grains, that’s why I gave up wheat all those years ago. And the junk food BF eats sometimes throws gasoline on them. He does not believe me.

What nobody tells you is that taking acid-killing drugs also causes malabsorption of nutrients from food—they block stomach acid. The yeast cells come up through the stomach and up to the throat, bringing the acid with it and burning your throat. Dr. Davis is the only doctor I’ve ever been to as a patient that didn’t look at me like I’d lost my bloody mind when I mentioned yeast overgrowth.

It doesn’t work that way.

Now, think about this: if, while “aging,” our bodies produce less of our regular hormones and other things, why would acid production go UP? Parts wear out as you age; they don’t go bonkers except in unusual cases. You go to nearly any doctor in America and tell them you have heartburn, and they will insist that you have “excess acid,” then give you a pill to take. Seriously? At no time, unless you insist, will they take a blood test for yeast overgrowth, (or go to a doctor who will) but it’s a frequent cause. You just know you’re taking a little pill and it goes away for a while.

Yeast Isn’t Just In Bread

I’ve written many times about the Yeast Free Diet, and why you should consider it. (The Green Willow Tree has two articles one yeast overgrowth here , and sells OTC detoxing yeast killers as well.) An important part of starting your detox is getting your alimentary system in good working order. Much of what’s called “leaky gut” and “acid reflux” is an overgrowth of Candida albicans in the intestines and the damage it causes.

If you’ve ever taken antibiotics—and let’s face it, who hasn’t?—you may very well be suffering from yeast overgrowth. Probiotics, along with yeast-free eating and either a prescription for anti-fungals or an OTC preparation, can correct the balance and make everything work like it should. Probiotics are also important to re-build the good intestinal flora to keep everything in balance, and get you on your way to no longer being Tox-sick.

It starts in your stomach

Ms. Somers also discusses HCL, which I’ve taken before. Didn’t do much for me, but at some point in the future, I may try it again. I did offer it to a neighbor before, who was suffering with heartburn, and it seemed to help, but she stopped it. But as Ms. Somers points out, since she took radiation therapy for breast cancer, she will have to take HCL for the rest of her life. Oh, you didn’t know about that? Yes–radiation knocks out your stomach acid production, so you’ll have to supplement with HCL so you can properly digest food. They don’t tell you that when you’re doing radiation, and she found out the hard way.

Low-fat is NOT where it’s at

Are you still doing low-fat diets? Stop. Immediately. Low-fat diets are like filling your tank a quarter of the way and expecting your car to take you from New York to Los Angeles on it. Fats, REAL fats, are what humans need to continue to run the system. Whether it’s olive oil, butter, coconut oil, whole milk cheeses, nuts, meats or things like avocados, you need fat to STAY ALIVE.

Fake fats, along with sugar, hydrogenated anything and other fillers, just do nothing. You might “lose weight,” but without nutrients to rebuild your cells that your body is made of, you’ll also lose bone, hair, and even energy. Eventually the body starts “holding on” to whatever nutrition it gets–that’s why crash diets help you lose weight for a while, but then the trend reverses and the weight comes back. (That’s from Suzanne’s first diet/health/cookbook.)

Years of low-fat and fake foods have made us fatter than before, and decimated the gut.

Fat is what keeps you alive. Sugar can kill you.

NOTE: this is not a license to eat everything in sight, but fat also provides satiety. You can’t over-eat fat.

I say this as someone who might have accidentally eaten a few of BF’s cookies the other night. But I wasn’t feeling great either, and of course, after some “comfort food,” I felt worse later. DUH. And then there are the rare occasions where the Bell rings a little too loud and I find myself crunching on delicious tacos with a couple of packets of Diablo sauce. (This week.) I got through 5 years of Tulane at night while working a 40-hour week with the help of Taco Bell and PJ’s Coffee. Since then, these are rarities, including my favorite Starbucks, even when I had a full-time job. But to their credit, Taco Bell now has the Power Bowl Combo that are devoid of taco shells.

We all have times when it’s fast food or starve. There is an entire population of this country that doesn’t know how to eat anything but fast food. And there are healthier options at many places now. But fast food not something that should be in your regular diet.

A real-life example

The other night, BF was heading into town for a few things, and I asked him to bring back unsalted butter. When he returned, he brought me Country Crock instead. (I have a less polite name for it.) I asked, “why did you buy this instead of butter?” BF: “it’s the same thing.” Amy: “Do you need a chemistry lesson?”

This is what’s in a pound of Land O’Lakes Unsalted Butter:

This is what’s in butter. That’s it. Real butter was *always* gluten free.

And this is what’s in the Shedd’s Spread Country Crock Original he brought home:

It’s NOT the same thing!

To be honest, Land O’Lakes also makes “spreads and margarines.”

There’s a lot more ingredients in the margarine than in the butter. Still, to their credit, Country Crock is made with fewer ingredients and nothing hydrogenated. Margarine has improved since the last time I bought it, back in the 1990’s, I think. But I still want butter.

I really did buy Diet Parkay Margarine back in the day, because I didn’t know any better. They call it “Light Parkay” now, and it’s made with milk now, so it says. But. . .it’s still not real butter.

Another real-life example

After reading about fluoride in water and toothpaste, I immediately returned two tubes of Crest toothpaste and replaced it with Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free toothpaste. BF wanted to know why, so I explained it to him–fluoride is TOXIC. If you don’t believe me, check the side of nearly any toothpaste sold in the US. There is a black-box warning telling you to call your local poison control center if you or a member of your family swallows it. Did you know that?

Fluoride is a neurotoxin. Exposure should be minimal. (Thanks, Dr. Hotze.)

BF doesn’t like the taste of Tom’s, so he’s back using the Crest, under protest from me. But I make sure I point out that he’s putting extra toxins in his system that he doesn’t need. Again, he doesn’t believe me.

This is why you’re Tox-Sick.

Becoming Tox-sick is not just one specific thing–it’s a lot of compounded factors that over time suddenly manifest in things like cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions. Just eating the wrong foods damages the gut, weakens the liver, damages the heart, so the rest of the system takes a hit. Chemical out-gassing in your home’s carpet and new furniture can sicken you and your children. Eventually, the brain is affected as well, and you’re sick, but nobody can tell you why. Your symptoms become the diagnosis, and you’re told you have the nebulous “chronic fatigue syndrome.”

You’re Tox-Sick.

In the case of Alan Hamel, aka,”Mr. Suzanne Somers,” it was a matter of standing water in the unfinished basement of a rented house that caused mold contamination that severely sickened him. Nobody knew it was there, and once discovered, they moved out of it very quickly. Months of detoxification treatments helped Mr. Hamel feel well again, and he’s still healing from the damage. Her granddaughters were both in a school building that made them ill; one was bitten by a tick and developed Lyme Disease. Their journey back to health was hard on everyone.

Ms. Somers explains that she’s since heard from quite a number of people who were forced to move out of their dream home because of various environmental toxins, including black mold. Like the others, they didn’t see the black mold, so they didn’t know it was there. You may have mold living in the HVAC air vents, and the first time you turn on the heater when it gets cold, you’ve been hit with mold spores. Cleaning those vents is important!

Please read this book now and defend yourself

I say that because I know that this time of year, people are cleaning up their diets for a while and exercising and drinking more water and doing whatever is the new “healthy” this year. What happens if you don’t lose that weight? You could be Tox-sick, overlooking a health problem you don’t even know you have, and maybe your regular doctor won’t test you for. It’s like that with thyroid patients–they do the standard TSH and say, “your thyroid is just fine!” Been there, done that.

The Herxheimer Reaction

A few times in the last few years that I’ve lost weight, I’ve noticed that I get “hot.” The first time it happened, I called Dr. Davis and asked about it. The nurse at the time called back and said that because I was losing weight, excess estrogen that was stored in the fat cells was suddenly being released, and causing sort of a “synthetic hot flash.” I’ve lost about 20 pounds since I’ve been here in Louisiana, and yes, I tend to take my jacket off or change shirts because it’s a “hot shirt.” Sometimes I get hot at night. But I’m losing weight now, although not as fast as I was on the HCG Diet, so I’m getting the “hot” feelings.

Why do I mention this, and why should you care if you’re male?

Toxins are also stored in fat cells, and if you start detoxing and/or losing weight, the same thing can happen. Lose the fat cells, lose the toxins (and the excess estrogen, male or female.)  It might not be a “synthetic hot flash,” though–you might find yourself with nausea, headaches, or some other symptom that makes you wonder what kind of bug you’ve picked up. If you’re doing the yeast-free diet or some other kind of detox or cleansing, it’s likely your body clearing toxins and stuff out of your system. This is known as the Herxheimer Reaction, or die-off. Oh, yes, I’ve had it–one day thought I wasn’t going to make it back to my desk at work before I could choke down the Alka-Seltzer!

Read. This. Book. NOW.

Reading Tox-sick will not turn you into a hypochondriac. Rather, it will arm you with the knowledge that you need to find out why you’re not getting better, why your doctor can’t figure out what’s wrong with you, or why your child or grandchild isn’t “right.” You will learn how to clean toxins from your system, and defend yourself from the toxins we can no longer avoid. Conversations with top doctors like Dr. Sherry Rogers, Dr. Stephen Sinatra and the late Dr. Nicholas Gonzales will help you on your path to true health, and do more than just “lose weight.” Get rid of the toxins and the weight may go away on its own. But don’t go back to eating junk food, either.

Don’t you want to be healthier this year?

I hate to see anyone suffer needlessly, especially when help is available. Detoxing is not just about drinking water for three days, eating lots of kale and fasting. Tox-sick is about clearing out the bugs, toxins and other stuff that’s keeping you ill and in Part 2, defending yourself daily against environmental onslaughts that are everywhere.

What am I doing now to keep from getting Tox-Sick?

Whatever I can, really–I already avoid processed food, with rare forays into the “bad stuff,” like the cookies the other night. Butter, not margarine. Switching toothpastes, too. Sticking with what I’ve been doing for years, best I can. I’m also going to re-read this book before the e-loan ends again and taking notes to go forward.

We’re not at the point where we can put in a reverse osmosis filter (“you want a WHAT?”) eat completely organic or even get grass fed beef here. But I plan to do more gardening than I did in Houston, and hopefully grow some of our own produce organically. I hope to eventually get back on all vitamins and supplements I was taking before I moved out of Houston so that I can continuously defend my system from toxins and the occasional bugs that go around.

Of course, I’m also butting heads a little with BF who thinks it’s all “hocus pocus.” We’ll get there in the end.

I’ve only scratched the surface

Honestly, there is so much more than I discussed here. Please read this book for yourself, your family, your friends, and, yes, even your pets. Cats and dogs can get Tox-sick from mold and toxins too, although that’s not covered in this book. And if someone you know is suffering from a “mystery illness,” give them a copy of Tox-sick, or at least, tell them about it.

To your health and wellness in 2017!

 

 

 

pizza sauce
Let’s Make Slow Cooker Pizza Sauce!

Homemade Pizza Sauce. In your slow cooker.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Today, we got our new President and a stylish new First Lady. We watched the inauguration and I saw the most beautiful powder blue suit I’ve ever seen. Now I want one, but in royal blue. I hope the pattern companies create one like they did for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. Quickly.

Well, I got the hankering again for them. Pizza. Waffles. But life throws us curve balls, and in this case, it was the end of my HEB Organics Pizza Sauce, darnit.

Such sadness. . . .

Since we have Winn Dixie and Walmart for shopping, I didn’t find any good alternatives there. This is what’s in the HEB version, which was less expensive than Classico:

You can’t beat this one–and it’s organic.

Now what? I’m limited if I don’t find an alternative. But–after seeing something on Facebook about pizza, I found Foodie With Family’s recipe for pizza sauce–in the slow cooker, darnit! It’s pretty simple, too–you just need to stir it frequently.

The setup

Almost everything you need–I forgot the sugar.

I made sure to look for as many ingredients that were not GMO and in cans that did *not* have BPA in the liners. Cost a little bit more, but of course, there’s a payoff elsewhere–even if BF doesn’t see it that way. I’ll explain more about that in the post that I’m horribly late publishing.

Yes, it’s important.

You have to look to make sure there are no GMO ingredients.

Another thing you have to make sure of is the ingredient list–is there sugar? Soybean oil? What else did they put into the “tomato paste?” No, no, no–read that label. I have returned tomato products before that I found out too late had other ingredients in them.

So,  you open up some cans of tomato paste and tomato sauce, and dump them into the crock:

Only a can opener is required here.

Then add in some garlic:

The return of the garlic doo-dad!

It says minced, so I minced:

Garlic. Minced instantly.

It says one to four cloves, so I added four.

Anchovies.

Now, this may offend some of my more sensitive readers. I added the one filet of anchovy, and thankfully, BF was nowhere to be found. I found the tin in the back of the pantry, under something else. Miss Alice packed up everything so carefully, and I am still not unpacked. But I was glad to find this.

pizza sauce

Sssshhhh. . .don’t tell BF!

If you’ve never seen anchovies, well, this is what you get when you open the tin:

See how tiny? I only needed one filet.

So after separating one of these much-maligned fish pieces, I dumped the rest of it into a glass jar and stuck it in that secret drawer where I keep things I don’t want BF to know about.

pizza sauce

One filet.

Added it into the crock and that was it. Honestly, you won’t taste it, because it melts into the sauce and gives a subtle background flavor.

Now let’s add the rest, starting with olive oil:

pizza sauce

I used the EVOO since the recipe called for it.

The herbs, oregano, basil and parsley:

Pizza sauce pizza sauce pizza sauce

I had to go find those in the pantry boxes first. Then, the ingredient I almost abhor the most:

pizza sauce

Sugar.

Yes, sugar, but of course, a raw sugar:

Pizza Sauce

This sugar is unrefined, and not bleached like granular sugar

Tomatoes, especially canned, can be very acidic, and you don’t want the sauce to ruin pizza. The recipe calls for one tablespoon first, and then the second after cooking, but I added a tablespoon of SomerSweet at the end. I chickened out.

Once you’ve got all the ingredients together, whisk them together:

Pizza sauce

Until it looks like this:

Pizza sauce

Until it’s nice and smooth and all mixed.

Cook on Low, but stir every half hour or so, for 4 hours. I know, I know. . .but it’s not that much trouble. You don’t want it burning in the pot, do you?

When you’re done, it looks like this:

Pizza sauce

Pizza! Well, almost.

At this point, it’s up to you to see if you like the way the sauce tastes, or if you think it needs a bit more sweetening. I think it did, so of course, I added the. . .SomerSweet. BUT–I could have added another tablespoon of the turbinado sugar, or even a packet or two of saccharin.

I forgot to take a picture of it, but after it cools, mix in the cheese.

Now it’s time to freeze it for whenever you need it next:

pizza sauce

Pizza sauce for a long time!

I didn’t feel like looking for more of those glass containers. And I put the plastic wrap on it to make sure we didn’t have any leaks in the freezer.

You can click on the link or check out the Recipes page if you want to try this for yourself. And why wouldn’t you?

The Hot Mess: Waffle Brownie Edition

Wanna know what happens when I beg BF to let me try something at least once in the waffle maker? I finally tried making brownies from a mix in the waffle maker:

The setup

After spraying the waffle surfaces with. . .Pam. . .

I don’t like this stuff.

And heating up the Griddler:

One of my favorite kitchen toys

I mixed it all up:

And poured it onto the waffle plates:

I let it cook until it looked like it was done:

It’s done, right?

And attempted, using multiple spatula tools, to remove it from the waffle maker. This is what happened:

BF ate some of the brownies that came out edible, laughed at me a little, and made me promise never to attempt this again. I also added that I would only make brownie waffles using a recipe designed for the waffle maker. Agreed. And then, after it cooled, I washed it all up.

Lessons learned. One success and one flop.

Next post, which is dreadfully overdue, is a very serious subject, and I’m sorry I’m late with it. I need to re-read the book I want to tell you about and why you should read it. I hope next week. It ties in with this post as well as the last one, and you’ll see what I mean when I finish it.

Meantime, Happy Dining!

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!

 

A Nice (HeatCageKitchen) Thanksgiving

Happy Monday, Dear Readers:

Are you over the food coma yet, or are you wondering when you’ll ever be done eating turkey new and different ways? HA–you know me, I’ll eat turkey anytime, and frequently do. Still looking for fresh turkey thighs around here. . .haven’t found them yet, but I managed to procure four at the Mandeville Whole Foods this weekend. (Turkey is cheap right now!) I was so happy when the little guy offered to butcher a turkey to give them to me, I said, “if you can do that for me, I’ll kiss you.” He looked a bit nervous, and replied, “I don’t think we’re allowed to do that, Ma’am.” I smiled and said, “Yeah, it think my boyfreind would be a bit upset with me, too.” Guess he’d never had that before; he was about 17, I think. Well, I’m a Texan, and I’m a tough customer, but I appreciated the help.

My cashier, Monica, knew exactly what I was talking about when I complained about no place for your coffee in grocery baskets here. (More on that later–and WF actually does have them.) Turns out she lived in League City for a while, and Clear Lake–and she misses HEB as well! My new BFF there. I told her all about our FABULOUS Clear Lake HEB, and how I used to have lunch on Saturdays with Miss Sunie, Miss Lei and Miss Carolyn’s wonderful samplings. But as nice as she and Lisa were yesterday, it’s getting easier, even though I still miss my HEB.

We’re going to have to take a trip to Clear Lake and buy groceries soon.

BF had to go to work early Saturday morning, but I was up early, and managed “bright-eyed and busy tailed” without the addition of caffeine, much to his dismay. BF can’t handle perky that early. He was looking for duct tape in the truck as we drove to town. (One guess.) But I’m here at the library, telling you all about my Thanksgiving.

We’re no longer taking the bucolic Cow Road, because *that* main road is now repaired after the August flooding literally broke it in several places. I’m gonna miss Cow Road, but maybe not all that much. . .it was kind of spooky at night. Episodes of The X-Files start out on settings much like Cow Road.  I warned BF to lock his door when we were going home, in case *something* came out of the woods, opened the door and pulled him out of the driver’s seat. This amused him to no end.

The other night, I was heading over to pick him up for 9:15 pm, and since it was cold, I took a cup of hot tea in a lidded travel mug.  I told BF I was on my way, and halfway down Cow Road, he texted me that he was getting ready to leave. I stopped The White Knight and texted back that I was “bumping and grinding down Cow Road.” When I arrived at his place of business, I let him know that I was bumping and grinding and managing a cup of tea when he texted, and I had to stop to text back, slowing me down. He was quite amused.

I’ve also visited the local Ace Hardware Home & Garden Center. They have more than just home and garden stuff. They have stuff for animals. They also HAVE animals–baby chickens!

What a cutie!

Well, hello, there!

They carry Leghorn, Ameraucana and Bantam varieties. The Leghorns are brave, they’ll walk right up to you and say hi. The Bantams are indifferent. But the Ameraucanas are, well, chicken! When I got close enough to take a picture, they all ran to the back of the cage, like I was trying to hit them. Poor babies. When I told BF about these little darlings, he asked, “you didn’t bring any of them home, did you?” They were $3.49 each, and I actually had enough in my purse to bring three of them home to the Casa. But no, we have a 60-pound pit bull puppy who will eat nearly anything, including jumping crickets (I have personally witnessed this behavior), so I figured the little darlings were safer at the hardware store in the heat chamber. They’re just adorable, though:

What's going on here?

What’s going on here? (I think this is the Leghorn variety.)

I enjoyed seeing them so much. . .I went back the next day just to visit them again. (BF didn’t know what to make of that, but it’s just around the corner from the library.)

See? These Ameraucanas are chicken!

See? These Ameraucanas are chicken!

They also have warm, soft bunnies and doves. And, maybe one or two other farm critters. But although they had supplies, there were no cats. Darn good thing. BF promises that we will, at some point, acquire a feline for me, but I warn him not just yet. Here’s one more cute picture of baby chickens:

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute? (I think these are the Bantam, but I may be wrong.)

BF’s BFF tells me that the grew up with chickens, and they’re not that cute. Oh, well. Let’s talk about a bigger bird.

As I mentioned last time, at nearly the last minute, I found myself making a full-on Thanksgiving dinner for four and a half people: me, BF, his daughter, her better half and their nearly 3-year-old son. My head was buzzing with all the details and reverse-engineering the process: when to make the brining liquid and when to add the turkey to it. When to start on the make-ahead sides, what I needed to make on Turkey Day. BF, to his credit, stepped back and let me do what I needed to, and just said with a smile, “this is your show.” In return, I promised him the best turkey he’d ever had, and I believe I delivered, based on what I heard from everyone. (Well, the wee one didn’t say much about it.) BF was also ultra-helpful in doing some tidying up, removing a lot of stuff from the dining area, including several large clear-plastic storage containers filled with my sewing patterns and a myriad of automotive things that, for the most part, belong in the garage. He went back and swept, mopped and put everything right so we could all enjoy a pretty nice meal.

We certainly did, except for one detail: BF’s daughter promised to bring mac & cheese and a pecan pie, BF’s favorite. Unfortunately, she only showed up with mac & cheese. BF was VERY disappointed to miss the pecan pie, but he did manage to find apple pie in the evening at his Dad’s house. She promises to deliver a pecan pie at a later date.

What did I do? What didn’t I do? My back still hurts from standing up for two days! But I had a blast, and all the dishes are finally washed. Let me take you through all this. Warning: I didn’t get pictures of everything. That’s how crazy-busy I was for 2 days.

BF was off work Monday and Tuesday, and we did some stuff in the house. He went back to work on Wednesday, working until 9:00 pm, and I stayed home to get everything started. I got up early, whereas BF slept later. But I got right on it, getting the turkey into the drink (brining fluid, that is.) Since I had half a jar, and we had an 8-pound turkey breast, not a whole turkey, it was plenty enough to brine the whole thing. That went into the fridge early, then I started on other things. I pulled supplies I knew I would need:

The setup

The setup (well, part of it, anyway.)

And why are those potatoes there? Mashed potatoes were requested. I also made sure these two were full and ready to rock:

Salt & Pepper--gotta have it.

Salt & Pepper–gotta have it. (Gorilla glue, behind the pepper, was not part of our Turkey Day. It’s just sitting there.)

Oh, and another special request:

Yes, she did.

Yes, she did.

I bought three boxes of this drek, I mean, holiday dinner staple, just to make sure we had enough, and I have one box left. You know what I did with it, right? But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I decided to make two loaves of cornbread: one was an old Martha Stewart recipe from her big green compendium book, and one was from Babycakes, the vegan/gluten free variety.

Real, glutinous cornbread.

Real, glutinous cornbread. I think I made this for the GER once or twice.

Why both? Well, the MS recipe was for dinner at the Casa, and the vegan loaf was to take to his father’s place later. Turns out BF’s dad is a diabetic, and I brought it so that he could enjoy some with coconut oil and agave syrup. Well. . .he already had some, but I told him if he didn’t like it, I’d take it home, because I like it! No word yet on if he liked it or not. But first was the *real* cornbread, then the vegan version:

Ready for Thanksgiving!

Ready for Thanksgiving!

The “regular” cornbread recipe, which I may post eventually, is pretty simple but uses a fair amount of butter, which is why it’s so darn GOOD! (A stick and half, to be exact.) Sure enough, everyone loved it, as they always do. We still have some in the fridge, but I may freeze it if BF is sick of cornbread.

Once I got all that done and the washing up finished, I went onto. . .you know. One of my favorite Thanksgiving staples.

The start of something good.

The start of something good.

Yes, that’s the infamous Cranberry Ginger Relish (it’s no longer on Martha Stewart’s website, but a printable is available on the Recipes page.) I’ve made it many times, and it’s always a hit. Until now. Everyone said it was “OK.” Even BF. I was really disappointed–I made it with regular sugar, not SomerSweet. It always disappears, even with real sugar, but not this time.

Cranberry Ginger Relish. Oh, yes.

Cranberry Ginger Relish. Oh, yes.

I made a double batch, some for us, and some to take with us to BF’s Dad’s place later in the evening. It’s easy and you can make it a couple of days in advance. No word on if he liked it, or if the rest of that group liked it, but our little group said “it’s OK.” Oh, well. . .I finished what was left over time and burned it off washing up and moving stuff around in the studio. More for me!

Also done in advance: from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, delicious Green Beans Gremolata. I did enjoy BF’s face when he asked, “what’s gremolata?” Another “pesto moment” with a cute quizzical look on his face! I explained it, of course, as a fresh seasoning blend, which it really is. Blanched the green beans, then put them into ice water, and then made the gremolata. When I finished that, I packed it up, then drained and packed up the green beans and stashed them in the fridge. And then I started the washing up.

The kids (I can say that now) were slated to arrive at 11:00 am. Of course, they didn’t make it until about 1:30, which threw me off, but gave me lots of extra time to make sure everything was DONE. Thursday I got up about 7:00 am or so, and went to work. First up: drain, rinse and pat dry the turkey:

Drying off the turkey means the butter will rub on easier and stick better.

Drying off the turkey means the butter will rub on easier and stick better.

I used my roasting laurel, which holds the turkey UP in the roasting pan. It also garnered another funny look from BF–“what’s that green thing for?” I explained that, too, as politely as I could. It’s not my intent to confuse him, only to explain. But I don’t want to sound like I’m talking down to him either, because that’s not my intent, either. But I do enjoy the funny looks!

Next up: butter it up!

Outside. . .

Outside. . .

And inside.

And inside.

This gives the turkey a nice crispy skin and keeps it moist and tasty. Since it sat in the drink all night, it didn’t need any additional seasonings like salt or pepper. It was 8 pounds, so at 350, it baked for 2.5 hours. Once that was in the oven, I did more washing up and got started on the mashed potatoes.

Low-carb folks don’t normally have potatoes, but of course, I was asked, so I did.  (I also made some waffled hash browns for breakfast last week, I think on Wednesday–BF enjoyed those, too.) Using another Ina Garten recipe, I peeled and boiled some potatoes. While those were boiling, I warmed a stick of butter and some half-and-half in a small saucepan. When the potatoes were done, I put them into the stand mixer (BF also lifted that heavy thing up for me), turned it on low, added the melted butter and half-and-half, salt, pepper, and a half cup of sour cream.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes!

Perfect Mashed Potatoes!

What Ina tells you in the book is that you can set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, and they stay hot and tasty for 30 minutes or more, but you might need more liquid. I didn’t–and this worked very well for me. Best mashed potatoes ever, and they stayed perfect more than 2 hours after they were cooked, just like this.

But get this: since sour cream only comes in a whole cup, I took some out for the waffled hash browns and dipped mine. I offered BF some, and he declined–seems he doesn’t like sour cream on baked potatoes. Thankfully, I didn’t tell him that was the “secret ingredient” in the mashed potatoes–he would have been mad at me for doing that.

Next up was a subject of much contention: sweet potatoes. Longtime readers know I can’t stand the ridiculous treatment given to these nutritional gems around the holidays, which includes marshmallows, maraschino cherries, pineapple, corn syrup and other unnecessary additions. I made my favorites, but. . .they stayed in the oven too long, darnit, and were a bit over-done.

Sweet Potato Frites

Sweet Potato Frites

GRRRR. . .I’ll eat them. Just can’t seem to recapture the magic the first time I made these in 2002 for me and the GER. We couldn’t stop stuffing our faces with them that day, but this time. . .darnit.

Next up: stuffing. But not just any stuffing. I begged BF to let me make STUFFLES!! Yes! Two boxes of stuffles, and put them in the little oven to keep them warm. I couldn’t resist:

STUFFLES!

STUFFLES!

Those went over very well. The next day, I offered to make BF a sandwich with the stuffles, and turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy in between. He declined my inventive idea. (They make sandwiches like that at Starbucks, you know.)

Because I was being daring, I decided to try my hand at Ina’s Perfect Homemade Gravy. You know what? They LOVED IT!! I kid you not–I even used pan drippings from the turkey. It was pretty easy–start out by caramelizing the onions:

BF couldn't believe I was cooking that much onion, but he was thrilled with the result.

BF couldn’t believe I was cooking that much onion, but he was thrilled with the result.

I had to explain what that meant, but to his credit, BF gave me the space to do everything, and he was not disappointed. In fact, they were all expecting gravy from a packet. Oh, NO. I kept cooking the onions, despite BF’s skepticism:

Twenty minutes later. . . .

Twenty minutes later. . . .

See how much browner they are? By this time the turkey was done, and I took it out to sit for 20 minutes under a foil tent. I removed some of the pan drippings and added them in. Then, as instructed by Ina, I started sprinkling in. . .flour:

Yes, real flour, not the gluten-free type.

Yes, real flour, not the gluten-free type.

Cook that a little:

This cooks out the "raw flour" taste.

This cooks out the “raw flour” taste.

And then add two cups of hot chicken (or turkey) broth. Ina specifies that she prefers homemade, but. . .well, this came from Trader Joe’s:

It must be heated, or I think the gravy will seize up.

It must be heated, or I think the gravy will seize up. (I think.)

Next up was a tablespoon of Cointreau, or other good brandy. Well. . .I opened up a couple of those boxes marked “Amy Liquor” and pulled this out:

img_3569

I added one tablespoon when BF wasn’t looking, and when it was all stirred up and cooked in:

Gravy!!

Gravy!!

I added in a tablespoon of cream, which was optional, and stirred it well.

See that Cranberry Grab-It dish on the burner above the saute pan? That burner is also the “air vent” for the oven. When you use the oven, that burner gets very hot from the air vent, even though the burner is turned off. I put that dish there to warm it up so that the gravy wouldn’t go into a cold dish. Worked like a charm, too.

Then it was cleaning that pan, adding oil on high heat, then the green beans and heating them up. (I put my red universal pot lid on top to heat them faster.) A few minutes later, I took them out and put them in another serving dish, topped them with the gremolata, tossed them and covered them.

Then we heard the car door shut and the dogs making noise.

When BF’s very nice daughter brought in the hot mac & cheese, we immediately went to putting food out and having some. We had a great time. His daughter raved about the gravy, and all of them just loved it. I took a taste, and agreed that, for the first time, I like it. So, maybe one day I’ll try this again gluten free. A Facebook commentor on Dr. William Davis’ Wheat Belly offered the suggestion of thickening gravy with arrowroot in place of the flour, so I may try that at some point. (Shhh! Don’t tell BF.)

I went through at least a pound and a half of butter for Thanksgiving. BF was shocked when I told him we had no more butter, but it’s the truth–even the butter dish was empty. So when I hit Whole Foods on Sunday, I bought a pound.

Incidentally, did you know there’s a difference in the way butter is packaged on the east coast and west coast? I’ve noticed that when I’ve bought butter at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, they come in short, fat sticks, rather than the longer slimmer ones we get down here in the South. Turns out there is a reason for that–the ones we get here are known as “East Coast Elgins,” and the ones west of the Rockies are called “Western Stubbies.” Since Trader Joe’s is a California-based company, well, you get it. Whole Foods is based in Austin, but they also sell Western Stubbies, but I’m guessing it’s because they were primarily a west-coast store for so many years. (The first one in New Orleans was in the French Quarter, and was the size of a Circle K, until they built a bigger one in Metairie.)  I found this out when I was looking at OXO’s website. You can read a little more about that on The Kitchn’s website.

We went to visit BF’s father, sister, and brother-in-law later in the evening. BF’s brother and sister-in-law brought a big spread that people were in various stages of enjoying; that’s where he found the apple pie. It was very rushed and busy, but we had a nice time with them as well.

So. . .next up is Christmas, and I have no idea what we’re doing or where. I hope to be able to do more slow cooking and maybe a bit of waffling, too. Maybe brownies, maybe cake, maybe sweet rolls–whatever they ask for, I’m up for. But I’m getting back on my regular low-carb/gluten-free/somewhat Paleo eating style, best I can.

Give some thought now to any upcoming holiday gatherings, office parties, and Christmas lunch/dinner celebrations that you’ll be attending, and what you might need to bring. Feel free to search the archives here, or start looking for some inspiration online. Start with Martha Stewart’s website, The Pioneer Woman’s website (she has a recipe section just for Christmas), The Kitchn, or jump in with both feet and get on Pinterest. Other celebrity chefs have websites and recipes, and they’re too many to list here (just pick one!) Create your “Holiday 2016 Recipes” board and start pinning. The Food Network also has a huge database of recipes (well, DUH.) But if you want more, well, ask yourself a question.

What’s your favorite grocery store? HEB’s website has a whole section for holiday things–products, recipes, etc., and you can order HEB things from the website from all over the US (except coffee to California.) Go here to find lots and lots of HEB’s recipes–just pick one. (Wait–Chocolate Pecan Pie? That could put BF on his knees!) Kroger has a general listing of recipes, while Randall’s also has a page for Christmas recipes. East-coast readers familiar with Publix will also enjoy their recipes and meal planning page. Louisiana-based Rouse’s has a recipe page as well–so if you’re looking for some Louisiana food for your Christmas dinner, take a look there. (Winn Dixie doesn’t have anything, I checked.) Trader Joe’s has a very nice recipe site, primarily using their own products, and so does Whole Foods.

No, I will NOT be making those “mirlitons.” Longtime readers know I hate them, whether you call them that, “Mexican pears” or “chayote squash.” They’re good for one thing: breaking windows. Wait a minute. . .Hatch chili bread? In Louisiana? Hmmm. . . .

OK, folks. . .I think I’ve bored you enough with getting started on Christmas early. Just think about what you’ll be doing, OK? Whether it’s a church function, going to someone’s house, or just doing Christmas dinner alone the way I did for many years, you’ve got time right now. Try out a recipe or two, gather any unusual ingredients that might be harder to find on December 20th, make room in your pantry, fridge and freezer for them, and plan your menus,but GET STARTED. If you find yourself with a last-minute invitation, check your Pinterest board for something you can make quickly or looks good.

I’m all about getting ahead of problems. You can ignore it, but it won’t go away. And if you are going to be alone, do what I did for all those years–make a delicious dinner and enjoy yourself. I recommend some good old-fashioned British comedy DVDs, too–and if you have cable, the Doctor Who Christmas special, which is always well-done and spectacular. No cable? See what your local library can get for you, by interlibrary loan, if need be. But as always, START REQUESTING THEM NOW. See if your PBS station runs Doctor Who or other British TV. Or you’ll be watching stuff on YouTube on your phone.

Library’s closing. I gotta go, but I’ll be back again real soon with more foodie things.

Happy Dining!

 

 

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:

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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:

 

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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.