Gumbo–that ubiquitous dirty-dishwater looking stew of whatever people throw in it, unique to Louisiana, happened in the Casa de Rurale recently. It could have even happened in Texas. Not quite what you think, and I ate it too. Read about how I made it, I ate it, and how it was somehow gluten-free and wheat-free thanks to a certain author.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
Do you idly flip through cookbooks and think about making something? I do. I think about how nice it would be to try this recipe, and how enjoyable it would be to have, and maybe how much I enjoyed making it for Miss Alice, or for a group of people. One day I did it, but it was for BF. But first, some news.
Little Japanese Cookies
So three of our Buddhist youth division went to Japan in February for a training course, and they had a pretty incredible spiritual time, from what we heard. No, there wasn’t any sake or karaoke involved (or they left that part out) and they brought back lots of stories. Well, one of them came to our district meeting and brought the cutest box of little cookies:
Kansai is a city in Japan where great things have happened, and one of the places they visited. I insisted that our district leader/hostess let me take pictures as she opened the box. Little things like that from Japan are just adorable. So, here we go:
The back of the box:
Then we cracked open the box to see:
They’re really tiny, no kidding:
I had to try one, this one being raspberry. Mildly sweet, crunchy like an amaretto cookie, and lightly flavored. I didn’t ask for a translation of the ingredients list. Again, so cute:
I have no idea what it says. I brought two or three home to BF, where he devoured them all in a quick bite.
On the way home, I made a quick stop at Whole Foods (I was only a couple of miles away) and noticed this in the parking lot:
No kidding, a charger for an electric car, and it looks to be free for Whole Foods customers:
Of course, the first thing I wondered was, “does anyone in Louisiana, let alone Mandeville, have an electric car that needs this?” California, sure. Arizona, maybe. Texas, probably with all the petrolheads. But Louisiana? No idea. But if you have one, well, you can charge up that the Mandeville Whole Foods. I don’t know about any other Louisiana location.
I’m sure it won’t be free forever.
Quick Note On Sourcing Ingredients
Finally, I realize that my new favorite online vitamin store also sells a myriad of healthy food products. Why didn’t I think of this before? Vitacost carries all manner of healthy foods and ingredients. I was looking for corn flour recently to make more of my favorite vegan cornbread from Babycakes. Nobody carried it, even in New Orleans. Finally I thought about ordering it directly from Bob’s Red Mill, but then I looked at Vitacost. Oh, yes–they have ALL that stuff, including their own brands of things like pink Himalayan sea salt and a three-pound bag of the sweetener Erythritol (the subject of an upcoming blog post) for a really good price. They may not have absolutely everything, but if you’re looking for something that’s hard to find, check Vitacost’s website first before giving up on it.
And of course, don’t forget Amazon’s website for hard-to-find ingredients, either. Remember the best part about both these merchants: they ship it right to your door!
Update On The Dishwasher
My fabulous countertop dishwasher is washing its heart out these days, but I discovered that the model I bought is currently unavailable. Why? Because Edgestar and Compact Appliance will be bringing out new models this summer. If you’re looking to get one immediately, check other online outlets to see if they’re still available. If not, give it a couple of months.
Also, I have a new client who asked me to write some “green” articles. Because of that, I’ve discovered that Seventh Generation powdered dishwashing detergent works really well in this dishwasher. I’m going to start buying so I can help us get a little bit greener. It’s a little more than the gelpacs I’ve been using, but I only use a tablespoon, so that box will last me quite a while. The previous powder was the Walmart brand, which I’d bought thinking it would work fine. Nope–it clumped and glued itself into the dispenser. But Seventh Generation doesn’t do that. I’ve got a big box, and will be returning the gelpacs one day soon.
Friend of the blog LK in Houston buys her, um, bathroom tissue from Amazon, and they deliver a 48-roll case to her front door. I think she has Prime, but I don’t remember. It may be a good option for us, too, since we’re. . .way out here. The mail lady and several other courier drivers have become very familiar with the Casa de Rurale since I started regularly ordering stuff online.
The Re-Education Of BF
Sometimes, I wish I’d never picked up cooking as a hobby. Especially with BF around. I get bored making the same thing, stuff that looks like a Swanson TV dinner. Sure, it’s easy to throw in the CrockPot, and I appreciate that part of the meat-and-potatoes dinner. But geez–can’t we eat something different sometime? Grass-fed beef if it’s on sale? It wouldn’t hurt to buy organic milk when we have the chance, either.
Last week we had to head over to Baton Rouge, and I twisted his arm to take me into Sur la Table. It’s a smaller store than Baybrook, and they don’t do cooking classes, darnit. When I told him about it, he kind of knew where it was, but had no idea why. Finally, after trying to explain “professional cooking tools,” and not getting through, I decided to take it to his level.
See, BF isn’t stupid or ignorant–but sometimes, he has no frame of reference. It’s not ignorance–that’s just not ever knowing what something is. Like a popular TV show that everyone else watches, but you’ve never seen it, so you have no idea what the other person is talking about. Happens to both of us all the time. To him, buying something at a pricey store is no different than going to Walmart for it. Finally, I thought on his level, and realized how to explain it.
“It’s Snap-On Tools For Cooks.”
THAT made sense! If you’re not familiar, Snap-On Tools are the high-end, professional grade mechanics’ tools that are coveted by car guys and gals everywhere. They work the FIRST time you put that wrench on a bolt. Sure, they’re expensive, but they’re professional grade and are made to last a lifetime, just like Le Creuset pots.
What did I need? A good potato masher. I make mashed potatoes for him a lot now, and so I needed one. I wanted a good one that would last a long time, and I got it. (It also doubles as something strong to whack him with if he starts messing around in the kitchen.) Of course, all he could think of was, “It’s overpriced.”
A Tale Of Two Salads
To give you an idea of the contrast between us, BF took me to a local seafood restaurant recently, where they have a salad bar. If you order an entree, there’s one trip to the salad bar. You can just have salad for one price with multiple trips. If you’re really hungry, order an entree *and* multiple trips to the salad bar. I make mine count.
As a veteran of places like Sweet Tomatoes, I look for the good stuff, and frequently pass on salad dressing:
Oh, yes. And those are raisins and dried cranberries, too. Not too many, but some for added sweetness. Now, when BF hits the salad bar, this is what he comes back with:
About a half-cup of lettuce, some cheese, red onion, 12 ounces of Thousand-Island dressing and several bread croutons. And yet, the lettuce gave him. . .gas. That’s what he says, anyway. He takes the hush puppies off my plate, too.
BF cringes when we go to restaurants, but thankfully, it’s not very often. I try hard to find the healthiest thing available, and I’ve been successful each time by asking questions. So you see what I’m working with.
Amy Makes Gumbo
Much as I’m *not* a fan of Louisiana food, I made gumbo for us recently. Why did I grow up in Louisiana, but don’t want any? Well, I’m done with it. And, Louisiana food is a lot of flour, hydrogenated oil and other unhealthy stuff I don’t want. So I dropped it years ago. Mexican food, yes, thank you, with lots of guacamole, sour cream, cheddar cheese and fresh salsa. But you can keep the rest of that stuff. Yuck.
Oh, and BF’s daughter made a gumbo for us once that used the base out of a packet. No. Everybody here has their own way of making gumbo, but. . .well, she bought a gumbo mix or something.
Admittedly, if BF decides to go for some boiled crawfish, I’ll gladly have some. Shrimp, of course, I love, as long as I don’t have to peel 150 pounds of them. (I’ve done that too.) I usually order shrimp in a restaurant, because I don’t have to mess with them. Crab, it’s been way to long. And oysters are only good if they’re deep fried in hydrogenated oil with high-carb cornmeal and flour, so I usually pass. But jambalaya and gumbo? No thanks. Until now.
Could It Be. . .Gluten Free?
Yes, indeed, it can, thanks to my accidental finding of a gumbo recipe in a cookbook a couple of weeks ago.
Now, I showed you the pictures from the gumbo cookout we visited at the holidays. (BF recently visited Mr. Calhoun at his place of business, the auto shop, for car stuff for one of his clients.) On one of those trips, BF had the occasion to have lunch on the road, and he got. . .gumbo. The “real” kind, from somewhere in Baton Rouge, I think. He texted me the picture:
And yes, he loaded up on crackers. No thanks. He actually didn’t finish it, brought it to his brother’s place of business, and his brother gobbled it up. Enjoy, guys.
I had a few cookbooks sitting in the kitchen, and I started flipping through one to find *something* else to make for dinner. I knew we had two chicken breasts in the freezer, but that gets real boring real quick. And then, I came across something in the Wheat Belly 30-Minutes (Or Less!) Cookbook: New Orleans Gumbo.
I went over the ingredient list, and realized that I only needed a few things to complete it. Andouille style sausage and a bell pepper. Carefully, I made plans to purchase these ingredients and wondered how I would get them into the house without him knowing.
He Found Out Anyway
Well, I told him I was making something *special* for dinner that I knew he’d like, but I wouldn’t tell him what. Finally, he wrestled the book away from me and saw it. “New Orleans Gumbo! Well, I’ll try anything you make.” That’s his rule, (and his standard answer), so he’ll have one bite of it. But if he doesn’t like it, well, it’s back to grilled cheese sandwiches or something.
So once the proverbial cat was out of the bag, I got busy with making dinner.
Of course, I left out one ingredient out of the picture, essential to the dish:
So let’s get on with it. Make your Cajun seasoning first:
Mix it and pour it into a storage jar:
At this point, you can get a pinch bowl for the teaspoon you need for this dish, set it aside, and stash this back into the pantry.
Heat your oil over medium-high heat:
Chop the chicken and the sausage:
Add these to the hot oil:
And let them cook for about 8 minutes. When they’ve cooked and browned, take them out with a slotted spoon, put them in a bowl, set them aside, then drop the heat down to medium.
Then You Make A Roux
If you’ve never heard of this, a roux (“roo” or “rew”) is the basis for a gravy. It’s done by cooking flour in hot oil on the stove, and it takes a while. You use a fair amount of it, and when you’re done, it’s all thick and brown and. . .gravy.
The Good Doctor has an alternate method.
Pour one cup of chicken stock into the pot, and add the coconut flour one tablespoon every 30 seconds until it’s thick enough for you:
The coconut flour doesn’t really add a noticeable taste to it. Once that’s done, add the onion:
Then the garlic:
Then the bell pepper:
And the seasoning mix and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes until they soften a little:
See how it’s thickening?
Ok, next–add the sausage and chicken back into the pot:
And then add the rest of the chicken stock:
Then just cover and cook it for 8 minutes more. The chicken should be completely cooked and the vegetables softened.
What About The Rice?
Don’t panic. I’ve got you covered.
When you get gumbo in a restaurant, it’s usually served with rice, or the rice is in it. That’s not low-carb, and I’m not sure about gluten-free, either. SO. . .I made rice for him and quinoa for me.
I used the last of the chicken stock for my quinoa:
And, of course, made some rice for BF.
And then it was time for dinner. You won’t believe what happens next. . . .
The Tasting And The Conversation
So I fixed his plate, and then mine, and we sat down to have gumbo on a Saturday night.
He takes a bite, and then another. He doesn’t say anything at first. It went like this:
“It’s pretty good.”
“OK if I make it again?”
“I feel like I want to yell at you for not making this before! Why haven’t you ever made this for me?” (He’s still stuffing his face with it.)
“I only found the recipe last night.”
“How long have you had that book?”
So, there we have it. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
It Really Is That Easy To Make
If you want to make this for yourself and/or your family, I’ve put a printable PDF copy on the Recipes page. You make the seasoning, and then make the gumbo. Doesn’t take too long, really. Healthy, tasty, and a great weeknight meal, with or without rice/quinoa.
Coconut flour is pretty easy to find these days, and I can get it here in my area (although I still get stuff at Trader Joe’s sometimes, too.) And as I said earlier, Vitacost and Amazon can ship it to your door if you can’t find it locally.
What are you waiting for? Make some and enjoy it.
Happy New Year, and Welcome to HeatCageKitchen: Automotive Edition! There’s some delicious barbecue in Central Louisiana, and BF and I were cordially invited to have some.
Happy 2018, Dear Readers:
Welcome to another edition of “What Are These Two Lug Nuts Up To Now?”
No, I promise not to mention you-know-what that me and BF are supposed to be getting in shape for. Haven’t been able to carve out exercise time just yet. Need to do that soon–it’s February! I’d be riding my bike now if I hadn’t hurt my back this week. . .standing up from a seated position. No kidding. It’s getting better now.
So, does your office coffee look like this? Mine does.
I posted that on Facebook the other day, and a former coworker was actually jealous. He worked with me at Boeing and now lives in the Seattle area.
I’ve got a short break in client work, so I thought I should try and finish a blog post. Irony: I know from writing blog posts for digital marketing agencies that in order to get rankings in Google and other search engines, you need to regularly publish useful and relevant content. Yes, I can do that. . .soon. Besides, I’ve already paid for the domain name for another year (It’s not expensive.)
Let’s get started.
Vegan Beef Jerky
You’re probably thinking, “what’s this foolishness?” Like I did when I saw this stuff in Whole Foods recently:
This is not a joke:
If you think that’s healthy. . .no, seriously, it’s not. And it isn’t cheap, either.
For a bunch of soybeans and sugar for people who eat “nothing with a face,” but it’s made to TASTE like something with a face. (Remember last year the “beef-free beef broth” I found in the same Whole Foods?) It’s similar to this product from my favorite snack company Epic, which is also available in Whole Foods, and about the same price with actual MEAT. But this “vegan jerky” has no beef in it. What’s the point of fake-me-out “beef jerky” made with soybeans?
If you’re vegan, why are you going to mess with something that tastes like something you don’t eat? Makes no sense, but, well, supply and demand and all that. Apparently the company makes several types, too. Here’s a picture from their Instagram page via their website that says “Happy Science Fiction Day.” Oh, the IRONY.
I’m still allergic to soy. Just say no and save your money for real food. Yuck.
The Christmas Kittens
Christmas was relatively low-key for us, just like Thanksgiving. We were alone, and we went to visit BF’s daughter, her partner and their son, then to his Dad’s place up the road. BF will have another grandson in March, which we were notified of about October, I think. His Dad was thrilled that we went up to that little room upstairs and cleared out all of BF’s old rubbish, and burned a garbage bag full of old bills from 10 years ago. Mr. C. said it was the best Christmas present ever.
At the kids’ place, someone dumped off two very tiny, helpless kittens a few days earlier. These two millennials were going to leave them to starve out in the cold. She’s pregnant, they have dogs, so. . .on the way out, I scooped them up and brought them home with us. They made themselves comfortable immediately after they had some food and water.
These two were just all over the place:
It subjected me to an adverse environment:
The full-grown cat was VERY unhappy to have these interlopers. I never intended to keep them, of course, just to make sure they didn’t meet a terrible fate outside. These two weighed about as much as a sandwich, and they’d been outside in the cold on their own for a few days without their mother or shelter, fed once or twice. BF understood, and didn’t mind me taking them home for a rescue.
The pit bull puppy wanted to play with them, and they put him in his place with some hissing and swatting.
I kept putting the little fur balls on the other side of this “doggie gate” BF built to keep the dogs in the living room. I wanted them to stay back there so that they’d be safe. But they’re so tiny that they just kept walking right through the slats.
They tried to make nice with the big cat, but Tabbicat wasn’t having any of it. A week of keeping them separated with a makeshift litterbox in my office was all we could take, but we endured. Tabbicat whizzed in a corner, then moved on to BF’s living room chair, multiple times. I think we got the smell out, but BF still isn’t sitting in it. There may be a slipcover in its future.
Only the big cat minded. Because Tabbicat is very, very bonded with BF (he should announce their engagement) he didn’t mess with the kittens when they climbed up his chair and onto his chest. I had to peel them off BF, so that their scent didn’t mix with his.
I attempted to contact several local animal rescues, and only one responded. The lady from the one I got to met me at the Hammond Starbucks that Friday and I sadly handed them over. (I was crying on the drive down there.) She noticed that they were very docile, and they should be adopted pretty easily. I told her that if I ever found out she was involved in dog fighting I would hunt her DOWN. She laughed at me. I knew they were going to have a better life, and I wished them well, told them to be happy in their new homes.
It would have been nice to have adorable kittens a little longer. But we know we did the right thing by them.
The New Year’s Eve Barbecue
I’ve probably mentioned this before, BF is a car guy. He’s not only a mechanic, he also builds race engines. Additionally, he also knows people in the genre, and he’s been to a number of events where he’s met lots of people. This is similar to my going to AWAI Bootcamp and other conferences where I’ve met people that I’ve kept in touch with over the years.
But on this day, we drove a couple of hours to a small town near Lafayette, Louisiana, for Mr. Earl Schexnyder’s annual get-together for all his “race guy” friends. Well, OK, there were women too, but the majority of the race people were guys. Us gals were there as dates and to see what they get up to. Fortunately, BF doesn’t drink, smoke or anything like that. And I was there as a food blogger, taking pictures and nibbling like the rest of them. Oh, boy, did I nibble–just like at Bootcamp.
BF has known this man for many years, meeting him at an annual event called Drag Week. However, due to his work schedule, BF has never been able to go on New Year’s Eve. This year, he put in for a vacation day, since Mr. Earl decided to schedule his annual cookout for the 30th of December. It fell on a Saturday, so we got up early, took care of things, and hit the road.
Mr. Earl has been doing this annual cookout for many years, and enjoys inviting the people in that he has worked with and knows from his business. While he’s doing gumbo, he’s not the only cook.
This was the chicken they added to the Gumbo. Please note that I have no idea what “Slap Ya Mama” is like, nor do I condone such violence.
And rice to go with the gumbo:
Some 90 miles from home, we passed all manner of vehicles, including at least a dozen with Texas plates on them. Through areas with nothing and little areas with lots of mobile homes, we ran the gamut of Louisiana. I talked him into taking me to Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge on the way home. We had three week-long freezes, twice with snow, and I wanted to make sure that I was stocked up with chocolate almond milk. No way am I giving up my yeast-free hot chocolate for anybody!
Remember, this is an auto repair shop, not a professional kitchen.
It’s a social event, of course, and a nice marketing thing, too. Think of it as the mechanic’s version of a cocktail party, and everyone enjoys themselves.
So, some of the things we saw when we walked in:
It was the first thing I saw, and it was a white cake with all that frosting. I didn’t touch it, honest. But what I did touch, multiple times, was this:
BF stayed away from this, I think it confused him. It looked like 7 Layer Dip, but I didn’t ask. I was too busy nibbling at it. And I couldn’t keep my paws out of these, either:
Being garage guys, you know there are:
And of course, cars, cars, and more cars. With guys talking about cars. But we’ll get to that later, OK?
But let’s talk about something really important to a Texan, native or naturalized. Barbecue.
Meet Alvin Calhoun
Now, I’ve always enjoyed barbecue. I make my own barbecue sauce (when BF isn’t home so I don’t have to listen to it.) I believe that Texas has the best barbecue, but that’s an 18-year prejudice. I’m not saying Louisiana can’t have good barbecue–but that stuff BF likes in Hammond has absolutely no taste to it. It looks like dog food, and tastes like it could be (not that I’ve sampled dog food myself.) On this occasion, BF was telling the truth, and we met some nice people, too.
In this little town on the other side of Lafayette, in an auto repair shop, on a slightly cool, and cloudy day, was the best barbecue I’ve had in a very long time. BF kept telling me about this man with a long history of doing all kinds of things, including car stuff, and now he does barbecue, too. Everyone loves his barbecue. When you have it, BF says, “It’s a life-changing event!” I was about to find out.
This is the very nice and very avid barbecue guru, Alvin Calhoun:
In all seriousness, you’ll notice this man is in a wheelchair. I won’t go into the specifics, but yes, he’s in a wheelchair, and he’s creating barbecue. Delicious barbecue. As in, you wish you hadn’t eaten all that other stuff before you had this delicious barbecue. Because now you’re going to need a wheelbarrow to get back into the truck to go home. His barbecue has won awards, beating out New Orleans’ own Brennan family. That should tell you something.
Now, all my Texas readers are thinking, “what does he use in his barbecue sauce?” Well, my Lone Star friends, Mr. Calhoun has a different opinion of barbecue sauce. Much as I like barbecue sauce, he said something I wasn’t expecting.
“Barbecue sauce is for when you have something to hide.”
No kidding. I wasn’t expecting that.
Mr. Calhoun is from North Louisiana, but now makes his home in the Baton Rouge area. He was taught by a friend how to barbecue. His approach was to think about how primitive man found himself with a feral hog on a fire, and finding out it was delicious.
How He Does It
Mr. Calhoun uses a dry rub, the ingredients of which are secret. I wouldn’t be crass enough to ask what’s in it, and he wouldn’t tell you anyway. But he’s always cooking, and he’s known far and wide by folks who appreciate it.
While these were cooking, we had a nice chat:
Of course, Mr. Calhoun has some great help, too, and I offered to bring him water or whatever he needed while he was tending the grill pits. We all had a nice time talking about stuff, but for some reason, he thought I was a food critic. We’re all “food critics” to a certain extent, but no, I’m a food blogger. I just write about stuff. Admittedly, since 2012, I’ve mentioned a few things to avoid (like Splenda and Aspartame.) But barbecue from Alvin Calhoun’s barbecue pits is not in that group. Do not avoid this man’s cookery.
So, after a while, he asked around for a plastic knife. What the heck? Because it’s ready when you can cut it with a plastic knife.
He offered me the first piece.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Alvin Calhoun makes some really incredible, delicious barbecue. Two thumbs up, and if I had more, they’d be up too. Hot from the grill, but not pepper hot, but not overly sweet, either, like some barbecue can be. A great flavor with a hint of sweet, a hint of spice, but *not* the kind that whacks you upside your head and has you begging for a fire extinguisher.
And did I mention the husband and wife who drove in from San Antonio to meet Mr. Calhoun and visit everyone? We talked about HEB and other great Texas stuff. To which BF said, “and nobody cares but you.”
Don’t Miss The Barbecue
If ever you are invited anywhere this man is cooking, DO NOT eat anything else until after you have some barbecue, because you will, indeed, regret doing so. As I often say, I speak from experience.
Thank you, Mr. Calhoun. Everything they said was true.
There Were Other Things Besides Barbecue
Ok, so, BF reminded me that it wasn’t really a “barbecue.” Mr. Earl’s was a cookout that had barbecue on the side. Well, it really was on the side–since it needed to be outside, Mr. Calhoun and his equipment was parked under the car port at Mr. Earl’s house on the other side of the parking lot. And of course, doing barbecue with pits, there’s the whole smoke thing, so he needed to be outside with it.
There was gumbo, cooked by Mr. Earl himself:
I didn’t have any, because I’m not a gumbo fan, but BF was all over it.
And then, FRIED TURKEY
Let me preface this by saying that frying an entire turkey in a vat of hot oil can be a very dangerous thing. Stories abound about the *wrong* way to fry a turkey. Fortunately, we witnessed nothing like that.
Baton Rouge General Hospital has a series of ads about their different medical services, and this one involves the potential dangers of fried turkey. It’s short, but funny.
So, what I was told by Mr. Bill Doucette was that they injected the turkey with something that I can’t remember–something that’s made for that purpose. (The “Cajun Injector” kind of thing.)
They used peanut oil (I think) because of the high smoke point:
It doesn’t take long, either, something like a half hour, maybe. Remember that to roast a 22-pound turkey in the oven, you’re looking at about four hours.
When it comes out, it looks like this:
And they let me try it. Honest, it’s nothing like the brined turkey I like to make, but it is indeed good. A different flavor than the brined/roast version. I might try to do this one day, but. . .not until we have at least two or three new fire extinguishers available. And the undisciplined dogs are completely away from everything.
And Of Course, Cars
If the GER had been with us, he would have been licking his chops over not only the barbecue, gumbo and donuts, he would have been salivating all over these cars. Alas, my friend, I offer you the pictures I managed to get off my phone.
Every other day of the year, Mr. Earl runs an auto shop called Schexnayder Racing (this is his Facebook page.) We went in the ultra-reliable White Knight, but others were in, shall we say, much more aesthetic vehicles than we were. Then again, the White Knight is a truck, not a race car, just like Mr. Earl doesn’t run a restaurant.
This ancient vehicle is a mid-1930’s Pontiac, so says BF. Someone actually drove this to Mr. Earl’s place, no kidding.
But something tells me it’s not completely finished.
Pop the hood:
This is ACTUALLY what Mr. Earl does the rest of the year.
There were other project cars in various stages of completion, too.
All these cars, all while there was cooking and barbecue going on.
Now this one was particularly interesting:
We saw some amazing vehicles. But I didn’t get to ride in anything but The White Knight.
Mr. Earl’s Gift To His Father
The other big event was this car being unveiled:
The elder Mr. Schexnayder had a house fire a while back, and lost literally everything, including his race car. His family, including Mr. Earl, got together and found another car just like it, and have been sneaking around behind his back to have it not only restored, but to make it exactly like the car he lost in the fire. They had a heck of a time with it, but they found one, in Texas somewhere. It’s not finished yet.
When they were ready to take it out of the truck, BF leaned over to me and said, “You’re about to see a grown man cry.”
The car isn’t quite finished yet, but the elder Mr. Schexnayder was quite happy with his gift.
Before we left, I looked across the street and saw this:
How’d you like to drive this one?
A Pretty Good Saturday
It was a long, but very enjoyable Saturday for us, and I ended up driving home after we left Baton Rouge and Trader Joe’s. BF took a nap, and I streamed some music on my phone (that he didn’t like.)
Many thanks to Mr. Earl of Schexnayder Racing for the great food and the great time we all had. It was great to meet everyone, and BF was quite happy to see people he hasn’t seen in a while.
And of course, to Mr. Alvin Calhoun, Louisiana’s Barbecue Master. I’m serious–if you ever have the opportunity, do make the effort to see Mr. Calhoun and sample his wonderful barbecue. He’s a really nice man and we really enjoyed spending time with him.
I’ve bought some new things in the last few months, and I’m not finished. No, I’m not buying lots of “trinkets,” as BF puts it, but I can contribute to the household and cover things BF can’t. But right after the barbecue, I bought something we needed around here, and next time, I’ll unveil the new “baby” that’s in the kitchen.
Meantime, Happy New Year, and Happy Cooking!
Big Little Fudge–if you’ve seen it and haven’t tried it, do you know what you’re missing?
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
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!
I am SO happy, and yes, we’ve used it–for grilled pork chops, waffled burgers, and pizza waffles so far.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Do you like chipotle chicken? I’ve got more slow-cooked good for you today: Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
How’s your week so far? Thinking about dinner? Thinking about some slow cooking this week? You’re in luck.
I’ve got a good one for you.
I’m still writing on Upwork, and although the big project has cooled off for a bit, I’m still at it. This past week has been particularly busy, and so have the slow cookers at the Casa de Rurale. We’ve had a pot roast, some lima beans, some of Stephanie O’Dea’s Chicken with 20 or 40 Cloves of Garlic, and an unexpected new favorite.
Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili
I’m still getting Stephanie’s emails every day, but some of them are, shall we say, not suitable for our purposes. Last week she sent out this recipe for Thai Coconut Soup. If it’s your thing, go for it. I started reading it, and I see that it includes coconut milk. First thought: “no way he’s going to eat this.” Then I saw that it includes 1/2 pound extra firm tofu, cubed. And then I thought, “no way I’m going to eat this!” So that was the end of that. But I’m holding it in my back pocket for April Fool’s Day, along with a couple of other irritants for BF.
Chicken & Garlic
I managed to find a package of on-sale cut-up chicken in Winn Dixie the other day, and I was pulling up my email in the store so I could find the recipe for Chicken with 20 or 40 Cloves of Garlic. Turns out I only needed. . .garlic and chicken. So one night, that’s what we had. Really, really good chicken, and not strong like you’d think , but BF gave me a funny look when he saw all that garlic. It’s a slow-cooker version of a classic French dish; this is Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa version, although, admittedly, I’ve not made this one. I posted a comment on Facebook about how good it was (BF was working late) and three people asked for the recipe and said they would be making it. It’s pretty straightforward, so I’m not reviewing it here. Go try it, it’s darn good. Thanks, Stephanie.
So what *are* you talking about today, Amy?
No, the recipe here is another chicken dish that came to me via Bloglovin. You’ve obviously seen my header about it, and of course, you can find this humble blog with many others on that site. I get an email every day about “blogs you need to read today,” but I can’t say I read them all. I primarily get blogs about sewing, but this particular recipe was in one of the daily emails.
And I talked BF into letting me make it. He did not regret his decision.
Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili
It started with a packet of chicken thighs and a busy day.
Despite getting up early, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and the prep stage took longer. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s make this deliciousness, courtesy of Lisa Lin at Healthy Nibbles & Bits.
Admittedly, the chicken was supposed to be breasts, but I’m cheap and use what I have on hand. Unfortunately, the chicken was neither boneless nor skinless, so guess what I was doing in a big hurry? Oh, well. At least I could get some cilantro in Walmart that night. (I so miss my HEB.)
I got all the cans opened:
Rinsed the beans:
And dumped them into the slow cooker. Then diced a sweet potato:
And diced the onion. . .although not without incident. The knife slipped, and. . . .
It’s all REAL in the HeatCageKitchen
After adding those to the crock, there were the chipotles:
My Texas readers will recognize these immediately, but if you’re not familiar with them, you’ll find them with the taco shells, seasonings and sauce. You also add one tablespoon of the sauce these babies come in:
Goes right into the pot:
And cumin. . . .
Now the tomatoes:
Mix that all up:
Enter the chicken
So, now I realize that I have to skin and debone this chicken, which, unfortunately, took a while. For this kind of recipe, I HIGHLY recommend boneless and skinless! But I got on with it:
Now, this is Lisa’s little trick: don’t mix the chicken into the chili. Park them on top, like this:
And follow Amy’s basic rule of slow cookery: Put the food in. Put the lid on. Plug it in. Turn it on. Leave it alone.
Hours later, it’s dinnertime
Open the lid, and you see and smell this, but there’s one more step to this chipotle chicken chili:
Scoop out the chicken and shred it with two forks:
You’ll have a pile like this.
These two ingredients are added last. Putting the cilantro in water and into the fridge helped:
Return all the shredded chicken to the pot, stir it again, and add the lime juice:
Put it into a bowl, chop some cilantro and drop it on top, and you’re ready to eat:
This rich, flavorful chipotle chicken chili is good anytime you want a satisfying meal in a bowl. We ate it twice and froze the rest for another day. So far, I haven’t had any trouble freezing most of my slow cooker soups. Might need to cook and frreze more often, too.
Oh, and I forgot to buy and add corn. But it was still really good.
The chipotle peppers and adobo sauce add spice, but it’s not really, really hot. But if you eat it hot out of the pot, the spiciness is intensified. Let it cool a bit. I still have a painful burn in my mouth!
The reluctant taste-tester
Now, BF approached this strange looking concoction with a little hesitation, (and a funny look on his face), but agreed to try it. Nothing weird in this soup, just an unusual combination of ingredients (at least, for him.) Here’s a picture of his reaction:
So, another win for me.
Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili is a real treat with simple ingredients that will make any night of the week special. I just keep looking for more good things to slow cook, and we keep enjoying it. That comes in handy come summer in the south!
I hope you try this soon and enjoy it like we did. The print version from Lisa’s site is here on the Recipes page. I’ve got a couple of posts in mind that just need a little research and phone calling. Meantime. . . .
Homemade Pizza Sauce. In your slow cooker.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Then add in some garlic:
It says minced, so I minced:
It says one to four cloves, so I added four.
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.
If you’ve never seen anchovies, well, this is what you get when you open the tin:
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.
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:
The herbs, oregano, basil and parsley:
I had to go find those in the pantry boxes first. Then, the ingredient I almost abhor the most:
Yes, sugar, but of course, a raw 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:
Until it looks like this:
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:
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:
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:
After spraying the waffle surfaces with. . .Pam. . .
And heating up the Griddler:
I mixed it all up:
And poured it onto the waffle plates:
I let it cook until it looked like it was done:
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!