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Chorizo with scrambled eggs
Casa Chorizo

Chorizo–a delicious, flavorful form of sausage from the Mexican and Tex-Mex culture. I love it.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

No, BF and I have not fallen off the face of the earth, but I’m busy and he doesn’t write. So, apologies again.

If you went out and got one of the wonderful Kitchenaid Cold Brew Coffee Makers this summer, I do hope you are enjoying it as much as I do. BF’s car-guy friend Jenny came by a couple of months ago and was thrilled to find out about one. She took her kids to the local PJ’s and spent $30 on iced coffee for the three of them, that’s a bit pricey for this young widow. She’s probably going to be getting one if she hasn’t already. But me, I love my iced coffee in the morning, even though I’m not drinking much of it now that it’s getting chilly!  But it’s so easy, even BF could make it.

The Work Of Copywriting

I’m doing a fair bit of SEO writing for law offices and attorneys, with a little of this and that thrown in to keep it interesting. A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a blog post about the things that can affect a paternity test–you know, the “who’s your daddy” DNA test. Well. . .a lot, actually. Besides lab errors and tampering, there are a number of genetic mutations and anomalies that can have two siblings–even twins–test unrelated. Nevermind what a “chimera” is. How’s *that* for dinner party conversation?

The Parts Catalog

One client had me writing descriptions for parts. That’s right, hardware, primarily air conditioner parts. Really exciting, yes? I didn’t mind–it pays, and it gives me a break from the occasionally heavy legal subject matter I normally write.

I don’t know what all these parts are for, so I have to look them up. If I don’t know what a capacitor is, I can’t tell you, now can I? (It puts jolts of power into things like fan motors, similar to a battery.) So now I know what that is, and I can create a short description. I also learned a new term: PTAC, or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner. The kind they use in hotels.

One description I wrote was for a metal clip that holds the plastic front onto the air conditioner. This was one I had to use the parts diagram for. Once I realized what it was, I came up with an interesting description, using the phrase “never again will you have to stare at the grisly innards of your air conditioner.” It went over well, and I even posted that one on Facebook. AK says I have “the writing chops.” That made me feel good.

I wrote for him for about 3 weeks, and we were done.

The Unconventional Garden

I haven’t written about the gardening in a while, but I did manage to do some this year. The cool spring meant I was hesitant to put plants out, and I got a late start. We’re now getting bell peppers, and while I’ve picked three or four red ones, I’ve got three more that are still growing, and one is turning red. They could be in our Thanksgiving dinner. (More on that later.)

The Meyer Lemon and Lime trees are still in pots, along with rosemary, scallions, mint and a lone tomato plant with one tomato growing. They’re at the front of the house.

We dug up a little patch over by the garage, about 5′ by 5′. Mostly basil, a couple of bell pepper plants, some sage and parsley. I’ve made five or six recipes of pesto while BF complained about the “smell.”

Bell peppers
They’re growing pretty good, and they’ll be red when mature.

I’m hoping to at least one more container for the winter before it all goes away, but we’ll see. All those little rooted pieces of basil worked and most of them survived.

BF was supposed to be digging more grass up for the rest of the plants, but he’s up to his elbows in car parts and motors. He’s been busily building motors for people and doing some repair work for a few folks, too.

Additionally, we’ve done some updates to the Casa de Rurale. Specifically, replacement ceiling fans (including a new one with a big light and a remote control in my office), two new exterior doors with new frames, a new kitchen and bathroom faucet, both Moen (I’ll tell you why Moen in a minute) and. . .a new septic tank.

Not the most interesting stuff, but the septic tank was very important. I’ll spare you the details.

The garden plot had a few tomato plants, but I only got one or two little tomatoes. Must find a better place next year, but they were delicious. One was a teardrop tomato, and the other was a little round one. But we’re getting some tomatoes, finally, in a most unusual fashion.

Surprise Tomatoes

Because the original builders of this house were able to get away with it, the only septic tank was a single 55-gallon drum. The house was built for a mother-in-law, so it was all the local zoning required. (Yes, they really do stuff like this in Louisiana.)

BF knew that at some point a new, modern tank would be needed. We were having some issues, but nothing too severe. He previously did some digging, but the only way to solve everything was the new septic tank. With all the work he’s been doing in the shop, he was able to get a new 500-gallon cement tank installed in early July.

After the tank business was all over (it really didn’t take long), BF put some dirt over it, and hopefully next year we will have lots of lovely green grass growing over it.

While BF’s car guy friend was visiting, he looked over by the tank, points and says, “That’s a tomato plant.” Where? “Over there, under the tree.” At first I told him he was crazy, but upon closer inspection, he was correct, it was a tomato plant. “If you stake it, you might get some tomatoes off of it.”

Surprise tomatoes

Well, I did stake the plants, and this one has given several “racks” of tomatoes in various stages of growth. (This is the first one, near the bottom of the plant.) They’re obviously yellow grape tomatoes, and I have picked a number and eaten a few when ripened. I watered them regularly.

The End

A month or two ago, the wind knocked them over, so I did a little digging to put the stake farther down. Unfortunately, I must have hit the root system, because they started turning brown. There is one tomato that’s thriving on what’s left of the green part and a few more flowers. But the rest were picked and will be seeded before I eat them.

I’ll spare you the details of how these tomato plants came to be, but I’m sure you can figure it out.

BO, a gentleman I used to work with at Boeing, lives in the Clear Lake Area, and posted a pic of a tomato plant growing out of the gutter on his house last year. Apparently, the seeds got up there in much the same fashion, but with birds. He posted a picture with a comment about maybe it was time to clean out the gutters.  He actually got a half dozen or so tomatoes off that plant. I guess he cleared the gutters later.

So tomatoes are pretty easy to grow, yes?

Fingers crossed for a bigger, better planting and harvest next year, and not by the septic system.

Why Moen?

Well. . .remember when I bought the dishwasher? BF changed out the kitchen sink faucet for me right after I got it. He sent me to the local hardware store and I bought what we could afford at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a top-of-the-line model. (The dishwasher is still running great–we’re both happy with it.)

The dishwasher’s “delay” function is great–you set it and forget it, and I was setting it to go off at 3:00 or 4:00 am. That way we could take a shower, and we’d have plenty of hot water. (OK, it only uses 3.5 gallons for a cycle, but BF is persnickety about it.) Unfortunately, well, the faucet. . . .

I bet you see where this is going–the water pressure eventually led to the faucet leaking, and one Saturday, the kitchen was flooded. So no more overnight dishwashing, and lots of old towels around when I did use it.

BF sent me to Lowe’s, and I got a very elegant Moen faucet which doesn’t leak (but not that expensive.)  Unfortunately, he’s had to tear out the cabinetry, and we discovered that the leaks attracted. . .termites. There was no structural damage, but some of the wood has been replaced.  The termite problem has been taken care of by his gracious uncle. The kitchen cabinet has been put back together, along with some additional shelving under the sink. At some point, there will be new vinyl flooring (it was already planned.)

I was glad that we were making progress in the house, but. . .well, that’s the karma, isn’t it? More plumbing issues. . .I hope they’re solved now. The Crock Pots were used regularly until we could get back in there. 

Making Chorizo

Let’s talk about something tasty.

One of the many things that I’ve bemoaned the loss of outside of Texas is the availability of chorizo. If you’re not familiar with chorizo, you’re probably not reading this from Texas, or you’ve never been to Texas. If you’ve never had chorizo, you’re missing out.

Most shoppers know about the ubiquitous Italian sausage that’s available just about anywhere in the United States. Different areas have different ways of making it. For instance, the Italian sausage are used to get H-E-B was wonderful. It tasted better than Johnsonville’s version, and I would always keep a couple packets in the freezer.

Unfortunately the Italian sausage that I found in Winn-Dixie left a great deal to be desired. (Read: it was awful.)

What It Is (For The Unfamiliar)

Chorizo is a similar thing, except it’s Hispanic. I say Hispanic, because there are two different types. One is a cured sausage, similar to hard salami, which is Spanish chorizo. I’ve found it in Cost Plus World Market a few times, and it may also be available in gourmet grocery stores.

The second type, which is more common to the southwest, is Mexican chorizo. It’s a raw sausage from pork, like the Italian sausage, but made with a different series of spices.

Chorizo may be served with anything from tacos to burritos to a breakfast plate with eggs in place of bacon or regular sausage. It may be in links, like the Johnsonville type, or it may be un-contained, like I’ll show you here.

Finding Chorizo

One day I was in Rouses in Mandeville, and I found out that Johnsonville now makes chorizo. I was ecstatic!. So I bought some and check at home.

Package of Johnsonville's Chorizo

First brats, now chorizo!

BF was not happy to see this, and I refuse to let him try it. But that’s OK, he didn’t want to anyway.

Result: it’s passable. It’s certainly not as good as anything you get in Texas, but it’s better than nothing. And it doesn’t have the usual amounts of fillers and other things like cereal that you find in some local brands in Houston.

Then my district leader sent me a picture of some chorizo she found in the Sam’s club in Mandeville. That’s an hour away, and I don’t belong to Sam’s. But, it’s a Texas brand and it’s fresh chorizo. I looked up the brand online and it’s pretty good it’s well-made and all that.

Now, Make It

About a week later, I was reading one of the many many food-related emails that I get every day. On this particular day, it was all about tacos. So, I had to open it up and look at it.

One of the recipes in the email was called Amaya’s Tacos. So I looked it up because it was from a cookbook I have. I found it, but on the next page was the recipe for El Chico’s Chorizo. According to the author, it was from previous cookbook from El Chico restaurant chain many years ago.

This recipe is from a book I’ve talked about before, Rob Walsh’s Tex-Mex cookbook. You’ve seen the picture of me with Mr. Walsh a couple of times from 2011, when I met him at the Houston food show.

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

That was a good picture–I’d lost weight, and that new top was suddenly too big. He autographed my book. I was happy. . .anyway. . . .

Say what?

I had no idea that all this time, I had a recipe for chorizo, and it’s pretty easy.

I had to make it. Went to Winn-Dixie and bought the ingredients. Pork chops. The recipe calls for the use of ground pork, which makes a little bit easier, but the author prefers to grind up pork chops. The recipe makes a half pound, so for my weekly breakfast quiche, I double the recipe. What I used to do an in Houston was to buy HEB’s sage breakfast sausage, and vary it with chorizo occasionally. Not anymore! (I still miss my H-E-B.)

So, if you’re going to use the pork chops or other pieces of pork, you put everything in the food processor, and mix in the spices.

Chorizo in the food processor

Then you turn to the stove, sauté up an onion, then put the pork mixture into the pot, and brown it like you would ground beef.

chorizo

And this is what you end up with:

Chorizo
Chorizo!

Eating Chorizo

This is SO good. . .and no, it’s not pepper-hot. If you want spicy hot, add some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. I’ve used pork chops, ground pork and even pork stew meat. I’ve just gone with the ground pork, since it’s readily available and usually pretty cheap.

I also figured out by accident that I can buy multiple pounds of ground pork, mix the appropriate amount of spices in, and then freeze it in quart-sized freezer bags in one-pound increments. That makes life easy, too.

Chorizo with scrambled eggs

This was left from the first batch of chorizo. YUM

 

After all the chorizo I’ve ever had my life, I have to say this is really darn good. It was a happy accident that I happened to find such a thing, and wish I had found it before. Well, I have it now. And BF won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Rob Walsh has a series of cookbooks out, and I may investigate buying more of them. His chili cookbook may be next. After all, it’s better to have recipes if you’re going to go attempt to make some Tex-Mex food, isn’t it?

Bonus: Hatch Chile Time!

I managed to get some Hatch chiles this year, and put them into my breakfast quiche again. YUM. I bought a lot of them, and roasted them all at once in the oven. With the windows open. When BF was not around.

I’ve got a jar full of seeds, in addition to seeds I saved previously. (Bell pepper seeds, too.) I’ve planted a few in the little garden spot, but nothing grew. There’s always next year and that big area behind the garage.

Rouse’s has started to pick up the banner for Hatch chiles, although last year, I got them at Whole Foods. Winn-Dixie had the last of the crop, because October is way too late. Many of them were red, which means they’re hotter.

This year I was asked by a customer in Rouse’s produce department to explain the Hatch–and I did. Extensively. Turns out the lady and her husband were headed to Carlsbad Caverns. I told her about me and Aunt Ruth’s trip to Albuquerque in 2012, and the warning from a fellow flier about “red, or green?”

Hatch Infused

While Rouse’s will never be HEB, they had some Hatch-infused meats available, as well as Hatch roasted rotisserie chicken.

Hatch chile skewers
Ready to grill
Hatch meatloaf
Just pop it into your toaster oven and dinner is done

Of course, we can get canned Hatch chiles here all year long, and you can always order all things Hatch from HEB on their website.

Because we’re in Louisiana, this sits right next to that meat case:

The Trinity Spice Mix
You can buy it in a jar

Many Louisiana recipes start out with celery, onion and bell pepper. With a nod to the state’s Catholic roots, people started calling that combination the “Trinity.” Naturally, someone came up with the idea to market it in dried form, and, well, there it is. I haven’t bought any, but I have bought some dried bell peppers; I needed it for a Stephanie O’Dea recipe recently.

Ready To Make Chorizo?

I know, I know, you can buy it all over the Lone Star State. Heck, I even found some in Rouse’s, one of the brands you can get in Texas–had no idea:

Chorizo
Along with the local “Cajun” sausage, no less

Oh, and look what else I found nearby:

Cheeses withthe chorizo
Manchego? Why couldn’t I find this in Houston?

I usually get this brand of Queso Fresco, but soon I’ll be trying that Manchego to see what it’s like. Fortunately, BF isn’t interested.

And I’m doing yeast-free for a while. Almond milk and Yeast Free Brownies. No dairy. All that.

I took a pic of the recipe: 

Recipe for El Chico's Chorizo

The simple recipe from Robb Walsh’s Tex-Mex Cooking.


I’ll add it to the recipe page soon Just know that it’s from a book, and of course I didn’t create it. If I do create a recipe, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.

Here Come The Holidays

Whether you want them to or not.

I’ve been informed by BF that the kids would like me to brine a turkey and do a Thanksgiving dinner. I can’t imagine why–other than turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes, they turned their noses up at everything else the last time. I’ll take care of it, and the rest can be out of a box or frozen. They love the instant stuffing mix. There may be a pie from The Pioneer Woman’s latest magazine.

Longtime Buddhist friend KJ posted this on Facebook recently:

Christmas Tinner Dinner In A Can

Dinner in a can!

If anyone complains about Thanksgiving, I’ll source these for Christmas dinner. If I can find a countertop dishwasher, I can find these online, darnit. And why not? Can’t be any worse than Feetloaf:

Picture of Meatloaf made like a foot with chopped onions for toenails

I swear, I’m going to make this one day

Yes, I’m a smart-aleck.

I’ll try very hard to get some of the other drafts out and published; I’ve just been very busy. Sorry about that.

Go make some easy chorizo, and have a delicious meal tonight or Taco Tuesday tomorrow.

Enjoy!

Wheat Belly Gumbo In A Bowl
Gumbo La Casa!

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.

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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:

Box of Japanese Cookies

Isn’t it beautiful?

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:

Front of the box of Japanese cookies

The label came off

The back of the box:

Back of box 1

I think this is the manufacturing label

Company information

Company information, I guess

Then we cracked open the box to see:

The box opens

The contents revealed. Aren’t they adorable?

They’re really tiny, no kidding:

Raspberry cookie in the palm of hand

I told you! Tiny! (No, that’s *not* a wedding ring.)

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:

Banana cookie bag

Banana?

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:

Charger for electric cars

Really?

No kidding, a charger for an electric car, and it looks to be free for Whole Foods customers:

Charger screen closeup

Interesting, no?

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:

Amy's green and veg salad

Healthy, fresh, green salad. Yum.

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:

BF's salad dressing bowl

He calls this “salad.”

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:

Gumbo in a bowl

This is what *real* gumbo looks like.

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.

Say what?

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.

The Setup

The Setup #1 (minus the coconut flour)

Of course, I left out one ingredient out of the picture, essential to the dish:

Coconut flour

A must for the wheat-free roux

So let’s get on with it. Make your Cajun seasoning first:

Cajun Seasoning setup

The Setup, Part 2

Mix it and pour it into a storage jar:

Cajun Seasoning Jar Labeled

Done! Now I have it for later

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:

Olive oil pouring in pan

Just a couple of tablespoons of olive or coconut oil is all you need

Chop the chicken and the sausage:

Raw chicken breasts

Which I forgot to photograph diced

 

Chopped sausage

Like this, I guess

Add these to the hot oil:

Chicken and sausage cooking

A good start

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:

Making Roux chicken stock coconut flour

Just like you would with oil and wheat flour

The coconut flour doesn’t really add a noticeable taste to it. Once that’s done, add the onion:

Diced Onion into the pot

Like this! (So glad I bought this chopping board.)

Then the garlic:

Garlic in dicer

Like this

Diced garlic in chopper

I love my garlic doo-dad!

Then the bell pepper:

Diced bell pepper

I prefer red, orange or yellow, but he uses green, specifically

And the seasoning mix and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes until they soften a little:

Stirring the vegetables

I don’t have a picture of the seasoning mix going in.

See how it’s thickening?

Ok, next–add the sausage and chicken back into the pot:

Meat and veg cooking with tomatoes

Add the tomatoes too

And then add the rest of the chicken stock:

Adding chicken stock

This is two cups the remainder of the three.

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.

Organic quinoa

I know, I know. . .but that’s all they had, and it is certified organic.

I used the last of the chicken stock for my quinoa:

Pouring chicken stock into pot

Didn’t want to deal with leftovers, so the quinoa cooked in it

And, of course, made some rice for BF.

Stove with pots

Busy night at the HeatCageKitchen!

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.

Wheat Belly Gumbo In A Bowl

Here it is. The real thing. With quinoa.

He takes a bite, and then another. He doesn’t say anything at first. It went like this:

“Well?”

“It’s pretty good.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“OK if I make it again?”

No response.

“Well?”

“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 Dining!

Mr. Earl’s Year-End Party With Barbecue

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.

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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.

French Press coffee pot with milk, cup and sweetener

Office coffee, Amy Style

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:

barbecue

Are you kidding me?

This is not a joke:

Nothin’ but love? No kidding–sounds like a whole lot of nothing. Yuck!

If you think that’s healthy. . .no, seriously, it’s not. And it isn’t cheap, either.

Price Tag for Vegan Jerkey, $6.99 a bag

Seriously?

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.

Sweet little angels

These two were just all over the place:

They hadn’t yet learned to use a keyboard, thank heavens.

It subjected me to an adverse environment:

barbecue

How am I supposed to work under these conditions?

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.

Pitbull and kitten standoff

Standoff!

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.

Road Selfies

barbecue

Do you like this one?

barbecue

Or this one? (BF liked this one better.)

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.

Now you’re cooking with gas!

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.

Chicken

Dropped right into the pot.

And rice to go with the gumbo:

Very old rice or slow cooker iwth the namem Ada on it.

Any idea how old this is?

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!

The Shop

Remember, this is an auto repair shop, not a professional kitchen.

Food stacked on the lift

Food on the lift!

 

guys in the shop

Hungry men ready for gumbo, barbecue, and anything else that was tasty

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.

Guys standing in the garage door opening

A friendly crowd

So, some of the things we saw when we walked in:

Strawberry cake at the barbecue

Isn’t it pretty?

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:

7 layer dip

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:

 

Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Bundles at the Barbecue

They tasted better than they looked. I couldn’t stop.

Being garage guys, you know there are:

Donuts

Donuts!

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:

Alvin Calhoun

The man, the myth, the legend!

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.

Baby back ribs on a barbecue grill

Waiting for the baby back ribs

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.

Screwdriver barbecue tool

That’s not actually a screwdriver. . . .

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.

The temperature at which the barbecue is cooking

While these were cooking, we had a nice chat:

 

Ribs cooking on the grill

Still cooking

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.

The Moment Of Truth

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.

Cooked barbecue ribs in a pan

YUM.

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:

Gumbo

Now you’re cooking with gas!

I didn’t have any, because I’m not a gumbo fan, but BF was all over it.

And then, FRIED TURKEY

fried turkey

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.)

turkey going into the hot pot

Turkey goes into the pot

They used peanut oil (I think) because of the high smoke point:

Turkey cooking in very hot oil

Bubble, bubble, toil & trouble. . . .

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:

Fried turkey done

Done!

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.

Old Car

Right this way, Miss O’Donnell. . .

This ancient vehicle is a mid-1930’s Pontiac, so says BF. Someone actually drove this to Mr. Earl’s place, no kidding.

Plymouth close up

This is a closeup of the hood

 

Plymouth steering wheel

Yes, you can drive it on the roads, it’s legal

But something tells me it’s not completely finished.

Pontiac interior passenger side

Maybe one day

Pop the hood:

Open hood on purple truck

Under the hood of this classic

This is ACTUALLY what Mr. Earl does the rest of the year.

There were other project cars in various stages of completion, too.

old sedan

This lovely old thing was LOUD!

All these cars, all while there was cooking and barbecue going on.

Now this one was particularly interesting:

orange car at barbecue

Isn’t it a beauty?

 

Chute bags on the back of a car.

These are the chutes that deploy at the end of the race to stop the car, but it also has brakes.

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 Gift Car

The Gift

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.

The Schexnayder family and the new race car for their father.

That’s the elder Mr. Earl with the plaid shirt on

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:

Field across the street from Schexnayder Racing

The view from Mr. Earl’s shop parking lot.

How’d you like to drive this one?

Silver Firebird with black roof

Well, hello there.

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.

Coming Soon

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!

 

 

BigLittleFudge
Finding Big Little Fudge

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

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

More writing!

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

The Griddler is fixed!

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

Finally!!!

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

And there it is!

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

All fixed now. Isn’t it beautiful?

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

How about some foodie news?

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

Mug cakes go corporate

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

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

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

Ho, ho, ho!

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

Blue Bell’s new idea

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

I kid you not.

More Texas sweetness

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

Big Little Fudge.

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

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

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

Yes, Texas has great desserts too

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

Big Little Fudge

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

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

Sweet, but not overly sweet

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

BigLittleFudge

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

Big Texas flavor in a little square

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

Big Little Fudge

Big Little Fudge!

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

They’re Gluten Free, too!

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

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

The rest of the story

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

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

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

Big Little Fudge, anytime

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

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

This is Prize-Winning Fudge

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

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

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

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

Do you like chipotle chicken? I’ve got more slow-cooked good for you today: Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

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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.

The setup. (That’s the saddest bunch of cilantro I’ve ever seen.)

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.)

Hunt's BPA-free cans and no GMO tomatoes

See? BPA-free and no GMO

I got all the cans opened:

Beans and tomatoes–OK, so it’s not TEXAS chili, but bear with me.

Rinsed the beans:

And dumped them into the slow cooker. Then diced a sweet potato:

Just an ordinary sweet potato.

And diced the onion. . .although not without incident. The knife slipped, and. . . .

Then this happened. And I had to finish while keeping anything acidic away from it.

It’s all REAL in the HeatCageKitchen

After adding those to the crock, there were the chipotles:

These are ancho chilis in a spicy sauce.

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:

It’s called “Adobo sauce,” but no idea why. It’s not ketchup, that’s for sure!

Goes right into the pot:

 

And cumin. . . .

Ahhh, cumin. A favorite of Southwestern and Tex-Mex cuisine. (That’s why I have that huge container.)

Some salt:

These are ancho chilis in sauce.

Now the tomatoes:

Just pour right in.

Mix that all up:

Just stir it well until they’re all combined. Watch what comes next.

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:

Why does Winn-Dixie pack them upside down?

Now, this is Lisa’s little trick: don’t mix the chicken into the chili. Park them on top, like this:

Yes, they’ll sit there, don’t worry. But don’t mess with them, either.

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

 

Are you ready to eat?

Open the lid, and you see and smell this, but there’s one more step to this chipotle chicken chili:

Ready to shred

Scoop out the chicken and shred it with two forks:

Like this.

You’ll have a pile like this.

Dump that back into the crock.

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:

One more ingredient, then stir

Put it into a bowl, chop some cilantro and drop it on top, and you’re ready to eat:

Delish! (You might need salt, taste it first.)

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.

Caveat

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:

He likes it!

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. . . .

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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