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The Trader Joe's affair

Hi, again, Dear Readers!

Bet you’re surprised to hear from me again this soon. Me too. But I had an adventure, and you know me, I gotta write about it. I didn’t plan on going to Trader Joe’s today, but I did. I was supposed to be going for a job interview with a major hospital system here, for a job in Baytown. Guess what? Ten minutes into the interview, the guy said, “Oh, no! Who told you that? Oh, really? Oh, sorry.” After one curt comment without swear words, I picked up my stuff and left as fast as I could. Had I not done that, I would have let the entire floor know I was not happy with wasting my time going into town for no reason. In a suit.

If you believe in angels, I think they’re pointing me somewhere. But that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

Yes, I’m still in a bad mood. But I’m getting there.

I had been thinking about a post-interview stop at Trader Joe’s on the way to town, since it was just a couple of miles away from the building I was in. I even brought a change of clothes so I’d blend in a little. Turns out I don’t blend in at the store in the Montrose area at all, that’s probably the main reason I prefer the store in The Woodlands. There’s nobody in The Woodlands with nearly floor-length red dreadlocks over the age of 65, not that I’ve ever seen. (It was a female.) But if you’re not in Houston, you might not understand that going to The Woodlands from the center of town would make for a very long trip home.

Oh, wait–I could have gotten a gluten free cupcake at Frost. AAAAHHH!! See? I told you I was in a bad mood. But I made it home safely, and didn’t have any crashes or “road rage” incidents, since I didn’t want to talk to anyone anyway.

Since I knew I was going to be hungry on the way home, I went next door to Whole Earth Provisions so I could get a couple of the delicious Epic bars. I can’t get them down in Clear Lake anymore, not that I can find, so this was just a one time thing. Guess what I found? New Lamb bar with currants and mint, no foolin’:

Bison and the new Lamb Epic bars. Delicious!

Bison and the new Lamb Epic bars. Delicious!

Yes, it was quite tasty. Both the lamb and bison were fresh, since they were slightly moist, much like a Larabar would be. However, unlike Larabars, these have less than 10 grams of sugar, mostly from the dried fruit. Larabars, and Energetica’s other product, Thunderbird bars, are all dried fruit with nuts, so they have much more sugar in them, and fat from the nuts. However, I know that some folks are not wild about mint, so if you’re one of those, avoid the delicious new lamb bar.

I stashed those on the front seat, then went to Trader Joe’s next door. I got some of this fancier bottled water, it’s right across the aisle from the olive oil, which is less expensive than HEB’s and comes in glass, not plastic bottles

Plenty of water and olive oil, but not for the same thing

Plenty of water and olive oil, but not for the same thing

.See? It was fancier than the standard stuff:

Magic water enhanced with electrolytes. Because I was really thirsty.

Magic water enhanced with electrolytes. Because I was really thirsty.

Their regular bottled water is 17 cents a bottle. However, this was a bigger bottle at 99 cents, and since I was going to have two Epic bars, I needed plenty of water.

I may have shown you this before, but I have a shelf hung by the stove, with a knife bar underneath, to make the heavy-duty cooking easier. I refilled that little bottle with olive oil so that I can just use that instead of going to the pantry to get a bigger bottle and mess with that. Also, that’s a sugar shaker from IKEA with kosher salt in it. Easier than going for the square box, too.

Salt, pepper, Chipotle Tabasco, olive oil, and some Cajun seasonings, along with the knives. Love them all!

Salt, pepper, Chipotle Tabasco, olive oil, and some Cajun seasonings, along with the knives. Love them all!

As you can see, I have been coping with this morning’s disaster with some, ah, creature comforts. Now, if you’re not familiar with Trader Joe’s, one of the things they’re famous for is their cheap wine. Those bottles are $3 each; they used to be $2, and they’re well loved by TJ devotees. I got another can of those New Mexico hatch green chiles; I used one can recently, which is will be in a future blog post (like maybe this afternoon if I’m in the mood.) Delicious cannellini beans, and tasty little tomatoes to go with the rest of the lettuce sealed up in the fridge:

Canned beans at their best, with cheap wine!

Canned beans at their best, with cheap wine!

Yum. Now, that can of cat food on top the beans is a treat for the cat beast, and not included as part of any human food created or consumed in the HeatCageKitchen–despite the jokes I may make about doing such a thing on occasion.

Take a closer look at the tomatoes:

They taste as good as they look, honest.

They taste as good as they look, honest.

More comfort food, Trader Joe’s style:

I don't have them together, except in the freezer. The brie is just an incredible piece of cheese.

I don’t have them together, except in the freezer. The brie is just an incredible piece of cheese.

Admittedly, those went into the freezer, because I could eat both the entire package of sausage and that 4 ounce round of cheese at once. OK, maybe half the cheese and two sausages today, the rest tomorrow. I found some of the sausages recently in the freezer and enjoyed them; this is just a replacement. Still, it’s really good, and both are the same price, $2.99. If you haven’t had goat milk brie, try it sometime–you’re in for a treat.

I was going to buy some tahini, that sesame paste you make hummus with. Guess what? That little refrigerated container had. . .WHEAT! No joke. I thanked the man for finding it for me; he didn’t think twice when he said, ‘Oh, you’re looking for gluten free?” Yes. That’s the one thing nobody seemed to blink at.

From the toiletries section, some lavender soap for my nighttime shower, and some tea tree oil soap just because it was cheaper and smells nice. That’s actually a package of two bars of tea tree oil soap, and all of their stuff is cruelty free, that is, not tested on animals. To me, looking at the cat beast sitting by the patio door, and thinking about all the little furry animals in the world, I appreciate that a lot.

Natural toiletries, too.

Natural toiletries, too.

OK, so I took it by the toaster oven. I ran out of room by the microwave.

I have been a fan of Chocolate Cherry Kind bars for a while, and they are the only ones I want. However, while I had two in my hand, I passed on them in favor of something less expensive:

This packet was 99 cents versus $3 for two Kind bars. One taste of Kind bars and you'll understand why I grab two.

This packet was 99 cents versus $3 for two Kind bars. One taste of Kind bars and you’ll understand why I grab two.

I don’t know why the picture loaded up sideways. But I will tell you that there are two servings in that bag, and they were both delicious. Still,one serving has 13 grams of sugar, which is not bad for candy. Ice cream can vary from 19 to 30 grams of sugar, but you have to read the label. Yogurt with fruit on the bottom can run 40 grams of sugar for the little cup, all while being touted as “healthy.” Which would YOU rather have?

All in all, I spent about what I’d get at HEB, although I just realized that my checker, “Matty,” neglected to ring up the 4 tins of Vanilla Mynts I put with my order, although I’m not sure why. I have some for now, I’ll just get more another time, I guess.

Well, anyway, I’ve got that out of my system, and I’ll have a couple of gluten free stories coming soon. And a cookbook review if I think about it.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

Beef–raising the bar

Good Evening, Dear Readers:

This blog post is dedicated to my friend BigJoel, who passed away last Sunday afternoon (9/8/2013) at the age of 89. He was a friend, a cheerleader, an ally and an all around nice man. I found another soul who loved and appreciated British comedy, while most folks watch whatever is on. He read every one of my humble blog posts here and enjoyed them, and I sent him video emails nearly every day for the last few years. I told him about the content of this post a few days before he passed, but unfortunately, he won’t get to read it.

BigJoel belonged to Mensa, an organization of people who make mistakes faster than everyone else. That’s what he told me. He also had a sly sense of humor. I always told him he ought to eat healthier and take some vitamins, but I think he didn’t take me too seriously. But at 89, well, maybe you don’t take anyone too seriously. BigJoel’s input and humor will be missed by a great swath of folks, including me.

When he visited Texas I tried very hard to make a delicious and Martha Stewart-esque dinner, complete with a healthy, delicious dessert. He was a sweetie, and enjoyed all of it. At least, I hope he did. I’d hoped to get him some gluten-free baked goods recently, but connections were missed, and it didn’t happen; they wouldn’t have lasted the shipment in the warm southern May weather we had. But I did send him some Larabars a couple of times, which he enjoyed. The first time, I had to shop all over town to get the variety I wanted to send; the second time, the company introduced the variety packs, so it was much easier then, and they were fresh from the factory, too.

This one’s for you, BigJoel, and I hope to get to cook for you when I see you again.

Now. . . .

I have long told people that I’m a cat. A Human Feline. When you’ve had the same cats for long periods of time, (in my case,19 years) your DNA is altered. You knew that, right?

OK, seriously–my blood type indicates that I should avoid grains and stick with protein, so my doctor tells me. So, see? CARNIVORE=CAT. That’s me. I love tigers, too–but not parked on my living room futon.

So the news comes a few weeks ago that something akin to “beef” was grown in a lab and pan-fried at a press conference in London a few weeks ago. Yes, they added (ugh) beet juice and saffron to make it look like the real thing. Grown from a beef muscle cell using gene-splicing and other freakish GMO procedures, it’s a start on a highly experimental method of growing beef without using cows. Vegetarians like the idea of not having to raise cows in order to make beef. (Vegetarian: old Indian word meaning “Bad Hunter.”) The “climate change” crowd believes it will feed the masses without excessive methane gas (read: cow farts) in the atmosphere. No, I don’t believe them, but they have some lobbying power, so people listen to them.

Ok, let’s get real.

At a cost of $334,450.60 for a single 4 ounce patty, or $1,337,802.4 per pound, this “vegetarian beef” muck is currently more expensive than organic grass-fed beef and Japanese Waygu beef, so most people aren’t going to shell out for it. The inconvenient truth is that it really does *not* taste like beef, chicken, or anything else you’re accustomed to eating, despite what they said at the press conference. There was a lot of money invested in this ridiculous experiment, so they had to say nice things about it. Of course, they had to doctor it up to make it taste similar to real beef, and nobody would admit it to what really it tasted like. In some media outlets, the taste was praised; in others, told for what it really was.

I get that it’s scientists using science to do new things that were not possible before, stretching their expertise and really using their skills. But couldn’t they use this technology for something more useful, like say, cancer treatment or preventing birth defects?

My professional gourmet blogger’s opinion: Yuck.

Listen, y’all, most folks are going to stick with what they get now, which in my case is the occasional packet of 4 patties from Target with a red markdown sticker on it. Wal-Mart has bags of frozen burger patties for a good price. Cows run wild in India; ship them over here and we’ll eat those cows, fight “climate change” and make the streets of Mumbai safe again. (Nevermind that the seasons come around quarterly.)

And just this week, word of a plant-based egg substitute. WHAT? Do we REALLY need this new thing? OK, admittedly, I have a friend who is highly allergic to eggs, so this would be great for him, since he could use mayo made from it. Maybe folks allergic to eggs like my friend can benefit from this creation. But in my everyday life? NO.

If you’re like me, the whole idea of lab-made food—like the GMO wheat before it—brings one word to mind. Say it with me, will you?

EEEEEEWWWWWW!!!

And that’s enough of that.

So, I bring that up, mostly to amuse, but also to point out the lengths that some people will go to make a point. I think there is more to it than just scientific advancement, but I won’t say anything beyond that. What I will say is:

EEEEEEWWWWWW!!!

Just say NO to lab grown beef, OK? Lab grown chicken and eggs, too. Heck, lab grown anything. How are these artificially created frankenfoods any different than chemical-filled processed foods like evaporated milk and Velveeta cheese?

REAL food rocks. Eat real food.

Speaking of real food, I recently discovered something new and tasty. (Well, it was new to me.). I was doing my usual Sunday errands and stopped in a place that, well, let’s just say it’s not a place one would normally stop for a quick nibble, but I found one. I was REALLY hungry, and after I finished in this establishment I was going to the SuperTarget across the parking lot. An iced decaf coffee at Starbucks and maybe a couple of Larabars and I would be fine, right?

Oh, no. I FOUND something. And it was delicious enough to write about.

Whilst waiting my turn, I noticed a box next to some candy. Epic Bars, they’re called. About the size of a candy bar, but completely different. They’re designed for outdoor activities, to toss in your bag with a couple of bottles of water and hold you over until you can get some lunch. Sound familiar? There have been many incarnations of “meal replacement bars” over the years, but most are sweet, and loaded with sugar and other toxic rubbish. Have you looked at a can of Ultra Slim Fast? (Yes, they still make that stuff.)

You MUST drink plenty of water with Epic Bars. Why? Keep reading.

The difference with Epic is that they are made with meat. Yes, MEAT. No kidding. But like Larabars, they do have some nuts, although not as many. The first time I went I found beef and turkey. The second time, all they had was turkey. No complaints outta me! Both are equally delicious, although I was told by one of the owners that everyone loves the beef bar. Really, they are both equally good, but I guess the guys want beef. (And every time I go back, all they have is turkey.) They also have bison, but keep reading.

The meat is dried, and similar to Larabars, they have nuts and some dried cranberries in them—but they are not sweet like a Larabar. The beef has a bit of chipotle in it, so there is also a slight touch of heat. I don’t like burning hot food myself, but this was just fine with me. Since it’s dried beef, the water makes it swell in your stomach, giving you a full feeling during a long stretch. That’s why you gotta drink the water.

When the man told me that, I didn’t believe him. I bit into the beef, and later went to Starbucks for the iced coffee. And you know what? I really didn’t think about food for a good 3 or 4 hours. I really wasn’t hungry at all. Cool, huh?

That made me think about dieters—would they work? It’s got me thinking, and I’ll let you know if I decide to try doing that.  Admittedly, I’ve bought more and keep them tucked into my lunch bag. See, if I get on the bus on an empty stomach, I get really nauseated. Houston Metro has some great buses, built a little like a Boeing 737, but the buses do not have a) lavatories and b) barf bags. So I gotta nibble something before I leave the office so I don’t test the sensibilities of my fellow commuters. Epic Bars have been fitting that bill for a couple of weeks now.

Epic comes in turkey, beef, and, um, bison. Yes, BISON. I think I’ve had bison once or twice, but not regularly. Epic Bars are made from vegetarian fed animals, are gluten free and, thank you, FREE OF SOY. They even come with a little freshness packet so they’re good longer term. If you see these, consider it:

Epic Bars--if you see one, treat yourself, but drink plenty of water!

Epic Bars–if you see one, treat yourself, but drink plenty of water!

They are about $3 each—not cheap like a candy bar, but healthier than what you can get at fast food, and fits in a pocket, purse or bag.

I also got three different explanations of what these bars are for from three different sellers when I was out and about on my recent Sunday adventure trip with my debit card.

The first place I found them is called The Arms Room, an upscale gun store and indoor shooting range in League City, Texas (a Houston suburb close to Galveston) with, ironically, a SuperTarget across the car park. Really, do you go in a place like that for a bite to eat? It was a lucky find, and that’s not listed on the Epic website, either. The second place was Snap Kitchen, where I stopped in and ended up getting some lunch. But they only had turkey and bison, so I headed to my third place, Whole Earth Provision Company, next to Trader Joe’s on South Shepherd.

The Arms Room guy said that they were for people who go out shooting and don’t want to stop for lunch or leave and go back out. Toss one in your backpack with a couple of bottles of water, and go. You’ll be good until you’re done, and you go home or go get a bite somewhere.  Can’t complain about the iced coffee with one, either—it really hit the spot.

The Snap Kitchen folks I talked to were horrified that I went into a place like The Arms Room, but hey—I’m over 21, I’ll shop where I like. They don’t sell the beef bars because “their customers don’t eat red meat.” Something like that. I’m sure there are at least a few tofu-scarfing folks that will down a burger or fried chicken if they’re far enough away from anyone who will recognize them, but I left that part unsaid.

The dude in Whole Earth Provision said that they were designed for outdoor sportsmen like campers and hikers who wanted something grain free and Paleo. He, too, was horrified that I bought some in The Arms Room. (I enjoyed that part twice.)

So, three different explanations for these bars, but they really are good, healthy and convenient. I’ve got one left.

You can find a place to buy these lovely items at their website, and you can buy them online if you can’t find them locally. And because they are made in Austin, TX, you know they are the best! (My opinion, of course.) The company also makes something called Thunderbird Energetica, the fruit-based kinds of energy bars that are gluten free but sweet. I’ve sampled them in my local HEB, and they’re good and sticky, but since it’s dried fruit, they’re higher in sugar, making them a little higher in calories (and diabetics need to pay attention to that part.)

One of my writer friends tells me that there is another company that makes much the same thing, called Tanka Bars. I’ve never seen them, but if I find some I’ll try them and report back to you on it.

So, if you’re in need of something to eat on the go, you’re in luck–healthy food is available, even for us carnivores, real food, in bar form.

BigJoel would have enjoyed one, too.

Good night, Dear Readers.

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