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Picture of Hurricane Ida
The Hurricane Ida Adventure

Hurricane Ida visited the Casa de Rurale. She was not happy. We are OK.

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

I’ll make this short–yes, we were in the eventual path of #HurricaneIda. No kidding.

And I will also make this blunt: we are fine, the dogs and cat are fine, the house is fine, and we’ve lost power for an indeterminate amount of time. The only other thing we’ve lost is our tempers, but that’s it. We’re hot and we’re cranky, but we’re not giving up the ship.

Picture of Hurricane Ida

There she is.

Kudos upfront to Banana Rat and The GER for some tech assistance. Very glad they answered when I called.

I had another topic related to the last two, but I wasn’t feeling well the prior week, so I procrastinated a bit. Then Ida blew through I’ll try to get that post to you as soon as I can, it’s delicious.

Good News: Cookbooks And Music

Additionally, I have two new cookbooks to tell you about soon: a new vegetarian cookbook from Emilie Bailey (The Texas Granola Girl) and Giada de Laurentiis’ latest on health and wellness. The Kindle version of Emilie’s book is released today, and the paperback should be out on September 21st.

Even if you’re not vegetarian, there is some good food here. If you like tofu and edamame, there are several recipes for those as well. (Not me, I’m allergic.) I plan to start trying some of them soon, especially since we’ve been handed a carton of eggs from someone’s local hatchery. Giada’s book isn’t entirely vegetarian, although there are some soy-based recipes as well. These reviews will be published when I can.

Do you like music? Here’s a little good news for fans of the group ABBAthey’re back. No kidding, and it’s all very 21st Century, complete with a hologram live performance. The members are still around but aren’t going to perform together onstage except as avatars. There’s a new album, too, called Voyage, due out in November. Two fantastic new tunes:

Are already available for download on iTunes and Amazon immediately. (I listened to them on the official ABBA YouTube channel last night.) The live concerts will take place in London, which means to go is a road trip. Fingers crossed.

We could all use some good news right now, yes?

Gulf Activity

Both in coastal Texas and in south Louisiana, you always pay attention to any activity in the Gulf of Mexico. At one point there were three “invests,” and one of them became #HurricaneIda. As it passed over Cuba and into the middle of the Gulf, we paid a little more attention. At that point, it could come this way, go to Texas, or even Mexico. Ike was another hurricane we weren’t sure about until the last minute, just like Harvey did four years ago.  I was in Louisiana for both of those, so I guess the karma caught up with me. (Next week makes five years since I reluctantly moved here.)

When it became obvious that Hurricane Ida was coming towards Louisiana, we started prepping and did a bit of “panic buying.” I say that facetiously, but you know people do that, especially in the last 18 months. We watched and began to “batten down the hatches.” I was washing dishes and clothes, trying to tidy up as much as I could. BF went to work, and like the last time, came home and swung into action.

Buddhist friends OR and DM asked me to put the Zello walkie-talkie app on my phone. I already had it, but now we’re connected there. I’m also connected to our next-door neighbor, RW, and we can use it anytime we need to. OR and her family evacuated to Memphis, returning Thursday. School is canceled until. . .whenever.

News Coverage

BF likes to watch WAFB in Baton Rouge. In the front of the house is an over-the-air antenna connected to his TV. Mine in the back has an indoor antenna as well as a Roku streaming device. (We don’t have cable.) I ran WAFB on both TVs so that we could watch Hurrican Ida coverage matter what. I put WAFB’s app on my Roku so BF can watch the news if he misses it live. With apps for Roku and other stations on my iPhone, it’s also available there.

There are multiple free news channels on Roku for watching the news all over the US, like NewsOn and Haystack. I can catch the Houston news whenever I want and sometimes do. Watching the BBC or SkyNews wouldn’t have helped us at all. Running the stream on my TV in the back of the house was a great idea because BF could watch it when the antenna wasn’t working well. He made himself very comfy on the futon during those periods.

Arrival: Hurricane Ida

We watched as Hurricane Ida made landfall in Grand Isle, and every community she touched. Houma. Jean Baptiste. Eventually, scraping the metropolitan New Orleans area.

Baton Rouge was the original big city for Hurricane Ida to slam into. Eventually, Baton Rouge began experiencing damage, and every place in between. Although Baton Rouge was making preparations, it’s New Orleans that is usually impacted. The City of Baton Rouge and all the associated parishes are not really ready for a hurricane. Mayor-President of Baton Rouge Sharon Weston Broome was on TV frequently, telling everyone what the city was doing to prepare.

It looked like New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was caught short. New Orleans has something called “contraflow,” which means they open up both sides of the Interstate to go one way–OUT. Specifically, out west, as in “head to Texas.” But apparently, they didn’t act fast enough to get that in place, so there was no contraflow.

Traffic on I-10 was, indeed, backed up for hundreds of miles as people went to Texas, as we saw on TV and online. If we were going to Texas, we would be heading on every back road we could find on Google Maps! Hopefully, we would end up in New Waverly or even Huntsville, WAY above Houston. Or Lufkin, even.

Then the news became serious: that track taking it to Baton Rouge was moving eastward. Right between Baton Rouge and. . .Hammond.

Ida’s Change Of Plans

The storm passed right over our little town and literally over the house as a Category 2.

I chanted for two hours on Sunday for the protection of everyone here, to be free from damage, and to keep our power. I got two of the three. Guess which one I didn’t get?

The howling winds started early and got stronger with each passing minute. We took the dogs out but they weren’t having any of that. Every time the power blipped, I said, “stop it!” I wanted the universe to know I wanted that power ON and left ON.

At 8:30, all the power went down completely. Everywhere. We then deployed the generator, candles, flashlights, and every other emergency “thing” we have.

We went to bed and had a hard time sleeping because of things outside knocking around, including trees that were coming down hard and fast. BF anticipates the winds were faster than anyone realized.

The Morning After

If you’d have told me I’d one day buy a pair of Muck Boots, I’d tell you that you were nuts. I wear heels, right? Not in more than five years. I only know about them because of the “American Duchess,” who went on a very rainy official visit to New Zealand with her new husband the Prince right after their royal wedding.

We already had some considerable rain this year, and I felt like it was time for me to have a pair of my own. Lucky me, I found this pair on sale at our local Tractor Supply–for 75% off. BF also has a similar (and less expensive) pair from Tractor Supply. Since then I have been very happy I bought them.

As you might imagine, we took considerable damage with a Hurricane Ida as a Category 2 storm. We’re about two or three hours from Grand Isle, so it did lose strength as it went. But there was still plenty of damage this far north.

Uprooted tree on the side of the road

This is a common sight right now.

Scenes like these were all over, and I sent five of my pictures to WAFB. I don’t know if they published them or not, but our town was mentioned in an article on the damage in Tangipahoa Parish.

Road with downed tree and lady on bike with GoPro on helmet

We weren’t the only ones looking to see what happened. This lady was, too–with a GoPro camera on her helmet. See that downed tree up ahead?

No cell phone service anywhere for about half a day. The Boy, who works with BF, was working another job getting cell phone towers back online in Jackson, MS. I hope they paid him well. For a time, we were literally stuck at home with no way out. Mail service was suspended on Saturday.

We could only make phone calls with the Internet router plugged into the generator (with a surge protector, of course.) I used my “business phone” MagicJack number to make phone calls on my iPhone with the MagicJack app. It’s getting better. (I’ve stopped working on my other website for a bit.)

Once we could get out, we did a little driving, partly to get to his father’s house just two miles away.

Sawed-off downed tree

The neighbors got to this one.

Our house is fine, and so are our neighbors, but we can’t say that about others.

Neighbors With Tractors

After Hurricane Ida began heading north, the air was still and quiet for a while. A few hours after dawn, we started to hear noises. It was a bunch of folks who live around here and own tractors, bulldozers, and other heavy equipment, and chainsaws. They went buzz-sawing through the trees and debris on the roads to make them passable. Not clearing them, just passable, and moving the big stuff to the side of the road.

The big issue is power lines–all of them are down, frayed, and sitting around everywhere. These wonderful folks just drove around and doing what people do in these situations.

In order to get his Dad’s place, we had to go the long way around via the freeway because the two-mile stretch was blocked by the fallen trees and branches. We talked to many people and BF seemed to know all of them. At one point he got out and joined them, leaving me in the vehicle.

BF walking towards people working

There he goes, off to help. He’s a sweetie.

He grabbed a chainsaw and got to work with anyone who asked. BF was in his element, that’s for sure!

On Wednesday, the DOTD came through and cleared the big trees, and on Thursday, they did more clearing.

The Louisiana National Guard Activates

Right before Hurricane Ida landed, The National Guard was activated, and according to this article in Time magazine, that activation consists of:

  • 4,900 Guard personnel
  • 195 high-water vehicles
  • 73 rescue boats
  • 34 helicopters

More were being added by local and state agencies.

Well, we saw them out clearing the interstate freeway:

Deployed National Guard members on freeway clearing debris.

We didn’t stop to chat, we kept going.

 

Second picture of National Guard members

We were driving too fast for a good pic.

What did BF have to say about this? “Oh, yeah, I used to do that when I was in the Guard. Directed traffic once in Slidell in deep water. Drove over a guy’s Miata in a vehicle. He was furious.”

Well, of course, he was. Why did you drive over the man’s car, dear? “It was underwater and I couldn’t see it.”

I can’t even imagine.

BF In Action

It wasn’t too long ago that we were experiencing that big winter freeze. Except for the temperature, we’re experiencing much the same thing now, except for no air conditioning and 80-degree temps. It’s a little cooler at night.

If you remember the picture of BF cooking on the camping stove in a hoodie, well, I’ve got a new one:

BF cooking during Hurricane Ida on the camp stove

He’s at it again!!! Making bacon and eggs, one of the things BF does the best.

He decided to move the stove into the living room because it’s a bit easier to manage on the big table with the bottle on it. I don’t mind. Behind him to the left, you can see the fancy-dancy Snap-On flashlights that will light up an entire room nicely.

We now have two of the big flashlights, because he bought one for me, too. Why does Amy need a huge Snap-On flashlight that doubles as a heavy projectile? “Because you keep asking to use mine.” The cleaner one belongs to me.

And because BF is a smarty-pants, he decided to stop by the local National Guard armory and ask for this:

Box of Meals Ready To Eat (MRE) before Hurricane Ida

Why did we need this? “I just thought I’d ask and see if they’d let me have one.”

I posted the pic on Facebook, and Boeing Brother BO said that he had some at the shelter during Hurricane Harvey–and they weren’t bad, he said.

BF also stood in line for ice, water, and food from the National Guard to pass along to an elderly married couple he knows, and TT up the street.

Whenever we open this military “meal kit,” I’ll take pictures for a future blog post.

Deploying Equipment

Obviously, our generator is deployed and is keeping things sort of afloat. The fridge, freezer, and occasionally the living room TV run nicely. We just have to keep putting petrol in it. Last time we drove 170 miles round trip to get more, and we’re looking at another “date night road trip” to get more soon.

The Rotera tealight holders have also come in handy:

IKEA Rotero tealight candles

Right next to the flashlight.

We have plenty of bottles of propane for the stove, and we’re not using it all day long. Just for cooking and to boil water for coffee. So glad I have French press pots around.

BF’s sister did an IKEA run in Atlanta for me and brought three more Roteras for us, plus a few other things. We’d planned this before Ida had her eye on the Louisiana coast.

Washing Dishes By Hand

Ok, as you might imagine, I’m not using our wonderful countertop dishwasher right now. But there’s another reason for it, not Hurricane Ida. Sure, I can hook it up to the generator, but on Saturday afternoon, it began to leak. Seriously. All over the place.  First, it soaked a dishtowel, then an “emergency towel” (old ones you keep around for that sort of thing), and then part of a second emergency towel.

I texted BF and told him. We’re not happy. When he got home, we put the flashlight inside it and quickly found the problem: the gasket is damaged. So it’s a simple replacement part, we hope. The Karma of Spare Parts is back.

Figured that a Monday morning call to Goldstar would lead to a quick and easy repair. Nope. Right now we’re too busy taking care of everyday life with a generator. So. . .maybe in a couple of weeks.

Helping Ida’s Victims

No, I didn’t mean me directly. Well, if you have a magic wand or a sonic screwdriver that will restore power to all of us, sure, get in touch. FedEx came through the other day.

If you’re thinking about donating for immediate Hurricane Ida relief, Mercy Chefs is now on the ground in several Louisiana cities and serving hot, fresh meals to people. I’ve donated to them before, and will probably do so again soon. We missed them over the weekend, unfortunately. I wanted to do a blog post on their operations.

Their motto is “Just Go And Feed People,” and that’s exactly what they do. They’re a faith-based nonprofit with volunteers who staff professional mobile kitchens. When Hurricane Ida took aim, they made plans to move in. They take these “food trucks” into disaster zones and make hot, fresh meals for people who can’t cook for themselves. Mercy Chefs also supplies hot meals to first responders and volunteers.

Their locations are posted on their social media channels. I mentioned that I would look them up if they came up this way, like Tangipahoa Parish, and they told me to do just that. So if we can go see them, there’s definitely a blog post coming.

The Louisiana Cajun Navy is also deploying to rescue and assist people. I just realized that they are located in Hammond, just south of here.

Other organizations like the Salvation Army and The Red Cross are also accepting donations, I think, but they don’t come this far north.

More As Things Get Better

Make no mistake–Hurricane Ida did considerable damage to south Louisiana, and not just New Orleans.

Right now, Entergy–the electric provider for New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and this area–has utility workers from all over the US scattered through every affected area. We’ve seen them all over the place. During a supply run to Hammond on Saturday–Target, Rouse’s, Winn-Dixie, and Walmart are open there–we passed three utility trucks from ConEdison out of New York.

They’ve published their current estimates for return to power on their website which was updated today. Entergy’s current estimate for our area, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes is ten days away–September 17th. This does not fill me with hope. We’re sick of cold showers! But we keep going and I keep chanting because we can’t do much else, except keeping the generator fueled and running.

Other than being a bit cranky, BF and I are OK, as are our neighbors. However, many people aren’t–his brother’s house took some serious damage and will take some time to repair. We do realize that we’re fortunate and that the Casa de Rurale withstood winds that may have been as high as 100 MPH. So as we take care of day-to-day tasks, we also help others best we can.

It may be a couple of weeks before you hear from me again, but I’ll update whenever I’m able. Please keep an eye out on the Gulf.

 

 

Lost Primos storefront
Los Primos Of Hammond

Los Primos is the little Mexican grocery store in Hammond. Let me take you to our local “little Mexico.”

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

OK–have you tried the Salsa Macha yet? I’ve emptied that big jar, and am down to the two small jars. Need to make a trip to Winn-Dixie for more peanuts, and soon, back to Hammond for more dried chipotle chili peppers.

I’ve used it on a few things and even eaten a small spoonful at a time. The warm, smoky flavor is amazing. What I’ve used it for the most has been. . .egg salad. No kidding. Slice or chop three hard-boiled eggs, and add them into a small bowl. In a separate small bowl (custard cups are good for this), mix about three parts of regular mayonnaise with one part Salsa Macha. Mix well, then mix in with the chopped eggs. Mix well and enjoy. That is fabulous. Unfortunately, I didn’t formally measure anything.

Oh, and BF finally did try it after I basically cornered him and twisted his arm (not physically.) I put about one-eighth of a teaspoon on a saltine cracker and asked him for his opinion. He’s always leery of anything with any kind of peppers in it, including sweet bell peppers. Peppers and tomatoes give him a bout of heartburn, especially at night. But I wasn’t asking him to eat a large amount, just a little taste. This shouldn’t give him heartburn, but he was adamant. He ate half of what was on the cracker and said it was “Ok, but I don’t want it again.” That was all I was asking for. So, more for me, and he gets heartburn from seemingly everything.

I’ve also started back working on my new copywriting website, which has been sitting idle for a while. Banana Rat is also doing a bit to help me with it, mostly the back-end stuff on WordPress.

Piggybacking on last week’s post, I want to tell you about an accidental discovery and a big surprise. Of course, BF never thought to tell me this place even existed.

Hammond, Louisiana

The Casa de Rurale is a half-hour away from this sort of metropolitan city. It’s a little more than an hour north of New Orleans, and home to many “bigger city” amenities like Starbucks and Target. (It’s the closest of both to us.) If we can’t find it in either Walmart, Winn-Dixie, or Tractor Supply, chances are it’s on the list for the next trip to Hammond. We’ll visit Target, Rouse’s, Hobby Lobby, or a bigger Winn-Dixie while we’re there.

Hammond is also home to Southeastern Louisiana University, one of the top three universities in Louisiana, and also one of the fastest-growing. What does Southeastern have? College students from all over the US. So naturally, there’s Target, Starbucks, and other businesses they’ll know from home. It’s why there is a Trader Joe’s right outside LSU in Baton Rouge. You’ll nearly always see college students in there as well as local folks (and people like me who just love it but don’t live close by.)

When we go to Hammond for a shopping and foraging excursion, BF just smiles and gives me that same look when he looked into the very full pantry after I moved into his house. It’s the smile and the look that says, “Yes, dear, whatever you say.”

And it was on this day that we went to Baton Rouge, first to say goodbye to Alvin Calhoun. As we made our way back, he wanted to stop in Hammond–“it’s a surprise,” he said. I don’t normally like surprises–y’all know I’ve had way too many to think it’s going to be good. Thankfully, this one was different.

The Chinese Lunch Place

On the way home, BF decides we’ll be stopping for lunch at this little Chinese takeaway in a strip mall on Morrison Blvd. Before we get there, he just keeps telling me it’s a great little surprise.

Oh, boy, he wasn’t kidding.

Walking through the car park, hand in hand, I look over to my right and I see it:

Lost Primos storefront

How have I never seen this place before???

Could it be? A real Hispanic food store? It is! When I saw the words “envios de dinero,” in a sign on the door, I knew what was inside. I had to go inside and investigate.

Of course, BF had his little heart set on Chinese takeaway, and he had to physically pull me into the Chinese place. Not throwing shade on the nice Chinese place, but once I ordered I walked out. Because there’s a real Mexican grocery store in Hammond–right next door!

I left BF to take care of the rest and pick it up. Told him to text me when he was done and ready to leave.

Los Primos Of Hammond

Have you ever walked into someplace and your eyes just soaked up everything? That was me in Los Primos. The Spanish music was playing over the PA system, brightly colored stuff was everywhere, and I was the only Gringo in the place. This was the first thing I saw:

Shelf of Spanish goods

Isn’t it gorgeous??

The brightly painted coffee cups, the clay pots, and the little shopping bags were my favorite.

I walked around a bit and saw the wall of dried spices, just like you’d see in Fiesta or Food Town:

Dried chili packets hanging on the wall

They’re all here!

Found the chipotle I needed!

Packet of dried chipotle chiles on the rack

Bought two of these

And other Hispanic spice-rack favorites:

Spice packets hanging on rack

They’re all here! (Although I don’t know what they’re all for.)

Sesame seeds were also needed for the Salsa Macha, and I was able to get a package here.

Sección de Comestibles (Grocery Section)

When I first moved to Houston, I was just shocked at all the different Hispanic, organic, and other specialty foods that were available in the regular grocery store. Stuff you just couldn’t even imagine buying in a grocery in New Orleans in 1998. But there it was, for anyone to purchase, no matter their ethnicity. I regularly bought one or two new things to try while I was in Texas, especially when I visited Phoenicia Foods on the west side.

While my eyes and ears were soaking this all up in Hammond (the first time), BF sat in the car park, in the cab of the truck, looking at Facebook. I think he was just afraid to walk into the place.

Los Primos also has a variety of groceries that are commonplace in most Houston grocery stores.

Los Primos grocery shelf

All kinds of things, and lovely decor hanging from the ceiling.

Goya is the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the US, and its products are available outside of the US as well.

 Unknown snack bag

I bet this is tasty.

And don’t forget your nacho chips:

Bag of Nacho chips

Didn’t get these, but I could have

I got what I needed for the Salsa Macha:

packets of dried chiles and sesame seeds

Just what I needed!

I also bought another pound of fresh chorizo from the refrigerator case, as well as a couple of things to snack on during the trip home:

Empty packets of raw almonds and pepitas

These didn’t survive the drive.

Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are something I haven’t had in at least 5 years, and probably longer. They’re just not something people eat here, but they’re so delicious and I just love them. I used to have a recipe for roasted and spiced pepitas, but I think the cookbook is now long gone.

BF had been up since about 5:00 am and was tired, but still graciously took me to Los Primos the second time when I needed some ingredients. I did offer him both the almonds and pepitas, but he passed.

Departamento de Carnes (The Meat Department)

Although I didn’t buy anything this time, I did take pictures:

Meat department price list

No, I don’t know what that all means, other than chicken and chorizo.

But I’d be willing to wager that this is chorizo:

Chorizo Sausage in bin

I’ve never seen that much chorizo in one place before.

And because I don’t understand much Spanish, there was only one guy I could talk to–the nice guy at the one register! That’s OK. I told him I was making Salsa Macha, and he said, “Oh, that’s so good! You can get big containers of it at Costco, too.” Well, Costco is an hour drive in any direction, so I have to make it myself. Not that I mind.

Fresh Produce, Too

There were folks putting up a little produce in the back. Not a big department, but they do have pinto and black beans in bulk bins, along with those little wagon wheels. (Never had those, and they’re wheat. You fry them up like croutons.) What I did get was some limos (limes.) At first, I didn’t realize that’s what they were. Look at the size of them:

Large lime in palm of hand

That’s the biggest lime I’ve seen since I left Texas!

The young lady putting up produce didn’t speak any English, but she did know what I was talking about when I said “limes?” She responded, “Si, limos.” I responded, “muchas gracias!” Because I was so happy to find these monster-sized ones–all we get in Winn-Dixie and Walmart are the golfball-sized models. The smile on my face told her everything.

No seeds in these limos, so I can’t re-grow them, either.

The Little Strip Mall

Los Primos is located at 1320 N. Morrison Blvd, Suite 118, Hammond, LA 70401.

It’s literally in the corner of this little strip mall, along with the Chinese takeaway, a donut shop, and a few other local shops. They’ve been in business for, as I was told, 11 years. They don’t have a website or any social media pages, either.

It looks like they are open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, but I’d call ahead (985-429-1722) to be sure.

There’s A Restaurant Too

Just on the other side of the wall from the Chinese takeaway, Los Primos also has a sit-down restaurant that, I hope, we’ll be visiting one day soon. Apparently, it’s a great place for a cheap date, which is perfect for us! (La Carreta is nice but a bit pricey.)

Reviews are mixed online, with some saying it’s a great and authentic Mexican, others saying something else. Yelp has the most that I’ve seen so far, mostly positive.

I didn’t even realize there was a restaurant until I was leaving–the second time. I’m sure they thought I was bonkers, but honestly, it’s great to find such a place around here. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can have a “date night” here. My birthday is in October, so fingers crossed.

Until Next Time

I’m working on a couple of upcoming topics, and there is another new book coming from Emilie Bailey, The Texas Granola Girl. Yes, it too is keto, but this one is vegetarian. I’ve already notified Miss Alice about the book, and I’m sure she and her daughter will eat it up. (Get it?)

The book comes out in September, and I may be lucky enough to get an advance review copy again. Based on the last two books from this lady, I can’t see anything being bad about this vegetarian food, whether for a side dish or for a main dish for people like Miss Alice.

If there is a topic you’d like me to explore and write about, by all means, let me know! I’m always looking for new blog topics. Leave a comment below, or use the contact form to get in touch. (I think I need to add a widget to the site so the contact form shows up everywhere.)

Good stuff is coming soon, and so are the holidays, so. . . .

Buen provecho! (Bon Appétit!)

 

Big Jar of Salsa Macha
Salsa Macha!

Salsa Macha–a most delicious thing to make any time. It’s perfect for your charcuterie boards, too.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Apologies again for being later than I wanted, but I’ll explain myself shortly. It’s summer, and the living is easy (we hope.) As always, fall is coming, and certain people in the US population are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Latte season. Heck, everything pumpkin spice–you know who you are.

If you just can’t wait, you can make that PSL at home with a recipe from Starbucks’ own website. Who would have thought it?

But remember–while y’all are sipping your hot PSLs, I’m still trying to enjoy my iced coffee and avoid heatstroke.

With all the rain we’ve had this year, I don’t think we’ve seen a day of 100F temps here. Houston, and most of Texas, has seen multiple 100F days.

This Year’s Gardening Attempts

We have not attempted to repeat last year’s gardening disaster.

I really haven’t mentioned the paint-bucket garden, but we’ve got basil and a few other things growing. I really need to plant the sprouted avocado seeds so they can grow into actual trees.

Avocado Trees in paint bucket

Just plant the seed into the dirt. . .and wait. No kidding, I’ve sprouted several but lost a couple.

Think of how many friends we’ll have when they find out we have avocados growing! Well, except for BF and his brother. Say “guacamole” and BF starts retching.

Two batches of pesto were the result of the last basil cut, and I’ll likely have that much when I cut this batch.

Basil in paint bucket

Think I have two cups here? (Yes, that’s an automotive jack behind it.)

I’ve also got two Anaheim chili pepper plants growing, and one has two medium-sized peppers on it.

Anaheim peppers growing in paint bucket

Darn bugs! I’ll get two if nothing else.

Unfortunately, the little peppers that began forming when the flowers dropped off became slug food, and so I may only have those two. We’ll see, since “cold weather” probably won’t start until at least October. And then there’s lettuce:

Lettuce growing in paint bucket

I need to turn this into a salad real soon

I’ve also bought some plants:

  • “Coolapeno” peppers, the heat-free jalapenos
  • Green onions, as always, but I need to add more to the pot
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Strawberries (the slugs have really decimated this one)
  • Mint (a plant that is overgrown in the bucket and we recently buzz-sawed with a hedge trimmer)
  • Parsley

And as always, sage:

Sage in paint bucket

I try to keep it around for fall dishes

Unfortunately, I didn’t plant them all right away, leading to more of BF’s smarty-pants comments about “science experiments.” I remind him that none of his previous female companions ever brought urban agriculture or other improvements into his house and his life.

Home Visit Nibbles

So a few weeks ago, our district leader OR decided she wanted to make the drive to do a home visit. It’s an SGI tradition of visiting members at home, particularly those who have recently begun practicing Buddhism and offering support. The leaders chant with the members and they discuss. . .whatever. In this case, it was the upcoming district meeting. And, I suppose OR wanted to get outta the house for a while.

Now, because of where I live, nearly everyone is an hour away. The closest members are J&B, who live in Albany, near Hammond. Basically, I’m practicing by myself out here, although most are a phone or Zoom call away. Since I’ve been practicing since 1986, though, I think I’ve got the hang of it. I don’t understand why they want to drive an hour–each way–to do a home visit, but I gave up protesting.

While we were chanting, BF showed up. But he quickly bugged off to the shop and left us alone to talk. He doesn’t mind the home visits, of course, but he does enjoy acting up when people are visiting me.

When someone does drive out here, I try to make sure I have some food and coffee to offer. I’ve baked some delicious treats from the first Babycakes book. I also have the second book but haven’t looked at it in a while. Maybe next time they come by I’ll make that Pineapple Upside-Down Cake on page 116 again.

On this particular day, since it was just OR, I told her I’d make a couple of those little keto chocolate cakes in the Instant Pot for her, and of course, coffee. OR is from Los Angeles, and is Hispanic herself–her parents came from Mexico years and years ago, and she has been in Mandeville since about 2006.  Knowing that I’m a fan of Mexican and Tex-Mex food, she decided to bring something special. Naturally, I didn’t think to take pictures.

Salsa Macha

So OR made a stop at The Fresh Market for a few things, including a box of little gluten-free nut crackers, a small tub of chicken salad, and a couple of slices of Swiss cheese. Why Swiss, I don’t know, I like it fine, and I just said “thank you.”

Along with these nibbles, she brought this:

Bottle of Salsa Macha

It was full when she brought it

Then she asked for a very small spoon, which I happened to have:

Cocktail spoon and regular spoon for Salsa Macha

The spoon on the left is a cocktail spoon, and the one on the right is a regular teaspoon from our flatware

Puzzled by her request, I went to the only one I knew I could put my hands on, in a box of Maldon Salt Flakes in the pantry. I have more of these tiny spoons, but I don’t know where they are.

We sit at the table and she explains:

  • Take a cracker
  • Fold a slice of cheese to make smaller pieces
  • Add a bit of cheese onto the cracker
  • Add a bit of chicken salad to the cracker on top of the cheese
  • Drip a bit of this incredible stuff on top of the cracker stack
  • Eat and enjoy

What the heck is this amazing thing you’ve brought here? OR responds, “It’s called Salsa Macha.

I have eaten it and become enlightened.

The Recipe

OR is a fan of Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS. I like to watch her when I can, her food looks delicious. Pati is actually from Mexico and is married to an American. They have three sons and live in Maryland. They have, however, lived in Texas.

Pati has three books, which will be going on my “wish list” soon. Her newest will be released in November, called Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets. Her most recent book graces OR’s kitchen, and all three will eventually grace mine.

This recipe is from a longer TV show segment on Cali-Baja Fish Tacos. You can see the whole segment here, and she starts making the Salsa Macha at about the 3:55 mark.

While the tacos look absolutely delicious, they are not gluten-free–she uses regular flour to batter the fish, and makes flour tortillas as well. Just thought I’d warn you.

OR said that since she made the salsa the first time, she carries around a jar of it and puts it on EVERYTHING. No wonder she has that glow of enlightenment.

I’m also writing about this recipe to piggyback on my last post on charcuterie boards. Because you can easily put this on any charcuterie board–just add a warning that it’s a bit spicy as well as contains peanuts. You don’t want an allergic person unknowingly ingesting it and having to go to the hospital.

If you do put this on your charcuterie board, I highly recommend putting the little cocktail spoons out for Salsa Macha. Because if you put a regular teaspoon out, someone will grab a large amount not realizing it should be consumed in small amounts. It does have enough of a bite from both the garlic and the chile peppers that a big tablespoon will overwhelm even the most tolerant of spice-lovers.

Making The Salsa Macha

Let me say at the outset that I am by no means an expert on Mexican and Tex-Mex food. I make no secret of the fact that it’s just one of my favorites. Living in Texas for 18 years, it’s all around, in the same way that red beans & rice, jambalaya, and gumbo are here. You know what I’d rather have, starting with the chips.

When most people hear the word “salsa,” it’s usually accompanied by the word “chips.” It’s either a freshly made tomato garnish, or it’s the kind out of a jar. Either one is good, especially if the chips are hot, fresh, and salty. However, this salsa is different.

Salsa Macha is cooked, and has no tomatoes. In fact, it has. . .peanuts. No kidding.

Ingredients for salsa macha

The Setup (part 1)

Of course, getting all the ingredients together was a challenge (I’ll tell you about that in a minute.) When I mentioned to OR that I was making some, she said she used a whole cup of peanuts, so I cracked open more before I made them.

Prep work involved a few other things, including peeling garlic and deseeding and deveining the dried chile peppers. That took a while:

Cut open dried chipotle pepper

Since it’s dried, they pretty much fall out.

By the time you get them all done and get to this point:

Cut chipotles in bowl

Ready to add

You’ve had a snootful of the pepper dust and have sneezed multiple times. Just cut the tops off, cut in half, or cut down one side, and the seeds are easy to remove.

The packet I got is actually 2.5 ounces, and the recipe calls for 2 ounces. Well. . .by the time you remove all those seeds, I’d say you got exactly 2 ounces.

I also measured out the sesame seeds, white vinegar, brown sugar (just for the first round, I think a sugar replacement like Swerve would work too), and salt for later.

Cooking

First: add 1.5 cups of olive oil to a pan:

Olive oil, 1.5 cups

It’s gonna be good!

And heat over medium heat:

Olive oil heating in pan

Once it’s heated, but not boiling, add the peanuts and the four cloves of garlic:

Garlic cloves and peanuts in hot olive oil

Like this; there are actually four cloves in the pan

Now, don’t walk away from it–you’re actually frying these ingredients:

Closeup of frying peanuts and garlic

Don’t let them cook too long

Pati says that peanuts are cooked long before you notice them, so that’s why it’s important to stay at the stove for this one.

Next, add the seeded and deveined dried chile peppers:

Adding chipotles into the pot

Right in there

Along with the sesame seeds:

Adding sesame seeds to the pot

Right in there

Cook a little longer until the chiles are toasted and done, about another 30 to 60 seconds, then take off the heat. (I just moved it to an unused burner.)

Pot and food processor work bowl

A safety tip is coming.

Grinding And Processing

Here’s where you should pull out that big food processor, you’ll need it.

Let me iterate here that this is HOT oil, and you’ll need to exercise great caution at this point. Hot oil burns badly, and nobody wants to check into the burn unit, ever. If you have small children or animals, shoo them out of the kitchen and away from the stove for their own safety.

Because I was using a cast-iron pot, I brought the food processor bowl to the stove and scooped it in a little at a time. Better safe than sorry, and I don’t want to get injured.

Scooping out of the pot

Just like this

I used a couple of tools to clear the pan:

Clearing out the pan

I got all of it out!

And dumped the last little bit into the work bowl.

After putting the bowl on the motor unit, I added the last ingredients:

Adding brown sugar to the food processor

Brown sugar

White vinegar:

Adding white vinegar to the workbowl

Right in, 3 tablespoons

And of course, kosher salt:

Adding kosher salt to the food processor

Just a teaspoon, but you can add more if you like.

Then hit the ignition:

Running food processor

Grind it up to a nice paste

What you get is this lovely and delicious thing that you won’t want to live without:

Salsa Macha finished

Delicious!

It makes a good bit, and so I filled one big jar and two small ones:

Jars of salsa macha

Into the fridge! (Store it in the fridge if you’re not using it immediately.)

When I clear out that jar on the right, I’m going to wash it well and return it to OR. BTW, those little Ball jars do come in handy for lots of things. Walmart, Amazon, and sometimes Tractor Supply has them.

Finding Ingredients

Raw peanuts are called “green boiling peanuts” here. Why? People boil them in salt and eat them like that. I can’t say they’re bad, but I never had them before I moved to this area.

Now you may be thinking, “Amy, how did you get that kind of thing in rural Louisiana?” Good question–I almost didn’t. That’s why this post is a bit later than I intended. I stayed up a little late last night to make it, too.

OR has access to not only a “Hispanic foods section” in the Mandeville Walmart, but there is also at least one “Mexican grocery store” in the area, too. I’ve been in that Walmart and seen it myself, bought masa harina and corn husks there for our chicken tamales I made once. But Mandeville is nearly an hour one way. Not a good option.

I went to our local Winn-Dixie and Walmart looking for the dried chiles, to no avail. I was on the phone doing a FaceTime call with OR looking for them, but they really don’t have that kind of thing here.

Then I remembered that there IS a Mexican grocery store nearby–in Hammond. So after being up since 6:00 am, and driving an hour from Franklinton to get home from work, BF took me to the little Mexican grocery in Hammond and then brought me home. Once back at the Casa de Rurale, BF went into hibernation for a while.

If you’re in an area where you can’t find these chiles, you can get them online at Fiesta Spices’ website. They have a whole section of their website just for dried chile peppers. Now that I think about it, Albertson’s in Hammond carries some of Fiesta’s spices, so maybe I’ll drop by there next time and see if they have the chiles, too. If not, everything is available online, thank heavens.

Will BF Eat It?

That’s always the question. I didn’t really make it for him, anyway. But he alternates between “I’ll try anything you make” to “I don’t think I’m gonna like it, I’d rather not try it.” Whatever. I’ll let you know.

If you eat this, you, too, will be come enlightened. I’m being silly when I say that, but that’s how good it is.

For my next blog post, I’ll tell you all about Hammond’s Tienda de comestibles, or little Mexican grocery store. We’ve recently seen folks speaking Spanish here, no English. Aside from the other considerations, it could mean more Hispanic foods may become available locally if the migration trend continues. Maybe it’s time for me to finally learn Spanish, even if I have to use DuoLingo. But for now, I can get some of these wonderful Mexican ingredients, along with ready-made chorizo, on the same trip as visiting Hobby Lobby, Rouse’s, and Target.

Until next time–Disfrutar! (Enjoy!)

Charc board from Unlikely Hostess
Charcuterie. Char-cuta-what?

Charcuterie boards are showing up everywhere. It’s not a new idea, it’s just another way of serving appetizers, hors d’oeuvres. They’re a delicious new art form, coming to a party near you. 

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with a web page project that has left me burning the midnight oil for quite a few nights. I just turned in the last page on mass torts last night, so I’ve got other stuff to catch up on, including this blog. 

Our regular rainy days have given way to days of the long, hot summer with occasional cloudbursts, some torrential. I told you we’d be talking about the big freeze when summer came. Twice this week Mother Nature brought a very heavy monsoon of a rain shower, and the power went out for a few hours. Those Rotera tealight lanterns were deployed, with a reminder that I need to order more. BF’s sister may do an IKEA run for us one of these days. 

Some Sewing

I’ve been trying to get some sewing done on Saturdays as I used to in Houston, but there’s the matter of housecleaning. One bit at a time. I’ve still not returned to using the circa-1996 White sewing machine Big Joel sent me since it’s been back from the repair guy in Denham Springs. It works perfectly, I’m just afraid to use it. But I need to, because the one I use now isn’t great on buttonholes.

This year’s heavy rainy season lets me know that I need to make a more utilitarian raincoat than fabulous fashion raincoats I made in Houston. One is a poncho-like Donna Karan model from 2003, and the other a regular double-breasted, both from ripstop nylon. (The GER laughed at me when I made that Donna Karan raincoat.) They aren’t really suitable for life at the Casa de Rurale.

I bought some heavier raincoat fabric for this MimiG pattern, but I still haven’t cut it yet. Need some strong buttons and a couple of separating zippers, as well as a few other supplies that aren’t locally available. It means the mail ladies will be dropping off more packages. 

Now, if you’re lucky enough to attend a gathering this summer, hosting one, or planning for the holidays, I’ve got something you’ll need to know about: the Charcuterie Board. 

Charcuterie Intro

Has anyone used the word “charcuterie” in front of you? It’s certainly showed up in several of my Instagram feeds, so I knew I had to take a look for myself.

Simple Charcuterie Board - Crunchy Creamy Sweet

Source: crunchycreamysweet.com

Charcuterie is a French word that has to do with preserved meats–bacon, ham, sausages, etc. It’s the practice of preserving meat used long before refrigeration was available. The practice may have originated with the Romans, but has been used in France for hundreds of years. The types of preserved meats varied by region. 

The person who makes these things is called a charcutier, and their repertoire may also include pate’, as well as what’s called “head cheese,” or in Louisiana, “hogshead cheese,” as it was called when I was growing up.

It just so happens that Central Market in Texas is celebrating “Charc Week,” celebrating all the things you’ll need to make a charcuterie board at home. In a week or so, they’ll be celebrating their yearly Hatch Festival, with all things hatch chilis. I’ve got a few Anaheim chili peppers growing in a paint bucket now but will be heading to Hammond to partake of more Hatch chilis for us. Ok, for me. 

Building The Board

First thing you’ll need: a board. No kidding, but not just any old cutting board that you’ve had since your first apartment. Unless, of course, you’re making it strictly for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that, either–why wait for a party? But for entertaining, you’ll want something nicer. (Warning: affiliate links ahead.)

In the HeatCageKitchen, I could make do with a large, seldom-used cutting board I bought back in the 1990’s from Macy’s in downtown New Orleans. (On my lunch hour, of course.) But now that charcuterie boards are a thing, you can choose from more upscale models like this one from Smirly:

Charcuterie board 1

Source: Amazon.com

They also make an expandable version for a little more:

Larger charcuterie board

Source: Amazon.com

The Spruce also has a list of their best board choices for 2021.

Just do a search on Amazon and you’ll find about 3,000 results for them, with similar results from other places like Wayfair (also called “cheeseboards.”) You’ll find one that suits your tastes and fits your budget. And no, there’s no need to spend a fortune on one of these, either–find some suitable and less expensive cutting boards at both Cost Plus World Market as well as IKEA.

The Meats, Cheeses, And More

So, there are about a million ways to make one, and chances are there isn’t a “wrong” way to make them (not that I’ve found, anyway.) AllRecipes explains it simply here, and this article from WebRestaurantStore.com explains it in more detail.

Charcuterie board picture from Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

The basic premise is that it’s small bites, with flavors and textures that go well together. Choose one or more types of meats, such as:

  • Salami and other hard sausages
  • Prosciutto or ham
  • Spanish Chorizo (this is a fully cooked sausage like salami and not raw like Mexican chorizo)
  • Mousse or pate’

And pair it with cheeses (I like Manchego), as well as:

  • Spreads, like home-made hummus, mustard and chutney
  • Pickles (those tiny cornichons are cute and tasty)
  • Bite-sized fruit (think grapes, dried apricots, pineapple chunks)
  • Olives
  • Veggies (grape tomatoes, small sweet peppers, cut carrots and cucumbers, etc.)
  • Crackers
  • Cut bread, the size of Melba toast
  • Other tasty bite-sized things you may like.

Remember that everything needs to be bite-sized and easy to pick up, since it’s self-served on small plates.

How To Make It

Of course, there is a myriad of recipes for these on Pinterest, AllRecipes, YouTube, and The Food Network, to name a few. And if you want a book for your collection, there’s this one, Beautiful Boards. I don’t have this one myself, and I never saw charcuterie referenced when I was a reviewer for Callisto. I guess that explains why I never saw it before now, either.

Once you have your ingredients, It’s simply a matter of assembling everything so that it’s attractive and easy to get to (preferaby with forks, right?) You can follow a picture or detail it the way you like it.

Don’t have time to make them? Check your area, you may be able to pick them up already made, like in Central Market. In Baton Rouge, there is a place called Bites & Boards, and in Houston, there are GrazeHTX and Charcuterie Houston. Do a Google search, because they’re ready to make one for your next get-together if you’re too busy or just want someone else to handle it.

Check your local grocer for “party trays,” because many will have something similar. HEB also has recipes for them, like this Texas Sized Charcuterie Board. Where do I get that board?? (Yes, I still miss Texas, but that’s another story entirely.) I haven’t checked Rouses, but they probably either have them or will make one to order.

British Charcuterie: The Ploughman’s Lunch

Let me point out that I have not been to Europe, and only know what I read, research, and see on Britbox, The Food Network, and other sites about any manner of European, Australian, and other non-US cuisines. 

I found it interesting when Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, visited a British pub in London and shared a Ploughman’s Lunch with her husband, Jeffrey. She’s a big fan of visiting Paris and they even own an apartment there, so I guess London was a day trip.  The recipe on the Food Network’s website is more for a party, rather than for one person. Note: It’s not in any of her cookbooks that I found. 

But a ploughman’s lunch is a cold and generally portable meal that’s intended to eat out in the fields, literally, when the ploughman gets a break. It consists of bread, cheese, onions, cold meat, pickles, and other items not needing refrigeration for a long period.

And what does it look like? In many cases, a lot like a charcuterie board. Really. With much the same things.

It’s been a thing for hundreds of years. But since the 1950’s, after WWII rationing ended, the “ploughman’s lunch” became a thing in pubs to sell more cheese. In recent years, gastro-pubs, which emphasize food rather than just beer, have elevated this humble meal to something more gourmet. So if you’re in a British pub (which could be anywhere, including The Blue Anchor in Delray Beach, FL), you may find it called “ploughman’s lunch” or something similar. 

A Little Charcuterie Humor

You know people can’t leave things alone on social media, right? I won’t mention the memes made after the recent commercial space flights, complete with well-known public figures.

This article on Mashed talks about why charcuterie boards are now so popular. The pandemic lockdowns in 2020 saw a lot of people looking for new things to do. Making the boards became a pasttime, showing up on everyone’s Instagram feeds but mine. Apparently the “craze” began with author Marissa Mullen’s Instagram account, and it became the next big DIY craft project–and it’s edible.

Of course, there are multiple versions of charcuterie boards, such as these targeted to. . .um, individuals less gourmet inclined than myself:

Charc for rednecks with beef jerky and Velveeta on plate

Source: reddit

And you know that’s Velveeta, right? BF can totally get behind this one.

In my Tuesday night Zoom call with my wonderful writer friends, I mentioned that the next topic for this humble blog would be charcuterie boards. And Bev in Georgia was very nice to find this amusing pic:

Charc humor on a cutting board

I don’t know where it’s from, but it’s funny.

See? Social media isn’t all bad.

I know, I know, “boomer humor” and all that. I found it quite amusing, and so do a number of other folks. Better than some of the nastier stuff I see online.

For Next Time

I have a recipe I want to try and take pictures of to post. Because it’s something that will work well on a charcuterie board as well as a number of other things. Call it a “condiment.” But I’ll say this–when I tried it, courtesy of one of my Buddhist friends, I believe I became enlightened. I’ll explain when I can make it for you, complete with pictures and the story of how the stuff made it here. You will not be sorry.

Stay cool, stay hydrated, and be ready for anything if you’re on the Gulf Coast. You know what time of year it is, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a few extra things for your pantry and home.

Meantime, have fun this summer as much as you can. Because you know in a few months we’re going to be embracing hot chocolate, pots of chilis and stews, and nearly everything Pumpkin Spice.

Enjoy!

 

 

Ultimate Simple Keto Cookbook
Review: The Ultimate Simple Keto Cookbook

As I mentioned in my last post, Emilie Bailey, aka, The Texas Granola Girl, has a new cookbook. This time, it’s all about the simple keto.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Ready for more keto recipes? Emilie Bailey has you covered with her newest. I know, I only reviewed her first cookbook just two months ago, but. . .I get around to it. Now, she’s got another cookbook with delicious food for you to enjoy.

We’ve had rain almost daily since April, and everything is growing like wildfire. I’m back to paint-bucket gardening this year, and BF finally mowed over the overgrown parsley from last year’s garden spot. I’ve started more parsley in a bucket, so we should have more soon. Basil is doing well, and I hope to get a few peppers. We’ll see.

Let’s get started.

Watermelon Update

So after I published the last blog, the car-guy growing watermelons stopped by later in the evening. No, he was not notified of the roasted watermelon. Here’s a pic of the original three he gave us:

Three watermelons on the stove

Aren’t they gorgeous?

I first showed him the two books by Emilie Bailey because he, too, eats “keto, mostly.” Then, I asked him why the stickers on the watermelons. It took him 15 minutes to explain, but it’s because:

  • The soil in both upper Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes is ideal for growing these melons
  • The melons grown in this area are highly prized for that reason
  • Older and native local residents are aware of the reputation of “Washington Parish watermelons” and will seek them out
  • Melons grown in Texas and Lucedale, MS, are frequently what you get in our local grocery stores, rather than locally grown
  • Some melons are shipped in from as far away as Florida
  • Those out-of-state melons are usually grown on land that is used continuously for melons, requiring the addition of heavy chemicals to continue growing them in the same fields repeatedly
  • These chemicals are in addition to the pesticides used in the out-of-state crops
  • Even local produce vendors (“fruit stands,” as they’re called here) sell out-of-state melons and pass them off as “locally grown”

He went into great detail about why his melons are better, but I guess that’s to be expected. From his description, I don’t believe his have heavy chemicals in them. (I hope not,  anyway.) Admittedly, they are tasty, and I’d highly recommend one if you find them. But if you’re in Texas, of course, you’d need to find one grown in the Rio Grande Valley, or maybe at Froberg Farms in Alvin. 

The Pantry

Our little pantry needs a re-org,  and it’s not the first time I’ve tidied it up. But a lack of additional shelving and no interest from BF means that I’m totally on my own here.

When I moved in, there was almost nothing in it. After emptying out all the boxes from my kitchen in Houston (thank you, Miss Alice and Neighbor E), the pantry was overflowing. And the beginning of the pandemic last year also saw BF doing some panic-buying, which is in boxes under the counter as well.

I was looking for an ingredient last week and had to pull out several things to get to whatever it was I needed. I removed this from the pantry, which wasn’t mine:

Cornstarch can

Is this any good?

I always buy the stuff in the yellow box, and we have one that I purchased long after the move. So using my amateur detective skills, I decided to investigate further:

Bottom of cornstarch can with 2009 date

Wait–what?

Yup, that’s the bottom of the can. BF says he has no idea where it came from, but I’m pretty sure I know. From his last marriage, that’s where. (The divorce was final in 2008.) I’ve found (and disposed of) his junk mail that was even older. Hopefully, we’ve gotten rid of all that stuff he tossed in a box and took with him. Obviously, this can went out in the trash.

So at some point, one of these days, I need to take everything out, check for the expired and bad stuff, and toss it. If I can talk him into it, some wonderful shelving will make its way into the pantry, and hopefully a coat or two of some nice paint. White is fine, but wouldn’t white shelves with a nice cheery color be even better? Because it’ll be harder to “lose” anything in the back like that.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across older foodstuffs. I try not to have anything too old in the pantry, but it happens occasionally. The GER’s pantry also got a good cleaning when I moved into his house (almost 20 years ago now), and I tossed out a bag full of very outdated stuff that had just sat unused for many years.

The New Book: The Ultimate Simple Keto Cookbook

Author Emilie Bailey, aka, The Texas Granola Girl, spent part of her pandemic energies on writing two new cookbooks. The first of these books is being released tomorrow and is her second book of delicious recipes.

When I got the email from her list, I immediately signed up to review it. After all, it’s a free book! Well, it’s a good one, too, and I knew it would be. Emilie has been posting regularly on Instagram and sending out emails with new and delicious recipes.

Ultimate Simple Keto Cookbook

The latest!

Yes, there are three recipes with turnips. If you like them, the Classic Fauxtato Salad on page 61 is right up your alley. It’s made with everything you’d use for a regular potato salad, but with turnips. Let me know how it goes.

There are nine chapters, including an intro to keto, desserts (of course), and a chapter on keto staples, such as Easy Alfredo Sauce, Creamy Feta Dressing, Ranch Dressing, Quick Marinara Sauce, and Three-Minute Mayo, using avocado oil. There’s even a Basic Sandwich Bread on page 188.

We tried four recipes when I got this book, and they’re all two thumbs up. So let me tell you about the simple keto recipes I made.

One-Pan Chicken Parmesean, Page 122

We had one chicken breast in the freezer and only needed some mozzarella cheese. I gave BF his instructions and shopping list for this and the next recipe, made for dinner one night. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a full set of pictures, and none for the broccoli recipe. But I got a few.

First, preheat your oven to 400F. Slice two chicken breasts in half horizontally to make four cutlets, then pound them to a quarter-inch thick.

Mix up some parm cheese, Italian seasoning garlic, and a half-teaspoon of freshly ground pepper. Brush both sides of the chicken with some keto-friendly mayo, which you can make on page 178 or buy (read the labels of course.) Then drop the chicken in the seasoning mixture to coat, and fry in a large oven-safe skillet:

Chicken frying in pan

Just like this

Cook about five minutes on each side and remove from the heat (I turned it off.) Pour some sugar-free marinara sauce over the chicken. I used Classico Tomato & Basil, but she has a recipe on page 183.

Pouring sauce over chicken

1.5 cups of it

Spread it around:

Spreading marinara sauce over the chicken

All over the chicken

Now sprinkle one an one-half cups of shredded mozzarella (or provolone) cheese over the top:

Mozzarella cheese over top of chicken

Yum!

Into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the chicken is completely cooked.

While that was going on, I did the broccoli at the same time.

Sheet Pan Broccoli, Page 80

The second part of this simple keto dinner has no pictures, but it was a perfect accompaniment to the chicken.

I used the countertop oven, which is preheated to 450 degrees. Chop the broccoli into florets, wash, and set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix:

  • 1.5 tablespoons avocado oil (I used olive because I had it)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2.5 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari (tamari is wheat-free, and so is La Choy soy sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha
  • 1.5 teaspoons granulated 1:1 sweetener (I’ll explain next section)

Mix this up, and then add the drained broccoli. Toss it around well, then drop it on the baking sheet. Roast for 15 to 18 minutes, until the broccoli is tender. Toss halfway through the cooking time. Serve hot.

This recipe calls for 2 heads of broccoli, but I halved the recipe for me and BF, as I did with the chicken. Oddly, though, it’s a good thing I forgot to halve the seasoning and other ingredients for the chicken because it needed all of it.

Simple keto Dinner on red plate with chicien and broccoli

This was a fantastic and simple keto dinner

I did forget to sprinkle sesame seeds over the broccoli. Next time. Amazingly, he loved both and declared them “winners.” One more in our dinner rotation.

Classic Fudgy Brownies, Page 173

This was actually the first recipe I made. Does anyone want dessert? Once again, I had everything I needed to make these brownies, except butter. BF was instructed to get some on the way home from work because this recipe takes 1.5 sticks of butter. Oh, YEAH.

Now, one difference is that Emilie calls for 1:1 sweetener here and in the broccoli seasoning. What this means is that it’s a blend of sweeteners, frequently erythritol and monk fruit, to taste just like sugar. I wanted to try this one and had good success with it here: 

Sugar in the raw blended sweetener

One of many natural sweeteners available now

This is the ingredient list: 

Back of the package

See, at the top, it says 1:1, because it measures like sugar.

This is what’s in it:

Ingredients list

And if you’re diabetic–there you go!

Making Brownies

These come together in a snap and bake up nicely.

Ingredients for Classic Brownies

The Setup

With eight ingredients, you can have delicious keto brownies. I know, I know–you can buy a boxed mix too. Read the ingredients on that box, that’s all I’m saying.

So you’ll preheat the oven to 350F, and line the bottom of an 8×8 pan with a bit of parchment paper.

Parchment square in pan

You have to weight it, otherwise, the parchment goes sailing to the floor.

Chop up the butter and chocolate:

Chocolate and butter chopped in bowl

And melt together in the microwave, slowly and carefully, in 30-second intervals. Watch it so it doesn’t boil over or make a mess. What comes out is this:

Butter and melted chocolate

Stir them together:

Melted chocolate and butter stirred together

Ta-dah!

And set aside to cool for a bit.

Get Mixing–Wet Ingredients

So now you blend together the sweetener and chocolate mixture together, then the eggs, which must be room temp or it’ll make a big mess at this stage:

Mixing Chocolate And Sweetener

Like so

Now the eggs, one at a time.

Blending eggs and chocolate

Now add vanilla. If you’re lucky, you have some of this:

Pouring vanilla into brownie mix

Right in there, a teaspoon

Blend it well:

Blending vanilla into the mixture with a hand mixer

Almost there

Mix until the batter is smooth, and proceed to the next stage.

Dry Ingredients

Into another bowl, mix up a cup of almond flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, and a quarter-teaspoon of kosher salt:

Mixture eof almon flour, baking powedere and kosher salt

Just whisk to combine. (Obviously, I mixed while the chocolate was cooling a little.)

Now add into the wet ingredients. I prefer to do this a cup or so at a time so I don’t have it all over the kitchen.

Mixing dry ingreients into the wet

Like so.

Once it’s all incorporated, mix well, but don’t over-mix it.

Mixed brownie batter

Yum!

Time to spread it into the pan. Now, remember that you have one and a half sticks of butter here, so greasing isn’t necessary. My guess is the parchment paper is there as an assistant to make sure they all come out.

Spreading brownie batter into pan

This batter is quite thick, so it needs help

Into the oven at 350F degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, “until the center is just set but still jiggles”:

Brownies going into countertop oven for 25 minutes

Here we go!

This is what it looks like coming out of the oven:

Freshly baked hot brownies

Don’t cut into them just yet

You must let them cool for about 15 minutes on a rack, then refrigerate them for 35 minutes or longer before you cut them:

Brownies cut into 16

Now you can have one

I would say maybe 45 minutes because they were still warm and crumbled apart when I removed one from the pan. One of BF’s car-guy friends, this one a millennial, happened to be visiting and tried one. His father is doing keto, so he knows what that is. BF tried one in the next day or two and said it was “good, but dry.” There’s a reason for that.

Remember that when you refrigerate them for a longer time, the butter in the brownies will harden up, so they’ll be a bit on the dry side. However, they will stick together quite nicely, and taste just as delicious.

Of course, I loved them. Can’t wait to make more!

Cheeseburger Casserole, Page 137

Ok, I know, I said I “don’t do casserole,” but this is too tasty to pass up. Ground beef, onions, cream, and cheddar cheese–what’s not to like? Even he couldn’t say no to this one. Last week, we made it. But I didn’t take as many pictures as I intended.

First, brown a pound of 80% lean ground beef on the stove with onion and garlic for ten minutes:

Browning beef with onion and garlic

When it looks like this:

Cooked and browned beef in a cast iron skillet

Like this.

If there is any grease, drain it, then add the browned ground beef mixture to the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan or 9-inch square baking dish. Like the blackberry cobbler, I used 8-inch because that’s what I had.

Mix in a medium bowl 4 eggs, 5 tablespoons of tomato paste, a half-cup of heavy whipping cream, a half-teaspoon of kosher salt, and a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground pepper:

Adding salt to bowl

Mix this up really well, since this is the sauce

Add in a cup of shredded or grated cheddar cheese:

Adding grated cheddar cheese

Cheese makes nearly everything better, doesn’t it?

Mix well:

Cheese in sauce

Stir again

Baking

Now add to the pan:

Pouring cheese sauce into pan

Here we go!

Spread it over the top:

Spread sauce around

it will sink down a little, so mix it around if any beef is uncovered.

Add the remaining half-cup of cheddar cheese:

Cheese topping

SO good!

Make sure it’s covered:

Covered with cheese

Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it’s set and looks like this:

Baked cheeseburger casserole

Delicious!!

Cutting cheeseburger casserole

An easy, one-pan dinner

This recipe makes four generous servings, and we had dinner one night and lunch the next day.

Dinnere is served!

Dinner is served!

BF really enjoyed this one, and I’ll be making this more often, too.

After All That Cooking

Did I have a mess to clean up:

Dishes in sink

The dishes never stop

But the mighty dishwasher of the HeatCageKitchen took care of it:

Countertop dishwasher full

Still working like a champ

And it was a good night.

Until Next Time

Many thanks to Emilie Bailey for the gifted book, which will not collect dust. The next recipe I want to try is Creamy Parmesean Pork Chops on 151. Maybe I’ll wait until we have a dinner guest to try it with either the broccoli or another side from the book.

I emailed her to thank her for the book, and to let her know what we made. She responded that her favorites are the Creamy Cabbage Alfredo on page 96, and the Osso Bucco on page 140. Cabbage? Oh, he’s not going to like that. Move that to the “Drag Week Menu.”

If you’re looking for some delicious and easy keto food, this is your book. And if you don’t eat keto but want some easy, delicious food that simple, this is also your book. Or if you want to impress friends and family while sticking to simple keto recipes, Emilie’s book has got you covered there, too.

The new book is available on Amazon and other book outlets (yes, that’s my affiliate link) tomorrow (July 13th) and is currently available as a Kindle book. I’ll be posting my review there shortly.

Enjoy!!

 

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