If you’ve left Texas, or even if you haven’t, you know how important tamales are. But they can be laborious and time-consuming to create at home. The solution? Texas Tamales!
Hello again, Dear Readers:
Spring is finally here, at least, according to the calendar. And that means all kinds of wonderful things, like asparagus, bike riding, and Daylight Savings Time. If you’re not in a part of the US that’s snowed under right now.
It’s still kind of cool-ish here, too cool for planting tomatoes and things, so I guess I’ll be the lazy gardener again and be late. We probably won’t have any tomatoes in odd spots this year, but ironically, the ones that grew best were around the septic tank. We got a number of little “racks” of tomatoes there, and I’ve got the seeds to try and plant more. Since avocados have been relatively cheap for a while at Winn-Dixie, I’ve been eating them and saving the seeds. Those golf-ball sized pits have taken over the kitchen window, and BF is asking, “is this your latest science experiment?”
Lots to tell, let’s get started.
Finally, Allergy Relief
Ok, so, last year I did what has long been told to me, I got what I thought was “local raw honey” to help with allergies. Honey from your area works similar to an allergy shot–it de-sensitizes your immunoglobulins to the pollen and allergens in the area. (An allergy shot actually tamps down on the histamine response, but doesn’t de-sensitize.) Well, I went back to the same place I went last year, and bought some more of the same honey, which didn’t work. (The place is subject to an upcoming blog post.) Well, I was explaining to the clerk (around sniffling and sneezing) that I needed it for allergies.
It didn’t work last year, but everyone told me it would! Well, I was going through two or three kinds of OTC allergy meds last weekend, and it made me downright grouchy (and swearing at BF again.) I explained this to the clerk, a nice older lady, who said, “where do you live?” I told her. She asked, “then why are you buying honey from Ponchatoula?” Cause it’s local! Well, it’s not local enough, she said, and the honey right next to it came from–surprise–my neck of the woods, and it was a dollar less. (It was also a smaller bottle.) Honey and money was exchanged, and now I have truly “local” honey.
She also told me about some locally made elderberry syrup that people were buying for not only allergies, but flu. Three local schools have been closed because of flu outbreaks, and people are buying this elderberry syrup along with the honey.
I bought a bottle of that as well, at $21.99 for a 16-ounce size. It’s tasty, too. I’ve never heard of Andi Lynn’s, but they’re in the Baton Rouge neighborhood of Walker. I’m glad to know about it, and they also have some homeopathic allergy drops, which may or may not be in the place I bought the syrup. Next time.
On top of that, one of my Buddhist friends gave me an essential oil mixture to try, and I’ve been rolling that on at night.
He loves me. But sometimes he doesn’t understand. I explain.
BF asked, “what’s the deal with the local raw honey?” (He doesn’t have this problem, because this is his “native area.” Not mine.) It’s like this: the bees from your area are sucking on the flowers that are around you. When you ingest their honey, you ingest some of that pollen to de-sensitize yourself from those allergens. But if you’re using local raw honey from Ponchatoula–or Texas–you get the stuff from those bees, and they’re sucking on the flowers over there. That’s not going to help you if you’re not in Ponchatoula, or Texas. (I still have a half-bottle I bought from a vendor at the Nassau Bay Farmer’s Market.) By getting the honey and pollen from the bees sucking on local flowers from the area in which you live, you get the local “neighborhood” pollen to help alleviate your allergies to the same pollen. Make sense?
I can’t say what’s exactly working, but I’m a LOT better! Still a bit of sniffling and sneezing, but not like it was. Finally, I got the right stuff.
Coffee To Go
Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective has found a new way to make your coffee when you’re walking out the door: The Barista Cup. No kidding, the darn thing makes your coffee start to finish in a specially designed cup. Just chuck everything–grounds, sugar, milk, etc., into the cup, then pour hot water into it, and off you go. At $25, they’d better be worth it!
I don’t have one myself, yet, but of course, because Nick says it “works as advertised,” I’m extremely interested in getting one. After all, Nick’s the one who originally taught me to make iced coffee. (Note: these aren’t available on Amazon, only on the company’s website.) And Nick considers himself a coffee expert, and writes about it as a side thing to his web copywriting business.
The Barista Cup company has an office in the UK and in Winter Springs, FL, so they’re multinational, and working on saving the planet, one cup at a time.
Princess Coffee Maker
Here’s a coffee maker for young girls who want to be like Mom and Dad:
It’s a toy, and it doesn’t actually make real coffee, but it does make the gurgling sounds of a certain type of coffee maker. I halfway considered buying it to annoy BF.
Speaking of coffee, our local Winn-Dixie finally has some new baskets with coffee holders on them:
Yes, more than two years after I asked, PLEASE, our little corner of the world got baskets with coffee holders. Just one, because after all, you only need one, right?
HEB baskets have two as well, but some of the smaller baskets at Winn-Dixie only have one. Even with BF, I’m the only one drinking coffee anyway.
They still have the full-size baskets without them, and everyone uses those. These are smaller, kind of like the ones we saw back in the 70’s with a shallow basket area. So now when I visit Winn-Dixie, I can get my coffee at the nearby PJ’s first and head on in to grocery shop. Our store doesn’t have as many of these, and it seems like I’m the only one who knows what they’re for, so there’s always one available for me. Thanks, Winn-Dixie!
The Magic Tamales
You know how one day, you just want something? Over the holidays, it was tamales. And I didn’t take pictures.
Now, for those of you not of Hispanic or Texas descent, you might not know that tamales are a bit of work. So much so that many Hispanic families make the tamales only at Christmas time. Other times, they rely on buying them, or finding a good “tamale lady” or abuela (grandma) who makes them for sale all year long. Because, let’s face it, when done correctly, tamales are delicious.
In Robb Walsh’s The Tex Mex Cookbook, there is a picture of President Gerald Ford on the campaign trail in Texas eating a tamale. He was at The Alamo in 1976. Unfortunately, none of his aides (or any locals) told him that you take them out of the corn husks first. They’re steamed in the corn husks, which are like a really tough paper, and you take them out to eat them.
The most awesome Stephanie O’Dea sent out an email one day with her recipes for tamales in the CrockPot. With a name like O’Dea, she’s probably about as Hispanic as the Irishman from El Paso. Intrigued, I informed BF that we would be having tamales for Christmas dinner, (it was just us two) and that was it. Well, and whatever else we wanted.
Finding Masa Harina
I set out to find the ingredients that were staples in every grocery store I ever went into in Houston. After paying $6 in Whole Foods for a bag of masa harina that I discovered in the local WD for $3 or so, my district leader OR told me that Walmart has an entire section of Hispanic goods. Well, what do you know, they had everything, and I grabbed the corn husks before anyone else did.
I also had a nice conversation with two young men who were driving from Mandeville to Brownsville, TX. I told them next time they went into HEB, to think about me.
Obviously, I wasn’t about to use hydrogenated anything, but I did have an unopened jar of Epic Pork Fat in the pantry. It came with me from Houston, when I went to the closing of the Webster Fresh Market. Fortunately, it’s readily available at Whole Foods. I think Rouse’s has it, too, and I have since bought a fresh jar that’s in the pantry.
Chicken Christmas Tamales
I had a few pieces of chicken that I roasted and cut up small, and followed Stephanie’s directions to the letter, otherwise. Well, I pulled out my stand mixer, and mixed the masa until I was sick of hearing the motor run. Little bits were flying out of the mixer if I ran it too high (next time, maybe half?) Guess I need a pouring shield for it. Balls of masa never floated, and I finally gave up and used it as is.
I made the components in the days before Christmas, and BF sat down and helped me put them together. It didn’t take too long, and we only had about two dozen, but that was OK.
I forget what else I made with it, but BF and I were perfectly happy with what came out:
Verdict: they tamales were good, but a bit bland, and Stephanie admits that. It was the first time I made them. We had some of the filling and masa left, which went directly into freezer bags and into the big freezer. I have permission to jazz them up if I ever make them again. Chorizo, maybe?
Christmas Chocolate Raspberry Dessert
Oh, wait, that’s right–we also enjoyed a delicious raspberry chocolate cheesecake from one of the Wheat Belly books for dessert:
I subbed out the stevia extract with erythrytol, but next time I’m going to get me some stevia extract and start using it. BF liked it–it’s quite rich–but it wasn’t quite sweet enough. Low carb, much dairy, no wheat/gluten/flour. I’m done with yeast free for a while.
Tamales In Target
My regular Buddhist activities are at least an hour’s drive away. I commonly go to the Mandeville area, which is still on this side of Lake Ponchartrain, and 90 minutes from New Orleans. That’s OK, and I get to go to Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, or wherever else I want to go that we don’t have nearby. Additionally, if I shop right after the meeting, I’m not too tired like I am when I make it to Hammond. So I frequent the Target in Covington, since it’s on the way home, and there’s a Cost Plus World Market next door and a Starbucks in that Target.
I’m walking around with my list on my phone, and I pass by the frozen foods section. Normally I don’t pay any mind to what’s in there, unless I’m looking for frozen veg or fruit. But this particular evening, I happened to look to my right and saw this in the freezer case:
Not knowing what to expect, I bought a bag of the Beef Tamales. There are also pork, chicken and black bean available at Target.
How did I miss these all this time?
Text To BF
After examining these closely, I sent a text to BF telling him that dinner the next night was covered, and it was a surprise. He doesn’t like when I tell him that, but he’s patient and will try something once, so he says.
I brought them home and told him ALL about the tamales. He gave me the usual, “sure, Honey, I’ll try anything you make” comment with a pensive (read: slightly scared) look on his face.
For $6.99, you get a pack of one dozen perfectly rolled tamales packed in corn husks, which is traditional. They’re sealed in a square food-grade plastic package and then bagged in the little muslin bag. (I’m keeping those because I know they’ll be useful somewhere!) The instructions say to steam them in a steamer, preferably standing with the cut edges up. Well, I have this old pot with a strainer insert, and it works pretty well:
If we decide the night before that tomorrow is “tamale night,” then I’ll take them out of the freezer and leave them in the fridge for the next day where they thaw a bit. You can also cook them right out of the freezer.
The directions say it takes 20 minutes, but if I cook them from frozen, I’ll give it 25 minutes. They’re a bit tricky to remove from the pot, because now they’re soft, and the only thing holding them together is the corn husks. I personally don’t care if they come out imperfect, because I’m going to be loading them onto a plate for eating. But BF isn’t used to real tamales, so I try to make sure his look “perfect.”
Verdict: absolutely delicious, the way a tamale should be.
I didn’t take many pictures because we were too busy stuffing our faces with them. Yes, we found a winner for me AND for BF.
They’re Around, Just Look
Since then, I’ve discovered that Rouse’s sells them for about $8.50 a pack, and another place sells them for $10 a pack. So when I know I’m going to Covington, and I have enough money, I buy a few packs for the freezer since they’re priced better at Target. However, I’m glad to know that I can get them in Hammond if I can’t get to Covington. Our big freezer has a stock of them now, and a tasty tamale dinner is just 20 minutes away.
The chicken, we found, was a bit too spicy for us, but the beef and pork are spicy enough without being overbearing. We haven’t tried the black bean type, because BF doesn’t want to. I eat six, he eats four and saves the other two for later. Or we eat four and split the other two later. Or he leaves the rest for me, because I bought them and I’m in love with them. They’re that good.
Texas Tamale Company
Look, when you live in Texas, tamales are everywhere, right? Just like kolaches, chips & salsa, and big bags of masa harina and corn husks. Hatch chiles in nearly anything. It’s like the furniture, Texas flags and the Texas star decor–it’s always there.
Move out of Texas, and you suddenly miss everything. Longtime readers know that I’ve missed everything Texas since the day I got here, and we *still* haven’t made a trip back to visit for a handful of reasons (mostly time and money, we always have one but not the other.) I still want to go, of course, and visit, (not to mention shop) but I can at least have real Texas tamales whenever I want them.
The Texas Tamale Company is on the west side of Houston, and has been in business for many years making “gourmet” tamales. Well, after 30 years, they’ve become quite the company, and you can find these magic morsels nationwide. They even have Hatch Chile Tamales, although they’re not available here, yet. (That’s my next “ask for” project.) You can read their story here.
HEB has its own brand of tamales with some interesting flavors, including Asiago cheese. I’ll try to get some of their interesting flavors whenever I get to shop there again.
Understand that I have no problem driving to the Clear Lake Blvd HEB and buying my regular groceries, even if it’s a ten hour round trip. Easier said than done, of course. BF would probably not like me to do that, either, but I can be tempted.
If you can’t find them locally, you can order them online. I haven’t tried ordering them yet, but I’m probably going to do that one of these days if I can’t get Rouse’s to carry the Hatch chile type.
You know how if you think of a certain type of car, suddenly you see them anywhere? (Concentrate on a red Land Rover, or a blue Hyundai Sonata, and you’ll see what I mean.) Well, someone in Louisiana came up with the idea of. . .crawfish tamales:
Personally, I think it’s wrong, but they could be pretty good. They’re also twice the cost of Texas Tamales (at Target), but we might try them one day. I know, shop local and all that. Subject of an upcoming blog post, honest.
Since then, when we decide break open a pack of these Lone Star State wonders for dinner, I walk around singing, “Ta-MA-LES!” to the tune of Dean Martin’s Volare. I haven’t re-written the words, I just sing that part of it.
So are you ready for some delicious Tex-Mex in your life in 20 minutes? Whichever tamales you choose, just remember to unwrap them from the corn husks first.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Once again, other stuff has got the best of me, and I haven’t posted since November. My apologies, because I’ve had some delicious things to tell you about. They’re in the draft folder, as usual. Coffee, tamales, and a tale of two frozen pizzas. No kidding.
Our dysfunctional weather means that the grass, trees, and other things think it’s spring and they’re blooming. The allergies are choking people around here, and I can’t seem to find the right “thing” to control the sniffling and sneezing. We’ve gone through a large amount of tissues, and my desk trash can fills up quick. Wunderground says it’s grass pollen, so that would make sense with the grass turning green and the weeds and stuff flowering. I don’t remember the tree pollen in Houston being this bad, even when it coated the cars with yellow “snow.”
The Blog Lives On
The good news is that I paid the bill for the domain and hosting for another year. Woo hoo! Maybe I can publish six posts this year.
I did mention in a chat conversation with my hosting company that I couldn’t believe so many people were that bored that they tried to hack into this blog. The response was that it’s bot systems that try to get in. There is no user called “admin” on this site, so they can try a million passwords and it won’t work. I knew how to do that a long time ago.
The irony is that I’m learning more about SEO, and how to make this blog findable! With useful, keyword-rich content! And frequent publishing, of course.
I’ve bought another website for my copywriting side, but I haven’t gotten around to finishing setting it up. I started it. . .much like a few of my sewing projects.
Speaking Of Sewing
We haven’t had the freezing cold that we had last winter, nor any snow. But I was ready for it!
I found this pattern, Simplicity 8738, and fell in love with it. Version B is very easy (version A is just longer), it has five pieces, and stitches together easily. I couldn’t find any sweater knit locally, and the last time I went to a Joann Fabrics in New Orleans, the clerk wasn’t very helpful. So online I went, and bought some lovely sweater knits, including two southwestern patterns. It only needs two yards, and I’ve made six of these casual tops. They’re comfortable, large and boxy, and work well with jeans.
If you decide to make one, make sure to include the little “thumb portals” in the end of the sleeves. You’ll thank me later. (I’m thinking of you, Aunt Ruth.)
Tasty Sweet Potatoes!
I do have a delicious recipe to share, and I just made it this evening.
Last year I was gifted a free one-year subscription to Bon Appetit magazine because Sur la Table was giving them away with a purchase over a certain amount. I don’t really get to read the magazines as I would like, but I did manage to flip through the March issue (featured: Korean Comfort Foods) and find something that I wanted to try.
This evening, I made these Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Butter, and they are very, very good. They’re also gluten free (check the labels on the tahini) and low carb (I think.)
I had all the ingredients on hand (but we’re now nearly out of butter.) While it took a good bit of time, the results were very much worth it. It’s also true that you think the butter and tahini won’t mix with the liquids, but you have to keep at it. Once it started to smooth out, I just began whisking it with the fork until all the liquid was perfectly emulsified into the butter and tahini. Then I used a small spatula to smear it over the hot potatoes, just like putting soft cream cheese on a bagel. Then I sprinkled them with toasted sesame seeds. It’s SO good. I’ll be eating this all weekend.
What did BF think of it? Well. . .I’m kind of upset with him this evening (long story.) I didn’t cook dinner, we had plenty of leftovers. Ordinarily I would have pestered him to try the sweet potatoes, but that’s not what I did. This time, I let him know that they were “not made for you,” and that he wouldn’t like it. In other words, I don’t care if he didn’t like the looks of them. I know he wouldn’t like them because of the quarter-cup of lime juice in the tahini butter.
BF doesn’t like anything tart or acid, like limes, lemons, or any kind of vinegar, and I’ve found that out the hard way. I’ve made one or two things with a small amount of balsamic vinegar for him, but it’s not a strong taste, it blends into the background. He was warned that they weren’t suitable for his tastes. As far as I know, he didn’t touch anything. If he had, I’m sure I would have heard about it.
When I read the recipe, I was thinking about when I would make it, or half of it. This evening, I just decided to go for it, including toasting some sesame seeds. It’s an unusual taste, and the lime juice taste does stand out, but doesn’t overpower. If I ever make it again, I might try cutting down the lime juice to half. When I make hummus, I add half the amount of lemon or lime juice, because it’s too strong for me and ruins the taste.
As For Writing
I’m still working primarily with lawyers, but as I get better with SEO, that could change. I wrote this piece on blogging and the First Amendment not long after my last blog post in response to an inquiry about a couple of previous postings that, apparently, didn’t sit well with someone who happened to read about herself, but not by name or any personally identifiable information (PII.) Approximately three people knew her identity, including herself. Well, I’m protected by the First Amendment, thanks very much, and by the case of Obsidian vs. Cox, 2011, from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that bloggers are, indeed, journalists, and are entitled to the same protective provisions as journalists who work for a news organization. One of my lawyer clients, who I’d mentioned this to, said that as long as you don’t post something untrue, you’re good. Well, I didn’t, and everything I publish is true to the best of my knowledge. But the research to find the case law led me to suggest the post to a different client, and the project manager assigned it. So, girlie, if you’re reading this, yes, I do know what I’m talking about, and I can have lawyers back me up on it. Irony alert: a simple phone call asking, “hey, can we talk about this?” would have yielded a completely different ending. But, whatever.
I’ll write what I want, thanks very much.
Until Next Time
I’ve got a number of projects working, in addition to making sure we have clean clothes, washed dishes and dinner, so blogging. . .I’m trying. And WordPress just changed the interface, so now it’s even more tedious to post and add pictures. GRRRRR. . .I’ll get there.
Try the sweet potatoes this weekend.
Chorizo–a delicious, flavorful form of sausage from the Mexican and Tex-Mex culture. I love it.
Follow me on BlogLovin’
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. . . .
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.
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.
And this is what you end up with:
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.
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?”
While Rouse’s will never be HEB, they had some Hatch-infused meats available, as well as Hatch roasted rotisserie chicken.
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:
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:
Oh, and look what else I found nearby:
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:
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:
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:
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.
Do you like iced coffee? Have you tried a cold brew system before, but were left. . .cold? Fear not–I found the most awesome iced coffee maker, and it’s as easy as filling a bucket.
Hello, again Dear Readers:
I’m still writing, just not here, unfortunately. Neighbor E says he knows I’m OK when he gets a blog post. The GER pops in every so often. I’m trying. . .but we’re doing OK, and busy as heck.
But. . .I’m being harassed. Not by BF or some man that I could do without, but by this website. I get these emails telling me to pay attention to it. Like I haven’t.
Oh, wait, I really haven’t.
Emails with subject lines like:
Problems found on HeatCageKitchen.com
Failed : Automatic Backup of your WordPress installation
Softaculous backup of. . . .
Wordfence activity for. . .
The plugin needs an upgrade. . .
Additionally, people are still trying to hack their way into this website. Why, I don’t know, and it’s from places like Albania and Laos. Don’t they have anything better to do?
And on it goes. But the good news is that writing this blog as long as I have has taught me how to use WordPress. I have a few clients who use it, and they grant me access to their sites so I can go in and upload, format and tweak their content. SEO included, and it’s easy with Yoast. So that’s a good thing.
Oh, and if you like the new “table of contents,” you can thank my client in Israel for telling me how to do that.
I have been shopping, and not just for groceries, although I do that a lot. I look at a lots of different things, primarily online. I’m always interested in something new that will solve a problem or make life easier. BF thinks I’m a little nuts, but I don’t mind. I remind him that my “pill habit” comes from Vitacost.
Did you know you can buy moving bags for mattresses? I had no idea–but when we were suddenly given a queen sized mattress set (that we don’t need), I ordered some of these great big giant Baggies for mattresses, and they’re now sealed up tight in the back room. We could actually put them outside in the garage, but for now they’re fine. Fortunately, when we moved mine, we didn’t have any problems. When it’s time to replace mine, we have a new set ready to use.
I’ve also replaced a few more things, which I will be posting about as soon as I can. The countertop dishwasher is still humming along, thank heavens, sometimes three times a day.
I’ve also finally been to the dentist after more than six years, seen a doctor about something else, and I’ll be getting another eye exam in the next month or so–it’s been a year. If my prescription changed–and even if it didn’t–I’ll be shopping for new glasses again, at Zenni, like last year.
The Royal Wedding
Did you see it? It was FAAABULOUS!!
The night before, I made some Raspberry Scones. I got up at 2:30, drank coffee, made a pot of tea, and turned on the TV to watch it live. From 3:00 am until the live coverage ended (and I passed out) about 8:00 am, I watched history being made–an American marrying into the British Royal Family. First time in nearly 100 years!
Everything went without a hitch, despite all the press from the bride’s side of the family. The music was great, and I wanted so much to give Doria Ragland (Meghan’s mother) a hug. She looked so happy but so far out of her element. Very elegant and classy she was, and now the press goes out to take her picture when she drops by her local bakery for some pastries.
If you didn’t read about it, Harry and Meghan chose Bishop Michael Curry to speak, who is the first African American to lead the Episcopalian Church. What I didn’t know until recently is that the Episcopalian Church is the “American Branch” of the Church of England. So he was kind of a big deal. He was great, although his speech was longer than expected, about 15 minutes. At one point, he said, “I know I’ve got to sit down so we can get you two married.”
The theme was “love.” One of his quotes: “Two people fell in love, and we all showed up.” Oh, yes we did–20 billion of us! (I think.) Fire, as he pointed out, was one of the things that allowed civilization to grow and flourish. But If we can harness the power of love the way we’ve harnessed the power of fire, love really could change the world.
Not to be outdone, Saturday Night Live brought the Most Reverend Curry to Weekend Update to talk more about it. Don’t worry, it’s safe for work–and you know that’s not really him, anyway. But it is funny. The other sketch, featuring “Prince Harry” talking to a videographer while he walked through the reception at 2:00 am, was not only pretty funny, but featured costumes that were nearly identical to the ones worn to the wedding earlier in the day. Unfortunately, that sketch has been taken down.
BF was totally unimpressed. I’ll get the DVD real soon. (Yes, I’m still a Buddhist.)
And Now It’s Summer
Yup–nobody’s drinking yeast-free hot chocolate much these days. That’s OK. I’m back making iced coffee again, but much easier than before.
I started drinking iced coffee in the summer of 2011, when Houston went through a heat wave and a drought. The office was parchingly hot, because the AC couldn’t keep up. I just said, “the heck with this,” and threw a fresh cup of hot coffee into a glass over ice. I’ve been drinking it ever since.
Two years ago, I told you about how Nick Usborne at The Coffee Detective had instructions and recipes for iced coffee. But I’ve got one better, and I don’t think Nick knows about it. I must tell him soon.
I really didn’t mind too much the brewing and cooling process. But when I found this, I snapped one up.
Enter The KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker!
It happened very innocently. I was buzzing through Target on a quick run while BF waited in the truck. Walking through the coffee makers on my way out, I saw this interesting steel glass square sitting there. I thought, “I’ll have to look at that soon.” Didn’t look at the price tag, I just wanted to mentally bookmark it for later.
A couple of days later, we watching a TV show called CityLine, a daytime TV talk show out of Canada. They talk about the usual things for the home–new furnishings, stuff for spring etc. I only caught a couple of minutes of it, but they were showing off new things for spring entertaining. What do you know, the guest speaker moves over, and there is this beautiful thing. She starts to explain it and demonstrate while pouring a glass of iced coffee for the host, Tracy Moore. After adding milk and sugar, she hands it to Tracy. She takes a sip, and says, “Oh, yes, mmm-hmmm, that’s really delicious, yes.” (You know how they do that on TV.) You’d have to go looking for the video, but I couldn’t find it myself. Anyway, I looked at BF and said,“I’m getting one tomorrow.” And I did!
However, I was not prepared to pay the full manufactured price for it. So I managed to find myself a couple of coupons.
Getting It For Less
First of all, if you’re not using Ebates, you should be (here, use my referral code.) I also checked another browser app called Honey. What this does is look for coupons and promo codes right in your browser that you can use to get discounts on different websites.
I put one in my shopping cart, then ran Honey. Found a coupon for 15% off. Wrote the coupon code down, and then went back and started over through Ebates. Now, the shopping trip was registered through Ebates, I used the coupon code and got a little bit of money back.
Essentially, I got it for half price.
Target and Overstock Sell it for about $100. Amazon usually has it for about $75. The KitchenAid website actually had it for $79 when I bought it, and I’m glad I bought it there. I’ll tell you why later. But if you’re going to get one, try to find the best price before you go spending for it (unless you don’t care about money.)
Making Iced Coffee
So now it’s time to answer the question, what’s it like to use this to make iced coffee? Well, it’s probably a little better than other methods that are available. Really, it couldn’t be easier, and I took pictures to show you.
Take the filter basket, and fill it up with the coffee of your choice to the line, which is hard to see, but there.
That should come to 750 g. Make sure the little plastic rim is in place, and set your basket into the coffee maker, then fill it with ground coffee.
According to the directions, you poor 34 ounces of water into the coffee grounds, and let them sit for a couple of minutes to absorb. When that’s done, you poor additional 8 ounces of water into the coffee grounds.
Once that’s done, take a spoon and push the coffee grounds under the water and make sure all the coffee grounds are wet and absorbing water, eliminating any “dry spots.” Put the lid on it, and leave it alone.
Easier Than A CrockPot
When you’re ready for it, the directions say to let the coffee steep for 12 to 24 hours. The first time I used it, I let it sit for 12 hours. The second time, I left for 24. I have to say that I prefer the 24 hour steeping.
After your coffee has steps for the desired amount of time, just use a little handle to pick up the coffee filter basket out of the coffee maker.
Stand it to one side so that the coffee drains out. Then tilt iin the opposite direction, so that more of the brewed coffee will drain out of the filter basket.
Now it’s just a matter of putting the finished coffee into your refrigerator. It has a small footprint, sits right on the shelf, and conveniently allows you to get iced coffee whatever you want.
Ready To Drink Iced Coffee?
Now that the iced coffee is ready, it’s very simple to make in a glass. You simply add one part coffee concentrate to three parts milk or water, whatever your choice. I use this cup I bought on sale from Starbucks a few years ago, and I put the coffee concentrate to just over the ridge on the bottom of the straw. (That keeps it from falling out of the cup if you turn it over.)
And then fill the rest with milk. It’s kind of eyeballed, but it works for me.
At this point, you sweeten, add flavor or whatever you like to do with your iced coffee. You can add regular milk, cream or half-and-half, or you can use one of the alternative milks like almond milk or hemp milk, your choice. Like whipped cream? Add it. Like those fancy sauces that flavor your coffee? Add some. Once you get the basic formula down, it’s all up to you.
I know that there is a myriad of ice coffee brewing systems on the market. I just happened to find this one, and it’s so easy and foolproof. Of course, I read a bunch of reviews on Amazon and on KitchenAid’s website before I popped open my piggy bank. (My review is actually on KitchenAid’s website, but I guess I didn’t win the food processor!) But after seeing it in action and seeing how well it works, even non-coffee drinking BF thinks it was a great buy. Especially since I not only got it for half-price, I use it all the time.
The Karma Of Spare Parts, Again
Yes, I already needed a spare part for it. Somehow, the little handle fell off the filter basket, and needed a new one. A quick call to the nice folks at KitchenAid, and they said they would send me a new one, no problem. They sent the whole filter basket, not just the handle. I asked how much this would cost, and I heard the words that made my day:
“Oh, there’s no charge. It’s still under warranty.”
It arrived a few days later. I’m so glad I bought it directly from Kitchen Aid.
What Kind Of Coffee?
You’re probably thinking I used some high-end exclusive blend curated just for iced coffee. Or at least something from Starbucks. Well, I did use a very exclusive type of decaf coffee:
Yeup. Exclusive to shoppers of Rouse’s. About $4.35 for that brick. It’s what I had available the first time, and so it’s what I’ve been using. At some point I’ll order plenty of HEB’s wonderful grocery store brand coffee and use that again. But for now, this works just fine.
Cold brewing also eliminates the acid that you may get if you make your iced coffee from hot. No boiling pots, nothing hot, and no burns either.
Cold Brew Iced Coffee The Easy Way
I know there’s a bunch of different ways to make iced coffee. And if you’re happy with the way you make it, go for it. If you’re not happy with it, I offer a simple, foolproof alternative.
This hands-off method just takes a little planning, and makes it perfect every time. The elegantly designed cube sits right in your fridge at the ready. KitchenAid has also recently introduced a stand for it, but I probably won’t be getting one. We’re not planning a brunch anytime soon.
But if you love iced coffee, but don’t like spending a fortune for it, just break open the piggy bank get yourself one of these models. Find a stainless steel cup to drink it out of (especially one that fits in your car’s cupholder so you can take it with you) and you’re on your way to enjoying iced coffee more often. Don’t forget to use Ebates and find it on sale or marked down.
More New KitchenAid Things
Well, sort of. We recently were gifted quite a number of things, including a KitchenAid toaster and 14-cup coffee pot, and some other small things. The caveat is that they’re all RED. No kidding. You’d think I’d be enjoying red dishes, red cups, red bowls and red everything else. But even as a fan of red, after a while your eyes get tired of all that red. I’ll live with it, because we were gifted them from someone who won’t need them anymore. We’ve nicknamed him DG, and I’ll explain more next time. I’ll try to take pictures and add them to an upcoming blog post.
Meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying summer, staying cool and hydrated. Now that you know an easy way to make iced coffee, you can enjoy it more often. I have it every day, i the Casa de Rurale, and no driving to a coffee shop.
Happy Saturday, Dear Readers:
My apologies for not posting in so long. We haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth. Yet.
I’ve been working it every day, primarily in the legal genre, although I do get client work that isn’t. It’s interesting, researching different subjects, but it does take time. And then there’s the house.
The famous countertop dishwasher is still doing great, and I brag about it regularly. It still runs like a dream, and is a big help in keeping the kitchen from becoming a nightmare.
I’ve actually got a couple more additions to tell you about soon, as well as some cookbook reviews. I bought and returned one cookbook because it was supposed to be “clean” but really wasn’t.
And then there’s BF, who has been reluctantly tasting some new things I’ve made recently. But mostly he goes around telling people that I’m trying to do him in. Still. Or again, I’m never sure. A couple of weeks ago, I was on the phone with his sister-in-law, answering her questions about blogging. BF was heard over the phone telling her, “she has tried to kill me, multiple times!” He rattled off a few dishes that he tells everyone about, like Overnight Oatmeal. The SIL was laughing on the other end.
Tonight we were invited to Big H’s place for pizza. No, it wasn’t gluten free. No, I didn’t indulge. My stomach was bothering me, and I wasn’t interested. But Big H is pretty proud of the brick pizza oven he constructed by hand in the rear of his property. Rightfully so, because it’s lovely but unfinished. It’s thoroughly functional, though:
That does remind me of my fireplace in Houston. I really do miss it. I’m gunning for BF to get us a digital fireplace heater that we can keep in the living room and pretend it’s a wood-burning model. The GER calls that sort of thing a “fake-me-out fireplace.” I wouldn’t mind, just a small one.
BF gobbled up some homemade pizza and I had some Tums. Oh, well.
The garden is still not dug yet, but we’ve had a cold spring, so I’m afraid of putting the tomato plants out too early. I’m cloning basil again, so I hope to have plenty again this year, much to BF’s chagrin. I’ve got seeds galore, some of which came with me from the Genoa Friendship Garden.
I’m hoping to get far enough ahead this week to write a couple of blog posts, but it depends on how the week goes. Fingers crossed.
Thanks for sticking with me. We’re still around.