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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
They also make an expandable version for a little more:
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.
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)
- Veggies (grape tomatoes, small sweet peppers, cut carrots and cucumbers, etc.)
- 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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
Spread it around:
Now sprinkle one an one-half cups of shredded mozzarella (or provolone) cheese over the top:
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.
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:
This is the ingredient list:
This is what’s in it:
And if you’re diabetic–there you go!
These come together in a snap and bake up nicely.
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.
Chop up the butter and chocolate:
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:
Stir them together:
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:
Now the eggs, one at a time.
Now add vanilla. If you’re lucky, you have some of this:
Blend it well:
Mix until the batter is smooth, and proceed to the next stage.
Into another bowl, mix up a cup of almond flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, and a quarter-teaspoon of kosher salt:
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.
Once it’s all incorporated, mix well, but don’t over-mix it.
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.
Into the oven at 350F degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, “until the center is just set but still jiggles”:
This is what it looks like coming out of the oven:
You must let them cool for about 15 minutes on a rack, then refrigerate them for 35 minutes or longer before you cut them:
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:
When it looks 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:
Add in a cup of shredded or grated cheddar cheese:
Now add to the pan:
Spread it over the top:
Add the remaining half-cup of cheddar cheese:
Make sure it’s covered:
Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it’s set and looks like this:
This recipe makes four generous servings, and we had dinner one night and lunch the next day.
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:
But the mighty dishwasher of the HeatCageKitchen took care of it:
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.
Yamazaki Home is a 100-year-old Japanese company that offers contemporary home goods for any decor. After nearly five years of looking for it, they have something I really needed.
Hi again, Dear Readers:
No, this isn’t a post from the draft folder–I’ve still got a few in there for you that are, shall we say, “evergreen.” In other words, I can flesh them out and publish them anytime.
Today’s post is about a company I only recently discovered and want to tell you about. Because you or someone you know just might need something. And no, this is not a sponsored post, but the Amazon affiliate links are mine, since you can also buy the products there.
Let’s dive in.
It’s the time of year for watermelon! No, it’s not keto–but it sure is tasty. Watermelons are loved throughout the world and especially in the southern US. They’re grown down here, actually, so you understand why. You can buy watermelons grown in Louisiana all over the place. But occasionally, we also get them from Texas, and even Mississippi.
One of BF’s local car-guy friends has decided to start growing watermelons. He leased some land in Washington Parish and got BF out there with him one day to start tilling and planting seeds. They used equipment, not working it by hand. I’ve not been there myself, but BF did text some pictures from there. It was a bigger operation than our failed gardening attempt last year that included watermelons. That garden was for our own personal use, not for sale. The deer and the raccoons had a field day taking out the corn and some other plants.
The friend, along with his 16-year-old stepdaughter and occasionally one of her friends have been standing on the side of the road selling them. They usually sell out, although this past weekend saw three of them delivered to the Casa de Rurale.
As watermelon is, they are sweet, tasty, and full of seeds. So I did what I would normally do–cut the watermelon into chunks, and add the seeds into a bowl, then spread them out into the garden plot. Now it’s just wait-and-see. We could have watermelons for Thanksgiving!
Ok, I’m just going to go ahead and admit that this was an unintentional and all-around bad idea.
The other day I was making dinner and thought that I would be using the small oven on the left-hand side of BF’s avocado green stove, and turned it on. When I realized that it would be too small, I turned on the big oven. To 400 degrees, no less. Unfortunately, I forgot to turn off the small oven.
Because the kitchen in the Casa de Rurale is a bit small, I had the watermelons on the stove while I cooked dinner. One of them was sitting on the back burner that’s above the small oven that is also an exhaust pipe for the small oven.
I kept smelling something but I wasn’t sure what it was. BF had the same thought–what’s that smell? Heading into the kitchen, he found the source:
So, other than being in the blog, this hot mess is our little secret. Fortunately, the guy doesn’t read the blog.
I left it alone for a while, and then cut it open to see what happened:
A closer inspection shows that it really did get badly singed:
What did it taste like? Well, watermelon, but not a very good one. So it was Watermelon Night at The Possum Palace.
Not doing that again.
The Stove-side Shelf
Longtime readers may remember this shelf that I put up in the condo’s kitchen at El Dorado Trace:
This little shelf is from IKEA, and they still sell a similar version, plus this new version. I remember it as about $5 at the time. First, I lacquered it. When I put this up next to the stove, I felt like I had the greatest kitchen invention ever.
Then I moved to the Casa de Rurale.
Working In His Kitchen
It took a while, but I managed to do some organization in BF’s kitchen (as well as the rest of the house.) Unfortunately, many things were broken during the move or after I arrived, like that perfect little bottle for olive oil. That’s what happens during a move, of course.
One thing I planned to do was put that little shelf back up, but there is a refrigerator, not a wall, sitting next to the stove. I had two choices: put magnets on the back of the wooden IKEA shelf, or drill into the refrigerator. The first option seemed the best idea.
But of course, that didn’t work–the industrial-strength magnets I glued onto the back of the shelf just didn’t work at all. Even though I deployed Gorilla Glue–the bolt-it-together polyurethane stuff–it still wouldn’t stay on the fridge, much less hold anything. The olive oil bottle, salt, pepper, and seasoning bottles sat inconveniently on the other side of the kitchen for over 4 years, with the shelf packed away somewhere.
Then I was on Instagram one day and saw something that altered the dynamic.
I start seeing these new things in my Instagram feed. They were sleek, simple, and very functional. Then the company posted this on May 18th:
Finally!! The solution!
It’s Called “The Plate”
Unlike IKEA’s very Swedish names, this shelf comes with a simpler name–and a 3.5-pound magnet, too. I signed up for the company’s emails, and in short order, there was a sale. So of course it moved from the “one-day” list to the “I’m ordering it right now” list.
It only took a few days to arrive, and in true Japanese fashion, it was efficiently and well packed.
A simple but very useful item:
One thing I needed to do is get a smaller bottle for the stovetop olive oil supply. Yes, I do have to refill it more often, but the bigger bottle I’ve used since I moved here would likely be too heavy once it’s full. Once I got the smaller bottle a few days later, filled it, and topped it with a spout I was ready to put up the shelf. Having that handy goes a long way when you’re busy cooking.
You really don’t “install” this shelf, but you do have to make sure the magnet is fully stuck on the side of the fridge. In this case, it involved a thorough cleaning with the infamous “scrubbing bubbles.”
Wiped and scrubbed it clean, then put the shelf on it.
Admittedly, I only put a few things on it at first to see what it would hold. But once I was satisfied that I could put what I wanted on it, I put more:
Just like the original shelf, there’s a bottle of Chipotle Tabasco, as well as some Cajun Land Seasoning that I like. Unless I buy another one, the rest will stay on the other side of the room.
What does BF say? “I’m waiting for it to fall.” Thanks, Honey.
Yamazaki Home has been in business for 100 years, and has only been branching out to other countries recently. They’ve been in the US since 2014, but apparently only crossed my radar on Instagram in May. The company utilizes the Japanese minimalist approach to home goods that are practical, useful, as well as stylish.
In other words: there is no frou-frou, schlock, or kitsch here. Everything WORKS.
Some lifestyle bloggers are calling it “The IKEA of Japan” for its similar approach to home goods. This post from Gear Patrol is the most recent blog I’ve found.
While Amazon and Wayfair do carry many of their products, the newest of the new is only available on their company website. Their website is worth checking out if you’re looking for something you can’t find anywhere else–like IKEA.
Their blog is called “Yamazaki Stories,” and features things like this international-ingredient version of coconut cake. Fortunately, there is an Asian grocery store in Baton Rouge that I have yet to investigate, so I could actually get some of the more unusual ingredients there. Of course, the cake is on the company’s very own cake stand.
You can find Yamazaki Home on:
Follow one or all of their social media accounts so that you can be notified of new products, flash sales, and more.
Now, Yamazaki Home’s items are very well made, judging from what I see online and the Plate shelf. They are also more expensive than IKEA products but are made to last a long time.
The Plate Shelf runs $20, although, admittedly, I bought mine from their website during a 20% off sale in May. I’m sure there will be more in the Casa de Rurale from Yamazaki Home in the future, even if it isn’t their most expensive stuff.
This other magnetic kitchen rack could very well be next, and this little stackable shelf might be useful in the kitchen or other places throughout the house. This self-draining soap dish is probably going to show up in the bathroom as well as the kitchen one of these days–and maybe one in the garage sink for BF. And I do like this butter dish.
Note that there is also a company called Yamazaki that produces a high-end range of flatware. However, Yamazaki Home is not the same company.
Remember my cookbook review of The Southern Keto Cookbook just a couple of months ago? Guess what? Emilie Bailey, aka, The Texas Granola Girl, is about to release her second cookbook, called The Ultimate Simple Keto Cookbook: Easy Ketogenic Diet Recipes. It’ll be released on July 13th, but your faithful blogger was kindly gifted a preview copy–and I’ve been using it! So I’m hoping to make a couple more recipes this week and include them in my review. I’ll also be leaving a very positive review on Amazon, because so far, so good.
Oh, yes, I’ve found one recipe so far that uses turnips. No comment.
Our pantry also needs a clean-out and reorg, and that will also be part of an upcoming blog post. BF just sees stuff he doesn’t understand wonders, “why do we need all this?” More in the blog post.
For coffee and dessert, you have a lot of choices. In New Orleans, you have Angelo Brocato’s in the Mid-City area. Come along with me and The E-Man for a quick visit.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
Well, unfortunately, I broke my “streak” again. There’s a reason for it, as I’ll explain. But because it’s been a while, I’m taking another one out of the “draft” file for you. It’s about time.
Let’s get started.
Before I moved to BF’s house, I was introduced to a very nice lady who lived in Folsom, LA, about 45 minutes from here. The occasion was a video sent to districts around the US of SGI-USA members with experiences to tell. I didn’t know who she was, but I knew her partner, PB.
Surprise! A year later, I found myself in BF’s house, and they came to visit in short order. I didn’t want them to visit, because everything was such a mess. PB is a nice man, but he insisted they needed to do a home visit. Over time, it’s gotten better, but it’s still, shall we say, “disorganized.” Not for lack of trying.
Her actual name is Nancy Mallory, and she moved down here in 2013 from Pennsylvania to spend her life with PB. He drove up to Pennsylvania to get this woman. BF only had to drive five hours to Houston to get me. They lived on his acreage in Folsom, and very happy together.
Somewhere, Nancy was diagnosed with cancer. Over time, she fought it hard, and along the way was a great friend to everyone, including me and BF. She asked about him one day, and I said, “he’s still going around telling people I’m trying to kill him.” Nancy’s reply: “you mean because of healthier food?” Yes. “Oh, so everything’s OK then.” Aunt Nancy got it.
I still don’t want to have company because I just don’t feel like the house is yet “company ready.” Mind you, we were ready to host the GER, Miss Alice and her daughter, as well as Neighbor E during the February freeze if they needed it. But they would have been warned about the disorganization.
Aunt Nancy wanted to do a “home visit” a couple of years ago, but I just didn’t want it here. She said, “so meet me somewhere!” We decided on the local PJ’s, and she drove up. I took this picture, and now I’m very glad I did.
I called her “Aunt Nancy” for the same reason I call two of the blog’s readers Aunt Kathy and Aunt Ruth. They’re like aunts to everyone. At least, that’s the way I see it, and I use it as a term of endearment. We’re not actually related, and nobody has complained.
One More Home Visit
Unfortunately, Aunt Nancy lost the fight on Friday, June 18th, in the evening. I went to visit her about a week before, and, let’s just say she didn’t look like this picture. The strong, vibrant woman was now someone who was “all beat up” from fighting. Her daughter and grandson were around, as well as her longtime friend from New Jersey. I didn’t know what to do, so her daughter said, “just talk to her.” That’s what I did, knowing it would likely be the last chance I had.
I gave Aunt Nancy updates about me and BF, how we were doing, and about some of our benefits. I sent her an email in January about one benefit we had but didn’t get a response. That’s OK–some people read them and don’t respond. But for Aunt Nancy, she gets a pass. Mostly, I wanted her to know what we’ve been up to, and that we’re doing OK. I didn’t want her to worry about us. She chanted for us more than once, and I believe that because of it , BF and I will be fine.
PB is carrying on, as he has a business to run and bills to pay. But we all miss her already.
More Website Issues
So, if you’ve come to the website a few times, you may have found that ridiculous spam redirect–again. Banana Rat and I have removed more of these nasty plugins, and we think we got it this time. Feel free to notify me if it returns and you get it.
On June 15th, I received an email from JetPack (one of my security add-ins) that stated:
Our security systems identified unusual behavior on your account. This usually happens when the password used for your WordPress.com account is also used on another service that had a data breach, or the password is weak, insecure, or easily guessable. Because the account behavior indicated that someone else might have access to your account, we reset the password and revoked any app tokens associated with the account.
Great! So I didn’t go back to the website until today. But since I had already changed the password, it was fine. Frequently, solving tech problems on the blog takes a LOT of time. Banana Rat is skilled in these things and has taken care of several on my behalf. Please give him your thanks. We think it’s OK now, and we hope so. That was highly annoying.
Iced Coffee, Anyone?
Well, now that it’s officially summer in the US, it’s iced coffee “season.” I get that iced coffee is an acquired taste–I didn’t actually like it until about 2008 when I got a coupon in my morning Houston Chronicle for a free one. I started actively drinking it in 2011, when we had a hot summer with drought in Houston, and later learned to make it at home. A couple of years ago, it got easier when I bought Kitchenaid’s cold brew iced coffee maker.
Nick Usborne of Coffee Detective has again published a blog on making iced coffee at home, with some updated equipment. The blog includes links to some other recipes, plus a review of the Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot and the Asobu cold-brew coffee maker. As I said the last time, there are many ways to make iced coffee, I just chose the one from Kitchenaid.
Coffee On The Way Home
So, as I mentioned in the post on Katie’s of Mid-City, I am frequently in need of a coffee for the 90-minute ride home from New Orleans. I usually stop at either Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or PJ’s Coffee. All three are along the stretch of Veterans Memorial Boulevard, which is Metairie’s “main drag.” Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and very large Rouse’s are also on Veterans in different places. After shopping, I get my coffee, and head back to the I-10, or occasionally, north on the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway, for the 90-minute drive.
There are two PJ’s on either side of Veterans, and, to my knowledge, two Starbucks. Dunkin sits next door to one of the Starbucks, and I like Dunkin’s iced coffees. But then, the ‘rona struck. We haven’t had any in-town meetings in 18 months. The only trip to New Orleans was for last year’s socially-distanced wedding at Southern Oaks.
Why Starbucks? Two reasons: one, until recently, I saved up my “stars” in the Starbucks Rewards program just to get a “free thing” for the trip home. Two: Since Starbucks in Louisiana doesn’t have as many stores as Starbucks in Houston, there are no salads. That means I’m having either their Egg Bites or some form of a coffee on the way out. I’ve exhausted my “stars,” because I haven’t been collecting them like I used to, and the last 50 were about to expire. The Hammond store has been fully opened since April, but I just don’t drop in as often.
So one day, The E-Man says to me, “forget Starbucks–you should get coffee at a local place.” Got anyplace in mind, Dude? “Angelo Brocato’s.”
Now, I grew up in the New Orleans area, but there are many places that I was never familiar with. This is one of them. I’ve seen the name here and there, but not in a long time.
So we park a couple of blocks away, as you do in Mid-City, and walked here:
It’s a lovely place where you can have a coffee, as we did, as well as all manner of delicious Italian pastries, cookies, gelatos, and more.
My first question: “Are we fancy enough for this place?” I guess we were, they served us.
Angelo Brocato’s serves it in the cafe as well as sells it in different retail locations. For me, they’re all an hour’s drive, but that’s OK.
In-store, you have a choice of them:
I’m sure I had that chocolate at the top right. The E-Man had a slice of this delicious spumoni.
They can pack up a quart of their gelato in the store for you to take home. They also sell the gelato and other treats at many local retailers.
Cookies And Bakery Goods
Because this visit was in July, there was no way I could get a pint of ice cream back to the Casa de Rurale intact without an ice chest and a pound of dry ice. Not knowing where to procure such a thing, I chose to bring BF a little white paper bag of tasty cookie treats.
But wait! There’s more!
You can buy these one at a time:
I brought home to BF a small selection of the things I knew would survive the trip, including a couple of these little amaretti cookies. He ate them happily, one at a time.
Visit With The E-Man
I asked for some cappuccino, which the nice lady expertly made for me:
The E-Man preferred to stick with coffee:
He bought some of their bagged “day-old” baked goods (biscotti, I think) and we talked with some nice folks while we were there. Then it was time for me to head home to the Casa de Rurale.
Naturally, I let BF know what we were doing. He knew I was bringing back some tasty things for him. Because I always do.
The Pandemic Takeout Window
Angelo Brocato’s is a very busy place most days, and on Friday and Saturday nights, there’s a line outside. Just about every week, I’m told.
But a pandemic couldn’t keep them down. They’ve been around for over 100 years! Hurricane Katrina took them out for about a year, and they came back strong.
When the world closed up last year, Angelo Brocato’s decided to do what most restaurants did–open for takeout, including an exclusive take-out window.
I’m guessing those lines are back on Friday and Saturday nights now that the state has re-opened.
A Great Place To Visit
I’ve said this before: if you’re visiting New Orleans, skip Starbucks and find someplace local. Angelo Brocato’s fits that bill, even if it’s just for a morning coffee. It’s a delicious and elegant “old world” cafe that will make you glad you did. You can also order online for shipment anywhere in the continental US.
They’re located at 214 N. Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans’ Mid-City area. They are closed on Mondays like many New Orleans businesses. It’s a thing there. They’re open 10 am to 10 pm, Tuesday through Saturday, and 10 am to 9 pm on Sunday.
SPAM! This isn’t junk email. It’s all about that ubiquitous canned meat.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
In my writing adventures, I learn about all kinds of neat things. Technology, law, current events (whether I want to or not) and I write about them for other people. They pay me for this, although I need to get faster at it so I’ll have more time to blog about stuff that matters.
I also have a thing for vintage cooking stuff–ads, recipes, etc. It’s not that I want to make things like a Jell-O mold that looks like an aquarium, mind you. I just enjoy putting them on Facebook to make people say, “EEEEEEWWWWW!!” (You wouldn’t believe what they used to put into a Jell-O mold and call a “salad!”) But, admittedly, there’s a strange enjoyment from seeing what used to pass for “gourmet.” You’ll see some of them in this post.
On the healthier side, there’s news to report, especially if you like tortillas and wraps. But today, I wanted to have a little fun.
You may be wondering why grocery stores have more “specialty health foods” than before. Things like Caulipower pizzas and other treats, gluten-free cakes, and brownies from baking stalwart Betty Crocker. There’s a good reason for it.
Multiple companies are trying to reinvent flour-based foods for a health-conscious consumer, and those with specific health concerns. And the way it starts is because frequently, it’s a necessity for one person.
In the case of Caulipower, it’s because founder Gail Becker had two sons who were suddenly diagnosed with Celiac disease. When she tried to make cauliflower pizza on her own, she wasn’t successful. So she sought to create the frozen cauliflower pizza for others who wanted it. Today the company sells a range of alternative processed foods around the country, including Walmart and Winn-Dixie. Forbes has an interesting article about Gail Becker and how she got started.
Now comes the company Egglife, which aims to re-invent flour-based tortillas. You can buy Mission Tortillas that are “low carb,” but they frequently come with. . .wait for it–wheat flour. So they’re not gluten-free. That’s no help!
Egglife’s products include six different types of wraps made from cage-free eggs. Like Caulipower, founder Peggy Johns had to cut carbs and sugar for health reasons. They’re found in the refrigerator section and have just launched in Walmart. If you want to get something in front of the majority of Americans, that’s where you put it. So I’ll be looking for them soon and trying them out here at the Casa de Rurale with a full report.
The Definition Of Spam
Do you eat SPAM? Do you know anyone who does? I do–BF eats it. But until I met BF, I’d never met anyone who eats the stuff. Except maybe during a temporary emergency. If you’re in a shelter and the hurricane is blowing down the trees around you, you’ll likely be hungry for anything, and “special dietary needs” can go right out the window. But I digress.
A couple of years ago, a client asked me to write about something called SAP. It’s a computer operating system that has both fans and detractors and elicits reactions from joy to despair. The reaction you get will depend on who you talk to about SAP.
I haven’t had the opportunity to learn SAP (stands for Systems, Accounting and Production), but if I had, I might still be living in the Houston area. Anyway. . . .
Deciding The Topic
While talking with this Manhattan-based client, I said, “It sounds like SAP is the Spam of IT.” He laughed and said, “that’s exactly what it is!” But they make their bread and butter with it (pardon the pun), so we didn’t want to be too critical. Here’s the article I wrote if you want to read it.
But then I started thinking about. . .SPAM. It’s always in the grocery, but yet, “nobody” eats it. Really? I decided to do a little research.
History And Origins
Spam was created by the Hormel Company in 1937. There are some differences of opinion on the naming convention, but it either stands for “spiced ham” or “something posing as meat.” I guess it’s all in who you talk to. The US forces during WWII called it “ham that failed the physical.” This was not a compliment, as anyone at the company at the time could tell you. Spam was included in military war rations because it has a shelf life of approximately 9,724 years. A soldier far from home could eat it anywhere, hot or cold, right out of his or her backpack.
It was one of those foods that “thrifty housewives” knew would stretch their food budget like a rubber band. And so, recipes like this showed up frequently in popular media of the period:
I did offer to make this vintage culinary delicacy for BF. He loves lima beans and Spam. Apparently, having them together like this isn’t as appealing.
Spam was also purchased by governments worldwide to add to their own military rations during WWII. Nikita Kruschev was once quoted as saying that if it weren’t for SPAM, they would have lost the war a lot faster.
Hormel, today, produces approximately 44,000 cans of this stuff per HOUR, every day. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s their own estimate. You know quality control keeps track of these things, right?
So who is actually eating SPAM? Besides BF, of course. One word: Asians. No kidding. SPAM is extremely popular in Asian American cuisine as well as Asian countries.
- In South Korea, Spam is a Luxury
- In The Phillippines, Spam has a similar status and is now a staple
- Hong Kong enjoys Spam most often for breakfast and lunch, and one company has created a vegan version only available there.
Spam became a symbol of American generosity after the war, and also kept people from starving in many of these countries. Agriculture took a long time to return to these smaller countries, so the easily transported cans of ready-to-eat protein helped them considerably. Today gift boxes of Spam varieties are a highly coveted holiday gift in Asia.
Another place it’s popular: Hawaii.
Not a joke–they even have even restaurants on the Islands dedicated to cooking and serving dishes made with Spam. Part of the love of Spam had to do with it being sent to the detention camps for Japanese descendants between 1941 and 1945. That’s why there are so many Japanese residents in Hawaii. It’s a sad part of US history for sure, but Spam love was one small good thing that emerged.
The company changed direction and began marketing the product to post-war American housewives who were now cooking for husbands and families in the 1950s.
But because so many GIs ate it during their time in the US military, Spam’s pre-war popularity didn’t return. Still, Spam remains a best-seller stateside and quickly went on to gain a foothold in the Asian marketplace.
If you’re old enough to remember the original Monty Python, you’ll remember the skit about the restaurant that served nothing but Spam recipes. The sketch also came out of Britain’s recovery after WWII and the part Spam played in it, much like Asia’s. However, British agriculture returned quickly as did the US’s. There are also a few US restaurants that serve it. Comedy predicts the future!
And yet, when Americans like me think of Spam, the first thought is, “EEEEEEWWWWW!!” Others, like BF, adore it. Go figure.
No–I’m not going to tell you I’ve eaten or cooked anything with Spam. That’s BF’s job, not mine. Usually, though, he goes for a “Spam sandwich.” I’ve also met people who will fry it up in a pan. I’m not one of them.
If the idea of cooking with SPAM appeals to you, their own website has a separate page of over 100 recipes available, such as:
- Sriracha Benedict
- Pasta Carbonara
- Panini (a grilled Italian-style sandwich)
- Poke’ Bowl (if you don’t know what that is, here’s a non-Spam primer)
- Musabi Crunchy Roll (similar to sushi)
Can you see me crafting these gourmet Spam recipes for BF? How about this one:
No, me either. I can hear him now: “Stay ALERT! Stay ALIVE.”
In the modern (food) world, one variety of anything is usually not enough. During a visit to our local Rouse’s, I saw some of them:
On the left, you’ll see a knockoff version. Our local Walmart also carries several types SPAM. The company actually makes 13 varieties, but I don’t know if all of them are available around the US, and in this part of Louisiana:
- Less Sodium
- With Real Hormel Bacon
- Oven-Roasted Turkey
- Hickory Smoke Flavor
- Hot & Spicy
- With Portuguese Sausage Seasoning
- With Tocino Seasoning (I have no idea what that is!)
- Two different sized packages with classic Spam
Somebody is eating Spam in this country, even if they won’t admit it. And yet, with all the variety presented, BF won’t eat anything but the original.
BF Loves Spam
Well, of course, he does! That’s why things like lentils, quinoa, Waffled Falafel, and Overnight Oats are so foreign to him. (Aunt Ruth is still laughing at my description of BF’s first taste of overnight oatmeal.)
BF grew up eating Spam, I didn’t, so that explains some of the disparity. But you won’t be seeing this around here anytime soon:
When I showed this ad to BF, he was quite interested in all three of these. He’s welcome to make them for himself. Thankfully this “cutesy” form of advertising has given way to more genuine styles, mostly, and with SEO (search engine optimization.)
All You Needed To Know
I hope you enjoyed today’s blog post; it’s been sitting in the draft folder for a while. If you really like the salty, cold canned meat, go for it! BF does, frequently. And now you know about the incredible variety of multicultural recipes that start with a simple can of Spam.
Of course, you can find plenty of recipes and information on the Spam website. There is also a gift shop for Spam merchandise and some cans. Some varieties of Spam are currently in short supply. But you can purchase Spam temporary tattoos, posters, magnets, postcards, T-shirts, Polo shirts, golf bags, and other quality merchandise that you didn’t know you needed. Want to learn more? Check out the company’s FAQ page.
At The Casa de Rurale
We actually have one or two cans in the kitchen somewhere. BF cracks open a can when he just doesn’t know what he wants for dinner. Sometimes it’s because he is in a place where food is being served that he doesn’t quite understand. He just takes his Spam sandwich and goes into a corner until it’s all over. Or, on rare occasions, I’m that mad at him that I let him feed himself, and he’ll find his way to a can.
One thing that worries me–if I go first, and I’m not there to make BF a healthy dinner, is he going to spend his days eating cereal for breakfast and Spam other times? Oh, well–if I go first, I guess it has to be up to him to eat healthily. I hope he’s learned a few things in the time I’ve been here.