Is MSG the culinary bad guy we’ve been told it is? It’s been around for more than 100 years. But one day, monosodium glutamate became one of the things to avoid. MSG has never gone away, and finally, it’s making a comeback.
Hello Again, Dear Readers:
After I read last week’s published post to BF, he informed me that he has three New Year’s Resolutions this year, and he’s mostly accomplished one of them. It’s a long story.
In my case, I’ve decided that I’d like to get up early again, every morning. I’ve done a fair amount of it since BF went back to work since he’s been working many early days. The trick is to keep getting up early every day no matter how long BF hibernates. I’m not there yet.
I found something interesting that I thought I should pass along. But before I begin, I must mention two things:
- There are a few live Amazon affiliate links, which may send me a few rubles if you click and buy anything, not just what I described
- Remember that I’m a food blogger, not a medical professional. If you have concerns about using MSG, ask your doctor and maybe do a little research before you start sprinkling. Chances are you’ll find plenty of information on both the plus and minus sides, so it’s up to you to decide for yourself.
Now let me tell you what I found.
What Is MSG?
Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer used in many processed foods like canned soups and seasoning blends like this one.
Commonly used in Asian cooking, MSG is a type of salt made from a natural amino acid called glutamic acid. Despite the similar-sounding name, there is no gluten in MSG.
It’s a white crystal-like powder made by fermenting starch, sugar beets, sugar cane, or molasses.
Much like salt, it’s added to enhance savory flavors and used to add the “umami” taste to foods. (Keep reading for that one.) But it doesn’t have the same amount of sodium as salt does.
But is it the allergen we’ve been led to believe? Some people may be sensitive to it and experience flushing or headaches after consuming MSG. It’s similar to people who are allergic to another type of food, such as egg or wheat.
The Umami Factor
Most people know about the four tastes: salty, sweet, sour and bitter. But there’s a fifth one, that’s known in Japan as umami, or the “savory” or “meaty” taste. Umami is present in meats, fish, soy sauce, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese, and is believed to be caused by the presence of other amino acids in foods.
MSG adds to or enhances the umami in foods during cooking but isn’t necessarily a thing on its own. Just like adding a touch more salt to a dish, MSG enhances the umami that makes it taste even better.
Where You Find MSG
Asian cuisines are well known for using MSG in dishes such as:
- Chinese dishes, like Kung Pao chicken and hot and sour soup
- Japanese dishes, like miso soup and teriyaki sauce
- Thai dishes, like tom yum soup and green curry
- Vietnamese dishes, like pho noodle soup and spring rolls
Back in the day, MSG was popularly available in the US as a product called Ac’cent™ .
(The name is trademarked by B&G Foods in Parsippany, NJ.) Now you can buy MSG from multiple vendors, like Badia, a brand I bought in Houston.
And I just discovered that Texas’ own Fiesta Spices sells MSG, although I’ve never seen it in a store:
You don’t see ads for MSG anymore. But years ago, one television ad featured none other than Sammy Davis, Jr. One cute commercial told cooks to “wake up their food” with Ac’cent™, and another spot from 1986 featured soothing sax music (no doubt marketed to housewives of the era.)
Making A Comeback
It’s been years since I’ve even thought about MSG, much less looked for some. But it’s always been available, despite the negative press. Today, it’s still available as Ac’cent™ as well as other brands, and available nearly anywhere. I didn’t see it on my last trip through Albertson’s in Hammond, but found it in our local Winn-Dixie, on a lower shelf.
But I’ve never even paid attention to MSG since it was allegedly “unhealthy.”
The other day, BF was watching CBS Mornings while we were eating breakfast. I happened to look over and see a segment on Asian restaurants who are again embracing the use of MSG. I also found a little more info on the CBS News website.
If you’re old enough to remember, you might be thinking, “wait a minute. Isn’t that the stuff that created a big brouhaha in the 1970s about how it was unhealthy for everyone?” It is. Well, 50+ years on, times have changed and we know more than we used to. It’s been time to look at MSG in a new light.
Appropriately, it figures that Asian chefs would pick up the torch and begin using it again.
Now, that’s not to say that MSG was ever banned from the market. Far from it. In fact, after the news that MSG caused health problems, it was still available, just avoided by a lot of people. Like me.
MSG is useful for savory foods but does nothing for sweet foods. (That’s OK, there are plenty of other ways to enhance sweets!) Because I have no experience with it, I’ll tell you what it says on the Ac’cent™ bottle:
- Add ½ teaspoon per pound of meat.
- Add ½ teaspoon for each of 4 to 6 servings of soups, stews, casseroles, sauces, salads, and vegetables.
That’s not a lot of MSG. Honestly, on a couple of chops I cooked for dinner, I gave a light sprinkle on each side along with the seasoning salt I used. (They were good!) Ac’cent™ has 60 mg of sodium versus 194 mg of sodium per 0.5 grams of salt, which is helpful if you’re trying to cut down on sodium consumption.
Honestly, it’s something you can sprinkle in lightly or use a small amount as directed. More will likely not result in a significant improvement and may ruin your dish. B&G’s website has more information on using their product, and even a few recipes.
Is It Unsafe?
Surprise—it really isn’t unsafe unless you have a reaction, just like anything else. So how did MSG get this reputation and decades-long bad press?
Well. . .it started with a letter allegedly written by Chinese-American doctor “Robert Ho Man Kwok” back in the 1960’s to the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine. In the letter, the alleged doctor described what he called “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” which began the campaign against MSG.
Guess what? That letter and the named “syndrome” was a hoax. No kidding. Fifty years later, everything that came from that letter is based on a hoax. Someone made up a fake Chinese name, and it just took off like a snowball rolling down a steep hill. Amazingly, it’s still in the NEJM’s archives behind a paywall. Makes you want to believe in BigFoot, doesn’t it? (Check out a couple of pictures of the elusive beast that I’m sure BF has already seen.) Colgate University has more on the fake Chinese doctor story if you want to read more.
Scientific research into MSG’s safety is the subject of debate since the hoax began. The “news” also set off reams of negative press against the Chinese. Lots of racism and ethnic negativity started because of the one letter that had no truth to it–long before social media!
Despite claims of symptoms such as headaches, flushing, sweating, and difficulty breathing after consuming MSG, scientific studies have never consistently found a link between MSG consumption and any reactions. That’s not to say no one would suffer these side effects, but they’re not a widespread problem as we’ve been led to believe. Just like a milk or wheat or soy allergy, not everybody has the same experience.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). The FDA states that MSG is safe to consume at normal levels and that most people can tolerate MSG in normal amounts without reactions. But restaurants and food producers must list MSG if they’ve added any—just like other allergens.
If you know you’re sensitive, check the ingredient lists of foods before consuming something.
Are You Allergic?
MSG isn’t unsafe, really, unless you experience a reaction after consuming some. But think about it this way—if you know you’re allergic to eggs, milk, shrimp, corn, wheat, nuts, or like me, soy, you avoid the allergen, right? Treat MSG the same way. If you have any concerns, always consult with a healthcare professional before using or consuming MSG.
But you knew that already.
I Bought Some
For the first time in I don’t know when I bought a bottle of Ac’cent™ to try in our cooking. Lucky me, Winn-Dixie had it on sale. I expect that little bottle to last a long time.
I don’t think I have a single recipe anywhere that calls for MSG, but that’s OK, I’ll try some. I’ve used it once, and so far, so good. I’ll let you know if it’s good, or bad, or does anything bad to the food. Or us.
But considering MSG’s consistent culinary use over the last 100 years, and the availability of Ac’cent™ in grocery stores since 1947, it can’t be all bad, right?
Aldi—it’s the newest little grocery store around. Do you have one nearby? (TL:DR version: Aldi’s is a great place to grocery shop with great prices.)
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
We’re halfway through the first month of 2023. BF corrected me on my earlier statement that he has no resolutions, he does. He’s already got one of them checked off, although the process isn’t complete yet. Long story there. Two others are a little farther off, but reachable.
I didn’t make any “resolutions,” but I would like to start getting up early in the morning again. I’ve been able to do that with BF’s work schedule since he returned to work after vacation, but he’ll be back on his usual day/night alternate rotation soon. When he goes back to sleep, so do I. So. . .we’ll see how it goes.
The “New” Aldi In Our Area
A few days ago, we received a card in the mail letting us know that there is a new Aldi store that’s actually less than an hour from us—just north in Mississippi. No kidding. Because we’re so close to the state border, it’s closer than Baton Rouge or New Orleans. The announcement included a $5 coupon off a $30 purchase, which I happily accepted. So, I made my plans and drove north.
I know this sounds a bit odd, going to another state to grocery shop, but people in the smaller northeastern states do cross-border trips all the time. Remember that in Houston you can drive 100 miles in a day and never leave the city. You can drive for days and never leave the state. So going to Mississippi to visit the newest and closest Aldi store isn’t a big deal. Even if BF thinks it’s a bit bonkers. (Bonus: the sales tax is also 3% less than in Louisiana.)
HEB is a long drive from here, but I’d happily go as far as Beaumont to get to one. (I’m not sure about the ones in Vidor and Orange, I’ve never been.) But because the Mississippi border is just 30 minutes away, McComb isn’t the hour-drive to get to the Slidell Aldi location. Might as well go to Baton Rouge if I’m going to drive that far, because Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Joann’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Cost Plus World Market are also there, too. (Just not all in the same place.)
Admittedly, I wasn’t impressed with Aldi when I went to the one in Friendswood in 2014. It was on the way home from LK’s place, but I didn’t find it to be a better option. Reminded me of a convenience store, really. Lots of boxed mixes, junk food, and a little fresh food.
A well-known male celebrity from the UK is a big fan of Aldi, too. He lives in Palm Springs with his partner and has many times touted Aldi’s food and its greatness. He even did a video in his local Aldi, and it wasn’t a paid promotion–he was just a fan. That Aldi was nothing like the one I visited. After my original experience in Friendswood, I just never went back. I’m not naming him here because I later found him to be quite foul. Therefore, I don’t want his name in the blog or ranking for his name, either.
However, our friend Beverly loves Aldi and told me that they’ve upped their offerings in the fresh food area. Beverly and her husband drive to an Aldi about once a month or so to stock up on staples. Aunt Ruth loves her local Aldi as well. So, I decided to revisit Aldi’s and see what I might be missing. Beverly was right!
The Trip to McComb
It was a lovely day for a drive. It was cool, and sunny, with no traffic. Until I got there.
I drove myself because BF was working. I guess he was glad because he didn’t want to go anyway. He’d rather watch shows about Bigfoot and that weird guy who lived among the bears and became bear food. (I really need to repossess my little Roku.)
Two things to know about going to Aldi: bring a quarter to unlock your cart and bring your own shopping bags. These are two of the ways Aldi keeps costs down and passes along the savings. (New Orleans readers may remember The Real Superstore from back in the late 80’s introducing the “quarter for the basket” trend from Europe.) Stores are accepting reusable shopping bags again, so wash them and take them with you when you shop, especially at Aldi.
But because I wanted to make the grand opening (and I did!) they were not requiring shoppers to use a quarter to unlock the carts. I made it in time to see the grand opening but not to get a picture. The local newspaper, the McComb Enterprise Journal, was also on hand to record the opening. You can read the nice article here, and the picture of the ribbon cutting is available here.
And when people returned the baskets, they offered them to other shoppers rather than fuss about the quarter. Remember, I was in Mississippi. Everyone was nice and as crowded as the place was, they were all happy to be there.
The first 100 shoppers—designated by numbered cards—received a “swag bag.” That is, an Aldi shopping bag that contained some bagel chips and a quarter holder. They gave me a shopping bag on the way in, but it only had a cute little quarter holder (no complaints from me):
I was going to buy a bag anyway, but it was nice to be gifted one.
On the way out, someone gave me two more, and those will be gifted to others.
And if you lose that quarter holder, you can actually buy them on Amazon, no kidding.
While waiting for the opening, I spoke with a lady who said that not much happens in McComb. Nice place to go if you don’t want to be found, am I right? She laughed. We saw the Mayor and a few of his people go in and walk out with a swag bag, but I don’t think he did any shopping.
As it turns out, our friend MY went to college in McComb, no kidding. She’s going to rustle up her gang and pay them a visit.
Once we got inside, it was a madhouse.
Again, everyone was polite and nice, and no one caused any problems.
Another customer asked me a question about something. Suddenly she began telling me about something she makes in the air fryer, “while you make your chicken and biscuits.” I held back my “keto-mostly” self as I listened to her description. She was also nice, so I just smiled and agreed, then thanked her because I couldn’t follow everything. I still don’t know what she was telling me to make, honestly. I guess I looked like I needed to know.
It probably won’t be crowded like that every day.
There’s a deli area right when you walk into the place, on the left:
I saw the words “cauliflower pizza” and it was all over:
Lunch! No wheat in the crust or anything, so that was first since BF was working late the next day. Then tortillas, including some marked “keto” for our next Taco Tuesday adventure:
Plus a nice selection of cookies and pastries. Lots of snacks on the right side:
And more snacks!
Against the back wall are bacon and other meats:
I’m going to go ahead and admit that we needed a bag of onions:
Right next to them were little roasty potatoes, aka, Triston’s potatoes:
I forgot the tortilla chips, but these didn’t last long:
This quinoa meal will absolutely horrify BF if he ever finds it because he wants to know what it’s doing in his house:
Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy are laughing as they read this because they’ve met BF and they know I’m right. But it was so weird I was compelled to get one. I haven’t tried it just yet.
I’m not going to disclose how much I spent. . .let’s just say I got some things we needed, as well as some extra things, plus something for dinner. This definitely won’t be my last trip to McComb, that’s for sure—especially with a Starbucks, Hobby Lobby and Walmart in the same spot. It’s an enclosed mall called Uptown McComb, but I didn’t realize that until I was leaving. Next time.
How Was The Pizza?
Regular readers know I’m a fan of Caulipower pizzas, and get them occasionally. So far, nothing beats Caulipower, and I’ve tried a couple of them that Walmart has available. (I may try the new Walmart brand one day soon.) So this caught my eye, although they only had Veggie available. That’s OK, too.
The Aldi’s pizza isn’t frozen—remember, it came from the deli section as you walk in the front door. (There’s only one way in and out, and that’s a thing with Aldi, too.) The crust is rather “floppy,” because it’s a “grab and go” thing. So you want to be extra careful sliding it onto the oven rack.
At $7.99, it rivals Caulipower and is also larger.
All you do is preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put it directly on the oven rack. I had to use the big oven because it’s too big for the countertop oven, but it was chilly so that was fine. In about 16 minutes, you have pizza:
I think I should have left it in the oven a bit longer because the crust wasn’t as crispy as I anticipated.
The toppings were all cooked, of course, and it was quite tasty. Just don’t want to burn the pizza.
No complaints here, it tastes pretty good, and it’s big enough to have a leftover half for the next day.
I like to have both the regular and cauliflower pizzas in the freezer for us, but of course, we tend to go through them quickly. These pizzas from Aldi can be frozen, apparently, because it has directions for cooking from frozen. So, my next Aldi trip may involve getting more of these for the freezer, plus a couple of the non-cauliflower ones for BF.
Sweets For Your Sweet
I did manage to get a few things for BF. He loves chocolate as I do, so:
These were just too cute to pass up:
These cookies from Germany look just like the Krakus cookies from Poland that I used to buy at Phoenicia Foods in Houston in several flavors:
I hope they taste as good, too. If so, BF will love them. And for myself, chocolate and raspberry are together again:
I didn’t eat it all at once, honest. And it was only one. I passed on the chocolate truffles, because, well, I can get into trouble with those.
Aldi has an aisle full of sweet treats and other non-food gifts like candles and pajamas for Valentine’s Day.
So there’s something for nearly everyone, including yourself.
Unlike Trader Joe’s, Aldi’s has an entire center aisle of non-food items:
There you’ll find all manner of things, like these cute things for your kitchen or coffee bar:
Coffee pots and cups are also available, as well as their own espresso maker:
Aldi Finds are lots of different things, including rugs and small pieces of furniture. Presumably, you must assemble them just like anything from IKEA. But maybe it was because I was in a hurry that I didn’t see any of those, or maybe the store didn’t have them. I wanted to look at a storage ottoman from the app, but that may be coming next week. Gives me an excuse to go back, doesn’t it?
Well, this was just what I wanted:
And magically, it made its way into the cart. Guess what? It takes a range of vacuum seal bags. Those vacuum freezer bags and replacement gaskets are easily available on Amazon. I’ll check our local Walmart for availability too. I sealed up the pork chops and the ground turkey I bought at Aldi, and they’re already in the big freezer. More vacuum seal freezing and a blog post on this one soon.
We’ve been talking about getting a vacuum food sealer for some time, but they are kind of pricey, so we waited. After reading this article by Jill Nystul on One Good Thing By Jillee, I told BF that we should consider getting one to start making our food last a bit longer.
You can find a huge selection of them on Amazon. In fact, Dash has a brand new model of its own. When I brought up the subject, BF just nodded his head “OK” and that was the end of the discussion, although we have talked about it since. Even though this was a rushed trip during a busy time, I saw it and was glad to see it was $30.
Not Just A. . . .
BF’s favorite comment about Trader Joe’s is, “it’s just a grocery store.” He just doesn’t get excited about that sort of thing. Between TJ’s and Whole Foods, there were too many guys wearing man buns and skinny jeans for his military buzz-cut comfort level. He never lets me forget about “ManBun/SkinnyJeans.” In this store, there were none of those, as MY tells me that it’s mostly country folks. Everyone was happy about the new Aldi, that’s for sure.
In all seriousness, Trader Joe’s is the grocery store, while Aldi’s is groceries and more. Both stores focus primarily on their own private brands with some national brands alongside. Aldi also carries a selection of limited-time goods from small stuff to all manner of things. Most of it is seasonal, and they don’t last long before they’re replaced with something new.
They Didn’t Forget The Furbabies
Aldi also carries pet food and supplies:
Some apparel, kitchen items, and even fitness things:
All in that aisle for Aldi Finds.
Great Stuff In Store
Like Trader Joe’s, Aldi also has devout fans. This article from The Kitchn talks about a bag of frozen vegetables that the author says to get at least one more since they’re “ready to roast.” They have carrot and sweet potato and a Mediterranean blend with yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Before you ask, no, BF won’t eat this because of the zucchini.
Because Aldi was so busy, I didn’t really get a good look at the freezer section. But what I did recognize immediately was the Texas Tamales!
And they were $2.50 less than Rouses. The bad news is that they only had pork tamales, no beef.
What Aldi’s isn’t is a salvage or overstock place like Dirt Cheap (the top retailer of major brand returns, they say) or Ollie’s Bargain Center (“Good stuff cheap—up to 70% off the fancy stores!”) Aldi sells fresh and first-quality product for less than other grocery stores.
These tea bags are a good example of what that means. Chances are the two different brands are from the same producer with different labeling.
Aldi’s was $2.19, and Winn-Dixie’s is about $2.69. Sometimes Winn-Dixie puts them on sale, two for $4, or buy two and get one free. Next trip to Aldi’s I might buy a couple of extra boxes.
An Aldi Fan Story From Down Under
Although Aldi is growing in the US, this Germany-based company is not just in the States. This blog by Australian copywriter Pauline Longdon describes her and her partner Rae’s adventure getting themselves a couple of Stand-Up Paddleboards, or SUP. If you’re not familiar with them (and I’m not either), you can get an idea of what they look like from what’s available on Amazon. (There’s a bit of language and self-deprecating humor involved, too.) Note: I’m friends with Pauline and Rae on Facebook but have not yet met them in person like other copywriters I know who have.
Admittedly, I know little to nothing about stand-up paddleboarding, and Pauline’s blog is also written primarily for writers. But the story is interesting enough that I wanted to link to it here, because it involves Aldi, and researching a purchase. If you have a few minutes, click over to Pauline’s website, and read the story in her words. Pauline kindly gave me permission to link to her blog, so she knows why you’re there.
Why Shop At Aldi?
It’s a little like going to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or even the Rouses in Hammond—they have what you want or need. They’re not as big as a Rouses, Winn-Dixie, or HEB, but they’re a good basic grocery store with, well, basics. Eggs are the notable exception since they’re currently as expensive as controlled substances. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) But Aldi’s prices are good on their store brands, with their store brand offerings being considerably less expensive. So far we’ve noticed no difference in quality, either.
For example, this jar of Aldi’s store brand Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce was $1.95.
By comparison, the one we usually buy, Classico Tomato & Basil, runs $3.79, and sometimes $3.00 on sale at Winn-Dixie.
Used it for dinner and BF gave a thumbs-up. Unlike Winn-Dixie, Aldi doesn’t have a rewards program. Their prices are what they offer, no reward points are needed. So there’s that.
I’d like to go back to Aldi occasionally and stock up on canned and jarred foods, frozen things, and other foods to stash and keep on hand. We’re planning a pantry reboot soon to utilize the wasted space (thank you, Pinterest!) Once we have that completed and the pantry cleared and sorted, it’ll be easier to keep track of what we have and need. Stocking up on basics at Aldi will help keep our pantry full for less.
In a quick chat with Rafael, he says has an Aldi store about two miles away from his home with Carmen. He said they have some nice European products, which he prefers because they “tend to make cleaner stuff.” Agreed—and he has access to more of that kind of thing than we do.
I mentioned to the very harried manager in a red shirt that this new Aldi is an option if we need to travel north again for a supply run. During the two weeks our area was running on generators, we traveled north first to Brookshire and then McComb, Mississippi, to get food, fuel, and other supplies. That Aldi is close but probably would have been filled with people like us getting food and things. It’s an option, and it’s literally right off the freeway. You can see it before you get to the exit because it’s on the furthest corner of the mall. (That’s one of Aldi’s trademarks when they look for real estate.) Even if there was a closer store, it’s good to know Aldi’s is in McComb if we need it one day.
Besides, it’s nice to get away occasionally and do something different, isn’t it?
Third Fastest Growing Grocery In the US
That’s right, they are. And much as I like HEB and Trader Joe’s, Aldi is a nice place to shop, too.
I did write the company to tell them about the fun grand opening and request a store in Hammond. Someone wrote back and said they were always looking for new sites that fit their criteria. Hopefully, Hammond will fit, and they will build one. Southeastern Louisiana University is there, so there’s bound to be enough interest. I think that’s why Trader Joe’s is so close to LSU.
You can find more on Aldi’s website, and they even have an app you can download. Look for a store near you at their Store Finder, and sign up for their emails too.
More To Come
In addition to the overdue posts on Rafael & Carmen’s wedding and the rest of our Houston trip, I’ve got a few more topics waiting. The vacuum food sealer is going to get its own post, because now I want to seal up everything. I just need more of the bags.
I still have no idea what we’re doing for Valentine’s Day, but hopefully, we’ll find something on the Roku we can both enjoy.
Of course, I hope to have more tasty recipes to cook up in the New Year. Because feeding BF can be, shall we say, challenging, and requires more effort.
Welcome to 2023! Yes, another year. What are you going to do, go back to the ’80s? Not happening. Embrace 2023 for what it is, and hope that it’s going to get better. (Yes, the Amazon affiliate links are live.)
Hello Again, Dear Readers:
Happy New Year! We made it to another year, and more importantly, through another holiday season. Anytime you can make it through a difficult time, I say, raise a glass and toast yourself. Even if it’s milk. The holidays are difficult for a handful of reasons, even though most people wouldn’t admit to it.
I realize that it has been more than six weeks since my last blog post, and for that, I apologize. This post has been sitting in the draft folder and I’ve been picking at it for more than a week. I have a couple of blog posts planned about our trip to Houston back in November, I just haven’t been able to sit down and finish them. Since we got back, we’ve had a lot happen, much of it boring.
We Got Sick, Again
I don’t know what the heck happened, but we caught some kind of bug not long after we returned and were laid up for a few days. I was coughing for at least a couple more weeks after it was over. We’re OK, and we didn’t need a doctor, just time to let it run its course.
I posted about it on Facebook, and a lady up north said that in her doctor’s office, they were seeing a lot of people with a “cold they just can’t kick.” Coughing was included, so I presumed we had the same “super-cold” we’d been reading about.
Of course, that set everything back more than a couple of days, too.
We made it through the holiday freeze just fine and did not lose power. However, others were not so fortunate. We were ready with our space heaters and other preparations just like we did for the last one nearly two years ago. Fortunately, we had nothing to worry about. But you never know with these things. We realized that we were much more fortunate than others. We got cold, but not “Buffalo cold.” That is, Buffalo NY, where things literally froze over.
Multiple stories of everyday heroism emerged from Buffalo. One described how a lady and her boyfriend brought home a 64-year-old man to keep him from freezing to death. She didn’t have to do that, but she did, and saved his life. She was able to notify his family and get him to a hospital, where he was later reunited with his family.
But the cold didn’t stop me from doing a little cookie baking for friends:
That’s Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Christmas Cookie recipe from Nigella Christmas. I dropped off two batches during the day on Christmas Eve, then visited an elderly couple that evening to drop off the rest. Ended up helping them out a little more than we expected, but that’s OK, we were glad to help them. The recipe always comes out just right. Not all of them came out perfectly round, so there was some “quality control” involved. Thanks, Honey.
At Thanksgiving, Winn-Dixie had turkeys on sale if you belong to their Rewards program. We bought a 16-pound turkey for under $8.
Because it was just us, we decided to cut the turkey into parts and just cook half and freeze the rest. Known as spatchcocking, we cut the backbone out first, then cut through the breastbone, separating the two sides and freezing one of the breast parts. We also separated one of the leg quarters with a wing and froze that too. Mostly, we just needed it to fit into Ziploc bags.
Thankfully BF was home on Thanksgiving because I needed his help doing this. That bird wasn’t going to split up easily, and he very nearly went out to his workshop and got his Sawzall reciprocating saw to cut through the bones. I think I would need to set up the tripod to record that incident because there’s no way anyone would believe it. Especially the attending physician in the emergency room. Fortunately, we got the bird cut into parts with great difficulty and without incident.
I still can’t find turkey thighs here. I really want to buzz back to HEB and buy a case for our freezer. Maybe one day. Or at least the Rouses or Whole Foods in Baton Rouge.
For Christmas, we had another part of that turkey. (There’s a leg quarter and wing still frozen. Maybe for Easter?) I also gave BF a DVD of the old Mel Brooks film, History of the World, Part 1.
He’s a fan of Brooks’ earlier films but had never seen this one. Immediately, he cracked open the wrapper and sat down to watch the film. He really enjoyed it, and it was all new to him.
What did he get me, you ask? A small but sharp pocketknife. No kidding:
I asked about the reasoning for such a gift. He responded, “because you’re always using mine. It’s for opening all those Amazon packages.” I resent the implication that I order so much from Amazon because I don’t. But anytime I get a package from anywhere, his collection of pocket knives is always on the little table. Now I have my own, and it’s sharp, too.
He never said he was sentimental, and, well, the knife is. . .practical. I still cook him dinner.
Also managed to get one of Starbucks’ delicious Cranberry Bliss Bars this holiday season. They’re more than double the price they were when I first found them in 2007. But as always, there are recipes available for making your own; just pick one.
The one thing I couldn’t leave behind in Houston was this gorgeous t-shirt from HEB:
And I wore it Christmas Day, with an apron while I was cooking. It’s now washed and hanging up for next Christmas. I couldn’t interest BF in the sweaters that Winn-Dixie was selling, half price right before the holidays:
Yes, they really sold these, and marked them down to $14.99 later. I haven’t seen anyone wearing any, though. Maybe the store employees bought them for the freeze. I guess it was a part of their promotion with the “Winn Win Twins.” Don’t ask.
But BF did like this from our local Tractor Supply on sale after Christmas:
Suddenly, BF has a supply of Bigfoot Merch. If ever we exhume BF’s Christmas tree from the back room, we’ll hang that right where it’s visible. It goes with his BigFoot t-shirt and the lovely collection of BigFoot gifts his brother gave him.
The Somewhat Traditional New Year’s
We haven’t really made any resolutions for 2023, so it’s easy to say that we haven’t broken any, too. And we never got to go through the pantry or the back room, despite BF being on vacation for an unexpected two weeks. He planned one vacation week, and somehow, it turned into a second week. He watched quite a lot of TV, especially after I loaned him my older Roku device. Wish I hadn’t done that.
He’s now obsessed with Tubi, Crackle, Peacock, Paramount, The Roku Channel, and other great streaming sources. When he discovered I had the YouTube channel, he threatened to start watching BigFoot videos in my YouTube account so they’d show up in my feed. I very nearly took it away from him right then. I’ll be “repossessing” that device very soon.
Still A Sunday Dinner
As I’ve done in past years, I made Stephanie O’Dea’s wonderful slow-cooker Black Eye Pea Chili for us along with some coleslaw for myself. We can make this chili any time of year, but we only seem to make it at the New Year. Really, it’s tasty anytime and easy to make. I used the Instant Pot for browning the meat, onions, and garlic, removed them, wiped out the cooking pot, then went back to the recipe. Put the glass lid on it, set it to slow cook, and R2-D2 had dinner ready on time.
I froze half of the chili for another time. Otherwise, we were home all day and I got some work done for clients. I think I did a little bit of sewing in the evening, too.
If you are of a mind to make fitness resolutions, Sunny Health and Fitness is having a sale both on their own website and in their Amazon store. Still under $100 is the original Row & Ride, as well as the higher-end version of the same thing. Yes, I still have mine, and I dust it occasionally. I am planning to return to using it regularly, soon as I get a big bottle of Aleve.
Happy Birthday, Broccoli Stirfry
It’s been just about a year since BF brought home this little rodent at the tender age of eight weeks:
Now this derp (aka “weirdo”) weighs 65 pounds.
On his backside, you can see slight colorations from the Catahoula input. He’s still chewing everything in sight, which recently included the remote for BF’s years-old DVD player:
It’s easily replaceable, we just haven’t done that yet. The dog has also chewed wood furniture, a door frame, a roll of electrical tape, the Dash dog treat maker, and a whole bunch of other things he suddenly found within his reach. He’s stopped short of boring a hole in the wall.
You know those winter memes telling you to bring your pets inside, because “if you’re cold, they’re cold?” Broccoli Stirfry doesn’t get that, he wants to play. But we drag him in any way. Generally, when I get near him with the leash, he knows it’s time to stop playing “Stick” or chasing leaves and go back inside. Once I hook him up, he politely walks inside with me.
Because if I don’t hook up that leash, he’ll continue to run high-speed circles around the house and around the property until he falls asleep. And you cat people thought only the felines did “zoomies.” Nope—this guy was trained by a cat:
And paws like one, too.
It’s coming up on a year since BF bought him from a guy he knows through work and brought the little cutie pie home. He loves to tell the guy that he wants his $20 back on the “defective dog.” Nope, he’s all ours, and we’re stuck with him.
Houston IKEA Reconnaissance
During our Houston trip, we paid a visit to the hallmark of Swedishness, IKEA. Still on I-10 at the Antoine-Silber exit, we spent at least three hours checking out everything. The purpose of visiting IKEA was to get an idea of what’s available, and what might be good for the future kitchen whenever we get to do some updating. (It’s not anytime soon.) Planting seeds of ideas, really. I did get some small house things, but there were no big purchases like furniture.
We had lunch in the upstairs café, and my IKEA Family card still got me some free coffee. Before we had lunch, I was able to get something else—a picture of that look BF gets when presented with something he’s not entirely sure of:
I first saw this look when he looked into the pantry after I moved in and he saw it full of stuff he didn’t understand. I showed the picture to one of our local friends and she said, “he looks like he’s getting old! Are you giving him all that grey hair?” Poor BF was way out of his element at first. Eventually, he enjoyed his trip through IKEA Houston.
As you can see, he’s now fully embracing his inner Swede. (No Swedish accent yet.)
Up Next: Valentine’s Day 2023
Valentine’s Day is in about a month. If you’re so inclined, give some thought to a dinner date with your significant other. Dinner out is usually crowded and problematic, so consider dinner at home. This post includes some tasty desserts that would fit the bill. There’s also this small chocolate cake that I tried two years ago. I’ll start asking BF what he’d like to have this year. Hopefully, the entertainment will be better than last year.
And if you and your S/O like the Cranberry Bliss Bars during the holiday season, it wouldn’t be a bad move to make them in February. This copycat recipe suggests heart-shaped cookie cutters.
Williams-Sonoma has its usual collection of heart-shaped and high-end cookware for Valentine’s Day. Of course, they’re not a requirement, but they are pretty to look at for a while. Less expensive models are available on Amazon, like this one from Martha Stewart for $80 and this one from Miamo for $75. If you like that sort of thing.
Should a Galentine’s Day party be on your itinerary—a party just for females to celebrate friendship in lieu of having a partner—start planning now. Nothing wrong with enjoying time with friends.
And if you’re going to be alone for that Tuesday, well, that’s OK too. Been there, done that, and you can either ignore the whole thing or enjoy a nice dinner by yourself in front of the TV, or meet with friends who are also unattached. Have a little chocolate of your choosing while you’re at it. Should Starbucks resurrect the Molten Chocolate Latte, I highly recommend getting one if you’re in the vicinity. Not sure if the bottled version is still available, but with a recipe, you can get one made by request.
Coming In 2023 (Hopefully)
I’m overdue to write about Rafael and Carmen’s beautiful wedding in November, as well as the rest of our Houston trip. I’ll start that soon. They’ll be celebrating their first Valentine’s Day as a married couple this year. Rafael said he was running around on Christmas Eve getting ingredients for Carmen to bake these Cranberry Walnut Oatmeal Cookies on Christmas Day. Aunt Ruth asked for the recipe, so I emailed it to her. I need to try those for BF one of these days, too.
Even though “winter weather” alternates between warm and cold here in the South, don’t put the coats away just yet. Heck, even Florida was freezing at Christmas, and it could happen again. Keep these two soup recipes handy for the day you need something warm for dinner and don’t want to mess with too much. Or if you’re doing Meatless Mondays.
I’m always looking for new and interesting topics, so I’ll be bringing those to you as well. Until then. . . .
Chocolate cake in a single serving is always a good thing, especially when it’s keto. I’ve got a quick and easy chocolate mug cake that you can make and enjoy anytime.
Hi again, Dear Readers:
It’s been over a month since my last blog post, and for that, I apologize. We did a little traveling, and it’s been go-go-go since we got back. Maybe I need to listen to Stephanie O’Dea’s Slow Living Podcast, if I could find the time. I’ll tell you more about our trip in a future blog post.
I intended to post this much earlier. With the Holidays bearing down on us there’s a lot happening for nearly everyone. Things are about to get very busy and complicated for many people. As I was once told by a former supervisor at Boeing, “we’re getting into the time of year where a month is not a month.” For those working in the corporate sector, it means vacations, either yours or someone else’s. Many people will be gone for days, and probably when you need them the most. That’s been my experience, so be forewarned.
But at the Casa de Rurale, we’re debating on whether we want to tackle that backroom area where all the Christmas stuff is stored behind a bunch of other things or leave it for another year. I’m guessing we’re probably going to try later.
Meantime, let me catch you up on our recent happenings.
Before our trip, it was my birthday. I did make a Swerve chocolate keto cake, although we didn’t “do” anything because we had a trip the next week. I made some chocolate buttercream icing from Suzanne Somers’ book Somersize Desserts but using the same 1:1 sweetener you see in this post. Then rushed the process so the icing’s texture was a bit clumpy:
But it was still delicious and we enjoyed a keto/low-carb/Somersized (sort of) chocolate cake. Earlier in the day, I made it to Starbucks for my birthday treat:
The protein box wouldn’t ring up, so it ended up being the drink that was free. I was also running errands so I needed a bite.
The Banana Rat Gets Married
We went to Houston for a few days, finally. It was a short trip with multiple mishaps, but we made it there and back just fine. After hiring a local sitter on the Rover app, we solved the problem of who to ask to take care of things while we were gone.
We couldn’t see everyone and go everywhere, but we did make it to our intended destination and made a few in-person visits. Zoom calls just aren’t the same. It was good to see some folks after so long away. BF was his usual very entertaining self.
The focus of the trip: our favorite web guy, Rafael, aka “Banana Rat,” recently married his longtime partner, Carmen. It was a beautiful wedding at an incredibly gorgeous place called The Springs of Magnolia. The venue is in Magnolia TX, north of Katy, and about a 45-minute drive north from Katy on the Grand Parkway.
Their wedding was at the Stonebridge venue. The actual ceremony was outside, with cocktail hour on the porch including delicious appetizers, then the full reception inside. The building is nestled in a grove of pine trees with fountains and bridges for picturesque views. Pinehaven has a long porch area that goes around the entire building. The weather was perfect, and I’ll tell you more about the wedding and the wonderful food in a future blog post.
Meantime, here’s a picture that Rafael put on social media not long after the wedding.
I managed a selfie with Rafael during the busy reception, too:
We took our own pictures, of course, and were close enough to get some great shots. I’ve since shared them with Rafael, once I figured out the most efficient method to do that. More in a future blog post.
The Double Chocolate Mug Cake
I’m piggybacking on my last blog post about the new book Easy Dirty Keto by Emilie Bailey. I decided to try this recipe after I published that blog. I intended to publish either before we left for Houston, or right after we got back. That didn’t happen. Finally, when I’m caught up a little bit, I have the time to finish up.
To make things easy, I’ll put the printable recipe right here so you can print your own copy. It’s an easy, fast recipe, and it takes just a few minutes. If you don’t have sugar-free chocolate chips on hand, you can skip it—because, let’s face it, you may just snack on the chocolate chips anyway. There’s also an unusual ingredient that you might not be expecting, but it works well here.
Double Chocolate Mug Cake
- 3 tbsp Keto yellow cake mix (from a box) See note below if you don't have a box of this
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp water
- 1 tbsp sugar-free chocolate chips
- In a mug, combine cake mix with cocoa powder and mix well. Add mayo, egg, and water; stir well to combine. Mix in the chocolate chips
- Put the mug into the microwave and cook on high for 1 minute to 1 minute and 20 seconds, until the cake is firm but still glossy. If you're using a large mug, you may need to cook for a few more seconds.
- Top as desired and enjoy.
- NOTE: if you do not have a boxed keto cake mix, stir together 2 tablespoons of almond flour, 1 tablespoon of 1:1 granulated sweetener, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Mix together, then proceed with Step 1.
Now let me show you how to make one when you just really need some chocolate cake.
How To Make It
Like many of the mug cake recipes you see on Pinterest, Instagram, and other places, there are only two steps here, and the third is optional.
First, you mix the cake mix and the cocoa powder in a cup.
Then add the wet ingredients: mayonnaise, egg, and two teaspoons of water.
Stir it well, then stir in the chocolate chips if you’re using them.
Stir them in:
Next, microwave it on high for one minute to one minute and 20 seconds. Emilie says, “until the cake is firm but still glossy.” A larger mug takes a few more seconds or a microwave that’s not as powerful. I think our microwave takes one minute and 30 seconds to be completely done. Just don’t cook it too long.
At this point, you can sprinkle on a little bit more of the 1:1 sweetener, you could put a little whipped cream on it, or just eat it as is. I usually skip the embellishments because I think it’s fine right out of the microwave. But if you put, say, some sugar-free raspberry preserves on top when it’s done, I won’t judge.
Mayonnaise In Cake?
Yes, you read that right, and I’m guessing Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy are nodding their heads in agreement. I’ve heard of it before, but never tried it myself, until now. And, honestly, I thought it was a horrible idea. But Emilie comments in the book that she’s tried multiple recipes for cake in a cup but they tended to be too dry or too “eggy.” The addition of a tablespoon of mayo makes it rich and fudgy, just like a cake should be. You don’t taste the mayo, honest.
No, I haven’t told BF.
You can read more about mayo in cakes in this article on Epicurious’ website with links to other recipes, including this one by BestFoods/Hellman’s using their own mayo. Apparently it’s a “secret ingredient” in chocolate and other cakes that gives it richness and moistness. Here’s another chocolate mayo cake recipe from Taste of Home. Warning: unlike Emilie’s recipe, these cakes aren’t keto, and are both whole cakes.
The Keto Cake Mix Dilemma
Like many people, I haven’t bought much in the way of prepared keto products. There are so many keto things in most grocery stores now. Of course, you must read through everything to know if it really is keto or just something with the “keto” name pasted on it. I’ve seen a few things that claimed to be keto, but they contained wheat or other things in them that disqualified them from being “keto.” But then again, there’s “dirty” keto, too, but I don’t want wheat at all.
What I really like about this recipe, and what made me try it, was Emily’s note to tell you how to make it with other ingredients. Well, I had them, and I appreciated the note on making them without buying a full box of cake mix. Since discovering this little variable, I’ve enjoyed this chocolate cake in a mug several times.
Instead of the boxed mix, you simply whisk together 2 tablespoons of almond flour, one tablespoon of granulated 1:1 sweetener, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, and a pinch of salt for your cake base.
That replaces the three tablespoons of the boxed yellow keto cake mix. Just mix it up and proceed with the recipe.
Ready For A Little Keto Chocolate Cake?
Really, I wish I’d done this before, but I’m glad I finally got around to trying this recipe.
Miss Alice has not had the pleasure of making any recipes from the book yet, but she’s planning on doing some while she’s off for Thanksgiving break. I highly recommended this recipe and a couple of others to her so that she and her daughter don’t have to rely on mac and cheese or some other “instant” thing when they get home at night. But they still haven’t gotten around to using a slow cooker during the week just yet.
This chocolate cake is an easy and fast keto dessert that makes just one serving whenever you’re ready. You don’t have to make an entire cake, just one little cup of cake. And isn’t that what you need sometimes just to hit the spot?
Easy Dirty Keto is the latest cookbook by Emilie Bailey. Today I’ll review it and tell you why it’s a good book to have in your collection, whether or not you eat keto.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Apologies for my tardiness, it’s been a busy few weeks. We watched as Hurricane Ian went through Florida doing pretty much the same thing Hurricane Ida did in Louisiana last year. One of my project managers lives right in the strike zone, and she finally got power and Internet back a few days ago. Don’t we know about that!
Others have checked in from the area on social media. Keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers, although I think the good Governor DeSantis has everything well in hand. We’ve been through it, and we know some folks who are still not back in their homes more than a year later. Everything moves VERY slowly here, but Florida’s working it.
We’ve had a few lovely cool fronts come through, and another brief one graces Texas and Louisiana tomorrow. There’s been scant rain for over a month. Autumn came early this year, and we’re thankful. I can open the windows some days and clear the air (especially after BF has been cooking.)
As promised, I’ve got a delicious new cookbook to tell you about, and five delicious recipes you can enjoy this week.
Get Ready For Dirty Keto
Are you looking for new and delicious keto recipes or just delicious food that’s easy to make? Well, aren’t we all? Today I’ll tell you all about the newest—and possibly final—book from The Texas Granola Girl, Emilie Bailey. This book covers both bases.
Let me say at the outset that I was fortunate to get a review copy of Easy Dirty Keto before its release on August 25th. Thank you, Emilie! (I feel special when that happens.) I’ve already left a five-star review on Amazon, because, well it deserves five stars, in my opinion. But that’s because the food is good.
Honestly, if the recipes weren’t any good, I wouldn’t be writing an entire blog post—it would be a short “news item” with my polite opinion. But this is Emilie, and the food is really, really, good—as usual.
Let’s get cooking.
What Is Dirty Keto?
No, it’s not something you get into trouble for, should be embarrassed about, or risk arrest. Nothing like that. It’s a form of keto that stays within the parameters but isn’t exact.
There are two types of keto:
- Clean keto, where you eat “clean,” no processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and the like
- Dirty keto, where the rules are a little looser, but still help you meet macros and stay in ketosis
Ingredients like these might be considered “dirty keto”:
Or this one:
And if you wanted to classify my keto, it would be called “filthy dirty keto.” Because I can’t say I eat keto every day—especially when BF makes jambalaya or one of his other “specialties.”
The rule is to stay in ketosis. I can’t say I’ve ever checked that. Still, dirty keto isn’t as strict, and the variety of foods is wider because you can include some things that you wouldn’t under “clean keto.” You’ll see what I mean in the recipes.
Many people find clean keto to be difficult to sustain, or they just get bored with the same types of foods. With dirty keto, there’s a little more to enjoy that’s still “keto.” Emilie explains in the intro–she’s busy, like most people, and needed to loosen the rules a bit. One example is the sugar-free version of Cool Whip.
I’ve tried these five recipes myself and give my opinion on each. (Spoiler alert: they’re delicious!) I’ll be trying more of them in the future, and I may include them in a future blog post. So, here they are for your information and enjoyment.
Chorizo and Spaghetti Squash, Page 125
Let me say right up front that this is the recipe I really wanted to make first but had to wait until BF wasn’t home. I don’t want to listen to the retching.
It’s simple and straightforward. You might not believe it was really keto. The setup:
First, start with the spaghetti squash:
Cut in half and scrape out the seeds:
They should look like this:
Put them face down onto a microwave-safe plate and cook on high for ten minutes, until it’s fork-tender.
When it’s done, it looks like this:
While that’s cooking, measure out your spices and things:
Then remove the chorizo from the casings and add it to the pan.
You won’t need oil, because the chorizo gives off plenty once it starts cooking. Remember, it’s a highly seasoned pork sausage.
Once the chorizo is cooked, add in the pico de gallo:
Mix that around, then add the salt and the spaghetti squash:
Toss that all around to distribute:
Then sprinkle the half-cup cheese on top:
And dinner is ready!
It takes about 30 minutes or so, but it’s really fast and easy. If you want, you can cook the spaghetti squash ahead of time (keep reading), refrigerate it, and add it to the pan when the chorizo is cooked. If the spaghetti squash is cold, you may need a few more minutes to let it reheat in the pan before topping it with the cheese.
When I finished, I posted this picture on Instagram:
And I tagged Emilie. She saw it and responded that it was one of her favorite recipes from this book. Well, yeah! But really—chorizo. Do we need anything else?
What I Did Wrong
I bet you weren’t expecting to read that. Let me explain.
The recipe was made according to Emilie’s directions. But because we were on a rushed trip to Winn-Dixie, two things were different:
- I bought salsa, not pico de gallo because that’s what I could find quickly
- I also couldn’t find the queso fresco quickly so I relied on the Cotija cheese I had in the freezer
Guess what? Both were wrong for this recipe—but it was still delicious!
The salsa I bought:
And the magic secret ingredient:
That’s right, sugar. They call it “cane sugar” so they can show that it’s “natural,” and not from high fructose corn syrup. It’s still sugar, though, and it matters if you’re a diabetic watching sugar or you’re just trying to cut down or eliminate your sugar consumption.
The Cotija cheese is tasty but has a stronger taste, similar to Manchego, but not as potent as Feta. Just not the same as Queso Fresco, which has a salty, mild taste. I love Queso Fresco, and BF won’t touch it, so it doesn’t last long when I buy some. Fortunately, the recipe only calls for a half-cup of cheese as a topping, so it doesn’t overwhelm. I was looking forward to the milder cheese taste.
A subsequent trip revealed that our local Winn-Dixie simply doesn’t carry Queso Fresco, but Walmart does, along with pico de gallo. Good thing, because there’s suddenly a lot more Spanish spoken in Walmart here than before. No kidding.
Because BF was gone on a recent weekend, I made it again with the “right” ingredients. (He still won’t touch it.) I made my own chorizo because I didn’t have any but did have ground pork in the freezer. Really good both ways, but I’ll stick with the recipe next time.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Chorizo & Spaghetti Squash Toss
- 1 medium spaghetti squash, about 2½ to 3 pounds, or four cups cooked spaghetti squash
- 1 pound Mexican chorizo, casings removed
- 1 cup pico de gallo
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½ cup Queso Fresco (fresh Mexican crumbling cheese)
- Carefully cut the ends off the squash, then slice it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds, then place the squash halves cut side down on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for ten minutes, or until the squash is soft and fork-tender.
- While the squash is cooking, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the chorizo to the skillet. Break apart the chorizo with a spoon and cook until lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pico de gallo and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions begin to soften.
- When the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the strands with a fork, and add them to the skillet. Season with the salt, and toss with the chorizo mixture until warmed through.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, top the mixture with queso fresco, and serve.
I have updated the chorizo blog post with a printable recipe for that, too.
Notes About Spaghetti Squash
Emilie calls for microwaving the spaghetti squash here. And for this recipe, it works great. But there are other ways to cook this wonderful vegetable if you like it and want to make it for something else.
It’s low-carb and keto and tastes good when cooked correctly. It’s an ideal substitute for wheat-flour spaghetti, and tasty with any kind of spaghetti sauce. But of course, it’s called “squash,” and that puts BF right off eating any. His comment, “I’ll try anything you make” is rendered null and void when anything contains the word or ingredient “squash.”
My first encounter was some 20 years ago with one of Suzanne Somers’s many low-carb cookbooks. Her recipes called for the same prep: cut in half and remove the seeds. But then the recipe called for:
- Rubbing both cut sides with olive oil
- Putting them cut side down on a sheet pan
- Roasting in a 350F oven for an hour
You must wait for the squash to cool before handling it. Or use a thick potholder to hold the halves and scrape out the stringy flesh into a bowl. I can roast a smaller one in the countertop oven easily.
I think the recipe I tried first called for a little salt and pepper with a pat of butter, which is probably my favorite way to eat this squash. If you’re not going to use it or eat it immediately, just put it into a dish and refrigerate it until you’re ready.
Slow Cooking Spaghetti Squash
Another way I found to cook spaghetti squash is in the slow cooker. No kidding, you can totally put your spaghetti squash into your slow cooker—whole—and let it cook on “low” while you’re at work or doing other things. You must poke it with a fork in a few places like a potato, but it cooks up nicely. It’s hot, of course, so be careful cutting it open and scraping out the seeds.
Why would you do that if this recipe calls for microwaving? It’s your choice, really. You can also use the countertop oven to cook one in advance if you wanted. But using the slow cooker also means it’s hands-off and ready when you are, although it does come out softer this way. Again, use immediately or refrigerate.
If you’re making this dish on a busy weeknight, the ready-to-use spaghetti squash can make it a little easier.
However you cook this, it’s delicious in a fantastic Tex-Mex sort of way.
Barbecue Glazed Chicken Tenders, Page 95
This is so easy and tasty with just a few ingredients. Here’s the recipe:
Barbecue Glazed Chicken Tenders
- ½ cup Sugar-free barbecue sauce
- ¼ cup Sugar-free peach jam I couldn't find peach, but apricot worked well here.
- 1½ tbsp Sugar-free barbecue rub or seasoning
- 1 pound chicken tenders
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- In a bowl, stir together the barbecue sauce, peach jam, and seasoning. Reserve three tablespoons of this mixture for later.
- Dip each chicken tender in the sauce mixture and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Place the tenders in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. Base the tenders with the reserved sauce and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Serve as desired or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
See that sugar-free apricot jam over there? It’s supposed to be peach, but that’s all I could get in Winn-Dixie. It’s close, so I bought some, and it worked just fine. On sale, 2 for $6, with a jar of red raspberry. Because let’s face it, all you need is a spoon, and you have an instant keto dessert.
So. . . .
Preheat the oven to 400F, then line a sheet pan with parchment. I measured out the barbecue sauce in a measuring cup and then kept using it because it was just easier for mixing.
Mix the barbecue sauce, jam, and either some BBQ rub or other seasoning. I used a seasoned salt mix I like to make from another book.
And take out three tablespoons for later. I can’t find that picture, though. But it gets easier from here.
Dip the chicken tenders into the remaining mixture, just like you were breading them:
Drop onto the baking sheet:
Then bake it at 400F for about twenty minutes.
Once done, brush with the reserved sauce and give it another five minutes or so.
So what should you serve this with?
Balsamic Brussels Sprouts, Page 64
Make this while the chicken is in the oven. I started heating the oil first, took care of the chicken, then went on to make this one.
And if I’d read the directions ahead of time, I would have passed. Why? You’re FRYING them in hot oil on the stove. I’m not saying it’s not tasty—it is. However, I quit frying back in the ’80s, I think. Big mess, dangerous, and all that.
But. . .these little babies are SO GOOD!!!! So if you’re up to it, and you can do it safely, I highly suggest making this recipe—as is.
I can see Aunt Kathy in Texas reading this and saying to herself, “Frying? Yeah, right.” Well, here’s how it went.
Admittedly, I didn’t realize I’d need so much oil. And the big chili pot I was planning to use would have required several bottles of olive oil, so I used the smaller, 3-quart Dutch oven. Lucky me, I bought it years ago and I’m very happy I did because it’s super handy. I also didn’t have a lot of olive oil, so I used coconut oil with some olive oil, which worked just fine.
Before I started with the chicken, I put the oil in the pot and put the thermometer in with it:
You can’t see it in the picture because the inside is so faded, but 400 degrees is at the top.
I bought pre-washed Brussels sprouts, so that was a good thing:
I dropped them into the very hot oil slowly and carefully, half the bag at a time.
And this happened:
Use your “splatter screen,” not the pot lid, because condensation will drip water back into the hot oil and cause popping and splattering. No.
Let them cook for 3 to 5 minutes, the book says. I think the second batch cooked a bit longer, maybe 6 minutes, and they came out a little better.
When you take them out of the oil, put them on a sheet pan lined with paper toweling:
Repeat with a second batch if you need to.
After the frying is completed, sprinkle on a bit of salt:
Transfer to your serving dish and sprinkle on a quarter-cup of Parmesan cheese:
A bit more salt:
Then drizzle over the tablespoon of the balsamic reduction:
If the chicken isn’t ready, keep this dish warm until it is. But the chicken should be about ready by this time. I stuck the dish into the toaster oven to keep it warm until the chicken was done.
This is a seriously good keto dinner:
I admit I was just going to use my default keto recipe, cauliflower rice. And it wouldn’t be bad, either. But Emilie suggests this recipe as an accompaniment, so I made it. I’m glad I did, frying mess and all.
This balsamic reduction is a syrupy condiment based on balsamic vinegar.
It’s not totally keto, but then, you don’t need much to add a really nice extra touch of sweetness to any dish.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Carmelized Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
- Olive oil, for frying I used olive and coconut because I was nearly out of olive
- 1 pound prewashed fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half, dry, and at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic glaze
- Line a baking sheet with a layer of paper towels for draining. Into a Dutch oven, pour about 1½ inches of oil and heat the oil to 400°F over medium heat.
- Put half the Brussels sprouts and any leaves that have fallen off into the hot oil. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring them often until they are dark golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Immediately season with ¼ teaspoon of salt.
- Bring the oil back up to temperature, add the remaining Brussels sprouts to the oil and repeat step 2.
- Place the crispy sprouts on a serving plate, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, and drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.
- NOTE: Emilie says that to ensure that the sprouts come out crispy, and to reduce any splattering, make sure that they are dry and at room temperature prior to frying. Don't use frozen sprouts, since they have much more moisture. Use a screen to control the splattering but don't use a lid, which will make the splattering worse.
Guess what? I made this dinner again, this time for BF, along with the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Whip (keep reading) a couple of weeks ago. I managed to find sugar-free peach preserves, too. He was looking forward to trying this menu and really enjoyed his dinner with dessert. So we have one more “acceptable” keto dinner for BF, thanks to Emilie’s great recipes. We’ll definitely be having this again sometime.
Boogie Cheeseburger Skillet, Page 117
What led me to try this, knowing BF wouldn’t eat it? Well, there’s a lot he doesn’t eat, so there’s that. A couple of other things, too:
- A lady I’ve known for a long time in nearby Albany calls everyone “Boogie” as a term of endearment. So naturally, the title caught my attention.
- One recipe called for chipotle mayo, but I wondered where I would find it here. I mean, soy sauce is considered “international food” in our local stores. Walking through our newly renovated Winn-Dixie, I found not only the chipotle mayo, but it was also on sale, so I bought a bottle. It is SO GOOD! Then I went back and found the recipe in the digital book. Warning: it’s got a strong bite. So if peppery is not something you’d like, Emilie says to substitute regular mayo in the sauce and the milder Monterey Jack cheese for the topping.
- And one recipe called for a poblano pepper, which happened to be growing outside in the paint bucket garden. It was the same recipe, so that was my chance to use it in a recipe before it went bad. I’ve got a couple more growing this late in the year, but I can get poblanos in both Winn-Dixie and Walmart, too.
Then it was a matter of getting a few more ingredients and cooking it.
Yes, this is sugar-free ketchup by the same company that makes our favorite barbecue sauce.
Start by preheating the oven to 400F, mix up your mayo, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, and set aside.
If you haven’t chopped anything yet, let me give you a tip: wear gloves for nearly any type of pepper but bells:
You’ll seed it and cut it into two-inch strips:
You’ll need a large, oven-safe skillet for this. A cast-iron skillet or stainless one like mine is perfect. Melt the butter, then add the chopped onion and Poblano pepper. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often until the onion is translucent and starts to carmelize.
Remove this from the pan and set it aside. Now start with the ground beef, along with the salt, pepper and garlic powder:
Brown it up really nicely, and break it up into small pieces, which will take about ten minutes:
Then add the requisite cauliflower rice:
Cook until the cauli-rice is no longer frozen, just a few minutes. Then add the onion and pepper back into the pan and stir:
Take the pan off the heat, and stir in about two-thirds of the mayo mixture we made first:
Sprinkle with the cheese:
Put the pan into the oven for five to seven minutes:
Drizzle the reserved sauce on top and dig in.
No, BF wouldn’t eat this either, he told me at the outset. I’ll make it again when he’s working late or I decide he can have his favorite frozen pizza for dinner.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Boogie Cheeseburger Skillet
- ½ cup chipotle mayonnaise, plus more for serving You can use plain mayo here if you can't find chipotle mayo or prefer less or no spice
- 2 tbsp sugar-free ketchup
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ onion, cut into ¼" wedges
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 12-ounce bag frozen cauliflower rice
- 1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese If you'd like to cut down on the spiciness, use Monterrey Jack instead
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise,ketchup, and Worchestershire sauce and set aside.
- Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter, then add onion and pepper; cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and beginning to carmelize. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the beef to the pan, and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook for about 10 minutes or until browned, breaking it apart as it cooks. Add the frozen cauliflower rice and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until there is no liquid left in the pan and the cauliflower rice is tender. Stir the pepper and onion into the beef mixture.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in two-thirds of the mayonnaise mixutre. Top with the shredded cheese. Put the skillet into the oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until the cheese melts. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and drizzle with the remaining sauce.
Mint-Chip Ice Cream Whip, Page 137
Let me just say that this is a total “cheat” of a recipe. It’s a prime example of “dirty keto,” since it’s not what you’d call “clean eating” under any circumstances. And I wouldn’t have considered it unless Emilie or another keto writer suggested it.
I’m talking about Cool Whip. It now comes in a version called Zero Sugar.
If you serve this dessert in fancy little dessert cups or glasses, I suggest calling it “Syllabub.” Chances are no one will know what that means, and it will sound posh. Maybe even French posh.
I’m not a fan of frozen non-dairy dessert toppings, even if it’s sugar-free. But now and again, this might just be what you need to hit the spot. As Emilie describes, it’s not really ice cream, just a little ice-cream-esque dessert that comes together quickly.
The prep for this one calls for putting the Cool Whip into the fridge for four hours to thaw. Don’t let it sit out or microwave this stuff because it will separate. Why? It’s non-dairy, and this commercial from about ten years ago (“Oil? Or Cream?” ) explains the difference. Read more on Kraft’s website.
Oh, and one more thing: I couldn’t get the white chocolate sugar-free pudding here, so I used regular chocolate sugar-free pudding. This, too, worked fine. The setup:
Once your Zero Sugar Cool Whip is sufficiently thawed to a soft texture, dump it into a bowl:
Add in the rest of the ingredients:
Chop the mint patties up fine:
And discover that the bowl you picked up is too small, so you switch to a larger one because it all fits in the dishwasher:
Fold carefully to mix:
Add it back to the Cool Whip container and stash it in the freezer for a couple of hours.
When it’s stiffened up a bit, it’s ready to dish out and serve.
Don’t serve it from the Cool Whip container if you’re trying to be fancy and call it syllabub. However, if you collect this fine piece of culinary Americana, here’s another reason to add to your “collection.”
And if you’re a fan of regular Cool Whip, here’s a new dessert for you, whether you’re eating keto or not. I’m sure it would work well with the regular stuff, too. If you try it, leave a comment about it.
The first time I made it, I mentioned it to BF and offered him some. He declined. Amazing, because he’s a huge fan of the power of Listerine. But with the chicken and Brussels sprouts for dinner, he was open to trying some, and he really enjoyed a dish of this fast and non-fancy keto dessert.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Mint Chip Ice-Cream Whip
- 1 8-ounce Container sugar-free whipped topping, thawed Do this by leaving in the fridge for four hours--don't leave it out or microwave
- 2 tblsp Sugar-free white chocolate pudding mix I used sugar free chocolate because I couldn't find white chocolate.
- ½ tsp Peppermint Extract
- 3 sugar-free peppermint patties, finely chopped
- In a medium bowl, combine the whipped topping, (save the container), pudding mix, and peppermint extract and stir together well.
- Fold in the chopped peppermint patties and return the mixture to the whipped topping container.
- Put the container in the freezer for at least 2 to 3 hours for an ice cream-like consistency.
About Peppermint Extract
Be VERY careful not to add too much. Otherwise, the finished dish will taste like toothpaste. I speak from experience here. The mint can overpower everything else, so measure carefully, and not over the bowl. Now, do you see why I prep everything beforehand? You can’t add too much when it’s already measured into a small dish or pinch bowl.
Yes, I did that, but I didn’t stage the picture right. I was by myself, as usual, and I had to stand around the tripod.
Verdict: It’s A Great Book!
Easy Dirty Keto is a really nice cookbook to have in your collection. If you aren’t looking for dirty keto, I still recommend Emilie’s book. The recipes are easy, and most of the recipes don’t need a large number of ingredients. Plus, the food is so good that even non-keto folks can still enjoy them. Even BF!
When I had the opportunity to review Emilie’s first book, The Southern Keto Book, my first thought was something along the lines of, “Keto and Southern? Oh, come ON!” Of course, you know how that went, and now I’m a total fangirl.
Keto or not, I feel like these recipes are real comfort food. At least, that’s what I felt like when I made them and then enjoyed eating them. No kidding. Even though I grew up in New Orleans, the cuisine just isn’t appealing to me anymore, plus all the excess starch of rice and potatoes and the like. I liked Tex-Mex early on, and it’s what I’ve liked since the late ’80s. Nobody understands that here, but I’m sure Emilie does.
Delicious food is the best reason for buying any cookbook, isn’t it?
Is Easy Dirty Keto The End?
Emilie and her family are on a working game ranch in Texas. That’s probably the reason you can find several venison and wild game recipes on her website. While she’s enjoyed sharing her keto journey with readers, another book may be out of the question. We hope not, of course, but we’re thankful for the four she’s published. Read her blog, you’ll see that her blog and cookbooks are a “side hustle.” Like a lot of modern authors, she has a “day job” and writes on the side.
Should this be Emilie’s last book, I would just say thank you to Emilie for four great books with delicious food to enjoy for years to come. All four have become favorites with us, and even BF likes many of the dishes I’ve made. No more canned soup if he wants something better.
Emilie didn’t say anything about discontinuing her blog. Like me, Emilie doesn’t blog regularly. That’s OK—Emilie’s website is a huge collection of delicious keto recipes that aren’t in any books, to my knowledge. Those aforementioned venison recipes will be tried next time someone brings over deer or something. (It’s happened a few times, and deer roast is quite easy in the Instant Pot.) If you’re so inclined, sign up at her website (right-hand side, scroll down a little over halfway.)
Maybe one day we can make the trip to visit Emilie’s ranch in Texas. When we do, there will be a full blog post here with lots of pictures.