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. . . .
Outlander is a popular historical drama on the Starz network. Like Downton Abbey, it has a legion of fans and a huge accompaniment of books, specials, merchandise, and heaven only knows what else. Today, it’s the subject of a guest post on the food of this popular show.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Today’s blog post is the first guest post to appear here, written by a writer, colleague, and friend Beverly Matoney who lives in the great state of Georgia. Like me, Beverly and her husband live rural. Unlike us, they are also raising chickens.
Beverly is a copywriter for the homeschool market. She homeschooled her own two children who are now grown and in their own careers. Beverly graciously offered to write a guest post when I was, one day, stumped for new ideas. (Well, I did order from Misfits Market, twice.) We chat weekly on a Zoom call with other writer friends, one of whom is in another country, eight or nine hours ahead of us.
I’ve made no secret of my love for Downton Abbey after it was recommended by friends in Houston and elsewhere. I watched it through the end of the series when Lady Edith finally got married to Bertie Pelham (spoilers?) I really enjoyed the kitchen scenes, like when Mrs. Patmore tried an electric stand mixer for the first time. No microwave ovens, air fryers, slow cookers, pressure cookers, or even a countertop oven at the House of Crawley.
Then, I got BF to take me to the movie a couple of years ago. There’s another Downton Abbey film coming out in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait, but he’s not entirely thrilled.
Wait until I decide to get the official cookbooks of Downton Abbey and start using them to cook dinner for BF.
Downton Abbey isn’t the only historical series that has a devoted legion of fans. The series Outlander also has a fiercely loyal fan base. But since it’s on Starz, I haven’t seen it. It’s available on Amazon Prime Video as well, but. . .I haven’t bought one of those streaming subscriptions. I’m too busy with Britbox right now (where you can also see Downton Abbey.) It’s longer than I want to admit since I watched anything on The Food Network.
Beverly is a fan of Outlander as well as of the cooking. Like me, Beverly enjoys cooking and embraces trying new and interesting things. Fortunately, her husband isn’t the “don’t mess with my Hamburger Helper” sort like BF.
There are actually two cookbooks, and this review is about the first one.
So starting with this first subheading, and very little editing (mostly for format), is Beverly’s review of The Outlander Cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders. It’s offered with great appreciation and thanks to Beverly for writing and sending it along. (The links are my live affiliate Amazon links, pictures gathered from Amazon, Google, and other attributed sources.)
If you’ve been introduced to Jamie Fraser and his time-traveling wife Claire, congratulations. You’re already immersed in 18th-century Scotland and America.
And, if like me, you’ve devoured the novels, you’ve probably drooled over Diana Gabaldon’s descriptions of the settings, the action, and yes…the food.
Not to worry if you’ve not read the books. The television series offers plenty of images of historical fare that will make you hungry.
You may even have visions of going back in time yourself to try your hand at knocking about in an 18th-century kitchen, whipping up some bannocks, or a nice fruit tart.
Outlander, The Books
I was introduced to Outlander in the summer of 2004 during a trip to Seattle, Washington. My friend was clearing off her bookshelves and handed me the first book in the series.
The story was so captivating that I raced through the book, then went on a spree to buy the next four in the series. By the time I finished The Fiery Cross, the sixth book was at the publisher’s and A Breath of Snow and Ashes came out in 2005.
Not wanting to miss anything in the story, I re-read all five books before my new hardcover arrived, then melted into the tale, finishing with a long sigh.
What I didn’t know at the time was how long I’d have to wait for the next novel, and the next, and the next. Sometimes the gap was 3 or 4 or even 7 years!
Just before each new book was released, I started at the beginning and read them all.
Which means I’ve read Outlander five times.
And I’ll begin at the beginning when the tenth and final novel comes out…whenever that is.
And I’ve read all the side novellas.
And I’ve seen all of the episodes of the television series.
You could say I’m a little obsessed.
Enter Theresa Carle-Sanders
Her story offers insights into how she decided to create a cookbook around Diana Gabaldon’s amazing novels.
One line of her bio that struck me was “As with so many of Diana’s fans before and since, Outlander became the catalyst for the changes – some planned, many unforeseen – that have altered the course of our lives.”
I can relate.
While Theresa focused on the cooking of Outlander, I dove into herbalism. I’ve spent nearly 20 years learning to identify medicinal plants and how to use them, inspired by Claire Randall Fraser and her adventures across the centuries.
When I discovered Theresa and her Outlander Kitchen, I don’t believe more than three heartbeats passed before I had clicked “Buy Now”.
The subtitle of the book is “The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook”.
With blessings and a foreword by the gracious and generous Diana Gabaldon herself, the cookbook begins with the paraphrased first line from the first novel.
Then Theresa follows with her personal introduction outlining her decision to embark on a “life reboot”. Much like me, Outlander mysteriously appeared in her life, and so her culinary story begins.
As Theresa points out, the cookbook isn’t historical. Since the novels cover 20+ years within a 200-year span, so do the recipes she’s written.
But, inside, you will find historical recipes that are still common today, such as Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Veal Patties in Wine Sauce. As she says, they’ve stood the test of time.
My original reason for purchasing the book was to make bannocks. These oatmeal flatbreads feature often in the novels, and each time I read of the characters munching on the warm breads, I wanted to make my own.
The delicious recipe is on page 238 and delivers everything you’d expect of an unleavened oatcake…even instant transport back to a Scottish kitchen from 1740-something.
Along with each recipe, Theresa has included the passage from the book that inspired the dish.
Each brief excerpt plays an instant reminiscence from the tale. Not only can I picture the setting, but now, I can taste the food they were eating at the time.
Imagine sipping on the same hot broth Claire had when she arrived at Castle Leoch (Outlander).
Or trying potatoes for the first time as roasted tatties at Lallybroch from Dragonfly in Amber.
Or having a pungent bowl of peppery oyster stew to take you to the pub with Jamie and Claire in Voyager.
Maybe some of Fiona’s ginger-nut biscuits with Roger at the manse from Drums of Autumn.
Or a batch of Mrs. Bug’s buttermilk drop biscuits dripping with butter and honey the way they ate them in the Fraser’s Ridge kitchen in The Fiery Cross.
Perhaps you’d enjoy a glass of cherry bounce described in A Breath of Snow and Ashes.
Diana even contributed to the book by sharing a treasured family recipe for cheese enchiladas.
The Recipes Of Outlander
The recipe section of the book is laid out with beautiful color photographs, some of the process, some of the completed dish, all of them gorgeous.
Theresa has kept the recipes uniform by offering an Ingredient section, a Method section, and a Notes section.
I found the notes section to be most informative, including not only recipe hints, but also historical references.
Of course, Theresa has transformed the historical recipes into their modern versions, offering easy-to-find ingredients in place of some of the more exotic bits from days gone by.
She’s included a wonderful recipe index for those seeking ideas to use ingredients on hand or to plan and prepare a delicious feast.
Honestly, I read (good) cookbooks like novels. I enjoy the recipe intro, the exposition, and the list of ingredients, and I follow along with the method in my mind whether it calls for chopping, mixing, kneading, or drizzling with butter.
Each of these recipes inspires me to add to my grocery list and then make a note on my calendar, “Outlander dish tonight”.
And if you are a fan, you’ll know what I mean.
For Foodies Everywhere
Even if you’ve never heard of Outlander, you won’t be disappointed with Theresa’s cookbook. Every page is filled with interesting culinary tidbits you can apply in your own kitchen.
There’s something for everyone in the Outlander Kitchen. Modern, historical, romantic, delicious, soups, meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, breads, desserts…this book has it all.
You may even find yourself daydreaming about time travel to the 18th century yourself.
Have you brought Calabrian chili paste into your kitchen? If you like Sriracha, Tabasco, or other spicy additives, you really should try this condiment. I recently made a delicious shrimp recipe with it after trying to find it for quite a while.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
After last week’s book review, I’ll show you the dish I cut my kitchen basil to make. It’s a delicious Italian recipe to add to your repertoire that’s anything but boring. Plus a couple of updates.
From The Last Blog
Since last week’s edition, I had a couple of email exchanges with Christopher Crompton of Pelargonium Press regarding Apartment Kitchen Gardening. He enjoyed my blog and loved the paint buckets, too. I sent him a few pictures, including the little plants that are now on the windowsill and will be planted soon. I have several tomatoes growing, and two strawberries, one of which will be ripe shortly. He suggested trying to plant the chickpeas, even after all this time. I’ll be doing that soon, too.
Christopher was surprised to find out that in the US, SNAP recipients can buy seeds and plants to grow their own food. Inspired by this info, he wrote a letter to the UK’s environment minister to suggest doing something similar there to help reduce the strong reliance on food banks. I don’t know if they have a program like SNAP there, but that would certainly help UK folks, too, especially if they could learn to grow in apartments. If it happens, I’m glad I could help, just a little.
In a subsequent email, Christopher said that the “food front” in the UK also has a long road ahead. There is an effort to increase the standing of cooking classes in schools, as well as encourage people to grow their own food. He said that in time, there could be a shift in the UK’s culture. They are also experiencing a crisis with the higher cost of living now that will require a solution with multiple factors.
The man isn’t kidding. BF and I talk about this often. Inflation is getting worse with no end in sight, and it happened quickly. Public discourse can bring about needed changes, such as more people growing their own gardens. In example: on Sunday, I bought a box of 5 dozen eggs at Walmart that have gone up to $15. The price normally goes between $6 and $9, maybe $10. But after paying $13.33 for the last box just one week prior, it’s now over $15. I need to start looking for local chicken folks who sell their eggs, even if they’re the same price. I bought more white rice—yes, plain white rice, which I only restarted eating when I moved here. We’ll be getting more of that sort of thing in the coming months.
On a nicer note, I showed Christopher the blackberries that are growing here now, and I even picked four yesterday morning.
He said he has some type of cultivated berries growing, but after a few jars of jam and giving away many little baskets, he’s done with them. Our berry season is short, so I pick as many as I can until they’re gone. Maybe I should learn to make jam too.
He also picks wild sloes to make sloe gin for the winter. Sounds like Amy’s basil pesto obsession, doesn’t it?
Christopher was also surprised that I prefer the British brands of tea, and I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming blog post. I may have omitted the fact that I generally drink them from a cup with the Texas flag. Separately, I’ll be chatting with him again soon one day about the next book they’re planning.
The New Addition
This weekend, BF got a text message from one of his car-guy friends. The man and his wife were out somewhere and came across a scrawny little kitten. Unfortunately, the man is horribly allergic to cats, to the point where he has been hospitalized twice. So, knowing I love the cats (or at least, I did), he texted BF, who brought it up to me. He showed me the pictures of the fluffy orange and white cat.
Remembering our experience with the Christmas kittens five years ago, I was not thrilled with the idea of another cat in here. This kitten is a little bigger than the previous rescues, and of course, BF couldn’t say no. Well, I couldn’t either. I tried.
Dirty, scrawny, starving, and scared, they put her in a little carrier and brought her over. After some food and water, she didn’t waste any time making herself comfortable in the Casa de Rurale, either.
She likes sitting on the sewing machine table, but pretty much anywhere she likes. I was trying to work.
She didn’t take long to discover great places to nap:
Just make yourself at home, why don’t you?
We did give her a bath, which went about as well as you think it did. BF has a few scratches on his back despite the claw clipping prior to the washing.
Unfortunately, Tab E. Cat isn’t as thrilled with the new addition and let us know about it:
Just as Broccoli Stirfry is starting to learn how to dog, Tab E. Cat restarted his antics. Thank heavens for Angry Orange, that’s all I’m saying.
The pit bull tried his favorite “get to know you” move, chasing her into a corner of the bathroom, and requiring me to pull him off by his collar. Earlier in the day, he and the now-30-pound puppy took off running after two people minding their own business on horseback. An 85-pound pit bull decided he was going to defend the homestead against horses. I’m sure the horses were laughing to themselves. It could have ended badly, but thankfully another neighbor saw it and stopped his Ford F150. The incident was mostly annoying and embarrassing.
I’m thinking of starting a GoFundMe page for the beasts.
Giada’s Italy: My Recipes For La Dolce Vita
This is Giada’s cookbook released in 2018, prior to her newest book, Eat Better, Feel Better. I bought a “signed copy” of Giada’s Italy at the Barnes & Noble in Mandeville one evening in April of 2018.
Ok, it was an “unauthorized purchase,” just something I wanted and there it was. It’s not something I do often (especially now), but I’m still a fan of Giada’s, so I bought one. However, I didn’t stand in line as I had before with a couple of her previous books—it was already signed, but likely not by Giada herself. That’s OK.
When I had the time, I read through the book and the recipes. It’s a marked departure from the previous formats of her books. After filming a couple of seasons of Giada in Italy in Positano and Florence instead of the usual California settings, there are plenty of pictures from both cities. One thing hasn’t changed: pictures of Giada, her daughter Jade, locals, and a few other family members enjoying the Italian seaside.
The Shrimp Recipe
Spicy Calabrian Shrimp is a recipe on page 41 of the book. Giada’s description says:
My version of a shrimp cocktail has a lot more kick than the steakhouse standard, thanks to the Calabrian chili paste. I use this spicy condiment in many of my recipes; it’s kind of like the Italian version of sriracha. If you can get your hands on fresh Thai basil, which has a slight licorice flavor, it’s really nice here, but if not, regular basil is just fine.
When BF saw the picture on page 40 of the shrimp, he said, “Oh, make that for me!” Sure, honey!
There was just one problem: Calabrian chili paste.
Remember, I now live in Central Louisiana, 300 miles away from Houston. Here, people get upset when you put salsa on cooked eggs as if you’ve committed a felony. Remember BF’s reaction years ago when I told him I needed allspice to make apple pie spice. Pointing at a huge rack of different local spice blends in Winn-Dixie, he said, “here’s all the allspice you need!” He didn’t know what I was talking about, and if he’d made that mistake in the Navy, he would have been thrown in the brig.
Nobody Had Any
Now, that link above will take you to Amazon’s entry for the condiment, but that wasn’t always the case—when they carried it, the site was always out. I literally couldn’t find the stuff.
A search turned up one brand on Nonna Box, a website that offers Italian ingredients shipped straight to your door, including the Calabrian chili paste. It’s currently out of stock, as it was before, but to buy it on this website would have been about $25 with taxes, shipping, and handling. OUCH.
I called the local outlets I thought should have such a thing, but nobody knew what I was talking about. (This was pre-pandemic.) Surprisingly, Rouse’s didn’t have it, considering their focus on Italian foods. I both visited Martin Wine & Spirits (formerly Martin Wine Cellar) in Metairie on one of my monthly jaunts and called the Mandeville store to no avail. I also called Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge, they didn’t know what it was either.
My last resort: Phoenicia Foods in Houston. I sent an email, thinking, surely, they would have it, right?
Nope. And they still don’t, but they do offer to ship to addresses outside of Houston. Maybe I should take another look at their website. I so miss being able to shop in that huge place on Westheimer on the west side of town. They have the most interesting things imported from nearly everywhere.
Calabrian Chili Paste-Finally!
BF has not forgotten this recipe, and occasionally asked when I would make it for him. I reminded him that I still couldn’t get the chili paste. The look on his face made me think I think he didn’t get that part. He says I was just telling him a story to get out of making it, but that’s not the case.
One irony was that Ree Drummond used this hot stuff on her own TV show one day. In Pawhuska, Oklahoma, famous for its “middle of nowhere” vibe. And then she makes a comment about how easy it is to find now. Sorry, what?
Y’all, I’m in the middle of Louisiana. When you talk about shrimp, they are either fried or boiled and only grilled if you ask for it specifically. Most people don’t know what cumin and coriander are used for, much less something like chorizo. Calabrian chili paste is just not something anyone knows here, and that became obvious quickly, even with many alleged “gourmet cooks.” (Yes, I’m still writing legal copy.)
A few weeks ago, The Giadzy, Giada’s online magazine and brand, published this article on her love of Calabrian chili paste. I saw it on Facebook. They even sell it on their website. Hmmm. . .OK, should I look again on Amazon?
BINGO! It was the same brand Giada uses, and it was finally in stock.
I needed something else from Amazon, so I ordered the paste along with the other item to get free shipping. (And why not?) The order arrived a few days later. We bought a bag of frozen shrimp at Winn-Dixie and made our dinner plans.
When I was getting ready to cook, BF said, “so we’ll have this with pasta, right?” Say what? No!! I read him what Giada instructs to cook with it, but. . .well, let me get to the making of this dish.
Shrimp For Dinner
Here’s the recipe to print.
Spicy Calabrian Shrimp
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra-virgin
- 2 tsp Calabrian chili paste
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest from one-half lemon
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined tails intact
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp freshly chopped basil or Thai basil
- Preheat the oven to 425F
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, chile paste, lemon zest, oregano, and salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Allow the shrimp to marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature.
- Spread the shrimp evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque all the way through. Sprinkle the lemon juice and basil over the shrimp. Serve warm.
BF was quite happy that I was finally going to make it for him, four years after he first saw the recipe.
It’s simple to make, and Giada even tells you what to serve with it: Veal Saltimboca Milanese-Style on page 198 and Asparagus with Grilled Melon Salad on page 216. A teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste also goes in the salad along with cherry tomatoes, sliced cantaloupe, lime juice, Ricotta Salata cheese, and a few other ingredients. These ingredients are not the stuff of salads in this part of the US, save for cherry tomatoes, even in a restaurant that purports to be “Italian.”
One look at those recipes and I knew a) I would have more trouble finding ingredients, especially a 12-ounce veal chop and Ricotta Salata cheese, and b), he wouldn’t eat either of those anyway.
We’re not talking about the refined palates you see in Houston. No, we’re talking about a guy who spent three tours overseas: one with the US Army and two with the Navy Seabees, eating in chow halls. BF grew up not realizing that mac & cheese didn’t have to come from a box. He’ll eat ravioli from a can, but that little container of cheese tortellini from Trader Joe’s is still in the freezer because he’s not sure what it is or if he’s going to like it.
Spaghetti for him, and cauliflower rice for me.
I also realized I would need some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and might have to head to Rouses to get some. Nope—I already had a quart-sized bag in the big freezer, bought some time ago, and grated for whenever I need some.
Now you’re cooking with gas.
Making The Recipe
So, once you’ve got your ingredients together—including the hard-to-find chili paste—it all comes together quickly.
Preheat your oven to 425F. Then, mix up the ingredients:
Add in the shrimp, mixing well to coat:
Let them marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature. Then spread the shrimp out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes, until they’re pink and cooked.
While that’s cooking, chop the basil:
When the shrimp are cooked, sprinkle the lemon juice and chopped fresh basil over them and serve warm.
Guess what? He liked it! So now I can make it for him whenever we want, long as I have shrimp, the cheese, and the other ingredients.
Other Recipes In Giada’s Italy
The book has more delicious recipes, and I’ve tried a few:
- Avocado white bean dip, page 25—“smooth & creamy,” as I noted in the book on 4/11/2018
- Apricot Mostarda, page 38—delicious and sweet with a charge of spice. It’s intended for the antipasto platter, a sweet/hot bit among the meats, cheeses, and olives—much like a charcuterie board, really. It just really looked good to me, and I made some, but only once. BF wouldn’t touch it, so more for me.
- Zucchini Sottolio, page 226—someone gave us a couple of very large zucchini from their garden, and I wanted to do something different with them. Giada did not disappoint. Made on 6/18/2018, I noted “bold flavors with vinegar tang.” BF doesn’t like anything tangy or a vinegar taste, nor any type of squash, so again, it was just for me. The zucchini is sliced and quickly cooked in water and apple cider vinegar, drained, then added to a mixture of herbs. Put zucchini in a jar and cover with extra-virgin olive oil Add a tight-fitting lid before stashing in the fridge. This helps the zucchini last about three weeks in the fridge. Serve at room temperature as a side dish or other accompaniment.
- Roasted Parmigiano-Reggiano potatoes, page 219—BF liked this one too, and it was simple. I like the fresh rosemary, but I can’t seem to keep the plants growing here for some odd reason. I haven’t made it in a while but I should make it again, especially if we grow some potatoes.
Mind you, when I read this section aloud to him during proofreading, BF began his retching noises.
There are several recipes here I’d still like to try, like the Hazelnut Chicken on page 202. It’s a weekend meal for sure, but again, getting ingredients like Cerignola olives, Frangelico, and skinless hazelnuts requires some searching before I can make the plans. And of course, the question of if BF will eat it—but that’s why we keep cans of ravioli and Wolf Brand Chili around, too.
Until Next Time
I’ve been gifted a wonderful collection of things from across the pond, but not by Mr. Crompton. Pictures and explanations will come later in a blog post, including an explanation of some British biscuits (cookies) called Chocolate Hobnobs. Oh, yes, BF loved those, too.
I also have a couple of updates on some recently made recipes, and will again use the recipe plugin to create them so you can print them for yourself. A guest blog is also coming, as I mentioned last week.
Spring is here, so enjoy all the asparagus, fresh berries, and other delicious things that are becoming available.
Soup. Even the word conjures up warm tasty food that’s perfect in winter. Today I’ve got two soups for you that are easy to make and enjoyable anytime. Neither involves pesto.
Hi again, Dear Readers:
Is it cold where you are? Chances are that answer is “yes” no matter where you are throughout the United States. After all, it is winter for a bit longer. Even though it’s getting closer to spring, we’ve still got some “winter” to go.
In parts of Texas, exploding trees have been keeping people up at night. The trees “explode” when the sap freezes and the trees break from the weight. We may have heard that happen here as well. It’s just like putting something liquid in your freezer and it expands. If there isn’t enough room for the liquid, whatever vessel it’s contained in will crack open. That’s why you don’t put glass in the freezer as a rule, because the glass will break upon expansion.
We’ve been experiencing our own part of the cold snap, and yes, he is still complaining that he hates cold weather. Then it warms up and mosquitoes return for a day or two. But I managed to make him happy recently with a soup recipe for which he gave me a thumbs-up to make again. And I also made a similar soup that he wouldn’t touch, but it’s equally tasty.
New Member Of The Family
I texted Ami Pope a few weeks ago and told her about the remaining Spencer story. She texted back that she had a clear vision of the possum opening up one eye, looking at BF, and saying, “Hey buddy, can you help me out?”
After two posts mentioning our beloved dog, Spencer, I can report that BF has brought in another dog to give the pit bull a new companion. He’s been kind of lonely since we lost Spencer, and he’s been acting like a little puppy dog ever since. The pit bull is now eight years old, and at 85 pounds, is hardly a “puppy.”
But on a recent Saturday, when we had something else going on (keep reading), BF came home from work with a little “surprise.” As I’ve said many times, I don’t like surprises, because they’re frequently not good. BF told me that I had to bring the pit bull inside, having let him out to greet BF. Immediately, I knew it was something to which the dog would object.
Well, he didn’t object, but it was a surprise for the pit bull. Not to mention ME.
This is Buddy, a cross between a chocolate Labrador and a Catahoula Leopard Hound, also called a “Catahoula Cur.” (A “cur” is actually a mixture of breeds within a breed; it’s a little weird.) This cute little furball has turned the pit bull from an eight-year-old “puppy” into a doting father. They’re not related, of course, but the pit bull instantly became the elder statesman in light of the puppy moving into the house. In these pictures, taken the day of his arrival, he is approximately eight weeks old.
BF came up with the name, although we could have gone with “Rufus”, too. Buddy goes between hyperactivity and near-comatose. He’s got Spencer’s metronome tail and occasionally vocalizes like Spencer, too. He’s learning to bark, but he does whine and also chirps. (Did we get a monkey?) But of course, he’s not Spencer, and he’s got ice-blue eyes like a full-blooded Catahoula whatever or a Siberian Husky. At this writing, it’s been a month, and he’s now 12 weeks old.
Tab E. Cat, the resident apex predator, is not happy. He has expressed his extreme displeasure multiple times with hissing and swatting at both dogs, primarily at Buddy. Of course, this cute little puppy will, within a year or so, be as big as, if not bigger than the pit bull, who would like to cancel his trial subscription to fatherhood. But it’s getting better, a little at a time.
Naturally, I have nothing *else* to do all day long but deal with an untrained puppy. I gave him a unique nickname: “Broccoli Stir-fry.” But that’s just when I get mad at him. Titan, the pit bull, is busy all day teaching him how to dog. But it’s obvious he needs a break from fatherhood.
Well, say goodbye to our 1970’s avocado green stove.
That’s right, BF bought us some new kitchen appliances. They were delivered hours before he came home from work with that rodent, I mean, Buddy the new puppy.
BF sold something out of his shop and decided it was finally time to upgrade the ancient but functional appliances.
No kidding, we had an avocado green stove, as you’ve seen in previous pictures.
The stove and the old fridge/freezer with the non-working water fountain and ice maker have been removed and carted away. In their place are sleek new stainless-steel exterior appliances that leave a little more room in the kitchen, are energy efficient, and work great.
We’ve been talking about doing this for some time, but it always seems to get put off. Well, this time, BF said “I’m doing this,” and he did.
I have seen posts on Facebook from people in other places that have had considerable trouble getting the appliances they want. In some cases, the appliances are on backorder, or simply not available anywhere. We just purchased what was in stock at Lowe’s, which may or may not have been the absolute newest models. Lowes had them, BF bought them, and they delivered them two days later.
It took some time to get everything swapped out and get the older appliances removed from the house. We cleaned the floor behind both appliances before the new ones were added, and they were expertly installed by none other than BF himself.
A Fancier Stove And Refrigerator
One thing I enjoy teasing BF about is his slightly Luddite nature. It’s just funny to watch him when he is presented with something new, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with it. It’s just nothing that’s ever crossed his path.
I was perfectly happy with the coil-type burners. I would not have minded if he bought a new stove with the same type of cooktop. Surprisingly, this time, BF went in for something much more modern, complete with ceramic cooktops and a digital readout.
This light reminds you that the stove is still hot, even if it’s turned off. Pay attention!
That “quick boil” burner really does heat up fast.
This is what happens when you turn one on under a pot.
The refrigerator is at once both simplicity and complexity in one place. In other words, it’s very modern, very sleek, very well designed, with a lot more interior real estate than the other one had.
The door shelves in this new refrigerator are much bigger, hold much more, and can accommodate a gallon of milk. The freezer does not have an ice maker because there is no waterline in that spot. That’s OK, we have plenty of ice cube trays.
Get a load of the size of this butter garage:
I’m supposed to be making BF a Barefoot Contessa Apple Crostata soon because we were recently gifted some apples. Everything is ready for me to start baking. . .soon.
The one downside is that now that we have a refrigerator with clear shelves and drawers, BF can see everything. This includes the stuff that I put towards the back of the produce drawer where, hopefully, he’ll look past them. You know, the sun-dried tomatoes, Asian fish sauce, coconut aminos, and the anchovy fillets and paste. I’ve used anchovy paste a few times in stuff I’ve made for him. But for heaven’s sake, don’t tell him about it or he’ll lose his mind as he did with the Frozen Hot Chocolate.
Maybe I should try putting it in the drawer at the very bottom of the fridge. It’s impossible to see into it when you open the door.
Oh, well. Let’s make some soup!
Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup
It’s keto, It’s easy, and it tastes great. Even BF said so. If you’re a fan of broccoli cheese soup, this one’s for you. If you stop off at the grocery store on the way home, you can have a delicious hot soup for dinner in less than an hour. And if you care, it’s also vegetarian and gluten-free. Not that BF cares in the least.
This is one more recipe from Emilie Bailey’s Vegetarian Keto in 30 Minutes on page 66. It wasn’t included in the original post because I made it after I wrote and published that blog post. It’s easy and perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold day.
You can use a pound of either fresh or frozen broccoli in this recipe, but since this was the first time making it, I used fresh. Prep out your ingredients:
So start out by melting the butter in a pot:
Then add your celery and onion:
Saute until they get tender, then add garlic and paprika:
Cook for just one more minute, then add in the broccoli:
Then 3.5 cups of vegetable broth or stock:
Of course, this is vegetable stock since it’s vegetarian, but if you wanted to use chicken stock (and you don’t care about vegetarian) I’m sure that would work too.
Here’s where this recipe is a bit different. Once the broccoli is cooked fork-tender, four to five minutes, remove half of the broccoli and set it aside.
Next up, add into the pot 3/4 cup of heavy cream and four ounces of regular (full-fat) cream cheese at room temp. Leave the cream cheese out for a while before you plan to cook this, just like for cheesecake (but not two days like I do.) I normally buy the two-pack of 8-ounce bricks at Walmart, but some places sell smaller packages of four ounces.
It’s going to take a few minutes for the cream cheese to melt:
After a short while, the cream cheese becomes fully melted
Emilie recommends an immersion blender to better chop some of the broccoli and smooth out the consistency:
I had to move the pot near an outlet for the blender, or use an extension cord across the kitchen.
You can do this in a standard blender, BUT–like Pea & Pesto Soup, you must be extremely careful. Remove the little inset in the top, cover with a heavy dish towel, and blend cautiously.
Ready for soup? Add the shredded cheese a handful at a time (3 cups of Colby, which I shredded by hand):
I prefer not to buy pre-shredded cheese because of the powdery ingredients added to keep it from clumping. It’s a bit of a pain, but the anti-clumping additives can also prevent the cheese from melting properly.
Once it’s incorporated (and melted), add the reserved broccoli back into the soup pot:
If you prefer, you can blend all of the broccoli instead of just half of it. We liked it this way, but there’s nothing wrong with all-blended broccoli either.
Two thumbs up! BF really enjoyed it, so we have yet another “modern” dish to add to our dinner rotation. It’s tasty, cheesy, filling, and perfect for a cool or cold evening.
Creamed Cauliflower Soup
Similar to the broccoli cheese soup, I found this one in a book called Keto For Vegetarians by Lisa Danielson. It’s got a delicious-looking egg dish on the cover and a wide range of vegetarian food similar to Emilie’s. It was one of the many books I received as a gracious gift from Callisto Press while I was on their book reviewer list.
I just happened to be flipping through this book one day, looking around and found this delicious soup on page 69. I told BF that I wanted to make some. Of course, the first thing he did was turn up his nose and make retching noises. I ignored him.
Similar to the prior recipe, it has butter, cream, and shredded cheese, so how could it be bad? It’s not like you can actually taste the cauliflower for what it is. But BF, being himself, just completely rejected it out of hand. So, the cauliflower soup is all mine whenever I decide to make some.
It’s a simple recipe, and you can make it either on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot. I tried the Instant Pot version first. The second time, when I took these pictures, I made it top of the stove and used frozen cauliflower. I’d opened a bag of florets by mistake.
The author also has a recipe for Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup on page 67 that also includes Greek yogurt cream cheese. Don’t ask me where I would find that around here.
So this is what you need to make this recipe:
There is no cream cheese in this recipe. Instead of Colby-Jack, this one calls for sharp cheddar. I’m a fan of the mild cheddar, but I bought extra-sharp here. Know what? It’s pretty good, so I suggest going with what works.
The recipe starts out the same, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat:
Once melted, add the onion and garlic:
Then saute for about three minutes or so:
Now add in the cauliflower:
Saute for a few minutes:
Add in the veggie broth and a bay leaf:
Cover and cook for 20 minutes:
After 20 minutes, remove it from the heat. Obviously, I forgot to turn off the heat. Add in the cream:
Now the cheese:
Don’t forget the salt and pepper:
Again, stir well. And serve!
This recipe makes four servings, and I had it for a few days afterward:
Really easy, really tasty, and great to make when it’s cold.
One thing I didn’t take a picture of is using a wooden tool to cut the cauliflower into smaller pieces after cooking because they were big out of the bag.
No, BF refused, even though it smelled delicious. That’s just how he rolls, even in an emergency. Fortunately, we’re not having one right now, just a difference of opinion.
This recipe also has instructions for using the Instant Pot, but it wasn’t really much faster than the stovetop. I think both could work well with the IP, which is something to consider if you have a power outage and need to use a generator. We’re experienced with camp stove cooking now, so we could certainly make both soups either way.
Addendum: New Pinch Bowls
I’ve mentioned mise en place more than once in this humble little blog. I’m a huge fan of prepping out the ingredients before you start cooking, which isn’t what I saw growing up. But the little pinch bowls I’ve had for many years have either been broken or disappeared. Seriously, the stainless steel ones from IKEA have gone into the Vortex, and the glass ones broke over time. I have one of each left, and I’ve not found them on IKEA’s website.
But I found some new ones! They’re unbreakable and resilient SILICONE.
I went looking for more but didn’t check Amazon as I should have. I mentioned it to BF one day and was considering ordering them from Cost Plus World Market. Lo and behold, we had to head to Baton Rouge one day, which means a few shopping stops when we’re done at the machine shop.
BF gets reluctantly introduced into places he would not have visited if I weren’t around. Cost Plus is one of them, where we get his new favorite cookie, Jammie Dodgers. This particular day in December, there were none of his favorite cookies, but we did manage to stock up on some things we like.
On the way out, BF saw these in a display near the checkout counter. Four in a package for $3.99. I grabbed two. They work wonderfully, fit in the dishwasher cutlery tray (just squish them a bit), and are perfect for measuring out your ingredients before you start. I’ve found that once you start doing that, the cooking process goes quickly. It’s almost like what you see on cooking shows.
Two packages of these will keep you cooking forever. Online, they now sell for $4.99, and Amazon has a range of different types and brands at different price points.
Until Next Time
I’ve posted printable PDF copies of both these recipes here on the Recipes Page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find them. One day, I’ll try to organize them a little more. Just click on the hyperlink and it will come up, ready to use or print. I’ve even added a new “logo” that I made on Canva recently.
I might do a refresh of the WordPress theme, and this may figure into the redesign/rebrand. If I do it.
Even without snow and sub-freezing, t’s been very cold this winter. There’s no better time to make soup. Make it in your Instant Pot, CrockPot, some other appliance, or just on your stovetop. Spring is a few weeks away, so now’s the time to enjoy some soup before warmer weather arrives.
Today’s post is not sponsored, but more of a love letter to Bolner’s Fiesta Spices Company. If you like a good chicken and rice, you’re reading the correct blog today.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
If you’re in Texas, you probably look at Fiesta Spices like you look at the shelves when you shop–it’s in every grocery store, everywhere. Of course, it is, because the company is in San Antonio, and their spices are widely available throughout Texas. But when you find it in the middle of Louisiana, where Hatch chiles are not embraced, that’s something to celebrate.
I can get a small selection of Fiesta spices and products at Albertson’s, which includes their River Road brand of Cajun-style spices. I had no idea that River Road was a Texas company until recently.
BF’s Seasonal Mantra
Yes, he’s saying it: “I hate cold weather!” Repeatedly, and more often if there is an implication and/or inference of snow in the forecast. Despite my sincerest hopes, snow has not made an appearance, and for this BF is happy. However, despite the incredible Arctic chill, we’ve fared well. And as BF is fond of saying, “it gets cold in the piney woods.” He’s not kidding, either–it was 17F when that cat showed up five years ago.
Still, the closest thing I get to a fireplace is streaming on my Roku through YouTube or another streaming channel. I look for the ones with music, but there are some with just the crackling sounds. PlutoTV’s fireplace channel is now just a loop of commercials until Christmas.
For many years I’ve asked BF for a space heater that looks like a fireplace. I’ve shown him multiple available models that look and feel like a fireplace but don’t carry as many risks as a real one. We could even build a nice little wooden mantel for it and put the “fire” inside. Nope–didn’t think it was a good idea.
But last week saw the purchase of exactly that–a space heater with a fireplace-like inset. We got the last one at Walmart. All the rest of the heaters were gone in anticipation of the sub-freezing weather. Obviously, last year’s big freeze is still on everyone’s mind, both here and in Texas. I use it in the back room where it gets really cold, and the pit bull pulls his little cushion in front of it to stay warm. Awwww. . . .
Sure enough, last week we woke up to no power. The weather was fine, just really cold. BF got up, started the camp stove like he’s done many times before, and got cracking on bacon and eggs for us. After a short phone conversation with his brother, he went back to sleep. He had to go to work at noon. Meantime I started dusting because I don’t need power for that.
Entergy said the power would be back about 9:30 am, which came and went. About 11 am, I asked him to please get the generator set up so I could plug in a heater. He dragged it to the house, filled it, and started it up. I went inside to get an extension cord, only to see the ceiling fans start turning. Nevermind! I flipped the switch to turn it off and that was the end of it. BF was out in the shop snickering because he knew what happened. I plugged the heater in for the back room, the HVAC system kicked on, and he went off to work.
BF also purchased another indoor heater this week, one that runs on the same propane bottles as the camping stove. It will keep us from freezing if we have another outage, and no need to go into town for petrol if we don’t need it.
And it works well, too, because we tested it.
Since it is winter, though, we always need something warm and comforting for dinner. Luckily, I found something that’s easy and fast.
Finding Fiesta Spices
Living in Texas as long as I did, I got used to buying certain things. When I moved here, I had to find what I needed locally or order it online. Ask our mail ladies how many packages they handle from all over the US with my name on them.
A few years ago I found in Winn-Dixie one spice brand I used to buy, but not many of the Mexican variety. What am I supposed to do with a tiny bottle of cumin?
I always bought Fiesta because it was there, it’s good stuff, and readily available. I brought a fair amount of it with me when I moved. Leave Texas and the brands are all different–and you can’t always get those big containers of ground cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Then one day I stumbled on Fiesta Spices in Hammond. Oh, Happy DAY!!
It was kind of an accident–I went into the Albertsons to look for something Rouses didn’t have available. I walked down the spice aisle and there it was! A whole section of the shelf of JUST Fiesta Spices. And River Road, too!!
I was so happy, I didn’t know what to buy first. (I think I bought a big container of chile powder.) BF stayed in the truck while I went into the store since he’s not enamored with grocery shopping. Really. He’d rather not be bothered with grocery shopping, ever.
Foodies Of Instagram
In the quest to make a good dinner for both myself and BF, it’s frequently a hit-and-miss proposition. Really, the thing I think he’ll dislike is the thing he asks for again. And the thing I think he’ll enjoy is what he’ll turn up his nose at, loudly. (“She’s tryin’ ta kill me!”) But this time, things went well, and all because of an innocent Instagram post a couple of weeks ago.
I follow a myriad of people and companies on Instagram, including some food bloggers and culinary celebrities I’ve mentioned here. Jen Fisch of Keto In The City and Emilie Bailey, The Texas Granola Girl, are two of them. Others include Stephanie O’Dea, Ina Garten, (The Barefoot Contessa) her protege Lidey Hueck, Rachael Ray, Valerie Bertinelli, Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) plus her two daughters, and of course, the Goddess of the Home, Martha Stewart.
I originally joined Instagram to follow sewing maven MimiG, who occasionally posts foodie stuff, some of it in sponsored posts. I also follow her talented sewing/designing husband Norris Danta Ford, both of whom are very nice folks. Since then I’ve followed more like Emilie Bailey and Jen Fisch, both of whom are active on IG. I even follow a couple of personal injury lawyers who produce interesting video content. Many will answer questions if you ask (the lawyers don’t give legal advice) and interaction seems to be easier on Instagram.
Of course, food companies are all over Instagram, including Caulipower, and a Texas favorite, Fiesta Spices. And that’s where it started.
So this particular day, the folks at Fiesta Spices posted a picture of Arroz Con Pollo, or Spanish chicken and rice. The post (and the recipe) featured Fiesta’s Spanish Rice Seasoning.
That sure does look good. . .so I asked:
Dinner is solved! The recipe is also on Fiesta’s website.
We had another reason to head to Hammond, and a quick trip to Albertson’s was added to that trip. There it was, the Spanish Rice Seasoning right on the shelf. Also got some chicken thighs on sale, broth, and promptly forgot the cilantro.
Wait, hang on–you mean they have it in the big bottles? For $8.72? Yep, that’s good to know.
Making Arroz Con Pollo
This couldn’t be easier to make, and it’s faster than the jambalaya BF insists upon making occasionally. (I know, keto what?)
BF isn’t a fan of chicken thighs the way I am, but that’s been the least expensive option lately:
Ideally, boneless and skinless chicken thighs would be the best option, but I got what was on sale and just removed the skin myself.
Just get all your ingredients together, and get started.
I used my chili pot, and it worked perfectly. First, add the olive oil:
Then start frying the rice in the oil:
Then add in the tomato sauce:
Then the seasoning:
The 2.5 cups of chicken broth:
Carefully add the chicken thighs:
Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the chicken is cooked. I think.
I actually don’t know how long I cooked it for, I just looked at it a couple of times. I cut open one of the chicken pieces, and it was done. Might have been 25 minutes, but of course, the chicken is the barometer. You can add a little more water or broth to the rice if needed.
When you open your pot, this is what you get:
The rice is deliciously cooked:
And you’ve got a tasty one-pot meal that’s on the table in less than an hour.
Feeding Arroz Con Pollo to BF
Now comes the scary part: will he like it?
I’m happy to report that it was a two-thumbs up! BF really enjoys this dish and will be happy for me to make it again. I better order a restaurant-sized bottle soon. He’ll keep me around for this one.
Arroz con Pollo could be a perfect dish for our Valentine’s Day “dinner and a movie” night.
Now that I think about it, I bet you could make this in the Instant Pot, too, although maybe not using the pressure cooking function. I’ll have to fiddle with it and see how it works. If the power goes out, I can plug the IP into the generator, saute the rice, add everything, and then cook it normally until done with the glass lid. Maybe pressure cook it for 15 minutes? I’m thinking ahead to the next winter power outage, and if we can do this on the generator.
What Happened Next?
Two days after this success, Fiesta posted a picture of a spatchcocked chicken seasoned with their Chicken Rub, featured by a different poster.
As you can see, I also mentioned the previous night’s dinner from their post. And when I went to Hammond the next morning to run errands, I picked up a bottle of their Chicken Rub for us.
A few days later I took two chicken thighs out of the freezer and used this chicken rub:
I forget what else I made with it, but BF enjoyed this dinner and said I should make it again.
Two winners in a week! (Although BF may soon complain that he is “clucking” from all the chicken.)
Fiesta’s Tamale Kit
During the holidays, lots of companies have online contests for different things. In the case of Fiesta Spices, it was a bottle of this or a that. Not expensive things, but it was fun, so I entered and tagged people every day.
Then on December 19th, at 8:37 in the morning, I got a message on Instagram from Fiesta. I won their Tamale Kit!!
As requested, I sent them the address, and it arrived on December 28th. Woo hoo!! But checking their website, it’s out of stock right now. So I guess I got the last one.
Now for the bad news: making tamales is a long-term commitment. Seriously. Lots of labor and a little hand cramping. But done correctly, well-made tamales are delicious. At this point, I don’t know when I’m going to be making our own tamales. When I do, I will need to get a Food Saver to freeze five dozen of them. Meantime, Texas Tamales will have to take care of our cravings for real tamales.
Buying Fiesta Spices
If you’re in Texas, you already know where: your local HEB, Kroger, Food Town, Randall’s, Fiesta Mart (the grocery store chain, I miss them too), and every other little place that sells Hispanic foods and goods. Toss a quarter in any direction in the state of Texas and you’ll likely find at least a few Fiesta Spices products.
Locally, there are two stores I’ve found that carry Fiesta Spices. The first is Albertson’s in Hammond. Chances are the other Albertsons carries them too, but I’ve only been in the Hammond store. Amazingly, the Walmart in Covington also carries a huge selection of Hispanic foods and spices, and I believe they had some as well.
I don’t remember seeing Fiesta products in Los Primos last year, but I may have also missed something. In my defense, I was just wide-eyed at all the wonderful things from Mexico they have. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but I should make more Salsa Macha soon.
But if you’re in a place like, say, Idaho, chances are Fiesta Spices aren’t something in your regular grocery store. For that, you have the option of a) buying from their own website, or b) ordering from their Amazon store.
Now, this wasn’t the first time I’d ever had Arroz con Pollo, nor will it be the last (now that HE likes it.) My mother had a complete set of The Betty Crocker Recipe Collection, circa 1971. In it was a recipe she used, sort of, and made many times when we were growing up–Arroz Con Pollo.
If I remember correctly, she didn’t use pimientos or olives:
It was pretty easy, so that was the draw, plus everyone ate it. The recipe was scaled down for a family night dinner for six. But we didn’t know it was simply Spanish chicken with rice. This was New Orleans in the 1970’s, before Paul Prudhomme and Emeril and all that.
Recipe “collections” like these were sold as a small package bought monthly for a small price, and the storage box usually came with the first package. Over a year or two at that price you’d have the entire collection in your kitchen. Most people didn’t add up the total cost of these little “collections” that you bought for a small sum every month. My father bought the whole thing for my mother, and I only recall that recipe ever being used. Maybe one day I’ll go through all the cards and if there’s anything else that rings a bell.
Then one day, about 15 years ago (and probably more) my mother decided to get rid of her Betty Crocker Recipe Collection. I convinced her to give it to me instead of tossing it in the trash. As a fan of the always amusing and occasionally crass Vintage Recipe Cards website (also on Instagram), I might actually use one of these recipes one day. But nothing with aspic, gelatin, or other “gourmet” techniques of the day. Occasionally recipes from this collection show up in the postings.
Until Next Time
If you’re looking for something new and different for dinner, Fiesta’s got you covered. Their website has a huge library of recipes featuring their spices and products, both Mexican and Cajun. Let’s face it, a muffuletta has nothing on these Fishing Sandwiches.
Wait. . .did someone say Chorizo? Hang on, is that an Overnight Oatmeal recipe?
There are also keto recipes featured, and guess what? The links take you to The Texas Granola Girl’s website! These were two of the many recipes that feature Fiesta Spices (and of course, sponsored by the company.) Keto Deep Dish Pizza and Keto Shrimp Etouffe look like two dishes I need to try really soon, especially the second one. Oh, wait, there’s a Mexican Shredded Beef recipe for the Instant Pot.
Wonder if he’ll *almost* want to yell at me as he wanted to the first time I made the Wheat Belly Gumbo recipe.
Another warm and delicious vegetarian recipe is coming, along with a couple of cookbook reviews and another Spencer story. Right now, we all need warm comfort food, and I’m looking for more of those too. Don’t worry, spring is on its way, and soon we’ll be watching the Gulf of Mexico again. Meantime, make some delicious Arroz con Pollo and find something funny to watch.