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Building Sign Angelo Brocato's
Angelo Brocato’s

For coffee and dessert, you have a lot of choices. In New Orleans, you have Angelo Brocato’s in the Mid-City area. Come along with me and The E-Man for a quick visit.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

Well, unfortunately, I broke my “streak” again. There’s a reason for it, as I’ll explain. But because it’s been a while, I’m taking another one out of the “draft” file for you. It’s about time.

Let’s get started.

Aunt Nancy

Before I moved to BF’s house, I was introduced to a very nice lady who lived in Folsom, LA, about 45 minutes from here. The occasion was a video sent to districts around the US of SGI-USA members with experiences to tell. I didn’t know who she was, but I knew her partner, PB.

Surprise! A year later, I found myself in BF’s house, and they came to visit in short order. I didn’t want them to visit, because everything was such a mess. PB is a nice man, but he insisted they needed to do a home visit. Over time, it’s gotten better, but it’s still, shall we say, “disorganized.” Not for lack of trying.

Her actual name is Nancy Mallory, and she moved down here in 2013 from Pennsylvania to spend her life with PB. He drove up to Pennsylvania to get this woman. BF only had to drive five hours to Houston to get me.  They lived on his acreage in Folsom, and very happy together.

The Fight

Somewhere, Nancy was diagnosed with cancer. Over time, she fought it hard, and along the way was a great friend to everyone, including me and BF. She asked about him one day, and I said, “he’s still going around telling people I’m trying to kill him.” Nancy’s reply: “you mean because of healthier food?” Yes. “Oh, so everything’s OK then.” Aunt Nancy got it.

I still don’t want to have company because I just don’t feel like the house is yet “company ready.” Mind you, we were ready to host the GER, Miss Alice and her daughter, as well as Neighbor E during the February freeze if they needed it. But they would have been warned about the disorganization.

Aunt Nancy wanted to do a “home visit” a couple of years ago, but I just didn’t want it here. She said, “so meet me somewhere!” We decided on the local PJ’s, and she drove up. I took this picture, and now I’m very glad I did.

Nancy Mallory In PJ's

A great candid shot, taken November 1, 2019

I called her “Aunt Nancy” for the same reason I call two of the blog’s readers Aunt Kathy and Aunt Ruth. They’re like aunts to everyone. At least, that’s the way I see it, and I use it as a term of endearment. We’re not actually related, and nobody has complained.

One More Home Visit

Unfortunately, Aunt Nancy lost the fight on Friday, June 18th, in the evening. I went to visit her about a week before, and, let’s just say she didn’t look like this picture. The strong, vibrant woman was now someone who was “all beat up” from fighting. Her daughter and grandson were around, as well as her longtime friend from New Jersey. I didn’t know what to do, so her daughter said, “just talk to her.” That’s what I did, knowing it would likely be the last chance I had.

I gave Aunt Nancy updates about me and BF, how we were doing, and about some of our benefits. I sent her an email in January about one benefit we had but didn’t get a response. That’s OK–some people read them and don’t respond. But for Aunt Nancy, she gets a pass. Mostly, I wanted her to know what we’ve been up to, and that we’re doing OK. I didn’t want her to worry about us. She chanted for us more than once, and I believe that because of it , BF and I will be fine.

PB is carrying on, as he has a business to run and bills to pay. But we all miss her already.

More Website Issues

So, if you’ve come to the website a few times, you may have found that ridiculous spam redirect–again. Banana Rat and I have removed more of these nasty plugins, and we think we got it this time. Feel free to notify me if it returns and you get it.

On June 15th, I received an email from JetPack (one of my security add-ins) that stated:

Our security systems identified unusual behavior on your account. This usually happens when the password used for your WordPress.com account is also used on another service that had a data breach, or the password is weak, insecure, or easily guessable. Because the account behavior indicated that someone else might have access to your account, we reset the password and revoked any app tokens associated with the account.

Great! So I didn’t go back to the website until today. But since I had already changed the password, it was fine. Frequently, solving tech problems on the blog takes a LOT of time. Banana Rat is skilled in these things and has taken care of several on my behalf. Please give him your thanks. We think it’s OK now, and we hope so. That was highly annoying.

Iced Coffee, Anyone?

Well, now that it’s officially summer in the US, it’s iced coffee “season.” I get that iced coffee is an acquired taste–I didn’t actually like it until about 2008 when I got a coupon in my morning Houston Chronicle for a free one. I started actively drinking it in 2011, when we had a hot summer with drought in Houston, and later learned to make it at home.  A couple of years ago, it got easier when I bought Kitchenaid’s cold brew iced coffee maker.

Nick Usborne of Coffee Detective has again published a blog on making iced coffee at home, with some updated equipment. The blog includes links to some other recipes, plus a review of the Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot and the Asobu cold-brew coffee maker. As I said the last time, there are many ways to make iced coffee, I just chose the one from Kitchenaid.

Coffee On The Way Home

So, as I mentioned in the post on Katie’s of Mid-City, I am frequently in need of a coffee for the 90-minute ride home from New Orleans. I usually stop at either Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or PJ’s Coffee. All three are along the stretch of Veterans Memorial Boulevard, which is Metairie’s “main drag.” Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and very large Rouse’s are also on Veterans in different places. After shopping, I get my coffee, and head back to the I-10, or occasionally, north on the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway, for the 90-minute drive.

There are two PJ’s on either side of Veterans, and, to my knowledge, two Starbucks. Dunkin sits next door to one of the Starbucks, and I like Dunkin’s iced coffees. But then, the ‘rona struck. We haven’t had any in-town meetings in 18 months. The only trip to New Orleans was for last year’s socially-distanced wedding at Southern Oaks.

Why Starbucks? Two reasons: one, until recently, I saved up my “stars” in the Starbucks Rewards program just to get a “free thing” for the trip home. Two: Since Starbucks in Louisiana doesn’t have as many stores as Starbucks in Houston, there are no salads. That means I’m having either their Egg Bites or some form of a coffee on the way out. I’ve exhausted my “stars,” because I haven’t been collecting them like I used to, and the last 50 were about to expire. The Hammond store has been fully opened since April, but I just don’t drop in as often.

Angelo Brocato’s

So one day, The E-Man says to me, “forget Starbucks–you should get coffee at a local place.” Got anyplace in mind, Dude? “Angelo Brocato’s.”

Now, I grew up in the New Orleans area, but there are many places that I was never familiar with. This is one of them. I’ve seen the name here and there, but not in a long time.

So we park a couple of blocks away, as you do in Mid-City, and walked here:

Building Sign Angelo Brocato's

An old New Orleans kind of place.

Angelo Brocato's Front Door Sign

A most friendly, welcoming place

It’s a lovely place where you can have a coffee, as we did, as well as all manner of delicious Italian pastries, cookies, gelatos, and more.

Angelo Brocato's mezzanine area

The mezzanine inside the cafe. Isn’t it lovely?

My first question: “Are we fancy enough for this place?” I guess we were, they served us.

Gelato

If you’re not familiar with the term, gelato is the richer and more Italian form of ice cream. There are many brands available around the US, and Giada de Laurentiis has a recipe for it here.

Angelo Brocato’s serves it in the cafe as well as sells it in different retail locations. For me, they’re all an hour’s drive, but that’s OK.

In-store, you have a choice of them:

Gelato case at Angelo Brocato's

A lot of delicious!

I’m sure I had that chocolate at the top right. The E-Man had a slice of this delicious spumoni.

More gelato in Angelo Brocato's

Spumoni! (Sorry about the foggy)

They can pack up a quart of their gelato in the store for you to take home. They also sell the gelato and other treats at many local retailers.

Cookies And Bakery Goods

Because this visit was in July, there was no way I could get a pint of ice cream back to the Casa de Rurale intact without an ice chest and a pound of dry ice. Not knowing where to procure such a thing, I chose to bring BF a little white paper bag of tasty cookie treats.

Angelo Brocato's first bakery case

Delicious treats that make the trip home

But wait! There’s more!

Angelo Brocato's second bakery case

Such lovely things

You can buy these one at a time:

Angelo Brocato's cookie jar

I have a weakness for these, but was good that day.

I brought home to BF a small selection of the things I knew would survive the trip, including a couple of these little amaretti cookies. He ate them happily, one at a time.

Visit With The E-Man

I asked for some cappuccino, which the nice lady expertly made for me:

Cappuccino Angelo Brocato's

Absolutely delicious

The E-Man preferred to stick with coffee:

 

The E-Man and his coffee i

He bought some of their bagged “day-old” baked goods (biscotti, I think) and we talked with some nice folks while we were there. Then it was time for me to head home to the Casa de Rurale.

Naturally, I let BF know what we were doing. He knew I was bringing back some tasty things for him. Because I always do.

The Pandemic Takeout Window

Angelo Brocato’s is a very busy place most days, and on Friday and Saturday nights, there’s a line outside. Just about every week, I’m told. 

But a pandemic couldn’t keep them down. They’ve been around for over 100 years! Hurricane Katrina took them out for about a year, and they came back strong.

When the world closed up last year, Angelo Brocato’s decided to do what most restaurants did–open for takeout, including an exclusive take-out window.

Angelo Brocato's Takeout window

The very modern pandemic solution for an old-world business (Source: The Times-Picayune)

I’m guessing those lines are back on Friday and Saturday nights now that the state has re-opened.

A Great Place To Visit

I’ve said this before: if you’re visiting New Orleans, skip Starbucks and find someplace local. Angelo Brocato’s fits that bill, even if it’s just for a morning coffee. It’s a delicious and elegant “old world” cafe that will make you glad you did.  You can also order online for shipment anywhere in the continental US.

They’re located at 214 N. Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans’ Mid-City area. They are closed on Mondays like many New Orleans businesses. It’s a thing there. They’re open 10 am to 10 pm, Tuesday through Saturday, and 10 am to 9 pm on Sunday.

Happy Dining!

Cheescake slice on red plate with fork
A Tale Of Cheesecake

Cheesecake–the word conjures up images and tastes of sweet and creamy, and with good reason.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

As promised (and way too late), here is my blog on cheesecake. Today’s post comes with two separate recipes from two different books, one of which was a gift from Callisto Press.

I don’t remember the first time I had cheesecake, but it was probably one of those frozen numbers. However, I remember being in a restaurant somewhere in New Orleans in the late 80’s and ordering blueberry cheesecake for dessert. Luckily, I got the last slice they had. That didn’t go over well with my dining companions, but today I couldn’t tell you who they were.

Learning Cheesecake

I’ve bought many of them until I learned how to make them from Suzanne Somers’ cookbooks. From her first book, Eat Great, Lose Weight, I started making the Sugarless Cheesecake on page 186, but with Somersweet when it became available. The original recipe called for Nutrasweet, which I would never use. Later, she discovered that Nutrasweet wasn’t the best option and eliminated it from subsequent books.

From Get Skinny On Fabulous Food, I also like the Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake, which involves some sugar, so it’s “Level Two.” This means you’re incorporating some carbohydrates into your eating plan. I always made it with Somersweet. But with the wide availability of sugar-free chocolate and chocolate chips, I might revisit this recipe and try it again with erythritol (Swerve.)

In her Sexy Forever Recipe Bible, which is partly a “best of” compendium book but with other new recipes, there are three cheesecake recipes. On page 343, the New York Style Cheesecake is from one of her smaller books, Desserts. The next one is called Cappuccino Cheesecake on page 345, and is similar to the Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake. All of these recipes used Somersweet. I’ve never made it, but on page 344, there is also Peppermint Cheesecake With Chocolate Crust from another book.

There may have been one or two others here and there, but until recently, Suzanne Somers’ recipes have been the standards by which I make cheesecake.

Today I offer two more delicious offerings that are also healthier options.

Cheesecake #1: Keto In The Instant Pot

I’ve mentioned the multiple keto cookbooks I’ve been gifted, but there is one that I bought: Keto In An Instant by Jen Fisch.

Keto In An Instant Front Cover

Newest book by Jen Fisch.

Last year I reviewed her book Keto In 30 Minutes. I later got her first book, The Easy 5-Ingredient Ketogenic Diet Cookbook: Low-Carb, High-Fat Recipes for Busy People on the Keto Diet while on a Target run. She has one more book that I plan to get soon.

After her 30-Minute book, I subscribed to Jen’s emails and found out about the upcoming IP book, and later pre-ordered it. Jen promised, and this book delivers with some tasty food, some of which BF likes.

Keto Gumbo Recipe

This is one particular recipe he likes, minus the okra.

One particular delight, of course, is her Vanilla Bean Cheesecake on page 197.

Because it’s an Instant Pot, you’ll need a six-inch springform pan. Naturally, I happen to have one, bought about 1996 or 1997 to make a no-bake cheesecake for “company” from a Martha Stewart magazine dinner. (I was a newlywed at the time.) Used once, I’ve dusted it a few times, so I was glad to find a reason to use it.

The crust is made from almond flour, a tablespoon of erythritol, and two tablespoons of melted butter. Jen’s trick to ensure a nice crust is to encase the bottom in foil that’s lined with a paper towel. Press the crust down in the bottom of the pan, just as you would with graham cracker crumbs.

Keto nut crust in the bottom of the springform pan

A simple nut crust underneath

I don’t have any pictures of what comes next, so I’ll have to tell you: mix up 12 ounces of softened cream cheese, the insides of a vanilla bean (or a little more than a teaspoon of vanilla extract), 3 large eggs, a quarter-cup of heavy cream, a teaspoon of grated lemon zest, and two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice with your electric mixer (a hand mixer will work.) Then pour this over the crust.

Into And Out Of The Instant Pot

Ok, as with most pressure-cooker recipes, you’ll need to add a cup of water into the pot. Add the trivet with the lifting handles, then carefully put the pan on top of the trivet in the pan. Cover the top of the springform pan with foil.

Put the lid on and secure it, then set it to cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. When the 45 minutes is done, let it depressurize on its own for 15 minutes, then quick release to pop the pressure completely. Now you can remove the lid.

You’ll first remove the pan with the trivet from the pot–be careful, it’s hot–and remove the foil and paper towel from the bottom. Let it sit out for an hour to cool, on a wire rack. After an hour, cover the pan with foil and put it in the fridge for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours.

Cheesecake and the pan

Obviously I didn’t follow the directions exactly.

Yes, I know, sometimes I don’t do it exactly right or I don’t read the directions correctly. It happens. At this stage, it’s light and fluffy, but it hadn’t been refrigerated. Once it’s refrigerated, it’s a little flatter, more solid, and more like a cheesecake, as in this picture.

Cheescake slice on red plate with fork

Doesn’t that look delish?

There is never a bad time to have a delicious cheesecake, especially if it’s a healthier version:

Cheesecake with chaffles on a red plate

And what’s wrong with having cheesecake with breakfast, or egg & cheese chaffles for dinner?

If you’re just wild about the Instant Pot, as BF’s sister and sister-in-law are, this is a great dessert anytime. Remember, it’s only a six-inch diameter, and you’ll need that size of a springform pan if you don’t have one already. They’re not expensive, and that’s the perfect size for the Instant Pot. Plus you’ll have to plan ahead.

But that’s not the only way to do this.

Cheesecake #2: Even Easier

Ok, so now you know how to make a delicious, low-carb/keto/sugarless/gluten-free cheesecake in your Instant Pot.

What if you don’t have an Instant Pot, or don’t want to mess with yours? Ladies and gentlemen, I have yet another solution: The Everyday Vanilla Cheesecake from The 30-Minute Low-Carb Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen. It’s on page 126, and I’ve been making it since December 16th of 2019. How do I know? Because whenever I got the book, in October, I think. I flipped through it and kept thinking I needed to try this out. Finally, I did, loved it, dated the recipe, and I’ve been making it ever since.

Literally. When I make one, I seek out the ingredients for the next one. That is, I get more cream cheese, and check my supplies of almond flour, cream, lemon, and butter.

What’s so great about this cheesecake when you’ve got Jen Fisch’s deliciousness? Well, for the following reasons:

  • There is little baking/cooking–the crust is baked for a short time, but the filling isn’t
  • No eggs are involved, good for people like The E Man, who is allergic to eggs
  • You can eat a slice of cheesecake in an hour
  • It’s two inches bigger than Jen’s

 

Not that Jen’s cheesecake isn’t worth it, because it is. But even Jen may like this one, even though it’s not hers. (I don’t know, I haven’t asked. Just an opinion.)

Ingredients

The Setup

This version happens in two parts, essentially. Unlike Jen’s Instant Pot cheesecake, you’ll make the crust first, bake it, then mix up the filling. But before we get started I need to tell you about the sweet part.

Swerve Or Erythritol?

Like most of the newer low-carb and keto dessert recipes, they tend to call for Swerve brand sweetener, which I wrote about a while back. It’s a great replacement for the extinct Somersweet, and it works just like they say it will, cup-for-cup.

However, erythritol is available in a number of forms, and from a number of places, including Whole Foods, Amazon, and Vitacost, which has a 3-pound bag for $13.99. From what I’ve seen, that’s not bad. Vitacost also sells other brands, as well as Swerve for about the same price as other stores, including Walmart.

Should you decide to pass on Swerve and buy plain erythritol, you may find that it’s like regular granulated sugar. It doesn’t dissolve or “melt” like regular sugar would, so you have to grind it yourself. It doesn’t take much to do, just drop it in the food processor until you get the consistency you need.

Remember my little blender/food processor combo?

It’s perfect for this task, because then I empty out the powdered erythritol and blend up the crust. It works like this–first I grind up the sweetener:

Grindning erythrytol in small food processor

I drop all that I need for the entire recipe in and grind all at once.

I dump the whole thing into a pinch bowl:

Erythritol ground in a bowl

These little bowls are very handy for setting out ingredients anytime.

And then get on with the crust, starting with the half-stick of melted butter:

Melted butter in a bowl

Butter binds the almond flour to make a nice crust for your cheesecake.

I pour it into the food processor first:

Pouring melted butter into food processor

There is a bit of residue from the erythritol, that’s OK

Then add two cups of almond flour:

Almond flour in food processor

Right on top of the butter

A small bit of salt:

Pouring salt into food processor

Just a tiny bit for contrast, no need for salty/sweet

Then add the two tablespoons of sweetener:

Erythritol pouring into food processor

Goes right on top

Now blend it up:

Blender running

This little food processor function is great.

It takes a couple of minutes for the whole thing to mix up perfectly. It took longer if I put the butter in after the almond flour.

Blended crust for cheesecake

Looks like this.

Once it’s well blended, add it to your ungreased, unlined springform pan.

Pouring crust into cheesecake pan

Just like that. It’s the consistency of cookie dough.

You’ll need to press it into the pan. A trick I learned on The Food Network was to use the bottom of your measuring cup. It’s fast and easy as well as a lot more even. If you have arthritis, you’ll likely prefer that too.

It doesn’t take long, and once you get the hang of it, you’re done.

Pressing crust more

Works great, doesn’t it?

Now in the process, you’ll see some of the crust move up the sides. I like to take that off so that it doesn’t break off and make a mess when the cheesecake is done.

Trimming edges of cheesecake crust

A butter knife would work well, too.

When you’re done, it’s nice and neat.

Neat cheesecake crust in pan

see?

Bake it at 350F for about 8 minutes:

Temperature on oven

Perfect!

When it’s done, you’ll have a lovely crust.

Crust baking in the oven

Doesn’t take long at all.

When the time is up, put it in the freezer. In my case, I put a cork trivet underneath to keep it from melting the ice trays. Our kitchen fridge and freezer don’t have a lot of room.

Be careful not to grab the clamp–I did that once. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, even though the pan was very hot.

Now time to get on with your filling.

Making The Filling

I start this while the crust is baking, and in the middle, I have to stash the crust in the freezer.

Your sweetener is already measured, so now just squeeze out your lemons and measure out the heavy whipping cream:

Heavy whipping cream pouring into measuring cup

Just a half-cup.

Add your ingredients to the bowl, starting with your room-temp cream cheese:

Emptying cream cheese into bowl

They’re really soft, so they fall right out of the foil packets

Add in your previously ground sweetener, one-third cup:

Pouring sweetener into mixing bowl

It looks just like sugar!

Then the cream:

Pouring cream into mixing bowl

Then the lemon juice and vanilla:

Pouring vanilla into mixing bowl

I found my favorite Mexican Vanilla in Hammond, of all places. Must get more soon.

Now start mixing:

Mixer in action

It starts out like this, but gets very smooth in a few minutes.

You’ll know when it’s ready:

Well mixed cheesecake filling in bowl

Just like that.

Take a taste and see if you like it.

Secret Weapon: Liquid Stevia

Ok, if you feel like the filling isn’t quite sweet enough, here’s what you add to the filling, one drop at a time:

Liquid stevia

Any brand of stevia will do. Add drop by drop, it’s powerful!

I put about six drops in and blend it along with the erythritol. It doesn’t change the taste, and makes it a tad sweeter, but not overly sweet. If you want more, add a little more–but one drop at a time, or you’ll ruin the cheesecake.

And if you’re alone in your kitchen, you get a special treat at this point.

Beaters covered with filling

Yum!

At this point the crust may still be hot, so you might leave the filling off to the side and do a little cleanup, maybe fill up the dishwasher or set some things aside to soak. Doing so will give the crust a little more time to cool off.

Filling And Freezing

Ready? Carefully pour and/or scoop the filling into the not-so-hot-now crust:

Adding filling to crust

Really easy to do

Use a spatula or other tool to smooth out the top:

Cheesecake with smoothed top

It will freeze like that, so it’s important.

Back into the freezer:

Cheesecake in freezer

Almost ready

The book says 15 minutes in the freezer to “firm up,” or an hour in the fridge. Your choice. I usually leave it for more than an hour, but of course, it’s hard as a rock.

BF had to repair this hinge for me because one day I pulled out the rivets with a frozen cheesecake:

Rivets in cheesecake hinge

Yes, I broke it, and he fixed it.

But generally, it pops right out:

Releasing cheesecake from pan

It usually just separates when the pan expands.

The Faster Cheesecake

This is what you end up with:

Cheesecake on pan

Isn’t it lovely? All nice and neat!

Because I consume this cheesecake a sliver at a time, I cut it in quarters first:

Cutting into the cheesecake

Mine is a bit frozen, so it’s a little difficult

 

Cheesecake cut in quarters

Makes it easier

And then with a smaller knife, I cut a slice out:

Slice of cheesecake on plate with fork

Ta-dah!!

It really is that easy and that good. You could eat the whole cheesecake if you wanted to (even I can’t do that) but it’s very rich and delicious, so you don’t need much.

BF said he had a small bit of it when I wasn’t looking, and he agrees that it’s quite delicious. I’ve served a bit to one of his car-guy friends who has been here for dinner several times (because he was here at the right time.) He was quite impressed because I did warn him it was gluten-free and sugar-free.

Other Cheesecake Notes

The first thing I should mention is that in order to make the cheesecake quickly and make sure the filling comes out smooth is to leave the cream cheese out for a good long while.

My suggestion is a minimum of four hours. But if you’re making a cheesecake after work, just take it out of the fridge and leave it on the stove in the morning and get to it when you’re ready. If you want to make it first thing in the morning and have it at dinner that night, take leave the cream cheese out all night.

Make sure that if you have critters, they can’t reach the cream cheese packets. Never mind how I know that. You probably don’t need to leave it out for two days as I do sometimes. Unintentionally.

Use ONLY fresh lemon juice for this, or lime, as I’ve done a few times. If you use lemon extract, you will regret it. Immediately. Nevermind how I know this.

Conclusion: Cheesecake Is Delicious

I’ve added both of these to the Recipes page, as well as the recipe for El Chico’s Chorizo, which I intended to add at the time of the post and apparently forgot.

I also took the opportunity to do a bit of updating on the recipes page, and it’s a little easier to find things now.

If you really like cheesecake, there is no end to the recipes you can find online. Check Pinterest, AllRecipes, do a Google search, or any website you prefer, recipes are available with a few clicks. Whether you want gluten-free, low-carb, dairy-free, or you want the best cheesecake there is, go looking for it, you’ll find it. (I just can’t vouch for them all!)

Cheesecake, Slow Cooker Style

Remember my slow cooker post a few years ago when I made a low-carb chocolate custard? Slow cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea has two recipes on her website for cheesecake, one standard type, and one for pumpkin cheesecake. Both can be made anytime–canned pumpkin is available year-round in the grocery store, likely on the bottom shelf.

Stephanie’s aren’t keto, but if keto isn’t your thing, that’s OK too. I’m thinking maybe a pumpkin cheesecake if we meet up with BF’s family at his Dad’s place up the road. I brought what he calls the waffled  “Awful Falafel” to Thanksgiving last year and loved watching him cringe when his sister, brother-in-law and sister-in-law enjoyed it. That’s what he gets for yakking to his friend in San Diego about my “horrible” cooking. I’m sure a pumpkin cheesecake might be a welcome addition this year, too.

The “Keto House”

On a related note, Jen Fisch’s first book was highly successful and allowed her to buy and renovate a house in Arizona. It’s now available to rent on AirBnB and Homeaway, a beautiful desert oasis that makes me want to plan a trip with BF sometime. It’s big, so we could go with several people, but maybe I just want to go with him, too.

That’s a ways off right now, but darnit, it’s a goal!

That’s all for now. More tasty food coming.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

 

Instant Pot Cheesecake
It’s 2020–Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Dear Readers! Welcome to 2020!

Once again, I’ve fallen behind on blogging. The best part is that I now have OOODLES of things to blog about! The bad part is that I’m busy all the time. I need some coffee first–mostly decaf but with a bit of half-caff thrown in–but once I get going, well, it depends on how tired I am, what needs to be done in the house, and if I need a nap in the afternoon. It happens.

Yes, that featured picture is a six-inch cheesecake, gluten free and sugar free, which I will be telling you about soon. Actually, there are *two* cheesecake recipes to discuss in an upcoming blog post or two. Starting the new year off with cheesecake is a good thing, right?

We’re Still Together!

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes, BF and I are still together in 2020, ruffling each other’s feathers and pulling each other’s tails. He’s still rejecting about 35% to 40% of what I cook, and I’ve been “on strike” a couple of times over the holidays and briefly in the new year.

We’ve been on some adventures, including one recently checking out a couple of salvage stores with locations in the area. Bargain shopping together–a great couple’s activity! It started out when his old microwave finally bit the dust. I’ve been asking him for six months to get us another one–and he could have several times. He had it since his last marriage, which ended about 2008.

New Year, New Decade, New Microwave (Finally)

The first time I broached the subject, he said something about “shopping around for the right brand.” What? This is a guy who buys jeans at Walmart and the markdown store because he gets holes from battery acid at work (handling car batteries.)  But as long as it’s still working, he thinks it’s fine. The rusted-out bottom was no big deal until we started seeing and smelling smoke.

The next day he said he would “price” one. Well, sure enough, he headed right to our local Dirt Cheap and found a brand new one in a factory-sealed package. This Sunbeam model sells for about $70 in Target, but he paid $45 for it. There is a small dent on the left side, but it’s not even noticeable because it’s black and you can’t see the left side in the kitchen anyway. Slightly smaller than the old one, but works wonderfully. And it’s CLEAN!

New year, new microwave. About time.

Shop Fridge And Other New Year Bargains

Our new year has led to some discoveries, local and otherwise.

BF has long wanted a small dorm-style refrigerator in the garage, but they tend to be over $100. Well, he found a very nice Whirlpool model at Dirt Cheap that Target has on sale now for $110. He paid $30 for it, no kidding. Now he has the little fridge that holds some extra Cokes and bottled water out there, all covered in stickers from various car part companies, like Holley and Eagle. No more traipsing in the house for a drink. There’s even a little tiny freezer in case he wants to keep a frozen dinner or other stuff out there.

I wonder if he’ll put a small microwave and a roll-away bed in there to camp out. He’s got a nice shop heater in there for cold nights, so if he wanted to brave the elements, he could. There’s a home-welded barbecue grill out there, too.

And because Irish girls can’t resist a bargain, when I saw this Dash Pumpkin Mini Waffle Maker marked down to $5, it was added to the basket. I’ve looked at these tiny products in Target for a while now, and am planning a blog post on them. I need to check back and see if they have the snowflake and the heart-shaped models too. Remember–Valentine’s Day is coming.

Checking out the Dash blog, I learned a new word for the new year: chaffle. And I’ve become an immediate fan. (I miss out on so much living here.) I’ve made us chaffles as well as made BF some tiny waffles with it using his (ugh) Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix.

More Bargains

Last summer, he went to Dirt Cheap and found a bookshelf and marble-top coffee table, both from Target, and now his movies aren’t tossed all over the place. He got rid of the old coffee table that was dog-damaged, and this new one is just lovely. I scanned the UPC codes with the Target app on my phone and discovered that if we’d bought them at Target, we would have spent in the neighborhood of $300. At Dirt Cheap, it was $75 for both. I was very impressed, especially when he didn’t even know what the coffee table looked like before he bought it.

BF’s sister came to town for a visit and told us about another place called Ollie’s Bargain Center. She found the one near her home in Atlanta, but discovered that there are three in the Baton Rouge area, the closest in Denham Springs. BF visited that place on a recent errand, and it turns out, I could get there fairly easily on my own. Wouldn’t be a far drive to Trader Joe’s at the Acadiana Thruway exit off I-10.  He didn’t buy anything, but said they too have a lot of great stuff. Road trip!

I’ve Got More Books

You remember my weird little book benefit that started last summer? It’s still going on here in 2020, with no sign of stopping. I don’t even know how many of their books I have now. Of course, they are primarily cookbooks, but there are a few psychology books, three alcohol-related books, two or three on yoga, one on living pain free with CBD oil, and one on. . .cannabis edibles. I thought it would go along with the CBD book, but I was WRONG. However, the recipes look like they can be made without, um, the “green leaf,” so when I get around to it I might try some of them that won’t elicit a case of “the munchies.”

I’ve also bought a few books, too. In addition to Laura Pennington Briggs’ Start Your Own Freelance Business (I was also on the launch team), I’ve also bought Michael Hyatt’s Free To Focus (recommended by Laura), and LinkedIn Unlocked by Melanie Dodaro (a gift from a fellow writer, and yes, I’ve read it.) One of my clients recommended Marcus Sheridan’s They Ask, You Answer. It’s a great book on digital marketing and taking steps forward for your business. However. . .I’ve not yet finished the darn thing. Turns out one of my clients knows the author personally, too.

New Year Training

It’s also been nearly a year since I started taking the SEO training from Digital Marketer. Once again, I will again attempt to get through it so I can take the test and get certified. The holdup is module 4, it takes a long time.

We just finished new five-day AWAI training class called 5 Days To A Lifetime Of Clients With Michael Katz. A number of us in our little accountability group signed up for it, and we’re going to. . .what? Keep each other accountable. Five days of intense deep-diving on finding and getting clients. There’s homework, which I need to finish by the middle of March, including getting another copywriting site up. But with three years of writing professionally under my belt, primarily for lawyers and law firms, I’ve got a better handle on things.

I’m Not Doing Keto

If you’re doing keto in the New Year to get healthy and/or lose weight, good for you–I’m not knocking anyone for it. Keto is the 2020 way of eating that’s quite popular and, I have to say, tasty.

Many of the cookbooks I requested from the publisher are keto, because that’s what’s popular and people are searching for. As well as willpower, aromatherapy, and spells for new witches. No kidding, and I have them, too. I like a variety of reading.

Keto is sort of “Low Carb 2.0.” Sure, there’s more to it, but looking at all these books brings me back to the Suzanne Somers way of eating, which is basically low carb. I’m loving it, especially the cream in my coffee again.

Swerve

Additionally, the new sweetener of choice for most of these desserts in 2020 is Swerve, which is now readily available at our local Walmart, no kidding. I made my chocolate birthday cake last year with Swerve, which took a bit of fiddling to get it right since the recipe was created for Somersweet in 2002. So that new no-bake cheesecake I like is easy to make and sweeten with either Swerve or with the erythrytol I get from Vitacost. That’s coming in a future blog post.

Equipment Courtesy Of DG

There are a number of new things we have around here, some purchased, some were gifted. Let me tell you about the stuff we got from DG.

Year before last, BF’s sister-in-law was notified that her estranged father had passed away. It became her responsibility to clear everything out of the house so that the bank could take possession. I won’t get into the legal particulars–it was a bit of a nightmare for them, but she took care of everything. They had been estranged for at least 15 or more years, so it was a shock to her to not only get the call, but to be told it was her responsibility.

Long story short, BF headed out there with them several times to Diamondhead, MS, a planned community that started back in the late 1960’s.  He’d bought the house a few years ago, and done some decorating and added things like a media room upstairs. The house looked like a 1970’s dream home, and even the wooden stair railing looked original.

They used to have adverts in the 1970’s on New Orleans TV stations about Diamondhead, how it was a “luxury community” for the more affluent. Yeah, right–it looks like Clear Lake!

The Trip To Mississippi

Anyway–BF went up there with his brother and sister-in-law three or four times, and came back with lots of stuff. We were hoping for a refrigerator and maybe a TV, but the man’s family members had already cleared out what they wanted, including the fridge. What he brought back were things like tools, toys, decor, and some other small stuff. On one trip he came back with dishes–plates and bowls, and a few cups.

Well, the man and his girlfriend indulged in RED DISHES. That’s right, all the dishes are RED, along with a plastic colander. Our lovely dishwasher, now two years old, ran almost continuously for a couple of days to wash everything. No more paper plates!

My Visit

I went on the last trip to the house–the fifth, I believe–and helped them clear out and pick through what was left. The house was still quite full of stuff, and we brought home what we would use. For instance: we now have a chest freezer that we gleefully keep food in, such as the 15 or more containers of fresh pesto that I make in the summer. (And since it’s been cool and occasionally cold, I’ve enjoyed much of the delicious Pea & Pesto Soup too.) Long after I’d abandoned the idea of buying a very small chest freezer for myself, we’ve finally got one we can stash food in for later. It’s a bit untidy sometimes, and I’ve got the freezer bowls for my ice cream maker in there for the day I make some again, but we’re quite happy to have it.

Later, BF spent a few rubles on new flatware to go with the new dishes:

New Flatware

New dishes required new flatware.

From the Threshold Collection at Target, I talked him into this Jovita flatware along with that flatware organizer that holds everything in place neatly. Because the stuff he had was also from his last marriage, (or maybe the first one) and I let him know it was time to upgrade. It was junk, and we donated it all.

Red Breakfast Appliances

We were also gifted a few appliances, including a 14-cup Kitchenaid coffee pot and a Kitchenaid two-slice toaster (links are to similar new models.)

Red Kitchenaid Toaster

Yes, a red toaster

Red Kitchenaid Coffee Pot

And a matching coffeepot too! Works great, cleaned it, and it’s ready for the day we have multiple guests.

Some of the small things like serving spoons were also red like the dishes. I’ve had to put those small racks in the cabinets to make room for everything. Oh, and an oval stoneware insert with a lid for a 4-quart Crockpot in RED. No kidding.

The Stainless Steel Trash Can

Another thing we took home was an older model of a SimpleHuman stainless steel kitchen trash can (this is a similar model.) We needed a new one anyway, and BF mentioned he’d like that type, so we took it home. We like the stainless steel and the tightly closing top. However, the top doesn’t stay up anymore because the springs are broken, and we haven’t been able to fix it.

But the part that nobody tells you is that you can’t buy bags that fit this can at Walmart. No, you have to buy their trash bags in order to get it out of the can when it’s full, which are available online and at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I contacted the company and sent pictures, and was told that the ones that fit our can are Type N, which are $24 for a bag of 60. That’s right, they’re expensive bags for taking out your trash. They don’t tell you that when you buy one. Fortunately, this one was a gift, but we have taken to buying contractor bags in order to remove them from the can when it’s time. They’re expensive, but not that expensive. They’re about $10 or $15 a box at Target and Walmart for a quantity of them.

The New Movie Collection

And then there were DVDs in the house. Thousands of them, in fact, and some were duplicates. BF grabbed what he wanted, I took what I wanted, J&H took some as well, and there were still at least 500 left. We were limited by the space in the truck and on the trailer, both of which were full to capacity.

He picked what he wanted, I picked what I wanted, and we both have a lot more than before. That was one of the incentives for the bookshelf, and he lucked out with the one from Dirt Cheap. The coffee table was an extra bonus, and they really look great in the living room.

Since I wasn’t there when they first went into the house, I wasn’t hit by the lingering smell. Unlike J&H, I did grab a few unopened things out of the pantry. In the end, the company that had to deal with the repossession of the man’s house had to clear out the rest of it, clean it, and get it ready for re-sale.

One day BF opened up a DVD and complained that it smelled like “dead guy and stale beer.” Because we couldn’t remember the man’s name, we took to calling him “Dead Guy.”

There are some other small thing we have, like decor, and some we ended up donating a few things to the local charity shop.

The New Toaster Oven

While I could be accused of being on a buying spree for a while, I will tell you that like the Iced Coffee Maker, I always look for deals, coupons and discounts when I get ready to buy something.

I meant to write about this before, but I never got around to it–I finally replaced the toaster oven! Of course, it’s a Cuisinart, and of course, I ordered it from Bed, Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon. (You can read the company’s description here.) They don’t carry this model in stores anywhere, including Houston, as I was told.

I can’t find the pictures of it right now. It’s a tiny bit smaller than the last one, and the digital interface isn’t user-friendly, so I have to help BF when he wants to use it. But it does what I need it to, including baking brownies for him or making a delicious dinner for us. No need for turning on the stove and heating up the kitchen. I’m pretty happy with it.

The Air Fryer

Ok, because I got a book for the Ninja Air Fryer, I wanted to find out if it was worth the money. I mean, it’s a $100 purchase, to do some things in, so I wanted to try it out first.

So I bought a $30 model from Walmart:

Farberware AirFryer

The Farberware Air fryer

Honestly, it’s like a toy, really. It’s billed as ideal for one or two people–but most of the book’s recipes require a larger machine.

So I make a couple of recipes from this book, cutting them in half, and BF falls for the chicken wings. I also made a chocolate chip cookie in it, which took a lot longer to cook than it would have in the Ninja Air Fryer, but whatever. I actually tried that one, since I made it for someone I invited over for dinner, and no, it wasn’t gluten free. And whenever I suggest returning the thing to Walmart, he says, “Oh, I like the wings.” The truth is I can make them in the toaster oven with the convection setting, but I’m humoring him. I could get that bigger Ninja machine in the new year, but it becomes a matter of where to store it.

Meantime, I’m on the hook for chicken wings. I chop the tips off and then chop them in half to make life easier. I may be doing them this weekend for the “Big Game.”

The Instant Pot

I mentioned earlier that a new Instant Pot would be making its way to the Casa de Rurale, It has, and I have used it a few times for different things. I bought the Duo Evo Plus, the newest of the new, the latest and greatest incarnation. Sounds like a great idea, right?

People rant and rave about how great this thing is. I avoided getting one because I was kind of afraid of it. But after the initial water test, I kept using it, cooking recipes from the books I have, plus the Instant Pot app and places like Pinterest in this new, updated model. Most came out OK, but some didn’t. When it nearly burned up the pork chops, that was it–I unplugged it.

Of Course, There Was A Problem

Guess what? The recipes in those books were written for the older models. This new model doesn’t work exactly the same, so the recipes don’t always come out right. Like steaming cauliflower–twice–with an insufficient amount of water, and with the vent closed, building up pressure when it isn’t supposed to. The little booklet included doesn’t tell you all that–only the “full” manual, which you download from the website. They don’t tell you that part, either–someone on Facebook told me about the “full manual.”

I have used it as a slow cooker, and for that, it worked just fine. I bought the glass lid for that purpose, as well as a couple of other accessories (boosted by the coupons I had.)

At first, I thought it was pretty good. But then things changed when it burned my food and didn’t steam. Currently, I hate it, and have vented on Facebook about it. When I went into one of the many FB groups on the subject, nobody knew what model I had, so that was useless.

There’s a blog post coming, of course. Thankfully this delicious cheesecake came out just fine:

Instant Pot Cheesecake

Cheesecake! Sugar free, gluten free, and thoroughly delicious!

Much as I like it, I found a recipe that’s even easier and is equally rich and delicious. And yes, it’s delicious, gluten-free and sugar free, so people like Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy can have cheesecake in an hour or so with no guilt.

I’ll have a list of the books I have that go with this beast in the blog post as well. If you got an Instant Pot for Christmas, or right around Black Friday like I did, well, I’ll give you some references to use in the new year.

Just know that as I write this, my next Instant Pot accessory may come from Harbor Freight.

And For My Birthday

I made my favorite chocolate cake from Suzanne Somers Desserts book from 2002 using Swerve.

I also bought myself a birthday present:

Suzy Homemaker Stand Mixer

Finally got another one!!!

I lurk on eBay and have several ongoing searches and get emails every day. Go look at things and add them to my wish list. Some may stay there for months, and I can buy them or keep watching.

This particular item was there, and I wish-listed it.  I discovered that the seller sent me an offer of $15 with free shipping–two hours before it ended. Without telling BF, I accepted it and paid for it. The package arrived a few days later. Boy was he surprised.

Yes, it works, just need to install a couple of batteries. The only thing “wrong” with it is that the little plastic switch on the side is broken off. However, there is enough of it left to be able to turn it on and run it. I have a picture of instructions somewhere, and I can print it and put it in a page protector for later. No box, but that’s OK. It’s MINE.

You see, I had one of these when I was a kid. I’ve always wanted another one, and finally, for my own new year, my 57th birthday, I got one.

Isn’t it adorbs???

Looking Forward To 2020

It’s a new year and a new decade, and 2020 promises to deliver. I may even update the blog theme after I renew the service.

I still owe you a blog on last year’s activity with the guys from the Walton & Johnson radio show. After the activity, I ordered a free book from Shutterfly for us with those pictures in it. Also gave The E-Man a smaller picture book from the event. They were all my pictures because nobody bothered to pass theirs along.

Remember that both Downton Abbey and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are set in the 1920’s. . .which is about 100 years ago. BF bought me the Downton Abbey movie for Christmas, and we are anxiously awaiting the new movie Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears, set to begin streaming on AcornTV in March.

But at the beginning of the year, everyone is making resolutions (except me, I’m still thinking about it) and I’m still up to me ears in just about everything. It’s why I usually need more coffee.

I’ll pay for the blog again soon, and I suppose I should resolve to blog more, right?

There’s lots to talk about, even from the rural part of Louisiana. SO thankful for the Internet.

Happy New Year!

The Hubic Pie Packet picture
Hubig’s Pies Return Next Year!!

Hubig’s Pies are coming back next year!

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Hola, Amigos!

Only an hour after I published my July update post yesterday, I go into the living room and there’s a blip on the news about the return of the old New Orleans favorite, Hubig’s Pies. There is rejoicing in the land tonight.

I wrote about these iconic treats a few years ago, when I was still living in Houston. I think I was looking for something else to blog about. When I stopped traveling around Houston and trying different places, I struggled for new blog topics that were interesting. And, quite frankly, there were times when I just didn’t feel like writing anything.

But I couldn’t believe my luck–I knew I should have waited before I published, but I just wanted to get a quick update out.

The Announcement

Since 2012, people in Louisiana have patiently waited for the return of a beloved hand pie that was available about anywhere for 90 years. Their patience has finally paid off.

In a joint press release, Governor John Bel Edwards and Hubig’s owner Andrew Ramsey announced today that the company would resume producing the famed pies in a new facility in Jefferson Parish, not Orleans parish where the company lived for 90 years.

The State of Louisiana and the Parish of Jefferson offered multiple business incentives, that, apparently, Orleans Parish wouldn’t. But whatever–people are overjoyed, and who cares if they’re made in Jefferson Parish? They plan to use the same recipes, and not change anything, so that should ensure consistency and happiness again.

Not So Fast

However, they note that they don’t have a place yet, but they are working to get one, and get started. Mr. Ramsey was quoted as saying,

“I don’t have a facility yet. I don’t have a place where I can press a button and start making pies,” he said in an interview.

“This (loan guarantee) is a part of the puzzle to get the business back again,” he said. “Everything has been coming together; we’ve had a tremendous amount of support. But I don’t have a timeline yet.”

But after seven years of nothing, this is definitely good news.

The manufacturing equipment they need is going to be highly specialized, so that’s probably going to be their biggest hurdle. The factory will bring something like 30 jobs to the suburban parish, likely in Metairie or Kenner.

Side note: the Govna is from the area where I live. I’ve met a couple of his relatives because I happened to be in town, and BF introduced me. BF actually shook hands with him at a funeral a year or so ago, and went to school with a few of his relatives. The Gov lives here and commutes to Baton Rouge every day, something I thought I’d be doing when I interviewed at LSU in 2016.

There’s more information here in this news story.

What’s The Big Deal About Hubig’s?

In a state that doesn’t always value health and wellness, local food is one of those things that people hold onto and take very seriously.

An Apple Hubig's Pie

An apple Hubig’s pie in all it’s deliciousness.

The Hubig’s Pie affair is bigger than the Twinkies affair, because Hostess pretty much already had a buyer waiting going into bankruptcy court.  But I’m sure Mr. Ramsey has been able to learn from the Twinkies re-set and will be working with new, more agile, manufacturing practices.

Things like king cakes and other regional favorites have become wide spread. As I mentioned originally (and probably a few other times), king cakes are available in bakeries in Texas, and New Orleans bakers ship the cakes nationally. Check your grocery store for “Louisiana” or “New Orleans” foodstuffs, and you’ll find things like Tabasco, Zatarain’s, and maybe even Tony Chachere’s spices. I bought a wide range of things at HEB in Houston, so I know they’re available elsewhere, and online if you know where to look.

But Hubig’s Pies didn’t really make it out of Louisiana. It’s just one of those regional favorites, like kolaches in Texas. They were just always available, in every grocery store, convenience store, truck stop, gas station, and everywhere snacks were sold in the region. When they went away, as I mentioned in the last post, people missed them terribly, and have been asking for them to come back ever since.

The Devotion To Hubig’s Pies

Ladies and Gentlemen, your patience will be rewarded next year. Hubig’s Pies will make Louisiana great again! (I’m sure that’s what they’ll say, anyway.) You’ll be able to buy them online, too. How about that?

One of the perfect Hubig's Pies

This article on NOLA.com (full of garbled code written by a monkey, I presume) details all the ways people have kept the flame burning for Hubig’s Pies. One lady kept a blueberry Hubig’s in her freezer all these years as a souvenir. Another has one sealed up in a plastic freezer bag in her closet. (EEEWWW!!) And as you saw in the last blog post, Mardi Gras costumes abound for people who are waiting for their Hubig’s Pies to return.

There’s even a comment by the Governor himself, speaking at a campaign stop, about his love for the missing pies. I’m guessing he’ll be using that in his re-election platform. Well, let’s face it, wouldn’t you?

Let me reiterate, as stated the first time I wrote about Hubig’s Pies, that there is nothing healthy, sugar-free, or gluten-free about these things. They are, like a lot of Louisiana foods, primarily white flour, sugar, starches, and likely unhealthy oils. Enjoy at your own risk. . .because everyone else here will take that risk once they are being sold again.

I’ll have a small bite of BF’s, just to satisfy my curiosity.

The Divided Dinnertime

Last night was one of those nights where we ate from our “pre-relationship menus.” BF calls things like Hamburger Helper “the pre-Amy menu,” and I referred to the roast chicken leg quarter as one of my “favorite single-girl payday meals.” Because it is, like the perfectly cooked flat iron steak that’s sliced against the grain and laid on top of a crisp salad with lettuce, tomatoes (grape, please), sugar snap peas, maybe some avocado, and a quickly whisked dressing of EVOO and a raspberry vinegar. Oh, and a bit of Celtic of pink Himalayan sea salt to finish it.

I asked why he would make such a thing, and his response was, “Well, you’re always telling me how great Pea & Pesto Soup is, so you can have that tonight.” I found the chicken leg in the freezer next to the ground beef and claimed it as my own.

We’ve been doing that sometimes, when he feels that Hamburger Helper, or a frozen Swanson dinner is just the thing. I’m sticking to the healthiest things I can eat here, which occasionally involves something like rice, which I don’t normally consume. But if it makes him happy, oh, well.

Drag Week

BF and his twin brother are planning to make the pilgrimage this year to Hot Rod Magazine’s annual Drag Week. BF went last year with another of his “car guy” friends, but they were only gone a couple of days. This time, the twin mechanics are planning the entire week of smelling like the exotic scents of car exhaust, motor oil and transmission fluid, as well as eating at various local greasy spoons. For this red-haired foodie, it means:

  • I will be alone and free to be myself for an entire week
  • I can cook and eat whatever I want all week long without criticism, critiquing or fake retching
    • This includes the absence of comments such as, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!”
  • I can watch my own TV and sew as much as I want
  • I can invite over whomever I want, including, but not limited to
    • BF’s brother’s wife and 5-year-old daughter
    • “Car guy” girl JJ, and possibly her daughter if she’s interested
    • Friends J&A who live a couple of miles away; A is one of BF’s collegues, and J is her boyfriend
    • BF’s father who lives up the road (although he won’t come unless there’s an emergency)
    • Anyone else who appreciates gourmet cooking and lives close enough or wants to drive up here
    • Or nobody at all

I’m not planning a dinner party, although I probably could. But as I’ve told BF several times, I’m making plans for my “Drag Week Menu.” I’ll be cooking all manner of delicious, healthy food to enjoy while he’s across the country. The recipes may come from the new cookbooks I’ve bought, too. So what if he can’t say “Braciole?”

Networking

Remember when we went to Mr. Earl’s Barbecue? BF knows Mr. Earl from Drag Week, since he works on these kinds of cars at his shop outside of Baton Rouge. That New Year’s Eve gumbo fest and barbecue event is a yearly thing he does for all his “car guy” friends. (We missed it last year, maybe this year.)

Honestly, Drag Week is a networking event for petrolheads. BF knows so many people from Drag Week, I can’t tell them apart. But they have a great time, make new friends, meet up with old ones (supplemented by Facebook) and have fun while they’re there.

On a basic level, it’s like AWAI’s yearly copywriting Bootcamp. I streamed it live again this year, and I loved it all. But I do wish I could go in person next year. You never know, you might meet an automotive copywriter there!

Until Next Time

I plan on blogging again before too long, honest. Meantime, thanks to everyone who keeps reading my foodie-related rantings with SEO optimization.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Bowl of Pozole, "dressed."
The Buddhist Christmas Party

Remember the Buddhist Thanksgiving I used to do in Houston? This past weekend, there was a Buddhist Christmas Party. Sort of. There was FOOD. So that makes it a Christmas party to me!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Merry Christmas! Are you ready for Santa to drop by? Sorry I’m late again. There’s a lot going on. . . .

Snow At The Casa de Rurale!

Ladies and Gentlemen, on Friday, December 8, 2017, we had four inches of SNOW. No kidding. I was happily camped in with a pit bull, a rust-colored mutt and a fussy old cat. BF braved the four mile drive to work and made it home safely. He hates cold weather and absolutely abhors it after waking up in a snowstorm while stationed in Afghanistan many years ago. He was not amused, that’s for sure.

Houston got a half-inch of snow, as did New Orleans, but certainly not the four inches we had. I have a new client up the freeway in Jackson, MS, and we were chatting on Skype about it. This project manager has young daughters who had an absolute blast making snowmen.

The local Baton Rouge news and weather wonks called it “Sneaux Day 2017.” (“Sneaux?” It’s a thing, I suppose.)  So glad I stocked up on chocolate almond milk the weekend before while I was in New Orleans. It was only supposed to be a freeze, but snow was a gift.

Snow Covered Hay Bales

These hay bales looked like frosted jelly rolls! They’re on the property behind us. Don’t they look delish? (Taken with my iPhone 6, no kidding.)

You can see the pictures I took in the two Facebook albums (you don’t need an account, it’s an external link) and the videos I took online. These were taken during the actual snow,, and these were taken the day after. My YouTube snow videos are here, and, yes, I narrate the videos, too. I’m going to use the Shutterfly app soon to get those pictures printed up for the price of shipping. (This one may be an enlargement, too.)  It was SO much fun. First time in a long time I’ve made a snowman hood ornament.

The Royal Wedding!

By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Meghan Markle, and their wedding is set for May 19th. Well, he was always the “fun” one, right? Harry has definitely had a little more fun than he should have. . .but this beautiful actress captured his heart.  I’ve burned my signs that say Marry Me Harry!

But still BF isn’t excited about a royal wedding. And like me and BF, Meghan is working on Prince Harry to get him healthier. She’s told him he’s got to quit smoking (something I didn’t have to do with BF because he never smoked.) She’s a longtime fan of yoga, partly because her mother is an instructor. I suggested we start doing couples yoga, and I could get a DVD for us. Yeah. . .that went over like the proverbial lead balloon. But I also suggested that we should get in shape for the royal wedding. BF: “Yeah, I’m all over that.” Well, it’s a goal, right?

The day after their engagement, the McCall’s Pattern Company posted on Facebook a pattern for a coat exactly like Meghan’s:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle First Engagement Picture with White Coat

Since the patterns were on sale that day on their website, I ordered it immediately  and it arrived a week later (McCall’s 7480, view D, if you’re interested.) I am hoping to go buy fabric to make it after Christmas. This one is unlined, so it should go pretty quick. Not making it white, that’s for sure. I’ll see what Joann’s in Baton Rouge has to offer in coat fabrics. Then I’ll be wearing the coat of the future Duchess of Sussex.

Right away, the company posted the pattern on Facebook so we could all “sew the look.” Someone asked if it was newly designed, or just a coincidence that they had a pattern like the one Meghan was wearing. One of the employees with the social media team at McCall’s answered the question with, “Lucky Coincidence!” I’ll take it. . . .

Ms. Markle wore a very nice beige skirt the next day (under a different coat) that one lady in the private Facebook group for McCall’s patterns has already re-made and is ALREADY WEARING IT. But McCall’s has announced that they are working on a “sewalong” for 2018 with the theme of #royalwedding, with dresses and hats and the like. Let’s see if I can keep up.

The New Star Wars Film

Speaking of the Princes. . . .if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ve probably already seen The Last Jedi. But if you didn’t, I won’t spoil it for you. We went to Hammond the day before it opened to run errands, and BF walked right up to a kiosk outside and bought the two tickets. Nice–and we even had assigned seats, apparently.

I’d read a few things online, but not anything that gave away too much. But Princes Harry and William are both fans, and have cameos in the film as First Order (formerly Imperial) Stormtroopers. No kidding. They were visiting the set, and someone said, “hey, you guys wanna be in the film? You can be Stormtroopers!” The Princes were suited up and stood in the film.  They’re in the scene where Finn gets captured with a female character, and since they’re both over six feet, they kind of stand out. (Stormtroopers have to be 5’10”.)  I saw them. BF didn’t care.

I will also say that it was heartbreaking to see Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, knowing that it’s the last time we’ll see her and her character. (I know, a bit of irony to say that, since she died of cardiac arrest.) Spoiler alert–she does *NOT* die in this film, as some have reported. But in the next film, they’ll address the end of the character’s story arc. They won’t digitally re-create her like they did at the end of Rogue One, or some of the other long-departed characters.  I read about this before we saw the film–there is a dedication in the credits that says, “For Our Loving Princess, Carrie Fisher.” And we saw it. Awwww. . . .

Here’s a small spoiler: there is one scene where Chewbacca is very hungry, and he’s about to eat a barbecued bird. It happens to be one of the newest birdie characters with big, puppy-dog eyes, called the Porg. And one Porg stares down the Wookie with those sad eyes, because the Wookie was about to eat one of his friends. Chewbacca was so hungry, but he couldn’t do it. I wanted to give Chewy a hug at that point–he reminded me of BF.

If you love Star Wars, you’ll be thrilled with it. Lots of action, storylines like moving parts, different things going on. Some like it, some hate it, you’ll just have to decide for yourself.

Random Grocery Sightings

I texted this picture to Neighbor E from our local Walmart the other day, but he didn’t respond. I’m guessing he’s enjoying these way too much:

Hostess Christmas Pastries

I hope he’s enjoying these!

There was a trip through The Fresh Market the other day where I found these:

 

Jars of French Prunes

FRENCH prunes?

Yeah. . .I’m all over the French prunes. I’m sure they’re great. . .if you like prunes.

Our Buddhist Christmas Party

Buddhists having a Christmas Party? I suppose I shouldn’t use this term, because, technically, it was our December district meeting. As an “end of the year” celebration, our district leader, who is a Hispanic transplant from LA, made a mildly flavored soup called Pozole, and we all brought some other delicious stuff.

Where has this stuff been all my life? And how did I miss it in TEXAS???

Bowl of pozole without toppings

Straight pozole

If you’re not familiar with Louisiana “po-boys,” people order them either “dressed,” with lettuce and tomato (some places add pickles, too) or “un-dressed” with just the sandwich and fillings (i.e., fried shrimp, oysters, roast beef, etc.)  So what OR did was to offer cabbage, cilantro, radishes and onions (all well chopped) to add to the top:

Bowl of Pozole, "dressed."

This amazing, mildly flavored soup is just what we all need during winter, yes?

Oh, Holy Shish Kebab.

We all gobbled some up, and OR is definitely going to have to teach me to make this, especially if she wants me to keep doing the district calendar. (Just kidding!) Seriously, though, she’s on the hook for a cooking lesson here. It’s not a strong flavor, which is why I think BF will like it, cilantro or no. But because I’ve been busy, and cooking a lot of pork and chicken, BF complains that he’s “clucking” and “oinking.”  I try hard to feed him well, despite his protests, and sometimes, every dish is “new.” Oh, well.

A quick search brought up this recipe for Pozole, and I may actually try it soon. Like tamales (yum!) OM says it’s “laborious.” Well, after seeing Stephanie O’Dea’s recipe for tamales in the CrockPot, I might try Pozole in it, too. (I haven’t made tamales yet.)

I wonder what he’d say if we were given a fair amount of venison and I cooked a lot of it for him. Oh, wait–would he grow antlers?

The Rest Of The Party

Other folks brought some delicious things, and I made some of Nigella’s delicious Chocolate Christmas Cookies:

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits (cookies)

The delicious and fairly simple Christmas Chocolate Biscuits (Cookies)

I assure you, these are not gluten-free, sugar-free or fat free in any way. They are, however, egg free. I still haven’t found any “Christmas sprinkles,” so I’ll have to order some next year. I mean, I was looking for them in HOUSTON and couldn’t get them. What made me think I could get them here? So, once again, we have the everyday multicolored sprinkles that probably contain every allergen known to man. Oh, well.

Sprinkles

That’s what I had, so I used them.

Pictures from the rest of our celebration:

Table shot

Tea and non-alcoholic sangria and. . .carrots.

 

Guac and chips

Someone brought guac and chips just for me! I just say “thank you.”

 

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits On A Plate

OK, so I couldn’t resist another shot of the cookies I made. Everyone loved them, and I gave the recipe to three people.

We had a great time, and all our Buddhist activities are finished for the year. We’ll start back again on New Year’s Day, and we’ll be back doing our regular activities.

If You’re Jewish

I know a few Jewish folks, but I can’t say that I’m particularly knowledgable on the faith. I know that in kosher cooking, you don’t serve beef with a cream sauce, and that some meat has to be “koshered” using the salt. Some folks keep a “kosher kitchen,” but I don’t know any more than that. I actually use kosher salt, because, well, I learned about it from Martha Stewart, and it’s great stuff. (I explained to BF the other day that if I ask him to get “salt,” kosher is generally what I’m asking for.)

I’d heard stories about Jewish people going out for Chinese on Christmas, because, well, they don’t celebrate Christmas, as a rule, and Hanukkah doesn’t always fall on Christmas Day, either. So, since a Jewish family probably doesn’t have a Christmas Lunch/Dinner, they’ll go out to the only place likely to be open on Christmas: a Chinese restaurant.

You’re probably thinking, “Amy, why are you bringing this up?”

Online magazine Mental Floss published this story on Thursday about why Jewish folks are frequently at Chinese restaurants on Christmas Day. I thought it was an interesting read, and wanted to pass it along And, it’s a tradition! Well, here in the US, anyway. And is there ever a bad reason to have Chinese food?

And For A Buddhist

Well, Buddhists in the US can do whatever they want for Christmas Day. As longtime readers know, I have spent many Christmas dinners alone, watching TV (frequently the Doctor Who Christmas specials), cooking and sewing, and maybe having a drink before going to bed. Honestly, I can’t say it was a bad thing.

I did manage to get the Christmas specials DVD for Keeping Up Appearances from the local library a couple of days ago. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Hyacinth!

But for the second year, I’ve got BF. We’ve not decorated the Casa–the decorations are way to hard to get to right now–but we’re going to visit his daughter and his Dad’s place up the road. And maybe we’ll come home and watch TV for a while. I’m not cooking anything, unless I put beans in the CrockPot and let them roll.

I got him a little present, but when I told him not to get me anything, I meant it. If someone goes all out for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc., but then treats you like dirt the rest of the year, who cares?

BF indulges me–like taking me to Mandeville the other night to meet up with a guy who was giving away Meyer lemons from his backyard, because he had way too many. He posted it on Facebook, and said, “come and get ’em!” I thanked him, and set aside some for our neighbor who also loves lemons. We also hit Whole Foods, and I offered to get him something from the cookie bar, but he wanted a milkshake. A quick tap on the phone, and we were at a Sonic. I bought his milkshake for him.

BF will take me nearly anywhere I want to go (although we haven’t made it back to Houston yet) and makes no bones about going to work hours early so I can make a Buddhist activity in New Orleans or Mandeville. He takes me to Starbucks, even though he doesn’t agree with their, um, CEO’s spoutings. (I don’t either, but you know I love to go.) If we’re in Hammond for an errand, there’s a stop at Starbucks–especially if there’s a double star day during a star dash.

You can’t box that and put a ribbon on that, you know? So, yeah, I don’t mind if he doesn’t get me a “Christmas present.

So when he’s off, I let him sleep in like the grizzly bear he is, and don’t bother him much. (When he wakes up is a different matter.)

If you’re alone this Christmas, do whatever it takes to enjoy it, whether it’s watching TV, making some delicious food, or even heading out to your local Starbucks for some food. I know the ones in Houston were open, but I’m not sure about the ones here in LA. Whatever you do, don’t sit around and brood about “being alone on Christmas.” It’s OK, I’ve done it. Getting together with some other folks in the same predicament would also be a good thing. And then there’s volunteering.

Merry Christmas To One And All

From the Casa de Rurale in Central Louisiana, I raise a glass and hope everyone has a great Christmas, whatever you’re doing. I am hoping to have more interesting subjects to write about in the new year. (Have you found your new “diet” yet?) I’ll be back soon.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

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