Are you a coffee-on-the-go drinker? Have you seen the new Barista Cup yet? Let me tell you about it.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’m sorry that it’s been so long. There’s been a lot going on around here, and now it’s summer. But piggybacking off my last post, I would like to continue the coffee thing with something that will make nearly any coffee drinker very happy.
Still On Strike (Sort Of)
Although I have cooked some food for the both of us, mostly, me and BF generally do not eat the same thing much anymore. It makes him happy to eat frozen pizza, and I’m at the point where I just say go for it.
However, recently after one of our discussions of food, I decided that I would make myself something delicious. Remember the sweet potato sheet pan dinner?
I told him that I was making it for myself, and that he was not welcome to try it. However, when he saw the amount of bacon that was involved, he was willing to overlook anything else. Asparagus is one of those things that he “knows” that he doesn’t like, because he had it one time at his friend’s house. This is a friend who is a car guy and also fancies himself a chef. Clearly, he isn’t. But I don’t say much, and I really don’t like him. (We’re not invited over anymore for whatever he’s grilling anyway, so that’s a good thing.)
Well, because this dish is roasted a high temperature for quite a time, the asparagus also gets nicely roasted. Guess what? Turns out the BF actually likes roasted asparagus. Who the heck knew this would happen?
I think we must’ve used too much bacon, because I used to make it in the toaster oven. This time, we had to put it on a bigger sheet pan in the big oven. That’s OK, we ate it more than once, happily. And now this asparagus-hating BF is one who will happily eat it, as long as it’s roasted.
Gazpacho Soup Is Served Cold
You may have heard of this soup, a cold tomato concoction that’s usually served as a starter. If you haven’t tried it, well, I have, finally.
What you may not of heard of, especially if you don’t hang around me for a long period of time, is an old British TV show called Red Dwarf. I’ve written about it before, and it’s been on the air intermittently for about 30 years now, with the 12th season wrapped up a couple of years ago. It used to be on PBS and BBC America, but it’s now just for the British and for die-hard Americans who love it. (The entire series runs on the paid streaming service Britbox and Amazon Prime Video.)
In one of the early episodes of Red Dwarf , (I think it’s series 1, might be series 2) there was a reference to Gazpacho. One of the characters, Arnold J. Rimmer, is a hologram of one of the dead crew members. At the time of the accident, his last dying words were “Gazpacho soup.” The last living human alive, Dave Lister, found out about it, insisted on knowing why, and deviously got a confession.
He Didn’t Know
It turns out that Rimmer was once invited to have dinner at the Captain’s table, and Gazpacho was served as a starter. However, Rimmer took one taste of this cold concoction, and called up the shelf and demand that he take it back into the kitchen and heat it. During the period all of his dining companions were laughing at him while he ate his piping hot Gazpacho. Because why? He had no idea that “Gazpacho soup was served cold,” and nobody told him. He never ate at the Captain’s table again, leading him to believe that that was the end of his career, and he would never progress past being a chicken soup vending machine repair man, second class.
You can watch the interchange here on YouTube. It’s frat-boy kind of humor from 30 years ago, and you should use your own discretion if you decide to watch it at work. Depending on your company, it might invite the ire of your IT Security people if their parameters are set high. If you’re not sure, wait until you get home, or watch it on your own smartphone.
Why Do I Mention This?
One recent Saturday morning while sewing, I was watching the Barefoot Contessa make some food for a weekend barbecue. One of the things she made was this Gazpacho soup with goat cheese croutons. It was really simple, and everything was done in the food processor. First words out of my mouth were, “Gazpacho soup is served cold.” It’s a knee-jerk reaction. And then I realize, in all the years I’ve been cooking, I’ve never made Gazpacho. I don’t know why, I just never did. So, I went to Walmart, got a few ingredients, came home and made it.
Then I tried it, and asked myself, “why have I never made this before?” It taste like fresh salsa!
Please, promise me this summer that you will make this very simple and delicious recipe for Gazpacho. I’m going to make my fourth batch this week, and eat it every day. Why, in the middle of summer, wouldn’t you?
I will point out that I did not make the goat cheese croutons, primarily because I don’t eat bread, and because I know that I would never hear the end of it from BF. He has not touched the Gazpacho, and I told him that this was not for him either. I actually think he would like it, but I don’t want him touching it, anyway. If he likes it, I’ll never be able to keep it around.
The Barista Cup
So, a funny thing happened after a recent blog post. This is what happens when you practice SEO backlinking.
After I told you about Nick Usborne of Coffee Detective, and his discovery of the new Barista cup, I got an email from Elaine in the company’s marketing department. She had one question: would you like to try one?
Seriously? <Insert smiley face here>
Here’s the deal: they send me a barista cup to try out for myself and write a blog post in return with a review. I can handle that!
I was more than surprised when I got her email. In fact, I was wondering if it was a scam email. But when I did a little checking, I discovered that yes, indeed, she was telling the truth and she really was who she said she was. I sent my address so that she could send me the cup. Because the team was busy with two conferences in Europe, she said, it might be a while before I saw it. That’s OK – I just said thank you.
There were a few delays, so I emailed Elaine for an update a month or so later, and she sent it by UPS. With everything that she had going on, I certainly didn’t mind the wait and wasn’t going to complain.
The Cup Arrives
One thing I did request was anything but camouflage. There’s enough of BF’s stuff from years his in the military in this house that I don’t really need my coffee cup to blend in so I can’t find it. Besides, things get lost in the vortex around here if you’re not careful. And, as I always say, I don’t do cammo. I mean, unless I’m in a situation where I need to blend into the forest or something, I just really don’t need it. Elaine was happy to comply with my request and sent me the Komodo Dragon style, which Is a lovely blue slate color.
This box is perfect for gift-giving with just a tag, isn’t it?
There are a number of styles available, including camo, so there is something for just about everyone. If you like your camo, have at it–you can tote your coffee around in it.
So what’s it like to use? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. Like anything else, it’s simple as soon as you read the directions.
The cup comes in three parts, and there are two gaskets involved to keep liquid from leaking out of it.
That cup sleeve is actually heavy silicone–but it feels like a rubber tire. No kidding. Super thick, keeps your fingers and hands from getting burned, and lets everyone know what kind of cup that is.
And here is something that I’ve never seen on a travel cup before: a little drain screen to keep you from drinking the grounds with the coffee. That alone is an improvement over any other coffee cup out there.
After you wash it completely, the process is simple. Boil your water, pour it in first:
Then add your coffee, sweetener, milk, or anything else you like in your coffee. Stir up a little, carefully, and then carefully screw the lid on.
And this is what you get:
Now you see why the screen in the cup is so handy. You don’t ingest that at all. Again–genius!
One thing you’ll have to be careful of is not to overfill the cup. The cup lid screws on, doesn’t pop on and off. Therefore, there has to be a little bit more room to allow for that. I say this, because I’ve done it. And yes, I have spilled coffee on the counter. Fortunately, I have a very plentiful supply of dish towels.
Honestly, it’s almost like instant coffee, but tastes much better. Once you put the lid on, you can take your barista cup anywhere you want. I could have used one of these when I was working, especially at Boeing, where I was one of the few decaf drinkers. I had a French press on my desk, after seeing one of the executives have one in his office. But then I joined the coffee club, and we always had decaf coffee brewed. And of course, I had to put up with comments about “wussy coffee.” But that’s OK, I could have good coffee anytime I wanted it.
Barista Cup vs. French Press
Aficionados of the French press know that it’s a great way to make coffee, it’s ecologically friendly, and the coffee really tastes good. I still have several, and use them occasionally. However, the Barista Cup eliminates the pot part. In other words, instead of making your coffee in a pot, then pouring it into a cup, you just make the coffee in the cup. You only wash one cup, instead of a pot and a cup.
Another benefit to the Barista cup is that your coffee is always fresh. Unless you like making coffee in your regular coffee pot, the coffee will not sit around for any length of time. You’ll be making a fresh cup for each cup of your coffee.
Better Than A Pod
If you’re thinking, “But I have one of those K machines,” I bet you didn’t know that those little plastic pods are almost impossible to recycle. I know that Nespresso does the recycling thing, but the plastic K-cups are not recyclable. In fact, I found out recently that the man who invented the Keurig wished he hadn’t done it. Why? Because of the un-recyclable pods. I’ve never bought one, because I don’t like the extra trash.
Look, I’m all for new inventions and free market capitalism. But just because you can invent something, doesn’t mean we need it. Sure, the K-thing is a great convenience and makes great coffee. But the environmental impact is another matter altogether.
The Barista Cup makes great coffee, quickly, fresh every time, with whatever kind of coffee you want, and eliminates those extra little cups, too.
No, I’m not environmentalist. I just hate all that needless extra trash going to landfills.
Another advantage is that there are no filters to wash or throw away. The filter is built into the part of the cup where you drink, so you won’t adjust them. There are no other filters involved. You just empty the grounds out into your compost bin, or your trashcan if you don’t compost.
Note: if you work in the Boeing building, please do not put your grounds down the sink drain. You’ll stop up the drain and upset a number of people if you do.
OK, you knew there had to be a downside of this cup well, I don’t really see them as a “downside,” but some of you might.
- If you start using the Barista Cup instead of your regular coffee maker, your coffee maker might feel neglected and start to complain. I do use our regular coffee pot, a small 4 cup model, when I haven’t washed the Barista Cup. But in all seriousness, your regular coffee pot may feel a bit neglected, and you may wonder why you have it after a while.
- If you’re accustomed to having a cuppa coffee waiting for you right after your alarm clock goes off and you stumble into the kitchen, having to make coffee “from scratch” may be a bit of an issue for you. After all, the purpose of having a timed coffee pot that has your coffee ready at a certain time is because you are incoherent and are very morning challenged. If this is you, you may choose to have your regular coffee pot make your 1st cup of coffee, and the Barista Cup to make the coffee that you take on the way out the door. There’s no waiting, because you literally put everything in the cup at one time. So it’s certainly a win-win situation, not really a downside.
Like Nick Usborne mentioned, think about all the coffee machines that go into landfills. The electronic parts that go into it, and the plastic that may never biodegrade. This is definitely an improvement from all the stuff that can be slowly eliminated and left out of landfills, especially the little cups.
Where Can I Get One?
So far, the Barista Cup is only available on their website. The cup is $25, and honestly, I was planning on buying myself one anyway, because it just looks like such a cool thing. It really is, and it’s worth the money you spend for it. Highly recommended.
When you buy your barista cup, it comes in a beautiful circular box:
Inside the box is, of course, your cup, plus a replacement gasket for the bottom portion. The instructions, of course, as well as three packets of their own coffee.
I’ve tried the coffee, and it is very good. However, because it’s regular coffee, it’s a little too strong for me, so I’ll have to stick with my decaf. I have not seen anywhere about the coffee is available for sale, but that may be coming later. (Then again, I may have missed it on the website.)
The Barista Cup As A Gift
So now it’s the middle of June, and we are smack dab in the middle of wedding season. If you know two coffee lovers that are getting married, this would be a great shower or wedding gift. A pair of these cups in their favorite individual colors, with a pound or two of their favorite coffee, would make a great shower or wedding gift. It would also be a great gift for any coffee lover’s birthday, any time of year.
It maybe too late to get a graduation present for someone going to college, but if you haven’t gotten a gift yet, this is an excellent time to do so. You have time to get it before they head off to classes in the fall, especially if they’re going to be doing the dorm room thing.
And if you’re the coffee lover, there’s never a bad reason to order yourself one, right?
Washing The Cup
OK, I saw one issue: the bottom of the cup says “dishwasher safe,” but the instructions say, “hand wash only.” Who’s right?
I asked Elaine to clarify, and she said that although it’s “top rack dishwasher safe,” the design may not last in the dishwasher. She recommends hand-washing, which isn’t difficult at all once you empty out the grounds. (It wouldn’t fit in the top rack of my countertop dishwasher, anyway.)
Also, I caution you not to lose the gasket out of the top of the cup, which will quietly fall out if you bang it in the trash can to remove the grounds. You’ll see what I’m talking about if it happens–that thin piece of black rubber keeps it from leaking while you drink. That is, if you screw the top on correctly. . .never mind how I know this.
I Love The Barista Cup!
Honestly, when I see something like this, I wonder: why hasn’t someone thought of this before? But we have it now, so what’s enjoy it now. It really is “a coffee machine in a cup,” and you just need hot water.
To be fair and give full disclosure, I really was graciously sent this cup in order to try it out and write a review. Like Nick Osborne says, it does the job they say it will do, you’ll use a bit less coffee, and it’s a good thing. (I would tell you if it wasn’t.) So I really can’t say anything bad about The Barista Cup, even with the “downsides” I mentioned earlier.
Many thanks to Elaine at The Barista Cup for finding my blog and offering me the chance to try this cup. I highly recommend it. And a special thank you to the gentleman who invented it, Aziz Patel, who just wanted a better way to make a cup of coffee while reducing waste in the process.
As Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing. Just heard my kettle boil. . . .
What do you do when you want a coffee but don’t know where to go? Ask someone. I found a new coffee spot I like, French Truck Coffee. It’s a two-block walk from the SGI-USA Community Center, although there are multiple locations. Boy, I’m glad I asked!
Hello, Again, Dear Readers:
Here’s another post about coffee–good coffee. If you’re like BF and don’t drink it, well, pass it along to someone who does. Especially if they’re heading to New Orleans anytime soon.
Y’all, last week I’d had about enough of it. I told BF I would no longer cook for him, and so far, I haven’t. I made the Citrus Spice Chicken recipe I covered a few years ago, but I shouldn’t have bothered. BF didn’t like it–said it tasted “sour.”
Oh, and to make matters worse, he also wouldn’t try cauliflower rice I’d made with it. I blitzed up a whole, organic cauliflower in a food processor, and cooked it in a big cast iron skillet with butter, olive oil and the Paula Deen House Seasoning I make and keep around–delicious. Nope–wouldn’t touch it, even after telling me, “I’ll try anything you make.” I reminded him of this, and he was undeterred.
He barely ate the Knorr “four cheese risotto” from a package that isn’t a real risotto, because it doesn’t have arborio rice. (I’ve made risotto before.) I called it “cheesy rice,” and the dogs ate most of it.
After that incident, I haven’t cooked anything for him since. Nada. Nuffin’. He ate a bowl of cereal last night, and has cooked food once. Last time he made “red beans and rice,” with red beans from cans, I took a taste and was unimpressed. (I will eat it occasionally, just to be nice, and he puts sausage in it.) When he wasn’t looking, I grabbed that bottle of Tabasco Sriracha Sauce from the pantry, opened it, and went once around the pot. Mixed it in really well. It was about a tablespoon, I think, in that big pot. Now THAT tasted good!
I know, I know. . .but I’m on strike for a while, darnit.
Coffee In The Crescent City
One of the many things I always told people in Houston is that if they were going to New Orleans, don’t go to Starbucks for a coffee if you can help it. Find a local coffee chain–any one will do–and go there. Much as I’m a fan of Starbucks, local chains like PJ’s Coffee and CC’s Coffee (Community Coffee’s retail chain) are even better. (I also discovered that there is a PJ’s in the Conroe Medical Center, north of Houston. That was a surprise.)
Another place is Orleans Coffee, where I’ve ordered delicious flavored decaf coffee from many times while I lived in Texas. (Because decaf chocolate raspberry is hard to find.) They used to have a little cafe in the Quarter, but after Katrina and all that, they now have two cafes, and I don’t know where they are.
Well, I found another one, and I was able to visit again before the April activity.
When I go to New Orleans for a Buddhist activity, I leave as early as I can, at least 90 minutes before I want to be there. That way, if there’s traffic, or a diversion, I have time. Sometimes I hit Trader Joe’s for non-perishable items before the meeting, then head elsewhere after the meeting.
For the November activity, the E Man told me to do my shopping afterwards this particular Sunday, not before. The Saints were having a game, and some kind of tailgating thing, so it would be better to get there early and shop later.
I get off the freeway at the St. Charles exit, and I’m more than an hour early. Driving a little on St. Charles in a half-ton pickup is a bit of a pain (I miss my Saturn.) So I park it and ask one of the guys outside where to get a coffee. Known as “Soka Group,” they’re the guys that hang around outside and help with traffic management and getting people inside safely. Since it was looking like rain this particular day, they’re armed with umbrellas.
He looks up on his phone and tells me that there’s a shop about a two-block walk from the SGI-USA Community Center via Erato Street. I don’t quite know where I’m going, so I’m walking cautiously in my flats with my purse tightly under my arm. (It’s November, so of course, it’s warm this day in NOLA.)
But it wasn’t that far. I carefully crossed the street twice, and saw this on Magazine Street:
Neat little place. I walked in, and of course, the smell is awesome:
And I walked around and took a few pictures while I waited, because for decaf, they do a pour-over:
If you’re hungry, they’ve got you covered with croissants and things:
I did ask about the “Yankee Apple Hand Pies” in the bottom left of that picture, and asked if they had many Yankees come in. He didn’t know, and I said, “Well, we can’t get rid of the Yankees in Texas.” No comment. . . .
I waited a few minutes and had a sip of water from the big jar they put out with cups. But of course, I forgot to get a picture of that. And they also serve lunch or something:
They were busy that Sunday, and so I had a wait while I watched them go at it behind the counter. When they called my name and handed me that coffee. . .mmmmmm. . .oh, yes, definitely worth it. Freshly roasted coffee, freshly brewed.
They Have Multiple Locations
French Truck Coffee has six locations, including two on Magazine Street, with two more coming. They also sell their delicious coffees in local grocery stores like Rouse’s. What? You’re not near a Rouse’s? You can order it, too. They also have a page so you can learn to brew your coffee at home.
The company is all about freshly roasted coffee, as the founder describes here on their web page. Honestly, it’s what Starbucks wishes it could be, or maybe used to be. French Truck Coffee is smooth and delicious. I haven’t bought any in the store yet, but that may happen soon if I can find the decaf.
If you’re planning a trip to the Crescent City, find one of these. You won’t be sorry.
When I went before the April meeting. . .there was a big chicken walking around Erato Street. At 9:00 am. A CHICKEN in the middle of the street. I hope the owner found it before someone with a pot did.
On The Way Home
I lost track of The E Man, and so I tried to get into Trader Joe’s. No parking available! Well, I ended up getting everything I needed across the street at the huge Rouse’s on Veterans.
As I hopped onto I-10 West, I was just listening to my music and driving. Until I got outside of Kenner, past the airport, on my way to I-55. . .and I saw that I-10 East was backed up. WAY Up. Like, way past the I-55 exit backed up.
Anytime The E Man tells me what to avoid, I generally listen. Boy was he right. Thanks, Dude!
Other Local Coffees
I’ve also been buying this other local brand of ground coffee for everyday:
And of course, the brand that’s also available in Houston:
Both are used in the pot and in the iced coffee maker.
And on a recent morning when we found ourselves with no power, I packed up my laptop and spent most of the day working at the local PJ’s, where they had Internet. Well, they were very nice, and I drank some coffee and had a yogurt parfait.
I’ve done this on many occasions at the Hammond Starbucks, where they are also very nice. Before we had Internet, and BF was sent to another work location, I got on Google Maps and found the closest Starbucks. Most were within 2 miles of his work place. I drank fresh coffee all day, worked in a new place, and we were both happy.
Additionally, PJ’s also offers military and veterans discounts. So now BF likes PJ’s even more, and he likes some of the tasty things they have there. He still won’t try coffee, but he now sees that there is nothing bad about him going into a coffee shop. They have things even he might even enjoy!
This weekend is the “bunny holiday,” also known as Easter. Yes, I know what Easter is really all about, but popular media simply shows us bunnies and chocolate. If there is a chocolate bunny made with sugar-free chocolate, I’ll indulge, but I’m sure my chocolate will be the regular sugar-free stuff. We may go visit BF’s father, maybe not.
The Goddess of the Slow Cooker, Stephanie O’Dea, sent out an email last week offering Easter recipes for the slow cooker. And why not?
For all you Texans, know that HEB will be closed. . .but I think Kroger may be open.
Whatever you do, have a great holiday weekend.
If you’ve left Texas, or even if you haven’t, you know how important tamales are. But they can be laborious and time-consuming to create at home. The solution? Texas Tamales!
Hello again, Dear Readers:
Spring is finally here, at least, according to the calendar. And that means all kinds of wonderful things, like asparagus, bike riding, and Daylight Savings Time. If you’re not in a part of the US that’s snowed under right now.
It’s still kind of cool-ish here, too cool for planting tomatoes and things, so I guess I’ll be the lazy gardener again and be late. We probably won’t have any tomatoes in odd spots this year, but ironically, the ones that grew best were around the septic tank. We got a number of little “racks” of tomatoes there, and I’ve got the seeds to try and plant more. Since avocados have been relatively cheap for a while at Winn-Dixie, I’ve been eating them and saving the seeds. Those golf-ball sized pits have taken over the kitchen window, and BF is asking, “is this your latest science experiment?”
Lots to tell, let’s get started.
Finally, Allergy Relief
Ok, so, last year I did what has long been told to me, I got what I thought was “local raw honey” to help with allergies. Honey from your area works similar to an allergy shot–it de-sensitizes your immunoglobulins to the pollen and allergens in the area. (An allergy shot actually tamps down on the histamine response, but doesn’t de-sensitize.) Well, I went back to the same place I went last year, and bought some more of the same honey, which didn’t work. (The place is subject to an upcoming blog post.) Well, I was explaining to the clerk (around sniffling and sneezing) that I needed it for allergies.
It didn’t work last year, but everyone told me it would! Well, I was going through two or three kinds of OTC allergy meds last weekend, and it made me downright grouchy (and swearing at BF again.) I explained this to the clerk, a nice older lady, who said, “where do you live?” I told her. She asked, “then why are you buying honey from Ponchatoula?” Cause it’s local! Well, it’s not local enough, she said, and the honey right next to it came from–surprise–my neck of the woods, and it was a dollar less. (It was also a smaller bottle.) Honey and money was exchanged, and now I have truly “local” honey.
She also told me about some locally made elderberry syrup that people were buying for not only allergies, but flu. Three local schools have been closed because of flu outbreaks, and people are buying this elderberry syrup along with the honey.
I bought a bottle of that as well, at $21.99 for a 16-ounce size. It’s tasty, too. I’ve never heard of Andi Lynn’s, but they’re in the Baton Rouge neighborhood of Walker. I’m glad to know about it, and they also have some homeopathic allergy drops, which may or may not be in the place I bought the syrup. Next time.
On top of that, one of my Buddhist friends gave me an essential oil mixture to try, and I’ve been rolling that on at night.
He loves me. But sometimes he doesn’t understand. I explain.
BF asked, “what’s the deal with the local raw honey?” (He doesn’t have this problem, because this is his “native area.” Not mine.) It’s like this: the bees from your area are sucking on the flowers that are around you. When you ingest their honey, you ingest some of that pollen to de-sensitize yourself from those allergens. But if you’re using local raw honey from Ponchatoula–or Texas–you get the stuff from those bees, and they’re sucking on the flowers over there. That’s not going to help you if you’re not in Ponchatoula, or Texas. (I still have a half-bottle I bought from a vendor at the Nassau Bay Farmer’s Market.) By getting the honey and pollen from the bees sucking on local flowers from the area in which you live, you get the local “neighborhood” pollen to help alleviate your allergies to the same pollen. Make sense?
I can’t say what’s exactly working, but I’m a LOT better! Still a bit of sniffling and sneezing, but not like it was. Finally, I got the right stuff.
Coffee To Go
Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective has found a new way to make your coffee when you’re walking out the door: The Barista Cup. No kidding, the darn thing makes your coffee start to finish in a specially designed cup. Just chuck everything–grounds, sugar, milk, etc., into the cup, then pour hot water into it, and off you go. At $25, they’d better be worth it!
I don’t have one myself, yet, but of course, because Nick says it “works as advertised,” I’m extremely interested in getting one. After all, Nick’s the one who originally taught me to make iced coffee. (Note: these aren’t available on Amazon, only on the company’s website.) And Nick considers himself a coffee expert, and writes about it as a side thing to his web copywriting business.
The Barista Cup company has an office in the UK and in Winter Springs, FL, so they’re multinational, and working on saving the planet, one cup at a time.
Princess Coffee Maker
Here’s a coffee maker for young girls who want to be like Mom and Dad:
It’s a toy, and it doesn’t actually make real coffee, but it does make the gurgling sounds of a certain type of coffee maker. I halfway considered buying it to annoy BF.
Speaking of coffee, our local Winn-Dixie finally has some new baskets with coffee holders on them:
Yes, more than two years after I asked, PLEASE, our little corner of the world got baskets with coffee holders. Just one, because after all, you only need one, right?
HEB baskets have two as well, but some of the smaller baskets at Winn-Dixie only have one. Even with BF, I’m the only one drinking coffee anyway.
They still have the full-size baskets without them, and everyone uses those. These are smaller, kind of like the ones we saw back in the 70’s with a shallow basket area. So now when I visit Winn-Dixie, I can get my coffee at the nearby PJ’s first and head on in to grocery shop. Our store doesn’t have as many of these, and it seems like I’m the only one who knows what they’re for, so there’s always one available for me. Thanks, Winn-Dixie!
The Magic Tamales
You know how one day, you just want something? Over the holidays, it was tamales. And I didn’t take pictures.
Now, for those of you not of Hispanic or Texas descent, you might not know that tamales are a bit of work. So much so that many Hispanic families make the tamales only at Christmas time. Other times, they rely on buying them, or finding a good “tamale lady” or abuela (grandma) who makes them for sale all year long. Because, let’s face it, when done correctly, tamales are delicious.
In Robb Walsh’s The Tex Mex Cookbook, there is a picture of President Gerald Ford on the campaign trail in Texas eating a tamale. He was at The Alamo in 1976. Unfortunately, none of his aides (or any locals) told him that you take them out of the corn husks first. They’re steamed in the corn husks, which are like a really tough paper, and you take them out to eat them.
The most awesome Stephanie O’Dea sent out an email one day with her recipes for tamales in the CrockPot. With a name like O’Dea, she’s probably about as Hispanic as the Irishman from El Paso. Intrigued, I informed BF that we would be having tamales for Christmas dinner, (it was just us two) and that was it. Well, and whatever else we wanted.
Finding Masa Harina
I set out to find the ingredients that were staples in every grocery store I ever went into in Houston. After paying $6 in Whole Foods for a bag of masa harina that I discovered in the local WD for $3 or so, my district leader OR told me that Walmart has an entire section of Hispanic goods. Well, what do you know, they had everything, and I grabbed the corn husks before anyone else did.
I also had a nice conversation with two young men who were driving from Mandeville to Brownsville, TX. I told them next time they went into HEB, to think about me.
Obviously, I wasn’t about to use hydrogenated anything, but I did have an unopened jar of Epic Pork Fat in the pantry. It came with me from Houston, when I went to the closing of the Webster Fresh Market. Fortunately, it’s readily available at Whole Foods. I think Rouse’s has it, too, and I have since bought a fresh jar that’s in the pantry.
Chicken Christmas Tamales
I had a few pieces of chicken that I roasted and cut up small, and followed Stephanie’s directions to the letter, otherwise. Well, I pulled out my stand mixer, and mixed the masa until I was sick of hearing the motor run. Little bits were flying out of the mixer if I ran it too high (next time, maybe half?) Guess I need a pouring shield for it. Balls of masa never floated, and I finally gave up and used it as is.
I made the components in the days before Christmas, and BF sat down and helped me put them together. It didn’t take too long, and we only had about two dozen, but that was OK.
I forget what else I made with it, but BF and I were perfectly happy with what came out:
Verdict: they tamales were good, but a bit bland, and Stephanie admits that. It was the first time I made them. We had some of the filling and masa left, which went directly into freezer bags and into the big freezer. I have permission to jazz them up if I ever make them again. Chorizo, maybe?
Christmas Chocolate Raspberry Dessert
Oh, wait, that’s right–we also enjoyed a delicious raspberry chocolate cheesecake from one of the Wheat Belly books for dessert:
I subbed out the stevia extract with erythrytol, but next time I’m going to get me some stevia extract and start using it. BF liked it–it’s quite rich–but it wasn’t quite sweet enough. Low carb, much dairy, no wheat/gluten/flour. I’m done with yeast free for a while.
Tamales In Target
My regular Buddhist activities are at least an hour’s drive away. I commonly go to the Mandeville area, which is still on this side of Lake Ponchartrain, and 90 minutes from New Orleans. That’s OK, and I get to go to Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, or wherever else I want to go that we don’t have nearby. Additionally, if I shop right after the meeting, I’m not too tired like I am when I make it to Hammond. So I frequent the Target in Covington, since it’s on the way home, and there’s a Cost Plus World Market next door and a Starbucks in that Target.
I’m walking around with my list on my phone, and I pass by the frozen foods section. Normally I don’t pay any mind to what’s in there, unless I’m looking for frozen veg or fruit. But this particular evening, I happened to look to my right and saw this in the freezer case:
Not knowing what to expect, I bought a bag of the Beef Tamales. There are also pork, chicken and black bean available at Target.
How did I miss these all this time?
Text To BF
After examining these closely, I sent a text to BF telling him that dinner the next night was covered, and it was a surprise. He doesn’t like when I tell him that, but he’s patient and will try something once, so he says.
I brought them home and told him ALL about the tamales. He gave me the usual, “sure, Honey, I’ll try anything you make” comment with a pensive (read: slightly scared) look on his face.
For $6.99, you get a pack of one dozen perfectly rolled tamales packed in corn husks, which is traditional. They’re sealed in a square food-grade plastic package and then bagged in the little muslin bag. (I’m keeping those because I know they’ll be useful somewhere!) The instructions say to steam them in a steamer, preferably standing with the cut edges up. Well, I have this old pot with a strainer insert, and it works pretty well:
If we decide the night before that tomorrow is “tamale night,” then I’ll take them out of the freezer and leave them in the fridge for the next day where they thaw a bit. You can also cook them right out of the freezer.
The directions say it takes 20 minutes, but if I cook them from frozen, I’ll give it 25 minutes. They’re a bit tricky to remove from the pot, because now they’re soft, and the only thing holding them together is the corn husks. I personally don’t care if they come out imperfect, because I’m going to be loading them onto a plate for eating. But BF isn’t used to real tamales, so I try to make sure his look “perfect.”
Verdict: absolutely delicious, the way a tamale should be.
I didn’t take many pictures because we were too busy stuffing our faces with them. Yes, we found a winner for me AND for BF.
They’re Around, Just Look
Since then, I’ve discovered that Rouse’s sells them for about $8.50 a pack, and another place sells them for $10 a pack. So when I know I’m going to Covington, and I have enough money, I buy a few packs for the freezer since they’re priced better at Target. However, I’m glad to know that I can get them in Hammond if I can’t get to Covington. Our big freezer has a stock of them now, and a tasty tamale dinner is just 20 minutes away.
The chicken, we found, was a bit too spicy for us, but the beef and pork are spicy enough without being overbearing. We haven’t tried the black bean type, because BF doesn’t want to. I eat six, he eats four and saves the other two for later. Or we eat four and split the other two later. Or he leaves the rest for me, because I bought them and I’m in love with them. They’re that good.
Texas Tamale Company
Look, when you live in Texas, tamales are everywhere, right? Just like kolaches, chips & salsa, and big bags of masa harina and corn husks. Hatch chiles in nearly anything. It’s like the furniture, Texas flags and the Texas star decor–it’s always there.
Move out of Texas, and you suddenly miss everything. Longtime readers know that I’ve missed everything Texas since the day I got here, and we *still* haven’t made a trip back to visit for a handful of reasons (mostly time and money, we always have one but not the other.) I still want to go, of course, and visit, (not to mention shop) but I can at least have real Texas tamales whenever I want them.
The Texas Tamale Company is on the west side of Houston, and has been in business for many years making “gourmet” tamales. Well, after 30 years, they’ve become quite the company, and you can find these magic morsels nationwide. They even have Hatch Chile Tamales, although they’re not available here, yet. (That’s my next “ask for” project.) You can read their story here.
HEB has its own brand of tamales with some interesting flavors, including Asiago cheese. I’ll try to get some of their interesting flavors whenever I get to shop there again.
Understand that I have no problem driving to the Clear Lake Blvd HEB and buying my regular groceries, even if it’s a ten hour round trip. Easier said than done, of course. BF would probably not like me to do that, either, but I can be tempted.
If you can’t find them locally, you can order them online. I haven’t tried ordering them yet, but I’m probably going to do that one of these days if I can’t get Rouse’s to carry the Hatch chile type.
You know how if you think of a certain type of car, suddenly you see them anywhere? (Concentrate on a red Land Rover, or a blue Hyundai Sonata, and you’ll see what I mean.) Well, someone in Louisiana came up with the idea of. . .crawfish tamales:
Personally, I think it’s wrong, but they could be pretty good. They’re also twice the cost of Texas Tamales (at Target), but we might try them one day. I know, shop local and all that. Subject of an upcoming blog post, honest.
Since then, when we decide break open a pack of these Lone Star State wonders for dinner, I walk around singing, “Ta-MA-LES!” to the tune of Dean Martin’s Volare. I haven’t re-written the words, I just sing that part of it.
So are you ready for some delicious Tex-Mex in your life in 20 minutes? Whichever tamales you choose, just remember to unwrap them from the corn husks first.
Do you like iced coffee? Have you tried a cold brew system before, but were left. . .cold? Fear not–I found the most awesome iced coffee maker, and it’s as easy as filling a bucket.
Hello, again Dear Readers:
I’m still writing, just not here, unfortunately. Neighbor E says he knows I’m OK when he gets a blog post. The GER pops in every so often. I’m trying. . .but we’re doing OK, and busy as heck.
But. . .I’m being harassed. Not by BF or some man that I could do without, but by this website. I get these emails telling me to pay attention to it. Like I haven’t.
Oh, wait, I really haven’t.
Emails with subject lines like:
Problems found on HeatCageKitchen.com
Failed : Automatic Backup of your WordPress installation
Softaculous backup of. . . .
Wordfence activity for. . .
The plugin needs an upgrade. . .
Additionally, people are still trying to hack their way into this website. Why, I don’t know, and it’s from places like Albania and Laos. Don’t they have anything better to do?
And on it goes. But the good news is that writing this blog as long as I have has taught me how to use WordPress. I have a few clients who use it, and they grant me access to their sites so I can go in and upload, format and tweak their content. SEO included, and it’s easy with Yoast. So that’s a good thing.
Oh, and if you like the new “table of contents,” you can thank my client in Israel for telling me how to do that.
I have been shopping, and not just for groceries, although I do that a lot. I look at a lots of different things, primarily online. I’m always interested in something new that will solve a problem or make life easier. BF thinks I’m a little nuts, but I don’t mind. I remind him that my “pill habit” comes from Vitacost.
Did you know you can buy moving bags for mattresses? I had no idea–but when we were suddenly given a queen sized mattress set (that we don’t need), I ordered some of these great big giant Baggies for mattresses, and they’re now sealed up tight in the back room. We could actually put them outside in the garage, but for now they’re fine. Fortunately, when we moved mine, we didn’t have any problems. When it’s time to replace mine, we have a new set ready to use.
I’ve also replaced a few more things, which I will be posting about as soon as I can. The countertop dishwasher is still humming along, thank heavens, sometimes three times a day.
I’ve also finally been to the dentist after more than six years, seen a doctor about something else, and I’ll be getting another eye exam in the next month or so–it’s been a year. If my prescription changed–and even if it didn’t–I’ll be shopping for new glasses again, at Zenni, like last year.
The Royal Wedding
Did you see it? It was FAAABULOUS!!
The night before, I made some Raspberry Scones. I got up at 2:30, drank coffee, made a pot of tea, and turned on the TV to watch it live. From 3:00 am until the live coverage ended (and I passed out) about 8:00 am, I watched history being made–an American marrying into the British Royal Family. First time in nearly 100 years!
Everything went without a hitch, despite all the press from the bride’s side of the family. The music was great, and I wanted so much to give Doria Ragland (Meghan’s mother) a hug. She looked so happy but so far out of her element. Very elegant and classy she was, and now the press goes out to take her picture when she drops by her local bakery for some pastries.
If you didn’t read about it, Harry and Meghan chose Bishop Michael Curry to speak, who is the first African American to lead the Episcopalian Church. What I didn’t know until recently is that the Episcopalian Church is the “American Branch” of the Church of England. So he was kind of a big deal. He was great, although his speech was longer than expected, about 15 minutes. At one point, he said, “I know I’ve got to sit down so we can get you two married.”
The theme was “love.” One of his quotes: “Two people fell in love, and we all showed up.” Oh, yes we did–20 billion of us! (I think.) Fire, as he pointed out, was one of the things that allowed civilization to grow and flourish. But If we can harness the power of love the way we’ve harnessed the power of fire, love really could change the world.
Not to be outdone, Saturday Night Live brought the Most Reverend Curry to Weekend Update to talk more about it. Don’t worry, it’s safe for work–and you know that’s not really him, anyway. But it is funny. The other sketch, featuring “Prince Harry” talking to a videographer while he walked through the reception at 2:00 am, was not only pretty funny, but featured costumes that were nearly identical to the ones worn to the wedding earlier in the day. Unfortunately, that sketch has been taken down.
BF was totally unimpressed. I’ll get the DVD real soon. (Yes, I’m still a Buddhist.)
And Now It’s Summer
Yup–nobody’s drinking yeast-free hot chocolate much these days. That’s OK. I’m back making iced coffee again, but much easier than before.
I started drinking iced coffee in the summer of 2011, when Houston went through a heat wave and a drought. The office was parchingly hot, because the AC couldn’t keep up. I just said, “the heck with this,” and threw a fresh cup of hot coffee into a glass over ice. I’ve been drinking it ever since.
Two years ago, I told you about how Nick Usborne at The Coffee Detective had instructions and recipes for iced coffee. But I’ve got one better, and I don’t think Nick knows about it. I must tell him soon.
I really didn’t mind too much the brewing and cooling process. But when I found this, I snapped one up.
Enter The KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker!
It happened very innocently. I was buzzing through Target on a quick run while BF waited in the truck. Walking through the coffee makers on my way out, I saw this interesting steel glass square sitting there. I thought, “I’ll have to look at that soon.” Didn’t look at the price tag, I just wanted to mentally bookmark it for later.
A couple of days later, we watching a TV show called CityLine, a daytime TV talk show out of Canada. They talk about the usual things for the home–new furnishings, stuff for spring etc. I only caught a couple of minutes of it, but they were showing off new things for spring entertaining. What do you know, the guest speaker moves over, and there is this beautiful thing. She starts to explain it and demonstrate while pouring a glass of iced coffee for the host, Tracy Moore. After adding milk and sugar, she hands it to Tracy. She takes a sip, and says, “Oh, yes, mmm-hmmm, that’s really delicious, yes.” (You know how they do that on TV.) You’d have to go looking for the video, but I couldn’t find it myself. Anyway, I looked at BF and said,“I’m getting one tomorrow.” And I did!
However, I was not prepared to pay the full manufactured price for it. So I managed to find myself a couple of coupons.
Getting It For Less
First of all, if you’re not using Ebates, you should be (here, use my referral code.) I also checked another browser app called Honey. What this does is look for coupons and promo codes right in your browser that you can use to get discounts on different websites.
I put one in my shopping cart, then ran Honey. Found a coupon for 15% off. Wrote the coupon code down, and then went back and started over through Ebates. Now, the shopping trip was registered through Ebates, I used the coupon code and got a little bit of money back.
Essentially, I got it for half price.
Target and Overstock Sell it for about $100. Amazon usually has it for about $75. The KitchenAid website actually had it for $79 when I bought it, and I’m glad I bought it there. I’ll tell you why later. But if you’re going to get one, try to find the best price before you go spending for it (unless you don’t care about money.)
Making Iced Coffee
So now it’s time to answer the question, what’s it like to use this to make iced coffee? Well, it’s probably a little better than other methods that are available. Really, it couldn’t be easier, and I took pictures to show you.
Take the filter basket, and fill it up with the coffee of your choice to the line, which is hard to see, but there.
That should come to 750 g. Make sure the little plastic rim is in place, and set your basket into the coffee maker, then fill it with ground coffee.
According to the directions, you poor 34 ounces of water into the coffee grounds, and let them sit for a couple of minutes to absorb. When that’s done, you poor additional 8 ounces of water into the coffee grounds.
Once that’s done, take a spoon and push the coffee grounds under the water and make sure all the coffee grounds are wet and absorbing water, eliminating any “dry spots.” Put the lid on it, and leave it alone.
Easier Than A CrockPot
When you’re ready for it, the directions say to let the coffee steep for 12 to 24 hours. The first time I used it, I let it sit for 12 hours. The second time, I left for 24. I have to say that I prefer the 24 hour steeping.
After your coffee has steps for the desired amount of time, just use a little handle to pick up the coffee filter basket out of the coffee maker.
Stand it to one side so that the coffee drains out. Then tilt iin the opposite direction, so that more of the brewed coffee will drain out of the filter basket.
Now it’s just a matter of putting the finished coffee into your refrigerator. It has a small footprint, sits right on the shelf, and conveniently allows you to get iced coffee whatever you want.
Ready To Drink Iced Coffee?
Now that the iced coffee is ready, it’s very simple to make in a glass. You simply add one part coffee concentrate to three parts milk or water, whatever your choice. I use this cup I bought on sale from Starbucks a few years ago, and I put the coffee concentrate to just over the ridge on the bottom of the straw. (That keeps it from falling out of the cup if you turn it over.)
And then fill the rest with milk. It’s kind of eyeballed, but it works for me.
At this point, you sweeten, add flavor or whatever you like to do with your iced coffee. You can add regular milk, cream or half-and-half, or you can use one of the alternative milks like almond milk or hemp milk, your choice. Like whipped cream? Add it. Like those fancy sauces that flavor your coffee? Add some. Once you get the basic formula down, it’s all up to you.
I know that there is a myriad of ice coffee brewing systems on the market. I just happened to find this one, and it’s so easy and foolproof. Of course, I read a bunch of reviews on Amazon and on KitchenAid’s website before I popped open my piggy bank. (My review is actually on KitchenAid’s website, but I guess I didn’t win the food processor!) But after seeing it in action and seeing how well it works, even non-coffee drinking BF thinks it was a great buy. Especially since I not only got it for half-price, I use it all the time.
The Karma Of Spare Parts, Again
Yes, I already needed a spare part for it. Somehow, the little handle fell off the filter basket, and needed a new one. A quick call to the nice folks at KitchenAid, and they said they would send me a new one, no problem. They sent the whole filter basket, not just the handle. I asked how much this would cost, and I heard the words that made my day:
“Oh, there’s no charge. It’s still under warranty.”
It arrived a few days later. I’m so glad I bought it directly from Kitchen Aid.
What Kind Of Coffee?
You’re probably thinking I used some high-end exclusive blend curated just for iced coffee. Or at least something from Starbucks. Well, I did use a very exclusive type of decaf coffee:
Yeup. Exclusive to shoppers of Rouse’s. About $4.35 for that brick. It’s what I had available the first time, and so it’s what I’ve been using. At some point I’ll order plenty of HEB’s wonderful grocery store brand coffee and use that again. But for now, this works just fine.
Cold brewing also eliminates the acid that you may get if you make your iced coffee from hot. No boiling pots, nothing hot, and no burns either.
Cold Brew Iced Coffee The Easy Way
I know there’s a bunch of different ways to make iced coffee. And if you’re happy with the way you make it, go for it. If you’re not happy with it, I offer a simple, foolproof alternative.
This hands-off method just takes a little planning, and makes it perfect every time. The elegantly designed cube sits right in your fridge at the ready. KitchenAid has also recently introduced a stand for it, but I probably won’t be getting one. We’re not planning a brunch anytime soon.
But if you love iced coffee, but don’t like spending a fortune for it, just break open the piggy bank get yourself one of these models. Find a stainless steel cup to drink it out of (especially one that fits in your car’s cupholder so you can take it with you) and you’re on your way to enjoying iced coffee more often. Don’t forget to use Ebates and find it on sale or marked down.
More New KitchenAid Things
Well, sort of. We recently were gifted quite a number of things, including a KitchenAid toaster and 14-cup coffee pot, and some other small things. The caveat is that they’re all RED. No kidding. You’d think I’d be enjoying red dishes, red cups, red bowls and red everything else. But even as a fan of red, after a while your eyes get tired of all that red. I’ll live with it, because we were gifted them from someone who won’t need them anymore. We’ve nicknamed him DG, and I’ll explain more next time. I’ll try to take pictures and add them to an upcoming blog post.
Meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying summer, staying cool and hydrated. Now that you know an easy way to make iced coffee, you can enjoy it more often. I have it every day, i the Casa de Rurale, and no driving to a coffee shop.