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Front of the French Truck Coffee shop on Magazine Street
French Truck Coffee

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!

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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.

On Strike

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.

Arriving Early

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:

Front of the French Truck Coffee shop on Magazine Street

A small building with great coffee

Neat little place. I walked in, and of course, the smell is awesome:

 

Barista at the counter

I talked to this man to order my coffee

And I walked around and took a few pictures while I waited, because for decaf, they do a pour-over:

Wall of French Truck Coffee on shelves

Oh, boy!

If you’re hungry, they’ve got you covered with croissants and things:

Glass case with pastries

These look delicious

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. . . .

Burlap bag as wall art.

This is a coffee bag that they framed. Love it!

Wall art in French Truck Coffee

The burlap bag is just one of the many pieces of coffee-related art on the wall by the counter

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:

Dining menu

This is their menu, which I’m sure is available every day

 

Coffee map

This map of where all the coffees come from is interesting. (Yes, that’s me snapping a pic like a tourist.)

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.

Highly recommended!

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:

Two bags of DEcaf New Orleans Roast

Made in Covington, New Orleans Roast is also available at Rouse’s

Back of the New Orleans Roast bag

More about the company

And of course, the brand that’s also available in Houston:

Bag of Community Cafe Special Decaf

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!

Happy Easter!

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.

Enjoy!

Muslin bag of Texas Tamale company
Texas Tamales At La Casa

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!

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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.

Elderberry Syrup

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.

Bottle of Andi Lynn's Elderberry Syrup, 16 ounce bottle.

This magic concoction is thick and really sweet.

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.

Educating BF

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:

Pink Prnincess Coffee Maker toy for girls

Don’t you just WANT one?

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.

Winn-Dixie Listens

Speaking of coffee, our local Winn-Dixie finally has some new baskets with coffee holders on them:

Winn Dixie Grocery Baskets With Coffee Holders

FINALLY!!

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.

View of multiple grocery baskets with coffee holders

Another view of the basket type

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:

Chicken Tamales steaming in a 6-quart Crockpot

Just like Stephanie’s, the tamales steamed nicely in the Crockpot

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:

Raspberry chocolate cheesecake from Wheat Belly

Doesn’t it look wonderful?

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:

Muslin bag of Texas Tamale company

This little muslin bag holds some of the most delicious food available.

AAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

Texas Tamale Bag Bag with ingredients and company contact information

OMG!! THEY’RE MADE IN HOUSTON!!!

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:

Steaming tamales in a strainer pot

Just like this, and they cook perfectly

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.”

Tamales

Dinner. Done.

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.

Local Tamales

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:

Pack of Crawfish tamales

Crawfish tamales? Heresy!

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.

Enjoy!

 

 

RaceTrac
Amy’s RaceTrac Experience

RaceTrac–a nice little place to stop in the South.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

It’s Good Friday, and I’m in Starbucks today! Why? The library’s closed. It’s open on Saturday, but not Good Friday. I haven’t seen anyplace close down for Good Friday since I worked at Baylor College of Medicine–how long has that been? But that’s OK–it’s a “star dash” weekend, giving extra points for the Bacon Gouda Breakfast Sandwich. I had two, although not at once, and it bumped up my points. I now have two free things coming, which I’ll save for my next trip to New Orleans.

As you’ll see in today’s post, Starbucks isn’t the only place to get coffee when you’re out and about in the South. If you see a RaceTrac on your travels, I’ll tell you why you need to stop there.

Progress in La Casa de Rurale

BF put up my EZ-Gym, finally, seven months after I got here and four months after taking it out of my big suitcase. I’ve actually used it this week, too, while watching one of my Britcom DVDs. Since the episodes are exactly 30 minutes long, it’s a great way to time your exercise, especially on a machine like the Nordic Track. But the EZ-Gym is a neat thing to have, easy to use once you get the hang of it, and portable if you need it to be.

We don’t have a Home Depot or Lowe’s, but we do have a small Ace Hardware (where I went to visit the baby chickens a while back) and another “hometown” hardware store that BF has taken me to a few times. (There is a Lowe’s in Hammond, 30 minutes away.)  I went in for the wood screws to mount it to the wall, and came out with a canvas painter’s drop cloth, too. What the heck?

“Belgian Linen”

In the latest issue of Mary Janes’ Farm magazine, there’s an article on making “budget” linen tablecloths out of them. I’ve considered using drop cloth before (for projects from the old Martha Stewart Living magazines), but the stuff in Home Depot was too heavy and stiff. Our local place had the exact same brand and type that Mary Jane Butters used, so I grabbed one. You use the 6 ounce weight, because the 10 ounce is too heavy.

As MaryJane instructed, I washed it three times, let it dry outside the third time, then washed it a fourth to make sure it didn’t smell like a manufacturing plant. It feels pretty nice now that it’s all washed out. It’s a 9-foot by 12-foot piece, which comes out to 36 yards of fabric, for $17.99. That sounds like stuff I bought at Hancock Fabrics. I’ve got the big dining room table measured, I just haven’t made the tablecloth yet. But I can’t wait to tell people it’s “an expensive Belgian linen tablecloth.”  Pictures when I finish it.

Exercise?

BF says he needs to get back into exercising and back into shape. For some time, my “exercise routine” has consisted of moving and unpacking boxes, doing laundry and washing up, chasing a frisky 60-pound pit bull around, investigating and cleaning up cluttered corners and moving stuff either out to the rubbish pile, the burn pile or to the trash can for pickup on Thursday. Since I’ve been busy freelancing (still no million-dollar paychecks yet) I haven’t been doing that, hence, the EZ-Gym being installed on the only free wall stud in the studio. (BF had to make his silly joke about “looking for a stud? Here I am!”)  If I ever start traveling again, I’ll buy another one to keep in my suitcase. It’s not going to work setting it up on a door in BF’s place. I can see the TV from that spot, too.

He has rather muscular arms (particularly the biceps), and wants to start lifting those 15-pound hand-held weights again, as well as use his regulation punching bag and boxing gloves out in the garage. I’m using my kettle bells again, in addition to the EZ-Gym and the old Exercise TV No Sweat Yoga DVD last Saturday morning. (This morning was an hour of walking, partly with the Hounds.) I explained kettle bells to him, but he said, “yeah, we did that in the Navy.” Okay, bud. But I guess it’s time we started working out, either separately or together, or both, because he watches a lot of TV after work. And we aren’t getting any younger.

If I could just get him dancing properly. . .he grabs my left hand and doesn’t understand that it should be my right. Maybe I should find a “couples yoga” or “dance with me” DVD for us. . . .

Lil’ Diabeetus

I told him that if he really, REALLY wants to lose a few pounds, his Cokes would be a good thing to eliminate. In addition to all the awful things that soft drinks are, Cokes are 140 calories a can, primarily sugar. He drinks 4 a day when he’s at work, and occasionally one or two, more buying them by the case twice a week. So that’s at least 560 calories per day he could drop, and replace it with something healthier (like water, darnit.) Additionally, he could drop the L’il Debbie “fairy cakes” he likes to pack with his lunch (just my sarcastic nickname for them.) Now, calories aren’t the be-all and end-all of weight loss, otherwise we could all subsist on chocolate bars and be thin. There has to be real nutrition to keep the “machine” running. Or you can see this in your future:

RaceTrac

This is the picture they don’t show you. It’s what Lil’ Debbie looks like when she gets older. (Pic courtesy BF, who likely found it on Facebook.)

Anyway. . .between the EZ-Gym, the Thighmaster set (yes, I use it regularly), yoga, and kettle bell moves, I hope to get back into a better shape this summer, and beyond. Biking, well, not so much yet, since I’d be by myself, unless I decide to get myself one of those bike trainers you put your cycle on and pedal while watching TV. (Gotta rustle up more clients and money soon!)

Gardening!

The gardening still isn’t going on much, although I do have some new little tomato seedlings. The Hatch chile seeds, however, did not germinate, and there are no seedlings, darnit. I know where to order some seeds, but will keep trying with the ones I have been saving, first. GRRRR. . .I’ve only met one person here who knows what Hatch chiles are, everyone else, I have had to “school.”

The Key Lime and Meyer Lemon trees are doing well, and I see lots more buds than I did in Houston, and we’ll have a bumper crop of key limes, too. I haven’t planted the darn trees yet; maybe this weekend.  I’ve got green onions going on, and I hope I haven’t killed my little Rosemary plant. If I did, I can go back to the local Ace hardware store and get another one, while visiting the little baby chickens. (Haven’t done that in a while.)

I know, I know. . .pictures, Amy.

Miss Shirley, you will be happy to know that sitting here in Starbucks, I just discovered a place I need to go investigate.

RaceTrac

But do they have Hatch Chiles??

It’s probably not like the Genoa Friendship Garden (that was a fun place!) but it’s local, and it’s all about gardening. When I get there, I’ll give a full report.

Now, if they have Hatch chiles, I’ll be tap dancing on the bar!

RaceTrac

Longtime readers know of my affinity for coffee, and for Starbucks. But in addition to the local PJ’s, I’ve also discovered a new place to get pretty good coffee. It’s a convenience store that sells more than just Twinkies and Cokes.

When I visited BF last year, I needed petrol for my rental car to return home. Because it was right there off the freeway (or as they call it here, “th’ Innerstate”) and coffee for my soul (and the trip back to Texas) it was my first stop on the way out. I have to say it was pretty darn good coffee, and a nice clean place. But I was on my way back to Houston, and never gave it a second thought. Because. . .I was never coming back, right?

Right?

Nine months later, I’m lamenting the loss of my fabulous HEB, IKEA, and multiple Starbucks within a five mile radius, one walking distance from the front door. The Racetrac in my new ‘hood is being renovated. When they finally re-opened, it was much nicer than before, with lots of new menu options, including frozen yogurt and packaged salads.

This is a petrol station?

It sure is, and a lot more. Really, REALLY nice people work there, too.

I’ve gone in many times with my black 16-ounce stovepipe Starbucks travel mug and gone for the hot, fresh decaf on the way to the library, and shot some Hazelnut or Caramel sugar-free flavoring in before adding in half & half.

Recently RaceTrac installed a new center-island fixture that has, among other things, three kiosk screens to order yourself some food or fancy coffee drinks. On one trip, I was filling up my Starbucks mug for a 98-cent “grande” when I was asked, “Would you like to try one of our new espresso drinks for free?

Someone is offering me free coffee? Yes, please! I just say “thank you.”

RaceTrac

Well, I did ask if they could make it decaf–yes, we can! So we were off. After handing me a coupon to take to the register later, we walked over to the kiosk screen and I tapped it in. Cappuccino, French Vanilla flavoring, whipped cream, extra shot of espresso. . .POOF! Off it went to their ordering system behind the coffee counter, where the nice lady made it fresh on this machine:

RaceTrac

They make it fresh–no “formulas.”

They can flavor it any way you like:

RaceTrac

Flavors! And check out that counter!

They can also make the iced coffee drinks for you, too:

RaceTrac

You can make nearly anything with a Vitamix!

Those machines, of course, are designed for heavy industrial use–every day.

I paid for the regular coffee and the cashier rang up a $3.75 coffee drink for free. Of course, I said “thank you” many times–I’m no slouch! I took that and my *regular* coffee with me to the library, sipping the cappuccino first on a clear, cold Louisiana day. Suddenly, the day was a little bit better.

There have been other times

Occasionally, randomly, I have poured some hot decaf, fixed the way *I* want it, got to the counter and was asked, “is that all you have?” Yes. The cashier’s response has been, “have a nice day,” or “OK, you’re good.” In other words, your coffee is free today! It’s a random thing, or maybe I should download the RaceTrac app and know when they have “free coffee” days. While I have spent a fair amount of money on 98-cent coffee over the last few months, especially when it’s cold, I’m heading over to pay the water bill for BF, or I have a few minutes before BF gets out of work, I have also been randomly offered free coffee, too.

I just say “thank you.”

It’s a Southern thing

RaceTrack is headquartered in Atlanta, and operates facilities in 12 southern states. While the stores here aren’t as big as Buc-ee’s, the folks are every bit as friendly, and darnit, the coffee’s good, too. They have a full breakfast menu–even croissants!–and breakfast wraps that look pretty good (although I haven’t tried them yet.) I’ve seen those packaged salads, but not bought any yet. With three kiosk screens, they make up some of the food on demand, as well as the espresso drinks.

An Epic Discovery

And what do they have mixed in with the candy bars, small bottles of liquor and little packets of cake? Epic Bars! No kidding–in semi-rural Louisiana, they have my beloved Epic bars, but only one kind–the Bison with Cranberry.  Nobody else here has them, except RaceTrac. Sometimes they’re on sale, 2 for $5, and I’ve bought a pair and taken them to my “work place” at the Tangi Library many times. (Can’t do that too often, though.) I can get a full line of them on Epic’s website, of course. I can also find them locally at Whole Foods in Mandeville, Baton Rouge and New Orleans (not sure about Hammond, but I haven’t looked, either.) But here? Even the cashiers don’t know what they are! I think I’m the only one who buys them, but of course, I’m happy to have them available.

BF has less than polite things to say about Epic Bars, but, well, maybe that’s one too many MRE’s in his past, too. Guess I shouldn’t have given him the turkey one to try first.

Your Southern Summer Stop

If you’re traveling this year to see friends, family, or just going somewhere in the South, RaceTrac is a good place to stop. Starbucks has forced everyone to up their game, so better coffee is more available, even in decaf.

Like I said, Racetrac isn’t Buc-ee’s (which is a Texas thing), but it’s a pretty nice place. You can find RaceTrac locations on their website, and you can also go to their Facebook page and read more about them. RaceTrac also has an app you can download to find out about new stuff and get points or something. If ever I do download it (whenever I upgrade my rather aged iPhone, of course) I’ll let you know how it works.

It’s not Buckingham Palace, OK?  Not even Buc-ee’s. But RaceTrac is a good place to stop if you’re driving through the South this summer.

Made a new friend this week

Speaking of Atlanta, I met a lady in the library the other day who moved here with her adult daughter and husband temporarily. It was great to talk with someone. . .who knows what it’s like to have that culture shock! She said there is a company in Atlanta that’s similar to RaceTrac, where she moved from, called QuickWay. Apparently, RaceTrac goes head-to-head in the Georgia Market.

Know what else my new friend misses? The awesome east-coast grocery chain Publix. Just like I miss my HEB! However, she has married an African man. No, I mean, African from Africa; she’s a black American woman, she’s from here, too. Her husband is from West Africa, and they are getting ready to relocate overseas. No kidding. The wars are over, and they are going to Liberia to help re-build the country (he’s in construction.) She’s been there before, of course.  I can’t blame her for being excited–it’s a big adventure, and of course, her relatives in Louisiana are not happy about her going all the way to West Africa. I can certainly empathize–my parents didn’t want me moving six hours away to Houston at the age of 34, and they don’t even like me!

Anyway. . . .

Winn-Dixie’s new Plenti

Winn-Dixie is changing their rewards program, and the new one is called “Plenti.” Whatever. The cashiers all have new shirts, and the bags are now a bright robins-egg blue. They nag you until you agree to changing it all over. The black cards are going away. I have so many cards from all over the US, I just didn’t need another. My new friend and I were discussing that too. Big, fat hairy deal. Still no place to put your coffee in their baskets.

Here’s a tip: put them all on a separate key ring. Just don’t punch a hole in any magnetic strips. Keeps your key ring from getting too heavy and damaging your ignition.

Until next time

Here’s hoping everyone has an enjoyable Easter Sunday with a great holiday dinner. As I’ve long said, there’s nothing wrong with spending holidays alone, if that’s what your only option is. You make and have a good dinner, wine if you want it, and a tasty dessert. Enjoy a day off to do something enjoyable, whatever that is (unless you’re lucky enough to have a job and are working.)

I don’t yet know what we’re doing, but it won’t be the big thing I did at Thanksgiving. No, BF wants “simpler,” so, if we’re having The Kids, it’ll be a lot of what *he* can cook up quickly.   I think my days of big gourmet adventures are about over, long as I live here. (Unless the GER asks.) Heck, I might end up at RaceTrac, I dunno.

Easter is another Sunday to me, with chocolate. I want a steak salad, and the DVDs I got from the library, with the sewing machine on full tilt. I hope the cat can handle it.

Happy Easter!

 

 

Starbucks
Amy’s Starbucks Weekend

Starbucks–I spent the weekend in Hammond, sort of.

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Happy Monday, Dear Readers!

A local festival locked up the library last week, so I told BF, “heck with it–I’m headed to Starbucks.”  So I did. Transferred some money from PayPal into my Starbucks account–yes, you can do that–and while BF worked at his place of business, I worked at Starbucks. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and a quick stop on Sunday at the Mandeville Starbucks on the way home from Whole Foods for an iced coffee.  Let me tell you all about it.

But first, some news.

We’ll be seeing some new “functional” foods in the US soon, called Freedom Foods. If you’re thinking it’s for patriotic Americans, well. . .think again. It’s an Australian company, and will be distributed in the US by AFT Holdings. They’re a “major player” in the “functional health cereal,” snack and beverage market Down Under, but my guess is that you won’t be getting the same thing you get in Australia–the formulations will be “Americanized.” Just a guess.

American Quinoa?

Ardent Mills is promoting North American-grown quinoa, including products made with quinoa flour: nutrition bars, cereals, chips, gluten-free pastas and other snacks. Can they keep the quinoa from becoming GMO or contaminated with GMO? Part of the appeal is that it’s not grown in the US, so it usually isn’t. Fingers crossed.

Less sugar, more starch. . .right.

A British ingredient company has a new sweetener called avante that claims to allow bakers to use less sugar in their products. This tapioca-based product, which is being called a “clean, non-GMO starch,” is still going to be a sugar, especially if they continue to reduce the fat content in these sweets. (Diabetics already know this.) But sweets aren’t something we consume every day, right? Right?

Anyway. . .

The local festival used to be at what they call the “fair grounds,” up the street, but now it’s in the street in front of the library. Rides, vendors, etc., like every church fair you’ve ever been to, except in the street. Whatever–all I know is the library was blocked off Thursday, closing early on Friday and closed all day Saturday. I’m back in the library today, getting back into the swing of things.

Crawfish Night

BF has been “having a craving” for crawfish lately, and Friday night he gave in. Took us to one of those places up the street from the library that doesn’t have a website, they just have seafood and laminated menus. Me, I could take it or leave it. . .but a nice plate of steak or chicken fajitas, some good guacamole, pico de gallo, and maybe some crispy corn chips? Oh, out of my way!

He bought six pounds of them, a couple of chunks of corn on the cob and a few potatoes, which are traditionally boiled in with the crawfish. We took them home and carefully kept them away from the pit bull on the way in the front door. Admittedly, as indifferent as I was to having crawfish again, they were pretty darn good. We sat at the big dining table with some of those big round trays he keeps for such a purpose and dove in. The cat was very interested in what she was smelling, but when offered a bit, turned her nose up. And the leftover shells and corn cobs? BF put those outside near a huge drainpipe for the night creatures. Next morning it was clean. We have visions of possums and raccoons cheering for such a special meal. But they don’t say much, they just enjoy it.

Working. . .in Starbucks

No kidding, I just set up my laptop and stuff, take my black stovepipe coffee mug and walk up to the counter. Since I’ve been in there a lot, and Hammond’s store doesn’t seem to have much turnover, the folks who work there seem to know me when I hit the front door. With earned money on my app, I asked for coffee and one of their breakfast sandwiches. I was hungry, so. . .I had one. (Three, actually, one a day.) That’s not a regular thing, but these were unusual circumstances. I dropped my honey off at his place of employment and hit the road.

Hammond is about a 30-minute drive from Casa de Rurale, and I’ll either listen to the radio, stream music or chant for a while. (In Houston, we called that “windshield diamoku.”) Starbucks is kind of my “Hammond Central,” just because I know where it is. I also know where Winn-Dixie, Tuesday Morning, Rouse’s, Harbor Freight Tools, Lowe’s, RaceTrac (subject of an upcoming blog post) and. . .drum roll. . .Walmart is. They’re all up the street from Starbucks!

I really was working

Today my newest client just gave me two more jobs, and I have another article due next week for the natural health folks. That article is going to spawn a blog post here, BF will be treated to some new food, and possibly another taste-tester or two. I’ll have a backlink for you to read the client article in the blog post, too–but I haven’t finished the article nor the work for the blog post yet. That baking may be this week or at the weekend, so keep your fingers crossed for that one.

I got some coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and got to it. I finished up the last article for my natural health client first, and sent it off to them. They’ve accepted it, and I’ve been paid for it. After a message exchange, I asked about the next one. Checking my milestones, I realized that the next the next article was due on the 29th, and another April 4th, I think. But my newest client’s work work was due sooner. She was supposed to send it, but I hadn’t heard from her, so I checked in. Whoops! Someone slipped up, it was late, and she sent it shortly thereafter. With a free refill on the decaf I put down the next article that I’ve already started, got right on her web copy re-write.

Starbucks Rewards–it pays!

I don’t know if it was just the Hammond store or what, but they’ve been running a special with the breakfast sandwiches–a couple of them are $5 with a coffee. That’s going on until something like April 5th. Well, the sandwiches run about $4.50, and coffee is anywhere from $2 on up, so yes, it’s a good thing. With my own coffee tumbler, there’s a ten-cent discount as well (not just for Rewards members, either.)

I learned to work the system

Then there is what they call a “Star Dash”–a period of time where you buy or do certain things or make a certain number of purchases–and you receive a sum of “bonus stars” (points) in return. Sometimes it’s using their mobile ordering app, which I’ve done. Sometimes it’s getting a breakfast sandwich, a certain type of coffee (i.e., a Flat White) and a dessert item, either separately or together, for those stars. But this particular time, it was from March 14 through March 20. If you make 5 separate purchases, no matter the dollar amount, you would receive 75 bonus stars, in addition to the stars you already receive by the actual purchase (say, 10 stars.) If you make 7 purchases, you would receive 200 bonus stars. These stars also count towards the continuation of your “gold” status for another year.

If you went into Starbucks every day for a coffee, as many Americans do, you would probably reach 125 stars, after spending $62.50. That’s how much you spend normally to reach 125 stars and get a free thing. But if you hit one of the star dashes, well, that goes up quick. I already had a free thing from a previous promotion, and I used it last week. But I still managed to rack up the 200 bonus points.

I got hungry

There was the coffee and breakfast sandwich first thing, and then free refills as long as I was there. But woman does not live on free coffee alone. And dinner was hours away, after BF got off work. We did have one day of CrockPot dinner. There was also a leftover night and Pizza Waffles on the Griddler. But in between, I did some investigation on what was available. In addition to the breakfast sandwiches, which are *not* gluten free, they have panini, but no sandwiches or salads. Pass. And of course, they have the cake pops, cookies, muffins and other baked goods available in the case, but I decided to go out of the case and try something new.

Emmy’s Organics

Something sweet was just the ticket, and I found these while waiting in line:

Starbucks

Chocolate cookies!

There are three chocolate cookies in this package, and I have to say they were not only tasty, but filling, too. Never seen them before? Me either–but they were good. They’re organic, gluten free and vegan–what could be wrong with that? Nothing, from what I saw:

 

Starbucks

They even use Agave Syrup

Healthy nibbles that were definitely worth it:

Starbucks

See?

So what’s in the package? These cute little rounds:

Chocolate!

No frosting, no fancy design, just a cute little round. What do they taste like?

Starbucks

Yum!

These really are good–sweet but not *too* sweet. They’re about $3 a packet, so I wouldn’t be doing these daily. (Remember this was kind of unusual.) But they’re a pretty good thing to have with afternoon coffee.

The blonde version

I also found the Vanilla Bean version right next to it, and had them the next day:

Starbucks

These are good, too

The ingredients are similar:

Starbucks

But no chocolate

They’re good, but I prefer the chocolate version.

Starbucks

Same as the chocolate one, only lighter.

Emmy’s Organics makes a variety of flavors, available on their website, of these coconut cookies. You can read more about Ian and Samantha’s little company here, how they got started and how they’ve grown.

So what else did you find?

If you are missing Girl Scout Cookies, or wish they came gluten free, here’s a fake-me-out version that you might be interested in:

Starbucks

Can they say that?

They’re non-GMO and gluten free, but what’s in them?

Starbucks

The usual starchy replacements.

Tread carefully, since these are high in carbs. I didn’t try these because I found the coconut cookies, but I might have. I was thinking about it, anyway.

There is also meat:

Starbucks

Meat!

I didn’t try these either, because I didn’t notice them early enough. Maybe next time. My choice would have been beef, of course:

Starbucks

Gluten free, grass fed beef, but I don’t know what that flavoring is.

I didn’t ask the price for these, either, but I should have. Next time.

All around me, things were coming up spring:

Starbucks

Spring coffees, new cups and new stuff!

And a lot of telling information here:

Starbucks

Base?

They don’t sell soft drinks, but some of these specialty beverages are every bit as sugary.

They also have new cups for Easter:

Starbucks

Aren’t they cute?

This is what one of them says:

Starbucks

Awww. . . .

The total

So after all that, I found myself with 304 points, which meant two free things. Yesterday I headed to Mandeville for my district meeting, and after a quick forage in Whole Foods, I hit the Starbucks across the street. I was really, really hoping they had salads, but no. It’s warmed up again here, so I decided on a large, fancy iced coffee. The Iced Cinnamon Almond Milk Macchiato looked good to me, and it was–mostly.

Starbucks

Yes, that’s the way it was handed to me.

I asked for decaf *and* sugar free syrup, so I guess it was not exactly to spec. I added a packet of pink and it was still a bit strong, so I added some half & half. Now it was perfect! I put it in the cup holder and headed back to the Casa. It was a pretty good day.

Stop Hating on Starbucks!

OK, so, I know the GER is reading this and gritting his teeth, wondering why I keep going in there. And there’s probably one or two other readers who don’t agree with me on going in. First, well, it’s the best place to go in these parts and get as much free coffee as they’ve given me. And they do a lot of good.

There’s a rumor that has been around for many years that says “Starbucks doesn’t support our troops.” True, they do have their political leanings, but they also do a lot of good. Not everyone can get hired on, but there are good benefits for people who do. But for our military folk, Starbucks does step up to the plate.

It started with an email

The story is here on their website, how how it all went down with a U.S. Marine. Starbucks has facilities all over the world, including military bases. They’ve made the goal to hire more vets and vet spouses. And they deliver coffee to service members overseas.

Yes, I remember #RaceMatters, and the blowback they got for it. Nobody’s perfect. And I know about their preferences in states with concealed carry. But it’s still a nice little place to go sometimes.

Why?

The people who actually work in the Hammond store are pretty darn nice, and are happy to make my decaf. So are the customers. I had mostly the same experience in Houston, except for that one down in the Tunnel. You meet some nice folks in Starbucks. My friend BS, who left Boeing to move back to New Mexico about ten years ago, met his wife in there not long after he moved there. They’ve been married for, what–eight years now? Maybe not that long. I’m not looking for another boyfriend, of course, but I’ve talked to some really nice folks in there. There’s one man I see frequently who’s polite, and in between projects, we talk about stuff sometimes.

Still missing Texas

I still miss my HEB, and the Starbucks on my Street, and of course, my friends. I know some people here, and just accepted a friend request from a lady who is leaving the library for a better job on Friday. I finally got a rack for my kitchen stuff, and unpacked a bunch more boxes yesterday.  BF gave me some help moving things around after I got all that taken care of, and we are both sore today. I’ll take a couple of pictures when I get it all finished.

I’m getting used to things, I guess. We realized the other day that it’s been six months since BF drove to Houston for a “rescue mission.” It’s not always smooth sailing, but we’re getting there. And the garden will be happening soon–the citrus trees have lots and lots of buds on them.

Meantime, I’m back writing for clients, and hanging out at the local library. It’s kind of nice to get out of the local vibe and hit Starbucks sometimes, or go work on a Sunday because I can get ahead on things.

I’ve got more stuff coming, so stay tuned.

Enjoy!

No Cow Bar
New Year and the No Cow Bar

Happy New Year, Dear Readers! Have you seen the No Cow Bar?

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We’re getting started on a new year with good and bad, and thawing out after a weekend of hard freezing.

Have you started your New Year’s diet and exercise plan yet? Good. I’ve got some things to tell you about before you do. But first. . . .

More 2016 celebrity sudden deaths.

By now you’ve heard the sad news that one of my favorite songwriting musicians, George Michael, passed away Christmas Day from heart failure at 53. The E-Man called me from his family’s place in Florida to tell me. George was working on new music and a documentary, and by some reports, also battling a heroin addiction.

Additionally, his 1990 album Listen Without Prejudice is being re-released soon. I’m glad, because I no longer have a copy. Cowboys and Angels is one of my favorite songs from that album, as well as from his entire body of work. Not many people have heard it, and I don’t know if it was released as a single. This link is to a symphonic version on YouTube; the original video has a scantily-clad female walking around surrounded by photographers. Here’s the original album version with only a picture of his face and without the potential for “not safe for work.” Wikipedia has this entry on the song. 

Yes, it’s the same George Michael whose previous release contained some raunchier tunes, didn’t appear in videos for the videos from this album, and got this butt chewed by the one and only Frank Sinatra for complaining about his solo success. But he was also doing duets with Jody Watley, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, and others for a while, too.

The Force passes

Two days later, Carrie Fischer, best known as Star Wars’ Princess Leia, also passed away from a heart-related ailment. The next day, her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, passed away from what was reported to be a stroke.  Some say it was a broken heart, and who could blame her? Ms. Reynold’s son Todd, Carrie’s sister, was tasked with burying both of them and handling their affairs, along with Carrie’s daughter. Very sad.

2016 was a culling for the entertainment world–David Bowie had cancer, Glenn Frey (The Eagles) had pneumonia, Prince had his issues with pain and prescriptions. . .what’s going on? I’m reading the possible answer, many celebrities are associated with prior drug use, or have continuing issues with them. Weak hearts, weakened immune systems, depressed hormone production–your system pays a price even after you quit. But it’s related to an upcoming blog topic.

And if you’re considering the January re-boot of your health, my next blog post will give you something to seriously consider. No, not just the latest diet fad, either.

Anyway. . .how was your Christmas?

Did you slow-cook anything? Break out the waffle maker for a quick dessert? Were you able to accomplish everything you wanted to for the big holiday dinner? Or were you happily alone without the nerve-wracking distractions a big-deal activity can hold?

Saturday brought me three visitors–one of which was Santa! Yes, the local fire department took out a truck and a guy with a beard and a heavy red suit for a ride around our area. He hopped out of the truck and brought me and a visiting friend of BF a paper sack with an orange, and apple, and two of those lovely powdery mints you sometimes find in restaurants when you pay your tab. We were outside chatting and up roars this fire engine from up the road. I asked Santa what kind of cookies he liked. He said, “Oh, I like all kinds of cookies.” I said, “remember, Rachael Ray doesn’t bake, but I do!”

What did we do?

Well. . .not much. BF had his son on Saturday, and Sunday was a trip down the road for dinner with his Dad and family. We did put a pork roast in the CrockPot, but other than that, nothing special. I didn’t do all the things I said I was going, to, though.

For the record, for the first time, I did not see the new Doctor Who Christmas Special. I’ll get to see it eventually. After getting BF to watch and enjoy last year’s Sherlock holiday special, The Abominable Bride, I’ll call that a success. He also watched part of the new installment of Sherlock this weekend. I won’t mention the spoilers, in case you have not seen it. But I’ll say that I didn’t see *that* coming in the first episode.

New Year’s Day Slow Cooking

I planned to head to New Orleans on New Year’s Day, but I wasn’t feeling well on Saturday night, and didn’t get up on time Sunday morning. You see, we had some seriously apocalyptic rain that weekend, and somehow I developed a headache, I believe, because of it. (We were again at BF’s father’s house, and his sister was in town bearing gifts for the little kids.) Or maybe it was this book I was reading–bought for a 2 year old child, but I decided to start reading it and couldn’t put it down. No kidding. (They were watching a football game.) I got 100 pages into it when BF said, “I’m ready to go home, are you?” Celtic Tales is now on my Amazon wish list. It’s *that* good.

To accommodate my absence and the need to eat, I decided to employ two of our slow-cooking machines and check with Stephanie O’Dea at A Year of Slow Cooking for advice. Well, Stephanie’s email last week had three recipes with black eyed peas, one of which was a chili with ground beef. BF liked that one, but called it a “Taco Soup.” Call it whatever you like, it was a pretty good idea. I also looked for cabbage, since BF asked, and found this nice one with cabbage and little potatoes. Both are pretty good, and highly recommended–but you’ll need a six-quart slow cooker for each of the recipes. I used a 4-quart for the cabbage, and ended up with more cabbage to shred for coleslaw. Thankfully, I’m the only one who likes coleslaw, so more for me.

But I still didn’t go to New Orleans, darnit.

The weather was pretty bad, too.

BF’s teenage son was again with us for the day, and his daughter came with her baby and fellah later in the day. BF was of the idea that they would come to eat–but they went to Cracker Barrel first. Oh, well–there’s chili in the freezer for another day. We finished off the frozen half of the 15-bean soup last week, with BF agreeing it was pretty darn good again.

OK, so what else is going on?

Well, because I didn’t make it to New Orleans on Sunday, I didn’t cover a couple of errands I needed, so I headed to Baton Rouge on Monday. In the rain. But it was OK.

The first place was Vitamin Shoppe, and after having some leftover homemade pecan pie and a few Chips Ahoy!–the most indulgent things I had this holiday season–I asked if there was something nice and chocolate that wouldn’t kill me. A number of things were available, but no chocolate-cherry Kind bars. But what do I find, but this:

No Cow Bar

The No Cow Bar in Dark Raspberry Truffle. Yes, I already ate it.

The No Cow Bar in Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffle!

Longtime readers know my affinity for chocolate and raspberry in the same place. Although there were a number of flavors, including four chocolate, this is the one I got. What does it do for you? Well, it’s:

  • Dairy Free
  • Soy Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Vegan
  • Non-GMO
  • Extremely Low in Sugar
  • All-Natural

 

Made by a company called D’s Naturals, they offer “plant based perfection.” Now, y’all all know I’m not a vegan, but I do partake of the vegan stuff from time to time as a healthy alternative to junk food. I tried giving up meat–I thought I was going to starve to death, so no thanks. But this was kind of interesting.

The guy in Vitamin Shoppe said that the chocolate No Cow Bars were really good, but he hadn’t tried the Dark Raspberry Truffle himself. Well. . .I had to try it, I was getting hungry.

What’s in a No Cow Bar?

Well, this:

INGREDIENTS: PROTEIN BLEND (BROWN RICE PROTEIN, PEA PROTEIN), ISOMALTO-OLIGOSACCHARIDES* (PREBIOTIC FIBER), ROASTED COCOA NIBS, VEGETABLE GLYCERINE, ALMONDS, COCOA BUTTER, COCOA POWDER, NATURAL FLAVORS, WATER, SEA SALT, ERYTHRITOL, MONK FRUIT EXTRACT, STEVIA.

Better than a Nutri-Grain bar or Slim-Fast. Nutri-Grain actually has a chocolate raspberry version, but. . .well, here’s the ingredient list. It’s produced with GMO ingredients, too–surprise!

No, it’s not “all the same thing.”

Taste? No Cow Bar tastes pretty good–but don’t expect it to taste like a Hershey’s Dark Chocolate bar, OK? Sweet, with a chocolate raspberry flavor, but a softer texture than you’d expect. At $2.49 a bar, it’s more expensive than a candy bar. But there’s a lot more protein and less grams of sugar, too. (Vitamin Shoppe’s website has the nutritional breakdown here.) In the store, you can buy No Cow Bars individually or by the box, but online you’re stuck buying an entire box. So if No Cow Bars are something that you might be interested in trying in the New Year, find them at Vitamin Shoppe and try them one at a time first.

The next shopping holiday awaits

After Vitamin Shoppe, I had to head to the Mall of Louisiana, where I ended up doing half an hour of walking. I didn’t intend to, but that’s what happened. I didn’t mind–I met some nice people, and got a new battery for my 27-year-old watch.  Found the Williams-Sonoma store, and couldn’t resist going in. Twice the size of the one we had at Baybrook Mall (now a “boutique” with ugly clothes), and lots more stuff. The holiday candies are on sale, but they’re still quite pricey, so I passed. (BF was glad for that, since I would have bought it for him.)

But hey–for a healthy treat, there’s always No Cow Bars!

You need this.

But now the Valentine’s Day promotions are starting, as well as Mardi Gras here in Louisiana. (Honestly, I couldn’t care less about Mardi Gras, ever.) While prowling, I found this gorgeous item:

Le Cruset Heart-Shaped Dutch Oven

The 1-quart Dutch oven from Le Cruset. Isn’t it adorable?

It was the only one in the store, and nobody could figure out how much it was. That took a while, this cute little pot is. . .$150. No joke. This is a 1-quart Dutch oven in a heart shape. BUT–Le Cruset is made in France, so yes, it’s pricey. (Heavy enough to bake in *and* knock out your ex who shows up unexpectedly!) Just what you need for Valentine’s Day, right? We’ll pass.

What are we doing for V-D?

Probably not much. I think I still have the heart-shaped silicone cake pan packed in a box. I’ll make us a chocolate-raspberry something-or-other this year. V-D is on a Tuesday this year, so BF will probably be working anyway.

Have you made your 2017 resolutions yet?

If “losing weight” is one of your New Year’s Resolutions, I have a book for you to read. I know, you’ve heard the axiom “it’s calorie in, calorie out,” but nothing could be further from the truth. By that logic, you can eat candy bars all day long and “get healthy.” Having been on that seesaw since 1995, I can tell you that a) low-fat and fat-free diets are anything but healthy, b), in most cases, losing weight is not all about food, but food plays a big part of it, and c) there is a lot more to it than what you’ll hear at Weight Watchers. In my next post, I’ll introduce you to a book that will open your eyes if you haven’t read it yet. I’m reading it for the second time, and will soon post about it. Don’t miss it.

Meantime, have some healthy food, whatever you like to eat, and enjoy some calm now that the busy-ness of the holidays are over.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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