Aldi—it’s the newest little grocery store around. Do you have one nearby? (TL:DR version: Aldi’s is a great place to grocery shop with great prices.)
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
We’re halfway through the first month of 2023. BF corrected me on my earlier statement that he has no resolutions, he does. He’s already got one of them checked off, although the process isn’t complete yet. Long story there. Two others are a little farther off, but reachable.
I didn’t make any “resolutions,” but I would like to start getting up early in the morning again. I’ve been able to do that with BF’s work schedule since he returned to work after vacation, but he’ll be back on his usual day/night alternate rotation soon. When he goes back to sleep, so do I. So. . .we’ll see how it goes.
The “New” Aldi In Our Area
A few days ago, we received a card in the mail letting us know that there is a new Aldi store that’s actually less than an hour from us—just north in Mississippi. No kidding. Because we’re so close to the state border, it’s closer than Baton Rouge or New Orleans. The announcement included a $5 coupon off a $30 purchase, which I happily accepted. So, I made my plans and drove north.
I know this sounds a bit odd, going to another state to grocery shop, but people in the smaller northeastern states do cross-border trips all the time. Remember that in Houston you can drive 100 miles in a day and never leave the city. You can drive for days and never leave the state. So going to Mississippi to visit the newest and closest Aldi store isn’t a big deal. Even if BF thinks it’s a bit bonkers. (Bonus: the sales tax is also 3% less than in Louisiana.)
HEB is a long drive from here, but I’d happily go as far as Beaumont to get to one. (I’m not sure about the ones in Vidor and Orange, I’ve never been.) But because the Mississippi border is just 30 minutes away, McComb isn’t the hour-drive to get to the Slidell Aldi location. Might as well go to Baton Rouge if I’m going to drive that far, because Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Joann’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Cost Plus World Market are also there, too. (Just not all in the same place.)
Admittedly, I wasn’t impressed with Aldi when I went to the one in Friendswood in 2014. It was on the way home from LK’s place, but I didn’t find it to be a better option. Reminded me of a convenience store, really. Lots of boxed mixes, junk food, and a little fresh food.
A well-known male celebrity from the UK is a big fan of Aldi, too. He lives in Palm Springs with his partner and has many times touted Aldi’s food and its greatness. He even did a video in his local Aldi, and it wasn’t a paid promotion–he was just a fan. That Aldi was nothing like the one I visited. After my original experience in Friendswood, I just never went back. I’m not naming him here because I later found him to be quite foul. Therefore, I don’t want his name in the blog or ranking for his name, either.
However, our friend Beverly loves Aldi and told me that they’ve upped their offerings in the fresh food area. Beverly and her husband drive to an Aldi about once a month or so to stock up on staples. Aunt Ruth loves her local Aldi as well. So, I decided to revisit Aldi’s and see what I might be missing. Beverly was right!
The Trip to McComb
It was a lovely day for a drive. It was cool, and sunny, with no traffic. Until I got there.
I drove myself because BF was working. I guess he was glad because he didn’t want to go anyway. He’d rather watch shows about Bigfoot and that weird guy who lived among the bears and became bear food. (I really need to repossess my little Roku.)
Two things to know about going to Aldi: bring a quarter to unlock your cart and bring your own shopping bags. These are two of the ways Aldi keeps costs down and passes along the savings. (New Orleans readers may remember The Real Superstore from back in the late 80’s introducing the “quarter for the basket” trend from Europe.) Stores are accepting reusable shopping bags again, so wash them and take them with you when you shop, especially at Aldi.
But because I wanted to make the grand opening (and I did!) they were not requiring shoppers to use a quarter to unlock the carts. I made it in time to see the grand opening but not to get a picture. The local newspaper, the McComb Enterprise Journal, was also on hand to record the opening. You can read the nice article here, and the picture of the ribbon cutting is available here.
And when people returned the baskets, they offered them to other shoppers rather than fuss about the quarter. Remember, I was in Mississippi. Everyone was nice and as crowded as the place was, they were all happy to be there.
The first 100 shoppers—designated by numbered cards—received a “swag bag.” That is, an Aldi shopping bag that contained some bagel chips and a quarter holder. They gave me a shopping bag on the way in, but it only had a cute little quarter holder (no complaints from me):
I was going to buy a bag anyway, but it was nice to be gifted one.
On the way out, someone gave me two more, and those will be gifted to others.
And if you lose that quarter holder, you can actually buy them on Amazon, no kidding.
While waiting for the opening, I spoke with a lady who said that not much happens in McComb. Nice place to go if you don’t want to be found, am I right? She laughed. We saw the Mayor and a few of his people go in and walk out with a swag bag, but I don’t think he did any shopping.
As it turns out, our friend MY went to college in McComb, no kidding. She’s going to rustle up her gang and pay them a visit.
Once we got inside, it was a madhouse.
Again, everyone was polite and nice, and no one caused any problems.
Another customer asked me a question about something. Suddenly she began telling me about something she makes in the air fryer, “while you make your chicken and biscuits.” I held back my “keto-mostly” self as I listened to her description. She was also nice, so I just smiled and agreed, then thanked her because I couldn’t follow everything. I still don’t know what she was telling me to make, honestly. I guess I looked like I needed to know.
It probably won’t be crowded like that every day.
There’s a deli area right when you walk into the place, on the left:
I saw the words “cauliflower pizza” and it was all over:
Lunch! No wheat in the crust or anything, so that was first since BF was working late the next day. Then tortillas, including some marked “keto” for our next Taco Tuesday adventure:
Plus a nice selection of cookies and pastries. Lots of snacks on the right side:
And more snacks!
Against the back wall are bacon and other meats:
I’m going to go ahead and admit that we needed a bag of onions:
Right next to them were little roasty potatoes, aka, Triston’s potatoes:
I forgot the tortilla chips, but these didn’t last long:
This quinoa meal will absolutely horrify BF if he ever finds it because he wants to know what it’s doing in his house:
Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy are laughing as they read this because they’ve met BF and they know I’m right. But it was so weird I was compelled to get one. I haven’t tried it just yet.
I’m not going to disclose how much I spent. . .let’s just say I got some things we needed, as well as some extra things, plus something for dinner. This definitely won’t be my last trip to McComb, that’s for sure—especially with a Starbucks, Hobby Lobby and Walmart in the same spot. It’s an enclosed mall called Uptown McComb, but I didn’t realize that until I was leaving. Next time.
How Was The Pizza?
Regular readers know I’m a fan of Caulipower pizzas, and get them occasionally. So far, nothing beats Caulipower, and I’ve tried a couple of them that Walmart has available. (I may try the new Walmart brand one day soon.) So this caught my eye, although they only had Veggie available. That’s OK, too.
The Aldi’s pizza isn’t frozen—remember, it came from the deli section as you walk in the front door. (There’s only one way in and out, and that’s a thing with Aldi, too.) The crust is rather “floppy,” because it’s a “grab and go” thing. So you want to be extra careful sliding it onto the oven rack.
At $7.99, it rivals Caulipower and is also larger.
All you do is preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put it directly on the oven rack. I had to use the big oven because it’s too big for the countertop oven, but it was chilly so that was fine. In about 16 minutes, you have pizza:
I think I should have left it in the oven a bit longer because the crust wasn’t as crispy as I anticipated.
The toppings were all cooked, of course, and it was quite tasty. Just don’t want to burn the pizza.
No complaints here, it tastes pretty good, and it’s big enough to have a leftover half for the next day.
I like to have both the regular and cauliflower pizzas in the freezer for us, but of course, we tend to go through them quickly. These pizzas from Aldi can be frozen, apparently, because it has directions for cooking from frozen. So, my next Aldi trip may involve getting more of these for the freezer, plus a couple of the non-cauliflower ones for BF.
Sweets For Your Sweet
I did manage to get a few things for BF. He loves chocolate as I do, so:
These were just too cute to pass up:
These cookies from Germany look just like the Krakus cookies from Poland that I used to buy at Phoenicia Foods in Houston in several flavors:
I hope they taste as good, too. If so, BF will love them. And for myself, chocolate and raspberry are together again:
I didn’t eat it all at once, honest. And it was only one. I passed on the chocolate truffles, because, well, I can get into trouble with those.
Aldi has an aisle full of sweet treats and other non-food gifts like candles and pajamas for Valentine’s Day.
So there’s something for nearly everyone, including yourself.
Unlike Trader Joe’s, Aldi’s has an entire center aisle of non-food items:
There you’ll find all manner of things, like these cute things for your kitchen or coffee bar:
Coffee pots and cups are also available, as well as their own espresso maker:
Aldi Finds are lots of different things, including rugs and small pieces of furniture. Presumably, you must assemble them just like anything from IKEA. But maybe it was because I was in a hurry that I didn’t see any of those, or maybe the store didn’t have them. I wanted to look at a storage ottoman from the app, but that may be coming next week. Gives me an excuse to go back, doesn’t it?
Well, this was just what I wanted:
And magically, it made its way into the cart. Guess what? It takes a range of vacuum seal bags. Those vacuum freezer bags and replacement gaskets are easily available on Amazon. I’ll check our local Walmart for availability too. I sealed up the pork chops and the ground turkey I bought at Aldi, and they’re already in the big freezer. More vacuum seal freezing and a blog post on this one soon.
We’ve been talking about getting a vacuum food sealer for some time, but they are kind of pricey, so we waited. After reading this article by Jill Nystul on One Good Thing By Jillee, I told BF that we should consider getting one to start making our food last a bit longer.
You can find a huge selection of them on Amazon. In fact, Dash has a brand new model of its own. When I brought up the subject, BF just nodded his head “OK” and that was the end of the discussion, although we have talked about it since. Even though this was a rushed trip during a busy time, I saw it and was glad to see it was $30.
Not Just A. . . .
BF’s favorite comment about Trader Joe’s is, “it’s just a grocery store.” He just doesn’t get excited about that sort of thing. Between TJ’s and Whole Foods, there were too many guys wearing man buns and skinny jeans for his military buzz-cut comfort level. He never lets me forget about “ManBun/SkinnyJeans.” In this store, there were none of those, as MY tells me that it’s mostly country folks. Everyone was happy about the new Aldi, that’s for sure.
In all seriousness, Trader Joe’s is the grocery store, while Aldi’s is groceries and more. Both stores focus primarily on their own private brands with some national brands alongside. Aldi also carries a selection of limited-time goods from small stuff to all manner of things. Most of it is seasonal, and they don’t last long before they’re replaced with something new.
They Didn’t Forget The Furbabies
Aldi also carries pet food and supplies:
Some apparel, kitchen items, and even fitness things:
All in that aisle for Aldi Finds.
Great Stuff In Store
Like Trader Joe’s, Aldi also has devout fans. This article from The Kitchn talks about a bag of frozen vegetables that the author says to get at least one more since they’re “ready to roast.” They have carrot and sweet potato and a Mediterranean blend with yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Before you ask, no, BF won’t eat this because of the zucchini.
Because Aldi was so busy, I didn’t really get a good look at the freezer section. But what I did recognize immediately was the Texas Tamales!
And they were $2.50 less than Rouses. The bad news is that they only had pork tamales, no beef.
What Aldi’s isn’t is a salvage or overstock place like Dirt Cheap (the top retailer of major brand returns, they say) or Ollie’s Bargain Center (“Good stuff cheap—up to 70% off the fancy stores!”) Aldi sells fresh and first-quality product for less than other grocery stores.
These tea bags are a good example of what that means. Chances are the two different brands are from the same producer with different labeling.
Aldi’s was $2.19, and Winn-Dixie’s is about $2.69. Sometimes Winn-Dixie puts them on sale, two for $4, or buy two and get one free. Next trip to Aldi’s I might buy a couple of extra boxes.
An Aldi Fan Story From Down Under
Although Aldi is growing in the US, this Germany-based company is not just in the States. This blog by Australian copywriter Pauline Longdon describes her and her partner Rae’s adventure getting themselves a couple of Stand-Up Paddleboards, or SUP. If you’re not familiar with them (and I’m not either), you can get an idea of what they look like from what’s available on Amazon. (There’s a bit of language and self-deprecating humor involved, too.) Note: I’m friends with Pauline and Rae on Facebook but have not yet met them in person like other copywriters I know who have.
Admittedly, I know little to nothing about stand-up paddleboarding, and Pauline’s blog is also written primarily for writers. But the story is interesting enough that I wanted to link to it here, because it involves Aldi, and researching a purchase. If you have a few minutes, click over to Pauline’s website, and read the story in her words. Pauline kindly gave me permission to link to her blog, so she knows why you’re there.
Why Shop At Aldi?
It’s a little like going to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or even the Rouses in Hammond—they have what you want or need. They’re not as big as a Rouses, Winn-Dixie, or HEB, but they’re a good basic grocery store with, well, basics. Eggs are the notable exception since they’re currently as expensive as controlled substances. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) But Aldi’s prices are good on their store brands, with their store brand offerings being considerably less expensive. So far we’ve noticed no difference in quality, either.
For example, this jar of Aldi’s store brand Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce was $1.95.
By comparison, the one we usually buy, Classico Tomato & Basil, runs $3.79, and sometimes $3.00 on sale at Winn-Dixie.
Used it for dinner and BF gave a thumbs-up. Unlike Winn-Dixie, Aldi doesn’t have a rewards program. Their prices are what they offer, no reward points are needed. So there’s that.
I’d like to go back to Aldi occasionally and stock up on canned and jarred foods, frozen things, and other foods to stash and keep on hand. We’re planning a pantry reboot soon to utilize the wasted space (thank you, Pinterest!) Once we have that completed and the pantry cleared and sorted, it’ll be easier to keep track of what we have and need. Stocking up on basics at Aldi will help keep our pantry full for less.
In a quick chat with Rafael, he says has an Aldi store about two miles away from his home with Carmen. He said they have some nice European products, which he prefers because they “tend to make cleaner stuff.” Agreed—and he has access to more of that kind of thing than we do.
I mentioned to the very harried manager in a red shirt that this new Aldi is an option if we need to travel north again for a supply run. During the two weeks our area was running on generators, we traveled north first to Brookshire and then McComb, Mississippi, to get food, fuel, and other supplies. That Aldi is close but probably would have been filled with people like us getting food and things. It’s an option, and it’s literally right off the freeway. You can see it before you get to the exit because it’s on the furthest corner of the mall. (That’s one of Aldi’s trademarks when they look for real estate.) Even if there was a closer store, it’s good to know Aldi’s is in McComb if we need it one day.
Besides, it’s nice to get away occasionally and do something different, isn’t it?
Third Fastest Growing Grocery In the US
That’s right, they are. And much as I like HEB and Trader Joe’s, Aldi is a nice place to shop, too.
I did write the company to tell them about the fun grand opening and request a store in Hammond. Someone wrote back and said they were always looking for new sites that fit their criteria. Hopefully, Hammond will fit, and they will build one. Southeastern Louisiana University is there, so there’s bound to be enough interest. I think that’s why Trader Joe’s is so close to LSU.
You can find more on Aldi’s website, and they even have an app you can download. Look for a store near you at their Store Finder, and sign up for their emails too.
More To Come
In addition to the overdue posts on Rafael & Carmen’s wedding and the rest of our Houston trip, I’ve got a few more topics waiting. The vacuum food sealer is going to get its own post, because now I want to seal up everything. I just need more of the bags.
I still have no idea what we’re doing for Valentine’s Day, but hopefully, we’ll find something on the Roku we can both enjoy.
Of course, I hope to have more tasty recipes to cook up in the New Year. Because feeding BF can be, shall we say, challenging, and requires more effort.
Chocolate cake in a single serving is always a good thing, especially when it’s keto. I’ve got a quick and easy chocolate mug cake that you can make and enjoy anytime.
Hi again, Dear Readers:
It’s been over a month since my last blog post, and for that, I apologize. We did a little traveling, and it’s been go-go-go since we got back. Maybe I need to listen to Stephanie O’Dea’s Slow Living Podcast, if I could find the time. I’ll tell you more about our trip in a future blog post.
I intended to post this much earlier. With the Holidays bearing down on us there’s a lot happening for nearly everyone. Things are about to get very busy and complicated for many people. As I was once told by a former supervisor at Boeing, “we’re getting into the time of year where a month is not a month.” For those working in the corporate sector, it means vacations, either yours or someone else’s. Many people will be gone for days, and probably when you need them the most. That’s been my experience, so be forewarned.
But at the Casa de Rurale, we’re debating on whether we want to tackle that backroom area where all the Christmas stuff is stored behind a bunch of other things or leave it for another year. I’m guessing we’re probably going to try later.
Meantime, let me catch you up on our recent happenings.
Before our trip, it was my birthday. I did make a Swerve chocolate keto cake, although we didn’t “do” anything because we had a trip the next week. I made some chocolate buttercream icing from Suzanne Somers’ book Somersize Desserts but using the same 1:1 sweetener you see in this post. Then rushed the process so the icing’s texture was a bit clumpy:
But it was still delicious and we enjoyed a keto/low-carb/Somersized (sort of) chocolate cake. Earlier in the day, I made it to Starbucks for my birthday treat:
The protein box wouldn’t ring up, so it ended up being the drink that was free. I was also running errands so I needed a bite.
The Banana Rat Gets Married
We went to Houston for a few days, finally. It was a short trip with multiple mishaps, but we made it there and back just fine. After hiring a local sitter on the Rover app, we solved the problem of who to ask to take care of things while we were gone.
We couldn’t see everyone and go everywhere, but we did make it to our intended destination and made a few in-person visits. Zoom calls just aren’t the same. It was good to see some folks after so long away. BF was his usual very entertaining self.
The focus of the trip: our favorite web guy, Rafael, aka “Banana Rat,” recently married his longtime partner, Carmen. It was a beautiful wedding at an incredibly gorgeous place called The Springs of Magnolia. The venue is in Magnolia TX, north of Katy, and about a 45-minute drive north from Katy on the Grand Parkway.
Their wedding was at the Stonebridge venue. The actual ceremony was outside, with cocktail hour on the porch including delicious appetizers, then the full reception inside. The building is nestled in a grove of pine trees with fountains and bridges for picturesque views. Pinehaven has a long porch area that goes around the entire building. The weather was perfect, and I’ll tell you more about the wedding and the wonderful food in a future blog post.
Meantime, here’s a picture that Rafael put on social media not long after the wedding.
I managed a selfie with Rafael during the busy reception, too:
We took our own pictures, of course, and were close enough to get some great shots. I’ve since shared them with Rafael, once I figured out the most efficient method to do that. More in a future blog post.
The Double Chocolate Mug Cake
I’m piggybacking on my last blog post about the new book Easy Dirty Keto by Emilie Bailey. I decided to try this recipe after I published that blog. I intended to publish either before we left for Houston, or right after we got back. That didn’t happen. Finally, when I’m caught up a little bit, I have the time to finish up.
To make things easy, I’ll put the printable recipe right here so you can print your own copy. It’s an easy, fast recipe, and it takes just a few minutes. If you don’t have sugar-free chocolate chips on hand, you can skip it—because, let’s face it, you may just snack on the chocolate chips anyway. There’s also an unusual ingredient that you might not be expecting, but it works well here.
Double Chocolate Mug Cake
- 3 tbsp Keto yellow cake mix (from a box) See note below if you don't have a box of this
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp water
- 1 tbsp sugar-free chocolate chips
- In a mug, combine cake mix with cocoa powder and mix well. Add mayo, egg, and water; stir well to combine. Mix in the chocolate chips
- Put the mug into the microwave and cook on high for 1 minute to 1 minute and 20 seconds, until the cake is firm but still glossy. If you're using a large mug, you may need to cook for a few more seconds.
- Top as desired and enjoy.
- NOTE: if you do not have a boxed keto cake mix, stir together 2 tablespoons of almond flour, 1 tablespoon of 1:1 granulated sweetener, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Mix together, then proceed with Step 1.
Now let me show you how to make one when you just really need some chocolate cake.
How To Make It
Like many of the mug cake recipes you see on Pinterest, Instagram, and other places, there are only two steps here, and the third is optional.
First, you mix the cake mix and the cocoa powder in a cup.
Then add the wet ingredients: mayonnaise, egg, and two teaspoons of water.
Stir it well, then stir in the chocolate chips if you’re using them.
Stir them in:
Next, microwave it on high for one minute to one minute and 20 seconds. Emilie says, “until the cake is firm but still glossy.” A larger mug takes a few more seconds or a microwave that’s not as powerful. I think our microwave takes one minute and 30 seconds to be completely done. Just don’t cook it too long.
At this point, you can sprinkle on a little bit more of the 1:1 sweetener, you could put a little whipped cream on it, or just eat it as is. I usually skip the embellishments because I think it’s fine right out of the microwave. But if you put, say, some sugar-free raspberry preserves on top when it’s done, I won’t judge.
Mayonnaise In Cake?
Yes, you read that right, and I’m guessing Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy are nodding their heads in agreement. I’ve heard of it before, but never tried it myself, until now. And, honestly, I thought it was a horrible idea. But Emilie comments in the book that she’s tried multiple recipes for cake in a cup but they tended to be too dry or too “eggy.” The addition of a tablespoon of mayo makes it rich and fudgy, just like a cake should be. You don’t taste the mayo, honest.
No, I haven’t told BF.
You can read more about mayo in cakes in this article on Epicurious’ website with links to other recipes, including this one by BestFoods/Hellman’s using their own mayo. Apparently it’s a “secret ingredient” in chocolate and other cakes that gives it richness and moistness. Here’s another chocolate mayo cake recipe from Taste of Home. Warning: unlike Emilie’s recipe, these cakes aren’t keto, and are both whole cakes.
The Keto Cake Mix Dilemma
Like many people, I haven’t bought much in the way of prepared keto products. There are so many keto things in most grocery stores now. Of course, you must read through everything to know if it really is keto or just something with the “keto” name pasted on it. I’ve seen a few things that claimed to be keto, but they contained wheat or other things in them that disqualified them from being “keto.” But then again, there’s “dirty” keto, too, but I don’t want wheat at all.
What I really like about this recipe, and what made me try it, was Emily’s note to tell you how to make it with other ingredients. Well, I had them, and I appreciated the note on making them without buying a full box of cake mix. Since discovering this little variable, I’ve enjoyed this chocolate cake in a mug several times.
Instead of the boxed mix, you simply whisk together 2 tablespoons of almond flour, one tablespoon of granulated 1:1 sweetener, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, and a pinch of salt for your cake base.
That replaces the three tablespoons of the boxed yellow keto cake mix. Just mix it up and proceed with the recipe.
Ready For A Little Keto Chocolate Cake?
Really, I wish I’d done this before, but I’m glad I finally got around to trying this recipe.
Miss Alice has not had the pleasure of making any recipes from the book yet, but she’s planning on doing some while she’s off for Thanksgiving break. I highly recommended this recipe and a couple of others to her so that she and her daughter don’t have to rely on mac and cheese or some other “instant” thing when they get home at night. But they still haven’t gotten around to using a slow cooker during the week just yet.
This chocolate cake is an easy and fast keto dessert that makes just one serving whenever you’re ready. You don’t have to make an entire cake, just one little cup of cake. And isn’t that what you need sometimes just to hit the spot?
Easy Dirty Keto is the latest cookbook by Emilie Bailey. Today I’ll review it and tell you why it’s a good book to have in your collection, whether or not you eat keto.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Apologies for my tardiness, it’s been a busy few weeks. We watched as Hurricane Ian went through Florida doing pretty much the same thing Hurricane Ida did in Louisiana last year. One of my project managers lives right in the strike zone, and she finally got power and Internet back a few days ago. Don’t we know about that!
Others have checked in from the area on social media. Keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers, although I think the good Governor DeSantis has everything well in hand. We’ve been through it, and we know some folks who are still not back in their homes more than a year later. Everything moves VERY slowly here, but Florida’s working it.
We’ve had a few lovely cool fronts come through, and another brief one graces Texas and Louisiana tomorrow. There’s been scant rain for over a month. Autumn came early this year, and we’re thankful. I can open the windows some days and clear the air (especially after BF has been cooking.)
As promised, I’ve got a delicious new cookbook to tell you about, and five delicious recipes you can enjoy this week.
Get Ready For Dirty Keto
Are you looking for new and delicious keto recipes or just delicious food that’s easy to make? Well, aren’t we all? Today I’ll tell you all about the newest—and possibly final—book from The Texas Granola Girl, Emilie Bailey. This book covers both bases.
Let me say at the outset that I was fortunate to get a review copy of Easy Dirty Keto before its release on August 25th. Thank you, Emilie! (I feel special when that happens.) I’ve already left a five-star review on Amazon, because, well it deserves five stars, in my opinion. But that’s because the food is good.
Honestly, if the recipes weren’t any good, I wouldn’t be writing an entire blog post—it would be a short “news item” with my polite opinion. But this is Emilie, and the food is really, really, good—as usual.
Let’s get cooking.
What Is Dirty Keto?
No, it’s not something you get into trouble for, should be embarrassed about, or risk arrest. Nothing like that. It’s a form of keto that stays within the parameters but isn’t exact.
There are two types of keto:
- Clean keto, where you eat “clean,” no processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and the like
- Dirty keto, where the rules are a little looser, but still help you meet macros and stay in ketosis
Ingredients like these might be considered “dirty keto”:
Or this one:
And if you wanted to classify my keto, it would be called “filthy dirty keto.” Because I can’t say I eat keto every day—especially when BF makes jambalaya or one of his other “specialties.”
The rule is to stay in ketosis. I can’t say I’ve ever checked that. Still, dirty keto isn’t as strict, and the variety of foods is wider because you can include some things that you wouldn’t under “clean keto.” You’ll see what I mean in the recipes.
Many people find clean keto to be difficult to sustain, or they just get bored with the same types of foods. With dirty keto, there’s a little more to enjoy that’s still “keto.” Emilie explains in the intro–she’s busy, like most people, and needed to loosen the rules a bit. One example is the sugar-free version of Cool Whip.
I’ve tried these five recipes myself and give my opinion on each. (Spoiler alert: they’re delicious!) I’ll be trying more of them in the future, and I may include them in a future blog post. So, here they are for your information and enjoyment.
Chorizo and Spaghetti Squash, Page 125
Let me say right up front that this is the recipe I really wanted to make first but had to wait until BF wasn’t home. I don’t want to listen to the retching.
It’s simple and straightforward. You might not believe it was really keto. The setup:
First, start with the spaghetti squash:
Cut in half and scrape out the seeds:
They should look like this:
Put them face down onto a microwave-safe plate and cook on high for ten minutes, until it’s fork-tender.
When it’s done, it looks like this:
While that’s cooking, measure out your spices and things:
Then remove the chorizo from the casings and add it to the pan.
You won’t need oil, because the chorizo gives off plenty once it starts cooking. Remember, it’s a highly seasoned pork sausage.
Once the chorizo is cooked, add in the pico de gallo:
Mix that around, then add the salt and the spaghetti squash:
Toss that all around to distribute:
Then sprinkle the half-cup cheese on top:
And dinner is ready!
It takes about 30 minutes or so, but it’s really fast and easy. If you want, you can cook the spaghetti squash ahead of time (keep reading), refrigerate it, and add it to the pan when the chorizo is cooked. If the spaghetti squash is cold, you may need a few more minutes to let it reheat in the pan before topping it with the cheese.
When I finished, I posted this picture on Instagram:
And I tagged Emilie. She saw it and responded that it was one of her favorite recipes from this book. Well, yeah! But really—chorizo. Do we need anything else?
What I Did Wrong
I bet you weren’t expecting to read that. Let me explain.
The recipe was made according to Emilie’s directions. But because we were on a rushed trip to Winn-Dixie, two things were different:
- I bought salsa, not pico de gallo because that’s what I could find quickly
- I also couldn’t find the queso fresco quickly so I relied on the Cotija cheese I had in the freezer
Guess what? Both were wrong for this recipe—but it was still delicious!
The salsa I bought:
And the magic secret ingredient:
That’s right, sugar. They call it “cane sugar” so they can show that it’s “natural,” and not from high fructose corn syrup. It’s still sugar, though, and it matters if you’re a diabetic watching sugar or you’re just trying to cut down or eliminate your sugar consumption.
The Cotija cheese is tasty but has a stronger taste, similar to Manchego, but not as potent as Feta. Just not the same as Queso Fresco, which has a salty, mild taste. I love Queso Fresco, and BF won’t touch it, so it doesn’t last long when I buy some. Fortunately, the recipe only calls for a half-cup of cheese as a topping, so it doesn’t overwhelm. I was looking forward to the milder cheese taste.
A subsequent trip revealed that our local Winn-Dixie simply doesn’t carry Queso Fresco, but Walmart does, along with pico de gallo. Good thing, because there’s suddenly a lot more Spanish spoken in Walmart here than before. No kidding.
Because BF was gone on a recent weekend, I made it again with the “right” ingredients. (He still won’t touch it.) I made my own chorizo because I didn’t have any but did have ground pork in the freezer. Really good both ways, but I’ll stick with the recipe next time.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Chorizo & Spaghetti Squash Toss
- 1 medium spaghetti squash, about 2½ to 3 pounds, or four cups cooked spaghetti squash
- 1 pound Mexican chorizo, casings removed
- 1 cup pico de gallo
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½ cup Queso Fresco (fresh Mexican crumbling cheese)
- Carefully cut the ends off the squash, then slice it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds, then place the squash halves cut side down on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for ten minutes, or until the squash is soft and fork-tender.
- While the squash is cooking, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the chorizo to the skillet. Break apart the chorizo with a spoon and cook until lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pico de gallo and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions begin to soften.
- When the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the strands with a fork, and add them to the skillet. Season with the salt, and toss with the chorizo mixture until warmed through.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, top the mixture with queso fresco, and serve.
I have updated the chorizo blog post with a printable recipe for that, too.
Notes About Spaghetti Squash
Emilie calls for microwaving the spaghetti squash here. And for this recipe, it works great. But there are other ways to cook this wonderful vegetable if you like it and want to make it for something else.
It’s low-carb and keto and tastes good when cooked correctly. It’s an ideal substitute for wheat-flour spaghetti, and tasty with any kind of spaghetti sauce. But of course, it’s called “squash,” and that puts BF right off eating any. His comment, “I’ll try anything you make” is rendered null and void when anything contains the word or ingredient “squash.”
My first encounter was some 20 years ago with one of Suzanne Somers’s many low-carb cookbooks. Her recipes called for the same prep: cut in half and remove the seeds. But then the recipe called for:
- Rubbing both cut sides with olive oil
- Putting them cut side down on a sheet pan
- Roasting in a 350F oven for an hour
You must wait for the squash to cool before handling it. Or use a thick potholder to hold the halves and scrape out the stringy flesh into a bowl. I can roast a smaller one in the countertop oven easily.
I think the recipe I tried first called for a little salt and pepper with a pat of butter, which is probably my favorite way to eat this squash. If you’re not going to use it or eat it immediately, just put it into a dish and refrigerate it until you’re ready.
Slow Cooking Spaghetti Squash
Another way I found to cook spaghetti squash is in the slow cooker. No kidding, you can totally put your spaghetti squash into your slow cooker—whole—and let it cook on “low” while you’re at work or doing other things. You must poke it with a fork in a few places like a potato, but it cooks up nicely. It’s hot, of course, so be careful cutting it open and scraping out the seeds.
Why would you do that if this recipe calls for microwaving? It’s your choice, really. You can also use the countertop oven to cook one in advance if you wanted. But using the slow cooker also means it’s hands-off and ready when you are, although it does come out softer this way. Again, use immediately or refrigerate.
If you’re making this dish on a busy weeknight, the ready-to-use spaghetti squash can make it a little easier.
However you cook this, it’s delicious in a fantastic Tex-Mex sort of way.
Barbecue Glazed Chicken Tenders, Page 95
This is so easy and tasty with just a few ingredients. Here’s the recipe:
Barbecue Glazed Chicken Tenders
- ½ cup Sugar-free barbecue sauce
- ¼ cup Sugar-free peach jam I couldn't find peach, but apricot worked well here.
- 1½ tbsp Sugar-free barbecue rub or seasoning
- 1 pound chicken tenders
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- In a bowl, stir together the barbecue sauce, peach jam, and seasoning. Reserve three tablespoons of this mixture for later.
- Dip each chicken tender in the sauce mixture and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Place the tenders in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. Base the tenders with the reserved sauce and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Serve as desired or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
See that sugar-free apricot jam over there? It’s supposed to be peach, but that’s all I could get in Winn-Dixie. It’s close, so I bought some, and it worked just fine. On sale, 2 for $6, with a jar of red raspberry. Because let’s face it, all you need is a spoon, and you have an instant keto dessert.
So. . . .
Preheat the oven to 400F, then line a sheet pan with parchment. I measured out the barbecue sauce in a measuring cup and then kept using it because it was just easier for mixing.
Mix the barbecue sauce, jam, and either some BBQ rub or other seasoning. I used a seasoned salt mix I like to make from another book.
And take out three tablespoons for later. I can’t find that picture, though. But it gets easier from here.
Dip the chicken tenders into the remaining mixture, just like you were breading them:
Drop onto the baking sheet:
Then bake it at 400F for about twenty minutes.
Once done, brush with the reserved sauce and give it another five minutes or so.
So what should you serve this with?
Balsamic Brussels Sprouts, Page 64
Make this while the chicken is in the oven. I started heating the oil first, took care of the chicken, then went on to make this one.
And if I’d read the directions ahead of time, I would have passed. Why? You’re FRYING them in hot oil on the stove. I’m not saying it’s not tasty—it is. However, I quit frying back in the ’80s, I think. Big mess, dangerous, and all that.
But. . .these little babies are SO GOOD!!!! So if you’re up to it, and you can do it safely, I highly suggest making this recipe—as is.
I can see Aunt Kathy in Texas reading this and saying to herself, “Frying? Yeah, right.” Well, here’s how it went.
Admittedly, I didn’t realize I’d need so much oil. And the big chili pot I was planning to use would have required several bottles of olive oil, so I used the smaller, 3-quart Dutch oven. Lucky me, I bought it years ago and I’m very happy I did because it’s super handy. I also didn’t have a lot of olive oil, so I used coconut oil with some olive oil, which worked just fine.
Before I started with the chicken, I put the oil in the pot and put the thermometer in with it:
You can’t see it in the picture because the inside is so faded, but 400 degrees is at the top.
I bought pre-washed Brussels sprouts, so that was a good thing:
I dropped them into the very hot oil slowly and carefully, half the bag at a time.
And this happened:
Use your “splatter screen,” not the pot lid, because condensation will drip water back into the hot oil and cause popping and splattering. No.
Let them cook for 3 to 5 minutes, the book says. I think the second batch cooked a bit longer, maybe 6 minutes, and they came out a little better.
When you take them out of the oil, put them on a sheet pan lined with paper toweling:
Repeat with a second batch if you need to.
After the frying is completed, sprinkle on a bit of salt:
Transfer to your serving dish and sprinkle on a quarter-cup of Parmesan cheese:
A bit more salt:
Then drizzle over the tablespoon of the balsamic reduction:
If the chicken isn’t ready, keep this dish warm until it is. But the chicken should be about ready by this time. I stuck the dish into the toaster oven to keep it warm until the chicken was done.
This is a seriously good keto dinner:
I admit I was just going to use my default keto recipe, cauliflower rice. And it wouldn’t be bad, either. But Emilie suggests this recipe as an accompaniment, so I made it. I’m glad I did, frying mess and all.
This balsamic reduction is a syrupy condiment based on balsamic vinegar.
It’s not totally keto, but then, you don’t need much to add a really nice extra touch of sweetness to any dish.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Carmelized Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
- Olive oil, for frying I used olive and coconut because I was nearly out of olive
- 1 pound prewashed fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half, dry, and at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic glaze
- Line a baking sheet with a layer of paper towels for draining. Into a Dutch oven, pour about 1½ inches of oil and heat the oil to 400°F over medium heat.
- Put half the Brussels sprouts and any leaves that have fallen off into the hot oil. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring them often until they are dark golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Immediately season with ¼ teaspoon of salt.
- Bring the oil back up to temperature, add the remaining Brussels sprouts to the oil and repeat step 2.
- Place the crispy sprouts on a serving plate, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, and drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.
- NOTE: Emilie says that to ensure that the sprouts come out crispy, and to reduce any splattering, make sure that they are dry and at room temperature prior to frying. Don't use frozen sprouts, since they have much more moisture. Use a screen to control the splattering but don't use a lid, which will make the splattering worse.
Guess what? I made this dinner again, this time for BF, along with the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Whip (keep reading) a couple of weeks ago. I managed to find sugar-free peach preserves, too. He was looking forward to trying this menu and really enjoyed his dinner with dessert. So we have one more “acceptable” keto dinner for BF, thanks to Emilie’s great recipes. We’ll definitely be having this again sometime.
Boogie Cheeseburger Skillet, Page 117
What led me to try this, knowing BF wouldn’t eat it? Well, there’s a lot he doesn’t eat, so there’s that. A couple of other things, too:
- A lady I’ve known for a long time in nearby Albany calls everyone “Boogie” as a term of endearment. So naturally, the title caught my attention.
- One recipe called for chipotle mayo, but I wondered where I would find it here. I mean, soy sauce is considered “international food” in our local stores. Walking through our newly renovated Winn-Dixie, I found not only the chipotle mayo, but it was also on sale, so I bought a bottle. It is SO GOOD! Then I went back and found the recipe in the digital book. Warning: it’s got a strong bite. So if peppery is not something you’d like, Emilie says to substitute regular mayo in the sauce and the milder Monterey Jack cheese for the topping.
- And one recipe called for a poblano pepper, which happened to be growing outside in the paint bucket garden. It was the same recipe, so that was my chance to use it in a recipe before it went bad. I’ve got a couple more growing this late in the year, but I can get poblanos in both Winn-Dixie and Walmart, too.
Then it was a matter of getting a few more ingredients and cooking it.
Yes, this is sugar-free ketchup by the same company that makes our favorite barbecue sauce.
Start by preheating the oven to 400F, mix up your mayo, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, and set aside.
If you haven’t chopped anything yet, let me give you a tip: wear gloves for nearly any type of pepper but bells:
You’ll seed it and cut it into two-inch strips:
You’ll need a large, oven-safe skillet for this. A cast-iron skillet or stainless one like mine is perfect. Melt the butter, then add the chopped onion and Poblano pepper. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often until the onion is translucent and starts to carmelize.
Remove this from the pan and set it aside. Now start with the ground beef, along with the salt, pepper and garlic powder:
Brown it up really nicely, and break it up into small pieces, which will take about ten minutes:
Then add the requisite cauliflower rice:
Cook until the cauli-rice is no longer frozen, just a few minutes. Then add the onion and pepper back into the pan and stir:
Take the pan off the heat, and stir in about two-thirds of the mayo mixture we made first:
Sprinkle with the cheese:
Put the pan into the oven for five to seven minutes:
Drizzle the reserved sauce on top and dig in.
No, BF wouldn’t eat this either, he told me at the outset. I’ll make it again when he’s working late or I decide he can have his favorite frozen pizza for dinner.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Boogie Cheeseburger Skillet
- ½ cup chipotle mayonnaise, plus more for serving You can use plain mayo here if you can't find chipotle mayo or prefer less or no spice
- 2 tbsp sugar-free ketchup
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ onion, cut into ¼" wedges
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 12-ounce bag frozen cauliflower rice
- 1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese If you'd like to cut down on the spiciness, use Monterrey Jack instead
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise,ketchup, and Worchestershire sauce and set aside.
- Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter, then add onion and pepper; cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and beginning to carmelize. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the beef to the pan, and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook for about 10 minutes or until browned, breaking it apart as it cooks. Add the frozen cauliflower rice and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until there is no liquid left in the pan and the cauliflower rice is tender. Stir the pepper and onion into the beef mixture.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in two-thirds of the mayonnaise mixutre. Top with the shredded cheese. Put the skillet into the oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until the cheese melts. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and drizzle with the remaining sauce.
Mint-Chip Ice Cream Whip, Page 137
Let me just say that this is a total “cheat” of a recipe. It’s a prime example of “dirty keto,” since it’s not what you’d call “clean eating” under any circumstances. And I wouldn’t have considered it unless Emilie or another keto writer suggested it.
I’m talking about Cool Whip. It now comes in a version called Zero Sugar.
If you serve this dessert in fancy little dessert cups or glasses, I suggest calling it “Syllabub.” Chances are no one will know what that means, and it will sound posh. Maybe even French posh.
I’m not a fan of frozen non-dairy dessert toppings, even if it’s sugar-free. But now and again, this might just be what you need to hit the spot. As Emilie describes, it’s not really ice cream, just a little ice-cream-esque dessert that comes together quickly.
The prep for this one calls for putting the Cool Whip into the fridge for four hours to thaw. Don’t let it sit out or microwave this stuff because it will separate. Why? It’s non-dairy, and this commercial from about ten years ago (“Oil? Or Cream?” ) explains the difference. Read more on Kraft’s website.
Oh, and one more thing: I couldn’t get the white chocolate sugar-free pudding here, so I used regular chocolate sugar-free pudding. This, too, worked fine. The setup:
Once your Zero Sugar Cool Whip is sufficiently thawed to a soft texture, dump it into a bowl:
Add in the rest of the ingredients:
Chop the mint patties up fine:
And discover that the bowl you picked up is too small, so you switch to a larger one because it all fits in the dishwasher:
Fold carefully to mix:
Add it back to the Cool Whip container and stash it in the freezer for a couple of hours.
When it’s stiffened up a bit, it’s ready to dish out and serve.
Don’t serve it from the Cool Whip container if you’re trying to be fancy and call it syllabub. However, if you collect this fine piece of culinary Americana, here’s another reason to add to your “collection.”
And if you’re a fan of regular Cool Whip, here’s a new dessert for you, whether you’re eating keto or not. I’m sure it would work well with the regular stuff, too. If you try it, leave a comment about it.
The first time I made it, I mentioned it to BF and offered him some. He declined. Amazing, because he’s a huge fan of the power of Listerine. But with the chicken and Brussels sprouts for dinner, he was open to trying some, and he really enjoyed a dish of this fast and non-fancy keto dessert.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Mint Chip Ice-Cream Whip
- 1 8-ounce Container sugar-free whipped topping, thawed Do this by leaving in the fridge for four hours--don't leave it out or microwave
- 2 tblsp Sugar-free white chocolate pudding mix I used sugar free chocolate because I couldn't find white chocolate.
- ½ tsp Peppermint Extract
- 3 sugar-free peppermint patties, finely chopped
- In a medium bowl, combine the whipped topping, (save the container), pudding mix, and peppermint extract and stir together well.
- Fold in the chopped peppermint patties and return the mixture to the whipped topping container.
- Put the container in the freezer for at least 2 to 3 hours for an ice cream-like consistency.
About Peppermint Extract
Be VERY careful not to add too much. Otherwise, the finished dish will taste like toothpaste. I speak from experience here. The mint can overpower everything else, so measure carefully, and not over the bowl. Now, do you see why I prep everything beforehand? You can’t add too much when it’s already measured into a small dish or pinch bowl.
Yes, I did that, but I didn’t stage the picture right. I was by myself, as usual, and I had to stand around the tripod.
Verdict: It’s A Great Book!
Easy Dirty Keto is a really nice cookbook to have in your collection. If you aren’t looking for dirty keto, I still recommend Emilie’s book. The recipes are easy, and most of the recipes don’t need a large number of ingredients. Plus, the food is so good that even non-keto folks can still enjoy them. Even BF!
When I had the opportunity to review Emilie’s first book, The Southern Keto Book, my first thought was something along the lines of, “Keto and Southern? Oh, come ON!” Of course, you know how that went, and now I’m a total fangirl.
Keto or not, I feel like these recipes are real comfort food. At least, that’s what I felt like when I made them and then enjoyed eating them. No kidding. Even though I grew up in New Orleans, the cuisine just isn’t appealing to me anymore, plus all the excess starch of rice and potatoes and the like. I liked Tex-Mex early on, and it’s what I’ve liked since the late ’80s. Nobody understands that here, but I’m sure Emilie does.
Delicious food is the best reason for buying any cookbook, isn’t it?
Is Easy Dirty Keto The End?
Emilie and her family are on a working game ranch in Texas. That’s probably the reason you can find several venison and wild game recipes on her website. While she’s enjoyed sharing her keto journey with readers, another book may be out of the question. We hope not, of course, but we’re thankful for the four she’s published. Read her blog, you’ll see that her blog and cookbooks are a “side hustle.” Like a lot of modern authors, she has a “day job” and writes on the side.
Should this be Emilie’s last book, I would just say thank you to Emilie for four great books with delicious food to enjoy for years to come. All four have become favorites with us, and even BF likes many of the dishes I’ve made. No more canned soup if he wants something better.
Emilie didn’t say anything about discontinuing her blog. Like me, Emilie doesn’t blog regularly. That’s OK—Emilie’s website is a huge collection of delicious keto recipes that aren’t in any books, to my knowledge. Those aforementioned venison recipes will be tried next time someone brings over deer or something. (It’s happened a few times, and deer roast is quite easy in the Instant Pot.) If you’re so inclined, sign up at her website (right-hand side, scroll down a little over halfway.)
Maybe one day we can make the trip to visit Emilie’s ranch in Texas. When we do, there will be a full blog post here with lots of pictures.
Crab cakes in your air fryer? Yes—and they’re pretty good. Of all the versions of crab cakes you can find, this one is simple and easy to make. And if you want, it’s gluten-free, too. (Note: plenty of live affiliate links included today.)
Hi Again, Dear Readers:
Here’s hoping you had a great Labor Day. I sewed for most of the day, but I’d imagine Miss Alice, who is a teacher in HISD, slept in. Can’t say that I blame any teacher for that.
With fall in our forward sights, I need to use the basil and make some pesto soon. This year’s basil didn’t take off like it normally does, so next year it’s back to buying new plants or starting seeds inside. I was kind of proud of saving and propagating two cuttings from last year’s crop, but it just didn’t work well.
I’ll use up the basil, more mint, and some leftover parsley from this weekend’s recipe to make one or two batches of pesto for the freezer.
I only needed this much:
Thankfully, I’ve got a big pesto stash in the freezer from the last two or three years to hold me over. I just need to stock up on frozen peas.
Hungry? Let’s get started.
Finding A New Recipe
OK, this is part procrastination, and part “you need to know about this.”
Friday afternoon, I found a new recipe for crab cakes on Instagram and I just had to make some for us. BF, as always, was skeptical. After all, he can always have a ham sandwich or bowl of cereal if he doesn’t like what I made. But not this time.
For this occasion, I pulled out our little air fryer from the back of the cabinet.
If you’ve not seen my previous blog post on the air fryer, you can read it here. At first, Neighbor E said he wasn’t getting an air fryer, but eventually, he decided to get one.
E’s air fryer is a 2.5 quart, while ours is 1.9 quart. Most are not terribly expensive, and many are under $100. There’s even a Pioneer Woman branded 6.3-quart model. You can find them as big as 8 quarts or even more. Some have two baskets, so you can air fry two things separately at once, like burgers and French fries.
I bought ours for $30 two years ago. It now costs $50 in the store at Walmart but shows up as $40 on their website. If I was going to spend $50 on an air fryer, I’d get a bigger one. We may buy a bigger model one day, but for now, I’ll use this little dinky one.
The Crab Cakes Recipe
This comes from a blog called DanniMade Kitchen, and you can read Danni’s bio here. The Dash Company featured it on their ByDash Instagram account to show off their air fryer. It’s a quick and simple recipe that’s tasty, and you can make it anytime.
To make it easy, I’m putting the recipe here so you can print it and take it to the grocery with you. Heck, I need to print one for myself so I can add it to my notebook of recipes I have on the bookshelf.
Air Fryer Crab Cakes
- 1 air fryer Cooking time will depend on the size of your air fryer; you may need to cook in batches
- 8 ounces lump crabmeat you can also use canned crab meat
- 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs gluten-free Panko also works well
- 1 tbsp plain greek yogurt
- 1 to 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Hot sauce of choice I used Tabasco Chipotle for the flavor but not heat
- 1 egg, beaten
- Mix all ingredients together until evenly combined. if the mixture is too wet, sprinkle more Panko breadcrumbs until they reach the desired texture and are easier to shape into patties.
- Form into six even balls, and lightly flatten balls to create patties,
- Lightly spray the air fryer basket with oil. Place the patties in an even layer inside the fryer basket. Spray lightly with oil then cook for six to eight minutes at 400F.
- Serve patties hot, warm, or at room temperature with tartar sauce, ketchup, or condiment of your choice for dipping.
So here are the ingredients:
I made one change, and that was to use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. I found them at Rouses, but I’ve bought them at our local Winn-Dixie before.
Longtime readers know I always like to measure everything out before I get started.
I do this even when I’m not taking pictures for a blog post because it just makes the process easier. Additionally, there’s no risk of “oops, I put too much salt” or something else in the mixing bowl, pot, etc. Then it’s one-two-three and you’re on your way.
Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa recommends cracking each egg into a separate bowl before you add it into your recipe. This is in case you get a bad egg, and you don’t ruin the entire recipe. I usually do that, too, although I’ve never found a bad egg.
Once you’ve got everything taken care of, it’s time to get started.
In the original recipe, Danni lists eight ounces of lump crab meat from Whole Foods. On Instagram, Dash lists “eight ounces of lump crab meat.” Of course, when Amy was buzzing through our Rouses on a busy Saturday after running errands, she read “eight ounces of canned crabmeat.” So that’s what I bought.
And it worked just fine.
Drain the Crabmeat
The cans are 6 oz, but once you drain the liquid off, it’s about 4½ ounces of crab meat. That’s why I bought 2, which comes to just over 8 oz.
Danni says that if the mixture is just a little too wet, add a little more of the panko. I drained the crabmeat as best I could, pressing it with my hands to squeeze out more of the liquid.
I didn’t spend too much time on that task, so the resulting mixture was a bit damp. Decided to add one or two more tablespoons of the panko, and that was perfect. The mixture must stick together like ground beef, or it will fall apart in the air fryer basket.
Bottom line is that if you can get fresh crab meat, great, but if not, the canned is available. I also know from another book by keto author Jen Fisch that Trader Joe’s has affordable crab meat in their own freezer section.
Mix And Air Fry
Really, once you have all the ingredients measured and the parsley chopped, it comes together quickly.
Mix well, and pat down into the bowl:
Separate the mixture into 6 sections like you would ground beef:
And shape them into little patties.
Spray the inside of your air fryer basket with oil.
My air fryer’s instructions say to preheat it for five minutes before cooking. So if yours says that, do so now. Then spray the patties with oil.
Add the crab cakes into the basket and cook at 400F degrees for about ten minutes. With my little air fryer, I had to do this in batches, but that’s OK. I put them into the countertop oven to keep them warm until dinnertime.
They really do come out nice and crispy and tasty.
What to serve with it? Well, I made some Triston’s potatoes in the big oven:
Of course, if you’re making a keto dinner, you’ll have something else. The frequent rain means a not-so-hot summer, so it was OK to turn on the big oven. As always, they were delicious.
Danni suggests serving these with tartar sauce. BF didn’t want tartar sauce, so he didn’t buy a bottle. I just had some sugar-free ketchup with mine, and BF had his regular ketchup.
We both enjoyed dinner that night, with a thumbs-up to make them again sometime.
About The Oil
One of the more prominent features of air fryers is that they only need a small amount of cooking oil. But you still need some oil for most recipes. The difference is that compared to regular deep frying, you don’t need nearly the amount of oil that’s required to get the crispy texture.
Additionally, remember the quality of oil you use is also important. We use a lot of olive and coconut oils even when the recipe calls for vegetable oil. That’s because vegetable oil, which is toxic hydrogenated soybean oil, is banned at the Casa de Rurale.
You can use cooking spray, or get an oil sprayer, which sprays a fine mist of whatever oil you put in it.
Olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil cooking sprays are available now, so it’s easy to use them. But oil sprayers easily and inexpensively do the same thing.
That white one in the picture is from the old Martha Stewart Everyday line at Kmart. I used to have two, but I think I threw one out. Only when I went to use the second one did I discover that you’re not supposed to fill it more than halfway full. You pump the cap a few times to build up the pressure and that’s what propels the oil through the sprayer nozzle. Works perfectly.
I recently washed it to get the old oil out and refilled it with fresh oil. I don’t know how long it’s been sitting since I moved here. Now that it’s clean and refilled, it still works perfectly.
But Amy, I Don’t Have An Air Fryer
Well, nobody said you had to use an air fryer. Like the Instant Pot, it’s 110v vs. 220v. It’s a neat little appliance that offers another way to cook meals. Some folks have reconfigured nearly all their cooking to the air fryer. They are devotees. An air fryer is not a bad thing, but not an absolute necessity.
I’m thinking about Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy dismissing the idea of getting an air fryer for this type of thing. Really, though, you don’t need one to enjoy these tasty crab cakes.
If you have a toaster/countertop oven or even a regular oven that has a convection setting, you already have an air fryer. But even if you don’t, there’s no reason why you can’t make them either in a 350F degree oven, or even in a frying pan with a small amount of olive oil.
Have a countertop grill like the Cuisinart Griddler? You can also fry them this way. There’s also the sauté function on your Instant Pot if you’re itching to use yours. If you’re lucky enough to have one with an air fryer lid, that would likely work too. I can’t see pressure cooking as a benefit to this recipe. But if you’re on a generator, as we were a year ago, the Instant Pot sauté function and the countertop grill are both good options for frying them.
You’ll still need to use a little oil. So don’t be afraid to use some however you cook them.
If you decide to make these crab cakes, I do hope you enjoy them as we did. It’s another recipe to add to our regular dinner rotation, long as we have some crabmeat and a few other ingredients available. There are two crabmeat recipes we like, so I guess I need to stock up on a few more cans. I don’t want to disappoint BF if he decides we should have crab cakes again.
Much as we both enjoyed them, BF says that they should be served alongside fried fish, as you would see in a restaurant. Maybe next time.
Incidentally, I told Neighbor E about this recipe on Saturday when I was making dinner. But because he no longer has a Facebook account, I had to send him two screenshots so he could see the recipe. He says he’ll try them one day this week.
Labor Day is over, and so is “summer,” officially. All the fall décor is out at Hobby Lobby, Walmart, and every other retailer in the US. Next month is when retailers begin up-shifting for the holidays. They’ll shift into top gear the day after Thanksgiving when the fall frou-frou goes on sale for 50% or more off.
Here in the South, we know that cooler weather won’t be coming for a while. We’re still going to experience heat, humidity, and of course, mosquitoes for quite some time. But I’ll soon be sewing up fall things, including a sweater, this weekend because one day we’ll wake up and it’s chilly again.
I’m late on the Easy Dirty Keto book review, I know, but it’ll be worth the wait. It’s already a long blog post, and I just need to finish it up and load it and the pictures into the website. Plus, I have a couple more topics in the draft queue that I need to finish up soon.
Our sixth anniversary is on the 15th of this month, and I’m wondering what kind of nice dinner to make for BF that day. It’s not a “wedding anniversary,” but our date for getting together. I say we celebrate six years together no matter what. I’ll find something. I’ll blog it if I do anything spectacular.
As always, if there’s a topic you’d like me to research and write about, let me know.
Have you brought Calabrian chili paste into your kitchen? If you like Sriracha, Tabasco, or other spicy additives, you really should try this condiment. I recently made a delicious shrimp recipe with it after trying to find it for quite a while.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
After last week’s book review, I’ll show you the dish I cut my kitchen basil to make. It’s a delicious Italian recipe to add to your repertoire that’s anything but boring. Plus a couple of updates.
From The Last Blog
Since last week’s edition, I had a couple of email exchanges with Christopher Crompton of Pelargonium Press regarding Apartment Kitchen Gardening. He enjoyed my blog and loved the paint buckets, too. I sent him a few pictures, including the little plants that are now on the windowsill and will be planted soon. I have several tomatoes growing, and two strawberries, one of which will be ripe shortly. He suggested trying to plant the chickpeas, even after all this time. I’ll be doing that soon, too.
Christopher was surprised to find out that in the US, SNAP recipients can buy seeds and plants to grow their own food. Inspired by this info, he wrote a letter to the UK’s environment minister to suggest doing something similar there to help reduce the strong reliance on food banks. I don’t know if they have a program like SNAP there, but that would certainly help UK folks, too, especially if they could learn to grow in apartments. If it happens, I’m glad I could help, just a little.
In a subsequent email, Christopher said that the “food front” in the UK also has a long road ahead. There is an effort to increase the standing of cooking classes in schools, as well as encourage people to grow their own food. He said that in time, there could be a shift in the UK’s culture. They are also experiencing a crisis with the higher cost of living now that will require a solution with multiple factors.
The man isn’t kidding. BF and I talk about this often. Inflation is getting worse with no end in sight, and it happened quickly. Public discourse can bring about needed changes, such as more people growing their own gardens. In example: on Sunday, I bought a box of 5 dozen eggs at Walmart that have gone up to $15. The price normally goes between $6 and $9, maybe $10. But after paying $13.33 for the last box just one week prior, it’s now over $15. I need to start looking for local chicken folks who sell their eggs, even if they’re the same price. I bought more white rice—yes, plain white rice, which I only restarted eating when I moved here. We’ll be getting more of that sort of thing in the coming months.
On a nicer note, I showed Christopher the blackberries that are growing here now, and I even picked four yesterday morning.
He said he has some type of cultivated berries growing, but after a few jars of jam and giving away many little baskets, he’s done with them. Our berry season is short, so I pick as many as I can until they’re gone. Maybe I should learn to make jam too.
He also picks wild sloes to make sloe gin for the winter. Sounds like Amy’s basil pesto obsession, doesn’t it?
Christopher was also surprised that I prefer the British brands of tea, and I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming blog post. I may have omitted the fact that I generally drink them from a cup with the Texas flag. Separately, I’ll be chatting with him again soon one day about the next book they’re planning.
The New Addition
This weekend, BF got a text message from one of his car-guy friends. The man and his wife were out somewhere and came across a scrawny little kitten. Unfortunately, the man is horribly allergic to cats, to the point where he has been hospitalized twice. So, knowing I love the cats (or at least, I did), he texted BF, who brought it up to me. He showed me the pictures of the fluffy orange and white cat.
Remembering our experience with the Christmas kittens five years ago, I was not thrilled with the idea of another cat in here. This kitten is a little bigger than the previous rescues, and of course, BF couldn’t say no. Well, I couldn’t either. I tried.
Dirty, scrawny, starving, and scared, they put her in a little carrier and brought her over. After some food and water, she didn’t waste any time making herself comfortable in the Casa de Rurale, either.
She likes sitting on the sewing machine table, but pretty much anywhere she likes. I was trying to work.
She didn’t take long to discover great places to nap:
Just make yourself at home, why don’t you?
We did give her a bath, which went about as well as you think it did. BF has a few scratches on his back despite the claw clipping prior to the washing.
Unfortunately, Tab E. Cat isn’t as thrilled with the new addition and let us know about it:
Just as Broccoli Stirfry is starting to learn how to dog, Tab E. Cat restarted his antics. Thank heavens for Angry Orange, that’s all I’m saying.
The pit bull tried his favorite “get to know you” move, chasing her into a corner of the bathroom, and requiring me to pull him off by his collar. Earlier in the day, he and the now-30-pound puppy took off running after two people minding their own business on horseback. An 85-pound pit bull decided he was going to defend the homestead against horses. I’m sure the horses were laughing to themselves. It could have ended badly, but thankfully another neighbor saw it and stopped his Ford F150. The incident was mostly annoying and embarrassing.
I’m thinking of starting a GoFundMe page for the beasts.
Giada’s Italy: My Recipes For La Dolce Vita
This is Giada’s cookbook released in 2018, prior to her newest book, Eat Better, Feel Better. I bought a “signed copy” of Giada’s Italy at the Barnes & Noble in Mandeville one evening in April of 2018.
Ok, it was an “unauthorized purchase,” just something I wanted and there it was. It’s not something I do often (especially now), but I’m still a fan of Giada’s, so I bought one. However, I didn’t stand in line as I had before with a couple of her previous books—it was already signed, but likely not by Giada herself. That’s OK.
When I had the time, I read through the book and the recipes. It’s a marked departure from the previous formats of her books. After filming a couple of seasons of Giada in Italy in Positano and Florence instead of the usual California settings, there are plenty of pictures from both cities. One thing hasn’t changed: pictures of Giada, her daughter Jade, locals, and a few other family members enjoying the Italian seaside.
The Shrimp Recipe
Spicy Calabrian Shrimp is a recipe on page 41 of the book. Giada’s description says:
My version of a shrimp cocktail has a lot more kick than the steakhouse standard, thanks to the Calabrian chili paste. I use this spicy condiment in many of my recipes; it’s kind of like the Italian version of sriracha. If you can get your hands on fresh Thai basil, which has a slight licorice flavor, it’s really nice here, but if not, regular basil is just fine.
When BF saw the picture on page 40 of the shrimp, he said, “Oh, make that for me!” Sure, honey!
There was just one problem: Calabrian chili paste.
Remember, I now live in Central Louisiana, 300 miles away from Houston. Here, people get upset when you put salsa on cooked eggs as if you’ve committed a felony. Remember BF’s reaction years ago when I told him I needed allspice to make apple pie spice. Pointing at a huge rack of different local spice blends in Winn-Dixie, he said, “here’s all the allspice you need!” He didn’t know what I was talking about, and if he’d made that mistake in the Navy, he would have been thrown in the brig.
Nobody Had Any
Now, that link above will take you to Amazon’s entry for the condiment, but that wasn’t always the case—when they carried it, the site was always out. I literally couldn’t find the stuff.
A search turned up one brand on Nonna Box, a website that offers Italian ingredients shipped straight to your door, including the Calabrian chili paste. It’s currently out of stock, as it was before, but to buy it on this website would have been about $25 with taxes, shipping, and handling. OUCH.
I called the local outlets I thought should have such a thing, but nobody knew what I was talking about. (This was pre-pandemic.) Surprisingly, Rouse’s didn’t have it, considering their focus on Italian foods. I both visited Martin Wine & Spirits (formerly Martin Wine Cellar) in Metairie on one of my monthly jaunts and called the Mandeville store to no avail. I also called Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge, they didn’t know what it was either.
My last resort: Phoenicia Foods in Houston. I sent an email, thinking, surely, they would have it, right?
Nope. And they still don’t, but they do offer to ship to addresses outside of Houston. Maybe I should take another look at their website. I so miss being able to shop in that huge place on Westheimer on the west side of town. They have the most interesting things imported from nearly everywhere.
Calabrian Chili Paste-Finally!
BF has not forgotten this recipe, and occasionally asked when I would make it for him. I reminded him that I still couldn’t get the chili paste. The look on his face made me think I think he didn’t get that part. He says I was just telling him a story to get out of making it, but that’s not the case.
One irony was that Ree Drummond used this hot stuff on her own TV show one day. In Pawhuska, Oklahoma, famous for its “middle of nowhere” vibe. And then she makes a comment about how easy it is to find now. Sorry, what?
Y’all, I’m in the middle of Louisiana. When you talk about shrimp, they are either fried or boiled and only grilled if you ask for it specifically. Most people don’t know what cumin and coriander are used for, much less something like chorizo. Calabrian chili paste is just not something anyone knows here, and that became obvious quickly, even with many alleged “gourmet cooks.” (Yes, I’m still writing legal copy.)
A few weeks ago, The Giadzy, Giada’s online magazine and brand, published this article on her love of Calabrian chili paste. I saw it on Facebook. They even sell it on their website. Hmmm. . .OK, should I look again on Amazon?
BINGO! It was the same brand Giada uses, and it was finally in stock.
I needed something else from Amazon, so I ordered the paste along with the other item to get free shipping. (And why not?) The order arrived a few days later. We bought a bag of frozen shrimp at Winn-Dixie and made our dinner plans.
When I was getting ready to cook, BF said, “so we’ll have this with pasta, right?” Say what? No!! I read him what Giada instructs to cook with it, but. . .well, let me get to the making of this dish.
Shrimp For Dinner
Here’s the recipe to print.
Spicy Calabrian Shrimp
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra-virgin
- 2 tsp Calabrian chili paste
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest from one-half lemon
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined tails intact
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp freshly chopped basil or Thai basil
- Preheat the oven to 425F
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, chile paste, lemon zest, oregano, and salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Allow the shrimp to marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature.
- Spread the shrimp evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque all the way through. Sprinkle the lemon juice and basil over the shrimp. Serve warm.
BF was quite happy that I was finally going to make it for him, four years after he first saw the recipe.
It’s simple to make, and Giada even tells you what to serve with it: Veal Saltimboca Milanese-Style on page 198 and Asparagus with Grilled Melon Salad on page 216. A teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste also goes in the salad along with cherry tomatoes, sliced cantaloupe, lime juice, Ricotta Salata cheese, and a few other ingredients. These ingredients are not the stuff of salads in this part of the US, save for cherry tomatoes, even in a restaurant that purports to be “Italian.”
One look at those recipes and I knew a) I would have more trouble finding ingredients, especially a 12-ounce veal chop and Ricotta Salata cheese, and b), he wouldn’t eat either of those anyway.
We’re not talking about the refined palates you see in Houston. No, we’re talking about a guy who spent three tours overseas: one with the US Army and two with the Navy Seabees, eating in chow halls. BF grew up not realizing that mac & cheese didn’t have to come from a box. He’ll eat ravioli from a can, but that little container of cheese tortellini from Trader Joe’s is still in the freezer because he’s not sure what it is or if he’s going to like it.
Spaghetti for him, and cauliflower rice for me.
I also realized I would need some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and might have to head to Rouses to get some. Nope—I already had a quart-sized bag in the big freezer, bought some time ago, and grated for whenever I need some.
Now you’re cooking with gas.
Making The Recipe
So, once you’ve got your ingredients together—including the hard-to-find chili paste—it all comes together quickly.
Preheat your oven to 425F. Then, mix up the ingredients:
Add in the shrimp, mixing well to coat:
Let them marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature. Then spread the shrimp out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes, until they’re pink and cooked.
While that’s cooking, chop the basil:
When the shrimp are cooked, sprinkle the lemon juice and chopped fresh basil over them and serve warm.
Guess what? He liked it! So now I can make it for him whenever we want, long as I have shrimp, the cheese, and the other ingredients.
Other Recipes In Giada’s Italy
The book has more delicious recipes, and I’ve tried a few:
- Avocado white bean dip, page 25—“smooth & creamy,” as I noted in the book on 4/11/2018
- Apricot Mostarda, page 38—delicious and sweet with a charge of spice. It’s intended for the antipasto platter, a sweet/hot bit among the meats, cheeses, and olives—much like a charcuterie board, really. It just really looked good to me, and I made some, but only once. BF wouldn’t touch it, so more for me.
- Zucchini Sottolio, page 226—someone gave us a couple of very large zucchini from their garden, and I wanted to do something different with them. Giada did not disappoint. Made on 6/18/2018, I noted “bold flavors with vinegar tang.” BF doesn’t like anything tangy or a vinegar taste, nor any type of squash, so again, it was just for me. The zucchini is sliced and quickly cooked in water and apple cider vinegar, drained, then added to a mixture of herbs. Put zucchini in a jar and cover with extra-virgin olive oil Add a tight-fitting lid before stashing in the fridge. This helps the zucchini last about three weeks in the fridge. Serve at room temperature as a side dish or other accompaniment.
- Roasted Parmigiano-Reggiano potatoes, page 219—BF liked this one too, and it was simple. I like the fresh rosemary, but I can’t seem to keep the plants growing here for some odd reason. I haven’t made it in a while but I should make it again, especially if we grow some potatoes.
Mind you, when I read this section aloud to him during proofreading, BF began his retching noises.
There are several recipes here I’d still like to try, like the Hazelnut Chicken on page 202. It’s a weekend meal for sure, but again, getting ingredients like Cerignola olives, Frangelico, and skinless hazelnuts requires some searching before I can make the plans. And of course, the question of if BF will eat it—but that’s why we keep cans of ravioli and Wolf Brand Chili around, too.
Until Next Time
I’ve been gifted a wonderful collection of things from across the pond, but not by Mr. Crompton. Pictures and explanations will come later in a blog post, including an explanation of some British biscuits (cookies) called Chocolate Hobnobs. Oh, yes, BF loved those, too.
I also have a couple of updates on some recently made recipes, and will again use the recipe plugin to create them so you can print them for yourself. A guest blog is also coming, as I mentioned last week.
Spring is here, so enjoy all the asparagus, fresh berries, and other delicious things that are becoming available.