SPAM! This isn’t junk email. It’s all about that ubiquitous canned meat.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
In my writing adventures, I learn about all kinds of neat things. Technology, law, current events (whether I want to or not) and I write about them for other people. They pay me for this, although I need to get faster at it so I’ll have more time to blog about stuff that matters.
I also have a thing for vintage cooking stuff–ads, recipes, etc. It’s not that I want to make things like a Jell-O mold that looks like an aquarium, mind you. I just enjoy putting them on Facebook to make people say, “EEEEEEWWWWW!!” (You wouldn’t believe what they used to put into a Jell-O mold and call a “salad!”) But, admittedly, there’s a strange enjoyment from seeing what used to pass for “gourmet.” You’ll see some of them in this post.
On the healthier side, there’s news to report, especially if you like tortillas and wraps. But today, I wanted to have a little fun.
You may be wondering why grocery stores have more “specialty health foods” than before. Things like Caulipower pizzas and other treats, gluten-free cakes, and brownies from baking stalwart Betty Crocker. There’s a good reason for it.
Multiple companies are trying to reinvent flour-based foods for a health-conscious consumer, and those with specific health concerns. And the way it starts is because frequently, it’s a necessity for one person.
In the case of Caulipower, it’s because founder Gail Becker had two sons who were suddenly diagnosed with Celiac disease. When she tried to make cauliflower pizza on her own, she wasn’t successful. So she sought to create the frozen cauliflower pizza for others who wanted it. Today the company sells a range of alternative processed foods around the country, including Walmart and Winn-Dixie. Forbes has an interesting article about Gail Becker and how she got started.
Now comes the company Egglife, which aims to re-invent flour-based tortillas. You can buy Mission Tortillas that are “low carb,” but they frequently come with. . .wait for it–wheat flour. So they’re not gluten-free. That’s no help!
Egglife’s products include six different types of wraps made from cage-free eggs. Like Caulipower, founder Peggy Johns had to cut carbs and sugar for health reasons. They’re found in the refrigerator section and have just launched in Walmart. If you want to get something in front of the majority of Americans, that’s where you put it. So I’ll be looking for them soon and trying them out here at the Casa de Rurale with a full report.
The Definition Of Spam
Do you eat SPAM? Do you know anyone who does? I do–BF eats it. But until I met BF, I’d never met anyone who eats the stuff. Except maybe during a temporary emergency. If you’re in a shelter and the hurricane is blowing down the trees around you, you’ll likely be hungry for anything, and “special dietary needs” can go right out the window. But I digress.
A couple of years ago, a client asked me to write about something called SAP. It’s a computer operating system that has both fans and detractors and elicits reactions from joy to despair. The reaction you get will depend on who you talk to about SAP.
I haven’t had the opportunity to learn SAP (stands for Systems, Accounting and Production), but if I had, I might still be living in the Houston area. Anyway. . . .
Deciding The Topic
While talking with this Manhattan-based client, I said, “It sounds like SAP is the Spam of IT.” He laughed and said, “that’s exactly what it is!” But they make their bread and butter with it (pardon the pun), so we didn’t want to be too critical. Here’s the article I wrote if you want to read it.
But then I started thinking about. . .SPAM. It’s always in the grocery, but yet, “nobody” eats it. Really? I decided to do a little research.
History And Origins
Spam was created by the Hormel Company in 1937. There are some differences of opinion on the naming convention, but it either stands for “spiced ham” or “something posing as meat.” I guess it’s all in who you talk to. The US forces during WWII called it “ham that failed the physical.” This was not a compliment, as anyone at the company at the time could tell you. Spam was included in military war rations because it has a shelf life of approximately 9,724 years. A soldier far from home could eat it anywhere, hot or cold, right out of his or her backpack.
It was one of those foods that “thrifty housewives” knew would stretch their food budget like a rubber band. And so, recipes like this showed up frequently in popular media of the period:
I did offer to make this vintage culinary delicacy for BF. He loves lima beans and Spam. Apparently, having them together like this isn’t as appealing.
Spam was also purchased by governments worldwide to add to their own military rations during WWII. Nikita Kruschev was once quoted as saying that if it weren’t for SPAM, they would have lost the war a lot faster.
Hormel, today, produces approximately 44,000 cans of this stuff per HOUR, every day. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s their own estimate. You know quality control keeps track of these things, right?
So who is actually eating SPAM? Besides BF, of course. One word: Asians. No kidding. SPAM is extremely popular in Asian American cuisine as well as Asian countries.
- In South Korea, Spam is a Luxury
- In The Phillippines, Spam has a similar status and is now a staple
- Hong Kong enjoys Spam most often for breakfast and lunch, and one company has created a vegan version only available there.
Spam became a symbol of American generosity after the war, and also kept people from starving in many of these countries. Agriculture took a long time to return to these smaller countries, so the easily transported cans of ready-to-eat protein helped them considerably. Today gift boxes of Spam varieties are a highly coveted holiday gift in Asia.
Another place it’s popular: Hawaii.
Not a joke–they even have even restaurants on the Islands dedicated to cooking and serving dishes made with Spam. Part of the love of Spam had to do with it being sent to the detention camps for Japanese descendants between 1941 and 1945. That’s why there are so many Japanese residents in Hawaii. It’s a sad part of US history for sure, but Spam love was one small good thing that emerged.
The company changed direction and began marketing the product to post-war American housewives who were now cooking for husbands and families in the 1950s.
But because so many GIs ate it during their time in the US military, Spam’s pre-war popularity didn’t return. Still, Spam remains a best-seller stateside and quickly went on to gain a foothold in the Asian marketplace.
If you’re old enough to remember the original Monty Python, you’ll remember the skit about the restaurant that served nothing but Spam recipes. The sketch also came out of Britain’s recovery after WWII and the part Spam played in it, much like Asia’s. However, British agriculture returned quickly as did the US’s. There are also a few US restaurants that serve it. Comedy predicts the future!
And yet, when Americans like me think of Spam, the first thought is, “EEEEEEWWWWW!!” Others, like BF, adore it. Go figure.
No–I’m not going to tell you I’ve eaten or cooked anything with Spam. That’s BF’s job, not mine. Usually, though, he goes for a “Spam sandwich.” I’ve also met people who will fry it up in a pan. I’m not one of them.
If the idea of cooking with SPAM appeals to you, their own website has a separate page of over 100 recipes available, such as:
- Sriracha Benedict
- Pasta Carbonara
- Panini (a grilled Italian-style sandwich)
- Poke’ Bowl (if you don’t know what that is, here’s a non-Spam primer)
- Musabi Crunchy Roll (similar to sushi)
Can you see me crafting these gourmet Spam recipes for BF? How about this one:
No, me either. I can hear him now: “Stay ALERT! Stay ALIVE.”
In the modern (food) world, one variety of anything is usually not enough. During a visit to our local Rouse’s, I saw some of them:
On the left, you’ll see a knockoff version. Our local Walmart also carries several types SPAM. The company actually makes 13 varieties, but I don’t know if all of them are available around the US, and in this part of Louisiana:
- Less Sodium
- With Real Hormel Bacon
- Oven-Roasted Turkey
- Hickory Smoke Flavor
- Hot & Spicy
- With Portuguese Sausage Seasoning
- With Tocino Seasoning (I have no idea what that is!)
- Two different sized packages with classic Spam
Somebody is eating Spam in this country, even if they won’t admit it. And yet, with all the variety presented, BF won’t eat anything but the original.
BF Loves Spam
Well, of course, he does! That’s why things like lentils, quinoa, Waffled Falafel, and Overnight Oats are so foreign to him. (Aunt Ruth is still laughing at my description of BF’s first taste of overnight oatmeal.)
BF grew up eating Spam, I didn’t, so that explains some of the disparity. But you won’t be seeing this around here anytime soon:
When I showed this ad to BF, he was quite interested in all three of these. He’s welcome to make them for himself. Thankfully this “cutesy” form of advertising has given way to more genuine styles, mostly, and with SEO (search engine optimization.)
All You Needed To Know
I hope you enjoyed today’s blog post; it’s been sitting in the draft folder for a while. If you really like the salty, cold canned meat, go for it! BF does, frequently. And now you know about the incredible variety of multicultural recipes that start with a simple can of Spam.
Of course, you can find plenty of recipes and information on the Spam website. There is also a gift shop for Spam merchandise and some cans. Some varieties of Spam are currently in short supply. But you can purchase Spam temporary tattoos, posters, magnets, postcards, T-shirts, Polo shirts, golf bags, and other quality merchandise that you didn’t know you needed. Want to learn more? Check out the company’s FAQ page.
At The Casa de Rurale
We actually have one or two cans in the kitchen somewhere. BF cracks open a can when he just doesn’t know what he wants for dinner. Sometimes it’s because he is in a place where food is being served that he doesn’t quite understand. He just takes his Spam sandwich and goes into a corner until it’s all over. Or, on rare occasions, I’m that mad at him that I let him feed himself, and he’ll find his way to a can.
One thing that worries me–if I go first, and I’m not there to make BF a healthy dinner, is he going to spend his days eating cereal for breakfast and Spam other times? Oh, well–if I go first, I guess it has to be up to him to eat healthily. I hope he’s learned a few things in the time I’ve been here.
Cauliflower rice is a tasty dish for low-carb and keto eaters. I recently found a dish that uses it for Taco Tuesday or anytime you want something with a delicious Tex-Mex flavor. Let’s get started.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Finally, I want to tell you about another fast dinner recipe that’s good anytime. IF you don’t have a fussy eater like BF.
R2D2 And Cauliflower Rice
In my big Instant Pot post, I mentioned the Etsy shop that makes wraps to turn your ordinary IP into something else. In our case, mine became R2D2, because BF is such a Star Wars fan. It just made sense. And, let’s face it, it’s funny. However, I neglected to post pictures of what mine looks like dressed up as a droid:
I just happened to look on Etsy and found it. Becky has a wide range of them.
I haven’t tried any cauliflower rice recipes in the IP yet, but Corrie Cooks has a recipe for IP Spicy Cauliflower Rice. I’ll try that soon, even if just to use the machine for something that night.
Oh, and that little spot to the left of the IP? That’s a little burn mark. I’ll take care of it soon. My many-year-old coffee grinder blew last night.
I plugged it into the wall socket and heard a loud POP and a bright flash of light. Scared the bejeezus out of me. BF was in the living room and saw the flash. I showed it to him, and he said, “well, you got your money’s worth out of it.” We looked at the underside and saw that the copper wires were exposed, and I suppose touched when I plugged it in. Into the trash can it went.
If I remember correctly, I bought it while I was working at Boeing so that had to be prior to 2012. So it’s time for another one.
Cauliflower: The “New” Vegetable
So, again, I read many blogs, both on social media and in email. One that I discovered a few years ago and only recently rediscovered was Carolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About Food. Her blogs are all about low-carb, keto, and gluten-free foods.
This delicious one-skillet dish popped up on Facebook or Instagram one day, with a graphic that said it was “keto.” Seeing as we were getting onto Taco Tuesday, I thought we could do this instead. So, without telling BF what I was doing, I set out to make it for us.
What Is Cauliflower Rice?
Now, cauliflower rice is this new thing that keto and low-carb folks do to eat something that looks like rice, and when properly cooked, acts like it. However, it’s infinitely lower in carbohydrates and takes on the flavors that you add to it. Suddenly, cauliflower is “having a moment,” and it’s the “newest” vegetable on the foodie scene.
I’ve found these recipes in a search on The Pioneer Woman’s website:
- Another version of Cauliflower Rice
- Similar to mashed potatoes, Cauliflower Mash
- Cauliflower Pizza Crust
- Mac & Cheese with cauliflower instead of pasta
- Brownies of Cauliflower? No kidding, haven’t tried it myself)
- Air-fried Buffalo Cauliflower bites
Of course, you could search for recipes anywhere, like Pinterest, or any blog you like. Flip a coin in any direction, you’ll likely land on a recipe for it that’s different than mine and everyone else’s.
You can buy all sorts of cauliflower-based things now, including my favorite, Caulipower Pizza. The company has added a range of new and healthier foods, including riced cauliflower, sweet potato toasts, tortillas, chicken tenders, and pastas.
Basic Cauliflower Rice
I’ve made the cauli-rice a few times, and honestly, I could eat it every day the way people around here eat white rice. If you have a food processor, you wash and cut a whole cauliflower head into florets, and grind it up until it looks like grains of rice. From here you can do a number of things with it, like the recipe I’ll describe shortly. Or, if you don’t want to mess with it, you can buy it already ground into bits:
I can’t believe we can buy this here. I’m very glad our local Winn-Dixie carries it. I haven’t looked for it in either Walmart or Rouse’s yet. What you get is perfectly chopped cauliflower:
It’s still raw cauliflower, of course, but it cooks quickly.
To make cauli-rice as a side dish for nearly anything, it’s really simple:
Heat your pan on medium-high, then add in the oil and butter:
When it’s melted completely, add in the cauliflower rice:
Stir it around and add in some salt and pepper:
As always, use a light touch on salt. You can always add more if it’s not salty enough. Keep stirring for five to seven minutes:
Cook it until the cauliflower is just softened:
And enjoy it with all manner of keto or low-carb dishes, or pretty much anything you like–even if it’s not keto. I served this with the Instant Pot pot roast I blogged about last week.
Cooking it like this takes out the “chalky” taste that BF doesn’t like–as well as Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, no kidding.
Low-Carb Mexican Cauliflower Rice In A Skillet
This dish was almost as easy as making regular cauliflower rice.
So I got all the ingredients together and got started. This is one of those times I wish I hadn’t told BF what was in it until later. He doesn’t appreciate it when I buy grass-fed beef or anything organic.
I did just a little prep work to make the cooking process easier, as I always try to do:
Since it’s Taco Tuesday, there is the appropriate cheese:
Start browning your ground beef:
Drop in the chopped onion and bell pepper:
Now cook for a few minutes until they soften and the meat is no longer pink.
Add in the taco seasoning:
If you like the packet stuff, go for it. You can also use any kind of taco seasoning you like, or mix one up.
Now add your chopped tomatoes:
And the cauliflower rice:
Stir a little, then add the half-cup of chicken broth:
Now reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it cook until the cauli-rice is done. This should take about eight minutes if it’s raw, and ten minutes if it’s frozen, according to Carolyn.
Now take that cheese and sprinkle it on:
You should have enough to cover the top:
Now put a lid on it until the cheese melts:
And dinner is served!
You can serve it with your favorite toppings like avocado and sour cream. If you have others not eating keto, tortillas, tortilla chips, or other non-keto things will be great too. Or, you can have it just like this.
Not the neatest picture ever, but it was delish. I don’t care what BF says.
New rule of thumb: do NOT tell BF what’s in it until he tries it!
New Taco Tuesday Options!
Sure, tacos are delicious, but you don’t have to eat them every single week. It’s always nice to have another recipe that has the Tex-Mex flavors as another dinner option.
Since you’ll make it in one pan, dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes, so it’s great for a weeknight or a fast dinner on a weekend. And it’s healthy, too.
Hubig’s Pies are coming back next year!
Only an hour after I published my July update post yesterday, I go into the living room and there’s a blip on the news about the return of the old New Orleans favorite, Hubig’s Pies. There is rejoicing in the land tonight.
I wrote about these iconic treats a few years ago, when I was still living in Houston. I think I was looking for something else to blog about. When I stopped traveling around Houston and trying different places, I struggled for new blog topics that were interesting. And, quite frankly, there were times when I just didn’t feel like writing anything.
But I couldn’t believe my luck–I knew I should have waited before I published, but I just wanted to get a quick update out.
Since 2012, people in Louisiana have patiently waited for the return of a beloved hand pie that was available about anywhere for 90 years. Their patience has finally paid off.
In a joint press release, Governor John Bel Edwards and Hubig’s owner Andrew Ramsey announced today that the company would resume producing the famed pies in a new facility in Jefferson Parish, not Orleans parish where the company lived for 90 years.
The State of Louisiana and the Parish of Jefferson offered multiple business incentives, that, apparently, Orleans Parish wouldn’t. But whatever–people are overjoyed, and who cares if they’re made in Jefferson Parish? They plan to use the same recipes, and not change anything, so that should ensure consistency and happiness again.
Not So Fast
However, they note that they don’t have a place yet, but they are working to get one, and get started. Mr. Ramsey was quoted as saying,
“I don’t have a facility yet. I don’t have a place where I can press a button and start making pies,” he said in an interview.
“This (loan guarantee) is a part of the puzzle to get the business back again,” he said. “Everything has been coming together; we’ve had a tremendous amount of support. But I don’t have a timeline yet.”
But after seven years of nothing, this is definitely good news.
The manufacturing equipment they need is going to be highly specialized, so that’s probably going to be their biggest hurdle. The factory will bring something like 30 jobs to the suburban parish, likely in Metairie or Kenner.
Side note: the Govna is from the area where I live. I’ve met a couple of his relatives because I happened to be in town, and BF introduced me. BF actually shook hands with him at a funeral a year or so ago, and went to school with a few of his relatives. The Gov lives here and commutes to Baton Rouge every day, something I thought I’d be doing when I interviewed at LSU in 2016.
There’s more information here in this news story.
What’s The Big Deal About Hubig’s?
In a state that doesn’t always value health and wellness, local food is one of those things that people hold onto and take very seriously.
The Hubig’s Pie affair is bigger than the Twinkies affair, because Hostess pretty much already had a buyer waiting going into bankruptcy court. But I’m sure Mr. Ramsey has been able to learn from the Twinkies re-set and will be working with new, more agile, manufacturing practices.
Things like king cakes and other regional favorites have become wide spread. As I mentioned originally (and probably a few other times), king cakes are available in bakeries in Texas, and New Orleans bakers ship the cakes nationally. Check your grocery store for “Louisiana” or “New Orleans” foodstuffs, and you’ll find things like Tabasco, Zatarain’s, and maybe even Tony Chachere’s spices. I bought a wide range of things at HEB in Houston, so I know they’re available elsewhere, and online if you know where to look.
But Hubig’s Pies didn’t really make it out of Louisiana. It’s just one of those regional favorites, like kolaches in Texas. They were just always available, in every grocery store, convenience store, truck stop, gas station, and everywhere snacks were sold in the region. When they went away, as I mentioned in the last post, people missed them terribly, and have been asking for them to come back ever since.
The Devotion To Hubig’s Pies
Ladies and Gentlemen, your patience will be rewarded next year. Hubig’s Pies will make Louisiana great again! (I’m sure that’s what they’ll say, anyway.) You’ll be able to buy them online, too. How about that?
This article on NOLA.com (full of garbled code written by a monkey, I presume) details all the ways people have kept the flame burning for Hubig’s Pies. One lady kept a blueberry Hubig’s in her freezer all these years as a souvenir. Another has one sealed up in a plastic freezer bag in her closet. (EEEWWW!!) And as you saw in the last blog post, Mardi Gras costumes abound for people who are waiting for their Hubig’s Pies to return.
There’s even a comment by the Governor himself, speaking at a campaign stop, about his love for the missing pies. I’m guessing he’ll be using that in his re-election platform. Well, let’s face it, wouldn’t you?
Let me reiterate, as stated the first time I wrote about Hubig’s Pies, that there is nothing healthy, sugar-free, or gluten-free about these things. They are, like a lot of Louisiana foods, primarily white flour, sugar, starches, and likely unhealthy oils. Enjoy at your own risk. . .because everyone else here will take that risk once they are being sold again.
I’ll have a small bite of BF’s, just to satisfy my curiosity.
The Divided Dinnertime
Last night was one of those nights where we ate from our “pre-relationship menus.” BF calls things like Hamburger Helper “the pre-Amy menu,” and I referred to the roast chicken leg quarter as one of my “favorite single-girl payday meals.” Because it is, like the perfectly cooked flat iron steak that’s sliced against the grain and laid on top of a crisp salad with lettuce, tomatoes (grape, please), sugar snap peas, maybe some avocado, and a quickly whisked dressing of EVOO and a raspberry vinegar. Oh, and a bit of Celtic of pink Himalayan sea salt to finish it.
I asked why he would make such a thing, and his response was, “Well, you’re always telling me how great Pea & Pesto Soup is, so you can have that tonight.” I found the chicken leg in the freezer next to the ground beef and claimed it as my own.
We’ve been doing that sometimes, when he feels that Hamburger Helper, or a frozen Swanson dinner is just the thing. I’m sticking to the healthiest things I can eat here, which occasionally involves something like rice, which I don’t normally consume. But if it makes him happy, oh, well.
BF and his twin brother are planning to make the pilgrimage this year to Hot Rod Magazine’s annual Drag Week. BF went last year with another of his “car guy” friends, but they were only gone a couple of days. This time, the twin mechanics are planning the entire week of smelling like the exotic scents of car exhaust, motor oil and transmission fluid, as well as eating at various local greasy spoons. For this red-haired foodie, it means:
- I will be alone and free to be myself for an entire week
- I can cook and eat whatever I want all week long without criticism, critiquing or fake retching
- This includes the absence of comments such as, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!”
- I can watch my own TV and sew as much as I want
- I can invite over whomever I want, including, but not limited to
- BF’s brother’s wife and 5-year-old daughter
- “Car guy” girl JJ, and possibly her daughter if she’s interested
- Friends J&A who live a couple of miles away; A is one of BF’s collegues, and J is her boyfriend
- BF’s father who lives up the road (although he won’t come unless there’s an emergency)
- Anyone else who appreciates gourmet cooking and lives close enough or wants to drive up here
- Or nobody at all
I’m not planning a dinner party, although I probably could. But as I’ve told BF several times, I’m making plans for my “Drag Week Menu.” I’ll be cooking all manner of delicious, healthy food to enjoy while he’s across the country. The recipes may come from the new cookbooks I’ve bought, too. So what if he can’t say “Braciole?”
Remember when we went to Mr. Earl’s Barbecue? BF knows Mr. Earl from Drag Week, since he works on these kinds of cars at his shop outside of Baton Rouge. That New Year’s Eve gumbo fest and barbecue event is a yearly thing he does for all his “car guy” friends. (We missed it last year, maybe this year.)
Honestly, Drag Week is a networking event for petrolheads. BF knows so many people from Drag Week, I can’t tell them apart. But they have a great time, make new friends, meet up with old ones (supplemented by Facebook) and have fun while they’re there.
On a basic level, it’s like AWAI’s yearly copywriting Bootcamp. I streamed it live again this year, and I loved it all. But I do wish I could go in person next year. You never know, you might meet an automotive copywriter there!
Until Next Time
I plan on blogging again before too long, honest. Meantime, thanks to everyone who keeps reading my foodie-related rantings with SEO optimization.
Gumbo–that ubiquitous dirty-dishwater looking stew of whatever people throw in it, unique to Louisiana, happened in the Casa de Rurale recently. It could have even happened in Texas. Not quite what you think, and I ate it too. Read about how I made it, I ate it, and how it was somehow gluten-free and wheat-free thanks to a certain author.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
Do you idly flip through cookbooks and think about making something? I do. I think about how nice it would be to try this recipe, and how enjoyable it would be to have, and maybe how much I enjoyed making it for Miss Alice, or for a group of people. One day I did it, but it was for BF. But first, some news.
Little Japanese Cookies
So three of our Buddhist youth division went to Japan in February for a training course, and they had a pretty incredible spiritual time, from what we heard. No, there wasn’t any sake or karaoke involved (or they left that part out) and they brought back lots of stories. Well, one of them came to our district meeting and brought the cutest box of little cookies:
Kansai is a city in Japan where great things have happened, and one of the places they visited. I insisted that our district leader/hostess let me take pictures as she opened the box. Little things like that from Japan are just adorable. So, here we go:
The back of the box:
Then we cracked open the box to see:
They’re really tiny, no kidding:
I had to try one, this one being raspberry. Mildly sweet, crunchy like an amaretto cookie, and lightly flavored. I didn’t ask for a translation of the ingredients list. Again, so cute:
I have no idea what it says. I brought two or three home to BF, where he devoured them all in a quick bite.
On the way home, I made a quick stop at Whole Foods (I was only a couple of miles away) and noticed this in the parking lot:
No kidding, a charger for an electric car, and it looks to be free for Whole Foods customers:
Of course, the first thing I wondered was, “does anyone in Louisiana, let alone Mandeville, have an electric car that needs this?” California, sure. Arizona, maybe. Texas, probably with all the petrolheads. But Louisiana? No idea. But if you have one, well, you can charge up that the Mandeville Whole Foods. I don’t know about any other Louisiana location.
I’m sure it won’t be free forever.
Quick Note On Sourcing Ingredients
Finally, I realize that my new favorite online vitamin store also sells a myriad of healthy food products. Why didn’t I think of this before? Vitacost carries all manner of healthy foods and ingredients. I was looking for corn flour recently to make more of my favorite vegan cornbread from Babycakes. Nobody carried it, even in New Orleans. Finally I thought about ordering it directly from Bob’s Red Mill, but then I looked at Vitacost. Oh, yes–they have ALL that stuff, including their own brands of things like pink Himalayan sea salt and a three-pound bag of the sweetener Erythritol (the subject of an upcoming blog post) for a really good price. They may not have absolutely everything, but if you’re looking for something that’s hard to find, check Vitacost’s website first before giving up on it.
And of course, don’t forget Amazon’s website for hard-to-find ingredients, either. Remember the best part about both these merchants: they ship it right to your door!
Update On The Dishwasher
My fabulous countertop dishwasher is washing its heart out these days, but I discovered that the model I bought is currently unavailable. Why? Because Edgestar and Compact Appliance will be bringing out new models this summer. If you’re looking to get one immediately, check other online outlets to see if they’re still available. If not, give it a couple of months.
Also, I have a new client who asked me to write some “green” articles. Because of that, I’ve discovered that Seventh Generation powdered dishwashing detergent works really well in this dishwasher. I’m going to start buying so I can help us get a little bit greener. It’s a little more than the gelpacs I’ve been using, but I only use a tablespoon, so that box will last me quite a while. The previous powder was the Walmart brand, which I’d bought thinking it would work fine. Nope–it clumped and glued itself into the dispenser. But Seventh Generation doesn’t do that. I’ve got a big box, and will be returning the gelpacs one day soon.
Friend of the blog LK in Houston buys her, um, bathroom tissue from Amazon, and they deliver a 48-roll case to her front door. I think she has Prime, but I don’t remember. It may be a good option for us, too, since we’re. . .way out here. The mail lady and several other courier drivers have become very familiar with the Casa de Rurale since I started regularly ordering stuff online.
The Re-Education Of BF
Sometimes, I wish I’d never picked up cooking as a hobby. Especially with BF around. I get bored making the same thing, stuff that looks like a Swanson TV dinner. Sure, it’s easy to throw in the CrockPot, and I appreciate that part of the meat-and-potatoes dinner. But geez–can’t we eat something different sometime? Grass-fed beef if it’s on sale? It wouldn’t hurt to buy organic milk when we have the chance, either.
Last week we had to head over to Baton Rouge, and I twisted his arm to take me into Sur la Table. It’s a smaller store than Baybrook, and they don’t do cooking classes, darnit. When I told him about it, he kind of knew where it was, but had no idea why. Finally, after trying to explain “professional cooking tools,” and not getting through, I decided to take it to his level.
See, BF isn’t stupid or ignorant–but sometimes, he has no frame of reference. It’s not ignorance–that’s just not ever knowing what something is. Like a popular TV show that everyone else watches, but you’ve never seen it, so you have no idea what the other person is talking about. Happens to both of us all the time. To him, buying something at a pricey store is no different than going to Walmart for it. Finally, I thought on his level, and realized how to explain it.
“It’s Snap-On Tools For Cooks.”
THAT made sense! If you’re not familiar, Snap-On Tools are the high-end, professional grade mechanics’ tools that are coveted by car guys and gals everywhere. They work the FIRST time you put that wrench on a bolt. Sure, they’re expensive, but they’re professional grade and are made to last a lifetime, just like Le Creuset pots.
What did I need? A good potato masher. I make mashed potatoes for him a lot now, and so I needed one. I wanted a good one that would last a long time, and I got it. (It also doubles as something strong to whack him with if he starts messing around in the kitchen.) Of course, all he could think of was, “It’s overpriced.”
A Tale Of Two Salads
To give you an idea of the contrast between us, BF took me to a local seafood restaurant recently, where they have a salad bar. If you order an entree, there’s one trip to the salad bar. You can just have salad for one price with multiple trips. If you’re really hungry, order an entree *and* multiple trips to the salad bar. I make mine count.
As a veteran of places like Sweet Tomatoes, I look for the good stuff, and frequently pass on salad dressing:
Oh, yes. And those are raisins and dried cranberries, too. Not too many, but some for added sweetness. Now, when BF hits the salad bar, this is what he comes back with:
About a half-cup of lettuce, some cheese, red onion, 12 ounces of Thousand-Island dressing and several bread croutons. And yet, the lettuce gave him. . .gas. That’s what he says, anyway. He takes the hush puppies off my plate, too.
BF cringes when we go to restaurants, but thankfully, it’s not very often. I try hard to find the healthiest thing available, and I’ve been successful each time by asking questions. So you see what I’m working with.
Amy Makes Gumbo
Much as I’m *not* a fan of Louisiana food, I made gumbo for us recently. Why did I grow up in Louisiana, but don’t want any? Well, I’m done with it. And, Louisiana food is a lot of flour, hydrogenated oil and other unhealthy stuff I don’t want. So I dropped it years ago. Mexican food, yes, thank you, with lots of guacamole, sour cream, cheddar cheese and fresh salsa. But you can keep the rest of that stuff. Yuck.
Oh, and BF’s daughter made a gumbo for us once that used the base out of a packet. No. Everybody here has their own way of making gumbo, but. . .well, she bought a gumbo mix or something.
Admittedly, if BF decides to go for some boiled crawfish, I’ll gladly have some. Shrimp, of course, I love, as long as I don’t have to peel 150 pounds of them. (I’ve done that too.) I usually order shrimp in a restaurant, because I don’t have to mess with them. Crab, it’s been way to long. And oysters are only good if they’re deep fried in hydrogenated oil with high-carb cornmeal and flour, so I usually pass. But jambalaya and gumbo? No thanks. Until now.
Could It Be. . .Gluten Free?
Yes, indeed, it can, thanks to my accidental finding of a gumbo recipe in a cookbook a couple of weeks ago.
Now, I showed you the pictures from the gumbo cookout we visited at the holidays. (BF recently visited Mr. Calhoun at his place of business, the auto shop, for car stuff for one of his clients.) On one of those trips, BF had the occasion to have lunch on the road, and he got. . .gumbo. The “real” kind, from somewhere in Baton Rouge, I think. He texted me the picture:
And yes, he loaded up on crackers. No thanks. He actually didn’t finish it, brought it to his brother’s place of business, and his brother gobbled it up. Enjoy, guys.
I had a few cookbooks sitting in the kitchen, and I started flipping through one to find *something* else to make for dinner. I knew we had two chicken breasts in the freezer, but that gets real boring real quick. And then, I came across something in the Wheat Belly 30-Minutes (Or Less!) Cookbook: New Orleans Gumbo.
I went over the ingredient list, and realized that I only needed a few things to complete it. Andouille style sausage and a bell pepper. Carefully, I made plans to purchase these ingredients and wondered how I would get them into the house without him knowing.
He Found Out Anyway
Well, I told him I was making something *special* for dinner that I knew he’d like, but I wouldn’t tell him what. Finally, he wrestled the book away from me and saw it. “New Orleans Gumbo! Well, I’ll try anything you make.” That’s his rule, (and his standard answer), so he’ll have one bite of it. But if he doesn’t like it, well, it’s back to grilled cheese sandwiches or something.
So once the proverbial cat was out of the bag, I got busy with making dinner.
Of course, I left out one ingredient out of the picture, essential to the dish:
So let’s get on with it. Make your Cajun seasoning first:
Mix it and pour it into a storage jar:
At this point, you can get a pinch bowl for the teaspoon you need for this dish, set it aside, and stash this back into the pantry.
Heat your oil over medium-high heat:
Chop the chicken and the sausage:
Add these to the hot oil:
And let them cook for about 8 minutes. When they’ve cooked and browned, take them out with a slotted spoon, put them in a bowl, set them aside, then drop the heat down to medium.
Then You Make A Roux
If you’ve never heard of this, a roux (“roo” or “rew”) is the basis for a gravy. It’s done by cooking flour in hot oil on the stove, and it takes a while. You use a fair amount of it, and when you’re done, it’s all thick and brown and. . .gravy.
The Good Doctor has an alternate method.
Pour one cup of chicken stock into the pot, and add the coconut flour one tablespoon every 30 seconds until it’s thick enough for you:
The coconut flour doesn’t really add a noticeable taste to it. Once that’s done, add the onion:
Then the garlic:
Then the bell pepper:
And the seasoning mix and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes until they soften a little:
See how it’s thickening?
Ok, next–add the sausage and chicken back into the pot:
And then add the rest of the chicken stock:
Then just cover and cook it for 8 minutes more. The chicken should be completely cooked and the vegetables softened.
What About The Rice?
Don’t panic. I’ve got you covered.
When you get gumbo in a restaurant, it’s usually served with rice, or the rice is in it. That’s not low-carb, and I’m not sure about gluten-free, either. SO. . .I made rice for him and quinoa for me.
I used the last of the chicken stock for my quinoa:
And, of course, made some rice for BF.
And then it was time for dinner. You won’t believe what happens next. . . .
The Tasting And The Conversation
So I fixed his plate, and then mine, and we sat down to have gumbo on a Saturday night.
He takes a bite, and then another. He doesn’t say anything at first. It went like this:
“It’s pretty good.”
“OK if I make it again?”
“I feel like I want to yell at you for not making this before! Why haven’t you ever made this for me?” (He’s still stuffing his face with it.)
“I only found the recipe last night.”
“How long have you had that book?”
So, there we have it. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
It Really Is That Easy To Make
If you want to make this for yourself and/or your family, I’ve put a printable PDF copy on the Recipes page. You make the seasoning, and then make the gumbo. Doesn’t take too long, really. Healthy, tasty, and a great weeknight meal, with or without rice/quinoa.
Coconut flour is pretty easy to find these days, and I can get it here in my area (although I still get stuff at Trader Joe’s sometimes, too.) And as I said earlier, Vitacost and Amazon can ship it to your door if you can’t find it locally.
What are you waiting for? Make some and enjoy it.
I’m sampling Starbucks’ new gluten free breakfast sandwich today.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Well, I found another thing to write about. If you’re one of my gluten-free readers, this one’s for you.
But first, some news
Remember my blog post on einkorn wheat, the original form of wheat that’s being grown again for a hungry world? My einkorn article for my client OffTheGridNews has been published, just this week, and you can read it here. There are two more articles in the queue that haven’t been published yet. I’ve been paid for all of them, so they’ll be out eventually. On Facebook, that article garnered about 10 comments (not all nice), 79 shares and 80 likes. So I guess I can write. . . .
It’s long been known that the food industry throws out a lot more food during the selection process than they keep. Farmers know they can’t sell a funny-looking tomato that will taste incredible, because appearances are everything. Misshapen produce is a big one, but there are other bits and bots that are, shamefully, discarded, adding to food waste and landfills. Ever think to yourself, “we could be feeding hungry people with that”? (Or said to a child, “there are starving people in. . .so eat it?”) Well, turning leftovers into food is a trend that’s happening now–but it’s startups that are leading the way.
From the Washington Post, food waste is the “hot” new trend in food. Edible but ugly produce is turned into jam, flour is milled from the remains of coffee beans, and stale bread is turned into beer. It’s not dumpster-diving, because nothing has gone that far, and a lot of “waste” has been kept out of landfills. These innovative folks are just taking something that’s usually discarded, but useful and still edible, doing something new with it. I like that.
My question: why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?
Zeponic Farms, part of George Mason University, is a little gardening operation in a re-purposed shipping container that grows lettuce, other green stuff. They work with folks in the Mason LIFE program to offer education and work experience to those with special needs. The lettuce they grow is sold to the campus food service company, Sodexo, and served in the campus dining hall. Can’t get any more “local” than that, and it benefits a lot of people. Eventually, they hope to offer employment to the special needs community as well.
I’m sure they’re not growing *that* kind of herbal in there. Not where anyone can get to it. But Louisiana’s own LSU is getting on that medical pot bandwagon to–what?–generate revenue. Because revenue from alcohol and gambling casinos only goes so far.
On a lark, I decided to head to Starbucks in Hammond for the day, since the library closes early and BF works late. I’m sure he won’t mind. Knowing that I had two free things, I figured that I could try their new gluten free breakfast sandwich today. Originally, I wanted BF to join me so he could try it with me, but. . .well, I think I need a new taste-tester for this humble blog, since he complains about it a lot. He doesn’t want me near the Crock Pots again for a while, and he’s all but banned me from waffling anything for him, so. . .that’s enough of that. BF is now retired as the HeatCageKitchen taste-tester. Problem is, I don’t have anyone else to use, so I tried the darn thing myself.
The issue with a lot of the “gluten free” stuff, like many “alternative” foods (diet, diabetic) is that they taste bad or have a dreadful texture. One bite, and you realize that you’re better off chewing your nails. The market share and demand for decent-tasting gluten-free food increased when more people went gluten-free. It’s not just folks with the allergy anymore. The more people read about what modern wheat really is, (i.e., Wheat Belly), the more they leave it alone.
They finally made one
A couple of years ago, I called Starbucks to ask them about doing something gluten-free. The response was that they were unable to because they couldn’t guarantee against cross-contamination with other gluten-laden products. Some of that problem has been dealt with, as I’ll show you.
Hungry, I sauntered up to the counter and requested one along with a refill of hot brewed coffee. When the little oven went off, I was handed this little package inside one of their standard white envelopes:
Yup–sealed in a parchment pouch that can withstand the heat of their mini-ovens. No mistaking which one this is, either. But how do you know it’s really gluten-free?
And this means?
Certified gluten free means that, depending on the regulating program, this food product contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million), although the Celiac Support Association (formerly the Celiac Sprue Association) requires foods to have less than 5 PPM. According to this article, anything less than 20 ppm is not detectable, and most people with the allergy don’t have a reaction at that rate.
The FDA also has official rules on what constitutes “gluten free,” setting that bar at 20 ppm.
Companies that jump through the hoops to get certified are usually catering to the gluten-free crowd anyway, so they want to make sure you’re getting what you asked for. Knowing what kinds of foods are gluten-free already helps.
The Starbucks Gluten Free Breakfast Sandwich
Drum roll, please.
Tearing open the envelope, I carefully removed this:
OK, so it’s a little lopsided. They get jostled about in those little packets. They can’t straighten it out because that would require opening the packet. Then I took a bite:
And another bite. . .
What did it taste like?
For a gluten-free item, it’s pretty good. The same tasty fillings you’d expect in their regular sandwiches. The bread is only slightly stiffer than regular bread–think ciabatta or French bread. Then there is the matter of a little bit of flour on it, something the regular sandwiches don’t have. Just don’t eat it too close to your keyboard, I’d say.
The fine print
If you’re wondering what’s in these, well, this is the back of the packet:
Bread normally has a lot of ingredients, but because it’s also egg, cheese and Canadian bacon, well, you know.
You can read more about this sandwich on Starbucks’ website, and it should be available nationwide. Hey–if they have it in one way out here, you should be able to find it anywhere.
They sell about 12 of these a day in Hammond, I’m told, so there’s definitely a market, even in places where people don’t follow the food trends. Southeastern Louisiana University is also in Hammond, so that may also be a factor. Bigger cities like Houston probably sell 12 an hour, if not more.
Starbucks carries a myriad of things, many of them gluten free, as I’ve mentioned before. But now, you can get a gluten-free breakfast sandwich in Starbucks, too.
It’s getting on time to go and pick up my former taste-tester from work. He had a frozen dinner today for lunch after his rampage through Walmart this morning. Tomorrow will probably sandwiches. His choice.
Until next time. . . .