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.
Pot Roast in the Instant Pot. Yes, it’s possible for dinner tonight. I tried one from a fellow blogger and it’s pretty good.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
So, piggybacking on the last post about the Instant Pot, I’m reporting on a recipe that a), I actually made, and b) BF actually liked.
If you ask him about what he’d like for dinner, the answer is usually “meat & ‘taters.” Just like that. I’ve made many variations on the theme, but this time, it was strict. Pot roast with carrots and potatoes, and one surprise ingredient. Amazingly, for a change, he actually liked it.
Lots to tell, so let’s get started.
RIP Alvin Calhoun
A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be able to introduce you to this nice man when we went to Mr. Earl’s Awesome New Year’s Party:
Alvin Calhoun made some awesome barbecue, and you would not be looking for sauce, either. (Read the previous post to find out what I mean by that.)
We found out a few days ago that Mr. Calhoun had advanced-stage prostate cancer. He passed away the very next day. His children announced it on Facebook.
BF had tried to contact Mr. Calhoun this week, because he was going to bring some motor parts over to him to work on. That’s when BF found out about it. We had no idea he was ill, nor that he was in ICU at the time. I only got to chant for him once, because I had no idea he needed me to.
Although BF saw him again after the party, I didn’t, but never forgot him. He remembered me (and my red hair) and sent home some delicious ribs and things for us to enjoy for dinner one night. I thanked him later, I think on FB Messenger.
This picture will be printed up and framed soon.
Son Davin Calhoun will continue their company Calhoun Performance that’s based in Baton Rouge.
This was a very nice man, and we are both saddened at the news. Mr. Calhoun was well-liked by so many, and won’t be forgotten. Thank you for the delicious memories, sir.
No, not that stuff in the can–the digital kind.
If you were the unfortunate recipient of this site directing you to one where you “won a prize,” I apologize. Somehow, the site got hacked, but it’s fixed now. Seems that somehow there were extra plugins I wasn’t aware of, but are now gone. The ever-vigilant Banana Rat found them and removed them quickly, and you shouldn’t see that again.
Don’t worry, I changed the website’s password too.
I subscribe to a number of food as well as other types of blogs, many of which I mentioned last time. Blue Kitchen is written by Terry Boyd and his wife Marion, longer than me–since 2006. While my theme is:
Because good food deserves to be passed around.
Terry & Marion’s is:
Good Food. Great Stories. I Swear.
As you’ll read in their About section, when things go off the rails–like they do here–the air “turns blue” with, shall we say, colorful language. It happens more often than I admit to. The Boyds haven’t–to my knowledge–detailed the “blue” thrown about in their kitchen in any blog I’ve seen. Just know that I’m being polite when I don’t discuss what is occasionally said in the HeatCageKitchen. I don’t want to get blocked by my own hosting provider.
Based in St. Louis, Terry describes himself as I do, as an “amateur chef.” There’s the fabulous and complicated recipes you see in books by famous chefs, and then there’s dinner you’re making this evening. Terry and Marion focus on the latter, because you always have time to think about the former another time.
Pot Roast In The Instant Pot
As I alluded to last time, pot roast is one of the things that an Instant Pot, other pressure cooker, or a slow cooker works well to create. The super-heated water cooks things much faster, so even a larger cut will cook in less time. This smaller cut cooks in under an hour if it’s not frozen.
When their post landed in my email, I figured this would be a good thing to try. I have a new habit of *not* telling him what I’m making for dinner, but that eventually backfires.
When I said “pot roast,” BF was interested, so I made some. Unlike Terry & Marion, we are *not* trying to consume less red meat. But this was just right for us and one guest, another car-guy.
I know, it’s a lot of ingredients. However, much of it goes into seasoning the meat ahead of time.
So I bought a big roast and cut it in half. One half is still in the freezer.
Cut it in half and freeze the other:
Now season it.
Making The Dry Rub
Just like barbecue, there’s a dry-rub involved.
Note that this is onion and garlic POWDER, not SALT. Big difference, and you’ll notice it if you make that mistake. Mix them up:
Now just sprinkle it on:
Don’t forget the other side, of course.
Terry says you’ll have more seasoning than you need, but I ended up using the whole thing. That’s OK. Onto the next step.
As I always say, READ THE RECIPE FIRST. Always. Or your kitchen will be turning blue as well. Ask me how I know.
So I measured all the liquids first:
Yes, that’s actually fish sauce, and yes, I used it. Obviously, it’s not much. That bottle is in that place in the fridge where BF won’t see it.
Chop Your Veg
And get everything ready for the pot.
Potatoes, of course;
There’s also some onion involved:
Now on with the show!
Cooking The Pot Roast
Using the saute’ function, heat the oil:
Now sear the meat on both sides:
Take out the roast and set it aside on a plate (and in the microwave if you have hungry dogs.) Now cook the onion and garlic, adding more oil if you need it.
Cook it long enough to come out like this:
Add the garlic in right at the end:
Once the veg is cooked, shut off the saute’ function. Add in the liquids, which I mixed in the big cup to add at once:
Scrape the browned bits off the bottom–that’s where the flavor is. Now add the pot roast, the bay leaves, and any liquid on the plate into the IP:
Finish the Pot Roast
Now add the carrots and potatoes:
Use the pressure cook function to cook it for 40 minutes. When the cooking is done, leave it alone for ten minutes and then pop the pressure out.
Of course, I had company and forgot to take a picture of the end result. But if you read Terry’s page, you’ll see the finished product.
Marion describes the beautiful platter it’s presented on. I just took out the pot and brought it to the table. It was gobbled in short order, and there is one more “winner” recipe I can use.
Mississippi Pot Roast
When discussing “pot roast” and “Instant Pot” together, you will probably hear about a recipe called “Mississippi Pot Roast.” There are multiple variations of this recipe from wherever you find it, including:
- Corrie Cook’s version, which I suppose is somewhat a standard
- Jill Nystul’s version, “Vegas Meets Mississippi” pot roast
- Berge Central’s version, the inspiration for Jill Nystul’s
- Jen Fisch’s keto version, called Double Mustard–Dill Pickle Pot Roast
I have no idea if this is any kind of “Mississippi authentic.” Never lived in Mississippi and never heard of it until people started telling me about the IP. The thing is, these recipes all have one thing in common: pickles or pickled peppers.
And as I’ve mentioned before, that’s the one thing BF hates.
Serve him anything sour, tart, with lemon or lime, vinegar, sour cream, or tastes anything like pickles is an absolute “no” vote, every time. That lentil salad I made in Houston? He said if I’d served that on a first date, there wouldn’t have been a second one. (Had I known this. . . .) If he goes to a drive-through window and gets a burger, he requests “no pickles.” Frequently, he gets them anyway or the pickles were removed later and he can still taste them.
I told him last night that if his IP-enthusiast sister-in-law brought up MS pot roast yet again, he now had a reason to tell her “no thanks.”
In Terry’s version, there aren’t any pickle-y things. The fish sauce is very mild, it’s a small amount, so it’s not “fishy tasting.” That’s why I knew this would work.
Real Texas Chili In The Instant Pot
Last weekend I also used the IP for some real Texas chili.
Texas Granola Girl, to whom I also subscribe, has a recipe for Texas Keto Venison Chili on her website. (I have her book, and will review it soon.) I’d forgotten about it, and when I found the ground deer meat in the freezer, I remembered it. (Even commented on it, if you scroll far enough.) Well, I made it last weekend. And I liked it, he didn’t–no beans. I’ll have it all week.
First alteration: I cooked it in the IP for 20 minutes. Perfect.
Second alteration: NO BEER. It’s awful if you don’t actually like beer. I just addeed three cups of organic bone broth instead. Everything else was the same, half ground venison and half ground beef. No beans.
And BF didn’t like it, because it’s not what he thinks is “real chili.” I’ll explain.
Last year, we went to BF’s Dad’s place up the road, where they were making what they called “chili.” They’ve been making it the same way since he was a kid.
To “pump up” the flavor even more, his Dad added BEER. (It wasn’t a fancy pilsner, either–it was cheap Michelob Light.) People here do not realize that beer is made from wheat. I always hope that when I tell people I don’t eat wheat that they mention it. But I nearly always get ignored, even when we go out to dinner.
When I questioned the chili’s unusual taste, I was told, “it’s beer; that’s his ‘secret’ ingredient.” Had no idea beforehand, or I would have had dinner at home. Thank heavens I had plenty of Tums on hand.
I just don’t eat over there anymore because I don’t like being sick all night. It happens way too often.
McCormick actually makes this organic version that is gluten-free. We’ve bought it many times, but of course, now we can’t find it locally anymore. He insists that making our own chili and taco seasoning isn’t as good as the packets.
I used to enjoy cooking.
Until Next Time
Alternately, you could let this slow cook all day and come home to a nice dinner, but the veg might be a bit mushy. Cooking becomes easier once you get used to using the Instant Pot. I’m always looking for new ways to make dinner, and this one happened to fit the bill.
Oh, and if you like eggplant, Terry & Marion’s latest post is all about it. YUCK! You can have mine, and BF’s too.
Whatever’s for dinner, Enjoy!
Big Freeze of February 2021. We were there and lived to tell about it. Deer sausage was involved.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
I know, it’s been a while again. Still writing for clients. We all had a setback about six weeks ago. Perhaps you heard about it, and perhaps you experienced it. We did, and so did friends.
I’d planned on having this as part of another post, but it’s too long. Let me tell you all about it, with some news first.
Hubig’s Pies Return Soon
You read that right–the famed Hubig’s Pies will be returning sometime later this year.
I wrote about Hubig’s Pies a few years ago, and despite people asking for them, the company and its owners have been struggling to get them back into production. But they’re now on track for the return, 100 years after they first appeared.
Then, of course, the pandemic. They were supposed to return already, but bringing back such a well-loved tradition takes a lot of hard work. If people open up a Hubig’s and turn their nose up, it’s all for nothing. So, understandably, it’s taken a while.
BF will be all over them, I’m sure. I’ll just watch from a distance.
The Big Freeze
OK, so. . .you want to know what took me so long to write again? I’ll tell you–we all froze over. No kidding. And Valentine’s Day was spent getting ready for the incoming winter storm.
We didn’t get to do our normal Valentine’s Day “dinner and a movie at home.” Sunday was spent making preparations as fast as we could. But BF did bring home something for me, even though he said he didn’t want anything himself:
Admittedly, they were absolutely delicious, but I ate just one a day.
It seems that someone BF knows through work used to work for Albertson’s, one of the grocery stores in Hammond. She worked in the area that did this kind of thing but now does it on her own. Reasonably priced, he said, so he ordered some and brought them home the day before (Saturday.) He was off on Sunday the 14th–good thing.
We worked it–from pulling space heaters into the house to gathering up flashlights, candles, power banks, and every other emergency thing we have to do. This included washing clothes, dishes, and checking the foodstuffs we had available, knowing what we needed and what to get to prepare. That’s how we spent Valentine’s Day–preparing for the incoming freeze.
Unfortunately, the three IKEA tea light lanterns I had were left behind when I moved here, so we had to be really careful with the little candles. I still have some heavy glass tea light holders and have since ordered some of these Rotera lanterns from IKEA’s website, along with two packages of their tea lights. The ones I bought locally some time ago last about 15 minutes. With hurricane season just a couple of months away and the occasional random power outage, they’ll be well worth the wait and investment.
Fixing The Sweater
A couple of years ago, Simplicity published what I think of as the quintessential winter sweater, #S8738. Made with a sweater knit bought by the yard, this pattern just said “sweater” to me. I’ve made nine of them from different types of fabrics. All but one came from online vendors; the grey waffle knit came from a cut bundle at Walmart. It does get *that* cold here, unlike Houston and New Orleans. And for a freeze, well, you need sweaters, right?
Now I have a total of 16 sweaters. Some of the later ones were indeed made from Walmart cuts, including a black-and-white buffalo check knit that I made into this sweater from Simplicity’s #S9178.
This particular garment was one of the first of the sweaters I made from #S8738 using this fabulous southwestern knit from Fashion Fabrics Club:
Problem: because the polyester fabric isn’t very stretchy, the collar was too snug, making it too hot to wear for very long. I had to wait until the weather was cold enough, but even then it was a “heat trap.” Solution: take the scraps and cut a new, larger collar, cut off the existing collar below the seam, then install the new one into the bigger neck opening.
Knowing I would need all my warmest clothes for the next few days, I set out to fix this sweater for good. I had to get BF to help me FIND the scraps, but once he did, I got to work. It didn’t take long. Now it’s more breathable and lets the heat out as it should. It’s one of the last things I did before we went to bed that night.
Monday, February 15
The freeze and storm moved through the entire state of Texas, bringing snow, ice, and power outages into Louisiana. Houston actually got snow, and some parts west of us did, but we didn’t. (Still wishing, but maybe next year.) I was in touch with a few folks, and they had different stories to tell.
- Aunt Ruth near Manvel, TX, lost her phone and Internet, and experienced low water pressure, but never lost power
- The GER lost power and water, and it got down to 58F in the Funk House/Junk House before Centerpoint restored power to his neighborhood
- Miss Alice, now living in the Medical Center area of Houston, had power, but her bathroom facilities went out, likely to a broken pipe, and was subsequently repaired
- RR in Katy, TX, aka “Banana Rat,” was fixing burst pipes at his own house as well as his girlfriend’s mother’s house
- Neighbor E lost power intermittently, and his sister in another part of Houston lost power four times. Eventually, the power came back on and stayed on, and they were ok. He sent me a couple of pictures of the winter wonderland at El Dorado Trace:
Nobody’s going swimming today.
Water went down because plants had no power to operate, leaving lines and mains to freeze. But our waterworks in St. Helena Parish’s apparently had power, thank heavens.
We did offer Miss Alice, Neighbor E, and the GER a place if they wanted to come, but all declined. Neighbor E waited it out, and was eventually OK and enjoying his favorite hot chai lattes in his own kitchen again. The GER said he was helping out the “old ladies in the neighborhood who shouldn’t be living by themselves.” When I told Miss Alice, she said that he was “doing the work of the Buddha.” Well, he was, and people in his neighborhood are thankful.
Freeze East Of The Sabine
BF was at work that Monday morning and the freezing rain began about 10:00 am. We were up early–I started off with coffee and morning prayers and worked my way up.
We were out of dog food, and my plan was to visit Tractor Supply before the freezing rain got here. Well. . .first, the truck was literally frozen over.
I started the engine, but the thick coating of ice wasn’t budging. Just to get into the truck to start it, I had to crack the thick ice on the truck door handle.
BF had the same thing on the blue truck when he went to work earlier that morning.
The outside faucet was frozen over too, so I couldn’t get water without turning off the truck. Most of the water on the ground was also sleet or otherwise frozen. Everything was freezing up fast.
I thought I’d use the TS app to order curbside–but the app wouldn’t work for me. Getting to TS before their employees went home was not happening. BF ended up getting dog food at Piggly Wiggly on his way home before they closed up shop.
Then about 10:30 am, the power went out at the Casa de Rurale. That’s when I started chanting for all of us.
I made sure my phone was charged, plus the power banks we have were also charged. I was in touch with BF, Miss Alice, and Neighbor E by text, as well as the GER and Aunt Ruth by email. (Turns out the GER recently got himself an iPhone, and texts now. What’s this world coming to?)
I posted on Facebook and Instagram to let folks know what was going on. Well, everyone was in the freeze and doing the same thing. One of the Houston TV stations’ Facebook page mentioned lighting candles for warmth. So that was the first thing I did, putting them all on the dining room table. There is a flashlight or two in every room in the house, including one hanging next to my desk. But without power, candles are the way to go until you can find a way to generate heat. ALWAYS exercise caution with lit candles, especially with pets and/or children around.
BF got calls from the neighbors on both sides, asking if he had power. NO, but he knew about it from Entergy’s phone call and my texting. They worked until about 4 or 5, but BF went to Piggly Wiggly long before they closed and had everything ready for whenever they left the shop.
Pictures Of Winter
Meantime, I took a few pictures to enjoy:
This green ground-cover plant by the tree didn’t die in the freeze–and it was fine after the ice melted.
One lady posted this in the official Instant Pot group on Facebook:
If it works, it works! I did offer to put the slow cooker or IP on the generator, but BF said we didn’t need to. But I couldn’t leave this for the Instant Pot post.
This was also posted in the same group:
Others posted these, good now as well as later:
Plumbing problems? No, you don’t.
The GER said that a neighbor chased down a plumbing truck just to get a part to fix something. It was that bad in Houston for a while.
And for fun, Neighbor E sent me this one:
There will be a Shutterfly book at some point for all these pictures. We can look at them in the summer when it’s 90 degrees.
BF To The Rescue
Did I mention BF hates cold weather?
So while I was inside with the animals trying to stay warm and watching the temperature go down one degree at a time, I cut some fabric by the open window while there was still some daylight. I had another t-shirt under the sweater. BF told me not to worry–it would be fine once he got home. And it was.
You see, BF has been in this freeze situation before. For such a thing he has a gasoline-powered generator, as well as a camping stove that’s powered by bottled propane. From the minute he arrived and brought everything inside, he swung into action.
First, he went out to the shop and slid that generator across the ice-covered expanse of land, and set it up on the porch, running the cord in through the slightly opened front window. The cold air was kept out with a towel blocking off the opening. With four plugs available, two went to space heaters, one to light. We unplugged one thing to charge our phones, make coffee, whatever. We then went into town to fill up three or four jugs with petrol to keep the generator running.
If you’re a veg type, I’m sorry. People go deer hunting around these parts. Deer sausage happens both here and in Texas. In Houston, Neighbor J upstairs used to bring me deer sausage occasionally when he went to West Texas for hunting. The processors added too much jalapeno for him, but I thought it was delicious.
About a month before our epic winter storm, BF had the opportunity to buy some deer sausage from someone who was unemployed and made it for someone who refused to pay for it. I was a bit perplexed when he told me about buying so much, but I just found a place for it in the big freezer. We’ve had it several times since then.
Dinner By BF The Chef
On this night, our dinner was deer sausage and eggs:
I tease him sometimes that he cooks a little something and then prances around like he’s the French chef Escoffier. Teasing aside, shortly after this picture, we had a hot, freshly cooked keto-friendly dinner:
Light in the kitchen was from a big burly cordless Snap-On shop flashlight that’s to the left of him. It has a heavy, flat bottom so you can set it on a flat surface. The neck pivots up and down so you can get it in just the right place. I can’t find anything similar on either Snap-On’s website or Amazon to show you. There was still a bit of light from outside while he was cooking.
Our camp stove provided some heat, which was also helpful. But it should never be used as a sole heat source indoors.
Of course, BF was puffing his chest out a little, proud to take care of “The Little Woman” (me) in the harsh, cold winter days. He’s done this before and knew exactly what to do. I hugged him a little tighter and made sure I helped whenever he needed me. Miss Alice, The GER, Neighbor E, and Aunt Ruth all got a kick out of the picture, too.
Living And Waiting
BF connected a lamp to the generator so I could do evening prayers and cut more fabric. (I’ve got a huge bag of projects ready to sew now.) I chanted for everyone affected by the freeze, which is such a rare thing in this part of the US. Houston, Galveston, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and every place in between just don’t have that kind of weather very often. Most people aren’t prepared for it.
We had two space heaters in the house and ran them on the generator 24/7 until it was over. One of them was next to the dogs so they could stay warm as well.
In order to add more petrol to the generator to keep the heaters running, BF got up in the cold at 5:00 am, then went back to bed. He also ran the freezer and the refrigerator for a while on the generator to make sure everything stayed cold. Some folks reported putting their frozen foods outside–well, it is a freeze, after all–which technically works. But experts were also telling people it could be dangerous if the food thawed and froze again. We were OK.
The Java Cafe’
The next morning, I needed coffee. So I plugged the kettle into the generator and used a French press:
I also pulled down the old Krups cappuccino machine, which I bought in 2013 and rarely use.
We had milk, so I figured the freeze it was a great time to clean it up, try it again and read the manual, too.
I can’t say that it works any better than I remember, but I’ll just have to keep playing with it. I only used it because it plugs directly into the generator.
Thawing And The Return Of Power
Our little enclave finally had power again at about 5:30 pm on Tuesday, roughly 36 hours after it went down. We turned the heater way up, disconnected the generator, and got back to it. The dogs were just so unfazed, and the cat just stuck with BF any chance he got.
Large falling branches coated with ice broke the power lines, causing the outages. ALL the trees had a heavy coat of ice like the pecan tree. The local state DOT came around on Tuesday morning and pushed them off the roads so the utility folks could get through and fix the power lines. I went out for a walk and surveyed the road. I’ll add those pictures in a little photo book.
The next day, we were busy washing up the kitchen, laundry, and tidying up everything that we had to postpone during the freeze. Aunt Ruth said later that her kitchen was a bit of a mess, too. I couldn’t get any work done for two days, and I’m just now finally caught up, almost. No kidding.
A week later, it was 80F. No kidding.
More To Come
I made a delicious keto recipe last week. I liked it, he didn’t. But it’s fast and easy, and goes over well if you don’t mention “cauliflower rice” to anyone. The infamous Instant Pot post is way overdue and I think I’m just going to finish it up and publish it, with lots of backlinks.
Spring is here, and that means asparagus and other wonderful things, like basil and making pesto. Oh, I have about two years worth of pesto in the freezer, but there’s no saying I can’t make more.
We’ve tossed about the idea of trying to garden again, but I’m taking it with a pound of salt. I’ve still got some parsley to dig up, and I need to start getting basil plants soon. A full-fledged garden? We’ll see. BF now has an old Ford tractor he bought from someone nearby who doesn’t need it, so that will come in handy. . .IF we garden. Again, we’ll see.
In the meantime, Happy Dining!
Shishito peppers really are a thing, and I’m not swearing. They’re delicious, and generally not hot.
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Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Just popped in for another blog post, this time on something new I can’t believe I discovered. Thank heavens for streaming and Philo TV. Shishito peppers are a new item in the US produce market, and of course, I’m one of the last people to know.
Let me tell you what’s been happening.
A Zucchini Recipe
If you’re seeing lots of zucchini, I have a simple recipe for you. The inspiration is out of the book from which my favorite cheesecake comes, The 30-Minute Low-Carb Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen.
I had some leftover roast chicken and zucchini. I flip open this book and there is this recipe using pesto, chicken, and zucchini.
You have my attention.
So I read it and realize that I have the ingredients, including the basil and other ingredients for pesto. I probably have 25 containers of pesto in the freezer dating back to 2018 (or maybe 2017.) Why should I make more? (I will, because I need to cut the basil soon.)
The recipe calls for spiralized zucchini, but I don’t have a spiralizer. What I do have is a Norpro Apple Master, which does much the same thing. Sort of. I’ll get a spiralizer one day, OK? For now this is what I have to work with.
Two cups of cooked chicken are called for, and so I managed to pick and chop exactly two cups from the chicken carcass in the fridge. I used some of the recently made tarragon butter. BF really enjoyed the chicken, and it was really tasty, but he didn’t want to know what was in it.
Once I finished with the zucchini (cutting the cores into matchsticks and cleaning the machine), I sauteed it in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for two minutes. Then, I added in the chopped chicken, sauteed for another couple of minutes. Then I added in an entire container of my home-made pesto from 2019, which was I presume to be a cup, but I think was more. It was the first one I grabbed when I opened the freezer. It was probably too much. Next time I’ll just use measure out one cup.
Well, when I finished it, this is what I ended up with:
The recipe also suggests serving it with additional Parmesean cheese (because you would have put some in the pesto) but I forgot to add some. It was delicious as-is, and if you’re a fan of zucchini and pesto, this is highly recommended for a quick dinner.
If you don’t have chicken already cooked, you could also pick up a rotisserie chicken (or chicken parts, if HEB still sells them that way) or cook a couple of thighs in the toaster/convection oven, air fryer, or heck, even poach it if you’re really in a hurry.
It’s low-carb, gluten-free, and without cheese, it can be dairy-free, too.
BF’s reaction to this delicious dish was to exhibit another of his retching noises.
Speaking Of Him
We’ve had another flora and fauna fiasco.
It seems that although BF remembers his Dad having a garden and a bounty of fresh produce every year, he doesn’t remember everything. I should have seen this early on and paid closer attention to what he was doing.
BF wanted some green beans, and he planted them. These beans grow on vines, and so at some point, he asked for a stake to let them grow up onto. The corn, watermelon, beans, and potatoes were pretty much BF’s domain, so I didn’t ask questions.
Last week after our garden massacre, I was out there looking for the cucumbers, zucchini, and any peppers ready to pick. Pulling up more dead cornstalks, I thought to myself, “we should have been picking those beans by now.” I look over at one stake, where I saw one bean before, and realize that it’s about dead. Not only are there no beans, but there are also no leaves.
On the other stake, there were plenty of leaves and little purple flowers. No beans, just flowers, and leaves. That’s when I realized it.
He Staked Weeds
The next day I brought him outside to ask him about it, and said, “Show me the beans.” He turned around and walked inside without a word!
I pulled out as much of the weed as I could find, and there was a considerable amount. Even off the stake, there was so much that it was like pulling a heavy quilt off a bed.
When I got inside, he said, “you don’t have to be so judgmental.” I wasn’t trying to be, but if it was indeed, planted beans, I want to harvest some.
I’m not mad at him–it’s actually funny. So now I ask him, “where’s the beans?” It’s along the same lines as asking, “didn’t you pay the light bill?” when we have a power outage like we did this past weekend. (Yes, we paid it early and everyone else was out of power, too.)
Well, anyway, we’re nursing some tomato plants. The Chocolate Cherry plants have flowers and are looking good so far.
We really need to get an earlier start next year.
On another note, the wife of one of his car-guy friends posted a picture of something they cooked out of their garden. BF mentioned that this friend keeps his garden free of Mother Nature’s creatures with the use of an electric fence. I like it.
The Shishito Discovery
As always, I’m watching Ina Garten while sewing, and it’s a show I’ve never seen before.
She starts talking about this tasty appetizer and these little peppers that you just saute up and eat, seeds and all (skip the stems.) They’re not big, about the size of a lipstick. Picked green, they’re sweet, but if left to turn red, they’re hotter.
Ina also says that there is always an occasional hot one, and she seems to get that one.
So I did a little reading on the subject. Although Ina says they are from Japan, they’re actually grown all over Asia. They’re small, with thin walls, and cook quickly.
Of course, nobody has them here, but I remembered them when I saw the plants at Tractor Supply.
If you’re in Houston, you may be lucky enough to see these small, spark-plug sized peppers in Central Market, select HEB stores, Rice Epicurean Market, Whole Foods and maybe Trader Joe’s. This being Louisiana, I can’t imagine where you’d find any unless you were in a bigger Rouse’s, or maybe Whole Foods, since they sell Hatch chiles in late summer. And of course, they would be in Baton Rouge or New Orleans–IF you found them at all.
But in our case, the local Tractor Supply store had some, and I grabbed two of the plants. I was on my fruitless search for more Anaheim chile plants, but I really wanted to try these.
Oh, am I glad I did!
They took a while to start producing. But once they did:
I just let them grow for a while, but one Friday night, I realized I had to pick them. The larger of the two plants had so many peppers that it was tipping over. I picked them and came inside to find the recipe.
Turns out the recipe is in Ina’s last book, Cook Like A Pro. I’ve used this book for several recipes, but this recipe passed me by. It’s my first introduction to these delicious peppers.
Fast And Easy Saute
Of course, I didn’t take pictures, but it’s a quick one. You can find the recipe here on The Food Network’s website.
But it really was simple, you saute them on a fairly high heat with olive oil. While they cook, add salt and pepper. Remove them from the heat, squeeze over some lime juice, sprinkle on some flaked sea salt, then toss. (Yes, I have Maldon’s Sea Salt as well as a few other types.)
I had to do them in two batches because I didn’t have a really big skillet. No matter.
One of BF’s car-guy friends was over, and we were also having some Texas Tamales. BF offered him some tamales, and I asked him to try one of the peppers. He had one of each, and loved both.
No, BF didn’t want any, but I did:
My little surprise was that there were no hot peppers in the bunch. I ate some of them that Friday night, and the rest I ate with dinner a couple nights later. NO HOT ONES. Woo hoo!
Ina’s Next Book
The next Barefoot Contessa cookbook comes out in early October, titled Modern Comfort Food. She announced it on social media a few months ago, and Clarkson Potter moved up the publication date by a couple of weeks because of the current events. We all need comfort food, yes?
Has the fair Ms. Garten discovered alternate waffle maker recipes? It seems so–in the description, it says:
In Modern Comfort Food, Ina Garten shares 85 new recipes that will feed your deepest cravings. Many of these dishes are inspired by childhood favorites–but with the volume turned way up, such as Cheddar and Chutney Grilled Cheese sandwiches (the perfect match for Ina’s Creamy Tomato Bisque), Smashed Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions, and the crispiest hash browns that are actually made in a waffle iron!
It’s gonna be great. All of Ina Garten’s books have delicious food with great directions, so this will also be a good one.
If You See Some, Get Some
When I went looking, I noticed that Giada de Laurentiis also has a recipe for these, but she makes a “baked salt” with olives to go with it. I haven’t tried that one yet. Like Ree Drummond, Giada is doing her show at home. I’m catching up with all my favorite shows as I can, hence Philo TV.
A Google search will turn up more results for you, like this blog from Paleo Scaleo. Jessica is in South Carolina, and also grows them herself. I will be saving more of the seeds before the season is over so I can grow them again next year.
Don’t forget that if you buy them, you can save the seeds in a Ziploc bag and start them next year. Ditto for Hatch chiles. That’s always my plan.
Shishito peppers are a delicious thing to have, whether you’re snacking on them in front of the TV, or serving them at your next cookout or dinner party (whenever that is, right?) They’re healthy, gluten-free, low-carb and keto, so why wouldn’t you? Just make sure you have some dairy milk around, even skim, for the possibility of a hot one.
Don’t worry about BF. He’ll either come around one day, or he’ll keep eating ravioli from the can. He likes that stuff.