Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
Well, it’s happened again: an unintentional and accidental hiatus, hence a catchup post. I was doing good but became OBE, or overwhelmed by events. My apologies. I had some new work from new clients and just got swamped. It’s a long one, so settle in with a cuppa before you begin reading.
BF has had to step up and make dinner more than once, and we’ve had frozen pizzas too. I’m way overdue for last year’s wedding trip posts, as well as a few others. I have a couple of posts that are in progress as well.
I’d love to say we won the lottery. Well, we have, and winning $4 with both the PowerBall and MegaMillions drawings is a confidence booster. If we won the bigger pots, we’d be new anonymous people overnight.
This blog site has some issues going on too, and I need to get Raf to help me fix those. If you’ve signed up for emails, that’s one of the issues I can’t seem to fix. The other is the missing table of contents that I can’t seem to get back in place—none of the seven plugins seem to work. Plus, we have a couple of business things to start on both my side and his, and Carmen may be involved.
This is the catchup that I’ve been writing here and there for a while.
Artificial Intelligence In Everyday Life
So if you haven’t caught the AI bug yet, here’s one good use of it: keeping ice cream in stock.
No kidding, the Unilever company owns over 3 million freezers worldwide and they’re adding little cameras to each one of them to make sure the ice cream never runs out. From the article:
“The camera fitted inside our cabinet takes a photo periodically, sends it into the cloud, and it’s analyzed using AI to let shopkeepers know what to restock and submit orders in a frictionless way,” explains Berty Jacob, an R&D cold chain specialist with Unilever, in a blog post.
They’re also adding this exclusive technology <cough, cough> to vending machines and their supply chain, too.
What’s next—AI-enabled slow cookers and Instant Pots? I don’t put it past anyone, really, after they started with the Wi-Fi-connected slow cookers. “Alexa, turn on the CrockPot on low heat for seven hours.” Big no from me, and BF concurs.
If you say, “Alexa” around this little cabin in the woods, you’ll be talking to yourself. Not having that here. ChatGPT is a tool, nothing more, and if you use it, be cautious of copyright infringement.
Around The Casa de Rurale—The Visitor From Texas
Two weekends ago, we had a surprise visit from Miss Alice! We expected her this week following a road trip to Florida with her daughter. The plans changed, her daughter flew to Austin, and Miss Alice ended up spending a weekend with us with just B-Dog, a half Chihuahua/half Dachshund.
We were very glad to see Miss Alice, and hopefully, we didn’t scare her (much.)
Broccoli Stirfry enjoyed meeting B-Dog and had a great time once they got past the uneasy initial meeting. The cats weren’t thrilled with this little yapper and stayed clear. B-Dog quickly figured out how to climb up the couch to get to the cat food. I had to make sure not to step on him.
When she gave me a future date for her visit, I was thinking about what I might make for dinner. What I was considering was a meal I made for BF a while back from Emilie Bailey’s Easy Dirty Keto; Miss Alice also owns a copy. The dinner with the BBQ chicken, deep-fried Brussels sprouts, and maybe the chocolate-mint whipped topping dessert was top of mind.
Well, that’s not what we had, but there was chicken, and last year’s mint & parsley pesto was also brought out from the freezer. Oh, and some quinoa, too. Plus, I picked and cooked the only three little Shishito peppers for Miss Alice. That went well, especially since BF worked late that evening.
And that little salad was from the garden, but that’s all the lettuce and tomatoes that were ready to eat. No matter, it was tasty with a light vinaigrette of EVOO and fig-infused vinegar. Just enough for two small salads.
While Miss Alice took a nap, I went out and got her more of the PJ’s K-Cups she likes. Winn-Dixie had Pumpkin Spice on sale, so I got her a box of those too. Once she got under the magic Snap-On blanket, she was out like a light.
Saturday Shopping And Catchup
BF worked the day shift on Saturday, made our breakfast, and also made dinner, his favorite jambalaya (from a locally produced mix) on Saturday night. We all enjoyed that plus some good conversation. During the day I took Miss Alice to our local Tractor Supply and Dirt Cheap. It was kind of an on-the-fly thing, and she found some lovely things for her new place. I also wanted her to see the great pet stuff at Tractor Supply for B-Dog.
Turns out there is a Dirt Cheap in Pasadena, TX, and a Tractor Supply within 5 miles of her new apartment, where you may run into friends like these:
Also told her about Ollie’s Bargain Center, one of which is now open on El Dorado Blvd, not far from El Dorado Trace. They do seem to have a big selection of K-Cup coffees for a good price, and I figured she’d want to know about that. Neighbor E has recently paid them a visit, too.
BF took care of her oil change and changed the air filter on her car after dinner. He had to be to work early, and Miss Alice left early Sunday morning not long after BF did. During the trip home, Miss Alice got some RaceTrac coffee around Lafayette, arriving home safely around noon. We were so busy with our catchup that we didn’t get to take any selfies. Fortunately, she’s been able to make it to the beach since she’s been home before school and work starts up again soon. We anxiously await her return visit.
Illness And Injury
Back in February, we got sick again, with my convalescence spanning two weeks and requiring an inhaler for bronchitis. BF got over it quickly, but my sore throat moved down into my lungs. I thought I’d never quit coughing.
But while BF recovered from the sore throat, he managed to get a bit of metal from a brush grater stuck under the skin on the back of his right hand. It hurt like any splinter, but of course, it was also rusty. It began swelling badly and hurt him when the infection took hold.
I’m not putting any pictures of that awfulness up for you to see.
The full treatment took two trips to the local urgent care center and one to a local emergency room, along with antibiotics, minor surgery, a tetanus shot, and a couple of sick days from work. Then he had to put large bandages over the wound to protect it and keep it from view during the healing process. It took a while to completely heal, and it was awful to look at for a time. But BF is fine now, thank heavens, and back immersed in his car guy activities.
Concurrently, Tab E. Cat had an urgent medical matter, a ruptured blood vessel in his ear that was swollen and painful. A trip to the vet resolved the problem—it involved surgery to drain the blood and stitch it back flat. They literally quilted his ear with stitches. He is all healed up now, and his ear will be forever wonky. Otherwise, he’s still the same fussy old boss cat.
Unfortunately, during Tab E. Cat’s situation, we didn’t realize that our beloved 10-year-old pit bull, Titan, was in distress.
He passed away before we could get him to the vet, and with lots of tears, we buried him near Spencer on a chilly Monday morning.
We called Titan the “pussycat of pit bulls.” While he was a loyal and protective animal with a deep, throaty bark, he wasn’t vicious or dangerous. Obviously, we are still heartbroken, and not looking for another dog just yet.
We miss our sweet pooch, all 82 pounds of him. He enjoyed hanging out with me in the back room and listening to jazz music. Maybe one day there will be another “velvet hippo.” But for now, Buddy, aka Broccoli Stirfry, has only us and the cats to hang out with.
While everything was going on, I was on my feet taking care of BF and the animals—all while doing client work. But that sore throat wasn’t getting better. The day after we buried Titan, I just collapsed. Then I discovered that the same local urgent care center offered telemedicine visits, so I scheduled one.
I met with a doctor via video link at their Mandeville clinic, where they handle the telemedicine calls. He prescribed an inhaler and the antibiotic Z-Pack, which I ultimately didn’t need. The antibiotic was a just-in-case thing. They called the prescriptions into the local Winn-Dixie, I went and got them, and a week later I was much better. I’ll do that again any day of the week.
Speaking of Broccoli Stirfry
He’s now just over 18 months old, and weighs about 75 pounds.
A couple of weeks ago he began furiously barking at what turned out to be two bulls on the neighbor’s property.
Obviously a threat to everyone, right? They did get out one day and were wandering around outside the house, but the neighbor came and rounded them up.
Buddy is still chewing on anything he can find, and acting a fool frequently.
To date, he’s destroyed two remote controls, more papers, towels and other textiles, a wooden handle, several plastic things from the kitchen, and an Otterbox case for an iPhone. We discovered that he also likes the taste of the iPhone 12, which belonged to BF’s brother.
While BF was in bed after his ER visit, his brother dropped by, bringing several boxes of Girl Scout cookies for BF. He went into the bedroom to talk with BF but set his phone down by the easy chair.
That’s all this dog needs. He saw it as something left for him because it was within his reach.
Thirty minutes after he left, (if that long) BF’s brother came back to ask if he’d left his phone at the Casa de Rurale. We didn’t see it, so we rang it. The dog had the iPhone IN the bedding of his kennel, where he’d chewed the Otterbox case off the phone and started in on the iPhone. The glass encasement was shattered but the phone still worked fine. BF and his brother were both shocked, but I wasn’t.
It’s normal for this dog, but nobody listens. No word on whether he’s repaired or replaced his iPhone.
The Thwarted Berry Season
This was a bummer, but Mother Nature does whatever she wants.
Our early and long-term spring weather brought out fresh greenery and began the process of budding blackberries. They were everywhere, and I was anticipating a huge harvest. If Broccoli Stirfy the dog didn’t eat them all first.
Then, just like that, we had another short but hard freeze in mid-March. The early berries didn’t make it, but there were more flowers that turned into berries that slowly began ripening.
Unfortunately, because of that freeze, the newer berries didn’t have a chance to ripen before the vines turned brown as they normally do at the end of their season.
So once again, the berries are gone. We only got a handful of ripe ones to eat, which I shared with the dog, while I waited for the fruitless harvest. (Get it? Fruitless?) The few we could reach and enjoy were delicious.
BF was asking for another “non-healthy” blackberry dessert. I reminded him of last year’s Blackberry Cheesecake Galette, which he loved. I’ll be happy to make him something again this summer. But anything made with blackberries will have to be from prior years’ harvests in the freezer or bought from a grocery store.
After a cold winter, summer is here, and a hot one. Texas has been experiencing temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and we’ve had some as well. Several memes let transplants from other states know that this only Texas’ “preheating.” The bad news is that the Texas electrical grid is again at risk of failure or at least not keeping up with increasing demand. This may mean brownouts, blackouts, and anyone with a smart thermostat to lose control of it until the demand lessens. Many people found that out the hard way last year and quickly learned how to “opt-out” of that.
Our friend Beverly in central Georgia has had the same 100+ degree heat. She’s staying inside building little dollhouse things for now.
Houston has also had some significant rainstorms like we have. But I haven’t forgotten the spring/summer of 2011, when drought conditions developed in H-Town. It was my third or fourth year gardening behind the condo, and I had plants both in the ground and in pots. But even with watering twice daily before and after work, many of those lovely plants in the little back patio garden, especially zucchini, cantaloupe, and cucumber, dried up in the heat.
We’ve had hot temperatures, with only occasional rain, including some intense storms, too. I’ve been watering the plants myself in the morning and occasionally in the evening except when it rains. April and May have been the usual months for heavy rains, but we didn’t have as much this time around. I’m still planning to make a sturdy, utilitarian raincoat for our colder rainy periods. I’ve got all the supplies and cut the fabric, just need to start stitching. Those lovely lightweight designer raincoats I made for office work don’t cut it here.
And of course, hurricane season began on June 1.
The HeatCageKitchen 2023 Garden Catchup
As he did last year, BF wouldn’t give me a commitment on where to put our garden. So, once again, the garden is in 5-gallon buckets at the edge of the patio. I need to get more. Some are a bit broken but still serviceable.
I kept buying plants and putting them in the kitchen window by the sink where they would get sunlight. The chilly nights kept coming back, so I was reluctant to put anything outside, especially tomatoes and peppers. Finally, I did, mostly because BF was complaining about the “science experiments” in the kitchen window. He says that about anything I’m doing that he doesn’t understand.
One cherry tomato plant was about two feet tall before I put it outside, and now it’s about four feet high with branches and leaves. I’ve harvested many tomatoes so far, and only a few remain in the window to ripen. It’s tied to three stakes to keep it upright, and I trimmed off the brown parts. Hoping for some more new growth with more tomatoes before the end of the season.
A smaller golden cherry tomato plant with a couple of flowers is not yet flourishing like the bigger one. I’ve been using Garden Safe botanical insecticides because a couple of Mother Nature’s hungry creatures found it and were enjoying both leaves and tomatoes. I found it at Tractor Supply, but you can also buy it on Amazon.
Peppers, Sage, And More
So far, I’ve harvested two little Poblano peppers, one tiny red bell pepper, and two small Anaheim/Hatch chili peppers. More flowers and buds are developing.
Surprisingly, Tractor Supply had Shishito pepper plants again, and I bought two. I’ve harvested one batch and cooked them, then clipped the three smallish peppers to cook for Miss Alice. That’s all I had available for her. If her visit was later we might have had more.
The plants are full of buds and flowers, and I’m anticipating a bumper crop soon. On a recent jaunt to Baton Rouge, (keep reading) I bought a bag at Trader Joe’s to cook up before my garden ones were ripe:
The green onions are growing nicely with one flowering, and I also got a sage plant again. My huge mint plant died in the last freeze, so I bought another one. It’s coming along, and I’ve already used some mint for a Corsican omelette.
Basil, BF’s nemesis, is also growing well. The two original plants were strong before I put them out, then I cut them to propagate more. Those cuttings are well-rooted and planted but still tiny. I’m waiting to see how many will turn into more basil for pesto. I had a hard time finding the 1 cup small square glass type containers with the tight lids, but I finally went to Pyrex’s website and found them on sale. They arrive this week, and I’ll make my first batch soon.
I also made it back to Aldi about a month ago. Got another cauliflower pizza, and lots more delicious things. A couple of weeks before that I headed to Baton Rouge for a Joann/Trader Joe’s run. In addition to the Shishito peppers, I also met this nice lady named Brittani at TJ’s:
Who was sampling this wonderful blueberry cheese:
Yes, blueberry cheese, and a piece came home with me. It’s something I’ll savor when BF is out of the house, for sure. I also found this Salmon Rub:
Used it on a piece of fish I got at Aldi, and it was absolutely delicious.
Just ask Tab E. Cat.
I finally ate the “quinoa meal” from my initial Aldi trip when BF was out, and it wasn’t bad. You heat up the quinoa and add the other bowl, and stir.
Not bad, and only memorable because of BF’s reaction. It even came with a foldable spork:
Once again I went to Aldi on my own. They do a brisk business and it was not nearly as crowded as opening day. BF was not as impressed with my grocery hauls, reminding me, “It’s just a grocery store.” I feed him good food, no matter what he says.
Since I’ve been on Instagram, I have entered a lot of contests for fun. Frequently, the contest requires you to tag someone you’re friends with as a requirement, and sometimes I tag several people. Miss Alice always gets tagged first.
You may remember a couple of years ago that I won Fiesta Spice’s contest during the holidays and received their tamale kit. It’s still in the pantry, but one day I’ll be making tamales. Probably all by myself because BF thinks it’s better to buy them already made.
But I’ve won again—twice in just a couple of months!
Back in April, I entered the contest held by The Pioneer Woman Collection’s account for a Tumbler giveaway. They did a random drawing for two of the Pioneer Woman 40-ounce tumblers—and I won.
These days, you’re nothing without your Tumbler, so I read somewhere. Ree’s daughter Alex loves the Stanley brand tumblers. These PW tumblers were never offered here in our local Walmart, but Hammond had them. They’ve also been quite popular because they seem to be out of stock frequently.
I forgot about the entry, and a couple of days later I was notified that they had picked me. They were shipped from Dallas, and I figured Alex was the shipper. When the box arrived, sure enough, the sender was “Alex Drummond.” Well, it could have been anyone using Alex’s account. But they arrived a few days later:
I’ve been using the blue one, and the pink one is a backup. The straw in mine actually came from Target on sale many months ago. The ones that come with the tumbler are clear.
Then I messaged Alex on Instagram and told her that the tumblers arrived safely and that I do appreciate them. The tumbler is great and keeps drinks cold for hours. I’ve been using them ever since.
Showing the #DashStash
Then a few weeks later, the Dash company had an Instagram contest: show us your #DashStash, “for a chance to win anything from our product line that’s in stock.” So, I took a picture and added it to my Instagram stories, which I won’t show here because it’s embarrassing (and it’s gone now, I think.)
Later in the afternoon, I got a message from someone on their social media team that they picked ME. They actually picked two winners, me and another lady with a few of the aqua appliances, including their mini rice cooker. (We need one of those—in red—but BF thinks we don’t.) No word on what the other winner picked, but maybe we were the only two who entered.
Earlier in the day, I mentioned the contest to BF. I asked what he thought about getting a Dash dehydrator if, by slim chance, I was picked as a winner. He said, “Sure, that’s fine.”
So I asked Dash I could have a dehydrator, and they said “yes.” They asked for the mailing address, so I messaged back—and does it come in red? No, it doesn’t but that’s OK. (It used to, though.) I downloaded the manual from their website and gave it a once-over. The package arrived about two weeks later:
I knew when it was coming thanks to the UPS app. That morning I went to Walmart and bought a bag of organic apples. That night I set out to dry them:
Twelve hours later they were done:
BF then suggested bananas, so that was the next night:
Pretty tasty, although I didn’t add anything. I’ve also dried pineapples and mangoes, which are delicious dried as-is. The trick is thin slices, no thicker than a quarter-inch. You also need patience. I set it up to run overnight and the dried fruit is ready in the morning. Are a couple of trays not quite done? Let it run a little longer for just those trays.
I sent some home with Miss Alice, and her daughter enjoyed both apples and bananas. But BF wasn’t interested in dried fruit. He wants to know when I’m making beef jerky. I’m not adverse to making it, and there are recipes in the accompanying recipe book for making some. Plus, I have a copy of The Complete Dehydrator Book by Carole Cancler, which I received from Callisto a couple of years ago. When I got the book, BF said to me, “That’s OK, I had enough dehydrated food in the military.” After the dried fruit, he’s a little interested but is requesting beef jerky, so that’s planned.
The accompanying booklet has recipes for beef, chicken, turkey, and salmon jerky that I hope to try, and of course, the cookbook, which has recipes for using dehydrated food. I’m planning to do more dehydrating in the future, including the beef jerky for BF.
My #DashStash gets bigger. Need a new shelf. Yup, you know. Blog post coming.
Prepping For Possibilities
That dehydrator was something I’d planned to buy at some point anyway. But there’s a reason for it, and not just because I already have a book on the subject.
As I mentioned, hurricane season is here, and anyone in or around the Gulf Coast watches the weather a little more closely this time of year. We just had a big storm blow through last week that left major damage around here:
Not a hurricane, but enough wind and rain to cause plenty of scenes like this. (We were fine.) If you talk to someone in New Orleans, they may tell you all about the big memorable hurricanes:
- Betsy, 1963
- Camille, 1969
- Katrina, 2005
Plus, a whole lot more. Then there was the flooding in May of 1978 and 1995, still remembered by many. In this area, there was the unnamed storm in 2016 a month before my move here which didn’t impact New Orleans like it did Baton Rouge, and this area which is northeast of the city. Nearby friends J&B in Albany had to move into the second story of their home for months until they were able to get it all repaired. It happens that way.
In our case, there was Hurricane Ida in 2021. Albany friends J&B told me recently that they were out of power for six weeks before their power company Demco restored their service. Then last year, Hurricane Ian went to Florida where one of my client’s project managers lives. She went through the same thing we did, although it wasn’t as long because she’s in an urban area.
Texas Gets Hurricanes Too
In Houston, there was Hurricane Harvey in 2017, less than a year after I moved away, and Hurricane Ike in 2008, during which I spent 9 days with The E-Man and his wife at their place in the New Orleans area. Plus there were other hurricanes that grazed the Texas coast and had people scrambling into grocery stores for water, batteries, bread, milk, and bathroom tissue. (Points if you get that joke.)
That’s just what I remember sitting here writing about this subject. Along the way, we’ve learned some things and relied on BF’s knowledge of such things. While I can’t say we were absolutely ready for either Hurricane Ida, the aftermath, or the big freeze we experienced six months earlier, we did OK, and probably better than others. I’m not complaining, but there is always room for improvement.
Two of my upcoming posts will focus on preparing for emergencies and other things that can uproot your daily routine. Will you have enough food? Will you have enough time? BF and I talk about this sort of thing occasionally and discuss things we can do to prepare.
If that makes us “preppers,” so be it. But when you live in an area prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters, you must have some level of readiness, or you’re caught short.
More To Come
I have several ideas in various stages of development, and they will also depend on when I can get the pictures uploaded into WordPress and the content completed. I’m working on it, including the two blogs on our trip last year, honestly. Plus, I’m hoping we get to go back to Houston at some point, maybe head to the beach with Miss Alice.
As always, if you have a topic you’d like me to write about, by all means, leave me a comment here.
Until next time. . . .
Soup. Even the word conjures up warm tasty food that’s perfect in winter. Today I’ve got two soups for you that are easy to make and enjoyable anytime. Neither involves pesto.
Hi again, Dear Readers:
Is it cold where you are? Chances are that answer is “yes” no matter where you are throughout the United States. After all, it is winter for a bit longer. Even though it’s getting closer to spring, we’ve still got some “winter” to go.
In parts of Texas, exploding trees have been keeping people up at night. The trees “explode” when the sap freezes and the trees break from the weight. We may have heard that happen here as well. It’s just like putting something liquid in your freezer and it expands. If there isn’t enough room for the liquid, whatever vessel it’s contained in will crack open. That’s why you don’t put glass in the freezer as a rule, because the glass will break upon expansion.
We’ve been experiencing our own part of the cold snap, and yes, he is still complaining that he hates cold weather. Then it warms up and mosquitoes return for a day or two. But I managed to make him happy recently with a soup recipe for which he gave me a thumbs-up to make again. And I also made a similar soup that he wouldn’t touch, but it’s equally tasty.
New Member Of The Family
I texted Ami Pope a few weeks ago and told her about the remaining Spencer story. She texted back that she had a clear vision of the possum opening up one eye, looking at BF, and saying, “Hey buddy, can you help me out?”
After two posts mentioning our beloved dog, Spencer, I can report that BF has brought in another dog to give the pit bull a new companion. He’s been kind of lonely since we lost Spencer, and he’s been acting like a little puppy dog ever since. The pit bull is now eight years old, and at 85 pounds, is hardly a “puppy.”
But on a recent Saturday, when we had something else going on (keep reading), BF came home from work with a little “surprise.” As I’ve said many times, I don’t like surprises, because they’re frequently not good. BF told me that I had to bring the pit bull inside, having let him out to greet BF. Immediately, I knew it was something to which the dog would object.
Well, he didn’t object, but it was a surprise for the pit bull. Not to mention ME.
This is Buddy, a cross between a chocolate Labrador and a Catahoula Leopard Hound, also called a “Catahoula Cur.” (A “cur” is actually a mixture of breeds within a breed; it’s a little weird.) This cute little furball has turned the pit bull from an eight-year-old “puppy” into a doting father. They’re not related, of course, but the pit bull instantly became the elder statesman in light of the puppy moving into the house. In these pictures, taken the day of his arrival, he is approximately eight weeks old.
BF came up with the name, although we could have gone with “Rufus”, too. Buddy goes between hyperactivity and near-comatose. He’s got Spencer’s metronome tail and occasionally vocalizes like Spencer, too. He’s learning to bark, but he does whine and also chirps. (Did we get a monkey?) But of course, he’s not Spencer, and he’s got ice-blue eyes like a full-blooded Catahoula whatever or a Siberian Husky. At this writing, it’s been a month, and he’s now 12 weeks old.
Tab E. Cat, the resident apex predator, is not happy. He has expressed his extreme displeasure multiple times with hissing and swatting at both dogs, primarily at Buddy. Of course, this cute little puppy will, within a year or so, be as big as, if not bigger than the pit bull, who would like to cancel his trial subscription to fatherhood. But it’s getting better, a little at a time.
Naturally, I have nothing *else* to do all day long but deal with an untrained puppy. I gave him a unique nickname: “Broccoli Stir-fry.” But that’s just when I get mad at him. Titan, the pit bull, is busy all day teaching him how to dog. But it’s obvious he needs a break from fatherhood.
Well, say goodbye to our 1970’s avocado green stove.
That’s right, BF bought us some new kitchen appliances. They were delivered hours before he came home from work with that rodent, I mean, Buddy the new puppy.
BF sold something out of his shop and decided it was finally time to upgrade the ancient but functional appliances.
No kidding, we had an avocado green stove, as you’ve seen in previous pictures.
The stove and the old fridge/freezer with the non-working water fountain and ice maker have been removed and carted away. In their place are sleek new stainless-steel exterior appliances that leave a little more room in the kitchen, are energy efficient, and work great.
We’ve been talking about doing this for some time, but it always seems to get put off. Well, this time, BF said “I’m doing this,” and he did.
I have seen posts on Facebook from people in other places that have had considerable trouble getting the appliances they want. In some cases, the appliances are on backorder, or simply not available anywhere. We just purchased what was in stock at Lowe’s, which may or may not have been the absolute newest models. Lowes had them, BF bought them, and they delivered them two days later.
It took some time to get everything swapped out and get the older appliances removed from the house. We cleaned the floor behind both appliances before the new ones were added, and they were expertly installed by none other than BF himself.
A Fancier Stove And Refrigerator
One thing I enjoy teasing BF about is his slightly Luddite nature. It’s just funny to watch him when he is presented with something new, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with it. It’s just nothing that’s ever crossed his path.
I was perfectly happy with the coil-type burners. I would not have minded if he bought a new stove with the same type of cooktop. Surprisingly, this time, BF went in for something much more modern, complete with ceramic cooktops and a digital readout.
This light reminds you that the stove is still hot, even if it’s turned off. Pay attention!
That “quick boil” burner really does heat up fast.
This is what happens when you turn one on under a pot.
The refrigerator is at once both simplicity and complexity in one place. In other words, it’s very modern, very sleek, very well designed, with a lot more interior real estate than the other one had.
The door shelves in this new refrigerator are much bigger, hold much more, and can accommodate a gallon of milk. The freezer does not have an ice maker because there is no waterline in that spot. That’s OK, we have plenty of ice cube trays.
Get a load of the size of this butter garage:
I’m supposed to be making BF a Barefoot Contessa Apple Crostata soon because we were recently gifted some apples. Everything is ready for me to start baking. . .soon.
The one downside is that now that we have a refrigerator with clear shelves and drawers, BF can see everything. This includes the stuff that I put towards the back of the produce drawer where, hopefully, he’ll look past them. You know, the sun-dried tomatoes, Asian fish sauce, coconut aminos, and the anchovy fillets and paste. I’ve used anchovy paste a few times in stuff I’ve made for him. But for heaven’s sake, don’t tell him about it or he’ll lose his mind as he did with the Frozen Hot Chocolate.
Maybe I should try putting it in the drawer at the very bottom of the fridge. It’s impossible to see into it when you open the door.
Oh, well. Let’s make some soup!
Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup
It’s keto, It’s easy, and it tastes great. Even BF said so. If you’re a fan of broccoli cheese soup, this one’s for you. If you stop off at the grocery store on the way home, you can have a delicious hot soup for dinner in less than an hour. And if you care, it’s also vegetarian and gluten-free. Not that BF cares in the least.
This is one more recipe from Emilie Bailey’s Vegetarian Keto in 30 Minutes on page 66. It wasn’t included in the original post because I made it after I wrote and published that blog post. It’s easy and perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold day.
You can use a pound of either fresh or frozen broccoli in this recipe, but since this was the first time making it, I used fresh. Prep out your ingredients:
So start out by melting the butter in a pot:
Then add your celery and onion:
Saute until they get tender, then add garlic and paprika:
Cook for just one more minute, then add in the broccoli:
Then 3.5 cups of vegetable broth or stock:
Of course, this is vegetable stock since it’s vegetarian, but if you wanted to use chicken stock (and you don’t care about vegetarian) I’m sure that would work too.
Here’s where this recipe is a bit different. Once the broccoli is cooked fork-tender, four to five minutes, remove half of the broccoli and set it aside.
Next up, add into the pot 3/4 cup of heavy cream and four ounces of regular (full-fat) cream cheese at room temp. Leave the cream cheese out for a while before you plan to cook this, just like for cheesecake (but not two days like I do.) I normally buy the two-pack of 8-ounce bricks at Walmart, but some places sell smaller packages of four ounces.
It’s going to take a few minutes for the cream cheese to melt:
After a short while, the cream cheese becomes fully melted
Emilie recommends an immersion blender to better chop some of the broccoli and smooth out the consistency:
I had to move the pot near an outlet for the blender, or use an extension cord across the kitchen.
You can do this in a standard blender, BUT–like Pea & Pesto Soup, you must be extremely careful. Remove the little inset in the top, cover with a heavy dish towel, and blend cautiously.
Ready for soup? Add the shredded cheese a handful at a time (3 cups of Colby, which I shredded by hand):
I prefer not to buy pre-shredded cheese because of the powdery ingredients added to keep it from clumping. It’s a bit of a pain, but the anti-clumping additives can also prevent the cheese from melting properly.
Once it’s incorporated (and melted), add the reserved broccoli back into the soup pot:
If you prefer, you can blend all of the broccoli instead of just half of it. We liked it this way, but there’s nothing wrong with all-blended broccoli either.
Two thumbs up! BF really enjoyed it, so we have yet another “modern” dish to add to our dinner rotation. It’s tasty, cheesy, filling, and perfect for a cool or cold evening.
Creamed Cauliflower Soup
Similar to the broccoli cheese soup, I found this one in a book called Keto For Vegetarians by Lisa Danielson. It’s got a delicious-looking egg dish on the cover and a wide range of vegetarian food similar to Emilie’s. It was one of the many books I received as a gracious gift from Callisto Press while I was on their book reviewer list.
I just happened to be flipping through this book one day, looking around and found this delicious soup on page 69. I told BF that I wanted to make some. Of course, the first thing he did was turn up his nose and make retching noises. I ignored him.
Similar to the prior recipe, it has butter, cream, and shredded cheese, so how could it be bad? It’s not like you can actually taste the cauliflower for what it is. But BF, being himself, just completely rejected it out of hand. So, the cauliflower soup is all mine whenever I decide to make some.
It’s a simple recipe, and you can make it either on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot. I tried the Instant Pot version first. The second time, when I took these pictures, I made it top of the stove and used frozen cauliflower. I’d opened a bag of florets by mistake.
The author also has a recipe for Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup on page 67 that also includes Greek yogurt cream cheese. Don’t ask me where I would find that around here.
So this is what you need to make this recipe:
There is no cream cheese in this recipe. Instead of Colby-Jack, this one calls for sharp cheddar. I’m a fan of the mild cheddar, but I bought extra-sharp here. Know what? It’s pretty good, so I suggest going with what works.
The recipe starts out the same, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat:
Once melted, add the onion and garlic:
Then saute for about three minutes or so:
Now add in the cauliflower:
Saute for a few minutes:
Add in the veggie broth and a bay leaf:
Cover and cook for 20 minutes:
After 20 minutes, remove it from the heat. Obviously, I forgot to turn off the heat. Add in the cream:
Now the cheese:
Don’t forget the salt and pepper:
Again, stir well. And serve!
This recipe makes four servings, and I had it for a few days afterward:
Really easy, really tasty, and great to make when it’s cold.
One thing I didn’t take a picture of is using a wooden tool to cut the cauliflower into smaller pieces after cooking because they were big out of the bag.
No, BF refused, even though it smelled delicious. That’s just how he rolls, even in an emergency. Fortunately, we’re not having one right now, just a difference of opinion.
This recipe also has instructions for using the Instant Pot, but it wasn’t really much faster than the stovetop. I think both could work well with the IP, which is something to consider if you have a power outage and need to use a generator. We’re experienced with camp stove cooking now, so we could certainly make both soups either way.
Addendum: New Pinch Bowls
I’ve mentioned mise en place more than once in this humble little blog. I’m a huge fan of prepping out the ingredients before you start cooking, which isn’t what I saw growing up. But the little pinch bowls I’ve had for many years have either been broken or disappeared. Seriously, the stainless steel ones from IKEA have gone into the Vortex, and the glass ones broke over time. I have one of each left, and I’ve not found them on IKEA’s website.
But I found some new ones! They’re unbreakable and resilient SILICONE.
I went looking for more but didn’t check Amazon as I should have. I mentioned it to BF one day and was considering ordering them from Cost Plus World Market. Lo and behold, we had to head to Baton Rouge one day, which means a few shopping stops when we’re done at the machine shop.
BF gets reluctantly introduced into places he would not have visited if I weren’t around. Cost Plus is one of them, where we get his new favorite cookie, Jammie Dodgers. This particular day in December, there were none of his favorite cookies, but we did manage to stock up on some things we like.
On the way out, BF saw these in a display near the checkout counter. Four in a package for $3.99. I grabbed two. They work wonderfully, fit in the dishwasher cutlery tray (just squish them a bit), and are perfect for measuring out your ingredients before you start. I’ve found that once you start doing that, the cooking process goes quickly. It’s almost like what you see on cooking shows.
Two packages of these will keep you cooking forever. Online, they now sell for $4.99, and Amazon has a range of different types and brands at different price points.
Until Next Time
I’ve posted printable PDF copies of both these recipes here on the Recipes Page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find them. One day, I’ll try to organize them a little more. Just click on the hyperlink and it will come up, ready to use or print. I’ve even added a new “logo” that I made on Canva recently.
I might do a refresh of the WordPress theme, and this may figure into the redesign/rebrand. If I do it.
Even without snow and sub-freezing, t’s been very cold this winter. There’s no better time to make soup. Make it in your Instant Pot, CrockPot, some other appliance, or just on your stovetop. Spring is a few weeks away, so now’s the time to enjoy some soup before warmer weather arrives.
Vegetarian and keto are two words many people believe are incompatible. Emilie Bailey, a/k/a “The Texas Granola Girl,” is here to show you that they can work together.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
Well, we’re a couple of weeks into 2022. Have you forgotten your resolutions already? Not me! I haven’t made any. After the last two years, who’s doing that, anyway?
Mother Nature’s bipolar weather patterns are literally having us all use our heaters at night and air conditioners during the day and then swap in a couple of days. This week we may be looking at snow in our area, and north Houston will not be spared that winter treat. (The prospect of snow does not make BF very happy.)
I discovered recently that I have two new readers. Welcome! This humble little blog is nine years old and contains information about food, cooking, foodie trends, some health and wellness, and the occasional contrarian opinion. Also included are anecdotes and sometimes extra information that may or may not be useful, depending on your perspective. New trends (i.e., the Instant Pot and the Air Fryer) are highlighted as well as updates and features from other bloggers who write more than I do. Stick around, you might find something you like. Check out my recipe page, which I need to update soon.
So let’s jump right into 2022!
The Post-Holiday Reset
The rich food of the holidays is over, and it’s time to get back to eating healthier. Hobby Lobby had this, and, well:
Yes, died and went to heaven. It’s fantastic with corn chips. Until I got halfway through the jar and read the ingredients. First up: sugar. I was heartbroken, but it didn’t stop me. I did buy one more, and that was the end of the dip.
Plus, I gave in to the Cranberry Bliss Bar, despite the large price increase since my first in about 2007:
BF was not interested in this Starbucks holiday standard, and I can’t even get him interested in trying a little bit. But copycat recipes abound, so I could conceivably make some any time of year, such as the upcoming Valentine’s Day.
But today, it’s time to re-set and get back to eating healthier. I fell off the wagon a few times, but not for the entire six weeks.
Getting A Move On
I’m exercising when I can, and bought this “resolution” back in June:
Called the Sunny Health & Fitness Row N’ Ride, I use it less than I should. That’s probably why I end up with sore muscles. The first day I used it I was crab-walking for four or five days–my legs really hurt! When I bought mine, it was less than $100. Part of the reason was so that I could exercise without doing any more damage to my foot. I’m also conscious of possible knee problems with walking, as well as gaining good lower-body strength. So I need to make more time for this baby.
The mail lady was not happy about delivering the 25-pound package. (It does require some assembly, which BF cheerfully handled because he’s a guy.) She remembers when BF shipped home boxes of tools and things before he returned from Iraq.
If you consider buying the Row ‘N Ride, know that it has a strict 220-pound weight limit. That’s OK for me, BF, Miss Alice, and Aunt Ruth. But not for one of BF’s car-guy friends, who has himself gone keto and lost a considerable amount of weight. The man is also well over six feet and over that weight limit, so I had to stop him from hopping on my machine. The company makes a Pro model with a weight limit of 300 pounds, which would be more suited for him.
Sunny Health & Fitness has a wide range of home health equipment, from small things like ab wheels and yoga mats to elliptical bicycles, rowing machines, and the Row & Ride. The company also has a YouTube channel that’s free. They frequently post content including workout videos on Instagram and Facebook. Many of their videos don’t require exercise equipment, such as body weight routines and even yoga.
For some folks, the New Year “diet” means going to or back to keto, low carb, paleo, low-fat, or whatever way of eating you prefer. Others may be considering the non-carnivore route. And for that, I’ve got your back.
I know, I know–the word “vegetarian” has you turned off already. Right now, I can hear you turning your nose up. (Except you, Miss Alice.) Well, today, I’m going to change that.
Emilie Bailey’s newest book is all about vegetarian food that’s also keto-friendly. Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes has some wonderful recipes that both vegetarians and non-veg people alike can enjoy. Yes, even maybe BF. But we’re not converting, just eating some tasty and different recipes.
In the intro, Emilie explains that the recipes are quick, and don’t require any ingredients that are hard to get, even here, no complicated cooking methods, nor any expensive kitchen stuff. That’s appealing even to non-vegetarians like myself.
“Yes, but, Amy, isn’t keto all about eating lots of organic meat and dairy?” No, it isn’t, actually. Keto, as I’ve said previously, is pretty much “Low Carb 2.0.” There are macros, but not really calorie counting. The thing is, you can’t over-eat fat without upsetting or hurting your stomach. Real fats make you stop at some point, whereas you can overeat carbs all day long.
If you’ve ever polished off a bag of chips and salsa, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t get me started on chips and salsa in a Mexican restaurant. If you’re in Texas, you know very well what that means.
Emilie’s book takes keto into the vegetarian genre of cooking, because she enjoys vegetables, and had plenty of recipes to focus just on this type. When most people hear the word “vegetarian,” the words that come to mind tend to be things like “bean sprouts,” “wheatgrass” and “soybean ‘meat.'” I’m happy to tell you this is not the case in Emilie’s book. The recipes aren’t difficult, either, and there’s something for nearly everyone here.
The short review: good food to be had here, and you don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy them. Honest.
Types Of Vegetarians
If you’re not completely familiar with the concept, there are a few “flavors” of the non-meat genre:
- Vegetarians, who just don’t eat meat
- Pescatarians, who are vegetarians but also eat fish
- Lacto-vegetarians, who consume dairy but no eggs
- Ovo-vegetarians, who consume eggs but no dairy
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who consume both dairy and eggs
- Flexitarians, who generally don’t eat meat but do once in a while or alternate between veg and carnivore
- Vegans, who only consume plant-based foods, including plant milk and products like almond, soy, oat, rice, and others
- Raw vegans, who eat plant-based food that’s uncooked, or “unprocessed plant foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit.” (I’ll pass–I still like sweet potato fries, thanks.)
Emilie’s book focuses on lacto-ovo recipes. There are multiple egg-based recipes in the book, one of which I’ll show you.
Why Go Vegetarian?
Everyone has a different reason for going veg. You can ask five people and you’ll get five completely different and diverse answers.
Miss Alice accidentally became vegetarian, no kidding. During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, she and her daughter were running low on things, so she just ate rice and veg and gave her daughter the protein. Discovering she liked being vegetarian, and it worked for her, Miss Alice kept up with it. Because she included fish, that actually made her a pescatarian.
Many people have a specific idea of what the word means. Walk into nearly any American grocery store, and you’ll see offerings like these:
I can’t say I know any Hispanic folk who would welcome that in their tamales. Or any gringos, for that matter. But there is a market, and our local Walmart carries it. I pass it up the same way I did in Texas. But there are people who buy these products, just not me.
I have tried being vegetarian a few times, I really did. Gave up quickly because was always so hungry. Well, I didn’t have a book like this. As with many things, It’s a matter of finding what works best for you and sticking with it.
So let’s try out a few of these recipes and see what’s good.
Versatile Sandwich Round, Page 31
Do you like a good English Muffin? Here you go.
Emilie says that bread is one of the first things people miss when they go to keto. She’s right–no sandwiches, which is a shame unless you have a substitute. Well, thanks to Emilie, you can make anything from an eggy breakfast sandwich to avocado toast anytime. Pretty much anything you want to put between two slices of bread will work on this little sandwich round, even bacon, egg, and cheese.
You’ll need a little ramekin dish that’s safe to use in the microwave and just a few ingredients.
Mix up everything in the little bowl:
And the rest, then mix well:
Then microwave for 90 seconds on high, or a few seconds longer as needed.
I don’t have a picture of it cooking, but this is what comes out:
Flip it out onto a plate, carefully, because it is quite hot:
To make a sandwich, cut it in half lengthwise with a serrated knife:
You’re probably wondering what I did next. Well, it would have been avocado toast if I’d bothered to toast the round at this point. But I didn’t. I just mashed up a ripe one:
Then spread it liberally onto the halved rounds:
I didn’t bother showing this to BF, because I knew what would happen. Well, he came inside just after I finished it. He took one look at this and said, “oh, look, the cat threw up on your plate.” Thanks, Honey, I really appreciate that. Wait until you discover what *you’re* having for dinner. (Hint: it’s whatever YOU make.)
This little eggy thing is about the size of a standard English muffin. It’s useful for any manner of sandwiches you like, veg or non-veg. And if you’re missing bread at dinnertime, this is a great option, too. Cut it in half, or cut it as I did, then cut it again into quarters from the top, so you have four half-moons. Next time I’ll try to toast it too.
A few years ago I thought that Hamilton Beach’s amazing little Breakfast Sandwich Maker was the most wonderful thing ever. It makes breakfast sandwiches in five minutes or so, and you don’t have to leave your house! No drive-through window nonsense, either. Made correctly, you could use the Versatile Bread Round to make yourself a keto–and even non-vegetarian–breakfast quickly.
Emilie also offers a sweet version, but I haven’t tried it yet.
Turmeric & Avocado Egg Salad, Page 87
Ok, I’m going to issue a warning right up front: this dish is delicious, but it has a very strong tart taste. Like I wouldn’t even try it with BF. I’m not saying it’s bad, because it isn’t–this is a flavorful recipe. But the next time I may cut the lime and capers in half because I couldn’t eat it too fast. It opened up my sinuses, too. It’s that strong.
Although Emilie tells you how to boil eggs, you know what I used:
Once they were ready, I got started scooping out the avocado:
Mash it up in a bowl:
Now add in the rest:
Then the juice of the lime:
Then the capers:
Drop them in with the minced up onion:
Then the turmeric
Then take care of the eggs and add them in:
Stir it all up:
This recipe actually made two servings:
But I haven’t made this pucker-your-lips recipe since! For someone who is totally vegetarian, though, it might be OK. I’ve read that vegetarians have a higher tolerance for spicier foods, and this definitely fits that bill.
Open-Faced Pizza Omelette, Page 60
Who among us has never had leftover pizza for breakfast? Well, OK, maybe you, Aunt Kathy, but even you can love this one.
Yes, Dear Readers, I actually have had pizza for breakfast. Twelve years ago, in the middle of June, while I was working for Boeing, I got really, really sick with some kind of bug that was going around–fever, chills, coughing, the whole horrible bit. I was told by coworkers and colleagues that it was “something the Shuttle people brought back from Russia,” and I was one of the last people who became ill. Camped out on the futon, I watched a lot of TV under a wool blanket with two big, hairy cats (weight total: 40 pounds) on top. In June, of course. I didn’t want to make anyone else ill.
For about two weeks, I had pizza delivered a couple of times, because I was just too sick to cook for myself. It was also when I discovered Pea & Pesto Soup. I started making the delicious soup after I quickly got sick of delivered pizza and Taco Cabana takeout. I’d been growing basil, so the pesto took a few minutes of prep.
Fast-forward twelve years, and now pizza for breakfast is a) keto, b) vegetarian, c) easy, and d) tasty. And, really, you can have it anytime you want a delicious pizza thing. What kind of crust, you ask? Eggs!
So, this dish isn’t too far away from a normal omelet. Somehow I didn’t get a shot of the ingredients, but this is the recipe with the list:
And because I made my own pizza sauce:
It really did taste like a well-made pizza. I’ve used this sauce on Caulipower pizza crusts, and it works great.
First, make the base by melting the butter over medium low heat.
In case you’re wondering why there’s salt in there, I’ll explain. Emilie’s recipes call for salted butter, which I never have in the fridge. So I toss in a touch of kosher salt to hopefully make up for it.
And, this little cast-iron pan is just the right size. Bought two of these as well as two small covered cast-iron cocottes at Bed Bath and Beyond a couple of years ago, thinking I could make a quick dinner with them in the countertop oven. Well, I’ve used them, just not as much as I thought.
Meantime, mix up the two eggs, a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese, a quarter-teaspoon of Italian seasoning, pepper, and salt.
Pour this egg mixture into the little pan:
Let it cook (no stirring) for a couple of minutes:
Cover it and let it cook another 3 or 4 minutes:
Once it’s cooked, take the cover off and add the pizza (or marinara) sauce, other toppings, and of course, the cheese:
Cook on the stove for another minute. Next, turn on the broiler, which in this case is in the countertop oven, and put the pan on the bottom rack:
Shut the door for a minute or two:
Your Pizza Omelet is ready. And what’s better for a delicious lunch or even dinner than a dessert from Emilie’s first book, some Blackberry Cobbler?
BF would not touch it, despite his enjoyment of bacon or sausage and eggs for breakfast and pizza when he wants to eat his way. Well, I enjoyed it, anyway. And for the record, he does like the keto blackberry cobbler, too.
Dark Chocolate-Macadamia Clusters, page 126
What would any cookbook be without dessert? Again, Emilie doesn’t disappoint with a chapter called Sweets & Treats, including 11 dessert recipes. One even has grilled peaches!
For me, though, I wanted chocolate.
True to her word, Emilie’s ingredient list isn’t difficult to acquire.
For most recipes, I am generally limited by what I can find at Walmart and Winn-Dixie. I only get to Rouses occasionally, so when I want to get something I can’t find locally, I buy extra and stash it in the pantry or freezer. Fortunately, I could get everything at Walmart.
Lucky for us, sugar-free chocolate chips are available here, and I’ve been buying them ever since. Walmart carries other varieties, like this newcomer to the candy game.
Unfortunately, I tried some of these and didn’t care for them. Well, they were clearance-marked pumpkin spice, but I wasn’t impressed. So I’ve passed on these for the Hershey’s, and because the Hershey’s bag is bigger.
Melt 1.5 cups in the microwave:
Stop it and stir every 20 seconds. It should take 1 minute, 20 seconds to complete, but stir it until it’s completely melted and mixed with the oil. Then add in the half-teaspoon of vanilla.
Add in 1.5 cups of roasted and salted macadamia nuts:
Drop them right in and mix:
Once they’re all coated in chocolate, start dropping them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Until you’ve finished:
At this point, you’re supposed to sprinkle a touch of flaked sea salt on top of each one. Of course, I forgot. And I have a nearly-full box of Maldon’s Sea Salt, too.
Now stash them in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes, and they’re ready to eat:
The other mistake is not realizing that these macadamia nuts were raw. I should have put them into the little oven for a few minutes and then maybe salted them. I don’t normally keep macadamia nuts around, and because I didn’t care for these, I’m inclined to avoid them. On the other hand, I might check Winn-Dixie or Rouse’s to see if they have them roasted, then try this recipe again. Because, chocolate.
Store these in the fridge in an airtight container, nibble at will. Just not all at once.
Frozen Hot Chocolate, Page 129
This was actually the first recipe I tried in the book. There’s a reason for that. Besides, it was hot out, and it was just after Hurricane Ida, in the days after we had power restored.
A few weeks prior at Rouses, I saw a can of coconut milk. I bought it, because I keep seeing it in recipes but can’t remember which one. Well, darn it, that can came home with us, and I soon found a use for it.
I keep almond milk around for several reasons, including running out of milk for coffee. Intrigued by the name, I grabbed my little blender.
I won’t question Emilie’s naming convention, but technically it’s not “hot chocolate.” It is, however, a pretty tasty concoction. More like a dairy-free chocolate shake. Who wouldn’t like that?
I’ll admit the ingredients are not what you’d think of in a standard chocolate shake:
Note: after I took this picture, swapped out the Mexican vanilla for a different one that was actually sugar-free.
You’re probably thinking, “Amy, why is there an avocado there?” Sometimes there are ingredients in my blog pictures that are for another recipe, or just happen to be caught on camera. But this time, it is part of the recipe. Now you’re thinking, “enough with the avocado!” They’re not in *every* recipe, I promise.
I also made it when BF wasn’t around, and he only saw the finished product.
So you add the ingredients into the little blender:
Blend it well:
I know you see the little green bits at the top. Just scrape down the sides with a spatula and keep blending. Then add your ice cubes:
Blitz again, and it’s ready:
It does taste a bit different, and the coconut milk is subtle but present.
I did ask BF to try it in a sweet tone of voice. I cornered him on the sofa, where he was looking at yet another Big Foot video on YouTube, and asked him to PLLEEEEZZZE try a little sip. Reluctantly (and with a funny look on his face), he took the tiniest of sips. “It’s missing something,” he declared. And he felt like it wasn’t sweet enough.
I’ll agree, I felt like it needed to be a bit sweeter, but that’s OK, too:
It wasn’t until the next day that I informed him it contained a tablespoon of avocado. You actually can’t taste the avocado, even if you know it’s there. Mostly, I think, it’s for adding viscosity and healthy fat. Then he made a face and pretended to get upset at me. But that’s all in the fun of helping him try new things.
Occasionally, he likes something that he thinks he won’t (especially if I don’t tell him what’s in it.) For a recipe that works, I write in the cookbook, Winner! Make Again! That’s legally gathered evidence of his approval for future repeats, just in case.
There Is Tofu
Yes, there are several recipes for both tofu and turnips here, but not many. I’m allergic to raw soy, so I’m quick to avoid it. I’m sure they’re delicious in their own way–and I could make them with substitute ingredients, like meat. In fact, I might actually do that one day.
For instance: page 120’s Tofu-Stuffed Peppers With Feta could be converted by swapping out the 14-ounce package of extra firm tofu with, say, a pound of ground chicken or turkey. The two peppers are cut in half and laid on the side, used to hold the filling. Mix and bake as you would for the tofu, 25 minutes.
On page 84 is a Mushroom-Tofu Lettuce Wrap with Peanut Sauce, which might also be good with ground turkey or chicken in place of the tofu. The peanut sauce with soy/tamari, rice wine vinegar, sriracha, fresh ginger, and peanut butter sounds interesting. Wrapped in lettuce with some grilled chicken strips might be a nice summer lunch, too.
Think about it: in the same way one would use tofu in place of meat in a dish, the opposite is also true. So there’s no saying I won’t try a tofu-based recipe by swapping out the tofu. I just won’t make them when BF is home.
Also found when buying ingredients for the Chocolate Macadamia Clusters were two items not normally found in Walmart:
The peanut butter is organic, but the almond butter isn’t. And the almond butter has no salt or sugar, which is unusual for anything you find at Walmart.
When you think “organic,” chances are the first thing you think of is “Whole Foods.” You’d be right–both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have a variety of organic foods, as does HEB and its upscale Central Market. In fact, on our last trip to TJ’s in December, we found some organic hot chocolate (in packets) for BF to enjoy. Whole Foods also has some organic hot chocolate in a can, with 22 grams of sugar in every serving. So understand that “organic” doesn’t always equate to healthy.
What It Means
Calling a product “organic” is more than just a name. The USDA has specific guidelines for the production of organic food, so it’s not just a term like “natural” or “healthy.” There is also a certification process that food producers must follow in order to have the seal on their labels.
I prefer to buy organic whenever I can, but I don’t do it all the time. For one thing, organic is more expensive because of the more intensive farming and processing practices involved, including the certification. Another is that not everything organic is necessarily better. Strawberries, yes, but bananas, not so much since you peel them to eat them (unless they’re marked down to sell fast–then you buy them and make banana bread!)
The FDA has a series of blogs called Organic 101:
- Part One discusses what’s not allowed in organic farming
- Part Two discusses substances that are and are not allowed inorganic farming
- Part Three explains what the organic label means
Of course, no matter what, reading labels is essential for eating as healthy as you can.
Good Food No Matter Your Persuasion
Despite the “hippie” or “millennial” image that many people have of vegetarians, people from many walks of live became vegetarians for whatever reason. Miss Alice’s reason was practical and not as much of a choice as a decision, if that makes any sense. (As of late, she’s fallen back on the carnivore wagon, but she’s healing from injuries, too.) Others make a conscious choice to avoid animal products, or just find avoiding meat less expensive. Again, everyone has a unique reason for going vegetarian.
For those of us who stay on the carnivore bandwagon, Emilie’s vegetarian keto book offers a range of recipes we might not think of otherwise. I see it as a supplement to her last two great keto books. It’s also an expansion of delicious keto recipes that I can enjoy and have in my pocket if someone drops by and says, “oh, I’m a vegetarian.” Mind you, the likelihood of that happening here in the middle of rural Louisiana is a bit low, but I like to be somewhat prepared for the remote possibility.
Another good reason to have this book: you’re out of meat, or you’re tired of the same old thing. Isn’t that reason enough?
Many thanks to Emilie and her publisher for sending me a copy and letting me preview the book, too.
Until Next Time
If you’re going keto, thinking about going vegetarian, or just want some new and different tasty dishes, Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes has 90 recipes that will keep you in tasty, healthy food that’s fast and easy to prepare all year long.
In the next blog, I have a non-keto, non-vegetarian recipe that involves one of Emilie’s occasional sponsors. However delicious, mine will not be a sponsored post.
Charcuterie boards are showing up everywhere. It’s not a new idea, it’s just another way of serving appetizers, hors d’oeuvres. They’re a delicious new art form, coming to a party near you.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with a web page project that has left me burning the midnight oil for quite a few nights. I just turned in the last page on mass torts last night, so I’ve got other stuff to catch up on, including this blog.
Our regular rainy days have given way to days of the long, hot summer with occasional cloudbursts, some torrential. I told you we’d be talking about the big freeze when summer came. Twice this week Mother Nature brought a very heavy monsoon of a rain shower, and the power went out for a few hours. Those Rotera tealight lanterns were deployed, with a reminder that I need to order more. BF’s sister may do an IKEA run for us one of these days.
I’ve been trying to get some sewing done on Saturdays as I used to in Houston, but there’s the matter of housecleaning. One bit at a time. I’ve still not returned to using the circa-1996 White sewing machine Big Joel sent me since it’s been back from the repair guy in Denham Springs. It works perfectly, I’m just afraid to use it. But I need to, because the one I use now isn’t great on buttonholes.
This year’s heavy rainy season lets me know that I need to make a more utilitarian raincoat than fabulous fashion raincoats I made in Houston. One is a poncho-like Donna Karan model from 2003, and the other a regular double-breasted, both from ripstop nylon. (The GER laughed at me when I made that Donna Karan raincoat.) They aren’t really suitable for life at the Casa de Rurale.
I bought some heavier raincoat fabric for this MimiG pattern, but I still haven’t cut it yet. Need some strong buttons and a couple of separating zippers, as well as a few other supplies that aren’t locally available. It means the mail ladies will be dropping off more packages.
Now, if you’re lucky enough to attend a gathering this summer, hosting one, or planning for the holidays, I’ve got something you’ll need to know about: the Charcuterie Board.
Has anyone used the word “charcuterie” in front of you? It’s certainly showed up in several of my Instagram feeds, so I knew I had to take a look for myself.
Charcuterie is a French word that has to do with preserved meats–bacon, ham, sausages, etc. It’s the practice of preserving meat used long before refrigeration was available. The practice may have originated with the Romans, but has been used in France for hundreds of years. The types of preserved meats varied by region.
The person who makes these things is called a charcutier, and their repertoire may also include pate’, as well as what’s called “head cheese,” or in Louisiana, “hogshead cheese,” as it was called when I was growing up.
It just so happens that Central Market in Texas is celebrating “Charc Week,” celebrating all the things you’ll need to make a charcuterie board at home. In a week or so, they’ll be celebrating their yearly Hatch Festival, with all things hatch chilis. I’ve got a few Anaheim chili peppers growing in a paint bucket now but will be heading to Hammond to partake of more Hatch chilis for us. Ok, for me.
Building The Board
First thing you’ll need: a board. No kidding, but not just any old cutting board that you’ve had since your first apartment. Unless, of course, you’re making it strictly for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that, either–why wait for a party? But for entertaining, you’ll want something nicer. (Warning: affiliate links ahead.)
In the HeatCageKitchen, I could make do with a large, seldom-used cutting board I bought back in the 1990’s from Macy’s in downtown New Orleans. (On my lunch hour, of course.) But now that charcuterie boards are a thing, you can choose from more upscale models like this one from Smirly:
They also make an expandable version for a little more:
The Spruce also has a list of their best board choices for 2021.
Just do a search on Amazon and you’ll find about 3,000 results for them, with similar results from other places like Wayfair (also called “cheeseboards.”) You’ll find one that suits your tastes and fits your budget. And no, there’s no need to spend a fortune on one of these, either–find some suitable and less expensive cutting boards at both Cost Plus World Market as well as IKEA.
The Meats, Cheeses, And More
So, there are about a million ways to make one, and chances are there isn’t a “wrong” way to make them (not that I’ve found, anyway.) AllRecipes explains it simply here, and this article from WebRestaurantStore.com explains it in more detail.
The basic premise is that it’s small bites, with flavors and textures that go well together. Choose one or more types of meats, such as:
- Salami and other hard sausages
- Prosciutto or ham
- Spanish Chorizo (this is a fully cooked sausage like salami and not raw like Mexican chorizo)
- Mousse or pate’
And pair it with cheeses (I like Manchego), as well as:
- Spreads, like home-made hummus, mustard and chutney
- Pickles (those tiny cornichons are cute and tasty)
- Bite-sized fruit (think grapes, dried apricots, pineapple chunks)
- Veggies (grape tomatoes, small sweet peppers, cut carrots and cucumbers, etc.)
- Cut bread, the size of Melba toast
- Other tasty bite-sized things you may like.
Remember that everything needs to be bite-sized and easy to pick up, since it’s self-served on small plates.
How To Make It
Of course, there is a myriad of recipes for these on Pinterest, AllRecipes, YouTube, and The Food Network, to name a few. And if you want a book for your collection, there’s this one, Beautiful Boards. I don’t have this one myself, and I never saw charcuterie referenced when I was a reviewer for Callisto. I guess that explains why I never saw it before now, either.
Once you have your ingredients, It’s simply a matter of assembling everything so that it’s attractive and easy to get to (preferaby with forks, right?) You can follow a picture or detail it the way you like it.
Don’t have time to make them? Check your area, you may be able to pick them up already made, like in Central Market. In Baton Rouge, there is a place called Bites & Boards, and in Houston, there are GrazeHTX and Charcuterie Houston. Do a Google search, because they’re ready to make one for your next get-together if you’re too busy or just want someone else to handle it.
Check your local grocer for “party trays,” because many will have something similar. HEB also has recipes for them, like this Texas Sized Charcuterie Board. Where do I get that board?? (Yes, I still miss Texas, but that’s another story entirely.) I haven’t checked Rouses, but they probably either have them or will make one to order.
British Charcuterie: The Ploughman’s Lunch
Let me point out that I have not been to Europe, and only know what I read, research, and see on Britbox, The Food Network, and other sites about any manner of European, Australian, and other non-US cuisines.
I found it interesting when Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, visited a British pub in London and shared a Ploughman’s Lunch with her husband, Jeffrey. She’s a big fan of visiting Paris and they even own an apartment there, so I guess London was a day trip. The recipe on the Food Network’s website is more for a party, rather than for one person. Note: It’s not in any of her cookbooks that I found.
But a ploughman’s lunch is a cold and generally portable meal that’s intended to eat out in the fields, literally, when the ploughman gets a break. It consists of bread, cheese, onions, cold meat, pickles, and other items not needing refrigeration for a long period.
And what does it look like? In many cases, a lot like a charcuterie board. Really. With much the same things.
It’s been a thing for hundreds of years. But since the 1950’s, after WWII rationing ended, the “ploughman’s lunch” became a thing in pubs to sell more cheese. In recent years, gastro-pubs, which emphasize food rather than just beer, have elevated this humble meal to something more gourmet. So if you’re in a British pub (which could be anywhere, including The Blue Anchor in Delray Beach, FL), you may find it called “ploughman’s lunch” or something similar.
A Little Charcuterie Humor
You know people can’t leave things alone on social media, right? I won’t mention the memes made after the recent commercial space flights, complete with well-known public figures.
This article on Mashed talks about why charcuterie boards are now so popular. The pandemic lockdowns in 2020 saw a lot of people looking for new things to do. Making the boards became a pasttime, showing up on everyone’s Instagram feeds but mine. Apparently the “craze” began with author Marissa Mullen’s Instagram account, and it became the next big DIY craft project–and it’s edible.
Of course, there are multiple versions of charcuterie boards, such as these targeted to. . .um, individuals less gourmet inclined than myself:
And you know that’s Velveeta, right? BF can totally get behind this one.
In my Tuesday night Zoom call with my wonderful writer friends, I mentioned that the next topic for this humble blog would be charcuterie boards. And Bev in Georgia was very nice to find this amusing pic:
See? Social media isn’t all bad.
I know, I know, “boomer humor” and all that. I found it quite amusing, and so do a number of other folks. Better than some of the nastier stuff I see online.
For Next Time
I have a recipe I want to try and take pictures of to post. Because it’s something that will work well on a charcuterie board as well as a number of other things. Call it a “condiment.” But I’ll say this–when I tried it, courtesy of one of my Buddhist friends, I believe I became enlightened. I’ll explain when I can make it for you, complete with pictures and the story of how the stuff made it here. You will not be sorry.
Stay cool, stay hydrated, and be ready for anything if you’re on the Gulf Coast. You know what time of year it is, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a few extra things for your pantry and home.
Meantime, have fun this summer as much as you can. Because you know in a few months we’re going to be embracing hot chocolate, pots of chilis and stews, and nearly everything Pumpkin Spice.
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.