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.
Katie’s of Mid-City is a great neighborhood restaurant to visit if you’re looking for a real New Orleans place. Or, if you’re not interested in going near the French Quarter.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
As we begin the process of getting back to normal, I realized it’s been a while since I did a restaurant review. It’s been some time since I’ve been in this particular restaurant, too, but I never forgot it. Maybe BF and I should take a ride there and have lunch one day, and drag The E-Man with us.
Before I tell you about Katie’s of Mid-City, I’ve got a few other things to tell you about first.
Instant Pot: Venison Roast
So, back in December, one of the neighbors brought over what BF said was “deer roast.” I have no idea what part of the deer. I asked BF how to cook this. His response: “just like a regular roast.” Oh, that’s helpful. So I bagged them up and put them into a bag with other meats in the big freezer.
While researching the Instant Pot post, I came across this recipe for Instant Pot Venison Roast. Dinner is always a challenge to figure out no matter how far in advance I try to plan it. So I asked BF if we could try this out.
Meat and Potatoes. How bad can that be?
I’m happy to report that I made this for us over the weekend and it was a success. I only had dried thyme on hand, and I used about two teaspoons of it. The venison came out tender and juicy, and the vegetables perfectly cooked.
Yes, I know it’s not “keto,” but as I always say, I eat “keto, mostly.” And I didn’t take pictures, sorry. If you’re in possession of venison but have no idea what to do with it, I highly recommend this recipe. Just understand the irony that it will take a good three hours using the. . .Instant Pot.
A quick note–if you have a large freezer as we do now, things can get very disorganized quickly.
The solution: reusable grocery bags. No kidding. Wash them first.
Dionne at Home Made Our Way has a more detailed blog post on organizing your chest freezer. Because I’m telling you, I speak from experience–you’ll be getting frostbite trying to find that one thing you need somewhere. (I have a pair of gloves for the day I have to do that.)
BF is of the habit of opening the lid of the big freezer and chucking things in without looking. I’ve shown him the “system,” but he’s not concerned. I’m guessing he thinks the solution is to make sure I have additional housework and chores. I’ll fix that one day.
Lunch After The Activity at Katie’s
Because going to the SGI-USA Community Center in New Orleans (which has not yet reopened) is an all-day thing for me, frequently I go have lunch or coffee with The E-Man, and sometimes other members too. Most often, I need a little “leaded” coffee for the long trip home.
The E-Man was not born in New Orleans, but he’s certainly made it home after many years of living there. He knows every street, every avenue, and every place to go as well as avoid.
One particular day he said something about “Katie’s.” I had no idea what he was talking about. After all, I haven’t lived there in more than 20 years. But one thing about The E-Man, he’s been around.
Because I had no idea where I was going, I had to follow him. In a pickup truck, no less, in a part of town I was never completely familiar with–Mid-City. But off we went to a little place that wasn’t touristy, and a little off the beaten path.
Katie’s, The Place
Katie’s is one of those restaurants that if nobody told you about it, you might not even know it was there. One block off the Canal Street streetcar line, it’s at 3701 Iberville Street. But we drove and had to park over a block away–that’s where parking was available.
The restaurant is one that’s nearly always busy and crowded, and like everyone else, we had to wait outside before getting in. What does that tell you? Everybody wants to go there!
The place has also been featured on two Food Network programs, “Food On The Road,” and this one.
And in 2013, it was voted a Best Of New Orleans by local publication Gambit. So that wait for a table tells you that the place has a loyal following. Waiting at Cafe Express or The Olive Garden is just not the same thing as waiting to get into Katie’s, because Katie’s is a different experience completely.
It’s a casual place, like a lot of places are now. And that’s OK, too:
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Katie’s wasn’t spared.
But they rebuilt and came back. With decor like this:
You can’t help but have a good time.
From the upstairs, I saw this outside, just someone’s house:
And there are more awards!
These were in the upstairs area, where there is both food prep and additional seating. (And the ladies’ room.)
Downstairs the casual, fun vibe was the same:
I liked this too:
Since our last trip, Katie’s has stayed relatively the same, I’m told. That means you’ll see much the same thing, but I can’t answer for the menu.
The place is great but not terribly big. Although it’s on a corner, it’s in one of those older neighborhoods with small buildings and “shotgun” houses. In fact, that’s probably what the blue house next door is. That being said, expect a wait, especially on popular days like Sundays. They’re only open from 9-3 on Sunday, and everybody goes there after church.
Our Brunch At Katie’s
Let’s talk about food. It’s casual, it’s good, and just what you’d expect from a place like this.
The E-Man knows what he likes, and ordered something called Oysters Slessinger.
This appetizer consists of a half-dozen oysters (I think I tried one or two, and you can also order a dozen) along with “creamy provel, shrimp, spinach and bacon served with french bread.” I have no idea what “provel” is and didn’t ask, nor did I handle the French bread. I left that to The E-Man.
For lunch, he ordered:
I asked for something that was gluten-free and was offered a frittata. Yes, please. Thank you.
All cheesy, with sausage on the inside. Italian, if I remember correctly:
No complaint from me!
Of course, when I picked up BF from work that afternoon, I told him all about it. His response: “that’s a lot different than the ham and cheese sandwich I had.” Touche. I did make sure he had a good dinner.
Rack Of Tabasco
If you like Tabasco, so do they:
Some of Katie’s online menu items aren’t the same as what we had that day, because we went for Sunday brunch. But like many neighborhood restaurants, they may also change their menu periodically.
Have A Good Time At Katie’s!
No, this isn’t a sponsored post. I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, and finally got to it. Besides, one of my astute readers may be planning a trip to New Orleans soon and wants to find a good place to eat. I don’t think you’ll go wrong by including a visit to Katie’s in the itinerary.
Katie’s is at 3701 Iberville Street in New Orleans (70119), and their number is (504) 488-6582. You can find a map at the bottom of their home page. They open daily at 11 am, and close at 9 pm during the week, 9:30 pm on Friday and Saturday. Visit them for brunch from 9 am to 3 pm on Sundays. Call or email for reservations, or for larger parties. They’re still doing curbside and takeout if you prefer.
I’m planning another review of a Mid-City place soon–and they have coffee plus sweets. No, it’s not a Starbucks, either.
Red Truck Bakery. . .let me tell you all about an incredible cake they make.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’ve got a few minutes to tell you about a cake surprise I received recently from longtime friend of the blog AK. You may remember a few years ago that she sent me a Suzy Homemaker washing machine I found on eBay and posted on Facebook just for fun. I still have it, and it still works, but it’s still packed in a box right now until I get more bookshelves and have a place to put it. Well, she sent me something else.
But first. . . .
I’m still working on Upwork, and BOOKED UP. I’ve been making money, not a fortune, but able to buy groceries and take care of some stuff for us. It’s not a lot, but we’re not on just his paycheck anymore. I’ve had some technical problems too, which I hope to solve soon so I can get on with it. I haven’t bought any more glasses, but that will happen again soon, probably after the holidays. I hate having just one pair. . .but it’s temporary. I’m hoping to surprise BF with a nice little (inexpensive) present for Christmas, too.
The Royal Wedding!
By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Megan Markle. This was a big non-event to BF, but I have ordered a McCall’s pattern that is a very close copy to the white one she wore from Line The Label. (View D) The pattern happened to have been on sale that day, and I ordered a couple of other patterns while they were cheap. (I miss Hancock Fabrics!) You can’t even buy that coat now, because they’ve all been bought and the company’s website crashed that day.
BF asks, “How does this affect my life here in Louisiana?” I responded that it’s a positive event happening in the near future. He didn’t agree.
I also came up with a new fitness goal for us. We need to get in shape for the Royal Wedding! Now, I’ve been busy and haven’t been exercising, but I’m planning to change that this week. I thought it would be a great way to set a fitness goal for both of us. But the minute I said “Royal Wedding,” that went over like a lead balloon.
For the record, I am still The Duchess Of El Dorado. In case you were wondering. . . .
And, BTW, wedding cake in the UK and Australia is traditionally fruit cake, if you didn’t know that.
Not The Same Thanksgiving
We didn’t host this year, and although I ordered two jars of Sur La Table’s turkey brine, I was glad. After last year’s mixed-bag of likes and dislikes, I kind of felt like my time as the star turkey maker was over. BF’s daughter is expecting her second child, and her partner had to work that day, so it kind of fizzled out. We went to his father’s place up the road, where BF’s sister-in-law made ham, potato salad with green olives and something else, and some other stuff I didn’t try. No, not traditional, but I like ham and the occasional potato dish. Maybe next year.
This summer, much to BF’s chagrin, I made three batches of fresh pesto for the freezer. The basil was growing wild again, so I made some, along with a batch of Pea & Pesto Soup for myself. BF called me from work one day and I told him I was making some. His response: “Oh, I can hardly wait.” Smarty-pants.
I’ve got what I hope is a good supply for the winter. Y’all know I love Pea & Pesto Soup!
If you read this on Facebook. . .my apologies.
Back in July, we had to head to Hammond for a couple of things, including a stop at the new Petco to get a “cone of shame” for the pit bull, who managed to injure himself and get caught in an fire ant pile. He looked like he’d been dog-fighting and lost, but that’s not really what happened. Poor puppy. We cleaned him up and applying some topical antibiotic stuff, but he kept scratching it. For three days he tried to pull the thing off, but BF’s ingenious use of zip-ties ensured that he couldn’t.
Petco is right there in the strip mall where Starbucks is. I also get the emails that let me know about goings on. For various reasons, BF is not a fan of Starbucks, but I am. So when I got the email announcing the free tea tasting that day, I made sure BF knew about it, and that we were going. Reluctantly, he agreed.
He Indulges Me
Starbucks was offering free 12-ounce (“Tall”) cups of their hand-shaken iced tea infusions, one per customer. I requested the peach-white tea infusion; BF, after some confusion, requested strawberry with green tea. I’m not a fan of the green tea, but he’s had it. They served us our tea, and I suggested to BF that he try a sip first, then add a packet of the stevia they have, since it dissolves instantly and completely. That’s what I did, and it worked perfectly. BF. . .not so much. He didn’t take my suggestion of the stevia, instead, opting for a half cup of white sugar. It didn’t help. I drank most of it, but the sugar sinks to the bottom and doesn’t dissolve. Not wild about the taste, either, but I think stevia would have been a better option. He probably would have liked the peach teabetter. Oh, well. At least he gave it a shot, and it was free.
BF has frequently told the story of being in Kuwait and seeing his fellow service members stand in line in 100F heat waiting to get a hot coffee at Starbucks. Baffled, he asked them, why? “It tastes like home,” they said.
Yes, Starbucks DOES support service members, veterans and their families. There’s a long-running rumor that’s still rolling around the world. I’ll say it again–I’m not always wild about what the company puts out, but they are still a good company and mean well. Starbucks has always been great to me, and they do support our US troops. Anyway. . . .
Brownies. . .
Sometimes fast food is brought into BF’s place of employment. Usually it’s pizza, fried chicken or something else of the same nature. Sometimes management pops for food, sometimes they pool money. Recently BF walked in after work with this box:
It seems some of the folks had been to the new local Pizza Hut, and bought these, anticipating the finest creation from a patisserie. BF took them after they told him these brownies were “a little too rich.” Well, they look normal:
Yes, I tried a bit. (Cake-like texture.) Yes, they look like brownies. No, they don’t taste anything like brownies. They have no taste to them at all. Seriously. They taste like chocolate flavored rubbish.
Maybe it’s my age–I’m not 16 anymore. (My birthday was in October, nevermind how old I am!) Maybe it’s my tastes that have changed, or I know rubbish when I taste it. Or maybe. . .I dunno. BF ate them one at a time with his lunch, and they’re gone. Yuck.
Here’s my professional blogger/foodie advice: if you want pizza, go to Pizza Hut, your favorite Italian restaurant, buy a frozen one or make it yourself. If you want brownies, find a recipe or buy a mix and bake them yourself. Get a recipe from Pinterest and make waffle brownies. Stop at a bakery, coffee shop or even the grocery store. Or make some Yeast-Free Brownies with Swerve Sweetener. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t buy brownies in a pizza joint when you’re having a chocolate craving.
I mean, think about it. Would you ask your mechanic to decorate your house? Would you hire an interior decorator to tune up your car and change the CV joints? How about ask a dog trainer to babysit your cat? NO! So don’t buy brownies in a place where they specialize in pizza. Brownies from a pizza place are generally not what you’re looking for.
Speaking of brownies
I found the last picture of the lot from the einkorn article. Dunno what happened, but here it is:
More Hatch Chiles
I’ve been busy with writing and everything else, and I just never got around to really cultivating the Hatch chiles. Darnit. You Texas readers appreciate the Hatch chiles. I was thrilled to find them in this area, and even happier to find out that a few people actually know what they are. (Buddhist friend JL knows all about them and gets it.)
BF’s BFF, Big H, was working in New Mexico this summer and has discovered Hatch chiles after I told him *all* about them. I warned him about the “red or green sauce” thing, and he found out I wasn’t kidding. One day he sent me a picture:
Hot dawg! He tried it–and he liked it! Which is more than I can say for BF, who I believe is just the victim of way too many MRE’s in the Navy. I only seek to educate, and in Big H’s case, he discovered that the mild green chile is a pretty good addition to a burger. BF, on the other hand, has taken to telling everyone, particularly *my* friends, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!” He’s still alive. If I was, he wouldn’t be!
The Red Truck Bakery Surprise
A few months ago, mid-summer, I got a FB message from AK, a fellow copywriter asking for my home address. I gave it to her–I’ve known her in person for several years–and she said that I should expect a package on Thursday. Oh, BOY! But what was it? She wouldn’t tell me. She would only tell me that it was coming via UPS.
Well, Thursday came. It was raining and it was getting late. UPS runs late, especially at the holidays, so I knew it might be night before the brown truck arrived. And about 7:30 that night, it did. The UPS guy was even interested in what it was, because I told him my friend in Idaho was anxiously awaiting my text of receipt. (He knew when he saw “Red Truck Bakery” on the shipping label!) When I saw where it was from, I thought, “oh, I don’t normally do this kind of thing.” But then I opened it up and discovered this cake:
CAKE! And yes, it was gluten free! AK knows me. Immediately, I sent a picture to BF at work.
And naturally, let her know immediately that I’d received her kind and generous gift.
Red Truck Bakery is a mail-order bakery in Virginia, and they ship nationwide. They even have a testimonial from former President Obama, who apparently loves pie. Hey–it’s like the royal crest, right? (Even if you didn’t like him–trust me, on this, the former POTUS has very good taste.)
AK has had a number of treats from Red Truck Bakery, including some gluten-free ones that she’s highly recommended.
I texted BF and let him know too, and what it was, and cracked open the box:
Now, I promise I’m not being ungrateful when I say this–but it doesn’t look like the picture on their website:
It comes in Red Truck’s lovely and classic bakery box too:
However, when you cut into it, you really won’t care what it looks like. I carefully unwrapped it:
You smell the delicious aroma of almonds and amaretto when it’s opened. However, I didn’t cut into it, I simply put it in the fridge and waited for him to get home from work that night.
After we had dinner, I cut us each a slice.
This almond cake has no flour and is called “gluten free,” but I’m telling you, serve it to just about any group and don’t say anything–they’ll never know. It’s not a “diet cake,” because there is sugar in it. A very, VERY delicious cake it is, and you definitely won’t miss any frosting. Great anytime, or with a cup of coffee or tea, this is the kind of cake you hope for when you buy one.
Red Truck Bakery is in Marshall, Virginia, and they ship nationwide. This delicious Almond Cake With Amaretto would be just the thing for holiday gifts for friends far away, whether or not they’re gluten-free. Red Truck also offers a menu of other delicious baked goods AK assures me are just as delicious as this cake is. Whatever you decide to order, apparently, you won’t go wrong.
I can highly recommend this cake to send as a gift, or to order for your holiday table. It really is incredibly delicious.
I talked to AK later and asked her what the occasion was. Well, I’ve been bragging on Facebook about the clients I’ve gotten, the work I’ve been doing and the fact that I’ve made a little money with it. (It impressed the heck out of BF.) She said the cake was a gift to celebrate my recent successes, and hopes for many more.
I wouldn’t say I was “crushing it,” but apparently folks think I have been. That’s good. I really am working and making a little money. Sometimes I have more than BF–but it doesn’t last long. <smirk>
He Likes It, Too
BF had one slice, and decided it was very good, too. After dinner, I made a cappuccino, poured him a glass of milk, and we had dessert. But he only had one slice. I asked him if he wanted another slice of cake, and he said, “Well, it’s delicious, but it’s really for you.”
Awwww. . .I did finish it, eventually, one slice at a time.
Christmas Is Coming. . .
It’s coming whether you want it to or not, so think about Red Truck Bakery if you’re either stressed out, or would like to send a delicious gift to someone (including yourself.) This almond amaretto cake would be a perfect gift.
I’ll try to blog again soon–but if I don’t, please have a delicious and Merry Christmas this year.
Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers:
I’m quite happy to receive two very nice comments on my last blog post, one from Miss Alice herself. I hope you try Miss Alice’s Magic Beans soon and enjoy them. I’m looking forward to the next time I can make some, but BF says “I’m all beaned out for a while.” But I made something fast last night that I thought I should tell you about.
I also mentioned that my beloved Cuisinart toaster oven is now. . .toast. Oh, it still works, but. . .not well. Let me explain further.
The model I have, I think, I bought about 2009 or 2010. It’s a well-built workhorse, and it’s done a great job for me since I bought it. The one I had before was a Christmas gift from the GER, and I used that heavily until the electrics went. Well, the front panel on this one, which contains the circuit board, come loose a while back. It was fine, I guess, until it got a little jostled in the move. We moved it to Neighbor E’s place, and it sat for a month until we moved it last week to my new location, and it was moved around a bit more, in the back of the pickup. I plugged it in, and the readout acted a little wacky, but after a couple of unplugs and re-plugs, it seemed to be working fine.
I’ve been cleaning out the back room that will soon be my “studio”, and going in and out of the main part of the house. Not suspecting there was any reason to be concerned, I put a lovely pork loin roast into the beloved toaster oven and went about my business. I checked on it periodically, and the Herbes de Provence-coated roast was cooking along just fine.
Until it wasn’t. I had an emergency. And BF was at work.
I went back into the main part of the house and saw thick, heavy smoke. (Thank heavens the dogs are outside.) I went into the kitchen, and just saw more smoke–no flames, thank heavens, but SMOKE. Now, I’m accustomed to a little of it, particularly roasting things like turkey and chicken at 400F–my eyes burn a little, and I had to open up the patio doors to let that all out. Took a few minutes with the air conditioner cranked down to about 65F. Then the odor and smoke is gone, and I can go back to what I was doing. But this was the thick white smoke that comes from something burning.
I rang BF at work for help, and he told me what I needed to know. He has a big floor-stand fan that’s missing the front (I’ll get that cleaned and back together soon), and I had that plugged in and blowing fresh air in as well as one from my place by the front door. Opened all the windows and sat on the patio with the curious pit bull who kept licking my face to let me know it was OK while BF texted me and said, “Relax.”
The pork roast was charred, but tasty once you cut past the burned bits (which the dogs happily munched.)
The next day I did some forensics–cleaned the whole thing up, but didn’t take any pictures. It was that bad! The drip tray was full of grease, and grease was baked onto the glass door. The square ceramic IKEA baking dish (similar to this one) was burned and broken into about six pieces from the center out, much like a large cookie–not shattered in a lot of little pieces. It was old, so I wondered if maybe it just had micro-fractures I didn’t notice and the heat did it in. Everything gets jostled around in a move, and we did have a few minor casualties, including broken glass. The breaking apart allowed the rendered-off fat to drip to the heating elements, then fill the drip tray and smoke up the house. Right?
This where all my root-cause analysis and detective skills come in. See why I like to watch shows like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Burn Notice?
After I’d cleaned up that disaster and made it look shiny, I turned it on and set the temperature at 400F, which is what I use frequently (although the pork loin roast was set to 350F.) I left I it alone, and watched it while I washed dishes. I noticed that the convection fan was running, and it was getting pretty hot–but at no time did the readout indicate “temp ready,” which is what it’s supposed to do.
So I got to thinking–maybe it wasn’t the dish? After I left the library on Monday, we stopped at Walmart for milk (as we do every couple of days, because he drinks more milk than a cow produces in a day), and I went to the kitchen stuff section to get a little inexpensive oven thermometer. I just sat it in the baking pan and repeated the test. Guess what?
The temperature regulator is toast. The oven “works,” but it doesn’t stop at 350F or 400F, it just keeps getting hotter. That’s what fractured the baking dish into six pieces and allowed the grease to drip onto the heating element, smoking out the house. Had I used a stainless steel or aluminum pan, the roast probably would have still been charred, and it may have indeed smoked, but the metal wouldn’t have fractured like that.
So. . .we’re debating on spending money on a new, and for now, less expensive toaster oven from <gulp> Walmart or Target. Or should we send this nearly $200 model to the Cuisinart repair place in Arizona, and spend a currently unknown amount of money to have it repaired? The circuit board will have to be replaced, and likely the entire front panel, since it’s not exactly attached anymore and hangs by two wires. Is it worth it to have this one repaired, or would it be better to buy new? If we do, it will likely be an Oster, Black & Decker, or Hamilton Beach; I would just take measurements on this one to make sure I get one that’s relatively the same size. Meantime, I’m using the big oven for everything, or the little one on the left. That oven thermometer will be used to check the temps on those ovens as well.
This is what happens when life unravels. And sometimes, it’s highly annoying. Oh, well. . .so let me tell you about last night’s dinner.
I may have mentioned this, but we don’t have cable TV in our rural hideaway. (No Internet yet, either, until I can pay for it. I’m working on that.) We have two, and occasionally three, sets of PBS stations at our disposal–New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the one from Mississippi comes in occasionally (along with a radio station.) The other night, I turned on one of the stations to see cookbook author and chef Lidia Bastianich cooking with eggs. (It was a rare night when something called NCIS something-or-other wasn’t on.) PBS now has multiple stations, and one of them is called @Create. It’s where they run lots of cooking shows, including Martha Stewart’s, most of the day. (There area also other craft shows, as well as shows like this interesting one called Urban Conversion.)
I haven’t made a frittata in a long time, and I figured, now is a good time to start making them again. Especially since there’s a hungry man in my environment. He was out in the workshop for a while, elbow-deep in some kind of car grease, and came in halfway through the show. Lidia was taking the frittata out of the oven, and turned it upside down onto a plate, much like you would a pineapple-upside-down cake. She’d sliced up some large tomatoes and put them on the bottom of the pan, added a couple of other things, and then poured the eggs over the whole thing. When it comes out, and you flip it, it has a lovely top. BF didn’t know what that was, and I told him–a frittata. He said he could do without the tomatoes.
Lidia also answered a viewer’s question about using leftovers to create frittatas. Lidia said that was a great idea, because leftover meat and veg are perfect for creating one-of-a-kind frittatas whenever you want. That’s when I realized–I could make them too! Why haven’t I done this in a long time?
If you’re like BF and have no earthly idea what that word means, well. . .let me ask you, do you know what a quiche is? (He doesn’t know what that is, either.) If you do, it’s basically a quiche without a crust under it. That’s the biggest difference, and they are prepared differently. Quiche is French while Frittata is Italian. Paleo, gluten-free and low-carb folks have adopted frittatas as one of their own, because they’re low-carb and fit right in. Purists may prefer the quiche, and the crust that comes with it (and it can be gluten-free with the right crust, but have a lot of carbs.)
If you really don’t know what either one is, think “egg pie.” Vegetables, meat, or a combination of the two, in a baked egg/milk or cream/cheese base that’s cooked on top the stove first, then put in the oven to finish it. It’s great for breakfast and brunch, of course, but also good for a quick lunch or dinner. The trick is to get started on it soon. . .and don’t wait until late like I did last night.
I found a very basic recipe for frittata on The Food Network’s website, as well as more recipes and an explanation of the difference at Chowhound. Here’s a primer on them from The Kitchn, which I will probably bookmark on my phone so I can refer to it again one day. Lidia also has a YouTube channel, and you can search it for a number of frittata recipes, too–I just can’t find *the* one I saw last week. If you search Food Network’s website for “frittata,” you also will find a myriad of recipes. But I’ll show you what I did with ours so you can see how easy and varied they can be when you’re wondering what you can make that’s new, or you have leftovers to use up.
I call it The Use-It-Up Frittata. Because that’s what I did–and I didn’t want to mess with a Red Baron Pizza.
We had two pork chops left from the weekend, (recipe is here, but I used almond flour) and I figured BF didn’t want any more of them, so I used them elsewhere. Of course, for this, I wanted those HEB eggs from Texas chickens, green onions that are growing on the kitchen windowsill, and a hatch chile pepper that came from my garden in Houston. (It’s the only one that isn’t bright red, but I’ll use the rest for myself later.)
I started by grabbing a handful of green onions:
Chopped them up really well, then moved onto the pepper:
And you know I saved those seeds, too:
Chopped them up really fine, too:
Then I chopped up the two pork chops:
You want to chop meat small like this because bigger pieces will make it harder to eat once you cut the frittata. Next up, I added the onions and Hatch into a cast-iron frying pant to cook for a bit:
Turn the oven on when you’re starting to cook on top the stove. You don’t want to wait for the oven to heat up. I recommend 350F, I think 375F was too high.
Pretty soon, the veg will be cooked:
At this point, I added in the chopped pork chops to heat them:
And let them heat while you deal with the eggs:
I think I used 8 of these babies, from Texas chickens (yes, it’s a prejudice.) I also used my huge 8-cup Pyrex mixer so I’d have plenty of room. (You’re going to wash something anyway, right?) I cracked them right in and added a bit of milk:
And because, DUH, I had this handy, I shook in about a quarter cup or so:
I have some Manchego in the freezer, but guess who doesn’t like that, either? So this is what went in:
Plugged in the immersion blender:
And hit the button:
Now you’re ready to pour the egg mixture into the pan. Carefully, please:
Your frittata is almost ready:
I put the universal pot lid on it so that it might cook a bit faster on top:
Then I put it directly into the preheated oven to finish cooking (minus the lid) slicing through it to make sure it was completely baked:
With cries of “I’m hungry” from BF, and apologies for the the delay, I served this to him:
I love it. It’s quick, easy, and because the pork chops were already cooked and seasoned, I didn’t have to do much of that. But what did the man of the house think?
“I don’t really like it. Can I have a grilled cheese sandwich instead?”
Yes, he really said that. And I did make him one, in the same skillet. I’ll be eating frittata for breakfast this week while he has some cereal and milk. That’s what he likes.
I asked him why he didn’t like it, and he said that it was “just too many flavors going on at one time.” So if I ever attempt a frittata again, I’ll have to tone down the flavor combinations and follow a recipe. (Not like there aren’t many around.) I felt bad that it didn’t live up to expectations, and it wasn’t as special as I thought it was. He appreciated the effort, but just didn’t like the finished product.
And now the word “frittata” will be, in his mind, synonymous with something awful.
He did mention something about stuffing the other night, the kind out of a box. I consulted Will It Waffle? and made him. . .Stuffles. When I mentioned that I *could* waffle the stuffing, he got this smile on his face and asked, “Are you serious?” I nodded, and he said, “OK, go ahead.” And, you know, that was a pretty darn good thing to do. You just add some melted butter and water to a packet of the stuffing mix in a bowl, mix it up well, then heat up the waffle maker. Add a half-cup to each section, close the top for a few minutes (watch it, of course) and you’ve got hot, salty, greasy, crunchy, tasty Stuffles. If anyone wants the recipe, send me a note and I’ll write a post on it. (No, it’s *not* gluten free.)
Meantime, we’re doing what we need to around the homestead. BF has taken vacation time next week (the “use it or lose it” type) and it also happens to be. . .my birthday! Gifts don’t always come wrapped in a box. No Denny’s around, but I’ll be getting my yearly free salad (or something) from Starbucks, and maybe one or two other “birthday free things” I can find. Well, I knew I would miss some things when I moved here.
Y’all, frittatas are a great way to make a quick egg dinner for yourself, your family, as well as breakfast, brunch or lunch. Heck, really, anytime you’re hungry and have a few minutes.
Except for The E Man. Unfortunately, he’s allergic to eggs. My sincerest apologies to you, my friend.
So will you try it this week? If you’re in an area where it’s already cold, frittatas can really fit the bill any time. Here in the south, it’s not a long oven time, either.