Namecheap.com
Lost Primos storefront
Los Primos Of Hammond

Los Primos is the little Mexican grocery store in Hammond. Let me take you to our local “little Mexico.”

Follow me on Bloglovin’

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

OK–have you tried the Salsa Macha yet? I’ve emptied that big jar, and am down to the two small jars. Need to make a trip to Winn-Dixie for more peanuts, and soon, back to Hammond for more dried chipotle chili peppers.

I’ve used it on a few things and even eaten a small spoonful at a time. The warm, smoky flavor is amazing. What I’ve used it for the most has been. . .egg salad. No kidding. Slice or chop three hard-boiled eggs, and add them into a small bowl. In a separate small bowl (custard cups are good for this), mix about three parts of regular mayonnaise with one part Salsa Macha. Mix well, then mix in with the chopped eggs. Mix well and enjoy. That is fabulous. Unfortunately, I didn’t formally measure anything.

Oh, and BF finally did try it after I basically cornered him and twisted his arm (not physically.) I put about one-eighth of a teaspoon on a saltine cracker and asked him for his opinion. He’s always leery of anything with any kind of peppers in it, including sweet bell peppers. Peppers and tomatoes give him a bout of heartburn, especially at night. But I wasn’t asking him to eat a large amount, just a little taste. This shouldn’t give him heartburn, but he was adamant. He ate half of what was on the cracker and said it was “Ok, but I don’t want it again.” That was all I was asking for. So, more for me, and he gets heartburn from seemingly everything.

I’ve also started back working on my new copywriting website, which has been sitting idle for a while. Banana Rat is also doing a bit to help me with it, mostly the back-end stuff on WordPress.

Piggybacking on last week’s post, I want to tell you about an accidental discovery and a big surprise. Of course, BF never thought to tell me this place even existed.

Hammond, Louisiana

The Casa de Rurale is a half-hour away from this sort of metropolitan city. It’s a little more than an hour north of New Orleans, and home to many “bigger city” amenities like Starbucks and Target. (It’s the closest of both to us.) If we can’t find it in either Walmart, Winn-Dixie, or Tractor Supply, chances are it’s on the list for the next trip to Hammond. We’ll visit Target, Rouse’s, Hobby Lobby, or a bigger Winn-Dixie while we’re there.

Hammond is also home to Southeastern Louisiana University, one of the top three universities in Louisiana, and also one of the fastest-growing. What does Southeastern have? College students from all over the US. So naturally, there’s Target, Starbucks, and other businesses they’ll know from home. It’s why there is a Trader Joe’s right outside LSU in Baton Rouge. You’ll nearly always see college students in there as well as local folks (and people like me who just love it but don’t live close by.)

When we go to Hammond for a shopping and foraging excursion, BF just smiles and gives me that same look when he looked into the very full pantry after I moved into his house. It’s the smile and the look that says, “Yes, dear, whatever you say.”

And it was on this day that we went to Baton Rouge, first to say goodbye to Alvin Calhoun. As we made our way back, he wanted to stop in Hammond–“it’s a surprise,” he said. I don’t normally like surprises–y’all know I’ve had way too many to think it’s going to be good. Thankfully, this one was different.

The Chinese Lunch Place

On the way home, BF decides we’ll be stopping for lunch at this little Chinese takeaway in a strip mall on Morrison Blvd. Before we get there, he just keeps telling me it’s a great little surprise.

Oh, boy, he wasn’t kidding.

Walking through the car park, hand in hand, I look over to my right and I see it:

Lost Primos storefront

How have I never seen this place before???

Could it be? A real Hispanic food store? It is! When I saw the words “envios de dinero,” in a sign on the door, I knew what was inside. I had to go inside and investigate.

Of course, BF had his little heart set on Chinese takeaway, and he had to physically pull me into the Chinese place. Not throwing shade on the nice Chinese place, but once I ordered I walked out. Because there’s a real Mexican grocery store in Hammond–right next door!

I left BF to take care of the rest and pick it up. Told him to text me when he was done and ready to leave.

Los Primos Of Hammond

Have you ever walked into someplace and your eyes just soaked up everything? That was me in Los Primos. The Spanish music was playing over the PA system, brightly colored stuff was everywhere, and I was the only Gringo in the place. This was the first thing I saw:

Shelf of Spanish goods

Isn’t it gorgeous??

The brightly painted coffee cups, the clay pots, and the little shopping bags were my favorite.

I walked around a bit and saw the wall of dried spices, just like you’d see in Fiesta or Food Town:

Dried chili packets hanging on the wall

They’re all here!

Found the chipotle I needed!

Packet of dried chipotle chiles on the rack

Bought two of these

And other Hispanic spice-rack favorites:

Spice packets hanging on rack

They’re all here! (Although I don’t know what they’re all for.)

Sesame seeds were also needed for the Salsa Macha, and I was able to get a package here.

Sección de Comestibles (Grocery Section)

When I first moved to Houston, I was just shocked at all the different Hispanic, organic, and other specialty foods that were available in the regular grocery store. Stuff you just couldn’t even imagine buying in a grocery in New Orleans in 1998. But there it was, for anyone to purchase, no matter their ethnicity. I regularly bought one or two new things to try while I was in Texas, especially when I visited Phoenicia Foods on the west side.

While my eyes and ears were soaking this all up in Hammond (the first time), BF sat in the car park, in the cab of the truck, looking at Facebook. I think he was just afraid to walk into the place.

Los Primos also has a variety of groceries that are commonplace in most Houston grocery stores.

Los Primos grocery shelf

All kinds of things, and lovely decor hanging from the ceiling.

Goya is the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the US, and its products are available outside of the US as well.

 Unknown snack bag

I bet this is tasty.

And don’t forget your nacho chips:

Bag of Nacho chips

Didn’t get these, but I could have

I got what I needed for the Salsa Macha:

packets of dried chiles and sesame seeds

Just what I needed!

I also bought another pound of fresh chorizo from the refrigerator case, as well as a couple of things to snack on during the trip home:

Empty packets of raw almonds and pepitas

These didn’t survive the drive.

Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are something I haven’t had in at least 5 years, and probably longer. They’re just not something people eat here, but they’re so delicious and I just love them. I used to have a recipe for roasted and spiced pepitas, but I think the cookbook is now long gone.

BF had been up since about 5:00 am and was tired, but still graciously took me to Los Primos the second time when I needed some ingredients. I did offer him both the almonds and pepitas, but he passed.

Departamento de Carnes (The Meat Department)

Although I didn’t buy anything this time, I did take pictures:

Meat department price list

No, I don’t know what that all means, other than chicken and chorizo.

But I’d be willing to wager that this is chorizo:

Chorizo Sausage in bin

I’ve never seen that much chorizo in one place before.

And because I don’t understand much Spanish, there was only one guy I could talk to–the nice guy at the one register! That’s OK. I told him I was making Salsa Macha, and he said, “Oh, that’s so good! You can get big containers of it at Costco, too.” Well, Costco is an hour drive in any direction, so I have to make it myself. Not that I mind.

Fresh Produce, Too

There were folks putting up a little produce in the back. Not a big department, but they do have pinto and black beans in bulk bins, along with those little wagon wheels. (Never had those, and they’re wheat. You fry them up like croutons.) What I did get was some limos (limes.) At first, I didn’t realize that’s what they were. Look at the size of them:

Large lime in palm of hand

That’s the biggest lime I’ve seen since I left Texas!

The young lady putting up produce didn’t speak any English, but she did know what I was talking about when I said “limes?” She responded, “Si, limos.” I responded, “muchas gracias!” Because I was so happy to find these monster-sized ones–all we get in Winn-Dixie and Walmart are the golfball-sized models. The smile on my face told her everything.

No seeds in these limos, so I can’t re-grow them, either.

The Little Strip Mall

Los Primos is located at 1320 N. Morrison Blvd, Suite 118, Hammond, LA 70401.

It’s literally in the corner of this little strip mall, along with the Chinese takeaway, a donut shop, and a few other local shops. They’ve been in business for, as I was told, 11 years. They don’t have a website or any social media pages, either.

It looks like they are open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, but I’d call ahead (985-429-1722) to be sure.

There’s A Restaurant Too

Just on the other side of the wall from the Chinese takeaway, Los Primos also has a sit-down restaurant that, I hope, we’ll be visiting one day soon. Apparently, it’s a great place for a cheap date, which is perfect for us! (La Carreta is nice but a bit pricey.)

Reviews are mixed online, with some saying it’s a great and authentic Mexican, others saying something else. Yelp has the most that I’ve seen so far, mostly positive.

I didn’t even realize there was a restaurant until I was leaving–the second time. I’m sure they thought I was bonkers, but honestly, it’s great to find such a place around here. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we can have a “date night” here. My birthday is in October, so fingers crossed.

Until Next Time

I’m working on a couple of upcoming topics, and there is another new book coming from Emilie Bailey, The Texas Granola Girl. Yes, it too is keto, but this one is vegetarian. I’ve already notified Miss Alice about the book, and I’m sure she and her daughter will eat it up. (Get it?)

The book comes out in September, and I may be lucky enough to get an advance review copy again. Based on the last two books from this lady, I can’t see anything being bad about this vegetarian food, whether for a side dish or for a main dish for people like Miss Alice.

If there is a topic you’d like me to explore and write about, by all means, let me know! I’m always looking for new blog topics. Leave a comment below, or use the contact form to get in touch. (I think I need to add a widget to the site so the contact form shows up everywhere.)

Good stuff is coming soon, and so are the holidays, so. . . .

Buen provecho! (Bon Appétit!)

 

Big Jar of Salsa Macha
Salsa Macha!

Salsa Macha–a most delicious thing to make any time. It’s perfect for your charcuterie boards, too.

Follow me on Bloglovin’

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Apologies again for being later than I wanted, but I’ll explain myself shortly. It’s summer, and the living is easy (we hope.) As always, fall is coming, and certain people in the US population are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Latte season. Heck, everything pumpkin spice–you know who you are.

If you just can’t wait, you can make that PSL at home with a recipe from Starbucks’ own website. Who would have thought it?

But remember–while y’all are sipping your hot PSLs, I’m still trying to enjoy my iced coffee and avoid heatstroke.

With all the rain we’ve had this year, I don’t think we’ve seen a day of 100F temps here. Houston, and most of Texas, has seen multiple 100F days.

This Year’s Gardening Attempts

We have not attempted to repeat last year’s gardening disaster.

I really haven’t mentioned the paint-bucket garden, but we’ve got basil and a few other things growing. I really need to plant the sprouted avocado seeds so they can grow into actual trees.

Avocado Trees in paint bucket

Just plant the seed into the dirt. . .and wait. No kidding, I’ve sprouted several but lost a couple.

Think of how many friends we’ll have when they find out we have avocados growing! Well, except for BF and his brother. Say “guacamole” and BF starts retching.

Two batches of pesto were the result of the last basil cut, and I’ll likely have that much when I cut this batch.

Basil in paint bucket

Think I have two cups here? (Yes, that’s an automotive jack behind it.)

I’ve also got two Anaheim chili pepper plants growing, and one has two medium-sized peppers on it.

Anaheim peppers growing in paint bucket

Darn bugs! I’ll get two if nothing else.

Unfortunately, the little peppers that began forming when the flowers dropped off became slug food, and so I may only have those two. We’ll see, since “cold weather” probably won’t start until at least October. And then there’s lettuce:

Lettuce growing in paint bucket

I need to turn this into a salad real soon

I’ve also bought some plants:

  • “Coolapeno” peppers, the heat-free jalapenos
  • Green onions, as always, but I need to add more to the pot
  • Orange bell peppers
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Strawberries (the slugs have really decimated this one)
  • Mint (a plant that is overgrown in the bucket and we recently buzz-sawed with a hedge trimmer)
  • Parsley

And as always, sage:

Sage in paint bucket

I try to keep it around for fall dishes

Unfortunately, I didn’t plant them all right away, leading to more of BF’s smarty-pants comments about “science experiments.” I remind him that none of his previous female companions ever brought urban agriculture or other improvements into his house and his life.

Home Visit Nibbles

So a few weeks ago, our district leader OR decided she wanted to make the drive to do a home visit. It’s an SGI tradition of visiting members at home, particularly those who have recently begun practicing Buddhism and offering support. The leaders chant with the members and they discuss. . .whatever. In this case, it was the upcoming district meeting. And, I suppose OR wanted to get outta the house for a while.

Now, because of where I live, nearly everyone is an hour away. The closest members are J&B, who live in Albany, near Hammond. Basically, I’m practicing by myself out here, although most are a phone or Zoom call away. Since I’ve been practicing since 1986, though, I think I’ve got the hang of it. I don’t understand why they want to drive an hour–each way–to do a home visit, but I gave up protesting.

While we were chanting, BF showed up. But he quickly bugged off to the shop and left us alone to talk. He doesn’t mind the home visits, of course, but he does enjoy acting up when people are visiting me.

When someone does drive out here, I try to make sure I have some food and coffee to offer. I’ve baked some delicious treats from the first Babycakes book. I also have the second book but haven’t looked at it in a while. Maybe next time they come by I’ll make that Pineapple Upside-Down Cake on page 116 again.

On this particular day, since it was just OR, I told her I’d make a couple of those little keto chocolate cakes in the Instant Pot for her, and of course, coffee. OR is from Los Angeles, and is Hispanic herself–her parents came from Mexico years and years ago, and she has been in Mandeville since about 2006.  Knowing that I’m a fan of Mexican and Tex-Mex food, she decided to bring something special. Naturally, I didn’t think to take pictures.

Salsa Macha

So OR made a stop at The Fresh Market for a few things, including a box of little gluten-free nut crackers, a small tub of chicken salad, and a couple of slices of Swiss cheese. Why Swiss, I don’t know, I like it fine, and I just said “thank you.”

Along with these nibbles, she brought this:

Bottle of Salsa Macha

It was full when she brought it

Then she asked for a very small spoon, which I happened to have:

Cocktail spoon and regular spoon for Salsa Macha

The spoon on the left is a cocktail spoon, and the one on the right is a regular teaspoon from our flatware

Puzzled by her request, I went to the only one I knew I could put my hands on, in a box of Maldon Salt Flakes in the pantry. I have more of these tiny spoons, but I don’t know where they are.

We sit at the table and she explains:

  • Take a cracker
  • Fold a slice of cheese to make smaller pieces
  • Add a bit of cheese onto the cracker
  • Add a bit of chicken salad to the cracker on top of the cheese
  • Drip a bit of this incredible stuff on top of the cracker stack
  • Eat and enjoy

What the heck is this amazing thing you’ve brought here? OR responds, “It’s called Salsa Macha.

I have eaten it and become enlightened.

The Recipe

OR is a fan of Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS. I like to watch her when I can, her food looks delicious. Pati is actually from Mexico and is married to an American. They have three sons and live in Maryland. They have, however, lived in Texas.

Pati has three books, which will be going on my “wish list” soon. Her newest will be released in November, called Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets. Her most recent book graces OR’s kitchen, and all three will eventually grace mine.

This recipe is from a longer TV show segment on Cali-Baja Fish Tacos. You can see the whole segment here, and she starts making the Salsa Macha at about the 3:55 mark.

While the tacos look absolutely delicious, they are not gluten-free–she uses regular flour to batter the fish, and makes flour tortillas as well. Just thought I’d warn you.

OR said that since she made the salsa the first time, she carries around a jar of it and puts it on EVERYTHING. No wonder she has that glow of enlightenment.

I’m also writing about this recipe to piggyback on my last post on charcuterie boards. Because you can easily put this on any charcuterie board–just add a warning that it’s a bit spicy as well as contains peanuts. You don’t want an allergic person unknowingly ingesting it and having to go to the hospital.

If you do put this on your charcuterie board, I highly recommend putting the little cocktail spoons out for Salsa Macha. Because if you put a regular teaspoon out, someone will grab a large amount not realizing it should be consumed in small amounts. It does have enough of a bite from both the garlic and the chile peppers that a big tablespoon will overwhelm even the most tolerant of spice-lovers.

Making The Salsa Macha

Let me say at the outset that I am by no means an expert on Mexican and Tex-Mex food. I make no secret of the fact that it’s just one of my favorites. Living in Texas for 18 years, it’s all around, in the same way that red beans & rice, jambalaya, and gumbo are here. You know what I’d rather have, starting with the chips.

When most people hear the word “salsa,” it’s usually accompanied by the word “chips.” It’s either a freshly made tomato garnish, or it’s the kind out of a jar. Either one is good, especially if the chips are hot, fresh, and salty. However, this salsa is different.

Salsa Macha is cooked, and has no tomatoes. In fact, it has. . .peanuts. No kidding.

Ingredients for salsa macha

The Setup (part 1)

Of course, getting all the ingredients together was a challenge (I’ll tell you about that in a minute.) When I mentioned to OR that I was making some, she said she used a whole cup of peanuts, so I cracked open more before I made them.

Prep work involved a few other things, including peeling garlic and deseeding and deveining the dried chile peppers. That took a while:

Cut open dried chipotle pepper

Since it’s dried, they pretty much fall out.

By the time you get them all done and get to this point:

Cut chipotles in bowl

Ready to add

You’ve had a snootful of the pepper dust and have sneezed multiple times. Just cut the tops off, cut in half, or cut down one side, and the seeds are easy to remove.

The packet I got is actually 2.5 ounces, and the recipe calls for 2 ounces. Well. . .by the time you remove all those seeds, I’d say you got exactly 2 ounces.

I also measured out the sesame seeds, white vinegar, brown sugar (just for the first round, I think a sugar replacement like Swerve would work too), and salt for later.

Cooking

First: add 1.5 cups of olive oil to a pan:

Olive oil, 1.5 cups

It’s gonna be good!

And heat over medium heat:

Olive oil heating in pan

Once it’s heated, but not boiling, add the peanuts and the four cloves of garlic:

Garlic cloves and peanuts in hot olive oil

Like this; there are actually four cloves in the pan

Now, don’t walk away from it–you’re actually frying these ingredients:

Closeup of frying peanuts and garlic

Don’t let them cook too long

Pati says that peanuts are cooked long before you notice them, so that’s why it’s important to stay at the stove for this one.

Next, add the seeded and deveined dried chile peppers:

Adding chipotles into the pot

Right in there

Along with the sesame seeds:

Adding sesame seeds to the pot

Right in there

Cook a little longer until the chiles are toasted and done, about another 30 to 60 seconds, then take off the heat. (I just moved it to an unused burner.)

Pot and food processor work bowl

A safety tip is coming.

Grinding And Processing

Here’s where you should pull out that big food processor, you’ll need it.

Let me iterate here that this is HOT oil, and you’ll need to exercise great caution at this point. Hot oil burns badly, and nobody wants to check into the burn unit, ever. If you have small children or animals, shoo them out of the kitchen and away from the stove for their own safety.

Because I was using a cast-iron pot, I brought the food processor bowl to the stove and scooped it in a little at a time. Better safe than sorry, and I don’t want to get injured.

Scooping out of the pot

Just like this

I used a couple of tools to clear the pan:

Clearing out the pan

I got all of it out!

And dumped the last little bit into the work bowl.

After putting the bowl on the motor unit, I added the last ingredients:

Adding brown sugar to the food processor

Brown sugar

White vinegar:

Adding white vinegar to the workbowl

Right in, 3 tablespoons

And of course, kosher salt:

Adding kosher salt to the food processor

Just a teaspoon, but you can add more if you like.

Then hit the ignition:

Running food processor

Grind it up to a nice paste

What you get is this lovely and delicious thing that you won’t want to live without:

Salsa Macha finished

Delicious!

It makes a good bit, and so I filled one big jar and two small ones:

Jars of salsa macha

Into the fridge! (Store it in the fridge if you’re not using it immediately.)

When I clear out that jar on the right, I’m going to wash it well and return it to OR. BTW, those little Ball jars do come in handy for lots of things. Walmart, Amazon, and sometimes Tractor Supply has them.

Finding Ingredients

Raw peanuts are called “green boiling peanuts” here. Why? People boil them in salt and eat them like that. I can’t say they’re bad, but I never had them before I moved to this area.

Now you may be thinking, “Amy, how did you get that kind of thing in rural Louisiana?” Good question–I almost didn’t. That’s why this post is a bit later than I intended. I stayed up a little late last night to make it, too.

OR has access to not only a “Hispanic foods section” in the Mandeville Walmart, but there is also at least one “Mexican grocery store” in the area, too. I’ve been in that Walmart and seen it myself, bought masa harina and corn husks there for our chicken tamales I made once. But Mandeville is nearly an hour one way. Not a good option.

I went to our local Winn-Dixie and Walmart looking for the dried chiles, to no avail. I was on the phone doing a FaceTime call with OR looking for them, but they really don’t have that kind of thing here.

Then I remembered that there IS a Mexican grocery store nearby–in Hammond. So after being up since 6:00 am, and driving an hour from Franklinton to get home from work, BF took me to the little Mexican grocery in Hammond and then brought me home. Once back at the Casa de Rurale, BF went into hibernation for a while.

If you’re in an area where you can’t find these chiles, you can get them online at Fiesta Spices’ website. They have a whole section of their website just for dried chile peppers. Now that I think about it, Albertson’s in Hammond carries some of Fiesta’s spices, so maybe I’ll drop by there next time and see if they have the chiles, too. If not, everything is available online, thank heavens.

Will BF Eat It?

That’s always the question. I didn’t really make it for him, anyway. But he alternates between “I’ll try anything you make” to “I don’t think I’m gonna like it, I’d rather not try it.” Whatever. I’ll let you know.

If you eat this, you, too, will be come enlightened. I’m being silly when I say that, but that’s how good it is.

For my next blog post, I’ll tell you all about Hammond’s Tienda de comestibles, or little Mexican grocery store. We’ve recently seen folks speaking Spanish here, no English. Aside from the other considerations, it could mean more Hispanic foods may become available locally if the migration trend continues. Maybe it’s time for me to finally learn Spanish, even if I have to use DuoLingo. But for now, I can get some of these wonderful Mexican ingredients, along with ready-made chorizo, on the same trip as visiting Hobby Lobby, Rouse’s, and Target.

Until next time–Disfrutar! (Enjoy!)

Slice of blackberry cobbler
Review: The Southern Keto Cookbook

Keto? Southern Cooking? The two don’t normally go together. But if you’re The Texas Granola Girl, they certainly do. I’ll tell you all about it.

Find me on Bloglovin’

Hi, Again Dear Readers:

It’s been a busy week again, and I thought a cookbook review was a good idea, especially for those who are doing keto. And if you’re in Texas, you’ll enjoy this one.

In response to my last post on the delicious Tex-Mex cauliflower rice dish that BF didn’t like, I received two responses. The first, from Aunt Ruth, who was quite complimentary. She might even try it one day. However, the second email came from the GER, who proclaimed, “BARFO! YUCK OH!” I used to cook for the GER. Like BF, if I didn’t tell him it was cauliflower, the reaction would have likely been different.

Incidentally, if you ever come to visit and see this on the kitchen counter:

Can of dog food on counter

Don’t panic.

Understand that it’s not part of any recipe. It’s just sitting there. That’s where we leave it when we get home from pet food supply runs at Tractor Supply. Honest.

Lots to tell, so let’s get started.

Alvin Calhoun’s Funeral

As I mentioned in the last blog, Baton Rouge barbecue master Alvin Calhoun passed away. The funeral was Friday the 14th at Winfield Funeral Home on Plank Street in Baton Rouge.

I was already planning to run some errands in Baton Rouge that Friday. BF was off work, and so the stars were in alignment for us to go.

BF and I went to pay our respects and see him one more time during the visitation period but didn’t stay for the service. We met with his son Davin and his wife Kim, nice people just like Alvin. I downloaded the picture of him onto my phone and sent it to her, along with the blog so they could read it. Davin will be continuing the business they started, and BF will be bringing some motor parts to them soon.

We went to the front of the chapel to see Alvin, and I chanted quietly with him for just a minute. He was well-liked, of course, and there were lots of people there. I couldn’t sit and chant with him for too long, but I did chant a little.

Alvin was dressed in a tasteful suit, and he looked good. In fact, he looked just like we remember him. Of course, we won’t forget him, either.

Friday’s Errands

After the funeral, we proceeded with our errands. It was going to be one, but since we were in the Capital City anyway, it ended up being a “day trip.”

My five-year-old vacuum cleaner needs a new electrical cord, and I made multiple phone calls to try and get it done. Finally, I found someone who would work on it for me without semantics. No kidding–one guy I talked to whined because I told him I had a higher-end Bissell. I found someone else. Once I figured out where I was headed, Friday was the day.

We did make it to Trader Joe’s, and we had to wear masks to go in. They were nice about it, as they always are. They’ve just dropped that requirement this week, though, nationwide. I saw lots of lovely new things, and they even had little cups of ready-to-eat “overnight oatmeal.” More on that later in this blog.

BF has finally set foot in Cost Plus World Market, where I buy his favorite British cookies, Jammie Dodgers. He had no idea what they were until I brought some home one day. They’re a favorite now, right behind Oreos.

And for the next time I make pesto, I found this lifesaver with a slightly curved end:

Blending spatula

Where has this BEEN all my life?

I mean, REALLY–the blades in my blender have left cuts in my other spatulas, but now I don’t have to ruin any more of them. It’s about the same length as my others:

Blender spatual full length

Can’t wait to use this!

It wasn’t expensive. Kitchenaid has a similar model, but I didn’t know that either. Next door is Joann’s, where I got some buttons for two projects and two on-sale patterns.

I also replaced my years-old coffee grinder that blew up the other night.

Bodum coffee grinder with box

Similar to the previous model

Wish I’d bought this a long time ago–it’s much quieter than the older one and doesn’t scare the cat. Bed, Bath & Beyond has some very high-end expensive models, and. . .I went to Target for this $20 model.

During a quick FaceTime call to BF, while I was out shopping recently, he told his manager at work that “there’s a whole other world that Amy’s in that I’m not familiar with.” (She waved at me, too.) Now he’s been introduced to a couple of those places. After a stop at a local outdoorsman place, the feeling is mutual. But I did pass on those locally-made dog treats they had made with nutria meat. Nutria is a large rodent creature that is an invasive species mistakenly introduced into the US, and thrives in coastal states like Louisiana. I don’t think even our dogs would touch those treats. Ever.

New Sprouts Market In Baton Rouge

We were headed home and what did I see? A new Sprouts Market! I had no idea!

I never made it to the Sprouts that, um, sprouted, in Houston before I left. Longtime friend of the blog LK visited the one near Pearland on Old Chocolate Bayou Road when they first opened. I meant to go, but I never made it. Or maybe I was afraid to because of all the great stuff they have and I didn’t have money for all that. Oh, well. There are now 49 Sprouts Markets throughout Texas, and Louisiana just got one.

I’ll be stopping in next trip and giving a full report, finally.

Low Caffeine Movement?

It seems that drinking high-octane coffee during the pandemic has led to something unintended–caffeine overload. Now one company wants to help with that. 

New startup Buzz Lite recognizes that coffee lovers don’t like caffeine overdoses and offers an alternative. It looks like the millennials are leading the way, but lower-dose caffeine can benefit those with high blood pressure and other caffeine-induced issues.

Yeah, OK, I’ll just go ahead and admit that I can get downright grouchy if I OD on caffeine. BF just ducks and sneaks out the back door to get to the garage.

What’s Amy been drinking with her decaf since she got here? Community Coffee’s Half-Caff Ground Coffee. Add about a half tablespoon or so into the decaf and it’s just fine. No burning my stomach or anything, and I get enough “boost.” It’s when I add full-strength coffee or have a cup of very strong tea that I start reaching for the Tums.

Half-caff has been around for a while, and it just takes knowing how much you can tolerate without bad side effects. I’m glad I’m not the only one, though.

Buzz Lite Coffee is currently only available online, but may eventually be as widely available as other brands of coffee.

The Texas Granola Girl

What happens when a Texas ranch girl goes keto and starts a blog? You get The Southern Keto Cookbook.

The cookbook has been available since last year and is one of those wonderful titles I received from my year-long Callisto benefit. I’ve made a few recipes from this book, and I always want to make something else and get BF to eat it. He just told family members his philosophy of my cooking over the weekend: “Stay ALERT! Stay ALIVE.” Not all of it is bad, though.

Emilie Bailey is a rancher’s wife in a city north of Dallas. She cooks and works on the ranch with her husband and two daughters. She’s a seventh-generation Texan and is also a former restauranteur. After a health diagnosis of inflammation for both her and one daughter, she began creating keto recipes that are just as enjoyable as their non-keto counterparts.

Here are a few that I’ve made since receiving this book.

Keto Green Chile Cauliflower Rice Bake

Well, on page 64-65, is a recipe I think I tried first, and even BF liked it (mostly because of the Monterey Jack Cheese.) Tasty, cheesy, and a nice touch with the can of green chiles.

Adapted from Emilie’s mother’s rice dish, it’s a creamy, delicious side dish that’s easy to make and good anytime. I haven’t made it since last year, so I need to make it again.

NOTE: you must cook the cauliflower rice prior to making this dish. I speak from experience. That’s why there’s a bit of yellow highlighter and a note to make sure I don’t forget.

Keto Turnips? NO

Ok, I hate to rain on this parade, but turnips and I do not get along.

Emilie has six recipes for turnips, including one I tried on pages 66-67 for Cheesy “Hash-Brown” Casserole.  Turnips are used here as a substitute for potatoes. One of our neighbors grew turnips in his garden last year and brought over a bunch. Well, this was the first recipe I tried.

Never again.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad recipe at all. And I know there are people who just love turnips. Not me. BF wouldn’t try it, so I ate it all week. Well, until it made me horribly sick.

As I mentioned in the post on cauliflower rice, I’ve made mac & cheese with cauliflower many times. I need to make that again sometime. But the turnips nauseated me!

Maybe it’s because I ate it every day for a few days. I’ve never eaten turnips that much or that often. Much as I like this book, I have to pass on those six recipes. If you like turnips, you’ve got six recipes to enjoy with them.

Granny’s Blackberry Cobbler, Keto Version

Now here’s one sweet treat we can all get into.

Dessert is always essential, and Emilie doesn’t disappoint here, either. Allow me to show you a dessert that I like because it’s tasty and keto, and BF likes it because it’s sweet and tasty. 

We have blackberries growing all around the property. When they start to ripen, I pick and pick and pick until the cycle is over. Right now on the other side of the garage, there is a mass of the little berries I’m anxious to see ripen so I can pick them all. One reason is I want them is for a cup for this delicious blackberry cobbler on page 176. If I pick enough I can freeze them and make this anytime.

Note that the pit bull loves these little berries, and will eat them off the vine if I show them where they are.

The Keto Dessert Time

There is a quart-sized bag of frozen berries from last year that I forgot to use up, so I decided to make one this week. I let the berries thaw for a few hours prior to baking. They were juicy, and they worked just fine.

Ingredients minus sweetener

The Setup

Of course, I forgot one essential ingredient:

Sweetener bag erythritol

This is essential, of course.

Emilie, like many keto authors, uses a blend of this and monk fruit, but I don’t have any right now. So because I didn’t think it was sweet enough, I added a bit of my secret weapon “booster.”

Bottle of liquid stevia in my hand

Liquid Stevia

One of the biggest differences this time is that I decided to use almond MEAL instead of almond FLOUR, as I normally do. This may be why it didn’t bake in the recommended time, and I had to put it back for another 20 minutes. But it came out just fine. 

Making Cobbler

There are a few steps, but it’s not difficult. First, mix the dry ingredients and whisk them together:

Whisking dry ingredients together

Just like this

Then start adding in the wet ingredients:

Adding sour cream

I did this out of sequence but it came out fine. Next up: a stick of melted butter:

adding eggs

And three eggs, whisked and beaten well:

pouring eggs into the mix

Right in.

Pouring almond milk

Almond milk instead of regular dairy? Yes.

Finishing

Spraying baking pan

Don’t forget the cooking spray!

Now add the very thick batter into the baking pan:

Spreading batter into baking pan

I had to do this, it was that thick.

Now add the blackberries–sprinkle them over the top:

Sprinkling blackberries

One cup, but I wish I’d added a little more

Next, you press the blackberries into the batter a little, so that they’re still visible but “stuck” in the batter.

Berries pressed into batter

Like this.

Mix up a tablespoon of the sweetener (no stevia here) and a quarter-teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and sprinkle that over the top.

Spreading cinnamon topping

It makes a nice sweet and crunchy topping

And Bake!

At 350F degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s baked, “or until the top is golden brown.”

Blackberrycobblerbaked

Ta-dah!

You must let this cool for a good 30 minutes before cutting into 9 squares and serving.

Slice of blackberry cobbler

It is as good as it looks.

Emilie also suggests serving with fresh whipped cream, but we didn’t do that.

I did, however, let our dinner guest TT know that while he was welcome to try some, it’s keto, gluten-free, and not what he might be expecting based on the Instant Pot chocolate cake. He said that he was full, and left shortly thereafter. The Boy had also come by to work on a motor, stayed for dinner, and was going to try some but ended up forgetting. 

BF didn’t. I might make another one next week.

Oh, and if it’s cold from the fridge, warm it in the microwave. You’re welcome.

Two Things

This cobbler look longer to bake than I remember from last year’s, but there are two factors that likely affected it:

  • First, I used a pan that was 8″ by 8″, not the 9″ x 9″ suggested in the recipe. That’s what I have on hand.
  • Second, I used almond meal instead of fine almond flour made from skinned almonds. It makes a heavier and denser batter, I think, and that probably was the main reason for the longer time required.

It was still good.

Followup: The Overnight Oats Post

Last week I served BF dinner and said, “I wouldn’t feed you anything bad.” He responded, “what about quinoa? And the Awful Falafel?

Remember my post on overnight oatmeal about five years ago? I wrote this when I was living in Houston, and told BF about it on one of our nightly calls. I suggested that he try overnight oatmeal for himself. It would be perfect for a single guy living alone. Breakfast–done! Well, that’s what one thinks.

Five months after I moved here, the weather warmed up in February, and I decided to make it one night. The next morning, I went where BF was snoozing with the cat, and I asked, “Honey, would you like to try some overnight oatmeal?” Rolling over and half awake, he says, “hmmm, sure.” I gave him a bite and got a reaction I wasn’t expecting. He was then wide awake when he said:

“AAAAAHHHH!!! That’s disgusting! It tastes like cat vomit! AAAAAHHHH!!!!”

Yeah, OK, I guess you didn’t like it. Thanks for the unvarnished opinion, as always. Believe me when I tell you that I still giggle when I think about this pivotal day in our relationship history.

To Anyone Who Will Listen

BF likes to tell HIS side of the story frequently, most often to coworkers. It was at that point that he began telling AK and then everyone, “she’s tryin’ ta kill me!” I’ve been offered my own opportunity to tell the story from my side on a few occasions. However, the conflict comes down to one factor: BF never read the original blog post.

So last week, I looked it up and read it to him. Finally, he understands that overnight oatmeal is served cold and that I like it with chocolate, peanut butter, agave syrup, and a few other things. You can make it with a wide variety of ingredients, customized to your own tastes. BF is so used to the packaged “instant” stuff that he doesn’t know how to make it for himself. Why would he, when there is such a thing as “instant microwave oatmeal?” Never mind that it has 6,000 grams of sugar and a host of other chemicals that you might not want to eat. 

Well, we keep soldiering on, as two imperfect people who don’t give up on each other.

Until Next Time

Whether or not you’re doing keto, I highly recommend The Southern Keto Cookbook by Emilie Bailey. The food is good, pretty easy to make, and enjoyable whether or not you’re from the South. I want to make so many more, like the Roasted Poblano Cauliflower “Mac” & Cheese on page 78 and the Texas Taco Hash on page 168. But there is. . .well, never mind. It looks tasty, for me, anyway.

Turnip lovers may like this book for the six recipes alone, but the entire book has plenty of great recipes we’ll be enjoying for a long time. And it’s all healthy, keto-friendly, and uses ingredients that are generally easy to find, even in this part of Louisiana.

Emilie’s newest blog post was just posted today. What’s she cooking up? Keto Rice Pudding, with, no kidding, cauliflower rice. You’ll have to read it to believe it, and I need to find whatever allulose sweetener is, order it, or make it with what I have here. Dairy-free, her newest dessert uses full-fat coconut milk and almond milk. It’s just so crazy I have to try it, and BF can have his Jammie Dodgers.

Happy Dining, Y’all!

Low Carb Mexican Cauliflower Rice in a bowl
Mexican Cauliflower Rice (Keto/Low-Carb)

Cauliflower rice is a tasty dish for low-carb and keto eaters. I recently found a dish that uses it for Taco Tuesday or anytime you want something with a delicious Tex-Mex flavor. Let’s get started.

Find me on Bloglovin’

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Finally, I want to tell you about another fast dinner recipe that’s good anytime. IF you don’t have a fussy eater like BF.

R2D2 And Cauliflower Rice

In my big Instant Pot post, I mentioned the Etsy shop that makes wraps to turn your ordinary IP into something else. In our case, mine became R2D2, because BF is such a Star Wars fan. It just made sense. And, let’s face it, it’s funny. However, I neglected to post pictures of what mine looks like dressed up as a droid:

IP with R2D2 wrap

Isn’t it cute?

I just happened to look on Etsy and found it. Becky has a wide range of them.

Left side of IP with R2D2 wrap

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

I haven’t tried any cauliflower rice recipes in the IP yet, but Corrie Cooks has a recipe for IP Spicy Cauliflower Rice. I’ll try that soon, even if just to use the machine for something that night.

Oh, and that little spot to the left of the IP? That’s a little burn mark. I’ll take care of it soon. My many-year-old coffee grinder blew last night.

POW!

I plugged it into the wall socket and heard a loud POP and a bright flash of light. Scared the bejeezus out of me.  BF was in the living room and saw the flash.  I showed it to him, and he said, “well, you got your money’s worth out of it.”  We looked at the underside and saw that the copper wires were exposed, and I suppose touched when I plugged it in. Into the trash can it went.

If I remember correctly, I bought it while I was working at Boeing so that had to be prior to 2012. So it’s time for another one.

Cauliflower: The “New” Vegetable

So, again, I read many blogs, both on social media and in email. One that I discovered a few years ago and only recently rediscovered was Carolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About Food. Her blogs are all about low-carb, keto, and gluten-free foods.

This delicious one-skillet dish popped up on Facebook or Instagram one day, with a graphic that said it was “keto.” Seeing as we were getting onto Taco Tuesday, I thought we could do this instead. So, without telling BF what I was doing, I set out to make it for us.

What Is Cauliflower Rice?

Now, cauliflower rice is this new thing that keto and low-carb folks do to eat something that looks like rice, and when properly cooked, acts like it. However, it’s infinitely lower in carbohydrates and takes on the flavors that you add to it. Suddenly, cauliflower is “having a moment,” and it’s the “newest” vegetable on the foodie scene.

I’ve found these recipes in a search on The Pioneer Woman’s website:

Of course, you could search for recipes anywhere, like Pinterest, or any blog you like. Flip a coin in any direction, you’ll likely land on a recipe for it that’s different than mine and everyone else’s.

You can buy all sorts of cauliflower-based things now, including my favorite, Caulipower Pizza. The company has added a range of new and healthier foods, including riced cauliflower, sweet potato toasts, tortillas, chicken tenders, and pastas.

Basic Cauliflower Rice

I’ve made the cauli-rice a few times, and honestly, I could eat it every day the way people around here eat white rice. If you have a food processor, you wash and cut a whole cauliflower head into florets, and grind it up until it looks like grains of rice. From here you can do a number of things with it, like the recipe I’ll describe shortly. Or, if you don’t want to mess with it, you can buy it already ground into bits:

Bagged Cauliflower Rice

You don’t have to do it yourself–it’s available ready to cook.

I can’t believe we can buy this here. I’m very glad our local Winn-Dixie carries it. I haven’t looked for it in either Walmart or Rouse’s yet. What you get is perfectly chopped cauliflower:

Open bag of cauliflower rice

You might think it’s white rice, but it isn’t.

It’s still raw cauliflower, of course, but it cooks quickly.

Holding a little cauliflower rice

See?

Cooking Cauli-Rice

To make cauli-rice as a side dish for nearly anything, it’s really simple:

Ingredients for cauli rice

The setup

Heat your pan on medium-high, then add in the oil and butter:

oil and butter heating in pan

Melt the butter in the oil like so.

When it’s melted completely, add in the cauliflower rice:

Pouring cauli rice into skillet

Here we go.

Stir it around and add in some salt and pepper:

Grinding pepper into caulirice

Grind it fresh or from a jar.

As always, use a light touch on salt. You can always add more if it’s not salty enough. Keep stirring for five to seven minutes:

Stir frying cauli rice

Cook it until the cauliflower is just softened:

Cooking cauli-rice

It doesn’t take long

And enjoy it with all manner of keto or low-carb dishes, or pretty much anything you like–even if it’s not keto. I served this with the Instant Pot pot roast I blogged about last week.

Cooking it like this takes out the “chalky” taste that BF doesn’t like–as well as Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, no kidding.

Low-Carb Mexican Cauliflower Rice In A Skillet

This dish was almost as easy as making regular cauliflower rice.

MexicanCauliRiceIngredients

The setup

So I got all the ingredients together and got started. This is one of those times I wish I hadn’t told BF what was in it until later. He doesn’t appreciate it when I buy grass-fed beef or anything organic.

One packet of organic ground beef

I get it when I can.

I did just a little prep work to make the cooking process easier, as I always try to do:

Cut veg and measured ingredients

It’s worth the trouble

Since it’s Taco Tuesday, there is the appropriate cheese:

Mexican cheese blend

This is easy, but you could use plain cheddar too.

The Process

Start browning your ground beef:

Ground beef browning in cast iron skillet

Just like you would if you were making tacos

Drop in the chopped onion and bell pepper:

Adding  pepper and onions into the pan

Now cook for a few minutes until they soften and the meat is no longer pink.

Cooking veg in ground beef

Add in the taco seasoning:

Adding taco seasoning

If you like the packet stuff, go for it. You can also use any kind of taco seasoning you like, or mix one up.

Step Two

Now add your chopped tomatoes:

Adding tomatoes into pot

And the cauliflower rice:

Adding cauliflower rice to skillet

Stir a little, then add the half-cup of chicken broth:

Pouring broth into skillet

Now reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it cook until the cauli-rice is done. This should take about eight minutes if it’s raw, and ten minutes if it’s frozen, according to Carolyn.

Cheese!

Now take that cheese and sprinkle it on:

Hand sprinkling cheese into pot

Almost there

You should have enough to cover the top:

Top layer of cheese in cast iron  skillet

Now put a lid on it until the cheese melts:

Lid on pot

And dinner is served!

Pan of Mexican Cauliflower Rice

Meat. Cheese. Taco seasoning. Cauliflower Rice. Any questions?

You can serve it with your favorite toppings like avocado and sour cream. If you have others not eating keto, tortillas, tortilla chips, or other non-keto things will be great too. Or, you can have it just like this.

Low Carb Mexican Cauliflower Rice in a bowl

Dinnertime!

Not the neatest picture ever, but it was delish. I don’t care what BF says.

New rule of thumb: do NOT tell BF what’s in it until he tries it!

If you’re interested, Carolyn Ketchum also has some additional recipes for cauliflower rice on her website. You can read more about Carolyn on her About page.

New Taco Tuesday Options!

Sure, tacos are delicious, but you don’t have to eat them every single week. It’s always nice to have another recipe that has the Tex-Mex flavors as another dinner option.

Since you’ll make it in one pan, dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes, so it’s great for a weeknight or a fast dinner on a weekend. And it’s healthy, too.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Muslin bag of Texas Tamale company
Texas Tamales At La Casa

If you’ve left Texas, or even if you haven’t, you know how important tamales are. But they can be laborious and time-consuming to create at home. The solution? Texas Tamales!

Follow me on BlogLovin’

Hello again, Dear Readers:

Spring is finally here, at least, according to the calendar. And that means all kinds of wonderful things, like asparagus, bike riding, and Daylight Savings Time. If you’re not in a part of the US that’s snowed under right now.

It’s still kind of cool-ish here, too cool for planting tomatoes and things, so I guess I’ll be the lazy gardener again and be late. We probably won’t have any tomatoes in odd spots this year, but ironically, the ones that grew best were around the septic tank. We got a number of little “racks” of tomatoes there, and I’ve got the seeds to try and plant more. Since avocados have been relatively cheap for a while at Winn-Dixie, I’ve been eating them and saving the seeds. Those golf-ball sized pits have taken over the kitchen window, and BF is asking, “is this your latest science experiment?”

Lots to tell, let’s get started.

Finally, Allergy Relief

Ok, so, last year I did what has long been told to me, I got what I thought was “local raw honey” to help with allergies. Honey from your area works similar to an allergy shot–it de-sensitizes your immunoglobulins to the pollen and allergens in the area. (An allergy shot actually tamps down on the histamine response, but doesn’t de-sensitize.) Well, I went back to the same place I went last year, and bought some more of the same honey, which didn’t work. (The place is subject to an upcoming blog post.) Well, I was explaining to the clerk (around sniffling and sneezing) that I needed it for allergies.

It didn’t work last year, but everyone told me it would! Well, I was going through two or three kinds of OTC allergy meds last weekend, and it made me downright grouchy (and swearing at BF again.) I explained this to the clerk, a nice older lady, who said, “where do you live?” I told her. She asked, “then why are you buying honey from Ponchatoula?” Cause it’s local! Well, it’s not local enough, she said, and the honey right next to it came from–surprise–my neck of the woods, and it was a dollar less. (It was also a smaller bottle.) Honey and money was exchanged, and now I have truly “local” honey.

Elderberry Syrup

She also told me about some locally made elderberry syrup that people were buying for not only allergies, but flu. Three local schools have been closed because of flu outbreaks, and people are buying this elderberry syrup along with the honey.

Bottle of Andi Lynn's Elderberry Syrup, 16 ounce bottle.

This magic concoction is thick and really sweet.

I bought a bottle of that as well, at $21.99 for a 16-ounce size. It’s tasty, too. I’ve never heard of Andi Lynn’s, but they’re in the Baton Rouge neighborhood of Walker. I’m glad to know about it, and they also have some homeopathic allergy drops, which may or may not be in the place I bought the syrup. Next time.

On top of that, one of my Buddhist friends gave me an essential oil mixture to try, and I’ve been rolling that on at night.

Educating BF

He loves me. But sometimes he doesn’t understand. I explain.

BF asked, “what’s the deal with the local raw honey?” (He doesn’t have this problem, because this is his “native area.” Not mine.) It’s like this: the bees from your area are sucking on the flowers that are around you. When you ingest their honey, you ingest some of that pollen to de-sensitize yourself from those allergens. But if you’re using local raw honey from Ponchatoula–or Texas–you get the stuff from those bees, and they’re sucking on the flowers over there. That’s not going to help you if you’re not in Ponchatoula, or Texas. (I still have a half-bottle I bought from a vendor at the Nassau Bay Farmer’s Market.) By getting the honey and pollen from the bees sucking on local flowers from the area in which you live, you get the local “neighborhood” pollen to help alleviate your allergies to the same pollen. Make sense?

I can’t say what’s exactly working, but I’m a LOT better! Still a bit of sniffling and sneezing, but not like it was. Finally, I got the right stuff.

Coffee To Go

Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective has found a new way to make your coffee when you’re walking out the door: The Barista Cup. No kidding, the darn thing makes your coffee start to finish in a specially designed cup. Just chuck everything–grounds, sugar, milk, etc., into the cup, then pour hot water into it, and off you go. At $25, they’d better be worth it!

I don’t have one myself, yet, but of course, because Nick says it “works as advertised,” I’m extremely interested in getting one. After all, Nick’s the one who originally taught me to make iced coffee.  (Note: these aren’t available on Amazon, only on the company’s website.) And Nick considers himself a coffee expert, and writes about it as a side thing to his web copywriting business.

The Barista Cup company has an office in the UK and in Winter Springs, FL, so they’re multinational, and working on saving the planet, one cup at a time.

Princess Coffee Maker

Here’s a coffee maker for young girls who want to be like Mom and Dad:

Pink Prnincess Coffee Maker toy for girls

Don’t you just WANT one?

It’s a toy, and it doesn’t actually make real coffee, but it does make the gurgling sounds of a certain type of coffee maker. I halfway considered buying it to annoy BF.

Winn-Dixie Listens

Speaking of coffee, our local Winn-Dixie finally has some new baskets with coffee holders on them:

Winn Dixie Grocery Baskets With Coffee Holders

FINALLY!!

Yes, more than two years after I asked, PLEASE, our little corner of the world got baskets with coffee holders. Just one, because after all, you only need one, right?

HEB baskets have two as well, but some of the smaller baskets at Winn-Dixie only have one. Even with BF, I’m the only one drinking coffee anyway.

View of multiple grocery baskets with coffee holders

Another view of the basket type

They still have the full-size baskets without them, and everyone uses those. These are smaller, kind of like the ones we saw back in the 70’s with a shallow basket area. So now when I visit Winn-Dixie, I can get my coffee at the nearby PJ’s first and head on in to grocery shop. Our store doesn’t have as many of these, and it seems like I’m the only one who knows what they’re for, so there’s always one available for me. Thanks, Winn-Dixie!

The Magic Tamales

You know how one day, you just want something? Over the holidays, it was tamales. And I didn’t take pictures.

Now, for those of you not of Hispanic or Texas descent, you might not know that tamales are a bit of work. So much so that many Hispanic families make the tamales only at Christmas time. Other times, they rely on buying them, or finding a good “tamale lady” or abuela (grandma) who makes them for sale all year long. Because, let’s face it, when done correctly, tamales are delicious.

In Robb Walsh’s The Tex Mex Cookbook, there is a picture of President Gerald Ford on the campaign trail in Texas eating a tamale. He was at The Alamo in 1976.  Unfortunately, none of his aides (or any locals) told him that you take them out of the corn husks first. They’re steamed in the corn husks, which are like a really tough paper, and you take them out to eat them.

The most awesome Stephanie O’Dea sent out an email one day with her recipes for tamales in the CrockPot. With a name like O’Dea, she’s probably about as Hispanic as the Irishman from El Paso. Intrigued, I informed BF that we would be having tamales for Christmas dinner, (it was just us two) and that was it. Well, and whatever else we wanted.

Finding Masa Harina

I set out to find the ingredients that were staples in every grocery store I ever went into in Houston. After paying $6 in Whole Foods for a bag of masa harina that I discovered in the local WD for $3 or so, my district leader OR told me that Walmart has an entire section of Hispanic goods. Well, what do you know, they had everything, and I grabbed the corn husks before anyone else did.

I also had a nice conversation with two young men who were driving from Mandeville to Brownsville, TX. I told them next time they went into HEB, to think about me.

Obviously, I wasn’t about to use hydrogenated anything, but I did have an unopened jar of Epic Pork Fat in the pantry. It came with me from Houston when I went to the closing of the Webster Fresh Market. Fortunately, it’s readily available at Whole Foods. I think Rouse’s has it, too, and I have since bought a fresh jar that’s in the pantry.

Chicken Christmas Tamales

I had a few pieces of chicken that I roasted and cut up small, and followed Stephanie’s directions to the letter, otherwise. Well, I pulled out my stand mixer and mixed the masa until I was sick of hearing the motor run. Little bits were flying out of the mixer if I ran it too high (next time, maybe half?) Guess I need a pouring shield for it. Balls of masa never floated, and I finally gave up and used it as is.

I made the components in the days before Christmas, and BF sat down and helped me put them together. It didn’t take too long, and we only had about two dozen, but that was OK.

I forget what else I made with it, but BF and I were perfectly happy with what came out:

Chicken Tamales steaming in a 6-quart Crockpot

Just like Stephanie’s, the tamales steamed nicely in the Crockpot

Verdict: the tamales were good, but a bit bland, and Stephanie admits that. It was the first time I made them. We had some of the filling and masa left, which went directly into freezer bags and into the big freezer. I have permission to jazz them up if I ever make them again. Chorizo, maybe?

Christmas Chocolate Raspberry Dessert

Oh, wait, that’s right–we also enjoyed a delicious raspberry chocolate cheesecake from one of the Wheat Belly books for dessert:

Raspberry chocolate cheesecake from Wheat Belly

Doesn’t it look wonderful?

I subbed out the stevia extract with erythritol, but next time I’m going to get some stevia extract and start using it. BF liked it–it’s quite rich–but it wasn’t quite sweet enough. Low carb, much dairy, no wheat/gluten/flour. I’m done with yeast-free for a while.

Tamales In Target

My regular Buddhist activities are at least an hour’s drive away. I commonly go to the Mandeville area, which is still on this side of Lake Ponchartrain, and 90 minutes from New Orleans. That’s OK, and I get to go to Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, or wherever else I want to go that we don’t have nearby. Additionally, if I shop right after the meeting, I’m not too tired like I am when I make it to Hammond. So I frequent the Target in Covington, since it’s on the way home, and there’s a Cost Plus World Market next door and a Starbucks in that Target.

I’m walking around with my list on my phone, and I pass by the frozen foods section. Normally I don’t pay any mind to what’s in there, unless I’m looking for frozen veg or fruit. But this particular evening, I happened to look to my right and saw this in the freezer case:

Muslin bag of Texas Tamale company

This little muslin bag holds some of the most delicious food available.

AAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

Texas Tamale Bag Bag with ingredients and company contact information

OMG!! THEY’RE MADE IN HOUSTON!!!

Not knowing what to expect, I bought a bag of the Beef Tamales. There are also pork, chicken and black bean available at Target.

How did I miss these all this time?

Text To BF

After examining these closely, I sent a text to BF telling him that dinner the next night was covered, and it was a surprise. He doesn’t like when I tell him that, but he’s patient and will try something once, so he says.

I brought them home and told him ALL about the tamales. He gave me the usual, “sure, Honey, I’ll try anything you make” comment with a pensive (read: slightly scared) look on his face.

For $6.99, you get a pack of one dozen perfectly rolled tamales packed in corn husks, which is traditional. They’re sealed in a square food-grade plastic package and then bagged in the little muslin bag. (I’m keeping those because I know they’ll be useful somewhere!) The instructions say to steam them in a steamer, preferably standing with the cut edges up. Well, I have this old pot with a strainer insert, and it works pretty well:

Steaming tamales in a strainer pot

Just like this, and they cook perfectly

If we decide the night before that tomorrow is “tamale night,” then I’ll take them out of the freezer and leave them in the fridge for the next day where they thaw a bit. You can also cook them right out of the freezer.

The directions say it takes 20 minutes, but if I cook them from frozen, I’ll give it 25 minutes. They’re a bit tricky to remove from the pot, because now they’re soft, and the only thing holding them together is the corn husks. I personally don’t care if they come out imperfect, because I’m going to be loading them onto a plate for eating. But BF isn’t used to real tamales, so I try to make sure his look “perfect.”

Tamales

Dinner. Done.

Verdict: absolutely delicious, the way a tamale should be.

I didn’t take many pictures because we were too busy stuffing our faces with them. Yes, we found a winner for me AND for BF.

They’re Around, Just Look

Since then, I’ve discovered that Rouse’s sells them for about $8.50 a pack, and another place sells them for $10 a pack. So when I know I’m going to Covington, and I have enough money, I buy a few packs for the freezer since they’re priced better at Target. However, I’m glad to know that I can get them in Hammond if I can’t get to Covington. Our big freezer has a stock of them now, and a tasty tamale dinner is just 20 minutes away.

The chicken, we found, was a bit too spicy for us, but the beef and pork are spicy enough without being overbearing. We haven’t tried the black bean type, because BF doesn’t want to. I eat six, he eats four and saves the other two for later. Or we eat four and split the other two later. Or he leaves the rest for me, because I bought them and I’m in love with them. They’re that good.

Texas Tamale Company

Look, when you live in Texas, tamales are everywhere, right? Just like kolaches, chips & salsa, and big bags of masa harina and corn husks. Hatch chiles in nearly anything. It’s like the furniture, Texas flags and the Texas star decor–it’s always there.

Move out of Texas, and you suddenly miss everything. Longtime readers know that I’ve missed everything Texas since the day I got here, and we *still* haven’t made a trip back to visit for a handful of reasons (mostly time and money, we always  have one but not the other.) I still want to go, of course, and visit, (not to mention shop) but I can at least have real Texas tamales whenever I want them.

The Texas Tamale Company is on the west side of Houston, and has been in business for many years making “gourmet” tamales. Well, after 30 years, they’ve become quite the company. You can find these magic morsels nationwide. They even have Hatch Chile Tamales, although they’re not available here, yet. (That’s my next “ask for” project.) You can read their story here.

More Texas Tamales

HEB has its own brand of tamales with some interesting flavors, including Asiago cheese. I’ll try to get some of their interesting flavors whenever I get to shop there again.

Understand that I’d have no problem driving to the Clear Lake Blvd HEB and buying my regular groceries. Even if it’s a ten-hour round trip. Easier said than done, of course. BF would probably not like me to do that, either, but I can be tempted.

If you can’t find them locally, you can order them online. I haven’t tried ordering them yet, but I’m probably going to do that one of these days if I can’t get Rouse’s to carry the Hatch chile type.

Local Tamales

You know how if you think of a certain type of car, suddenly you see them anywhere? (Concentrate on a red Land Rover, or a blue Hyundai Sonata, and you’ll see what I mean.) Well, someone in Louisiana came up with the idea of. . .crawfish tamales:

Pack of Crawfish tamales

Crawfish tamales? Heresy!

Personally, I think it’s wrong, but they could be pretty good. They’re also twice the cost of Texas Tamales (at Target), but we might try them one day. I know, shop local and all that. Subject of an upcoming blog post, honest.

Things have changed a bit now that we’ve discovered a little taste of Texas. When we decide break open a pack of these Lone Star State wonders for dinner, I walk around singing, “Ta-MA-LES!” to the tune of Dean Martin’s Volare. I haven’t re-written the words, I just sing that part of it.

So are you ready for some delicious Tex-Mex in your life in 20 minutes?  Whichever tamales you choose, just remember to unwrap them from the corn husks first.

Enjoy!

 

 

Skip to toolbar