What do you do when you want a coffee but don’t know where to go? Ask someone. I found a new coffee spot I like, French Truck Coffee. It’s a two-block walk from the SGI-USA Community Center, although there are multiple locations. Boy, I’m glad I asked!
Hello, Again, Dear Readers:
Here’s another post about coffee–good coffee. If you’re like BF and don’t drink it, well, pass it along to someone who does. Especially if they’re heading to New Orleans anytime soon.
Y’all, last week I’d had about enough of it. I told BF I would no longer cook for him, and so far, I haven’t. I made the Citrus Spice Chicken recipe I covered a few years ago, but I shouldn’t have bothered. BF didn’t like it–said it tasted “sour.”
Oh, and to make matters worse, he also wouldn’t try cauliflower rice I’d made with it. I blitzed up a whole, organic cauliflower in a food processor, and cooked it in a big cast iron skillet with butter, olive oil and the Paula Deen House Seasoning I make and keep around–delicious. Nope–wouldn’t touch it, even after telling me, “I’ll try anything you make.” I reminded him of this, and he was undeterred.
He barely ate the Knorr “four cheese risotto” from a package that isn’t a real risotto, because it doesn’t have arborio rice. (I’ve made risotto before.) I called it “cheesy rice,” and the dogs ate most of it.
After that incident, I haven’t cooked anything for him since. Nada. Nuffin’. He ate a bowl of cereal last night, and has cooked food once. Last time he made “red beans and rice,” with red beans from cans, I took a taste and was unimpressed. (I will eat it occasionally, just to be nice, and he puts sausage in it.) When he wasn’t looking, I grabbed that bottle of Tabasco Sriracha Sauce from the pantry, opened it, and went once around the pot. Mixed it in really well. It was about a tablespoon, I think, in that big pot. Now THAT tasted good!
I know, I know. . .but I’m on strike for a while, darnit.
Coffee In The Crescent City
One of the many things I always told people in Houston is that if they were going to New Orleans, don’t go to Starbucks for a coffee if you can help it. Find a local coffee chain–any one will do–and go there. Much as I’m a fan of Starbucks, local chains like PJ’s Coffee and CC’s Coffee (Community Coffee’s retail chain) are even better. (I also discovered that there is a PJ’s in the Conroe Medical Center, north of Houston. That was a surprise.)
Another place is Orleans Coffee, where I’ve ordered delicious flavored decaf coffee from many times while I lived in Texas. (Because decaf chocolate raspberry is hard to find.) They used to have a little cafe in the Quarter, but after Katrina and all that, they now have two cafes, and I don’t know where they are.
Well, I found another one, and I was able to visit again before the April activity.
When I go to New Orleans for a Buddhist activity, I leave as early as I can, at least 90 minutes before I want to be there. That way, if there’s traffic, or a diversion, I have time. Sometimes I hit Trader Joe’s for non-perishable items before the meeting, then head elsewhere after the meeting.
For the November activity, the E Man told me to do my shopping afterwards this particular Sunday, not before. The Saints were having a game, and some kind of tailgating thing, so it would be better to get there early and shop later.
I get off the freeway at the St. Charles exit, and I’m more than an hour early. Driving a little on St. Charles in a half-ton pickup is a bit of a pain (I miss my Saturn.) So I park it and ask one of the guys outside where to get a coffee. Known as “Soka Group,” they’re the guys that hang around outside and help with traffic management and getting people inside safely. Since it was looking like rain this particular day, they’re armed with umbrellas.
He looks up on his phone and tells me that there’s a shop about a two-block walk from the SGI-USA Community Center via Erato Street. I don’t quite know where I’m going, so I’m walking cautiously in my flats with my purse tightly under my arm. (It’s November, so of course, it’s warm this day in NOLA.)
But it wasn’t that far. I carefully crossed the street twice, and saw this on Magazine Street:
Neat little place. I walked in, and of course, the smell is awesome:
And I walked around and took a few pictures while I waited, because for decaf, they do a pour-over:
If you’re hungry, they’ve got you covered with croissants and things:
I did ask about the “Yankee Apple Hand Pies” in the bottom left of that picture, and asked if they had many Yankees come in. He didn’t know, and I said, “Well, we can’t get rid of the Yankees in Texas.” No comment. . . .
I waited a few minutes and had a sip of water from the big jar they put out with cups. But of course, I forgot to get a picture of that. And they also serve lunch or something:
They were busy that Sunday, and so I had a wait while I watched them go at it behind the counter. When they called my name and handed me that coffee. . .mmmmmm. . .oh, yes, definitely worth it. Freshly roasted coffee, freshly brewed.
They Have Multiple Locations
French Truck Coffee has six locations, including two on Magazine Street, with two more coming. They also sell their delicious coffees in local grocery stores like Rouse’s. What? You’re not near a Rouse’s? You can order it, too. They also have a page so you can learn to brew your coffee at home.
The company is all about freshly roasted coffee, as the founder describes here on their web page. Honestly, it’s what Starbucks wishes it could be, or maybe used to be. French Truck Coffee is smooth and delicious. I haven’t bought any in the store yet, but that may happen soon if I can find the decaf.
If you’re planning a trip to the Crescent City, find one of these. You won’t be sorry.
When I went before the April meeting. . .there was a big chicken walking around Erato Street. At 9:00 am. A CHICKEN in the middle of the street. I hope the owner found it before someone with a pot did.
On The Way Home
I lost track of The E Man, and so I tried to get into Trader Joe’s. No parking available! Well, I ended up getting everything I needed across the street at the huge Rouse’s on Veterans.
As I hopped onto I-10 West, I was just listening to my music and driving. Until I got outside of Kenner, past the airport, on my way to I-55. . .and I saw that I-10 East was backed up. WAY Up. Like, way past the I-55 exit backed up.
Anytime The E Man tells me what to avoid, I generally listen. Boy was he right. Thanks, Dude!
Other Local Coffees
I’ve also been buying this other local brand of ground coffee for everyday:
And of course, the brand that’s also available in Houston:
Both are used in the pot and in the iced coffee maker.
And on a recent morning when we found ourselves with no power, I packed up my laptop and spent most of the day working at the local PJ’s, where they had Internet. Well, they were very nice, and I drank some coffee and had a yogurt parfait.
I’ve done this on many occasions at the Hammond Starbucks, where they are also very nice. Before we had Internet, and BF was sent to another work location, I got on Google Maps and found the closest Starbucks. Most were within 2 miles of his work place. I drank fresh coffee all day, worked in a new place, and we were both happy.
Additionally, PJ’s also offers military and veterans discounts. So now BF likes PJ’s even more, and he likes some of the tasty things they have there. He still won’t try coffee, but he now sees that there is nothing bad about him going into a coffee shop. They have things even he might even enjoy!
This weekend is the “bunny holiday,” also known as Easter. Yes, I know what Easter is really all about, but popular media simply shows us bunnies and chocolate. If there is a chocolate bunny made with sugar-free chocolate, I’ll indulge, but I’m sure my chocolate will be the regular sugar-free stuff. We may go visit BF’s father, maybe not.
The Goddess of the Slow Cooker, Stephanie O’Dea, sent out an email last week offering Easter recipes for the slow cooker. And why not?
For all you Texans, know that HEB will be closed. . .but I think Kroger may be open.
Whatever you do, have a great holiday weekend.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Yes, I know. . .we’re all sick of it. Tomorrow, it’s over. Got to be the worst ever. Yes, I early-voted. And that’s all I’ll say about that.
Many of you have probably noticed the inclusion of adverts on HeatCageKitchen in recent weeks. This is no accident. I read an article about how to simply do this, and, while I’ve got the widget set up and the desired ads in place. . .I’m not really good with the placement. So I’ve been fiddling with it and hoping it all comes out somewhat more aesthetically pleasing.
I can’t say that it’s necessarily worked. But the ads are there. I signed up for a number of additional affiliate programs, including Suzanne Somers’ website, but I don’t have the ads placed yet. I’ll get on that soon. And for some reason, I can’t see all the ads when I look at the site on the Mozilla browser, but they all show up on Google Chrome and Safari. Go figure.
There is a disclaimer on my About page that I do participate in affiliate programs. For the Amazon ads, I specified kitchen-y things for my site; if you click on the link and end up buying something, i think I’m supposed to get something out of it. I haven’t received any checks in the mail yet, but that’s OK. I probably need to get back into Google AdWords and mess with it a little more. I hope none of the ads are anything bad. . .this is a polite food blog, after all. I am primarily focused on kitchen stuff, foodie things and an affiliate link from my site host. But if you see something truly offensive, do take a screenshot and let me know about it.
Okay, let’s talk food.
Do you like potatoes? Do you hate the fact that if you don’t dunk them in water or use them fast enough after you cut them, they turn brown? Well, now you can rejoice. . .the FDA is approving potatoes that don’t turn brown. That’s right, two companies have received permission to create, market and sell genetically modified (GMO) non-browning potatoes. The idea is to keep more potatoes in the food supply, and reduce the number that are rejected for foodstuffs like potato chips. Or, more accurately, as one of the commenters stated, “So the chance of eating old or rotten potatoes is much better than it used to be for consumers.” Hit the nail on the head, she did. If you’ve read Wheat Belly, you know that your first clue is the term “genetically modified.” (Second would be “GMO.”) Nothing good comes out of this GMO business, despite what they say about it–allergies, mysterious illnesses, etc. Of course, you may not be told you’re buying anything GMO, but it’s there. BF recently bought a bag of potato chips that stated on the label that it was partially produced with GMO ingredients. Do you think he noticed it? Of course not–he can’t read print that tiny, nor would he pay attention to it. But I saw it and mentioned it. He only said that they taste good. One of these days he’s going to come home from the doctor and give me a list of things he’ll need meds for. Then, like Dr. Hotze says, he’ll be on a pot full of drugs. . .but of course, I’ll be intervening long before then.
Anyway. . . .
Last month, the local library hosted. . .a jazz concert. No kidding, the Reggie Sanders Trio came out and played for a couple of hours:
This is a small terrace upstairs, and on a normal day, it just has tables and chairs. But this particular day saw these folks play some nice music. The host, Mr. Sanders, gave us a bit of history about jazz and the area, too. We’d had a cool front, it was a beautiful day with dry weather and a nice breeze up there. BF had to work, which was a good thing, because he preferred to be at work than at a jazz concert.
But all I could think of was that as bad as everything was, and how life kind of crashed around me, I landed in a place with a small but fabulous library that hosts a jazz concert for me. (Well, other people came too.)
Now, it wasn’t just a concert–there were munchies as well, as well as some delicious iced coffee courtesy of the nice folks at Community Coffee, who also provide the free coffee available in the mornings:
I prefer the Mocha; the French Vanilla is a little too sweet for me. But I didn’t over-do it, and I stuck with the fruit, cheese and salami nibbles and left alone the mini-muffins.
Bad as it all is, I got to do this. So I give many thanks for that, as well as the opportunity to attend, and the BF who says, “sure, go ahead, just pick me up after work at. . . .”
After what I saw this past weekend with the area’s “community traffic congestion,” I’m definitely sticking to my low-carb/Paleo/gluten-free eating plan! I would rather just not eat than have something with wheat, soy or other stuff I know I need to avoid. The city had a “yard sale” that went for 15 miles on a two-lane highway, primarily residential. It’s apparently annual, but I only found out Wednesday night. I sold a few small things, BF made $100 for something he built, but we were required to get up before the chickens and be at his brother’s property for 6:00 am. (I still want to buy new dishes, darnit.) People were already lurking about when we were setting up and trying to thaw our feet from the early morning chill. BF had three handmade pallet items for sale, but only sold one, despite my best marketing. I called them “sustainable,” “recycled,” and “handmade by a local artisan,” but we only sold one. It didn’t help when I mentioned to the female shoppers that he was handsome, because, well, they’re all out looking for baby clothes. One lady said to me, “it must have been made by your husband or your brother.” I replied, “my boyfriend, and please don’t let him hear you say that.” Well, we’ll use them on the patio, and the pit bull has a place to hang out. Maybe I’ll find a nice belt sander and apply it so we can stain them later.
As the sun came out, we saw people with less and less clothes–shorts, t-shirts, etc., until finally I could take my jackets off and switch to a baseball cap. Of course, other folks did too–and many of them should *not* have been wearing shorts, if you get my drift. BF made a comment about it, and I said, “now do you understand why I eat the way I do?” I passed on the “honey bun” kindly offered to me at 5:45 am, and not because I wanted to be rude. I have extra weight I’m working on shifting, and I’ve lost about 10 pounds so far, but. . .good heavens, I look borderline anorexic here. Lots of women smoke, too. When I told The E-Man yesterday about one particularly impolite woman who smoked half a dozen while she was on the property, he said, “ask if she’s working on her smoking-hot body.” BOOM! That’s The E-Man.
Well, anyway. . . .
During this local community traffic jam, I had to go right through it to bring BF to work, and return to his brother’s place. We made it, and had a lovely early lunch at a local eatery. On the way back, I noticed vendors closer to town selling artisan jams–on the other side of the road. There was no way to get over to see what they had, darnit. Guess BF has to stick with the stuff from the grocery for a while.
Before stopped to eat, I’d decided I would stop at PJ’s Coffee for a yogurt parfait. Cool, sweet, and fruity, and just enough to hold me over until dinner. I didn’t know BF was going to do that, so I thought that I’d have it after the activity. I did, of course, after the traffic jam was over, all the stuff was picked up and everyone went home. I think we packed it in about 3:00 pm, and about 4:00 pm or so, I made it to PJ’s. There was my yogurt parfait, but on the counter was something I’d never seen before. Oh, can it be? Yes, it is:
Haydel’s Bakery, renowned for their king cakes, has picked up the banner where Hubig’s left off four years ago. A box containing a couple dozen of these, in four flavors, was prominently perched on the counter by the register. I asked if they were new; the barista said that they’d just arrived the day before (Friday.) They’re priced at $3 in PJ’s. I paid for my yogurt and sat down to consume the cool, sweet refreshment, and texted BF.
“If I told you I was going to buy a pie, would you prefer Chocolate, Lemon, Cherry or Apple?”
BF responded: “Chocolate.”
So I bought a chocolate hand pie, and had them put it in that fancy PJ’s bag and took it home, leaving it by his chair. When I picked him up, I told him I had a little present for him, but didn’t elaborate. He was very tired, more than I was, but he tore open the wrapper and bit in. Thumbs up from BF, so it’s got to be pretty good. He wasn’t aware of Haydel’s venture into the hand pie. And, he deserves a nice dessert in a fancy coffee shop bag sometimes, too.
Note that I didn’t touch it myself, other than to purchase it. Not after what I saw on Saturday at the community yard sale! No, they are *not* gluten free, and don’t hold your breath on that one. New Orleans doesn’t seem to care about gluten free anything, but maybe I haven’t looked far enough.
Apparently, Haydel’s Bakery started selling them back in September to customers happy to have them. The first day, they sold out. There are currently only 4 flavors, with seasonal Sweet Potato Pie being sold only at the bakery (source: Haydel’s Facebook page.) I had no idea, but, I’m a gluten-free Texan–I only pass along this info, and I’m not touching them.
The pies are slightly different than the original Hubig’s–Haydel’s bakes their pies instead of frying them. And Haydel’s has made them for many years. But according to news reports, baking the pies is not stopping anyone from enjoying them every day. And finally, north of the lake, folks can enjoy them too.
Oddly, these pies are *not* mentioned on Haydel’s website, and their blog consists primarily of wedding related topics (it hasn’t been updated in a while, either.). So if you’re of a mind to try them outside of the greater New Orleans area, you’ll probably have to call them directly. They’re not open today, so my “news gathering” came primarily from. . .news websites.
For the record, I have attempted to contact Hubig’s folks by the usual outlets, but have never heard from anyone. It’s been 4 years, and as much as fans want them, the market share may be lost forever as more bakeries step up to re-create the Hubig’s treat.
Sunday saw me drive back to New Orleans for a monthly activity at the SGI-USA Community Center. I felt better this time; I guess it was just too soon last time. I also took a freshly made flask of my favorite Pea & Pesto Soup with me for later, and had plans to stop at either Whole Foods or Fresh Market for dinner something. Knowing that BF was really tired, I did morning prayers at home, in case I ended up being late. When it was obvious I would be, I was covered. I called The E Man and told him that I was coming but not on time. (Next time, I leave at 8:00 am instead of 8:30.) He said, “I’ll take you to lunch. . .” and that’s all I heard. Lot of noise going on behind him, so I didn’t get everything he said.
After the meeting, there was mingling and chatting and I was talking to people I haven’t seen in many years. At the first meeting I went to at PB and NM’s place last month, I met a lady who talked about someone else whose name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place the face. I mean, it’s been 18 years. . .but yesterday, there I was, talking with the lady, JL, like it was yesterday. Turns out JL and her partner have six cats, and live. . .within a 15 minute drive of BF’s house. Woo hoo! So I’m feeling just a little bit better about it. I always say BF makes it easier, and now I find out JL is also nearby, and she invited me to go chant with them, despite their flooded house that they are working on fixing. Awesome. Might not be a bad idea on a night when BF works late. Now I’m wondering what I can make to bring, and if I have enough scrap fabrics to create something nice for these two ladies. (I had to leave a couple of bags of scrap fabric behind when I left Houston, so I may not.)
There was also a big cake after the meeting, along with some cookies, and fruit. NM gave me fruit and told me to take it home for my altar, which I did, after eating a couple of them. Tomorrow, I plan on putting them into the slow cooker for some dessert. If it turns out good, I’ll tell you more. But I definitely passed on the cake and cookies, much to the amusement of NM, who couldn’t stop licking the icing off the cake board with her fingers when the cake was gone. (I sang to her, “DI-AH-BETES!”) Honest, it was not at all a temptation after seeing lots of very large women walking around on Saturday. (I told BF it should be called “Obesity, LA.,” but I’m sure that name would go to several more cities.)
I took The E Man into the back room and. . .told him to find a cup or something. He found two small cups, and I shared my Pea & Pesto Soup with him, just to see if he’d like it. Know what? He liked it! The E Man has a wider palate than BF, or maybe he’s just a little more open-minded, I dunno. I told BF’s brother about the magic green soup, and he responded with a huge grin and said, “Oh, well–Yeah, he’s a simple guy, just meat and potatoes.” More soup for me!
Eventually, the crowd thinned, and I hopped in E Man’s car and we went to a longtime New Orleans institution–Mother’s Restaurant on Poydras Street in the Central Business District. Honest, I think the last time I was there was the 80’s. No kidding. Back when I was *much* younger, and a newlywed (the first time) I worked at the Lykes Building across the street, and would occasionally get (no kidding) biscuits with their exclusive ham. Delicious, but didn’t know that the biscuits weren’t the best thing to be eating. I put on a little weight, but not a lot, and a year later, moved onto a job elsewhere that I was better qualified for. (That’s not saying much, though.)
I had no idea what to order, and when we finally found the menu, I saw lots of bread–oh, dear, I’m going to be eating later. Suddenly, I saw the saving words:
Breakfast (served all day)
Then I found the “Build Your Own Omelet” and I knew I could eat safely. So, I asked for tomatoes, mushrooms and bell pepper, and roast beef, which was served on top. (Mother’s is also known for fantastic roast beef, and serves something called “debris,” using up cuttings and served in au jus gravy.) Because of the rushed atmosphere, I am not aware that this breakfast plate is accompanied by a small bucket-load of cooked grits and a biscuit the size of a hubcap. Clueless, I asked why these were served to me when I didn’t order them. “Oh, it comes with the omelet plate.” This was in no way obvious. But later, our nice server came by with a couple of take-out containers, and E Man took home the hubcap-sized biscuit and grits for breakfast, along with half of his fried seafood po-boy sandwich for Monday lunch. (I wondered how he was going to down that whole sandwich.)
When we were ordering, we were also asked what we’d like to drink. E Man ordered root beer, I ordered water and asked for a couple of slices of lime from the bucket of lime slices behind the counter. I didn’t think it was an unusual request; I never had a problem in Houston getting limes. But in NOLA, limes are uncommon except maybe in Mexican-style places. Mother’s is a place where tourists abound–why would it be out of order to ask for limes, especially if they’re available? You would have thought I’d asked for crystal meth. The stare I received from the woman serving the water told me I shouldn’t have asked, and after five minutes of waiting, she begrudgingly put a single lime slice in a cup and banged it on the counter at me.
That, Dear Readers, is real New Orleans. I had a similar experience with the Dunkin’ Donuts on Florida Avenue in Baton Rouge week before last, looking for my birthday drink, receiving a curt response: “we don’t do decaf here.” (I’ve already contacted DD about it.) On both occasions, I told E Man and BF, “that’s your ‘Louisiana Strong.'”And it’s why Louisiana will never be as good as Texas. On a basic level, it never really changes. Texas people get it. Louisiana really doesn’t. What a shame.
Yes, I mentioned it to E Man when we sat down. Much as I appreciated going to Mother’s, it was the subtle reminder that New Orleans was never the place for me, and never will be.
But, yes, if you don’t mind that sort of thing, Mother’s does serve quite good food, and always has.
After we left, I mentioned that before I headed home, I wanted to stop at one of the New Orleans grocers to get a few things for dinner. (Walmart and Winn-Dixie aren’t HEB, trust me.) Well, we went into a Rouse’s Supermarket. . .downtown. No kidding, there are enough people now living downtown New Orleans that Rouse’s opened up a location there. And I thought Phonecia Foods was forward-thinking when they opened a location in downtown Houston.
I was not expecting it to be so. . .urban, I guess. Clean lines, smaller than a “supermarket,” but with plenty of nice things stocked. We ran into one of the SGI members we saw in the morning; she was planning a roast chicken. I thought about doing that for BF, but decided to make it easier. (Maybe she thought I was cooking dinner for E Man, too.) After losing my companion a couple of times, I picked up some chicken thighs, some center-cut pork chops (going into the Crock Pot tomorrow) and some Richards’ Chicken Sausage. I really like the chicken sausage I get in Trader Joe’s, so I figured this would be at least as good. (I mean, there was a $1 off coupon on them.) Just because it’s “Cajun” does not mean it’s hot. Same thing as anything “Texas.”
Now this is what they mean when they talk about “shopping local,” but. . .I couldn’t help but notice the Texas-made products, too. I didn’t buy those Texas beef and venison sausages, because I have bought them in HEB and know they’re delicious, but a little spicy. BF doesn’t like spicy, it upsets his stomach.
Another thing I found, but didn’t purchase, was something called Hugo Naturals. This looks like the kind of thing you find in Central Market. In fact, for a minute, I forgot I wasn’t *in* Central Market, and then E Man came back from the gents. Everything smelled so good, and I very nearly bought a bar of that lavender soap. Well, maybe next time. Their products are vegan, soy and gluten free, cruelty free (not tested on animals) and minus all the synthetic ingredients in regular toiletries. Rouse’s had soaps, bath salts and bath “bombs,” but we only have a shower stall. Lavender is great for sleeping, and I like to shower at night with lavender. (And I hope I soon find the lavender bags I had in Houston tucked under my pillows.) Whole Foods and Sprouts carries these products as well, but you can also order online.
Much as E Man reads this humble blog, he still suggested going to Cafe du Monde for beignets after lunch–yes, donuts! I thanked him, but declined–I don’t eat donuts. I did tell him I wanted to head to Dunkin Donuts on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, and he said “just follow me.” On the I-10. (They don’t like it when you call it “the freeway” here. And they only have one.) Once we got of I-10, we went this way and that through the back streets, and finally arrived.
This location of Dunkin Donuts is right next door to a Starbucks. I kid you not. We walked in between the cars in the Starbucks drive-thru to get to Dunkin Donuts. Only in New Orleans, folks. There is also a Baskin-Robbins in the building, so I had. . .a single scoop of dark chocolate in a cup–no cone, mix-ins or sprinkles (Ice cream has less sugar than yogurt with fruit on the bottom–if you don’t believe me, check the nutrition information on them.) THEN I ordered my birthday drink–large decaf Macchiato with sugar-free hazelnut flavoring. They didn’t even blink–no problem, and it was delicious all the way home.
The house is still a mess, but we’re working on it. Soon as we paint the back room, including the concrete floor (don’t ask) and then move all my stuff back there, I’ll have an office and will be able to hopefully write more and sew again. Darnit.
It’s a big week in the United States. Take it easy on the caffeine, calm your nerves, and have some comfort food. Not too much, just some, and make it your favorite, whether it’s popcorn, peanut butter, Pea & Pesto Soup, or a grilled cheese sandwich. (BF says I make the best grilled cheese. Because I do.) And, if you’re of a mind to, do as Dr. Sheridan says when he’s on the radio filling in for Dr. Hotze: pray for your country today. Yes, I do too.
Happy Friday, Dear Readers!
I hope all is well with everyone. It’s been a busy week, but I hope everyone is well and enjoying the sunshine. Remember it wasn’t too many months ago that people were freezing even down here in the south of Texas. Now that you can feel your feet again, put them in some fresh grass or warm sand while you can.
I’ve often written about Neighbor K, who literally lives right next door to me. She has a lovable pug, while I have the GER’s somewhat aloof rescue cat. K works in one direction, and when I was last working (and where I went today downtown) we literally went in opposing directions. We talk about all kinds of stuff, compare notes, and keep each other out of trouble. K has fed Jezebel the step-kitty, and she lets me walk the lovable pug.
K is more of a serious athlete than I’ve ever been. I only recently started walking and working out again because I walked into Vitamin Shoppe a month or so ago and asked for something for pain. What they gave me, Solgar No. 7, works like a charm. Now I’m trying to exercise daily, mostly with walking and strength training; I’ve also got some yoga and Pilates DVDs that I use when I feel up to it.
K runs, jumps, swims, bikes, lifts weights, beats up engineers and finds yoga kinda boring. She can lift that 25-pound pug like a sack of flour, and pretty much anything else short of her car. That’s why I have been known to ask for help with lifting and moving stuff when I know she’s home.
Mostly she eats pretty good stuff, although I did tell her about being gluten free and all that. Now and again, I know she orders pizza. . .and more than one person has heard me ask her, “Are you feedin’ my dog pizza?” (He gets little pieces of crust–but I’ve seen him try to stare K down while she’s eating pizza.)
The other day K mentioned that she’s just trying to eat clean, which is what a lot of us strive for. Me, I generally avoid wheat, soy and mostly, sugar, as well as high-carb stuff. Mind you, there are times when you eat what’s available–and occasionally, when someone is nice enough to make me a sandwich, I just say “thank you.” (But then I avoid wheat again after that.)
So today was the first time I’ve been back downtown since February, and a few things have changed since the last time I was there. The first thing I noticed is that the Seattle’s Best Coffee shops are now called Amilie’s, at least the ones I saw. The fixtures are the same, but I didn’t stop in. I thought about it, though, but didn’t have time. I made it to the building in plenty of time, and it turned out to be the same building, but not the same company, that I visited the last time.
When I got off the bus, I passed by My Fit Foods down in the tunnel, and planned to go back there for lunch after looking at what was in their fridge cases. Then I hiked it all the way over to the other side of the tunnel, taking the yellow branch to get to the sky blue branch to get to the building. (Thankfully, I didn’t see anyone I know.)
The interview went well, I thought, and it lasted for nearly 2 hours. Nice place, nice people, but we’ll see what happens.
In that part of the tunnel, near the Allen Center, is a nice little round food court area with a number of places to eat. Another one of the newly renamed Amilie’s coffee bars, a branch of the Houston Shoe Hospital also populate this round area. But where did I end up eating lunch? I saw a place I wrote about last fall: Snap Kitchen!!
Yes, they have a little storefront next to Amilie’s, and when I got out of the interview, that’s where I got a spot of lunch. We don’t have these down in my neck of the woods, but I hope one day we do. It’s awesome takeaway designed to be healthy, clean food in disposable microwave-safe containers. There are microwaves there in the store–you can heat them up there, or eat them cold, your choice (and the heating instructions are on the package.) The two young ladies working there were so nice, and of course, I FORGOT to ask their names!
If you two are reading this, I do apologize. I was a bit flustered after the interview, and, DUH, I forgot. Y’all are very nice, and it’s appreciated.
After prowling the fridge cases for a minute and talking with them, I decided on beef–specifically, Naked Beef!
No kidding that’s what it’s called. Yes, it was really tasty and filling:
Cooked sugar snap peas can be mushy, and so I prefer them fresh. However, these were not mushy, and the cauliflower had a bit of scorching to it. Delicious!
Now, if I’m going to splurge on lunch, even if it’s a healthy one, I want dessert too. Get a load of this:
Yes, you read that right: Goat. Cheese. Cheesecake.
Now, you know that when you try something new, the law of probability will tell you that there are three possible outcomes: you will love it, you will hate it, or you won’t care either way. But I had to try it, just once.
Gluten free, sugar free, egg free. So far, so good.
Ya’ll, I LOVED this cheesecake! The nuts and coconut are ground up on the bottom to form the crust. Since goat cheese has a slight tartness to it, not nearly as strong as, say, feta cheese, I had to find out for myself. The cheesecake is sweet, but not overly sweet, thanks to the agave syrup. The little red things on top are pecans, in strawberry puree, I think.
All I can tell you is that this is a great little thing to try. Rich, creamy, sweet–everything you expect cheesecake to be. I don’t know if it’s baked or not, I didn’t ask; it might be closer to the “no bake” variety. Honest, it didn’t matter when I took that first bite.
Realizing that Snap Kitchen is mostly in Houston, most folks won’t have access–but really, with anything new, splitting it with friends may be the way to go to find out whether or not you’ll like it.
But no Snap Kitchen doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try something new. Look–I have friends in Australia, one born in New Orleans like I was. They’ve been all over the world more than once visiting friends and relatives. You think they haven’t tried something new? So you find something you don’t like–make a note and try something else. You might just surprise yourself–and you will find something new to enjoy.
Now–I also mentioned to these two nice ladies working there that I’d been in Snap Kitchen before, and they knew exactly where it was. I also mentioned that I write a food blog, and try very hard to be gluten free. I told them that mostly because. . .I knew what Snap Kitchen was, and also mentioned the Epic bars, which I failed to remember earlier. I did extoll the values of the Epic bars to one of the young ladies who wasn’t sure she’d like one. A bit weird to have “meat bars,” but they really are great.
After I’d thanked them for their help and tossed out the used containers, the other lady gave me one of their gluten free brownies to try–on the condition I write about it. I didn’t ask, she offered!! (I don’t ask for stuff like that, I think it’s rude; if I’m offered a politeness, then that’s different.)
After walking nearly 3 miles this evening, I did have that delicious brownie–but it did have sugar. Of course it was good! A little different than my favorite yeast free brownies, but no less delicious. It wasn’t a big brownie like you’d get in a bakery, but they sure do pack a lot of flavor in it.
And, even before I told them I was a blogger, I was going to write about Snap Kitchen anyway–it’s one of my favorite places to grab a bite.
I texted K on the bus and told her about it, but forgot she’s never been there, and maybe she’s forgotten last year’s blog post. Heck, I forget some of them, too. So I’ve got a couple of their brochures for her for the next time she goes into town for work.
Somehow, I can’t see taking the GER into Snap Kitchen, but you know, maybe he’d like it. I don’t actually take him anyplace anymore, but if he asked, I’d probably take him. (Maybe on a leash.) But my friend LM, a college professor, drives into town to shop at Whole Foods now and again, so I wonder if I told her about Snap Kitchen. I’ll ask.
So tonight, this post is for Neighbor K and anyone else who want to “eat clean.” Here in Houston, it’s Snap Kitchen, but wherever you are, you might be able to find something similar, like MyFitFoods (we have one down here by Barnes & Noble.)
And you know what? Even if you don’t try to do the healthy food thing the way people like me and K do, I bet you’ll find something you like.
Good evening, fellow Foodies:
Yes, I know it’s Thursday, but this is the first chance I’ve had to write. This past weekend was Labor Day in the US, and boy did I labor! Laundry, carpet cleaning, dusting, shredding, taking out multiple bags of trash, tidying up–you name it, I probably did it.
The closest I got to sewing anything was returning a pattern to Hancock Fabrics that I can’t use. It’s an elegant coat, but I can’t get something called loden cloth locally, and, well, since it would be about $32.50 a yard to order it from the UK, I don’t need it that bad. The coat calls for 4½ yards, and then there is shipping from the UK (Scotland, I think.) I just don’t need a new coat that bad; it’s not like I don’t have coats, I just like making one now and again. Burda patterns are designed and made in Germany for a European market, but they are easily available here. I like them, mostly, but this one was just not going to happen. Fortunately, I kept the receipt and only looked at the instructions–that’s how I realized that it was made just for loden fabric.
Ok, back to the foodie thing.
This week, my favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, ran a story about how Greek yogurt is taking over--literally–and it’s getting on people’s nerves who like regular American-made yogurt. (Wonder how long it took them to come up with *that* clever headline. Get it? “Culture war?”) A couple of weeks ago I decided to try something new–Icelandic-style yogurt! YES!
No kidding, you can read more about it here. If I remember correctly, it was $1.89 for that cup–not cheap, but definitely a treat. No strong yogurt taste like your regular stuff, and enough raspberry to make it pink. It has cane sugar, but not as much sugar as your usual yogurt–which usually has that poisonous high-fructose corn syrup anyway.
So, how was your Sunday?
Me and my debit card, oh, we got around this weekend. See, when I go to World Peace Prayer on the first Sunday of the month, I also do some shopping if I need something, or just want something. Sometimes I come straight home–but no, this past Sunday was a shopping weekend for sure. Me and my debit card went to town, literally, in this order:
SGI-USA Houston Buddhist Center (I only needed some incense for my altar)
IKEA Houston (only for some catalogs, didn’t buy anything)
What a day!! I started out at about 9:00 am and didn’t get home until, oh, heck, 4? Maybe 5? Oh, it didn’t END there–I dropped everything and went to get someone’s mail, then to Super Target in League City, then to the post office to mail his stuff and ship two IKEA catalogs to friends in New Orleans. THEN I realized I’d forgotten to look for fresh tarragon after Trader Joe’s didn’t have it, so I was also at Kroger getting me some.
Are you understanding why I’m still tired on Thursday? Monday was all housework, all the time. But the cat appreciates the shampooed carpet. I guess.
I was going to have lunch at IKEA but it was way too crowded, so I kept going. I went looking for the subject of my next blog post, which I’ll share more about when I write it. But in my search, I went first to Snap Kitchen, and ended up eating lunch–by this time, I was really hungry. Know what? I’m going to go back sometime. Healthy food, freshly prepared, plus some healthy (sort of) snacks, and takeaway in BPA-free packaging you can put right into the microwave. No, I probably wouldn’t, but you get the idea.
Let me tell you, it was hot this past Sunday, so instead of an entree, I found myself at the cooler case, and this is what really hit the spot with a bottle of water:
Caprese salad was cool and delicious. Egg salad isn’t something I would normally go for, but both of these are soy free, and the Caprese is dairy free, too. The egg salad also had chickpeas and hummus in it. Pretty good, and both these small sizes were just enough.
Hit.The.Spot. Nailed it, in fact. And their menu is, according to the flier I took with me, 99% gluten free. You gotta like that.
Snap Kitchen has several locations in Houston and Austin, and you can see their complete menu here. With dishes like Grassfed Bison Quinoa Hash and Almond-Crusted Goat Cheese Cakes, well, gluten-free doesn’t have to mean taste-free. I’ll be back–and I hope they put one down in my ‘hood one day.
Next stop was Whole Earth Provision Company, an outdoor store which is right next to Trader Joe’s, but for some reason I failed to realize this. That’s OK–next was up the street to Sur la Table, where, yes, I purchased their coffee tamper for my aging cappuccino machine. Just to make sure it would fit, I brought the little grounds container from the machine and tried it out. Perfect, and the little machine seems to be working better since it’s got better pressure to make the espresso. Frothing is much improved, too. DUH. Maybe one of these days I’ll go find the instructions and finally READ them again.
I got the bug for something sweet.
Last week in the office we had mini-cupcakes from Houston’s Crave Cupcakes, and whilst I fell off the gluten-free wagon again, I am back on it. This is what somehow ended up right by my desk:
No, they are not gluten-free. The white ones were originally believed to be coconut, but they were more like vanilla. The pink were strawberry, with a drop of strawberry jam in the middle. Yes, they were worth it.
Nevermind how many I ended up eating before they were gone. The white ones were the best.I am going back on the Draconian Diet Drops again soon, so I’m enjoying what I can now.
I also brought four of the little cupcakes to my elderly neighbor, who greatly enjoyed them. (She doesn’t get out like she used to, so I bring the world to her anytime I can.) I made it a point to head over to Crave myself on Sunday and get me a gluten free model. I even used Google Maps to figure out the best location during my trip and a better way to get there and avoid Kirby’s incessant traffic on a busy Sunday. Yes, I did have a gluten free model:
You knew it was going to be chocolate, right? They make chocolate-on-chocolate, which is what you see here, as well as vanilla-on-chocolate. I figured if I was going off the rails, I’d do it right–gluten free chocolate on chocolate.
I would be remiss if I didn’t show you the gratuitous chocolate picture:
Yum. . .that’s my camera case to the left of this delicious thing.
One thing Crave does–see that button on the top? It says “CRAVE GLUTEN FREE.” However, the ones brought to my office last week had a logo on it, and the name of the building, which was celebrating 30 years being built. (Houston is anything for a party, you hear?) Some just had the building shape in that button, some had the name of the building. All of Crave’s cupcakes have that little button with a description on them. They also have a vegan model, although I think that “non-dairy frosting” has tofu in it; I’d have to check some other time. There are actually two Houston locations, and you can see their entire menu here.
Much as I enjoyed this tasty cupcake–and I really did–I have to say I think the gluten free model I had at Frost Bake Shoppe in The Woodlands was better. I’m not sure why, and I may be comparing apples and oranges, but for some reason, I remember that one as softer, less sweet, and the icing much softer and butterier.
Is “butterier” a word? Sure, it’s a technical term.
But I got me a gluten-free cupcake. Next trip north, I’ll be hitting up Frost Bake Shoppe again, because I remember them as the best one. (I hope I’m right.)
Now, the last stop was the Trader Joe’s next door to Whole Earth, and I did that last because I was planning to buy cold stuff. You know, meat, veg, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, I forgot the small insulated bag I have from Target, and ended up buying one from Trader Joe’s for $6.99.
In Buddhism, we call this a ‘benefit.” Because that new bag is bigger, better insulated, and no squishing of anything. They even gave me two frozen bottles of water to keep everything cold!
I don’t know how much I spent all day (and I’m not going to add it up) but at Trader Joe’s the total was $84.95. Two bottles of regular olive oil, one EVOO, two containers of baking cocoa, some of their flouride-free toothpaste, oh, you get the idea. Oh, and 8 tins of Myntz, which I keep in my purse so that I can read and ride the bus (at least until I doze off completely.) I discovered flying on planes that the minty things keep my stomach on an even keel–and since Metro buses have neither lavatories nor barf bags, these mints are the best solution. They’re $1.69 a tin at Trader Joe’s, and I’ve never seen them anywhere else, so obviously I stocked up for a while. (I like the vanilla ones in the yellow tin.)
I had a piece of London Broil I bought on sale, but didn’t know what to do with it. I looked in Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof and found a recipe for Mustard Marinated FlankSteak on page 126. It’s what I needed fresh tarragon for, and got some shallots at Trader Joe’s too. You let the meat marinate in the fridge in this mustard/olive oil/shallot mixture overnight, and OMG–it is SOOO GOOD!
I love having the best lunch around.
I couldn’t remember whether or not I had any Dijon mustard, so I got some at Trader Joe’s. And then I couldn’t decide which to get, so I got both:
Looking at my receipt, the regular Dijon on the left was $1.69, and the whole grain mustard on the right was $1.79. It’s almost like IKEA for groceries! (Almost.)
One thing I did do and wish I hadn’t was get a carton of their TJ Coconut Milk. It looks just like the almond milk, and with that quick glance, you’d think you were getting almond milk, too. It’s not bad, and I’ll use it in my coffee and tea, but no more, I’ll stick with either almond milk or regular dairy.
Incidentally, if you’re lucky enough to have a SuperTarget in your area like we have in the Houston metro area, Target has a new line of organic products called Simply Balanced. I’ve bought the organic skim milk for my smoothies (subject of yet another future blog post) and while I like it, the cat doesn’t. I guess because there’s no fat in it, but she’s a fussy cat anyway.
Well, dear readers, it’s getting late and I will write again soon. Please take care, and eat good food anytime you can–unlike two of my travelers, who went to Midland, TX last week for a networking activity and had some of the worst food they could find! It was just one place, and not a slur on Midland. Just don’t make that mistake–eat good food, what ever it is.