Welcome to 2023! Yes, another year. What are you going to do, go back to the ’80s? Not happening. Embrace 2023 for what it is, and hope that it’s going to get better. (Yes, the Amazon affiliate links are live.)
Hello Again, Dear Readers:
Happy New Year! We made it to another year, and more importantly, through another holiday season. Anytime you can make it through a difficult time, I say, raise a glass and toast yourself. Even if it’s milk. The holidays are difficult for a handful of reasons, even though most people wouldn’t admit to it.
I realize that it has been more than six weeks since my last blog post, and for that, I apologize. This post has been sitting in the draft folder and I’ve been picking at it for more than a week. I have a couple of blog posts planned about our trip to Houston back in November, I just haven’t been able to sit down and finish them. Since we got back, we’ve had a lot happen, much of it boring.
We Got Sick, Again
I don’t know what the heck happened, but we caught some kind of bug not long after we returned and were laid up for a few days. I was coughing for at least a couple more weeks after it was over. We’re OK, and we didn’t need a doctor, just time to let it run its course.
I posted about it on Facebook, and a lady up north said that in her doctor’s office, they were seeing a lot of people with a “cold they just can’t kick.” Coughing was included, so I presumed we had the same “super-cold” we’d been reading about.
Of course, that set everything back more than a couple of days, too.
We made it through the holiday freeze just fine and did not lose power. However, others were not so fortunate. We were ready with our space heaters and other preparations just like we did for the last one nearly two years ago. Fortunately, we had nothing to worry about. But you never know with these things. We realized that we were much more fortunate than others. We got cold, but not “Buffalo cold.” That is, Buffalo NY, where things literally froze over.
Multiple stories of everyday heroism emerged from Buffalo. One described how a lady and her boyfriend brought home a 64-year-old man to keep him from freezing to death. She didn’t have to do that, but she did, and saved his life. She was able to notify his family and get him to a hospital, where he was later reunited with his family.
But the cold didn’t stop me from doing a little cookie baking for friends:
That’s Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Christmas Cookie recipe from Nigella Christmas. I dropped off two batches during the day on Christmas Eve, then visited an elderly couple that evening to drop off the rest. Ended up helping them out a little more than we expected, but that’s OK, we were glad to help them. The recipe always comes out just right. Not all of them came out perfectly round, so there was some “quality control” involved. Thanks, Honey.
At Thanksgiving, Winn-Dixie had turkeys on sale if you belong to their Rewards program. We bought a 16-pound turkey for under $8.
Because it was just us, we decided to cut the turkey into parts and just cook half and freeze the rest. Known as spatchcocking, we cut the backbone out first, then cut through the breastbone, separating the two sides and freezing one of the breast parts. We also separated one of the leg quarters with a wing and froze that too. Mostly, we just needed it to fit into Ziploc bags.
Thankfully BF was home on Thanksgiving because I needed his help doing this. That bird wasn’t going to split up easily, and he very nearly went out to his workshop and got his Sawzall reciprocating saw to cut through the bones. I think I would need to set up the tripod to record that incident because there’s no way anyone would believe it. Especially the attending physician in the emergency room. Fortunately, we got the bird cut into parts with great difficulty and without incident.
I still can’t find turkey thighs here. I really want to buzz back to HEB and buy a case for our freezer. Maybe one day. Or at least the Rouses or Whole Foods in Baton Rouge.
For Christmas, we had another part of that turkey. (There’s a leg quarter and wing still frozen. Maybe for Easter?) I also gave BF a DVD of the old Mel Brooks film, History of the World, Part 1.
He’s a fan of Brooks’ earlier films but had never seen this one. Immediately, he cracked open the wrapper and sat down to watch the film. He really enjoyed it, and it was all new to him.
What did he get me, you ask? A small but sharp pocketknife. No kidding:
I asked about the reasoning for such a gift. He responded, “because you’re always using mine. It’s for opening all those Amazon packages.” I resent the implication that I order so much from Amazon because I don’t. But anytime I get a package from anywhere, his collection of pocket knives is always on the little table. Now I have my own, and it’s sharp, too.
He never said he was sentimental, and, well, the knife is. . .practical. I still cook him dinner.
Also managed to get one of Starbucks’ delicious Cranberry Bliss Bars this holiday season. They’re more than double the price they were when I first found them in 2007. But as always, there are recipes available for making your own; just pick one.
The one thing I couldn’t leave behind in Houston was this gorgeous t-shirt from HEB:
And I wore it Christmas Day, with an apron while I was cooking. It’s now washed and hanging up for next Christmas. I couldn’t interest BF in the sweaters that Winn-Dixie was selling, half price right before the holidays:
Yes, they really sold these, and marked them down to $14.99 later. I haven’t seen anyone wearing any, though. Maybe the store employees bought them for the freeze. I guess it was a part of their promotion with the “Winn Win Twins.” Don’t ask.
But BF did like this from our local Tractor Supply on sale after Christmas:
Suddenly, BF has a supply of Bigfoot Merch. If ever we exhume BF’s Christmas tree from the back room, we’ll hang that right where it’s visible. It goes with his BigFoot t-shirt and the lovely collection of BigFoot gifts his brother gave him.
The Somewhat Traditional New Year’s
We haven’t really made any resolutions for 2023, so it’s easy to say that we haven’t broken any, too. And we never got to go through the pantry or the back room, despite BF being on vacation for an unexpected two weeks. He planned one vacation week, and somehow, it turned into a second week. He watched quite a lot of TV, especially after I loaned him my older Roku device. Wish I hadn’t done that.
He’s now obsessed with Tubi, Crackle, Peacock, Paramount, The Roku Channel, and other great streaming sources. When he discovered I had the YouTube channel, he threatened to start watching BigFoot videos in my YouTube account so they’d show up in my feed. I very nearly took it away from him right then. I’ll be “repossessing” that device very soon.
Still A Sunday Dinner
As I’ve done in past years, I made Stephanie O’Dea’s wonderful slow-cooker Black Eye Pea Chili for us along with some coleslaw for myself. We can make this chili any time of year, but we only seem to make it at the New Year. Really, it’s tasty anytime and easy to make. I used the Instant Pot for browning the meat, onions, and garlic, removed them, wiped out the cooking pot, then went back to the recipe. Put the glass lid on it, set it to slow cook, and R2-D2 had dinner ready on time.
I froze half of the chili for another time. Otherwise, we were home all day and I got some work done for clients. I think I did a little bit of sewing in the evening, too.
If you are of a mind to make fitness resolutions, Sunny Health and Fitness is having a sale both on their own website and in their Amazon store. Still under $100 is the original Row & Ride, as well as the higher-end version of the same thing. Yes, I still have mine, and I dust it occasionally. I am planning to return to using it regularly, soon as I get a big bottle of Aleve.
Happy Birthday, Broccoli Stirfry
It’s been just about a year since BF brought home this little rodent at the tender age of eight weeks:
Now this derp (aka “weirdo”) weighs 65 pounds.
On his backside, you can see slight colorations from the Catahoula input. He’s still chewing everything in sight, which recently included the remote for BF’s years-old DVD player:
It’s easily replaceable, we just haven’t done that yet. The dog has also chewed wood furniture, a door frame, a roll of electrical tape, the Dash dog treat maker, and a whole bunch of other things he suddenly found within his reach. He’s stopped short of boring a hole in the wall.
You know those winter memes telling you to bring your pets inside, because “if you’re cold, they’re cold?” Broccoli Stirfry doesn’t get that, he wants to play. But we drag him in any way. Generally, when I get near him with the leash, he knows it’s time to stop playing “Stick” or chasing leaves and go back inside. Once I hook him up, he politely walks inside with me.
Because if I don’t hook up that leash, he’ll continue to run high-speed circles around the house and around the property until he falls asleep. And you cat people thought only the felines did “zoomies.” Nope—this guy was trained by a cat:
And paws like one, too.
It’s coming up on a year since BF bought him from a guy he knows through work and brought the little cutie pie home. He loves to tell the guy that he wants his $20 back on the “defective dog.” Nope, he’s all ours, and we’re stuck with him.
Houston IKEA Reconnaissance
During our Houston trip, we paid a visit to the hallmark of Swedishness, IKEA. Still on I-10 at the Antoine-Silber exit, we spent at least three hours checking out everything. The purpose of visiting IKEA was to get an idea of what’s available, and what might be good for the future kitchen whenever we get to do some updating. (It’s not anytime soon.) Planting seeds of ideas, really. I did get some small house things, but there were no big purchases like furniture.
We had lunch in the upstairs café, and my IKEA Family card still got me some free coffee. Before we had lunch, I was able to get something else—a picture of that look BF gets when presented with something he’s not entirely sure of:
I first saw this look when he looked into the pantry after I moved in and he saw it full of stuff he didn’t understand. I showed the picture to one of our local friends and she said, “he looks like he’s getting old! Are you giving him all that grey hair?” Poor BF was way out of his element at first. Eventually, he enjoyed his trip through IKEA Houston.
As you can see, he’s now fully embracing his inner Swede. (No Swedish accent yet.)
Up Next: Valentine’s Day 2023
Valentine’s Day is in about a month. If you’re so inclined, give some thought to a dinner date with your significant other. Dinner out is usually crowded and problematic, so consider dinner at home. This post includes some tasty desserts that would fit the bill. There’s also this small chocolate cake that I tried two years ago. I’ll start asking BF what he’d like to have this year. Hopefully, the entertainment will be better than last year.
And if you and your S/O like the Cranberry Bliss Bars during the holiday season, it wouldn’t be a bad move to make them in February. This copycat recipe suggests heart-shaped cookie cutters.
Williams-Sonoma has its usual collection of heart-shaped and high-end cookware for Valentine’s Day. Of course, they’re not a requirement, but they are pretty to look at for a while. Less expensive models are available on Amazon, like this one from Martha Stewart for $80 and this one from Miamo for $75. If you like that sort of thing.
Should a Galentine’s Day party be on your itinerary—a party just for females to celebrate friendship in lieu of having a partner—start planning now. Nothing wrong with enjoying time with friends.
And if you’re going to be alone for that Tuesday, well, that’s OK too. Been there, done that, and you can either ignore the whole thing or enjoy a nice dinner by yourself in front of the TV, or meet with friends who are also unattached. Have a little chocolate of your choosing while you’re at it. Should Starbucks resurrect the Molten Chocolate Latte, I highly recommend getting one if you’re in the vicinity. Not sure if the bottled version is still available, but with a recipe, you can get one made by request.
Coming In 2023 (Hopefully)
I’m overdue to write about Rafael and Carmen’s beautiful wedding in November, as well as the rest of our Houston trip. I’ll start that soon. They’ll be celebrating their first Valentine’s Day as a married couple this year. Rafael said he was running around on Christmas Eve getting ingredients for Carmen to bake these Cranberry Walnut Oatmeal Cookies on Christmas Day. Aunt Ruth asked for the recipe, so I emailed it to her. I need to try those for BF one of these days, too.
Even though “winter weather” alternates between warm and cold here in the South, don’t put the coats away just yet. Heck, even Florida was freezing at Christmas, and it could happen again. Keep these two soup recipes handy for the day you need something warm for dinner and don’t want to mess with too much. Or if you’re doing Meatless Mondays.
I’m always looking for new and interesting topics, so I’ll be bringing those to you as well. Until then. . . .
Are you a blackberry fan? I’ve got a great dessert recipe for your upcoming Labor Day outing, or just anytime you want something easy, sweet, and tasty.
Hello again, Dear Readers:
How did it happen that it’s the end of August? Well, while were busy with other things, Father Time kept moving. Labor Day is Monday, and that kicks off the fall season in the US. Kids go back to school, fall fashions arrive, regular schedules resume, and the Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) returns to Starbucks. Then social media memes about pumpkin spice everything arrive, as well as other products with the flavors and spices of pumpkin pie.
Cooler weather will be coming to the South sometime around late October to mid-November, whereas our neighbors above the Mason-Dixon Line will be reaching for their winter gear in the next few weeks. Until then we can still enjoy some summery things, like today’s featured recipe from The Pioneer Woman Magazine. I know, I’m late doing this one. I finally got around to not only buying the ingredients but also baking the thing. BF is happily licking his paws and enjoying it this week.
I’m also late writing this post because for the last two weeks we’ve experienced a serious “rainy season.” No kidding, long periods of heavy rain every day, which takes down the Internet for a while. The rain kept the temperature in the low 80s, so I did turn on the big oven once or twice.
Never fear—I’m told that there’s a new Internet company that’s installing fiber optic cables in the area, and they’re going to be installing them on our little country road soon. After five years of the Internet that’s knocked out every time clouds roll in, I’m hoping for better service. Maybe I can finally use my little MagicJack and the (now-discontinued) Plantronics phone instead of just the iPhone app.
Prime Time For Hurricanes
Others aren’t so fortunate and are still not back in their homes nearly a year later. Many don’t know when they’ll be going home again.
Hurricane season isn’t yet over, because it runs to November 1st. But this is the time of the year (August through late September) to keep an eye out for things happening in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the same season where other storms have happened:
- Hurricanes Laura and Marco, 2020 (there were more, and the National Weather Service ran out of names)
- Hurricanes Gert, Harvey, Maria, and Irma, 2017
- The Big Flood in Southern Louisiana, 2016 (not a hurricane but a weather system just as destructive, even this far north of the coast)
- Hurricane Ike, 2008 (Houston and Galveston were seriously impacted; I was in New Orleans with The E Man and his wife for nine days)
- Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 2005 (I drove through the Rita evacuation to Austin, it took 11 hours)
- Hurricane Ivan, 2004
Just to name a few. We’re ready, we think, especially with all the tea light candles I bought last year, but I also think we need to stock up on batteries soon. As one of my Boeing Brothers posted on Facebook over the weekend, there are things that happen, and you don’t think about those possibilities ahead of time. He shared it on the date they were devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. He and his family had to quickly evacuate their home with what they could carry, including three cats and two dogs, one of which didn’t make it out.
If you’re thinking about hurricane preparation (better late than never), here are some checklists:
- Houston Office of Emergency Management, with information and checklists including a “shelter in place kit”
- Southern University of New Orleans Police Department
- Hurricane Safety from the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University (IHRC)
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA)
If it sounds like I’m becoming a “doomsday prepper,” then I’ll take it after two power-out periods last year. Better ready than being caught unaware, right? Ask anyone who went through Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
I’ve got a post coming up that can help with those possibilities, too.
Recently I headed to our local Winn-Dixie for a few things and bought a couple of Hatch Chiles. I was so happy to see the display:
However, I went back last Friday and planned to buy more, but they were gone. One of the very nice employees said that they were all spoiled and had to be thrown out. I said, “because nobody knows what they are and I’m the only one who bought them?” She nodded.
What do I need to do—start a PR campaign?
Albertson’s and Rouses will have some, and maybe the Winn-Dixie in Hammond, too. Walmart hasn’t carried them locally, but they do have Anaheim chili peppers from Mexico all year around.
Another Year Of Blackberries
As I’ve done for the last couple of years, I picked the wild (and free) blackberries that grow around here.
I walk out with my colander, suited up with gloves, heavy jeans, and my knee-high black Muck Boots to pick them. (The vines have sharp thorns on them.) Once inside, I wash them gently, drain them, and put them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Then I put the tray into the big freezer on top of everything and let them freeze. If you just toss them into a freezer bag, they’ll freeze into a huge block, and you can’t get them apart to eat or use.
When that’s done, I start adding them to a large Ziplock bag, marked with the date I started the bag, and of course, the contents. The berries are frozen until I am ready to use them. This year’s harvest was pretty good:
I guess I’d have more of them if I would quit eating them and hand-feeding a few to Buddy (aka “Broccoli Stirfry”) when we went outside.
What To Do With The Blackberries
I like the bragging rights that the blackberries are “organic,” because we just let them grow on their own, and they’re “locally grown,” because they’re right outside. They’re picked for our own consumption, and certainly not for sale.
BF never paid attention to them until I found out that blackberries were growing wild. Then I let him know not to mess with the vines until blackberry season ended. Mother Nature provides you with fresh, free fruit—why wouldn’t you pick and enjoy them? Respect the berries, pick them, and freeze them for later. They thaw nicely in the fridge for a day or so, or you can leave them out on the counter for a little while. Don’t leave them too long or they’ll get mushy.
You may remember in my review of Emilie Bailey’s The Southern Keto Book that I made Granny’s Blackberry Cobbler. I still make it occasionally, and both BF and I really enjoy it.
But sometimes, BF doesn’t want the keto/gluten-free/sugar-free stuff. He wants “the real thing, with real flour and sugar.” Lucky for me, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, came through with a recipe in the Summer 2022 edition of her magazine on page 80: the Blackberry Cheesecake Galette.
Warning: today’s recipe isn’t keto, low-carb, sugar-free, gluten-free, or in any way “diet” or “healthy.” Except for the use of the blackberry.
What’s A Galette?
Well, it’s like a pie but a bit simpler. Made free-form, it’s a French-style dessert that just has crust with an open top. You can see a short explanation on Delighted Cooking. If you want something more thorough, Wikipedia has a detailed explanation.
Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, has a recipe that’s similar, called Apple Crostata, which is also very good.
In Ree Drummond’s case, her galettes use an ingenious shortcut: store-bought pre-made pie crusts. So that’s what I did. BF is enjoying the second one piece by piece as he did with the first one.
The magazine has recipes for three different fruit galettes:
- Blackberry Cheesecake, pages 80-81
- Blueberry-Raspberry, page 82
- Strawberry Basil, page 83
All three use the same basic crust iteration, and different fillings with fruit, sugar, and cornstarch. They also start out by using the bottom of a baking sheet, adding parchment paper, sticking the two crusts together, and rolling them to a 12-inch circumference.
Note that these recipes are not on her website, but there are five other fruit galette recipes there. On the affiliated Tasty Kitchen collaborator website, there are a total of 79 recipes for galettes, both sweet and savory, as well as 276 blackberry recipes.
I haven’t tried the other two galettes myself, but I think nearly any sweet (or even savory) filling you tossed together would work well in this crust. Make sure to leave a two-inch border when adding the filling to the crust so you can fold it up easily.
Making The Blackberry Cheesecake Galette
So, let me just say that it does take a bit of prep work to get this going, especially since I prefer to measure things ahead of time. But the smile on BF’s face makes it totally worth the trouble. He’ll keep me around for this one, even if I didn’t do it exactly correctly.
Here’s the printable recipe, re-typed from the magazine’s instructions.
Blackberry Cheesecake Galette
- 1 14-ounce package of refrigerated pie dough
- 2 cups blackberries
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
- Place an oven rack in the bottom position and preheat to 400F. Flip over a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Unroll the pie dough on a work surface, then stack the two rounds, gently pressing to adhere. Roll out into a 12-inch round and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
- Combine the blackberries, cornstarch salt, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a medium bowl and gently mix until the cornstarch has dissolved
- Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, egg yolk, remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into another medium bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until combined and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes
- Use a slotted spoon to remove six or seven blackberries into a separate bowl. Spoon the remaining blackberry mixture into the center of the pie dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Drizzle the cream cheese mixture on top, leaving the border uncovered. Gently fold in and pleat the dough edge, taking care not to rip it. Scatter the reserved blackberries on top of the filling. Brush the crust with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
- Bake the galette until the crust is a deep golden brown, the cheesecake is set and the blackberries are slightly bubbling through the cheesecake in spots, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the galette cool completely about 1 hour.
So, gather up your ingredients, including your blackberry bowl:
Preheat your oven to 400F, with the oven rack in the bottom position. Flip over a baking sheet and add a length of parchment paper on top, weighing it down so the paper doesn’t fly off.
Unroll your pie crusts and stack them on a work surface—a cutting board, or another flat thing.
Now the second:
Here’s where I went wrong: you’re supposed to use a rolling pin and roll them out to a 12-inch round and get them to stick together. But because “rolling pin” isn’t in the recipe directions, I didn’t think about using one. So I just kind of pressed them together by hand to make them stick:
It worked OK. Next time. Now move that base onto your parchment paper, if you’re using a flat surface, and go fiddle with the blackberry mixture:
Add the berries, cornstarch salt, ¼ cup of granulated sugar, lemon zest, and a tablespoon of our lemon juice into a bowl.
Carefully mix them so you don’t mess up the berries (especially if you use thawed frozen ones as I did.)
Mix until the cornstarch dissolves, set it aside, and move on to the cheesecake part.
Into another bowl, add the 3 ounces of cream cheese, a tablespoon of sour cream, vanilla, the egg yolk, the remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar, and the rest of the lemon juice. Use a hand mixer on medium-high speed to blend that well, two to three minutes.
Now you’re ready to bake.
First, remove a few berries from the other bowl and set them aside. These will make the top look pretty.
Then add the rest to the flat piecrust, leaving a two-inch border for the up-folding.
Grab a roll of paper towels, because the blackberry liquid is now running all over the place. (Thank heavens it’s pink and not red. Next time I’m using the inside of the baking sheet or buying new ones.) No, I didn’t get a picture of that–I was busy trying to catch all that dark pink liquid rolling down the stove.
At this point I transferred the galette and the parchment paper to a flat baking sheet with an air cushion underneath that I’ve had for many years but ruined on the first use. Parchment paper makes everything all right.
Now carefully drizzle the cream cheese mixture over the berries, keeping it within the confines of the center and away from the two-inch border. Start folding the border inward, creating a nice looking. . .ok, whatever you can do with it, but don’t tear or rip the pie crust.
If you haven’t done so already, beat the whole egg, and brush it on the crust you just folded up over the side:
And sprinkle some coarse sugar on top of the egg-washed crust area:
The coarse sugar gives the galette a nice, crunchy crust when it’s done. Into the oven for 30 to 35 minutes:
Bake until the crust is golden brown, the cheesecake part is set, and the blackberries are bubbling up through the cheesecake part in spots. Alternately, you can just wait until it oozes all over your baking sheet and your oven like I did:
I think I forgot to take more pictures at this point. BF was sniffing around during the commercials during that gory “true crime” show he was watching. But using a large spatula or two, transfer the galette to a baking rack and let it cool completely, which will take an hour or so. If you try to eat it right out of the oven, you know you’ll be paying for it with terrible mouth pain for days, right?
Oh, and you’ve got a bit of a mess to clean up. But it’s totally worth the trouble:
Let cool, then slice it into six or eight slices (or even twelve if you’re trying to serve more people.) I found that my large round pizza cutter made the job simple. Packed up pieces in individual containers for BF to take with his work meals and enjoy some then. He’s already let one coworker try a bite–thumbs up.
Whether you’re having a little get-together or going to a Labor Day celebration, the Blackberry Cheesecake Galette will be a favorite. Ask BF, and he’ll tell you.
Until Next Time
I’ve finally finished testing five recipes for Emilie Bailey’s newest (and possibly final) cookbook, Easy Dirty Keto. BF refused to try any of the recipes this time, including dessert. I’ve had no other willing taste-testers around. So you’ll have to go on my comments alone.
Miss Alice in Houston also has her own copy of the book but hasn’t yet tried anything. However, she’s anxious for her and her daughter N to have some new and easy recipes to enjoy, irrespective of keto. Since she’s a teacher, and N is a teenager, school started last week, and it’s now “crunch time” for them both. I asked her to let me know what they try and how they like the recipes. Maybe I can talk her into some pictures, too.
Once I finish writing and uploading all the pictures, you’ll be able to see what some of these new “dirty keto” recipes are like. Even if BF wouldn’t taste any. I’m sure I’ll eventually find something that will please his ornery, manly, and non-keto taste buds.
I’ll also tell you more about our newly renovated Winn-Dixie soon. It’s in the same building and has the same floor space but seems to have doubled in size. Our little store has a wider variety of things than before and may also mean less driving for me to find ingredients that were not previously available locally.
Until then, Happy Dining!
Outlander is a popular historical drama on the Starz network. Like Downton Abbey, it has a legion of fans and a huge accompaniment of books, specials, merchandise, and heaven only knows what else. Today, it’s the subject of a guest post on the food of this popular show.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Today’s blog post is the first guest post to appear here, written by a writer, colleague, and friend Beverly Matoney who lives in the great state of Georgia. Like me, Beverly and her husband live rural. Unlike us, they are also raising chickens.
Beverly is a copywriter for the homeschool market. She homeschooled her own two children who are now grown and in their own careers. Beverly graciously offered to write a guest post when I was, one day, stumped for new ideas. (Well, I did order from Misfits Market, twice.) We chat weekly on a Zoom call with other writer friends, one of whom is in another country, eight or nine hours ahead of us.
I’ve made no secret of my love for Downton Abbey after it was recommended by friends in Houston and elsewhere. I watched it through the end of the series when Lady Edith finally got married to Bertie Pelham (spoilers?) I really enjoyed the kitchen scenes, like when Mrs. Patmore tried an electric stand mixer for the first time. No microwave ovens, air fryers, slow cookers, pressure cookers, or even a countertop oven at the House of Crawley.
Then, I got BF to take me to the movie a couple of years ago. There’s another Downton Abbey film coming out in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait, but he’s not entirely thrilled.
Wait until I decide to get the official cookbooks of Downton Abbey and start using them to cook dinner for BF.
Downton Abbey isn’t the only historical series that has a devoted legion of fans. The series Outlander also has a fiercely loyal fan base. But since it’s on Starz, I haven’t seen it. It’s available on Amazon Prime Video as well, but. . .I haven’t bought one of those streaming subscriptions. I’m too busy with Britbox right now (where you can also see Downton Abbey.) It’s longer than I want to admit since I watched anything on The Food Network.
Beverly is a fan of Outlander as well as of the cooking. Like me, Beverly enjoys cooking and embraces trying new and interesting things. Fortunately, her husband isn’t the “don’t mess with my Hamburger Helper” sort like BF.
There are actually two cookbooks, and this review is about the first one.
So starting with this first subheading, and very little editing (mostly for format), is Beverly’s review of The Outlander Cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders. It’s offered with great appreciation and thanks to Beverly for writing and sending it along. (The links are my live affiliate Amazon links, pictures gathered from Amazon, Google, and other attributed sources.)
If you’ve been introduced to Jamie Fraser and his time-traveling wife Claire, congratulations. You’re already immersed in 18th-century Scotland and America.
And, if like me, you’ve devoured the novels, you’ve probably drooled over Diana Gabaldon’s descriptions of the settings, the action, and yes…the food.
Not to worry if you’ve not read the books. The television series offers plenty of images of historical fare that will make you hungry.
You may even have visions of going back in time yourself to try your hand at knocking about in an 18th-century kitchen, whipping up some bannocks, or a nice fruit tart.
Outlander, The Books
I was introduced to Outlander in the summer of 2004 during a trip to Seattle, Washington. My friend was clearing off her bookshelves and handed me the first book in the series.
The story was so captivating that I raced through the book, then went on a spree to buy the next four in the series. By the time I finished The Fiery Cross, the sixth book was at the publisher’s and A Breath of Snow and Ashes came out in 2005.
Not wanting to miss anything in the story, I re-read all five books before my new hardcover arrived, then melted into the tale, finishing with a long sigh.
What I didn’t know at the time was how long I’d have to wait for the next novel, and the next, and the next. Sometimes the gap was 3 or 4 or even 7 years!
Just before each new book was released, I started at the beginning and read them all.
Which means I’ve read Outlander five times.
And I’ll begin at the beginning when the tenth and final novel comes out…whenever that is.
And I’ve read all the side novellas.
And I’ve seen all of the episodes of the television series.
You could say I’m a little obsessed.
Enter Theresa Carle-Sanders
Her story offers insights into how she decided to create a cookbook around Diana Gabaldon’s amazing novels.
One line of her bio that struck me was “As with so many of Diana’s fans before and since, Outlander became the catalyst for the changes – some planned, many unforeseen – that have altered the course of our lives.”
I can relate.
While Theresa focused on the cooking of Outlander, I dove into herbalism. I’ve spent nearly 20 years learning to identify medicinal plants and how to use them, inspired by Claire Randall Fraser and her adventures across the centuries.
When I discovered Theresa and her Outlander Kitchen, I don’t believe more than three heartbeats passed before I had clicked “Buy Now”.
The subtitle of the book is “The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook”.
With blessings and a foreword by the gracious and generous Diana Gabaldon herself, the cookbook begins with the paraphrased first line from the first novel.
Then Theresa follows with her personal introduction outlining her decision to embark on a “life reboot”. Much like me, Outlander mysteriously appeared in her life, and so her culinary story begins.
As Theresa points out, the cookbook isn’t historical. Since the novels cover 20+ years within a 200-year span, so do the recipes she’s written.
But, inside, you will find historical recipes that are still common today, such as Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Veal Patties in Wine Sauce. As she says, they’ve stood the test of time.
My original reason for purchasing the book was to make bannocks. These oatmeal flatbreads feature often in the novels, and each time I read of the characters munching on the warm breads, I wanted to make my own.
The delicious recipe is on page 238 and delivers everything you’d expect of an unleavened oatcake…even instant transport back to a Scottish kitchen from 1740-something.
Along with each recipe, Theresa has included the passage from the book that inspired the dish.
Each brief excerpt plays an instant reminiscence from the tale. Not only can I picture the setting, but now, I can taste the food they were eating at the time.
Imagine sipping on the same hot broth Claire had when she arrived at Castle Leoch (Outlander).
Or trying potatoes for the first time as roasted tatties at Lallybroch from Dragonfly in Amber.
Or having a pungent bowl of peppery oyster stew to take you to the pub with Jamie and Claire in Voyager.
Maybe some of Fiona’s ginger-nut biscuits with Roger at the manse from Drums of Autumn.
Or a batch of Mrs. Bug’s buttermilk drop biscuits dripping with butter and honey the way they ate them in the Fraser’s Ridge kitchen in The Fiery Cross.
Perhaps you’d enjoy a glass of cherry bounce described in A Breath of Snow and Ashes.
Diana even contributed to the book by sharing a treasured family recipe for cheese enchiladas.
The Recipes Of Outlander
The recipe section of the book is laid out with beautiful color photographs, some of the process, some of the completed dish, all of them gorgeous.
Theresa has kept the recipes uniform by offering an Ingredient section, a Method section, and a Notes section.
I found the notes section to be most informative, including not only recipe hints, but also historical references.
Of course, Theresa has transformed the historical recipes into their modern versions, offering easy-to-find ingredients in place of some of the more exotic bits from days gone by.
She’s included a wonderful recipe index for those seeking ideas to use ingredients on hand or to plan and prepare a delicious feast.
Honestly, I read (good) cookbooks like novels. I enjoy the recipe intro, the exposition, and the list of ingredients, and I follow along with the method in my mind whether it calls for chopping, mixing, kneading, or drizzling with butter.
Each of these recipes inspires me to add to my grocery list and then make a note on my calendar, “Outlander dish tonight”.
And if you are a fan, you’ll know what I mean.
For Foodies Everywhere
Even if you’ve never heard of Outlander, you won’t be disappointed with Theresa’s cookbook. Every page is filled with interesting culinary tidbits you can apply in your own kitchen.
There’s something for everyone in the Outlander Kitchen. Modern, historical, romantic, delicious, soups, meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, breads, desserts…this book has it all.
You may even find yourself daydreaming about time travel to the 18th century yourself.
The holidays are done, and we’ve been quite busy since my last dispatch. Time for a New Year’s catchup, including our little dog Spencer.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’m sorry that it’s been three months since my last update. A lot has happened, some of which I won’t mention here. But since the hurricane, we have had much happening at the Casa de Rurale, and I’m just going to jump in and start somewhere.
Grab your cuppa, this is a long one. Here’s hoping your Holidays went well, wherever you are and whatever the weather.
The Tradition of Black-Eyed Peas
For the record, I did make black-eyed peas on New Year’s, using this delicious recipe from Stephanie O’Dea, that I’ve made before. I made it the first New Year’s I was here, and we really liked it. I made the full recipe, so we had it twice and I froze the rest for a fallback dinner for another night.
BF has an injured shoulder and might be having surgery to remove two bone chips. Ouch! This is in addition to my foot injury, which I’ll explain later. So, I’ll be playing Florence Nightingale soon. Told him he’ll need to eat healthier food so he can heal, but he doesn’t believe me. I also told him to admit the truth, and that he injured himself wrestling with BigFoot.
I still owe you a review of the Vegetarian Keto Cookbook by the Texas Granola Girl. It’s started, but I put the book down next to my desk, and I have not been able to finish that blog post. That’s hopefully going to be next.
Winter Vs. Summer
A popular meme on Facebook says that “Winter and Summer are fighting for custody of Texas.” Boy is that ever true, and we’re involved in it!
If you remember the freeze from last February, it looks like we had a break from winter this season. We had an 80-degree Christmas, and the next cold front came after New Year’s Day. My paint bucket garden has peppers, lettuce, a small amount of basil, green onions, sage, parsley, the recovered Meyer lemon tree, three or four sprouted avocado seeds that need planting elsewhere, and a little green tomato plant with flowers on it. In December! But that won’t be for much longer, some likely won’t make it to spring. The basil already took a hit with the sub-freezing temps last night.
This past weekend, West Texas saw sub-freezing temps and so did we. Hopefully, Texas is in better shape this time and ready to handle whatever comes its way. We’re warm, and have plenty of blankets, sweaters, hoodies, and socks. I miss the fireplace that I had in Houston, and I have to make up for it with the one I stream on TV from PlutoTV’s Crackling Yule Log Fireplace Channel. BF doesn’t understand.
The Post-Hurricane Cleanup Continues
We got some great firewood, and one day we’ll have it behind the house to use later. We know many people who are going to be out of their homes for quite a while.
A few weeks after power restoration, huge trucks with crew began appearing on our little back road, picking up more downed trees and branches. There are still multiple uprooted trees everywhere. Removal of these gigantic tree stumps will be quite a long time. Scenes like this are still common:
BF was able to get one backhoe operator (using a $20 bill) to give us a nice big log for the eventual wood stove he’s planning to install in the living room. After the February freeze, he decided that it would be the next phase of the “beautification project” for the Casa de Rurale. He even has one picked out.
In mid-November, more trucks began appearing with bigger equipment. This was a different company but doing the same thing.
This company didn’t observe property lines or boundaries, either.
While I was working in the back of the house, they rolled onto the property with a backhoe and attempted to take our firewood. It wasn’t on the side of the road—it was pushed far enough back to where they had to trespass on the property to get it, leaving huge marks in the grass. I caught them just in time, shooed them away, and threatened to call the cops.
Later that evening, BF was in the shop, and they came back attempting to do the same thing. He shooed them away too.
A couple of days later a nice lady came to the door from a different company that was “observing” the tree removal company. She said they were a “nightmare,” breaking the rules (and a few laws), and were terrible to deal with. They came in from Florida after winning the contract because they had the most experience. This lady said that she would mark our address as a “no go” or something. They never came back.
Longtime readers understand my affinity for HEB, Texas’ homegrown chain that’s one of the oldest and most respected grocery companies in the US. But in Louisiana, one of the many homegrown grocers is Rouses. They carry many items that are more difficult to find where I am, including my favorite chocolate almond milk for hot chocolate. In the late summer, they’ve had Hatch chiles. Understandably, they didn’t do the in-store roasting this year, but they do have some in jars.
Never had them pickled before.
Rouses has a bi-monthly magazine that they have on racks by the doors. I pick them up when I see them, and I have been meaning to send one to Miss Alice. The November/December issue has recipes for some of their delicious cakes featured in the bakery, including our Hammond store.
This issue also has a fair amount of information about what they did for hurricane recovery after Ida’s landfall. This included how fast they could reopen their stores after the storm ended and recovery began. So many of their employees also suffered losses, many stores were heavily damaged, and everyone worked hard to get food and supplies into the stores for everyone who needed things. I, for one, was very glad to see our Hammond Rouse’s open, even if they did have floor fans drying up everything. That’s to be expected after rains and flooding and all that. (The Hobby Lobby next door also had roof damage and was closed for a couple of weeks.)
No, it isn’t HEB, and they don’t have a disaster recovery vehicle like HEB. But they do have a DR team that swung into action immediately. Now, I like Rouses a lot more than I already did. Many thanks to them for getting our Hammond store open again and making sure that people could get what they needed when it really counted.
The Karma Of Spare Parts: The Dishwasher Returns
After two months of hearing about the “worldwide supply chain disruptions,” I was really in a bad mood because I had to start hand-washing everything again.
Then I found myself with a stomach bug of some kind on Halloween. Mind you, I’d begun walking again in October, and made three miles on Saturday the 30th, no kidding. But the next morning, something got ahold of me, and I was horribly sick. I won’t describe it, but I was very “wrung out” for a week. That ended the walking, and I had a hard time standing up for too long.
I’d been washing all the dishes and kitchen things by hand since the day before Ida made landfall when the leaking began. Annoyed as I was, I donated the red dishes to a local thrift store and bought paper plates and bowls. That helped. BF didn’t. Nor was he happy about me giving away *his* dishes that used to be called “ours.”
But when I was ill, BF swung into action and took care of me best he could. He went to Walmart and got a heating pad and some Nut-Thins crackers so I could eat. I was hungry but my stomach was in very bad shape for three days. I was afraid of more stomach troubles than I already had.
On the third day, I went into the kitchen (he was back at work) and saw that three days of dishes were untouched. Piled in and around the sink and on the stove, the one thing he didn’t bother doing was dishes. I did ask, and he promised. It took an hour and a half to slog through the dishes before I could get anything to eat after three days of nut crackers.
I was REALLY unhappy at this point, as well as being unsteady on my feet.
After finally getting some Pea & Pesto Soup, I pulled out the offending gasket and went looking online for something to replace it. I contacted a few online vendors that dealt in appliance parts, but none carried the replacement gasket for mine.
Then I thought: what about Amazon? It’s always a great place to start research, even if you don’t buy there. I’ve bought replacement gaskets for my Starbucks tumblers that I use daily. The original gaskets had long ago become moldy, and I knew it was a matter of time before they would break. I asked for suggestions on Facebook, and someone suggested I look there. It took a few tries, but I got bigger and heavier ones that work better for both cups. Could I have the same luck with the dishwasher?
It took a little while, but after a search on Amazon, I found just the thing. Took measurements, looked really closely at the pictures, and found one that I was sure would work. I simply needed to trim the gasket down to fit in the smaller space. I ordered one and immediately installed it when it arrived a week later, snipping it to fit. Ran the dishwasher, no leaking at all. I ordered a second as a spare and put everything in a Ziploc bag for later. Finally, the Heatcagekitchen Countertop Dishwasher is back in operation!
The first lesson learned: Amazon has a huge range of little parts and things like gaskets you can order when you can’t find them anywhere else. Just takes some careful looking around and searching.
The second lesson is that BF will get out of doing dishes anytime he can, which is all the time. This includes loading, running, and unloading the dishwasher.
Chances are, you’ve noticed the sharp rise in the price of just about everything. It started about this time last year when the price of petrol started increasing. Shortly thereafter, the prices of everything else followed suit since shipping and transporting goods (especially food) increases with the price of fuel.
We’ve been trying to buy a little extra here and there because we know it’s going to get worse. I’ve also been looking for sales on coffee and stocking up. Mostly, It’s Community Coffee since that’s locally produced in Baton Rouge. Last week I found big packages of both pork roast and chicken at Winn-Dixie on sale to freeze in smaller bags for meals.
But BF is also buying extra things like rice, dried beans, and other things for long-term storage, as well as stashing extras in the freezer. He’s even talking about getting a bigger freezer to store more stuff. I’m sure there will be more deer sausage involved as well.
I have organized the big chest freezer with shopping bags, but I have to stop him from putting anything in there. He literally tosses things into the freezer without regard to the bags. How do you find anything like that?
We’re conscious of this, and yet we still haven’t cleaned up the pantry. I’ve asked for help, including some additional shelving to eliminate wasted space, but I’m on my own. So I have to find a time when I’m not doing anything else to clear everything out, clean it well, then replace and re-organize everything.
More Dash Appliances For The Holiday
Right before Christmas, I was in Target and discovered that they had a sale on some of Dash’s little appliances. I got two of them: the waffle stick maker, and the doggie treat maker. (This is a similar model on Amazon.) I’ve been wanting to get the doggie treat maker for some time. I also got the waffle stick maker because I was making waffled falafel to take to this year’s Christmas party at BF’s workplace.
BF, of course, continues to go around telling people that I’m trying to kill him with the quinoa and the “awful falafel.”. (Not yet, I haven’t.) I thought it might be nice to make the falafel as waffle sticks, and it worked well. I, Miss Grace, and Miss Ruth (not to be confused with Aunt Ruth in Texas) enjoyed them.
Both the doggie treat and the waffle stick makers are slightly larger than the smaller round Dash mini waffle makers. Dash now makes a full-size waffle maker, as well as a full-sized waffle maker that makes 4 mini waffles at once.
Veggie Mash Waffle Sticks
If you follow Dash on Instagram, you’ll see there are frequent videos by a redhead who calls herself Ms. Dash, and she’s usually with young children. I don’t know if they’re her children or not, but she’s always making delicious recipes featuring a specific Dash product, many of them vegan.
One day Ms. Dash demonstrated a recipe for using leftover vegetables and turning them into a mash that you cook in the waffle stick maker. This gave me the idea to get one for the holiday party waffled falafel. I cooked some cauliflower in the CrockPot, and I added a little too much liquid.
It made a mash alright, but a very soupy one. The addition of coconut and almond flour didn’t help. Therefore, making them into waffle sticks was less than stellar. But the waffled falafel turned out great and even easier to eat.
Treats For The Pup
Now, in the case of the doggie treat maker, I had to buy some peanut butter and whole wheat flour (I know, I know), but I had canned pumpkin already.
It took a little while, and I decided to make a double batch. That wasn’t the wisest idea, unfortunately.
The pit bull gladly ate all we gave him. But because I didn’t let them completely cool, they went into the plastic zipper bag and became a bit damp. A week or so later, they had MOLD on them. They became possum food.
Next up, some banana-based treats with flax and a few other ingredients. I didn’t make so many at once and let them cool completely then dry out a little to prevent them from going bad. I keep making them so the 85-pound “puppy” doesn’t get upset.
I might have bought the donut maker and the mini-Bundt cake maker since they were also on sale at Target until Christmas. But BF couldn’t give me a straight answer. If I do get them, I’ll probably have to order them online. I showed him the mini pie maker too, but he’s still indecisive. He can have frozen pies for a little bit longer.
But our other hungry little pup didn’t get to enjoy these homemade treats.
While it was hot for Christmas, it was very cold in the days preceding.
Some months ago, BF saw a video on Facebook for a pullover jacket made from a military wool blanket. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t exist—no website, and complaints from viewers in the comments. Still, asked me to make this jacket for him. I had to go back and look for the hard-to-find video so that I could understand what he was asking me to create.
Simplicity had just published a suitable pattern. Because it’s not exactly the same, and no stretch in the fabric, I needed to make it larger. He also requested a quilted lining similar to his work jackets. I ordered some quilted lining from a company called Wawak.
Once I got everything assembled, I started cutting. Then it was a matter of putting pieces together. As I sewed, things became more difficult, heavier, and harder to handle. I used an ultra-heavy-duty 1975 Kenmore sewing machine that was gifted to me last year. But I took my time, and late on a cold Sunday night, I finished it, a week before Christmas.
BF was thrilled and wore it to work the next day. He received many compliments, including from two women who also sew. In fact, he wore it for two days, because it was so cold before it warmed up. When it became warm and he isn’t wearing it, the cat nestles comfortably in the hood or on top of the scratchy wool.
Later I posted pictures in the Facebook group for The McCall’s Pattern Company. BF was delighted to see that his post garnered more than 600 likes. There were also more than 100 nice comments from fellow sewing enthusiasts.
Now that I’ve finished it, I can return to cutting and sewing my own things. I have two big blue IKEA bags full of projects to cut, plus two more full of cut and ready-to-make projects. There is also a bag or two of projects I’m either going to cut later or I need something else to finish, such as outer fabric for a purse.
I also want to finish a queen-sized quilt I started in Houston. I’m not a quilter, so it’s a big deal. I pinned it up in Neighbor E’s living room because he has a non-carpeted floor and a bigger living room space than I had.
RIP Spencer, The Garbage Gobbler
One of the unhappy things that happened since my last dispatch was the loss of BF’s little dog, Spencer. He was a 14-year-old rust-colored mutt, about 25 pounds. He was as friendly as all get-out, no matter how fiercely he barked when someone knocked on the door.
The dog previously belonged to someone else, and BF acquired him not long after moving into the Casa de Rurale in 2010. BF had another dog at the time, and not long after that one passed, the beloved pit bull came along. Through it all, Spencer just wanted to be friends, because friends share their snacks, right?
Even when the cat took a few swipes at him or jumped him like the mighty African lion taking down a gazelle on the savannah, he didn’t mind a bit. Because, after all, the cat was playing with him. The cat lost, but Spencer was always ready to play or try what you’re eating.
Spencer was always hungry, or so it seemed. Anytime you were in the kitchen doing something, we’d be right there with his metronome of a tail. It doesn’t matter if you were getting a cup of coffee, cutting onions, or washing dishes, he was ready for you to share it with him. I thought I was going to break my neck when I fell over him a few times when he was looking for food. But he just knew I had something tasty he would enjoy. He just didn’t know what it was.
I also had to watch out for him–the cat litter box held amazing mysteries he couldn’t believe. I finally turned the darn thing around so Tab E. Cat has to go under a chair to get in it and keep Spencer out.
I considered buying the Dash doggie treat maker many months ago but only got it because it was on sale before Christmas. Spencer would have been all over me if I’d made treats for him, and he’d know immediately what it was. At least the pit bull is polite about asking for one.
Spencer also scarfed his share of cat food when Tab E. Cat wasn’t looking.
Where have we seen this before? Oh, yes—Jezebel the Step Kitty, may she rest in peace.
I started taking Spencer out for walks earlier this year. It was spring, after the changeover to Daylight Savings Time. The pit bull weighs 85 pounds, but I just can’t handle the lovable lap dog. Because if he sees a bunny crossing the road and wants to follow, you too are going follow the little bunny. So, I had to stick with just walking the little guy.
Spencer and I enjoyed going out for those walks, sometimes as long as two miles. But I had to quit when I developed a painful heel condition. Called Achilles tendinitis, it’s one of those things that I have to let heal on its own (and it still hurts). There are some at-home treatments I need to try soon because I’m still limping a little.
Unfortunately, the daily walk with Spencer ended in pain until my heel would get better, so I thought. He wasn’t going to let that stop him. One evening I let the dogs out to go see BF upon his return from work. Spencer decided to take himself out for a walk, trotting off like it was no big deal. BF had to chase him down the street to catch him because he was fast.
The Free Spirit
There have been a few times where Spencer got loose and went off by himself, casually trotting back home when the spirit moved him. When I first moved here, he went on a jaunt and someone found him, then tied him on a short leash to a tree—no food, water, or shelter. We didn’t know where he went, and he was gone for four days. We heard him howling and barking but didn’t know how to find him. Fortunately, the weather was good.
I went looking for him one afternoon and found him on someone’s property just across the road. Immediately I leashed him, untied him, and brought him back. He drank so much water we thought he was going to sink. I fed him right away because I knew he was hungry. That’s when we started keeping a closer eye on our little free spirit.
Later he managed to lose one of his eyes, and somehow broke one of his incisors. He didn’t care, as long as you had something tasty for him.
The First Taste Of Gourmet
Longtime readers may remember my discovery of Nigella Lawson’s delicious sweet potato supper, cooked in the oven on a sheet pan on top of parchment paper. Well, after BF discovered how much bacon was involved, he liked it, asparagus and all.
So did Spencer.
This dish is cooked at 425F for an hour. The pan is very hot when it comes out of the oven. Even with a potholder, it can burn you. So, it sat out on the counter, on a cork trivet. Unfortunately, it was on the lower counter that Spencer could reach.
While we were enjoying this delicious dinner at the table, BF heard the rustle-crackle-crinkle of the parchment paper and immediately knew what happened. Spencer was in the kitchen investigating the pan with the rest of dinner. “Oh, NO!” BF said, and walked into the kitchen to find Spencer enjoying his own gourmet cuisine.
Pork Chop Heaven
Another day, BF and I came back from the grocery with a large pack of boneless pork chops bought on sale. When we buy something that big, we divide them up into small freezer bags of two for the big freezer. During the process of adding them into the big freezer, I dropped several. I thought I’d picked them all up.
Later that night, the dogs found the bags and gorged. We presume it was Spencer who found them because he liked sniffing around the freezer looking for anything we missed. He found them and they had raw pork feast during the night. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, and they were both fine. We did have to pick up shards of plastic freezer bags from the living room. That’s when we realized our little sniffer had been busy.
BF’s favorite Spencer story was a couple of years ago. BF likes to fry fish, and it’s how he believes fish should be prepared and eaten. He fried up three large filets of catfish, leaving one piece to take the next day for his lunch. The call came to go down the street to his dad’s house, while we were finishing dinner, so we left quickly. The remaining piece of fish was sitting on a big red plate on top of the stove.
We didn’t think the dogs could reach up there, but they did. We also believe the pit bull flipped the plate onto the floor and it broke since he’s the bigger dog. Both dogs plus the cat had delicious fried catfish for their dinner. BF was so disappointed–they took his lunch! You couldn’t deny that they had consumed the fish because they all had crumbs around their whiskers.
When we discovered what happened, they gave us the look that said, “What?”
A few weeks after the hurricane, on an ordinary morning, I was thinking I should take Spencer out for a walk that very nice day. That’s when Spencer started having trouble walking. Later in the morning, he couldn’t stand up at all. He tried to stand and walk, but he just couldn’t. The poor pup was shaking as if he were cold, even though I had a blanket over him. Lying sideways flat on the floor, his legs were stuck out straight, shaking, alternating between sleeping and trying to move.
He didn’t want to eat his regular food, and I began hand feeding him whatever he would eat and anything he wanted. (The potted meat in a can and the deli-style ham leftover from Labor Day at the fams went over well.) We arranged to take him to a vet we’ve visited before. This vet had a “wait and see” attitude. He gave Spencer a “feel good” shot for pain, plus a couple of other things, which left the poor pup suffering. He didn’t even take an X-Ray.
When we realized he was not getting better, we arranged to go see the local in-town vet but had to wait until the evening.
We didn’t find out until later that LSU in Baton Rouge has a 24/7 walk-in veterinary facility. It’s an hour away, but we could have gone there instead. However, they may have reached the same conclusion.
The Animal Communicator
I was fortunate to be able to talk to a very nice lady named Ami Pope, a Japanese Lady in California who is a trained animal communicator. It’s a long story of how I was introduced to Ami, and her help is greatly appreciated. I was quite upset and just didn’t know what else to do. After a phone call and texting some pictures, Ami very kindly talked to Spencer for me.
Spencer told Ami that he knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t quite tell her what it was. He was OK, she said, and he understood. There was something in his head, he thought. He did not want us to worry about him, even if it was his “time.” She also told him that we were very worried about him, and we didn’t want to lose him, but Spencer told Ami that everything was OK.
I took care of Spencer for about a week, cleaning him up, putting him on a cushion, on a towel, or a blanket, hand-feeding him, and doing anything to make him comfortable. BF was working, so it was up to me. He kept trying to move around, but he could only operate his front legs. Movement was possible, but not what he was used to doing. At one point he could sit up and move his front legs, but he pivoted in a circle propped up on his tailbone.
Without any progress, we took him to the other local vet. Realizing how old Spencer was, he kindly recommended that we send him to the Rainbow Bridge.
So, reluctantly, and with many tears, that’s what we did. I texted BF from the vet’s, picked him up from work, and brought him back to the vet’s office. We hugged Spencer and told him we loved him. I told Spencer to go find my cats, Catmandu and Kismet, and let them know I still miss them after all these years. Both of us held him and petted him so he didn’t feel alone in his last moments.
We were with Spencer when he passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. He seemed comfortable, but he was always that way. The folks at the Kent Veterinary Clinic were very nice and understanding. They wrapped him up for us and we took him home for the last time.
Resting In Peace
After we buried him, Ami had one more talk with Spencer. He told Ami appreciated all the treats, the cushions I made for them, and the walks all the way to the church at the intersection. He loved going for those walks, and I didn’t even realize how much he enjoyed our walking around.
Spencer also told Ami that he also appreciated that we took care of him at the end of his life, instead of letting him go on his own in the backyard. We couldn’t do that to him (or any dog) and we hope we did right by him. BF did the best he could for Spencer and gave him a better life than he might have had otherwise. Spencer appreciated all of it, he said to Ami. I wish we could have done more, but there wasn’t much else we could do.
If you are interested in her animal communication services, contact Ami Pope via her website (scroll down to the bottom), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 619-655-9494 to set up an appointment. Ami is a very nice lady who loves animals. I highly recommend her services. She works to put people and pets in touch with each other. I can’t say enough about how she talked to Spencer and told us what was happening with him.
Still Making Friends
Spencer was a sweet, likable doggie, and was just friends with everyone. I used to say that my tabby Kismet would purr for the burglars. I think Spencer would have been pretty much the same. He was a free spirit, marching to the beat of his own drum. Not particularly smart, but a lovable dog, who got along with the pit bull, the cat, and nearly anyone who came around, including other dogs.
Spencer is buried under a tree at the back of the property, where he’s had some visitors burrowing in the ground. BF has had to re-bury him a few times. We believe it’s the misguided armadillos that don’t realize they aren’t in Texas. They’ve not pulled him all the way up (he’s well-wrapped) but they’ve come close to going all the way down. But we think Spencer just appreciates the company because he liked everybody.
We miss our little Garbage Gobbler. I wish I could take him out for one more walk.
Until Next Time
Once again, I was chided for something I wrote in this blog, and it happened to be this post. At BF’s request, I’ve edited the passage to appease the offended party. With that, I offer two points:
- HeatCageKitchen is my blog, I pay for it, and I’m constitutionally protected by the First Amendment
- Obsidian vs. Cox, 2011, in which the Ninth Circuit ruled that bloggers are considered “citizen journalists” under the First Amendment, and are thereby protected as such
As one of my lawyer clients pointed out, if you don’t publish anything untrue, you’re good. I did, of course, from three eyewitness accounts. But I suppose recollections vary based on individual perspectives.
A more polite call would have worked much better than what we were subjected to, Girle.
We’re amazed at how many alleged adults act like high school kids. On the other hand, maybe if they keep coming back, they’ll drive more organic traffic!
Anyway. . . .
So, If you’re making resolutions to get healthy, stay tuned for my next blog post.
You’ve undoubtedly seen the commercials for diets, fitness equipment, and other “get your fat butt back into shape” ads airing since Christmas. I’ll tell you about something I bought back in June that’s been a “resolution” since the summer–if I could quit getting injured, of course.
In addition to the new Emilie Bailey book, I also have two other cookbooks to tell you about, one of which I’d call “healthy-ish.” You see that term here and there, which means that something is healthier than it could be, but maybe not perfectly healthy. In other words, less sugar, less flour, or those ingredients are replaced with something else that is healthy.
I’ll be back as soon as I can with another blog post for you, and more posts in 2022.
Happy New Year!
For coffee and dessert, you have a lot of choices. In New Orleans, you have Angelo Brocato’s in the Mid-City area. Come along with me and The E-Man for a quick visit.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
Well, unfortunately, I broke my “streak” again. There’s a reason for it, as I’ll explain. But because it’s been a while, I’m taking another one out of the “draft” file for you. It’s about time.
Let’s get started.
Before I moved to BF’s house, I was introduced to a very nice lady who lived in Folsom, LA, about 45 minutes from here. The occasion was a video sent to districts around the US of Buddhists with experiences to tell. I didn’t know who she was, but I knew her partner, PB.
Surprise! A year later, I found myself in BF’s house, and they came to visit in short order. I didn’t want them to visit, because everything was such a mess. PB is a nice man, but he insisted they needed to do a home visit. Over time, it’s gotten better, but it’s still, shall we say, “disorganized.” Not for lack of trying.
Her actual name is Nancy Mallory, and she moved down here in 2013 from Pennsylvania to spend her life with PB. He drove up to Pennsylvania to get this woman. BF only had to drive five hours to Houston to get me. They lived on his acreage in Folsom, and very happy together.
Somewhere, Nancy was diagnosed with cancer. Over time, she fought it hard, and along the way was a great friend to everyone, including me and BF. She asked about him one day, and I said, “he’s still going around telling people I’m trying to kill him.” Nancy’s reply: “you mean because of healthier food?” Yes. “Oh, so everything’s OK then.” Aunt Nancy got it.
I still don’t want to have company because I just don’t feel like the house is yet “company ready.” Mind you, we were ready to host the GER, Miss Alice and her daughter, as well as Neighbor E during the February freeze if they needed it. But they would have been warned about the disorganization.
Aunt Nancy wanted to do a “home visit” a couple of years ago, but I just didn’t want it here. She said, “so meet me somewhere!” We decided on the local PJ’s, and she drove up. I took this picture, and now I’m very glad I did.
I called her “Aunt Nancy” for the same reason I call two of the blog’s readers Aunt Kathy and Aunt Ruth. They’re like aunts to everyone. At least, that’s the way I see it, and I use it as a term of endearment. We’re not actually related, and nobody has complained.
One More Home Visit
Unfortunately, Aunt Nancy lost the fight on Friday, June 18th, in the evening. I went to visit her about a week before, and, let’s just say she didn’t look like this picture. The strong, vibrant woman was now someone who was “all beat up” from fighting. Her daughter and grandson were around, as well as her longtime friend from New Jersey. I didn’t know what to do, so her daughter said, “just talk to her.” That’s what I did, knowing it would likely be the last chance I had.
I gave Aunt Nancy updates about me and BF, how we were doing, and about some of our benefits. I sent her an email in January about one benefit we had but didn’t get a response. That’s OK–some people read them and don’t respond. But for Aunt Nancy, she gets a pass. Mostly, I wanted her to know what we’ve been up to, and that we’re doing OK. I didn’t want her to worry about us. She chanted for us more than once, and I believe that because of it , BF and I will be fine.
PB is carrying on, as he has a business to run and bills to pay. But we all miss her already.
More Website Issues
So, if you’ve come to the website a few times, you may have found that ridiculous spam redirect–again. Banana Rat and I have removed more of these nasty plugins, and we think we got it this time. Feel free to notify me if it returns and you get it.
On June 15th, I received an email from JetPack (one of my security add-ins) that stated:
Our security systems identified unusual behavior on your account. This usually happens when the password used for your WordPress.com account is also used on another service that had a data breach, or the password is weak, insecure, or easily guessable. Because the account behavior indicated that someone else might have access to your account, we reset the password and revoked any app tokens associated with the account.
Great! So I didn’t go back to the website until today. But since I had already changed the password, it was fine. Frequently, solving tech problems on the blog takes a LOT of time. Banana Rat is skilled in these things and has taken care of several on my behalf. Please give him your thanks. We think it’s OK now, and we hope so. That was highly annoying.
Iced Coffee, Anyone?
Well, now that it’s officially summer in the US, it’s iced coffee “season.” I get that iced coffee is an acquired taste–I didn’t actually like it until about 2008 when I got a coupon in my morning Houston Chronicle for a free one. I started actively drinking it in 2011, when we had a hot summer with drought in Houston, and later learned to make it at home. A couple of years ago, it got easier when I bought Kitchenaid’s cold brew iced coffee maker.
Nick Usborne of Coffee Detective has again published a blog on making iced coffee at home, with some updated equipment. The blog includes links to some other recipes, plus a review of the Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot and the Asobu cold-brew coffee maker. As I said the last time, there are many ways to make iced coffee, I just chose the one from Kitchenaid.
Coffee On The Way Home
So, as I mentioned in the post on Katie’s of Mid-City, I am frequently in need of a coffee for the 90-minute ride home from New Orleans. I usually stop at either Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or PJ’s Coffee. All three are along the stretch of Veterans Memorial Boulevard, which is Metairie’s “main drag.” Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and very large Rouse’s are also on Veterans in different places. After shopping, I get my coffee, and head back to the I-10, or occasionally, north on the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway, for the 90-minute drive.
There are two PJ’s on either side of Veterans, and, to my knowledge, two Starbucks. Dunkin sits next door to one of the Starbucks, and I like Dunkin’s iced coffees. But then, the ‘rona struck. We haven’t had any in-town meetings in 18 months. The only trip to New Orleans was for last year’s socially-distanced wedding at Southern Oaks.
Why Starbucks? Two reasons: one, until recently, I saved up my “stars” in the Starbucks Rewards program just to get a “free thing” for the trip home. Two: Since Starbucks in Louisiana doesn’t have as many stores as Starbucks in Houston, there are no salads. That means I’m having either their Egg Bites or some form of a coffee on the way out. I’ve exhausted my “stars,” because I haven’t been collecting them like I used to, and the last 50 were about to expire. The Hammond store has been fully opened since April, but I just don’t drop in as often.
So one day, The E-Man says to me, “forget Starbucks–you should get coffee at a local place.” Got anyplace in mind, Dude? “Angelo Brocato’s.”
Now, I grew up in the New Orleans area, but there are many places that I was never familiar with. This is one of them. I’ve seen the name here and there, but not in a long time.
So we park a couple of blocks away, as you do in Mid-City, and walked here:
It’s a lovely place where you can have a coffee, as we did, as well as all manner of delicious Italian pastries, cookies, gelatos, and more.
My first question: “Are we fancy enough for this place?” I guess we were, they served us.
Angelo Brocato’s serves it in the cafe as well as sells it in different retail locations. For me, they’re all an hour’s drive, but that’s OK.
In-store, you have a choice of them:
I’m sure I had that chocolate at the top right. The E-Man had a slice of this delicious spumoni.
They can pack up a quart of their gelato in the store for you to take home. They also sell the gelato and other treats at many local retailers.
Cookies And Bakery Goods
Because this visit was in July, there was no way I could get a pint of ice cream back to the Casa de Rurale intact without an ice chest and a pound of dry ice. Not knowing where to procure such a thing, I chose to bring BF a little white paper bag of tasty cookie treats.
But wait! There’s more!
You can buy these one at a time:
I brought home to BF a small selection of the things I knew would survive the trip, including a couple of these little amaretti cookies. He ate them happily, one at a time.
Visit With The E-Man
I asked for some cappuccino, which the nice lady expertly made for me:
The E-Man preferred to stick with coffee:
He bought some of their bagged “day-old” baked goods (biscotti, I think) and we talked with some nice folks while we were there. Then it was time for me to head home to the Casa de Rurale.
Naturally, I let BF know what we were doing. He knew I was bringing back some tasty things for him. Because I always do.
The Pandemic Takeout Window
Angelo Brocato’s is a very busy place most days, and on Friday and Saturday nights, there’s a line outside. Just about every week, I’m told.
But a pandemic couldn’t keep them down. They’ve been around for over 100 years! Hurricane Katrina took them out for about a year, and they came back strong.
When the world closed up last year, Angelo Brocato’s decided to do what most restaurants did–open for takeout, including an exclusive take-out window.
I’m guessing those lines are back on Friday and Saturday nights now that the state has re-opened.
A Great Place To Visit
I’ve said this before: if you’re visiting New Orleans, skip Starbucks and find someplace local. Angelo Brocato’s fits that bill, even if it’s just for a morning coffee. It’s a delicious and elegant “old world” cafe that will make you glad you did. You can also order online for shipment anywhere in the continental US.
They’re located at 214 N. Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans’ Mid-City area. They are closed on Mondays like many New Orleans businesses. It’s a thing there. They’re open 10 am to 10 pm, Tuesday through Saturday, and 10 am to 9 pm on Sunday.