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Baked blackberry galette
Blackberry Cheesecake Galette

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.

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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.

Flooded land

See? The Brazos River returns, and this was a couple of hours after the rain ended.

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

It’s been a year since our Hurricane Ida adventure started. We survived that, plus The Big Freeze in February, so maybe we’ll survive anything—we’ll see.

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:

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.

Hatch Chiles

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:

Hatch chile display in Winn Dixie

They’ve arrived!

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.

Even more berries growing on vines

I pick as many as I can reasonably reach.

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:

Bag of blackberry harvest 2022

Look at all those berries!

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.

Slice of blackberry cobbler

It is as good as it looks.

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.

Baked blackberry galette

Blackberry Cheesecake Galette

Amy
From the Summer 2022 edition of The Pioneer Woman Magazine, page 80-81
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Cooling time 1 hr
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.
Keyword blackberry, cheesecake, galette

So, gather up your ingredients, including your blackberry bowl:

Ingredients for blackberry cheesecake galette

The setup

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.

Baking sheet and pie dough

Like this

Unroll your pie crusts and stack them on a work surface—a cutting board, or another flat thing.

Unrolling pie crusts

This isn’t how you’re supposed to do this, but it was at night.

Now the second:

Stacking two pie crusts

Just like that. . .I think.

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:

Flattening the pie crusts

Like this

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:

Ingredients for blackberry filling

The setup, part 2. The reason the coffee cup is upside down is to let me know that my coffee is all set up and ready to go, all I have to do is push the button in the morning.

Add the berries, cornstarch salt, ¼ cup of granulated sugar, lemon zest, and a tablespoon of our lemon juice into a bowl.

Adding cornstarch to blackberry mixture

Just like this.

Carefully mix them so you don’t mess up the berries (especially if you use thawed frozen ones as I did.)

Mixing blackberry mixture

Careful!

Mix until the cornstarch dissolves, set it aside, and move on to the cheesecake part.

Ingredients for the cheesecake topping mixture for blackberry cheesecake galette

The setup, part 3

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.

Mixing the cheesecake topping for the blackberry cheesecake galette

LIke this

Now you’re ready to bake.

Galette Assembly

First, remove a few berries from the other bowl and set them aside. These will make the top look pretty.

Removing a small amount of blackberries into a small white bowl

Mine aren’t quite as photogenic, but they sure are tasty.

Then add the rest to the flat piecrust, leaving a two-inch border for the up-folding.

Adding blackberry mixture to pie crust

Careful! Especially if your baking sheet isn’t flat.

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.

Folded piecrust on blackberry cheesecake galette

Post-cleanup. Obviously, I’m not a pastry chef.

If you haven’t done so already, beat the whole egg, and brush it on the crust you just folded up over the side:

Brushing egg white on galette

Carefully

And sprinkle some coarse sugar on top of the egg-washed crust area:

Sprinkling coarse sugar over crust

This is the coarse sugar, not the granulated we used in the fillings.

The coarse sugar gives the galette a nice, crunchy crust when it’s done. Into the oven for 30 to 35 minutes:

Galette baking in oven

He’ll be enjoying it soon as it cools.

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:

Baked blackberry galette

Right out of the oven!

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:

Big mess in the sink after finishing the galette

You know you always have this after making a delicious thing like this one.

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!

 

 

Cover Photo of the original Outlander Kitchen cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders
Cookbook Review: The Outlander Cookbook

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.

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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.

Another Series

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.

Cover Photo of the original Outlander Kitchen cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders

The original Outlander Kitchen cookbook. (Source: Amazon.com)

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.)

Enjoy!

Outlander

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.

Picture of Scottish Oat Cakes topped with melted Brie cheese

Scottish oatcakes (picture via KitchAnnette.com)

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 The Outlandish Companion.

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”.

A slice of Dundee Cake plus the rest of the cake

Dundee Cake, via FeastOfStarlight.com

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.

Nice touch.

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.

Bowl of Cock-a-Leekie soup

Cock-A-Leekie Soup (picture via VibrantLifeArmyWife.com)

Bannocks

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.

Picture of Scottish bannocks

Scottish bannocks, via BrownieBites.net

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.

Brilliant.

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.

Bridies from Drums of Autumn

Brianna’s Bridies from Drums of Autumn, via OutlanderKitchen.com

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.

Picture of Scotch eggs

Scotch eggs (picture via Parade Magazine, parade.com)

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.

Plate with sausage and mashed potatoes, known as "bangers & mash

Bangers & Mash, via FeastofStarlight.com

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.

 

Dash dog treat maker with dog treats
Post Holiday Catch-up For 2022

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.

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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:

Half destroyed houst through a car window

Taken in Albany, LA, near a friend’s place. The house was literally shredded in half.

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.

Rouses Recovery

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.

Hatch chiles in jars at Rouses

They still have Hatch chiles.

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.

Finding One

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.

Inflation

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.

Dash waffle stick maker and waffled falafel mix

They were really easy to make and easier to eat.

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.

Waffled falafel sticks in aluminum pan

Ready to transport!

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.

Canned pumpkin with the doggie treat maker

Ready to roll!

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.

Banana-Flax Treats

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.

Dash dog treat maker with dog treats

Made these for the pup

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.

Sewing

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 wearing his wool jacket

BF wearing his jacket based on Simplicity 9240, a unisex pattern for sweats. That’s his mess, and he chose to leave things in that order. (I’m better organized.)

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.

Cat sitting in the hood of the warm hoodie

There he is, the master of disguise, and the connoisseur of comfy.

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.

Spencer seated on cushion

There he is, happy. I made two of those cushions for the dogs.

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.

The Appetite

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.

Walking Spencer

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.

Spencer smiling

This is what you would normally see when Spencer was around. It’s BF’s favorite picture of him.

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.

Nope.

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.

FISH!

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?”

Something’s Wrong

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.

BF Carrying Spencer to the vet

I drove and he held our little buddy going to the first vet’s appointment. We were both very unhappy about this development.

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.

Saying Goodbye

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 info@amipope.com, 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!

Building Sign Angelo Brocato's
Angelo Brocato’s

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.

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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.

Aunt Nancy

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 SGI-USA members 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.

The Fight

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.

Nancy Mallory In PJ's

A great candid shot, taken November 1, 2019

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.

Angelo Brocato’s

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:

Building Sign Angelo Brocato's

An old New Orleans kind of place.

Angelo Brocato's Front Door Sign

A most friendly, welcoming place

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.

Angelo Brocato's mezzanine area

The mezzanine inside the cafe. Isn’t it lovely?

My first question: “Are we fancy enough for this place?” I guess we were, they served us.

Gelato

If you’re not familiar with the term, gelato is the richer and more Italian form of ice cream. There are many brands available around the US, and Giada de Laurentiis has a recipe for it here.

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:

Gelato case at Angelo Brocato's

A lot of delicious!

I’m sure I had that chocolate at the top right. The E-Man had a slice of this delicious spumoni.

More gelato in Angelo Brocato's

Spumoni! (Sorry about the foggy)

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.

Angelo Brocato's first bakery case

Delicious treats that make the trip home

But wait! There’s more!

Angelo Brocato's second bakery case

Such lovely things

You can buy these one at a time:

Angelo Brocato's cookie jar

I have a weakness for these, but was good that day.

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:

Cappuccino Angelo Brocato's

Absolutely delicious

The E-Man preferred to stick with coffee:

 

The E-Man and his coffee i

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.

Angelo Brocato's Takeout window

The very modern pandemic solution for an old-world business (Source: The Times-Picayune)

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.

Happy Dining!

Katie's Frittata
Restaurant Review: Katie’s of Mid-City

Katie’s of Mid-City is a great neighborhood restaurant to visit if you’re looking for a real New Orleans place. Or, if you’re not interested in going near the French Quarter.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

As we begin the process of getting back to normal, I realized it’s been a while since I did a restaurant review. It’s been some  time since I’ve been in this particular restaurant, too, but I never forgot it. Maybe BF and I should take a ride there and have lunch one day, and drag The E-Man with us.

Before I tell you about Katie’s of Mid-City, I’ve got a few other things to tell you about first.

Instant Pot: Venison Roast

So, back in December, one of the neighbors brought over what BF said was “deer roast.” I have no idea what part of the deer. I asked BF how to cook this. His response: “just like a regular roast.” Oh, that’s helpful. So I bagged them up and put them into a bag with other meats in the big freezer.

While researching the Instant Pot post, I came across this recipe for Instant Pot Venison Roast. Dinner is always a challenge to figure out no matter how far in advance I try to plan it. So I asked BF if we could try this out.

Meat and Potatoes. How bad can that be?

I’m happy to report that I made this for us over the weekend and it was a success. I only had dried thyme on hand, and I used about two teaspoons of it. The venison came out tender and juicy, and the vegetables perfectly cooked.

Yes, I know it’s not “keto,” but as I always say, I eat “keto, mostly.” And I didn’t take pictures, sorry. If you’re in possession of venison but have no idea what to do with it, I highly recommend this recipe. Just understand the irony that it will take a good three hours using the. . .Instant Pot.

Freezer Organization

A quick note–if you have a large freezer as we do now, things can get very disorganized quickly.

The solution: reusable grocery bags. No kidding. Wash them first.

I could have sworn I saw this tip on One Good Thing By Jillee, but now I can’t find it there. But I did find it on LifeHacker’s website, albeit shorter.

Dionne at Home Made Our Way has a more detailed blog post on organizing your chest freezer. Because I’m telling you, I speak from experience–you’ll be getting frostbite trying to find that one thing you need somewhere. (I have a pair of gloves for the day I have to do that.)

BF is of the habit of opening the lid of the big freezer and chucking things in without looking. I’ve shown him the “system,” but he’s not concerned. I’m guessing he thinks the solution is to make sure I have additional housework and chores. I’ll fix that one day.

Lunch After The Activity at Katie’s

Because going to the SGI-USA Community Center in New Orleans (which has not yet reopened) is an all-day thing for me, frequently I go have lunch or coffee with The E-Man, and sometimes other members too. Most often, I need a little “leaded” coffee for the long trip home.

The E-Man was not born in New Orleans, but he’s certainly made it home after many years of living there. He knows every street, every avenue, and every place to go as well as avoid.

One particular day he said something about “Katie’s.” I had no idea what he was talking about. After all, I haven’t lived there in more than 20 years. But one thing about The E-Man, he’s been around.

Katie's dining room

Really busy place, and for good reason.

Because I had no idea where I was going, I had to follow him. In a pickup truck, no less, in a part of town I was never completely familiar with–Mid-City. But off we went to a little place that wasn’t touristy, and a little off the beaten path.

Katie’s, The Place

Katie’s is one of those restaurants that if nobody told you about it, you might not even know it was there. One block off the Canal Street streetcar line, it’s at 3701 Iberville Street. But we drove and had to park over a block away–that’s where parking was available.

The restaurant is one that’s nearly always busy and crowded, and like everyone else, we had to wait outside before getting in. What does that tell you? Everybody wants to go there!

The place has also been featured on two Food Network programs, “Food On The Road,” and this one.

Guy Fieri Poster In Katie's

Yes, Guy Fieri’s been here, too.

And in 2013, it was voted a Best Of New Orleans by local publication Gambit. So that wait for a table tells you that the place has a loyal following. Waiting at Cafe Express or The Olive Garden is just not the same thing as waiting to get into Katie’s, because Katie’s is a different experience completely.

Casual Interior

It’s a casual place, like a lot of places are now. And that’s OK, too:

Katie's Dining Area

Window view in between customers. It filled up quickly again.

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Katie’s wasn’t spared.

Katie's water line during Katrina

Because Mid-City is a below-sea-level neighborhood, Katie’s took a fair amount of water.

But they rebuilt and came back. With decor like this:

Katie's Fork Sculpture

Now that’s using your noodle!

Or This:

Katies sign in ladies' room

This was in the ladies’ room but probably shouldn’t have been.

You can’t help but have a good time.

More Views

From the upstairs, I saw this outside, just someone’s house:

Katie's Upstairs View

Nice!

And there are more awards!

Katie's Awards

These were in the upstairs area, where there is both food prep and additional seating. (And the ladies’ room.)

Downstairs the casual, fun vibe was the same:

Katie's big painting

Interesting, yes?

I liked this too:

Katie's Picture Gallery

On the left side is one with, shall we say, “local vernacular.”

Katie's painting trio

These were particularly interesting

Since our last trip, Katie’s has stayed relatively the same, I’m told. That means you’ll see much the same thing, but I can’t answer for the menu.

The place is great but not terribly big. Although it’s on a corner, it’s in one of those older neighborhoods with small buildings and “shotgun” houses. In fact, that’s probably what the blue house next door is. That being said, expect a wait, especially on popular days like Sundays.  They’re only open from 9-3 on Sunday, and everybody goes there after church.

Our Brunch At Katie’s

Let’s talk about food. It’s casual, it’s good, and just what you’d expect from a place like this.

The E-Man knows what he likes, and ordered something called Oysters Slessinger.

Katie's Oyster Slessinger

This was what The E-Man ordered as an appetizer!

This appetizer consists of a half-dozen oysters (I think I tried one or two, and you can also order a dozen) along with “creamy provel, shrimp, spinach and bacon served with french bread.” I have no idea what “provel” is and didn’t ask, nor did I handle the French bread. I left that to The E-Man.

For lunch, he ordered:

Katie's chicken & waffles

Yes, he was hungry.

I asked for something that was gluten-free and was offered a frittata. Yes, please. Thank you.

Katie's Frittata

In keeping with gluten-free and low-carb, I asked and was offered this delicious frittata.

All cheesy, with sausage on the inside. Italian, if I remember correctly:

Katies frittata with a bite out of it

Delicious!

No complaint from me!

Of course, when I picked up BF from work that afternoon, I told him all about it. His response: “that’s a lot different  than the ham and cheese sandwich I had.” Touche. I did make sure he had a good dinner.

Rack Of Tabasco

If you like Tabasco, so do they:

Tabasco rack in Katie's

They did have every flavor of it, including my favorite, Chipotle.

Some of Katie’s online menu items aren’t the same as what we had that day, because we went for Sunday brunch. But like many neighborhood restaurants, they may also change their menu periodically.

Have A Good Time At Katie’s!

No, this isn’t a sponsored post. I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, and finally got to it. Besides, one of my astute readers may be planning a trip to New Orleans soon and wants to find a good place to eat. I don’t think you’ll go wrong by including a visit to Katie’s in the itinerary.

Katie’s is at 3701 Iberville Street in New Orleans (70119), and their number is (504) 488-6582. You can find a map at the bottom of their home page. They open daily at 11 am, and close at 9 pm during the week, 9:30 pm on Friday and Saturday. Visit them for brunch from 9 am to 3 pm on Sundays. Call or email for reservations, or for larger parties. They’re still doing curbside and takeout if you prefer.

I’m planning another review of a Mid-City place soon–and they have coffee plus sweets. No, it’s not a Starbucks, either.

Enjoy!

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