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. . . .
Egg bites: another Starbucks trend that’s gone mainstream. Make them or buy them, they’re a great meal or snack anytime.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers!
It’s Monday, and did you know? It’s three weeks past my birthday, and ten days until Thanksgiving. When did this happen? Oh, right–while we were all working on stuff and going about our daily lives and trying to hold onto some kind of “normal.”
Our recent lives here at the Casa de Rurale have included a few changes that I won’t bore you with here. But as always, we’re working on it.
Turkey Day 2020
Thanksgiving for us this year could be just me and BF, but I did introduce him to the idea of “Friendsgiving.” In other words, Thanksgiving for friends, as we did for many years with our “Buddhist Thanksgiving” in Houston. I mean, we were doing Friendsgiving before there was a name for it.
The district leaders, originally from Taiwan, invited anyone who had no plans to go anywhere and wanted to spend it with friends. And that’s exactly how it got started. I enjoyed the heck out of it, but things change and people change, and it eventually didn’t happen anymore.
I found a recipe on Facebook that Giada de Laurentiis posted for a stuffed turkey breast that I may make for us, and anyone we invite. I’ll let you know. But if it’s just me and BF at the homestead, that’s OK too.
Still Intermittent Fasting
I’m still at it, but now I have a little support, too. BF never minded–he asked once if it was safe–but I’ve also found a simple-to-use app called FastHabit. It helps you track your fasting, reminds you about it, and you can start and stop anytime.
On a recent Saturday, we were out with BF’s family and we all went out to lunch. I ended up fasting for almost 20 hours. I was really hungry, but I was OK.
I’m using the free version right now, but the paid version is a one-time charge of $3, so I may go ahead and buy it soon.
It’s available for both iPhone and Android devices, is simple to use, and sets up quickly. You can also adjust the time you fast, keep going after your set time–whatever.
Weight loss? Yeah, I haven’t checked, but I’m still in the FB group for it.
I went looking for new jazz music and discovered that there are live, commercial-free radio stations running on YouTube. No kidding, I went looking for jazz music and found a handful of stations that run live. No commercials, no talking, no nothing.
One of my writer friends went looking for the “white noise” kind of thing, ocean sounds, and the like and found the same thing.
I don’t know if you could find them for, say, country or classic rock. But I found multiple jazz stations, and they change every day. If you’re looking for “work from home” music that keeps you from being distracted, check it out. You might find something you like, and new every day.
Before Egg Bites
I’ve written before about Starbucks’ ideas making it into the mainstream. Remember when you got to-go coffee in styrofoam cups, and a paper cup with the sleeve was the “new thing?”
Even if you have never set foot in a Starbucks, you’ve probably heard of the Pumpkin Spice Latte or PSL. Since its introduction in 2003, “pumpkin spice” everything has emerged, including some rather amusing memes. I’ve seen a number of “pumpkin spice” things available in the fall. The motor oil, toilet paper, and cat litter are part of the fun memes that make fun of it.
Remember: pumpkins are also harvested in the fall, which is why it’s a fall thing. But you can buy canned pumpkin all year long. No kidding.
So in addition to the PSL, there is the Pumpkin Spice Creme, a different form of the drink. The PSL is also available iced. Up until 2015, there was no pumpkin in any of it, only the spices in a pumpkin pie. Today the heavy-sugar syrups do have some pumpkin puree in them.
I’m still not drinking the PSL because I remember how my teeth wiggled for hours after I drank it. Other coffee shops and chains have also taken up the things that originated in Starbucks. But I do enjoy some of the decaf pumpkin spice coffee I find at Target in the fall. And since the Cranberry Bliss Bars have returned, I might just have one of them soon, too. Just one.
Not Just In The Store Anymore
So after the Sous Vide Egg Bites debuted at Starbucks nationwide, they quickly became a fan favorite.
They’re a great little snack anytime. People doing low-carb and keto love them because they’re a breakfast alternative on the go. They’re heated in an oven, then served hot and fast in a little paper tray. Perfect with hot or iced coffee, iced tea, or even water.
Move over, Starbucks, you’ve created another monster.
Hormel’s New Egg Bites
I really like to avoid prepared foods, but occasionally, they’re not a bad thing. So maybe they’re not new to you, but I just saw these this morning in Rouses:
I was going to pass them up, but then the word “chorizo” caught me. And no futzing around in the drive-through, either.
I almost forgot about them until I pulled them out of the bag with the rest of the shopping. By then it was time for a bite to eat.
I know, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but remember that each component has its own ingredients–chorizo and cheese, in this case. But they were quick to make:
They were literally heat and eat, and have the little paper tray just like Starbucks:
You microwave them in the paper tray for a minute or so, and they come out just fine.
What do they taste like?
I’ve had Starbucks version of chorizo, and it’s not like this one. The chorizo here tastes pretty darn good, and there is a “bite,” unlike the Starbucks version. If you don’t like spicy, might want to pass on these.
They’re flavorful egg bites, and taste really, really good.
Amy’s Home Made Egg Bites
Although mine have bacon, not chorizo, this is how they compare:
I didn’t use a “recipe” for the latest batch. I just whisked up some eggs, cheese, cream, cooked bacon (ends and pieces cooked and crumbled), and maybe some Chipotle Tabasco. That’s really good in egg dishes like these–not hot but adds a Southwestern flavor.
Like a lot of things, there are recipes all over the web for egg bites in nearly every incarnation. After trying several recipes it was time for me to make my own, my way. Next time I’ll make the chorizo myself and then make the egg bites.
As you can see, the Hormel version is a bit bigger than my IP version, for which I use a silicone egg bite mold. I made two trays of them at once, and haven’t had them every day. But heck, if you’re that hungry, eat three, right? It’s keto.
I’m going to admit that making my own egg bites in the IP is a bit of work, but I sure do enjoy them. BF won’t eat them, even though they’re bacon-and-eggs, because he, like the GER, is not a fan of Starbucks.
Dude: you can have your egg bites without going there.
Not Just Egg Bites, Either
Hormel’s new Black Label ready-made breakfast includes a couple of items even BF might enjoy:
You know I’d pass on these because of the pancakes, but if BF wanted one, I’d certainly get it for him.
He keeps around the powdered pancake mix so that he can whip up his own on occasion, and drown them in syrup. Just wish he’d learn to use a knife when cutting butter, instead of the spatula. When he uses a fork, it looks like a bear clawed it. He really mauls a stick of butter when he’s in the kitchen.
Until Next Time
You’d think that breakfast is just breakfast, but it keeps evolving. So if you’re looking for a quick and easy breakfast but don’t have time to make it, you’re in luck. Find some of Hormel’s egg bites in the refrigerated section or some of Jimmy Dean’s version of frittata breakfasts in the freezer section, which are along the same lines. A low-carb breakfast is a reality for busy folks.
Just don’t say the word “frittata” in front of BF, please. It gives him the shakes.
Happy (Breakfast) Dining!
Finally some news, including Hatch chiles, sort of.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Well, it’s summer again, and you know what happened. I’ve been writing, cooking, washing, and cleaning, and generally not blogging. For three weeks, the blog was actually broken. Finally, I created a service ticket for my hosting service, and they fixed it quickly.
After finishing the post on the John Walton Celebration of Life, a little catching up is in order.
My new copywriting website is still not finished. It’s one of those big, hairy things I don’t want to deal with, but I have to, eventually.
The good news is that my Upwork Job Success Score (JSS) just went back up to 100%.
I also finally finished two certifications from Digital Marketer: one for SEO (Search Market Mastery), the other for Content Marketing. The SEO course is the one that I’d been fiddling with for over a year, and Content Marketing was the other one I wanted.
These will be added to the new website. . .eventually.
Because Digital Marketer had a hard-stop ending on the free access on April 15th, I had to finish them ASAP. Nothing like a deadline to make you complete something, right? Well, I almost didn’t get the SEO finished because there was a bug on their website that gave me an error message when I went to take the test. Finally, it was fixed, and I was able to finish the certification. I did the content marketing course in two days, and I have notes and handouts and downloads to refer to.
World Gone Mad
I’ve got to be careful about how I phrase this next section. My hosting company sent out an email in March that included a comment on how they were removing *those* disease-related search terms from their domain search tool so that nobody could set up a website to take advantage of the situation, including alleged and likely fake “cures.” So, here goes.
Last time I wrote a blog post that bug was just affecting some folks on a cruise ship overseas. Now it’s a worldwide thing that has seen all manner of disasters, including economic. While people are starting to emerge from their homes, many because they can’t stand it anymore, the powers that be are continuing to scramble to try and find the right answers.
Part of our preparations included some panic shopping at Walmart for “essentials.” However, what he considers “essential” and what I consider “essential” are frequently not the same. But we were able to get some foodstuffs to pack up under the counter. They’re packed in boxes along with some other foodstuffs that were given to us from BF’s Dad’s house when his sister cleared out some things in favor of “low-sodium” for their Dad to help lower his blood pressure.
Everyone needs cans of chili with beans, right? (Don’t forget the Gas-X!) I added some cans of salmon, which BF wouldn’t touch. For a while, we couldn’t get canned tuna or salmon at all. There were also nationwide shortages of things like yeast, flour, cleaning supplies, and those were evident here. BF was concerned about not being able to get bread, so I bought an extra bag of flour. . .but there was no yeast. I have some in the pantry that I brought from Houston, but that was it. Might be good, might not be, but I haven’t tried proofing it yet. When I found some, I bought it.
We’ve kept ahead of the game on the most coveted item, toilet paper.
Managing The Pandemic
Louisiana has been one of the states with higher rates of cases, but as of this writing, the fatality rate is about 6%, and the recovery rate is high. (I did the math, so be proud of me.) We are fortunate to be in one of the outlying parishes that’s close to the Mississippi border. Our parish has seen a total of 58 presumptive cases, and one fatality due to the bug.
Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Tammany have seen the greatest numbers of cases and deaths, with all 64 parishes now reporting infections. The New Orleans Advocate has a page that’s updated daily with the latest numbers, and the Houston Chronicle also has regular updates for Houston and for Texas.
The most awesome Dr. Sakina Davis at Woodlands Wellness recently had a Zoom call with some of us interested folks to talk about not only what it was, but how to defend yourself against *it* with supplements, healthy eating, and of course, getting some sun as well as supplementing with Vitamin D. I greatly appreciated that. I had to get some Vit C from them, and got a couple of bottles of their very posh-smelling hand sanitizer as well. (I have the most incredible hand sanitizer for miles around!) Another thing: turn off the TV and don’t have a steady diet of “news.”
And if that isn’t enough, it’s now hurricane season. Tropical Storm Cristobal was the first storm to come this way. We just had some rain, nothing serious.
It’s Jumanjij Level 6!
We’re starting to come out on the other side of the pandemic, and slowly, places are reopening around the US. We’ve been to our local Tex-Mex place, La Carreta, once, and have bought curbside takeout from them twice. They’ve reopened with masks on servers. We’ve not been to any of the other local places, which have since reopened, including BF’s favorite Cracker Barrel in Hammond. Yet. But eventually, we all hope to get back to some kind of normalcy.
Trending Egg Bites: Starbucks Leads
Once again the Big Green Coffee Company of Seattle leads the way in trends. First, it was the much-lauded (and maligned) Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL, complete with 50 grams of sugar). Now, they’re leading with their famed egg bites.
I’ve done egg bites in the Instant Pot, but they’re a bit of trouble and I’ve not made them in a while. (I even bought two of those silicone egg molds to do make them in.)
Egg bites are quite popular for a lot of reasons, and it’s probably the one thing I buy the most when I visit Starbucks, other than coffee.
They’re now considered an “emerging food trend,” meaning that everyone is getting on the bandwagon after Starbucks started it. Finally, you’ll soon be able to get egg bites in your grocers’ freezer case. Organic Valley will begin shipping frozen egg bites to stores in late July with an MSRP of $3.99 a pack. Nestle and Valley Fine Foods will soon follow with their own brands.
NOTE: Starbucks has begun to re-open their stores, but our Hammond store has a drive-thru curbside service, Although the store is actually open, there is no seating. You can just go to the counter and pick up your order or hit the powder room (I think.) They aren’t allowing seating outside under the patio, either.
Understand that when I first got here, the center of my universe in Hammond was the Starbucks on St. Thomas. I was very surprised to see a PJ’s in our town, right by Winn-Dixie, and that was a small comfort. It still is, and both have free WiFi.
Admittedly, I only visit Starbucks sporadically, usually, when I’m going to Hammond anyway, or if I’m headed to New Orleans. If there are extra points to be had or some other kind of “special” reason to go, I might make a trip and hit Target at the same time. I’ve utilized the mobile app ordering, and it worked fine.
Mostly, though, I’ve been going to our local PJ’s Coffee on Fridays, ordering their $1-any-size hot coffees through the drive-through and adding a bigger tip or the folks working there.
The cafe just re-opened a couple of weeks ago. But I was doing what was asked, helping out by going through the drive-thru to keep them in business throughout the shutdowns.
BF and I went through one day and I got him a delicious breakfast croissant. A couple of times, I bought BF a double-chocolate muffin, including one for his birthday. He was happy with that. We also bought a gift card to help keep our PJ’s in business, and I’ve just started using the money on it. Their drive-thru has been quite busy so I guess it worked.
Like a lot of fast-food places, PJ’s has been following the guidelines set out by the CDC and the State of Louisiana. They just re-opened the local cafe a couple of weeks ago, with limited indoor seating and the same abbreviated hours. There is also a bigger PJ’s in Hammond, but not near Starbucks, although I haven’t been to that one in a while. Situated next to military recruiting offices, they have a second-floor seating area, and also offer lunch items. They too have abbreviated hours, but chances are, the same as ours.
PJ’s also offers discounts to military personnel and veterans, at least here. That’s a plus for BF, except that he doesn’t drink coffee.
But guess what? PJ’s is, through expansion and franchising, moving into other states, including Texas! I couldn’t believe how many PJ’s there are now around the US. California? Maryland? Georgia? Arkansas? Alabama? I had no idea. There is one “coming soon” to Katy, TX, and I notified longtime Boeing brother RR to be on the lookout. There is also a location in Pearland, which is kind of near Miss Alice, but also might be somewhere in the path of the GER. I let him know about it, and that it is a great alternative to Starbucks (his least favorite place.)
Could PJ’s become the new go-to place for coffee and topple the reigning coffee empire? It’s possible. You could find a PJ’s in your neighborhood one day soon.
The HeatCageKitchen Garden, 2020
Partly in response to the worldwide crisis, BF decided we needed to step up our homesteading game at the Casa de Rurale. I just say it’s about time.
After gardening in buckets, small patches of land, and getting some “toilet-tank tomatoes” two summers ago, we now have a more formal garden. I’ve already made two batches of fresh pesto for the freezer, which he is, as always, unhappy about.
The plant on the right has already been cut for both pesto and for cloning. I’ve got to plant those rootlings soon and get them out of the window. I’ll fill the chest freezer with pesto for the winter, or I’ll end up giving some away. Now to figure out what to do with the burgeoning tarragon. I’ll start with a compound butter for chicken.
Our neighbor across the street, Mr. JD, brought over his tractor and dug up some land for us in front of the shop, and we’ve been planting and planting again. Some things don’t work but we keep trying. We’ve planted a number of things, some of which are actually doing quite well. Right now we have actively growing:
- Potatoes, including some from the grocery store we let bud
- Green beans
- Yellow teardrop
- Chocolate cherry, from seeds I saved in 2015 in Houston (no tomatoes yet)
- Mexican Oregano
- Purple bell peppers
- Shishito peppers (a small, sweet pepper from Japan)
- “Coolapenos,” a variety of jalapenos without the heat
- Anaheim chili peppers, aka, Hatch
Between the plants and the seeds, there have been some that were successful, and some disappointments. We just keep planting stuff and hope it works.
The agreement with Mr. JD was that we would share the harvest, and that’s fine. But when I picked the first of the bounty, three French breakfast radishes, he never stopped by for them. So I washed them and ate them:
Note: eat radishes right after picking. I’ve planted more, and they’re coming up quickly. I’ve got both French Breakfast radishes and some older seeds of some other type, and both are growing.
The Anaheim, or Hatch, Chili Pepper Plant
Remember a couple of years ago I did some reading into Hatch chiles? Well, I am finally getting some from the garden, after three years of trying to grow the darn things from saved seeds from Hatch seasons past. They’re not exactly Hatch chiles, but they’re pretty much the same thing.
I’m convinced this was a mistake, but our local Tractor Supply had Anaheim “Hatch” chili pepper plants about two months ago, and I got the last one. I keep going back to see if they’ve received any more, but nothing yet.
At the moment, there are four small peppers in various stages of growth, and I’ve got four in the fridge. I’m planning to roast them soon, and save the seeds. I used the first two peppers to try and plant more–get a load of these:
Miss Raylina, who works at our local Tractor Supply and puts up with my harassment about “setting up the coffee bar,” told me how to plant any pepper. It’s simple: cut it in half lengthwise and fill the cavity–seeds and all–with soil. Then bury the dirt-filled pepper in your garden. The seeds will germinate and feed off the flesh of the pepper while growing. Simple, right?
I really want more of these peppers this summer, so I’m willing to sacrifice the first two for the greater good of the garden (and give me more “Hatch” peppers, darn it.) But nothing yet. I’ll be saving the seeds out of these during the summer to try and grow Hatch chiles again next year.
But so far, nothing yet. At least we have New Mexico’s harvest in August, at which time I will be able to harvest more of the Hatch chile seeds for next year.
More Garden Pictures
Of course, Anaheim “Hatch” chili peppers aren’t the only thing we’ve got going on. BF insisted on growing corn and potatoes because that’s what his Dad always grew when they were kids. Mind you, BF just turned 50, has been married twice, owned a house once, but has never had a garden of his own. So far, the corn is doing well, with just one stalk knocked over a bit when Cristobal passed through:
How can we incorporate Hatch chiles in with corn? Well, for starters, do it when BF isn’t around.
Because the little yellow teardrop plant didn’t seem to be doing well, I went ahead and moved it. I figured if it was going to die anyway, I might as well try and give it a fighting chance. Not exactly a bumper crop, but it’s a start:
Earlier this year I found three bell pepper plants called Tequila. They turn purple when ripe, not red. I thought it was interesting so I bought a flat of three. Well, one plant didn’t make it, one is still in the shadow of the bigger one and needs moving, even though it’s got one pepper growing on it. But the big plant has three purple peppers, in various stages of ripeness.
Interesting, yes? And then there are the Shishito peppers:
I only saw Ina Garten make these on her show recently, and apparently it’s also in her last book. (Giada de Laurentiis also has a recipe for them.) When I saw the plants at Tractor Supply, I bought two. One is doing better than the other, so I’ll be trying them out when they get bigger. Surprise! One of them is going to be HOT.
Have you ever heard of someone being overrun with zucchini? That hasn’t happened to us yet, we’ve only gotten two off this plant.
And because the leaves are so big, I may have to move the oregano–again.
BF doesn’t eat them, so of course, I’ll be happily feasting on them soon. Zucchini noodles, and preserved zucchini are right on my list.
We’ve also had blackberries growing wild, but BF has never told me how to cultivate them. (Mr. JD said they were “dewberries,” but whatever–they’re delicious.) I gathered berries every day during the brief season, and I have about two quarts in the freezer. That’s the berries left from when I go out berry-picking with the now 80-pound pit bull. We eat berries together. He loves them, right off the vine. I also drop them into his huge, muscular mouth for him to enjoy.
Salad Greens And Other Ingredients
I love salads, and I have long wished to be able to walk outside, pick my salad, walk back inside, wash everything, cut and toss everything into a bowl. I’ve sort of done that twice so far, but there were no cucumbers yet, and I bought some grape tomatoes at Winn-Dixie:
I think I may have dipped into the remaining stash I have of Meyer Lemon EVOO and Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar from Oil & Vinegar in The Woodlands. Just this once, it was a special occasion. But this salad didn’t need much. Those bottles have been at the top corner of the pantry behind everything. BF has strict orders to never touch it, but he probably won’t anyway.
I miss that place. I wonder if they ship.
I tried to grow Romaine lettuce in Houston but was always unsuccessful. The GER told me once that lettuce is a “winter crop,” which put me right off trying again. One day I had a nice big leaf growing, and an hour later, a slug took it out.
Then I moved. Here, we’ve grown some “gourmet” lettuce as well as what doesn’t really look much like iceberg lettuce, but is quite tasty.
The seed for the iceberg lettuce moved when it rained or I watered, so it’s in an odd place. I might try to move it again soon, or move both lettuces away from the outer part of the garden plot so they’ll grow better. There’s a reason for that.
See, I did sprout some Romaine and some celery in the kitchen recently, but they disappeared after I planted them outside. Not died–disappeared. BF said it looked like either deer, possums, raccoons or some other nocturnal creatures came to feast and dug them out of the ground. Without one of those outdoor cams, we have no way of knowing. I’m not 100% sure I want to know what’s going on outside with Mother Nature, anyway.
We also planted cucumbers, which, along with watermelon, are threatening to take over the lawn.
You’ve got to check those cucumbers regularly–if they turn yellow, they’re awful. I know this because the GER grew cucumbers once, and we missed one. He found the yellow “ripe” one, and of course, I had to try it. NOPE! So I’m on them daily for the ones that are ready to pick. If I see some yellow, they get harvested.
No watermelons yet, but we’ll be enjoying those hopefully later in the summer.
I do keep watering and pulling ever-present indigenous weeds out of the plot. There’s some over-grown grass to be removed as well, and I take out some every morning when I water. At some point, I hope to do a mass removal of everything and get some of that black fabric to put over the ground to keep the weeds from getting sun. Fingers crossed.
Books, Books, And More Books
Callisto Press has blessed me with oodles of books since last July. The variety of topics include:
- Weight lifting
- Wine, spirits, and cocktails
- Professional poker
- Aromatherapy (three books, but I’m not allowed to do that in the house)
- Spells for new witches (I kid you not, it was interesting)
- The Law Of Attraction
- Weight training/fitness
- Cannabis edibles (not legal here)
- Successful aging and retirement
- Fung shui
- Essential oils
- Multiple cookbooks, including:
- Italian cooking
- French cooking and baking
- Scandanavian baking
- Baking, including cakes and donuts
- Barbecue and grilling, including sauces
- “Five-Ingredient” cookbooks
- “For two” cookbooks
- Quick-cooking, 30 minutes or less, including “healthy”
- Instant Pot cooking
- Air Fryer cooking
- Slow cooking
- Gardening (including urban gardening)
- Convection oven cooking
- Dehydrator recipes
- Cooking for your dog (absolute truth, including recipes for “doggie date nights” for you and the pup)
- Psychology in different forms, including three “couples” books and one on “willpower”
- Sleeping (and how much sleep have I lost reading them? None.)
- Cookbooks for pecific diets, including:
- Keto (including vegetarian)
- Thyroid disorders
- Intermittent fasting
- Mediterranean (I have three, including one for Keto)
And that’s just the ones I’ve been able to put my hands on just now.
Amazingly, we’ve found a few new “winners” for me to make again, with two thumbs up from BF. This includes one called Roasted Calabrian Chicken, which I made last week. It was really just chicken and diced potatoes with some dried oregano, fresh rosemary, and (don’t tell him!) a squeeze of lemon juice, on a sheet pan in the countertop oven. Needed to cook the potatoes longer, though. Next one is an air fryer recipe with. . .chicken and diced potatoes. The potatoes go into the bottom, and the chicken goes on top on a little rack. Maybe next week.
How Many Books?
Honest, I have no idea. I haven’t counted or organized them yet. They’ve been coming hot and heavy since last July, and until they started limiting people to four books, I got as many as seven at once. I have given a couple of them away as Christmas gifts, and some may be donated to the library eventually.
I need a new bookshelf now, and I’ll have to organize them accordingly. That means BF will be moving some of his boxes of ju. . .I mean, things, for me to put the bookshelf up. I plan to put a nice china cabinet up next to the bookshelf one day, preferably from IKEA, but that’s going to be a while yet.
I wondered if I would need more bookcases. And then one day, it became e-books. I’m guessing it’s because of the expense, but the reason Callisto gave was because of the delivery times. So now it’s about reviewing e-books, and they offer a very short time window for it, too.
I’ve sent one or two of these e-books to Miss Alice in Houston since she’s now vegetarian, a gift from Hurricane Harvey.
I do appreciate all the physical books they’ve sent me (and now, some of my writer friends) to read and review, and will keep them in their own bookcase. LOTS of delicious food in these books as well as really good info, which I hope to digest before my 90th birthday.
I missed two books out of the last batch of physical books that I really wanted, so I’ve got them on my Amazon wish list. I’ll try to fit them in my next Amazon order (whenever that is.) One was a 3-ingredient cocktail book, the other another “for two” kind of thing. Oh, well–they’re not expensive.
I’m a good six months late on this, but I think the next post will be about the cheesecakes. KJ is impatiently waiting for me to write it up, and I need to blog a little more regularly anyway. Plus I’ve got to tell you about the air fryer and the Instant Pot that’s taking up way too much room on the countertop. At least when I use it I can “let R2D2 handle dinner.”
Please take care of yourself, wash your hands, take necessary precautions, and stay far and away from trouble. It’s everywhere, lurking around corners. I’ll be back soon with more delicious recipes to share.
Red Truck Bakery. . .let me tell you all about an incredible cake they make.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’ve got a few minutes to tell you about a cake surprise I received recently from longtime friend of the blog AK. You may remember a few years ago that she sent me a Suzy Homemaker washing machine I found on eBay and posted on Facebook just for fun. I still have it, and it still works, but it’s still packed in a box right now until I get more bookshelves and have a place to put it. Well, she sent me something else.
But first. . . .
I’m still working on Upwork, and BOOKED UP. I’ve been making money, not a fortune, but able to buy groceries and take care of some stuff for us. It’s not a lot, but we’re not on just his paycheck anymore. I’ve had some technical problems too, which I hope to solve soon so I can get on with it. I haven’t bought any more glasses, but that will happen again soon, probably after the holidays. I hate having just one pair. . .but it’s temporary. I’m hoping to surprise BF with a nice little (inexpensive) present for Christmas, too.
The Royal Wedding!
By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Megan Markle. This was a big non-event to BF, but I have ordered a McCall’s pattern that is a very close copy to the white one she wore from Line The Label. (View D) The pattern happened to have been on sale that day, and I ordered a couple of other patterns while they were cheap. (I miss Hancock Fabrics!) You can’t even buy that coat now, because they’ve all been bought and the company’s website crashed that day.
BF asks, “How does this affect my life here in Louisiana?” I responded that it’s a positive event happening in the near future. He didn’t agree.
I also came up with a new fitness goal for us. We need to get in shape for the Royal Wedding! Now, I’ve been busy and haven’t been exercising, but I’m planning to change that this week. I thought it would be a great way to set a fitness goal for both of us. But the minute I said “Royal Wedding,” that went over like a lead balloon.
For the record, I am still The Duchess Of El Dorado. In case you were wondering. . . .
And, BTW, wedding cake in the UK and Australia is traditionally fruit cake, if you didn’t know that.
Not The Same Thanksgiving
We didn’t host this year, and although I ordered two jars of Sur La Table’s turkey brine, I was glad. After last year’s mixed-bag of likes and dislikes, I kind of felt like my time as the star turkey maker was over. BF’s daughter is expecting her second child, and her partner had to work that day, so it kind of fizzled out. We went to his father’s place up the road, where BF’s sister-in-law made ham, potato salad with green olives and something else, and some other stuff I didn’t try. No, not traditional, but I like ham and the occasional potato dish. Maybe next year.
This summer, much to BF’s chagrin, I made three batches of fresh pesto for the freezer. The basil was growing wild again, so I made some, along with a batch of Pea & Pesto Soup for myself. BF called me from work one day and I told him I was making some. His response: “Oh, I can hardly wait.” Smarty-pants.
I’ve got what I hope is a good supply for the winter. Y’all know I love Pea & Pesto Soup!
If you read this on Facebook. . .my apologies.
Back in July, we had to head to Hammond for a couple of things, including a stop at the new Petco to get a “cone of shame” for the pit bull, who managed to injure himself and get caught in an fire ant pile. He looked like he’d been dog-fighting and lost, but that’s not really what happened. Poor puppy. We cleaned him up and applying some topical antibiotic stuff, but he kept scratching it. For three days he tried to pull the thing off, but BF’s ingenious use of zip-ties ensured that he couldn’t.
Petco is right there in the strip mall where Starbucks is. I also get the emails that let me know about goings on. For various reasons, BF is not a fan of Starbucks, but I am. So when I got the email announcing the free tea tasting that day, I made sure BF knew about it, and that we were going. Reluctantly, he agreed.
He Indulges Me
Starbucks was offering free 12-ounce (“Tall”) cups of their hand-shaken iced tea infusions, one per customer. I requested the peach-white tea infusion; BF, after some confusion, requested strawberry with green tea. I’m not a fan of the green tea, but he’s had it. They served us our tea, and I suggested to BF that he try a sip first, then add a packet of the stevia they have, since it dissolves instantly and completely. That’s what I did, and it worked perfectly. BF. . .not so much. He didn’t take my suggestion of the stevia, instead, opting for a half cup of white sugar. It didn’t help. I drank most of it, but the sugar sinks to the bottom and doesn’t dissolve. Not wild about the taste, either, but I think stevia would have been a better option. He probably would have liked the peach teabetter. Oh, well. At least he gave it a shot, and it was free.
BF has frequently told the story of being in Kuwait and seeing his fellow service members stand in line in 100F heat waiting to get a hot coffee at Starbucks. Baffled, he asked them, why? “It tastes like home,” they said.
Yes, Starbucks DOES support service members, veterans and their families. There’s a long-running rumor that’s still rolling around the world. I’ll say it again–I’m not always wild about what the company puts out, but they are still a good company and mean well. Starbucks has always been great to me, and they do support our US troops. Anyway. . . .
Brownies. . .
Sometimes fast food is brought into BF’s place of employment. Usually it’s pizza, fried chicken or something else of the same nature. Sometimes management pops for food, sometimes they pool money. Recently BF walked in after work with this box:
It seems some of the folks had been to the new local Pizza Hut, and bought these, anticipating the finest creation from a patisserie. BF took them after they told him these brownies were “a little too rich.” Well, they look normal:
Yes, I tried a bit. (Cake-like texture.) Yes, they look like brownies. No, they don’t taste anything like brownies. They have no taste to them at all. Seriously. They taste like chocolate flavored rubbish.
Maybe it’s my age–I’m not 16 anymore. (My birthday was in October, nevermind how old I am!) Maybe it’s my tastes that have changed, or I know rubbish when I taste it. Or maybe. . .I dunno. BF ate them one at a time with his lunch, and they’re gone. Yuck.
Here’s my professional blogger/foodie advice: if you want pizza, go to Pizza Hut, your favorite Italian restaurant, buy a frozen one or make it yourself. If you want brownies, find a recipe or buy a mix and bake them yourself. Get a recipe from Pinterest and make waffle brownies. Stop at a bakery, coffee shop or even the grocery store. Or make some Yeast-Free Brownies with Swerve Sweetener. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t buy brownies in a pizza joint when you’re having a chocolate craving.
I mean, think about it. Would you ask your mechanic to decorate your house? Would you hire an interior decorator to tune up your car and change the CV joints? How about ask a dog trainer to babysit your cat? NO! So don’t buy brownies in a place where they specialize in pizza. Brownies from a pizza place are generally not what you’re looking for.
Speaking of brownies
I found the last picture of the lot from the einkorn article. Dunno what happened, but here it is:
More Hatch Chiles
I’ve been busy with writing and everything else, and I just never got around to really cultivating the Hatch chiles. Darnit. You Texas readers appreciate the Hatch chiles. I was thrilled to find them in this area, and even happier to find out that a few people actually know what they are. (Buddhist friend JL knows all about them and gets it.)
BF’s BFF, Big H, was working in New Mexico this summer and has discovered Hatch chiles after I told him *all* about them. I warned him about the “red or green sauce” thing, and he found out I wasn’t kidding. One day he sent me a picture:
Hot dawg! He tried it–and he liked it! Which is more than I can say for BF, who I believe is just the victim of way too many MRE’s in the Navy. I only seek to educate, and in Big H’s case, he discovered that the mild green chile is a pretty good addition to a burger. BF, on the other hand, has taken to telling everyone, particularly *my* friends, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!” He’s still alive. If I was, he wouldn’t be!
The Red Truck Bakery Surprise
A few months ago, mid-summer, I got a FB message from AK, a fellow copywriter asking for my home address. I gave it to her–I’ve known her in person for several years–and she said that I should expect a package on Thursday. Oh, BOY! But what was it? She wouldn’t tell me. She would only tell me that it was coming via UPS.
Well, Thursday came. It was raining and it was getting late. UPS runs late, especially at the holidays, so I knew it might be night before the brown truck arrived. And about 7:30 that night, it did. The UPS guy was even interested in what it was, because I told him my friend in Idaho was anxiously awaiting my text of receipt. (He knew when he saw “Red Truck Bakery” on the shipping label!) When I saw where it was from, I thought, “oh, I don’t normally do this kind of thing.” But then I opened it up and discovered this cake:
CAKE! And yes, it was gluten free! AK knows me. Immediately, I sent a picture to BF at work.
And naturally, let her know immediately that I’d received her kind and generous gift.
Red Truck Bakery is a mail-order bakery in Virginia, and they ship nationwide. They even have a testimonial from former President Obama, who apparently loves pie. Hey–it’s like the royal crest, right? (Even if you didn’t like him–trust me, on this, the former POTUS has very good taste.)
AK has had a number of treats from Red Truck Bakery, including some gluten-free ones that she’s highly recommended.
I texted BF and let him know too, and what it was, and cracked open the box:
Now, I promise I’m not being ungrateful when I say this–but it doesn’t look like the picture on their website:
It comes in Red Truck’s lovely and classic bakery box too:
However, when you cut into it, you really won’t care what it looks like. I carefully unwrapped it:
You smell the delicious aroma of almonds and amaretto when it’s opened. However, I didn’t cut into it, I simply put it in the fridge and waited for him to get home from work that night.
After we had dinner, I cut us each a slice.
This almond cake has no flour and is called “gluten free,” but I’m telling you, serve it to just about any group and don’t say anything–they’ll never know. It’s not a “diet cake,” because there is sugar in it. A very, VERY delicious cake it is, and you definitely won’t miss any frosting. Great anytime, or with a cup of coffee or tea, this is the kind of cake you hope for when you buy one.
Red Truck Bakery is in Marshall, Virginia, and they ship nationwide. This delicious Almond Cake With Amaretto would be just the thing for holiday gifts for friends far away, whether or not they’re gluten-free. Red Truck also offers a menu of other delicious baked goods AK assures me are just as delicious as this cake is. Whatever you decide to order, apparently, you won’t go wrong.
I can highly recommend this cake to send as a gift, or to order for your holiday table. It really is incredibly delicious.
I talked to AK later and asked her what the occasion was. Well, I’ve been bragging on Facebook about the clients I’ve gotten, the work I’ve been doing and the fact that I’ve made a little money with it. (It impressed the heck out of BF.) She said the cake was a gift to celebrate my recent successes, and hopes for many more.
I wouldn’t say I was “crushing it,” but apparently folks think I have been. That’s good. I really am working and making a little money. Sometimes I have more than BF–but it doesn’t last long. <smirk>
He Likes It, Too
BF had one slice, and decided it was very good, too. After dinner, I made a cappuccino, poured him a glass of milk, and we had dessert. But he only had one slice. I asked him if he wanted another slice of cake, and he said, “Well, it’s delicious, but it’s really for you.”
Awwww. . .I did finish it, eventually, one slice at a time.
Christmas Is Coming. . .
It’s coming whether you want it to or not, so think about Red Truck Bakery if you’re either stressed out, or would like to send a delicious gift to someone (including yourself.) This almond amaretto cake would be a perfect gift.
I’ll try to blog again soon–but if I don’t, please have a delicious and Merry Christmas this year.
I’m sampling Starbucks’ new gluten free breakfast sandwich today.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Well, I found another thing to write about. If you’re one of my gluten-free readers, this one’s for you.
But first, some news
Remember my blog post on einkorn wheat, the original form of wheat that’s being grown again for a hungry world? My einkorn article for my client OffTheGridNews has been published, just this week, and you can read it here. There are two more articles in the queue that haven’t been published yet. I’ve been paid for all of them, so they’ll be out eventually. On Facebook, that article garnered about 10 comments (not all nice), 79 shares and 80 likes. So I guess I can write. . . .
It’s long been known that the food industry throws out a lot more food during the selection process than they keep. Farmers know they can’t sell a funny-looking tomato that will taste incredible, because appearances are everything. Misshapen produce is a big one, but there are other bits and bots that are, shamefully, discarded, adding to food waste and landfills. Ever think to yourself, “we could be feeding hungry people with that”? (Or said to a child, “there are starving people in. . .so eat it?”) Well, turning leftovers into food is a trend that’s happening now–but it’s startups that are leading the way.
From the Washington Post, food waste is the “hot” new trend in food. Edible but ugly produce is turned into jam, flour is milled from the remains of coffee beans, and stale bread is turned into beer. It’s not dumpster-diving, because nothing has gone that far, and a lot of “waste” has been kept out of landfills. These innovative folks are just taking something that’s usually discarded, but useful and still edible, doing something new with it. I like that.
My question: why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?
Zeponic Farms, part of George Mason University, is a little gardening operation in a re-purposed shipping container that grows lettuce, other green stuff. They work with folks in the Mason LIFE program to offer education and work experience to those with special needs. The lettuce they grow is sold to the campus food service company, Sodexo, and served in the campus dining hall. Can’t get any more “local” than that, and it benefits a lot of people. Eventually, they hope to offer employment to the special needs community as well.
I’m sure they’re not growing *that* kind of herbal in there. Not where anyone can get to it. But Louisiana’s own LSU is getting on that medical pot bandwagon to–what?–generate revenue. Because revenue from alcohol and gambling casinos only goes so far.
On a lark, I decided to head to Starbucks in Hammond for the day, since the library closes early and BF works late. I’m sure he won’t mind. Knowing that I had two free things, I figured that I could try their new gluten free breakfast sandwich today. Originally, I wanted BF to join me so he could try it with me, but. . .well, I think I need a new taste-tester for this humble blog, since he complains about it a lot. He doesn’t want me near the Crock Pots again for a while, and he’s all but banned me from waffling anything for him, so. . .that’s enough of that. BF is now retired as the HeatCageKitchen taste-tester. Problem is, I don’t have anyone else to use, so I tried the darn thing myself.
The issue with a lot of the “gluten free” stuff, like many “alternative” foods (diet, diabetic) is that they taste bad or have a dreadful texture. One bite, and you realize that you’re better off chewing your nails. The market share and demand for decent-tasting gluten-free food increased when more people went gluten-free. It’s not just folks with the allergy anymore. The more people read about what modern wheat really is, (i.e., Wheat Belly), the more they leave it alone.
They finally made one
A couple of years ago, I called Starbucks to ask them about doing something gluten-free. The response was that they were unable to because they couldn’t guarantee against cross-contamination with other gluten-laden products. Some of that problem has been dealt with, as I’ll show you.
Hungry, I sauntered up to the counter and requested one along with a refill of hot brewed coffee. When the little oven went off, I was handed this little package inside one of their standard white envelopes:
Yup–sealed in a parchment pouch that can withstand the heat of their mini-ovens. No mistaking which one this is, either. But how do you know it’s really gluten-free?
And this means?
Certified gluten free means that, depending on the regulating program, this food product contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million), although the Celiac Support Association (formerly the Celiac Sprue Association) requires foods to have less than 5 PPM. According to this article, anything less than 20 ppm is not detectable, and most people with the allergy don’t have a reaction at that rate.
The FDA also has official rules on what constitutes “gluten free,” setting that bar at 20 ppm.
Companies that jump through the hoops to get certified are usually catering to the gluten-free crowd anyway, so they want to make sure you’re getting what you asked for. Knowing what kinds of foods are gluten-free already helps.
The Starbucks Gluten Free Breakfast Sandwich
Drum roll, please.
Tearing open the envelope, I carefully removed this:
OK, so it’s a little lopsided. They get jostled about in those little packets. They can’t straighten it out because that would require opening the packet. Then I took a bite:
And another bite. . .
What did it taste like?
For a gluten-free item, it’s pretty good. The same tasty fillings you’d expect in their regular sandwiches. The bread is only slightly stiffer than regular bread–think ciabatta or French bread. Then there is the matter of a little bit of flour on it, something the regular sandwiches don’t have. Just don’t eat it too close to your keyboard, I’d say.
The fine print
If you’re wondering what’s in these, well, this is the back of the packet:
Bread normally has a lot of ingredients, but because it’s also egg, cheese and Canadian bacon, well, you know.
You can read more about this sandwich on Starbucks’ website, and it should be available nationwide. Hey–if they have it in one way out here, you should be able to find it anywhere.
They sell about 12 of these a day in Hammond, I’m told, so there’s definitely a market, even in places where people don’t follow the food trends. Southeastern Louisiana University is also in Hammond, so that may also be a factor. Bigger cities like Houston probably sell 12 an hour, if not more.
Starbucks carries a myriad of things, many of them gluten free, as I’ve mentioned before. But now, you can get a gluten-free breakfast sandwich in Starbucks, too.
It’s getting on time to go and pick up my former taste-tester from work. He had a frozen dinner today for lunch after his rampage through Walmart this morning. Tomorrow will probably sandwiches. His choice.
Until next time. . . .