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keto baked fish and green beans
Cookbook Review: Keto In 30 Minutes

Keto: have you heard of it? Are you interested? Can you have delicious Italian food that’s Keto? Let’s discuss.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Here’s the next in my series of cookbook reviews courtesy of the nice folks at Callisto Publishers. They’re not sponsoring my post, they just sent me great books for review.  I’ve received a number of interesting new books, and I continue to receive more in exchange for reviews. I like them all, I can’t say anything bad so far. There is a low-carb book, a fast and easy vegan cookbook, and a cook book for folks with Lyme disease, plus a couple more cookbooks coming. Additionally, there is a book on modern etiquette, plus a few other non-food topics.

But today it’s all about the keto.

The John Walton Celebration Of Life

So it finally happened on July 28th, and we picked up The E Man and went to Generations Hall. Everything was first class, well done, and we met so many other fans of The Walton & Johnson Show. Everyone had a great time, a fantastic band called Superchargers played classic rock music, there was all kinds of fancy food, an open bar (BF and I abstained), and just a great time to celebrate the life of a veteran radio broadcaster.

AmyWithKenAndSteve

The meet and greet! Ken Webster on the left, Steve Johnson on the right, with BF taking the picture.

Ken Webster is the show’s producer they hired seven years ago, and he stepped on the air fulltime when John Walton became ill. Well, Mr. Walton passed away suddenly on July 1, and now Producer Kenny is on the air in Mr.  Walton’s seat. He’s doing a great job carrying the torch, and they have decided *not* to change the name of the show, or much else.

John Walton always said that when he left this world, he wanted a big, New Orleans-style going-away complete with a brass band and a second line and all that. It was provided, and I hope that he was with us in spirit (since his ashes were actually in the facility.) I don’t *do* second line, but everyone else did. Steve Johnson said during the event that they made a few phone calls and everything was just done–they had everything they needed. They definitely called the right people!

I’ll post more of my pictures in another blog post, including the very stylish food that was created especially for this first-class event.

What is Keto?

The term is short for “ketogenic,” which is a condition that makes your body burn fat. This is different than “ketoacidosis,” which is a dangerous condition if you are diabetic.

But going keto is pretty much going low-carb, with some restrictions. That is, you eliminate rubbish food out of your diet, and increase your healthy fat intake. I say “healthy fat,” because hydrogenated vegetable/soybean/corn oil isn’t what that means. There’s a fat-to-protein ratio to follow, making it more complicated than regular low-carb, and different than Paleo.

The Book

Called Keto In 30 Minutes, it’s written by Jen Fisch, author of the blog Keto In The City. How have I never heard of this lady? Oh, well, I get her emails now.

Unlike the 5-Ingredient Italian book, there are few pictures. But the recipes are clear and well-written, and work easily. Each recipe tells you how long it takes, if it’s “gluten free,” “nut free,” etc. Prep and cook time are included, along with calories and all that. And the food looks pretty tasty.

There is even a dessert chapter–didn’t think Jen would leave that out, did you? For a sweetener, she uses Swerve, which I’ve talked about here before, but she also uses stevia in some recipes.

Trying Out The Recipes

Personally, I think the recipes I’ve read all look delicious. Unfortunately, I live with someone who doesn’t agree with that statement.

I made the delicious Saltimboca alla Romana on a Sunday, when our unexpected dinner guests showed up. The next night was a previously enjoyed Giada recipe for a turkey meatloaf–I can’t believe he likes the feta cheese when it’s baked in.

Tuesday was the ketogenic dinner.

Now, to be fair, sometimes we get a little short on funds, and so we’re not popping down to Walmart or Winn-Dixie for some chicken, pork chops, ground beef or something else. I buy meat occasionally when I find good sales and stash it for later. So this particular week, we’re digging through the big freezer (I still need to write a post on that) to see what’s there and what we can whip up for dinner.

Well, it was one of these periods that I decided to “freezer dive,” and I was right–there was some kind of frozen fish in there that someone gave us a long time ago. I let it thaw in the fridge, and just needed a few ingredients to make it happen, like lemon and capers. (I did another freezer dive this week and made this Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce with just a few ingredients from Walmart and the ground turkey in the freezer. He said it was OK.)

I selected two recipes for dinner. Baked Lemon-Butter Fish is on page 84 in the book, and Parmesan & Pork Rind Green Beans is on page 121. Pictures of the recipes are below.

Other Ingredients

Well, I needed capers. I used to have a big jar in my fridge that I bought from Phoenicia Foods, but I guess that was left behind in the move. Don’t have an unopened jar, and of course, Walmart has these *teeny tiny* jars for about two dollars or so. But you know me, I gotta make it according to the recipe the first time.

I also decided on green beans, since we really like them. I only needed a few ingredients from the store to make these dishes, including. . .pork rinds. No kidding.

His Fish Is Always Fried

I didn’t tell BF what I was doing, which always makes him stammer nervously, “I’ll try anything you make, Honey.” (Actually, that’s not completely true. And he’s still afraid of my cooking and my driving.) He asked if the fish was fried, and was very disappointed when I said it wasn’t. I wasn’t trying to break his heart, but I guess that’s what I did.

Let me put it this way: If I told him I would prefer Ford over Chevy, it would be along the same lines of disappointment, since he’s a Chevy devotee.

I used the countertop oven to make it (another thing I’m late telling you about) and baked the fish first, then the green beans. Dinner was ready in about 30 minutes.

Dinnertime!

These dishes took 15 minutes each to make, and the fish was still hot when we sat down to eat. And now I can’t find all the pictures of the prep.

But here it is:

keto baked fish and green beans

This was my dinner plate.

I thought both dishes were delicious. However, BF had other thoughts on the subject.

BF's Dinner plate

This is all BF would consider trying. I think he had one bite of fish and fed the rest to the dogs.

He thought the fish tasted “slimy.” That’s why he doesn’t like baked fish. Frying it takes away the “slimy” in his mind.

Then the green beans–a different taste, roasted, and they aren’t over-cooked. I asked BF what he thought of the green beans. He didn’t look at me when he said, “oh, they’re delicious.” I said, “really?” BF still didn’t look up at me, and replied that they were “magnificent.” I thought he was serious. Then he started giggling. Then I started giggling. He was trying not to tell me he didn’t care for this form of cooked green beans.

Finally, I asked him what he thought of the green beans, and he said he wasn’t crazy about them. Why not just tell me? He was trying to be nice, and said he’d have a bowl of cereal later if he got hungry (and he did.)

Later he reminded me of one of his local car guy friends who, before his “chicken fanger weddin'” last year (with catering by Chick-Fil-A, my sarcasm added), decided with his intended to lose some weight by going keto for a while. (I didn’t attend the “weddin’,” either.) The guy did successfully get his weight below 300 pounds for the first time since high school (but he’s well over six feet).

BF’s comment: “He lost a lot of weight on that keto diet. And now I know why.”

BF is also a smart aleck. Here are the recipes.

Fish recipe

FISH!

No, he didn’t like these either.

ParmPorkrind Green Bean Recipe

These are the green beans. Yes, with pork rinds.

Trying Again

I wasn’t deterred by BF’s reaction, and I kept reading the book. (I’ve since left a review on Amazon.)

I planned on making the Double Pork Frittata on page 58, until I couldn’t find the diced pancetta that I *thought* I had in the freezer. Since I can’t remember where I bought it, I tried to acquire some at the local Walmart’s deli department. Of course, when I asked for it, the clerk thought I said, “da cheddah,” and told me all the cheese was against the back wall, close to the milk. When I told her it was a bacon-y kind of thing, she said, “oh, we don’t got dat.” So maybe next trip to Hammond or New Orleans.

I would have to cut my brain stem to work for Walmart.

With that idea scotched, I chose the Mushroom Frittata on page 59. Frittatas have been adopted by low-carb dieters as the ideal throw-it-together food, and there are so many ways to make one. I like this one, because it hits all the right buttons.

At least I could get goat cheese at our local Walmart, as well as bacon, mushrooms and fresh spinach.

Keto mushroom frittata

The setup

NOTE: watch what you’re doing with spinach, especially in Walmart. I nearly bought spinach mixed with kale! I also realized later that I didn’t need the dill, that would have been for the other dish. But I’m not adept with photo editing, so it stays there.

Making The Frittata

I like measuring out everything before I actually start cooking.

Goat cheese crumbles

So I cooked the bacon in the little oven (saves a lot of mess), let it cool, and cut it up.

Bacon cooking for keto frittata

MMmmm. . . .bacon!

While that was going on, I began to make the rest of the dish.

Sauteeing mushrooms with spinach added in

First steps. (Photo courtesy BF)

Then you add in the chopped bacon. Start cracking the eggs into a bowl or big mixing cup:

Eggs

Whisk really well, too.

Pour the eggs into the pan to cook with the mushrooms and spinach. Lift the edges of the frittata with a spatula so the runny, uncooked eggs get underneath the surface. This takes a few minutes.

Frittata cooking

Lift like this, so that there are no uncooked and/or burned areas. (Photo courtesy BF)

Then sprinkle on the crumbled goat cheese:

Goat cheese sprinkled on

Get that goat cheese on top (Photo courtesy BF)

Then bake it for 16 minutes in a 350 degree oven. I’m skint on pictures here, but this is what comes next:

Keto Mushroom Frittata

Ta-dah!

Verdict: tasty, delicious, and great anytime.

I offered some to BF, explaining what was in it. He looked like he would accept a bite, then smiled and said: “Nope. It’s a trick!”

I can’t wait for him to head out of town for Drag Week.

Dessert Is Da (Keto) Bomb!

Undeterred, I tried one more recipe.

I considered making that subhead “The F-Bomb,” but I’m thinking about Aunt Ruth looking at her screen and thinking, “certainly she isn’t going to say that!” No, you’re right, but the F stands for “fat,” not the other f-word. After seeing so many copywriters and others swear like sailors in their marketing materials, I’m a firm believer in *not* using that kind of language in my blog, no matter what I shout at others while driving.

You hear me, marketing departments of America? Don’t do that. We close your page, delete your emails, trash your direct response long-form copy letters and ignore you completely. Knock it off! Anyway. . . .

Of course, the other concern I have is with the Secret Service, FBI and other law enforcement agencies getting my little SEO-optimized blog caught in their scanning systems looking for troublemakers. Yeah, I make trouble for BF, not the kind they’re looking for. Well, if they do find me, I hope at least one agent tries this recipe.

If the web is your cookbook, “fat bomb” recipes are literally available in every corner. They’re quick snacks to make sure you get enough fat in your keto/lowcarb/paleo diet, or just to have something sugar-free and tasty to keep you away from the stuff you want to leave alone. Let’s face it–there’s nothing like a chocolate bar. Find a way around it, and you’re doing good.

Making A Mess

I was making some Cashew Bread one morning and cleaning a huge mess from the night before.  (I finally found cashew butter locally at Target.) So what do you do? Make more of a mess! Enter these chocolate treats.

So this “f-bomb” is actually called “Spiced Chocolate Fat Bombs,” and it’s in the dessert section on page 138 of the book.

Recipe For chocolate fat bombs

It’s pretty simple.

I had everything handy except the liquid stevia. But did that ever stop me?

Ingredients for Spiced Chocolate Fat Bombs

The setup. The chili was the jar that came from Houston, and I refilled it recently with a small bottle from Rouse’s. Ditto for the HEB coconut oil.

Not that the jar on the right is CHILI powder, not cayenne powder. It isn’t hot. If you decide to make these and add the hot stuff, you’re on your own there.

The coconut oil was already melted, so I put it on the stove to make sure the almond butter melted into it:

Stirring

A quick whisk of everything

 

Muffin tins and papers

Since I didn’t have any mini muffin tins handy, I just used these with the papers. Again, when did that ever stop me?

Carefully spoon this mixture into the cups:

Fat bombs in muffin tins

I used a spoon, and did this carefully

I got most of it into the papers. Then you refrigerate (or freeze) them until they’re solid, which takes maybe 15 minutes or so, less in the freezer.

Fat bomb solid

Yummy!

Despite the powdered stevia, they were pretty good; I used three packets. The chili powder isn’t hot but adds a different nuance to an otherwise straight-chocolate thing. And now I have a stash.

Fat bombs

I’ll be making more of these

These are great, and I’m glad. Much as I love chocolate, I’m getting burned out on Yeast Free Brownies.

Recipes That Are Not For Everyone

I know if Neighbor E were here, he’d enjoy the green beans, at least, and probably the frittata and dessert. Dunno about the fish. Miss Alice would probably enjoy it too, she has a wide-ranging palette. Can’t answer for the GER, I never know what he’s going to like or dislike. BF just gets the shakes when I say the word “frittata.” Even his sister is perplexed, because it’s just baked eggs with other stuff in it.

But when you’re cooking for yourself, you’ll enjoy what you like, and others may or may not agree with your tastes. So if you’re cooking for someone who thinks rice goes with everything, well, you’ll have some alterations to do. That is, make yourself some Cauliflower Rice, and make regular rice for anyone who wants it. Add options like that, and everybody’s happy (you hope.)

I Like This Book

Honestly, I do like the kind of food that’s in this book, keto or not. I’ve long had the preference for low-carb foods, and this one checks all the points. The next recipe I want to try is the Double Pork Frittata on page 58; I’ll have to source more of the pancetta. The other thing is that these recipes are, for the most part, easy to make and don’t seem to require a lot of hard-to-find ingredients. If I can find pancetta and prosciutto here in Central Louisiana, they’re not that hard to find–especially in Houston.

The thing about Keto is that you follow a ratio to stay in ketosis, that is, the condition that burns off fat:

  • Carbs, 5%
  • Proteins, 20%
  • Fats, 75%

This is on page 4 of the intro, also called the 5/20/75 ratio. She says it’s up to you to find the balance that works for you.

I’m not an expert, and I get the theory behind it, I’m just not really good at math, especially in my head. You’d think that someone who has been sewing since age 11 would be better at fractions, decimals and percentages, but I’m not.

Whether or not you want to go keto, this is a book with good food in it–and that’s always my first criteria. If you decide to go keto, you’ll need to do more reading, of course, and understand what it’s all about. Once you do, you can turn whatever you want for dinner (including Italian food) into a keto-friendly feast.

I’m also going to look at Jen’s next book, because. . .I’m thinking seriously about getting an Instapot soon. More on that later.

Until Next Time

I’ll try to get the recipes posted soon (another thing I’m late doing.) Many thanks to Callisto Press for offering me the chance to receive publisher’s editions to review books–I definitely appreciate it, and am enjoying reading them and looking at “new foods.” Sure, it’s still food, but new recipes that are faster and easier (so far.) Nothing wrong with a new recipe to expand your repertoire, right?

I’ve got more of these great new books to review and blog about, so if these two books aren’t appealing, maybe the future books will.

Until then, enjoy!

Dinner
Cookbook Review: The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook

Italian food fan? I’ve got the book for you! Prefer easy, quick meals? I’ve got a new book for you, too!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Remember the two free cookbooks I received last week? Well, I used the first one over the weekend. I also had two surprise dinner guests who didn’t know they would be taste-testers. I also heard from Neighbor E, who was visiting our HEB over the weekend and had. . .free ice cream! Oh, the things I miss here. Let’s get started!

National Ice Cream Day

Ok, somewhere, it became this holiday, and I heard about it on Facebook. HEB brought out a truck to the Clear Lake Marketplace to celebrate, and Neighbor E was kind enough to send some pictures.

HEB Ice Cream Truck

Next to Blue Bell, HEB ice cream is one of the best. Ask anyone in Texas!

I’m sure that in the heat of this summer, everyone was happy to see that when the arrived.

HEB Ice cream float

Look! An ice cream float! On wheels!

Is that not a happy sight?

HEB ice cream truck

There was ice cream all around.

Speaking of friendly faces:

Miss Lei in HEB

Look who it is!!

Hi, Miss Lei!! I was so happy to see your face when he sent me this pic. Hang on, what were you serving?

Speaking of friendly faces, Neighbor E enjoyed his ice cream and hammed it up with one someone from the local aerospace community:

Neighbor E with Astronaut pic

Looking good, Dude!

Loved this picture too.

Ahh, HEB ice cream. . .another thing to look forward to one of these days.

The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo

As I mentioned last week, I was gifted two cookbooks by Callisto Press, and this book was one of them. I really like this book, even though it doesn’t have as many pictures as one by Giada de Laurentiis. It has good food and some pictures, as well as good info. That’s a good one in my book (pardon the pun.)

When I explained it to BF, I reminded him that “Italian food isn’t all about spaghetti.” We’ve been to Olive Garden a few times, and he responded, “If you’ll notice, I order the Alfredo.” As in Fettuccine Alfredo, and that’s still like spaghetti, and it’s PASTA. I giggled at him and explained the difference. He looked at me funny, as usual.

The introduction answers the question, “What Is Italian Cooking?” Ms. Montillo goes into the regions, and the different things you’ll find in each. “When it comes to Italian cooking,” she says, “the quality of ingredients far outweighs quantity.” I wholeheartedly agree. Italian food in Italy is cooked in this fashion, while Italian food cooked in American kitchens tends to have more ingredients because it can. Everything is clearly explained, with cooking time, designations like “kid friendly,” “family friendly” and “30-minutes or less.”

The Accidental Dinner Party

Let me say here that I always appreciated Neighbor E’s honest input when I tested recipes in Houston. And that I’m going to test his resolve now, but will post the recipe soon.

So, Sunday BF was home, and asked his cousin from Mississippi to come for a visit and help him work on a car. He did, and I figured I’d cook for him. At some point, I went outside and asked BF in an officious voice, “has this man been notified that he will be used as a taste-tester?” He was, but right before I began cooking, he was called home. The man lives about 30 minutes away, just north of the LA/MS border on the “L” part of the state, so it wasn’t like going back to Houston. But he had to leave, and then it was just me and BF.

I worked until 7 pm, and then got started right as he left. When it was ready, he said, “Oh, JE is here!” Say what? Yes, JE and his wife J dropped by to drop off a motor for BF to evaluate. They drove up from Baton Rouge, about an hour away. Now, he gets those calls frequently: “I’ll drop by after while,” and they never show up. But not this time!

I was getting hungry, annoyed, and it was getting late, so I sat down by myself and had some of this delicious chicken. When I was finished, BF walked in and said, “I’ve got two more taste testers for you!” Again–say what? He invited this husband and wife to dinner!

Let me say at the outset that they are very nice people, and I certainly didn’t mind them coming to dinner. As a rule, I’m not really happy to get surprises. But this one was good, and they enjoyed themselves. They didn’t even know what I cooked up, unless he told them “chicken.”

Saltimbocca alla Romana

Dinner was from page 103, Saltimboca alla Romana, or “Jump-In-Your-Mouth Chicken.” That, Ms. Montillo says, is what “saltimboca” means. I also made the stir-fry broccoli from one of Suzanne Somers’ cookbooks to go with it.

Broccoli stir fry

A quick stir-fry with olive oil, toasted sesame oil, frozen broccoli, garlic, red pepper flakes and a quarter-cup of soy sauce

But the chicken is the focus here, so I won’t bore you with the broccoli stir fry.

Ingredients

The Setup. Prosciutto was already in the freezer

The recipe calls for 4 thin breast cutlets that are pounded out to a 1/8″ thickness. Of course, this was the day Walmart didn’t have any, so I asked BF to get whole boneless/skinless breast pieces. I cut them flat:

Slicing chicken breasts in half

Sometimes you have to make do with what you can source when you don’t live near HEB (Photo courtesy BF)

And pound them a little:

Pounding Chicken flat

Hit it, but not too hard (Photo courtesy BF)

And then slice it in half:

Breast half slices

Just like this. It doesn’t come out perfect like the cutlets (Photo courtesy BF)

Next up is a light salting (kosher salt is fine) and adding the next step:

Chicken and sage

Fresh sage from the HeatCageKitchen garden!

Then top each with that paper-thin prosciutto:

Chicken topped with ham

Handle the prosciutto with care, it tears easily

Then dredge it in flour, and carefully shake off the excess. In this case, I used coconut flour, same stuff I used in Gumbo La Casa. I could have also used oat flour too, but this was I put my hands on first:

Coconut flour

Just a half-cup

Grabbing the first dish I could find, I started coating the chicken, which is difficult when you’re trying to hold the prosciutto and sage in one place.

Flouring chicken

Just a little coating, not a full breading.

Cooking The Chicken

Once you’ve done all that, it’s time to fry them in a pan with two tablespoons of butter and three tablespoons olive oil:

Butter and olive oil heating in the pan

A good start to any chicken dish!

Although the pan was big, I had to cook them two at a time:

Chicken cooking

Cook prosciutto side down first

At this point, BF started talking to me, and I forgot to take additional pictures. But what you end up with is this when they’re finished cooking:

Cooked chicken

This is what it looks like out of the pan

Then you add to the pan the other two tablespoons of butter and the quarter cup of broth and let it boil. Put the chicken back in the pan for a couple of minutes in the sauce, and it’s ready.

Another thing I did differently was to put a cover on the pot so the chicken would cook faster. They were cooked and done, but didn’t have a “crust” on them like they would if the pan was uncovered. Didn’t affect the taste at all, and BF said it was just fine.

The Reaction–Dinner Is Served

So, this is what we all had for dinner:

Dinner

A delicious dinner is served

Understand that these two drove an hour from Baton Rouge, and, as I was told later, were actually talking about where they were going to get some dinner when BF invited them in. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

They take two bites of the broccoli, and tell me that it’s really good. The husband takes a bite of the chicken, looks up and asks, “are you married?” We respond: “no.” Husband: “She cooks like this and you ain’t married? You better marry this one!” We were laughing at that one, but normally, it’s one of those topics not for discussion. We didn’t mind, but I think he’s going to take BF ring shopping one day.

Dinner was three thumbs up, plus I liked it too. BF and I knew what the broccoli tasted like, but nobody knew what the chicken would be like.

Dessert

I didn’t make a dessert, but BF bought one of those frozen “chocolate silk” pies when he thought his cousin would be having dinner with us.

Well, I asked them to try a bit of my favorite Yeast Free Brownies. Once they did I explained that they were made with oat flour, coconut oil and erythrytol, but no sugar. Two thumbs up, and the husband said that you’d never know it didn’t have any sugar in it.

Then BF cut the pie and brought each of them a piece, which they didn’t refuse. Needless to say, J&J left very happy.

Success!

I’m sure J&J will be back for dinner again one day, so I’d better make sure I have a menu ready and in my pocket for them. Many thanks to them for sticking around for dinner, giving me another opinion, and great conversation that lasted a little later than we should have been up.

I’ve got another book to review and try, this one on Keto, so that will be in an upcoming blog post.

Meantime, if you’re interested in delicious Italian food you can make on a weeknight, quickly without a lot of ingredients, check out The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo, priced at under $20 (last time I checked.) You’ll be pleasantly surprised by a fast, delicious dinner that’s as good or better than any takeout you can find.

Buon Appetito!

 

 

Muslin bag of Texas Tamale company
Texas Tamales At La Casa

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

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

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

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

Lots to tell, let’s get started.

Finally, Allergy Relief

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

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

Elderberry Syrup

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

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

This magic concoction is thick and really sweet.

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

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

Educating BF

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

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

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

Coffee To Go

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

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

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

Princess Coffee Maker

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

Pink Prnincess Coffee Maker toy for girls

Don’t you just WANT one?

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

Winn-Dixie Listens

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

Winn Dixie Grocery Baskets With Coffee Holders

FINALLY!!

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

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

View of multiple grocery baskets with coffee holders

Another view of the basket type

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

The Magic Tamales

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

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

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

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

Finding Masa Harina

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

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

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

Chicken Christmas Tamales

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

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

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

Chicken Tamales steaming in a 6-quart Crockpot

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

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

Christmas Chocolate Raspberry Dessert

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

Raspberry chocolate cheesecake from Wheat Belly

Doesn’t it look wonderful?

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

Tamales In Target

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

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

Muslin bag of Texas Tamale company

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

AAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

Texas Tamale Bag Bag with ingredients and company contact information

OMG!! THEY’RE MADE IN HOUSTON!!!

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

How did I miss these all this time?

Text To BF

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

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

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

Steaming tamales in a strainer pot

Just like this, and they cook perfectly

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

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

Tamales

Dinner. Done.

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

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

They’re Around, Just Look

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

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

Texas Tamale Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Tamales

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

Pack of Crawfish tamales

Crawfish tamales? Heresy!

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

Since then, when we decide break open a pack of these Lone Star State wonders for dinner, I walk around singing, “Ta-MA-LES!” to the tune of Dean Martin’s Volare. I haven’t re-written the words, I just sing that part of it.

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

Enjoy!

 

 

Sweet-Potatoes-with-Tahini-Butter
A Quick Post With Sweet Potatoes

Hi, again, Dear Readers:

Once again, other stuff has got the best of me, and I haven’t posted since November. My apologies, because I’ve had some delicious things to tell you about. They’re in the draft folder, as usual. Coffee, tamales, and a tale of two frozen pizzas. No kidding.

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Our dysfunctional weather means that the grass, trees, and other things think it’s spring and they’re blooming. The allergies are choking people around here, and I can’t seem to find the right “thing” to control the sniffling and sneezing. We’ve gone through a large amount of tissues, and my desk trash can fills up quick. Wunderground says it’s grass pollen, so that would make sense with the grass turning green and the weeds and stuff flowering. I don’t remember the tree pollen in Houston being this bad, even when it coated the cars with yellow “snow.”

The Blog Lives On

The good news is that I paid the bill for the domain and hosting for another year. Woo hoo! Maybe I can publish six posts this year.

I did mention in a chat conversation with my hosting company that I couldn’t believe so many people were that bored that they tried to hack into this blog. The response was that it’s bot systems that try to get in. There is no user called “admin” on this site, so they can try a million passwords and it won’t work. I knew how to do that a long time ago.

The irony is that I’m learning more about SEO, and how to make this blog findable! With useful, keyword-rich content! And frequent publishing, of course.

I’ve bought another website for my copywriting side, but I haven’t gotten around to finishing setting it up. I started it. . .much like a few of my sewing projects.

Speaking Of Sewing

We haven’t had the freezing cold that we had last winter, nor any snow. But I was ready for it!

I found this pattern, Simplicity 8738, and fell in love with it. Version B is very easy (version A is just longer), it has five pieces, and stitches together easily. I couldn’t find any sweater knit locally, and the last time I went to a Joann Fabrics in New Orleans, the clerk wasn’t very helpful. So online I went, and bought some lovely sweater knits, including two southwestern patterns. It only needs two yards, and I’ve made six of these casual tops. They’re comfortable, large and boxy, and work well with jeans.

If you decide to make one, make sure to include the little “thumb portals” in the end of the sleeves. You’ll thank me later. (I’m thinking of you, Aunt Ruth.)

Tasty Sweet Potatoes!

I do have a delicious recipe to share, and I just made it this evening.

Last year I was gifted a free one-year subscription to Bon Appetit magazine because Sur la Table was giving them away with a purchase over a certain amount. I don’t really get to read the magazines as I would like, but I did manage to flip through the March issue (featured: Korean Comfort Foods) and find something that I wanted to try.

This evening, I made these Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Butter, and they are very, very good. They’re also gluten free (check the labels on the tahini) and low carb (I think.)

Sweet-Potatoes-with-Tahini-Butter

Sweet Potatoes With Tahini Butter (picture from Bon Appetit magazine’s website)

I had all the ingredients on hand (but we’re now nearly out of butter.) While it took a good bit of time, the results were very much worth it. It’s also true that you think the butter and tahini won’t mix with the liquids, but you have to keep at it. Once it started to smooth out, I just began whisking it with the fork until all the liquid was perfectly emulsified into the butter and tahini. Then I used a small spatula to smear it over the hot potatoes, just like putting soft cream cheese on a bagel. Then I sprinkled them with toasted sesame seeds. It’s SO good. I’ll be eating this all weekend.

What did BF think of it? Well. . .I’m kind of upset with him this evening (long story.) I didn’t cook dinner, we had plenty of leftovers. Ordinarily I would have pestered him to try the sweet potatoes, but that’s not what I did. This time, I let him know that they were “not made for you,” and that he wouldn’t like it. In other words, I don’t care if he didn’t like the looks of them. I know he wouldn’t like them because of the quarter-cup of lime juice in the tahini butter.

BF doesn’t like anything tart or acid, like limes, lemons, or any kind of vinegar, and I’ve found that out the hard way. I’ve made one or two things with a small amount of balsamic vinegar for him, but it’s not a strong taste, it blends into the background. He was warned that they weren’t suitable for his tastes. As far as I know, he didn’t touch anything. If he had, I’m sure I would have heard about it.

When I read the recipe, I was thinking about when I would make it, or half of it. This evening, I just decided to go for it, including toasting some sesame seeds. It’s an unusual taste, and the lime juice taste does stand out, but doesn’t overpower. If I ever make it again, I might try cutting down the lime juice to half. When I make hummus, I add half the amount of lemon or lime juice, because it’s too strong for me and ruins the taste.

As For Writing

I’m still working primarily with lawyers, but as I get better with SEO, that could change. I wrote this piece on blogging and the First Amendment not long after my last blog post in response to an inquiry about a couple of previous postings that, apparently, didn’t sit well with someone who happened to read about herself, but not by name or any personally identifiable information (PII.) Approximately three people knew her identity, including herself. Well, I’m protected by the First Amendment, thanks very much, and by the case of Obsidian vs. Cox, 2011, from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that bloggers are, indeed, journalists, and are entitled to the same protective provisions as journalists who work for a news organization. One of my lawyer clients, who I’d mentioned this to, said that as long as you don’t post something untrue, you’re good. Well, I didn’t, and everything I publish is true to the best of my knowledge. But the research to find the case law led me to suggest the post to a different client, and the project manager assigned it. So, girlie, if you’re reading this, yes, I do know what I’m talking about, and I can have lawyers back me up on it. Irony alert: a simple phone call asking, “hey, can we talk about this?” would have yielded a completely different ending. But, whatever.

I’ll write what I want, thanks very much.

Until Next Time

I’ve got a number of projects working, in addition to making sure we have clean clothes, washed dishes and dinner, so blogging. . .I’m trying. And WordPress just changed the interface, so now it’s even more tedious to post and add pictures. GRRRRR. . .I’ll get there.

Try the sweet potatoes this weekend.

Enjoy!

Chorizo with scrambled eggs
Casa Chorizo

Chorizo–a delicious, flavorful form of sausage from the Mexican and Tex-Mex culture. I love it.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

No, BF and I have not fallen off the face of the earth, but I’m busy and he doesn’t write. So, apologies again.

If you went out and got one of the wonderful Kitchenaid Cold Brew Coffee Makers this summer, I do hope you are enjoying it as much as I do. BF’s car-guy friend Jenny came by a couple of months ago and was thrilled to find out about one. She took her kids to the local PJ’s and spent $30 on iced coffee for the three of them, that’s a bit pricey for this young widow. She’s probably going to be getting one if she hasn’t already. But me, I love my iced coffee in the morning, even though I’m not drinking much of it now that it’s getting chilly!  But it’s so easy, even BF could make it.

The Work Of Copywriting

I’m doing a fair bit of SEO writing for law offices and attorneys, with a little of this and that thrown in to keep it interesting. A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a blog post about the things that can affect a paternity test–you know, the “who’s your daddy” DNA test. Well. . .a lot, actually. Besides lab errors and tampering, there are a number of genetic mutations and anomalies that can have two siblings–even twins–test unrelated. Nevermind what a “chimera” is. How’s *that* for dinner party conversation?

The Parts Catalog

One client had me writing descriptions for parts. That’s right, hardware, primarily air conditioner parts. Really exciting, yes? I didn’t mind–it pays, and it gives me a break from the occasionally heavy legal subject matter I normally write.

I don’t know what all these parts are for, so I have to look them up. If I don’t know what a capacitor is, I can’t tell you, now can I? (It puts jolts of power into things like fan motors, similar to a battery.) So now I know what that is, and I can create a short description. I also learned a new term: PTAC, or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner. The kind they use in hotels.

One description I wrote was for a metal clip that holds the plastic front onto the air conditioner. This was one I had to use the parts diagram for. Once I realized what it was, I came up with an interesting description, using the phrase “never again will you have to stare at the grisly innards of your air conditioner.” It went over well, and I even posted that one on Facebook. AK says I have “the writing chops.” That made me feel good.

I wrote for him for about 3 weeks, and we were done.

The Unconventional Garden

I haven’t written about the gardening in a while, but I did manage to do some this year. The cool spring meant I was hesitant to put plants out, and I got a late start. We’re now getting bell peppers, and while I’ve picked three or four red ones, I’ve got three more that are still growing, and one is turning red. They could be in our Thanksgiving dinner. (More on that later.)

The Meyer Lemon and Lime trees are still in pots, along with rosemary, scallions, mint and a lone tomato plant with one tomato growing. They’re at the front of the house.

We dug up a little patch over by the garage, about 5′ by 5′. Mostly basil, a couple of bell pepper plants, some sage and parsley. I’ve made five or six recipes of pesto while BF complained about the “smell.”

Bell peppers
They’re growing pretty good, and they’ll be red when mature.

I’m hoping to at least one more container for the winter before it all goes away, but we’ll see. All those little rooted pieces of basil worked and most of them survived.

BF was supposed to be digging more grass up for the rest of the plants, but he’s up to his elbows in car parts and motors. He’s been busily building motors for people and doing some repair work for a few folks, too.

Additionally, we’ve done some updates to the Casa de Rurale. Specifically, replacement ceiling fans (including a new one with a big light and a remote control in my office), two new exterior doors with new frames, a new kitchen and bathroom faucet, both Moen (I’ll tell you why Moen in a minute) and. . .a new septic tank.

Not the most interesting stuff, but the septic tank was very important. I’ll spare you the details.

The garden plot had a few tomato plants, but I only got one or two little tomatoes. Must find a better place next year, but they were delicious. One was a teardrop tomato, and the other was a little round one. But we’re getting some tomatoes, finally, in a most unusual fashion.

Surprise Tomatoes

Because the original builders of this house were able to get away with it, the only septic tank was a single 55-gallon drum. The house was built for a mother-in-law, so it was all the local zoning required. (Yes, they really do stuff like this in Louisiana.)

BF knew that at some point a new, modern tank would be needed. We were having some issues, but nothing too severe. He previously did some digging, but the only way to solve everything was the new septic tank. With all the work he’s been doing in the shop, he was able to get a new 500-gallon cement tank installed in early July.

After the tank business was all over (it really didn’t take long), BF put some dirt over it, and hopefully next year we will have lots of lovely green grass growing over it.

While BF’s car guy friend was visiting, he looked over by the tank, points and says, “That’s a tomato plant.” Where? “Over there, under the tree.” At first I told him he was crazy, but upon closer inspection, he was correct, it was a tomato plant. “If you stake it, you might get some tomatoes off of it.”

Surprise tomatoes

Well, I did stake the plants, and this one has given several “racks” of tomatoes in various stages of growth. (This is the first one, near the bottom of the plant.) They’re obviously yellow grape tomatoes, and I have picked a number and eaten a few when ripened. I watered them regularly.

The End

A month or two ago, the wind knocked them over, so I did a little digging to put the stake farther down. Unfortunately, I must have hit the root system, because they started turning brown. There is one tomato that’s thriving on what’s left of the green part and a few more flowers. But the rest were picked and will be seeded before I eat them.

I’ll spare you the details of how these tomato plants came to be, but I’m sure you can figure it out.

BO, a gentleman I used to work with at Boeing, lives in the Clear Lake Area, and posted a pic of a tomato plant growing out of the gutter on his house last year. Apparently, the seeds got up there in much the same fashion, but with birds. He posted a picture with a comment about maybe it was time to clean out the gutters.  He actually got a half dozen or so tomatoes off that plant. I guess he cleared the gutters later.

So tomatoes are pretty easy to grow, yes?

Fingers crossed for a bigger, better planting and harvest next year, and not by the septic system.

Why Moen?

Well. . .remember when I bought the dishwasher? BF changed out the kitchen sink faucet for me right after I got it. He sent me to the local hardware store and I bought what we could afford at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a top-of-the-line model. (The dishwasher is still running great–we’re both happy with it.)

The dishwasher’s “delay” function is great–you set it and forget it, and I was setting it to go off at 3:00 or 4:00 am. That way we could take a shower, and we’d have plenty of hot water. (OK, it only uses 3.5 gallons for a cycle, but BF is persnickety about it.) Unfortunately, well, the faucet. . . .

I bet you see where this is going–the water pressure eventually led to the faucet leaking, and one Saturday, the kitchen was flooded. So no more overnight dishwashing, and lots of old towels around when I did use it.

BF sent me to Lowe’s, and I got a very elegant Moen faucet which doesn’t leak (but not that expensive.)  Unfortunately, he’s had to tear out the cabinetry, and we discovered that the leaks attracted. . .termites. There was no structural damage, but some of the wood has been replaced.  The termite problem has been taken care of by his gracious uncle. The kitchen cabinet has been put back together, along with some additional shelving under the sink. At some point, there will be new vinyl flooring (it was already planned.)

I was glad that we were making progress in the house, but. . .well, that’s the karma, isn’t it? More plumbing issues. . .I hope they’re solved now. The Crock Pots were used regularly until we could get back in there. 

Making Chorizo

Let’s talk about something tasty.

One of the many things that I’ve bemoaned the loss of outside of Texas is the availability of chorizo. If you’re not familiar with chorizo, you’re probably not reading this from Texas, or you’ve never been to Texas. If you’ve never had chorizo, you’re missing out.

Most shoppers know about the ubiquitous Italian sausage that’s available just about anywhere in the United States. Different areas have different ways of making it. For instance, the Italian sausage are used to get H-E-B was wonderful. It tasted better than Johnsonville’s version, and I would always keep a couple packets in the freezer.

Unfortunately the Italian sausage that I found in Winn-Dixie left a great deal to be desired. (Read: it was awful.)

What It Is (For The Unfamiliar)

Chorizo is a similar thing, except it’s Hispanic. I say Hispanic, because there are two different types. One is a cured sausage, similar to hard salami, which is Spanish chorizo. I’ve found it in Cost Plus World Market a few times, and it may also be available in gourmet grocery stores.

The second type, which is more common to the southwest, is Mexican chorizo. It’s a raw sausage from pork, like the Italian sausage, but made with a different series of spices.

Chorizo may be served with anything from tacos to burritos to a breakfast plate with eggs in place of bacon or regular sausage. It may be in links, like the Johnsonville type, or it may be un-contained, like I’ll show you here.

Finding Chorizo

One day I was in Rouses in Mandeville, and I found out that Johnsonville now makes chorizo. I was ecstatic!. So I bought some and check at home.

Package of Johnsonville's Chorizo

First brats, now chorizo!

BF was not happy to see this, and I refuse to let him try it. But that’s OK, he didn’t want to anyway.

Result: it’s passable. It’s certainly not as good as anything you get in Texas, but it’s better than nothing. And it doesn’t have the usual amounts of fillers and other things like cereal that you find in some local brands in Houston.

Then my district leader sent me a picture of some chorizo she found in the Sam’s club in Mandeville. That’s an hour away, and I don’t belong to Sam’s. But, it’s a Texas brand and it’s fresh chorizo. I looked up the brand online and it’s pretty good it’s well-made and all that.

Now, Make It

About a week later, I was reading one of the many many food-related emails that I get every day. On this particular day, it was all about tacos. So, I had to open it up and look at it.

One of the recipes in the email was called Amaya’s Tacos. So I looked it up because it was from a cookbook I have. I found it, but on the next page was the recipe for El Chico’s Chorizo. According to the author, it was from previous cookbook from El Chico restaurant chain many years ago.

This recipe is from a book I’ve talked about before, Rob Walsh’s Tex-Mex cookbook. You’ve seen the picture of me with Mr. Walsh a couple of times from 2011, when I met him at the Houston food show.

Me with Robb Walsh, the author of The Tex-Mex Cookbook, September 2011, The Houston Food Show (I wasn’t blonde; I was using a different kind of hair color that washed out quickly.)

That was a good picture–I’d lost weight, and that new top was suddenly too big. He autographed my book. I was happy. . .anyway. . . .

Say what?

I had no idea that all this time, I had a recipe for chorizo, and it’s pretty easy.

I had to make it. Went to Winn-Dixie and bought the ingredients. Pork chops. The recipe calls for the use of ground pork, which makes a little bit easier, but the author prefers to grind up pork chops. The recipe makes a half pound, so for my weekly breakfast quiche, I double the recipe. What I used to do an in Houston was to buy HEB’s sage breakfast sausage, and vary it with chorizo occasionally. Not anymore! (I still miss my H-E-B.)

So, if you’re going to use the pork chops or other pieces of pork, you put everything in the food processor, and mix in the spices.

Chorizo in the food processor

Then you turn to the stove, sauté up an onion, then put the pork mixture into the pot, and brown it like you would ground beef.

chorizo

And this is what you end up with:

Chorizo
Chorizo!

Eating Chorizo

This is SO good. . .and no, it’s not pepper-hot. If you want spicy hot, add some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. I’ve used pork chops, ground pork and even pork stew meat. I’ve just gone with the ground pork, since it’s readily available and usually pretty cheap.

I also figured out by accident that I can buy multiple pounds of ground pork, mix the appropriate amount of spices in, and then freeze it in quart-sized freezer bags in one-pound increments. That makes life easy, too.

Chorizo with scrambled eggs

This was left from the first batch of chorizo. YUM

 

After all the chorizo I’ve ever had my life, I have to say this is really darn good. It was a happy accident that I happened to find such a thing, and wish I had found it before. Well, I have it now. And BF won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Rob Walsh has a series of cookbooks out, and I may investigate buying more of them. His chili cookbook may be next. After all, it’s better to have recipes if you’re going to go attempt to make some Tex-Mex food, isn’t it?

Bonus: Hatch Chile Time!

I managed to get some Hatch chiles this year, and put them into my breakfast quiche again. YUM. I bought a lot of them, and roasted them all at once in the oven. With the windows open. When BF was not around.

I’ve got a jar full of seeds, in addition to seeds I saved previously. (Bell pepper seeds, too.) I’ve planted a few in the little garden spot, but nothing grew. There’s always next year and that big area behind the garage.

Rouse’s has started to pick up the banner for Hatch chiles, although last year, I got them at Whole Foods. Winn-Dixie had the last of the crop, because October is way too late. Many of them were red, which means they’re hotter.

This year I was asked by a customer in Rouse’s produce department to explain the Hatch–and I did. Extensively. Turns out the lady and her husband were headed to Carlsbad Caverns. I told her about me and Aunt Ruth’s trip to Albuquerque in 2012, and the warning from a fellow flier about “red, or green?”

Hatch Infused

While Rouse’s will never be HEB, they had some Hatch-infused meats available, as well as Hatch roasted rotisserie chicken.

Hatch chile skewers
Ready to grill
Hatch meatloaf
Just pop it into your toaster oven and dinner is done

Of course, we can get canned Hatch chiles here all year long, and you can always order all things Hatch from HEB on their website.

Because we’re in Louisiana, this sits right next to that meat case:

The Trinity Spice Mix
You can buy it in a jar

Many Louisiana recipes start out with celery, onion and bell pepper. With a nod to the state’s Catholic roots, people started calling that combination the “Trinity.” Naturally, someone came up with the idea to market it in dried form, and, well, there it is. I haven’t bought any, but I have bought some dried bell peppers; I needed it for a Stephanie O’Dea recipe recently.

Ready To Make Chorizo?

I know, I know, you can buy it all over the Lone Star State. Heck, I even found some in Rouse’s, one of the brands you can get in Texas–had no idea:

Chorizo
Along with the local “Cajun” sausage, no less

Oh, and look what else I found nearby:

Cheeses withthe chorizo
Manchego? Why couldn’t I find this in Houston?

I usually get this brand of Queso Fresco, but soon I’ll be trying that Manchego to see what it’s like. Fortunately, BF isn’t interested.

And I’m doing yeast-free for a while. Almond milk and Yeast Free Brownies. No dairy. All that.

I took a pic of the recipe: 

Recipe for El Chico's Chorizo

The simple recipe from Robb Walsh’s Tex-Mex Cooking.


I’ll add it to the recipe page soon Just know that it’s from a book, and of course I didn’t create it. If I do create a recipe, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.

Here Come The Holidays

Whether you want them to or not.

I’ve been informed by BF that the kids would like me to brine a turkey and do a Thanksgiving dinner. I can’t imagine why–other than turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes, they turned their noses up at everything else the last time. I’ll take care of it, and the rest can be out of a box or frozen. They love the instant stuffing mix. There may be a pie from The Pioneer Woman’s latest magazine.

Longtime Buddhist friend KJ posted this on Facebook recently:

Christmas Tinner Dinner In A Can

Dinner in a can!

If anyone complains about Thanksgiving, I’ll source these for Christmas dinner. If I can find a countertop dishwasher, I can find these online, darnit. And why not? Can’t be any worse than Feetloaf:

Picture of Meatloaf made like a foot with chopped onions for toenails

I swear, I’m going to make this one day

Yes, I’m a smart-aleck.

I’ll try very hard to get some of the other drafts out and published; I’ve just been very busy. Sorry about that.

Go make some easy chorizo, and have a delicious meal tonight or Taco Tuesday tomorrow.

Enjoy!

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