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

Outlander is a popular historical drama on the Starz network. Like Downton Abbey, it has a legion of fans and a huge accompaniment of books, specials, merchandise, and heaven only knows what else. Today, it’s the subject of a guest post on the food of this popular show.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Today’s blog post is the first guest post to appear here, written by a writer, colleague, and friend Beverly Matoney who lives in the great state of Georgia. Like me, Beverly and her husband live rural. Unlike us, they are also raising chickens.

Beverly is a copywriter for the homeschool market. She homeschooled her own two children who are now grown and in their own careers. Beverly graciously offered to write a guest post when I was, one day, stumped for new ideas. (Well, I did order from Misfits Market, twice.) We chat weekly on a Zoom call with other writer friends, one of whom is in another country, eight or nine hours ahead of us.

I’ve made no secret of my love for Downton Abbey after it was recommended by friends in Houston and elsewhere. I watched it through the end of the series when Lady Edith finally got married to Bertie Pelham (spoilers?) I really enjoyed the kitchen scenes, like when Mrs. Patmore tried an electric stand mixer for the first time. No microwave ovens, air fryers, slow cookers, pressure cookers, or even a countertop oven at the House of Crawley.

Then, I got BF to take me to the movie a couple of years ago. There’s another Downton Abbey film coming out in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait, but he’s not entirely thrilled.

Wait until I decide to get the official cookbooks of Downton Abbey and start using them to cook dinner for BF.

Another Series

Downton Abbey isn’t the only historical series that has a devoted legion of fans. The series Outlander also has a fiercely loyal fan base. But since it’s on Starz, I haven’t seen it. It’s available on Amazon Prime Video as well, but. . .I haven’t bought one of those streaming subscriptions. I’m too busy with Britbox right now (where you can also see Downton Abbey.) It’s longer than I want to admit since I watched anything on The Food Network.

Beverly is a fan of Outlander as well as of the cooking. Like me, Beverly enjoys cooking and embraces trying new and interesting things. Fortunately, her husband isn’t the “don’t mess with my Hamburger Helper” sort like BF.

There are actually two cookbooks, and this review is about the first one.

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

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

So starting with this first subheading, and very little editing (mostly for format), is Beverly’s review of The Outlander Cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders. It’s offered with great appreciation and thanks to Beverly for writing and sending it along. (The links are my live affiliate Amazon links, pictures gathered from Amazon, Google, and other attributed sources.)

Enjoy!

Outlander

If you’ve been introduced to Jamie Fraser and his time-traveling wife Claire, congratulations. You’re already immersed in 18th-century Scotland and America.

And, if like me, you’ve devoured the novels, you’ve probably drooled over Diana Gabaldon’s descriptions of the settings, the action, and yes…the food.

Picture of Scottish Oat Cakes topped with melted Brie cheese

Scottish oatcakes (picture via KitchAnnette.com)

Not to worry if you’ve not read the books. The television series offers plenty of images of historical fare that will make you hungry.

You may even have visions of going back in time yourself to try your hand at knocking about in an 18th-century kitchen, whipping up some bannocks, or a nice fruit tart.

Outlander, The Books

I was introduced to Outlander in the summer of 2004 during a trip to Seattle, Washington. My friend was clearing off her bookshelves and handed me the first book in the series.

The story was so captivating that I raced through the book, then went on a spree to buy the next four in the series. By the time I finished The Fiery Cross, the sixth book was at the publisher’s and A Breath of Snow and Ashes came out in 2005.

Not wanting to miss anything in the story, I re-read all five books before my new hardcover arrived, then melted into the tale, finishing with a long sigh.

What I didn’t know at the time was how long I’d have to wait for the next novel, and the next, and the next. Sometimes the gap was 3 or 4 or even 7 years!

Just before each new book was released, I started at the beginning and read them all.

Which means I’ve read Outlander five times.

And I’ll begin at the beginning when the tenth and final novel comes out…whenever that is.

And I’ve read all the side novellas.

And The Outlandish Companion.

And I’ve seen all of the episodes of the television series.

You could say I’m a little obsessed.

Enter Theresa Carle-Sanders

Her story offers insights into how she decided to create a cookbook around Diana Gabaldon’s amazing novels.

One line of her bio that struck me was “As with so many of Diana’s fans before and since, Outlander became the catalyst for the changes – some planned, many unforeseen – that have altered the course of our lives.”

I can relate.

While Theresa focused on the cooking of Outlander, I dove into herbalism. I’ve spent nearly 20 years learning to identify medicinal plants and how to use them, inspired by Claire Randall Fraser and her adventures across the centuries.

When I discovered Theresa and her Outlander Kitchen, I don’t believe more than three heartbeats passed before I had clicked “Buy Now”.

The subtitle of the book is “The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook”.

A slice of Dundee Cake plus the rest of the cake

Dundee Cake, via FeastOfStarlight.com

With blessings and a foreword by the gracious and generous Diana Gabaldon herself, the cookbook begins with the paraphrased first line from the first novel.

Nice touch.

Then Theresa follows with her personal introduction outlining her decision to embark on a “life reboot”. Much like me, Outlander mysteriously appeared in her life, and so her culinary story begins.

As Theresa points out, the cookbook isn’t historical. Since the novels cover 20+ years within a 200-year span, so do the recipes she’s written.

But, inside, you will find historical recipes that are still common today, such as Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Veal Patties in Wine Sauce. As she says, they’ve stood the test of time.

Bowl of Cock-a-Leekie soup

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

Bannocks

My original reason for purchasing the book was to make bannocks. These oatmeal flatbreads feature often in the novels, and each time I read of the characters munching on the warm breads, I wanted to make my own.

Picture of Scottish bannocks

Scottish bannocks, via BrownieBites.net

The delicious recipe is on page 238 and delivers everything you’d expect of an unleavened oatcake…even instant transport back to a Scottish kitchen from 1740-something.

Along with each recipe, Theresa has included the passage from the book that inspired the dish.

Each brief excerpt plays an instant reminiscence from the tale. Not only can I picture the setting, but now, I can taste the food they were eating at the time.

Brilliant.

Imagine sipping on the same hot broth Claire had when she arrived at Castle Leoch (Outlander).

Or trying potatoes for the first time as roasted tatties at Lallybroch from Dragonfly in Amber.

Or having a pungent bowl of peppery oyster stew to take you to the pub with Jamie and Claire in Voyager.

Maybe some of Fiona’s ginger-nut biscuits with Roger at the manse from Drums of Autumn.

Bridies from Drums of Autumn

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

Or a batch of Mrs. Bug’s buttermilk drop biscuits dripping with butter and honey the way they ate them in the Fraser’s Ridge kitchen in The Fiery Cross.

Perhaps you’d enjoy a glass of cherry bounce described in A Breath of Snow and Ashes.

Diana even contributed to the book by sharing a treasured family recipe for cheese enchiladas.

The Recipes Of Outlander

The recipe section of the book is laid out with beautiful color photographs, some of the process, some of the completed dish, all of them gorgeous.

Theresa has kept the recipes uniform by offering an Ingredient section, a Method section, and a Notes section.

I found the notes section to be most informative, including not only recipe hints, but also historical references.

Of course, Theresa has transformed the historical recipes into their modern versions, offering easy-to-find ingredients in place of some of the more exotic bits from days gone by.

She’s included a wonderful recipe index for those seeking ideas to use ingredients on hand or to plan and prepare a delicious feast.

Picture of Scotch eggs

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

Honestly, I read (good) cookbooks like novels. I enjoy the recipe intro, the exposition, and the list of ingredients, and I follow along with the method in my mind whether it calls for chopping, mixing, kneading, or drizzling with butter.

Each of these recipes inspires me to add to my grocery list and then make a note on my calendar, “Outlander dish tonight”.

And if you are a fan, you’ll know what I mean.

For Foodies Everywhere

Even if you’ve never heard of Outlander, you won’t be disappointed with Theresa’s cookbook. Every page is filled with interesting culinary tidbits you can apply in your own kitchen.

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

Bangers & Mash, via FeastofStarlight.com

There’s something for everyone in the Outlander Kitchen. Modern, historical, romantic, delicious, soups, meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, breads, desserts…this book has it all.

You may even find yourself daydreaming about time travel to the 18th century yourself.

 

Jar of Calabrian chili paste
Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

Have you brought Calabrian chili paste into your kitchen? If you like Sriracha, Tabasco, or other spicy additives, you really should try this condiment. I recently made a delicious shrimp recipe with it after trying to find it for quite a while.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

After last week’s book review, I’ll show you the dish I cut my kitchen basil to make. It’s a delicious Italian recipe to add to your repertoire that’s anything but boring. Plus a couple of updates.

From The Last Blog

Since last week’s edition, I had a couple of email exchanges with Christopher Crompton of Pelargonium Press regarding Apartment Kitchen Gardening. He enjoyed my blog and loved the paint buckets, too. I sent him a few pictures, including the little plants that are now on the windowsill and will be planted soon. I have several tomatoes growing, and two strawberries, one of which will be ripe shortly. He suggested trying to plant the chickpeas, even after all this time. I’ll be doing that soon, too.

Christopher was surprised to find out that in the US, SNAP recipients can buy seeds and plants to grow their own food. Inspired by this info, he wrote a letter to the UK’s environment minister to suggest doing something similar there to help reduce the strong reliance on food banks. I don’t know if they have a program like SNAP there, but that would certainly help UK folks, too, especially if they could learn to grow in apartments. If it happens, I’m glad I could help, just a little.

Inflation

In a subsequent email, Christopher said that the “food front” in the UK also has a long road ahead. There is an effort to increase the standing of cooking classes in schools, as well as encourage people to grow their own food. He said that in time, there could be a shift in the UK’s culture. They are also experiencing a crisis with the higher cost of living now that will require a solution with multiple factors.

The man isn’t kidding. BF and I talk about this often. Inflation is getting worse with no end in sight, and it happened quickly. Public discourse can bring about needed changes, such as more people growing their own gardens. In example: on Sunday, I bought a box of 5 dozen eggs at Walmart that have gone up to $15. The price normally goes between $6 and $9, maybe $10. But after paying $13.33 for the last box just one week prior, it’s now over $15. I need to start looking for local chicken folks who sell their eggs, even if they’re the same price. I bought more white rice—yes, plain white rice, which I only restarted eating when I moved here. We’ll be getting more of that sort of thing in the coming months.

On a nicer note, I showed Christopher the blackberries that are growing here now, and I even picked four yesterday morning.

Four ripe blackberries on a tablecloth

Aren’t they beautiful? More to come soon.

He said he has some type of cultivated berries growing, but after a few jars of jam and giving away many little baskets, he’s done with them. Our berry season is short, so I pick as many as I can until they’re gone. Maybe I should learn to make jam too.

He also picks wild sloes to make sloe gin for the winter. Sounds like Amy’s basil pesto obsession, doesn’t it?

Christopher was also surprised that I prefer the British brands of tea, and I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming blog post. I may have omitted the fact that I generally drink them from a cup with the Texas flag. Separately, I’ll be chatting with him again soon one day about the next book they’re planning.

The New Addition

This weekend, BF got a text message from one of his car-guy friends. The man and his wife were out somewhere and came across a scrawny little kitten. Unfortunately, the man is horribly allergic to cats, to the point where he has been hospitalized twice. So, knowing I love the cats (or at least, I did), he texted BF, who brought it up to me. He showed me the pictures of the fluffy orange and white cat.

Remembering our experience with the Christmas kittens five years ago, I was not thrilled with the idea of another cat in here. This kitten is a little bigger than the previous rescues, and of course, BF couldn’t say no. Well, I couldn’t either. I tried.

Dirty, scrawny, starving, and scared, they put her in a little carrier and brought her over. After some food and water, she didn’t waste any time making herself comfortable in the Casa de Rurale, either.

Cat resting on cloth

There she is.

She likes sitting on the sewing machine table, but pretty much anywhere she likes. I was trying to work.

Cat on my arm

Do you think she likes me?

She didn’t take long to discover great places to nap:

Tiger Cat on futon

Where Catmandu and Kismet have gone before

Just make yourself at home, why don’t you?

Tiger Cat sleeping on bed

Awwww. . . .

We did give her a bath, which went about as well as you think it did. BF has a few scratches on his back despite the claw clipping prior to the washing.

Unfortunately, Tab E. Cat isn’t as thrilled with the new addition and let us know about it:

Tab E. Cat on dog cushion

He asserted his feline dominance, and left his “scent” behind on the dogs’ cushion, too.

Just as Broccoli Stirfry is starting to learn how to dog, Tab E. Cat restarted his antics. Thank heavens for Angry Orange, that’s all I’m saying.

The pit bull tried his favorite “get to know you” move, chasing her into a corner of the bathroom, and requiring me to pull him off by his collar. Earlier in the day, he and the now-30-pound puppy took off running after two people minding their own business on horseback. An 85-pound pit bull decided he was going to defend the homestead against horses. I’m sure the horses were laughing to themselves. It could have ended badly, but thankfully another neighbor saw it and stopped his Ford F150. The incident was mostly annoying and embarrassing.

I’m thinking of starting a GoFundMe page for the beasts.

Giada’s Italy: My Recipes For La Dolce Vita

This is Giada’s cookbook released in 2018, prior to her newest book, Eat Better, Feel Better. I bought a “signed copy” of Giada’s Italy at the Barnes & Noble in Mandeville one evening in April of 2018.

Ok, it was an “unauthorized purchase,” just something I wanted and there it was. It’s not something I do often (especially now), but I’m still a fan of Giada’s, so I bought one. However, I didn’t stand in line as I had before with a couple of her previous books—it was already signed, but likely not by Giada herself. That’s OK.

When I had the time, I read through the book and the recipes. It’s a marked departure from the previous formats of her books. After filming a couple of seasons of Giada in Italy in Positano and Florence instead of the usual California settings, there are plenty of pictures from both cities. One thing hasn’t changed: pictures of Giada, her daughter Jade, locals, and a few other family members enjoying the Italian seaside.

The Shrimp Recipe

Spicy Calabrian Shrimp is a recipe on page 41 of the book. Giada’s description says:

My version of a shrimp cocktail has a lot more kick than the steakhouse standard, thanks to the Calabrian chili paste. I use this spicy condiment in many of my recipes; it’s kind of like the Italian version of sriracha. If you can get your hands on fresh Thai basil, which has a slight licorice flavor, it’s really nice here, but if not, regular basil is just fine.

When BF saw the picture on page 40 of the shrimp, he said, “Oh, make that for me!” Sure, honey!

There was just one problem: Calabrian chili paste.

Remember, I now live in Central Louisiana, 300 miles away from Houston. Here, people get upset when you put salsa on cooked eggs as if you’ve committed a felony. Remember BF’s reaction years ago when I told him I needed allspice to make apple pie spice. Pointing at a huge rack of different local spice blends in Winn-Dixie, he said, “here’s all the allspice you need!” He didn’t know what I was talking about, and if he’d made that mistake in the Navy, he would have been thrown in the brig.

Nobody Had Any

Now, that link above will take you to Amazon’s entry for the condiment, but that wasn’t always the case—when they carried it, the site was always out. I literally couldn’t find the stuff.

A search turned up one brand on Nonna Box, a website that offers Italian ingredients shipped straight to your door, including the Calabrian chili paste. It’s currently out of stock, as it was before, but to buy it on this website would have been about $25 with taxes, shipping, and handling. OUCH.

I called the local outlets I thought should have such a thing, but nobody knew what I was talking about. (This was pre-pandemic.) Surprisingly, Rouse’s didn’t have it, considering their focus on Italian foods. I both visited Martin Wine & Spirits (formerly Martin Wine Cellar) in Metairie on one of my monthly jaunts and called the Mandeville store to no avail. I also called Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge, they didn’t know what it was either.

My last resort: Phoenicia Foods in Houston. I sent an email, thinking, surely, they would have it, right?

Nope. And they still don’t, but they do offer to ship to addresses outside of Houston. Maybe I should take another look at their website. I so miss being able to shop in that huge place on Westheimer on the west side of town. They have the most interesting things imported from nearly everywhere.

Calabrian Chili Paste-Finally!

BF has not forgotten this recipe, and occasionally asked when I would make it for him. I reminded him that I still couldn’t get the chili paste. The look on his face made me think I think he didn’t get that part. He says I was just telling him a story to get out of making it, but that’s not the case.

One irony was that Ree Drummond used this hot stuff on her own TV show one day. In Pawhuska, Oklahoma, famous for its “middle of nowhere” vibe. And then she makes a comment about how easy it is to find now. Sorry, what?

Jar of Calabrian chili paste

There it is, the magical stuff.

Y’all, I’m in the middle of Louisiana. When you talk about shrimp, they are either fried or boiled and only grilled if you ask for it specifically. Most people don’t know what cumin and coriander are used for, much less something like chorizo. Calabrian chili paste is just not something anyone knows here, and that became obvious quickly, even with many alleged “gourmet cooks.” (Yes, I’m still writing legal copy.)

A few weeks ago, The Giadzy, Giada’s online magazine and brand, published this article on her love of Calabrian chili paste. I saw it on Facebook. They even sell it on their website. Hmmm. . .OK, should I look again on Amazon?

BINGO! It was the same brand Giada uses, and it was finally in stock.

I needed something else from Amazon, so I ordered the paste along with the other item to get free shipping. (And why not?) The order arrived a few days later. We bought a bag of frozen shrimp at Winn-Dixie and made our dinner plans.

When I was getting ready to cook, BF said, “so we’ll have this with pasta, right?” Say what? No!! I read him what Giada instructs to cook with it, but. . .well, let me get to the making of this dish.

Shrimp For Dinner

Here’s the recipe to print.

Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

Amy
Giada de Laurentiis' version of shrimp cocktail, made spicy with Calabrian chili paste. From Giada's Italy, c.2018.
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra-virgin
  • 2 tsp Calabrian chili paste
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest from one-half lemon
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined tails intact
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped basil or Thai basil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 425F
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, chile paste, lemon zest, oregano, and salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Allow the shrimp to marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature.
  • Spread the shrimp evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque all the way through. Sprinkle the lemon juice and basil over the shrimp. Serve warm.

BF was quite happy that I was finally going to make it for him, four years after he first saw the recipe.

It’s simple to make, and Giada even tells you what to serve with it: Veal Saltimboca Milanese-Style on page 198 and Asparagus with Grilled Melon Salad on page 216. A teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste also goes in the salad along with cherry tomatoes, sliced cantaloupe, lime juice, Ricotta Salata cheese, and a few other ingredients. These ingredients are not the stuff of salads in this part of the US, save for cherry tomatoes, even in a restaurant that purports to be “Italian.”

One look at those recipes and I knew a) I would have more trouble finding ingredients, especially a 12-ounce veal chop and Ricotta Salata cheese, and b), he wouldn’t eat either of those anyway.

We’re not talking about the refined palates you see in Houston. No, we’re talking about a guy who spent three tours overseas: one with the US Army and two with the Navy Seabees, eating in chow halls. BF grew up not realizing that mac & cheese didn’t have to come from a box. He’ll eat ravioli from a can, but that little container of cheese tortellini from Trader Joe’s is still in the freezer because he’s not sure what it is or if he’s going to like it.

Spaghetti for him, and cauliflower rice for me.

I also realized I would need some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and might have to head to Rouses to get some. Nope—I already had a quart-sized bag in the big freezer, bought some time ago, and grated for whenever I need some.

Quart freezer bag of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

A delicious cheese, but you don’t need much.

Now you’re cooking with gas.

Making The Recipe

So, once you’ve got your ingredients together—including the hard-to-find chili paste—it all comes together quickly.

Ingredients for Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

The Setup

Preheat your oven to 425F. Then, mix up the ingredients:

Mixing herb ingredients inbowl

Two teaspoons are plenty of chili paste, trust me.

Add in the shrimp, mixing well to coat:

Shrimp in herb cheese mixture

Just like that.

Let them marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature. Then spread the shrimp out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes, until they’re pink and cooked.

While that’s cooking, chop the basil:

Basil on cutting board

That’s all I had, but I didn’t need much of it, thankfully

Chopped basil

Then just set that aside with the lemon juice

Chopped basil in pinch bowl

Just like that.

When the shrimp are cooked, sprinkle the lemon juice and chopped fresh basil over them and serve warm.

Naturally, I don’t have pictures of the finished product, even though I thought I took some.

Guess what? He liked it! So now I can make it for him whenever we want, long as I have shrimp, the cheese, and the other ingredients.

Other Recipes In Giada’s Italy

The book has more delicious recipes, and I’ve tried a few:

  • Avocado white bean dip, page 25“smooth & creamy,” as I noted in the book on 4/11/2018
  • Apricot Mostarda, page 38—delicious and sweet with a charge of spice. It’s intended for the antipasto platter, a sweet/hot bit among the meats, cheeses, and olives—much like a charcuterie board, really. It just really looked good to me, and I made some, but only once. BF wouldn’t touch it, so more for me.
  • Zucchini Sottolio, page 226—someone gave us a couple of very large zucchini from their garden, and I wanted to do something different with them. Giada did not disappoint. Made on 6/18/2018, I noted “bold flavors with vinegar tang.” BF doesn’t like anything tangy or a vinegar taste, nor any type of squash, so again, it was just for me. The zucchini is sliced and quickly cooked in water and apple cider vinegar, drained, then added to a mixture of herbs. Put zucchini in a jar and cover with extra-virgin olive oil Add a tight-fitting lid before stashing in the fridge. This helps the zucchini last about three weeks in the fridge. Serve at room temperature as a side dish or other accompaniment.
  • Roasted Parmigiano-Reggiano potatoes, page 219—BF liked this one too, and it was simple. I like the fresh rosemary, but I can’t seem to keep the plants growing here for some odd reason. I haven’t made it in a while but I should make it again, especially if we grow some potatoes.

 

Mind you, when I read this section aloud to him during proofreading, BF began his retching noises.

There are several recipes here I’d still like to try, like the Hazelnut Chicken on page 202. It’s a weekend meal for sure, but again, getting ingredients like Cerignola olives, Frangelico, and skinless hazelnuts requires some searching before I can make the plans. And of course, the question of if BF will eat it—but that’s why we keep cans of ravioli and Wolf Brand Chili around, too.

Until Next Time

I’ve been gifted a wonderful collection of things from across the pond, but not by Mr. Crompton. Pictures and explanations will come later in a blog post, including an explanation of some British biscuits (cookies) called Chocolate Hobnobs. Oh, yes, BF loved those, too.

I also have a couple of updates on some recently made recipes, and will again use the recipe plugin to create them so you can print them for yourself. A guest blog is also coming, as I mentioned last week.

Spring is here, so enjoy all the asparagus, fresh berries, and other delicious things that are becoming available.

Happy Dining!

 

Meat box from Misfits Market
Misfits Market: The Meat Box

The Meat Box from Misfits Market arrived. Come see what I got!

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Hi again, Dear Readers:

I said I was going to do it, and I did–I ordered a box of mostly meat from Misfits Market. BF was rather pleased, and we’ve got a little more stashed in the freezer. In this post, I’ll open the box and show you what I received.

Blast from the Past

The other night, BF went somewhere, and I was flipping channels on the big TV. We actually have access to two, and sometimes three, sets of PBS stations locally. Generally, they have much the same thing. This evening, I happened to catch an old episode of Baking with Julia. Guess who was the guest? None other than Martha Stewart.

Martha Stewart With Julia Child On TV

Seriously! Martha with the iconic Julia Child.

Let me point out that this is Martha Stewart from back in the day, like the late 1980s. It’s not the current Martha Stewart that hangs out with Snoop Dogg.

Julia Child herself passed away in 2004. When this was filmed, Julia was all over public television, and Martha Stewart was best known as a caterer in Westport, CT, a few years after her first book, Entertaining.This show was likely filmed around the time of her original Weddings book.

In the show, Martha Bakes a beautiful three-layer wedding cake with apricot filling and a crisp dacquoise center. The wedding cake episode is in two parts because the cake takes quite some time to bake and construct. Martha baked the cake in the first show, along with the dacquoise, and made the buttercream icing. That’s what they’re doing in the picture above. The finishing and decorating with marzipan fruits are completed in the second show. I came in about halfway through the first episode.

I don’t know where to find the recipe she made, but you can see the second half of the show in this video on YouTube. Although there is no wedding cake in my future, it certainly was interesting to watch from an artistic standpoint.

Pets Update

Buddy, the weird little dog, is growing quite quickly. If you don’t believe me, look at this picture from his first day here:

Buddy sleeping on James's chair

Awww. . . .

Now, look at the size of his paw. This picture was taken just a couple of days ago.

Buddy's paw

They’ve doubled in size, like his legs.

He’s learning to bark and frequently has barking fits for no reason. The cat has let Buddy know he’s not the favorite. The pit bull frequently needs more breaks from being around this hyperactive puppy, even though he’s a little bigger than Spencer now. And if we’re not careful, Buddy likes to use the pit bull as a chew toy. Poor thing has teeth marks in a few spots.

And the cat doesn’t care about anything else but himself.

Tab E. Cat sitting in window during the day

Our little Apex Predator.

Speaking Of The Cat

Over the weekend I went shopping in Hammond. I know, it’s just Hammond, but it’s what we’ve got here. I made it to Hobby Lobby first, then to the Target for some provisions I normally buy there.

One thing I prefer to buy at Target is the Fancy Feast cat food for Tab E. Cat, because they have a wider range of flavors for our resident apex predator. The big-name brands aren’t particularly healthy, I’ve found, and even vet’s offices use FF. Except for this past weekend, there wasn’t any:

Nearly empty shelves with little cat food

No Fancy Feast to be found!

And that wasn’t the only food they were out of this time:

Empty cat food shelves in Target

Where is all the cat food?

So, I had to get something else in cans, and Tab E. Cat isn’t liking it much.

Tractor Supply is also experiencing similar shortages, as well as our local Winn-Dixie. I’ve bought some of Tractor Supply’s brand of canned cat food, but even that’s kind of scarce, too. I’ve seen comments on Facebook about shortages of cat food all over the US, and it’s particularly concerning for shelters. Fingers crossed that this will soon resolve and it doesn’t spread too far.

The Meat Box

So this past Saturday, my second order from Misfits Market arrived:

Box from Misfit Market With Meat

It’s here!!

I was a little concerned because the box did not appear to be completely taped shut.

Top of box from Misfits Market

Is it open?

Thankfully, it wasn’t a big deal. I was also concerned because the box didn’t feel cold. This is particularly worrying because I ordered meat in a “cold pack.” But that also was not a big deal. Let me show you why.

Opening it carefully, I saw much the same thing I saw in the previous box:

Open box from Misfits Market with meat in cold pack

Looks like the last box

But that’s not the only cold pack.

Insulation in box

Insulated just like the last one, too

Once I lifted off the cardboard, I saw why it wasn’t a big deal. Inside the box was a Thermal lined foil pouch:

Foil wrapped cold pack

See?

That’s where all the meat was. Much like a mailing envelope, it was sealed shut with a sticky flap:

Sticky flap on envelope

Just like a mailer

Inside were more cold packs keeping the meat cold:

Ice packs surrounding meat

More ice packs!

Two go into this envelope:

Two ice packs inside a thermal cold pack for meat

Like that.

And some of it was still frozen! Once I removed the meat and ice packs, I could see that the package was also insulated:

Cold Pack For Meat

Everything fits nicely

Now we have more ice packs, which we will keep in the big freezer for the occasional power outages. But you can recycle them:

Icepack for meat

You can recycle these, sort of, but they might be worth keeping.

Everything arrived in good shape.

The Other Stuff

Of course, I ordered another bag of sugar snap peas.

Sugar snap peas

They’re SO good!

I washed them, dried them, drizzled on a tiny amount of sesame oil,and sprinkled in a tiny bit of salt. Tossed them around and enjoyed them immensely, because that’s the most delicious way to eat them. If you have black sesame seeds, toss in a few with the oil and salt.

I also ordered a bag of those tiny bell peppers, which are sweet and great for snacking.

Bag of small snacking sweet peppers

They’re delicious!

BF, of course, likes neither of these things.

From the Pantry section, I ordered another bag of Xanthan Gum, which was nearly 50% off:

Bag of Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum

If you’ve baked nonstandard things, you know what this is.

And no, it’s not past its sell-by date, either.

Date on Back of Xanthan Gum bag

See?

Good to know. I use this in some of my alternative baking projects like the ones in the Babycakes books.

The Meats

OK, so, to have a good round of protein, I got some of BF’s favorites—pork chops:

Pack of two pork chops from meat box

Just two, and boneless, too.

Bacon ends, cost, $4.99:

Bacon ends in meat box

These are great to use in recipes, and sometimes when you run out of regular sliced bacon.

Our next stirfry is in the freezer (no, not the dog, that’s sarcasm):

One pound of grass-fed ste beef

A nice bag of frozen veg, and you’ve got dinner.

This is where the meat comes from:

Back of meat package

The company that sells this brand of meat.

Two pounds of grass-fed ground beef, destined for the freezer, but I don’t have a picture of, along with a couple of sirloin steaks:

Grass fed sirloin steak from meat box

Not too big.

Read the next section for more on these. This is the entire contents of the box:

The entire meat box

This was everything I ordered and received.

This was $67. . .I don’t know if it was a bargain or not, but the website said I saved $27.

The Little Steaks

Now, when we get steaks on occasion, they usually look something like this:

Pack of two sirloin steaks

Taken at Target in Hammond on Saturday, March 19, 2022.

But these little grass-fed models are smaller than that:

Two grass-fed sirloin steaks on stovetop

They’re about the size of cupcakes.

These two steaks were $9.99, which I thought was pretty nice. (They’ve since sold out.) Not exactly Texas-sized, are they? But don’t be fooled.

Originally, I intended to make them for dinner on Saturday evening when the package arrived. However, BF’s sister came to town, so there was no cooking that night. I mentioned them to BF last night. After a couple of jokes, he said, “Why don’t you have the little snack-sized steaks for lunch tomorrow?” Really, the packages aren’t that big, so the steaks can’t be terribly large, right?

Until I cut the packages open, unfurled them, and discovered that six ounces of grass-fed sirloin is a good six-ounce steak:

Two six-ounce grass fed sirloin steaks on a pan and OXO rack

Not what you thought, eh?

So, I texted that picture to BF and asked if he’d like to have steak and mashed potatoes for dinner. He was quite happy to see that, and said “yes.”  I stashed them in a food storage dish and put them back into the fridge.

BF was impressed with the meat we got this time. The rest, not so much, but that’s OK. There’s probably going to be another order soon if I can pin him down in front of the laptop to look and see what’s available.

Order As Much As You Want

I should point out that I ordered two sirloin steaks because that’s what I wanted. Remember, this was the first time ordering meat from Misfits Market. In a future shipment, I can order six, if I want that many (assuming they have some.) Stash four in the freezer and keep two in the fridge for dinner. The pork chops are a package of two, so that’s a dinner for us as well, and I can re-order those if I want.

But I could just as easily order more—or less—than that if I wanted. If BF decided he wanted me to stock the freezer a little more, we could order more of the steak, bacon, pork chops, or any of Misfit Market’s chicken selections. Of course, the same rule applies to the $30 minimum for the cold pack, and a $30 minimum overall for the order. This last order was about $67, and I didn’t have any promo codes.

The shipment is totally customizable for the single person all the way to families. For instance, Neighbor E or The GER might order just enough meat and things for a week, whereas someone with a family of four (or more) would probably order a larger amount for a week of meals. It’s what you want, how much of it you want, and paying for it, just like your local grocery store. But with Misfits Market, you’re buying food in a more direct fashion than grocery shopping while helping the supply chain and cutting down on wasted and discarded food.

I’m guessing they’ve done well during the last couple of years.

We’re talking about another box, and we’ll decide on Tuesday if we want to order again, or skip until next week.

Coming Soon To HeatCageKitchen

Well, actually, I don’t know what’s coming up just yet. But I’m working on these things. I have a couple of topics in the pipeline. But of course, I’m always open to researching and discussing anything you’re interested in, too.

If you’re considering ordering from Misfits Market, you can use my promo code: COOKWME-GK3IAXCZOGR for a discount on your first shipment. Just remember that it’s an auto-ship subscription, and you must manually cancel weekly if you don’t want a box.

Meantime, it’s officially spring, and time for me to quit making and wearing sweaters all the time. But Walmart keeps bringing in these incredible cut bundles that are just the right yardage for sweaters. . .I’ll try.

Enjoy!

Flan at El Paso Mexican Grill
Restaurant Review: El Paso Mexican Grill

El Paso Mexican Grill in Hammond is a tasty place to find yourself. Come with us and visit our other new favorite Mexican restaurant.

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

You may remember recently that BF and I went to a new Mexican restaurant in Hammond. Well, guess what? We found another one. We had no idea this was even here. And it’s right across the street!

I’ve also got a couple of updates, so let’s get to it.

Misfits Market Update

After my last post, I sent a link to Misfits Market on Instagram, and let them know that I wrote about my experience. They read it and responded that I could send a report to their support team about the carrots that were not in good shape. I declined to do that because they were usable once I cut off the bad parts. Yes,  I’m still eating avocados.

In the meantime, I still haven’t figured out why I need to keep the box, so I decided to see if Tab E. Cat was interested. He was.

Cat in box

There he is, our little apex predator.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Cat Catcher 3500.

The Meat Box

My second box from Misfits Market will arrive on Saturday. I was right, you can’t do your shopping until your “ordering window” opens, which is a few days before the time they charge your card. In my case, it’s Tuesday night at 10:45 pm Central. I have from Sunday through that time to go in and see what they’ve curated for my weekly order.

I had less trouble accessing my account this time, so that was good. The company puts together a $30 box of organic produce, and it’s up to you to change it (or cancel) as you like. I removed most of the fresh produce and added mostly meat. Re-ordered some sugar snap peas and kept the included bag of those cute little sweet peppers. No discount code this time, so I’m a little bummed, but that’s OK, I tried to find one.

This week, the website had only turkey bacon and bacon ends, and BF said “no” to the turkey bacon. So, I’m getting one package of bacon ends for the freezer, along with any meat we don’t use immediately. I added some ground beef, stew meat, and some chops. Full report in a future blog post.

Valentine’s Day

I forgot to recently mention that BF and I tried to have a lovely Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly what we wanted. Allow me to explain.

Chocolate covered strawberries in a box wrapped with ribbon

Very nice.

Again this year, BF brought some delicious decorated chocolate-covered strawberries.

Decorated chocolate covered strawberries

Aren’t they beautiful? And tasty, too.

He brought home some meat to grill too. The meat was grilled to perfection and delicious. Unfortunately, the second part of our evening wasn’t what we’d planned. We had an urgent plumbing problem at the Casa de Rurale that needed attention and couldn’t wait. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say that it sort of changed the vibe.

This year’s Valentine’s Day was a great dinner, but the “entertainment” was, to say the least, sub-par. Disappointing, but not as bad as it could have been.

At least we weren’t facing a winter storm with ice, snow, and a potential power outage.

Update On Buddy The Puppy

The new puppy, Buddy, also nicknamed “Broccoli Stir Fry,” has grown considerably since he arrived on January 29th. We have not yet weighed him, but he looks to be about the same size as Spencer.

Buddy the dog

Look at me! I’m cute!

Unlike Spencer, this 3-month-old canine is strong as an ox. I’m having considerable trouble walking him on a leash and keeping him from pulling me in another direction. Now that he’s getting bigger and more rambunctious, I must give the Pitbull periodic time-outs away from the puppy.

Buddy the puppy walking

I try to take him for a few walks a day around the property.

Buddy whines, of course, but the pit bull gets some “me time,” which usually means sleeping in the back room with me while the pup has his meltdown is on the other side of the doggie gate. BF estimates that Buddy will be at least as big as the pit bull, if not bigger when he’s fully grown. Don’t know what I’ll do when he gets that big.

It’s A Joke, Folks

The nickname “Broccoli Stir-fry” is just a tongue-in-cheek description used in the frustration of dealing with an untrained puppy who, we hope, will catch on soon and learn how to dog.

No need to send the animal rights activists over with torches and pitchforks. It’s a joke, that’s all. We’re taking care of him best we can, and the pit bull is just tolerating this weird little creature. There’s a lot of growling and snarling when they’re not sleeping, eating, or playing outside. The dog is not being mistreated.

The Mexican Night Out

BF and I frequently have what we call “dinner meetings.” This is a discussion to decide what we will attempt to pursue for the next evening meal. I usually ask the night before, with occasional requests during the day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. He frequently can’t make up his mind. “I don’t know what I want,” he says, but I’m thinking he’s deciding on which drive-through window is the easiest to get through at that time.

Recently, on a Saturday night, after I spent the day cleaning and Dancing With The Mop, BF again couldn’t decide on dinner. I mean, you can’t just throw something out at 6:15 and expect it at 6:30 unless you’re talking about frozen pizza or a Stouffer’s frozen meal. This is why putting food in the slow cooker is ideal for a Saturday–it’s all done. Then he said to me, “I was thinking about Mexican.”

Now you’re talking.

Headed To Hammond

Since there is a Taco Bell in town, that’s my “go-to” for Mexican. Yes, I know it really isn’t. On this evening, the plan was to head to Los Primos in Hammond, since we enjoyed it the last time. Off we went only to discover. . .they were closing. At 7:00 pm on a Saturday night. Can you imagine? (Not in Houston, that’s for sure.)

On the way, I noticed a Mexican place on the right side of the road (Los Primos is on the left a couple of blocks away.) I mentioned it to BF and asked about going there. He had no idea, he’d never been in it before.

Have I mentioned that I’ve been here for over five years now?

Well, we left Los Primos to go to the mystery place across the street. Hola, Amigos!

The El Paso Mexican Grill

We pulled into the parking lot and saw quite a few newer vehicles, mostly large pickup trucks. BF says that’s a good sign.

Wide shot of El Paso Mexican Grill

There it is!

Their outdoor sign needs a little work, but I guess that’s just because they’re too busy cooking for their guests.

El Paso Welcome Sign left

The left side of the entrance

 

El Paso Entrance Picture 2

And the right side.

It was cold this particular evening, so there were no patrons dining outside. I’m sure when the weather warms up a little more there will be plenty of outdoor dining.

We were greeted by a nice young woman and brought to a nice booth near the front window. A great server named Stephanie came by with the requisite chips, salsa. . .and a mild black bean dip that’s just fantastic.

El Paso Salsa and Black Bean Dip

Oh, that dip is so good!

And the menu.

El Paso menu

Looks good so far, but that website isn’t correct.

You’re totally in control until the chips and salsa show up. We definitely lost control at that point.

We decided on fajitas—BF had chicken and steak combo, and I had shrimp, since these are shrimp I don’t have to peel myself. And this is where the pictures end. . .because I didn’t think to take any, since we were enjoying everything so much. BF couldn’t get over how delicious his fajitas were.

The manager (I think, might be the owner too) is a very nice man who also appears to be Mexican and speaks Spanish came by to see how we liked dinner. BF declared it better than the *other* local establishment. I was impressed. But of course, I thoroughly enjoyed everything, too, and told him so. Everything was delicious, no complaints from me–except, why we haven’t been here before?

Now onto dessert.

FLLAAAAAAAANNN!!!!

Oh, yes, they have desserts, including churros, sopapillas, and FLAN. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I had a bit of flan. Normally, we don’t order dessert. But on this night, we ordered one.

Flan at El Paso Mexican Grill

Isn’t it gorgeous? Say it with me. . .FLAAAANNNN.

Mildly sweet and creamy, this one came with lots of whipped cream, and two spoons. I did mention to Stephanie that we’d be sharing this one. It’s not unusual, she said, and happily obliged us.

BF never had flan before. In fact, he’d never even seen one. He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. One day I mentioned making a flan, but he gave me that look that says, “this does not compute.” Poor thing. Stephanie was kind enough to explain it—part pudding, part custard, with a smooth texture, and not overly sweet like a cake.

After enjoying his fajitas, a few bites of flan with whipped cream hit the spot. I asked him how he liked the flan, he said, “it was OK.” Well, he tried it.

Nobody Told Him

So after this visit, he called two of his car-guy friends who frequent the local establishment and asked, “Have you ever been to El Paso Mexican Grill in Hammond?”

Both said the same thing: “yes, we have.” BF was flabbergasted to find out that both also really liked the place but never said a word to him. Maybe they didn’t want us to go there and find out their little secret. Too late!

Oh, well—it’s our new favorite place in Hammond. I don’t care what anyone says about it, we’re happy we finally made it there. I told BF that El Paso is the place he can take me when he wants to apologize for something, ha, ha, ha.

Our Second Visit

Last week BF had another hankering for Mexican food mid-week, and not on a weekend. His first suggestion was to go back to El Paso, so we did. We were not disappointed, and this time I took a few more pictures.

Greeted by the aforementioned owner/manager, he was again nice and very tolerant of my limited billboard Spanish. He seated us in a different spot than our first visit, and we got to see more of the interesting décor.

Wall decor at El Paso

Isn’t that cool?

Love this wall:

Wall decor at El Paso Mexican Grill

You see a lot of “sun-and-moon” decor in Mexico and areas with a lot of Hispanic folks, like Houston, of course.

What a beautiful picture:

Painting in El Paso

Very appropriate for a restaurant

This painting was my favorite:

Painting in El Paso

Isn’t it gorgeous? Love the fold-down table, too.

Within seconds, a basket of hot chips, salsa, and black bean dip appeared on our table as they did last time. Our waitress was not Stephanie but was equally nice. The place wasn’t crowded this time, and we decided to try something different. For BF, it was the Chimichangas:

Chimichangas at El Paso Mexican Grill

This was what BF ordered. I had his guacamole.

For me, it was Chiles Rellenos, a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with Queso Fresco, fried, and plated under more Queso Fresco and a red sauce.

Chile Rellenos at El Paso Mesican Grill

Delish! It also wasn’t that big, which was perfect. I still took half of it home because, well, chips and salsa. BF did the same thing. That meant no cooking the next night so we could enjoy the delicious leftovers. Plus he always gives me his guacamole.

We didn’t order dessert this time, but I did suggest to BF that he try churros. Puzzled as he was, one of the ladies explained that to him. (Little fried sweet dough sticks with cinnamon served with chocolate syrup for dunking.) I mentioned to them that I once had churros with melted Nutella, at an AWAI Bootcamp many years ago in Delray Beach. Their eyes widened at that idea. BF turned his nose up because he hates Nutella. They were that good, but it was in a Marriott Hotel, after all.

I also suggested sopapillas, which BF also didn’t understand, until I said, “You know what beignets are? Same thing, served with honey.” Ultimately, BF passed on dessert entirely, possibly because I overwhelmed him with info.

More Tex-Mex In Hammond

We are quite thrilled to find another Mexican restaurant in Hammond, and it’s definitely our new go-to place. Highly recommended if you’re in the area. And if you’re not, they have multiple locations around the state, including Monroe, Denham Springs, and New Iberia.

But one odd thing I discovered is that their main website hasn’t been updated since about 2017. There isn’t a complete list of locations, either. The website on the menu isn’t online anymore. And the other oddity is that there are multiple websites for the same company. Or rather. . .well, I’m not sure.

There’s a website for one location in Baton Rouge, one in Slidell, one in West Monroe, one in Belle Chase, and another in Metairie. There is also one in Pensacola, Florida, according to the main website.

I’m guessing it’s franchised, and each one is individually owned. The websites all say, “family-owned,” but I’m not sure if it’s one family, or each location is owned by a different family. I didn’t think to ask, but then we were enjoying chips, black bean dip, and salsa too much.

Well, whatever the ownership situation is, Hammond will always be our favorite.

El Paso Mexican Grill is located at 1603 N Morrison Blvd, Hammond, LA 70401-1531, and their phone number is 985-956-7223.

Until Next Time

In addition to the upcoming meat box from Misfits Market, I’m working on a few other things to report.

Spring is coming, and that means lovely spring vegetables as well as gardening. Maybe. I’m trying to get BF to think about another round of gardening, this time on the far side of the garage.

He has access to a tractor with something called a “box blade,” which would render that area suitable for planting. Two huge tree stumps with an extensive root system are what stand in our way for a nice garden over there. But it’s protected from the main area, with an existing fence to help keep the local wildlife (and occasional visits from BigFoot) from destroying it like last time.

I should look for some BigFoot garden décor. Maybe even this sign on the outside of the garage. I bet that would keep the night creatures away from our garden. Along with anyone else who decided to show up.

Well, I still have my paint bucket garden. They’re cheap. Maybe I’ll try tomatoes again this year. I clipped a bit of basil from last year’s plants back in November before the winter chill got here and sprouted them on the kitchen windowsill. They’re currently planted in a small ceramic pot. Now I’ve got two small plants in the kitchen window waiting for the day they can grow outside.

Time to see what Tractor Supply has ready to bring home and plant. BF just turns his nose up. Until next time. . . .

Happy Dining, Amigos!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup In A Bowl
Winter Cooking: The Soup Post

Soup. Even the word conjures up warm tasty food that’s perfect in winter. Today I’ve got two soups for you that are easy to make and enjoyable anytime. Neither involves pesto.

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Hi again, Dear Readers:

Is it cold where you are? Chances are that answer is “yes” no matter where you are throughout the United States. After all, it is winter for a bit longer. Even though it’s getting closer to spring, we’ve still got some “winter” to go.

In parts of Texas, exploding trees have been keeping people up at night. The trees “explode” when the sap freezes and the trees break from the weight. We may have heard that happen here as well. It’s just like putting something liquid in your freezer and it expands. If there isn’t enough room for the liquid, whatever vessel it’s contained in will crack open. That’s why you don’t put glass in the freezer as a rule, because the glass will break upon expansion.

We’ve been experiencing our own part of the cold snap, and yes, he is still complaining that he hates cold weather.  Then it warms up and mosquitoes return for a day or two. But I managed to make him happy recently with a soup recipe for which he gave me a thumbs-up to make again. And I also made a similar soup that he wouldn’t touch, but it’s equally tasty.

New Member Of The Family

I texted Ami Pope a few weeks ago and told her about the remaining Spencer story. She texted back that she had a clear vision of the possum opening up one eye, looking at BF, and saying, “Hey buddy, can you help me out?”

After two posts mentioning our beloved dog, Spencer, I can report that BF has brought in another dog to give the pit bull a new companion. He’s been kind of lonely since we lost Spencer, and he’s been acting like a little puppy dog ever since. The pit bull is now eight years old, and at 85 pounds, is hardly a “puppy.”

But on a recent Saturday, when we had something else going on (keep reading), BF came home from work with a little “surprise.” As I’ve said many times, I don’t like surprises, because they’re frequently not good. BF told me that I had to bring the pit bull inside, having let him out to greet BF. Immediately, I knew it was something to which the dog would object.

Well, he didn’t object, but it was a surprise for the pit bull. Not to mention ME.

Buddy face

Look at that FACE!!

This is Buddy, a cross between a chocolate Labrador and a Catahoula Leopard Hound, also called a “Catahoula Cur.” (A “cur” is actually a mixture of breeds within a breed; it’s a little weird.) This cute little furball has turned the pit bull from an eight-year-old “puppy” into a doting father. They’re not related, of course, but the pit bull instantly became the elder statesman in light of the puppy moving into the house. In these pictures, taken the day of his arrival, he is approximately eight weeks old.

Buddy sleeping on James's chair

Awww. . . .

BF came up with the name, although we could have gone with “Rufus”, too. Buddy goes between hyperactivity and near-comatose. He’s got Spencer’s metronome tail and occasionally vocalizes like Spencer, too. He’s learning to bark, but he does whine and also chirps. (Did we get a monkey?) But of course, he’s not Spencer, and he’s got ice-blue eyes like a full-blooded Catahoula whatever or a Siberian Husky. At this writing, it’s been a month, and he’s now 12 weeks old.

Tab E. Cat, the resident apex predator, is not happy. He has expressed his extreme displeasure multiple times with hissing and swatting at both dogs, primarily at Buddy. Of course, this cute little puppy will, within a year or so, be as big as, if not bigger than the pit bull, who would like to cancel his trial subscription to fatherhood. But it’s getting better, a little at a time.

Naturally, I have nothing *else* to do all day long but deal with an untrained puppy. I gave him a unique nickname: “Broccoli Stir-fry.” But that’s just when I get mad at him. Titan, the pit bull, is busy all day teaching him how to dog. But it’s obvious he needs a break from fatherhood.

New Appliances

Well, say goodbye to our 1970’s avocado green stove.

That’s right, BF bought us some new kitchen appliances. They were delivered hours before he came home from work with that rodent, I mean, Buddy the new puppy.

BF sold something out of his shop and decided it was finally time to upgrade the ancient but functional appliances.

No kidding, we had an avocado green stove, as you’ve seen in previous pictures.

Avocado green stove

It served us well.

The stove and the old fridge/freezer with the non-working water fountain and ice maker have been removed and carted away. In their place are sleek new stainless-steel exterior appliances that leave a little more room in the kitchen, are energy efficient, and work great.

New Stove

Isn’t it gorgeous?

We’ve been talking about doing this for some time, but it always seems to get put off. Well, this time, BF said “I’m doing this,” and he did.

Refrigerator with closed doors

Equally attractive. Notice the indignant cat at the far right in the background, waiting to be fed again.

Availability

I have seen posts on Facebook from people in other places that have had considerable trouble getting the appliances they want. In some cases, the appliances are on backorder, or simply not available anywhere. We just purchased what was in stock at Lowe’s, which may or may not have been the absolute newest models. Lowes had them, BF bought them, and they delivered them two days later.

Stove

A closer look at the entire thing.

It took some time to get everything swapped out and get the older appliances removed from the house. We cleaned the floor behind both appliances before the new ones were added, and they were expertly installed by none other than BF himself.

A Fancier Stove And Refrigerator

One thing I enjoy teasing BF about is his slightly Luddite nature. It’s just funny to watch him when he is presented with something new, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with it. It’s just nothing that’s ever crossed his path.

I was perfectly happy with the coil-type burners. I would not have minded if he bought a new stove with the same type of cooktop. Surprisingly, this time, BF went in for something much more modern, complete with ceramic cooktops and a digital readout.

Stovetop on Maytag Stove

Every inch is fully utilized, and it includes a place to keep something warm. Neat!

This light reminds you that the stove is still hot, even if it’s turned off. Pay attention!

hot surface indicator

That “quick boil” burner really does heat up fast.

Red glowing coils under cooktop

Don’t touch it!! These burners can get up to 1300 degrees.

This is what happens when you turn one on under a pot.

The refrigerator is at once both simplicity and complexity in one place. In other words, it’s very modern, very sleek, very well designed, with a lot more interior real estate than the other one had.

Refrigerator with doors open

LOTS of room, even though it looks a little smaller

The door shelves in this new refrigerator are much bigger, hold much more, and can accommodate a gallon of milk. The freezer does not have an ice maker because there is no waterline in that spot. That’s OK, we have plenty of ice cube trays.

Get a load of the size of this butter garage:

Butter garage in new refrigerator holding butter dish and three sticks of butter

Plenty of room for whatever butter dish you have

I’m supposed to be making BF a Barefoot Contessa Apple Crostata soon because we were recently gifted some apples. Everything is ready for me to start baking. . .soon.

The one downside is that now that we have a refrigerator with clear shelves and drawers, BF can see everything. This includes the stuff that I put towards the back of the produce drawer where, hopefully, he’ll look past them. You know, the sun-dried tomatoes, Asian fish sauce, coconut aminos, and the anchovy fillets and paste. I’ve used anchovy paste a few times in stuff I’ve made for him. But for heaven’s sake, don’t tell him about it or he’ll lose his mind as he did with the Frozen Hot Chocolate.

Maybe I should try putting it in the drawer at the very bottom of the fridge. It’s impossible to see into it when you open the door.

Oh, well. Let’s make some soup!

Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup

It’s keto, It’s easy, and it tastes great. Even BF said so. If you’re a fan of broccoli cheese soup, this one’s for you. If you stop off at the grocery store on the way home, you can have a delicious hot soup for dinner in less than an hour. And if you care, it’s also vegetarian and gluten-free. Not that BF cares in the least.

This is one more recipe from Emilie Bailey’s Vegetarian Keto in 30 Minutes on page 66. It wasn’t included in the original post because I made it after I wrote and published that blog post. It’s easy and perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold day.

 

Ingredients for Broccoli Cheese Soup

The Setup (I grated the 3 cups of Colby Cheese ahead of time; the recipe calls for Colby Jack.)

You can use a pound of either fresh or frozen broccoli in this recipe, but since this was the first time making it, I used fresh. Prep out your ingredients:

Prep bowls of measured ingredients

So much easier to do this first.

So start out by melting the butter in a pot:

making soup by melting butter in pot

Like this–don’t brown or burn it.

Then add your celery and onion:

Adding celery and onion to soup pot

Just like that.

Saute until they get tender, then add garlic and paprika:

Adding paprika to soup

Drop it right in

Cook for just one more minute, then add in the broccoli:

Adding broccoli into soup

Cut broccoli came in handy here.

Then 3.5 cups of vegetable broth or stock:

Adding stock to soup pot

Easier when you measure ahead of time!

Of course, this is vegetable stock since it’s vegetarian, but if you wanted to use chicken stock (and you don’t care about vegetarian) I’m sure that would work too.

Here’s where this recipe is a bit different. Once the broccoli is cooked fork-tender, four to five minutes, remove half of the broccoli and set it aside.

Removing broccoli from soup post

There’s a good reason for this.

Next up, add into the pot 3/4 cup of heavy cream and four ounces of regular (full-fat) cream cheese at room temp. Leave the cream cheese out for a while before you plan to cook this, just like for cheesecake (but not two days like I do.) I normally buy the two-pack of 8-ounce bricks at Walmart, but some places sell smaller packages of four ounces.

Adding cream to soup pot

Cream

Adding cream cheese to soup pot

And cream cheese

It’s going to take a few minutes for the cream cheese to melt:

Cream cheese in soup pot

Whisk this around until it’s nice and melted

Finishing Touch

After a short while, the cream cheese becomes fully melted

Melted cream cheese in soup pot

Almost there, so keep stirring

Emilie recommends an immersion blender to better chop some of the broccoli and smooth out the consistency:

Immersion blender in soup pot

Do this carefully, of course.

I had to move the pot near an outlet for the blender, or use an extension cord across the kitchen.

You can do this in a standard blender, BUT–like Pea & Pesto Soup, you must be extremely careful. Remove the little inset in the top, cover with a heavy dish towel, and blend cautiously.

Ready for soup? Add the shredded cheese a handful at a time (3 cups of Colby, which I shredded by hand):

Adding cheese to soup pot

Stir in between handfuls to melt it

I prefer not to buy pre-shredded cheese because of the powdery ingredients added to keep it from clumping. It’s a bit of a pain, but the anti-clumping additives can also prevent the cheese from melting properly.

Once it’s incorporated (and melted), add the reserved broccoli back into the soup pot:

Adding reserved broccoli back into the soup pot

Almost there

If you prefer, you can blend all of the broccoli instead of just half of it. We liked it this way, but there’s nothing wrong with all-blended broccoli either.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup In A Bowl

An easy and delicious version of Broccoli Cheddar Soup.

Two thumbs up! BF really enjoyed it, so we have yet another “modern” dish to add to our dinner rotation. It’s tasty, cheesy, filling, and perfect for a cool or cold evening.

Creamed Cauliflower Soup

Similar to the broccoli cheese soup, I found this one in a book called Keto For Vegetarians by Lisa Danielson. It’s got a delicious-looking egg dish on the cover and a wide range of vegetarian food similar to Emilie’s. It was one of the many books I received as a gracious gift from Callisto Press while I was on their book reviewer list.

keto for vegetarians book

This is the book, if you’re interested.

I just happened to be flipping through this book one day, looking around and found this delicious soup on page 69. I told BF that I wanted to make some. Of course, the first thing he did was turn up his nose and make retching noises. I ignored him.

Similar to the prior recipe, it has butter, cream, and shredded cheese, so how could it be bad? It’s not like you can actually taste the cauliflower for what it is. But BF, being himself, just completely rejected it out of hand. So, the cauliflower soup is all mine whenever I decide to make some.

It’s a simple recipe, and you can make it either on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot. I tried the Instant Pot version first. The second time, when I took these pictures, I made it top of the stove and used frozen cauliflower. I’d opened a bag of florets by mistake.

The author also has a recipe for Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup on page 67 that also includes Greek yogurt cream cheese. Don’t ask me where I would find that around here.

So this is what you need to make this recipe:

Soup the setup

The Setup

There is no cream cheese in this recipe. Instead of Colby-Jack, this one calls for sharp cheddar. I’m a fan of the mild cheddar, but I bought extra-sharp here. Know what? It’s pretty good, so I suggest going with what works.

The recipe starts out the same, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat:

Two tablespoons butter

The recipe calls for grass-fed butter, but this is just standard unsalted stuff.

Once melted, add the onion and garlic:

Adding onion and garlic to soup pot

Then saute for about three minutes or so:

Saute in soup pot

Just until they start to soften

Now add in the cauliflower:

Adding Cauliflower into pot

I let it thaw for a few before I started.

Saute for a few minutes:

Sauteing cauliflower in pot

Since it was frozen, not fresh, I cooked it a little longer

Add in the veggie broth and a bay leaf:

Adding broth and a bay leaf to the soup pot

See why measuring first helps?

Cover and cook for 20 minutes:

Covering soup pot

Won’t be long now!

After 20 minutes, remove it from the heat. Obviously, I forgot to turn off the heat. Add in the cream:

Adding cream

And stir well

Now the cheese:

Adding cheddar cheese into soup pot

This is only one cup, not three.

Don’t forget the salt and pepper:

Adding salt and pepper to soup pot

The finishing touch

Again, stir well. And serve!

Finished cauli soup

Ready for soup?

This recipe makes four servings, and I had it for a few days afterward:

Four bowls of cauli soup

Lunch! Or something to go with it.

Really easy, really tasty, and great to make when it’s cold.

Bowl of cauli soup

Delicious and keto

One thing I didn’t take a picture of is using a wooden tool to cut the cauliflower into smaller pieces after cooking because they were big out of the bag.

No, BF refused, even though it smelled delicious. That’s just how he rolls, even in an emergency. Fortunately, we’re not having one right now, just a difference of opinion.

This recipe also has instructions for using the Instant Pot, but it wasn’t really much faster than the stovetop. I think both could work well with the IP, which is something to consider if you have a power outage and need to use a generator. We’re experienced with camp stove cooking now, so we could certainly make both soups either way.

Addendum: New Pinch Bowls

I’ve mentioned mise en place more than once in this humble little blog. I’m a huge fan of prepping out the ingredients before you start cooking, which isn’t what I saw growing up. But the little pinch bowls I’ve had for many years have either been broken or disappeared. Seriously, the stainless steel ones from IKEA have gone into the Vortex, and the glass ones broke over time. I have one of each left, and I’ve not found them on IKEA’s website.

But I found some new ones! They’re unbreakable and resilient SILICONE.

Two sets of silicone pinch bowls

Aren’t they cute?

I went looking for more but didn’t check Amazon as I should have. I mentioned it to BF one day and was considering ordering them from Cost Plus World Market. Lo and behold, we had to head to Baton Rouge one day, which means a few shopping stops when we’re done at the machine shop.

BF gets reluctantly introduced into places he would not have visited if I weren’t around. Cost Plus is one of them, where we get his new favorite cookie, Jammie Dodgers. This particular day in December, there were none of his favorite cookies, but we did manage to stock up on some things we like.

On the way out, BF saw these in a display near the checkout counter. Four in a package for $3.99. I grabbed two. They work wonderfully, fit in the dishwasher cutlery tray (just squish them a bit), and are perfect for measuring out your ingredients before you start. I’ve found that once you start doing that, the cooking process goes quickly. It’s almost like what you see on cooking shows.

Two packages of these will keep you cooking forever. Online, they now sell for $4.99, and Amazon has a range of different types and brands at different price points.

Until Next Time

I’ve posted printable PDF copies of both these recipes here on the Recipes Page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find them. One day, I’ll try to organize them a little more. Just click on the hyperlink and it will come up, ready to use or print. I’ve even added a new “logo” that I made on Canva recently.

Logo for HeatCageKitchen

You might see more of this in the coming months.

I might do a refresh of the WordPress theme, and this may figure into the redesign/rebrand. If I do it.

Even without snow and sub-freezing, t’s been very cold this winter. There’s no better time to make soup. Make it in your Instant Pot, CrockPot, some other appliance, or just on your stovetop. Spring is a few weeks away, so now’s the time to enjoy some soup before warmer weather arrives.

Happy Dining!

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