Aldi—it’s the newest little grocery store around. Do you have one nearby? (TL:DR version: Aldi’s is a great place to grocery shop with great prices.)
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
We’re halfway through the first month of 2023. BF corrected me on my earlier statement that he has no resolutions, he does. He’s already got one of them checked off, although the process isn’t complete yet. Long story there. Two others are a little farther off, but reachable.
I didn’t make any “resolutions,” but I would like to start getting up early in the morning again. I’ve been able to do that with BF’s work schedule since he returned to work after vacation, but he’ll be back on his usual day/night alternate rotation soon. When he goes back to sleep, so do I. So. . .we’ll see how it goes.
The “New” Aldi In Our Area
A few days ago, we received a card in the mail letting us know that there is a new Aldi store that’s actually less than an hour from us—just north in Mississippi. No kidding. Because we’re so close to the state border, it’s closer than Baton Rouge or New Orleans. The announcement included a $5 coupon off a $30 purchase, which I happily accepted. So, I made my plans and drove north.
I know this sounds a bit odd, going to another state to grocery shop, but people in the smaller northeastern states do cross-border trips all the time. Remember that in Houston you can drive 100 miles in a day and never leave the city. You can drive for days and never leave the state. So going to Mississippi to visit the newest and closest Aldi store isn’t a big deal. Even if BF thinks it’s a bit bonkers. (Bonus: the sales tax is also 3% less than in Louisiana.)
HEB is a long drive from here, but I’d happily go as far as Beaumont to get to one. (I’m not sure about the ones in Vidor and Orange, I’ve never been.) But because the Mississippi border is just 30 minutes away, McComb isn’t the hour-drive to get to the Slidell Aldi location. Might as well go to Baton Rouge if I’m going to drive that far, because Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Joann’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Cost Plus World Market are also there, too. (Just not all in the same place.)
Admittedly, I wasn’t impressed with Aldi when I went to the one in Friendswood in 2014. It was on the way home from LK’s place, but I didn’t find it to be a better option. Reminded me of a convenience store, really. Lots of boxed mixes, junk food, and a little fresh food.
A well-known male celebrity from the UK is a big fan of Aldi, too. He lives in Palm Springs with his partner and has many times touted Aldi’s food and its greatness. He even did a video in his local Aldi, and it wasn’t a paid promotion–he was just a fan. That Aldi was nothing like the one I visited. After my original experience in Friendswood, I just never went back. I’m not naming him here because I later found him to be quite foul. Therefore, I don’t want his name in the blog or ranking for his name, either.
However, our friend Beverly loves Aldi and told me that they’ve upped their offerings in the fresh food area. Beverly and her husband drive to an Aldi about once a month or so to stock up on staples. Aunt Ruth loves her local Aldi as well. So, I decided to revisit Aldi’s and see what I might be missing. Beverly was right!
The Trip to McComb
It was a lovely day for a drive. It was cool, and sunny, with no traffic. Until I got there.
I drove myself because BF was working. I guess he was glad because he didn’t want to go anyway. He’d rather watch shows about Bigfoot and that weird guy who lived among the bears and became bear food. (I really need to repossess my little Roku.)
Two things to know about going to Aldi: bring a quarter to unlock your cart and bring your own shopping bags. These are two of the ways Aldi keeps costs down and passes along the savings. (New Orleans readers may remember The Real Superstore from back in the late 80’s introducing the “quarter for the basket” trend from Europe.) Stores are accepting reusable shopping bags again, so wash them and take them with you when you shop, especially at Aldi.
But because I wanted to make the grand opening (and I did!) they were not requiring shoppers to use a quarter to unlock the carts. I made it in time to see the grand opening but not to get a picture. The local newspaper, the McComb Enterprise Journal, was also on hand to record the opening. You can read the nice article here, and the picture of the ribbon cutting is available here.
And when people returned the baskets, they offered them to other shoppers rather than fuss about the quarter. Remember, I was in Mississippi. Everyone was nice and as crowded as the place was, they were all happy to be there.
The first 100 shoppers—designated by numbered cards—received a “swag bag.” That is, an Aldi shopping bag that contained some bagel chips and a quarter holder. They gave me a shopping bag on the way in, but it only had a cute little quarter holder (no complaints from me):
I was going to buy a bag anyway, but it was nice to be gifted one.
On the way out, someone gave me two more, and those will be gifted to others.
And if you lose that quarter holder, you can actually buy them on Amazon, no kidding.
While waiting for the opening, I spoke with a lady who said that not much happens in McComb. Nice place to go if you don’t want to be found, am I right? She laughed. We saw the Mayor and a few of his people go in and walk out with a swag bag, but I don’t think he did any shopping.
As it turns out, our friend MY went to college in McComb, no kidding. She’s going to rustle up her gang and pay them a visit.
Once we got inside, it was a madhouse.
Again, everyone was polite and nice, and no one caused any problems.
Another customer asked me a question about something. Suddenly she began telling me about something she makes in the air fryer, “while you make your chicken and biscuits.” I held back my “keto-mostly” self as I listened to her description. She was also nice, so I just smiled and agreed, then thanked her because I couldn’t follow everything. I still don’t know what she was telling me to make, honestly. I guess I looked like I needed to know.
It probably won’t be crowded like that every day.
There’s a deli area right when you walk into the place, on the left:
I saw the words “cauliflower pizza” and it was all over:
Lunch! No wheat in the crust or anything, so that was first since BF was working late the next day. Then tortillas, including some marked “keto” for our next Taco Tuesday adventure:
Plus a nice selection of cookies and pastries. Lots of snacks on the right side:
And more snacks!
Against the back wall are bacon and other meats:
I’m going to go ahead and admit that we needed a bag of onions:
Right next to them were little roasty potatoes, aka, Triston’s potatoes:
I forgot the tortilla chips, but these didn’t last long:
This quinoa meal will absolutely horrify BF if he ever finds it because he wants to know what it’s doing in his house:
Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy are laughing as they read this because they’ve met BF and they know I’m right. But it was so weird I was compelled to get one. I haven’t tried it just yet.
I’m not going to disclose how much I spent. . .let’s just say I got some things we needed, as well as some extra things, plus something for dinner. This definitely won’t be my last trip to McComb, that’s for sure—especially with a Starbucks, Hobby Lobby and Walmart in the same spot. It’s an enclosed mall called Uptown McComb, but I didn’t realize that until I was leaving. Next time.
How Was The Pizza?
Regular readers know I’m a fan of Caulipower pizzas, and get them occasionally. So far, nothing beats Caulipower, and I’ve tried a couple of them that Walmart has available. (I may try the new Walmart brand one day soon.) So this caught my eye, although they only had Veggie available. That’s OK, too.
The Aldi’s pizza isn’t frozen—remember, it came from the deli section as you walk in the front door. (There’s only one way in and out, and that’s a thing with Aldi, too.) The crust is rather “floppy,” because it’s a “grab and go” thing. So you want to be extra careful sliding it onto the oven rack.
At $7.99, it rivals Caulipower and is also larger.
All you do is preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put it directly on the oven rack. I had to use the big oven because it’s too big for the countertop oven, but it was chilly so that was fine. In about 16 minutes, you have pizza:
I think I should have left it in the oven a bit longer because the crust wasn’t as crispy as I anticipated.
The toppings were all cooked, of course, and it was quite tasty. Just don’t want to burn the pizza.
No complaints here, it tastes pretty good, and it’s big enough to have a leftover half for the next day.
I like to have both the regular and cauliflower pizzas in the freezer for us, but of course, we tend to go through them quickly. These pizzas from Aldi can be frozen, apparently, because it has directions for cooking from frozen. So, my next Aldi trip may involve getting more of these for the freezer, plus a couple of the non-cauliflower ones for BF.
Sweets For Your Sweet
I did manage to get a few things for BF. He loves chocolate as I do, so:
These were just too cute to pass up:
These cookies from Germany look just like the Krakus cookies from Poland that I used to buy at Phoenicia Foods in Houston in several flavors:
I hope they taste as good, too. If so, BF will love them. And for myself, chocolate and raspberry are together again:
I didn’t eat it all at once, honest. And it was only one. I passed on the chocolate truffles, because, well, I can get into trouble with those.
Aldi has an aisle full of sweet treats and other non-food gifts like candles and pajamas for Valentine’s Day.
So there’s something for nearly everyone, including yourself.
Unlike Trader Joe’s, Aldi’s has an entire center aisle of non-food items:
There you’ll find all manner of things, like these cute things for your kitchen or coffee bar:
Coffee pots and cups are also available, as well as their own espresso maker:
Aldi Finds are lots of different things, including rugs and small pieces of furniture. Presumably, you must assemble them just like anything from IKEA. But maybe it was because I was in a hurry that I didn’t see any of those, or maybe the store didn’t have them. I wanted to look at a storage ottoman from the app, but that may be coming next week. Gives me an excuse to go back, doesn’t it?
Well, this was just what I wanted:
And magically, it made its way into the cart. Guess what? It takes a range of vacuum seal bags. Those vacuum freezer bags and replacement gaskets are easily available on Amazon. I’ll check our local Walmart for availability too. I sealed up the pork chops and the ground turkey I bought at Aldi, and they’re already in the big freezer. More vacuum seal freezing and a blog post on this one soon.
We’ve been talking about getting a vacuum food sealer for some time, but they are kind of pricey, so we waited. After reading this article by Jill Nystul on One Good Thing By Jillee, I told BF that we should consider getting one to start making our food last a bit longer.
You can find a huge selection of them on Amazon. In fact, Dash has a brand new model of its own. When I brought up the subject, BF just nodded his head “OK” and that was the end of the discussion, although we have talked about it since. Even though this was a rushed trip during a busy time, I saw it and was glad to see it was $30.
Not Just A. . . .
BF’s favorite comment about Trader Joe’s is, “it’s just a grocery store.” He just doesn’t get excited about that sort of thing. Between TJ’s and Whole Foods, there were too many guys wearing man buns and skinny jeans for his military buzz-cut comfort level. He never lets me forget about “ManBun/SkinnyJeans.” In this store, there were none of those, as MY tells me that it’s mostly country folks. Everyone was happy about the new Aldi, that’s for sure.
In all seriousness, Trader Joe’s is the grocery store, while Aldi’s is groceries and more. Both stores focus primarily on their own private brands with some national brands alongside. Aldi also carries a selection of limited-time goods from small stuff to all manner of things. Most of it is seasonal, and they don’t last long before they’re replaced with something new.
They Didn’t Forget The Furbabies
Aldi also carries pet food and supplies:
Some apparel, kitchen items, and even fitness things:
All in that aisle for Aldi Finds.
Great Stuff In Store
Like Trader Joe’s, Aldi also has devout fans. This article from The Kitchn talks about a bag of frozen vegetables that the author says to get at least one more since they’re “ready to roast.” They have carrot and sweet potato and a Mediterranean blend with yellow and red bell peppers, zucchini, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Before you ask, no, BF won’t eat this because of the zucchini.
Because Aldi was so busy, I didn’t really get a good look at the freezer section. But what I did recognize immediately was the Texas Tamales!
And they were $2.50 less than Rouses. The bad news is that they only had pork tamales, no beef.
What Aldi’s isn’t is a salvage or overstock place like Dirt Cheap (the top retailer of major brand returns, they say) or Ollie’s Bargain Center (“Good stuff cheap—up to 70% off the fancy stores!”) Aldi sells fresh and first-quality product for less than other grocery stores.
These tea bags are a good example of what that means. Chances are the two different brands are from the same producer with different labeling.
Aldi’s was $2.19, and Winn-Dixie’s is about $2.69. Sometimes Winn-Dixie puts them on sale, two for $4, or buy two and get one free. Next trip to Aldi’s I might buy a couple of extra boxes.
An Aldi Fan Story From Down Under
Although Aldi is growing in the US, this Germany-based company is not just in the States. This blog by Australian copywriter Pauline Longdon describes her and her partner Rae’s adventure getting themselves a couple of Stand-Up Paddleboards, or SUP. If you’re not familiar with them (and I’m not either), you can get an idea of what they look like from what’s available on Amazon. (There’s a bit of language and self-deprecating humor involved, too.) Note: I’m friends with Pauline and Rae on Facebook but have not yet met them in person like other copywriters I know who have.
Admittedly, I know little to nothing about stand-up paddleboarding, and Pauline’s blog is also written primarily for writers. But the story is interesting enough that I wanted to link to it here, because it involves Aldi, and researching a purchase. If you have a few minutes, click over to Pauline’s website, and read the story in her words. Pauline kindly gave me permission to link to her blog, so she knows why you’re there.
Why Shop At Aldi?
It’s a little like going to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or even the Rouses in Hammond—they have what you want or need. They’re not as big as a Rouses, Winn-Dixie, or HEB, but they’re a good basic grocery store with, well, basics. Eggs are the notable exception since they’re currently as expensive as controlled substances. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) But Aldi’s prices are good on their store brands, with their store brand offerings being considerably less expensive. So far we’ve noticed no difference in quality, either.
For example, this jar of Aldi’s store brand Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce was $1.95.
By comparison, the one we usually buy, Classico Tomato & Basil, runs $3.79, and sometimes $3.00 on sale at Winn-Dixie.
Used it for dinner and BF gave a thumbs-up. Unlike Winn-Dixie, Aldi doesn’t have a rewards program. Their prices are what they offer, no reward points are needed. So there’s that.
I’d like to go back to Aldi occasionally and stock up on canned and jarred foods, frozen things, and other foods to stash and keep on hand. We’re planning a pantry reboot soon to utilize the wasted space (thank you, Pinterest!) Once we have that completed and the pantry cleared and sorted, it’ll be easier to keep track of what we have and need. Stocking up on basics at Aldi will help keep our pantry full for less.
In a quick chat with Rafael, he says has an Aldi store about two miles away from his home with Carmen. He said they have some nice European products, which he prefers because they “tend to make cleaner stuff.” Agreed—and he has access to more of that kind of thing than we do.
I mentioned to the very harried manager in a red shirt that this new Aldi is an option if we need to travel north again for a supply run. During the two weeks our area was running on generators, we traveled north first to Brookshire and then McComb, Mississippi, to get food, fuel, and other supplies. That Aldi is close but probably would have been filled with people like us getting food and things. It’s an option, and it’s literally right off the freeway. You can see it before you get to the exit because it’s on the furthest corner of the mall. (That’s one of Aldi’s trademarks when they look for real estate.) Even if there was a closer store, it’s good to know Aldi’s is in McComb if we need it one day.
Besides, it’s nice to get away occasionally and do something different, isn’t it?
Third Fastest Growing Grocery In the US
That’s right, they are. And much as I like HEB and Trader Joe’s, Aldi is a nice place to shop, too.
I did write the company to tell them about the fun grand opening and request a store in Hammond. Someone wrote back and said they were always looking for new sites that fit their criteria. Hopefully, Hammond will fit, and they will build one. Southeastern Louisiana University is there, so there’s bound to be enough interest. I think that’s why Trader Joe’s is so close to LSU.
More To Come
In addition to the overdue posts on Rafael & Carmen’s wedding and the rest of our Houston trip, I’ve got a few more topics waiting. The vacuum food sealer is going to get its own post, because now I want to seal up everything. I just need more of the bags.
I still have no idea what we’re doing for Valentine’s Day, but hopefully, we’ll find something on the Roku we can both enjoy.
Of course, I hope to have more tasty recipes to cook up in the New Year. Because feeding BF can be, shall we say, challenging, and requires more effort.
Easy Dirty Keto is the latest cookbook by Emilie Bailey. Today I’ll review it and tell you why it’s a good book to have in your collection, whether or not you eat keto.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Apologies for my tardiness, it’s been a busy few weeks. We watched as Hurricane Ian went through Florida doing pretty much the same thing Hurricane Ida did in Louisiana last year. One of my project managers lives right in the strike zone, and she finally got power and Internet back a few days ago. Don’t we know about that!
Others have checked in from the area on social media. Keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers, although I think the good Governor DeSantis has everything well in hand. We’ve been through it, and we know some folks who are still not back in their homes more than a year later. Everything moves VERY slowly here, but Florida’s working it.
We’ve had a few lovely cool fronts come through, and another brief one graces Texas and Louisiana tomorrow. There’s been scant rain for over a month. Autumn came early this year, and we’re thankful. I can open the windows some days and clear the air (especially after BF has been cooking.)
As promised, I’ve got a delicious new cookbook to tell you about, and five delicious recipes you can enjoy this week.
Get Ready For Dirty Keto
Are you looking for new and delicious keto recipes or just delicious food that’s easy to make? Well, aren’t we all? Today I’ll tell you all about the newest—and possibly final—book from The Texas Granola Girl, Emilie Bailey. This book covers both bases.
Let me say at the outset that I was fortunate to get a review copy of Easy Dirty Keto before its release on August 25th. Thank you, Emilie! (I feel special when that happens.) I’ve already left a five-star review on Amazon, because, well it deserves five stars, in my opinion. But that’s because the food is good.
Honestly, if the recipes weren’t any good, I wouldn’t be writing an entire blog post—it would be a short “news item” with my polite opinion. But this is Emilie, and the food is really, really, good—as usual.
Let’s get cooking.
What Is Dirty Keto?
No, it’s not something you get into trouble for, should be embarrassed about, or risk arrest. Nothing like that. It’s a form of keto that stays within the parameters but isn’t exact.
There are two types of keto:
- Clean keto, where you eat “clean,” no processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and the like
- Dirty keto, where the rules are a little looser, but still help you meet macros and stay in ketosis
Ingredients like these might be considered “dirty keto”:
Or this one:
And if you wanted to classify my keto, it would be called “filthy dirty keto.” Because I can’t say I eat keto every day—especially when BF makes jambalaya or one of his other “specialties.”
The rule is to stay in ketosis. I can’t say I’ve ever checked that. Still, dirty keto isn’t as strict, and the variety of foods is wider because you can include some things that you wouldn’t under “clean keto.” You’ll see what I mean in the recipes.
Many people find clean keto to be difficult to sustain, or they just get bored with the same types of foods. With dirty keto, there’s a little more to enjoy that’s still “keto.” Emilie explains in the intro–she’s busy, like most people, and needed to loosen the rules a bit. One example is the sugar-free version of Cool Whip.
I’ve tried these five recipes myself and give my opinion on each. (Spoiler alert: they’re delicious!) I’ll be trying more of them in the future, and I may include them in a future blog post. So, here they are for your information and enjoyment.
Chorizo and Spaghetti Squash, Page 125
Let me say right up front that this is the recipe I really wanted to make first but had to wait until BF wasn’t home. I don’t want to listen to the retching.
It’s simple and straightforward. You might not believe it was really keto. The setup:
First, start with the spaghetti squash:
Cut in half and scrape out the seeds:
They should look like this:
Put them face down onto a microwave-safe plate and cook on high for ten minutes, until it’s fork-tender.
When it’s done, it looks like this:
While that’s cooking, measure out your spices and things:
Then remove the chorizo from the casings and add it to the pan.
You won’t need oil, because the chorizo gives off plenty once it starts cooking. Remember, it’s a highly seasoned pork sausage.
Once the chorizo is cooked, add in the pico de gallo:
Mix that around, then add the salt and the spaghetti squash:
Toss that all around to distribute:
Then sprinkle the half-cup cheese on top:
And dinner is ready!
It takes about 30 minutes or so, but it’s really fast and easy. If you want, you can cook the spaghetti squash ahead of time (keep reading), refrigerate it, and add it to the pan when the chorizo is cooked. If the spaghetti squash is cold, you may need a few more minutes to let it reheat in the pan before topping it with the cheese.
When I finished, I posted this picture on Instagram:
And I tagged Emilie. She saw it and responded that it was one of her favorite recipes from this book. Well, yeah! But really—chorizo. Do we need anything else?
What I Did Wrong
I bet you weren’t expecting to read that. Let me explain.
The recipe was made according to Emilie’s directions. But because we were on a rushed trip to Winn-Dixie, two things were different:
- I bought salsa, not pico de gallo because that’s what I could find quickly
- I also couldn’t find the queso fresco quickly so I relied on the Cotija cheese I had in the freezer
Guess what? Both were wrong for this recipe—but it was still delicious!
The salsa I bought:
And the magic secret ingredient:
That’s right, sugar. They call it “cane sugar” so they can show that it’s “natural,” and not from high fructose corn syrup. It’s still sugar, though, and it matters if you’re a diabetic watching sugar or you’re just trying to cut down or eliminate your sugar consumption.
The Cotija cheese is tasty but has a stronger taste, similar to Manchego, but not as potent as Feta. Just not the same as Queso Fresco, which has a salty, mild taste. I love Queso Fresco, and BF won’t touch it, so it doesn’t last long when I buy some. Fortunately, the recipe only calls for a half-cup of cheese as a topping, so it doesn’t overwhelm. I was looking forward to the milder cheese taste.
A subsequent trip revealed that our local Winn-Dixie simply doesn’t carry Queso Fresco, but Walmart does, along with pico de gallo. Good thing, because there’s suddenly a lot more Spanish spoken in Walmart here than before. No kidding.
Because BF was gone on a recent weekend, I made it again with the “right” ingredients. (He still won’t touch it.) I made my own chorizo because I didn’t have any but did have ground pork in the freezer. Really good both ways, but I’ll stick with the recipe next time.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Chorizo & Spaghetti Squash Toss
- 1 medium spaghetti squash, about 2½ to 3 pounds, or four cups cooked spaghetti squash
- 1 pound Mexican chorizo, casings removed
- 1 cup pico de gallo
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½ cup Queso Fresco (fresh Mexican crumbling cheese)
- Carefully cut the ends off the squash, then slice it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds, then place the squash halves cut side down on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for ten minutes, or until the squash is soft and fork-tender.
- While the squash is cooking, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the chorizo to the skillet. Break apart the chorizo with a spoon and cook until lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pico de gallo and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions begin to soften.
- When the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the strands with a fork, and add them to the skillet. Season with the salt, and toss with the chorizo mixture until warmed through.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, top the mixture with queso fresco, and serve.
I have updated the chorizo blog post with a printable recipe for that, too.
Notes About Spaghetti Squash
Emilie calls for microwaving the spaghetti squash here. And for this recipe, it works great. But there are other ways to cook this wonderful vegetable if you like it and want to make it for something else.
It’s low-carb and keto and tastes good when cooked correctly. It’s an ideal substitute for wheat-flour spaghetti, and tasty with any kind of spaghetti sauce. But of course, it’s called “squash,” and that puts BF right off eating any. His comment, “I’ll try anything you make” is rendered null and void when anything contains the word or ingredient “squash.”
My first encounter was some 20 years ago with one of Suzanne Somers’s many low-carb cookbooks. Her recipes called for the same prep: cut in half and remove the seeds. But then the recipe called for:
- Rubbing both cut sides with olive oil
- Putting them cut side down on a sheet pan
- Roasting in a 350F oven for an hour
You must wait for the squash to cool before handling it. Or use a thick potholder to hold the halves and scrape out the stringy flesh into a bowl. I can roast a smaller one in the countertop oven easily.
I think the recipe I tried first called for a little salt and pepper with a pat of butter, which is probably my favorite way to eat this squash. If you’re not going to use it or eat it immediately, just put it into a dish and refrigerate it until you’re ready.
Slow Cooking Spaghetti Squash
Another way I found to cook spaghetti squash is in the slow cooker. No kidding, you can totally put your spaghetti squash into your slow cooker—whole—and let it cook on “low” while you’re at work or doing other things. You must poke it with a fork in a few places like a potato, but it cooks up nicely. It’s hot, of course, so be careful cutting it open and scraping out the seeds.
Why would you do that if this recipe calls for microwaving? It’s your choice, really. You can also use the countertop oven to cook one in advance if you wanted. But using the slow cooker also means it’s hands-off and ready when you are, although it does come out softer this way. Again, use immediately or refrigerate.
If you’re making this dish on a busy weeknight, the ready-to-use spaghetti squash can make it a little easier.
However you cook this, it’s delicious in a fantastic Tex-Mex sort of way.
Barbecue Glazed Chicken Tenders, Page 95
This is so easy and tasty with just a few ingredients. Here’s the recipe:
Barbecue Glazed Chicken Tenders
- ½ cup Sugar-free barbecue sauce
- ¼ cup Sugar-free peach jam I couldn't find peach, but apricot worked well here.
- 1½ tbsp Sugar-free barbecue rub or seasoning
- 1 pound chicken tenders
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- In a bowl, stir together the barbecue sauce, peach jam, and seasoning. Reserve three tablespoons of this mixture for later.
- Dip each chicken tender in the sauce mixture and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Place the tenders in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. Base the tenders with the reserved sauce and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Serve as desired or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
See that sugar-free apricot jam over there? It’s supposed to be peach, but that’s all I could get in Winn-Dixie. It’s close, so I bought some, and it worked just fine. On sale, 2 for $6, with a jar of red raspberry. Because let’s face it, all you need is a spoon, and you have an instant keto dessert.
So. . . .
Preheat the oven to 400F, then line a sheet pan with parchment. I measured out the barbecue sauce in a measuring cup and then kept using it because it was just easier for mixing.
Mix the barbecue sauce, jam, and either some BBQ rub or other seasoning. I used a seasoned salt mix I like to make from another book.
And take out three tablespoons for later. I can’t find that picture, though. But it gets easier from here.
Dip the chicken tenders into the remaining mixture, just like you were breading them:
Drop onto the baking sheet:
Then bake it at 400F for about twenty minutes.
Once done, brush with the reserved sauce and give it another five minutes or so.
So what should you serve this with?
Balsamic Brussels Sprouts, Page 64
Make this while the chicken is in the oven. I started heating the oil first, took care of the chicken, then went on to make this one.
And if I’d read the directions ahead of time, I would have passed. Why? You’re FRYING them in hot oil on the stove. I’m not saying it’s not tasty—it is. However, I quit frying back in the ’80s, I think. Big mess, dangerous, and all that.
But. . .these little babies are SO GOOD!!!! So if you’re up to it, and you can do it safely, I highly suggest making this recipe—as is.
I can see Aunt Kathy in Texas reading this and saying to herself, “Frying? Yeah, right.” Well, here’s how it went.
Admittedly, I didn’t realize I’d need so much oil. And the big chili pot I was planning to use would have required several bottles of olive oil, so I used the smaller, 3-quart Dutch oven. Lucky me, I bought it years ago and I’m very happy I did because it’s super handy. I also didn’t have a lot of olive oil, so I used coconut oil with some olive oil, which worked just fine.
Before I started with the chicken, I put the oil in the pot and put the thermometer in with it:
You can’t see it in the picture because the inside is so faded, but 400 degrees is at the top.
I bought pre-washed Brussels sprouts, so that was a good thing:
I dropped them into the very hot oil slowly and carefully, half the bag at a time.
And this happened:
Use your “splatter screen,” not the pot lid, because condensation will drip water back into the hot oil and cause popping and splattering. No.
Let them cook for 3 to 5 minutes, the book says. I think the second batch cooked a bit longer, maybe 6 minutes, and they came out a little better.
When you take them out of the oil, put them on a sheet pan lined with paper toweling:
Repeat with a second batch if you need to.
After the frying is completed, sprinkle on a bit of salt:
Transfer to your serving dish and sprinkle on a quarter-cup of Parmesan cheese:
A bit more salt:
Then drizzle over the tablespoon of the balsamic reduction:
If the chicken isn’t ready, keep this dish warm until it is. But the chicken should be about ready by this time. I stuck the dish into the toaster oven to keep it warm until the chicken was done.
This is a seriously good keto dinner:
I admit I was just going to use my default keto recipe, cauliflower rice. And it wouldn’t be bad, either. But Emilie suggests this recipe as an accompaniment, so I made it. I’m glad I did, frying mess and all.
This balsamic reduction is a syrupy condiment based on balsamic vinegar.
It’s not totally keto, but then, you don’t need much to add a really nice extra touch of sweetness to any dish.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Carmelized Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
- Olive oil, for frying I used olive and coconut because I was nearly out of olive
- 1 pound prewashed fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half, dry, and at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon Balsamic glaze
- Line a baking sheet with a layer of paper towels for draining. Into a Dutch oven, pour about 1½ inches of oil and heat the oil to 400°F over medium heat.
- Put half the Brussels sprouts and any leaves that have fallen off into the hot oil. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring them often until they are dark golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Immediately season with ¼ teaspoon of salt.
- Bring the oil back up to temperature, add the remaining Brussels sprouts to the oil and repeat step 2.
- Place the crispy sprouts on a serving plate, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, and drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Serve immediately.
- NOTE: Emilie says that to ensure that the sprouts come out crispy, and to reduce any splattering, make sure that they are dry and at room temperature prior to frying. Don't use frozen sprouts, since they have much more moisture. Use a screen to control the splattering but don't use a lid, which will make the splattering worse.
Guess what? I made this dinner again, this time for BF, along with the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Whip (keep reading) a couple of weeks ago. I managed to find sugar-free peach preserves, too. He was looking forward to trying this menu and really enjoyed his dinner with dessert. So we have one more “acceptable” keto dinner for BF, thanks to Emilie’s great recipes. We’ll definitely be having this again sometime.
Boogie Cheeseburger Skillet, Page 117
What led me to try this, knowing BF wouldn’t eat it? Well, there’s a lot he doesn’t eat, so there’s that. A couple of other things, too:
- A lady I’ve known for a long time in nearby Albany calls everyone “Boogie” as a term of endearment. So naturally, the title caught my attention.
- One recipe called for chipotle mayo, but I wondered where I would find it here. I mean, soy sauce is considered “international food” in our local stores. Walking through our newly renovated Winn-Dixie, I found not only the chipotle mayo, but it was also on sale, so I bought a bottle. It is SO GOOD! Then I went back and found the recipe in the digital book. Warning: it’s got a strong bite. So if peppery is not something you’d like, Emilie says to substitute regular mayo in the sauce and the milder Monterey Jack cheese for the topping.
- And one recipe called for a poblano pepper, which happened to be growing outside in the paint bucket garden. It was the same recipe, so that was my chance to use it in a recipe before it went bad. I’ve got a couple more growing this late in the year, but I can get poblanos in both Winn-Dixie and Walmart, too.
Then it was a matter of getting a few more ingredients and cooking it.
Yes, this is sugar-free ketchup by the same company that makes our favorite barbecue sauce.
Start by preheating the oven to 400F, mix up your mayo, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, and set aside.
If you haven’t chopped anything yet, let me give you a tip: wear gloves for nearly any type of pepper but bells:
You’ll seed it and cut it into two-inch strips:
You’ll need a large, oven-safe skillet for this. A cast-iron skillet or stainless one like mine is perfect. Melt the butter, then add the chopped onion and Poblano pepper. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often until the onion is translucent and starts to carmelize.
Remove this from the pan and set it aside. Now start with the ground beef, along with the salt, pepper and garlic powder:
Brown it up really nicely, and break it up into small pieces, which will take about ten minutes:
Then add the requisite cauliflower rice:
Cook until the cauli-rice is no longer frozen, just a few minutes. Then add the onion and pepper back into the pan and stir:
Take the pan off the heat, and stir in about two-thirds of the mayo mixture we made first:
Sprinkle with the cheese:
Put the pan into the oven for five to seven minutes:
Drizzle the reserved sauce on top and dig in.
No, BF wouldn’t eat this either, he told me at the outset. I’ll make it again when he’s working late or I decide he can have his favorite frozen pizza for dinner.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Boogie Cheeseburger Skillet
- ½ cup chipotle mayonnaise, plus more for serving You can use plain mayo here if you can't find chipotle mayo or prefer less or no spice
- 2 tbsp sugar-free ketchup
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ onion, cut into ¼" wedges
- 1 poblano pepper
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 12-ounce bag frozen cauliflower rice
- 1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese If you'd like to cut down on the spiciness, use Monterrey Jack instead
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise,ketchup, and Worchestershire sauce and set aside.
- Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter, then add onion and pepper; cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and beginning to carmelize. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the beef to the pan, and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook for about 10 minutes or until browned, breaking it apart as it cooks. Add the frozen cauliflower rice and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until there is no liquid left in the pan and the cauliflower rice is tender. Stir the pepper and onion into the beef mixture.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in two-thirds of the mayonnaise mixutre. Top with the shredded cheese. Put the skillet into the oven and bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until the cheese melts. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and drizzle with the remaining sauce.
Mint-Chip Ice Cream Whip, Page 137
Let me just say that this is a total “cheat” of a recipe. It’s a prime example of “dirty keto,” since it’s not what you’d call “clean eating” under any circumstances. And I wouldn’t have considered it unless Emilie or another keto writer suggested it.
I’m talking about Cool Whip. It now comes in a version called Zero Sugar.
If you serve this dessert in fancy little dessert cups or glasses, I suggest calling it “Syllabub.” Chances are no one will know what that means, and it will sound posh. Maybe even French posh.
I’m not a fan of frozen non-dairy dessert toppings, even if it’s sugar-free. But now and again, this might just be what you need to hit the spot. As Emilie describes, it’s not really ice cream, just a little ice-cream-esque dessert that comes together quickly.
The prep for this one calls for putting the Cool Whip into the fridge for four hours to thaw. Don’t let it sit out or microwave this stuff because it will separate. Why? It’s non-dairy, and this commercial from about ten years ago (“Oil? Or Cream?” ) explains the difference. Read more on Kraft’s website.
Oh, and one more thing: I couldn’t get the white chocolate sugar-free pudding here, so I used regular chocolate sugar-free pudding. This, too, worked fine. The setup:
Once your Zero Sugar Cool Whip is sufficiently thawed to a soft texture, dump it into a bowl:
Add in the rest of the ingredients:
Chop the mint patties up fine:
And discover that the bowl you picked up is too small, so you switch to a larger one because it all fits in the dishwasher:
Fold carefully to mix:
Add it back to the Cool Whip container and stash it in the freezer for a couple of hours.
When it’s stiffened up a bit, it’s ready to dish out and serve.
Don’t serve it from the Cool Whip container if you’re trying to be fancy and call it syllabub. However, if you collect this fine piece of culinary Americana, here’s another reason to add to your “collection.”
And if you’re a fan of regular Cool Whip, here’s a new dessert for you, whether you’re eating keto or not. I’m sure it would work well with the regular stuff, too. If you try it, leave a comment about it.
The first time I made it, I mentioned it to BF and offered him some. He declined. Amazing, because he’s a huge fan of the power of Listerine. But with the chicken and Brussels sprouts for dinner, he was open to trying some, and he really enjoyed a dish of this fast and non-fancy keto dessert.
Here’s the printable recipe:
Mint Chip Ice-Cream Whip
- 1 8-ounce Container sugar-free whipped topping, thawed Do this by leaving in the fridge for four hours--don't leave it out or microwave
- 2 tblsp Sugar-free white chocolate pudding mix I used sugar free chocolate because I couldn't find white chocolate.
- ½ tsp Peppermint Extract
- 3 sugar-free peppermint patties, finely chopped
- In a medium bowl, combine the whipped topping, (save the container), pudding mix, and peppermint extract and stir together well.
- Fold in the chopped peppermint patties and return the mixture to the whipped topping container.
- Put the container in the freezer for at least 2 to 3 hours for an ice cream-like consistency.
About Peppermint Extract
Be VERY careful not to add too much. Otherwise, the finished dish will taste like toothpaste. I speak from experience here. The mint can overpower everything else, so measure carefully, and not over the bowl. Now, do you see why I prep everything beforehand? You can’t add too much when it’s already measured into a small dish or pinch bowl.
Yes, I did that, but I didn’t stage the picture right. I was by myself, as usual, and I had to stand around the tripod.
Verdict: It’s A Great Book!
Easy Dirty Keto is a really nice cookbook to have in your collection. If you aren’t looking for dirty keto, I still recommend Emilie’s book. The recipes are easy, and most of the recipes don’t need a large number of ingredients. Plus, the food is so good that even non-keto folks can still enjoy them. Even BF!
When I had the opportunity to review Emilie’s first book, The Southern Keto Book, my first thought was something along the lines of, “Keto and Southern? Oh, come ON!” Of course, you know how that went, and now I’m a total fangirl.
Keto or not, I feel like these recipes are real comfort food. At least, that’s what I felt like when I made them and then enjoyed eating them. No kidding. Even though I grew up in New Orleans, the cuisine just isn’t appealing to me anymore, plus all the excess starch of rice and potatoes and the like. I liked Tex-Mex early on, and it’s what I’ve liked since the late ’80s. Nobody understands that here, but I’m sure Emilie does.
Delicious food is the best reason for buying any cookbook, isn’t it?
Is Easy Dirty Keto The End?
Emilie and her family are on a working game ranch in Texas. That’s probably the reason you can find several venison and wild game recipes on her website. While she’s enjoyed sharing her keto journey with readers, another book may be out of the question. We hope not, of course, but we’re thankful for the four she’s published. Read her blog, you’ll see that her blog and cookbooks are a “side hustle.” Like a lot of modern authors, she has a “day job” and writes on the side.
Should this be Emilie’s last book, I would just say thank you to Emilie for four great books with delicious food to enjoy for years to come. All four have become favorites with us, and even BF likes many of the dishes I’ve made. No more canned soup if he wants something better.
Emilie didn’t say anything about discontinuing her blog. Like me, Emilie doesn’t blog regularly. That’s OK—Emilie’s website is a huge collection of delicious keto recipes that aren’t in any books, to my knowledge. Those aforementioned venison recipes will be tried next time someone brings over deer or something. (It’s happened a few times, and deer roast is quite easy in the Instant Pot.) If you’re so inclined, sign up at her website (right-hand side, scroll down a little over halfway.)
Maybe one day we can make the trip to visit Emilie’s ranch in Texas. When we do, there will be a full blog post here with lots of pictures.
Crab cakes in your air fryer? Yes—and they’re pretty good. Of all the versions of crab cakes you can find, this one is simple and easy to make. And if you want, it’s gluten-free, too. (Note: plenty of live affiliate links included today.)
Hi Again, Dear Readers:
Here’s hoping you had a great Labor Day. I sewed for most of the day, but I’d imagine Miss Alice, who is a teacher in HISD, slept in. Can’t say that I blame any teacher for that.
With fall in our forward sights, I need to use the basil and make some pesto soon. This year’s basil didn’t take off like it normally does, so next year it’s back to buying new plants or starting seeds inside. I was kind of proud of saving and propagating two cuttings from last year’s crop, but it just didn’t work well.
I’ll use up the basil, more mint, and some leftover parsley from this weekend’s recipe to make one or two batches of pesto for the freezer.
I only needed this much:
Thankfully, I’ve got a big pesto stash in the freezer from the last two or three years to hold me over. I just need to stock up on frozen peas.
Hungry? Let’s get started.
Finding A New Recipe
OK, this is part procrastination, and part “you need to know about this.”
Friday afternoon, I found a new recipe for crab cakes on Instagram and I just had to make some for us. BF, as always, was skeptical. After all, he can always have a ham sandwich or bowl of cereal if he doesn’t like what I made. But not this time.
For this occasion, I pulled out our little air fryer from the back of the cabinet.
If you’ve not seen my previous blog post on the air fryer, you can read it here. At first, Neighbor E said he wasn’t getting an air fryer, but eventually, he decided to get one.
E’s air fryer is a 2.5 quart, while ours is 1.9 quart. Most are not terribly expensive, and many are under $100. There’s even a Pioneer Woman branded 6.3-quart model. You can find them as big as 8 quarts or even more. Some have two baskets, so you can air fry two things separately at once, like burgers and French fries.
I bought ours for $30 two years ago. It now costs $50 in the store at Walmart but shows up as $40 on their website. If I was going to spend $50 on an air fryer, I’d get a bigger one. We may buy a bigger model one day, but for now, I’ll use this little dinky one.
The Crab Cakes Recipe
This comes from a blog called DanniMade Kitchen, and you can read Danni’s bio here. The Dash Company featured it on their ByDash Instagram account to show off their air fryer. It’s a quick and simple recipe that’s tasty, and you can make it anytime.
To make it easy, I’m putting the recipe here so you can print it and take it to the grocery with you. Heck, I need to print one for myself so I can add it to my notebook of recipes I have on the bookshelf.
Air Fryer Crab Cakes
- 1 air fryer Cooking time will depend on the size of your air fryer; you may need to cook in batches
- 8 ounces lump crabmeat you can also use canned crab meat
- 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs gluten-free Panko also works well
- 1 tbsp plain greek yogurt
- 1 to 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Hot sauce of choice I used Tabasco Chipotle for the flavor but not heat
- 1 egg, beaten
- Mix all ingredients together until evenly combined. if the mixture is too wet, sprinkle more Panko breadcrumbs until they reach the desired texture and are easier to shape into patties.
- Form into six even balls, and lightly flatten balls to create patties,
- Lightly spray the air fryer basket with oil. Place the patties in an even layer inside the fryer basket. Spray lightly with oil then cook for six to eight minutes at 400F.
- Serve patties hot, warm, or at room temperature with tartar sauce, ketchup, or condiment of your choice for dipping.
So here are the ingredients:
I made one change, and that was to use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. I found them at Rouses, but I’ve bought them at our local Winn-Dixie before.
Longtime readers know I always like to measure everything out before I get started.
I do this even when I’m not taking pictures for a blog post because it just makes the process easier. Additionally, there’s no risk of “oops, I put too much salt” or something else in the mixing bowl, pot, etc. Then it’s one-two-three and you’re on your way.
Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa recommends cracking each egg into a separate bowl before you add it into your recipe. This is in case you get a bad egg, and you don’t ruin the entire recipe. I usually do that, too, although I’ve never found a bad egg.
Once you’ve got everything taken care of, it’s time to get started.
In the original recipe, Danni lists eight ounces of lump crab meat from Whole Foods. On Instagram, Dash lists “eight ounces of lump crab meat.” Of course, when Amy was buzzing through our Rouses on a busy Saturday after running errands, she read “eight ounces of canned crabmeat.” So that’s what I bought.
And it worked just fine.
Drain the Crabmeat
The cans are 6 oz, but once you drain the liquid off, it’s about 4½ ounces of crab meat. That’s why I bought 2, which comes to just over 8 oz.
Danni says that if the mixture is just a little too wet, add a little more of the panko. I drained the crabmeat as best I could, pressing it with my hands to squeeze out more of the liquid.
I didn’t spend too much time on that task, so the resulting mixture was a bit damp. Decided to add one or two more tablespoons of the panko, and that was perfect. The mixture must stick together like ground beef, or it will fall apart in the air fryer basket.
Bottom line is that if you can get fresh crab meat, great, but if not, the canned is available. I also know from another book by keto author Jen Fisch that Trader Joe’s has affordable crab meat in their own freezer section.
Mix And Air Fry
Really, once you have all the ingredients measured and the parsley chopped, it comes together quickly.
Mix well, and pat down into the bowl:
Separate the mixture into 6 sections like you would ground beef:
And shape them into little patties.
Spray the inside of your air fryer basket with oil.
My air fryer’s instructions say to preheat it for five minutes before cooking. So if yours says that, do so now. Then spray the patties with oil.
Add the crab cakes into the basket and cook at 400F degrees for about ten minutes. With my little air fryer, I had to do this in batches, but that’s OK. I put them into the countertop oven to keep them warm until dinnertime.
They really do come out nice and crispy and tasty.
What to serve with it? Well, I made some Triston’s potatoes in the big oven:
Of course, if you’re making a keto dinner, you’ll have something else. The frequent rain means a not-so-hot summer, so it was OK to turn on the big oven. As always, they were delicious.
Danni suggests serving these with tartar sauce. BF didn’t want tartar sauce, so he didn’t buy a bottle. I just had some sugar-free ketchup with mine, and BF had his regular ketchup.
We both enjoyed dinner that night, with a thumbs-up to make them again sometime.
About The Oil
One of the more prominent features of air fryers is that they only need a small amount of cooking oil. But you still need some oil for most recipes. The difference is that compared to regular deep frying, you don’t need nearly the amount of oil that’s required to get the crispy texture.
Additionally, remember the quality of oil you use is also important. We use a lot of olive and coconut oils even when the recipe calls for vegetable oil. That’s because vegetable oil, which is toxic hydrogenated soybean oil, is banned at the Casa de Rurale.
You can use cooking spray, or get an oil sprayer, which sprays a fine mist of whatever oil you put in it.
Olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil cooking sprays are available now, so it’s easy to use them. But oil sprayers easily and inexpensively do the same thing.
That white one in the picture is from the old Martha Stewart Everyday line at Kmart. I used to have two, but I think I threw one out. Only when I went to use the second one did I discover that you’re not supposed to fill it more than halfway full. You pump the cap a few times to build up the pressure and that’s what propels the oil through the sprayer nozzle. Works perfectly.
I recently washed it to get the old oil out and refilled it with fresh oil. I don’t know how long it’s been sitting since I moved here. Now that it’s clean and refilled, it still works perfectly.
But Amy, I Don’t Have An Air Fryer
Well, nobody said you had to use an air fryer. Like the Instant Pot, it’s 110v vs. 220v. It’s a neat little appliance that offers another way to cook meals. Some folks have reconfigured nearly all their cooking to the air fryer. They are devotees. An air fryer is not a bad thing, but not an absolute necessity.
I’m thinking about Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy dismissing the idea of getting an air fryer for this type of thing. Really, though, you don’t need one to enjoy these tasty crab cakes.
If you have a toaster/countertop oven or even a regular oven that has a convection setting, you already have an air fryer. But even if you don’t, there’s no reason why you can’t make them either in a 350F degree oven, or even in a frying pan with a small amount of olive oil.
Have a countertop grill like the Cuisinart Griddler? You can also fry them this way. There’s also the sauté function on your Instant Pot if you’re itching to use yours. If you’re lucky enough to have one with an air fryer lid, that would likely work too. I can’t see pressure cooking as a benefit to this recipe. But if you’re on a generator, as we were a year ago, the Instant Pot sauté function and the countertop grill are both good options for frying them.
You’ll still need to use a little oil. So don’t be afraid to use some however you cook them.
If you decide to make these crab cakes, I do hope you enjoy them as we did. It’s another recipe to add to our regular dinner rotation, long as we have some crabmeat and a few other ingredients available. There are two crabmeat recipes we like, so I guess I need to stock up on a few more cans. I don’t want to disappoint BF if he decides we should have crab cakes again.
Much as we both enjoyed them, BF says that they should be served alongside fried fish, as you would see in a restaurant. Maybe next time.
Incidentally, I told Neighbor E about this recipe on Saturday when I was making dinner. But because he no longer has a Facebook account, I had to send him two screenshots so he could see the recipe. He says he’ll try them one day this week.
Labor Day is over, and so is “summer,” officially. All the fall décor is out at Hobby Lobby, Walmart, and every other retailer in the US. Next month is when retailers begin up-shifting for the holidays. They’ll shift into top gear the day after Thanksgiving when the fall frou-frou goes on sale for 50% or more off.
Here in the South, we know that cooler weather won’t be coming for a while. We’re still going to experience heat, humidity, and of course, mosquitoes for quite some time. But I’ll soon be sewing up fall things, including a sweater, this weekend because one day we’ll wake up and it’s chilly again.
I’m late on the Easy Dirty Keto book review, I know, but it’ll be worth the wait. It’s already a long blog post, and I just need to finish it up and load it and the pictures into the website. Plus, I have a couple more topics in the draft queue that I need to finish up soon.
Our sixth anniversary is on the 15th of this month, and I’m wondering what kind of nice dinner to make for BF that day. It’s not a “wedding anniversary,” but our date for getting together. I say we celebrate six years together no matter what. I’ll find something. I’ll blog it if I do anything spectacular.
As always, if there’s a topic you’d like me to research and write about, let me know.
Did you know that pesto isn’t always made from basil? Many fresh green herbs can be turned into a delicious addition to your meals. Come see what I made with what I had in the garden.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
My apologies, I’ve been away. After the last post from Beverly, I’ve been busy with a new client who gives me a chunk of work every week. I’ve been concentrating so much there that I haven’t had much time to do everything else. The only sewing I’ve been able to do is minor repair work.
Before I forget: I updated last month’s Spicy Calabrian Shrimp. I found the missing pictures and they’re now in the blog post.
Speaking of work: don’t get me started on Depp V. Heard. I’ve been paid to write two blog posts on the subject, and like a lot of people, I’m anxiously awaiting the verdict. That case has captured my attention but not for the reasons you might think. It’s extremely interesting, especially with my legal background. Livestreamed online, it’s real life, not a movie or TV show. I’m not a big “Depp fan,” but the case is intriguing. Then again, I do a lot of research and writing for the legal industry, so you understand why I’m so interested.
You probably don’t want to know about the insanely X-rated language, or the distinguished attorneys on both sides reading it all aloud in front of the judge and jury. Scriptwriters couldn’t write that kind of thing on purpose, but will probably try now. The court reporter–who has to record every filthy, nasty word of it–got a standing ovation from Depp, his legal team, and the people in the public gallery. I’ll say this for him–Depp is certainly a creative writer when he’s fired up.
Enough of that.
As for our wonderful friend Beverly, she is planning to write another guest post, this time on the Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook, which, she says has food you can actually cook. The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook series is more pictures and stories from the show, rather than recipes you’d want to make. Like me, Beverly reads cookbooks the way others read novels. So that’s coming up soon.
BF and I went to see a matinee of Downton Abbey: A New Era last week, and let me tell you—if you loved the series, you’ll love this movie. It ties a bow around the entire Crawley family saga, I think. Not sure if there will be any more from the DA saga or if this is the conclusion, I haven’t heard. I won’t give away any secrets that weren’t in the trailers, but there are a couple of things I didn’t see coming. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention. If you go—BRING TISSUES. Trust me.
On the way home, BF reminded me: “Never forget how much I love you.” In other words, if he didn’t, there would be no way he’d be going to see that film. Ever. Next up we’re planning to see Top Gun: Maverick. I hear it’s as good as the original, and I’ll need to re-watch the original because I haven’t seen it since 1986. Fortunately, BF has the DVD.
But today I’ve got a post on a discovery that you might be interested in trying even if you don’t like basil.
Berry Picking Season
The wild blackberries that grow here are ripening a few at a time, so I’ve started picking them around the property.
I showed these pictures to Neighbor E this past weekend, too.
These, of course, are not yet ripe, but they ripen individually. There are occasions when I walk outside with this beast.
And pick a handful or two for us. (BF doesn’t much care unless I bake the berries into something.) Broccoli Stirfry and I eat berries together, and he loves them. The pit bull doesn’t seem to get as excited about them anymore.
But when I go out to pick for the freezer, I’m wearing a pair of these gloves, a pair of knee-high Muck Boots, jeans, sunglasses, and a hat. I can reach more ripe berries that way unless I’ve been out with the silly dog and we’ve had the “low-hanging fruit.”
But I still get scratches and mosquito bites.
So far, I’ve nearly filled a gallon freezer bag with this year’s pickings, and BF is asking me to make something for him with them. I moved last year’s crop into the kitchen freezer so I can do just that for him. I just received the new edition of The Pioneer Woman magazine today. There’s a blackberry cheesecake galette recipe that I’ll be trying soon. Unfortunately, it’s not on the website. (Blog post?) I’ll also be making my favorite keto blackberry cobbler again, too.
Making Pesto Out Of Anything
Last week on Facebook, Giada de Laurentiis’ Giadzy online magazine re-published an article from 2020 called How To Make Pesto Out Of Anything.
Anything? As in chocolate and raspberry anything? No, not that anything, but fresh herbs and greens that you may have on hand, like I do.
The point of the article is that, although it’s traditional in Genoa, pesto isn’t necessarily made from basil. Pesto is not an exact science, nor is it rocket science. “The true beauty of pesto,” the article states, “is that it’s greater than the sum of all of its parts.” In other words, the combination of all the ingredients is what makes it so delicious, not just one specific ingredient.
It’s a bit like a puzzle really—one piece is just that, but when you put together 10 pieces of the puzzle, then 100 pieces, then more, you get the entire picture.
Well, that’s how I think of it anyway. I hope that makes sense.
No Basil, But Lots Of Mint
So I recently planted the two little basil clippings that I rescued from last year’s crop. I kept them in the kitchen window for months, and I recently planted them outside along with a packet of basil seeds in the same pot. Those seeds have started to grow, and the rescued clippings are doing just fine.
Additionally, I planted two packets of lettuce seeds in a different pot, and they’re coming along just nicely.
Not ready to cut yet, but I’m looking forward to having some with a tomato or two.
But the mint plant that I’ve had for quite some time became overgrown.
I had plenty, but just didn’t know what to do with it. The stuff just grows, and I don’t want to make that many Corsican Omelets with goat cheese and Mojito cocktails. Keep it watered and you’ll have more than you know what to do with. Every time I went outside, I told myself to cut it and do something with it, but I didn’t know what. Thanks to Giada, I now have the answer.
Her standard pesto recipe that I’ve used for many years is
- 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
- 1 clove of garlic
- ¼ cup of toasted pine nuts
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
- About 2/3 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil
Once you blend that all up, mix in a half-cup of grated parmesan cheese. Use it, refrigerate it for a week or so, or do what I do and freeze it as long as you want. Right now I think I have frozen pesto going back to 2018 or 2019. It’s still fantastic.
Using that as a guide, and then taking the information from the article, I went on to make pesto in a new form.
How It’s Made
So, it started out with walking outside and clipping what seems to be a mountain of mint growing. You always keep mint in a container. Otherwise, you’ll find out what happens, as Banana Rat did many years ago when he planted it in his backyard.
Mint takes over wherever you plant it. A few years ago, he posted it on Facebook one day with a question: “Can you say endless mojitos?” He literally had mint growing in about half of the yard. I don’t know if he still has mint growing everywhere, but it is pretty difficult to tame and remove. So, if you like mint, keep it in a container, or you better really, really love mint with all your heart.
Next, I gathered up all the ingredients I had.
I didn’t have any Parmesan cheese because I hadn’t been to the grocery yet. I also took Giada’s suggestion to use walnuts instead of pine nuts.
So I clipped and I clipped and I clipped, filling up the salad spinner inner basket.
Buddy doesn’t care for the mint
Then I washed the leaves well, spun them, and began picking the leaves from the stems.
Check out the water that comes out after you spin it. You don’t want this in your pesto.
All told, I had about three cups of mint once I finished de-stemming. Perfect.
Then everything went into the blender just as you would with basil pesto.
I like walnuts, so I figured I’d try them this time. Yes, pine nuts are delicious, but they are also pricey. Just for once, I figured walnuts would be OK. And you know what? They worked quite well. Plus, I could snack on them and not feel guilty. Toast them first, don’t burn them:
And put them in a cold bowl to stop the cooking and cool them off.
Next, add them to the blender:
I tasted the finished product, and it was quite minty. The garlic and the olive oil sort of tame the extreme mint flavor, but you could still taste the inherent “mintiness.” I decided to put it in the freezer until I could figure out what else to do with it. I still needed to add Parmesan cheese, but I wanted to give some more thought to what else I would add.
The Next Step–Parsley
I needed to go to the grocery anyway, and we were indeed out of Parmesan cheese. So, after giving it some thought, I decided to add some Italian flat-leaf parsley.
Then I got on with it.
First, I had to thaw the pesto because it froze quickly. I ended up having to microwave it for about 30 seconds just to soften it up. Even then, it was cold, and it was still kind of like a sludge.
Once I got it out of there I started with the parsley.
But I managed to get it into the blender just fine after adding the requisite Parmesan cheese.
I just sliced the parsley leaves clean from the bundle at an angle with the blade of the knife. I didn’t take the bundle apart. Pulled the stems out to make sure it was just leaves and I added it all in after washing and spinning.
Because it was much thicker now I had to add a little more olive oil a couple of times. I also added in a couple more cloves of garlic, too.
I blended, and I blended, and I blended, stopping the motor to move it around with the blender spatula to make it catch everything. Finally. I had a nice emulsion.
I removed it from the blender, very carefully, as much as I could get out of it, and then added a little more of the Parmesan cheese.
Then mixed it well, and tasted it. I think I’ve got four cups of this stuff, which is great, I’ll have it for a while.
And then you have this, in a larger container than the usual one-cup or two-cup containers I use:
Verdict: incredibly delicious, and the parsley tames the mint flavor.
Where has this been all my life?
OK, so I can’t say I was trying to create a new recipe. But guided by the article and my previous experience making standard pesto from basil, here is my recipe for mint and parsley pesto.
Mint & Parsley Pesto
- Blender Essential when you're making pesto
- Salad spinner This takes much of the water off the herbs after washing
- 3 cups Fresh mint
- 1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 2 to 3 cloves Garlic
- 1 cup Extra virgin olive oil
- ° Salt & Pepper to taste
- ¾ cup Walnuts (increase or decrease as you like)
- ¾ cup Parmesan Cheese (increase or decrease as you like)
- Toast the walnuts (or other nuts) until they are warm and fragrant. Do not burn. Add to a cold bowl and set aside.
- Remove mint leaves from the stems. Wash and spin in the salad spinner to remove excess water.
- Chop parsley leaves off the bunch, then repeat in the salad spinner to remove excess water.
- Add the herbs to the blender, along with the garlic, toasted nuts, and a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the lid to the blender with the center part removed.
- Measure out 3/4 cup of the extra virgin olive oil. Slowly pour into the running blender through the open top until the cup is empty. If the contents don't seem to be chopping and mixing, turn OFF the mixer and use a spatula to move things around in the bottom. Remove the spatula, replace the lid, and try again. Add more olive oil a little at a time until the blender moves and you get the right consistency.
- Pour the pesto into a bowl, and add the Parmesan cheese. Stir until completely blended. Add to a storage container and either refrigerate for a week or freeze for later. Makes about 3 to 4 cups of pesto.
It’s as simple as making standard pesto, and the flavor is outstanding. I’ve got the finished product in the freezer, marked for identification. Of course, I did, so that there’s no question about what’s in it. I recommend using square or rectangular glass containers to freeze the pesto because they’ll fit better in your freezer and there’s no loss of flavor. I speak from experience on this one.
OXO makes some good ones, as does Target. I think I found a few at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Denham Springs, too. But I do miss the Pro Glass squares I used to get at Bed, Bath And Beyond, they don’t seem to have them anymore.
What am I going to do with this new version of fresh pesto? Well, my first thought is to add a small amount on top of a grilled or a roasted chicken breast, chicken thigh, grilled shrimp, or baked fish. One could also add it to some freshly cooked pasta (gluten-free for me.) Granted, BF insists on frying all fish in the house, so I would have to do this when he wasn’t around.
I also think it would be good in or as a dip. So if I was in the mood for some cut vegetables, a little bit of this pesto would be good for dipping. Maybe I could mix some in homemade mayonnaise, or some sour cream, or something else that would work as a base. Or I could turn it into salad dressing—I’ll think about that one too.
Note that it tastes like a pesto, not specifically like mint and parsley, so you could probably use it as you would basil pesto if you wanted.
Cause And Effect
I was quite happy to tell BF about this discovery. However, he was not as happy about hearing about the new recipe, as usual.
I described to him the process of cutting down all that mint, then blending it together. In between sentences, he gave me his requisite verbal retching sounds. This is the same guy who is very particular about his toothpaste and the type of minty-fresh Listerine mouthwash he buys.
While he was at work, I told him via text that I’d finished making it.
Well, more for me, I guess. I marked it so there’s no question about what’s frozen in the container. Of course, BF won’t touch it, because he’s been around my pesto-making for more than five years and declares it an abomination or something.
Still, I’m glad I made it, and I can’t wait to try it in or on something. It’s not the strong basil flavor, but it sure is tasty.
If you’ve got a good amount of herbs growing, a combination of the herbs would also work, given the garlic or other aromatic Giada recommended in the article. You could use any type of oil, but extra-virgin olive oil is the best for this. Walnuts—well, they’re tasty roasted in the pan, that’s all I’m saying. But you could use almonds, or leave the nuts out entirely.
Until Next Time
It’s pretty much summer here, so wherever you are, enjoy summer while you can. Of course, in the south, we enjoy it six to nine months out of the year. (Winter hung on a little longer this year.) It’s a great time for grilling and enjoying the outdoors. Don’t forget the berries.
Outlander is a popular historical drama on the Starz network. Like Downton Abbey, it has a legion of fans and a huge accompaniment of books, specials, merchandise, and heaven only knows what else. Today, it’s the subject of a guest post on the food of this popular show.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Today’s blog post is the first guest post to appear here, written by a writer, colleague, and friend Beverly Matoney who lives in the great state of Georgia. Like me, Beverly and her husband live rural. Unlike us, they are also raising chickens.
Beverly is a copywriter for the homeschool market. She homeschooled her own two children who are now grown and in their own careers. Beverly graciously offered to write a guest post when I was, one day, stumped for new ideas. (Well, I did order from Misfits Market, twice.) We chat weekly on a Zoom call with other writer friends, one of whom is in another country, eight or nine hours ahead of us.
I’ve made no secret of my love for Downton Abbey after it was recommended by friends in Houston and elsewhere. I watched it through the end of the series when Lady Edith finally got married to Bertie Pelham (spoilers?) I really enjoyed the kitchen scenes, like when Mrs. Patmore tried an electric stand mixer for the first time. No microwave ovens, air fryers, slow cookers, pressure cookers, or even a countertop oven at the House of Crawley.
Then, I got BF to take me to the movie a couple of years ago. There’s another Downton Abbey film coming out in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait, but he’s not entirely thrilled.
Wait until I decide to get the official cookbooks of Downton Abbey and start using them to cook dinner for BF.
Downton Abbey isn’t the only historical series that has a devoted legion of fans. The series Outlander also has a fiercely loyal fan base. But since it’s on Starz, I haven’t seen it. It’s available on Amazon Prime Video as well, but. . .I haven’t bought one of those streaming subscriptions. I’m too busy with Britbox right now (where you can also see Downton Abbey.) It’s longer than I want to admit since I watched anything on The Food Network.
Beverly is a fan of Outlander as well as of the cooking. Like me, Beverly enjoys cooking and embraces trying new and interesting things. Fortunately, her husband isn’t the “don’t mess with my Hamburger Helper” sort like BF.
There are actually two cookbooks, and this review is about the first one.
So starting with this first subheading, and very little editing (mostly for format), is Beverly’s review of The Outlander Cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders. It’s offered with great appreciation and thanks to Beverly for writing and sending it along. (The links are my live affiliate Amazon links, pictures gathered from Amazon, Google, and other attributed sources.)
If you’ve been introduced to Jamie Fraser and his time-traveling wife Claire, congratulations. You’re already immersed in 18th-century Scotland and America.
And, if like me, you’ve devoured the novels, you’ve probably drooled over Diana Gabaldon’s descriptions of the settings, the action, and yes…the food.
Not to worry if you’ve not read the books. The television series offers plenty of images of historical fare that will make you hungry.
You may even have visions of going back in time yourself to try your hand at knocking about in an 18th-century kitchen, whipping up some bannocks, or a nice fruit tart.
Outlander, The Books
I was introduced to Outlander in the summer of 2004 during a trip to Seattle, Washington. My friend was clearing off her bookshelves and handed me the first book in the series.
The story was so captivating that I raced through the book, then went on a spree to buy the next four in the series. By the time I finished The Fiery Cross, the sixth book was at the publisher’s and A Breath of Snow and Ashes came out in 2005.
Not wanting to miss anything in the story, I re-read all five books before my new hardcover arrived, then melted into the tale, finishing with a long sigh.
What I didn’t know at the time was how long I’d have to wait for the next novel, and the next, and the next. Sometimes the gap was 3 or 4 or even 7 years!
Just before each new book was released, I started at the beginning and read them all.
Which means I’ve read Outlander five times.
And I’ll begin at the beginning when the tenth and final novel comes out…whenever that is.
And I’ve read all the side novellas.
And I’ve seen all of the episodes of the television series.
You could say I’m a little obsessed.
Enter Theresa Carle-Sanders
Her story offers insights into how she decided to create a cookbook around Diana Gabaldon’s amazing novels.
One line of her bio that struck me was “As with so many of Diana’s fans before and since, Outlander became the catalyst for the changes – some planned, many unforeseen – that have altered the course of our lives.”
I can relate.
While Theresa focused on the cooking of Outlander, I dove into herbalism. I’ve spent nearly 20 years learning to identify medicinal plants and how to use them, inspired by Claire Randall Fraser and her adventures across the centuries.
When I discovered Theresa and her Outlander Kitchen, I don’t believe more than three heartbeats passed before I had clicked “Buy Now”.
The subtitle of the book is “The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook”.
With blessings and a foreword by the gracious and generous Diana Gabaldon herself, the cookbook begins with the paraphrased first line from the first novel.
Then Theresa follows with her personal introduction outlining her decision to embark on a “life reboot”. Much like me, Outlander mysteriously appeared in her life, and so her culinary story begins.
As Theresa points out, the cookbook isn’t historical. Since the novels cover 20+ years within a 200-year span, so do the recipes she’s written.
But, inside, you will find historical recipes that are still common today, such as Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Veal Patties in Wine Sauce. As she says, they’ve stood the test of time.
My original reason for purchasing the book was to make bannocks. These oatmeal flatbreads feature often in the novels, and each time I read of the characters munching on the warm breads, I wanted to make my own.
The delicious recipe is on page 238 and delivers everything you’d expect of an unleavened oatcake…even instant transport back to a Scottish kitchen from 1740-something.
Along with each recipe, Theresa has included the passage from the book that inspired the dish.
Each brief excerpt plays an instant reminiscence from the tale. Not only can I picture the setting, but now, I can taste the food they were eating at the time.
Imagine sipping on the same hot broth Claire had when she arrived at Castle Leoch (Outlander).
Or trying potatoes for the first time as roasted tatties at Lallybroch from Dragonfly in Amber.
Or having a pungent bowl of peppery oyster stew to take you to the pub with Jamie and Claire in Voyager.
Maybe some of Fiona’s ginger-nut biscuits with Roger at the manse from Drums of Autumn.
Or a batch of Mrs. Bug’s buttermilk drop biscuits dripping with butter and honey the way they ate them in the Fraser’s Ridge kitchen in The Fiery Cross.
Perhaps you’d enjoy a glass of cherry bounce described in A Breath of Snow and Ashes.
Diana even contributed to the book by sharing a treasured family recipe for cheese enchiladas.
The Recipes Of Outlander
The recipe section of the book is laid out with beautiful color photographs, some of the process, some of the completed dish, all of them gorgeous.
Theresa has kept the recipes uniform by offering an Ingredient section, a Method section, and a Notes section.
I found the notes section to be most informative, including not only recipe hints, but also historical references.
Of course, Theresa has transformed the historical recipes into their modern versions, offering easy-to-find ingredients in place of some of the more exotic bits from days gone by.
She’s included a wonderful recipe index for those seeking ideas to use ingredients on hand or to plan and prepare a delicious feast.
Honestly, I read (good) cookbooks like novels. I enjoy the recipe intro, the exposition, and the list of ingredients, and I follow along with the method in my mind whether it calls for chopping, mixing, kneading, or drizzling with butter.
Each of these recipes inspires me to add to my grocery list and then make a note on my calendar, “Outlander dish tonight”.
And if you are a fan, you’ll know what I mean.
For Foodies Everywhere
Even if you’ve never heard of Outlander, you won’t be disappointed with Theresa’s cookbook. Every page is filled with interesting culinary tidbits you can apply in your own kitchen.
There’s something for everyone in the Outlander Kitchen. Modern, historical, romantic, delicious, soups, meat dishes, vegetarian dishes, breads, desserts…this book has it all.
You may even find yourself daydreaming about time travel to the 18th century yourself.