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.
Happy New Year, and Welcome to HeatCageKitchen: Automotive Edition! There’s some delicious barbecue in Central Louisiana, and BF and I were cordially invited to have some.
Happy 2018, Dear Readers:
Welcome to another edition of “What Are These Two Lug Nuts Up To Now?”
No, I promise not to mention you-know-what that me and BF are supposed to be getting in shape for. Haven’t been able to carve out exercise time just yet. Need to do that soon–it’s February! I’d be riding my bike now if I hadn’t hurt my back this week. . .standing up from a seated position. No kidding. It’s getting better now.
So, does your office coffee look like this? Mine does.
I posted that on Facebook the other day, and a former coworker was actually jealous. He worked with me at Boeing and now lives in the Seattle area.
I’ve got a short break in client work, so I thought I should try and finish a blog post. Irony: I know from writing blog posts for digital marketing agencies that in order to get rankings in Google and other search engines, you need to regularly publish useful and relevant content. Yes, I can do that. . .soon. Besides, I’ve already paid for the domain name for another year (It’s not expensive.)
Let’s get started.
Vegan Beef Jerky
You’re probably thinking, “what’s this foolishness?” Like I did when I saw this stuff in Whole Foods recently:
This is not a joke:
If you think that’s healthy. . .no, seriously, it’s not. And it isn’t cheap, either.
For a bunch of soybeans and sugar for people who eat “nothing with a face,” but it’s made to TASTE like something with a face. (Remember last year the “beef-free beef broth” I found in the same Whole Foods?) It’s similar to this product from my favorite snack company Epic, which is also available in Whole Foods, and about the same price with actual MEAT. But this “vegan jerky” has no beef in it. What’s the point of fake-me-out “beef jerky” made with soybeans?
If you’re vegan, why are you going to mess with something that tastes like something you don’t eat? Makes no sense, but, well, supply and demand and all that. Apparently the company makes several types, too. Here’s a picture from their Instagram page via their website that says “Happy Science Fiction Day.” Oh, the IRONY.
I’m still allergic to soy. Just say no and save your money for real food. Yuck.
The Christmas Kittens
Christmas was relatively low-key for us, just like Thanksgiving. We were alone, and we went to visit BF’s daughter, her partner and their son, then to his Dad’s place up the road. BF will have another grandson in March, which we were notified of about October, I think. His Dad was thrilled that we went up to that little room upstairs and cleared out all of BF’s old rubbish, and burned a garbage bag full of old bills from 10 years ago. Mr. C. said it was the best Christmas present ever.
At the kids’ place, someone dumped off two very tiny, helpless kittens a few days earlier. These two millennials were going to leave them to starve out in the cold. She’s pregnant, they have dogs, so. . .on the way out, I scooped them up and brought them home with us. They made themselves comfortable immediately after they had some food and water.
These two were just all over the place:
It subjected me to an adverse environment:
The full-grown cat was VERY unhappy to have these interlopers. I never intended to keep them, of course, just to make sure they didn’t meet a terrible fate outside. These two weighed about as much as a sandwich, and they’d been outside in the cold on their own for a few days without their mother or shelter, fed once or twice. BF understood, and didn’t mind me taking them home for a rescue.
The pit bull puppy wanted to play with them, and they put him in his place with some hissing and swatting.
I kept putting the little fur balls on the other side of this “doggie gate” BF built to keep the dogs in the living room. I wanted them to stay back there so that they’d be safe. But they’re so tiny that they just kept walking right through the slats.
They tried to make nice with the big cat, but Tabbicat wasn’t having any of it. A week of keeping them separated with a makeshift litterbox in my office was all we could take, but we endured. Tabbicat whizzed in a corner, then moved on to BF’s living room chair, multiple times. I think we got the smell out, but BF still isn’t sitting in it. There may be a slipcover in its future.
Only the big cat minded. Because Tabbicat is very, very bonded with BF (he should announce their engagement) he didn’t mess with the kittens when they climbed up his chair and onto his chest. I had to peel them off BF, so that their scent didn’t mix with his.
I attempted to contact several local animal rescues, and only one responded. The lady from the one I got to met me at the Hammond Starbucks that Friday and I sadly handed them over. (I was crying on the drive down there.) She noticed that they were very docile, and they should be adopted pretty easily. I told her that if I ever found out she was involved in dog fighting I would hunt her DOWN. She laughed at me. I knew they were going to have a better life, and I wished them well, told them to be happy in their new homes.
It would have been nice to have adorable kittens a little longer. But we know we did the right thing by them.
The New Year’s Eve Barbecue
I’ve probably mentioned this before, BF is a car guy. He’s not only a mechanic, he also builds race engines. Additionally, he also knows people in the genre, and he’s been to a number of events where he’s met lots of people. This is similar to my going to AWAI Bootcamp and other conferences where I’ve met people that I’ve kept in touch with over the years.
But on this day, we drove a couple of hours to a small town near Lafayette, Louisiana, for Mr. Earl Schexnyder’s annual get-together for all his “race guy” friends. Well, OK, there were women too, but the majority of the race people were guys. Us gals were there as dates and to see what they get up to. Fortunately, BF doesn’t drink, smoke or anything like that. And I was there as a food blogger, taking pictures and nibbling like the rest of them. Oh, boy, did I nibble–just like at Bootcamp.
BF has known this man for many years, meeting him at an annual event called Drag Week. However, due to his work schedule, BF has never been able to go on New Year’s Eve. This year, he put in for a vacation day, since Mr. Earl decided to schedule his annual cookout for the 30th of December. It fell on a Saturday, so we got up early, took care of things, and hit the road.
Mr. Earl has been doing this annual cookout for many years, and enjoys inviting the people in that he has worked with and knows from his business. While he’s doing gumbo, he’s not the only cook.
This was the chicken they added to the Gumbo. Please note that I have no idea what “Slap Ya Mama” is like, nor do I condone such violence.
And rice to go with the gumbo:
Some 90 miles from home, we passed all manner of vehicles, including at least a dozen with Texas plates on them. Through areas with nothing and little areas with lots of mobile homes, we ran the gamut of Louisiana. I talked him into taking me to Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge on the way home. We had three week-long freezes, twice with snow, and I wanted to make sure that I was stocked up with chocolate almond milk. No way am I giving up my yeast-free hot chocolate for anybody!
Remember, this is an auto repair shop, not a professional kitchen.
It’s a social event, of course, and a nice marketing thing, too. Think of it as the mechanic’s version of a cocktail party, and everyone enjoys themselves.
So, some of the things we saw when we walked in:
It was the first thing I saw, and it was a white cake with all that frosting. I didn’t touch it, honest. But what I did touch, multiple times, was this:
BF stayed away from this, I think it confused him. It looked like 7 Layer Dip, but I didn’t ask. I was too busy nibbling at it. And I couldn’t keep my paws out of these, either:
Being garage guys, you know there are:
And of course, cars, cars, and more cars. With guys talking about cars. But we’ll get to that later, OK?
But let’s talk about something really important to a Texan, native or naturalized. Barbecue.
Meet Alvin Calhoun
Now, I’ve always enjoyed barbecue. I make my own barbecue sauce (when BF isn’t home so I don’t have to listen to it.) I believe that Texas has the best barbecue, but that’s an 18-year prejudice. I’m not saying Louisiana can’t have good barbecue–but that stuff BF likes in Hammond has absolutely no taste to it. It looks like dog food, and tastes like it could be (not that I’ve sampled dog food myself.) On this occasion, BF was telling the truth, and we met some nice people, too.
In this little town on the other side of Lafayette, in an auto repair shop, on a slightly cool, and cloudy day, was the best barbecue I’ve had in a very long time. BF kept telling me about this man with a long history of doing all kinds of things, including car stuff, and now he does barbecue, too. Everyone loves his barbecue. When you have it, BF says, “It’s a life-changing event!” I was about to find out.
This is the very nice and very avid barbecue guru, Alvin Calhoun:
In all seriousness, you’ll notice this man is in a wheelchair. I won’t go into the specifics, but yes, he’s in a wheelchair, and he’s creating barbecue. Delicious barbecue. As in, you wish you hadn’t eaten all that other stuff before you had this delicious barbecue. Because now you’re going to need a wheelbarrow to get back into the truck to go home. His barbecue has won awards, beating out New Orleans’ own Brennan family. That should tell you something.
Now, all my Texas readers are thinking, “what does he use in his barbecue sauce?” Well, my Lone Star friends, Mr. Calhoun has a different opinion of barbecue sauce. Much as I like barbecue sauce, he said something I wasn’t expecting.
“Barbecue sauce is for when you have something to hide.”
No kidding. I wasn’t expecting that.
Mr. Calhoun is from North Louisiana, but now makes his home in the Baton Rouge area. He was taught by a friend how to barbecue. His approach was to think about how primitive man found himself with a feral hog on a fire, and finding out it was delicious.
How He Does It
Mr. Calhoun uses a dry rub, the ingredients of which are secret. I wouldn’t be crass enough to ask what’s in it, and he wouldn’t tell you anyway. But he’s always cooking, and he’s known far and wide by folks who appreciate it.
While these were cooking, we had a nice chat:
Of course, Mr. Calhoun has some great help, too, and I offered to bring him water or whatever he needed while he was tending the grill pits. We all had a nice time talking about stuff, but for some reason, he thought I was a food critic. We’re all “food critics” to a certain extent, but no, I’m a food blogger. I just write about stuff. Admittedly, since 2012, I’ve mentioned a few things to avoid (like Splenda and Aspartame.) But barbecue from Alvin Calhoun’s barbecue pits is not in that group. Do not avoid this man’s cookery.
So, after a while, he asked around for a plastic knife. What the heck? Because it’s ready when you can cut it with a plastic knife.
He offered me the first piece.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Alvin Calhoun makes some really incredible, delicious barbecue. Two thumbs up, and if I had more, they’d be up too. Hot from the grill, but not pepper hot, but not overly sweet, either, like some barbecue can be. A great flavor with a hint of sweet, a hint of spice, but *not* the kind that whacks you upside your head and has you begging for a fire extinguisher.
And did I mention the husband and wife who drove in from San Antonio to meet Mr. Calhoun and visit everyone? We talked about HEB and other great Texas stuff. To which BF said, “and nobody cares but you.”
Don’t Miss The Barbecue
If ever you are invited anywhere this man is cooking, DO NOT eat anything else until after you have some barbecue, because you will, indeed, regret doing so. As I often say, I speak from experience.
Thank you, Mr. Calhoun. Everything they said was true.
There Were Other Things Besides Barbecue
Ok, so, BF reminded me that it wasn’t really a “barbecue.” Mr. Earl’s was a cookout that had barbecue on the side. Well, it really was on the side–since it needed to be outside, Mr. Calhoun and his equipment was parked under the car port at Mr. Earl’s house on the other side of the parking lot. And of course, doing barbecue with pits, there’s the whole smoke thing, so he needed to be outside with it.
There was gumbo, cooked by Mr. Earl himself:
I didn’t have any, because I’m not a gumbo fan, but BF was all over it.
And then, FRIED TURKEY
Let me preface this by saying that frying an entire turkey in a vat of hot oil can be a very dangerous thing. Stories abound about the *wrong* way to fry a turkey. Fortunately, we witnessed nothing like that.
Baton Rouge General Hospital has a series of ads about their different medical services, and this one involves the potential dangers of fried turkey. It’s short, but funny.
So, what I was told by Mr. Bill Doucette was that they injected the turkey with something that I can’t remember–something that’s made for that purpose. (The “Cajun Injector” kind of thing.)
They used peanut oil (I think) because of the high smoke point:
It doesn’t take long, either, something like a half hour, maybe. Remember that to roast a 22-pound turkey in the oven, you’re looking at about four hours.
When it comes out, it looks like this:
And they let me try it. Honest, it’s nothing like the brined turkey I like to make, but it is indeed good. A different flavor than the brined/roast version. I might try to do this one day, but. . .not until we have at least two or three new fire extinguishers available. And the undisciplined dogs are completely away from everything.
And Of Course, Cars
If the GER had been with us, he would have been licking his chops over not only the barbecue, gumbo and donuts, he would have been salivating all over these cars. Alas, my friend, I offer you the pictures I managed to get off my phone.
Every other day of the year, Mr. Earl runs an auto shop called Schexnayder Racing (this is his Facebook page.) We went in the ultra-reliable White Knight, but others were in, shall we say, much more aesthetic vehicles than we were. Then again, the White Knight is a truck, not a race car, just like Mr. Earl doesn’t run a restaurant.
This ancient vehicle is a mid-1930’s Pontiac, so says BF. Someone actually drove this to Mr. Earl’s place, no kidding.
But something tells me it’s not completely finished.
Pop the hood:
This is ACTUALLY what Mr. Earl does the rest of the year.
There were other project cars in various stages of completion, too.
All these cars, all while there was cooking and barbecue going on.
Now this one was particularly interesting:
We saw some amazing vehicles. But I didn’t get to ride in anything but The White Knight.
Mr. Earl’s Gift To His Father
The other big event was this car being unveiled:
The elder Mr. Schexnayder had a house fire a while back, and lost literally everything, including his race car. His family, including Mr. Earl, got together and found another car just like it, and have been sneaking around behind his back to have it not only restored, but to make it exactly like the car he lost in the fire. They had a heck of a time with it, but they found one, in Texas somewhere. It’s not finished yet.
When they were ready to take it out of the truck, BF leaned over to me and said, “You’re about to see a grown man cry.”
The car isn’t quite finished yet, but the elder Mr. Schexnayder was quite happy with his gift.
Before we left, I looked across the street and saw this:
How’d you like to drive this one?
A Pretty Good Saturday
It was a long, but very enjoyable Saturday for us, and I ended up driving home after we left Baton Rouge and Trader Joe’s. BF took a nap, and I streamed some music on my phone (that he didn’t like.)
Many thanks to Mr. Earl of Schexnayder Racing for the great food and the great time we all had. It was great to meet everyone, and BF was quite happy to see people he hasn’t seen in a while.
And of course, to Mr. Alvin Calhoun, Louisiana’s Barbecue Master. I’m serious–if you ever have the opportunity, do make the effort to see Mr. Calhoun and sample his wonderful barbecue. He’s a really nice man and we really enjoyed spending time with him.
I’ve bought some new things in the last few months, and I’m not finished. No, I’m not buying lots of “trinkets,” as BF puts it, but I can contribute to the household and cover things BF can’t. But right after the barbecue, I bought something we needed around here, and next time, I’ll unveil the new “baby” that’s in the kitchen.
Meantime, Happy New Year, and Happy Cooking!
Happy Monday, Dear Readers:
Once again, apologies for being absent. Life has pulled me in other directions. I’ve still got one post I’m trying to get to finish, but it requires research, and I haven’t sat down to do much of it. But if you like to read about foodie subjects, it’ll be worth it. I like to make sure I give all of you something interesting to read.
I keep thinking I don’t have anything to write about. Then something else shows up, and I write a blog post about it.
This post involves some garlic, and I’ve been meaning to mention this important point for a while. I read recently that when you’re buying garlic, there’s a simple way to know if you are getting domestically produced garlic or garlic grown in China: the roots. If you are buying garlic that has roots attached, it’s domestic, grown in California, Texas, or somewhere else domestically. But if the roots are scraped off, and the bottom is concave, it’s China-grown. This article on the Living Traditionally blog explains it further. Garlic from China is bleached, and even organic garlic is grown under questionable conditions. I have not yet been successful growing garlic here in the HeatCageKitchen garden, twice buying some from Territorial Seed and finding nothing in the spring. (Not their fault, of course, I’m an obvious amateur.) I put the question to the lecturer at our last monthly Green Thumb klatch, and she told me to just look for local garlic, probably grown in nearby Dickinson, and let it sprout. DUH, Amy.
I like to read myself, if you didn’t know that, but most of it is online now. I think I mentioned that I cancelled my 20-year subscription to Martha Stewart Living earlier this year; it just wasn’t “Martha” anymore. But I do read other things, and one of them is a wonderful publication called Mary Jane’s Farm. What? You’ve never heard of it? Me either, until I got a flier from them a few years ago. I wasn’t particularly interested, since I was reading Hobby Farms, along with the now-defunct Hobby Farms Home and Urban Farm, all at the same time. The second and third magazines were eventually rolled up to the first, and I later subscribed to Mary Jane’s Farm. It’s a replacement, I suppose, for Martha Stewart Living, although the content is somewhat different. The target demographic for Mary Jane’s Farm are women who live on farms, those who want to live on a farm, and those, like your humble blog author, who dream about living rural in the future.
I received the August/September issue last week, but finally got around to reading it on last Tuesday. Oh, BOY! A feature article on. . .Farmgirl Barbecue! Being a naturalized Texan (September will be 18 years since I moved here), I appreciate good barbecue. Even though I have my favorite barbecue sauce from one of Suzanne Somers’ books, and my favorite barbecue rub from the May 2002 issue of Martha Stewart Living, I’m open to considering new forms of barbecue. Mary Jane’s Farm delivers.
What first got my attention was the Blackberry Barbecue Sauce on page 46. WHAT?? (Warning: that recipe also has fresh ginger.) Unfortunately, it also calls for “2 cups ketchup,” and the recipe for said ketchup is on page 43. (GRRRR.) OK, so I look at that recipe but would have to buy 6 large tomatoes parsley, coconut sugar and lemon juice (I generally have limes around.) Not going to make this today. . .but the recipe for yellow mustard is next to it, and I have everything I need to make that. I’d like to try it soon.
Then on page 44, I see a beautiful picture and a recipe for Creole Aioli.
I’ve got everything I need to make it! Almost.
Now, hang on. . .I’m sure there’s at least one person who’s thinking, “what is Aioli, and can I get arrested for making it?” Relax, it’s legal (at least, for now.) Aioli is a French version of mayonnaise, made by hand (usually) and is more of a dressing than mayo. There is a good version of it in Suzanne Somers’ first cookbook, and she explains it. However, this farmgirl “Creole” version packs a seriously garlic punch. (Not all “Creole,” “Cajun,” “New Orleans”and “Louisiana-style” food is burning hot.)
So what excuse did I tell myself for making it? Well, there were four:
- I can write a blog post about it
- It’s from the new issue of Mary Jane’s Farm
- I have everything I need to make it right now
- It would taste great with some waffle maker hash browns
And here we are!
I don’t normally have sour cream in the fridge, and that’s one of those things that goes great with potatoes. (Thanks, Neighbor E!) So the first thing to do is get some hash browns cooking, since it takes about ten minutes or so once you put the lid down.
Ready to rev up nearly anything you’re having for dinner–or any other time–and make a big mess while you’re at it? Let’s make some.
As you can see, I had everything handy, with the exception of a lemon, so I used lime. (You can do that in many recipes, unless you’re making a Mojito.) Normally, I would not cut that much basil (you see the size of them leaves?) but when I saw Miss Shirley last week after the gardening lecture, I told her about the big, leafy basil I was getting, and she suggested cutting a third off. So. . .I did. And that fresh oregano plant needed a bit of cutting, too.
I started out doing Mise en Place, or prepping everything and setting up. (I heard Martha Stewart say that on the show years ago and never forgot it.) There’s someone on set on those cooking shows and morning-show food segments doing this before they go live, you know. Neighbor R gets upset watching cooking segments on those get-together TV shows because she knows how long stuff takes. But, she says (while gesticulating with both hands), “when you watch them cook on TV, it’s boom-boom-boom and it’s all done!” They’re set up before the cameras turn on so that everything is ready to go, and the cooking host can make that dish in a matter of seconds. For more complicated things, like bread, several are made so that you can see how it’s supposed to look in various stages of completion.
Anyway. . .mise en place. I do it all the time.
I measured out the spices and put them in a pinch bowl, then separated out the eggs:
Went to town on the basil and oregano:
I cut a little too much basil, so the remainder went in the fridge covered in some olive oil and I used it to coat some chicken leg quarters I roasted yesterday. Along with two egg whites in another pinch bowl, which went into the weekly slow-cooked breakfast quiche.
Once everything else was done, I set out to deal with the 3 cloves with a half-teaspoon of salt. In a mortar and pestle. No kidding.
If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you could try smashing it in a small bowl with the back of a wooden spoon, mixing with the salt to make the paste. I haven’t tried that, it’s just the first thing off the top of my head.
The salt acts like an abrasive while you grind it into a paste. That’s right, a paste. It takes a few minutes of elbow-greased grinding, but it does come out that way:
Once that’s done, the recipe says to add it to a small bowl with the egg yolks and whisk them while you slowly pour in the olive oil. However, I decided to not to entertain the possibility of making a huge mess with eggs and olive oil and spending the rest of the night scrubbing them off the floor.
You may be asking yourself, “Why is Amy using an immersion blender for this?” Answer: because Amy also has no patience.
I’ve made mayo before, either like this or with a regular stand blender. It’s not difficult, but I have no idea why they don’t suggest a blender. So I did it.
First you whiz together the egg and garlic paste. Then you add in a half-cup of olive oil, whiz that around (or whisk it by hand if you prefer) then add the spices, herbs and lemon juice, and blitz it again (or just mix it well.) If you’ve ever made mayonnaise from scratch, you know how this works. (Placing a small cut of rug backing under the bowl helps keep it in place and prevent sliding, just like the anti-slip cutting board trick I mentioned in my last post.)
You end up with this:
What does it taste like? WOW–Garlic! Pepper! Spice! Herbs! You don’t need much–this Aioli will knock you over. The recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, but I used about a third of that. (In other words, not very much.) You can leave it out altogether, if you like–the garlic stands on its own, and will still throw you off your chair if you’re not ready for it.
Proceed with caution, and dip carefully. You’ve been warned. (The good news: it’s gluten free!)
This is very tasty on the waffle hash browns, (like the hash browns themselves) really, REALLY creamy and so good. There’s a lot of taste in this little cup of sauce. It keeps for about a week in the fridge. A little goes a LONG way. But dip with care–the strong taste will compete with other flavors like sweet potatoes. I tried it with baked sweet potato fries, and the tastes compete too much. But it’s great on the regular white potatoes.
I need to make more soon.
I gave some to Neighbor E to try. (I didn’t give any to Neighbor R, since she’s elderly and the cayenne pepper might bother her stomach.) He forgot to pick up a potato to bake on his last food forage, so he could try it that way. E finally decided to use it on a sandwich and loved it.
WARNING: Remember that there are raw eggs in this aioli, so anyone who is allergic to eggs, is very young or elderly, or has a compromised immune system, will need to leave it alone. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but you don’t want to surprise anyone who can’t have raw eggs for any reason. Unfortunately, my longtime friend The E Man is allergic to eggs. . .sorry, Dude.
But if you don’t have a problem with the raw egg yolks, enjoy garlic, and can handle the pungency, Creole Aioli is a delicious spread or dressing for you, any time. As always, the printable PDF is on the Recipes Page for you.