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The John Walton Celebration of Life

My very late report on the Celebration of Life for John Walton of the long-running Walton & Johnson Show.

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

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I know, it’s been months since my last update. My apologies. I’m writing and reading and taking care of the house and helping with BF’s Dad these days. So much for New Year’s Resolutions.

I’ve been trying to finish this post since the day after the event. June 3rd, two days ago, marked a year since the last show with the late John Walton. I can’t believe it’s been that long, but it has. So it’s time for me to finish this blog post, darnit. I also have procrastinated so that I might do justice to the subject at hand, and give him the respect he deserves.

We’re talking about this man, a radio legend since the early 1980’s.

JohnWaltonOnAirWithCowboyHat

The late John Walton, one of the originators of The Walton & Johnson Show. (Source: W&J Facebook page)

So, finally, here’s my report on our visit to New Orleans last July to celebrate the life of an incredible radio veteran.

The Walton & Johnson Show

If you’re not familiar with one of the longest-running morning radio shows in the US, here’s a brief intro. You can read the updated bio here on their website. That picture of two sharp-dressed men at the top is of Steve Johnson and Ken Webster, taken last year.

Picture of Ken Webster and Steve Johnson

Ken Webster (L), Steve Johnson (R), from the W&J “about” page

The video at the bottom of the page was made in the last few years, I’m guessing, and runs about five minutes. (It was also shown at the activity.)

John Walton and Steve Johnson began their joint radio career in Beaumont, TX, about 1981 or 1982. Somewhere in there, they were approached by a man named Phil Shaw from NOLA station WQUE to begin doing morning drive. He intended to hire someone else, but ended up hiring these two. John Walton once said on the air that someone took him to lunch in New Orleans, and he had the best food he’d ever tasted in his life, so he stayed for 20 years. And that was that.

I actually was listening to them that first day back in 1982, and it was just a “talk show” chatting kind of thing, where Shaw welcomed them to New Orleans, they discussed a few topics politely, and they were saying “thank you, we’re really glad to be here.” They were warned ahead of time that New Orlenians didn’t take kindly to Texans (tell me about it), but over time, well. . .I’m getting ahead of myself.

The next day, the full force of Walton & Johnson was released in the city of New Orleans. Funny. Silly. Rude. Raunchy. Topical. Irreverent. Satirical. Sarcastic. Naughty. Lots of hilarious and topical parody songs about current events. And always interesting and controversial.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text that says 'Walton & Johnson Weekdays 5:30am - 10am 30ar 3'

Promotional from Walton and Johnson (source: W&J Facebook page)

It didn’t take long for these two “shock jocks” to bowl over listeners with their back-and-forth banter with the others on the air, at the expense of a competitive morning drive show called Scoot In The Morning. “Scoot,” (real name: Scott Paisant.) ruled NOLA morning radio for many years, until these two Texans blew into town with their different ways of doing things. W&J quickly gained a very faithful following in the metro New Orleans area and held on tight. (He’s on in NOLA now in the afternoons, but quite a bit different from Walton and Johnson, it seems.)

W&J worked at nearly every radio station in New Orleans and were booted off the air more than once for different reasons. According to one story Steve Johnson told on the air, they made a comment about then-president George H.W. Bush. The next day, two Secret Service gentlemen showed up for a “visit.” The radio station’s receptionist was used to greeting people that “wanted to have a word with them,” and she didn’t even flinch. Without missing a beat, she just called out, “Walton and Johnson, you have company!”

This story was also told, both on the air by Nathan Ailes, a former radio sales guy and longtime W&J ally, and at the activity. When they first started, it wasn’t long before the radio station’s salespeople began to revolt. “We can’t sell this show, it’s too nonstandard,” or something like it. Many threatened to quit. Radio station management just said, “sorry to see you go!” Most got on board and successfully sold the show’s advertising.

Taking The Show On The Road

Walton & Johnson started out in top 40 radio, and later migrated into what’s now called “classic rock radio.” A few years ago, the show moved into conservative talk radio. More on that later.

Walton And Johnson At An Activity, Steve Johnson On Mike

The guys at an activity with Steve Johnson on the mic.

On a few of those “hiatus” periods when they were off the air in New Orleans, they left the city. They attempted to “set up shop” in Dallas, New York, and one or two other places. Dallas lasted a month, New York, not much longer. Ultimately, it was always back to New Orleans where their biggest and most loyal fan base lived.

Despite their popularity, you could only hear them in the NOLA area as long as they were on the air. But that was long before the Internet changed nearly everything in life. Again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Their Own

Somewhere around 1993, the guys split up for a while and worked with other people. They were successful but realized that they were better together–but on their own terms. They created the Walton & Johnson Radio Network. Instead of being employees of the radio station, W&J would be self-employed, and the radio station would be their client. It was rather revolutionary at the time, especially in NOLA, but it put them on par with national radio figures like Howard Stern (who they always beat in ratings.) It’s similar to how I work now as a freelancer.

Suddenly, the show could be heard outside of the metro NOLA area, and outside Louisiana on any radio station that wanted to have W&J grace their airwaves. Today they are on 15 southern US radio stations between Midland in West Texas and northern Georgia, as well as worldwide on iHeartRadio, streaming from the flagship station in Houston, KPRC 950 AM. I stream it from KPRC because I can’t stand the godawful local radio station that hosts it.

The Houston Migration

One of the things I did miss about leaving Louisiana in 1998 was Walton & Johnson. I did try streaming it online a few times using RealPlayer, but it just didn’t work well on dial-up, the standard for home Internet service at the time. I once heard a weird discussion of dinosaurs, and people kept calling in about it. A bit clunky, so I abandoned the idea.

Then one day in 2001, I was getting ready for work, and I got a phone call from my brother. He lived on the north side of Houston at the time. “Turn on your radio to KLOL,” he said. That was a longtime classic rock radio station that later became one of multiple Latino stations in Houston. I did, and there they were.  WALTON AND JOHNSON!!!

I couldn’t believe it–they were in Houston! After 20 years in New Orleans, they decided to do their show in the Houston area, where they were both born and raised. Because they didn’t work at one radio station, there wouldn’t be any interruption–they would just be broadcasting from a flagship station in Houston, and would still be on all the regional affiliate stations.

This didn’t sit well with the New Orleans listeners initially, who were shocked that they would leave. One gent who called in to express his displeasure said to them, “but we’re gonna miss you here.” Walton explained that they would still be on the air in NOLA, and visit for personal appearances from time to time, but the show would now be based elsewhere. “It’s not like we come to your house for dinner,” Walton countered. Listeners were undeterred in expressing their disappointment over the move to Texas, but they still listened and called in as before. (You can always tell when it’s someone from this side of the Sabine even before they tell you where they’re calling from. Trust me.)

More To Talk About

Suddenly W&J discussed a much wider range of topics that weren’t all New Orleans-centric, and some that wouldn’t mean anything to listeners outside the Houston area. That wasn’t all of what they discussed, and still isn’t. I knew there would be listeners in Houston wondering about these two. But the Texas listeners caught on quick, and it wasn’t long before the top morning drive radio show in Houston was Walton & Johnson, too.

As was the case in New Orleans, they changed stations a few times in Houston. The mainstream press avoided talking much about them and their top-tier status on the radio. At one point, they were on the air on all their stations but Houston, making online streaming a necessity. Eventually, they found a home at KPRC 950, an AM talk station that is conservative- and libertarian-leaning. But in other places, the show is found on FM stations, like WRNO (also a talk radio station) in New Orleans and Classic Rock 92.1 in Lake Charles. (I still prefer the stream from KPRC, or listening from their iPhone app.)

The Listener’s Perspective

Granted, there were many times when I laughed hard at what I heard. But if I had to pick one thing about John Walton that I remember well, it was the day I was driving to work at Rice University (I wasn’t there long and laid off after 4 months). This was in the early part of 2001. There I was on the freeway feeder road (now called I-69), in the left lane, coming up on the Weslayan exit.

Walton was talking about the awful “music” that was popular at the time, namely, two grunge-style bands called Creed and Pearl Jam. They all sounded alike. The lead singers had a style that was hard to describe, a sort of growling moan. Walton had a name for it: “sick on seafood.”

I was laughing so hard I nearly crashed my car the wall on the overpass. Thankfully I kept control of my car, but only just. Anytime I heard him say “sick on seafood,” it made me laugh.

Outlaw Dave

Another cold morning, I was on the Bay Area Park & Ride headed downtown for work and was listening on a small radio I bought just for this purpose. This was the period from 2013 through early 2014. I wish I’d bought my iPhone sooner, too, because I could have been streaming it live every morning on the bus and finishing listening on the 90-minute-plus ride home at night.

Well, this particular winter day, the discussion turned to a story about Dwayne Chapman, aka, Dog, The Bounty Hunter, with his big blonde mullet. (I will admit that I only know who he is through news stories, like where his wife passed away last year.) There was a picture in the Houston Chronicle of Mr. Chapman, and Walton asked, “Is that Outlaw Dave?”

Outlaw Dave is the “afternoon guy” from their days at KLOL, and  now has show on KPRC in the evenings. They’ve worked together for a long time. He used to have a LOT more hair.

Suddenly I had a vision: an older couple, maybe mid-to-late 60’s, sitting at their little kitchen table by the window, somewhere in the New Orleans area, listening and having their coffee. They’re obviously enjoying what they’re hearing until they hear the comment about Outlaw Dave. The man stops with a puzzled look on his face and asks his wife, “Who’s Outlaw Dave?” The wife shrugs her shoulders and says, I dunno.”

Dear Readers, those two were walking around Generations Hall that day. In spades.

There were so many other instances of John Walton’s incredibly fast, sharp wit that stopped people in their tracks. Naturally, not everyone was a fan, and they have been the target of derision many times.

Walton’s Illness

This man rarely, if ever, took a sick day. That’s how dedicated he was to the show, and to the listeners who enjoyed it. It was, quite literally, his life’s work, even though he had other things going on, like owning a radio station in Beaumont.

Earlier in the year, he began to have a number of health problems. I don’t recall him talking about them on the air, although, admittedly, I don’t listen as often as I’d like. I keep up with the show on Facebook and listen sometimes with the app on my iPhone. But I still consider myself a “ten percenter” as well as a Texan.

Then one day I started to see people on Facebook asking about why Ken Webster was on the air instead. Mr. Walton was off the air receiving medical treatment, was doing ratherwell, and would be out for a little while. He was out for a couple of weeks, and Ken went from producer to fill-in host, with Steve doing what he normally does. It was the same great show, only slightly different with Ken’s voice from the other chair.

Mr. Walton was expected back on the air on Monday, July 8th. But about a week or so before, on a Friday, he decided to stop receiving treatment and go home for the rest of his days. He’d had enough, apparently, and passed away at his home in Fulshear, Texas, on July 1, 2019, with his wife and family at his side. It was a shock to everyone, including longtime radio partner Steve Johnson. When the news broke, fans were stunned, including me and BF.

Radio lost a true legend that day.

Future State: The “New” Walton & Johnson Show

Ken Webster is great about keeping listeners in the loop on the show’s social media channels, including using video. He also hosts his own show in the afternoons called The Pursuit Of Happiness Radio. It’s on the same station, and he also does it live on Facebook, as well as podcasts.

Ken did a video on Facebook that Tuesday, July 2nd, with updates, which included:

  • They would be on the air the next day, July 3, at the normal time, as usual, but would be taking calls from friends of the show as well as listeners, and talking about the show’s past as well as future.
  • The show will continue, as Steve Johnson is in great health and is ready and willing to keep going.
  • The show will continue as long as listeners want it (and we do.)
  • The name of the show will not change, out of respect for Mr. Walton, who founded the show and shared responsibility for its success and longevity.
  • Listeners can expect more of the same, just with Ken in the other chair. (After 7 years of being in the producer’s chair, I think he’s got a general idea.)
  • There would be a public memorial both in Houston and in New Orleans, where John Walton enjoyed living and visiting when he moved back to Houston. Details would be announced as soon as they had them.

Since this was just the day after Mr. Walton’s passing, everything was raw and understandably, nobody was quite sure what to do next.

I played the FB video on my TV, running the HDMI cord from my laptop to the TV (I do that a lot.) We sat on the futon and watched Ken’s video and talked about it a little more.

We both listened to that first show from the 5:30 am beginning, and I listened through 9:00 am. they started out as they did every day at 5:30 sharp with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Little Wing. BF listened until he got to work. I streamed it online and put it on the big speaker I have in front of my TV, listening until 9, and catching up on the final hour of the show later on the app. There were a lot of stories told about the 30+ years of the show.

One of their favorite things W&J enjoyed was going out to lunch. As Steve Johnson put it, “nobody did lunch better than Walton & Johnson.” He then told many stories about how they “did lunch,” frequently on the radio station’s expense account, and more importantly, getting away with it! But you’d have to hear Steve tell those stories, I wouldn’t be able to.

After that first show, they began the process of moving forward without him, but keeping the John Walton legacy alive. They’ve since taken some new promo photos as well, and they’re quite good.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting

I really like this one.

The Celebration Of Life

A shot from the stage of the venue

A shot from the stage of the venue. Can you find us?

When the show announced the New Orleans Celebration of Life activity, BF surprised me when he said, “I want to go to that.” So we made plans with The E-Man to go to New Orleans. We picked him up early and he was our navigator to the venue. Finally, BF met one of my oldest friends, The E-Man.

John Walton always told people that when he left the earth, he wanted a big New Orleans-style going-away, complete with a second line and all that. Because of all the connections that W&J made over the years, they were able to arrange it, as Steve Johnson said, “with just a few phone calls.”  Everything came together fairly quickly, although it had to be postponed by two weeks because of Hurricane Barry. The New Orleans activity finally happened on July 28th.

Video in Generations Hall

This video was shown at the event, also available on the About page.

Generations Hall is a place I’d never heard of or visited myself, but I have to say it’s quite a nice venue for whatever kind of activity you’re having. I haven’t done corporate event planning for a long time, but if I were asked to set up something in NOLA, I would definitely consider it.

Chandelier

Isn’t it gorgeous? Right in the middle of the dance floor. (We weren’t dancing.)

Also in attendance was a classic rock band called Superchargers, and they were quite good.

Superchargers on stage

Superchargers

A number of us thought they would play the show’s opening tune, Little Wing, but they didn’t. They just stuck to what they know and did it very well.

Meeting Webster And Johnson

Although I have met W&J once or twice before, it’s been many, many years. But thankfully, the guys were meeting the fans, and we greatly appreciated the opportunity:

 

Amy with Steve and Ken

Not the best picture of me, but I was very happy to talk to them. BF also took a picture but he never showed it to me.

Because I follow them on Facebook, I’m also friended with Morgan Webster, aka Mrs. Ken Webster, who’s as absolutely drop-dead gorgeous in person as she is on FB when she’s out with Ken. I talked her into a fangirl selfie, and she is ever so nice:

AmyWithMorganWebster

Morgan Webster, wife of Ken Webster

Honestly, Kenny and Morgan look so cute together! But at this event, they weren’t “together” much, because they were talking to literally everybody and mingling throughout the activity. But on social media, they are quite regularly together and post pictures of their Texas adventures. I didn’t get to talk to Christine Johnson, either, who is otherwise nearly always with Steve.

We stood in line for however long to talk to them for a couple of minutes and get an autograph on the little banners they handed us for the second line later. I told them about my “John Walton memory” of “sick on seafood.” 

Ken and Steve meeting fans

This man was ahead of us in the very long line to meet them.

I’m sure they were all exhausted when it was all over.

Also in attendance was John Walton’s wife, Lainie:

Lanie Walton

I admit this was not a great picture.

This was the best pic I could get from the floor, I tried my best to get a good one. I also tried to get to talk to Mrs. Walton, but she wasn’t on the floor very much. I was only going to say Hi, and offer our condolences, but let’s face it–there were at least 1,000 people in there. She was hanging out in the VIP area, and under the circumstances, I was not about to crash it.

John Walton’s Car

The first thing we saw when we arrived was his gorgeous car, a 1966 (I think) Ford Galaxie:

Black Galaxie front

His car on display in the courtyard

I don’t have a picture of it here, but people were laughing about the Texas inspection sticker that’s on the lower part of the windshield on the driver’s side.  The expiration date is 4/20, which is a thing for smokers of. . .non-tobacco cigarettes.

Interior of Galaxie

Beautiful, is it not?

I know I’m showing my age when I say, “kids today don’t know what it means to ‘roll down the window.'” 

The rear of the Galaxie

And the Richard Nixon bumper sticker.

Thankfully, it wasn’t raining. But it sure was hot that day. And BF did enjoy seeing the car up close.

Interior Decor

It wouldn’t be W&J without some pictures and things:

Painting

This is a painting done by a local artist who worked from a publicity shot

And a canvas that people could sign, that I believe went to Mrs. Walton:

Canvas for signatures

Instead of a book, they chose to have this canvas. Interesting idea.

I signed it, but I think BF didn’t:

Amy signature

I signed it too.

Hanging With The “Ten Percenters”

Listeners to the show are called this for one reason: they are the ten percent of the listening audience that actually *gets* the show and the exclusive, unique humor. This is true in any city that they broadcast in, but especially in New Orleans.

AmyEmilioAndJames

Here we are!

During their time in the Crescent City, W&J developed a few “catch-phrases” or “keyword phrases” that are unique to the show and the listeners. For instance, many years ago, Walton made the comment that Ten Percenters should have their own recognizable greeting, like “Green Beans” or “Ungawa.” It stuck. They were also called the “Radio Gawds,” in a nod to the New Orleans accent, markedly similar to a New York/Brooklyn accent.

It was a friendly, albeit raucous, crowd, and everyone had a story to tell about their connection to W&J. Many shared pictures. And then there was the man who had a little handwritten sign that said something like:

In 1991, I won the tickets to the Saints game on the 50-yard line.

He walked around with it, holding up as you would see someone on the side of the road.

Another man and his wife had strung green beans around their necks.

Lots of folks had Mardi Gras beads on, or clothes with purple, green, and gold. A couple of male attendees wore kilts.

Throughout the event, we had conversations with many folks who were fans and occasionally interacted with them in one way or another, either at events like this one, personal appearances, or the many benefit motorcycle rides they participated in over the years. Both did motorcycle rides anytime they could, and were avid riders.

Of Course, There Was Food

If you want to have a successful activity in New Orleans, you must have food, and this event had some interesting and delicious dishes.

In the courtyard, a local restaurant named Dragos was serving little shrimp sliders out of a food truck, but I didn’t get pictures of it, darnit. BF enjoyed that one first.

Inside the Hall, catering was provided two different local restaurants, one called 12 Seasons Catering, the other called Zea Rotisserie & Grill. WOW. They know how to cater a party!

Of course, there was the requisite po-boy, a staple of New Orleans food, with fried shrimp:

cut shrimp po boy on board

This is a traditional po’boy, made for a large crowd.

I caught a shot of them making one up:

Making a poboy

That’s a huge loaf of French bread, bigger than you get in the grocery store, even in this part of the US:

French bread for poboys

About three feet long, I think

BF said there were slices of honeydew melon on the po-boy. It’s not traditional–shredded lettuce and tomato are, but this was a special event, so they jazzed it up. Shrimp pasta was also on the menu:

Penne pasta with shrimp

This was a favorite dish of many Ten Percenters, including BF.

The classic “Dirty Rice,” with beef and spices.

Something else

There was also hummus, and an interesting way to serve it, alongside quinoa:

Hummus in shot glasses with pita bread triangles

Why didn’t I think of that?

This not being exactly traditional New Orleans food, many folks weren’t sure what to make of it! (I thought it was tasty myself.) And then there was this very interesting version of sandwiches:

Sandwiches with beef, I think

They were tasty, too.

There was a specific and fancy name for these, but I didn’t write it down and I don’t recall what it was. They were similar to quesadillas but using pita bread, the round kind with pockets. Again, not traditional New Orleans food, so many people were a bit unsure and asked questions. But you know me, no complaints here.

It was also a free bar (it’s NOLA, what did you expect?), and BF and I stuck to the non-alcoholic imbibements. The E-Man had a beer or two, I think, but others were, shall we say, quite happy about the open bar kind of thing.

Kudos to all the vendors involved, because they all did an outstanding job for John Walton’s legion of fans.

The Show’s Other Members

Ken and Steve are the “chief protagonists,” but there are others who are on the air with them every day.

Mr. Kenneth, a professional hairdresser, celebrity expert, and fashionista of the Walton & Johnson show, was so much fun. He became connected to the show when he gave both of them George Michael haircuts back in the day. He loved my outfit, but said I shouldn’t wear so much red because it clashes with my hair. He said the background blue of my top works really well, but I was overwhelmed by the poppies. As a professional hairdresser, he knows that there’s nothing like red hair.

Billy Ed Hatfield, the show’s engineer from Clute, Texas, easily bonded with BF over cars and engines and other “guy things.” However, BF put him in his place when he started talking about “the hot redhead with the glasses,” because he realized Billy Ed was making comments about me. That didn’t sit too well with BF, who took offense, and he figured Billy Ed would be flirting next. There was no fighting, but BF politely let him know who I was with. Billy Ed apologized profusely and complimented him on his taste in women. Then he sheepishly went on to talk to someone else.

Mr. Eaux, from “the ‘hood,” was also sporting his best bling with his black zoot suit for the occasion. He didn’t want to admit he was sweating and insisted on leaving his jacket on. He, too, was a little flirty with all the women, but he was very polite to me. Maybe he saw how BF politely stood down Billy Ed. I also noticed Mr. Eaux steered clear of Morgan, as well, since Ken is a big guy, over six feet. He’s nice, but Kenny wouldn’t put up with Mr. Eaux or Billy Ed messing with her.

Then It Was Over

The second line brought Mr. Walton outside, where people paid tribute to the man, including a guy on bagpipes. People waved the little cloths around (except me, I don’t do that), and said goodbye.

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John Walton’s ashes, encased in something from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Everyone went home, happy to have taken part in a momentous occasion. We all had a great time, everyone enjoyed the day. That’s what happens when Ten Percenters come together. I don’t know if the great staff of Generations Hall knew what to expect, but they did a fantastic job of keeping everything together and running well.

Ken and Steve also talked about having an annual John Walton activity, a benefit for charity, but not in July. Maybe in October, when it’s not so hot.

As they say, “the show will go on,” and both Steve and Ken have kept their promise to continue as long as fans are interested. We are. They were on the air on that Monday, but stayed in New Orleans and broadcast from, I guess, WRNO for a day or two.

The W&J app has a section of “The Best Of John Walton,” where you can also hear the five parts of the July 3rd show, including the 9:00 am hour where John’s wife, Lainie Walton, was the last person to call in.

Of course, there will never be another John Walton–everyone knows that. He “raised” Ken to be a great successor, even if he didn’t intend to when they hired him. But of course, John Walton will not be forgotten, ever, either by listeners, by his family, and of course, by Steve Johnson and Ken Webster.

Walton Portrait

A very nice portrait of the man. I think I found this on the Chronicle’s website for his obituary.

Thank you for the memories, Mr. Walton. We appreciate the time we had with you and will never forget you.

And as they say at 9:59 every day on the Walton & Johnson Show:

Don’t forget, boys and girls, to eat it every day!

 

Instant Pot Cheesecake
It’s 2020–Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Dear Readers! Welcome to 2020!

Once again, I’ve fallen behind on blogging. The best part is that I now have OOODLES of things to blog about! The bad part is that I’m busy all the time. I need some coffee first–mostly decaf but with a bit of half-caff thrown in–but once I get going, well, it depends on how tired I am, what needs to be done in the house, and if I need a nap in the afternoon. It happens.

Yes, that featured picture is a six-inch cheesecake, gluten free and sugar free, which I will be telling you about soon. Actually, there are *two* cheesecake recipes to discuss in an upcoming blog post or two. Starting the new year off with cheesecake is a good thing, right?

We’re Still Together!

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes, BF and I are still together in 2020, ruffling each other’s feathers and pulling each other’s tails. He’s still rejecting about 35% to 40% of what I cook, and I’ve been “on strike” a couple of times over the holidays and briefly in the new year.

We’ve been on some adventures, including one recently checking out a couple of salvage stores with locations in the area. Bargain shopping together–a great couple’s activity! It started out when his old microwave finally bit the dust. I’ve been asking him for six months to get us another one–and he could have several times. He had it since his last marriage, which ended about 2008.

New Year, New Decade, New Microwave (Finally)

The first time I broached the subject, he said something about “shopping around for the right brand.” What? This is a guy who buys jeans at Walmart and the markdown store because he gets holes from battery acid at work (handling car batteries.)  But as long as it’s still working, he thinks it’s fine. The rusted-out bottom was no big deal until we started seeing and smelling smoke.

The next day he said he would “price” one. Well, sure enough, he headed right to our local Dirt Cheap and found a brand new one in a factory-sealed package. This Sunbeam model sells for about $70 in Target, but he paid $45 for it. There is a small dent on the left side, but it’s not even noticeable because it’s black and you can’t see the left side in the kitchen anyway. Slightly smaller than the old one, but works wonderfully. And it’s CLEAN!

New year, new microwave. About time.

Shop Fridge And Other New Year Bargains

Our new year has led to some discoveries, local and otherwise.

BF has long wanted a small dorm-style refrigerator in the garage, but they tend to be over $100. Well, he found a very nice Whirlpool model at Dirt Cheap that Target has on sale now for $110. He paid $30 for it, no kidding. Now he has the little fridge that holds some extra Cokes and bottled water out there, all covered in stickers from various car part companies, like Holley and Eagle. No more traipsing in the house for a drink. There’s even a little tiny freezer in case he wants to keep a frozen dinner or other stuff out there.

I wonder if he’ll put a small microwave and a roll-away bed in there to camp out. He’s got a nice shop heater in there for cold nights, so if he wanted to brave the elements, he could. There’s a home-welded barbecue grill out there, too.

And because Irish girls can’t resist a bargain, when I saw this Dash Pumpkin Mini Waffle Maker marked down to $5, it was added to the basket. I’ve looked at these tiny products in Target for a while now, and am planning a blog post on them. I need to check back and see if they have the snowflake and the heart-shaped models too. Remember–Valentine’s Day is coming.

Checking out the Dash blog, I learned a new word for the new year: chaffle. And I’ve become an immediate fan. (I miss out on so much living here.) I’ve made us chaffles as well as made BF some tiny waffles with it using his (ugh) Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix.

More Bargains

Last summer, he went to Dirt Cheap and found a bookshelf and marble-top coffee table, both from Target, and now his movies aren’t tossed all over the place. He got rid of the old coffee table that was dog-damaged, and this new one is just lovely. I scanned the UPC codes with the Target app on my phone and discovered that if we’d bought them at Target, we would have spent in the neighborhood of $300. At Dirt Cheap, it was $75 for both. I was very impressed, especially when he didn’t even know what the coffee table looked like before he bought it.

BF’s sister came to town for a visit and told us about another place called Ollie’s Bargain Center. She found the one near her home in Atlanta, but discovered that there are three in the Baton Rouge area, the closest in Denham Springs. BF visited that place on a recent errand, and it turns out, I could get there fairly easily on my own. Wouldn’t be a far drive to Trader Joe’s at the Acadiana Thruway exit off I-10.  He didn’t buy anything, but said they too have a lot of great stuff. Road trip!

I’ve Got More Books

You remember my weird little book benefit that started last summer? It’s still going on here in 2020, with no sign of stopping. I don’t even know how many of their books I have now. Of course, they are primarily cookbooks, but there are a few psychology books, three alcohol-related books, two or three on yoga, one on living pain free with CBD oil, and one on. . .cannabis edibles. I thought it would go along with the CBD book, but I was WRONG. However, the recipes look like they can be made without, um, the “green leaf,” so when I get around to it I might try some of them that won’t elicit a case of “the munchies.”

I’ve also bought a few books, too. In addition to Laura Pennington Briggs’ Start Your Own Freelance Business (I was also on the launch team), I’ve also bought Michael Hyatt’s Free To Focus (recommended by Laura), and LinkedIn Unlocked by Melanie Dodaro (a gift from a fellow writer, and yes, I’ve read it.) One of my clients recommended Marcus Sheridan’s They Ask, You Answer. It’s a great book on digital marketing and taking steps forward for your business. However. . .I’ve not yet finished the darn thing. Turns out one of my clients knows the author personally, too.

New Year Training

It’s also been nearly a year since I started taking the SEO training from Digital Marketer. Once again, I will again attempt to get through it so I can take the test and get certified. The holdup is module 4, it takes a long time.

We just finished new five-day AWAI training class called 5 Days To A Lifetime Of Clients With Michael Katz. A number of us in our little accountability group signed up for it, and we’re going to. . .what? Keep each other accountable. Five days of intense deep-diving on finding and getting clients. There’s homework, which I need to finish by the middle of March, including getting another copywriting site up. But with three years of writing professionally under my belt, primarily for lawyers and law firms, I’ve got a better handle on things.

I’m Not Doing Keto

If you’re doing keto in the New Year to get healthy and/or lose weight, good for you–I’m not knocking anyone for it. Keto is the 2020 way of eating that’s quite popular and, I have to say, tasty.

Many of the cookbooks I requested from the publisher are keto, because that’s what’s popular and people are searching for. As well as willpower, aromatherapy, and spells for new witches. No kidding, and I have them, too. I like a variety of reading.

Keto is sort of “Low Carb 2.0.” Sure, there’s more to it, but looking at all these books brings me back to the Suzanne Somers way of eating, which is basically low carb. I’m loving it, especially the cream in my coffee again.

Swerve

Additionally, the new sweetener of choice for most of these desserts in 2020 is Swerve, which is now readily available at our local Walmart, no kidding. I made my chocolate birthday cake last year with Swerve, which took a bit of fiddling to get it right since the recipe was created for Somersweet in 2002. So that new no-bake cheesecake I like is easy to make and sweeten with either Swerve or with the erythrytol I get from Vitacost. That’s coming in a future blog post.

Equipment Courtesy Of DG

There are a number of new things we have around here, some purchased, some were gifted. Let me tell you about the stuff we got from DG.

Year before last, BF’s sister-in-law was notified that her estranged father had passed away. It became her responsibility to clear everything out of the house so that the bank could take possession. I won’t get into the legal particulars–it was a bit of a nightmare for them, but she took care of everything. They had been estranged for at least 15 or more years, so it was a shock to her to not only get the call, but to be told it was her responsibility.

Long story short, BF headed out there with them several times to Diamondhead, MS, a planned community that started back in the late 1960’s.  He’d bought the house a few years ago, and done some decorating and added things like a media room upstairs. The house looked like a 1970’s dream home, and even the wooden stair railing looked original.

They used to have adverts in the 1970’s on New Orleans TV stations about Diamondhead, how it was a “luxury community” for the more affluent. Yeah, right–it looks like Clear Lake!

The Trip To Mississippi

Anyway–BF went up there with his brother and sister-in-law three or four times, and came back with lots of stuff. We were hoping for a refrigerator and maybe a TV, but the man’s family members had already cleared out what they wanted, including the fridge. What he brought back were things like tools, toys, decor, and some other small stuff. On one trip he came back with dishes–plates and bowls, and a few cups.

Well, the man and his girlfriend indulged in RED DISHES. That’s right, all the dishes are RED, along with a plastic colander. Our lovely dishwasher, now two years old, ran almost continuously for a couple of days to wash everything. No more paper plates!

My Visit

I went on the last trip to the house–the fifth, I believe–and helped them clear out and pick through what was left. The house was still quite full of stuff, and we brought home what we would use. For instance: we now have a chest freezer that we gleefully keep food in, such as the 15 or more containers of fresh pesto that I make in the summer. (And since it’s been cool and occasionally cold, I’ve enjoyed much of the delicious Pea & Pesto Soup too.) Long after I’d abandoned the idea of buying a very small chest freezer for myself, we’ve finally got one we can stash food in for later. It’s a bit untidy sometimes, and I’ve got the freezer bowls for my ice cream maker in there for the day I make some again, but we’re quite happy to have it.

Later, BF spent a few rubles on new flatware to go with the new dishes:

New Flatware

New dishes required new flatware.

From the Threshold Collection at Target, I talked him into this Jovita flatware along with that flatware organizer that holds everything in place neatly. Because the stuff he had was also from his last marriage, (or maybe the first one) and I let him know it was time to upgrade. It was junk, and we donated it all.

Red Breakfast Appliances

We were also gifted a few appliances, including a 14-cup Kitchenaid coffee pot and a Kitchenaid two-slice toaster (links are to similar new models.)

Red Kitchenaid Toaster

Yes, a red toaster

Red Kitchenaid Coffee Pot

And a matching coffeepot too! Works great, cleaned it, and it’s ready for the day we have multiple guests.

Some of the small things like serving spoons were also red like the dishes. I’ve had to put those small racks in the cabinets to make room for everything. Oh, and an oval stoneware insert with a lid for a 4-quart Crockpot in RED. No kidding.

The Stainless Steel Trash Can

Another thing we took home was an older model of a SimpleHuman stainless steel kitchen trash can (this is a similar model.) We needed a new one anyway, and BF mentioned he’d like that type, so we took it home. We like the stainless steel and the tightly closing top. However, the top doesn’t stay up anymore because the springs are broken, and we haven’t been able to fix it.

But the part that nobody tells you is that you can’t buy bags that fit this can at Walmart. No, you have to buy their trash bags in order to get it out of the can when it’s full, which are available online and at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I contacted the company and sent pictures, and was told that the ones that fit our can are Type N, which are $24 for a bag of 60. That’s right, they’re expensive bags for taking out your trash. They don’t tell you that when you buy one. Fortunately, this one was a gift, but we have taken to buying contractor bags in order to remove them from the can when it’s time. They’re expensive, but not that expensive. They’re about $10 or $15 a box at Target and Walmart for a quantity of them.

The New Movie Collection

And then there were DVDs in the house. Thousands of them, in fact, and some were duplicates. BF grabbed what he wanted, I took what I wanted, J&H took some as well, and there were still at least 500 left. We were limited by the space in the truck and on the trailer, both of which were full to capacity.

He picked what he wanted, I picked what I wanted, and we both have a lot more than before. That was one of the incentives for the bookshelf, and he lucked out with the one from Dirt Cheap. The coffee table was an extra bonus, and they really look great in the living room.

Since I wasn’t there when they first went into the house, I wasn’t hit by the lingering smell. Unlike J&H, I did grab a few unopened things out of the pantry. In the end, the company that had to deal with the repossession of the man’s house had to clear out the rest of it, clean it, and get it ready for re-sale.

One day BF opened up a DVD and complained that it smelled like “dead guy and stale beer.” Because we couldn’t remember the man’s name, we took to calling him “Dead Guy.”

There are some other small thing we have, like decor, and some we ended up donating a few things to the local charity shop.

The New Toaster Oven

While I could be accused of being on a buying spree for a while, I will tell you that like the Iced Coffee Maker, I always look for deals, coupons and discounts when I get ready to buy something.

I meant to write about this before, but I never got around to it–I finally replaced the toaster oven! Of course, it’s a Cuisinart, and of course, I ordered it from Bed, Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon. (You can read the company’s description here.) They don’t carry this model in stores anywhere, including Houston, as I was told.

I can’t find the pictures of it right now. It’s a tiny bit smaller than the last one, and the digital interface isn’t user-friendly, so I have to help BF when he wants to use it. But it does what I need it to, including baking brownies for him or making a delicious dinner for us. No need for turning on the stove and heating up the kitchen. I’m pretty happy with it.

The Air Fryer

Ok, because I got a book for the Ninja Air Fryer, I wanted to find out if it was worth the money. I mean, it’s a $100 purchase, to do some things in, so I wanted to try it out first.

So I bought a $30 model from Walmart:

Farberware AirFryer

The Farberware Air fryer

Honestly, it’s like a toy, really. It’s billed as ideal for one or two people–but most of the book’s recipes require a larger machine.

So I make a couple of recipes from this book, cutting them in half, and BF falls for the chicken wings. I also made a chocolate chip cookie in it, which took a lot longer to cook than it would have in the Ninja Air Fryer, but whatever. I actually tried that one, since I made it for someone I invited over for dinner, and no, it wasn’t gluten free. And whenever I suggest returning the thing to Walmart, he says, “Oh, I like the wings.” The truth is I can make them in the toaster oven with the convection setting, but I’m humoring him. I could get that bigger Ninja machine in the new year, but it becomes a matter of where to store it.

Meantime, I’m on the hook for chicken wings. I chop the tips off and then chop them in half to make life easier. I may be doing them this weekend for the “Big Game.”

The Instant Pot

I mentioned earlier that a new Instant Pot would be making its way to the Casa de Rurale, It has, and I have used it a few times for different things. I bought the Duo Evo Plus, the newest of the new, the latest and greatest incarnation. Sounds like a great idea, right?

People rant and rave about how great this thing is. I avoided getting one because I was kind of afraid of it. But after the initial water test, I kept using it, cooking recipes from the books I have, plus the Instant Pot app and places like Pinterest in this new, updated model. Most came out OK, but some didn’t. When it nearly burned up the pork chops, that was it–I unplugged it.

Of Course, There Was A Problem

Guess what? The recipes in those books were written for the older models. This new model doesn’t work exactly the same, so the recipes don’t always come out right. Like steaming cauliflower–twice–with an insufficient amount of water, and with the vent closed, building up pressure when it isn’t supposed to. The little booklet included doesn’t tell you all that–only the “full” manual, which you download from the website. They don’t tell you that part, either–someone on Facebook told me about the “full manual.”

I have used it as a slow cooker, and for that, it worked just fine. I bought the glass lid for that purpose, as well as a couple of other accessories (boosted by the coupons I had.)

At first, I thought it was pretty good. But then things changed when it burned my food and didn’t steam. Currently, I hate it, and have vented on Facebook about it. When I went into one of the many FB groups on the subject, nobody knew what model I had, so that was useless.

There’s a blog post coming, of course. Thankfully this delicious cheesecake came out just fine:

Instant Pot Cheesecake

Cheesecake! Sugar free, gluten free, and thoroughly delicious!

Much as I like it, I found a recipe that’s even easier and is equally rich and delicious. And yes, it’s delicious, gluten-free and sugar free, so people like Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy can have cheesecake in an hour or so with no guilt.

I’ll have a list of the books I have that go with this beast in the blog post as well. If you got an Instant Pot for Christmas, or right around Black Friday like I did, well, I’ll give you some references to use in the new year.

Just know that as I write this, my next Instant Pot accessory may come from Harbor Freight.

And For My Birthday

I made my favorite chocolate cake from Suzanne Somers Desserts book from 2002 using Swerve.

I also bought myself a birthday present:

Suzy Homemaker Stand Mixer

Finally got another one!!!

I lurk on eBay and have several ongoing searches and get emails every day. Go look at things and add them to my wish list. Some may stay there for months, and I can buy them or keep watching.

This particular item was there, and I wish-listed it.  I discovered that the seller sent me an offer of $15 with free shipping–two hours before it ended. Without telling BF, I accepted it and paid for it. The package arrived a few days later. Boy was he surprised.

Yes, it works, just need to install a couple of batteries. The only thing “wrong” with it is that the little plastic switch on the side is broken off. However, there is enough of it left to be able to turn it on and run it. I have a picture of instructions somewhere, and I can print it and put it in a page protector for later. No box, but that’s OK. It’s MINE.

You see, I had one of these when I was a kid. I’ve always wanted another one, and finally, for my own new year, my 57th birthday, I got one.

Isn’t it adorbs???

Looking Forward To 2020

It’s a new year and a new decade, and 2020 promises to deliver. I may even update the blog theme after I renew the service.

I still owe you a blog on last year’s activity with the guys from the Walton & Johnson radio show. After the activity, I ordered a free book from Shutterfly for us with those pictures in it. Also gave The E-Man a smaller picture book from the event. They were all my pictures because nobody bothered to pass theirs along.

Remember that both Downton Abbey and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are set in the 1920’s. . .which is about 100 years ago. BF bought me the Downton Abbey movie for Christmas, and we are anxiously awaiting the new movie Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears, set to begin streaming on AcornTV in March.

But at the beginning of the year, everyone is making resolutions (except me, I’m still thinking about it) and I’m still up to me ears in just about everything. It’s why I usually need more coffee.

I’ll pay for the blog again soon, and I suppose I should resolve to blog more, right?

There’s lots to talk about, even from the rural part of Louisiana. SO thankful for the Internet.

Happy New Year!

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

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

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

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

But today it’s all about the keto.

The John Walton Celebration Of Life

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

AmyWithKenAndSteve

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

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

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

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

What is Keto?

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

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

The Book

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

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

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

Trying Out The Recipes

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

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

Tuesday was the ketogenic dinner.

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

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

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

Other Ingredients

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

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

His Fish Is Always Fried

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

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

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

Dinnertime!

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

But here it is:

keto baked fish and green beans

This was my dinner plate.

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

BF's Dinner plate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish recipe

FISH!

No, he didn’t like these either.

ParmPorkrind Green Bean Recipe

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

Trying Again

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

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

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

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

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

Keto mushroom frittata

The setup

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

Making The Frittata

I like measuring out everything before I actually start cooking.

Goat cheese crumbles

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

Bacon cooking for keto frittata

MMmmm. . . .bacon!

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

Sauteeing mushrooms with spinach added in

First steps. (Photo courtesy BF)

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

Eggs

Whisk really well, too.

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

Frittata cooking

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

Then sprinkle on the crumbled goat cheese:

Goat cheese sprinkled on

Get that goat cheese on top (Photo courtesy BF)

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

Keto Mushroom Frittata

Ta-dah!

Verdict: tasty, delicious, and great anytime.

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

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

Dessert Is Da (Keto) Bomb!

Undeterred, I tried one more recipe.

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

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

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

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

Making A Mess

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

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

Recipe For chocolate fat bombs

It’s pretty simple.

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

Ingredients for Spiced Chocolate Fat Bombs

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

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

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

Stirring

A quick whisk of everything

 

Muffin tins and papers

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

Carefully spoon this mixture into the cups:

Fat bombs in muffin tins

I used a spoon, and did this carefully

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

Fat bomb solid

Yummy!

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

Fat bombs

I’ll be making more of these

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

Recipes That Are Not For Everyone

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

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

I Like This Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until Next Time

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

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

Until then, enjoy!

Dinner
Cookbook Review: The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook

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

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

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

National Ice Cream Day

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

HEB Ice Cream Truck

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

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

HEB Ice cream float

Look! An ice cream float! On wheels!

Is that not a happy sight?

HEB ice cream truck

There was ice cream all around.

Speaking of friendly faces:

Miss Lei in HEB

Look who it is!!

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

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

Neighbor E with Astronaut pic

Looking good, Dude!

Loved this picture too.

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

The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo

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

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

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

The Accidental Dinner Party

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

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

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

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

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

Saltimbocca alla Romana

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

Broccoli stir fry

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

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

Ingredients

The Setup. Prosciutto was already in the freezer

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

Slicing chicken breasts in half

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

And pound them a little:

Pounding Chicken flat

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

And then slice it in half:

Breast half slices

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

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

Chicken and sage

Fresh sage from the HeatCageKitchen garden!

Then top each with that paper-thin prosciutto:

Chicken topped with ham

Handle the prosciutto with care, it tears easily

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

Coconut flour

Just a half-cup

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

Flouring chicken

Just a little coating, not a full breading.

Cooking The Chicken

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

Butter and olive oil heating in the pan

A good start to any chicken dish!

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

Chicken cooking

Cook prosciutto side down first

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

Cooked chicken

This is what it looks like out of the pan

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

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

The Reaction–Dinner Is Served

So, this is what we all had for dinner:

Dinner

A delicious dinner is served

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

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

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

Dessert

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

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

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

Success!

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

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

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

Buon Appetito!

 

 

The Hubic Pie Packet picture
Hubig’s Pies Return Next Year!!

Hubig’s Pies are coming back next year!

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Hola, Amigos!

Only an hour after I published my July update post yesterday, I go into the living room and there’s a blip on the news about the return of the old New Orleans favorite, Hubig’s Pies. There is rejoicing in the land tonight.

I wrote about these iconic treats a few years ago, when I was still living in Houston. I think I was looking for something else to blog about. When I stopped traveling around Houston and trying different places, I struggled for new blog topics that were interesting. And, quite frankly, there were times when I just didn’t feel like writing anything.

But I couldn’t believe my luck–I knew I should have waited before I published, but I just wanted to get a quick update out.

The Announcement

Since 2012, people in Louisiana have patiently waited for the return of a beloved hand pie that was available about anywhere for 90 years. Their patience has finally paid off.

In a joint press release, Governor John Bel Edwards and Hubig’s owner Andrew Ramsey announced today that the company would resume producing the famed pies in a new facility in Jefferson Parish, not Orleans parish where the company lived for 90 years.

The State of Louisiana and the Parish of Jefferson offered multiple business incentives, that, apparently, Orleans Parish wouldn’t. But whatever–people are overjoyed, and who cares if they’re made in Jefferson Parish? They plan to use the same recipes, and not change anything, so that should ensure consistency and happiness again.

Not So Fast

However, they note that they don’t have a place yet, but they are working to get one, and get started. Mr. Ramsey was quoted as saying,

“I don’t have a facility yet. I don’t have a place where I can press a button and start making pies,” he said in an interview.

“This (loan guarantee) is a part of the puzzle to get the business back again,” he said. “Everything has been coming together; we’ve had a tremendous amount of support. But I don’t have a timeline yet.”

But after seven years of nothing, this is definitely good news.

The manufacturing equipment they need is going to be highly specialized, so that’s probably going to be their biggest hurdle. The factory will bring something like 30 jobs to the suburban parish, likely in Metairie or Kenner.

Side note: the Govna is from the area where I live. I’ve met a couple of his relatives because I happened to be in town, and BF introduced me. BF actually shook hands with him at a funeral a year or so ago, and went to school with a few of his relatives. The Gov lives here and commutes to Baton Rouge every day, something I thought I’d be doing when I interviewed at LSU in 2016.

There’s more information here in this news story.

What’s The Big Deal About Hubig’s?

In a state that doesn’t always value health and wellness, local food is one of those things that people hold onto and take very seriously.

An Apple Hubig's Pie

An apple Hubig’s pie in all it’s deliciousness.

The Hubig’s Pie affair is bigger than the Twinkies affair, because Hostess pretty much already had a buyer waiting going into bankruptcy court.  But I’m sure Mr. Ramsey has been able to learn from the Twinkies re-set and will be working with new, more agile, manufacturing practices.

Things like king cakes and other regional favorites have become wide spread. As I mentioned originally (and probably a few other times), king cakes are available in bakeries in Texas, and New Orleans bakers ship the cakes nationally. Check your grocery store for “Louisiana” or “New Orleans” foodstuffs, and you’ll find things like Tabasco, Zatarain’s, and maybe even Tony Chachere’s spices. I bought a wide range of things at HEB in Houston, so I know they’re available elsewhere, and online if you know where to look.

But Hubig’s Pies didn’t really make it out of Louisiana. It’s just one of those regional favorites, like kolaches in Texas. They were just always available, in every grocery store, convenience store, truck stop, gas station, and everywhere snacks were sold in the region. When they went away, as I mentioned in the last post, people missed them terribly, and have been asking for them to come back ever since.

The Devotion To Hubig’s Pies

Ladies and Gentlemen, your patience will be rewarded next year. Hubig’s Pies will make Louisiana great again! (I’m sure that’s what they’ll say, anyway.) You’ll be able to buy them online, too. How about that?

One of the perfect Hubig's Pies

This article on NOLA.com (full of garbled code written by a monkey, I presume) details all the ways people have kept the flame burning for Hubig’s Pies. One lady kept a blueberry Hubig’s in her freezer all these years as a souvenir. Another has one sealed up in a plastic freezer bag in her closet. (EEEWWW!!) And as you saw in the last blog post, Mardi Gras costumes abound for people who are waiting for their Hubig’s Pies to return.

There’s even a comment by the Governor himself, speaking at a campaign stop, about his love for the missing pies. I’m guessing he’ll be using that in his re-election platform. Well, let’s face it, wouldn’t you?

Let me reiterate, as stated the first time I wrote about Hubig’s Pies, that there is nothing healthy, sugar-free, or gluten-free about these things. They are, like a lot of Louisiana foods, primarily white flour, sugar, starches, and likely unhealthy oils. Enjoy at your own risk. . .because everyone else here will take that risk once they are being sold again.

I’ll have a small bite of BF’s, just to satisfy my curiosity.

The Divided Dinnertime

Last night was one of those nights where we ate from our “pre-relationship menus.” BF calls things like Hamburger Helper “the pre-Amy menu,” and I referred to the roast chicken leg quarter as one of my “favorite single-girl payday meals.” Because it is, like the perfectly cooked flat iron steak that’s sliced against the grain and laid on top of a crisp salad with lettuce, tomatoes (grape, please), sugar snap peas, maybe some avocado, and a quickly whisked dressing of EVOO and a raspberry vinegar. Oh, and a bit of Celtic of pink Himalayan sea salt to finish it.

I asked why he would make such a thing, and his response was, “Well, you’re always telling me how great Pea & Pesto Soup is, so you can have that tonight.” I found the chicken leg in the freezer next to the ground beef and claimed it as my own.

We’ve been doing that sometimes, when he feels that Hamburger Helper, or a frozen Swanson dinner is just the thing. I’m sticking to the healthiest things I can eat here, which occasionally involves something like rice, which I don’t normally consume. But if it makes him happy, oh, well.

Drag Week

BF and his twin brother are planning to make the pilgrimage this year to Hot Rod Magazine’s annual Drag Week. BF went last year with another of his “car guy” friends, but they were only gone a couple of days. This time, the twin mechanics are planning the entire week of smelling like the exotic scents of car exhaust, motor oil and transmission fluid, as well as eating at various local greasy spoons. For this red-haired foodie, it means:

  • I will be alone and free to be myself for an entire week
  • I can cook and eat whatever I want all week long without criticism, critiquing or fake retching
    • This includes the absence of comments such as, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!”
  • I can watch my own TV and sew as much as I want
  • I can invite over whomever I want, including, but not limited to
    • BF’s brother’s wife and 5-year-old daughter
    • “Car guy” girl JJ, and possibly her daughter if she’s interested
    • Friends J&A who live a couple of miles away; A is one of BF’s collegues, and J is her boyfriend
    • BF’s father who lives up the road (although he won’t come unless there’s an emergency)
    • Anyone else who appreciates gourmet cooking and lives close enough or wants to drive up here
    • Or nobody at all

I’m not planning a dinner party, although I probably could. But as I’ve told BF several times, I’m making plans for my “Drag Week Menu.” I’ll be cooking all manner of delicious, healthy food to enjoy while he’s across the country. The recipes may come from the new cookbooks I’ve bought, too. So what if he can’t say “Braciole?”

Networking

Remember when we went to Mr. Earl’s Barbecue? BF knows Mr. Earl from Drag Week, since he works on these kinds of cars at his shop outside of Baton Rouge. That New Year’s Eve gumbo fest and barbecue event is a yearly thing he does for all his “car guy” friends. (We missed it last year, maybe this year.)

Honestly, Drag Week is a networking event for petrolheads. BF knows so many people from Drag Week, I can’t tell them apart. But they have a great time, make new friends, meet up with old ones (supplemented by Facebook) and have fun while they’re there.

On a basic level, it’s like AWAI’s yearly copywriting Bootcamp. I streamed it live again this year, and I loved it all. But I do wish I could go in person next year. You never know, you might meet an automotive copywriter there!

Until Next Time

I plan on blogging again before too long, honest. Meantime, thanks to everyone who keeps reading my foodie-related rantings with SEO optimization.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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