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think! Chocolate Mousse Pie Keto Bar box
think! Keto Chocolate Mousse Pie Bars

Keto and chocolate do go together!

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

Spring is here, and I’ve got a sweet treat that you may like. It’s especially important if you like chocolate, you’re doing keto, or just want to avoid sugar for whatever reason.

It’s a short post today, with just one or two updates, but I’m working on a couple of longer pieces for upcoming blogs.

Misfits Market Update

Well, after last week’s post on the meat box from Misfits Market, I finally got BF to sit down with me right before the deadline and look at what was being offered. His eyes glazed over, and he said, “this is all for you. There’s nothing really here that I would want. Just order whatever you like.” I didn’t see anything we needed immediately, so I canceled the order, and put my account on hold for a month. Chances are, I’m going to cancel it, but we’ll see in a month. I tried.

Buddy Update

Buddy, AKA “Broccoli, Stir-Fry”, is growing quickly and he’s not getting any better. The weather has been good so I’ve had the windows open to blow out the “aroma.” He still continues to ignore his “puppy” training, so I guess I’ll be spending more time on YouTube.

Buddy the puppy

There he is, the little monster.

One solution that’s been offered I’ll be trying this week. There’s something called Angry Orange, a citrus concentrate that is designed to knockout pet odors quickly. Scented candles are just not working, and even the old reliable BioKleen Isn’t doing the job with this guy. Plus, he’s fast as lightning and doesn’t seem to be getting the hint.

A project manager with one of my agency clients told me about it, and I’ve ordered a bottle of the concentrate type, so that I can make it in a squirt bottle, rather than buying it ready to use. I’ll let you know what happens in a future blog post.

think! Bars

A few years ago, BFF’s sister and brother-in-law, who live in Atlanta, had some of these protein bars called think! (and yes, the spelling is correct.) That’s the company name and the brand name. You may have even seen them and not noticed them. The company make a series of protein bars, that are low in sugar, and are healthier than granola, candy bars, etc. I never noticed them before until I tried one on their weekend visits. The white chocolate berry flavor was also good, but they don’t seem to make it anymore.

think! High Protein Bar, Brownie Crunch packaging

I liked these, too, and I bought them myself for a while until I got a bad one. It was so bad that I never bought them again.

The company makes a variety of different types of protein bars. They also make healthy oatmeal, which I’ve never seen anywhere except on their website, where you can order it yourself.

Even after the hurricane was over, I still referred to them as “hurricane snacks.” Maybe it’s just my dislike for many things, but I just never touched them again after a bad one, and never contacted the company, either. I remember them being about six dollars a box at that time.

Keto Chocolate Mousse

During my last trip to Target, when I saw shortages of cat food, I was walking around in the back of the store where they keep these kinds of things. I wasn’t looking for think! Bars, but there they were. Then I saw something magical:

think! Chocolate Mousse Pie Keto Bar box

These are keto?

Keto. Chocolate. Mousse. What?

These were more expensive, at $6.79 a box. (The price has since increased, which I’ll explain in a minute.) But being the chocolate lover that I am, I bought a box.

I tried one. . .and it was delicious!!

Keto chocolate mousse pie bar from think! in wrapper

Not terribly big

Ruler measuring three inch Keto think! chocolate mousse pie bar

Three inches of tasty

There’s a lot of chocolate flavor in this little bar.

keto chocolate mousse pie bar cut open

Ok, so I didn’t cut it exactly right

The bar has a lightly crunchy texture that bridges the gap between. “diet” and regular candy bars. And it’s really well-made piece of confectionery, in this food blogger’s considered opinion.

What’s it for? A snack, a meal replacement, or something with your coffee, morning or afternoon. I call it a chocolate craving satisfied. It’s sweetened with erythritol, too:

think! keto chocolate mousse bar box list of ingredients

No sugar here.

Where have they been all this time? Apparently think! Keto Chocolate Mousse Bars have been around for quite a while, just not in Louisiana. Maybe because I haven’t bothered to look for them in a couple of years, I never really noticed them. But if you look at the Amazon reviews, you’ll see reviews going back to 2019. My guess is like everything else in Louisiana, it was very slow to get here.

Cost

As I mentioned earlier, I paid $6.79 for a box of these in our Hammond Target. However, when I checked to see if our local Walmart had them, they did. But the cost was considerably more, at $8.06 a box—ouch! Quite a jump from Target. But checking Target’s website now, they have also gone up to $7.99 a box In the week since I’ve been there. Albertsons also carries them at $8.99 a box. I haven’t been to Rouses to check for them.

Yes, inflation.

Once the price of fuel went up, everything else followed because it costs more to ship.

Now I wish I’d bought an extra box at Target, but whatever.

They are always available for order, both from the company’s website, as well as from Amazon. However, because they are chocolate there is the risk of them melting on the trip. If you’re going to order some from either place, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you’ll be home when they’re delivered so that they aren’t left out in the sun for a long period of time.

In the Houston area, Kroger Has these chocolate mousse bars, at a cost of $9.99 a box. Randall’s has them for either $8.99, or $11.99, depending on whether you belong to their membership program. (I’m guessing that’s like. Winn-Dixie’s Rewards program; it’s been a while since I’ve been to Randall’s.) Texas’ favorite H-E-B carries the think! protein bars, but not the keto brand. But you can always make a request to your grocery store to carry them if they don’t already.

Amazon has an entire store of think! Products if you’re interested in researching them there, or buying a case.

Another Treat

Delicious as they are, think! Keto Chocolate Mouse Bars are a pricey treat. They’re probably not something you should add to your regular grocery list, just for an occasional splurge. Unless, of course, you’re trying to impress someone who’s doing keto.

Solution? Start making keto fat bombs and seek out good recipes for them. If you’re not already on Pinterest, you can do a search for fat bomb recipes, or get started here with 50 fat bomb recipes from The Keto Queens. Most are made from basic ingredients and can be customized to your individual taste. I should try making some chocolate raspberry fat bombs one of these days.

Geez, I hope my mention of these homemade treats doesn’t get me on a “watch list” somewhere!

More Healthier Alternatives

As consumers move to keto, they’re looking for more sugar-free and otherwise healthy items. Companies are stepping up to the plate and delivering. And now that barbecue season is here (it never really went away for most of us), you can have your BBQ, stay keto and eat it too.

For a long time, I made my own barbecue sauce from one of Suzanne Somers’s recipes, and it was just grand, but BF wouldn’t eat it. Much as I love BBQ, I had to ask him not to put sauce on mine because of what he used. But one day after I moved here, I discovered that you could buy sugar-free barbecue sauce already made. Then it became a staple at the Casa de Rurale:

G. Hughes Sugarfree Barbecue sauce for keto

Amazingly, I never saw this in Houston, or maybe I never looked.

BF used Sweet Baby Ray’s for many years in his barbecue. This particular concoction is extremely sweet. That’s because the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, the extremely cheap and caloric version of refined sugar that hides in nearly everything Americans eat.

SBR's ingredient list

In fact, most people around here use this and nothing else. I always request that he keep SBRs far away from anything I’m planning to eat, and he does or uses the sugar-free stuff for mine. Eventually, he got used to G. Hughes.

We’ve been buying the G. Hughes Sugar-free Barbecue Sauce for a while, and BF actually likes it. In fact, one day when we were somewhere else having BBQ, the host used Sweet Baby Ray’s.

After having SBR’s for the first time in a while, BF declared that it was “way too sweet.” That was a surprise because he always fussed about using sugar-free barbecue sauce until he discovered it was pretty good. He’s now a convert, and the G. Hughes Smokehouse sugar-free version is our preferred barbecue sauce. We like the Hickory and Mesquite the best, but we’ll buy any of them. They don’t taste “sugar-free,” either. We try to keep at least one or two bottles in the pantry.

 

I discovered the other day in Walmart that the company also has other types of G. Hughes sugar-free condiments that are now available in our little neck of the woods.

sugar-free keto condiments

OOOhhh!!!!

I haven’t tried these but probably will soon.

more sugar-free condiments for keto

Oh, BOY!!

There is also an Amazon store for G. Hughes Sugar-Free products. If I suddenly found myself with a large Amazon gift card, chances are that’s one of the stores I’d visit.

Until Next Time

I know this is a shorter blog post and I normally write, but I’m still working on several ideas for future blog posts. One of them is a “spillover” from my regular client work, and you’ll see what that means when I publish it. Don’t worry, this one isn’t a heavy legal subject, and will be quite tasty as well as interesting (I hope.)

And now that you know that you can find a few more tasty sugar-free treats, your weekend barbecue just got a little bit better.

Happy Dining!

 

Carrots and potatoes in the IP
Pot Roast, Instant Pot Style

Pot Roast in the Instant Pot. Yes, it’s possible for dinner tonight. I tried one from a fellow blogger and it’s pretty good.


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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

So, piggybacking on the last post about the Instant Pot, I’m reporting on a recipe that a), I actually made, and b) BF actually liked.

If you ask him about what he’d like for dinner, the answer is usually “meat & ‘taters.” Just like that. I’ve made many variations on the theme, but this time, it was strict. Pot roast with carrots and potatoes, and one surprise ingredient. Amazingly, for a change, he actually liked it.

Lots to tell, so let’s get started.

RIP Alvin Calhoun

A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be able to introduce you to this nice man when we went to Mr. Earl’s Awesome New Year’s Party:

Alvin Calhoun

The man, the myth, the legend!

Alvin Calhoun made some awesome barbecue, and you would not be looking for sauce, either. (Read the previous post to find out what I mean by that.)

We found out a few days ago that Mr. Calhoun had advanced-stage prostate cancer. He passed away the very next day. His children announced it on Facebook.

BF had tried to contact Mr. Calhoun this week, because he was going to bring some motor parts over to him to work on. That’s when BF found out about it. We had no idea he was ill, nor that he was in ICU at the time. I only got to chant for him once, because I had no idea he needed me to.

Although BF saw him again after the party, I didn’t, but never forgot him. He remembered me (and my red hair) and sent home some delicious ribs and things for us to enjoy for dinner one night. I thanked him later, I think on FB Messenger.

This picture will be printed up and framed soon.

Son Davin Calhoun will continue their company Calhoun Performance that’s based in Baton Rouge.

This was a very nice man, and we are both saddened at the news. Mr. Calhoun was well-liked by so many, and won’t be forgotten. Thank you for the delicious memories, sir.

SPAM!

No, not that stuff in the can–the digital kind.

If you were the unfortunate recipient of this site directing you to one where you “won a prize,” I apologize. Somehow, the site got hacked, but it’s fixed now. Seems that somehow there were extra plugins I wasn’t aware of, but are now gone. The ever-vigilant Banana Rat found them and removed them quickly, and you shouldn’t see that again.

Don’t worry, I changed the website’s password too.

Blue Kitchen

I subscribe to a number of food as well as other types of blogs, many of which I mentioned last time. Blue Kitchen is written by Terry Boyd and his wife Marion, longer than me–since 2006. While my theme is:

Because good food deserves to be passed around.

Terry & Marion’s is:

Good Food. Great Stories. I Swear.

As you’ll read in their About section, when things go off the rails–like they do here–the air “turns blue” with, shall we say, colorful language. It happens more often than I admit to. The Boyds haven’t–to my knowledge–detailed the “blue” thrown about in their kitchen in any blog I’ve seen. Just know that I’m being polite when I don’t discuss what is occasionally said in the HeatCageKitchen. I don’t want to get blocked by my own hosting provider.

Based in St. Louis, Terry describes himself as I do, as an “amateur chef.” There’s the fabulous and complicated recipes you see in books by famous chefs, and then there’s dinner you’re making this evening. Terry and Marion focus on the latter, because you always have time to think about the former another time.

Pot Roast In The Instant Pot

As I alluded to last time, pot roast is one of the things that an Instant Pot, other pressure cooker, or a slow cooker works well to create. The super-heated water cooks things much faster, so even a larger cut will cook in less time. This smaller cut cooks in under an hour if it’s not frozen.

When their post landed in my email, I figured this would be a good thing to try. I have a new habit of *not* telling him what I’m making for dinner, but that eventually backfires.

When I said “pot roast,” BF was interested, so I made some. Unlike Terry & Marion, we are *not* trying to consume less red meat. But this was just right for us and one guest, another car-guy.

Ingredients

The setup

I know, it’s a lot of ingredients. However, much of it goes into seasoning the meat ahead of time.

So I bought a big roast and cut it in half. One half is still in the freezer.

Whole roast

Just about three pounds of meat.

Cut it in half and freeze the other:

two halves one in a freezer bag

Just like that.

Now season it.

Making The Dry Rub

Just like barbecue, there’s a dry-rub involved.

Dry rub ingredients

Measure and mix

Note that this is onion and garlic POWDER, not SALT. Big difference, and you’ll notice it if you make that mistake. Mix them up:

Mixed dry rub

Real simple to do

Now just sprinkle it on:

Seasoning roast

Quick and easy

Don’t forget the other side, of course.

Terry says you’ll have more seasoning than you need, but I ended up using the whole thing. That’s OK. Onto the next step.

Liquid Ingredients

As I always say, READ THE RECIPE FIRST. Always. Or your kitchen will be turning blue as well. Ask me how I know.

So I measured all the liquids first:

Mixing liquid ingredients

It’s one of those “mis en place” prep things that makes it easier when cooking

Yes, that’s actually fish sauce, and yes, I used it. Obviously, it’s not much. That bottle is in that place in the fridge where BF won’t see it.

Chop Your Veg

And get everything ready for the pot.

Garlic doodad

Don’t forget the garlic!

Potatoes, of course;

Peeling potato for pot roast

I peeled a bunch of these little red potatoes

Chopped potatoes

Cut them into bits

 

potatoes in water

And put them here.

There’s also some onion involved:

Chopped onion

Like you’d expect in a pot roast.

Now on with the show!

Cooking The Pot Roast

Using the saute’ function, heat the oil:

heating oil in instant pot

Just like that

Now sear the meat on both sides:

Searing meat

Side one

Flip it:

Flip side of pot roast in instant pot

Now the other

Take out the roast and set it aside on a plate (and in the microwave if you have hungry dogs.) Now cook the onion and garlic, adding more oil if you need it.

Cooking onion

Cook it long enough to come out like this:

Cooked onion

Like that

Add the garlic in right at the end:

Adding garlic into IP

That’s the garlic we chopped earlier

Once the veg is cooked, shut off the saute’ function. Add in the liquids, which I mixed in the big cup to add at once:

Liquids added to instant pot

Deglazing the pot

Scrape the browned bits off the bottom–that’s where the flavor is. Now add the pot roast, the bay leaves, and any liquid on the plate into the IP:

Adding pot roast back into pot

Just like that.

Finish the Pot Roast

Now add the carrots and potatoes:

Carrots and potatoes in the IP

Lookng more like a pot roast, isn’t it?

Use the pressure cook function to cook it for 40 minutes. When the cooking is done, leave it alone for ten minutes and then pop the pressure out.

Of course, I had company and forgot to take a picture of the end result. But if you read Terry’s page, you’ll see the finished product.

Marion describes the beautiful platter it’s presented on. I just took out the pot and brought it to the table. It was gobbled in short order, and there is one more “winner” recipe I can use.

Mississippi Pot Roast

When discussing “pot roast” and “Instant Pot” together, you will probably hear about a recipe called “Mississippi Pot Roast.” There are multiple variations of this recipe from wherever you find it, including:

 

I have no idea if this is any kind of “Mississippi authentic.” Never lived in Mississippi and never heard of it until people started telling me about the IP. The thing is, these recipes all have one thing in common: pickles or pickled peppers.

And as I’ve mentioned before, that’s the one thing BF hates.

Serve him anything sour, tart, with lemon or lime, vinegar, sour cream, or tastes anything like pickles is an absolute “no” vote, every time. That lentil salad I made in Houston? He said if I’d served that on a first date, there wouldn’t have been a second one. (Had I known this. . . .) If he goes to a drive-through window and gets a burger, he requests “no pickles.” Frequently, he gets them anyway or the pickles were removed later and he can still taste them.

I told him last night that if his IP-enthusiast sister-in-law brought up MS pot roast yet again, he now had a reason to tell her “no thanks.”

In Terry’s version, there aren’t any pickle-y things. The fish sauce is very mild, it’s a small amount, so it’s not “fishy tasting.” That’s why I knew this would work.

Real Texas Chili In The Instant Pot

Last weekend I also used the IP for some real Texas chili.

Texas Granola Girl, to whom I also subscribe, has a recipe for Texas Keto Venison Chili on her website. (I have her book, and will review it soon.) I’d forgotten about it, and when I found the ground deer meat in the freezer, I remembered it. (Even commented on it, if you scroll far enough.) Well, I made it last weekend. And I liked it, he didn’t–no beans. I’ll have it all week.

First alteration: I cooked it in the IP for 20 minutes. Perfect.

Second alteration: NO BEER. It’s awful if you don’t actually like beer. I just addeed three cups of organic bone broth instead. Everything else was the same, half ground venison and half ground beef. No beans. 

And BF didn’t like it, because it’s not what he thinks is “real chili.” I’ll explain.

Define “Chili.”

Last year, we went to BF’s Dad’s place up the road, where they were making what they called “chili.” They’ve been making it the same way since he was a kid.

What “chili” means to BF is some browned ground beef, a couple cans of locally produced red beans, (of course) and a packet of this rubbish from McCormick. It contains–what?–WHEAT FLOUR. Why?

To “pump up” the flavor even more, his Dad added BEER. (It wasn’t a fancy pilsner, either–it was cheap Michelob Light.) People here do not realize that beer is made from wheat. I always hope that when I tell people I don’t eat wheat that they mention it. But I nearly always get ignored, even when we go out to dinner.

When I questioned the chili’s unusual taste, I was told, “it’s beer; that’s his ‘secret’ ingredient.” Had no idea beforehand, or I would have had dinner at home. Thank heavens I had plenty of Tums on hand.

I just don’t eat over there anymore because I don’t like being sick all night. It happens way too often.

McCormick actually makes this organic version that is gluten-free. We’ve bought it many times, but of course, now we can’t find it locally anymore. He insists that making our own chili and taco seasoning isn’t as good as the packets.

I used to enjoy cooking.

Until Next Time

Alternately, you could let this slow cook all day and come home to a nice dinner, but the veg might be a bit mushy. Cooking becomes easier once you get used to using the Instant Pot. I’m always looking for new ways to make dinner, and this one happened to fit the bill.

Oh, and if you like eggplant, Terry & Marion’s latest post is all about it. YUCK! You can have mine, and BF’s too.  

Whatever’s for dinner, Enjoy!

Mr. Earl’s Year-End Party With Barbecue

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.

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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.

French Press coffee pot with milk, cup and sweetener

Office coffee, Amy Style

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:

barbecue

Are you kidding me?

This is not a joke:

Nothin’ but love? No kidding–sounds like a whole lot of nothing. Yuck!

If you think that’s healthy. . .no, seriously, it’s not. And it isn’t cheap, either.

Price Tag for Vegan Jerkey, $6.99 a bag

Seriously?

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.

Sweet little angels

These two were just all over the place:

They hadn’t yet learned to use a keyboard, thank heavens.

It subjected me to an adverse environment:

barbecue

How am I supposed to work under these conditions?

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.

Pitbull and kitten standoff

Standoff!

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.

Road Selfies

barbecue

Do you like this one?

barbecue

Or this one? (BF liked this one better.)

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.

Now you’re cooking with gas!

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.

Chicken

Dropped right into the pot.

And rice to go with the gumbo:

Very old rice or slow cooker iwth the namem Ada on it.

Any idea how old this is?

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!

The Shop

Remember, this is an auto repair shop, not a professional kitchen.

Food stacked on the lift

Food on the lift!

 

guys in the shop

Hungry men ready for gumbo, barbecue, and anything else that was tasty

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.

Guys standing in the garage door opening

A friendly crowd

So, some of the things we saw when we walked in:

Strawberry cake at the barbecue

Isn’t it pretty?

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:

7 layer dip

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:

 

Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Bundles at the Barbecue

They tasted better than they looked. I couldn’t stop.

Being garage guys, you know there are:

Donuts

Donuts!

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:

Alvin Calhoun

The man, the myth, the legend!

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.

Baby back ribs on a barbecue grill

Waiting for the baby back ribs

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.

Screwdriver barbecue tool

That’s not actually a screwdriver. . . .

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.

The temperature at which the barbecue is cooking

While these were cooking, we had a nice chat:

 

Ribs cooking on the grill

Still cooking

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.

The Moment Of Truth

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.

Cooked barbecue ribs in a pan

YUM.

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:

Gumbo

Now you’re cooking with gas!

I didn’t have any, because I’m not a gumbo fan, but BF was all over it.

And then, FRIED TURKEY

fried turkey

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.)

turkey going into the hot pot

Turkey goes into the pot

They used peanut oil (I think) because of the high smoke point:

Turkey cooking in very hot oil

Bubble, bubble, toil & trouble. . . .

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:

Fried turkey done

Done!

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.

Old Car

Right this way, Miss O’Donnell. . .

This ancient vehicle is a mid-1930’s Pontiac, so says BF. Someone actually drove this to Mr. Earl’s place, no kidding.

Plymouth close up

This is a closeup of the hood

 

Plymouth steering wheel

Yes, you can drive it on the roads, it’s legal

But something tells me it’s not completely finished.

Pontiac interior passenger side

Maybe one day

Pop the hood:

Open hood on purple truck

Under the hood of this classic

This is ACTUALLY what Mr. Earl does the rest of the year.

There were other project cars in various stages of completion, too.

old sedan

This lovely old thing was LOUD!

All these cars, all while there was cooking and barbecue going on.

Now this one was particularly interesting:

orange car at barbecue

Isn’t it a beauty?

 

Chute bags on the back of a car.

These are the chutes that deploy at the end of the race to stop the car, but it also has brakes.

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 Gift Car

The Gift

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.

The Schexnayder family and the new race car for their father.

That’s the elder Mr. Earl with the plaid shirt on

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:

Field across the street from Schexnayder Racing

The view from Mr. Earl’s shop parking lot.

How’d you like to drive this one?

Silver Firebird with black roof

Well, hello there.

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.

Coming Soon

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!

 

 

Blasts from the Past

Good evening, Dear Readers:

This being Memorial Day weekend, many people are getting ready for the first official holiday of summer–even if they’re still dealing with Old Man Winter. Sorry about that!

I’ve had an up-and-down week, and now I’m a bit cranky. While I was happy about the six interviews I had this week with some good feedback, yesterday my browser crashed, and I had to install something else. A couple of other things have gone wrong, making it worse. Then I went looking for something and could NOT find it no matter how hard I tried. But I found it today, just in time for summer.

Please remember that Memorial Day is not about cookouts, beach trips and parties. It’s a remembrance for the service men and women who have fought and died on behalf of America. While there isn’t anything wrong with having a barbecue, the real meaning of the “day off” is somber. There are a number of men and women who didn’t come home, and many more who are stationed overseas and won’t be able to make that barbecue. While I do occasionally comment on Facebook that I love the Marines–and I do–the day is not just a “day off.” Thank you to all the US service personnel who work everyday for the defense and betterment of this country.

Now, if you are planning a barbecue, I can offer a little something–a quick-to-make barbecue rub from the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine, August 2002. (I kept thinking it was earlier in the year.) It wasn’t in the recipe section–it was a Good Thing, so that recipe wasn’t on the website (not that I could find.)

Me and the GER had started dating, and we were doing the entertaining at each other’s place. He used a barbecue rub that had sugar in it, and while I consumed it, I was lucky enough to find this recipe for the next barbecue. I have been making it every since, and always have some in the pantry. In a bowl, combine the following:

  • 1 cup chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Keep it in an airtight container at room temperature.

This rub is not hot, and best of all–no sugar or weird chemicals! It gives a wonderful smoky flavor to beef, chicken, pork (especially baby-back ribs) or anything you want to put on the grill. Don’t know what it would do to, say, pineapple wedges, but that’s your call if you’re of a mind to do that. Couple it with some sugar-free barbecue sauce and you’re in business.

After I’d moved in his house, though, for one 4th of July I’d bought some baby-back ribs at Central Market, did the rub and sugar-free barbecue sauce, and he said they were the best ribs he’d ever had! Of course, he also asked me to get some sausages while I was at CM, and I got some of their delicious chicken sausages, which he in turn burned to a crisp. GRRRRRR. . . .

Yes, it’s good. Even the GER likes it. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do the barbecue thing, but if I do, I’m just going to get some chicken leg quarters and put them in the toaster oven, even though I have an Old Smokey charcoal grill. It’s great, I just don’t feel like messing with it. Maybe for the 4th of July.

I also happen to have some fresh thyme, so I want to use it to make more of this stuff. The rub lasts forever, long as you keep it in that airtight container.

Now from another blast from my past. Don’t worry, it’s not an ex-husband. That’s a different blog, right?  🙂

When you’re unemployed, you have a lot of time to think. This can be an asset or a liability, especially when you’re on your own. Recently I signed up for a free month of Amazon Prime. I needed something, and with the free shipping it was cheap.  This week that trial period ended, and yes, I remembered to cancel it–I put a reminder on my calendar. Gone until the next time I can sign up for it–like, when I need something with free shipping. Might be a while.

This week I remembered a cookbook I bought when it was new, and wondered if it was even available. Well, surprise, it sure is. My original 1982 copy was falling apart and really beat up, and I tossed it. Today its replacement arrived. It’s got a bit of cover wear, but the pages are clean and the binding is tight. Almost new, and for $4, and no shipping, it was definitely a bargain.

The old book is called The 20-Minute Natural Foods Cookbook by Sharon Claessens. It was one of the first cookbooks I ever owned, and when it was new I was married about a year. . .the first time. Ms. Claessens actually had several cookbooks in the 1980s, and one in 1997. I had this one and her 1985 Lose Weight Naturally Cookbook, which I used until the mid-90’s, when someone asked me for it and I never saw it again; I probably gave it to her, I don’t remember. I had some favorite recipes in that one, but I’m not buying it again.

No, I’m not on an 80’s kick. While I do listen to online radio stations (i.e. Pandora, iHeartRadio) that feature 80’s music, I also listen to classical piano, jazz piano and smooth jazz. While I’m driving, it could be any toe-tapping stuff, but mostly Def Leppard and The Monkees. I don’t want to fall asleep, either.

See, my parents were avid readers of Prevention magazine, back when it was about health and wellness, and didn’t have many pictures in it. I subscribed and loved it, but I dropped my subscription about 1999, when it was clear the magazine became more about prescription drugs than actual health and wellness and the recipes were becoming awful–frozen hash browns and canned salmon? (They now have a sex column, but nearly every magazine does, except Martha Stewart’s magazines. For now.) But I got on Rodale’s main mailing list, and I got every mailer for every new book out there; never mind how many I bought, and some, I still have.

This book I received today was a favorite, even though many of the recipes use a lot of bread and wheat flour. Pita bread is, far as I know, normally white bread, and in the early 80’s, well, healthy ingredients were difficult to find, especially in New Orleans. Whole Foods was a little bitty store in the French Quarter the size of a 7-11. I don’t remember how I finally found something called agar-agar, which also goes by another name I can’t remember. That’s a vegetable gelatin used to thicken up stuff in a number of her recipes. I was so happy the day I found it, and made that Blueberry Peach Pie on page 110, or the beautiful Strawberry Pie on 111 that’s pictured on the front cover.

Now, what to do about the Prebaked Granola Shell that goes under the pie? Well, I think since it’s only a half cup of whole wheat flour, I can likely replace it with ground flaxseeds and have much the same result. Maybe I’ll try it this summer–assuming I can find agar-agar, or whatever it’s alternately called. It’s available in health food stores and Asian groceries. I have a health food store nearby in Nassau Bay, and a Hong Kong Market about 10 miles in the other direction. There are a myriad of health food stores in Houston, I’m sure someone knows what it is. When I get ambitious enough to make this again, I’ll go looking for it. Right now. . .nah. Even though the fruit part of the pie is really delicious.

I think I can Wheat Belly-up some of the recipes that call for flour. Maybe not all, but some. But that’s why I have Dr. Davis’ books.

Irony alert: Rodale also publishes Wheat Belly.

I should point out that there are no pictures IN this historical, 32-year old book like cookbooks you buy now. There is a (dated) picture of the author on the front cover with the Strawberry Pie, some stuffed bell peppers, some drinks (I’m guessing the Citrus Medley on page 102), roasted chickens, bread, muffins, and some assorted green stuff. It’s a very plain layout with recipes divided by type, preparation time and meal (breakfast, lunch, etc.) Some are 20 minutes or less, like the Pineapple Frappe, some take longer, like soaking beans or baking bread.

I made the Lemon Squares on page 165 many times, and to this day, Neighbor K saves me one when they are leftover from an activity at work. Granted, the ones Ina Garten makes are good, too, but this recipe was. . .my first. However, I’ve never made that Walnut and Raisin Pie on page 164.

Mark Bricklin was the Executive Editor of Prevention at the time, and he described the changing times that were happening.

Wait–what’s a typewriter, again?

Because stay-at-home women were becoming less common, healthy, home cooking was becoming less of a reality. From the foreward: “There must be a better way, we think every night, but the solution seems forever to elude us.” This book, Mr. Bricklin opines, is “the ‘better way’ we have all been seeking. It is a bridge between the reality of our frenzied lifestyle and the ideal of honest, natural foods that taste good and are good for us.”

Mark Bricklin still writes for Prevention, too, but I only found one article on the website. He’s promoting the idea that diabetics should avoid fat, but doesn’t say anything about the very starchy white-flour buns that you get in a fast-food place. DUH–diabetics need to watch their SUGAR, and that bun is basically a sugar overload. I see nothing’s changed much there.

OK, enough of that. . . .

Some of my favorite recipes included Pineapple Chicken Mozambique, which is also on the back cover of the book, and Chicken with Cashews and Snow Peas. Another favorite is Spaghetti with Garlic Salmon Sauce, which is how I started buying canned salmon. Mind you, it was REALLY expensive back in those days, like $5 or more or so a can. It also calls for red salmon, as I am noticing, but I’ve always bought pink salmon in the can, especially since it’s like $2 or $3 now. . Add 3/4 pound of whole wheat spaghetti, egg, parsley, olive oil and 10 cloves of garlic, and you’re ready to fight off vampires. Actually the garlic isn’t strong since you cook it first, and you don’t crush it. Maybe I’ll make it again soon for old times’ sake with some gluten-free pasta.

Oh, I remember this one, Turkey with Peppers and Tomatoes. I made that once for The E Man, and I called it “Wild Turkey Surprise.” I couldn’t resist. Maybe I’ll make that again sometime, maybe for lunch, or when the GER comes over for dinner. Maybe I’ll tell him it’s “Wild Turkey Surprise, too.” And –guess what? It’s gluten free!! Oh, wait, no it isn’t–you dredge the pounded turkey breast in the flour. OK, use something else, like almond flour, garbanzo bean flour or regular gluten-free flour, and now it’s gluten free.

I never tried something called “Creamed Tuna and Peas,” and all these years later, I still won’t. Anything called “creamed,” no thanks.

I also learned to make mayonnaise with this book, although today I prefer Suzanne Somers’ recipe in her first cookbook. There are many recipes for sauces, dressings, side dishes, desserts, and make-ahead stuff like brown rice and cooking beans.

Since it’s getting on summer, here’s another blueberry recipe I liked from page 110.

Blue Gingham Yogurt Delight (Makes 2 servings)

  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup blueberies
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash of grated nutmeg
  1. Place chilled yogurt in serving bowl. Wash and add blueberries.
  2. Quarter banana lengthwise, then slice into bowl. Pieces should be similar in size to the blueberries.
  3. Add honey and vanilla, and stir to combine. Dust with a little nutmeg and serve

What to make first? I dunno–whatever I feel like making that uses ingredients I have already.

This book has over 300 kitchen-tested recipes that are simple, pretty healthy, and most that I’ve ever enjoyed are also tasty. Sure, it’s old, but when you just want some food, do you care how old the recipe is?

That’s all for tonight. Please have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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