Are you a coffee-on-the-go drinker? Have you seen the new Barista Cup yet? Let me tell you about it.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’m sorry that it’s been so long. There’s been a lot going on around here, and now it’s summer. But piggybacking off my last post, I would like to continue the coffee thing with something that will make nearly any coffee drinker very happy.
Still On Strike (Sort Of)
Although I have cooked some food for the both of us, mostly, me and BF generally do not eat the same thing much anymore. It makes him happy to eat frozen pizza, and I’m at the point where I just say go for it.
However, recently after one of our discussions of food, I decided that I would make myself something delicious. Remember the sweet potato sheet pan dinner?
I told him that I was making it for myself, and that he was not welcome to try it. However, when he saw the amount of bacon that was involved, he was willing to overlook anything else. Asparagus is one of those things that he “knows” that he doesn’t like, because he had it one time at his friend’s house. This is a friend who is a car guy and also fancies himself a chef. Clearly, he isn’t. But I don’t say much, and I really don’t like him. (We’re not invited over anymore for whatever he’s grilling anyway, so that’s a good thing.)
Well, because this dish is roasted a high temperature for quite a time, the asparagus also gets nicely roasted. Guess what? Turns out the BF actually likes roasted asparagus. Who the heck knew this would happen?
I think we must’ve used too much bacon, because I used to make it in the toaster oven. This time, we had to put it on a bigger sheet pan in the big oven. That’s OK, we ate it more than once, happily. And now this asparagus-hating BF is one who will happily eat it, as long as it’s roasted.
Gazpacho Soup Is Served Cold
You may have heard of this soup, a cold tomato concoction that’s usually served as a starter. If you haven’t tried it, well, I have, finally.
What you may not of heard of, especially if you don’t hang around me for a long period of time, is an old British TV show called Red Dwarf. I’ve written about it before, and it’s been on the air intermittently for about 30 years now, with the 12th season wrapped up a couple of years ago. It used to be on PBS and BBC America, but it’s now just for the British and for die-hard Americans who love it. (The entire series runs on the paid streaming service Britbox and Amazon Prime Video.)
In one of the early episodes of Red Dwarf , (I think it’s series 1, might be series 2) there was a reference to Gazpacho. One of the characters, Arnold J. Rimmer, is a hologram of one of the dead crew members. At the time of the accident, his last dying words were “Gazpacho soup.” The last living human alive, Dave Lister, found out about it, insisted on knowing why, and deviously got a confession.
He Didn’t Know
It turns out that Rimmer was once invited to have dinner at the Captain’s table, and Gazpacho was served as a starter. However, Rimmer took one taste of this cold concoction, and called up the shelf and demand that he take it back into the kitchen and heat it. During the period all of his dining companions were laughing at him while he ate his piping hot Gazpacho. Because why? He had no idea that “Gazpacho soup was served cold,” and nobody told him. He never ate at the Captain’s table again, leading him to believe that that was the end of his career, and he would never progress past being a chicken soup vending machine repair man, second class.
You can watch the interchange here on YouTube. It’s frat-boy kind of humor from 30 years ago, and you should use your own discretion if you decide to watch it at work. Depending on your company, it might invite the ire of your IT Security people if their parameters are set high. If you’re not sure, wait until you get home, or watch it on your own smartphone.
Why Do I Mention This?
One recent Saturday morning while sewing, I was watching the Barefoot Contessa make some food for a weekend barbecue. One of the things she made was this Gazpacho soup with goat cheese croutons. It was really simple, and everything was done in the food processor. First words out of my mouth were, “Gazpacho soup is served cold.” It’s a knee-jerk reaction. And then I realize, in all the years I’ve been cooking, I’ve never made Gazpacho. I don’t know why, I just never did. So, I went to Walmart, got a few ingredients, came home and made it.
Then I tried it, and asked myself, “why have I never made this before?” It taste like fresh salsa!
Please, promise me this summer that you will make this very simple and delicious recipe for Gazpacho. I’m going to make my fourth batch this week, and eat it every day. Why, in the middle of summer, wouldn’t you?
I will point out that I did not make the goat cheese croutons, primarily because I don’t eat bread, and because I know that I would never hear the end of it from BF. He has not touched the Gazpacho, and I told him that this was not for him either. I actually think he would like it, but I don’t want him touching it, anyway. If he likes it, I’ll never be able to keep it around.
The Barista Cup
So, a funny thing happened after a recent blog post. This is what happens when you practice SEO backlinking.
After I told you about Nick Usborne of Coffee Detective, and his discovery of the new Barista cup, I got an email from Elaine in the company’s marketing department. She had one question: would you like to try one?
Seriously? <Insert smiley face here>
Here’s the deal: they send me a barista cup to try out for myself and write a blog post in return with a review. I can handle that!
I was more than surprised when I got her email. In fact, I was wondering if it was a scam email. But when I did a little checking, I discovered that yes, indeed, she was telling the truth and she really was who she said she was. I sent my address so that she could send me the cup. Because the team was busy with two conferences in Europe, she said, it might be a while before I saw it. That’s OK – I just said thank you.
There were a few delays, so I emailed Elaine for an update a month or so later, and she sent it by UPS. With everything that she had going on, I certainly didn’t mind the wait and wasn’t going to complain.
The Cup Arrives
One thing I did request was anything but camouflage. There’s enough of BF’s stuff from years his in the military in this house that I don’t really need my coffee cup to blend in so I can’t find it. Besides, things get lost in the vortex around here if you’re not careful. And, as I always say, I don’t do cammo. I mean, unless I’m in a situation where I need to blend into the forest or something, I just really don’t need it. Elaine was happy to comply with my request and sent me the Komodo Dragon style, which Is a lovely blue slate color.
This box is perfect for gift-giving with just a tag, isn’t it?
There are a number of styles available, including camo, so there is something for just about everyone. If you like your camo, have at it–you can tote your coffee around in it.
So what’s it like to use? Well, it’s pretty straightforward. Like anything else, it’s simple as soon as you read the directions.
The cup comes in three parts, and there are two gaskets involved to keep liquid from leaking out of it.
That cup sleeve is actually heavy silicone–but it feels like a rubber tire. No kidding. Super thick, keeps your fingers and hands from getting burned, and lets everyone know what kind of cup that is.
And here is something that I’ve never seen on a travel cup before: a little drain screen to keep you from drinking the grounds with the coffee. That alone is an improvement over any other coffee cup out there.
After you wash it completely, the process is simple. Boil your water, pour it in first:
Then add your coffee, sweetener, milk, or anything else you like in your coffee. Stir up a little, carefully, and then carefully screw the lid on.
And this is what you get:
Now you see why the screen in the cup is so handy. You don’t ingest that at all. Again–genius!
One thing you’ll have to be careful of is not to overfill the cup. The cup lid screws on, doesn’t pop on and off. Therefore, there has to be a little bit more room to allow for that. I say this, because I’ve done it. And yes, I have spilled coffee on the counter. Fortunately, I have a very plentiful supply of dish towels.
Honestly, it’s almost like instant coffee, but tastes much better. Once you put the lid on, you can take your barista cup anywhere you want. I could have used one of these when I was working, especially at Boeing, where I was one of the few decaf drinkers. I had a French press on my desk, after seeing one of the executives have one in his office. But then I joined the coffee club, and we always had decaf coffee brewed. And of course, I had to put up with comments about “wussy coffee.” But that’s OK, I could have good coffee anytime I wanted it.
Barista Cup vs. French Press
Aficionados of the French press know that it’s a great way to make coffee, it’s ecologically friendly, and the coffee really tastes good. I still have several, and use them occasionally. However, the Barista Cup eliminates the pot part. In other words, instead of making your coffee in a pot, then pouring it into a cup, you just make the coffee in the cup. You only wash one cup, instead of a pot and a cup.
Another benefit to the Barista cup is that your coffee is always fresh. Unless you like making coffee in your regular coffee pot, the coffee will not sit around for any length of time. You’ll be making a fresh cup for each cup of your coffee.
Better Than A Pod
If you’re thinking, “But I have one of those K machines,” I bet you didn’t know that those little plastic pods are almost impossible to recycle. I know that Nespresso does the recycling thing, but the plastic K-cups are not recyclable. In fact, I found out recently that the man who invented the Keurig wished he hadn’t done it. Why? Because of the un-recyclable pods. I’ve never bought one, because I don’t like the extra trash.
Look, I’m all for new inventions and free market capitalism. But just because you can invent something, doesn’t mean we need it. Sure, the K-thing is a great convenience and makes great coffee. But the environmental impact is another matter altogether.
The Barista Cup makes great coffee, quickly, fresh every time, with whatever kind of coffee you want, and eliminates those extra little cups, too.
No, I’m not environmentalist. I just hate all that needless extra trash going to landfills.
Another advantage is that there are no filters to wash or throw away. The filter is built into the part of the cup where you drink, so you won’t adjust them. There are no other filters involved. You just empty the grounds out into your compost bin, or your trashcan if you don’t compost.
Note: if you work in the Boeing building, please do not put your grounds down the sink drain. You’ll stop up the drain and upset a number of people if you do.
OK, you knew there had to be a downside of this cup well, I don’t really see them as a “downside,” but some of you might.
- If you start using the Barista Cup instead of your regular coffee maker, your coffee maker might feel neglected and start to complain. I do use our regular coffee pot, a small 4 cup model, when I haven’t washed the Barista Cup. But in all seriousness, your regular coffee pot may feel a bit neglected, and you may wonder why you have it after a while.
- If you’re accustomed to having a cuppa coffee waiting for you right after your alarm clock goes off and you stumble into the kitchen, having to make coffee “from scratch” may be a bit of an issue for you. After all, the purpose of having a timed coffee pot that has your coffee ready at a certain time is because you are incoherent and are very morning challenged. If this is you, you may choose to have your regular coffee pot make your 1st cup of coffee, and the Barista Cup to make the coffee that you take on the way out the door. There’s no waiting, because you literally put everything in the cup at one time. So it’s certainly a win-win situation, not really a downside.
Like Nick Usborne mentioned, think about all the coffee machines that go into landfills. The electronic parts that go into it, and the plastic that may never biodegrade. This is definitely an improvement from all the stuff that can be slowly eliminated and left out of landfills, especially the little cups.
Where Can I Get One?
So far, the Barista Cup is only available on their website. The cup is $25, and honestly, I was planning on buying myself one anyway, because it just looks like such a cool thing. It really is, and it’s worth the money you spend for it. Highly recommended.
When you buy your barista cup, it comes in a beautiful circular box:
Inside the box is, of course, your cup, plus a replacement gasket for the bottom portion. The instructions, of course, as well as three packets of their own coffee.
I’ve tried the coffee, and it is very good. However, because it’s regular coffee, it’s a little too strong for me, so I’ll have to stick with my decaf. I have not seen anywhere about the coffee is available for sale, but that may be coming later. (Then again, I may have missed it on the website.)
The Barista Cup As A Gift
So now it’s the middle of June, and we are smack dab in the middle of wedding season. If you know two coffee lovers that are getting married, this would be a great shower or wedding gift. A pair of these cups in their favorite individual colors, with a pound or two of their favorite coffee, would make a great shower or wedding gift. It would also be a great gift for any coffee lover’s birthday, any time of year.
It maybe too late to get a graduation present for someone going to college, but if you haven’t gotten a gift yet, this is an excellent time to do so. You have time to get it before they head off to classes in the fall, especially if they’re going to be doing the dorm room thing.
And if you’re the coffee lover, there’s never a bad reason to order yourself one, right?
Washing The Cup
OK, I saw one issue: the bottom of the cup says “dishwasher safe,” but the instructions say, “hand wash only.” Who’s right?
I asked Elaine to clarify, and she said that although it’s “top rack dishwasher safe,” the design may not last in the dishwasher. She recommends hand-washing, which isn’t difficult at all once you empty out the grounds. (It wouldn’t fit in the top rack of my countertop dishwasher, anyway.)
Also, I caution you not to lose the gasket out of the top of the cup, which will quietly fall out if you bang it in the trash can to remove the grounds. You’ll see what I’m talking about if it happens–that thin piece of black rubber keeps it from leaking while you drink. That is, if you screw the top on correctly. . .never mind how I know this.
I Love The Barista Cup!
Honestly, when I see something like this, I wonder: why hasn’t someone thought of this before? But we have it now, so what’s enjoy it now. It really is “a coffee machine in a cup,” and you just need hot water.
To be fair and give full disclosure, I really was graciously sent this cup in order to try it out and write a review. Like Nick Osborne says, it does the job they say it will do, you’ll use a bit less coffee, and it’s a good thing. (I would tell you if it wasn’t.) So I really can’t say anything bad about The Barista Cup, even with the “downsides” I mentioned earlier.
Many thanks to Elaine at The Barista Cup for finding my blog and offering me the chance to try this cup. I highly recommend it. And a special thank you to the gentleman who invented it, Aziz Patel, who just wanted a better way to make a cup of coffee while reducing waste in the process.
As Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing. Just heard my kettle boil. . . .
What do you do when you want a coffee but don’t know where to go? Ask someone. I found a new coffee spot I like, French Truck Coffee. It’s a two-block walk from the SGI-USA Community Center, although there are multiple locations. Boy, I’m glad I asked!
Hello, Again, Dear Readers:
Here’s another post about coffee–good coffee. If you’re like BF and don’t drink it, well, pass it along to someone who does. Especially if they’re heading to New Orleans anytime soon.
Y’all, last week I’d had about enough of it. I told BF I would no longer cook for him, and so far, I haven’t. I made the Citrus Spice Chicken recipe I covered a few years ago, but I shouldn’t have bothered. BF didn’t like it–said it tasted “sour.”
Oh, and to make matters worse, he also wouldn’t try cauliflower rice I’d made with it. I blitzed up a whole, organic cauliflower in a food processor, and cooked it in a big cast iron skillet with butter, olive oil and the Paula Deen House Seasoning I make and keep around–delicious. Nope–wouldn’t touch it, even after telling me, “I’ll try anything you make.” I reminded him of this, and he was undeterred.
He barely ate the Knorr “four cheese risotto” from a package that isn’t a real risotto, because it doesn’t have arborio rice. (I’ve made risotto before.) I called it “cheesy rice,” and the dogs ate most of it.
After that incident, I haven’t cooked anything for him since. Nada. Nuffin’. He ate a bowl of cereal last night, and has cooked food once. Last time he made “red beans and rice,” with red beans from cans, I took a taste and was unimpressed. (I will eat it occasionally, just to be nice, and he puts sausage in it.) When he wasn’t looking, I grabbed that bottle of Tabasco Sriracha Sauce from the pantry, opened it, and went once around the pot. Mixed it in really well. It was about a tablespoon, I think, in that big pot. Now THAT tasted good!
I know, I know. . .but I’m on strike for a while, darnit.
Coffee In The Crescent City
One of the many things I always told people in Houston is that if they were going to New Orleans, don’t go to Starbucks for a coffee if you can help it. Find a local coffee chain–any one will do–and go there. Much as I’m a fan of Starbucks, local chains like PJ’s Coffee and CC’s Coffee (Community Coffee’s retail chain) are even better. (I also discovered that there is a PJ’s in the Conroe Medical Center, north of Houston. That was a surprise.)
Another place is Orleans Coffee, where I’ve ordered delicious flavored decaf coffee from many times while I lived in Texas. (Because decaf chocolate raspberry is hard to find.) They used to have a little cafe in the Quarter, but after Katrina and all that, they now have two cafes, and I don’t know where they are.
Well, I found another one, and I was able to visit again before the April activity.
When I go to New Orleans for a Buddhist activity, I leave as early as I can, at least 90 minutes before I want to be there. That way, if there’s traffic, or a diversion, I have time. Sometimes I hit Trader Joe’s for non-perishable items before the meeting, then head elsewhere after the meeting.
For the November activity, the E Man told me to do my shopping afterwards this particular Sunday, not before. The Saints were having a game, and some kind of tailgating thing, so it would be better to get there early and shop later.
I get off the freeway at the St. Charles exit, and I’m more than an hour early. Driving a little on St. Charles in a half-ton pickup is a bit of a pain (I miss my Saturn.) So I park it and ask one of the guys outside where to get a coffee. Known as “Soka Group,” they’re the guys that hang around outside and help with traffic management and getting people inside safely. Since it was looking like rain this particular day, they’re armed with umbrellas.
He looks up on his phone and tells me that there’s a shop about a two-block walk from the SGI-USA Community Center via Erato Street. I don’t quite know where I’m going, so I’m walking cautiously in my flats with my purse tightly under my arm. (It’s November, so of course, it’s warm this day in NOLA.)
But it wasn’t that far. I carefully crossed the street twice, and saw this on Magazine Street:
Neat little place. I walked in, and of course, the smell is awesome:
And I walked around and took a few pictures while I waited, because for decaf, they do a pour-over:
If you’re hungry, they’ve got you covered with croissants and things:
I did ask about the “Yankee Apple Hand Pies” in the bottom left of that picture, and asked if they had many Yankees come in. He didn’t know, and I said, “Well, we can’t get rid of the Yankees in Texas.” No comment. . . .
I waited a few minutes and had a sip of water from the big jar they put out with cups. But of course, I forgot to get a picture of that. And they also serve lunch or something:
They were busy that Sunday, and so I had a wait while I watched them go at it behind the counter. When they called my name and handed me that coffee. . .mmmmmm. . .oh, yes, definitely worth it. Freshly roasted coffee, freshly brewed.
They Have Multiple Locations
French Truck Coffee has six locations, including two on Magazine Street, with two more coming. They also sell their delicious coffees in local grocery stores like Rouse’s. What? You’re not near a Rouse’s? You can order it, too. They also have a page so you can learn to brew your coffee at home.
The company is all about freshly roasted coffee, as the founder describes here on their web page. Honestly, it’s what Starbucks wishes it could be, or maybe used to be. French Truck Coffee is smooth and delicious. I haven’t bought any in the store yet, but that may happen soon if I can find the decaf.
If you’re planning a trip to the Crescent City, find one of these. You won’t be sorry.
When I went before the April meeting. . .there was a big chicken walking around Erato Street. At 9:00 am. A CHICKEN in the middle of the street. I hope the owner found it before someone with a pot did.
On The Way Home
I lost track of The E Man, and so I tried to get into Trader Joe’s. No parking available! Well, I ended up getting everything I needed across the street at the huge Rouse’s on Veterans.
As I hopped onto I-10 West, I was just listening to my music and driving. Until I got outside of Kenner, past the airport, on my way to I-55. . .and I saw that I-10 East was backed up. WAY Up. Like, way past the I-55 exit backed up.
Anytime The E Man tells me what to avoid, I generally listen. Boy was he right. Thanks, Dude!
Other Local Coffees
I’ve also been buying this other local brand of ground coffee for everyday:
And of course, the brand that’s also available in Houston:
Both are used in the pot and in the iced coffee maker.
And on a recent morning when we found ourselves with no power, I packed up my laptop and spent most of the day working at the local PJ’s, where they had Internet. Well, they were very nice, and I drank some coffee and had a yogurt parfait.
I’ve done this on many occasions at the Hammond Starbucks, where they are also very nice. Before we had Internet, and BF was sent to another work location, I got on Google Maps and found the closest Starbucks. Most were within 2 miles of his work place. I drank fresh coffee all day, worked in a new place, and we were both happy.
Additionally, PJ’s also offers military and veterans discounts. So now BF likes PJ’s even more, and he likes some of the tasty things they have there. He still won’t try coffee, but he now sees that there is nothing bad about him going into a coffee shop. They have things even he might even enjoy!
This weekend is the “bunny holiday,” also known as Easter. Yes, I know what Easter is really all about, but popular media simply shows us bunnies and chocolate. If there is a chocolate bunny made with sugar-free chocolate, I’ll indulge, but I’m sure my chocolate will be the regular sugar-free stuff. We may go visit BF’s father, maybe not.
The Goddess of the Slow Cooker, Stephanie O’Dea, sent out an email last week offering Easter recipes for the slow cooker. And why not?
For all you Texans, know that HEB will be closed. . .but I think Kroger may be open.
Whatever you do, have a great holiday weekend.
If you’ve left Texas, or even if you haven’t, you know how important tamales are. But they can be laborious and time-consuming to create at home. The solution? Texas Tamales!
Hello again, Dear Readers:
Spring is finally here, at least, according to the calendar. And that means all kinds of wonderful things, like asparagus, bike riding, and Daylight Savings Time. If you’re not in a part of the US that’s snowed under right now.
It’s still kind of cool-ish here, too cool for planting tomatoes and things, so I guess I’ll be the lazy gardener again and be late. We probably won’t have any tomatoes in odd spots this year, but ironically, the ones that grew best were around the septic tank. We got a number of little “racks” of tomatoes there, and I’ve got the seeds to try and plant more. Since avocados have been relatively cheap for a while at Winn-Dixie, I’ve been eating them and saving the seeds. Those golf-ball sized pits have taken over the kitchen window, and BF is asking, “is this your latest science experiment?”
Lots to tell, let’s get started.
Finally, Allergy Relief
Ok, so, last year I did what has long been told to me, I got what I thought was “local raw honey” to help with allergies. Honey from your area works similar to an allergy shot–it de-sensitizes your immunoglobulins to the pollen and allergens in the area. (An allergy shot actually tamps down on the histamine response, but doesn’t de-sensitize.) Well, I went back to the same place I went last year, and bought some more of the same honey, which didn’t work. (The place is subject to an upcoming blog post.) Well, I was explaining to the clerk (around sniffling and sneezing) that I needed it for allergies.
It didn’t work last year, but everyone told me it would! Well, I was going through two or three kinds of OTC allergy meds last weekend, and it made me downright grouchy (and swearing at BF again.) I explained this to the clerk, a nice older lady, who said, “where do you live?” I told her. She asked, “then why are you buying honey from Ponchatoula?” Cause it’s local! Well, it’s not local enough, she said, and the honey right next to it came from–surprise–my neck of the woods, and it was a dollar less. (It was also a smaller bottle.) Honey and money was exchanged, and now I have truly “local” honey.
She also told me about some locally made elderberry syrup that people were buying for not only allergies, but flu. Three local schools have been closed because of flu outbreaks, and people are buying this elderberry syrup along with the honey.
I bought a bottle of that as well, at $21.99 for a 16-ounce size. It’s tasty, too. I’ve never heard of Andi Lynn’s, but they’re in the Baton Rouge neighborhood of Walker. I’m glad to know about it, and they also have some homeopathic allergy drops, which may or may not be in the place I bought the syrup. Next time.
On top of that, one of my Buddhist friends gave me an essential oil mixture to try, and I’ve been rolling that on at night.
He loves me. But sometimes he doesn’t understand. I explain.
BF asked, “what’s the deal with the local raw honey?” (He doesn’t have this problem, because this is his “native area.” Not mine.) It’s like this: the bees from your area are sucking on the flowers that are around you. When you ingest their honey, you ingest some of that pollen to de-sensitize yourself from those allergens. But if you’re using local raw honey from Ponchatoula–or Texas–you get the stuff from those bees, and they’re sucking on the flowers over there. That’s not going to help you if you’re not in Ponchatoula, or Texas. (I still have a half-bottle I bought from a vendor at the Nassau Bay Farmer’s Market.) By getting the honey and pollen from the bees sucking on local flowers from the area in which you live, you get the local “neighborhood” pollen to help alleviate your allergies to the same pollen. Make sense?
I can’t say what’s exactly working, but I’m a LOT better! Still a bit of sniffling and sneezing, but not like it was. Finally, I got the right stuff.
Coffee To Go
Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective has found a new way to make your coffee when you’re walking out the door: The Barista Cup. No kidding, the darn thing makes your coffee start to finish in a specially designed cup. Just chuck everything–grounds, sugar, milk, etc., into the cup, then pour hot water into it, and off you go. At $25, they’d better be worth it!
I don’t have one myself, yet, but of course, because Nick says it “works as advertised,” I’m extremely interested in getting one. After all, Nick’s the one who originally taught me to make iced coffee. (Note: these aren’t available on Amazon, only on the company’s website.) And Nick considers himself a coffee expert, and writes about it as a side thing to his web copywriting business.
The Barista Cup company has an office in the UK and in Winter Springs, FL, so they’re multinational, and working on saving the planet, one cup at a time.
Princess Coffee Maker
Here’s a coffee maker for young girls who want to be like Mom and Dad:
It’s a toy, and it doesn’t actually make real coffee, but it does make the gurgling sounds of a certain type of coffee maker. I halfway considered buying it to annoy BF.
Speaking of coffee, our local Winn-Dixie finally has some new baskets with coffee holders on them:
Yes, more than two years after I asked, PLEASE, our little corner of the world got baskets with coffee holders. Just one, because after all, you only need one, right?
HEB baskets have two as well, but some of the smaller baskets at Winn-Dixie only have one. Even with BF, I’m the only one drinking coffee anyway.
They still have the full-size baskets without them, and everyone uses those. These are smaller, kind of like the ones we saw back in the 70’s with a shallow basket area. So now when I visit Winn-Dixie, I can get my coffee at the nearby PJ’s first and head on in to grocery shop. Our store doesn’t have as many of these, and it seems like I’m the only one who knows what they’re for, so there’s always one available for me. Thanks, Winn-Dixie!
The Magic Tamales
You know how one day, you just want something? Over the holidays, it was tamales. And I didn’t take pictures.
Now, for those of you not of Hispanic or Texas descent, you might not know that tamales are a bit of work. So much so that many Hispanic families make the tamales only at Christmas time. Other times, they rely on buying them, or finding a good “tamale lady” or abuela (grandma) who makes them for sale all year long. Because, let’s face it, when done correctly, tamales are delicious.
In Robb Walsh’s The Tex Mex Cookbook, there is a picture of President Gerald Ford on the campaign trail in Texas eating a tamale. He was at The Alamo in 1976. Unfortunately, none of his aides (or any locals) told him that you take them out of the corn husks first. They’re steamed in the corn husks, which are like a really tough paper, and you take them out to eat them.
The most awesome Stephanie O’Dea sent out an email one day with her recipes for tamales in the CrockPot. With a name like O’Dea, she’s probably about as Hispanic as the Irishman from El Paso. Intrigued, I informed BF that we would be having tamales for Christmas dinner, (it was just us two) and that was it. Well, and whatever else we wanted.
Finding Masa Harina
I set out to find the ingredients that were staples in every grocery store I ever went into in Houston. After paying $6 in Whole Foods for a bag of masa harina that I discovered in the local WD for $3 or so, my district leader OR told me that Walmart has an entire section of Hispanic goods. Well, what do you know, they had everything, and I grabbed the corn husks before anyone else did.
I also had a nice conversation with two young men who were driving from Mandeville to Brownsville, TX. I told them next time they went into HEB, to think about me.
Obviously, I wasn’t about to use hydrogenated anything, but I did have an unopened jar of Epic Pork Fat in the pantry. It came with me from Houston, when I went to the closing of the Webster Fresh Market. Fortunately, it’s readily available at Whole Foods. I think Rouse’s has it, too, and I have since bought a fresh jar that’s in the pantry.
Chicken Christmas Tamales
I had a few pieces of chicken that I roasted and cut up small, and followed Stephanie’s directions to the letter, otherwise. Well, I pulled out my stand mixer, and mixed the masa until I was sick of hearing the motor run. Little bits were flying out of the mixer if I ran it too high (next time, maybe half?) Guess I need a pouring shield for it. Balls of masa never floated, and I finally gave up and used it as is.
I made the components in the days before Christmas, and BF sat down and helped me put them together. It didn’t take too long, and we only had about two dozen, but that was OK.
I forget what else I made with it, but BF and I were perfectly happy with what came out:
Verdict: they tamales were good, but a bit bland, and Stephanie admits that. It was the first time I made them. We had some of the filling and masa left, which went directly into freezer bags and into the big freezer. I have permission to jazz them up if I ever make them again. Chorizo, maybe?
Christmas Chocolate Raspberry Dessert
Oh, wait, that’s right–we also enjoyed a delicious raspberry chocolate cheesecake from one of the Wheat Belly books for dessert:
I subbed out the stevia extract with erythrytol, but next time I’m going to get me some stevia extract and start using it. BF liked it–it’s quite rich–but it wasn’t quite sweet enough. Low carb, much dairy, no wheat/gluten/flour. I’m done with yeast free for a while.
Tamales In Target
My regular Buddhist activities are at least an hour’s drive away. I commonly go to the Mandeville area, which is still on this side of Lake Ponchartrain, and 90 minutes from New Orleans. That’s OK, and I get to go to Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, or wherever else I want to go that we don’t have nearby. Additionally, if I shop right after the meeting, I’m not too tired like I am when I make it to Hammond. So I frequent the Target in Covington, since it’s on the way home, and there’s a Cost Plus World Market next door and a Starbucks in that Target.
I’m walking around with my list on my phone, and I pass by the frozen foods section. Normally I don’t pay any mind to what’s in there, unless I’m looking for frozen veg or fruit. But this particular evening, I happened to look to my right and saw this in the freezer case:
Not knowing what to expect, I bought a bag of the Beef Tamales. There are also pork, chicken and black bean available at Target.
How did I miss these all this time?
Text To BF
After examining these closely, I sent a text to BF telling him that dinner the next night was covered, and it was a surprise. He doesn’t like when I tell him that, but he’s patient and will try something once, so he says.
I brought them home and told him ALL about the tamales. He gave me the usual, “sure, Honey, I’ll try anything you make” comment with a pensive (read: slightly scared) look on his face.
For $6.99, you get a pack of one dozen perfectly rolled tamales packed in corn husks, which is traditional. They’re sealed in a square food-grade plastic package and then bagged in the little muslin bag. (I’m keeping those because I know they’ll be useful somewhere!) The instructions say to steam them in a steamer, preferably standing with the cut edges up. Well, I have this old pot with a strainer insert, and it works pretty well:
If we decide the night before that tomorrow is “tamale night,” then I’ll take them out of the freezer and leave them in the fridge for the next day where they thaw a bit. You can also cook them right out of the freezer.
The directions say it takes 20 minutes, but if I cook them from frozen, I’ll give it 25 minutes. They’re a bit tricky to remove from the pot, because now they’re soft, and the only thing holding them together is the corn husks. I personally don’t care if they come out imperfect, because I’m going to be loading them onto a plate for eating. But BF isn’t used to real tamales, so I try to make sure his look “perfect.”
Verdict: absolutely delicious, the way a tamale should be.
I didn’t take many pictures because we were too busy stuffing our faces with them. Yes, we found a winner for me AND for BF.
They’re Around, Just Look
Since then, I’ve discovered that Rouse’s sells them for about $8.50 a pack, and another place sells them for $10 a pack. So when I know I’m going to Covington, and I have enough money, I buy a few packs for the freezer since they’re priced better at Target. However, I’m glad to know that I can get them in Hammond if I can’t get to Covington. Our big freezer has a stock of them now, and a tasty tamale dinner is just 20 minutes away.
The chicken, we found, was a bit too spicy for us, but the beef and pork are spicy enough without being overbearing. We haven’t tried the black bean type, because BF doesn’t want to. I eat six, he eats four and saves the other two for later. Or we eat four and split the other two later. Or he leaves the rest for me, because I bought them and I’m in love with them. They’re that good.
Texas Tamale Company
Look, when you live in Texas, tamales are everywhere, right? Just like kolaches, chips & salsa, and big bags of masa harina and corn husks. Hatch chiles in nearly anything. It’s like the furniture, Texas flags and the Texas star decor–it’s always there.
Move out of Texas, and you suddenly miss everything. Longtime readers know that I’ve missed everything Texas since the day I got here, and we *still* haven’t made a trip back to visit for a handful of reasons (mostly time and money, we always have one but not the other.) I still want to go, of course, and visit, (not to mention shop) but I can at least have real Texas tamales whenever I want them.
The Texas Tamale Company is on the west side of Houston, and has been in business for many years making “gourmet” tamales. Well, after 30 years, they’ve become quite the company, and you can find these magic morsels nationwide. They even have Hatch Chile Tamales, although they’re not available here, yet. (That’s my next “ask for” project.) You can read their story here.
HEB has its own brand of tamales with some interesting flavors, including Asiago cheese. I’ll try to get some of their interesting flavors whenever I get to shop there again.
Understand that I have no problem driving to the Clear Lake Blvd HEB and buying my regular groceries, even if it’s a ten hour round trip. Easier said than done, of course. BF would probably not like me to do that, either, but I can be tempted.
If you can’t find them locally, you can order them online. I haven’t tried ordering them yet, but I’m probably going to do that one of these days if I can’t get Rouse’s to carry the Hatch chile type.
You know how if you think of a certain type of car, suddenly you see them anywhere? (Concentrate on a red Land Rover, or a blue Hyundai Sonata, and you’ll see what I mean.) Well, someone in Louisiana came up with the idea of. . .crawfish tamales:
Personally, I think it’s wrong, but they could be pretty good. They’re also twice the cost of Texas Tamales (at Target), but we might try them one day. I know, shop local and all that. Subject of an upcoming blog post, honest.
Since then, when we decide break open a pack of these Lone Star State wonders for dinner, I walk around singing, “Ta-MA-LES!” to the tune of Dean Martin’s Volare. I haven’t re-written the words, I just sing that part of it.
So are you ready for some delicious Tex-Mex in your life in 20 minutes? Whichever tamales you choose, just remember to unwrap them from the corn husks first.
RaceTrac–a nice little place to stop in the South.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
It’s Good Friday, and I’m in Starbucks today! Why? The library’s closed. It’s open on Saturday, but not Good Friday. I haven’t seen anyplace close down for Good Friday since I worked at Baylor College of Medicine–how long has that been? But that’s OK–it’s a “star dash” weekend, giving extra points for the Bacon Gouda Breakfast Sandwich. I had two, although not at once, and it bumped up my points. I now have two free things coming, which I’ll save for my next trip to New Orleans.
As you’ll see in today’s post, Starbucks isn’t the only place to get coffee when you’re out and about in the South. If you see a RaceTrac on your travels, I’ll tell you why you need to stop there.
Progress in La Casa de Rurale
BF put up my EZ-Gym, finally, seven months after I got here and four months after taking it out of my big suitcase. I’ve actually used it this week, too, while watching one of my Britcom DVDs. Since the episodes are exactly 30 minutes long, it’s a great way to time your exercise, especially on a machine like the Nordic Track. But the EZ-Gym is a neat thing to have, easy to use once you get the hang of it, and portable if you need it to be.
We don’t have a Home Depot or Lowe’s, but we do have a small Ace Hardware (where I went to visit the baby chickens a while back) and another “hometown” hardware store that BF has taken me to a few times. (There is a Lowe’s in Hammond, 30 minutes away.) I went in for the wood screws to mount it to the wall, and came out with a canvas painter’s drop cloth, too. What the heck?
In the latest issue of Mary Janes’ Farm magazine, there’s an article on making “budget” linen tablecloths out of them. I’ve considered using drop cloth before (for projects from the old Martha Stewart Living magazines), but the stuff in Home Depot was too heavy and stiff. Our local place had the exact same brand and type that Mary Jane Butters used, so I grabbed one. You use the 6 ounce weight, because the 10 ounce is too heavy.
As MaryJane instructed, I washed it three times, let it dry outside the third time, then washed it a fourth to make sure it didn’t smell like a manufacturing plant. It feels pretty nice now that it’s all washed out. It’s a 9-foot by 12-foot piece, which comes out to 36 yards of fabric, for $17.99. That sounds like stuff I bought at Hancock Fabrics. I’ve got the big dining room table measured, I just haven’t made the tablecloth yet. But I can’t wait to tell people it’s “an expensive Belgian linen tablecloth.” Pictures when I finish it.
BF says he needs to get back into exercising and back into shape. For some time, my “exercise routine” has consisted of moving and unpacking boxes, doing laundry and washing up, chasing a frisky 60-pound pit bull around, investigating and cleaning up cluttered corners and moving stuff either out to the rubbish pile, the burn pile or to the trash can for pickup on Thursday. Since I’ve been busy freelancing (still no million-dollar paychecks yet) I haven’t been doing that, hence, the EZ-Gym being installed on the only free wall stud in the studio. (BF had to make his silly joke about “looking for a stud? Here I am!”) If I ever start traveling again, I’ll buy another one to keep in my suitcase. It’s not going to work setting it up on a door in BF’s place. I can see the TV from that spot, too.
He has rather muscular arms (particularly the biceps), and wants to start lifting those 15-pound hand-held weights again, as well as use his regulation punching bag and boxing gloves out in the garage. I’m using my kettle bells again, in addition to the EZ-Gym and the old Exercise TV No Sweat Yoga DVD last Saturday morning. (This morning was an hour of walking, partly with the Hounds.) I explained kettle bells to him, but he said, “yeah, we did that in the Navy.” Okay, bud. But I guess it’s time we started working out, either separately or together, or both, because he watches a lot of TV after work. And we aren’t getting any younger.
If I could just get him dancing properly. . .he grabs my left hand and doesn’t understand that it should be my right. Maybe I should find a “couples yoga” or “dance with me” DVD for us. . . .
I told him that if he really, REALLY wants to lose a few pounds, his Cokes would be a good thing to eliminate. In addition to all the awful things that soft drinks are, Cokes are 140 calories a can, primarily sugar. He drinks 4 a day when he’s at work, and occasionally one or two, more buying them by the case twice a week. So that’s at least 560 calories per day he could drop, and replace it with something healthier (like water, darnit.) Additionally, he could drop the L’il Debbie “fairy cakes” he likes to pack with his lunch (just my sarcastic nickname for them.) Now, calories aren’t the be-all and end-all of weight loss, otherwise we could all subsist on chocolate bars and be thin. There has to be real nutrition to keep the “machine” running. Or you can see this in your future:
Anyway. . .between the EZ-Gym, the Thighmaster set (yes, I use it regularly), yoga, and kettle bell moves, I hope to get back into a better shape this summer, and beyond. Biking, well, not so much yet, since I’d be by myself, unless I decide to get myself one of those bike trainers you put your cycle on and pedal while watching TV. (Gotta rustle up more clients and money soon!)
The gardening still isn’t going on much, although I do have some new little tomato seedlings. The Hatch chile seeds, however, did not germinate, and there are no seedlings, darnit. I know where to order some seeds, but will keep trying with the ones I have been saving, first. GRRRR. . .I’ve only met one person here who knows what Hatch chiles are, everyone else, I have had to “school.”
The Key Lime and Meyer Lemon trees are doing well, and I see lots more buds than I did in Houston, and we’ll have a bumper crop of key limes, too. I haven’t planted the darn trees yet; maybe this weekend. I’ve got green onions going on, and I hope I haven’t killed my little Rosemary plant. If I did, I can go back to the local Ace hardware store and get another one, while visiting the little baby chickens. (Haven’t done that in a while.)
I know, I know. . .pictures, Amy.
Miss Shirley, you will be happy to know that sitting here in Starbucks, I just discovered a place I need to go investigate.
It’s probably not like the Genoa Friendship Garden (that was a fun place!) but it’s local, and it’s all about gardening. When I get there, I’ll give a full report.
Now, if they have Hatch chiles, I’ll be tap dancing on the bar!
Longtime readers know of my affinity for coffee, and for Starbucks. But in addition to the local PJ’s, I’ve also discovered a new place to get pretty good coffee. It’s a convenience store that sells more than just Twinkies and Cokes.
When I visited BF last year, I needed petrol for my rental car to return home. Because it was right there off the freeway (or as they call it here, “th’ Innerstate”) and coffee for my soul (and the trip back to Texas) it was my first stop on the way out. I have to say it was pretty darn good coffee, and a nice clean place. But I was on my way back to Houston, and never gave it a second thought. Because. . .I was never coming back, right?
Nine months later, I’m lamenting the loss of my fabulous HEB, IKEA, and multiple Starbucks within a five mile radius, one walking distance from the front door. The Racetrac in my new ‘hood is being renovated. When they finally re-opened, it was much nicer than before, with lots of new menu options, including frozen yogurt and packaged salads.
This is a petrol station?
It sure is, and a lot more. Really, REALLY nice people work there, too.
I’ve gone in many times with my black 16-ounce stovepipe Starbucks travel mug and gone for the hot, fresh decaf on the way to the library, and shot some Hazelnut or Caramel sugar-free flavoring in before adding in half & half.
Recently RaceTrac installed a new center-island fixture that has, among other things, three kiosk screens to order yourself some food or fancy coffee drinks. On one trip, I was filling up my Starbucks mug for a 98-cent “grande” when I was asked, “Would you like to try one of our new espresso drinks for free?”
Someone is offering me free coffee? Yes, please! I just say “thank you.”
Well, I did ask if they could make it decaf–yes, we can! So we were off. After handing me a coupon to take to the register later, we walked over to the kiosk screen and I tapped it in. Cappuccino, French Vanilla flavoring, whipped cream, extra shot of espresso. . .POOF! Off it went to their ordering system behind the coffee counter, where the nice lady made it fresh on this machine:
They can flavor it any way you like:
They can also make the iced coffee drinks for you, too:
Those machines, of course, are designed for heavy industrial use–every day.
I paid for the regular coffee and the cashier rang up a $3.75 coffee drink for free. Of course, I said “thank you” many times–I’m no slouch! I took that and my *regular* coffee with me to the library, sipping the cappuccino first on a clear, cold Louisiana day. Suddenly, the day was a little bit better.
There have been other times
Occasionally, randomly, I have poured some hot decaf, fixed the way *I* want it, got to the counter and was asked, “is that all you have?” Yes. The cashier’s response has been, “have a nice day,” or “OK, you’re good.” In other words, your coffee is free today! It’s a random thing, or maybe I should download the RaceTrac app and know when they have “free coffee” days. While I have spent a fair amount of money on 98-cent coffee over the last few months, especially when it’s cold, I’m heading over to pay the water bill for BF, or I have a few minutes before BF gets out of work, I have also been randomly offered free coffee, too.
I just say “thank you.”
It’s a Southern thing
RaceTrack is headquartered in Atlanta, and operates facilities in 12 southern states. While the stores here aren’t as big as Buc-ee’s, the folks are every bit as friendly, and darnit, the coffee’s good, too. They have a full breakfast menu–even croissants!–and breakfast wraps that look pretty good (although I haven’t tried them yet.) I’ve seen those packaged salads, but not bought any yet. With three kiosk screens, they make up some of the food on demand, as well as the espresso drinks.
An Epic Discovery
And what do they have mixed in with the candy bars, small bottles of liquor and little packets of cake? Epic Bars! No kidding–in semi-rural Louisiana, they have my beloved Epic bars, but only one kind–the Bison with Cranberry. Nobody else here has them, except RaceTrac. Sometimes they’re on sale, 2 for $5, and I’ve bought a pair and taken them to my “work place” at the Tangi Library many times. (Can’t do that too often, though.) I can get a full line of them on Epic’s website, of course. I can also find them locally at Whole Foods in Mandeville, Baton Rouge and New Orleans (not sure about Hammond, but I haven’t looked, either.) But here? Even the cashiers don’t know what they are! I think I’m the only one who buys them, but of course, I’m happy to have them available.
BF has less than polite things to say about Epic Bars, but, well, maybe that’s one too many MRE’s in his past, too. Guess I shouldn’t have given him the turkey one to try first.
Your Southern Summer Stop
If you’re traveling this year to see friends, family, or just going somewhere in the South, RaceTrac is a good place to stop. Starbucks has forced everyone to up their game, so better coffee is more available, even in decaf.
Like I said, Racetrac isn’t Buc-ee’s (which is a Texas thing), but it’s a pretty nice place. You can find RaceTrac locations on their website, and you can also go to their Facebook page and read more about them. RaceTrac also has an app you can download to find out about new stuff and get points or something. If ever I do download it (whenever I upgrade my rather aged iPhone, of course) I’ll let you know how it works.
It’s not Buckingham Palace, OK? Not even Buc-ee’s. But RaceTrac is a good place to stop if you’re driving through the South this summer.
Made a new friend this week
Speaking of Atlanta, I met a lady in the library the other day who moved here with her adult daughter and husband temporarily. It was great to talk with someone. . .who knows what it’s like to have that culture shock! She said there is a company in Atlanta that’s similar to RaceTrac, where she moved from, called QuickWay. Apparently, RaceTrac goes head-to-head in the Georgia Market.
Know what else my new friend misses? The awesome east-coast grocery chain Publix. Just like I miss my HEB! However, she has married an African man. No, I mean, African from Africa; she’s a black American woman, she’s from here, too. Her husband is from West Africa, and they are getting ready to relocate overseas. No kidding. The wars are over, and they are going to Liberia to help re-build the country (he’s in construction.) She’s been there before, of course. I can’t blame her for being excited–it’s a big adventure, and of course, her relatives in Louisiana are not happy about her going all the way to West Africa. I can certainly empathize–my parents didn’t want me moving six hours away to Houston at the age of 34, and they don’t even like me!
Anyway. . . .
Winn-Dixie’s new Plenti
Winn-Dixie is changing their rewards program, and the new one is called “Plenti.” Whatever. The cashiers all have new shirts, and the bags are now a bright robins-egg blue. They nag you until you agree to changing it all over. The black cards are going away. I have so many cards from all over the US, I just didn’t need another. My new friend and I were discussing that too. Big, fat hairy deal. Still no place to put your coffee in their baskets.
Here’s a tip: put them all on a separate key ring. Just don’t punch a hole in any magnetic strips. Keeps your key ring from getting too heavy and damaging your ignition.
Until next time
Here’s hoping everyone has an enjoyable Easter Sunday with a great holiday dinner. As I’ve long said, there’s nothing wrong with spending holidays alone, if that’s what your only option is. You make and have a good dinner, wine if you want it, and a tasty dessert. Enjoy a day off to do something enjoyable, whatever that is (unless you’re lucky enough to have a job and are working.)
I don’t yet know what we’re doing, but it won’t be the big thing I did at Thanksgiving. No, BF wants “simpler,” so, if we’re having The Kids, it’ll be a lot of what *he* can cook up quickly. I think my days of big gourmet adventures are about over, long as I live here. (Unless the GER asks.) Heck, I might end up at RaceTrac, I dunno.
Easter is another Sunday to me, with chocolate. I want a steak salad, and the DVDs I got from the library, with the sewing machine on full tilt. I hope the cat can handle it.
Good afternoon, Dear Readers from everywhere:
I just realized that Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and that I should drop in and talk about it just a bit. But first. . . .
There are some changes coming to this humble blog, and a big thanks to friend of the blog AK and another one of our writer friends, whom we know on Facebook, but I haven’t met in person. I don’t know if JM reads this blog regularly, but I know she has once, for sure. I’ve got a Facebook page set up just for HeatCageKitchen, as well as other social media accounts. I’ll tell more once I get it all done. The blog is growing up.
Last week was the open house for the Drs. Davis at Woodlands Wellness and Cosmetic Center. Much as I enjoyed it last year, this year I didn’t go. BUT–they posted pictures on Facebook, and once again had an appropriate show-stopper of a cake:
A good time was had by all, and I’m glad, even if I didn’t go. But I’m sure I’ll be visiting again one of these days for blood testing.
In other news. . . .
This isn’t really food related, but it might have been. When I say a cat is a cat is a cat, I’m not kidding. This wily cheetah decided that the back of a Jeep was a great place to hang with the humans recently. Honestly, it’s no different than when Catmandu and Kismet used to hop up on the back of my futon and park it there for a while. Cheetahs, as I understand from comments on the Daily Mail site and Facebook, are much friendlier to humans than other species of big cats. But as Big Cat Rescue will tell you, approaching big cats is never a good idea–and anyone caught petting one at their Tampa, FL facility is escorted out immediately, including staff. If you have a kitty cat that has ever turned on you while you were petting it or scratching it behind the ears. . .imagine the force behind a paw-swat from a 500-pound Siberian tiger. It can, as they say on FB, “escalate quickly.” ‘Nuff said. But this time, it turned out fine, and the short video is pretty amusing. Because. . .that’s a cat for you.
Now back to Valentine’s Day. Or as my brother called it yesterday, “women taking advantage of men” day. Oh, well.
If you’re looking for advice on romancing, proposing, or how to ask out someone you fancy, that’s someone else’s blog. This blog is for the day you decide to cook for that someone special, you already are going to cook for them, and you’re looking for something special for your date. You’re on your own on the romancing/proposing part, so search through WordPress for that kind of advice blog.
Do you have plans for Sunday? Are you going to hang out at home and watch a good DVD or two with your sweetie, or risk your life and head to a restaurant? I can hear it now: “Oh, Amy–what’s wrong with that?” Even Waffle House serves steaks and takes reservations on Valentine’s Day–and in some more rural areas, that’s the best and only–restaurant in town. (NOTE: I am not disrespecting Waffle House by any means.)
I’m not going to deny that it’s something special to go out for Valentine’s Day. But hear me out–when I was an administrative assistant, I was required to “go out with the bosses” for Administrative Professional’s Day. I really didn’t want to do this (particularly at an insurance company I worked for, where they took us to McCormick & Schmick in the Galleria and didn’t give us a choice) because it was a reminder that I was still in the steno pool. But at Boeing, that wasn’t always a bad thing. My Boeing supervisors were frequently busy, so we didn’t always go on that Wednesday–and that was a good thing. Why? Because you’re elbow-to-elbow with everyone *else* who’s doing the same thing; service is going to be slower, too. The last time, I had to request that Monday, because the next day, I was getting on a plane to go somewhere, and I wouldn’t be in town for AP Day. (I got to choose the restaurant that year.) Another time, we went two weeks later. Know what? We nearly had the whole place to ourselves! We could chat without yelling, and the service was better.
Want proof? This article from The Kitchn verifies what I just told you. Like retail stores on Black Friday, nobody *wants* to work that holiday, so you may get pinch-hitters who aren’t as experienced. And you’ll be elbow-to-elbow in a crowded restaurant on that one day a year when things could go wrong for you. Just something to consider if this is a really special date.
Once again, Starbucks is at it again with the #StarbucksDate. Create a special .GIF file (similar to an e-card, they’re all the rage now) to send to someone you’d like to meet up with (it could be your best friend, your elderly neighbor like Neighbor R, your brother/sister, or, heaven help you, the GER) and make a date to meet them at the Starbucks on your street for one of the new chocolate drinks they have this week, through Sunday. (They’d like you to put it on social media with #StarbucksDate, too.)
You know, I probably shouldn’t say “Starbucks on your street.” We have several in my neighborhood, including one two blocks from my front door. But I have a friend in semi-rural Louisiana who is about 20 miles from the closest Starbucks. I’m sure he’s not the only one.
This year’s offerings are three new seasonal chocolate-infused drinks:
And because I couldn’t wait, I personally sampled the Mocha Chocolate Latte this morning. Highly recommended. Unlike the famed Pumpkin Spice Latte, this was very good and not overly sweet. If your honey doesn’t drink coffee, there is the Molten Hot chocolate option as well as other dessert options. But remember, Starbucks has their “signature” hot chocolate all year long. Yes, they really do–it’s just that this particular variety is a “seasonal offering” for Valentine’s Day.
I am actually planning to take myself out for a #StarbucksDate. I’ve got a couple of books to read, (one by master copywriter Bob Bly, his newest book of great witticisms) and that might just be the place to do it. I’d like to have another Mocha Chocolate Latte, then get brewed decaf coffee (and free refills in my stainless steel travel mug) until I’m sick of coffee, or I finish the books. They’re not long books, but. . .there are less distractions in Starbucks than at home.
What if you’re going to camp in with your honey?
I’ve got some recipes posted on the Recipe Page, and there are others scattered throughout the blog; a search will help you find them. (The Sweet Potato Supper is a good one, and quite simple.) Then again, websites like The Food Network, MarthaStewart.com, AllRecipes.com, and TheKitchn are great places to start if you don’t find anything listed here. Really–the culinary world is at your fingertips, and a quick search will show you that.
These are really easy, because there’s no rolling out the dough–you bake it as a sheet cake, then cut them from the baked cake. Frost them, put some sprinkles on top, and you’re ready for your honey. NOTE: keep this recipe in your back pocket for other occasions, cut them in squares, rounds or other shapes, and you can frost them like cupcakes and use other appropriate colors and designs for, say, a birthday, graduation, or something else like St. Patrick’s Day (which happens in about a month.) Heck, your dog’s birthday, just don’t feed them to the dog. But for now, they’re for your Valentine.
Now, if these cookies aren’t your thing, there are a couple of things in the HeatCageKitchen archives that are delicious and gluten-free, including my all-time favorite, YeastFreeBrownies (I just uploaded it.) The recipe is no longer available on Dr. Hotze’s site, but I’ve got the PDF file for you on the Recipes Page.
Another good choice is last year’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes. First, I re-blogged a post from GF and Me last year, and then I made it myself. Of course, mine didn’t come out as pretty as Brenda’s, but they sure were good–even the fussy GER said so. The trick is finding hazelnut flour, or buying the hazelnuts, roasting and skinning them yourself, then grinding them up really good in the food processor–but not so far that you get a paste.
Click around on Brenda’s GF and Me site and you’ll find lots more delicious food and desserts for Valentine’s Day.
If you have more time to prep, I highly recommend the sugarless, Crock-Pot made Chocolate Fudge Custard I talked about last summer. You have to make it a day or two in advance, but it’s quite tasty and easy to make.
You didn’t forget your waffle iron already, did you? If Santa brought you a waffle maker (or the Cuisinart Griddler with the waffle maker plates, like mine) consider waffle brownies. If you haven’t read that previous post I linked to, please do, and you’ll learn more about waffling. You’ll also find this recipe in the post that I made and reviewed. However, if gluten-free isn’t your thing, brownies from a box–yes, like Duncan Hines or Jiffy brand–can be made in the waffle maker, fast and easy. You can also use boxed chocolate cake mix. If you’re thinking about a waffle maker, Bed, Bath and Beyond also (still) has the Cuisinart Griddler bundle package, and if you have a coveted 20% off coupon, use it.
Still another optioin–a bit healthier than most–comes from none other than Graze.com, this dual-layered Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie might be just the ticket. It has a few steps, so make sure you read the recipe before proceeding.
What to make for dinner for the two of you? There’s a myriad of options available, just pick one–but don’t overthink this or make it too complicated. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll probably *want* to try something really fancy, complicated, and extremely gourmet. Foodies are like that. But if you’re a fan of the easy, make dessert early, maybe the day before (especially the custard) and consider Nigella Lawson’s Flash Fried Steak with White Bean Mash. I’ve written about this delicious white bean mash before, it’s one of my absolute favorites, and I even made it Monday for AC with mild Italian sausages from HEB. (I called it “Bangers & Mash,” which is actually sausage and mashed potatoes in the UK.) She loved it too, and will probably start looking for cannellini beans next grocery trip. Add a tasty salad like we did, and you’ll be all set. Wine? Your choice, but make it a good one, if you do.
One thing I started doing with the white bean mash is grating the lemon zest first, then grate in the garlic with your Microplane Zester. The garlic is more evenly distributed, spreading the flavor throughout the mash.
And you can say that you’re inviting him/her over for a steak dinner–it’s just not filet mignon, that’s all. (No, I’ve never cooked that one, for myself or anyone else.) And why not? If you’re cooking steak, say so! (Unless he or she is vegetarian. . .then you’ve got some extra work to do.)
Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day: if you and your partner get along fabulously and enjoy each other’s company all year around, going all-out on Valentine’s Day is probably not needed–a nice dinner at home with a nice bottle of wine, a small, inexpensive gift, whatever you like. But if one or the other isn’t such a great partner all year long, but spends a lot of money on flowers, candy, jewelry, dinner out, etc., on Valentine’s Day. . .it’s money wasted. Be kind to each other, and, I hate to say it, but if things are just not working out well, you’re discovering you’re mis-matched, or you just don’t get along after the “honeymoon phase” is past, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. (Or, in my case, file a restraining order, ha, ha. Yes, I’ve had that kind of luck.) It takes two to tango, and usually, neither is totally innocent, but if you’re wondering why you’re in this relationship, maybe Valentine’s Day will be awkward. Better to be alone on V-D than stuck with someone you don’t want to be with–ask me, I know. (No, not the GER.) “Better off as friends” is not a bad thing, if that’s the case.
I’m not telling you to break up with your significant other on Valentine’s Day, (that happens occasionally) but if that’s where it’s headed, or things have significantly changed. . .take some time to think and consider. Next year things could be completely different–you could be single and unattached, you could be with someone better, or you and your Significant Other will have a better relationship by then.
I know, Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, is merchandised to death in the US, but it doesn’t have to bully you (or your partner) into spending too much money.
Again, I’m not a relationship author–but I speak from experience on being in bad relationships. I’d rather be by myself on Valentine’s Day than stuck with someone who let their “good face” down and I discover that I can’t stand. The longest relationship I ever had with a male was. . .Catmandu, the Russian Blue. (RIP.)
And if you’re single and alone on Valentine’s Day–remember, you too could be stuck with someone you wish would just go away forever. If that’s the case, and you can, take some time and take yourself out for a #Starbucksdate. Better yet, use the .GIF creator and send it to one of your *real* friends for a #StarbucksDate and get something chocolate on Sunday. It’s OK to be single and unattached on Valentine’s Day, I promise.
You might be making these cookies or something else for someone next year, so be ready.