Hiatus. I didn’t intend to, but I took one.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
It’s time for another “oops, I haven’t blogged in a while” post. It was an accidental hiatus.
The Quiet Holidays
During the hiatus, The Holidays arrived and left quickly. It’s cold here, frequently below 30F in the mornings, but look who showed up:
Last year brought some changes in dynamics for us, and Thanksgiving was, indeed, us with his friend TT up the road. The Boy spent his holiday with his grandmother, which was good, and everyone else was elsewhere. We heard absolutely nothing from any family members, including BF’s brother, who lives on the other side of town. That’s OK.
We also attended the holiday party for BF’s work, and it was nice to see everyone again. I brought a batch of Joan’s Broccoli Madness, which went over well. Nobody had ever heard of Sweet Tomatoes, so I had to explain it.
Didn’t know you could make “fudge” with frosting from a can, some kind of nuts, and peanut butter all mixed together. That was interesting.
Joan’s Broccoli Madness returned when BF’s sister and brother-in-law drove in from Atlanta. They came for Christmas and left the day after New Year’s. For dinner with them, I also made some chocolate shortbread fingers from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. I certainly made friends with those, and BF thought they were great.
His sister and brother-in-law should be making a trip back this way in the next month or so. Maybe I’ll make more Joan’s Broccoli Madness again. It’s SO good.
Ok, BF and I give each other little presents all the time, so getting a “big Christmas present” is kind of silly. He took care of several things in the house for us in 2020, so expecting a big, expensive anything would be a bit ridiculous.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t actually buy anything. From 9DollarShirts on Etsy, I bought him this:
Because he’s a big fan of BigFoot. I catch him watching BigFoot videos on YouTube all the time. He even upgraded his phone so he could see them better. (Well, that and he needed to upgrade anyway, the apps were failing.) It did arrive on time for Christmas, and he didn’t know until I gave it to him.
But for me, BF got something a little different:
Yes, that’s a sherpa blanket with the words Snap-On imprinted into the top fabric. Very soft and fuzzy.
Seems he was buying some of their cool car-guy gifts for his brother and brother-in-law when this caught his eye. But I know what really happened–it was on the truck and he said to the company rep, “I’ll take one of these for the little woman.” No real thought went into “what to get Amy for Christmas.” It was an opportunity that presented itself and he took advantage.
I think it’s funny.
After washing, I took a nap with it–and slept like a big cat. I couldn’t wake up! Since then BF has tried it and had the same experience. Later he told me that the Snap-On representative who sold it to him said that when you take that nap, plan on spending all day on the couch. No kidding.
Let’s see what he finds next year.
2020 Isn’t Really Over
Well, it’s February, and the last time I blogged was November. Sorry about the hiatus.
You remember 2020, yes? We haven’t indulged in the Jack Daniels Tennessee Apple, and we never bought any, either. But that doesn’t mean 2021 is going any better.
We all had hopes that 2021 would bring improvements, but that hasn’t really happened. The pandemic is still going on, and lots of people are getting the vaccine. But so far, it’s a continuation of 2020–on steroids.
Six days into the new year, Mike Rowe posted this picture on his social media with the caption, “well, here’s to 2022.”
And it’s been that way ever since. Ready for another hiatus? At least I’m still writing for lawyers and other clients.
Hiatus And Website Woes
If you tried to access this blog back in December, you may have noticed that it was down for a couple of weeks. There’s a reason for that. The security certificate expired, and I didn’t realize it.
Sure, I got those notices, but at one point, there were two certificates on this site. Thinking I still had one that expired in February, I didn’t bother with it.
Then the site went down, causing my accidental blogging hiatus.
So I paid for everything, (it wasn’t expensive) both this site and the one I bought last year for copywriting, got some help from my hosting company, and the site came back up. With one problem.
It seems that I get the message that parts of the site are not secure. Now, I think there’s something horribly wrong with it. And getting into a live chat with the support people–in Russia–will take pretty much all day. So I procrastinate and do other things instead.
Then one day I get a message from a friend of the blog RR, aka “Banana Rat.” He’s a web guy from a long time ago, and a longtime “Boeing brother” that I’ve kept in touch with all these years. I recently told his girlfriend that “we never dated, but we joked about it.”
He’s re-starting his little “side hustle” company that he’s had long before I knew him after a six-month gig that just wasn’t working for him. Like me, he’ll be working for himself. So I’m advising him on copy for his website as well as his LinkedIn presence, along with my own. More as we get it going.
The Help I Needed
So the hiatus, I hope, is over for now.
Banana Rat (RR) got into my host account and spent the afternoon chatting with the Russian folks to get my websites taken care of. They thought they were talking to me, which I think is funny. But the certificate for this blog wasn’t installed as it should have been and now it’s done.
The certificate and other issues on HeatCageKitchen are, for the most part, repaired, and are fine going forward. Just one or two things to be fixed, either manually or with the help of a paid tool. (I’ll decide on that later.)
The WordPress app on my phone told me yesterday that this site was suddenly getting more traffic, too. That’s funny, too, because it was Banana Rat doing all the work.
The copywriting website that has been sitting for a year unfinished is now up and running with WordPress in it. However, it’s just a blank website, and he put a new WordPress template in it for me. Now, I can begin adding content. I created a free report this time last year to upload, but that’s as far as it went. Because I was in a training class, the report on SEO was critiqued with very positive feedback.
So after sitting in limbo for all of 2020, my second website is finally coming around. And then I can start moving forward with things on the copywriting side.
Why He’s Called “Banana Rat”
I have a habit of name-calling that generally involves the word “rodent.” Instead of actually swearing at someone and calling them a very impolite name, I call them a “rodent.” I don’t have any particular love for rodents, but squirrels are cute. And it’s much less offensive than calling someone a “@#$%&* *&#(!.”
While at Boeing, I called RR a “rodent” one day on the phone during a work-related call. He proceeded to enlighten me with descriptions of banana rats. These big dog-like critters are found all over Cuba, and they hunt in packs. He mentioned that he’d played golf around Guantanamo Bay once, and saw them walking around and doing whatever they do. But they’re more than rats–they’re BIG rats, like dogs, weighing as much as 20 pounds! Can you imagine a bunch of those coming at you with sharp, nasty teeth?
They cause problems at Guantanamo Bay and are also an invasive species. So much so that the US Department of Defense is paying attention to them.
But because RR had to tell me about these beasts, and he’s a big dude himself, he has forever been nicknamed “The Banana Rat.”
Have you taken a hiatus from your resolutions yet?
We’re now deep into New Years’ Resolutions, except for folks who have already abandoned theirs. I’m still trying to eat keto, despite the stuff BF wants to make for dinner. Jambalaya is primarily rice, and I quit eating it years ago. But. . .sometimes I eat rice. That’s why I say “mostly keto.”
For some time, longtime diet product company SlimFast has been offering keto-friendly products. I see them at my local Walmart and Target. Recently I discovered that they have been keeping up with what dieters want, and they’ve got their own brand of “fat bombs.”
If you’re not familiar with this term, it’s a small snack that you create with a healthy fat like coconut oil, cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, or something similar. It contains enough fat to keep you satisfied until your next meal, and also offers additional nutrients. You can find a myriad of these recipes on Pinterest and other sites like Jen Fisch’s Keto In The City.
Not to be outdone, SlimFast has a line of ketogenic products to help you along. I found the peanut butter cups first, and then last week decided to try the Strawberry Topped Cheesecake.
Well, remind me not to get these anymore and start making my own again. They’re OK, not great. They’re not bad, but not like the homemade stuff. I guess if you were out and needed something to snack on immediately they’re a fair option. But I kept nibbling on these, and they’re just OK. Walmart here charges $10 for this box, and on their website, it’s $13. I’m not buying them anymore.
Honestly, it may work for some folks, and that’s great. But keto–and weight loss in general–is more than just eating little chocolate nibbles and magically turning into a clone of still-gorgeous fifty-something Cindy Crawford. It just doesn’t work that way.
But Slimfast still has all the shakes and drinks and things that are purported to help lose weight. Again, it may work for some folks. I’m not recommending or criticizing Slimfast. If it works for you, and you like it, go for it.
Nestle used to have one that was a shake thing, chocolate raspberry. I used to drink one with their “nutrition” (candy) bar. Delicious! But all that sugar isn’t good. I quit the Nestle concoctions after I couldn’t stomach it anymore.
Of course, in the badly disorganized pantry (the next hiatus) is the stuff that BF likes, too:
It does have whole wheat flour, but BF doesn’t care. Why? Because he thinks this is a healthy breakfast:
He also brought home a box of Banana Moon Pies and some Hostess Ding Dongs, the chocolate rounds with “cream” in the middle.
If ever the police come with a warrant to search the house, they’ll just know they’ve hit paydirt the minute they get to the kitchen. Once they open the pantry door and see gluten-free and organic things next to the Pop-Tarts and mac and cheese in a box, they’ll just “know” they’ve found “the perps.”
The thing is, I’m pretty sure about what’s in our pantry. There’s nothing in there that can’t be purchased in any US grocery store, including dog food. But if a cop or two wants to help me reorganize the pantry, they’re welcome to come by.
Be aware that there have been many cases of cops who know little of botany arresting people for their garden plants. There are millennial cops who don’t know the difference between okra, tomatoes, and other common garden plants and Snoop Dogg’s favorite green.
Breathing & IF
Thankfully, during this hiatus, I’ve not had any more allergy problems since my visit to Dr. Hall in Baton Rouge. I’m following his advice, and so far, so good. He’s highly recommended if you need an allergy doc, as well as his partner.
I’m still doing intermittent fasting as well, but I can’t say that I’ve lost any weight yet. But it’s a good thing to do anyway, because I’m not eating late at night, and we try not to eat late anyway. The next step is getting back to exercise, which is proving easier said than done.
The years I went walking on city streets are over, because walking or riding a bicycle in a rural area is a challenge as well as dangerous. There are no sidewalks. In either case, you’ll face:
- Speeding drivers
- Untethered (and intact) dogs who go on the attack
- Snakes and other native species
- Holes in the ground
- Potholes in the asphalt
- Cracked roads
- Uneven and rocky roads
- Other nonexistent road amenities
So I’m stuck with inside workouts, but with lots of other things to do. I did buy a bike trainer a couple of years ago from eBay for a good price. So. . .soon, it needs to happen daily, and end the exercise hiatus I’ve had to take for a while. Thank heavens for the Roku.
Valentine’s Day And The Hiatus Cake
So we’re coming up on our annual date night (we have others) and we’re having discussions about the dinner and dessert as well as the movie.
As another hiatus project, I made a small chocolate cake recently, taken from the January/February issue of Mary Jane’s Farm magazine. It was first posted on the affiliated Ranch Farmgirl blog.
Gluten-free, made from scratch, and is sweetened only with maple syrup. I bought that especially to make this cake for us. I tried it out last month after getting a preview email from one of the magazine’s bloggers. The recipe uses two very small pans, known as a “cocotte.”
Actually, any pan like this with a lid is a “cocotte.” For this recipe, the top is not used.
But I have to warn you that “cocotte” is also a French word that means. . .the same thing as the Italian term “Puttanesca.” That is, a female with a specific profession. . .the world’s oldest. Aside from that, I bought two of these little covered cast-iron Dutch ovens at Bed Bath & Beyond, along with two tiny skillets for “just for us” cooking. Sometime.
The cake is made with almond flour and a few other ingredients. The frosting is also rich and delicious.
The article lists variations too:
It’s a small cake just big enough for two to four pieces, and no leftovers. I like that part, because BF eats something twice and he’s done with it.
These cute little pots are available here on Amazon, if you’re interested. (Yes, that’s my affiliate link.)
I convinced BF to try it. He liked it, but not as much as “the one you make with regular flour.” The maple syrup makes it taste a bit different than a standard cake.
In other words, he prefers the cake from a box or one I made him a couple of years ago from a book that was from scratch and just six inches around. A yellow cake with chocolate frosting, from a box, and the frosting in the paper can. That’s what he likes best.
I also considered making some heart-shaped chocolate waffles for him. But he didn’t understand that they weren’t keto and nixed the idea.
There is a solution for us: mug cakes. You know, a single serving of cake mixed in a coffee cup and is whatever and whenever you want. One for him, one (keto version) for me. Two chocolate cakes, two ways. They’re all over Pinterest and other recipe sites, just do a search.
I also tossed out the suggestion of fondue, which got me a funny look. What’s wrong with hot, melty cheese that you can dip nibbles into and eat?
More and more, it’s looking like frozen pizza or another pack of tamales for dinner again. Don’t yet know what movie to rent, but there are more animated films at RedBox to consider.
Some days, I think about the days when Miss Alice used to come for dinner sometimes. She always says that she misses my cooking. Then I think I’m ready for a hiatus from cooking dinner for BF.
Well, if Miss Alice does come for a visit, I’ve got plenty of vegetarian recipes to make. BF will probably eat a bowl of cereal or a ham & cheese sandwich like he always does when I make something he’s afraid of.
Until Next Time
I hope not to have another hiatus for a while. I am getting more comfortable with the infernal Instant Pot, and have not yet hit it with a sledgehammer. That being said, I can’t say that it’s “revolutionized” my cooking, either. I use it for some things and will experiment with others. So one of these days. . .there will be a blog post.
Please stay warm, and stay safe–it’s not over yet, and we do know a few folks who have had the bug. I met a man in Rouse’s one day who had it, along with his wife. Agreeing that the media likes to talk about it at high volume, he did say to take it seriously. The man said that he was in the hospital for five days, and the biggest thing is the fatigue that hangs on long after it’s over. Fingers crossed that it’s resolved soon and we can get back to normal and visiting again.
I’ll be back again soon.
Finally some news, including Hatch chiles, sort of.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Well, it’s summer again, and you know what happened. I’ve been writing, cooking, washing, and cleaning, and generally not blogging. For three weeks, the blog was actually broken. Finally, I created a service ticket for my hosting service, and they fixed it quickly.
After finishing the post on the John Walton Celebration of Life, a little catching up is in order.
My new copywriting website is still not finished. It’s one of those big, hairy things I don’t want to deal with, but I have to, eventually.
The good news is that my Upwork Job Success Score (JSS) just went back up to 100%.
I also finally finished two certifications from Digital Marketer: one for SEO (Search Market Mastery), the other for Content Marketing. The SEO course is the one that I’d been fiddling with for over a year, and Content Marketing was the other one I wanted.
These will be added to the new website. . .eventually.
Because Digital Marketer had a hard-stop ending on the free access on April 15th, I had to finish them ASAP. Nothing like a deadline to make you complete something, right? Well, I almost didn’t get the SEO finished because there was a bug on their website that gave me an error message when I went to take the test. Finally, it was fixed, and I was able to finish the certification. I did the content marketing course in two days, and I have notes and handouts and downloads to refer to.
World Gone Mad
I’ve got to be careful about how I phrase this next section. My hosting company sent out an email in March that included a comment on how they were removing *those* disease-related search terms from their domain search tool so that nobody could set up a website to take advantage of the situation, including alleged and likely fake “cures.” So, here goes.
Last time I wrote a blog post that bug was just affecting some folks on a cruise ship overseas. Now it’s a worldwide thing that has seen all manner of disasters, including economic. While people are starting to emerge from their homes, many because they can’t stand it anymore, the powers that be are continuing to scramble to try and find the right answers.
Part of our preparations included some panic shopping at Walmart for “essentials.” However, what he considers “essential” and what I consider “essential” are frequently not the same. But we were able to get some foodstuffs to pack up under the counter. They’re packed in boxes along with some other foodstuffs that were given to us from BF’s Dad’s house when his sister cleared out some things in favor of “low-sodium” for their Dad to help lower his blood pressure.
Everyone needs cans of chili with beans, right? (Don’t forget the Gas-X!) I added some cans of salmon, which BF wouldn’t touch. For a while, we couldn’t get canned tuna or salmon at all. There were also nationwide shortages of things like yeast, flour, cleaning supplies, and those were evident here. BF was concerned about not being able to get bread, so I bought an extra bag of flour. . .but there was no yeast. I have some in the pantry that I brought from Houston, but that was it. Might be good, might not be, but I haven’t tried proofing it yet. When I found some, I bought it.
We’ve kept ahead of the game on the most coveted item, toilet paper.
Managing The Pandemic
Louisiana has been one of the states with higher rates of cases, but as of this writing, the fatality rate is about 6%, and the recovery rate is high. (I did the math, so be proud of me.) We are fortunate to be in one of the outlying parishes that’s close to the Mississippi border. Our parish has seen a total of 58 presumptive cases, and one fatality due to the bug.
Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Tammany have seen the greatest numbers of cases and deaths, with all 64 parishes now reporting infections. The New Orleans Advocate has a page that’s updated daily with the latest numbers, and the Houston Chronicle also has regular updates for Houston and for Texas.
The most awesome Dr. Sakina Davis at Woodlands Wellness recently had a Zoom call with some of us interested folks to talk about not only what it was, but how to defend yourself against *it* with supplements, healthy eating, and of course, getting some sun as well as supplementing with Vitamin D. I greatly appreciated that. I had to get some Vit C from them, and got a couple of bottles of their very posh-smelling hand sanitizer as well. (I have the most incredible hand sanitizer for miles around!) Another thing: turn off the TV and don’t have a steady diet of “news.”
And if that isn’t enough, it’s now hurricane season. Tropical Storm Cristobal was the first storm to come this way. We just had some rain, nothing serious.
It’s Jumanjij Level 6!
We’re starting to come out on the other side of the pandemic, and slowly, places are reopening around the US. We’ve been to our local Tex-Mex place, La Carreta, once, and have bought curbside takeout from them twice. They’ve reopened with masks on servers. We’ve not been to any of the other local places, which have since reopened, including BF’s favorite Cracker Barrel in Hammond. Yet. But eventually, we all hope to get back to some kind of normalcy.
Trending Egg Bites: Starbucks Leads
Once again the Big Green Coffee Company of Seattle leads the way in trends. First, it was the much-lauded (and maligned) Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL, complete with 50 grams of sugar). Now, they’re leading with their famed egg bites.
I’ve done egg bites in the Instant Pot, but they’re a bit of trouble and I’ve not made them in a while. (I even bought two of those silicone egg molds to do make them in.)
Egg bites are quite popular for a lot of reasons, and it’s probably the one thing I buy the most when I visit Starbucks, other than coffee.
They’re now considered an “emerging food trend,” meaning that everyone is getting on the bandwagon after Starbucks started it. Finally, you’ll soon be able to get egg bites in your grocers’ freezer case. Organic Valley will begin shipping frozen egg bites to stores in late July with an MSRP of $3.99 a pack. Nestle and Valley Fine Foods will soon follow with their own brands.
NOTE: Starbucks has begun to re-open their stores, but our Hammond store has a drive-thru curbside service, Although the store is actually open, there is no seating. You can just go to the counter and pick up your order or hit the powder room (I think.) They aren’t allowing seating outside under the patio, either.
Understand that when I first got here, the center of my universe in Hammond was the Starbucks on St. Thomas. I was very surprised to see a PJ’s in our town, right by Winn-Dixie, and that was a small comfort. It still is, and both have free WiFi.
Admittedly, I only visit Starbucks sporadically, usually, when I’m going to Hammond anyway, or if I’m headed to New Orleans. If there are extra points to be had or some other kind of “special” reason to go, I might make a trip and hit Target at the same time. I’ve utilized the mobile app ordering, and it worked fine.
Mostly, though, I’ve been going to our local PJ’s Coffee on Fridays, ordering their $1-any-size hot coffees through the drive-through and adding a bigger tip or the folks working there.
The cafe just re-opened a couple of weeks ago. But I was doing what was asked, helping out by going through the drive-thru to keep them in business throughout the shutdowns.
BF and I went through one day and I got him a delicious breakfast croissant. A couple of times, I bought BF a double-chocolate muffin, including one for his birthday. He was happy with that. We also bought a gift card to help keep our PJ’s in business, and I’ve just started using the money on it. Their drive-thru has been quite busy so I guess it worked.
Like a lot of fast-food places, PJ’s has been following the guidelines set out by the CDC and the State of Louisiana. They just re-opened the local cafe a couple of weeks ago, with limited indoor seating and the same abbreviated hours. There is also a bigger PJ’s in Hammond, but not near Starbucks, although I haven’t been to that one in a while. Situated next to military recruiting offices, they have a second-floor seating area, and also offer lunch items. They too have abbreviated hours, but chances are, the same as ours.
PJ’s also offers discounts to military personnel and veterans, at least here. That’s a plus for BF, except that he doesn’t drink coffee.
But guess what? PJ’s is, through expansion and franchising, moving into other states, including Texas! I couldn’t believe how many PJ’s there are now around the US. California? Maryland? Georgia? Arkansas? Alabama? I had no idea. There is one “coming soon” to Katy, TX, and I notified longtime Boeing brother RR to be on the lookout. There is also a location in Pearland, which is kind of near Miss Alice, but also might be somewhere in the path of the GER. I let him know about it, and that it is a great alternative to Starbucks (his least favorite place.)
Could PJ’s become the new go-to place for coffee and topple the reigning coffee empire? It’s possible. You could find a PJ’s in your neighborhood one day soon.
The HeatCageKitchen Garden, 2020
Partly in response to the worldwide crisis, BF decided we needed to step up our homesteading game at the Casa de Rurale. I just say it’s about time.
After gardening in buckets, small patches of land, and getting some “toilet-tank tomatoes” two summers ago, we now have a more formal garden. I’ve already made two batches of fresh pesto for the freezer, which he is, as always, unhappy about.
The plant on the right has already been cut for both pesto and for cloning. I’ve got to plant those rootlings soon and get them out of the window. I’ll fill the chest freezer with pesto for the winter, or I’ll end up giving some away. Now to figure out what to do with the burgeoning tarragon. I’ll start with a compound butter for chicken.
Our neighbor across the street, Mr. JD, brought over his tractor and dug up some land for us in front of the shop, and we’ve been planting and planting again. Some things don’t work but we keep trying. We’ve planted a number of things, some of which are actually doing quite well. Right now we have actively growing:
- Potatoes, including some from the grocery store we let bud
- Green beans
- Yellow teardrop
- Chocolate cherry, from seeds I saved in 2015 in Houston (no tomatoes yet)
- Mexican Oregano
- Purple bell peppers
- Shishito peppers (a small, sweet pepper from Japan)
- “Coolapenos,” a variety of jalapenos without the heat
- Anaheim chili peppers, aka, Hatch
Between the plants and the seeds, there have been some that were successful, and some disappointments. We just keep planting stuff and hope it works.
The agreement with Mr. JD was that we would share the harvest, and that’s fine. But when I picked the first of the bounty, three French breakfast radishes, he never stopped by for them. So I washed them and ate them:
Note: eat radishes right after picking. I’ve planted more, and they’re coming up quickly. I’ve got both French Breakfast radishes and some older seeds of some other type, and both are growing.
The Anaheim, or Hatch, Chili Pepper Plant
Remember a couple of years ago I did some reading into Hatch chiles? Well, I am finally getting some from the garden, after three years of trying to grow the darn things from saved seeds from Hatch seasons past. They’re not exactly Hatch chiles, but they’re pretty much the same thing.
I’m convinced this was a mistake, but our local Tractor Supply had Anaheim “Hatch” chili pepper plants about two months ago, and I got the last one. I keep going back to see if they’ve received any more, but nothing yet.
At the moment, there are four small peppers in various stages of growth, and I’ve got four in the fridge. I’m planning to roast them soon, and save the seeds. I used the first two peppers to try and plant more–get a load of these:
Miss Raylina, who works at our local Tractor Supply and puts up with my harassment about “setting up the coffee bar,” told me how to plant any pepper. It’s simple: cut it in half lengthwise and fill the cavity–seeds and all–with soil. Then bury the dirt-filled pepper in your garden. The seeds will germinate and feed off the flesh of the pepper while growing. Simple, right?
I really want more of these peppers this summer, so I’m willing to sacrifice the first two for the greater good of the garden (and give me more “Hatch” peppers, darn it.) But nothing yet. I’ll be saving the seeds out of these during the summer to try and grow Hatch chiles again next year.
But so far, nothing yet. At least we have New Mexico’s harvest in August, at which time I will be able to harvest more of the Hatch chile seeds for next year.
More Garden Pictures
Of course, Anaheim “Hatch” chili peppers aren’t the only thing we’ve got going on. BF insisted on growing corn and potatoes because that’s what his Dad always grew when they were kids. Mind you, BF just turned 50, has been married twice, owned a house once, but has never had a garden of his own. So far, the corn is doing well, with just one stalk knocked over a bit when Cristobal passed through:
How can we incorporate Hatch chiles in with corn? Well, for starters, do it when BF isn’t around.
Because the little yellow teardrop plant didn’t seem to be doing well, I went ahead and moved it. I figured if it was going to die anyway, I might as well try and give it a fighting chance. Not exactly a bumper crop, but it’s a start:
Earlier this year I found three bell pepper plants called Tequila. They turn purple when ripe, not red. I thought it was interesting so I bought a flat of three. Well, one plant didn’t make it, one is still in the shadow of the bigger one and needs moving, even though it’s got one pepper growing on it. But the big plant has three purple peppers, in various stages of ripeness.
Interesting, yes? And then there are the Shishito peppers:
I only saw Ina Garten make these on her show recently, and apparently it’s also in her last book. (Giada de Laurentiis also has a recipe for them.) When I saw the plants at Tractor Supply, I bought two. One is doing better than the other, so I’ll be trying them out when they get bigger. Surprise! One of them is going to be HOT.
Have you ever heard of someone being overrun with zucchini? That hasn’t happened to us yet, we’ve only gotten two off this plant.
And because the leaves are so big, I may have to move the oregano–again.
BF doesn’t eat them, so of course, I’ll be happily feasting on them soon. Zucchini noodles, and preserved zucchini are right on my list.
We’ve also had blackberries growing wild, but BF has never told me how to cultivate them. (Mr. JD said they were “dewberries,” but whatever–they’re delicious.) I gathered berries every day during the brief season, and I have about two quarts in the freezer. That’s the berries left from when I go out berry-picking with the now 80-pound pit bull. We eat berries together. He loves them, right off the vine. I also drop them into his huge, muscular mouth for him to enjoy.
Salad Greens And Other Ingredients
I love salads, and I have long wished to be able to walk outside, pick my salad, walk back inside, wash everything, cut and toss everything into a bowl. I’ve sort of done that twice so far, but there were no cucumbers yet, and I bought some grape tomatoes at Winn-Dixie:
I think I may have dipped into the remaining stash I have of Meyer Lemon EVOO and Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar from Oil & Vinegar in The Woodlands. Just this once, it was a special occasion. But this salad didn’t need much. Those bottles have been at the top corner of the pantry behind everything. BF has strict orders to never touch it, but he probably won’t anyway.
I miss that place. I wonder if they ship.
I tried to grow Romaine lettuce in Houston but was always unsuccessful. The GER told me once that lettuce is a “winter crop,” which put me right off trying again. One day I had a nice big leaf growing, and an hour later, a slug took it out.
Then I moved. Here, we’ve grown some “gourmet” lettuce as well as what doesn’t really look much like iceberg lettuce, but is quite tasty.
The seed for the iceberg lettuce moved when it rained or I watered, so it’s in an odd place. I might try to move it again soon, or move both lettuces away from the outer part of the garden plot so they’ll grow better. There’s a reason for that.
See, I did sprout some Romaine and some celery in the kitchen recently, but they disappeared after I planted them outside. Not died–disappeared. BF said it looked like either deer, possums, raccoons or some other nocturnal creatures came to feast and dug them out of the ground. Without one of those outdoor cams, we have no way of knowing. I’m not 100% sure I want to know what’s going on outside with Mother Nature, anyway.
We also planted cucumbers, which, along with watermelon, are threatening to take over the lawn.
You’ve got to check those cucumbers regularly–if they turn yellow, they’re awful. I know this because the GER grew cucumbers once, and we missed one. He found the yellow “ripe” one, and of course, I had to try it. NOPE! So I’m on them daily for the ones that are ready to pick. If I see some yellow, they get harvested.
No watermelons yet, but we’ll be enjoying those hopefully later in the summer.
I do keep watering and pulling ever-present indigenous weeds out of the plot. There’s some over-grown grass to be removed as well, and I take out some every morning when I water. At some point, I hope to do a mass removal of everything and get some of that black fabric to put over the ground to keep the weeds from getting sun. Fingers crossed.
Books, Books, And More Books
Callisto Press has blessed me with oodles of books since last July. The variety of topics include:
- Weight lifting
- Wine, spirits, and cocktails
- Professional poker
- Aromatherapy (three books, but I’m not allowed to do that in the house)
- Spells for new witches (I kid you not, it was interesting)
- The Law Of Attraction
- Weight training/fitness
- Cannabis edibles (not legal here)
- Successful aging and retirement
- Fung shui
- Essential oils
- Multiple cookbooks, including:
- Italian cooking
- French cooking and baking
- Scandanavian baking
- Baking, including cakes and donuts
- Barbecue and grilling, including sauces
- “Five-Ingredient” cookbooks
- “For two” cookbooks
- Quick-cooking, 30 minutes or less, including “healthy”
- Instant Pot cooking
- Air Fryer cooking
- Slow cooking
- Gardening (including urban gardening)
- Convection oven cooking
- Dehydrator recipes
- Cooking for your dog (absolute truth, including recipes for “doggie date nights” for you and the pup)
- Psychology in different forms, including three “couples” books and one on “willpower”
- Sleeping (and how much sleep have I lost reading them? None.)
- Cookbooks for pecific diets, including:
- Keto (including vegetarian)
- Thyroid disorders
- Intermittent fasting
- Mediterranean (I have three, including one for Keto)
And that’s just the ones I’ve been able to put my hands on just now.
Amazingly, we’ve found a few new “winners” for me to make again, with two thumbs up from BF. This includes one called Roasted Calabrian Chicken, which I made last week. It was really just chicken and diced potatoes with some dried oregano, fresh rosemary, and (don’t tell him!) a squeeze of lemon juice, on a sheet pan in the countertop oven. Needed to cook the potatoes longer, though. Next one is an air fryer recipe with. . .chicken and diced potatoes. The potatoes go into the bottom, and the chicken goes on top on a little rack. Maybe next week.
How Many Books?
Honest, I have no idea. I haven’t counted or organized them yet. They’ve been coming hot and heavy since last July, and until they started limiting people to four books, I got as many as seven at once. I have given a couple of them away as Christmas gifts, and some may be donated to the library eventually.
I need a new bookshelf now, and I’ll have to organize them accordingly. That means BF will be moving some of his boxes of ju. . .I mean, things, for me to put the bookshelf up. I plan to put a nice china cabinet up next to the bookshelf one day, preferably from IKEA, but that’s going to be a while yet.
I wondered if I would need more bookcases. And then one day, it became e-books. I’m guessing it’s because of the expense, but the reason Callisto gave was because of the delivery times. So now it’s about reviewing e-books, and they offer a very short time window for it, too.
I’ve sent one or two of these e-books to Miss Alice in Houston since she’s now vegetarian, a gift from Hurricane Harvey.
I do appreciate all the physical books they’ve sent me (and now, some of my writer friends) to read and review, and will keep them in their own bookcase. LOTS of delicious food in these books as well as really good info, which I hope to digest before my 90th birthday.
I missed two books out of the last batch of physical books that I really wanted, so I’ve got them on my Amazon wish list. I’ll try to fit them in my next Amazon order (whenever that is.) One was a 3-ingredient cocktail book, the other another “for two” kind of thing. Oh, well–they’re not expensive.
I’m a good six months late on this, but I think the next post will be about the cheesecakes. KJ is impatiently waiting for me to write it up, and I need to blog a little more regularly anyway. Plus I’ve got to tell you about the air fryer and the Instant Pot that’s taking up way too much room on the countertop. At least when I use it I can “let R2D2 handle dinner.”
Please take care of yourself, wash your hands, take necessary precautions, and stay far and away from trouble. It’s everywhere, lurking around corners. I’ll be back soon with more delicious recipes to share.
Chorizo–a delicious, flavorful form of sausage from the Mexican and Tex-Mex culture. I love it.
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Hello, again, Dear Readers:
No, BF and I have not fallen off the face of the earth, but I’m busy and he doesn’t write. So, apologies again.
If you went out and got one of the wonderful Kitchenaid Cold Brew Coffee Makers this summer, I do hope you are enjoying it as much as I do. BF’s car-guy friend Jenny came by a couple of months ago and was thrilled to find out about it. She took her kids to the local PJ’s and spent $30 on iced coffee for the three of them, that’s a bit pricey for this young widow. She’s probably going to be getting one if she hasn’t already. But for me, I love my iced coffee in the morning, even though I’m not drinking much of it now that it’s getting chilly! But it’s so easy, even BF could make it.
The Work Of Copywriting
I’m doing a fair bit of SEO writing for law offices and attorneys, with a little of this and that thrown in to keep it interesting. A few weeks ago, a regular client asked me to write a blog post about the things that can affect a paternity test. That’s the “who’s your daddy” DNA test. Well. . .a lot, actually. Besides lab errors and tampering, multiple genetic mutations and anomalies mean two siblings–even twins–test unrelated. Never mind what a “chimera” is. How’s *that* for dinner party conversation?
The Parts Catalog
One client had me writing descriptions for parts. That’s right, hardware, primarily air conditioner parts. Really exciting, yes? I didn’t mind–it pays, and it gives me a break from the occasionally heavy legal subject matter I normally write.
I don’t know what all these parts are for, so I have to look them up. If I don’t know what a capacitor is, I can’t tell you, now can I? (It puts jolts of power into things like fan motors, similar to a battery.) So now I know what that is, and I can create a short description. I also learned a new term: PTAC, or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner. The kind they use in hotels.
One description I wrote was for a metal clip that holds the plastic front onto the air conditioner. This was one I had to use the parts diagram for. Once I realized what it was, I came up with an interesting description, using the phrase “never again will you have to stare at the grisly innards of your air conditioner.” It went over well, and I even posted that one on Facebook. AK says I have “the writing chops.” That made me feel good.
I created content for him for about 3 weeks, and the project ended with five stars from the client.
The Unconventional Garden
I haven’t written about gardening in a while, but I did manage to do some this year. The cool spring meant I was hesitant to put plants out, and I got a late start. We’re now getting bell peppers, and while I’ve picked three or four red ones, I’ve got three more that are still growing, and one is turning red. They could be at our Thanksgiving dinner. (More on that later.)
The Meyer Lemon and Lime trees are still in pots, along with rosemary, scallions, mint, and a lone tomato plant with one tomato growing. They’re at the front of the house.
We dug up a little patch over by the garage, about 5′ by 5′. Mostly basil, a couple of bell pepper plants, some sage, and parsley. I’ve made five or six recipes of pesto while BF complained about the “smell.”
I’m hoping for at least one more container for the winter before it all goes away, but we’ll see. All those little rooted pieces of basil worked and most of them survived.
BF planned to dig more grass up for the rest of the plants, but he’s up to his elbows in car parts and motors. He’s been busily building motors for people and doing some repair work for a few folks, too.
Additionally, we’ve done some updates to the Casa de Rurale. Specifically, replacement ceiling fans (including a new one with a big light and remote control in my office), two new exterior doors with new frames, a new kitchen and bathroom faucet, both Moen (I’ll tell you why Moen in a minute) and. . .a new septic tank.
Not the most interesting stuff, but the septic tank was very important. I’ll spare you the details.
The garden plot had a few tomato plants, but I only got one or two little tomatoes. Must find a better place next year, but they were delicious. One was a teardrop tomato, and the other was a little round one. But we’re getting some tomatoes, finally, in a most unusual fashion.
Because the original builders of this house were able to get away with it, the only septic tank was a single 55-gallon drum. The house was built for a mother-in-law, so it was all the local zoning required. (Yes, they really do stuff like this in Louisiana.)
BF knew that at some point a new, modern tank would be needed. We were having some issues, but nothing too severe. He previously did some digging, but the only way to solve everything was the new septic tank. With all the work he’s been doing in the shop, he was able to get a new 500-gallon cement tank installed in early July.
After the tank business was all over (it really didn’t take long), BF put some dirt over it, and hopefully next year we will have lots of lovely green grass growing over it.
While BF’s car guy friend was visiting, he looked over by the tank, pointed and said, “That’s a tomato plant.” Where? “Over there, under the tree.” At first, I told him he was crazy, but upon closer inspection, he was correct, it was a tomato plant. “If you stake it, you might get some tomatoes off of it.”
Well, I did stake the plants, and this one has given several “racks” of tomatoes in various stages of growth. (This is the first one, near the bottom of the plant.) They’re obviously yellow grape tomatoes, and I have picked a number and eaten a few when ripened. I watered them regularly.
A month or two ago, the wind knocked them over, so I did a little digging to put the stake farther down. Unfortunately, I must have hit the root system, because they started turning brown. There is one tomato that’s thriving on what’s left of the green part and a few more flowers. But the rest were picked and will be seeded before I eat them.
I’ll spare you the details of how these tomato plants came to be, but I’m sure you can figure it out.
BO, a gentleman I used to work with at Boeing, lives in the Clear Lake Area and posted a pic of a tomato plant growing out of the gutter on his house last year. Apparently, the seeds got up there in much the same fashion, but with birds. He posted a picture with a comment about maybe it was time to clean out the gutters. He actually got a half dozen or so tomatoes off that plant. I guess he cleared the gutters later.
So tomatoes are pretty easy to grow, yes?
Fingers crossed for a bigger, better planting and harvest next year, and not by the septic system.
Well. . .remember when I bought the dishwasher? BF changed out the kitchen sink faucet for me right after I got it. He sent me to the local hardware store and I bought what we could afford at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a top-of-the-line model. (The dishwasher is still running great–we’re both happy with it.)
The dishwasher’s “delay” function is great–you set it and forget it, and I was setting it to go off at 3:00 or 4:00 am. That way we could take a shower, and we’d have plenty of hot water. (OK, it only uses 3.5 gallons for a cycle, but BF is persnickety about it.) Unfortunately, well, the faucet. . . .
I bet you see where this is going–the water pressure eventually led to the faucet leaking, and one Saturday, the kitchen was flooded. So no more overnight dishwashing, and lots of old towels around when I did use it.
BF sent me to Lowe’s, and I got a very elegant Moen faucet that doesn’t leak (but is not that expensive.) Unfortunately, he’s had to tear out the cabinetry, and we discovered that the leaks attracted. . .termites. There was no structural damage, but some of the wood has been replaced. The termite problem has been taken care of by his gracious uncle. The kitchen cabinet has been put back together, along with some additional shelving under the sink. At some point, there will be new vinyl flooring (it was already planned.)
I was glad that we were making progress in the house, but. . .well, that’s the karma, isn’t it? More plumbing issues. . .I hope they’re solved now. The Crock Pots were used regularly until we could get back in there.
Let’s talk about something tasty.
One of the many things that I’ve bemoaned the loss of outside of Texas is the availability of chorizo. If you’re not familiar with chorizo, you’re probably not reading this from Texas, or you’ve never been to Texas. If you’ve never had chorizo, you’re missing out.
Most shoppers know about the ubiquitous Italian sausage that’s available just about anywhere in the United States. Different areas have different ways of making it. For instance, the Italian sausage I used to get H-E-B was wonderful. It tasted better than Johnsonville’s version, and I would always keep a couple of packets in the freezer.
Unfortunately, the Italian sausage that I found in Winn-Dixie left a great deal to be desired. (Read: it was awful.)
What It Is (For The Unfamiliar)
Chorizo is a similar thing, except it’s Hispanic. I say “Hispanic” because there are two different types. One is a cured sausage, similar to hard salami, which is Spanish chorizo. I’ve found it in Cost Plus World Market a few times, and it may also be available in gourmet grocery stores.
The second type, which is more common to the southwest, is Mexican chorizo. It’s a raw sausage from pork, like Italian sausage, but made with a different series of spices.
Chorizo may be served with anything from tacos to burritos to a breakfast plate with eggs in place of bacon or regular sausage. It may be in links, like the Johnsonville type, or it may be un-contained like I’ll show you here.
One day I was in Rouses in Mandeville, and I found out that Johnsonville now makes chorizo. I was ecstatic! So I bought some and check at home.
BF was not happy to see this, and I refuse to let him try it. But that’s OK, he didn’t want to anyway.
Result: it’s passable. It’s certainly not as good as anything you get in Texas, but it’s better than nothing. And it doesn’t have the usual amounts of fillers and other things like cereal that you find in some local brands in Houston.
Then my district leader sent me a picture of some chorizo she found in Sam’s Club in Mandeville. That’s an hour away, and I don’t belong to Sam’s. But, it’s a Texas brand and it’s fresh chorizo. I looked up the brand online and it’s pretty good it’s well-made and all that.
Now, Make It
About a week later, I was reading one of the many many food-related emails that I get every day. On this particular day, it was all about tacos. So, I had to open it up and look at it.
One of the recipes in the email was called Amaya’s Tacos. So I looked it up because it was from a cookbook I have. I found it, but on the next page was the recipe for El Chico’s Chorizo. According to the author, it was from a previous cookbook from El Chico restaurant chain many years ago.
This recipe is from a book I’ve talked about before, Rob Walsh’s Tex-Mex cookbook. You’ve seen the picture of me with Mr. Walsh a couple of times from 2011 when I met him at the Houston food show.
That was a good picture–I had recently lost weight, and that new top was suddenly too big. He autographed my book. I was happy. . .anyway. . . .
I had no idea that all this time, I had a recipe for chorizo, and it’s pretty easy.
I had to make it. Went to Winn-Dixie and bought the ingredients. Pork chops. The recipe calls for the use of ground pork, which makes it a little bit easier, but the author prefers to grind up pork chops. The recipe makes a half pound, so for my weekly breakfast quiche, I double the recipe. What I used to do in Houston was to buy HEB’s sage breakfast sausage, and vary it with chorizo occasionally. Not anymore! (I still miss my H-E-B.)
So, if you’re going to use pork chops or other pieces of pork, you put everything in the food processor, and mix in the spices.
Then you turn to the stove, sauté up an onion, then put the pork mixture into the pot, and brown it like you would ground beef.
And this is what you end up with:
Here’s the printable recipe if you want to make your own.
El Chico's Chorizo
- ½ pound boneless pork chops, cut into 4 or 5 pieces You can also use ground pork or grind other boneless pork
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp ground cumin Also called "Comino"
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive or other oil Book uses vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp chopped onion
- Combine all ingredients except the oil and onion into a food processor Process until coarsely ground, about 20 seconds. (NOTE: if using a different recipe, stop here and proceed.)
- Heat the oil in a skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the chopped onion. Add the chorizo mixture and brown for 5 minutes or so to the desired doneness.
This is SO good. . .and no, it’s not pepper-hot. If you want spicy hot, add some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. I’ve used pork chops, ground pork, and even pork stew meat. I’ve just gone with the ground pork since it’s readily available and usually pretty cheap.
I also figured out by accident that I can buy multiple pounds of ground pork, mix the appropriate amount of spices in, and then freeze it in quart-sized freezer bags in one-pound increments. That makes life easy, too.
After all the chorizo I’ve ever had in my life, I have to say this is really darn good. It was a happy accident that I happened to find such a thing, and wish I had found it before. Well, I have it now. And BF won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.
Rob Walsh has a series of cookbooks out, and I may investigate buying more of them. His chili cookbook may be next. After all, it’s better to have recipes if you’re going to go attempt to make some Tex-Mex food, isn’t it?
Bonus: Hatch Chile Time!
I managed to get some Hatch chiles this year and put them into my breakfast quiche again. YUM. I bought a lot of them and roasted them all at once in the oven. With the windows open. When BF was not around.
I’ve got a jar full of seeds, in addition to seeds I saved previously. (Bell pepper seeds, too.) I’ve planted a few in the little garden spot, but nothing grew. There’s always next year and that big area behind the garage.
Rouse’s has started to pick up the banner for Hatch chiles, although last year, I got them at Whole Foods. Winn-Dixie had the last of the crop because October is way too late. Many of them were red, which means they were hotter.
This year, a customer in Rouse’s produce department asked me to explain the Hatch–and I did. Extensively. Turns out the lady and her husband were headed to Carlsbad Caverns. I told her about my and Aunt Ruth’s trip to Albuquerque in 2012, and the warning from a fellow flier about “red, or green?”
Hatch Infused Foods
While Rouse’s will never be HEB, they had some Hatch-infused meats available, as well as Hatch roasted rotisserie chicken.
Of course, we can get canned Hatch chiles here all year long, and you can always order all things Hatch from HEB on their website.
Because we’re in Louisiana, this sits right next to that meat case:
Many Louisiana recipes start out with celery, onion, and bell pepper. With a nod to the state’s Catholic roots, people started calling that combination the “Trinity.” Naturally, someone came up with the idea to market it in dried form, and, well, there it is. I haven’t bought any, but I have bought some dried bell peppers; I needed them for a Stephanie O’Dea recipe recently.
Ready To Make Chorizo?
I know, I know, you can buy it all over the Lone Star State. Heck, I even found some in Rouse’s, one of the brands you can get in Texas–had no idea:
Oh, and look what else I found nearby:
I usually get this brand of Queso Fresco, but soon I’ll be trying that Manchego to see what it’s like. Fortunately, BF has no interest.
And I’m doing yeast-free for a while. Almond milk and Yeast Free Brownies. No dairy. All that.
Here Come The Holidays
Whether you want them to or not.
BF notified me that the kids would like me to brine a turkey and do a Thanksgiving dinner. Can’t imagine why–other than turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes, they turned their noses up at everything else the last time. I’ll take care of it, and the rest can be out of a box or frozen. They love the instant stuffing mix. There may be a pie from The Pioneer Woman’s latest magazine.
Longtime Buddhist friend KJ posted this on Facebook recently:
If anyone complains about Thanksgiving, I’ll source these for Christmas dinner. If I can find a countertop dishwasher, I can find this online, darn it. And why not? Can’t be any worse than Feetloaf:
Yes, I’m a smart-aleck.
I’ll try very hard to get some of the other drafts out and published; I’ve just been very busy. Sorry about that.
Go make some easy chorizo, and have a delicious meal tonight or Taco Tuesday tomorrow.