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June Updates And Hatch Chiles

Finally some news, including Hatch chiles, sort of.

Hi, again, Dear Readers:

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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.

Copywriting Updates

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%.

UpworkProfilePicAt1002020

I did it again.

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.

 

Content Marketing Badge

Search Marketing Specialist

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 in red mold

Aren’t they cute? Right out of the pot.

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. 

Cooked egg bites in red dish

Ready for breakfast!

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.

PJ’s Coffee

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.

Basil plants

Basil is back, and there is more to come.

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.

Tarragon with ruler measuring 12 inches high

What am I going to do with all that?

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:

  • Corn
  • Potatoes, including some from the grocery store we let bud
  • Green beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini
  • Radishes
  • Tarragon
  • Basil
  • Lettuce:
    • Gourmet
    • Iceberg
  • Tomatoes:
    • Yellow teardrop
    • Chocolate cherry, from seeds I saved in 2015 in Houston (no tomatoes yet)
  • Mexican Oregano
  • Peppers
    • Purple bell peppers
    • Shishito peppers (a small, sweet pepper from Japan)
    • Poblanos
    • “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:

Three French Breakfast Radishes

They are gorgeous, yes?

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.

Anaheim Hatch chili pepper plant with pepper

Looking forward to more of these

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: 

Two Anaheim Hatch chili peppers on red cutting board with knife

The first two Hatch peppers that were used to try and regrow more peppers

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:

Corn stalks growing

These are about six feet high

 

Up-close shot of corn on the stalk

Looks like we will be having plenty of corn on the cob soon, whether we want it or not.

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: 

Small tomato plant

There it is! One little tomato.

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.

Tequila bell peppers

You won’t find these at HEB, Rouse’s, Publix, or Walmart.

Interesting, yes? And then there are the Shishito peppers:

Shishito pepper

Ever heard of these? Me either until recently.

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.

Zucchini plant

The leaves are as big as dinner plates.

And because the leaves are so big, I may have to move the oregano–again.

Zucchini growing

That’s the next one that I’ll harvest. They seem to double in size overnight.

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:

Cut garden lettuce with grape tomatoes

This was so delicious with a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing and a touch of salt.

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.

Green and red lettuce growing

I was quite surprised that this grew as well as it did. Then I cut it for salad.

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.

Iceberg lettuce growing

It’s re-growing after being clipped. Again.

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.

Cucumber and watermelon growing

They’re everywhere!

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
  • CBD 
  • Weight training/fitness
  • Cannabis edibles (not legal here)
  • Successful aging and retirement
  • Fung shui
  • Essential oils
  • Visualization
  • Multiple cookbooks, including:
    • Italian cooking
    • French cooking and baking
    • Scandanavian baking
    • Baking, including cakes and donuts
    • Sauces
    • Barbecue and grilling, including sauces
    • “Five-Ingredient” cookbooks
    • “For two” cookbooks
    • Quick-cooking, 30 minutes or less, including “healthy”
    • Desserts
    • 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:
    • Vegetarian/Vegan
    • Keto (including vegetarian)
    • Pescatarian
    • Dairy-Free
    • Gluten-Free
    • Sugar-free
    • Thyroid disorders
    • Intermittent fasting
    • Lowfat
    • 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.

What’s Next?

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.

Enjoy!

 

CAKE
CAKE! (Gluten Free!)

Red Truck Bakery. . .let me tell you all about an incredible cake they make.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I’ve got a few minutes to tell you about a cake surprise I received recently from longtime friend of the blog AK. You may remember a few years ago that she sent me a Suzy Homemaker washing machine I found on eBay and posted on Facebook just for fun. I still have it, and it still works, but it’s still packed in a box right now until I get more bookshelves and have a place to put it. Well, she sent me something else.

But first. . . .

I’m still working on Upwork, and BOOKED UP. I’ve been making money, not a fortune, but able to buy groceries and take care of some stuff for us. It’s not a lot, but we’re not on just his paycheck anymore. I’ve had some technical problems too, which I hope to solve soon so I can get on with it. I haven’t bought any more glasses, but that will happen again soon, probably after the holidays. I hate having just one pair. . .but it’s temporary. I’m hoping to surprise BF with a nice little (inexpensive) present for Christmas, too.

The Royal Wedding!

By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Megan Markle. This was a big non-event to BF, but I have ordered a McCall’s pattern that is a very close copy to the white one she wore from Line The Label. (View D) The pattern happened to have been on sale that day, and I ordered a couple of other patterns while they were cheap. (I miss Hancock Fabrics!) You can’t even buy that coat now, because they’ve all been bought and the company’s website crashed that day.

BF asks, “How does this affect my life here in Louisiana?” I responded that it’s a positive event happening in the near future. He didn’t agree.

I also came up with a new fitness goal for us. We need to get in shape for the Royal Wedding! Now, I’ve been busy and haven’t been exercising, but I’m planning to change that this week. I thought it would be a great way to set a fitness goal for both of us. But the minute I said “Royal Wedding,” that went over like a lead balloon.

For the record, I am still The Duchess Of El Dorado. In case you were wondering. . . .

And, BTW, wedding cake in the UK and Australia is traditionally fruit cake, if you didn’t know that.

Not The Same Thanksgiving

We didn’t host this year, and although I ordered two jars of Sur La Table’s turkey brine, I was glad. After last year’s mixed-bag of likes and dislikes, I kind of felt like my time as the star turkey maker was over. BF’s daughter is expecting her second child, and her partner had to work that day, so it kind of fizzled out. We went to his father’s place up the road, where BF’s sister-in-law made ham, potato salad with green olives and something else, and some other stuff I didn’t try. No, not traditional, but I like ham and the occasional potato dish. Maybe next year.

Pesto!

This summer, much to BF’s chagrin, I made three batches of fresh pesto for the freezer. The basil was growing wild again, so I made some, along with a batch of Pea & Pesto Soup for myself. BF called me from work one day and I told him I was making some. His response: “Oh, I can hardly wait.” Smarty-pants.

I’ve got what I hope is a good supply for the winter. Y’all know I love Pea & Pesto Soup!

Our #StarbucksDate

If you read this on Facebook. . .my apologies.

Back in July, we had to head to Hammond for a couple of things, including a stop at the new Petco to get a “cone of shame” for the pit bull, who managed to injure himself and get caught in an fire ant pile. He looked like he’d been dog-fighting and lost, but that’s not really what happened. Poor puppy. We cleaned him up and applying some topical antibiotic stuff, but he kept scratching it. For three days he tried to pull the thing off, but BF’s ingenious use of zip-ties ensured that he couldn’t.

Petco is right there in the strip mall where Starbucks is. I also get the emails that let me know about goings on. For various reasons, BF is not a fan of Starbucks, but I am. So when I got the email announcing the free tea tasting that day, I made sure BF knew about it, and that we were going. Reluctantly, he agreed.

He Indulges Me

Starbucks was offering free 12-ounce (“Tall”) cups of their hand-shaken iced tea infusions, one per customer. I requested the peach-white tea infusion; BF, after some confusion, requested strawberry with green tea. I’m not a fan of the green tea, but he’s had it. They served us our tea, and I suggested to BF that he try a sip first, then add a packet of the stevia they have, since it dissolves instantly and completely. That’s what I did, and it worked perfectly. BF. . .not so much. He didn’t take my suggestion of the stevia, instead, opting for a half cup of white sugar. It didn’t help. I drank most of it, but the sugar sinks to the bottom and doesn’t dissolve. Not wild about the taste, either, but I think stevia would have been a better option. He probably would have liked the peach teabetter. Oh, well. At least he gave it a shot, and it was free.

BF has frequently told the story of being in Kuwait and seeing his fellow service members stand in line in 100F heat waiting to get a hot coffee at Starbucks. Baffled, he asked them, why? “It tastes like home,” they said.

Yes, Starbucks DOES support service members, veterans and their families. There’s a long-running rumor that’s still rolling around the world. I’ll say it again–I’m not always wild about what the company puts out, but they are still a good company and mean well. Starbucks has always been great to me, and they do support our US troops. Anyway. . . .

Brownies. . .

Sometimes fast food is brought into BF’s place of employment. Usually it’s pizza, fried chicken or something else of the same nature. Sometimes management pops for food, sometimes they pool money. Recently BF walked in after work with this box:

Red Truck Bakery

What’s this foolishness?

It seems some of the folks had been to the new local Pizza Hut, and bought these, anticipating the finest creation from a patisserie. BF took them after they told him these brownies were “a little too rich.” Well, they look normal:

Brownies. From Pizza Hut.

Yes, I tried a bit. (Cake-like texture.) Yes, they look like brownies. No, they don’t taste anything like brownies. They have no taste to them at all. Seriously. They taste like chocolate flavored rubbish.

Maybe it’s my age–I’m not 16 anymore. (My birthday was in October, nevermind how old I am!) Maybe it’s my tastes that have changed, or I know rubbish when I taste it. Or maybe. . .I dunno. BF ate them one at a time with his lunch, and they’re gone. Yuck.

Here’s my professional blogger/foodie advice: if you want pizza, go to Pizza Hut, your favorite Italian restaurant, buy a frozen one or make it yourself. If you want brownies, find a recipe or buy a mix and bake them yourself. Get a recipe from Pinterest and make waffle brownies. Stop at a bakery, coffee shop or even the grocery store. Or make some Yeast-Free Brownies with Swerve Sweetener. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t buy brownies in a pizza joint when you’re having a chocolate craving.

I mean, think about it. Would you ask your mechanic to decorate your house? Would you hire an interior decorator to tune up your car and change the CV joints? How about ask a dog trainer to babysit your cat? NO! So don’t buy brownies in a place where they specialize in pizza. Brownies from a pizza place are generally not what you’re looking for.

Speaking of brownies

I found the last picture of the lot from the einkorn article. Dunno what happened, but here it is:

Both were well received. But that’s a lotta brownies! (Duncan Hines on the left, Amy’s einkorn on the right.)

More Hatch Chiles

I’ve been busy with writing and everything else, and I just never got around to really cultivating the Hatch chiles. Darnit. You Texas readers appreciate the Hatch chiles. I was thrilled to find them in this area, and even happier to find out that a few people actually know what they are. (Buddhist friend JL knows all about them and gets it.)

BF’s BFF, Big H, was working in New Mexico this summer and has discovered Hatch chiles after I told him *all* about them. I warned him about the “red or green sauce” thing, and he found out I wasn’t kidding.  One day he sent me a picture:

Big H’s first outing with the beloved Hatch chiles.

Hot dawg! He tried it–and he liked it! Which is more than I can say for BF, who I believe is just the victim of way too many MRE’s in the Navy.  I only seek to educate, and in Big H’s case, he discovered that the mild green chile is a pretty good addition to a burger. BF, on the other hand, has taken to telling everyone, particularly *my* friends, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!” He’s still alive. If I was, he wouldn’t be!

The Red Truck Bakery Surprise

A few months ago, mid-summer,  I got a FB message from AK, a fellow copywriter asking for my home address. I gave it to her–I’ve known her in person for several years–and she said that I should expect a package on Thursday. Oh, BOY! But what was it? She wouldn’t tell me. She would only tell me that it was coming via UPS.

Well, Thursday came. It was raining and it was getting late. UPS runs late, especially at the holidays, so I knew it might be night before the brown truck arrived. And about 7:30 that night, it did. The UPS guy was even interested in what it was, because I told him my friend in Idaho was anxiously awaiting my text of receipt. (He knew when he saw “Red Truck Bakery” on the shipping label!) When I saw where it was from, I thought, “oh, I don’t normally do this kind of thing.”  But then I opened it up and discovered this cake:

CAKE! And yes, it was gluten free! AK knows me. Immediately, I sent a picture to BF at work.

And naturally, let her know immediately that I’d received her kind and generous gift.

Red Truck Bakery is a mail-order bakery in Virginia, and they ship nationwide. They even have a testimonial from former President Obama, who apparently loves pie. Hey–it’s like the royal crest, right? (Even if you didn’t like him–trust me, on this, the former POTUS has very good taste.)

AK has had a number of treats from Red Truck Bakery, including some gluten-free ones that she’s highly recommended.

I texted BF and let him know too, and what it was, and cracked open the box:

CAKE

The carefully wrapped cake

Now, I promise I’m not being ungrateful when I say this–but it doesn’t look like the picture on their website:

CAKE

That’s what it looks like when it leaves their bakery. Shipping does funny things to the appearance

It comes in Red Truck’s lovely and classic bakery box too:

CAKE

Classic presentation

However, when you cut into it, you really won’t care what it looks like. I carefully unwrapped it:

CAKE

It was all I could do *not* to cut into it until BF got home!

You smell the delicious aroma of almonds and amaretto when it’s opened. However, I didn’t cut into it, I simply put it in the fridge and waited for him to get home from work that night.

After we had dinner, I cut us each a slice.

CAKE

Oh, yes. Who needs frosting?

This almond cake has no flour and is called “gluten free,” but I’m telling you, serve it to just about any group and don’t say anything–they’ll never know. It’s not a “diet cake,” because there is sugar in it. A very, VERY delicious cake it is, and you definitely won’t miss any frosting. Great anytime, or with a cup of coffee or tea, this is the kind of cake you hope for when you buy one.

CAKE

With cappuccino. . .oh, yes, please.

Red Truck Bakery is in Marshall, Virginia, and they ship nationwide. This delicious Almond Cake With Amaretto would be just the thing for holiday gifts for friends far away, whether or not they’re gluten-free. Red Truck also offers a menu of other delicious baked goods AK assures me are just as delicious as this cake is. Whatever you decide to order, apparently, you won’t go wrong.

I can highly recommend this cake to send as a gift, or to order for your holiday table. It really is incredibly delicious.

A Congratulations

I talked to AK later and asked her what the occasion was. Well, I’ve been bragging on Facebook about the clients I’ve gotten, the work I’ve been doing and the fact that I’ve made a little money with it. (It impressed the heck out of BF.) She said the cake was a gift to celebrate my recent successes, and hopes for many more.

I wouldn’t say I was “crushing it,” but apparently folks think I have been. That’s good. I really am working and making a little money. Sometimes I have more than BF–but it doesn’t last long. <smirk>

He Likes It, Too

BF had one slice, and decided it was very good, too. After dinner, I made a cappuccino, poured him a glass of milk, and we had dessert. But he only had one slice. I asked him if he wanted another slice of cake, and he said, “Well, it’s delicious, but it’s really for you.” 

Awwww. . .I did finish it, eventually, one slice at a time.

Christmas Is Coming. . .

It’s coming whether you want it to or not, so think about Red Truck Bakery if you’re either stressed out, or would like to send a delicious gift to someone (including yourself.) This almond amaretto cake would be a perfect gift.

I’ll try to blog again soon–but if I don’t, please have a delicious and Merry Christmas this year.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RaceTrac
Amy’s RaceTrac Experience

RaceTrac–a nice little place to stop in the South.

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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?

“Belgian Linen”

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.

Exercise?

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. . . .

Lil’ Diabeetus

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:

RaceTrac

This is the picture they don’t show you. It’s what Lil’ Debbie looks like when she gets older. (Pic courtesy BF, who likely found it on Facebook.)

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!)

Gardening!

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.

RaceTrac

But do they have Hatch Chiles??

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!

RaceTrac

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?

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.”

RaceTrac

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:

RaceTrac

They make it fresh–no “formulas.”

They can flavor it any way you like:

RaceTrac

Flavors! And check out that counter!

They can also make the iced coffee drinks for you, too:

RaceTrac

You can make nearly anything with a Vitamix!

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.

Happy Easter!

 

 

Starbucks
Amy’s Starbucks Weekend

Starbucks–I spent the weekend in Hammond, sort of.

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Happy Monday, Dear Readers!

A local festival locked up the library last week, so I told BF, “heck with it–I’m headed to Starbucks.”  So I did. Transferred some money from PayPal into my Starbucks account–yes, you can do that–and while BF worked at his place of business, I worked at Starbucks. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and a quick stop on Sunday at the Mandeville Starbucks on the way home from Whole Foods for an iced coffee.  Let me tell you all about it.

But first, some news.

We’ll be seeing some new “functional” foods in the US soon, called Freedom Foods. If you’re thinking it’s for patriotic Americans, well. . .think again. It’s an Australian company, and will be distributed in the US by AFT Holdings. They’re a “major player” in the “functional health cereal,” snack and beverage market Down Under, but my guess is that you won’t be getting the same thing you get in Australia–the formulations will be “Americanized.” Just a guess.

American Quinoa?

Ardent Mills is promoting North American-grown quinoa, including products made with quinoa flour: nutrition bars, cereals, chips, gluten-free pastas and other snacks. Can they keep the quinoa from becoming GMO or contaminated with GMO? Part of the appeal is that it’s not grown in the US, so it usually isn’t. Fingers crossed.

Less sugar, more starch. . .right.

A British ingredient company has a new sweetener called avante that claims to allow bakers to use less sugar in their products. This tapioca-based product, which is being called a “clean, non-GMO starch,” is still going to be a sugar, especially if they continue to reduce the fat content in these sweets. (Diabetics already know this.) But sweets aren’t something we consume every day, right? Right?

Anyway. . .

The local festival used to be at what they call the “fair grounds,” up the street, but now it’s in the street in front of the library. Rides, vendors, etc., like every church fair you’ve ever been to, except in the street. Whatever–all I know is the library was blocked off Thursday, closing early on Friday and closed all day Saturday. I’m back in the library today, getting back into the swing of things.

Crawfish Night

BF has been “having a craving” for crawfish lately, and Friday night he gave in. Took us to one of those places up the street from the library that doesn’t have a website, they just have seafood and laminated menus. Me, I could take it or leave it. . .but a nice plate of steak or chicken fajitas, some good guacamole, pico de gallo, and maybe some crispy corn chips? Oh, out of my way!

He bought six pounds of them, a couple of chunks of corn on the cob and a few potatoes, which are traditionally boiled in with the crawfish. We took them home and carefully kept them away from the pit bull on the way in the front door. Admittedly, as indifferent as I was to having crawfish again, they were pretty darn good. We sat at the big dining table with some of those big round trays he keeps for such a purpose and dove in. The cat was very interested in what she was smelling, but when offered a bit, turned her nose up. And the leftover shells and corn cobs? BF put those outside near a huge drainpipe for the night creatures. Next morning it was clean. We have visions of possums and raccoons cheering for such a special meal. But they don’t say much, they just enjoy it.

Working. . .in Starbucks

No kidding, I just set up my laptop and stuff, take my black stovepipe coffee mug and walk up to the counter. Since I’ve been in there a lot, and Hammond’s store doesn’t seem to have much turnover, the folks who work there seem to know me when I hit the front door. With earned money on my app, I asked for coffee and one of their breakfast sandwiches. I was hungry, so. . .I had one. (Three, actually, one a day.) That’s not a regular thing, but these were unusual circumstances. I dropped my honey off at his place of employment and hit the road.

Hammond is about a 30-minute drive from Casa de Rurale, and I’ll either listen to the radio, stream music or chant for a while. (In Houston, we called that “windshield diamoku.”) Starbucks is kind of my “Hammond Central,” just because I know where it is. I also know where Winn-Dixie, Tuesday Morning, Rouse’s, Harbor Freight Tools, Lowe’s, RaceTrac (subject of an upcoming blog post) and. . .drum roll. . .Walmart is. They’re all up the street from Starbucks!

I really was working

Today my newest client just gave me two more jobs, and I have another article due next week for the natural health folks. That article is going to spawn a blog post here, BF will be treated to some new food, and possibly another taste-tester or two. I’ll have a backlink for you to read the client article in the blog post, too–but I haven’t finished the article nor the work for the blog post yet. That baking may be this week or at the weekend, so keep your fingers crossed for that one.

I got some coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and got to it. I finished up the last article for my natural health client first, and sent it off to them. They’ve accepted it, and I’ve been paid for it. After a message exchange, I asked about the next one. Checking my milestones, I realized that the next the next article was due on the 29th, and another April 4th, I think. But my newest client’s work work was due sooner. She was supposed to send it, but I hadn’t heard from her, so I checked in. Whoops! Someone slipped up, it was late, and she sent it shortly thereafter. With a free refill on the decaf I put down the next article that I’ve already started, got right on her web copy re-write.

Starbucks Rewards–it pays!

I don’t know if it was just the Hammond store or what, but they’ve been running a special with the breakfast sandwiches–a couple of them are $5 with a coffee. That’s going on until something like April 5th. Well, the sandwiches run about $4.50, and coffee is anywhere from $2 on up, so yes, it’s a good thing. With my own coffee tumbler, there’s a ten-cent discount as well (not just for Rewards members, either.)

I learned to work the system

Then there is what they call a “Star Dash”–a period of time where you buy or do certain things or make a certain number of purchases–and you receive a sum of “bonus stars” (points) in return. Sometimes it’s using their mobile ordering app, which I’ve done. Sometimes it’s getting a breakfast sandwich, a certain type of coffee (i.e., a Flat White) and a dessert item, either separately or together, for those stars. But this particular time, it was from March 14 through March 20. If you make 5 separate purchases, no matter the dollar amount, you would receive 75 bonus stars, in addition to the stars you already receive by the actual purchase (say, 10 stars.) If you make 7 purchases, you would receive 200 bonus stars. These stars also count towards the continuation of your “gold” status for another year.

If you went into Starbucks every day for a coffee, as many Americans do, you would probably reach 125 stars, after spending $62.50. That’s how much you spend normally to reach 125 stars and get a free thing. But if you hit one of the star dashes, well, that goes up quick. I already had a free thing from a previous promotion, and I used it last week. But I still managed to rack up the 200 bonus points.

I got hungry

There was the coffee and breakfast sandwich first thing, and then free refills as long as I was there. But woman does not live on free coffee alone. And dinner was hours away, after BF got off work. We did have one day of CrockPot dinner. There was also a leftover night and Pizza Waffles on the Griddler. But in between, I did some investigation on what was available. In addition to the breakfast sandwiches, which are *not* gluten free, they have panini, but no sandwiches or salads. Pass. And of course, they have the cake pops, cookies, muffins and other baked goods available in the case, but I decided to go out of the case and try something new.

Emmy’s Organics

Something sweet was just the ticket, and I found these while waiting in line:

Starbucks

Chocolate cookies!

There are three chocolate cookies in this package, and I have to say they were not only tasty, but filling, too. Never seen them before? Me either–but they were good. They’re organic, gluten free and vegan–what could be wrong with that? Nothing, from what I saw:

 

Starbucks

They even use Agave Syrup

Healthy nibbles that were definitely worth it:

Starbucks

See?

So what’s in the package? These cute little rounds:

Chocolate!

No frosting, no fancy design, just a cute little round. What do they taste like?

Starbucks

Yum!

These really are good–sweet but not *too* sweet. They’re about $3 a packet, so I wouldn’t be doing these daily. (Remember this was kind of unusual.) But they’re a pretty good thing to have with afternoon coffee.

The blonde version

I also found the Vanilla Bean version right next to it, and had them the next day:

Starbucks

These are good, too

The ingredients are similar:

Starbucks

But no chocolate

They’re good, but I prefer the chocolate version.

Starbucks

Same as the chocolate one, only lighter.

Emmy’s Organics makes a variety of flavors, available on their website, of these coconut cookies. You can read more about Ian and Samantha’s little company here, how they got started and how they’ve grown.

So what else did you find?

If you are missing Girl Scout Cookies, or wish they came gluten free, here’s a fake-me-out version that you might be interested in:

Starbucks

Can they say that?

They’re non-GMO and gluten free, but what’s in them?

Starbucks

The usual starchy replacements.

Tread carefully, since these are high in carbs. I didn’t try these because I found the coconut cookies, but I might have. I was thinking about it, anyway.

There is also meat:

Starbucks

Meat!

I didn’t try these either, because I didn’t notice them early enough. Maybe next time. My choice would have been beef, of course:

Starbucks

Gluten free, grass fed beef, but I don’t know what that flavoring is.

I didn’t ask the price for these, either, but I should have. Next time.

All around me, things were coming up spring:

Starbucks

Spring coffees, new cups and new stuff!

And a lot of telling information here:

Starbucks

Base?

They don’t sell soft drinks, but some of these specialty beverages are every bit as sugary.

They also have new cups for Easter:

Starbucks

Aren’t they cute?

This is what one of them says:

Starbucks

Awww. . . .

The total

So after all that, I found myself with 304 points, which meant two free things. Yesterday I headed to Mandeville for my district meeting, and after a quick forage in Whole Foods, I hit the Starbucks across the street. I was really, really hoping they had salads, but no. It’s warmed up again here, so I decided on a large, fancy iced coffee. The Iced Cinnamon Almond Milk Macchiato looked good to me, and it was–mostly.

Starbucks

Yes, that’s the way it was handed to me.

I asked for decaf *and* sugar free syrup, so I guess it was not exactly to spec. I added a packet of pink and it was still a bit strong, so I added some half & half. Now it was perfect! I put it in the cup holder and headed back to the Casa. It was a pretty good day.

Stop Hating on Starbucks!

OK, so, I know the GER is reading this and gritting his teeth, wondering why I keep going in there. And there’s probably one or two other readers who don’t agree with me on going in. First, well, it’s the best place to go in these parts and get as much free coffee as they’ve given me. And they do a lot of good.

There’s a rumor that has been around for many years that says “Starbucks doesn’t support our troops.” True, they do have their political leanings, but they also do a lot of good. Not everyone can get hired on, but there are good benefits for people who do. But for our military folk, Starbucks does step up to the plate.

It started with an email

The story is here on their website, how how it all went down with a U.S. Marine. Starbucks has facilities all over the world, including military bases. They’ve made the goal to hire more vets and vet spouses. And they deliver coffee to service members overseas.

Yes, I remember #RaceMatters, and the blowback they got for it. Nobody’s perfect. And I know about their preferences in states with concealed carry. But it’s still a nice little place to go sometimes.

Why?

The people who actually work in the Hammond store are pretty darn nice, and are happy to make my decaf. So are the customers. I had mostly the same experience in Houston, except for that one down in the Tunnel. You meet some nice folks in Starbucks. My friend BS, who left Boeing to move back to New Mexico about ten years ago, met his wife in there not long after he moved there. They’ve been married for, what–eight years now? Maybe not that long. I’m not looking for another boyfriend, of course, but I’ve talked to some really nice folks in there. There’s one man I see frequently who’s polite, and in between projects, we talk about stuff sometimes.

Still missing Texas

I still miss my HEB, and the Starbucks on my Street, and of course, my friends. I know some people here, and just accepted a friend request from a lady who is leaving the library for a better job on Friday. I finally got a rack for my kitchen stuff, and unpacked a bunch more boxes yesterday.  BF gave me some help moving things around after I got all that taken care of, and we are both sore today. I’ll take a couple of pictures when I get it all finished.

I’m getting used to things, I guess. We realized the other day that it’s been six months since BF drove to Houston for a “rescue mission.” It’s not always smooth sailing, but we’re getting there. And the garden will be happening soon–the citrus trees have lots and lots of buds on them.

Meantime, I’m back writing for clients, and hanging out at the local library. It’s kind of nice to get out of the local vibe and hit Starbucks sometimes, or go work on a Sunday because I can get ahead on things.

I’ve got more stuff coming, so stay tuned.

Enjoy!

Slow Cooking: Christmas Edition

Slow Cooking–great all year long!

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

Well, I’m back again with more slow cooking. Recently, I was introduced (online) to a lady who is a pro at the slow cooking thing. She’s written books and has blogged about it for many years. And I just found her. She’s going to help us with our holiday dinners!

But first, a lesson in irony.

Recently, I had an errand in Hammond, and of course, made a quick stop in the closest  Starbucks there. Take a look and tell me if you see the irony here:

Seriously?

Seriously. . .

This was, of course, in the ladies room after a tanker full of coffee (free refills with your Starbucks card!) If you’re not seeing it, allow me to explain: the sign is an instruction on how to wash your hands. In it, you are told to dry off your hands with a paper towel, then use said paper towel to turn off the water when you’re done.

In the sticker on the hot-air hand dryer, you are told about the energy efficiency of using the hand dryer. It eliminates the paper towel, but gives you nothing to turn off the faucet (or open the door to leave) with to protect your freshly-washed hands from someone else’s hand germs.

Does no one think about this?

Louisiana is the only state I’ve ever been in that posts hand-washing instructions in the bathrooms, nearly everywhere. I never saw those in 18 years in Texas. Draw your own conclusions.

Sewing!

I took out one of my sewing machines this week, mostly to test it out. With a few fat quarters from Walmart, I made this item:

The State flag of Texas

That’s right. A Texas flag.

Funny how you don’t notice them until you don’t see them anymore. (The sign underneath is a WWIIposter that says “Sew for Victory.”)  There will be more of them, if for no other reason, to use up the stars. But BF has been told that when the day comes that he puts up an American Flag on the property, as many neighbors have, there *will* be a Texas flag flying next to it. And if the Texit business happens, I do hope they take Louisiana with it so we can have more great barbecue!

Cleaning up

For the record, Whole Foods isn’t kidding about encouraging you to “shop local” and all that. Not a bad idea, of course. This big guy’s grin greeted me as I checked out of the Mandeville store this past weekend:

Who's that?

Who’s that?

William Terry, the founder of Bayou Soap, is on board with natural soaps and creates them right in New Orleans.  (You can read more about them here, and their Facebook page is here.) I couldn’t resist looking at the many bars—lovely soaps, and they all smell wonderful:

Lavender--good for evening showers to help you sleep.

Lavender–good for evening showers to help you sleep.

Don't these look yummy?

Don’t these look yummy?

I have no idea what

I have no idea what “African Black Soap” is, but maybe one day I’ll give it a try. Long as it doesn’t paint me.

Mango soap? Mango!!

Mango soap? Mango!!

Yes, these are pricey, but handcrafted artisan items usually are. (You can also order them online.) Mr. Terry doesn’t have the manufacturing muscle of Proctor & Gamble, and he uses natural ingredients without harsh chemicals. (I used to buy some very nice soaps from a lady at the farmer’s market in Nassau Bay on occasion, too.) Plus, they’re very big bars. My thinking is to cut them into one or two smaller bars to make them easier to handle and last a while. I’ll get some one day soon. I do like to shop local when I can, and patronize local businesses.

While others have seen Jesus’ face in a grilled cheese sandwich, and the Virgin Mary in a mobile home door screen, I see BF’s cute face in this bar of soap:

Can you see his face in this bar of soap?

It’s BF!!

I can’t possibly use that to wash my hands now. . . .

Christmas is SUNDAY.

How did this happen? I mean, wasn’t it Turkey Day just a week or two ago? Carols have been playing nearly everywhere I go. . .that stuff has been out in Walmart for weeks. . .yesterday I told BF I wanted an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas, ha, ha. Being the smart aleck he is, he might just get me one–but where do you get the refill packages for it? I’ve never seen them, but I guess because I don’t have to.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and all through the house

The A/C was running, for we live in the South.

Yep. We’re waiting to see how Mother Nature treats us this year. It was quite warm last year, and I was in shorts Christmas Day. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like icy cold watermelon chunks. That could be the case this year, even though we’ve been shivering cold for quite some time–and so have my friends in Houston, too.

Let’s get serious with our slow cookers, shall we?

Longtime readers know about my affinity for slow cooking, and my more recent affinity for the waffle maker. Last weekend I used my Cuisinart Griddler not for waffling, but for making BF some pancakes. I used the flat griddle plate to make them right on the counter top. (I still haven’t replaced the drip tray, but we weren’t making bacon or anything that required it.) He got the biggest kick out of it–“you and your gadgets!” he said. Look at it this way: I didn’t have to turn on the stove for a little bit of cooking.

Yesterday was a 2 pound pork loin roast slow cooked with some olive oil and Italian seasoning. BF ate that right up with some baked sweet potato fries.

That’s the thing about the slow cooker–you really do just set it and forget it. It takes some advance planning, but so does cooking a standard meal. The other day I put two turkey thighs in BF’s 4 quart slow-cooker, and dinner was done when we got home. Added some Waffled Hash Browns, which took about 15 minutes to create, and we had. . .meat and potatoes, ready to have in less than 30 minutes.

Then I got ahead of the game by slow cooking.

I also started cooking the next day’s meal that night, before we sat down to the turkey and hash browns. There is a back-story to this.

Recently I was introduced, on Facebook, to a lady named Stephanie O’Dea, who is the author of a number of books and a blog called A Year of Slow Cooking.  I write a food blog, and would cook every day in the slow cooker if I could. . .how did I miss this?

Apparently Mrs. O’Dea decided she would be slow cooking every day for a year, and blogged about it. She’s since written several books on the subject, and has more slow cookers than we do at Casa de Rurale. So I eagerly signed up for her emails, and read them. This lady goes all out, OK? The other day, she sent one about making tamales in the slow cooker. I’ll try that one day, too, when we’re in the mood for Mexican food. But the one that caught my eye was the Crock Pot 16-Bean Soup Recipe.

Say what?

Mrs. O’Dea admits to being somewhat lackadaisical towards many things. . .OK, she’s lazy.

I have walked by the bags of soup mix in the grocery store a hundred million times. I’ve even picked one up, read the print on the bag, and taken it for a ride in the shopping cart. 

But then I chicken out and put it back on the shelf with it’s friends.

It just seemed like a lot of work.

I, um, actually don’t really enjoy work. 

I’d really like a house full of forest creatures like in Snow White or in Enchanted to come do it all for me so I can spin around in circles singing. 

So far the closest I’ve gotten to that dream is a six-year-old wearing a two-sizes-too-small rooster Halloween costume running around with a feather duster…

But it’s a nice dream, nonetheless.

We all think like this from time to time, right? Well, after reading this email, I had some time before I had to pick up BF, so I stopped at HEB. . .I mean, Walmart. . .on the way home and picked up a few ingredients I needed.

Unfortunately, this is Louisiana, so we only get 15 beans, not 16 beans in our soup packages. (I miss my HEB.) I take what I can get, check out, and head home to the Casa.

And I started cooking tomorrow’s dinner!

When I picked up BF later that evening, I told him, “I am on it.” He gave me that cute look of quizzical confusion that he often does, and I explained myself.  I saw this email, and I acted on it! The turkey thighs were ready when we got home, but the soup would cook all night, and he could have some to take to work the next day. Thumbs up on this one. . .but no pictures this time.

slow cooking

Really–just let it go.

I did as she instructs, tossed out that chemical “flavoring packet,” (no need to tell me twice) and altered it slightly. No tomatoes, BF has a problem with them sometimes. Beef stock and water from the pantry, and an inexpensive one-pound packet of cubed ham from the meat case. Boiled the beans and let them sit for an hour, and then started loading up the 6-quart slow cooker.

This soup smells wonderful while it cooks. The soup was slow-cooking all night, and we really enjoyed it the next day. BF became “all beaned out,” so I froze the rest for another day.

This soup is highly recommended. Slow cooking it makes it really easy. Check out the recipe and the “customizations” for making it yours. Yum.

Slow cooking a full holiday meal?

Absolutely–Mrs. O’Dea has you covered! Check out this Christmas Ham in the Slow Cooker with honey and ginger. Ham not your style? Heck, she’s got a myriad of slow cooker recipes for the holidays parked right here on this page.

Slow cooking apples

Slow cooking apples

Need an extra slow cooker? Borrow one a day or two before if you’re afraid of going out to the mall this holiday season like I was in Houston. If you haven’t planned anything yet, well, better get a move on! Both links have recipes suitable for holiday gatherings, but you have to plan ahead.

Please note that despite the fancy fixtures that come attached to modern slow cookers, they are not essential. Last time, I told you about the web-enabled model with the smartphone app from CrockPot. I don’t have one of those, nor the one where you can brown and bake before the slow cooking. Mine are 13-year-old Crock Pots bought in 2003 or 2004 at Big Lots in Texas before I moved out of the GER’s house. I also have a “little dipper” I bought to get the cooking smells out of the kitchen. BF’s is a Hamilton Beach 4 quart, just like my Crock Pot. I refer to them as “dumb terminal models,” because you control them from the little knob on the front after you plug them in. (Eight years in IT, I know stuff like this.)  I know, I know, there are slow cooking marvels with all kinds of bells & whistles and apps and all that. You do not NEED it. If you spend that much on a slow cooker, that’s less you can spend on food. Your choice.

Wrangling the whole thing together.

The best advice I’ve ever heard for planning any kind of special occasion was from The Barefoot Contessa in Foolproof. Write it all down, figure out how long everything will take to make, create a schedule and work backwards. In other words, if your turkey will take 4 hours, and dinner is at 5:00 pm, you put it in the oven about 1:00 pm, making sure your oven is at the temperature you need (usually 350F.) Potatoes will take an hour, so those go into the oven about 4:00 pm–and at 350F, you can easily bake them at the same time on a different rack. I mean, why not?

And you can always drop the potatoes in your CrockPot, right? Slow cooking can indeed help with Christmas dinner as well as parties and other celebrations.

What’s on the HeatCageKitchen menu for Christmas?

Well, nothing yet, but there likely is going to be some slow cooking going on. Especially if I don’t make much.

BF mentioned the other night that he wanted to have ham for Christmas. I wouldn’t mind if it was *this* ham, but he says he wants it “baked.” How is this not baked if it’s slow cooking at 300F or 350F for several hours?

If he wants something with Coke and sugar all over it, or requires the use of any kind of “enclosed packet,”  I’m roasting a Lemon Chicken for myself. And I’m not doing *everything* I did for Turkey Day, although I wouldn’t mind making those Perfect Mashed Potatoes again. But we haven’t heard from the kids, nor anyone else, so it might just be the two of us with the critters.

But whatever we do, there’s a good chance a slow cooker’s going to be involved. And there’s a good chance that something will be waffled.

Remember too that there are recipes posted on this page. Most are favorites that I’ve tried many times, and that may be just what you’re looking for, including some slow cooking, too.

And if you’re not hosting. . . .

Are you going to someone’s house for Christmas lunch/dinner? Bring something tasty and delicious, whether you’re slow cooking or not. A Year of Slow Cooking is a great place to start, as is Pinterest.

And if it’s looking like you’re going to be home alone on Christmas, as I was for many years, enjoy it. Enjoy the peace and solitude, watch whatever TV shows you want, (I highly recommend British TV, especially a comedy if you can find some, turn on the CC,), enjoy the best meal you can cook up,  and don’t feel “alone.” Slow cooking something delicious will free you up to watch your favorite holiday DVDs, listen to your favorite music, and spend time with yourself. There are folks who will be working on Christmas and would be happy to be home. Many are first responders (fire, police, medical personnel, etc.) so please don’t make their job harder.

It’s OK to be alone on Christmas.

If you’re really not happy about the holidays (there are more than one) remember that Christmas comes but once a year. . .and in a week or so, it will all be over. No more carols blaring from the PA system everywhere you go. No more drunks wishing you a “Cherry Mistmas.” No more red and green everything. Come January 2nd, the trees will be heading to the recycling bin, the lights will come down, and people will start packing stuff up to put away for another year. Some might not finish until March, but you get the idea.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy New Year!

I’m probably not going to publish a post again until after Christmas, so I will wish all of you Happy Holidays, whatever holiday you want to celebrate. (Hey–if there’s food involved, there’s a good chance I’ll be celebrating it, no matter what religion it’s from.)  Whatever it is you like to cook, make it tasty, healthy, and make enough for everybody, OK?

There’s a good chance I’ll be in the back doing some sewing while I’m doing some slow cooking.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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