Good evening, Dear Readers:
Well, I’ve had a little good blogging news this week–I have a number of new followers on WordPress! Welcome to my humble little blog, which I do little to promote at the moment, and consists of opinions, observations, recipes, and a whole lot of what I think of as wisdom. You, however, may call it something else–but please, keep it clean. This is a family blog. Swearing is reserved for driving around Houston, particularly during our long, hot summers.
So today our Fresh Market opened up, and finally, we get a little more gourmet in the Houston area known as Clear Lake. We’re near the NASA facility, and up until recently, was a thriving space community. The space program is, for the most part, winding down, and the population is doing the same thing. While space program people are mostly moving away to jobs in other parts of the city, for some reason there is some serious building going on. Fresh Market is part of that. Although we have Kroger, Randall’s and some very nice HEB stores, we have a hard time finding some gourmet items in this part of Houston–despite our diverse population.
And now, we have Fresh Market. Woo hoo! I hope they stick around.
There are a couple more of these stores in Houston, namely the one in the Post Oak area that I have forgotten to stop into when I have been in town. It’s not exactly near the Montrose Trader Joe’s, but I could have gone once or twice. Now that ours is open, I’m glad I stopped in. I went at 8:00 pm, because I figured all the free samples would be gone and I wouldn’t be tempted. I was right. I am trying to avoid sugar all week, in fact, completely. I had some coffee and a small cup of orange juice (which I normally only drink on airplanes.)
Let me iterate that I didn’t spend a lot of money this evening. I have gone to Half Price Books this week three times to sell some books, so I had some cash on me. It wasn’t a fortune, but then again, I didn’t spend too much, either–even though I could have easily spent $100 more. (Ask Neighbor K, she knows!) When I start working again, I might buzz over and drop $100. But I’m not in need of that much of anything right now.
First up: you can get a cup of coffee for $1, all day, any day. (This is great, since the GER won’t go into Starbucks, and he can stop there if he wants some good coffee, not the rotgut from his local petrol station.) I had a sample of their decaf Kona, which was wonderful, but before that, a sample cup of hazelnut–which, unfortunately, was not decaf. Oops! Good thing I didn’t drink a whole 8 ounce cup. So it’s a nice place to stop for a coffee if you’re not near Starbucks or don’t want to go in with the crowd. Fresh Market also sells their own brand of bulk coffee for $11.99 a pound, every day. The hazelnut was wonderful, and so was the Kona. They also have almond amaretto, which I think I saw in decaf. I’ve got plenty of coffee for now, and I hardly drink it, mostly I drink tea these days. But a half pound of decaf hazelnut might be on my first big trip over there.
Oh, but this is one I’m not sure I’d be trying even if I was on the regular:
My favorite flavored coffee is, not surprisingly, chocolate raspberry. Non-flavored, Kenya AA and Sumatra coffees. Caramel Pear? Oh, I don’t know about that. But hey, what I think smells like Raid is going to smell like heaven to the lady standing next to me.
Fresh Market has 40-bag boxes of PG Tips Decaf tea in their regular tea section, along with most other teas you can find most places. YES!! I’ve been ordering it for 3 years now from Amazon.com. It’s so good. I grew up with Lipton tea, and after a British lady introduced me to it, I bought a box from HEB. Delicious tea, #1 in Britain, but the regular has so much caffeine. The decaf has all the flavor and none of the caffeine, thank heavens. And now I can get it in Clear Lake.
Another thing I got is another box of Maldon Salt, the flaky stuff from the UK that’s also enjoyed by many chefs and foodies. The box I bought three or four years ago is nearly empty, but if you go to Williams Sonoma to buy it, it’s expensive. Right now on their website, it’s $10.95 a box, but I think it’s like $12 or $13 in the store. In Fresh Market, it’s $3.99. Of course I bought some! I’ll use more of it too.
Limes are 2 for $1 there, but they’re high everywhere; I’ll try HEB or Food Town soon. I did get a couple of super-sized lemons and two nice grapefruit, as well as a small container of their store-brand half and half for coffee and tea. Their milk products are not treated with rBGH, but not all organic; HEB does the same thing. There is a fair amount of USDA certified organic product, but there are also containers of Cool Whip in the freezer next to the organic frozen fruit.
I know, they have to appeal to a wide range of folks, but anybody who puts Cool Whip on organic fruit of any kind just needs to head over to Wal-Mart and stay there. (That was my snarky opinion coming out.)
Oh, and speaking of dairy, they also have their own store brand of refrigerated almond milk! I’ll try that another day.
You know I was looking for this, and sure enough, they do gluten-free.
They’ve even got their own house brand of gluten-free products, and as you can see, they’re marked as such so it’s easy to find, and there are many products located in different parts of the store. However, as Dr. William Davis warns in Wheat Belly, much of it is made from corn flour, rice flour, tapioca flour, and other ingredients that have a high carb content and can give you an insulin spike. So, that’s something to take into consideration; you must read the labels.
If you like chutney and fancier versions of peanut butter and jelly, you’re in luck, they’ve got lots of it:
And then inspiration struck (or maybe it was the coffee.) There’s a recipe called Rapid Ragu in Nigella Express that I put off making until recently because I couldn’t find something called onion confit. I did find it a few months ago, in Central Market, but at $10 a jar, this imported French stuff that doesn’t last in the fridge too long isn’t practical to keep around (and it’s more on Amazon!) However, while I didn’t buy it this time, I wonder if this will do the trick, and I can get it at Fresh Market for a lot less:
I’ll get it when I start working and I can drop the occasional $100 at the grocery store again. Not today–the recipe also calls for ground lamb, which is, shall we say, more than ground beef. I can wait for it, as well as another gluten-free cupcake from Frost Bake Shoppe.
And for the “I don’t have time to cook” crowd, a little shortcut:
In addition to many familiar products, they also have a fair amount of stuff you might not see in your regular grocery store, unless your regular grocery store is Korean:
Again, as wide of a range as you can get. I think I’ve had it once, and like sushi, was quite enough. I’m not slamming anyone’s cuisine–but I’ll pass on this kind of thing, OK? I grew up in New Orleans, lived in California in the 80’s and acquired a taste for Mexican food, and have been in Texas for 15 years, love the barbeque. Kimchi just isn’t for me, that’s all, and I’m just reporting.
Don’t judge me, I only took a picture and didn’t purchase any:
Another section nearby this one has olive oils left and right. But I just know everyone is waiting on pins and needles to find this.
No, I didn’t buy any of this, either. Heck, I didn’t even pick it up to see if it was imported from Italy, France, Greece or Croatia. Maybe if I invite a sophisticated gentleman for dinner.
The GER couldn’t care less if it was this stuff or Wesson. He’s nice like that.
Now, folks who know me know about my grocery bag collection–I’ve got several from East Coast chain Publix, HEB, Central Market, import store Phoenicia, Safeway, Trader Joe’s,and a bunch of other places in between. Fresh Market has some insulated tote bags like the one I got from Trader Joe’s a while back, but not as big. I passed on theirs as well as these, but I almost gave in.
This is, obviously, for buying bulk goods so you don’t need the plastic bags. Again, I passed on them, but there will be a day where I get a few. Not only are they reusable for shopping, there’s probably a few things I can use them for at home..
Even Jezebel the step-kitty got a little something:
I’ve never bought Newman’s Own cat food, in fact, I didn’t know they had it, and I’ve never t ever seen it. That one, as you can see on the far left of the picture, is USDA certified organic. The one on the right isn’t, not that I saw, but since it was rabbit, I bought it as a treat for Jezebel. I put out half a can, and she went after it. I’ll give her the other half tomorrow, and save the Newman’s Own for another day. Both, as you can see, are also grain free, which I try to buy much as I can. I’ve also given her some cat food from Trader Joe’s that she likes, but this stuff is grain free. (Normally, it’s Fancy Feast; the vet’s office feeds that to their boarded cats.)
Wish I could have given some of this to Catmandu, but he did get Blue Buffalo duck a few times. On the other hand, as fussy as he was, he might not have eaten the rabbit. Jezebel appreciates the good food, but she’s now enjoyed samples of my cooking as well to the point where I can’t make a cup of tea without her demanding to be given some. She nearly climbed in my lap the other day when I was eating some chicken. My bad.
Now, this is an interesting site at the checkout lane:
Although Fresh Market has a collection of natural toiletries like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods does, this is a great idea on the way out. Well priced and convenient, I like this the best out of all the stores I’ve been in. I have plenty of lip balm and hand sanitizer at the moment, so I didn’t get any. But when I run low, I know where to go, because I try to keep hand cream and hand sanitizer in all my bags, including my purse, just in case. And the lip balm is less than Burt’s Bees–good, since summer isn’t waiting for anyone (except way up north, where some of my friends report a wind chill factor this week.)
Oh, I forgot to to mention the deli, bakery, meat department and the dining area at the front of the store! DUH–and I didn’t take any pictures of those, either. Sorry about that–I should have at least glanced at their takeout. (I did see sushi.) You can get some lunch or coffee and have it at a table and chairs, much like Central Market in Houston. It’s a smaller area than Central Market’s but quite nice.
The only bad thing I can say about Fresh Market is they don’t carry those Mynts that I love from Trader Joe’s, but I think I can live with that. I’m stocked up for a while, and I’m sure I’ll be at Trader Joe’s again one day. Plus, I can order them from Amazon if I really need some.
Verdict: a pretty good gourmet place to shop!
Their store is about the size of Trader Joe’s, not real big like Central Market or Publix. While they have a fair amount of store-brand product, they also carry a fair amount of national brands, too, along with some imported things. I can see myself spending some money in there and saving money on petrol in the future, or at least in for some takeout or a forgotten item one day.
If you’re lucky enough to get one of these in your neighborhood, go during their grand opening if you want to sample all kinds of stuff. If not, do what I did and wait until 8:00 pm (they close at 9:00 pm.)
Note: even The Woodlands doesn’t have one of these, although they have Trader Joe’s. But even the New Orleans area has four of them, one on St. Charles Avenue; traffic must be a bear.
Ours is next to the Lifeway Christian Store across from Baybrook mall, just behind Zoe’s Kitchen–another new addition to our area, which I should write a review for soon. I’ve enjoyed food from Zoe’s a few times, although not in a while. Neighbor K likes them too; she visited the one in San Antonio when they opened a couple of years ago. Heck, if you’ve got a Zoe’s in your neighborhood, you’re lucky on that one as well.
Evening, Dear Readers:
Yesterday was my first trip back downtown since my last job ended on January 31. Because of one of our recent “freeze days,” (for which I had to drive to work and spend $13 to park) I had $9 left on my Metro Q-Card, so bus fare was covered. I have $2.50 left on it, so if I find myself going back, I’ve got to load more money on it. But not much.
I came home and eventually took a 4-hour nap, a task I repeated today after a fruitless trip into town to meet with an “agency.” I was that tired after going downtown and walking that much through the Tunnel again.
When I walked out of that office for the last time, the only thought crossing my mind was “Never Again.” OK, so another huge company called me and wanted me to go see them (and I’ve since had another call from a very large oil company, too.) I found my way through the Tunnel–a lot farther than my former office–and I made it early. I did plenty of walking, and found some new stuff, too, including another (smaller) Seattle’s Best and, finally, the Houston Shoe Hospital that I could have gone to instead of procrastinating and going to the one on NASA Road 1.
When I was working, I put plenty of money on the Starbucks card, primarily so that I could, when the time came, stop for a coffee or a bite to eat and not mess with the “house money.” Just $10 on occasion, and I think the last amount was $15. Yesterday was such an occasion. (Today I stopped nowhere, and came straight home.) Remember that you also get points, discounts and freebies when you have that registered card. If you have the Starbucks app on your phone, it’s even easier to keep track of everything and get the messages about free things and discounts.
There was no Starbucks around this building that I could find, but there was a nice little deli in the last part of the tunnel. In fact, the HR chick I was talking with said she’d seen people with the Starbucks cups but had no idea where they were getting them.
About 30 minutes before the interview, I was down there with a bottle of water and this neat little snack:
This was pretty good, although I had to wash it down with a good amount of water and nibble quite a few mints before I went in my interview so I didn’t have bad breath. (I love mints.) When it was full, it was raisins, almonds, cashews, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. No salt, unfortunately, so I guess that’s part of the “diet” thing, but overall pretty tasty. (I didn’t think to take a picture of it full; it did have only peanut oil, thank heavens.) There were many different varieties of these snack cups, but this was the healthiest I found in my quick scan of the shelf.
When the interview was over, I had some time before the next bus showed up (about an hour) so I headed back through the Tunnel to the JP Morgan Chase Building. I knew that Starbucks was a bit out of the way and likely less crowded. I ordered a decaf, but didn’t realize they had some good lunch! I was thinking that I’d get some of that yogurt/fruit stuff, but not with the granola on top.
Look what I found:
Here’s a better look at what’s in there:
You know what? It was a pretty good salad. No croutons or other “bready” things in it like many salads have. At that point I didn’t want coffee anymore, but they’d already poured it so I paid for and drank it on the walk out of the tunnel and up to the bus stop.
While it wasn’t advertised as such, it is. . .gluten free. Woo hoo! Companies are getting the messages about what consumers want, and they are responding in kind. For all the insults levied at Starbucks, I have to say they do get what their customers are asking for. No gluten-free baked goods yet, but last I heard, they were working on it.
That’s capitalism, folks. That’s America.
You can see full information on this item on Starbucks’ website. A teeny bit of soy here and there, but not enough to bother me, thank heavens.
I may be going back downtown in the next couple of weeks to meet with that oil company, and I’ll let you know what I find there. Might make another trip to Phoenicia downtown on the free Greenlink bus line if the weather’s good–complete with a full report.
Wherever I go, if there is a Starbucks with that salad in their case, I know I can have something healthy and gluten free.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, the original, newly repackaged–TWINKIE!! Yes, ahead of their originally scheduled July 15th release date, HeatCageKitchen is proud to announce that Kroger has them now, in a separate kiosk area in the back by the milk. Well, that’s where they are in my neighborhood, anyway. No kidding, I bought a box:
I read today that Wal-Mart has them now, and when I dropped in on Kroger on the way home, I saw a handwritten sign on the front door that said, “Hostess is back!” Oh, I had to go investigate. In addition to Twinkies, they have cupcakes, Donettes, Zingers, and I think I saw Ding Dongs.
Yes, Miss Gluten-Free Health Food Nut bought Twinkies. I will admit to being an occasional hypocrite, but I don’t plan to eat the entire box myself. I do intend to share, and never buy them again.
I was under the impression that they were packets of two, as they are in convenience stores; but no, in the box, they they are individually wrapped. You see how savvy I am with these things:
So after an accidental dinner from Carl’s Jr. (because the Chick-Fil-A I was going to has closed up, thanks for the coupon, guys), I decided to have a new, freshly baked Twinkie.
It was pretty good–cotton-soft, light, airy, creamy, and not heavily sweet. This Twinkie tastes exactly as my distant memory recalls them. They look and smell the same, too, so Twinkie and junk-food aficionados shouldn’t have anything to complain about.
Seriously, I only bought some because they are kind of a big deal. Especially when the company went bankrupt and sugar addicts went bonkers over them.
The new company will have a much leaner operation, with trucks bringing all of the products to the customer’s warehouse. The outlet stores have been eliminated, and a number of other processes have been streamlined to make what is now called Hostess a more competitive company. Instead of 11 bakeries operating at 50% capacity, they have four bakeries at 85% to 90% capacity. They are also now non-union, meaning the issues that broke the last company won’t exist. For now, anyway.
And for all my IT friends, here’s a little story on how the new Hostess Brands LLC’s IT infrastructure. . .well, read the story and you’ll see how they pulled it off. THAT part is interesting, even by itself.
Fifty million Twinkies, folks. They put out 50,000,000 Twinkies, with a completely new IT infrastructure and company in six months. And some stores even got them out for sale early.
I’ll say it again–IS THIS A GREAT COUNTRY, OR WHAT??? (Not everyone gets this. And for that, we’re a proud country.)
Now, we all must pay the proverbial piper, and so I’ll be a) watching my diet all weekend, and b) hopping on the Nordic Track or gettin’ my Pilates on tonight after taking out trash, watering the HeatCageKitchen garden, and maybe tidying up a bit.
If you’re wondering what the nutrition information says, have a go at this:
Two cakes are 270 calories, with 80 of them from fat. How else do they taste so good? And yes, there are three fill holes on the bottom, just like the old ones. Not too bad for junk food; candy bars are about 180 to 200 calories each, and even my favorite Larabars are about 200 calories apiece.
Granted, there is a tiny warning on the ingredient list that says it contains. . .nevermind, you read it at your own risk. And one day, we just might get those gluten-free versions. I’ll be on it and give everyone a full report.
That’s all for now, and more to come.
Happy Twinkies Friday–enjoy!!
Hello, Dear Readers:
Well, it’s the holiday season and, honestly, I haven’t had much foodie adventure since The Tuscan Turkey got turned into soup a few weeks ago. But it’s OK, everyone loved it, and I just have some cut up Tuscan turkey meat left in the freezer. Well, OK, enough to keep me happy for a while, and make The Soup of Enlightenment if I really want to, but I don’t, since I had it at Thanksgiving, skipping over the big meal to that part.
I will tell you that I was just in Cost Plus World Market, using a $10 coupon to get stocked up on the fantastic Typhoo Decaf Tea from the UK and got me some microwavable steamed puddings–the real British stuff, produced in New Zealand. Really. I guess the Brits like it, but I never asked–but I’m having steamed pudding for Christmas!! (I’ll let you know.) Convenient, and just a little bit, enough to try it once. If I wanted to, I could use Nigella Lawson’s recipes out of her Christmas book, but really, I’m giving myself the gift of peace and quiet this year, and lots of sewing. Not to mention the Doctor Who Christmas Special on Tuesday thanks to a very nice neighbor who is out of town. I did offer to do a carpet cleaning for her while she was out, but she declined. Maybe I’ll just clean her windows before she gets home.
BTW, if you join their World Market Explorer program, you get those $10 off $30 purchase coupons regularly, including one for your birthday.
Oh, and while I was there, nibbling on the sample cookies, I talked to a lady who was going to get ingredients for a cranberry sauce. One of Paula Deen’s recipes from FoodNetwork.com. I love you, Paula, but fifteen ingredients, including Grand Marnier! I was shocked when I read that. She didn’t know what Grand Marnier was, either. I told her that she would have to get it at a liquor store, which are closed on Sunday in Texas, and that it would probably run $35 or $40 a bottle. She had no idea. . .so I told her to forget this one and go look up the recipe for my favorite Cranberry Ginger Relish and make that. Four ingredients, fifteen minutes, and make it three days in advance. Easy, and it’s sweet and warm at the same time. “Can I get all the ingredients at Kroger?” she asked. Absolutely, including sherry vinegar. It sidles up to you all nice and sweet, then POW! Hits you right in the kisser. Everybody loves it, including me, and I always get requests for the recipe when I make it.
Now I want some, too.
Rest assured that some kind of diet will commence after January 1, and I will ease my way into it over the next week. Might go to a potluck next Saturday, we’ll see, and I’ll bring something good, if I go. Exercise too, Pilates is my preference, with some yoga thrown in for good measure, since walking will be impossible soon. More on that later.
So anyway. . . .
Last week I had my third interview in a different department at a major medical center here in Houston. I’m not going to say which one, but it’s big, well known, and they have great benefits. The interview started about 3:20 pm, and I left the facility at 5:30 pm, escorted by a Texas Medical Center (TMC) police officer. (I rode in the FRONT seat, OK?) I was lost, and he offered. . .hey, I can trust a guy with a pistol on his hip! Especially since I had on my suit and a crisp white collared shirt, not to mention sky-high heels. No t-shirt and jeans on this day–I needed to look sharp, and I did.
I believe I will be hired on soon, which means bus rides and walking around a lot. No way I’m driving to work every day.
My TMC copper got me back to the building where my vehicle was, and I checked out–at nearly 6:00 pm! I was very HUNGRY at this point, and decided to get a bite in town since it was high traffic and driving home was a bit of a nightmare. It was also the Friday before Christmas, and everyone is not only getting off work but heading to shop. (Bay Area Boulevard was a parking lot at 1:30 pm.)
As I drove up Holcombe towards Buffalo Speedway, I was trying to remember where I could find a good dinner around there. Hmmm. . .Burger King. No. Some kind of wing shop–no. Taco Bell (which required a left U-turn in heavy traffic)–bookmark for later. Spec’s Liquor Warehouse–no. Some little sushi place–absolutely not. I knew I could get to Rice Village if I turned right on Kirby, but having been there a week before and had much trouble parking, I kept driving.
Then I remembered a little place that used to be there when I worked for Baylor all those years ago. Would it still be there? I started thinking. . .it was by a grocery store, but which one? I knew it was on the left. . .I saw Rice Epicurean Market, but no little place. I kept going, and saw the Randall’s Flagship about a mile or so up the road, along with a Barnes & Noble in the same strip mall. Then my eyes saw what I was seeking–their name on the marquee. It was still there, after all these years, in a city where permanence is fleeting. It was a sight for sore eyes that day.
Prayers get answered one at a time. Gifts do not always come in a box wrapped in paper and ribbon. Trust me on that.
This little place is called Yapa Kitchen-Fresh Take Away. When I worked at Baylor, we used Yapa’s catering for our activities, and everyone loved the sandwiches and lunch boxes they brought us. There was one occasion that for some reason, we had to use a different catering company. (I think someone higher up told us to.) We were very disappointed and made sure we called Yapa after that.
Once in a while I’d go get a sandwich over there if I was driving around or running office errands. Their sandwiches were delicious, unbelievable cookies, and great chef-prepared food in the case. The store is actually quite small, and hasn’t changed since the last time I was there–maybe 2001? I held the wheel tightly and kept thinking about what I could vagely remember from my days working in the VA Hospital (as a Baylor employee.)
It came flooding back when I walked in the front door. It was pretty much the same as I remember it. Some of the cookbooks look old now.
I gazed in the case and saw all kinds of delicious things. I was thinking about a crab cake, since it wasn’t too expensive (not ready for $25 a pound pepper crusted tenderloin yet, but will celebrate when I get my new job.) I asked if there was anything else to look at. “Well,” the young bloke said, “we have a few sandwiches over here.” There were four. I saw two chicken salad sandwiches, one turkey with cranberry, and a roast beef.
THAT’S WHAT I WANT.
I grabbed the last roast beef, and asked about dessert. They still had that little case on the side, and I remembered having their delicious creme brulee once. But their cookies were in big jars on the counter, and I got a chocolate chip and a white chocolate/macadamia nut cookie. He asked me if I’d like some horseradish sauce; I declined. There was some already on the sandwich, and it was just enough and just perfect.
That, dear readers, is what hit the spot and scratched the itch on Friday, December 21st at about 6:15 in the evening.
The sandwich, on a really great whole-grain bread, was just as good as I remembered it. Ditto the cookies. Next time I get two of those slightly soft and chunky white chocolate/macadamia nut cookies. Both were good, but I liked that one better.
To the observer (or the guys working the counter that night), it was just a sandwich and cookies to have while I sat at a table and flipped through my magazine. To me, it was like finding an old friend again. No, I didn’t go in all the time when I was there, just once in a while, and it was a nice little refuge, even though they were quite busy during the day. The food was good, the people were nice, and it was just up the street. You can get a delicious lunch or dinner to eat in or take home with you. I once bought three of their cookies and brought them to someone in the hospital, because I knew they were the best to be had that day, plus they were on the way to the hospital.
And it’s still like that. For this, I was, and am, very grateful.
Yapa is quite a distance for me to go now, since I’ve been in the suburbs since 2002, I’m in town about once or twice a month, and to be honest, I don’t go into TMC unless I have to, as I have for the past 3 Fridays. Should I find myself working back at TMC, I might have the opportunity to visit more often; we’ll see.
If you’re in Houston and find yourself in the Medical Center area for whatever reason, consider having lunch at Yapa; their menus are online, so see what they have and find what you like before you get there. They are located at the corner of Holcombe and Buffalo Speedway in the little building close to the corner. The address is 3173 W Holcombe Boulevard (77025) and you can call them at 713-664-9272.
Warning: While Yapa is a little place worth visiting, it’s not in the big building with Randall’s. Yapa is in the small one-off building in the parking lot. You know the type of building I mean, an auxiliary building. You can see it here–Yapa is in that building on the right, close to the big building.
Thanks for still being there, and feeding this hungry feline when she really needed it.