As I mentioned in my last post, Emilie Bailey, aka, The Texas Granola Girl, has a new cookbook. This time, it’s all about the simple keto.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Ready for more keto recipes? Emilie Bailey has you covered with her newest. I know, I only reviewed her first cookbook just two months ago, but. . .I get around to it. Now, she’s got another cookbook with delicious food for you to enjoy.
We’ve had rain almost daily since April, and everything is growing like wildfire. I’m back to paint-bucket gardening this year, and BF finally mowed over the overgrown parsley from last year’s garden spot. I’ve started more parsley in a bucket, so we should have more soon. Basil is doing well, and I hope to get a few peppers. We’ll see.
Let’s get started.
So after I published the last blog, the car-guy growing watermelons stopped by later in the evening. No, he was not notified of the roasted watermelon. Here’s a pic of the original three he gave us:
I first showed him the two books by Emilie Bailey because he, too, eats “keto, mostly.” Then, I asked him why the stickers on the watermelons. It took him 15 minutes to explain, but it’s because:
- The soil in both upper Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes is ideal for growing these melons
- The melons grown in this area are highly prized for that reason
- Older and native local residents are aware of the reputation of “Washington Parish watermelons” and will seek them out
- Melons grown in Texas and Lucedale, MS, are frequently what you get in our local grocery stores, rather than locally grown
- Some melons are shipped in from as far away as Florida
- Those out-of-state melons are usually grown on land that is used continuously for melons, requiring the addition of heavy chemicals to continue growing them in the same fields repeatedly
- These chemicals are in addition to the pesticides used in the out-of-state crops
- Even local produce vendors (“fruit stands,” as they’re called here) sell out-of-state melons and pass them off as “locally grown”
He went into great detail about why his melons are better, but I guess that’s to be expected. From his description, I don’t believe his have heavy chemicals in them. (I hope not, anyway.) Admittedly, they are tasty, and I’d highly recommend one if you find them. But if you’re in Texas, of course, you’d need to find one grown in the Rio Grande Valley, or maybe at Froberg Farms in Alvin.
Our little pantry needs a re-org, and it’s not the first time I’ve tidied it up. But a lack of additional shelving and no interest from BF means that I’m totally on my own here.
When I moved in, there was almost nothing in it. After emptying out all the boxes from my kitchen in Houston (thank you, Miss Alice and Neighbor E), the pantry was overflowing. And the beginning of the pandemic last year also saw BF doing some panic-buying, which is in boxes under the counter as well.
I was looking for an ingredient last week and had to pull out several things to get to whatever it was I needed. I removed this from the pantry, which wasn’t mine:
I always buy the stuff in the yellow box, and we have one that I purchased long after the move. So using my amateur detective skills, I decided to investigate further:
Yup, that’s the bottom of the can. BF says he has no idea where it came from, but I’m pretty sure I know. From his last marriage, that’s where. (The divorce was final in 2008.) I’ve found (and disposed of) his junk mail that was even older. Hopefully, we’ve gotten rid of all that stuff he tossed in a box and took with him. Obviously, this can went out in the trash.
So at some point, one of these days, I need to take everything out, check for the expired and bad stuff, and toss it. If I can talk him into it, some wonderful shelving will make its way into the pantry, and hopefully a coat or two of some nice paint. White is fine, but wouldn’t white shelves with a nice cheery color be even better? Because it’ll be harder to “lose” anything in the back like that.
This isn’t the first time I’ve come across older foodstuffs. I try not to have anything too old in the pantry, but it happens occasionally. The GER’s pantry also got a good cleaning when I moved into his house (almost 20 years ago now), and I tossed out a bag full of very outdated stuff that had just sat unused for many years.
The New Book: The Ultimate Simple Keto Cookbook
Author Emilie Bailey, aka, The Texas Granola Girl, spent part of her pandemic energies on writing two new cookbooks. The first of these books is being released tomorrow and is her second book of delicious recipes.
When I got the email from her list, I immediately signed up to review it. After all, it’s a free book! Well, it’s a good one, too, and I knew it would be. Emilie has been posting regularly on Instagram and sending out emails with new and delicious recipes.
Yes, there are three recipes with turnips. If you like them, the Classic Fauxtato Salad on page 61 is right up your alley. It’s made with everything you’d use for a regular potato salad, but with turnips. Let me know how it goes.
There are nine chapters, including an intro to keto, desserts (of course), and a chapter on keto staples, such as Easy Alfredo Sauce, Creamy Feta Dressing, Ranch Dressing, Quick Marinara Sauce, and Three-Minute Mayo, using avocado oil. There’s even a Basic Sandwich Bread on page 188.
We tried four recipes when I got this book, and they’re all two thumbs up. So let me tell you about the simple keto recipes I made.
One-Pan Chicken Parmesean, Page 122
We had one chicken breast in the freezer and only needed some mozzarella cheese. I gave BF his instructions and shopping list for this and the next recipe, made for dinner one night. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a full set of pictures, and none for the broccoli recipe. But I got a few.
First, preheat your oven to 400F. Slice two chicken breasts in half horizontally to make four cutlets, then pound them to a quarter-inch thick.
Mix up some parm cheese, Italian seasoning garlic, and a half-teaspoon of freshly ground pepper. Brush both sides of the chicken with some keto-friendly mayo, which you can make on page 178 or buy (read the labels of course.) Then drop the chicken in the seasoning mixture to coat, and fry in a large oven-safe skillet:
Cook about five minutes on each side and remove from the heat (I turned it off.) Pour some sugar-free marinara sauce over the chicken. I used Classico Tomato & Basil, but she has a recipe on page 183.
Spread it around:
Now sprinkle one an one-half cups of shredded mozzarella (or provolone) cheese over the top:
Into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the chicken is completely cooked.
While that was going on, I did the broccoli at the same time.
Sheet Pan Broccoli, Page 80
The second part of this simple keto dinner has no pictures, but it was a perfect accompaniment to the chicken.
I used the countertop oven, which is preheated to 450 degrees. Chop the broccoli into florets, wash, and set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, mix:
- 1.5 tablespoons avocado oil (I used olive because I had it)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2.5 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari (tamari is wheat-free, and so is La Choy soy sauce)
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
- 1.5 teaspoons granulated 1:1 sweetener (I’ll explain next section)
Mix this up, and then add the drained broccoli. Toss it around well, then drop it on the baking sheet. Roast for 15 to 18 minutes, until the broccoli is tender. Toss halfway through the cooking time. Serve hot.
This recipe calls for 2 heads of broccoli, but I halved the recipe for me and BF, as I did with the chicken. Oddly, though, it’s a good thing I forgot to halve the seasoning and other ingredients for the chicken because it needed all of it.
I did forget to sprinkle sesame seeds over the broccoli. Next time. Amazingly, he loved both and declared them “winners.” One more in our dinner rotation.
Classic Fudgy Brownies, Page 173
This was actually the first recipe I made. Does anyone want dessert? Once again, I had everything I needed to make these brownies, except butter. BF was instructed to get some on the way home from work because this recipe takes 1.5 sticks of butter. Oh, YEAH.
Now, one difference is that Emilie calls for 1:1 sweetener here and in the broccoli seasoning. What this means is that it’s a blend of sweeteners, frequently erythritol and monk fruit, to taste just like sugar. I wanted to try this one and had good success with it here:
This is the ingredient list:
This is what’s in it:
And if you’re diabetic–there you go!
These come together in a snap and bake up nicely.
With eight ingredients, you can have delicious keto brownies. I know, I know–you can buy a boxed mix too. Read the ingredients on that box, that’s all I’m saying.
So you’ll preheat the oven to 350F, and line the bottom of an 8×8 pan with a bit of parchment paper.
Chop up the butter and chocolate:
And melt together in the microwave, slowly and carefully, in 30-second intervals. Watch it so it doesn’t boil over or make a mess. What comes out is this:
Stir them together:
And set aside to cool for a bit.
Get Mixing–Wet Ingredients
So now you blend together the sweetener and chocolate mixture together, then the eggs, which must be room temp or it’ll make a big mess at this stage:
Now the eggs, one at a time.
Now add vanilla. If you’re lucky, you have some of this:
Blend it well:
Mix until the batter is smooth, and proceed to the next stage.
Into another bowl, mix up a cup of almond flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, and a quarter-teaspoon of kosher salt:
Now add into the wet ingredients. I prefer to do this a cup or so at a time so I don’t have it all over the kitchen.
Once it’s all incorporated, mix well, but don’t over-mix it.
Time to spread it into the pan. Now, remember that you have one and a half sticks of butter here, so greasing isn’t necessary. My guess is the parchment paper is there as an assistant to make sure they all come out.
Into the oven at 350F degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, “until the center is just set but still jiggles”:
This is what it looks like coming out of the oven:
You must let them cool for about 15 minutes on a rack, then refrigerate them for 35 minutes or longer before you cut them:
I would say maybe 45 minutes because they were still warm and crumbled apart when I removed one from the pan. One of BF’s car-guy friends, this one a millennial, happened to be visiting and tried one. His father is doing keto, so he knows what that is. BF tried one in the next day or two and said it was “good, but dry.” There’s a reason for that.
Remember that when you refrigerate them for a longer time, the butter in the brownies will harden up, so they’ll be a bit on the dry side. However, they will stick together quite nicely, and taste just as delicious.
Of course, I loved them. Can’t wait to make more!
Cheeseburger Casserole, Page 137
Ok, I know, I said I “don’t do casserole,” but this is too tasty to pass up. Ground beef, onions, cream, and cheddar cheese–what’s not to like? Even he couldn’t say no to this one. Last week, we made it. But I didn’t take as many pictures as I intended.
First, brown a pound of 80% lean ground beef on the stove with onion and garlic for ten minutes:
When it looks like this:
If there is any grease, drain it, then add the browned ground beef mixture to the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan or 9-inch square baking dish. Like the blackberry cobbler, I used 8-inch because that’s what I had.
Mix in a medium bowl 4 eggs, 5 tablespoons of tomato paste, a half-cup of heavy whipping cream, a half-teaspoon of kosher salt, and a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground pepper:
Add in a cup of shredded or grated cheddar cheese:
Now add to the pan:
Spread it over the top:
Add the remaining half-cup of cheddar cheese:
Make sure it’s covered:
Bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it’s set and looks like this:
This recipe makes four generous servings, and we had dinner one night and lunch the next day.
BF really enjoyed this one, and I’ll be making this more often, too.
After All That Cooking
Did I have a mess to clean up:
But the mighty dishwasher of the HeatCageKitchen took care of it:
And it was a good night.
Until Next Time
Many thanks to Emilie Bailey for the gifted book, which will not collect dust. The next recipe I want to try is Creamy Parmesean Pork Chops on 151. Maybe I’ll wait until we have a dinner guest to try it with either the broccoli or another side from the book.
I emailed her to thank her for the book, and to let her know what we made. She responded that her favorites are the Creamy Cabbage Alfredo on page 96, and the Osso Bucco on page 140. Cabbage? Oh, he’s not going to like that. Move that to the “Drag Week Menu.”
If you’re looking for some delicious and easy keto food, this is your book. And if you don’t eat keto but want some easy, delicious food that simple, this is also your book. Or if you want to impress friends and family while sticking to simple keto recipes, Emilie’s book has got you covered there, too.
The new book is available on Amazon and other book outlets (yes, that’s my affiliate link) tomorrow (July 13th) and is currently available as a Kindle book. I’ll be posting my review there shortly.
If you’ve left Texas, or even if you haven’t, you know how important tamales are. But they can be laborious and time-consuming to create at home. The solution? Texas Tamales!
Hello again, Dear Readers:
Spring is finally here, at least, according to the calendar. And that means all kinds of wonderful things, like asparagus, bike riding, and Daylight Savings Time. If you’re not in a part of the US that’s snowed under right now.
It’s still kind of cool-ish here, too cool for planting tomatoes and things, so I guess I’ll be the lazy gardener again and be late. We probably won’t have any tomatoes in odd spots this year, but ironically, the ones that grew best were around the septic tank. We got a number of little “racks” of tomatoes there, and I’ve got the seeds to try and plant more. Since avocados have been relatively cheap for a while at Winn-Dixie, I’ve been eating them and saving the seeds. Those golf-ball sized pits have taken over the kitchen window, and BF is asking, “is this your latest science experiment?”
Lots to tell, let’s get started.
Finally, Allergy Relief
Ok, so, last year I did what has long been told to me, I got what I thought was “local raw honey” to help with allergies. Honey from your area works similar to an allergy shot–it de-sensitizes your immunoglobulins to the pollen and allergens in the area. (An allergy shot actually tamps down on the histamine response, but doesn’t de-sensitize.) Well, I went back to the same place I went last year, and bought some more of the same honey, which didn’t work. (The place is subject to an upcoming blog post.) Well, I was explaining to the clerk (around sniffling and sneezing) that I needed it for allergies.
It didn’t work last year, but everyone told me it would! Well, I was going through two or three kinds of OTC allergy meds last weekend, and it made me downright grouchy (and swearing at BF again.) I explained this to the clerk, a nice older lady, who said, “where do you live?” I told her. She asked, “then why are you buying honey from Ponchatoula?” Cause it’s local! Well, it’s not local enough, she said, and the honey right next to it came from–surprise–my neck of the woods, and it was a dollar less. (It was also a smaller bottle.) Honey and money was exchanged, and now I have truly “local” honey.
She also told me about some locally made elderberry syrup that people were buying for not only allergies, but flu. Three local schools have been closed because of flu outbreaks, and people are buying this elderberry syrup along with the honey.
I bought a bottle of that as well, at $21.99 for a 16-ounce size. It’s tasty, too. I’ve never heard of Andi Lynn’s, but they’re in the Baton Rouge neighborhood of Walker. I’m glad to know about it, and they also have some homeopathic allergy drops, which may or may not be in the place I bought the syrup. Next time.
On top of that, one of my Buddhist friends gave me an essential oil mixture to try, and I’ve been rolling that on at night.
He loves me. But sometimes he doesn’t understand. I explain.
BF asked, “what’s the deal with the local raw honey?” (He doesn’t have this problem, because this is his “native area.” Not mine.) It’s like this: the bees from your area are sucking on the flowers that are around you. When you ingest their honey, you ingest some of that pollen to de-sensitize yourself from those allergens. But if you’re using local raw honey from Ponchatoula–or Texas–you get the stuff from those bees, and they’re sucking on the flowers over there. That’s not going to help you if you’re not in Ponchatoula, or Texas. (I still have a half-bottle I bought from a vendor at the Nassau Bay Farmer’s Market.) By getting the honey and pollen from the bees sucking on local flowers from the area in which you live, you get the local “neighborhood” pollen to help alleviate your allergies to the same pollen. Make sense?
I can’t say what’s exactly working, but I’m a LOT better! Still a bit of sniffling and sneezing, but not like it was. Finally, I got the right stuff.
Coffee To Go
Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective has found a new way to make your coffee when you’re walking out the door: The Barista Cup. No kidding, the darn thing makes your coffee start to finish in a specially designed cup. Just chuck everything–grounds, sugar, milk, etc., into the cup, then pour hot water into it, and off you go. At $25, they’d better be worth it!
I don’t have one myself, yet, but of course, because Nick says it “works as advertised,” I’m extremely interested in getting one. After all, Nick’s the one who originally taught me to make iced coffee. (Note: these aren’t available on Amazon, only on the company’s website.) And Nick considers himself a coffee expert, and writes about it as a side thing to his web copywriting business.
The Barista Cup company has an office in the UK and in Winter Springs, FL, so they’re multinational, and working on saving the planet, one cup at a time.
Princess Coffee Maker
Here’s a coffee maker for young girls who want to be like Mom and Dad:
It’s a toy, and it doesn’t actually make real coffee, but it does make the gurgling sounds of a certain type of coffee maker. I halfway considered buying it to annoy BF.
Speaking of coffee, our local Winn-Dixie finally has some new baskets with coffee holders on them:
Yes, more than two years after I asked, PLEASE, our little corner of the world got baskets with coffee holders. Just one, because after all, you only need one, right?
HEB baskets have two as well, but some of the smaller baskets at Winn-Dixie only have one. Even with BF, I’m the only one drinking coffee anyway.
They still have the full-size baskets without them, and everyone uses those. These are smaller, kind of like the ones we saw back in the 70’s with a shallow basket area. So now when I visit Winn-Dixie, I can get my coffee at the nearby PJ’s first and head on in to grocery shop. Our store doesn’t have as many of these, and it seems like I’m the only one who knows what they’re for, so there’s always one available for me. Thanks, Winn-Dixie!
The Magic Tamales
You know how one day, you just want something? Over the holidays, it was tamales. And I didn’t take pictures.
Now, for those of you not of Hispanic or Texas descent, you might not know that tamales are a bit of work. So much so that many Hispanic families make the tamales only at Christmas time. Other times, they rely on buying them, or finding a good “tamale lady” or abuela (grandma) who makes them for sale all year long. Because, let’s face it, when done correctly, tamales are delicious.
In Robb Walsh’s The Tex Mex Cookbook, there is a picture of President Gerald Ford on the campaign trail in Texas eating a tamale. He was at The Alamo in 1976. Unfortunately, none of his aides (or any locals) told him that you take them out of the corn husks first. They’re steamed in the corn husks, which are like a really tough paper, and you take them out to eat them.
The most awesome Stephanie O’Dea sent out an email one day with her recipes for tamales in the CrockPot. With a name like O’Dea, she’s probably about as Hispanic as the Irishman from El Paso. Intrigued, I informed BF that we would be having tamales for Christmas dinner, (it was just us two) and that was it. Well, and whatever else we wanted.
Finding Masa Harina
I set out to find the ingredients that were staples in every grocery store I ever went into in Houston. After paying $6 in Whole Foods for a bag of masa harina that I discovered in the local WD for $3 or so, my district leader OR told me that Walmart has an entire section of Hispanic goods. Well, what do you know, they had everything, and I grabbed the corn husks before anyone else did.
I also had a nice conversation with two young men who were driving from Mandeville to Brownsville, TX. I told them next time they went into HEB, to think about me.
Obviously, I wasn’t about to use hydrogenated anything, but I did have an unopened jar of Epic Pork Fat in the pantry. It came with me from Houston when I went to the closing of the Webster Fresh Market. Fortunately, it’s readily available at Whole Foods. I think Rouse’s has it, too, and I have since bought a fresh jar that’s in the pantry.
Chicken Christmas Tamales
I had a few pieces of chicken that I roasted and cut up small, and followed Stephanie’s directions to the letter, otherwise. Well, I pulled out my stand mixer and mixed the masa until I was sick of hearing the motor run. Little bits were flying out of the mixer if I ran it too high (next time, maybe half?) Guess I need a pouring shield for it. Balls of masa never floated, and I finally gave up and used it as is.
I made the components in the days before Christmas, and BF sat down and helped me put them together. It didn’t take too long, and we only had about two dozen, but that was OK.
I forget what else I made with it, but BF and I were perfectly happy with what came out:
Verdict: the tamales were good, but a bit bland, and Stephanie admits that. It was the first time I made them. We had some of the filling and masa left, which went directly into freezer bags and into the big freezer. I have permission to jazz them up if I ever make them again. Chorizo, maybe?
Christmas Chocolate Raspberry Dessert
Oh, wait, that’s right–we also enjoyed a delicious raspberry chocolate cheesecake from one of the Wheat Belly books for dessert:
I subbed out the stevia extract with erythritol, but next time I’m going to get some stevia extract and start using it. BF liked it–it’s quite rich–but it wasn’t quite sweet enough. Low carb, much dairy, no wheat/gluten/flour. I’m done with yeast-free for a while.
Tamales In Target
My regular Buddhist activities are at least an hour’s drive away. I commonly go to the Mandeville area, which is still on this side of Lake Ponchartrain, and 90 minutes from New Orleans. That’s OK, and I get to go to Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, or wherever else I want to go that we don’t have nearby. Additionally, if I shop right after the meeting, I’m not too tired like I am when I make it to Hammond. So I frequent the Target in Covington, since it’s on the way home, and there’s a Cost Plus World Market next door and a Starbucks in that Target.
I’m walking around with my list on my phone, and I pass by the frozen foods section. Normally I don’t pay any mind to what’s in there, unless I’m looking for frozen veg or fruit. But this particular evening, I happened to look to my right and saw this in the freezer case:
Not knowing what to expect, I bought a bag of the Beef Tamales. There are also pork, chicken and black bean available at Target.
How did I miss these all this time?
Text To BF
After examining these closely, I sent a text to BF telling him that dinner the next night was covered, and it was a surprise. He doesn’t like when I tell him that, but he’s patient and will try something once, so he says.
I brought them home and told him ALL about the tamales. He gave me the usual, “sure, Honey, I’ll try anything you make” comment with a pensive (read: slightly scared) look on his face.
For $6.99, you get a pack of one dozen perfectly rolled tamales packed in corn husks, which is traditional. They’re sealed in a square food-grade plastic package and then bagged in the little muslin bag. (I’m keeping those because I know they’ll be useful somewhere!) The instructions say to steam them in a steamer, preferably standing with the cut edges up. Well, I have this old pot with a strainer insert, and it works pretty well:
If we decide the night before that tomorrow is “tamale night,” then I’ll take them out of the freezer and leave them in the fridge for the next day where they thaw a bit. You can also cook them right out of the freezer.
The directions say it takes 20 minutes, but if I cook them from frozen, I’ll give it 25 minutes. They’re a bit tricky to remove from the pot, because now they’re soft, and the only thing holding them together is the corn husks. I personally don’t care if they come out imperfect, because I’m going to be loading them onto a plate for eating. But BF isn’t used to real tamales, so I try to make sure his look “perfect.”
Verdict: absolutely delicious, the way a tamale should be.
I didn’t take many pictures because we were too busy stuffing our faces with them. Yes, we found a winner for me AND for BF.
They’re Around, Just Look
Since then, I’ve discovered that Rouse’s sells them for about $8.50 a pack, and another place sells them for $10 a pack. So when I know I’m going to Covington, and I have enough money, I buy a few packs for the freezer since they’re priced better at Target. However, I’m glad to know that I can get them in Hammond if I can’t get to Covington. Our big freezer has a stock of them now, and a tasty tamale dinner is just 20 minutes away.
The chicken, we found, was a bit too spicy for us, but the beef and pork are spicy enough without being overbearing. We haven’t tried the black bean type, because BF doesn’t want to. I eat six, he eats four and saves the other two for later. Or we eat four and split the other two later. Or he leaves the rest for me, because I bought them and I’m in love with them. They’re that good.
Texas Tamale Company
Look, when you live in Texas, tamales are everywhere, right? Just like kolaches, chips & salsa, and big bags of masa harina and corn husks. Hatch chiles in nearly anything. It’s like the furniture, Texas flags and the Texas star decor–it’s always there.
Move out of Texas, and you suddenly miss everything. Longtime readers know that I’ve missed everything Texas since the day I got here, and we *still* haven’t made a trip back to visit for a handful of reasons (mostly time and money, we always have one but not the other.) I still want to go, of course, and visit, (not to mention shop) but I can at least have real Texas tamales whenever I want them.
The Texas Tamale Company is on the west side of Houston, and has been in business for many years making “gourmet” tamales. Well, after 30 years, they’ve become quite the company. You can find these magic morsels nationwide. They even have Hatch Chile Tamales, although they’re not available here, yet. (That’s my next “ask for” project.) You can read their story here.
More Texas Tamales
HEB has its own brand of tamales with some interesting flavors, including Asiago cheese. I’ll try to get some of their interesting flavors whenever I get to shop there again.
Understand that I’d have no problem driving to the Clear Lake Blvd HEB and buying my regular groceries. Even if it’s a ten-hour round trip. Easier said than done, of course. BF would probably not like me to do that, either, but I can be tempted.
If you can’t find them locally, you can order them online. I haven’t tried ordering them yet, but I’m probably going to do that one of these days if I can’t get Rouse’s to carry the Hatch chile type.
You know how if you think of a certain type of car, suddenly you see them anywhere? (Concentrate on a red Land Rover, or a blue Hyundai Sonata, and you’ll see what I mean.) Well, someone in Louisiana came up with the idea of. . .crawfish tamales:
Personally, I think it’s wrong, but they could be pretty good. They’re also twice the cost of Texas Tamales (at Target), but we might try them one day. I know, shop local and all that. Subject of an upcoming blog post, honest.
Things have changed a bit now that we’ve discovered a little taste of Texas. When we decide break open a pack of these Lone Star State wonders for dinner, I walk around singing, “Ta-MA-LES!” to the tune of Dean Martin’s Volare. I haven’t re-written the words, I just sing that part of it.
So are you ready for some delicious Tex-Mex in your life in 20 minutes? Whichever tamales you choose, just remember to unwrap them from the corn husks first.
I’m back, at least this week, with an anniversary post. It’s been a year since I left Houston. I’m still getting used to it around here.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
It’s me again! The Dislocated Texan hasn’t gone away, she’s just been really busy. I’m still doing freelance work on Upwork, writing about different things, and trying to keep the laundry monster from overwhelming us. It has, a couple of times. I’ve received some great feedback from different clients, even though a couple of them aren’t clients anymore. That’s just the nature of the beast.
One Year Anniversary
Me and BF recently realized that it’s our one-year anniversary since he “rescued” me from Houston. He first arrived on Friday, September 9th, and then I made two more trips before the “drop dead” date of September 15, when I had to be out. We went one more time, about a month later, to retrieve the rest of my paltry things from Neighbor E’s place, which he graciously stored for me. Despite the desire to, we’ve not yet been able to go back for a visit.
From the place I used to live, I’ve only heard from Neighbor E since moving away; none of the other neighbors have corresponded. Do I care? Nah–and Neighbor E doesn’t, either. We keep in touch, of course, on Facebook, by phone, and the occasional emails and texts. He has told me a few times to be glad I don’t live there anymore, since it was already an unfriendly atmosphere before I moved. There are “lots of new people” there, but they’re primarily renters, I suppose, since owners figured out they could make a bundle doing it. Neighbor E owns his condo, and has lived there for 30 years–he’s not able to just pick up and move like I did. That’s why I would never buy a unit that needed a good $25K in repairs, although nobody could have predicted how it all went down.
And Then She Was Gone
My former residence, a one-bedroom condo I rented for 12 years, was unoccupied for nearly a year after I moved out of it. E told me that someone had just moved in it in mid-August. After completely renovating the place, the management company couldn’t rent it or sell it for love or money, but I guess they finally found a sucker. . .I mean, tenant, to take it. I wonder if the kitchen sink drain has backed up on this person yet. (I know, not nice.)
Thanks to Facebook, I can keep in touch with everyone else, even folks I haven’t seen in a while. The GER isn’t on Facebook, but we keep up on email and the occasional call. (He doesn’t text, either.) Heard from Debbie the Avon Lady just last week when “Hurricane Nate” blew through; we didn’t even notice it. I’ve spoken to LK, the GER, Miss Alice and others frequently since leaving. I still refer to LK as “my district leader in Houston,” even though I’m not in her district anymore (and neither is Miss Alice.) Still I have a great new district leader in Mandeville, which is nearly an hour drive from here, and I go to SGI activities whenever I can. BF has gone with me to the district meeting once, and met everyone. NM took a few pictures of us, one which is now our “anniversary picture.”
A Little Spirituality
OK, so not the usual thing from a food blog, but I’m going to shift the focus with a little bit of Buddhist scripture. You’ll understand why shortly:
The Buddha promised in the Lotus Sutra that, for women, the sutra will serve as a lantern in the darkness, as a ship when they cross the sea, and a protector when they travel through dangerous places. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Volume 1, page 614.)
One of the biggest reasons I became a Buddhist on my birthday in 1986 was because women were not excluded or secondary. Throughout the Lotus Sutra, it states that women are equally able to become enlightened, in their present form–it’s not reserved for just men, and it’s not only something that’s possible in a future state. (Next week is my 31st anniversary of starting my Buddhist practice.)
A big reason to practice Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is protection. It’s not to say that bad things can’t happen to Buddhists, because they do. But sometimes those bad things can be good things in disguise, and you find out later that you were protected. Or that something that you suffered could have been a lot worse. I could tell you about the time I was returning to Houston after visiting New Orleans and took a turn off the I-10 to get a coffee, returned to I-10 and discovered a multiple-car accident. That could have been ME. A $2 cup of coffee saved me a lot of time, hassle and money, not to mention the potential for injury, a long way from home. LK also knows a parable that explains it well, but I don’t know it all myself.
Next week is my 31st Buddhist anniversary. Not giving it up.
Texas Isn’t Texas Anymore
As I’ve said many times, the inbound migration is changing the face of the entire state of Texas. People flocked INTO Texas from everywhere, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that eventually the glass is over filled and spilling out. In January, MD Anderson Cancer Center announced layoffs of over 1,000 people. Both Neighbor E and I had applied there, and I went on multiple interviews there. I really, REALLY wanted to get hired at MD Anderson–we both did. I’ve known many people who have gone there for cancer treatment and rave about MDA. But after the way I was treated as an applicant, I’d keep my cancer before I went there for treatment.
Then there’s NRG, who, like other big companies, laid off longtime workers to hire cheaper people. How nice they are. I hated having them as my electric service provider, especially when I had to talk to a customer service person in Mexico. How do I know? Well, the heavy accent was a dead giveaway, but of course, when asked, they told me.
I was protected from that layoff, as well as others.
My brother, who has been in and out of Houston many times, told me that “Houston is full of unemployed people.” So, while I didn’t see it at the time, I was protected.
The Unwanted Visitor
Living on the Gulf Coast, you get used to star-struck meteorologists with acting experience making a big deal out of a little wind and rain. One of the Baton Rouge guys has a theatrical routine: he takes his suit jacket off and rolls up his sleeves before his actual segment, when he’s talking to you about what he’s going to talk about in the weather segment. Then he puts his jacket on for his “turn.” He takes his jacket off again, exposing the rolled-up sleeves, for another “teaser,” and then for the closing segment with the news wonks and the sports guy, he’s got his jacket back on. (I prefer to depend on the Wunderground app.)
In a lot of cases, they over-dramatize things, scaring the bejeezus out of people. In September of 2005, as Hurricane Rita roared into the Gulf of Mexico, people all over Houston went bonkers. I haven’t forgotten being in traffic with Catmandu and Kismet trying to get to Austin from Clear Lake in the middle of the night, windows rolled down to avoid using the car’s AC. I was on the phone with my brother online trying to find my way through back roads to get to Austin. Hurricane Rita was coming, and it was going to wipe out Houston! It was just weeks after Katrina, and everyone panicked.
The Infamous Hell Ride
I found a Walmart open in Waller somewhere on the way, and some petrol, too. But we didn’t need to evacuate. Austin’s normally a 3-hour trip, but it took 11 hours to get there. I was exhausted. Other people had the same experience, and people died during that nightmare. They like to err on the side of caution, they’ll tell you, but going on TV and all but saying, “We’re All Gonna DIE!!!” makes people ignore you when it’s the real thing.
Unfortunately, sometimes they’re wrong.
First, there was Ike
After the Rita evacuation disaster, I had no plans to evacuate when Ike showed up. When the fire department started driving around telling people to leave, and all my neighbors were gone, I figured it was time to go. I called The E Man and told him I was coming. It was the last time I went over the Sabine River until last year. I was at their place for nine days, staying in touch at coffee shops, the libraries, and other places, with my Boeing laptop. There was some serious damage, and I knew people who had water in their houses. But that was nothing compared to this year.
That was also when Catmandu hid in their sofa. When we extracted him, he went bonkers and we had to isolate him in a closet for a few days until it was time to head home. I never considered evacuation after that!
But what if I hadn’t left? What if I’d stayed?
Then Came Harvey
The eight-year anniversary of Ike saw a new arrival. Harvey.
Nobody saw this guy coming, until he took aim squarely at Texas. Rockport. Port Lavaca. Port Aransas. Matagorta. Port O’Connor. High Island. San Luis Pass. And finally, Houston. The 3rd largest county and the 4th largest city in the United States, drowned by a Category 5 hurricane. Louisiana got some of it too, in an area called Cameron in the southwest sector. After Harvey rampaged through Beaumont, Port Arthur, and a handful of other places in Texas. He had a grudge, folks. You can read a recap of it here, on Wikipedia.
The most incredible picture I saw on social media was this one:
That’s not Galveston Bay, The Sabine River, or any other body of water. That’s the I-10 freeway, between Houston and Beaumont, under about eight feet of water. This is what that stretch of land normally looks like.BF and I made four trips on that very stretch of the I-10 between Houston and Beaumont this time last year. I can’t tell you how many times in 18 years I made that drive by myself, leaving Houston for a trip. We had no idea.
Everything Flooded. Everything.
Neighbor E had a little water in his unit, but it was from a drain pipe. Many of the “new people” didn’t know to move their cars up to the easements, and their cars were flooded. LK had a tiny bit of water in her garage, but her new school flooded, and she was required to go and clean up her new classroom. The GER had about an eighth of an inch of water in the Funk House/Junk House, which is on a slight hill. But the GER’s other neighbors had 2″ to 15″ of water, and he was helping them clean up. Aunt Ruth was willing away the water, which came up to her place three times but not inside. Aunt Kathy had to clean a flooded storage unit all by herself. Others I know and keep up with on FB had four feet of water in their houses for several days.
I was 300 miles away, and didn’t have to deal with anything like that. Miss Alice was in a place that should have flooded, near Hobby Airport, but didn’t. That’s protection. Her new school was destroyed, and the Houston Independent School District (HISD) relocated them to a new school.
Neighbor E’s truck
He left it in his usual parking space, but water didn’t get INTO the truck, just close to it:I can’t believe people buy SmartCars in Houston and actually drive them on the freeway, but they do. Of course, in a Chevy Silverado, or a Ford F-150, you can’t see these little insects over your hood. But there are occasions where it’s not a bad thing to have: It can also come in handy here, although I have to wonder if the infamous homeowner’s association would ticket them for it: “Ain’t Skeered?” You ain’t been around long enough, Honcho.
Crain’s Houston puts the damage at about $50 million dollars, and will take Houston years to clean up and get back to normal. Even places that normally don’t flood, flooded. The Woodlands. Conroe. Katy. Friendswood. Galveston. You name it, they probably flooded. Although, I’m told those pictures of Southwest Airlines planes underwater at Hobby were Photoshopped.
The Complete Change Of Scenery
I used to dream about that cabin in the woods, living out of the city, and having lots of trees around. Well, I’ve got it–just not in Texas. I’ve posted pictures before of the area I call Cow Road. The whole area is like that, except the roads are better. We no longer have to take Cow Road to get to town, but when I go pay the water bill, I make it a point to go that way. It’s a beautiful ride, bumping and grinding along, with trees covering the entire airspace above the road. I drive up and down small rural highways that are surrounded by native growth trees, older houses, beat-up trailers next to “showcase” homes, into town to shop at. . .Walmart, or on my way out somewhere.
Fellow redhead writer LM has also had a recent change of life, involving not only a new man, but horsies! She’s moved her business to a farm somewhere in California (she was living in Sherman Oaks) and gets to live the ranch life. She’s safe and happy, so that’s the most important thing. I met her at Bootcamp in 2011, and kept up ever since. (Obviously, she’s better than me at the business side of copywriting.) I’m not going to Bootcamp this year, but will be here at La Casa watching it live-streamed starting Wednesday evening. So glad I joined AWAI’s Circle of Success when I did, in 2011. Ah, yes, another anniversary, this one in my copywriting life.
Another anniversary thing. Amazingly, I managed to get some Hatch chiles this year–both Whole Foods and Rouse’s had some, and I grabbed a bunch. I also feasted on guac and chips at the Whole Foods in Metairie–you don’t get offered that in Cracker Barrel. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Cracker Barrel, OK?)Naturally, I roasted them as I did many times in Houston, filling the house with their delicious scent. I should have done it when *he* was at work, because all I heard was, “Oh, my GOD–what’s that horrible SMELL? It stinks in here! For God’s sake, woman, open a WINDOW!!” This from a person who owns two stinky dogs, has a cat litter box in his house, and is frequently coated in sweat and some kind of automotive substance.
And, it gets worse.
A couple of weeks ago, a very nice lady who is good friends with AK posted a recipe for Nutella Brownies. The recipe is simple, four eggs and a cup of that delicious Nutella. No kidding.Carefully warm one cup of the Nutella in the microwave until it’s a little bit liquid. Or, more liquid-er, I guess. Use the remainder as you like (i.e., dig it out with the little spatula and enjoy it yourself, because there isn’t much left.) Meantime, whip the heck of them eggs. Line your baking pan with parchment paper, and grease it, as well as a little grease on bottom of the paper, on the inside of the pan, primarily to hold it in place. I think I used coconut oil. Once the eggs are really, really whipped: Admittedly, because of my favorite chocolate cake from one of Suzanne Somers books, I added a pinch of baking soda in the eggs before I beat them. Carefully, at this point, you start ladling in the Nutella. WARNING: if your Nutella is hot, it will cook the eggs and you will not have brownies. Make sure it’s just kind of warmed, and a bit more fluid, before you start this process. A cup or so at a time, on a slower speed, until it’s all incorporated.
Bake them in a 350F oven for 25 to 30 minutes. I baked them in a rectangular pan so I could use the smaller oven, because I still have no toaster oven.I don’t buy Nutella often, for two reasons: one, it’s sugar, and two, I can’t stop.
So, What Happened?
Happy Anniversary, Honey!
I thought they were delicious–rich, eggy, but not too sweet. It’s gluten free, but you can add a half cup of flour to make them more cake-like. Pretty good, with a nice texture. BF turned his nose up at them, but did make the attempt to try them. I don’t remember his comment, but it included, “well, at least I tried them.”
And after that, I don’t cook or bake anything for him that’s from the “post-Amy menu.” Everything he eats is now “pre-Amy,” unless it’s for me. There was some roast chicken and pork roast this weekend, but anything beyond that, I just cook for myself.
We’re going to see if Walmart has “Thanksgiving In A Box” this year. I’m having whatever I want, and he can make the things he likes. Anyone coming over? Well, he knows how to make instant mashed potatoes and mac and cheese from a box. With his daughter’s news of his second grandchild come March, he’ll have more chances to be hands-on with the 3-year old.
Maybe. But definitely not to the extent I did Thanksgiving last year. There will be CrockPots involved, that’s for sure.
Otherwise. . . .
Well, we’re still here, with two hounds and a rude little cat. She doesn’t much care for me unless it’s time to feed her furry butt. She’s all about BF. Think of her like the female who goes after your man right in front of you, and that’s pretty much our cat. They don’t make them like they used to.
We did manage a little anniversary dinner at Cracker Barrel, but they don’t have any more Big Little Fudge, darnit. Just because we’re not married doesn’t mean we can’t have an anniversary, right? We have no plans to, so that’s why I call him my “partner.” Before you say, “the term ‘partner’ is just for gay couples,” no, it isn’t, and I’ve seen it both ways. But it sure confuses the heck out of people here!
Five Years of Blogging
Yes, it’s true, I’m coming up on five years of blogging. WordPress should be reminding me of that anniversary real soon.
I’m still not making a LOT of money, just enough to help out and get some things I need. One thing I really, REALLY needed was new glasses to replace the old ones. When I say old, I mean FIVE YEARS OLD. No kidding. I had one pair that I wore every day, and were horribly scratched, and a second pair–thank heavens–that I bought and kept only for job interviews and dress occasions. They were the last pairs I bought through the insurance I had with Boeing, and BF was starting to complain that maybe I couldn’t see well enough to drive. I reminded him that my glasses were five years old.
Back in August, I had a few dollars and got my first eye exam since April or May of 2012. At the local Walmart, no less. I got a written copy of my prescription, and ordered a pair of glasses from Zenni Optical. They arrived about two weeks later in the mail, and I put them right on. I had a headache for a little while, because my others were so old, and I needed a better prescription really bad. But I’m OK now. I can SEE!
Took this picture just a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans. I wanted something different. So? Whaddaya think?
You’ll notice my hair is getting longer, too. I need to have about a two-inch trim, which I’ll get soon. It’s somewhat thinner than before, but it’s definitely a lot longer than it’s been in years. Like, since about 2004, I think. But I’m also back taking vitamins and still using the organic plant based hair color, so maybe it will grow in thicker. Fingers crossed.
I use this pic on Facebook as my new profile shot. Someone commented on my “flawless complexion” and asked, “what’s your secret?” My response: “an app.”
I do plan to get at least a couple more pairs of glasses in different styles, and if I can make enough money, another pair like these to have a backup. Wish I’d started doing this years ago–I always bought from Target, but not anymore.
Until next time. . . .
Many thanks for sticking with me. I will try to finish some posts up soon and get them published.
Big Little Fudge–if you’ve seen it and haven’t tried it, do you know what you’re missing?
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Remember when I told you I was also doing work on Upwork? Well, I’ve been published–with a byline! Off The Grid News has published two of my articles! There is another in the pipeline, and I’m thinking about the next natural health topic to suggest to them. There’s a whole section of natural medicine on this website, where my articles are located. Look at this–tea tree oil! I didn’t write that one, but I just bought some for BF’s icky toenail fungus. He says the oil “stinks,” and says he’s “just humoring me.” (I’m using it straight.) He refers to his socks and shoes as a “containment field.” Wait til the stuff actually works. . . .
The Griddler is fixed!
I am SO happy, and yes, we’ve used it–for grilled pork chops, waffled burgers, and pizza waffles so far.
I couldn’t resist, it was just there, and I could cook those pork chops on the counter top and not worry about dripping grease anywhere. Waffled burgers just happened because the waffle plates were on the machine already.
It’s so quick and easy! We have ready-made crusts, pizza sauce and grated mozzarella cheese at the ready in the freezer. BF knows how much I enjoy using this appliance. He just smiles when I mention using it.
How about some foodie news?
To bounce off two previous posts, it seems that Libby’s canned veg will now be marked as BPA-free. Good move by Seneca Foods. We definitely need to know these things when we’re choosing canned goods.
Mug cakes go corporate
Someone at Pinnacle Foods, a/k/a, The Company That Owns Duncan Hines, has been paying attention to Pinterest. You can now buy your “cake in a cup” experience in a boxed mix. Seriously. They’re now making “cake in a cup mixes.” Isn’t the whole “cake in a cup” thing so that you don’t have to buy a box of cake mix?
No kidding. I just found this in Walmart the other night. So if you’re too lazy to mix two tablespoons of flour and sugar, an egg and some oil, here you go. Just remember that you’re still going to be mixing this mix in a cup. Anyone get that irony?
Ho, ho, ho!
The Green Giant brand has been bought by B&G Foods, and they’ve got some new things coming, including new Ortega products! They also sell some food products in Sur La Table stores and on their website.
Blue Bell’s new idea
Finally, Texas’ own Blue Bell now has an ice cream flavor to answer the conundrum of, “should I have a cone or put it in a bowl?” The new Ice Cream Cone flavor solves that problem for you. The cone is IN the ice cream, so you can have it whether or not you have a cone handy.
I kid you not.
More Texas sweetness
I had a little bit of home just recently when BF took us out for a little “date night.” About a month ago, we went to. . .Cracker Barrel in Hammond. If you’ve never been in one of these “country-style” themed restaurants, it’s quite nice with home-style food (think meat, potatoes, fried okra and gravy like your grandmother made), and salads. There’s even a fireplace in the dining area, which I appreciate, but they didn’t light it when we were there. He loves Cracker Barrel, and honestly, I can’t complain, either. There is also a “general store” attached where you can buy some nice things, a little bit like Buc-ee’s. As we were checking out, I noticed something on the counter. There are lots of things on the counter, but this one caught my attention. Oh, my GAWD. A little bit of Texas, here in rural Louisiana.
Big Little Fudge.
Back in 2011, I was lucky enough to attend the Houston Metro Cooking & Entertainment Show, and went with the Boeing Teammates Association, so it was a bus trip. No parking issues! Basically, it’s a trade show for food vendors and open to the public, primarily from Texas, but some from other places, too. Grass-fed beef. Premium olive oils. Himalayan Pink Salt. Gourmet vinegars that taste like wine. Community Coffee (no kidding!) and delicious coffees from everywhere–no Starbucks here. And of course, sweet stuff–artisan chocolate, especially. I told the folks on the bus driving home that most of what I ate was olive oil, garlic and chocolate. I wasn’t yet blogging, but if I were, you would have heard all about it here.
A quick search doesn’t show any evidence of a food show in Houston since 2013, so they may not be held anymore. I’ll have to start looking for “food shows” in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. You never know what you’ll be sampling, and you meet all kinds of people. Like any trade show, you go home with bags of cool stuff–but some cool stuff you get to eat. Wear comfortable walking shoes.
Wait–I’m a blogger now. Wonder if I can get a press pass for one?
Yes, Texas has great desserts too
One of those vendors was a company called Big Little Fudge, and they were giving out samples! Well, they gave me some of their delicious fudge to try, and I bought a couple of them too.
This deliciousness has been around since October of 2010, started by two longtime business partners, Robin Strickland and Kevin Graham, who had just sold their *other* business, and decided to launch a business making. . .fudge, in 2009. Naturally, you bring something chocolate to a food show, and people show up. There they were. Nice people, and they make a smooth, creamy fudge that you won’t soon forget. I know I never did.
Sweet, but not overly sweet
This is the one called Heavyweight Champ, which has dried cranberries in it. I haven’t seen it since, but you can order it from their website.
I’ve bought it a time or two since that date night in Hammond, but I have to be careful or I’ll be a BIG blogger!
Big Texas flavor in a little square
These pack a lot of flavor in a little chunk. I GASPED when I saw it in Cracker Barrel, and even BF was a bit concerned.
The blue one, Chocalot, was the first one, and Big Wally was the second one. I think those were the only two they had. One lady standing behind me wanted to know what the big deal was, and I told her–delicious fudge from Montgomery, Texas, here in Louisiana! I also mentioned that I’d met the owners at the Food Show in 2011. . .she wasn’t impressed by that, nor the fact that it’s gluten-free.
She responded that someplace around Hammond also had very good fudge, but she wasn’t sure if it was gluten free. I have no idea what place she was talking about.
Turns out that these two were part of a promotion in November to benefit the G.O.V.E.T.S. Foundation, and sold in Cracker Barrel nationwide. This is a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of our military veterans with things like job assistance. (Surprisingly, it didn’t register on BF’s radar for this sort of thing.) I’m guessing the Hammond store just had some left, and I was lucky enough to find them.
The rest of the story
You see all my pictures from that day at this external link–it’s on Facebook, but you don’t need to sign in or have an account. I’m only in one of them, when I took a picture with a man whose cookbook I bought and had autographed:
I looked pretty good in that picture. That shirt was way too big. . .soon, one day, it will be again.
Big Little Fudge, anytime
A little something sweet right now, party favors, holiday stocking stuffers, or corporate gifts for clients, or fundraiser sweets, Big Little Fudge has you covered. Just hop onto their website and take a look around. They also have a map function for you to find out where you can find these delicious morsels in your area. They’re available in some Sam’s Club locations, too. In my neck of the woods, the closest places showing are in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but of course, online ordering makes nearly *anything* available.
This is Prize-Winning Fudge
Big Little Fudge was chosen as the 2016 Buyer’s Choice winner for “Best New Chocolate” at ECRM’s (Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing) annual Candy Planning: Everyday & Summer Seasonal event held in New Orleans, August 28-31, 2016. Um, yeah! (Source: company press release.)
For a little treat for yourself, or for someone else, Big Little Fudge may be just what you need. Look on their website to find out where they’re sold in your area to satisfy your immediate chocolate craving. Need more? They ship anywhere, and made right in lovely Montgomery, Texas. I’ve been up there, although not to their factory. (Now, I wish I had.) This fudge is definitely worth seeking out, whether a single wrapped piece for yourself or buying a batch for corporate gifts or special occasions like parties and weddings.
Serve these babies at a wedding and your guests will ignore the wedding cake, OK? At least until they’re all gone.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Welcome to another edition of What’s She Up To This Time? A lot, as it turns out.
I’m back with another dispatch from the wilds of rural Louisiana. (OK, OK, we do have “city water.”) Yes, I’m still missing Houston terribly, but I’m getting better. A little. Maybe. OK, not so much. (BF helps a lot.) We finally went back to get the rest of my stuff from Neighbor E’s place in Houston last Wednesday, who graciously stored it in every nook and cranny of his place since I moved. Many thanks, and we finally got it all out and into the new HeatCageKitchen location. But I’m glad to finally bring you this incredibly delicious recipe courtesy of friend of the blog AC, complete with a printed PDF for you on the Recipes page.
But first, some news.
Once we loaded everything on the trailer and in the truck, which took about 2 hours, I made BF take me back to our fabulous HEB in Clear Lake for one last trip. (It was on our way to SH 146, which took us to I-10 anyway.) In addition to some good HEB milk, applewood smoked bacon and 3 dozen extra large eggs from Texas chickens, I got 2 more jars of Mom’s Hatch Apple Pie Filling for our special cake (he loved it), so I can make it again for him one day. Also picked up a turkey breast (they were out of thighs, darnit) some chicken leg quarters, pork chops and a few other things I can’t get here. Had just enough room in the ice chest for the meat, milk and a bag of ice; the eggs and the new basil plant sat in the truck with us–and not one broken egg, either. I was only able to bring four plants with me, and you know I want more basil for pesto, so I bought the basil since the one at E’s didn’t make it.
I was planning to publish this a week ago, after a trip to nearby Hammond for a job interview. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, we went to Houston the next day, and we’ve been quite busy ever since. I’m nearly finished clearing out the back room, and setting up my new “studio” back there. I’m hoping to paint it soon, too, soon as I figure out what color scheme would be good for a cool, sophisticated office look back there.
In a part of the US that doesn’t even have recycling.
BF had a special request for me the other morning. “Would you make me some breakfast before I head to work?” Of course! Immediately, I saw myself putting on an apron and sweeping through the kitchen to make a full English breakfast for him, sending him off to work happy he asked. However, this is what he requested:
Oh, yes, she did. Didn’t take long. (You can see my coffee brewing, right?) Appropriately, he put this on top of it:
You don’t want to know what makes it “taste like butter.” It’s primarily soybean oil, GMO and hydrogenated and all that. He did get an earful, don’t worry. It’s a crock, that’s for sure—but he likes it, so I fixed him up, and he was happy with it. I’m working on it.
Anyway. . .I’m sleeping a little better these days. That’s a gift that doesn’t come wrapped in a box.
I still haven’t replaced the drip tray on the Griddler, but I have used it (carefully.) It’s a $10 part, and probably another $5 or $10 for shipping, but right now, it’s gotta wait. Last night I made Stuffles, or stuffing waffles, from that book, (his fault, he asked for stuffing with the pork chops, and I couldn’t resist) with “stuffing mix” from a box, and waffled a ham & cheese sandwich the other night after he came home from work.
Long story, but it’s looking like the mighty Cuisinart counter top oven may need to be replaced. It survived the trip, but it is at least 6 years old, and traveling in the back of the White Knight may have done it in. More on this story later.
I just wish I could have landed in The Woodlands, but, oh, well. It’s a hideout from the world here, that’s for sure. Cow Road is always a nice little drive, complete with numerous judgmental bovines that look at you like you really don’t belong on their turf. BF likes to call it “Cow Patty Road,” and he’s got some other funny names for things.
Oh, and BF prays a lot more now. Usually when I get behind the wheel of the White Knight.
Friend of the blog AK made a suggestion while I was writing the last post (I was at the library, and we were chatting on Skype.) AK said, “make this detour part of your blog. People are so tired of fake Barbie-style women bloggers. ‘I’m a busy mom four boys and married to my high school sweetheart! I’m obsessed with making everything from scratch, from meals to home décor. I do it all!’” I do hope that I’ve done that, particularly with The Dislocated Texan, and I’ll continue to write it as I see it. After I finished that post, and after chatting with AK, I realized, as I always say, “I’m not FoodBabe.”
HeatCageKitchen is the real thing. It’s about the good, the bad, and the absolutely disgusting. I’ve written about all three. I’m a Texan, now and forever, and I don’t mess around. (I hung up that sign in the kitchen, BTW.) Maybe I should learn to make real Texas kolaches for BF one of these days. We didn’t stop for kolaches while we were there, but maybe next time.
Enough of that.
You may remember that earlier this year, AC was coming to dinner nearly every week, and I was trying out new things on her as an new official taste-tester. AC enjoyed everything, then things changed and she just stopped coming by. I though I’d insulted her, but it was just that her schedule changed. She’s happily working now in a new job, at the same place as her new BF. They just moved into a house so they can be closer to work. AC will be in a district with many SGI members I used to know when I first moved to Houston in 1998, as well as be within a few miles of Central Market, IKEA, two locations of Trader Joe’s, The Container Store, and a number of other great places that I no longer have short-drive access to. Well, there’s always the websites, and Baton Rouge.
I went to the SGI Community Center in New Orleans a couple of weekends ago, and since me and BF have been a bit skint (that is, “kind of broke”) I couldn’t just stop somewhere for a coffee—I didn’t have coffee money! (I’m used to stopping for a coffee occasionally, so this was a bit of a shock, but we know it’s temporary.) On the way there, I facetiously thought to myself, “now, where can I mooch a free coffee today?” I wasn’t going anywhere to ask, of course, it was just a stray thought, being silly. I was OK, I had some at home, and I was fine. Soon as I find my little green vacuum bottle, I’ll be taking Pea & Pesto soup with me on longer trips like that. Especially since BF does *not* like Pea & Pesto Soup.
Once I got to the Center and backed The White Knight in the last spot available, I sat down in the back corner of the main room, hoping nobody would recognize me. I really didn’t want to explain that my life has completely unraveled, I left behind everything I knew for 18 years, a wonderful man drove to Houston to move me to his house, and I’m embarrassed to be anywhere near New Orleans. (I’m still getting those “no thanks” emails from places in Houston that I’ve applied to.) That didn’t work, and I left after the first hour. I just didn’t feel like I belonged there. I was recognized by a couple of the members I used to hang out with years ago, and figured it was time to leave. I didn’t get to talk to NM, who was there, and texted her that I fled.
Friend of the blog E Man knew I was there, and he was sitting up front while I sat on the back row, in the corner. Guess it was too soon for me to go. Driving on I-10 West, E Man called, and asked me to stop by and see him before I returned to my new rural hideaway. I was at the Bonnabel exit, and he told me how to get to his place from where I was, just a few exits away. Eight years is a long time to remember the directions to someone’s place, but E Man is better than Google Maps, and I arrived just before he did. I got to play with his cats, met one of his friends, and fiddled with his computer and printer so he could print again. After downloading the updated print drivers, it still didn’t work, but the printer might be too old for a Windows 10 laptop. Since this was now beyond my skills and expertise, I suggested he talk to his brother who is a bit more tech-savvy than I am. Despite the headache I developed, at least I felt a bit useful before I took the 60+ minute drive north. (I-10 West is also how you get to Houston.)
One of the things I needed to do was get a bottle of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos for this recipe. I forgot when I was in Baton Rouge two weeks ago, darnit, and I’m sure Whole Foods would have had it. (I didn’t get that job, either.) They had nearly everything else I needed, but of course, I plum forgot after the ridiculous ride through traffic-clogged Baton Rouge to get there. (Almost like driving on I-610 West near the Galleria in Houston.) After I walked out of the Buddhist Center on Sunday, I relied on Apple Maps to get me to Whole Foods Uptown, and it was a straight drive up Prytania Street. Well, everything was fine until I got to Louisiana Avenue. Since there’s construction going on, you can’t take a left at Louisiana, you can only turn right onto it. The app doesn’t mention that little detail, either. This means you now have to drive down Louisiana Avenue to find a way to make a U-turn elsewhere so you can drive in the other direction to Whole Foods. Well. . .I didn’t make it that far, I only got to the corner of St. Charles and Louisiana and stopped. What’s at that corner?
See, they didn’t close the stores in Louisiana, only Texas and three other states. (Baton Rouge and Mandeville also have one.) But it didn’t dawn on me to try The Fresh Market, only Whole Foods.
I walked in and felt a little more at home. There, in a smaller space than the one we had in Clear Lake, was everything I remembered. (The wine section is upstairs, but I didn’t need to go up there; the Clear Lake store had everything on one floor.) I prowled a bit and saw. . .the coffee. Oh, but darnit! No money for coffee, only for the Bragg’s! Except. . .there are also sample cups. So, I picked up a sample cup, added a packet of pink and a little half-and-half and sampled some delicious, welcome hot Chocolate Cherry coffee. Walked around for a minute and found the Bragg’s, then circled back to refill that sample cup, Bragg’s in my hand.
I did that four or five times while I looked at the fully stocked shelves of goods not available at Winn-Dixie. So I actually *did* get hot, fresh, free coffee, and Chocolate Cherry flavor, too! It just wasn’t all at once. There weren’t many people in the store on Sunday morning at 11:15 am, and they looked rather sullen when they saw me. (Red-haired Texans get that look a lot.) My nice male cashier had a “man bun,” too, which greatly amused my military buzz-cut BF when I told him. Otherwise, nobody said anything. However, this particular trip, I just said “thank you” to the Universe for giving me some free coffee, in Chocolate Cherry flavor. It was greatly appreciated on a day where I was not feeling up to it.
BF was at work all day Sunday, and since I got home about 2:30 or so, I decided to take a nap before he returned. I didn’t hear him arrive, and he didn’t wake me or tell me he was home, he just got busy with it in the kitchen and cooked some delicious dinner for us. I smelled the cooking, but thought it was part of the weird dream I was having. What a sweetie. I did all the dishes for us.
Finally, I got all the ingredients together, since that was the last bit of the puzzle. I can show you how to make this amazing, delicious and easy bean dish that I’ve been talking about for weeks, and we can have for years to come. (Well, I will, anyway.)
Yes, this is a lot of stuff for a pot of beans. But it’s worth it. (And of course, I forgot to include the Balsamic vinegar in this picture.)
Neighbor E, who is still a good friend but is no longer a “neighbor,” has been volunteering at the Clear Lake Food Pantry for some time, and has occasionally given me things that he either doesn’t want, has too much of, or wouldn’t ordinarily use. This wasn’t all the time, just on occasion (and I loved all the coleslaw, too.) Pinto beans are a staple in Texas, but I haven’t tried to buy them in Louisiana just yet. These are the last of them that he gave me before I moved to BF’s place, so he gets credit here, too.
There are a few steps, but it’s really simple. Start by rinsing the beans, of course.
And add them into the slow cooker thingy, then fill it ¾ with water:
And add the diced onions and garlic:
I put a whole small onion in this batch, but I think it should be less than that, maybe no more than a third or a scant half cup of chopped onion. Also, I’d chop it a little finer, maybe use the food processor next time. Next batch may include green onions, since I’ve already started growing some in the kitchen window. This batch, I put too much onion in it, I think.
Cook up the half-cup salt pork or bacon (this was Trader Joe’s bacon pieces from my Houston kitchen.)
Chop and add that in.
Then shake in the salt, pepper, Balsamic Vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Aminos, and chicken stock:
Stir it up a little:
And follow Amy’s directions for any slow-cooker recipe: Put the lid on, plug it in, turn it on and leave it alone. For at least eight hours, but of course, longer won’t hurt them. (Just don’t forget, OK?)
Hours later, you’ll smell them first, then have this:
Of course, *before* I got to cooking them, BF took me into town for some errands. . .which should have happened after I put the beans in the slow cooker. They really do take at least 8 hours to cook. He cooked a pot of rice, but the beans were still kind of hard later in the evening. Next time, prep in the morning. But on the taste factor, it was two thumbs up. Finally, I made something else he liked!
When you smell these beans, you’ll understand why I make a big deal about them. They really are the best beans I’ve ever had. You’ll say the same thing when you make them. They really are that good.
Sunday family dinner? Make a double batch. You’ll need it.
Of course, I didn’t wash dishes beforehand, so this is what was waiting off-camera:
But all was well at the new HeatCageKitchen.
Another Sunday brought me to a Buddhist meeting on this side of the world, and found. . .The Fresh Market in Mandeville! So there’s a new adventure to tell you about in the quick dinner department. Of course, my Texas readers will be green with envy. . .plus, there’s Hatch chilies involved!
As always, the printable PDF is available on the Recipes page. I hope to bring you more tasty recipes and ideas again soon.
Many thanks to AC for not only letting my try these wonderful beans, but giving me the recipe so I could share it with everyone.