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Trader Joe's outside in Baton Rouge
Trader Joe’s Friday

Last week, I made it a Trader Joe’s Friday. Take a ride with me.

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Hello again, Dear readers:

I know, it’s been a minute, but I do have an adventure to tell you about, plus a couple of other news items that have surprised the heck out of me.

Saturday was a Tractor Supply visit for pet supplies. It was also an adoption day, and I almost brought home a new kitty:

Grey kitten in kennel

Such a sweet little kitten.

There’s nothing wrong with the old ones. But I knew what kind of trouble I’d face if I did. Make no mistake—this Catmandu kitty was $22 to adopt. But I just knew it would be bad for that beautiful little furball if I did. The poor thing wouldn’t stand a chance around Tab E. Cat and Tiger Cat. I hate leaving this one behind but I did.

Let’s get started.

Two News Items

These two news items come from Fast Company, a tech magazine that I follow on LinkedIn.

For a few years now, you’ve probably seen those commercials for company called Daily Harvest. This company aims its advertising at millennials who want to eat better and easier. From what I’ve seen, it’s frozen vegetarian food as different forms of meals that make it convenient and easy to eat healthier. At least, that’s how they’re advertising their products. They’re not cheap, either—each meal runs between $6 and $10, for one. They also have some coffee pods that come in two to a package.

The Daily Harvest Debacle

Back in June, the magazine reported on a story about Daily Harvest’s lentil and leek crumbles that made quite a few people very sick. Although these people were young and healthy, nearly 400 of them became ill from this meat-substitute blend. The problem was an ingredient called “tara flour” added as a plant-based protein. Tara flour is rarely used in the US and was not tested for safety before this product was rolled out.

The FDA has not yet evaluated tara flour to be “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, but it’s not used much here, either. It only became available in the last year or so. Most of the people sickened by this product developed gallbladder and liver problems. Of those, 133 went to the hospital for surgical procedures, with 25 of those being gallbladder removal. The company promises to do better, but lawsuits could bankrupt the company. They’re working with the FDA, and the crumbles have been recalled. We’ll see how this plays out. Their products are available in some grocery stores, but not in my area.

If you see a food product with “tara flour” in its ingredient list, drop it. There is also something called “tara gum” that’s used as a thickener, but apparently it’s not the same thing.

Beyond Impossible Meat

The second article is about the imminent demise of the plant-based meat industry–again. These reports have happened a few times, claiming that this fake meat is on its way out, but they’re still around and haven’t gone yet.

Honestly, who’s buying this stuff? I see it in the grocery stores all the time, but I don’t see anybody buying any. That may be different in a place like Houston, Dallas, New York, or anywhere in California. But the truth is, much of America is not eating plant-based meat. If they do, it’s once and they realize why real meat is better. There’s plenty of it available, but nobody’s buying it up like ground beef.

Because I even found some in Dirt Cheap this weekend:

Boxes of Beyond Meat Snacks

When they’re here, they’re at the last stop

The ingredient list:

Beyond Meat ingredient list

That’s intended to replace meat. Seriously? No. That’s a lot of processing to make it look and taste something like meat. I’m sure Spam tastes better.

It’s like that picture that emerged during Hurricane Harvey of an HEB refrigerated case, that was emptied of everything but the soy-based vegetarian food products. No self-respecting Texan is going to eat tofu or fake meat, even in an emergency. Looks like there was more anticipation than actual demand for alt-meat, and the industry isn’t as strong as the cattle industry.

Do you know why it’s called “Impossible?” Because it’s impossible to get normal people to eat that stuff. Bonus: alt-meat is not healthier than meat. The article goes on about “planet friendly,” “saving the planet,” and “climate change,” showing its intentional bias. Even though there are some folks who buy the stuff, alt-meat isn’t universally wanted. I don’t know anyone who wants it, either.

Aldi, Aldi, Everywhere!

I only just discovered that Germany-based grocer Aldi has bought one of the south’s stalwart stores, Winn-Dixie. No kidding—they just remodeled ours in the last year, and now they may change it over to Aldi.

Honest—somehow, I did not get this news, our friend MY told us in a phone conversation last week. How did BF know about this but not say anything to me? I thought she was kidding when she told us, but she wasn’t.

The modern world comes to rural Louisiana, whether they want it or not. No word on how many stores will stay branded as Winn-Dixie and how many will change to Aldi. But Aldi’s stores are much smaller than the average Winn-Dixie, so they’ll make those decisions once the merger is complete.

We got a letter just today from our local Winn-Dixie informing us that our local Winn-Dixie pharmacy closed last week. I hadn’t heard about that part either. Aldi doesn’t do pharmacy, and its core competency is grocery, so the pharmacy component wasn’t part of the deal. Now, Winn-Dixie is transferring everything to CVS and Walgreens and closing their pharmacies ahead of the merger. Here, the transfers are to the local Walgreens. The Hammond Winn-Dixie has a CVS nearby.

I did notice some conversation in the pharmacy area when I was shopping there last week but didn’t think too much of it. So, in the store that was only renovated a few months ago, there will be an empty space where the pharmacy was. Wonder what they’ll do with it once it’s all cleared out.

Bankruptcy Relief

Southeastern Grocers is thankful since they’ve been limping along for many years now and remarkably close to bankruptcy. I haven’t seen too much on the topic, although it was just a quick search that yielded articles that said much the same thing.

This may also impact Rouses, Louisiana’s “premier” grocery chain. It’s the closest thing you’ll find to HEB this side of the Sabine. If Aldi does move into Hammond, there will be some VERY serious competition.

Of course, in a text message later, MY responded, “How about you work on getting us an HEB?” Well, I’ll see what I can do, but they tried it once in Lake Charles. The gent in the Texas Welcome Center in Orange said, “There was some kind of Louisiana regulation and they had to close.” There’s always some kind of Louisiana regulation to bungle up anything. That’s why there’s no Buc-ee’s here, and there likely won’t be, even though it was announced a few years ago.

Maybe Trader Joe’s will make the trip up this way next. New Orleans has one, and so does Memphis, TN, which also has an IKEA. Hammond would be a great place for Trader Joe’s, especially with Southeastern Louisiana University around. I sent them an email suggesting Hammond, and the autoresponder message I got back said:

Thank you for your interest in a Trader Joe’s store – it matters to us. We’ve received your request and will share it with our real estate team for consideration.

 If you have other comments or questions you’d like addressed, please submit them through our general feedback form at: https://www.traderjoes.com/home/contact-us

Thank you.

But folks in Mandeville and Covington have been wanting and praying for a Trader Joe’s there for years. Not happening, and I know that from the company directly.

My Trader Joe’s Friday

Last week, I decided I wanted to go to Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge. See, They’ve got new fall and pumpkin stuff all over the place, and I was out to get some to bring back.

I found out that they have a new pumpkin body butter that I wanted to try. BF, on the other hand, did not want me to go anywhere near anything that smelled like pumpkin or pumpkin spice, But he was not going to stop me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pumpkin body butter, because they sold it all on the first day. Like the Brazil Nut Body Butter that BF really likes, there’s plenty of it available on eBay and Amazon—for a premium price. That’s what happens when you put a Trader Joe’s near LSU. Fortunately, I did score some of the pumpkin body scrub.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Body Scrub

If you score some, you’ll definitely enjoy it

It smells nice and warm, and I must hide it, so BF doesn’t throw it away.

I put the pumpkin spice gluten-free bagels into the freezer right away, too.

Gluten Free baked goods

Gluten-free!

I had one already, toasted with butter, and it was pretty darn good. The canned pumpkin will go into the pantry for Iced Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and homemade dog treats.

Non-pumpkin purchases included two packages of Texas Tamales:

Because they are less than Rouse’s. And one of these little totes, with a full-sized nylon grocery bag inside.

Tiny Trader Joe's shopping bags

Aren’t they cute?

Keep it in your bag, car, or pocket, and you’ll have a reusable shopping bag handy. The small tote is good for keeping small items corralled like loose change.

The Store Visit

I saw lots of pumpkins:

Pumkins in front of Trader Joe's

Look at them all!

And these new bags for fall:

Racks of yellow cold bags from Trader Joe's

I didn’t get one, maybe next time.

This nice lady was sampling:

Sampling lady named India

This nice lady’s name is India, and she was sampling some lovely granola and yogurt.

Plus a wide range of new and familiar delicious things:

And this:

Salted Maple Ice Cream

I wanted to but it would not have lasted the trip home in the heat.

The samosas next to them are probably pretty good, but you know what would happen if I brought a box home? “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!” Same with this one:

Danish Pumpkin Caramel Kringle

Interesting, no?

Delicata Squash:

Delicata squash at Trader Joe's

He won’t eat that, either.

I bought a small one and will put it in the air fryer. I saw DaniMade Kitchen do that the other day on Instagram, and it’s really simple. Slice off the ends, then in half lengthwise, don’t peel, remove the seeds, slice into half-rounds, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper (or whatever seasoning you like), and air fry at 400F for 10 minutes, or 20 minutes in the oven. Dani also adds a fresh herb like thyme into the mix. Yeah, that’s for me when BF is not home.

BF won’t eat anything remotely related to pumpkin, like this:

Pumpkin Spice bars at Trader Joe's

That would not go over well. Next to his strawberry bars.

Or this:

Cinnamon roll & Blondie Bars at Trader Joe's

Even though they’re not pumpkin

I did pick up a box of this tea last time I was there but haven’t opened it yet:

Trader Joe's English Breakfast Tea

They may be unwrapped, too.

I hope it’s as good as HEB’s English Breakfast Tea.

The Frozen Foods

In addition to our favorite Texas Tamales, Trader Joe’s has some other interesting frozen foods in their cases:

Frozen Foods at Trader Joe's

Pumpkin ice cream, and waffles? Sounds good but no for BF.

Don’t forget the scones and cheesecake:

At least Trader Joe’s appreciates Hatch chiles:

Hatch chile salsa at Trader Joe's

Hatch chile salsa and frozen tacos–perfect!

Gluten-free pie shells? I almost bought some.

Gluten free pie shells at Trader Joe's

This could be the start of something delicious!

One day I’ll try this, too, if it’s gluten-free.

Trader Joe's Mandarin Chicken

A fan favorite, but we’ve never had it.

Still, BF doesn’t mind that I go, and says the same thing: “It’s just a grocery store.”

Trader Joe’s List

If you’re not familiar with Instagram, there are several bloggers and brands that hang out there. The main reason I got on Instagram was to follow. Jen Fisher of Keto in the City, Mimi G, and a couple of others I like. I also follow multiple brands on Instagram, and as you know, I’ve won twice this year from Instagram giveaways.

Another blogger that I discovered is a lady named Natasha Fisher who has a blog and an Instagram channel called Trader Joe’s List. She lives in California and has a Trader Joe’s nearby. So once a week, and sometimes more, she goes to Trader Joe’s, does some grocery shopping, and then does a video about what she bought. She does the videos in her own kitchen.

Natasha and her partner Simon recently went to Phoenix for a few weeks for his job, so she just took her Trader Joe’s trip there. They stayed in an Airbnb, she was still cooking like she was at home.

I try to catch Natasha’s videos whenever she posts a new one. Sometimes she even does them live, but I don’t always catch those. But she talks about a lot of different TJ’s things in the videos that I’m interested in trying. Natasha is not affiliated with Trader Joe’s, she’s simply a happy shopper with a blog.

It was Natasha’s video that showed me the Pumpkin Body Butter that I wanted to try. Oh, well. At least I got the Brazil Nut Body Butter before it sold out.

Making My Own Video

On the way back from Baton Rouge, I got the idea to make my own video, just like Natasha’s. I’m not trying to compete or “steal her thunder,” of course. It was just for fun. I did mine in one take and uploaded it to Instagram. But for those of you not on Instagram, I uploaded it to YouTube so you can see it there.

If you watch it, please do not expect my video to be as good as Natasha’s. I’m not a professional and the intent was just to have a little fun on my own. BF is not in the video but does get a few mentions. (If you listen close you can hear the TV blaring in the other room because he couldn’t help himself.) But if you like Trader Joe’s, I highly suggest checking out her website. If you’re on Instagram, follow Natasha so you can see her videos in your feed when she posts them.

Next Up: Aldi

The littlest grocery store has done very well in recent months because of their well-priced basic offerings. So, it’s no wonder that they keep expanding, especially in the South.

I’m planning to visit the Aldi in McComb, Mississippi this week to do a little stocking up (and to get out of the house for a while.) BF doesn’t mind, since I’m not doing anything wrong, and he likes many of the new things I bring home. Unless, of course, they’re pumpkin-spiced. I try to bring back nice things that he wouldn’t ordinarily buy or something that wouldn’t ordinarily cross his path. He’s still a fan of Jammie Dodgers.

I’ve got one recipe to try out for an upcoming blog post, and hopefully, it will be worth the wait. Until then. . . .

Happy Dining!

 

Horse with his head sticking out of a horse trailer
The Catchup Post

Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

Well, it’s happened again: an unintentional and accidental hiatus, hence a catchup post. I was doing good but became OBE, or overwhelmed by events. My apologies. I had some new work from new clients and just got swamped. It’s a long one, so settle in with a cuppa before you begin reading.

BF has had to step up and make dinner more than once, and we’ve had frozen pizzas too. I’m way overdue for last year’s wedding trip posts, as well as a few others. I have a couple of posts that are in progress as well.

I’d love to say we won the lottery. Well, we have, and winning $4 with both the PowerBall and MegaMillions drawings is a confidence booster. If we won the bigger pots, we’d be new anonymous people overnight.

This blog site has some issues going on too, and I need to get Raf to help me fix those. If you’ve signed up for emails, that’s one of the issues I can’t seem to fix. The other is the missing table of contents that I can’t seem to get back in place—none of the seven plugins seem to work. Plus, we have a couple of business things to start on both my side and his, and Carmen may be involved.

This is the catchup that I’ve been writing here and there for a while.

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Artificial Intelligence In Everyday Life

So if you haven’t caught the AI bug yet, here’s one good use of it: keeping ice cream in stock.

No kidding, the Unilever company owns over 3 million freezers worldwide and they’re adding little cameras to each one of them to make sure the ice cream never runs out. From the article:

“The camera fitted inside our cabinet takes a photo periodically, sends it into the cloud, and it’s analyzed using AI to let shopkeepers know what to restock and submit orders in a frictionless way,” explains Berty Jacob, an R&D cold chain specialist with Unilever, in a blog post.

They’re also adding this exclusive technology <cough, cough> to vending machines and their supply chain, too.

What’s next—AI-enabled slow cookers and Instant Pots? I don’t put it past anyone, really, after they started with the Wi-Fi-connected slow cookers. “Alexa, turn on the CrockPot on low heat for seven hours.” Big no from me, and BF concurs.

If you say, “Alexa” around this little cabin in the woods, you’ll be talking to yourself. Not having that here. ChatGPT is a tool, nothing more, and if you use it, be cautious of copyright infringement.  

Around The Casa de Rurale—The Visitor From Texas

Two weekends ago, we had a surprise visit from Miss Alice! We expected her this week following a road trip to Florida with her daughter. The plans changed, her daughter flew to Austin, and Miss Alice ended up spending a weekend with us with just B-Dog, a half Chihuahua/half Dachshund.

Alice and B-Dog sitting on the futon

They made it!!

We were very glad to see Miss Alice, and hopefully, we didn’t scare her (much.)

Broccoli Stirfry enjoyed meeting B-Dog and had a great time once they got past the uneasy initial meeting. The cats weren’t thrilled with this little yapper and stayed clear. B-Dog quickly figured out how to climb up the couch to get to the cat food. I had to make sure not to step on him.

When she gave me a future date for her visit, I was thinking about what I might make for dinner. What I was considering was a meal I made for BF a while back from Emilie Bailey’s Easy Dirty Keto; Miss Alice also owns a copy. The dinner with the BBQ chicken, deep-fried Brussels sprouts, and maybe the chocolate-mint whipped topping dessert was top of mind.

B-Dog

He took to Titan’s favorite cushion quickly.

Well, that’s not what we had, but there was chicken, and last year’s mint & parsley pesto was also brought out from the freezer. Oh, and some quinoa, too. Plus, I picked and cooked the only three little Shishito peppers for Miss Alice. That went well, especially since BF worked late that evening.

Dinner plate with a salad bowl, chicken and pesto and quinoa

Not bad for a quick throw-together. She enjoyed everything, including the peppers.

And that little salad was from the garden, but that’s all the lettuce and tomatoes that were ready to eat. No matter, it was tasty with a light vinaigrette of EVOO and fig-infused vinegar. Just enough for two small salads.

While Miss Alice took a nap, I went out and got her more of the PJ’s K-Cups she likes. Winn-Dixie had Pumpkin Spice on sale, so I got her a box of those too. Once she got under the magic Snap-On blanket, she was out like a light.

Saturday Shopping And Catchup

BF worked the day shift on Saturday, made our breakfast, and also made dinner, his favorite jambalaya (from a locally produced mix) on Saturday night. We all enjoyed that plus some good conversation. During the day I took Miss Alice to our local Tractor Supply and Dirt Cheap. It was kind of an on-the-fly thing, and she found some lovely things for her new place. I also wanted her to see the great pet stuff at Tractor Supply for B-Dog.

Turns out there is a Dirt Cheap in Pasadena, TX, and a Tractor Supply within 5 miles of her new apartment, where you may run into friends like these:

Horse with his head sticking out of a horse trailer

He was noisy! I didn’t get close enough to pet him, though.

Also told her about Ollie’s Bargain Center, one of which is now open on El Dorado Blvd, not far from El Dorado Trace. They do seem to have a big selection of K-Cup coffees for a good price, and I figured she’d want to know about that. Neighbor E has recently paid them a visit, too.

BF took care of her oil change and changed the air filter on her car after dinner. He had to be to work early, and Miss Alice left early Sunday morning not long after BF did. During the trip home, Miss Alice got some RaceTrac coffee around Lafayette, arriving home safely around noon. We were so busy with our catchup that we didn’t get to take any selfies. Fortunately, she’s been able to make it to the beach since she’s been home before school and work starts up again soon. We anxiously await her return visit.

Illness And Injury

Back in February, we got sick again, with my convalescence spanning two weeks and requiring an inhaler for bronchitis. BF got over it quickly, but my sore throat moved down into my lungs. I thought I’d never quit coughing.

But while BF recovered from the sore throat, he managed to get a bit of metal from a brush grater stuck under the skin on the back of his right hand. It hurt like any splinter, but of course, it was also rusty. It began swelling badly and hurt him when the infection took hold.

I’m not putting any pictures of that awfulness up for you to see.

The full treatment took two trips to the local urgent care center and one to a local emergency room, along with antibiotics, minor surgery, a tetanus shot, and a couple of sick days from work. Then he had to put large bandages over the wound to protect it and keep it from view during the healing process. It took a while to completely heal, and it was awful to look at for a time. But BF is fine now, thank heavens, and back immersed in his car guy activities.

Veterinary Matters

Concurrently, Tab E. Cat had an urgent medical matter, a ruptured blood vessel in his ear that was swollen and painful. A trip to the vet resolved the problem—it involved surgery to drain the blood and stitch it back flat. They literally quilted his ear with stitches. He is all healed up now, and his ear will be forever wonky. Otherwise, he’s still the same fussy old boss cat.

Tab E. Cat waiting for food.

There he is, waiting to be fed.

Unfortunately, during Tab E. Cat’s situation, we didn’t realize that our beloved 10-year-old pit bull, Titan, was in distress.

Titan sleeping on cushion

He’s just sleeping here, back in the office area.

He passed away before we could get him to the vet, and with lots of tears, we buried him near Spencer on a chilly Monday morning.

BF with Titan in a selfie

BF took selfies with Titan sometimes.

We called Titan the “pussycat of pit bulls.” While he was a loyal and protective animal with a deep, throaty bark, he wasn’t vicious or dangerous. Obviously, we are still heartbroken, and not looking for another dog just yet.

Titan with Buddy the puppy on his favorite cushion.

Titan looked after Buddy until he got bigger

We miss our sweet pooch, all 82 pounds of him. He enjoyed hanging out with me in the back room and listening to jazz music. Maybe one day there will be another “velvet hippo.” But for now, Buddy, aka Broccoli Stirfry, has only us and the cats to hang out with.

My Turn

While everything was going on, I was on my feet taking care of BF and the animals—all while doing client work. But that sore throat wasn’t getting better. The day after we buried Titan, I just collapsed. Then I discovered that the same local urgent care center offered telemedicine visits, so I scheduled one.

I met with a doctor via video link at their Mandeville clinic, where they handle the telemedicine calls. He prescribed an inhaler and the antibiotic Z-Pack, which I ultimately didn’t need. The antibiotic was a just-in-case thing. They called the prescriptions into the local Winn-Dixie, I went and got them, and a week later I was much better. I’ll do that again any day of the week.

Speaking of Broccoli Stirfry

He’s now just over 18 months old, and weighs about 75 pounds.

Buddy on the grass with a stick looking regal

There he is, not a thought in his head

A couple of weeks ago he began furiously barking at what turned out to be two bulls on the neighbor’s property.

Bulls under a tree

There they are. Dangerous threats to life, limb, and property.

Obviously a threat to everyone, right? They did get out one day and were wandering around outside the house, but the neighbor came and rounded them up.

Buddy is still chewing on anything he can find, and acting a fool frequently.

Buddy rolling over in the grass

There he is as he normally appears, rolling over in the grass as only he can

To date, he’s destroyed two remote controls, more papers, towels and other textiles, a wooden handle, several plastic things from the kitchen, and an Otterbox case for an iPhone. We discovered that he also likes the taste of the iPhone 12, which belonged to BF’s brother.

While BF was in bed after his ER visit, his brother dropped by, bringing several boxes of Girl Scout cookies for BF. He went into the bedroom to talk with BF but set his phone down by the easy chair.

That’s all this dog needs. He saw it as something left for him because it was within his reach.

Buddy standing in the kitchen looking for food

We get this look a lot from him.

Thirty minutes after he left, (if that long) BF’s brother came back to ask if he’d left his phone at the Casa de Rurale. We didn’t see it, so we rang it. The dog had the iPhone IN the bedding of his kennel, where he’d chewed the Otterbox case off the phone and started in on the iPhone. The glass encasement was shattered but the phone still worked fine. BF and his brother were both shocked, but I wasn’t.

It’s normal for this dog, but nobody listens. No word on whether he’s repaired or replaced his iPhone.

The Thwarted Berry Season

This was a bummer, but Mother Nature does whatever she wants.

Our early and long-term spring weather brought out fresh greenery and began the process of budding blackberries. They were everywhere, and I was anticipating a huge harvest. If Broccoli Stirfy the dog didn’t eat them all first.

Handful of ripe blackberries

That’s all I got whenever I went out to pick.

Then, just like that, we had another short but hard freeze in mid-March. The early berries didn’t make it, but there were more flowers that turned into berries that slowly began ripening.

Unfortunately, because of that freeze, the newer berries didn’t have a chance to ripen before the vines turned brown as they normally do at the end of their season.

Brown blackberry vines

Once the season is over, they’re done.

So once again, the berries are gone. We only got a handful of ripe ones to eat, which I shared with the dog, while I waited for the fruitless harvest. (Get it? Fruitless?) The few we could reach and enjoy were delicious.

BF was asking for another “non-healthy” blackberry dessert. I reminded him of last year’s Blackberry Cheesecake Galette, which he loved. I’ll be happy to make him something again this summer. But anything made with blackberries will have to be from prior years’ harvests in the freezer or bought from a grocery store.

Summer

After a cold winter, summer is here, and a hot one. Texas has been experiencing temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and we’ve had some as well. Several memes let transplants from other states know that this only Texas’ “preheating.” The bad news is that the Texas electrical grid is again at risk of failure or at least not keeping up with increasing demand. This may mean brownouts, blackouts, and anyone with a smart thermostat to lose control of it until the demand lessens. Many people found that out the hard way last year and quickly learned how to “opt-out” of that.

Our friend Beverly in central Georgia has had the same 100+ degree heat. She’s staying inside building little dollhouse things for now.

Houston has also had some significant rainstorms like we have. But I haven’t forgotten the spring/summer of 2011, when drought conditions developed in H-Town. It was my third or fourth year gardening behind the condo, and I had plants both in the ground and in pots. But even with watering twice daily before and after work, many of those lovely plants in the little back patio garden, especially zucchini, cantaloupe, and cucumber, dried up in the heat.

We’ve had hot temperatures, with only occasional rain, including some intense storms, too. I’ve been watering the plants myself in the morning and occasionally in the evening except when it rains. April and May have been the usual months for heavy rains, but we didn’t have as much this time around. I’m still planning to make a sturdy, utilitarian raincoat for our colder rainy periods. I’ve got all the supplies and cut the fabric, just need to start stitching. Those lovely lightweight designer raincoats I made for office work don’t cut it here.

And of course, hurricane season began on June 1.

The HeatCageKitchen 2023 Garden Catchup

As he did last year, BF wouldn’t give me a commitment on where to put our garden. So, once again, the garden is in 5-gallon buckets at the edge of the patio. I need to get more. Some are a bit broken but still serviceable.

I kept buying plants and putting them in the kitchen window by the sink where they would get sunlight. The chilly nights kept coming back, so I was reluctant to put anything outside, especially tomatoes and peppers. Finally, I did, mostly because BF was complaining about the “science experiments” in the kitchen window. He says that about anything I’m doing that he doesn’t understand.

One cherry tomato plant was about two feet tall before I put it outside, and now it’s about four feet high with branches and leaves. I’ve harvested many tomatoes so far, and only a few remain in the window to ripen. It’s tied to three stakes to keep it upright, and I trimmed off the brown parts. Hoping for some more new growth with more tomatoes before the end of the season.

Cherry tomatoes on a towel in a window of different degrees of ripeness

Enjoying the last of them soon.

A smaller golden cherry tomato plant with a couple of flowers is not yet flourishing like the bigger one. I’ve been using Garden Safe botanical insecticides because a couple of Mother Nature’s hungry creatures found it and were enjoying both leaves and tomatoes. I found it at Tractor Supply, but you can also buy it on Amazon.

Peppers, Sage, And More

So far, I’ve harvested two little Poblano peppers, one tiny red bell pepper, and two small Anaheim/Hatch chili peppers. More flowers and buds are developing.

Surprisingly, Tractor Supply had Shishito pepper plants again, and I bought two. I’ve harvested one batch and cooked them, then clipped the three smallish peppers to cook for Miss Alice. That’s all I had available for her. If her visit was later we might have had more.

The plants are full of buds and flowers, and I’m anticipating a bumper crop soon. On a recent jaunt to Baton Rouge, (keep reading) I bought a bag at Trader Joe’s to cook up before my garden ones were ripe:

Bag of Trader Joe's Shishito Peppers for $2.29

They are so tasty.

The green onions are growing nicely with one flowering, and I also got a sage plant again. My huge mint plant died in the last freeze, so I bought another one. It’s coming along, and I’ve already used some mint for a Corsican omelette.

Basil, BF’s nemesis, is also growing well. The two original plants were strong before I put them out, then I cut them to propagate more. Those cuttings are well-rooted and planted but still tiny. I’m waiting to see how many will turn into more basil for pesto. I had a hard time finding the 1 cup small square glass type containers with the tight lids, but I finally went to Pyrex’s website and found them on sale. They arrive this week, and I’ll make my first batch soon.

Grocery Shopping

I also made it back to Aldi about a month ago. Got another cauliflower pizza, and lots more delicious things. A couple of weeks before that I headed to Baton Rouge for a Joann/Trader Joe’s run. In addition to the Shishito peppers, I also met this nice lady named Brittani at TJ’s:

Tab E. Cat biting the fish off a Splayd

Lady at Trader Joe's sampling cheese

She was ever so nice, and let me have two bites.

Who was sampling this wonderful blueberry cheese:

Wedge of blueberry cheese from Trader Joe's

It’s so delicious!

Yes, blueberry cheese, and a piece came home with me. It’s something I’ll savor when BF is out of the house, for sure. I also found this Salmon Rub:

Bottle of Salmon Rub from Trader Joe's

This little bottle is so full of flavor, and you don’t need much.

Used it on a piece of fish I got at Aldi, and it was absolutely delicious.

Salmon cooking in pan

That’s all I did, with a bit of olive oil.

Just ask Tab E. Cat.

I finally ate the “quinoa meal” from my initial Aldi trip when BF was out, and it wasn’t bad. You heat up the quinoa and add the other bowl, and stir.

Not bad, and only memorable because of BF’s reaction. It even came with a foldable spork:

Quinoa meal in bowl

Once again I went to Aldi on my own. They do a brisk business and it was not nearly as crowded as opening day. BF was not as impressed with my grocery hauls, reminding me, “It’s just a grocery store.” I feed him good food, no matter what he says.

I Won!

Since I’ve been on Instagram, I have entered a lot of contests for fun. Frequently, the contest requires you to tag someone you’re friends with as a requirement, and sometimes I tag several people. Miss Alice always gets tagged first.

You may remember a couple of years ago that I won Fiesta Spice’s contest during the holidays and received their tamale kit. It’s still in the pantry, but one day I’ll be making tamales. Probably all by myself because BF thinks it’s better to buy them already made.

But I’ve won again—twice in just a couple of months!

Back in April, I entered the contest held by The Pioneer Woman Collection’s account for a Tumbler giveaway. They did a random drawing for two of the Pioneer Woman 40-ounce tumblers—and I won.

These days, you’re nothing without your Tumbler, so I read somewhere. Ree’s daughter Alex loves the Stanley brand tumblers. These PW tumblers were never offered here in our local Walmart, but Hammond had them. They’ve also been quite popular because they seem to be out of stock frequently.

I forgot about the entry, and a couple of days later I was notified that they had picked me. They were shipped from Dallas, and I figured Alex was the shipper. When the box arrived, sure enough, the sender was “Alex Drummond.” Well, it could have been anyone using Alex’s account. But they arrived a few days later:

 

Pink and blue tumblers from The Pioneer Woman collection in a box.

Aren’t they adorable?

I’ve been using the blue one, and the pink one is a backup. The straw in mine actually came from Target on sale many months ago. The ones that come with the tumbler are clear.

Blue Pioneer Woman Tumbler on the desk

Where you normally see this one, on my desk.

Then I messaged Alex on Instagram and told her that the tumblers arrived safely and that I do appreciate them. The tumbler is great and keeps drinks cold for hours. I’ve been using them ever since.

Showing the #DashStash

Then a few weeks later, the Dash company had an Instagram contest: show us your #DashStash, “for a chance to win anything from our product line that’s in stock.” So, I took a picture and added it to my Instagram stories, which I won’t show here because it’s embarrassing (and it’s gone now, I think.)

Later in the afternoon, I got a message from someone on their social media team that they picked ME. They actually picked two winners, me and another lady with a few of the aqua appliances, including their mini rice cooker. (We need one of those—in red—but BF thinks we don’t.) No word on what the other winner picked, but maybe we were the only two who entered.

Earlier in the day, I mentioned the contest to BF. I asked what he thought about getting a Dash dehydrator if, by slim chance, I was picked as a winner. He said, “Sure, that’s fine.”

So I asked Dash I could have a dehydrator, and they said “yes.” They asked for the mailing address, so I messaged back—and does it come in red? No, it doesn’t but that’s OK. (It used to, though.) I downloaded the manual from their website and gave it a once-over. The package arrived about two weeks later:

Dash dehydrator in shipping box as it arrived

It’s here!

I knew when it was coming thanks to the UPS app. That morning I went to Walmart and bought a bag of organic apples. That night I set out to dry them:

Sliced apples with cinnamon on dehydrator tray

Really easy, and flavored only with cinnamon

Twelve hours later they were done:

Dried cinnamon apple chips

Done!

BF then suggested bananas, so that was the next night:

Pretty tasty, although I didn’t add anything. I’ve also dried pineapples and mangoes, which are delicious dried as-is. The trick is thin slices, no thicker than a quarter-inch. You also need patience. I set it up to run overnight and the dried fruit is ready in the morning. Are a couple of trays not quite done? Let it run a little longer for just those trays.

I sent some home with Miss Alice, and her daughter enjoyed both apples and bananas. But BF wasn’t interested in dried fruit. He wants to know when I’m making beef jerky. I’m not adverse to making it, and there are recipes in the accompanying recipe book for making some. Plus, I have a copy of The Complete Dehydrator Book by Carole Cancler, which I received from Callisto a couple of years ago. When I got the book, BF said to me, “That’s OK, I had enough dehydrated food in the military.” After the dried fruit, he’s a little interested but is requesting beef jerky, so that’s planned.

The accompanying booklet has recipes for beef, chicken, turkey, and salmon jerky that I hope to try, and of course, the cookbook, which has recipes for using dehydrated food. I’m planning to do more dehydrating in the future, including the beef jerky for BF.

My #DashStash gets bigger. Need a new shelf. Yup, you know. Blog post coming.

Prepping For Possibilities

That dehydrator was something I’d planned to buy at some point anyway. But there’s a reason for it, and not just because I already have a book on the subject.

As I mentioned, hurricane season is here, and anyone in or around the Gulf Coast watches the weather a little more closely this time of year. We just had a big storm blow through last week that left major damage around here:

Not a hurricane, but enough wind and rain to cause plenty of scenes like this. (We were fine.) If you talk to someone in New Orleans, they may tell you all about the big memorable hurricanes:

  • Betsy, 1963
  • Camille, 1969
  • Katrina, 2005

Plus, a whole lot more. Then there was the flooding in May of 1978 and 1995, still remembered by many. In this area, there was the unnamed storm in 2016 a month before my move here which didn’t impact New Orleans like it did Baton Rouge, and this area which is northeast of the city. Nearby friends J&B in Albany had to move into the second story of their home for months until they were able to get it all repaired. It happens that way.

In our case, there was Hurricane Ida in 2021. Albany friends J&B told me recently that they were out of power for six weeks before their power company Demco restored their service. Then last year, Hurricane Ian went to Florida where one of my client’s project managers lives. She went through the same thing we did, although it wasn’t as long because she’s in an urban area.

Texas Gets Hurricanes Too

In Houston, there was Hurricane Harvey in 2017, less than a year after I moved away, and Hurricane Ike in 2008, during which I spent 9 days with The E-Man and his wife at their place in the New Orleans area. Plus there were other hurricanes that grazed the Texas coast and had people scrambling into grocery stores for water, batteries, bread, milk, and bathroom tissue. (Points if you get that joke.)

That’s just what I remember sitting here writing about this subject. Along the way, we’ve learned some things and relied on BF’s knowledge of such things. While I can’t say we were absolutely ready for either Hurricane Ida, the aftermath, or the big freeze we experienced six months earlier, we did OK, and probably better than others. I’m not complaining, but there is always room for improvement.

Two of my upcoming posts will focus on preparing for emergencies and other things that can uproot your daily routine. Will you have enough food? Will you have enough time? BF and I talk about this sort of thing occasionally and discuss things we can do to prepare.

If that makes us “preppers,” so be it. But when you live in an area prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters, you must have some level of readiness, or you’re caught short.

More To Come

I have several ideas in various stages of development, and they will also depend on when I can get the pictures uploaded into WordPress and the content completed. I’m working on it, including the two blogs on our trip last year, honestly. Plus, I’m hoping we get to go back to Houston at some point, maybe head to the beach with Miss Alice.

As always, if you have a topic you’d like me to write about, by all means, leave me a comment here.

Until next time. . . .

Enjoy!

 

Jack Daniels Apple
Update: October Edition

It’s been a busy October lately, so I’m giving a quick update on the recent events at the Casa de Rurale.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

It’s October already, and that means that 2020 will be ending soon. You’ve got a great reason to celebrate.

I just realized that it’s been too long since my last post, and I’m delinquent in getting back to it. There isn’t an SEO keyword for this blog, it’s just an update.

Since it’s October, that means my birthday is coming up. I need to gather up supplies for the cake–chocolate, butter, eggs, and maybe a bag of Swerve or two. I have erythritol but might pop for the Swerve since it’s already powdered.

We haven’t heard from our newlywed friend Justin, but we have the little picture book for the next time we see him, and possibly Bronte.

But this is still 2020, and odd things are still happening. Just the other day, we had some renegade bulls hanging out in the road: 

Bulls in the middle of the raod

Someone forgot to close the gate and they just wandered on by

No kidding, they were acting like kids skipping school. Except they are a lot bigger. Makes you think about something along these lines:

Jack Daniels Apple

It’s tempting, isn’t it?

Well, it’s an option. We haven’t tried it yet, but hang on, it’s October now. December 31st is coming. We might start sipping it one of these days.

Last Of The Summer Veg

I know, I know, the “victory garden of 2020” was a disaster. But that doesn’t mean I quit growing anything. I still have pots.

First, the Meyer lemon and key lime trees that came with me from Houston are still going strong. We keep saying we’ll plant it, but we haven’t decided where yet. I have several key limes growing now, and three Meyer lemons that will be ready to pick in December.

Some time ago, I put several avocado seeds in a bucket to see what would happen. Now, something is growing out of it, and I believe it’s avocado. I haven’t dug down to look at the source, but I did see a picture of it on Facebook in a homesteading group. A lady put the seed in her composting bin, and the darn thing sprouted. Looks just like mine, and it’s huge right now. So I’m hoping for the best, and looking for another planting spot so I can have avocados all the time.

BF is not particularly thrilled with the prospect of an avocado tree growing on his property, but he doesn’t have to eat them. They’re all for me, anyway.

Second, amazingly, the four basil plants, one flat-leaf parsley, and one Texas tarragon plant are thriving despite being surrounded by weeds. There is still a watermelon vine growing out there, but no melons. I need to dig them up and pot them but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I recently made two batches of pesto. Good thing–when I found myself feeling ill from the breathing problems and then the Prednisone, Pea & Pesto Soup was made frequently.

I recently bought a grape tomato plant, some romaine lettuce, and a “sweet snacking pepper” plant at the local Tractor Supply. Well, the peppers got as big as my thumb, but they sure are tasty. I’ve been eating the tomatoes as they ripen, and when the lettuce got high enough, I made a little salad:

Salad with romaine, sweet peppers and tomoatoes

It’s not much, but it was delicious.

I topped it with a mix of a little EVOO, some flavored vinegar, and a pinch of pink sea salt. Delicious.

Finally–Trader Joe’s Coming To Mandeville?

After years of prayers, emails, hopes, and wishes, a new Trader Joe’s is allegedly being built in Mandeville, somewhere in the vicinity of the current Whole Foods store, right across Highway 22. ETA: no idea.

Although it’s not on the website yet, our district leader OR knows someone who is familiar with the situation. The store’s facade and inside are being built out as we speak. There are also some threads on Facebook regarding Northshore affairs, and they have confirmed that it’s happening. I’m sure it will be announced when the opening date will happen.

Of course, BF still says the same thing: “It’s just a grocery store.”

Now, for me, this TJ’s is still close to an hour away. But I’m more likely to be in the Mandeville/Covington area than Baton Rouge, so this is great news. Once we get back to having in-person SGI meetings, I’ll be heading there more often. But Baton Rouge has been on my travel itinerary recently.

New Baskets In Winn-Dixie

Our local Winn-Dixie has finally refreshed their baskets and now we have not only cup holders in the baskets like HEB, Whole Foods, Publix, and Kroger, but we’ve got those smaller ones like Central Market. I call them “urban baskets,” because they seem to be the forte of big city grocery stores:

Two-level grocery baskets

For when you just want a few things.

These have a couple of spots for holding drinks and things:

Second level drink holder

Keeps the drink out of the way here

Top-level holding area for urban basket

For whatever you need at your fingertips, like coupons

The irony, of course, is that if you bring a cup of coffee or other beverage into the grocery store with you, drinking it is out of the question. You have to wear a mask, no matter where you go here.

Keto Ice Cream!

Found this in Rouses a couple of weeks ago:

Keto Ice Cream

Coffee and chocolate!

I get the irony of the brownie mix, but there is a reason for it. First, darn it, I wanted some ice cream, and these were just waiting for me. Yes, they are delicious and smooth, with no sugar added and no gluten either. Highly recommended if you come across it. Yes, Aunt Kathy and Aunt Ruth, you too. Rich, high-quality stuff that’s hard as a rock when completely frozen.

I’ll be getting more one of these days.

Dinner Guests

The other thing is that for the period of a week in October, we had company for dinner at the Casa de Rurale. No, we did not host a) “ultimate man,” TV host Mike Rowe, b), any member of the British Royal Family, c) anyone from any political class at any level, or d) friends visiting from Houston or New Orleans. No, I was cooking for CAR GUYS!

One of BF’s younger coworkers asked him for help getting his silvery-blue Chevrolet Silverado back in running condition. The thing was here for a week, parked in the garage, and The Boy came every night to work on it. BF helped, supervised, and allowed him to use his Snap-On Tools, but The Boy did most of it himself. He bought not only the right parts but good parts, not just cheap ones. He also joined us for dinner every night. One evening, he had a friend who helped him with some of the repair work and also had dinner with us.

On most of these occasions, a high-school chum of BF’s came by, who lives just a couple of miles up the road. TT lives alone with his dog, has no girlfriend, and likes to “drop by” for dinner on occasion, especially after he discovered I can cook. Well, this man needs a friend, too, and BF just happens to be close. He doesn’t cook for himself, we think, and maybe needs more help we can give him. Knowing we had company, he invited himself for dinner a few times.

Every night for a week I was in the kitchen cooking for guests. I used the Instant Pot two or three times for soup, for chili, and one or two other things that went over well. They kept coming back for more.

To clarify, BF is always my “ultimate man.” Mike Rowe is second in line on that one.

Requests And Desserts

So I made brownies for dessert one night. Oatmeal snacking cake on another. I forget what else I made, but it was well-loved by everyone. And I think BF brought home something else like the frozen pie thing another time. But I didn’t share my Keto ice cream.

NO. WAY.

BF insisted on mashed potatoes and gravy one night, but not just any gravy–and no packets either. He wanted the gravy from a Barefoot Contessa book that I should never have made that first Thanksgiving. Because now, he wants it all the time. (I don’t eat it.) The recipe worked fine, just like the last time. BF and The Boy loved it, although I fussed at The Boy for attempting to put ketchup on meatloaf. He tried the meatloaf and decided that it didn’t really need ketchup anyway.

Then TT came by and demolished the remainder of the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and gravy on that “visit,” and said it was one of the “best meals he’d ever had.” He must have been quite hungry at that point. We wondered if maybe hadn’t eaten for a day or so. 

We breathed a sigh of relief when we had our first dinner alone. The Boy now complains that he is missing the gourmet dinners.

I’ve Been Ill

For the last 18 months (or more), I’ve been suffering from horrific allergies. I’ve mentioned it a few times before. It just started up one day for no apparent reason. Sneezing, coughing, and an endless need for a tissue. Despite trying multiple treatments, the problem continued to worsen. Then one day, right after the Southern Oaks wedding, I literally couldn’t breathe anymore. I couldn’t open up my breathing passages with anything–they were sealed shut and kept me from sleeping at night.

It was time to step up my game. I needed a doctor.

I tried finding an allergy specialist six months ago, but of course, this isn’t Texas, much less Houston, so I didn’t have good luck with that. There’s one doctor’s office right in Hammond that one of our district members goes to. When I called and asked questions, the response from the female answering the phone didn’t give me a good feeling. She acted like a snob answering my questions, and I figured if the person answering the phone treated me like that, the doctor could do the same thing. Been there, done that, no thank you.

I’ve also tried:

  • Bee pollen
  • An air purifier
  • Super-duper HVAC air filters that we have to order online
  • Quercetin
  • Bromelin
  • Butterbur
  • Homeopathic allergy remedies
  • Essential oils, including peppermint and eucalyptus
  • Sudafed, regular and PE
  • Claritin-D
  • Other OTC allergy pills
  • Various nasal sprays

 

I was still sick–and getting worse. Trying to sleep while breathing through your mouth doesn’t work well.

Oh, and just because you can’t breathe doesn’t mean you go bare-faced here–you must wear a mask. 

BF’s sister began dragging their father to doctors in Baton Rouge this year, about an hour southwest of us. (He wasn’t happy about that.) They visited an ophthalmologist, a gerontologist (similar to a pediatrician, who specializes in geriatric patients), and a cardiologist for starters. Locally available medical care wasn’t giving him what he really needed, and she wanted to make sure he was getting the best care they could find. So off they went at her insistence and much to his chagrin.

That gave me an idea–look for a doc in Baton Rouge. That’s where LSU Medical School is. I did, and I thanked her for it later.

Finding The Right Doctor For Me

I really needed help, fast, so I figured I’d start looking for and calling ENTs who treat allergies at the suggestion of a nice lady on Facebook, WM. After researching the Mandeville/Covington/Slidell area, I looked to Baton Rouge. It’s about the same distance, and shopping is better.

Remember that in Houston, driving 100 miles or more in a day is not uncommon, and you may not even leave the city. Trips to Woodlands Wellness & Cosmetic Center to see Dr. Davis were at least 100 miles round trip, especially if I did some shopping in The Woodlands. This wasn’t a big deal for me, although I was pretty tired when I got home. The same thing happened after the trips to Baton Rouge, even if the city is smaller.

Here’s the thing–is it better to just go to someone nearby, or find the right doctor for your needs and drive farther? Do you have to go to the closest doctor, even if he or she isn’t what you need? I found that out in Houston, and if it’s worth the drive, then go.

I did some research on a few places that came up on my search engine results page (SERP) and made some phone calls. The second one I called answered all my questions without any nasty attitude as I’d experienced with one clinic in Hammond. They were so nice! I made a couple of calls to them after reading their patient reviews and got an appointment on the following Tuesday. I was in bad shape at that point.

Tuesday couldn’t come fast enough.

Baton Rouge General Hospital

I didn’t realize that this clinic is located in the hospital itself. I’d never been there before. Thanks to Google Maps, I got there on time safely.

My appointment was with Dr. Hall of Sinus & Nasal Specialists of Louisiana, and he took care of me right away. Using a scope, he saw right away what was going on. (First words: “Oh my GAWD!”) He prescribed the well-known steroid Prednisone to take care of the swelling.  While I didn’t like the idea of taking it, the stuff worked wonders. It was a short-term, quick-and-dirty solution that did the job he intended. I did feel ill while taking it, but that’s worn off.

I’m breathing better now, and he said I didn’t need anything else–no prescriptions, no surgery, etc., just a twice-daily sinus rinse and two shots of Flonase right afterward.  If I do need help again, call back. I will. Dr. Hall knew what to do and took care of me. That’s greatly appreciated. Five-star ratings on Google and a couple of other places.

Of course, the GER couldn’t leave it alone. He let me know that Prednisone was going to turn me into, um, a much larger version of myself. That hasn’t happened, thank heavens, and I’m done with it anyway.

I also found this recipe on their blog, and I hope to make it soon. I love poblano peppers, and this looks pretty tasty. Especially now that I can smell the peppers roasting. Well, BF won’t be happy when I make it, but Miss Alice might enjoy them.

More Delicious Findings

So on that same trip to Rouse’s, I found something I’d long forgot about: blueberry sausage.

Blueberry Sausage

Can you believe it?

Obviously, this is locally made. (How far is Hattiesburg from here?) But I used to go to Central Market’s meat department and buy a half-dozen of their blueberry sausages, sold individually, and by the pound. Buy one, buy three, buy a dozen, however many you want. It’s been a long time since I was even there, and when I saw it in Rouse’s, got it. I couldn’t wait to have it.

BF did not share my sentiments. So it was mine, all mine. I had it over a couple of days with whatever else was in the fridge for lunch.

This is what BF prefers. You would never put blueberry sausage in it unless you wanted to get your butt kicked:

Jambalya mix

BF’s “secret” to making jambalaya, adding a cup of plain white rice to the mix.

It’s good, but I do tend to get heartburn after eating it. This is readily available locally, along with a number of other rice mixes.

TJ’s In Baton Rouge

Now back to Trader Joe’s: I saw this culinary delight the other day. But when I texted a picture to BF, he said no:

Lobster ravioli packet

It’s not gluten-free, either.

But he was happy when I brought home some of these:

Fig and bluberry breakfast bars

He enjoyed the strawberry, but I brought something new for him.

Also saw these adorable things:

Tiger figs in clamshells

Cute, but I did not buy them. This time.

No picture, but I also found some Halloumi cheese, the grillable kind. BF was not happy to see that. It went into the big freezer. One day he won’t be home and I can enjoy it by myself.

And look what else I found:

Shishito peppers from Trader Joes

Can you believe it?

Can’t wait to cook these up. They really are delicious

A Word Of Advice

I want to pass on a bit of wisdom because I feel it’s necessary.

Always, always, remember to say “thank you,” whether it’s the grocery store stocker working extra hours to make sure supplies are on the shelf, the person who fills up your water glass in the restaurant, or even the garbage people, as we do when we catch them. Say it and mean it.

This I learned many years ago, and I’ve tried to remember to say “thanks” whenever it is warranted. I thanked Dr. Hall as well as his wonderful staff when I was there. If it weren’t for them answering my questions on the phone, I would have kept looking.

This weekend I was reminded that although I did say it to a particular individual in our “circle,” I believe I didn’t say it enough. I did mention it to Aunt Ruth, and I will continue to tell others the same thing. But in this case, I wish I’d said “thank you” just one more time. I can’t say more, so I’ll leave it at that.

I periodically tell BF, “thank you for everything.” It’s why I bring him the little treats when I go to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Mandeville/Covington, or even Hammond. It’s my way of thanking him for letting me be me, and not minding when I go out for an SGI activity, or anywhere else. He doesn’t mind when I head out, and I always tell him where I’m going (primarily for safety reasons.) No reason for him to think I’m sneaking around because I’m really not.

I also try to remember to thank him when he comes home with an occasional surprise, like when someone gives them fresh veg or other things at work. I always ask if he remembered to thank the person who gave it to him. “Just say thank you,” I tell him.

I try to remember to thank people whether I’m in the local shops and restaurants, or on the phone with someone in another city or state. Why? It’s necessary and goes a long way.

Until Next Time

For a handful of reasons, October is my favorite time of the year. So I guess I’m trying to enjoy it at the same time.

I’m still planning the blog on the Instant Pot because it’s a big one. But because it’s a bigger article, it’s taking some time. Maybe by the time I publish, I’ll be in love with it like everyone else. It did perform admirably when I needed it to, but I used recipes I knew would work well.

Thank you to each of you who generously take the time to read my silly little blog, and keep coming back for more. I’ll be back again soon.

Enjoy! 

Tox-Sick Followup

Here’s a followup to my last post on the incredible book Tox-Sick.

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

OK, so. . .I apologize for being away so long. I’ve been writing, all right–but on Upwork, the freelance platform that lets you connect with people just about anywhere for paid freelance work. (Shameless self-promotion: If you need something written, I can do that for you. Get in touch either on Upwork, if you hire there, or via heatcagekitchen-at-gmail.com) I’ve written a few things, but mostly web copy a couple of regular clients, one of which is an IT company on the east coast. (I can raise my rates once I gain some traction.)

The Knitting Bowl

I’ve also bid on other types of jobs, and was hired for one, a product review for a knitting bowl. Who the heck knew there was such a thing?

Isn’t it cute? Yes, I actually have one. It’s pretty nice.

The bowl was given to me for free and I was paid a little for the review. I figured it would be fun, and I’m now using it to hold little things on the dresser with some of that blue sticky rubber stuff on the bottom holding it in place.  BF must keep his paws off it–being a woodworking/building kind of guy, he wants to fill in the spiral with wood putty and stain it! But if you’re someone who knits or is looking for a knitter’s gift, click here and you can go see it and maybe get one if you want.

I’ve also written an article on magnesium and high blood pressure. Reminded me that I need to get back on that stuff. If I can get a back link, I’ll post it for you to read.

And because I’m earning a little money–not a fortune, yet–I’ve finally been able to order a replacement drip tray for my Cuisinart Griddler/waffle maker. Woo Hoo! Now we can waffle bacon and eggs, soon as the part arrives.

I did offer to make some waffled mac & cheese for BF the other night, but after the waffled brownie hot mess, he smiled, hugged me and said, “step away from the waffle maker, please.”

Valentine’s Day

Our V-D didn’t work too good, because it fell in-between paydays and we were both a bit under the weather. So, we postponed our “Valentine’s Day”  until last week, when we headed to a popular local seafood eatery. It’s one of those kinds of places with laminated menus. . .no candlelight here. It was pretty good, but BF tends to be a bit nervous when we go somewhere and it’s time to order. In Cracker Barrel, I can order a nice chicken or shrimp salad with no croutons; when they bring crackers, I decline them. But I ask a lot of questions, and still don’t get what I want in some places.

This particular evening, I ordered grilled shrimp with sweet potato fries and a trip to their small but pretty good salad bar. (It’s more of an accessory, and not like Sweet Tomatoes.) I figured that would be good, and about as “junk free” as I could get. Then after asking questions and thinking I was ordering something pretty safe, the waitress says, “and it comes with hush puppies and. . .”

Whoa! Back up the truck!

It doesn’t say that on the menu, not that I saw. I don’t want all that rubbish–I want SALAD and un-coated, cooked food, please.

BF was a bit horrified, but managed not to show it. I explained to him, and later to the waitress, that I’m not used to ordering something and discovering it “comes with” all kinds of things I don’t want and wouldn’t order. I didn’t have that experience in Houston, and I don’t understand asking for something and getting something completely different. Fortunately, I was able to get away with just those hush puppy things and BF took them in his styrofoam “doggie bag.”

I dove into the salad bar, piling up lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced black olives, broccoli, and a tablespoon or two of the dried golden raisin and cranberry mix. No croutons or dressings, since most have trans-fatty acids and kill the taste of the food (not to mention do a number on you.)  Just a bit of salt. BF had a “salad,” too–consisting of two tablespoons of lettuce, a cup of some kind of salad dressing and croutons. No matter how I explain it, in his furry little head, he “ate some salad, too.” Later, he claimed the lettuce made him gassy.

No flowers-and-chocolate routine, because I specifically asked BF not to do that. I guess a card would have been OK, but I didn’t think that much about it. I just don’t want him going broke thinking he’s going to be in the doghouse if he comes home without roses, fancy jewelry and a heart-shaped box of candy like you see on TV. He can get into the doghouse all on his own. But there was a little sugar-free chocolate involved.

Detoxing myself

I also want to tell you how I’ve been trying to find ways–cheaply–to detox since reading Tox-Sick. I’ve finished the e-book twice and returned it to the nice library that I borrowed it from. Soon, I’ll get a hard copy so I can refer to it whenever I want to (and maybe get my cave man BF to read it himself one day.)

The first one is toothpaste, as I mentioned last time. Here in the local Walmart, I have only found one non-fluoride toothpaste, and that’s Tom’s of Maine. I’ve bought it before, but of course, BF refuses to use it, since it “tastes weird.” (Dude–you’re weird!) I’ll keep looking, but you know that Amazon has a selection of, well, absolutely everything.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Trader Joe’s has a small selection of health & wellness products. I’ve used them occasionally and known about them for a while. Britta and Carli Garsow of Twinspiration recently reviewed a few. But I knew what I wanted when I went in there last week–the Tea Tree Tingle Body Wash.

I’ve used it before, along with bars of their tea tree oil soap. But after reading in Tox-Sick about an ingredient called sodium laureth sulfate–avoid it any way you can–I knew that I could find something to replace the accumulated Avon stuff I’ve been using up for a while.

The ingredient list. Look at what’s there, and what’s NOT there.

That bottle is $3.99 for 16 ounces, and as you can see, has NO sodium laureth sulfate.

None! Not a drop.

I have to go look again, but I didn’t see any SLS in Dove body products, which are available locally at <cough> Walmart. I’ll also check out Dove’s shampoo and conditioners. I used to use Dove, but one day, somehow, switched to Tresomme. I didn’t see any SLS in Tresomme conditioner, either, but again, more research as I run out of things that I would like to stop using.

Trader Joe’s carries Tom’s of Maine as well as their own brand of fluoride-free toothpaste. Next trip, I think I’ll stock up on their body wash and toothpaste.

They’re not all the same

I have tried the natural, aluminium-free deodorant from Trader Joe’s. Much as I was hoping for a less-toxic odor prevention, the TJ’s natural deodorant left me smelling like a locker room after this year’s OT SuperBowl. At work, no less, after a walk through the Houston Tunnel–not good. Tom’s of Maine has one, and I’ll try it soon.

I considered getting BF a tube of TJ’s shave cream, but I couldn’t get him on the phone because he was disassembling a leaking toilet at the time. (It wasn’t the AC, and we were thankful for that.) Maybe next trip. (Toilet’s fine now.)

What about BF?

BF, of course, thinks this is all a bit bonkers, especially we have two types of toothpaste in our bathroom now, while he chews on his Tums and drinks milk while taking an OTC proton-pump inhibitor. When he took a whiff of the TJ’s body wash, he turned up his nose and said, “it smells weird.” That’s what I get for living with a cave man.

I had a water filter on my shower in Houston, and maybe I can talk him into that at the Casa. I haven’t mentioned the whole-house reverse osmosis filter again, either.

There is only one small square of carpet in the house, and that’s in the bedroom closet. Hopefully that’s old enough that it’s not out-gassing anything now, and we’ll be safe from that. But no more carpet, please.

In the matter of cans. . . .

Remember the slow cooker pizza sauce? I showed you the non-GMO product in cans that did not contain BPA. I’m looking for that all the time now. It’s pretty easy in Whole Foods, because most everything they sell is like that. But in Walmart. . .keep your eyes peeled! I’ve long told BF that any food product thing sold under their “Great Value” brand is suspect, and I avoid buying them. But sometimes, that’s all they have, for things like olive oil that isn’t extra-virgin. They even have some “organic” products, but I don’t know how “organic” they actually are; I never checked.

In fact, I noticed that the last can of GV cannellini beans I bought and used not only didn’t taste that great, they were hard, like they weren’t completely cooked. So no more of those. I’ll stick with Winn-Dixie’s or Bush’s.

BPA hurts men

Friend of the bog JKH, LK’s sister, is a big proponent of NO cans at all, ever. This makes sense, because the BPA can affect her teenage son’s development. BPA, (or by it’s full name, Bisphenol A) the chemical that’s in a lot of cans and plastic stuff. (Here are more tips for avoiding it.) Of course, completely avoiding canned foods is difficult in the real world, but. . . I do try. (Keeping BF from rampaging through Walmart on payday wielding his debit card like a sword helps.)  While I use up the cans of things I brought from my kitchen in Houston, I am now seeking out cans that don’t contain BPA.

I explained to BF that BPA is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor, and that it could “turn you into a woman.” As usual, he dismissed my comment as, er, “nonsense.” (Never mind what he really said.) No, he won’t be able to get pregnant, but the xenoestrogens (synthetic estrogen compounds) can cause some issues with “feminization” in males. (Think “man boobs.”) Even the National Institutes of Health knows about this.

BF doesn’t get why I don’t want to use his aluminum pots and pans with half the Teflon scraped out, preferring to use my own uncoated stainless ones, or one of the seasoned cast iron pots we have. But there are gender-bending  endocrine disruptors are in those nonstick pots, too. And yet. . .I’m “fussy.”

Teflon, the great kitchen innovation.

Remember what I said last time about low-fat being nonsense? The flawed “logic” behind Teflon and other nonstick coatings is that you can cook without using fat. Problem: real fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil) is what keeps you alive, sugar can and will kill you. So can Teflon, or at least cause a few problems. These chemicals leach into your food. Reducing chemical exposure best you can is what you’re after.

Well, anyway. . . .

We were out of popcorn

The other night we used the last of the HEB popcorn I brought from Houston. Yes, the 4-pound bags I bought or $2.64, and I had two unopened bags from our last trip in October. We emptied out the last one the other night. BF has become very fond of my version of microwave popcorn, as I described in The Popcorn Post last year. What I have been doing since moving here is to put a little coconut oil in the bowl with the kernels, popping it, pouring a little melted butter, then olive oil, on it, then seasoning it with some of Paula Deen’s House Seasoning and tossing. It’s just kosher salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder. I’ve been making and using that for years, but only grabbed it one night for popcorn and discovered that it’s pretty darn good.

Then one night, HE tasted it. Now that’s the only popcorn BF will eat. I suppose that’s good, because it’s so much healthier than the chemical-laden microwave popcorn he was buying. But now I make more, because BF has fallen in love with it.

The Orville Redenbacher Affair

Out on a milk run, I asked BF to get more popcorn, since we were now out. This is what he brought home:

Yes, he did.

The first thing I looked for was the “no BPA” on the label. Nope. But it is gluten free!

Thank heavens!

Hint: this is raw popcorn, and it was gluten-free a long time ago. Like, when it was discovered. Like the first time someone made salsa, OK? That too is gluten-free. But I digress, I guess you have to look these days, because you never know.

No GMO!

That’s nice, but. . .as I mentioned in The Popcorn Post, raw popcorn has not been genetically modified. However, Conagra is apparently part of a non-GMO project–which I haven’t yet read about, maybe next week–so they put it right on the label, just like the Hunt’s tomato products.

So what did I do? I decided to call Con Agra and ask them a few questions:

Someday they’ll regret putting a phone number there. . . .

I was told by the nice lady who answered that not only does this jar not have BPA in it, NONE of their products do, anywhere. That made me feel better, but I still made BF buy me a nice glass jar with a clamped stopper at Hobby Lobby the other day so I could fill it with popcorn and make it look nice in the pantry.

Do you give your babies popcorn?

The warning, however, was a surprise to  me. Are people giving babies and toddlers popcorn, requiring that warning on the label? Seriously? Doesn’t anyone teach new parents how to feed babies anymore? That really reminds me of the warning labels on hair dryers and curling irons telling you not to use it in the shower. Someone has actually done this, somewhere.  I hear comedian Bill Engvall say, “heeeere’s your sign . . . .”

Jambalya, crawfish pie, filet gumbo. . . .

OK, so, despite my best efforts, I have not been able to avoid “real Louisiana food.” I had quite enough of it as a kid, and I just don’t care if I never have it again. I don’t lay awake at night wishing for jambalaya like I would for something from HEB with Hatch chiles. BF likes to make a quick version of what he calls “jambalaya.” From a rice package, and he adds in more rice.

We were out of the stuff he usually uses the other day, so he pulls from the pantry a box of this stuff, local brand Tony Chachere’s. You can get this in Houston, and I’ve bought the TC seasoning. But then, I read the ingredients. . .oh, HELL NO.

He really didn’t look.

After explaining to the BF, again,  that I’m allergic to soy, he paid attention and put it back in the cabinet. I really won’t eat it, I’m allergic to soy. A quick search for “gluten free jambalaya mix” the next day showed me that Zatarain’s was indeed gluten free, by virtue of no gluten in it.

That’s a little better

Granted it’s not a perfect solution, and it’s one of the rare occasions that I’ll eat rice. But it’s not loaded with wheat, soy, and the industrial sludge known as “vegetable oil.”

But I did, at his request, make him some brownies from a box Friday night. It called for a half-cup of industrial, I mean, vegetable oil, which, of course, is nearly always hydrogenated soybean oil.

Talk barbecue to a Texan?

Then there was the trip to BF’s favorite BBQ place in Hammond, which happens to be up the street from the only Starbucks around. Everything is a sandwich, or you can get some BBQ in. . .styrofoam. UGH. I passed on a cup of water because it was styrofoam, only to discover that the food was served in it. He couldn’t understand “the big deal.” I told him I’d like to stop being poisoned. Styrofoam leaches chemicals into whatever you put in it, especially something like coffee, and the compounds stay in your system forever. Next time he will be dropping me off at Taco Bell, which is a little further up the street, but on the way to Starbucks and that place. They use paper.

Besides–that was the most tasteless BBQ I’ve ever had. I’m a Texan, for heaven’s sake! It just didn’t taste like anything but shaved meat in a bland sauce. Sorry, Honey, it’s true. I can do infinitely better than that. But if that’s what he likes, I’m not going to argue, I’ll just get that lovely Power Bowl at Taco Bell.

The Safe Haven With Food

This is not to say that I’m a paragon of virtue–far from it, Dear Readers:

What happens when you’re working in Starbucks on Sunday when the library is closed and you get hungry.

Now and again, I’ll try something new:

What happens when you’re working in Starbucks and you’re still hungry.

Yes, she did, and it’s pretty good:

 

But ‘s not every day, honest. And they don’t have the salad bowls here, nor in Baton Rouge, even near LSU. In fact, I was told yesterday that there’s only one store around that has salads and sandwiches–and that’s down in New Orleans.

Sometimes, it’s either eat what you can forage, or don’t eat anything. We sometimes have to forage.

Since Starbucks’ primary stock and trade is brewed coffee, they lose money when I come back and say, “Bartender!” Because they have to make me another decaf. (They’re really nice to me in the Hammond store, though, and a few of them know me.) The cup gives me a ten-cent discount, and I’m a Starbucks Rewards member, so refills are free as long as I’m there. And I don’t do that every day.

La Casa

Cleaning up is another area that I have tried to improve as well, but we’re limited by availability. I still use original blue Dawn for dish washing (we don’t have a dishwasher like I had in Houston), and there are steel wool soap pads under the sink for the occasional need.

Combining two households means that we have a lot of stuff under the sink, even though I left a whole bunch of it behind when I moved. (That wasn’t my choice.) I still have some of those Martha Stewart Clean products, even though you can only get it online now. (Amazon doesn’t even carry them anymore.)

Catmandu and Kismet

I used to have cats, and my two were kind of old when they passed to the Rainbow Bridge. (Jezebel the step-kitty was actually the GER’s cat, and about 8 years old when she went.) Kismet, the tabby, well, I don’t know why, but he just stopped using the litter box one day. Bribing with treats only meant he’d walk in and walk out of the litterbox, waiting in the bathroom doorway for it. He didn’t get it that he’d have to, um, “produce” to get a treat, and would sit there for hours, just waiting.

I went looking for something to get the cat smell out of the carpet, and somewhere, I found Biokleeen’s Bac-out for pet odors.

Fast forward a few years. . . .

Now I live with two dogs and a cat, and the dogs. . .well, BF’s solution to dealing with the dog accidents has been Lysol’s multi-surface cleaner, and I think it’s this fruity Tangerine Mango scent stuff he likes. He pours it over the area and leaves it for a while, then mops it later. It leaves behind a strong chemical perfume smell that covers the odor but doesn’t get rid of it. Dogs know this and can smell past the Lysol. And it’s not healthy for man or beast.

Then we ran out of Lysol

I went under the sink and found the Bac-Out and sprayed it all over the offending area. We use less because it’s a spray, and it removes the odor from the spot. (Of course, there’s the matter of the dog’s learned behavior, but that’s another matter.)  A quick mop, and it’s gone until the next time. I don’t know where I found the first bottle, but in addition to buying it on Amazon, you can get it at Whole Foods and a few other places. (I picked up another bottle last trip to Baton Rouge, we needed it.) The spray bottle at Whole Foods in Baton Rouge is $8.99, and the non-spray bottle, which I used to refill the spray bottle, is $8.49.

Over time, I plan to change the things we bring into the house so that we aren’t using as many toxic chemicals inside for us as well as the fur babies. Eliminating nasty toxins is the goal. But it’s also a matter of what we can get at Walmart or Winn-Dixie, or have to drive to the Hammond Target to find.

You can’t do it all at once

If you’re interested in detoxing, of course, read that book! Tox-Sick explains the science and reasoning, and gives a good understanding of why getting rid of toxins in your body, your home and your life is so important. But you know most of us won’t be able to do everything all at once. Cycle things out and change what you bring in. Make educated choices about what you eat, drink and use, and go from there.

I asked BF to please not buy the Lysol again. . .we have the Bac-Out, and it removes the odor instead of just overwhelming it with perfume for a while. Just gotta keep an eye on him in Walmart.

Coming soon. . . .

Something delicious from the Crock Pot, and it was easy! Mostly. I did manage to cut my finger when the knife slipped dicing the onion. And. . . .

Something deliciously chocolate from. . . Texas? Oh, yes! Stay tuned.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras. *yawn.* I’ll be at Starbucks, the library is closed.

I’ll try *not* to be so late again.

Until next time. . .Enjoy!

 

 

Happy Cooking

Hello, Dear Readers:

I’m back with another post, with information about new trends, delicious food and healthy things.

First up: a cat being a cat.

Longtime readers of this blog know I love all the kitties, from the tiniest neo-natal just-born kitties the size of a kiwi fruit to the mighty Siberian Tiger. I believe that a cat is a cat is a cat, no matter what the size, species or coloring. They’re all just cats on the hunt. I had cats for 21 years (the last one being Jezebel the Step-Kitty, co-parented with the GER), and they really are the same as a tiger, lion, bobcat or jaguar, just smaller (and they usually use a litterbox inside.) Most house cats can’t tear off a limb the way a tiger can, making the mighty tiger unsuitable for keeping as a pet. If you talk to the GER, he’ll have you believe that Catmandu could indeed take your arm off, or at least a finger. Catmandu has been dead for 4 years, and the GER is still afraid of him.

So I enjoyed the story of smart a Norwegian Forest cat named Clive who didn’t have to hunt much while he lived for two years in a pet food warehouse in Britain. He “went missing,” but he didn’t go far. He did what any cat would do–he found a verified food source and stayed. Why go home when they only feed you once or twice a day, when you can just camp in this place and eat whenever you want? Workers knew there was something stealing food, so they  borrowed a cat trap from a local rescue group and caught his furry butt. (The microchip told them how to find the owners.) Clive got pretty porky while he was there, but once he gets re-settled into the household and used to being around his housemates again, he’ll probably lose most of that extra weight. But he’ll probably be a bit grouchy having to wait for his food again.

Because. . .that’s a cat for you.

Speaking of creatures, I was watering the garden the other night, and I looked down and saw. . .two little beady black eyes looking back at me. AAAAHHHHH!!!! I jumped back, and I hope I didn’t yell too loud. I looked that little adolescent possum right in the eyes and told him to “shoo.” He turned around and lumbered away. . .but I don’t know where he went. They might be living under the Boston Fern I wish I’d never acquired. So now I have evidence that the possums think it’s their personal salad bar. There’s no way to keep them out, really, because they’re like cats–they climb fences, get through little holes and everything else. So it’s probably not the first time I’ll have a close encounter of the furry kind back there, especially if the tomatoes, peppers and strawberries do well.

OK, it’s a little late for the holidays, but I came across this post on putting a turkey on an outdoor grill.  Sometimes in the south, it may be too hot to roast the darn thing indoors (unless you have one of those turkey roaster ovens you can park outside or on a patio that’s separate.)  Sometimes Thanksgiving is 80 degrees around here, too, so it wouldn’t be a bad thing to keep in mind for November. Remember, it was 80 degrees on Christmas Day in Houston; the cold front missed the flight.

But if you’re getting ready for graduations, bridal or baby showers or other upcoming festive occasions, this article on Exposed Cakes from the Trader Joe’s monthly flier will give you some ideas. I’m not wild about less frosting, since that, to me, is one of the best parts of nearly any cake, but, well, you judge for yourself:

In The Garden Of Strawberry Cake, from the Trader Joe's website article.

In The Garden Of Strawberry Cake, from the Trader Joe’s website article.

I guess it’s because you don’t have to cut the cake open to see what’s underneath. But it’s a nice picture.  Would you make it?

If you want something to go with your frosting-challenged cake, there’s some new flavors from the Central Market brand that just showed up at our fabulous HEB:

Oh, YEAH! Who needs Haagen-Daz?

Oh, YEAH! Who needs Haagen-Dazs?

See any favorites you want to try? Here’s mine:

This can only be good. . . .

This can only be good. . .but not sure why it was manhandled.

And of course, chocolate.

Is there any other kind?

Is there any other kind?

No, I haven’t tried any of them yet. I have ice cream like other people have alcohol–to celebrate a special occasion, to deal with something stressful, or any time I need a sweet. When I broke up with a boyfriend–I had ice cream. When it was my birthday, I had ice cream. Usually, it’s Blue Bell, but next time, it will probably be this one. But this container is twice the cost of the Blue Bell or HEB Creamy Creations I usually get. So. . .no rush on trying them.

Switching gears. . . .

Do you have any old cookbooks? I mean, REALLY old cookbooks? How about those ubiquitous (and expensive) recipe cards collections? I actually have my mother’s–the Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library, circa 1971. She was going to toss it, and I asked for it. She only used one or two recipes from the whole thing that I can recall, so it’s basically intact, including the index. (Maybe I’ll make it the subject of an upcoming blog post.) I also have another recipe card collection my mother started in the 80’s, as well as one I started in the late 1980’s. I have a couple of old books, but not *that* old. One from the 80’s, and most of the rest are after 1990 or so, starting with Martha Stewart’s books.  Oh, wait–the GER has given me three old books from The Galloping Gourmet, circa late 1960’s, and one or two others.  I’ve found a couple of my mother’s titles from the late 50’s and early 60’s on Etsy, and have them on my “watch” list. (I need a big enough house for all this.)

I also have a recipe book from Entergy, who sent it to their customers for free in the 90’s with hundreds of old recipes from Louisiana Power & Light, the utility company they bought. (It just showed up in the mail one day.)  Those recipes came from back in the day when “home economist” was an actual job. Nobody in the 90’s tested any of them, so there was no guarantee on how well they would turn out with modern appliances. But flipping through it, there is a recipe called Tomato Soup Cake. I kid you not. Starts out with a boxed mix, you add eggs and a few other things, and a can of condensed tomato soup. UGH. No, I wouldn’t try that on people I hated. Oh, wait a minute. . . .

One of my intrepid Facebook friends from Canada posted something from a website called Vintage Recipe Cards. It’s a website dedicated to showcasing the kind of foods that you used to find in magazines, cookbooks and those infamous card collections: Take a look at this gourmet abomination from the 1950’s:

The Frankaroni Loaf

The Frankaroni Loaf! Isn’t it just yummy?

Aren’t you just anxious to make this recipe for your next dinner party? You can–and here’s the recipe for it. If you make this culinary atrocity, do post in the comments and let us know how it turned out.

And after Thanksgiving, or anytime you want the tastes of Turkey Day, here’s a Sweet Potato-Turkey Pie that will fit the bill. . .and make you forget all about Thanksgiving for another six months. (It includes a can of the disgusting cream of mushroom soup, if you’re interested.)

EEEEEEWWWWWW. . .and there are lots more of these delectable detestables where those came from, just get to the website.  The comments alone are hilarious, but a number of people have actually tried these edible train wrecks and love them. Like this classic, um, well. . . .

Yummy! (Not.)

Yummy! (Not.) Source: VintageRecipeCards.com

One commenter on the Ham And Bananas Hollandaise page says that he made his own Hollandaise instead of the packaged stuff, and it’s delicious. Takes some guts to make this retro cookery, but like I’ve been told on a number of occasions, don’t knock it until you try it.

No, I’m not trying that one. Nor anything in a Jell-O mold or anything called “Aspic.” You try it and tell us all about it.

I showed you that not only to amuse (or nauseate), but also to show how far we’ve come as a nation and a people in regards to cooking, cookbooks, and everyday life. I’m sure every good housewife in the Mad Men era made Frankaroni Loaf and Jell-o molds of all kinds. (I had to eat that stuff only on occasion; thankfully, my mom wasn’t into this kind of, um, “artistry.”)  But today, we have cookbooks from a myriad of sources, as well as an incredible array of new appliances, tools and gadgets that make cooking better, easier, healthier, and in many cases, faster.

We don’t have to suffer through these artistic disasters anymore.

Several new cookbooks by famous folks have come out recently, (with saner recipes) and a few months ago, I decided to pop for Giada de Laurentiis’ Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count. . .Without Stressing Out. Marked down 30% at Target, I figured it was a good time to get it. (It’s not autographed like my previous Giada books.) It’s all about good, tasty and healthy food, and “practical solutions” for daily life.

If you saw my recent very long popcorn post, you saw one of the recipes from this book, for Warm & Spicy Popcorn. It’s good, and with the fresh parsley from the back patio, it’s just delicious. But popcorn isn’t the only good recipe in this book. There are actually four popcorn recipes, one of which, I kid you not, is Pumpkin Spice Latte Popcorn. After you pop the popcorn, you mix together  3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon of light brown sugar, a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, and a teaspoon of instant espresso powder, then drizzle it on the popcorn. Is it good? Of course it is, it’s got sugar in it. . .maybe I’ll try it in the fall.

Much like her prior book, Giada’s Feel Good Food, this book includes a lot of healthy recipes of all kinds, as well as advice. Many of the recipes came from her weekly digital magazine Giada Weekly, but others are some that, I suppose, Giada started making out of necessity. (She’s now a single mother and a restaurateur, as well as a cooking show star.) There are 10 chapters, including one on “clean eating,” but making sure it’s tasty, too. Of course, there’s also a chapter on pasta–what did you expect, it’s Giada! But she also acknowledges that while pasta can be part of a healthy diet, there are a lot of folks who need alternatives to pasta, like Trader Joe’s Brown Rice & Quinoa fusilli pasta, which is fantastic and $2.99 for a one-pound bag. (If you can get to a Trader Joe’s.)

Giada mentions too that in Italy, they cook just a small amount of pasta, rather than the whole box as Americans tend to do. It doesn’t mean the gluten-intolerant can still have it, but it does mean that cutting down on the amount of pasta in a dish might be better, even if it’s gluten free pasta. And what to do with the “ends” of several boxes or bags (page 116)? Boil then all together and make soup, toss it with some leftovers, or just toss in some pesto and have it like that. I’ve told you what my favorite is, that I have when I get some of that GF fusilli pasta from Trader Joe’s–about a cup of pasta, boiled in salted water, drained, and tossed with some real butter and a shake or two of Parmesan cheese. Yes, from the green bottle. Don’t need nothing else on it. But that’s not too often.

Giada’s book also has indicators for gluten free, vegetarian and vegan, so you can see at a glance if it’s a good recipe for you to try.

The #breakfast chapter (yes, it’s hash-tagged in the book) starts out with smoothies, something called “Nutella Milk” made in a blender, (I seriously must try that one day), a granola recipe that is *not* gluten free, and a recipe for one thing that actually *is* popular in the culinary arena, “Overnight Oats.” (I haven’t tried that yet either, from this book or from Pinterest.) With chia seeds, almond milk, and just a tablespoon of real maple syrup, it looks pretty good.

Remember when I mentioned that “bowls” are a thing now? Giada steps up to the, um, bowl, with something called American Breakfast Rice Bowl. It starts out with 3/4 cup of cooked rice, and has a lot more ingredients before you get to eat it. This is obviously a weekend breakfast–for one person–like my favorite 4-ingredient Corsican Omelette from Nigella Lawson.  Much as I’d like to try it one day (probably with quinoa instead of brown rice), it’s not something for a hurried weekday breakfast. There are also some “toasts” (also a thing now), a couple of frittatas and strata using eggs, a tofu scramble (no thanks) and a selection of waffles/pancakes/muffins for the die-hard baker. (Polenta waffles for brunch, but not GF.)

There is a chapter dedicated to Snacks & Small Plates, which is where that delicious popcorn recipe is, as well as something called Mediterranean Chile Chicken Wings. I haven’t tried this yet, but I might one of these days. (Maybe in the slow cooker, or maybe the toaster oven.) It does contain harissa, which I learned how to make when I dove into the Martha Stewart book Clean Slate last year. It’s one of three chicken wing recipes, which, if you’re familiar, you know can be addictive. I made some for New Year’s Eve many years ago when I lived in the GER’s place from one of Suzanne Somers’ books. Well, nobody complained, and they’re all still alive. . . .

There are other appetizers (“apps”), such as meatballs, arancini, shrimp, crostini (little tiny “toasts,” really), as well as bean dip, Pico de Gallo, and other party standards.

The chapter on salad offers The Only Vinaigrette You’ll Ever Need, which does require fresh thyme leaves, agave syrup, and a shallot, among other things. I should have made some of this yesterday for the lettuce I harvested out of the garden. Well, if it continues to grow, I’ll have some (if the snails and possums let me have some, that is.)

Finally, Giada gets it, and she’s learned to use and enjoy the slow cooker. On page 104, she talks about the benefits of using one, and includes several recipes in the book. (Think she was reading my blogs?) Really, I can’t say enough good about the slow cookers, and I had both of mine going all weekend. Hazelnut Beef With Noodles (page 200) looks interesting, but I can do without the panko bread crumbs.

The chapter on eating clean contains recipes like a detox soup (Giada says she tolerates it better than cold, raw juices) and a bone broth. The new trend of “spiraled veg” gets a note on page 151, where Giada makes spaghetti out of zucchini and a tomato sauce. There are some baked fish and chicken recipes, some vegetarian fare and one treat I want to try one day: the Superfood Fudge Torte on page 160. It’s made with some surprising ingredients and sweetened with agave syrup. No black beans or avocado, but pretty good stuff, and it’s chocolate. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

In the chapter called Weeknight Warriors, where the Hazelnut Beef With Noodles is located, Giada talks about lentils, and offers Lentil Salade Nicoise. Recently I gave you the recipe for Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes, a Barefoot Contessa dish that’s cooked for about an hour. But Giada contends that lentils just can’t get any respect, and in the US, they’re primarily used in recipes like that one. In this vinaigrette-dressed salad, lentils are joined by hard-boiled eggs, baby potatoes, grape tomatoes, black olives and cucumber to make a rich and tasty fare that’s good any time of year. As easy to cook as white rice or quinoa, they can be added to pastas, salads, mixed with grilled veg for a sandwich or pureed into a dip. How come we don’t do that?

Rounding out the everyday chapters is one on vegetables and sides, with all manner of dishes you’ve probably never seen before. If you think you don’t like cauliflower, roasting it gets rid of the chalky taste. On page 209 is a recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Capers and Almonds. That sounds good, doesn’t it? On the next page is a recipe for Salt Raosted Sweet Potatoes, which sees them topped with a seasoned yogurt sauce. (I still like my sweet potato fries, though.) Lemon Roasted Fennel, page 212, looks pretty tasty, but if you’ve bought fennel, you know that’s for a special occasion–it’s a bit pricey.

Giada’s chapter on Weekends & Holidays is the longer-cooking kinds of recipes, like pot roast, chicken, meatloaf, and, for Thanksgiving, turkey! (There’s even a recipe for a Monte Cristo Sandwich using up Thanksgiving leftovers.)  On page 254 is a beef tenderloin recipe using a compound butter made with dry red wine, a fresh rosemary sprig, salt and a stick of butter. This one is a bit more complicated than mine–the wine and rosemary are heated, then boiled until the wine reduces way down. When it cools, you discard the rosemary, then mix the butter and salt in the food processor. Once that’s mixed a bit, you pour in the wine and process until smooth.

The last chapter is, of course, sweet stuff, something Giada wouldn’t be without. From Key Lime Panna Cotta and Limoncello Parfaits to Chocolate Cake Tiramisu with Chocolate Zabaglione, plus a section on treats to make for gifts, the sweet tooth will certainly be happy with whatever you try. Chocolate Dessert Salami? Don’t go starting your new diet until you’re done with this one. How does Eton Mess Semifreddo sound? Giada hasn’t forgotten about folks with furbabies–Peanut Butter Dog Bone Treats will let your doggie friends know you care, just find a bone cookie cutter before you start making them. (Just wish it didn’t call for whole wheat flour, but that’s just me.)

While there’s no one authority on whatever we call “healthy eating,” this book, like Giada’s Feel Good Food and Clean Slate before it, is a good place to start. Healthy, natural food should taste good, and Giada knows just how to do that, with some “happy” food thrown in.

Enjoy!

 

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