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Buc-ee’s: The Texas Road Trip

Buc-ee’s: The Texas Road Trip

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I’ve got a few things to tell you about, and this time, it involves the GER. He doesn’t always read every blog post, but he does like it when I write about him. Neighbor K gets a kick out of reading about herself too, sometimes–I warn her when she gets a mention.

I recently went into my local Fresh Market for something, and passing through the produce section, nestled in with the mangoes and pineapples, was this monster:

No, it wasn't moving.

No, it wasn’t moving.

Jack Fruit. WHAT? I wasn’t about to spend $1.79 a pound for something I didn’t know anything about. Nobody in the store could tell me anything. Frankly, if I bring home something that size, it better purr, bark or vacuum the floor on a timer. If you can tell me more about this “Jack Fruit,” you win the Internet today. (Comments below, if you’re interested.)

Ok, enough of that.

I’m not the only one who looks for healthy eating and all that, but you probably know that already; FoodBabe is one of the best-known bloggers on the subject.. Chicago-based food blogger BreAnna over at Crafty Coin recently visited her local Aldi store, and like me, wasn’t exactly impressed. I wrote a little about it last year, and have not been inspired to go back in it. When I see the weekly fliers in the mail, I look, but I haven’t seen any reason to make a special trip or stop in on my way home from somewhere. (Disclosure: I commented on that blog post myself.)

Now on to the GER.

As I’ve mentioned before, the GER is an ex-boyfriend, and a few years ago, became a very good friend. His Dad, the late Big Joel, was an avid friend of the blog, and read every posting before he passed away 2 years ago. Since the GER has been back in Texas, he’s been back to his old habits (some good, some bad.) One of those is gardening, and he’s been very kind to share some of the yield from time to time:

Results typical from the GER's garden

Results typical from the GER’s garden

They were, of course, delicious, and they didn’t stick around long–we both love salads. I wish I had something to give him, but I didn’t.

So I’m driving home on a Wednesday night from a chanting session at LK’s, streaming some music on iHeart in the car, when the music stops. The phone rings; it’s him, the GER.

Now, since the GER is a bit of a Luddite, I don’t actually have a picture of him on my phone, so I decided to use this one in his contacts entry:

The Sausage Piggy, a cute thing I found in the meat case at Fresh Market one day.

The Sausage Piggy, a cute thing I found in the meat case at Fresh Market one day.

I showed it to him and he didn’t quite know what to make of it. But then he got a good look at it, and he got a kick out of it.

He doesn’t do Facebook or any other social networking, despite my suggestion he get on Pinterest (to find all kinds of great, useful information) and LinkedIn (to network.)  And don’t *even* make the suggestion of a smartphone. . . .

So I’m driving along and it’s him–and it’s about 9:15 pm. Much like Neighbor K, The GER doesn’t call often, so I answer when he calls. (K and I text a lot, even from next door.)  He asks what I’m doing, and I tell him where I am. He has some extra vegetables from his garden, and wants me to stop by and get them. Not at his house, but at a halfway point. “Why don’t you meet me at Buc-ee’s in Texas City?” he says. It was about a 15 minute drive, and I arrived before he did.

Now, I think I’ve been in a Buc-ee’s, but not in many, many years. If you’ve never been in a Buc-ee’s, well, you’re in for a treat. Seriously. A longtime Texas highlight, they have more than the usual Stuckey’s and other side-of-the-road places and sometimes truck stops. Voted the cleanest bathrooms in the US, Buc-ee’s is the destination on your way to your destination.

In the case of the Texas City location, it’s on your way to Galveston.

There are 24 Buc-ee’s in Texas, and the Texas City location opened up last year. Honest, since I don’t go to that area much anymore, I didn’t really care that much. With 90 gas pumps outside, and a large store inside, it’s pretty much everything you need on your way. . .somewhere. (Click here for a list of all Buc-ee’s locations.)

So what’s so great about it? Well, I walked into someplace at least twice the size of Trader Joe’s, with bait and fishing gear, typical Texas souvenirs, and. . .fresh coffee. Would I lie to you?

Mmmmm. . .coffee. . .

Mmmmm. . .coffee. . .

In fact, a whole wall of coffees:

A lot more coffee than Starbucks, with no rewards program.

A lot more coffee than Starbucks, with no rewards program.

To the right of the picture is a condiment bar with the usual sugar and creamer, which included those tiny plastic containers of half-and-half, as well as the flavored coffee creamers. Yes, hazelnut and several other flavors! The ones you put IN your coffee come in the price of coffee; however, if you want to take more with you, they are 10 cents each. Fair price for on-the-go convenience.

Yes, they had decaf. It was fresh and hot. And yes, it was GOOD!!

The decaf, like the rest of the coffees, is refreshed regularly.

The decaf, like the rest of the coffees, is refreshed regularly.

Since I have become a Starbucks Gold Card holder, I know the difference between a tall, grande and venti. (I think there’s also one more beyond venti that’s an XXL, too, but I’m not 100% sure.) However, at Buc-ee’s, there is a 16-ounce and a larger one (20-ounce, I think) and both are under $2 a cup. I didn’t ask about refills, but then I’m not hanging around there like I would in Starbucks. (Didn’t ask about WiFi, either.) So I poured myself a cup and paid for it, then did some prowling while waiting for the GER to show up. Take a look at some of the neat stuff the Texas City Buc-ee’s has available for travelers and others interested in fine Texas-made goods.

Cutting boards--perfect gift for the chef.

Cutting boards–perfect gift for the chef.

Fresh-looking decor for any southern kitchen.

Fresh-looking decor for any southern home.

More nice decor

Beauty products for gifts, or because you forgot something.

I thought I had more pictures, but I can’t find them now.

Right across the aisle from these nice things is an entire section dedicated to. . .BAIT. Fishing stuff, and bait for your fishing trip. No kidding. In the middle of the store, (left of the coffee area) is a deli counter where you can order sandwiches and other food, a bakery, and at the far end, candy, beef jerky, chips, salsa, and other nibbles that you can’t get anywhere else.

That’s the GER’s favorite place–the wall of junk food.

I saw candies of all kinds, from the everyday stuff you find in Wal-Mart to the self-branded things exclusive to Buc-ee’s, and then the jerky, pretzels and other in-house snacks. I sipped my coffee and observed some more.

You can read some additional articles on their press page. The Houston Chronicle covered the opening day, where people were lined up long before dawn to go in when it opened. (More pictures there, too.)  Even the esteemed Wall Street Journal weighed in on the Buc-ee’s experience.

Admittedly, I never thought to go check out the ultra-clean bathrooms. Maybe next time.

Remember that it was night, and eventually, the GER called and asked, “how long before you get here?” I explained that I was ALREADY there, enjoying the Buc-ee’s experience and having some pretty good coffee. He was on one side of the building, driving around looking for me, and I was walking around those lovely house things, wondering if I needed something that I didn’t have room for.

Dallas has it’s first Buc-ee’s, opened last month. Much like Trader Joe’s, many folks knew what it was because they’d been to one on their travels down this way, or heard about Buc-ee’s because someone told them about it after their trip down this way. I’ve never been to Dallas myself, but one day would like to visit. I’ve been told that people in Dallas are quite. . .well, they all believe that they are related to the Ewings, and everyone dresses in fine clothes and big diamonds, like The Real Housewives of Dallas or something. Not here in Houston (although there is that element in the mix.) Before Katrina, Houston was a happy-go-lucky town, even among the society set. Now, with most of New Orleans and the additional increased migration from California, New York, Washington, and many places in between, we’ve got ALL kinds, good and bad. I won’t be living anywhere else but Texas. Austin is fabulous, and San Antonio is also quite nice. But I don’t think I’ll be moving to Dallas, just visiting one day.

If you’re planning a road trip into Texas this summer–or anytime–make sure to include a Buc-ee’s in your travel plans. Fill up with fuel, get some coffee, pick up something you forgot, get some souvenirs and t-shirts, and don’t forget the snacks you just can’t get anywhere else.  Bring back some neat Texas souvenirs to your friends, family or colleagues who weren’t lucky enough to go with you, and make sure you take home a little of the Lone Star State for yourself too.

Happy Travels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crisco. . .coconut oil?

Crisco. . .coconut oil?

Good afternoon, Dear Readers:

Well, Houston is again the recipient of a lot of rain, courtesy of a tropical storm named Bill. After some terrifying reports from local TV stations, people were panic-buying bottled water, bread, milk and other essential supplies for riding out a storm. Neighbor K stopped at Kroger on the way home and told us what they were out of when she got there.

I wasn’t really worried–we’ve gone through this before–but I did boil some eggs just in case. Now I have 8 hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. . .I’ll use them for something. As a devotee of the blog of Houston’s Chronicle’s science writer Eric “SciGuy” Berger, I knew where to go for honest information. (He also posts on Facebook.) He’s not a meteorologist, but he is a go-to guy for weather info without the hype. We’re fine now, and Bill will be gone soon.

In the “a little good news” department, a new Starbucks is being built on my street, just a couple blocks away. Woo hoo!! If all goes well, it will open June 29th. When I passed it a couple of days ago, they were putting the stucco on the outside. But the rain may have set them back a little. We’ll see. Me and Neighbor K will take the Daft Pug for a walk and have a coffee one day soon after it opens. Maybe they’ll still have the doggie cappuccinos when we do.

You might not believe this, but Crisco, the bastion of church-lady-cooking everywhere, now sells-no kidding–coconut oil. This is not a Facebook rumor/prank, an email forwarded from five other people, and I’m not joking. They really do, and this is the picture that circulated on Facebook a while back:

Crisco's new Organic Coconut oil

Crisco’s new Organic Coconut oil

 

Crisco Coconut Oil. USDA certified organic, and sourced from The Philippines. How do I know this? Simple: I asked. Specifically, I called the company directly and asked about it. Very new, so it’s not yet available everywhere.

Two things I asked about specifically: Is it refined? Is it hydrogenated? Yes, it’s refined so there is no coconut taste. No, it is NOT hydrogenated. Thank heavens for that.

But why now?

I spoke to Don on Crisco’s consumer information line, and he said it was just the next step for Crisco. Since all their other products are vegetable in nature, coconut is something else to offer their customers. Remember–for better or worse, Crisco’s traditional shortening, in cans for scooping or sticks for measuring, is a VEGETABLE shortening, and not like animal-based lard.

Don was kind enough to send me a coupon for a free one, but. . .I can’t find it now. I had it in my purse since FEBRUARY, took it out recently, and now I don’t know what the heck I did with it. HOWEVER–I bought some Crisco Coconut Oil. If I find the coupon before it expires, I’ll go get more.

A few weeks ago, Neighbor K called me and asked, “now, what gluten-free coconut thing are you looking for and can’t find?” When I told her what it was, I got the idea to go back on Crisco’s website and look again with their product finder. EUREKA, I FOUND IT! Where?

Wal-Mart. <insert frowny face here>

Turns out that I had a reason to go into Wal-Mart–I found two undeveloped rolls of 35mm film on my desk recently, from 2007 and 2009. (Don’t ask.) However it happened, I just never got it developed, and now it’s difficult to get 35mm film done. Wal-Mart sends it out to a lab, it takes about a week, and negatives are not returned–you get a CD of digital picture files. (I couldn’t get waited on in Walgreen’s; they’ll stop developing 35mm film July 1.) So after I picked up those pictures, I went over to the grocery section and FOUND IT.

Next to the LouAna, and fifty cents more, it’s pretty much the same coconut oil you get in nearly every jar. It performs well, has no taste, and does exactly what it should. I’ve made a few batches of popcorn with it, and it’s great. I also put it to the test with the exclusive HeatCageKitchen frozen chocolate recipe.

In either soft or melted coconut oil, mix in two tablespoons of cocoa powder with a dinner fork, one at a time. If you like, drop in a little almond extract–not much, it’s pretty potent. Then sweeten it with two tablespoons of SomerSweet or your favorite natural sweetener, one tablespoon at a time with your fork. Once it’s all mixed well, stash it in the freezer (or fridge, if you’re not in a hurry.) When it hardens up, carefully cut it apart with the point of a knife, and have some tasty chocolate chunks.

Crisco Coconut Oil performed perfectly with both the popcorn and the frozen chocolate test. So, here it gets the HeatCageKitchen seal of approval. (Not quite as prestigious as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but that’s OK.)

Now for the other reason I went to (ahem) Wal-Mart.

In one of the rolls of film were pictures of the two Cranberry, Almond and Cinnamon Tart I made for Thanksgiving in 2007. (The other roll had pictures from the Texas Renfest in 2009 or 2010, and included a couple of shots of the ex-boyfriend Voldemort. Those prints will soon be going through the shredder; I can’t remove them from the CD.) It was unique, interesting, and I knew it would be a hit. So let me tell you about that tasty dessert.

Years ago we used to do a “Buddhist Thanksgiving” at the home of a couple who were from Taiwan. I used to kid the wife that “it’s never too early to start planning Thanksgiving.” I would say this, of course, in July. In addition to roasting two turkeys, I also made something fabulous for dessert, usually from the November issue of Martha Stewart Living. I found the recipe here, but I think it’s incomplete. The Pate Sucree (sweet pie crust) doesn’t include how to make it, but I think you just use the food processor. Subscribers got the lovely tart picture you see at that link on the front cover; I think newsstand issues had a turkey picture.

A rich, delicious tart for Thanksgiving or any fall occasion (like my birthday.)

A rich, delicious tart for Thanksgiving or any fall occasion (like my birthday.)

 

Look at that picture. Wouldn’t YOU want to wow guests with that one? (No, it isn’t gluten-free.) Well, I couldn’t wait to make it for Turkey Day. Here’s what it looked like without a lot of expensive camera equipment and food styling:

 

From the November 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living

From the November 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

In order to make it, I  had to order cranberry preserves from New England Cranberry. When I called to order, the man didn’t understand the uptick in orders for that, nor why someone from Texas was ordering three jars of it. I explained it to him, and he said, “Oh, OK.” I suggested he go look for the issue on the newsstand on the way home, and go look up the recipe. Never ordered it again, but I hope he figured it out.

One of them ended up going to work with me the following Monday, because so many desserts were brought in that we all took some home. But it sure was good.

I haven’t made that one since, and the Buddhist Thanksgiving kind of went away, but at least I know I could do it.

Another tasty option was the Pear and Sour Cherry Flat Pie, also made only once, the year before this tart. Make SURE you have plenty of parchment paper, because it’s a bear to run out of it. For this flat pie, you really do need it.

So if you are interested in moving towards coconut oil, you have another option. As I mentioned in my post on the subject last year, coconut oil’s price has steadily increased, likely due to increased demand. But the versatility and health/anti-viral qualities of coconut oil are second to none.

In my recent trip to Wal-Mart, LouAna was $6.49, next to Crisco’s $6.98. In my local HEB, I think it was $5.98 last time. LouAna also has an organic coconut oil, but I haven’t tried it yet; it comes in a smaller container than the quart-sized regular type. Other outlets have their own coconut oil, including HeatCageKitchen favorites Trader Joe’s and Central Market.

And while it’s a little early, you also have a couple more options for your fall desserts Try them now before the time comes, so you’ll know they’re good and what it takes to make them. (Cranberry preserves are available year-round.)

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

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Bulletproof Coffee

Bulletproof Coffee

Good afternoon, Fellow Foodies:

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend.

I have a couple of things to report, one of which you may or may not have heard about. But first I’ll tell you about my latest Graze package:

Tastiness awaits!

Tastiness awaits!

It arrived Saturday, primarily because I did not go into their website and postpone the next delivery. Oh, well. What’s inside?

Four great tastes!

Four great tastes!

Here’s the close-up:

wpid-wp-1427748668073.jpeg

The Walnut-Vanilla Truffle was the first one I had–yesterday after doing some work in the garden. Today I had the Caramel Apple; and I’m quite sure it’s a repeat appearance. I’ll have the savory ones later.

I also did some planting–and here’s where the old Graze boxes come in:

wpid-20150329_153240.jpg

Those are basil seeds–cross your fingers.

I have planted the lettuce and celery scraps into pots. The celery had started to root a little, which is why I planted it, but the lettuce, as you saw, had greens growing from the center. Only one of the four romaine stubs is poking through the soil, and I’ll show you that when it’s more visible. But it’s happening, and I am thrilled that I will be able to enjoy romaine lettuce more often. Now to get the tomatoes growing.

Now. . .over the weekend in the HeatCageKitchen, I conducted another experiment. This time, I attempted the newly-popular home-made version of Bulletproof Coffee. With coffee from Starbucks.

If you’ve not heard of Bulletproof coffee, well. . .I first heard about it in the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago, called “butter coffee.” Then a number of my writer friends on Facebook started buying it and proclaiming to the heavens that it was the best thing ever. Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective tried it. . .he was not impressed. Then on May 20th, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman posted that she was introduced to the concept. Ree loves it.

So I figured it was time for me to try it. And I was in The Fresh Market at the right time, too.

Many of my writer friends are *into* this, and insist that it makes them feel better, think better, and just zip around the place all day long. I say it’s the extra caffeine, which has its own issues, but they insist it’s not. They buy the coffee and “brain oil” off the website, whereas I only used coconut oil. Since I drink decaf, well, buying that expensive coffee is probably not going to do anything different. But I digress. Maybe the “brain oil” would be a good thing. That’s for another day.

I was feeling good yesterday because I finally got around to ordering a replacement lid and knobs for my 10-year-old Crock Pots. Yes, more karma of spare parts. . .but if they still work, fix them!

Ohhh. . .I just thought of how funny it would be to see the GER’s face if he ever tried it. He would give me that look. . .well, that he frequently gives me. Anyway. . . .

I was in The Fresh Market on Friday evening and saw one of the three ingredients:

Kerrygold Unsalted Butter from Ireland

A key ingredient, and one of the few imports from Ireland without alcohol.

I’ve seen the salted version, which is also good, but never the unsalted until now. I headed to another section and got ingredient #2:

Unrefined coconut oil. Yes, the kind that tastes like coconuts.

Unrefined coconut oil. Yes, the kind that tastes like coconuts. It is not “Magic,” however.

I intended to get up early Saturday and enjoy this after a walk, then head over to LK’s house for a district chanting session. Well, I was pressed fro time, did walk, but not as early as I’d preferred. So let’s get started:

The setup.

The setup.

First, make your coffee as you normally would. In my case, I use the French Press. You’ll need between 8 and 12 ounces of hot coffee.

I really was planning to drink it at home.

I really was planning to drink it at home.

While the coffee brews, I add the coconut oil to the blender, 1 tablespoon, then get on with the butter. Since I like my coffee “blonde and sweet,” I added two tablespoons to the blender. Thankfully, the measurements are on the back of the wrapper:

wpid-wp-1427748793848.jpeg

Why Kerrygold? It’s butter made from the cream of grass-fed beef–an important component, since it doesn’t have the additives that American butter has. You just open the wrapper and slice it:

wpid-wp-1427748770123.jpeg

All that goes into the blender with the hot coffee you carefully pour in:

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

And turn on the ignition:

Magic!

Coffee Magic!

The hot coffee melts the butter and coconut oil, and the blender emulsifies and froths up the whole thing. Melted butter is just like putting milk in your coffee, and the coconut gives it a sweet taste. But not quite sweet enough for me.

Safety tip: DO NOT use one of those little blenders intended for smoothies. Make SURE your blender can handle hot liquids. Some can’t. I do know this one can, because the jar is glass and there is a removable part at the top. I use this blender for Pea Pesto Soup, and it was indeed made for anything. Even though this coffee was less volume than the soup, it’s still hot, and you must make sure your equipment is up to the job. If you have a Vitamix, or other professional-grade blender, you should be OK. But those little hand-held blenders, probably not. Read the instructions and check the appliance itself before you find yourself with a big, burning mess. Anyway. . . .

Since I was running out of time, I added it to my travel mug and took it with me.

Bulletproof coffee, to go.

Bulletproof coffee, to go.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did put two packets of sweetener in my Bulletproof coffee, darnit. And then, it tasted pretty good. I can’t say it didn’t do me any more good than my regular foamy-milk cappuccino, though.

Results will vary, of course.

Safety tip #2: after drinking this coffee, you will not be able to outrun, or withstand, a speeding bullet. You are not going to be Superman. You will not actually *be* bulletproof, OK? This is true even if you are buying the expensive coffee and brain oil. It’s a euphemism for FEELING “bulletproof” and being able to take on the day. Carpe Diem and all that. Let the creator tell you more about it.

Verdict: not bad, but not every day.

If you’re looking for a different cup of coffee, and maybe not something with several words to describe to a barista, you might indeed enjoy Bulletproof coffee. And if you don’t, you can say you tried it. Once.

Enjoy!

 

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Epic Bars, the HeatCageKitchen garden, and other updates

Epic Bars, the HeatCageKitchen garden, and other updates

Happy Thursday, Dear Readers! And welcome to all the new followers of my humble blog. I’m glad you’re here!

Spring is here, isn’t it wonderful? (If you’re not buried in snow like some folks up in the northeast are; if this is you, my condolences.) We’ve had some rain going on, and today, a cool front has come through. The sun is out, the patio doors are open, and I had to put on socks and pull my warm boots out of the closet again. But it’s a beautiful day here in Houston. I enjoyed my stovetop cappuccino this morning, and the Yeast Free Hot Chocolate this afternoon..

Have you seen alt-health hero and natural hormone advocate Suzanne Somers on Dancing with the Stars? Why not? She’s doing great–go vote for her! (SomerSweet is still currently unavailable.) A new “vibrato” version of her longtime favorite Thighmaster debuted on the first night, and her second dance was much better. She’s also going to be headlining in Las Vegas soon; wonder if she’ll still have her famous “dishpan hands.” (One more thing I have in common with her!) You can see Suzanne & Tony’s dance numbers on YouTube as well as ABC’s website. This Monday is “Latin Night,” so let’s see what they come up with.

I have a few things to tell you about, some of which includes the HeatCageKitchen garden. It’s growing!!

Look closely.

Look closely.

Remember last weekend, I said I was going to get some organic celery and lettuce? I did it–the little green centers you see are the lettuce re-growing. I cut those on Saturday; today is Thursday, and they’re already sprouting! I think the celery is too, but I need to look a little closer before I plant it. The lettuce is going to be planted tonight.

I also was able to catch the end of the farmer’s market at Erma’s this weekend, and got some organic tomato plants:

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes!

They were 4 for $10, in the pouring rain, and thankfully, a couple of the vendors now have Square as a POS app on their phones. No more checks! I had a nice conversation with the Soap Lady, as well as the folks selling these.

One of those tomatoes is going to be. . .Chocolate Cherry. Hey–I don’t mess around. One is also a yellow tomato–those are delicious, too.

I forgot to pick up a basil plant, so I bought some organic seeds. Longtime readers know I am VERY serious about my pesto, and can’t wait to make more. I have one and a half left in the freezer from last year, and I’ll be using them up by the time the basil gets high enough.

I’ve also got garlic growing from sprouted cloves, and the rooted rosemary seems to be fine. I think the sunflower seeds are sprouting, because I see new little green shoots over there and I’m not pulling them up. The citrus trees, I have high hopes for with all those tiny fruits growing, but I’ll let you know in a future post.

Also for a future post: garbanzo beans, tahini and hummus. Tell you all about it soon. Going to try and grow organic garbanzo beans, too–maybe not for crops, but just to see what happens.

A followup to a previous post: this weekend I found some shampoo and condition with. . .Argan Oil. No kidding. Target has it, no kidding.

It just jumped right out at me!

It just jumped right out at me!

I am still using the Pantene that Neighbor K gave me, but I might try this type when I run out. You just don’t notice these things until one day. . . .

Now then. . .I bought some strawberries a few days ago at my local HEB. First words that came to mind: “Maw Maw, look! Strawberries!”

Yum.

Yum.

My Grandmother O’Donnell loved strawberries like I do, and used to take me up to Ponchatoula, Louisiana, to get some every year. (I was a little bitty kitty.) We got flats of them, and my grandparents would also buy some for other people. Pasadena, Texas, which is nearby, also has a strawberry festival, but I’ve never been; maybe I’ll go this year.

What made me think of it was last month, February 17th, was ten years since Maw Maw O’Donnell passed. As bad as it was at the time, I’m glad she didn’t have to live through Katrina. (I had a big oyster po-boy from Abe’s Cajun Kitchen when I got back to Houston from her funeral.) Maw Maw’s house in Arabi, one of the hardest hit areas, was sold a year before, and good thing, too–it was still on the lot, but not on the foundation, from what I was told. That would have seriously upset my grandmother.

Still, I think about Maw Maw at the grocery sometimes. She would have been 100 years old come October 10th, and certainly wouldn’t have let me take her to the grocery had she lived. I REALLY wanted her to come to Houston with my parents, so I could take her to Central Market (it was only open a few years at the time.) Nope. I could only regale her with stories about it.

Maw Maw taught me a lot about grocery shopping and all that, so I always feel like she’s with me the minute I go into any grocery store, be it HEB, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market, Erma’s Nutrition Center, any salvage grocery store I might find, or Central Market. I wonder sometimes what she would have thought about all the organic, gluten-free stuff, as well as healthier foods that are available now.

My brother just lost a neighbor, who, coincidentally, reminded him of Maw Maw O’Donnell. She was 87 years old, very active, in great health, did what she wanted, still drove, had the world on a string,and one day, she got something, was in the hospital, they gave her some prednisone, got worse, and never came out. It was over quickly, but everyone was left scratching their heads and asking, “why?” I said a prayer for her (he told me when they got home from her funeral) and hope that she will be reborn in good or better circumstances. My brother, like her family, will be having a period of adjustment. . .because she’s just not next door anymore.

However–we’re living in changing times as far as food goes. Isn’t it great? Let’s keep that momentum going, for us, as well as our descendents, and the rest of the world.

Anyway. . . .

I still haven’t been able to put my paws on a jar of Crisco’s new coconut oil. I have a coupon for a free one generously sent to me by the Smucker company, but can’t find hide nor hair of a jar, darnit. So I’m still on the hunt. I’m sure it’ll be here eventually.

The GER came by this morning to do a vehicular repair for me, and came once again bearing gifts. (I am still eating pecans bit by bit.) He handed me the part in a bag and said, “take a look at this and tell me if it’s the right part.” Oh, right, like I’m going to actually know! However, In the bag with the switch were these:

Food of the Gods, Vegan Style.

Food of the Gods, Vegan Style.

The GER has been undergoing a personal “detox,” where he has stopped drinking beer, Monster drinks and Red Bulls (ugh), and other unhealthy lifestyle choices, and ordered some supplements from Mercola.com (the official website of health advocate Dr. Mercola.) I’ve never ordered anything from Dr. Mercola, but I might try that joint stuff he sells. The chocolate bars were a “free sample,” which retail for about $5 each, no kidding. I had the dark chocolate bar with my morning cappuccino. Um. . .I wouldn’t eat them every day. They’re not bad, but since it’s not cut with sugar, milk and other fillers, there is more chocolate in them. They are not as sweet as a Hershey’s bar would be, and so the really strong chocolate taste comes through. One has rice flour in it, so while it’s gluten free, it’s not GRAIN free. Just a heads-up.

The GER did request that I procure some healthier versions of BBQ sauce for him, preferably without HFCS. Found some last week at Erma’s Nutrition Center; will check The Fresh Market this weekend. You know, there aren’t any in the grocery stores that I found, but thankfully, Erma’s had some. (He says he’s too lazy to make his own.) He opened the Annie’s, and is loving it; that version has cane sugar in it. The Organicville has Agave Syrup, which I’m completely familiar with, but the GER isn’t. But he can decide whether or not he likes that one.

The only two choices for HFCS-free BBQ sauce I could find. Neither is made in Texas.

The only two choices for HFCS-free BBQ sauce I could find. Neither is made in Texas.

Organicville also had a second type, which I would have bought too, but it contained soybeans. I warned the GER to avoid soybeans so that the phyto-estrogen didn’t overwhelm his system and turn him soprano.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but men should not be consuming large amounts of soybeans. It really can over-take a man’s testosterone, and end up with estrogen dominance. But that’s a Dr. Hotze issue.

Now if you really want healthy, keep reading.

Some time ago, I wrote about Epic Bars, the low-carb/paleo/gluten-free meal replacement bars made out of. . .meat. Unlike Slim-Fast and other meal replacements, these are not loaded with sugar, soy, and other key artificial ingredients to make you feel full. Epic Bars actually taste like a real meal, instead of sugar and chemicals. The first time I had one, I tried it along with a big iced coffee from a nearby Starbucks, and wasn’t hungry for quite some time. (It was July, so it was quite hot.) That, of course, immediately made me a huge fan.

BTW, for all you gluten free/gluten intolerant folks, they are now Certified Gluten Free, and the new labels sport it. Can’t argue with that one.

I have since wondered if I could use Epic Bars as a diet thing–you know, one for breakfast, one for lunch, a couple of healthy snacks, and a “sensible dinner.” You know I’m adventurous enough to actually try it one day, right? I promise, if I ever do, I’ll write all about it. I mean, they really ARE healthy, so how could it be bad?

I’ll think about it another day. Right now, I’m enjoying the blast of cool spring air coming through, and hoping it lasts a good long while.

So I was thinking about doing an update on Epic Bars, and visited their website. Woo hoo! New flavors, new blends, and some different types of products than just the bars. And a sample pack! There are also bags of bites, and now something called “Hunter & Gatherer Mixes,” which combines organic beef jerky with 4 different combinations of dried fruits. Like the bars and the bites, they’re also grain-free, soy-free, gluten-free and GMO-free. I haven’t tried those yet, but will one of these days. They’re not really available much in my neck of the woods, but there are a couple of places I might drop into soon and see what they have. Of course, you can always order all the delicious Epic products on their website, too, which is what I did.

I bought the “Sampler Pack,” just to see what would arrive. Well, take a look:

Can't wait to dive in!

Can’t wait to dive in!

They’ve switched to a different type of packaging, so you can see what’s inside:

Now you can see what you're getting.

Now you can see what you’re getting.

That small one on the top is lamb, which, as you probably know, is more expensive. I’ve bought ground lamb many times, so I know what it costs, as well as other cuts. So, of course, that bar is going to be smaller–because they won’t use any kind of filler, like soy, to make it the same size as the rest of them. That, to me, makes them an honest company.

The biggest one of the bunch is the Uncured Bacon & Pork. I know, people becoming adverse to eating pork, but not me. Up to you. Pulled Pineapple Pork, too? Oh, yes, please. . .with dried pineapple pieces, thank you.

There is even a Chicken Sriracha bar! There isn’t any actual Sriracha sauce listed, but several spices, that, I guess, would give it the Sriracha taste. (I’ve never used Sriracha, so I’m guessing on this one, cause I’m not a fan of burning hot food.)  Organic chia seeds are listed as well, which means the seeds swell and help fill you up, too.

Sesame Chicken with BBQ. . .also sounds wonderful.

Beef with apple and uncured bacon? YUM.

They’ve also developed one with. . .liver and sea salt. I do not have one of those.

Longtime readers of this blog know that liver is one of those things I do NOT like, but Epic went with a new Liver and Sea Salt bar. I am quite reluctant to try it, because, well, it’s liver. They’re not sold individually, and a LSS sample pack has six bars, which means if I didn’t like it, I would be stuck with five.

Maybe I’ll find them locally and get one. ONE. Just to try it. Liver. I’ve got sea salt, if it needs more, to kill the taste of the liver.

Another hallmark of Epic is the humane way that the livestock animals are raised and treated. No hormones, antibiotics, or unnatural feed (like soy) for them, to produce a high quality product. Can’t argue with that. I hope that this kind of ranching and farming becomes the norm one day soon.

Remember with Epic Bars, you must drink plenty of water.

I saw on Epic’s Facebook page and on their blog that Epic is one of the many sponsors of an upcoming road race, called the Durty Spur Trail Run. I did pass the idea to Neighbor K, but she didn’t like the idea of running with livestock animals. Nevermind that she did a race a few years ago where she went through a lake where goats. . .congregate. K and Daft Pug came back filthy, and K was wearing a big, fuzzy hat that looked like Fred Flintstone’s lodge hat, complete with horns. But the smile on her face said she had fun.

This road race is way the heck out in the middle of Texas, literally. So if 10K or 30K is your thing, and you’re free on April 18th to go to Hamilton, TX, have at it. (I’m not available that day; I’ll be resting from an activity on April 17th, where I’ll be gone all day and dead tired when I get home that night–and no, not a road race.)

Hamilton might be one of them places I need to look at later for my “country writing retreat.” We’ll see. I’m just looking online right now. Texas is a big state, so there’s bound to be a place for me in the country somewhere.

So for now, that’s all from my little corner of Houston, in the great state of Texas. I’m working on a couple of new things to blog about, but of course, will keep you in the loop on the garden progress. I can’t believe I didn’t think of planting my lettuce ends–I could have been eating it all this time! Well, we move forward.

Til next time–Happy Dining!

 

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The Woodlands Wellness Lunch

The Woodlands Wellness Lunch

Hello, Dear Readers:

It occurred to me that I haven’t written since Friday the 13th. AAAHH!!! My apologies. I didn’t realize it was that long. I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day, and if you were so inclined, a nice time at the world’s largest #Starbucksdate. I did, and I got a lot of reading done.

Meantime, last week (Feb 19th) I headed north to the annual open house at my doctor’s office. Woodlands Wellness & Cosmetic Center has been in business for ten years. To celebrate–they moved! Seriously, they have a new, larger location, with more room, a long hallway and lots of beautiful blue tile. (I want that blue tile in my house. When I get in it, of course.) And they even told me where they were moving to. So, since I don’t get out too often, I got dressed and went. It was a beautiful day, the weather was cool but not cold, and the doctors and staff had a very long day. (I had a long, long drive, too, but it was worth it, especially for an overdue “day out.”)

They put a few pictures on Facebook, and I guess they had a “ball” afterwards, because everyone was in formal wear. The doctors were seated in one picture, and my Dr. Davis had her shoes off. It was indeed a long day for them, but a good one.

There are two “sides of the house,” and I go for the health & wellness side–the bioidentical hormones and all that. (I told a couple of folks I was “jacked up on hormones and vitamins,” but I’d also watched a Sinbad stand-up DVD a few days before, so I kept saying that til I got home.) Dr. Sakina Davis is the doctor I see, a very nice lady, and, quite frankly, the only doctor I think I can trust:

Me and The Good Doctor. See? They do let me in!

Me and The Good Doctor. See? They do let me in!

Now, I have to explain that Dr. Davis likes peacocks the way I like cats and tigers. So, the office is decorated in a peacock theme, and while this iPhone picture doesn’t really show it, Dr. Davis has a peacock feather in her hair. Fabulous, and of course, appropriate. I tell you that for a reason, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Her husband, the friendly and affable Dr. George Davis, is the cosmetic side of the house. He does the CoolSculpting, Botox, Radiesse, dermal fillers and other cosmetic procedures I learn about when I go to their open house. All the staff will answer any questions you have about any of their procedures, all you have to do is ask.

Another product they carry is Jane Iredale makeup. I’m a longtime Avon user, but I did get a lecture from a fellow redhead on the advantages of switching to Jane Iredale. She was very nice, and despite telling them that I still have oily skin, I heard the term “dry patch.” It was just powder I’d put on. I do not need moisturizer!!

I don’t doubt that it’s good, and I was offered a makeover using JI makeup. You tell me–did it help?

Right after my Jane Iredale makeover, taken by the redhead who did it.

Right after my Jane Iredale makeover, taken by the long-haired redhead who did it. (Now my profile picture here and on Facebook, too.)

I dunno. . .I think I’m looking like my grandmother with red hair. And I think Maw Maw O’Donnell wouldn’t be thrilled with that, either.

If you know anything about this line, it’s more expensive than Avon. Well. . .it was fun, but I’ll have to think about it another day. Honest, that was the first time I’d worn makeup in about a month. When I got home, the eyeliner looked like I’d been caught in the rain. I did tell them, but anyway. . . .

When I walked in, one of the very nice staff offered me my choice of coffee, water or a mimosa. Yes, that’s orange juice with champagne, at 10:00 am, and no, I did not. But I asked for decaf, and they had some–in one of those little takeaway boxes from Starbucks. Thank you! It was very welcomed, warm and tasty, especially with the hazelnut creamer I didn’t realize I picked up.

To introduce you to all the different things WW&CC offers, they give you a “swag bag” of nice things (including a sample lip/cheek stain from Jane Iredale) and a card. You stamp your card when you talk to the different reps for different things. For instance, Christina was giving out samples of Nordic Natural gummy vitamins (delicious), another rep discussed Radiesse, the Jane Iredale ladies were in another room, ending with Dr. George and one of the high-end procedures he does. (I say “high end” because it’s kind of over my head.)

Once you get all your stamps, you drop your card into the raffle box. If you buy supplements, everything was 20% off, and you got an extra ticket, so I got another bottle of the only Vitamin B complex I’ve ever tried that doesn’t make me sick. So I put one ticket in for the Hydrafacials, and one in the box for the Jane Iredale gift basket. If I win. . .well, that’s an excuse to drive back up there, isn’t it?

Yes, there was indeed food involved. The best food anywhere, and even better than last year, which was also very delicious. This year’s menu was again created by Chef Michael’s Gourmet Kitchen in Tomball (close to The Woodlands) and they designed this elegant menu for both the morning and evening sessions:

The fabulous menu from Chef Michael's Gourmet Kitchen.

Chef Michael’s fabulous menu for the morning and evening open house sessions. Sophisticated and first-class dining.

The young lady who was working the morning shift wasn’t quite sure what to think of me, but she was very nice and didn’t mind me nibbling the chips and the hummus. Of course, me being a bit dull sometimes, I forgot to ask her name and thank her personally. But if you’re reading this, your patience is appreciated, and you’re very nice–thank you.

KALE!! I had some for Neighbor K, who loves it. (I didn’t ask for a takeout container. . .but had anyone offered, I would have brought her one of them kale thingies.) Honest, I like kale, don’t love it like K does, but the quinoa/goat cheese/kale dish was just delicious. I passed on the eggplant dish, but then I realized I should not have done that. DUH.

Of course, I didn’t take a picture, because I was too busy eating it:

I don't even know what Argon oil is, and at that moment, I didn't care, either.

I don’t even know what Argan oil is, and at that moment, I didn’t care, either.

I will tell you that the sun-dried tomato hummus has to be the best I’ve ever tasted. I make a simple hummus on the weekends but halve the lemon because most hummus screams lemon–it’s too acidic. Chef Michael, however, doesn’t put much lemon in his (if at all), and it’s ten times better than mine! But that’s why he’s the chef and I’m a blogger. . .and that’s OK.

The beautiful vegetable plate with the sun-dried tomato hummus at the top right. I didn't mess with the Baba Ghanoush, because, well, it's eggplant and you know why.

The beautiful vegetable plate with the sun-dried tomato hummus at the top right. I didn’t mess with the Baba Ghanoush, because, well, it’s eggplant and you know why.

Also provided were some sweet potato tortilla chips that went perfectly with the hummus. I was good–I had some, and loved it, but did NOT eat the whole thing by myself. But you know I could have, especially with sweet potato chips.

I did email Chef Michael’s wife, Rosemine, and she said she would ask him about a short call with me. I never heard back, so that tells me that he’s busy making delicious food for other people know about him and who ordered. Anyone who is on the receiving end of Chef Michael’s food knows how lucky they are, too. . . .

The other thing I got ahold of were these tasty little sandwiches:

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

Yes, they are gluten free. Here’s what was in them:

2015-02-19 11.35.55

They were just delicious, and yes, I could have eaten one of those trays myself, after the hummus. But I didn’t. OK, maybe half the tray, but I stuck with one or two.

I myself have not made the almond bread yet, but I plan to one day. I hope it comes out half as good as Chef Michael’s.

Chef Michael’s website also has a section for yeast free/gluten free menu, and you can read about it here. No wonder Dr. Davis contacted him for catering the party!

Remember about yeast-free and gluten-free that some things are that way “by default,” that is, wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) have the offending ingredient in them anyway, like hummus. Flour is used in a number of places as binder or to thicken, and I’ve used it myself on occasion (but not for a while.) So when it says “gluten free,” it might have always been so. Salsa, for instance, or butter. Make sense? The other way is to make the item with alternate ingredients that make it act like the gluten version (i.e., bread) so that the gluten (or other ingredient) is simply avoided. With this party, I knew everything was healthy, but when you’re cruising through a grocery or health food store, you must read the labels and ask questions (or you’ll end up with sugar in your tomato paste.)  Chef Michael understands what Dr. Davis was asking for and provided it, but not everyone you encounter will understand that you’re trying to avoid wheat, flour, sugar, soy, etc. So you have to ask if you’re not sure.

Anyway. . . .

Chef Michael’s website is ChefMichaelsGK.com. You can email Chef Michael Matthews or his very nice wife Rosemine at cateringbychefmichael@gmail.com. They do catering on the north side of Houston, including The Woodlands. If I can find it next time I go up there, I’ll stop in to see them. You can also call them to place an order at 281-660-8680 or 281-794-1771.

If you have a special event coming up and you live up there, or have an event planned for that part of Houston, CALL THEM FIRST. After lunch at Woodlands Wellness, I highly recommend them.

Now, while Chef Michael also does dessert, this time, he didn’t–it was by none other than my *other* Woodands favorite, Frost Bake Shoppe. Get a load of this:

Is that not an amazing cake?

Isn’t that an amazing cake?

I hate to over-use the word “amazing,” but it really was. And, wait for it–GLUTEN FREE!

I have written about Frost’s delicious gluten free treats before, ever since I attended the lecture with Dr. William Davis, the Wheat Belly guy. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to the GER, and mentioned that I was going to this activity in The Woodlands, the same place I got the cupcake he enjoyed the last time I went. In fact, he said, “bring back a dozen!” (My response: “Dude, they’re $3.50 apiece.” But you know they’re worth every penny.)

Now, this trip to The Woodlands did not end up with me stopping at Frost, because this beautiful creature appeared in the lobby. Take a closer look:

The cake, with a cake peacock on top.

Those were actually chocolate and vanilla mini-cupcakes, with the little sugar “feathers” on top, comprising the tail:

Really, really well made and beautiful

Really, really well made and beautiful

Remember when I said Dr. Davis likes the peacock the way I like tigers and cats? (That’s what I was told when I asked a staff member one day.) The cake was made to match the office’s beautiful decor. Now do you get it? The Peacock Cake!

I’m not getting married, of course, but if I were. . .that might be what I’d want for a wedding cake. Maybe my birthday cake when I turn 55. From Frost, of course. You can see a gallery of their delicious treats here (indexed by type.) And if you are up that way, stop in for a real feast for the eyes and soul. Gluten free, of course.

Oh, how many did I have? I might have accidentally eaten one of the “feathers” and um, one or two or four of the mini cupcakes. They were the tiny ones, which means I really only ate *two* cupcakes! Neighbor K gave me a funny look when I told her that. With the same look she gives the Daft Pug, she said, “just because they’re gluten free doesn’t mean you can eat them all.” Yes, I know, and I did NOT eat them ALL. Just enough to not make a trip to Frost before I came back to Clear Lake.

I did make one more stop, at Trader Joe’s in The Woodlands, and bought. . .a bunch of stuff. You know, the kind of thing I like to stock up on: olive oil, the cocoa powder, things like that, since they’re cheaper there. Neighbor R also asked me to pick up some of their $3-a-bottle Pinot Grigio, which I happily did. It’s her favorite, and I’m happy to do so for an 80-year-old firebrand with bum knees.

If I call her “a little old lady in Clear Lake” again she will hit me with said bottle. Full. Then I’ll be going to see Dr. Davis for a head injury. Oh, wait, Dr. George is also an ER physician. . .maybe I should go see him, right?

Many thanks to the Drs. Davis and their wonderful staff for a fantastic open house, Chef Michael’s Gourmet Kitchen for wonderful, tasty, and healthy well-made food, and Frost Bake Shoppe for an incredible, beautiful and delicious cake that none will ever forget.

If you’re gonna have some food, make it something good.

Happy Dining!!

 

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Grazing, grazing. . . .

Grazing, grazing. . . .

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Well, I’ve had a busy day, not all of it good, and I don’t feel like doing anything else. And then I remembered that I hadn’t written a blog post in a while. Good heavens, more than two weeks! My apologies.

Now, did you make it to McDonald’s for a free coffee? Not bad, is it? I brought my own Sweet N’ Low, and nobody cared. They put the cream in the coffee FOR YOU, and I had my back turned when I added sweetener. Drank my happy coffee all the way home. Twice. It’s pretty good, just be aware of the sugar/Equal thing, and bring your own if you want different. The small coffee is regularly $1.39, and I think the larger is about 20 cents more; I didn’t look too close. But if you need a coffee, and there’s no Starbucks nearby, (or like my family, you hate Starbucks), it’s pretty good. I might have a coffee there more often, and as my late grandmother would tell you, “Don’t knock it.”

I’ve got a lot of things going on, so I’ll fill you in some of it. First, Neighbor K and I are getting up early and walking. When I say “early,” I do mean “early.” As in 4:00 am Central Daylight Time. I am not joking–we get up and go walking in the 4:00 am hour. And walk for 30 to 45 minutes. She takes out the Daft Pug for a quickie and then we start walking. We’ve seen some, shall we say, interesting things on our early morning treks, as well as had a really good early start to our day. She goes to work, but sometimes, I go back to sleep.

I’m working on not doing that anymore. But I have gotten lots done when I get up and stay up.

We started last Monday, and while I got up and went, she didn’t sleep well that night, so I was on my own. I didn’t waste the chance, though–I went back inside, did morning prayers and chanted for a while, then went out about 5:45 and walked. Last lap involved me dropping off my hand weights and going straight up the street to McDonald’s for a free decaf on the last day. (I’d walked there on Sunday too, but didn’t walk 2 or 3 miles beforehand.) Last Friday it rained when a cold front came through, so I did the same thing I did Monday, and the rain was over by 5:45 am.

Second: the New Orleans Saints won yesterday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’m only a real football fan when the Saints are in the playoffs on the way to the Superbowl. I was, indeed, in shock when they went the last time, so I just wait for it to happen again. They’ll play the Houston Texans this week, I think, so we’ll see what happens.

Irony: a lot of folks who came to Houston after Katrina stayed after Katrina. I see a split loyalty at that game, and probably a lot of torn emotions. But I’m not a football aficionado, so I’m not so worried.

In other news. . . .

You remember years ago there used to be the SAVE Club, where every month you’d get a box filled with new and different products for you to try? (I got them for a while in the early 80’s for a while, right after I got married–the first time.) They were about $10, if I remember correctly, and they sent coupons and new and interesting products like Simple Green cleaner and. . .ramen noodles. Yes, I’m not kidding. At the time, ramen noodles were a new gourmet item, and were at least $1 a packet. Hard to believe that they’re now about a quarter, (in health food stores they might be more but healthier ingredients) but times change. I can’t find any info about it on the web, but I’m sure it was called the SAVE club.

Then in in 2000, there came StartSampling.com, and getting curious, I discovered that I still have an account and can still earn points and stuff. I haven’t thought about that site in years, until just now. I donated a bunch of my points after 9/11. In fact, the account still had the GER’s house as the address; I’ve since updated that. Oh, dear. . . .

Now, in 2014, there are so many subscription boxes to choose from. Makeup. Jewelry. Dogs. Cats. Clothes. Handymen/Handywomen (tools and such.) “Favorites” picked by minor celebrities. (I got Cosmetique a few times, too.) Even a monthly box for. . .cyclic needs, if you know what I mean. I kid you not. Check out FindSubscriptionBoxes.com if you’re interested in seeing more of these. You can also find lots of info and pictures on these subscriptions on Pinterest.

I haven’t thought about this kind of thing in years, and had no idea it had expanded so much.

I know what you’re thinking: “Why are you bringing this up, Amy, and what does this have to do with all things foodie?” Well. . . .

You like to have delicious nibbles? Looking for something new? Then Graze.com is the place for you.

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No, I did not get paid for this. I’m just passing along info. But it’s great!! Neighbor K said she was considering giving them a try, since she got a flier at work for them. I told her to go for it.

My flier came from a magazine a week or two ago, and said that the first box was free. Woo hoo! You can cancel at anytime, and even speed up or slow down the delivery of the boxes, all online.

How could I resist? I sent for one. It arrived on Saturday. Oh, boy! (Oh, and they fit right in the mailbox.)

What's inside?

What’s inside?

Carefully I turned it over and popped open the package:

What you get when your package arrives.

My Graze treats are here!

Inside, you find:

Surprise!

Surprise! (Well, it’s always a surprise, that’s the fun of it)

Take a closer look:

Take a closer look.

Four delicious choices!

Graze.com wants to revitalize snacking with healthier choices like the ones you see here.  No GMO, no HFCS, no artificial flavors or colors, and no trans-fat, either. They were about a cup of each, I think, selected according to what I told them I prefer–gluten free, of course, and one or two other criteria. However, there are 90 different type of snacks, and you can “like,” “love,” or “trash” them. You tell them what you like and they send you healthier, portion-controlled snacks from what you would like and what you tell them. You can get a box weekly, bi-weekly, or more often, just go online and tell them, it’s simple.

You can read more about the people and the company here.

Graze says it’s not a good choice for folks with allergies, because they can’t guarantee everything to be allergy-free. Be forewarned if you’re allergic.

The packaging is all made from recycled materials, including the literature that comes with it. Don’t just toss it, recycle it all! However, for those of us who like to garden, take a look at what else you can do:

Portable planting! (With the empty plastic containers in it.)

Portable planting! (With the clean, empty plastic containers in it.) Start your seeds here.

All of these little snacks were great–because I nibbled them all day on Saturday. Yeah, yeah, I know–but I also cleaned up the HeatCageKitchen garden, and dug up some roots of the “houseplant gone wild” that me and Neighbor K battle occasionally, plus did housework and laundry. The maintenance guy cut most of that mess down and took it away, but I dug up as much of the root system as I could and took out another weed that was masquerading as a plant in the monkey grass. So, I was workin’ it, and nibbled off and on. See what I did?

And now, it's neat again.

And now, it’s neat again.

I lost the strawberry plant that was giving me those weird little frankenberries, and I will need to dig through those white buckets on the left to see if any garlic actually grew. Basil’s gone, but as you can see, there is a large Meyer lemon on the tree on the right starting to turn yellow, and I’ve got not only a new little bell pepper at the top of the pepper plant, but another little Hatch/Anaheim chile pepper on that plant. I trimmed the mint down, but with watering, it will be overgrowing again soon. (Closeups in an upcoming post.)

Yes, the snacks were very good. The Super Berry Detox was nice and sweet, and so was the Toffee Apple, although it had sugar in the small amount of toffee sauce. Never had that before, much as I like apples. I won’t be buying goji berries anytime soon, but if they send it again, no problem. The nuts, well, they were nuts, and I like just about everything but chestnuts, so no complaint there, either. The salt and vinegar taste is a little strong next to the unsalted ones, but I got used to that, too.

Once you try them, go back to the website and tell them that you “like,” “love” or “trash” them. They’ll send them occasionally, regularly, or not at all based on that little rating system and how often you elect to get a “nibblebox.”

Oh, yes, well. . .I went to cancel it, and the second shipment is already on its way. I’ll cancel it after that’s done. I’ve “snoozed” them so they don’t come for a while. Or, I could just keep snoozing it and get one occasionally if I want one. I’ll think about that for a while.

You’re probably wondering how my my little “nibblebox” cost, aren’t you? Well, the first one is free, and subsequent boxes are $6.99. That makes each snack about $1.75 each. If you work in an office, how much do you spend getting something from a vending machine? Is anything in that vending machine as healthy? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. (With all due respect to folks who run and service said vending machines, some of us prefer healthier fare, we’re not judging you.) You can have the box sent to your office, or to your home, and the little sealed plastic packets fit nicely in a purse, lunch bag, briefcase or desk drawer. You can also gift a box to other people at any time from your online account–they get a box in the mail, there’s a gift card with it, it doesn’t cost extra, and they’ll be happy when they see that you sent it.

How cool is that? Don’t know what to get for a birthday or a special occasion? With a week’s lead time, you can send a tasty “nibblebox” and the recipient will know you care.

Oh, and the holidays, including Christmas, are coming, so keep Graze in mind, OK? They are soon planning something called the “Big Box,” consisting of 5 larger, resealable bags of different snacks; those are $25 a box. But you have to join the waiting list for that–but when they’re ready, that’s also a good thing for a holiday gift.

Now, if you’re interested in trying out Graze’s neat “nibbleboxes,” here’s what you do–go to the website and where it says in small print under the “Get Started Now” button, “have a special code? enter it here,” you put this code into the popup field: AMYO2RN7B. Why would you do that? That’s the code on my packing slip to give to friends to get your first and fifth box for free. No kidding–fifth box is free if you decide to keep going with it. Within a week, you could start nibbling!

Now I don’t expect that hundreds of people will try to use the code, but I figure a few might consider it, so I’m putting it here for anyone who might like to try a “nibblebox.” Not sure how many times it will work, either. I think I get points or something, but mostly I figure a few of my readers just might be interested, so why not?

Again, no commitment, and cancel anytime. But you just might like it, too. What would be wrong with that?

Well, it’s getting late, and the 4 am wake-up alarm happens before you know it.

I’ll try to write again real soon, so I can tell you about the delicious baked pear, and a few other things. Oh, and more gluten-free stuff, too.

Happy Snacking!

 

 

 
 

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Gluten-Free Updates

Gluten-Free Updates

Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

The weekend is here, and I have some updates to share with you on gluten free stuff. You may be interested even if you’re not doing gluten free and just eating healthier.

Of course, if you’re not eating healthy, well, reading is entirely up to you. But first, updates and articles of interest.

I’m still walking. And walking. And mostly wearing myself out. But I like walking, so I keep at it, although I may take a dip in the pool later this evening instead. I think I’m gaining weight, but Neighbor K says no. She’s nice that way.

Wanna see the HeatCageKitchen garden? The little pepper is bigger than two golf balls, there is no change in the chile pepper or Meyer lemons, and I’m getting little red franken-berries again in the basket.

My little baby!!

My little baby, and more growing behind it.

 

Not really a "Hatch" chile, since it wasn't grown in Hatch, NM. But close.

Not really a “Hatch” chile, since it wasn’t grown in Hatch, NM. But close.

 

Yes, they're strawberries, even if they don't look to spec.  And yes, I know what it looks like.

Yes, they’re strawberries, even if they don’t look to spec. And yes, I do know what that looks like.

 

Basil, Oh My Basil!!

Basil, Oh My Basil!!

By the way, that’s SEVEN stems of basil growing. Two didn’t make it after the last harvest, so I pulled them; but the rest that were cut down are now re-growing leaves. Another Pesto Saturday will be coming soon, at least one more, and my freezer will be storing it for a cold winter day. Maybe me and the GER will be enjoying a pot of Pea And Pesto Soup, and he will finally understand why I like it so much.

While this isn’t food related, I saw an interesting story today in the UK’s Daily Mail, an interesting mix of real news and the celebrity nonsense. Mixed among today’s numerous stories about the K family and the late Robin Williams was this story about a couple of sisters and their company, Sword And Plough, not only doing some great recycling, they’re making it in America and employing veterans. The kicker: one is active duty Army! If you’ve got a student going to college soon, they make some fantastic bags and things from, no kidding, military surplus fabric that would have otherwise been wasted.

Their messenger bags look fantastic, and if I were in the market for one, I’d be getting the Coast Guard Blue model. The messenger or tote bag would be a great gift for a graduate or someone just starting their first job, and the rucksack would be an awesome Christmas gift for someone who likes camping, hiking and outdoorsy stuff.

Think about it–recycling, classic well-made designs, creating jobs, helping American vets, all in one fell swoop!

Also in Today’s Daily Mail, an article about bloggers who create healthier versions of favorite treats that are supposed to do miracle things. Dunno about the miracle stuff, but they’re certainly healthier. While they do use “raw” ingredients, one I don’t know about is “Organic Greens Complex.” Never heard of it, but since I stand little chance of ever looking like Australian Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr, I’m not too worried about it. If I can find it, maybe I’ll try a couple of these recipes and let you know the results.

However–one thing I notice is the high starch content of the dates and bananas. Yes, bananas can create a great fake-me-out ice cream, but the sugar content may be higher than Blue Bell. If you’re diabetic and/or trying to lose weight, you have to pay attention.

Then again, one picture that gets passed around on Facebook has a picture similar to the one you see in the article, and it says, “What do you call vegan brownies that are raw, sugar free and gluten free? COMPOST.” I cringe when I read it, but I know that some alternative foods are not very tasty. (Skinny Cow comes to mind.)

Later I’ll give you a super-secret HeatCageKitchen healthy chocolate treat I’ve never told anyone about, not even Neighbor K. Sit tight–it has three ingredients and doesn’t take long at all.

I get a LOT of different emails, and some are health-related, while some I just don’t know how they showed up. One I get and actually read occasionally is Doug Kaufman’s Know The Cause. Kaufman and his staff of writers talk about different health topics, primarily the problem of fungus in humans and how it affects disease, including things like cancer. If you’ve read my posts on the Yeast Free Diet, you’ll be at least a bit familiar with it and the mycotoxins put into the system by Candida Albicans, you’ll understand.

This particular time, would you believe it, is a short article on Apple Cider Vinegar. No kidding, maybe I should have waited on that one. But you can click on the link and read it; not long at all. But if you’re interested in learning more about the fungus among us, Know The Cause is a great place to start.

Faithful reader Aunt Kathy passed along another gluten free comic she found this week, this one from Six Chix.

GlutenFreeComicSixChix

Remember, of course, that I also know the GER, who says, “Oh, I love gluten!” He also loves coffee and breakfast from a gas station. One of these days, right?

Larabars now has a new version of granola, and it too is gluten free:

Granola nibbles for the gluten-free set.

Granola nibbles for the gluten-free set. As you can see, I couldn’t resist trying one of them before I got home.

 

Out of all three, I think I like the Cocoa Coconut the best. But that’s just me, and they were all good, too. They were 10 for $10 at Kroger, but I only bought the three. Parents, this is something you can feel good about packing in your kid’s lunch bag, you know? They get a treat, and you don’t have to worry about what’s in it–particularly if s/he has allergies.

Now, if you’re health conscious, gluten conscious, or just careful about what you’re eating, you know you have to read labels, and not just once. Today’s “healthy” snack may have been changed to contain high-fructose corn syrup, and if you didn’t notice it, you’ll have a surprise if it makes you sick or you suddenly have a sugar rush you weren’t expecting.

No kidding–I once went to the grocery and asked Neighbor K if she needed anything; she asked if I would get her a bottle of honey. No problem, and she gave me a $10 or $20 to cover it. As I was picking a brand, I turned over one bottle to discover that the first ingredient was. . .HFCS. I’ve never been careless about reading labels again.

If you want to go gluten-free, I strongly suggest reading Dr. William Davis’ Wheat Belly books first. That will give you a good primer on the subject, and you’ll know what to look for. (Incidentally, Dr. Davis has another book coming out soon on total health. More if/when I get it.)

Of course, that’s a lot of work, and you have to know a little about what you’re doing, and educating yourself is key, whether you’re gluten-free or not. Now, the federal government is getting into the act, and if you’re going to call something gluten-free, you have to follow their rules.

Oh, yes, the government sticking their beaks in this one is going to help immensely, isn’t it?

Listen up: almonds are gluten free. Fruit is gluten free. Tomatoes, bell peppers, Hatch chile peppers, garbanzo and cannellini beans, coffee, Sweet ‘N Low and milk are. . .gluten free. Why? Because gluten doesn’t come anywhere near it. Ever. Do we really need rules for this? Learn what you’re doing and read the labels.

Now, many call this gluten-free thing a fad, and there are some who will call it “dangerous and unhealthy.” How can leaving something out of your diet that can cause harm be “dangerous?” If you’ve read Wheat Belly, you know exactly why–the modern GMO 42-chromosome wheat grain can cause havoc in even otherwise healthy people. Sugar is also well-documented as a harmful substance, and causes a host of health issues, including inflammation. All carbohydrates break down into sugar in the blood stream, including, but not limited to wheat, so you see why wheat can cause problems, along with a lot of other things that become, one way or another, sugar as an end product.

It’s probably not a “beer belly,” but a “wheat belly.”

Then again, like the GER, not everyone understands the whole gluten-free thing. Thanks to the esteemed Wall Street Journal, they keep on top of these kinds of things. It’s not a craze if you have that gluten allergy, trust me–I know people who have it, and they have to be careful. And I disagree–everyone can benefit from gluten-free, they just don’t know it yet. Again, starting with Wheat Belly is the way to go; Dr. Davis explains everything well.

OK, enough of that. Who wants a cupcake?

Looks tasty, doesn't it?

Looks tasty, doesn’t it?

I started getting Facebook feeds from Elena’s Pantry, and one day, this popped up. Made with coconut oil and flour, they’re also good for folks with a nut allergy (which, thankfully, I’ve escaped–I love just about all nuts.) With the holiday season coming soon, this may be a good recipe to have in your back pocket for parties, especially children’s parties, where allergies are more prevalent.

Elegant Elena Amsterdam has written three books: one on Paleo cooking, one book on gluten free with almond flour, and another book of  gluten free cupcakes made with almond and coconut flour. I do not yet have these books, but they ARE on my wish list, along with Bruce Fife’s book on coconut flour. I haven’t written about coconut flour yet, because I really don’t use it much, and it tends to be more expensive.  I have a small amount in the fridge now, because I don’t use it much; usually for the cupcakes or something else from Babycakes and Babycakes Covers the Classics.

And now, for the first time ever, a healthy chocolate treat that’s easy to make has three ingredients and tastes awesome. This has been a HeatCageKitchen secret for some time, discovered by accident, but I’m releasing it now, and may include it in the cookbook, if I ever get around to writing it.

Coconut chocolate

The setup:

IMG_0836[1]

The coconut oil is liquid because it’s on a top shelf on my pantry, which is warm in the daytime. That makes it easy to tell the weather. In the winter, it’s hard as a rock.

Incidentally, this is the kind that actually tastes like coconut oil, not the somewhat refined stuff that has the taste taken out. You want that coconut flavor in the chocolate; it’s wonderful.

So you pour out about 2.5 to 3 ounces of melted coconut oil into your container. This just happens to be a pinch bowl from Cost Plus World Market, and I just measured it with water. To the bottom rim is 3 ounces.

Melted coconut oil

Melted coconut oil

To this you add about two tablespoons of cocoa powder, and gently mix with a fork:

Mix the cocoa powder in one tablespoon at a time

Mix the cocoa powder in one tablespoon at a time

Now this is the subjective part–longtime readers know of my preference for SomerSweet, Suzanne Somers patented erythrytol based natural sweetener and rejection of the toxic types like Splenda and Equal/Nutrasweet. However, if you’ve got something else that works as well, like a stevia blend or something similar to SomerSweet, go for it. Two tablespoons, one at a time.

IMG_0839[1]

SomerSweet also tends to clump when you add it into something, so that’s when the fork comes in handy. (That’s about the worst thing I can say about it, really.)  After that, stash it in a safe place in the freezer for a little while and go answer your email, or walk a dog like I did. (Neighbor K’s lovable pug, of course.)

When you come back and open the freezer, this is what you get:

Ahhhh. . .chocolate.

Ahhhh. . .chocolate.

Break it up into pieces, very carefully, either with a spoon or the point of a wide-bladed knife, so you can eat it. I recommend a spoon, because if you eat it with your hands, the coconut oil will melt at body temperature. THAT, ladies and gentleman, will be a mess beyond compare. If you don’t believe me, try it. Don’t gripe to me when you have chocolate on your keyboard, your cell phone, your doorknob, your dog and your iPad,OK? You have been warned.

Ready for some chocolate???

Here we go!!

Here we go!!

Rich, satisfying, healthy, and oh-so-sweet.

Next post I’m planning on writing about chia seeds. . .mostly because I have a batch in the pantry to use up, so I’m going to try a recipe or two I found and report on them. If you have any questions before then, you can now email me at heatcagekitchen@gmail.com, and I’ll try to answer them in the blog post.

It’s Friday, and the weekend is here.

Enjoy!!

 

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