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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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Biscotti with chocolate and cranberries

Biscotti with chocolate and cranberries

Good evening, Dear Readers:

OK, I just found this delicious recipe and HAD to share it. And I plan to make them. I LOVE biscotti, but don’t have it anymore because it’s empty calories and white flour.

Here you go.

Cranberries. Chocolate. Almonds. Sea Salt. Yum

Cranberries. Chocolate. Almonds. Sea Salt. Yum

 

Does that not just say “tasty Christmas treat” to you? No flour, some sugar (which we can fix) and even vegan. I can’t wait–because it looks DELISH. You know I always want to have my cake and eat it too. . .as it should be.

I found this recipe on Facebook, and it’s very similar to a Martha Stewart recipe I’ve made a few times with pecans and cranberries. I made some last year, but it was flour-based, and not for me. I did nibble on the ends of the biscotti, but you know what? As delicious as I remember them, they tasted like baked flour balls with pecans and cranberries thrown in. Neighbor K went bonkers for them, and if I get around to it, I’ll bake her some next week. But to me, the long-ago memories that I couldn’t get enough of were just, meh.

I will try this biscotti and report back, but I thought you should have the recipe now, so you have time to make some for yourself, your family, or your gluten-free friends if you want them.

You can find the recipe here.

Thanks to the nice folks at Blog.FreePeople.com for this awesome treat. I can’t wait to make some!

Enjoy!

 

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Coffee and Mayo: The Post For The E-Man

Coffee and Mayo: The Post For The E-Man

Good Morning, Dear Readers:

It’s been an interesting week, and I’m inspired to write first thing in the morning. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve upgraded the memory on my small laptop, fixed an air conditioner problem, almost fixed the washing machine (that’s OK, the nice repair guy finished what I started), all with the help of YouTube.

You can fix nearly any problem in your life with a YouTube video.

I also got enough stars on my Starbucks card to have a gold card (long story, but it’s mine) and re-connected with an SGI-USA member who I used to know in New Orleans, but now happily lives in central California with her new partner. Facebook is also a great thing, long as you don’t put TOO much there.

I’ve got a few more things to do, and I hope to shampoo the carpets this weekend, but life is buzzing along in different areas.

We’ve had a good dousing rain this week, and the plants couldn’t be happier. (Is the drought over yet?) Heck,  the weeds love it too, because I haven’t gotten out there to get rid of them. When the rain stops, I plan to get some weeding done, and maybe yank out the “houseplant-gone-wild” stuff out front. It’s about to grow into our living rooms. Neighbor K and I dug up most of that stuff a couple of years ago, and it was mostly gone, except for where we stopped. It’s growing now, under the stairs, where we quit digging. We’re expecting the second cool front next week, and if I can get around to it, I’ll do some fall gardening and weeding. The garden is about the same as last week, just waiting for stuff to grow more.

I think it’s raining all over the world. . . .

Last night I went out foraging (shopping) and my beloved grocery store HEB has foot-high potted basil plants for $4 each. I didn’t buy one last night, but am considering it. I need to re-stock the pine nuts, but if I get one or two. . .would that give me one more pesto batch? The little basil stubs I have may not grow big enough to give me more, so, I’m thinking about it. You know I love my pesto.

Before I went out, I went through the coupon stash I’ve been collecting, and it’s amazing that so many had expired. Need to keep up with that, but I managed to find a few I could use. I sat down to watch the very handsome and manly Mike Rowe do some Dirty Jobs while I cut them. One of those jobs was going to an animal sanctuary and handling a 5-month old “Ti-Liger,” a hybrid big cat with a milder temperament that would eventually become about 1,000 pounds. It was just a big kitten, no kidding, and probably weighed at least 65 pounds during this filming. The job was to walk this animal and wash its beautiful fur. No kidding. Mr. Rowe was a bit nervous with a carnivore with huge paws sporting very sharp retractable claws. Much as I love the felines, I do not want to deal with that cat’s litter box. I bought two of those plastic bottles of cat litter so I wouldn’t run out for a while. The 15-pound cat in here is enough for me.

I also am trying out Sheba cat food for Jezebel–it’s a couple of cents cheaper per can, and I found several coupons for it. However, despite the beautiful kitty in the advertising that looks a lot like my deceased Catmandu, Sheba also uses responsibly sourced fish, and does not contain corn, wheat/grains or soy. I mistakenly bought a can of chicken and tuna last night, but she gobbled it up this morning. I think we’re changing cat foods around here. Wish I’d tried this with Catmandu and Kismet, but we just move forward, not backwards.

I also clipped a coupon for Silk’s refrigerated coconut milk, which I bought one of to try. It’s fine. . .no soy, no lactose, all that. I like the shelf-stable stuff the best.

A trip through Target, and then onto HEB, netted me a couple of things that my longtime friend The E-Man can get behind. I’ve known him since October 1988; he can tell you the date and time I met him; he’s one of the first SGI-USA members I met when I relocated to New Orleans from California. When I got married in 1996, we put him in a tuxedo to make him behave; it sort of worked. But until about 12 years ago, I didn’t know The E-Man was allergic to eggs. It’s OK if the eggs are IN something, like a muffin, but eating them as I do, hard-boiled, scrambled, etc., no.

That means mayonnaise is out, too–especially the fresh stuff I whip up in a blender.

Last year, I told you about lab-grown beef and eggless mayonnaise, which The E-Man might like. Last night, I found some in Target. Called Just Mayo, an 8 ounce bottle costs $1.99 in SuperTarget. (I also got some Blue Plate Mayonnaise for $2.24 at HEB.) Since there aren’t any SuperTargets in his neck of the woods, a quick search shows that Dollar Tree and Whole Foods in his area carries it.

Dollar Tree? Ok, whatever. DT also carries it here, but I don’t know where they are. Target is fine with me.

The company, Hampton Creek, also makes cookies, but I didn’t see them in Target. There is also a larger jar of Just Mayo, but I didn’t look at the price on it.

Now, if you know someone who is allergic to eggs, take note, they may be able to enjoy mayo. Take a look, and compare it to Blue Plate Mayonnaise I got at HEB last night:

Mayo: one regular, one vegan.

Mayo: one regular, one vegan.

Why Blue Plate? I grew up with it, so to me, that’s what mayonnaise means. No, I do NOT like Miracle Whip. I don’t mess with Blue Plate too often, though.

So what’s the difference? Well, this is what’s in your standard commercial mayonnaise:

Yes, I know. . .but I don't use it very often.

Yes, I know. . .but I don’t use it very often. But hey–it’s gluten free!!

Now check out the ingredients in the vegan mayo:

No eggs. Have at it, E-Man!

No eggs. Have at it, E-Man!

Unusual ingredients, non-GMO is always good; pea protein is something I see occasionally in other foods, like Larabar’s Alt Bars. It’s how they keep from using soy in it.

Now, I haven’t tried this new stuff yet, but I will soon. I actually like mayonnaise, and if I get ambitious and make some gluten-free bread to go with meatloaf anytime soon, that will be the first way I try it. (I prefer home-made mayo with olive oil, though.)

If you have someone who can’t have standard mayonnaise, this might be an alternative for you. You can read more at Hampton Creek’s website and decide for yourself. Much as I’m not a veeeeeegan, alternatives are usually a good thing.

When Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, I ended up at his place. Irony–going TO New Orleans to evacuate for a hurricane. I was there nine days. The E-Man keeps his cool at all times. I can’t say I do that a lot. But I gave his wife as much of a break from cooking as I could. I did create a chicken salad for them that had no mayo, and was, I think, pretty darn good. I based it on a Giada de Laurentiis recipe, using a rotisserie chicken, and a vinaigrette kind of dressing, tossed in some sliced grapes, and it turned out well. I haven’t made it since, but I do have a printout in my notebook of recipes I’ve printed from the web.

The E-man also likes his coffee, as does his wife. I’ve brought them Central Market’s coffee a number of times, and I also got him a Central Market logo coffee cup many years ago, when they had them. (I think I still have one myself.)

FREE COFFEE ALERT: McDonald’s is promoting their McCafe’ coffee by offering a free small coffee every day during breakfast hours from now until September 29th. I haven’t gotten over there yet, but be forewarned that McDonald’s has sugar and Equal (blue stuff.) They don’t have Sweet ‘N Low, so if you don’t want Equal, bring your own. McDonald’s coffee is actually pretty good, I just don’t go in there very often. If you’re over 60 or 65, I think it’s half price, but again, during the morning, small coffees are FREE! Check it out if you’re interested.

Another thing I got from HEB last night was some coffee I haven’t bought in a long time–HEB’s store brand breakfast blend:

Whole bean, decaf.

Hello, old friend!

When I first moved to Houston, I used to buy this for me and my ex-husband, although it used to be regular. I forgot how good it is, and had some just this morning. Why haven’t I bought this for so long? I think it was about $7, much less than the Starbucks coffee I thought about getting in Target. I’m not knocking Starbucks, of course, but I sure did miss this one. I think I’ll be having this more often, too.

Is there a penalty for drinking it from a Starbucks coffee cup? Well, it sure was good.

Don’t knock grocery store coffee. You might be surprised at what you find.

If you really, REALLY enjoy coffee, you might want to check out Nick Usborne’s website, Coffee Detective. Nick loves coffee, and discusses different types of coffee, coffee makers, and all things coffee. You can read about my favorite method, the French Press, at this link; he also has videos on the subject.

Would Nick like this coffee? Heck, I dunno. What you like might not be what I like, and what you and I like might not be what Nick likes–but isn’t that what makes life interesting?

Think I need another cup, y’all.

Fall fruits are starting to come out, and I got a couple of small Bartlett pears; they’re ripening on my altar. But in about a month, you KNOW what’s coming.

Pomegranates!!! I LIVE for pomegranate season. I don’t care about the mess they make, or the little red arils that I find on the floor sometimes when I vacuum. I LOOOOVE pomegranates.

Off I go, on with my day. Make it a good one, everyone!

 

 

 

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