About thewanderingtexans

There are actually several of us, all Native Texans. As you can likely see, no one of us posts often. Together, however, we hope to be able to entertain and inform our audience on at least a weekly basis.

Be Freezer Friendly

Freezing foods is not only a way to preserve foods and keep them fresh longer, it also allows snack and meals to be easily kept on hand. If you take a few simple steps to freeze foods properly, and to assist your freezer to run as efficiently as possible, it’s a simple matter to keep frozen foods at their best.

TEMPERATURE CHECK
Most people don’t realize that you have control over the temperature of your freezer. Check for the temperature controls (use the manual if needed). The ideal setting for your freezer is 0F or below.

KEEP IT BREATHABLE
Make sure there is ample air space on the sides and top of the freezer to allow air to circulate and heat to escape. Air circulation is critical to keeping food frozen.

KEEP IT SHUT
Don’t stand with the door to your appliance open. Keep it closed as much as possible to maintain the internal temperature at an even level. In the event of a power outage, leave the freezer closed so food will stay frozen as long as possible.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY
If there are any empty spaces in your freezer, fill them up with plastic bottles of frozen water. This will assist your freezer in maintaining an even temperature without using up additional energy every time the door is opened allowing the cold air to fall away. Less air volume in large spaces means less loss of cold with each exposure.

SEAL CHECKS
Perform regular checks on the seal around the door of your unit. Keeping the seal clean and free of any material stuck to it’s edges will allow the rubber to complete the seal on the freezer every time. Hardening of the material, drying out, and even cracks can form over time decreasing the ability of the seal to hold in the cold. Have the seal replaced if it suffers any damage to keep your appliance in tip-top shape.

USAGE ARRANGEMENT
Keep items meant for long-term freezing in the coldest section of your appliance, be that int he back or bottom of the chamber. Also, try to allow for a first in first out rule for multiples of items and items that are not likely to remain int he freezer very long. For example, if you have two bags of frozen veggies, use the one that has been in the freezer longest, first. Keep frozen snacks (ice cream bars, fruits and berries, microwaveable mini pizza, etc) in the easiest to reach spots. It allows for quicker removal of items and resealing the chamber.

Your freezer, be it a chest freezer, an upright, or a second door on your standard refrigerator, will benefit in the long run from these usages. It can also help you maintain a lower power bill each month.

–Ann Cathey

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Maple Bacon Mashed Potatoes

Fall is the time of year when maple-bacon flavors start turning up in the odd niches where pumpkin spice has already been and gone. In this case, I’ve run across a recipe that takes an old favorite and gives it a sweet-n-savoury twist.

MAPLE BACON MASHED POTATOES
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients
2-1/2 lbs gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp maple syrup
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, reserve some for topping
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chopped chives for garnish

Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes and cook until a fork will easily slip into the center of a chunk of potato. This should be about 15-20 minutes.

Heat the milk, cream and butter in small saucepan over a low heat until the butter melts. Stir in the maple syrup. This may be done while the potatoes are cooking.

Drain your potatoes and return them to the pot. Using a potato masher or electric hand mixer, slowly stir in the milk mixture until potatoes are smooth and creamy.

Fold in chopped bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you are not serving int he mixing bowl, turn the mashed potatoes out into a serving dish. Top with remaining chopped bacon and sprinkle with chives.

Serve hot. Refridgerate any leftovers.

 

NOTE: Potatoes, like pasta, prefer to go into boiling water rather than to be started cold. Starting your potatoes in cold water will allow the outer layers to cook more rapidly than the interior, allowing the out layers to actually cook off the chunks. While this is a great method for reducing potatoes for potato soup, it’s not so great for mashed potatoes.

 

I can smell this just typing about it. It sounds like a wonderful take on sweet and savoury, just in time for your holiday gatherings.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

 

Grain Free Pumpkin Biscuits

With the pumpkin spice madness coming down upon us, I thought something pumpkin might be appropriate right about now. I keep seeing recipes online for pumpkin rolls, biscuits, and muffins that are Suited to a Paleo diet. They also seem to be suited to a well controlled diabetic diet, so I decided to check them out.

My results were a little different than I expected, but the resulting ‘biscuits’ were quite tasty and great with coffee. They did not rise as I hoped and were very moist – almost like little pumpkin custards rather than what i would consider a biscuit or a roll.

Grain Free Pumpkin Biscuits
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Total Time: 20 min

Ingredients:
-Dry
1 cup blanched almond flour
2 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 cup arrowroot powder (or tapioca powder)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt, more to taste
-Wet
1/4 cup canned pumpkin (OR unsweetened applesauce)**
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, cold or room temperature (not melted)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with baking liner or parchment paper.

In one bowl combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine wet ingredients. Add wet to dry and whisk together to combine

Roll dough into balls and place on parchment paper. Or in my case drop 1/4 cup of mixture into cupcake pan segments. (Mine came out rather wet.)

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through and flaky. Serve warm with butter.

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My dough was more of a batter.

 

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Finished ‘biscuits’.

Make them more of a sweet roll by adding a touch of cinnamon and raw honey. Or make more of a savory by adding white pepper, garlic, sage, or your favorite savory spices.

Paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, in case you were wondering.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

 

Joe’s Italian – Conroe TX

A true delight hidden in Conroe! Joe’s Italian Restaurant  is a casual eatery with New York-style brick-oven pizza, pasta & subs in a quaint, family-friendly setting. Even the
music fits the bill, with tunes crooned by Sinatra and a lot of slow jazz.

We don’t live far from Joe’s, though somehow we don’t make it in as often as we would like. We know the pizza is amazing, the red sauce on everything comes from a vat of slightly sweet house sauce, the pasta is always al dente, and the wine selection is a firm foundation for the menu.

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Chicken Parmigiana – Breaded chicken breast drowning in the house marinara and Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Pasta of choice: ziti.

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Calzone – stuffed with Ricotta, Mozzarella, and sausage.

 

Catering is for all occasions. All major credit cards accepted.
Pick up and to go orders ready in 20 minutes.

“We know you have a choice,
the owners and staff thank you for choosing
Joe’s.”

On the 1-5 scale, Joe’s Italian has earned:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 4
Quality of food – 4
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3.5
Overall experience – 4.5

Joe’s Italian Restaurant
1604 N Frazier Street
Conroe, TX 77301
(936) 760-9002

–Ann Cathey

Book Musings and Sale – Conroe TX

Having been raised in the Uinited States, I can understand how British literature and fiction can be difficult for some American born readers. There’s enough difference in style and syntax to drive a mind sideways. if you haven’t practiced at it, you may get bored and put the book down and walk away. Such heresy!

“But I’ve read the Harry Potter books!” you might say. In all liklihood, you’ve read a version edited for an American reading population. yes, they do that. Publishers want YOU, the audience, to by their books and they figure you won’t do it if the text bores you to tears.

How does this issue get fixed? Either an editor takes a manuscript in hand, you you the reader learn to read for yourself. I decided as a child that I was missing out on things and learned to read Chaucer and Shakespeare in the Queen’s English before in American English, quite stubbornly. I even worked my way into the Middle English on my own.

How many people bother with that in this day and age of mass marketed, easy to assimilate, romance novel pap who are not seeking higher education at university?

Try a book sale that handles gently used and new books, many of which come from area estate sales. It’s amazing the number of treasures that are hidden away in the boxes of offerings at one of these events.

The Library Friends of Conroe is a volunteer organization benefiting the Montgomery County Library System. Among the many projects they organize and run, they host a twice yearly Book Sale at the Central Library in Conroe, Texas. All of the books, dvds, VHS tapes, puzzles, music cds and other goodies available at the Book Sale have been donated by members of the community in the hopes that they will recirculate and bring needed funds to the Library.

If you have never been to one of the extravaganzas, it is an experience. There are three large rooms and an entire hallway filled with tables that are covered in books of all types. I have been able to find the most remarkable cookbooks dating back into the 40’s at these tables, and am always willing to go back and check for more.

Beginning on Thursday, October 5th, from 4:30pm to 8:00pm, is First Choice Night. There is no entry free and everyone is welcome. This is the first view of the items for sale and your chance not only to preview, but to make some awesome purchases for your own reading enjoyment and edification.

Also Thursday evening, a silent auction of themed baskets and books will begin at 4:30pm and run through Friday at 4:00pm.

Continuing on Friday, October 6th, 9:00am to 4:30pm, and Saturday, October 7th, 9:00am to 3:00pm, the sale continues in all sale areas.

The famous $2 Bag Sale is on Saturday from 9:00am to 12:30pm in the large meeting room only. The Library Friends will provide you with a bag that you are allowed to pile as many books into as you wish – for only $2. All other areas remain at regular price.

Join us at 104 I-45 North, Conroe, Texas 77301, October 6-8, for a Texas-sized Book Sale! Remember, however, it’s cash or check payment only – no credit or debit cards at this time.

If you happen to miss the Fall Book Sale this year, remember that here is another one in the Spring, and Vicki’s Book Nook at the Central Library which is open whenever the library is.

For more information, please call 936-788-3888 or email lov2read@consolidated.net. You may also visit the MCLS website.

Clean and gently used donations are accepted all year at the  Book Nook at the Central Library.

–Ann Cathey

More GypsyJoynt – Galveston, TX

We covered a little place called GypsyJoynt in Galveston previously. We enjoyed it so much, we have gone again a few times.

It turns out they add new things to the menu all the time, usually in the form of specials. They also still have hidden gems for us to discover and rediscover all over the regular menu. We’d like to share a few we recently ran across.

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Muffeletta Pizza – olive oil base, olive relish, mozzarella, salami, ham, mortadella, Provalone and Parmesan. We thought it sounded good and decided that it tasted better than it sounded!

 

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Big & Sloppy – burger smothered in housemade chili, and cheddar, sweet potato tots and housemade pickles on the side. Normally this is on a beautiful bun, but it was ordered bunless for a lower carb experience.

 

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Nola Rays – Cajun BBQ shrimp and crawfish tails on Focaccia, mixed greens, tomato, and avocado sauce, with house fries on the side. The lid was lifted for this photo to give you an idea of the stuffing inside.

 

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Vita Viva – Focaccia burger with bacon, cheddar, mixed greens, tomato, onion, housemade pickles and mayo, with house mac-n-cheese on the side.

 

On the 1-5 scale, Gypsy Joynt still gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 3
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3.5
Overall experience – 4.2

Gypsy Joynt
2711 Market Street
Galveston, Texas 77550
409-497-2069

— Ann Cathey

Slow Cooker Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

I prefer to use slow cooker liners. Whenever I buy a box of them, there is invariably a little handout inside that includes a few recipes. They are great for folks starting out with slow cookers!

Reynolds produces liner bags for slow cookers. They, like Crock-Pot, offer recipes from their test kitchens. I rounded up a few more and will share them here, in a couple of fall posts. Why fall? Slow cookers are wonderful for making warm, filling meals that are especially welcome on cooler or cold nights.

Please keep in mind that some of my Cajun friends might take exception to this recipe, and that it’s from Reynolds’ kitchens, not mine.

CHICKEN & SAUSAGE JAMBALAYA
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 7 hours on Low or 3 hours on High
Servings: 6

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken thighs, boned, skinned, cut into bite sized pieces
8 ounces smoked turkey or chicken sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons Creole or Cajun seasoning
Salt, to taste
1 can (14.5 oz) petite-diced tomatoes with onion, celery and green pepper
2 medium red, green or yellow bell peppers, seeded, cored and cut into 2 inch strips
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium yellow squash, cut into bite size pieces
12 oz pre-cooked deveined and peeled shrimp
hot cooked rice
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Directions:
Set up your slow cooker by placing the liner bag inside, fitting it snugly to the bottom and sides.

Place chicken and sausage in the crock. Sprinkle with seasonings. Pour in diced tomatoes. Top with vegetables.

Cover and cook 7 to 8 hours on low OR 3 to 4 hours on high, until the chicken is done.

Carefully remove the lid to allow steam to escape.

Add cooked shrimp and stir gently.

Cook 10 more minutes on low.

Spoon jambalaya directly from cooker into bowls of cooked rice.

Sprinkle with chopped celery and serve

 

Note: Do not lift or transport liner with food inside.

Note: Allow crock to cool before removing the liner and tossing it.

 

–Ann Cathey