Fall Book Sale! – Conroe TX

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, as well a books I’ve been wanting to read, and am always willing to go back and check for more.

Beginning on Thursday, October 4th, 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.

Continuing on Friday,October 5th, 9:00am to 4:30pm, and Saturday, October 6th, 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 4-6, for a Texas-sized Book Sale!

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 is always available at the Central Library, and 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 Vicki’s Book Nook at the Central Library.

–Ann Cathey

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Smoky Bacon Shortbread

Last year at Comicpalooza, I was honored to meet author Michelle Muenzler. In addition to being a great writer and mentor, she makes seriously awesome cookies. In fact, on the con circuit, she’s known as The Cookie Lady, as she always has cookies in tow.

Ms. Muenzler is kind enough to share her recipes on her website, and I have had great success with a few of them. My favorite, though, is her recipe for Earl Grey shortbread. Now, I’ve never actually made Earl Grey shortbread. I don’t care for Earl Grey tea, and as that’s the major flavoring agent, it didn’t seem like a wise choice. However, there are many, many teas that I do enjoy, and I’ve experimented with a few with great results.

My latest experiment with the Earl Grey shortbread recipe is this one: Smoky Bacon Shortbread. I subbed Tea Punk Tea’s Winter Smoke tea for the Earl Grey and added in some chopped candied bacon. Delicious! Below is the recipe, based on the one at Michelle’s website: http://www.michellemuenzler.com.

For candied bacon:

  • 1 1/2 strips of bacon
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp water

For shortbread:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp loose Winter Smoke tea
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 strips of bacon, candied and finely chopped

Prepare candied bacon

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place bacon strips on rack over a lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.
  3. Flip bacon over. Baste with a mixture of 1 1/2 Tbsp of brown sugar and enough water to create a thick liquid.
  4. Return to oven for another 15 minutes or until bacon acquires preferred level of doneness.)

Prepare dough

  1. Cream together butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Add flour, tea, and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  2. Chop bacon (I use a Ninja food processer) and stir into dough.
  3. Roll dough into logs (1″ thick or so). I do this on waxed paper or a silicon baking max sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or the waxed paper and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375F.
  5. Slice logs into thin disks and place on nonstick baking sheets or parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

The Winter Smoke tea used here is available from the lovely people at: https://www.teapunkteas.com/store/c2/Black_Teas.html

 

 

Blackened Bananas

Bananas ripen in stages, and each stage is good for something. In spite of the common concept that bananas are best eaten raw, there are plenty of other uses for this wonderful fruit.

 

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Green bananas

If a banana is yellow with some green along the seams, it’s not quite ripe. The meat is harder than the truly ripe stage, and has less flavor.

 

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Ripening bananas

An all-yellow banana, most especially those that have turned a more golden color, are at the stage a lot of people refer to as “perfect” for just peeling and eating. The flavor is richer than the green banana, and more mellow.

 

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Slightly over-ripe bananas

Dark patches or spots on a banana are a signal to some that a banana is almost ready to ‘go’. The meat looks just like as it does in the all-yellow skinned banana. This is still a good eating stage, or for slicing and frying up like a plantain.

 

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Blackened banana

Then there’s that stage where the stem is shriveled and black, and the banana is slightly smaller with most of the skin gone dark. This stage of the banana is often just disposed of, but that’s a mistake.

 

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Banana peel showing blackening, and spots of over-ripe fruit still on the inside.

The most flavorful banana stage is actually after the skin has turned mostly dark, or “blackened”. It’s very soft, like room temperature butter and easy to mix without turning chunky. It’s great in cookies, breads, cakes, custards, and other recipes calling for raw banana. It is at it’s sweetest and still adds nutrients and fiber to your cooking.

The blackened stage may be peeled and frozen, whole or premashed, for use later.

Bananas can also take the place of oil in some recipes. Two medium bananas may be substituted for oil in most cake or cookie mixes, boxed or scratch.

 

–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

How you want them eggs?

When we are out and about in the world, I notice a number of people dining in restaurants who are unsure of how to order their eggs. They ask a lot of questions, then simply default to scrambled if they still don’t get it.

To alleviate some of this, I’ve gathered together terms and descriptions of some of the most common cooking styles for eggs.

The first thing I notice is that a lot of folks don’t know the proper names for the parts inside the egg. What most people call “egg whites” is the clear protective jelly albumen. The “egg yellah” is the yolk. For the sake of clarity in the descriptions below, I’ve stuck to albumen and yolk.

SCRAMBLED –  Scrambled means that the albumen and yolks are broken and mixed together, cooked quickly in a hot skillet. Most restaurants serve them “hard” which is often a little dryer than one might prefer. Ask for “wet” and you should get scrambled eggs that still look a little shiny.

SUNNY SIDE UP – An egg that is fried only on one side. The albumen should be slightly browned at the edges, while the yolk is warm and runny. Also known as “runny eggs” or “dipping eggs” as the yolk will go everywhere and is tasty when sopped with toast or biscuit.

OVER EASY – This is most often a Sunny Side Up flipped over int he skillet just long enough for the raw egg to seal itself up with a thin film of cooked albumen. The yolk, and sometimes part of the albumen, are still warm and runny.

OVER MEDIUM –  The next step after Easy, this egg is flipped and allowed to cook until the albumen is mostly hardened up, leaving the yolk mostly runny.

OVER HARD or OVER WELL –  As it’s name hints, this egg has been fried, flipped, fried some more, until both the albumen and yolk are “hard”.

POACHED – This is an egg that has been boiled without the shell. It may have been added directly to the boiling water, or with the use of a ramekin. The albumen is cooked while the yolk remains runny. Poached eggs are usually offered as part of Eggs Benedict.

SOFT BOILED – The albumen is partially cooked, with the yolk warm and runny. This is also known as a “six-minute” egg.

HARD BOILED –  The albumen and yolk are both solidified.

SHIRRED or BAKED – This refers to an egg that has been cracked and baked in a flat-bottomed pan, or added on top of a dish.

 

Hopefully this will help anyone who is unfamiliar with the wide range of how eggs are prepared, whether ordering breakfast or reading descriptions on a menu.

— Ann Cathey

 

Mighty Fine Burgers – Austin, TX

We’re doing a repeat this week. It’s been three years since we first visited a Mighty Fine Burgers location, and we figured it might be time to go back and check up on them.

With five Austin locations, now, it’s not hard to “Keep Austin Mighty” by visiting this place when in town. We’ve only been to the University Oaks location, but it has been consistent every time, over a period of several years. that counts for a lot in our dining considerations.

There are three dining areas at this location – indoors, indoor patio, or outdoor patio (dog friendly). The indoor areas are filled with long trestle tables, benches and chairs, family style. The outdoor patio has picnic tables with umbrellas, presided over by a monstrous spreading oak. There’s also a play area for the kids beneath that ancient tree.

A refresher on the simplicity of the menu:

Not counting the kids’ menu, the burgers only come in two patty sizes – 1/2 pound and 1/4 pound. You may, of course, double up, but that’s up to you and your stomach. There’s also a crispy chicken breast available to grace your bun if you prefer.

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Half Pound Cheeseburger

Burgers are alternately available on a gluten free bun for a dollar more, or in a bowl without a bun at all at no extra charge. The place can get a bit noisy around the lunch and dinner rush times, so be sure they hear you if you ask for these options.

Burgers or chicken come with your choice of shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced onion, crinkle cut dill pickles, and grilled onions. Condiments are known simply as Red (ketchup), Yeller (mustard), or White (mayo) so don’t get confused when the person taking your order uses those terms. For a little extra you can have cheese, jalapenos, bacon, chili, or avocado added.

They offer crinkle cut fries and light and crispy onion rings deep fried in 100% trans-fat free peanut oil. Either may be ordered with cheese or chili.

 

DSC_0476Hand-dipped shakes come in the standard vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. The lemonade is fresh squeezed on site either original or strawberry. Specialty bottled sodas and beer are available. Fountain drinks and tea have unlimited refills, and depending on what you order you may need them.

 

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Half Pound Chili Cheeseburger with extra pickles.

Don’t forget the napkins. Lots of napkins.

If you are wanting some nutritional information, I suggest checking it out after you’ve tasted their food. A PDF containing the relevant statistics is available online.

About those pickles? My money is on them being the fat cut kosher dills from the Mt. Olive line.

On the 1-5 scale, Mighty Fine gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5
Mighty Fine Burgers
201 University Oaks Blvd
Suite 1380
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 381-3310

–Ann Cathey

Coconut Rice

Rice is a staple in many people’s diets, but it doesn’t have to be the same over and over. One of the delicious variations for either white or brown rice is coconut.

There’s nothing mysterious about making coconut rice. It’s a delicately flavored side that accentuates most Oriental foods with a subtle sweetness and aroma.

Simply substitue one 15oz can of coconut milk for part of the water as you are making rice. Note that a cup of fluid is 8 ounces, and the canned product comes in just under two full cup measures.

Coconut milk is thicker than water and more difficult for the rice to absorb. Be sure to add an extra quarter cup of water to the pot.

I have found that using the full can works extremely well when making up 2 cups of dry rice. Anything smaller batch and the coconut becomes overwhelming and the rice doesn’t cook up as well.

Coconut rice is a sticky rice rather than a fluffy one. Be prepared for this result.

Add coconut rice to your favorite Oriental dishes, Jamaican jerk, Hawaiian dishes, and anywhere else you would like a little bit of coconut flavor to accentuate your meal.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey