For much of the past 18 months of the COVID crisis, we’ve been staying in and ordering out, and also cooking, and cooking. Lord, we’ve been cooking. Hanging at home has lashed us to our kitchens like never before.

It could be part illusion, but one thing’s for sure, all that Thai takeout comes at a price and all that cooking takes a toll too.

So here’s an idea: Let’s order out some food that enlivens our home menu in an affordable way and takes a load off the primary home chef.

We’re talking about ordering some fresh, artisan foods — in this case, babka or tamales. Or both!

Texas is popping with babka these days. What a treat! In Austin, we’ve got a brand new babka maker in Nana Mary’s Bakeshop. Nana Mary’s (actually owner/maker Elena Pearlman) bakes up enough varieties of the traditional Jewish cake/bread that she’s offering yearly and flavor of the month babka boxes mailed to your home.

BabkaATX, based in Cedar Park, also sells home-crafted babka that you can order online and pick up either at their Cedar Park location or at the Wolf Ranch Farmers Market in Georgetown. BabkaATX offers cinnamon, chocolate, and honey-apple babkas.

Of course, you can get babka at various bakeries in Dallas and Houston and other Texas towns. Houston has a new bakeshop in Rice Village, Badolina Bakery, that promises babkas every Friday. But what we’re highlighting here are homegrown makers with order anytime online options.

Babka is such a great combination of bread and sweet fillings, it can raise your breakfast to a higher level. Scramble some eggs to go alongside it and you almost have a rounded meal. Stash some in a lunchbox and you will certainly be the most favored parent of the day.

Now, tamales. These guys can stand up any meal and what a glorious thing that is. If you’ve got some frozen tamales from Delia’s Tamales, the legendary tamale makers of the Rio Grande Valley, you’ve got lunch or dinner or breakfast! I have some personal favorites from Delia’s, but no worries, they have 18 lovely varieties on their menu.

Delia’s has six locations in the Valley and a newer location in San Antonio. Of course, their tamales are scrumptious ordered hot, but they also are sold by the frozen dozen online and mailed to your home – what we’re looking for here — providing you with a tasty stash to set back for a later meal anywhere in Texas or beyond.

Another RGV gourmet tamale maker that you may want to consider is De Alba Bakery, in McAllen and Pharr. They sell hand-crafted masa tamale creations too, in 21 flavor combinations. (Don’t look at the pictures if you’re hungry.) Having a party? De Alba’s offers large party and specialty packages of tamales. Unfortunately, their online business is currently paused. We’re hoping they get it back up.

Another tamale maker to know about is greater Austin’s Tamale Addiction. These are hand-rolled, made with organic masa and lard free, a plus for those who don’t eat meat products. Tamale Addiction offers vegan, vegetarian and meat tamales. We can attest that the Xochitl with Queso Fresco is heavenly (and the Poblano & Muenster is hella good too). We get ours at a local Austin farmer’s market but you can also order any number of their frozen oversized tamales online and pick up either at a market or at their shop in Manor, TX.

More order out treats to come.