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Mmmmm, mmmm, GOOD!!

Mmmmm, mmmm, GOOD!!

Good evening, Dear Readers:

You know, sometimes we get ideas that seem like they’ll work, until we try them. Sometimes those ideas stay in our heads for years before we finally get around to trying them.

Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. But you never know until you try, right?

Take my favorite coffee flavor, Chocolate Raspberry. I had the idea to make cappuccino and flavor it with chocolate and raspberry. It was gonna be great!

Well, I tried it this morning. . .it was OK. Nothing special. The espresso overpowers the flavors, at least, these two. It works out well with the hazelnut flavoring, though. Maybe I’ll give it some more thought.

Anyway. . . .

Well, I had to do it. Tonight I made some of that delicious Fall Broccoli Salad I told you about, via The Texas Pioneer Woman.

Since I live in a Houston suburb and not on a working farm (yet), I went to Target to get the ingredients. That’s OK, they had everything I didn’t.

Holy Shish Kebab.

Oh, yes, oh, yes, oh, yes!

Oh, yes, oh, yes, oh, yes!

Now, I hope Janette (aka The Texas Pioneer Woman) doesn’t mind, but I made it just slightly different. Partly because I forgot to put a little onion in it. But I’m getting tired, so I forgot. I was going to “do it later,” but you know how that goes.

The other thing I changed was the dressing. I did use the vegan egg-free mayo I wrote about last week, primarily because it tastes like the real thing. (I taste-tested it first with the end of a spoon, of course.) I just didn’t feel like making my own mayo, so I used the Just Mayo. Of course, it’s an 8 ounce bottle, and the dressing takes half a cup. I won’t use the rest of it quite so fast.

I also used Bragg’s apple cider vinegar instead of the white vinegar, (not quite as sharp) and instead of white sugar, you know I used. . .Somersweet.

Now I did have to cook up some bacon, so I did the easy way–in the toaster oven. On a cooling rack in a baking sheet, 400 degrees, and watch it, because it can burn pretty quickly and then you have to start over. I had to cook the bacon in two batches, though.

A side note: if you’re thinking about getting a countertop (aka toaster) oven, let me put this bug in your ear: 110v vs 220v. If you’re going to do what I do with it, make sure you get one that’s big enough to roast a chicken in and has a nice sized broiler pan. Don’t get one that doesn’t do more than toast bread and Pop-Tarts.

Anyway.

After I chopped all the broccoli and washed it, I left the colander in the sink to drain a bit more. I mixed up the sliced almonds and raisins in the big mixing bowl, then mixed the dressing. Once the bacon started crisping, I took it out, let it cool, then crumbled it all up in to the almonds and raisins. When the bacon was all done and crumbled in, I dumped that into the dressing bowl and mixed it up with a spatula. Then I shook out the broccoli one more time to get out as much water as I could, added it to the big bowl, then dumped the dressing mixture into the broccoli,, and started mixing some more.

I’ll try it once with the onion, maybe some green onions from the back patio, but I’m tellin’ ya, this was WAY TOO GOOD!!

I texted Neighbor K to see if she’d like some for lunch tomorrow, but she didn’t answer, so I’m guessing she’s already hit the sack. I packed it up in containers and stuck it in the fridge. When she reads this she will secretly be mad that she missed out on a healthy salad with bacon in it. But this weekend, Neighbor K will have the recipe to make it for that big, tall boyfriend of hers, and maybe even give a little to Daft Pug.

This weekend would be a good one to make this salad for family and friends, or if you’re like me, just yourself. But go try it, because it’s pretty easy and the flavor is well worth the bacon cooking.

I wonder if the Gomez Family Farm hosts vacationers and wanna-be cowboys. If I ever have the chance, I’m going to go on a vacation somewhere that I can do that. But don’t look for me to attend rodeos, OK? I’d rather go see Def Leppard or find myself at a jazz concert.

Make some of this salad this weekend for you and yours. It’s delish, whatever you sweeten it with.

Happy Dining!

 

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Fall Broccoli Salad

Good morning, Dear Readers:

With the early fall weather we’re having, I thought you might enjoy a post from The Texas Pioneer Woman, who published this delicious recipe just this morning.

Now if you’ve ever been to Sweet Tomatoes, they serve a broccoli mix called “Joan’s Broccoli Madness.” Oh, it’s SO GOOD!! But I never think of how to go about making it in my own kitchen.

Thanks, Janette!

You can read more about Janette Gomez, The Texas Pioneer Woman, here. I don’t know exactly where in Texas she lives, but I’m so glad we can claim her as our own.

Happy Wednesday!!

 

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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HeatCageKitchen Sunday

Hello, Dear Readers:

Sorry it’s been so long; I get a topic in mind and have something else I gotta do.

Would you be interested in HeatCageKitchen videos? I’ve set up a YouTube channel for it, and have a video up now of Jezebel eating hot wings. More on that later. You can see the video here. I just added it to have something there; it’s 7 seconds long. Keep reading for more on how I came to share hot wings with the cat.

Let me know what you think about seeing HeatCageKitchen videos:

 

While I’m off doing the copywriting side of my life (nothing great to report yet), I’m also giving consideration to important issues of the day for foodies.

Why are hot dogs sold in packets of 8, but hot dog buns are sold in bags of 10?

A quick update on the garden: I’ve made pesto! Three of the cut stems are re-growing basil leaves, so there is the possibility of one more pesto batch before it goes south, but we’ll see.

Nearly three feet high!

Nearly three feet high!

Washing them before drying in the salad spinner

Washing them before drying in the salad spinner

Ahhh. . . .pesto.

Ahhh. . . .pesto.

I think I'm set for a while.

I think I’m set for a while.

And you’ll notice that I finally realized that small, square containers are a better idea in a small freezer. If there’s more basil, I’ll buy one more to make that last batch.

The four Meyer lemons are huge, and two are still turning yellow VERY slowly. After I picked the bell pepper, I found another one growing. I’m still waiting to see more of the Hatch/Anaheim chile peppers, but nothing yet.

Meyer lemon, slowly ripening. I can't wait!!

Meyer lemon, slowly ripening. I can’t wait!!

My new little green bell pepper. Isn't it cute? It's growing up so fast.

My new little green bell pepper. Isn’t it cute? It’s growing up so fast.

I used the one Hatch/Anaheim chile pepper along with the bell pepper in Eggs from Hell, out of The Yachting Cookbook I mentioned in the last post, since I used up all the cans of chiles I had. Shouldn’t have used two cans the first time; but I’ll get more one day. I like them canned chiles, they’re convenient.

Last weekend I headed to my local HEB for a supply run, and while walking in, was treated to the delicious smell of something being cooked by the door. As I made my way through the produce area and beyond, I was greeted in the Deli by a nice lady named Phyllis who asked me if I’d like to try one of their Tabasco Hot Wings–with a $2 coupon. I asked, as usual, “what’s in them?” She said that they were not battered, just marinated in Tabasco and quickly fried. I read the ingredient list and didn’t see anything “offensive” in the small type. I couldn’t resist one, and fell in love with them. I got the rest of my stuff and went back to the Deli, where Phyllis was handing out samples and wine as well I passed on the wine but was able to talk her into a second sample. I did tell her that I would eat them while driving, but since I drive a stick, that’s not practical. But when I got them home, I put them on a small baking sheet and turned on the toaster oven at 200F to keep them hot, then dealt with the rest of the shopping.

It’s a regular Sunday item through football season, but if you’re like me, you’ll think, who cares? I’m not dissing football, but I’m not someone who watches it all the time. I’d rather sew. . .and I’ll be working on quilts one of these days, too, hopefully using up most of the fabric pieces I’ve been hanging onto all these years. The little projects like the coffee cup cozies are just not using them up fast enough. (I think I finished someone’s Christmas present Saturday night, but don’t quote me on it.) So on a Sunday, if the Saints are in the Superbowl again, I’ll watch it, but otherwise, I’m not all that up for it.

Unless he’s handsome and a good kisser, of course.

After everything was put away, I turned my attention to the hot wings. Hot from the oven, but not burning hot from the Tabasco, I dove in. And then there was a little furry presence at my feet. . .oh, she’s so cute, so I shared some of my Tabasco Hot Wings.

That was a mistake. She went bonkers for it, and demanded more!

In the end she and I both happily had a belly full of chicken and enjoyed the heck out of it. Now she thinks anything I do on the counter, from making coffee to washing dishes, means there’s food she should be having.

I’ve had a rough weekend, and today I decided to go back to HEB for more of them hot wings. And there they were, at the front door, cooking them up, complete with a $2 coupon. Hot dawg! I picked up the one with the most in it and went inside to get the rest of my stuff.

I saw Phyllis, she was handing out ice cream samples today; the people offering hot wings weren’t as friendly as she was. I passed on the artificially flavored banana nut for the vanilla. It was just a small scoop, but she did offer to top it off with WINE. Peach Moscato, to be exact. No kidding, that was one of the demos today. If I wasn’t driving, I would have. Twice.

HEB was busy today, what with all those folks buying hot wings, so I ducked into the “15-items-or-less” line. Well, I had less than 15 items, so I indulged myself. During the transaction, I happened to look at the label again, and in the teeny-tiny print, right before my cashier Kylee ripped off the coupon, I saw the words I did NOT want to see.

Wheat flour.

AAAHHHHH!!!!!  Oh, @#$%!

I was at the point where not buying them would make me a big pain in the butt, so paid for everything and took them home for the last time. Yes, they tasted REALLY good, and Jezebel again was getting up in my grill to get some, hence the video.

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Ch-ch-ch-CHIA!

Ch-ch-ch-CHIA!

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Sorry it’s been so long since I wrote. My other website is up and running, and I’m overdue to write another blog post for that one. The focus is technology, not cooking, so it’s a little more work, ’cause I gotta READ, not write off-the-cuff like I do here. I do research for this blog too, but I know more about cooking and baking than I do about Big Data and Cloud Computing. But hey–cooking and technology are important, and frequently they overlap.

Especially when I get a new catalog from Sur la Table. If you don’t want to see really expensive and complicated coffee machines, don’t click on that link.

I have some updates on the garden to share soon, but I definitely need to get out there and weed some more before I show you any pictures. The second Anaheim chile pepper was used Sunday for this delicious dish, and the Meyer lemons are starting to turn yellow. JUST starting, like limes, but it might be a month before harvest time.

The other day I put one of my cookbooks back and I saw a book given to me by a guy I used to date. He lived on a boat, and he had to say goodbye one day, but I did find out that boat sank during Hurricane Ike in 2008 and he’s a land-lubber now. No, I don’t want to see him again, but he did give me a copy of The Yachting Cookbook. No kidding. It’s out of print, but Amazon still has copies from individuals for sale. All 14 reviews are 5-star, and everyone raves about how great the recipes are–both in simplicity and taste.

I’ve never used it. I’ve thought about it, though.

After flipping through it again this weekend, I found one recipe I’m going to try soon–Eggs in Hell on page 141. Supposed to be good for folks after a night of overindulging. Also included are tips, like the one on the same page:

“While cruising, the traditional way to thank your host is by picking up the tab for dinner ashore one night.”

Helpful stuff like that. I’ll let you know if I try it.

And for those of you who want the latest and greatest healthy cookbooks, here you go:

Let's get excited about. . .kale. . . .

Let’s get excited about. . .kale. . . .

Kale’s OK, but no, I can’t get excited about it. But if you are just wild about kale, go get the book and get cooking. I have been trolling through Barnes & Noble occasionally, and just found it recently. Maybe I need a life.

These days I wonder what my late Grandmother O’Donnell would think about all the stuff available in American grocery stores. She passed away in February 2005, six months before Hurricane Katrina wiped out her house (it was long ago sold.) My grandmother took me to the grocery when I was little, like 4-5-6, and that’s how I learned to grocery shop (because Moms know grocery stores are the worst place to take kids.)  Yes, these were the halcyon days of Suzy Homemaker and the Easy-Bake Oven.

Like quinoa, chia seeds are one of those things we didn’t have at Schweggmann’s or Winn-Dixie, and I’m not sure anyone would have known what to do with them anyway. But I, like many of my contemporaries, remember when they introduced Chia Pets. I’ve never had one, but maybe one day I’ll get one and try it out. (No, you don’t need to send me one!)

A couple of years ago, I ordered something online that came with a sample of chia seeds, exactly one quarter cup. Did not know what to do with it, but a little clicking around found this recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding Loved it, never made it again, but I’ll make it again one day. Later, on a trip through Trader Joe’s one day I found a bag for about $4 or $5, so I got some, even though I didn’t know what I was going to do with them.

I’ve since found them in Kroger for a better price.

Kroger's brand of chia seeds. Bigger bag for less money.

Kroger’s brand of chia seeds. Bigger bag for less money.

And then Giada de Laurentiis’ new book came out, and I found another use for chia seeds. I made some of the Chia Seed Pudding on page 29, and happened to have most of the ingredients handy and gave it a try.

Giada's Chia Seed Pudding

Giada’s Chia Seed Pudding

Because I had such long days, I took this to work and had half of it about 10:00 am, and the rest about 4:30 pm. It was pretty good, too. However, keep reading. . . .

Chia seeds are kinda funny–they’re little bitty, but leave them in liquid for a while and they plump up and make a pudding-like texture. (If you put them in a smoothie and don’t consume the smoothie right away, I think you can guess what will happen to the texture your smoothie.) However, chia seeds are very nutritious, and can also do a stand-in for other thickeners in some things. They’re also filling with lots of fiber–but no phytoestrogen like the celebrated flax seeds, which are touted as helpful to menopausal women, but can actually mess with or mess up your hormones.

Lucky me, I had all the ingredients on hand, but used agave syrup with a little maple extract in it instead of the maple syrup. And so I made it regularly. Delicious!

Now, because I was working in an office with people who loved cupcakes, cakes, sandwiches and pizza, I had a tough time leaving it alone and eating clean, and I fell off the wagon a couple of times. But this was a healthy new treat, and I so enjoyed it daily.

I bought my usual frozen fruit that I was buying for smoothies and added that on top. Looks good, doesn’t it?

Amy's version of Giada's Chia Pudding

Amy’s version of Giada’s Chia Pudding, with a cherry on top.

It didn’t look this good when I took it to work, but it sure was tasty.

And then one day I thought my appendix had ruptured. My gut was killing me, and I was a couple of days away from going to the emergency room for an X-ray and possibly surgery. Just what I needed. I backed off eating the pudding, and go back to smoothies. . .and the pain went away.

Remember that chia seeds swell up, and have LOTS of fiber in them. And I guess after a few days, they swell more and more. Smoothies don’t do that.

You can find a different recipe for Vanilla Chia Pudding at Martha Stewart’s website, but here’s the recipe from Giada’s book. You make stir it up the night before (no cooking!) and it’s ready in the morning–just top with fruit and slivered almonds and you’re ready to eat.

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Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients:

1 cup vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk

1 cup low-fat (2%) Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (preferably grade B, plus 4 teaspoons for serving (Amy’s substitution: 2 Tbsp agave syrup and 1/4 tsp maple extract, mixed)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup chia seeds

1 pint strawberries, hulled and diced

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (NOTE: in a single layer on a baking sheet, bake in a preheated 350F oven until lightly toasted, 6 to 8 minutes,and let cool completely before using)

In a medium bowl, gently whisk the almond milk, yogurt, the 2 tablespoons maple syrup, vanilla and salt until just blended. Whisk in the chia seeds. Let stand for 30 minutes. Stir to distribute the seeds if they’ve settled. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, in a medium bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 4 teaspoons maple syrup. Mix in the almonds.

Spoon the pudding into 4 bowls or stemmed pudding glasses, mound the berry mixture on top, and serve.

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Enjoy!

 

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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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Hatching Time!

Hatching Time!

Hello, Dear Readers:

I got a couple of new followers from my last post on vinegar, and a great comment from blog friend Aunt Kathy. Welcome to my humble little foodie blog!

I should give you an update on the HeatCageKitchen garden: it’s growing stuff. Not much, but growing stuff. I’m going to be getting some bell peppers this year!

It's a pepper! With more on the way!

It’s a pepper! With more on the way!

No tomatoes or limes, but there are four, count ‘em, FOUR, Meyer lemons growing out there. They’re green right now, and getting bigger all the time. I was hoping for more, but four is better than nothing, right?

Two of the four anxiously awaited Meyer lemons. Pictures when they're ripe.

Two of the four anxiously awaited Meyer lemons. More pictures when they’re ripe.

My recent garden weeding did some good, but the weeds are getting back into the green onions. Long as you know which plant is which, you’re good; make sure you don’t get some weird stuff in your pesto, you know? I need to get back out there and pull more weeds out again. Darnit.

I’m tellin’ ya, green onions are so easy to grow–cut the white, rooted bottoms off the ones you get in the grocery store and stick them in some soil. They grow–just cut off what you need, don’t pull them up. The ones I’m growing have been in that same pot for 4 years. They were the big ones, but they grew back skinny. I don’t care, either. Sure, green onions (aka “scallions”) are relatively inexpensive, but when you want to make your favorite recipe that calls for them, isn’t just easier to go out to the garden and cut them for free?

Scallions. . .along with the green, green grass of home.

Scallions. . .along with the green, green grass of home. And one of my clodhopper slippers.

And one more garden picture, the surprise Anaheim chili pepper I didn’t know about until a few days ago. Woo hoo! I just went out there to water and noticed it growing. Well, it’s all green, you see. . . .

Surprise! More of these babies coming, too.

Surprise! More of these babies coming, too.

Chile peppers of all kinds are prevalent in the southwest, from the popular Jalapeno to the Serrano to the Scotch Bonnet. We love chili peppers in this part of the country. (But I do not like burning hot food, ever.) In fact, I saw some “Jalapeno Poppers” in the meat case at HEB just the other night. They’re stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. No, I’ve never had them, not interested.

If you’re not in the Southwest, you might not know what I mean when I say “Hatch Chiles.” Well, let me tell you all about it. . .March of 2012, I was on a week-long trip to Albuquerque, NM, when a man my colleague was talking with on the plane told us about the “chili sauce” that they put on everything in New Mexico. He said, “You have to watch out, because they’ll put it on ice cream if you let them!” We said goodbye to him, as he was going to get a rental car to drive to Durango, CO, which he said was easier than flying to Denver. We heeded the warning and were aware of it whenever we went to eat somewhere. And he was right, we were asked, “red or green?” in several eateries.

I’d first heard of the Hatch chile when Central Market came to Houston in 2001, when they do their annual “Hatch Chile Festival.” In other words, when the chiles are ready and come from New Mexico. Even though I’d lived in California for a couple of years, I wasn’t in LA and just never heard of them. At that point, HEB and Central Market have nearly EVERYTHING with Hatch chiles in it. Salsa, mayonnaise, bacon, tortilla chips, cheese, salad dressing, bread, burgers (beef and salmon), kabobs, and heaven only knows what else they can find a place to use them. They may have had some Hatch in the Jalapeno Poppers, too. Don’t believe me? Take a look:

IMG_0778[2]

No kidding, they sell this at both HEB and Central Market.

No kidding, they sell this at both HEB and Central Market.

Like cherries, Hatch chiles are not available for very long, so that’s why they make a big deal about it. And unless you have actually been to New Mexico, love this kind of stuff or otherwise jumped on the Tex-Mex bandwagon, you likely will say, “Meh.” You can read more on Central Market’s blog post on Hatch Chile Peppers.

Now, if I were of a mind to do so (and not on the yeast-free diet right now), I’d so make these:

Don't these look DELICIOUS?? I'll make them, one day. . .but I'll post the recipe just for you.

This is Primo Picks, a little magalog that goes out separate from the HEB sales flier, with recipes and introducing new products. Don’t these stuffed Hatch peppers look DELICIOUS?? I’ll make them, one day.

This type of chili can grow to be a good six to eight inches long, and ranges from green to red and warm to medium-hot, depending on how long it’s been on the tree or in the grocery’s produce section. This is what they looked like the other night in HEB.

The magical mystery fruit, Hatch chile peppers

The magical mystery fruit, Hatch chile peppers.

However. . .

Doing a little research, just a little, told me something I didn’t know before. I think I’ve mentioned meeting cookbook author Robb Walsh a couple of years ago at the Houston Metro Food & Entertaining Show. I bought his book, The Tex-Mex Cookbook, at the show, and asked him to autograph it. Well, of course he did!

Me with Robb Walsh, the author of The Tex-Mex Cookbook, September 2011.  (I wasn't blonde; I was using a different kind of hair color that washed out quickly.)

Me with Robb Walsh, the author of The Tex-Mex Cookbook, September 2011. (I wasn’t blonde; I was using a different kind of hair color that washed out quickly.)

I took a peek at the index, and whatddaya know, on page 7 it talks about Anaheim chile peppers. The name comes from the cannery opened in Anaheim by a farmer named Emilio Ortega who brought the pepper seeds back to his native California from New Mexico, where they thrived.

REALLY??

You’ve heard of Ortega Mexican Food, right? No kidding, the same company that produces the tortilla shells, taco sauce and canned green chiles is the company that named them “Anaheim chile peppers.” The chiles were usually preserved in glass bottles, but they were cumbersome. Emilio Ortega figured out how to use cans, and you can still buy those same canned chiles today (although the Ortega Family doesn’t own it anymore.)

How about them apples?

Now, take a look at the Hatch chile peppers again:

The magical mystery fruit, Hatch chile peppers

And get a look about 50 feet away in HEB at the Anaheim chile peppers in HEB, same night:

Look familiar?

Look familiar? Right there above the tomatillos. . . .

Yes, Dear Readers, they are the same thing. One batch is now on sale for 78 cents a pound until August 12th, the other $1.98 a pound, available year-round. (I don’t normally buy a pound at a time.) And I’ve got one growing in the HeatCageKitchen garden, too, and I hope more to come.

Well. . .it’s not exactly Watergate, but there’s something you didn’t know before. Still, it’s an industry New Mexico is proud of, and rightly so.

Now when we were in Albuquerque, one restaurant we visited called Roma’s had these on the tables:

At Roma's in downtown Albuquerque.

A reminder to buy American!

Despite suffering from altitude sickness most of the time I was there and a couple of other things that got under my skin, I can honestly say Aunt Ruth and I really enjoyed it–the conference, the people we met, and of course, the FOOD!  I would love to go back to New Mexico one day and visit for the whole week, but that’s going to be a while. I also hope to go back to Arizona one day, where I went exactly one month after returning from Albuquerque.

Now, seeing as it’s summer, I’m going to tell you WHY I like these Anaheim/Hatch peppers. Salsa. Not just any salsa, either.

Back in 1991, a couple of years after leaving California but just before I started at Tulane University, I saw a book called The Well-Filled Tortilla by Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman. Such a cool cookbook, and very California, right? Well, I borrowed it from someone who moved away and we both forgot about it. I’m sure he didn’t miss it, and I’ve still got it.

My favorite recipe from this book is Orange-Onion Salsa on page 49. I made it once and have loved it ever since. The recipe also says you can use grapefruit in place of the oranges, so I’ve made it frequently to use up the grapefruit on my Butsudan. Just a few ingredients, and you can be dipping away in no time. Heck, I just eat it with a spoon!

Orange-Onion Salsa (makes 2 generous cups)

  • 2 large navel or 3 to 4 blood or Valencia oranges OR 2 large grapefruit OR 4 small grapefruit
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1.5 tablespoons chopped Anaheim chile pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (comino)
  1. Peel the oranges (or grapefruit) and cut into 1/4-inch dice, removing any seeds as you go.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the oranges (or grapefruit), onion, chopped chile pepper, cilantro and cumin. Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate; use within one day.

That’s all for now, but next up I have some updates on gluten-free, including <cough> government regulations on gluten free anything. But most of it is good.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 
 
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