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The Post for Neighbor K

The Post for Neighbor K

Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

I hope all is well with everyone. It’s been a busy week, but I hope everyone is well and enjoying the sunshine. Remember it wasn’t too many months ago that people were freezing even down here in the south of Texas. Now that you can feel your feet again, put them in some fresh grass or warm sand while you can.

I’ve often written about Neighbor K, who literally lives right next door to me. She has a lovable pug, while I have the GER’s somewhat aloof rescue cat. K works in one direction, and when I was last working (and where I went today downtown) we literally went in opposing directions. We talk about all kinds of stuff, compare notes, and keep each other out of trouble. K has fed Jezebel the step-kitty, and she lets me walk the lovable pug.

K is more of a serious athlete than I’ve ever been. I only recently started walking and working out again because I walked into Vitamin Shoppe a month or so ago and asked for something for pain. What they gave me, Solgar No. 7, works like a charm. Now I’m trying to exercise daily, mostly with walking and strength training; I’ve also got some yoga and Pilates DVDs that I use when I feel up to it.

K runs, jumps, swims, bikes, lifts weights, beats up engineers and finds yoga kinda boring. She can lift that 25-pound pug like a sack of flour, and pretty much anything else short of her car. That’s why I have been known to ask for help with lifting and moving stuff when I know she’s home.

Mostly she eats pretty good stuff, although I did tell her about being gluten free and all that. Now and again, I know she orders pizza. . .and more than one person has heard me ask her, “Are you feedin’ my dog pizza?” (He gets little pieces of crust–but I’ve seen him try to stare K down while she’s eating pizza.)

The other day K mentioned that she’s just trying to eat clean, which is what a lot of us strive for. Me, I generally avoid wheat, soy and mostly, sugar, as well as high-carb stuff. Mind you, there are times when you eat what’s available–and occasionally, when someone is nice enough to make me a sandwich, I just say “thank you.” (But then I avoid wheat again after that.)

So today was the first time I’ve been back downtown since February, and a few things have changed since the last time I was there. The first thing I noticed is that the Seattle’s Best Coffee shops are now called Amilie’s, at least the ones I saw. The fixtures are the same, but I didn’t stop in. I thought about it, though, but didn’t have time. I made it to the building in plenty of time, and it turned out to be the same building, but not the same company, that I visited the last time.

When I got off the bus, I passed by My Fit Foods down in the tunnel, and planned to go back there for lunch after looking at what was in their fridge cases. Then I hiked it all the way over to the other side of the tunnel, taking the yellow branch to get to the sky blue branch to get to the building. (Thankfully, I didn’t see anyone I know.)

The interview went well, I thought, and it lasted for nearly 2 hours. Nice place, nice people, but we’ll see what happens.

In that part of the tunnel, near the Allen Center, is a nice little round food court area with a number of places to eat. Another one of the newly renamed Amilie’s coffee bars, a branch of the Houston Shoe Hospital also populate this round area. But where did I end up eating lunch? I saw a place I wrote about last fall: Snap Kitchen!!

Yes, they have a little storefront next to Amilie’s, and when I got out of the interview, that’s where I got a spot of lunch. We don’t have these down in my neck of the woods, but I hope one day we do. It’s awesome takeaway designed to be healthy, clean food in disposable microwave-safe containers. There are microwaves there in the store–you can heat them up there, or eat them cold, your choice (and the heating instructions are on the package.) The two young ladies working there were so nice, and of course, I FORGOT to ask their names!

If you two are reading this, I do apologize. I was a bit flustered after the interview, and, DUH, I forgot. Y’all are very nice, and it’s appreciated.

After prowling the fridge cases for a minute and talking with them, I decided on beef–specifically, Naked Beef!

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No kidding that’s what it’s called. Yes, it was really tasty and filling:

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Cooked sugar snap peas can be mushy, and so I prefer them fresh. However, these were not mushy, and the cauliflower had a bit of scorching to it. Delicious!

Now, if I’m going to splurge on lunch, even if it’s a healthy one, I want dessert too. Get a load of this:

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Yes, you read that right: Goat. Cheese. Cheesecake.

Oh, my.

Now, you know that when you try something new, the law of probability will tell you that there are three possible outcomes: you will love it, you will hate it, or you won’t care either way. But I had to try it, just once.

Gluten free, sugar free, egg free. So far, so good.

Ya’ll, I LOVED this cheesecake! The nuts and coconut are ground up on the bottom to form the crust. Since goat cheese has a slight tartness to it, not nearly as strong as, say, feta cheese, I had to find out for myself. The cheesecake is sweet, but not overly sweet, thanks to the agave syrup. The little red things on top are pecans, in strawberry puree, I think.

All I can tell you is that this is a great little thing to try. Rich, creamy, sweet–everything you expect cheesecake to be. I don’t know if it’s baked or not, I didn’t ask; it might be closer to the “no bake” variety. Honest, it didn’t matter when I took that first bite.

Realizing that Snap Kitchen is mostly in Houston, most folks won’t have access–but really, with anything new, splitting it with friends may be the way to go to find out whether or not you’ll like it.

But no Snap Kitchen doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try something new. Look–I have friends in Australia, one born in New Orleans like I was. They’ve been all over the world more than once visiting friends and relatives. You think they haven’t tried something new? So you find something you don’t like–make a note and try something else. You might just surprise yourself–and you will find something new to enjoy.

Now–I also mentioned to these two nice ladies working there that I’d been in Snap Kitchen before, and they knew exactly where it was. I also mentioned that I write a food blog, and try very hard to be gluten free. I told them that mostly because. . .I knew what Snap Kitchen was, and also mentioned the Epic bars, which I failed to remember earlier. I did extoll the values of the Epic bars to one of the young ladies who wasn’t sure she’d like one. A bit weird to have “meat bars,” but they really are great.

After I’d thanked them for their help and tossed out the used containers, the other lady gave me one of their gluten free brownies to try–on the condition I write about it. I didn’t ask, she offered!! (I don’t ask for stuff like that, I think it’s rude; if I’m offered a politeness, then that’s different.)

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After walking nearly 3 miles this evening, I did have that delicious brownie–but it did have sugar. Of course it was good! A little different than my favorite yeast free brownies, but no less delicious. It wasn’t a big brownie like you’d get in a bakery, but they sure do pack a lot of flavor in it.

And, even before I told them I was a blogger, I was going to write about Snap Kitchen anyway–it’s one of my favorite places to grab a bite.

I texted K on the bus and told her about it, but forgot she’s never been there, and maybe she’s forgotten last year’s blog post. Heck, I forget some of them, too. So I’ve got a couple of their brochures for her for the next time she goes into town for work.

Somehow, I can’t see taking the GER into Snap Kitchen, but you know, maybe he’d like it. I don’t actually take him anyplace anymore, but if he asked, I’d probably take him. (Maybe on a leash.) But my friend LM, a college professor, drives into town to shop at Whole Foods now and again, so I wonder if I told her about Snap Kitchen. I’ll ask.

So tonight, this post is for Neighbor K and anyone else who want to “eat clean.” Here in Houston, it’s Snap Kitchen, but wherever you are, you might be able to find something similar, like MyFitFoods (we have one down here by Barnes & Noble.)

And you know what? Even if you don’t try to do the healthy food thing the way people like me and K do, I bet you’ll find something you like.

Enjoy!

 

 

Pesto and the gift of tomatoes

Pesto and the gift of tomatoes

Hola, Amigos:

My apologies for being late again. I’ve been busy and just haven’t felt like writing. Period. But WordPress nags you if you don’t, I’d better do something.

Neighbor K introduced me to HEB’s new line of gluten free pasta, and for a while, I couldn’t get enough:

IMG_0658[1]No, the cat food doesn’t figure into it.

However, it’s corn and rice flour that makes this pasta, so it’s high on the carb scale. I think I bought it three times, but I had to quit. It’s not the $1.99 price tag, though–I kept eating it!

Let me give you a bit of background: back in the day (about 1991-1994) I used to walk six miles a day. After the walk, I would eat one of two things: frozen veg with some butter and salt, or boiled pasta with (ugh) Diet Parkay margarine and a small amount of Parmesan cheese. Because, after all, pasta is “healthy,” right? It’s no healthier now than it was, but nobody knew that yet. I would get one of two reactions: with the veg, I had a great evening, but with the pasta, I would fall asleep. It took forever to figure out it was the pasta putting me to sleep for 15 hours, so I cut way back on it.

With the gluten-free pasta, I cooked one cup, added real butter and about the same amount of cheese. I got the same delicious taste without the sudden drowsiness. However. . .I couldn’t stop eating it! So I stopped buying it. Maybe in a few months or so, but not for a while.

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Yesterday was Pesto Saturday!  The basil got to close to three feet high, so it was definitely time for harvesting and pesto making.

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After I picked them (and picked through them) I rinsed them and put them through the salad spinner. You don’t want WATER in your pesto, do you?

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One of the best parts of pesto: pine nuts. NOTE: do not eat any of the toasted pine nuts, or you will not be able to stop eating them. Trust me on this.

Pine Nuts. Legally addicting.

Legally addicting pignoli.

These burn VERY easily, so let me tell you how I keep that from happening–I put them in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for five minutes, and keep an eye on them. When they start turning brown, turn the oven off, then carefully pour them into a COLD container, like this bowl. You know, one you just took out of the cabinet, not necessarily refrigerated. Why? If you leave them in the baking pan, the cooking process continues and they’ll burn. By dumping them into a cold bowl, you stop the cooking process and they’re perfectly toasted.

Make sure you keep the rest of them sealed in the FREEZER, or else they’ll go bad–quickly.

Once I had all the components ready, I just put the parts together.

Blend it!!

Blend it!!

When it’s done, this is what you get.

Pesto!

Pesto!

You can find a good pesto recipe here at Food Network’s site, and it’s virtually the same as the one I got out of one of Giada de Laurentiis’ books. I add Parmesan cheese to mine, although that recipe says Pecorino. Really, with either one, you can’t go wrong.

If the plants will grow back and produce that much again in a few months, I could have at least one more batch of pesto to freeze for the winter. And that will be a good thing.

That, and finding SQUARE containers to freeze them in. The round containers I’ve been using take up too much room.

And why make so much pesto? You already know why–and I made some this week, too.

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Now here comes the part where I write about the infamous ex-boyfriend known as the GER. He loves it when I write about him.

You know the old saying, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth?”

Last time, I told you about the gifted tomatoes the GER gave me. He said he didn’t get a whole lot this year, but he did give me two nice ones. Take a look:

GER tomatoes

Now, because I know a bit about this, I left them on the stove for a week, so they could ripen a bit more. Ripen they did. When I cut them open, this is what they looked like:

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Not especially large, mind you, but, if you’ve ever been given the gift of tomatoes, you know why they are markedly different from the ones you buy at the grocery. Size really doesn’t matter once you taste one.  If you just slice them and eat them, all you need is a light sprinkling of fine sea salt. Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing would be a crime.

I also clipped what was growing in the lettuce pot. You know what they call “bitter greens?” That, unfortunately, was the only part of the “greens mix” that actually grew, plus some kind of parsley look-alike. Darnit. In order to actually consume this without gagging, I stopped at HEB and got a head of good old iceberg lettuce and made my own “greens mix,” which also included a few chopped up mint leaves and some of the flat-leaf Italian parsley that grows back there. That was quite a harvest, and what was it became was pretty darn good:

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The closest thing I could call a recipe would be one head of iceberg lettuce, a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, some chopped bitter greens, and a few–like, 5–chopped mint leaves. Don’t add more mint or that’s all you’ll taste. Much as I like mint, I know it’s not THAT enjoyable.

With two judiciously sliced fresh garden tomatoes from the GER, it became. . .salad.

Salad!

A little olive oil and salt was all that was needed. I emphasize LITTLE.

And it was SO GOOD.

Summer’s here, please stay cool and enjoy what there is to enjoy.

Happy dining!

 

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I scream, you scream. . .

I scream, you scream. . .

Happy Friday, Dear Readers:

I’ve got a few things to tell you about before the ice cream. . .but it’s worth the wait. I bought a different brand of melatonin, and it for whatever reason, I couldn’t sleep. For a week. I’m finally taking the correct brand, and I’ll sleep like a big kitty now. (Until I have to buy more.) That’s why I’m late writing this–I’ve been half-awake and half-asleep all week. Ugh.

Speaking of the feline species, how about a cat sandwich? I have a brother who likes to say:

“Cat–the *other* white meat.”

“Cat–it’s what’s for dinner.”

Don’t panic–Jezebel and all the other kitties are safe. I found this on Facebook, (HuffPo also has a short article) and it’s just too cute not to pass on.

Cat sandwich. Perfectly normal, right?

Cat sandwich. Perfectly normal, right?

Hope I didn’t scare anybody! I might try to make one of these one day, or at least buy one. I think it’s cute. They’re sold by Amazon Japan, but right now are out of stock. I only found one book on sewing cat beds on the American Amazon site, but it’s a Kindle book. I guess sewing cat beds aren’t the hot thing just yet. Jezebel’s bed needs a softer cover–she doesn’t like the heavy duck I used, so one day I’ll get a yard of something soft and furry to cover it with.

Ok, no more sewing news.

The HeatCageKitchen garden is doing great, despite the weeds, which is one of my to-do projects for the 3-day 4th of July weekend. In addition to weird little frankenberries in the hanging basket, there is a thicket of lettuce growing in one of the pots, and will soon be teamed with a couple of beautiful gifted tomatoes from the GER’s garden soon for a. . .salad. There is also one Anaheim chili pepper growing, and it seems to double in size overnight. There will be more coming later, but for now, it’s my first.

Anaheim chili pepper. You've seen these, right?

Anaheim chili pepper. You’ve seen these, right?

What do you DO with this? Well. . .you’ve probably seen them in your local grocery store, but the only recipe I have for them is a grapefruit salsa, which I’ve been making for 20 years. I love it. I’ll post that recipe when I make it, so you can see it. I make it when I take those grapefruit off my Buddhist altar, if I don’t just eat them outright or make something else with them.

No tomato flowers yet, but I hope to see them soon. That plant survived an unusually harsh and long winter, but it seems to be doing fine. No other tomato plant survived anything. But the basil is doing well and growing fast, so I should be able to start making some pesto soon. Maybe if the tomato plant does well, I can cobble up some caprese salad, too. I’ll keep you posted.

The infamous GER also called me on Monday telling me to come get some fish he’d caught. He went fishing had more than he could deal with, and I was afraid it would fill an ice chest. It was a good amount, but not too much. He says it’s “Red Drum,” but I have no idea what that is. No matter–he’d filleted it nicely, and I know it was fresh because I bit on a fish scale when I was eating some. No complaints.

When I saw the size of these fillets, the first thought that came to mind was “River Monsters.” But a little olive oil, salt and a sprinkle of my favorite Cajun Land Creole Seasoning with Green Onions, baked for about 15 minutes (if not less) and it’s delicious.

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No, the cat food has nothing to do with it.

Thanks again, GER.

Now onto the ice cream.

Remember the blueberries the GER brought last week? I made ice cream last Sunday!  (Yes, it’s gluten free, ha, ha, ha.) I still have some, since it only requires 1.5 cups of blueberries.  Instead of sugar, I used SomerSweet, and that’s my recommendation for sugar-free; the original recipe calls for sugar. Should you decide to make this recipe, what you use to sweeten it is entirely up to you.

I do recommend everything else the same as in the recipe, and not using, say, fat-free cream cheese or skim milk instead of the regular stuff. If you do, I cannot guarantee the outcome. (Read: you’re on your own.)

Ready?

The finished product. But it's a long journey to the end product. . .keep reading.

The finished product. Yes, it’s even better than it looks.

There is a story as to how I got to this point. Hop in and I’ll tell you all about it on the way. . . .

First, of course, you prep your ice cream maker. In my case, it involves freezing the big bowl thingy for 24 hours. Once that’s done, you assemble everything else.

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Homemade creme fraiche and homemade vanilla extract

You mix up the creme fraiche, cream cheese and 3/4 cup of the sugar/sweetener:

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The add the eggs and vanilla:

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Time to heat the milk and cream–carefully, or you’ll have a huge, stinky, difficult-to-clean mess on your hands.

Don't let this mixture boil--you only want it to warm up and steam, about three minutes.

Don’t let this mixture boil–you only want it to warm up and steam, about three minutes.

When it’s warm, you add part of it to the cream cheese mixture, then put the whole business back on the stove and cook it until it’s thick. Again, do not let it boil. When that’s done, turn off the heat and set up your bowl in the ice bath, then use the strainer. (Obviously I’ve done some prep work, and got the ice bath ready before I started.)

Straining the mixture, giving it a finer texture.

Straining the mixture, giving it a smoother texture.

As you can see, a little bit of lumpiness remains, but not a lot. You could skip this step, but. . well, that’s up to you. When done, let it cool in the ice bath for a bit–but don’t drop water in it on the way out.

Delicious, but not yet. Gotta wait.

Delicious, but not yet. Gotta wait.

While this cools, get on with the berries. Toss 1.5 cups in a pan with 2 tablespoons sugar/sweetener:

Blueberries and SomerSweet. Delicious on their own, but stay with me.

Blueberries and SomerSweet. Delicious on their own, but stay with me.

Cook them up, and mash half of them up while they cook, and until the blue stuff becomes thick and syrupy.

Cooking the blueberries

Cooking the blueberries

Here’s where I differ a little from the recipe–when the ice cream mixture is cooled down, and you’re ready to add it to the ice cream maker, remove the bowl from the ice water bath, dry off the bottom of the bowl, add it to the ice cream maker and turn it on. Turn your attention to the blueberries–add them into a separate bowl, put the bowl into the ice water bath, balancing it so that water doesn’t seep in, and let it cool.

Chill the blueberries now, while the ice cream is freezing.

Chill the blueberries now, while the ice cream is freezing.

At this point, you’ve got the ice cream in the ice cream maker, it’s plugged in, turned on, and doing what it does best.

Ice cream in the ice cream maker, getting frozen. YUM.

Ice cream in the ice cream maker, getting frozen. YUM.

It’s coming together now. Are you with me? Yes, it’s very much worth the trouble.

Once the ice cream is a nice, stiff, frozen consistency,

Ice cream!!

Ice cream!!

Take out half, and add it to your low-sided container, then add half the cooked blueberries on top:

The bottom half, or part 1

The bottom half, or part 1

Repeat with the second half of the ice cream, and the remaining cooked blueberries.

Done!

Done! (Yes, I know, it looks like a big mess. It’s not.)

At this point you cover it and freeze it until. . .it’s hard. I put a layer of plastic wrap on top, and put the container’s top on it, then froze it.

And that, Dear Readers, is how you get to this point.

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A lot of trouble, yes, but this ice cream is really, really, really good, and worth the trouble.

I actually haven’t eaten any yet, because, well, I’m waiting for the GER to come by and have some. Unfortunately, he had a ROOT CANAL this week, so he’s not been up to doing much, poor thing. But it’s frozen, so I can wait a while, or maybe make more later.

What happened after that?

I made too much creme fraiche, so the remainder became chocolate creme fraiche:

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So did the remaining cream cheese. But it looks the same as the creme fraiche, so I’m not going to bother you with a picture of that one. Just toss a few things together and whip up with your hand mixer.

I don’t even know how many times I ran the dishwasher last weekend. I just re-washed the ice cream maker’s insert and moved on to the next one. This is what some of us call FUN.

I’ve also made, since then, Cinnamon Ice Cream and Coffee Ice Cream from my favorite book, and to use up the egg whites from the Cinnamon Ice Cream, I’ll make some grapefruit sorbet soon.

It’s that time of the year–make some ice cream!! This one is a bit more troublesome, but very delicious. Recipes abound online and in books and magazines, so find one that looks good to you and go for it. And if you have an ice cream maker–what are you waiting for?

Enjoy!

 

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2014 in Desserts, Fruit, Special Occasions

 

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Raspberry Mousse Brownies

Heat Cage Kitchen:

Good morning, Dear Readers:

A quick re blog from another blogger who liked last night’s post.

It’s Chocolate and raspberry, my favorite everything.

It is NOT gluten free. But I almost don’t care. And I bet with a little thought, it could be.

Enjoy!

Originally posted on foodlikecake:

Another raspberry chocolate recipe! Yay! Imagine a rich, fudgy, dark chocolate brownie topped with light, fluffy raspberry mousse. These raspberry mousse brownies taste as great as they sound. Even though they consist of two parts, the hardest thing to do is pushing the raspberries through a sieve to get the seeds out. These brownies are so pretty anyone will love them. The coolest part is that the raspberry mousse darkens in color over the days, so if I took a picture now they would be dark, dark, pink.

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Ingredients: Brownies (adapted from here)

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons natural sweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, cold

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Raspberry Mousse (from here)

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 ounce powdered gelatin

3 cups raspberries

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2…

View original 344 more words

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2014 in Desserts, Fast & Easy, Fruit

 

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Blue Monday

Blue Monday

Happy Monday, Dear Readers!

Well, a lot has happened since my last post.

I’m sure you’ve heard that legendary radio man Casey Kasem passed away early Sunday morning after a long illness. Like a lot of people, I spent a lot of my teenage years listening for his weekend broadcasts. If you like iHeartRadio, you can listen to rebroadcasts of his “classic” shows from the 1970s and 1980s. How do I know? Well, I’m listening to it, of course, and enjoying many of them. I think I started listening about 1975 or 1976, stopped in the mid-80’s and lost track of it all. He’ll live on in a lot of ways.

Are you watching the World Cup? Me either. You’ll find out which one of your friends went to Europe for a summer. I mean, really–it’s a bunch of grown men strolling around kicking a round ball on the grass. I suppose it’s exciting, if you’re 8. The score is frequently ZERO. It’s soccer, not real American football, which involves body padding, serious injuries, mobile blood transfusions and a lot of caffeine. The NFL doesn’t have to produce 3 weeks of programming before the Super Bowl just to get people to watch it. At least there’s no loud, obnoxious horn in Brazil that will find its way out like the last time. We hope.

Last week, I got a very nice note from Kraig (not “Craig,” oops) Barron of Deep South Blenders with thanks for a nice write up last week on their Cajun Seasoning. I like the stuff, and of course, I wasn’t going to say anything bad–why would I? Kraig was awfully nice to talk to me about it, too. They are working to making more of their products available in the much larger Houston market, so. . .if you want to try it, go buy some! You’ll love it, especially if you’re having a crab boil.

This weekend I did some sewing, too, including a small birthday present for Neighbor K (who should have found it by now on the breakfast bar; I left it there after walking the Pug.)  I didn’t take pictures of it, but I did take some of the cable cozy I made with a fat quarter and some stitched-up pieces of leftover linen. You know you need one, right?

Neat, huh? Holds cables and cords in a neat little package.

Neat, huh? Holds cables and cords in a neat little package.

Nicely kept in one place, neat and tidy.

The linen has seams because it wasn’t cut from yardage–I literally stitched stuff up, just to use it up. I offered it to the GER, but he passed. He said it would get messed up, but I suspect it was more like he has more cords and cables than he knows what to do with. He’s a guy.

Anyway. . .

The GER had an adventure with one of his friends yesterday–they went north of Conroe to go berry picking. Two manly men picked and indeterminate number of blueberries. AND–I was gifted with a big bag of them myself. I LOVE berries, and these were literally freshly picked. He said he got up at 4:30 and DROVE up to the country. That has to be at least a 2 hour ride from his house, even very early on Sunday morning. He said it was way up in the country, where it was absolutely beautiful.

That’s when I started dreaming about a country place again. Oh, yeah. I got the new issue of Urban Farm magazine today, too. Well, anyway. . . .

The GER said they ate more than they picked, and I can believe that. He was given strict instructions by the husband-and-wife farmers not to wash them until you’re ready to use them, even if you’re freezing them. Seriously. I did as instructed, and froze them as Martha Stewart would tell you to do–in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Delicious sapphire blue farm jewels

Delicious sapphire blue farm jewels

I had to do it in shifts, since I have a small freezer. That’s OK. Of course, I had to pick all the stems and unripe ones out of the batch–but do you think I minded doing that? No way. I did find an itsy-bitsy spider in the last batch, but I figured he’d come all the way down to my place, he deserved to be shown a good time. So he took a free tour of the city.

If you just toss them into a bag, they will crush under their own weight and you’ll end up with a big, blue frozen mess. How do I know? I’ve done it–how else?

This is part of what I removed:

This is what didn't go into the freezer.

This is what didn’t go into the freezer. No, not the cat food.

Oh, yeah, that little roundish plastic thingy is what holds my iPhone while I’m in the kitchen. I was listening to an American Top 40 broadcast on iHeartRadio. Except when I was taking pictures.

So, it took a little while, but they all ended up in the freezer. Well, what was left after I was washing and eating handfuls of them. Oh, they were so good.

Remember that when you buy them in the grocery store, they’ve likely been trucked anywhere from 100 to 10,000 miles, depending on their venue of origin. Here in Texas, it’s likely less than 100 miles, especially in the summer time. But come winter, those berries may have come from Mexico, Chile, and other countries on the other side of the equator. (I once saw pomegranates in July, and of course, they weren’t grown in California.)

While the first batch froze, I picked apart the second, and that’s when I found the spider. I also wondered what the heck I was going to do with these, but it didn’t take much thought.

I want some ice cream. Seriously. Specifically, home made ice cream, and I know which one. Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake Ice Cream. More on that later.

I got them all packed up and stuck in a little corner of the door.

Ok, admittedly, this is what was LEFT of them. I couldn't stop eating them, either.

OK, admittedly, this is what was LEFT of them. I couldn’t stop eating them, either.

Remember all those I picked out, the unripe and imperfect ones I took out of the freezer batch? I didn’t toss them. I figure, they’ll ripen eventually, right? So far, so good.

The ones left behind. I'll eat them as they ripen. Happily.

The ones left behind. I’ve been eating them as they ripen. Happily.

You can Google up a recipe for it, but I’m going to give you THE only recipe you need for this ice cream, just in time for July 4th. And it comes from. . .the July-August issue of Martha Stewart Living. See why I keep them?

Now you’re probably thinking, “I can just look it up on the website, can’t I?” Actually, no, you can’t. Let me tell you why–out of the big article on blueberries, and the myriad of related recipes, this particular one was buried in the recipe section with recipes from the article, but not mentioned anywhere in the article or anywhere else in the magazine–even though there’s a separate recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream 101. The only way to find it is to actually read ALL the recipes, like I did. I made it and loved it, and made it again for. .. ah, my final husband. I was going to my 20th high school reunion, and made him two batches of ice cream, the vanilla and this one, plus a couple of other things to enjoy while I was in New Orleans. He looked at it and didn’t know what to make of it and never touched it. He liked it when I got home and told him what it was, though.

I’m not married anymore, and I don’t have to share my ice cream!!

In this article on blueberries is a recipe for what they called the Blueberry Buckle, a traditional American fruit-filled cake with a big, heavy streusel topping on it. I did make it, one time, I think for a Buddhist meeting, and it was SOOO delicious. But the ice cream has remained a hidden jewel. I mean to ask MSL why, but I never get around to it.

That recipe *is* on Martha Stewart’s website, and you can see the original video segments of Martha making this with her late mother, Martha Kostyra (do a search on her site for “Blueberry Buckle” and all three come up.)  I haven’t watched them, but I believe I remember Martha asking her mother about using frozen blueberries, and Big Martha said, “Don’t.” I listen to Big Martha.

So, for this recipe you will need something called creme fraiche, which you can make yourself or buy pre-made. Trust me when I tell you I didn’t grow up with it, and only know what it is from being a Martha fan all these years. There are recipes in many of Martha’s books, but I prefer the easier method in one of Suzanne Somers books–one part sour cream, one part heavy cream, stir or shake, and leave at room temp for 8 hours, then refrigerate. However, I think I made too much, so there may be a *new* recipe to use it up.

This ice cream, good as it is, doesn’t make a whole lot, but a little goes a long way. Rich, sweet and delicious, and full of the bluest of berries.

Oh, did I mention I’m making it with SomerSweet again? And I’m going to be using Neighbor K’s freezer to freeze the ice cream insert because she doesn’t keep anything in there but ice. (Yes, I told her.)

So here goes–one of the best uses of freshly picked blueberries. . .ever. Maybe I’ll even invite the GER over for some. Oh, wait, he says he’s on a “diet.” Right. He’s rail thin as it is, and if he loses any more weight he’ll be hospitalized for anorexia. Oh, nevermind. . .here you go, and make sure that ice cream maker works, OK?

Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake Ice Cream (from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, July/August 2000)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (or SomerSweet)

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup creme fraiche

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

1.5 cups wild or cultivated blueberries

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place 3/4 cup sugar, cream cheese, and creme fraiche. Whip at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix on low speed until combined, and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring milk and cream to a low simmer until just steaming, about 3 minutes. With mixer on low, add half the warm milk to the cream-cheese mixture. When combined, add mixture back to saucepan. Stir mixture constantly over medium heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes; do not allow mixture to boil.
  3. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour cheesecake mixture through a fine–mesh sieve into a medium bowl set in the ice bath; stir occasionally until cooled. When cool, place mixture in an ice-cream maker; process according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  4. While ice cream is freezing, heat blueberries and 2 tablespoons sugar in a saucepan over medium high heat. Smash half the blueberries while cooking. Cook until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool.
  5. Remove half the ice cream from the machine, and transfer into a low-sided 2-quart container. Using the back of a spoon, smooth ice cream over the bottom of the container. Spoon half the blueberry mixture over the ice cream, and repeat the process. Spoon the remaining blueberries over the top of the top layer of ice cream, and cover. Freeze overnight, or until firm.

Having done this many times, I strongly suggest a layer of plastic wrap on top the ice cream, THEN cover it. No ice crystals that way. . .unless that’s your thing.

The next recipe in the magazine is Blueberry Sorbet, which is similar to this one except it adds the juice of half a lime.

If you actually have this magazine, it’s on page 226. Definitely a keeper.

Oh, and if you’re considering buying an ice cream maker, I would like to offer you a couple of suggestions. The ice cream maker I have is great, BUT–you have to freeze the insert before you can make the ice cream. That’s fine, but if you have a small freezer like I do, it can be problematic. (Enter Neighbor K’s mostly empty freezer.)  You can actually buy extra bowl for this machine, but. . .it’s only good if it’s already FROZEN!!

In my dreams I see a side-by-side, stainless steel exterior, and all the amenities, but no computer chips. Lots of room to freeze anything I want.

I suggest a plug-and-play ice cream maker, which I wish I’d bought originally, but I was being cheap. What’s the difference? In the first machine, the frozen insert does the freezing of the ice cream. (If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer ice cream maker attachment, the bowl-freezing step is the same.) With the plug-and-play version, the internal compressor takes care of all that, just like in a commercial kitchen, so you don’t have to plan too far in advance, empty out your small freezer or borrow your neighbor’s for 12 hours. A LOT more convenient. . .next time, I’ll get that one, darnit.

I probably mentioned this in a previous post, but my favorite book on ice cream is an oldie but goodie, Bruce Weinstein’s The Ultimate Ice Cream Book. I know there are plenty of others; this one is just my favorite for the last 14 years or so. There are recipes, and there are variations of the many recipes. One of my favorites is the Cinnamon Ice Cream, but. . .don’t do what I did while living at the GER’s place–add basil, one of the variations. I asked him if he’d like me to try it, since the GER’s garden was growing the stuff just for me. He said, “sure.” He thought I was kidding. He was very surprised to find out that I wasn’t. Just like the day I offered to buy his beer and he said, “surprise me.”

Can we call that a hot mess, even if it was frozen? Either way, never again. You remember that, don’t you, GER?

So when blueberries are in season, or on your mind, please don’t drown and destroy these delicious berries with Cool Whip. Eat them raw, toss them in a smoothie (remember what I said about that last year) or freeze them until you make up your mind. Hurry up, while blueberries are in season!!

Now that I’ve told you everything you need to know about blueberries AND ice cream makers, go for it! Yes, grocery store ice cream can be great, but once you’ve tasted real, homemade ice cream, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. Get a good book–either my favorite, or find one of your own, and post it in the comments.

It’s summer, and time for blueberries and ice cream. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cajun Spice Girl

Cajun Spice Girl

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Wow, has it been ten days since I posted? Sorry about that, I’ve been busy. And sleeping. I try to get up early EVERY morning, but sometimes I have long days, and I end up taking a nap. Despite my best efforts, I gotta sleep–and that messes up everything. It’s what happens when you have no set routine, or let go of one. If I won the lottery and were self-funded for life, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Anyway. . .

The HeatCageKitchen garden is in need of a good weeding, but I don’t feel like going out there right now. It’s best to do that kind of thing after the sun goes down, or first thing in the morning (as if!) so that it’s not burning hot. The three Meyer lemons are still there and growing bit by bit, but I can’t find the little lime buds anymore–I’m guessing snails or possums, which roam the property and go pretty much wherever they like. I think they really like my place, but I can’t seem to catch them to let them know they’re not welcome.

The eggshells have helped but are not infallible for deflecting slugs, so I put a border brick under the pot holding the basil. Looks like the basil is getting big enough to where it’s too hard for them to <burp> feast on the pungent leaves. I have more eggshells to crush up and drop outside, I just haven’t done it yet. But I’ve been watering, much as I can, and everything is doing fine.

Yesterday I picked my first two strawberries! Yes! And they were delicious! Check it out:

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

Granted, they are the size of the top digit of my little finger, but they were delicious. The plant has more buds, flowers and berries in various stages of development. They look weird, but they’re really strawberries. Maybe the additional sunlight will make them grow in normal.

So, last week I was making some food in the HeatCageKitchen and realized that I am running low on a particular salt/spice blend that I used to, ah, “import” from Louisiana. In other words, when I went to visit, I’d buy three or four of them and bring them back to use. Time to order more. However, over time, like a lot of things called “Cajun” will do, this particular item has started to appear in Houston, and I thought I’d seen it one day, but couldn’t remember where.

Guess what? It’s available at my HEB, along with the crab boil!

Straight from Metairie, Louisiana, Cajun Land Cajun Seasoning with Green Onions

Straight from Metairie, Louisiana, Cajun Land Cajun Seasoning with Green Onions

The Cajun Seasoning with the green lid is the one I like. I’ve been buying it for years, but the last time I imported some was. . .2008, while i was there after evacuating for Hurricane Ike. So it was time to buy more, although I’m not completely out yet.

What I thought I’d be doing is ordering it online, which you can, if you can’t get this in your local grocery store. HEB will order something unusual for you if you fill out a form, but they will also ask, “will you buy a case of it?” However, it’s also easy to order online (There are also recipes using their products on the site.) You can see all of their products at their website, as well as the parent company’s website, Deep South Blenders. I’ve bought products from Deep South Blenders as well, but it’s been a while. It’s a local brand, so it’s in every grocery store in the Metropolitan New Orleans area.

As you can see, Cajun Land Cajun Seasoning is NOT grossly expensive, either. That’s a 15 ounce bottle.

NOTE: How much you use is up to you, but don’t dump a lot into your food until you know how much of it you’d like at one time. It’s got a bite, but it’s not too spicy. But too much of anything with heat can burn you. Unless you grew up in Texas eating jalepenos and Scotch bonnet peppers for breakfast. . .go slowly until you find how how much you like.

My favorite way to use it is on frozen veggies right before I put them in the microwave. A sprinkle of Cajun Land, a touch of salt, some butter, olive oil or unflavored coconut oil on top and it’s perfect. I add salt, because I don’t want to add too much of the Cajun Land to get the salt taste. And I started doing the unflavored coconut oil when I had to do the yeast-free diet many years ago, and I just keep doing the same thing, because it’s so good.

Note: Zatarain’s WAS a local New Orleans brand, but is now owned by McCormick’s. If you don’t believe me, go do a search for it.

So I decided to ring the company, which, I didn’t realize, is 1.4 miles away from where I used to live in Metairie. No kidding! They’ve been there for a long time, and I walked in that neighborhood for 7 years and didn’t even realize they were there. DUH.

So what is this magic mix? It’s a salt-based spice blend, with dehydrated onion, garlic and green onion (you know, what everyone else calls “scallions”) paprika and red pepper, as well as what they call “spices.” It’s salty, it’s spicy, but not burning hot like hot salsa is. A nice rounded flavor with a little bit of bite.

Now, one ingredient is called “spices.” You know what that means–it could be anything, right? So I rang the company and asked about it.

Any guess what the first question was?

Craig Barron, a family member of this 40-year-old family-owned company, said, “Let me go talk to my wife. She’s the food scientist.”

Dear Readers, that’s REAL NEW ORLEANS. No kidding. And Craig is a really nice man, answered all my questions and he didn’t mind me asking, either.

Craig came back to the phone and told me that although the proprietary spice blend is indeed gluten free, they do have some wheat in the facility, and the possibility of cross-contamination does exist, however small the amount. So, if you are highly sensitive to gluten, use at your own risk. But as anyone who looks for gluten additives will tell you (and Dr. Davis, the Wheat Belly guy) it’s always better to ask. Many prepared food products, including spice blends, use gluten or gluten components for filler, thickener, or some other chemical purpose. Anyone who has ever had a reaction from “just a little bit” knows what that means.

Craig spoke proudly of their 40-year history, and the work they do to have Cajun Land products in places like Houston, and they are working on having the products available in more stores, like Kroger and Food Town.

While their website is functional, they are also working on a complete update, so that’s it’s a little more modern. It’s functional, but, a bit, well, 1990’s (by Craig’s own admission!) The day I called they were doing some work on the network, so I tried not to tax him too much.

Turns out his brother Kevin Barron is also a food blogger in South Carolina and also has a company called Muffuletta Media. I hope Craig wasn’t too offended when I laughed at the name–I just thought it was cute, nothing more. If you’re not familiar with the New Orleans classic meal, well, it’s a great big sandwich.  No, the muffuletta is NOT gluten free, either. I can’t tell you the last time I sunk my teeth into one, and thank heavens I don’t live there anymore. Writing about it there would send me to the French Quarter to get one.

I can just see folks in South Carolina trying to pronounce that. In New Orleans, most (including me) say “muff-ah-LAH-tah,” but there are a few other pronunciations around, too.

So if you’re looking for a little something new to add to your spice rack armory, consider Cajun Land Cajun Seasoning with Green Onions. Inexpensive and easily available, it might just be your next big thing.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

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Pineapple Chicken Mozambique

Pineapple Chicken Mozambique

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Happy Monday! I know, Mondays are awful, right? No, not necessarily, but we’ve been conditioned to believe that they are. It’s just that for a great number of Americans, the work week starts on Monday, and the fun ends until Friday. However, I’ve had enough fantastic Mondays and bloody awful Fridays to be able to tell you that you shouldn’t hang a label on either one.

No, not yet.

I’ve completed watching all 7 seasons of the USA Network super-spy TV show Burn Notice thanks to the free DVDs I get from the library. No, it’s not instant gratification, since you have to order them and wait for them to arrive, but if you’re patient, you can watch a whole lot of stuff for free. Been doing that for 20 years now. I’ve moved on to a BBC program that our Houston PBS station was running but stopped, called New Tricks. It’s about a group of retired police officers under the supervision of a somewhat disgraced Detective Superintendent who is assigned the UCOS, or Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad. I’m on Season One, which I’ve never seen, and I’m waiting on Season 9, which is where the TV station stopped broadcasting it. Season 10 will be out on DVD soon, and I’ll be putting my request in for the library to get it to me when it’s my turn. Smart, well written and impeccably acted by a skilled British cast, there is nothing on American television like it.

One day, when things get a little better, I’m going to have SO many DVDs!! My next DVD player will be region free so I can buy the shows from overseas and watch them. Yes, I already have a few in mind.

So I’ve got a little good news about the HeatCageKitchen garden. First, what’s growing is growing well. Last week’s drought-busting rain helped, even though I do water regularly. However, I’m still fighting off the slugs. Somehow, the darn things are still getting at my basil and pepper plant leaves, although I can’t figure out how. I have discovered that some are finding ways around the eggshells, particularly on the basil. GRRRRRR.

Still hoping for a bumper crop for pesto later this year. If not. . .it's off to Trader Joe's for big clam shells full of fresh basil!

The beleaguered basil

Still hoping for a bumper crop for pesto later this year. If not. . .it’s off to Trader Joe’s for big clam shells full of fresh basil! One way or the other, I’ll have lots of pesto in my freezer this winter.

I haven’t done anything with the garlic scapes,which, as you can see, are happy. I’ve gone through some parsley, though.

But the big news is the little strawberry plant that I transplanted into a hanging planter. I think it’s about 3 years old, and last year it got parked in a paint bucket for a while. It’s now producing berries! Right now there are 13 of them in various stages of development, and one is turning red as of this morning:

See it?

See it?

I don’t know if it will fully develop, or what, but it’s trying to. There is one berry that’s developed into the proper shape, but will likely get bigger,and not changing color just yet.

The perfectly shaped berry. I can't wait to eat it!!

The perfectly shaped berry. I can’t wait to eat it.

Oh, boy, I love strawberries, and if this little plants starts putting them out. . .I’ll be one happy foodie.

Week before last, I told you about a replacement book I bought, The 20-Minute Natural Foods Cookbook by Sharon Claessens. I’ve looked through it a few more times and remembered some good food I’d made a long time ago. I think I finally ditched the beat-up copy I had maybe seven, eight years ago, but I remember using it last about the late 1990s, maybe. I remember the ex-husband coming home to my favorite Spaghetti with Garlic Salmon Sauce (page 48), and complaining about the kitchen smelling like “stinky cat food.” No, he wouldn’t eat it, but that’s what he gets for coming home early.

This weekend, feeling a bit nostalgic (and thawing out more chicken than I needed) I decided to make the dish on the back cover of this book, Pineapple Chicken Mozambique. The dish calls for a quarter of a small, ripe pineapple, but all Food Town had was big ones–so I’ve got a lot of chopped up pineapple in the fridge. I’m thinking about putting it on a small baking sheet and freezing it, because I just didn’t intend to have that much left.

Admittedly, I do like pineapple, but not a whole one at once. Yes, I would, in a prior life, occasionally have pizza with pineapple on it, along with ham, sausage, pineapple or some other kind of meat, olives, bell peppers, and whatever else I could remember. I have to say pineapple on pizza might seem weird. . .but it was REALLY good.

I was also out of onions, so I got some, and wouldn’t you know it? No turmeric! I ALWAYS have that orange-looking powder around, but not this time, so I had to get some. And raisins–a six-pack of those little lunch-box sized boxes. I only needed 2 tablespoons, and that’s what one of those boxes provides. I nibbled on a couple, then the rest went into my briefcase and my weekend/non-work bag. Along with a couple of small packets of peanuts, I might be able to survive a long drive home from town without stopping for a bite somewhere.

Now, while this book is all about 20-minute cooking, what they didn’t do in 1982 was mention the prep time. I had to gather up some parsley and chop that, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces, then deal with the huge pineapple. I think the whole thing took about 30 minutes, maybe 35, including prep time, which is still not bad for a quick meal for two people. (or one, if you’re that hungry.).

BTW, you can now buy pineapple already peeled, cubed and and dealt with in most produce sections, as much or as little as you want. THAT’s a time saver we didn’t have back then, too, and why didn’t I think of it yesterday? Next time, I’ll get the pre-cut pineapple instead.

One alteration I made was to use olive oil, not corn oil, since most corn oil (to my knowledge) is hydrogenated. Grapeseed oil, as faithful reader Kanani mentioned last month, might be a good substitute, since it’s a flavorless oil, and would let the good taste of the food come through; however, grapeseed oil can be expensive. While I didn’t have a problem with the olive oil, I may try the grapeseed one day and see if it makes a difference.

Oh, and because they are nearly the same thing, instead of tamari, I used regular soy sauce, the kind you find in packets in nearly every Chinese restaurant in America. (If you are gluten-intolerant, you’ll need to find that kind.)  Soy sauce is fermented, so I don’t have a problem with it, and it provides pretty much all the salt you’ll need anyway.

Also, this dish is intended to “serve with brown rice or whole wheat noodles,” but I bet a little quinoa would work too, or some gluten-free pasta, if you have some. Then again, you could just eat it by itself like I did and have more veg on the side, a salad, or some home-made gluten free bread. Otherwise, without the noodles, it’s what I like to call “gluten free by default.”

Remember, this was an “exotic flavor” back in 1982. So how do you make this golden oldie? Like this.


 

Pineapple Chicken Mozambique

2 chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless

1 medium onion

2 teaspoons oil (corn is specified, but I used olive)

1 teaspoon butter

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 small, ripe pineapple

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (I grow the Italian flat-leaf kind)

2 teaspoons tamari (I used soy sauce)

2 tablespoons lime juice

  1. Cut the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces. Chop the onion.
  2. Heat a medium skillet and add 1 teaspoon oil. Add the butter, then the onion. Stir over medium heat, adding the cinnamon and turmeric. While the onion is cooking, peel the pineapple section and remove the tough inner-core fibers. Cube. Yield should be about 1 cup of pineapple cubes.
  3. When the onion is translucent and slightly tender, remove from the skillet and set aside. Add the remaining oil. Heat the skillet until quite hot, but not smoking, and quickly add the chicken. Stir to brown all sides of the chicken.
  4. When the chicken is just nearly cooked throughout, after 3 to 4 minutes, add the onion, pineapple cubes, raisins, parsley, tamari and lime juice. Heat through and serve.

What you end up with looks like this:

Pineapple Chicken Mozambique!

Pineapple Chicken Mozambique! (The cat food just sits there, honest.)

Want a closer look?

I do love my Splayds!

I do love my Splayds.

The combination of cinnamon and turmeric adds a nice color to the onion and chicken without being overpowering. I do think I should have measured the lime juice instead of just eyeballing it, because it was a bit tart. That, of course, was MY fault.

For a quick and easy meal for two, this is a good one, and you can get the needed ingredients on a quick trip through the express lane, assuming you have none of the onion, the spices, soy sauce, oil and butter, that makes for a supermarket drop-by on the way home. For four people (or more), just a little math is involved, and maybe a bigger pot.

For a busy Monday, or anytime you want something fast, you won’t go wrong with this recipe.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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