Cookbooks and desserts

Cookbooks and desserts

Good evening, Dear Readers:

It’s a typical spring day in Houston today. Started out about 75 degrees, and by the time I went to get the mail about 2:30, it was about 55 degrees. No, I went out in my shorts. I don’t care. But I did wash the duvet again, and of course, put it back in the closet for the summer. Oh, well.

I’m still at it, and still looking for a “real” job, but haven’t found one yet. I’ve been concentrating on that, so I haven’t done much in the way of foodie adventuring. However, I have come across three books that aren’t new, but are fabulous–and do not involve celebrity chefs. (Plus a couple of other things to tell you about.)

Now, celebrity chefs are great–they’re actually famous for something they do or have done, not for getting arrested or some other thing you hope your kids don’t find out about. Except that one guy. . .oh, nevermind. There’s one or two in every group.

I found a neat tool I want. Doesn’t mean I’m actually going to ever have it, but I want one. Then again, I want a high-end stove and maybe a Vitamix. Not shopping for those yet. However, I think this little breakfast sandwich maker from Hamilton Beach is just awesome. Of course, for that to work for me, I’d need to be making my own gluten free English muffins, and I need a pan for whoopie pies so I can make the one out of the newest Wheat Belly cookbook. . .well, that’s for another day, right?

At one point I was fascinated with counter top breakfast makers, and was going to buy one for a boyfriend’s Christmas present. I used to see 4-in-one, but now they’re 3-in-one, with no popup toaster. He was adamant that he didn’t want one, so I got him a tie or something. (And he’s gone now.) That one is so cute–reminds me of Suzy Homemaker stuff and Easy-Bake Ovens! But no, I’m not getting one of those, either.

Incidentally, last week I had the opportunity to make Crosissant Bread Pudding, and boy was that a mistake. I don’t have the picture, but be forewarned–this is an incredibly delicious dessert to use up some leftover croissants. Holy Shish Kebab!! Make SURE there are plenty of people around when you serve it, OK? It makes a large amount, filling a lasagne pan with a rich, sweet custard and raisins. Great dessert for Easter, just use some day-old stale croissants for best results.

And don’t say I didn’t warn you, either.

It’s a long story as to how I came across these four cookbooks, but I can tell you that they’re now on my Amazon wish list. Yeah, like I need another cookbook, let alone four! But there are reasons I like these books, and this is from the first one:

This involves cream, coffee, chocolate, egg whites, and sugar. Any questions?

This involves cream, coffee, chocolate, egg whites, and sugar. Any questions?

The recipe is called Mocha Tortoni Mousse, very quick and easy, from a book called Dish Entertains by Trish Magwood. She’s a personal chef and talks about catering a party for the actor Martin Short and his family; Tom Hanks was also in attendance at one activity. In addition to categorizing these chapters by subject (breakfast, dinner, dessert) she also breaks the chapters down in further by ease and occasion. In other words, the Mocha Tortoni Mousse is a simple dessert that’s great for everyday, and easy enough to do. Put those in fancy dishes or martini glasses, and even kids will enjoy them (although they’re not boozy.) There are other desserts that are a little more complicated when you want something a little more upscale. It’s an enjoyable book, and styled much like Australia’s Donna Hay. Ms. Magwood has a second book as well: In My Mother’s Kitchen, which I’ve also added to my Wish List but haven’t yet seen.

The second book is one that I haven’t cooked from yet, but it sure is interesting. Chicken And Egg by Janice Cole doesn’t ask the question, but she does talk about what it’s like to start raising your own chickens for eggs when you’re not familiar with it. That would be me, although I’m not in a position to have chickens. I have enough with the cat, and, well, I can just see this beastly little tabby, a former street kitty who would take on small dogs, chasing around chickens and trying to catch them!  The author doesn’t glamorize the topic, and she manages to get some good eggs from her three hens, but there are some setbacks as well. However, there is no discussion of “from pet to pot” as you might expect.

A couple of years ago, I saw a short review of this book in (of all places) The Houston Chronicle, and bought it. Similar in scope, but not all about chickens, Made From Scratch was one of the first books I picked up on the subject of modern homesteading and self-sufficiency. Bonus: there are good recipes in this little book, too.

I’m not sure how I missed The Homesteader’s Kitchen, especially since I’m a fan (and now a subscriber) of Urban Farm magazine. Every month they highlight new books on the subject of, well, city and urban farming. But it, too, is on my Amazon Wish List, along with Def Leppard’s newly released deluxe edition of Slang. They’re all there for the day I get another job and get caught up, or for the next time I need something (which is soon, but the books and CD will wait.)  I didn’t cook from that one either, but from what I saw, the recipes are wonderful uses of home-grown or farmer’s market foods. However, reading the reviews on Amazon, there are some misprints, so I’ll have to consider that before I actually buy the book.

Last week I was on the north side of Houston, and since I had the time, you can probably guess where I went.

Only the most awesome bakery anywhere--Frost!!

Only the most awesome bakery anywhere–Frost!!

Might be my last chance to visit Frost Bake Shoppe for a while, so I took advantage. I also went to Sweet Tomatoes FIRST for a healthy and delicious grazing of green stuff and Joan’s Broccoli Madness. The only place I’ve ever had broccoli, bacon and raisins in one place, and it WORKS. This particular day saw two gluten free cupcake flavors, and one of them was Red Velvet.

The most amazing, delicious, heavenly delicious gluten free thing there is.

The most amazing, delicious, heavenly delicious gluten free thing there is.

I enjoyed every bite. And while this is probably not gluten free, I really enjoyed the looks of this amazing cake:

Is it gluten free? Who cares?

Is it gluten free? Who cares?

I wanted THAT kind of cake in 1996. You couldn’t get anyone to do that for you, anywhere in New Orleans. Nobody knew what that was or how to do it, and “wedding cake” meant lots of frilly piping, no matter where you went. Eighteen years on, nobody cares anyway (the divorce was final in 2001.)

Oh, and I tried making some sugar-free/gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with a thick icing. New recipe, and guess what? They were awful–AND they kept putting me to sleep. I tossed the last three. Oh, well.

Well, since winter didn’t get the memo that it’s spring yet, I’m headed into the kitchen to tidy up and to make some Pea Pesto Soup tonight as well as put together the kind of meatloaf where you toss a bunch of things into a bowl and throw it into the oven for an hour and it comes out somewhat tasty. I don’t feel like doing much cooking this week, but if things get better, I might try a new recipe or two and pass it along. I’ve also got to reconfigure a resume for someone and get it to her by this evening.

Tomorrow, one, maybe two phone interviews, and I MUST get my taxes done, darnit! I got stuck on something a while back and now it’s stalled. Oh, well, let the I-R-S give me a hand on the phone then.

Stay warm and Happy Dining!
























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A Gluten-Free Reblog

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I’ve tried twice to re-blog this post from fellow blogger GF And Me, but darnit, WordPress just doesn’t like it tonight.

So I’ll try again using a different method.

Check out the Gluten-Free White Chocolate Lemon Truffles here.

Have a delicious weekend!






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Posted by on April 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


Going coconuts!

Going coconuts!

Hello, Dear Readers:

It’s been a busy week. WordPress is once again telling me to get with it, so here I go. Just so happens I have a topic that I’ve never really written about before: the humble coconut.

The humble coconut!

Delicious and tasty

You’ve seen them in the grocery stores, thinking about buying one even, but wondering about cracking it open and extracting all the tasty bits. But there’s more to it than that twiggy, fuzzy exterior and white flesh.

You might be familiar with the stuff you get in the baking aisle, too–but that’s got plenty of sugar in it, since it’s made for recipes like this one for Lamingtons, which, yes, I made many years ago. Know what? I gave my bud the GER some of them and I do seem to remember he enjoyed the heck out of them, as did the rest of the recipients. I do remember them being VERY tasty too. But I only made them once.

I’ve mentioned before my new favorite sweet, Mounds bars with dark chocolate (not Almond Joy, which has milk chocolate), but I can’t say that I consume a LOT of coconut. I like it, but I can get sick of it, too. For a while I was making some coconut “cookies” with unsweetened coconut, beaten egg whites and SomerSweet, but I soon got sick of those, particularly since they tend to soften and get gummy if you let them sit for more than a day. But the dried stuff keeps in the pantry pretty well.

This week, the esteemed Wall Street Journal ran a story on the benefits of coconut oil. The article called it “better than butter,” but really, that’s primarily if you’re allergic to milk, I think. I say that because both are healthy fats, and the only difference is lactose, or milk sugar, and the fact that butter must be refrigerated. So allergies not withstanding, what’s the difference, right?

I was first introduced to coconut oil about ten years ago when I was living at the GER’s house. I forwarded him an article about something and there was a popup ad from Tropical Traditions, an online purveyor of oil from The Phillippines. He didn’t read the article–he thought I was asking him to buy some, pulled out his credit card and bought a five-gallon bucket of it! Back then it was $65, now it’s doubled in price. But it has a very long shelf life and a high smoke point like olive oil.

Having read that it could replace butter, I, um, well, put it on whole wheat bread and sprinkled Splenda on top. (I know!!) But I got sick of the coconut taste very quickly and stopped doing it. Didn’t know I could fry with it, bake with it, all that, and when I moved out, all I took was a small jar to use on my hands. Not sure what the GER did with the rest of it, I guess he used it up. (I don’t have room for a five gallon bucket anyway.)

Tropical Traditions also makes a number of different personal care products, including hair care. I know this because I got some last time I went to Dr. Davis’ office in The Woodlands. Trust me, you do NOT need much of it! No odor either, so you don’t smell like a tropical drink.

You can also check out their recipe section for all kinds of ways to use coconut, coconut oil, and alternative versions of everyday foods. While I have not tried any of them yet, perhaps I need to go back and look at it again. I think it’s been a while. This one for flourless chocolate chip cookies looks good, but my guess is you’ll have to order the coconut cream concentrate from Tropical Traditions. Chocolate Orange Truffle Pie? That might be good. There’s even a section of gluten free coconut recipes. I need to go look at that soon, too.

Don’t forget, coconut oil features prominently in my favorite Yeast Free Brownies. That’s primarily why I keep it around! (SomerSweet works well in them, too.)

If you’ve heard about coconut oil here and there but don’t know if you want to try it, well, there are a number of factors to consider. This oil is solid when the temp goes below about 75 degrees–that’s why you can replace butter with it in many recipes. If you put it in the fridge for a long time, you can break a window with it. No kidding–if you’re going to cream it with sugar (or like I do, with SomerSweet), you have to let it sit out for a bit so that it’s not “frozen.”

This article really doesn’t tell a whole lot about coconut oil, just gives you a brief overview. But there’s so much more to coconuts.

Oh, and they’re not actually a real “nut.”

One thing you might not know is that coconut oil features prominently in Dr. Hotze’s Yeast Free Diet program for a couple of reasons. First, it’s plant based, so no milk sugar (lactose) to feed the yeast while you’re trying to kill it. Two, the health reasons stated in the article–medium chain fatty acids and all that. Third–something you might not know–is that coconut oil has anti-fungal properties that help with the killing of the yeast in your gut. (It also works in gluten-free cooking and baking, but more on that later.) So it’s healthy for a couple of reasons, not just the no-dairy thing.

I am not dissing dairy. Far from it. But if milk/dairy has you saying “shiver me timbers,” coconut oil can help you out. Yes, I know, unless you’re allergic to coconut.

If you’re interested in doing a yeast cleanse, you can find Dr. Hotze’s cookbook on the subject here. The book describes how and why to do a yeast cleanse, lists the prescriptions you need as well as how long to take them. You don’t need to be a guest at the Hotze Clinic to buy the book or do the program. The two prescriptions, Hypo Nystatin-A and Fluconazole, are readily available at pharmacies nationwide; you just need a doctor to write you a prescription. You’ll need a 90-day supply of the first, and 3 weeks of the second. (I had one doctor give me one month of the first and one week of the second; that’s like taking antibiotics just until you feel better, not the whole prescription.)

I’ve done the yeast-free diet many times. The first time had me swearing, because I was so hungry! But–that was because I didn’t have the instruction book and wasn’t ready for it. I know I need to do it when I start getting heartburn. I don’t GET heartburn from eating stuff like tomato sauce and chili. If you do have that problem, or other alimentary issues, consider it. And, actually, Dr. Hotze’s website has this quick primer on yeast overgrowth so you can learn more and see if it would work for you.

It probably can’t hurt. I say that as someone who has done a couple of rounds of yeast free successfully; those prescriptions aren’t harmful, either. Anyway. . . .

I can’t personally vouch for this, but there is a lady who began giving her husband coconut oil when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Dr. Mary Newport gave her husband coconut oil, and quickly improved. That’s not to say it’s a definite CURE for Alzheimer’s (or anything else, for that matter), but if you go to her home page and scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see her husband’s “clock test” and how he improved in 37 days from coconut oil. Unless you are allergic to coconut, this probably couldn’t hurt–but it’s a matter of using your own judgment.

Remember, I’m not a doctor/nurse/medical person, just a patient who reads and pays attention. I only present information, and it’s up to you to review it before use. I present info because there might be one person somewhere who happens to read it and it was the very thing they were looking for. Happened to me once or twice, too.

Anyway. . . .

I’d forgotten about Dr. Newport until I read the comments in the WSJ article, which are quite interesting. (No funny stuff this time.) However, be forewarned that many doctors still ascribe to the “all fat is bad” mantra, which explains many modern illnesses.  Don’t get me started. I don’t follow the “healthy new trends” anymore because many are bogus and none seem to be particularly helpful. I’m someone who used to eat white flour pasta because it was “healthy and low fat,” OK? Guess what? Healthy, it ain’t.

Anyway. . .

Now, some time ago I bought a bag of coconut flour for one of the Babycakes recipes, and have only used it for a couple of things (including the infamous Pineapple Upside Down Cake.) One of my writer friends told me about a book specifically for coconut flour and gluten free stuff, called Cooking with Coconut Flour: A Delicious Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Alternative to Wheat by Bruce Fife. There is actually a second book by Bruce Fife, but I don’t yet have either one of them. However, the friend raved about it, since she’s also diabetic, and interested in solutions.

When I put the first book on my wish list, I also found this one, since I’m also a fan of almond flour. Oh, and there’s one by the same author for just cupcakes. I don’t have either one of those yet, either. One day.

Oh, wait–this wasn’t supposed to be a gluten free blog post. It was supposed to be about coconuts. OOOPS.

I have only once had a can of coconut milk in my pantry, used for a slow-cooker recipe from Everyday Food. It was a curry or something. Made it once, never again.

I have also seen coconut water, but I dunno what that is or what it’s for. There are so many beverages with all kinds of things thrown in that I don’t want anything but a cup of tea, for heaven’s sake.

Now, if you’re wondering about the cost of coconut oil, well, it’s not like Wesson’s hydrogenated oil, the trans-fat kind of thing. I was in HEB a couple of days ago and can show you this:

Two different brands, two different prices.

Two different brands, two different prices.

I’ve been buying LouAna’s coconut oil for several years. I called the company one day and it is NOT hydrogenated, although it has no coconut taste. When I started buying it, the price was, no kidding, $1.98 a quart. As its popularity has grown, so has the tab. I mean, overnight the price kept going up to where it is now. I’ve seen it as much as $7 a quart in Kroger.

Remember too that the one next to the LouAna is the kind that you get in a health food store–extra virgin organic, and all that. Central Market has its own brand, as does Kroger, but it may be repackaged Tropical Traditions for all I know. With more and more people looking for healthier options and alternate ingredients, it’s available in more and more places, as well as online. Even if you live out in the middle of nowhere, if you can get mail or UPS, you can get some.

And you thought coconuts were just for tropical drinks!

Now you know more than you did before on the benefits of coconut. Next week there might be a new weight loss pill made from coconut, but I’d rather just eat it.

Oh, I forgot about them coconut-breaded shrimp at Joe’s Crab Shack, too. Those were really good. (It was a long time ago.)

So there you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen, a quick primer on the various uses and benefits of coconut–beyond what the Wall Street Journal told you. It’s not just for candy and daiquiris anymore, so enjoy some when you can, if not for sweetness, for its health benefits.

Happy Dining!









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The Trader Joe’s affair

The Trader Joe’s affair

Hi, again, Dear Readers!

Bet you’re surprised to hear from me again this soon. Me too. But I had an adventure, and you know me, I gotta write about it. I didn’t plan on going to Trader Joe’s today, but I did. I was supposed to be going for a job interview with a major hospital system here, for a job in Baytown. Guess what? Ten minutes into the interview, the guy said, “Oh, no! Who told you that? Oh, really? Oh, sorry.” After one curt comment without swear words, I picked up my stuff and left as fast as I could. Had I not done that, I would have let the entire floor know I was not happy with wasting my time going into town for no reason. In a suit.

If you believe in angels, I think they’re pointing me somewhere. But that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

Yes, I’m still in a bad mood. But I’m getting there.

I had been thinking about a post-interview stop at Trader Joe’s on the way to town, since it was just a couple of miles away from the building I was in. I even brought a change of clothes so I’d blend in a little. Turns out I don’t blend in at the store in the Montrose area at all, that’s probably the main reason I prefer the store in The Woodlands. There’s nobody in The Woodlands with nearly floor-length red dreadlocks over the age of 65, not that I’ve ever seen. (It was a female.) But if you’re not in Houston, you might not understand that going to The Woodlands from the center of town would make for a very long trip home.

Oh, wait–I could have gotten a gluten free cupcake at Frost. AAAAHHH!! See? I told you I was in a bad mood. But I made it home safely, and didn’t have any crashes or “road rage” incidents, since I didn’t want to talk to anyone anyway.

Since I knew I was going to be hungry on the way home, I went next door to Whole Earth Provisions so I could get a couple of the delicious Epic bars. I can’t get them down in Clear Lake anymore, not that I can find, so this was just a one time thing. Guess what I found? New Lamb bar with currants and mint, no foolin’:

Bison and the new Lamb Epic bars. Delicious!

Bison and the new Lamb Epic bars. Delicious!

Yes, it was quite tasty. Both the lamb and bison were fresh, since they were slightly moist, much like a Larabar would be. However, unlike Larabars, these have less than 10 grams of sugar, mostly from the dried fruit. Larabars, and Energetica’s other product, Thunderbird bars, are all dried fruit with nuts, so they have much more sugar in them, and fat from the nuts. However, I know that some folks are not wild about mint, so if you’re one of those, avoid the delicious new lamb bar.

I stashed those on the front seat, then went to Trader Joe’s next door. I got some of this fancier bottled water, it’s right across the aisle from the olive oil, which is less expensive than HEB’s and comes in glass, not plastic bottles

Plenty of water and olive oil, but not for the same thing

Plenty of water and olive oil, but not for the same thing

.See? It was fancier than the standard stuff:

Magic water enhanced with electrolytes. Because I was really thirsty.

Magic water enhanced with electrolytes. Because I was really thirsty.

Their regular bottled water is 17 cents a bottle. However, this was a bigger bottle at 99 cents, and since I was going to have two Epic bars, I needed plenty of water.

I may have shown you this before, but I have a shelf hung by the stove, with a knife bar underneath, to make the heavy-duty cooking easier. I refilled that little bottle with olive oil so that I can just use that instead of going to the pantry to get a bigger bottle and mess with that. Also, that’s a sugar shaker from IKEA with kosher salt in it. Easier than going for the square box, too.

Salt, pepper, Chipotle Tabasco, olive oil, and some Cajun seasonings, along with the knives. Love them all!

Salt, pepper, Chipotle Tabasco, olive oil, and some Cajun seasonings, along with the knives. Love them all!

As you can see, I have been coping with this morning’s disaster with some, ah, creature comforts. Now, if you’re not familiar with Trader Joe’s, one of the things they’re famous for is their cheap wine. Those bottles are $3 each; they used to be $2, and they’re well loved by TJ devotees. I got another can of those New Mexico hatch green chiles; I used one can recently, which is will be in a future blog post (like maybe this afternoon if I’m in the mood.) Delicious cannellini beans, and tasty little tomatoes to go with the rest of the lettuce sealed up in the fridge:

Canned beans at their best, with cheap wine!

Canned beans at their best, with cheap wine!

Yum. Now, that can of cat food on top the beans is a treat for the cat beast, and not included as part of any human food created or consumed in the HeatCageKitchen–despite the jokes I may make about doing such a thing on occasion.

Take a closer look at the tomatoes:

They taste as good as they look, honest.

They taste as good as they look, honest.

More comfort food, Trader Joe’s style:

I don't have them together, except in the freezer. The brie is just an incredible piece of cheese.

I don’t have them together, except in the freezer. The brie is just an incredible piece of cheese.

Admittedly, those went into the freezer, because I could eat both the entire package of sausage and that 4 ounce round of cheese at once. OK, maybe half the cheese and two sausages today, the rest tomorrow. I found some of the sausages recently in the freezer and enjoyed them; this is just a replacement. Still, it’s really good, and both are the same price, $2.99. If you haven’t had goat milk brie, try it sometime–you’re in for a treat.

I was going to buy some tahini, that sesame paste you make hummus with. Guess what? That little refrigerated container had. . .WHEAT! No joke. I thanked the man for finding it for me; he didn’t think twice when he said, ‘Oh, you’re looking for gluten free?” Yes. That’s the one thing nobody seemed to blink at.

From the toiletries section, some lavender soap for my nighttime shower, and some tea tree oil soap just because it was cheaper and smells nice. That’s actually a package of two bars of tea tree oil soap, and all of their stuff is cruelty free, that is, not tested on animals. To me, looking at the cat beast sitting by the patio door, and thinking about all the little furry animals in the world, I appreciate that a lot.

Natural toiletries, too.

Natural toiletries, too.

OK, so I took it by the toaster oven. I ran out of room by the microwave.

I have been a fan of Chocolate Cherry Kind bars for a while, and they are the only ones I want. However, while I had two in my hand, I passed on them in favor of something less expensive:

This packet was 99 cents versus $3 for two Kind bars. One taste of Kind bars and you'll understand why I grab two.

This packet was 99 cents versus $3 for two Kind bars. One taste of Kind bars and you’ll understand why I grab two.

I don’t know why the picture loaded up sideways. But I will tell you that there are two servings in that bag, and they were both delicious. Still,one serving has 13 grams of sugar, which is not bad for candy. Ice cream can vary from 19 to 30 grams of sugar, but you have to read the label. Yogurt with fruit on the bottom can run 40 grams of sugar for the little cup, all while being touted as “healthy.” Which would YOU rather have?

All in all, I spent about what I’d get at HEB, although I just realized that my checker, “Matty,” neglected to ring up the 4 tins of Vanilla Mynts I put with my order, although I’m not sure why. I have some for now, I’ll just get more another time, I guess.

Well, anyway, I’ve got that out of my system, and I’ll have a couple of gluten free stories coming soon. And a cookbook review if I think about it.

Happy Dining!






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Saturday Night Steak (and other updates)

Saturday Night Steak (and other updates)

Good evening Dear Readers:

I haven’t written since March 10, and for that I apologize. Even WordPress started nagging me about it! I’m still not working, but working ON it. I have some more gluten-free stuff to share, and I may have a big decision to make soon. But more on that as it happens, since I haven’t been offered anything in the top hiring state in the nation in the 8 months I have been actively looking for a job. Nuffin’.

Enough of that.

Remember the blog post I did on lunch bags a while back? Updates: I’ve got more sewing done, and the last of the lunch bags is complete. I have decided to retire the book Lunch Bags, at least for a while, until I have more inspiration or someone asks for one. This interesting lunch bag is the reason I bought that darn book in the first place. I even found the same fabric used in the book, but kept getting vexed by the directions. Finally, I finished it, more or less just like the book, even though I’m not carrying a lunch bag around anymore.

A triumph over. . .oh, heck, it's finished.

A triumph over. . .oh, heck, it’s finished.

There ended up being three of these Zipper-top Lunch Bags on page 71, two of which looked like this:

One of three lunch bags

One of three lunch bags

I gave one to my SGI-USA District Leader, and this last one went to faithful reader Aunt Kathy. Surprisingly, I had enough materials left to make a third, although I kept thinking this was a fourth. (I went to Tulane at night, so I can’t count.) I hate wasting fabric and supplies, so Neighbor K got this version:

A wilder version of the Zippered Lunch Bag

A wilder version of the Zippered Lunch Bag

If you’re wondering why I call it that, it’s because I used black on the bottom and for whatever reason, I’d previously cut more Insul-Fleece with this fabric to line it with:

And the screaming red liner for lunch bag 3. Told you it was wilder

And the screaming red liner for lunch bag 3. Told you it was wilder.

I forgot to take a picture before I gave it to her, so yes, if you’re reading this, K, these pictures were taken in your kitchen when I brought the pug back in. (K also was the recipient of the first bicycle lunch bag.)

A note about Insul-Fleece–it won’t keep lunch icy cold for a long period of time, you’ll have to stash the bag in the fridge at work, or at least carry something that won’t spoil easily.

I’m not sewing that much, mostly on the weekend. I’ve got a couple of things to stitch up this weekend and I hope I get them all finished on time.

OK, now through the bedroom to the HeatCageKitchen garden on the back patio. NOTE: I am NOT making escargot from the snails I keep finding. Yuck. I just toss them over the fence and tell them to go find a new life.

So the gardening is, well, it’s going, and if you remember the little tomato survivor, it finally turned red and became part of a garden salad.

The one, lonely winter-surviving tomato.

The one, lonely winter-surviving tomato.

Incidentally, that plant is starting to come back, as you can see from the greenery at the bottom. Need to trim off the brown parts so the green can thrive. I think I waited a bit too long to use the tomato, because it became a bit, oh, you know, odd, like it was over-ripened, but not too far. Hate to toss that hardy plant after the multiple freezes it went through.

I also had my computer in the shop for a few days, and before I picked it up yesterday I ducked into Garden Ridge a couple of doors down. I saw lots of hanging planters for both tomatoes and strawberries, including one that you plant bell peppers on one end and tomatoes on the other. A hanging salsa grower? I’m game.

So I gathered up a few ingredients including mint, lettuce, Italian flat-leaf parsley, two garlic shoots, and one hardy tomato and made a gourmet salad. Ready? Here it is.

Le Salade a la Amy Garden

Le Salade a la Amy Garden. You would pay top dollar for this in a snooty restaurant.

Those dark colored leaves are lettuce from the “city mix” I planted several months ago. For whatever reason, that was pretty much everything I harvested, and a little has grown back. Oh, boy.

Sure, I put a bit of salt and fresh-mixed dressing on it–who wouldn’t? Of course it was tasty, but I put too many mint leaves in it. Not earth-shattering, just a little potent.

Speaking of salads, I have gone back to doing the lettuce-in-a-jar thing after a few months of not doing it, mostly because of the very cold weather. While we didn’t get any snow this time around, not many folks are interested in cool, crisp lettuce when the heater is on and the fireplace is lit. You want warm. . .much as I love salads, this winter, I gave it up for a while.

So you probably know my penchant for seeking out stuff on sale, particularly meat on sale, and at SuperTarget, I can definitely get lucky.

The steak to start with

The steak to start with. No, Fancy Feast was not part of the deal.

This particular steak was a good flank steak, and the kind that’s organic grass fed and all that. But what to do with it?

When I had a “regular” job (that is, one I knew I was going to every day) my favorite single-girl payday meal was a steak salad I created with the usual lettuce/tomato/cucumber, and added either sugar snap peas, avocado, or some other veggie that looked real good that day. My preferred steak was the Flat Iron Steak, which I’d never heard of before but eagerly tried and loved.

The dressing is one of my favorites from Suzanne Somers’ Get Skinny On Fabulous Food, (page 149) with six tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, two tablespoons lemon juice, two cloves of garlic, and salt with freshly ground black pepper. Whiz that together with your hand blender or mini blender, and set that aside.

I discovered flat iron steaks while prowling in Kroger’s meat department one day. They were, at the time, relatively inexpensive, although the price has gone up considerably in the last couple of years. I would get a big one, use my little meat tenderizer tool thingy and get it cooking. Of course I wouldn’t eat the ENTIRE steak at one time; they are usually as long as my forearm. Depending on the size of the steak, I would have one third to one fourth on the salad, and then cut up the rest for more delicious salad later. Sliced thinly and against the grain, the steak and the accompanying salad veggies are wonderful together with that simple vinaigrette.

Yum. I need to make that dressing again soon. Shaking oil & vinegar in a jar is easy, but that one is fantastic.

My method for cooking just about any kind of steak is simple: stash it under the broiler in the toaster oven. Oh, wait, you want to do it on top the stove? OK, here you go: cast iron pan, a little olive oil, heat on high while you prep your steak (salt/pepper, whatever.) Once you know it’s screaming hot, toss that steak in and IMMEDIATELY turn down the heat to medium. DO NOT go check Facebook because you will ruin a good steak. Do not do that, either.

After a few minutes, when you can easily pick up the steak with tongs, a fork or other implement, flip it. Don’t pull or scrape the steak from the pan–if it’s stuck, leave it until it’s not stuck anymore, which shouldn’t be more than a few minutes, like 5 to 7. (You did put oil in the pan, right?) Cook on the second side until it’s done to your liking–red, pink, completely cooked through, whatever. I prefer some red/pink in the middle, because I will microwave the leftovers later and I don’t want to overcook them.

Really, you should leave a steak to rest for five minutes before you cut into it. Some of us are impatient, but I do it most of the time.

This particular steak I cooked on top of the stove, but because I have more time on my hands than most, I decided to marinate it before hand.

Ahh, there's the rub!

Ahh, there’s the rub! Lemon zest, garlic shoots and finely chopped rosemary from the garden.

I’ve said this before, I love the garlic shoots, and if you’ve never tried growing garlic, it’s not difficult. I haven’t yet harvested any, because I don’t think it’s time, but I’ll keep you posted.

To the chopped stuff, I tossed in some olive oil–I didn’t measure, but I’d say it was between a quarter cup and an eighth of a cup. Mixed it all together, along with some salt and pepper, dropped the steak in and coated both sides, put some plastic wrap on top and stashed it in the fridge.

After the overnight bath

After the overnight bath

The next day I just used my steak-cooking method and it came out wonderful:

That's what a steak is supposed to look like!

That’s what a steak is supposed to look like!

After the requisite rest period, it looks like this when you slice it:

Oh, yeah. . . .

Oh, yeah. . . .

Yes, it was a really good steak. Twice. The lemon, mild garlic and rosemary infused the meat with a mild but distinct flavor that was tasty, but not overpowering like some marinades and flavorings can do. I don’t mind a stronger flavor, but this was certainly worth the time and effort. I’ll do this again sometime, maybe with garlic cloves rather than the shoots (which I probably won’t have much longer anyway once I harvest.)

It’s gluten free! (By virtue of having no bread/wheat around, of course.)

You could always do this on a grill, too. . .I just didn’t. Feel free to grill and let me know how it turns out, please.

It was a good night, and I even had a glass of wine after dinner. With more sewing done and projects given away, it was a pretty good weekend.

More to come in upcoming blog posts.






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Chocolate, beer, gardening, and. . . .

Chocolate, beer, gardening, and. . . .

Good afternoon, Dear Readers:

My sincerest apologies for my lateness in updates. As they say in IT, I have once again been OBE, or “overcome by events.” No, I’m not getting married, but you know if I were, I’d be working on how to bake my own wedding cake. Gluten-free, of course. And then some chocolate has been involved.

One thing I have been doing is some overdue sewing stuff. I’ve used up quite a lot of leftover pieces, have one overdue Christmas present to give (he knows about it) and am buzzing through stuff that has been sitting anywhere from one month to ten years to make. I completed two lunch bags and gave one away this weekend, along with three vinyl rain bonnets. At some point, the scraps will be either sold on Craigslist, donated, or, last resort, bagged up for the trash or recycling bin.

And while I sew, I’ve been binge-watching the cool crime drama known as Burn Notice. Since I get the DVDs from the library, I’m not watching them in order. I’ve seen seasons 4, 5 and 6, and have 7 and 3 on order, along with a prequel called The Fall of Sam Axe.  The last one is a movie where they take one of the supporting characters and bring him to the fore to show how he got to the current day point. I saw a couple of episodes originally in 2010 when it was new, because I was dating someone who watched it and liked it. I found the DVDs on the shelf a while back and have made it my mission to see every episode through the end of the series. The final season has numerous requests for it, and last I checked, I am 17th in line. The only downside is that I will never be as smart as Fiona, the “trigger happy ex-girlfriend.” Oh, well.

I’ve got a roast in the crock pot, and will be making more of the white bean mash later this evening. But I have a few things to tell you about, so here we go.

First, from faithful reader Aunt Kathy, another gluten-free funny from a comic strip called Speedbump:


Aunt Kathy finds these and I love them. ‘Cause if you can’t poke a little fun sometimes. . .you’re no fun.

Opinions on my recent pineapple upside-down cake were “great” (Neighbor R), “really good” (Neighbor K) and “I didn’t care for it” (Neighbor T.) I thought it wasn’t as good as K’s, and I probably won’t make it again anytime soon, but K felt like mine was better than hers. Weird, huh? Neighbor R also really liked it, and I thought it was pretty good too, but I needed to know that T didn’t care for it–feedback is important, right? (I was only using up a pineapple anyway.)

While shopping in SuperTarget last week, I’ve discovered a new product from Smuckers, a fruit spread sweetened with stevia-based Truvia instead of the chemical Splenda:

Truvia-sweetened strawberry preserves!

Truvia-sweetened strawberry preserves!

So far it’s just blackberry jam and strawberry preserves, and there hasn’t been much fanfare on it. The ingredients also include malitol, which is also used in sugar-free chocolates. If you continually nibble on those sugar free chocolates. . .don’t leave home. Seriously. But a tablespoon of strawberry preserves is 15 calories; on top of a 45-calorie rice cake, well, you do the math. May have found me a go-to nibble with no consequences. The strawberry is indeed pretty good; next time, I’ll try the blackberry. Look for the green label and tops. You can find out more here.

New trend? I hope so. I do miss jam and jelly sometimes.

The HeatCageKitchen garden is still going strong. From the blooming Meyer Lemon tree to the high sprouts of garlic and green onion to the little tomato that just won’t quit, I’ve got it going on. This is not without challenges, of course, but there is green stuff. The monster pineapple plant has finally gone to its new home in a backyard, and I’ve been promised some pineapples if it ever bears fruit.


Lots of flowers, but dunno about the day when I can pick me some Meyer Lemons. When I asked my gardener friend about it, he said, “you might get one or two.” Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dude! I don’t know how old that puny strawberry plant next to it is, but I’m thinking it’s going to get replanted to get more sun, like in a hanging basket.

Get a load of the garlic, shooting as high as the sky:

Anti-vampire insurance.  Not sure about zombies.

Anti-vampire insurance. Not sure about zombies.

I like to go out there and nibble on the green shoots. Yum. They’re not as strong as the actual cloves, but I wouldn’t go kissing anyone after nibbling on them.

The Enigma Tomato

The Enigma Tomato, about the size of a golf ball.

We have had multiple freezes since this plant was purchased a year ago, identical to the dried up stem next to it. I have no idea why, how, or for whom this tomato still exists. But it’s growing and hanging in there, as well as the plant beginning to regenerate. Maybe I’ve got Jack’s Magic Tomato Plant; I’ll see how this finishes off.

I’ve got plenty of mint, parsley and green onions for whatever I decide to create:

A little water and they GROW!

A little water and they GROW!

And rosemary until the Twelfth of Never:

Just plant it. Grows wild.  Great stuff.

Just plant it. Grows wild. Great stuff.

Oh, that bucket next to it? Yeah, there are two of those that were planted with lettuce. Not much since that snail got in and feasted on it. <burp>

Ditto for the radishes–I had two growing with foliage, and some inconsiderate nocturnal creature came by and nibbled all the greens down. Now I’m not sure if I have any growing, or just two, and I’ll need to dig them up in the next month or so and look for red orbs. The article I read about planting radishes said that the colder the better, and you’d see the tops of the radishes peeking out from the soil. No such luck, despite several freezes, and no other evidence of anything, only shamrocks coming up.

Maybe another time. I just wanted *something* to be successful and abundant. At this point, I can make one small salad with a few lettuce leaves, one tomato, mint, parsley, garlic shoots and possibly one or two sliced radishes.

Hey–I bet that would go over well in one of those high-end restaurants. You know, the ones that serve 3 scallops with a tablespoon of chopped fresh baby arugula with olive oil as an entree and charge $85 for it? I’ll give that some thought. A teaspoon of olive oil, a drop of lime juice, a pinch of Maldon sea salt or that pink Himalayan stuff, and all those arranged in some kind of artistic fashion on a fancy china plate. Call it Amy’s Garden Delight Salad. Let me think on this–I bet we could have them lining up through the door! (Unless I just gave Giada de Laurentiis an idea for her new restaurant.)

As a gardener, though, it’s a bit of a flop, unfortunately. But I’m working on it.

Last week was neighbor K’s final evening lecture for the year, and the last evening I would be taking out the pug and feeding him while she was working late. And as has been the custom, K brought home some delish food that was left from said event, which included meatballs with a sweet/sour sauce, corn chips with some spinach-artichoke dip (YUM), and an assortment of dessert bars, which included a lemon bar, several chocolate chip brownies, and something new with chocolate chips, coconut, and other delicious things. Mind you, the bars were sliced small this time, they weren’t big squares, thank heavens. I texted her later to tell her that everything was up to its usual high standard. MMMmmmm. . . .

However–last night neighbor R gave me some chocolate truffles and some chocolate covered acai berries. Well, they were OK, and the truffles are nice, but I don’t think I want any more for a while!

So last Thursday, I had a weird day. Four phone calls, all from people who could not pronounce my name at all. On Friday, neighbor J, one of the few males in my building, got home the same time I did. I told him how annoyed I was at the phone calls, and he said, “You want a beer?” I said, “is it cold?” He said, “No.” I can make it cold, and I did.

However, one beer was all I was interested in. He gave me one beer with another 23. Yes, a CASE of beer. I frosted up one, and cracked it open. . .and remembered why I don’t drink beer. It’s a guy thing. I took one taste and, well, let me put it to you this way–what I normally drink is water with lime or lemon and pink stuff, coffee, tea, or on occasion, a little fruit juice, or, even rarer, wine.

This was a complete shock to my taste buds. But I finished the frosty cold can without a buzz, since I was also eating at the same time. And decided that I would not say “yes” to a beer again. Last time I had a good beer was in 1991 at a place called the Crescent City Brewhouse on a date, and I wasn’t driving. That was wonderful–and I haven’t had one like that since.

The next question was what to do with the remaining 23. . .and they went to neighbor R, who does drink beer. I hope she enjoys them, and thank heavens, has room for them, too.

Please, don’t bring me beer. Thank you.

I’ve got two appointments this week, and some more work to do on sewing up old projects and either giving them away, donating them or otherwise putting them to good use. Meantime, I’m going to make me some dinner. Make yours, too, and make it good, whatever it is.

Happy Dining!


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A little new-fashioned cake

A little new-fashioned cake

Happy Monday, Dear Readers!

Our weather warmed up and has cooled a bit, with another cold front coming. We don’t think it’s going to be a hard freeze, just cold. Whatever. My joints are snapping, crackling and popping all over the place. Knees, toes, ankles and occasionally, my elbows or wrists. Just a light snap. Might be because I have been seated a lot, I don’t know. My Dad taught us to do the knuckle cracking when we were kids. . .I just took the ball and ran with it.

Oh, that cat is looking at me funny again.

The other day I was in Kroger and found some cross-cut beef shanks on sale. They were cheap, so I bought them and froze them. I defrosted them, added them to a crock pot with a jar of fire-roasted bell peppers and some sliced onions today. That was it, and it cooked on low until about 6:00 pm.  It fell apart when it was done–delicious. Maybe I need to do a blog post on crock pot cooking or “cheap meat.” Let me think about it.

Well, the official garden of HeatCageKitchen is doing great! I’ve got one small tomato still hanging on, mint, rosemary, green onions and garlic growing like weeds, a Meyer lemon plant that’s about to bloom with a million flowers, several sprouts of lettuce that were doing great until a hungry snail found its way in (ate ALL the shoots, you hear me?) and one. . .radish. No kidding, I think there might be two growing, but so far, only one radish for sure. Oh, well. Maybe next winter. I need to start thinking about basil, tomatoes, and other summer crops in a paint bucket.

Remember a couple of weeks ago, my neighbor made a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, and we ate half of it ourselves? Well, yesterday I made the Babycakes version of Pineapple Upside-Down cake, and shared it with K and the other two neighbors. (The recipe is in their second book, Babycakes Covers the Classics, on page 116.)

This was in no way a competition to see who could bake better. This was strictly to use up a pineapple that I’d bought and I thought was ripe enough to cut. It wasn’t, not just yet. But it was good. And I tossed out the top, I don’t want any more monster plants.

I was just thinking yesterday morning about K’s cake and how good it was, and wondered if there was a version in that book. Sure enough–so I checked the pantry and fridge for ingredients. Check. I had already decided to give K, R and T a slice, and then. . .there would some cake left for me, but not the WHOLE cake. And so it went.

I also decided to use Somersweet for the little amount of sugar required, and it worked like a charm. The cake itself is sweetened with agave syrup, but the caramelized top/bottom needs the sugar.

Now, let’s backtrack a bit–this is what the Babycakes version looks like in the book:


Nevermind the tea bags. I expected my cake to look a bit like this.

Much as I enjoy these recipes, I’d never thought to try this one before, so I had no idea how it would turn out. I didn’t think to take pictures while mixing it, but really, the principle was the same as K’s. First, you line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper and grease it with a bit of coconut oil. then mix a quarter cup of sugar with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, then sprinkle that on the bottom of the pan, in the lining, of course. Of those pineapple slices, you sort of fit them on top of that, however you like. I made sure to take the tough, fibrous centers out before I put them into the pan.

I’m sorry, I’m trying to scan the recipe for you, but my scanner isn’t cooperating.

Now, it does have quite a few ingredients, but lucky me, I had everything I needed, except for one thing, for which I used coconut flour. I think it was rice flour. Well, anyway, after you take care of the first layer, you mix all the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until smooth, and pour that batter over the first layer:

Getting ready to bake it

Getting ready to bake it

I trimmed all that parchment paper down to the perimeter, and stashed it in the toaster oven at 325F.  It baked exactly as the directions instructed, 20 minutes, turn, 20 more minutes, and that was it. Looks good:



Here’s where it gets fussy–let it cool for 30 minutes IN THE PAN, then turn it out onto a plate.

Delicious, and exactly as it should be.

Delicious, and exactly as it should be.

Now, besides the ingredient listing, here’s where it differs from K’s original cake (which we ate half of right out of the oven.) This cake is not only thicker, as you’ll see, but it’s also. . .drier. No kidding, it’s not the moist cake K made. That’s not to say it’s not as good, but it is definitely different than K’s. I think this may be more like what you might imagine when someone says “pineapple upside-down cake.” It’s not as moist, and not as sweet as K’s–hers had more butter than this one has coconut oil.

But when you absolutely can’t have wheat, and you get sick from it, this is definitely lookin’ good to you, right?

Take a look at what happened when I cut the first slice:

The piece de resistance. Or better, the first piece I ate.

The piece de resistance. Or better, the first piece I ate.

I did want to make sure it was suitable to pass along to friends, and it was. I did warn them that it was not like K’s cake (yes, including K), and that it was drier and not as sweet.

At press time, K had not yet tried the cake, and I haven’t asked the other two yet.

So I have three more slices to enjoy, since I had one today after lunch and one when it came out of the oven.


This also goes to prove the old adage that there’s more than one way to. . .do something. I’m not saying that other adage, OK?

I’m busy for the next couple of days, but will try to pop back in later this week.



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