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The Microegg

The Microegg

Happy Friday, Dear Readers:

Well, I’ve been busy, as you might imagine, and I think I’m *finally* through with an important piece of marketing for my copywriting services. I’m going to email the instructor and get an opinion tonight or tomorrow.

Tomatoes are starting to show up in the HeatCageKitchen garden!

My first organic yellow tomato. Woo hoo!

My first organic yellow tomato. Woo hoo!

I’ve picked two more, and will probably get a couple more yellows tomorrow and possibly my first red. The Chocolate Cherry plant has some green ones, but no ripe ones yet. (That could be a whole blog post by itself.) The GER tells me to get my zucchini recipes ready, and I put my hands on three just this morning. He’s got a couple of whoppers growing in his garden, and if there are enough, I’ll be taking them off his hands. Just hope I can return the favor with. . .something.

And after an inconsiderate animal (probably a possum) dug up not one, but two of my Romaine lettuce re-growths, I asked Neighbor K for the stub off her lettuce when she was coming back from Kroger one evening. She did, and it’s growing nicely. I’ll get more lettuce soon, and have asked K for any subsequent lettuce stubs. They grow fast, and the celery is growing nicely too. More on the garden soon.

A couple of weeks ago I went back to Woodlands Wellness & Cosmetic Center for my six-month follow-up and a couple of blood tests. I got to see the wonderful Dr. Sakina Davis and told her about the things I’ve been doing to try to sleep. . .I think I’ve got it down. Maybe I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post. But when I head to The Woodlands, there are two stops I just have to make: Trader Joe’s and Frost Bake Shoppe.

It was afternoon, and I got THE last gluten-free cupcake in the shop. Boy was I glad, too.

Gluten-free Chocolate cupcake with Vanilla icing.

Gluten-free Chocolate cupcake with Vanilla icing.

 

Perfection. And, as always, tastes even better than it looks, just like a gourmet cupcake should.

Yum. . .come to Mama. . . .

Yum. . .come to Mama. . . .

 

I didn’t bring back a bunch this time, because, quite frankly, it’s too hot right now (and that would have been a bit expensive this time around.) Maybe one day soon I’ll be able to go back and I’ll remember to bring an ice chest to bring them back. And I don’t think I’ll be going back until the fall, so my insulin levels are safe.

I noticed this sign was new:

The new "warning" that comes with the Frost cupcakes.

The new “warning” that comes with the Frost cupcakes.

 

Oh, yeah.

Now that it’s warming up, you might be thinking about iced coffee. If you are out and about and in the vicinity of a Dunkin’ Donuts, might I suggest you try their iced coffee. Last weekend, I visited one of my writer friends, and we stopped off there after lunch. Both of us really enjoyed the iced variety, and I’ll tell you more with the restaurant review, in an upcoming blog post.

But I have to share this quick product review. I just got this product a little while ago. I was on Casabella’s website the other day, ordering replacement brushes for my 12-yo carpet sweeper; the GER insisted I get one while I was living in his beastly house because of all the thread and sewing debris on the carpet. Well, it’s about time for a new brush. And then I found something else.

Dear Readers, do you like eggs but don’t like messing around to cook them? Do you believe you “can’t cook,” but excel at microwave dinners? Do you like egg sandwiches–with cheese? Well, I have a tool for you. Casabella’s Microegg is cute, neat, and can microwave one or two eggs for you quickly. Why is this better?

Because–it’s SQUARE. And by cooking the egg square, it will fit better on a sandwich. Are you seeing the logic?

My package from Casabella arrived today, and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I was getting hungry, because I put off lunch to wait for the package. (I’m one of those people who uses FedEx, UPS and the Post Office’s tracking features to find out where my packages are and when I can expect them to show up. This helped find a lost package I’d sent to two friends in Oakland, CA earlier this year.)

I ripped open the box and tossed the replacement brushes aside. (They even included a $5 coupon for my *next* order.)  THIS is what I wanted to try:

The Microegg.

The Microegg.

 

Isn’t it cute? After I took it out of the package, read the simple instructions and washed it, I put it to work. Because it was past lunch! This is the inside:

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And you can sit the yolk right in the middle if you want to. You can also scramble the eggs, if you like. (Maybe next time.)

Two eggs, ready to roll.

Two eggs, ready to roll.

Since I was eating lunch and trying it out, I cracked in two eggs. There is actually a molded “latch” that holds the top onto the bottom, via that little tab. If you’ve ever tried cooking eggs in a microwave before, you’ll know they explode. This contains the explosion and cooks your eggs without the mess. (Mostly.)

Now, the instructions say to add one egg and cook in the microwave for 40 to 60 seconds, but it can also handle two. I guess it all depends on your microwave. Mine is a 700-watt, plus I added two eggs, not one, and one minute gave me this:

Almost there!

Almost there!

So, back into the microwave for 1 minute it went:

Cooked!

Cooked!

Well, OK, over-cooked a bit, but this was operator error–NOT the fault of the tool. Although Casabella has an easy return process, I will NOT be returning this baby. Ever. I’ll just cook the eggs for a shorter period of time, that’s all.

They suggest a slice of cheese if you like, put on top the egg before you cook it. Then you’ve got your egg and cheese ready for your toasted, buttered bread. But of course, I was in such a hurry that I plum forgot. So I got some shredded Colby Jack cheese out of the freezer and topped it when it was cooked:

Cheese and egg. . .yum.

Cheese and egg. . .yum.

For a quick breakfast, lunch, dinner, or “I just got home and I’m starving” meal, this is a pretty good thing to have around. It just couldn’t be simpler, you know? Add some iced coffee and you’re good to go.

Oh, yeah. Anytime.

Oh, yeah. Anytime.

 

See that little bottle to the left of my glass of iced coffee? Um. . .when I made my last batch of iced coffee, I might have accidentally put it into the 19-year-old pitcher I got as a wedding present. . .and then I heard a loud CRACK, and saw coffee seeping onto the stove. And I had a mess to clean and a pitcher to toss out.

I went to Target later and bought that one and a bigger one. So the lesson there is to put the hot coffee into a BIG mixing bowl and let it COOL before putting it into a refrigerator vessel. And it helps that both Anchor Hocking pitchers have “NO HOT LIQUIDS” etched on the bottom. At least they have lids.

Now, if you’re thinking about bacon too, what next? Well, if you have a toaster oven, you could put some bacon on a rack in a baking sheet and bake it at 400F until it’s crisp. (Drain on paper towels, of course.) You could try one of those microwave bacon cookers; I don’t have one anymore. Or you could use an antique method of cooking just a little bacon, or even sausage links or a patty:

The Suzy Homemaker Super Grill

The Suzy Homemaker Super Grill

 

This one is currently listed on eBay for $149. No, I am not bidding on it. It’s not even on my watch list. There are other listings for a lot less, but this one apparently has never been used, or just used once for the seller to ask that much for it.

A few months ago, I did purchase a Suzy Homemaker Super Grill, with the griddle and drip pan, but it was MUCH less expensive! No box, and I copied the instructions from another listing to print. I cleaned it–very carefully–and did indeed cook a few pieces of bacon on it. I unplugged it, let it cool, cleaned it again very carefully and packed it back in the box. It works with a little heating element that heats up the little pan. Takes a while, too–but that little space on the left allows you to warm buns while the burger or hot dog is cooking. Not bad for a 50-year-old toy appliance.

When I get to my country house, I’ll have the entire collection on display. And, I will use them occasionally, too.

Casabella’s website has lots of neat little kitchen things like The Microegg, as well as high-quality cleaning products like the sweeper I mentioned (and the GER insisted I buy!)  Bed, Bath and Beyond has a selection of Casabella’s cleaning and storage products, but almost none of their kitchen stuff. What a shame.

So, Dear Readers, you have a little weekend tip (if you’re reading this on Friday.) This is especially useful if you live alone, or with one other person–especially if the other person doesn’t eat eggs. Another tool to pack up in a gift box for the graduate going off to college, too.

Make it a good weekend, and Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

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Summer simmer: The Crock Pot

Summer simmer: The Crock Pot

Hello, Dear Readers:

Well, I’m back for a bit. The copywriting training went well, and I’ve been quite busy working on my marketing materials–and getting a little brain freeze occasionally. No, Blue Bell ice cream is completely unavailable, and I don’t want any other kind. Soon the “great ice cream listeria hysteria” will be over and Blue Bell will be in stores again. No, it’s been the writing and constructing of things I’ve needed for a long time. I have a better understanding of it, but it’s a bit slow going. There will be an email to the coach/instructor soon, if for no other reason than clarification of a few things.

One idea borrowed from my copywriting website is a page for my writing samples. I realized one night that I could start a recipe section on this website, and I have. At the top of the page, you’ll see a link to recipes, (you can click on the link too)  where my favorites old and new will be available as PDF files. I even created a logo that I think I’m going to use on the recipes and maybe elsewhere on the site. I’m not a designer, so that’s a “C priority” right now. But there are currently four recipes there, one from this post, and more will be added as I can.

While the rest of the country says “spring,” the 80-degree days are here, so we’re pretty much back into running our air conditioners 24/7 except for the recent spate of cool fronts that have come through. I’ve been wearing shorts for some time now, and even with the breezes we get, it’s still warm. Neighbor K’s adorable Daft Pug isn’t interested in the long walks anymore, but he’s good about. . .well, going outside for a sunshine break.

The HeatCageKitchen garden is roaring along–I’m getting tomatoes! I now have only three Meyer lemons growing, after one dropped off during the rainstorm this morning. . Mint, pesto, onions, parsley, cilantro–they’re all getting bigger, and so is the Anaheim chili pepper plant. Oh, and I’ve re-done the ‘re-grow your lettuce” experiment; it’s working this time, but I should plant one or two more lettuce cuttings. More on the garden soon.

Neighbor J upstairs has gotten into the habit of giving me the Sunday paper when he’s done with it, mostly for the coupons. He keeps the sports section, so naturally, I’m not complaining. He’s also the neighbor who has generously given me some venison and some raw honey on occasion. I need to bake him some muffins or a cake soon, as well as a couple that live in a different building. They generously planted some free landscape things in front of our little enclave; someone else dug up the free plants. Neighbor K and I keep saying we’d get around to it, but this sudden gift happened on Good Friday.

Remember: gifts do not always come wrapped up at Christmas. Ask anyone who’s received something handmade from me, like The E Man and friend of the blog KJ, both in New Orleans, who each received a package of handmade items recently; KJ didn’t know it was coming.

Speaking of The E Man, I recently helped him find Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge. He happened to call me a couple of weeks ago and mentioned that he was in Baton Rouge, and I said, “Are you going to Trader Joe’s?” No, but he wanted to, so I employed a strategy I’ve used before: faith, hope, and Google Maps. He took a casual ride up Perkins road, saw lots of newly constructed housing and was amazed. It only took about 15 minutes or so, and he had to take another call. When I called back he was in the store and found the coffee samples. I may have created a monster.

Now, speaking of warmer weather, if you’re one of those people who has a taste for iced coffee, take heart. Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective has you covered. Nick just posted a tutorial on making iced coffee at home–and it couldn’t be simpler! I’ve been making it one cup at a time, and when I put almond milk in it, well, the milk curdles. No more. I first started drinking iced coffee when it was just hot in the Boeing building, and I poured my fresh coffee in a glass of ice and have loved it ever since. Check out Nick’s tutorial and start making your own. I did, using some decaf Community coffee last night.

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I just used the big French Press. Twice. Made it a little stronger than I should have; but since this was the first time, I’ll be able to do better next time.

If you have the room, and I don’t, you can also make coffee as you normally would and make coffee ice cubes so your drink isn’t diluted. Maybe in the country house.

Anyway, into the pitcher it goes for whenever I want some.

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If you go to a coffee shop, you will pay good money for iced coffee. Since Starbucks uses some kind of sugar-heavy mix, when I ask for a decaf iced coffee, they make it fresh for me. I don’t do that often, honest.

Sweet, cold, delicious iced coffee. Nothing like it, and made at home.

Sweet, cold, delicious iced coffee. Nothing like it, and made at home.

 

And I’ll have it for a few days. Thanks, Nick!

Now, I’ve written before about the wonders of the Crock Pot. Do you have one? Do you use it? Seriously, do you? Well, you should. If you don’t, go get one. But before you do, let me tell you what you can find. Well, let me tell you how I found out about all this.

I first started using one when I lived with the GER. When we weren’t getting along and I was planning to move, I stopped at Big Lots one day after a Buddhist meeting (I didn’t want to go home, basically) and found that they had white Crock Pots for $19.99 each. (This was 2004.) I bought a big round 6-quart and a smaller, oval 4-quart. I used both of them regularly, but slacked off a bit in recent years (I’ve been busy.)

One of the biggest draws is that the 110v Crock Pot doesn’t heat up the entire kitchen like your 220v stove will. Put food in it in the morning, and it’s ready to eat when you get home, no extra cooking, baking, or anything. So. . .with summer on its way, dust yours off, read the instruction manual and get started.

Continuing The Karma of Spare Parts, (oh, you have no idea) I haven’t used either of my Crock Pots in a while because a) the 6-quart needed a new knob to replace the melted and cracked one that didn’t work well, and the 4-quart oval needed a new lid after the old one lost the handle. I just got sick of waiting. Finally. . .I got on Crock Pot’s website and ordered them, darnit!

They arrived Easter Saturday, and I was SO happy. . .I had a piece of pork ribs I was going to drown in BBQ sauce, and I was going to make a breakfast, too, all on Easter Sunday. I figured the ribs would fit in the 4-quart one. Nope–change gears. Pulling the 6-quart out of the cabinet and transferring the meat, I moved the 4 quart to the other side of the kitchen. The plug caught in my apron somehow, I felt the pull when I moved, and before I could stop it, the next thing I heard was. . . .CRASH.

The 4-quart oval stoneware piece was in pieces, although the brand new lid and heating unit were fine. Oh, this was a big problem. I had to go out anyway, and one place I did go was Wal-Mart to, ah, “rent” another Crock Pot until I could get a new stoneware insert for the 4-quart. (Returned it a week later.) Meantime, I had a schedule and I had to get on with it. The day was saved, and the next day, I was cruising through a cookbook and found a chocolate custard recipe to make.

The next day I called Crock Pot and asked if they might have any white ones, but no, all they have now is black. That’s OK. I also needed to make sure I had the right one, and I did. The new stoneware arrived a few days later, and all was back to normal, more or less.

The Crock Pot started out as a bean cooker back in the 1970’s, and I’ve actually used it for garbanzo beans recently; that’s the subject of an upcoming post. But it didn’t take long for people to figure out that inexpensive cuts of meat cook up really nice and tender in it. Whole meals can be made in them, if you like (and if you have a small family.)

I clicked around Crock Pot’s official site, and I found a number of interesting things, including recipes, travel gear for Crock Pots, and something I wish I had when I was working–a Crock Pot for lunch! It’s small enough to tote around and carries just enough for lunch. You just plug it in at your desk and your lunch is nice and hot whenever you get to it. No waiting for a microwave that may not be sanitary, or leaving your lunch in the community fridge where someone might mistake it for theirs (or worse, mess with it.)  Awesome, and I wish I’d known about these a long time ago.

Now, the technology side comes out when I see the WeMo web-enabled Crock Pot. If you’ve never heard the term “The Internet of Things,” well, it means stuff that we use every day that is (or will be) *Internet-connected. While the smartphone is an obvious example, this is a definite contender. You download a free app for your smartphone, and you can turn the temp up or down, or turn the thing off by way of your phone. Great idea for people on the go, but it begs one question:

Do you really want your dinner hooked up to your WiFi?

Look, I’m kind of tech-savvy, especially after being in IT for 8 years. I’m so glad I have an iPhone (even if it is a 4.) The iPhone does, shall we say, butter many parsnips, and it’s a great help in a lot of ways. But connect your Crock Pot? Is that really necessary? One of the benefits of slow cooking is that if you’re a little late, it won’t burn. This, of course, is your choice, but even as a writer who does marketing, I just think it’s techie for the sake of being techie.

Up to you, of course.

There is also a blog, a spot for replacement parts, customer support (US based) and a page where you can order food just for your Crock Pot all ready to drop in. Call me whatever you like, but is it that difficult to cut up some stuff and throw it in? I’ve seen them once or twice in stores, but you can order them online. Up to you.

My first, and favorite book for slow cooking is The Everyday Low Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook, which I bought when it was new. (The GER wasn’t sure what to make of that, but that’s OK–I still confuse him to this day.)  Another one I have but only recently rediscovered is Dana Carpender’s 200 Low Carb Slow Cooker Recipes from 2005. That’s where the next recipe comes from. (I also have her book 15-Minute Low Carb Recipes, which I also need to go back and look at sometime.)

If you’ve never used a slow cooker before, or you need a refresher, let me tell you the basic rules:

  1. You put the food in
  2. You put the lid on
  3. You plug it in
  4. Turn it on
  5. Leave it alone

Got it? One other thing–make sure that when you put the lid on, it is covered and there are no “escape holes” for heat to leak out. You could come home to dry, tough food you weren’t expecting. I’ve done it, that’s why I say that.

When you go to clean the stoneware, make sure it’s cooled, or you use hot water to wash/soak it with–or you’ll be getting on the Crock Pot website and ordering a replacement.

Last night I went on Pinterest and typed in “Crock Pot Hacks.” I actually started another board to save them. One tip that I found was to line the crock with foil makes it easier to clean and helps everything cook evenly. However, I found a list of tips here that you might find interesting. One pin involved wrapping potatoes–sweet or russet–in foil and baking them in the slow cooker, but dry. Another one involved some wire and stuff, turning it into a sous-vide machine. I’m not posting it here because I do NOT want any of my readers getting shocked because it looked easy to do. (I’m thinking about you, GER, ’cause I know you’ll try it.)  But if you’re interested in finding new recipes, or other stuff you can do with a Crock Pot, check out Pinterest for more. Just start searching–you never know what you’ll find, and it’s not like Facebook at all.

Last night on Facebook I saw a short video titled “Shredding chicken like a boss!” It was a video of someone with a hand mixer shredding chicken that was obviously cooked in the Crock Pot–it was still hot. (Looked like chicken breasts, in a big Crock Pot.) The cook used the hand mixer on low speed, and the chicken was shredded in no time! It may be on YouTube as well.

Now–dessert time. How about some chocolate custard made in the Crock Pot? (That’s one of the recipes on the new page.)  It takes just a few ingredients and couldn’t be simpler.

First, heat up some almond milk and chocolate:

Almond milk and chocolate heated in a double-boiler

Almond milk and chocolate heated in a double-boiler

When it looks like that, whisk in your sweetener (I used 3/4 cup of SomerSweet, but the recipe calls for 2/3 cup Splenda, which you know I won’t use.)

The original recipe called for some kind of low-carb milk called Carb Countdown. I’ve never seen it, but the same amount of almond milk worked just fine. I don’t know if coconut, rice or other alternative milks will work, but if you want to try it, go for it. I just can’t guarantee anything.

Next, grease or spray a 6-cup glass casserole dish, and pour the cream in:

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I used a bit of olive oil, that’s why you see the globules on top. No big deal.

Then add the chocolate mixture, then the eggs individually:

One of six eggs, beaten one at a time.

One of six eggs, beaten one at a time.

Carefully put the casserole dish into the slow cooker, pour water around it, up to 1″ of the top rim. DO NOT get water into the custard, please.

Now cook it!

Now cook it!

Cover the slow cooker and cook it on low for 4 hours.

What you get later looks like this, but it’s not ready to eat yet.

Too hot to eat!

Too hot to eat!

You take the lid off and let it cool. When it’s not burning hot anymore, carefully remove it from the crock, cover it, and when it’s cool enough to refrigerate, well, do so. Once it’s nice and cool, this is what you slice and serve:

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NOW it’s ready to eat.

It’s rich, fudgy and substantial. Made in advance, it’s a nice option for a dinner party, or for a single woman to enjoy all week by herself. Hey–it’s my kitchen, I’ll enjoy a sugar-free, low-carb chocolate thing anytime I want.

Incidentally, the second time I made this, I topped a slice with some bought-on-sale raspberries and a light dusting of SomerSweet. Yum.

So, it didn't come out of the dish just right. I'm not FoodBabe, either.

So, it didn’t come out of the dish just right. I’m not FoodBabe, either.

 

A printable PDF copy of this recipe is available on the new recipe page, so you can try it today if you like.

With summer pretty much here in the south, and coming everywhere else, a Crock Pot is going to be a good thing to have around. There are so many models available in various price ranges that it’s a good investment for cooks everywhere.

There are hundreds of books on slow cooking; I just listed two that I have. But with all the cooking websites available, it’s easy to find and keep recipes you like and either stash them in your DropBox, save them to your hard drive or print them and save them in a notebook. I found two e-books last night on Pinterest–one Paleo and one gluten-free that I’ll be reviewing soon.

College students in dorms also might want to think about Crock Pots, too–and learn to use it before they go to school in the fall. Might that be a good gift idea for a graduating senior? Just a thought.

And really–now that the long, cold winter is done, you want to get outside again, right? Let dinner cook itself. It’s easy to do, and couldn’t be simpler. Follow simple directions and you’ll have some tasty food waiting for you on your schedule. (You almost can’t burn it–that should make the “I can’t cook” crowd happy!)

Have you got a favorite thing you use the Crock Pot for? Post it in the comments (nice, please), so we can all try it! (If I do, I’ll post a review later.)

Whatever you cook in it, get that slow cooker out and start using it again. After a few times, you’ll be glad you did.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Apologies

Apologies

Happy Thursday, Dear Readers:

It has been nearly three weeks since I posted, and for that I apologize. I’ve been busy on the copywriting side and just haven’t had the time to sit down and finish the two posts I have in the draft folder.

I’m working on some big advances in copywriting, so writing about food has had to take a back seat.

I currently have three drafts, one on the elusive Crisco Coconut Oil, which I still haven’t found yet, The second one, very timely, is on making hummus at home. I’ve posted my recipe before (if you do a search you’ll likely find it or the link), but there’s more to it that I want to research first, and have been a bit busy.

Yes, you really can make chocolate pudding in the crock pot. I’ll tell you more in an upcoming post.

The third topic is one that nearly everyone will be able to relate to–The Crock Pot. I haven’t used mine in a while, but I finally started using it recently, which led to more of the Karma of Spare Parts. I’ll explain that too. Meantime, enjoy the picture of the sugar-free chocolate pudding I made Easter Sunday in my 6-quart Crock Pot.

I will try to at least do one next week and post all the pictures, but let’s see how busy I am after tomorrow.

Meantime, have some good food, and enjoy!

 

Amy

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2015 in Considered opinions, Uncategorized

 

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Bulletproof Coffee

Bulletproof Coffee

Good afternoon, Fellow Foodies:

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend.

I have a couple of things to report, one of which you may or may not have heard about. But first I’ll tell you about my latest Graze package:

Tastiness awaits!

Tastiness awaits!

It arrived Saturday, primarily because I did not go into their website and postpone the next delivery. Oh, well. What’s inside?

Four great tastes!

Four great tastes!

Here’s the close-up:

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The Walnut-Vanilla Truffle was the first one I had–yesterday after doing some work in the garden. Today I had the Caramel Apple; and I’m quite sure it’s a repeat appearance. I’ll have the savory ones later.

I also did some planting–and here’s where the old Graze boxes come in:

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Those are basil seeds–cross your fingers.

I have planted the lettuce and celery scraps into pots. The celery had started to root a little, which is why I planted it, but the lettuce, as you saw, had greens growing from the center. Only one of the four romaine stubs is poking through the soil, and I’ll show you that when it’s more visible. But it’s happening, and I am thrilled that I will be able to enjoy romaine lettuce more often. Now to get the tomatoes growing.

Now. . .over the weekend in the HeatCageKitchen, I conducted another experiment. This time, I attempted the newly-popular home-made version of Bulletproof Coffee. With coffee from Starbucks.

If you’ve not heard of Bulletproof coffee, well. . .I first heard about it in the Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago, called “butter coffee.” Then a number of my writer friends on Facebook started buying it and proclaiming to the heavens that it was the best thing ever. Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective tried it. . .he was not impressed. Then on May 20th, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman posted that she was introduced to the concept. Ree loves it.

So I figured it was time for me to try it. And I was in The Fresh Market at the right time, too.

Many of my writer friends are *into* this, and insist that it makes them feel better, think better, and just zip around the place all day long. I say it’s the extra caffeine, which has its own issues, but they insist it’s not. They buy the coffee and “brain oil” off the website, whereas I only used coconut oil. Since I drink decaf, well, buying that expensive coffee is probably not going to do anything different. But I digress. Maybe the “brain oil” would be a good thing. That’s for another day.

I was feeling good yesterday because I finally got around to ordering a replacement lid and knobs for my 10-year-old Crock Pots. Yes, more karma of spare parts. . .but if they still work, fix them!

Ohhh. . .I just thought of how funny it would be to see the GER’s face if he ever tried it. He would give me that look. . .well, that he frequently gives me. Anyway. . . .

I was in The Fresh Market on Friday evening and saw one of the three ingredients:

Kerrygold Unsalted Butter from Ireland

A key ingredient, and one of the few imports from Ireland without alcohol.

I’ve seen the salted version, which is also good, but never the unsalted until now. I headed to another section and got ingredient #2:

Unrefined coconut oil. Yes, the kind that tastes like coconuts.

Unrefined coconut oil. Yes, the kind that tastes like coconuts. It is not “Magic,” however.

I intended to get up early Saturday and enjoy this after a walk, then head over to LK’s house for a district chanting session. Well, I was pressed fro time, did walk, but not as early as I’d preferred. So let’s get started:

The setup.

The setup.

First, make your coffee as you normally would. In my case, I use the French Press. You’ll need between 8 and 12 ounces of hot coffee.

I really was planning to drink it at home.

I really was planning to drink it at home.

While the coffee brews, I add the coconut oil to the blender, 1 tablespoon, then get on with the butter. Since I like my coffee “blonde and sweet,” I added two tablespoons to the blender. Thankfully, the measurements are on the back of the wrapper:

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Why Kerrygold? It’s butter made from the cream of grass-fed beef–an important component, since it doesn’t have the additives that American butter has. You just open the wrapper and slice it:

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All that goes into the blender with the hot coffee you carefully pour in:

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

And turn on the ignition:

Magic!

Coffee Magic!

The hot coffee melts the butter and coconut oil, and the blender emulsifies and froths up the whole thing. Melted butter is just like putting milk in your coffee, and the coconut gives it a sweet taste. But not quite sweet enough for me.

Safety tip: DO NOT use one of those little blenders intended for smoothies. Make SURE your blender can handle hot liquids. Some can’t. I do know this one can, because the jar is glass and there is a removable part at the top. I use this blender for Pea Pesto Soup, and it was indeed made for anything. Even though this coffee was less volume than the soup, it’s still hot, and you must make sure your equipment is up to the job. If you have a Vitamix, or other professional-grade blender, you should be OK. But those little hand-held blenders, probably not. Read the instructions and check the appliance itself before you find yourself with a big, burning mess. Anyway. . . .

Since I was running out of time, I added it to my travel mug and took it with me.

Bulletproof coffee, to go.

Bulletproof coffee, to go.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did put two packets of sweetener in my Bulletproof coffee, darnit. And then, it tasted pretty good. I can’t say it didn’t do me any more good than my regular foamy-milk cappuccino, though.

Results will vary, of course.

Safety tip #2: after drinking this coffee, you will not be able to outrun, or withstand, a speeding bullet. You are not going to be Superman. You will not actually *be* bulletproof, OK? This is true even if you are buying the expensive coffee and brain oil. It’s a euphemism for FEELING “bulletproof” and being able to take on the day. Carpe Diem and all that. Let the creator tell you more about it.

Verdict: not bad, but not every day.

If you’re looking for a different cup of coffee, and maybe not something with several words to describe to a barista, you might indeed enjoy Bulletproof coffee. And if you don’t, you can say you tried it. Once.

Enjoy!

 

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Epic Bars, the HeatCageKitchen garden, and other updates

Epic Bars, the HeatCageKitchen garden, and other updates

Happy Thursday, Dear Readers! And welcome to all the new followers of my humble blog. I’m glad you’re here!

Spring is here, isn’t it wonderful? (If you’re not buried in snow like some folks up in the northeast are; if this is you, my condolences.) We’ve had some rain going on, and today, a cool front has come through. The sun is out, the patio doors are open, and I had to put on socks and pull my warm boots out of the closet again. But it’s a beautiful day here in Houston. I enjoyed my stovetop cappuccino this morning, and the Yeast Free Hot Chocolate this afternoon..

Have you seen alt-health hero and natural hormone advocate Suzanne Somers on Dancing with the Stars? Why not? She’s doing great–go vote for her! (SomerSweet is still currently unavailable.) A new “vibrato” version of her longtime favorite Thighmaster debuted on the first night, and her second dance was much better. She’s also going to be headlining in Las Vegas soon; wonder if she’ll still have her famous “dishpan hands.” (One more thing I have in common with her!) You can see Suzanne & Tony’s dance numbers on YouTube as well as ABC’s website. This Monday is “Latin Night,” so let’s see what they come up with.

I have a few things to tell you about, some of which includes the HeatCageKitchen garden. It’s growing!!

Look closely.

Look closely.

Remember last weekend, I said I was going to get some organic celery and lettuce? I did it–the little green centers you see are the lettuce re-growing. I cut those on Saturday; today is Thursday, and they’re already sprouting! I think the celery is too, but I need to look a little closer before I plant it. The lettuce is going to be planted tonight.

I also was able to catch the end of the farmer’s market at Erma’s this weekend, and got some organic tomato plants:

Tomatoes!

Tomatoes!

They were 4 for $10, in the pouring rain, and thankfully, a couple of the vendors now have Square as a POS app on their phones. No more checks! I had a nice conversation with the Soap Lady, as well as the folks selling these.

One of those tomatoes is going to be. . .Chocolate Cherry. Hey–I don’t mess around. One is also a yellow tomato–those are delicious, too.

I forgot to pick up a basil plant, so I bought some organic seeds. Longtime readers know I am VERY serious about my pesto, and can’t wait to make more. I have one and a half left in the freezer from last year, and I’ll be using them up by the time the basil gets high enough.

I’ve also got garlic growing from sprouted cloves, and the rooted rosemary seems to be fine. I think the sunflower seeds are sprouting, because I see new little green shoots over there and I’m not pulling them up. The citrus trees, I have high hopes for with all those tiny fruits growing, but I’ll let you know in a future post.

Also for a future post: garbanzo beans, tahini and hummus. Tell you all about it soon. Going to try and grow organic garbanzo beans, too–maybe not for crops, but just to see what happens.

A followup to a previous post: this weekend I found some shampoo and condition with. . .Argan Oil. No kidding. Target has it, no kidding.

It just jumped right out at me!

It just jumped right out at me!

I am still using the Pantene that Neighbor K gave me, but I might try this type when I run out. You just don’t notice these things until one day. . . .

Now then. . .I bought some strawberries a few days ago at my local HEB. First words that came to mind: “Maw Maw, look! Strawberries!”

Yum.

Yum.

My Grandmother O’Donnell loved strawberries like I do, and used to take me up to Ponchatoula, Louisiana, to get some every year. (I was a little bitty kitty.) We got flats of them, and my grandparents would also buy some for other people. Pasadena, Texas, which is nearby, also has a strawberry festival, but I’ve never been; maybe I’ll go this year.

What made me think of it was last month, February 17th, was ten years since Maw Maw O’Donnell passed. As bad as it was at the time, I’m glad she didn’t have to live through Katrina. (I had a big oyster po-boy from Abe’s Cajun Kitchen when I got back to Houston from her funeral.) Maw Maw’s house in Arabi, one of the hardest hit areas, was sold a year before, and good thing, too–it was still on the lot, but not on the foundation, from what I was told. That would have seriously upset my grandmother.

Still, I think about Maw Maw at the grocery sometimes. She would have been 100 years old come October 10th, and certainly wouldn’t have let me take her to the grocery had she lived. I REALLY wanted her to come to Houston with my parents, so I could take her to Central Market (it was only open a few years at the time.) Nope. I could only regale her with stories about it.

Maw Maw taught me a lot about grocery shopping and all that, so I always feel like she’s with me the minute I go into any grocery store, be it HEB, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market, Erma’s Nutrition Center, any salvage grocery store I might find, or Central Market. I wonder sometimes what she would have thought about all the organic, gluten-free stuff, as well as healthier foods that are available now.

My brother just lost a neighbor, who, coincidentally, reminded him of Maw Maw O’Donnell. She was 87 years old, very active, in great health, did what she wanted, still drove, had the world on a string,and one day, she got something, was in the hospital, they gave her some prednisone, got worse, and never came out. It was over quickly, but everyone was left scratching their heads and asking, “why?” I said a prayer for her (he told me when they got home from her funeral) and hope that she will be reborn in good or better circumstances. My brother, like her family, will be having a period of adjustment. . .because she’s just not next door anymore.

However–we’re living in changing times as far as food goes. Isn’t it great? Let’s keep that momentum going, for us, as well as our descendents, and the rest of the world.

Anyway. . . .

I still haven’t been able to put my paws on a jar of Crisco’s new coconut oil. I have a coupon for a free one generously sent to me by the Smucker company, but can’t find hide nor hair of a jar, darnit. So I’m still on the hunt. I’m sure it’ll be here eventually.

The GER came by this morning to do a vehicular repair for me, and came once again bearing gifts. (I am still eating pecans bit by bit.) He handed me the part in a bag and said, “take a look at this and tell me if it’s the right part.” Oh, right, like I’m going to actually know! However, In the bag with the switch were these:

Food of the Gods, Vegan Style.

Food of the Gods, Vegan Style.

The GER has been undergoing a personal “detox,” where he has stopped drinking beer, Monster drinks and Red Bulls (ugh), and other unhealthy lifestyle choices, and ordered some supplements from Mercola.com (the official website of health advocate Dr. Mercola.) I’ve never ordered anything from Dr. Mercola, but I might try that joint stuff he sells. The chocolate bars were a “free sample,” which retail for about $5 each, no kidding. I had the dark chocolate bar with my morning cappuccino. Um. . .I wouldn’t eat them every day. They’re not bad, but since it’s not cut with sugar, milk and other fillers, there is more chocolate in them. They are not as sweet as a Hershey’s bar would be, and so the really strong chocolate taste comes through. One has rice flour in it, so while it’s gluten free, it’s not GRAIN free. Just a heads-up.

The GER did request that I procure some healthier versions of BBQ sauce for him, preferably without HFCS. Found some last week at Erma’s Nutrition Center; will check The Fresh Market this weekend. You know, there aren’t any in the grocery stores that I found, but thankfully, Erma’s had some. (He says he’s too lazy to make his own.) He opened the Annie’s, and is loving it; that version has cane sugar in it. The Organicville has Agave Syrup, which I’m completely familiar with, but the GER isn’t. But he can decide whether or not he likes that one.

The only two choices for HFCS-free BBQ sauce I could find. Neither is made in Texas.

The only two choices for HFCS-free BBQ sauce I could find. Neither is made in Texas.

Organicville also had a second type, which I would have bought too, but it contained soybeans. I warned the GER to avoid soybeans so that the phyto-estrogen didn’t overwhelm his system and turn him soprano.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but men should not be consuming large amounts of soybeans. It really can over-take a man’s testosterone, and end up with estrogen dominance. But that’s a Dr. Hotze issue.

Now if you really want healthy, keep reading.

Some time ago, I wrote about Epic Bars, the low-carb/paleo/gluten-free meal replacement bars made out of. . .meat. Unlike Slim-Fast and other meal replacements, these are not loaded with sugar, soy, and other key artificial ingredients to make you feel full. Epic Bars actually taste like a real meal, instead of sugar and chemicals. The first time I had one, I tried it along with a big iced coffee from a nearby Starbucks, and wasn’t hungry for quite some time. (It was July, so it was quite hot.) That, of course, immediately made me a huge fan.

BTW, for all you gluten free/gluten intolerant folks, they are now Certified Gluten Free, and the new labels sport it. Can’t argue with that one.

I have since wondered if I could use Epic Bars as a diet thing–you know, one for breakfast, one for lunch, a couple of healthy snacks, and a “sensible dinner.” You know I’m adventurous enough to actually try it one day, right? I promise, if I ever do, I’ll write all about it. I mean, they really ARE healthy, so how could it be bad?

I’ll think about it another day. Right now, I’m enjoying the blast of cool spring air coming through, and hoping it lasts a good long while.

So I was thinking about doing an update on Epic Bars, and visited their website. Woo hoo! New flavors, new blends, and some different types of products than just the bars. And a sample pack! There are also bags of bites, and now something called “Hunter & Gatherer Mixes,” which combines organic beef jerky with 4 different combinations of dried fruits. Like the bars and the bites, they’re also grain-free, soy-free, gluten-free and GMO-free. I haven’t tried those yet, but will one of these days. They’re not really available much in my neck of the woods, but there are a couple of places I might drop into soon and see what they have. Of course, you can always order all the delicious Epic products on their website, too, which is what I did.

I bought the “Sampler Pack,” just to see what would arrive. Well, take a look:

Can't wait to dive in!

Can’t wait to dive in!

They’ve switched to a different type of packaging, so you can see what’s inside:

Now you can see what you're getting.

Now you can see what you’re getting.

That small one on the top is lamb, which, as you probably know, is more expensive. I’ve bought ground lamb many times, so I know what it costs, as well as other cuts. So, of course, that bar is going to be smaller–because they won’t use any kind of filler, like soy, to make it the same size as the rest of them. That, to me, makes them an honest company.

The biggest one of the bunch is the Uncured Bacon & Pork. I know, people becoming adverse to eating pork, but not me. Up to you. Pulled Pineapple Pork, too? Oh, yes, please. . .with dried pineapple pieces, thank you.

There is even a Chicken Sriracha bar! There isn’t any actual Sriracha sauce listed, but several spices, that, I guess, would give it the Sriracha taste. (I’ve never used Sriracha, so I’m guessing on this one, cause I’m not a fan of burning hot food.)  Organic chia seeds are listed as well, which means the seeds swell and help fill you up, too.

Sesame Chicken with BBQ. . .also sounds wonderful.

Beef with apple and uncured bacon? YUM.

They’ve also developed one with. . .liver and sea salt. I do not have one of those.

Longtime readers of this blog know that liver is one of those things I do NOT like, but Epic went with a new Liver and Sea Salt bar. I am quite reluctant to try it, because, well, it’s liver. They’re not sold individually, and a LSS sample pack has six bars, which means if I didn’t like it, I would be stuck with five.

Maybe I’ll find them locally and get one. ONE. Just to try it. Liver. I’ve got sea salt, if it needs more, to kill the taste of the liver.

Another hallmark of Epic is the humane way that the livestock animals are raised and treated. No hormones, antibiotics, or unnatural feed (like soy) for them, to produce a high quality product. Can’t argue with that. I hope that this kind of ranching and farming becomes the norm one day soon.

Remember with Epic Bars, you must drink plenty of water.

I saw on Epic’s Facebook page and on their blog that Epic is one of the many sponsors of an upcoming road race, called the Durty Spur Trail Run. I did pass the idea to Neighbor K, but she didn’t like the idea of running with livestock animals. Nevermind that she did a race a few years ago where she went through a lake where goats. . .congregate. K and Daft Pug came back filthy, and K was wearing a big, fuzzy hat that looked like Fred Flintstone’s lodge hat, complete with horns. But the smile on her face said she had fun.

This road race is way the heck out in the middle of Texas, literally. So if 10K or 30K is your thing, and you’re free on April 18th to go to Hamilton, TX, have at it. (I’m not available that day; I’ll be resting from an activity on April 17th, where I’ll be gone all day and dead tired when I get home that night–and no, not a road race.)

Hamilton might be one of them places I need to look at later for my “country writing retreat.” We’ll see. I’m just looking online right now. Texas is a big state, so there’s bound to be a place for me in the country somewhere.

So for now, that’s all from my little corner of Houston, in the great state of Texas. I’m working on a couple of new things to blog about, but of course, will keep you in the loop on the garden progress. I can’t believe I didn’t think of planting my lettuce ends–I could have been eating it all this time! Well, we move forward.

Til next time–Happy Dining!

 

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The HeatCageKitchen 2015 Garden

The HeatCageKitchen 2015 Garden

Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers!

Well, it’s mid-March, and St. Patty’s Day came and went without incident for me. That is, nobody pinched me for not wearing green (I was, and have green flecks in my eyes), and I didn’t punch anyone for pinching me. So it was a good day!

I’ve seen the GER a little more recently, and yesterday, he brought me a big box of cracked pecans from his backyard.

Some women get flowers. I get pecans. You can have the flowers.

Some women get flowers. I get pecans. You can have the flowers.

Non-GMO and all that. They are cracked, but not completely shelled. This means that if I ever stop EATING said pecans, I will sort them out into pieces, cracked ones, and the minority that did not crack. I’ll finish the shelling, then bag them up to freeze, then turn them into some delicious gluten-free treats. The GER brings the lot to someone who charges him sixty cents a pound to run them through a machine to crack them. Friend of the blog RR says I need to make him a pecan pie. I told him to bring over his Puerto Rican Mama so she can teach me to cook some tasty Spanish food.

Actually, I’ve told RR for many years that if I ever date a man of Hispanic origin or descent, I’m heading over to his house in Katy for cooking lessons from his Mom. He sort of agreed, but I bet he hasn’t told his Mom about it.

So it’s that time of year, and for us urban gardeners, time to figure out what the heck we’re going to grow this year. I’ve been attending free classes monthly at my local library, and I’ve already learned a lot. Crop rotation is important–don’t keep putting garlic into the same spot or pot year after year, plant your tomatoes there and garlic elsewhere. I have made compost for the first time (with a little help from that class in January plus Urban Farm magazine.)  Just emptied my kitchen compost crock into the container again this weekend, and it looks. . .well, you know, it’s decomposing plant matter. It’s compost.

The Meyer lemon plant that gave me four beautiful lemons that I turned into a cake last year is already cranked up for more action this season:

The fantastic Meyer lemon plant.

The fantastic Meyer lemon plant.

 

There are even some tiny lemons growing now, but there will be some drop-off before I get to harvest any full-grown lemons.

See the tiny lemons?

See the tiny lemons?

I’ve seen a few hungry bees looking for nectar, which makes me happy, but citrus trees are self-pollinating. The lime tree I bought last year is starting to bloom, too:

The key lime tree. I'll be very happy if it gives me some.

The key lime tree. I’ll be very happy if it gives me some.

Let’s see if I can lower my lime cost this year. I buy at least a dozen at a time, but had to curtail last year when the price went way up. However, if I can get some limes growing, I’ll soon be having Mojitos:

Mint roars back

Mint roars back!

I recently trimmed back the mint plant and added more soil. We’ve had a good amount of rain here in Houston recently, and when the water comes back, so does the mint. Watering the mint when it’s dry helps, too. That plant is about five years old, I think.

WARNING: put mint into a container, or it will overtake the garden. RR found that out last year when he had a huge swath growing against the fence. (He posted it on Facebook.) The GER says he’s got mint thriving with some ornamentals. I hope he didn’t spend much on onrnamentals. . .or he learns to love Mojitos. (I can teach you how to make those, just ask, OK?)

I’ve also started seeds for jalepeno peppers, yellow teardrop grape tomatoes, bell peppers, sprouting garlic cloves, parsley and sunflowers. If we get sunflowers, they’ll grow against the wall that separates our patios so Neighbor K can have some if she wants. Last time I grew some on the front patio, someone came by and broke the beautiful bloom off the six-foot stem. So now they will be planted in the back patio.

I could not resist a little Jeff Dunham humor. I put in a little tag that says “Jalepeno on-a-STEEK.”

I’ve also planted some Mesclun mix lettuce in a pot, so we’ll see what happens there. I should have planted some kale for Neighbor K last fall, but didn’t think about it . Neighbor K loves kale; I like it, don’t love it, but will try next fall to grow some for us.

The GER suggested lifting the trees in pots up off the ground a little so they can get more sun, so that’s what I’ll be doing this week. All of them, if I can get enough bricks, and they’ll all be happy with lots of sunshine.

I will need to buy some basil plants, because you KNOW I want plenty of pesto this year. At least three, maybe four or five plants. I’m not messing around–I am serious about my pesto!

Here’s a childhood memory: my parents LOVE avocados. Before I was born, they lived in a house that had had an avocado tree in the backyard. They feasted on avocados when it produced, and fondly remembered that for years (until the fat-free thing came along and doctors told them  to leave them alone.) Every time my Mom would buy an avocado, she would keep the seed and try to get it to root. They were in nearly every window–four toothpicks stuck like 12, 3, 6 and 9 on a clock, water in the bottom, and she waited for it to root, then planted it with the greatest of hopes. Did this for my entire childhood, until I left home. Never had an avocado tree. So keep that in mind while I tell you more.

I’ve shown you these green onions before, but let me tell you a bit more about them.

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When I had a “boyfriend,” I got him to take me to Frohberg Farms in Alvin, TX. Aunt Ruth told me about the farm, and even though it was a drive from where I live, it’s still buying local. I need to hike it out there again one day; they have strawberry picking going on now, and I would love to pick me some. (And eat them!)  I bought a number of things, including some green onions. I’d read on the Urban Farm forum that by cutting off the white, rooted bottom of the green onion and planting it, you could regrow them and just cut what you need.

That was in 2010. . .I no longer have a “boyfriend,” but the onions are still growing, through everything, including rain, drought, no sunlight and pests. I bought some from the grocery a few months ago to make a recipe, just to make sure I had the right amount. And I planted those rooted bottoms, so now I have more. I bought the big fat ones, but they grew back very skinny. Who cares, right? Unless you’ve got to have the amount just right, you can go outside and cut some green onions, just what you need. They grow back forever.

Now, that brings me to a bigger subject that I missed writing about last year. Back in November, Urban Farm ran an article that I somehow skimmed past on re-growing food scraps. What do I mean by that? Well, the green onion bit is just one example–and just about anyone can do it. Rachel Hurd Anger’s article starts out with a lady who started re-growing lettuce after reading about it online. Now she wonders exactly what she can re-grow after shopping. Another lady grows lettuce and celery.

I gave the GER a subscription to that magazine for Christmas. . .I bet he saw it.

Have I ever mentioned that I just love salad? I mean, I REALLY love salad. So guess what I’m going to do soon? Couple it with the Salad in the Jar project I used to do, and I will be a rabbit-food-nibbling cat in no time. I’m going to get some organic romaine lettuce and celery in the next few days and sprout the ends in water. Once they start to develop roots, I’ll pop it into the soil, and wait for the magic to grow it back. I plan on doing this with a bunch of heads of organic romaine as well as a couple of bunches of organic celery.

If all goes well, I’ll be growing lettuce AND tomatoes and happily consuming them. If I’m lucky, I might have too many. . .then my friends will be blessed, too. Cross your fingers.

Now, the article goes onto to talk about other things you can grow from roots and ends, like carrots. Legumes, with the exception of split peas, will also sprout for you, and you can have a houseplant from dried chickpeas.

Another example is cutting the top off the pineapple and letting it grow in a pot. Remember this one?

The monster pineapple plant.

The monster pineapple plant.

The GER took it home where it. . .died. Dunno what happened, but he said he even took it to a Honduran lady who specializes in saving plants. She couldn’t save it. GRRRR. . .I was looking forward to some fresh pineapple from the GER’s back garden, too. Oh, well; we’ll try again. But that plant came from the top of a grocery store pineapple from Hawaii I bought one day on sale for $1. You like pineapples? Grow you some!

The article goes on to talk about other plants and seeds that you can re-grow, and mentions one source that never had any luck with the avocado. Well, I know all about that one, don’t I? (I have no idea if my mother is still trying to grow that tree in her 70s.)

While you wait for your garden harvest, there is a book mentioned in this article called Don’t Throw It: Grow It! 68 Windowsill Plants From Kitchen Scraps (Storey Pulishing, 2008.) Author Deborah Peterson talks about what you can grow from leftover pieces and seeds. If you have children, this might be a great way to show them where food comes from, and how to reduce waste, too. I don’t have it yet but plan to order it, since it’s not expensive.

When I looked up that book,I also found Vertical Vegetables And Fruits by Rhonda Massingham Hart. Also inexpensive, I think this will help me grow more in the suburban 8′ x 5′ plot I have now, as well as later, when I get to a much-desired larger space. (And, I think I can make the GER just a teensy bit jealous.)

Thinking about all this, I suddenly had a hankering for Pea Pesto Soup, so I’ve made some, even though it’s not cold anymore. I haven’t had it in a while, and because I had to go yeast free for a while to get rid of the heartburn, it’s OK.(There is cheese in the pesto, and peas are higher in carbs, so it will feed the yeast.) I’ve got one full and one nearly full container of pesto left in the freezer, so I need to get some basil plants this weekend, or I’m going to run out and be very grouchy.

I’ll close with this picture of a stove that would make Suzy Homemaker, um, green with envy, but also make her wish she was a grownup. I found it on Facebook the other day and promptly shared it on my wall:

Amy's fantasy kitchen stove. I don't even care what color it is, or how much it costs.

Amy’s fantasy kitchen stove. I don’t even care what color it is, or how much it costs. I want one.

We all have a dream, right? Now, I don’t have a house yet, and when I do, it’s not going to be a straight drive on I-10 like you think it will be. And if I can pull it off, Google Maps won’t find it, either. I’ve since posted a screen porch picture that had people inviting themselves over. One friend in California said she’d be “happy to share my new house.” Another friend in New Orleans said that between the food, desserts, the clothes, “especially when she puts in that new stove she posted a while back.” Those two ladies are Buddhists, so we’ll be chanting and enjoying the country. If Neighbor K comes over with Daft Pug, she can take him out while we do our prayers. And then we’ll be some happy, hell-raising women. In the country, where we can’t get into much trouble.

Between the stove and the porch and a few other pictures I’ve shared. . .maybe I should start downloading and maybe printing those pictures out for future reference.

So, if you’re still in winter, like my friend Frannie in Arizona, give your garden some hard thinking so you can be ready when the time comes. Start now growing your lettuce, celery and sprout your seeds indoors so you’re ready to go when the frost is over.

If you’re down here in the South, it’s time to start your garden. Get moving, and grow what you like to eat, and whatever grows best where you live.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Fresh from the Garden, Fruit, salad

 

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Chef Michael’s Argan Oil

Chef Michael’s Argan Oil

Happy Tuesday, Dear Readers!

Well, it’s been an up-and-down couple of weeks since my last post, and for that I apologize. I’ve been working on the copywriting side, and even visited with the GER last week. But I did get lucky right after my last post—in addition to a lot of good feedback, I got a call from Chef Michael and his wonderful wife, Rosemine, and we talked for over an hour! I won’t give away any of their trade secrets, but they did have a lot to say, and I do appreciate their time.

Chef Michael has been making tasty food for many years, and they opened the Gourmet Kitchen in 2011 in The Woodlands/Tomball area. They specialize in corporate events, like the open house at Woodlands Wellness. But what I also didn’t know is that they also do event catering for the Bernhardt Winery in Plantersville, TX. No kidding! I’ve not even heard of that winery, but that’s not surprising, since Texas has quite a number of them, including Haak Vineyards & Winery (in my part of town, they do weddings) and Messina Hof (in Bryan, near Texas A&M.)  If you’re in the mood for a winery trip, check out Bernhardt’s concert series, both winter and summer—and you’ll be able to sample some of the same delicious food from Chef Michael’s Gourmet Kitchen while you’re there. I’m not saying it’s going to be gluten-free like it was at the open house—that all depends on what the winery (or any client) requests. But whatever it is, you’ll be treated to some of the best tasting food north of the Tunnel.

I asked Chef Michael what got him started making gluten-free and yeast-free food. Most caterers don’t want to deal with “special menus” but can accommodate vegetarians with easy substitutions (I know that from corporate experience.) His answer was simple: “Dr. Davis asked for it.” Now that option is available on his catering menu for Dr. Davis as well as anyone who is looking for a healthier option for their event. You can read more about it here. Definitely not what you’d call “diet food,” and utterly delicious.

Remember this picture from my last post?

One of the delicious  dishes from Chef Michael's repetoire

One of the delicious dishes from Chef Michael’s repetoire

Well. . .that was one of the questions I asked Chef Michael and Rosemine: What the heck is Argan Oil? Rosemine told me, and since then, I’ve certainly learned a lot about it.

Now, before I tell you more, let me preface it this way: if you’re familiar with making anything with chocolate (including things like cakes and ice creams) or are a fan of the Barefoot Contessa, you’ll know that adding a small amount of coffee in a chocolate recipe helps bring out the chocolate flavor. You don’t taste the coffee, but it enhances and improves the taste of whatever you’re doing with the chocolate. My favorite Yeast Free Brownies are a perfect example.

The Argan Oil in Chef Michael’s cooking was like that. Not something I noticeably tasted in the forefront, but something in the background that really enhanced the flavor of everything. Olive oil is great, and so is coconut oil, but Argan’s warm, nutty flavor is a little something special without covering or overpowering the rest of the flavors.

Argan Oil comes exclusively from Morocco, and is used primarily in European and Mediterranean cooking. It’s only been known and available in the US in the last ten years or so (and why have I never heard of it?) One website I researched said that it was unknown outside of Morocco until French chefs started putting it in everything. Now Argan is gaining ground as a gourmet oil and as a health/wellness/beauty product.

Processing and extraction of Argan Oil are all done by hand, by Moroccan women who make a living with the arduous process. It is a nut oil—so if you have a nut allergy, it may not be for you. (Remember: I’m not a doctor, just a food blogger.) The nuts are dried, and are heated to remove the “nutty” aroma for cosmetic use. The culinary oil is then toasted to enhance the nutty flavor that it’s prized for.

Now I wonder if an Argan tree will grow in Texas—but it takes 30-50 years to bear fruit!  Maybe I’ll try growing hazelnuts; I don’t have that kind of patience (or time left.)

The nut comes from the Argan tree, or Argania spinosa. The nut kernel is surrounded by a fleshy fruit, which is removed by hand and used for animal feed. Attempts at mechanizing the separation and extraction process have not yet worked, but I’m sure that will change in the future when someone figures it out. For now, the local women’s cooperatives that do the labor-intensive extraction work helps the women make a living and provide for their families.

So what do you do with it? Unlike olive or coconut oils, you generally don’t cook with Argan Oil. It’s something to be used as-is and in small amounts, like a salad dressing or a “finishing oil.” It’s a bit like the fancy pink Himalayan salt I bought at the Metropolitan Food & Entertaining Expo a couple of years ago. You’d sprinkle a pinch on top of something right before serving, rather than measure some and add it to the recipe. Argan Oil is also used as a dip, similar to the little dip dishes of olive oil in Italian restaurants. It doesn’t have the high smoke point of coconut or olive, so a few drops at the end is all you need.

Argan Oil is similar to olive oil in health benefits, too, rich in Vitamin E and other essential fatty acids. It may also be more resistant to oxidation than olive oil. Some people swear by taking a tablespoon or so first thing in the morning.

There is an additional product from the Argan tree, called Amlou, with a consistency similar to peanut butter. It’s a Moroccan thing, much like peanut butter is to us. It’s made from stone ground almonds, local honey and Argan Oil, and is also available jarred. Spread it on crackers, toast, or whatever you like.

Topically, Argan Oil is used straight for sunburn, wrinkles, acne, stretch marks, and as a hair treatment—but only a little at a time. Medical benefits (according to ArganFarm.com) include lowered cholesterol, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, pain treatment, lower blood pressure and regulation of heart function.

Again—I’m not a doctor, just a food blogger reporting what she reads. While the topical applications are probably safe and effective, I can’t positively answer for the medical benefits; you’d have to try it and see, assuming you don’t have a nut allergy.

Now, I didn’t know the rest of all this about Argan Oil. About a year or so ago, one of my writer friends posted a comment on Facebook about “Morocco Oil” that she bought to use in her hair. (That’s another name for Argan Oil.) She loved it. I meant to try it and I forgot. A couple of months ago, Neighbor K told me to try some Pantene shampoo and conditioner that contained Argan Oil. After looking at a dizzying array of Pantene products, I found the right one and wielded my coupons at the checkout.

Then while Rosemine explained it to me on the phone, I walked into my bathroom and realized that I really did have some. Of course, it wasn’t straight oil, it was in Pantene shampoo and conditioner, and some Tresomme hair styling stuff that contained some Argan Oil, noted on the label.

I really had no idea.

If you’re interested in learning more about Argan Oil, there are a number of sites dedicated to it.

This article on Food Republic gives a writer’s experience learning about Argan Oil while visiting Morocco in 2012.

In the US, Zamouri Spices is a Kansas-based company that not only imports Argan Oil for culinary and cosmetic uses, it also carries a number of Moroccan products that are difficult to find here in the US. (Being from New Orleans, it’s not something I’d ever look for.) They also carry spices, tangines (those round triangular-lidded clay pots), copperware, tea and tea accessories, and other related items.

From the UK is Argan Oil Direct, which also has free shipping worldwide and a USDA organic certification. This site offers two free e-books (which I haven’t read yet) and has a lot of information on it. This is also a company with a home base in Morocco, and is part of one of the Berber family that owns land that the trees grow on.

If you don’t mind ordering online from overseas, ArganFarm.com is run by a native Moroccan named Bader Eddine, and he lives in Essaouira City. His company sells direct from the people who extract it, and also offers a free e-book so you can read more about it. Although the book is well written, Bader’s English is a bit wonky, since it’s probably not his first language. That’s OK–at the end of the book is an offer for free shipping to 200 countries (including the US.) I didn’t see any mention of organic in the book or on his website, but it might be.

Please note that I have not personally ordered from any of the overseas websites. If you do, make SURE to use a credit card, so that if something goes wrong, you can, if need be, dispute it.

Amazon also has a large selection of Argan Oils available from several vendors, some from Zamouri, for both cosmetic and culinary use.

If you’re in The Woodlands, and your company has an upcoming function where the food is that important (or if your event is in The Woodlands), make sure you contact Chef Michael’s Gourmet Kitchen at 281-660-8680, or email them at cateringbychefmichael@gmail.com. You can see more on their website, including menus, additional information, and even a few recipes! Chef Michael and Rosemine can help design a menu that’s perfect for whatever you need. You can see some pictures of their elegant spreads, and even a picture of them at the winery, in their online gallery.

I’m working on a few things for upcoming posts. But darnit, sometimes things are so new that I can’t get my hands on it yet. I’ll let you know when I can.

Happy Dining!

 

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