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Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Clean Slate

Clean Slate

Happy Monday, Dear Readers!

Again, my apologies for being late writing. I’ve been busy on the copywriting side. Nothing big to report yet, but I’m getting there.

Two weeks ago I went to a conference for audio-visual people sponsored by Whitlock. I went to the JW Marriott in the Galleria, and had a great time talking to people, handing out my business cards, and. . .eating. No kidding. When I walked in, I was greeted by decaf Starbucks coffee; I didn’t see the bagels, but that’s OK. In addition to winning a $5 gift card from Starbucks, I was also gifted a few other times, including an Italian lunch buffet at the Marriott! Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy talking to people. Like the Marriott in Delray Beach, Florida, everything was delicious (and I forgot about “gluten free” that day.)  I will tell you that the Tiramisu in shot glasses was quite the tasty treat. . .both of them. This week is another conference that’s three days long. Don’t know if I can hold up for three days of it, but we’ll see.

Never fear, I will NOT be world’s next size 22 “supermodel.” Meet the new object of my affection:

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Now, admittedly, it’s not actually new–it’s a 22-year-old Huffy that was newly refurbished. I took it to Bay Area Cycling about a month ago and asked for new tires, brake pads, and a “tune-up.” Runs like a top, and I’ve been riding it nearly every evening, except when we were under a typhoon warning. Walking hurt like the dickens, and I get a little stiffness from riding 10 or more miles a day, but not the kind I got walking. I just had to quit, and I hated doing that. But I’m absolutely loving the bike–I forgot how enjoyable a bike ride is.

We got some heavy rain, but 2 weeks before the rain that made the national news. We’re still dealing with the aftermath of flooding. . .but nearly every evening, I’ve hopped up on my ride and gone for 10 to 14 mile rides.

Neighbor K does the competitive kind of riding, whereas I just enjoy the ride and the exercise. (Translation: her sport-grade bike cost a lot more than mine, even with the tune up.)  Last weekend, she told me about an app for my phone called Road ID, and had me put it on my phone. Neat little item, but the biggest reason is safety. We’re connected on this app, so that when I go out riding, I activate it, K gets a text and she can see exactly where I am and where I’m going. If I stop for more than five minutes, she gets an alert and my phone screams at me. If that happens, she’ll text or call.

Sunday’s Wal-Mart excursion found a perfect little bike bag that sits on the middle bar and has a clear top that holds the phone, so I can see how far I’ve gone, how much time has elapsed, and the “off” button.

Neighbor R, my eighty-something neighbor on the other side, was also glad to hear about us getting the app and connecting on it.

So far, we haven’t had anything bad happen, but if one of us is out and needs help, the other can find and get help if needed. It also gives you the option to create an emergency number lock screen picture so that if you can’t get to your phone, someone else can call for you–like a paramedic.

Granted, we hope it never happens, but it’s there if needed. Unlike our esteemed 71-yo Secretary of State, we will probably not have the benefit of having a doctor flown in from somewhere else. I’ll probably have to set my own broken leg!

Well, anyway. . . .

The garden is just happening with all the rain we’ve had, including tomatoes:

The Cherokee Purple tomato--I can't wait!

The Cherokee Purple tomato–I can’t wait!

Sweet Basil and mint:

Pesto coming soon!

Pesto coming soon!

And Anaheim chili peppers, AKA “Hatch chiles:”

There are 12 peppers in various stages of development on this plant.

There are 12 peppers in various stages of development on this plant.

I’ve never had so many grow before, so I guess I’ll be finding a few more uses for them.

I have harvested a few tomatoes:

 

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That’s the Chocolate Cherry tomato, which I just ate today. Yes, it was delicious, a very rich tomato, but it did not taste like chocolate. It’s a slow grower, but there are more coming. The Sungold plant, however, is a prolific producer, and the Tiny Tom is producing too.

The reds are on the right.

The reds are on the right.

 

I’m still working on getting lettuce to grow–Neighbor K has given me a couple of lettuce ends to plant, and the one she gave me about a month ago is growing great:

That big plant at the top is celery.

That big plant at the top is celery.

 

I bought two more, and K gave me another stub, with one more to come:

They're growing!

They’re growing!

 

However, I have had problems with the inconsiderate animals who treat my little urban garden is their personal salad bar. But I fixed them. I bought a Nite Guard, and have it flashing outside at night. Designed for farms and ranches, it flashes a little red light that scares the bejeezus out of possums. Yes, it’s possums–because cats don’t dig up lettuce. Our little condo complex is apparently a possum sanctuary and breeding ground, because they get as big as cats. Bigger, in fact. Possums aren’t vicious unless attacked, and don’t carry rabies, but they’ll stand their ground and get into anything. EWWW.

And the two remaining Meyer Lemons are doing well, as are the two key limes on the plant behind the lemons.

The survivors

The survivors

No idea why, I just harvest them when they’re ready.

So, Saturday I headed to LK’s house for our district Buddhist chanting session we have, and after another attendant left, we got to talking about all kinds of things, but usually food. While not a food blogger, LK is a definite foodie, and worked for Williams-Sonoma until January when they closed the store in Baybrook Mall. LK has some nicer stuff than I have, like a Vita-Mix, since she had that lovely employee discount. But I’m not jealous. . .not REALLY. . . .

In all seriousness, we really do have many of the same cookbooks, particularly Martha Stewart and the Everyday Food books, although LK leans toward the vegetarian side and eat meat occasionally. We talk a lot about foodie things, cause we love it. We compare notes, and when one of us is seeking, the other brings. Let me tell you what I mean by that.

Now, after I got the bike tuned up, I did something awful: I hopped on my bathroom scale. Oh, boy–but I knew it wasn’t going to be good. Well. . .it hurts, so I’ve got to start working that number down. Otherwise, I’ll be walking with a cane or a frame until it’s time for knee replacements! No thanks. I went back to LoseIt.com and downloaded the app to my tablet. (You can also add it to your smartphone.) I added in my (ugh) weight as a baseline and have been recording everything, including the bike rides. Nothing fantastic to report yet, but, as always, I’m working on it. If all goes well, I could be wearing a bikini by October.

Laugh if you want, but October in Texas, it’s not unlikely–the real chill generally comes about November. We’re good with it.

I also mentioned my love for the bike to LK. Made me feel good when she said, “that was money well spent.” Well, it was.

So Saturday I tell LK about all this, and she mentions the book Clean Slate. HUH? I forgot about this one–from the editors of Martha Stewart Living. Published in mid-December, it’s a book for detoxing and rejuvenation and. . .well, clean food. That is not to say gluten free, although many recipes are; but there are many with whole wheat, too.

I looked through it a couple of times when it came out, but when I saw two or three recipes with tofu, I put it back. Then LK starts showing me a recipe that is wonderful for after the bike rides: Bell Pepper, Yogurt and Harissa Soup on page 164. It’s COLD, y’all! I needed tissue anyway, so the Target trip turned into a grocery trip. After the Scott tissue, I picked up the book and thumbed through it while I shopped.

Later in the day, Neighbor K came over to show me the app to put on my phone. I showed her the book, then she saw all the smoothie drinks. Now K is interested in this book, too.

The soup was really simple: three bell peppers, chopped, 2 cups of yogurt (I used Greek, I like it better) and a spice called Harissa. LK had some, she found it in town. Well. . .I couldn’t find it locally, but there’s a recipe. Guess what? I didn’t have all the ingredients to make it–heck with it, I grabbed something called Garam Masala, which is used in Indian cooking, and tossed that in. Maybe it doesn’t taste the way the recipe intended, but it sure is GOOD. I’ll get the Harissa (or ingredients) one day soon and whip some up.

Next thing I want to try is the Pureed Cauliflower Soup on page 152. Three ingredients. . .cook, blitz with a hand-held blender, and serve hot. I can’t wait.

In the smoothie department, there are lots of things to drink that are rehydrating, refreshing, detoxing, all that. (A couple have tofu and beets–yuck!) When I got home, the first one I made was from the desserts chapter, the Almond-Cinnamon Frappe on page 312. Toss into a blender 2 tablespoons of almond butter (there’s a recipe, but I bought Justin’s), 1 cup of almond milk (again, preferably homemade, but I have Almond Breeze on hand), 1 tablespoon honey (from Texas, of course) and a quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon. I poured it over ice, then called LK to tell her what I was drinking. YUM. Yes, the Frappuccinos from Starbucks are delicious. In addition to being very expensive, they’re also very high in sugar and other things. . .while this frappe is 327 calories, it fewer, healthier ingredients.

Since Neighbor R has gifted me with Starbucks gift cards recently, I was going to go try one of the Mini-Frappuccinos last week. Then I saw not only the price but the calorie count, and said “decaf, please.”

When I record these things in LoseIt, it’s all there. I can create a new recipe, add the ingredients all in, and it tells me how many calories per serving; this is helpful when the recipe makes more than one serving. I’ll be having that more often, but maybe not as much as iced coffee. Sometimes the calorie counts are a bit off, but that’s OK. LoseIt doesn’t tell you what to eat or not, it’s a calorie and exercise counter. K has a similar one, but I’ve used this one off and on for a couple of years–first on my home laptop, now on mobile devices.

The next drink I tried was the Grapefruit, Carrot and Ginger drink. You need a juicer for it, which I don’t have, so the blender had to suffice. Well. . .it was chunky. And a bit weird, especially with the potent ginger in it. You know what I always say. . .two packets of Sweet & Low will kill the taste of anything! That one is on page 111; if you really, really like carrots and have a juicer, go for it.

This morning, I whipped up the Strawberry, Grapefruit and Ginger smoothie; that makes three servings, so the other two are in the fridge. I forgot to add the water, so when I drink tomorrow’s, I’ll add a third cup and whiz it in the little blender. It’s good, I like it, but the ginger is a bit overpowering, so I’ll cut back on it next time. (No Sweet & Low needed here, though.)

This afternoon I also whipped up a Blueberry Yogurt smoothie, (page 114) which included a little orange juice, and unsweetened almond milk. Not bad! Guess I need to get more blueberries; the ones I used today were some from the last time the GER went berry-picking and gave me some. I made some ice cream last summer with some of them.

I’m particularly interested in the grapefruit recipes since I have so many of them after buying them for the Butsudan and forgetting to eat them. Turns out I can make some nice juicy drinks with them, and they’re detoxifying, too. (Not sure about that carrot drink, but if you like it, go for it.) There is also one on page 112 called Coconut Cherry Smoothie, with 2 cups frozen pitted cherries (my favorite!!!), 1 cup coconut water and a tablespoon of lime juice. That serves two, but you can make one at a time, too.

I’ve never bought or tasted coconut water. Ever. So if I do indulge, it’ll be a first.

I have looked through the recipes and found a number that I want to try soon, just because they look tasty. I hope to cook my way through most of this book, sans the ones with tofu, edamame and any other form of soy I find. Coconut oil is something that plays a part in this book, so that made me happy, too.

I’m glad I finally bought this book and got into it. I wish I’d bought it when it was published, but I have friends like LK and K who tell me about such things. It’s good to have friends like that, you know? (And make sure that you can call those same friends at 4:00 am to bail you out of jail. . .before you have to.)

So I’m a little late with it, but if you’re looking for some healthier fare and prefer the clean eating, Clean Slate is a good place to start. If you aren’t familiar with what’s called “clean eating,” take some time to read the first section of the book, the introduction and all the “golden rules” before jumping into the delicious recipes. Staying hydrated is one rule, and this summer I’ll have lots of healthy drinks to chose from. (That’s not to say I’m giving up the occasional Mojito, however–but notice I said “occasional.”)  Most of the recipes don’t require a large number of ingredients, and most are easy to locate (except that Harissa.)

Oh, LK also says we have a new Sprouts store in town. . .I’ll check that out when I can.

Meantime, be healthy and happy, and have some healthy, delicious food, whatever you like the best.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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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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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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The Woodlands Wellness Lunch

The Woodlands Wellness Lunch

Hello, Dear Readers:

It occurred to me that I haven’t written since Friday the 13th. AAAHH!!! My apologies. I didn’t realize it was that long. I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day, and if you were so inclined, a nice time at the world’s largest #Starbucksdate. I did, and I got a lot of reading done.

Meantime, last week (Feb 19th) I headed north to the annual open house at my doctor’s office. Woodlands Wellness & Cosmetic Center has been in business for ten years. To celebrate–they moved! Seriously, they have a new, larger location, with more room, a long hallway and lots of beautiful blue tile. (I want that blue tile in my house. When I get in it, of course.) And they even told me where they were moving to. So, since I don’t get out too often, I got dressed and went. It was a beautiful day, the weather was cool but not cold, and the doctors and staff had a very long day. (I had a long, long drive, too, but it was worth it, especially for an overdue “day out.”)

They put a few pictures on Facebook, and I guess they had a “ball” afterwards, because everyone was in formal wear. The doctors were seated in one picture, and my Dr. Davis had her shoes off. It was indeed a long day for them, but a good one.

There are two “sides of the house,” and I go for the health & wellness side–the bioidentical hormones and all that. (I told a couple of folks I was “jacked up on hormones and vitamins,” but I’d also watched a Sinbad stand-up DVD a few days before, so I kept saying that til I got home.) Dr. Sakina Davis is the doctor I see, a very nice lady, and, quite frankly, the only doctor I think I can trust:

Me and The Good Doctor. See? They do let me in!

Me and The Good Doctor. See? They do let me in!

Now, I have to explain that Dr. Davis likes peacocks the way I like cats and tigers. So, the office is decorated in a peacock theme, and while this iPhone picture doesn’t really show it, Dr. Davis has a peacock feather in her hair. Fabulous, and of course, appropriate. I tell you that for a reason, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Her husband, the friendly and affable Dr. George Davis, is the cosmetic side of the house. He does the CoolSculpting, Botox, Radiesse, dermal fillers and other cosmetic procedures I learn about when I go to their open house. All the staff will answer any questions you have about any of their procedures, all you have to do is ask.

Another product they carry is Jane Iredale makeup. I’m a longtime Avon user, but I did get a lecture from a fellow redhead on the advantages of switching to Jane Iredale. She was very nice, and despite telling them that I still have oily skin, I heard the term “dry patch.” It was just powder I’d put on. I do not need moisturizer!!

I don’t doubt that it’s good, and I was offered a makeover using JI makeup. You tell me–did it help?

Right after my Jane Iredale makeover, taken by the redhead who did it.

Right after my Jane Iredale makeover, taken by the long-haired redhead who did it. (Now my profile picture here and on Facebook, too.)

I dunno. . .I think I’m looking like my grandmother with red hair. And I think Maw Maw O’Donnell wouldn’t be thrilled with that, either.

If you know anything about this line, it’s more expensive than Avon. Well. . .it was fun, but I’ll have to think about it another day. Honest, that was the first time I’d worn makeup in about a month. When I got home, the eyeliner looked like I’d been caught in the rain. I did tell them, but anyway. . . .

When I walked in, one of the very nice staff offered me my choice of coffee, water or a mimosa. Yes, that’s orange juice with champagne, at 10:00 am, and no, I did not. But I asked for decaf, and they had some–in one of those little takeaway boxes from Starbucks. Thank you! It was very welcomed, warm and tasty, especially with the hazelnut creamer I didn’t realize I picked up.

To introduce you to all the different things WW&CC offers, they give you a “swag bag” of nice things (including a sample lip/cheek stain from Jane Iredale) and a card. You stamp your card when you talk to the different reps for different things. For instance, Christina was giving out samples of Nordic Natural gummy vitamins (delicious), another rep discussed Radiesse, the Jane Iredale ladies were in another room, ending with Dr. George and one of the high-end procedures he does. (I say “high end” because it’s kind of over my head.)

Once you get all your stamps, you drop your card into the raffle box. If you buy supplements, everything was 20% off, and you got an extra ticket, so I got another bottle of the only Vitamin B complex I’ve ever tried that doesn’t make me sick. So I put one ticket in for the Hydrafacials, and one in the box for the Jane Iredale gift basket. If I win. . .well, that’s an excuse to drive back up there, isn’t it?

Yes, there was indeed food involved. The best food anywhere, and even better than last year, which was also very delicious. This year’s menu was again created by Chef Michael’s Gourmet Kitchen in Tomball (close to The Woodlands) and they designed this elegant menu for both the morning and evening sessions:

The fabulous menu from Chef Michael's Gourmet Kitchen.

Chef Michael’s fabulous menu for the morning and evening open house sessions. Sophisticated and first-class dining.

The young lady who was working the morning shift wasn’t quite sure what to think of me, but she was very nice and didn’t mind me nibbling the chips and the hummus. Of course, me being a bit dull sometimes, I forgot to ask her name and thank her personally. But if you’re reading this, your patience is appreciated, and you’re very nice–thank you.

KALE!! I had some for Neighbor K, who loves it. (I didn’t ask for a takeout container. . .but had anyone offered, I would have brought her one of them kale thingies.) Honest, I like kale, don’t love it like K does, but the quinoa/goat cheese/kale dish was just delicious. I passed on the eggplant dish, but then I realized I should not have done that. DUH.

Of course, I didn’t take a picture, because I was too busy eating it:

I don't even know what Argon oil is, and at that moment, I didn't care, either.

I don’t even know what Argan oil is, and at that moment, I didn’t care, either.

I will tell you that the sun-dried tomato hummus has to be the best I’ve ever tasted. I make a simple hummus on the weekends but halve the lemon because most hummus screams lemon–it’s too acidic. Chef Michael, however, doesn’t put much lemon in his (if at all), and it’s ten times better than mine! But that’s why he’s the chef and I’m a blogger. . .and that’s OK.

The beautiful vegetable plate with the sun-dried tomato hummus at the top right. I didn't mess with the Baba Ghanoush, because, well, it's eggplant and you know why.

The beautiful vegetable plate with the sun-dried tomato hummus at the top right. I didn’t mess with the Baba Ghanoush, because, well, it’s eggplant and you know why.

Also provided were some sweet potato tortilla chips that went perfectly with the hummus. I was good–I had some, and loved it, but did NOT eat the whole thing by myself. But you know I could have, especially with sweet potato chips.

I did email Chef Michael’s wife, Rosemine, and she said she would ask him about a short call with me. I never heard back, so that tells me that he’s busy making delicious food for other people know about him and who ordered. Anyone who is on the receiving end of Chef Michael’s food knows how lucky they are, too. . . .

The other thing I got ahold of were these tasty little sandwiches:

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

Yes, they are gluten free. Here’s what was in them:

2015-02-19 11.35.55

They were just delicious, and yes, I could have eaten one of those trays myself, after the hummus. But I didn’t. OK, maybe half the tray, but I stuck with one or two.

I myself have not made the almond bread yet, but I plan to one day. I hope it comes out half as good as Chef Michael’s.

Chef Michael’s website also has a section for yeast free/gluten free menu, and you can read about it here. No wonder Dr. Davis contacted him for catering the party!

Remember about yeast-free and gluten-free that some things are that way “by default,” that is, wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) have the offending ingredient in them anyway, like hummus. Flour is used in a number of places as binder or to thicken, and I’ve used it myself on occasion (but not for a while.) So when it says “gluten free,” it might have always been so. Salsa, for instance, or butter. Make sense? The other way is to make the item with alternate ingredients that make it act like the gluten version (i.e., bread) so that the gluten (or other ingredient) is simply avoided. With this party, I knew everything was healthy, but when you’re cruising through a grocery or health food store, you must read the labels and ask questions (or you’ll end up with sugar in your tomato paste.)  Chef Michael understands what Dr. Davis was asking for and provided it, but not everyone you encounter will understand that you’re trying to avoid wheat, flour, sugar, soy, etc. So you have to ask if you’re not sure.

Anyway. . . .

Chef Michael’s website is ChefMichaelsGK.com. You can email Chef Michael Matthews or his very nice wife Rosemine at cateringbychefmichael@gmail.com. They do catering on the north side of Houston, including The Woodlands. If I can find it next time I go up there, I’ll stop in to see them. You can also call them to place an order at 281-660-8680 or 281-794-1771.

If you have a special event coming up and you live up there, or have an event planned for that part of Houston, CALL THEM FIRST. After lunch at Woodlands Wellness, I highly recommend them.

Now, while Chef Michael also does dessert, this time, he didn’t–it was by none other than my *other* Woodands favorite, Frost Bake Shoppe. Get a load of this:

Is that not an amazing cake?

Isn’t that an amazing cake?

I hate to over-use the word “amazing,” but it really was. And, wait for it–GLUTEN FREE!

I have written about Frost’s delicious gluten free treats before, ever since I attended the lecture with Dr. William Davis, the Wheat Belly guy. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to the GER, and mentioned that I was going to this activity in The Woodlands, the same place I got the cupcake he enjoyed the last time I went. In fact, he said, “bring back a dozen!” (My response: “Dude, they’re $3.50 apiece.” But you know they’re worth every penny.)

Now, this trip to The Woodlands did not end up with me stopping at Frost, because this beautiful creature appeared in the lobby. Take a closer look:

The cake, with a cake peacock on top.

Those were actually chocolate and vanilla mini-cupcakes, with the little sugar “feathers” on top, comprising the tail:

Really, really well made and beautiful

Really, really well made and beautiful

Remember when I said Dr. Davis likes the peacock the way I like tigers and cats? (That’s what I was told when I asked a staff member one day.) The cake was made to match the office’s beautiful decor. Now do you get it? The Peacock Cake!

I’m not getting married, of course, but if I were. . .that might be what I’d want for a wedding cake. Maybe my birthday cake when I turn 55. From Frost, of course. You can see a gallery of their delicious treats here (indexed by type.) And if you are up that way, stop in for a real feast for the eyes and soul. Gluten free, of course.

Oh, how many did I have? I might have accidentally eaten one of the “feathers” and um, one or two or four of the mini cupcakes. They were the tiny ones, which means I really only ate *two* cupcakes! Neighbor K gave me a funny look when I told her that. With the same look she gives the Daft Pug, she said, “just because they’re gluten free doesn’t mean you can eat them all.” Yes, I know, and I did NOT eat them ALL. Just enough to not make a trip to Frost before I came back to Clear Lake.

I did make one more stop, at Trader Joe’s in The Woodlands, and bought. . .a bunch of stuff. You know, the kind of thing I like to stock up on: olive oil, the cocoa powder, things like that, since they’re cheaper there. Neighbor R also asked me to pick up some of their $3-a-bottle Pinot Grigio, which I happily did. It’s her favorite, and I’m happy to do so for an 80-year-old firebrand with bum knees.

If I call her “a little old lady in Clear Lake” again she will hit me with said bottle. Full. Then I’ll be going to see Dr. Davis for a head injury. Oh, wait, Dr. George is also an ER physician. . .maybe I should go see him, right?

Many thanks to the Drs. Davis and their wonderful staff for a fantastic open house, Chef Michael’s Gourmet Kitchen for wonderful, tasty, and healthy well-made food, and Frost Bake Shoppe for an incredible, beautiful and delicious cake that none will ever forget.

If you’re gonna have some food, make it something good.

Happy Dining!!

 

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Chocolate alert: Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes


Good evening:

Well, yesterday was cooking day, and boy did I ever. I started out with a trip to my local Kroger stores. I say “stores” because I couldn’t get everything at the first Kroger, so I had to drop by the second. Next time I may go all the way to Friendswood and visit the one by LK’s place. Oh, wait, is she in League City? I forget. it’s over there on Bay Area and 518, or 528. . .I get those two mixed up. Anyway. . .I did get online and open up my online Kroger account and add some “digital coupons” onto my Kroger card. I also had some paper coupons that arrived in the mail on Friday. I saved a total of $45.45, which made me feel kinda stoked. Nevermind how much I actually spent, but I stocked up on some things and even tried something new.

It was great to watch that $90 tab go down to $63 in a heartbeat when my Kroger card was scanned. But I don’t do that every day.

I roasted a big ol’ pork loin roast, so that was easy. I made some barbecue sauce, because one thing I picked up on sale were some cross-cut shanks. Those went into the slow cooker this morning–delicious! Also made some more of the low-carb fruit muffins I made a couple of weeks ago.

And then I made some of the muffins I told you about in the last post from GF and Methe chocolate hazelnut muffins. Yes, they are worth the trouble to make, including with Somersweet. Wanna see?

First, you mix the cocoa powder and olive oil:

Chocolate and oil, mixed

Sounds a bit odd, but roll with it

Then you whisk up the dry ingredients:

Hazelnut flour and other goodies

Hazelnut flour and other goodies

Then beat the eggs until nice and frothy:

My Suzy Homemaker mixer again!

My Suzy Homemaker mixer again!

And then add this wonderful elixir:

Vanilla extract, HeatCageKitchen style

Vanilla extract, HeatCageKitchen style

And a little of this, too:

All Natural SomerSweet!

All Natural SomerSweet!

 

Add the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture first:

WHIZ!

WHIZ!

Mix in the dry stuff and stir it all up:

wpid-wp-1423534291155.jpeg

And then bake them at 375F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Here’s a tip: let them COOL. Overnight, if necessary. Why? Well. . .the GER came by last night, and I gave him the only one that came out perfectly. The rest, well. . .all I’m saying is let them cool completely. And maybe use paper muffin liners, too:

They sorta didn't come out of the pan exactly right. . . .

Delicious, but mine were not a feast for the eyes.

They sorta didn’t come out of the pan exactly right. . .don’t judge me. Or maybe I didn’t grease the muffin tins enough. Or maybe I need new muffin tins. . . .

I just talked to the GER and he’s not tried his muffins yet. I gave him one chocolate muffin and two of the blueberry muffins. When I mentioned that I was making some gluten-free muffins, he said, “oh, no! You nearly killed me the last time with that dinner!” Like the long-ago dinner with my brother and his family in 1997, I will likely not live that one down. Ever.

I didn’t feel like messing with the Nutella frosting, even though I could have whipped up some Homemade Nutella to make it.

Verdict: Delicious!! With hazelnut flour/meal more available in grocery and health food stores, it wouldn’t be difficult to whip these up anytime you wanted. If you’ve got a gluten-sensitive honey, get started on them Friday afternoon/evening so they’re cool on Saturday, which is Valentine’s Day. If you’re making frosting, I would do it ahead of time, too.

Note that Brenda’s original recipe calls for sugar. But because I’m a fiend for the alternative sweeteners and eschewing sugar, I used SomerSweet, which is primarily erythrytol. If you have something called Sweet N’ Natural, or another erythrytol-based sweetener, and prefer to use that, it might take some fiddling to get it right. But SomerSweet measure identical to sugar, so that’s what I go with.

And if you’re like me, don’t have a special someone, make them for yourself, (the recipe makes 6 or 7) because they’re just delicious. The rich chocolate-hazelnut taste is like nothing else you’ve ever had, and will become one of your favorites.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Little Chicken Sandwiches

Little Chicken Sandwiches

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Well, Houston’s warm spell was broken with a cold front that literally blew through last night. I was in shorts all day yesterday, and later in the evening found my self. ..chilled. I managed to gather a bag of dry leaves for composting before the rain came through, and will try to get more in a little while; cheap rakes are great, aren’t they? I made coffee last night AND this morning! Enjoy it while you can. . .because soon enough it’ll be HOT again. This is Houston, after all.

All the housework is done, and coupons cut and sorted for whenever I go shopping again. I actually have done some shopping, but not so much for groceries–more spare parts and things, mostly. But not a whole lot. For instance, I had no idea that household cleaning manufacturer Casabella made a tool to scrub your bathtub. No kidding! It’s a tub scrubber on a long pole, much like a mop or broom. How did I not know about this? I actually saw a similar tub scrubber by Oxo on Facebook, but Bed, Bath and Beyond does not have OXO’s model yet. Armed with coupons, I got one of the Casabella models and a refill pad. My tub and surroundings is clean, and I do not suffer with pain from it.

Soon I will be getting the HeatCageKitchen garden started for this year. Although my rosemary plant keeled over after so much rain, I’ve sprouted a bit of rosemary I leftover from Christmas. Takes a while, and you just keep the water fresh in the cup. The green onions are shooting up nicely, and I may need to transplant them to a bigger container.

Last night I cooked up some tenderloin medallions. No kidding. Upstairs neighbor J goes deer hunting, and some time ago gave me some delicious deer sausage he’d had made after a trip to West Texas. I was kind of “saving it,” and then he gave me a package of these:

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Venison Tenderloin Medallions

 

I’ve had venison twice before, and cooked it once, at someone’s house. (Never again.) I was not aware that venison can be tough, and because it’s so incredibly lean, needs a fair amount of oil to cook properly. I am now, so of course I first hit them with my handy-dandy meat tenderizer:

The only meat tenderizer you'll ever need

The only meat tenderizer you’ll ever need

This is the model I think I have, but I don’t believe I paid that much for it–I’m too cheap. However, this is a comparable model for a lot less.

Olive oil in a cast iron pan is the only way to go:

They cook up quick, too.

They cook up quick, too.

It wasn’t long before I was enjoying something delicious.

Yum.

Yum.

Yesterday also saw some on-sale chicken breasts and what looks like the last of the “fish unspecified” from the GER cooked up for the week. I also have a little of last week’s chicken chili, but I’ll have to post that recipe later. I meant to do it already, it’s for the slow cooker.

Now, the next one I sort of stumbled upon. . .well, let me start it this way. Remember a while back I had a fascination with the Hamilton Beach breakfast sandwich maker? I still think it’s neat, but. . .well, I gave it another try, minus the sandwich maker.

In the Wheat Belly 30-Minute (Or Less) Cookbook, there is, on page 19, a recipe for an “All Purpose Baking Mix.” With this mix, you can make a number of baked-goods recipes in the book. In fact, this book has a number of different mixes for a number of different applications. (On Page 25, there is a mix for the wonderful flaxseed wraps, and on page 28, one for tortillia baking mix, which I haven’t tried yet.)

When it got cold enough to bake a couple of weeks ago, I decided to cook up some chicken thighs, just stick them in the toaster oven on 350 with some olive oil and spices until they were done. Didn’t think more about it, just something to eat. (I got a bunch on sale again.) Separately, I decided to make some of the Basic Sandwich Muffins on page 24, using the All Purpose Baking Mix. First, I had to whip some up:

Wheat Belly All Purpose Baking Mix

Wheat Belly All Purpose Baking Mix

 

To make these little sandwich muffins, you’ll need a whoopie pie pan. These muffins are small but quite filling. Once you make enough of the baking mix, you mix up the muffin dough and bake them. They’re not very big, honest:

One Wheat Belly Basic Sandwich Muffin

One Wheat Belly Basic Sandwich Muffin, about 3″ across

They’re only about a half inch thick, really:

Side view

The recipe makes 4 of these little muffin halves, and the recipe says that each one is a half. Two of these are quite filling. Well, I decided to cut them in half to see what happened, and at some point, I realized that the chicken thighs were the perfect accompaniment. I mean, the chicken isn’t that big, either, once it’s cooked:
2015-01-31 11.00.06

The muffins are great toasted:

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And you slice up the chicken thighs lengthwise like turkey breasts to make them fit. With some Just Mayo on the muffin halves, and a dot of Zatarain’s Creole Mustard on top of the chicken:

2015-01-31 11.07.19

Voila!

Little chicken sandwiches, Wheat Belly style

Little chicken sandwiches, Wheat Belly style

 

I had them every day for breakfast, just because I could. Admittedly, I didn’t make any more, I want to try something else next.

Now, of course, I’m down a couple of bags of almond flour. Next trip to Trader Joe’s, I’ll be stocking up again. But between these little babies and the recent Meyer Lemon Cake, oh, is it so worth it.

If you’re looking for a little treat, give these a try, because they’re quite good. The recipes are below.

Please note that one recipe for the muffins makes four, but if you have a 12-cup whoopie pie pan like I do, you can triple the recipe to fill it and bake 12 at once. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Oh, and Valentine’s Day is next week! Are you ready? There are some chocolate recipes here on HeatCageKitchen, just do a search (or start here). But there’s one more thing you can make with that baking mix, and fast–a Coconut-Chocolate Quick Muffin, on page 87 of the same book the muffins are in.

They’re actually listed under breakfast, but they’re pretty good about anytime. In fact, I might make one tomorrow. Let me tell you, though, all these quick muffins are microwavable in a cup. How cool is that?

So get ready for Valentine’s Day the HeatCageKitchen way! Or at least an easy way. . .recipes are below.

Happy Dining!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wheat Belly Recipes

All-Purpose Baking Mix

  • 4 cups alond meal/flour
  • 1 cup ground golden flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1teaspoon ground psyllium seed (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond meal/flour, flaxseeds, coconut flour, baking soda and psyllium seed (if desired.) Store in an airtight container, preferably in the refrigerator.

Basic sandwich muffins (makes 4)

  • 1 cup All-Purpose Baking Mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water, plus additional water if needed

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 4 cups of a whoopie pie baking pan (or all, if tripling recipe for 12.)

In a bowl, combine the baking mix, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the oil thoroughly. Add the the egg and stir until mixed. If the dough is too stiff, add water 1 tablespoon at a time.

Divide the dough among the 4 whoopie pie cups (or 12 if tripling recipe). Using a spoon, flatten the mounds until approximately 1/2″ thick, leaving a shallow well in the center. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool for 3 minutes before carefully removing from the pan.

Coconut-Chocolate Quick Muffin

  • 1/2 cup All Purpose Baking mix
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Sweetener equivalent to 2 tablespoons sugar (3 is better; I use SomerSweet)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk (almond milk works too)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted (use coconut oil if doing yeast-free diet)

In a medium bowl, combine the baking mix, cocoa, coconut, cinnamon, sweetener and salt. Whisk in the egg. Add the milk and butter (or coconut oil) and whisk thoroughly. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixture into a large mug or 10-ounce ramekin.

Microwave on hgh power for 2 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. let cool for 5 minutes.

 

 
 
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