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Category Archives: Lunch

The Big Fish

The Big Fish

Happy Saturday, Dear Readers!

If you’re here in the Houston area, I hope you are dry. . .if you’re not, well, Thursday (8/20) we had some serious rain going on, complete with thunder and lightning. The HeatCageKitchen garden was happy with the extra water, but the green onions, which have been supplemented recently with two bunches of organics I bought, are nearly a foot high after 2 weeks. Not bad!

Today was our monthly district meeting, and a pretty good one, too. Our fearless district leader and hostess, LK, has finally seen her dream of her sister and family practicing Buddhism after something like 27 years of practice. Today was they day that all four officially became Buddhists, and it was also her sister, JH’s, birthday. (I also became a Buddhist on my 24th birthday in 1986, so it’s always extra-special.) LK’s brother-in-law, JH’s husband, was not able to make it due to work commitments, but received an official certificate from SGI-USA along with JH and the kids. They lived in California until a year ago, and bought a house not far from LK, making LK one of the happiest people around.

To celebrate, LK drove down to Galveston this morning–during the period where we had sunshine before the rain came back again–and bought a beautiful cake to celebrate the whole thing:

Isn't it a beauty?

Isn’t it a beauty?

Indeed, it was NOT gluten free, and I told her I would just have one of the roses. (I didn’t, really.) Actually, I did bring home a slice of this beautiful creation for Neighbor R, my elderly neighbor, and I nibbled on the veg and some grapes that were there. Here’s a view of the inside after it was cut:

The Inside.

The Inside.

Neighbor K has been to PattyCakes many times since she works down there, and if I remember correctly, she brought me a couple of their delicious samplings a while back. They’re across the street from the well-known Mosquito Cafe, and are operated by the same people.

Since we have a couple of diabetics in addition to me, who avoids this kind of thing, LK kindly had cut veggies and Tzatzaki, which was very tasty. Might have to make that myself sometime. I’ve got the recipe, but I’ve never made it; however, I don’t know what recipe LK used for today’s delicious dip.

If you’re a fan of Starbucks, The Safe Haven With Food, and you’ve been enamored with their recent food offerings, I discovered a bit of a hack. By accident, of course. A couple of months ago, I met with a potential copywriting client at a Starbucks in nearby Pasadena (that’s where the business was located) and I got there early. While my computer was booting up and connecting to the WiFi, I found myself hungry for some reason. I looked in the case and found their little yogurt cups with fruit. I picked up the one with cherries, and thoroughly enjoyed it before she arrived.

A couple of nights ago I was hungry, and I started prowling in the fridge (as us single folks are wont to do) and saw the container of Fage yogurt in there, and suddenly the light lit up in my brain! Five frozen cherries, in a little dish, microwaved for about 20 seconds on 50% power to get the chill off them; chop them, put them back in the bowl, then spoon some of that Greek yogurt in the bowl. Mix well–carefully, or in a bigger bowl–and sweeten to taste. Use whatever you like–stevia, saccharin, Somersweet, whatever. Because, remember, the one in Starbucks has sugar in it–you don’t have to do that. I don’t miss the crunchy part, although I do eat it when I have one in Starbucks (it’s wheat free.) Which has been exactly. . .twice. I never forgot it, but at $3.95, it’s not a habit, only a handy option I’ve had twice.

The Starbucks Evenings menu hasn’t yet appeared here in Clear Lake, to my knowledge, but it has in New York. You can see the actual menu here, but from what Lindsay Putnam of the NY Post says. . .don’t bother. Remember that those breakfast sandwiches are frozen and heated in an oven before the barista hands it to you, so naturally, so is the Evenings menu–no real cooking goes on in Starbucks. If you do eat one, you think about how delicious it tastes. . .and not much else, OK? Yes, I have had the sandwiches a few times, less since I read Wheat Belly, but the last time I had one of those big croissant bun sandwiches was out of necessity a few months ago. So the Evenings menu, tempting as it may look, may in fact, disappoint. I’ll let you know if I get to try it.

Then again, New Yorkers seem to judge everything harshly, and it was brand new, so maybe she was just there on a bad day. Use your own judgment, as always.

Now, another story about the GER. He loves it when I write about him.

The GER goes fishing usually on Mondays with a friend who has a boat, and while this week’s haul. . .wasn’t, last week they caught more river monsters. I gave him a ride somewhere last Tuesday, and he told me to bring something to keep it cold. He told me to share it with Neighbor K, but K didn’t wanna mess with no fish that night, so I offered some to Neighbor R after I cooked it.

This was a big fish. Flounder, if I remember correctly. Not like catfish, frying catfish is easy. So I treated this big fishy with the respect it deserved and broiled it. I’m not kidding when I tell you it was a big one:

The GER's big fish

The GER’s big fish.

It was about 15 inches long, I think, but I forgot to measure it. I thought about stuffing it, but that wasn’t an option:

A big, heavy skeleton that would require some major filleting skills. . .which I don't have.

A big, heavy skeleton that would require some major filleting skills. . .which I don’t have.

Sometimes he’ll give me filets, but sometimes not, like this one. The only option was to roast it whole and pull the flesh off the skeleton, since there was no easy way to stuff it. I set out to the garden and gathered up a few things:

The setup.

The setup.

Green onions (from the ones I planted in the garden), mint, parsley, some rosemary and basil, plus some lime zest. Using that mezzaluna knife, chopped it as best I could, and added some kosher salt:

Gremolata a la Amy.

Gremolata a la Amy.

Then it’s just used as a rub on both sides of the fish:

Big, BIG fish!

Big, BIG fish!

I put it in the toaster oven on “broil” until I thought it was done, and it came out pretty darn good:

FISH!

It needed salt, in my opinion, and I gave the easily-removed, skinless chunks to Neighbor R, and made sure there were no bones in it. I had three meals out of that fish along with some baked sweet potato sticks. YUM.

In the last couple of posts, I spoke about Red Dwarf, the crazy-wild British comedy that combines science fiction with slapstick comedy. Here’s a short clip of the song I was singing while I was dealing with said fish in an episode from many years ago. The character, Cat, just LOVES fish! That comes back to haunt him in Season 9 when a despair squid is found in the water tank. . .oh, nevermind. If you’re not a fan, it won’t make a lot of sense. It’s kind of like explaining something from Doctor Who to someone who has never seen it or understands it. Like the GER!

Tomorrow is Sunday, and I’ve got to plan out the week’s eating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I think there’s going to be some chicken in the Crock Pot. . .again. But since I found two big packets of chicken thighs on sale at Target Friday night, it’s a good thing.

School’s opening real soon, so if you’ve got students at home, you’ll be gearing up now to make those mornings easier. I’m looking at waffle iron hacks and cheats on Pinterest now, and I’ve started a board to keep them in one place. People have figured out how to cook all kinds of things with waffle irons, and YouTube has a collection of them as well. Just go to YouTube and type in the search box, “waffle iron hacks” and/or “waffle iron recipes” and you’ll see ingenious ways people have used a waffle iron for anything *but* waffles.

One of my writer friends, a Christian copywriter here in Texas, posted on Facebook instructions to take those cinnamon rolls in a can and cook them on a waffle iron, then pour that sugary frosting on top. Looks a lot more appetizing than the ones made the *normal* way.  It made me want to head to Kroger for a can and make them myself! But I didn’t, and I’m researching new ways to use the waffle iron daily instead of just occasionally, when you make waffles.

One interesting idea I saw on Pinterest was to spray the waffle iron, heat it, then put frozen tater tots on the bottom, covering the grid. Close the lid, and a few minutes later, crispy hash browns! Admittedly, that’s not something I would make for myself, (at least not with frozen tater tots) but I might do that for the GER or someone else who really liked hash browns. I’ve eaten hash browns occasionally, usually at Denny’s on my birthday with my Grand Slam; but as a rule, potatoes are not in my fridge.

Remember: 110v vs. 220v. And don’t forget your college student headed for the dorms this fall.

Have a great week, and whatever you do cook and eat–Enjoy!

 

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The mGuard User Conference in Houston

The mGuard User Conference in Houston

Good afternoon, Dear Readers:

This, I believe, is the longest blog post I’ve ever written. You are forewarned to get your coffee now, before you start, so you can read the whole thing. Naturally, I have a lot to tell you, and there are many pictures. So get your coffee, tea, muffin, or whatever else you like to drink or nibble, and settle in for a lot of info, foodie and not. This is also the first blog post with a lot of technical information in it–I hope it’s understandable even if you aren’t an IT professional.

And away we go!

Remember a couple of years ago I wrote about The Day of Two Desserts?  It’s happened again, but not quite in the same way. And I think it’s more than two. Oh, yeah–fallen WAY off the “healthy eating” wagon again. It was delicious.

Last week I was lucky enough to go to a conference here in Houston that was not only interesting, but diverse in flavors. Believe it or not, it wasn’t food-related, either! The mGuard User Conference, held at the the Marriott West Loop by the Galleria (ironically located next door to the Houston location of my alma mater, Tulane University), was specifically for IT people in industrial cyber-security. Like the last one, I was the lone copywriter in attendance. I passed on the cocktail reception of affiliate Phoenix Contact’s Customer Technology Center the night before; it was a really long drive on Beltway 8 with tolls, and then a 40-mile drive home at night. . .then I would have to get up early the next morning. No. I missed breakfast on the first day, but managed to make it on Thursday. I’ll explain a bit more about that Houston traffic later.

I had a schedule, but I had no idea there were delicious breakfasts AND lunches included in this conference, as well as Seattle’s Best Coffee and snacks all day long!  And yes, I did again forget the words “gluten-free” and just said “thank you.” Oh, and dinner at NASA. Keep reading, I’ll tell you all about it.

The purpose of attending this conference, like the trade show two weeks prior, was to network and market myself to people who are most likely to need a copywriter who understands things about IT. After 8 years in IT supporting the space program, I do understand things like cloud computing, data centers, and I get Big Data. I knew exactly what APT meant, too–“Advanced Persistent Threat,” a really bad one that doesn’t stop; they just keep trying. So I market myself and talk to people who deal with these things every day. In this case, these are people who are on the front lines of cyber-security, and keeping people safe. It’s not just about messing with your Twitter account.

Now, again, it wasn’t about the food, and it wasn’t why I went. (That’s what we call a “benefit” or “bonus.”) Nor was the cool coffee cup and the neat little laser pointer and tiny flashlight. (I don’t have a cat anymore, so I can just laser-point to stuff on my desk.)  I watched two live hacking demonstrations, one that showed how an mGuard product blocked a direct attack. (I also have product information to read more about them, so I can write articles for my copywriting website about these things.) Towards the end, those nice little cards they had on the tables with Marriott logo came in handy for me to write headlines. One man from Austin saw me later and told me he saw me writing feverishly! Well, that’s the truth–I couldn’t take notes fast enough, then the bug for headlines hit me, and I thought my hand was going to fall off.

During the first live hacking demonstration, it took about ten minutes for the bloke to sign in, bypass security and hack his way into something. When you’re talking about a chemical plant, or the steel mill’s blast furnace that was hacked in Germany, you’re dealing with loss of life, damage in the physical plant, trade secrets being lost and exploited and shutdown of operations. In most, if not all cases, cyber-attacks can, and will, cost the company a lot of money.

One speaker pointed out that a DOS (“denial of service”) attack, which floods the target’s site rendering it unusable, can be had online for about $150. No kidding. No, I have no plans to shop for a hacker. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. With more and more of everything moving online onto The Internet of Things, the threat and dangers of people with ill intent is a bigger and bigger deal. (As well as a bigger industry.)

Industrial cyber-security involves keeping attacks from places like chemical plants, which we have here in Pasadena, and in places like Chalmette, La. (My Grandmother lived in nearby Arabi, in St. Bernard Parish.) Anywhere that can suffer massive damage from a network intrusion is vulnerable. With the news about Big Data revolutionizing efficiency of operations at Rolls-Royce’s industrial division, cyber-security is more important than ever. Listen–Rolls-Royce is working on self-sailing ships, much like Google’s (in)famous self-driving car. Remember the movie Speed? Can you imagine one of the self-sailing ships getting hacked and hijacked? Every old disaster film would be coming true in a heartbeat–that’s how fast someone can get into a network, and nobody knows what’s happening until it’s over and they have to do damage assessment and disaster recovery. It’s a really big deal.

Oh, and how does this happen so easily? In so many offices, there are User IDs and passwords on a Post-It note on monitors, because they just HAVE to keep that handy. Handy for someone interested in sabotage too, but for some reason, it doesn’t dawn on these folks to keep it safe. I used to keep that on a Post-It note, too–locked in my desk drawer at all times until needed. But then, I worked in IT, and had mandatory training in things like that. I also paid attention.

Other inroads to critical network infrastructure could be by service people connecting to the customer’s network with their own laptop and taking malware back to their company. Even worse, receiving a “vetted” flash drive from a client and finding out how badly it was infected, because no security updates were done in a long time. Or their current security didn’t stop something. Happens all the time.

It was pointed out very well when I found one of the little cards on the table with this handwritten on it:

What happens when Josh does field service and plugs his computer into the customer’s network?

Well. . .anything can happen, really. Or Josh could go into the network and have a field day–depends on whose side he’s on. Or he could just have a little fun with making the network entertaining. However, I don’t know Josh, so you see why it’s a big deal.

No, there is no 100% fail-safe solution, no “magic pill.” But what works best is a combination of good security hardware and software, due diligence in keeping up with updates and security patches, and staying on top of educating employees on the importance of best practices for security, and making sure they are followed on a daily basis. That’s how you can best keep a network safe in an industrial setting. (Crossing your fingers helps on top of that, too.)

One of mGuard’s many offerings are a private cloud and a VPN (virtual private network.) I actually have a VPN on my small laptop that I travel with, so I also know how that works. Lot safer than being hacked at Starbucks–and that’s true of company laptops, too–and I’ve done that as well.

One point made that there are basically three types of people who can do damage by getting into computer systems: governmental agencies (FBI, CIA, etc.), hackers (i.e., Anonymous) and. . .employees. And who is the most likely individual to do something like this? The one who wears the company’s badge.

LOTS of talk about The Internet of Things. I mentioned that term recently when I wrote about the Internet-connected Crock Pot. I mentioned the Rolls-Royce story to Sid Snitkin from ARC Advisory Group, and asked him if he thought things were becoming techie for the sake of being techie. He agreed–the tech guys want to do more and are pushing the envelope. I told him about the Wemo-enabled Crock Pot that you can remotely control with an app, and asked him the same question: “Do you really want your dinner connected to your Wi-Fi?” Mr. Snitkin hadn’t heard about that Crock-Pot, but was quite amused by it.

On the long tables in the conference rooms were little IKEA bowls with hard candy (I checked the bottom, the tags were still on them) and pitchers of water with small glasses. I helped myself to some ice water and noticed something in the bottom of the glass. I thought there was something that fell out of the pitcher! No, just a design element:

A bubble.

A bubble.

 

Yes, there’s a bubble in the base of the glass. EVERY drinking glass in this hotel (or at least the ones we used.)  Scared the daylights out of me for a minute until I realized what it was. Just a little bubble in the base. Jury’s still out on whether it’s a good element or not.

Now. . .let’s get to the food. Remember when I said I believe you can’t have a bad meal in a Marriott? I still believe that.

While I missed breakfast the first day, I was graciously invited to lunch AND dinner. Both were wonderful. Lunch on the first day was Italian. . .oh, was it ever. We started out with Cesar Salad and an antipasti spread with grilled veg, prosciutto, salami and provolone cheese. Then the hot plates held delicious tortellini with cheese and pesto and roast chicken. Yes, I had a few of the really delicious tortellini, even though it was *not* my birthday. I passed up the bread sticks and butter, but I could smell the wonderful bread-y aroma.

Then I found dessert on the other side. I thought it was like the tiny Tiramisu I had two weeks before at another Marriott hotel, but I couldn’t see that far. Get a look at this:

Cheesecake and small cannoli. They were about the length of your index finger.

Cheesecake and small cannoli. They were about the length of your index finger.

 

A closer look at the delicious cannolli:

Delicious, not too sweet, with pistachios and chocolate. There is nothing wrong here.

Delicious, not too sweet, with pistachios and chocolate. There is nothing wrong here.

Never mind how many cannolis I might have accidentally eaten. Obviously, any dieting became vaporware at that point. (For you non-techie folks, that means it went away in light of such deliciousness. POOF! Gone.) I wish I could have brought home a few for my Neighbor R, but I didn’t have a way to get them home without smashing them in my business bag. Long time ago, I had one of those hard-sided briefcases for college, but. . .it’s gone, and they don’t make them like that anymore.

Now, deliciousness didn’t end there. I noticed that there was a “dinner at NASA,” but had no idea what I was in for. You can read more about it here, but we were in for a real treat. Retired astronaut Dr. Storey Musgrave was our keynote speaker at Space Center Houston, and he had a lot to say. He’s a really nice man, too–he took pictures with anyone who asked, and before the Phoenix Contact official photographer took my picture, I begged him for a selfie:

Me and the wonderful Dr. Musgrave.

Me and the wonderful Dr. Musgrave.

I made it smaller so it’s not badly pixelated (and because I look bad enough.) Thank heavens I bought a 3 Way Poncho at the holidays; unfortunately, I shrunk the black one this weekend!

Dinner was a bit simpler but no less delicious at NASA. Servers walked around with appetizers, which included. . .BACON WRAPPED SHRIMP! I don’t remember what else they had–I was only interested in the shrimp, but difficult as resistance was, I didn’t eat THAT many.  For dinner, we were served some tasty fish, stewed beef, green beans, and even French fries! (I passed on the bread, which many folks used to make sandwiches with the beef.) When those of us who drove arrived, dessert was already out, and I was able to talk to one of the servers beforehand. Take a look at this beautiful tart:

The pie of mystery.

The tart of mystery.

I wasn’t sure what kind it was; the lighting in Space Center Houston is not conducive to a culinary event, since its focus is on space, science and everything related to it. I asked one of the very nice servers what it was; they were working their paws off, so the man I talked to was caught short. He couldn’t remember! I asked, “is it blueberry, by chance?” YES–it was. Mystery solved. So after dinner, and before Dr. Musgrave’s wonderful presentation, this is how that lovely tart was served:

Blast off to heaven, y'all.

Blast off to heaven, y’all.

You weren’t expecting freeze-dried anything, were you? Freeze-dried “astronaut food” is actually for sale at the gift shop during business hours, but no, this was the real thing. Like I said, any thoughts of “diet” and “clean eating” became vaporware at that point. Yes, it was worth it–and like a holiday, not a regular thing for me. (At this writing I’m back on the clean eating again.)

You may have heard the story about the Galileo shuttle craft from the original Star Trek series that was passed around and fell into disrepair. It was bought and restored by fans, and is now parked at Space Center Houston:

The Galileo shuttlecraft, used to go from the Enterprise to other ships or planets via the cargo bay (I think.)

The Galileo shuttlecraft, used to go from the Enterprise to other ships or planets via the cargo bay (I think.)

You can’t actually go IN the Galileo; it’s not really a space ship. The article can tell you more; it’s just an empty prop. The scenes that were aboard the Galileo were actually shot on a Desilu sound stage. Behind the Galileo (out of sight) is a replica of the console that you saw on the show. And of course, there’s a board nearby with the history of it, too. Neat, huh?

You’ll be happy to know that I did NOT indulge in the open bar, even though I was just a few miles from home. Two reasons: one, I don’t drink and drive, and two, it’s not nice to run the risk of getting tipsy in front of people you might be doing business with. Just not good business practice. Now, there was an executive coach to and from the hotel, but I didn’t want to go back to town then drive home again. There were also adult beverages on the bus, but no facilities. I didn’t hear about anyone having problems, so I guess everything went fine.

The folks on the bus also had a first-hand look at what us locals were talking about when we said “Houston traffic.” The event organizers were told by several local attendees to LEAVE EARLY, so they adjusted the schedule in order to do that. I myself left the hotel at 4 in order to get home and change. I arrived home at 5:30, and had just enough time to change, freshen up, change my jewelry and drive to NASA. Those of us who did that arrived before the buses.

The buses were able to take the HOV (“high-occupancy vehicle”) lanes, which means 2 or more passengers. (In New Orleans, it’s 7.)  Since I was taking METRO park-and-ride buses in the 9 months I worked downtown, I saw all the traffic while we passed it; at least, until the bus stopped for traffic in the HOV lanes. The passengers were shocked to see the amount of traffic; most came from smaller places, with a few from nearby Baton Rouge, LA. We who live here know what’s out there, and they found out we weren’t kidding. Houston was the 4th largest city in the US when I moved here in 1998; now it’s 3rd, but only by a fine margin. In the last six or seven years, Houston traffic has quadrupled with so many people migrating here, and there’s no sign of that slowing down. When companies like U-Haul show statistics that their trucks keep going to Texas, you know what’s going on.

It’s the Great State of Texas for a reason. But really–we’re full, OK? Austin is bursting at the seams with the Californians who tend to chose it over Dallas or Houston, and even the Austinites aren’t happy about that. So please, we can’t handle any more mass inbound migration.

The next day, Thursday, I managed to make it for breakfast. I left home at 6:30, and spent 30 minutes on a stretch of road near home that took me about 2 miles. Amazingly, though, I handed the key to a valet right at 8:00 am, and was able to eat some delicious eggs, sausage, bacon, and coffee until it was time to go to the seminars.

Oh, and one thing I forgot to mention was that not only was there a retail Starbucks on the first floor lobby, we were actually served Seattle’s Best Coffee, which is smoother than the sharper-edged Starbucks coffee. (I’m talking about brewed coffee, not the fancier Frappuccino stuff.)  AND–get this–they had flavored syrups available! Upstairs they had sugar-free hazelnut! ! It was like they knew I was coming, and all that decaf was just for me! So awesome!

Another wonderful thing we were treated to (at least, in the ladies’ room) was the opportunity to try this from Sun Coast Salts:

The one-minute hand massage. Smells as good as it looks.

The one-minute hand massage. Smells as good as it looks.

 

Yes, I was indeed tempted to bring a jar the next day and take it home–but I didn’t. I’ll get some soon. This one is called Ocean Breeze, and was also available in the Marriott gift shop (but of course, I forgot to stop there on the way out.)  I couldn’t find the company’s location on the website, other than to say they charge sales tax for purchases made in Texas. Someone told me they were in Galveston, which would make sense. It smells wonderful, and really does exfoliate your hands when you massage it for a minute or so. Rinse really well, especially if you are wearing rings.

If you need a nice gift for someone soon and are out of ideas, I just gave you one. You’re welcome.

I also lucked out and walked right up to the hotel’s general manager, a nice man named Reed Randolph. I told him how tasty lunch was on Wednesday, and he said that Thursday’s was going to be even better. It was.

Mr. Randolph also sent me some additional pictures of their food styling at the Marriott West Loop for your enjoyment.

image005

photo

photo(2)

 

photo(1)

You’re welcome.

Before I talk about Thursday’s lunch, let me drop in a little cultural history. Texas has a long history of Hispanic cultural influences, from both the American side (like Spaniards that found their way here) and the Mexican side. (Yes, I know, California, Arizona and New Mexico, too, but this is about Texas.)  One of those is Mexican food, which has morphed into what’s called “Tex-Mex.” That is, Mexican food with Texas influences, leading to all kinds of tasty things. My Dad will tell you that Mexican food all tastes the same, and doesn’t understand why I, born and raised in New Orleans, developed a taste for it when I got older. One manager I used to work with at Boeing would say that “Mexican food is just the same five ingredients arranged differently.” That’s funny, but I don’t really agree. But when it comes to taste, everything is relative–one person’s favorite thing to eat is another person’s “won’t-touch-it-with-a-ten-foot-pole.” Me and the GER both love cilantro, but there are some people for whom cilantro tastes like dish soap, including Ina Garten, The Barefood Contessa. No kidding.

Hispanic folks have been migrating to Texas for, well, quite a long time, and it’s not uncommon to find Spanish-speaking folks in places like Chinese buffets and even the odd Japanese steak house, either serving or working in the kitchen. You can bet that they do NOT speak Japanese, even if they speak perfect English. Many of the servers at the Marriott were nice (short) Hispanic ladies with lovely accents, and were very helpful. Why do I bring this up? Lunch on Thursday.

Thursday they served us. . .Mexican food. Oh, YES!!! Now, going out for Mexican food in Houston is like going out for red beans & rice or a shrimp/oyster po-boy in New Orleans. But mGuard is a company based in Germany, and I’d guess that at least 50% of the attendees were from out of town. (There were many German accents in that conference, too–so how often can you get a burrito in Berlin?)  I had breakfast with two men from Canada, and one was born in Africa; they worked for the same company. (I told one of them about Nite Guard, since he and his wife are battling raccoons, and are forbidden by Canadian law to defend themselves against the invasive critters.) Another nice man was born in Argentina. You get the idea–many folks don’t have the opportunity to have really good Mexican food like we do here, on nearly every street. So this was a treat for some faraway guests. I hope they enjoyed it.

Tamales are a traditional Mexican thing, and, I’m told, a lot of trouble, so most folks don’t make them all the time, and save them for Christmas. Having eaten a good sampling of tamales in my life, I have yet to have a bad one. So imagine my surprise when, along with the Ancho salad dressing with the surprise heat, I find TAMALES. Oh, yes. . .I had two, they were small. There was also fajita fixings, but I skipped the tortillas and just had the fillings.

One taste, and you know there were some Mexican abuelas (grandmothers) working in the kitchen. Nobody makes tamales like a Mexican grandma!

Then I saw it–dessert.

IMG_2102[1]

Isn’t it beautiful?

Say it with me: Flaaaaaan. . . .

Yes, it was rich, creamy and just the perfect amount of sweet with whipped cream on top. If you’ve never had a real flan, consider finding a recipe and making one. Fortunately, I missed the churros that were also there, otherwise I’d need help getting down the stairs. (No elevator up there, just some steep stairs.)  Last time I had churros was at the Marriott in Delray Beach, Fl, at Bootcamp. They served it with melted Nutella. . .I’m so glad I missed them this time, or I would have slept through the next session on Securing The Internet of Things.

After all the sessions and the networking coffee breaks, we had a short but interesting Q&A session, and then it was over. I brought home two of these lovely coffee cups, with permission, since there were a number of them left over, and gave one to Neighbor R:

For use while working on your Virtual Private Network.

Intended only for use with Virtual Private Coffee Pot.

Unlike last time, I did pay for parking, but it was $20 for both days, and is a business expense, since I went to do some marketing. The valets were also very nice.

You know, nobody says on their deathbed, “I’m so glad I passed on that cannoli.” Sure, if I were allergic I would have skipped a number of things. But since I don’t. . .I had some. Despite my luck to attend two conferences in a month’s time, I do not have these kinds of opportunities very often.

In the afternoon there were some hubcap-sized cookies along with fruit and granola bars. I took two cookies with me intending to bring them to Neighbor R on Thursday evening. However, when it was over, I went to Trader Joe’s in town for a few things, and was in traffic long enough to where I was chewing my nails. . .so the giant chocolate chip and oatmeal-raisin cookies kept me from starvation on the I-610 South loop to I-45 South. But I got Neighbor R three bottles of her favorite Pinot Grigio wine from Trader Joe’s, and she forgave me for eating the cookies. (Yes, they were delicious, too.)

Many thanks to mGuard, Phoenix Contact and Innominate for such an interesting, informative conference and graciously allowing me to attend and network. (And eat!)

Many thanks to Reed Randolph and his wonderful staff at the Marriott West Loop for making the conference a success with such tasty food and personalized service.

Many thanks to Space Center Houston and Dr. Story Musgrave for a memorable event–and the selfie!

And many thanks to the awesome Joshua Boswell, whose training is slowly giving me the confidence to go out and do things like this without feeling really stupid.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go exercise until I drop. Not going to get anywhere if I don’t. If it rains, the bike will stay indoors and I’ll get back on the Nordic Track.

I’ve got a few posts in the draft folder that I hope to finish for you soon. Meantime, have some good food, and enjoy it.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

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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:

IMG_2052[1]

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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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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Cupcakes and the Honey Bunny

Cupcakes and the Honey Bunny

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I’m sorry it’s been a week since I wrote. I haven’t forgotten you or Graze.com. I sent them a link to the last blog post, and the email I got back was that they’ve passed the link around so everyone could see it. Woo hoo!

I’ve been at it, and sent out a proposal for copywriting work, but it didn’t go anywhere. Another potential client I wrote a sample article for had to say no, they’d lost a big client the day before, but check back in December.

But in foodie news, it’s been a week of good stuff.

First, if you’ve ever broken the glass plate in your microwave, take heart. I did that about five years ago, and just figure that one day, I’d buy a new microwave. Not yet. When the plate broke, I had no idea where to go to get another one for a 2003 Sunbeam microwave. Well, I bought a Corelle dinner plate at Wal-Mart and that worked fine until a couple of months ago when one of the little wheels came off the rotating ring assembly that turns the plate. This was probably caused by the imbalance of weight on the dinner plate, and two weeks ago, I did something about it.

Darn, it took moving the microwave out, snapping a picture of the model number on the back, and going online to do a search. Guess what? Appliance Factory Parts had exactly what I needed. The plate was back-ordered, so I called to ask if it was just temporary, or discontinued. The nice man said it was just back-ordered and should be in next week. They shipped it FedEx, and I even got updates as it made its way to my door. I met the FedEx guy out on the sidewalk. Fifteen minutes later my little microwave bought used in 2004 for $10 was good as new.

I also found a new replacement top thingy for a Braun coffee grinder on eBay. The coffee grinder is at least 4 years old, works perfectly and has been discontinued by Braun. The button on the original top is cracked, but without a replacement part, a new one was in order. But no, I got an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) part on eBay. Instead of tossing a perfectly good coffee grinder and buying a new one, my Braun looks new and works fine.

Repair parts: It’s a Good Thing.

Yesterday I had to trek up to The Woodlands, a place I like to go up to occasionally. One of these days I’m going to spend a weekend up there. But no, this time it was for yearly medical testing with the fine folks at Woodlands Wellness & Cosmetic Center, Dr. Sakina Davis and her terrific staff. And of course, I had to make a few stops while I was up there.

I should point out that I drove through some very heavy rains for over an hour to get there. You never know this kind of thing will happen when you make plans. (Ask anyone who’s planned an outdoor party or wedding.)  We had a big front come through, and dropped the temperature about 15 degrees. Mind you, this being Houston, I had sweat trickling down my back when I hopped in my ride to go on the freeway, and then after I got out of Sweet Tomatoes, I saw people in The Woodlands Mall by Barnes & Noble wearing long sleeves. It had not only dried out but the temperature dropped just a little. It actually got cool when I got home last night.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. . . .

First place I stopped when I got there was The Container Store for a couple of small things. I didn’t have time to do Sweet Tomatoes yet, but I hit the Starbucks across the street from Woodlands Wellness for a quick bite, because I was really hungry. I grabbed a Greek Yogurt Raspberry Lemon Parfait and ate it while I walked back across the street.

Turns out I should NOT have been eatin’ anything. I was supposed to be taking the starving blood tests, but I’ll be going back tomorrow after fasting all night to do the blood draw. I’ll take my laptop with me and head to Starbucks for some food and free WiFi so I can wait for the morning traffic to lighten up.

For a late lunch, I made it to Sweet Tomatoes, where I discovered some delicious gluten-free offerings and a new quinoa salad. After the late lunch, I went over to the mall to visit Karla & Anton Kharoufeh at Oil & Vinegar, but both were on the phone. However, Miss Kathy was free, and I talked to her for a few minutes. I really just wanted to say Hi, but I only got to talk to Kathy. Oh. . .bottles and jars of delicious things in there, so if you’re in The Woodlands, please go stop in and get something special and delicious. The Lemon EV Olive Oil mixed with the Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar is absolute heaven when you whiz it in the blender to emulsify it and pour it on a salad. Doesn’t take much, either.

When I left The Woodlands Mall, I headed out to Trader Joe’s, and shopped til I dropped. Neighbor R, who just turned 80, gave me $10 and asked me to get some of the $3 a bottle TJ’s wine, which she’s fond of. She likes the Chardonnay, but also asked about the Pinot Grigio. I brought back two of the Chardonnay and one Pinot Grigio, and she was very happy with that. I asked the very nice cashier to ring the wine up separately, because this was for a “little old lady in Clear Lake,” and she bagged up the receipt and change (about 27 cents, I think.)

I’m always extra-careful handling other people’s money, even if it’s 27 cents.

I bought extra of some things like toothpaste, cannellini beans, cocoa powder and olive oil. Never mind how much I spent on groceries–I’m stocked up on some non-perishables for a while.

Last stop: Frost Bake Shoppe. I actually got to talk to the owner, Terese Yates, and told her why I was buying so many gluten free. You KNOW that’s what I went for. This time, though, I brought some home to share.

IMG_1124[1]

Deliciousness comes from this box.

Since the temperature dropped, and I had some refrigerated goods from Trader Joe’s in a bag with two frozen water bottles, I got four of the Blueberry Cheesecake cupcakes in gluten free, and carefully put the box in that zippered insulated bag on top. They made it all the way without a problem.

Yes, this really is gluten-free:

Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcake

Is this not the most one of the most beautiful cupcakes you’ve ever seen?

Oh, YEAH.

You can read more about Ms. Yates and Frost at this link.

At this point, the drive home begins. However, the weather was beautiful by this time, so it was only the traffic to deal with. And although it was very slow in a couple of spots, for the most part it wasn’t bad. Neighbor K generously fed Jezebel the step-kitty so I could go see the GER first. I didn’t tell her about the cupcakes until I brought her one.

First stop on was down to Galveston County to see the GER at the infamous, aptly named Funk House/Junk House. I called him on the way to make sure he was home, and I said, “I have something for you.” He said, “I have something for you, too! Some fresh fish and some home-grown grapefruits.” He’d been out fishing, as he usually does on Monday (and today, too.) Suddenly I felt bad–all I had was one cupcake for him! Well, I went. . .and I talked to him for a little while and explained that it was, indeed. gluten free, and he would thoroughly enjoy it. He did–and ate it in three bites. (I talked to him today and asked; he loved it!)

Then back to the homestead, and brought Neighbor K one of these delicious things. She said she would eat it in the morning after our early-morning walk. Unfortunately, I was so tired, there WAS no early morning walk. Just talked to Neighbor K, and she didn’t walk either, but did thoroughly enjoy that cupcake. At 5:30 this morning.

Last stop–Neighbor R, to bring her wine and the last of the cupcakes. (I’d already eaten mine, I couldn’t wait.)

So now, they know how delicious gluten-free cupcakes from Frost can be. That fish from the GER was broiled up last night and came out great.

The fish and produce were not the first foodie gifts I received since my last post, either.

Last week, I got a personal visit from the GER. No kidding. He emailed me last Monday, informing me that he’d received actual mail–and it looked legit–for me. Say what? He said it looked like real mail from a friend. Although it was a greeting card sent from Alaska, it had a piece of junk mail in it. I couldn’t seem to catch up to him to drop by the Funk House/Junk House to pick it up, so he ended up shipping it, and stopping by on Thursday. He also wanted to go to Vitamin Shoppe, which happens to be a mile away from me. It was much easier to let him drive us over there so he could see it, and I needed something anyway, so that’s what happened.

Shortly before the card arrived, he’d found himself with a beehive with lots of BEES. Yes, the kind that produce honey. He had to call professionals to come in and remove said beehive, and they gave him the honeycombs they removed from the shed he plans to eventually dismantle and replace.

So, I got him some gloves and set up a bowl with a strainer so we could filter out solid biological matter. (If you’ve never done this, well, don’t think too much about it, OK?)  While he was wringing out the honeycombs with some clean hair color gloves I gave him, we were chatting about different stuff. And, of course, I forgot to take pictures, darnit! But I can show you what we ended up with.

IMG_1126[1]

I later filtered it out again, and then gave Neighbor K a jar and kept one for myself.

Incidentally, if you like those labels, you can find the template here on Martha Stewart’s website. However, they don’t stick well in the freezer. I just used one on this jar because I’d printed some once and they were just handy.

Now, a while back I kept a couple of pictures from Facebook of a couple of pictures of “cleanse” drinks. Then I had to clear out some of the photos (which is why I don’t have a pic of the bowl of honey before I bottled it, darnit.) I discovered that one, now that I have raw, organic honey, I can try.

IMG_0526[1]

The honey is raw and organic because the GER didn’t know that hive was out there. It’s not certified organic, of course, just. . .he never did anything with it or to it.

Now, these things get passed around Facebook all the time; in fact, friend of the blog AK recently asked me for the Cranberry Cleanse, but that’s got a pear, an apple, a piece of celery and some other stuff I don’t have around on a daily basis.

But this one I decided to try. No, I haven’t lost any weight with it yet, but I have been mixing it up with very warm water to help the honey melt, then adding two packets of sweetener to cut the tartness. Then pour it over ice, because I’m sweaty and no way do I want something hot. I can’t say it’s harmful, but I’m drinking it after I get back in from the AM walks with Neighbor K.

Remember one of Amy’s cardinal rules: two packets of Sweet ‘N Low can kill the taste of anything. That’s helpful when you’re ingesting something awful that’s also medicinal. Been there, done that, tell you in another blog post later, maybe during flu season.

So, despite everything else, I’m still here, and still at it. We’ll be back on the walking trail first thing in the morning (yes, 4 am) and I’m off to The Woodlands soon as I get cleaned up and dressed. No eatin’ until they stick me, and I make appropriate comments about the peacocks in the office looking like poultry.

Happy Dining!

 

 

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Mmmmm, mmmm, GOOD!!

Mmmmm, mmmm, GOOD!!

Good evening, Dear Readers:

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

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

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

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

Anyway. . . .

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

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

Holy Shish Kebab.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Dining!

 

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HeatCageKitchen Sunday

Hello, Dear Readers:

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

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

Let me know what you think about seeing HeatCageKitchen videos:

 

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

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

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

Nearly three feet high!

Nearly three feet high!

Washing them before drying in the salad spinner

Washing them before drying in the salad spinner

Ahhh. . . .pesto.

Ahhh. . . .pesto.

I think I'm set for a while.

I think I’m set for a while.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wheat flour.

AAAHHHHH!!!!!  Oh, @#$%!

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

We finished them with Jezebel practically jumping in my lap to get some. Those were the last ones.

I opened up a couple of cookbooks and discovered in one of the Wheat Belly books a comment about how gluten/wheat flour is used as a thickener in the sauce that goes ON the wings. They weren’t battered, but the sauce is where the flour was. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was, but I did make them myself one more time. And yes, I shared them with the fussy old cat.

So, lesson learned. . .READ LABELS! You never know what you’re getting.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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