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Category Archives: Snacking

Paleo Breakfast Pie (from the Crock Pot!)

Paleo Breakfast Pie (from the Crock Pot!)

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Are you warm? Are you snowed in? I’ve alternated between T-shirts/shorts and jeans/sweaters this week. At least we have the final season of Downton Abbey and the limited-run 10th series of The X-Files to keep us entertained. Oh, and the Superbowl is upon us again, and. . .I don’t care.

Got a message from Neighbor E this morning. He’s found the Dark-Chocolate-Raspberry Cupcakes, and now, E is happy:

Is that coffee?

Neighbor E doesn’t drink coffee, so I asked him what was in his coffee cup. . .he whipped up his version of the Starbucks Chai Tea Latte. Never had one, because I always go in for coffee. But hey–I duplicate the Hazelnut Macchiato on the stove top, so why not? (E also told me that a  longtime local Starbucks location has also closed, but there are at least three more in the vicinity to take its place.)

Remember the new delivery vehicle being developed for Domino’s? I saw one in Clear Lake this week:

Since I was on the wrong side at a stop light, I could only get this side. But check out what it says on the fuel tank:

It says, “Unleaded Fuel Only. No Pizza Sauce!”

Makes you wonder if it’s a joke or if someone actually tried it.

In the Valentine’s Day department, Kroger had this jewel:

Perfect size for whom? Guess it’s supposed to a polite size for when your honey comes over, and you eat “the whole cake with two forks.” OK.

My kettlebell workouts ceased for about a week when I had a mysterious floodwaters in the bathroom–and it wasn’t the tub or commode. It was discovered, finally, and the blockage has been cleared. I couldn’t figure out how the water was coming into the area under the AC unit. But I’m back on it, with a heavier 15 pound kettle bell. The 10 pound weight wasn’t heavy anymore. (Other than the initial stiffness, I haven’t hurt myself, either.)

So, is anyone doing a Paleo diet this year? “Paleo,” if you’re not familiar with the term, is short for Paleolithic, as in Paleolithic Man. Yes, cave man, and not necessarily the ones I’ve dated. A Paleo diet is, as I understand it, a diet of food that Paleolithic Man would have consumed–meat, veg, little fruit, and nothing processed or the product of agriculture or manufacturing, like grains (and bread), cheese and butter (but I think milk is OK, because it’s just. . .milk.) Like low-carb and gluten-free, lots of folks have taken the proverbial ball and run with it, with books, blogs and articles abound on the subject. Once you learn the basics, go from there.

Some time ago, I stumbled onto a recipe via PaleOMG, written by Juli Bauer. She’s not only a foodie, she’s also a blogger, fitness person and bride-to-be. She blogs about all these things and creates some delicious Paleo food in the process. She’s also published a couple of cookbooks, something I haven’t aspired to doing yet. If you go check out her blog, be aware that she does use language I reserve strictly for the process of driving around in Houston (especially with the huge inbound migration we’ve received in the last few years.) I don’t really do that on this blog, but that’s just me (except I know I said “fart” once.)

As I’ve mentioned here before, I am very happy to toss a bunch of things in the Crock Pot and let it cook all day, particularly in the summertime, when you don’t want the kitchen to heat up past 80F (when it will feel like a “Heat Cage Kitchen.”)  I went back to review the site, and to see what else Juli had, and came across a recipe for Sweet Pulled Pork Waffle Sliders. WAFFLES? Yes, waffles used as sandwich bread with freshly made mayo and slow-cooked pork shoulder. In this case, the waffles are made with almond flour and some other Paleo-friendly ingredients. I think I’m going to have to make this soon. . .my waffle maker has been put up for a few weeks, darnit. I haven’t forgotten it, of course, I’ve just been doing other stuff, like tossing stuff in the Crock Pot and making phone calls all day long.

But this weekend, I found one of Juli’s recipes I’d printed some time ago and forgot about. The Easy CrockPot Breakfast Pie has just a few ingredients, but is easy to make and is dairy-free. Why dairy-free, you ask? Well, it’s good to have handy if I have to do yeast-free again, and if I run out of milk or something. It’s a little different, because I got used to cheese and milk or cream in my breakfast cookery. But this is a welcome change, and it contains. . .sweet potato. THAT got my attention!

The recipe is as follows:

Easy CrockPot Breakfast Pie

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
  • 8 eggs, whisked
  • 1 sweet potato or yam, shredded
  • 1lb US Wellness Meats Pork Sausage, broken up
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • any extra veggies you want to put in there: peppers, squash, etc.
Directions
  1. I greased my Crockpot with a bit of coconut oil to make sure none of the egg stuck to it. (Amy’s Note: I also used one of those slow cooker liners, as you’ll see in the pictures.)
  2. Shred your sweet potato. I used the shredding attachment on my food processor to make it super quick, but you could use a grater as well.
  3. Add all ingredients to your CrockPot and use a spoon to mix well.
  4. Set it and forget it.
  5. Place on low for 6-8 hours. I cooked it for more than 7 to make sure the pork sausage was completely cooked through.
  6. Slice it like a pie.

I skipped her smart-alecky final line, and eventually I’ll have it up on the Recipes Page as a printable PDF file for anyone who wants it. So let me tell you how easy this is to make.

The setup

The setup.

Not a whole lot of ingredients as you can see, but I forgot the dried basil in this shot. Now, as I said, I used one of these:

Keep your dirty-mind comments to yourself, please.

Keep your dirty-mind comments to yourself, please.

They’re kind of hard to find, so I get 2 boxes when I head over to that nice HEB in Friendswood. When you set it up, it looks like this:

Yes, looks silly but it works great, especially in this recipe.

Yes, looks silly but it works great, especially in this recipe.

I greased it with either coconut oil by hand or sprayed on olive oil, I don’t remember. Then, get on with it:

Shredded sweet potato

Shredded sweet potato

I do love my little shredding toy. When you’re done with that, dump it into the crock, and get on with the onions in the same fashion (and why not?)

Shredded onions are so much easier, and less tears.

Shredded onions are so much easier, and less tears.

Because the last part of the ingredient list calls for “any extra veggies you want to put in there: peppers, squash, etc.,” I added a bag of frozen veg from Kroger:

These bags are $1 each for 12 ounces.

These bags are $1 each for 12 ounces.

I added in the spices next:

IMG_2900

Yes, I know what it looks like.

Now, Judi’s recipe calls for some mail-ordered pork sausage that’s clean, antibiotic free, gluten- and sugar-free, and all that. However, since I just wanted to try it, I used readily available sage pork breakfast sausage from Kroger. Knowing that I was going to make this dish, I left it out for several hours to take the chill off and let it soften up. (One day I’ll be buying stuff like that again.)

Let me point out here that in most of these slow-cooker breakfasts, you brown and crumble the sausage on the stove top in a cast-iron pan, then toss it into the CrockPot, then add the eggs, milk or cream, and other stuff. In this recipe, the raw pork sausage is added directly in and the dish cooked for a longer amount of time.

Yes, it was still sticky and hard to work with, but I did it.

Yes, it was still sticky and hard to work with, but I did it.

Take your spoon and mix it up well. Now get on with the eggs–you can whisk them, as the recipe states, but I’ve discovered that the lovely immersion blender works better:

Eggs!

Eggs! (I had a coupon for Egglands Best, I promise.)

Mine came with this beaker, but I’ve also done this with mixing bowls:

Blitz!

Blitz! (Start on low speed to make avoid egging your own kitchen.)

This recipe doesn’t have milk or cheese, but when you are adding milk to eggs, the immersion blender works really well to make sure it’s all incorporated. Now, just pour it over the mixture:

Almost ready to cook.

Almost ready to cook.

Give it another stir and pack it in a little:

Ready to roll! (Well, cook.)

Ready to roll! (Well, cook.)

Mine took about 7 hours to finish, but I also turned off the heat, unplugged it, then left the lid slightly off to let the heat escape and help it cool. When it was just warm, I removed the pie from the crock, and this is what I got:

See how easily it lifts out of the Crock Pot?

Yes, I know it looks a bit strange.

One advantage of the slow cooker pot liners is the ability to lift this baby out, drop it directly onto a cutting board, peel off the sides of the liner, flip it, remove the rest of the liner, then cut it just like a cake or a pie. If you’re single like me, you just pack it up in containers and have a microwave-ready breakfast every morning right from the fridge.

This is more or less what you end up with:

The Crock Pot Breakfast Pie

The Crock Pot Breakfast Pie

Now, you get out of this what you put in, and you see two cut red beans there on the bottom, and probably a bit of cauliflower there, too. Those, of course, were from the frozen veg mix I added to it.

And you know what? It was pretty good. I was wondering if it would be disappointing, but it’s not–it’s really different. Not like the kind with eggs/cream/milk/cheese, but pretty darn good. I got two thumbs up from both Neighbor R and Neighbor E, who added:

“. . .it fascinates me. For healthy eating I doubt you could do much better. But all the ingredients blend in together and there isn’t one that stands out (kinda like cake without the icing). A restaurant I go to for brunch has some incredible vegetarian sausage. Thinking if piled a bunch of that in there to give it some spice, it would be a hit.”

Thanks, E! I noticed too that there wasn’t one thing you tasted over another, it just kinds of all blends up. Much as I love sweet potatoes, I didn’t really taste them like you do when you eat them “straight.”

Three thumbs up for this one! And since it’s done in the Crock Pot, it’s easy, too. Looks like we have a winner here, a great warmer for cold winter mornings, wherever you are.

Enjoy!

 

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The Mystery of Hubig’s Pies

The Mystery of Hubig’s Pies

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!

Did Santa bring you everything you wanted? Yes? Good–that means he liked the cookies. No? You were a little too naughty last year. Change that, and learn to bake. Me, well, Santa knows I can bake, so he’s always nice to me, no matter how naughty.

Did you ask Santa for a waffle maker? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Of course, in Houston, it was 80F Christmas Day. I turned on the AC. Good thing I didn’t need the big oven. Because nothing says “Christmas” like ice cold watermelon chunks. It was roast chicken, sweet potatoes and yeast-free brownies this year. Nothing special.

At the last minute, I decided not to bake a pan of Nicole’s gluten-free Cranberry Bliss Bars. I did manage to get one of them at Starbucks, though. . .maybe another time. At least I know I can bake them for my birthday or another time if I really want them, right?

If you’re thinking about a new diet this year (and who isn’t?) this article in The Times of India discusses new diet trends for 2016. And. . .I think I’ll pass. I don’t care if it does make me “out of step,” I am NOT eating seaweed and bugs unless I’m in an emergency situation, or on a TV show like Survivor. I’ll stick with “last year’s fashion,” low-carb, somewhat paleo, wheat free, gluten-free and as close to natural as I can get with the occasional chocolate bit thrown in.

If you like Tex-Mex, your new year diet can be the Taco Cleanse. OK, honestly, it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a book of vegan taco recipes, including tortillas, which may contain flour, corn and other high-carb stuff. Blonde celebrity Jennifer Aniston is all over this book, so you know it’s a winner, right? Yes, it’s a real thing, and comments like these make me actually want to buy the book for the sheer humor involved:

Many people don’t know that pictures of tacos can also be detoxifying to your body. From the moment I got this book I could instantly feel the leftover organic dinosaur kale in my body start to be pushed out to make room for tacos. The taco cleanse isn’t just a diet, it’s a way of life. If you have a dream board, put a picture of a taco on it, order this book, make a taco, and revel in a fulfilled dream.

Diet humor in a cookbook. Who’d-a thunk it?

Don’t forget about the yeast-free diet. Dr. Hotze’s people are doing Yeast Free With Me again this year. I may have to do yeast-free again soon (goodbye whole milk in coffee!) But I’ve written about it before, so if you want to try yeast free, you’ve got plenty of information available.

I did, on Christmas Eve, go to Academy Sports & Outdoors and found a kettlebell with a DVD by GoFit. I got the 15-pound model, and while I’ve only watched the DVD, I have been slinging it around using different routines I find on Pinterest to get used to using it. No bikini yet, and it hasn’t been every single day, but I did start my first workout with it on Christmas Eve–by walking around Academy looking for socks and other things I needed for 20 minutes. By the time I got to the register, I was panting, so that was my first “workout” with it. I did start slinging it around on Christmas Day, and have been using it most days ever since. I’ve seen a bit of muscle definition, and a couple of new little muscles showing. I was so sore I couldn’t move after my first set of Goblet Squats, but I’m getting used to the different muscles being activated. When I get better at it, I’ll start using the DVD.

The next big merchandising holiday is, of course, Valentine’s Day. I have seen Valentine’s Day things in Wal-Mart and one of the fabric stores (I think it was JoAnn’s on Bay Area.) Both stores were setting out V-D stock while the holiday decorations were being sold. Weird.

And if you are a New Orlenian (expat or living at home), you’ll notice king cakes coming out. Bakeries in Houston produce them, but they’re more like coffee cakes decorated in green, gold and purple, with the plastic baby not baked in the cake, as it should be, but taped to the cake board. WHAT?? (Liability issues.)  Well, anyway, the ones here are not as good as the ones in New Orleans, sorry. And the mix stuff you get in Cost Plus World Market may be passable, but it’s not the real thing.

It's Mardi Gras Time!

It’s Mardi Gras Time!

But bakeries like Randazzo’s and Haydel’s will ship them to you nationwide, all year long, no kidding. (Cream-cheese filled with blueberry or strawberry filling is a personal favorite, but I haven’t had any in many years.)

This post is about another New Orleans favorite that seems to have evaporated. But more on that later.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day. . .OK, remember a couple of years ago when Twinkies came back, and there was a lot of speculation about what the new owners were going to do with the Hostess line of treats? They’ve brought back the original Twinkies and treats, but have also added to the repertoire, partly thanks to their newly streamlined manufacturing practices.

A couple of months ago, there was Pumpkin Spice Twinkies. Well, they’re at it again–now Hostess has two new limited edition flavors for Valentine’s Day. Ladies and gentlemen, those who know me recognize that I believe the ultimate dessert combo is chocolate with raspberry. Well, I’m in big trouble:

I am sunk if I find these.

I am sunk if I find these. Gluten-free doesn’t even figure in here.

Yes, that’s right–dark chocolate and raspberry. Amy’s ultimate dessert combination. Here’s a close up:

Close up of the most dangerous junk food in history.

I really don’t like pink but how am I going to keep my paws off these?

And they’re dolled up to show the one you love. . .your love. Raspberry not your thing? There’s also chocolate and strawberry, which may also need to be sampled in the HeatCageKitchen:

If the chocolate raspberry wasn't enough to get your blood sugar spiking.

If the chocolate raspberry wasn’t enough to get your blood sugar spiking.

I first had the chocolate and raspberry combo sometime in the early 90’s in the form of flavored coffee. I think that’s when I discovered Orleans Coffee Exchange, which was in the French Quarter at the time. One of these days, I’m going to order more of their delicious decaf flavored coffees, including Chocolate Raspberry, of course. (If I win the PowerBall this week, I’ll order 5 pounds of each.)  Naturally, not everyone sees it that way–I made the mistake of giving my parents a pound of Chocolate Raspberry coffee for Christmas one year, and I never heard the end of it. My dad complained for months: “It took three days to get that taste out of the pot!” Obviously, I never did that again.

But if your one and only (or one of a few) brings you some of these limited-edition sweet things, you KNOW it’s for real. (Let’s hope the GER doesn’t get a wild idea and drop some of these off at my door.)

Oh, and I received the February issue of Martha Stewart Living last week. Guess what? Six chocolate cake recipes for V-D, one gluten-free, and one. . .chocolate raspberry cake. No kidding. That one may be made soon for testing.

Anyway, you can read more about the new limited edition Hostess Cupcakes here on Delish.com. (Try not to drool on your keyboard.)

Now, remember the fury that surrounded the Twinkie’s absence and return? People selling them on eBay for hundreds of dollars, just a couple of months before they came back? New Orlenians have been subjected to a similar torment, but this one has lasted a lot longer than a few months. There aren’t any pies on eBay, but if you type in “Hubig Pie” in the search box, it shows two pictures for sale and a beaded necklace with a number of New Orleans food icons on it.

If you’ve ever visited New Orleans, you likely saw (and maybe tasted) a Hubig’s Pie. They were sold at convenience stores all over the metro NOLA area, and they were just. . .always there.

Just like this.

Just like this. (Source: WVUE New Orleans)

I had a few when I was a kid, but knowing they were, shall we say, “not a health food,” kept me from eating one too often (not to mention frequently not having an extra 60 or so cents to spare for one–how long has that been?) I preferred chocolate, apple, cherry, and occasionally lemon, peach or pineapple. Really, it was whatever was available at the convenience store you were visiting at the time.

Yum.

Yum. Is that chocolate?

They also offered seasonal flavors like coconut, sweet potato (no thanks), and at one time also made and sold whole pies. But like a lot of things, Hubig’s Pies are what locals will call “real New Orleans.” They just are. They’re just there.

An original Hubig Pie.

An original Hubig Pie. (Source: Facebook)

Until one day, they weren’t.

A lot of people don’t know that the pie company actually started in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1922 by a man named Simon Hubig, a WWI vet who emigrated from Spain to the US. Yeup–Texas. (Source: Wikipedia.) There were actually nine locations, and the New Orleans location was the only one to stay open during the Great Depression, since it was the only profitable bakery of the lot. It stayed in the original location until. . . .

The original bakery on Dauphine Street.

The sign in front of the original bakery on Dauphine Street.

The filled, fold-over pies were fried, then coated with a glaze that made the crust a little extra sweet and gave it a light crunch when you bit into it. There were a number of flavors, including apple, cherry, lemon, peach, chocolate (with a curd-style filling), pineapple, and a few others. They were a part of the landscape, like a view of the Lakefront.

And if you snickered when you read  “the Lakefront,” I know you’re from New Orleans. (Please keep those details to yourself.) Anyway, this is what emerged when you opened the waxy wrapper:

The perfect Hubig's Pie.

The perfect Hubig’s Pie. (Source: WVUE New Orleans website)

First, Hurricane Katrina knocked them out in 2005. From Wikipedia:

When the city of New Orleans was struck by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the bakery’s ventilation system, an exterior wall, and the roof were damaged. Production of Hubig’s pies was halted and did not start again until more than four months later, January 4, 2006, after the neighborhood had clean water, reliable electricity, and sufficient gas pressure. Hubig’s pies increased slightly in cost after the storm, and the variety of flavors offered changed. About 30,000 hand-sized pies were made a day to be delivered on the next day.

And New Orleans was happy again. Until July 27, 2012, in the early morning hours, when a fire completely destroyed the factory.

HubigFire

Source: WVUE New Orleans website

And, to date, Hubig’s Pies are no more. A new location has been acquired, but. . .that’s it. Nothing more. And New Orlenians are sad. Twinkies? PFFT–Hubig’s Pies are more important.

What’s happened since then? Well. . .not much. Hubig’s Pies are still a mystery, and a memory.

They say they will rebuild. They keep saying it, too. In October of 2012, the owners met with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and posted it on Facebook:

Hubig's Owners with the Mayor.

Hubig’s Owners with the Mayor. (Source: Hubig’s Facebook page)

The owners have settled on a new place, and received approval from the New Orleans City Council, but there have been. . .delays.

There are two “official” Facebook pages for Hubig’s. Neither have been updated in well over 2 years. I’ve attempted to contact the owners of both pages, to no avail. Nobody responded to my private messages. (Not like I’m Hoda Kotb, though.) The company’s website is a blank page as well.

A recent article in The New Orleans Advocate quoted the last factory manager, Drew Ramsey, as saying he “has no good answer” for when the pies will be made again. They have no idea, despite the new location they found, because they just can’t get all the gears together yet.

I asked an unnamed friend of this blog if he’d heard anything–he hears stuff and knows people, you see–and he has a friend of a friend who knows stuff about the Hubig’s folks. What he’s heard through the grapevine is that the Hubig’s team is now looking for the manufacturing equipment they need to get the pies rolling again, but are having difficulty finding exactly what they need. That, too, is understandable, since it will likely be custom-built equipment for the new facility which hasn’t been built yet. So fans cross their fingers, wish for a Hubig’s, and patiently. . .wait.

Honestly, in my experience, everything takes a lot longer in Louisiana. Always.

Additionally, the article states:

Tangling things further is an ongoing lawsuit filed in late 2012 by Hubig’s against the supplier of its plant’s fire suppression system, alleging that the system failed to protect its facility. While that suit continues, Ramsey said, options to dissolve and reform the brand are off the table.

I hope that if and when they do come back, they don’t mess with anything like the new Hostess folks didn’t. New Orlenians will absolutely HOWL. Guaranteed.

Remember back when the Twinkies went away, and suddenly there were similar products being produced? Recipes and pans were also available to make your own DIY Twinkie-style cakes at home. You know. . .that option is available, too.

Hubig’s Pies are what we now call “hand pies.” I’ve seen them in Martha Stewart Living on occasion, but have not made them myself. According to this article, they’re becoming more of a “thing” nationwide. And you can also find out what restaurants in New Orleans have been making something similar to a Hubig’s, although some are more of a fancier dessert than the absent paper-wrapped confection.

For the DIY crowd, you can easily make your own by getting yourself a pie crimper tool that makes these easy to put together. (This version gives you square hand pies, and for Valentine’s Day, here’s a heart-shaped mini-pie maker.) I have no experience making these. Admittedly, I bought two from my former Avon Lady the last time I had a boyfriend, intending to make either a star-shaped or heart-shaped pie for him. That never happened, he’s gone now, and I eventually gave them to the Salvation Army.

I also found the blog ProbablyBaking and the guy who writes it. He decided to duplicate the Hubig’s Pie (warning: a bit of language) and made apple, lemon, and in a tip to Vietnamese food, Pho. (“Faux Pho?” OK, Dude.) The recipes are also listed, and got blogger and Loyola student Beau Ciolino a write-up in The Times Picayune. (No, I’m not jonesing for the TP to pick up HeatCageKitchen, and sure as heck not waiting for the Houston Chronicle!)

Not interested in DIY? As I detailed in the previous Twinkies post, there are alternatives. I found one this weekend in my local Food Town:

From the same company that makes duplicate Twinkies.

Chocolate? Really? (No, I didn’t.)

From the same company that makes Twinkies duplicates, TastyKake also has similar hand pies.  Apparently they’re baked, not fried, but they are about the same size as a Hubig’s. I don’t see Chocolate on their webpage, so maybe it’s a regional flavor, or leftover from the holidays. But they’re available if you’re really missing the Hubig’s. I know, they’re not the same, but they’re something.

People have indeed been missing Hubig’s Pies pies something awful:

T-shirts, anyone?

T-shirts, anyone?

And there’s also this bikini if you’re daring enough. Babies have been dressed up as Hubig’s pies, as well as. . .bread:

HubigTribute

But it hasn’t happened yet.

The original Hubig’s site on Dauphine Street is slated to become. . .condos. Yes, earlier this year, the former Hubig’s site was approved to become fancy condominium development called Bakers’ Row. Because, after all, in a city with a per-capital income of well under $50K a year (US Census estimates of Orleans Parish median household income at $44,874, and per-capita money income at $26,500) New Orleans needs more half-million dollar condos. Because they’ll be snapped right up and occupied in no time, right?

It’s been done before, with the same result–long-term empty real estate. Developers found that out the hard way after Katrina.

So while fans of the fried confections wait patiently for the bureaucratic red tape to be untangled. . .well, there’s nothing to do but wait, if you really want them back. There are alternatives, as I mentioned, including making your own or finding similar versions.

But If Hubig’s Pies were going on sale first thing tomorrow, I might be tempted to go and find me one, like we did with Blue Bell Ice Cream, but it’s been so long since I had one that I’m not sure I’d be interested. (Note that they’re NOT in any way gluten free, adding to my disinterest.)  They’re sweet, crunchy and filling, like a good pie should be. . .but it’s a New Orleans thing, like king cake.

OK, let me clarify–REAL king cake, the kind they make in New Orleans, not the tri-colored coffee cake you get here in Houston.

And much like the absence of Blue Bell ice cream on Texas this past summer, I feel your pain. If you’re a reader in New Orleans, and you know someone involved, you’re welcome to forward this post to them. Remember, I’m just a little ol’ blogger in Texas, I’m not Food Babe or The Pioneer Woman, but I’m holding up the flag for you, too.

You know what? I’ve written nearly 3,000 words on sugary snack foods. I think I need some insulin! But never fear, I’m thinking about making my next column not only healthy, but easy. Meantime, if you’ve not been waffling anything, you know there are some healthy things you can waffle. If you haven’t tried it yet, go back and read the first and second blog posts on the subject and give it some thought. I did manage to waffle a pizza last week, from the dough I put in the freezer last year, and it came out great after a bit of fiddly rolling.

So, Happy New Year! Let’s make 2016 a better year for food, clean eating, health and wellness, fitness, and all the other things we resolve for this time of year.

Enjoy!

 

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Short post–Cranberry Bliss Bars

Short post–Cranberry Bliss Bars

Happy Sunday, Dear Readers:

I know, I said I wasn’t going to publish again until after January 1, but you know how these things go. This is a shorter post than usual. I am, as always, anxiously awaiting this year’s Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Husbands of River Song. When I found out what the title was, all I could think of was, “she’s had more husbands than me? I thought she was just married to The Doctor.” Well, at least she gets to travel in time and space. I get to drive around Houston occasionally. Mostly in my little knothole.

I also have an idea for another post that I may publish next week about a New Orleans foodie-related mystery that’s been going on for more than 3 years. Heck, my humble blog may get it moving again. More on that later.

Now to answer why I’m posting on a Sunday. This is an EMERGENCY blog post–I have to tell you what Nicole over at Gluten Free on A ShoeString has done.

I’ve written about Nicole before (see this re-blog on Gluten Free Donuts), and I get emails when she publishes. Of course, she’s always baking up delicious things for us gluten-averse folks. If you’re interested in more gluten-free baking, hop on over and follow her blog, for she has lots of tricks up her sleeve to keep your baked goods dreams fulfilled.

Today, she reached the pinnacle of gluten-free re-makes.

Nicole has created a gluten-free version of my personal favorite, Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bar. Why is this significant? Because. . .Cranberry Bliss Bars are a seasonal treat at Starbucks that are something to LIVE FOR. Seriously. (Unlike the heavy-sugared Pumpkin Spice Latte.) Take a look:

From the Starbucks website.

A Cranberry Bliss Bar, picture from the Starbucks website.

This is, of course, not a big treat, but it is big on flavor. One taste and you are a goner.

I first tasted this treat when I was sick, and coming home from the only doctor’s office I knew about near Hobby Airport. (This was a no-questions-asked walk-in clinic that would take non-insurance patients, long before I was going to see Dr. Davis at Woodlands Wellness.) They had an on-site pharmacia for patients, but it was closed that day. Driving my sick self home down I-45, I thought, “now where the heck am I going to get my prescription filled?” And then it dawned on me.

TARGET.

The Baybrook Super Target has a pharmacy AND a Starbucks! So. . .while I waited for my prescription, I got a nice, hot coffee. I was really sick, you see, with yet another painful swollen-gland throat infection (including fever) and I figured I deserved a little something sweet that day. It was that time of the year, and I just pointed to the red and white thing. It was carefully packed in a bag and handed to me as I paid my tab.

I sat in the corner, like the sick cat that I was, slowly sipped my coffee and took a little bite of this heavenly and festive triangle. I had never tasted such a combination, and immediately fell in love with it. I sought out at least one every holiday season (for they are not cheap and the price has nearly doubled this year) but ran into an issue in 2013 when. . .I went gluten free.

I passed on them in 2013, but I did manage one of them last year. Only one. And I may do it this year too, whilst they’re available. But now, I don’t have to worry–because Nicole has figured out how to make them gluten free. (Note: we get them down here in Texas at Starbucks, so I’m sorry they aren’t available everywhere, from what Nicole says.)

Nicole uses something called Better Batter, which I admit I’ve not heard of before (she uses a lot of different and cool stuff that I don’t know about.)  However, what I can put my paws on quickly is Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour, which has similar ingredients and does include Xanathan gum. (If your local grocer doesn’t carry it, you can also buy it from Amazon.)  It’s the flour I used for one of the recent pizza waffle recipes. One caveat Nicole points out is that if your GF flour doesn’t have Xanathan, you’ll need to add half a teaspoon (included in the recipe.)

I think there’s a bag of this flour in my grocery list this week, along with dried cranberries, cream cheese, and white chocolate. Holy Shish Kebab!!

If I make some, there will be some taste-tester deliveries. I doubt that the GER would be interested in something like this–he tends to prefer gas-station dining for some reason. (No, it’s not my cooking. It’s just his idea of convenience cooking.) But if I do manage to make them, I’ll be crowing about it here. Because now that we have a gluten-free work-around, Cranberry Bliss Bars are not just for the holidays anymore.

If you’re one of those people who loves the Cranberry Bliss Bars, now you can make them yourself, and even in gluten-free.

Merry Christmas!!

 

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Hummus and the HeatCageKitchen Thanksgiving

Hummus and the HeatCageKitchen Thanksgiving

Hello, Dear Readers:

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you get everything done on time? Did everyone enjoy themselves? Anyone grumble? Most importantly: did you waffle something?

Yesterday a cool front blew through, and we had rain all day, some of it pretty heavy. But in the late afternoon, when it was finally over, we were treated to this:

Never seen a pink-tinged rainbow before. I posted it on Facebook yesterday, and someone said it “indicates protection.” I hope so. (That was nice of him.)

New friend of the blog AC came by last week to chant, and I treated her to some Pizza Waffles and yeast-free microwave chocolate cake. The recipe no longer resides on Dr. Hotze’s website, but I’ve posted it on the Recipes page if anyone wants to make it. AC is going through some similar karma, and I figured she’d enjoy something different. She was planning to come Tuesday but had to postpone until Wednesday, which ended up being better for me. I made the waffle batter on Tuesday, stashed it in the fridge, and just needed to add a splash of milk and stir it again before making them. Once I got the waffle maker heated up, I went to work–I was in the zone! Poured batter in for the first one, then started on the cakes. When the first waffle went into the toaster oven, the second one was poured. Then back to the cakes. Cakes were made one at a time, plated, and brought to the table to cool. Then the pizza was ready, cakes cooled, and we had a delish dinner. I sent her home with not only the two remaining pieces of pizza, but also with some grapefruit salsa I’d made, clothes I was going to donate, a number of plastic containers of various sizes, a small green lunch bag, and some old computer speakers. I carried the big black bag to her car, and it turned out she was given a couple of lamps that day, too! Made out like a bandit, she did, and there’s a little less stuff in here. So it was pretty good for a Wednesday.

You’ll notice the end of most everything “pumpkin,” and the advent of everything “mint,” “peppermint,” or “Christmas flavored.” Seriously, you did notice all the pumpkin stuff now on sale, right? (I was in Cost Plus World Market on Saturday for a bite of chocolate and saw lots of it for 70% off.) Just remember that you can get canned pumpkin in the grocery all year around, if you’re a huge fan of it. Once Christmas is over, if not before, heart-shaped red things will be showing up. . .but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Starbucks still has them, far as I can tell, until the end of the year. But if you’re still wanting a “pumpkin spice latte,” check out this alternate version I’ve added to the Recipes page. (I haven’t tried it myself, but it looks a lot better than the original.) It came to me in a recent Graze box (because I had a few discounts to use up) and I intended to add it earlier but forgot. Really, this one you can have in May if you like–and no chemical ingredients, so go for it. Here’s an alternate yeast-free PSL version from Dr. Hotze’s Vitamin Shop website, if you’re really into the PSL. (I told you what happened when I tried the real thing at Starbucks, because I had a coupon for it.)

If you haven’t tried Graze yet, use the promo code AMYO2RN78. You get your first and fifth Graze box free, and you’ll get your own promo code to pass along to your friends–which leads to discounts and more free boxes later.

You can also send a Graze box as a last-minute Christmas gift, too–but hurry.

Do you like Crisco? Do you know the history of it? Fellow copywriter Steve Maurer wrote this column a while back for his own website, but I’m finally remembering to reference it here. The article is actually about content marketing (intended for companies interested in using him to write for them) but he adds in some very interesting historical information about. . .Crisco. Yes Crisco vegetable shortening, the bastion of Southern biscuits and church suppers all over America. Bet you didn’t know the story started out with candles, did you? It’s not a long read, but if you’re a fan of the stuff, you might find it interesting–and he ties in the content marketing part very well.

How was MY Thanksgiving? Well. . . .

It was kind of quiet here–the GER sort of “missed” a number of emails on the subject. I called him the night before, and he said, “Oh, I guess I forgot. I’m going to eat with Kyle and his mama.” Needless to say, I didn’t bother baking that pecan pie with the chocolate crust. I returned the pecans and one or two other unneeded supplies to HEB and that was the end of it. . .and the end of his holiday dinner invitations, darnit.

Fortunately, I had a sympathetic friend who was all kinds of nice about it. However, that friend is in Louisiana, so an hours-long drive wasn’t an option, particularly since this friend had to go to work on Black Friday. Early.

I did, however, bake plenty of the gluten free (and vegan) cornbread that’s on the Recipes page (page 53 of Babycakes). I only made one loaf at a time, and enjoyed the heck out of it. (Not all at once, of course.) I actually considered waffling some of the batter, but never got around to it. I have plenty of corn flour, so it won’t be a problem to make more. I was planning to bake the Babycakes cornbread and the Martha Stewart recipe that nobody ever turns down. Well, the GER turned me down, so I never made any. All that vegan, gluten-free deliciousness was MINE.

One thing I did do was brine and roast turkey thighs. The new Sur la Table in Baybrook Mall had a grand opening, where I asked them to sharpen my big, heavy and dangerous kitchen knife. While I was there, I picked up some turkey brine, which was on sale for Thanksgiving. I also found the Prepara Roasting Laurel on sale, and got one intending to cook several thighs.

IMG_2524[1]

I saw it in the catalog and thought it was pretty neat. It’s just silicone, and you can shape it to hold stuff up, or in place, like stuffed bell peppers. It works in anything, up to 500F. I bought it not only for Thanksgiving and possibly Christmas, but also to put under whole roasts and things in the Crock Pot. Neat, huh? I got it on sale, and it went right into the dishwasher and came out clean. Highly recommended if you do that kind of thing, and even at the full price of $20, it’s still a well-priced item. I just might finally try roasting a chicken in the Crock Pot to make it come out like a rotisserie chicken from HEB.

But since I only cooked four turkey thighs, I used it anyway, and they came out perfectly roasted and tasty.

IMG_2525[1] IMG_2526[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted them at 350F for an hour, and it was just what I wanted. In addition to cornbread, I made some Cranberry Ginger Relish and of course, roasted sweet potato french fries. I was considering making this interesting dish with acorn squash (it’s also in Clean Slate) but I knew what kind of look I would get from you-know-who, so I never bought the ingredients. I didn’t even make dessert, because I just didn’t feel like messing with anything else. Christmas will likely be a Lemon Chicken, one of my favorite Martha Stewart recipes from years ago. The first time I made it my parents were coming to Houston to see me and my then-spouse. My mother’s comment was that it was quite salty; but I like it, so I marinate it the full two days. In the magazine there were other accompanying recipes, like lemon-roasted potatoes, as well. Since I only got two Meyer lemons off my tree this year, I’ll stick with the chicken.

Now. . .look out!! Christmas is coming!! And that means. . .parties. Office parties, church parties, friend parties, cocktail parties. . .and you’re likely to be on the hook for bringing something, right? OK, I’ve got you covered.

Make hummus. Seriously. Quick, easy, and tasty.

Now, hummus is one of those things that not many people knew about or made, but it’s kind of always been around, and gaining popularity for a few years. Me, I’ve only started eating it in the last few years, after I found this hummus recipe in Real Simple magazine. (A PDF copy is also available on the Recipes page.) I make it quite often, and also made the same recipe when I made Waffled Falafel (instead of the hummus recipe that came with it.)

I can’t find the article from the Wall Street Journal that discussed turning tobacco farmers into chickpea farmers, but with hummus growing in popularity, more chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) need to be grown. One older gentleman who farmed tobacco his whole life had no idea what chickpeas were, much less what they tasted like or why he should switch. Once offered some hummus and other items with chickpeas, he was convinced.

Now back to hummus. What is it, actually?

Hummus is a nice thick dip made with chickpeas, olive oil, a bit of garlic, salt, and something called tahini. If you’ve never tried it, tahini is simply ground sesame seeds, turned into a paste, much like peanuts turned into peanut butter. (You want the kind that is nothing but ground sesame seeds; Trader Joe’s has one that has wheat flour in it as a thickener.)

There are many brands of tahini, both domestic and imported. Kroger’s Simple Truth has some that’s actually made in Israel, no kidding. But this is a different brand I found, also made in the US, with just sesame seeds:

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This is what you look for, no matter which brand you buy:

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Despite the font on the bottle, this hummus is actually made in Texas:

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Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the additives until I got home. This also came from Kroger, but from the international section, where you may have to look to find it in your town.

20150228_124209.jpgAdmittedly, it was a bit odd, but I’m remembering to read labels, too.

Tahini tends to be on the expensive side, but you will only use a small amount when you make hummus. Any more than a tablespoon or two, and it will be too strong.

The easiest and quickest way to go is to use canned chickpeas. At the HEB in Friendswood, I think these run about 72¢ a can.

IMG_2607

Goya, the national brand, might run $1 or so per can. Your choice.

However, if you’re like LK’s sister, and you want no canned foods, you can always get some dried chickpeas and cook them overnight in the crock pot.

Dried garbanzo beans. Do you pass these up in the grocery? Now you don't have to.

Dried chickpeans. Do you pass these up in the grocery? Now you don’t have to.

Dried chickpeas are usually with the rest of the dried beans, although I’ve never seen them in bulk bins like pinto beans are here in Texas. But bagged up like this, a pound will usually run anywhere from about 88¢ to maybe $1.25 (but that’s here in Houston, too.) But the organic chickpeas from Arrowhead Mills on the right were about $5.15 in Erma’s Nutrition Center, but that’s because they’re organic and all that. I didn’t buy them to make hummus with, though–I bought them to sprout and plant in the HeatCageKitchen Garden, which I haven’t done just yet.

Chickpeas are pretty darn good on their own (like in Waffled Falafel) but they’re also great mixed in salads, or other cooked dishes. My favorite frozen veg blend from HEB has, among other things, cooked chickpeas. It’s just frozen veg, no sauce or seasonings.

If you go the dried bean route, you just put them in your Crock Pot, cover them with water to an inch or so over the top, put the lid on, plug it in, turn it on low, and leave it alone. Overnight worked for me, but of course, daytime cooking works as well. (Note that with the Waffled Falafel, you soak them in water to cover in the refrigerator overnight, and they’re cooked in the waffle maker.)

Now for the hummus part. Recipes abound for it, but I became a fan several years ago when I found that recipe in Real Simple. For a few years now, I make a double batch on the weekend and keep it in the fridge to nibble on sometimes. I stopped doing it earlier this year, but I shouldn’t have. I made some this weekend and realized how much I missed it.

You’ll need a food processor, of course. For one recipe, just drain and rinse one 15-ounce can of chickpeas (or about a cup and a half or so of some you’ve cooked yourself) and dump that into the bowl. Add one clove of fresh garlic, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the aforementioned tahini, a teaspoon of ground cumin, and a quarter-teaspoon of paprika. Whiz that up like this:

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Add a little hot water until it becomes a nice smooth consistency, and it comes out like this:

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Perfect hummus.

Now, I’d like to point out that although the original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. . .I only use 1 tablespoon per batch. Commercial hummus has too much lemon in it for me, and you can’t taste anything over the acidic bite. Half the lemon juice gives it a subtle flavor and makes it just perfect.

So what do you do with it? I eat it just like that with a spoon. . .but as a dip, it’s wonderful. Chips, celery or other veg, or whatever you like to dip. Up to you.

NOW do you see why I posted it? Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I just gave you something to take with you to a holiday party, and it’s really easy and simple to make. I make a double batch that usually lasts me the weekend, but two double batches should be enough for a party. And nothing in it is perishable, so it won’t go bad if it sits out on the table for a while. (Leave it in the fridge until you leave for the party, though.)

Now let’s kick it up a notch.

Remember when I went to the Woodlands Wellness Lunch in February? Chef Michael’s hummus was delicious–but his second batch, with sun dried tomatoes, was an unexpected surprise. (Served with sweet potato chips, you become enlightened.) Want to make new friends? Make an extra double batch of this hummus, and add six sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, and blitz it. The hummus will turn a slightly different color and have a wonderful taste to it. I did it with six, but start with two and work your way up to see how you like it. THAT will get you noticed!

Wherever you go this holiday season, keep hummus in mind as a quick, easy go-to thing for a potluck. Heck, even if you’re already making something else, hummus wouldn’t be a bad idea to add to the potluck. (My experience with potlucks is that everyone loves to bring desserts, but I’m sure that’s just me.)

Soon you’ll be seeing commercials on TV for exercise equipment, diet programs, Weight Watchers and other “New Years’s resolutions.” Wait for it. . .it’s coming. You’ll see them while sipping egg nog and nibbling the gingerbread house. A little moderation during the holidays might help, but if you’re like me, you might not be able to leave the cranberry pecan biscotti alone. Eating healthy most of the time can help offset the one-off (or two-off) party where the food is just too good to leave alone. (I speak from experience.)

Not sure if I’ll be posting again until after the holidays; if I find something important, I’ll be sure to post it here.
Whatever you do, here’s wishing everyone a great holiday season and a joyous, prosperous New Year. (Including me.)

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 Two Bananas

The Two Bananas

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I’m sorry it’s been a week since I posted; I had a couple of obstacles, including a dying car battery and an impromptu late night meeting with the GER down at Buc-ee’s on Saturday night. We ended up chatting outside for a while, and it’s a good thing–with all the construction happening on I-45 in this area, that time let some of the miles-deep traffic dissipate. I made it home pretty easily. . .about 1:00 am. We just tend to chat about general stuff we’re interested in. Then I look up and see what time it was, and I gotta go home. Closest thing I’ve had to call a “date” in a while, so I’ll take it. He offered me one of those Mexican mineral waters he likes, so I guess you can say he “bought me a drink.” HA!

I did manage to acquire watermelon. Lots of watermelon.

I’ve been doing more on the copywriting side, contacting catalog companies to inquire if they use freelance writes. So far I got one “yes, we do, but I’m not the person you need to talk to,” but I’ll be back on it tomorrow. I’m not going to say too much about what companies I’ve contacted, but, well, today I made a discovery that left me laughing.

Some of you may know I’m a huge fan of British TV, particularly “Britcoms” like Keeping Up Appearances, Father Ted, and Waiting For God. One of the funniest Britcoms with the dual appeal of science fiction is called Red Dwarf. It’s sort of Star Wars meets The Three Stooges. (Even Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard, is a fan.) Set three million years in the future, it focuses on the four space buffoons who bumble their way through everything and still manage to come out ahead. In Season 10 of Red Dwarf, they go back in time (by accident) and meet. . .Jesus. No kidding. Funny, and *not* disrespectful of Christians, it’s just good fun. But if you haven’t seen the series from the beginning (I have), it might not make as much sense.

Red Dwarf started in 1988 or 1989, and the audiences watching those first shows were brought from pubs located within the vicinity of the studio where it was being filmed. Back in the day, they couldn’t swear on TV like they can now, so they came up with a substitute swear word: “smeg.” Short for something really dirty, they used it all the time, telling each other to “smeg off,” calling each other “smegheads” (audience members call the cast members that to their faces now) and other derivatives to avoid saying some of the infamous Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say On Television. Dwarfers are also called “smegheads.”

Why am I talking about Red Dwarf? Well, today in my research, I discovered a line of kitchen appliances, big and small, by an Italian company called Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla. That’s right, SMEG. No kidding. In English, it means “Guastalla Emilia Enamel Works.” But has no one in Italy ever heard of Red Dwarf?

It gets worse. In one of the prior seasons–and described in one of the books–the only human character, Dave Lister, has a thing for electronic gadgets, and finds the Talkie Toaster. Described in the accompanying book Better Than Life  on page 51, well:

Talkie Toaster {TM} (patent applied for), was made of deep red plastic, and according to the blurb on the packaging, could engage its owner in a number of pre-programmed stimulating breakfast conversations. Moreover, it had a degree of Artificial Intelligence, so, in time, it could learn to assess your mood and tailor its conversation accordingly. If you woke up feeling bright and bubbly, the Toaster would respond with chirpy repartee. If you rose in a darker mood, the Toaster’s Artificial Intelligence could sense this, and provide your breakfast muffins in suitably reverent silence.

Of course, it didn’t actually work as well as advertised. It’s obsessed with making toast and conversation, to the point of severe irritation. There’s an entire routine where Holly, the ship’s onboard computer system, argues with the Talkie Toaster about not wanting anything toasted. The Toaster responds, “It is my purpose. I toast, therefore, I am.” In other words, no smegging toast, thank you very much.

Take a look at these toasters and try not to laugh. They don’t talk, but they’re not cheap, either–the toasters run $200, and the blenders nearly $500, so they’re high-end appliances. But for a Dwarfer. . .it’s just too funny. You can look at the entire line of SMEG kitchen appliances at their official website.

OK, enough comic relief. The official Red Dwarf website is here. More funny stuff later.

This morning Neighbor K and I went walking at 5 am, and then she texted me to walk with her and the Daft Pug to Starbucks. I hadn’t hopped in the shower yet, so I put my shoes back on. One of us had to hold the Daft Pug while the other went in, but that’s OK. When it was my turn to hold the leash, he wanted to chase the black birds flying around at the fire station next door. Then K brought out her coffee, breakfast and a “Puppuccino,” which Starbucks offers to customers with canines during the summer. (You have to ask for it.) A sample-sized cup of whipped cream, icy cold, which the Daft Pug lapped up like he hadn’t eaten in a week. K also brought a small cup of water, but he was not interested and knocked it over. We were outside on a sealed concrete patio, so it won’t hurt anything, but he couldn’t believe he was at the bottom of the little cup. What a happy pug.

Sunday, the nice man who lives upstairs, Neighbor J, tapped on my door and offered me some green grapes and two bananas. “I’m going to Vegas tomorrow and I don’t want to come back to rotted fruit in the fridge.” Woo hoo! Thank you!  The grapes were gone momentarily, but what to do with the bananas?  Banana bread? Ice cream? Eat them? I didn’t want to go get anything, and since I keep ingredients stocked as best I can, I figured there would be something I could make that would use up two bananas and be a healthy nibble.

I should point out that I normally don’t eat bananas because of the high starch/sugar content. I used to, and when my parents were active Shaklee representatives, my Mom gave me a can of some kind of shake that required the addition of a whole banana in the blender. Nice, but that meant I was hungry by the time I got to work. In 1991, though, we didn’t have the advanced food transport equipment available like we do now–and because I had no car, I took the bus, so I couldn’t risk a leaky bottle with a smoothie in it.

Anyway.

My first visit was to the first Babycakes book. Bread would take a while, so I decided to look online for some inspiration. I get Facebook feeds from Elena Amsterdam of Elena’s Pantry, so I decided to visit her website and see what I could find. Typed the word “banana” in the search function, and oh, boy, did I get recipes. I looked through a few, expecting almond flour to be the first ingredient, but I also have some coconut flour, too. I searched for a few minutes, then. .  .

Bingo–Flourless Chocolate Banana Cake. Five ingredients, a couple of steps and a cake! Well. . .it’s gluten free, nut free and dairy free. There are eggs in it, too, and it’s baked, not raw. There are some Jewish holidays that forbid the use of flour, but I only know what I’m told and what I read. Like I told K, if you’re unable to have the usual specter of sweets, it’s a good thing to make.

If you’re not familiar with Elena Amsterdam, she’s a wife and mother of two who has written three books on paleo/grain free cooking; two are dessert books, and you can read her Amazon biography here. She’s an advocate for Celiac disease and grain-free nutrition after being diagnosed in 1998, went grain-free in 2001, and has been writing about it since 2006. Her cookbooks are on my wish list (I know, I need more cookbooks, right?) and her website is filled with not only simple, nutritious recipes but other good advice as well. You can also get her feeds on Facebook like I do if you’re on FB,  or you can sign up to get her emails if you’re not.

Elena describes herself as “an entrepreneur, wife and Jewish mother living in Boulder, Colorado.” (She’s GORGEOUS, too.)

So, what happens? Let me tell you.

The setup (minus three eggs.)

The setup (minus three eggs.) It was 10:30 in the morning

I should point out that the recipe calls for CACAO powder, not cocoa, but cocoa is what I had on hand, and Erma’s wasn’t open. So cocoa powder it was.

First up: separate the eggs:

Yes, they're cappuccino cups, but there's no cappuccino this time of year.

Yes, they’re cappuccino cups, but there’s no cappuccino this time of year.

Elena calls for a Vitamix, but all I have is my Cuisinart blender, so that’s what I deployed for the next step, whipping up the egg yolks, agave and salt (medium, for 1-2 minutes, although I only have high and low.) It looks like this:

I had to hold it because it started to turn. . .and leak.

I had to hold it because it started to turn. . .and leak.

Next up, add the grapeseed oil and banana, mash it up and blitz it again:

I cut them, then mashed with a fork, knowing that the blender would pretty much cover the rest.

I cut them, then mashed with a fork, knowing that the blender would pretty much cover the rest.

Now, make it chocolate and blitz it again.

Next time maybe I'll get some cacao powder.

Next time maybe I’ll get some cacao powder.

This is what you end up with:

Chocolated-up banana mix

Chocolated-up banana mix

Now–shift gears and whip the egg whites until they’re stiff:

IMG_2733

Under the bowl is just a bit of rubber shelf liner. I keep them handy to keep bowls and cutting boards from sliding while I work.

Once you’re there with the egg whites, dump the chocolate mixture into a bigger bowl, and add the beaten egg whites:

Almost there

Almost there. Neat contrast, isn’t it?

Once you’ve got them in the same place, fold them together with a spoon or spatula. Don’t use the mixer again, because you’ll “flatten” the egg whites.

Fold, not blend or mix.

Fold, not blend or mix.

I think I forgot to take a picture of the cake before it went into the toaster oven, but you grease an 8″ springform pan and add the cake batter to it. I lined the bottom of mine with parchment by putting a sheet on top of the base and clipping the ring on it, making sure it was tight, then spraying a bit of oil on it. It’s the same thing you do for a cheesecake, and trim the excess from the bottom. But of course, I didn’t take THAT picture, sorry.

So bake it  for 25 minutes or so, and this is what comes out:

Cake.

Fresh out of the oven

I should have waited until it cooled a bit, but no, I burned my paws a little getting the ring off, then the cake on a plate, removed the parchment, then flipped it over onto another plate so it would look nice for the camera.

Cake.

Cake!

Amazingly, mine looks pretty much like Elena’s, only without the food stylist and fancy photography. But how does it taste? Aye, there’s the rub.

I had the first slice, and then I packed up some for Neighbors K, R and J (the upstairs neighbor who gave me the bananas.)  I thought it wasn’t bad, and passable. The texture is soft and moist, even after a few days in a container in the fridge.  I gave K two slices for her and her SO (“significant other”) and accidentally gave R two slices. I cut it and packed up the slices while it was still hot, so the condensation inside the containers clouded them. I knocked on K’s door and give her a second slice for the SO–don’t want to leave him out.

The verdict from two of the three HeatCageKitchen taste testers: It’s OK. Not great. K said it was “weird, like those Weight Watchers brownies with black beans in them.” K’s boyfriend also tried it, and said the same thing. R said it “wasn’t bad, had an aftertaste; but the pizza was really good!” J is in Vegas for a couple more days, but I wanted to get it to him before he left so that he could have it before he left. I didn’t want to bother him while he was getting ready to leave, so I didn’t knock to ask; but I think I know what he’ll say.

Now, I don’t always expect glowing reviews of my cooking. If the recipe isn’t good, I need to know that, right? At least it’s not bad enough to be tagged as a “hot mess.”

Again, I used what I had handy, which included cocoa powder, not CACAO powder. (Maybe next time.) Let me explain why I think it tasted a bit weird.

If you try to eat a bar of unsweetened chocolate, which is 100% chocolate (mostly), it’s pretty pure, and will be bitter–that’s why chocolate is cut with other ingredients like butter, cream, coconut oil, and sugar or other sweeteners are added. Unsweetened cocoa powder is, essentially, pure chocolate, much like the baking chocolate in bar form, so I’m thinking I should have likely cut back on the cocoa powder, or added a little more agave syrup. I’ll do that next time, or use the cacao powder. Like I should have.

If you (or someone in your circle) is in a position where you can’t have certain foods or ingredients, and want to “have your cake and eat it too,” this recipe might be a good option. I’ll look for cacao powder and try again one day. Maybe the GER might want to try it–he says he might want to try last week’s pizza recipe, but I warned him that I need some notice, since the quinoa soaks overnight. (And I nibbled all the sliced-up sausage, darnit.)

The recipe is available on the Recipe page in PDF format so that you can print or download it for later. My notes are included, along with a link to the original recipe on Elena’s Pantry.

It’s now August. Fall will be here before you know it, and that means MY BIRTHDAY!! I know it’s time when the pomegranates start showing up in the grocery (and they’re *not* the ones grown in Chile.)  What am I going to do this year? Heck, I dunno. I’ll know when October gets here. Pizza, cake, something free from Starbucks, Denny’s and Sephora, and anything else I can find to sign up for by October 15th. It’s MY birthday, right?

For now, I’m going to have some more watermelon, clean my messy kitchen, do evening prayers and hit the sack.

Until next time. . .Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Buc-ee’s: The Texas Road Trip

Buc-ee’s: The Texas Road Trip

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I’ve got a few things to tell you about, and this time, it involves the GER. He doesn’t always read every blog post, but he does like it when I write about him. Neighbor K gets a kick out of reading about herself too, sometimes–I warn her when she gets a mention.

I recently went into my local Fresh Market for something, and passing through the produce section, nestled in with the mangoes and pineapples, was this monster:

No, it wasn't moving.

No, it wasn’t moving.

Jack Fruit. WHAT? I wasn’t about to spend $1.79 a pound for something I didn’t know anything about. Nobody in the store could tell me anything. Frankly, if I bring home something that size, it better purr, bark or vacuum the floor on a timer. If you can tell me more about this “Jack Fruit,” you win the Internet today. (Comments below, if you’re interested.)

Ok, enough of that.

I’m not the only one who looks for healthy eating and all that, but you probably know that already; FoodBabe is one of the best-known bloggers on the subject.. Chicago-based food blogger BreAnna over at Crafty Coin recently visited her local Aldi store, and like me, wasn’t exactly impressed. I wrote a little about it last year, and have not been inspired to go back in it. When I see the weekly fliers in the mail, I look, but I haven’t seen any reason to make a special trip or stop in on my way home from somewhere. (Disclosure: I commented on that blog post myself.)

Now on to the GER.

As I’ve mentioned before, the GER is an ex-boyfriend, and a few years ago, became a very good friend. His Dad, the late Big Joel, was an avid friend of the blog, and read every posting before he passed away 2 years ago. Since the GER has been back in Texas, he’s been back to his old habits (some good, some bad.) One of those is gardening, and he’s been very kind to share some of the yield from time to time:

Results typical from the GER's garden

Results typical from the GER’s garden

They were, of course, delicious, and they didn’t stick around long–we both love salads. I wish I had something to give him, but I didn’t.

So I’m driving home on a Wednesday night from a chanting session at LK’s, streaming some music on iHeart in the car, when the music stops. The phone rings; it’s him, the GER.

Now, since the GER is a bit of a Luddite, I don’t actually have a picture of him on my phone, so I decided to use this one in his contacts entry:

The Sausage Piggy, a cute thing I found in the meat case at Fresh Market one day.

The Sausage Piggy, a cute thing I found in the meat case at Fresh Market one day.

I showed it to him and he didn’t quite know what to make of it. But then he got a good look at it, and he got a kick out of it.

He doesn’t do Facebook or any other social networking, despite my suggestion he get on Pinterest (to find all kinds of great, useful information) and LinkedIn (to network.)  And don’t *even* make the suggestion of a smartphone. . . .

So I’m driving along and it’s him–and it’s about 9:15 pm. Much like Neighbor K, The GER doesn’t call often, so I answer when he calls. (K and I text a lot, even from next door.)  He asks what I’m doing, and I tell him where I am. He has some extra vegetables from his garden, and wants me to stop by and get them. Not at his house, but at a halfway point. “Why don’t you meet me at Buc-ee’s in Texas City?” he says. It was about a 15 minute drive, and I arrived before he did.

Now, I think I’ve been in a Buc-ee’s, but not in many, many years. If you’ve never been in a Buc-ee’s, well, you’re in for a treat. Seriously. A longtime Texas highlight, they have more than the usual Stuckey’s and other side-of-the-road places and sometimes truck stops. Voted the cleanest bathrooms in the US, Buc-ee’s is the destination on your way to your destination.

In the case of the Texas City location, it’s on your way to Galveston.

There are 24 Buc-ee’s in Texas, and the Texas City location opened up last year. Honest, since I don’t go to that area much anymore, I didn’t really care that much. With 90 gas pumps outside, and a large store inside, it’s pretty much everything you need on your way. . .somewhere. (Click here for a list of all Buc-ee’s locations.)

So what’s so great about it? Well, I walked into someplace at least twice the size of Trader Joe’s, with bait and fishing gear, typical Texas souvenirs, and. . .fresh coffee. Would I lie to you?

Mmmmm. . .coffee. . .

Mmmmm. . .coffee. . .

In fact, a whole wall of coffees:

A lot more coffee than Starbucks, with no rewards program.

A lot more coffee than Starbucks, with no rewards program.

To the right of the picture is a condiment bar with the usual sugar and creamer, which included those tiny plastic containers of half-and-half, as well as the flavored coffee creamers. Yes, hazelnut and several other flavors! The ones you put IN your coffee come in the price of coffee; however, if you want to take more with you, they are 10 cents each. Fair price for on-the-go convenience.

Yes, they had decaf. It was fresh and hot. And yes, it was GOOD!!

The decaf, like the rest of the coffees, is refreshed regularly.

The decaf, like the rest of the coffees, is refreshed regularly.

Since I have become a Starbucks Gold Card holder, I know the difference between a tall, grande and venti. (I think there’s also one more beyond venti that’s an XXL, too, but I’m not 100% sure.) However, at Buc-ee’s, there is a 16-ounce and a larger one (20-ounce, I think) and both are under $2 a cup. I didn’t ask about refills, but then I’m not hanging around there like I would in Starbucks. (Didn’t ask about WiFi, either.) So I poured myself a cup and paid for it, then did some prowling while waiting for the GER to show up. Take a look at some of the neat stuff the Texas City Buc-ee’s has available for travelers and others interested in fine Texas-made goods.

Cutting boards--perfect gift for the chef.

Cutting boards–perfect gift for the chef.

Fresh-looking decor for any southern kitchen.

Fresh-looking decor for any southern home.

More nice decor

Beauty products for gifts, or because you forgot something.

I thought I had more pictures, but I can’t find them now.

Right across the aisle from these nice things is an entire section dedicated to. . .BAIT. Fishing stuff, and bait for your fishing trip. No kidding. In the middle of the store, (left of the coffee area) is a deli counter where you can order sandwiches and other food, a bakery, and at the far end, candy, beef jerky, chips, salsa, and other nibbles that you can’t get anywhere else.

That’s the GER’s favorite place–the wall of junk food.

I saw candies of all kinds, from the everyday stuff you find in Wal-Mart to the self-branded things exclusive to Buc-ee’s, and then the jerky, pretzels and other in-house snacks. I sipped my coffee and observed some more.

You can read some additional articles on their press page. The Houston Chronicle covered the opening day, where people were lined up long before dawn to go in when it opened. (More pictures there, too.)  Even the esteemed Wall Street Journal weighed in on the Buc-ee’s experience.

Admittedly, I never thought to go check out the ultra-clean bathrooms. Maybe next time.

Remember that it was night, and eventually, the GER called and asked, “how long before you get here?” I explained that I was ALREADY there, enjoying the Buc-ee’s experience and having some pretty good coffee. He was on one side of the building, driving around looking for me, and I was walking around those lovely house things, wondering if I needed something that I didn’t have room for.

Dallas has it’s first Buc-ee’s, opened last month. Much like Trader Joe’s, many folks knew what it was because they’d been to one on their travels down this way, or heard about Buc-ee’s because someone told them about it after their trip down this way. I’ve never been to Dallas myself, but one day would like to visit. I’ve been told that people in Dallas are quite. . .well, they all believe that they are related to the Ewings, and everyone dresses in fine clothes and big diamonds, like The Real Housewives of Dallas or something. Not here in Houston (although there is that element in the mix.) Before Katrina, Houston was a happy-go-lucky town, even among the society set. Now, with most of New Orleans and the additional increased migration from California, New York, Washington, and many places in between, we’ve got ALL kinds, good and bad. I won’t be living anywhere else but Texas. Austin is fabulous, and San Antonio is also quite nice. But I don’t think I’ll be moving to Dallas, just visiting one day.

If you’re planning a road trip into Texas this summer–or anytime–make sure to include a Buc-ee’s in your travel plans. Fill up with fuel, get some coffee, pick up something you forgot, get some souvenirs and t-shirts, and don’t forget the snacks you just can’t get anywhere else.  Bring back some neat Texas souvenirs to your friends, family or colleagues who weren’t lucky enough to go with you, and make sure you take home a little of the Lone Star State for yourself too.

Happy Travels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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