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Summer simmer: The Crock Pot

Summer simmer: The Crock Pot

Hello, Dear Readers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wpid-20150504_183635.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up to you, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, heat up some almond milk and chocolate:

Almond milk and chocolate heated in a double-boiler

Almond milk and chocolate heated in a double-boiler

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

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

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

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

Then add the chocolate mixture, then the eggs individually:

One of six eggs, beaten one at a time.

One of six eggs, beaten one at a time.

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

Now cook it!

Now cook it!

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

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

Too hot to eat!

Too hot to eat!

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

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NOW it’s ready to eat.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Gluten-Free Updates

Gluten-Free Updates

Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

The weekend is here, and I have some updates to share with you on gluten free stuff. You may be interested even if you’re not doing gluten free and just eating healthier.

Of course, if you’re not eating healthy, well, reading is entirely up to you. But first, updates and articles of interest.

I’m still walking. And walking. And mostly wearing myself out. But I like walking, so I keep at it, although I may take a dip in the pool later this evening instead. I think I’m gaining weight, but Neighbor K says no. She’s nice that way.

Wanna see the HeatCageKitchen garden? The little pepper is bigger than two golf balls, there is no change in the chile pepper or Meyer lemons, and I’m getting little red franken-berries again in the basket.

My little baby!!

My little baby, and more growing behind it.

 

Not really a "Hatch" chile, since it wasn't grown in Hatch, NM. But close.

Not really a “Hatch” chile, since it wasn’t grown in Hatch, NM. But close.

 

Yes, they're strawberries, even if they don't look to spec.  And yes, I know what it looks like.

Yes, they’re strawberries, even if they don’t look to spec. And yes, I do know what that looks like.

 

Basil, Oh My Basil!!

Basil, Oh My Basil!!

By the way, that’s SEVEN stems of basil growing. Two didn’t make it after the last harvest, so I pulled them; but the rest that were cut down are now re-growing leaves. Another Pesto Saturday will be coming soon, at least one more, and my freezer will be storing it for a cold winter day. Maybe me and the GER will be enjoying a pot of Pea And Pesto Soup, and he will finally understand why I like it so much.

While this isn’t food related, I saw an interesting story today in the UK’s Daily Mail, an interesting mix of real news and the celebrity nonsense. Mixed among today’s numerous stories about the K family and the late Robin Williams was this story about a couple of sisters and their company, Sword And Plough, not only doing some great recycling, they’re making it in America and employing veterans. The kicker: one is active duty Army! If you’ve got a student going to college soon, they make some fantastic bags and things from, no kidding, military surplus fabric that would have otherwise been wasted.

Their messenger bags look fantastic, and if I were in the market for one, I’d be getting the Coast Guard Blue model. The messenger or tote bag would be a great gift for a graduate or someone just starting their first job, and the rucksack would be an awesome Christmas gift for someone who likes camping, hiking and outdoorsy stuff.

Think about it–recycling, classic well-made designs, creating jobs, helping American vets, all in one fell swoop!

Also in Today’s Daily Mail, an article about bloggers who create healthier versions of favorite treats that are supposed to do miracle things. Dunno about the miracle stuff, but they’re certainly healthier. While they do use “raw” ingredients, one I don’t know about is “Organic Greens Complex.” Never heard of it, but since I stand little chance of ever looking like Australian Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr, I’m not too worried about it. If I can find it, maybe I’ll try a couple of these recipes and let you know the results.

However–one thing I notice is the high starch content of the dates and bananas. Yes, bananas can create a great fake-me-out ice cream, but the sugar content may be higher than Blue Bell. If you’re diabetic and/or trying to lose weight, you have to pay attention.

Then again, one picture that gets passed around on Facebook has a picture similar to the one you see in the article, and it says, “What do you call vegan brownies that are raw, sugar free and gluten free? COMPOST.” I cringe when I read it, but I know that some alternative foods are not very tasty. (Skinny Cow comes to mind.)

Later I’ll give you a super-secret HeatCageKitchen healthy chocolate treat I’ve never told anyone about, not even Neighbor K. Sit tight–it has three ingredients and doesn’t take long at all.

I get a LOT of different emails, and some are health-related, while some I just don’t know how they showed up. One I get and actually read occasionally is Doug Kaufman’s Know The Cause. Kaufman and his staff of writers talk about different health topics, primarily the problem of fungus in humans and how it affects disease, including things like cancer. If you’ve read my posts on the Yeast Free Diet, you’ll be at least a bit familiar with it and the mycotoxins put into the system by Candida Albicans, you’ll understand.

This particular time, would you believe it, is a short article on Apple Cider Vinegar. No kidding, maybe I should have waited on that one. But you can click on the link and read it; not long at all. But if you’re interested in learning more about the fungus among us, Know The Cause is a great place to start.

Faithful reader Aunt Kathy passed along another gluten free comic she found this week, this one from Six Chix.

GlutenFreeComicSixChix

Remember, of course, that I also know the GER, who says, “Oh, I love gluten!” He also loves coffee and breakfast from a gas station. One of these days, right?

Larabars now has a new version of granola, and it too is gluten free:

Granola nibbles for the gluten-free set.

Granola nibbles for the gluten-free set. As you can see, I couldn’t resist trying one of them before I got home.

 

Out of all three, I think I like the Cocoa Coconut the best. But that’s just me, and they were all good, too. They were 10 for $10 at Kroger, but I only bought the three. Parents, this is something you can feel good about packing in your kid’s lunch bag, you know? They get a treat, and you don’t have to worry about what’s in it–particularly if s/he has allergies.

Now, if you’re health conscious, gluten conscious, or just careful about what you’re eating, you know you have to read labels, and not just once. Today’s “healthy” snack may have been changed to contain high-fructose corn syrup, and if you didn’t notice it, you’ll have a surprise if it makes you sick or you suddenly have a sugar rush you weren’t expecting.

No kidding–I once went to the grocery and asked Neighbor K if she needed anything; she asked if I would get her a bottle of honey. No problem, and she gave me a $10 or $20 to cover it. As I was picking a brand, I turned over one bottle to discover that the first ingredient was. . .HFCS. I’ve never been careless about reading labels again.

If you want to go gluten-free, I strongly suggest reading Dr. William Davis’ Wheat Belly books first. That will give you a good primer on the subject, and you’ll know what to look for. (Incidentally, Dr. Davis has another book coming out soon on total health. More if/when I get it.)

Of course, that’s a lot of work, and you have to know a little about what you’re doing, and educating yourself is key, whether you’re gluten-free or not. Now, the federal government is getting into the act, and if you’re going to call something gluten-free, you have to follow their rules.

Oh, yes, the government sticking their beaks in this one is going to help immensely, isn’t it?

Listen up: almonds are gluten free. Fruit is gluten free. Tomatoes, bell peppers, Hatch chile peppers, garbanzo and cannellini beans, coffee, Sweet ‘N Low and milk are. . .gluten free. Why? Because gluten doesn’t come anywhere near it. Ever. Do we really need rules for this? Learn what you’re doing and read the labels.

Now, many call this gluten-free thing a fad, and there are some who will call it “dangerous and unhealthy.” How can leaving something out of your diet that can cause harm be “dangerous?” If you’ve read Wheat Belly, you know exactly why–the modern GMO 42-chromosome wheat grain can cause havoc in even otherwise healthy people. Sugar is also well-documented as a harmful substance, and causes a host of health issues, including inflammation. All carbohydrates break down into sugar in the blood stream, including, but not limited to wheat, so you see why wheat can cause problems, along with a lot of other things that become, one way or another, sugar as an end product.

It’s probably not a “beer belly,” but a “wheat belly.”

Then again, like the GER, not everyone understands the whole gluten-free thing. Thanks to the esteemed Wall Street Journal, they keep on top of these kinds of things. It’s not a craze if you have that gluten allergy, trust me–I know people who have it, and they have to be careful. And I disagree–everyone can benefit from gluten-free, they just don’t know it yet. Again, starting with Wheat Belly is the way to go; Dr. Davis explains everything well.

OK, enough of that. Who wants a cupcake?

Looks tasty, doesn't it?

Looks tasty, doesn’t it?

I started getting Facebook feeds from Elena’s Pantry, and one day, this popped up. Made with coconut oil and flour, they’re also good for folks with a nut allergy (which, thankfully, I’ve escaped–I love just about all nuts.) With the holiday season coming soon, this may be a good recipe to have in your back pocket for parties, especially children’s parties, where allergies are more prevalent.

Elegant Elena Amsterdam has written three books: one on Paleo cooking, one book on gluten free with almond flour, and another book of  gluten free cupcakes made with almond and coconut flour. I do not yet have these books, but they ARE on my wish list, along with Bruce Fife’s book on coconut flour. I haven’t written about coconut flour yet, because I really don’t use it much, and it tends to be more expensive.  I have a small amount in the fridge now, because I don’t use it much; usually for the cupcakes or something else from Babycakes and Babycakes Covers the Classics.

And now, for the first time ever, a healthy chocolate treat that’s easy to make has three ingredients and tastes awesome. This has been a HeatCageKitchen secret for some time, discovered by accident, but I’m releasing it now, and may include it in the cookbook, if I ever get around to writing it.

Coconut chocolate

The setup:

IMG_0836[1]

The coconut oil is liquid because it’s on a top shelf on my pantry, which is warm in the daytime. That makes it easy to tell the weather. In the winter, it’s hard as a rock.

Incidentally, this is the kind that actually tastes like coconut oil, not the somewhat refined stuff that has the taste taken out. You want that coconut flavor in the chocolate; it’s wonderful.

So you pour out about 2.5 to 3 ounces of melted coconut oil into your container. This just happens to be a pinch bowl from Cost Plus World Market, and I just measured it with water. To the bottom rim is 3 ounces.

Melted coconut oil

Melted coconut oil

To this you add about two tablespoons of cocoa powder, and gently mix with a fork:

Mix the cocoa powder in one tablespoon at a time

Mix the cocoa powder in one tablespoon at a time

Now this is the subjective part–longtime readers know of my preference for SomerSweet, Suzanne Somers patented erythrytol based natural sweetener and rejection of the toxic types like Splenda and Equal/Nutrasweet. However, if you’ve got something else that works as well, like a stevia blend or something similar to SomerSweet, go for it. Two tablespoons, one at a time.

IMG_0839[1]

SomerSweet also tends to clump when you add it into something, so that’s when the fork comes in handy. (That’s about the worst thing I can say about it, really.)  After that, stash it in a safe place in the freezer for a little while and go answer your email, or walk a dog like I did. (Neighbor K’s lovable pug, of course.)

When you come back and open the freezer, this is what you get:

Ahhhh. . .chocolate.

Ahhhh. . .chocolate.

Break it up into pieces, very carefully, either with a spoon or the point of a wide-bladed knife, so you can eat it. I recommend a spoon, because if you eat it with your hands, the coconut oil will melt at body temperature. THAT, ladies and gentleman, will be a mess beyond compare. If you don’t believe me, try it. Don’t gripe to me when you have chocolate on your keyboard, your cell phone, your doorknob, your dog and your iPad,OK? You have been warned.

Ready for some chocolate???

Here we go!!

Here we go!!

Rich, satisfying, healthy, and oh-so-sweet.

Next post I’m planning on writing about chia seeds. . .mostly because I have a batch in the pantry to use up, so I’m going to try a recipe or two I found and report on them. If you have any questions before then, you can now email me at heatcagekitchen@gmail.com, and I’ll try to answer them in the blog post.

It’s Friday, and the weekend is here.

Enjoy!!

 

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Blasts from the Past

Blasts from the Past

Good evening, Dear Readers:

This being Memorial Day weekend, many people are getting ready for the first official holiday of summer–even if they’re still dealing with Old Man Winter. Sorry about that!

I’ve had an up-and-down week, and now I’m a bit cranky. While I was happy about the six interviews I had this week with some good feedback, yesterday my browser crashed, and I had to install something else. A couple of other things have gone wrong, making it worse. Then I went looking for something and could NOT find it no matter how hard I tried. But I found it today, just in time for summer.

Please remember that Memorial Day is not about cookouts, beach trips and parties. It’s a remembrance for the service men and women who have fought and died on behalf of America. While there isn’t anything wrong with having a barbecue, the real meaning of the “day off” is somber. There are a number of men and women who didn’t come home, and many more who are stationed overseas and won’t be able to make that barbecue. While I do occasionally comment on Facebook that I love the Marines–and I do–the day is not just a “day off.” Thank you to all the US service personnel who work everyday for the defense and betterment of this country.

Now, if you are planning a barbecue, I can offer a little something–a quick-to-make barbecue rub from the pages of Martha Stewart Living magazine, August 2002. (I kept thinking it was earlier in the year.) It wasn’t in the recipe section–it was a Good Thing, so that recipe wasn’t on the website (not that I could find.)

Me and the GER had started dating, and we were doing the entertaining at each other’s place. He used a barbecue rub that had sugar in it, and while I consumed it, I was lucky enough to find this recipe for the next barbecue. I have been making it every since, and always have some in the pantry. In a bowl, combine the following:

  • 1 cup chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Keep it in an airtight container at room temperature.

This rub is not hot, and best of all–no sugar or weird chemicals! It gives a wonderful smoky flavor to beef, chicken, pork (especially baby-back ribs) or anything you want to put on the grill. Don’t know what it would do to, say, pineapple wedges, but that’s your call if you’re of a mind to do that. Couple it with some sugar-free barbecue sauce and you’re in business.

After I’d moved in his house, though, for one 4th of July I’d bought some baby-back ribs at Central Market, did the rub and sugar-free barbecue sauce, and he said they were the best ribs he’d ever had! Of course, he also asked me to get some sausages while I was at CM, and I got some of their delicious chicken sausages, which he in turn burned to a crisp. GRRRRRR. . . .

Yes, it’s good. Even the GER likes it. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do the barbecue thing, but if I do, I’m just going to get some chicken leg quarters and put them in the toaster oven, even though I have an Old Smokey charcoal grill. It’s great, I just don’t feel like messing with it. Maybe for the 4th of July.

I also happen to have some fresh thyme, so I want to use it to make more of this stuff. The rub lasts forever, long as you keep it in that airtight container.

Now from another blast from my past. Don’t worry, it’s not an ex-husband. That’s a different blog, right?  🙂

When you’re unemployed, you have a lot of time to think. This can be an asset or a liability, especially when you’re on your own. Recently I signed up for a free month of Amazon Prime. I needed something, and with the free shipping it was cheap.  This week that trial period ended, and yes, I remembered to cancel it–I put a reminder on my calendar. Gone until the next time I can sign up for it–like, when I need something with free shipping. Might be a while.

This week I remembered a cookbook I bought when it was new, and wondered if it was even available. Well, surprise, it sure is. My original 1982 copy was falling apart and really beat up, and I tossed it. Today its replacement arrived. It’s got a bit of cover wear, but the pages are clean and the binding is tight. Almost new, and for $4, and no shipping, it was definitely a bargain.

The old book is called The 20-Minute Natural Foods Cookbook by Sharon Claessens. It was one of the first cookbooks I ever owned, and when it was new I was married about a year. . .the first time. Ms. Claessens actually had several cookbooks in the 1980s, and one in 1997. I had this one and her 1985 Lose Weight Naturally Cookbook, which I used until the mid-90’s, when someone asked me for it and I never saw it again; I probably gave it to her, I don’t remember. I had some favorite recipes in that one, but I’m not buying it again.

No, I’m not on an 80’s kick. While I do listen to online radio stations (i.e. Pandora, iHeartRadio) that feature 80’s music, I also listen to classical piano, jazz piano and smooth jazz. While I’m driving, it could be any toe-tapping stuff, but mostly Def Leppard and The Monkees. I don’t want to fall asleep, either.

See, my parents were avid readers of Prevention magazine, back when it was about health and wellness, and didn’t have many pictures in it. I subscribed and loved it, but I dropped my subscription about 1999, when it was clear the magazine became more about prescription drugs than actual health and wellness and the recipes were becoming awful–frozen hash browns and canned salmon? (They now have a sex column, but nearly every magazine does, except Martha Stewart’s magazines. For now.) But I got on Rodale’s main mailing list, and I got every mailer for every new book out there; never mind how many I bought, and some, I still have.

This book I received today was a favorite, even though many of the recipes use a lot of bread and wheat flour. Pita bread is, far as I know, normally white bread, and in the early 80’s, well, healthy ingredients were difficult to find, especially in New Orleans. Whole Foods was a little bitty store in the French Quarter the size of a 7-11. I don’t remember how I finally found something called agar-agar, which also goes by another name I can’t remember. That’s a vegetable gelatin used to thicken up stuff in a number of her recipes. I was so happy the day I found it, and made that Blueberry Peach Pie on page 110, or the beautiful Strawberry Pie on 111 that’s pictured on the front cover.

Now, what to do about the Prebaked Granola Shell that goes under the pie? Well, I think since it’s only a half cup of whole wheat flour, I can likely replace it with ground flaxseeds and have much the same result. Maybe I’ll try it this summer–assuming I can find agar-agar, or whatever it’s alternately called. It’s available in health food stores and Asian groceries. I have a health food store nearby in Nassau Bay, and a Hong Kong Market about 10 miles in the other direction. There are a myriad of health food stores in Houston, I’m sure someone knows what it is. When I get ambitious enough to make this again, I’ll go looking for it. Right now. . .nah. Even though the fruit part of the pie is really delicious.

I think I can Wheat Belly-up some of the recipes that call for flour. Maybe not all, but some. But that’s why I have Dr. Davis’ books.

Irony alert: Rodale also publishes Wheat Belly.

I should point out that there are no pictures IN this historical, 32-year old book like cookbooks you buy now. There is a (dated) picture of the author on the front cover with the Strawberry Pie, some stuffed bell peppers, some drinks (I’m guessing the Citrus Medley on page 102), roasted chickens, bread, muffins, and some assorted green stuff. It’s a very plain layout with recipes divided by type, preparation time and meal (breakfast, lunch, etc.) Some are 20 minutes or less, like the Pineapple Frappe, some take longer, like soaking beans or baking bread.

I made the Lemon Squares on page 165 many times, and to this day, Neighbor K saves me one when they are leftover from an activity at work. Granted, the ones Ina Garten makes are good, too, but this recipe was. . .my first. However, I’ve never made that Walnut and Raisin Pie on page 164.

Mark Bricklin was the Executive Editor of Prevention at the time, and he described the changing times that were happening.

Wait–what’s a typewriter, again?

Because stay-at-home women were becoming less common, healthy, home cooking was becoming less of a reality. From the foreward: “There must be a better way, we think every night, but the solution seems forever to elude us.” This book, Mr. Bricklin opines, is “the ‘better way’ we have all been seeking. It is a bridge between the reality of our frenzied lifestyle and the ideal of honest, natural foods that taste good and are good for us.”

Mark Bricklin still writes for Prevention, too, but I only found one article on the website. He’s promoting the idea that diabetics should avoid fat, but doesn’t say anything about the very starchy white-flour buns that you get in a fast-food place. DUH–diabetics need to watch their SUGAR, and that bun is basically a sugar overload. I see nothing’s changed much there.

OK, enough of that. . . .

Some of my favorite recipes included Pineapple Chicken Mozambique, which is also on the back cover of the book, and Chicken with Cashews and Snow Peas. Another favorite is Spaghetti with Garlic Salmon Sauce, which is how I started buying canned salmon. Mind you, it was REALLY expensive back in those days, like $5 or more or so a can. It also calls for red salmon, as I am noticing, but I’ve always bought pink salmon in the can, especially since it’s like $2 or $3 now. . Add 3/4 pound of whole wheat spaghetti, egg, parsley, olive oil and 10 cloves of garlic, and you’re ready to fight off vampires. Actually the garlic isn’t strong since you cook it first, and you don’t crush it. Maybe I’ll make it again soon for old times’ sake with some gluten-free pasta.

Oh, I remember this one, Turkey with Peppers and Tomatoes. I made that once for The E Man, and I called it “Wild Turkey Surprise.” I couldn’t resist. Maybe I’ll make that again sometime, maybe for lunch, or when the GER comes over for dinner. Maybe I’ll tell him it’s “Wild Turkey Surprise, too.” And –guess what? It’s gluten free!! Oh, wait, no it isn’t–you dredge the pounded turkey breast in the flour. OK, use something else, like almond flour, garbanzo bean flour or regular gluten-free flour, and now it’s gluten free.

I never tried something called “Creamed Tuna and Peas,” and all these years later, I still won’t. Anything called “creamed,” no thanks.

I also learned to make mayonnaise with this book, although today I prefer Suzanne Somers’ recipe in her first cookbook. There are many recipes for sauces, dressings, side dishes, desserts, and make-ahead stuff like brown rice and cooking beans.

Since it’s getting on summer, here’s another blueberry recipe I liked from page 110.

Blue Gingham Yogurt Delight (Makes 2 servings)

  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup blueberies
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash of grated nutmeg
  1. Place chilled yogurt in serving bowl. Wash and add blueberries.
  2. Quarter banana lengthwise, then slice into bowl. Pieces should be similar in size to the blueberries.
  3. Add honey and vanilla, and stir to combine. Dust with a little nutmeg and serve

What to make first? I dunno–whatever I feel like making that uses ingredients I have already.

This book has over 300 kitchen-tested recipes that are simple, pretty healthy, and most that I’ve ever enjoyed are also tasty. Sure, it’s old, but when you just want some food, do you care how old the recipe is?

That’s all for tonight. Please have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cookbooks and desserts

Cookbooks and desserts

Good evening, Dear Readers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only the most awesome bakery anywhere--Frost!!

Only the most awesome bakery anywhere–Frost!!

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

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

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

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

Is it gluten free? Who cares?

Is it gluten free? Who cares?

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

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

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

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

Stay warm and Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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