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Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Last time I posted was before Valentine’s Day. It’s been 10 days. . .you knew something was up, right?

In addition to what I’m about to explain, I got sick. No kidding–bronchitis this time. I couldn’t figure out why I kept needing naps last week. I was curled up under my little lap quilt in the living room with cold feet during a week of 75F days and I was again wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Really, really glad I finished it.

The lap quilt.

The little lap quilt, my first “real” one.

Coughing, fever, pain and fatigue and. . .sugar cravings. No kidding. I went through an 8-pack Graze box, a can of pineapple rings (not all at once), several oranges, and I don’t know how many Kind (chocolate-cherry-cashew) bars in a few days. I really wanted to go back to Starbucks for another Molten Chocolate Latte, but. . .they’re gone.

Yes, I made a trip to the Redi-Clinic in Friendswood, where I was prescribed an expensive inhaler, in line with the updated protocols for bronchitis. But the fever didn’t last long, didn’t get to 101, and I am only feeling fatigued and wrung out now. The sugar cravings are gone along with the fever. (No, I am NOT saying the sugar “cured” the fever.) The fake smoker’s cough is still with me too. “Fake,” because I’ve never smoked, ever. The inhaler will keep my lungs open while they heal up from the bug. Finally I’m well enough to type; I didn’t sew anything, think about or even look at sewing; I was just happy with my little quilt.

Friend of the blog LK was sick a week or so before I was, and when we went to visit last week, she offered both me and AC the loan of some of her huge DVD collection. Oh, my–stuff I’ve never heard of or seen! Then she said, “if you like Downton Abbey, you’ll like this one, Cranford.” Um, what? Never heard of it. LK went on to explain that it’s based on three books written by Elizabeth Gaskell. (Who?) Well, with Judi Dench, it can’t be bad, right? I had no idea I’d be sick, and thanked her for them. LK has good taste, of course, so I knew she wouldn’t hand me rubbish. I watched them almost back-to-back, because I was too sick to do anything else. I’m all done, and will return them next time I see LK. Cranford is highly recommended if you like that sort of period drama, and, quite frankly, even if you aren’t–it’s that good. (Just turn on the closed-captioning. You’re welcome.) As in other BBC TV shows and movies, I saw two actors who later starred in Downton Abbey, two actors who went on to play a husband and wife in Broadchurch, and one lady who guest starred in, yes, Doctor Who. She was in a season premiere show with Matt Smith. (I notice these things, I can’t help it.)

Now, then.

Did you enjoy Valentine’s Day, or did you ignore it? Did you head out for a #StarbucksDate? I did, and in the next blog post, I’ll tell you about it. I even have pictures. I wasn’t “sipping coffee,” I was knocking them back. Don’t worry, it was decaf, and I’ll explain more in that post.

Foodie2

I referenced an article last time on The Kitchn about what you should know about being in a relationship with a foodie, and here it is. Short, but well worth the read. I sent it to my friend in Louisiana; he *should* actually read it. Although he is a fine mechanic, he makes a tasty jambalaya on his own, too. But mishandle my knives, or mess with my sewing shears? Oh, anyone (including total man package Mike Rowe) will get in trouble for that one.

Foodie3

Also referenced in that article is another about what to do when your partner does not want to go to the Farmer’s Market with you. The writer lives in New Orleans, oddly enough. I haven’t been there in many years, but the last time I went to one in NOLA, I found delicious blueberry wines, wonderfully ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for a homemade grilled pizza for me and my then-husband, and a plastic thermal coffee cup I could tote anywhere and let people know I went to the Crescent City Farmer’s Market. (We’re talking 1995-1998, before I moved to Houston.)  Farmers’ markets abound in Houston, and the one closest to me in Nassau Bay.  It’s small, has adequate parking, and great vendors with very nice products.

I’ll also tell you about our shiny new HEB here in Clear Lake soon. Big, bright and beautiful, it’s the grocery store I’ve always wanted. . .in an area of Houston I never really wanted to live in. More on that, with pictures, on the adventure with Neighbor E. (He loved it too, went back with a couple of other neighbors the next day, and was a great compatriot for the blog.)

Have you seen the new installments of The X-Files? How about Mulder’s wild “magic mushroom trip” he took last week that led him into country bars in stereotypical “Southwest Texas?” (Talk about embarrassing the FBI!) After seeing that episode, I was really not sure I wanted to try Sue Moran’s new Wild Mushroom Polenta Packets. They look delish, and I’ve cooked in parchment many times, but. . .wild mushrooms kind of scare me after seeing the Babylon episode. And this week’s cliffhanger means. . .they’re going to make more.

Now. . .the times, they are a-changin’. Yes, again. Yes, on this blog. Allow me to explain.

I finally grew up and bought the domain last week. The new blog is almost ready at HeatCageKitchen.com. It’s live, and I’ve got all the content transferred into a new, cleaner theme, but will be recreating the recipes page soon. The media and content transferred over, just not the recipe page. That’s OK, it won’t take long to replace and update.

This is important: if you’re subscribed at this website, please head on over and re-subscribe so you’ll start getting the emails like you do here. This website will be going away in the near future in favor of the new one.  If you haven’t, you’re certainly welcome to go over to the new site and sign up there too, and you will start getting emails the minute I publish my first post there. I found and installed the “subscribe” widget, and may add a few more widgets and/or plugins as the need arises. It’s another WordPress site, and I’m about to get better with WordPress.

It was about that time when I got sick. I was working my paws off getting everything set up and working and then. . .the next minute I was under my little quilt in the living room snoozing or watching some DVDs.

I have three topics in the draft folder, and am always looking for more. Topic suggestions are welcome, you can email me at (for now) heatcagekitchen@gmail.com. (I have a couple of emails set up for the site, but won’t publish them until later.)

I will also be changing my copywriting niche to-what else?–food writing. Guest blogs, and anything else I can procure. With some help from friend of the blog AK and another copywriting friend of hers, JM, they came up with a “road map” for me to follow (because, frankly, I don’t know how to do that kind of thing the way they do.) My original site, AmyCopywriting, will stay where it is for now, and I’ll decide in a couple of months whether to retire it and build up this site, or leave it and add more samples. I’m overdue to write more articles for it.

I almost changed the name of the blog, and I might still do that, maybe in a year or so. (I have a few names picked out.) Let’s see how this goes. I’ll give plenty of warning, I promise.

You’ll notice a new theme, too. Cleaner, and my social media buttons are also at the bottom. I’ll be publishing to several social media sites as often as I can (hopefully daily) and the blogs should also feed into the Facebook, Twitter accounts and my personal LinkedIn page as well.

Included in my hosting service are a whole suite of tools and things to make HeatCageKitchen do more. SEO, or “search engine optimization,” is something I need more experience with, and that’s one set of tools for me to utilize. There are a number of database tools, most of which I may never use, but are available if someone ever gives me the wild idea to do so. I really, really want to increase traffic and attract. . .advertisers, but that will be coming later. Obviously, the blog is not the only thing I have to work on, it’s the back-end marketing. But thankfully, I have a few good friends like AK who I can bounce things off, and other supportive friends like Neighbor E, Neighbor R, AC, LK, and of course, the infamous GER.

This is the last blog post for this site; all future posts will be on the new HeatCageKitchen.com. This site will stay for a while, and will eventually redirect traffic to the new site. The plan is to offer much of the same on the blog, increase what’s good, and have fun with it too.

So, for everyone who has been with me since the beginning, thank you. And for everyone who came along later, I hope you stick around and enjoy more of what I have to offer from the HeatCageKitchen.

The Dark Chocolate Macaroon Cake from Giada de Laurentiis. I must make this one day. (Recipe available at Food Network.com)

The Dark Chocolate Macaroon Cake from Giada de Laurentiis. I must make this one day.
(Recipe available at Food Network.com)

Here we go!

 

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Valentine’s Day–again???

Valentine’s Day–again???

Good afternoon, Dear Readers from everywhere:

I just realized that Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and that I should drop in and talk about it just a bit. But first. . . .

There are some changes coming to this humble blog, and a big thanks to friend of the blog AK and another one of our writer friends, whom we know on Facebook, but I haven’t met in person. I don’t know if JM reads this blog regularly, but I know she has once, for sure. I’ve got a Facebook page set up just for HeatCageKitchen, as well as other social media accounts. I’ll tell more once I get it all done. The blog is growing up.

Last week was the open house for the Drs. Davis at Woodlands Wellness and Cosmetic Center. Much as I enjoyed it last year, this year I didn’t go. BUT–they posted pictures on Facebook, and once again had an appropriate show-stopper of a cake:

PeacockCAke

A good time was had by all, and I’m glad, even if I didn’t go. But I’m sure I’ll be visiting again one of these days for blood testing.

In other news. . . .

This isn’t really food related, but it might have been. When I say a cat is a cat is a cat, I’m not kidding. This wily cheetah decided that the back of a Jeep was a great place to hang with the humans recently. Honestly, it’s no different than when Catmandu and Kismet used to hop up on the back of my futon and park it there for a while. Cheetahs, as I understand from comments on the Daily Mail site and Facebook, are much friendlier to humans than other species of big cats. But as Big Cat Rescue will tell you, approaching big cats is never a good idea–and anyone caught petting one at their Tampa, FL facility is escorted out immediately, including staff. If you have a kitty cat that has ever turned on you while you were petting it or scratching it behind the ears. . .imagine the force behind a paw-swat from a 500-pound Siberian tiger. It can, as they say on FB, “escalate quickly.” ‘Nuff said. But this time, it turned out fine, and the short video is pretty amusing. Because. . .that’s a cat for you.

Now back to Valentine’s Day. Or as my brother called it yesterday, “women taking advantage of men” day. Oh, well.

If you’re looking for advice on romancing, proposing, or how to ask out someone you fancy, that’s someone else’s blog. This blog is for the day you decide to cook for that someone special, you already are going to cook for them, and you’re looking for something special for your date. You’re on your own on the romancing/proposing part, so search through WordPress for that kind of advice blog.

Do you have plans for Sunday? Are you going to hang out at home and watch a good DVD or two with your sweetie, or risk your life and head to a restaurant? I can hear it now: “Oh, Amy–what’s wrong with that?” Even Waffle House serves steaks and takes reservations on Valentine’s Day–and in some more rural areas, that’s the best and only–restaurant in town. (NOTE: I am not disrespecting Waffle House by any means.)

I’m not going to deny that it’s something special to go out for Valentine’s Day. But hear me out–when I was an administrative assistant, I was required to “go out with the bosses” for Administrative Professional’s Day. I really didn’t want to do this (particularly at an insurance company I worked for, where they took us to McCormick & Schmick in the Galleria and didn’t give us a choice) because it was a reminder that I was still in the steno pool. But at Boeing, that wasn’t always a bad thing. My Boeing supervisors were frequently busy, so we didn’t always go on that Wednesday–and that was a good thing. Why? Because you’re elbow-to-elbow with everyone *else* who’s doing the same thing; service is going to be slower, too. The last time, I had to request that Monday, because the next day, I was getting on a plane to go somewhere, and I wouldn’t be in town for AP Day. (I got to choose the restaurant that year.) Another time, we went two weeks later. Know what? We nearly had the whole place to ourselves! We could chat without yelling, and the service was better.

Want proof? This article from The Kitchn verifies what I just told you. Like retail stores on Black Friday, nobody *wants* to work that holiday, so you may get pinch-hitters who aren’t as experienced. And you’ll be elbow-to-elbow in a crowded restaurant on that one day a year when things could go wrong for you. Just something to consider if this is a really special date.

Once again, Starbucks is at it again with the #StarbucksDate. Create a special .GIF file (similar to an e-card, they’re all the rage now) to send to someone you’d like to meet up with (it could be your best friend, your elderly neighbor like Neighbor R, your brother/sister, or, heaven help you, the GER) and make a date to meet them at the Starbucks on your street for one of the new chocolate drinks they have this week, through Sunday. (They’d like you to put it on social media with #StarbucksDate, too.)

You know, I probably shouldn’t say “Starbucks on your street.” We have several in my neighborhood, including one two blocks from my front door. But I have a friend in semi-rural Louisiana who is about 20 miles from the closest Starbucks. I’m sure he’s not the only one.

This year’s offerings are three new seasonal chocolate-infused drinks:

And because I couldn’t wait, I personally sampled the Mocha Chocolate Latte this morning. Highly recommended. Unlike the famed Pumpkin Spice Latte, this was very good and not overly sweet. If your honey doesn’t drink coffee, there is the Molten Hot chocolate option as well as other dessert options. But remember, Starbucks has their “signature” hot chocolate all year long. Yes, they really do–it’s just that this particular variety is a “seasonal offering” for Valentine’s Day.

I am actually planning to take myself out for a #StarbucksDate. I’ve got a couple of books to read, (one by master copywriter Bob Bly, his newest book of great witticisms) and that might just be the place to do it. I’d like to have another Mocha Chocolate Latte, then get brewed decaf coffee (and free refills in my stainless steel travel mug) until I’m sick of coffee, or I finish the books. They’re not long books, but. . .there are less distractions in Starbucks than at home.

What if you’re going to camp in with your honey?

I’ve got some recipes posted on the Recipe Page, and there are others scattered throughout the blog; a search will help you find them. (The Sweet Potato Supper is a good one, and quite simple.) Then again, websites like The Food Network, MarthaStewart.com, AllRecipes.com, and TheKitchn are great places to start if you don’t find anything listed here. Really–the culinary world is at your fingertips, and a quick search will show you that.

Looking for a special treat? Found on The Pioneer Woman’s Facebook feed this week, these Chocolate Sugar Cookie Hearts are an easy treat, especially if you have kids.

chocolate-sugar-cookie-hearts-09

Source: The Pioneer Woman website (note: NOT gluten free!)

These are really easy, because there’s no rolling out the dough–you bake it as a sheet cake, then cut them from the baked cake. Frost them, put some sprinkles on top, and you’re ready for your honey. NOTE: keep this recipe in your back pocket for other occasions, cut them in squares, rounds or other shapes, and you can frost them like cupcakes and use other appropriate colors and designs for, say, a birthday, graduation, or something else like St. Patrick’s Day (which happens in about a month.) Heck, your dog’s birthday, just don’t feed them to the dog. But for now, they’re for your Valentine.

Now, if these cookies aren’t your thing, there are a couple of things in the HeatCageKitchen archives that are delicious and gluten-free, including my all-time favorite, YeastFreeBrownies (I just uploaded it.) The recipe is no longer available on Dr. Hotze’s site, but I’ve got the PDF file for you on the Recipes Page.

Another good choice is last year’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes. First, I re-blogged a post from GF and Me last year, and then I made it myself. Of course, mine didn’t come out as pretty as Brenda’s, but they sure were good–even the fussy GER said so. The trick is finding hazelnut flour, or buying the hazelnuts, roasting and skinning them yourself, then grinding them up really good in the food processor–but not so far that you get a paste.

Click around on Brenda’s GF and Me site and you’ll find lots more delicious food and desserts for Valentine’s Day.

If you have more time to prep, I highly recommend the sugarless, Crock-Pot made Chocolate Fudge Custard I talked about last summer. You have to make it a day or two in advance, but it’s quite tasty and easy to make.

You didn’t forget your waffle iron already, did you? If Santa brought you a waffle maker (or the Cuisinart Griddler with the waffle maker plates, like mine) consider waffle brownies. If you haven’t read that previous post I linked to, please do, and you’ll learn more about waffling. You’ll also find this recipe in the post that I made and reviewed. However, if gluten-free isn’t your thing, brownies from a box–yes, like Duncan Hines or Jiffy brand–can be made in the waffle maker, fast and easy. You can also use boxed chocolate cake mix. If you’re thinking about a waffle maker,  Bed, Bath and Beyond also (still) has the Cuisinart Griddler bundle package, and if you have a coveted 20% off coupon, use it.

Still another optioin–a bit healthier than most–comes from none other than Graze.com, this dual-layered Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie might be just the ticket. It has a few steps, so make sure you read the recipe before proceeding.

What to make for dinner for the two of you? There’s a myriad of options available, just pick one–but don’t overthink this or make it too complicated. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll probably *want* to try something really fancy, complicated, and extremely gourmet. Foodies are like that. But if you’re a fan of the easy, make dessert early, maybe the day before (especially the custard) and consider Nigella Lawson’s Flash Fried Steak with White Bean Mash. I’ve written about this delicious white bean mash before, it’s one of my absolute favorites, and I even made it Monday for AC with mild Italian sausages from HEB. (I called it “Bangers & Mash,” which is actually sausage and mashed potatoes in the UK.) She loved it too, and will probably start looking for cannellini beans next grocery trip. Add a tasty salad like we did, and you’ll be all set. Wine? Your choice, but make it a good one, if you do.

One thing I started doing with the white bean mash is grating the lemon zest first, then grate in the garlic with your Microplane Zester. The garlic is more evenly distributed, spreading the flavor throughout the mash.

And you can say that you’re inviting him/her over for a steak dinner–it’s just not filet mignon, that’s all. (No, I’ve never cooked that one, for myself or anyone else.) And why not? If you’re cooking steak, say so! (Unless he or she is vegetarian. . .then you’ve got some extra work to do.)

Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day: if you and your partner get along fabulously and enjoy each other’s company all year around, going all-out on Valentine’s Day is probably not needed–a nice dinner at home with a nice bottle of wine, a small, inexpensive gift, whatever you like. But if one or the other isn’t such a great partner all year long, but spends a lot of money on flowers, candy, jewelry, dinner out, etc., on Valentine’s Day. . .it’s money wasted. Be kind to each other, and, I hate to say it, but if things are just not working out well, you’re discovering you’re mis-matched, or you just don’t get along after the “honeymoon phase” is past, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. (Or, in my case, file a restraining order, ha, ha. Yes, I’ve had that kind of luck.)  It takes two to tango, and usually, neither is totally innocent, but if you’re wondering why you’re in this relationship, maybe Valentine’s Day will be awkward. Better to be alone on V-D than stuck with someone you don’t want to be with–ask me, I know. (No, not the GER.) “Better off as friends” is not a bad thing, if that’s the case.

I’m not telling you to break up with your significant other on Valentine’s Day, (that happens occasionally) but if that’s where it’s headed, or things have significantly changed. . .take some time to think and consider. Next year things could be completely different–you could be single and unattached, you could be with someone better, or you and your Significant Other will have a better relationship by then.

I know, Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, is merchandised to death in the US, but it doesn’t have to bully you (or your partner) into spending too much money.

Again, I’m not a relationship author–but I speak from experience on being in bad relationships. I’d rather be by myself on Valentine’s Day than stuck with someone who let their “good face” down and I discover that I can’t stand. The longest relationship I ever had with a male was. . .Catmandu, the Russian Blue. (RIP.)

And if you’re single and alone on Valentine’s Day–remember, you too could be stuck with someone you wish would just go away forever. If that’s the case, and you can, take some time and take yourself out for a #Starbucksdate. Better yet, use the .GIF creator and send it to one of your *real* friends for a #StarbucksDate and get something chocolate on Sunday. It’s OK to be single and unattached on Valentine’s Day, I promise.

You might be making these cookies or something else for someone next year, so be ready.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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