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Martha’s Reinvention

Martha Stewart is having sort of a reinvention. I read about it in Cherry Bombe magazine!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I know, I know, it’s been too long, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been busy with all kinds of things, and I still haven’t finished a long article on squashes. It’ll be worth it, I promise, especially if you have some squash and don’t know what to do with it.

Pesto!

I made the two first batches of pesto of the season.

First batches of Louisiana-made pesto.

All that basil cutting propagation business paid off. I now have three buckets of basil growing, and I just bought two more containers to freeze upcoming batches in. I had to get similar but rectangular OXO dishes, because they don’t sell these Pro Glass models here.

While BF was happy that I was able to make more pesto, he was *not* happy that I actually made more. He refused to try a pine nut, calling it “squirrel food,” and claiming that I “tricked him more than once.” Whatever. More for me, right?

If you’ve never seen me make pesto before, I’ve documented it in previous posts. You can use the recipe I like by visiting the Recipes page.

Coping

It’s July already, and although I am coming up on a year since I unwillingly left Texas, I have found more and more things to help ease the difficult transition. Two of them are the cities known as Mandeville and Covington which are a little like Clear Lake. Driving the long stretches between the Casa de Rurale and my district leader’s house in Mandeville, I’ve discovered many of my old favorite stores to shop in.

No new sewing projects

While the the closest Joann Fabrics is still in Baton Rouge, there is one an hour in the opposite direction, in Slidell. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the extra funds to go buying any fabric right now, much less sew up anything new. I’ve done some repair work, but new projects aren’t happening. I am looking into buying fabric online, and finding out that eBay and Amazon both sell a lot of what I used to buy at Hancock Fabrics. (Note to the GER: did you know eBay sellers carry fabric? I had no idea!) Michael’s bought Hancock’s online division, and only sell their fabrics online.

There is a Cost Plus World Market in Covington that’s enroute to my district leader’s place, and I can find a few gourmet food items there. Trader Joe’s is still at least an hour in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but Whole Foods and The Fresh Market are in Mandeville. There’s even a Kmart, near the Starbucks on SH22 in Mandeville, but I haven’t gone in there yet.

I was in NOLA this past weekend and after my activity, I did go on a few errands, including Trader Joe’s. I met a nice couple who drove in from Mobile, Alabama just to shop in Trader Joe’s. They don’t have one. They said it was a couple of hours’ drive from their house. Well, I get it.But I still plan to do an online order to HEB one of these days.

Elsewhere, I was asked, “Are you in town for the Essence Festival?” I almost laughed. I’m not the target market. And, I honestly didn’t know about it. I was just glad I met a couple of deadlines for clients so I could go.

Cherry Bombe

Another place I discovered after our Mandeville district meeting was Barnes & Noble. I was actually looking for Bed, Bath and Beyond, where someone made me a nice Nespresso cappucino. LK, I was talking you up! I knew about the way the machines make coffee from my many trips to Sur La Table, and of course, LK owns an older model. So when the nice lady offered coffee, I asked about decaf. She had some, and I just said “thank you.” I was doing some “investigational shopping,” or seeing what they have and didn’t have. But that was second when I saw the Barnes & Noble next door.

Then I found Cherry Bombe

I was missing Houston again. But a quick trip into there for some nosing around showed me a picture of Martha Stewart on the front cover of the magazine, never like on the cover of her own:

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart–Forever the Cover Girl.

I don’t know if Martha actually appears IN Martha Stewart Living magazine anymore, because I quit reading it a year ago. But it’s quite different when she’s the subject being interviewed, and giving a new perspective. I didn’t buy the magazine–I have enough around here that I need to sort through, and that’s a pricey one!

The Reinvention of Martha Stewart

Martha was a stockbroker on Wall Street at one time, did you know that? I also remember when her company, MSLO (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) went public at $38 a share. I often wanted to buy a few shares, just to have them, especially after the price tanked. Well, my birthday is in October. . . .

So, what “reinvention” is it that they discuss? It’s what’s next for Martha Stewart and talking about “The New Martha Stewart,” someone who will step up and be “The Next Martha Stewart.”

Nah. It’s whatever Martha is doing next. Which, of course, is whatever she hasn’t done yet at the age of 75. She’s writing her autobiography, and working on creating new businesses. Obviously, she hasn’t created enough of them! But after selling her flagship magazine and selling off the company that bears her name, well, this is one lady who isn’t retiring. Ever.

Martha & Technology

She is concerned about the creeping nature of technology, and the effect it’s having on kids. Martha has long embraced new technology, from iPads to drones, but we’re now glued to them. (I recently upgraded my iPhone, but I use it primarily for business and streaming music on long drives; more on that later.) But seeing people walking around on their phones and some driving and texting, yes, I’d agree. Kids don’t learn to do anything, because they can Google it up on their phone. And what happens when the phones don’t work? Yeah. . . .

Still on TV

When we can get the PBS stations to come in, I can occasionally catch Martha’s baking or cooking shows on the PBS “@Create” channels. I don’t often have time to watch TV anymore, let alone unpack more boxes, so it’s an occasional treat.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart–The Goddess of the Home.

But during her daily network TV shows, Martha had all kinds of folks on to talk about different things. 80’s Pop star Cyndi Lauper once made a guest appearance and talked with Martha about pantry organization. Actress Tracey Ullman visited with a friend and talked about their newly published knitting book; Martha had a full English spread for afternoon tea for them. The late Robin Williams visited–twice–and did what he did best while Martha played the “straight guy.” And there were multiple visits from the late comedienne Joan Rivers, who made slightly raunchy remarks while Martha kept her patrician demeanor and tried not to laugh.

The way we think of Martha Stewart, mostly. But this isn’t the way we think of a typical 75-year old woman, either.

Many of these appearances may be available on Martha’s YouTube channel. The contrasts are interesting when she meets with people who aren’t the New York or LA crowd. But sometimes. . . .

Dinner with a Dogg

One completely opposite guest on her show was none other than Cordozar Calvin Broadus, Jr., aka, a rapper who calls himself  “Snoop Dogg.” Gold teeth, necklaces, corn rows and big knuckle-cracking rings, the whole typical rapper bit. They’re actually friends now, no kidding. Somebody in TV world (VH-1, actually) got the wild idea to have a celebrity dinner party show with Martha and Snoop, and apparently it’s a thing now. If you’re interested, it’s called Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party. I haven’t seen it, I no longer have cable. And when I read that news item, I was glad I didn’t! But apparently their opposing chemical natures works on TV.

You think Martha uses all those glasses when she entertains?

The magazine article goes into that business, too, as well as. . . .

Surprise! Martha’s new book

Yes, Martha Stewart also has a new book out, her 7,246th. (OK, I exaggerate, but not much.) A New Way To Bake: Classic Recipes Updated with Better-for-You Ingredients from the Modern Pantry , had not yet been released when I saw this article. From what I read, there are allergy-free and gluten-free recipes, and a few are in Cherry Bombe.  It’s out now, and I’ll add it to my Amazon Wish List for later. You’ll get a full review if I ever get around to getting it.

I bought a book

Ultimately, I did buy a book, but it wasn’t one of Martha’s. It was one of Stephanie O’Dea’s, the one with Five Ingredients Or Less. It was on the bargain shelf. Yes, I’ve used it.  Yes, BF grumbled a little, but he ate good. He insists on “approving” dishes before I set out to make anything.

Until next time

I’m signing off now, but I do have plans to write more again soon. I just signed a new client, and I’ve got a lot of work to finish for two of them, soon.

Admittedly, this post was also a test project for the SEO Copywriting training course I just finished. I’ll be writing SEO-optimized stuff for this new client, so I wanted to see how I could optimize this one, even though I do it already. I don’t expect a million clicks, of course, and the Yoast plugin I use helps, but I wanted to see if I could use my keyphrase enough without sounding stupid. Looks like I did, because Yoast reports everything in real time. But I also wanted to publish a post, too.

I hope to finish up the next blog post soon. I’ve also got a restaurant review, too.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

The Cool Post

It’s summer in Texas. Heck, it’s summer everywhere–people are frying steaks and eggs on sidewalks and car hoods. They’re not in Texas, either.

Never fret–I have some nice recipes to keep you cool and comfy.

I caught Valerie Bertinelli’s cooking show last Saturday, and her good friend Faith Ford came by for lunch. Apparently, it was hot in SouCal when they filmed this episode (or they were just pretending) because Valerie didn’t want to turn on the oven. However. . .she did turn on the stove. I mean, how else do you cook lobster tails? While I’m not suggesting anyone go out and buy fresh lobster (I know I’m not, crawfish are the same thing), if you want some, many stores will steam them for you. (I think HEB does.) Valerie’s Lemon Icebox Cake was pretty fast and looked nice and cool. (It does call for Vanilla Wafers.) The episode is called Too Hot To Cook, but cook she does, albeit on the stove top–but not for very long. Want some real fresh-brewed iced tea? They make some, there’s a honey-sweetened recipe in this episode too.

Naturally, I’m up to my summer coffee making:

This will be iced coffee once it cools down.

This will be iced coffee once it cools down.

Now, if you’re thinking about going iced on your coffee, as always, The Coffee Detective has articles to get you started. This one explains how to make iced coffee at home, and this article has specialty  cold coffee-based drinks. (Warning: Nick uses alcohol in some of these recipes.)  How long does it stay in the fridge? Until I finish it. Which is going on twice a week now.

If you are in an area where it’s that hot, do you now see the wisdom of the Crock Pot? Even my mechanic friend JK is thinking seriously about making nice, cool Overnight Oatmeal after I told him about it. (I forgot to ask The E Man if he’s tried it.) Don’t be embarrassed–get one or two if you don’t have a slow cooker, and if you have a family, consider a larger waffle maker, too, for making brownies, hash browns and all that kind of thing. There is no need to turn on that oven, unless it’s a toaster oven.

Still looking for recipes for your slow cooker? Sign up at All Free Slow Cooker Recipes and get them in your inbox every day. (In addition to my favorite, Pinterest.) A searchable recipe database means you can go find what you want on a dime. Don’t heat up your kitchen in the summer, please.

I’ve already made my first batch of basil pesto for the year, which I didn’t document, because, well, I’ve done it more than once. However, the rooted basil cuttings have now been planted, and I expect a large amount of basil, and subsequently, pesto, in the near future. Last year I was lucky enough to get extra from my visit last year to the Genoa Friendship Garden, so I kind of made out like a bandit with the pesto. I have five containers in the freezer, and since we didn’t have a really cold winter in Texas, I didn’t make as much Pea & Pesto Soup as I thought. However, at some point, I’ll need to get more of those square containers I use to freeze individual batches. Earlier this year, I also broke one, darnit.

Speaking of the garden, I got more tomatoes:

And that was it.

They were delicious. And that was it.

Four more are behind it, and I’m watching the newly planted basil cuttings too. No more strawberries, and the jalapenos are taking their time. The lettuce, is, of course, gone now.

Anyway. . . .

Last weekend, for whatever reason, I pulled a couple of old cookbooks off the shelf and started flipping through them. I wanted to make something different, and wondered if there was anything I could make that I had on hand, or with minimal shopping. Something I hadn’t made in a while, or never tried. Turns out there was. The first recipe, Cool Lentil Salad, is a good one. Why have I never made this before?

The first book in question is Martha Stewart’s Healthy Quick Cook. Published in 1997, this book features elegant but somewhat “lighter” menus, including desserts, that are low fat. (Not all the customer reviews are positive, but that’s OK.) “Casual but sophisticated,” it says on the inside cover. Well, we know what “low fat” usually means–higher in carbs, sugar, salt, and other additives to cut the fat but make it taste good. In these recipes, most everything is made from scratch, as Martha usually does, although I admit to making just a few recipes from the book. Maybe I need to go back and read it again. This salad is made from simple ingredients, quick to make and is a nice, cool addition to a summer dinner.

I can still hear my ex-husband say to me, “You expect me to eat that??” Ah, memories. . . .

Recipe 1: Lentil Salad

Unfortunately, you do cook the lentils on the stove, but only for 10 minutes. After that, it’s just tossing everything together.

The setup.

The setup.

The parsley and celery came from the garden, and I really, really needed to cut the parsley. I’m forever telling LK to water the parsley plant she has out front of her house, and. . .mine is watered, but it really needed cutting too. Finally, I cut it. The re-grown celery also needed to be cut, and I took half of that off. (I’ll use the rest in something else.) The lentils. . .well, they’re in a sealed jar, OK? Next trip to Phoenicia, and I’ll re-stock. I haven’t made any lentil dishes since I made Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes earlier this year.

So I started out by boiling the rinsed lentils and garlic in salted water:

I rinsed off the lentils first.

I rinsed off the lentils first.

And let them simmer for 10 minutes. Meantime, I started chopping celery:

This is re-grown celery from the garden.

This is re-grown celery from the garden. I actually don’t like the leaves.

You’ll need half a cup:

Made it!

Made it!

When the lentils are, as the book says, “crisp-tender”, that is, cooked but not mushy with a textured bite, drain them:

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Discard that garlic, then run the cold water over them:

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I’ll toss that garlic clove later.

And toss the lentils into a bowl (your serving bowl, if you like.) Finely chop that red onion (or as best as you can get it):

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And add it with the chopped parsley into the bowl.

Now, I have to tell you about my recent little benefit: I was at HEB on a Saturday, and when I was walking into have lunch, I mean, get my shopping, I noticed that someone dropped a big, beautiful red bell pepper. It was just sitting there! I figured someone would go back for it, but when I left HEB, someone carefully perched it on the short concrete pylons in front of the door. So. . .it came home with me. And I said, Thank You.

My benefit bell pepper

My benefit bell pepper

I put it on the Butusdan for a few days, but noticed it was getting a tad wrinkly. Into the fridge until I figured out what to do with it, and so I tossed it into the lentil salad. The bell pepper was an addition, not part of the recipe:

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Now for the dressing: It’s just 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of warm water. I whizzed that all together with the frother:

And sending it flying everywhere because the bowl was too small

And sending it flying everywhere because the bowl was too small.

Poured it over the salad in the bowl and mixed it together:

Cool Lentil Salad

Cool Lentil Salad

It’s pretty darn tasty, and will complement many summer dishes perfectly.

Recipe 2: White Bean & Olive Salad

This tasty throw-together salad only appeared in the Houston Chronicle via The New York Times many years ago. It was an Everyday Food recipe, and was never in a book or on their website–despite my request to add it. Fortunately, I kept the newspaper section in my personal notebook, and have enjoyed it for many years. It’s simple, and uses just a few simple ingredients for a cool, tasty side dish.

The setup.

The setup.

There’s a reason I put out three kinds of mustard–because, quite frankly, I think you should have a choice. The original recipe calls for Dijon mustard. However, the first time I made it, I only had Creole Mustard, and have been using it in this recipe ever since.

If you can find this mustard, its strong flavor may make you a convert.

If you can find this mustard, its stronger, unique flavor may make you a convert.

I think it’s a lot more flavorful than the Dijon, but that’s just me. You could certainly try the grainier variety of Dijon, too.

Why do I have two kinds of Dijon? Because at Trader Joe’s, it’s cheap.

So, you rinse two cans of cannellinni beans, and add them to a serving bowl:

YUM!

YUM!

Chop (or halve) a quarter cup of Kalamata olives:

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I just prefer them chopped, that’s all.

These are the olives, available in most markets:

Kalamata olives. Watch out for pits, some have them.

Kalamata olives, also from the olive bar in your grocery. Watch out for pits, some have them.

Add them to the bowl. Now thinly slice half a small red onion (in this case, left from the Cool Lentil Salad):

Red onions!

The red onion has a less acrid bite than standard white or yellow onions. But I don’t buy them often.

Time to mix the dressing–and I used my secret weapon again.

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Wash VERY carefully by hand, with hot soapy water when you’re done.

Into a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and one tablespoon of mustard. In my case, I like the Creole mustard in this dish, but the original recipe calls for Dijon:

Almost dressing

Almost dressing

And out comes the Aerolatte milk frothing tool to mix and emulsify the dressing.

Whiz!

Whiz!

Note that you MUST wash it carefully by hand to get it clean. Don’t want olive oil in your frothed-up latte, do you?

Then it’s just a matter of pouring it over the salad, and mixing it up:

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Voila! A tasty no-cook salad that’s quick and delicious anytime. It makes four servings, by the way:

Yum.

Yum.

This, too, will hold up in the fridge for a few days. If you can keep your paws out of it. It’s THAT good.

Recipe 3: Ginger Ice Milk

The third recipe, also from Martha Stewart’s Healthy Quick Cook, is Ginger Ice Milk, and takes a bit of prep work before it’s ready to eat. Remember that this book came out in the 90’s, when low-fat was still the prevailing mindset in “healthy.” It calls for 3.5 cups of  “low-fat” milk–which is mostly or all sugar, if you didn’t know that. (I’m guessing it’s either skim, 1% or 2%, but it’s still more sugar than fat; whole milk is both sugar and fat.) No way am I going to put a half-cup of sugar into a pitcher of sugar. So, much like lattes and iced coffee, I made it with whole milk, and sweetened it with SomerSweet. (Yes, I still have some.)

The setup

The setup.

I’m not sure whether to call this “ice milk” or “ice cream.” Whatever you call it, you’ll enjoy it in the summer heat.

Warning #1: fresh ginger has a real bite! And, you should observe sitting times and probably not leave it for 2+ hours while heading out for a bike ride. Just 45 minutes of infusion should have done it. (I forget these things.)

Warning #2: If you have an ice cream maker like mine, that requires the freezing of a component (in my case, the bowl) make sure you freeze it ahead of time as instructed. That’s in addition to making the base for the iced treat you’re freezing, and letting it chill completely. Mine from Cuisinart requires 24 hours for the bowl to freeze up properly, and I actually put it in the freezer on Wednesday. If you have one of the fancier ones with an internal compressor (that is, it’s plug-and-play like this one with no freezing beforehand, which cost more), then you don’t need to freeze ahead. One day. . .I’ll get a plug-and-play ice cream maker, or a bigger freezer so that I can keep *two* of the freezer bowls frozen at the ready and make my own ice cream a lot more often. At least I don’t have to make ice for days in advance like I did with the one I used to own.

Warning #3: Ginger can develop a mold on the surface if you leave it too long in the fridge. Like I did:

Yuck! Cut that off!

Yuck! Cut that off!

I only made this to use up the ginger. And, because I like making my own ice cream.

This recipe is dessert for a meal inspired by Japanese cuisine. The protein is <cough> tofu, and there is nori (flat dried seaweed) involved in a “Vegetable Handwrap.” Now, I’ve eaten burritos for quite a number of years, but even I know that it is not possible to chew through the nori wrap! (It’s like chewing aluminum foil lined with plastic wrap–it’s too stiff to make burritos.)  Obviously, the rest of that menu will never happen in my kitchen, but the dessert is a good one.

So, it’s pretty simple to make: heat up 3.5 cups of milk with a half-cup of sugar (I used SomerSweet), and stir, but don’t boil:

IMG_3097

Warm until the sugar or sweetener dissolves, and whisk occasionally to make sure it does.

While that’s happening, peel the ginger (recipe calls for a 3-inch piece, but good luck finding that to spec). I learned from Martha to scrape the peel off using a spoon. Then slice it like the red onion above:

Yes, like that.

Yes, like that.

When the sweetener has dissolved, add the fresh ginger, lower the heat and let it lightly simmer for 15 minutes. Then take it off the heat, add the grated ginger, and let it infuse for 45 minutes:

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We don’t say “steep” anymore, we say “infuse.”

It was at this point that headed out on the bike for 90 minutes. That’s where the powerful ginger taste came from. It’s almost hot, no kidding.

After 45 minutes, remove the ginger pieces (I had to strain out the tiny bits):

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Those tiny browner bits are the ground ginger. I used a small spatula to push them through the sieve and back into the milk mixture.

Then let it cool, then chill it thoroughly. (This is why you plan ahead.)

Once it’s cool (and you’ve frozen your bowl, if need be), it’s time to make this into a sweet treat.

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Now, there’s something I found unusual with this recipe. See where the milk level is? Well, start to finish took about 40 minutes (and thank heavens for earbuds, that machine is loud.) But as it churned, the mixture sort of expanded:

Second picture. See it?

Second picture. See it?

Now get a look at it right before I turned the machine off:

Close to the top.

Close to the top.

I’ve never seen that happen before. But it was time to shut it off, and I did.

Ginger Ice Milk!

Ginger Ice Milk!

Theoretically, the square glass container on the right should have been elegant sufficiency. However, I had to resort to putting the “overflow” in another container. Well, that’s OK–it’s sugar free, I’ll have it whenever I want some. (I also have some cantaloupe sorbet in a separate glass container, sitting underneath these two.

One thing I noticed is that when I put this dish in the freezer with a spoon, it didn’t freeze hard like ice cream does:

Ice cream with a BITE!!

Dessert with a BITE!!

Checking the containers in the freezer, they’re not frozen hard, either. So, you’ll have to eat this quickly before it melts.

Oh, and I also ate the “crumbs” I scraped off the inside of the freezer bowl:

Or maybe I should have let it churn longer?

Or maybe I should have let it churn longer?

Delicious–but let me repeat the warning that ginger can be quite spicy, and it gives a bite to this frozen dessert. I may have left it infuse too long. But it’s SOOOO good!

Recipe 4: Quinoa, Pea & Mint Salad

The last recipe is actually on page 17 of Martha Stewart’s Dinner At Home, a book similar to the ill-received Healthy Quick Cook, but without the “healthy” connotation. Like the first book and one or two before it, the menus are arranged by season to take advantage of what’s available. They don’t call this a “healthy” cookbook, but for the most part, it is–elegant made from scratch dishes using easy to find fresh ingredients. I made this from what I had already, plus mint from the garden, and I have to say, it’s quite good. So let’s make some!

The setup

The setup

I bought that chicken stock for something else a long time ago, and I finally used it. Peas I try to keep around for Pea and Pesto Soup, so that’s only a cup. I have quinoa as well, and that’s a cup. The mint, of course, came from the garden. So, let’s make this one.

First, put the chicken stock (or broth) in the pot, then rinse the quinoa:

One cup of quinoa, rinsed.

One cup of quinoa, rinsed.

 

I know, not the prettiest picture. Keep reading.

I know, not the prettiest picture. Keep reading.

Heat it to boiling, cover and simmer for 10 minutes:

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After 10 minutes, add the peas, fresh or frozen:

Quinoa isn't quite cooked yet.

Quinoa isn’t quite cooked yet–see the little holes where the bubbles are?

Cover and let this simmer for another 5 minutes.

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After 5 minutes, remove it from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and then 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil:

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Mix well, and then add into a serving dish (which is probably cool):

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Let this sit for five minutes or so to cool a bit, uncovered. Then stir in the mint. I just added the leaves whole, since they weren’t big. If you have big leaves, tear them a little or even chop a little:

Mint!

Mint!

Mix it up well, and serve either warm or room temperature. If you’re doing the weekly cooking thing, this will sit in the fridge all week and hold up just fine. Best to cook after the sun goes down, or if you’re the hardy type, before the sun comes up. (I used to do that.)

Now, if you’ve got grilling on your mind, the July/August issue of Hobby Farms magazine has a quick recipe for Grilled Bell Pepper and Tomato Kabobs with Herbs and Olive Oil. I haven’t tried this one, but it looks tasty and is simple. It would go well with an outdoor grilled dinner.

More farm-type recipes are available on their website. This month’s issue also includes a Letter to the Editor about foot rot in sheep. EWWWW, poor babies! If you see a sheep kneeling to graze, that means it’s in pain and needs immediate medical attention. But if you do have sheep, you’ll likely smell it, too.

What will you have that will keep your house from feeling like a HeatCageKitchen? (Go to the Recipes page for PDF files for all these tasty dishes.)

Happy Dining!

 

Crock Pot Day: Citrus Spice Chicken

Happy Monday, Dear Readers!

Sorry I’ve been away, it’s been a bit crazy. Last Wednesday, I busied myself with laundry, cooking, and switching my electric company to one that is nicer, less expensive, and with a US-based call center. With the lovely weather we had after the drowning rains, I’ve also been out on the bike again, every night except Tuesday, when I hit HEB for a stock-up run.

I planned on going for a ride when I got home. That didn’t happen. When I realized how much I’d been walking around that place, I realized I already had some exercise–and that wore me out! Thank heavens for the two folks handing out samples of fish, chicken, and a tasty cucumber salad I hope to make again one day.

Speaking of HEB, apparently it’s been discovered. Snappy Gourmet shared this Business Insider article on Facebook the other day about why HEB is the #1 grocery store in America. What the heck? All they had to do was ask me. I mean, they have stuff like this:

No, I didn't buy them. This time.

No, I didn’t buy them. This time.

And this was under the indoor pink tent next to the bakery section for Mother’s Day:

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Those are chocolate covered strawberries in the perimeter around the cake.

I also picked up two more tomato plants for twenty-five cents each. They were on their last legs, but they are planted, and one even has a tomato growing. Fingers crossed for lots of grape tomatoes this summer.

Does your grocery store do Date Night? Mine does:

And why not take your date to HEB?

And why not take your date to dinner at HEB?

Not all HEBs have a coffee shop in the store. Ours doesn’t, but the store in The Woodlands does, and it’s smaller than our new store.  Ditto for Cafe on the Run–we don’t have one, but the League City store does as well as The Woodlands.

If all these newly relocated people fall in love with HEB, we’ll never get rid of them. Texas will be doomed.

Speaking of food shopping, Neighbor E told me last week that all The Fresh Market stores in Texas are being closed, along with two other states. They’ve only been here in our ‘hood for two years.  There are now hired security guards at the front entrance, and they’ve reduced the operating hours to 9am to 6pm, until they close on May 18th. That’s how tightly competitive the grocery market is here in Texas–and Whole Foods isn’t doing too good, either. The Fresh Market is selling everything at 50% off, all sales final, so if you’re in the area of one of these departing stores, it’s time to stock up.

Between Hancock Fabrics, Sports Authority and now The Fresh Market, that’s a lot of folks in retail losing their jobs in Clear Lake real soon.

Hmmm. . .maybe Trader Joe’s will finally open up in our little nook of Houston? THAT would make life very tolerable! (For a while.)

Well, anyway. . .I wanted to make some food in the Crock Pots, so I bought some chicken, some pork chops, and other ingredients to make something called Citrus Spice Chicken. See, it’s getting on that time of the year, and if you haven’t been using your slow cooking Crock Pots, it’s time to get them out and start using them again (and your waffle maker, too.) Daily, if need be–you don’t need to be heating up your kitchen all day long until October or November when we get a puff of cool air. (We barely had a “winter,” and now it’s spring.)

We went right from winter to nearly summer, but once I decided to put my winter boots back in the closet, we had a front come through bringing cooler, drier air. It’s not really cool enough for boots now, but last Monday morning, I could have gotten away with them.

So, last year about this time, I wrote a longer piece on the slow cooker, a kitchen standby that, with a little forethought and planning, can make your regular cooking easier while keeping the kitchen from heating up during the summer, or allow you to cook more at the same time, anytime of year. Just in the last week or two, Ree Drummond made this Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup on her show. I’ve seen Ree use it a couple of times before, and in my last post, I told you about Giada de Laurentiis getting into slow cooking as well.

I didn’t mention this in my post last year, but I should have. Giving credit where it’s due, the GER is the reason I got into slow cooking, and I even taught the last boyfriend (“Voldemort”) how to use his. The GER would use it occasionally, but I bought a cookbook so I could use it more often. I’d never had one, and when I was getting ready to move, I bought two. Last year, of course, I also bought replacement parts for them. . .but I told you about that, too.

I hate to use the trade name Crock Pot, even thought that’s what I have. Turns out a number of other companies make different varieties slow cookers. My mechanic friend has a Hamilton Beach and I’m trying to coax him to use it more often. But Crock Pot is the original, and it’s a registered company name. So I’ll use them interchangeably. If you have one by Cuisinart. . .well, you know what I’m talking about.

One thing I didn’t mention was the use of the plastic liners available for slow cookers. I hate to buy more new stuff, but I have to say, these liners are awesome.  They’re not available in every store, but you might be able to ask your grocer to carry them. They come in a box of four, and I try to buy two boxes at a time. After scrubbing the heck out of my stoneware crocks for years, I don’t ever want to be without them again. With the breakfast quiche I make on Sunday, once it cools, I just lift it right out of the cooker, turn it upside down on a cutting board, pull the liner off and toss it. Cut the quiche, package it up for the week, and I’m good. Just a quick rinse of the stoneware and it’s all done. It really is that good, and worth the money to buy them and extra minute to set them into the stoneware crock.  You can read more about Reynold’s wonderful invention here.

How come I never think of inventing stuff like this?

Dana Carpender isn’t a well-known cookbook author like some of the other folks I have on my shelf. I have two of her low-carb books, and this recipe comes from her 200 Low Carb Slow Cooker Recipes book. It’s one of those “dump-and-go” recipes where you literally put the food in and all that. Pretty tasty, but one of the ingredients is another recipe in the book for ketchup. No kidding, but it’s worth it.

IMG_3006

I know, it’s weird–but normal doesn’t make the world go round!

First, you make Dana’s No-Sugar Ketchup, which is just a few ingredients in the blender and blitzed. I made it the night before and refrigerated it. Came out like gelatin–but really, it’s an ingredient and good. This recipe appears in all of her cookbooks. Store-bought ketchup is usually loaded with sugar, so this is a good alternative if you can’t find something sugarless or something like low carb.

Into a blender, add:

  • 6 ounces (one small can) tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup Splenda (I used SomerSweet, but you could also use your favorite)
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion (I used a shallot, and it was just enough)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

 

Run the blender until the onion disappears. Scrape all of it into a container, then store in the fridge (or freezer for longer storage.

Ketchup!

Ketchup!

At 7½ calories a tablespoon, you can enjoy the heck out of this on fries or anything you like. But that’s not what it’s for today, is it?

IMG_3008

Really, it’s good. Here we start mixing.

Now let’s make this chicken.

The setup

The setup

To the mixing cup, add 1/3 cup lemon juice, the sweetener, a half-teaspoon of orange extract, a half-cup of the ketchup, 2 tablespoons of low-sugar orange marmalade, a half-teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and allspice, an eighth teaspoon of ground cloves, and (if you’re brave) a quarter teaspoon of cayenne. I backed off and added an eighth teaspoon of cayenne and it was good, but I call that “optional,” and I think you could leave it out altogether if you wanted. Mix that all up:

The cooking marinade

The cooking marinade

Once that’s mixed (you could do this the night before and just put the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to make it in the morning), add 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs to your slow cooker:

IMG_3011

My favorite part of the chicken, or the turkey.

Pour the mixture over the top:

IMG_3012

Stir a little to coat the chicken well:

Yum.

Yum.

Cover, cook for six hours, and, tah-dah!

Dinner!

Dinner!

A little sweet, a tiny bit spicy with a really, really good flavor to it.

The book says to serve it with something else called “Cauli-Rice,” a recipe on page 239, but I haven’t tried that one yet. “Cauli-Rice” is simply chopping up a half head of cauliflower by running it through the food processor with the shredding blade and chopping it up small. My local HEB also sells chopped cauliflower ready to saute, which is what would probably be a good way to cook your “Cauli-Rice.” Microwaving it with a little water or steaming are suggested, but I like saute in butter or olive oil until it’s done. But really, any good, healthy side dish would be great alongside this chicken, or (I know I shouldn’t say this) on top of some gluten-free pasta, which is generally. . .not always low-carb.

In fact, it would be perfect for spiralized veggies, if you do that sort of thing.

Do you have one of them spiralizer thingies? Or have you bought the spiralizing attachment for your KitchenAid Stand Mixer? Um, no. . .and the reason I haven’t delved into it is because I don’t have a spiralizer thingy. Or at least, so I thought. I was out prowling around in the mall the other day, and realize that I actually already have something for spiralizing veggies, and didn’t know it.

How did this happen? Well. . . .

I was asked to make an apple pie or something for a party many years ago, and I was telling one of the guys in IT Engineering about it. He offered me the use of his apple peeling/coring contraption, and I happily accepted. It worked great! I got them all peeled. . .and then I broke it. I don’t know how, but I broke the darn thing. He was on vacation for two weeks, so I had time to scare up a new one. At the same time, I ordered the red one for myself, and I have used it a few times since then, but not in a while. I was in the mall while the brakes were being worked on, and I saw it in either Macy’s, Sears, or somewhere else that kitchen stuff was being sold when the epiphany happened.

I also saw a 3-quart Crock Pot for $12.97 in Sears, in red, but no, I didn’t purchase it. And speaking of red, a very nice lady in Macy’s Fine Jewelry Department allowed me to try on my ultimate dream ring:

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, The Duchess of El Dorado

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Duchess of El Dorado.

That ring’s MSRP was much as the car I bought in 1998 when I moved to Houston. (I’ve always believed that the royal engagement ring would look better with a red stone, and I was right.)

There is a smaller, but no less fabulous, version at Macy’s, for considerably less:

Ladies and gentlemen, The Countess of Clear Lake

This ring would make me “The Countess of Clear Lake.”  Still my dream ring, but not as big and bold.

Did I forget to mention that they were 45% off that day? No, I didn’t buy any rings. Just a double-chocolate brownie at Starbucks. I needed that more.

Oh, yeah, I was talking about food, wasn’t I?

So, one day, when I think about it, I will start spiralizing veggies for myself, and see how I like it. Heck, I might actually spiralize something and put it on the waffle iron like hash browns–let’s see what I come up with. For now, though, my attention is elsewhere, including keeping up with this humble foodie blog, and keeping my faithful readers healthy, happy and fed.

But really, a good hot meal is within your reach with a slow cooker. You don’t need anything with electronic controls, connected to your WiFi, or anything else confusing (unless you like it that way.) Get one that turns on and turns off, and you’ll have a great dinner without heating up the kitchen. (And you can serve it with spiralized veg if you want.)

I’ve got some research to do on my next post, but I hope to have a full report on. . .well, I’ll tell you about it when the time comes. Next week is our monthly garden lecture, and the topic this month is Plants of the Bible. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “why would you go to a lecture on plants from the Bible?” Well, because it’s plants, and because it’s interesting. (I’ll be mentioning key topics if I remember to write them down.)

For now, go get your slow cooker out so you can make dinner tomorrow the easy way.

Happy (Slow) Cooking!

 

Happy Cooking

Hello, Dear Readers:

I’m back with another post, with information about new trends, delicious food and healthy things.

First up: a cat being a cat.

Longtime readers of this blog know I love all the kitties, from the tiniest neo-natal just-born kitties the size of a kiwi fruit to the mighty Siberian Tiger. I believe that a cat is a cat is a cat, no matter what the size, species or coloring. They’re all just cats on the hunt. I had cats for 21 years (the last one being Jezebel the Step-Kitty, co-parented with the GER), and they really are the same as a tiger, lion, bobcat or jaguar, just smaller (and they usually use a litterbox inside.) Most house cats can’t tear off a limb the way a tiger can, making the mighty tiger unsuitable for keeping as a pet. If you talk to the GER, he’ll have you believe that Catmandu could indeed take your arm off, or at least a finger. Catmandu has been dead for 4 years, and the GER is still afraid of him.

So I enjoyed the story of smart a Norwegian Forest cat named Clive who didn’t have to hunt much while he lived for two years in a pet food warehouse in Britain. He “went missing,” but he didn’t go far. He did what any cat would do–he found a verified food source and stayed. Why go home when they only feed you once or twice a day, when you can just camp in this place and eat whenever you want? Workers knew there was something stealing food, so they  borrowed a cat trap from a local rescue group and caught his furry butt. (The microchip told them how to find the owners.) Clive got pretty porky while he was there, but once he gets re-settled into the household and used to being around his housemates again, he’ll probably lose most of that extra weight. But he’ll probably be a bit grouchy having to wait for his food again.

Because. . .that’s a cat for you.

Speaking of creatures, I was watering the garden the other night, and I looked down and saw. . .two little beady black eyes looking back at me. AAAAHHHHH!!!! I jumped back, and I hope I didn’t yell too loud. I looked that little adolescent possum right in the eyes and told him to “shoo.” He turned around and lumbered away. . .but I don’t know where he went. They might be living under the Boston Fern I wish I’d never acquired. So now I have evidence that the possums think it’s their personal salad bar. There’s no way to keep them out, really, because they’re like cats–they climb fences, get through little holes and everything else. So it’s probably not the first time I’ll have a close encounter of the furry kind back there, especially if the tomatoes, peppers and strawberries do well.

OK, it’s a little late for the holidays, but I came across this post on putting a turkey on an outdoor grill.  Sometimes in the south, it may be too hot to roast the darn thing indoors (unless you have one of those turkey roaster ovens you can park outside or on a patio that’s separate.)  Sometimes Thanksgiving is 80 degrees around here, too, so it wouldn’t be a bad thing to keep in mind for November. Remember, it was 80 degrees on Christmas Day in Houston; the cold front missed the flight.

But if you’re getting ready for graduations, bridal or baby showers or other upcoming festive occasions, this article on Exposed Cakes from the Trader Joe’s monthly flier will give you some ideas. I’m not wild about less frosting, since that, to me, is one of the best parts of nearly any cake, but, well, you judge for yourself:

In The Garden Of Strawberry Cake, from the Trader Joe's website article.

In The Garden Of Strawberry Cake, from the Trader Joe’s website article.

I guess it’s because you don’t have to cut the cake open to see what’s underneath. But it’s a nice picture.  Would you make it?

If you want something to go with your frosting-challenged cake, there’s some new flavors from the Central Market brand that just showed up at our fabulous HEB:

Oh, YEAH! Who needs Haagen-Daz?

Oh, YEAH! Who needs Haagen-Dazs?

See any favorites you want to try? Here’s mine:

This can only be good. . . .

This can only be good. . .but not sure why it was manhandled.

And of course, chocolate.

Is there any other kind?

Is there any other kind?

No, I haven’t tried any of them yet. I have ice cream like other people have alcohol–to celebrate a special occasion, to deal with something stressful, or any time I need a sweet. When I broke up with a boyfriend–I had ice cream. When it was my birthday, I had ice cream. Usually, it’s Blue Bell, but next time, it will probably be this one. But this container is twice the cost of the Blue Bell or HEB Creamy Creations I usually get. So. . .no rush on trying them.

Switching gears. . . .

Do you have any old cookbooks? I mean, REALLY old cookbooks? How about those ubiquitous (and expensive) recipe cards collections? I actually have my mother’s–the Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library, circa 1971. She was going to toss it, and I asked for it. She only used one or two recipes from the whole thing that I can recall, so it’s basically intact, including the index. (Maybe I’ll make it the subject of an upcoming blog post.) I also have another recipe card collection my mother started in the 80’s, as well as one I started in the late 1980’s. I have a couple of old books, but not *that* old. One from the 80’s, and most of the rest are after 1990 or so, starting with Martha Stewart’s books.  Oh, wait–the GER has given me three old books from The Galloping Gourmet, circa late 1960’s, and one or two others.  I’ve found a couple of my mother’s titles from the late 50’s and early 60’s on Etsy, and have them on my “watch” list. (I need a big enough house for all this.)

I also have a recipe book from Entergy, who sent it to their customers for free in the 90’s with hundreds of old recipes from Louisiana Power & Light, the utility company they bought. (It just showed up in the mail one day.)  Those recipes came from back in the day when “home economist” was an actual job. Nobody in the 90’s tested any of them, so there was no guarantee on how well they would turn out with modern appliances. But flipping through it, there is a recipe called Tomato Soup Cake. I kid you not. Starts out with a boxed mix, you add eggs and a few other things, and a can of condensed tomato soup. UGH. No, I wouldn’t try that on people I hated. Oh, wait a minute. . . .

One of my intrepid Facebook friends from Canada posted something from a website called Vintage Recipe Cards. It’s a website dedicated to showcasing the kind of foods that you used to find in magazines, cookbooks and those infamous card collections: Take a look at this gourmet abomination from the 1950’s:

The Frankaroni Loaf

The Frankaroni Loaf! Isn’t it just yummy?

Aren’t you just anxious to make this recipe for your next dinner party? You can–and here’s the recipe for it. If you make this culinary atrocity, do post in the comments and let us know how it turned out.

And after Thanksgiving, or anytime you want the tastes of Turkey Day, here’s a Sweet Potato-Turkey Pie that will fit the bill. . .and make you forget all about Thanksgiving for another six months. (It includes a can of the disgusting cream of mushroom soup, if you’re interested.)

EEEEEEWWWWWW. . .and there are lots more of these delectable detestables where those came from, just get to the website.  The comments alone are hilarious, but a number of people have actually tried these edible train wrecks and love them. Like this classic, um, well. . . .

Yummy! (Not.)

Yummy! (Not.) Source: VintageRecipeCards.com

One commenter on the Ham And Bananas Hollandaise page says that he made his own Hollandaise instead of the packaged stuff, and it’s delicious. Takes some guts to make this retro cookery, but like I’ve been told on a number of occasions, don’t knock it until you try it.

No, I’m not trying that one. Nor anything in a Jell-O mold or anything called “Aspic.” You try it and tell us all about it.

I showed you that not only to amuse (or nauseate), but also to show how far we’ve come as a nation and a people in regards to cooking, cookbooks, and everyday life. I’m sure every good housewife in the Mad Men era made Frankaroni Loaf and Jell-o molds of all kinds. (I had to eat that stuff only on occasion; thankfully, my mom wasn’t into this kind of, um, “artistry.”)  But today, we have cookbooks from a myriad of sources, as well as an incredible array of new appliances, tools and gadgets that make cooking better, easier, healthier, and in many cases, faster.

We don’t have to suffer through these artistic disasters anymore.

Several new cookbooks by famous folks have come out recently, (with saner recipes) and a few months ago, I decided to pop for Giada de Laurentiis’ Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count. . .Without Stressing Out. Marked down 30% at Target, I figured it was a good time to get it. (It’s not autographed like my previous Giada books.) It’s all about good, tasty and healthy food, and “practical solutions” for daily life.

If you saw my recent very long popcorn post, you saw one of the recipes from this book, for Warm & Spicy Popcorn. It’s good, and with the fresh parsley from the back patio, it’s just delicious. But popcorn isn’t the only good recipe in this book. There are actually four popcorn recipes, one of which, I kid you not, is Pumpkin Spice Latte Popcorn. After you pop the popcorn, you mix together  3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon of light brown sugar, a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, and a teaspoon of instant espresso powder, then drizzle it on the popcorn. Is it good? Of course it is, it’s got sugar in it. . .maybe I’ll try it in the fall.

Much like her prior book, Giada’s Feel Good Food, this book includes a lot of healthy recipes of all kinds, as well as advice. Many of the recipes came from her weekly digital magazine Giada Weekly, but others are some that, I suppose, Giada started making out of necessity. (She’s now a single mother and a restaurateur, as well as a cooking show star.) There are 10 chapters, including one on “clean eating,” but making sure it’s tasty, too. Of course, there’s also a chapter on pasta–what did you expect, it’s Giada! But she also acknowledges that while pasta can be part of a healthy diet, there are a lot of folks who need alternatives to pasta, like Trader Joe’s Brown Rice & Quinoa fusilli pasta, which is fantastic and $2.99 for a one-pound bag. (If you can get to a Trader Joe’s.)

Giada mentions too that in Italy, they cook just a small amount of pasta, rather than the whole box as Americans tend to do. It doesn’t mean the gluten-intolerant can still have it, but it does mean that cutting down on the amount of pasta in a dish might be better, even if it’s gluten free pasta. And what to do with the “ends” of several boxes or bags (page 116)? Boil then all together and make soup, toss it with some leftovers, or just toss in some pesto and have it like that. I’ve told you what my favorite is, that I have when I get some of that GF fusilli pasta from Trader Joe’s–about a cup of pasta, boiled in salted water, drained, and tossed with some real butter and a shake or two of Parmesan cheese. Yes, from the green bottle. Don’t need nothing else on it. But that’s not too often.

Giada’s book also has indicators for gluten free, vegetarian and vegan, so you can see at a glance if it’s a good recipe for you to try.

The #breakfast chapter (yes, it’s hash-tagged in the book) starts out with smoothies, something called “Nutella Milk” made in a blender, (I seriously must try that one day), a granola recipe that is *not* gluten free, and a recipe for one thing that actually *is* popular in the culinary arena, “Overnight Oats.” (I haven’t tried that yet either, from this book or from Pinterest.) With chia seeds, almond milk, and just a tablespoon of real maple syrup, it looks pretty good.

Remember when I mentioned that “bowls” are a thing now? Giada steps up to the, um, bowl, with something called American Breakfast Rice Bowl. It starts out with 3/4 cup of cooked rice, and has a lot more ingredients before you get to eat it. This is obviously a weekend breakfast–for one person–like my favorite 4-ingredient Corsican Omelette from Nigella Lawson.  Much as I’d like to try it one day (probably with quinoa instead of brown rice), it’s not something for a hurried weekday breakfast. There are also some “toasts” (also a thing now), a couple of frittatas and strata using eggs, a tofu scramble (no thanks) and a selection of waffles/pancakes/muffins for the die-hard baker. (Polenta waffles for brunch, but not GF.)

There is a chapter dedicated to Snacks & Small Plates, which is where that delicious popcorn recipe is, as well as something called Mediterranean Chile Chicken Wings. I haven’t tried this yet, but I might one of these days. (Maybe in the slow cooker, or maybe the toaster oven.) It does contain harissa, which I learned how to make when I dove into the Martha Stewart book Clean Slate last year. It’s one of three chicken wing recipes, which, if you’re familiar, you know can be addictive. I made some for New Year’s Eve many years ago when I lived in the GER’s place from one of Suzanne Somers’ books. Well, nobody complained, and they’re all still alive. . . .

There are other appetizers (“apps”), such as meatballs, arancini, shrimp, crostini (little tiny “toasts,” really), as well as bean dip, Pico de Gallo, and other party standards.

The chapter on salad offers The Only Vinaigrette You’ll Ever Need, which does require fresh thyme leaves, agave syrup, and a shallot, among other things. I should have made some of this yesterday for the lettuce I harvested out of the garden. Well, if it continues to grow, I’ll have some (if the snails and possums let me have some, that is.)

Finally, Giada gets it, and she’s learned to use and enjoy the slow cooker. On page 104, she talks about the benefits of using one, and includes several recipes in the book. (Think she was reading my blogs?) Really, I can’t say enough good about the slow cookers, and I had both of mine going all weekend. Hazelnut Beef With Noodles (page 200) looks interesting, but I can do without the panko bread crumbs.

The chapter on eating clean contains recipes like a detox soup (Giada says she tolerates it better than cold, raw juices) and a bone broth. The new trend of “spiraled veg” gets a note on page 151, where Giada makes spaghetti out of zucchini and a tomato sauce. There are some baked fish and chicken recipes, some vegetarian fare and one treat I want to try one day: the Superfood Fudge Torte on page 160. It’s made with some surprising ingredients and sweetened with agave syrup. No black beans or avocado, but pretty good stuff, and it’s chocolate. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

In the chapter called Weeknight Warriors, where the Hazelnut Beef With Noodles is located, Giada talks about lentils, and offers Lentil Salade Nicoise. Recently I gave you the recipe for Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes, a Barefoot Contessa dish that’s cooked for about an hour. But Giada contends that lentils just can’t get any respect, and in the US, they’re primarily used in recipes like that one. In this vinaigrette-dressed salad, lentils are joined by hard-boiled eggs, baby potatoes, grape tomatoes, black olives and cucumber to make a rich and tasty fare that’s good any time of year. As easy to cook as white rice or quinoa, they can be added to pastas, salads, mixed with grilled veg for a sandwich or pureed into a dip. How come we don’t do that?

Rounding out the everyday chapters is one on vegetables and sides, with all manner of dishes you’ve probably never seen before. If you think you don’t like cauliflower, roasting it gets rid of the chalky taste. On page 209 is a recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Capers and Almonds. That sounds good, doesn’t it? On the next page is a recipe for Salt Raosted Sweet Potatoes, which sees them topped with a seasoned yogurt sauce. (I still like my sweet potato fries, though.) Lemon Roasted Fennel, page 212, looks pretty tasty, but if you’ve bought fennel, you know that’s for a special occasion–it’s a bit pricey.

Giada’s chapter on Weekends & Holidays is the longer-cooking kinds of recipes, like pot roast, chicken, meatloaf, and, for Thanksgiving, turkey! (There’s even a recipe for a Monte Cristo Sandwich using up Thanksgiving leftovers.)  On page 254 is a beef tenderloin recipe using a compound butter made with dry red wine, a fresh rosemary sprig, salt and a stick of butter. This one is a bit more complicated than mine–the wine and rosemary are heated, then boiled until the wine reduces way down. When it cools, you discard the rosemary, then mix the butter and salt in the food processor. Once that’s mixed a bit, you pour in the wine and process until smooth.

The last chapter is, of course, sweet stuff, something Giada wouldn’t be without. From Key Lime Panna Cotta and Limoncello Parfaits to Chocolate Cake Tiramisu with Chocolate Zabaglione, plus a section on treats to make for gifts, the sweet tooth will certainly be happy with whatever you try. Chocolate Dessert Salami? Don’t go starting your new diet until you’re done with this one. How does Eton Mess Semifreddo sound? Giada hasn’t forgotten about folks with furbabies–Peanut Butter Dog Bone Treats will let your doggie friends know you care, just find a bone cookie cutter before you start making them. (Just wish it didn’t call for whole wheat flour, but that’s just me.)

While there’s no one authority on whatever we call “healthy eating,” this book, like Giada’s Feel Good Food and Clean Slate before it, is a good place to start. Healthy, natural food should taste good, and Giada knows just how to do that, with some “happy” food thrown in.

Enjoy!

 

Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I’ve had a lot happen since my last post, including. . .car repairs. I missed last week’s gardening lecture at the library, darnit, and I missed seeing our Miss Shirley. Soon as I get the Texas state inspection finished and the registration sticker taken care of, I’ll be rolling for another year (we hope.)

If you haven’t heard, Starbucks is revamping their My Rewards program. Some frequent-customer math majors have figured out that due to the new 2-points-per-dollar-spent, members will have to spend a total of $62.50 in order to get a free thing. Currently, points are issued per transaction, no matter how much you spend, whether it’s a small coffee or a $7 salad or your favorite over-sweetened coffee-tasting drink thing. The new program will be strictly on what you spend, so big spenders get free stuff faster, but occasional visitors like me might be longer for a free thing. One complaint levied was that customers were requesting each item rung separately, giving them more points but holding up the lines. Starbucks will be keeping the “star dash” days, where you buy a certain thing, or use the mobile order app, or come in after a certain time and get extra stars; that’s how I’ve “profited” with it. I check the emails from Starbucks and use them accordingly, paying attention and getting extra stars now and again for different things. These promotions will continue.

I got my latest free thing on Monday, another salad. Because I managed to get extra points on Tuesday for something else I wanted, my next free thing expires 4/28. Woo hoo! It pays to pay attention, folks. The newly revamped program goes live on April 12, and if you’re already enrolled, you’ll be rolled up into the new program. Any points you have will be carried over and  multiplied by 11, so it behooves one to get 11 points by the 11th of April to get 121 points to start with. (I’m not a complete math dunce.) If you are already enrolled, pay attention to your emails so you’ll know when the “extra point” days are, especially Mondays, and rack up 11 points before COB April 11th.

Easter is this weekend, and our lovely new HEB will be closed on Sunday. I ducked in today to pick up some milk and a few other things. Well, as usual, while I shop in the daytime, I basically had lunch at HEB. Salmon burgers, chips with a very hot guacamole, a sip of fresh orange juice, some ham, and samples of one of these Bavarian Cream Fruit Pies that the demo lady was happy for me to have:

The Bavarian Cream Fruit Pie for Easter

The Bavarian Cream Fruit Pie for Easter.

There’s also a larger one for $16. I did not bring one home, and I’ll be working hard to rid myself of the three samples she offered me today. They’re “freshly made in the store,” but. . .here’s how. I’m guessing the crusts are baked in the bakery, and then something called “Bavarian Cream” is poured from a huge plastic tube into the crust. then it’s topped with fruit, then with a glaze, then sweetened whipped cream is piped on the rim. Then for an extra touch, some crumbles are sprinkled on top. It’s not an overly sweet treat, and not as heavy as the kinds of desserts served during the holidays, but it’s pretty good. At least, I thought it was until I saw the “Bavarian Cream” poured into the crust. Oh, well.

On the way out I saw a stuffed toy I know you’ll just want two of, and if you have children or grandchildren, you’ll want to put these in their Easter basket:

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Yes, those are stuffed armadilloes.

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No kidding. Cute, but I passed on it. This time.

OK, cooking.

I’ve had some venison in the freezer for quite some time, a gift from Neighbor J upstairs from one of his West Texas hunting trips. It was a small wrapped package with just a few pieces, but I decided to use it. Haven’t had venison in a while, and I decided to. . .oh, you know what I did with it. After I used my multi-bladed hand-held meat tenderizer on it and put plenty of oil on it, then seasoned it up:

Waffled venison bits

They fit right on the plates, too.

And why not? After Sunday’s burned waffle mishap. . .oh, nevermind. These turned out pretty good for a quick dinner.

Venison. . .bits. Waffled!

Venison. . .bits. Waffled!

See what I mean about your waffle maker being an indoor grill? Of course, I’m now concerned that with all the use and scrubbing I might rub off the finish. I’ll worry about that when the time comes (the plates are $40 to replace.) I could have just used the grill plates, but. . .why? Next time.

Anyway. . . .

Spring is here, sort of, and I’ve been enjoying the last gasp of winter. Well, we think it is. . .a few years ago, we had 40-degree days in MAY. But not many of them. Every time I put away my favorite warm winter boots, I have to take them out again. Yesterday I was bundled in socks and a long-sleeved shirt, but all last week, like today, it’s  t-shirts and shorts. That’s life on the Gulf Coast. Folks in the northeast are still shoveling snow, Which brings me to today’s blog post.

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I have all but one of her books (I just haven’t gotten the latest yet, nor Nigella Lawson’s) and honest, I don’t think I’ve ever cooked up anything bad from a BC book. I recently made one of my favorites–twice–once the week I got sick and the second time, because Neighbor E was given some delicious carrots as big as his forearm. (OK, they were big like cucumbers.) Like the potatoes I turned into waffled hash browns, carrots are not something I have often because of the high sugar content. When he gave me the carrots, I knew what I was going to make: Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes.

This recipe is from the 2006 Barefoot Contessa At Home, which I’d ordered online for my birthday, and requested it autographed. I forgot about that until I saw the invoice in the book, and looked at the title page. Yep, that’s the one.

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I ordered this on the website, several years before I met Ina in person here in Houston.

You can order any one of her books autographed here, very easily; that’s what I did for this book. Oh, look! I don’t yet have Make It Ahead, and now she’s got a new book coming in October. Cooking for Jeffrey! (That’s her hungry husband, if you didn’t know that.) Awww. . .I wonder if he’ll be going on her book tour with her this time. Probably not, he’s a busy guy. I’ll get that last book one of these days.

So, Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes.

It’s one of those recipes where you have just a few steps, put it all in the pot and let it cook. When you’re done, you have this warm, tasty bowl food that you know you will look forward to making again. This second time, I made a double batch so I could give some to both E and Neighbor R. E texted a couple of days later that he really enjoyed the “lentil soup.” It’s not lentil soup, but that’s OK.  He’d added one or two things to it, but he liked it, and so did R. So. . .three thumbs up.

Ready to make it? Here’s how it goes:

The setup.

The setup (except for the carrots, I forgot to take pictures before I started cutting them up.)

First, you heat the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. (I used a chili pot, same one I use for popcorn, but any large pot will do.) Your carrots should be scrubbed clean and large diced like this:

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Your onions should also be large diced:

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And toss that into the pot with the carrots on medium-low heat, cooking for 8 to 10 minutes until the onions start browning; stir with a wooden spoon occasionally.

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Chop up the garlic, and cook for one more minute.

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Used my little red garlic do-dad for this job:

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Easy, and no smelly hands (if you’re lucky.) So while that’s going on, open up that can of plum tomatoes and dump the whole thing into your food processor:

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Blitz it a little with the pulse button to coarsely chop them. Also, if you’ve not done this already, rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there aren’t any stones or dirt in them.

Now add the tomatoes, along with the lentils:

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The chicken broth:

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Sorry, home-made chicken stock is not on my dance card right now. Central Market’s will have to do.

And the 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh thyme:

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Now you see the wisdom of a hole in one corner of the cutting board. Makes this kind of thing very easy.

If you don’t have fresh, you could use 3/4 of a teaspoon dried thyme. (I recommend fresh, though.)  You also add the curry powder, salt and pepper at this point.

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Raise the heat to make it boil, then lower the heat and cover it. Then you just let it cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Check it to make sure it’s still simmering occasionally. When it’s done, and the lentils are soft, remove it from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon of a good red wine vinegar. Stir, season to taste (if you like) and serve it hot.

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Ta-dah! Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes.

Actually, the liquid cooks down, and I guess I forgot to take another picture when it was done. So here’s the picture from the book, which is pretty much what I ended up with and brought to my two taste-testers:

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It’s just a little side dish, but it sure does pack a lot of flavor. Just the thing when you want something warm, cozy and satisfying. I have a note in my book to make a double batch–it’s that good. And if you use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock–it’s vegetarian! Wait, it’s vegan too, right? OK–it’s “meat free,” “wheat free,” and “soy free.” I don’t care, it’s just so tasty and good that I should make it more often than I do.

One thing, though–because it’s higher in carbohydrates (starch) than, say, a sweet potato, make sure you have some protein with it too, or you might find your self in need of a nap. The first time I made some for dinner with AC, I had some the next day and promptly needed to sleep. That was Tuesday. On Friday, my lungs started burning when I coughed, so I figured out that it probably wasn’t the lentils, but the bronchitis. If you’re sensitive to high carb stuff, have some chicken or something so you don’t need a nap. Especially if you have some at lunchtime at work.

If you do fall asleep at your desk, you’re on your own. You could pretend you were in prayer, but I don’t know if that will work or not.

Lentils aren’t as common in cuisine in the US as they are in other places, like India. They sure are good, though, and this recipe can show you how good they can be. (I think I have a lentil salad recipe in the new Giada book, but I’ll check on that soon.) If you do like lentils, I hope you get inspired to try this dish. A printable PDF file of this recipe is also on the Recipes page with an ingredient list and exact directions.

So what are you waiting for? Go get some lentils! Easter is Sunday, and you won’t go wrong with this dish. . .unless you don’t make enough.

Happy Easter, and Happy Dining!

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