Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers:
I’m quite happy to receive two very nice comments on my last blog post, one from Miss Alice herself. I hope you try Miss Alice’s Magic Beans soon and enjoy them. I’m looking forward to the next time I can make some, but BF says “I’m all beaned out for a while.” But I made something fast last night that I thought I should tell you about.
I also mentioned that my beloved Cuisinart toaster oven is now. . .toast. Oh, it still works, but. . .not well. Let me explain further.
The model I have, I think, I bought about 2009 or 2010. It’s a well-built workhorse, and it’s done a great job for me since I bought it. The one I had before was a Christmas gift from the GER, and I used that heavily until the electrics went. Well, the front panel on this one, which contains the circuit board, come loose a while back. It was fine, I guess, until it got a little jostled in the move. We moved it to Neighbor E’s place, and it sat for a month until we moved it last week to my new location, and it was moved around a bit more, in the back of the pickup. I plugged it in, and the readout acted a little wacky, but after a couple of unplugs and re-plugs, it seemed to be working fine.
I’ve been cleaning out the back room that will soon be my “studio”, and going in and out of the main part of the house. Not suspecting there was any reason to be concerned, I put a lovely pork loin roast into the beloved toaster oven and went about my business. I checked on it periodically, and the Herbes de Provence-coated roast was cooking along just fine.
Until it wasn’t. I had an emergency. And BF was at work.
I went back into the main part of the house and saw thick, heavy smoke. (Thank heavens the dogs are outside.) I went into the kitchen, and just saw more smoke–no flames, thank heavens, but SMOKE. Now, I’m accustomed to a little of it, particularly roasting things like turkey and chicken at 400F–my eyes burn a little, and I had to open up the patio doors to let that all out. Took a few minutes with the air conditioner cranked down to about 65F. Then the odor and smoke is gone, and I can go back to what I was doing. But this was the thick white smoke that comes from something burning.
I rang BF at work for help, and he told me what I needed to know. He has a big floor-stand fan that’s missing the front (I’ll get that cleaned and back together soon), and I had that plugged in and blowing fresh air in as well as one from my place by the front door. Opened all the windows and sat on the patio with the curious pit bull who kept licking my face to let me know it was OK while BF texted me and said, “Relax.”
The pork roast was charred, but tasty once you cut past the burned bits (which the dogs happily munched.)
The next day I did some forensics–cleaned the whole thing up, but didn’t take any pictures. It was that bad! The drip tray was full of grease, and grease was baked onto the glass door. The square ceramic IKEA baking dish (similar to this one) was burned and broken into about six pieces from the center out, much like a large cookie–not shattered in a lot of little pieces. It was old, so I wondered if maybe it just had micro-fractures I didn’t notice and the heat did it in. Everything gets jostled around in a move, and we did have a few minor casualties, including broken glass. The breaking apart allowed the rendered-off fat to drip to the heating elements, then fill the drip tray and smoke up the house. Right?
This where all my root-cause analysis and detective skills come in. See why I like to watch shows like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Burn Notice?
After I’d cleaned up that disaster and made it look shiny, I turned it on and set the temperature at 400F, which is what I use frequently (although the pork loin roast was set to 350F.) I left I it alone, and watched it while I washed dishes. I noticed that the convection fan was running, and it was getting pretty hot–but at no time did the readout indicate “temp ready,” which is what it’s supposed to do.
So I got to thinking–maybe it wasn’t the dish? After I left the library on Monday, we stopped at Walmart for milk (as we do every couple of days, because he drinks more milk than a cow produces in a day), and I went to the kitchen stuff section to get a little inexpensive oven thermometer. I just sat it in the baking pan and repeated the test. Guess what?
The temperature regulator is toast. The oven “works,” but it doesn’t stop at 350F or 400F, it just keeps getting hotter. That’s what fractured the baking dish into six pieces and allowed the grease to drip onto the heating element, smoking out the house. Had I used a stainless steel or aluminum pan, the roast probably would have still been charred, and it may have indeed smoked, but the metal wouldn’t have fractured like that.
So. . .we’re debating on spending money on a new, and for now, less expensive toaster oven from <gulp> Walmart or Target. Or should we send this nearly $200 model to the Cuisinart repair place in Arizona, and spend a currently unknown amount of money to have it repaired? The circuit board will have to be replaced, and likely the entire front panel, since it’s not exactly attached anymore and hangs by two wires. Is it worth it to have this one repaired, or would it be better to buy new? If we do, it will likely be an Oster, Black & Decker, or Hamilton Beach; I would just take measurements on this one to make sure I get one that’s relatively the same size. Meantime, I’m using the big oven for everything, or the little one on the left. That oven thermometer will be used to check the temps on those ovens as well.
This is what happens when life unravels. And sometimes, it’s highly annoying. Oh, well. . .so let me tell you about last night’s dinner.
I may have mentioned this, but we don’t have cable TV in our rural hideaway. (No Internet yet, either, until I can pay for it. I’m working on that.) We have two, and occasionally three, sets of PBS stations at our disposal–New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the one from Mississippi comes in occasionally (along with a radio station.) The other night, I turned on one of the stations to see cookbook author and chef Lidia Bastianich cooking with eggs. (It was a rare night when something called NCIS something-or-other wasn’t on.) PBS now has multiple stations, and one of them is called @Create. It’s where they run lots of cooking shows, including Martha Stewart’s, most of the day. (There area also other craft shows, as well as shows like this interesting one called Urban Conversion.)
I haven’t made a frittata in a long time, and I figured, now is a good time to start making them again. Especially since there’s a hungry man in my environment. He was out in the workshop for a while, elbow-deep in some kind of car grease, and came in halfway through the show. Lidia was taking the frittata out of the oven, and turned it upside down onto a plate, much like you would a pineapple-upside-down cake. She’d sliced up some large tomatoes and put them on the bottom of the pan, added a couple of other things, and then poured the eggs over the whole thing. When it comes out, and you flip it, it has a lovely top. BF didn’t know what that was, and I told him–a frittata. He said he could do without the tomatoes.
Lidia also answered a viewer’s question about using leftovers to create frittatas. Lidia said that was a great idea, because leftover meat and veg are perfect for creating one-of-a-kind frittatas whenever you want. That’s when I realized–I could make them too! Why haven’t I done this in a long time?
If you’re like BF and have no earthly idea what that word means, well. . .let me ask you, do you know what a quiche is? (He doesn’t know what that is, either.) If you do, it’s basically a quiche without a crust under it. That’s the biggest difference, and they are prepared differently. Quiche is French while Frittata is Italian. Paleo, gluten-free and low-carb folks have adopted frittatas as one of their own, because they’re low-carb and fit right in. Purists may prefer the quiche, and the crust that comes with it (and it can be gluten-free with the right crust, but have a lot of carbs.)
If you really don’t know what either one is, think “egg pie.” Vegetables, meat, or a combination of the two, in a baked egg/milk or cream/cheese base that’s cooked on top the stove first, then put in the oven to finish it. It’s great for breakfast and brunch, of course, but also good for a quick lunch or dinner. The trick is to get started on it soon. . .and don’t wait until late like I did last night.
I found a very basic recipe for frittata on The Food Network’s website, as well as more recipes and an explanation of the difference at Chowhound. Here’s a primer on them from The Kitchn, which I will probably bookmark on my phone so I can refer to it again one day. Lidia also has a YouTube channel, and you can search it for a number of frittata recipes, too–I just can’t find *the* one I saw last week. If you search Food Network’s website for “frittata,” you also will find a myriad of recipes. But I’ll show you what I did with ours so you can see how easy and varied they can be when you’re wondering what you can make that’s new, or you have leftovers to use up.
I call it The Use-It-Up Frittata. Because that’s what I did–and I didn’t want to mess with a Red Baron Pizza.
We had two pork chops left from the weekend, (recipe is here, but I used almond flour) and I figured BF didn’t want any more of them, so I used them elsewhere. Of course, for this, I wanted those HEB eggs from Texas chickens, green onions that are growing on the kitchen windowsill, and a hatch chile pepper that came from my garden in Houston. (It’s the only one that isn’t bright red, but I’ll use the rest for myself later.)
I started by grabbing a handful of green onions:
Chopped them up really well, then moved onto the pepper:
And you know I saved those seeds, too:
Chopped them up really fine, too:
Then I chopped up the two pork chops:
You want to chop meat small like this because bigger pieces will make it harder to eat once you cut the frittata. Next up, I added the onions and Hatch into a cast-iron frying pant to cook for a bit:
Turn the oven on when you’re starting to cook on top the stove. You don’t want to wait for the oven to heat up. I recommend 350F, I think 375F was too high.
Pretty soon, the veg will be cooked:
At this point, I added in the chopped pork chops to heat them:
And let them heat while you deal with the eggs:
I think I used 8 of these babies, from Texas chickens (yes, it’s a prejudice.) I also used my huge 8-cup Pyrex mixer so I’d have plenty of room. (You’re going to wash something anyway, right?) I cracked them right in and added a bit of milk:
And because, DUH, I had this handy, I shook in about a quarter cup or so:
I have some Manchego in the freezer, but guess who doesn’t like that, either? So this is what went in:
Plugged in the immersion blender:
And hit the button:
Now you’re ready to pour the egg mixture into the pan. Carefully, please:
Your frittata is almost ready:
I put the universal pot lid on it so that it might cook a bit faster on top:
Then I put it directly into the preheated oven to finish cooking (minus the lid) slicing through it to make sure it was completely baked:
With cries of “I’m hungry” from BF, and apologies for the the delay, I served this to him:
I love it. It’s quick, easy, and because the pork chops were already cooked and seasoned, I didn’t have to do much of that. But what did the man of the house think?
“I don’t really like it. Can I have a grilled cheese sandwich instead?”
Yes, he really said that. And I did make him one, in the same skillet. I’ll be eating frittata for breakfast this week while he has some cereal and milk. That’s what he likes.
I asked him why he didn’t like it, and he said that it was “just too many flavors going on at one time.” So if I ever attempt a frittata again, I’ll have to tone down the flavor combinations and follow a recipe. (Not like there aren’t many around.) I felt bad that it didn’t live up to expectations, and it wasn’t as special as I thought it was. He appreciated the effort, but just didn’t like the finished product.
And now the word “frittata” will be, in his mind, synonymous with something awful.
He did mention something about stuffing the other night, the kind out of a box. I consulted Will It Waffle? and made him. . .Stuffles. When I mentioned that I *could* waffle the stuffing, he got this smile on his face and asked, “Are you serious?” I nodded, and he said, “OK, go ahead.” And, you know, that was a pretty darn good thing to do. You just add some melted butter and water to a packet of the stuffing mix in a bowl, mix it up well, then heat up the waffle maker. Add a half-cup to each section, close the top for a few minutes (watch it, of course) and you’ve got hot, salty, greasy, crunchy, tasty Stuffles. If anyone wants the recipe, send me a note and I’ll write a post on it. (No, it’s *not* gluten free.)
Meantime, we’re doing what we need to around the homestead. BF has taken vacation time next week (the “use it or lose it” type) and it also happens to be. . .my birthday! Gifts don’t always come wrapped in a box. No Denny’s around, but I’ll be getting my yearly free salad (or something) from Starbucks, and maybe one or two other “birthday free things” I can find. Well, I knew I would miss some things when I moved here.
Y’all, frittatas are a great way to make a quick egg dinner for yourself, your family, as well as breakfast, brunch or lunch. Heck, really, anytime you’re hungry and have a few minutes.
Except for The E Man. Unfortunately, he’s allergic to eggs. My sincerest apologies to you, my friend.
So will you try it this week? If you’re in an area where it’s already cold, frittatas can really fit the bill any time. Here in the south, it’s not a long oven time, either.
Happy Monday, Dear Readers:
My apologies for being so late in posting again. . .it gets away from me sometimes.
If you’re in Louisiana and reading this, please stay safe and dry–the situation is dangerous in many areas, and I have friends who have been impacted. Mechanic friend JK’s house is fine, but his vehicle isn’t. JK is in touch with many of his friends who were impacted, one person he knows has been evacuated, and his brother’s place of business took on a foot or so of water on Saturday. Heck, even the Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge took on an inch of water! This is some of the worst flooding Louisiana has ever seen, and it wasn’t even due to a hurricane. Most of the flooding is north of Lake Ponchartrain and in the Baton Rouge area, rather than New Orleans, where it normally occurs.
Mercy Chefs is heading to Baton Rouge to help serve food to affected people and first responders. If you’re interested in making a donation to help, Mercy Chefs is a good place to start. They have professional-grade mobile kitchens and drive to disaster areas and COOK FOOD. I have not personally had dinner with these folks, I don’t know them, but I have donated to them a few times. I do know they prepare hot, fresh gourmet food for people who can’t cook for themselves and can’t get home to eat.
I haven’t forgotten floods that I’ve been through in Louisiana previously, including one that kept me and my now-ex-husband upstairs in our apartment for three days. We didn’t have cable TV, or Internet, or a computer, we only had each other and the cats. And then we ran out of coffee. . . .
While we here in Houston are now getting some rain after a hot dry spell, it’s not Louisiana’s excess rain. Neighbor E and I have had a couple of adventures last week, and it involved two trips to our local and fabulous HEB. We both had errands to run on Tuesday, and decided to go together. We also visited the Lego Americana Roadshow, which happened to stop in our own Baybrook Mall last week. One of E’s friends liked a post on Facebook, and E saw it. Otherwise, neither of us would have known! It was quite interesting–ten American icons are built in. . .Legos. No kidding. The Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, The Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson Memorials, and other historic structures are all made of Legos, most of them white. It really was something to see, it was FREE, and I’m glad we got to go. (You can check out our pictures here.) If you want Americans to see something, you put it in the mall.
We also made a quick run to HEB for a few things, where we were introduced to a few things in the upcoming Hatch Chili weekend. Oh, BOY. At the Cooking Connection area, where chefs are constantly preparing tasty things for sampling, we were among the first to try a “Dump Cake” made with a Hatch Apple Pie Filling. No kidding. Three ingredients: the filling, which I’ll show you later, a box of Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix, and a stick of unsalted butter, chopped and laid on top. You pour the pie filling into a 9×13 baking pan, then the cake mix on top of that, then the butter pieces atop that. You’re just layering here, not mixing anything, and make sure they’re evenly spread, including the butter. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Of course, that Hatch Apple Pie Filling is only around for a limited time. I got a jar and the recipe in the pantry for a special occasion, which hasn’t happened yet.
Don’t judge me. We were floored.
I think that was the day we were also treated to ice cream samples with mini-M&Ms and some of this delicious elixir:
Miss Kathryn, who is usually in the Cooking Connection area daily, told us that Saturday was the big Hatch promotion, and there would be everything with Hatch chilis all over the place. She was actually working on the Hatch Apple Dump Cake while we were there, and asked us to try it to see what we thought–and of course, gave her two thumbs up. We were among the first to try it! So E and I made plans to return on Saturday and have lunch. Because, quite frankly, that’s what you do in HEB on a Saturday.
I had to head into town on Thursday, and well, I needed some chocolate. Since I was in town anyway, I made a quick stop at IKEA for some catalogs; Neighbor E is happily looking at his, and JK, The E Man and PK will all be receiving theirs later this week. I went up to the Second Floor Cafe, and got a look in the fridge case.
Yes, I fell off the wagon. It’s called–the Chocolate Conspiracy Cake. I have no idea why, and maybe it was the dry, gentle Swedish humor, but it sure was good. Again, don’t judge me, I had a bad day. Chocolate helps. And I rode for 16 miles that night.
Saturday I headed to LK’s for our monthly Buddhist study meeting, and texted Neighbor E when I was leaving. I dropped by the complex, E hopped in my ride and off we went. My pictures are only iPhone shots, because, DUH, I forgot to bring my regular camera, darnit. But they came out pretty good. Come on with us on Sampling Saturday, Hatch Edition, and enjoy the sights. (Sorry I can’t help you taste the food.)
When you turn into the parking lot off El Dorado, the tendency is to park there, but that’s at the “back end” of the store, where the pharmacy is. No, it’s better to park on the other end, by the Clear Lake City Blvd. entrance, so you go in through the door by the floral and produce areas. Bring your bags, and don’t forget your “cold bag,” the one that keeps your milk and other perishables cold. (I also made this Butterick grocery bag that keeps things hot *or* cold.) Of course, that’s where they also keep the “grab-and-go” meals, where a very nice lady is frequently sampling them:
This weekend Miss Sunie was sampling delicious Hatch Meatball Stuffed Mushrooms (that’s what she’s scooping up in the picture) and chicken breasts stuffed with green beans and, what else, Hatch Chilis. Two thumbs up from both me and E. YUM. Next up is Miss Lei, who was serving a most incredible Salmon Hatch Burgers on a toasted bun:
If I had to pick a favorite, which would be difficult, I would probably have to pick this sandwich. But since E is “not a fish guy,” he passed on it. Darn shame, but I’m not twisting his arm for anything.
These Hatch Salmon Burgers start with, what else, the Hatch Salmon Patties at HEB, and are served on their delicious Onion Rolls, which are buttered and grilled. While those are going on, you mix a cup of sour cream with a box of Boursin Garlic & Herb Cheese, and when the buns are toasted, spread some on the bottom. Add the cooked Hatch Salmon Patty, place some Dill Dip on top the patty, and put the top bun on it.
And you have just become enlightened, folks. It’s that good.
Now, while we were waiting for the burgers to finish cooking (they only had a couple of minutes to go), we got to talking about the Hatch chile. Longtime readers may remember my last post on the Hatch Chili last year, (and a previous post from 2014), and I gave you some insight and history into these little green babies. Miss Lei went online and did some more research into them and found out a number of neat facts–like one Hatch has three times the Vitamin C of an orange. (I should have taken a pic of that flier she had posted, darnit.) That when you visit New Mexico, as I did with friend of the blog Aunt Ruth in 2012, they ask, “red or green?” Meaning, red or green sauce–and they really do put it on everything. And that only those peppers grown in Hatch, NM can be called “Hatch.”
Also available is one of their “Entree Simple” lines, Hatch Chile Stuffed Salmon. They weren’t sampling that, but it’s available in the oven-ready section by Miss Sunie. (That’s where the countertop oven comes in handy.)
Next up was Miss Carolyn, who was sampling delicious breads. (What I eat in HEB stays in HEB!)
Miss Carolyn not only had store-baked French bread, she had Hatch Corn Bread and some Hatch Sliced bread too, which you must taste to believe:
Don’t tell my doctor. It’s like going to a birthday party or a wedding. You know you’re going to eat some cake, right? Same thing.
With the French bread, she buttered it, but not the sliced or corn bread. Good thing–butter would be wasted on them. Don’t cover the flavor of the delicious Hatch breads. Ever.
Next up was over to the Cooking Connection demo area, where another one of the store chefs was cooking up more delicious things:
I can’t find the recipes for what we sampled, but yes, we had more of that Hatch Apple Dump Cake! Cooking Connection also features recipes using new and interesting ingredients like the Hatch Apple Pie filling, and that mustard sitting right next to it. Oh, and a delicious Hatch Chile Jalapeno Jam topping some softened cream cheese. Oh, I can’t stop eating whatever they put with cream cheese–it’s always addictive, and is perfect on top samples of tortillas from the bakery, right across the aisle.
Mom’s Hatch Apple Pie Filling is, as they explained repeatedly, “only here for a limited time.” It’s also made in Fredricksburg, Texas–so you know it’s good! Both E and I bought some, and as I said, mine’s in the pantry with the recipe taped to the lid. It’s so “limited edition” that it’s not even on the company website!
Past the Cooking Connection and into the Meat Department was a nice guy offering Hatch Empanadas:
Delicious, and they’re available in the meat case right behind him:
We also saw Hatch Chiles used to season chicken:
You can also get Hatch Rotisserie Chicken if you don’t want to be bothered cooking it yourself.
Delicious sausages that we also sampled (but I forget where):
And even cheese:
Yeah, they put Hatch chilis in everything at HEB, and some of their Hatch chili products are available year-round.
We also did a spot of shopping, and while we don’t buy the same kinds of things, I got a look at this section:
Since I was getting some un-seasoned chicken leg quarters, it was quite tempting to get a packet of slow cooker seasoning mix. Really, it was. Then I looked at the ingredients on the packet. . .and put it back.
But outside of the sampling, the most fun we had was seeing this little abandoned item. E had some fun and put his shopping in it:
I should have taken a picture of the warning label on the front–but the sign facing the corn flakes box says something about the basket being “reserved only for future HEB shoppers.” Cute, isn’t it? Of course, it’s for the wee ones, so they can shop right along with Mom, Dad, Grandma, or Grandpa.
No, we didn’t have that when I was a wee one shopping with Maw Maw O’Donnell at Schweggmann’s. I wish.
I forgot to get a picture of it, but HEB is also selling various pepper plants, including Hatch Chile peppers, for $9.98 a pot. The Hatch plants were about 2 feet high and had peppers growing on them. I didn’t buy any, but if I can get those seeds to sprout, I’ll have my own. And if they drop the price down, well, I might get one anyway.
Next: I went to town on Serve-It-Up-Sunday, where I cooked for the week. I bought three of those huge Hatch chilis:
I could have just seeded and chopped them to throw into the breakfast quiche, but I decided to roast them again. First up: cut them open and remove the seeds and ribs:
Check out how many seeds I saved from those three Hatch peppers:
I cut them flat so that they would roast nicely.
Stuck them in the toaster oven under the broiler for a little while, until the skin starts coming off. You can also roast them over an open flame, using the burner on a gas stove or even on an enclosed barbecue grill, if you like. After a few minutes under the heat, this is what you should see:
The skin is starting to dry out, and that’s what you want. I don’t know how long it took, but of course, don’t walk away and forget them. This is what came out:
Let them cool completely in an enclosed dish, or plastic bag (I put my paws on this first.)
Once they cool off and the skin starts to sweat, they look like this:
Then you just slip the cooled flesh from the skin by hand.
Delicious, not hot. And about the same amount as I would get from a small can. OK, I admit, it’s the long way round. But it’s worth it.
After I roasted up the chicken leg quarters (nothing exciting) I decided it was Pesto Time again. The basil just became plentiful, particularly with the elephant-ear leaves, so I started the harvest:
As instructed in the Green Thumb gardening lectures, I left five leaves on each one of those plants. This is what I had to work with:
I did pick the bad spots out of the leaves.
I actually had enough to make a full one-cup batch, then a half-cup batch. Both went directly into the freezer.
Yeah, I’m good. Didn’t think about adding a Hatch chili though; maybe next year. Maybe I’ll get one more batch of pesto before the plants all go to sleep for the winter. Just need to head to Bed, Bath and Beyond for more of those little square glass containers I like. I used up the rest of the sage butter on two turkey thighs, so I had one free for this pesto batch. But I always hope for more. . . .
Hatch chilis aren’t around for too long, so if you’re a Hatch fan, or you’ve never tried them, get them while they’re, um, hot. Available. Around.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’m sorry I didn’t post last week, I need to make a couple of phone calls and do a bit of updating on this site, but had other pressing matters to contend with. I’ve got a post in the can that I’m about halfway through, and it’s going to be good (I hope.) Nevertheless, I have a back-pocket recipe for you that would be good for a side dish or vegetarian dinner, as long as you have a toaster oven. (Or it’s cold enough for the big oven.)
Big paws-up to friend of the blog JK, whose mechanical intelligence solved a big problem rather quickly in the HeatCageKitchen sink. I did a lot of cooking the July 4th weekend, and unfortunately, while I was cooking, my stove-side shelf suddenly fell off the wall:
I bought it at IKEA, and it was fine for years, until last weekend, when it mysteriously fell. Between the shock of having it hit me, the crashing of the bottles, navigating a hot pot and moving it out of the way, one of the screws that holds it in place fell into the garbage disposal. Of course, I didn’t know it went into the garbage disposal until I turned it on. And then it stopped. The motor was on, but it wouldn’t move. A quick look with a flashlight confirmed it was stuck, and I didn’t have the right tools to remove it. Highly annoyed, I just kept cooking.
I mentioned it to JK this week, and because he’s a mechanic and he knows his stuff (like the GER, he’s a manly man.) He asked if I had a pair of needle-nosed pliers. I do, but they didn’t reach. He told me where to find 11″ long needle-nosed pliers. All this week, the sink has been backing up, and I’ve put my gloved hand into the off disposal to clear the little drain spot. Yesterday, in between cooking projects, I got fed up with it, went to the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts on Bay Area Boulevard and bought a pair of those infamous 11″ long needle-nosed pliers. I confirmed the screw’s location with the flashlight, reached in with the long pliers, and after a couple of misses, I pulled and heard the POP! And that was the end of that. The sink disposal is once again working properly, and I can clear out any little pieces that land down there.
Of course, I texted him and said Thank You.
Neighbor E and I went out to a fundraiser for our local library Friday night. Now, when I say we went out, well, let me explain–this wasn’t a nightclub or fancy country club. Our fabulous new HEB held a tasting event, and if the library could get 100 people to come in and sample food, get stickers for each stop, and turn them in, they would donate $1000 to the Freeman Library. I dragged him out (not literally) and a good time was had by all, plus some delicious food. I didn’t take any pictures, because it was kind of busy. But I went back on Saturday afternoon to get a few things and have lunch. I talked to one of the employees I see regularly; she told me that over 250 people showed up, so yes, the Freeman Library will get that donation. If you feed them, they will come. With delicious food they sample all the time, is it any wonder people showed up in droves?
On Saturday, I was wearing a summer dress that I finally finished. It’s a McCall’s pattern (click here if you want to see it, version D, made in a similar colored cotton.) When I was checking out, there was a lady from the pharmacy area who, I guess, was there to tell people about HEB’s in-store pharmacy. She said it was her first day at that location, and she just loved it. Well, we all do! Then, she complimented me on the dress, and also my flat Crocs, which were very comfortable. I put the straw hat back on because I was getting ready to leave, (keeps the sun out of my eyes) and she said that I was definitely “on-trend.” Nobody ever told me that before! So my day was made. I told her that I’d just finished it–surprise!–and that it was a McCall’s pattern. She couldn’t believe I MADE it. She said, “I don’t even know what that means.” I said, “well, I wouldn’t expect you to–you’re a pharmacist!” Not as many people sew these days, but I do hope it becomes a thing like grown-up coloring books.
Now, about this recipe.
Neighbor E gave me a butternut squash, mostly because he didn’t know what to do with it. (He’s also given me more potatoes!) I gave it some thought, and I knew just the thing: Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash.
So, if you clicked on the recipe link, you’re probably wondering why the heck I would make a Thanksgiving dish during the summer. No, I’m not yet getting ready for Thanksgiving, but I did tease my former Buddhist district leaders about it. When we used to have our own local dinner, now and then during the year, I would tell them, “It’s never to early to start planning Thanksgiving!” Of course, in July, that got me some funny looks–but, see, these folks were originally from Taiwan. I forget that sometimes, not everyone gets our absurd American humor.
Since I was given the squash, I just wanted to treat it right. But as you read this post, remember that not everything in the HeatCageKitchen is perfectly symmetrical. This isn’t The Food Network! But in between cooking for the week and using it up, I think I did pretty good.
First thing I did was make my weekly breakfast quiche in the slow cooker, and then turkey thighs and a small pork roast. I had the brilliant realization that although I was preparing them differently, they could both go into the toaster oven at the same time. The thighs had some sage compound butter on them, and the pork roast had olive oil and a salt rub.
They both went in at 400F for an hour and 15 minutes, and came out delicious:
And, of course, the chef”s privilege, the roast turkey skin:
Pull it off with two forks, and let it drain and cool for a bit on paper towels. Then, enjoy the crispiest, tastiest thing you will ever experience. This works for roast chicken too, and is best with olive oil and salt/pepper or other dry spices. I introduced AC to this a while back and she was instantly a fan. Caveat: you will have to do this when the turkey or chicken comes right out of the oven. Don’t let it sit too long, or put it in the fridge; the crispness will be forever lost.
Once I got the meats cut and packaged for the fridge, I got started this tasty superfood treat.
Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash is a good thing to have in case one of your holiday dinner guests brings a friend and says suddenly, “Oh, he/she’s vegetarian.” Oh, bleep, now what do you do? Well, if you have this already made, with a few other nice little side dishes, it won’t be a problem. But if the non-veg folks get wind of it, it might not last, so make plenty if you’re having a crowd. (It helps to ask in advance, but even then, you never know.)
Those paltry looking sage leaves are the last from the garden. I don’t know if it’s because I planted it with the oregano, or what–but the darn thing is almost gone. That is what I could salvage from what’s left; I was going to give Neighbor E a big bunch. It was thriving and over-producing not long ago. Maybe it was too much water, or the heat, but it looks like I’ll be either buying another plant or starting seeds soon. I like sage for poultry, though, despite the stinky-feet smell of the live plant.
Also, this recipe is supposed to be vegetarian, but I was just in a hurry and used chicken bullion cubes instead of vegetable stock. I’ll show you a cheat with it shortly. Note that there is real cheese in it. If you wanted to make it vegan, you’d have to use some of that god-awful fake-me-out vegan stuff, which is probably made with soy. YUCK. You ruin it, you eat it!
So let’s make it.
First, the sage–I rinsed it, pulled the stems off 18 of them, dried them and set them aside:
Then the rest were rinsed and dried for the finely chopped stuff:
Oh, and here’s an Amy tip for you: rubber anti-slip rug backing, cut into small pieces, keeps your cutting board from sliding all over the kitchen while you chop:
Chop off the ends, and it will sit upright on the cutting board while you peel it.
I actually have the vertical vegetable peeler, but for odd things like this, I prefer the horizontal bladed model:
And this is why I say nothing is symmetrical in the HeatCagekitchen. I was supposed to cut rings for the bottom of the plate, but instead, cut it sort of wrong. However, the inside is similar to spaghetti squash, and you just scrape out all the seeds and stringy parts:
And then I manufactured the rings:
Then you chop up the rest of it in little quarter-inch dice:
Top with a half-dozen sage leaves and a bit of oil, and roast. I roasted them in the toaster oven, and honestly, it all came out just fine:
Once it’s finished, just set it aside to cool. Switching gears, it’s time to get the rest of this recipe going–the quinoa part.
Now, I used chicken stock, because I don’t care if it’s vegetarian; I’m just messing around with it anyway. I don’t have any veg bullion cubes (and I don’t know if they exist) but I’ll show you a trick I learned from Nigella Lawson: just make the broth from the bullion. This recipe calls for 2 cups, so I crumbled two cubes into a measuring cup:
Added some very hot water:
Stirred it and let it melt the bullion:
And you’re there.
So, chopped onion:
Deploy the garlic doo-dad and chop it:
And finely chop the rest of the fresh sage:
First into the pot is some oil, on medium heat, to cook the chopped onion and garlic.
Rinse your quinoa well:
Then add the broth or stock to the pot, and the quinoa:
If you’re not familiar with quinoa, this is the important part: keep an eye on it. It’ll take about 15 minutes to cook and absorb all the water. If you’re not careful, it will burn on the bottom of the pot. I know, I’ve done it. What you’re looking for is for it to be just a tiny bit liquid, but all of the water absorbed:
Take it off the heat (the recipe suggests putting it into a bowl, but why dirty another dish here?) Add in the chopped sage, the 3 tablespoons of Parm cheese, and the roasted diced squash into the quinoa, along with salt and pepper, and mix well.
Now it just comes together. If you’ve ever made a Pineapple Upside-Down cake, this will make sense to you. Place the butternut squash rings at the bottom of a greased 9-inch pie plate, and put the prettier sage leaves inside them:
Now carefully add the quinoa mixture on top of the pie:
And pack it down as firmly as you can. Remember, the only binder is a small amount of Parm cheese:
This isn’t the first time I’ve made this dish, but the last couple of times, it sort of fell apart on me. Even though I packed it down, it still came apart, although not like the last time. More pressure next time around.
Now it’s time to bake it–20 minutes at 375. If you’re like me, you turned off that darn oven for a while. The countertop oven re-heats quickly, so it wasn’t a problem. Let it cool for a bit, What comes out looks like this when you invert it:
Unfortunately, the pie did not fall out of the plate like it should have. Since it’s not Thanksgiving, I don’t care. I just sliced it like any other pie and had me a slice. I also brought some to the HeatCageKitchen taste-testers, Neighbor E and Neighbor R.
So, what did it taste like? Because I used the chicken bullion and there was Parm cheese, it was a bit saltier than I expected–my bad. Next time, veg broth or something else not as salty.
Neighbor E feels like it could be a stuffing/dressing, served as a side dish with turkey with Thanksgiving dinner. Never thought of that, but he’s right–it would go well with turkey as well as without. Maybe serving it in muffin form to make it easier, eliminating the squash rings for decor, and pressing sage leaves on top? It’s an idea.
Neighbor R also enjoyed it, and when I told her what E said, she smiled and said, “it does kind of taste like stuffing!” Plus, she hasn’t had squash in a while so it was a nice treat for her. (JK said he doesn’t like squash at all, but I could get him to try one bite of it, if he were here.)
However you make it, or whenever, Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash is a tasty dish for carnivores and vegetarians alike. Agreed, it’s a little more work than the things I usually make, but one taste will tell you it’s totally worth it. For a Sunday dinner, you could make it the night before and just re-heat it to serve it warm, or serve it at room temperature. And it’s a back-pocket recipe for the occasion where you need a tasty, filling vegetarian dish that won’t leave the veggies feel unloved. (I’ve uploaded the printable PDF to the Recipes Page if you’re thinking about dinner for next weekend.)
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
Well, spring is definitely here in south Texas, even though many folks north of the Mason-Dixon line are still holding onto their hot coffee with both hands. It’s that time of year for opening the windows or patio doors to let the fresh air in, and having dinner outside, if you have the space.
Neighbor E and I took a ride to our lovely new HEB this morning and got a few supplies we both needed. It was slim pickings in the nibbles department, so we were a bit disappointed. I mean, it’s Friday! We only had a little of the guacamole and corn chips, and at the Kitchen Connection, some cabbage, crusted fish and sauced chicken. Not bad, but not the usual stuff we find in that HEB.
After he put away his groceries and took his adorable but slightly neurotic Chihuahua Speedy for a walk, we headed over to Chipotle for some lunch. Why Chipotle? We each had a coupon for a free meal! He got tacos, I had a steak bowl, and I’m telling you. . .delicious. Wish he hadn’t offered me some of the chips. Oh, I could go back for a few bags of those–salt and vinegar–but I won’t. A couple of blocks away is one of our local post offices, where I shipped out a bag of HEB Breakfast Blend (decaf, and I ground the beans in the store) to my sainted aunt, who moved into a senior apartment building last week.
My brother bought her a new couch and a new coffee pot; her sister bought a two-chair bistro set, and someone else bought her a new mattress and box spring. I can’t do much right now, but today I sent her delicious some coffee to enjoy in her new coffee pot.
I’ve got some pictures from the garden, which didn’t go dormant much this past year, since our “winter” was pretty mild. It really was 80F on Christmas Day, pretty much the same as Melbourne, Australia–go figure. I was cooking it up in shorts and a t-shirt two days before our next cool front. But spring brings all kinds of new things, and the HeatCageKitchen garden is full of them.
Remember last year when I had an overload of Anaheim chile peppers? That could happen again this year–the tree is coming back with new growth:
Speaking of peppers, these bell peppers may be as big as they’re going to get. “Baby bells?” Who knows, but they look like they’ll be ready to pick soon:
That plant may be ready to pull, but we’ll see. I went looking for another bell pepper plant this morning in HEB, and I found one. Pinot Noir Peppers!
I don’t expect them to taste like wine, but I wouldn’t mind if they did. (No alcohol, of course.) Fingers crossed for a bumper crop of these.
The jalapeno plant is blooming again, too, but I didn’t get a picture of that. Now, I’m really hoping to have some fresh garden garlic this year, and it looks like I probably will–the garlic scapes never dried up:
Regular readers of this humble blog have long known about my love for about re-growing cuttings from grocery store produce, particularly onions. I don’t know where I got the last batch, but they’ve been real over-producers:
Now what’s with the bulbs on the top? Flowers! No kidding.
As many times as I’ve done this, I’ve never had them flower. Hopefully they’ll drop seeds in the soil and I’ll have onions forever.
I’ve actually eaten a couple of strawberries from the new plants, and I really need to get out there and put them in a bigger pot so I can pick them all summer:
Ditto for the basil, which I discovered can be re-propagated by cutting parts and putting them in water, just like celery and lettuce. Oh, and look what I just found!
Here’s hoping these two plants are also prolific producers once I get them in a bigger growing facility.
Remember the gifted oregano plant from Neighbor R?
It’s doing pretty well since I cut it:
Mint’s doing great too, all I need to do is make that Mojito, darnit.
Remember The Lettuce Experiment? Well. . .the stubs didn’t last long, but something strange happened. Maybe one of those heads wasn’t romaine after all, because it’s growing back differently:
I haven’t tried it yet, but maybe when the sole tomato ripens. In any case, the GER reminds me that lettuce is a winter crop, so I hope it lasts.
Just above the mutant lettuce is the celery that I recently cut and used in a salmon salad.
Let me point out that this was was made like tuna salad, with canned salmon, boiled eggs and the like. I didn’t think to take a picture of it before I cut it, but I can tell you that the other two celery stubs that were growing well were hidden by this one, and they didn’t make it. So I have to wait until this one grows back, or maybe move it where it will get more sun. Soon as I get back in the garden and pot all the plants that are still in the tiny containers. And spray DIY weed killer.
The citrus trees are doing well. The flowers have fallen off, and the fruit buds are starting to appear. I am hoping for a bumper crop this year, and I’m diligently watering them to prevent the remaining buds from falling off. This is the biggest bud on the Meyer lemon tree:
I only got two of these fantastic lemons last year, so fingers crossed. This tree had 7 buds at last count, but the Key Lime tree gives me more hope:
E and I saw the citrus plants for sale today at HEB, and there were lots of buds on the Meyer Lemon plants. He doesn’t have room for one, and I’ve already got one. If I were able to buy one for a gift, the GER might have gotten one for the Funk House/Junk House back garden. (Not this time, sorry.)
Now, the Italian flat-leaf parsley has been a prolific producer, and I just cut what I want and let it grow back. It happens pretty quickly:
Good for all kinds of things, including pesto, either as a base herb or as an additive to the pesto if you don’t have enough basil. However, I found another use for parsley when I went looking for something to use fresh oregano for. It’s green, it requires a blender, but it is NOT pesto. Not Italian, either. But it sure is tasty.
If you’ve never heard of it, that’s OK, not everyone has. It’s green, but it’s not pesto.
Since I’m not remotely familiar with Argentinian cuisine, I’ve never had the occasion to have it. However, when I went to Pinterest to research fresh oregano recipes, that’s what kept coming up. So I made some for dinner with AC last week, drizzling the sauce of roasted chicken breasts. She said it was good, but I haven’t heard from her since. Neighbor E enjoyed it too. I like it, although admittedly, the recipe I used makes a lot of it, so I’ve put it on more stuff. Chimichurri is traditionally drizzled on steak. But it’s so good, who cares what you put it on?
This is the recipe I used, and if you’re interested, there is also a list of 20 additional ways to use it. Like pesto, it’s a raw sauce that’s versatile and adds a great flavor to whatever you put it on. If you’re one of those people who likes dipping bread in pesto or olive oil, chimichurri is a different flavor to savor.
I had regular oregano, not the spicier variety, but didn’t bother with the pepper flakes. I thought it was good enough on its own, and didn’t need it. Want to try it? I didn’t take enough pictures, but here goes.
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup hot & spicy fresh oregano leaves (or regular with a large pinch of red pepper flakes)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
- freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients into a high-powered blender and blend until very smooth. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Use as desired.
Since I didn’t have enough parsley growing out back, I headed to my fancy HEB for a few ingredients, only to be told, “we don’t have any parsley today.” HUH? No parsley? No kidding. So after I finished my shopping, I still had to stop at Kroger to get parsley. All Kroger had was organic parsley, at $2 a bunch. I wasn’t taking any chances at a third grocery on my street, so I just got two. And I washed it really good and sliced it off the stems:
Toss it all in the blender, no kidding, and it’s DONE:
We had chicken breasts and a nice salad with it, as well as the Cashew Bread. The next day, I used the rest of the lettuce and made a chicken salad. Just chopped up the remaining chicken breast:
Tossed it over the salad green:
And added more of the Chimichurri sauce.
Whether your dinner is hot or cold, this stuff is GOOD.
Also discovered that it was time for a new gasket on the ol’ blender. It leaked despite a new cutting assembly and neck collar. The gasket was the only part I haven’t replaced yet. Well, I have now, it arrived yesterday. More karma of spare parts. I really hope that’s the last of it–I made some Pea & Pesto Soup last night, and it worked just fine, no leaking. Lesson learned: the gasket should be the *first* thing replaced if your blender is leaking, or, bought along with any additional spare parts ordered.
If I didn’t make it home safely from HEB or Trader Joe’s one day, at least all my appliances will be in good working order, right? That’s important, as the GER will tell you, when you’re having an estate sale.
If you’re considering what to have for dinner, especially if you’re cooking for more than one, consider whipping up some chimichurri sauce this evening, or this weekend for a quick flavoring for something next week. It’s fast, easy, tasty, and will give a fresh flavor to whatever you add it to or drizzle it on.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Do you eat bananas? I used to, until I discovered they have a high starch/sugar content. Don’t get me wrong, bananas taste delicious, but. . .it’s like eating sugar out of the sugar bowl. Same with white potatoes–too starchy for me. But if you’re a banana fan, here’s an interesting article about how the banana became an American grocery staple in about 100 years.
My grandmother used to tell me to take the “seed” out of the bottom of the banana when I peeled it. I’m not sure that’s a seed, since the plants reproduce asexually–on their own, no pollination required. Every banana sold in the world is a clone, but I’d still take the bottom part off if I were eating them. Read it and give it some thought.
Soon I’ll be posting an update on the HeatCageKitchen garden. This year I’m trying for tomatoes–again–as well as strawberries, basil and hoping for more bell peppers. Heck, peppers of all kinds. Soon as I get the weeding done, which requires several dry days and my favorite cheap & easy DIY non-toxic weed killer. And a lot of time to move the buckets around so I can spray the whole plot.
I went out this morning, and I have two bell peppers that are getting bigger but also changing color. There are spots on each that look to be turning dark purple, and I’m not sure why. I hope it’s just a genetic anomaly and not some disgusting disease or an annoying creature that’s ruining them. Fingers crossed, and I’ll likely have to buy another bell pepper plant anyway. But the Anaheim chili plant is starting to develop more leaves and lots of flowers. That means peppers are coming. They will take a while to get big enough to pick, but when they do, it’s OrangeOnionSalsa (probably using grapefruits) for me.
The Meyer Lemon tree has seven viable buds on it, one of which has gotten a little bigger, and I’m hoping they all stay, and maybe more develop. The Key Lime tree has plenty of little buds, too. And the green onions, which are growing quite well, are developing buds on the tops of some of the blades. What the heck? I’ll take some pictures.
This week AC came for dinner again, and since I’ve been thinking about other things, I was caught a bit short. Last week, Neighbor R gave me an oregano plant with lots of leaves on it, and soon I’ll plant it in a bigger pot, maybe with the basil:
But I wanted to trim it and use the excess, so I headed over to Pinterest and did some searching. One recipe kept coming up: chimichurri sauce. Generally used on steak, I grilled some chicken breasts and it was magnificent on top of them. So that’s going to be an upcoming post. Of course I didn’t take pictures, but I’ll do what I can.
In addition to salad, I also decided to make her a taste-tester and made something I found on Facebook by Elena Amsterdam. I frequently look at Elena’s recipes on Facebook, and save the link on the ones that look interesting. Well, when I looked at this one, it had five ingredients–and I had them all in the pantry. I bought cashew butter by mistake one day, and it’s been there for a while. This recipe is really easy, bakes up in 45 minutes, and comes out of the oven smooth and light. No sugar, flour or dairy, either.
Let me show you how simple this is to make.
First up: grease your loaf pan (I think mine is 9″ x 5″ like the recipe suggests)
Set that aside, and start making the bread.
You need one cup of cashew butter, which is widely available in most grocery stores. I thought I was buying almond butter that day, DUH, but I’m glad I had it now. (I’d already measured it out before I realized I was supposed to take a picture. Another DUH.) So you add that one cup of cashew butter and five eggs into the food processor and pulse it until it’s mixed well:
Then you add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg):
Then pulse it again. After the ACV, add in three-fourths of a teaspoon of baking soda:
And a quarter teaspoon of Celtic sea salt:
Then just pour it into your greased loaf pan.
Put the pan in a 350F oven for 45 minutes:
And this is what it looks like when it’s done:
Let this cool for 2 hours before removing and slicing. Once you do, this is what you end up with:
To store, wrap it in a paper towel, then seal it in a bag, and store it in the fridge for one week.
I didn’t know what to expect when I tried it, but I’m guessing anything Elena Amsterdam makes is going to be good, if you follow the directions like she tells you. This time, I did.
By now you’re asking yourself, “That’s nice, Amy, but what does it *taste* like?” Verdict: pretty good, quite delicious, with a light texture that toasts up well. Even AC said it tasted like bread. “Major thumbs up,” AC says. Not real salty, just enough to be enjoyable. Honestly, it tastes like BREAD, although not *exactly* like wheat bread. It’s not sweet (obviously, since no sweetener is involved), but it’s light like white bread, and tastes like. . .bread. No kidding. I toasted it up and made a meatloaf sandwich with it, too. Oh, YEAH. More cashew butter on the grocery list.
Neighbor R said that it was good, “but I’ll never get used to this gluten free food!” Neighbor E said that it “the texture is good, but it tastes like bread if you took the sugar out.” I’ll agree with that assessment. Again, it doesn’t taste exactly like regular wheat bread will, but if you can’t have regular breads, maybe you’ll enjoy having Cashew Bread. It tastes a lot better than some of the “gluten-free bread” you can buy in the grocery store.
In my local Kroger, cashew butter is found in the natural food section, and that jar ran about $6, if I remember correctly. I can’t find it on the app in my local HEB, but they may have a setup to grind cashews fresh like they do peanuts and almonds in their Healthy Living section. I haven’t checked that yet. However, I did see where Jif now has a cashew butter. . .much like peanut butter, always, always, read that label, especially if you or someone in your household might be allergic to something in it.
This recipe is also Paleo, which is kind of a second cousin to low-carb. I have a very basic understanding of Paleo, which is to eat food that would have been regularly eaten by Paleolithic Man. Yes, “cave man.” Since cave men didn’t have formal agriculture, and things like dairy products and grains, bread, cheese, and other modern conveniences–even low-carb or gluten-free–are out of the picture. Remember that breakfast casserole I made a couple of months ago, which included a shredded sweet potato? That’s a Paleo recipe (but not one of Elena’s.) I know, cave men didn’t have Crock Pots either, but it’s the principle of Paleo, even if it’s far removed from the practice of hunting and gathering. We just roll with it.
Unless I’m wrong, there’s not gluten in cashews or cashew butter, so it’s also going to be gluten free (read the label in case there are thickeners or additives.) The only persons who should avoid cashew bread are. . .people who either don’t like cashews or are allergic to them.
If cashews don’t agree with you, then, yes, you’ll have to leave this one alone. You have my sympathies. I love cashews.
Would almond butter work? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it would. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have some in the fridge, so I just might one day. For now, I’m enjoying the cashew bread. I have some cashew meal in the fridge I bought at Trader Joe’s a while back. I might try using the food processor to turn that into cashew butter later. Can’t hurt. I’ve done it with hazelnut flour before.
No, I don’t think I’m going to try making waffles with this. . .or will I? Let me think on that one. For now, a loaf of bread in the toaster oven makes me pretty happy.
This recipe can be found here on Elena’s blog, and a printable copy is on the Recipes page (scroll all the way down.) There are a number of comments, and a lot of good information in them. Do read them if you’re interested in baking this bread for yourself.
One of these days I’m going to get Elena’s cookbooks and start using them. Especially the cupcake book. Yum.
If you’re missing bread, this might be your ticket It’s easy, delicious, no letting the yeast rise or lots of ingredients. You put them in the food processor and pulse, pour it and bake. Doesn’t get any easier than that.