Tastes like chicken

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Sorry I haven’t written in a while; it’s been busy. Lots to tell, so let’s get started!

Ok, foodies, I have big news—Hostess Twinkies return next week! Along with Hostess Cupcakes (upgraded with dark chocolate) as well as a few other of your favorite Hostess goodies. The new Hostess, LLC, is rolling them out as we speak, and they are due to be in stores on Monday the 15th. Can you believe it?

You didn’t buy a bunch of them on eBay, did you? Well, soon you’ll be able to replace them with fresh ones.

Remember the joke about how Twinkies had a shelf life of “forever?” They really didn’t, but the new Hostess company is working on extending the freshness period. Originally, Twinkies had a shelf life of about 30 days. Are you ready for this? They’re going to deliver some of them frozen, so that stores can stamp their own freshness date on them, and extend the freshness date to 45 days, or longer.

Oh, YEAH!!! Just take some into your fallout shelter, and you can stay there a lot longer.

The new company is also going to start investigating different ways to make a Twinkie, including whole wheat , low-calorie, and yes. . .gluten free. That’s what it says in today’s Wall Street Journal. Woo hoo!

Friend of this blog MK says, “so now when the zombie apocalypse comes, you can be gluten free.” What a guy. The new versions of Twinkies may be available as early as later in the year.

Rest assured I’ll be on the case and report back to you on this important development.

In other news, I discovered a new taste to love. Cold-smoked salmon.

Sunday I did some shopping while in town, and I didn’t plan on getting hungry. Oh, well, I did. While in the area of a number of my favorite eateries (and the location of many more), I ended up having lunch at. . .IKEA. Yes, that Swedish bastion of the flat-pack and Allen wrenches, derided by many (and even parodied in season 10 of British comedy show Red Dwarf, an episode called Lemons.) I needed a couple of things and decided to have lunch while I was there in the café on the second floor. It’s simple Swedish (and some American) food, for the most part, and no, I didn’t have the meatballs. (That was only an issue in Europe, anyway.) Normally, I would have the open-faced shrimp sandwich on multi-grain bread. Topped with a hard-boiled egg, a mayo dressing and a sprig of dill, it’s one of my occasional indulgences that I have in IKEA, and occasionally, one of their interesting chocolate desserts.

Until now. Now I’m gluten-free. No bread. No cake. Now what?

I could get that sandwich and eat just the top of it. But, eat the filling without the bread? Well, that’s half the enjoyment of the sandwich. No, I would have to find another thing to eat, maybe the chicken salad. I didn’t make it that far. The gentleman in front of me went smoked salmon and dill dressing, and I decided to be brave and try something new. I got the one next to it, smoked salmon with a pile of lime-marinated tiny-diced veggies, sitting right next to what he picked up. Called Najad Salmon, this is how it was served:


If you’re not familiar with this kind of thing, it’s a preserved salmon using salt and herbs that’s very thinly sliced crosswise with a flexible thin blade. Honest, I’ve seen Martha Stewart make this kind of thing on one of her early shows, but I’ve never had it before. Just not something that’s part of traditional New Orleans cuisine, you understand. So, I decided to be brave and try something new.

Salmon preserved in this manner is softer than you may be used to. Between the herbs and the salt, it softens the flesh and infuses lots of flavor into it, taking out the “fishy” taste that salmon has when cooked, in the same manner that ceviche does to shrimp. Being from New Orleans, I would have never known what this was without seeing Martha Stewart making it on her show and adding it to one of her many cookbooks. Still, being more familiar with baked/poached/fried salmon and the stuff in a can, this kind of thing just isn’t something that would normally cross my path were it not for Houston being such a diverse and international city. With an IKEA cafe’ right in the middle.

So, you likely have at least once in your life asked someone, what does (whatever they were eating) taste like? You may have heard the old yarn, “Tastes just like chicken.” (In some cases, the individual may have a sarcastic streak.) Well, this cold-smoked doesn’t taste like chicken. . .but it does taste like thinly sliced deli ham. No kidding, that’s what it tasted like to me. Ham, sliced. Go figure. It was salty, a bit sticky and quite delicious.

Guess what? It’s my new gluten free favorite at IKEA! (I hope.)

I did try to roll up the salmon, burrito-style, around the tiny diced veggies and eat it that way. Nothin’ doin’, the salmon was too soft. Ended up being like scrambled eggs at that point, but it was very tasty. Of course, if I had a tortilla, it might have worked, but it wouldn’t have been gluten-free, either.

According to the nutrition information on IKEA’s website, it has less than 300 calories. Not bad!

I added a side salad from the salad bar, which consists of iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, croutons and sliced black olives. Added a bit of olive oil and what looked like balsamic vinegar and I was in business. Skipped dessert this time, and went on with my afternoon.

After I’d paid for the other things I went in for, I headed over to Trader Joe’s, where I proceeded to have another DUH moment while looking for almond flour. It’s considerably less expensive there, so I bought extra. I went to where I thought I picked it up last time, where all the bagged nuts are, and just could not find it. Looked around where I was standing, too—nothing. So I asked someone. . .and it was right where I was standing earlier, at knee level on me.


Maybe I should have stayed home. Well, at least I have more almond flour to make some delicious Wheat Belly Biscuits with. Sometime.

Now and again, it’s good to take a chance and find something new. You might even find a new favorite.

Don’t forget:


Happy Dining!

My new arrival! (Mid-week update)

Happy Thursday, Dear Readers:

Well, it’s a bit premature, but here is my first tomato, picked fresh from the HeatCageKitchen garden tonight:

Isn't it a cutie?

Isn’t it a cutie?

Granted, it’s not a BIG tomato, about 2″ across, 6″ around,but that’s OK–it’s mine!! Of course, if I hadn’t been so impatient I could have let it ripen a day or two more. But I wanted to get it before any outside creatures did. (Snails are so gross!) There are two more tomatoes growing on that plant; I haven’t seen any flowers on the second tomato plant yet.

The first of five bell peppers are growing well, as are the mint, green onions and rosemary. Rosemary grows in a drought–but we’ve had some good rain this week, and the parsley has started to sprout leaves again. Heck, the basil I chopped down to the nub is already sprouting leaves. I even found a flower growing on it already–and I harvested for pesto last weekend. Hmmm. . .how much more pesto can I make this year before winter?

I suddenly found myself with a painful throat infection on Monday night that causes a swollen gland, then two painful swollen glands with throat constriction and severe pain when swallowing. Tuesday I made it to a local walk-in clinic in the Friendswood HEB Grocery, and I walked out with yet another prescription for antibiotics. You bless these things when you can swallow again, but if I find myself with heartburn, I’ll be back on yeast-free and either the stuff I bought last time or another round of Nystatin and Fluconazole from my regular doctor. Oh, boy.

Since I’m no longer one of those folks with health insurance and paid sick time, I went to work, weak and barely able to talk or swallow. No sneezing or coughing or anything like that, just feeling like I needed to stay home. Fortunately, it was a slow day with many folks on travel, and while I didn’t do my usual 30 minute walk in the tunnel, I did go down there for something else, but I didn’t know what.

I wandered through Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, and a couple of the upscale convenience-store style shops down there, but didn’t find what I wanted. No coffee or chocolate for me, thanks. Then I went somewhere I generally don’t go, and found the very thing. Cold, sweet, and pretty healthy, in the last place you’d expect to find such a thing.

I went to McDonald’s. No kidding.

Now, I’ve been to McDonald’s on many occasions, just not very often. Sometimes it’s the only thing in proximity. Sometimes it’s convenient and right there. My biggest issue with MickeyD’s is that while their coffee is pretty good, they only offer Equal and sugar to sweeten it. No Splenda or Sweet ‘N Low anywhere. I have to make sure I have some pink stuff on me in case I end up somewhere that saccharin is not available, and that’s one of them. At least Starbucks has Sweet ‘N Low, and even honey in packets.

The McDonald’s in the Houston Downtown Tunnel is usually quite busy when I pass by during the crowded lunch hour, but yesterday it wasn’t crowded since it was about 2 when I went. I knew they had some new stuff on their McCafe menu, so I decided to walk over and take a look. Then I spotted it on the wall, and I wanted some.

The McCafe Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie.

With a throat infection, after drinking hot tea all morning, you understand why this hit the spot. But it’s also incredibly delicious! It’s gonna be all I can do not to have two of these a day:


I actually went back for another round today, and got a large. I’ll be spending money on this one for quite a while.

Holy Shish Kebab.

I did ask the clerk about what was in it–last thing I need is to ingest a lot of sugar, or, heaven help me, find out it has gluten as a thickener. You never know. She said, “it has just pomegranate and blueberries.” I also think she didn’t speak enough English to understand my question, because I found out when I got back to my desk that it has some fat-free yogurt in it. That’s fine, unless you have a dairy allergy. Thankfully, I don’t, but there are folks who read this humble blog who are allergic to dairy, hence the warning.

MAN this is a good find. I had to get sick to find this out? Move over Starbucks–this smoothie’s my new favorite!!

Starbucks and Seattle’s Best actually do have smoothies, but the berry smoothies are lower in carbs than ones with banana, pineapple and other fruits. Bananas are particularly high in starch, that’s why I avoid them–and if you’re diabetic, you should too. I might try the strawberry smoothie at Seattle’s Best one of these days, but McDonald’s definitely has a winning formula with this one.

Sometimes you just find things along the way. This delicious smoothie will keep me going back to McDonald’s, especially this hot summer in Houston.

I did discover that New York City had a high of 65F today, with a 100% chance of rain, and a low of 55F tonight, as a result of the storm that passed through Chicago and other areas last night. Heck, here in Houston, that’s a perfect fall day!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch a little comedy DVD and hit the Nordic Track. Rupert Murdoch is going to be a free man soon, and I need to be ready when he comes a-callin’!

Just kidding–I’m going to make up the exercise I missed today by not walking the tunnel. I wasn’t up to it, but the antibiotics are killing the infection and I’m feeling better.

Happy Dining!

Cupcakes. Ceviche. Bell peppers.

Happy Sunday, Dear Readers:

I’ve got a lot to tell and not much time, so here goes.

I’m now done with this round of the yeast-free diet. Know what that means?

I can haz cheezburger. (Just no bread.) Woo hoo!! Love cheese.

I had to stop at Staples for an errand this afternoon, and the nice man who waited on me, Anthony, mentioned that he wanted to learn to cook. He’s a big dude from Trinidad-Tobago, and I asked him what he was doing stateside. He married an American woman, you see. “She kidnapped me.” Ah, he’s enjoying it. So of course when he told me he wanted to learn to cook, well, I sorta talked his ear off. But I just want to make sure he doesn’t burn an egg and give up, thinking he can never be in the kitchen. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was anyone’s expertise.

Now onto the rest of the weekend.

So, after an off-kilter Friday at this company downtown, I got home, changed into a t-shirt and shorts, and was chowing down on my salad from a jar when an email came in. One of my folks from Boeing was retiring, and one of the invitees invited me to meet them at Cafe Adobe. Fifteen minutes later I was there, parking and laughing with everyone else. So glad to see my peeps, even if it was just a couple of hours. So what do you have when you’re not real hungry, in a Mexican restaurant and are gluten free? Check the appetizers and order ceviche:


Yeah. And take a look–there’s cooked shrimp in there. You know why I like to order shrimp in a restaurant? Let me explain: my Mom used to go find people who caught shrimp and bought coolers full of them to freeze. Only, she wanted them peeled before they were frozen. . .guess who took off the heads, the feet and the shells with bare hands? ME. So now, I order shrimp in a restaurant for one reason.

They are shrimp I don’t have to mess with.

I had half and took the rest home to toss over some lettuce from the jar on Saturday. YEAH.

They also had a cake after dinner, and while I took home a piece, I brought it home for my neighbor, who’s a bit over 65 (OK, 75) and is a really nice lady. Just don’t cross her.

In the HeatCageKitchen garden, there is big news–the basil is growing again:


Still, I bought a container of Butoni pesto today, because it was on sale, and stuck it in the freezer, just in case. But I think I’ll soon be harvesting for pesto. We had rain today, but no more is predicted for a while. So I’ll be watering a lot.

Also a fantastic discovery from one of the plants I bought last week. You remember the tomato plant I bought with three tomatoes already growing on it? Looks like I’ll be getting some bell peppers, too:


Hot dawg! But I don’t remember if I got red, orange or yellow bells. DUH. Oh, well, it’ll be green until I find out what color it will be.

Well, I’ve been really wanting a cupcake, and of course, it has to be gluten free. Now, it would be easy if I lived in The Woodlands, because I could head right over to Frost Bakery and get me one. But no, I live on the other side of Houston, sort of on the other side of the tracks. Not a particularly bad part of Houston, just, not as nice as The Woodlands. I’ve called five bakeries down here, and nobody has gluten free. One said, “we’re working on it.” That does me no good NOW, but I’ll live, I guess. Darnit.

So with the news that three new cupcake shops are opening in the Houston Downtown Tunnel, HeatCageKitchen is on it, and went to investigate.

It’s what “journalists” call a “slow news day.” But at least I have some nice pictures.

First stop (before heading to the office, no less) is New Addictions, where they’ve been open since Tuesday (day after Memorial Day) and business has been very brisk. When I stopped by on Tuesday during my lunchtime walk, I got to talk to one of the owners, Mena Frazier. Nice lady, and I told her what I wanted to do (take pictures, and write about them.) When I went back Friday morning, she wasn’t there, but two of her very nice employees were, and told me more. The owners, Justin & Mena Frazier, also have a shop on the east side of Houston called Cupcakes & More, where they bake the goods for New Addictions.They are currently working on a gluten-free model, but are also  working to get to the point where they can have a separate kitchen to avoid cross-contamination of gluten. They realize that many folks would like a healthier option, and would like to provide the best offering they can.

If you’re not gluten free, however, you’ll be in heaven:


Nirvana, right this way:


And let’s not forget chocoholics like myself:


They also have cake balls, if you’d like that instead:


And cute little cupcake candles!


Meet Ivy and Nicole, who were nice enough to tell me everything:


I asked them what their most unusual flavor is, and I think Ivy said it was their PBJ combination. When I left and looked at their small card, I see one called Maple Bacon. I kid you not–and I think that would be my vote for most unusual. But hey–whatever floats your boat, right?

You can read about Cupcakes & More here and visit New Addictions Facebook page to see more. If you’re downtown, check out their shop for a nice little dessert you won’t soon forget.

Remember: cupcakes are ONE SERVING. Maybe one and a half if you get one with top hat icing.

At lunchtime, I headed over to Gigi’s Cupcakes, which was quite a hike (read: cardio), but I made it. I’d spoken to the owner a day or so before I took my camera, and he said that they only did gluten-free on Fridays. They use almond flour, and that’s more expensive (I know!) and so only Friday, and the cupcakes were more. How much more? Twenty five cents. I thought he meant they were like $17 each! But no, only a quarter more than their regular cupcakes. I made a promise to get there on Friday. I wanted one!

Gigi’s actually has Wedding Cake cupcakes. Yes, you can buy one. Supposed to taste like wedding cake. Long as there’s no groom that comes with it, I’m game.

So I take The Lunch Purse (a small bag you carry just your wallet, cell phone, etc. when you go to lunch in the Tunnel) and I head down there. WAY down there. Asked which one was gluten free today. “None.” Um, it’s Friday, why not?” The employee’s comment, with a straight face:

“I never took the time to order any gluten free.”

And I won’t take the time to go back and see if they did order any. From the comments on the Houston Chronicles’ website, I’m not missing anything. I mean, if you want customers, how about “I’m sorry, but we didn’t get any in today,” or, “I’m sorry, they weren’t available today?” Even “we ran out” would have been polite. It sounds like she didn’t care, so I don’t either.

I haven’t made it to the third cupcake shop yet. I’ll let you know when I do.

So, darnit, what am I gonna do? I want ONE CUPCAKE, GLUTEN FREE.

What I always do. I made them. Along with a breakfast quiche, some Yeast Free Brownies and some biscuits.

From the Wheat Belly Cookbook, I made the only cupcake recipe in there, with almond flour and a chocolate/cream cheese icing that is really stiff when it’s cold. Like the delicious biscuits, they have a heavy, chewy texture that satisfies but is likely not what you’re expecting. That’s OK. I’ll get more almond flour next trip to Trader Joe’s.

My dishwasher has finished, and I’m fading fast, so I need to get back in the kitchen and finish up so I can eventually go to bed and get some sleep. I’ve had an interesting weekend. I’m tired.

Happy Dining!

The Sunday Cooking Spree

Happy Sunday, fellow Foodies:

Boy, have I been busy today! I’ve been baking, I’ve been cooking, I’ve been washing. We had some good rain last night, and even had gravel-sized hail for a little while. I thought my neighbor’s lovable pug wanted to come in and get at the cat food again. Hoping for lots of basil so I can pack my freezer with pesto this year. Supposed to rain all week, so I’ll be extra careful on the short drive to and from the park and ride.

The dishwasher is running for the second time today, and while I put out garbage yesterday morning, I also had to put it out again a little while ago. I sewed most of the day yesterday, as well as made a pot of chili. I finished some handmade gifts and a little repair work, and will finish that shirt and suit next weekend. But before I tell you about today’s cooking spree, let me tell you about something fishy I read in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal. . . .

The European Seafood Exposition was recently held in Belgium, and, if I read it correctly, it is to current trends in seafood is what the Houston Metro Cooking & Entertaining Show is to food and cooking. I think. (I went in 2011 and had a blast; nearly everything I sampled was either chocolate, garlic or olive oil.) Fish wasn’t exactly on the menu at this conference, but other forms of “aquatic cuisine” were available. Craig Harrison of Britain’s Big Prawn Company have been trying to win the Prix d’Elite with all sorts of, um, temptations. Creations like Fresh Seaweed in Sea Water, Black Pudding with Squid Ink and spreadable algae were available to tempt (or test the strength of) the taste buds of judges in Belgium. Oh, and one piece de resistance from last year’s contest was called simply, Jelly Shots, consisting of alcoholic seafood jelly shots with a jumbo shrimp floating in a mojito jelly. Um, what? “Mr Harrison claims that British night-clubbers fell for the drink hook, line and sinker. ‘Unfortunately, it didn’t sway the judges.'”

NOOOOOO. You think????? Maybe it was the alcohol the night clubbers had BEFORE the Jelly Shots, which the judges didn’t have the benefit of?

Then there is the “oceanic greenery” they want to start calling “sea veg.” In other words, seaweed. And now, because “French beaches are strewn with it,” Christine Le Tennier of SAS Globe Export is harvesting and promoting “gourmet algae.”

Algae is what develops in your swimming pool when you forget to put the chlorine in it. “Gourmet algae” is like like “clean dirt.” You can have it.

Now look–I love shrimp, crab, crawfish, regular fish, and the occasional scallop as much as the next seafood fan. But I can sum this article up for you in one word.


Reminded of the songs my brother has frequently written (or re-written) about my cooking, I sent him the column. Let’s see what comes back.

So, my goal is not to have to cook at all this week, except maybe for some breakfast, and I’ll think about that soon, too. My toaster oven has been baking nearly all day, and I have completed, since 8:00 am, the following:

Not included is a pot of chili made yesterday and a small spaghetti squash I roasted yesterday, all for lunch and dinner this week. Glad I finished the last of the Spicy Shrimp Marinara, too.

I’m thinking baked eggs and some kind of meat with it. I’ll think about it some more. Since the yeast-free diet is coming soon, I’ll have to think carefully, since so many things are verboten, like cheese, butter and milk.

Oh, and in order to make that meatloaf, I had to go out and get a few things: one carrot, some celery, and. . .tomato juice, which I have never bought in my life. But I do it, ’cause I don’t mess with the recipes the first time I make them. I didn’t go to my my HEB, or even Kroger. No, I went to our neighborhood Food Town. . .and if you are in Houston, you know what that is–local, and basic, No almond milk, gluten free anything or sugar snap peas, but lots of biscuits, pizza and ice cream. It’s close, so I went. I didn’t take a picture, but they had something called Tastykake Dreamies, which look suspiciously like. . . Twinkies!  No, I didn’t buy any, even though they were not expensive. But with all the hoopla surrounding the end and the new beginning of Twinkies, obviously it wasn’t long before someone got the idea to replicate them while they were away. Let’s see what happens when Twinkies begin to populate grocery and convenience store shelves again. Holy Shish Kebab.

Well, that’s the capitalist free market system, isn’t it? Give the customer what they want, customers vote with their dollars, and the best one will win. If the Dreamies taste as good, or better, than original Twinkies, then they’ll be the favored brand. If not, they will be bought once, and if they are found to be inferior, then, nobody will buy them and wait for the Twinkies. If the new Twinkies are bad, then the market is open for someone else to “build a better Twinkie.” It’s that simple.

Yes, in America, we take our junk food VERY seriously the way the French take their wine and escargot seriously. That’s what makes us a great country!!

Anyway. . . .

I had planned to utilize a crock pot today, but I never got around to it, so that’s one less thing to wash up. That’s OK, I’ve gone through some soap this weekend!

I started doing the weekly cooking/ironing on Sunday back when I was a student at Tulane and worked 40 hours a week. THEN I went to work for Tulane while I was a student, and made a salary, had regular employee health insurance, paid holidays, and eventually, an employee tuition waiver. I had to take Sundays for setting up for the week,  because I didn’t have time to get all that done in the morning, especially if I got home at 10:00 or 11:00 pm at night, which I did frequently. If I went to bed late one night, I didn’t get to catch up until Saturday. (Nobody seemed to understand that for a long time.)

Even though I’d mostly kept it up while I was unemployed, I still did some cooking during the week. Now, this may not work with large families, or even couples–but for me it works like a charm. If you’re thinking about how to make it work for you, a crock pot would work wonders, IMHO–but you gotta do what works for you. Freezer meals may be what you come up with, and a lot of people do it that way–either on the weekend or making “one extra” of something and stashing it in the freezer.

In any case, I highly recommend “cooking ahead,” especially if you are of the busy sort. If it’s just you and a spouse and y’all aren’t picky, well. . .but if you’ve got a schedule of any kind and not much time to cook, carving out a few hours and/or putting out that crock pot is essential.

And let’s face it–how nice is it to come home, take your shoes off, get comfy and heat up a home-cooked dinner?  Yeah, I Know, you can just buy frozen dinners . . .well, if you want to. Me, I’m gonna keep pushing the limits of my kitchen and having home cooked dinners ’til I can’t cook anymore. (Remember that Julia Child cooked after the age of 90, although she wasn’t make Boueof Bourignon anymore.)

Now onto the wardrobe setup for the week with our rainy, somewhat chilly Houston weather this week.

Happy Dining!

Cappuccino and salad days

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Here at HeatCageKitchen, we strive to bring you the hip new trends in cooking and kitchen stuff. Up-to-date tricks and of-the-moment trends that you just can’t live without whether you’re just starting to cook or have been in your kitchen for a long time. The goal is to bring you these new trends that you just need to know before your friends know.

“Try” being the operative word.

I’ve got an update on my cappuccino machine and a new idea that crossed my Facebook path that I’ve got to tell you about. If you haven’t heard about this already. Your friends will be amazed. Keep reading. . .

So, I was thinking that although it would be lovely to go out and buy a brand, spanking new cappuccino machine, the thrifty side of me says, no, it’s just the frothing part that doesn’t wanna work anymore. I have on occasion seen hand-held milk frothers in different places. This evening, for the project I’m about to tell you about, I headed to Cost Plus World Market and discovered that they have these little babies at $2.99 each. They run on 2 AA batteries (like nearly everything else I own, right?) and they froth up milk. They don’t HEAT milk, they only froth it up. Online, they sell them in a set of 3 for $8.97, but in the store they sell them individually. I bought the green one, the first one the clerk handed me. I headed to Target to get a big 20-pack of AA batteries.

You never know when the milk frother is going to go out. Or the TV remote. Or the flameless candles on my altar. Or some other little thing that uses batteries. I used to carry a Sony Walkman–yes, a cassette player, and later, one with a radio–in the pre-iPod days. And I can tell you that the batteries that lasted the longest were coppered, so that’s what I buy. And nobody paid me to say that. Anyway. . .

So I put some milk in a measuring cup and warmed it in the microwave, then used the handheld milk frother to froth up the milk. It worked perfectly, and for $2.99, I now have perfectly frothy milk again when I make cappuccino. Woo hoo!

Wal-Mart also had an electric milk frothing pitcher, but that one was $35. Very nice, of course, but that’s OK. I’ll continue to steam the milk and then use the little battery powered frothers. That’s perfectly OK with me!

OK. . .now. . .this is a most momentus thing I’ve discovered, and it’s cheap. I LOVE salad, and yes, iceberg lettuce as well as Romaine, butter and red-leaf lettuce, but it tends to go bad on me, even when I keep on it. I hate that, so as a result, I don’t buy it too often.

A solution has been found. I am testing this as I type this.

Lettuce stored in Mason jars, or “Salad In A Jar.”

Let me say first that this is NOT my own idea, but the brilliant idea of one Paula Rhodes, who has a website. . No kidding. I came across the idea, as many, on Facebook. Such a simple idea, but you absolutely MUST seal the jar and get all the air out to prevent browning of the lettuce.

Naturally, this wonderful lady is in Arlington, in the great state of Texas. (I’m in Houston, I can say that.)

Another idea where I wish I’d thought of it, but. . .well, you know I’m not smart enough for that. (I went to college at night.) Well, I did figure out that Scrubbing Bubbles will clean your kitchen cabinets and other surfaces by melting off the dirt. That’s another blog post.

On my trek out I went first to Cost Plus World Market for the jars, which are $2.49 there. I also have a couple of jars that I kept after the Classico Tomato and Basil is gone. The process is the same for both types of jars, but there is an essential step that you must do. You MUST vacuum seal the jars and get all the air out.

I am not suggesting you get one of those expensive Food Saver sealing thingies, although if you have one, you have an advantage, there is an attachment for wide-mouth jars and a tube for this purpose. Maybe one day I’ll get me one, but for now, I just want cheap.

That’s the real secret of HeatCageKitchen. Livin’ on the edge (of the kitchen). Cheap.

So if you’ve ever seen those Ziploc vacuum seal bags, well, there’s a vacuum pump tool that comes in the starter kit, runs about $4 or $5. Well. . .the directions are to wash and spin-dry your lettuce, chop it, put it in the glass jar, put the lid(s) on it, put a small hole in the top with a pushpin, put a small piece of electrical tape over the hole (don’t seal it), and use the vacuum tube to pull the air out.

VOILA! Sealed up lettuce! (I think I messed up a total of four pushpins, but that’s what Staples is for.)

Best part–you can make salad for a whole week like this! Put the dressing in the bottom, and the lettuce on top, with heavier ingredients like hard boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, etc, in the bottom. The picture is from Mayra Cavazos, and this what she posted on Facebook:

Utterly brilliant, people. Not only does SALAD IN A JAR save space in your fridge, it also reduces food waste and gets non-salad eaters (me) to mow down daily.
Shredded carrots
Cherry tomatoes
Sunflower seeds
Hard boiled eggs
Baby spinach
1) Arrange ingredients in a large mason jar
2) Store in fridge for up to a week
3) When ready to eat: shake jar, place on a plate, and eat!

You can make any arrangement you want… you can add red onion, cucumbers, radishes or peppers. Always remember to put the dressing at the bottom and the lettuce at the top—a MUST.

****NOTE**** If your making a few salads at a time for the week, you MUST remember to vacuum seal the Mason Jars. (Mason jars can be bought at Wal-mart, and various grocery stores) They must be vacuum sealed to remain fresh and crisp 🙂 Here are two different ways to vacuum seal a mason jar 😀
Non Foodsaver vacuum seal 🙂

If you’re having trouble wrapping your brain around this idea, take a look at Mayra’s picture she posted on Facebook and see if it makes sense:

Salad In A Jar

Is that not the coolest idea ever? And it’s SO SIMPLE.

So in the HeatCage Test Kitchen (ha, ha) I have purchased said Ziploc vacuum tool at Wal-Mart, as well as jars and the milk frother at Cost Plus World Market, and lettuce (and a few other things) at Target. (I went to Target first, they didn’t have it, darnit.)  I have three sealed jars of lettuce in the fridge, right now, and am thoroughly excited about this.

Simple, using readily available modern conveniences. I love it, and am hoping for the best on my end, too. I’ll let you know what happens next.

Since I my life will be soon become very busy, this will be a great help for my weekly food prep. You see, since I was a full-time working student at Tulane University (1991-1996), I do all my weekly cooking and wardrobe prep on Sunday, so that I don’t have to do as much during the week. (The crock pot cooking helps a lot, too, especially if I didn’t get it all done in time.) When I was getting home late at night, that Sunday ritual was a lifesaver. If I missed one thing, my whole week was messed up. Bad.

Salad, much as I love it, hasn’t been a staple for me, since I don’t buy it as much, it turns brown so fast on me. I’m hoping this experiment will work. I do love salad, and hate throwing anything out.

You can read all about it at Paula Rhodes’ Salad In A Jar website, plus lots of other of her recipes and ideas. (You can bet I’m subscribing now!) You can also see her video on YouTube doing exactly what I described.

Cross your fingers. This is the best thing to cross my path in a long time. (OK, this week.)

If you try this, let me know how your experiment turned out.

Happy Dining!

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