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!


Today I’m going to tell you all about the BEST way to eat food. No, not with your grubby paws, darnit (and wash them before you eat, OK?) No, eat like the Aussies. Use a Splayd.

A what?

Splayds were invented in Australia by Bill McAurthur of Potts Point, New South Wales in the late 1940’s. (Source: He noticed that when eating at a party, it’s difficult to balance a knife and fork, and came up with a 3-in-1 tool that’s very easy to use. They became *the* wedding gift in Oz and has also spread to other countries. Except, unfortunately, this one. But there are those of us who know about these incredible utensils and favor them.  You can read a little more about it here.

How did I come across these, you wonder? I was, in 1996, a bride (for the third time), and received a set of four from a friend in Melbourne, Australia:

The first set of Splayds, received as a gift

I’ve had these since 1996, and won’t part with them.

She explained that they are what you give for a wedding present in Australia, and hoped that I would enjoy these. Well, DUH! Of course I did–and made sure to thank her for them, of course. Although the husband (who’s been an ex since 2001) tried them, he never really got used to them. No matter, I have forks, but I prefer the Splayd. If you’ve never tried them, you don’t know what you’re missing. They are so much easier than a standard fork–and not like the plastic “spork” you get in some fast-food establishments.

I always wanted more of them, and finally, a couple of years ago, started to carry them, the real thing, so I bought some:

Stainless Steel Splayds bought in 2010. Even better than the originals!

I love these even more than the originals! They really are a joy to eat with, and the clean design of both models goes with any flatware you already have. You can find them here, and they even come with in a nice box, in case you decide to give them as a gift. Amazon also now carries the mini-Splayds, which I didn’t know about until just now, but that’s going to have to wait a while.

But to put them side by side, you will see that they are the same thing (and, because it’s marked on the back.)

Side-by-side pics of my original Splayd, and the new one.

Really, I can’t say enough about how good Aussie made and designed Splayds are. I’m a native-born American, but I like to find new stuff that maybe we don’t know about and can use. Like Splayds. They’re not dangerous or illegal, they just make life a teeny bit better, you know?


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