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Countertop dishwasher
The HeatCageKitchen Dishwasher!

More big changes at the Casa de Rurale, and this one involves a new appliance–the countertop dishwasher!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Some of you may be shoveling snow, or not. After three hard freezes, two with snow, we’re in spring-like weather here in Central Louisiana, and I’m in shorts.

Some of you may remember my Karma of Spare Parts series, in which I describe buying spare parts online to be able to use what I have. I’m still at it! In addition to meeting the mail ladies many times, I’ve also met several UPS and FedEx drivers who bring packages to the Casa de Rurale, including one smoker who handed me a big package from Vitacost with a cigarette in his mouth. No kidding. I didn’t complain to FedEx, because he was very nice, but I did lecture him a little on the irony of smoking while delivering my package of health products.

More Spare Parts Karma

Just last week I ordered some replacement glass beakers from Sur la Table:

French Press replacement glass

Finally, all my French Presses are back in action!

I actually ordered three of these little ones, and one of the 8-cup beakers. The two smaller ones broke on the trip from Houston. To get more of these requires either online ordering or a trip to Baton Rouge (that’s now the closest Sur la Table to me; New Orleans doesn’t have one.) So, I finally ordered the darn things. I have three small pots–two of the Brazil model and one of the Chambord. (The small Chambord was in my desk at work while at Boeing after seeing an executive with an 8-cup model in his office.) The two Brazils went straight into my suitcases, because I like to take them on travel (not that I’m going anywhere anytime soon.)

And, finally, my little Apple Master contraption is now whole and complete again, after however long it was since the rubber vacuum cup broke on the bottom:

Norpro Apple Master

I can use it again!

BF is going to help me replace the rusted fork soon. He has no idea what this thing is for–and that’s just fine, because then he won’t touch it and hurt himself, either!

Online Ordering From HEB

For my Texas peeps: You probably know about HEB’s new curbside ordering service. Well. . .they also ship. Nearly anywhere in the US, as a matter of fact. Recently, I ordered me some coffee! A bag of decaf Taste of San Antonio and a bag of decaf Breakfast Blend. The next order will include bigger 2 pound bags and a supply of decaf espresso for cappuccino and lattes at home. Even with shipping, it’ll be cheaper than $15 at Starbucks for it (not that I don’t like Starbucks, either.)

Love the new packaging, too. The previous packaging was nice, and had been in use since I started buying their coffee in 1998. I guess it was time for a refresh.

Plus, there’s all those things I can buy with Hatch chiles in them, including salsa. I’m happy that I can get canned Hatch chiles in Winn-Dixie, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and The Fresh Market. But there will be more online ordering from HEB in the coming months, because there are a lot of things I want that I just can’t get here. In the case of the large bottle of coarse-ground pepper, it’s available and cheaper than the small bottle I can get at Albertson’s in Hammond. I so miss my HEB.

No Toaster Oven Yet

In my online shopping forays, I remember companies that I’ve bought from some time ago and see if I still have an account with them. In the case of Overstock, I actually do. I’ve updated it with my new email and snail mail address, and I get their emails again.

The last time I ordered from them was in 2005, when I ordered a pair of earrings to go with a necklace. This was years before Comfy Earrings were created, and it was for a formal night out. The completed order was still there, with the comment that it is now “past the return window.” I still have the earrings, I’ve worn them once or twice since, but the jewelry is packed up for a wedding that’s in our future (we’ll be guests, not participants.)

I’ve been saving my Bed, Bath And Beyond Coupons for a long time for the day I get a new toaster oven. Upon checking the Overstock website, I discovered that not only do they sell the one I want, they also sell it as a refurbished model.

I can even get one nearly the same as the one I had before I moved, the one that didn’t make the trip well, as a refurbished model. How have I missed this?

So, at some point, soon there will be a new toaster oven, finally, and this time around, it may be the less-expensive refurbished option. I miss my toaster oven so much. Since winter is pretty much done now, it’s time for a new one, especially since BF is complaining that he’s tired of anything slow-cooked.

Presenting The New Dishwasher!

Now, let’s talk about something I bought out of urgent, utter necessity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the moment you’ve been waiting for. The relocated HeatCageKitchen in the Casa de Rurale now has a counter-top dishwasher:

You’re probably thinking, “that’s a dishwasher?” Yeup. There’s a reason for it, too. Much like the new glasses, I really needed it.

I’ve been really busy, and I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. In fact, both of us are. BF works a rotating 40-hour-per-week shift, plus he does some mechanic work for folks. I work on client work in between all that plus dishes, laundry, hound care, cat care and other stuff. Well, the dishes were really piling up, and BF just does *not* do dishes. Without disclosing any TMI, it was getting ridiculous, but he didn’t see a problem. I needed a dishwasher, darnit.

Not For HGTV

You have to understand that this house is an old “mother-in-law house,” literally built to accommodate someone’s elderly mother. Not exactly ergonomically or functionally designed, you understand. But it’s paid for, and BF is proud of that fact, even if there are a number of things that are left to be desired (as well as repaired.) Like a dishwasher!

In the kitchen, there really isn’t a way to install a dishwasher without remodeling the whole kitchen. Neither of us have that kind of money, even to get stuff from IKEA. I’m not spending money to renovate a house that will never belong to me. So. . .we manage. Until we can’t.

I’ve been spending hours trying to catch up on washing dishes by hand at the expense of everything else. I finally got tired of it one night and yelled at BF about it. Just annoyed as the dickens that I’m the one doing all the dishes. Sometimes the clean laundry can been piled up for a while.  But then, I got an idea. . . .

Enter The Compact Appliance

When most people think of kitchen appliances, they think of the full-size versions–refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, laundry appliances, etc. But smaller compact versions? You can get a small fridge, some with freezers, pretty readily. But compact dishwashers? You don’t see them in places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, or even Walmart–but they’re available if you know where to look.

One night I got to thinking. . . what about a counter top dishwasher? Do they exist? I set out to do some research, and it didn’t take long–they’re everywhere! Again, if you know what you want and where to look.

Note that I am not talking about the electric automatic potato peeler BF’s daughter has. I’m talking about important stuff here.

First, Amazon

The first place I tend to go for research when I’m considering or looking for something is Amazon. Love them or hate them, they have just about anything you could want. Even if you don’t buy, you can research for free, and read comments by people who have bought these items. I know they’re not all accurate, but you can get an idea of what to expect.

Amazon has a range of dishwasher models, small and regular sized. I didn’t know you could still buy full-sized portable dishwashers that you can roll around. They have some, although they cost more than the countertop model.

Of the models that Amazon had, both the websites for Target and Walmart had many of the same ones with more reviews.

At the bottom of the Target website was a series of those “sponsored links.” One of them was to a site I’d visited many years before and forgot about.

CompactAppliance.Com

And then there’s this site. I’ve known about them for many years, but never bought from them.

Years ago, I’d planned on buying a very small chest-type freezer for the condo I moved out of in 2016. I went to the Clear Lake location of the chain appliance store, Conn’s, but they didn’t want to talk about anything but “the great financing we can do for you!” That, of course, is how they actually make a profit, I believe. I walked out.

I knew about the freezer, and it was about $100, but they didn’t seem to like the idea that I would either write a check or give them my debit card to pay in full and walk out with it. (It was small enough to easily fit in The Mighty Saturn.) I never got around to going back, and never bought one, despite the thought staying way in the back of my mind.

I really, REALLY don’t like being treated like that, and I generally won’t return to a place that tries to force a financing contract on me. That’s why I never went back to Conn’s.

There was another occasion I was thinking about something else, and I came across Compact Appliance’s website. In addition to compact appliances, they also have full-size appliances like Conn’s and Lowe’s and the like. I should have signed up for their emails, but I didn’t. Well, I finally did.

It’s Time

After looking at Amazon’s website, there were a couple of dishwashers I was going to consider buying, even if I was a bit concerned about the possibility of returning it if it didn’t work.

Not a matter of *if” I bought a dishwasher, you understand, just a matter of *when.* And I let BF know about it. He just gave me that look that says, “I smile because I have no idea what’s going on.” Like the day he looked into the pantry after I’d unpacked all my stuff in there. (It still needs a reorg.) BF says he doesn’t mind about anything I do in the house. Good thing.

His main concern was spending a lot of money on a brand neither of us had ever heard of. I agreed, but three hours of washing dishes by hand was getting to be too much. This solves the problem, and it’s not built-in. And yes, if I ever decide to move back to Texas, I can pack it and take it with me. (He can buy his own!)

I got paid, and I had enough to order one on December 27th. I got a 5% discount for signing up for their emails, and free shipping. Should I have a problem, they’re ready to help–I asked before I bought. I think there were three phone calls before I finally ordered.

I waited for its arrival. Meantime, I bought some of this stuff:

Countertop dishwasher detergent

Finally, I had one on order, so I bought this in anticipation

Reading all that I had, everyone said that the gelpacs worked the best. Having used three different types, I have to agree–they dissolve quickly and cleanly, and leave no powdery residue. A couple of times, I’ve put stuff in there that accidentally blocked the little door, and I had to run it again because the powder cakes in the compartment. So gelpacs it is.

Two Days Later

I was sitting at my desk when the FedEx driver rolled up. I had my office mini blinds open, and BF was asleep. And then the dogs started barking (they were inside because it was so cold out.) And then I ran through the house, yelling, “It’s Here! It’s Here!” He took this as his cue to start moving around, put some warm clothes on and get out to the patio to get it into the house.

While he did that, I had a nice chat with the FedEx driver, who is a single mother of 4, lives in nearby Mississippi, and would also like to work from home. I gave her an intro card from SGI-USA, taught her how to chant, and gave her the “elevator pitch.” She was open to the idea, and thanked me for the card. (She also dropped off another Vitacost package a couple of weeks later.)

The Box Opens

Of course, I was so excited to open this box that I didn’t take any pictures. BF started carefully cutting open the taped edges, and removed the machine with equal care to put it on the counter top.

Countertop dishwasher

Ladies and Gentlement, may I present: The Countertop Dishwasher.

I had to read the manual first, to make sure I didn’t do something wrong. It was pretty simple. Truth is, They put the owner’s manual as a PDF on the website so you can look at it before you buy it. How’s THAT for good customer service?

Oh, dear–mine isn’t on the website right now. However, this is a similar model, and the manual is available there, down the right side. Hmmmm. . .well, anyway. . . .

How It Works

It hooks up to the sink with a couple of little hoses, and a screw-in metal bit that screws into your faucet, once you remove the diffuser:

Countertop dishwasher connector

The hoses clip onto this bit. We just leave it on the faucet.

The plastic you see on the right clips onto the metal. Turn on the water, turn on the machine, and you’re washing dishes!

These are also great for offices and labs, if you didn’t know that. But in a small kitchen, or where you can’t install a dishwasher, it’s awesome.

I would also like to point out that BF graciously replaced the kitchen faucet that’s been problematic for a long time. The hot water leaked so much that in order to use hot water, you had to turn it on under the sink. That problem, thankfully, has now been eliminated. Plus we have one with that little sprayer thingy that’s plumbed separately into the water line, too. Isn’t he sweet? (The bathroom faucet is also due for replacement, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

Countertop dishwasher connected

Clips on just like this

The little red button on the right is for water. Just push and you get some out. Be careful though, because it’s like a fire hose. And, don’t use it while the machine is filling.

Countertop dishwasher hookup

It’s hard, but you just push it and the water comes out

It runs a lot like a laundry washing machine, really, off the water supply. There are some on Amazon who say they can plumb it directly into the water line, but BF’s not going for that, and I don’t mind, either. It’s not been that much trouble to use. We don’t have to unscrew that bit, although we could do that. Works just fine the way we have it.

So What’s It Like To Use?

Well, in a word, AWESOME. But there’s a few caveats I have to tell you about while I explain all this.

Since it’s smaller, it obviously won’t hold as much as a full-sized machine The idea behind the design is service for six, that is, six dinner, salad and dessert plates, drinking glasses, coffee cups (small flat ones) and cutlery. But of course you can wash other stuff in there, too.

Countertop dishewasher loaded

Loaded!

Bigger than a microwave oven, it holds quite a lot, but that bowl takes up a lot of room. That’s OK.

Countertop dishwasher cup and mug rack

An area for big cups as well as smaller items

You may be wondering why the dishes are wet. That’s another caveat–it doesn’t have a “dry” cycle like the big ones we’re all used to. So what do you do? You can dry them by hand, pull the rack out and let them dry, or unload them into a dish drain or on a draining towel so they dry on their own. I usually just pull the rack out, but if I need to use it again, I just unload them and start the next load. Believe me, it’s OK, too.

When you’re ready, drop in your detergent:

Gelpac in countertop dishwasher

So neat & tidy

Turn it on:

Countertop dishwasher

Very easy

Then touch the start button:

Countertop dishwasher buttons

And away we go!

When you touch the start button, the colon between the numbers blinks, and it starts in ten seconds. I haven’t tried the delay function yet. Or that other one. . .better read the manual again, yes?

The big round knob gives you several cycles to chose from I just like the hour-and-fifteen-minute cycle, but you can chose whichever you like, from the nearly two-hour cycle to the ten minute “rinse them off” cycle.” When the detergent caked on, I picked it all out, moved the obstruction and used the 45 minute cycle for the re-run.

Whenever the cycle finishes, it beeps and the numerical readout goes back to the original time of the cycle. I just turn it off, open it up, pull the rack out, turn off the water, pop the pressure and remove the hookup from the faucet, letting it drain into the sink. The whole cycle only uses about 3.5 gallons of your hot water! And it makes a neat “moaning” sound when the water flows out of it into the sink. I just roll the hoses up behind the dishwasher after they’re drained, I’m done with the washing and that’s it.

The Last Caveat

Obviously this wonderful machine can’t wash as much, or everything that a full-sized one can. Again, that’s OK. Also, I’m not naive enough to think I’ll never hand wash again; far from it. Big pots, cast-iron skillets, and a few other things that can’t be washed in the dishwasher will always have to be hand-washed. I can handle that. But for everyday dishes, coffee cups, flatware and other smaller things, this dishwasher has been a wonderful thing. I’ve spent as long as 3+ hours catching up dishwashing. I hope I don’t have to do that anymore, and so far, I haven’t.

Facebook Bragging

I was so happy to finally get this dishwasher. Is it wrong to love a kitchen appliance? Well, I got this one because it’s much easier to get than the Suzy Homemaker model:

Suzy Homemaker Dishwasher

I still want one.

And I think mine holds more, anyway.

I kept talking about my new dishwasher on Facebook, and well, I guess it’s one of those things you look and go, “oh, how nice.” But one gentleman, who I’ve never met in person, ended up buying his own dishwasher right after I bought this one (the same one, too.) He lives in a 900-square-foot “fifth wheel,” an expanded trailer kind of thing. He’s a single guy, lives alone and hates washing dishes. So. . .I made him happy, too. He loves his as much as I love mine. Isn’t Facebook great?

What Else I Learned On Facebook

Well, if you have dogs that do not want to take a bath, there’s a way to make it easier. Get a jar of cheap peanut butter and smear some on the walls of your bathtub or shower stall. Lead them to it, let them have it, and wash while they lick the peanut butter off the wall. Think I’m joking? I’m not, and it works like a charm. It’s how I washed a 65-pound pit bull today, as well as a 25-pound mutt.

BF says it’s “cheating.” I say it works, and nobody’s keeping score, so who cares?

Caveat: if you let the dog lick the utensil, don’t put it back into the jar. If you do, make sure you mark the jar “DOG ONLY.” Or you’ll be eating the dog’s peanut butter. (Because BF couldn’t remember if he did or not.)

The New Addiction

This little detergent scoop comes with the dishwasher, along with some other plastic parts I’m not yet sure about:

Countertop dishwasher powder scoop

It hangs there ready when I want it.

I was thinking, “Wow, a little Command Hook right there will keep it where it won’t get lost.” Indeed, it does.

Unfortunately, I’m now addicted to Command Hooks.

Measuing cups held by Command Hooks

Found on Pinterest, naturally–and there’s now more on this door since I took this pic.

There are lots of boards and pins dedicated to organizing your home with these babies, but there aren’t all that many “new ideas.” Most are the same ones recirculated, although I wish I’d known about hanging curtains with the bigger ones a long time ago. However, they’re all quite useful ideas:

Command hook on coffee tin

It waits for me, just like the detergent cup

I got this idea from one of the articles suggesting putting a measuring cup on a hook on your cereal container (it was oatmeal in a plastic bin.) It works, just like this one that’s also quite useful:

Rubber Gloves held by a binder clip hanging on a Command Hook

Finally, a place to stash these!

It was the first binder clip I could put my paws on, you understand. And then there’s this:

Command hooks holding potholders

Neat and handy (and I made those, too.)

Now, I actually had a large cup hook there, but it’s just sheetrock. I put it there to cover the old landline phone jack, because, well, we have cell phones, so who cares, right? But the cup hook kept falling out, and the little picture fell a few times, so–Command Hook to the rescue!

Command hook holding oven mitt

Looks better doesn’t it?

This is BF’s oven mitt, which was hanging by a nail, and knocked to the floor many times. Not anymore.

And there are more in the house, including the bathroom. 3M actually makes a specific type to use in the bathroom to withstand the extra humidity.

I’ve also hung up my yoga mat bags on the back of a door, individually, with bigger hooks.

How Did I Miss These?

When I moved to the condo in 2004, I bought a Command Hook to put up a thingy I made to hang extra rolls of bathroom tissue on the back of the door. I put the tape on backwards, but it stayed up, and the hook was there when I left. (I’m sure it’s gone now, but who cares?)

But they were relatively new then, and somewhat expensive. Guess I didn’t pay enough attention over the years, and then life got much more complicated. But now there’s a huge selection of these sticky-tape products, and they can do quite a lot of things, without putting holes in the walls.

So now when we go somewhere (especially if we head up to Hammond), I’m fond of telling BF, “We need some Command Hooks.” He asks, “what kind?” I respond, “I don’t know–I just know we need some.”  (We probably need more of the tapes, though.) Alternately, I’ll tell him, “Oh my GOD! I haven’t bought any Command Hooks lately!” He either ignores me or looks at me funny. As usual.

Until Next Time

If you were wondering how the heck you’d get a dishwasher in your kitchen, I hope I gave you an option. I’m loving mine, and I know my Facebook friend RG is loving his, because he tells me. I’m always looking for other options and alternatives, because I know in this world, they do exist. (I can’t answer for other worlds, don’t ask me.) With both the dishwasher and the Command Hooks, it was a matter of “what took you so long?”

Hope I’ve helped someone out today. I’m looking for new stuff all the time, I just don’t always find stuff to write about.

Enjoy!

BigLittleFudge
Finding Big Little Fudge

Big Little Fudge–if you’ve seen it and haven’t tried it, do you know what you’re missing?

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

More writing!

Remember when I told you I was also doing work on Upwork? Well, I’ve been published–with a byline! Off The Grid News has published two of my articles! There is another in the pipeline, and I’m thinking about the next natural health topic to suggest to them. There’s a whole section of natural medicine on this website, where my articles are located. Look at this–tea tree oil! I didn’t write that one, but I just bought some for BF’s icky toenail fungus. He says the oil “stinks,” and says he’s “just humoring me.” (I’m using it straight.) He refers to his socks and shoes as a “containment field.” Wait til the stuff actually works. . . .

The Griddler is fixed!

Finally, finally, my beloved Griddler, aka, waffle maker, has a new drip tray. The part arrived last week, it’s been replaced and in place.

Finally!!!

I am SO happy, and yes, we’ve used it–for grilled pork chops, waffled burgers, and pizza waffles so far.

And there it is!

I couldn’t resist, it was just there, and I could cook those pork chops on the counter top and not worry about dripping grease anywhere. Waffled burgers just happened because the waffle plates were on the machine already.

All fixed now. Isn’t it beautiful?

It’s so quick and easy! We have ready-made crusts, pizza sauce and grated mozzarella cheese at the ready in the freezer. BF knows how much I enjoy using this appliance. He just smiles when I mention using it.

How about some foodie news?

To bounce off two previous posts, it seems that Libby’s canned veg will now be marked as BPA-free. Good move by Seneca Foods. We definitely need to know these things when we’re choosing canned goods.

Mug cakes go corporate

Someone at Pinnacle Foods, a/k/a, The Company That Owns Duncan Hines, has been paying attention to Pinterest. You can now buy your “cake in a cup” experience in a boxed mix. Seriously. They’re now making “cake in a cup mixes.” Isn’t the whole “cake in a cup” thing so that you don’t have to buy a box of cake mix?

Remember when the “cake in a cup” went around email?

No kidding. I just found this in Walmart the other night. So if you’re too lazy to mix two tablespoons of flour and sugar, an egg and some oil, here you go. Just remember that you’re still going to be mixing this mix in a cup. Anyone get that irony?

Ho, ho, ho!

The Green Giant brand has been bought by B&G Foods, and they’ve got some new things coming, including new Ortega products! They also sell some food products in Sur La Table stores and on their website.

Blue Bell’s new idea

Finally, Texas’ own Blue Bell now has an ice cream flavor to answer the conundrum of, “should I have a cone or put it in a bowl?” The new Ice Cream Cone flavor solves that problem for you. The cone is IN the ice cream, so you can have it whether or not you have a cone handy.

I kid you not.

More Texas sweetness

I had a little bit of home just recently when BF took us out for a little “date night.” About a month ago, we went to. . .Cracker Barrel in Hammond. If you’ve never been in one of these “country-style” themed restaurants, it’s quite nice with home-style food (think meat, potatoes, fried okra and gravy like your grandmother made), and salads. There’s even a fireplace in the dining area, which I appreciate, but they didn’t light it when we were there. He loves Cracker Barrel, and honestly, I can’t complain, either. There is also a “general store” attached where you can buy some nice things, a little bit like Buc-ee’s. As we were checking out, I noticed something on the counter. There are lots of things on the counter, but this one caught my attention. Oh, my GAWD. A little bit of Texas, here in rural Louisiana.

Big Little Fudge.

Back in 2011, I was lucky enough to attend the Houston Metro Cooking & Entertainment Show, and went with the Boeing Teammates Association, so it was a bus trip. No parking issues! Basically, it’s a trade show for food vendors and open to the public, primarily from Texas, but some from other places, too. Grass-fed beef. Premium olive oils. Himalayan Pink Salt. Gourmet vinegars that taste like wine. Community Coffee (no kidding!) and delicious coffees from everywhere–no Starbucks here. And of course, sweet stuff–artisan chocolate, especially. I told the folks on the bus driving home that most of what I ate was olive oil, garlic and chocolate. I wasn’t yet blogging, but if I were, you would have heard all about it here.

A quick search doesn’t show any evidence of a food show in Houston since 2013, so they may not be held anymore. I’ll have to start looking for “food shows” in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. You never know what you’ll be sampling, and you meet all kinds of people. Like any trade show, you go home with bags of cool stuff–but some cool stuff you get to eat. Wear comfortable walking shoes.

Wait–I’m a blogger now. Wonder if I can get a press pass for one?

Yes, Texas has great desserts too

One of those vendors was a company called Big Little Fudge, and they were giving out samples! Well, they gave me some of their delicious fudge to try, and I bought a couple of them too.

Big Little Fudge

The folks from Big Little Fudge. The blonde lady is Robin Strickland, one of the co-owners.

This deliciousness has been around since October of 2010, started by two longtime business partners, Robin Strickland and Kevin Graham, who had just sold their *other* business, and decided to launch a business making. . .fudge, in 2009. Naturally, you bring something chocolate to a food show, and people show up. There they were. Nice people, and they make a smooth, creamy fudge that you won’t soon forget.  I know I never did.

Sweet, but not overly sweet

This is the one called Heavyweight Champ, which has dried cranberries in it. I haven’t seen it since, but you can order it from their website.

BigLittleFudge

I’ve bought it a time or two since that date night in Hammond, but I have to be careful or I’ll be a BIG blogger!

Big Texas flavor in a little square

These pack a lot of flavor in a little chunk. I GASPED when I saw it in Cracker Barrel, and even BF was a bit concerned.

Big Little Fudge

Big Little Fudge!

The blue one, Chocalot, was the first one, and Big Wally was the second one. I think those were the only two they had. One lady standing behind me wanted to know what the big deal was, and I told her–delicious fudge from Montgomery, Texas, here in Louisiana! I also mentioned that I’d met the owners at the Food Show in 2011. . .she wasn’t impressed by that, nor the fact that it’s gluten-free.

They’re Gluten Free, too!

She responded that someplace around Hammond also had very good fudge, but she wasn’t sure if it was gluten free. I have no idea what place she was talking about.

Turns out that these two were part of a promotion in November to benefit the G.O.V.E.T.S. Foundation, and sold in Cracker Barrel nationwide. This is a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of our military veterans with things like job assistance. (Surprisingly, it didn’t register on BF’s radar for this sort of thing.) I’m guessing the Hammond store just had some left, and I was lucky enough to find them.

The rest of the story

You see all my pictures from that day at this external link–it’s on Facebook, but you don’t need to sign in or have an account. I’m only in one of them, when I took a picture with a man whose cookbook I bought and had autographed:

Me with Robb Walsh, the author of The Tex-Mex Cookbook, September 2011. (I wasn’t blonde; at the time, I was using a different kind of hair color that washed out quickly.)

I looked pretty good in that picture. That shirt was way too big. . .soon, one day, it will be again.

Big Little Fudge, anytime

A little something sweet right now, party favors, holiday stocking stuffers, or corporate gifts for clients, or fundraiser sweets, Big Little Fudge has you covered. Just hop onto their website and take a look around. They also have a map function for you to find out where you can find these delicious morsels in your area. They’re available in some Sam’s Club locations, too. In my neck of the woods, the closest places showing are in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but of course, online ordering makes nearly *anything* available.

You can also see more articles on this Texas’ own company on the news part of their website. They also have some celebrity fans, most of whom I’ve never heard of, but what do I know?

This is Prize-Winning Fudge

Big Little Fudge was chosen as the 2016 Buyer’s Choice winner for “Best New Chocolate” at ECRM’s (Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing) annual Candy Planning: Everyday & Summer Seasonal event held in New Orleans, August 28-31, 2016. Um, yeah! (Source: company press release.)

For a little treat for yourself, or for someone else, Big Little Fudge may be just what you need. Look on their website to find out where they’re sold in your area to satisfy your immediate chocolate craving. Need more? They ship anywhere, and made right in lovely Montgomery, Texas. I’ve been up there, although not to their factory. (Now, I wish I had.) This fudge is definitely worth seeking out, whether a single wrapped piece for yourself or buying a batch for corporate gifts or special occasions like parties and weddings.

Serve these babies at a wedding and your guests will ignore the wedding cake, OK? At least until they’re all gone.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “Use It Up” Frittata

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?

Not exactly.

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?

Now we know why.

Now we know what happened.

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.

The setup

The setup.

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:

I didn't use all the green onions, but don't worry, they'll grow back soon.

I didn’t use all of them but don’t worry, they’ll grow back soon.

Chopped them up really well, then moved onto the pepper:

Hatch!

Hatch!

And you know I saved those seeds, too:

Always, always. I'm determined to grow Hatch chiles in rural Louisiana.

Always, always. I’m determined to grow Hatch chiles in rural Louisiana.

Chopped them up really fine, too:

Always, ALWAYS wear gloves!

Always, ALWAYS wear gloves!

Then I chopped up the two pork chops:

These really are delicious!

Delicious.

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:

A little butter, a little olive oil

A little butter, a little olive oil, a little heat

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.

I think this was a bit too high of a temp.

Pretty soon, the veg will be cooked:

This is good.

This is good.

At this point, I added in the chopped pork chops to heat them:

See why you chop it small?

See why you chop it small?

And let them heat while you deal with the eggs:

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

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:

img_3463

The eggs and milk work well together, especially here.

And because, DUH, I had this handy, I shook in about a quarter cup or so:

Yes, the infamous green bottle.

Yes, the infamous green bottle.

I have some Manchego in the freezer, but guess who doesn’t like that, either? So this is what went in:

Into the pool with it:

Into the pool with it:

Plugged in the immersion blender:

This is why the 8-cup bowl is best for this kind of thing.

This is why the 8-cup bowl is best for this kind of thing.

And hit the button:

Blitz! The egg mixture doesn't go flying all over the place. And it pours easily.

Blitz! The egg mixture doesn’t go flying all over the place. And it pours easily.

Now you’re ready to pour the egg mixture into the pan. Carefully, please:

NOW it's happening!

NOW it’s happening!

Your frittata is almost ready:

img_3476

Don’t forget to use the spatula to get every last bit of egg, milk and cheese out of the bowl and into the pot!

I put the universal pot lid on it so that it might cook a bit faster on top:

I'm sure BF looks at this and thinks to himself, "of course, she bought the red one."

I’m sure BF looks at this and thinks to himself, “of course, she bought the red one.”

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:

Done!

Done!

With cries of “I’m hungry” from BF, and apologies for the the delay, I served this to him:

Use-It-Up Frittata

Use-It-Up Frittata!

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.

Enjoy!

 

 

Demonic Possession of the Microwave

Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

It’s been 15 days, and I apologize. Life has kept me tap-dancing on the bar, if you know what I mean. I wish it would knock it off, I don’t want to dance anymore.

I have a couple of posts that I’m still not finished researching. . .they’re in the draft folder.

I have been told that three ladies from my favorite, fabulous HEB have begun to read this humble blog. I saw Miss Sunie yesterday, and she’s read the last post, where she also appears. Miss Lei lost the URL, so I gave it to her again, and Miss Carolyn. . .I think she found it too. Welcome to this humble blog. I hope you enjoy in what’s presented. Please feel free to read through the archives. You can also sign up with the widget on the right side, if you like.

When I saw Miss Lei the other day, she was sampling ice cream. . .yum. However, when she offered one customer some ice cream, the customer asked, “It doesn’t have Hatch in it, does it?” No. . .butter pecan. The two-weekend Hatch chili promotion is over, although there are some Hatch things left hanging around. The Hatch plants have gone down to $4, and I bought one with several peppers on it. I might just make some of that Hatch Pesto, but I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with the red pepper on that tree.

I managed to get shots of the Chili Fun Facts Miss Lei had posted in her booth:

Hatch3

Hatch1

No kidding.

No kidding.

OK, admittedly, I was in a hurry taking these pictures. Sorry about that.

Oh, and don’t mix basil and Hatch chilies. I took that half-cup of pesto I made a couple of weekends ago, let it thaw a bit, and added a roasted Hatch chili. Tastes good, but you can’t taste the basil anymore–the basil is completely obliterated. I’ll use it with roast chicken or something.

Sue Moran at The View From Great Island created this delicious looking Cheesy Hatch Green Chili Dip. This looks perfect for football season, with some crunchy, salty chips. (Gluten free chips, of course.)  Sue is the creator of the delicious Meyer Lemon Cake I made a couple of times with Meyer Lemons I grew out back. I’ve subscribed to her blog ever since, and her recipes are pretty easy. I may have to try this dip one day, even if I have to get canned chilies from HEB. I’ll be trying the whole bowl, OK? You want some, you MAKE some.

Let’s talk about something else. The Demonic Possession of the Microwave Oven. For whatever reason, I’ve been plagued with it.

Honestly, it’s hard to believe how long microwave ovens have been around. It’s like a light bulb, we just don’t think much about them anymore. Invented by an engineer at Raytheon by accident, they’re now just everywhere–homes, apartments, offices, commercial kitchens, campers, frat houses, bachelor pads, you name it.

When I was in the Girl Scouts (never mind how long that’s been, because I don’t remember) my troop was taken on a field trip to an LP&L facility in La Place, LA. I didn’t know what it was, but we were given a demonstration of the microwave by one of their home economists, which was one of the “next big things.” The HE opened a can of corn, poured it into a bowl, and when it came out of that contraption, it was hot and the butter melted.

A few years later, they were everywhere, and you couldn’t watch much TV without seeing an ad for the Amana Radarange. My Dad bought our first one about 1976, when it  was advertised as “The Greatest Cooking Invention Since Fire.” (I love Google, don’t you?) With four of us, Mom needed a bit of help in the kitchen, or maybe that’s what my Dad decided. This page says they cost $595: that was quite a sum in those days, probably like a good $3K or more is now.  Whatever the reason, we had one of these gleaming, modern miracles:

The Amana Radarange, circa 1976.

The Amana Radarange, circa 1976.

And the touch panel, similar to a modern smartphone screen:

Very simple, but effective.

Very simple, but effective.

It was a big deal–it was like being the first family on the block getting a TV just 3o or so years before. I remember going to my aunt’s place and while my Dad talked to my uncle about it, the uncle replied, “well, I’ve thought about microwave cooking, but I’m just concerned about radiation.” No. . .but eventually, they became synonymous with “kitchen appliances.”

That thing lasted until the mid-90’s, when my parents finally bought another, more contemporary model, and probably for a lot less than the original.

Fast-forward more years than I care to admit to, and things have changed considerably in small kitchen appliances.

Some time ago, I wrote about the Karma of Spare Parts, a continual issue of minor repairs that I’ve been doing, mostly out of necessity. There have been a number of issues, like my slow cooker incidents. However, this one is more serious. It’s the microwave.

When I started this blog in 2012, I was happily using an old Sunbeam microwave that I’d bought for $10 in 2004 from the JSC Swap Shop, a Craigslist-type site for folks in the space program who had access to that part of the Johnson Space Center’s (NASA) Intranet. The GER benefitted from the Swap Shop too–I searched it every Monday and sent him numerous ads that I thought he could use. He bought many things to sell on eBay, and I was glad to help.

Now,  you might remember that the original microwave blew out. I’d bought a replacement glass plate for it, and a roller ring to go under it.  (I returned those for a refund.) What I didn’t know at the time was that the kettle I was using to make coffee was leaking. The water went under the microwave and eventually ruined it. I put some food in it, I heard a noise (BOOM!) and smelled something that didn’t smell anything like food. I realized later that it could have started a fire. Talk about protection from the Buddhist gods! That faithful microwave was toast, pardon the pun. Time for a new one. Well, it was made in 2003, and this was, what, 2014? So it had a good run.

First place I went: Walmart. I’m not a big Walmart shopper, even though some of the goods and services they offer go beyond Target’s. But I go there sometimes for different things. The first one I bought was this Rival model:

Rival 0.7 Cu Ft Microwave Oven, White

It worked great–simple, clean, and just slightly complicated to operate. Until it didn’t. A few months after I bought it, the light started strobing on and off, and so did the power. It also made a weird noise. Oh, brilliant. I pulled the plug, removed whatever was in there, and marched it back to Wal-Mart.

My reason for return: it’s possessed by the Devil.

I didn’t want another Rival, because I didn’t want that to happen again. I should have replaced it with an identical model, but I didn’t. I liked the red one.

Hamilton Beach 0.9 cu ft 900W Microwave, Red

The one I brought home, however, was a West Bend, but looks identical to this HB. Then recently, I was making some microwave popcorn, and darnit, it was only half-popped and the light was out. It was plugged in, but. . .nothing. Being a bit of a computer nerd, I unplugged it and plugged it back in. You know, just like you do with Windows 10–restart it, right? Yeah, that worked. But even though it pretended to run, it wasn’t popping popcorn. The magnetron tube, apparently, had blown, for some unknown reason. The rest of the mechanics seemed to be fine, including the electronic bits.

Again?

I pulled the plug, packed it into the car, and hauled it back to the Friendswood Walmart for a replacement. Reason for return: demonic possession.

OK, admittedly, I have no way to check and see if demonic possession is real. I just figured it sounded better than explaining it the way I just did. And it got a giggle from the return desk folks. But one young lady in appliances, who happened by while her coworker went to the warehouse to look for the exact same model I was returning, gave me a detailed explanation about demon possession. I kid you not. She insisted that the demon wouldn’t possess the microwave, it would possess me. Really–ask anyone! But after three microwaves went POOF! in the same spot, I can’t give you any other explanation than demonic possession.

And because the Friendswood customer service employees were less than enthused about my dilemma, I packed it back into the car and went down to League City, where I found a much friendlier and helpful group of folks. The greeter, a young woman about 18 or so, said, “Oh, I love your hair color, it’s gorgeous!” I thanked her, of course, and I wasn’t dressed to the nines. The next girl in Customer Service enjoyed my comment about the microwave being a victim of “demonic possession.”

After a short discussion and comparison with a nice man named Chris in appliances, I found my replacement. So this is the one that came home with me last week:
Hamilton Beach 1.1 cu ft Microwave Oven, Black

Bigger, badder, hotter. WAY bigger. A nice Hamilton Beach model, 1000 watt microwave.

All three times, I was able to exchange the microwave for something different. Unfortunately, Walmart’s variety is a bit. . .better on their website, but I was not about to wait.

What I had in mind was something like this:

Or this:

But no, I had to go “up,” long story. Now I have this huge, honkin’ microwave in the HeatCageKitchen.

File Aug 30, 7 12 43 PM

The kitchen is being taken over by a microwave.

I have to move it over to the left to use the kettle; I have very little counter space to work on now. Maybe I’ll just sell the Hamilton Beach on Craigslist for its MSRP or something close to it, and go to Target and get the smaller, less expensive one. . .but right now I have, if you’ll pardon the expression, bigger fish to fry.

It’s what I get for thinking. Just the other day, I was thinking to myself, “hey, make sure the next microwave isn’t so big.” Next thing I know, I was getting a new one. Just not the one I envisioned, that’s all.

I may be taking a break from blogging, since life isn’t letting me alone. So if I don’t get back here soon, well, you know I’m thinking about other things.

And maybe getting myself an original Amana Radarange one day, along with some Suzy Homemaker appliances. Then I will have a truly fabulous kitchen, right? (Just kidding.)

Happy cooking!

Green stuff that isn’t pesto

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.

Coffee!

Coffee!

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:

That's the top, and the biggest pepper on the tree so far.

That’s the top, and the biggest pepper on the tree so far.

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:

I hope they get bigger.

I hope they get bigger.

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!

IMG_3023[1]

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:

Garlic!

Garlic!

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:

Green onions to your heart's content.

Green onions to your heart’s content.

Now what’s with the bulbs on the top? Flowers! No kidding.

The top of a green onion. First time that's ever happened to me.

The top of a green onion. First time that’s ever happened to me.

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:

IMG_2984

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!

My first tomato!

My first tomato!

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?

Fresh Oregano!

Fresh Oregano!

It’s doing pretty well since I cut it:

IMG_2973

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:

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Lettuce! (Mint at the upper right.)

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.

Celery, redux

Celery, redux

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:

Meyer Lemon bud

Meyer Lemon bud

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:

Key limes

Key limes

Key lime buds

Key lime bud closeup (there are more buds elsewhere.)

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:

Italian flat-leaf parsley

Italian flat-leaf parsley

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.

Chimichurri Sauce.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

 

Directions:

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:

Don't chop too much, the blender will take care of most of it.

Don’t chop too much, the blender will take care of most of it. Just make sure your parsley is rinsed CLEAN.

Toss it all in the blender, no kidding, and it’s DONE:

Tah-dah!

Tah-dah!

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:

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Tossed it over the salad green:

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And added more of the Chimichurri sauce.

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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.

Enjoy!

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