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Chorizo with scrambled eggs
Casa Chorizo

Chorizo–a delicious, flavorful form of sausage from the Mexican and Tex-Mex culture. I love it.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

No, BF and I have not fallen off the face of the earth, but I’m busy and he doesn’t write. So, apologies again.

If you went out and got one of the wonderful Kitchenaid Cold Brew Coffee Makers this summer, I do hope you are enjoying it as much as I do. BF’s car-guy friend Jenny came by a couple of months ago and was thrilled to find out about one. She took her kids to the local PJ’s and spent $30 on iced coffee for the three of them, that’s a bit pricey for this young widow. She’s probably going to be getting one if she hasn’t already. But me, I love my iced coffee in the morning, even though I’m not drinking much of it now that it’s getting chilly!  But it’s so easy, even BF could make it.

The Work Of Copywriting

I’m doing a fair bit of SEO writing for law offices and attorneys, with a little of this and that thrown in to keep it interesting. A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a blog post about the things that can affect a paternity test–you know, the “who’s your daddy” DNA test. Well. . .a lot, actually. Besides lab errors and tampering, there are a number of genetic mutations and anomalies that can have two siblings–even twins–test unrelated. Nevermind what a “chimera” is. How’s *that* for dinner party conversation?

The Parts Catalog

One client had me writing descriptions for parts. That’s right, hardware, primarily air conditioner parts. Really exciting, yes? I didn’t mind–it pays, and it gives me a break from the occasionally heavy legal subject matter I normally write.

I don’t know what all these parts are for, so I have to look them up. If I don’t know what a capacitor is, I can’t tell you, now can I? (It puts jolts of power into things like fan motors, similar to a battery.) So now I know what that is, and I can create a short description. I also learned a new term: PTAC, or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner. The kind they use in hotels.

One description I wrote was for a metal clip that holds the plastic front onto the air conditioner. This was one I had to use the parts diagram for. Once I realized what it was, I came up with an interesting description, using the phrase “never again will you have to stare at the grisly innards of your air conditioner.” It went over well, and I even posted that one on Facebook. AK says I have “the writing chops.” That made me feel good.

I wrote for him for about 3 weeks, and we were done.

The Unconventional Garden

I haven’t written about the gardening in a while, but I did manage to do some this year. The cool spring meant I was hesitant to put plants out, and I got a late start. We’re now getting bell peppers, and while I’ve picked three or four red ones, I’ve got three more that are still growing, and one is turning red. They could be in our Thanksgiving dinner. (More on that later.)

The Meyer Lemon and Lime trees are still in pots, along with rosemary, scallions, mint and a lone tomato plant with one tomato growing. They’re at the front of the house.

We dug up a little patch over by the garage, about 5′ by 5′. Mostly basil, a couple of bell pepper plants, some sage and parsley. I’ve made five or six recipes of pesto while BF complained about the “smell.”

Bell peppers
They’re growing pretty good, and they’ll be red when mature.

I’m hoping to at least one more container for the winter before it all goes away, but we’ll see. All those little rooted pieces of basil worked and most of them survived.

BF was supposed to be digging more grass up for the rest of the plants, but he’s up to his elbows in car parts and motors. He’s been busily building motors for people and doing some repair work for a few folks, too.

Additionally, we’ve done some updates to the Casa de Rurale. Specifically, replacement ceiling fans (including a new one with a big light and a remote control in my office), two new exterior doors with new frames, a new kitchen and bathroom faucet, both Moen (I’ll tell you why Moen in a minute) and. . .a new septic tank.

Not the most interesting stuff, but the septic tank was very important. I’ll spare you the details.

The garden plot had a few tomato plants, but I only got one or two little tomatoes. Must find a better place next year, but they were delicious. One was a teardrop tomato, and the other was a little round one. But we’re getting some tomatoes, finally, in a most unusual fashion.

Surprise Tomatoes

Because the original builders of this house were able to get away with it, the only septic tank was a single 55-gallon drum. The house was built for a mother-in-law, so it was all the local zoning required. (Yes, they really do stuff like this in Louisiana.)

BF knew that at some point a new, modern tank would be needed. We were having some issues, but nothing too severe. He previously did some digging, but the only way to solve everything was the new septic tank. With all the work he’s been doing in the shop, he was able to get a new 500-gallon cement tank installed in early July.

After the tank business was all over (it really didn’t take long), BF put some dirt over it, and hopefully next year we will have lots of lovely green grass growing over it.

While BF’s car guy friend was visiting, he looked over by the tank, points and says, “That’s a tomato plant.” Where? “Over there, under the tree.” At first I told him he was crazy, but upon closer inspection, he was correct, it was a tomato plant. “If you stake it, you might get some tomatoes off of it.”

Surprise tomatoes

Well, I did stake the plants, and this one has given several “racks” of tomatoes in various stages of growth. (This is the first one, near the bottom of the plant.) They’re obviously yellow grape tomatoes, and I have picked a number and eaten a few when ripened. I watered them regularly.

The End

A month or two ago, the wind knocked them over, so I did a little digging to put the stake farther down. Unfortunately, I must have hit the root system, because they started turning brown. There is one tomato that’s thriving on what’s left of the green part and a few more flowers. But the rest were picked and will be seeded before I eat them.

I’ll spare you the details of how these tomato plants came to be, but I’m sure you can figure it out.

BO, a gentleman I used to work with at Boeing, lives in the Clear Lake Area, and posted a pic of a tomato plant growing out of the gutter on his house last year. Apparently, the seeds got up there in much the same fashion, but with birds. He posted a picture with a comment about maybe it was time to clean out the gutters.  He actually got a half dozen or so tomatoes off that plant. I guess he cleared the gutters later.

So tomatoes are pretty easy to grow, yes?

Fingers crossed for a bigger, better planting and harvest next year, and not by the septic system.

Why Moen?

Well. . .remember when I bought the dishwasher? BF changed out the kitchen sink faucet for me right after I got it. He sent me to the local hardware store and I bought what we could afford at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a top-of-the-line model. (The dishwasher is still running great–we’re both happy with it.)

The dishwasher’s “delay” function is great–you set it and forget it, and I was setting it to go off at 3:00 or 4:00 am. That way we could take a shower, and we’d have plenty of hot water. (OK, it only uses 3.5 gallons for a cycle, but BF is persnickety about it.) Unfortunately, well, the faucet. . . .

I bet you see where this is going–the water pressure eventually led to the faucet leaking, and one Saturday, the kitchen was flooded. So no more overnight dishwashing, and lots of old towels around when I did use it.

BF sent me to Lowe’s, and I got a very elegant Moen faucet which doesn’t leak (but not that expensive.)  Unfortunately, he’s had to tear out the cabinetry, and we discovered that the leaks attracted. . .termites. There was no structural damage, but some of the wood has been replaced.  The termite problem has been taken care of by his gracious uncle. The kitchen cabinet has been put back together, along with some additional shelving under the sink. At some point, there will be new vinyl flooring (it was already planned.)

I was glad that we were making progress in the house, but. . .well, that’s the karma, isn’t it? More plumbing issues. . .I hope they’re solved now. The Crock Pots were used regularly until we could get back in there. 

Making Chorizo

Let’s talk about something tasty.

One of the many things that I’ve bemoaned the loss of outside of Texas is the availability of chorizo. If you’re not familiar with chorizo, you’re probably not reading this from Texas, or you’ve never been to Texas. If you’ve never had chorizo, you’re missing out.

Most shoppers know about the ubiquitous Italian sausage that’s available just about anywhere in the United States. Different areas have different ways of making it. For instance, the Italian sausage are used to get H-E-B was wonderful. It tasted better than Johnsonville’s version, and I would always keep a couple packets in the freezer.

Unfortunately the Italian sausage that I found in Winn-Dixie left a great deal to be desired. (Read: it was awful.)

What It Is (For The Unfamiliar)

Chorizo is a similar thing, except it’s Hispanic. I say Hispanic, because there are two different types. One is a cured sausage, similar to hard salami, which is Spanish chorizo. I’ve found it in Cost Plus World Market a few times, and it may also be available in gourmet grocery stores.

The second type, which is more common to the southwest, is Mexican chorizo. It’s a raw sausage from pork, like the Italian sausage, but made with a different series of spices.

Chorizo may be served with anything from tacos to burritos to a breakfast plate with eggs in place of bacon or regular sausage. It may be in links, like the Johnsonville type, or it may be un-contained, like I’ll show you here.

Finding Chorizo

One day I was in Rouses in Mandeville, and I found out that Johnsonville now makes chorizo. I was ecstatic!. So I bought some and check at home.

Package of Johnsonville's Chorizo

First brats, now chorizo!

BF was not happy to see this, and I refuse to let him try it. But that’s OK, he didn’t want to anyway.

Result: it’s passable. It’s certainly not as good as anything you get in Texas, but it’s better than nothing. And it doesn’t have the usual amounts of fillers and other things like cereal that you find in some local brands in Houston.

Then my district leader sent me a picture of some chorizo she found in the Sam’s club in Mandeville. That’s an hour away, and I don’t belong to Sam’s. But, it’s a Texas brand and it’s fresh chorizo. I looked up the brand online and it’s pretty good it’s well-made and all that.

Now, Make It

About a week later, I was reading one of the many many food-related emails that I get every day. On this particular day, it was all about tacos. So, I had to open it up and look at it.

One of the recipes in the email was called Amaya’s Tacos. So I looked it up because it was from a cookbook I have. I found it, but on the next page was the recipe for El Chico’s Chorizo. According to the author, it was from previous cookbook from El Chico restaurant chain many years ago.

This recipe is from a book I’ve talked about before, Rob Walsh’s Tex-Mex cookbook. You’ve seen the picture of me with Mr. Walsh a couple of times from 2011, when I met him at the Houston food show.

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

That was a good picture–I’d lost weight, and that new top was suddenly too big. He autographed my book. I was happy. . .anyway. . . .

Say what?

I had no idea that all this time, I had a recipe for chorizo, and it’s pretty easy.

I had to make it. Went to Winn-Dixie and bought the ingredients. Pork chops. The recipe calls for the use of ground pork, which makes a little bit easier, but the author prefers to grind up pork chops. The recipe makes a half pound, so for my weekly breakfast quiche, I double the recipe. What I used to do an in Houston was to buy HEB’s sage breakfast sausage, and vary it with chorizo occasionally. Not anymore! (I still miss my H-E-B.)

So, if you’re going to use the pork chops or other pieces of pork, you put everything in the food processor, and mix in the spices.

Chorizo in the food processor

Then you turn to the stove, sauté up an onion, then put the pork mixture into the pot, and brown it like you would ground beef.

chorizo

And this is what you end up with:

Chorizo
Chorizo!

Eating Chorizo

This is SO good. . .and no, it’s not pepper-hot. If you want spicy hot, add some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. I’ve used pork chops, ground pork and even pork stew meat. I’ve just gone with the ground pork, since it’s readily available and usually pretty cheap.

I also figured out by accident that I can buy multiple pounds of ground pork, mix the appropriate amount of spices in, and then freeze it in quart-sized freezer bags in one-pound increments. That makes life easy, too.

Chorizo with scrambled eggs

This was left from the first batch of chorizo. YUM

 

After all the chorizo I’ve ever had my life, I have to say this is really darn good. It was a happy accident that I happened to find such a thing, and wish I had found it before. Well, I have it now. And BF won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Rob Walsh has a series of cookbooks out, and I may investigate buying more of them. His chili cookbook may be next. After all, it’s better to have recipes if you’re going to go attempt to make some Tex-Mex food, isn’t it?

Bonus: Hatch Chile Time!

I managed to get some Hatch chiles this year, and put them into my breakfast quiche again. YUM. I bought a lot of them, and roasted them all at once in the oven. With the windows open. When BF was not around.

I’ve got a jar full of seeds, in addition to seeds I saved previously. (Bell pepper seeds, too.) I’ve planted a few in the little garden spot, but nothing grew. There’s always next year and that big area behind the garage.

Rouse’s has started to pick up the banner for Hatch chiles, although last year, I got them at Whole Foods. Winn-Dixie had the last of the crop, because October is way too late. Many of them were red, which means they’re hotter.

This year I was asked by a customer in Rouse’s produce department to explain the Hatch–and I did. Extensively. Turns out the lady and her husband were headed to Carlsbad Caverns. I told her about me and Aunt Ruth’s trip to Albuquerque in 2012, and the warning from a fellow flier about “red, or green?”

Hatch Infused

While Rouse’s will never be HEB, they had some Hatch-infused meats available, as well as Hatch roasted rotisserie chicken.

Hatch chile skewers
Ready to grill
Hatch meatloaf
Just pop it into your toaster oven and dinner is done

Of course, we can get canned Hatch chiles here all year long, and you can always order all things Hatch from HEB on their website.

Because we’re in Louisiana, this sits right next to that meat case:

The Trinity Spice Mix
You can buy it in a jar

Many Louisiana recipes start out with celery, onion and bell pepper. With a nod to the state’s Catholic roots, people started calling that combination the “Trinity.” Naturally, someone came up with the idea to market it in dried form, and, well, there it is. I haven’t bought any, but I have bought some dried bell peppers; I needed it for a Stephanie O’Dea recipe recently.

Ready To Make Chorizo?

I know, I know, you can buy it all over the Lone Star State. Heck, I even found some in Rouse’s, one of the brands you can get in Texas–had no idea:

Chorizo
Along with the local “Cajun” sausage, no less

Oh, and look what else I found nearby:

Cheeses withthe chorizo
Manchego? Why couldn’t I find this in Houston?

I usually get this brand of Queso Fresco, but soon I’ll be trying that Manchego to see what it’s like. Fortunately, BF isn’t interested.

And I’m doing yeast-free for a while. Almond milk and Yeast Free Brownies. No dairy. All that.

I took a pic of the recipe: 

Recipe for El Chico's Chorizo

The simple recipe from Robb Walsh’s Tex-Mex Cooking.


I’ll add it to the recipe page soon Just know that it’s from a book, and of course I didn’t create it. If I do create a recipe, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.

Here Come The Holidays

Whether you want them to or not.

I’ve been informed by BF that the kids would like me to brine a turkey and do a Thanksgiving dinner. I can’t imagine why–other than turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes, they turned their noses up at everything else the last time. I’ll take care of it, and the rest can be out of a box or frozen. They love the instant stuffing mix. There may be a pie from The Pioneer Woman’s latest magazine.

Longtime Buddhist friend KJ posted this on Facebook recently:

Christmas Tinner Dinner In A Can

Dinner in a can!

If anyone complains about Thanksgiving, I’ll source these for Christmas dinner. If I can find a countertop dishwasher, I can find these online, darnit. And why not? Can’t be any worse than Feetloaf:

Picture of Meatloaf made like a foot with chopped onions for toenails

I swear, I’m going to make this one day

Yes, I’m a smart-aleck.

I’ll try very hard to get some of the other drafts out and published; I’ve just been very busy. Sorry about that.

Go make some easy chorizo, and have a delicious meal tonight or Taco Tuesday tomorrow.

Enjoy!

Kitchen Rack
Short post: Amy’s Kitchen Rack

The Kitchen Rack returns to the HeatCageKitchen!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers!

Welcome to another edition of “What’s she up to this time?” I’ve been busy! Boy, have I ever. . . .

Another article published!

Today another one of my articles is published on OffTheGridNews, on a food, or supplement, called Maca. It’s a plant that grows high in the Andes Mountains, similar to a potato or turnip. I’ve heard about Maca for many years, but never got around to trying it. It’s great for hot-flashin’ women, so I read, but there’s more to it than that. Like potatoes to the Irish, Maca root has been a food staple for the folks in that part of the world for thousands of years. Someone (probably a Gringo) figured out that it was a pretty powerful thing, and now you can buy it raw or gelatinized and take it as a supplement.

I bought some, too

Admittedly, after I wrote this article, I bought some from Vitacost. Buddhist friend NM told me about Vitacost recently, and I have not been near a Vitamin Shoppe since. I started buying OTC thyroid from Vitacost after discovering they sold it for $10 less than Vitamin Shoppe—and they ship it right to your door! No more long drives to NOLA or Baton Rouge to get one bottle at nearly twice the price. I also use Vitacost’s website for basic research for these articles. I started taking Maca last Friday, when the latest bottle of Raw Thyroid arrived. Vitacost’s house brand is gelatinized, but I’ll try the raw version one day too and see which one works better. (I’m applying the principle of “try the least expensive option first.”) So far, so good.

There was a time when I would spend about $200 a pop at Vitamin Shoppe when I stocked up on stuff. No more—I have been building a list of things I’ll be taking again one day, and I order one or two products at a time, as I can. I’m still writing, but no “big paydays” yet.

No Coffee for Aussies?

This article on The Kitchn this morning says that Aussie kitchens don’t have. . .what? Like me, they do have a kettle to boil water in their kitchens, but not a coffee maker. (The pictured SMEG kettle is gorgeous—I want one of those in red, please!) The kettle makes hot water for tea, instant soups and—instant coffee. I actually have some instant coffee, but it’s primarily for recipes like Yeast Free Brownies. Drinking instant coffee? No, that’s OK. Not unless I absolutely have to. Even in decaf.

Hot mess: Slow Cooker Edition

Last week saw me make two more recipes from slow cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea’s emails: Hearty Lima Bean Soup and Maple Barbecue Beef. BF keeps packets of lima beans around, so I figured he’d like that. NOPE—too much tomato, and he didn’t even finish his. He ate a bowl of cereal, no kidding. Maple Barbecue Beef went over. . .OK. . .we can have it again sometime, but not anytime soon, he says. Yesterday I threw a few things in the slow cooker, including some black beans for a change, and I’ll post that recipe soon. Working Title: Amy’s Slow Cooker Southwestern Black Beans. Along with a bit of roast beef, BF was pretty happy with Sunday dinner after working all day.

Now, this week’s update

You remember the microwave saga? That saga has finally come to an end—I no longer own one! We have one at the Casa de Rurale, of course, but it’s BF’s. More than six months after I bought it at the League City Walmart, I brought the perfectly working but dusty microwave to the local Walmart and traded it in for. . .a new kitchen rack!

Kitchen Rack

The one I’ve always wanted!

No kidding, I finally did it. A new kitchen rack And BF begrudgingly admits the kitchen rack was a pretty good idea. Because, after all, I did unpack a fair amount of boxes:

We had a roaring fire outside after dark with these going up in flames!

Kitchen rack

Burn, baby, burn!

Mind, you, that’s not everything on the kitchen rack–but it’s most of it. There’s some more organization that has to happen in the Casa before all my stuff is unpacked. Working on making more money so I can get the rest of the things I need, like bookshelves, a covered clothing rack, and a couple of DVD racks for us. Oh, and a digital converter box for my non-digital TV. . .one thing at a time, right? In between laundry, dish washing, cooking and Buddhist meetings. . . .

Enter the Breakfast Area

Next to the kitchen rack is my IKEA Fusion table and chairs, which they don’t make anymore, creating a nice little breakfast area by the front window:

Cozy little spot for us, right by the kitchen.

The placemats are from the old Martha Stewart collection at K-Mart. I mentioned this to BF this morning, and he said, “I’m sensing a pattern here.” Because a fair number of things I own are “from the Martha Stewart Collection,” somewhere.

After I did all that, I also stopped at Walmart for a few things one night and decided to get something else “for the house.”

Kitchen Rac

Aren’t they gorgeous?

 

Although I no longer have cable TV, I do still follow my favorite celebrity chefs on Facebook and get their emails. I bought a set of salt and pepper shakers from the new spring line of The Pioneer Woman collection. At Walmart.

These are called “Vintage Bloom,” and there’s a whole collection of dishes that go with it. It’s just a nice little bit of color, and I particularly like that color of blue. I almost bought one of the coffee cups, but if you’ve seen my coffee cup collection—I’m talking about you, Captain Ron—you’ll know that I really, REALLY don’t need another coffee cup, no matter how cute and original.

Kitchen rack is just the beginning

I’m trying to get BF to build me a rustic pallet rack for my coffee cup collection, but so far, he’s not interested. Pegboard, maybe? But he’s working on a couple of other things right now, so I give him a pass, and I wonder if I can do it myself without seriously injuring myself. (I have O- blood, if you’re donating.)

No toaster oven yet, but I have used the little oven on the stove many times. Just need an oven thermometer to check the temperature.

Improvements continue

I continue to improve things in this former man cave (with emphasis on “cave”) as time permits We’ve burned many boxes, piles of old receipts and bills, and other things that make me ask BF, “why do you still have this?” Eventually, some of my stuff will also burn as I unpack more and figure out what I don’t need anymore. Winter is gone now, so I’ll be organizing magazines as well as cycle out and move around clothes. Plant the garden stuff I haven’t even planted yet,too. I want my Hatch chiles!

I’m writing another article for OffTheGridNews, and it’s due Friday. I won’t reveal the subject yet, but there will be an accompanying article here, soon as I do some taste-testing with BF and one or two of his friends. BF is chomping at the bit. . .to get it over with. Because, he says, “I’m just humoring you.” (And he doesn’t understand why I go to Whole Foods whenever I can, but that’s another blog post.) But there’s work to be done before then, and I’ll bring it to you with pictures soon.

Enjoy!

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

Do you like chipotle chicken? I’ve got more slow-cooked good for you today: Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

How’s your week so far? Thinking about dinner? Thinking about some slow cooking this week? You’re in luck.

I’ve got a good one for you.

I’m still writing on Upwork, and although the big project has cooled off for a bit, I’m still at it. This past week has been particularly busy, and so have the slow cookers at the Casa de Rurale. We’ve had a pot roast, some lima beans, some of Stephanie O’Dea’s Chicken with 20 or 40 Cloves of Garlic, and an unexpected new favorite.

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

I’m still getting Stephanie’s emails every day, but some of them are, shall we say, not suitable for our purposes. Last week she sent out this recipe for Thai Coconut Soup. If it’s your thing, go for it. I started reading it, and I see that it includes coconut milk. First thought: “no way he’s going to eat this.” Then I saw that it includes 1/2 pound extra firm tofu, cubed. And then I thought, “no way I’m going to eat this!” So that was the end of that. But I’m holding it in my back pocket for April Fool’s Day, along with a couple of other irritants for BF.

Chicken & Garlic

I managed to find a package of on-sale cut-up chicken in Winn Dixie the other day, and I was pulling up my email in the store so I could find the recipe for Chicken with 20 or 40 Cloves of Garlic. Turns out I only needed. . .garlic and chicken. So one night, that’s what we had. Really, really good chicken, and not strong like you’d think , but BF gave me a funny look when he saw all that garlic. It’s a slow-cooker version of a classic French dish; this is Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa version, although, admittedly, I’ve not made this one.  I posted a comment on Facebook about how good it was (BF was working late) and three people asked for the recipe and said they would be making it. It’s pretty straightforward, so I’m not reviewing it here. Go try it, it’s darn good. Thanks, Stephanie.

So what *are* you talking about today, Amy?

No, the recipe here is another chicken dish that came to me via Bloglovin. You’ve obviously seen my header about it, and of course, you can find this humble blog with many others on that site. I get an email every day about “blogs you need to read today,” but I can’t say I read them all. I primarily get blogs about sewing, but this particular recipe was in one of the daily emails.

And I talked BF into letting me make it. He did not regret his decision.

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

It started with a packet of chicken thighs and a busy day.

Despite getting up early, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and the prep stage took longer. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s make this deliciousness, courtesy of Lisa Lin at Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

The setup. (That’s the saddest bunch of cilantro I’ve ever seen.)

Admittedly, the chicken was supposed to be breasts, but I’m cheap and use what I have on hand. Unfortunately, the chicken was neither boneless nor skinless, so guess what I was doing in a big hurry? Oh, well. At least I could get some cilantro in Walmart that night. (I so miss my HEB.)

Hunt's BPA-free cans and no GMO tomatoes

See? BPA-free and no GMO

I got all the cans opened:

Beans and tomatoes–OK, so it’s not TEXAS chili, but bear with me.

Rinsed the beans:

And dumped them into the slow cooker. Then diced a sweet potato:

Just an ordinary sweet potato.

And diced the onion. . .although not without incident. The knife slipped, and. . . .

Then this happened. And I had to finish while keeping anything acidic away from it.

It’s all REAL in the HeatCageKitchen

After adding those to the crock, there were the chipotles:

These are ancho chilis in a spicy sauce.

My Texas readers will recognize these immediately, but if you’re not familiar with them, you’ll find them with the taco shells, seasonings and sauce. You also add one tablespoon of the sauce these babies come in:

It’s called “Adobo sauce,” but no idea why. It’s not ketchup, that’s for sure!

Goes right into the pot:

 

And cumin. . . .

Ahhh, cumin. A favorite of Southwestern and Tex-Mex cuisine. (That’s why I have that huge container.)

Some salt:

These are ancho chilis in sauce.

Now the tomatoes:

Just pour right in.

Mix that all up:

Just stir it well until they’re all combined. Watch what comes next.

Enter the chicken

So, now I realize that I have to skin and debone this chicken, which, unfortunately, took a while. For this kind of recipe, I HIGHLY recommend boneless and skinless! But I got on with it:

Why does Winn-Dixie pack them upside down?

Now, this is Lisa’s little trick: don’t mix the chicken into the chili. Park them on top, like this:

Yes, they’ll sit there, don’t worry. But don’t mess with them, either.

And follow Amy’s basic rule of slow cookery: Put the food in. Put the lid on. Plug it in. Turn it on. Leave it alone.

Hours later, it’s dinnertime

 

Are you ready to eat?

Open the lid, and you see and smell this, but there’s one more step to this chipotle chicken chili:

Ready to shred

Scoop out the chicken and shred it with two forks:

Like this.

You’ll have a pile like this.

Dump that back into the crock.

These two ingredients are added last. Putting the cilantro in water and into the fridge helped:

Return all the shredded chicken to the pot, stir it again, and add the lime juice:

One more ingredient, then stir

Put it into a bowl, chop some cilantro and drop it on top, and you’re ready to eat:

Delish! (You might need salt, taste it first.)

This rich, flavorful chipotle chicken chili is good anytime you want a satisfying meal in a bowl. We ate it twice and froze the rest for another day. So far, I haven’t had any trouble freezing most of my slow cooker soups. Might need to cook and frreze more often, too.

Oh, and I forgot to buy and add corn. But it was still really good.

Caveat

The chipotle peppers and adobo sauce add spice, but it’s not really, really hot. But if you eat it hot out of the pot, the spiciness is intensified. Let it cool a bit. I still have a painful burn in my mouth!

The reluctant taste-tester

Now, BF approached this strange looking concoction with a little hesitation, (and a funny look on his face), but agreed to try it. Nothing weird in this soup, just an unusual combination of ingredients (at least, for him.) Here’s a picture of his reaction:

He likes it!

So, another win for me.

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili is a real treat with simple ingredients that will make any night of the week special. I just keep looking for more good things to slow cook, and we keep enjoying it. That comes in handy come summer in the south!

I hope you try this soon and enjoy it like we did. The print version from Lisa’s site is here on the Recipes page. I’ve got a couple of posts in mind that just need a little research and phone calling. Meantime. . . .

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

pizza sauce
Let’s Make Slow Cooker Pizza Sauce!

Homemade Pizza Sauce. In your slow cooker.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Today, we got our new President and a stylish new First Lady. We watched the inauguration and I saw the most beautiful powder blue suit I’ve ever seen. Now I want one, but in royal blue. I hope the pattern companies create one like they did for Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. Quickly.

Well, I got the hankering again for them. Pizza. Waffles. But life throws us curve balls, and in this case, it was the end of my HEB Organics Pizza Sauce, darnit.

Such sadness. . . .

Since we have Winn Dixie and Walmart for shopping, I didn’t find any good alternatives there. This is what’s in the HEB version, which was less expensive than Classico:

You can’t beat this one–and it’s organic.

Now what? I’m limited if I don’t find an alternative. But–after seeing something on Facebook about pizza, I found Foodie With Family’s recipe for pizza sauce–in the slow cooker, darnit! It’s pretty simple, too–you just need to stir it frequently.

The setup

Almost everything you need–I forgot the sugar.

I made sure to look for as many ingredients that were not GMO and in cans that did *not* have BPA in the liners. Cost a little bit more, but of course, there’s a payoff elsewhere–even if BF doesn’t see it that way. I’ll explain more about that in the post that I’m horribly late publishing.

Yes, it’s important.

You have to look to make sure there are no GMO ingredients.

Another thing you have to make sure of is the ingredient list–is there sugar? Soybean oil? What else did they put into the “tomato paste?” No, no, no–read that label. I have returned tomato products before that I found out too late had other ingredients in them.

So,  you open up some cans of tomato paste and tomato sauce, and dump them into the crock:

Only a can opener is required here.

Then add in some garlic:

The return of the garlic doo-dad!

It says minced, so I minced:

Garlic. Minced instantly.

It says one to four cloves, so I added four.

Anchovies.

Now, this may offend some of my more sensitive readers. I added the one filet of anchovy, and thankfully, BF was nowhere to be found. I found the tin in the back of the pantry, under something else. Miss Alice packed up everything so carefully, and I am still not unpacked. But I was glad to find this.

pizza sauce

Sssshhhh. . .don’t tell BF!

If you’ve never seen anchovies, well, this is what you get when you open the tin:

See how tiny? I only needed one filet.

So after separating one of these much-maligned fish pieces, I dumped the rest of it into a glass jar and stuck it in that secret drawer where I keep things I don’t want BF to know about.

pizza sauce

One filet.

Added it into the crock and that was it. Honestly, you won’t taste it, because it melts into the sauce and gives a subtle background flavor.

Now let’s add the rest, starting with olive oil:

pizza sauce

I used the EVOO since the recipe called for it.

The herbs, oregano, basil and parsley:

Pizza sauce pizza sauce pizza sauce

I had to go find those in the pantry boxes first. Then, the ingredient I almost abhor the most:

pizza sauce

Sugar.

Yes, sugar, but of course, a raw sugar:

Pizza Sauce

This sugar is unrefined, and not bleached like granular sugar

Tomatoes, especially canned, can be very acidic, and you don’t want the sauce to ruin pizza. The recipe calls for one tablespoon first, and then the second after cooking, but I added a tablespoon of SomerSweet at the end. I chickened out.

Once you’ve got all the ingredients together, whisk them together:

Pizza sauce

Until it looks like this:

Pizza sauce

Until it’s nice and smooth and all mixed.

Cook on Low, but stir every half hour or so, for 4 hours. I know, I know. . .but it’s not that much trouble. You don’t want it burning in the pot, do you?

When you’re done, it looks like this:

Pizza sauce

Pizza! Well, almost.

At this point, it’s up to you to see if you like the way the sauce tastes, or if you think it needs a bit more sweetening. I think it did, so of course, I added the. . .SomerSweet. BUT–I could have added another tablespoon of the turbinado sugar, or even a packet or two of saccharin.

I forgot to take a picture of it, but after it cools, mix in the cheese.

Now it’s time to freeze it for whenever you need it next:

pizza sauce

Pizza sauce for a long time!

I didn’t feel like looking for more of those glass containers. And I put the plastic wrap on it to make sure we didn’t have any leaks in the freezer.

You can click on the link or check out the Recipes page if you want to try this for yourself. And why wouldn’t you?

The Hot Mess: Waffle Brownie Edition

Wanna know what happens when I beg BF to let me try something at least once in the waffle maker? I finally tried making brownies from a mix in the waffle maker:

The setup

After spraying the waffle surfaces with. . .Pam. . .

I don’t like this stuff.

And heating up the Griddler:

One of my favorite kitchen toys

I mixed it all up:

And poured it onto the waffle plates:

I let it cook until it looked like it was done:

It’s done, right?

And attempted, using multiple spatula tools, to remove it from the waffle maker. This is what happened:

BF ate some of the brownies that came out edible, laughed at me a little, and made me promise never to attempt this again. I also added that I would only make brownie waffles using a recipe designed for the waffle maker. Agreed. And then, after it cooled, I washed it all up.

Lessons learned. One success and one flop.

Next post, which is dreadfully overdue, is a very serious subject, and I’m sorry I’m late with it. I need to re-read the book I want to tell you about and why you should read it. I hope next week. It ties in with this post as well as the last one, and you’ll see what I mean when I finish it.

Meantime, Happy Dining!

Slow Cooking: Christmas Edition

Slow Cooking–great all year long!

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

Well, I’m back again with more slow cooking. Recently, I was introduced (online) to a lady who is a pro at the slow cooking thing. She’s written books and has blogged about it for many years. And I just found her. She’s going to help us with our holiday dinners!

But first, a lesson in irony.

Recently, I had an errand in Hammond, and of course, made a quick stop in the closest  Starbucks there. Take a look and tell me if you see the irony here:

Seriously?

Seriously. . .

This was, of course, in the ladies room after a tanker full of coffee (free refills with your Starbucks card!) If you’re not seeing it, allow me to explain: the sign is an instruction on how to wash your hands. In it, you are told to dry off your hands with a paper towel, then use said paper towel to turn off the water when you’re done.

In the sticker on the hot-air hand dryer, you are told about the energy efficiency of using the hand dryer. It eliminates the paper towel, but gives you nothing to turn off the faucet (or open the door to leave) with to protect your freshly-washed hands from someone else’s hand germs.

Does no one think about this?

Louisiana is the only state I’ve ever been in that posts hand-washing instructions in the bathrooms, nearly everywhere. I never saw those in 18 years in Texas. Draw your own conclusions.

Sewing!

I took out one of my sewing machines this week, mostly to test it out. With a few fat quarters from Walmart, I made this item:

The State flag of Texas

That’s right. A Texas flag.

Funny how you don’t notice them until you don’t see them anymore. (The sign underneath is a WWIIposter that says “Sew for Victory.”)  There will be more of them, if for no other reason, to use up the stars. But BF has been told that when the day comes that he puts up an American Flag on the property, as many neighbors have, there *will* be a Texas flag flying next to it. And if the Texit business happens, I do hope they take Louisiana with it so we can have more great barbecue!

Cleaning up

For the record, Whole Foods isn’t kidding about encouraging you to “shop local” and all that. Not a bad idea, of course. This big guy’s grin greeted me as I checked out of the Mandeville store this past weekend:

Who's that?

Who’s that?

William Terry, the founder of Bayou Soap, is on board with natural soaps and creates them right in New Orleans.  (You can read more about them here, and their Facebook page is here.) I couldn’t resist looking at the many bars—lovely soaps, and they all smell wonderful:

Lavender--good for evening showers to help you sleep.

Lavender–good for evening showers to help you sleep.

Don't these look yummy?

Don’t these look yummy?

I have no idea what

I have no idea what “African Black Soap” is, but maybe one day I’ll give it a try. Long as it doesn’t paint me.

Mango soap? Mango!!

Mango soap? Mango!!

Yes, these are pricey, but handcrafted artisan items usually are. (You can also order them online.) Mr. Terry doesn’t have the manufacturing muscle of Proctor & Gamble, and he uses natural ingredients without harsh chemicals. (I used to buy some very nice soaps from a lady at the farmer’s market in Nassau Bay on occasion, too.) Plus, they’re very big bars. My thinking is to cut them into one or two smaller bars to make them easier to handle and last a while. I’ll get some one day soon. I do like to shop local when I can, and patronize local businesses.

While others have seen Jesus’ face in a grilled cheese sandwich, and the Virgin Mary in a mobile home door screen, I see BF’s cute face in this bar of soap:

Can you see his face in this bar of soap?

It’s BF!!

I can’t possibly use that to wash my hands now. . . .

Christmas is SUNDAY.

How did this happen? I mean, wasn’t it Turkey Day just a week or two ago? Carols have been playing nearly everywhere I go. . .that stuff has been out in Walmart for weeks. . .yesterday I told BF I wanted an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas, ha, ha. Being the smart aleck he is, he might just get me one–but where do you get the refill packages for it? I’ve never seen them, but I guess because I don’t have to.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and all through the house

The A/C was running, for we live in the South.

Yep. We’re waiting to see how Mother Nature treats us this year. It was quite warm last year, and I was in shorts Christmas Day. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like icy cold watermelon chunks. That could be the case this year, even though we’ve been shivering cold for quite some time–and so have my friends in Houston, too.

Let’s get serious with our slow cookers, shall we?

Longtime readers know about my affinity for slow cooking, and my more recent affinity for the waffle maker. Last weekend I used my Cuisinart Griddler not for waffling, but for making BF some pancakes. I used the flat griddle plate to make them right on the counter top. (I still haven’t replaced the drip tray, but we weren’t making bacon or anything that required it.) He got the biggest kick out of it–“you and your gadgets!” he said. Look at it this way: I didn’t have to turn on the stove for a little bit of cooking.

Yesterday was a 2 pound pork loin roast slow cooked with some olive oil and Italian seasoning. BF ate that right up with some baked sweet potato fries.

That’s the thing about the slow cooker–you really do just set it and forget it. It takes some advance planning, but so does cooking a standard meal. The other day I put two turkey thighs in BF’s 4 quart slow-cooker, and dinner was done when we got home. Added some Waffled Hash Browns, which took about 15 minutes to create, and we had. . .meat and potatoes, ready to have in less than 30 minutes.

Then I got ahead of the game by slow cooking.

I also started cooking the next day’s meal that night, before we sat down to the turkey and hash browns. There is a back-story to this.

Recently I was introduced, on Facebook, to a lady named Stephanie O’Dea, who is the author of a number of books and a blog called A Year of Slow Cooking.  I write a food blog, and would cook every day in the slow cooker if I could. . .how did I miss this?

Apparently Mrs. O’Dea decided she would be slow cooking every day for a year, and blogged about it. She’s since written several books on the subject, and has more slow cookers than we do at Casa de Rurale. So I eagerly signed up for her emails, and read them. This lady goes all out, OK? The other day, she sent one about making tamales in the slow cooker. I’ll try that one day, too, when we’re in the mood for Mexican food. But the one that caught my eye was the Crock Pot 16-Bean Soup Recipe.

Say what?

Mrs. O’Dea admits to being somewhat lackadaisical towards many things. . .OK, she’s lazy.

I have walked by the bags of soup mix in the grocery store a hundred million times. I’ve even picked one up, read the print on the bag, and taken it for a ride in the shopping cart. 

But then I chicken out and put it back on the shelf with it’s friends.

It just seemed like a lot of work.

I, um, actually don’t really enjoy work. 

I’d really like a house full of forest creatures like in Snow White or in Enchanted to come do it all for me so I can spin around in circles singing. 

So far the closest I’ve gotten to that dream is a six-year-old wearing a two-sizes-too-small rooster Halloween costume running around with a feather duster…

But it’s a nice dream, nonetheless.

We all think like this from time to time, right? Well, after reading this email, I had some time before I had to pick up BF, so I stopped at HEB. . .I mean, Walmart. . .on the way home and picked up a few ingredients I needed.

Unfortunately, this is Louisiana, so we only get 15 beans, not 16 beans in our soup packages. (I miss my HEB.) I take what I can get, check out, and head home to the Casa.

And I started cooking tomorrow’s dinner!

When I picked up BF later that evening, I told him, “I am on it.” He gave me that cute look of quizzical confusion that he often does, and I explained myself.  I saw this email, and I acted on it! The turkey thighs were ready when we got home, but the soup would cook all night, and he could have some to take to work the next day. Thumbs up on this one. . .but no pictures this time.

slow cooking

Really–just let it go.

I did as she instructs, tossed out that chemical “flavoring packet,” (no need to tell me twice) and altered it slightly. No tomatoes, BF has a problem with them sometimes. Beef stock and water from the pantry, and an inexpensive one-pound packet of cubed ham from the meat case. Boiled the beans and let them sit for an hour, and then started loading up the 6-quart slow cooker.

This soup smells wonderful while it cooks. The soup was slow-cooking all night, and we really enjoyed it the next day. BF became “all beaned out,” so I froze the rest for another day.

This soup is highly recommended. Slow cooking it makes it really easy. Check out the recipe and the “customizations” for making it yours. Yum.

Slow cooking a full holiday meal?

Absolutely–Mrs. O’Dea has you covered! Check out this Christmas Ham in the Slow Cooker with honey and ginger. Ham not your style? Heck, she’s got a myriad of slow cooker recipes for the holidays parked right here on this page.

Slow cooking apples

Slow cooking apples

Need an extra slow cooker? Borrow one a day or two before if you’re afraid of going out to the mall this holiday season like I was in Houston. If you haven’t planned anything yet, well, better get a move on! Both links have recipes suitable for holiday gatherings, but you have to plan ahead.

Please note that despite the fancy fixtures that come attached to modern slow cookers, they are not essential. Last time, I told you about the web-enabled model with the smartphone app from CrockPot. I don’t have one of those, nor the one where you can brown and bake before the slow cooking. Mine are 13-year-old Crock Pots bought in 2003 or 2004 at Big Lots in Texas before I moved out of the GER’s house. I also have a “little dipper” I bought to get the cooking smells out of the kitchen. BF’s is a Hamilton Beach 4 quart, just like my Crock Pot. I refer to them as “dumb terminal models,” because you control them from the little knob on the front after you plug them in. (Eight years in IT, I know stuff like this.)  I know, I know, there are slow cooking marvels with all kinds of bells & whistles and apps and all that. You do not NEED it. If you spend that much on a slow cooker, that’s less you can spend on food. Your choice.

Wrangling the whole thing together.

The best advice I’ve ever heard for planning any kind of special occasion was from The Barefoot Contessa in Foolproof. Write it all down, figure out how long everything will take to make, create a schedule and work backwards. In other words, if your turkey will take 4 hours, and dinner is at 5:00 pm, you put it in the oven about 1:00 pm, making sure your oven is at the temperature you need (usually 350F.) Potatoes will take an hour, so those go into the oven about 4:00 pm–and at 350F, you can easily bake them at the same time on a different rack. I mean, why not?

And you can always drop the potatoes in your CrockPot, right? Slow cooking can indeed help with Christmas dinner as well as parties and other celebrations.

What’s on the HeatCageKitchen menu for Christmas?

Well, nothing yet, but there likely is going to be some slow cooking going on. Especially if I don’t make much.

BF mentioned the other night that he wanted to have ham for Christmas. I wouldn’t mind if it was *this* ham, but he says he wants it “baked.” How is this not baked if it’s slow cooking at 300F or 350F for several hours?

If he wants something with Coke and sugar all over it, or requires the use of any kind of “enclosed packet,”  I’m roasting a Lemon Chicken for myself. And I’m not doing *everything* I did for Turkey Day, although I wouldn’t mind making those Perfect Mashed Potatoes again. But we haven’t heard from the kids, nor anyone else, so it might just be the two of us with the critters.

But whatever we do, there’s a good chance a slow cooker’s going to be involved. And there’s a good chance that something will be waffled.

Remember too that there are recipes posted on this page. Most are favorites that I’ve tried many times, and that may be just what you’re looking for, including some slow cooking, too.

And if you’re not hosting. . . .

Are you going to someone’s house for Christmas lunch/dinner? Bring something tasty and delicious, whether you’re slow cooking or not. A Year of Slow Cooking is a great place to start, as is Pinterest.

And if it’s looking like you’re going to be home alone on Christmas, as I was for many years, enjoy it. Enjoy the peace and solitude, watch whatever TV shows you want, (I highly recommend British TV, especially a comedy if you can find some, turn on the CC,), enjoy the best meal you can cook up,  and don’t feel “alone.” Slow cooking something delicious will free you up to watch your favorite holiday DVDs, listen to your favorite music, and spend time with yourself. There are folks who will be working on Christmas and would be happy to be home. Many are first responders (fire, police, medical personnel, etc.) so please don’t make their job harder.

It’s OK to be alone on Christmas.

If you’re really not happy about the holidays (there are more than one) remember that Christmas comes but once a year. . .and in a week or so, it will all be over. No more carols blaring from the PA system everywhere you go. No more drunks wishing you a “Cherry Mistmas.” No more red and green everything. Come January 2nd, the trees will be heading to the recycling bin, the lights will come down, and people will start packing stuff up to put away for another year. Some might not finish until March, but you get the idea.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy New Year!

I’m probably not going to publish a post again until after Christmas, so I will wish all of you Happy Holidays, whatever holiday you want to celebrate. (Hey–if there’s food involved, there’s a good chance I’ll be celebrating it, no matter what religion it’s from.)  Whatever it is you like to cook, make it tasty, healthy, and make enough for everybody, OK?

There’s a good chance I’ll be in the back doing some sewing while I’m doing some slow cooking.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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