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einkorn
Amy’s Einkorn Affair

Einkorn–a funny word you might be interested in if you have gluten sensitivities. Especially if you really, really want bread again, but even a whiff of wheat sends your gut into overdrive.

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Hello again, Dear Readers:

Spring is springing up everywhere, especially since much of the US is now on Daylight Savings Time. Arizona, Indiana and a few other states don’t observe it, and there is a movement in Texas to ditch it for good. Will they do it? Who knows? I kind of wish the entire US would dump it–it’s just hard on us all twice a year.

A slow-cooked week

Yesterday morning, I tossed some on-sale beef of indeterminate origin into the slow cooker, seasoned it with some Paula Deen House Seasoning, a little olive oil and turned it on. Lately, that’s just how we roll, but there’s a dinner already cooked when we get home. We just cook some rice, quinoa, and whatever else to go with it. Monday, I did the same with some pork stew meat–and it was pretty good. I just tossed the frozen meat in the slow cooker, seasoned it and added a bit of olive oil, turned it on and walked out. We had a ready-and-waiting dinner that night. But after I put the meat in the slow cooker yesterday, one of his car-guy friends, Big Dave, called, and we did an impromptu barbecue. So with the slow-cooked meat, BF’s lunch was already made for today, and dinner for me later.

Today’s email from Stephanie O’Dea discusses taking your slow cooker on travel with the fam. Can you blame her? Apparently a lot of people do this. Camping, hotels–and the food is ready to eat, all you need is a working outlet, just like your waffle maker. If BF and I ever start traveling, we’ll definitely pack a slow-cooker if we can.

Still writing

I’ve been busy writing, and boy, have I got an interesting subject for you. (Well, I think it is.) Unless, of course, you already know what “einkorn” is. Even if you do, I invite you to keep reading, because you might be interested to know what happened when I finally got around to using some and foisting it, I mean, offering it to BF and his friends for a taste-test.

Amy’s disclaimer

Let me point out (again) that I’m not a doctor, nurse, or medical professional. I do research and report on it. You must use your own judgement when trying something new, particularly if you have a medical condition. Don’t go full bore and eat, drink or use something that you’re not sure about because Amy (or another blogger who is actually trustworthy) says you should. You must do a little reading and decide for yourself. What I do know is that if you have a gluten allergy, einkorn may be something you can have. BUT–you’ll need to read more and try a little of it if you think it’s worth it. That’s why I provide links, so you can see where I got my info from.

If you have celiac disease. . .no. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, completely different from the gluten allergy, and you absolutely cannot have einkorn. These things I know from my research, not because I’m an expert.

Now for some updates.

Post-modern menus in the Casa de Rurale

BF indulges me, and I take the best care I can of him. He says he’s just “humoring” me on these natural things, like the tea tree oil for his feet. Rest assured that BF is fed well, whether he wants to believe it or not. He explained to me a few nights ago that the menu in his kitchen is divided into two time frames: “Pre-Amy” and “Post-Amy.” (My first question: “am I leaving?“) There are foods he was used to eating and making for himself before I showed up, (i.e., Hamburger Helper) and the new, ultra-modern things that are produced in his kitchen now that I’m there (like Pea & Pesto Soup, and anything with cannellini beans, or foods from the waffle maker or slow cooker.) Me? I’m still trying to eat clean and low-carb in an environment with Kool-Aid, cookies and vegetable oil, best I can.

More culture shock

Last week his daughter, son and partner came for another impromptu BBQ dinner. I was glad to see them, but I wasn’t ready! I was hurrying to clear off the table and for dinner while they were outside trying not to burn down the house. Despite the frozen chocolate cream pie they brought, and the potato salad BF bought at Walmart, I was able to eat rather clean by requesting BF not put that stuff he calls “barbecue sauce” on my pork ribs. They were only subjected to the barbecue rub I have made for many years, with sugar or gluten or anything. The rest were coated with a “sauce” from a bottle loaded with HFCS and other dreadful chemicals. He was kind enough to use a separate pair of tongs for mine, too.

Her son is 3, and as active and precocious as they come. At some point, she asked me if there was any Kool-Aid. No kidding–and BF has some of that chemical-infused sugar powder in his pantry, in addition to soft drinks in the fridge. She made a pitcher of it and started putting it in the wee one’s sippy cup. Horrified, I asked, “you’re giving that to you child?” She said, “Oh, yeah, it’s great!”

She has not read Tox-Sick. (My paperback copy arrived last weekend.)

He thinks I know all this stuff

BF managed to leave out a few important details when he requested “spaghetti and meat sauce” the other night, like browning a pound of ground beef before pouring a jar of <ugh> Ragu spaghetti sauce into the skillet and letting that warm while boiling the pastas. His pasta was some of the multiple boxes of spaghetti in his pantry; mine was a cup of Ronzoni gluten-free penne pasta, found at the Hammond Winn-Dixie. I was browning ground beef at 9:30 at night. He just assumed I knew all this. I didn’t.

Never, ever assume anything. And, of course, read your recipe all the way through before you start chopping something and discover that you don’t have enough butter, oil, or something else crucial to your recipe. (Did that Sunday.)

Einkorn

So, recently I wrote an article for my natural health Upwork client on Einkorn wheat. (I don’t know yet when it will be published, but will give you the link when it is.) If you’ve never heard of it, well, you’re not alone–I didn’t either until I read Wheat Belly. Einkorn is what humans started cultivating as “wheat” a long, long, time ago in the Fertile Crescent when formal agriculture started, and before hybridization. Wheat is hybridized, not GMO, so I was wrong on that. (Amazing what you find out when you do more research.)

I was also surprised to find out that einkorn is actually widely available in the US.

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Einkorn flour (picture from Jovial Foods website)

I actually bought a bag many months ago at Erma’s Nutrition Center in Nassau Bay, intending to make bread with it and share it with the GER, mostly as a taste-test. (Maybe the GER assumes I’m the better baker, I dunno.) Well, I never got that far, the bag stayed in my fridge and made the trip to BF’s place last year, and still bounced around his his fridge. (In that bottom drawer where I keep my alternate baking stuff.) After taking on the task of writing a 700-word article on the subject, I realized, “I think I still have a bag of this in the fridge.” So I went looking for it and recipes to make with it.

Why Einkorn?

This “original wheat,” while not entirely gluten free, is a lot lower in gluten and starch than our modern hybrid wheat. It’s also higher in protein. This means that if you have a gluten sensitivity when you eat modern wheat, there is the possibility that you can tolerate einkorn.

Dr. Davis explains his experiment in the book, buying einkorn berries, grinding them and making bread with them. Eating the bread he made, he experienced no ill effects after enjoying some. He did the same thing with our modern dwarf wheat flour, made his bread, had some, and experienced two days of gut trauma. So, yes, it can indeed be the modern wheat we have in this country making you or your loved ones ill. Einkorn may allow bread, pasta, cookies, cakes and other wheat-based baked goods on your menu again.

More einkorn resources

This article by The Kitchen Steward explains five ways that einkorn differs from modern wheat. And At Healthy Home Economist, she explains why her family is switching to einkorn, soon as they use up what they already have.

Here are some baking tips on working with einkorn from Jovial’s Website. You can order it online, and use their locator to find it in your area.

Their daughter was sick

Jovial Foods was started by Carla and Rodolfo Bertolucci, whose daughter suddenly became very ill. With a background in organic farming and a love of Italian cooking, they discovered that she was ill from a gluten sensitivity, and sought to find answers. Carla found einkorn, nearly extinct, and they have, so to speak, “brought it back to life” for a new generation. Together, they founded Jovial Foods, naming it for the joy they felt after finding a way to help their daughter and create delicious food that wouldn’t make her sick anymore. Jovial offers flour, pastas and baking tools for working with einkorn. Carla even wrote a cookbook on the subject (and if you order the book, they’ll send you a free bag of flour with it.) Now, more people can enjoy einkorn–and bread–again.

Some fine print first

Let me point out a few things about einkorn. First, good as it is, yes, it is more expensive. It’s grown and harvested in Italy, organic, and is not like the everyday flour you get in your local grocery. You can’t just use it cup-for-cup in your regular bread or pizza crust recipes, either. Jovial offers some tips on baking with einkorn.

If you’re already dealing with it. . . .

Second, as I’ve said before: if you have someone in your household who has these kinds of allergies, you’re already spending on alternative ingredients to be able to feed them. Incorporating healthier alternatives into the everyday meal plan helps the whole family, and may help the allergic one feel less “left out.” It’s not fun to be singled out because you’ve got this allergy that you can’t help, you know? And it’s not a bad thing if the rest of the family gets to try something tasty and healthy and learns to enjoy it.

Third: gluten sensitivity is not the same thing as celiac disease, although some of the treatments may be the same. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, and celiac sufferers can’t indulge in einkorn, sorry. (That’s from my research on the other article.) And gluten sensitive folks need to try just a little einkorn to make sure they can enjoy it safely and they don’t end up getting sick from it. Many GF folks can tolerate einkorn because of the lower gluten and starch content. And, as I discovered, modern bread has more starch added in to make it lighter and fluffier. No wonder people get sick from it. Jovial’s website also offers additional information on gluten free and specifically, on celiac disease.

What does it look like?

Well, when you open the bag, it looks like. . .flour:

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When you open the bag. . . .

It definitely doesn’t smell like your regular Martha White flour, (it smells good) and it feels bit heavier than your regular flour, too.

I finally used it!

OK, I *really* wanted to bake bread with it, but I didn’t have time this past weekend.  I’ll do that soon. But out of the blue, BF and I were invited to his friend’s place for dinner on Sunday. It was supposed to be a birthday dinner for someone, but that couple couldn’t make it. So. . .it was six of us: me, BF, his friend Big H, his girlfriend K, her 13-yo daughter M and Big H’s 13-yo nephew, also named H. BF worked during the day Sunday, and after I picked him up, we headed over to H’s homestead. He’s already got a lovely house, but he’s also building a barn, and a saw mill, and a few other things on the property.

It’s the kind of place that I envisioned for myself. . .in Texas. North of Houston. By myself, with Internet, and being that copywriter homesteading in the woods. Oh, well. . .me and BF are doing it with one bathroom and not enough closet space.

During the einkorn research, I found a bread recipe as well as one for brownies on a blog called Live Simply. I saved both of them to use later, and I’ve uploaded them to the Recipes page as well. Again, as of this writing, not made the bread yet, but plan to at some point, and get more of the flour on my next trip to Whole Foods. (That comes under the category of “BF indulges me.”) Kristin Marr, the blog author actually has four recipes for einkorn on her website, if you’re interested; just do a search for “einkorn” and they’ll all show up.

Brownies, in a side-by-side taste test

So, with my article sent to the client, I left the library early with BF and spent most of the weekend doing lots and lots of chores. (They never end at the Casa de Rurale.) About a third of the chores actually were completed, and those will be done this week now that the laundry is mostly finished. I decided that I would use his friends as additional taste-testers, which they were happy to do when I said “brownies.” Big H told me not to talk about the “alternate” version until people had tried them, especially the kids. And BF didn’t mind too much, because I was going to make his favorites anyway.

I pointed out that I wasn’t looking for accolades, but opinions. Things like, “Wow, Amy, you’re a great baker!” That doesn’t tell me anything, right? Besides. . .I already know!

It was a day where I kept looking around saying to myself, “where’s my water?” This is what I’m looking for:

 

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My 24-ounce Venti cup,  which runneth over with water, lime juice (or sometimes lemon), ice and pink stuff. Nothing else.

I do get the irony of the red plastic cups that BF insists on using. No dishwasher (of course not, it’s Louisiana, almost no one has one) and he’s not about to wash dishes. But anyway. . . .

I started baking

Since the einkorn brownies were made in a skillet, I made the Duncan Hines version in a skillet too. And of course, didn’t tell anyone which was which. They were obviously different, but again, didn’t tell anyone until I got an opinion from each.

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The setup

This is pretty simple–just dump it into a mixing bowl and go for it:

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Using a big measuring cup for a mixing bowl helps with this kind of thing. BF is learning this trick from me.

Mix really well, 50 strokes the box says:

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Eggs,water, and industrial sludge, I mean, vegetable oil.

And it comes out like this:

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Brownie batter, from a box.

Grease your pan:

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Used the same industrial sludge to grease the skillet as I mixed into the bowl.

Now, the instructions don’t tell you how long to bake these if you’re using a cast-iron skillet, so I had to estimate.

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Standard boxed mix stuff

I went with 325F, and I think it took about 25 minutes. Naturally, I forgot to take a picture of this pan when it came out of the oven. I texted one to BF, so I guess that’s why I didn’t use the camera.

Did I mention I was coloring my hair while this was going on? Don’t worry–my haircolor is a plant-based organic, and even if any did get into the brownies, it’s fine. (No, none did. At any time.)

The Duncan Hines brownies came out as they normally do. Took them out of the oven, set them on the stove, and set about on the next recipe.

Naturally Sweetened Einkorn Skillet Brownie

This one is a little more complicated, and calls for more ingredients, as you might imagine. Because, why? They’re made from scratch!

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The setup

For all of you readers still working in IT, yes, I brought my laptop into the kitchen. I was very careful, and there were no accidents. But I really do need to clean that keyboard and use the little tiny attachments I have to vacuum all the dust out of it.

The recipe calls for 12 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled. Guess who only had one stick of butter left? Yes–and thankfully, there was an option for one stick of butter and a quarter cup of coconut oil, also melted and cooled. So that’s what you see off to the left. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll see the label of a bottle of good Texas honey from HEB. When you buy it, they have little plastic bottles at the store–but I already had a glass jar to store it in, and just transferred the label over. That’s BF’s little bottle of cinnamon, but trust me, we have more–a lot more. I think I’m going to have to refill it so he doesn’t panic.

Two exceptions

In my local Winn-Dixie, I couldn’t get the brand of chocolate chips Kristin recommended, nor could I get instant espresso powder. So. . .I got what I could, and what was cheap and would do the job. Bought little packets of Folger’s Instant (I can’t find the big jar of the HEB instant) and some of the regular Winn-Dixie chocolate chips.  If I’d planned a trip to Whole Foods, I might have been able to get them, but that’s not in the cards yet, darnit.

Yes, Miss Sunie, you may tell everyone that I’m still missing my HEB. And tell Miss Carolyn and Miss Lei I said “Hi,” please–I was thinking about Miss Lei just this morning.

First, mix the wet ingredients

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I still separate egg yolks like this

Mix the butter (or in my case, butter and coconut oil) , and then the vanilla and espresso (coffee) powder:

Oil & butter

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It’s what you can get at Winn Dixie and Walmart here. It works.

I’m still using home-made vanilla extract, just like The Barefoot Contessa does:

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Need to get more vodka in there one of these days. And more vanilla beans, too.

If you don’t know this, grease the inside of that cup before you pour some rich, delicious Texas honey into it:

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Not raw, I don’t think, but it is real honey.

Once you get all those put together–carefully, so your butter and/or coconut oil doesn’t seize or freeze up–whisk it:

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Egg yolks, not whole eggs.

Get that stuff moving:

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Whip it! Whip it good! (you’re singing it, aren’t you?)

Now leave it alone.

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All mixed!

Next, the dry ingredients

Whisk together all the dry stuff and make sure there are no lumps:

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First, the flour

And cocoa powder, of course:

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Make sure it’s the unsweetened type, of course

Baking powder:

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Been a while since I’ve been to Trader Joe’s for a supply run.

 

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Just drop them in the bowl

And a little of BF’s cinnamon:

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Not a lot of cinnamon, just half a teaspoon

And whisk that all together.

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Whip it! Whip it good! (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Another quick kitchen tip

Something else I’ve been teaching BF to do is check the bottom of the bowl to make sure it’s all mixed. Sometimes when he’s baking from a box, he doesn’t check this. But, seriously, take a look:

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Clear bowls help you see if you’ve got it properly mixed.

If I hadn’t looked, it wouldn’t have come out right. Finally, I got it all done:

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Perfect!

Then I mixed the dry stuff into the wet stuff. I can’t take a picture of myself while mixing the wet into the dry–I only have two hands, and BF was at work.

Not so fast

At this point, you let it sit for ten minutes. It thickens up considerably from a fluid liquid to a thick, pasty liquid, no kidding. The oven was already preheated:

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Nothing wrong with checking, right?

So I just put a bit of coconut oil in the Lodge skillet:

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Coconut oil on this one

And once it thickens, you fold in the chocolate chips.

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I know, I know. . .we’re not in HEB anymore.

Since I wasn’t able to get the brand Kristin recommended, and the mini-chips cost twice as much, I bought the Winn-Dixie brand. They’re not bad, but I know the HEB brand would have been better. (Just an opinion.) So Kristin says to use a “heaping 1/2 cup” if you’re not using the mini-chips.

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Does that “heap” enough?

Fold them right into this now-thickened batter:

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More chocolate!

Mix and fold well:

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Make sure you make that pass on the bottom of your mixing bowl, too.

It looks like this:

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With chocolate chips spread throughout

And pour into the skillet:

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Here we go!

Yeah. . .pour it right in.

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Doesn’t exactly “pour,” does it?

I had to put down the camera and scrape it out with the spatula by hand. It’s that thick. No kidding.

So you bake it for about 25 minutes, testing it before you take it out of the oven. At this point, it was also time to take phase 2 of my hair color out, so that worked out well. It was great once I took it out of the oven:

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Success! Brownies!

Unfortunately, some of the pictures I took have. . .disappeared. I don’t know why, but I can’t find them. But I can tell you the rest of the story. Both pans were wrapped in foil and loaded in the back seat of the  White Knight and transported to Big H’s place about 20 minutes away.

Over the river and through the woods. . . .

For dinner, we had, among other things, this delicious chicken roasted outside on a rotisserie:

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Oh, it was very, very good. That’s actually two chickens on a huge spit.

And there was some grocery-store rolls coated with butter that were baked, (I passed) salad, and some jalapeno & cheese sausage going on, which I liked even better than this delicious chicken. We were told that it’s available at a slaugtherhouse up in Kentwood, where K lives. (Half hour away, maybe?) Yeah, I got two words for that sausage: ROAD TRIP!

How did they like the brownies?

Well, we talked about all kinds of stuff, and had a great time. More culture shock: K’s daughter loves Harry Potter, but her grandmother told her that it was “evil” or something, and that she shouldn’t watch it. Fortunately, K disagrees, and M is a huge fan.  Little H was telling me about his grandmother, a heavy smoker, and how she uses basil to help her breathe. From there I couldn’t stop telling him about pesto, and Pea & Pesto Soup. Both were smart kids, and it was great to talk to them.

When it came time for brownies, I explained that I was looking for opinions, not accolades, and that’s what I got.

The results of the taste test

BF, of course, knew immediately without being told which one was the Duncan Hines, and of course, he preferred it. He said that the einkorn brownie was “okay,” but a bit dry.

Both of the kids enjoyed both types of brownies, and Little H took a couple of them home. M said they tasted a little like red velvet cake. And, in the light in big H’s kitchen, I had to agree that they looked like red velvet, too.

K felt like the Duncan Hines was fudgier, but that the einkorn type was pretty good, too. Like me, K watches what she eats for health reasons, but she did tuck into one or two of those rolls she baked up.

Big H said that with a glass of milk, it would be a pretty passable brownie, especially if you couldn’t have the Duncan Hines (or other wheat-based brownie) anymore. He agreed with the assessment that there was a taste of red velvet cake involved, and that it wasn’t a bad thing at all.

We also some gave some to Big Dave last night, right next to a Duncan Hines brownie. He said it would be good with coconut oil. Well, it has some–but he enjoyed it as well, even if it was a bit drier. “It’s good, but it’s different,” he said.

And me, well, I like the einkorn brownies. I’ve tried Duncan Hines type once or twice. It’s a little too sweet, and of course, has the “fudgy” quality when you use one egg. Actually, I’d call it more “sticky” than “fudgy,” but that’s the high amount of sugar and other chemicals they add to make it taste good. The einkorn brownie has more of a strong, stark chocolate taste to it, and it’s more of a “cake-like” brownie than “fudgy.” Maybe if you served them warm, they’d be “fudgier.”

What’s next for einkorn in the HeatCageKitchen?

Last summer, before I was getting ready to move, I was chanting with Miss Alice at her place. I could not stop thinking about baking bread for BF. Weird, right? So that’s probably going to happen at some point, along with cooking up some more delicious food as I find the recipes.

I saw Carla Bertolucci’s einkorn cookbook in the Clear Lake Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago, but didn’t buy it. I read through it and liked it, and put it on the mental list of books I want in my collection. Now that I know I can get a free bag of flour if I order it from Jovial, well, that’s a plan! Sometime. . . .when I make some more money. I need more bookshelves first. Along with one of those baking tools and the linen thingy they have, too. I know that I can get the einkorn flour in Mandeville, Baton Rouge or New Orleans, so it’s just a matter of when I get to one of the stores when I need to. Much as a I prefer grain free, I do like the healthier option available, much like the delicious things in the Babycakes books. They’re not everyday items, but occasional healthy treats that are good to make and have for company or just for the week.

Until next time. . . .

I hope that I’ve offered up some suggestions for anyone looking at gluten-free, or who knows someone dealing with a gluten allergy. Einkorn can be a part of a delicious, healthy, organic eating plan that includes everything you might want, but you have to do a little work for it. If and when I bake bread for us, I’ll report on it, of course.

Again, I urge you to do more reading if you (or someone you know) have a medical condition and aren’t sure if einkorn is would be a good thing. Start with Wheat Belly, and go from there. The information is out there, Pinterest has loads of recipes, and Jovial Foods has plenty of info available on their website, too.

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.

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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.

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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:

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I used the EVOO since the recipe called for it.

The herbs, oregano, basil and parsley:

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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

The Thanksgiving Post: Apples and Spaghetti Squash

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I hope you’re feeling better by now. The election, and all the associated nastiness, is over for a while. Now it’s time for transition, and hopefully, getting back to whatever passes for “normal.” It was a nail-biter, and for some reason, I couldn’t stop eating BF’s ice cream. (I didn’t eat all of it, just a little.) We stayed up until 3:00 am or so watching the results, and back-checking CBS News on our phones against what was showing up on Facebook in our feeds. Bizarre–I’ve never done that before, but we finally hit the sack once it was all over. Good thing we didn’t have anything planned for the next day, and he was off work. No more sugar-laden ice cream, and the weight is going back down again, thank heavens.

Time for some comfort food, OK? Keep reading, there’s a recipe for you shortly.

We’ve been doing some renovation type of cleaning in the Casa, which includes having one of his, um, ex-girlfriends finally come get her stuff out of his house. She’s got some of it, but some still resides for a few more days. (What are we, Public Storage?) His daughter took the things she wanted and I helped her clear out stuff she didn’t want. All that’s left is his friend from the Navy. Well, with moving stuff around and out, painting the back room for my soon-to-be studio office, and clearing car parts out of the house, we’ve set up a little breakfast area by the kitchen:

One whole-milk sugar-free hazelnut cappuccino for Amy!

One whole-milk sugar-free hazelnut cappuccino!

This is my IKEA Tarno patio set that we just put there and put a tablecloth over, and BF decided to add my tiny lamp (Lampan, also from IKEA.) I repaired the miniblinds which had been damaged by a passed-on pooch, and cleaned the window really well. Know what? It’s kind of nice to have breakfast right there, or dinner. When we get things better situated, we’ll put my regular dinette there, and I’ll repair more of the miniblinds, now that I know how. (Looked it up on eHow and learned on the fly.) The blinds are closed so you don’t see that the Casa “beautification project” has not yet carried over to the patio out front.

After my trip to New Orleans on Sunday, where I bought some lovely pork chops, chicken sausage  and chicken thighs for us, BF decided Monday to get. . .one of those “kits” to make tacos for lunch on Tuesday. I kid you not. At least he had the sense to get the crunchy taco kit, which has corn tortillas. No word about “gluten free,” but there was no wheat or its derivatives in any of the ingredients that I saw, so I was glad about that and reluctantly took part. (It does say that it was partly produced with GMO ingredients; my guess is the corn, which I rarely eat.) He asked me to brown the ground beef to get started, and of course, twenty minutes later, we had tacos–because he went into the living room to watch more TV. GRRR. . .but I got the job done.

Dinner was Mustard Pork Chops in the Crock Pot, which I may post soon. It was pretty good, and worthy of doing again. Because he really wanted. . .tacos. . .the chicken shifted to lunch on Wednesday, where I made him, for the first time, Nigella Lawson’s Pollo alla Cacciatora, or “The Hunter’s Stew,” which, in Nigella’s case, is “lazy hunter’s stew.” (It only takes 30 minutes.) Although it’s long been a comfort food favorite for me, this was his first taste of it. Thumbs up–he likes it, and I can make it again for him. (Thanks.) The next day for dinner at work, he took some with a cup of rice, since he thought it “needed” some. No problem, I cooked up a small batch of white rice for him and added it to the container. Along with a slice of made-from-scratch pound cake from his friend’s birthday, he was all set for work.

Now, if you’re interested in making this “hunter’s stew,” I want to point something out that’s not immediately obvious: although the printed recipe calls for a half-cup of pancetta cubes–which is perfectly acceptable, albeit expensive and hard to find here–you can also slice up 3 or 4 slices of bacon in place of it. That’s the way I’ve always made it since I saw the original show.  The show may be on YouTube; you’d just have to look for it.

It really is a nice comfort food. Even if it does come from across the pond. You’re welcome.

I’ve been in the larger Winn-Dixie in Hammond, and indeed they do have more organic produce. Surprise–they even have fresh sushi. I still hate sushi, but–they have it! I did some recon in the morning, and then did some shopping later in the day, mostly meat, eggs, butter, cheese, etc. I almost–ALMOST–thought I was in Kroger. And I kept saying “I live down in La Marque. . .” which, of course, is in Texas. Well, it’s probably because I felt like I was in Kroger. I sure do miss my HEB, though–the pork loin roasts I used to get on sale for $3 in HEB are something like $12 here. What’s up with that? I did find a nine-pound pork loin that was about 3 feet long, but we don’t have any place to store that monster. Another time.

Rouse’s has purchased a rival grocery store chain, so there will soon be a Rouse’s in Hammond for me to visit, right near that Winn-Dixie. That’ll be good, too.

A quick look at the calendar tells me that Thanksgiving is coming. It’s next week! I really have lost my sense of date and time. For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I won’t be cooking turkey. That’s OK, I cook turkey all year long (I just wish I could get turkey thighs here; maybe Albertson’s has them.) I asked BF the other night what our plans were for Thanksgiving; he said his brother usually does a big spread, and we would attend. (Just have to figure out what I’m going to wear.) Well, if I’m allowed, I’ll bring some of that fantastic Cranberry-Ginger Relish and maybe one or two other small things, but I warned BF that I would likely eat before I went. Longtime readers know that things like sweet potato pie, sweet potatoes with other abominable things added to it and all things bread, pie and gravy are not coming my way. I’ll be happy to have some turkey–maybe a little mashed potatoes, too–but no gravy, please! Gravy, to me, kills the taste of everything under it. So this will be interesting, and maybe I’ll pull the Nordic Track out in the morning before we go.

Think I should just stay home and watch Britcoms?

So, what do you do when you’re hosting such an occasion and have health concerns to consider? (Besides panic, that is.) Or, surprise, his new girlfriend is a vegetarian, and he’s going vegan soon too? Knowing this in advance helps, of course, but sometimes you don’t, so having some extra vegetable dishes helps (just don’t use chicken stock!) I’ve written about these kinds of things before, and you can also get some help on Martha Stewart’s website, under “All Things Thanksgiving.” Sur la Table has also published its annual Thanksgiving Guide, and it’s available online or as a free download to print. BF and I caught a bit of the Rachael Ray Show the other day, and someone named Clinton Kelly was making dishes you could make in advance: Turkey Meatballs, a Roasted Vegetable Soup (which looked pretty good, actually), which you could make in advance and freeze, then serve from the Crock Pot and some popover kinds of things with smoked salmon.  The Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash is really good, too. Of course, if you’re looking for something specific, please check out the worlds’s biggest idea database, Pinterest.

One thing I can’t emphasize enough is getting started on your Thanksgiving planning early. Get that turkey NOW, if you haven’t already. Get your brine mix, or make it, NOW, because the turkey has to thaw first, AND you have to make the brine ahead of time. Buy your ingredients early, especially the unusual stuff, like puff pastry or something else that everyone will be looking for like fresh or dried sage. Doing potluck? Ask and assign people a specific dish–dressing, veg, cornbread, whatever–so you avoid the problem of everyone stopping at the grocery and picking up a cake or cupcakes at the last minute. All dessert and little turkey does *not* make happy dinner guests, you know? A broad variety of different vegetable dishes, and maybe including maybe a pilaf or risotto (using vegetable stock) can keep everyone happy and well-fed while including the vegetarians and not calling them out for it.

Brining a turkey? Here’s one from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman (warning: it has brown sugar) and one from Martha Stewart’s website. If you want to brine a turkey–and I highly recommend it–get going. Now. Juniper berries might be hard to find soon.

It’s also a great time to dust off the slow cookers and the waffle makers if you’re not using them regularly. Make sure all your appliances work before the big day, too. And isn’t there something you can slow-cook or waffle ahead of time? (Cranberry Ginger Relish can be made a few days in advance, thank heavens.)

Yes, it’s time to get your thinking cap on. Quick. Whether you’re hosting or just attending, it’s time to take inventory so your Thanksgiving will go well and everyone, including yourself, will enjoy themselves. (Here’s some advice I wrote about last year that may help.)

Here’s another tip: READ your recipes and understand them before you shop and get started. Case in point: last night I decided to make something new for me and BF. Seems he’s never had eggs with tomatoes in his life, despite his claim of “I’ve been all around the world!” So, I found this recipe for Skillet Eggs and Tomato Sauce in one of the Everyday Food cookbooks last night, and asked him if he’d like to try it. He said he would try it, with a bit of reluctance in his voice. (Next question I asked: “Do we have any anchovies?” Oh, the look on his face was priceless.) In the book, this recipe makes two servings, not the four that’s on the website. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the book called for a HALF can, 28 ounces, of tomatoes. Skimming over the ingredients, I just figured I could use two cans of tomatoes, 14.5 ounces. That’s pretty much the same, all right? WRONG–it was, indeed, way too much tomato, and that was his first comment. (I ate them, though.) I noticed the difference when I put the book away–and then made a note of it. He said he’d like to have it again, with half as much tomatoes. Done. (And maybe an anchovy, too, but don’t tell BF–I hide that kind of stuff in a drawer of the fridge.)

The point: please READ carefully and understand before you do something dumb like I do sometimes. Especially for Thanksgiving. OK? Don’t forget the hot mess I made when I invited The GER over a few years ago. It can happen to you. READ. Please.

Now, would I leave you without help for Thanksgiving? Of course not.

Remember last time, when NM handed me a bunch of apples to take home? Well. . .I did put them in the Crock Pot, and darnit, they were pretty tasty! I made them at the same time as the pork chops, but not because I had pork chops. BF wasn’t wild about them cooked, he’d rather have fresh. But, it’s fall, and it feels like fall, so I wanted to try something different.

I actually made two batches, in two different slow cookers, to see what would happen with two different sweeteners–SomerSweet and Agave Syrup. I think this would make a great lower-carb/gluten-free alternative to the traditional apple pie. Either for everyone, or just for guests like me who would rather keep the calorie count down.

If you’re planning to have an apple dessert, or more than one, for Thanksgiving, this is an easy one to toss in and forget for a while. I actually made it a second time with bigger, fresh red apples so I could take pictures and show you how it’s made.

When I cruised through Pinterest to find apples in the Crock Pot, I didn’t find much in the way of healthy versions–mostly, they were loaded with sugar. GRRRR. . .but of course, we have alternatives in our world, don’t we?

The setup

The setup

Yes, that’s the same sherry vinegar I have around to make Cranberry Ginger Relish, but since I don’t use it often, and it only takes a small amount, I decided to try it in this apple dish. You could use red wine vinegar, or just leave it out if you wanted. But I found that the sherry vinegar added a nice depth of flavor that’s not often in apple dishes.

I started out by washing all the apples, of course:

I love apples. Turns out so does BF.

I love apples. Turns out so does BF.

The first time I made this, I used just cinnamon. I decided to use apple pie spice for this incarnation, because I’m glad I did. I made some using this recipe, but because not everything is unpacked, I couldn’t find any allspice. So, it was back to Winn-Dixie for more after I picked up BF from work Sunday afternoon. He wanted some hot chocolate because the weather had turned cold. While he was prowling around looking for that, I went to the spices. Hmmm. . .should I get the stuff called “natural,” which is a rather nebulous word on food products, or get the brand I frequently bought in Houston?

It's "natural," whatever that means." No, it's not organic, I checked.

It’s “natural,” whatever that means.” No, it’s not organic, I checked.

 

That's more my style. I bought that brand in Texas, many times.

That’s more my style. I bought that brand in Texas, many times.

I picked up that bottle that was $1.64 and put it in the little hand basket. Then BF returned to the spice aisle and was of the impression that I’m not getting what I wanted. He then said to me, “Look! Here’s all the ‘allspice’ you could ever want, right here!”

He called this "allspice."

He called this “allspice.”

Oh, he was so funny, gesticulating towards all those spice blends. Giggling, I took the little bottle out of the hand basket and showed it to him:

This is Allspice. But you knew that already, right?

This is Allspice. But you knew that already, right?

BF was in the Navy, you know. Fortunately, he was *not* on KP in the galley (kitchen), or he would have been keel-hauled for making that mistake. He only had to put up with me laughing at him all the way home.

This apple pie spice mix recipe from Life Made Sweeter is quick and easy, and I made a double batch to make sure I had enough:

The setup

The setup

 

Just blend them up!

Just blend them up!

 

Bottled, but I couldn't find my label maker in time.

Bottled, but I couldn’t find my label maker in time.

And use it like you would the store-bought stuff. No sugar or other additives to worry about. (Of course, yesterday, I found another carefully packed box marked “Amy Pantry,” which had not one, but two bottles of allspice. GRRR.)

Back to it–I started by putting a bit of olive oil in the bottom of the crocks:

img_3506

img_3505

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I’ll bet you’re wondering if there’s a deliberate reason for a black and white crock. Well, yes, and I used it–the black one was mine, a replacement during a Karma of Spare Parts incident, last year, I think, when I sent the 4-quart crashing to the floor on a Sunday. They no longer had white, so black it was. The white crock belongs to BF. The difference came in handy: the black one had apples cooked with Agave Syrup, and the white one had apples cooking in SomerSweet.

Neat, huh? (Worked for me!)

Then started cutting the apples and adding them to the crock, and rolling them around in the oil:

img_3508

Yes, I was drinking coffee whilst I made this. It was early, and cold that morning.

Then I added in the apple pie spice mix to both crocks:

img_3509

Added about a tablespoon of vanilla extract:

This is cooked, so the vodka-based vanilla is fine; it will cook the alcohol out.

This is cooked, so the vodka-based vanilla is fine; it will cook the alcohol out.

Then added in a tablespoon of the sherry vinegar to each one:

I used up what was left in the nearly-empty bottle.

I used up what was left in the nearly-empty bottle.

And then I added the respective sweeteners:

Agave in the black one

Agave in the black one on the left

 

SomerSweet (erythrytol) in the right one

SomerSweet (erythrytol) in the white one on the right.

Mix it all up again to coat the apples with the rest of it:

img_3520

Agave pot

 

img_3519

SomerSweet pot

And cooked it on low for about 4 hours.  What happened? Well. . .it was interesting, and BF gave me his honest opinion (I only had to needle him a little bit.)

Hmmm. . .looks like Miss Food Blogger forgot to take a picture of the results. Oh, well. I had three things going on at once. . .and we just ate them!

While BF would prefer eating apples raw, he said that the apples cooked with SomerSweet were a little less sweet, and still somewhat crisp, although they weren’t hard like a fresh apple. The agave syrup crock apples were softer and sweeter than the others, and that’s the one he preferred.

If I had cooked them longer they would have probably been a lot softer, and maybe even soft enough for applesauce. But peeling all them apples? No thanks. It was just something to use them up the first time.

Agave syrup works for a lot of different things, including a replacement for honey, with less of an insulin spike than honey would give. (Remember: I’m not a doctor, I just read about these things.)  SomerSweet’s primary ingredient, erythrytol, is a sugar alcohol that’s also quite sweet and works like regular sugar, also without the insulin spike.

For you and your guests who don’t want pie or other heavily-sugared dessert, baking apples in your Crock Pot may be a good alternative to have around, and in the Crock Pot, couldn’t be easier. But why wait for Thanksgiving? Apples are in season now, and available all year around–make some this week or this weekend, and see how you like it. Tweak it to make it yours, and offer it with pride on Thanksgiving Day. It’s one of those things you can set and forget.  You may be asked to make it again next year, or even before then–and what would be wrong with that?

Now for another side dish that’s also low-carb. Spaghetti Squash. Have you tried it? I have. They’re hard as a rock and can be somewhat dangerous to cut, especially the larger ones. Easiest method I knew of, until now, was to cut it in half, scrape out all the seeds and strings, coat the inside with a touch of olive oil, and roast at 350F cut side down for an hour.  I used to use the toaster oven to roast even the larger ones, but now I don’t have a toaster oven. What to do? Well. . . .

I also follow a blog called Half Baked Harvest. I found a recipe there a while back, and I may have posted it here, but I can’t find it now. HOWEVER–a few weeks ago, this recipe for Crockpot Spaghetti Squash with Lasagne Bolognese showed up and got my attention. I haven’t made the Bolognese sauce yet, but I might one day.

But cooking a spaghetti squash in the Crock Pot? Why haven’t I tried this before?

Tieghan makes up her sauce, adds it into the Crock Pot, then puts the whole, untouched spaghetti squash right on top the sauce. No kidding. So I pulled out the big one and put the (little) squash in it, because the ovals were needed for the apples.

I just pulled off the sticker, washed it off, dropped it in, turned it to low and left it alone for a good 8 or 9 hours.

img_3500

You put the food in, put the lid on, plug it in, turn it on, and leave it alone:

Really--just let it go.

Really–just let it cook itself.

I did this early on Monday, and about suppertime, this is what came out:

It's cooked, it really is.

It’s cooked, it really is.

And out comes a perfectly cooked spaghetti squash:

img_3535

Either use a good potholder or wait til it cools, then cut it in half to remove the seeds. Once you’ve got the “guts” out of it, scrape out the “spaghetti” with a fork into your serving bowl:

img_3537

Photo credit: BF, because I can’t do this and snap the picture.

Add some butter, salt and fresh herbs:

I only had rosemary handy.

I only had rosemary handy.

Mix it up well, and if needed, re-heat in the microwave or on top the stove, or leave in the oven to keep it warm:

Yum.

Yum.

And you’ve got delicious and perfectly cooked spaghetti squash for your vegetarian guests. (You could also use olive oil if you don’t want to use butter.) But don’t be surprised if the non-veg folks dig into it–spaghetti squash is delicious when cooked well and seasoned right. (If only I could get BF to try a bite of it; he hates squash across the board.)

So, did I give you some new ideas for a great Thanksgiving meal? Alternatives for your guests, maybe? Or just something different and deliciousi for dinner this weekend? (November also has 29 *other* dinners to prepare besides Thanksgiving, you know.) I hope this helps, and I hope everyone has a tasty and happy Thanksgiving next week.

Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, “Amy, there you go again, banging on about SomerSweet again. You have the last three cans of it in existence!” Well, here you go. I hope to finish the post on a new replacement for SomerSweet for you, but I want to reach out to the company and find out more from them. I will tell you that I found it in Whole Foods in Mandeville, it’s called Swerve, and the company is located in New Orleans!

img_3523

More to come on this, hopefully soon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Crock Pot Day: Citrus Spice Chicken

Happy Monday, Dear Readers!

Sorry I’ve been away, it’s been a bit crazy. Last Wednesday, I busied myself with laundry, cooking, and switching my electric company to one that is nicer, less expensive, and with a US-based call center. With the lovely weather we had after the drowning rains, I’ve also been out on the bike again, every night except Tuesday, when I hit HEB for a stock-up run.

I planned on going for a ride when I got home. That didn’t happen. When I realized how much I’d been walking around that place, I realized I already had some exercise–and that wore me out! Thank heavens for the two folks handing out samples of fish, chicken, and a tasty cucumber salad I hope to make again one day.

Speaking of HEB, apparently it’s been discovered. Snappy Gourmet shared this Business Insider article on Facebook the other day about why HEB is the #1 grocery store in America. What the heck? All they had to do was ask me. I mean, they have stuff like this:

No, I didn't buy them. This time.

No, I didn’t buy them. This time.

And this was under the indoor pink tent next to the bakery section for Mother’s Day:

IMG_3096[1]

Those are chocolate covered strawberries in the perimeter around the cake.

I also picked up two more tomato plants for twenty-five cents each. They were on their last legs, but they are planted, and one even has a tomato growing. Fingers crossed for lots of grape tomatoes this summer.

Does your grocery store do Date Night? Mine does:

And why not take your date to HEB?

And why not take your date to dinner at HEB?

Not all HEBs have a coffee shop in the store. Ours doesn’t, but the store in The Woodlands does, and it’s smaller than our new store.  Ditto for Cafe on the Run–we don’t have one, but the League City store does as well as The Woodlands.

If all these newly relocated people fall in love with HEB, we’ll never get rid of them. Texas will be doomed.

Speaking of food shopping, Neighbor E told me last week that all The Fresh Market stores in Texas are being closed, along with two other states. They’ve only been here in our ‘hood for two years.  There are now hired security guards at the front entrance, and they’ve reduced the operating hours to 9am to 6pm, until they close on May 18th. That’s how tightly competitive the grocery market is here in Texas–and Whole Foods isn’t doing too good, either. The Fresh Market is selling everything at 50% off, all sales final, so if you’re in the area of one of these departing stores, it’s time to stock up.

Between Hancock Fabrics, Sports Authority and now The Fresh Market, that’s a lot of folks in retail losing their jobs in Clear Lake real soon.

Hmmm. . .maybe Trader Joe’s will finally open up in our little nook of Houston? THAT would make life very tolerable! (For a while.)

Well, anyway. . .I wanted to make some food in the Crock Pots, so I bought some chicken, some pork chops, and other ingredients to make something called Citrus Spice Chicken. See, it’s getting on that time of the year, and if you haven’t been using your slow cooking Crock Pots, it’s time to get them out and start using them again (and your waffle maker, too.) Daily, if need be–you don’t need to be heating up your kitchen all day long until October or November when we get a puff of cool air. (We barely had a “winter,” and now it’s spring.)

We went right from winter to nearly summer, but once I decided to put my winter boots back in the closet, we had a front come through bringing cooler, drier air. It’s not really cool enough for boots now, but last Monday morning, I could have gotten away with them.

So, last year about this time, I wrote a longer piece on the slow cooker, a kitchen standby that, with a little forethought and planning, can make your regular cooking easier while keeping the kitchen from heating up during the summer, or allow you to cook more at the same time, anytime of year. Just in the last week or two, Ree Drummond made this Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup on her show. I’ve seen Ree use it a couple of times before, and in my last post, I told you about Giada de Laurentiis getting into slow cooking as well.

I didn’t mention this in my post last year, but I should have. Giving credit where it’s due, the GER is the reason I got into slow cooking, and I even taught the last boyfriend (“Voldemort”) how to use his. The GER would use it occasionally, but I bought a cookbook so I could use it more often. I’d never had one, and when I was getting ready to move, I bought two. Last year, of course, I also bought replacement parts for them. . .but I told you about that, too.

I hate to use the trade name Crock Pot, even thought that’s what I have. Turns out a number of other companies make different varieties slow cookers. My mechanic friend has a Hamilton Beach and I’m trying to coax him to use it more often. But Crock Pot is the original, and it’s a registered company name. So I’ll use them interchangeably. If you have one by Cuisinart. . .well, you know what I’m talking about.

One thing I didn’t mention was the use of the plastic liners available for slow cookers. I hate to buy more new stuff, but I have to say, these liners are awesome.  They’re not available in every store, but you might be able to ask your grocer to carry them. They come in a box of four, and I try to buy two boxes at a time. After scrubbing the heck out of my stoneware crocks for years, I don’t ever want to be without them again. With the breakfast quiche I make on Sunday, once it cools, I just lift it right out of the cooker, turn it upside down on a cutting board, pull the liner off and toss it. Cut the quiche, package it up for the week, and I’m good. Just a quick rinse of the stoneware and it’s all done. It really is that good, and worth the money to buy them and extra minute to set them into the stoneware crock.  You can read more about Reynold’s wonderful invention here.

How come I never think of inventing stuff like this?

Dana Carpender isn’t a well-known cookbook author like some of the other folks I have on my shelf. I have two of her low-carb books, and this recipe comes from her 200 Low Carb Slow Cooker Recipes book. It’s one of those “dump-and-go” recipes where you literally put the food in and all that. Pretty tasty, but one of the ingredients is another recipe in the book for ketchup. No kidding, but it’s worth it.

IMG_3006

I know, it’s weird–but normal doesn’t make the world go round!

First, you make Dana’s No-Sugar Ketchup, which is just a few ingredients in the blender and blitzed. I made it the night before and refrigerated it. Came out like gelatin–but really, it’s an ingredient and good. This recipe appears in all of her cookbooks. Store-bought ketchup is usually loaded with sugar, so this is a good alternative if you can’t find something sugarless or something like low carb.

Into a blender, add:

  • 6 ounces (one small can) tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup Splenda (I used SomerSweet, but you could also use your favorite)
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion (I used a shallot, and it was just enough)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

 

Run the blender until the onion disappears. Scrape all of it into a container, then store in the fridge (or freezer for longer storage.

Ketchup!

Ketchup!

At 7½ calories a tablespoon, you can enjoy the heck out of this on fries or anything you like. But that’s not what it’s for today, is it?

IMG_3008

Really, it’s good. Here we start mixing.

Now let’s make this chicken.

The setup

The setup

To the mixing cup, add 1/3 cup lemon juice, the sweetener, a half-teaspoon of orange extract, a half-cup of the ketchup, 2 tablespoons of low-sugar orange marmalade, a half-teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and allspice, an eighth teaspoon of ground cloves, and (if you’re brave) a quarter teaspoon of cayenne. I backed off and added an eighth teaspoon of cayenne and it was good, but I call that “optional,” and I think you could leave it out altogether if you wanted. Mix that all up:

The cooking marinade

The cooking marinade

Once that’s mixed (you could do this the night before and just put the bowl in the fridge until you’re ready to make it in the morning), add 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs to your slow cooker:

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My favorite part of the chicken, or the turkey.

Pour the mixture over the top:

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Stir a little to coat the chicken well:

Yum.

Yum.

Cover, cook for six hours, and, tah-dah!

Dinner!

Dinner!

A little sweet, a tiny bit spicy with a really, really good flavor to it.

The book says to serve it with something else called “Cauli-Rice,” a recipe on page 239, but I haven’t tried that one yet. “Cauli-Rice” is simply chopping up a half head of cauliflower by running it through the food processor with the shredding blade and chopping it up small. My local HEB also sells chopped cauliflower ready to saute, which is what would probably be a good way to cook your “Cauli-Rice.” Microwaving it with a little water or steaming are suggested, but I like saute in butter or olive oil until it’s done. But really, any good, healthy side dish would be great alongside this chicken, or (I know I shouldn’t say this) on top of some gluten-free pasta, which is generally. . .not always low-carb.

In fact, it would be perfect for spiralized veggies, if you do that sort of thing.

Do you have one of them spiralizer thingies? Or have you bought the spiralizing attachment for your KitchenAid Stand Mixer? Um, no. . .and the reason I haven’t delved into it is because I don’t have a spiralizer thingy. Or at least, so I thought. I was out prowling around in the mall the other day, and realize that I actually already have something for spiralizing veggies, and didn’t know it.

How did this happen? Well. . . .

I was asked to make an apple pie or something for a party many years ago, and I was telling one of the guys in IT Engineering about it. He offered me the use of his apple peeling/coring contraption, and I happily accepted. It worked great! I got them all peeled. . .and then I broke it. I don’t know how, but I broke the darn thing. He was on vacation for two weeks, so I had time to scare up a new one. At the same time, I ordered the red one for myself, and I have used it a few times since then, but not in a while. I was in the mall while the brakes were being worked on, and I saw it in either Macy’s, Sears, or somewhere else that kitchen stuff was being sold when the epiphany happened.

I also saw a 3-quart Crock Pot for $12.97 in Sears, in red, but no, I didn’t purchase it. And speaking of red, a very nice lady in Macy’s Fine Jewelry Department allowed me to try on my ultimate dream ring:

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, The Duchess of El Dorado

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome The Duchess of El Dorado.

That ring’s MSRP was much as the car I bought in 1998 when I moved to Houston. (I’ve always believed that the royal engagement ring would look better with a red stone, and I was right.)

There is a smaller, but no less fabulous, version at Macy’s, for considerably less:

Ladies and gentlemen, The Countess of Clear Lake

This ring would make me “The Countess of Clear Lake.”  Still my dream ring, but not as big and bold.

Did I forget to mention that they were 45% off that day? No, I didn’t buy any rings. Just a double-chocolate brownie at Starbucks. I needed that more.

Oh, yeah, I was talking about food, wasn’t I?

So, one day, when I think about it, I will start spiralizing veggies for myself, and see how I like it. Heck, I might actually spiralize something and put it on the waffle iron like hash browns–let’s see what I come up with. For now, though, my attention is elsewhere, including keeping up with this humble foodie blog, and keeping my faithful readers healthy, happy and fed.

But really, a good hot meal is within your reach with a slow cooker. You don’t need anything with electronic controls, connected to your WiFi, or anything else confusing (unless you like it that way.) Get one that turns on and turns off, and you’ll have a great dinner without heating up the kitchen. (And you can serve it with spiralized veg if you want.)

I’ve got some research to do on my next post, but I hope to have a full report on. . .well, I’ll tell you about it when the time comes. Next week is our monthly garden lecture, and the topic this month is Plants of the Bible. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “why would you go to a lecture on plants from the Bible?” Well, because it’s plants, and because it’s interesting. (I’ll be mentioning key topics if I remember to write them down.)

For now, go get your slow cooker out so you can make dinner tomorrow the easy way.

Happy (Slow) Cooking!

 

Hash Brown Waffling

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Are you enjoying your popcorn a little more now?

I saw friend of the blog SM on Saturday, and she really enjoyed the last article on popcorn. There’s a lot more to popcorn than we think about, and I hope you found it interesting (and ditched that microwave stuff!)

OK, I’m going to do an opinion piece now.

I think we’re going to see the end of Martha Stewart Living magazine within the next year or two, or at least see it rolled up into something else. If you haven’t heard, the two MS magazines were sold to Meredith, and the company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) was sold to Sequential Brands Group, whatever that is. I remember when MSLO went public, the shares sold for something like $38 each. I long thought about buying 10 shares, (especially after the price went way down), just to own a bit of it, but I never did. The price of the subscriptions has decreased with the new owners, too. Meredith also publishes, among others, Better Homes & Gardens, Rachel Ray Everyday, Shape,  and Parenting.

My favorite quote from the article:

“The change will be invisible to the consumer, and will help to further strengthen the Martha Stewart brand in the advertising marketplace,” said Meredith National Media Group president Tom Harty.

No, it isn’t invisible, I saw it. Yesterday I received the April issue, and it didn’t take long to flip through it. On page 22 in the Good Things section is a runner constructed from four IKEA Signe rugs. That’s lovely. . .except I did that ten years ago as a bathroom runner, since the cats liked to drop their midnight hairballs in the bathroom. I stitched them up on the machine (exactly the way they do, lengthwise) using white upholstery thread, and now I have four of them to chose from. Completely machine washable (except I have no more cats.)  The From Martha column is all about Martha getting her hair done. This was NOT what Martha Stewart Living was all about.

And in the magazine wrapper was this “gift” for renewing:

Dessert!

Dessert!

This doesn’t look like anything Martha. I start flipping through and see recipes calling for a box of cake mix or refrigerated pie dough. That’s not Martha!! I up the front cover, and I see:

Definitely not Martha.

Definitely not Martha.

More “church lady” kinds of desserts, and not the kind of thing I’d ever make. I gave it to Neighbor T upstairs, since she’s kind of a “church lady,” and does like that sort of thing.

It’s no longer Martha Stewart Living. It’s Better Homes & Gardens 2.0.

OK, I’ll quit griping and complaining. For a while. Let’s talk about something more interesting.

Although I haven’t done a lot of waffling in a while, it’s because I’ve been using the Crock Pots a lot. Now from the company that brings you the Internet-Of-Things slow cooking machine that you connect to your WiFi and control with a smartphone app, and a slow-cooking arrangement called a “Hook Up,” comes this new 5-in-1 Multi-Cooker that bakes, steams, sautes and roasts in addition to slow-cooking. It’s the idea is that not only can you brown your meat before you do the slow cooking, you do it in this appliance, and the one-pot convenience saves time and washing extra pots. It also doubles as a small counter-top oven (I don’t know if it would replace my toaster oven), and you can steam in it too. At $150, I’m not in a hurry to order one. If I were to get one I would probably ditch at least one of my two “dumb terminal” Crock Pots, and maybe bake more in it. (A baking rack is included for things like custards.) I did notice that many of the people writing reviews received a “free sample” to try out. No, I didn’t get in on that one, I wish. Oh, well.

I’m not big on buying every single new appliance out there, especially if it does just one thing (like popcorn.) But this might be a good bridal shower gift with wedding season coming up soon. Or a graduation gift for someone who’s heading to college in the fall and likes to cook.

Now, let’s talk about waffling. Yes, again. If you haven’t become hooked, keep reading, you just might.

On Sunday (on Facebook) a post appeared from a certain author (guess who?) discussing spaghetti pie. And then it turns into Waffled Spaghetti Pie. Yes, Spaghetti Pie in the waffle maker. Pecorino Romano AND Provolone cheeses? Oh, yes. . . .

Source: WillItWaffle.com

Source: WillItWaffle.com

You’re welcome.

No, I’m probably not going to try it unless I decide to pop for gluten-free spaghetti. Well, now that I think about it, I just might. That looks pretty darn good, doesn’t it?

Taste tester and friend of the blog Neighbor E was given some fresh garden produce recently, and he gave me some of it because he wouldn’t be able to use it before it went bad. The carrots nearly as big as my forearm were used in some stewed lentils, which I’ll talk about in a future post. (He and Neighbor R loved that one.) Since I don’t normally buy potatoes because of the high starch content, I didn’t use them right away, just thinking about what I might do with them.

Then it hit me: hash browns. But not just any hash browns.

You may have seen the Pinterest or Facebook post showing you how to create them in a waffle maker from frozen tater tots (and I talked about that the first time I brought up waffling.) Unless you’re in Denny’s or some other high-end restaurant (yes, that’s sarcasm), you’re probably not going to be able to get them nice and crispy making them from scratch. So, I cracked open the new holy grail of appliance cooking, Will It Waffle? and sure enough, there’s a waffled hash brown recipe. With fresh rosemary from the HeatCageKitchen garden!

The setup

The setup.

Really, it’s a bit of work, but simple. You shred up the potatoes, either by hand or with a noisy machine.

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I just didn’t feel like taking out the food processor this time

Here’s the trick: you must remove as much of the water as you can. My way was to use this long-forgotten over-the-sink colander, spread them out, then blot and squeeze with paper towels.

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I think I bought that before I met the GER.

Blot and squeeze as much as you can to remove the water:

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I am now out of paper towels.

I let that sit in the colander while I chopped up the fresh rosemary, and mixed it with the salt and pepper:

Mezzaluna knife not required

Mezzaluna knife not required

 

Quarter teaspoon of salt, half teaspoon pepper mixed with half a teaspoon finely chopped rosemary.

Quarter teaspoon of salt, half teaspoon pepper mixed with half a teaspoon finely chopped rosemary.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter to brush onto the waffle maker, which by now should be getting hot enough to cook:

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Mix the shredded potatoes into the seasonings, mixing well:

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Then pack it onto the waffle plates:

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Sorry about that. I only have two hands.

Spread it out all the way to the edges of the waffle part. Remember, it’s not cake batter or eggs, so it won’t run anywhere:

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Let me warn you that unlike eggs, this will take about 10 to 12 minutes to finish cooking. The drier your potatoes, the crispier the hash browns. When it’s done, it looks something like this:

See? Hash Browns!

See? Hash Browns!

But cook it as long as you need to, until it’s crispy the way you like it. I actually cooked that one a little more so it would get crispier.

Once it’s done, take it out and cook up hot, puffy scrambled eggs right behind it. Breakfast!

When it’s ready, serve it with ketchup, sour cream, salsa, or whatever you like on your hash browns. I normally don’t have sour cream around, but because I’d made coleslaw earlier in the week, I had some.

Yes!!

Yes!!

No, hash browns are not on my regular rotation, but someone gave me potatoes, so I figured out the best use for them. Delicious.  How come we didn’t think of this before? Well, Daniel Shumski did, and we are all grateful for his expertise, too.

Oh, and don’t think you have to keep these for breakfast. Make them anytime you’re in the mood, OK? And as I told someone last night on the phone who was having cereal and milk after an unexpected double shift, “breakfast for dinner” is a thing now. Wouldn’t be a bad thing for dinner anytime. (And AC will probably be checking them out next time she comes by for dinner, too.)

Got some potatoes? Get out your waffle iron and start making hash browns. Even just once, you’ll enjoy the heck out of it, but I bet it won’t be the last time.

Happy Dining!