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Countertop dishwasher
The HeatCageKitchen Dishwasher!

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

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

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

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

More Spare Parts Karma

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

French Press replacement glass

Finally, all my French Presses are back in action!

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

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

Norpro Apple Master

I can use it again!

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

Online Ordering From HEB

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

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

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

No Toaster Oven Yet

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

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

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

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

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

Presenting The New Dishwasher!

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

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

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

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

Not For HGTV

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

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

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

Enter The Compact Appliance

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

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

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

First, Amazon

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

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

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

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

CompactAppliance.Com

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Time

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

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

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

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

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

Countertop dishwasher detergent

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

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

Two Days Later

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

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

The Box Opens

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

Countertop dishwasher

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

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

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

How It Works

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

Countertop dishwasher connector

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

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

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

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

Countertop dishwasher connected

Clips on just like this

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

Countertop dishwasher hookup

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

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

So What’s It Like To Use?

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

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

Countertop dishewasher loaded

Loaded!

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

Countertop dishwasher cup and mug rack

An area for big cups as well as smaller items

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

When you’re ready, drop in your detergent:

Gelpac in countertop dishwasher

So neat & tidy

Turn it on:

Countertop dishwasher

Very easy

Then touch the start button:

Countertop dishwasher buttons

And away we go!

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

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

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

The Last Caveat

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

Facebook Bragging

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

Suzy Homemaker Dishwasher

I still want one.

And I think mine holds more, anyway.

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

What Else I Learned On Facebook

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

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

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

The New Addiction

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

Countertop dishwasher powder scoop

It hangs there ready when I want it.

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

Unfortunately, I’m now addicted to Command Hooks.

Measuing cups held by Command Hooks

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

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

Command hook on coffee tin

It waits for me, just like the detergent cup

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

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

Finally, a place to stash these!

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

Command hooks holding potholders

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

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

Command hook holding oven mitt

Looks better doesn’t it?

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

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

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

How Did I Miss These?

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

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

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

Until Next Time

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

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

Enjoy!

Bowl of Pozole, "dressed."
The Buddhist Christmas Party

Remember the Buddhist Thanksgiving I used to do in Houston? This past weekend, there was a Buddhist Christmas Party. Sort of. There was FOOD. So that makes it a Christmas party to me!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Merry Christmas! Are you ready for Santa to drop by? Sorry I’m late again. There’s a lot going on. . . .

Snow At The Casa de Rurale!

Ladies and Gentlemen, on Friday, December 8, 2017, we had four inches of SNOW. No kidding. I was happily camped in with a pit bull, a rust-colored mutt and a fussy old cat. BF braved the four mile drive to work and made it home safely. He hates cold weather and absolutely abhors it after waking up in a snowstorm while stationed in Afghanistan many years ago. He was not amused, that’s for sure.

Houston got a half-inch of snow, as did New Orleans, but certainly not the four inches we had. I have a new client up the freeway in Jackson, MS, and we were chatting on Skype about it. This project manager has young daughters who had an absolute blast making snowmen.

The local Baton Rouge news and weather wonks called it “Sneaux Day 2017.” (“Sneaux?” It’s a thing, I suppose.)  So glad I stocked up on chocolate almond milk the weekend before while I was in New Orleans. It was only supposed to be a freeze, but snow was a gift.

Snow Covered Hay Bales

These hay bales looked like frosted jelly rolls! They’re on the property behind us. Don’t they look delish? (Taken with my iPhone 6, no kidding.)

You can see the pictures I took in the two Facebook albums (you don’t need an account, it’s an external link) and the videos I took online. These were taken during the actual snow,, and these were taken the day after. My YouTube snow videos are here, and, yes, I narrate the videos, too. I’m going to use the Shutterfly app soon to get those pictures printed up for the price of shipping. (This one may be an enlargement, too.)  It was SO much fun. First time in a long time I’ve made a snowman hood ornament.

The Royal Wedding!

By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Meghan Markle, and their wedding is set for May 19th. Well, he was always the “fun” one, right? Harry has definitely had a little more fun than he should have. . .but this beautiful actress captured his heart.  I’ve burned my signs that say Marry Me Harry!

But still BF isn’t excited about a royal wedding. And like me and BF, Meghan is working on Prince Harry to get him healthier. She’s told him he’s got to quit smoking (something I didn’t have to do with BF because he never smoked.) She’s a longtime fan of yoga, partly because her mother is an instructor. I suggested we start doing couples yoga, and I could get a DVD for us. Yeah. . .that went over like the proverbial lead balloon. But I also suggested that we should get in shape for the royal wedding. BF: “Yeah, I’m all over that.” Well, it’s a goal, right?

The day after their engagement, the McCall’s Pattern Company posted on Facebook a pattern for a coat exactly like Meghan’s:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle First Engagement Picture with White Coat

Since the patterns were on sale that day on their website, I ordered it immediately  and it arrived a week later (McCall’s 7480, view D, if you’re interested.) I am hoping to go buy fabric to make it after Christmas. This one is unlined, so it should go pretty quick. Not making it white, that’s for sure. I’ll see what Joann’s in Baton Rouge has to offer in coat fabrics. Then I’ll be wearing the coat of the future Duchess of Sussex.

Right away, the company posted the pattern on Facebook so we could all “sew the look.” Someone asked if it was newly designed, or just a coincidence that they had a pattern like the one Meghan was wearing. One of the employees with the social media team at McCall’s answered the question with, “Lucky Coincidence!” I’ll take it. . . .

Ms. Markle wore a very nice beige skirt the next day (under a different coat) that one lady in the private Facebook group for McCall’s patterns has already re-made and is ALREADY WEARING IT. But McCall’s has announced that they are working on a “sewalong” for 2018 with the theme of #royalwedding, with dresses and hats and the like. Let’s see if I can keep up.

The New Star Wars Film

Speaking of the Princes. . . .if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ve probably already seen The Last Jedi. But if you didn’t, I won’t spoil it for you. We went to Hammond the day before it opened to run errands, and BF walked right up to a kiosk outside and bought the two tickets. Nice–and we even had assigned seats, apparently.

I’d read a few things online, but not anything that gave away too much. But Princes Harry and William are both fans, and have cameos in the film as First Order (formerly Imperial) Stormtroopers. No kidding. They were visiting the set, and someone said, “hey, you guys wanna be in the film? You can be Stormtroopers!” The Princes were suited up and stood in the film.  They’re in the scene where Finn gets captured with a female character, and since they’re both over six feet, they kind of stand out. (Stormtroopers have to be 5’10”.)  I saw them. BF didn’t care.

I will also say that it was heartbreaking to see Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, knowing that it’s the last time we’ll see her and her character. (I know, a bit of irony to say that, since she died of cardiac arrest.) Spoiler alert–she does *NOT* die in this film, as some have reported. But in the next film, they’ll address the end of the character’s story arc. They won’t digitally re-create her like they did at the end of Rogue One, or some of the other long-departed characters.  I read about this before we saw the film–there is a dedication in the credits that says, “For Our Loving Princess, Carrie Fisher.” And we saw it. Awwww. . . .

Here’s a small spoiler: there is one scene where Chewbacca is very hungry, and he’s about to eat a barbecued bird. It happens to be one of the newest birdie characters with big, puppy-dog eyes, called the Porg. And one Porg stares down the Wookie with those sad eyes, because the Wookie was about to eat one of his friends. Chewbacca was so hungry, but he couldn’t do it. I wanted to give Chewy a hug at that point–he reminded me of BF.

If you love Star Wars, you’ll be thrilled with it. Lots of action, storylines like moving parts, different things going on. Some like it, some hate it, you’ll just have to decide for yourself.

Random Grocery Sightings

I texted this picture to Neighbor E from our local Walmart the other day, but he didn’t respond. I’m guessing he’s enjoying these way too much:

Hostess Christmas Pastries

I hope he’s enjoying these!

There was a trip through The Fresh Market the other day where I found these:

 

Jars of French Prunes

FRENCH prunes?

Yeah. . .I’m all over the French prunes. I’m sure they’re great. . .if you like prunes.

Our Buddhist Christmas Party

Buddhists having a Christmas Party? I suppose I shouldn’t use this term, because, technically, it was our December district meeting. As an “end of the year” celebration, our district leader, who is a Hispanic transplant from LA, made a mildly flavored soup called Pozole, and we all brought some other delicious stuff.

Where has this stuff been all my life? And how did I miss it in TEXAS???

Bowl of pozole without toppings

Straight pozole

If you’re not familiar with Louisiana “po-boys,” people order them either “dressed,” with lettuce and tomato (some places add pickles, too) or “un-dressed” with just the sandwich and fillings (i.e., fried shrimp, oysters, roast beef, etc.)  So what OR did was to offer cabbage, cilantro, radishes and onions (all well chopped) to add to the top:

Bowl of Pozole, "dressed."

This amazing, mildly flavored soup is just what we all need during winter, yes?

Oh, Holy Shish Kebab.

We all gobbled some up, and OR is definitely going to have to teach me to make this, especially if she wants me to keep doing the district calendar. (Just kidding!) Seriously, though, she’s on the hook for a cooking lesson here. It’s not a strong flavor, which is why I think BF will like it, cilantro or no. But because I’ve been busy, and cooking a lot of pork and chicken, BF complains that he’s “clucking” and “oinking.”  I try hard to feed him well, despite his protests, and sometimes, every dish is “new.” Oh, well.

A quick search brought up this recipe for Pozole, and I may actually try it soon. Like tamales (yum!) OM says it’s “laborious.” Well, after seeing Stephanie O’Dea’s recipe for tamales in the CrockPot, I might try Pozole in it, too. (I haven’t made tamales yet.)

I wonder what he’d say if we were given a fair amount of venison and I cooked a lot of it for him. Oh, wait–would he grow antlers?

The Rest Of The Party

Other folks brought some delicious things, and I made some of Nigella’s delicious Chocolate Christmas Cookies:

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits (cookies)

The delicious and fairly simple Christmas Chocolate Biscuits (Cookies)

I assure you, these are not gluten-free, sugar-free or fat free in any way. They are, however, egg free. I still haven’t found any “Christmas sprinkles,” so I’ll have to order some next year. I mean, I was looking for them in HOUSTON and couldn’t get them. What made me think I could get them here? So, once again, we have the everyday multicolored sprinkles that probably contain every allergen known to man. Oh, well.

Sprinkles

That’s what I had, so I used them.

Pictures from the rest of our celebration:

Table shot

Tea and non-alcoholic sangria and. . .carrots.

 

Guac and chips

Someone brought guac and chips just for me! I just say “thank you.”

 

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits On A Plate

OK, so I couldn’t resist another shot of the cookies I made. Everyone loved them, and I gave the recipe to three people.

We had a great time, and all our Buddhist activities are finished for the year. We’ll start back again on New Year’s Day, and we’ll be back doing our regular activities.

If You’re Jewish

I know a few Jewish folks, but I can’t say that I’m particularly knowledgable on the faith. I know that in kosher cooking, you don’t serve beef with a cream sauce, and that some meat has to be “koshered” using the salt. Some folks keep a “kosher kitchen,” but I don’t know any more than that. I actually use kosher salt, because, well, I learned about it from Martha Stewart, and it’s great stuff. (I explained to BF the other day that if I ask him to get “salt,” kosher is generally what I’m asking for.)

I’d heard stories about Jewish people going out for Chinese on Christmas, because, well, they don’t celebrate Christmas, as a rule, and Hanukkah doesn’t always fall on Christmas Day, either. So, since a Jewish family probably doesn’t have a Christmas Lunch/Dinner, they’ll go out to the only place likely to be open on Christmas: a Chinese restaurant.

You’re probably thinking, “Amy, why are you bringing this up?”

Online magazine Mental Floss published this story on Thursday about why Jewish folks are frequently at Chinese restaurants on Christmas Day. I thought it was an interesting read, and wanted to pass it along And, it’s a tradition! Well, here in the US, anyway. And is there ever a bad reason to have Chinese food?

And For A Buddhist

Well, Buddhists in the US can do whatever they want for Christmas Day. As longtime readers know, I have spent many Christmas dinners alone, watching TV (frequently the Doctor Who Christmas specials), cooking and sewing, and maybe having a drink before going to bed. Honestly, I can’t say it was a bad thing.

I did manage to get the Christmas specials DVD for Keeping Up Appearances from the local library a couple of days ago. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Hyacinth!

But for the second year, I’ve got BF. We’ve not decorated the Casa–the decorations are way to hard to get to right now–but we’re going to visit his daughter and his Dad’s place up the road. And maybe we’ll come home and watch TV for a while. I’m not cooking anything, unless I put beans in the CrockPot and let them roll.

I got him a little present, but when I told him not to get me anything, I meant it. If someone goes all out for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc., but then treats you like dirt the rest of the year, who cares?

BF indulges me–like taking me to Mandeville the other night to meet up with a guy who was giving away Meyer lemons from his backyard, because he had way too many. He posted it on Facebook, and said, “come and get ’em!” I thanked him, and set aside some for our neighbor who also loves lemons. We also hit Whole Foods, and I offered to get him something from the cookie bar, but he wanted a milkshake. A quick tap on the phone, and we were at a Sonic. I bought his milkshake for him.

BF will take me nearly anywhere I want to go (although we haven’t made it back to Houston yet) and makes no bones about going to work hours early so I can make a Buddhist activity in New Orleans or Mandeville. He takes me to Starbucks, even though he doesn’t agree with their, um, CEO’s spoutings. (I don’t either, but you know I love to go.) If we’re in Hammond for an errand, there’s a stop at Starbucks–especially if there’s a double star day during a star dash.

You can’t box that and put a ribbon on that, you know? So, yeah, I don’t mind if he doesn’t get me a “Christmas present.

So when he’s off, I let him sleep in like the grizzly bear he is, and don’t bother him much. (When he wakes up is a different matter.)

If you’re alone this Christmas, do whatever it takes to enjoy it, whether it’s watching TV, making some delicious food, or even heading out to your local Starbucks for some food. I know the ones in Houston were open, but I’m not sure about the ones here in LA. Whatever you do, don’t sit around and brood about “being alone on Christmas.” It’s OK, I’ve done it. Getting together with some other folks in the same predicament would also be a good thing. And then there’s volunteering.

Merry Christmas To One And All

From the Casa de Rurale in Central Louisiana, I raise a glass and hope everyone has a great Christmas, whatever you’re doing. I am hoping to have more interesting subjects to write about in the new year. (Have you found your new “diet” yet?) I’ll be back soon.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Pizza. Waffles.

Happy Monday, Dear Readers:

So after my waffle and Thanksgiving post, have you started thinking about your own Thanksgiving celebration? I’m still intrigued with the idea of the pizza waffle, so I kept going. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute. But Thanksgiving is coming up quick–if you haven’t started thinking and planning, better hurry up!

The GER has been informed of Thanksgiving, but has not responded, even though I’ll be making a delicious pecan pie on Wednesday. If he doesn’t show up, I’ll go get him.

Want to give a quick welcome to new friend of the blog AC. She’s in California this week with her parents, but she’ll get around to reading this one eventually. She’s a longtime friend of LK, and is also a longtime Buddhist like we are. Woo hoo! I’m glad she’s in our district now, and glad she will be enjoying (or reviling) my posts.

Wal-Mart has a site with some additional tips and hacks that can help you out, including a quick way to chill a bottle of wine. Cover it with a damp towel, stash it in the freezer for 15 minutes, run it under cold water again, remove the towel, and enjoy.

BuzzFeed also has this article on making an entire Thanksgiving dinner in a Crock Pot. No kidding, it serves 6 to 8 people. It’s like any other Crock Pot recipe–you chop it up, layer it, put the lid on, turn it on, and leave it. (Instructions are included.) Uses boneless, skinless turkey breasts, thighs or other parts you like, and potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, the whole bit. Add cranberry sauce and a nice dessert, maybe a nice salad, and you’re good. Better than Thanksgiving In A Box, which I’ve seen once in Wal-Mart. I offer suggestions where I can, and just maybe one of my readers will be able to do this. It requires a 6-quart or larger Crock Pot (yes, I have a round one) and it is not gluten-free, since there’s bread and flour involved for gravy.

Doesn’t look bad, and maybe it could be made gluten free, right? Consider this option if you’re looking to make something but not a big, fancy dinner, and not a huge 20+ pound turkey. I haven’t tried it, but it looks pretty simple to do, and one of you dear readers may be looking for it.

The esteemed Washington Post recently ran an article about Houston as one of America’s great food cities. Well, DUH!! Of course we are!  Phoenicia’s two locations got a mention, as well as the Hong Kong Food Market, a chain grocery with multiple locations serving the large Asian community (and they don’t mind if this redhead pops in from time to time, either.)  Houston, like New Orleans, has a large Vietnamese population, migrated after the Vietnam war. But smoked brisket, barbeque and modern cuisine is also covered. I’ve not been in any of those restaurants myself, but I’ve heard good things about Underbelly. So there! And Houston is now #3 in the US, not #4, because of the inbound migration from other US states.

If you’re a fan of local raw honey, you may be able to find more of it one day. I already knew that Central Market on Lovers Lane in Dallas has a rooftop beehive that produces raw honey for sale. But I just found out that the Waldorf Astoria in New York is doing the same thing, and using the honey in the hotel’s kitchens. Pretty neat! It was, at one time, illegal to keep bees in NYC, but that’s changed, and the busy bees are making honey and pollinating all of New York. Could “rooftop beekeeping” catch on elsewhere? It’s always possible, especially for the rest of the Central Markets in Texas. But with more people starting and expanding urban gardens (some including backyard chickens), beekeeping may also not be far behind. Culinary seller Williams-Sonoma has an entire collection of what they call “Agrarian,” which includes beekeeping supplies. You can learn more about beekeeping in this section of their website. If you’re considering beekeeping, of course, you’ll need to do a little more research.

Switching gears. . .

If you like holiday humor, I discovered many (but not all) uncut episodes of one of my favorite Britcoms, My Family, is on YouTube. It aired on BBC America and PBS for a while, but they stopped. It’s one of the funniest sitcoms ever, although it’s probably not for kids. Only series 1 through 4 are available on DVD in the US, but a boxed set is available of the entire series, including 9 Christmas episodes, in the UK. You can order them from the UK, but of course, you have to have a region-free DVD player in order to play it. So. . .one of my goals is to one day a) get a region-free DVD player, and b) order that series as well as some other UK-only stuff and c) binge-watch all 11 seasons of My Family. Repeatedly. It’s that funny.

The series revolves around a dentist, his wife and their three children. The daughter drops out of college when she is pregnant with her son Kenzo, the eldest son is an idiot, and the youngest is a smart, conniver who his always up to something, usually involving money and his computer. The series ran until 2011 when they ended it, and of course, I don’t know how it all wrapped up. Yet.

In the early-series episode called Ding Dong Merrily, there is a particularly amusing scene when the wife/mother, who sees herself as Britain’s premiere gourmet home cook, (and she isn’t) is stuffing a turkey for Christmas lunch. The husband, a dentist, walks in and asks what kind of a turkey it is. The wife responds, “Chocolate Raisin Turkey. It’s Moroccan!” Then the husband says, “Oh, no, look–your cookbook pages are stuck together. You’ve gone from poultry straight to dessert.” The wife replies, “That’s how great discoveries are made!”  Then he goes into the living room and looks at the TV schedule, and finds “Carols From The Oil Rig” in the TV schedule.

When Christmas Lunch is finally served, the mother asks the pregnant teenage daughter what part of the turkey she’d like; the daughter responds, “I’m a vegetarian, Mom.” The mother responds: OK, Janie, help yourself to vegetables.” When she asks the smart-aleck youngest son, he responds the same way. The mother replies, “I wish you’d told me before.” The son responds, “I wanted to see what it looked like first.”  It’s a half hour, and there are short commercial breaks, but if you really want to watch it, this show is what I’d call “probably not safe for work.”  There’s minimal swearing, not very much, no nudity or anything like that, it’s just more for grownups. Oh, and the phrase “up the duff” means the same thing as “knocked up” does here.

Happy Christmas!

Now, I’m still intrigued with the idea of pizza from a waffle maker, so I had to try it myself. Ree Drummond actually made one recently on her Pioneer Woman show on The Food Network, in an episode called Dorm Room Dining. Her eldest daughter, Alex, has left the ranch and gone to Texas A&M for college, so I guess this episode was just for her. There are also waffle-maker quesadillas and paninis, as well as what she calls a Wafflet, which is eggs, ham and mozzarella cheese. See? WAFFLES!! They’re sweeping the country!!

Well, almost. I went into our new Sur la Table here in Baybrook Mall for the grand opening, and was checking out some of their pizza things. I mentioned to two ladies next to me (one of whom was in a wheelchair) that I’m fascinated with pizzas made in a waffle iron. The one pushing the wheelchair gave me a rude look and said, “I guess that’s good if you’re single, huh?”  My response: “Depends on the size of your waffle maker, I guess.”  No, Toto, we’re not in The Woodlands, either. But they did sharpen my big knife for free. (First one is free, the rest are $5 each, all year long.)

So what happens when the star food blogger in the HeatCageKitchen gets a hankering for pizza? That’s definitely one of those things I miss having, but of course, there are alternatives to ordering from Papa John’s. So she goes on Pinterest and finds what she wants. This time, my new taste tester, Neighbor E, also got to try some pizza waffles. I’ve stocked up on pizza sauce, but will get more cheese soon,so I can make it anytime this winter, along with Pea & Pesto Soup.

Let that roll around in your head awhile, OK? Pizza. Waffles. Or, Waffled Pizza. Or nearly instant pizza from the waffle maker, depending on what recipe you use.

Pizza. Waffles.

I’ve uploaded these two to the Recipes page, one is a scan and one is a PDF created from the blog it came from. One is a thick crust pizza, the other a thin, crispy crust. I liked both, and so did Neighbor E, but Neighbor R wasn’t crazy about the thick crust. So here’s the first one, thick crust and easy.


The new function in WordPress, a “mosaic.”

I discovered that the quinoa flour called for in the recipe is about $13 a pound, but oat flour can be used. Well, I have used oat flour for many years, and it’s about $3 or $4 pound, depending on where you buy it. So guess what I used? I also don’t have sweet rice flour, so I used the brown rice flour I have.

Really, this is pretty simple, you just mix it up, pour it on the waffle maker and waffle it. Top it with whatever you like, and stash it under the broiler to melt the cheese.

IMG_2874

PIzza!!

The first time I bought Classico’s pizza sauce, but when I went to HEB last week, I discovered their store brand, (organic, no less!) for sixty cents less a bottle:

IMG_2475

Echoes of future pizzas.

Now, the second one, from the fabulous new book Will It Waffle?, takes a little more work. (It’s the book I wrote about in the first waffle blog post.) The recipe isn’t gluten free–so if you just want regular bread flour, go for it. However, I wanted to try this recipe, which also includes instant yeast, just to see if it would work with a gluten free flour. For this one, I picked up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill 1-for-1 baking flour, which, I think, ran about $4 in Kroger:

wpid-20151112_162218.jpg

This recipe involved letting the dough rise like you would bread. But since it was cool on Saturday, leaving the dough in a warm place to rise involved heating up the toaster oven, putting the dough in a bowl, covering it with a pot lid, putting it into the oven and turning it off for a couple of hours while I went out for a 2 hour bike ride:

IMG_2477

Worked like a charm, too:

IMG_2478

Then you punch it down, knead it, and you end up with six potential pizzas:

IMG_2479

Daniel Shumski does tell you that the recipe makes extra crusts. Well, I waffled two regular sized pizzas and one about the size of a donut, and the rest were packed up to freeze for a future pizza (just let the dough thaw at room temp):

IMG_2480

After that, it was pretty much like dealing with pie crust but a lot more delicate. Roll it out on a floured board (you don’t need much.) Then, like a pie crust, roll it onto the floured rolling pin, the unroll it onto the plate until you’re ready to waffle it:

Neat, huh?

Then you just proceed with the cooking process on a heated waffle maker:

Take it out, top it, and just like the prior pizza, stash it under the broiler to melt the cheese:

wpid-20151121_191038.jpg

PIZZA!!

Since I’d been on the bike for 2 hours (ahhhh. .  .) I ate a whole regular sized pizza and the donut-sized pizza. Stop it–it wasn’t THAT much! I gave Neighbor E and Neighbor R each half of the second pizza right out of the broiler.

Now, with the yeasted crust, it’ll take a while because you have to let the yeast rise. However, the crust can be made in advance and thawed. I haven’t thawed any yet, but it probably shouldn’t take long. Then just roll it out and waffle.

This crust came out a bit like a crispy pappadam, the crispy bread served in Indian restaurants. I didn’t think it was going to taste good, because the raw dough wasn’t tasty at all. But boy, once you apply that waffle heat to it, it stiffens up really good, and the toppings just make it.

Three thumbs up! (Mine, E’s and R’s.)

Shimski also gives an option for a cannoli-style pizza, which I haven’t tried yet either. But I might, adding some sausage, pepperoni or something else. Hmmm. . .waffled pineapple, maybe? (Yes, pineapple on pizza is good.)

But with the first pizza, you can have it in the time it takes to call out for pizza, and it’s gluten free.

So here’s where I’ll close this delicious and interesting post, and wish everyone in the US (or anywhere) a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy what there is to enjoy, and remember what you’re thankful for, too.

Don’t forget the best recipe ever for Leftover Turkey Chowder on the Recipes page, too.

And if you’re going out to Christmas shop on “Black Friday, ” please, please be careful–or reconsider. Sometimes it’s actually dangerous to go out shopping, and people have been badly hurt just trying to get at that great deal on a TV, DVD player, PC, or whatever. I might just walk up to my Starbucks instead, just to go for a walk that day.

Whichever pizza you chose, keep it in mind for a quick meal sometime. The fun is in trying something new, and experimenting with it. With or without salad, soup, or whatever else you might have with it, making pizza waffles is a neat way to make a pizza when you’re in the mood for it.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Dining!!

Part 2: The HeatCageKitchen Christmas!

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I’m sorry I dropped the ball again. . .but there’s more to tell about Christmas dinner. And dessert, of course!

If you’re in the US, you’re likely freezing your butt off. I know I have been, but heck, I love it. I’ve got firelogs, and the little laptop in the living room with the fireplace burning all day long (including early this morning.) It’s been raining in addition to being cold, so there’s been coffee, tea, yeast-free hot chocolate and more tea.

And if you’re Down Under, you’ve got shrimp on the barbie. Enjoy them for me, OK?

On the sewing side, I finally finished the hot/cold grocery bag LAST NIGHT. (On the pattern, it’s bag E.) What I’ll show you is the prototype for the planned gifts for Neighbor K and Neighbor R that didn’t happen. First, I used up some denim that R had given me a few years ago, because I thought it would be great. Nope. Too thick. Then I couldn’t sew on the Velcro, even with the help of a friend who sews.The bag has actually been stitched up for quite a long time. So a few months ago in Joann Fabrics I came across contact cement. Hey–my Dad used it all the time on stuff! So I bought a bottle (with a coupon, of course) and finally, yesterday, I finished the darn thing:

The Hot/Cold grcocery bag, Butterick #5338

The Hot/Cold grcocery bag, Butterick #5338

I had to wait until I could work outside, and the rain has stopped for a few days. Contact cement has some mind-bending fumes, and I can’t afford to get bended, you know. This is the side of it:

That little flap holds it onto the rack that the bags sit on. Neat, huh?

That little flap holds it onto the rack that the bags sit on. Neat, huh?

This is the inside, though this is one time it doesn’t look like the pattern envelope picture. Hey–at least it’s not a cocktail dress:

The hot/cold quilted batting that will, hopefully, keep milk cold and a rotisserie chicken hot on the way home.

The hot/cold quilted batting that will, hopefully, keep milk cold or a rotisserie chicken hot on the way home.

Next time I go to Trader Joe’s, or even HEB, I’ll give it a field test and let you know how it works. That inside fabric is $10 a yard–it better work great!

Now to continue with the holidays. . . .

So I wondered what to have for Christmas dinner, and despite my love for roasting turkey, I went with chicken. Specifically, two small organic chickens, and a recipe from Suzanne Somers’ Sexy Forever Recipe Bible, called Zannie’s Perfect Roast Chicken. It really was, and simple, too. After rinsing them off, you rub some garlic on it, there’s lemon, onion, and a bunch of herbs. Oh, heck, let me show you–this is the actual recipe from the book:

This is actually one of the pictures--I don't know her personally!

This is actually one of the pictures–I don’t know her personally!

Two organic chickens piled high with herbs and stuff.

Two organic chickens piled high with herbs and stuff.

I took out my really big roasting pan and went after it. I topped it with slices of butter before putting it into the oven. I left it completely alone in the oven. And after two hours, I had some delicious chicken that I enjoyed for quite a while:

Some of the best chicken ever.

Some of the best chicken ever.

While that was in the oven I was making some of my favorite sweet potatoes, and also made a complicated but interesting dessert involving gelatin. I showed you the finished product in the last post, but this is the long process to make it.

You can find the recipe for Cafe Gelatin here, and my comment at the bottom from the first time I made it.

The first layer is a espresso panna cotta layer, which involves ground espresso and filtering it through cheesecloth.

Filtering the espresso panna cotta layer

Cheesecloth filtering

Because you use real ground espresso in this, not instant, and you don’t want to crunch down on a coffee ground. Next up is the absolutely vexing espresso gelatin layer:

This is what will be diced and added to the top later

This is what will be diced and added to the top later

 

I say “vexing” because if you scroll past the recipe, you’ll see my comment from 2008, the first time I made this recipe. Unfortunately, the same thing happened this time–needs a little more gelatin than the recipe specifies. I could do it for the stuff in the baking dish, but it was a bit too late for the stuff I poured into the glasses:

You can't see the dark brown espresso gelatin layer here.

You can’t see the dark brown espresso gelatin layer here.

The espresso gelatin layer doesn’t set like it should because there isn’t enough gelatin in it. Like the last time, I re-boiled the remainder, added a bit more, and set it back in the fridge for later.

Now to make sure each glass came out exactly right, I used a good ol’ Pyrex measuring cup:

Never underestimate the power of the right measuring cups.

Never underestimate the power of the right measuring cups.

I know, people might eyeball it, but even though it was for me, I wanted to make absolutely sure it came out as good as I could get it.

Now, in between each layer, it had to go into the fridge to set, so I covered them with plastic wrap just in case:

The espresso panna cotta layer, going into the fridge

The espresso panna cotta layer, going into the fridge

Of course once that’s set up well, you add 2 tablespoons of the espresso gelatin layer on top, and let that set. Then you get on with the vanilla panna cotta layer, and when the time is right, strain that with cheesecloth like the first layer, and pour a quarter cup into each glass, over the espresso gelatin layer, like this:

This one came out perfect.

This one came out perfect. Sort of.

Since the espresso gelatin layer didn’t set up well, I had to be VERY careful pouring in the top layer, or the espresso gelatin would bubble up, just like the first time, and not make it as pretty. Are you seeing the problem?

You can't see the dark brown espresso gelatin layer here.

You can’t see the dark brown espresso gelatin layer here. Darnit.

So I poured each quarter cup in by tablespoons until it was done.

I know, you’d think I was serving Christmas Lunch to HRH Queen Elizabeth. No, just me. But I want to get it right, because it’s SO good.

So back into the fridge they went for longer, and the rest of the espresso gelatin was firming up too. Meantime, I made my favorite Spicy Sweet Potatotes with regular paprika and no cayenne. When those were done, so was the chicken:

Some of the best chicken ever.

Some of the best chicken ever.

So while Queen Elizabeth might not have been impressed, I thought it was pretty tasty and was pretty darn happy with it. And of course, at the end, I ran a knife through the espresso gelatin in the baking dish to make tiny dices, and fixed up the final part of the delicious sugar-free dessert:

Ahhh. . .finally!

Ahhh. . .finally! Definitely NOT Jell-O.

Yes, eventually, it was worth it. Had I gotten up earlier I could have been done earlier, but you know how that goes.

Neighbor R wasn’t home, but K was, and I offered her one. (I had six. She got a perfect looking one.) She didn’t have it right away, but I did point out that it was made with Somersweet, so no guilt. A day or two later when she finally got to it, I got a text message: “Excellente, chica!” She loved it. And rightly so–it’s a nice, refreshing dessert that even works on Christmas.
Now that the holdiays are over, we’re all on diets again, right? I am, actually, the yeast-free diet that I’ve written about before. Why? Heartburn. . .but I was sick in October, so the antibiotics started that process. Then all the dairy, sweet stuff. . .well, you know. Sugar feeds yeast, that’s all I’m saying. . .so I’m back on it with some Yeast Control and missing the milk in my coffee already.

I’ve got more updates coming soon. Happy New Year!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HeatCageKitchen Christmas

Good evening, Dear Readers:

My sincerest apologies for taking so long. One thing leads to another, then it’s the holidays, and the blog just gets postponed. I’ll try to keep up on this during the new year.

BRRRRRR!!!!!  Seems like the whole world is frozen, at least north of the equator! Australia, however, is having record heat, so they’re sort of learning what Texas is like in the summer. Nevertheless, if you are in need of something warm and tasty, please have some Yeast Free Hot Chocolate and remember to bring your pets and critters INSIDE, or somehow keep them from freezing. Not safe for man or beast anywhere!

If you’re wondering how Christmas went, well, it went much better. Hang on, I have a few other things to tell you about first.

Remember the new cupcake shop down in the tunnel, New Addictions? Bad news—they’ve closed for good. I get to my office via an entry that passes right by that place, and I figured, like a lot of places, they would be closed during the week of Thanksgiving. While several eateries in the tunnel were open, most were closed and I just thought they were going to do the same thing.

And when we returned after the Black Friday weekend, the gate was down, and all the fixtures were gone. All that’s left is the name painted on the wall. What a shame—they nearly always had at least one person in there contemplating a cupcake. A click on their website says that they have closed both locations. I sent them an email expressing my condolences, but I haven’t heard back—and there’s a good chance I won’t.

What happened? Who knows. But I’m sure the Fraziers are up to something else, and it’s likely very tasty, too. I hope they do well in whatever they do next; they’re really nice people.

Also, the HeatCageKitchen garden is doing great–I have harvested three tomatoes before the freeze came, and the little orbs are ripening on the breakfast bar. Garlic is shooting up, and while the Meyer lemon plant just grows green leaves, the sage is coming up, the rosemary is enjoying all this, green onions are growing up straight, the strawberry plant is nice and green (no berries), the aloe vera is fine, and I’ve got flat-leaf parsley shoots popping through the soil. No lettuce yet, but I might try radishes soon. I’ve been inundated with seed catalogs after ONE order from Territorial Seed a month or so ago, where I got the garlic.

If you’re someone who watched the cartoon The Jetsons many years ago, or have seen it in reruns, you were likely treated to visions of a 21st century kitchen. Well, it’s what they thought would be “the kitchen of the future,” with lots of buttons everywhere. We have that, with touchpads on everything from microwaves to iPhones, but I don’t think we’re at the point of taking protein pills instead of having food for dinner. The Wall Street Journal did an article recently on the futuristic kitchen we were promised. And while it’s great that we can invent such things, well, the comments indicate that simple is better. 

Do you really need a circuit board and touch panel on your refrigerator or built into your dishwasher? Me either. Turn on and run, OK?

Speaking of fun in the kitchen, another WSJ article told me about something I’ve never heard of, called the Bimby.  There is also a video, but you have to sign in to see it. Also, this magic machine is NOT, repeat, NOT currently available in the US, and apparently not anytime soon, either. It is available in Canada under the name Thermomix, and one of the commenters says that their power is the same as ours, 110v.

Spinach and cod? Oh, that’s right up there with eggplant lasagna. You have it, OK?

Well, it’s interesting, but not as much fun as the YouTube videos of cats riding the Roomba. More robots at work in our homes, while the cat just sees it as catering to his natural superiority. But seriously, you can kind of do the same thing with a food processor and a toaster oven, or maybe a Vitamix (which I don’t have.)

Now back to Christmas.

As I mentioned last time, Thanksgiving dinner was a gluten-free disaster, thanks in part to my enthusiasm and my guest’s gift of some pretty potent Sangria. However, because the guest knows I’m a good cook, he agreed to give me another chance at Christmas; he was not disappointed this time. He did bring wine, and I had some, but there was no intoxication before dinner, nor after. I did bake the raspberry pistachio cake he hinted at, and he took the whole thing home in a disposable pan.

About a week before, I got an email from The Barefoot Contessa Blog, and one recipe she mentioned was Green Beans Gremolata, so I decided to include that.

Green Bean Gremolata. Really good, and easy!

I did turkey again, but of course was unable to obtain a turkey breast on the Sunday before Christmas. There was no way I was going to mess with another whole turkey, let alone a 22 pound beast, so I got turkey thighs, which I prefer anyway. They’re kind of down-market for a holiday dinner, but again, no huge beasts for me this time. I went to Ina’s last book, How Easy Is That? and made Herb Roasted Turkey on page 128, just with turkey thighs. Oh, yeah. . . .

Herb Roasted Turkey Thighs

Herb Roasted Turkey Thighs

Also in How Easy Is That?  I came across Celery and Parmesan Salad on page 62. Pretty darn good!

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Celery Parmesan Salad. Must be tasted to be believed.

I also made some more of the Tuscan Chickpea Mash from Foolproof, (page 42) a second cousin to hummus (but with no sesame paste in it.)  I made that as an appetizer, and it’s one I really like, but he said, “Meh.” He did try it and said it was good, but just wasn’t interested.

Tuscan Chickpea Mash with cut celery, a nice appetizer.

Tuscan Chickpea Mash with cut celery, a nice appetizer.

Because I was baking him a cake the night before, I also decided to use up the rest of the buttermilk and made him some cornbread. It’s an old Martha Stewart recipe from her big green compendium on page 107, and I’ve never had anyone turn it down. Yes, the cake and the cornbread both were NOT, repeat, NOT, gluten free, and no, I didn’t eat it, just made it. (Oh, and Miss Gluten Free was in the grocery buying white flour right before Christmas.)

He doesn’t care, like a lot of folks, so I made him what he likes, which is everything you see here.

No, it's not gluten free, except for the pie. I emailed this pic to him the night before so he would know I was serious about doing dinner right this time.

No, it’s not gluten free, except for the pie. I emailed this pic to him the night before so he would know I was serious about doing dinner right this time.

I wanted to also make Nigella Lawson’s addictive white bean mash with lemon and garlic, but I just didn’t have the time, even though it doesn’t take too long. Next time, maybe. That steamed chocolate pudding was untouched, and it’s in the pantry for another day.

Dessert was something I wasn’t going to mess with: pecan pie. I was in Erma’s Nutrition Center the Saturday before and decided to go the bought route. I called him to ask what he’d like: pecan, key lime, or pumpkin, which is what they had that day. He said pecan, so I got one.

The Gluten Free Pecan Pie even a manly man could enjoy!

The Gluten Free Pecan Pie even a manly man could enjoy!

Gluten Free Nation (formerly known as Gluten Free Houston) makes these cute little 5-inch pies that are great. I’ve had blueberry, apple and a few others. This was my first time with pecan, and the pie did not disappoint. A little whipped cream and we had a perfect gluten free dessert. One day I’m gonna visit their store on a Saturday, and maybe I’ll write a whole blog post, too. I’ve met the owner, Randi Markowitz, who herself has celiac disease and created the company to help out folks everywhere who just want to avoid gluten.

After he chowed down on a slice, I told him it was gluten free. He was surprised, and he really liked the pie; but I guess the clue was that I ate a piece, too. No complaints on anything, and he went home happy with a bag full of glutinous munchies, which he later said he enjoyed.

He also claims there are still stains on his kitchen ceiling from when I was cooking in his kitchen. No true. Nothing I made ever exploded in his kitchen.

Mission accomplished. He spent some time with his kitty cat, we caught up on some stuff, and for a little while, all was right with the world. He promised that next time he’d bring some free-range eggs from his bud’s chicken coop to see what I could do with that. Oh, I’ve got just the thing from Giada de Laurentiis–a frittata!

Next up. . .getting over the holidays.

Happy Dining!

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