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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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