Happy Saturday, Dear Readers!
If you’re here in the Houston area, I hope you are dry. . .if you’re not, well, Thursday (8/20) we had some serious rain going on, complete with thunder and lightning. The HeatCageKitchen garden was happy with the extra water, but the green onions, which have been supplemented recently with two bunches of organics I bought, are nearly a foot high after 2 weeks. Not bad!
Today was our monthly district meeting, and a pretty good one, too. Our fearless district leader and hostess, LK, has finally seen her dream of her sister and family practicing Buddhism after something like 27 years of practice. Today was they day that all four officially became Buddhists, and it was also her sister, JH’s, birthday. (I also became a Buddhist on my 24th birthday in 1986, so it’s always extra-special.) LK’s brother-in-law, JH’s husband, was not able to make it due to work commitments, but received an official certificate from SGI-USA along with JH and the kids. They lived in California until a year ago, and bought a house not far from LK, making LK one of the happiest people around.
To celebrate, LK drove down to Galveston this morning–during the period where we had sunshine before the rain came back again–and bought a beautiful cake to celebrate the whole thing:
Indeed, it was NOT gluten free, and I told her I would just have one of the roses. (I didn’t, really.) Actually, I did bring home a slice of this beautiful creation for Neighbor R, my elderly neighbor, and I nibbled on the veg and some grapes that were there. Here’s a view of the inside after it was cut:
Neighbor K has been to PattyCakes many times since she works down there, and if I remember correctly, she brought me a couple of their delicious samplings a while back. They’re across the street from the well-known Mosquito Cafe, and are operated by the same people.
Since we have a couple of diabetics in addition to me, who avoids this kind of thing, LK kindly had cut veggies and Tzatzaki, which was very tasty. Might have to make that myself sometime. I’ve got the recipe, but I’ve never made it; however, I don’t know what recipe LK used for today’s delicious dip.
If you’re a fan of Starbucks, The Safe Haven With Food, and you’ve been enamored with their recent food offerings, I discovered a bit of a hack. By accident, of course. A couple of months ago, I met with a potential copywriting client at a Starbucks in nearby Pasadena (that’s where the business was located) and I got there early. While my computer was booting up and connecting to the WiFi, I found myself hungry for some reason. I looked in the case and found their little yogurt cups with fruit. I picked up the one with cherries, and thoroughly enjoyed it before she arrived.
A couple of nights ago I was hungry, and I started prowling in the fridge (as us single folks are wont to do) and saw the container of Fage yogurt in there, and suddenly the light lit up in my brain! Five frozen cherries, in a little dish, microwaved for about 20 seconds on 50% power to get the chill off them; chop them, put them back in the bowl, then spoon some of that Greek yogurt in the bowl. Mix well–carefully, or in a bigger bowl–and sweeten to taste. Use whatever you like–stevia, saccharin, Somersweet, whatever. Because, remember, the one in Starbucks has sugar in it–you don’t have to do that. I don’t miss the crunchy part, although I do eat it when I have one in Starbucks (it’s wheat free.) Which has been exactly. . .twice. I never forgot it, but at $3.95, it’s not a habit, only a handy option I’ve had twice.
The Starbucks Evenings menu hasn’t yet appeared here in Clear Lake, to my knowledge, but it has in New York. You can see the actual menu here, but from what Lindsay Putnam of the NY Post says. . .don’t bother. Remember that those breakfast sandwiches are frozen and heated in an oven before the barista hands it to you, so naturally, so is the Evenings menu–no real cooking goes on in Starbucks. If you do eat one, you think about how delicious it tastes. . .and not much else, OK? Yes, I have had the sandwiches a few times, less since I read Wheat Belly, but the last time I had one of those big croissant bun sandwiches was out of necessity a few months ago. So the Evenings menu, tempting as it may look, may in fact, disappoint. I’ll let you know if I get to try it.
Then again, New Yorkers seem to judge everything harshly, and it was brand new, so maybe she was just there on a bad day. Use your own judgment, as always.
Now, another story about the GER. He loves it when I write about him.
The GER goes fishing usually on Mondays with a friend who has a boat, and while this week’s haul. . .wasn’t, last week they caught more river monsters. I gave him a ride somewhere last Tuesday, and he told me to bring something to keep it cold. He told me to share it with Neighbor K, but K didn’t wanna mess with no fish that night, so I offered some to Neighbor R after I cooked it.
This was a big fish. Flounder, if I remember correctly. Not like catfish, frying catfish is easy. So I treated this big fishy with the respect it deserved and broiled it. I’m not kidding when I tell you it was a big one:
It was about 15 inches long, I think, but I forgot to measure it. I thought about stuffing it, but that wasn’t an option:
Sometimes he’ll give me filets, but sometimes not, like this one. The only option was to roast it whole and pull the flesh off the skeleton, since there was no easy way to stuff it. I set out to the garden and gathered up a few things:
Green onions (from the ones I planted in the garden), mint, parsley, some rosemary and basil, plus some lime zest. Using that mezzaluna knife, chopped it as best I could, and added some kosher salt:
Then it’s just used as a rub on both sides of the fish:
I put it in the toaster oven on “broil” until I thought it was done, and it came out pretty darn good:
It needed salt, in my opinion, and I gave the easily-removed, skinless chunks to Neighbor R, and made sure there were no bones in it. I had three meals out of that fish along with some baked sweet potato sticks. YUM.
In the last couple of posts, I spoke about Red Dwarf, the crazy-wild British comedy that combines science fiction with slapstick comedy. Here’s a short clip of the song I was singing while I was dealing with said fish in an episode from many years ago. The character, Cat, just LOVES fish! That comes back to haunt him in Season 9 when a despair squid is found in the water tank. . .oh, nevermind. If you’re not a fan, it won’t make a lot of sense. It’s kind of like explaining something from Doctor Who to someone who has never seen it or understands it. Like the GER!
Tomorrow is Sunday, and I’ve got to plan out the week’s eating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I think there’s going to be some chicken in the Crock Pot. . .again. But since I found two big packets of chicken thighs on sale at Target Friday night, it’s a good thing.
School’s opening real soon, so if you’ve got students at home, you’ll be gearing up now to make those mornings easier. I’m looking at waffle iron hacks and cheats on Pinterest now, and I’ve started a board to keep them in one place. People have figured out how to cook all kinds of things with waffle irons, and YouTube has a collection of them as well. Just go to YouTube and type in the search box, “waffle iron hacks” and/or “waffle iron recipes” and you’ll see ingenious ways people have used a waffle iron for anything *but* waffles.
One of my writer friends, a Christian copywriter here in Texas, posted on Facebook instructions to take those cinnamon rolls in a can and cook them on a waffle iron, then pour that sugary frosting on top. Looks a lot more appetizing than the ones made the *normal* way. It made me want to head to Kroger for a can and make them myself! But I didn’t, and I’m researching new ways to use the waffle iron daily instead of just occasionally, when you make waffles.
One interesting idea I saw on Pinterest was to spray the waffle iron, heat it, then put frozen tater tots on the bottom, covering the grid. Close the lid, and a few minutes later, crispy hash browns! Admittedly, that’s not something I would make for myself, (at least not with frozen tater tots) but I might do that for the GER or someone else who really liked hash browns. I’ve eaten hash browns occasionally, usually at Denny’s on my birthday with my Grand Slam; but as a rule, potatoes are not in my fridge.
Remember: 110v vs. 220v. And don’t forget your college student headed for the dorms this fall.
Have a great week, and whatever you do cook and eat–Enjoy!
Good evening, Dear Readers:
I’m sorry it’s been a week since I wrote. I haven’t forgotten you or Graze.com. I sent them a link to the last blog post, and the email I got back was that they’ve passed the link around so everyone could see it. Woo hoo!
I’ve been at it, and sent out a proposal for copywriting work, but it didn’t go anywhere. Another potential client I wrote a sample article for had to say no, they’d lost a big client the day before, but check back in December.
But in foodie news, it’s been a week of good stuff.
First, if you’ve ever broken the glass plate in your microwave, take heart. I did that about five years ago, and just figure that one day, I’d buy a new microwave. Not yet. When the plate broke, I had no idea where to go to get another one for a 2003 Sunbeam microwave. Well, I bought a Corelle dinner plate at Wal-Mart and that worked fine until a couple of months ago when one of the little wheels came off the rotating ring assembly that turns the plate. This was probably caused by the imbalance of weight on the dinner plate, and two weeks ago, I did something about it.
Darn, it took moving the microwave out, snapping a picture of the model number on the back, and going online to do a search. Guess what? Appliance Factory Parts had exactly what I needed. The plate was back-ordered, so I called to ask if it was just temporary, or discontinued. The nice man said it was just back-ordered and should be in next week. They shipped it FedEx, and I even got updates as it made its way to my door. I met the FedEx guy out on the sidewalk. Fifteen minutes later my little microwave bought used in 2004 for $10 was good as new.
I also found a new replacement top thingy for a Braun coffee grinder on eBay. The coffee grinder is at least 4 years old, works perfectly and has been discontinued by Braun. The button on the original top is cracked, but without a replacement part, a new one was in order. But no, I got an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) part on eBay. Instead of tossing a perfectly good coffee grinder and buying a new one, my Braun looks new and works fine.
Repair parts: It’s a Good Thing.
Yesterday I had to trek up to The Woodlands, a place I like to go up to occasionally. One of these days I’m going to spend a weekend up there. But no, this time it was for yearly medical testing with the fine folks at Woodlands Wellness & Cosmetic Center, Dr. Sakina Davis and her terrific staff. And of course, I had to make a few stops while I was up there.
I should point out that I drove through some very heavy rains for over an hour to get there. You never know this kind of thing will happen when you make plans. (Ask anyone who’s planned an outdoor party or wedding.) We had a big front come through, and dropped the temperature about 15 degrees. Mind you, this being Houston, I had sweat trickling down my back when I hopped in my ride to go on the freeway, and then after I got out of Sweet Tomatoes, I saw people in The Woodlands Mall by Barnes & Noble wearing long sleeves. It had not only dried out but the temperature dropped just a little. It actually got cool when I got home last night.
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. . . .
First place I stopped when I got there was The Container Store for a couple of small things. I didn’t have time to do Sweet Tomatoes yet, but I hit the Starbucks across the street from Woodlands Wellness for a quick bite, because I was really hungry. I grabbed a Greek Yogurt Raspberry Lemon Parfait and ate it while I walked back across the street.
Turns out I should NOT have been eatin’ anything. I was supposed to be taking the starving blood tests, but I’ll be going back tomorrow after fasting all night to do the blood draw. I’ll take my laptop with me and head to Starbucks for some food and free WiFi so I can wait for the morning traffic to lighten up.
For a late lunch, I made it to Sweet Tomatoes, where I discovered some delicious gluten-free offerings and a new quinoa salad. After the late lunch, I went over to the mall to visit Karla & Anton Kharoufeh at Oil & Vinegar, but both were on the phone. However, Miss Kathy was free, and I talked to her for a few minutes. I really just wanted to say Hi, but I only got to talk to Kathy. Oh. . .bottles and jars of delicious things in there, so if you’re in The Woodlands, please go stop in and get something special and delicious. The Lemon EV Olive Oil mixed with the Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar is absolute heaven when you whiz it in the blender to emulsify it and pour it on a salad. Doesn’t take much, either.
When I left The Woodlands Mall, I headed out to Trader Joe’s, and shopped til I dropped. Neighbor R, who just turned 80, gave me $10 and asked me to get some of the $3 a bottle TJ’s wine, which she’s fond of. She likes the Chardonnay, but also asked about the Pinot Grigio. I brought back two of the Chardonnay and one Pinot Grigio, and she was very happy with that. I asked the very nice cashier to ring the wine up separately, because this was for a “little old lady in Clear Lake,” and she bagged up the receipt and change (about 27 cents, I think.)
I’m always extra-careful handling other people’s money, even if it’s 27 cents.
I bought extra of some things like toothpaste, cannellini beans, cocoa powder and olive oil. Never mind how much I spent on groceries–I’m stocked up on some non-perishables for a while.
Last stop: Frost Bake Shoppe. I actually got to talk to the owner, Terese Yates, and told her why I was buying so many gluten free. You KNOW that’s what I went for. This time, though, I brought some home to share.
Since the temperature dropped, and I had some refrigerated goods from Trader Joe’s in a bag with two frozen water bottles, I got four of the Blueberry Cheesecake cupcakes in gluten free, and carefully put the box in that zippered insulated bag on top. They made it all the way without a problem.
Yes, this really is gluten-free:
You can read more about Ms. Yates and Frost at this link.
At this point, the drive home begins. However, the weather was beautiful by this time, so it was only the traffic to deal with. And although it was very slow in a couple of spots, for the most part it wasn’t bad. Neighbor K generously fed Jezebel the step-kitty so I could go see the GER first. I didn’t tell her about the cupcakes until I brought her one.
First stop on was down to Galveston County to see the GER at the infamous, aptly named Funk House/Junk House. I called him on the way to make sure he was home, and I said, “I have something for you.” He said, “I have something for you, too! Some fresh fish and some home-grown grapefruits.” He’d been out fishing, as he usually does on Monday (and today, too.) Suddenly I felt bad–all I had was one cupcake for him! Well, I went. . .and I talked to him for a little while and explained that it was, indeed. gluten free, and he would thoroughly enjoy it. He did–and ate it in three bites. (I talked to him today and asked; he loved it!)
Then back to the homestead, and brought Neighbor K one of these delicious things. She said she would eat it in the morning after our early-morning walk. Unfortunately, I was so tired, there WAS no early morning walk. Just talked to Neighbor K, and she didn’t walk either, but did thoroughly enjoy that cupcake. At 5:30 this morning.
Last stop–Neighbor R, to bring her wine and the last of the cupcakes. (I’d already eaten mine, I couldn’t wait.)
So now, they know how delicious gluten-free cupcakes from Frost can be. That fish from the GER was broiled up last night and came out great.
The fish and produce were not the first foodie gifts I received since my last post, either.
Last week, I got a personal visit from the GER. No kidding. He emailed me last Monday, informing me that he’d received actual mail–and it looked legit–for me. Say what? He said it looked like real mail from a friend. Although it was a greeting card sent from Alaska, it had a piece of junk mail in it. I couldn’t seem to catch up to him to drop by the Funk House/Junk House to pick it up, so he ended up shipping it, and stopping by on Thursday. He also wanted to go to Vitamin Shoppe, which happens to be a mile away from me. It was much easier to let him drive us over there so he could see it, and I needed something anyway, so that’s what happened.
Shortly before the card arrived, he’d found himself with a beehive with lots of BEES. Yes, the kind that produce honey. He had to call professionals to come in and remove said beehive, and they gave him the honeycombs they removed from the shed he plans to eventually dismantle and replace.
So, I got him some gloves and set up a bowl with a strainer so we could filter out solid biological matter. (If you’ve never done this, well, don’t think too much about it, OK?) While he was wringing out the honeycombs with some clean hair color gloves I gave him, we were chatting about different stuff. And, of course, I forgot to take pictures, darnit! But I can show you what we ended up with.
I later filtered it out again, and then gave Neighbor K a jar and kept one for myself.
Incidentally, if you like those labels, you can find the template here on Martha Stewart’s website. However, they don’t stick well in the freezer. I just used one on this jar because I’d printed some once and they were just handy.
Now, a while back I kept a couple of pictures from Facebook of a couple of pictures of “cleanse” drinks. Then I had to clear out some of the photos (which is why I don’t have a pic of the bowl of honey before I bottled it, darnit.) I discovered that one, now that I have raw, organic honey, I can try.
The honey is raw and organic because the GER didn’t know that hive was out there. It’s not certified organic, of course, just. . .he never did anything with it or to it.
Now, these things get passed around Facebook all the time; in fact, friend of the blog AK recently asked me for the Cranberry Cleanse, but that’s got a pear, an apple, a piece of celery and some other stuff I don’t have around on a daily basis.
But this one I decided to try. No, I haven’t lost any weight with it yet, but I have been mixing it up with very warm water to help the honey melt, then adding two packets of sweetener to cut the tartness. Then pour it over ice, because I’m sweaty and no way do I want something hot. I can’t say it’s harmful, but I’m drinking it after I get back in from the AM walks with Neighbor K.
Remember one of Amy’s cardinal rules: two packets of Sweet ‘N Low can kill the taste of anything. That’s helpful when you’re ingesting something awful that’s also medicinal. Been there, done that, tell you in another blog post later, maybe during flu season.
So, despite everything else, I’m still here, and still at it. We’ll be back on the walking trail first thing in the morning (yes, 4 am) and I’m off to The Woodlands soon as I get cleaned up and dressed. No eatin’ until they stick me, and I make appropriate comments about the peacocks in the office looking like poultry.
Evening, Dear Readers:
Yesterday was my first trip back downtown since my last job ended on January 31. Because of one of our recent “freeze days,” (for which I had to drive to work and spend $13 to park) I had $9 left on my Metro Q-Card, so bus fare was covered. I have $2.50 left on it, so if I find myself going back, I’ve got to load more money on it. But not much.
I came home and eventually took a 4-hour nap, a task I repeated today after a fruitless trip into town to meet with an “agency.” I was that tired after going downtown and walking that much through the Tunnel again.
When I walked out of that office for the last time, the only thought crossing my mind was “Never Again.” OK, so another huge company called me and wanted me to go see them (and I’ve since had another call from a very large oil company, too.) I found my way through the Tunnel–a lot farther than my former office–and I made it early. I did plenty of walking, and found some new stuff, too, including another (smaller) Seattle’s Best and, finally, the Houston Shoe Hospital that I could have gone to instead of procrastinating and going to the one on NASA Road 1.
When I was working, I put plenty of money on the Starbucks card, primarily so that I could, when the time came, stop for a coffee or a bite to eat and not mess with the “house money.” Just $10 on occasion, and I think the last amount was $15. Yesterday was such an occasion. (Today I stopped nowhere, and came straight home.) Remember that you also get points, discounts and freebies when you have that registered card. If you have the Starbucks app on your phone, it’s even easier to keep track of everything and get the messages about free things and discounts.
There was no Starbucks around this building that I could find, but there was a nice little deli in the last part of the tunnel. In fact, the HR chick I was talking with said she’d seen people with the Starbucks cups but had no idea where they were getting them.
About 30 minutes before the interview, I was down there with a bottle of water and this neat little snack:
This was pretty good, although I had to wash it down with a good amount of water and nibble quite a few mints before I went in my interview so I didn’t have bad breath. (I love mints.) When it was full, it was raisins, almonds, cashews, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. No salt, unfortunately, so I guess that’s part of the “diet” thing, but overall pretty tasty. (I didn’t think to take a picture of it full; it did have only peanut oil, thank heavens.) There were many different varieties of these snack cups, but this was the healthiest I found in my quick scan of the shelf.
When the interview was over, I had some time before the next bus showed up (about an hour) so I headed back through the Tunnel to the JP Morgan Chase Building. I knew that Starbucks was a bit out of the way and likely less crowded. I ordered a decaf, but didn’t realize they had some good lunch! I was thinking that I’d get some of that yogurt/fruit stuff, but not with the granola on top.
Look what I found:
Here’s a better look at what’s in there:
You know what? It was a pretty good salad. No croutons or other “bready” things in it like many salads have. At that point I didn’t want coffee anymore, but they’d already poured it so I paid for and drank it on the walk out of the tunnel and up to the bus stop.
While it wasn’t advertised as such, it is. . .gluten free. Woo hoo! Companies are getting the messages about what consumers want, and they are responding in kind. For all the insults levied at Starbucks, I have to say they do get what their customers are asking for. No gluten-free baked goods yet, but last I heard, they were working on it.
That’s capitalism, folks. That’s America.
You can see full information on this item on Starbucks’ website. A teeny bit of soy here and there, but not enough to bother me, thank heavens.
I may be going back downtown in the next couple of weeks to meet with that oil company, and I’ll let you know what I find there. Might make another trip to Phoenicia downtown on the free Greenlink bus line if the weather’s good–complete with a full report.
Wherever I go, if there is a Starbucks with that salad in their case, I know I can have something healthy and gluten free.
Evening, dear readers:
I headed out to run a couple of errands this evening, and stopped into my local Target store for a few things (some of which will be the subject of my next post.) It’s cool out, so I looked into the case of the Starbucks there, and they had only one of my very favorite treats left. The Cranberry Bliss Bar.
I live for the Cranberry Bliss Bar every fall, (and pomegranates) ever since I discovered it by accident one day a number of years ago. I was again ill with yet another throat infection, and I stopped at Target to get my prescription filled. It was a cold winter day, and I wandered over to Starbucks and asked for something sweet with my coffee. I ended up with a CBB. . .and fell in love with it.
Hey–I was running a fever. It was cold out. I deserved it.
And my coffee in Starbucks is decaf drip. No expensive fancy stuff–just decaf drip. I think they call it Americano. Works for me. Except for my birthday when they give me a free drink of my choice. THEN I get me a decaf Latte.
If I were going to pick a last meal, one dessert would be a combination of chocolate and raspberry, and the other would be a Cranberry Bliss Bar. Maybe two.
Since that day of being ill, I look for them every year. They are sweet and delicious with a couple of different tastes running through it. Yellow cake base with white chocolate chunks and chopped dried cranberries in the cake. Topping that is a cream cheese icing and white chocolate orange icing drizzled over that one.
Diabetics. . .start your insulins.
Really, I’m one of those “health food nuts” from way back. I believe in eating to keep your body working properly. Sweets and other non-nutrient foods should be minimal. But when it comes to something with chocolate and raspberry (get out of the way or else), or red velvet cake, or heck, even a good birthday or wedding cake–sometimes, I just can’t resist. And this time of the year, it’s the Cranberry Bliss Bar that does it for me. I want. . . .
The first time I bought one, it was about $1.50 or so. Today expect to pay $2.45 for one of those babies, and that’s what I did last year–bought ONE. And likely, the one I had tonight may be the only one I get.
I think that I may be able to bake a version of them myself. If I ever do, I’ll let you know. I keep saying that, and I even take notes to be able to do it. With the ingredients page, I bet I can craft a good version of it, too.
For now, I will be happy to have one, maybe two, before they go away for another year.
If you’re someone who likes a good sweet now and again, head to your nearest Starbucks–soon–for a holiday Cranberry Bliss Bar. They’ll start to disappear right after the first of the year, so get moving.
And no, you don’t have to buy coffee if you don’t want to. Just enjoy a little slice of cranberry heaven.