If you’ve left Texas, or even if you haven’t, you know how important tamales are. But they can be laborious and time-consuming to create at home. The solution? Texas Tamales!
Hello again, Dear Readers:
Spring is finally here, at least, according to the calendar. And that means all kinds of wonderful things, like asparagus, bike riding, and Daylight Savings Time. If you’re not in a part of the US that’s snowed under right now.
It’s still kind of cool-ish here, too cool for planting tomatoes and things, so I guess I’ll be the lazy gardener again and be late. We probably won’t have any tomatoes in odd spots this year, but ironically, the ones that grew best were around the septic tank. We got a number of little “racks” of tomatoes there, and I’ve got the seeds to try and plant more. Since avocados have been relatively cheap for a while at Winn-Dixie, I’ve been eating them and saving the seeds. Those golf-ball sized pits have taken over the kitchen window, and BF is asking, “is this your latest science experiment?”
Lots to tell, let’s get started.
Finally, Allergy Relief
Ok, so, last year I did what has long been told to me, I got what I thought was “local raw honey” to help with allergies. Honey from your area works similar to an allergy shot–it de-sensitizes your immunoglobulins to the pollen and allergens in the area. (An allergy shot actually tamps down on the histamine response, but doesn’t de-sensitize.) Well, I went back to the same place I went last year, and bought some more of the same honey, which didn’t work. (The place is subject to an upcoming blog post.) Well, I was explaining to the clerk (around sniffling and sneezing) that I needed it for allergies.
It didn’t work last year, but everyone told me it would! Well, I was going through two or three kinds of OTC allergy meds last weekend, and it made me downright grouchy (and swearing at BF again.) I explained this to the clerk, a nice older lady, who said, “where do you live?” I told her. She asked, “then why are you buying honey from Ponchatoula?” Cause it’s local! Well, it’s not local enough, she said, and the honey right next to it came from–surprise–my neck of the woods, and it was a dollar less. (It was also a smaller bottle.) Honey and money was exchanged, and now I have truly “local” honey.
She also told me about some locally made elderberry syrup that people were buying for not only allergies, but flu. Three local schools have been closed because of flu outbreaks, and people are buying this elderberry syrup along with the honey.
I bought a bottle of that as well, at $21.99 for a 16-ounce size. It’s tasty, too. I’ve never heard of Andi Lynn’s, but they’re in the Baton Rouge neighborhood of Walker. I’m glad to know about it, and they also have some homeopathic allergy drops, which may or may not be in the place I bought the syrup. Next time.
On top of that, one of my Buddhist friends gave me an essential oil mixture to try, and I’ve been rolling that on at night.
He loves me. But sometimes he doesn’t understand. I explain.
BF asked, “what’s the deal with the local raw honey?” (He doesn’t have this problem, because this is his “native area.” Not mine.) It’s like this: the bees from your area are sucking on the flowers that are around you. When you ingest their honey, you ingest some of that pollen to de-sensitize yourself from those allergens. But if you’re using local raw honey from Ponchatoula–or Texas–you get the stuff from those bees, and they’re sucking on the flowers over there. That’s not going to help you if you’re not in Ponchatoula, or Texas. (I still have a half-bottle I bought from a vendor at the Nassau Bay Farmer’s Market.) By getting the honey and pollen from the bees sucking on local flowers from the area in which you live, you get the local “neighborhood” pollen to help alleviate your allergies to the same pollen. Make sense?
I can’t say what’s exactly working, but I’m a LOT better! Still a bit of sniffling and sneezing, but not like it was. Finally, I got the right stuff.
Coffee To Go
Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective has found a new way to make your coffee when you’re walking out the door: The Barista Cup. No kidding, the darn thing makes your coffee start to finish in a specially designed cup. Just chuck everything–grounds, sugar, milk, etc., into the cup, then pour hot water into it, and off you go. At $25, they’d better be worth it!
I don’t have one myself, yet, but of course, because Nick says it “works as advertised,” I’m extremely interested in getting one. After all, Nick’s the one who originally taught me to make iced coffee. (Note: these aren’t available on Amazon, only on the company’s website.) And Nick considers himself a coffee expert, and writes about it as a side thing to his web copywriting business.
The Barista Cup company has an office in the UK and in Winter Springs, FL, so they’re multinational, and working on saving the planet, one cup at a time.
Princess Coffee Maker
Here’s a coffee maker for young girls who want to be like Mom and Dad:
It’s a toy, and it doesn’t actually make real coffee, but it does make the gurgling sounds of a certain type of coffee maker. I halfway considered buying it to annoy BF.
Speaking of coffee, our local Winn-Dixie finally has some new baskets with coffee holders on them:
Yes, more than two years after I asked, PLEASE, our little corner of the world got baskets with coffee holders. Just one, because after all, you only need one, right?
HEB baskets have two as well, but some of the smaller baskets at Winn-Dixie only have one. Even with BF, I’m the only one drinking coffee anyway.
They still have the full-size baskets without them, and everyone uses those. These are smaller, kind of like the ones we saw back in the 70’s with a shallow basket area. So now when I visit Winn-Dixie, I can get my coffee at the nearby PJ’s first and head on in to grocery shop. Our store doesn’t have as many of these, and it seems like I’m the only one who knows what they’re for, so there’s always one available for me. Thanks, Winn-Dixie!
The Magic Tamales
You know how one day, you just want something? Over the holidays, it was tamales. And I didn’t take pictures.
Now, for those of you not of Hispanic or Texas descent, you might not know that tamales are a bit of work. So much so that many Hispanic families make the tamales only at Christmas time. Other times, they rely on buying them, or finding a good “tamale lady” or abuela (grandma) who makes them for sale all year long. Because, let’s face it, when done correctly, tamales are delicious.
In Robb Walsh’s The Tex Mex Cookbook, there is a picture of President Gerald Ford on the campaign trail in Texas eating a tamale. He was at The Alamo in 1976. Unfortunately, none of his aides (or any locals) told him that you take them out of the corn husks first. They’re steamed in the corn husks, which are like a really tough paper, and you take them out to eat them.
The most awesome Stephanie O’Dea sent out an email one day with her recipes for tamales in the CrockPot. With a name like O’Dea, she’s probably about as Hispanic as the Irishman from El Paso. Intrigued, I informed BF that we would be having tamales for Christmas dinner, (it was just us two) and that was it. Well, and whatever else we wanted.
Finding Masa Harina
I set out to find the ingredients that were staples in every grocery store I ever went into in Houston. After paying $6 in Whole Foods for a bag of masa harina that I discovered in the local WD for $3 or so, my district leader OR told me that Walmart has an entire section of Hispanic goods. Well, what do you know, they had everything, and I grabbed the corn husks before anyone else did.
I also had a nice conversation with two young men who were driving from Mandeville to Brownsville, TX. I told them next time they went into HEB, to think about me.
Obviously, I wasn’t about to use hydrogenated anything, but I did have an unopened jar of Epic Pork Fat in the pantry. It came with me from Houston, when I went to the closing of the Webster Fresh Market. Fortunately, it’s readily available at Whole Foods. I think Rouse’s has it, too, and I have since bought a fresh jar that’s in the pantry.
Chicken Christmas Tamales
I had a few pieces of chicken that I roasted and cut up small, and followed Stephanie’s directions to the letter, otherwise. Well, I pulled out my stand mixer, and mixed the masa until I was sick of hearing the motor run. Little bits were flying out of the mixer if I ran it too high (next time, maybe half?) Guess I need a pouring shield for it. Balls of masa never floated, and I finally gave up and used it as is.
I made the components in the days before Christmas, and BF sat down and helped me put them together. It didn’t take too long, and we only had about two dozen, but that was OK.
I forget what else I made with it, but BF and I were perfectly happy with what came out:
Verdict: they tamales were good, but a bit bland, and Stephanie admits that. It was the first time I made them. We had some of the filling and masa left, which went directly into freezer bags and into the big freezer. I have permission to jazz them up if I ever make them again. Chorizo, maybe?
Christmas Chocolate Raspberry Dessert
Oh, wait, that’s right–we also enjoyed a delicious raspberry chocolate cheesecake from one of the Wheat Belly books for dessert:
I subbed out the stevia extract with erythrytol, but next time I’m going to get me some stevia extract and start using it. BF liked it–it’s quite rich–but it wasn’t quite sweet enough. Low carb, much dairy, no wheat/gluten/flour. I’m done with yeast free for a while.
Tamales In Target
My regular Buddhist activities are at least an hour’s drive away. I commonly go to the Mandeville area, which is still on this side of Lake Ponchartrain, and 90 minutes from New Orleans. That’s OK, and I get to go to Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, or wherever else I want to go that we don’t have nearby. Additionally, if I shop right after the meeting, I’m not too tired like I am when I make it to Hammond. So I frequent the Target in Covington, since it’s on the way home, and there’s a Cost Plus World Market next door and a Starbucks in that Target.
I’m walking around with my list on my phone, and I pass by the frozen foods section. Normally I don’t pay any mind to what’s in there, unless I’m looking for frozen veg or fruit. But this particular evening, I happened to look to my right and saw this in the freezer case:
Not knowing what to expect, I bought a bag of the Beef Tamales. There are also pork, chicken and black bean available at Target.
How did I miss these all this time?
Text To BF
After examining these closely, I sent a text to BF telling him that dinner the next night was covered, and it was a surprise. He doesn’t like when I tell him that, but he’s patient and will try something once, so he says.
I brought them home and told him ALL about the tamales. He gave me the usual, “sure, Honey, I’ll try anything you make” comment with a pensive (read: slightly scared) look on his face.
For $6.99, you get a pack of one dozen perfectly rolled tamales packed in corn husks, which is traditional. They’re sealed in a square food-grade plastic package and then bagged in the little muslin bag. (I’m keeping those because I know they’ll be useful somewhere!) The instructions say to steam them in a steamer, preferably standing with the cut edges up. Well, I have this old pot with a strainer insert, and it works pretty well:
If we decide the night before that tomorrow is “tamale night,” then I’ll take them out of the freezer and leave them in the fridge for the next day where they thaw a bit. You can also cook them right out of the freezer.
The directions say it takes 20 minutes, but if I cook them from frozen, I’ll give it 25 minutes. They’re a bit tricky to remove from the pot, because now they’re soft, and the only thing holding them together is the corn husks. I personally don’t care if they come out imperfect, because I’m going to be loading them onto a plate for eating. But BF isn’t used to real tamales, so I try to make sure his look “perfect.”
Verdict: absolutely delicious, the way a tamale should be.
I didn’t take many pictures because we were too busy stuffing our faces with them. Yes, we found a winner for me AND for BF.
They’re Around, Just Look
Since then, I’ve discovered that Rouse’s sells them for about $8.50 a pack, and another place sells them for $10 a pack. So when I know I’m going to Covington, and I have enough money, I buy a few packs for the freezer since they’re priced better at Target. However, I’m glad to know that I can get them in Hammond if I can’t get to Covington. Our big freezer has a stock of them now, and a tasty tamale dinner is just 20 minutes away.
The chicken, we found, was a bit too spicy for us, but the beef and pork are spicy enough without being overbearing. We haven’t tried the black bean type, because BF doesn’t want to. I eat six, he eats four and saves the other two for later. Or we eat four and split the other two later. Or he leaves the rest for me, because I bought them and I’m in love with them. They’re that good.
Texas Tamale Company
Look, when you live in Texas, tamales are everywhere, right? Just like kolaches, chips & salsa, and big bags of masa harina and corn husks. Hatch chiles in nearly anything. It’s like the furniture, Texas flags and the Texas star decor–it’s always there.
Move out of Texas, and you suddenly miss everything. Longtime readers know that I’ve missed everything Texas since the day I got here, and we *still* haven’t made a trip back to visit for a handful of reasons (mostly time and money, we always have one but not the other.) I still want to go, of course, and visit, (not to mention shop) but I can at least have real Texas tamales whenever I want them.
The Texas Tamale Company is on the west side of Houston, and has been in business for many years making “gourmet” tamales. Well, after 30 years, they’ve become quite the company, and you can find these magic morsels nationwide. They even have Hatch Chile Tamales, although they’re not available here, yet. (That’s my next “ask for” project.) You can read their story here.
HEB has its own brand of tamales with some interesting flavors, including Asiago cheese. I’ll try to get some of their interesting flavors whenever I get to shop there again.
Understand that I have no problem driving to the Clear Lake Blvd HEB and buying my regular groceries, even if it’s a ten hour round trip. Easier said than done, of course. BF would probably not like me to do that, either, but I can be tempted.
If you can’t find them locally, you can order them online. I haven’t tried ordering them yet, but I’m probably going to do that one of these days if I can’t get Rouse’s to carry the Hatch chile type.
You know how if you think of a certain type of car, suddenly you see them anywhere? (Concentrate on a red Land Rover, or a blue Hyundai Sonata, and you’ll see what I mean.) Well, someone in Louisiana came up with the idea of. . .crawfish tamales:
Personally, I think it’s wrong, but they could be pretty good. They’re also twice the cost of Texas Tamales (at Target), but we might try them one day. I know, shop local and all that. Subject of an upcoming blog post, honest.
Since then, when we decide break open a pack of these Lone Star State wonders for dinner, I walk around singing, “Ta-MA-LES!” to the tune of Dean Martin’s Volare. I haven’t re-written the words, I just sing that part of it.
So are you ready for some delicious Tex-Mex in your life in 20 minutes? Whichever tamales you choose, just remember to unwrap them from the corn husks first.
Do you like iced coffee? Have you tried a cold brew system before, but were left. . .cold? Fear not–I found the most awesome iced coffee maker, and it’s as easy as filling a bucket.
Hello, again Dear Readers:
I’m still writing, just not here, unfortunately. Neighbor E says he knows I’m OK when he gets a blog post. The GER pops in every so often. I’m trying. . .but we’re doing OK, and busy as heck.
But. . .I’m being harassed. Not by BF or some man that I could do without, but by this website. I get these emails telling me to pay attention to it. Like I haven’t.
Oh, wait, I really haven’t.
Emails with subject lines like:
Problems found on HeatCageKitchen.com
Failed : Automatic Backup of your WordPress installation
Softaculous backup of. . . .
Wordfence activity for. . .
The plugin needs an upgrade. . .
Additionally, people are still trying to hack their way into this website. Why, I don’t know, and it’s from places like Albania and Laos. Don’t they have anything better to do?
And on it goes. But the good news is that writing this blog as long as I have has taught me how to use WordPress. I have a few clients who use it, and they grant me access to their sites so I can go in and upload, format and tweak their content. SEO included, and it’s easy with Yoast. So that’s a good thing.
Oh, and if you like the new “table of contents,” you can thank my client in Israel for telling me how to do that.
I have been shopping, and not just for groceries, although I do that a lot. I look at a lots of different things, primarily online. I’m always interested in something new that will solve a problem or make life easier. BF thinks I’m a little nuts, but I don’t mind. I remind him that my “pill habit” comes from Vitacost.
Did you know you can buy moving bags for mattresses? I had no idea–but when we were suddenly given a queen sized mattress set (that we don’t need), I ordered some of these great big giant Baggies for mattresses, and they’re now sealed up tight in the back room. We could actually put them outside in the garage, but for now they’re fine. Fortunately, when we moved mine, we didn’t have any problems. When it’s time to replace mine, we have a new set ready to use.
I’ve also replaced a few more things, which I will be posting about as soon as I can. The countertop dishwasher is still humming along, thank heavens, sometimes three times a day.
I’ve also finally been to the dentist after more than six years, seen a doctor about something else, and I’ll be getting another eye exam in the next month or so–it’s been a year. If my prescription changed–and even if it didn’t–I’ll be shopping for new glasses again, at Zenni, like last year.
The Royal Wedding
Did you see it? It was FAAABULOUS!!
The night before, I made some Raspberry Scones. I got up at 2:30, drank coffee, made a pot of tea, and turned on the TV to watch it live. From 3:00 am until the live coverage ended (and I passed out) about 8:00 am, I watched history being made–an American marrying into the British Royal Family. First time in nearly 100 years!
Everything went without a hitch, despite all the press from the bride’s side of the family. The music was great, and I wanted so much to give Doria Ragland (Meghan’s mother) a hug. She looked so happy but so far out of her element. Very elegant and classy she was, and now the press goes out to take her picture when she drops by her local bakery for some pastries.
If you didn’t read about it, Harry and Meghan chose Bishop Michael Curry to speak, who is the first African American to lead the Episcopalian Church. What I didn’t know until recently is that the Episcopalian Church is the “American Branch” of the Church of England. So he was kind of a big deal. He was great, although his speech was longer than expected, about 15 minutes. At one point, he said, “I know I’ve got to sit down so we can get you two married.”
The theme was “love.” One of his quotes: “Two people fell in love, and we all showed up.” Oh, yes we did–20 billion of us! (I think.) Fire, as he pointed out, was one of the things that allowed civilization to grow and flourish. But If we can harness the power of love the way we’ve harnessed the power of fire, love really could change the world.
Not to be outdone, Saturday Night Live brought the Most Reverend Curry to Weekend Update to talk more about it. Don’t worry, it’s safe for work–and you know that’s not really him, anyway. But it is funny. The other sketch, featuring “Prince Harry” talking to a videographer while he walked through the reception at 2:00 am, was not only pretty funny, but featured costumes that were nearly identical to the ones worn to the wedding earlier in the day. Unfortunately, that sketch has been taken down.
BF was totally unimpressed. I’ll get the DVD real soon. (Yes, I’m still a Buddhist.)
And Now It’s Summer
Yup–nobody’s drinking yeast-free hot chocolate much these days. That’s OK. I’m back making iced coffee again, but much easier than before.
I started drinking iced coffee in the summer of 2011, when Houston went through a heat wave and a drought. The office was parchingly hot, because the AC couldn’t keep up. I just said, “the heck with this,” and threw a fresh cup of hot coffee into a glass over ice. I’ve been drinking it ever since.
Two years ago, I told you about how Nick Usborne at The Coffee Detective had instructions and recipes for iced coffee. But I’ve got one better, and I don’t think Nick knows about it. I must tell him soon.
I really didn’t mind too much the brewing and cooling process. But when I found this, I snapped one up.
Enter The KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker!
It happened very innocently. I was buzzing through Target on a quick run while BF waited in the truck. Walking through the coffee makers on my way out, I saw this interesting steel glass square sitting there. I thought, “I’ll have to look at that soon.” Didn’t look at the price tag, I just wanted to mentally bookmark it for later.
A couple of days later, we watching a TV show called CityLine, a daytime TV talk show out of Canada. They talk about the usual things for the home–new furnishings, stuff for spring etc. I only caught a couple of minutes of it, but they were showing off new things for spring entertaining. What do you know, the guest speaker moves over, and there is this beautiful thing. She starts to explain it and demonstrate while pouring a glass of iced coffee for the host, Tracy Moore. After adding milk and sugar, she hands it to Tracy. She takes a sip, and says, “Oh, yes, mmm-hmmm, that’s really delicious, yes.” (You know how they do that on TV.) You’d have to go looking for the video, but I couldn’t find it myself. Anyway, I looked at BF and said,“I’m getting one tomorrow.” And I did!
However, I was not prepared to pay the full manufactured price for it. So I managed to find myself a couple of coupons.
Getting It For Less
First of all, if you’re not using Ebates, you should be (here, use my referral code.) I also checked another browser app called Honey. What this does is look for coupons and promo codes right in your browser that you can use to get discounts on different websites.
I put one in my shopping cart, then ran Honey. Found a coupon for 15% off. Wrote the coupon code down, and then went back and started over through Ebates. Now, the shopping trip was registered through Ebates, I used the coupon code and got a little bit of money back.
Essentially, I got it for half price.
Target and Overstock Sell it for about $100. Amazon usually has it for about $75. The KitchenAid website actually had it for $79 when I bought it, and I’m glad I bought it there. I’ll tell you why later. But if you’re going to get one, try to find the best price before you go spending for it (unless you don’t care about money.)
Making Iced Coffee
So now it’s time to answer the question, what’s it like to use this to make iced coffee? Well, it’s probably a little better than other methods that are available. Really, it couldn’t be easier, and I took pictures to show you.
Take the filter basket, and fill it up with the coffee of your choice to the line, which is hard to see, but there.
That should come to 750 g. Make sure the little plastic rim is in place, and set your basket into the coffee maker, then fill it with ground coffee.
According to the directions, you poor 34 ounces of water into the coffee grounds, and let them sit for a couple of minutes to absorb. When that’s done, you poor additional 8 ounces of water into the coffee grounds.
Once that’s done, take a spoon and push the coffee grounds under the water and make sure all the coffee grounds are wet and absorbing water, eliminating any “dry spots.” Put the lid on it, and leave it alone.
Easier Than A CrockPot
When you’re ready for it, the directions say to let the coffee steep for 12 to 24 hours. The first time I used it, I let it sit for 12 hours. The second time, I left for 24. I have to say that I prefer the 24 hour steeping.
After your coffee has steps for the desired amount of time, just use a little handle to pick up the coffee filter basket out of the coffee maker.
Stand it to one side so that the coffee drains out. Then tilt iin the opposite direction, so that more of the brewed coffee will drain out of the filter basket.
Now it’s just a matter of putting the finished coffee into your refrigerator. It has a small footprint, sits right on the shelf, and conveniently allows you to get iced coffee whatever you want.
Ready To Drink Iced Coffee?
Now that the iced coffee is ready, it’s very simple to make in a glass. You simply add one part coffee concentrate to three parts milk or water, whatever your choice. I use this cup I bought on sale from Starbucks a few years ago, and I put the coffee concentrate to just over the ridge on the bottom of the straw. (That keeps it from falling out of the cup if you turn it over.)
And then fill the rest with milk. It’s kind of eyeballed, but it works for me.
At this point, you sweeten, add flavor or whatever you like to do with your iced coffee. You can add regular milk, cream or half-and-half, or you can use one of the alternative milks like almond milk or hemp milk, your choice. Like whipped cream? Add it. Like those fancy sauces that flavor your coffee? Add some. Once you get the basic formula down, it’s all up to you.
I know that there is a myriad of ice coffee brewing systems on the market. I just happened to find this one, and it’s so easy and foolproof. Of course, I read a bunch of reviews on Amazon and on KitchenAid’s website before I popped open my piggy bank. (My review is actually on KitchenAid’s website, but I guess I didn’t win the food processor!) But after seeing it in action and seeing how well it works, even non-coffee drinking BF thinks it was a great buy. Especially since I not only got it for half-price, I use it all the time.
The Karma Of Spare Parts, Again
Yes, I already needed a spare part for it. Somehow, the little handle fell off the filter basket, and needed a new one. A quick call to the nice folks at KitchenAid, and they said they would send me a new one, no problem. They sent the whole filter basket, not just the handle. I asked how much this would cost, and I heard the words that made my day:
“Oh, there’s no charge. It’s still under warranty.”
It arrived a few days later. I’m so glad I bought it directly from Kitchen Aid.
What Kind Of Coffee?
You’re probably thinking I used some high-end exclusive blend curated just for iced coffee. Or at least something from Starbucks. Well, I did use a very exclusive type of decaf coffee:
Yeup. Exclusive to shoppers of Rouse’s. About $4.35 for that brick. It’s what I had available the first time, and so it’s what I’ve been using. At some point I’ll order plenty of HEB’s wonderful grocery store brand coffee and use that again. But for now, this works just fine.
Cold brewing also eliminates the acid that you may get if you make your iced coffee from hot. No boiling pots, nothing hot, and no burns either.
Cold Brew Iced Coffee The Easy Way
I know there’s a bunch of different ways to make iced coffee. And if you’re happy with the way you make it, go for it. If you’re not happy with it, I offer a simple, foolproof alternative.
This hands-off method just takes a little planning, and makes it perfect every time. The elegantly designed cube sits right in your fridge at the ready. KitchenAid has also recently introduced a stand for it, but I probably won’t be getting one. We’re not planning a brunch anytime soon.
But if you love iced coffee, but don’t like spending a fortune for it, just break open the piggy bank get yourself one of these models. Find a stainless steel cup to drink it out of (especially one that fits in your car’s cupholder so you can take it with you) and you’re on your way to enjoying iced coffee more often. Don’t forget to use Ebates and find it on sale or marked down.
More New KitchenAid Things
Well, sort of. We recently were gifted quite a number of things, including a KitchenAid toaster and 14-cup coffee pot, and some other small things. The caveat is that they’re all RED. No kidding. You’d think I’d be enjoying red dishes, red cups, red bowls and red everything else. But even as a fan of red, after a while your eyes get tired of all that red. I’ll live with it, because we were gifted them from someone who won’t need them anymore. We’ve nicknamed him DG, and I’ll explain more next time. I’ll try to take pictures and add them to an upcoming blog post.
Meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying summer, staying cool and hydrated. Now that you know an easy way to make iced coffee, you can enjoy it more often. I have it every day, i the Casa de Rurale, and no driving to a coffee shop.
Good afternoon, Dear Readers from everywhere:
I just realized that Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and that I should drop in and talk about it just a bit. But first. . . .
There are some changes coming to this humble blog, and a big thanks to friend of the blog AK and another one of our writer friends, whom we know on Facebook, but I haven’t met in person. I don’t know if JM reads this blog regularly, but I know she has once, for sure. I’ve got a Facebook page set up just for HeatCageKitchen, as well as other social media accounts. I’ll tell more once I get it all done. The blog is growing up.
Last week was the open house for the Drs. Davis at Woodlands Wellness and Cosmetic Center. Much as I enjoyed it last year, this year I didn’t go. BUT–they posted pictures on Facebook, and once again had an appropriate show-stopper of a cake:
A good time was had by all, and I’m glad, even if I didn’t go. But I’m sure I’ll be visiting again one of these days for blood testing.
In other news. . . .
This isn’t really food related, but it might have been. When I say a cat is a cat is a cat, I’m not kidding. This wily cheetah decided that the back of a Jeep was a great place to hang with the humans recently. Honestly, it’s no different than when Catmandu and Kismet used to hop up on the back of my futon and park it there for a while. Cheetahs, as I understand from comments on the Daily Mail site and Facebook, are much friendlier to humans than other species of big cats. But as Big Cat Rescue will tell you, approaching big cats is never a good idea–and anyone caught petting one at their Tampa, FL facility is escorted out immediately, including staff. If you have a kitty cat that has ever turned on you while you were petting it or scratching it behind the ears. . .imagine the force behind a paw-swat from a 500-pound Siberian tiger. It can, as they say on FB, “escalate quickly.” ‘Nuff said. But this time, it turned out fine, and the short video is pretty amusing. Because. . .that’s a cat for you.
Now back to Valentine’s Day. Or as my brother called it yesterday, “women taking advantage of men” day. Oh, well.
If you’re looking for advice on romancing, proposing, or how to ask out someone you fancy, that’s someone else’s blog. This blog is for the day you decide to cook for that someone special, you already are going to cook for them, and you’re looking for something special for your date. You’re on your own on the romancing/proposing part, so search through WordPress for that kind of advice blog.
Do you have plans for Sunday? Are you going to hang out at home and watch a good DVD or two with your sweetie, or risk your life and head to a restaurant? I can hear it now: “Oh, Amy–what’s wrong with that?” Even Waffle House serves steaks and takes reservations on Valentine’s Day–and in some more rural areas, that’s the best and only–restaurant in town. (NOTE: I am not disrespecting Waffle House by any means.)
I’m not going to deny that it’s something special to go out for Valentine’s Day. But hear me out–when I was an administrative assistant, I was required to “go out with the bosses” for Administrative Professional’s Day. I really didn’t want to do this (particularly at an insurance company I worked for, where they took us to McCormick & Schmick in the Galleria and didn’t give us a choice) because it was a reminder that I was still in the steno pool. But at Boeing, that wasn’t always a bad thing. My Boeing supervisors were frequently busy, so we didn’t always go on that Wednesday–and that was a good thing. Why? Because you’re elbow-to-elbow with everyone *else* who’s doing the same thing; service is going to be slower, too. The last time, I had to request that Monday, because the next day, I was getting on a plane to go somewhere, and I wouldn’t be in town for AP Day. (I got to choose the restaurant that year.) Another time, we went two weeks later. Know what? We nearly had the whole place to ourselves! We could chat without yelling, and the service was better.
Want proof? This article from The Kitchn verifies what I just told you. Like retail stores on Black Friday, nobody *wants* to work that holiday, so you may get pinch-hitters who aren’t as experienced. And you’ll be elbow-to-elbow in a crowded restaurant on that one day a year when things could go wrong for you. Just something to consider if this is a really special date.
Once again, Starbucks is at it again with the #StarbucksDate. Create a special .GIF file (similar to an e-card, they’re all the rage now) to send to someone you’d like to meet up with (it could be your best friend, your elderly neighbor like Neighbor R, your brother/sister, or, heaven help you, the GER) and make a date to meet them at the Starbucks on your street for one of the new chocolate drinks they have this week, through Sunday. (They’d like you to put it on social media with #StarbucksDate, too.)
You know, I probably shouldn’t say “Starbucks on your street.” We have several in my neighborhood, including one two blocks from my front door. But I have a friend in semi-rural Louisiana who is about 20 miles from the closest Starbucks. I’m sure he’s not the only one.
This year’s offerings are three new seasonal chocolate-infused drinks:
And because I couldn’t wait, I personally sampled the Mocha Chocolate Latte this morning. Highly recommended. Unlike the famed Pumpkin Spice Latte, this was very good and not overly sweet. If your honey doesn’t drink coffee, there is the Molten Hot chocolate option as well as other dessert options. But remember, Starbucks has their “signature” hot chocolate all year long. Yes, they really do–it’s just that this particular variety is a “seasonal offering” for Valentine’s Day.
I am actually planning to take myself out for a #StarbucksDate. I’ve got a couple of books to read, (one by master copywriter Bob Bly, his newest book of great witticisms) and that might just be the place to do it. I’d like to have another Mocha Chocolate Latte, then get brewed decaf coffee (and free refills in my stainless steel travel mug) until I’m sick of coffee, or I finish the books. They’re not long books, but. . .there are less distractions in Starbucks than at home.
What if you’re going to camp in with your honey?
I’ve got some recipes posted on the Recipe Page, and there are others scattered throughout the blog; a search will help you find them. (The Sweet Potato Supper is a good one, and quite simple.) Then again, websites like The Food Network, MarthaStewart.com, AllRecipes.com, and TheKitchn are great places to start if you don’t find anything listed here. Really–the culinary world is at your fingertips, and a quick search will show you that.
These are really easy, because there’s no rolling out the dough–you bake it as a sheet cake, then cut them from the baked cake. Frost them, put some sprinkles on top, and you’re ready for your honey. NOTE: keep this recipe in your back pocket for other occasions, cut them in squares, rounds or other shapes, and you can frost them like cupcakes and use other appropriate colors and designs for, say, a birthday, graduation, or something else like St. Patrick’s Day (which happens in about a month.) Heck, your dog’s birthday, just don’t feed them to the dog. But for now, they’re for your Valentine.
Now, if these cookies aren’t your thing, there are a couple of things in the HeatCageKitchen archives that are delicious and gluten-free, including my all-time favorite, YeastFreeBrownies (I just uploaded it.) The recipe is no longer available on Dr. Hotze’s site, but I’ve got the PDF file for you on the Recipes Page.
Another good choice is last year’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes. First, I re-blogged a post from GF and Me last year, and then I made it myself. Of course, mine didn’t come out as pretty as Brenda’s, but they sure were good–even the fussy GER said so. The trick is finding hazelnut flour, or buying the hazelnuts, roasting and skinning them yourself, then grinding them up really good in the food processor–but not so far that you get a paste.
Click around on Brenda’s GF and Me site and you’ll find lots more delicious food and desserts for Valentine’s Day.
If you have more time to prep, I highly recommend the sugarless, Crock-Pot made Chocolate Fudge Custard I talked about last summer. You have to make it a day or two in advance, but it’s quite tasty and easy to make.
You didn’t forget your waffle iron already, did you? If Santa brought you a waffle maker (or the Cuisinart Griddler with the waffle maker plates, like mine) consider waffle brownies. If you haven’t read that previous post I linked to, please do, and you’ll learn more about waffling. You’ll also find this recipe in the post that I made and reviewed. However, if gluten-free isn’t your thing, brownies from a box–yes, like Duncan Hines or Jiffy brand–can be made in the waffle maker, fast and easy. You can also use boxed chocolate cake mix. If you’re thinking about a waffle maker, Bed, Bath and Beyond also (still) has the Cuisinart Griddler bundle package, and if you have a coveted 20% off coupon, use it.
Still another optioin–a bit healthier than most–comes from none other than Graze.com, this dual-layered Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie might be just the ticket. It has a few steps, so make sure you read the recipe before proceeding.
What to make for dinner for the two of you? There’s a myriad of options available, just pick one–but don’t overthink this or make it too complicated. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll probably *want* to try something really fancy, complicated, and extremely gourmet. Foodies are like that. But if you’re a fan of the easy, make dessert early, maybe the day before (especially the custard) and consider Nigella Lawson’s Flash Fried Steak with White Bean Mash. I’ve written about this delicious white bean mash before, it’s one of my absolute favorites, and I even made it Monday for AC with mild Italian sausages from HEB. (I called it “Bangers & Mash,” which is actually sausage and mashed potatoes in the UK.) She loved it too, and will probably start looking for cannellini beans next grocery trip. Add a tasty salad like we did, and you’ll be all set. Wine? Your choice, but make it a good one, if you do.
One thing I started doing with the white bean mash is grating the lemon zest first, then grate in the garlic with your Microplane Zester. The garlic is more evenly distributed, spreading the flavor throughout the mash.
And you can say that you’re inviting him/her over for a steak dinner–it’s just not filet mignon, that’s all. (No, I’ve never cooked that one, for myself or anyone else.) And why not? If you’re cooking steak, say so! (Unless he or she is vegetarian. . .then you’ve got some extra work to do.)
Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day: if you and your partner get along fabulously and enjoy each other’s company all year around, going all-out on Valentine’s Day is probably not needed–a nice dinner at home with a nice bottle of wine, a small, inexpensive gift, whatever you like. But if one or the other isn’t such a great partner all year long, but spends a lot of money on flowers, candy, jewelry, dinner out, etc., on Valentine’s Day. . .it’s money wasted. Be kind to each other, and, I hate to say it, but if things are just not working out well, you’re discovering you’re mis-matched, or you just don’t get along after the “honeymoon phase” is past, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. (Or, in my case, file a restraining order, ha, ha. Yes, I’ve had that kind of luck.) It takes two to tango, and usually, neither is totally innocent, but if you’re wondering why you’re in this relationship, maybe Valentine’s Day will be awkward. Better to be alone on V-D than stuck with someone you don’t want to be with–ask me, I know. (No, not the GER.) “Better off as friends” is not a bad thing, if that’s the case.
I’m not telling you to break up with your significant other on Valentine’s Day, (that happens occasionally) but if that’s where it’s headed, or things have significantly changed. . .take some time to think and consider. Next year things could be completely different–you could be single and unattached, you could be with someone better, or you and your Significant Other will have a better relationship by then.
I know, Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, is merchandised to death in the US, but it doesn’t have to bully you (or your partner) into spending too much money.
Again, I’m not a relationship author–but I speak from experience on being in bad relationships. I’d rather be by myself on Valentine’s Day than stuck with someone who let their “good face” down and I discover that I can’t stand. The longest relationship I ever had with a male was. . .Catmandu, the Russian Blue. (RIP.)
And if you’re single and alone on Valentine’s Day–remember, you too could be stuck with someone you wish would just go away forever. If that’s the case, and you can, take some time and take yourself out for a #Starbucksdate. Better yet, use the .GIF creator and send it to one of your *real* friends for a #StarbucksDate and get something chocolate on Sunday. It’s OK to be single and unattached on Valentine’s Day, I promise.
You might be making these cookies or something else for someone next year, so be ready.
Hello, Dear Readers:
Well, my continued apologies for being so darn late. I was going to write, then postponed a couple of times, then. . .I got sick. And as I explained in my last blog post, I said goodbye to my third kitty cat in 3.5 years. Not feeling up to much of anything; sometimes the words don’t come.
I still can’t believe she’s buried in the cold ground.
Me and the GER are still grieving for Jezebel the step-kitty, and now it’s his turn to get sick. He was self-medicating with Nyquil, but he must be feeling better, because his last email discussed beer. . . .
Me, I haven’t been sleeping well, so I’ve missed some walking with Neighbor K. I’m still walking, but haven’t been at the same time as K. She’s been very nice about it. I’m going to try again tomorrow for the 4 am wake-up call.
Thanksgiving was. . .solitary. That was unexpected, but since the GER got sick, it was just me. Well. . .I made some gluten-free bread over the weekend for turkey sandwiches. The seven-inch gluten-free apple pie was mine, all three pieces (not at once.) The cranberry sauce is gone, but I need to find a different sweetener than Somersweet; let’s just say I was stuck at home for a while.
Last night I made a turkey sandwich from last week’s Herb Roasted Turkey Breast, just like the one I made last year:
I made this baby with some of the Just Mayo I have in the fridge. Obviously I don’t use it very often. (Those are flax seeds, which give the bread a bit more crunch.)
Also included for dinner was last year’s Green Bean Gremolata, plus some quinoa. I had intended to make some sweet potatoes, but that didn’t happen. It was OK.
Now onto our featured subject matters.
If you’re interested, here’s a nice article on Trader Joe’s. I actually have one of those big blue hot/cold bags on the left of that rack; it’s huge, works great, and it’s $6. A related company (somehow) is Aldi, which I’ve not written about much, because, quite frankly, I’m not a fan. A small produce section, a little meat, a few housewares, and about 80% of the floor space is dedicated to flour-based mixes and other processed foods. Looks like a convenience store food pantry to me, and every time I go in there, I wonder why. The first and second time, I had a coupon. The third and forth, I was looking for something or other and was disappointed. So, unless you buy lots of boxed biscuit and waffle mix, bagged snacks and other junk food, well, Aldi may not be for you. Your choice, of course.
Right before Halloween, I found this:
I didn’t buy them, but darn, that’s cute! If I had children around, you bet I’d be grabbing two of them.
Now, for those of you who have not been following this humble blog since its inception two years ago, my birthday was Sunday, October 26th. (Can you believe I’ve been food blogging for two years? Thanks, Akinnyi!) Now, last year it was a Saturday, and I also had a weekly paycheck. Not now, so I limited the spending. However. . . .
I started out (when I finally got up) with a Grand Slam from Denny’s:
They also asked for proof this time, which I was happy to provide. I was reading Backwoods Home magazine at the time, and there’s that cute kitty picture to the lower right. Awww. . . .
Like last year, I subbed a couple of ingredients to have it gluten free, so it cost a little, but I gave the waitress a bigger tip. She brought the cut fruit first, so I nibbled on that before the plate came.
Next up was Starbucks for my free coffee, which was downgraded to a Skinny Hazelnut Latte instead of the caloric Hazelnut Macchiato. I also headed to Sephora, which, if you’re registered, offers a little gift on your birthday; this year it was a nice shade of lipstick, which I may try to buy more of at some point, with some mascara. Last year they had something for men which I donated to the GER; he loved it.
I made some gluten-free pizza like I did last year, and instead of a cake, I made cupcakes. . .but they’re not my best work, so no pictures. I did, however, on Saturday venture into Nothing Bundt Cakes for one of their gluten-free offerings:
While there is promise in this bag, I can promise it’s nothing like the one from Frost Bake Shoppe in The Woodlands.Chocolate Chip Cookie is the only gluten-free they offer, but that’s OK. That was the first flavor I had when I went to Frost the first time–and with a lot more icing.
Nothing Bundt Cakes has stores popping up all over the place, so if you’re interested, I give it a big. . .meh. (There is actually one next door to Trader Joe’s in The Woodlands, across the street from Frost Bake Shoppe. No kidding.) Seriously, it wasn’t bad, it was just. . .OK. If you’re dying for something sweet and that’s the only place besides a convenience store, go for it. Otherwise, I’ll wait. I’m guessing it’s the replacement for the cupcake craze, but that hasn’t subsided yet.
Somewhere between Denny’s and Baybrook Mall, then home, I received another present: streptococcus bacteria. That’s right, I got strep throat on my birthday. I didn’t know about it until Tuesday, either. Monday I was REALLY tired and bowed out of a morning walk with Neighbor K, but figured I’d just stayed up too late or something. That’s all it is, right? I decided that Tuesday would not be the same–I walked with K, then headed to Starbucks for two fingers of regular in the big decaf. It worked! What a productive day! Then the GER had some fish, so I drove down to his place to get it, and on the way home, fatigue set in again. When I finally got in and shut my door, not long afterwards the “ring of fire” in the back of my throat happened, all at once.
Owwww. . .I was sick.
Makes sense, right? With a 24-48 hour incubation period, and I had full-blown strep. On Wednesday, I headed to the Redi-Clinic in Friendswood for a positive strep test and another round of amoxicillin, which I finished taking the following Friday. That evening, after starting the amoxicillin, my temp was running 101.2. Is this any way for a grown woman to get sick?
Count your blessings, ladies and gentlemen: My brother’s mother-in-law passed away a week before. The day he returned from up north, our uncle passed away suddenly after some medical difficulties at 74 (which isn’t really “old” anymore.) I stitched up some handmade things to send my aunt, (our mother’s sister), his widow, with a sympathy card, but haven’t heard back from her yet.
Later that night, I logged into Facebook to gripe about the strep, and one of my copywriter friends posted about one of her clients whose wife had a really bad kind of cancer and was given a week to live.
If that wasn’t bad enough. . .my walking partner, Neighbor K, was doing some housework and was standing on a broken pub-height chair. I think you can guess what came next. She’s going to be fine, but was injured enough to where she couldn’t get up and walk in the mornings with me, and was home from work for a few days.
K sent me a text message while in traffic asking me to take the Daft Pug out for a walk and feed him. No problem there, but when she told me more, I gave her the lecture about standing on a chair! Wal-Mart has stepladders for $15 (or they used to but they’re cheap.) Heck, she could have borrowed mine! But I make myself available if she needs something. We picked up her car from the urgent care clinic the next day.
I very quickly stopped griping about strep throat, OK? I’ll take the strep, thanks very much. Takes a week to get rid of for good, and I’m needed elsewhere.
Now, despite all that, my birthday was made a lot happier due to the actions of friend of the blog AK, who took me seriously when I posted this silly thing on my FB wall on September 29th:
The holidays are coming and I’ve been very, very good. Check with the HPD, they’ll vouch for me. No tickets, accidents, or assault charges again this year. 🙂
I would like to ask for the Suzy Homemaker washing machine and dishwasher, both of which are now on eBay. They work, just like they’re supposed to. I promise I will take good care of them and use them happily. I can wait on the stove, since there are frequently a number of them available.
But if someone gets them before you or your elves are able to bid and win, I’d be happy to have the Super Grill or the stand mixer in working condition. Please note that as happy as I would be with the Super Grill, I can’t cook a whole turkey with it.
Also, would you please bring Jezebel a nicer attitude. She’s getting pushy around dinnertime, especially when I’m eating. I can’t make a cup of coffee without her meowing in the kitchen.
Also, please let me know what gluten-free treat you’d like me to bake for you this year so I can leave whole bunch in a basket by the fireplace. The cat won’t touch them, honest. Let me know if they need to be sugar free as well. I can make some lovely gluten-free vegan raspberry scones that nobody ever turns down. I promise they won’t taste like baked flour balls, unlike other baked items you’ve had.
Thank you, Santa.
Along with it was the listing for this Suzy Homemaker washing machine, which I posted with the “letter.” I was just messing around. . . .
AK is an awfully nice person, and knows that I’ve had a difficult year. So, without telling me, she bought it and had it shipped to me, arriving a week before my birthday.
Here it is, no kidding, mine, all mine:
Happy Friday, Dear Readers!
Do you like coffee? How about cappuccino? You know, with the frothy milk and all that. This one’s for you.
I have officially been blogging for two years now. No kidding, October 29th was when I set this site up. Woo hoo!! I’ll drink to that. Wine would be nice, but more likely coffee.
Houston and much of the south is COLD this week–no kidding, we’ve had a freeze warning. VERY unusual to be this cold this early in the season, but I’m happy. I think the cat’s happy, but I’m not sure.
What a great time to make some coffee, tea, or hot chocolate! Let’s concentrate on coffee this time.
Last year my decade-old cappuccino machine finally died, and I bought another one. As I mentioned in a recent post, I went through the process of finding replacement parts for an old Bialetti stovetop espresso maker the GER gave me many years ago when we were dating. However, Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective talking about how to make it quickly and easily on top the stove with a Bialetti. I just never knew it was this easy, so. . .I’m doing it.
Anybody want a Krups cappuccino maker? Hardly used, a year old. . . .
Nick also talks about something that many of my copywriter friends are hooked on, Bulletproof Coffee. I’ve also seen it called “Butter Coffee.” While I’m not a doctor, nurse or other scientific/medical professional, I don’t believe you will be able to repel bullets like Superman when you drink it. Just a thought. Friend of the blog AK (who made my recent birthday quite happy) swears by it, talking about brain power and amazing feats of thinking. I think it’s the caffeine, to be honest, but she’s a terrific lady, so I don’t say nothin’. You can read more about it on Facebook, and their official site is here.
No, I’m not interested. Sounds really weird, even for me. Fortunately, Nick The Coffee Detective has tried it too. He wasn’t exactly tap-dancing, either. Maybe another day. That Octane stuff is more expensive than butter.
Speaking of coffee, I also got my Bialetti issues straightened out. The one with blue roses is a 6-cupper, and I’ve returned all the spare parts to their sellers. Done. I’ve used it as well as a very small one now that I have sources for decaf espresso. Can you believe it? Starbucks and HEB. No kidding, get it anytime. DUH.
Starbucks, as I’ve mentioned, offers a free treat on your birthday with a registered Starbucks card (and app, if you want.) Also offered was 15% off (I think) on anything ordered from the Starbucks store. So. . .I took advantage of it. While they have a wide range of great drinkware, that 16-ounce travel tumbler was also on sale, and I’m really glad I got it–I’ve put both coffee and tea in it this week and it stays warm a few hours. Not bad, and would work great on a long commute. . .I’m sure someone already figured that one out.
This is what I use for everyday coffee, since discovering the French Press many years ago. (I have five because I used to have a boyfriend who did not drink decaf.)
You can put these in the dishwasher, but the glass can break. However, you can re-order the beakers at Bodum’s website.
Yes, I know, more spare parts.
Now, I like cappuccino better–who wouldn’t?–but it’s more expensive to buy and a bit more trouble to make. But since reading Nick’s article, well, I wanted to, so I did. However, I had two of those ubiquitous Bialettis in my possession–a cute little red one cup and the retrofitted antique six cup. Armed with a coupon, I made my way to Bed Bad, & Beyond and got a 3-cup model.
Disassembled, this is what it looks like out of the box:
No kidding, made in Italy:
Now, like everything else, I’ve got multiples. Any wonder why I need a bigger place?
The little red one was just so cute. Also purchased with the 3-cup pot is a butter warmer to heat the milk. Just like Nick!
I haven’t made much cappuccino because of the issue of getting the decaf stuff. Now that I’ve found it hiding right under my nose, I can have it anytime I want. (Which is daily, with whole milk steamed and frothed.)
So I now I do it in my own kitchen, just like Nick! Ready to do this on your own?
As you’ve seen, it unscrews into two halves, and a funnel that fits exactly into the bottom chamber. The bottom chamber is filled with fresh water to just under the little nozzle. Add the funnel, and fill it with the fine-ground espresso:
Screw the top back on and turn on the heat.
Now, if you’re going to heat milk like this, be aware that if it boils over, your coffee will be cold by the time you finish cleaning that up. No kidding. Don’t go talking on the phone and turn your back. Boiled-over milk or cream is a huge mess you do not want on your hands. (Yes, I have, thanks for asking.)
How do you know it’s hot enough? Stick your (clean) finger in it periodically. When it’s hot enough, you’ll know. But get it off the stove quick and start the frothing action. The pot I have has a heavy bottom, so it will hold the heat (and double as a projectile or blunt object in an emergency.)
Then start frothing with a little $3 tool from Cost Plus World Market:
My suggestion is to have a cork trivet or some other place to put hot pots down in between stages.
Put your sugar/sweetener/flavorings in the bottom of the cup first. Using a big spoon to hold back the froth, pour the liquid milk into the cup first, then the espresso, then dump the froth on top. Since I only have two hands, I can’t show you that part!
When it’s all done, this is what you end up with:
Yes, this is what you pay upwards of $5 a cup for in coffee shops like Starbucks. Look, there’s labor involved, plus it costs money to set up those great locations, so understand that part. But if you really, really like the frothy milk and all that, or the smooth tastes of lattes, it’s nice to be able to do it at home and enjoy it whenever you want.
Let me reiterate that decaf coffee is great in the modern age. If you’re being told to cut down the caffeine, or you realize you have a problem, don’t think your future is with Sanka. Lots of great decaf is there for the sampling, so go find your favorites. Mine are Sumatra, Kenya AA, and. . .anything with chocolate and raspberry in it.
So get brewing, and bake something delicious to go with your cappuccino or latte while it’s cold enough to put on the oven, too.