Egg bites: another Starbucks trend that’s gone mainstream. Make them or buy them, they’re a great meal or snack anytime.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers!
It’s Monday, and did you know? It’s three weeks past my birthday, and ten days until Thanksgiving. When did this happen? Oh, right–while we were all working on stuff and going about our daily lives and trying to hold onto some kind of “normal.”
Our recent lives here at the Casa de Rurale have included a few changes that I won’t bore you with here. But as always, we’re working on it.
Turkey Day 2020
Thanksgiving for us this year could be just me and BF, but I did introduce him to the idea of “Friendsgiving.” In other words, Thanksgiving for friends, as we did for many years with our “Buddhist Thanksgiving” in Houston. I mean, we were doing Friendsgiving before there was a name for it.
The district leaders, originally from Taiwan, invited anyone who had no plans to go anywhere and wanted to spend it with friends. And that’s exactly how it got started. I enjoyed the heck out of it, but things change and people change, and it eventually didn’t happen anymore.
I found a recipe on Facebook that Giada de Laurentiis posted for a stuffed turkey breast that I may make for us, and anyone we invite. I’ll let you know. But if it’s just me and BF at the homestead, that’s OK too.
Still Intermittent Fasting
I’m still at it, but now I have a little support, too. BF never minded–he asked once if it was safe–but I’ve also found a simple-to-use app called FastHabit. It helps you track your fasting, reminds you about it, and you can start and stop anytime.
On a recent Saturday, we were out with BF’s family and we all went out to lunch. I ended up fasting for almost 20 hours. I was really hungry, but I was OK.
I’m using the free version right now, but the paid version is a one-time charge of $3, so I may go ahead and buy it soon.
Weight loss? Yeah, I haven’t checked, but I’m still in the FB group for it.
I went looking for new jazz music and discovered that there are live, commercial-free radio stations running on YouTube. No kidding, I went looking for jazz music and found a handful of stations that run live. No commercials, no talking, no nothing.
One of my writer friends went looking for the “white noise” kind of thing, ocean sounds, and the like and found the same thing.
I don’t know if you could find them for, say, country or classic rock. But I found multiple jazz stations, and they change every day. If you’re looking for “work from home” music that keeps you from being distracted, check it out. You might find something you like, and new every day.
Before Egg Bites
I’ve written before about Starbucks’ ideas making it into the mainstream. Remember when you got to-go coffee in styrofoam cups, and a paper cup with the sleeve was the “new thing?”
Even if you have never set foot in a Starbucks, you’ve probably heard of the Pumpkin Spice Latte or PSL. Since its introduction in 2003, “pumpkin spice” everything has emerged, including some rather amusing memes. I’ve seen a number of “pumpkin spice” things available in the fall. The motor oil, toilet paper, and cat litter are part of the fun memes that make fun of it.
Remember: pumpkins are also harvested in the fall, which is why it’s a fall thing. But you can buy canned pumpkin all year long. No kidding.
So in addition to the PSL, there is the Pumpkin Spice Creme, a different form of the drink. The PSL is also available iced. Up until 2015, there was no pumpkin in any of it, only the spices in a pumpkin pie. Today the heavy-sugar syrups do have some pumpkin puree in them.
I’m still not drinking the PSL because I remember how my teeth wiggled for hours after I drank it. Other coffee shops and chains have also taken up the things that originated in Starbucks. But I do enjoy some of the decaf pumpkin spice coffee I find at Target in the fall. And since the Cranberry Bliss Bars have returned, I might just have one of them soon, too. Just one.
Not Just In The Store Anymore
So after the Sous Vide Egg Bites debuted at Starbucks nationwide, they quickly became a fan favorite.
They’re a great little snack anytime. People doing low-carb and keto love them because they’re a breakfast alternative on the go. They’re heated in an oven, then served hot and fast in a little paper tray. Perfect with hot or iced coffee, iced tea, or even water.
Move over, Starbucks, you’ve created another monster.
Hormel’s New Egg Bites
I really like to avoid prepared foods, but occasionally, they’re not a bad thing. So maybe they’re not new to you, but I just saw these this morning in Rouses:
I was going to pass them up, but then the word “chorizo” caught me. And no futzing around in the drive-through, either.
I almost forgot about them until I pulled them out of the bag with the rest of the shopping. By then it was time for a bite to eat.
I know, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but remember that each component has its own ingredients–chorizo and cheese, in this case. But they were quick to make:
They were literally heat and eat, and have the little paper tray just like Starbucks:
You microwave them in the paper tray for a minute or so, and they come out just fine.
What do they taste like?
I’ve had Starbucks version of chorizo, and it’s not like this one. The chorizo here tastes pretty darn good, and there is a “bite,” unlike the Starbucks version. If you don’t like spicy, might want to pass on these.
They’re flavorful egg bites, and taste really, really good.
Amy’s Home Made Egg Bites
Although mine have bacon, not chorizo, this is how they compare:
I didn’t use a “recipe” for the latest batch. I just whisked up some eggs, cheese, cream, cooked bacon (ends and pieces cooked and crumbled), and maybe some Chipotle Tabasco. That’s really good in egg dishes like these–not hot but adds a Southwestern flavor.
Like a lot of things, there are recipes all over the web for egg bites in nearly every incarnation. After trying several recipes it was time for me to make my own, my way. Next time I’ll make the chorizo myself and then make the egg bites.
As you can see, the Hormel version is a bit bigger than my IP version, for which I use a silicone egg bite mold. I made two trays of them at once, and haven’t had them every day. But heck, if you’re that hungry, eat three, right? It’s keto.
I’m going to admit that making my own egg bites in the IP is a bit of work, but I sure do enjoy them. BF won’t eat them, even though they’re bacon-and-eggs, because he, like the GER, is not a fan of Starbucks.
Dude: you can have your egg bites without going there.
Not Just Egg Bites, Either
Hormel’s new Black Label ready-made breakfast includes a couple of items even BF might enjoy:
You know I’d pass on these because of the pancakes, but if BF wanted one, I’d certainly get it for him.
He keeps around the powdered pancake mix so that he can whip up his own on occasion, and drown them in syrup. Just wish he’d learn to use a knife when cutting butter, instead of the spatula. When he uses a fork, it looks like a bear clawed it. He really mauls a stick of butter when he’s in the kitchen.
Until Next Time
You’d think that breakfast is just breakfast, but it keeps evolving. So if you’re looking for a quick and easy breakfast but don’t have time to make it, you’re in luck. Find some of Hormel’s egg bites in the refrigerated section or some of Jimmy Dean’s version of frittata breakfasts in the freezer section, which are along the same lines. A low-carb breakfast is a reality for busy folks.
Just don’t say the word “frittata” in front of BF, please. It gives him the shakes.
Happy (Breakfast) Dining!
Cheesecake–the word conjures up images and tastes of sweet and creamy, and with good reason.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
As promised (and way too late), here is my blog on cheesecake. Today’s post comes with two separate recipes from two different books, one of which was a gift from Callisto Press.
I don’t remember the first time I had cheesecake, but it was probably one of those frozen numbers. I remember being in a restaurant somewhere in New Orleans in the late 80’s and ordering blueberry cheesecake for dessert. I got the last slice they had. That didn’t go over well with my dining companions, but today I couldn’t tell you who they were.
I’ve bought many of them until I learned how to make them from Suzanne Somers’ cookbooks. From her first book, Eat Great, Lose Weight, I started making the Sugarless Cheesecake on page 186, but with Somersweet when it became available. The original recipe called for Nutrasweet, which I would never use. Later, she discovered that Nutrasweet wasn’t the best option and eliminated it from subsequent books.
From Get Skinny On Fabulous Food, I also like the Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake, which involves some sugar, so it’s “Level Two.” This means you’re incorporating some carbohydrates into your eating plan. I always made it with Somersweet. But with the wide availability of sugar-free chocolate and chocolate chips, I might revisit this recipe and try it again with erythritol (Swerve.)
In her Sexy Forever Recipe Bible, which is partly a “best of” compendium book but with other new recipes, there are three cheesecake recipes. On page 343, the New York Style Cheesecake is from one of her smaller books, Desserts. The next one is called Cappuccino Cheesecake on page 345, and is similar to the Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake. All of these recipes used Somersweet. I’ve never made it, but on page 344, there is also Peppermint Cheesecake With Chocolate Crust from another book.
There may have been one or two others here and there, but until recently, Suzanne Somers recipes have been the standards by which I make cheesecake.
Today I offer two more delicious offerings that are also healthier options.
Cheesecake #1: Keto In The Instant Pot
I’ve mentioned the multiple keto cookbooks I’ve been gifted, but there is one that I bought: Keto In An Instant by Jen Fisch.
Last year I reviewed her book Keto In 30 Minutes. I later got her first book, The Easy 5-Ingredient Ketogenic Diet Cookbook: Low-Carb, High-Fat Recipes for Busy People on the Keto Diet while on a Target run. She has one more book that I plan to get soon.
After her 30-Minute book, I subscribed to Jen’s emails and found out about the upcoming IP book, and later pre-ordered it. Jen promised, and this book delivers with some tasty food, some of which BF likes.
One particular delight, of course, is her Vanilla Bean Cheesecake on page 197.
Because it’s an Instant Pot, you’ll need a six-inch springform pan. Naturally, I happen to have one, bought about 1996 or 1997 to make a no-bake cheesecake for “company” from a Martha Stewart magazine dinner. (I was a newlywed at the time.) Used once, I’ve dusted it a few times, so I was glad to find a reason to use it.
The crust is made from almond flour, a tablespoon of erythritol, and two tablespoons of melted butter. Jen’s trick to ensure a nice crust is to encase the bottom in foil that’s lined with a paper towel. Press the crust down in the bottom of the pan, just as you would with graham cracker crumbs.
I don’t have any pictures of what comes next, so I’ll have to tell you: mix up 12 ounces of softened cream cheese, the insides of a vanilla bean (or a little more than a teaspoon of vanilla extract), 3 large eggs, a quarter-cup of heavy cream, a teaspoon of grated lemon zest, and two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice with your electric mixer (a hand mixer will work.) Then pour this over the crust.
Into And Out Of The Instant Pot
Ok, as with most pressure-cooker recipes, you’ll need to add a cup of water into the pot. Add the trivet with the lifting handles, then carefully put the pan on top of the trivet in the pan. Cover the top of the springform pan with foil.
Put the lid on and secure it, then set it to cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. When the 45 minutes is done, let it depressurize on its own for 15 minutes, then quick release to pop the pressure completely. Now you can remove the lid.
You’ll first remove the pan with the trivet from the pot–be careful, it’s hot–and remove the foil and paper towel from the bottom. Let it sit out for an hour to cool, on a wire rack. After an hour, cover the pan with foil and put it in the fridge for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours.
Yes, I know, sometimes I don’t do it exactly right or I don’t read the directions correctly. It happens. At this stage, it’s light and fluffy, but it hadn’t been refrigerated. Once it’s refrigerated, it’s a little flatter, more solid, and more like a cheesecake, as in this picture.
There is never a bad time to have a delicious cheesecake, especially if it’s a healthier version:
If you’re just wild about the Instant Pot, as BF’s sister and sister-in-law are, this is a great dessert anytime. Remember, it’s only a six-inch diameter, and you’ll need that size of a springform pan if you don’t have one already. They’re not expensive, and that’s the perfect size for the Instant Pot. Plus you’ll have to plan ahead.
But that’s not the only way to do this.
Cheesecake #2: Even Easier
Ok, so now you know how to make a delicious, low-carb/keto/sugarless/gluten-free cheesecake in your Instant Pot.
What if you don’t have an Instant Pot, or don’t want to mess with yours? Ladies and gentlemen, I have yet another solution: The Everyday Vanilla Cheesecake from The 30-Minute Low-Carb Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen. It’s on page 126, and I’ve been making it since December 16th of 2019. How do I know? Because whenever I got the book, in October, I think. I flipped through it and kept thinking I needed to try this out. Finally, I did, loved it, dated the recipe, and I’ve been making it ever since.
Literally. When I make one, I seek out the ingredients for the next one. That is, I get more cream cheese, and check my supplies of almond flour, cream, lemon, and butter.
What’s so great about this cheesecake when you’ve got Jen Fisch’s deliciousness? Well, for the following reasons:
- There is little baking/cooking–the crust is baked for a short time, but the filling isn’t
- No eggs are involved, good for people like The E Man, who is allergic to eggs
- You can eat a slice of cheesecake in an hour
- It’s two inches bigger than Jen’s
Not that Jen’s cheesecake isn’t worth it, because it is. But even Jen may like this one, even though it’s not hers. (I don’t know, I haven’t asked. Just an opinion.)
This version happens in two parts, essentially. Unlike the Jen’s Instant Pot cheesecake, you’ll make the crust first, bake it, then mix up the filling. But before we get started I need to tell you about the sweet part.
Swerve Or Erythritol?
Like most of the newer low-carb and keto dessert recipes, they tend to call for Swerve brand sweetener, which I wrote about a while back. It’s a great replacement for the extinct Somersweet, and it works just like they say it will, cup-for-cup.
However, erythritol is available in a number of forms, and from a number of places, including Whole Foods, Amazon and Vitacost, who has a 3-pound bag for $13.99. From what I’ve seen, that’s not bad. Vitacost also sells other brands, as well as Swerve for about the same price as other stores, including Walmart.
Should you decide to pass on Swerve and buy plain erythritol, you may find that it’s like regular granulated sugar. It doesn’t dissolve or “melt” like regular sugar would, so you have to grind it yourself. It doesn’t take much to do, just drop it in the food processor until you get the consistency you need.
Remember my little blender/food processor combo?
It’s perfect for this task, because then I empty out the powdered erythritol and blend up the crust. It works like this–first I grind up the sweetener:
I dump the whole thing into a pinch bowl:
And then get on with the crust, starting with the half-stick of melted butter:
I pour it into the food processor first:
Then add two cups of almond flour:
A small bit of salt:
Then add the two tablespoons of sweetener:
Now blend it up:
It takes a couple of minutes for the whole thing to mix up perfectly. It took longer if I put the butter in after the almond flour.
Once it’s well blended, add it to your ungreased, unlined springform pan.
You’ll need to press it into the pan. A trick I learned on The Food Network was to use the bottom of your measuring cup. It’s fast and easy as well as a lot more even. If you have arthritis, you’ll likely prefer that too.
It doesn’t take long, and once you get the hang of it, you’re done.
Now in the process, you’ll see some of the crust move up the sides. I like to take that off so that it doesn’t break off and make a mess when the cheesecake is done.
When you’re done, it’s nice and neat.
Bake it at 350F for about 8 minutes:
When it’s done, you’ll have a lovely crust.
When the time is up, put it in the freezer. In my case, I put a cork trivet underneath to keep it from melting the ice trays. Our kitchen fridge and freezer doesn’t have a lot of room.
Be careful not to grab the clamp–I did that once. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, even though the pan was very hot.
Now time to get on with your filling.
Making The Filling
I start this while the crust is baking, and in the middle, I have to stash the crust in the freezer.
Your sweetener is already measured, so now just squeeze out your lemons and measure out the heavy whipping cream:
Add your ingredients to the bowl, starting with your room-temp cream cheese:
Add in your previously ground sweetener, one-third cup:
Then the cream:
Then the lemon juice and vanilla:
Now start mixing:
You’ll know when it’s ready:
Take a taste and see if you like it.
Secret Weapon: Liquid Stevia
Ok, if you feel like the filling isn’t quite sweet enough, here’s what you add to the filling, one drop at a time:
I put about six drops in and blend it along with the erythritol. It doesn’t change the taste, and makes it a tad sweeter, but not overly sweet. If you want more, add a little more–but one drop at a time, or you’ll ruin the cheesecake.
And if you’re alone in your kitchen, you get a special treat at this point.
At this point the crust may still be hot, so you might leave the filling off to the side and do a little cleanup, maybe fill up the dishwasher or set some things aside to soak. Doing so will give the crust a little more time to cool off.
Filling And Freezing
Ready? Carefully pour and/or scoop the filling into the not-so-hot-now crust:
Use a spatula or other tool to smooth out the top:
Back into the freezer:
The book says 15 minutes in the freezer to “firm up,” or an hour in the fridge. Your choice. I usually leave it for more than an hour, but of course, it’s hard as a rock.
BF had to repair this hinge for me because one day I pulled out the rivets with a frozen cheesecake:
But generally, it pops right out:
This is what you end up with:
Because I consume this cheesecake a sliver at a time, I cut it in quarters first:
And then with a smaller knife, I cut a slice out:
It really is that easy and that good. You could eat the whole cheesecake if you wanted to (even I can’t do that) but it’s very rich and delicious, so you don’t need much.
BF said he had a small bit of it when I wasn’t looking, and he agrees that it’s quite delicious. I’ve served a bit to one of his car-guy friends who has been here for dinner several times (because he was here at the right time.) He was quite impressed because I did warn him it was gluten-free and sugar-free.
Other Cheesecake Notes
The first thing I should mention is that in order to make the cheesecake quickly and make sure the filling comes out smooth is to leave the cream cheese out for a good long while.
My suggestion is a minimum of four hours. But if you’re making a cheesecake after work, just take it out of the fridge and leave it on the stove in the morning and get to it when you’re ready. If you want to make it first thing in the morning and have it at dinner that night, take leave the cream cheese out all night.
Make sure that if you have critters, they can’t reach the cream cheese packets. Nevermind how I know that. You probably don’t need to leave it out for two days as I do sometimes. Unintentionally.
Use ONLY fresh lemon juice for this, or lime, as I’ve done a few times. If you use lemon extract, you will regret it. Immediately. Nevermind how I know this.
Conclusion: Cheesecake Is Delicious
I also took the opportunity to do a bit of updating on the recipes page, and it’s a little easier to find things now.
If you really like cheesecake, there is no end to the recipes you can find online. Check Pinterest, AllRecipes, do a Google search, or any website you prefer, recipes are available with a few clicks. Whether you want gluten-free, low-carb, dairy-free, or you want the best cheesecake there is, go looking for it, you’ll find it. (I just can’t vouch for them all!)
Remember my slow cooker post a few years ago when I made a low-carb chocolate custard? Slow cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea has two recipes on her website for cheesecake, one standard type, and one for pumpkin cheesecake. Both can be made anytime–canned pumpkin is available year-round in the grocery store, likely on the bottom shelf.
Stephanie’s aren’t keto, but if keto isn’t your thing, that’s OK too. I’m thinking maybe a pumpkin cheesecake if we meet up with BF’s family at his Dad’s place up the road. I brought what he calls the waffled “Awful Falafel” to Thanksgiving last year and loved watching him cringe when his sister, brother-in-law and sister-in-law enjoyed it. That’s what he gets for yakking to his friend in San Diego about my “horrible” cooking. I’m sure a pumpkin cheesecake might be a welcome addition this year, too.
The “Keto House”
On a related note, Jen Fisch’s first book was highly successful and allowed her to buy and renovate a house in Arizona. It’s now available to rent on AirBnB and Homeaway, a beautiful desert oasis that makes me want to plan a trip with BF sometime. It’s big, so we could go with several people, but maybe I just want to go with him, too.
That’s a ways off right now, but darnit, it’s a goal!
That’s all for now. More tasty food coming.
What to do with that tarragon plant in the garden? I found something to start with.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
After I published my June Updates post, it dawned on me that I could do something right then with some of the tarragon: a compound butter. Then it became digging out that lone chicken breast from the freezer and cooking it with the compound butter, and adding some cut sweet potato fries.
Hungry yet? Let me tell you how I did it.
I was actually walking the dogs when I realized that I could do this. Compound butter!
If you’re not familiar with compound butter, it’s simply a stick of softened butter with some herbs, spices or other flavorings mixed in. They can be savory or sweet, depending on what you want to use it for. There’s a longer explanation here on The Pioneer Woman’s website with some recipes. You can always make a recipe on your own.
But I didn’t have a recipe, it was mostly for using some of the tarragon. And it was easy!
I let the butter soften up for a while, and just dropped it into a bowl. You don’t want to melt the butter, because then you have to chill it and let it get malleable again.
I simply cut two stalks of the tarragon, washed them, and began chopping it with a big, sharp knife, until it was very fine. Dumped it into the butter, mixed it up well, and, voila:
I added a small amount of salt for taste–like maybe 1/8 teaspoon of that salt. Just taste it to make sure it has enough, but not too much, to your taste. And mix it VERY well, of course.
At the same time I took out the butter, I took out the bag with the lone chicken breast in it and let it thaw as well. It was just a plain, boring, flavorless chicken breast on its own.
Because it was damp, I dried it off:
Using two small spatulas, I dug some of the butter out and dropped it on to the chicken and rubbed it on each side:
Then I added it to a baking sheet with some cut sweet potatoes coated in a bit of olive oil and salt:
Once I got the sweet potatoes in one layer, it was ready to bake:
And because I wanted to eat soon, I heated the little oven to 425F. It was ready in about 25 minutes.
Freezing The Remainder
Now, this “recipe” didn’t use the entire stick of butter. If I were cooking for me and BF, or more people, I probably would have used the whole thing. But this time, it was just me, and I froze the rest. You could also do this if you were making several types in advance.
Get some waxed paper, parchment paper, or butchers paper, and plop it down on the paper:
Because it’s soft but not melted, you can turn it into a roll, just like on the Pioneer Woman’s website:
Now roll it all the way up and twist up the edges like a Christmas cracker:
I stashed mine in a freezer bag to hopefully prevent freezer burn.
If you wanted to store multiples, just use a felt-tip pen to write the type on the waxed paper. You don’t want to mix up tarragon compound butter with orange honey butter, right?
When you’re ready to use it, just slice off what you need to add delicious taste to anything you’re cooking.
Dinner Smells Good
About the time I finished this up, dinner was ready. I plated it and it was perfect:
The chicken was perfectly cooked, tender and moist, and the butter also made it over to the sweet potatoes. Maybe I should have left off the small bit of olive oil, but it tasted fantastic.
Where was BF, you ask, when I was making this deliciousness? He was at work, and got a pizza for his “pit crew.” He came home with three slices left of it for lunch.
Ok, not everyone is going to appreciate a couple of branches of the plant–that’s OK. But I did do some checking on Pinterest for some more ideas.
I also discovered that the tarragon I’m growing is called Texas/Mexican tarragon. (Being a naturalized Texan, I bought it.) It’s not the French tarragon we’re used to buying. I found the plant. . .somewhere, and stashed it in the ground when it was time to plant. No complaints.
Tarragon vinegar is a longtime favorite, and I may check into making some of that. I did that once, a long time ago, so maybe it’s time to do that again.
Tarragon oil may not be a good idea for long-term storage because of the possibility of bacteria. I learned that back in the 90’s when I made seasoned bottles of vinegar one year for Christmas. I had fun collecting wine bottles from one lady I used to know in New Orleans–she drank a lot of wine and kept me supplied with empty bottles for months.
I also saw a reference to adding tarragon into pesto, so next batch, I’ll be trying it out. I have plenty of basil to work with, trust me.
Maybe compound butter as gifts? It’s an idea, and it’s quick. Just have to make sure it stays frozen until use.
That was just a quick glance at Pinterest, I’ll do a more in-depth look soon. If I have to start making gifts now, it’s a great time to do so and have them ready for the holidays.
Which will be showing up sooner than you think.
Need a dinner idea tonight? Here you go–try some tarragon compound butter on your next chicken, turkey or other poultry dish for a delicious herb taste.
Keto: have you heard of it? Are you interested? Can you have delicious Italian food that’s Keto? Let’s discuss.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Here’s the next in my series of cookbook reviews courtesy of the nice folks at Callisto Publishers. They’re not sponsoring my post, they just sent me great books for review. I’ve received a number of interesting new books, and I continue to receive more in exchange for reviews. I like them all, I can’t say anything bad so far. There is a low-carb book, a fast and easy vegan cookbook, and a cook book for folks with Lyme disease, plus a couple more cookbooks coming. Additionally, there is a book on modern etiquette, plus a few other non-food topics.
But today it’s all about the keto.
The John Walton Celebration Of Life
So it finally happened on July 28th, and we picked up The E Man and went to Generations Hall. Everything was first class, well done, and we met so many other fans of The Walton & Johnson Show. Everyone had a great time, a fantastic band called Superchargers played classic rock music, there was all kinds of fancy food, an open bar (BF and I abstained), and just a great time to celebrate the life of a veteran radio broadcaster.
Ken Webster is the show’s producer they hired seven years ago, and he stepped on the air fulltime when John Walton became ill. Well, Mr. Walton passed away suddenly on July 1, and now Producer Kenny is on the air in Mr. Walton’s seat. He’s doing a great job carrying the torch, and they have decided *not* to change the name of the show, or much else.
John Walton always said that when he left this world, he wanted a big, New Orleans-style going-away complete with a brass band and a second line and all that. It was provided, and I hope that he was with us in spirit (since his ashes were actually in the facility.) I don’t *do* second line, but everyone else did. Steve Johnson said during the event that they made a few phone calls and everything was just done–they had everything they needed. They definitely called the right people!
I’ll post more of my pictures in another blog post, including the very stylish food that was created especially for this first-class event.
What is Keto?
The term is short for “ketogenic,” which is a condition that makes your body burn fat. This is different than “ketoacidosis,” which is a dangerous condition if you are diabetic.
But going keto is pretty much going low-carb, with some restrictions. That is, you eliminate rubbish food out of your diet, and increase your healthy fat intake. I say “healthy fat,” because hydrogenated vegetable/soybean/corn oil isn’t what that means. There’s a fat-to-protein ratio to follow, making it more complicated than regular low-carb, and different than Paleo.
Unlike the 5-Ingredient Italian book, there are few pictures. But the recipes are clear and well-written, and work easily. Each recipe tells you how long it takes, if it’s “gluten free,” “nut free,” etc. Prep and cook time are included, along with calories and all that. And the food looks pretty tasty.
There is even a dessert chapter–didn’t think Jen would leave that out, did you? For a sweetener, she uses Swerve, which I’ve talked about here before, but she also uses stevia in some recipes.
Trying Out The Recipes
Personally, I think the recipes I’ve read all look delicious. Unfortunately, I live with someone who doesn’t agree with that statement.
I made the delicious Saltimboca alla Romana on a Sunday, when our unexpected dinner guests showed up. The next night was a previously enjoyed Giada recipe for a turkey meatloaf–I can’t believe he likes the feta cheese when it’s baked in.
Tuesday was the ketogenic dinner.
Now, to be fair, sometimes we get a little short on funds, and so we’re not popping down to Walmart or Winn-Dixie for some chicken, pork chops, ground beef or something else. I buy meat occasionally when I find good sales and stash it for later. So this particular week, we’re digging through the big freezer (I still need to write a post on that) to see what’s there and what we can whip up for dinner.
Well, it was one of these periods that I decided to “freezer dive,” and I was right–there was some kind of frozen fish in there that someone gave us a long time ago. I let it thaw in the fridge, and just needed a few ingredients to make it happen, like lemon and capers. (I did another freezer dive this week and made this Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce with just a few ingredients from Walmart and the ground turkey in the freezer. He said it was OK.)
I selected two recipes for dinner. Baked Lemon-Butter Fish is on page 84 in the book, and Parmesan & Pork Rind Green Beans is on page 121. Pictures of the recipes are below.
Well, I needed capers. I used to have a big jar in my fridge that I bought from Phoenicia Foods, but I guess that was left behind in the move. Don’t have an unopened jar, and of course, Walmart has these *teeny tiny* jars for about two dollars or so. But you know me, I gotta make it according to the recipe the first time.
I also decided on green beans, since we really like them. I only needed a few ingredients from the store to make these dishes, including. . .pork rinds. No kidding.
His Fish Is Always Fried
I didn’t tell BF what I was doing, which always makes him stammer nervously, “I’ll try anything you make, Honey.” (Actually, that’s not completely true. And he’s still afraid of my cooking and my driving.) He asked if the fish was fried, and was very disappointed when I said it wasn’t. I wasn’t trying to break his heart, but I guess that’s what I did.
Let me put it this way: If I told him I would prefer Ford over Chevy, it would be along the same lines of disappointment, since he’s a Chevy devotee.
I used the countertop oven to make it (another thing I’m late telling you about) and baked the fish first, then the green beans. Dinner was ready in about 30 minutes.
These dishes took 15 minutes each to make, and the fish was still hot when we sat down to eat. And now I can’t find all the pictures of the prep.
But here it is:
I thought both dishes were delicious. However, BF had other thoughts on the subject.
He thought the fish tasted “slimy.” That’s why he doesn’t like baked fish. Frying it takes away the “slimy” in his mind.
Then the green beans–a different taste, roasted, and they aren’t over-cooked. I asked BF what he thought of the green beans. He didn’t look at me when he said, “oh, they’re delicious.” I said, “really?” BF still didn’t look up at me, and replied that they were “magnificent.” I thought he was serious. Then he started giggling. Then I started giggling. He was trying not to tell me he didn’t care for this form of cooked green beans.
Finally, I asked him what he thought of the green beans, and he said he wasn’t crazy about them. Why not just tell me? He was trying to be nice, and said he’d have a bowl of cereal later if he got hungry (and he did.)
Later he reminded me of one of his local car guy friends who, before his “chicken fanger weddin'” last year (with catering by Chick-Fil-A, my sarcasm added), decided with his intended to lose some weight by going keto for a while. (I didn’t attend the “weddin’,” either.) The guy did successfully get his weight below 300 pounds for the first time since high school (but he’s well over six feet).
BF’s comment: “He lost a lot of weight on that keto diet. And now I know why.”
BF is also a smart aleck. Here are the recipes.
No, he didn’t like these either.
I wasn’t deterred by BF’s reaction, and I kept reading the book. (I’ve since left a review on Amazon.)
I planned on making the Double Pork Frittata on page 58, until I couldn’t find the diced pancetta that I *thought* I had in the freezer. Since I can’t remember where I bought it, I tried to acquire some at the local Walmart’s deli department. Of course, when I asked for it, the clerk thought I said, “da cheddah,” and told me all the cheese was against the back wall, close to the milk. When I told her it was a bacon-y kind of thing, she said, “oh, we don’t got dat.” So maybe next trip to Hammond or New Orleans.
I would have to cut my brain stem to work for Walmart.
With that idea scotched, I chose the Mushroom Frittata on page 59. Frittatas have been adopted by low-carb dieters as the ideal throw-it-together food, and there are so many ways to make one. I like this one, because it hits all the right buttons.
At least I could get goat cheese at our local Walmart, as well as bacon, mushrooms and fresh spinach.
NOTE: watch what you’re doing with spinach, especially in Walmart. I nearly bought spinach mixed with kale! I also realized later that I didn’t need the dill, that would have been for the other dish. But I’m not adept with photo editing, so it stays there.
Making The Frittata
I like measuring out everything before I actually start cooking.
So I cooked the bacon in the little oven (saves a lot of mess), let it cool, and cut it up.
While that was going on, I began to make the rest of the dish.
Then you add in the chopped bacon. Start cracking the eggs into a bowl or big mixing cup:
Pour the eggs into the pan to cook with the mushrooms and spinach. Lift the edges of the frittata with a spatula so the runny, uncooked eggs get underneath the surface. This takes a few minutes.
Then sprinkle on the crumbled goat cheese:
Then bake it for 16 minutes in a 350 degree oven. I’m skint on pictures here, but this is what comes next:
Verdict: tasty, delicious, and great anytime.
I offered some to BF, explaining what was in it. He looked like he would accept a bite, then smiled and said: “Nope. It’s a trick!”
I can’t wait for him to head out of town for Drag Week.
Dessert Is Da (Keto) Bomb!
Undeterred, I tried one more recipe.
I considered making that subhead “The F-Bomb,” but I’m thinking about Aunt Ruth looking at her screen and thinking, “certainly she isn’t going to say that!” No, you’re right, but the F stands for “fat,” not the other f-word. After seeing so many copywriters and others swear like sailors in their marketing materials, I’m a firm believer in *not* using that kind of language in my blog, no matter what I shout at others while driving.
You hear me, marketing departments of America? Don’t do that. We close your page, delete your emails, trash your direct response long-form copy letters and ignore you completely. Knock it off! Anyway. . . .
Of course, the other concern I have is with the Secret Service, FBI and other law enforcement agencies getting my little SEO-optimized blog caught in their scanning systems looking for troublemakers. Yeah, I make trouble for BF, not the kind they’re looking for. Well, if they do find me, I hope at least one agent tries this recipe.
If the web is your cookbook, “fat bomb” recipes are literally available in every corner. They’re quick snacks to make sure you get enough fat in your keto/lowcarb/paleo diet, or just to have something sugar-free and tasty to keep you away from the stuff you want to leave alone. Let’s face it–there’s nothing like a chocolate bar. Find a way around it, and you’re doing good.
Making A Mess
I was making some Cashew Bread one morning and cleaning a huge mess from the night before. (I finally found cashew butter locally at Target.) So what do you do? Make more of a mess! Enter these chocolate treats.
So this “f-bomb” is actually called “Spiced Chocolate Fat Bombs,” and it’s in the dessert section on page 138 of the book.
I had everything handy except the liquid stevia. But did that ever stop me?
Not that the jar on the right is CHILI powder, not cayenne powder. It isn’t hot. If you decide to make these and add the hot stuff, you’re on your own there.
The coconut oil was already melted, so I put it on the stove to make sure the almond butter melted into it:
Carefully spoon this mixture into the cups:
I got most of it into the papers. Then you refrigerate (or freeze) them until they’re solid, which takes maybe 15 minutes or so, less in the freezer.
Despite the powdered stevia, they were pretty good; I used three packets. The chili powder isn’t hot but adds a different nuance to an otherwise straight-chocolate thing. And now I have a stash.
These are great, and I’m glad. Much as I love chocolate, I’m getting burned out on Yeast Free Brownies.
Recipes That Are Not For Everyone
I know if Neighbor E were here, he’d enjoy the green beans, at least, and probably the frittata and dessert. Dunno about the fish. Miss Alice would probably enjoy it too, she has a wide-ranging palette. Can’t answer for the GER, I never know what he’s going to like or dislike. BF just gets the shakes when I say the word “frittata.” Even his sister is perplexed, because it’s just baked eggs with other stuff in it.
But when you’re cooking for yourself, you’ll enjoy what you like, and others may or may not agree with your tastes. So if you’re cooking for someone who thinks rice goes with everything, well, you’ll have some alterations to do. That is, make yourself some Cauliflower Rice, and make regular rice for anyone who wants it. Add options like that, and everybody’s happy (you hope.)
I Like This Book
Honestly, I do like the kind of food that’s in this book, keto or not. I’ve long had the preference for low-carb foods, and this one checks all the points. The next recipe I want to try is the Double Pork Frittata on page 58; I’ll have to source more of the pancetta. The other thing is that these recipes are, for the most part, easy to make and don’t seem to require a lot of hard-to-find ingredients. If I can find pancetta and prosciutto here in Central Louisiana, they’re not that hard to find–especially in Houston.
The thing about Keto is that you follow a ratio to stay in ketosis, that is, the condition that burns off fat:
- Carbs, 5%
- Proteins, 20%
- Fats, 75%
This is on page 4 of the intro, also called the 5/20/75 ratio. She says it’s up to you to find the balance that works for you.
I’m not an expert, and I get the theory behind it, I’m just not really good at math, especially in my head. You’d think that someone who has been sewing since age 11 would be better at fractions, decimals and percentages, but I’m not.
Whether or not you want to go keto, this is a book with good food in it–and that’s always my first criteria. If you decide to go keto, you’ll need to do more reading, of course, and understand what it’s all about. Once you do, you can turn whatever you want for dinner (including Italian food) into a keto-friendly feast.
I’m also going to look at Jen’s next book, because. . .I’m thinking seriously about getting an Instapot soon. More on that later.
Until Next Time
I’ll try to get the recipes posted soon (another thing I’m late doing.) Many thanks to Callisto Press for offering me the chance to receive publisher’s editions to review books–I definitely appreciate it, and am enjoying reading them and looking at “new foods.” Sure, it’s still food, but new recipes that are faster and easier (so far.) Nothing wrong with a new recipe to expand your repertoire, right?
I’ve got more of these great new books to review and blog about, so if these two books aren’t appealing, maybe the future books will.
Until then, enjoy!
Italian food fan? I’ve got the book for you! Prefer easy, quick meals? I’ve got a new book for you, too!
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Remember the two free cookbooks I received last week? Well, I used the first one over the weekend. I also had two surprise dinner guests who didn’t know they would be taste-testers. I also heard from Neighbor E, who was visiting our HEB over the weekend and had. . .free ice cream! Oh, the things I miss here. Let’s get started!
National Ice Cream Day
Ok, somewhere, it became this holiday, and I heard about it on Facebook. HEB brought out a truck to the Clear Lake Marketplace to celebrate, and Neighbor E was kind enough to send some pictures.
I’m sure that in the heat of this summer, everyone was happy to see that when the arrived.
Is that not a happy sight?
Speaking of friendly faces:
Hi, Miss Lei!! I was so happy to see your face when he sent me this pic. Hang on, what were you serving?
Speaking of friendly faces, Neighbor E enjoyed his ice cream and hammed it up with one someone from the local aerospace community:
Loved this picture too.
Ahh, HEB ice cream. . .another thing to look forward to one of these days.
The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo
As I mentioned last week, I was gifted two cookbooks by Callisto Press, and this book was one of them. I really like this book, even though it doesn’t have as many pictures as one by Giada de Laurentiis. It has good food and some pictures, as well as good info. That’s a good one in my book (pardon the pun.)
When I explained it to BF, I reminded him that “Italian food isn’t all about spaghetti.” We’ve been to Olive Garden a few times, and he responded, “If you’ll notice, I order the Alfredo.” As in Fettuccine Alfredo, and that’s still like spaghetti, and it’s PASTA. I giggled at him and explained the difference. He looked at me funny, as usual.
The introduction answers the question, “What Is Italian Cooking?” Ms. Montillo goes into the regions, and the different things you’ll find in each. “When it comes to Italian cooking,” she says, “the quality of ingredients far outweighs quantity.” I wholeheartedly agree. Italian food in Italy is cooked in this fashion, while Italian food cooked in American kitchens tends to have more ingredients because it can. Everything is clearly explained, with cooking time, designations like “kid friendly,” “family friendly” and “30-minutes or less.”
The Accidental Dinner Party
Let me say here that I always appreciated Neighbor E’s honest input when I tested recipes in Houston. And that I’m going to test his resolve now, but will post the recipe soon.
So, Sunday BF was home, and asked his cousin from Mississippi to come for a visit and help him work on a car. He did, and I figured I’d cook for him. At some point, I went outside and asked BF in an officious voice, “has this man been notified that he will be used as a taste-tester?” He was, but right before I began cooking, he was called home. The man lives about 30 minutes away, just north of the LA/MS border on the “L” part of the state, so it wasn’t like going back to Houston. But he had to leave, and then it was just me and BF.
I worked until 7 pm, and then got started right as he left. When it was ready, he said, “Oh, JE is here!” Say what? Yes, JE and his wife J dropped by to drop off a motor for BF to evaluate. They drove up from Baton Rouge, about an hour away. Now, he gets those calls frequently: “I’ll drop by after while,” and they never show up. But not this time!
I was getting hungry, annoyed, and it was getting late, so I sat down by myself and had some of this delicious chicken. When I was finished, BF walked in and said, “I’ve got two more taste testers for you!” Again–say what? He invited this husband and wife to dinner!
Let me say at the outset that they are very nice people, and I certainly didn’t mind them coming to dinner. As a rule, I’m not really happy to get surprises. But this one was good, and they enjoyed themselves. They didn’t even know what I cooked up, unless he told them “chicken.”
Saltimbocca alla Romana
Dinner was from page 103, Saltimboca alla Romana, or “Jump-In-Your-Mouth Chicken.” That, Ms. Montillo says, is what “saltimboca” means. I also made the stir-fry broccoli from one of Suzanne Somers’ cookbooks to go with it.
But the chicken is the focus here, so I won’t bore you with the broccoli stir fry.
The recipe calls for 4 thin breast cutlets that are pounded out to a 1/8″ thickness. Of course, this was the day Walmart didn’t have any, so I asked BF to get whole boneless/skinless breast pieces. I cut them flat:
And pound them a little:
And then slice it in half:
Next up is a light salting (kosher salt is fine) and adding the next step:
Then top each with that paper-thin prosciutto:
Then dredge it in flour, and carefully shake off the excess. In this case, I used coconut flour, same stuff I used in Gumbo La Casa. I could have also used oat flour too, but this was I put my hands on first:
Grabbing the first dish I could find, I started coating the chicken, which is difficult when you’re trying to hold the prosciutto and sage in one place.
Cooking The Chicken
Once you’ve done all that, it’s time to fry them in a pan with two tablespoons of butter and three tablespoons olive oil:
Although the pan was big, I had to cook them two at a time:
At this point, BF started talking to me, and I forgot to take additional pictures. But what you end up with is this when they’re finished cooking:
Then you add to the pan the other two tablespoons of butter and the quarter cup of broth and let it boil. Put the chicken back in the pan for a couple of minutes in the sauce, and it’s ready.
Another thing I did differently was to put a cover on the pot so the chicken would cook faster. They were cooked and done, but didn’t have a “crust” on them like they would if the pan was uncovered. Didn’t affect the taste at all, and BF said it was just fine.
The Reaction–Dinner Is Served
So, this is what we all had for dinner:
Understand that these two drove an hour from Baton Rouge, and, as I was told later, were actually talking about where they were going to get some dinner when BF invited them in. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
They take two bites of the broccoli, and tell me that it’s really good. The husband takes a bite of the chicken, looks up and asks, “are you married?” We respond: “no.” Husband: “She cooks like this and you ain’t married? You better marry this one!” We were laughing at that one, but normally, it’s one of those topics not for discussion. We didn’t mind, but I think he’s going to take BF ring shopping one day.
Dinner was three thumbs up, plus I liked it too. BF and I knew what the broccoli tasted like, but nobody knew what the chicken would be like.
I didn’t make a dessert, but BF bought one of those frozen “chocolate silk” pies when he thought his cousin would be having dinner with us.
Well, I asked them to try a bit of my favorite Yeast Free Brownies. Once they did I explained that they were made with oat flour, coconut oil and erythrytol, but no sugar. Two thumbs up, and the husband said that you’d never know it didn’t have any sugar in it.
Then BF cut the pie and brought each of them a piece, which they didn’t refuse. Needless to say, J&J left very happy.
I’m sure J&J will be back for dinner again one day, so I’d better make sure I have a menu ready and in my pocket for them. Many thanks to them for sticking around for dinner, giving me another opinion, and great conversation that lasted a little later than we should have been up.
I’ve got another book to review and try, this one on Keto, so that will be in an upcoming blog post.
Meantime, if you’re interested in delicious Italian food you can make on a weeknight, quickly without a lot of ingredients, check out The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo, priced at under $20 (last time I checked.) You’ll be pleasantly surprised by a fast, delicious dinner that’s as good or better than any takeout you can find.