Good evening, Dear Readers:
I’m sorry it’s been a week since I wrote. I haven’t forgotten you or Graze.com. I sent them a link to the last blog post, and the email I got back was that they’ve passed the link around so everyone could see it. Woo hoo!
I’ve been at it, and sent out a proposal for copywriting work, but it didn’t go anywhere. Another potential client I wrote a sample article for had to say no, they’d lost a big client the day before, but check back in December.
But in foodie news, it’s been a week of good stuff.
First, if you’ve ever broken the glass plate in your microwave, take heart. I did that about five years ago, and just figure that one day, I’d buy a new microwave. Not yet. When the plate broke, I had no idea where to go to get another one for a 2003 Sunbeam microwave. Well, I bought a Corelle dinner plate at Wal-Mart and that worked fine until a couple of months ago when one of the little wheels came off the rotating ring assembly that turns the plate. This was probably caused by the imbalance of weight on the dinner plate, and two weeks ago, I did something about it.
Darn, it took moving the microwave out, snapping a picture of the model number on the back, and going online to do a search. Guess what? Appliance Factory Parts had exactly what I needed. The plate was back-ordered, so I called to ask if it was just temporary, or discontinued. The nice man said it was just back-ordered and should be in next week. They shipped it FedEx, and I even got updates as it made its way to my door. I met the FedEx guy out on the sidewalk. Fifteen minutes later my little microwave bought used in 2004 for $10 was good as new.
I also found a new replacement top thingy for a Braun coffee grinder on eBay. The coffee grinder is at least 4 years old, works perfectly and has been discontinued by Braun. The button on the original top is cracked, but without a replacement part, a new one was in order. But no, I got an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) part on eBay. Instead of tossing a perfectly good coffee grinder and buying a new one, my Braun looks new and works fine.
Repair parts: It’s a Good Thing.
Yesterday I had to trek up to The Woodlands, a place I like to go up to occasionally. One of these days I’m going to spend a weekend up there. But no, this time it was for yearly medical testing with the fine folks at Woodlands Wellness & Cosmetic Center, Dr. Sakina Davis and her terrific staff. And of course, I had to make a few stops while I was up there.
I should point out that I drove through some very heavy rains for over an hour to get there. You never know this kind of thing will happen when you make plans. (Ask anyone who’s planned an outdoor party or wedding.) We had a big front come through, and dropped the temperature about 15 degrees. Mind you, this being Houston, I had sweat trickling down my back when I hopped in my ride to go on the freeway, and then after I got out of Sweet Tomatoes, I saw people in The Woodlands Mall by Barnes & Noble wearing long sleeves. It had not only dried out but the temperature dropped just a little. It actually got cool when I got home last night.
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. . . .
First place I stopped when I got there was The Container Store for a couple of small things. I didn’t have time to do Sweet Tomatoes yet, but I hit the Starbucks across the street from Woodlands Wellness for a quick bite, because I was really hungry. I grabbed a Greek Yogurt Raspberry Lemon Parfait and ate it while I walked back across the street.
Turns out I should NOT have been eatin’ anything. I was supposed to be taking the starving blood tests, but I’ll be going back tomorrow after fasting all night to do the blood draw. I’ll take my laptop with me and head to Starbucks for some food and free WiFi so I can wait for the morning traffic to lighten up.
For a late lunch, I made it to Sweet Tomatoes, where I discovered some delicious gluten-free offerings and a new quinoa salad. After the late lunch, I went over to the mall to visit Karla & Anton Kharoufeh at Oil & Vinegar, but both were on the phone. However, Miss Kathy was free, and I talked to her for a few minutes. I really just wanted to say Hi, but I only got to talk to Kathy. Oh. . .bottles and jars of delicious things in there, so if you’re in The Woodlands, please go stop in and get something special and delicious. The Lemon EV Olive Oil mixed with the Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar is absolute heaven when you whiz it in the blender to emulsify it and pour it on a salad. Doesn’t take much, either.
When I left The Woodlands Mall, I headed out to Trader Joe’s, and shopped til I dropped. Neighbor R, who just turned 80, gave me $10 and asked me to get some of the $3 a bottle TJ’s wine, which she’s fond of. She likes the Chardonnay, but also asked about the Pinot Grigio. I brought back two of the Chardonnay and one Pinot Grigio, and she was very happy with that. I asked the very nice cashier to ring the wine up separately, because this was for a “little old lady in Clear Lake,” and she bagged up the receipt and change (about 27 cents, I think.)
I’m always extra-careful handling other people’s money, even if it’s 27 cents.
I bought extra of some things like toothpaste, cannellini beans, cocoa powder and olive oil. Never mind how much I spent on groceries–I’m stocked up on some non-perishables for a while.
Last stop: Frost Bake Shoppe. I actually got to talk to the owner, Terese Yates, and told her why I was buying so many gluten free. You KNOW that’s what I went for. This time, though, I brought some home to share.
Since the temperature dropped, and I had some refrigerated goods from Trader Joe’s in a bag with two frozen water bottles, I got four of the Blueberry Cheesecake cupcakes in gluten free, and carefully put the box in that zippered insulated bag on top. They made it all the way without a problem.
Yes, this really is gluten-free:
You can read more about Ms. Yates and Frost at this link.
At this point, the drive home begins. However, the weather was beautiful by this time, so it was only the traffic to deal with. And although it was very slow in a couple of spots, for the most part it wasn’t bad. Neighbor K generously fed Jezebel the step-kitty so I could go see the GER first. I didn’t tell her about the cupcakes until I brought her one.
First stop on was down to Galveston County to see the GER at the infamous, aptly named Funk House/Junk House. I called him on the way to make sure he was home, and I said, “I have something for you.” He said, “I have something for you, too! Some fresh fish and some home-grown grapefruits.” He’d been out fishing, as he usually does on Monday (and today, too.) Suddenly I felt bad–all I had was one cupcake for him! Well, I went. . .and I talked to him for a little while and explained that it was, indeed. gluten free, and he would thoroughly enjoy it. He did–and ate it in three bites. (I talked to him today and asked; he loved it!)
Then back to the homestead, and brought Neighbor K one of these delicious things. She said she would eat it in the morning after our early-morning walk. Unfortunately, I was so tired, there WAS no early morning walk. Just talked to Neighbor K, and she didn’t walk either, but did thoroughly enjoy that cupcake. At 5:30 this morning.
Last stop–Neighbor R, to bring her wine and the last of the cupcakes. (I’d already eaten mine, I couldn’t wait.)
So now, they know how delicious gluten-free cupcakes from Frost can be. That fish from the GER was broiled up last night and came out great.
The fish and produce were not the first foodie gifts I received since my last post, either.
Last week, I got a personal visit from the GER. No kidding. He emailed me last Monday, informing me that he’d received actual mail–and it looked legit–for me. Say what? He said it looked like real mail from a friend. Although it was a greeting card sent from Alaska, it had a piece of junk mail in it. I couldn’t seem to catch up to him to drop by the Funk House/Junk House to pick it up, so he ended up shipping it, and stopping by on Thursday. He also wanted to go to Vitamin Shoppe, which happens to be a mile away from me. It was much easier to let him drive us over there so he could see it, and I needed something anyway, so that’s what happened.
Shortly before the card arrived, he’d found himself with a beehive with lots of BEES. Yes, the kind that produce honey. He had to call professionals to come in and remove said beehive, and they gave him the honeycombs they removed from the shed he plans to eventually dismantle and replace.
So, I got him some gloves and set up a bowl with a strainer so we could filter out solid biological matter. (If you’ve never done this, well, don’t think too much about it, OK?) While he was wringing out the honeycombs with some clean hair color gloves I gave him, we were chatting about different stuff. And, of course, I forgot to take pictures, darnit! But I can show you what we ended up with.
I later filtered it out again, and then gave Neighbor K a jar and kept one for myself.
Incidentally, if you like those labels, you can find the template here on Martha Stewart’s website. However, they don’t stick well in the freezer. I just used one on this jar because I’d printed some once and they were just handy.
Now, a while back I kept a couple of pictures from Facebook of a couple of pictures of “cleanse” drinks. Then I had to clear out some of the photos (which is why I don’t have a pic of the bowl of honey before I bottled it, darnit.) I discovered that one, now that I have raw, organic honey, I can try.
The honey is raw and organic because the GER didn’t know that hive was out there. It’s not certified organic, of course, just. . .he never did anything with it or to it.
Now, these things get passed around Facebook all the time; in fact, friend of the blog AK recently asked me for the Cranberry Cleanse, but that’s got a pear, an apple, a piece of celery and some other stuff I don’t have around on a daily basis.
But this one I decided to try. No, I haven’t lost any weight with it yet, but I have been mixing it up with very warm water to help the honey melt, then adding two packets of sweetener to cut the tartness. Then pour it over ice, because I’m sweaty and no way do I want something hot. I can’t say it’s harmful, but I’m drinking it after I get back in from the AM walks with Neighbor K.
Remember one of Amy’s cardinal rules: two packets of Sweet ‘N Low can kill the taste of anything. That’s helpful when you’re ingesting something awful that’s also medicinal. Been there, done that, tell you in another blog post later, maybe during flu season.
So, despite everything else, I’m still here, and still at it. We’ll be back on the walking trail first thing in the morning (yes, 4 am) and I’m off to The Woodlands soon as I get cleaned up and dressed. No eatin’ until they stick me, and I make appropriate comments about the peacocks in the office looking like poultry.
Good Morning, Dear Readers:
It’s been an interesting week, and I’m inspired to write first thing in the morning. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve upgraded the memory on my small laptop, fixed an air conditioner problem, almost fixed the washing machine (that’s OK, the nice repair guy finished what I started), all with the help of YouTube.
You can fix nearly any problem in your life with a YouTube video.
I also got enough stars on my Starbucks card to have a gold card (long story, but it’s mine) and re-connected with an SGI-USA member who I used to know in New Orleans, but now happily lives in central California with her new partner. Facebook is also a great thing, long as you don’t put TOO much there.
I’ve got a few more things to do, and I hope to shampoo the carpets this weekend, but life is buzzing along in different areas.
We’ve had a good dousing rain this week, and the plants couldn’t be happier. (Is the drought over yet?) Heck, the weeds love it too, because I haven’t gotten out there to get rid of them. When the rain stops, I plan to get some weeding done, and maybe yank out the “houseplant-gone-wild” stuff out front. It’s about to grow into our living rooms. Neighbor K and I dug up most of that stuff a couple of years ago, and it was mostly gone, except for where we stopped. It’s growing now, under the stairs, where we quit digging. We’re expecting the second cool front next week, and if I can get around to it, I’ll do some fall gardening and weeding. The garden is about the same as last week, just waiting for stuff to grow more.
I think it’s raining all over the world. . . .
Last night I went out foraging (shopping) and my beloved grocery store HEB has foot-high potted basil plants for $4 each. I didn’t buy one last night, but am considering it. I need to re-stock the pine nuts, but if I get one or two. . .would that give me one more pesto batch? The little basil stubs I have may not grow big enough to give me more, so, I’m thinking about it. You know I love my pesto.
Before I went out, I went through the coupon stash I’ve been collecting, and it’s amazing that so many had expired. Need to keep up with that, but I managed to find a few I could use. I sat down to watch the very handsome and manly Mike Rowe do some Dirty Jobs while I cut them. One of those jobs was going to an animal sanctuary and handling a 5-month old “Ti-Liger,” a hybrid big cat with a milder temperament that would eventually become about 1,000 pounds. It was just a big kitten, no kidding, and probably weighed at least 65 pounds during this filming. The job was to walk this animal and wash its beautiful fur. No kidding. Mr. Rowe was a bit nervous with a carnivore with huge paws sporting very sharp retractable claws. Much as I love the felines, I do not want to deal with that cat’s litter box. I bought two of those plastic bottles of cat litter so I wouldn’t run out for a while. The 15-pound cat in here is enough for me.
I also am trying out Sheba cat food for Jezebel–it’s a couple of cents cheaper per can, and I found several coupons for it. However, despite the beautiful kitty in the advertising that looks a lot like my deceased Catmandu, Sheba also uses responsibly sourced fish, and does not contain corn, wheat/grains or soy. I mistakenly bought a can of chicken and tuna last night, but she gobbled it up this morning. I think we’re changing cat foods around here. Wish I’d tried this with Catmandu and Kismet, but we just move forward, not backwards.
I also clipped a coupon for Silk’s refrigerated coconut milk, which I bought one of to try. It’s fine. . .no soy, no lactose, all that. I like the shelf-stable stuff the best.
A trip through Target, and then onto HEB, netted me a couple of things that my longtime friend The E-Man can get behind. I’ve known him since October 1988; he can tell you the date and time I met him; he’s one of the first SGI-USA members I met when I relocated to New Orleans from California. When I got married in 1996, we put him in a tuxedo to make him behave; it sort of worked. But until about 12 years ago, I didn’t know The E-Man was allergic to eggs. It’s OK if the eggs are IN something, like a muffin, but eating them as I do, hard-boiled, scrambled, etc., no.
That means mayonnaise is out, too–especially the fresh stuff I whip up in a blender.
Last year, I told you about lab-grown beef and eggless mayonnaise, which The E-Man might like. Last night, I found some in Target. Called Just Mayo, an 8 ounce bottle costs $1.99 in SuperTarget. (I also got some Blue Plate Mayonnaise for $2.24 at HEB.) Since there aren’t any SuperTargets in his neck of the woods, a quick search shows that Dollar Tree and Whole Foods in his area carries it.
Dollar Tree? Ok, whatever. DT also carries it here, but I don’t know where they are. Target is fine with me.
The company, Hampton Creek, also makes cookies, but I didn’t see them in Target. There is also a larger jar of Just Mayo, but I didn’t look at the price on it.
Now, if you know someone who is allergic to eggs, take note, they may be able to enjoy mayo. Take a look, and compare it to Blue Plate Mayonnaise I got at HEB last night:
Why Blue Plate? I grew up with it, so to me, that’s what mayonnaise means. No, I do NOT like Miracle Whip. I don’t mess with Blue Plate too often, though.
So what’s the difference? Well, this is what’s in your standard commercial mayonnaise:
Now check out the ingredients in the vegan mayo:
Unusual ingredients, non-GMO is always good; pea protein is something I see occasionally in other foods, like Larabar’s Alt Bars. It’s how they keep from using soy in it.
Now, I haven’t tried this new stuff yet, but I will soon. I actually like mayonnaise, and if I get ambitious and make some gluten-free bread to go with meatloaf anytime soon, that will be the first way I try it. (I prefer home-made mayo with olive oil, though.)
If you have someone who can’t have standard mayonnaise, this might be an alternative for you. You can read more at Hampton Creek’s website and decide for yourself. Much as I’m not a veeeeeegan, alternatives are usually a good thing.
When Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, I ended up at his place. Irony–going TO New Orleans to evacuate for a hurricane. I was there nine days. The E-Man keeps his cool at all times. I can’t say I do that a lot. But I gave his wife as much of a break from cooking as I could. I did create a chicken salad for them that had no mayo, and was, I think, pretty darn good. I based it on a Giada de Laurentiis recipe, using a rotisserie chicken, and a vinaigrette kind of dressing, tossed in some sliced grapes, and it turned out well. I haven’t made it since, but I do have a printout in my notebook of recipes I’ve printed from the web.
The E-man also likes his coffee, as does his wife. I’ve brought them Central Market’s coffee a number of times, and I also got him a Central Market logo coffee cup many years ago, when they had them. (I think I still have one myself.)
FREE COFFEE ALERT: McDonald’s is promoting their McCafe’ coffee by offering a free small coffee every day during breakfast hours from now until September 29th. I haven’t gotten over there yet, but be forewarned that McDonald’s has sugar and Equal (blue stuff.) They don’t have Sweet ‘N Low, so if you don’t want Equal, bring your own. McDonald’s coffee is actually pretty good, I just don’t go in there very often. If you’re over 60 or 65, I think it’s half price, but again, during the morning, small coffees are FREE! Check it out if you’re interested.
Another thing I got from HEB last night was some coffee I haven’t bought in a long time–HEB’s store brand breakfast blend:
When I first moved to Houston, I used to buy this for me and my ex-husband, although it used to be regular. I forgot how good it is, and had some just this morning. Why haven’t I bought this for so long? I think it was about $7, much less than the Starbucks coffee I thought about getting in Target. I’m not knocking Starbucks, of course, but I sure did miss this one. I think I’ll be having this more often, too.
Is there a penalty for drinking it from a Starbucks coffee cup? Well, it sure was good.
Don’t knock grocery store coffee. You might be surprised at what you find.
If you really, REALLY enjoy coffee, you might want to check out Nick Usborne’s website, Coffee Detective. Nick loves coffee, and discusses different types of coffee, coffee makers, and all things coffee. You can read about my favorite method, the French Press, at this link; he also has videos on the subject.
Would Nick like this coffee? Heck, I dunno. What you like might not be what I like, and what you and I like might not be what Nick likes–but isn’t that what makes life interesting?
Think I need another cup, y’all.
Fall fruits are starting to come out, and I got a couple of small Bartlett pears; they’re ripening on my altar. But in about a month, you KNOW what’s coming.
Pomegranates!!! I LIVE for pomegranate season. I don’t care about the mess they make, or the little red arils that I find on the floor sometimes when I vacuum. I LOOOOVE pomegranates.
Off I go, on with my day. Make it a good one, everyone!
Happy Friday, Dear Readers!
The weekend is here, and I have some updates to share with you on gluten free stuff. You may be interested even if you’re not doing gluten free and just eating healthier.
Of course, if you’re not eating healthy, well, reading is entirely up to you. But first, updates and articles of interest.
I’m still walking. And walking. And mostly wearing myself out. But I like walking, so I keep at it, although I may take a dip in the pool later this evening instead. I think I’m gaining weight, but Neighbor K says no. She’s nice that way.
Wanna see the HeatCageKitchen garden? The little pepper is bigger than two golf balls, there is no change in the chile pepper or Meyer lemons, and I’m getting little red franken-berries again in the basket.
By the way, that’s SEVEN stems of basil growing. Two didn’t make it after the last harvest, so I pulled them; but the rest that were cut down are now re-growing leaves. Another Pesto Saturday will be coming soon, at least one more, and my freezer will be storing it for a cold winter day. Maybe me and the GER will be enjoying a pot of Pea And Pesto Soup, and he will finally understand why I like it so much.
While this isn’t food related, I saw an interesting story today in the UK’s Daily Mail, an interesting mix of real news and the celebrity nonsense. Mixed among today’s numerous stories about the K family and the late Robin Williams was this story about a couple of sisters and their company, Sword And Plough, not only doing some great recycling, they’re making it in America and employing veterans. The kicker: one is active duty Army! If you’ve got a student going to college soon, they make some fantastic bags and things from, no kidding, military surplus fabric that would have otherwise been wasted.
Their messenger bags look fantastic, and if I were in the market for one, I’d be getting the Coast Guard Blue model. The messenger or tote bag would be a great gift for a graduate or someone just starting their first job, and the rucksack would be an awesome Christmas gift for someone who likes camping, hiking and outdoorsy stuff.
Think about it–recycling, classic well-made designs, creating jobs, helping American vets, all in one fell swoop!
Also in Today’s Daily Mail, an article about bloggers who create healthier versions of favorite treats that are supposed to do miracle things. Dunno about the miracle stuff, but they’re certainly healthier. While they do use “raw” ingredients, one I don’t know about is “Organic Greens Complex.” Never heard of it, but since I stand little chance of ever looking like Australian Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr, I’m not too worried about it. If I can find it, maybe I’ll try a couple of these recipes and let you know the results.
However–one thing I notice is the high starch content of the dates and bananas. Yes, bananas can create a great fake-me-out ice cream, but the sugar content may be higher than Blue Bell. If you’re diabetic and/or trying to lose weight, you have to pay attention.
Then again, one picture that gets passed around on Facebook has a picture similar to the one you see in the article, and it says, “What do you call vegan brownies that are raw, sugar free and gluten free? COMPOST.” I cringe when I read it, but I know that some alternative foods are not very tasty. (Skinny Cow comes to mind.)
Later I’ll give you a super-secret HeatCageKitchen healthy chocolate treat I’ve never told anyone about, not even Neighbor K. Sit tight–it has three ingredients and doesn’t take long at all.
I get a LOT of different emails, and some are health-related, while some I just don’t know how they showed up. One I get and actually read occasionally is Doug Kaufman’s Know The Cause. Kaufman and his staff of writers talk about different health topics, primarily the problem of fungus in humans and how it affects disease, including things like cancer. If you’ve read my posts on the Yeast Free Diet, you’ll be at least a bit familiar with it and the mycotoxins put into the system by Candida Albicans, you’ll understand.
This particular time, would you believe it, is a short article on Apple Cider Vinegar. No kidding, maybe I should have waited on that one. But you can click on the link and read it; not long at all. But if you’re interested in learning more about the fungus among us, Know The Cause is a great place to start.
Faithful reader Aunt Kathy passed along another gluten free comic she found this week, this one from Six Chix.
Remember, of course, that I also know the GER, who says, “Oh, I love gluten!” He also loves coffee and breakfast from a gas station. One of these days, right?
Larabars now has a new version of granola, and it too is gluten free:
Out of all three, I think I like the Cocoa Coconut the best. But that’s just me, and they were all good, too. They were 10 for $10 at Kroger, but I only bought the three. Parents, this is something you can feel good about packing in your kid’s lunch bag, you know? They get a treat, and you don’t have to worry about what’s in it–particularly if s/he has allergies.
Now, if you’re health conscious, gluten conscious, or just careful about what you’re eating, you know you have to read labels, and not just once. Today’s “healthy” snack may have been changed to contain high-fructose corn syrup, and if you didn’t notice it, you’ll have a surprise if it makes you sick or you suddenly have a sugar rush you weren’t expecting.
No kidding–I once went to the grocery and asked Neighbor K if she needed anything; she asked if I would get her a bottle of honey. No problem, and she gave me a $10 or $20 to cover it. As I was picking a brand, I turned over one bottle to discover that the first ingredient was. . .HFCS. I’ve never been careless about reading labels again.
If you want to go gluten-free, I strongly suggest reading Dr. William Davis’ Wheat Belly books first. That will give you a good primer on the subject, and you’ll know what to look for. (Incidentally, Dr. Davis has another book coming out soon on total health. More if/when I get it.)
Of course, that’s a lot of work, and you have to know a little about what you’re doing, and educating yourself is key, whether you’re gluten-free or not. Now, the federal government is getting into the act, and if you’re going to call something gluten-free, you have to follow their rules.
Oh, yes, the government sticking their beaks in this one is going to help immensely, isn’t it?
Listen up: almonds are gluten free. Fruit is gluten free. Tomatoes, bell peppers, Hatch chile peppers, garbanzo and cannellini beans, coffee, Sweet ‘N Low and milk are. . .gluten free. Why? Because gluten doesn’t come anywhere near it. Ever. Do we really need rules for this? Learn what you’re doing and read the labels.
Now, many call this gluten-free thing a fad, and there are some who will call it “dangerous and unhealthy.” How can leaving something out of your diet that can cause harm be “dangerous?” If you’ve read Wheat Belly, you know exactly why–the modern GMO 42-chromosome wheat grain can cause havoc in even otherwise healthy people. Sugar is also well-documented as a harmful substance, and causes a host of health issues, including inflammation. All carbohydrates break down into sugar in the blood stream, including, but not limited to wheat, so you see why wheat can cause problems, along with a lot of other things that become, one way or another, sugar as an end product.
It’s probably not a “beer belly,” but a “wheat belly.”
Then again, like the GER, not everyone understands the whole gluten-free thing. Thanks to the esteemed Wall Street Journal, they keep on top of these kinds of things. It’s not a craze if you have that gluten allergy, trust me–I know people who have it, and they have to be careful. And I disagree–everyone can benefit from gluten-free, they just don’t know it yet. Again, starting with Wheat Belly is the way to go; Dr. Davis explains everything well.
OK, enough of that. Who wants a cupcake?
I started getting Facebook feeds from Elena’s Pantry, and one day, this popped up. Made with coconut oil and flour, they’re also good for folks with a nut allergy (which, thankfully, I’ve escaped–I love just about all nuts.) With the holiday season coming soon, this may be a good recipe to have in your back pocket for parties, especially children’s parties, where allergies are more prevalent.
Elegant Elena Amsterdam has written three books: one on Paleo cooking, one book on gluten free with almond flour, and another book of gluten free cupcakes made with almond and coconut flour. I do not yet have these books, but they ARE on my wish list, along with Bruce Fife’s book on coconut flour. I haven’t written about coconut flour yet, because I really don’t use it much, and it tends to be more expensive. I have a small amount in the fridge now, because I don’t use it much; usually for the cupcakes or something else from Babycakes and Babycakes Covers the Classics.
And now, for the first time ever, a healthy chocolate treat that’s easy to make has three ingredients and tastes awesome. This has been a HeatCageKitchen secret for some time, discovered by accident, but I’m releasing it now, and may include it in the cookbook, if I ever get around to writing it.
The coconut oil is liquid because it’s on a top shelf on my pantry, which is warm in the daytime. That makes it easy to tell the weather. In the winter, it’s hard as a rock.
Incidentally, this is the kind that actually tastes like coconut oil, not the somewhat refined stuff that has the taste taken out. You want that coconut flavor in the chocolate; it’s wonderful.
So you pour out about 2.5 to 3 ounces of melted coconut oil into your container. This just happens to be a pinch bowl from Cost Plus World Market, and I just measured it with water. To the bottom rim is 3 ounces.
To this you add about two tablespoons of cocoa powder, and gently mix with a fork:
Now this is the subjective part–longtime readers know of my preference for SomerSweet, Suzanne Somers patented erythrytol based natural sweetener and rejection of the toxic types like Splenda and Equal/Nutrasweet. However, if you’ve got something else that works as well, like a stevia blend or something similar to SomerSweet, go for it. Two tablespoons, one at a time.
SomerSweet also tends to clump when you add it into something, so that’s when the fork comes in handy. (That’s about the worst thing I can say about it, really.) After that, stash it in a safe place in the freezer for a little while and go answer your email, or walk a dog like I did. (Neighbor K’s lovable pug, of course.)
When you come back and open the freezer, this is what you get:
Break it up into pieces, very carefully, either with a spoon or the point of a wide-bladed knife, so you can eat it. I recommend a spoon, because if you eat it with your hands, the coconut oil will melt at body temperature. THAT, ladies and gentleman, will be a mess beyond compare. If you don’t believe me, try it. Don’t gripe to me when you have chocolate on your keyboard, your cell phone, your doorknob, your dog and your iPad,OK? You have been warned.
Ready for some chocolate???
Rich, satisfying, healthy, and oh-so-sweet.
Next post I’m planning on writing about chia seeds. . .mostly because I have a batch in the pantry to use up, so I’m going to try a recipe or two I found and report on them. If you have any questions before then, you can now email me at email@example.com, and I’ll try to answer them in the blog post.
It’s Friday, and the weekend is here.
Hello, Dear Readers:
I got a couple of new followers from my last post on vinegar, and a great comment from blog friend Aunt Kathy. Welcome to my humble little foodie blog!
I should give you an update on the HeatCageKitchen garden: it’s growing stuff. Not much, but growing stuff. I’m going to be getting some bell peppers this year!
No tomatoes or limes, but there are four, count ’em, FOUR, Meyer lemons growing out there. They’re green right now, and getting bigger all the time. I was hoping for more, but four is better than nothing, right?
My recent garden weeding did some good, but the weeds are getting back into the green onions. Long as you know which plant is which, you’re good; make sure you don’t get some weird stuff in your pesto, you know? I need to get back out there and pull more weeds out again. Darnit.
I’m tellin’ ya, green onions are so easy to grow–cut the white, rooted bottoms off the ones you get in the grocery store and stick them in some soil. They grow–just cut off what you need, don’t pull them up. The ones I’m growing have been in that same pot for 4 years. They were the big ones, but they grew back skinny. I don’t care, either. Sure, green onions (aka “scallions”) are relatively inexpensive, but when you want to make your favorite recipe that calls for them, isn’t just easier to go out to the garden and cut them for free?
And one more garden picture, the surprise Anaheim chili pepper I didn’t know about until a few days ago. Woo hoo! I just went out there to water and noticed it growing. Well, it’s all green, you see. . . .
Chile peppers of all kinds are prevalent in the southwest, from the popular Jalapeno to the Serrano to the Scotch Bonnet. We love chili peppers in this part of the country. (But I do not like burning hot food, ever.) In fact, I saw some “Jalapeno Poppers” in the meat case at HEB just the other night. They’re stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. No, I’ve never had them, not interested.
If you’re not in the Southwest, you might not know what I mean when I say “Hatch Chiles.” Well, let me tell you all about it. . .March of 2012, I was on a week-long trip to Albuquerque, NM, when a man my colleague was talking with on the plane told us about the “chili sauce” that they put on everything in New Mexico. He said, “You have to watch out, because they’ll put it on ice cream if you let them!” We said goodbye to him, as he was going to get a rental car to drive to Durango, CO, which he said was easier than flying to Denver. We heeded the warning and were aware of it whenever we went to eat somewhere. And he was right, we were asked, “red or green?” in several eateries.
I’d first heard of the Hatch chile when Central Market came to Houston in 2001, when they do their annual “Hatch Chile Festival.” In other words, when the chiles are ready and come from New Mexico. Even though I’d lived in California for a couple of years, I wasn’t in LA and just never heard of them. At that point, HEB and Central Market have nearly EVERYTHING with Hatch chiles in it. Salsa, mayonnaise, bacon, tortilla chips, cheese, salad dressing, bread, burgers (beef and salmon), kabobs, and heaven only knows what else they can find a place to use them. They may have had some Hatch in the Jalapeno Poppers, too. Don’t believe me? Take a look:
Like cherries, Hatch chiles are not available for very long, so that’s why they make a big deal about it. And unless you have actually been to New Mexico, love this kind of stuff or otherwise jumped on the Tex-Mex bandwagon, you likely will say, “Meh.” You can read more on Central Market’s blog post on Hatch Chile Peppers.
Now, if I were of a mind to do so (and not on the yeast-free diet right now), I’d so make these:
This type of chili can grow to be a good six to eight inches long, and ranges from green to red and warm to medium-hot, depending on how long it’s been on the tree or in the grocery’s produce section. This is what they looked like the other night in HEB.
However. . .
Doing a little research, just a little, told me something I didn’t know before. I think I’ve mentioned meeting cookbook author Robb Walsh a couple of years ago at the Houston Metro Food & Entertaining Show. I bought his book, The Tex-Mex Cookbook, at the show, and asked him to autograph it. Well, of course he did!
I took a peek at the index, and whatddaya know, on page 7 it talks about Anaheim chile peppers. The name comes from the cannery opened in Anaheim by a farmer named Emilio Ortega who brought the pepper seeds back to his native California from New Mexico, where they thrived.
You’ve heard of Ortega Mexican Food, right? No kidding, the same company that produces the tortilla shells, taco sauce and canned green chiles is the company that named them “Anaheim chile peppers.” The chiles were usually preserved in glass bottles, but they were cumbersome. Emilio Ortega figured out how to use cans, and you can still buy those same canned chiles today (although the Ortega Family doesn’t own it anymore.)
How about them apples?
Now, take a look at the Hatch chile peppers again:
And get a look about 50 feet away in HEB at the Anaheim chile peppers in HEB, same night:
Yes, Dear Readers, they are the same thing. One batch is now on sale for 78 cents a pound until August 12th, the other $1.98 a pound, available year-round. (I don’t normally buy a pound at a time.) And I’ve got one growing in the HeatCageKitchen garden, too, and I hope more to come.
Well. . .it’s not exactly Watergate, but there’s something you didn’t know before. Still, it’s an industry New Mexico is proud of, and rightly so.
Now when we were in Albuquerque, one restaurant we visited called Roma’s had these on the tables:
Despite suffering from altitude sickness most of the time I was there and a couple of other things that got under my skin, I can honestly say Aunt Ruth and I really enjoyed it–the conference, the people we met, and of course, the FOOD! I would love to go back to New Mexico one day and visit for the whole week, but that’s going to be a while. I also hope to go back to Arizona one day, where I went exactly one month after returning from Albuquerque.
Now, seeing as it’s summer, I’m going to tell you WHY I like these Anaheim/Hatch peppers. Salsa. Not just any salsa, either.
Back in 1991, a couple of years after leaving California but just before I started at Tulane University, I saw a book called The Well-Filled Tortilla by Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman. Such a cool cookbook, and very California, right? Well, I borrowed it from someone who moved away and we both forgot about it. I’m sure he didn’t miss it, and I’ve still got it.
My favorite recipe from this book is Orange-Onion Salsa on page 49. I made it once and have loved it ever since. The recipe also says you can use grapefruit in place of the oranges, so I’ve made it frequently to use up the grapefruit on my Butsudan. Just a few ingredients, and you can be dipping away in no time. Heck, I just eat it with a spoon!
Orange-Onion Salsa (makes 2 generous cups)
- 2 large navel or 3 to 4 blood or Valencia oranges OR 2 large grapefruit OR 4 small grapefruit
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1.5 tablespoons chopped Anaheim chile pepper
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (comino)
- Peel the oranges (or grapefruit) and cut into 1/4-inch dice, removing any seeds as you go.
- In a bowl, mix together the oranges (or grapefruit), onion, chopped chile pepper, cilantro and cumin. Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate; use within one day.
That’s all for now, but next up I have some updates on gluten-free, including <cough> government regulations on gluten free anything. But most of it is good.
Good afternoon, Dear Readers:
Are you enjoying summer? Are you trying? Or is the lure of the watermelon margarita too hard to resist? (You can make them without alcohol, too.)
Here’s something to really whet your whistle if you happen to be in Philadelphia: the Donut Cheesesteak Burger.
As if 1400 calories were the only thing we needed to worry about.
Yes, I know, capitalism. I’m not knocking capitalism, of course. . .but it’s just. . .couldn’t you use that intellect for something else? I mean, we now have two Ebola patients in the US–could you help out with that a little, maybe?
Anyway. . . .
I’m well into the second week of the infamous Yeast-Free Diet, to try and get rid of the heartburn and other gastro ills I’ve developed. No alcohol, no vinegar (except apple cider vinegar), no fruit, no dairy. . .well, you know the drill if you’ve read about it or done it. It’s a 90-day cleanse diet, and once you get over no cheese on your scrambled eggs for a while, it’s all good, and you’ll get the bug out of your gut.
I’m using the Yeast Control powder from Green Willow Tree again this time, too. Funny, it really doesn’t taste all that bad to me this time. That’s OK, and ice in the water helps with that.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be grumpy for a while. But I’m getting back into walking and exercise, so maybe that will take the edge off. A little. If I don’t hurt myself.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that what’s called “common knowledge,” also known as “common sense,” seems to be disappearing in this country. What I mean by that is that things people just used to know and passed along were little things, like a dozen equals 12. People don’t KNOW stuff like that anymore, and they certainly don’t pass it around if they do. While I don’t try to go around giving advice to people who didn’t ask for it, I do try to help out where needed. Sometimes.
Take vinegar, for instance. Yes, that bottle of strong, clear liquid in your pantry that comes in handy for the occasional recipe, and the stuff I can’t use for a while. (Distilled White Vinegar, that is.) Did you know you can use it for more than just salad dressing and stuff, right? Well, keep reading.
Twenty years ago, when I became a devotee of Martha Stewart, I found in either her Christmas issue or one of her Christmas books an idea for making flavored olive oils. I did some research too, since the web was becoming an information portal. Problem: fresh herbs have bacteria that may flourish in oil, but vinegar would kill anything like that. I just put the same herbs into vinegar, got some sealing wax, corked the bottles and gave quite a few folks some flavored vinegar for Christmas. I did that more than once, too.
Of course, when I asked the now-ex-husband to write down “sealing wax” on our shopping list, he didn’t understand what it was, or what it was for. When we got to Wal-Mart, I looked on his list and it said, “ceiling wax.” Um, what? You gonna get up there and wax it?
Anyway. . .
When I grocery shop, I buy two or three gallons of the plain white kind, because, well, I do not use it for salad dressing; that’s either apple cider vinegar or maybe raspberry vinegar. . I also don’t use table salt for cooking, but we’ll get to that later.
Vinegar does all kinds of non-foodie things, which is why I keep it around. Do you have a stainless steel kettle for boiling water to make tea or coffee in a French press? Leave it too long and it will develop a slime. YUCK! You can also become ill from it–read the linked post, and you’ll see I did that already, hence a previous round of the Yeast-Free Diet. When I clean mine, I fill it halfway with vinegar, half with water, turn it on to boil and let it finish. Once I hear that “click” of the switch, I know it’s done–the mineral spots on the bottom are gone, too. Drain, rinse a couple of times until the vinegar smell is gone, and it’s good to go. If you use it regularly, doing the vinegar boil twice a week should keep it clean.
Vinegar can also get the scaling out of electric drip coffee makers–just fill it with straight vinegar and turn it on; then run two or three brew cycles after you dump the vinegar, or until you don’t smell it anymore.
I bet you didn’t know you could clear drains with it, did you? Neighbor K found this out on Saturday–I’d mentioned it to her a few days ago, and she texted me Saturday asking about it. So I texted back what she needed and how to do it. A little while later K texted this message back: “WOW it works!”
Would I lie about a thing like that? (See what I mean when I said we keep each other out of trouble?)
Mission accomplished. She told me later that the regular drain cleaner you buy at the grocery didn’t do anything, but this did. Woo hoo! It also works on a slow-running drain, which means you’ve got something developing down in the pipes. You can also do it monthly to keep the drain from backing up, which I consistently forget to do. (I’ve since run that formula down my own kitchen sink this morning, mostly as a preventative measure.)
That non-toxic drain cleaner came out of one of two old books I bought in the 1980’s from Rodale. The Natural Formula Book for Home & Yard (1982) is 300+ pages of the kind of info that people used to just “know.” Another vinegar-based thing is what’s called “Blue Window Cleaner” on page 17. Mine isn’t blue, however, because I discovered that to get blue food coloring, you have to buy the box of 4 colors. I don’t need it that bad, so my “window cleaner” is clear in a spray bottle from Home Depot. You could also re-use a spray bottle from Windex, or get one at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or even IKEA.
Cleaning/clearing your sink pipes toxin-free is very simple. Down your drain pour one cup table salt, one cup baking soda, and one cup plain white vinegar. It will fizz and bubble, but that’s all of it. Meantime, put that kettle on and boil some water. Once the water boils (which will take at least 15 minutes, the more the merrier), carefully pour it into the drain behind the mixture. Put that pot down and let the hot water do what it does–melt and disperse the gunk and take it out of your pipes, and out of your hair. Follow that up by running the hot tap water for at least 5 minutes, and you’re good to go.
Oh, and this will work in your bathroom drains, too. Just be careful if you haul big pots of boiling water, OK? Burns are NO FUN.
I also saw on Facebook recently where you can clean your microwave oven by adding a cup of water and a cup of vinegar to a 2-cup measure or other microwave safe container, running it until it boils, and then wiping it completely clean. (Dump that down the drain while hot, carefully, for a little drain maintenance, too.)
I haven’t bought commercial window cleaner in 20 years; I just use this stuff and it works perfectly. Make it as I need it, one or two batches at a time.
Blue Window Cleaner
- 3 tablespoons household ammonia (make sure you get clear, non-sudsy ammonia, or you’ll have a mess on windows and mirrors)
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1-2 drops blue (or other color) food coloring (optional)
Measure ammonia and vinegar into a clean spray bottle, and add the water. Add food coloring, if desired, and shake well.
Easy, right? And cheap.
If you’re interested in that kind of natural, old-fashioned cleaning and housekeeping, the other book I still have through all that life has thrown at me is Rodale’s Hints, Tips & Everyday Wisdom. That book was published in 1985, although an updated version was published in 1994 that I just found out about. While I’m always interested in that sort of thing. . .my ex-husbands were not. That should tell you everything you need to know, right?
Another great use for vinegar is weed killing; I just found it recently, courtesy of Capper’s Farmer, with just a little searching on their site. (I get their emails and Facebook feeds, too.) A non-toxic weed killer that does a pretty good job, and pretty quickly. Lucky me, I happened to have one of those pump-action spray containers like the exterminators have (don’t ask) so it didn’t take long. While it didn’t kill every single weed, it did a good job with the ones I sprayed. In the back, I dumped some out directly on a patch of weeds and they were just gone. I’ve gone out and sprayed the rest, and just haven’t gotten around to pulling them up. But they’re dead, that’s for sure. Except for that tree that keeps wanting to grow back. That’s a tough one to get rid of.
I also keep lots of baking soda and table salt around. Why? Together they are quite useful.
You know how I love to use the little toaster oven for everything, and turn on the big oven maybe 4 times a calendar year? Well, the little oven is getting a cleaning. You know how when you cook fish you remember it long after you ate it? Yeah, it’s like that–and opening the windows doesn’t help, either. I don’t toast bread very often, only when I make the gluten-free stuff, mostly it’s cooking and roasting stuff, like meat, chicken and turkey.
I’ve mentioned this before, I love turkey and get turkey parts (primarily thighs) frequently. Put them (or any part of chicken) on that broiler pan and roast them at 400F for about an hour, and you get perfectly cooked meat with a skin crispier than any potato chip you’ve ever eaten. HEAVENLY, I tell you. But when I cooked two more Friday night. . .I smelled them in my sleep. So the oven needs to be cleaned. Seriously.
I’ve discovered another foodie blog, The Kitchn, and so I get the Facebook feeds now. Good stuff, and what I found for non-toxic oven cleaning was here, using baking soda, water (or as someone in the comments suggested, hydrogen peroxide) and. . .vinegar. Of course, I unplugged the toaster oven first, then went to work. I cleaned the broiler pan, rack and drip tray best I could, and then went to work on the inside of this beast.
First, remove the oven racks, or anything else you might store inside the oven. Since this is a toaster oven, remove the drip tray, since that’s funky too; we deal with that separately.
Next, you make a nice paste with water and baking soda, although one comment about hydrogen peroxide made me experiment with that. A half cup of baking soda, then 3 tablespoons of water or peroxide; more as needed, a little at a time. Coat the inside of the oven with this paste; not too thick, not too thin:
Let it sit overnight, then go back and wipe that grunge off as best you can. Scrub a little, scrape a little, but it starts to come off pretty well. Use a plastic scraper thingy if you need to on some burned-on crud. Once you get as much of it off as you can, spray some vinegar in there and let it fizzy up. Wipe some more. Yes, more. Eventually, you will remove all you can remove.
That weird liquid at the bottom of the page is caught between the glass and the metal band that holds it on. Eventually it drained off and I cleaned it away.
I scraped, scrubbed and wiped some more after this picture, but this is about as good as it gets. Remember, this toaster oven is about 4 or 5 years old. While I’ve cleaned it before, it doesn’t all come off, since it’s not ceramic on the inside like a standard oven is.
Now, the drip tray I treated a bit differently. I put it in a bucket of water and a half-cup of ammonia, which will also work on the oven racks (but I didn’t think about that when I was soaking it.) Some of the comments at The Kitchn suggested filling the bathtub with water, but I thought that was a bit unnecessary since it was small. After I took a shower for the night, then filled up the bucket with water, added about a half-cup of ammonia, closing the bathroom door so me and the cat didn’t have to smell lemony-scented soapy ammonia all night. Next day most of the baked-on stuff came off, but not all. I scraped with a plastic scraper, but not all of it was loose. Maybe next time.
It’s about as clean as it’s going to get now. I turned it on to burn off anything else, and it had a slight smell for a bit and that was the end of it.
And then I started cooking in it again.
I’m sure I’ll get a few more years out of this one. Maybe this one will croak and I’ll buy me a brand-new one. Again. That’s what happened to the last one–the electronic bits went out and that was the end of it after 6 years of heavy use.
Now, under no circumstances should you use a fancy gourmet vinegar for any of this stuff. My stash of Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar from Oil & Vinegar is tucked away in the back of the still-organized pantry (with the Meyer Lemon Olive Oil) and only comes out occasionally (especially now.)
While I do have some, I’m not using apple cider vinegar for cleaning, either. However, Bragg’s ACV is the best I’ve found, and has the live “mother” in it. While Bragg’s is widely available now in grocery stores (at least, it is here in Houston) Bragg’s website can show you all the products they sell. If there’s something you want but can’t find, you can order it there or on Amazon.com. They have a collection of books as well on not only using their ACV but other health topics as well.
Maybe I should do a blog post on Bragg–whaddaya think?
I heard Patricia Bragg on Dr. Hotze’s radio show one day and have been buying it ever since. She mentioned something about the vinegar for cats, but I missed it, and never got around to finding out what it was. At one point I was putting a tablespoon of ACV in my water, but I kind of got out of the habit.
If you’re interested in more uses for vinegar, you can find lots more info at Capper’s Farmer’s website, Grit.com, and this article on Backwoods Home’s website too (although a website search will give you all the articles, including recipes.) Of course, there’s always the Google search, too. Up to you.
This book on vinegar by Christine Halvorson also has some good tips, like clearing your clogged shower head by soaking it in vinegar. I’ve done that before, too, and it works very well.
Speaking of those magazines, and Mary Jane’s Farm, I’ve got some gluten-free updates coming soon.
Now that I’ve covered the subject of that little kitchen condiment, I’ll close here and let you go find out what it can do for you. Sure, it stinks, but the smell goes away quickly, and it cleans as well as anything you can buy in Home Depot.
So what are you waiting for? Go get some vinegar!!