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.
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!
Einkorn–a funny word you might be interested in if you have gluten sensitivities. Especially if you really, really want bread again, but even a whiff of wheat sends your gut into overdrive.
Hello again, Dear Readers:
Spring is springing up everywhere, especially since much of the US is now on Daylight Savings Time. Arizona, Indiana and a few other states don’t observe it, and there is a movement in Texas to ditch it for good. Will they do it? Who knows? I kind of wish the entire US would dump it–it’s just hard on us all twice a year.
A slow-cooked week
Yesterday morning, I tossed some on-sale beef of indeterminate origin into the slow cooker, seasoned it with some Paula Deen House Seasoning, a little olive oil and turned it on. Lately, that’s just how we roll, but there’s a dinner already cooked when we get home. We just cook some rice, quinoa, and whatever else to go with it. Monday, I did the same with some pork stew meat–and it was pretty good. I just tossed the frozen meat in the slow cooker, seasoned it and added a bit of olive oil, turned it on and walked out. We had a ready-and-waiting dinner that night. But after I put the meat in the slow cooker yesterday, one of his car-guy friends, Big Dave, called, and we did an impromptu barbecue. So with the slow-cooked meat, BF’s lunch was already made for today, and dinner for me later.
Today’s email from Stephanie O’Dea discusses taking your slow cooker on travel with the fam. Can you blame her? Apparently a lot of people do this. Camping, hotels–and the food is ready to eat, all you need is a working outlet, just like your waffle maker. If BF and I ever start traveling, we’ll definitely pack a slow-cooker if we can.
I’ve been busy writing, and boy, have I got an interesting subject for you. (Well, I think it is.) Unless, of course, you already know what “einkorn” is. Even if you do, I invite you to keep reading, because you might be interested to know what happened when I finally got around to using some and foisting it, I mean, offering it to BF and his friends for a taste-test.
Let me point out (again) that I’m not a doctor, nurse, or medical professional. I do research and report on it. You must use your own judgement when trying something new, particularly if you have a medical condition. Don’t go full bore and eat, drink or use something that you’re not sure about because Amy (or another blogger who is actually trustworthy) says you should. You must do a little reading and decide for yourself. What I do know is that if you have a gluten allergy, einkorn may be something you can have. BUT–you’ll need to read more and try a little of it if you think it’s worth it. That’s why I provide links, so you can see where I got my info from.
If you have celiac disease. . .no. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, completely different from the gluten allergy, and you absolutely cannot have einkorn. These things I know from my research, not because I’m an expert.
Now for some updates.
Post-modern menus in the Casa de Rurale
BF indulges me, and I take the best care I can of him. He says he’s just “humoring” me on these natural things, like the tea tree oil for his feet. Rest assured that BF is fed well, whether he wants to believe it or not. He explained to me a few nights ago that the menu in his kitchen is divided into two time frames: “Pre-Amy” and “Post-Amy.” (My first question: “am I leaving?“) There are foods he was used to eating and making for himself before I showed up, (i.e., Hamburger Helper) and the new, ultra-modern things that are produced in his kitchen now that I’m there (like Pea & Pesto Soup, and anything with cannellini beans, or foods from the waffle maker or slow cooker.) Me? I’m still trying to eat clean and low-carb in an environment with Kool-Aid, cookies and vegetable oil, best I can.
More culture shock
Last week his daughter, son and partner came for another impromptu BBQ dinner. I was glad to see them, but I wasn’t ready! I was hurrying to clear off the table and for dinner while they were outside trying not to burn down the house. Despite the frozen chocolate cream pie they brought, and the potato salad BF bought at Walmart, I was able to eat rather clean by requesting BF not put that stuff he calls “barbecue sauce” on my pork ribs. They were only subjected to the barbecue rub I have made for many years, with sugar or gluten or anything. The rest were coated with a “sauce” from a bottle loaded with HFCS and other dreadful chemicals. He was kind enough to use a separate pair of tongs for mine, too.
Her son is 3, and as active and precocious as they come. At some point, she asked me if there was any Kool-Aid. No kidding–and BF has some of that chemical-infused sugar powder in his pantry, in addition to soft drinks in the fridge. She made a pitcher of it and started putting it in the wee one’s sippy cup. Horrified, I asked, “you’re giving that to you child?” She said, “Oh, yeah, it’s great!”
She has not read Tox-Sick. (My paperback copy arrived last weekend.)
He thinks I know all this stuff
BF managed to leave out a few important details when he requested “spaghetti and meat sauce” the other night, like browning a pound of ground beef before pouring a jar of <ugh> Ragu spaghetti sauce into the skillet and letting that warm while boiling the pastas. His pasta was some of the multiple boxes of spaghetti in his pantry; mine was a cup of Ronzoni gluten-free penne pasta, found at the Hammond Winn-Dixie. I was browning ground beef at 9:30 at night. He just assumed I knew all this. I didn’t.
Never, ever assume anything. And, of course, read your recipe all the way through before you start chopping something and discover that you don’t have enough butter, oil, or something else crucial to your recipe. (Did that Sunday.)
So, recently I wrote an article for my natural health Upwork client on Einkorn wheat. (I don’t know yet when it will be published, but will give you the link when it is.) If you’ve never heard of it, well, you’re not alone–I didn’t either until I read Wheat Belly. Einkorn is what humans started cultivating as “wheat” a long, long, time ago in the Fertile Crescent when formal agriculture started, and before hybridization. Wheat is hybridized, not GMO, so I was wrong on that. (Amazing what you find out when you do more research.)
I was also surprised to find out that einkorn is actually widely available in the US.
I actually bought a bag many months ago at Erma’s Nutrition Center in Nassau Bay, intending to make bread with it and share it with the GER, mostly as a taste-test. (Maybe the GER assumes I’m the better baker, I dunno.) Well, I never got that far, the bag stayed in my fridge and made the trip to BF’s place last year, and still bounced around his his fridge. (In that bottom drawer where I keep my alternate baking stuff.) After taking on the task of writing a 700-word article on the subject, I realized, “I think I still have a bag of this in the fridge.” So I went looking for it and recipes to make with it.
This “original wheat,” while not entirely gluten free, is a lot lower in gluten and starch than our modern hybrid wheat. It’s also higher in protein. This means that if you have a gluten sensitivity when you eat modern wheat, there is the possibility that you can tolerate einkorn.
Dr. Davis explains his experiment in the book, buying einkorn berries, grinding them and making bread with them. Eating the bread he made, he experienced no ill effects after enjoying some. He did the same thing with our modern dwarf wheat flour, made his bread, had some, and experienced two days of gut trauma. So, yes, it can indeed be the modern wheat we have in this country making you or your loved ones ill. Einkorn may allow bread, pasta, cookies, cakes and other wheat-based baked goods on your menu again.
More einkorn resources
This article by The Kitchen Steward explains five ways that einkorn differs from modern wheat. And At Healthy Home Economist, she explains why her family is switching to einkorn, soon as they use up what they already have.
Their daughter was sick
Jovial Foods was started by Carla and Rodolfo Bertolucci, whose daughter suddenly became very ill. With a background in organic farming and a love of Italian cooking, they discovered that she was ill from a gluten sensitivity, and sought to find answers. Carla found einkorn, nearly extinct, and they have, so to speak, “brought it back to life” for a new generation. Together, they founded Jovial Foods, naming it for the joy they felt after finding a way to help their daughter and create delicious food that wouldn’t make her sick anymore. Jovial offers flour, pastas and baking tools for working with einkorn. Carla even wrote a cookbook on the subject (and if you order the book, they’ll send you a free bag of flour with it.) Now, more people can enjoy einkorn–and bread–again.
Some fine print first
Let me point out a few things about einkorn. First, good as it is, yes, it is more expensive. It’s grown and harvested in Italy, organic, and is not like the everyday flour you get in your local grocery. You can’t just use it cup-for-cup in your regular bread or pizza crust recipes, either. Jovial offers some tips on baking with einkorn.
If you’re already dealing with it. . . .
Second, as I’ve said before: if you have someone in your household who has these kinds of allergies, you’re already spending on alternative ingredients to be able to feed them. Incorporating healthier alternatives into the everyday meal plan helps the whole family, and may help the allergic one feel less “left out.” It’s not fun to be singled out because you’ve got this allergy that you can’t help, you know? And it’s not a bad thing if the rest of the family gets to try something tasty and healthy and learns to enjoy it.
Third: gluten sensitivity is not the same thing as celiac disease, although some of the treatments may be the same. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, and celiac sufferers can’t indulge in einkorn, sorry. (That’s from my research on the other article.) And gluten sensitive folks need to try just a little einkorn to make sure they can enjoy it safely and they don’t end up getting sick from it. Many GF folks can tolerate einkorn because of the lower gluten and starch content. And, as I discovered, modern bread has more starch added in to make it lighter and fluffier. No wonder people get sick from it. Jovial’s website also offers additional information on gluten free and specifically, on celiac disease.
What does it look like?
Well, when you open the bag, it looks like. . .flour:
It definitely doesn’t smell like your regular Martha White flour, (it smells good) and it feels bit heavier than your regular flour, too.
I finally used it!
OK, I *really* wanted to bake bread with it, but I didn’t have time this past weekend. I’ll do that soon. But out of the blue, BF and I were invited to his friend’s place for dinner on Sunday. It was supposed to be a birthday dinner for someone, but that couple couldn’t make it. So. . .it was six of us: me, BF, his friend Big H, his girlfriend K, her 13-yo daughter M and Big H’s 13-yo nephew, also named H. BF worked during the day Sunday, and after I picked him up, we headed over to H’s homestead. He’s already got a lovely house, but he’s also building a barn, and a saw mill, and a few other things on the property.
It’s the kind of place that I envisioned for myself. . .in Texas. North of Houston. By myself, with Internet, and being that copywriter homesteading in the woods. Oh, well. . .me and BF are doing it with one bathroom and not enough closet space.
During the einkorn research, I found a bread recipe as well as one for brownies on a blog called Live Simply. I saved both of them to use later, and I’ve uploaded them to the Recipes page as well. Again, as of this writing, not made the bread yet, but plan to at some point, and get more of the flour on my next trip to Whole Foods. (That comes under the category of “BF indulges me.”) Kristin Marr, the blog author actually has four recipes for einkorn on her website, if you’re interested; just do a search for “einkorn” and they’ll all show up.
Brownies, in a side-by-side taste test
So, with my article sent to the client, I left the library early with BF and spent most of the weekend doing lots and lots of chores. (They never end at the Casa de Rurale.) About a third of the chores actually were completed, and those will be done this week now that the laundry is mostly finished. I decided that I would use his friends as additional taste-testers, which they were happy to do when I said “brownies.” Big H told me not to talk about the “alternate” version until people had tried them, especially the kids. And BF didn’t mind too much, because I was going to make his favorites anyway.
I pointed out that I wasn’t looking for accolades, but opinions. Things like, “Wow, Amy, you’re a great baker!” That doesn’t tell me anything, right? Besides. . .I already know!
It was a day where I kept looking around saying to myself, “where’s my water?” This is what I’m looking for:
I do get the irony of the red plastic cups that BF insists on using. No dishwasher (of course not, it’s Louisiana, almost no one has one) and he’s not about to wash dishes. But anyway. . . .
I started baking
Since the einkorn brownies were made in a skillet, I made the Duncan Hines version in a skillet too. And of course, didn’t tell anyone which was which. They were obviously different, but again, didn’t tell anyone until I got an opinion from each.
This is pretty simple–just dump it into a mixing bowl and go for it:
Mix really well, 50 strokes the box says:
And it comes out like this:
Grease your pan:
Now, the instructions don’t tell you how long to bake these if you’re using a cast-iron skillet, so I had to estimate.
I went with 325F, and I think it took about 25 minutes. Naturally, I forgot to take a picture of this pan when it came out of the oven. I texted one to BF, so I guess that’s why I didn’t use the camera.
Did I mention I was coloring my hair while this was going on? Don’t worry–my haircolor is a plant-based organic, and even if any did get into the brownies, it’s fine. (No, none did. At any time.)
The Duncan Hines brownies came out as they normally do. Took them out of the oven, set them on the stove, and set about on the next recipe.
Naturally Sweetened Einkorn Skillet Brownie
This one is a little more complicated, and calls for more ingredients, as you might imagine. Because, why? They’re made from scratch!
For all of you readers still working in IT, yes, I brought my laptop into the kitchen. I was very careful, and there were no accidents. But I really do need to clean that keyboard and use the little tiny attachments I have to vacuum all the dust out of it.
The recipe calls for 12 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled. Guess who only had one stick of butter left? Yes–and thankfully, there was an option for one stick of butter and a quarter cup of coconut oil, also melted and cooled. So that’s what you see off to the left. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll see the label of a bottle of good Texas honey from HEB. When you buy it, they have little plastic bottles at the store–but I already had a glass jar to store it in, and just transferred the label over. That’s BF’s little bottle of cinnamon, but trust me, we have more–a lot more. I think I’m going to have to refill it so he doesn’t panic.
In my local Winn-Dixie, I couldn’t get the brand of chocolate chips Kristin recommended, nor could I get instant espresso powder. So. . .I got what I could, and what was cheap and would do the job. Bought little packets of Folger’s Instant (I can’t find the big jar of the HEB instant) and some of the regular Winn-Dixie chocolate chips. If I’d planned a trip to Whole Foods, I might have been able to get them, but that’s not in the cards yet, darnit.
Yes, Miss Sunie, you may tell everyone that I’m still missing my HEB. And tell Miss Carolyn and Miss Lei I said “Hi,” please–I was thinking about Miss Lei just this morning.
First, mix the wet ingredients
Mix the butter (or in my case, butter and coconut oil) , and then the vanilla and espresso (coffee) powder:
I’m still using home-made vanilla extract, just like The Barefoot Contessa does:
If you don’t know this, grease the inside of that cup before you pour some rich, delicious Texas honey into it:
Once you get all those put together–carefully, so your butter and/or coconut oil doesn’t seize or freeze up–whisk it:
Get that stuff moving:
Now leave it alone.
Next, the dry ingredients
Whisk together all the dry stuff and make sure there are no lumps:
And cocoa powder, of course:
And a little of BF’s cinnamon:
And whisk that all together.
Another quick kitchen tip
Something else I’ve been teaching BF to do is check the bottom of the bowl to make sure it’s all mixed. Sometimes when he’s baking from a box, he doesn’t check this. But, seriously, take a look:
If I hadn’t looked, it wouldn’t have come out right. Finally, I got it all done:
Then I mixed the dry stuff into the wet stuff. I can’t take a picture of myself while mixing the wet into the dry–I only have two hands, and BF was at work.
Not so fast
At this point, you let it sit for ten minutes. It thickens up considerably from a fluid liquid to a thick, pasty liquid, no kidding. The oven was already preheated:
So I just put a bit of coconut oil in the Lodge skillet:
And once it thickens, you fold in the chocolate chips.
Since I wasn’t able to get the brand Kristin recommended, and the mini-chips cost twice as much, I bought the Winn-Dixie brand. They’re not bad, but I know the HEB brand would have been better. (Just an opinion.) So Kristin says to use a “heaping 1/2 cup” if you’re not using the mini-chips.
Fold them right into this now-thickened batter:
Mix and fold well:
It looks like this:
And pour into the skillet:
Yeah. . .pour it right in.
I had to put down the camera and scrape it out with the spatula by hand. It’s that thick. No kidding.
So you bake it for about 25 minutes, testing it before you take it out of the oven. At this point, it was also time to take phase 2 of my hair color out, so that worked out well. It was great once I took it out of the oven:
Unfortunately, some of the pictures I took have. . .disappeared. I don’t know why, but I can’t find them. But I can tell you the rest of the story. Both pans were wrapped in foil and loaded in the back seat of the White Knight and transported to Big H’s place about 20 minutes away.
Over the river and through the woods. . . .
For dinner, we had, among other things, this delicious chicken roasted outside on a rotisserie:
And there was some grocery-store rolls coated with butter that were baked, (I passed) salad, and some jalapeno & cheese sausage going on, which I liked even better than this delicious chicken. We were told that it’s available at a slaugtherhouse up in Kentwood, where K lives. (Half hour away, maybe?) Yeah, I got two words for that sausage: ROAD TRIP!
How did they like the brownies?
Well, we talked about all kinds of stuff, and had a great time. More culture shock: K’s daughter loves Harry Potter, but her grandmother told her that it was “evil” or something, and that she shouldn’t watch it. Fortunately, K disagrees, and M is a huge fan. Little H was telling me about his grandmother, a heavy smoker, and how she uses basil to help her breathe. From there I couldn’t stop telling him about pesto, and Pea & Pesto Soup. Both were smart kids, and it was great to talk to them.
When it came time for brownies, I explained that I was looking for opinions, not accolades, and that’s what I got.
The results of the taste test
BF, of course, knew immediately without being told which one was the Duncan Hines, and of course, he preferred it. He said that the einkorn brownie was “okay,” but a bit dry.
Both of the kids enjoyed both types of brownies, and Little H took a couple of them home. M said they tasted a little like red velvet cake. And, in the light in big H’s kitchen, I had to agree that they looked like red velvet, too.
K felt like the Duncan Hines was fudgier, but that the einkorn type was pretty good, too. Like me, K watches what she eats for health reasons, but she did tuck into one or two of those rolls she baked up.
Big H said that with a glass of milk, it would be a pretty passable brownie, especially if you couldn’t have the Duncan Hines (or other wheat-based brownie) anymore. He agreed with the assessment that there was a taste of red velvet cake involved, and that it wasn’t a bad thing at all.
We also some gave some to Big Dave last night, right next to a Duncan Hines brownie. He said it would be good with coconut oil. Well, it has some–but he enjoyed it as well, even if it was a bit drier. “It’s good, but it’s different,” he said.
And me, well, I like the einkorn brownies. I’ve tried Duncan Hines type once or twice. It’s a little too sweet, and of course, has the “fudgy” quality when you use one egg. Actually, I’d call it more “sticky” than “fudgy,” but that’s the high amount of sugar and other chemicals they add to make it taste good. The einkorn brownie has more of a strong, stark chocolate taste to it, and it’s more of a “cake-like” brownie than “fudgy.” Maybe if you served them warm, they’d be “fudgier.”
What’s next for einkorn in the HeatCageKitchen?
Last summer, before I was getting ready to move, I was chanting with Miss Alice at her place. I could not stop thinking about baking bread for BF. Weird, right? So that’s probably going to happen at some point, along with cooking up some more delicious food as I find the recipes.
I saw Carla Bertolucci’s einkorn cookbook in the Clear Lake Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago, but didn’t buy it. I read through it and liked it, and put it on the mental list of books I want in my collection. Now that I know I can get a free bag of flour if I order it from Jovial, well, that’s a plan! Sometime. . . .when I make some more money. I need more bookshelves first. Along with one of those baking tools and the linen thingy they have, too. I know that I can get the einkorn flour in Mandeville, Baton Rouge or New Orleans, so it’s just a matter of when I get to one of the stores when I need to. Much as a I prefer grain free, I do like the healthier option available, much like the delicious things in the Babycakes books. They’re not everyday items, but occasional healthy treats that are good to make and have for company or just for the week.
Until next time. . . .
I hope that I’ve offered up some suggestions for anyone looking at gluten-free, or who knows someone dealing with a gluten allergy. Einkorn can be a part of a delicious, healthy, organic eating plan that includes everything you might want, but you have to do a little work for it. If and when I bake bread for us, I’ll report on it, of course.
Again, I urge you to do more reading if you (or someone you know) have a medical condition and aren’t sure if einkorn is would be a good thing. Start with Wheat Belly, and go from there. The information is out there, Pinterest has loads of recipes, and Jovial Foods has plenty of info available on their website, too.
The Kitchen Rack returns to the HeatCageKitchen!
Hello, again, Dear Readers!
Welcome to another edition of “What’s she up to this time?” I’ve been busy! Boy, have I ever. . . .
Another article published!
Today another one of my articles is published on OffTheGridNews, on a food, or supplement, called Maca. It’s a plant that grows high in the Andes Mountains, similar to a potato or turnip. I’ve heard about Maca for many years, but never got around to trying it. It’s great for hot-flashin’ women, so I read, but there’s more to it than that. Like potatoes to the Irish, Maca root has been a food staple for the folks in that part of the world for thousands of years. Someone (probably a Gringo) figured out that it was a pretty powerful thing, and now you can buy it raw or gelatinized and take it as a supplement.
I bought some, too
Admittedly, after I wrote this article, I bought some from Vitacost. Buddhist friend NM told me about Vitacost recently, and I have not been near a Vitamin Shoppe since. I started buying OTC thyroid from Vitacost after discovering they sold it for $10 less than Vitamin Shoppe—and they ship it right to your door! No more long drives to NOLA or Baton Rouge to get one bottle at nearly twice the price. I also use Vitacost’s website for basic research for these articles. I started taking Maca last Friday, when the latest bottle of Raw Thyroid arrived. Vitacost’s house brand is gelatinized, but I’ll try the raw version one day too and see which one works better. (I’m applying the principle of “try the least expensive option first.”) So far, so good.
There was a time when I would spend about $200 a pop at Vitamin Shoppe when I stocked up on stuff. No more—I have been building a list of things I’ll be taking again one day, and I order one or two products at a time, as I can. I’m still writing, but no “big paydays” yet.
No Coffee for Aussies?
This article on The Kitchn this morning says that Aussie kitchens don’t have. . .what? Like me, they do have a kettle to boil water in their kitchens, but not a coffee maker. (The pictured SMEG kettle is gorgeous—I want one of those in red, please!) The kettle makes hot water for tea, instant soups and—instant coffee. I actually have some instant coffee, but it’s primarily for recipes like Yeast Free Brownies. Drinking instant coffee? No, that’s OK. Not unless I absolutely have to. Even in decaf.
Hot mess: Slow Cooker Edition
Last week saw me make two more recipes from slow cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea’s emails: Hearty Lima Bean Soup and Maple Barbecue Beef. BF keeps packets of lima beans around, so I figured he’d like that. NOPE—too much tomato, and he didn’t even finish his. He ate a bowl of cereal, no kidding. Maple Barbecue Beef went over. . .OK. . .we can have it again sometime, but not anytime soon, he says. Yesterday I threw a few things in the slow cooker, including some black beans for a change, and I’ll post that recipe soon. Working Title: Amy’s Slow Cooker Southwestern Black Beans. Along with a bit of roast beef, BF was pretty happy with Sunday dinner after working all day.
Now, this week’s update
You remember the microwave saga? That saga has finally come to an end—I no longer own one! We have one at the Casa de Rurale, of course, but it’s BF’s. More than six months after I bought it at the League City Walmart, I brought the perfectly working but dusty microwave to the local Walmart and traded it in for. . .a new kitchen rack!
No kidding, I finally did it. A new kitchen rack And BF begrudgingly admits the kitchen rack was a pretty good idea. Because, after all, I did unpack a fair amount of boxes:
We had a roaring fire outside after dark with these going up in flames!
Mind, you, that’s not everything on the kitchen rack–but it’s most of it. There’s some more organization that has to happen in the Casa before all my stuff is unpacked. Working on making more money so I can get the rest of the things I need, like bookshelves, a covered clothing rack, and a couple of DVD racks for us. Oh, and a digital converter box for my non-digital TV. . .one thing at a time, right? In between laundry, dish washing, cooking and Buddhist meetings. . . .
Enter the Breakfast Area
Next to the kitchen rack is my IKEA Fusion table and chairs, which they don’t make anymore, creating a nice little breakfast area by the front window:
The placemats are from the old Martha Stewart collection at K-Mart. I mentioned this to BF this morning, and he said, “I’m sensing a pattern here.” Because a fair number of things I own are “from the Martha Stewart Collection,” somewhere.
After I did all that, I also stopped at Walmart for a few things one night and decided to get something else “for the house.”
Although I no longer have cable TV, I do still follow my favorite celebrity chefs on Facebook and get their emails. I bought a set of salt and pepper shakers from the new spring line of The Pioneer Woman collection. At Walmart.
These are called “Vintage Bloom,” and there’s a whole collection of dishes that go with it. It’s just a nice little bit of color, and I particularly like that color of blue. I almost bought one of the coffee cups, but if you’ve seen my coffee cup collection—I’m talking about you, Captain Ron—you’ll know that I really, REALLY don’t need another coffee cup, no matter how cute and original.
Kitchen rack is just the beginning
I’m trying to get BF to build me a rustic pallet rack for my coffee cup collection, but so far, he’s not interested. Pegboard, maybe? But he’s working on a couple of other things right now, so I give him a pass, and I wonder if I can do it myself without seriously injuring myself. (I have O- blood, if you’re donating.)
No toaster oven yet, but I have used the little oven on the stove many times. Just need an oven thermometer to check the temperature.
I continue to improve things in this former man cave (with emphasis on “cave”) as time permits We’ve burned many boxes, piles of old receipts and bills, and other things that make me ask BF, “why do you still have this?” Eventually, some of my stuff will also burn as I unpack more and figure out what I don’t need anymore. Winter is gone now, so I’ll be organizing magazines as well as cycle out and move around clothes. Plant the garden stuff I haven’t even planted yet,too. I want my Hatch chiles!
I’m writing another article for OffTheGridNews, and it’s due Friday. I won’t reveal the subject yet, but there will be an accompanying article here, soon as I do some taste-testing with BF and one or two of his friends. BF is chomping at the bit. . .to get it over with. Because, he says, “I’m just humoring you.” (And he doesn’t understand why I go to Whole Foods whenever I can, but that’s another blog post.) But there’s work to be done before then, and I’ll bring it to you with pictures soon.
Here’s a followup to my last post on the incredible book Tox-Sick.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
OK, so. . .I apologize for being away so long. I’ve been writing, all right–but on Upwork, the freelance platform that lets you connect with people just about anywhere for paid freelance work. (Shameless self-promotion: If you need something written, I can do that for you. Get in touch either on Upwork, if you hire there, or via heatcagekitchen-at-gmail.com) I’ve written a few things, but mostly web copy a couple of regular clients, one of which is an IT company on the east coast. (I can raise my rates once I gain some traction.)
The Knitting Bowl
I’ve also bid on other types of jobs, and was hired for one, a product review for a knitting bowl. Who the heck knew there was such a thing?
The bowl was given to me for free and I was paid a little for the review. I figured it would be fun, and I’m now using it to hold little things on the dresser with some of that blue sticky rubber stuff on the bottom holding it in place. BF must keep his paws off it–being a woodworking/building kind of guy, he wants to fill in the spiral with wood putty and stain it! But if you’re someone who knits or is looking for a knitter’s gift, click here and you can go see it and maybe get one if you want.
I’ve also written an article on magnesium and high blood pressure. Reminded me that I need to get back on that stuff. If I can get a back link, I’ll post it for you to read.
And because I’m earning a little money–not a fortune, yet–I’ve finally been able to order a replacement drip tray for my Cuisinart Griddler/waffle maker. Woo Hoo! Now we can waffle bacon and eggs, soon as the part arrives.
I did offer to make some waffled mac & cheese for BF the other night, but after the waffled brownie hot mess, he smiled, hugged me and said, “step away from the waffle maker, please.”
Our V-D didn’t work too good, because it fell in-between paydays and we were both a bit under the weather. So, we postponed our “Valentine’s Day” until last week, when we headed to a popular local seafood eatery. It’s one of those kinds of places with laminated menus. . .no candlelight here. It was pretty good, but BF tends to be a bit nervous when we go somewhere and it’s time to order. In Cracker Barrel, I can order a nice chicken or shrimp salad with no croutons; when they bring crackers, I decline them. But I ask a lot of questions, and still don’t get what I want in some places.
This particular evening, I ordered grilled shrimp with sweet potato fries and a trip to their small but pretty good salad bar. (It’s more of an accessory, and not like Sweet Tomatoes.) I figured that would be good, and about as “junk free” as I could get. Then after asking questions and thinking I was ordering something pretty safe, the waitress says, “and it comes with hush puppies and. . .”
Whoa! Back up the truck!
It doesn’t say that on the menu, not that I saw. I don’t want all that rubbish–I want SALAD and un-coated, cooked food, please.
BF was a bit horrified, but managed not to show it. I explained to him, and later to the waitress, that I’m not used to ordering something and discovering it “comes with” all kinds of things I don’t want and wouldn’t order. I didn’t have that experience in Houston, and I don’t understand asking for something and getting something completely different. Fortunately, I was able to get away with just those hush puppy things and BF took them in his styrofoam “doggie bag.”
I dove into the salad bar, piling up lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, sliced black olives, broccoli, and a tablespoon or two of the dried golden raisin and cranberry mix. No croutons or dressings, since most have trans-fatty acids and kill the taste of the food (not to mention do a number on you.) Just a bit of salt. BF had a “salad,” too–consisting of two tablespoons of lettuce, a cup of some kind of salad dressing and croutons. No matter how I explain it, in his furry little head, he “ate some salad, too.” Later, he claimed the lettuce made him gassy.
No flowers-and-chocolate routine, because I specifically asked BF not to do that. I guess a card would have been OK, but I didn’t think that much about it. I just don’t want him going broke thinking he’s going to be in the doghouse if he comes home without roses, fancy jewelry and a heart-shaped box of candy like you see on TV. He can get into the doghouse all on his own. But there was a little sugar-free chocolate involved.
I also want to tell you how I’ve been trying to find ways–cheaply–to detox since reading Tox-Sick. I’ve finished the e-book twice and returned it to the nice library that I borrowed it from. Soon, I’ll get a hard copy so I can refer to it whenever I want to (and maybe get my cave man BF to read it himself one day.)
The first one is toothpaste, as I mentioned last time. Here in the local Walmart, I have only found one non-fluoride toothpaste, and that’s Tom’s of Maine. I’ve bought it before, but of course, BF refuses to use it, since it “tastes weird.” (Dude–you’re weird!) I’ll keep looking, but you know that Amazon has a selection of, well, absolutely everything.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Trader Joe’s has a small selection of health & wellness products. I’ve used them occasionally and known about them for a while. Britta and Carli Garsow of Twinspiration recently reviewed a few. But I knew what I wanted when I went in there last week–the Tea Tree Tingle Body Wash.
I’ve used it before, along with bars of their tea tree oil soap. But after reading in Tox-Sick about an ingredient called sodium laureth sulfate–avoid it any way you can–I knew that I could find something to replace the accumulated Avon stuff I’ve been using up for a while.
That bottle is $3.99 for 16 ounces, and as you can see, has NO sodium laureth sulfate.
I have to go look again, but I didn’t see any SLS in Dove body products, which are available locally at <cough> Walmart. I’ll also check out Dove’s shampoo and conditioners. I used to use Dove, but one day, somehow, switched to Tresomme. I didn’t see any SLS in Tresomme conditioner, either, but again, more research as I run out of things that I would like to stop using.
Trader Joe’s carries Tom’s of Maine as well as their own brand of fluoride-free toothpaste. Next trip, I think I’ll stock up on their body wash and toothpaste.
They’re not all the same
I have tried the natural, aluminium-free deodorant from Trader Joe’s. Much as I was hoping for a less-toxic odor prevention, the TJ’s natural deodorant left me smelling like a locker room after this year’s OT SuperBowl. At work, no less, after a walk through the Houston Tunnel–not good. Tom’s of Maine has one, and I’ll try it soon.
I considered getting BF a tube of TJ’s shave cream, but I couldn’t get him on the phone because he was disassembling a leaking toilet at the time. (It wasn’t the AC, and we were thankful for that.) Maybe next trip. (Toilet’s fine now.)
What about BF?
BF, of course, thinks this is all a bit bonkers, especially we have two types of toothpaste in our bathroom now, while he chews on his Tums and drinks milk while taking an OTC proton-pump inhibitor. When he took a whiff of the TJ’s body wash, he turned up his nose and said, “it smells weird.” That’s what I get for living with a cave man.
I had a water filter on my shower in Houston, and maybe I can talk him into that at the Casa. I haven’t mentioned the whole-house reverse osmosis filter again, either.
There is only one small square of carpet in the house, and that’s in the bedroom closet. Hopefully that’s old enough that it’s not out-gassing anything now, and we’ll be safe from that. But no more carpet, please.
In the matter of cans. . . .
Remember the slow cooker pizza sauce? I showed you the non-GMO product in cans that did not contain BPA. I’m looking for that all the time now. It’s pretty easy in Whole Foods, because most everything they sell is like that. But in Walmart. . .keep your eyes peeled! I’ve long told BF that any food product thing sold under their “Great Value” brand is suspect, and I avoid buying them. But sometimes, that’s all they have, for things like olive oil that isn’t extra-virgin. They even have some “organic” products, but I don’t know how “organic” they actually are; I never checked.
In fact, I noticed that the last can of GV cannellini beans I bought and used not only didn’t taste that great, they were hard, like they weren’t completely cooked. So no more of those. I’ll stick with Winn-Dixie’s or Bush’s.
BPA hurts men
Friend of the bog JKH, LK’s sister, is a big proponent of NO cans at all, ever. This makes sense, because the BPA can affect her teenage son’s development. BPA, (or by it’s full name, Bisphenol A) the chemical that’s in a lot of cans and plastic stuff. (Here are more tips for avoiding it.) Of course, completely avoiding canned foods is difficult in the real world, but. . . I do try. (Keeping BF from rampaging through Walmart on payday wielding his debit card like a sword helps.) While I use up the cans of things I brought from my kitchen in Houston, I am now seeking out cans that don’t contain BPA.
I explained to BF that BPA is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor, and that it could “turn you into a woman.” As usual, he dismissed my comment as, er, “nonsense.” (Never mind what he really said.) No, he won’t be able to get pregnant, but the xenoestrogens (synthetic estrogen compounds) can cause some issues with “feminization” in males. (Think “man boobs.”) Even the National Institutes of Health knows about this.
BF doesn’t get why I don’t want to use his aluminum pots and pans with half the Teflon scraped out, preferring to use my own uncoated stainless ones, or one of the seasoned cast iron pots we have. But there are gender-bending endocrine disruptors are in those nonstick pots, too. And yet. . .I’m “fussy.”
Teflon, the great kitchen innovation.
Remember what I said last time about low-fat being nonsense? The flawed “logic” behind Teflon and other nonstick coatings is that you can cook without using fat. Problem: real fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil) is what keeps you alive, sugar can and will kill you. So can Teflon, or at least cause a few problems. These chemicals leach into your food. Reducing chemical exposure best you can is what you’re after.
Well, anyway. . . .
We were out of popcorn
The other night we used the last of the HEB popcorn I brought from Houston. Yes, the 4-pound bags I bought or $2.64, and I had two unopened bags from our last trip in October. We emptied out the last one the other night. BF has become very fond of my version of microwave popcorn, as I described in The Popcorn Post last year. What I have been doing since moving here is to put a little coconut oil in the bowl with the kernels, popping it, pouring a little melted butter, then olive oil, on it, then seasoning it with some of Paula Deen’s House Seasoning and tossing. It’s just kosher salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder. I’ve been making and using that for years, but only grabbed it one night for popcorn and discovered that it’s pretty darn good.
Then one night, HE tasted it. Now that’s the only popcorn BF will eat. I suppose that’s good, because it’s so much healthier than the chemical-laden microwave popcorn he was buying. But now I make more, because BF has fallen in love with it.
The Orville Redenbacher Affair
Out on a milk run, I asked BF to get more popcorn, since we were now out. This is what he brought home:
The first thing I looked for was the “no BPA” on the label. Nope. But it is gluten free!
Hint: this is raw popcorn, and it was gluten-free a long time ago. Like, when it was discovered. Like the first time someone made salsa, OK? That too is gluten-free. But I digress, I guess you have to look these days, because you never know.
That’s nice, but. . .as I mentioned in The Popcorn Post, raw popcorn has not been genetically modified. However, Conagra is apparently part of a non-GMO project–which I haven’t yet read about, maybe next week–so they put it right on the label, just like the Hunt’s tomato products.
So what did I do? I decided to call Con Agra and ask them a few questions:
I was told by the nice lady who answered that not only does this jar not have BPA in it, NONE of their products do, anywhere. That made me feel better, but I still made BF buy me a nice glass jar with a clamped stopper at Hobby Lobby the other day so I could fill it with popcorn and make it look nice in the pantry.
Do you give your babies popcorn?
The warning, however, was a surprise to me. Are people giving babies and toddlers popcorn, requiring that warning on the label? Seriously? Doesn’t anyone teach new parents how to feed babies anymore? That really reminds me of the warning labels on hair dryers and curling irons telling you not to use it in the shower. Someone has actually done this, somewhere. I hear comedian Bill Engvall say, “heeeere’s your sign . . . .”
Jambalya, crawfish pie, filet gumbo. . . .
OK, so, despite my best efforts, I have not been able to avoid “real Louisiana food.” I had quite enough of it as a kid, and I just don’t care if I never have it again. I don’t lay awake at night wishing for jambalaya like I would for something from HEB with Hatch chiles. BF likes to make a quick version of what he calls “jambalaya.” From a rice package, and he adds in more rice.
We were out of the stuff he usually uses the other day, so he pulls from the pantry a box of this stuff, local brand Tony Chachere’s. You can get this in Houston, and I’ve bought the TC seasoning. But then, I read the ingredients. . .oh, HELL NO.
After explaining to the BF, again, that I’m allergic to soy, he paid attention and put it back in the cabinet. I really won’t eat it, I’m allergic to soy. A quick search for “gluten free jambalaya mix” the next day showed me that Zatarain’s was indeed gluten free, by virtue of no gluten in it.
Granted it’s not a perfect solution, and it’s one of the rare occasions that I’ll eat rice. But it’s not loaded with wheat, soy, and the industrial sludge known as “vegetable oil.”
But I did, at his request, make him some brownies from a box Friday night. It called for a half-cup of industrial, I mean, vegetable oil, which, of course, is nearly always hydrogenated soybean oil.
Talk barbecue to a Texan?
Then there was the trip to BF’s favorite BBQ place in Hammond, which happens to be up the street from the only Starbucks around. Everything is a sandwich, or you can get some BBQ in. . .styrofoam. UGH. I passed on a cup of water because it was styrofoam, only to discover that the food was served in it. He couldn’t understand “the big deal.” I told him I’d like to stop being poisoned. Styrofoam leaches chemicals into whatever you put in it, especially something like coffee, and the compounds stay in your system forever. Next time he will be dropping me off at Taco Bell, which is a little further up the street, but on the way to Starbucks and that place. They use paper.
Besides–that was the most tasteless BBQ I’ve ever had. I’m a Texan, for heaven’s sake! It just didn’t taste like anything but shaved meat in a bland sauce. Sorry, Honey, it’s true. I can do infinitely better than that. But if that’s what he likes, I’m not going to argue, I’ll just get that lovely Power Bowl at Taco Bell.
The Safe Haven With Food
This is not to say that I’m a paragon of virtue–far from it, Dear Readers:
Now and again, I’ll try something new:
Yes, she did, and it’s pretty good:
But ‘s not every day, honest. And they don’t have the salad bowls here, nor in Baton Rouge, even near LSU. In fact, I was told yesterday that there’s only one store around that has salads and sandwiches–and that’s down in New Orleans.
Sometimes, it’s either eat what you can forage, or don’t eat anything. We sometimes have to forage.
Since Starbucks’ primary stock and trade is brewed coffee, they lose money when I come back and say, “Bartender!” Because they have to make me another decaf. (They’re really nice to me in the Hammond store, though, and a few of them know me.) The cup gives me a ten-cent discount, and I’m a Starbucks Rewards member, so refills are free as long as I’m there. And I don’t do that every day.
Cleaning up is another area that I have tried to improve as well, but we’re limited by availability. I still use original blue Dawn for dish washing (we don’t have a dishwasher like I had in Houston), and there are steel wool soap pads under the sink for the occasional need.
Combining two households means that we have a lot of stuff under the sink, even though I left a whole bunch of it behind when I moved. (That wasn’t my choice.) I still have some of those Martha Stewart Clean products, even though you can only get it online now. (Amazon doesn’t even carry them anymore.)
Catmandu and Kismet
I used to have cats, and my two were kind of old when they passed to the Rainbow Bridge. (Jezebel the step-kitty was actually the GER’s cat, and about 8 years old when she went.) Kismet, the tabby, well, I don’t know why, but he just stopped using the litter box one day. Bribing with treats only meant he’d walk in and walk out of the litterbox, waiting in the bathroom doorway for it. He didn’t get it that he’d have to, um, “produce” to get a treat, and would sit there for hours, just waiting.
I went looking for something to get the cat smell out of the carpet, and somewhere, I found Biokleeen’s Bac-out for pet odors.
Fast forward a few years. . . .
Now I live with two dogs and a cat, and the dogs. . .well, BF’s solution to dealing with the dog accidents has been Lysol’s multi-surface cleaner, and I think it’s this fruity Tangerine Mango scent stuff he likes. He pours it over the area and leaves it for a while, then mops it later. It leaves behind a strong chemical perfume smell that covers the odor but doesn’t get rid of it. Dogs know this and can smell past the Lysol. And it’s not healthy for man or beast.
Then we ran out of Lysol
I went under the sink and found the Bac-Out and sprayed it all over the offending area. We use less because it’s a spray, and it removes the odor from the spot. (Of course, there’s the matter of the dog’s learned behavior, but that’s another matter.) A quick mop, and it’s gone until the next time. I don’t know where I found the first bottle, but in addition to buying it on Amazon, you can get it at Whole Foods and a few other places. (I picked up another bottle last trip to Baton Rouge, we needed it.) The spray bottle at Whole Foods in Baton Rouge is $8.99, and the non-spray bottle, which I used to refill the spray bottle, is $8.49.
Over time, I plan to change the things we bring into the house so that we aren’t using as many toxic chemicals inside for us as well as the fur babies. Eliminating nasty toxins is the goal. But it’s also a matter of what we can get at Walmart or Winn-Dixie, or have to drive to the Hammond Target to find.
You can’t do it all at once
If you’re interested in detoxing, of course, read that book! Tox-Sick explains the science and reasoning, and gives a good understanding of why getting rid of toxins in your body, your home and your life is so important. But you know most of us won’t be able to do everything all at once. Cycle things out and change what you bring in. Make educated choices about what you eat, drink and use, and go from there.
I asked BF to please not buy the Lysol again. . .we have the Bac-Out, and it removes the odor instead of just overwhelming it with perfume for a while. Just gotta keep an eye on him in Walmart.
Coming soon. . . .
Something delicious from the Crock Pot, and it was easy! Mostly. I did manage to cut my finger when the knife slipped dicing the onion. And. . . .
Something deliciously chocolate from. . . Texas? Oh, yes! Stay tuned.
Tomorrow is Mardi Gras. *yawn.* I’ll be at Starbucks, the library is closed.
I’ll try *not* to be so late again.
Until next time. . .Enjoy!