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Cappuccino and salad days

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Here at HeatCageKitchen, we strive to bring you the hip new trends in cooking and kitchen stuff. Up-to-date tricks and of-the-moment trends that you just can’t live without whether you’re just starting to cook or have been in your kitchen for a long time. The goal is to bring you these new trends that you just need to know before your friends know.

“Try” being the operative word.

I’ve got an update on my cappuccino machine and a new idea that crossed my Facebook path that I’ve got to tell you about. If you haven’t heard about this already. Your friends will be amazed. Keep reading. . .

So, I was thinking that although it would be lovely to go out and buy a brand, spanking new cappuccino machine, the thrifty side of me says, no, it’s just the frothing part that doesn’t wanna work anymore. I have on occasion seen hand-held milk frothers in different places. This evening, for the project I’m about to tell you about, I headed to Cost Plus World Market and discovered that they have these little babies at $2.99 each. They run on 2 AA batteries (like nearly everything else I own, right?) and they froth up milk. They don’t HEAT milk, they only froth it up. Online, they sell them in a set of 3 for $8.97, but in the store they sell them individually. I bought the green one, the first one the clerk handed me. I headed to Target to get a big 20-pack of AA batteries.

You never know when the milk frother is going to go out. Or the TV remote. Or the flameless candles on my altar. Or some other little thing that uses batteries. I used to carry a Sony Walkman–yes, a cassette player, and later, one with a radio–in the pre-iPod days. And I can tell you that the batteries that lasted the longest were coppered, so that’s what I buy. And nobody paid me to say that. Anyway. . .

So I put some milk in a measuring cup and warmed it in the microwave, then used the handheld milk frother to froth up the milk. It worked perfectly, and for $2.99, I now have perfectly frothy milk again when I make cappuccino. Woo hoo!

Wal-Mart also had an electric milk frothing pitcher, but that one was $35. Very nice, of course, but that’s OK. I’ll continue to steam the milk and then use the little battery powered frothers. That’s perfectly OK with me!

OK. . .now. . .this is a most momentus thing I’ve discovered, and it’s cheap. I LOVE salad, and yes, iceberg lettuce as well as Romaine, butter and red-leaf lettuce, but it tends to go bad on me, even when I keep on it. I hate that, so as a result, I don’t buy it too often.

A solution has been found. I am testing this as I type this.

Lettuce stored in Mason jars, or “Salad In A Jar.”

Let me say first that this is NOT my own idea, but the brilliant idea of one Paula Rhodes, who has a website. . .Salad-In-A-Jar.com. No kidding. I came across the idea, as many, on Facebook. Such a simple idea, but you absolutely MUST seal the jar and get all the air out to prevent browning of the lettuce.

Naturally, this wonderful lady is in Arlington, in the great state of Texas. (I’m in Houston, I can say that.)

Another idea where I wish I’d thought of it, but. . .well, you know I’m not smart enough for that. (I went to college at night.) Well, I did figure out that Scrubbing Bubbles will clean your kitchen cabinets and other surfaces by melting off the dirt. That’s another blog post.

On my trek out I went first to Cost Plus World Market for the jars, which are $2.49 there. I also have a couple of jars that I kept after the Classico Tomato and Basil is gone. The process is the same for both types of jars, but there is an essential step that you must do. You MUST vacuum seal the jars and get all the air out.

I am not suggesting you get one of those expensive Food Saver sealing thingies, although if you have one, you have an advantage, there is an attachment for wide-mouth jars and a tube for this purpose. Maybe one day I’ll get me one, but for now, I just want cheap.

That’s the real secret of HeatCageKitchen. Livin’ on the edge (of the kitchen). Cheap.

So if you’ve ever seen those Ziploc vacuum seal bags, well, there’s a vacuum pump tool that comes in the starter kit, runs about $4 or $5. Well. . .the directions are to wash and spin-dry your lettuce, chop it, put it in the glass jar, put the lid(s) on it, put a small hole in the top with a pushpin, put a small piece of electrical tape over the hole (don’t seal it), and use the vacuum tube to pull the air out.

VOILA! Sealed up lettuce! (I think I messed up a total of four pushpins, but that’s what Staples is for.)

Best part–you can make salad for a whole week like this! Put the dressing in the bottom, and the lettuce on top, with heavier ingredients like hard boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, etc, in the bottom. The picture is from Mayra Cavazos, and this what she posted on Facebook:

Utterly brilliant, people. Not only does SALAD IN A JAR save space in your fridge, it also reduces food waste and gets non-salad eaters (me) to mow down daily.
THE ARRANGEMENT
From BOTTOM to TOP:
Dressing
Shredded carrots
Cherry tomatoes
Sunflower seeds
Hard boiled eggs
Baby spinach
DIRECTIONS
1) Arrange ingredients in a large mason jar
2) Store in fridge for up to a week
3) When ready to eat: shake jar, place on a plate, and eat!

You can make any arrangement you want… you can add red onion, cucumbers, radishes or peppers. Always remember to put the dressing at the bottom and the lettuce at the top—a MUST.

****NOTE**** If your making a few salads at a time for the week, you MUST remember to vacuum seal the Mason Jars. (Mason jars can be bought at Wal-mart, and various grocery stores) They must be vacuum sealed to remain fresh and crisp 🙂 Here are two different ways to vacuum seal a mason jar 😀
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhb1gfVSB9Y
Non Foodsaver vacuum seal 🙂
http://www.youtube.com/

If you’re having trouble wrapping your brain around this idea, take a look at Mayra’s picture she posted on Facebook and see if it makes sense:

Salad In A Jar

Is that not the coolest idea ever? And it’s SO SIMPLE.

So in the HeatCage Test Kitchen (ha, ha) I have purchased said Ziploc vacuum tool at Wal-Mart, as well as jars and the milk frother at Cost Plus World Market, and lettuce (and a few other things) at Target. (I went to Target first, they didn’t have it, darnit.)  I have three sealed jars of lettuce in the fridge, right now, and am thoroughly excited about this.

Simple, using readily available modern conveniences. I love it, and am hoping for the best on my end, too. I’ll let you know what happens next.

Since I my life will be soon become very busy, this will be a great help for my weekly food prep. You see, since I was a full-time working student at Tulane University (1991-1996), I do all my weekly cooking and wardrobe prep on Sunday, so that I don’t have to do as much during the week. (The crock pot cooking helps a lot, too, especially if I didn’t get it all done in time.) When I was getting home late at night, that Sunday ritual was a lifesaver. If I missed one thing, my whole week was messed up. Bad.

Salad, much as I love it, hasn’t been a staple for me, since I don’t buy it as much, it turns brown so fast on me. I’m hoping this experiment will work. I do love salad, and hate throwing anything out.

You can read all about it at Paula Rhodes’ Salad In A Jar website, plus lots of other of her recipes and ideas. (You can bet I’m subscribing now!) You can also see her video on YouTube doing exactly what I described.

Cross your fingers. This is the best thing to cross my path in a long time. (OK, this week.)

If you try this, let me know how your experiment turned out.

Happy Dining!

Verdict on Wheat Belly

Do you have a Wheat Belly?

Hello, Dear Readers:

Warning, this is a long one. But important. Go get a cuppa before you start reading, because there’s a lot to learn.

I’ve completed reading the eye-opening book Wheat Belly, and what I learned from reading it makes me say what I said the first time I mentioned the book in this blog after meeting Dr. William Davis in my earlier post on the subject:

STOP EATING ALL WHEAT IN ANY FORM, IMMEDIATELY AND FOREVER.

No kidding. It’s that toxic, even if you’re not sensitive to wheat or gluten. The “wheat belly” refers to what most people think of as a “beer belly;” a paunch that just won’t go away; but what if you don’t drink beer? Reading labels, as we all should be, will yield more places where you’d never think a wheat substance would subside (beer, too.) And if you or someone in your household has that problem with wheat and/or gluten, you’d probably already know all about it. If you don’t, go get this book and read it. Read the whole thing, now. (You can also get a Kindle version if you prefer.)

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor, nurse, scientist, or medical professional. I’m a patient who reads and pays attention, and I blog about food and food-related subjects like this one. I am not suggesting anything I wouldn’t do myself, and not prescribing or pushing any drugs or agendas. And while we can’t all look like Hollywood movie stars, at least we can try our best to be healthy and well with the life we have. Thank you.

Now back to the editorial.

I quit eating bread, pasta, and all that more than 10 years ago after reading Suzanne Somers’ first books that discussed her Somersizing diet plan. Only on rare occasions would I have something with wheat, usually at a party, or something from Taco Bell or Taco Cabana. (Sorry. Mexican food is a weakness.) Hate to call Somersizing a “diet” because it’s more of a way of eating, but. . .the food was good, and it made sense after years of “low fat” and “low calorie” that ended up not doing much but leaving me starving–and didn’t keep the weight off. Once in a while, I’d have something, like at a restaurant, a party, or the occasional wedding. (You know I’m not missing wedding or birthday cake, right? Ditto for a really tasty looking cupcake.) But as a rule, I just didn’t have bread or pasta around anymore, and didn’t have it on a regular basis.

When I did the yeast-free diet, where you avoid anything that would turn to sugar and feed yeast in your system, the hardest thing was to give up dairy, but I did it, and am only now starting to eat cheese again. Not a lot, and not like I used to, but occasionally, like in the Wheat Belly Biscuits I made recently.

Of course, while reading these books and seeing milk, butter and cheese discussed in the book and used in the recipes, all I could think of was, “I can has cheez?” Oh, BOY!! I’ve started buying cheese and milk again, sometimes. Not gallons of milk, just quart bottles, or even a bit larger. Inexpensive chunks of cheddar, Colby and Swiss. (No Manchego yet.)

I will tell you that when you avoid high starch things like flour, or potato, and then have some, you get a strong reaction when you “try a little.” Last time I did was a couple of months ago. One of my neighbors, ironically, works for a large medical complex in the Houston area. Her department had a public outreach activity after work which involved food. She brought me some of it sometimes, not a lot, but them lemon bars were lip-smacking good. One lemon bar, or one little bite of cheesecake, no big deal. Even a couple of cookies were fine. Recently, she brought these little square chicken empanadas. OMG–they were perfectly baked squares of dough with a chicken and poblano mixture inside. They were SOOO GOOD! I think there were about 8 or 9. I had a couple when she brought them home, along with some of that incredible crab dip, but decided to save the rest for breakfast the next morning. Good idea, right? Well. . . .

I put them in the toaster oven, and when they were nice and toasty, I ate them, one by one. Then I sat down to do morning prayers. And after 20 minutes, I had to lay down and sleep. HAD TO. Could NOT stay awake. I slept for over 2 hours (probably close to 3) and kept having really weird dreams. Not only was I going to England with a weird guy I used to work with, and seeing myself go through the TSA line, (never in real life, OK?) I kept hearing my own voice behind me say, “You really need to get up now.” But I could. Not. Wake. Up.

There is no other explanation than the insulin spike from the white flour, which I normally avoid. I will avoid it the rest of my life. I was tired like I’d stayed out all night, when in fact, I hadn’t. Much as I appreciated the treats–which were very delicious, of course–eating them first thing in the morning was not a good idea.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had such a thing happen. Back in the day when I started doing SugarBusters (along with everyone else in New Orleans), I’d been doing it about three months, and was married for about a year or so. We went to my parents’ for Thanksgiving, and my dear Grandmother brought something she called “Ambrosia.” I didn’t know what it was, but boy, did she insist that I eat some. Trust me, I didn’t need any, and I tried not to eat any. (Do YOU tell your Grandmother no? Me either. Eventually you give in.)  It was so good, I had seconds. (A small bowl, I promise.) On the way home, thank heavens I wasn’t driving–I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I threw the passenger seat back and was out like a light quickly, seriously upsetting the husband unit. I could barely walk up the stairs to our apartment–I was that wiped out, and I had no alcohol at all. I staggered to bed and slept for 3 or 4 hours. I was OK until I had that Ambrosia stuff. He was actually MAD at me for going to sleep like that, but honest, I really couldn’t help it. Later, I called my Grandmother and asked her what was in it. “Cool Whip, dried fruit. . .” in other words, it was just about pure sugar. Being off sugar for some time, then having that much of it was like taking a sleeping pill after the huge insulin hit.

Not doing that again.

I’ve occasionally embraced whole wheat since reading Suzanne Somers’ books, but not often, because of the high carb count. All flour-based food products like bread and pasta, as well as corn, potatoes, carrots, beets and others have a lot of carb in them, which breaks down to sugar in your blood stream, so I just don’t touch them (and, I hate beets anyway.) So when I first saw the book, I figured Dr. Davis was just talking about the high carb count, sugar/empty calories and all that.

Boy was I wrong. SO glad I finally read this book.

Dr. William Davis describes a legion of maladies that are directly tied to our modern genetically modified wheat–arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, acne, osteoporosis (modern medicine tells us it’s our estrogen or lack thereof) and even mental illnesses can result from GMO wheat. Not a joke–but most doctors won’t look for it, they’ll just medicate the symptoms. It’s not just celiac disease–and many people who have this sensitivity and other symptoms of it don’t always have celiac disease, either.

Yesterday, the deaths of three public figures were announced: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, actress and original Mousketeer Annette Funicello, and socialite-turned-fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer. Now, most people assume that celebrities and “famous people” have access to the best healthcare in the world. That’s not necessarily true, they may just pay more. Now, I can’t answer for any of the deceased, (no cause of death was released for Mrs. Pulitzer), but any one of these ladies may very well have been helped by no longer eating wheat at some point before various maladies appeared. Annette Funicello would likely embrace the absence of wheat, since she lived in California, and she may have. The other two, maybe or maybe not–who knows, right? But the compounded health problems of many years come together at one point and manifest as one thing. In Mrs. Thatcher’s case, it was a stroke (and not the first one) was what ultimately got the Iron Lady. Annette Funicello had multiple sclerosis (MS) and died from complications–it develops over time, hence the possible wheat connection. It’s hard to pinpoint one specific cause, many so-called “chronic conditions” are a manifestation of many causes, like junk food, drinking too much and excess sugar eventually turns into Type 2 diabetes. That’s the obvious, but other conditions aren’t that way, like arthritis, which Dr. Davis discusses in depth.

In other words, after years of eating this science-project-gone-wild-thing they call “wheat,” the effects accumulate and do damage–sometimes permanent, like brain damage. It doesn’t come out of the air, there is a specific cause for something showing up at a certain point in the future. His patients who cut out wheat are surprised to see many seemingly unrelated conditions, like skin rashes, clear up when they stop wheat.

Wheat’s toxicity can do the same thing–one symptom over here, another trigger over there, and you find yourself in a health crisis that “comes on suddenly.” Could be a heart attack. Could be a stroke. I’m not presuming to know that much about these three women to say for sure. What I am saying is that after reading this book and assimilating the subject, many symptoms, problems and diseases can be cleared up or even avoided completely by the elimination and total absence of wheat and the so-called “whole grains.” No drugs or special equipment needed.

Yes, I know, we’re all going to die eventually.

But why live with chronic sickness when you don’t have to?

As I mentioned in my first post, this is not the same wheat from biblical times, or that our grandmothers and even mothers had. For the last 40 years or so, wheat has been tampered with, gene-spliced, and mutated into something that doesn’t even resemble natural (called “einkorn”) wheat on a cellular/molecular level. It’s not the same thing on any level, but it’s still referred to as “wheat.”

At this point, you’re probably wondering what you’re going to eat if wheat-based foods are cut out of your diet. (There are, in some people, actual withdrawal symptoms due to the opiate-like effect of this wheat.) Concentrate on what you can have rather than what you can’t, and focus on discovering new ways to have what you used to. You’re eating real food, and there are splurges involved. Dr. Davis and his wife obviously worked hard on these recipes, and the results are obvious when you try it, like the biscuit mentioned earlier.

You can eat some good stuff, it just takes a bit of an open mind and learning about it. But if you discover that you really are allergic to wheat, having “just a little” will teach you a lesson you’ll not soon forget. Ask anyone who *is* allergic. (No, luckily, I’m not.)

In the Wheat Belly cookbook, there is a flaxseed wrap on page 231 that you mix up in a few minutes and make in a pie plate in the microwave. I’ve only bought flaxseeds once, and that was for a sewing project! These pancake-like wraps are absolutely delicious, and I’ve made and eaten probably a dozen since last week. Pair them with the salmon salad on page 125, which uses CANNED salmon, (and homemade olive oil mayo), and you’ve got a great lunch, gluten free, and completely tasty. OMG. I could make a meal out of a couple of those. Who needs bread?

Ooh. . .I could turn that wrap batter into pancakes and make some Agave Maple Syrup from the second Babycakes book. . .OMG, brain’s firing on all cylinders. Holy Shish Kebab–look out!

Anyway. . . .

A couple of weeks ago, I found another related cookbook in Central Market–The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking by Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace. It’s beautifully illustrated with some additional good recipes in it, and has some additional options for gluten-free living. (This too is available on Kindle.)

OK, I know, I shouldn’t have bought it. I splurged. (I promise not to do that again.) But take a look at that cake on the cover and you’ll see why I couldn’t leave it. Besides, it was 25% off the cover price in Central Market. (My tax refund came in, OK?)

One thing I was disappointed in is the recommendation of Splenda (sucralose), which is something I won’t touch. They also list Stevia Extract in the Raw, and New Roots Stevia; I’ll try those when I get to it and let you know how they work. (Dr. Davis uses Splenda as a condition of cutting out other stuff, but I still won’t buy it.)

I baked a loaf of what the authors call “Stout Bread” on page 38, which uses less expensive garbanzo bean flour instead of a nut flour. While the raw batter tasted kinda funky, the final bread was warm and delicious, and I need to make me another loaf because I have killed all 12 thick slices of it since the weekend. It stands up to toasting and butter, and you really feel like you’re eating Texas Toast, hence the name “stout.” There is no beer in it, just a really firm texture that makes it filling and delicious. (Hey. . .I wonder if I can make French toast with it? All the synapses are firing again!)

So what happens when you go out of your safe little kitchen? Lemme tell ya. . .yesterday, I was in downtown Houston and stopped in Starbucks on Smith Street, the Safe Haven With Food. I asked, and there was only one thing that was any kind of gluten/wheat-free. That was something called Two Moms In The Raw, a little 2 ounce bar called “Blueberry Granola” that cost more than I’d like to disclose here, but was indeed gluten free. It does have gluten free oats in it, and everything is organic. (Even Starbucks’ “protein plate” has a small cracker and honey-sweetened peanut butter.) This bar was not bad, but it is a bit on the high side. Sweet, but not overly so, and very, very crunchy. I was very early for my appointment, and just needed a quick bite before I went. You can read more at their their website.

This was my first adventure trying to be deliberately gluten free outside of my own regular cooking, but there are a number of ways to find gluten free recipes online, just pick yourself a website. Do a search on Martha Stewart’s website for a start, and find something. Foodnetwork.com will likely have some too, but. . .prowl around and find something. There are a number of sites that are devoted to gluten-free as well, just do a quick search and find one or two you like.

One warning that Dr. Davis makes repeatedly is that many products marked “gluten free” are not necessarily suitable–which is why reading labels is an essential part of taking care of yourself. (That’s true generally, but especially if you’re sensitive to soy like I am, or wheat like my friend BR is.) When wheat flour is removed, they have to replace it with something else, so it’s either cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch or tapioca starch–all of which will trigger that glucose-insulin response, causing you to gain weight (Page 72.)

Back when I did low-fat, I used to chow down on all those fat-free foods. Guess what? Didn’t help. When they take out the fat, they replace it with sugar, salt and other chemical additives that give it taste and something called “mouth feel.”  So while the fat was low, and maybe the calories were low, the carbohydrate impact made it worse than eating the “regular” food, if you can believe that. I’ve actually seen “unleaded” versions of stuff that had more calories than the “regular” ones.

And, if you go strictly by calories, you could theoretically eat candy bars all day and lose weight and be healthy. But, sorry, it doesn’t work that way. WAY more complicated.

This is an important subject for a lot of people, and that’s why I’ve been working on it sort of part-time to do a complete assessment. Needless to say, I’ve got no problem giving up wheat, since I really did it already. But if you’re suffering with chronic health conditions, and you’re on that “whole grain” thing, give it a try and see if something changes. I think Dr. Davis tells his patients 90 days. Really, it takes a little getting used to, but once you are used to it, no big deal.

But what have you got to lose? Illness? Excess weight? Allergies? Like I said, I’m not a doctor, but what would be the harm in trying it?

Besides–I want to keep my readers around to keep reading my long, rambling essays. This is my longest yet, but the topic is important, so I made sure I said enough.

Now go read this book and give up wheat, and find something healthy and delicious that you just can’t get enough of.

Happy Dining!

Macchiato Saturday Night!

Happy Saturday Night, Dear Readers:

Well, as I described in my last post, I have fallen in love with Starbucks’ Hazelnut Macchiato, a drink best described as a liquid hazelnut-flavored candy bar. Much as I enjoyed it and want more, but am not paying $3.50 for a 200-calorie sugary coffee drink. Not for a while yet. (No, I don’t want YOU to buy me one, either.) And besides, I’m still reading Wheat Belly, and want to avoid sugar as much as I can. . .sometimes I don’t.  After seeing the term “non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” or NAFLD, and its graphic description, I figure backing off sugar and being a bit paranoid about it (as well as wheat and soy) is probably a good course of action.This drink is made with a syrup as well as plenty of sugar, so, that’s for a special occasion, just like wedding cake is.

So in my quest for replacing the sugar-laden coffee drink I crave with something less sugary, caloric and less expensive, I put my thinking cap on.

Sometimes that cap is on too tight, but that’s another blog post.

I’ve been using my 12-year-old cappuccino machine a little more lately, and while it doesn’t froth quite the way it used to, I think, it certainly works for my purposes. Besides, when I went looking at new, more modern cappuccino machines, I decided the one I have works just fine.

Why do I have a 12-year-old cappuccino machine? When I was married to what’s-his-name (1996-2001), he got it in his furry little head that we “needed” one. (Where he got ideas like this is beyond me, but it wasn’t the first time, or the last.) I think I bought the first one, but it may have been one of our lovely wedding gifts. He knew how to use the metal kind you put on the stove, but not the electric kind. It fell to me to learn how to use it, and so, I did.

Then one early morning I made a cappuccino to hold me over until the regular coffeepot was finished. It was then that I knew I was truly addicted to caffeine. I’ve been on and off caffeine in the years since, but after my doctor told me to quit last year, I did, because one cup of regular tea in the morning was causing way too many problems.

The original machine was white, and when it finally gave out, I got us another one. Right before we called it quits. So I’ve had it ever since. I use it occasionally, not every day, and only when I have fresh milk. Dunno if almond milk would work, but maybe I’ll try it.

Anyway. . . .

What I came up with was to get some sugar-free hazelnut flavored syrup and see how well it would work. I’ll tell you about that shortly. Really, macchiato means “marked” in Italian, and the drink is simply a shot of espresso with some frothy milk on it, and some syrup or something on top. I got the definition here--it was the first thing that came up when I did a search. So my version is really more of a cappuccino, not so much a macchiato.

So here we go–this is the equipment:

Making a cappuccino

Ready to brew!

Alessi is the only decaf espresso I can find in Houston, and it seems like Central Market is the only place I can find it now. Darnit. The small Torani syrup cam from Cost Plus World Market, so that if didn’t like it, I won’t be stuck with a huge bottle of something I just wanna throw out.

The latte mug is filled with hot water so the coffee and steamed milk stay warm. (I learned THAT the hard way and now do it anytime I make coffee.) The milk pitcher was taken out of the freezer just for this picture and went back in when I was finished shooting it. So while the milk is getting really chilled, I turned on the machine (that knob on the upper left.) And so after a few minutes of listening to some really weird noises, the brew process started:

Brewing

As you can see, there is a third mark in the middle that indicates when to flip the knob around so that you can froth milk. Once the dark brew starts going down into the pot, it happens pretty fast. When the pot fills up to that point (just over 2 cups), it’s time to froth milk:

Frothing milk

Please pardon my hard-workin’ dishpan hands. Like the very nice Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, I am always in need of hand cream. Remember, idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.

Mine froths milk pretty good, but it doesn’t seem to be as frothy as it used to. Of course, you could have other problems more important than this one. (Yes, I do.) Up until recently if you put your hand under there instead of milk, it would not only blow very hot air very hard, you would move your hand because it would get burned. Now, not so much. But it still froths milk pretty good.

Yeah, I worry about this kind of thing from time to time. Keeps me from worrying about bigger, scarier stuff.

So when the milk is frothed to perfection, I dump out the hot water (usually back in the kettle for tea later) and then pour the steamed milk into the cup, holding back the foamy part with a big soup spoon. Just like they do in Starbucks, except I’ve never worked there. Usually I do that and put in my accoutrements (3 packets of pink stuff and frequently a drop of vanilla extract) first, but if not, I add it at this stage. In this case, I added two tablespoons of the hazelnut syrup, but I think three would have been perfect. When the espresso is finished brewing, I dump that in, then put the frothy milk on top, using a rubber spatula to get all of it out of the pitcher.

Have you ever tasted frothed milk? Then you’ll know why.

Now, most cappuccino aficionados sprinkle ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg on top of the frothy milk. Not me. Used to do that and one day decided to go all Giada and sprinkle cocoa powder on top. So Drs. Frasier and Niles Crane can fuss all they like at the Cafe Nervosa. . .me and Giada will be chillin’ with chocolate.

What you get looks like this:

Finally! Hazelnut Cappuccino!

Yes, that cup describes one of my philosophies. It also makes me a hypocrite because I have an unfinished fall/winter suit hanging up, and another one to make. I should have finished those by now and working on the “some other time” small projects. It’s March, I should be making spring stuff. Stitch ’em up, move ’em out, you know? I have a Donna Karan suit that’s been waiting to be made for three years now. But at least the cup reminds me I can go back to it any time I want.

Anyway. . .

How does it taste? Well, not EXACTLY like the one from Starbucks, but it’s a pretty good substitute that I can be happy with. The Torani syrup contains Splenda, which is something I normally avoid because of its chemical composition, and I’ll try another hazelnut flavoring without sugar, sucralose or aspartame in it.

So if you’re considering having something a little different, you are welcome to use my example and follow my blazed trail. Cappuccino really is good, and so I’m glad I have a machine to make it with, and I’ll consider adding different flavorings if I can find them easily.

Meantime, I’ve got to go wash up my cappuccino machine.

Happy Dining!

Wheat Belly Biscuits with Puns

Hello, Dear Readers:

I’m sorry–I’m stuck in a rut and I can’t stop PUNNING. Please forgive me. I’ll try to do better in the next post.

Well, as promised, I’m here to report on my first recipe from the Wheat Belly Cookbook by Dr. William Davis. No, I haven’t finished reading either one, but since this is primarily a FOOD blog, I thought y’all might be interested to know about this tasty morsel.

Get it? Tasty Morsel!

I did a pun. Or is that a groaner? Well, anyway. . . .

The reason I really wanted that cookbook was simple: while sitting at the conference a couple of weeks ago, I asked one of my table mates if I could look at it. Nice people being what they are, she obliged. Everything looked really good (even the ones without pictures) and I just , um, ate it up. (Punned again!)  Having done the low-carb thing for many years, I get the idea of living without wheat; but this book offers new recipes that are interesting and give more options than the meat-and-veg variety.

The Basic Biscuit (Wheat Belly Cookbook, page 245) recipe is what made me buy it. Seriously. Biscuits, wheat free, and you can make breakfast biscuits with them just like, well, McDonald’s! (There is also a sweet variation.) I was intrigued, and this morning, I had one. Sorta. I actually MADE the biscuits this morning, finally, and when they came out of the oven, I had three, one by one, hot, with butter and salt. They are SO good.

I have to point out that they do not taste like wheat (or canned) biscuits, nor are they “light and fluffy,” since there’s no wheat or gluten in them. They are delicious, chewy and substantial without being too heavy. Remember, it’s turning one type of ingredients into something completely different (or as a lawyer would say, into something for which it was not originally intended.)

So what’s the story? OK, the ingredients are:

1 cup fine-ground almond flour/meal

1 cup ground golden flax seeds

4 teaspoons baking powder

4 tablespoons butter, cut into small squares (diced)

4 egg whites

OPTION: 1/4 cup grated Swiss Cheese (book suggestion, I just had some grated Swiss in the freezer at the time)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and heat the oven to 350F.

Mix the almond flour, ground flax seeds and baking powder. Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter until combined.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks from. Gently fold the egg whites into the flour/butter mixture until well combined.

Spoon the dough int 8 rounds onto the baking sheet. Flatten to approximately 3/4″ thickness. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Yeah, baby. Take a look:

WheatFreeBiscuit

Looks pretty much like any other biscuit, doesn’t it? (Plain looking sitting on my handmade potholder.)  I put them in a fridge storage container while they were still a bit warm. Know what? They didn’t get soft and mushy. I’ve had that happen with other wheat-free recipes, and I guess it’s the golden flaxseed that did it. No complaints.

I split up the mixture into 8 parts by pushing the mixture gently into the bottom of the bowl, dividing it four ways (much like Rachael Ray does with ground meat) scooping out a quarter, then dividing that in half. This “dough” works easy; just don’t manhandle it too much.  I bought a round cookie cutter today to try making them rounded easier, as well as cooking my eggs in a circle to fit onto the biscuit. Neat, huh?

I promise, I was GONNA make an egg/sausage sandwich out of it. I really was. I tasted one, and it was all over at that point. I ate a second, and a third. Then I finally quit. They are that good.

However. . .

I use unsalted butter all the time (as one should when baking) but I found that the finished biscuit needed a bit of salt. So after the butter melted, I sprinkled a bit of kosher salt on it. Because EVERYTHING I eat now needs some salt on it, darnit.

WAY. TOO. GOOD.

Next for breakfast will be on page 164, the Good Morning Souffle that I can make and eat all week long. I definitely want to try the Raspberry Chocolate Cheesecake on page 256 one day. Trust me when I tell you I will not be sharing any of that one, either. Now look–I told you about this. I will knock over Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal AND Magic Johnson–at the same time–for anything combining chocolate and raspberries in one place. So make your own if you wanna try it.

Now the back story: ground almond meal/flour is more expensive. Since wheat and wheat products have become relatively cheap because of modern agribusiness, healthier, non-GMO non-standard ingredients tend to be pricier. That’s the price you pay for trying to be healthy, or if it’s a child, keeping that child healthy and well, and not on drugs that can make them sick with something else. We don’t want that. Generally, diet is cheaper to change than drug therapy, anyway.

My dad used to field comments from his spinster aunts when they would tut-tut about how much his kids ate by replying, “It’s cheaper than doctor bills.”  That was a long time ago, but it’s still very true. Healthy food is cheaper in the long run by the absence of illness produced by the unhealthy foods, as well as the subsequent treatments. If you don’t believe me, walk around your local Wal-Mart and observe. Healthy food is not always the most expensive; it takes learning more about what you’re buying before you shop.

I keep almond flour around for another favorite recipe that only uses a tablespoon of it. Recently I found it on sale at my local Target, and I bought extra. Over the holidays, my health food store was out of almond flour, so I got hazelnut, which was sitting right next to it. It was more, but it worked, and while I like both nuts, I can’t say one affects the taste all that much when used in the same manner.

Now, I’m by myself, so I don’t have to worry about other people complaining about the food (which is reason #9,753 of why I’m not married/attached anymore.) If I make something that’s not suitable for a royal luncheon, well, it’s my fault, I gotta eat it (unless it’s inedible.)  But if you have someone in your household who is allergic, this is important to know about, and how to work with. You need to know what they are allergic to so you don’t sicken them with something they shouldn’t have, and be able to feed them so that they don’t feel left out. Like the Babycakes books series, these recipes were designed for people who are either allergic to wheat or, like me, want to avoid it anyway without missing out on anything.

And in many cases, when entire families change their diet because of one member, the entire family benefits. Just an FYI.

And, BTW, wheat/gluten sensitivities, like its evil cousin, yeast overgrowth (Candida albicans) in the gut, can also cause behavioral issues and mood swings in both adults and kids. Not a joke. In the extremely sensitive, elimination of wheat can bring drastic results–but you don’t know that until you try it, particularly on children.

Remember, too, as I reported to you earlier–today’s wheat strains are NOT what they had in Biblical times, nor is it what your grandmothers and maiden aunts used to bake with. Today’s available “wheat” is the accumulated result of continual genetic modification for a) increased production, b) disease resistance, and c) saleability. Nobody bothered to check to see if consumption was harmful, and now, nobody will admit to it.

Anyway. . . .

You gotta admit, these people have worked hard on wheat-free, and have done a stellar job in their own way–Dr. Davis being the medical side, and Erin McKinney on the “end user” side. That’s what America is all about, believe it or not. Some people still like to do something new, something different, something great for their fellow man.

And as a grateful, hungry nation, we eat it up.

I did it again! Get it? We eat it up!! I’m on a roll today.

Oh NO! On a roll! But I haven’t baked any yet. . . .

Enough with the puns! This is good food for you and yours, and nobody has to miss out on much just because they’re allergic to wheat/gluten. You can, literally, have your cake and eat it too.

Help! I can’t stop the puns!!

I’ve got work to do folks, so off I go. Try something new this week, whether it’s a locally-made wine, or new fruit at your local Farmer’s Market, something wheat-free, something more natural, or just something you’ve seen but never considered trying before (like my favorite treat, Larabars.) You might find a new favorite you’ve been missing out on.

Happy Dining!

Sunday night ramblings

Evening, Fellow Foodies:

If you’re watching the Academy Awards, enjoy. I’m just not into it. I’m not insulting anyone who enjoys it, just. . .not my thing. I understand at this moment that Life of Pi won an award for something. Of course, I REALLY enjoyed the picture on Facebook of a big guy in a little boat eating pie with the front of the boat out of the water and a big ginger kitty at the helm. TOO funny, but not enough detail to show it here. Darnit. Beautiful kitty, too.

Speaking of kitties, Jezebel the Step-kitty got out today and literally went over the wall. Once I got my heart re-started, I went out and got her. She got some milk today, though, guess it gave her the gumption to jump up a 5′ Hardy Plank wall. Darn cat. I did buy a lot more kitty food for her today, though. She likes the Fancy Feast with the little cheese bits in it. Hope it’s good for her. The owner says she’s “spoiled.” Got a thing or two to teach HIM about taking care of cats.

I’ve been on a quest for good health for many years, never wanting to be unnecessarily sick with stuff that’s preventable. I’ve never smoked, never used illicit drugs, and rarely drink. It helps, I guess, but I’m not testing that by trying something different.

My father for many years told the story of an unnamed cousin who started serving her family TV dinners when they first came out, because they were new and “so easy!” Then one day, she woke up and couldn’t move her left side; she ended up in the hospital herself with malnutrition. I have no idea who this person is, we never met her; I’d presume she’s long ago gone to her reward. But that stuck with me, truth or fiction, and I vowed it would never happen to me.

A few years ago, there was an email circulating with people from all over the world with a month’s worth of food. While Italy was pasta and things, Asian folks had rice and stuff, but this is what they showed for Americans:

images

I found this picture on Google, it’s been around a while, so I’m guessing the little guy is full grown now. I’m sure they’re nice people, but. . .it’s all processed food and takeout pizza! There is no REAL FOOD here.

I’m all for the occasional takeout when life gets overwhelming, but there is no nutrition in this kitchen. The cheese on the pizza is likely not real cheese, depending on where it was ordered from.

I get it. We’re busy. But this is what a good part of Americans eat now. And it shows when you go out in public and see the results. Until folks get it that processed food isn’t really food and WILL make you sick eventually, we’ll see a lot more obesity, diabetes, and other preventable illnesses.

I never forgot that picture, and it’s even more true today. Honey Boo Boo, anyone?

In the name of health, wellness and keeping my weight down, I’ve done low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb, yeast free, “just eat good,” and yes, vegetarian eating. (Thought I’d starve to death with that one.) Because “red meat’s gonna kill ya!” (Rubbish.)  Low carb is my favorite, because you don’t have to go hungry, and the food is good if you know what you’re doing. (Note: avoid stuff marked “low carb” because it likely has stuff in it that you don’t want.) I like eggs nearly any way you can fix them. However, as far as losing weight, the hCG diet is what took off nearly 65 pounds before things went pear-shaped for me last year. I’m working on getting back my equilibrium, one bit at a time.

I shifted from low-fat to low-carb when the original version of SugarBusters came out. I know you can get the “mass market” version on Amazon now, but I have the original 1995 self-published version, which was only published in New Orleans. I actually attended a dinner with one of the authors–I don’t know which one–in 1997. It was an interesting lecture, and he was very nice. I didn’t completely understand cutting carbs yet, but I quit using powdered coffee creamer immediately.  (Yuck!)

Then all my friends who were doing SugarBusters shifted onto the next big thing, which was the blood-type diet. I stuck with SugarBusters until I started reading Suzanne Somers’ books, which were pretty much along the same line (and had delicious food in them, too!) A couple of years ago, my own doctor told me that my blood type is the one to avoid wheat and eat low-carb.

I am, as I’ve been saying for years, a cat. I have blood tests to prove it.

Anyway. . .since I started reading Wheat Belly and its companion cookbook, I’ve seen lots of recipes for dairy, something I quit a few years ago. I did the Yeast-Free diet one day and never went back to dairy. A little butter here, a little occasional cheese, but no milk, cream or half-and-half, just almond milk. But Dr. Davis, author of Wheat Belly, says, eat that cheese! I wanna kiss this man! (Missed my chance, but you get the idea.)

There are differing schools of thought on whether dairy is good for you or not. Me, I love it, but I mostly stopped it a few years ago. Like welcoming an old friend back, you know?

Along the same lines, there was an article last week in the distinguished Wall Street Journal by a lady named Melanie Warner. Her new book, Pandora’s Lunch Box, comes out this week. But after hearing Dr. Davis, and reading part of his books, this article is along the same lines, although she doesn’t go into wheat specifically here. But it’s another example of what we’re eating in the USA (and indeed, many parts of the world) that is far away from what real food started out as.

No, I don’t buy frozen chicken strips, or anything like that. I’m sure that if I had kids, they would consider themselves the most deprived children on earth because I would not give them “Lunchables.” Anyway. . . .

Today I decided to make a veg frittata for breakfast this week from last year’s Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof.

It has CHEESE!! And I don’t have to make breakfast this week. Just heat and eat. Well, this is what it looks like in the book:

Foolproof Frittata recipe

Worked my paws off, and this is what mine looks like, without a food stylist:

Amy's Frittata

Dunno why it’s all burned (it has since deflated.)  And some of the veggies got a bit blackened. Wonder if the big oven isn’t heating correctly.

It has yummy Parmesan cheese and Gruyere cheese. Well, I decided to get some less-expensive Swiss cheese today, since it tastes about the same. I like Gruyere, mind you, but it was about $8 for a square, and the Swiss was about $3. Next time.

After two Larabars this afternoon (Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte) I didn’t really have dinner; I’ve been mostly nibbling on shards of Parm cheese, drinking tea with milk/half&half and, well, nibbling.

I’ll let you know how it tastes later. . .meantime, I’ve gotta hit the showers and get some sleep. And nibble on some more Parm cheese shards. Back on it tomorrow.

Happy Dining!

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