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Low Carb Mexican Cauliflower Rice in a bowl
Mexican Cauliflower Rice (Keto/Low-Carb)

Cauliflower rice is a tasty dish for low-carb and keto eaters. I recently found a dish that uses it for Taco Tuesday or anytime you want something with a delicious Tex-Mex flavor. Let’s get started.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Finally, I want to tell you about another fast dinner recipe that’s good anytime. IF you don’t have a fussy eater like BF.

R2D2 And Cauliflower Rice

In my big Instant Pot post, I mentioned the Etsy shop that makes wraps to turn your ordinary IP into something else. In our case, mine became R2D2, because BF is such a Star Wars fan. It just made sense. And, let’s face it, it’s funny. However, I neglected to post pictures of what mine looks like dressed up as a droid:

IP with R2D2 wrap

Isn’t it cute?

I just happened to look on Etsy and found it. Becky has a wide range of them.

Left side of IP with R2D2 wrap

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

I haven’t tried any cauliflower rice recipes in the IP yet, but Corrie Cooks has a recipe for IP Spicy Cauliflower Rice. I’ll try that soon, even if just to use the machine for something that night.

Oh, and that little spot to the left of the IP? That’s a little burn mark. I’ll take care of it soon. My many-year-old coffee grinder blew last night.

POW!

I plugged it into the wall socket and heard a loud POP and a bright flash of light. Scared the bejeezus out of me.  BF was in the living room and saw the flash.  I showed it to him, and he said, “well, you got your money’s worth out of it.”  We looked at the underside and saw that the copper wires were exposed, and I suppose touched when I plugged it in. Into the trash can it went.

If I remember correctly, I bought it while I was working at Boeing so that had to be prior to 2012. So it’s time for another one.

Cauliflower: The “New” Vegetable

So, again, I read many blogs, both on social media and in email. One that I discovered a few years ago and only recently rediscovered was Carolyn Ketchum of All Day I Dream About Food. Her blogs are all about low-carb, keto, and gluten-free foods.

This delicious one-skillet dish popped up on Facebook or Instagram one day, with a graphic that said it was “keto.” Seeing as we were getting onto Taco Tuesday, I thought we could do this instead. So, without telling BF what I was doing, I set out to make it for us.

What Is Cauliflower Rice?

Now, cauliflower rice is this new thing that keto and low-carb folks do to eat something that looks like rice, and when properly cooked, acts like it. However, it’s infinitely lower in carbohydrates and takes on the flavors that you add to it. Suddenly, cauliflower is “having a moment,” and it’s the “newest” vegetable on the foodie scene.

I’ve found these recipes in a search on The Pioneer Woman’s website:

Of course, you could search for recipes anywhere, like Pinterest, or any blog you like. Flip a coin in any direction, you’ll likely land on a recipe for it that’s different than mine and everyone else’s.

You can buy all sorts of cauliflower-based things now, including my favorite, Caulipower Pizza. The company has added a range of new and healthier foods, including riced cauliflower, sweet potato toasts, tortillas, chicken tenders, and pastas.

Basic Cauliflower Rice

I’ve made the cauli-rice a few times, and honestly, I could eat it every day the way people around here eat white rice. If you have a food processor, you wash and cut a whole cauliflower head into florets, and grind it up until it looks like grains of rice. From here you can do a number of things with it, like the recipe I’ll describe shortly. Or, if you don’t want to mess with it, you can buy it already ground into bits:

Bagged Cauliflower Rice

You don’t have to do it yourself–it’s available ready to cook.

I can’t believe we can buy this here. I’m very glad our local Winn-Dixie carries it. I haven’t looked for it in either Walmart or Rouse’s yet. What you get is perfectly chopped cauliflower:

Open bag of cauliflower rice

You might think it’s white rice, but it isn’t.

It’s still raw cauliflower, of course, but it cooks quickly.

Holding a little cauliflower rice

See?

Cooking Cauli-Rice

To make cauli-rice as a side dish for nearly anything, it’s really simple:

Ingredients for cauli rice

The setup

Heat your pan on medium-high, then add in the oil and butter:

oil and butter heating in pan

Melt the butter in the oil like so.

When it’s melted completely, add in the cauliflower rice:

Pouring cauli rice into skillet

Here we go.

Stir it around and add in some salt and pepper:

Grinding pepper into caulirice

Grind it fresh or from a jar.

As always, use a light touch on salt. You can always add more if it’s not salty enough. Keep stirring for five to seven minutes:

Stir frying cauli rice

Cook it until the cauliflower is just softened:

Cooking cauli-rice

It doesn’t take long

And enjoy it with all manner of keto or low-carb dishes, or pretty much anything you like–even if it’s not keto. I served this with the Instant Pot pot roast I blogged about last week.

Cooking it like this takes out the “chalky” taste that BF doesn’t like–as well as Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, no kidding.

Low-Carb Mexican Cauliflower Rice In A Skillet

This dish was almost as easy as making regular cauliflower rice.

MexicanCauliRiceIngredients

The setup

So I got all the ingredients together and got started. This is one of those times I wish I hadn’t told BF what was in it until later. He doesn’t appreciate it when I buy grass-fed beef or anything organic.

One packet of organic ground beef

I get it when I can.

I did just a little prep work to make the cooking process easier, as I always try to do:

Cut veg and measured ingredients

It’s worth the trouble

Since it’s Taco Tuesday, there is the appropriate cheese:

Mexican cheese blend

This is easy, but you could use plain cheddar too.

The Process

Start browning your ground beef:

Ground beef browning in cast iron skillet

Just like you would if you were making tacos

Drop in the chopped onion and bell pepper:

Adding  pepper and onions into the pan

Now cook for a few minutes until they soften and the meat is no longer pink.

Cooking veg in ground beef

Add in the taco seasoning:

Adding taco seasoning

If you like the packet stuff, go for it. You can also use any kind of taco seasoning you like, or mix one up.

Step Two

Now add your chopped tomatoes:

Adding tomatoes into pot

And the cauliflower rice:

Adding cauliflower rice to skillet

Stir a little, then add the half-cup of chicken broth:

Pouring broth into skillet

Now reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it cook until the cauli-rice is done. This should take about eight minutes if it’s raw, and ten minutes if it’s frozen, according to Carolyn.

Cheese!

Now take that cheese and sprinkle it on:

Hand sprinkling cheese into pot

Almost there

You should have enough to cover the top:

Top layer of cheese in cast iron  skillet

Now put a lid on it until the cheese melts:

Lid on pot

And dinner is served!

Pan of Mexican Cauliflower Rice

Meat. Cheese. Taco seasoning. Cauliflower Rice. Any questions?

You can serve it with your favorite toppings like avocado and sour cream. If you have others not eating keto, tortillas, tortilla chips, or other non-keto things will be great too. Or, you can have it just like this.

Low Carb Mexican Cauliflower Rice in a bowl

Dinnertime!

Not the neatest picture ever, but it was delish. I don’t care what BF says.

New rule of thumb: do NOT tell BF what’s in it until he tries it!

If you’re interested, Carolyn Ketchum also has some additional recipes for cauliflower rice on her website. You can read more about Carolyn on her About page.

New Taco Tuesday Options!

Sure, tacos are delicious, but you don’t have to eat them every single week. It’s always nice to have another recipe that has the Tex-Mex flavors as another dinner option.

Since you’ll make it in one pan, dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes, so it’s great for a weeknight or a fast dinner on a weekend. And it’s healthy, too.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Amy's Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus
Amy’s Instant Pot Adventure

The Instant Pot–the newest obsession in cooking. Is it worth the hype? It depends on who you ask. Get ready for a long post.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Once again, I got behind in blogging. As we said in Boeing, I was “OBE,” or Overcome By Events. How many times has that happened? It’s been a month.

So, what’s going on? Well. . . .

Air Fryer Update

Have you decided on an air fryer, or decided against it? Neighbor E in Houston figured he’d pass on it after reading my report. I’m glad I could help.

Neighbor E also tells me that after the fanfare we experienced over the expansion of Baybrook Mall a few years ago, many of the stores have closed up and there is considerable empty real estate there. This includes my favorite Sur la Table. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is a reorganization, not a complete shutdown with liquidation. The company was hit hard by the pandemic closures, and they’ve closed half of their stores, including the new one in Baybrook that I was so happy to have (albeit briefly.) The stores in River Oaks, the City Centre on the west side, and The Woodlands are still open, as are a few others in Texas.

The Baton Rouge store in the Perkins Rowe area was also closed in the reorg. It was the only store in Louisiana, and I don’t know if many people ever visited it. But Sur la Table still has online shopping, which is my preferred method anyway. They introduced virtual cooking classes last year for $29, but the remaining stores are also offering in-person classes again. You can even learn from Martha Stewart!

The IKEA Order

It took two weeks, but my order from IKEA did arrive, two days later than the originally predicted delivery date.

Box from IKEA

It’s here!!

I got everything I ordered, and we have used the tealight lanterns a few times.

Rotera tealight lamps from Ikea in Galvanized

Aren’t they gorgeous?

I’ve loved the Rotera since I bought the first one, and thankfully, they’re the same as I remember.

Rotera with tag

Just like you’d buy it in an IKEA store!

Because I was very annoyed with the candles I bought locally, I made sure to get some of IKEA’s as well.

Two packs of Glimma tealight candles

Their own brand of candles.

Of course, I had to test them out for the next time we needed them. We actually have had one power outage since February, during a hard rainstorm two weeks ago.

Tealight burning in Rotera lantern

Heavenl

Yes, they work great, and they keep the candles enclosed and safe. The Glimmas work exactly as they did last time I had some, too.

I’ve also finally begun to replace some of my incredibly worn-out dishtowels. It’s a start.

Colorful dishtowels from IKEA rolled up

These were inexpensive and have a nice retro design

I tossed out the ones with big holes in them. I really liked the waffle type from IKEA, but they don’t make them anymore. So over time I’ll be looking for more, and tossing out the incredibly old stuff. I’ll be ordering more lanterns, candles and dishtowels, as well as some other small stuff we need. Hurricane season is coming soon.

Now onto the main feature.

Introducing The Instant Pot

Many years ago friend of the blog AK asked me what I thought about this thing. I had no idea, I didn’t pay attention to it. At the time, I was looking for a job in Houston. I just didn’t want to think about something new I had to learn that wasn’t related to an occupation. But over time, these electric multicookers started showing up in more and more places, and so did the recipes.

If you don’t know what they are, they are electric pressure cookers that also have multiple cooking functions built into the unit, including slow cooking. You can start a dish on saute, and then finish it with slow cooking or pressure cooking.

They’re also called “multicookers,” depending on the type of unit you buy. Some do the pressure cooking, some do not. And the funny thing is that they nearly all look just about the same as the Instant Pot brand. I once bought what I thought was a small IP, but it turned out to be a small Hamilton Beach rice cooker that was on clearance at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $12. I returned it.

Let me say that although the name indicates “instant,” it really isn’t always as fast as that. But that’s part of the learning process.

Amy, Why Did You Buy One?

Because my 15-year old CrockPot was deteriorating. I bought it when I lived with the GER. Here’s what I mean by that:

 

Crockpot Face

It became battle-weary from frequent use.

Long before I began communicating with BF, I used the heck out of this.  When I got here, I put all kinds of food into each one of them. A couple of years ago, I even bought a pair of two-quart ones later, nicknamed “The Twins.” (One red, one black, from Target.) I replaced the lid and the dial on this one, but some parts weren’t available:

Left side broken handle

This one is ready to go.

Missling right side handle

And this one is just gone.

But the biggest concern, which I noticed right before I bought the Instant Pot, was this:

Split electrical cord insulation

This is the main reason I chucked it.

When I showed it to BF, he said, “that’s a fire.” The GER, bless him, would have said the same thing. I didn’t realize it was that serious until I was getting ready to buy the Instant Pot. The trash men took it, so it’s gone. The four-quart cookers seem to be fine for now, but eventually, those will probably be replaced. One is mine, and in a similar condition, the other is BF’s, which he only rarely used. Both work fine.

How Many Instant Pots Are There?

Two words: MUCHO GRANDE.

When you start looking at these things, you realize that there are half a million appliances under the name “Instant Pot.” There are even more brands of “electric pressure cookers” and “multicookers,” so you have to know what you’re buying or you’ll come home with the new egg-boiling rice cooker that you didn’t actually want.

Many of these pots are branded, like The Pioneer Woman’s line at Walmart and the Star Wars line that Williams Sonoma had. I think BF would have died happy if I bought the one that was made to look like R2D2, but I didn’t. I’ll tell you why.

An Instant Pot is an expensive purchase, and I’m probably only going to buy it once. Although I did buy the newest model with coupons at BBB, I also did a little investigating before I decided on it. If you’re going to spend the money anyway, it makes sense to know what you’re getting. And, if I’m going to buy it, I might as well get the newest and the best model available with all the functions. That’s the kicker–those Pioneer Woman and Star Wars models have limited functions on them, but you might not know this until you go and use R2D2 or BB-8 to cook something.

Sure, I could have just bought another 6-quart CrockPot. But again, if you’re going to spend the money, get a good one, and get the best one available and/or the best one you can afford. So I did.

How It Works

Just like the pressure cookers from years gone by, the principle is simple: water heats up at a higher temperature under pressure and cooks food faster. Some food, not all. Things like roasts take less time than they would normally.

The old type like this one has been around forever. Nobody I knew ever used one, and of course, there was always the fear of damage.

Modern pressure cookers are electronic appliances with a range of features built-in. You’ll still have a pressure gauge, but the lid locks on and prevents you from opening it too early. They also require a sealing ring inside the lid to prevent leaks.

The key is the float valve, which lets you know that there is still pressure inside, or that it’s all gone.

What It Can Do

Dried beans cook in an hour. However, I haven’t had such good luck with cannellini beans. Either they’re hard or they’re mushy–nothing in between. I’ll keep trying since beans are cheap. Even the cannellini, which is locally produced.

Frozen chicken breasts or roasts cook in an hour or so. Not what you’d call “instant,” but infinitely faster when you don’t have all day for it.

Put the food in, click the lid on, seal the lid (if you have a different model than mine), and start your engines. If you’re slow cooking with it, just leave it alone until dinnertime. Note that if you’re using the slow cooker function, there won’t be any pressure buildup. That’s only for pressure cooking.

Understand that even after seeing these things for years and hearing folks bleat on about how incredible they are, I don’t have any experience with them. This is my first.

Slow cooking blogger Stephanie O’Dea emphasizes that she does not have an IP and doesn’t want one. Well, maybe one day she will.

The Duo Evo Plus

What I finally purchased was the six-quart Duo Evo Plus, a ten-in-one cooker that’s the latest and greatest but does not connect to the WiFi. This model automatically seals when you click the lid in place, which is a first. It has a wide range of functions, most of which I haven’t used yet. The included instruction book is simply an overview and isn’t terribly detailed. I found out later that there is a larger “full” manual that you download and print yourself. I have it but need to have a hard copy in the kitchen where I use it.

The lid on this model comes completely off with a circular motion. Previous models have a lid that flips up but sits on the base.

There are sealing rings and a small cup that clips on the back to collect condensation. Looks like it’s standard on all the models.

Instead of the cup of water that the other models use, the Duo Evo Plus requires a cup and a half, or 12 ounces. You don’t get that from the “quick setup” manual that comes with it.

The Purchase

I bought mine at BBB (with multiple coupons) right after its release 18 months ago. At the same time, I also bought a cake pan, a glass lid for slow cooking, and two egg bite molds to make breakfast just like Starbucks.

Empty egg bite mold

The key to egginess!

I love the bacon type. Turns out those egg bites are quite popular with the low-carb and keto crowd, and for good reason. I’ve since bought the silicone cake trivet because it keeps things from sliding around when you remove them, and not just cakes. There are a few other accessories I’d like to get later, but I’m not in a hurry for them.

I’ll be honest and say that I have not used all of the functions on this new and improved Instant Pot. I wanted an all-in-one model.  Mostly, I’ve used Saute, Slow Cook, and Pressure Cook. There is even a baking function, and I may play with it one day. I also wanted this one for the yogurt-maker function, but I haven’t tried that one out, either.

A Removable Pot

While all of the Instant Pots have removable inner pots, they are simply for use inside the unit. They aren’t designed for use anywhere else. However, you can buy replacements.

The Duo Evo Plus has one with silicone-covered handles on the side. (I think that’s the correct one for mine.) Add the glass cover, and you can use that inside pot on top of the stove, too. You can also take the pot out of the unit, cover it with the glass lid, and bring it directly to the table for serving. Just put a trivet or something underneath to protect your tabletop.

Of course, the IP has a big range of functions, like saute, so you probably won’t have to use the stove. But you never know, it could come in handy when you need an extra pot for something, right?

Quick Cooling

One of the newer features of the Duo Evo Plus is this little spot on top:

Ice rack on the Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus

The specially-shaped ice pack goes right here.

Sometimes you’ll make a recipe that requires “natural pressure release” (like the cake below.) In other words, you leave it alone until the float valve drops. Otherwise, the recipe won’t work right.

In the new model, this little tray makes that easier. Remove the grate and put the accessory ice pack right there to cool the machine faster and therefore release the pressure. But when I went looking for one of these ice packs, they weren’t available. They are now, so I’ll get one eventually.

Instant Pot Chocolate Cake

The first thing I made was a little chocolate cake with a recipe from Corrie Cooks via Pinterest:

chocolate cake

This was my first attempt, not pretty, but well-received by BF.

I decided to make it again this past weekend and add some rich, homemade frosting to it:

Chocolate cake cut open

Looks delicious, doesn’t it? BF loves it.

Yes, Corrie is a guy. I’ve made this a few times to BF’s delight.

When I told BF I would make one for him last weekend, he said, “oh, no, I want that cake with the regular flour.” Well, that was the plan, but he wouldn’t let me finish. I made the cake, two keto chocolate cakes for me (from Jen Fisch’s book), and our dinner for that day, all in the Instant Pot. (The frosting was made with a mixer, no cooking required.) The dinner was keto, but this cake was not. But I just really, really wanted to use it, too.

No, I did not eat this cake, but enjoyed the keto cake. I did taste-test this cake’s icing. It was so rich it made my teeth wiggle.

Our occasional dinner guest TT had a piece of it and told BF that it was “too perfect.” He insisted that it came from a store because it didn’t “taste homemade.” That’s because TT, like most people here, is used to boxed cake mixes. BF says it’s very rich. With a stick of butter in the cake and two in the frosting, plus a lot of sugar, you bet! It was indeed homemade in the IP, with the icing whipped up in a bowl, so I guess I did well with it.

Note that while my IP has a “bake” function, Corrie’s recipe uses the “manual” function. Not every IP has “bake,” but they all have a manual button.

Egg Bites In The Instant Pot

This is one of the main reasons I bought this thing. I love egg bites. Well, let me say that they are a bit more trouble than, say, hard-boiled eggs. They take longer, and involve more prep work, depending on what you put in them.

Cooked egg bites on red plate

Aren’t they delish?

After futzing around with Ree Drummond’s recipe for a while and then one or two from Jen Fisch, I more or less created my own with:

  1. 8 eggs
  2. Cooked bacon, chopped up after cooking (it’s easier that way)
  3. Alternate: breakfast sausage, browned and drained (hence the saute function, although I forgot on the first try)
  4. Alternate: chorizo, browned and drained, which you can either make yourself easily or buy in the grocery (even here!)
  5. Heavy Whipping Cream (a cup, I think)
  6. A half-cup of sour cream (optional, adds body)
  7. Cheese of some kind, about a half-cup to a cup (the leftover shredded Mexican blend from Taco Tuesday works just fine)
  8. A splash or two of Chipotle Tabasco
  9. Salt
  10. Pepper
  11. A can of chopped green chiles (optional)
  12. Anything else I feel like chopping and tossing in

 

You mix the eggs with the cream and sour cream (if using). I like to use the immersion blender here, and then switch to a whisk or spatula for the rest of it.

Ree Drummond recommends adding the cheese and cooked chopped bacon into the molds first. Jen Fisch doesn’t. Your choice.

 

Cooking chorizo with onion

 

 

 

Make sure to drain off the grease from bacon, sausage, or chorizo before you proceed.

 

Spray the egg bite molds, then add your ingredients:

You can do it this way or just dump them all in together. I’ve done it both ways.

Cooking Egg Bites

 

Egg bite molds half full

Trust me on this–spray your egg bite molds.

Also, don’t fill them to the top. You’ll be covering them with foil before putting them into the IP, and they will expand like popovers if you overdo it. Ask me how I know this. <grin>

Egg bite mold covered in foil in IP

Add a cup (to 1.5 cups) of water in the bottom, put foil on top of the egg bite molds (not the lids that came with them, I dunno why), and put them on top of the metal trivet (or the silicone one if you’d rather.) Seal it up, and pressure cook for 18 minutes.

IP cooking

This was somewhere towards the end of the process.

For these, I went ahead and used the “quick release.” That is, I flipped the switch on the top of the lid and it depressurized quickly. Remember to stand back from the steam, because it will burn you.

I make two batches at once (that’s why I bought two molds) and then scoop them out with a big spoon.

Cooked egg bites

Breakfast is served!

It was a trial-and-error situation because if I cooked them for 15 minutes it wasn’t long enough. Into the trusty microwave they went to finish:

Microwaving egg bites

Oops.

Then I just put them into food storage in the fridge. But lately. . .well, maybe again soon.

These molds can also be used to make other things like cake pops. I haven’t tried that yet.

Other Notes

I wasn’t kidding when I said to use the cooking spray:

Egg bite molds with stuck egg

See?

They will slide right out with the aid of a big spoon IF you have them sprayed well. Do that right before you fill them or the oil will roll down into the bottom. Again, never mind how I know this.

Make batches for the week and freeze them whenever you want, or just refrigerate them for tomorrow’s breakfast. I’ll admit that it is more trouble than just hard-boiled eggs. But if you really like them, go for it. You can find thousands upon thousands of recipes on Pinterest or with a simple search.

No, BF won’t eat them either. It’s not that there is anything offensive IN the egg bites, even if it’s bacon and eggs and cheese. He just doesn’t like that the idea came from Starbucks.

The IP Cheesecake

Yes, you’ve seen this before in my cheesecake post. After being ill last year I kind of fell out of love with the cheesecake, but that’s OK. Both are still delicious anytime.

When Jen Fisch’s last book, Keto In An Instant, arrived, I knew I had to try her recipe in the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Cheesecake

Cheesecake! Sugar-free, gluten-free, and thoroughly delicious!

Now, I already had the six-inch springform pan from about 1996. . .used once or twice, and I think for BF’s IP chocolate cake, too. But this is a real cheesecake with a nut crust that’s baked in the Instant Pot. Yes, it’s very good, and it’s pretty easy to make.  The crust is also not damp like you’d think due to aluminum foil on the bottom. Jen’s recipes are delicious, I don’t care what BF says. I need to get her book that I don’t have soon.

If you get just one book for the Instant Pot, I highly recommend Jen’s. Her recipes are easy, delicious, and, honestly, the ones that BF will eat and likes the best. I’ve told her that on Instagram, and she said it made her happy to hear it.

After writing four cookbooks in two years, it’s going to be a while before Jen writes another cookbook. (I asked.)

More Than Cheesecake

Jen has some of her delicious Instant Pot recipes here on her website. Unfortunately, these aren’t the ones I’ve made for us! From the same book, I’ve made some creamy Brussels sprouts with bacon, a quick IP Gumbo (minus okra–sorry, we hate it in gumbo), an incredible crab bisque for two, and a tasty chicken with pancetta and broccoli recipe. (Gotta keep pancetta stocked in the freezer, of course.) Jen’s Chicken and Green Chile Soup on page 80 is also delicious, but BF won’t touch it because of the poblano and jalapeno peppers. But guess what? It’s not “hot” because you take out all the seeds and ribs. His sister and brother-in-law did like it.

While BF loves the non-keto chocolate cake you see here, he also enjoyed Jen’s keto chocolate-espresso lava cakes on page 193. So there’s good food to be had in all of her books, especially this one, even if you aren’t eating keto. There are plenty more recipes we haven’t tried but will over time.

The Instant Pot Brand

Although the company started out with one product, you have probably seen a range of branded IP products that are not cooking pots. There’s a blender now, an air-fryer oven, and other stuff. There are also other “pressure cookers” that aren’t from Instant Pot. I didn’t want any confusion when I started so I just bought the IP brand.

For starters, there are lots of accessories you can buy, including those that are IP branded. Oxo has a range of products for the pressure cooker as well, and you can find a range of them on Amazon and in stores like Walmart, Target, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Recipes are everywhere, on Pinterest and other places on the web. Newer cookbooks bring new recipes made for pressure cooking. There are multiple books on the subject that you can find pretty much wherever you look.

Instant Pot Accessories

There is no end to the accessories you can get for the Instant Pot, including this air fryer lid that fits every model except mine. In fact, a search for “Instant Pot Accessories” on Amazon brings over 3,000 things you can get for your IP, like this set of over 100 pieces. Whatever you buy, always check to make sure that whatever you buy will work with yours. (Yes, they’re my affiliate links.)

For fun, I also bought a wrap to make my IP look like R2D2. The maker, Becky of InstantWrapsUSA on Etsy, creates a range of colorful wraps to have a little fun with your machine. I had to wait a while because, at the time, she wasn’t doing Duo Evo Plus, but has since added them to her lineup. I asked about a Doctor Who version, and she said she’d do that on request. They wrap around the front with a cutout for the control board and attach with magnets at the back. If you should spill something, just carefully wipe it clean.

And for fun, I also found this very nice accessory for the stand mixer. Yes, I will get a decal to turn my black Kitchenaid stand mixer into a Suzy Homemaker model.

Resources

If you’re wondering where to learn more about this abominable beast, I’ve collected some Instant Pot resources that I use regularly.

Books

In addition to Jen Fisch’s book with IP recipes, I also have:

  • How To Instant Pot by Daniel Shumski. He’s the same author of another favorite, Will It Waffle? I went looking for his subsequent books one day and discovered this one. Shumski also has one more book that I would like to get called Will It Skillet? This one is all about cooking in the classic cast-iron skillet. Oh, look! He’s got yet another one coming in September called How To Sous Vide! Ok, I’ll add that to my list, too.
  • The Pioneer Woman Cooks: The New Frontier, Ree Drummond. In addition to the books I was receiving from Callisto, I bought this one. There are several recipes for the IP here, including egg bites. She also offers a primer on the IP. I think I got this one and then decided to jump into the waters of pressure cooking, pardon the pun. Ree’s food is always good, with great photography and stories to accompany them. I started with the egg bites, but I don’t think I’ve made anything else there yet. Time to revisit. Her updated biography, Frontier Follies, is also an amusing read. Ree’s next cookbook is released in October.
  • The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook For Two, Janet A. Zimmerman–I learned about this book through my Callisto Publishing book review membership. (Recently I unsubscribed.) I can’t say this is the best book ever, but it’s pretty darn good–and cooking for two, not 12. There are multiple recipes I’ve bookmarked, but I haven’t made any yet. Why? They’re not BF’s style of eating. That doesn’t mean I can’t make them, it just means I haven’t. But the book covers a range of different flavors that normal people will find appealing. And it’s just for two.
  • The One-Pot Weight Loss Plan by Shelley Rael. Another of the many from Callisto, and the food is good here. The book isn’t exclusively about the IP, but has a number of recipes for it. Winner: Page 105, Turkey Chili With White Beans. It’s easy and fast, and you can have dinner on the table in about 30 to 45 minutes. It’s a good substitute for the Frontera White Chili Starter that they don’t make anymore. One alteration is that I use a can of Navy beans instead of cannellini because. . .BF.
  • One-Pot Cooking For Two by Linda Kurniadi. Another favorite from Callisto. Again, not strictly for the IP, but several recipes for it. Bonus: this book has an index of recipes in the back that are listed by the cooking vessel. There are 15 for electric pressure cookers. Included are recipes for baking dishes, sheet pans, skillets, and slow cookers. I made the Pressure Cooker Beef Stew on page 124, but subbed in coconut flour for the regular all-purpose. It worked well, as it does with other keto recipes, but I have a note to try another type of seasoning instead of the Italian. It was “OK, not great,” and it takes about an hour. I should revisit this book soon.

 

If you visit a bookstore or any online bookseller, you’ll find fifty million plus books on Instant Pot for nearly every taste and style. No kidding. Amazon has a wide range of free Kindle books you can get, too, if you just want to find a few recipes to start with.

Ready To Instant Pot?

I know this is a long post. But you know me, I’m thorough.

As with anything, you should consider whether this would be a good idea for you and your kitchen. It’s a big beast, so you’ll need space for it. Mine is in a cabinet until I’m ready to use it. A few months ago I used it daily for a week.

Neighbor E may not find it useful, but maybe Miss Alice will. But I’m not sure what the GER would do with one, even though he does cook well. At least he could cook in his outside electronics laboratory.

I first considered getting a smaller IP just for us. Then I read in the Janet Zimmerman book that you’d be forever confined with cooking smaller amounts. If you have the need to cook more, it wouldn’t be possible. So, I went with the six-quart.

I’m in a couple of Instant Pot Facebook groups, and many people have multiple models. Later, I could go with a 3-quart model if I wanted one.

Like the slow cooker, you can cook anywhere you have an outlet. During our February Big Freeze, that was a possibility, especially if we had a longer power outage.

What The IP Can Do For You

I keep hearing from folks who are just devoted to IP that it revolutionizes cooking. Yes, it will cook things like roasts, ribs, and frozen chicken in an hour. There are many recipes that are easier with it. But there is the learning curve to get over the fear of the thing going off and how it actually works in practice. The Shumski book has a good amount of instruction on the thing.

At this point, I’m over my compulsion to take a sledgehammer to it. And BF does like much of the food I’ve made with it, both from recipes and on the fly. I also use it as a slow cooker, and no complaints there, although it only heats from the bottom. Like a slow-cooker, it does keep the kitchen cooler if you’re just using it for dinner. Because it can also saute, you may not have to turn on the stove at all.  But I can’t say it has “revolutionized” my cooking yet, just gave me another way to make dinner. I’ve not yet come across the “thing” or the trick that gives me the magical understanding of all things IP.

This machine will do whatever you like it to, I suppose. It’s just a matter of finding what you like and want to get out of it, no pun intended. In a home with children, an Instant Pot can likely go a long way in making dinner easier. In a smaller kitchen, it can keep you from turning on the stove and oven, or cook one thing while your countertop oven is baking something else.

If you’re interested in getting one, do read some of the online resources I listed here. Know someone who has one and loves it? Talk to them first, see what they say, and maybe watch them in action. An IP has different ranges of functions in all of its models, so think about what you’d use it for. One day, I’ll make yogurt and dry-bake in it too. For now, it’s good for that turkey-white bean chili, a little chocolate cake, and the egg bites, and anything else we try to do with it. Just makes sure to read the directions and do the “water test” before you put food in it.

Happy Cooking!

 

Fifteen degrees on the thermometer
Big Freeze At The Casa de Rurale

Big Freeze of February 2021. We were there and lived to tell about it. Deer sausage was involved.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

I know, it’s been a while again. Still writing for clients. We all had a setback about six weeks ago. Perhaps you heard about it, and perhaps you experienced it. We did, and so did friends.

I’d planned on having this as part of another post, but it’s too long. Let me tell you all about it, with some news first.

Hubig’s Pies Return Soon

You read that right–the famed Hubig’s Pies will be returning sometime later this year.

I wrote about Hubig’s Pies a few years ago, and despite people asking for them, the company and its owners have been struggling to get them back into production. But they’re now on track for the return, 100 years after they first appeared.

Then, of course, the pandemic. They were supposed to return already, but bringing back such a well-loved tradition takes a lot of hard work. If people open up a Hubig’s and turn their nose up, it’s all for nothing. So, understandably, it’s taken a while.

BF will be all over them, I’m sure.  I’ll just watch from a distance.

The Big Freeze

OK, so. . .you want to know what took me so long to write again? I’ll tell you–we all froze over. No kidding. And Valentine’s Day was spent getting ready for the incoming winter storm.

We didn’t get to do our normal Valentine’s Day “dinner and a movie at home.” Sunday was spent making preparations as fast as we could. But BF did bring home something for me, even though he said he didn’t want anything himself:

Chocolate covered strawberries

Yes, they are as good as they look.

Admittedly, they were absolutely delicious, but I ate just one a day.

Single chocolate covered strawberry

Isn’t it lovely?

It seems that someone BF knows through work used to work for Albertson’s, one of the grocery stores in Hammond. She worked in the area that did this kind of thing but now does it on her own. Reasonably priced, he said, so he ordered some and brought them home the day before (Saturday.) He was off on Sunday the 14th–good thing.

Prep Work

We worked it–from pulling space heaters into the house to gathering up flashlights, candles, power banks, and every other emergency thing we have to do. This included washing clothes, dishes, and checking the foodstuffs we had available, knowing what we needed and what to get to prepare. That’s how we spent Valentine’s Day–preparing for the incoming freeze.

Unfortunately, the three IKEA tea light lanterns I had were left behind when I moved here, so we had to be really careful with the little candles. I still have some heavy glass tea light holders and have since ordered some of these Rotera lanterns from IKEA’s website, along with two packages of their tea lights. The ones I bought locally some time ago last about 15 minutes. With hurricane season just a couple of months away and the occasional random power outage, they’ll be well worth the wait and investment.

Fixing The Sweater

A couple of years ago, Simplicity published what I think of as the quintessential winter sweater, #S8738. Made with a sweater knit bought by the yard, this pattern just said “sweater” to me. I’ve made nine of them from different types of fabrics. All but one came from online vendors; the grey waffle knit came from a cut bundle at Walmart. It does get *that* cold here, unlike Houston and New Orleans. And for a freeze, well, you need sweaters, right?

Now I have a total of 16 sweaters. Some of the later ones were indeed made from Walmart cuts, including a black-and-white buffalo check knit that I made into this sweater from Simplicity’s #S9178.

This particular garment was one of the first of the sweaters I made from #S8738 using this fabulous southwestern knit from Fashion Fabrics Club:

Southwestern sweater

Isn’t it AWESOME?? (I love Southwestern prints.)

Problem: because the polyester fabric isn’t very stretchy, the collar was too snug, making it too hot to wear for very long. I had to wait until the weather was cold enough, but even then it was a “heat trap.” Solution: take the scraps and cut a new, larger collar, cut off the existing collar below the seam, then install the new one into the bigger neck opening.

Knowing I would need all my warmest clothes for the next few days, I set out to fix this sweater for good. I had to get BF to help me FIND the scraps, but once he did, I got to work. It didn’t take long. Now it’s more breathable and lets the heat out as it should. It’s one of the last things I did before we went to bed that night.

Monday, February 15

The freeze and storm moved through the entire state of Texas, bringing snow, ice, and power outages into Louisiana. Houston actually got snow, and some parts west of us did, but we didn’t. (Still wishing, but maybe next year.)  I was in touch with a few folks, and they had different stories to tell.

  • Aunt Ruth near Manvel, TX, lost her phone and Internet, and experienced low water pressure, but never lost  power
  • The GER lost power and water, and it got down to 58F in the Funk House/Junk House before Centerpoint restored power to his neighborhood
  • Miss Alice, now living in the Medical Center area of Houston, had power, but her bathroom facilities went out, likely to a broken pipe, and was subsequently repaired
  • RR in Katy, TX, aka “Banana Rat,” was fixing burst pipes at his own house as well as his girlfriend’s mother’s house
  • Neighbor E lost power intermittently, and his sister in another part of Houston lost power four times. Eventually, the power came back on and stayed on, and they were ok. He sent me a couple of pictures of the winter wonderland at El Dorado Trace:

El Dorado Trace Snow

This picture was taken just inside of the front entrance, and the office and clubhouse are on the left side. Farther left outside of the picture is where I lived for 12 years.

Nobody’s going swimming today.

El Dorado Trace Snow Day 2

Ice skating, anyone?

No Water

Water went down because plants had no power to operate, leaving lines and mains to freeze. But our waterworks in St. Helena Parish’s apparently had power, thank heavens.

We did offer Miss Alice, Neighbor E, and the GER a place if they wanted to come, but all declined. Neighbor E waited it out, and was eventually OK and enjoying his favorite hot chai lattes in his own kitchen again. The GER said he was helping out the “old ladies in the neighborhood who shouldn’t be living by themselves.” When I told Miss Alice, she said that he was “doing the work of the Buddha.” Well, he was, and people in his neighborhood are thankful.

Freeze East Of The Sabine

BF was at work that Monday morning and the freezing rain began about 10:00 am. We were up early–I started off with coffee and morning prayers and worked my way up.

Fifteen degrees on the thermometer

This is what greeted us on Monday morning. It stayed this cold for more than 48 hours.

We were out of dog food, and my plan was to visit Tractor Supply before the freezing rain got here. Well. . .first, the truck was literally frozen over.

Frozen-over windshield

That’s not thawing quickly.

I started the engine, but the thick coating of ice wasn’t budging. Just to get into the truck to start it, I had to crack the thick ice on the truck door handle.

Frozen door handle

The door handle was just as covered as the mirror. It had been raining for quite some time.

BF had the same thing on the blue truck when he went to work earlier that morning.

The outside faucet was frozen over too, so I couldn’t get water without turning off the truck. Most of the water on the ground was also sleet or otherwise frozen. Everything was freezing up fast.

I thought I’d use the TS app to order curbside–but the app wouldn’t work for me. Getting to TS before their employees went home was not happening. BF ended up getting dog food at Piggly Wiggly on his way home before they closed up shop.

Then about 10:30 am, the power went out at the Casa de Rurale. That’s when I started chanting for all of us.

Without Power

I made sure my phone was charged, plus the power banks we have were also charged. I was in touch with BF, Miss Alice, and Neighbor E by text, as well as the GER and Aunt Ruth by email. (Turns out the GER recently got himself an iPhone, and texts now. What’s this world coming to?)

I posted on Facebook and Instagram to let folks know what was going on. Well, everyone was in the freeze and doing the same thing. One of the Houston TV stations’ Facebook page mentioned lighting candles for warmth. So that was the first thing I did, putting them all on the dining room table. There is a flashlight or two in every room in the house, including one hanging next to my desk. But without power, candles are the way to go until you can find a way to generate heat. ALWAYS exercise caution with lit candles, especially with pets and/or children around.

BF got calls from the neighbors on both sides, asking if he had power. NO, but he knew about it from Entergy’s phone call and my texting. They worked until about 4 or 5, but BF went to Piggly Wiggly long before they closed and had everything ready for whenever they left the shop.

Pictures Of Winter

Meantime, I took a few pictures to enjoy:

Frosted Holly bush

You have to admit, it does look pretty.

Ice-crusted tree

This is a pecan tree outside the front door.

This green ground-cover plant by the tree didn’t die in the freeze–and it was fine after the ice melted.

Frozen plants

No kidding, they crunched when I touched them.

Social Media

One lady posted this in the official Instant Pot group on Facebook:

Instant Pot Plugged Into Generator

That’s using your noodle!

If it works, it works! I did offer to put the slow cooker or IP on the generator, but BF said we didn’t need to.  But I couldn’t leave this for the Instant Pot post.

This was also posted in the same group:

Instant Pot advice

Others posted these, good now as well as later:

Insurance advice

Plumbing problems? No, you don’t.

Freeze plumbing, part 1

The GER said that a neighbor chased down a plumbing truck just to get a part to fix something. It was that bad in Houston for a while.

And for fun, Neighbor E sent me this one:

Now The Lizzards

There will be a Shutterfly book at some point for all these pictures. We can look at them in the summer when it’s 90 degrees.

BF To The Rescue

Did I mention BF hates cold weather?

So while I was inside with the animals trying to stay warm and watching the temperature go down one degree at a time, I cut some fabric by the open window while there was still some daylight. I had another t-shirt under the sweater. BF told me not to worry–it would be fine once he got home. And it was.

You see, BF has been in this freeze situation before. For such a thing he has a gasoline-powered generator, as well as a camping stove that’s powered by bottled propane. From the minute he arrived and brought everything inside, he swung into action.

First, he went out to the shop and slid that generator across the ice-covered expanse of land, and set it up on the porch, running the cord in through the slightly opened front window. The cold air was kept out with a towel blocking off the opening. With four plugs available, two went to space heaters, one to light. We unplugged one thing to charge our phones, make coffee, whatever. We then went into town to fill up three or four jugs with petrol to keep the generator running.

Deer Sausage

If you’re a veg type, I’m sorry. People go deer hunting around these parts. Deer sausage happens both here and in Texas. In Houston, Neighbor J upstairs used to bring me deer sausage occasionally when he went to West Texas for hunting. The processors added too much jalapeno for him, but I thought it was delicious.

Deer sausage cooking in a frying pan on a camp stove

Deer sausage cooking for dinner. You have to boil it first, then fry it. That’s what he said.

About a month before our epic winter storm, BF had the opportunity to buy some deer sausage from someone who was unemployed and made it for someone who refused to pay for it. I was a bit perplexed when he told me about buying so much, but I just found a place for it in the big freezer. We’ve had it several times since then.

Dinner By BF The Chef

On this night, our dinner was deer sausage and eggs:

James cooking in kitchen on the camping stove

There he is!

I tease him sometimes that he cooks a little something and then prances around like he’s the French chef Escoffier. Teasing aside, shortly after this picture, we had a hot, freshly cooked keto-friendly dinner:

Eggs and deer sausage on a plate

Yes, we were indeed fortunate and thankful.

Light in the kitchen was from a big burly cordless Snap-On shop flashlight that’s to the left of him. It has a heavy, flat bottom so you can set it on a flat surface. The neck pivots up and down so you can get it in just the right place. I can’t find anything similar on either Snap-On’s website or Amazon to show you. There was still a bit of light from outside while he was cooking.

Our camp stove provided some heat, which was also helpful. But it should never be used as a sole heat source indoors.

Of course, BF was puffing his chest out a little, proud to take care of “The Little Woman” (me) in the harsh, cold winter days. He’s done this before and knew exactly what to do. I hugged him a little tighter and made sure I helped whenever he needed me. Miss Alice, The GER, Neighbor E, and Aunt Ruth all got a kick out of the picture, too.

Living And Waiting

BF connected a lamp to the generator so I could do evening prayers and cut more fabric. (I’ve got a huge bag of projects ready to sew now.) I chanted for everyone affected by the freeze, which is such a rare thing in this part of the US. Houston, Galveston, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and every place in between just don’t have that kind of weather very often. Most people aren’t prepared for it.

We had two space heaters in the house and ran them on the generator 24/7 until it was over. One of them was next to the dogs so they could stay warm as well.

In order to add more petrol to the generator to keep the heaters running, BF got up in the cold at 5:00 am, then went back to bed. He also ran the freezer and the refrigerator for a while on the generator to make sure everything stayed cold. Some folks reported putting their frozen foods outside–well, it is a freeze, after all–which technically works. But experts were also telling people it could be dangerous if the food thawed and froze again. We were OK.

The Java Cafe’

The next morning, I needed coffee. So I plugged the kettle into the generator and used a French press:

French press coffee pot with cup and hot water steaming

I had to have coffee, OK?

I also pulled down the old Krups cappuccino machine, which I bought in 2013 and rarely use.

Dusty cappuccino machine

It’s been a while since I used this.

We had milk, so I figured the freeze it was a great time to clean it up, try it again and read the manual, too.

Clean cappuccino machine

That’s better.

I can’t say that it works any better than I remember, but I’ll just have to keep playing with it. I only used it because it plugs directly into the generator.

Thawing And The Return Of Power

Our little enclave finally had power again at about 5:30 pm on Tuesday, roughly 36 hours after it went down. We turned the heater way up, disconnected the generator, and got back to it. The dogs were just so unfazed, and the cat just stuck with BF any chance he got.

Large falling branches coated with ice broke the power lines, causing the outages. ALL the trees had a heavy coat of ice like the pecan tree. The local state DOT came around on Tuesday morning and pushed them off the roads so the utility folks could get through and fix the power lines. I went out for a walk and surveyed the road. I’ll add those pictures in a little photo book.

The next day, we were busy washing up the kitchen, laundry, and tidying up everything that we had to postpone during the freeze. Aunt Ruth said later that her kitchen was a bit of a mess, too.  I couldn’t get any work done for two days, and I’m just now finally caught up, almost. No kidding.

A week later, it was 80F. No kidding.

AmyinHat

Yes, that’s me, just a week later, when the world had finally thawed. We were luckier than many.

More To Come

I made a delicious keto recipe last week. I liked it, he didn’t. But it’s fast and easy, and goes over well if you don’t mention “cauliflower rice” to anyone. The infamous Instant Pot post is way overdue and I think I’m just going to finish it up and publish it, with lots of backlinks.

Spring is here, and that means asparagus and other wonderful things, like basil and making pesto. Oh, I have about two years worth of pesto in the freezer, but there’s no saying I can’t make more.

We’ve tossed about the idea of trying to garden again, but I’m taking it with a pound of salt. I’ve still got some parsley to dig up, and I need to start getting basil plants soon. A full-fledged garden? We’ll see. BF now has an old Ford tractor he bought from someone nearby who doesn’t need it, so that will come in handy. . .IF we garden. Again, we’ll see.

In the meantime, Happy Dining!

 

 

Gluten free chocolate cake
The Accidental Hiatus

Hiatus. I didn’t intend to, but I took one.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

It’s time for another “oops, I haven’t blogged in a while” post. It was an accidental hiatus.

The Quiet Holidays

During the hiatus, The Holidays arrived and left quickly. It’s cold here, frequently below 30F in the mornings, but look who showed up:

Robin in frosted grass

Isn’t he cute? I think there’s a nest somewhere. That’s frost on the grass, not snow. I’m still praying for snow.

Last year brought some changes in dynamics for us, and Thanksgiving was, indeed, us with his friend TT up the road. The Boy spent his holiday with his grandmother, which was good, and everyone else was elsewhere. We heard absolutely nothing from any family members, including BF’s brother, who lives on the other side of town. That’s OK.

We also attended the holiday party for BF’s work, and it was nice to see everyone again. I brought a batch of Joan’s Broccoli Madness, which went over well. Nobody had ever heard of Sweet Tomatoes, so I had to explain it.

Didn’t know you could make “fudge” with frosting from a can, some kind of nuts, and peanut butter all mixed together. That was interesting.

Joan’s Broccoli Madness returned when BF’s sister and brother-in-law drove in from Atlanta. They came for Christmas and left the day after New Year’s. For dinner with them, I also made some chocolate shortbread fingers from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. I certainly made friends with those, and BF thought they were great.

His sister and brother-in-law should be making a trip back this way in the next month or so. Maybe I’ll make more Joan’s Broccoli Madness again. It’s SO good.

Christmas Presents

Ok, BF and I give each other little presents all the time, so getting a “big Christmas present” is kind of silly. He took care of several things in the house for us in 2020, so expecting a big, expensive anything would be a bit ridiculous.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t actually buy anything. From 9DollarShirts on Etsy, I bought him this:

BIGFOOT TSHIRT I Want To Believe T-Shirt Funny Mens Kids image 1

Because he’s a big fan of BigFoot. I catch him watching BigFoot videos on YouTube all the time. He even upgraded his phone so he could see them better. (Well, that and he needed to upgrade anyway, the apps were failing.) It did arrive on time for Christmas, and he didn’t know until I gave it to him.

But for me, BF got something a little different:

Blue Snapon sherpa blanket

So now I have something from Snap-On

Yes, that’s a sherpa blanket with the words Snap-On imprinted into the top fabric. Very soft and fuzzy.

Inside of sherpa blanket

Warm and snuggly!!

Seems he was buying some of their cool car-guy gifts for his brother and brother-in-law when this caught his eye. But I know what really happened–it was on the truck and he said to the company rep, “I’ll take one of these for the little woman.” No real thought went into “what to get Amy for Christmas.” It was an opportunity that presented itself and he took advantage.

I think it’s funny.

After washing, I took a nap with it–and slept like a big cat. I couldn’t wake up! Since then BF has tried it and had the same experience. Later he told me that the Snap-On representative who sold it to him said that when you take that nap, plan on spending all day on the couch. No kidding.

Let’s see what he finds next year.

2020 Isn’t Really Over

Well, it’s February, and the last time I blogged was November. Sorry about the hiatus.

You remember 2020, yes? We haven’t indulged in the Jack Daniels Tennessee Apple, and we never bought any, either. But that doesn’t mean 2021 is going any better.

We all had hopes that 2021 would bring improvements, but that hasn’t really happened. The pandemic is still going on, and lots of people are getting the vaccine. But so far, it’s a continuation of 2020–on steroids.

Six days into the new year, Mike Rowe posted this picture on his social media with the caption, “well, here’s to 2022.”

Mike Rowe drinking to 2022

No kidding, Dude.

And it’s been that way ever since. Ready for another hiatus? At least I’m still writing for lawyers and other clients.

Hiatus And Website Woes

If you tried to access this blog back in December, you may have noticed that it was down for a couple of weeks. There’s a reason for that. The security certificate expired, and I didn’t realize it.

Sure, I got those notices, but at one point, there were two certificates on this site. Thinking I still had one that expired in February, I didn’t bother with it.

Then the site went down, causing my accidental blogging hiatus.

So I paid for everything, (it wasn’t expensive) both this site and the one I bought last year for copywriting, got some help from my hosting company, and the site came back up. With one problem. 

It seems that I get the message that parts of the site are not secure. Now, I think there’s something horribly wrong with it. And getting into a live chat with the support people–in Russia–will take pretty much all day. So I procrastinate and do other things instead.

Then one day I get a message from a friend of the blog RR, aka “Banana Rat.” He’s a web guy from a long time ago, and a longtime “Boeing brother” that I’ve kept in touch with all these years. I recently told his girlfriend that “we never dated, but we joked about it.”

He’s re-starting his little “side hustle” company that he’s had long before I knew him after a six-month gig that just wasn’t working for him. Like me, he’ll be working for himself. So I’m advising him on copy for his website as well as his LinkedIn presence, along with my own. More as we get it going.

The Help I Needed

So the hiatus, I hope, is over for now.

Banana Rat (RR) got into my host account and spent the afternoon chatting with the Russian folks to get my websites taken care of. They thought they were talking to me, which I think is funny. But the certificate for this blog wasn’t installed as it should have been and now it’s done.

The certificate and other issues on HeatCageKitchen are, for the most part, repaired, and are fine going forward. Just one or two things to be fixed, either manually or with the help of a paid tool. (I’ll decide on that later.)

The WordPress app on my phone told me yesterday that this site was suddenly getting more traffic, too. That’s funny, too, because it was Banana Rat doing all the work.

The copywriting website that has been sitting for a year unfinished is now up and running with WordPress in it. However, it’s just a blank website, and he put a new WordPress template in it for me. Now, I can begin adding content. I created a free report this time last year to upload, but that’s as far as it went. Because I was in a training class, the report on SEO was critiqued with very positive feedback.

So after sitting in limbo for all of 2020, my second website is finally coming around. And then I can start moving forward with things on the copywriting side.

Why He’s Called “Banana Rat”

I have a habit of name-calling that generally involves the word “rodent.” Instead of actually swearing at someone and calling them a very impolite name, I call them a “rodent.” I don’t have any particular love for rodents, but squirrels are cute. And it’s much less offensive than calling someone a “@#$%&* *&#(!.”

While at Boeing, I called RR a “rodent” one day on the phone during a work-related call. He proceeded to enlighten me with descriptions of banana rats. These big dog-like critters are found all over Cuba, and they hunt in packs. He mentioned that he’d played golf around Guantanamo Bay once, and saw them walking around and doing whatever they do. But they’re more than rats–they’re BIG rats, like dogs, weighing as much as 20 pounds! Can you imagine a bunch of those coming at you with sharp, nasty teeth?

They cause problems at Guantanamo Bay and are also an invasive species. So much so that the US Department of Defense is paying attention to them.

But because RR had to tell me about these beasts, and he’s a big dude himself, he has forever been nicknamed “The Banana Rat.”

Mainstream Keto

Have you taken a hiatus from your resolutions yet?

We’re now deep into New Years’ Resolutions, except for folks who have already abandoned theirs. I’m still trying to eat keto, despite the stuff BF wants to make for dinner. Jambalaya is primarily rice, and I quit eating it years ago. But. . .sometimes I eat rice. That’s why I say “mostly keto.”

For some time, longtime diet product company SlimFast has been offering keto-friendly products. I see them at my local Walmart and Target. Recently I discovered that they have been keeping up with what dieters want, and they’ve got their own brand of “fat bombs.”

If you’re not familiar with this term, it’s a small snack that you create with a healthy fat like coconut oil, cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, or something similar. It contains enough fat to keep you satisfied until your next meal, and also offers additional nutrients. You can find a myriad of these recipes on Pinterest and other sites like Jen Fisch’s Keto In The City.

Not to be outdone, SlimFast has a line of ketogenic products to help you along. I found the peanut butter cups first, and then last week decided to try the Strawberry Topped Cheesecake.

Slimfast Keto Fat Bomb Strawberry

Looks good, yes?

Well, remind me not to get these anymore and start making my own again. They’re OK, not great. They’re not bad, but not like the homemade stuff. I guess if you were out and needed something to snack on immediately they’re a fair option. But I kept nibbling on these, and they’re just OK. Walmart here charges $10 for this box, and on their website, it’s $13. I’m not buying them anymore.

Slimfast fat bomb back of box

See? It’s easy!

Honestly, it may work for some folks, and that’s great. But keto–and weight loss in general–is more than just eating little chocolate nibbles and magically turning into a clone of still-gorgeous fifty-something Cindy Crawford. It just doesn’t work that way.

But Slimfast still has all the shakes and drinks and things that are purported to help lose weight. Again, it may work for some folks. I’m not recommending or criticizing Slimfast. If it works for you, and you like it, go for it.

Keto instructions from Slimfast

It’s easy, right?

Nestle used to have one that was a shake thing, chocolate raspberry. I used to drink one with their “nutrition” (candy) bar. Delicious! But all that sugar isn’t good. I quit the Nestle concoctions after I couldn’t stomach it anymore.

Of course, in the badly disorganized pantry (the next hiatus) is the stuff that BF likes, too:

Natures Bakery Brownie bars

I found these at Target, and he likes them.

It does have whole wheat flour, but BF doesn’t care. Why? Because he thinks this is a healthy breakfast:

Strawberry Pop Tarts

Yes, he really does.

He also brought home a box of Banana Moon Pies and some Hostess Ding Dongs, the chocolate rounds with “cream” in the middle.

If ever the police come with a warrant to search the house, they’ll just know they’ve hit paydirt the minute they get to the kitchen. Once they open the pantry door and see gluten-free and organic things next to the Pop-Tarts and mac and cheese in a box, they’ll just “know” they’ve found “the perps.” 

The thing is, I’m pretty sure about what’s in our pantry. There’s nothing in there that can’t be purchased in any US grocery store, including dog food. But if a cop or two wants to help me reorganize the pantry, they’re welcome to come by. 

Be aware that there have been many cases of cops who know little of botany arresting people for their garden plants. There are millennial cops who don’t know the difference between okra, tomatoes, and other common garden plants and Snoop Dogg’s favorite green.

Breathing & IF

Thankfully, during this hiatus, I’ve not had any more allergy problems since my visit to Dr. Hall in Baton Rouge. I’m following his advice, and so far, so good. He’s highly recommended if you need an allergy doc, as well as his partner.

I’m still doing intermittent fasting as well, but I can’t say that I’ve lost any weight yet. But it’s a good thing to do anyway, because I’m not eating late at night, and we try not to eat late anyway. The next step is getting back to exercise, which is proving easier said than done.

The years I went walking on city streets are over, because walking or riding a bicycle in a rural area is a challenge as well as dangerous. There are no sidewalks. In either case, you’ll face:

  • Speeding drivers
  • Untethered (and intact) dogs who go on the attack
  • Snakes and other native species
  • Holes in the ground
  • Potholes in the asphalt
  • Cracked roads
  • Uneven and rocky roads
  • Other nonexistent road amenities

So I’m stuck with inside workouts, but with lots of other things to do. I did buy a bike trainer a couple of years ago from eBay for a good price. So. . .soon, it needs to happen daily, and end the exercise hiatus I’ve had to take for a while. Thank heavens for the Roku.

Valentine’s Day And The Hiatus Cake

So we’re coming up on our annual date night (we have others) and we’re having discussions about the dinner and dessert as well as the movie.

As another hiatus project, I made a small chocolate cake recently, taken from the January/February issue of Mary Jane’s Farm magazine. It was first posted on the affiliated Ranch Farmgirl blog.

Gluten free chocolate hiatus cake

Cute, isn’t it?

Gluten-free, made from scratch, and is sweetened only with maple syrup. I bought that especially to make this cake for us. I tried it out last month after getting a preview email from one of the magazine’s bloggers. The recipe uses two very small pans, known as a “cocotte.”

One pan in hand

See how tiny?

Actually, any pan like this with a lid is a “cocotte.” For this recipe, the top is not used.

But I have to warn you that “cocotte” is also a French word that means. . .the same thing as the Italian term “Puttanesca.” That is, a female with a specific profession. . .the world’s oldest.  Aside from that, I bought two of these little covered cast-iron Dutch ovens at Bed Bath & Beyond, along with two tiny skillets for “just for us” cooking. Sometime.

Pair of cast iron cocottes

Intended for baked eggs and small portions, these finally got used.

The cake is made with almond flour and a few other ingredients. The frosting is also rich and delicious.

Recipe for cake

A small list of ingredients for a small cake with big flavor.

The article lists variations too:

Variations

Variations on the theme

It’s a small cake just big enough for two to four pieces, and no leftovers. I like that part, because BF eats something twice and he’s done with it.

Bottom of page

The rest of the article.

These cute little pots are available here on Amazon, if you’re interested. (Yes, that’s my affiliate link.)

I convinced BF to try it. He liked it, but not as much as “the one you make with regular flour.” The maple syrup makes it taste a bit different than a standard cake.

In other words, he prefers the cake from a box or one I made him a couple of years ago from a book that was from scratch and just six inches around. A yellow cake with chocolate frosting, from a box, and the frosting in the paper can. That’s what he likes best.

I also considered making some heart-shaped chocolate waffles for him. But he didn’t understand that they weren’t keto and nixed the idea.

There is a solution for us: mug cakes. You know, a single serving of cake mixed in a coffee cup and is whatever and whenever you want. One for him, one (keto version) for me. Two chocolate cakes, two ways. They’re all over Pinterest and other recipe sites, just do a search.

I also tossed out the suggestion of fondue, which got me a funny look. What’s wrong with hot, melty cheese that you can dip nibbles into and eat?

More and more, it’s looking like frozen pizza or another pack of tamales for dinner again. Don’t yet know what movie to rent, but there are more animated films at RedBox to consider.

Some days, I think about the days when Miss Alice used to come for dinner sometimes. She always says that she misses my cooking. Then I think I’m ready for a hiatus from cooking dinner for BF.

Well, if Miss Alice does come for a visit, I’ve got plenty of vegetarian recipes to make. BF will probably eat a bowl of cereal or a ham & cheese sandwich like he always does when I make something he’s afraid of.

Until Next Time

I hope not to have another hiatus for a while. I am getting more comfortable with the infernal Instant Pot, and have not yet hit it with a sledgehammer. That being said, I can’t say that it’s “revolutionized” my cooking, either. I use it for some things and will experiment with others. So one of these days. . .there will be a blog post.

Please stay warm, and stay safe–it’s not over yet, and we do know a few folks who have had the bug. I met a man in Rouse’s one day who had it, along with his wife. Agreeing that the media likes to talk about it at high volume, he did say to take it seriously. The man said that he was in the hospital for five days, and the biggest thing is the fatigue that hangs on long after it’s over. Fingers crossed that it’s resolved soon and we can get back to normal and visiting again.

I’ll be back again soon.

Happy Dining!

 

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