Happy New Year Dear Readers! Welcome to 2020!
Once again, I’ve fallen behind on blogging. The best part is that I now have OOODLES of things to blog about! The bad part is that I’m busy all the time. I need some coffee first–mostly decaf but with a bit of half-caff thrown in–but once I get going, well, it depends on how tired I am, what needs to be done in the house, and if I need a nap in the afternoon. It happens.
Yes, that featured picture is a six-inch cheesecake, gluten free and sugar free, which I will be telling you about soon. Actually, there are *two* cheesecake recipes to discuss in an upcoming blog post or two. Starting the new year off with cheesecake is a good thing, right?
We’re Still Together!
If you’re wondering, the answer is yes, BF and I are still together in 2020, ruffling each other’s feathers and pulling each other’s tails. He’s still rejecting about 35% to 40% of what I cook, and I’ve been “on strike” a couple of times over the holidays and briefly in the new year.
We’ve been on some adventures, including one recently checking out a couple of salvage stores with locations in the area. Bargain shopping together–a great couple’s activity! It started out when his old microwave finally bit the dust. I’ve been asking him for six months to get us another one–and he could have several times. He had it since his last marriage, which ended about 2008.
New Year, New Decade, New Microwave (Finally)
The first time I broached the subject, he said something about “shopping around for the right brand.” What? This is a guy who buys jeans at Walmart and the markdown store because he gets holes from battery acid at work (handling car batteries.) But as long as it’s still working, he thinks it’s fine. The rusted-out bottom was no big deal until we started seeing and smelling smoke.
The next day he said he would “price” one. Well, sure enough, he headed right to our local Dirt Cheap and found a brand new one in a factory-sealed package. This Sunbeam model sells for about $70 in Target, but he paid $45 for it. There is a small dent on the left side, but it’s not even noticeable because it’s black and you can’t see the left side in the kitchen anyway. Slightly smaller than the old one, but works wonderfully. And it’s CLEAN!
New year, new microwave. About time.
Shop Fridge And Other New Year Bargains
Our new year has led to some discoveries, local and otherwise.
BF has long wanted a small dorm-style refrigerator in the garage, but they tend to be over $100. Well, he found a very nice Whirlpool model at Dirt Cheap that Target has on sale now for $110. He paid $30 for it, no kidding. Now he has the little fridge that holds some extra Cokes and bottled water out there, all covered in stickers from various car part companies, like Holley and Eagle. No more traipsing in the house for a drink. There’s even a little tiny freezer in case he wants to keep a frozen dinner or other stuff out there.
I wonder if he’ll put a small microwave and a roll-away bed in there to camp out. He’s got a nice shop heater in there for cold nights, so if he wanted to brave the elements, he could. There’s a home-welded barbecue grill out there, too.
And because Irish girls can’t resist a bargain, when I saw this Dash Pumpkin Mini Waffle Maker marked down to $5, it was added to the basket. I’ve looked at these tiny products in Target for a while now, and am planning a blog post on them. I need to check back and see if they have the snowflake and the heart-shaped models too. Remember–Valentine’s Day is coming.
Checking out the Dash blog, I learned a new word for the new year: chaffle. And I’ve become an immediate fan. (I miss out on so much living here.) I’ve made us chaffles as well as made BF some tiny waffles with it using his (ugh) Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix.
Last summer, he went to Dirt Cheap and found a bookshelf and marble-top coffee table, both from Target, and now his movies aren’t tossed all over the place. He got rid of the old coffee table that was dog-damaged, and this new one is just lovely. I scanned the UPC codes with the Target app on my phone and discovered that if we’d bought them at Target, we would have spent in the neighborhood of $300. At Dirt Cheap, it was $75 for both. I was very impressed, especially when he didn’t even know what the coffee table looked like before he bought it.
BF’s sister came to town for a visit and told us about another place called Ollie’s Bargain Center. She found the one near her home in Atlanta, but discovered that there are three in the Baton Rouge area, the closest in Denham Springs. BF visited that place on a recent errand, and it turns out, I could get there fairly easily on my own. Wouldn’t be a far drive to Trader Joe’s at the Acadiana Thruway exit off I-10. He didn’t buy anything, but said they too have a lot of great stuff. Road trip!
I’ve Got More Books
You remember my weird little book benefit that started last summer? It’s still going on here in 2020, with no sign of stopping. I don’t even know how many of their books I have now. Of course, they are primarily cookbooks, but there are a few psychology books, three alcohol-related books, two or three on yoga, one on living pain free with CBD oil, and one on. . .cannabis edibles. I thought it would go along with the CBD book, but I was WRONG. However, the recipes look like they can be made without, um, the “green leaf,” so when I get around to it I might try some of them that won’t elicit a case of “the munchies.”
I’ve also bought a few books, too. In addition to Laura Pennington Briggs’ Start Your Own Freelance Business (I was also on the launch team), I’ve also bought Michael Hyatt’s Free To Focus (recommended by Laura), and LinkedIn Unlocked by Melanie Dodaro (a gift from a fellow writer, and yes, I’ve read it.) One of my clients recommended Marcus Sheridan’s They Ask, You Answer. It’s a great book on digital marketing and taking steps forward for your business. However. . .I’ve not yet finished the darn thing. Turns out one of my clients knows the author personally, too.
New Year Training
It’s also been nearly a year since I started taking the SEO training from Digital Marketer. Once again, I will again attempt to get through it so I can take the test and get certified. The holdup is module 4, it takes a long time.
We just finished new five-day AWAI training class called 5 Days To A Lifetime Of Clients With Michael Katz. A number of us in our little accountability group signed up for it, and we’re going to. . .what? Keep each other accountable. Five days of intense deep-diving on finding and getting clients. There’s homework, which I need to finish by the middle of March, including getting another copywriting site up. But with three years of writing professionally under my belt, primarily for lawyers and law firms, I’ve got a better handle on things.
I’m Not Doing Keto
If you’re doing keto in the New Year to get healthy and/or lose weight, good for you–I’m not knocking anyone for it. Keto is the 2020 way of eating that’s quite popular and, I have to say, tasty.
Many of the cookbooks I requested from the publisher are keto, because that’s what’s popular and people are searching for. As well as willpower, aromatherapy, and spells for new witches. No kidding, and I have them, too. I like a variety of reading.
Keto is sort of “Low Carb 2.0.” Sure, there’s more to it, but looking at all these books brings me back to the Suzanne Somers way of eating, which is basically low carb. I’m loving it, especially the cream in my coffee again.
Additionally, the new sweetener of choice for most of these desserts in 2020 is Swerve, which is now readily available at our local Walmart, no kidding. I made my chocolate birthday cake last year with Swerve, which took a bit of fiddling to get it right since the recipe was created for Somersweet in 2002. So that new no-bake cheesecake I like is easy to make and sweeten with either Swerve or with the erythrytol I get from Vitacost. That’s coming in a future blog post.
Equipment Courtesy Of DG
There are a number of new things we have around here, some purchased, some were gifted. Let me tell you about the stuff we got from DG.
Year before last, BF’s sister-in-law was notified that her estranged father had passed away. It became her responsibility to clear everything out of the house so that the bank could take possession. I won’t get into the legal particulars–it was a bit of a nightmare for them, but she took care of everything. They had been estranged for at least 15 or more years, so it was a shock to her to not only get the call, but to be told it was her responsibility.
Long story short, BF headed out there with them several times to Diamondhead, MS, a planned community that started back in the late 1960’s. He’d bought the house a few years ago, and done some decorating and added things like a media room upstairs. The house looked like a 1970’s dream home, and even the wooden stair railing looked original.
They used to have adverts in the 1970’s on New Orleans TV stations about Diamondhead, how it was a “luxury community” for the more affluent. Yeah, right–it looks like Clear Lake!
The Trip To Mississippi
Anyway–BF went up there with his brother and sister-in-law three or four times, and came back with lots of stuff. We were hoping for a refrigerator and maybe a TV, but the man’s family members had already cleared out what they wanted, including the fridge. What he brought back were things like tools, toys, decor, and some other small stuff. On one trip he came back with dishes–plates and bowls, and a few cups.
Well, the man and his girlfriend indulged in RED DISHES. That’s right, all the dishes are RED, along with a plastic colander. Our lovely dishwasher, now two years old, ran almost continuously for a couple of days to wash everything. No more paper plates!
I went on the last trip to the house–the fifth, I believe–and helped them clear out and pick through what was left. The house was still quite full of stuff, and we brought home what we would use. For instance: we now have a chest freezer that we gleefully keep food in, such as the 15 or more containers of fresh pesto that I make in the summer. (And since it’s been cool and occasionally cold, I’ve enjoyed much of the delicious Pea & Pesto Soup too.) Long after I’d abandoned the idea of buying a very small chest freezer for myself, we’ve finally got one we can stash food in for later. It’s a bit untidy sometimes, and I’ve got the freezer bowls for my ice cream maker in there for the day I make some again, but we’re quite happy to have it.
Later, BF spent a few rubles on new flatware to go with the new dishes:
From the Threshold Collection at Target, I talked him into this Jovita flatware along with that flatware organizer that holds everything in place neatly. Because the stuff he had was also from his last marriage, (or maybe the first one) and I let him know it was time to upgrade. It was junk, and we donated it all.
Red Breakfast Appliances
Some of the small things like serving spoons were also red like the dishes. I’ve had to put those small racks in the cabinets to make room for everything. Oh, and an oval stoneware insert with a lid for a 4-quart Crockpot in RED. No kidding.
The Stainless Steel Trash Can
Another thing we took home was an older model of a SimpleHuman stainless steel kitchen trash can (this is a similar model.) We needed a new one anyway, and BF mentioned he’d like that type, so we took it home. We like the stainless steel and the tightly closing top. However, the top doesn’t stay up anymore because the springs are broken, and we haven’t been able to fix it.
But the part that nobody tells you is that you can’t buy bags that fit this can at Walmart. No, you have to buy their trash bags in order to get it out of the can when it’s full, which are available online and at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I contacted the company and sent pictures, and was told that the ones that fit our can are Type N, which are $24 for a bag of 60. That’s right, they’re expensive bags for taking out your trash. They don’t tell you that when you buy one. Fortunately, this one was a gift, but we have taken to buying contractor bags in order to remove them from the can when it’s time. They’re expensive, but not that expensive. They’re about $10 or $15 a box at Target and Walmart for a quantity of them.
The New Movie Collection
And then there were DVDs in the house. Thousands of them, in fact, and some were duplicates. BF grabbed what he wanted, I took what I wanted, J&H took some as well, and there were still at least 500 left. We were limited by the space in the truck and on the trailer, both of which were full to capacity.
He picked what he wanted, I picked what I wanted, and we both have a lot more than before. That was one of the incentives for the bookshelf, and he lucked out with the one from Dirt Cheap. The coffee table was an extra bonus, and they really look great in the living room.
Since I wasn’t there when they first went into the house, I wasn’t hit by the lingering smell. Unlike J&H, I did grab a few unopened things out of the pantry. In the end, the company that had to deal with the repossession of the man’s house had to clear out the rest of it, clean it, and get it ready for re-sale.
One day BF opened up a DVD and complained that it smelled like “dead guy and stale beer.” Because we couldn’t remember the man’s name, we took to calling him “Dead Guy.”
There are some other small thing we have, like decor, and some we ended up donating a few things to the local charity shop.
The New Toaster Oven
While I could be accused of being on a buying spree for a while, I will tell you that like the Iced Coffee Maker, I always look for deals, coupons and discounts when I get ready to buy something.
I meant to write about this before, but I never got around to it–I finally replaced the toaster oven! Of course, it’s a Cuisinart, and of course, I ordered it from Bed, Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon. (You can read the company’s description here.) They don’t carry this model in stores anywhere, including Houston, as I was told.
I can’t find the pictures of it right now. It’s a tiny bit smaller than the last one, and the digital interface isn’t user-friendly, so I have to help BF when he wants to use it. But it does what I need it to, including baking brownies for him or making a delicious dinner for us. No need for turning on the stove and heating up the kitchen. I’m pretty happy with it.
The Air Fryer
Ok, because I got a book for the Ninja Air Fryer, I wanted to find out if it was worth the money. I mean, it’s a $100 purchase, to do some things in, so I wanted to try it out first.
So I bought a $30 model from Walmart:
Honestly, it’s like a toy, really. It’s billed as ideal for one or two people–but most of the book’s recipes require a larger machine.
So I make a couple of recipes from this book, cutting them in half, and BF falls for the chicken wings. I also made a chocolate chip cookie in it, which took a lot longer to cook than it would have in the Ninja Air Fryer, but whatever. I actually tried that one, since I made it for someone I invited over for dinner, and no, it wasn’t gluten free. And whenever I suggest returning the thing to Walmart, he says, “Oh, I like the wings.” The truth is I can make them in the toaster oven with the convection setting, but I’m humoring him. I could get that bigger Ninja machine in the new year, but it becomes a matter of where to store it.
Meantime, I’m on the hook for chicken wings. I chop the tips off and then chop them in half to make life easier. I may be doing them this weekend for the “Big Game.”
The Instant Pot
I mentioned earlier that a new Instant Pot would be making its way to the Casa de Rurale, It has, and I have used it a few times for different things. I bought the Duo Evo Plus, the newest of the new, the latest and greatest incarnation. Sounds like a great idea, right?
People rant and rave about how great this thing is. I avoided getting one because I was kind of afraid of it. But after the initial water test, I kept using it, cooking recipes from the books I have, plus the Instant Pot app and places like Pinterest in this new, updated model. Most came out OK, but some didn’t. When it nearly burned up the pork chops, that was it–I unplugged it.
Of Course, There Was A Problem
Guess what? The recipes in those books were written for the older models. This new model doesn’t work exactly the same, so the recipes don’t always come out right. Like steaming cauliflower–twice–with an insufficient amount of water, and with the vent closed, building up pressure when it isn’t supposed to. The little booklet included doesn’t tell you all that–only the “full” manual, which you download from the website. They don’t tell you that part, either–someone on Facebook told me about the “full manual.”
I have used it as a slow cooker, and for that, it worked just fine. I bought the glass lid for that purpose, as well as a couple of other accessories (boosted by the coupons I had.)
At first, I thought it was pretty good. But then things changed when it burned my food and didn’t steam. Currently, I hate it, and have vented on Facebook about it. When I went into one of the many FB groups on the subject, nobody knew what model I had, so that was useless.
There’s a blog post coming, of course. Thankfully this delicious cheesecake came out just fine:
Much as I like it, I found a recipe that’s even easier and is equally rich and delicious. And yes, it’s delicious, gluten-free and sugar free, so people like Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy can have cheesecake in an hour or so with no guilt.
I’ll have a list of the books I have that go with this beast in the blog post as well. If you got an Instant Pot for Christmas, or right around Black Friday like I did, well, I’ll give you some references to use in the new year.
Just know that as I write this, my next Instant Pot accessory may come from Harbor Freight.
And For My Birthday
I made my favorite chocolate cake from Suzanne Somers Desserts book from 2002 using Swerve.
I also bought myself a birthday present:
I lurk on eBay and have several ongoing searches and get emails every day. Go look at things and add them to my wish list. Some may stay there for months, and I can buy them or keep watching.
This particular item was there, and I wish-listed it. I discovered that the seller sent me an offer of $15 with free shipping–two hours before it ended. Without telling BF, I accepted it and paid for it. The package arrived a few days later. Boy was he surprised.
Yes, it works, just need to install a couple of batteries. The only thing “wrong” with it is that the little plastic switch on the side is broken off. However, there is enough of it left to be able to turn it on and run it. I have a picture of instructions somewhere, and I can print it and put it in a page protector for later. No box, but that’s OK. It’s MINE.
You see, I had one of these when I was a kid. I’ve always wanted another one, and finally, for my own new year, my 57th birthday, I got one.
Isn’t it adorbs???
Looking Forward To 2020
It’s a new year and a new decade, and 2020 promises to deliver. I may even update the blog theme after I renew the service.
I still owe you a blog on last year’s activity with the guys from the Walton & Johnson radio show. After the activity, I ordered a free book from Shutterfly for us with those pictures in it. Also gave The E-Man a smaller picture book from the event. They were all my pictures because nobody bothered to pass theirs along.
Remember that both Downton Abbey and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are set in the 1920’s. . .which is about 100 years ago. BF bought me the Downton Abbey movie for Christmas, and we are anxiously awaiting the new movie Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears, set to begin streaming on AcornTV in March.
But at the beginning of the year, everyone is making resolutions (except me, I’m still thinking about it) and I’m still up to me ears in just about everything. It’s why I usually need more coffee.
I’ll pay for the blog again soon, and I suppose I should resolve to blog more, right?
There’s lots to talk about, even from the rural part of Louisiana. SO thankful for the Internet.
Happy New Year!
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
It’s been 15 days, and I apologize. Life has kept me tap-dancing on the bar, if you know what I mean. I wish it would knock it off, I don’t want to dance anymore.
I have a couple of posts that I’m still not finished researching. . .they’re in the draft folder.
I have been told that three ladies from my favorite, fabulous HEB have begun to read this humble blog. I saw Miss Sunie yesterday, and she’s read the last post, where she also appears. Miss Lei lost the URL, so I gave it to her again, and Miss Carolyn. . .I think she found it too. Welcome to this humble blog. I hope you enjoy in what’s presented. Please feel free to read through the archives. You can also sign up with the widget on the right side, if you like.
When I saw Miss Lei the other day, she was sampling ice cream. . .yum. However, when she offered one customer some ice cream, the customer asked, “It doesn’t have Hatch in it, does it?” No. . .butter pecan. The two-weekend Hatch chili promotion is over, although there are some Hatch things left hanging around. The Hatch plants have gone down to $4, and I bought one with several peppers on it. I might just make some of that Hatch Pesto, but I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with the red pepper on that tree.
I managed to get shots of the Chili Fun Facts Miss Lei had posted in her booth:
OK, admittedly, I was in a hurry taking these pictures. Sorry about that.
Oh, and don’t mix basil and Hatch chilies. I took that half-cup of pesto I made a couple of weekends ago, let it thaw a bit, and added a roasted Hatch chili. Tastes good, but you can’t taste the basil anymore–the basil is completely obliterated. I’ll use it with roast chicken or something.
Sue Moran at The View From Great Island created this delicious looking Cheesy Hatch Green Chili Dip. This looks perfect for football season, with some crunchy, salty chips. (Gluten free chips, of course.) Sue is the creator of the delicious Meyer Lemon Cake I made a couple of times with Meyer Lemons I grew out back. I’ve subscribed to her blog ever since, and her recipes are pretty easy. I may have to try this dip one day, even if I have to get canned chilies from HEB. I’ll be trying the whole bowl, OK? You want some, you MAKE some.
Let’s talk about something else. The Demonic Possession of the Microwave Oven. For whatever reason, I’ve been plagued with it.
Honestly, it’s hard to believe how long microwave ovens have been around. It’s like a light bulb, we just don’t think much about them anymore. Invented by an engineer at Raytheon by accident, they’re now just everywhere–homes, apartments, offices, commercial kitchens, campers, frat houses, bachelor pads, you name it.
When I was in the Girl Scouts (never mind how long that’s been, because I don’t remember) my troop was taken on a field trip to an LP&L facility in La Place, LA. I didn’t know what it was, but we were given a demonstration of the microwave by one of their home economists, which was one of the “next big things.” The HE opened a can of corn, poured it into a bowl, and when it came out of that contraption, it was hot and the butter melted.
A few years later, they were everywhere, and you couldn’t watch much TV without seeing an ad for the Amana Radarange. My Dad bought our first one about 1976, when it was advertised as “The Greatest Cooking Invention Since Fire.” (I love Google, don’t you?) With four of us, Mom needed a bit of help in the kitchen, or maybe that’s what my Dad decided. This page says they cost $595: that was quite a sum in those days, probably like a good $3K or more is now. Whatever the reason, we had one of these gleaming, modern miracles:
And the touch panel, similar to a modern smartphone screen:
It was a big deal–it was like being the first family on the block getting a TV just 3o or so years before. I remember going to my aunt’s place and while my Dad talked to my uncle about it, the uncle replied, “well, I’ve thought about microwave cooking, but I’m just concerned about radiation.” No. . .but eventually, they became synonymous with “kitchen appliances.”
That thing lasted until the mid-90’s, when my parents finally bought another, more contemporary model, and probably for a lot less than the original.
Fast-forward more years than I care to admit to, and things have changed considerably in small kitchen appliances.
Some time ago, I wrote about the Karma of Spare Parts, a continual issue of minor repairs that I’ve been doing, mostly out of necessity. There have been a number of issues, like my slow cooker incidents. However, this one is more serious. It’s the microwave.
When I started this blog in 2012, I was happily using an old Sunbeam microwave that I’d bought for $10 in 2004 from the JSC Swap Shop, a Craigslist-type site for folks in the space program who had access to that part of the Johnson Space Center’s (NASA) Intranet. The GER benefitted from the Swap Shop too–I searched it every Monday and sent him numerous ads that I thought he could use. He bought many things to sell on eBay, and I was glad to help.
Now, you might remember that the original microwave blew out. I’d bought a replacement glass plate for it, and a roller ring to go under it. (I returned those for a refund.) What I didn’t know at the time was that the kettle I was using to make coffee was leaking. The water went under the microwave and eventually ruined it. I put some food in it, I heard a noise (BOOM!) and smelled something that didn’t smell anything like food. I realized later that it could have started a fire. Talk about protection from the Buddhist gods! That faithful microwave was toast, pardon the pun. Time for a new one. Well, it was made in 2003, and this was, what, 2014? So it had a good run.
First place I went: Walmart. I’m not a big Walmart shopper, even though some of the goods and services they offer go beyond Target’s. But I go there sometimes for different things. The first one I bought was this Rival model:
It worked great–simple, clean, and just slightly complicated to operate. Until it didn’t. A few months after I bought it, the light started strobing on and off, and so did the power. It also made a weird noise. Oh, brilliant. I pulled the plug, removed whatever was in there, and marched it back to Wal-Mart.
My reason for return: it’s possessed by the Devil.
I didn’t want another Rival, because I didn’t want that to happen again. I should have replaced it with an identical model, but I didn’t. I liked the red one.
The one I brought home, however, was a West Bend, but looks identical to this HB. Then recently, I was making some microwave popcorn, and darnit, it was only half-popped and the light was out. It was plugged in, but. . .nothing. Being a bit of a computer nerd, I unplugged it and plugged it back in. You know, just like you do with Windows 10–restart it, right? Yeah, that worked. But even though it pretended to run, it wasn’t popping popcorn. The magnetron tube, apparently, had blown, for some unknown reason. The rest of the mechanics seemed to be fine, including the electronic bits.
I pulled the plug, packed it into the car, and hauled it back to the Friendswood Walmart for a replacement. Reason for return: demonic possession.
OK, admittedly, I have no way to check and see if demonic possession is real. I just figured it sounded better than explaining it the way I just did. And it got a giggle from the return desk folks. But one young lady in appliances, who happened by while her coworker went to the warehouse to look for the exact same model I was returning, gave me a detailed explanation about demon possession. I kid you not. She insisted that the demon wouldn’t possess the microwave, it would possess me. Really–ask anyone! But after three microwaves went POOF! in the same spot, I can’t give you any other explanation than demonic possession.
And because the Friendswood customer service employees were less than enthused about my dilemma, I packed it back into the car and went down to League City, where I found a much friendlier and helpful group of folks. The greeter, a young woman about 18 or so, said, “Oh, I love your hair color, it’s gorgeous!” I thanked her, of course, and I wasn’t dressed to the nines. The next girl in Customer Service enjoyed my comment about the microwave being a victim of “demonic possession.”
After a short discussion and comparison with a nice man named Chris in appliances, I found my replacement. So this is the one that came home with me last week:
Bigger, badder, hotter. WAY bigger. A nice Hamilton Beach model, 1000 watt microwave.
All three times, I was able to exchange the microwave for something different. Unfortunately, Walmart’s variety is a bit. . .better on their website, but I was not about to wait.
What I had in mind was something like this:
But no, I had to go “up,” long story. Now I have this huge, honkin’ microwave in the HeatCageKitchen.
I have to move it over to the left to use the kettle; I have very little counter space to work on now. Maybe I’ll just sell the Hamilton Beach on Craigslist for its MSRP or something close to it, and go to Target and get the smaller, less expensive one. . .but right now I have, if you’ll pardon the expression, bigger fish to fry.
It’s what I get for thinking. Just the other day, I was thinking to myself, “hey, make sure the next microwave isn’t so big.” Next thing I know, I was getting a new one. Just not the one I envisioned, that’s all.
I may be taking a break from blogging, since life isn’t letting me alone. So if I don’t get back here soon, well, you know I’m thinking about other things.
And maybe getting myself an original Amana Radarange one day, along with some Suzy Homemaker appliances. Then I will have a truly fabulous kitchen, right? (Just kidding.)
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
It’s already March. Nearly the end of the first quarter. How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Or have you forgotten them already? (Most people have, so if that’s you, you’re not alone.)
I’m sorry I’m late–I had mucho trouble getting the pictures uploaded into the site! Thank heavens for Dropbox.
I took a ride back into my fabulous new HEB to do some research for this story, but I couldn’t resist taking a few extra pictures. On the patio, I was greeted with this lovely setting:
Those wooden square things stacked up by the wall with the Texas star on them are actually coolers. No kidding. No, of course I didn’t buy any–yet. But I did take a picture of it for future reference. HEB has a number of those wooden Texas-star adorned pieces, and they’re just fantastic.
For dessert, these lovely cakes are available in the bakery. No, I didn’t sample or buy one, but aren’t these absolutely gorgeous?
When I see a cake like that, especially a wedding cake, I wonder why anyone would need a special occasion to enjoy a cake like that. But they’re not gluten-free, so I keep walking.
Walking over to the fish and meat area, I had a conversation with the guys behind the fish counter. Huge Dungeness crabs and east-coast lobster snap and swirl dangerously in tanks behind the counter, and lovely presentations like this in the case abound:
If you’re a coffee fan, you’ll be enthralled with the coffees available:
Want your regular brand? Here you go:
I also found this curious item:
I checked the ingredients and found out:
Um, what? How does adding sugar, soy and other chemicals make it “better than peanut butter?” This is why I stress reading labels. Just give me plain old peanut butter, with just peanuts, preferably unsalted and chunky, thanks very much.
I have a couple of posts in the draft file, and I hope to get a new recipe tested soon. But in the meantime, I have something more important to talk about.
I called Neighbor E the other night, to ask if he wanted to go with me to HEB. No, and he was just finishing up. . .a bag of microwave popcorn. Eeewwwwww!!!
If you haven’t had popcorn in a while, well, there’s a lot more to it than there used to be. You can still buy those Jiffy Pop pans to put on the stove and watch the foil expand–if you’re old enough to remember that.
You can pop popcorn in a big heavy pot, a little oil, with salt and butter when it’s done. But you’re probably more familiar with microwave popcorn, because these days that’s what everyone does, right? You can buy single bags in office vending machines all over the US, and you always know when someone in the office “just wanted some.” And I know a couple of folks who thinks buying it in a big tin can is the best way to have popcorn, or from the microwave.
But I’m here to tell you to ditch the chemical-infused microwave popcorn. I’ll tell you more about that shortly.
We’ve been eating popcorn in the US since the 1820’s. It comes from a variety of corn that produces hard kernels that can’t be eaten fresh (unless cracked teeth is your thing.) Heating the kernel, and the water inside–either in a pot on a stove or in a microwave–causes the water to steam and the corn to turn inside out in a flash.
Food writer Tori Avey, in this article on the PBS website, explains where it comes from:
The popcorn variety of maize was domesticated by Pre-Columbian indigenous peoples by 5000 B.C.E. It is a small and harder form of flint corn, most commonly found in white or yellow kernels. The stalks produce several ears at a time, though they are smaller and yield less corn than other maize varieties. The “pop” is not limited exclusively to this type of maize, but the flake of other types is smaller by comparison. Popcorn likely arrived in the American Southwest over 2500 years ago, but was not found growing east of the Mississippi until the early 1800s due to botanical and environmental factors. Today the Midwest is famous for its “Corn Belt,” but prior to the introduction of the steel plow during the 19th century, soil conditions in that region were not suitable for growing corn.
She also explains that although most corn in the US is genetically modified, popcorn isn’t. That’s a little good news. Popcorn became a favorite when it was introduced into movie theaters, and, well, it’s just *there* now, isn’t it?
I quit eating popcorn many years ago because of the high carb content, but a couple of years ago, I just had a craving for it, darnit. I walked up to folks and asked, “Have you ever tasted. . .popcorn?” I’m not eating it daily, but I do have it sometimes after exercising with the kettle bell and I’m watching something on TV, or in the afternoon when I’m in the mood for it. Sometimes.
If I’ve given you the idea that popcorn is something you need in your life, let me show you what I found at the lovely new HEB the other night:
Look carefully at the bags of popcorn in the center of the bottom shelf:
Yes, that’s the way we used to buy popcorn, and pop it on the stove in a big pot. Let me point out that the bag on the right, that sells for $2.66, is a four-pound bag. No kidding. FOUR POUNDS. If you pop half a cup at a time, how long will that bag last in your pantry?
But most Americans unthinkingly go for the expensive “convenience” of microwave popcorn. Take a look at what’s actually in one of those bags:
Yes, it’s “gluten free,” but what’s TBHQ? Read what FoodBabe has to say about it in this article:
TBHQ that is found in Smart Balance, stands for “Tertiary Butylhydroquinone.” It’s a dead giveaway that you shouldn’t be eating this, if food companies have to use an acronym for a long chemical name on the ingredient label.
TBHQ is a chemical made from butane (a very toxic gas) and can only be used at a rate of 0.02 percent of the total oil in a product. Why is there a limit to this? Maybe because eating only 1 gram of this toxic preservative has been shown to cause all sorts of issues, from ADHD in children, to asthma, allergies and dermatitis to dizziness and even has caused stomach cancer in laboratory animals.
Here’s a Smart Balance box–she’s not kidding.
Admittedly, there are *less* chemicals, and annatto is a natural coloring agent, but still. . .there’s one chemical you don’t need. And even if it wasn’t there, for $1.99, you could have more popcorn than that.
This, I believe, is the Central Market’s organic brand, which looks a little healthier than the rest. You can see more of the chemical breakdown that’s in most microwave popcorn in this infographic from the article on FoodBabe.com:
Still want that stuff? Seriously. . . .
Now, I’ll tell you the best reason to abandon microwave popcorn in an office setting. It’s dangerous. Don’t believe me?
There were several instances during my stint at Boeing where we were evacuated from the building because the fire alarm went off. Heat of summer, cold of winter, daytime or after dark (I tended to stay in the office after 5 pm sometimes.) During the day there could be more than 2,000 people in the building, and we all had to go out to the back garden with the duck community, making the poor creatures wonder what was going on and why we weren’t handing out snacks to them. We sat and waited whilst the Pasadena Fire Department went through EVERY floor (in full gear) and checked every inch of the place. I should point out that the building is a quarter-mile long, and six stories high. This took a while, causing work stoppage.
And what was the cause of these incidents? On several occasions, it was. . .microwave popcorn, that was either forgotten, over-popped, or someone just set the timer too long, causing it to smoke. Not everyone follows the directions exactly. I didn’t hear about any fires caused, but the smoke from microwave popcorn incorrectly popped set off fire alarms and the whole evacuation thing.
NOW do you see why? Work stoppages cost the company money, and waste the time of firefighters called to deal with it. It’s a pain in the butt. And it just stinks up the place, too.
Vani (the lady behind FoodBabe) also gives a recipe for a “superfood popcorn.” I haven’t tried it, but I did find the red palm oil she talks about:
Vani also talks about using organic popcorn. I did find some, but since popcorn is NOT GMO, it might be fine using regular. But if you want “organic,” it’s available:
HEB also has it in their bulk section. Check your local grocery if they have bulk items, and you may be able to find it:
Whatever you do, put real butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or whatever on your popcorn. Don’t use this and ruin it:
To me, this is like putting Cool Whip on the fresh berries of spring. Why?
A pound of REAL butter costs less than that bottle in HEB. Why would anyone put that on popcorn? Yuck. Can’t have dairy? Use olive or coconut oil. Not this drek.
Anyway. . . .
You can also buy popcorn already popped, in bags just like potato chips.
Several brands are available, including HEB’s own Central Market Brand:
Convenient, but certainly not cheap. However, BOOMCHICKAPOP brand is made with all-natural ingredients, and they’re very open about that. I haven’t tried any of these; I just prefer to make it at home.
Here’s an article from Austin Women’s Magazine about. . .popcorn.
Now you’re thinking to yourself, “Okay, Amy, you’ve ruined my microwave popcorn. Now what do I do?”
Well, you re-learn popcorn.
I’ll be the first to admit that the microwave, derided by many as a bad thing, is a spot-on convenience that’s hard to beat. I do, in fact, have one–I’ve had to replace mine twice in the last year; the last one, a Rival, got a demonic possession or something and started acting funny. I now have that huge 900-watt red West Bend one that’s too big for my kitchen. (Long story.) Vani, as well as Dr. Mercola, advise getting rid of microwaves completely; I’m not on board with that yet, but might be in the future.
I have indeed discovered how to make microwave popcorn without the expensive, chemical-laden bags. I have heard of people making it with brown paper bags, but then you’d have to buy the bags. What if you’re out of them? Use a bowl!
I took Jillee’s advice from One Good Thing By Jillee and tried it myself. The first time I made it, I used a flat-bottomed casserole dish with a cover. No. It has to be a bowl (microwave-safe, of course.) You can use oil, but I’ve tried this several times and it doesn’t require oil (although I just made some with a teaspoon of coconut oil in the bowl, and it works well.) Put about a quarter to a third cup of popcorn kernels in the bottom:
And cover it with a microwave-safe plate:
You’ll have to play with the timing a bit–in my 900-watt microwave, 5 minutes was about it:
When it’s done, the bowl and plate will be VERY HOT.
Use potholders and caution when you remove it from the microwave. If you want butter, melt it now, in a smaller container in the microwave. (You can also do it ahead of time.) To prevent the butter from popping while melting, use a lower power, like 40%, and start at a minute. If it’s not melted, go another 30 seconds at 40% power. You don’t need to melt it all the way; if there’s a little bit left, swirl it around a bit in the bowl and let the warm part melt the rest of it.
If you’re more a stove-top popcorn person, here’s how simple it is: get a heavy-bottomed pot (like a wide chili pot, about 5 quarts or so) and put a couple tablespoons of coconut or olive oil in the pan, heat it on high. Add in up to a half-cup of popcorn, and put the lid on. If you want melted butter, microwave it now and get out your serving bowl. And do NOT go anywhere else! Soon, you’ll hear popping from the pot, and you’ll need to keep an ear close by. When it slows down, and you’re not hearing a lot of active popping, it’s time to turn off the heat and get that popcorn into the bowl–carefully! Pour your butter, salt, or whatever else you want on it, and enjoy.
And here’s a kitchen tip I figured out recently, for whatever kind of popcorn you make. Add your oil/butter and salt, or other seasonings, and stir it with. . .your salad tossing tools.
Why did we never think of this before?
If you find some “old maids” in the bowl, you can just put them back in the microwave for one more go-round. Many will pop, some will not. But this only works once. Keep an eye on it to make sure you don’t open your microwave door to flames.
But if you do, I want to hear about it!
I tried re-cooking the old maids with microwave popcorn with a friend of mine at the SGI Community Center in New Orleans. No fire, but it was a mess. She passed away a year later and kept that secret. What happens in the kitchen. . .stays in the kitchen, right, Regina?
I used to have one of those countertop air poppers, and should not have given it to the Salvation Army. I have bought three of them from both Wal-Mart and Target and returned them. Why? The plastic top melted, stunk up my kitchen and made the popcorn taste nasty. However, I have found the best popcorn popper yet:
I got it last year on eBay, and while I have tested it, and it works, I haven’t made popcorn IN it yet. The instructions tell you to put a flat plate out, but I could just elevate it and open the spout over a bowl. I’ve taken it apart and carefully cleaned it, so I could make popcorn in it if I wanted to. This lovely toy works with a heating element in the base under that cone assembly. It heats the kernels much like a pot would do. It’s 50 years old, and it works better than three different modern air-poppers I tried.
Sur la Table has a selection of popcorn tools and accessories, including this bigger (and pricier) Waring popcorn maker with a “melting station.” It makes 20 cups of popcorn, more than I need, and melts butter at the same time. Popcorn spices are also available, as well as the infamous Nordic Ware bowl and a couple of other silicone accessories that Amazon has. They’re not available in my local Sur la Table, so it’s on my Amazon wish list. There is an air popper from Cuisinart, and a couple of movie-theater-style machines adapted for home use.
Did you think there was this much available for popcorn? Me either.
Now, what if you’re at work and wants some popcorn, but don’t have anything but a microwave? I’ve got you covered there, too.
First thing you want to know is to get something made of SILICONE. I made the mistake, before I found Jillee’s blog post, of buying a Nordic Ware Microwave Popcorn Popper. (It was Target, so it was red.) Used it once, worked great, washed it and returned it. My popcorn was ruined by a nasty chemical taste imparted in the bowl. No thanks. However, the silicone models, from what I’ve read, don’t do that. (I can’t seem to find one locally, so I’ll order one or two in the future.)
There are a number of different types of popcorn poppers for the microwave, including many made of glass–but if you’ve got glass mixing bowls at home, well, try that first. From silicone, though, you can get this 10-cup popcorn maker for under $20, and like the glass bowl method, doesn’t need oil. If you’re in an office of folks who like popcorn, you can be their new BFF (“best friend forever”) and make popcorn for the folks.
But if you’re not, and just want to make some for yourself, there are also several options available in silicone. One I found is made completely of silicone, but I don’t know how much it actually makes. I thought this small popper cup was a good item, but discovered that it is only partly silicone and contains plastic. This one is all silicone and makes a quart. I guess it would be a matter of figuring out how much popcorn you want at a time and popping less than a quart. It’s a little pricey, but it should last forever, if not until you retire. My advice would be to try it out at home before you take it to work. Then you can have popcorn all you want, no fire department involved.
There’s always the brown-paper-bag method although I’m a bit leery of it. Just make sure you know exactly how it works before you bring that to work, OK? The whole point is *not* to call the local fire department!
Soon I plan to do a review on Giada de Laurentiis’ new book, Happy Cooking. However, I’ll give you this recipe (on page 43) that I have tried and absolutely LOVE to make. It uses parsley, which I have growing on my back patio. While it’s thoroughly delicious, if you are caught short without fresh parsley, dried parsley will work too, although not quite the same as the fresh parsley.
You pop the popcorn first, then follow the directions. I prefer the stovetop method with the oil and half a cup of kernels, but microwaving the kernels will work too.
Warm & Spicy Popcorn
Serves 4. (Gluten free, vegetarian and vegan)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I just use a little dash, less than a quarter of this amount)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 7 cups popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup of kernels)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, stir together the cumin, parsley, coriander, cayenne and salt. Put the popped popcorn in a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss thoroughly to distribute. Sprinkle with the spice blend and toss again to coat the popcorn with the seasonings.
So there you have it–a long story about something most people don’t think about too much.