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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!

 

Instant Pot Cheesecake
It’s 2020–Happy New Year!

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.

More Bargains

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.

Swerve

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!

My Visit

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:

New Flatware

New dishes required new flatware.

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

We were also gifted a few appliances, including a 14-cup Kitchenaid coffee pot and a Kitchenaid two-slice toaster (links are to similar new models.)

Red Kitchenaid Toaster

Yes, a red toaster

Red Kitchenaid Coffee Pot

And a matching coffeepot too! Works great, cleaned it, and it’s ready for the day we have multiple guests.

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:

Farberware AirFryer

The Farberware Air fryer

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:

Instant Pot Cheesecake

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

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:

Suzy Homemaker Stand Mixer

Finally got another one!!!

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!

Chorizo with scrambled eggs
Casa Chorizo

Chorizo–a delicious, flavorful form of sausage from the Mexican and Tex-Mex culture. I love it.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

No, BF and I have not fallen off the face of the earth, but I’m busy and he doesn’t write. So, apologies again.

If you went out and got one of the wonderful Kitchenaid Cold Brew Coffee Makers this summer, I do hope you are enjoying it as much as I do. BF’s car-guy friend Jenny came by a couple of months ago and was thrilled to find out about it. She took her kids to the local PJ’s and spent $30 on iced coffee for the three of them, that’s a bit pricey for this young widow. She’s probably going to be getting one if she hasn’t already. But for me, I love my iced coffee in the morning, even though I’m not drinking much of it now that it’s getting chilly!  But it’s so easy, even BF could make it.

The Work Of Copywriting

I’m doing a fair bit of SEO writing for law offices and attorneys, with a little of this and that thrown in to keep it interesting. A few weeks ago, a regular client asked me to write a blog post about the things that can affect a paternity test. That’s the “who’s your daddy” DNA test. Well. . .a lot, actually. Besides lab errors and tampering, multiple genetic mutations and anomalies mean two siblings–even twins–test unrelated. Never mind what a “chimera” is. How’s *that* for dinner party conversation?

The Parts Catalog

One client had me writing descriptions for parts. That’s right, hardware, primarily air conditioner parts. Really exciting, yes? I didn’t mind–it pays, and it gives me a break from the occasionally heavy legal subject matter I normally write.

I don’t know what all these parts are for, so I have to look them up. If I don’t know what a capacitor is, I can’t tell you, now can I? (It puts jolts of power into things like fan motors, similar to a battery.) So now I know what that is, and I can create a short description. I also learned a new term: PTAC, or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner. The kind they use in hotels.

One description I wrote was for a metal clip that holds the plastic front onto the air conditioner. This was one I had to use the parts diagram for. Once I realized what it was, I came up with an interesting description, using the phrase “never again will you have to stare at the grisly innards of your air conditioner.” It went over well, and I even posted that one on Facebook. AK says I have “the writing chops.” That made me feel good.

I created content for him for about 3 weeks, and the project ended with five stars from the client.

The Unconventional Garden

I haven’t written about gardening in a while, but I did manage to do some this year. The cool spring meant I was hesitant to put plants out, and I got a late start. We’re now getting bell peppers, and while I’ve picked three or four red ones, I’ve got three more that are still growing, and one is turning red. They could be at our Thanksgiving dinner. (More on that later.)

The Meyer Lemon and Lime trees are still in pots, along with rosemary, scallions, mint, and a lone tomato plant with one tomato growing. They’re at the front of the house.

We dug up a little patch over by the garage, about 5′ by 5′. Mostly basil, a couple of bell pepper plants, some sage and parsley. I’ve made five or six recipes of pesto while BF complained about the “smell.”

Bell peppers
They’re growing pretty good, and they’ll be red when mature.

I’m hoping to at least one more container for the winter before it all goes away, but we’ll see. All those little rooted pieces of basil worked and most of them survived.

BF planned to dig more grass up for the rest of the plants, but he’s up to his elbows in car parts and motors. He’s been busily building motors for people and doing some repair work for a few folks, too.

Additionally, we’ve done some updates to the Casa de Rurale. Specifically, replacement ceiling fans (including a new one with a big light and remote control in my office), two new exterior doors with new frames, a new kitchen and bathroom faucet, both Moen (I’ll tell you why Moen in a minute) and. . .a new septic tank.

Not the most interesting stuff, but the septic tank was very important. I’ll spare you the details.

The garden plot had a few tomato plants, but I only got one or two little tomatoes. Must find a better place next year, but they were delicious. One was a teardrop tomato, and the other was a little round one. But we’re getting some tomatoes, finally, in a most unusual fashion.

Surprise Tomatoes

Because the original builders of this house were able to get away with it, the only septic tank was a single 55-gallon drum. The house was built for a mother-in-law, so it was all the local zoning required. (Yes, they really do stuff like this in Louisiana.)

BF knew that at some point a new, modern tank would be needed. We were having some issues, but nothing too severe. He previously did some digging, but the only way to solve everything was the new septic tank. With all the work he’s been doing in the shop, he was able to get a new 500-gallon cement tank installed in early July.

After the tank business was all over (it really didn’t take long), BF put some dirt over it, and hopefully next year we will have lots of lovely green grass growing over it.

While BF’s car guy friend was visiting, he looked over by the tank, points and says, “That’s a tomato plant.” Where? “Over there, under the tree.” At first I told him he was crazy, but upon closer inspection, he was correct, it was a tomato plant. “If you stake it, you might get some tomatoes off of it.”

Surprise tomatoes

Well, I did stake the plants, and this one has given several “racks” of tomatoes in various stages of growth. (This is the first one, near the bottom of the plant.) They’re obviously yellow grape tomatoes, and I have picked a number and eaten a few when ripened. I watered them regularly.

The End

A month or two ago, the wind knocked them over, so I did a little digging to put the stake farther down. Unfortunately, I must have hit the root system, because they started turning brown. There is one tomato that’s thriving on what’s left of the green part and a few more flowers. But the rest were picked and will be seeded before I eat them.

I’ll spare you the details of how these tomato plants came to be, but I’m sure you can figure it out.

BO, a gentleman I used to work with at Boeing, lives in the Clear Lake Area, and posted a pic of a tomato plant growing out of the gutter on his house last year. Apparently, the seeds got up there in much the same fashion, but with birds. He posted a picture with a comment about maybe it was time to clean out the gutters.  He actually got a half dozen or so tomatoes off that plant. I guess he cleared the gutters later.

So tomatoes are pretty easy to grow, yes?

Fingers crossed for a bigger, better planting and harvest next year, and not by the septic system.

Why Moen?

Well. . .remember when I bought the dishwasher? BF changed out the kitchen sink faucet for me right after I got it. He sent me to the local hardware store and I bought what we could afford at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a top-of-the-line model. (The dishwasher is still running great–we’re both happy with it.)

The dishwasher’s “delay” function is great–you set it and forget it, and I was setting it to go off at 3:00 or 4:00 am. That way we could take a shower, and we’d have plenty of hot water. (OK, it only uses 3.5 gallons for a cycle, but BF is persnickety about it.) Unfortunately, well, the faucet. . . .

I bet you see where this is going–the water pressure eventually led to the faucet leaking, and one Saturday, the kitchen was flooded. So no more overnight dishwashing, and lots of old towels around when I did use it.

BF sent me to Lowe’s, and I got a very elegant Moen faucet which doesn’t leak (but not that expensive.)  Unfortunately, he’s had to tear out the cabinetry, and we discovered that the leaks attracted. . .termites. There was no structural damage, but some of the wood has been replaced.  The termite problem has been taken care of by his gracious uncle. The kitchen cabinet has been put back together, along with some additional shelving under the sink. At some point, there will be new vinyl flooring (it was already planned.)

I was glad that we were making progress in the house, but. . .well, that’s the karma, isn’t it? More plumbing issues. . .I hope they’re solved now. The Crock Pots were used regularly until we could get back in there. 

Making Chorizo

Let’s talk about something tasty.

One of the many things that I’ve bemoaned the loss of outside of Texas is the availability of chorizo. If you’re not familiar with chorizo, you’re probably not reading this from Texas, or you’ve never been to Texas. If you’ve never had chorizo, you’re missing out.

Most shoppers know about the ubiquitous Italian sausage that’s available just about anywhere in the United States. Different areas have different ways of making it. For instance, the Italian sausage are used to get H-E-B was wonderful. It tasted better than Johnsonville’s version, and I would always keep a couple packets in the freezer.

Unfortunately the Italian sausage that I found in Winn-Dixie left a great deal to be desired. (Read: it was awful.)

What It Is (For The Unfamiliar)

Chorizo is a similar thing, except it’s Hispanic. I say Hispanic, because there are two different types. One is a cured sausage, similar to hard salami, which is Spanish chorizo. I’ve found it in Cost Plus World Market a few times, and it may also be available in gourmet grocery stores.

The second type, which is more common to the southwest, is Mexican chorizo. It’s a raw sausage from pork, like the Italian sausage, but made with a different series of spices.

Chorizo may be served with anything from tacos to burritos to a breakfast plate with eggs in place of bacon or regular sausage. It may be in links, like the Johnsonville type, or it may be un-contained, like I’ll show you here.

Finding Chorizo

One day I was in Rouses in Mandeville, and I found out that Johnsonville now makes chorizo. I was ecstatic!. So I bought some and check at home.

Package of Johnsonville's Chorizo

First brats, now chorizo!

BF was not happy to see this, and I refuse to let him try it. But that’s OK, he didn’t want to anyway.

Result: it’s passable. It’s certainly not as good as anything you get in Texas, but it’s better than nothing. And it doesn’t have the usual amounts of fillers and other things like cereal that you find in some local brands in Houston.

Then my district leader sent me a picture of some chorizo she found in Sam’s Club in Mandeville. That’s an hour away, and I don’t belong to Sam’s. But, it’s a Texas brand and it’s fresh chorizo. I looked up the brand online and it’s pretty good it’s well-made and all that.

Now, Make It

About a week later, I was reading one of the many many food-related emails that I get every day. On this particular day, it was all about tacos. So, I had to open it up and look at it.

One of the recipes in the email was called Amaya’s Tacos. So I looked it up because it was from a cookbook I have. I found it, but on the next page was the recipe for El Chico’s Chorizo. According to the author, it was from previous cookbook from El Chico restaurant chain many years ago.

This recipe is from a book I’ve talked about before, Rob Walsh’s Tex-Mex cookbook. You’ve seen the picture of me with Mr. Walsh a couple of times from 2011, when I met him at the Houston food show.

Me with Robb Walsh, the author of The Tex-Mex Cookbook, September 2011, The Houston Food Show (I wasn’t blonde; I was using a different kind of hair color that washed out quickly.)

That was a good picture–I had recently lost weight, and that new top was suddenly too big. He autographed my book. I was happy. . .anyway. . . .

Say what?

I had no idea that all this time, I had a recipe for chorizo, and it’s pretty easy.

I had to make it. Went to Winn-Dixie and bought the ingredients. Pork chops. The recipe calls for the use of ground pork, which makes a little bit easier, but the author prefers to grind up pork chops. The recipe makes a half pound, so for my weekly breakfast quiche, I double the recipe. What I used to do an in Houston was to buy HEB’s sage breakfast sausage, and vary it with chorizo occasionally. Not anymore! (I still miss my H-E-B.)

So, if you’re going to use the pork chops or other pieces of pork, you put everything in the food processor, and mix in the spices.

Chorizo in the food processor

Then you turn to the stove, sauté up an onion, then put the pork mixture into the pot, and brown it like you would ground beef.

chorizo

And this is what you end up with:

Chorizo
Chorizo!

Eating Chorizo

This is SO good. . .and no, it’s not pepper-hot. If you want spicy hot, add some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. I’ve used pork chops, ground pork, and even pork stew meat. I’ve just gone with the ground pork since it’s readily available and usually pretty cheap.

I also figured out by accident that I can buy multiple pounds of ground pork, mix the appropriate amount of spices in, and then freeze it in quart-sized freezer bags in one-pound increments. That makes life easy, too.

Chorizo with scrambled eggs

This was left from the first batch of chorizo. YUM

 

After all the chorizo I’ve ever had my life, I have to say this is really darn good. It was a happy accident that I happened to find such a thing, and wish I had found it before. Well, I have it now. And BF won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Rob Walsh has a series of cookbooks out, and I may investigate buying more of them. His chili cookbook may be next. After all, it’s better to have recipes if you’re going to go attempt to make some Tex-Mex food, isn’t it?

Bonus: Hatch Chile Time!

I managed to get some Hatch chiles this year and put them into my breakfast quiche again. YUM. I bought a lot of them and roasted them all at once in the oven. With the windows open. When BF was not around.

I’ve got a jar full of seeds, in addition to seeds I saved previously. (Bell pepper seeds, too.) I’ve planted a few in the little garden spot, but nothing grew. There’s always next year and that big area behind the garage.

Rouse’s has started to pick up the banner for Hatch chiles, although last year, I got them at Whole Foods. Winn-Dixie had the last of the crop because October is way too late. Many of them were red, which means they’re hotter.

This year, a customer in Rouse’s produce department asked me to explain the Hatch–and I did. Extensively. Turns out the lady and her husband were headed to Carlsbad Caverns. I told her about me and Aunt Ruth’s trip to Albuquerque in 2012, and the warning from a fellow flier about “red, or green?”

Hatch Infused

While Rouse’s will never be HEB, they had some Hatch-infused meats available, as well as Hatch roasted rotisserie chicken.

Hatch chile skewers
Ready to grill
Hatch meatloaf
Just pop it into your toaster oven and dinner is done

Of course, we can get canned Hatch chiles here all year long, and you can always order all things Hatch from HEB on their website.

Because we’re in Louisiana, this sits right next to that meat case:

The Trinity Spice Mix
You can buy it in a jar

Many Louisiana recipes start out with celery, onion and bell pepper. With a nod to the state’s Catholic roots, people started calling that combination the “Trinity.” Naturally, someone came up with the idea to market it in dried form, and, well, there it is. I haven’t bought any, but I have bought some dried bell peppers; I needed it for a Stephanie O’Dea recipe recently.

Ready To Make Chorizo?

I know, I know, you can buy it all over the Lone Star State. Heck, I even found some in Rouse’s, one of the brands you can get in Texas–had no idea:

Chorizo
Along with the local “Cajun” sausage, no less

Oh, and look what else I found nearby:

Cheeses withthe chorizo
Manchego? Why couldn’t I find this in Houston?

I usually get this brand of Queso Fresco, but soon I’ll be trying that Manchego to see what it’s like. Fortunately, BF has no interest.

And I’m doing yeast-free for a while. Almond milk and Yeast Free Brownies. No dairy. All that.

I took a pic of the recipe: 

Recipe for El Chico's Chorizo

The simple recipe from Robb Walsh’s Tex-Mex Cooking.


I’ll add it to the recipe page soon Just know that it’s from a book, and of course, I didn’t create it. If I do create a recipe, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.

Here Come The Holidays

Whether you want them to or not.

BF notified me that the kids would like me to brine a turkey and do a Thanksgiving dinner. Can’t imagine why–other than turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes, they turned their noses up at everything else the last time. I’ll take care of it, and the rest can be out of a box or frozen. They love the instant stuffing mix. There may be a pie from The Pioneer Woman’s latest magazine.

Longtime Buddhist friend KJ posted this on Facebook recently:

Christmas Tinner Dinner In A Can

Dinner in a can!

If anyone complains about Thanksgiving, I’ll source these for Christmas dinner. If I can find a countertop dishwasher, I can find this online, darn it. And why not? Can’t be any worse than Feetloaf:

Picture of Meatloaf made like a foot with chopped onions for toenails

I swear, I’m going to make this one day

Yes, I’m a smart-aleck.

I’ll try very hard to get some of the other drafts out and published; I’ve just been very busy. Sorry about that.

Go make some easy chorizo, and have a delicious meal tonight or Taco Tuesday tomorrow.

Enjoy!

Kitchen Rack
Short post: Amy’s Kitchen Rack

The Kitchen Rack returns to the HeatCageKitchen!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers!

Welcome to another edition of “What’s she up to this time?” I’ve been busy! Boy, have I ever. . . .

Another article published!

Today another one of my articles is published on OffTheGridNews, on a food, or supplement, called Maca. It’s a plant that grows high in the Andes Mountains, similar to a potato or turnip. I’ve heard about Maca for many years, but never got around to trying it. It’s great for hot-flashin’ women, so I read, but there’s more to it than that. Like potatoes to the Irish, Maca root has been a food staple for the folks in that part of the world for thousands of years. Someone (probably a Gringo) figured out that it was a pretty powerful thing, and now you can buy it raw or gelatinized and take it as a supplement.

I bought some, too

Admittedly, after I wrote this article, I bought some from Vitacost. Buddhist friend NM told me about Vitacost recently, and I have not been near a Vitamin Shoppe since. I started buying OTC thyroid from Vitacost after discovering they sold it for $10 less than Vitamin Shoppe—and they ship it right to your door! No more long drives to NOLA or Baton Rouge to get one bottle at nearly twice the price. I also use Vitacost’s website for basic research for these articles. I started taking Maca last Friday, when the latest bottle of Raw Thyroid arrived. Vitacost’s house brand is gelatinized, but I’ll try the raw version one day too and see which one works better. (I’m applying the principle of “try the least expensive option first.”) So far, so good.

There was a time when I would spend about $200 a pop at Vitamin Shoppe when I stocked up on stuff. No more—I have been building a list of things I’ll be taking again one day, and I order one or two products at a time, as I can. I’m still writing, but no “big paydays” yet.

No Coffee for Aussies?

This article on The Kitchn this morning says that Aussie kitchens don’t have. . .what? Like me, they do have a kettle to boil water in their kitchens, but not a coffee maker. (The pictured SMEG kettle is gorgeous—I want one of those in red, please!) The kettle makes hot water for tea, instant soups and—instant coffee. I actually have some instant coffee, but it’s primarily for recipes like Yeast Free Brownies. Drinking instant coffee? No, that’s OK. Not unless I absolutely have to. Even in decaf.

Hot mess: Slow Cooker Edition

Last week saw me make two more recipes from slow cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea’s emails: Hearty Lima Bean Soup and Maple Barbecue Beef. BF keeps packets of lima beans around, so I figured he’d like that. NOPE—too much tomato, and he didn’t even finish his. He ate a bowl of cereal, no kidding. Maple Barbecue Beef went over. . .OK. . .we can have it again sometime, but not anytime soon, he says. Yesterday I threw a few things in the slow cooker, including some black beans for a change, and I’ll post that recipe soon. Working Title: Amy’s Slow Cooker Southwestern Black Beans. Along with a bit of roast beef, BF was pretty happy with Sunday dinner after working all day.

Now, this week’s update

You remember the microwave saga? That saga has finally come to an end—I no longer own one! We have one at the Casa de Rurale, of course, but it’s BF’s. More than six months after I bought it at the League City Walmart, I brought the perfectly working but dusty microwave to the local Walmart and traded it in for. . .a new kitchen rack!

Kitchen Rack

The one I’ve always wanted!

No kidding, I finally did it. A new kitchen rack And BF begrudgingly admits the kitchen rack was a pretty good idea. Because, after all, I did unpack a fair amount of boxes:

We had a roaring fire outside after dark with these going up in flames!

Kitchen rack

Burn, baby, burn!

Mind, you, that’s not everything on the kitchen rack–but it’s most of it. There’s some more organization that has to happen in the Casa before all my stuff is unpacked. Working on making more money so I can get the rest of the things I need, like bookshelves, a covered clothing rack, and a couple of DVD racks for us. Oh, and a digital converter box for my non-digital TV. . .one thing at a time, right? In between laundry, dish washing, cooking and Buddhist meetings. . . .

Enter the Breakfast Area

Next to the kitchen rack is my IKEA Fusion table and chairs, which they don’t make anymore, creating a nice little breakfast area by the front window:

Cozy little spot for us, right by the kitchen.

The placemats are from the old Martha Stewart collection at K-Mart. I mentioned this to BF this morning, and he said, “I’m sensing a pattern here.” Because a fair number of things I own are “from the Martha Stewart Collection,” somewhere.

After I did all that, I also stopped at Walmart for a few things one night and decided to get something else “for the house.”

Kitchen Rac

Aren’t they gorgeous?

 

Although I no longer have cable TV, I do still follow my favorite celebrity chefs on Facebook and get their emails. I bought a set of salt and pepper shakers from the new spring line of The Pioneer Woman collection. At Walmart.

These are called “Vintage Bloom,” and there’s a whole collection of dishes that go with it. It’s just a nice little bit of color, and I particularly like that color of blue. I almost bought one of the coffee cups, but if you’ve seen my coffee cup collection—I’m talking about you, Captain Ron—you’ll know that I really, REALLY don’t need another coffee cup, no matter how cute and original.

Kitchen rack is just the beginning

I’m trying to get BF to build me a rustic pallet rack for my coffee cup collection, but so far, he’s not interested. Pegboard, maybe? But he’s working on a couple of other things right now, so I give him a pass, and I wonder if I can do it myself without seriously injuring myself. (I have O- blood, if you’re donating.)

No toaster oven yet, but I have used the little oven on the stove many times. Just need an oven thermometer to check the temperature.

Improvements continue

I continue to improve things in this former man cave (with emphasis on “cave”) as time permits We’ve burned many boxes, piles of old receipts and bills, and other things that make me ask BF, “why do you still have this?” Eventually, some of my stuff will also burn as I unpack more and figure out what I don’t need anymore. Winter is gone now, so I’ll be organizing magazines as well as cycle out and move around clothes. Plant the garden stuff I haven’t even planted yet,too. I want my Hatch chiles!

I’m writing another article for OffTheGridNews, and it’s due Friday. I won’t reveal the subject yet, but there will be an accompanying article here, soon as I do some taste-testing with BF and one or two of his friends. BF is chomping at the bit. . .to get it over with. Because, he says, “I’m just humoring you.” (And he doesn’t understand why I go to Whole Foods whenever I can, but that’s another blog post.) But there’s work to be done before then, and I’ll bring it to you with pictures soon.

Enjoy!

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

Do you like chipotle chicken? I’ve got more slow-cooked good for you today: Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

How’s your week so far? Thinking about dinner? Thinking about some slow cooking this week? You’re in luck.

I’ve got a good one for you.

I’m still writing on Upwork, and although the big project has cooled off for a bit, I’m still at it. This past week has been particularly busy, and so have the slow cookers at the Casa de Rurale. We’ve had a pot roast, some lima beans, some of Stephanie O’Dea’s Chicken with 20 or 40 Cloves of Garlic, and an unexpected new favorite.

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

I’m still getting Stephanie’s emails every day, but some of them are, shall we say, not suitable for our purposes. Last week she sent out this recipe for Thai Coconut Soup. If it’s your thing, go for it. I started reading it, and I see that it includes coconut milk. First thought: “no way he’s going to eat this.” Then I saw that it includes 1/2 pound extra firm tofu, cubed. And then I thought, “no way I’m going to eat this!” So that was the end of that. But I’m holding it in my back pocket for April Fool’s Day, along with a couple of other irritants for BF.

Chicken & Garlic

I managed to find a package of on-sale cut-up chicken in Winn Dixie the other day, and I was pulling up my email in the store so I could find the recipe for Chicken with 20 or 40 Cloves of Garlic. Turns out I only needed. . .garlic and chicken. So one night, that’s what we had. Really, really good chicken, and not strong like you’d think , but BF gave me a funny look when he saw all that garlic. It’s a slow-cooker version of a classic French dish; this is Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa version, although, admittedly, I’ve not made this one.  I posted a comment on Facebook about how good it was (BF was working late) and three people asked for the recipe and said they would be making it. It’s pretty straightforward, so I’m not reviewing it here. Go try it, it’s darn good. Thanks, Stephanie.

So what *are* you talking about today, Amy?

No, the recipe here is another chicken dish that came to me via Bloglovin. You’ve obviously seen my header about it, and of course, you can find this humble blog with many others on that site. I get an email every day about “blogs you need to read today,” but I can’t say I read them all. I primarily get blogs about sewing, but this particular recipe was in one of the daily emails.

And I talked BF into letting me make it. He did not regret his decision.

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

It started with a packet of chicken thighs and a busy day.

Despite getting up early, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and the prep stage took longer. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s make this deliciousness, courtesy of Lisa Lin at Healthy Nibbles & Bits.

The setup. (That’s the saddest bunch of cilantro I’ve ever seen.)

Admittedly, the chicken was supposed to be breasts, but I’m cheap and use what I have on hand. Unfortunately, the chicken was neither boneless nor skinless, so guess what I was doing in a big hurry? Oh, well. At least I could get some cilantro in Walmart that night. (I so miss my HEB.)

Hunt's BPA-free cans and no GMO tomatoes

See? BPA-free and no GMO

I got all the cans opened:

Beans and tomatoes–OK, so it’s not TEXAS chili, but bear with me.

Rinsed the beans:

And dumped them into the slow cooker. Then diced a sweet potato:

Just an ordinary sweet potato.

And diced the onion. . .although not without incident. The knife slipped, and. . . .

Then this happened. And I had to finish while keeping anything acidic away from it.

It’s all REAL in the HeatCageKitchen

After adding those to the crock, there were the chipotles:

These are ancho chilis in a spicy sauce.

My Texas readers will recognize these immediately, but if you’re not familiar with them, you’ll find them with the taco shells, seasonings and sauce. You also add one tablespoon of the sauce these babies come in:

It’s called “Adobo sauce,” but no idea why. It’s not ketchup, that’s for sure!

Goes right into the pot:

 

And cumin. . . .

Ahhh, cumin. A favorite of Southwestern and Tex-Mex cuisine. (That’s why I have that huge container.)

Some salt:

These are ancho chilis in sauce.

Now the tomatoes:

Just pour right in.

Mix that all up:

Just stir it well until they’re all combined. Watch what comes next.

Enter the chicken

So, now I realize that I have to skin and debone this chicken, which, unfortunately, took a while. For this kind of recipe, I HIGHLY recommend boneless and skinless! But I got on with it:

Why does Winn-Dixie pack them upside down?

Now, this is Lisa’s little trick: don’t mix the chicken into the chili. Park them on top, like this:

Yes, they’ll sit there, don’t worry. But don’t mess with them, either.

And follow Amy’s basic rule of slow cookery: Put the food in. Put the lid on. Plug it in. Turn it on. Leave it alone.

Hours later, it’s dinnertime

 

Are you ready to eat?

Open the lid, and you see and smell this, but there’s one more step to this chipotle chicken chili:

Ready to shred

Scoop out the chicken and shred it with two forks:

Like this.

You’ll have a pile like this.

Dump that back into the crock.

These two ingredients are added last. Putting the cilantro in water and into the fridge helped:

Return all the shredded chicken to the pot, stir it again, and add the lime juice:

One more ingredient, then stir

Put it into a bowl, chop some cilantro and drop it on top, and you’re ready to eat:

Delish! (You might need salt, taste it first.)

This rich, flavorful chipotle chicken chili is good anytime you want a satisfying meal in a bowl. We ate it twice and froze the rest for another day. So far, I haven’t had any trouble freezing most of my slow cooker soups. Might need to cook and frreze more often, too.

Oh, and I forgot to buy and add corn. But it was still really good.

Caveat

The chipotle peppers and adobo sauce add spice, but it’s not really, really hot. But if you eat it hot out of the pot, the spiciness is intensified. Let it cool a bit. I still have a painful burn in my mouth!

The reluctant taste-tester

Now, BF approached this strange looking concoction with a little hesitation, (and a funny look on his face), but agreed to try it. Nothing weird in this soup, just an unusual combination of ingredients (at least, for him.) Here’s a picture of his reaction:

He likes it!

So, another win for me.

Easy Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili is a real treat with simple ingredients that will make any night of the week special. I just keep looking for more good things to slow cook, and we keep enjoying it. That comes in handy come summer in the south!

I hope you try this soon and enjoy it like we did. The print version from Lisa’s site is here on the Recipes page. I’ve got a couple of posts in mind that just need a little research and phone calling. Meantime. . . .

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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