Soup. Even the word conjures up warm tasty food that’s perfect in winter. Today I’ve got two soups for you that are easy to make and enjoyable anytime. Neither involves pesto.
Hi again, Dear Readers:
Is it cold where you are? Chances are that answer is “yes” no matter where you are throughout the United States. After all, it is winter for a bit longer. Even though it’s getting closer to spring, we’ve still got some “winter” to go.
In parts of Texas, exploding trees have been keeping people up at night. The trees “explode” when the sap freezes and the trees break from the weight. We may have heard that happen here as well. It’s just like putting something liquid in your freezer and it expands. If there isn’t enough room for the liquid, whatever vessel it’s contained in will crack open. That’s why you don’t put glass in the freezer as a rule, because the glass will break upon expansion.
We’ve been experiencing our own part of the cold snap, and yes, he is still complaining that he hates cold weather. Then it warms up and mosquitoes return for a day or two. But I managed to make him happy recently with a soup recipe for which he gave me a thumbs-up to make again. And I also made a similar soup that he wouldn’t touch, but it’s equally tasty.
New Member Of The Family
I texted Ami Pope a few weeks ago and told her about the remaining Spencer story. She texted back that she had a clear vision of the possum opening up one eye, looking at BF, and saying, “Hey buddy, can you help me out?”
After two posts mentioning our beloved dog, Spencer, I can report that BF has brought in another dog to give the pit bull a new companion. He’s been kind of lonely since we lost Spencer, and he’s been acting like a little puppy dog ever since. The pit bull is now eight years old, and at 85 pounds, is hardly a “puppy.”
But on a recent Saturday, when we had something else going on (keep reading), BF came home from work with a little “surprise.” As I’ve said many times, I don’t like surprises, because they’re frequently not good. BF told me that I had to bring the pit bull inside, having let him out to greet BF. Immediately, I knew it was something to which the dog would object.
Well, he didn’t object, but it was a surprise for the pit bull. Not to mention ME.
This is Buddy, a cross between a chocolate Labrador and a Catahoula Leopard Hound, also called a “Catahoula Cur.” (A “cur” is actually a mixture of breeds within a breed; it’s a little weird.) This cute little furball has turned the pit bull from an eight-year-old “puppy” into a doting father. They’re not related, of course, but the pit bull instantly became the elder statesman in light of the puppy moving into the house. In these pictures, taken the day of his arrival, he is approximately eight weeks old.
BF came up with the name, although we could have gone with “Rufus”, too. Buddy goes between hyperactivity and near-comatose. He’s got Spencer’s metronome tail and occasionally vocalizes like Spencer, too. He’s learning to bark, but he does whine and also chirps. (Did we get a monkey?) But of course, he’s not Spencer, and he’s got ice-blue eyes like a full-blooded Catahoula whatever or a Siberian Husky. At this writing, it’s been a month, and he’s now 12 weeks old.
Tab E. Cat, the resident apex predator, is not happy. He has expressed his extreme displeasure multiple times with hissing and swatting at both dogs, primarily at Buddy. Of course, this cute little puppy will, within a year or so, be as big as, if not bigger than the pit bull, who would like to cancel his trial subscription to fatherhood. But it’s getting better, a little at a time.
Naturally, I have nothing *else* to do all day long but deal with an untrained puppy. I gave him a unique nickname: “Broccoli Stir-fry.” But that’s just when I get mad at him. Titan, the pit bull, is busy all day teaching him how to dog. But it’s obvious he needs a break from fatherhood.
Well, say goodbye to our 1970’s avocado green stove.
That’s right, BF bought us some new kitchen appliances. They were delivered hours before he came home from work with that rodent, I mean, Buddy the new puppy.
BF sold something out of his shop and decided it was finally time to upgrade the ancient but functional appliances.
No kidding, we had an avocado green stove, as you’ve seen in previous pictures.
The stove and the old fridge/freezer with the non-working water fountain and ice maker have been removed and carted away. In their place are sleek new stainless-steel exterior appliances that leave a little more room in the kitchen, are energy efficient, and work great.
We’ve been talking about doing this for some time, but it always seems to get put off. Well, this time, BF said “I’m doing this,” and he did.
I have seen posts on Facebook from people in other places that have had considerable trouble getting the appliances they want. In some cases, the appliances are on backorder, or simply not available anywhere. We just purchased what was in stock at Lowe’s, which may or may not have been the absolute newest models. Lowes had them, BF bought them, and they delivered them two days later.
It took some time to get everything swapped out and get the older appliances removed from the house. We cleaned the floor behind both appliances before the new ones were added, and they were expertly installed by none other than BF himself.
A Fancier Stove And Refrigerator
One thing I enjoy teasing BF about is his slightly Luddite nature. It’s just funny to watch him when he is presented with something new, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with it. It’s just nothing that’s ever crossed his path.
I was perfectly happy with the coil-type burners. I would not have minded if he bought a new stove with the same type of cooktop. Surprisingly, this time, BF went in for something much more modern, complete with ceramic cooktops and a digital readout.
This light reminds you that the stove is still hot, even if it’s turned off. Pay attention!
That “quick boil” burner really does heat up fast.
This is what happens when you turn one on under a pot.
The refrigerator is at once both simplicity and complexity in one place. In other words, it’s very modern, very sleek, very well designed, with a lot more interior real estate than the other one had.
The door shelves in this new refrigerator are much bigger, hold much more, and can accommodate a gallon of milk. The freezer does not have an ice maker because there is no waterline in that spot. That’s OK, we have plenty of ice cube trays.
Get a load of the size of this butter garage:
I’m supposed to be making BF a Barefoot Contessa Apple Crostata soon because we were recently gifted some apples. Everything is ready for me to start baking. . .soon.
The one downside is that now that we have a refrigerator with clear shelves and drawers, BF can see everything. This includes the stuff that I put towards the back of the produce drawer where, hopefully, he’ll look past them. You know, the sun-dried tomatoes, Asian fish sauce, coconut aminos, and the anchovy fillets and paste. I’ve used anchovy paste a few times in stuff I’ve made for him. But for heaven’s sake, don’t tell him about it or he’ll lose his mind as he did with the Frozen Hot Chocolate.
Maybe I should try putting it in the drawer at the very bottom of the fridge. It’s impossible to see into it when you open the door.
Oh, well. Let’s make some soup!
Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup
It’s keto, It’s easy, and it tastes great. Even BF said so. If you’re a fan of broccoli cheese soup, this one’s for you. If you stop off at the grocery store on the way home, you can have a delicious hot soup for dinner in less than an hour. And if you care, it’s also vegetarian and gluten-free. Not that BF cares in the least.
This is one more recipe from Emilie Bailey’s Vegetarian Keto in 30 Minutes on page 66. It wasn’t included in the original post because I made it after I wrote and published that blog post. It’s easy and perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold day.
You can use a pound of either fresh or frozen broccoli in this recipe, but since this was the first time making it, I used fresh. Prep out your ingredients:
So start out by melting the butter in a pot:
Then add your celery and onion:
Saute until they get tender, then add garlic and paprika:
Cook for just one more minute, then add in the broccoli:
Then 3.5 cups of vegetable broth or stock:
Of course, this is vegetable stock since it’s vegetarian, but if you wanted to use chicken stock (and you don’t care about vegetarian) I’m sure that would work too.
Here’s where this recipe is a bit different. Once the broccoli is cooked fork-tender, four to five minutes, remove half of the broccoli and set it aside.
Next up, add into the pot 3/4 cup of heavy cream and four ounces of regular (full-fat) cream cheese at room temp. Leave the cream cheese out for a while before you plan to cook this, just like for cheesecake (but not two days like I do.) I normally buy the two-pack of 8-ounce bricks at Walmart, but some places sell smaller packages of four ounces.
It’s going to take a few minutes for the cream cheese to melt:
After a short while, the cream cheese becomes fully melted
Emilie recommends an immersion blender to better chop some of the broccoli and smooth out the consistency:
I had to move the pot near an outlet for the blender, or use an extension cord across the kitchen.
You can do this in a standard blender, BUT–like Pea & Pesto Soup, you must be extremely careful. Remove the little inset in the top, cover with a heavy dish towel, and blend cautiously.
Ready for soup? Add the shredded cheese a handful at a time (3 cups of Colby, which I shredded by hand):
I prefer not to buy pre-shredded cheese because of the powdery ingredients added to keep it from clumping. It’s a bit of a pain, but the anti-clumping additives can also prevent the cheese from melting properly.
Once it’s incorporated (and melted), add the reserved broccoli back into the soup pot:
If you prefer, you can blend all of the broccoli instead of just half of it. We liked it this way, but there’s nothing wrong with all-blended broccoli either.
Two thumbs up! BF really enjoyed it, so we have yet another “modern” dish to add to our dinner rotation. It’s tasty, cheesy, filling, and perfect for a cool or cold evening.
Creamed Cauliflower Soup
Similar to the broccoli cheese soup, I found this one in a book called Keto For Vegetarians by Lisa Danielson. It’s got a delicious-looking egg dish on the cover and a wide range of vegetarian food similar to Emilie’s. It was one of the many books I received as a gracious gift from Callisto Press while I was on their book reviewer list.
I just happened to be flipping through this book one day, looking around and found this delicious soup on page 69. I told BF that I wanted to make some. Of course, the first thing he did was turn up his nose and make retching noises. I ignored him.
Similar to the prior recipe, it has butter, cream, and shredded cheese, so how could it be bad? It’s not like you can actually taste the cauliflower for what it is. But BF, being himself, just completely rejected it out of hand. So, the cauliflower soup is all mine whenever I decide to make some.
It’s a simple recipe, and you can make it either on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot. I tried the Instant Pot version first. The second time, when I took these pictures, I made it top of the stove and used frozen cauliflower. I’d opened a bag of florets by mistake.
The author also has a recipe for Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup on page 67 that also includes Greek yogurt cream cheese. Don’t ask me where I would find that around here.
So this is what you need to make this recipe:
There is no cream cheese in this recipe. Instead of Colby-Jack, this one calls for sharp cheddar. I’m a fan of the mild cheddar, but I bought extra-sharp here. Know what? It’s pretty good, so I suggest going with what works.
The recipe starts out the same, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat:
Once melted, add the onion and garlic:
Then saute for about three minutes or so:
Now add in the cauliflower:
Saute for a few minutes:
Add in the veggie broth and a bay leaf:
Cover and cook for 20 minutes:
After 20 minutes, remove it from the heat. Obviously, I forgot to turn off the heat. Add in the cream:
Now the cheese:
Don’t forget the salt and pepper:
Again, stir well. And serve!
This recipe makes four servings, and I had it for a few days afterward:
Really easy, really tasty, and great to make when it’s cold.
One thing I didn’t take a picture of is using a wooden tool to cut the cauliflower into smaller pieces after cooking because they were big out of the bag.
No, BF refused, even though it smelled delicious. That’s just how he rolls, even in an emergency. Fortunately, we’re not having one right now, just a difference of opinion.
This recipe also has instructions for using the Instant Pot, but it wasn’t really much faster than the stovetop. I think both could work well with the IP, which is something to consider if you have a power outage and need to use a generator. We’re experienced with camp stove cooking now, so we could certainly make both soups either way.
Addendum: New Pinch Bowls
I’ve mentioned mise en place more than once in this humble little blog. I’m a huge fan of prepping out the ingredients before you start cooking, which isn’t what I saw growing up. But the little pinch bowls I’ve had for many years have either been broken or disappeared. Seriously, the stainless steel ones from IKEA have gone into the Vortex, and the glass ones broke over time. I have one of each left, and I’ve not found them on IKEA’s website.
But I found some new ones! They’re unbreakable and resilient SILICONE.
I went looking for more but didn’t check Amazon as I should have. I mentioned it to BF one day and was considering ordering them from Cost Plus World Market. Lo and behold, we had to head to Baton Rouge one day, which means a few shopping stops when we’re done at the machine shop.
BF gets reluctantly introduced into places he would not have visited if I weren’t around. Cost Plus is one of them, where we get his new favorite cookie, Jammie Dodgers. This particular day in December, there were none of his favorite cookies, but we did manage to stock up on some things we like.
On the way out, BF saw these in a display near the checkout counter. Four in a package for $3.99. I grabbed two. They work wonderfully, fit in the dishwasher cutlery tray (just squish them a bit), and are perfect for measuring out your ingredients before you start. I’ve found that once you start doing that, the cooking process goes quickly. It’s almost like what you see on cooking shows.
Two packages of these will keep you cooking forever. Online, they now sell for $4.99, and Amazon has a range of different types and brands at different price points.
Until Next Time
I’ve posted printable PDF copies of both these recipes here on the Recipes Page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find them. One day, I’ll try to organize them a little more. Just click on the hyperlink and it will come up, ready to use or print. I’ve even added a new “logo” that I made on Canva recently.
I might do a refresh of the WordPress theme, and this may figure into the redesign/rebrand. If I do it.
Even without snow and sub-freezing, t’s been very cold this winter. There’s no better time to make soup. Make it in your Instant Pot, CrockPot, some other appliance, or just on your stovetop. Spring is a few weeks away, so now’s the time to enjoy some soup before warmer weather arrives.
Pot Roast in the Instant Pot. Yes, it’s possible for dinner tonight. I tried one from a fellow blogger and it’s pretty good.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
So, piggybacking on the last post about the Instant Pot, I’m reporting on a recipe that a), I actually made, and b) BF actually liked.
If you ask him about what he’d like for dinner, the answer is usually “meat & ‘taters.” Just like that. I’ve made many variations on the theme, but this time, it was strict. Pot roast with carrots and potatoes, and one surprise ingredient. Amazingly, for a change, he actually liked it.
Lots to tell, so let’s get started.
RIP Alvin Calhoun
A couple of years ago I was fortunate to be able to introduce you to this nice man when we went to Mr. Earl’s Awesome New Year’s Party:
Alvin Calhoun made some awesome barbecue, and you would not be looking for sauce, either. (Read the previous post to find out what I mean by that.)
We found out a few days ago that Mr. Calhoun had advanced-stage prostate cancer. He passed away the very next day. His children announced it on Facebook.
BF had tried to contact Mr. Calhoun this week, because he was going to bring some motor parts over to him to work on. That’s when BF found out about it. We had no idea he was ill, nor that he was in ICU at the time. I only got to chant for him once, because I had no idea he needed me to.
Although BF saw him again after the party, I didn’t, but never forgot him. He remembered me (and my red hair) and sent home some delicious ribs and things for us to enjoy for dinner one night. I thanked him later, I think on FB Messenger.
This picture will be printed up and framed soon.
Son Davin Calhoun will continue their company Calhoun Performance that’s based in Baton Rouge.
This was a very nice man, and we are both saddened at the news. Mr. Calhoun was well-liked by so many, and won’t be forgotten. Thank you for the delicious memories, sir.
No, not that stuff in the can–the digital kind.
If you were the unfortunate recipient of this site directing you to one where you “won a prize,” I apologize. Somehow, the site got hacked, but it’s fixed now. Seems that somehow there were extra plugins I wasn’t aware of, but are now gone. The ever-vigilant Banana Rat found them and removed them quickly, and you shouldn’t see that again.
Don’t worry, I changed the website’s password too.
I subscribe to a number of food as well as other types of blogs, many of which I mentioned last time. Blue Kitchen is written by Terry Boyd and his wife Marion, longer than me–since 2006. While my theme is:
Because good food deserves to be passed around.
Terry & Marion’s is:
Good Food. Great Stories. I Swear.
As you’ll read in their About section, when things go off the rails–like they do here–the air “turns blue” with, shall we say, colorful language. It happens more often than I admit to. The Boyds haven’t–to my knowledge–detailed the “blue” thrown about in their kitchen in any blog I’ve seen. Just know that I’m being polite when I don’t discuss what is occasionally said in the HeatCageKitchen. I don’t want to get blocked by my own hosting provider.
Based in St. Louis, Terry describes himself as I do, as an “amateur chef.” There’s the fabulous and complicated recipes you see in books by famous chefs, and then there’s dinner you’re making this evening. Terry and Marion focus on the latter, because you always have time to think about the former another time.
Pot Roast In The Instant Pot
As I alluded to last time, pot roast is one of the things that an Instant Pot, other pressure cooker, or a slow cooker works well to create. The super-heated water cooks things much faster, so even a larger cut will cook in less time. This smaller cut cooks in under an hour if it’s not frozen.
When their post landed in my email, I figured this would be a good thing to try. I have a new habit of *not* telling him what I’m making for dinner, but that eventually backfires.
When I said “pot roast,” BF was interested, so I made some. Unlike Terry & Marion, we are *not* trying to consume less red meat. But this was just right for us and one guest, another car-guy.
I know, it’s a lot of ingredients. However, much of it goes into seasoning the meat ahead of time.
So I bought a big roast and cut it in half. One half is still in the freezer.
Cut it in half and freeze the other:
Now season it.
Making The Dry Rub
Just like barbecue, there’s a dry-rub involved.
Note that this is onion and garlic POWDER, not SALT. Big difference, and you’ll notice it if you make that mistake. Mix them up:
Now just sprinkle it on:
Don’t forget the other side, of course.
Terry says you’ll have more seasoning than you need, but I ended up using the whole thing. That’s OK. Onto the next step.
As I always say, READ THE RECIPE FIRST. Always. Or your kitchen will be turning blue as well. Ask me how I know.
So I measured all the liquids first:
Yes, that’s actually fish sauce, and yes, I used it. Obviously, it’s not much. That bottle is in that place in the fridge where BF won’t see it.
Chop Your Veg
And get everything ready for the pot.
Potatoes, of course;
There’s also some onion involved:
Now on with the show!
Cooking The Pot Roast
Using the saute’ function, heat the oil:
Now sear the meat on both sides:
Take out the roast and set it aside on a plate (and in the microwave if you have hungry dogs.) Now cook the onion and garlic, adding more oil if you need it.
Cook it long enough to come out like this:
Add the garlic in right at the end:
Once the veg is cooked, shut off the saute’ function. Add in the liquids, which I mixed in the big cup to add at once:
Scrape the browned bits off the bottom–that’s where the flavor is. Now add the pot roast, the bay leaves, and any liquid on the plate into the IP:
Finish the Pot Roast
Now add the carrots and potatoes:
Use the pressure cook function to cook it for 40 minutes. When the cooking is done, leave it alone for ten minutes and then pop the pressure out.
Of course, I had company and forgot to take a picture of the end result. But if you read Terry’s page, you’ll see the finished product.
Marion describes the beautiful platter it’s presented on. I just took out the pot and brought it to the table. It was gobbled in short order, and there is one more “winner” recipe I can use.
Mississippi Pot Roast
When discussing “pot roast” and “Instant Pot” together, you will probably hear about a recipe called “Mississippi Pot Roast.” There are multiple variations of this recipe from wherever you find it, including:
- Corrie Cook’s version, which I suppose is somewhat a standard
- Jill Nystul’s version, “Vegas Meets Mississippi” pot roast
- Berge Central’s version, the inspiration for Jill Nystul’s
- Jen Fisch’s keto version, called Double Mustard–Dill Pickle Pot Roast
I have no idea if this is any kind of “Mississippi authentic.” Never lived in Mississippi and never heard of it until people started telling me about the IP. The thing is, these recipes all have one thing in common: pickles or pickled peppers.
And as I’ve mentioned before, that’s the one thing BF hates.
Serve him anything sour, tart, with lemon or lime, vinegar, sour cream, or tastes anything like pickles is an absolute “no” vote, every time. That lentil salad I made in Houston? He said if I’d served that on a first date, there wouldn’t have been a second one. (Had I known this. . . .) If he goes to a drive-through window and gets a burger, he requests “no pickles.” Frequently, he gets them anyway or the pickles were removed later and he can still taste them.
I told him last night that if his IP-enthusiast sister-in-law brought up MS pot roast yet again, he now had a reason to tell her “no thanks.”
In Terry’s version, there aren’t any pickle-y things. The fish sauce is very mild, it’s a small amount, so it’s not “fishy tasting.” That’s why I knew this would work.
Real Texas Chili In The Instant Pot
Last weekend I also used the IP for some real Texas chili.
Texas Granola Girl, to whom I also subscribe, has a recipe for Texas Keto Venison Chili on her website. (I have her book, and will review it soon.) I’d forgotten about it, and when I found the ground deer meat in the freezer, I remembered it. (Even commented on it, if you scroll far enough.) Well, I made it last weekend. And I liked it, he didn’t–no beans. I’ll have it all week.
First alteration: I cooked it in the IP for 20 minutes. Perfect.
Second alteration: NO BEER. It’s awful if you don’t actually like beer. I just addeed three cups of organic bone broth instead. Everything else was the same, half ground venison and half ground beef. No beans.
And BF didn’t like it, because it’s not what he thinks is “real chili.” I’ll explain.
Last year, we went to BF’s Dad’s place up the road, where they were making what they called “chili.” They’ve been making it the same way since he was a kid.
What “chili” means to BF is some browned ground beef, a couple cans of locally produced red beans, (of course) and a packet of this rubbish from McCormick. It contains–what?–WHEAT FLOUR. Why?
To “pump up” the flavor even more, his Dad added BEER. (It wasn’t a fancy pilsner, either–it was cheap Michelob Light.) People here do not realize that beer is made from wheat. I always hope that when I tell people I don’t eat wheat that they mention it. But I nearly always get ignored, even when we go out to dinner.
When I questioned the chili’s unusual taste, I was told, “it’s beer; that’s his ‘secret’ ingredient.” Had no idea beforehand, or I would have had dinner at home. Thank heavens I had plenty of Tums on hand.
I just don’t eat over there anymore because I don’t like being sick all night. It happens way too often.
McCormick actually makes this organic version that is gluten-free. We’ve bought it many times, but of course, now we can’t find it locally anymore. He insists that making our own chili and taco seasoning isn’t as good as the packets.
I used to enjoy cooking.
Until Next Time
Alternately, you could let this slow cook all day and come home to a nice dinner, but the veg might be a bit mushy. Cooking becomes easier once you get used to using the Instant Pot. I’m always looking for new ways to make dinner, and this one happened to fit the bill.
Oh, and if you like eggplant, Terry & Marion’s latest post is all about it. YUCK! You can have mine, and BF’s too.
Whatever’s for dinner, Enjoy!
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.
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.
I got everything I ordered, and we have used the tealight lanterns a few times.
I’ve loved the Rotera since I bought the first one, and thankfully, they’re the same as I remember.
Because I was very annoyed with the candles I bought locally, I made sure to get some of IKEA’s as well.
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.
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.
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:
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:
But the biggest concern, which I noticed right before I bought the Instant Pot, was this:
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.
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.
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?
One of the newer features of the Duo Evo Plus is this little spot on top:
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:
I decided to make it again this past weekend and add some rich, homemade frosting to 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.
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:
- 8 eggs
- Cooked bacon, chopped up after cooking (it’s easier that way)
- Alternate: breakfast sausage, browned and drained (hence the saute function, although I forgot on the first try)
- Alternate: chorizo, browned and drained, which you can either make yourself easily or buy in the grocery (even here!)
- Heavy Whipping Cream (a cup, I think)
- A half-cup of sour cream (optional, adds body)
- Cheese of some kind, about a half-cup to a cup (the leftover shredded Mexican blend from Taco Tuesday works just fine)
- A splash or two of Chipotle Tabasco
- A can of chopped green chiles (optional)
- 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.
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
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>
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.
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.
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:
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.
I wasn’t kidding when I said to use the cooking spray:
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.
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.
If you’re wondering where to learn more about this abominable beast, I’ve collected some Instant Pot resources that I use regularly.
- Pinterest, of course. Type “Instant Pot” into the search area with anything you want to cook in it and you will be bombarded by sixty billion recipes. Add more search terms and be specific, like “keto turkey meatloaf with sun-dried tomatoes” or “sugar-free strawberry peach jam” or “paleo chocolate raspberry crustless cheesecake.” This narrows down the search results to something more manageable so you can actually find something you want.
- Corrie Cooks, the website where I got the cake recipe for BF. The website boasts 1,001 Instant Pot Recipes, so there’s a wide range of recipes available, something for everyone.
- One Good Thing By Jillee–a modern-day home economist, author Jill Nystul loves her Instant Pot! You may remember her microwave popcorn recipe I found years ago. She has this article on everything you need to know about an IP, as well as a listing of her favorite IP recipes. They’re not all keto or low-carb, but neither is everyone who reads this blog. I’ve made slow-cooker breakfast quiches, but not Jill’s. I did want to make her chili recipe, but BF resists at every turn. He wants *his* chili made with that stuff in the packet. I win occasionally.
- Pressure Cooking Today, a blog by mother-daughter duo Barbara and Jennifer. You can read their review of the Duo Evo Plus here. This is how I found out about the online-only manual and the now-available ice pack. They’ve also written IP cookbooks. You can also check them out on their Facebook page where they hold live events.
- Piping Hot Curry also has a primer on Instant Pot lingo and information.
- Paint The Kitchen Red has a post on burn notices, or burn error messages. It’s happened to me once, and that’s when I wanted to apply a sledgehammer. This usually comes from an inadequate amount of water, but can occur for many reasons.
- AllRecipes, the Internet’s bastion database of recipes, has an entire section of Instant Pot recipes.
- InstantPot’s own website, where you can learn about their products, find recipes, get support, and sign up for their newsletter. You can also find out how to use an Instant Pot for sterilization, or autoclaving.
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.
Big Freeze of February 2021. We were there and lived to tell about it. Deer sausage was involved.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers:
I know, it’s been a while again. Still writing for clients. We all had a setback about six weeks ago. Perhaps you heard about it, and perhaps you experienced it. We did, and so did friends.
I’d planned on having this as part of another post, but it’s too long. Let me tell you all about it, with some news first.
Hubig’s Pies Return Soon
You read that right–the famed Hubig’s Pies will be returning sometime later this year.
I wrote about Hubig’s Pies a few years ago, and despite people asking for them, the company and its owners have been struggling to get them back into production. But they’re now on track for the return, 100 years after they first appeared.
Then, of course, the pandemic. They were supposed to return already, but bringing back such a well-loved tradition takes a lot of hard work. If people open up a Hubig’s and turn their nose up, it’s all for nothing. So, understandably, it’s taken a while.
BF will be all over them, I’m sure. I’ll just watch from a distance.
The Big Freeze
OK, so. . .you want to know what took me so long to write again? I’ll tell you–we all froze over. No kidding. And Valentine’s Day was spent getting ready for the incoming winter storm.
We didn’t get to do our normal Valentine’s Day “dinner and a movie at home.” Sunday was spent making preparations as fast as we could. But BF did bring home something for me, even though he said he didn’t want anything himself:
Admittedly, they were absolutely delicious, but I ate just one a day.
It seems that someone BF knows through work used to work for Albertson’s, one of the grocery stores in Hammond. She worked in the area that did this kind of thing but now does it on her own. Reasonably priced, he said, so he ordered some and brought them home the day before (Saturday.) He was off on Sunday the 14th–good thing.
We worked it–from pulling space heaters into the house to gathering up flashlights, candles, power banks, and every other emergency thing we have to do. This included washing clothes, dishes, and checking the foodstuffs we had available, knowing what we needed and what to get to prepare. That’s how we spent Valentine’s Day–preparing for the incoming freeze.
Unfortunately, the three IKEA tea light lanterns I had were left behind when I moved here, so we had to be really careful with the little candles. I still have some heavy glass tea light holders and have since ordered some of these Rotera lanterns from IKEA’s website, along with two packages of their tea lights. The ones I bought locally some time ago last about 15 minutes. With hurricane season just a couple of months away and the occasional random power outage, they’ll be well worth the wait and investment.
Fixing The Sweater
A couple of years ago, Simplicity published what I think of as the quintessential winter sweater, #S8738. Made with a sweater knit bought by the yard, this pattern just said “sweater” to me. I’ve made nine of them from different types of fabrics. All but one came from online vendors; the grey waffle knit came from a cut bundle at Walmart. It does get *that* cold here, unlike Houston and New Orleans. And for a freeze, well, you need sweaters, right?
Now I have a total of 16 sweaters. Some of the later ones were indeed made from Walmart cuts, including a black-and-white buffalo check knit that I made into this sweater from Simplicity’s #S9178.
This particular garment was one of the first of the sweaters I made from #S8738 using this fabulous southwestern knit from Fashion Fabrics Club:
Problem: because the polyester fabric isn’t very stretchy, the collar was too snug, making it too hot to wear for very long. I had to wait until the weather was cold enough, but even then it was a “heat trap.” Solution: take the scraps and cut a new, larger collar, cut off the existing collar below the seam, then install the new one into the bigger neck opening.
Knowing I would need all my warmest clothes for the next few days, I set out to fix this sweater for good. I had to get BF to help me FIND the scraps, but once he did, I got to work. It didn’t take long. Now it’s more breathable and lets the heat out as it should. It’s one of the last things I did before we went to bed that night.
Monday, February 15
The freeze and storm moved through the entire state of Texas, bringing snow, ice, and power outages into Louisiana. Houston actually got snow, and some parts west of us did, but we didn’t. (Still wishing, but maybe next year.) I was in touch with a few folks, and they had different stories to tell.
- Aunt Ruth near Manvel, TX, lost her phone and Internet, and experienced low water pressure, but never lost power
- The GER lost power and water, and it got down to 58F in the Funk House/Junk House before Centerpoint restored power to his neighborhood
- Miss Alice, now living in the Medical Center area of Houston, had power, but her bathroom facilities went out, likely to a broken pipe, and was subsequently repaired
- RR in Katy, TX, aka “Banana Rat,” was fixing burst pipes at his own house as well as his girlfriend’s mother’s house
- Neighbor E lost power intermittently, and his sister in another part of Houston lost power four times. Eventually, the power came back on and stayed on, and they were ok. He sent me a couple of pictures of the winter wonderland at El Dorado Trace:
Nobody’s going swimming today.
Water went down because plants had no power to operate, leaving lines and mains to freeze. But our waterworks in St. Helena Parish’s apparently had power, thank heavens.
We did offer Miss Alice, Neighbor E, and the GER a place if they wanted to come, but all declined. Neighbor E waited it out, and was eventually OK and enjoying his favorite hot chai lattes in his own kitchen again. The GER said he was helping out the “old ladies in the neighborhood who shouldn’t be living by themselves.” When I told Miss Alice, she said that he was “doing the work of the Buddha.” Well, he was, and people in his neighborhood are thankful.
Freeze East Of The Sabine
BF was at work that Monday morning and the freezing rain began about 10:00 am. We were up early–I started off with coffee and morning prayers and worked my way up.
We were out of dog food, and my plan was to visit Tractor Supply before the freezing rain got here. Well. . .first, the truck was literally frozen over.
I started the engine, but the thick coating of ice wasn’t budging. Just to get into the truck to start it, I had to crack the thick ice on the truck door handle.
BF had the same thing on the blue truck when he went to work earlier that morning.
The outside faucet was frozen over too, so I couldn’t get water without turning off the truck. Most of the water on the ground was also sleet or otherwise frozen. Everything was freezing up fast.
I thought I’d use the TS app to order curbside–but the app wouldn’t work for me. Getting to TS before their employees went home was not happening. BF ended up getting dog food at Piggly Wiggly on his way home before they closed up shop.
Then about 10:30 am, the power went out at the Casa de Rurale. That’s when I started chanting for all of us.
I made sure my phone was charged, plus the power banks we have were also charged. I was in touch with BF, Miss Alice, and Neighbor E by text, as well as the GER and Aunt Ruth by email. (Turns out the GER recently got himself an iPhone, and texts now. What’s this world coming to?)
I posted on Facebook and Instagram to let folks know what was going on. Well, everyone was in the freeze and doing the same thing. One of the Houston TV stations’ Facebook page mentioned lighting candles for warmth. So that was the first thing I did, putting them all on the dining room table. There is a flashlight or two in every room in the house, including one hanging next to my desk. But without power, candles are the way to go until you can find a way to generate heat. ALWAYS exercise caution with lit candles, especially with pets and/or children around.
BF got calls from the neighbors on both sides, asking if he had power. NO, but he knew about it from Entergy’s phone call and my texting. They worked until about 4 or 5, but BF went to Piggly Wiggly long before they closed and had everything ready for whenever they left the shop.
Pictures Of Winter
Meantime, I took a few pictures to enjoy:
This green ground-cover plant by the tree didn’t die in the freeze–and it was fine after the ice melted.
One lady posted this in the official Instant Pot group on Facebook:
If it works, it works! I did offer to put the slow cooker or IP on the generator, but BF said we didn’t need to. But I couldn’t leave this for the Instant Pot post.
This was also posted in the same group:
Others posted these, good now as well as later:
Plumbing problems? No, you don’t.
The GER said that a neighbor chased down a plumbing truck just to get a part to fix something. It was that bad in Houston for a while.
And for fun, Neighbor E sent me this one:
There will be a Shutterfly book at some point for all these pictures. We can look at them in the summer when it’s 90 degrees.
BF To The Rescue
Did I mention BF hates cold weather?
So while I was inside with the animals trying to stay warm and watching the temperature go down one degree at a time, I cut some fabric by the open window while there was still some daylight. I had another t-shirt under the sweater. BF told me not to worry–it would be fine once he got home. And it was.
You see, BF has been in this freeze situation before. For such a thing he has a gasoline-powered generator, as well as a camping stove that’s powered by bottled propane. From the minute he arrived and brought everything inside, he swung into action.
First, he went out to the shop and slid that generator across the ice-covered expanse of land, and set it up on the porch, running the cord in through the slightly opened front window. The cold air was kept out with a towel blocking off the opening. With four plugs available, two went to space heaters, one to light. We unplugged one thing to charge our phones, make coffee, whatever. We then went into town to fill up three or four jugs with petrol to keep the generator running.
If you’re a veg type, I’m sorry. People go deer hunting around these parts. Deer sausage happens both here and in Texas. In Houston, Neighbor J upstairs used to bring me deer sausage occasionally when he went to West Texas for hunting. The processors added too much jalapeno for him, but I thought it was delicious.
About a month before our epic winter storm, BF had the opportunity to buy some deer sausage from someone who was unemployed and made it for someone who refused to pay for it. I was a bit perplexed when he told me about buying so much, but I just found a place for it in the big freezer. We’ve had it several times since then.
Dinner By BF The Chef
On this night, our dinner was deer sausage and eggs:
I tease him sometimes that he cooks a little something and then prances around like he’s the French chef Escoffier. Teasing aside, shortly after this picture, we had a hot, freshly cooked keto-friendly dinner:
Light in the kitchen was from a big burly cordless Snap-On shop flashlight that’s to the left of him. It has a heavy, flat bottom so you can set it on a flat surface. The neck pivots up and down so you can get it in just the right place. I can’t find anything similar on either Snap-On’s website or Amazon to show you. There was still a bit of light from outside while he was cooking.
Our camp stove provided some heat, which was also helpful. But it should never be used as a sole heat source indoors.
Of course, BF was puffing his chest out a little, proud to take care of “The Little Woman” (me) in the harsh, cold winter days. He’s done this before and knew exactly what to do. I hugged him a little tighter and made sure I helped whenever he needed me. Miss Alice, The GER, Neighbor E, and Aunt Ruth all got a kick out of the picture, too.
Living And Waiting
BF connected a lamp to the generator so I could do evening prayers and cut more fabric. (I’ve got a huge bag of projects ready to sew now.) I chanted for everyone affected by the freeze, which is such a rare thing in this part of the US. Houston, Galveston, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and every place in between just don’t have that kind of weather very often. Most people aren’t prepared for it.
We had two space heaters in the house and ran them on the generator 24/7 until it was over. One of them was next to the dogs so they could stay warm as well.
In order to add more petrol to the generator to keep the heaters running, BF got up in the cold at 5:00 am, then went back to bed. He also ran the freezer and the refrigerator for a while on the generator to make sure everything stayed cold. Some folks reported putting their frozen foods outside–well, it is a freeze, after all–which technically works. But experts were also telling people it could be dangerous if the food thawed and froze again. We were OK.
The Java Cafe’
The next morning, I needed coffee. So I plugged the kettle into the generator and used a French press:
I also pulled down the old Krups cappuccino machine, which I bought in 2013 and rarely use.
We had milk, so I figured the freeze it was a great time to clean it up, try it again and read the manual, too.
I can’t say that it works any better than I remember, but I’ll just have to keep playing with it. I only used it because it plugs directly into the generator.
Thawing And The Return Of Power
Our little enclave finally had power again at about 5:30 pm on Tuesday, roughly 36 hours after it went down. We turned the heater way up, disconnected the generator, and got back to it. The dogs were just so unfazed, and the cat just stuck with BF any chance he got.
Large falling branches coated with ice broke the power lines, causing the outages. ALL the trees had a heavy coat of ice like the pecan tree. The local state DOT came around on Tuesday morning and pushed them off the roads so the utility folks could get through and fix the power lines. I went out for a walk and surveyed the road. I’ll add those pictures in a little photo book.
The next day, we were busy washing up the kitchen, laundry, and tidying up everything that we had to postpone during the freeze. Aunt Ruth said later that her kitchen was a bit of a mess, too. I couldn’t get any work done for two days, and I’m just now finally caught up, almost. No kidding.
A week later, it was 80F. No kidding.
More To Come
I made a delicious keto recipe last week. I liked it, he didn’t. But it’s fast and easy, and goes over well if you don’t mention “cauliflower rice” to anyone. The infamous Instant Pot post is way overdue and I think I’m just going to finish it up and publish it, with lots of backlinks.
Spring is here, and that means asparagus and other wonderful things, like basil and making pesto. Oh, I have about two years worth of pesto in the freezer, but there’s no saying I can’t make more.
We’ve tossed about the idea of trying to garden again, but I’m taking it with a pound of salt. I’ve still got some parsley to dig up, and I need to start getting basil plants soon. A full-fledged garden? We’ll see. BF now has an old Ford tractor he bought from someone nearby who doesn’t need it, so that will come in handy. . .IF we garden. Again, we’ll see.
In the meantime, Happy Dining!
Egg bites: another Starbucks trend that’s gone mainstream. Make them or buy them, they’re a great meal or snack anytime.
Hi, Again, Dear Readers!
It’s Monday, and did you know? It’s three weeks past my birthday, and ten days until Thanksgiving. When did this happen? Oh, right–while we were all working on stuff and going about our daily lives and trying to hold onto some kind of “normal.”
Our recent lives here at the Casa de Rurale have included a few changes that I won’t bore you with here. But as always, we’re working on it.
Turkey Day 2020
Thanksgiving for us this year could be just me and BF, but I did introduce him to the idea of “Friendsgiving.” In other words, Thanksgiving for friends, as we did for many years with our “Buddhist Thanksgiving” in Houston. I mean, we were doing Friendsgiving before there was a name for it.
The district leaders, originally from Taiwan, invited anyone who had no plans to go anywhere and wanted to spend it with friends. And that’s exactly how it got started. I enjoyed the heck out of it, but things change and people change, and it eventually didn’t happen anymore.
I found a recipe on Facebook that Giada de Laurentiis posted for a stuffed turkey breast that I may make for us, and anyone we invite. I’ll let you know. But if it’s just me and BF at the homestead, that’s OK too.
Still Intermittent Fasting
I’m still at it, but now I have a little support, too. BF never minded–he asked once if it was safe–but I’ve also found a simple-to-use app called FastHabit. It helps you track your fasting, reminds you about it, and you can start and stop anytime.
On a recent Saturday, we were out with BF’s family and we all went out to lunch. I ended up fasting for almost 20 hours. I was really hungry, but I was OK.
I’m using the free version right now, but the paid version is a one-time charge of $3, so I may go ahead and buy it soon.
It’s available for both iPhone and Android devices, is simple to use, and sets up quickly. You can also adjust the time you fast, keep going after your set time–whatever.
Weight loss? Yeah, I haven’t checked, but I’m still in the FB group for it.
I went looking for new jazz music and discovered that there are live, commercial-free radio stations running on YouTube. No kidding, I went looking for jazz music and found a handful of stations that run live. No commercials, no talking, no nothing.
One of my writer friends went looking for the “white noise” kind of thing, ocean sounds, and the like and found the same thing.
I don’t know if you could find them for, say, country or classic rock. But I found multiple jazz stations, and they change every day. If you’re looking for “work from home” music that keeps you from being distracted, check it out. You might find something you like, and new every day.
Before Egg Bites
I’ve written before about Starbucks’ ideas making it into the mainstream. Remember when you got to-go coffee in styrofoam cups, and a paper cup with the sleeve was the “new thing?”
Even if you have never set foot in a Starbucks, you’ve probably heard of the Pumpkin Spice Latte or PSL. Since its introduction in 2003, “pumpkin spice” everything has emerged, including some rather amusing memes. I’ve seen a number of “pumpkin spice” things available in the fall. The motor oil, toilet paper, and cat litter are part of the fun memes that make fun of it.
Remember: pumpkins are also harvested in the fall, which is why it’s a fall thing. But you can buy canned pumpkin all year long. No kidding.
So in addition to the PSL, there is the Pumpkin Spice Creme, a different form of the drink. The PSL is also available iced. Up until 2015, there was no pumpkin in any of it, only the spices in a pumpkin pie. Today the heavy-sugar syrups do have some pumpkin puree in them.
I’m still not drinking the PSL because I remember how my teeth wiggled for hours after I drank it. Other coffee shops and chains have also taken up the things that originated in Starbucks. But I do enjoy some of the decaf pumpkin spice coffee I find at Target in the fall. And since the Cranberry Bliss Bars have returned, I might just have one of them soon, too. Just one.
Not Just In The Store Anymore
So after the Sous Vide Egg Bites debuted at Starbucks nationwide, they quickly became a fan favorite.
They’re a great little snack anytime. People doing low-carb and keto love them because they’re a breakfast alternative on the go. They’re heated in an oven, then served hot and fast in a little paper tray. Perfect with hot or iced coffee, iced tea, or even water.
Move over, Starbucks, you’ve created another monster.
Hormel’s New Egg Bites
I really like to avoid prepared foods, but occasionally, they’re not a bad thing. So maybe they’re not new to you, but I just saw these this morning in Rouses:
I was going to pass them up, but then the word “chorizo” caught me. And no futzing around in the drive-through, either.
I almost forgot about them until I pulled them out of the bag with the rest of the shopping. By then it was time for a bite to eat.
I know, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but remember that each component has its own ingredients–chorizo and cheese, in this case. But they were quick to make:
They were literally heat and eat, and have the little paper tray just like Starbucks:
You microwave them in the paper tray for a minute or so, and they come out just fine.
What do they taste like?
I’ve had Starbucks version of chorizo, and it’s not like this one. The chorizo here tastes pretty darn good, and there is a “bite,” unlike the Starbucks version. If you don’t like spicy, might want to pass on these.
They’re flavorful egg bites, and taste really, really good.
Amy’s Home Made Egg Bites
Although mine have bacon, not chorizo, this is how they compare:
I didn’t use a “recipe” for the latest batch. I just whisked up some eggs, cheese, cream, cooked bacon (ends and pieces cooked and crumbled), and maybe some Chipotle Tabasco. That’s really good in egg dishes like these–not hot but adds a Southwestern flavor.
Like a lot of things, there are recipes all over the web for egg bites in nearly every incarnation. After trying several recipes it was time for me to make my own, my way. Next time I’ll make the chorizo myself and then make the egg bites.
As you can see, the Hormel version is a bit bigger than my IP version, for which I use a silicone egg bite mold. I made two trays of them at once, and haven’t had them every day. But heck, if you’re that hungry, eat three, right? It’s keto.
I’m going to admit that making my own egg bites in the IP is a bit of work, but I sure do enjoy them. BF won’t eat them, even though they’re bacon-and-eggs, because he, like the GER, is not a fan of Starbucks.
Dude: you can have your egg bites without going there.
Not Just Egg Bites, Either
Hormel’s new Black Label ready-made breakfast includes a couple of items even BF might enjoy:
You know I’d pass on these because of the pancakes, but if BF wanted one, I’d certainly get it for him.
He keeps around the powdered pancake mix so that he can whip up his own on occasion, and drown them in syrup. Just wish he’d learn to use a knife when cutting butter, instead of the spatula. When he uses a fork, it looks like a bear clawed it. He really mauls a stick of butter when he’s in the kitchen.
Until Next Time
You’d think that breakfast is just breakfast, but it keeps evolving. So if you’re looking for a quick and easy breakfast but don’t have time to make it, you’re in luck. Find some of Hormel’s egg bites in the refrigerated section or some of Jimmy Dean’s version of frittata breakfasts in the freezer section, which are along the same lines. A low-carb breakfast is a reality for busy folks.
Just don’t say the word “frittata” in front of BF, please. It gives him the shakes.
Happy (Breakfast) Dining!