Salsa Macha–a most delicious thing to make any time. It’s perfect for your charcuterie boards, too.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Apologies again for being later than I wanted, but I’ll explain myself shortly. It’s summer, and the living is easy (we hope.) As always, fall is coming, and certain people in the US population are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Latte season. Heck, everything pumpkin spice–you know who you are.
If you just can’t wait, you can make that PSL at home with a recipe from Starbucks’ own website. Who would have thought it?
But remember–while y’all are sipping your hot PSLs, I’m still trying to enjoy my iced coffee and avoid heatstroke.
With all the rain we’ve had this year, I don’t think we’ve seen a day of 100F temps here. Houston, and most of Texas, has seen multiple 100F days.
This Year’s Gardening Attempts
We have not attempted to repeat last year’s gardening disaster.
I really haven’t mentioned the paint-bucket garden, but we’ve got basil and a few other things growing. I really need to plant the sprouted avocado seeds so they can grow into actual trees.
Think of how many friends we’ll have when they find out we have avocados growing! Well, except for BF and his brother. Say “guacamole” and BF starts retching.
Two batches of pesto were the result of the last basil cut, and I’ll likely have that much when I cut this batch.
I’ve also got two Anaheim chili pepper plants growing, and one has two medium-sized peppers on it.
Unfortunately, the little peppers that began forming when the flowers dropped off became slug food, and so I may only have those two. We’ll see, since “cold weather” probably won’t start until at least October. And then there’s lettuce:
I’ve also bought some plants:
- “Coolapeno” peppers, the heat-free jalapenos
- Green onions, as always, but I need to add more to the pot
- Orange bell peppers
- Yellow tomatoes
- Strawberries (the slugs have really decimated this one)
- Mint (a plant that is overgrown in the bucket and we recently buzz-sawed with a hedge trimmer)
And as always, sage:
Unfortunately, I didn’t plant them all right away, leading to more of BF’s smarty-pants comments about “science experiments.” I remind him that none of his previous female companions ever brought urban agriculture or other improvements into his house and his life.
Home Visit Nibbles
So a few weeks ago, our district leader OR decided she wanted to make the drive to do a home visit. It’s an SGI tradition of visiting members at home, particularly those who have recently begun practicing Buddhism and offering support. The leaders chant with the members and they discuss. . .whatever. In this case, it was the upcoming district meeting. And, I suppose OR wanted to get outta the house for a while.
Now, because of where I live, nearly everyone is an hour away. The closest members are J&B, who live in Albany, near Hammond. Basically, I’m practicing by myself out here, although most are a phone or Zoom call away. Since I’ve been practicing since 1986, though, I think I’ve got the hang of it. I don’t understand why they want to drive an hour–each way–to do a home visit, but I gave up protesting.
While we were chanting, BF showed up. But he quickly bugged off to the shop and left us alone to talk. He doesn’t mind the home visits, of course, but he does enjoy acting up when people are visiting me.
When someone does drive out here, I try to make sure I have some food and coffee to offer. I’ve baked some delicious treats from the first Babycakes book. I also have the second book but haven’t looked at it in a while. Maybe next time they come by I’ll make that Pineapple Upside-Down Cake on page 116 again.
On this particular day, since it was just OR, I told her I’d make a couple of those little keto chocolate cakes in the Instant Pot for her, and of course, coffee. OR is from Los Angeles, and is Hispanic herself–her parents came from Mexico years and years ago, and she has been in Mandeville since about 2006. Knowing that I’m a fan of Mexican and Tex-Mex food, she decided to bring something special. Naturally, I didn’t think to take pictures.
So OR made a stop at The Fresh Market for a few things, including a box of little gluten-free nut crackers, a small tub of chicken salad, and a couple of slices of Swiss cheese. Why Swiss, I don’t know, I like it fine, and I just said “thank you.”
Along with these nibbles, she brought this:
Then she asked for a very small spoon, which I happened to have:
Puzzled by her request, I went to the only one I knew I could put my hands on, in a box of Maldon Salt Flakes in the pantry. I have more of these tiny spoons, but I don’t know where they are.
We sit at the table and she explains:
- Take a cracker
- Fold a slice of cheese to make smaller pieces
- Add a bit of cheese onto the cracker
- Add a bit of chicken salad to the cracker on top of the cheese
- Drip a bit of this incredible stuff on top of the cracker stack
- Eat and enjoy
What the heck is this amazing thing you’ve brought here? OR responds, “It’s called Salsa Macha.“
I have eaten it and become enlightened.
OR is a fan of Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table on PBS. I like to watch her when I can, her food looks delicious. Pati is actually from Mexico and is married to an American. They have three sons and live in Maryland. They have, however, lived in Texas.
Pati has three books, which will be going on my “wish list” soon. Her newest will be released in November, called Treasures of the Mexican Table: Classic Recipes, Local Secrets. Her most recent book graces OR’s kitchen, and all three will eventually grace mine.
While the tacos look absolutely delicious, they are not gluten-free–she uses regular flour to batter the fish, and makes flour tortillas as well. Just thought I’d warn you.
OR said that since she made the salsa the first time, she carries around a jar of it and puts it on EVERYTHING. No wonder she has that glow of enlightenment.
I’m also writing about this recipe to piggyback on my last post on charcuterie boards. Because you can easily put this on any charcuterie board–just add a warning that it’s a bit spicy as well as contains peanuts. You don’t want an allergic person unknowingly ingesting it and having to go to the hospital.
If you do put this on your charcuterie board, I highly recommend putting the little cocktail spoons out for Salsa Macha. Because if you put a regular teaspoon out, someone will grab a large amount not realizing it should be consumed in small amounts. It does have enough of a bite from both the garlic and the chile peppers that a big tablespoon will overwhelm even the most tolerant of spice-lovers.
Making The Salsa Macha
Let me say at the outset that I am by no means an expert on Mexican and Tex-Mex food. I make no secret of the fact that it’s just one of my favorites. Living in Texas for 18 years, it’s all around, in the same way that red beans & rice, jambalaya, and gumbo are here. You know what I’d rather have, starting with the chips.
When most people hear the word “salsa,” it’s usually accompanied by the word “chips.” It’s either a freshly made tomato garnish, or it’s the kind out of a jar. Either one is good, especially if the chips are hot, fresh, and salty. However, this salsa is different.
Salsa Macha is cooked, and has no tomatoes. In fact, it has. . .peanuts. No kidding.
Of course, getting all the ingredients together was a challenge (I’ll tell you about that in a minute.) When I mentioned to OR that I was making some, she said she used a whole cup of peanuts, so I cracked open more before I made them.
Prep work involved a few other things, including peeling garlic and deseeding and deveining the dried chile peppers. That took a while:
By the time you get them all done and get to this point:
You’ve had a snootful of the pepper dust and have sneezed multiple times. Just cut the tops off, cut in half, or cut down one side, and the seeds are easy to remove.
The packet I got is actually 2.5 ounces, and the recipe calls for 2 ounces. Well. . .by the time you remove all those seeds, I’d say you got exactly 2 ounces.
I also measured out the sesame seeds, white vinegar, brown sugar (just for the first round, I think a sugar replacement like Swerve would work too), and salt for later.
First: add 1.5 cups of olive oil to a pan:
And heat over medium heat:
Once it’s heated, but not boiling, add the peanuts and the four cloves of garlic:
Now, don’t walk away from it–you’re actually frying these ingredients:
Pati says that peanuts are cooked long before you notice them, so that’s why it’s important to stay at the stove for this one.
Next, add the seeded and deveined dried chile peppers:
Along with the sesame seeds:
Cook a little longer until the chiles are toasted and done, about another 30 to 60 seconds, then take off the heat. (I just moved it to an unused burner.)
Grinding And Processing
Here’s where you should pull out that big food processor, you’ll need it.
Let me iterate here that this is HOT oil, and you’ll need to exercise great caution at this point. Hot oil burns badly, and nobody wants to check into the burn unit, ever. If you have small children or animals, shoo them out of the kitchen and away from the stove for their own safety.
Because I was using a cast-iron pot, I brought the food processor bowl to the stove and scooped it in a little at a time. Better safe than sorry, and I don’t want to get injured.
I used a couple of tools to clear the pan:
And dumped the last little bit into the work bowl.
After putting the bowl on the motor unit, I added the last ingredients:
And of course, kosher salt:
Then hit the ignition:
What you get is this lovely and delicious thing that you won’t want to live without:
It makes a good bit, and so I filled one big jar and two small ones:
When I clear out that jar on the right, I’m going to wash it well and return it to OR. BTW, those little Ball jars do come in handy for lots of things. Walmart, Amazon, and sometimes Tractor Supply has them.
Raw peanuts are called “green boiling peanuts” here. Why? People boil them in salt and eat them like that. I can’t say they’re bad, but I never had them before I moved to this area.
Now you may be thinking, “Amy, how did you get that kind of thing in rural Louisiana?” Good question–I almost didn’t. That’s why this post is a bit later than I intended. I stayed up a little late last night to make it, too.
OR has access to not only a “Hispanic foods section” in the Mandeville Walmart, but there is also at least one “Mexican grocery store” in the area, too. I’ve been in that Walmart and seen it myself, bought masa harina and corn husks there for our chicken tamales I made once. But Mandeville is nearly an hour one way. Not a good option.
I went to our local Winn-Dixie and Walmart looking for the dried chiles, to no avail. I was on the phone doing a FaceTime call with OR looking for them, but they really don’t have that kind of thing here.
Then I remembered that there IS a Mexican grocery store nearby–in Hammond. So after being up since 6:00 am, and driving an hour from Franklinton to get home from work, BF took me to the little Mexican grocery in Hammond and then brought me home. Once back at the Casa de Rurale, BF went into hibernation for a while.
If you’re in an area where you can’t find these chiles, you can get them online at Fiesta Spices’ website. They have a whole section of their website just for dried chile peppers. Now that I think about it, Albertson’s in Hammond carries some of Fiesta’s spices, so maybe I’ll drop by there next time and see if they have the chiles, too. If not, everything is available online, thank heavens.
Will BF Eat It?
That’s always the question. I didn’t really make it for him, anyway. But he alternates between “I’ll try anything you make” to “I don’t think I’m gonna like it, I’d rather not try it.” Whatever. I’ll let you know.
If you eat this, you, too, will be come enlightened. I’m being silly when I say that, but that’s how good it is.
For my next blog post, I’ll tell you all about Hammond’s Tienda de comestibles, or little Mexican grocery store. We’ve recently seen folks speaking Spanish here, no English. Aside from the other considerations, it could mean more Hispanic foods may become available locally if the migration trend continues. Maybe it’s time for me to finally learn Spanish, even if I have to use DuoLingo. But for now, I can get some of these wonderful Mexican ingredients, along with ready-made chorizo, on the same trip as visiting Hobby Lobby, Rouse’s, and Target.
Until next time–Disfrutar! (Enjoy!)
SPAM! This isn’t junk email. It’s all about that ubiquitous canned meat.
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
In my writing adventures, I learn about all kinds of neat things. Technology, law, current events (whether I want to or not) and I write about them for other people. They pay me for this, although I need to get faster at it so I’ll have more time to blog about stuff that matters.
I also have a thing for vintage cooking stuff–ads, recipes, etc. It’s not that I want to make things like a Jell-O mold that looks like an aquarium, mind you. I just enjoy putting them on Facebook to make people say, “EEEEEEWWWWW!!” (You wouldn’t believe what they used to put into a Jell-O mold and call a “salad!”) But, admittedly, there’s a strange enjoyment from seeing what used to pass for “gourmet.” You’ll see some of them in this post.
On the healthier side, there’s news to report, especially if you like tortillas and wraps. But today, I wanted to have a little fun.
You may be wondering why grocery stores have more “specialty health foods” than before. Things like Caulipower pizzas and other treats, gluten-free cakes, and brownies from baking stalwart Betty Crocker. There’s a good reason for it.
Multiple companies are trying to reinvent flour-based foods for a health-conscious consumer, and those with specific health concerns. And the way it starts is because frequently, it’s a necessity for one person.
In the case of Caulipower, it’s because founder Gail Becker had two sons who were suddenly diagnosed with Celiac disease. When she tried to make cauliflower pizza on her own, she wasn’t successful. So she sought to create the frozen cauliflower pizza for others who wanted it. Today the company sells a range of alternative processed foods around the country, including Walmart and Winn-Dixie. Forbes has an interesting article about Gail Becker and how she got started.
Now comes the company Egglife, which aims to re-invent flour-based tortillas. You can buy Mission Tortillas that are “low carb,” but they frequently come with. . .wait for it–wheat flour. So they’re not gluten-free. That’s no help!
Egglife’s products include six different types of wraps made from cage-free eggs. Like Caulipower, founder Peggy Johns had to cut carbs and sugar for health reasons. They’re found in the refrigerator section and have just launched in Walmart. If you want to get something in front of the majority of Americans, that’s where you put it. So I’ll be looking for them soon and trying them out here at the Casa de Rurale with a full report.
The Definition Of Spam
Do you eat SPAM? Do you know anyone who does? I do–BF eats it. But until I met BF, I’d never met anyone who eats the stuff. Except maybe during a temporary emergency. If you’re in a shelter and the hurricane is blowing down the trees around you, you’ll likely be hungry for anything, and “special dietary needs” can go right out the window. But I digress.
A couple of years ago, a client asked me to write about something called SAP. It’s a computer operating system that has both fans and detractors and elicits reactions from joy to despair. The reaction you get will depend on who you talk to about SAP.
I haven’t had the opportunity to learn SAP (stands for Systems, Accounting and Production), but if I had, I might still be living in the Houston area. Anyway. . . .
Deciding The Topic
While talking with this Manhattan-based client, I said, “It sounds like SAP is the Spam of IT.” He laughed and said, “that’s exactly what it is!” But they make their bread and butter with it (pardon the pun), so we didn’t want to be too critical. Here’s the article I wrote if you want to read it.
But then I started thinking about. . .SPAM. It’s always in the grocery, but yet, “nobody” eats it. Really? I decided to do a little research.
History And Origins
Spam was created by the Hormel Company in 1937. There are some differences of opinion on the naming convention, but it either stands for “spiced ham” or “something posing as meat.” I guess it’s all in who you talk to. The US forces during WWII called it “ham that failed the physical.” This was not a compliment, as anyone at the company at the time could tell you. Spam was included in military war rations because it has a shelf life of approximately 9,724 years. A soldier far from home could eat it anywhere, hot or cold, right out of his or her backpack.
It was one of those foods that “thrifty housewives” knew would stretch their food budget like a rubber band. And so, recipes like this showed up frequently in popular media of the period:
I did offer to make this vintage culinary delicacy for BF. He loves lima beans and Spam. Apparently, having them together like this isn’t as appealing.
Spam was also purchased by governments worldwide to add to their own military rations during WWII. Nikita Kruschev was once quoted as saying that if it weren’t for SPAM, they would have lost the war a lot faster.
Hormel, today, produces approximately 44,000 cans of this stuff per HOUR, every day. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s their own estimate. You know quality control keeps track of these things, right?
So who is actually eating SPAM? Besides BF, of course. One word: Asians. No kidding. SPAM is extremely popular in Asian American cuisine as well as Asian countries.
- In South Korea, Spam is a Luxury
- In The Phillippines, Spam has a similar status and is now a staple
- Hong Kong enjoys Spam most often for breakfast and lunch, and one company has created a vegan version only available there.
Spam became a symbol of American generosity after the war, and also kept people from starving in many of these countries. Agriculture took a long time to return to these smaller countries, so the easily transported cans of ready-to-eat protein helped them considerably. Today gift boxes of Spam varieties are a highly coveted holiday gift in Asia.
Another place it’s popular: Hawaii.
Not a joke–they even have even restaurants on the Islands dedicated to cooking and serving dishes made with Spam. Part of the love of Spam had to do with it being sent to the detention camps for Japanese descendants between 1941 and 1945. That’s why there are so many Japanese residents in Hawaii. It’s a sad part of US history for sure, but Spam love was one small good thing that emerged.
The company changed direction and began marketing the product to post-war American housewives who were now cooking for husbands and families in the 1950s.
But because so many GIs ate it during their time in the US military, Spam’s pre-war popularity didn’t return. Still, Spam remains a best-seller stateside and quickly went on to gain a foothold in the Asian marketplace.
If you’re old enough to remember the original Monty Python, you’ll remember the skit about the restaurant that served nothing but Spam recipes. The sketch also came out of Britain’s recovery after WWII and the part Spam played in it, much like Asia’s. However, British agriculture returned quickly as did the US’s. There are also a few US restaurants that serve it. Comedy predicts the future!
And yet, when Americans like me think of Spam, the first thought is, “EEEEEEWWWWW!!” Others, like BF, adore it. Go figure.
No–I’m not going to tell you I’ve eaten or cooked anything with Spam. That’s BF’s job, not mine. Usually, though, he goes for a “Spam sandwich.” I’ve also met people who will fry it up in a pan. I’m not one of them.
If the idea of cooking with SPAM appeals to you, their own website has a separate page of over 100 recipes available, such as:
- Sriracha Benedict
- Pasta Carbonara
- Panini (a grilled Italian-style sandwich)
- Poke’ Bowl (if you don’t know what that is, here’s a non-Spam primer)
- Musabi Crunchy Roll (similar to sushi)
Can you see me crafting these gourmet Spam recipes for BF? How about this one:
No, me either. I can hear him now: “Stay ALERT! Stay ALIVE.”
In the modern (food) world, one variety of anything is usually not enough. During a visit to our local Rouse’s, I saw some of them:
On the left, you’ll see a knockoff version. Our local Walmart also carries several types SPAM. The company actually makes 13 varieties, but I don’t know if all of them are available around the US, and in this part of Louisiana:
- Less Sodium
- With Real Hormel Bacon
- Oven-Roasted Turkey
- Hickory Smoke Flavor
- Hot & Spicy
- With Portuguese Sausage Seasoning
- With Tocino Seasoning (I have no idea what that is!)
- Two different sized packages with classic Spam
Somebody is eating Spam in this country, even if they won’t admit it. And yet, with all the variety presented, BF won’t eat anything but the original.
BF Loves Spam
Well, of course, he does! That’s why things like lentils, quinoa, Waffled Falafel, and Overnight Oats are so foreign to him. (Aunt Ruth is still laughing at my description of BF’s first taste of overnight oatmeal.)
BF grew up eating Spam, I didn’t, so that explains some of the disparity. But you won’t be seeing this around here anytime soon:
When I showed this ad to BF, he was quite interested in all three of these. He’s welcome to make them for himself. Thankfully this “cutesy” form of advertising has given way to more genuine styles, mostly, and with SEO (search engine optimization.)
All You Needed To Know
I hope you enjoyed today’s blog post; it’s been sitting in the draft folder for a while. If you really like the salty, cold canned meat, go for it! BF does, frequently. And now you know about the incredible variety of multicultural recipes that start with a simple can of Spam.
Of course, you can find plenty of recipes and information on the Spam website. There is also a gift shop for Spam merchandise and some cans. Some varieties of Spam are currently in short supply. But you can purchase Spam temporary tattoos, posters, magnets, postcards, T-shirts, Polo shirts, golf bags, and other quality merchandise that you didn’t know you needed. Want to learn more? Check out the company’s FAQ page.
At The Casa de Rurale
We actually have one or two cans in the kitchen somewhere. BF cracks open a can when he just doesn’t know what he wants for dinner. Sometimes it’s because he is in a place where food is being served that he doesn’t quite understand. He just takes his Spam sandwich and goes into a corner until it’s all over. Or, on rare occasions, I’m that mad at him that I let him feed himself, and he’ll find his way to a can.
One thing that worries me–if I go first, and I’m not there to make BF a healthy dinner, is he going to spend his days eating cereal for breakfast and Spam other times? Oh, well–if I go first, I guess it has to be up to him to eat healthily. I hope he’s learned a few things in the time I’ve been here.
Dash kitchen products–they’re small, cute, functional, and in stores around the US. Are they worth it?
Hi, again, Dear Readers:
On the heels of four weekly blogs. . .I’m on a roll! Good thing, because I have more to tell you about.
Cow Road Is Repaved!
Recently I got a call from Miss H, asking for some “senior tech support.” Miss H and her husband T live on the other side of what I call Cow Road, and that’s how I get over there. They’re nice people, and I’m happy to help on occasion.
When Miss H called, I got a huge surprise. But first, a previous picture of the lovely Cow Road, taken right after I moved here in 2016:
After the August 2016 flood here, the normal road to get in and out of town was closed because of a broken bridge. You couldn’t get to the Casa de Rurale from there. You had to go around the “long” way, which was Cow Road.
Now, the thing about Cow Road is that while I was in Houston, my long-term plan was to move out of Harris County and into a more rural area like this one. But there’s an old saying, “man plans, God laughs.” Yeah, it was like that. When I said I wanted to move out of Harris County, this was not what I had in mind. I’ve adapted as best I can, but I still get funny looks from people here.
Take a look at the road in this picture:
Don’t drive too fast here. Well, you couldn’t, anyway, not without serious damage to your vehicle. But for several months after I moved here, going into town required us to go bumping and grinding down Cow Road to get to the other road to get into town.
Then when I got the call from Miss H a couple of weeks ago, I took off and discovered:
No kidding, after all these years, they paved Cow Road.
No more bumping and grinding when I take that road to either H&T’s place, or to pay the water bill (which I normally do online.) I couldn’t believe how smooth the ride was, and it takes a lot less time to get to the other side. This is primarily because you don’t have to beware of multiple holes that will take out your oil pan, kink up your chassis, flatten a tire or even knock your transmission off.
That’s Not Really The Name
Although there are signs with the legal name of this parish-owned street, there’s a specific reason why I call it Cow Road.
When I first got here, nobody, including BF, told me the actual name of the road. There were also no signs anywhere, not that I saw. Turns out there was one, and not in the most obvious of places.
While describing the drive one day, I said to BF, “then you go down Cow Road. . .” He smiled and replied, “I think you’ll find that it’s called something else.” Well, with no street signs anywhere, what am I supposed to call it? Especially since I had just moved here and didn’t know where I was. So, I’ve been calling it Cow Road ever since, and so does BF unless I’m not around.
In case you’re wondering:
And still, they don’t care about anyone who gets out of their vehicle and takes their picture.
Instant Pot Update
Remember when I said I bought the “latest and greatest” when I bought my IP? Well, the Duo Evo Plus can no longer be called that. It has been discontinued by the company.
In an email this weekend from the Pressure Cooking Today blog, there’s a new Instant Pot for 2021. It’s sleek and black, unlike previous models. It looks a bit like Darth Vader. The Instant Pot Pro is the newest and latest model for home cooks to use, incorporating updates from mine.
This newest Instant Pot incarnation costs about the same as the Duo Evo Plus. The biggest change is the ability to create five pre-set cooking programs in addition to the built-in menus (which I haven’t yet used anyway.)
The control panel is pretty much the same except for the new pre-sent buttons. The menus have been consolidated; instead of “poultry,” it’s now called “chicken.” Apparently, the “start” buttons aren’t standard on previous IP models, only starting with mine. So they remind you to press “start.”
If you’re considering an Instant Pot after reading my long post, know that the newest IP is the sleek, black Instant Pot Pro. The Duo Evo Plus is now known as an “IBM Selectric.” That’s an electric typewriter that most of us learned on before there were laptops and iPads. In case you’re one of those kids that have never seen one before.
Just last week, I finally printed out my owner’s manual for the Duo Evo Plus, put the pages in plastic page protectors, and put the whole thing into a binder:
At least I have it in the kitchen now.
First The Disclaimers
Amy’s Note: this is not a sponsored post, but does contain my Amazon affiliate links as described at the bottom of each post and page. All opinions are my own, except where noted. Although I’ve researched the subject matter with readily available online information, I did not contact anyone with the Dash Company.
Additional Note: although these mini appliances are cute as a button, they are NOT toys, and children should not use them without proper supervision. The risk of burning little fingers–or any fingers, for that matter–is real, and we don’t want to start our day at an ER or a burn unit. So please exercise proper caution, especially around the little ones.
Dash–The Tiny Appliances
So, for the last few years, I’ve been seeing these cute little appliances in Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and a few other places. Finally, one day, I bit and bought. Then another. Then another.
The first Dash product I bought was the thing that makes hard-boiled eggs quickly and easily:
The cup that measures the water has a small pin in the bottom. Use that to put a pinhole in the widest part of the egg. Measure the water and pour it in, plug it in, put the lid on (don’t seal it), and touch the button. When it makes its little noise, turn it off, unplug it, and dunk the eggs in ice water to stop the cooking process. Tah-dah! Hard-boiled eggs with little effort.
It’s simple technology–water on a hot plate. No kidding, that’s what’s under the rack. This picture from Amazon’s website explains it easily:
Additionally, you can make poached eggs with the little split tray, or a two-egg omelet with the other one. Both sit atop the egg rack, not directly on the hot plate.
The first job is to pour water into the hot plate. The amounts are on the side of the cup, but I usually go to the top-level amount anyway. I’ve had little omelets come out half-cooked, and I had to microwave them to finish.
Put the top on, press the button and you’ll have nice cooked eggs shortly.
Waffle And Other Tiny Makers
I tried to resist, but couldn’t, when I found Dash’s little pumpkin waffle maker in our local Dirt Cheap last year for just a couple of dollars. I found one more, and have bought two others elsewhere:
I still want to get more, because there are so many designs. These are so hard to resist, they’re so cute. Making little waffles that are just enough for you or someone you love. Who could resist?
The company has a range of these little waffle makers to use all year long, including this one for Halloween:
I managed to get the red heart-shaped one before Valentine’s Day this year, but you know what happened there. My mini waffle maker collection also includes a flower design, but I’d like to get more of the different seasonals.
Dash’s newest design is the Star Mini Waffle Maker, which I may try to find soon for the 4th of July.
I did make BF a couple of tiny waffles using a bit of math and his favorite pancake mix, but he wasn’t terribly impressed. Even with a pumpkin on one side.
Egg Bite Maker
I bought this because I wanted to make the egg bites easier than using the Instant Pot. Well. . . .
They weren’t at Target at the time, so I waited until I was going to Mandeville and stopped at BBB. I used a coupon, brought it home and used it.
You use these little cups:
The cups sit in a little water, and the water heats up, much like the other egg cooker. However, unlike the Instant Pot bites, these are about half that size:
I think they’re smaller than the ones you get in Starbucks, too.
Well, I tried it:
I made them the same way I did in the Instant Pot, with bacon and cheese and all that, but. . .they took a long time to cook, and they’re so tiny. And you have to keep refilling the cups and the water and starting over until you’re done.
Too much trouble.
I guess if I hadn’t tried the IP first, I would have been OK with it. But ultimately, I returned it in favor of the IP. This is good for someone who doesn’t have an IP or doesn’t want one but loves the egg bites.
Dash Tiny Ice Cream Maker
For many years–at least 12–I’ve had this Pure Indulgence ice cream maker from Cuisinart. I should make ice cream more often but just don’t. This makes two quarts, and I certainly have containers for the ice cream. I just don’t seem to get around to it as I would like.
But if you want a little ice cream tonight, Dash has you covered with this:
The My Pint Ice Cream Maker will make you just enough for this evening if that’s all you want. The bottom part is the “freezer bowl,” and must be frozen for 24 hours, just like the bigger one. Of course, if you make a recipe of ice cream that goes into the bigger machine, you’ll only be able to make one pint at a time in this one. So that’s an issue. Especially if you use the recipes in the booklet.
Similar to the Cuisinart, the dasher goes through the ice cream mixture. But in this one, the little motor sits on top and turns the dasher. The base doesn’t move. When the motor slows down, the ice cream is done.
There’s even a cup and spoon so you can enjoy your ice cream right then and there!
I did make some ice cream when I brought it home, but I keep forgetting that I have it. Just to make some that night, I mixed some heavy cream, vanilla, stevia liquid, and some sugar-free chocolate chips and ran it. Came out good, and even BF liked it. He only had a spoonful, though.
Oh, and despite its affordability:
I did manage to get it marked down at our local Dirt Cheap. I had to read the little manual to find all the parts, which were scattered on the shelf. Took it to the testing table, plugged it in, and it worked. Cleaned it when I got it home and stuck the cup in the freezer.
The Dash Range
Now, of course, Dash makes more types of mini-makers, including:
- Waffle bowl maker
- Bundt cake maker
- Rice cooker
- Pie maker
- Pizzelle maker
- Donut maker
- Mini electric skillet
- Mini toaster oven (with very simple controls)
- Dog treat maker (I should get one of these, their recipes use ingredients you already have)
- Waffle stick maker
- Omelet maker
They also make full-sized appliances as well as accessories, like these I found at Dirt Cheap for the little air fryer:
I need to get a few more of these mini-makers, especially since BF likes donuts and pies.
So if you don’t eat waffles made from flour and whatnot, the mini-waffle makers might just collect dust. Or you can make something sweet like these GF Peanut Butter Heart Waffles.
I’ve mentioned chaffles before, but they’re great anytime. That is, if you like eggs. If you don’t, well, this won’t apply to you. Chaffles are cheese and eggs mixed, and are quick to make in these tiny waffle wizards.
But Dash’s mini-waffle makers can make delicious waffled food just like the bigger ones, but in smaller amounts. if you’re doing the ready-made pancake mix, just divide it down to what you need.
Many people also use chaffles to make breakfast sandwiches. And why not? Make your two chaffles, put some cooked bacon, sliced ham, sliced avocado, more cheese, or other delicious things in between them, just like you would with any regular English muffin. Then wrap your paws around it and eat like any two-fisted sandwich you can get out of a drive-through window.
I may have mentioned this before, but you can find several recipes for chaffles on Dash’s recipe page, as well as places like Pinterest and Instagram. There are also Facebook groups just for people who love chaffles.
Why Make Them Small?
Remember that although I embrace cooking large amounts to eat during the week or freezing for later, not everyone does. BF eats something once, maybe twice, and that’s IT.
Let’s examine some statistics: as of 2019, there are more than 36 million people living alone in the United States. You probably know someone who lives alone by choice (that was me) or because their life situation has changed. Not everyone wants to live with someone else, for whatever reason.
Off the top of my head, I think of:
- The GER and The E Man, both widowers
- Aunt Ruth, a widow herself
- Neighbor E, who never married
- LK, a Buddhist friend in the Houston area who also never married
- RW, the lady next door, a divorcee
- Several other former neighbors at El Dorado Trace, including Neighbor J upstairs and TM, the lady next door to him.
- Many people we know locally and throughout the area
BF and I were living alone (separately) until I moved from Houston into his house (and changed his world around) in 2016. As I told him recently, “man was not in the plan,” meaning that before he came along in 2015, I had no plans to be “with” anyone again. That was my choice. El Dorado Trace had a lot of single women living there at the time, and probably still does. Some are owners, more are renters like me. Many are probably still living alone, even if they have a significant other who lives elsewhere.
Those Who Live Alone
Remember too that not everyone living on their own has a house like the GER or a fabulous two-bedroom condo as Neighbor E has, with a suitable kitchen. There are also:
- College students in dorms don’t have room for a full-size anything
- People just out of college who are working a new job and living in their first apartment
- Young people who move out of their parent’s place and into a garage-style or efficiency apartment
- Full-time residents of “tiny homes,” “fifth wheels” or other smaller accommodations
- Folks who are recently separated or divorced, living in a smaller place after moving out of the marital home
- People who are downsizing, for whatever reason
- People who are starting over after losing their home to a disaster or other life-changing event
- RV travelers, part-time or full-time
- People living in “senior apartments” or assisted living facilities, with very small kitchens and little space
- Vacation rentals and AirBnB places
In places like LA, San Francisco, and NYC, if one can afford a place on their own, it isn’t very big. Texas is also getting to that point, leading to people moving far outside of the city into the outer suburbs and rural areas.
When I was looking for a place to live to move out of the GER’s house, I looked at one interesting place in the Medical Center, a neighborhood in the Inner Loop area of Houston. It was a one-bedroom, three-story house. The kitchen had no oven, only a stovetop, with not a lot of room. There were lots of stairs (I was in my 40’s then.) Appliances like these would have been perfect for this little “kitchen closet.” The bedroom was on the third floor. So how was I going to get a bed, dresser, nightstand, and other stuff up there? Well, I didn’t–I ended up at El Dorado Trace, on the ground floor, with a fireplace and a breakfast bar, for 12 years.
With so many people living alone in the US, as well as people who want to eat better, there’s definitely a market for these smaller appliances.
Bigger Dash Appliances
Dash also has a range of full-size appliances that are available in Bed, Bath, and Beyond as well as online:
But if you want a larger model, they have you covered there, too:
They also have a six-quart air fryer, as well as accessories for each size like the ones I mentioned earlier.
And if you need a little extra cooking space one day:
Fancy a cuppa? Or are you looking to make oatmeal, pasta, or something else quickly?
I have a kettle for boiling water, but not one like this. For someone in a small place by themselves, this 110 cooker could be just the ticket for a faster breakfast or late-night meal.
Other Specialty Appliances
Dash also has more full-size appliances like:
- Bread makers
- Toasters and toaster ovens, including this cute and simple mini
- Kettles just for boiling water
- Full-size waffle makers
- An iced coffee maker that steeps faster, in as little as five minutes
- A fondue maker (welcome to the 1960s!)
- A food dehydrator
I received The Complete Dehydrator Cookbook by Carole Cancler from Callisto last year. Oh, boy–I was ready to start dehydrating. There’s a recipe for almond-flour based Double Chocolate Biscotti on page 197 that I just want to try first–I love biscotti. But when I showed BF the book and discussed getting one, he laughed and said, “that’s OK, I had enough dehydrated food in the Navy when I was overseas.” Darnit.
It was worse when I got a few books on aromatherapy. He had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.
The Sincerest Form Of Flattery
Let me just admit that these appliances do, indeed, remind me of Suzy Homemaker appliances. Especially ones with the aqua color.
I also admit that when I go to our local Dirt Cheap, one of the things I’m looking for is anything from Dash. Somehow, I just don’t think many people around these parts are familiar with the company or see a need for their unique products. (You know, I haven’t been there in a while, but might visit this week.) But now, others have gotten into the “mini-maker” act.
Although Dash products haven’t appeared in our local Walmart–or any we’ve been in–Club W has been carrying a knockoff line of some of Dash’s most popular products:
Craft chain Hobby Lobby has also gotten on board with the smaller specialty appliances. They do carry some Dash products, but also the Nostalgia brand like Walmart, as well as another brand called Bella. They also have a few Star Wars products, like a Baby Yoda Waffle Maker, and some small character slow cookers as well.
On Dash’s About Us page, they explain:
We believe that taking small steps every day to live a healthier life can have a big impact. And that the best path to wellness is eating whole, natural foods. At Dash, we make products that make it easier for you to prepare and eat real food at home so that you can feel your best. In the store, in your kitchen and online — We give you the tools and the support to make delicious healthy meals.
That’s what living unprocessed is all about.
Their social media pages, particularly Instagram, have all kinds of posts, including videos from a lady calling herself “Ms. Dash.” Is she the person behind the company? I don’t know, but she is always cooking up something delicious and making videos of it for everyone to enjoy. They also have a YouTube channel with videos dating back 8 years for so many of their products. And it looks like this year is Dash’s 10th anniversary. Has it been that long?
The bottom of the box has this cute saying:
The company’s fun vibe runs all throughout its website and social media channels. They encourage people to cook for themselves, which I’m sure has been happening more in the last year or so. Their web page for their waffle makers has a title tag that says, “Waffles are like pancakes with syrup traps.” Isn’t that the truth?
Their tag line, “unprocess your food,” encourages people to cook for themselves, however simple. You’ll see a number of vegan and vegetarian recipes demonstrated by “Ms. Dash,” as well as learn how to use some of their appliances when making recipes.
Ready To Go Mini?
Dash’s products are all produced with one idea: to make cooking easier and more enjoyable. Their smaller products make cooking for one or two easy without turning on the stove, and the larger products accommodate families.
All of the mini-makers make great gifts for graduates, aspiring cooks, or anyone with a sense of humor. Families with children can use them to teach cooking (with supervision, of course–they’re not toys.) And those living single can cook for themselves easier with smaller appliances.
So far, I’ve found them to be great little products that work well and deliver on their promises. I don’t have each and every one of them, but I will be buying more over time in the future. Yes, even that dehydrator. I don’t know about the fondue set yet.
Keto? Southern Cooking? The two don’t normally go together. But if you’re The Texas Granola Girl, they certainly do. I’ll tell you all about it.
Hi, Again Dear Readers:
It’s been a busy week again, and I thought a cookbook review was a good idea, especially for those who are doing keto. And if you’re in Texas, you’ll enjoy this one.
In response to my last post on the delicious Tex-Mex cauliflower rice dish that BF didn’t like, I received two responses. The first, from Aunt Ruth, who was quite complimentary. She might even try it one day. However, the second email came from the GER, who proclaimed, “BARFO! YUCK OH!” I used to cook for the GER. Like BF, if I didn’t tell him it was cauliflower, the reaction would have likely been different.
Incidentally, if you ever come to visit and see this on the kitchen counter:
Understand that it’s not part of any recipe. It’s just sitting there. That’s where we leave it when we get home from pet food supply runs at Tractor Supply. Honest.
Lots to tell, so let’s get started.
Alvin Calhoun’s Funeral
As I mentioned in the last blog, Baton Rouge barbecue master Alvin Calhoun passed away. The funeral was Friday the 14th at Winfield Funeral Home on Plank Street in Baton Rouge.
I was already planning to run some errands in Baton Rouge that Friday. BF was off work, and so the stars were in alignment for us to go.
BF and I went to pay our respects and see him one more time during the visitation period but didn’t stay for the service. We met with his son Davin and his wife Kim, nice people just like Alvin. I downloaded the picture of him onto my phone and sent it to her, along with the blog so they could read it. Davin will be continuing the business they started, and BF will be bringing some motor parts to them soon.
We went to the front of the chapel to see Alvin, and I chanted quietly with him for just a minute. He was well-liked, of course, and there were lots of people there. I couldn’t sit and chant with him for too long, but I did chant a little.
Alvin was dressed in a tasteful suit, and he looked good. In fact, he looked just like we remember him. Of course, we won’t forget him, either.
After the funeral, we proceeded with our errands. It was going to be one, but since we were in the Capital City anyway, it ended up being a “day trip.”
My five-year-old vacuum cleaner needs a new electrical cord, and I made multiple phone calls to try and get it done. Finally, I found someone who would work on it for me without semantics. No kidding–one guy I talked to whined because I told him I had a higher-end Bissell. I found someone else. Once I figured out where I was headed, Friday was the day.
We did make it to Trader Joe’s, and we had to wear masks to go in. They were nice about it, as they always are. They’ve just dropped that requirement this week, though, nationwide. I saw lots of lovely new things, and they even had little cups of ready-to-eat “overnight oatmeal.” More on that later in this blog.
BF has finally set foot in Cost Plus World Market, where I buy his favorite British cookies, Jammie Dodgers. He had no idea what they were until I brought some home one day. They’re a favorite now, right behind Oreos.
And for the next time I make pesto, I found this lifesaver with a slightly curved end:
I mean, REALLY–the blades in my blender have left cuts in my other spatulas, but now I don’t have to ruin any more of them. It’s about the same length as my others:
It wasn’t expensive. Kitchenaid has a similar model, but I didn’t know that either. Next door is Joann’s, where I got some buttons for two projects and two on-sale patterns.
I also replaced my years-old coffee grinder that blew up the other night.
Wish I’d bought this a long time ago–it’s much quieter than the older one and doesn’t scare the cat. Bed, Bath & Beyond has some very high-end expensive models, and. . .I went to Target for this $20 model.
During a quick FaceTime call to BF, while I was out shopping recently, he told his manager at work that “there’s a whole other world that Amy’s in that I’m not familiar with.” (She waved at me, too.) Now he’s been introduced to a couple of those places. After a stop at a local outdoorsman place, the feeling is mutual. But I did pass on those locally-made dog treats they had made with nutria meat. Nutria is a large rodent creature that is an invasive species mistakenly introduced into the US, and thrives in coastal states like Louisiana. I don’t think even our dogs would touch those treats. Ever.
New Sprouts Market In Baton Rouge
We were headed home and what did I see? A new Sprouts Market! I had no idea!
I never made it to the Sprouts that, um, sprouted, in Houston before I left. Longtime friend of the blog LK visited the one near Pearland on Old Chocolate Bayou Road when they first opened. I meant to go, but I never made it. Or maybe I was afraid to because of all the great stuff they have and I didn’t have money for all that. Oh, well. There are now 49 Sprouts Markets throughout Texas, and Louisiana just got one.
I’ll be stopping in next trip and giving a full report, finally.
Low Caffeine Movement?
It seems that drinking high-octane coffee during the pandemic has led to something unintended–caffeine overload. Now one company wants to help with that.
New startup Buzz Lite recognizes that coffee lovers don’t like caffeine overdoses and offers an alternative. It looks like the millennials are leading the way, but lower-dose caffeine can benefit those with high blood pressure and other caffeine-induced issues.
Yeah, OK, I’ll just go ahead and admit that I can get downright grouchy if I OD on caffeine. BF just ducks and sneaks out the back door to get to the garage.
What’s Amy been drinking with her decaf since she got here? Community Coffee’s Half-Caff Ground Coffee. Add about a half tablespoon or so into the decaf and it’s just fine. No burning my stomach or anything, and I get enough “boost.” It’s when I add full-strength coffee or have a cup of very strong tea that I start reaching for the Tums.
Half-caff has been around for a while, and it just takes knowing how much you can tolerate without bad side effects. I’m glad I’m not the only one, though.
Buzz Lite Coffee is currently only available online, but may eventually be as widely available as other brands of coffee.
The Texas Granola Girl
What happens when a Texas ranch girl goes keto and starts a blog? You get The Southern Keto Cookbook.
The cookbook has been available since last year and is one of those wonderful titles I received from my year-long Callisto benefit. I’ve made a few recipes from this book, and I always want to make something else and get BF to eat it. He just told family members his philosophy of my cooking over the weekend: “Stay ALERT! Stay ALIVE.” Not all of it is bad, though.
Emilie Bailey is a rancher’s wife in a city north of Dallas. She cooks and works on the ranch with her husband and two daughters. She’s a seventh-generation Texan and is also a former restauranteur. After a health diagnosis of inflammation for both her and one daughter, she began creating keto recipes that are just as enjoyable as their non-keto counterparts.
Here are a few that I’ve made since receiving this book.
Keto Green Chile Cauliflower Rice Bake
Well, on page 64-65, is a recipe I think I tried first, and even BF liked it (mostly because of the Monterey Jack Cheese.) Tasty, cheesy, and a nice touch with the can of green chiles.
Adapted from Emilie’s mother’s rice dish, it’s a creamy, delicious side dish that’s easy to make and good anytime. I haven’t made it since last year, so I need to make it again.
NOTE: you must cook the cauliflower rice prior to making this dish. I speak from experience. That’s why there’s a bit of yellow highlighter and a note to make sure I don’t forget.
Keto Turnips? NO
Ok, I hate to rain on this parade, but turnips and I do not get along.
Emilie has six recipes for turnips, including one I tried on pages 66-67 for Cheesy “Hash-Brown” Casserole. Turnips are used here as a substitute for potatoes. One of our neighbors grew turnips in his garden last year and brought over a bunch. Well, this was the first recipe I tried.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad recipe at all. And I know there are people who just love turnips. Not me. BF wouldn’t try it, so I ate it all week. Well, until it made me horribly sick.
As I mentioned in the post on cauliflower rice, I’ve made mac & cheese with cauliflower many times. I need to make that again sometime. But the turnips nauseated me!
Maybe it’s because I ate it every day for a few days. I’ve never eaten turnips that much or that often. Much as I like this book, I have to pass on those six recipes. If you like turnips, you’ve got six recipes to enjoy with them.
Granny’s Blackberry Cobbler, Keto Version
Now here’s one sweet treat we can all get into.
Dessert is always essential, and Emilie doesn’t disappoint here, either. Allow me to show you a dessert that I like because it’s tasty and keto, and BF likes it because it’s sweet and tasty.
We have blackberries growing all around the property. When they start to ripen, I pick and pick and pick until the cycle is over. Right now on the other side of the garage, there is a mass of the little berries I’m anxious to see ripen so I can pick them all. One reason is I want them is for a cup for this delicious blackberry cobbler on page 176. If I pick enough I can freeze them and make this anytime.
Note that the pit bull loves these little berries, and will eat them off the vine if I show them where they are.
The Keto Dessert Time
There is a quart-sized bag of frozen berries from last year that I forgot to use up, so I decided to make one this week. I let the berries thaw for a few hours prior to baking. They were juicy, and they worked just fine.
Of course, I forgot one essential ingredient:
Emilie, like many keto authors, uses a blend of this and monk fruit, but I don’t have any right now. So because I didn’t think it was sweet enough, I added a bit of my secret weapon “booster.”
One of the biggest differences this time is that I decided to use almond MEAL instead of almond FLOUR, as I normally do. This may be why it didn’t bake in the recommended time, and I had to put it back for another 20 minutes. But it came out just fine.
There are a few steps, but it’s not difficult. First, mix the dry ingredients and whisk them together:
Then start adding in the wet ingredients:
And three eggs, whisked and beaten well:
Now add the very thick batter into the baking pan:
Now add the blackberries–sprinkle them over the top:
Next, you press the blackberries into the batter a little, so that they’re still visible but “stuck” in the batter.
Mix up a tablespoon of the sweetener (no stevia here) and a quarter-teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and sprinkle that over the top.
At 350F degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s baked, “or until the top is golden brown.”
You must let this cool for a good 30 minutes before cutting into 9 squares and serving.
Emilie also suggests serving with fresh whipped cream, but we didn’t do that.
I did, however, let our dinner guest TT know that while he was welcome to try some, it’s keto, gluten-free, and not what he might be expecting based on the Instant Pot chocolate cake. He said that he was full, and left shortly thereafter. The Boy had also come by to work on a motor, stayed for dinner, and was going to try some but ended up forgetting.
BF didn’t. I might make another one next week.
Oh, and if it’s cold from the fridge, warm it in the microwave. You’re welcome.
This cobbler look longer to bake than I remember from last year’s, but there are two factors that likely affected it:
- First, I used a pan that was 8″ by 8″, not the 9″ x 9″ suggested in the recipe. That’s what I have on hand.
- Second, I used almond meal instead of fine almond flour made from skinned almonds. It makes a heavier and denser batter, I think, and that probably was the main reason for the longer time required.
It was still good.
Followup: The Overnight Oats Post
Last week I served BF dinner and said, “I wouldn’t feed you anything bad.” He responded, “what about quinoa? And the Awful Falafel?”
Remember my post on overnight oatmeal about five years ago? I wrote this when I was living in Houston, and told BF about it on one of our nightly calls. I suggested that he try overnight oatmeal for himself. It would be perfect for a single guy living alone. Breakfast–done! Well, that’s what one thinks.
Five months after I moved here, the weather warmed up in February, and I decided to make it one night. The next morning, I went where BF was snoozing with the cat, and I asked, “Honey, would you like to try some overnight oatmeal?” Rolling over and half awake, he says, “hmmm, sure.” I gave him a bite and got a reaction I wasn’t expecting. He was then wide awake when he said:
“AAAAAHHHH!!! That’s disgusting! It tastes like cat vomit! AAAAAHHHH!!!!”
Yeah, OK, I guess you didn’t like it. Thanks for the unvarnished opinion, as always. Believe me when I tell you that I still giggle when I think about this pivotal day in our relationship history.
To Anyone Who Will Listen
BF likes to tell HIS side of the story frequently, most often to coworkers. It was at that point that he began telling AK and then everyone, “she’s tryin’ ta kill me!” I’ve been offered my own opportunity to tell the story from my side on a few occasions. However, the conflict comes down to one factor: BF never read the original blog post.
So last week, I looked it up and read it to him. Finally, he understands that overnight oatmeal is served cold and that I like it with chocolate, peanut butter, agave syrup, and a few other things. You can make it with a wide variety of ingredients, customized to your own tastes. BF is so used to the packaged “instant” stuff that he doesn’t know how to make it for himself. Why would he, when there is such a thing as “instant microwave oatmeal?” Never mind that it has 6,000 grams of sugar and a host of other chemicals that you might not want to eat.
Well, we keep soldiering on, as two imperfect people who don’t give up on each other.
Until Next Time
Whether or not you’re doing keto, I highly recommend The Southern Keto Cookbook by Emilie Bailey. The food is good, pretty easy to make, and enjoyable whether or not you’re from the South. I want to make so many more, like the Roasted Poblano Cauliflower “Mac” & Cheese on page 78 and the Texas Taco Hash on page 168. But there is. . .well, never mind. It looks tasty, for me, anyway.
Turnip lovers may like this book for the six recipes alone, but the entire book has plenty of great recipes we’ll be enjoying for a long time. And it’s all healthy, keto-friendly, and uses ingredients that are generally easy to find, even in this part of Louisiana.
Emilie’s newest blog post was just posted today. What’s she cooking up? Keto Rice Pudding, with, no kidding, cauliflower rice. You’ll have to read it to believe it, and I need to find whatever allulose sweetener is, order it, or make it with what I have here. Dairy-free, her newest dessert uses full-fat coconut milk and almond milk. It’s just so crazy I have to try it, and BF can have his Jammie Dodgers.
Happy Dining, Y’all!
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.