Namecheap.com
Whole Chocolate Cake
Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting–have you heard of it? If you’re curious or interested in trying it, I’ll attempt to break it down here. It’s not “just another diet.”

Find me on Bloglovin’

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Yes, it’s still 2020. I’m sorry, nothing I’ve tried can fix that.

No, we haven’t tried the Apple Jack Daniels. But it’s not yet 2021, is it?

Got a couple of things to tell you about. And, it was my birthday!

The Birthday Cake, Again

So nearly every year since 2002 or 2003, I’ve made this delicious cake from Suzanne Somers’ Desserts book. Of course, I have to fiddle with it, because there is no more Somersweet and I have to use Swerve Sweetener instead.

Whole Chocolate Cake

My favorite!

Unfortunately, mine never comes out quite as neat as the picture:

Picture of chocolate cake from cookbook

Beautiful, isn’t it? Because it’s the cookbook picture.

This year’s cake came out better than last year’s, the second time I made the cake part. I only make it once a year, so I don’t practice a lot. The buttercream and the ganache are pretty standard, but the cake is a bit fussy.

Actual slice of Amy's cake

Despite it’s odd appearance, it’s still delicious.

The only ingredients are:

  • Eggs
  • Chocolate
  • Butter
  • Baking Soda (just a pinch)
  • Cream
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Swerve

Whip the eggs into a frenzy:

Beating eggs in the KitchenAid stand mixer

They triple in volume here.

And bake.

That’s pretty much it–no “gluten-free” ingredients, and yet it is truly gluten-free. Of course, once I was done, there was some cleaning to do.

Chocolate splatters on kitchen counter

Yup. Crime scene!

BF decided he’d rather have the brownies I made him from scratch a week or so ago, and they are definitely not gluten-free. He was also given some of these:

Pizza Hut Brownies

Because brownies are best from Pizza Hut!

I cut my cake up into 16 slices, so I’ll have it for a while.

I stopped making the delicious cheesecake when I was ill recently. Just like that, I stopped making it. I’ll make it again soon.

Also made it to Starbucks for my free drink: a Venti Iced Decaf Cafe Americano with a heavy splash of cream and some sugar-free Vanilla syrup.

Venti Iced Coffee From Starbucks

Yummy!!

Later that night, we stopped at the local JC Penney for a trip into Sephora for my birthday gift:

Sephora makeup gift

Can’t wait to try these soon.

Last year, a storm passed through, and JC Penney was closed after a massive power outage, so I never got my gift. Turns out you can go anytime during the month of your birthday. I’ll remember that.

All in all, it was a nice day, but no cold front this year.

Farewell, Sweet Tomatoes

You’ve probably heard that one of my favorite places in Houston, Sweet Tomatoes, has closed all their locations nationwide. They were also called “Souplantation” in some parts of the US. It’s just one of the many side effects of the “pandemic” that has cost billions in lost. . .everything.

Sweet Tomatoes Logo

Note: these pictures from Sweet Tomatoes were all sourced from a Google search.

On a side note, gourmet kitchen stuff store Sur la Table has closed up about half of their stores, which includes the one in Baton Rouge. It was part of a “restructuring” thing, but of course, I can always order online. Pier 1 Imports is now online-only, like Wayfair and Overstock.

I’ve written about Sweet Tomatoes before, and I just loved all the variety of things they had.

Sweet Tomatoes building sign

A great place, it was.

Their website has been taken down, and all the buildings are now just empty. Their pantries and perishable ingredients were cleared out months ago. I hope the workers were able to take home everything instead of throwing them away.

I loved going there when I was in The Woodlands, especially before or after visiting Dr. Davis at Woodlands Wellness or when I was attending a concert. Wish I could have taken BF there–he would have enjoyed it, consuming less salad and more of the “other stuff.”  I love salad, so it was just the best place for me.

Sweet Tomatoes Salad Bar

THAT is a a salad bar!

Last week we had dinner at the local La Carretta with BF’s family, and I mentioned it to his sister. I asked, “If I say, ‘Joan’s Broccoli Madness,’ do you know what I’m talking about?” Indeed she did–BF’s sister and brother-in-law went to Sweet Tomatoes many times in Atlanta and were also sad to see it go.

Picture of Joans Broccoli Madness

Delicious, is it not?

We tried explaining it to BF, but he just didn’t get it. He went on to tell his sister that I was still trying to do him in by making him eat quinoa.

It was, if I remember correctly, about $15 for the all-you-can-eat nature of the place. Of course, my thing was THE SALAD.

Joan’s Broccoli Madness

If you never had the pleasure of going, I’ll give you a visual.

When you walked in, a very long salad bar greeted you, with some specialty salads like Joan’s Broccoli Madness at the front.

Salad Bar long picture

Talk about a smorgasbord!

As I mentioned in my previous post (without pictures, unfortunately) I never forgot the salad with cherries in it. It was one of the most memorable visits, all by myself, before a concert.

After the prepared salads, there were fresh greens, other vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, proteins like egg and chicken, then salad dressings followed by toppings of all kinds. You could choose from cheeses, bacon bits, dressings, nuts (ranch dressing with sunflower seeds are still my favorites) raisins, dried cranberries, chow mein noodles, and other crunchy things. I loved it all.

Sample salad picture from Sweet tomatoes

This is just a sample picture of what you could choose–and all you could eat.

Get to a table, put down your salad, and go over to the prepared food area where you could choose from:

  • Soup Bar (including a turkey chili I loved)
  • Potato Bar
  • Pasta Bar
  • Pizza Bar
  • Bakery Bar
More of Sweet Tomatoes offerings

This is after you finish the salad bar line

Many of their baked items were square, from the cornbread to the blueberry muffins and brownies. It was one of those little things that made Sweet Tomatoes unique.

Sweet Tomatoes Bakery Bar Area

Delicious, it was

Even the interior was comfortable, with a very interesting tomato-pattern carpet:

Sweet tomatoes dining area

Tomato in carpet usually sounds like a cleaning issue!

I was thinking about Joan’s Broccoli Madness the other day, and guess what? There are recipes online for this deliciousness from:

They’re pretty much the same recipe, and I hope to make it soon, possibly for Thanksgiving.

Louisiana’s Answer:  The Salad Station

OK, I’m not going to lie–The Salad Station isn’t exactly like Sweet Tomatoes, they don’t have a carpeted dining area, nor do they serve Joan’s Broccoli Madness, and that’s OK. But when my birthday was looming this year, I asked BF where he was taking me. “I don’t know yet” was his answer.

I have long wanted to try The Salad Station–especially since there’s no chance of ever going to Sweet Tomatoes ever again. Every time I brought it up, he said, “but there’s nothing for me to eat.” He was wrong, of course, and had bacon and ham on his salad, while I chose boiled shrimp. Because I don’t have to mess with them.

We’re not talking about flying to Beverly Hills–or even Houston–for an exclusive restaurant. It’s just a ride to Hammond, although we could have gone to Denham Springs, Baton Rouge, or any other location. I talked BF into it, and he said, “whatever makes you happy.” Awww.

Salad Station does have many of the same qualities as Sweet Tomatoes, but they are smaller. Like Central Market and a few other places, you buy your salad by weight–it’s not “all you can eat for one price.” That’s OK too. However, BF was surprised when my salad was weighed–it was twice the size of his. But as you can see, BF has a markedly different definition of “salad.”

Two salads, one for Amy, one for BF

Just like the last time–two different interpretations of salad. Those are Parmesean cheese crisps at the top of my bowl.

Their salad bar is wide open as it was before, and they require you to wear your mask while you’re there. (Everyone in Louisiana does.) They also have thin plastic gloves you’re required to wear while choosing ingredients. Not a problem, and we took them off when we sat down to eat.

Yes, this does segway into the main topic of the blog post.

Intermittent Fasting

You’re probably thinking, “get to the point of the blog, will you?” I am.

I’ve been doing Intermittent Fasting for a few weeks now. I started right before my “breathing emergency” last month but had to quit while I was on Prednisone. A couple of days after I took the last pill, I went back to IF, and have been doing fine since.

Amy’s Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nurse, scientist, or other type of healthcare practitioner. I’m a blogger who writes about different topics, occasionally diet, health, and wellness. I’m by no means an expert on these things. Should you choose to pursue IF or any other thing I’ve written about, please do some additional research before you start, or speak with a health care provider who can guide you.

Additional disclaimer: I’m not an MLM representative, and not trying to sell anything with this post. There’s no sponsorship to this post, no products to buy. I’m just passing along information. You can buy a book or two, and there are Amazon links here, as there are in many of my blogs. But should you choose to begin intermittent fasting, you don’t need to spend any additional money on it. Books are available at your public library, including online, for free, if you choose.

How To Eat On IF

Intermittent Fasting isn’t really a “diet,” and doesn’t require any special foods, supplements, shakes, or other financial outlays.  You can find plenty of info online, particularly on Pinterest. Like any subject, there is “good” information and “bad” information, equally accessible. (I’m a copywriter, ask me, I know!)

Fasting has its roots in many religions, including Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. (That “fish on Friday” thing is Catholicism, but I think that’s been made optional.) There is “wet fasting,” where you drink water and maybe a few liquids as well as “dry fasting,” where you consume nothing, including water. If you decide to do any kind of fasting, I highly recommend doing some reading first, either from the library or from online searching. Just don’t assume you can stop eating and drinking and figure you’ll detox and lose every excess pound you have. NO–hydration is important, the body needs water for its many processes. I’m not a fan of “dry fasting,” and do not recommend it.

Intermittent Fasting’s basic premise is that you “wet fast” for a specific window of time during your day, generally overnight, or whenever you get to bed. Easy, right? Then you enjoy food during your “eating window,” which is also a specific period of time.

What period of time is that? YOU figure that out for yourself. If you work evening or night shifts, then, of course, your eating window will be when you’re awake, and the fasting window is when you’re asleep.

Easy, right? Well, there’s a little more to it than that.

Getting Started With IF

I have these books on the subject:

No, I haven’t read them yet.

I got started when cookbook guru Stephanie O’Dea published her new e-book, 2,4,6, Eat: Intermittent Fasting Simplified. I have read this one.

The first three books were gifted from Callisto, some of the last physical copies before they went digital. Stephanie, on the other hand, wrote four e-books during the lockdown, this being one of them. When they were published, she mentioned them in her regular weekly emails, and they were 99 cents each at that point. I bought all four. Her book on IF is the one I read first–in less than an hour if I remember correctly. Much like her cookbooks, Stephanie lays it out as if you were sitting with her in Starbucks and talking about it.

You can do IF with your CrockPot, too.

So how did Stephanie do with it? In a nutshell, she’s lost the last few pounds she was trying to shed, and she looks great. I mean, she already looked great, but now she looks even better.

I also joined a Facebook group called Intermittent Fasting For Women, which is not affiliated with Stephanie’s own Facebook group (I’m also in that, link in her blog.) There are over 360,000 members around the world focused on one thing: fasting intermittently to lose weight that won’t come off any other way. Very encouraging, and if you ask a question in this big group, you’ll get many different answers to it.

Many of these women show pictures of their results, but I’m not posting any pictures in my underwear on Facebook. Some have small amounts of losses, but they’re visible–all depends on how they’re doing IF, how long, and how much exercise they get. Some show considerable results, like the ladies who are quite large and have shrunk down to a tiny size 6 (or less.) Many become absolute bombshells after losing weight. In fact, sometimes when I see these pictures, I comment, “bombshell alert!” One lady who posted is about 63, and she looks fantastic. Another lady who is 72 is no longer using her “Bumblebee” chair to get around (although she is using a cane.)

I’m not there yet.

What To Eat On Intermittent Fasting

Well, that’s the $64K question, isn’t it?

Of course, it’s best to eat as healthy as you can. Many people find that keto is a good thing for them, and as I always say that I eat “keto, mostly,” since BF likes to make jambalaya or red beans and rice occasionally. But some folks may decide to eat paleo, low-carb, or simply eat what they’ve always eaten, just changing the times of day they eat.

Then there are those who eat the same foods that they ate before but at different times and maybe different amounts. They lose too. They may eat a few Oreos or a candy bar along with salads and grilled chicken during their eating window, but ONLY during the eating window, and maybe decrease the amounts, or increase your fasting window during a “treat day.”

Everyone has an idea and offers advice. But the most prevalent thing I’ve seen is, “You do you, and what works for you.” If having a little sugar-laden French vanilla coffee creamer isn’t stopping your weight loss, go for it, in moderation.

Drinking water is encouraged since you need it. Not the excessive soft drinks BF chugs down on a daily basis. In my case, I’m still drinking the lime water all the time, along with coffee, occasionally tea, with pink sweetener and cream in the last two.

Here’s the thing: there aren’t any “special foods” you need to eat on IF. Do you like keto, paleo, or low carb? Go for it. Want more gluten-free, dairy-free, or sugar-free foods? That can work, too. You can count calories–but I don’t, and neither do a number of other IF devotees. And if it doesn’t, try something else, add exercise, increase your fasting window, or whatever you want to, and wait for the results.

Unlike the popularly advertised diet plans on TV, you don’t need to buy any brand, type, or style of food. It’s great that so many celebrities have lost weight with the diet plan thing, but that’s not what IF is about.

The key is: You do you.

My Current IF Results

I’ll be perfectly honest here–I haven’t dropped what feels like 915 pounds in a matter of days. That’s not happening any more than riding my bike for 30 minutes once and being in top shape for the Texas MS 150 tomorrow. I did the hCG diet for about a year and a half–I lost weight, but even the hCG diet doesn’t work like that either. But in my case, my current results are:

    • The scale hasn’t yet gone down, but remember–there’s water weight, and “weight” fluctuates anyway,  particularly in women. I don’t get on the scale often because it can be discouraging.
    • I’ve noticed some “shrinkage” here and there, but I’ve not yet gone down to smaller clothes yet.
    • Although I did fill up the bowl at The Salad Station just like I did at Sweet Tomatoes, I didn’t finish it like I used to. I credit that to Intermittent Fasting. I took about half of it home for the next day, then had a sliver of cake when we got home an hour later, then my “fasting window” began.

My current exercise consists of the occasional walking tours of Walmart, along with regular use of the Thighmaster set, and slinging around a kettlebell weight, the latest of which is 20 pounds. I’m trying to get to the point where I can get a half-hour of yoga, HIIT (“High-Intensity Interval Training“), or bicycling in place in my day.

While in Academy after dinner, I did check out the availability of heavier kettlebells. (They seem to be difficult to find in some places.) Right now I’m lifting a 20-pound (padded) Bionic Ball kettlebell, but I want to eventually lift more. I told BF that if I start swinging around a 40-pound kettlebell like a roll of paper towels, he’d better be on guard.

Nah–I’m not going to swing it at him. I just like poking him in the ribs now and again. Trust me, it works both ways.

Honestly, IF is not terribly difficult once you get into a rhythm. You just have to remember not to have a nibble of something before bed, or you’ll break the fast and it won’t work. And Stephanie’s book is HIGHLY recommended. It’s not a long or difficult read and is very informative.

And The Cat

I loved my felines, Catmandu and Kismet, who have long been gone for many years. Our current apex predator, Tab E. Cat, is all about BF, and couldn’t care less what else is going on as long as he can curl up with him. He only likes me when I have food.

Until one day.

I did try to do IF while on Prednisone, but it wasn’t happening, so I quit for the duration of the medicine. One of the drug’s side effects is that you can become very hungry.  I did, and just didn’t bother with IF for a couple of weeks, but sticking closely with keto as much as I could.

One night, about 11:00 pm, my stomach was letting me know it wanted something–fast. I went into the fridge and found some sliced roast beef that BF was using for sandwiches. (Notice I said “was.”)

Taking out a couple of slices, I went to talk to BF, who was now curled up in bed with the cat. The beast was nestled under his left armpit. Upon seeing and smelling the roast beef slices, Tab E. Cat looked up at me, opened his eyes, walked OVER BF’s chest, and up to me, completely ignoring him. He meowed, giving me that wide-eyed cat look that said, “oh, that looks delicious, I’d love to have some!” I gave him a small bit to avoid getting clawed. BF was shocked, and said, “great, now I’m chopped liver.”

Only when there’s food involved, Honey.

Until Next Time

Whether you’re looking to lose for the holidays or get a jump on next summer’s bathing suit season, Intermittent Fasting may be just what you need to start shedding extra pounds you didn’t intend to have. It just takes a little information, understanding, and planning to get started–and not a lot of money. Will it work for you? Try it, on your schedule, just don’t expect an overnight transformation.

Enjoy!

Farberware Air Fryer
Amy’s Air Fryer Experiment

The Air Fryer! After a couple of books on the subject, I bought one. I’ll tell you what I’ve done with it and let you decide for yourself.

Find me on Bloglovin’

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

It’s been a busy time at the Casa de Rurale, and being in the south, it’s HOT. It’ll be cooling down about late October or early November, long after the north has begun sipping hot Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Me, I’m hoping for a cold front for my birthday, as I do every year. Could snow happen? Well. . .it’s always possible, but highly improbable.

After my post on Justin and Bronte’s wedding, I got some nice comments, including one from Justin, and one from Stacy Asaro, the event coordinator from Southern Oaks. I didn’t intend to say anything bad, honestly, and the “no coffee” thing is the only thing I would change if it were mine. But that’s just me, and everything was lovely.

As I write this there are now FIVE named storms floating around the tropics! I’ve got more hurricane snacks at the ready. What level of Jumanji is it now?

Let’s catch up.

Covering  The Mixer

It is here where my two worlds converge. It’s fun when that happens.

Remember my black Kitchenaid Stand mixer? It was given to me many years ago by someone I used to know, and I don’t use it as often as I should. Part of the problem is that it’s always somewhere else, and I have to haul it into the kitchen. It’s heavy, and it should be *in* the kitchen, not away from it.

Black Kitchenaid stand mixer

Circa 2005, works perfectly

The story was that someone gave it to the person who gave it to me after having it repaired and then upgrading to a new one. I just said, “thank you.” I was saving up to buy one when it was presented to me about 2007 or 2008.

One big problem is that it collects dust. Well, the house collects dust, really, but the bowl holds on to it. I should be able to use it more, but where it was, it’s a lot of trouble. So in an executive decision, I:

  • Moved the Instant Pot down to the bottom shelf of a kitchen cabinet
  • Moved the stand mixer from the shelving rack to the lower kitchen counter next to the toaster oven
  • Decided quickly that it needed a cover

You can buy these already made, but then tend to be expensive. So what did I do? I made one!

Sewing For The Kitchen

I went looking on Pinterest, and it didn’t take long to find this one from a blog called Heart of Mary. Headed over to the Hammond Office Depot, printed out two copies of the pattern (in case I bungled one up), and got some fabric at Hobby Lobby up the street. Black and white thread is like salt and pepper in the kitchen, and I already had the batting piece. (Need to get more soon anyway.)

It took longer than I’d planned because the sewing machine kept breaking the thread. I changed the needle, the tension, and even the foot, using a walking foot to try and get it finished. Nope. For whatever reason, it was the day from you-know-what trying to finish it. Eventually, I did, making the bias tape from the lining fabric. Both fabrics were just some ordinary cotton.

Mixer cover finished

Ta-dah! Fits a little loose, but that’s OK too.

The cover is also reversible, and like the blog says, stands up on its own.

The lining of the cover

I just bought extra to make the bias tape.

I’m guessing I spent about $10 and an afternoon to make this, and it used up some excess batting in the process. I didn’t have enough fabric to make it, that’s the only reason I bought some. And that was the best fabric I could find for it at the time. But now it’ll stay clean anytime I use it.

The End Of The Garden

After BF’s enthusiasm for a garden, his input didn’t last long. After the local wildlife population discovered the corn, he lost interest.

I pulled weeds as I could, but pretty soon they were overwhelming, and I didn’t have several hours a day to pull them. I asked for help, but I didn’t get it. Eventually, I walked away from it. No more watering, or concern for these plants.

Watermelon vines were growing until the melons started to rot and the critters came to feast. We had some, but BF’s self-centered car guy friend (not Justin) told him to “pick that now, it’s ready.” BF ran inside and told me it was ripe and I should cut it immediately. It wasn’t ripe, and it wasn’t ready. See, this “friend” was also growing watermelon and brought over some for us. That was nice, but it wasn’t about being nice, it was about making himself look “good.” That’s not what I said after he left.

BF recently did some “work” in the area with his favorite piece of equipment: the mower. There is still some basil, tarragon, and a pepper plant or two out there, and I plan to dig them up to put them into pots like I used to. Hoping for more pesto and maybe some tarragon vinegar for salad dressings. BF is talking about a “fall garden.” He’s on his own there–I’m going back to five-gallon paint buckets with holes drilled in the bottom.

What’s An Air Fryer?

Ok, you’ve probably seen these machines in pretty much every discount, department, and home goods store there is. You’ve likely seen the Ninja versions, as well as their new air fryer oven that “flips.” But there are multiple versions of these things at a variety of prices. So what’s the big deal?

 

Farberware Air Fryer

Maybe it’s because the much-maligned “millennials” don’t know how to cook. (Some do, some don’t, it’s probably not just a millennial thing.)  Could be that people are looking for faster, easier ways to make food. Many people (including this amateur chef) love the taste of fried foods but don’t like the mess. Others are looking for ways to make tasty food in a different way, such as French fries, and make them “healthier.”

Add to it the people who are camping in at home nearly 24/7 now, and you’ve got people looking for more dinner ideas, faster, easier, and with minimal cleanup.

Well, the air fryer addresses all this and more. Like the slow cooker and the countertop oven, it can also help keep the kitchen from overheating in the summer–a big plus throughout the southern US.

The One I Bought

Farberware’s version is a 1.9 quart and is supposed to be suitable for cooking for one to two people. I bought this one last fall, but online they are black and a nice teal blue. When I bought mine, they were $30; now they are $40.

Dash also has one that is nearly identical but costs more. Besides, I could get this one immediately, like right now. Dash also has a larger one, spotted recently in Bed, Bath and Beyond:

Big Dash Air Fryer

Twice the size of mine.

Dash also has a six-quart model, if you need one that big. They can get complicated, like this seven-in-one thing.

If you have the infernal Instant Pot, you can also buy an “air fryer lid” that fits most models. Except for mine, I kid you not. I have the “newest” model of the Infamous Pot. (I know, I’ve got a post in the draft folder.)

Later, I bought this set of air fryer accessories for about $11 at my local Dirt Cheap.  They fit my air fryer perfectly, and I’ve made cornbread for BF with the pans already. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What Is Healthy?

Let me give my standard disclosure here: I’m not a doctor, nurse, or another medical practitioner, nor do I play one on TV. I am a patient who reads and pays attention. I’m also not an attorney, but someone who does research and creates marketing content for them. I don’t practice law, but I do read it a lot. That being said. . . .

Real fat is what keeps you alive. Sugar can and will kill you over time if you consume enough of it–and it’s not difficult in the US. Notice I said “real fat,” which are things like olive and coconut oil, avocados, butter, eggs, etc.

Taking all fat out of your food isn’t necessarily healthy. If you replace hydrogenated vegetable oil with olive, coconut, or other healthy oils, that’s a healthy change. If you don’t believe me, check it out. What’s called “vegetable oil” is actually hydrogenated soybean oil. Ditto for corn oil and a few others. Hydrogenation adds a hydrogen atom into the oil to prevent spoilage. Canola oil, when heated, also turns into a trans-fat oil. Crisco is anything but “healthy.”

So the low-fat theory is prevalent here, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making “healthier” food. It all depends on what you’re working with, including the oils.

The Air Fryer Books

So thanks to my wonderful book benefit, I got curious about it. Most people think about using an air fryer for either chicken wings or French fries, but there are hundreds of recipes for it.

The first one I received was the Ninja Air Fryer Cookbook for Beginners by Linda Larsen. This book focuses solely on the Ninja® Air Fryer Max XL. The food looked delicious, and so far, so good. I tried two recipes, one for wings and one for a chocolate chip cookie that bakes in it. Because my air fryer wasn’t the Ninja, it took longer to bake. That’s OK, it was still pretty tasty. BF likes those wings, so I have to make them occasionally.

Then came some others:

 

I also have:

I’ll explain why in a minute.

The books are now e-books, but that enabled me to send the vegetarian books to Miss Alice in Houston as well as make recommendations.

Using The Air Fryer

The thing to remember about any model of an air fryer is this: it’s a vertical convection oven.

If you’ve never had one, “convection” means that a top-side fan circulates the hot air inside the oven, cooking more evenly and giving a really crispy crust. Some newer full-size ovens now come with an “air fryer” setting, which is pretty much the same as “convection.” My countertop oven has this function, as well as the last one I had. In fact, Oster has a rather large countertop that also does convection, one of which I’ve seen at Walmart.

There are a few things you need to know before you start:

  • Although you can make fried foods, the coating can’t be drippy. Any coating has to stick to the food and not run or fall off.
  • Cakes, cookies, eggs, and other foods that have a liquid texture before baking have to be in a dish you place into the air fryer.
  • With things like fries, you should take out the basket and shake them once or twice during cooking
  • You spray oil into the cooker basket as well as onto your food, especially those with a coating or a texture, to make it crispy.
  • The air fryer must be the only appliance plugged into the outlet. I have to unplug both the microwave and the kettle so I can use that particular outlet. Otherwise, you’ll blow a fuse or something. (This is actually in the instructions for mine.)
  • The basket can be placed in the dishwasher, but not the entire unit.
  • You must warm up the unit for five minutes or so before you start cooking.
  • The unit gets very hot during cooking, so it needs plenty of “airspace.” Read the instructions before you plug it in, of course.

The idea is that it cooks faster and healthier. Well, “faster” hasn’t been my experience, but whatever.

Instructions

I got it at Walmart.

Air fryer in the box

 

A simple booklet came with the machine, with instructions and great recipes like this one:

Recipe for curry-fried okra in the air fryer

Say what?

I think that’s supposed to be Curry Fried Okra, but English isn’t the first language of the copywriter. Just an observation.

Air fryer Recipe for plantains

Another one we can’t wait to try.

There were no accessories included, just the machine. Fortunately, I have the aforementioned cookbooks to work with.

Chicken Wings

BF will go on forever about how Hooters has great chicken wings. When I worked at Boeing, some of us would head to Buffalo Wild Wings on Tuesdays for lunch. Holding your receipt for a week got you six free wings, which was great. I got the unbattered ones, and they were pretty tasty.

So when we discussed chicken wings, he had this idea that it would *almost* be like having them at Hooters. (Not wearing orange, thanks very much.) He was so excited he bought this stuff at Walmart:

Jar of Hooters Wing Sauce

Because they bottle it up for you, right?

Boy was he disappointed. “It doesn’t taste anything like the sauce at Hooters!” he cried. I could have told him that, but he was undeterred until he tried it. The ingredient list was a nightmare.

Wing sauce ingredients

Yuck!

Into the trash that went.

I used this recipe, which BF loves:

 

Recipe for chicken wings

From the Ninja book

The recipe is created especially for the Ninja Air Fryer, I just cut it in half. Cooking was just until they were done, however long that took. To paraphrase Hague Law Blog author Aaron Lukken, air fryer cooking is not about “building rockets.” Just cook the wings until they’re done. (I read his blogs all the time, but not everyone will find them as interesting as I do.)

Air fryer chicken wings

Getting them ready

Then I just sprayed some oil in the basket and got started.

chicken wings in the air fryer

And away we go!

BF only ruined one of his wings with that god-awful sauce. The rest he gobbled up and said, “make these again!”

Other Air Fryer Cuisine

Since getting this thing, I’ve made some:

  • “Louisiana-style” fried fish (from one of the books)
  • Chicken Wings
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie
  • Sweet potato fries

In the case of the fish, you do the batter coating and press it into the fish:

fish in egg wash

 

Pressing fish into coating

I used almond flour for this

The recipe calls for adding parchment paper in the fryer basket, then spraying it with oil:

Parchment paper in fryer basket

Fish in basket

Then spray the fish with the oil and cook it up.

The fish came out nice and crispy, but not *quite* as crispy as it would have if we’d fried it in oil in a pan. BF actually liked it, although he hasn’t asked me to make it again.

Another Amy Favorite

Sweet potato fries seem to take longer in the air fryer.

Sweet potato fries in basket

Just a little oil and salt

They come out nice, but it takes an hour. Might as well use the toaster oven.

Sweet potato air fries

Dash’s website has a number of recipes that are specific to their accessory package, including sweets. I’ve used the cake pan for some cornbread for BF. Made from scratch, he really liked it.

Air Fryer Desserts

Yes, you can make some desserts in an air fryer, no kidding. In addition to the ones at the above link, you can make a number of desserts in the air fryer. I did make some Air Fried Fudge Brownies for BF about a month ago, with the note to use a 6″ pan in a convection oven. If you use a smaller pan, it will take too long to cook.

Just looking at the Essential Air Fryer Book For Beginners, where I got the brownie recipe, you can make a chocolate Bundt cake (using a six-inch Bundt pan) banana cake, cherry cobbler, doughnuts, stuffed baked apples, apple hand pies, and pumpkin fritters. That’s just from this book. For just about any contained dish, six inches is the number to remember.

The Big Cookie

One of our “couple friends” split last year, and because things were rather contentious between them, we invited the female to dinner. I made an old Martha Stewart recipe for bacon and egg pie, to which BF turned his nose up. In fact, he didn’t stick around for dinner, he had to go out and do something or other. I think he found an excuse to leave because he didn’t want bacon and egg pie, but whatever. So it was just me and AB for the night. The idea was for us to have a conversation without judgment, make sure she was all right, and certainly not trying to reconcile them.

So this was the bacon & egg pie for dinner:

Bacon and egg pie

I love this dish, need to make it again soon.

The Big Chocolate Chip Cookie didn’t work exactly as it should have. In fact, it took longer to cook, because I used a five-inch Corningware dish. It’s what I had available at the time, and what I could grab quickly.

Recipe for air fryer chocolate chip cookie

Pretty straightforward cookie

I had to get BF to bring home some chocolate chips:

Chocolate Chip bag

Look what he brought me!

I couldn’t believe he brought home ORGANIC. From Piggly-Wiggly, no less.

So you mix it all up, and then add parchment to the pan, plus spray it with flour-infused cooking spray while preheating the air fryer. Then add the cookie dough into the pan.

Unbaked cookie ready for the air fryer

Ready for the air fryer

 

Putting cookie into air fryer

It just fits

Bake it at 300 degrees for, it says, 9 minutes. But as I recall, it took considerably longer–like 30 minutes. But this isn’t the Ninja, and I didn’t have the proper pan available or handy. I think I have the right one now since I bought the accessory kit. The recipe makes four servings.

Baked big cookie

Looks good, doesn’t it?

Admittedly, I had a bit of this cookie, and it was quite tasty once it finished baking. The addition of a little white chocolate is a nice touch.

Verdict: It’s A Toy

A toy, in sort of a Suzy Homemaker kind of mindset. The coiled heating element and the fan, very simply arranged in the housing. They’re all like that in one form or another.

Air fryer basket

Food goes in here.

Honestly, it’s not a bad thing, and if you like appliances, you may enjoy this one. But if you have a convection oven, especially a full size one, would it be a good idea to basically buy a smaller one? That’s up to you and your kitchen.

I actually wanted to return it but BF asked me not to. I already have a convection oven, hence the other two convection books. Seriously, the air fryer does the same thing, just more fashionably.

Then again, there’s always the Talkie Toaster.

Air fryer recipes are all over the web, especially at Pinterest. What do you want to air fry?  Chicken wings? Sandwiches? Keto dishes? It’s all there, as well as with a quick search on Google (or your search engine of choice.) Like the Instant Pot, air fryer recipes aren’t difficult to find for pretty much whatever you want to make with it.

Happy air frying!!

 

Cheescake slice on red plate with fork
A Tale Of Cheesecake

Cheesecake–the word conjures up images and tastes of sweet and creamy, and with good reason.

Follow me on Bloglovin’

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

As promised (and way too late), here is my blog on cheesecake. Today’s post comes with two separate recipes from two different books, one of which was a gift from Callisto Press.

I don’t remember the first time I had cheesecake, but it was probably one of those frozen numbers. I remember being in a restaurant somewhere in New Orleans in the late 80’s and ordering blueberry cheesecake for dessert. I got the last slice they had. That didn’t go over well with my dining companions, but today I couldn’t tell you who they were.

Learning Cheesecake

I’ve bought many of them until I learned how to make them from Suzanne Somers’ cookbooks. From her first book, Eat Great, Lose Weight, I started making the Sugarless Cheesecake on page 186, but with Somersweet when it became available. The original recipe called for Nutrasweet, which I would never use. Later, she discovered that Nutrasweet wasn’t the best option and eliminated it from subsequent books.

From Get Skinny On Fabulous Food, I also like the Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake, which involves some sugar, so it’s “Level Two.” This means you’re incorporating some carbohydrates into your eating plan. I always made it with Somersweet. But with the wide availability of sugar-free chocolate and chocolate chips, I might revisit this recipe and try it again with erythritol (Swerve.)

In her Sexy Forever Recipe Bible, which is partly a “best of” compendium book but with other new recipes, there are three cheesecake recipes. On page 343, the New York Style Cheesecake is from one of her smaller books, Desserts. The next one is called Cappuccino Cheesecake on page 345, and is similar to the Cappuccino Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake. All of these recipes used Somersweet. I’ve never made it, but on page 344, there is also Peppermint Cheesecake With Chocolate Crust from another book.

There may have been one or two others here and there, but until recently, Suzanne Somers recipes have been the standards by which I make cheesecake.

Today I offer two more delicious offerings that are also healthier options.

Cheesecake #1: Keto In The Instant Pot

I’ve mentioned the multiple keto cookbooks I’ve been gifted, but there is one that I bought: Keto In An Instant by Jen Fisch.

Keto In An Instant Front Cover

Newest book by Jen Fisch.

Last year I reviewed her book Keto In 30 Minutes. I later got her first book, The Easy 5-Ingredient Ketogenic Diet Cookbook: Low-Carb, High-Fat Recipes for Busy People on the Keto Diet while on a Target run. She has one more book that I plan to get soon.

After her 30-Minute book, I subscribed to Jen’s emails and found out about the upcoming IP book, and later pre-ordered it. Jen promised, and this book delivers with some tasty food, some of which BF likes.

Keto Gumbo Recipe

This is one particular recipe he likes, minus the okra.

One particular delight, of course, is her Vanilla Bean Cheesecake on page 197.

Because it’s an Instant Pot, you’ll need a six-inch springform pan. Naturally, I happen to have one, bought about 1996 or 1997 to make a no-bake cheesecake for “company” from a Martha Stewart magazine dinner. (I was a newlywed at the time.) Used once, I’ve dusted it a few times, so I was glad to find a reason to use it.

The crust is made from almond flour, a tablespoon of erythritol, and two tablespoons of melted butter. Jen’s trick to ensure a nice crust is to encase the bottom in foil that’s lined with a paper towel. Press the crust down in the bottom of the pan, just as you would with graham cracker crumbs.

Keto nut crust in the bottom of the springform pan

A simple nut crust underneath

I don’t have any pictures of what comes next, so I’ll have to tell you: mix up 12 ounces of softened cream cheese, the insides of a vanilla bean (or a little more than a teaspoon of vanilla extract), 3 large eggs, a quarter-cup of heavy cream, a teaspoon of grated lemon zest, and two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice with your electric mixer (a hand mixer will work.) Then pour this over the crust.

Into And Out Of The Instant Pot

Ok, as with most pressure-cooker recipes, you’ll need to add a cup of water into the pot. Add the trivet with the lifting handles, then carefully put the pan on top of the trivet in the pan. Cover the top of the springform pan with foil.

Put the lid on and secure it, then set it to cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. When the 45 minutes is done, let it depressurize on its own for 15 minutes, then quick release to pop the pressure completely. Now you can remove the lid.

You’ll first remove the pan with the trivet from the pot–be careful, it’s hot–and remove the foil and paper towel from the bottom. Let it sit out for an hour to cool, on a wire rack. After an hour, cover the pan with foil and put it in the fridge for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours.

Cheesecake and the pan

Obviously I didn’t follow the directions exactly.

Yes, I know, sometimes I don’t do it exactly right or I don’t read the directions correctly. It happens. At this stage, it’s light and fluffy, but it hadn’t been refrigerated. Once it’s refrigerated, it’s a little flatter, more solid, and more like a cheesecake, as in this picture.

Cheescake slice on red plate with fork

Doesn’t that look delish?

There is never a bad time to have a delicious cheesecake, especially if it’s a healthier version:

Cheesecake with chaffles on a red plate

And what’s wrong with having cheesecake with breakfast, or egg & cheese chaffles for dinner?

If you’re just wild about the Instant Pot, as BF’s sister and sister-in-law are, this is a great dessert anytime. Remember, it’s only a six-inch diameter, and you’ll need that size of a springform pan if you don’t have one already. They’re not expensive, and that’s the perfect size for the Instant Pot. Plus you’ll have to plan ahead.

But that’s not the only way to do this.

Cheesecake #2: Even Easier

Ok, so now you know how to make a delicious, low-carb/keto/sugarless/gluten-free cheesecake in your Instant Pot.

What if you don’t have an Instant Pot, or don’t want to mess with yours? Ladies and gentlemen, I have yet another solution: The Everyday Vanilla Cheesecake from The 30-Minute Low-Carb Cookbook by Pamela Ellgen. It’s on page 126, and I’ve been making it since December 16th of 2019. How do I know? Because whenever I got the book, in October, I think. I flipped through it and kept thinking I needed to try this out. Finally, I did, loved it, dated the recipe, and I’ve been making it ever since.

Literally. When I make one, I seek out the ingredients for the next one. That is, I get more cream cheese, and check my supplies of almond flour, cream, lemon, and butter.

What’s so great about this cheesecake when you’ve got Jen Fisch’s deliciousness? Well, for the following reasons:

  • There is little baking/cooking–the crust is baked for a short time, but the filling isn’t
  • No eggs are involved, good for people like The E Man, who is allergic to eggs
  • You can eat a slice of cheesecake in an hour
  • It’s two inches bigger than Jen’s

 

Not that Jen’s cheesecake isn’t worth it, because it is. But even Jen may like this one, even though it’s not hers. (I don’t know, I haven’t asked. Just an opinion.)

Ingredients

The Setup

This version happens in two parts, essentially. Unlike the Jen’s Instant Pot cheesecake, you’ll make the crust first, bake it, then mix up the filling. But before we get started I need to tell you about the sweet part.

Swerve Or Erythritol?

Like most of the newer low-carb and keto dessert recipes, they tend to call for Swerve brand sweetener, which I wrote about a while back. It’s a great replacement for the extinct Somersweet, and it works just like they say it will, cup-for-cup.

However, erythritol is available in a number of forms, and from a number of places, including Whole Foods, Amazon and Vitacost, who has a 3-pound bag for $13.99. From what I’ve seen, that’s not bad. Vitacost also sells other brands, as well as Swerve for about the same price as other stores, including Walmart.

Should you decide to pass on Swerve and buy plain erythritol, you may find that it’s like regular granulated sugar. It doesn’t dissolve or “melt” like regular sugar would, so you have to grind it yourself. It doesn’t take much to do, just drop it in the food processor until you get the consistency you need.

Remember my little blender/food processor combo?

It’s perfect for this task, because then I empty out the powdered erythritol and blend up the crust. It works like this–first I grind up the sweetener:

Grindning erythrytol in small food processor

I drop all that I need for the entire recipe in and grind all at once.

I dump the whole thing into a pinch bowl:

Erythritol ground in a bowl

These little bowls are very handy for setting out ingredients anytime.

And then get on with the crust, starting with the half-stick of melted butter:

Melted butter in a bowl

Butter binds the almond flour to make a nice crust for your cheesecake.

I pour it into the food processor first:

Pouring melted butter into food processor

There is a bit of residue from the erythritol, that’s OK

Then add two cups of almond flour:

Almond flour in food processor

Right on top of the butter

A small bit of salt:

Pouring salt into food processor

Just a tiny bit for contrast, no need for salty/sweet

Then add the two tablespoons of sweetener:

Erythritol pouring into food processor

Goes right on top

Now blend it up:

Blender running

This little food processor function is great.

It takes a couple of minutes for the whole thing to mix up perfectly. It took longer if I put the butter in after the almond flour.

Blended crust for cheesecake

Looks like this.

Once it’s well blended, add it to your ungreased, unlined springform pan.

Pouring crust into cheesecake pan

Just like that. It’s the consistency of cookie dough.

You’ll need to press it into the pan. A trick I learned on The Food Network was to use the bottom of your measuring cup. It’s fast and easy as well as a lot more even. If you have arthritis, you’ll likely prefer that too.

It doesn’t take long, and once you get the hang of it, you’re done.

Pressing crust more

Works great, doesn’t it?

Now in the process, you’ll see some of the crust move up the sides. I like to take that off so that it doesn’t break off and make a mess when the cheesecake is done.

Trimming edges of cheesecake crust

A butter knife would work well, too.

When you’re done, it’s nice and neat.

Neat cheesecake crust in pan

see?

Bake it at 350F for about 8 minutes:

Temperature on oven

Perfect!

When it’s done, you’ll have a lovely crust.

Crust baking in the oven

Doesn’t take long at all.

When the time is up, put it in the freezer. In my case, I put a cork trivet underneath to keep it from melting the ice trays. Our kitchen fridge and freezer doesn’t have a lot of room.

Be careful not to grab the clamp–I did that once. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, even though the pan was very hot.

Now time to get on with your filling.

Making The Filling

I start this while the crust is baking, and in the middle, I have to stash the crust in the freezer.

Your sweetener is already measured, so now just squeeze out your lemons and measure out the heavy whipping cream:

Heavy whipping cream pouring into measuring cup

Just a half-cup.

Add your ingredients to the bowl, starting with your room-temp cream cheese:

Emptying cream cheese into bowl

They’re really soft, so they fall right out of the foil packets

Add in your previously ground sweetener, one-third cup:

Pouring sweetener into mixing bowl

It looks just like sugar!

Then the cream:

Pouring cream into mixing bowl

Then the lemon juice and vanilla:

Pouring vanilla into mixing bowl

I found my favorite Mexican Vanilla in Hammond, of all places. Must get more soon.

Now start mixing:

Mixer in action

It starts out like this, but gets very smooth in a few minutes.

You’ll know when it’s ready:

Well mixed cheesecake filling in bowl

Just like that.

Take a taste and see if you like it.

Secret Weapon: Liquid Stevia

Ok, if you feel like the filling isn’t quite sweet enough, here’s what you add to the filling, one drop at a time:

Liquid stevia

Any brand of stevia will do. Add drop by drop, it’s powerful!

I put about six drops in and blend it along with the erythritol. It doesn’t change the taste, and makes it a tad sweeter, but not overly sweet. If you want more, add a little more–but one drop at a time, or you’ll ruin the cheesecake.

And if you’re alone in your kitchen, you get a special treat at this point.

Beaters covered with filling

Yum!

At this point the crust may still be hot, so you might leave the filling off to the side and do a little cleanup, maybe fill up the dishwasher or set some things aside to soak. Doing so will give the crust a little more time to cool off.

Filling And Freezing

Ready? Carefully pour and/or scoop the filling into the not-so-hot-now crust:

Adding filling to crust

Really easy to do

Use a spatula or other tool to smooth out the top:

Cheesecake with smoothed top

It will freeze like that, so it’s important.

Back into the freezer:

Cheesecake in freezer

Almost ready

The book says 15 minutes in the freezer to “firm up,” or an hour in the fridge. Your choice. I usually leave it for more than an hour, but of course, it’s hard as a rock.

BF had to repair this hinge for me because one day I pulled out the rivets with a frozen cheesecake:

Rivets in cheesecake hinge

Yes, I broke it, and he fixed it.

But generally, it pops right out:

Releasing cheesecake from pan

It usually just separates when the pan expands.

This is what you end up with:

Cheesecake on pan

Isn’t it lovely? All nice and neat!

Because I consume this cheesecake a sliver at a time, I cut it in quarters first:

Cutting into the cheesecake

Mine is a bit frozen, so it’s a little difficult

 

Cheesecake cut in quarters

Makes it easier

And then with a smaller knife, I cut a slice out:

Slice of cheesecake on plate with fork

Ta-dah!!

It really is that easy and that good. You could eat the whole cheesecake if you wanted to (even I can’t do that) but it’s very rich and delicious, so you don’t need much.

BF said he had a small bit of it when I wasn’t looking, and he agrees that it’s quite delicious. I’ve served a bit to one of his car-guy friends who has been here for dinner several times (because he was here at the right time.) He was quite impressed because I did warn him it was gluten-free and sugar-free.

Other Cheesecake Notes

The first thing I should mention is that in order to make the cheesecake quickly and make sure the filling comes out smooth is to leave the cream cheese out for a good long while.

My suggestion is a minimum of four hours. But if you’re making a cheesecake after work, just take it out of the fridge and leave it on the stove in the morning and get to it when you’re ready. If you want to make it first thing in the morning and have it at dinner that night, take leave the cream cheese out all night.

Make sure that if you have critters, they can’t reach the cream cheese packets. Nevermind how I know that. You probably don’t need to leave it out for two days as I do sometimes. Unintentionally.

Use ONLY fresh lemon juice for this, or lime, as I’ve done a few times. If you use lemon extract, you will regret it. Immediately. Nevermind how I know this.

Conclusion: Cheesecake Is Delicious

I’ve added both of these to the Recipes page, as well as the recipe for El Chico’s Chorizo, which I intended to add at the time of the post and apparently forgot.

I also took the opportunity to do a bit of updating on the recipes page, and it’s a little easier to find things now.

If you really like cheesecake, there is no end to the recipes you can find online. Check Pinterest, AllRecipes, do a Google search, or any website you prefer, recipes are available with a few clicks. Whether you want gluten-free, low-carb, dairy-free, or you want the best cheesecake there is, go looking for it, you’ll find it. (I just can’t vouch for them all!)

Remember my slow cooker post a few years ago when I made a low-carb chocolate custard? Slow cooking expert Stephanie O’Dea has two recipes on her website for cheesecake, one standard type, and one for pumpkin cheesecake. Both can be made anytime–canned pumpkin is available year-round in the grocery store, likely on the bottom shelf.

Stephanie’s aren’t keto, but if keto isn’t your thing, that’s OK too. I’m thinking maybe a pumpkin cheesecake if we meet up with BF’s family at his Dad’s place up the road. I brought what he calls the waffled  “Awful Falafel” to Thanksgiving last year and loved watching him cringe when his sister, brother-in-law and sister-in-law enjoyed it. That’s what he gets for yakking to his friend in San Diego about my “horrible” cooking. I’m sure a pumpkin cheesecake might be a welcome addition this year, too.

The “Keto House”

On a related note, Jen Fisch’s first book was highly successful and allowed her to buy and renovate a house in Arizona. It’s now available to rent on AirBnB and Homeaway, a beautiful desert oasis that makes me want to plan a trip with BF sometime. It’s big, so we could go with several people, but maybe I just want to go with him, too.

That’s a ways off right now, but darnit, it’s a goal!

That’s all for now. More tasty food coming.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

 

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

Happy New Year Dear Readers! Welcome to 2020!

Once again, I’ve fallen behind on blogging. The best part is that I now have OOODLES of things to blog about! The bad part is that I’m busy all the time. I need some coffee first–mostly decaf but with a bit of half-caff thrown in–but once I get going, well, it depends on how tired I am, what needs to be done in the house, and if I need a nap in the afternoon. It happens.

Yes, that featured picture is a six-inch cheesecake, gluten free and sugar free, which I will be telling you about soon. Actually, there are *two* cheesecake recipes to discuss in an upcoming blog post or two. Starting the new year off with cheesecake is a good thing, right?

We’re Still Together!

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes, BF and I are still together in 2020, ruffling each other’s feathers and pulling each other’s tails. He’s still rejecting about 35% to 40% of what I cook, and I’ve been “on strike” a couple of times over the holidays and briefly in the new year.

We’ve been on some adventures, including one recently checking out a couple of salvage stores with locations in the area. Bargain shopping together–a great couple’s activity! It started out when his old microwave finally bit the dust. I’ve been asking him for six months to get us another one–and he could have several times. He had it since his last marriage, which ended about 2008.

New Year, New Decade, New Microwave (Finally)

The first time I broached the subject, he said something about “shopping around for the right brand.” What? This is a guy who buys jeans at Walmart and the markdown store because he gets holes from battery acid at work (handling car batteries.)  But as long as it’s still working, he thinks it’s fine. The rusted-out bottom was no big deal until we started seeing and smelling smoke.

The next day he said he would “price” one. Well, sure enough, he headed right to our local Dirt Cheap and found a brand new one in a factory-sealed package. This Sunbeam model sells for about $70 in Target, but he paid $45 for it. There is a small dent on the left side, but it’s not even noticeable because it’s black and you can’t see the left side in the kitchen anyway. Slightly smaller than the old one, but works wonderfully. And it’s CLEAN!

New year, new microwave. About time.

Shop Fridge And Other New Year Bargains

Our new year has led to some discoveries, local and otherwise.

BF has long wanted a small dorm-style refrigerator in the garage, but they tend to be over $100. Well, he found a very nice Whirlpool model at Dirt Cheap that Target has on sale now for $110. He paid $30 for it, no kidding. Now he has the little fridge that holds some extra Cokes and bottled water out there, all covered in stickers from various car part companies, like Holley and Eagle. No more traipsing in the house for a drink. There’s even a little tiny freezer in case he wants to keep a frozen dinner or other stuff out there.

I wonder if he’ll put a small microwave and a roll-away bed in there to camp out. He’s got a nice shop heater in there for cold nights, so if he wanted to brave the elements, he could. There’s a home-welded barbecue grill out there, too.

And because Irish girls can’t resist a bargain, when I saw this Dash Pumpkin Mini Waffle Maker marked down to $5, it was added to the basket. I’ve looked at these tiny products in Target for a while now, and am planning a blog post on them. I need to check back and see if they have the snowflake and the heart-shaped models too. Remember–Valentine’s Day is coming.

Checking out the Dash blog, I learned a new word for the new year: chaffle. And I’ve become an immediate fan. (I miss out on so much living here.) I’ve made us chaffles as well as made BF some tiny waffles with it using his (ugh) Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix.

More Bargains

Last summer, he went to Dirt Cheap and found a bookshelf and marble-top coffee table, both from Target, and now his movies aren’t tossed all over the place. He got rid of the old coffee table that was dog-damaged, and this new one is just lovely. I scanned the UPC codes with the Target app on my phone and discovered that if we’d bought them at Target, we would have spent in the neighborhood of $300. At Dirt Cheap, it was $75 for both. I was very impressed, especially when he didn’t even know what the coffee table looked like before he bought it.

BF’s sister came to town for a visit and told us about another place called Ollie’s Bargain Center. She found the one near her home in Atlanta, but discovered that there are three in the Baton Rouge area, the closest in Denham Springs. BF visited that place on a recent errand, and it turns out, I could get there fairly easily on my own. Wouldn’t be a far drive to Trader Joe’s at the Acadiana Thruway exit off I-10.  He didn’t buy anything, but said they too have a lot of great stuff. Road trip!

I’ve Got More Books

You remember my weird little book benefit that started last summer? It’s still going on here in 2020, with no sign of stopping. I don’t even know how many of their books I have now. Of course, they are primarily cookbooks, but there are a few psychology books, three alcohol-related books, two or three on yoga, one on living pain free with CBD oil, and one on. . .cannabis edibles. I thought it would go along with the CBD book, but I was WRONG. However, the recipes look like they can be made without, um, the “green leaf,” so when I get around to it I might try some of them that won’t elicit a case of “the munchies.”

I’ve also bought a few books, too. In addition to Laura Pennington Briggs’ Start Your Own Freelance Business (I was also on the launch team), I’ve also bought Michael Hyatt’s Free To Focus (recommended by Laura), and LinkedIn Unlocked by Melanie Dodaro (a gift from a fellow writer, and yes, I’ve read it.) One of my clients recommended Marcus Sheridan’s They Ask, You Answer. It’s a great book on digital marketing and taking steps forward for your business. However. . .I’ve not yet finished the darn thing. Turns out one of my clients knows the author personally, too.

New Year Training

It’s also been nearly a year since I started taking the SEO training from Digital Marketer. Once again, I will again attempt to get through it so I can take the test and get certified. The holdup is module 4, it takes a long time.

We just finished new five-day AWAI training class called 5 Days To A Lifetime Of Clients With Michael Katz. A number of us in our little accountability group signed up for it, and we’re going to. . .what? Keep each other accountable. Five days of intense deep-diving on finding and getting clients. There’s homework, which I need to finish by the middle of March, including getting another copywriting site up. But with three years of writing professionally under my belt, primarily for lawyers and law firms, I’ve got a better handle on things.

I’m Not Doing Keto

If you’re doing keto in the New Year to get healthy and/or lose weight, good for you–I’m not knocking anyone for it. Keto is the 2020 way of eating that’s quite popular and, I have to say, tasty.

Many of the cookbooks I requested from the publisher are keto, because that’s what’s popular and people are searching for. As well as willpower, aromatherapy, and spells for new witches. No kidding, and I have them, too. I like a variety of reading.

Keto is sort of “Low Carb 2.0.” Sure, there’s more to it, but looking at all these books brings me back to the Suzanne Somers way of eating, which is basically low carb. I’m loving it, especially the cream in my coffee again.

Swerve

Additionally, the new sweetener of choice for most of these desserts in 2020 is Swerve, which is now readily available at our local Walmart, no kidding. I made my chocolate birthday cake last year with Swerve, which took a bit of fiddling to get it right since the recipe was created for Somersweet in 2002. So that new no-bake cheesecake I like is easy to make and sweeten with either Swerve or with the erythrytol I get from Vitacost. That’s coming in a future blog post.

Equipment Courtesy Of DG

There are a number of new things we have around here, some purchased, some were gifted. Let me tell you about the stuff we got from DG.

Year before last, BF’s sister-in-law was notified that her estranged father had passed away. It became her responsibility to clear everything out of the house so that the bank could take possession. I won’t get into the legal particulars–it was a bit of a nightmare for them, but she took care of everything. They had been estranged for at least 15 or more years, so it was a shock to her to not only get the call, but to be told it was her responsibility.

Long story short, BF headed out there with them several times to Diamondhead, MS, a planned community that started back in the late 1960’s.  He’d bought the house a few years ago, and done some decorating and added things like a media room upstairs. The house looked like a 1970’s dream home, and even the wooden stair railing looked original.

They used to have adverts in the 1970’s on New Orleans TV stations about Diamondhead, how it was a “luxury community” for the more affluent. Yeah, right–it looks like Clear Lake!

The Trip To Mississippi

Anyway–BF went up there with his brother and sister-in-law three or four times, and came back with lots of stuff. We were hoping for a refrigerator and maybe a TV, but the man’s family members had already cleared out what they wanted, including the fridge. What he brought back were things like tools, toys, decor, and some other small stuff. On one trip he came back with dishes–plates and bowls, and a few cups.

Well, the man and his girlfriend indulged in RED DISHES. That’s right, all the dishes are RED, along with a plastic colander. Our lovely dishwasher, now two years old, ran almost continuously for a couple of days to wash everything. No more paper plates!

My Visit

I went on the last trip to the house–the fifth, I believe–and helped them clear out and pick through what was left. The house was still quite full of stuff, and we brought home what we would use. For instance: we now have a chest freezer that we gleefully keep food in, such as the 15 or more containers of fresh pesto that I make in the summer. (And since it’s been cool and occasionally cold, I’ve enjoyed much of the delicious Pea & Pesto Soup too.) Long after I’d abandoned the idea of buying a very small chest freezer for myself, we’ve finally got one we can stash food in for later. It’s a bit untidy sometimes, and I’ve got the freezer bowls for my ice cream maker in there for the day I make some again, but we’re quite happy to have it.

Later, BF spent a few rubles on new flatware to go with the new dishes:

New Flatware

New dishes required new flatware.

From the Threshold Collection at Target, I talked him into this Jovita flatware along with that flatware organizer that holds everything in place neatly. Because the stuff he had was also from his last marriage, (or maybe the first one) and I let him know it was time to upgrade. It was junk, and we donated it all.

Red Breakfast Appliances

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

Red Kitchenaid Toaster

Yes, a red toaster

Red Kitchenaid Coffee Pot

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

Some of the small things like serving spoons were also red like the dishes. I’ve had to put those small racks in the cabinets to make room for everything. Oh, and an oval stoneware insert with a lid for a 4-quart Crockpot in RED. No kidding.

The Stainless Steel Trash Can

Another thing we took home was an older model of a SimpleHuman stainless steel kitchen trash can (this is a similar model.) We needed a new one anyway, and BF mentioned he’d like that type, so we took it home. We like the stainless steel and the tightly closing top. However, the top doesn’t stay up anymore because the springs are broken, and we haven’t been able to fix it.

But the part that nobody tells you is that you can’t buy bags that fit this can at Walmart. No, you have to buy their trash bags in order to get it out of the can when it’s full, which are available online and at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I contacted the company and sent pictures, and was told that the ones that fit our can are Type N, which are $24 for a bag of 60. That’s right, they’re expensive bags for taking out your trash. They don’t tell you that when you buy one. Fortunately, this one was a gift, but we have taken to buying contractor bags in order to remove them from the can when it’s time. They’re expensive, but not that expensive. They’re about $10 or $15 a box at Target and Walmart for a quantity of them.

The New Movie Collection

And then there were DVDs in the house. Thousands of them, in fact, and some were duplicates. BF grabbed what he wanted, I took what I wanted, J&H took some as well, and there were still at least 500 left. We were limited by the space in the truck and on the trailer, both of which were full to capacity.

He picked what he wanted, I picked what I wanted, and we both have a lot more than before. That was one of the incentives for the bookshelf, and he lucked out with the one from Dirt Cheap. The coffee table was an extra bonus, and they really look great in the living room.

Since I wasn’t there when they first went into the house, I wasn’t hit by the lingering smell. Unlike J&H, I did grab a few unopened things out of the pantry. In the end, the company that had to deal with the repossession of the man’s house had to clear out the rest of it, clean it, and get it ready for re-sale.

One day BF opened up a DVD and complained that it smelled like “dead guy and stale beer.” Because we couldn’t remember the man’s name, we took to calling him “Dead Guy.”

There are some other small thing we have, like decor, and some we ended up donating a few things to the local charity shop.

The New Toaster Oven

While I could be accused of being on a buying spree for a while, I will tell you that like the Iced Coffee Maker, I always look for deals, coupons and discounts when I get ready to buy something.

I meant to write about this before, but I never got around to it–I finally replaced the toaster oven! Of course, it’s a Cuisinart, and of course, I ordered it from Bed, Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon. (You can read the company’s description here.) They don’t carry this model in stores anywhere, including Houston, as I was told.

I can’t find the pictures of it right now. It’s a tiny bit smaller than the last one, and the digital interface isn’t user-friendly, so I have to help BF when he wants to use it. But it does what I need it to, including baking brownies for him or making a delicious dinner for us. No need for turning on the stove and heating up the kitchen. I’m pretty happy with it.

The Air Fryer

Ok, because I got a book for the Ninja Air Fryer, I wanted to find out if it was worth the money. I mean, it’s a $100 purchase, to do some things in, so I wanted to try it out first.

So I bought a $30 model from Walmart:

Farberware AirFryer

The Farberware Air fryer

Honestly, it’s like a toy, really. It’s billed as ideal for one or two people–but most of the book’s recipes require a larger machine.

So I make a couple of recipes from this book, cutting them in half, and BF falls for the chicken wings. I also made a chocolate chip cookie in it, which took a lot longer to cook than it would have in the Ninja Air Fryer, but whatever. I actually tried that one, since I made it for someone I invited over for dinner, and no, it wasn’t gluten free. And whenever I suggest returning the thing to Walmart, he says, “Oh, I like the wings.” The truth is I can make them in the toaster oven with the convection setting, but I’m humoring him. I could get that bigger Ninja machine in the new year, but it becomes a matter of where to store it.

Meantime, I’m on the hook for chicken wings. I chop the tips off and then chop them in half to make life easier. I may be doing them this weekend for the “Big Game.”

The Instant Pot

I mentioned earlier that a new Instant Pot would be making its way to the Casa de Rurale, It has, and I have used it a few times for different things. I bought the Duo Evo Plus, the newest of the new, the latest and greatest incarnation. Sounds like a great idea, right?

People rant and rave about how great this thing is. I avoided getting one because I was kind of afraid of it. But after the initial water test, I kept using it, cooking recipes from the books I have, plus the Instant Pot app and places like Pinterest in this new, updated model. Most came out OK, but some didn’t. When it nearly burned up the pork chops, that was it–I unplugged it.

Of Course, There Was A Problem

Guess what? The recipes in those books were written for the older models. This new model doesn’t work exactly the same, so the recipes don’t always come out right. Like steaming cauliflower–twice–with an insufficient amount of water, and with the vent closed, building up pressure when it isn’t supposed to. The little booklet included doesn’t tell you all that–only the “full” manual, which you download from the website. They don’t tell you that part, either–someone on Facebook told me about the “full manual.”

I have used it as a slow cooker, and for that, it worked just fine. I bought the glass lid for that purpose, as well as a couple of other accessories (boosted by the coupons I had.)

At first, I thought it was pretty good. But then things changed when it burned my food and didn’t steam. Currently, I hate it, and have vented on Facebook about it. When I went into one of the many FB groups on the subject, nobody knew what model I had, so that was useless.

There’s a blog post coming, of course. Thankfully this delicious cheesecake came out just fine:

Instant Pot Cheesecake

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

Much as I like it, I found a recipe that’s even easier and is equally rich and delicious. And yes, it’s delicious, gluten-free and sugar free, so people like Aunt Ruth and Aunt Kathy can have cheesecake in an hour or so with no guilt.

I’ll have a list of the books I have that go with this beast in the blog post as well. If you got an Instant Pot for Christmas, or right around Black Friday like I did, well, I’ll give you some references to use in the new year.

Just know that as I write this, my next Instant Pot accessory may come from Harbor Freight.

And For My Birthday

I made my favorite chocolate cake from Suzanne Somers Desserts book from 2002 using Swerve.

I also bought myself a birthday present:

Suzy Homemaker Stand Mixer

Finally got another one!!!

I lurk on eBay and have several ongoing searches and get emails every day. Go look at things and add them to my wish list. Some may stay there for months, and I can buy them or keep watching.

This particular item was there, and I wish-listed it.  I discovered that the seller sent me an offer of $15 with free shipping–two hours before it ended. Without telling BF, I accepted it and paid for it. The package arrived a few days later. Boy was he surprised.

Yes, it works, just need to install a couple of batteries. The only thing “wrong” with it is that the little plastic switch on the side is broken off. However, there is enough of it left to be able to turn it on and run it. I have a picture of instructions somewhere, and I can print it and put it in a page protector for later. No box, but that’s OK. It’s MINE.

You see, I had one of these when I was a kid. I’ve always wanted another one, and finally, for my own new year, my 57th birthday, I got one.

Isn’t it adorbs???

Looking Forward To 2020

It’s a new year and a new decade, and 2020 promises to deliver. I may even update the blog theme after I renew the service.

I still owe you a blog on last year’s activity with the guys from the Walton & Johnson radio show. After the activity, I ordered a free book from Shutterfly for us with those pictures in it. Also gave The E-Man a smaller picture book from the event. They were all my pictures because nobody bothered to pass theirs along.

Remember that both Downton Abbey and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are set in the 1920’s. . .which is about 100 years ago. BF bought me the Downton Abbey movie for Christmas, and we are anxiously awaiting the new movie Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears, set to begin streaming on AcornTV in March.

But at the beginning of the year, everyone is making resolutions (except me, I’m still thinking about it) and I’m still up to me ears in just about everything. It’s why I usually need more coffee.

I’ll pay for the blog again soon, and I suppose I should resolve to blog more, right?

There’s lots to talk about, even from the rural part of Louisiana. SO thankful for the Internet.

Happy New Year!

Front of the French Truck Coffee shop on Magazine Street
French Truck Coffee

What do you do when you want a coffee but don’t know where to go? Ask someone. I found a new coffee spot I like, French Truck Coffee. It’s a two-block walk from the SGI-USA Community Center, although there are multiple locations. Boy, I’m glad I asked!

Follow me on BlogLovin’

Hello, Again, Dear Readers:

Here’s another post about coffee–good coffee. If you’re like BF and don’t drink it, well, pass it along to someone who does. Especially if they’re heading to New Orleans anytime soon.

On Strike

Y’all, last week I’d had about enough of it. I told BF I would no longer cook for him, and so far, I haven’t. I made the Citrus Spice Chicken recipe I covered a few years ago, but I shouldn’t have bothered. BF didn’t like it–said it tasted “sour.”

Oh, and to make matters worse, he also wouldn’t try cauliflower rice I’d made with it. I blitzed up a whole, organic cauliflower in a food processor, and cooked it in a big cast iron skillet with butter, olive oil and the Paula Deen House Seasoning I make and keep around–delicious. Nope–wouldn’t touch it, even after telling me, “I’ll try anything you make.” I reminded him of this, and he was undeterred.

He barely ate the Knorr “four cheese risotto” from a package that isn’t a real risotto, because it doesn’t have arborio rice. (I’ve made risotto before.) I called it “cheesy rice,” and the dogs ate most of it.

After that incident, I haven’t cooked anything for him since. Nada. Nuffin’. He ate a bowl of cereal last night, and has cooked food once. Last time he made “red beans and rice,” with red beans from cans, I took a taste and was unimpressed. (I will eat it occasionally, just to be nice, and he puts sausage in it.) When he wasn’t looking, I grabbed that bottle of Tabasco Sriracha Sauce from the pantry, opened it, and went once around the pot. Mixed it in really well. It was about a tablespoon, I think, in that big pot. Now THAT tasted good!

I know, I know. . .but I’m on strike for a while, darnit.

Coffee In The Crescent City

One of the many things I always told people in Houston is that if they were going to New Orleans, don’t go to Starbucks for a coffee if you can help it. Find a local coffee chain–any one will do–and go there. Much as I’m a fan of Starbucks, local chains like PJ’s Coffee and CC’s Coffee (Community Coffee’s retail chain) are even better. (I also discovered that there is a PJ’s in the Conroe Medical Center, north of Houston. That was a surprise.)

Another place is Orleans Coffee, where I’ve ordered delicious flavored decaf coffee from many times while I lived in Texas.  (Because decaf chocolate raspberry is hard to find.) They used to have a little cafe in the Quarter, but after Katrina and all that, they now have two cafes, and I don’t know where they are.

Well, I found another one, and I was able to visit again before the April activity.

Arriving Early

When I go to New Orleans for a Buddhist activity, I leave as early as I can, at least 90 minutes before I want to be there. That way, if there’s traffic, or a diversion, I have time. Sometimes I hit Trader Joe’s for non-perishable items before the meeting, then head elsewhere after the meeting.

For the November activity, the E Man told me to do my shopping afterwards this particular Sunday, not before. The Saints were having a game, and some kind of tailgating thing, so it would be better to get there early and shop later.

I get off the freeway at the St. Charles exit, and I’m more than an hour early. Driving a little on St. Charles in a half-ton pickup is a bit of a pain (I miss my Saturn.) So I park it and ask one of the guys outside where to get a coffee. Known as “Soka Group,” they’re the guys that hang around outside and help with traffic management and getting people inside safely. Since it was looking like rain this particular day, they’re armed with umbrellas.

He looks up on his phone and tells me that there’s a shop about a two-block walk from the SGI-USA Community Center via Erato Street. I don’t quite know where I’m going, so I’m walking cautiously in my flats with my purse tightly under my arm. (It’s November, so of course, it’s warm this day in NOLA.)

But it wasn’t that far. I carefully crossed the street twice, and saw this on Magazine Street:

Front of the French Truck Coffee shop on Magazine Street

A small building with great coffee

Neat little place. I walked in, and of course, the smell is awesome:

 

Barista at the counter

I talked to this man to order my coffee

And I walked around and took a few pictures while I waited, because for decaf, they do a pour-over:

Wall of French Truck Coffee on shelves

Oh, boy!

If you’re hungry, they’ve got you covered with croissants and things:

Glass case with pastries

These look delicious

I did ask about the “Yankee Apple Hand Pies” in the bottom left of that picture, and asked if they had many Yankees come in. He didn’t know, and I said, “Well, we can’t get rid of the Yankees in Texas.” No comment. . . .

Burlap bag as wall art.

This is a coffee bag that they framed. Love it!

Wall art in French Truck Coffee

The burlap bag is just one of the many pieces of coffee-related art on the wall by the counter

I waited a few minutes and had a sip of water from the big jar they put out with cups. But of course, I forgot to get a picture of that. And they also serve lunch or something:

Dining menu

This is their menu, which I’m sure is available every day

 

Coffee map

This map of where all the coffees come from is interesting. (Yes, that’s me snapping a pic like a tourist.)

They were busy that Sunday, and so I had a wait while I watched them go at it behind the counter. When they called my name and handed me that coffee. . .mmmmmm. . .oh, yes, definitely worth it. Freshly roasted coffee, freshly brewed.

Highly recommended!

They Have Multiple Locations

French Truck Coffee has six locations, including two on Magazine Street, with two more coming. They also sell their delicious coffees in local grocery stores like Rouse’s. What? You’re not near a Rouse’s? You can order it, too. They also have a page so you can learn to brew your coffee at home.

The company is all about freshly roasted coffee, as the founder describes here on their web page. Honestly, it’s what Starbucks wishes it could be, or maybe used to be. French Truck Coffee is smooth and delicious. I haven’t bought any in the store yet, but that may happen soon if I can find the decaf.

If you’re planning a trip to the Crescent City, find one of these. You won’t be sorry.

When I went before the April meeting. . .there was a big chicken walking around Erato Street. At 9:00 am. A CHICKEN in the middle of the street. I hope the owner found it before someone with a pot did.

On The Way Home

I lost track of The E Man, and so I tried to get into Trader Joe’s. No parking available! Well, I ended up getting everything I needed across the street at the huge Rouse’s on Veterans.

As I hopped onto I-10 West, I was just listening to my music and driving. Until I got outside of Kenner, past the airport, on my way to I-55. . .and I saw that I-10 East was backed up. WAY Up. Like, way past the I-55 exit backed up.

Anytime The E Man tells me what to avoid, I generally listen. Boy was he right. Thanks, Dude!

Other Local Coffees

I’ve also been buying this other local brand of ground coffee for everyday:

Two bags of DEcaf New Orleans Roast

Made in Covington, New Orleans Roast is also available at Rouse’s

Back of the New Orleans Roast bag

More about the company

And of course, the brand that’s also available in Houston:

Bag of Community Cafe Special Decaf

Both are used in the pot and in the iced coffee maker.

And on a recent morning when we found ourselves with no power, I packed up my laptop and spent most of the day working at the local PJ’s, where they had Internet. Well, they were very nice, and I drank some coffee and had a yogurt parfait.

I’ve done this on many occasions at the Hammond Starbucks, where they are also very nice. Before we had Internet, and BF was sent to another work location, I got on Google Maps and found the closest Starbucks. Most were within 2 miles of his work place. I drank fresh coffee all day, worked in a new place, and we were both happy.

Additionally, PJ’s also offers military and veterans discounts. So now BF likes PJ’s even more, and he likes some of the tasty things they have there. He still won’t try coffee, but he now sees that there is nothing bad about him going into a coffee shop. They have things even he might even enjoy!

Happy Easter!

This weekend is the “bunny holiday,” also known as Easter. Yes, I know what Easter is really all about, but popular media simply shows us bunnies and chocolate. If there is a chocolate bunny made with sugar-free chocolate, I’ll indulge, but I’m sure my chocolate will be the regular sugar-free stuff. We may go visit BF’s father, maybe not.

The Goddess of the Slow Cooker, Stephanie O’Dea, sent out an email last week offering Easter recipes for the slow cooker. And why not?

For all you Texans, know that HEB will be closed. . .but I think Kroger may be open.

Whatever you do, have a great holiday weekend.

Enjoy!

Skip to toolbar