Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers:
I’m quite happy to receive two very nice comments on my last blog post, one from Miss Alice herself. I hope you try Miss Alice’s Magic Beans soon and enjoy them. I’m looking forward to the next time I can make some, but BF says “I’m all beaned out for a while.” But I made something fast last night that I thought I should tell you about.
I also mentioned that my beloved Cuisinart toaster oven is now. . .toast. Oh, it still works, but. . .not well. Let me explain further.
The model I have, I think, I bought about 2009 or 2010. It’s a well-built workhorse, and it’s done a great job for me since I bought it. The one I had before was a Christmas gift from the GER, and I used that heavily until the electrics went. Well, the front panel on this one, which contains the circuit board, come loose a while back. It was fine, I guess, until it got a little jostled in the move. We moved it to Neighbor E’s place, and it sat for a month until we moved it last week to my new location, and it was moved around a bit more, in the back of the pickup. I plugged it in, and the readout acted a little wacky, but after a couple of unplugs and re-plugs, it seemed to be working fine.
I’ve been cleaning out the back room that will soon be my “studio”, and going in and out of the main part of the house. Not suspecting there was any reason to be concerned, I put a lovely pork loin roast into the beloved toaster oven and went about my business. I checked on it periodically, and the Herbes de Provence-coated roast was cooking along just fine.
Until it wasn’t. I had an emergency. And BF was at work.
I went back into the main part of the house and saw thick, heavy smoke. (Thank heavens the dogs are outside.) I went into the kitchen, and just saw more smoke–no flames, thank heavens, but SMOKE. Now, I’m accustomed to a little of it, particularly roasting things like turkey and chicken at 400F–my eyes burn a little, and I had to open up the patio doors to let that all out. Took a few minutes with the air conditioner cranked down to about 65F. Then the odor and smoke is gone, and I can go back to what I was doing. But this was the thick white smoke that comes from something burning.
I rang BF at work for help, and he told me what I needed to know. He has a big floor-stand fan that’s missing the front (I’ll get that cleaned and back together soon), and I had that plugged in and blowing fresh air in as well as one from my place by the front door. Opened all the windows and sat on the patio with the curious pit bull who kept licking my face to let me know it was OK while BF texted me and said, “Relax.”
The pork roast was charred, but tasty once you cut past the burned bits (which the dogs happily munched.)
The next day I did some forensics–cleaned the whole thing up, but didn’t take any pictures. It was that bad! The drip tray was full of grease, and grease was baked onto the glass door. The square ceramic IKEA baking dish (similar to this one) was burned and broken into about six pieces from the center out, much like a large cookie–not shattered in a lot of little pieces. It was old, so I wondered if maybe it just had micro-fractures I didn’t notice and the heat did it in. Everything gets jostled around in a move, and we did have a few minor casualties, including broken glass. The breaking apart allowed the rendered-off fat to drip to the heating elements, then fill the drip tray and smoke up the house. Right?
This where all my root-cause analysis and detective skills come in. See why I like to watch shows like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Burn Notice?
After I’d cleaned up that disaster and made it look shiny, I turned it on and set the temperature at 400F, which is what I use frequently (although the pork loin roast was set to 350F.) I left I it alone, and watched it while I washed dishes. I noticed that the convection fan was running, and it was getting pretty hot–but at no time did the readout indicate “temp ready,” which is what it’s supposed to do.
So I got to thinking–maybe it wasn’t the dish? After I left the library on Monday, we stopped at Walmart for milk (as we do every couple of days, because he drinks more milk than a cow produces in a day), and I went to the kitchen stuff section to get a little inexpensive oven thermometer. I just sat it in the baking pan and repeated the test. Guess what?
The temperature regulator is toast. The oven “works,” but it doesn’t stop at 350F or 400F, it just keeps getting hotter. That’s what fractured the baking dish into six pieces and allowed the grease to drip onto the heating element, smoking out the house. Had I used a stainless steel or aluminum pan, the roast probably would have still been charred, and it may have indeed smoked, but the metal wouldn’t have fractured like that.
So. . .we’re debating on spending money on a new, and for now, less expensive toaster oven from <gulp> Walmart or Target. Or should we send this nearly $200 model to the Cuisinart repair place in Arizona, and spend a currently unknown amount of money to have it repaired? The circuit board will have to be replaced, and likely the entire front panel, since it’s not exactly attached anymore and hangs by two wires. Is it worth it to have this one repaired, or would it be better to buy new? If we do, it will likely be an Oster, Black & Decker, or Hamilton Beach; I would just take measurements on this one to make sure I get one that’s relatively the same size. Meantime, I’m using the big oven for everything, or the little one on the left. That oven thermometer will be used to check the temps on those ovens as well.
This is what happens when life unravels. And sometimes, it’s highly annoying. Oh, well. . .so let me tell you about last night’s dinner.
I may have mentioned this, but we don’t have cable TV in our rural hideaway. (No Internet yet, either, until I can pay for it. I’m working on that.) We have two, and occasionally three, sets of PBS stations at our disposal–New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the one from Mississippi comes in occasionally (along with a radio station.) The other night, I turned on one of the stations to see cookbook author and chef Lidia Bastianich cooking with eggs. (It was a rare night when something called NCIS something-or-other wasn’t on.) PBS now has multiple stations, and one of them is called @Create. It’s where they run lots of cooking shows, including Martha Stewart’s, most of the day. (There area also other craft shows, as well as shows like this interesting one called Urban Conversion.)
I haven’t made a frittata in a long time, and I figured, now is a good time to start making them again. Especially since there’s a hungry man in my environment. He was out in the workshop for a while, elbow-deep in some kind of car grease, and came in halfway through the show. Lidia was taking the frittata out of the oven, and turned it upside down onto a plate, much like you would a pineapple-upside-down cake. She’d sliced up some large tomatoes and put them on the bottom of the pan, added a couple of other things, and then poured the eggs over the whole thing. When it comes out, and you flip it, it has a lovely top. BF didn’t know what that was, and I told him–a frittata. He said he could do without the tomatoes.
Lidia also answered a viewer’s question about using leftovers to create frittatas. Lidia said that was a great idea, because leftover meat and veg are perfect for creating one-of-a-kind frittatas whenever you want. That’s when I realized–I could make them too! Why haven’t I done this in a long time?
If you’re like BF and have no earthly idea what that word means, well. . .let me ask you, do you know what a quiche is? (He doesn’t know what that is, either.) If you do, it’s basically a quiche without a crust under it. That’s the biggest difference, and they are prepared differently. Quiche is French while Frittata is Italian. Paleo, gluten-free and low-carb folks have adopted frittatas as one of their own, because they’re low-carb and fit right in. Purists may prefer the quiche, and the crust that comes with it (and it can be gluten-free with the right crust, but have a lot of carbs.)
If you really don’t know what either one is, think “egg pie.” Vegetables, meat, or a combination of the two, in a baked egg/milk or cream/cheese base that’s cooked on top the stove first, then put in the oven to finish it. It’s great for breakfast and brunch, of course, but also good for a quick lunch or dinner. The trick is to get started on it soon. . .and don’t wait until late like I did last night.
I found a very basic recipe for frittata on The Food Network’s website, as well as more recipes and an explanation of the difference at Chowhound. Here’s a primer on them from The Kitchn, which I will probably bookmark on my phone so I can refer to it again one day. Lidia also has a YouTube channel, and you can search it for a number of frittata recipes, too–I just can’t find *the* one I saw last week. If you search Food Network’s website for “frittata,” you also will find a myriad of recipes. But I’ll show you what I did with ours so you can see how easy and varied they can be when you’re wondering what you can make that’s new, or you have leftovers to use up.
I call it The Use-It-Up Frittata. Because that’s what I did–and I didn’t want to mess with a Red Baron Pizza.
We had two pork chops left from the weekend, (recipe is here, but I used almond flour) and I figured BF didn’t want any more of them, so I used them elsewhere. Of course, for this, I wanted those HEB eggs from Texas chickens, green onions that are growing on the kitchen windowsill, and a hatch chile pepper that came from my garden in Houston. (It’s the only one that isn’t bright red, but I’ll use the rest for myself later.)
I started by grabbing a handful of green onions:
Chopped them up really well, then moved onto the pepper:
And you know I saved those seeds, too:
Chopped them up really fine, too:
Then I chopped up the two pork chops:
You want to chop meat small like this because bigger pieces will make it harder to eat once you cut the frittata. Next up, I added the onions and Hatch into a cast-iron frying pant to cook for a bit:
Turn the oven on when you’re starting to cook on top the stove. You don’t want to wait for the oven to heat up. I recommend 350F, I think 375F was too high.
Pretty soon, the veg will be cooked:
At this point, I added in the chopped pork chops to heat them:
And let them heat while you deal with the eggs:
I think I used 8 of these babies, from Texas chickens (yes, it’s a prejudice.) I also used my huge 8-cup Pyrex mixer so I’d have plenty of room. (You’re going to wash something anyway, right?) I cracked them right in and added a bit of milk:
And because, DUH, I had this handy, I shook in about a quarter cup or so:
I have some Manchego in the freezer, but guess who doesn’t like that, either? So this is what went in:
Plugged in the immersion blender:
And hit the button:
Now you’re ready to pour the egg mixture into the pan. Carefully, please:
Your frittata is almost ready:
I put the universal pot lid on it so that it might cook a bit faster on top:
Then I put it directly into the preheated oven to finish cooking (minus the lid) slicing through it to make sure it was completely baked:
With cries of “I’m hungry” from BF, and apologies for the the delay, I served this to him:
I love it. It’s quick, easy, and because the pork chops were already cooked and seasoned, I didn’t have to do much of that. But what did the man of the house think?
“I don’t really like it. Can I have a grilled cheese sandwich instead?”
Yes, he really said that. And I did make him one, in the same skillet. I’ll be eating frittata for breakfast this week while he has some cereal and milk. That’s what he likes.
I asked him why he didn’t like it, and he said that it was “just too many flavors going on at one time.” So if I ever attempt a frittata again, I’ll have to tone down the flavor combinations and follow a recipe. (Not like there aren’t many around.) I felt bad that it didn’t live up to expectations, and it wasn’t as special as I thought it was. He appreciated the effort, but just didn’t like the finished product.
And now the word “frittata” will be, in his mind, synonymous with something awful.
He did mention something about stuffing the other night, the kind out of a box. I consulted Will It Waffle? and made him. . .Stuffles. When I mentioned that I *could* waffle the stuffing, he got this smile on his face and asked, “Are you serious?” I nodded, and he said, “OK, go ahead.” And, you know, that was a pretty darn good thing to do. You just add some melted butter and water to a packet of the stuffing mix in a bowl, mix it up well, then heat up the waffle maker. Add a half-cup to each section, close the top for a few minutes (watch it, of course) and you’ve got hot, salty, greasy, crunchy, tasty Stuffles. If anyone wants the recipe, send me a note and I’ll write a post on it. (No, it’s *not* gluten free.)
Meantime, we’re doing what we need to around the homestead. BF has taken vacation time next week (the “use it or lose it” type) and it also happens to be. . .my birthday! Gifts don’t always come wrapped in a box. No Denny’s around, but I’ll be getting my yearly free salad (or something) from Starbucks, and maybe one or two other “birthday free things” I can find. Well, I knew I would miss some things when I moved here.
Y’all, frittatas are a great way to make a quick egg dinner for yourself, your family, as well as breakfast, brunch or lunch. Heck, really, anytime you’re hungry and have a few minutes.
Except for The E Man. Unfortunately, he’s allergic to eggs. My sincerest apologies to you, my friend.
So will you try it this week? If you’re in an area where it’s already cold, frittatas can really fit the bill any time. Here in the south, it’s not a long oven time, either.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Do you eat bananas? I used to, until I discovered they have a high starch/sugar content. Don’t get me wrong, bananas taste delicious, but. . .it’s like eating sugar out of the sugar bowl. Same with white potatoes–too starchy for me. But if you’re a banana fan, here’s an interesting article about how the banana became an American grocery staple in about 100 years.
My grandmother used to tell me to take the “seed” out of the bottom of the banana when I peeled it. I’m not sure that’s a seed, since the plants reproduce asexually–on their own, no pollination required. Every banana sold in the world is a clone, but I’d still take the bottom part off if I were eating them. Read it and give it some thought.
Soon I’ll be posting an update on the HeatCageKitchen garden. This year I’m trying for tomatoes–again–as well as strawberries, basil and hoping for more bell peppers. Heck, peppers of all kinds. Soon as I get the weeding done, which requires several dry days and my favorite cheap & easy DIY non-toxic weed killer. And a lot of time to move the buckets around so I can spray the whole plot.
I went out this morning, and I have two bell peppers that are getting bigger but also changing color. There are spots on each that look to be turning dark purple, and I’m not sure why. I hope it’s just a genetic anomaly and not some disgusting disease or an annoying creature that’s ruining them. Fingers crossed, and I’ll likely have to buy another bell pepper plant anyway. But the Anaheim chili plant is starting to develop more leaves and lots of flowers. That means peppers are coming. They will take a while to get big enough to pick, but when they do, it’s OrangeOnionSalsa (probably using grapefruits) for me.
The Meyer Lemon tree has seven viable buds on it, one of which has gotten a little bigger, and I’m hoping they all stay, and maybe more develop. The Key Lime tree has plenty of little buds, too. And the green onions, which are growing quite well, are developing buds on the tops of some of the blades. What the heck? I’ll take some pictures.
This week AC came for dinner again, and since I’ve been thinking about other things, I was caught a bit short. Last week, Neighbor R gave me an oregano plant with lots of leaves on it, and soon I’ll plant it in a bigger pot, maybe with the basil:
But I wanted to trim it and use the excess, so I headed over to Pinterest and did some searching. One recipe kept coming up: chimichurri sauce. Generally used on steak, I grilled some chicken breasts and it was magnificent on top of them. So that’s going to be an upcoming post. Of course I didn’t take pictures, but I’ll do what I can.
In addition to salad, I also decided to make her a taste-tester and made something I found on Facebook by Elena Amsterdam. I frequently look at Elena’s recipes on Facebook, and save the link on the ones that look interesting. Well, when I looked at this one, it had five ingredients–and I had them all in the pantry. I bought cashew butter by mistake one day, and it’s been there for a while. This recipe is really easy, bakes up in 45 minutes, and comes out of the oven smooth and light. No sugar, flour or dairy, either.
Let me show you how simple this is to make.
First up: grease your loaf pan (I think mine is 9″ x 5″ like the recipe suggests)
Set that aside, and start making the bread.
You need one cup of cashew butter, which is widely available in most grocery stores. I thought I was buying almond butter that day, DUH, but I’m glad I had it now. (I’d already measured it out before I realized I was supposed to take a picture. Another DUH.) So you add that one cup of cashew butter and five eggs into the food processor and pulse it until it’s mixed well:
Then you add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg):
Then pulse it again. After the ACV, add in three-fourths of a teaspoon of baking soda:
And a quarter teaspoon of Celtic sea salt:
Then just pour it into your greased loaf pan.
Put the pan in a 350F oven for 45 minutes:
And this is what it looks like when it’s done:
Let this cool for 2 hours before removing and slicing. Once you do, this is what you end up with:
To store, wrap it in a paper towel, then seal it in a bag, and store it in the fridge for one week.
I didn’t know what to expect when I tried it, but I’m guessing anything Elena Amsterdam makes is going to be good, if you follow the directions like she tells you. This time, I did.
By now you’re asking yourself, “That’s nice, Amy, but what does it *taste* like?” Verdict: pretty good, quite delicious, with a light texture that toasts up well. Even AC said it tasted like bread. “Major thumbs up,” AC says. Not real salty, just enough to be enjoyable. Honestly, it tastes like BREAD, although not *exactly* like wheat bread. It’s not sweet (obviously, since no sweetener is involved), but it’s light like white bread, and tastes like. . .bread. No kidding. I toasted it up and made a meatloaf sandwich with it, too. Oh, YEAH. More cashew butter on the grocery list.
Neighbor R said that it was good, “but I’ll never get used to this gluten free food!” Neighbor E said that it “the texture is good, but it tastes like bread if you took the sugar out.” I’ll agree with that assessment. Again, it doesn’t taste exactly like regular wheat bread will, but if you can’t have regular breads, maybe you’ll enjoy having Cashew Bread. It tastes a lot better than some of the “gluten-free bread” you can buy in the grocery store.
In my local Kroger, cashew butter is found in the natural food section, and that jar ran about $6, if I remember correctly. I can’t find it on the app in my local HEB, but they may have a setup to grind cashews fresh like they do peanuts and almonds in their Healthy Living section. I haven’t checked that yet. However, I did see where Jif now has a cashew butter. . .much like peanut butter, always, always, read that label, especially if you or someone in your household might be allergic to something in it.
This recipe is also Paleo, which is kind of a second cousin to low-carb. I have a very basic understanding of Paleo, which is to eat food that would have been regularly eaten by Paleolithic Man. Yes, “cave man.” Since cave men didn’t have formal agriculture, and things like dairy products and grains, bread, cheese, and other modern conveniences–even low-carb or gluten-free–are out of the picture. Remember that breakfast casserole I made a couple of months ago, which included a shredded sweet potato? That’s a Paleo recipe (but not one of Elena’s.) I know, cave men didn’t have Crock Pots either, but it’s the principle of Paleo, even if it’s far removed from the practice of hunting and gathering. We just roll with it.
Unless I’m wrong, there’s not gluten in cashews or cashew butter, so it’s also going to be gluten free (read the label in case there are thickeners or additives.) The only persons who should avoid cashew bread are. . .people who either don’t like cashews or are allergic to them.
If cashews don’t agree with you, then, yes, you’ll have to leave this one alone. You have my sympathies. I love cashews.
Would almond butter work? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it would. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have some in the fridge, so I just might one day. For now, I’m enjoying the cashew bread. I have some cashew meal in the fridge I bought at Trader Joe’s a while back. I might try using the food processor to turn that into cashew butter later. Can’t hurt. I’ve done it with hazelnut flour before.
No, I don’t think I’m going to try making waffles with this. . .or will I? Let me think on that one. For now, a loaf of bread in the toaster oven makes me pretty happy.
This recipe can be found here on Elena’s blog, and a printable copy is on the Recipes page (scroll all the way down.) There are a number of comments, and a lot of good information in them. Do read them if you’re interested in baking this bread for yourself.
One of these days I’m going to get Elena’s cookbooks and start using them. Especially the cupcake book. Yum.
If you’re missing bread, this might be your ticket It’s easy, delicious, no letting the yeast rise or lots of ingredients. You put them in the food processor and pulse, pour it and bake. Doesn’t get any easier than that.
Good afternoon, Dear Readers:
Are you warm? If you’re snowed in, I envy you. But that’s just me, OK?
Neighbor K knocked on my door Sunday and handed me a little plastic container and said, “you have got to try this!” She found a breakfast, um, casserole (I hate that word) that had all kinds of things in it, and the crust is chopped up cauliflower. She put some mushrooms and chopped bell pepper in it, and it was pretty darn good.
K and I have been going walking very early for the better part of 2 months now. I say better part because we’ve missed a few days–me a week when I was ill, and later, she was hurt and didn’t walk for about ten days. I myself missed two days this week, but I’ll tell you why in a minute.
I still have my habit of cooking for a week, and K got the idea to do the same, since after we walk, she takes out Daft Pug for a walk, gets cleaned up and goes to work. So, this weekend she hit on a really tasty breakfast. Of course it’s good! From the page Low Carbing With Friends on Facebook, the Cauli-Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole is full of good things, low carb, gluten free, and just delish.
You make a crust of the chopped cauliflower and butter, bake that for 30 minutes, and while that bakes, prep the other stuff. It does call for coconut milk, although I’m not sure why. It takes a while to make, but on a Sunday, bake one of these up and you’ll have it all week and not have to fuss. (As long as you’re single, that is.) If you’re part of a family. . .make two.
The deep freeze that gripped Houston last week has eased, and I once again have the patio doors open and the doorstops in place and a nice breeze blowing through the HeatCageKitchen headquarters. I burned fire logs for three days and nights last week, and set up my computer in front of it. Actually, it was just me and the Jezebel the Step Kitty, parked on the futon with my feet up and my little laptop running. I made cappuccino, then made regular decaf and put it in that tall black pipe of a travel mug and camped out there for three days.
I asked the GER recently about when he was planning to take Jezebel home, but he felt like she was bonded with me and maybe taking her home might not be a good idea. I enjoyed having her, even if she did get on my nerves once in a while, and always figured she would go back to live with the GER. (I’ve jokingly told people that we were “cat co-parents.”)
Not everything I have is hot wings, but she didn’t care, she wanted some.
I didn’t close the fireplace damper a couple of times, because the embers were still bright red, and I was afraid of not having any oxygen in the middle of the night.
Now, Sunday morning, the weather eased a bit, and I hadn’t lit the fireplace in a couple of days. What I didn’t know is during that cold snap, we got a visitor. He apparently arrived during the night when I left the damper open, and he found his way down the chimney. But he didn’t get far.
Jezebel the Step-Kitty was on the prowl. I was watching TV and doing something else when I looked over and saw she was hanging onto something small and grey that looked like a piece of fabric that I tossed aside. (I do that and throw them all away at once.) Irony: I actually WAS cutting grey fabric, no kidding, so I didn’t realize that it wasn’t fabric. She was acting a bit funny, so I got a little closer and realized. . .fabric scraps don’t have tails. This did.
EEEEEEEEEK!! A MOUSE!!!!!
Yes, Jezebel earned her keep that day, and became my little mouser. I don’t know how Neighbor K didn’t hear me scream and kvetch at the top of my lungs.
I had to chase Jezebel away from the mouse, because she looked like she was going to take it and head under the bed. She gave me a look that said, “Hey–this is mine, go get your own!” When I finally caught my breath (read: quit yelling), I got a small whisk broom and dustpan and put the thing in a bag and set it outside. I did apologize to the mouse for the way his visit went, but I don’t want any mouse visitors, either. K took it out to the dumpster when she walked the Daft Pug.
I was so proud of that cat! The GER said she chased a dog out of his house once, too. Good kitty!
Our good news didn’t last for long. Jezebel also had problems keeping food down. She was eating, but it wasn’t sticking with her, and in addition to cleaning up the carpet, I noticed she was getting bony besides the big belly on her. I knew she was fixed, so pregnancy wasn’t an option, so off to the vet we went. It was a beautiful day, we hopped in my ride and drove to a great vet clinic in Pearland. I told her that they were going to take care of that super-duper hairball she had, and it was all going to be OK.
Well. . .she was carrying something–a “huge mass” on her left side that was pushing her organs over to the right. The vet mentioned “lymphoma,” and it took up her entire left side. The vet showed me the X-rays, and could not believe what I was seeing. That’s why she couldn’t hold food down, and she was actually starving. Frantic calls to the GER voice mail went unanswered, until finally, he called back, and drove to Pearland to meet me at the clinic.
The prognosis was not good, and on that day, (11/17/2014) our little mouser went to the Rainbow Bridge. The GER and I said goodbye to a fussy, independent little tabby cat that suddenly was the only cat in the world. And for the first time in 21 years, I am living alone, without a cat.
She was gone, just like that.
And that’s why I didn’t sleep for two nights and skipped walking for two days. (K understood.)
We will have cats again one day, but both me and the GER are heartbroken right now and are grieving. No more cats for a while (and please don’t bring us any.) He took her home, and she’s buried in his backyard with three other beloved felines that already went to the Rainbow Bridge, along with Catmandu and Kismet (who are cremated and in little boxes in my living room.)
I feel bad that I didn’t give her more roast chicken, turkey and little bowls of milk. She got to be a little bit pushy after the hot wings, and I figured she was just being a chow hound. No. . .she wasn’t well. I thought she was just pudgy with a big hairball.
Goodbye, Jezebel. See you again at the Rainbow Bridge. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of delicious food there for you, too. Your Cat Daddy and I miss you very, very much. We know you are out of pain, and happy with new friends there.
I’ve washed up her food dishes and put them away, but I just don’t have the heart to get rid of her litterbox or kitty bed, nor that little scratch pad on the floor on the left of that picture. I took down the little tin sign outside that says “Mind the Cat.” I’ve also gathered up as many pictures as I could find of her and put them in a DropBox file to share with the GER. I’ll go look for more this weekend, but I fear I’ve lost more because I didn’t realize my photos weren’t being backed up to my iCloud. I’m hoping GER has some at home that I sent him previously. We’ll get some prints made soon, too.
Please remember to be nice to your pets, and always, always bring them in when it’s cold. They’re our pets, they love us and trust us, and they can’t help themselves.