The holidays are done, and we’ve been quite busy since my last dispatch. Time for a New Year’s catchup, including our little dog Spencer.
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’m sorry that it’s been three months since my last update. A lot has happened, some of which I won’t mention here. But since the hurricane, we have had much happening at the Casa de Rurale, and I’m just going to jump in and start somewhere.
Grab your cuppa, this is a long one. Here’s hoping your Holidays went well, wherever you are and whatever the weather.
The Tradition of Black-Eyed Peas
For the record, I did make black-eyed peas on New Year’s, using this delicious recipe from Stephanie O’Dea, that I’ve made before. I made it the first New Year’s I was here, and we really liked it. I made the full recipe, so we had it twice and I froze the rest for a fallback dinner for another night.
BF has an injured shoulder and might be having surgery to remove two bone chips. Ouch! This is in addition to my foot injury, which I’ll explain later. So, I’ll be playing Florence Nightingale soon. Told him he’ll need to eat healthier food so he can heal, but he doesn’t believe me. I also told him to admit the truth, and that he injured himself wrestling with BigFoot.
I still owe you a review of the Vegetarian Keto Cookbook by the Texas Granola Girl. It’s started, but I put the book down next to my desk, and I have not been able to finish that blog post. That’s hopefully going to be next.
Winter Vs. Summer
A popular meme on Facebook says that “Winter and Summer are fighting for custody of Texas.” Boy is that ever true, and we’re involved in it!
If you remember the freeze from last February, it looks like we had a break from winter this season. We had an 80-degree Christmas, and the next cold front came after New Year’s Day. My paint bucket garden has peppers, lettuce, a small amount of basil, green onions, sage, parsley, the recovered Meyer lemon tree, three or four sprouted avocado seeds that need planting elsewhere, and a little green tomato plant with flowers on it. In December! But that won’t be for much longer, some likely won’t make it to spring. The basil already took a hit with the sub-freezing temps last night.
This past weekend, West Texas saw sub-freezing temps and so did we. Hopefully, Texas is in better shape this time and ready to handle whatever comes its way. We’re warm, and have plenty of blankets, sweaters, hoodies, and socks. I miss the fireplace that I had in Houston, and I have to make up for it with the one I stream on TV from PlutoTV’s Crackling Yule Log Fireplace Channel. BF doesn’t understand.
The Post-Hurricane Cleanup Continues
We got some great firewood, and one day we’ll have it behind the house to use later. We know many people who are going to be out of their homes for quite a while.
A few weeks after power restoration, huge trucks with crew began appearing on our little back road, picking up more downed trees and branches. There are still multiple uprooted trees everywhere. Removal of these gigantic tree stumps will be quite a long time. Scenes like this are still common:
BF was able to get one backhoe operator (using a $20 bill) to give us a nice big log for the eventual wood stove he’s planning to install in the living room. After the February freeze, he decided that it would be the next phase of the “beautification project” for the Casa de Rurale. He even has one picked out.
In mid-November, more trucks began appearing with bigger equipment. This was a different company but doing the same thing.
This company didn’t observe property lines or boundaries, either.
While I was working in the back of the house, they rolled onto the property with a backhoe and attempted to take our firewood. It wasn’t on the side of the road—it was pushed far enough back to where they had to trespass on the property to get it, leaving huge marks in the grass. I caught them just in time, shooed them away, and threatened to call the cops.
Later that evening, BF was in the shop, and they came back attempting to do the same thing. He shooed them away too.
A couple of days later a nice lady came to the door from a different company that was “observing” the tree removal company. She said they were a “nightmare,” breaking the rules (and a few laws), and were terrible to deal with. They came in from Florida after winning the contract because they had the most experience. This lady said that she would mark our address as a “no go” or something. They never came back.
Longtime readers understand my affinity for HEB, Texas’ homegrown chain that’s one of the oldest and most respected grocery companies in the US. But in Louisiana, one of the many homegrown grocers is Rouses. They carry many items that are more difficult to find where I am, including my favorite chocolate almond milk for hot chocolate. In the late summer, they’ve had Hatch chiles. Understandably, they didn’t do the in-store roasting this year, but they do have some in jars.
Never had them pickled before.
Rouses has a bi-monthly magazine that they have on racks by the doors. I pick them up when I see them, and I have been meaning to send one to Miss Alice. The November/December issue has recipes for some of their delicious cakes featured in the bakery, including our Hammond store.
This issue also has a fair amount of information about what they did for hurricane recovery after Ida’s landfall. This included how fast they could reopen their stores after the storm ended and recovery began. So many of their employees also suffered losses, many stores were heavily damaged, and everyone worked hard to get food and supplies into the stores for everyone who needed things. I, for one, was very glad to see our Hammond Rouse’s open, even if they did have floor fans drying up everything. That’s to be expected after rains and flooding and all that. (The Hobby Lobby next door also had roof damage and was closed for a couple of weeks.)
No, it isn’t HEB, and they don’t have a disaster recovery vehicle like HEB. But they do have a DR team that swung into action immediately. Now, I like Rouses a lot more than I already did. Many thanks to them for getting our Hammond store open again and making sure that people could get what they needed when it really counted.
The Karma Of Spare Parts: The Dishwasher Returns
After two months of hearing about the “worldwide supply chain disruptions,” I was really in a bad mood because I had to start hand-washing everything again.
Then I found myself with a stomach bug of some kind on Halloween. Mind you, I’d begun walking again in October, and made three miles on Saturday the 30th, no kidding. But the next morning, something got ahold of me, and I was horribly sick. I won’t describe it, but I was very “wrung out” for a week. That ended the walking, and I had a hard time standing up for too long.
I’d been washing all the dishes and kitchen things by hand since the day before Ida made landfall when the leaking began. Annoyed as I was, I donated the red dishes to a local thrift store and bought paper plates and bowls. That helped. BF didn’t. Nor was he happy about me giving away *his* dishes that used to be called “ours.”
But when I was ill, BF swung into action and took care of me best he could. He went to Walmart and got a heating pad and some Nut-Thins crackers so I could eat. I was hungry but my stomach was in very bad shape for three days. I was afraid of more stomach troubles than I already had.
On the third day, I went into the kitchen (he was back at work) and saw that three days of dishes were untouched. Piled in and around the sink and on the stove, the one thing he didn’t bother doing was dishes. I did ask, and he promised. It took an hour and a half to slog through the dishes before I could get anything to eat after three days of nut crackers.
I was REALLY unhappy at this point, as well as being unsteady on my feet.
After finally getting some Pea & Pesto Soup, I pulled out the offending gasket and went looking online for something to replace it. I contacted a few online vendors that dealt in appliance parts, but none carried the replacement gasket for mine.
Then I thought: what about Amazon? It’s always a great place to start research, even if you don’t buy there. I’ve bought replacement gaskets for my Starbucks tumblers that I use daily. The original gaskets had long ago become moldy, and I knew it was a matter of time before they would break. I asked for suggestions on Facebook, and someone suggested I look there. It took a few tries, but I got bigger and heavier ones that work better for both cups. Could I have the same luck with the dishwasher?
It took a little while, but after a search on Amazon, I found just the thing. Took measurements, looked really closely at the pictures, and found one that I was sure would work. I simply needed to trim the gasket down to fit in the smaller space. I ordered one and immediately installed it when it arrived a week later, snipping it to fit. Ran the dishwasher, no leaking at all. I ordered a second as a spare and put everything in a Ziploc bag for later. Finally, the Heatcagekitchen Countertop Dishwasher is back in operation!
The first lesson learned: Amazon has a huge range of little parts and things like gaskets you can order when you can’t find them anywhere else. Just takes some careful looking around and searching.
The second lesson is that BF will get out of doing dishes anytime he can, which is all the time. This includes loading, running, and unloading the dishwasher.
Chances are, you’ve noticed the sharp rise in the price of just about everything. It started about this time last year when the price of petrol started increasing. Shortly thereafter, the prices of everything else followed suit since shipping and transporting goods (especially food) increases with the price of fuel.
We’ve been trying to buy a little extra here and there because we know it’s going to get worse. I’ve also been looking for sales on coffee and stocking up. Mostly, It’s Community Coffee since that’s locally produced in Baton Rouge. Last week I found big packages of both pork roast and chicken at Winn-Dixie on sale to freeze in smaller bags for meals.
But BF is also buying extra things like rice, dried beans, and other things for long-term storage, as well as stashing extras in the freezer. He’s even talking about getting a bigger freezer to store more stuff. I’m sure there will be more deer sausage involved as well.
I have organized the big chest freezer with shopping bags, but I have to stop him from putting anything in there. He literally tosses things into the freezer without regard to the bags. How do you find anything like that?
We’re conscious of this, and yet we still haven’t cleaned up the pantry. I’ve asked for help, including some additional shelving to eliminate wasted space, but I’m on my own. So I have to find a time when I’m not doing anything else to clear everything out, clean it well, then replace and re-organize everything.
More Dash Appliances For The Holiday
Right before Christmas, I was in Target and discovered that they had a sale on some of Dash’s little appliances. I got two of them: the waffle stick maker, and the doggie treat maker. (This is a similar model on Amazon.) I’ve been wanting to get the doggie treat maker for some time. I also got the waffle stick maker because I was making waffled falafel to take to this year’s Christmas party at BF’s workplace.
BF, of course, continues to go around telling people that I’m trying to kill him with the quinoa and the “awful falafel.”. (Not yet, I haven’t.) I thought it might be nice to make the falafel as waffle sticks, and it worked well. I, Miss Grace, and Miss Ruth (not to be confused with Aunt Ruth in Texas) enjoyed them.
Both the doggie treat and the waffle stick makers are slightly larger than the smaller round Dash mini waffle makers. Dash now makes a full-size waffle maker, as well as a full-sized waffle maker that makes 4 mini waffles at once.
Veggie Mash Waffle Sticks
If you follow Dash on Instagram, you’ll see there are frequent videos by a redhead who calls herself Ms. Dash, and she’s usually with young children. I don’t know if they’re her children or not, but she’s always making delicious recipes featuring a specific Dash product, many of them vegan.
One day Ms. Dash demonstrated a recipe for using leftover vegetables and turning them into a mash that you cook in the waffle stick maker. This gave me the idea to get one for the holiday party waffled falafel. I cooked some cauliflower in the CrockPot, and I added a little too much liquid.
It made a mash alright, but a very soupy one. The addition of coconut and almond flour didn’t help. Therefore, making them into waffle sticks was less than stellar. But the waffled falafel turned out great and even easier to eat.
Treats For The Pup
Now, in the case of the doggie treat maker, I had to buy some peanut butter and whole wheat flour (I know, I know), but I had canned pumpkin already.
It took a little while, and I decided to make a double batch. That wasn’t the wisest idea, unfortunately.
The pit bull gladly ate all we gave him. But because I didn’t let them completely cool, they went into the plastic zipper bag and became a bit damp. A week or so later, they had MOLD on them. They became possum food.
Next up, some banana-based treats with flax and a few other ingredients. I didn’t make so many at once and let them cool completely then dry out a little to prevent them from going bad. I keep making them so the 85-pound “puppy” doesn’t get upset.
I might have bought the donut maker and the mini-Bundt cake maker since they were also on sale at Target until Christmas. But BF couldn’t give me a straight answer. If I do get them, I’ll probably have to order them online. I showed him the mini pie maker too, but he’s still indecisive. He can have frozen pies for a little bit longer.
But our other hungry little pup didn’t get to enjoy these homemade treats.
While it was hot for Christmas, it was very cold in the days preceding.
Some months ago, BF saw a video on Facebook for a pullover jacket made from a military wool blanket. Unfortunately, the company doesn’t exist—no website, and complaints from viewers in the comments. Still, asked me to make this jacket for him. I had to go back and look for the hard-to-find video so that I could understand what he was asking me to create.
Simplicity had just published a suitable pattern. Because it’s not exactly the same, and no stretch in the fabric, I needed to make it larger. He also requested a quilted lining similar to his work jackets. I ordered some quilted lining from a company called Wawak.
Once I got everything assembled, I started cutting. Then it was a matter of putting pieces together. As I sewed, things became more difficult, heavier, and harder to handle. I used an ultra-heavy-duty 1975 Kenmore sewing machine that was gifted to me last year. But I took my time, and late on a cold Sunday night, I finished it, a week before Christmas.
BF was thrilled and wore it to work the next day. He received many compliments, including from two women who also sew. In fact, he wore it for two days, because it was so cold before it warmed up. When it became warm and he isn’t wearing it, the cat nestles comfortably in the hood or on top of the scratchy wool.
Later I posted pictures in the Facebook group for The McCall’s Pattern Company. BF was delighted to see that his post garnered more than 600 likes. There were also more than 100 nice comments from fellow sewing enthusiasts.
Now that I’ve finished it, I can return to cutting and sewing my own things. I have two big blue IKEA bags full of projects to cut, plus two more full of cut and ready-to-make projects. There is also a bag or two of projects I’m either going to cut later or I need something else to finish, such as outer fabric for a purse.
I also want to finish a queen-sized quilt I started in Houston. I’m not a quilter, so it’s a big deal. I pinned it up in Neighbor E’s living room because he has a non-carpeted floor and a bigger living room space than I had.
RIP Spencer, The Garbage Gobbler
One of the unhappy things that happened since my last dispatch was the loss of BF’s little dog, Spencer. He was a 14-year-old rust-colored mutt, about 25 pounds. He was as friendly as all get-out, no matter how fiercely he barked when someone knocked on the door.
The dog previously belonged to someone else, and BF acquired him not long after moving into the Casa de Rurale in 2010. BF had another dog at the time, and not long after that one passed, the beloved pit bull came along. Through it all, Spencer just wanted to be friends, because friends share their snacks, right?
Even when the cat took a few swipes at him or jumped him like the mighty African lion taking down a gazelle on the savannah, he didn’t mind a bit. Because, after all, the cat was playing with him. The cat lost, but Spencer was always ready to play or try what you’re eating.
Spencer was always hungry, or so it seemed. Anytime you were in the kitchen doing something, we’d be right there with his metronome of a tail. It doesn’t matter if you were getting a cup of coffee, cutting onions, or washing dishes, he was ready for you to share it with him. I thought I was going to break my neck when I fell over him a few times when he was looking for food. But he just knew I had something tasty he would enjoy. He just didn’t know what it was.
I also had to watch out for him–the cat litter box held amazing mysteries he couldn’t believe. I finally turned the darn thing around so Tab E. Cat has to go under a chair to get in it and keep Spencer out.
I considered buying the Dash doggie treat maker many months ago but only got it because it was on sale before Christmas. Spencer would have been all over me if I’d made treats for him, and he’d know immediately what it was. At least the pit bull is polite about asking for one.
Spencer also scarfed his share of cat food when Tab E. Cat wasn’t looking.
Where have we seen this before? Oh, yes—Jezebel the Step Kitty, may she rest in peace.
I started taking Spencer out for walks earlier this year. It was spring, after the changeover to Daylight Savings Time. The pit bull weighs 85 pounds, but I just can’t handle the lovable lap dog. Because if he sees a bunny crossing the road and wants to follow, you too are going follow the little bunny. So, I had to stick with just walking the little guy.
Spencer and I enjoyed going out for those walks, sometimes as long as two miles. But I had to quit when I developed a painful heel condition. Called Achilles tendinitis, it’s one of those things that I have to let heal on its own (and it still hurts). There are some at-home treatments I need to try soon because I’m still limping a little.
Unfortunately, the daily walk with Spencer ended in pain until my heel would get better, so I thought. He wasn’t going to let that stop him. One evening I let the dogs out to go see BF upon his return from work. Spencer decided to take himself out for a walk, trotting off like it was no big deal. BF had to chase him down the street to catch him because he was fast.
The Free Spirit
There have been a few times where Spencer got loose and went off by himself, casually trotting back home when the spirit moved him. When I first moved here, he went on a jaunt and someone found him, then tied him on a short leash to a tree—no food, water, or shelter. We didn’t know where he went, and he was gone for four days. We heard him howling and barking but didn’t know how to find him. Fortunately, the weather was good.
I went looking for him one afternoon and found him on someone’s property just across the road. Immediately I leashed him, untied him, and brought him back. He drank so much water we thought he was going to sink. I fed him right away because I knew he was hungry. That’s when we started keeping a closer eye on our little free spirit.
Later he managed to lose one of his eyes, and somehow broke one of his incisors. He didn’t care, as long as you had something tasty for him.
The First Taste Of Gourmet
Longtime readers may remember my discovery of Nigella Lawson’s delicious sweet potato supper, cooked in the oven on a sheet pan on top of parchment paper. Well, after BF discovered how much bacon was involved, he liked it, asparagus and all.
So did Spencer.
This dish is cooked at 425F for an hour. The pan is very hot when it comes out of the oven. Even with a potholder, it can burn you. So, it sat out on the counter, on a cork trivet. Unfortunately, it was on the lower counter that Spencer could reach.
While we were enjoying this delicious dinner at the table, BF heard the rustle-crackle-crinkle of the parchment paper and immediately knew what happened. Spencer was in the kitchen investigating the pan with the rest of dinner. “Oh, NO!” BF said, and walked into the kitchen to find Spencer enjoying his own gourmet cuisine.
Pork Chop Heaven
Another day, BF and I came back from the grocery with a large pack of boneless pork chops bought on sale. When we buy something that big, we divide them up into small freezer bags of two for the big freezer. During the process of adding them into the big freezer, I dropped several. I thought I’d picked them all up.
Later that night, the dogs found the bags and gorged. We presume it was Spencer who found them because he liked sniffing around the freezer looking for anything we missed. He found them and they had raw pork feast during the night. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, and they were both fine. We did have to pick up shards of plastic freezer bags from the living room. That’s when we realized our little sniffer had been busy.
BF’s favorite Spencer story was a couple of years ago. BF likes to fry fish, and it’s how he believes fish should be prepared and eaten. He fried up three large filets of catfish, leaving one piece to take the next day for his lunch. The call came to go down the street to his dad’s house, while we were finishing dinner, so we left quickly. The remaining piece of fish was sitting on a big red plate on top of the stove.
We didn’t think the dogs could reach up there, but they did. We also believe the pit bull flipped the plate onto the floor and it broke since he’s the bigger dog. Both dogs plus the cat had delicious fried catfish for their dinner. BF was so disappointed–they took his lunch! You couldn’t deny that they had consumed the fish because they all had crumbs around their whiskers.
When we discovered what happened, they gave us the look that said, “What?”
A few weeks after the hurricane, on an ordinary morning, I was thinking I should take Spencer out for a walk that very nice day. That’s when Spencer started having trouble walking. Later in the morning, he couldn’t stand up at all. He tried to stand and walk, but he just couldn’t. The poor pup was shaking as if he were cold, even though I had a blanket over him. Lying sideways flat on the floor, his legs were stuck out straight, shaking, alternating between sleeping and trying to move.
He didn’t want to eat his regular food, and I began hand feeding him whatever he would eat and anything he wanted. (The potted meat in a can and the deli-style ham leftover from Labor Day at the fams went over well.) We arranged to take him to a vet we’ve visited before. This vet had a “wait and see” attitude. He gave Spencer a “feel good” shot for pain, plus a couple of other things, which left the poor pup suffering. He didn’t even take an X-Ray.
When we realized he was not getting better, we arranged to go see the local in-town vet but had to wait until the evening.
We didn’t find out until later that LSU in Baton Rouge has a 24/7 walk-in veterinary facility. It’s an hour away, but we could have gone there instead. However, they may have reached the same conclusion.
The Animal Communicator
I was fortunate to be able to talk to a very nice lady named Ami Pope, a Japanese Lady in California who is a trained animal communicator. It’s a long story of how I was introduced to Ami, and her help is greatly appreciated. I was quite upset and just didn’t know what else to do. After a phone call and texting some pictures, Ami very kindly talked to Spencer for me.
Spencer told Ami that he knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t quite tell her what it was. He was OK, she said, and he understood. There was something in his head, he thought. He did not want us to worry about him, even if it was his “time.” She also told him that we were very worried about him, and we didn’t want to lose him, but Spencer told Ami that everything was OK.
I took care of Spencer for about a week, cleaning him up, putting him on a cushion, on a towel, or a blanket, hand-feeding him, and doing anything to make him comfortable. BF was working, so it was up to me. He kept trying to move around, but he could only operate his front legs. Movement was possible, but not what he was used to doing. At one point he could sit up and move his front legs, but he pivoted in a circle propped up on his tailbone.
Without any progress, we took him to the other local vet. Realizing how old Spencer was, he kindly recommended that we send him to the Rainbow Bridge.
So, reluctantly, and with many tears, that’s what we did. I texted BF from the vet’s, picked him up from work, and brought him back to the vet’s office. We hugged Spencer and told him we loved him. I told Spencer to go find my cats, Catmandu and Kismet, and let them know I still miss them after all these years. Both of us held him and petted him so he didn’t feel alone in his last moments.
We were with Spencer when he passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. He seemed comfortable, but he was always that way. The folks at the Kent Veterinary Clinic were very nice and understanding. They wrapped him up for us and we took him home for the last time.
Resting In Peace
After we buried him, Ami had one more talk with Spencer. He told Ami appreciated all the treats, the cushions I made for them, and the walks all the way to the church at the intersection. He loved going for those walks, and I didn’t even realize how much he enjoyed our walking around.
Spencer also told Ami that he also appreciated that we took care of him at the end of his life, instead of letting him go on his own in the backyard. We couldn’t do that to him (or any dog) and we hope we did right by him. BF did the best he could for Spencer and gave him a better life than he might have had otherwise. Spencer appreciated all of it, he said to Ami. I wish we could have done more, but there wasn’t much else we could do.
If you are interested in her animal communication services, contact Ami Pope via her website (scroll down to the bottom), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 619-655-9494 to set up an appointment. Ami is a very nice lady who loves animals. I highly recommend her services. She works to put people and pets in touch with each other. I can’t say enough about how she talked to Spencer and told us what was happening with him.
Still Making Friends
Spencer was a sweet, likable doggie, and was just friends with everyone. I used to say that my tabby Kismet would purr for the burglars. I think Spencer would have been pretty much the same. He was a free spirit, marching to the beat of his own drum. Not particularly smart, but a lovable dog, who got along with the pit bull, the cat, and nearly anyone who came around, including other dogs.
Spencer is buried under a tree at the back of the property, where he’s had some visitors burrowing in the ground. BF has had to re-bury him a few times. We believe it’s the misguided armadillos that don’t realize they aren’t in Texas. They’ve not pulled him all the way up (he’s well-wrapped) but they’ve come close to going all the way down. But we think Spencer just appreciates the company because he liked everybody.
We miss our little Garbage Gobbler. I wish I could take him out for one more walk.
Until Next Time
Once again, I was chided for something I wrote in this blog, and it happened to be this post. At BF’s request, I’ve edited the passage to appease the offended party. With that, I offer two points:
- HeatCageKitchen is my blog, I pay for it, and I’m constitutionally protected by the First Amendment
- Obsidian vs. Cox, 2011, in which the Ninth Circuit ruled that bloggers are considered “citizen journalists” under the First Amendment, and are thereby protected as such
As one of my lawyer clients pointed out, if you don’t publish anything untrue, you’re good. I did, of course, from three eyewitness accounts. But I suppose recollections vary based on individual perspectives.
A more polite call would have worked much better than what we were subjected to, Girle.
We’re amazed at how many alleged adults act like high school kids. On the other hand, maybe if they keep coming back, they’ll drive more organic traffic!
Anyway. . . .
So, If you’re making resolutions to get healthy, stay tuned for my next blog post.
You’ve undoubtedly seen the commercials for diets, fitness equipment, and other “get your fat butt back into shape” ads airing since Christmas. I’ll tell you about something I bought back in June that’s been a “resolution” since the summer–if I could quit getting injured, of course.
In addition to the new Emilie Bailey book, I also have two other cookbooks to tell you about, one of which I’d call “healthy-ish.” You see that term here and there, which means that something is healthier than it could be, but maybe not perfectly healthy. In other words, less sugar, less flour, or those ingredients are replaced with something else that is healthy.
I’ll be back as soon as I can with another blog post for you, and more posts in 2022.
Happy New Year!
Good afternoon, Dear Readers from everywhere:
I just realized that Valentine’s Day is this weekend, and that I should drop in and talk about it just a bit. But first. . . .
There are some changes coming to this humble blog, and a big thanks to friend of the blog AK and another one of our writer friends, whom we know on Facebook, but I haven’t met in person. I don’t know if JM reads this blog regularly, but I know she has once, for sure. I’ve got a Facebook page set up just for HeatCageKitchen, as well as other social media accounts. I’ll tell more once I get it all done. The blog is growing up.
Last week was the open house for the Drs. Davis at Woodlands Wellness and Cosmetic Center. Much as I enjoyed it last year, this year I didn’t go. BUT–they posted pictures on Facebook, and once again had an appropriate show-stopper of a cake:
A good time was had by all, and I’m glad, even if I didn’t go. But I’m sure I’ll be visiting again one of these days for blood testing.
In other news. . . .
This isn’t really food related, but it might have been. When I say a cat is a cat is a cat, I’m not kidding. This wily cheetah decided that the back of a Jeep was a great place to hang with the humans recently. Honestly, it’s no different than when Catmandu and Kismet used to hop up on the back of my futon and park it there for a while. Cheetahs, as I understand from comments on the Daily Mail site and Facebook, are much friendlier to humans than other species of big cats. But as Big Cat Rescue will tell you, approaching big cats is never a good idea–and anyone caught petting one at their Tampa, FL facility is escorted out immediately, including staff. If you have a kitty cat that has ever turned on you while you were petting it or scratching it behind the ears. . .imagine the force behind a paw-swat from a 500-pound Siberian tiger. It can, as they say on FB, “escalate quickly.” ‘Nuff said. But this time, it turned out fine, and the short video is pretty amusing. Because. . .that’s a cat for you.
Now back to Valentine’s Day. Or as my brother called it yesterday, “women taking advantage of men” day. Oh, well.
If you’re looking for advice on romancing, proposing, or how to ask out someone you fancy, that’s someone else’s blog. This blog is for the day you decide to cook for that someone special, you already are going to cook for them, and you’re looking for something special for your date. You’re on your own on the romancing/proposing part, so search through WordPress for that kind of advice blog.
Do you have plans for Sunday? Are you going to hang out at home and watch a good DVD or two with your sweetie, or risk your life and head to a restaurant? I can hear it now: “Oh, Amy–what’s wrong with that?” Even Waffle House serves steaks and takes reservations on Valentine’s Day–and in some more rural areas, that’s the best and only–restaurant in town. (NOTE: I am not disrespecting Waffle House by any means.)
I’m not going to deny that it’s something special to go out for Valentine’s Day. But hear me out–when I was an administrative assistant, I was required to “go out with the bosses” for Administrative Professional’s Day. I really didn’t want to do this (particularly at an insurance company I worked for, where they took us to McCormick & Schmick in the Galleria and didn’t give us a choice) because it was a reminder that I was still in the steno pool. But at Boeing, that wasn’t always a bad thing. My Boeing supervisors were frequently busy, so we didn’t always go on that Wednesday–and that was a good thing. Why? Because you’re elbow-to-elbow with everyone *else* who’s doing the same thing; service is going to be slower, too. The last time, I had to request that Monday, because the next day, I was getting on a plane to go somewhere, and I wouldn’t be in town for AP Day. (I got to choose the restaurant that year.) Another time, we went two weeks later. Know what? We nearly had the whole place to ourselves! We could chat without yelling, and the service was better.
Want proof? This article from The Kitchn verifies what I just told you. Like retail stores on Black Friday, nobody *wants* to work that holiday, so you may get pinch-hitters who aren’t as experienced. And you’ll be elbow-to-elbow in a crowded restaurant on that one day a year when things could go wrong for you. Just something to consider if this is a really special date.
Once again, Starbucks is at it again with the #StarbucksDate. Create a special .GIF file (similar to an e-card, they’re all the rage now) to send to someone you’d like to meet up with (it could be your best friend, your elderly neighbor like Neighbor R, your brother/sister, or, heaven help you, the GER) and make a date to meet them at the Starbucks on your street for one of the new chocolate drinks they have this week, through Sunday. (They’d like you to put it on social media with #StarbucksDate, too.)
You know, I probably shouldn’t say “Starbucks on your street.” We have several in my neighborhood, including one two blocks from my front door. But I have a friend in semi-rural Louisiana who is about 20 miles from the closest Starbucks. I’m sure he’s not the only one.
This year’s offerings are three new seasonal chocolate-infused drinks:
And because I couldn’t wait, I personally sampled the Mocha Chocolate Latte this morning. Highly recommended. Unlike the famed Pumpkin Spice Latte, this was very good and not overly sweet. If your honey doesn’t drink coffee, there is the Molten Hot chocolate option as well as other dessert options. But remember, Starbucks has their “signature” hot chocolate all year long. Yes, they really do–it’s just that this particular variety is a “seasonal offering” for Valentine’s Day.
I am actually planning to take myself out for a #StarbucksDate. I’ve got a couple of books to read, (one by master copywriter Bob Bly, his newest book of great witticisms) and that might just be the place to do it. I’d like to have another Mocha Chocolate Latte, then get brewed decaf coffee (and free refills in my stainless steel travel mug) until I’m sick of coffee, or I finish the books. They’re not long books, but. . .there are less distractions in Starbucks than at home.
What if you’re going to camp in with your honey?
I’ve got some recipes posted on the Recipe Page, and there are others scattered throughout the blog; a search will help you find them. (The Sweet Potato Supper is a good one, and quite simple.) Then again, websites like The Food Network, MarthaStewart.com, AllRecipes.com, and TheKitchn are great places to start if you don’t find anything listed here. Really–the culinary world is at your fingertips, and a quick search will show you that.
These are really easy, because there’s no rolling out the dough–you bake it as a sheet cake, then cut them from the baked cake. Frost them, put some sprinkles on top, and you’re ready for your honey. NOTE: keep this recipe in your back pocket for other occasions, cut them in squares, rounds or other shapes, and you can frost them like cupcakes and use other appropriate colors and designs for, say, a birthday, graduation, or something else like St. Patrick’s Day (which happens in about a month.) Heck, your dog’s birthday, just don’t feed them to the dog. But for now, they’re for your Valentine.
Now, if these cookies aren’t your thing, there are a couple of things in the HeatCageKitchen archives that are delicious and gluten-free, including my all-time favorite, YeastFreeBrownies (I just uploaded it.) The recipe is no longer available on Dr. Hotze’s site, but I’ve got the PDF file for you on the Recipes Page.
Another good choice is last year’s Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes. First, I re-blogged a post from GF and Me last year, and then I made it myself. Of course, mine didn’t come out as pretty as Brenda’s, but they sure were good–even the fussy GER said so. The trick is finding hazelnut flour, or buying the hazelnuts, roasting and skinning them yourself, then grinding them up really good in the food processor–but not so far that you get a paste.
Click around on Brenda’s GF and Me site and you’ll find lots more delicious food and desserts for Valentine’s Day.
If you have more time to prep, I highly recommend the sugarless, Crock-Pot made Chocolate Fudge Custard I talked about last summer. You have to make it a day or two in advance, but it’s quite tasty and easy to make.
You didn’t forget your waffle iron already, did you? If Santa brought you a waffle maker (or the Cuisinart Griddler with the waffle maker plates, like mine) consider waffle brownies. If you haven’t read that previous post I linked to, please do, and you’ll learn more about waffling. You’ll also find this recipe in the post that I made and reviewed. However, if gluten-free isn’t your thing, brownies from a box–yes, like Duncan Hines or Jiffy brand–can be made in the waffle maker, fast and easy. You can also use boxed chocolate cake mix. If you’re thinking about a waffle maker, Bed, Bath and Beyond also (still) has the Cuisinart Griddler bundle package, and if you have a coveted 20% off coupon, use it.
Still another optioin–a bit healthier than most–comes from none other than Graze.com, this dual-layered Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie might be just the ticket. It has a few steps, so make sure you read the recipe before proceeding.
What to make for dinner for the two of you? There’s a myriad of options available, just pick one–but don’t overthink this or make it too complicated. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll probably *want* to try something really fancy, complicated, and extremely gourmet. Foodies are like that. But if you’re a fan of the easy, make dessert early, maybe the day before (especially the custard) and consider Nigella Lawson’s Flash Fried Steak with White Bean Mash. I’ve written about this delicious white bean mash before, it’s one of my absolute favorites, and I even made it Monday for AC with mild Italian sausages from HEB. (I called it “Bangers & Mash,” which is actually sausage and mashed potatoes in the UK.) She loved it too, and will probably start looking for cannellini beans next grocery trip. Add a tasty salad like we did, and you’ll be all set. Wine? Your choice, but make it a good one, if you do.
One thing I started doing with the white bean mash is grating the lemon zest first, then grate in the garlic with your Microplane Zester. The garlic is more evenly distributed, spreading the flavor throughout the mash.
And you can say that you’re inviting him/her over for a steak dinner–it’s just not filet mignon, that’s all. (No, I’ve never cooked that one, for myself or anyone else.) And why not? If you’re cooking steak, say so! (Unless he or she is vegetarian. . .then you’ve got some extra work to do.)
Here’s the thing about Valentine’s Day: if you and your partner get along fabulously and enjoy each other’s company all year around, going all-out on Valentine’s Day is probably not needed–a nice dinner at home with a nice bottle of wine, a small, inexpensive gift, whatever you like. But if one or the other isn’t such a great partner all year long, but spends a lot of money on flowers, candy, jewelry, dinner out, etc., on Valentine’s Day. . .it’s money wasted. Be kind to each other, and, I hate to say it, but if things are just not working out well, you’re discovering you’re mis-matched, or you just don’t get along after the “honeymoon phase” is past, it might be time to reconsider the relationship. (Or, in my case, file a restraining order, ha, ha. Yes, I’ve had that kind of luck.) It takes two to tango, and usually, neither is totally innocent, but if you’re wondering why you’re in this relationship, maybe Valentine’s Day will be awkward. Better to be alone on V-D than stuck with someone you don’t want to be with–ask me, I know. (No, not the GER.) “Better off as friends” is not a bad thing, if that’s the case.
I’m not telling you to break up with your significant other on Valentine’s Day, (that happens occasionally) but if that’s where it’s headed, or things have significantly changed. . .take some time to think and consider. Next year things could be completely different–you could be single and unattached, you could be with someone better, or you and your Significant Other will have a better relationship by then.
I know, Valentine’s Day, like Christmas, is merchandised to death in the US, but it doesn’t have to bully you (or your partner) into spending too much money.
Again, I’m not a relationship author–but I speak from experience on being in bad relationships. I’d rather be by myself on Valentine’s Day than stuck with someone who let their “good face” down and I discover that I can’t stand. The longest relationship I ever had with a male was. . .Catmandu, the Russian Blue. (RIP.)
And if you’re single and alone on Valentine’s Day–remember, you too could be stuck with someone you wish would just go away forever. If that’s the case, and you can, take some time and take yourself out for a #Starbucksdate. Better yet, use the .GIF creator and send it to one of your *real* friends for a #StarbucksDate and get something chocolate on Sunday. It’s OK to be single and unattached on Valentine’s Day, I promise.
You might be making these cookies or something else for someone next year, so be ready.
Hello, Dear Readers:
This time every year, home cooks all over America fret about Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s the idea of cooking a turkey. Maybe it’s the idea of hosting the “perfect” Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe it’s because they really, REALLY can’t cook. Whatever the reason, I’m here to try and shed a little light on having an enjoyable and un-harried time at your own party. One place to start–but by no means is the be-all and end-all–is this link to Martha Stewart’s website, with everything Thanksgiving. There are even meatless recipes for your vegetarian guests, or if you just don’t want to deal with a bird.
Before we get started. . . .
Is Domino’s Pizza part of your regular dinner routine? Well, check out Domino’s new Ultimate Pizza Driving Machine. Four years in the making, it will ensure your pizza is hot and fresh with the built-in warming oven that opens to the outside. No passenger seats means that your pizza delivery person is solo, and there’s more room in the vehicle for what’s important–pizza, drinks, sauces, and dessert. If that’s what you do for a living, of course. Or if you just love Domino’s. I’m sure we’ll be seeing one of those cruising around Clear Lake one of these days.
What do I tell you about getting free coffee from Starbucks? Register your card!!!
Last week I got an email that Starbucks Rewards members could get a “free scoop” of this year’s Christmas blend in advance from stores from 2pm to 5 pm. I hopped in my ride and went (as well as one other stop), asked for it, and was handed a HALF POUND BAG. No kidding.
See what you get for being a diligent Starbucks customer?
The downside is that it’s regular coffee, not decaf, so I’ll be using it a tiny bit at a time. I’ve just about finished last year’s Christmas blend:
Starbucks 2015 Christmas Blend will be available soon in stores. Rewards members can order it now (including decaf) from the Starbucks store online. I told Neighbor E about it–except that he doesn’t drink coffee. BUT–he went and got his half-pound, and now he has a gift for his sister, or anyone else he wants to give it to.
This weekend ushered in Houston’s real fall weather with rain and wind. It may be COLD for Thanksgiving, and if so, that will be great. I made what I believe is my final batch of pesto for the year, because those plants probably won’t get any bigger–and will likely be gone in the next few weeks. But that’s OK, you know my freezer is stocked with delicious, freshly made PESTO. (Now to get sweet peas in the freezer instead of the “regular” ones.) Bring on the Pea Pesto Soup!
One of the new basil plants ended up being a feeding stem for the neighborhood slugs. I just left the poor thing alone, so that the slugs will eat that and leave my other two to grow.
Elsewhere in the garden, I have seven little jalepenos growing, and the Anaheim/Hatch peppers seemed to have slowed down a bit. That’s OK, I have some in the fridge, and will probably just roast them up and put them in another slow-cooked breakfast quiche. The jalapenos, I have no idea yet. The two Meyer lemons are ripening and getting bigger, and I’ll probably pick them in December. There are two bell peppers coming, and once they start turning red, they’ll be brought inside for. . .something. I made a pot of chili and used the first one, which turned a beautiful shade of red over a week.
The celery stalk that’s been re-growing for a while is probably in need of cutting and using. I need to plant more celery, the garlic and lettuce pretty soon, too. One of the pepper plants I received after our monthly garden lectures didn’t make it, but the one I bought recently seems to be doing OK. The parsley is growing back, and I’ll use that soon. There is one tiny Key lime on the bottom of the tree, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen with it. I’m re-growing some green onions and they’re already shooting up several inches. I’ll transplant the new ones into the container soon. The sage, which I’d hoped would be ready for Thanksgiving. . .well, nothing happened. Might need to go buy one at Kroger, along with some organic celery so I can grow more.
Now let’s get on with Thanksgiving. Again, remember two things:
- You will prepare 29 other dinners in the month of November
- A turkey is a big chicken. If you can roast a chicken, you can roast a turkey successfully
Several years ago, I was watching Nigella Lawson make an appearance on either Martha Stewart’s or Rachel Ray’s daily show. It was right before Thanksgiving, part of the promotional tour for one of her books. She mentioned that a British friend who’d moved to New York didn’t know how to roast a turkey. She called on Thanksgiving Day for help, keeping Nigella on the phone until the turkey was done. I don’t even want to know how much that phone call cost.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do that. Assuming you had Nigella Lawson’s phone number.
As I mentioned in the last post, your humble waffle-making appliance can be redeployed to open up to a whole new world of helpful culinary possibilities. This includes Thanksgiving–especially dessert and any breads or rolls you may be considering serving. My suggestion would be to do some research now, roll it around in your head, and test out one or two (or more) recipes beforehand. So when it’s time to start preparing and cooking for Thanksgiving, you know how the waffled brownies or stuffing waffles will come out, and you’ll be ready. If you are cooking for a family, they’ll enjoy trying out the new recipes, too. (Unless they’re like my eldest brother, or the recipes don’t work.) Many things will cook faster in a waffle iron, and if you need more than one, ask your friends, relatives and/or guests if they would bring one for you and your Thanksgiving Day “staff” to use. (The simpler the machine, the better.) Don’t worry about if they’re all square or round. If you have more than one and they’re mixed, use the square machine to produce breads, and the round ones for dessert–that way you can keep track of what everything is. And that book on waffling wouldn’t be a bad thing to get, either–lots of good recipes for both bread-y things and sweet things, too. All I’m saying is give it some thought.
Think about that for a minute–hot, crispy waffles from stuffing. Hot, crispy cornbread. . .waffled. Even mac & cheese, waffled. The possibilities really are endless–and unique. (Just keep them warm in the oven or toaster oven until dinner.) Start trying recipes now and you’ll be ready for Thanksgiving.
Speaking of appliances, consider your Crock Pot, too. I have a low-carb recipe on the recipes page for a chocolate custard that you make in the Crock Pot a day or two in advance and refrigerate. There are more recipes available online for anything you want to make for Thanksgiving. Borrow a Crock Pot from a friend who’s not using theirs; ask nicely. Again, planning ahead, give it some thought, maybe even making a schedule (which is a good idea for a big affair.) Will you have to cook something overnight? Make sure you plan for that.
A frequent suggestion from people like Ina Garten is to make as much as you can in advance. (Hint: The Crock Pot is perfect for this!) Cranberry sauce, for instance, can be made and refrigerated three days ahead. This recipe for Cranberry Ginger Relish has never failed me. (A printable copy is also available on the Recipes page.) It’s simple, it’s absolutely delicious, and can even be made sugar-free (If you have some, SomerSweet is wonderful, but other comparable sweeteners can also work–try them out first if you have diabetics attending.) I highly recommend finding sherry vinegar for this recipe–I found the last bottle at Cost Plus World Market, but any upscale grocery like The Fresh Market, Central Market, or Whole Foods may have it as well.
You can find downloadable planning guides from Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma at these links. (It seems I kept the paper one from 2007; wonder if I should toss it.) Martha Stewart’s website has Everything Thanksgiving, and The Food Network also has a “make ahead Thanksgiving” to make and freeze. And everyone’s new favorite redhead, Ree Drummond, has your back with more recipes and a section for what to do with it the day after.
And that’s just off the top of my head. Even grocery store websites have them, like Texas-based HEB and the east-coast grocer Publix. You may have your own favorites, too–that’s OK. But start thinking now, and make your lists and schedules before you realize it’s tomorrow!!
I will also remind you of the day I had the GER over for Thanksgiving two years ago. We’re still friends, thank heavens, but read what *not* to do in that post. Like start a glass of wine and keep refilling and drinking it. While cooking. He’s still not over that one.
Don’t forget about spatchcocking a turkey. Yes, it works for any bird, but with a turkey it’ll cook a lot faster than the standard roasting. I did it last time, and got no complaints about the turkey from the GER:
If you have a turkey roaster like I used to, it can, all year long, double as a secondary oven. Roast your turkey in it at the holidays, but use it for whole chicken, turkey parts, or other things the rest of the year. (I got rid of mine when we no longer had the “Buddhist Thanksgiving.”) Remember–110 vs. 220. If you have enough room, and a large family, this is a good thing to have around. Our hostess one year put that roaster in the laundry room–but that’s fine, because it kept it out of the way. But once or twice a year? Spatchcock that bird and get it done faster.
Turkey roasts at 350F and comes out just fine, whether you spatchcock it or leave it whole. Honest, my mother still believes that you have to cook the turkey at 200F for 8 to 12 hours to “kill all the germs.” Don’t do this–350F is a better temperature to do that, just like a chicken. Here’s a basic primer on roasting turkey, from The Food Network.
Generally, you allow 13 to 15 minutes per pound of turkey. That means a 10-to-12 pound turkey will cook in 2.5 to 3 hours. A turkey 20 pounds and up will take about 3.75 to 4.5 hours. You MUST check the temperature and make sure that the MEAT registers 165F in the thickest part of the breast or leg, without touching the bone. If you can “shake hands” with the turkey, that is, jiggle the leg, you’re probably done–but use that thermometer before you take it out of the oven. When you do, let it rest for 20 minutes or so before carving.
Now, how do you prep that turkey? Longtime readers will know I’m a big fan of brining a turkey, but you have to prepare well ahead of time–this takes a few days. First, if the turkey is frozen, you have to let it thaw in the fridge for a few days. THEN you prepare the brine. THEN you prep it for the roasting part.
You can make your brine or buy some. I’ve bought it when I’ve done it, but between The Food Network and Martha Stewart, you can find away to do it yourself. Oh, and don’t forget The Pioneer Woman’s turkey brine, too. But you can also find turnkey turkey brining supplies at both Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma (who also has smoked and pre-brined turkeys available, some in organic.) Both Sur la Table and Williams-Sonoma have lots of recipes on their pages as well–so there’s no shortage of ideas. Still–plan ahead, and make a schedule if need be.
“Stuffing,”as we know it, is probably not the best thing to make–cooking it inside the turkey, as we now know, can be problematic. Many people cook “dressing” on the side in a baking dish to prevent things like salmonella from undercooked parts. I’ll agree with that, of course, but many people don’t. I get that–but in my kitchen, I’d rather not risk making someone ill from one the molecule that didn’t get cooked. If you want to cook stuffing inside the bird, go for it–just don’t over-stuff it. There was, at one time, a stuffing cage available, but I don’t remember where I saw that one. You put the stuffing into the wire cage, put it inside the bird and roast it. When it’s done, you just simply pull the cage out of the bird and serve it.
But you know, stuffing waffles sounds like a lot more fun. I mean, why not? If you’re game, you can make more than one kind of stuffing, and waffle them up. Don’t like that idea? Consider Rachel Ray’s idea for Stuffin’ Muffins–bake the dressing in muffin tins, and everyone gets the crunchy part! (Here’s a along with an accompanying video.) I’ve actually done my own stuffin’ muffins, but not that recipe, and they were well received.
Side dishes are as varied as the people who cook them. What do you like? What don’t you like? (Please don’t tell me about sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and other sugar-overload ingredients–that’s one of those things I hate and won’t eat.) Personally, I really like Ina Garten’s roasted Brussels sprouts–they’re roasted at a high heat for an hour, and they really are good when they’re salty like French fries. I haven’t made these in a long time, but they are hot, salty, and delicious, especially right out of the oven.
Oh–and another thing. You may find yourself with a vegetarian guest. No need to leave them out. Martha Stewart also has a selection of vegetarian recipes to chose from, which also may double as side dishes. That acorn squash recipe with the grapes is from Clean Slate, and I plan to make it with quinoa one day. If you know someone is vegetarian, you can easily plan ahead. If not, make one or two, and you’re covered.
I will say that when we did the Buddhist Thanksgiving, (which was also a potluck) you never knew what was going to show up. Sure, we had turkey, dressing, dessert, and some traditional things. But we also had Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Japanese rice balls, sushi, taco salad, and anything else someone decided to bring. Cultural diversity on your plate–delicious, and not entirely traditional, but it sure was fun.
Sweet potatoes are wonderful when they are roasted just like white potatoes, and butter is added, along with salt if needed. Why would anyone completely obliterate sweet potatoes with marshmallows, pineapple rings and Maraschino cherries? UGH. Here’s the best sweet potato recipe ever--use regular or smoked paprika, not hot, and don’t bother with lime wedges. Make sure your oven is working properly, and bake them in a single layer. You’re welcome. (There is also a Sweet Potato Gnocchi recipe in Will It Waffle? that I haven’t tried.)
What’s for dessert? Depending on how many people you have, you may want to make small amounts of more than one dessert, or double up on one particular dessert, such as a pie or a cake. How complicated of a recipe are you willing to make? Are you the person who would pick the most visually appealing dessert and make it no matter what? A pie from scratch, including handmade crusts? Or are you asking people to pick up pie at the grocery the day before? Give that some thought–and include your waffle maker in your thoughts, too, like the Waffled Apple Pie. (Or anything you might find on Pinterest, YouTube or Facebook.)
If you’re looking for something less complicated than a multi-layered cake or hand-made pies, these Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Squares are easy to make and very delicious. Now, I LIKE pumpkin, I don’t LOVE it like some folks do, but this recipe is great. Canned pumpkin puree is available year-round. They sound a bit odd, but these came out delicious and perfect, and you can make them anytime you want them. This was an Everyday Food recipe many years ago, and I made them to bring to a Buddhist meeting. There wasn’t a crumb left, so that made me feel good.
If you are dead-set against anything pumpkin, here’s an easy, seasonal dessert that will have your guests asking for seconds–Pear And Sour-Cherry Flat Pie. Using frozen puff pastry, dried sour cherries and fresh pears, it’s pretty simple to put together, although you must keep the puff pastry cold until you’re ready to work with it. As always, read the directions before you start, and make sure you have a) all the correct ingredients, and b) plenty of parchment paper. I ran out the Thanksgiving morning I made this pie, and used aluminum foil instead. (I made two of them, of course.) I just didn’t have time to go get any parchment paper that morning. So we had to pick the pie pieces off the aluminum foil (and vice versa) when serving. But it still went over well. Also, the Dufor’s brand of puff pastry was unavailable here, so I got what I could find–plenty of Pepperidge Farms.
An apple cake is also a safe bet, and recipes abound for those too. I can’t seem to find the apple cake recipe I made ONCE that was from the October 1996 Martha Stewart Living, but I did find the applesauce that you use to make the cake. Since I was recently married, and working full time, I had to make the applesauce one weekend, freeze it, then make the cake the next weekend, or maybe the day before Thanksgiving. It was wonderful! My recently-widowed aunt raved about that cake for years. If I ever go back I might try to bring her one of those cakes, or maybe send her one for Christmas if I can figure out how.
Yes, this was long before I went gluten free.
Also, may I respectfully suggest getting as many of your ingredients as you can now, especially popular things like the puff pastry, cranberries, etc. Anything that you can freeze ahead of time would be a good thing to do. How do I know? As I say, I speak from experience. I know, particularly with something in Martha Stewart Living, that I’m not the only one who wants to make something and needs that one ingredient nobody buys the rest of the year. Grocers have no idea there’s an uptick in sales coming for that one thing, and they’ll run out because they were unaware it was going to be something everyone wanted. So if it calls for frozen puff pastry, cranberry preserves, or anything else that isn’t a regular grocery item, I get it in advance and make sure it’s in my pantry, fridge or freezer. Because if you wait for a few days before Thanksgiving, you’ll realize that a lot of folks got the same idea. Shop early, freeze or refrigerate whatever you can, and start early.
Additionally, you’ll want to check your regular pantry supplies and make sure that if you need something, you have it. Make sure you have enough, and maybe extra, of staples–flour, sugar, salt, pepper, limes, lemons, etc. Anything you’re used to just reaching into the pantry or fridge for–make extra sure you have plenty. Here, I know that Kroger is open during the day, but in many places, there aren’t any stores open. Once again, I speak from experience.
Now–if you are NOT hosting a party, not invited to one, or will likely be alone on Thanksgiving–take heart. It’s OK to do that.
Read this excellent one-page article on the idea of the Orphan Thanksgiving from the November 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living. It’s a different take on a non-traditional holiday. If you have friends who are in the same boat–no family around, can’t go, don’t want to go, whatever–consider starting a new tradition, or even just having Thanksgiving with your motley crew together this one time. That’s how the “Buddhist Thanksgiving” got started, for people not going anywhere that year. I got experience doing Thanksgiving for people who were happy to be there, enjoyed everything and went home and talked about it. I would not spend another wretched, dismal holiday with people (in this case, family) who had nothing nice to say to me after a six-hour drive and two carefully crafted desserts (one a sugar-free cheesecake for the diabetics.) In 2005, when the idea was proposed, I jumped on it, and we started the Buddhist Thanksgiving that was great while it lasted.
I decided too (on the six-hour drive back from New Orleans) that if I’m going to be alone on Thanksgiving, I’ll cook what I want, do what I want and watch whatever TV I want. Know what? I cook some favorites, (turkey thighs are the best!) maybe try one or two new dishes, watch some good old-fashioned British comedy, and enjoy the day. Watch whatever you like–football, reruns, maybe rent DVDs (or borrow them from your public library like I do.) For Christmas, I order several holiday episodes of Britcoms that I don’t have, like Keeping Up Appearances. And of course, at the end of the evening, the now-annual Doctor Who Christmas special. I try not to do too much housework on the actual holiday, like washing clothes or something, in order to enjoy a real “holiday.”
But if you are going to be alone, away from home, or away from those close to you, make the most of the day if you can. If you have to work. . .well, I’ve done that too. But if your Thanksgiving Day is going to be solitary, away from family and/or friends, or just not what you’d like, keep reading.
Have a nice dinner anyway, turkey and cranberry and the like if you can pull it off (even if you’re making–ugh–Stove Top.) If you’d rather something non-traditional, roast chicken, pork roast (Crock Pot!) or even a chuck roast. Potatoes, or whatever YOU like as a side dish. (Quinoa is always good, too.) For dessert–your favorite, whether it’s apple, pumpkin or pecan pie, a cake of some kind, or whatever dessert you like the best. Chocolate? Go for it. But enjoy the day YOUR WAY, whatever you can create or obtain. Doesn’t have to be expensive.
Make yourself a nice dinner. Enjoy it with a nice wine, if you drink. (If not, no big deal.) Enjoy your dinner, and be grateful for all that you have, even if it isn’t everything you want. (I’m working on that myself.) Be happy, even for a little while. Have a friend who’s alone? Invite them, if it’s possible. Watch some if you like, or go out for a walk if the weather’s cooperative. (And if you have snow, do enjoy it!) Enjoy what there is to enjoy, since all we have is today anyway.
If you’re in an area where it’s cold already, make some hot chocolate or something else warm to enjoy. (Like some decaf coffee, or cappuccino if you have one of these little pots.) If you have one, light the fireplace (if it’s cold enough) or just camp in and enjoy the warmth of the TV. If you’re in an area where it’s warm, and there’s a beach–well, go for it. Find a way to enjoy a holiday if you’re able to.
Holidays can be difficult on single people, or folks who are, for whatever reason, all by themselves. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. It’s up to you, and up to you to figure out how you want to enjoy it.
I’ll invite the GER again this year, but he may decline like he did last year. That’s OK–I’m going to enjoy turkey, cranberry ginger relish, and anything else I feel like making again. Dessert? Who cares? I’ll find something to make!
Whatever you make, however you celebrate it, do enjoy your Thanksgiving. Be safe, be happy, and be ready–the next day, all the pumpkin stuff goes away in favor of peppermint and Christmas everything, starting with the infamous “Black Friday.” Now you see why you need to be happy? If you’re going shopping the next day, you’ll need all the strength you can get.
OK, so I once again can’t find the “reblog” button on a website, but I have to tell you about some delicious stuff over on Brenda’s site, GF And Me. I don’t know Brenda or Geoff personally, but I do get her blog posts. According to the site, they live in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. All I know is it’s north of Dallas, above the Mason-Dixon line, and it’s cold. My friend Shelley on Facebook tells me how cold it is up there; she’s nice like that.
So, I logged into WordPress tonight to check something and was greeted with this picture:
Holy Shish Kebab. Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes with Nutella frosting. If you don’t believe me, go back and read that again. Even if it wasn’t gluten free, I’d still be panting over the chocolate AND hazelnut AND Nutella in one place.
If you’re not familiar with the combination of chocolate and hazelnut, well, that’s a shame, please go try it. They go well together, just like chocolate and raspberries. And as I’ve often told people like Neighbor K, if there’s chocolate and raspberry to be had, I’ll knock you over to get to it.
Well, OK, I’m exaggerating on that one. . .but both combinations are worth trying, if you’ve never had either one. (And Neighbor K is taller than me, too.)
Brenda also has links to other recipes in this blog post, such as a very dark chocolate cake, a GF sponge cake you can make in the microwave, and even GF Ferro Rocher. How’s THAT for cleaning it up?
Because Brenda does more recipes than I do, if you want to find something tasty and GF that I’ve not written about, cruise on over to GF And Me. (You can use the search function on my site to find recipes on HeatCageKitchen as well.) You can find the recipe for THOSE cupcakes at this link.
Brenda’s V-Day post from last year is available here. I think I reblogged that one, too!
You know you want some. And yes, so do I. If I try them, I’ll let you know what happens.
Happy Chocolate, I mean, Valentine’s Day!