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Broccoli Cheddar Soup In A Bowl
Winter Cooking: The Soup Post

Soup. Even the word conjures up warm tasty food that’s perfect in winter. Today I’ve got two soups for you that are easy to make and enjoyable anytime. Neither involves pesto.

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Hi again, Dear Readers:

Is it cold where you are? Chances are that answer is “yes” no matter where you are throughout the United States. After all, it is winter for a bit longer. Even though it’s getting closer to spring, we’ve still got some “winter” to go.

In parts of Texas, exploding trees have been keeping people up at night. The trees “explode” when the sap freezes and the trees break from the weight. We may have heard that happen here as well. It’s just like putting something liquid in your freezer and it expands. If there isn’t enough room for the liquid, whatever vessel it’s contained in will crack open. That’s why you don’t put glass in the freezer as a rule, because the glass will break upon expansion.

We’ve been experiencing our own part of the cold snap, and yes, he is still complaining that he hates cold weather.  Then it warms up and mosquitoes return for a day or two. But I managed to make him happy recently with a soup recipe for which he gave me a thumbs-up to make again. And I also made a similar soup that he wouldn’t touch, but it’s equally tasty.

New Member Of The Family

I texted Ami Pope a few weeks ago and told her about the remaining Spencer story. She texted back that she had a clear vision of the possum opening up one eye, looking at BF, and saying, “Hey buddy, can you help me out?”

After two posts mentioning our beloved dog, Spencer, I can report that BF has brought in another dog to give the pit bull a new companion. He’s been kind of lonely since we lost Spencer, and he’s been acting like a little puppy dog ever since. The pit bull is now eight years old, and at 85 pounds, is hardly a “puppy.”

But on a recent Saturday, when we had something else going on (keep reading), BF came home from work with a little “surprise.” As I’ve said many times, I don’t like surprises, because they’re frequently not good. BF told me that I had to bring the pit bull inside, having let him out to greet BF. Immediately, I knew it was something to which the dog would object.

Well, he didn’t object, but it was a surprise for the pit bull. Not to mention ME.

Buddy face

Look at that FACE!!

This is Buddy, a cross between a chocolate Labrador and a Catahoula Leopard Hound, also called a “Catahoula Cur.” (A “cur” is actually a mixture of breeds within a breed; it’s a little weird.) This cute little furball has turned the pit bull from an eight-year-old “puppy” into a doting father. They’re not related, of course, but the pit bull instantly became the elder statesman in light of the puppy moving into the house. In these pictures, taken the day of his arrival, he is approximately eight weeks old.

Buddy sleeping on James's chair

Awww. . . .

BF came up with the name, although we could have gone with “Rufus”, too. Buddy goes between hyperactivity and near-comatose. He’s got Spencer’s metronome tail and occasionally vocalizes like Spencer, too. He’s learning to bark, but he does whine and also chirps. (Did we get a monkey?) But of course, he’s not Spencer, and he’s got ice-blue eyes like a full-blooded Catahoula whatever or a Siberian Husky. At this writing, it’s been a month, and he’s now 12 weeks old.

Tab E. Cat, the resident apex predator, is not happy. He has expressed his extreme displeasure multiple times with hissing and swatting at both dogs, primarily at Buddy. Of course, this cute little puppy will, within a year or so, be as big as, if not bigger than the pit bull, who would like to cancel his trial subscription to fatherhood. But it’s getting better, a little at a time.

Naturally, I have nothing *else* to do all day long but deal with an untrained puppy. I gave him a unique nickname: “Broccoli Stir-fry.” But that’s just when I get mad at him. Titan, the pit bull, is busy all day teaching him how to dog. But it’s obvious he needs a break from fatherhood.

New Appliances

Well, say goodbye to our 1970’s avocado green stove.

That’s right, BF bought us some new kitchen appliances. They were delivered hours before he came home from work with that rodent, I mean, Buddy the new puppy.

BF sold something out of his shop and decided it was finally time to upgrade the ancient but functional appliances.

No kidding, we had an avocado green stove, as you’ve seen in previous pictures.

Avocado green stove

It served us well.

The stove and the old fridge/freezer with the non-working water fountain and ice maker have been removed and carted away. In their place are sleek new stainless-steel exterior appliances that leave a little more room in the kitchen, are energy efficient, and work great.

New Stove

Isn’t it gorgeous?

We’ve been talking about doing this for some time, but it always seems to get put off. Well, this time, BF said “I’m doing this,” and he did.

Refrigerator with closed doors

Equally attractive. Notice the indignant cat at the far right in the background, waiting to be fed again.

Availability

I have seen posts on Facebook from people in other places that have had considerable trouble getting the appliances they want. In some cases, the appliances are on backorder, or simply not available anywhere. We just purchased what was in stock at Lowe’s, which may or may not have been the absolute newest models. Lowes had them, BF bought them, and they delivered them two days later.

Stove

A closer look at the entire thing.

It took some time to get everything swapped out and get the older appliances removed from the house. We cleaned the floor behind both appliances before the new ones were added, and they were expertly installed by none other than BF himself.

A Fancier Stove And Refrigerator

One thing I enjoy teasing BF about is his slightly Luddite nature. It’s just funny to watch him when he is presented with something new, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with it. It’s just nothing that’s ever crossed his path.

I was perfectly happy with the coil-type burners. I would not have minded if he bought a new stove with the same type of cooktop. Surprisingly, this time, BF went in for something much more modern, complete with ceramic cooktops and a digital readout.

Stovetop on Maytag Stove

Every inch is fully utilized, and it includes a place to keep something warm. Neat!

This light reminds you that the stove is still hot, even if it’s turned off. Pay attention!

hot surface indicator

That “quick boil” burner really does heat up fast.

Red glowing coils under cooktop

Don’t touch it!! These burners can get up to 1300 degrees.

This is what happens when you turn one on under a pot.

The refrigerator is at once both simplicity and complexity in one place. In other words, it’s very modern, very sleek, very well designed, with a lot more interior real estate than the other one had.

Refrigerator with doors open

LOTS of room, even though it looks a little smaller

The door shelves in this new refrigerator are much bigger, hold much more, and can accommodate a gallon of milk. The freezer does not have an ice maker because there is no waterline in that spot. That’s OK, we have plenty of ice cube trays.

Get a load of the size of this butter garage:

Butter garage in new refrigerator holding butter dish and three sticks of butter

Plenty of room for whatever butter dish you have

I’m supposed to be making BF a Barefoot Contessa Apple Crostata soon because we were recently gifted some apples. Everything is ready for me to start baking. . .soon.

The one downside is that now that we have a refrigerator with clear shelves and drawers, BF can see everything. This includes the stuff that I put towards the back of the produce drawer where, hopefully, he’ll look past them. You know, the sun-dried tomatoes, Asian fish sauce, coconut aminos, and the anchovy fillets and paste. I’ve used anchovy paste a few times in stuff I’ve made for him. But for heaven’s sake, don’t tell him about it or he’ll lose his mind as he did with the Frozen Hot Chocolate.

Maybe I should try putting it in the drawer at the very bottom of the fridge. It’s impossible to see into it when you open the door.

Oh, well. Let’s make some soup!

Broccoli Cheddar Cheese Soup

It’s keto, It’s easy, and it tastes great. Even BF said so. If you’re a fan of broccoli cheese soup, this one’s for you. If you stop off at the grocery store on the way home, you can have a delicious hot soup for dinner in less than an hour. And if you care, it’s also vegetarian and gluten-free. Not that BF cares in the least.

This is one more recipe from Emilie Bailey’s Vegetarian Keto in 30 Minutes on page 66. It wasn’t included in the original post because I made it after I wrote and published that blog post. It’s easy and perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold day.

 

Ingredients for Broccoli Cheese Soup

The Setup (I grated the 3 cups of Colby Cheese ahead of time; the recipe calls for Colby Jack.)

You can use a pound of either fresh or frozen broccoli in this recipe, but since this was the first time making it, I used fresh. Prep out your ingredients:

Prep bowls of measured ingredients

So much easier to do this first.

So start out by melting the butter in a pot:

making soup by melting butter in pot

Like this–don’t brown or burn it.

Then add your celery and onion:

Adding celery and onion to soup pot

Just like that.

Saute until they get tender, then add garlic and paprika:

Adding paprika to soup

Drop it right in

Cook for just one more minute, then add in the broccoli:

Adding broccoli into soup

Cut broccoli came in handy here.

Then 3.5 cups of vegetable broth or stock:

Adding stock to soup pot

Easier when you measure ahead of time!

Of course, this is vegetable stock since it’s vegetarian, but if you wanted to use chicken stock (and you don’t care about vegetarian) I’m sure that would work too.

Here’s where this recipe is a bit different. Once the broccoli is cooked fork-tender, four to five minutes, remove half of the broccoli and set it aside.

Removing broccoli from soup post

There’s a good reason for this.

Next up, add into the pot 3/4 cup of heavy cream and four ounces of regular (full-fat) cream cheese at room temp. Leave the cream cheese out for a while before you plan to cook this, just like for cheesecake (but not two days like I do.) I normally buy the two-pack of 8-ounce bricks at Walmart, but some places sell smaller packages of four ounces.

Adding cream to soup pot

Cream

Adding cream cheese to soup pot

And cream cheese

It’s going to take a few minutes for the cream cheese to melt:

Cream cheese in soup pot

Whisk this around until it’s nice and melted

Finishing Touch

After a short while, the cream cheese becomes fully melted

Melted cream cheese in soup pot

Almost there, so keep stirring

Emilie recommends an immersion blender to better chop some of the broccoli and smooth out the consistency:

Immersion blender in soup pot

Do this carefully, of course.

I had to move the pot near an outlet for the blender, or use an extension cord across the kitchen.

You can do this in a standard blender, BUT–like Pea & Pesto Soup, you must be extremely careful. Remove the little inset in the top, cover with a heavy dish towel, and blend cautiously.

Ready for soup? Add the shredded cheese a handful at a time (3 cups of Colby, which I shredded by hand):

Adding cheese to soup pot

Stir in between handfuls to melt it

I prefer not to buy pre-shredded cheese because of the powdery ingredients added to keep it from clumping. It’s a bit of a pain, but the anti-clumping additives can also prevent the cheese from melting properly.

Once it’s incorporated (and melted), add the reserved broccoli back into the soup pot:

Adding reserved broccoli back into the soup pot

Almost there

If you prefer, you can blend all of the broccoli instead of just half of it. We liked it this way, but there’s nothing wrong with all-blended broccoli either.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup In A Bowl

An easy and delicious version of Broccoli Cheddar Soup.

Two thumbs up! BF really enjoyed it, so we have yet another “modern” dish to add to our dinner rotation. It’s tasty, cheesy, filling, and perfect for a cool or cold evening.

Creamed Cauliflower Soup

Similar to the broccoli cheese soup, I found this one in a book called Keto For Vegetarians by Lisa Danielson. It’s got a delicious-looking egg dish on the cover and a wide range of vegetarian food similar to Emilie’s. It was one of the many books I received as a gracious gift from Callisto Press while I was on their book reviewer list.

keto for vegetarians book

This is the book, if you’re interested.

I just happened to be flipping through this book one day, looking around and found this delicious soup on page 69. I told BF that I wanted to make some. Of course, the first thing he did was turn up his nose and make retching noises. I ignored him.

Similar to the prior recipe, it has butter, cream, and shredded cheese, so how could it be bad? It’s not like you can actually taste the cauliflower for what it is. But BF, being himself, just completely rejected it out of hand. So, the cauliflower soup is all mine whenever I decide to make some.

It’s a simple recipe, and you can make it either on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot. I tried the Instant Pot version first. The second time, when I took these pictures, I made it top of the stove and used frozen cauliflower. I’d opened a bag of florets by mistake.

The author also has a recipe for Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup on page 67 that also includes Greek yogurt cream cheese. Don’t ask me where I would find that around here.

So this is what you need to make this recipe:

Soup the setup

The Setup

There is no cream cheese in this recipe. Instead of Colby-Jack, this one calls for sharp cheddar. I’m a fan of the mild cheddar, but I bought extra-sharp here. Know what? It’s pretty good, so I suggest going with what works.

The recipe starts out the same, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat:

Two tablespoons butter

The recipe calls for grass-fed butter, but this is just standard unsalted stuff.

Once melted, add the onion and garlic:

Adding onion and garlic to soup pot

Then saute for about three minutes or so:

Saute in soup pot

Just until they start to soften

Now add in the cauliflower:

Adding Cauliflower into pot

I let it thaw for a few before I started.

Saute for a few minutes:

Sauteing cauliflower in pot

Since it was frozen, not fresh, I cooked it a little longer

Add in the veggie broth and a bay leaf:

Adding broth and a bay leaf to the soup pot

See why measuring first helps?

Cover and cook for 20 minutes:

Covering soup pot

Won’t be long now!

After 20 minutes, remove it from the heat. Obviously, I forgot to turn off the heat. Add in the cream:

Adding cream

And stir well

Now the cheese:

Adding cheddar cheese into soup pot

This is only one cup, not three.

Don’t forget the salt and pepper:

Adding salt and pepper to soup pot

The finishing touch

Again, stir well. And serve!

Finished cauli soup

Ready for soup?

This recipe makes four servings, and I had it for a few days afterward:

Four bowls of cauli soup

Lunch! Or something to go with it.

Really easy, really tasty, and great to make when it’s cold.

Bowl of cauli soup

Delicious and keto

One thing I didn’t take a picture of is using a wooden tool to cut the cauliflower into smaller pieces after cooking because they were big out of the bag.

No, BF refused, even though it smelled delicious. That’s just how he rolls, even in an emergency. Fortunately, we’re not having one right now, just a difference of opinion.

This recipe also has instructions for using the Instant Pot, but it wasn’t really much faster than the stovetop. I think both could work well with the IP, which is something to consider if you have a power outage and need to use a generator. We’re experienced with camp stove cooking now, so we could certainly make both soups either way.

Addendum: New Pinch Bowls

I’ve mentioned mise en place more than once in this humble little blog. I’m a huge fan of prepping out the ingredients before you start cooking, which isn’t what I saw growing up. But the little pinch bowls I’ve had for many years have either been broken or disappeared. Seriously, the stainless steel ones from IKEA have gone into the Vortex, and the glass ones broke over time. I have one of each left, and I’ve not found them on IKEA’s website.

But I found some new ones! They’re unbreakable and resilient SILICONE.

Two sets of silicone pinch bowls

Aren’t they cute?

I went looking for more but didn’t check Amazon as I should have. I mentioned it to BF one day and was considering ordering them from Cost Plus World Market. Lo and behold, we had to head to Baton Rouge one day, which means a few shopping stops when we’re done at the machine shop.

BF gets reluctantly introduced into places he would not have visited if I weren’t around. Cost Plus is one of them, where we get his new favorite cookie, Jammie Dodgers. This particular day in December, there were none of his favorite cookies, but we did manage to stock up on some things we like.

On the way out, BF saw these in a display near the checkout counter. Four in a package for $3.99. I grabbed two. They work wonderfully, fit in the dishwasher cutlery tray (just squish them a bit), and are perfect for measuring out your ingredients before you start. I’ve found that once you start doing that, the cooking process goes quickly. It’s almost like what you see on cooking shows.

Two packages of these will keep you cooking forever. Online, they now sell for $4.99, and Amazon has a range of different types and brands at different price points.

Until Next Time

I’ve posted printable PDF copies of both these recipes here on the Recipes Page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find them. One day, I’ll try to organize them a little more. Just click on the hyperlink and it will come up, ready to use or print. I’ve even added a new “logo” that I made on Canva recently.

Logo for HeatCageKitchen

You might see more of this in the coming months.

I might do a refresh of the WordPress theme, and this may figure into the redesign/rebrand. If I do it.

Even without snow and sub-freezing, t’s been very cold this winter. There’s no better time to make soup. Make it in your Instant Pot, CrockPot, some other appliance, or just on your stovetop. Spring is a few weeks away, so now’s the time to enjoy some soup before warmer weather arrives.

Happy Dining!

Cover of Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes
Cookbook Review: Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes

Vegetarian and keto are two words many people believe are incompatible. Emilie Bailey, a/k/a “The Texas Granola Girl,” is here to show you that they can work together.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

Well, we’re a couple of weeks into 2022. Have you forgotten your resolutions already? Not me! I haven’t made any. After the last two years, who’s doing that, anyway?

Mother Nature’s bipolar weather patterns are literally having us all use our heaters at night and air conditioners during the day and then swap in a couple of days. This week we may be looking at snow in our area, and north Houston will not be spared that winter treat. (The prospect of snow does not make BF very happy.)

New Readers

I discovered recently that I have two new readers. Welcome! This humble little blog is nine years old and contains information about food, cooking, foodie trends, some health and wellness, and the occasional contrarian opinion. Also included are anecdotes and sometimes extra information that may or may not be useful, depending on your perspective. New trends (i.e., the Instant Pot and the Air Fryer) are highlighted as well as updates and features from other bloggers who write more than I do. Stick around, you might find something you like. Check out my recipe page, which I need to update soon.

So let’s jump right into 2022!

The Post-Holiday Reset

The rich food of the holidays is over, and it’s time to get back to eating healthier. Hobby Lobby had this, and, well:

Hatch chile bacon ranch dip

I couldn’t resist.

Yes, died and went to heaven. It’s fantastic with corn chips. Until I got halfway through the jar and read the ingredients. First up: sugar. I was heartbroken, but it didn’t stop me. I did buy one more, and that was the end of the dip.

Plus, I gave in to the Cranberry Bliss Bar, despite the large price increase since my first in about 2007:

Starbucks bag with cranberry bliss bar on label

I’ve never forgotten these since my first

BF was not interested in this Starbucks holiday standard, and I can’t even get him interested in trying a little bit. But copycat recipes abound, so I could conceivably make some any time of year, such as the upcoming Valentine’s Day.

But today, it’s time to re-set and get back to eating healthier. I fell off the wagon a few times, but not for the entire six weeks.

Getting A Move On

I’m exercising when I can, and bought this “resolution” back in June:

 

Sunny Health And Fitness Squat Assist Row-N-Ride™ Trainer for Glutes Workout with Training Video

The Sunny Health And Fitness Row & Ride (picture from Amazon)

Called the Sunny Health & Fitness Row N’ Ride, I use it less than I should. That’s probably why I end up with sore muscles. The first day I used it I was crab-walking for four or five days–my legs really hurt! When I bought mine, it was less than $100. Part of the reason was so that I could exercise without doing any more damage to my foot. I’m also conscious of possible knee problems with walking, as well as gaining good lower-body strength. So I need to make more time for this baby.

The mail lady was not happy about delivering the 25-pound package. (It does require some assembly, which BF cheerfully handled because he’s a guy.) She remembers when BF shipped home boxes of tools and things before he returned from Iraq.

If you consider buying the Row ‘N Ride, know that it has a strict 220-pound weight limit. That’s OK for me, BF, Miss Alice, and Aunt Ruth. But not for one of BF’s car-guy friends, who has himself gone keto and lost a considerable amount of weight. The man is also well over six feet and over that weight limit, so I had to stop him from hopping on my machine. The company makes a Pro model with a weight limit of 300 pounds, which would be more suited for him.

Sunny Health & Fitness has a wide range of home health equipment, from small things like ab wheels and yoga mats to elliptical bicycles, rowing machines, and the Row & Ride. The company also has a YouTube channel that’s free. They frequently post content including workout videos on Instagram and Facebook. Many of their videos don’t require exercise equipment, such as body weight routines and even yoga.

For some folks, the New Year “diet” means going to or back to keto, low carb, paleo, low-fat, or whatever way of eating you prefer. Others may be considering the non-carnivore route. And for that, I’ve got your back.

Going Vegetarian?

I know, I know–the word “vegetarian” has you turned off already. Right now, I can hear you turning your nose up. (Except you, Miss Alice.) Well, today, I’m going to change that.

Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes

Tasty and fast!

Emilie Bailey’s newest book is all about vegetarian food that’s also keto-friendly. Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes has some wonderful recipes that both vegetarians and non-veg people alike can enjoy. Yes, even maybe BF. But we’re not converting, just eating some tasty and different recipes.

In the intro, Emilie explains that the recipes are quick, and don’t require any ingredients that are hard to get, even here, no complicated cooking methods, nor any expensive kitchen stuff. That’s appealing even to non-vegetarians like myself.

Vegetarian Keto

“Yes, but, Amy, isn’t keto all about eating lots of organic meat and dairy?” No, it isn’t, actually. Keto, as I’ve said previously, is pretty much “Low Carb 2.0.” There are macros, but not really calorie counting. The thing is, you can’t over-eat fat without upsetting or hurting your stomach. Real fats make you stop at some point, whereas you can overeat carbs all day long.

If you’ve ever polished off a bag of chips and salsa, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t get me started on chips and salsa in a Mexican restaurant. If you’re in Texas, you know very well what that means.

Emilie’s book takes keto into the vegetarian genre of cooking, because she enjoys vegetables, and had plenty of recipes to focus just on this type. When most people hear the word “vegetarian,” the words that come to mind tend to be things like “bean sprouts,” “wheatgrass” and “soybean ‘meat.'” I’m happy to tell you this is not the case in Emilie’s book. The recipes aren’t difficult, either, and there’s something for nearly everyone here.

The short review: good food to be had here, and you don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy them. Honest.

Types Of Vegetarians

If you’re not completely familiar with the concept, there are a few “flavors” of the non-meat genre:

  • Vegetarians, who just don’t eat meat
  • Pescatarians, who are vegetarians but also eat fish
  • Lacto-vegetarians, who consume dairy but no eggs
  • Ovo-vegetarians, who consume eggs but no dairy
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who consume both dairy and eggs
  • Flexitarians, who generally don’t eat meat but do once in a while or alternate between veg and carnivore
  • Vegans, who only consume plant-based foods, including plant milk and  products like almond, soy, oat, rice, and others
  • Raw vegans, who eat plant-based food that’s uncooked, or “unprocessed plant foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit.” (I’ll pass–I still like sweet potato fries, thanks.)

Emilie’s book focuses on lacto-ovo recipes. There are multiple egg-based recipes in the book, one of which I’ll show you.

Why Go Vegetarian?

Everyone has a different reason for going veg. You can ask five people and you’ll get five completely different and diverse answers.

Miss Alice accidentally became vegetarian, no kidding. During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, she and her daughter were running low on things, so she just ate rice and veg and gave her daughter the protein. Discovering she liked being vegetarian, and it worked for her, Miss Alice kept up with it. Because she included fish, that actually made her a pescatarian.

Many people have a specific idea of what the word means. Walk into nearly any American grocery store, and you’ll see offerings like these:

Soyrizo

Chorizo made of soy.

I can’t say I know any Hispanic folk who would welcome that in their tamales. Or any gringos, for that matter. But there is a market, and our local Walmart carries it. I pass it up the same way I did in Texas. But there are people who buy these products, just not me.

I have tried being vegetarian a few times, I really did. Gave up quickly because was always so hungry. Well, I didn’t have a book like this. As with many things, It’s a matter of finding what works best for you and sticking with it.

So let’s try out a few of these recipes and see what’s good.

Versatile Sandwich Round, Page 31

Do you like a good English Muffin? Here you go.

Emilie says that bread is one of the first things people miss when they go to keto. She’s right–no sandwiches, which is a shame unless you have a substitute. Well, thanks to Emilie, you can make anything from an eggy breakfast sandwich to avocado toast anytime. Pretty much anything you want to put between two slices of bread will work on this little sandwich round, even bacon, egg, and cheese.

Recipe for Versatile Sandwich Round

Easy and fast to make

You’ll need a little ramekin dish that’s safe to use in the microwave and just a few ingredients.

Keto vegetarian bread

The setup

Mix up everything in the little bowl:

Egg dropping in bowl

First the egg (I know, my hands look awful)

Almond flour:

Almond flour dropping in bowl

And the rest, then mix well:

Mixing ingredients

Then microwave for 90 seconds on high, or a few seconds longer as needed.

I don’t have a picture of it cooking, but this is what comes out:

Finished keto bread round

See? A little English Muffin!

Flip it out onto a plate, carefully, because it is quite hot:

Keto bread round on plate

That’s the bottom

To make a sandwich, cut it in half lengthwise with a serrated knife:

Cutting keto bread round in half

 

Halved sandwich round

Ready for sandwich making

You’re probably wondering what I did next. Well, it would have been avocado toast if I’d bothered to toast the round at this point. But I didn’t. I just mashed up a ripe one:

Pouring olive oil into mashed avocado

Just a little olive oil and salt to make a nice paste.

Then spread it liberally onto the halved rounds:

Avocado toast on rounds

Like this! (The seed is saved for planting later because they do sprout.)

I didn’t bother showing this to BF, because I knew what would happen. Well, he came inside just after I finished it. He took one look at this and said, “oh, look, the cat threw up on your plate.” Thanks, Honey, I really appreciate that. Wait until you discover what *you’re* having for dinner. (Hint: it’s whatever YOU make.)

This little eggy thing is about the size of a standard English muffin. It’s useful for any manner of sandwiches you like, veg or non-veg. And if you’re missing bread at dinnertime, this is a great option, too. Cut it in half, or cut it as I did, then cut it again into quarters from the top, so you have four half-moons. Next time I’ll try to toast it too.

A few years ago I thought that Hamilton Beach’s amazing little Breakfast Sandwich Maker was the most wonderful thing ever. It makes breakfast sandwiches in five minutes or so, and you don’t have to leave your house! No drive-through window nonsense, either. Made correctly, you could use the Versatile Bread Round to make yourself a keto–and even non-vegetarian–breakfast quickly.

Emilie also offers a sweet version, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Turmeric & Avocado Egg Salad, Page 87

Ok, I’m going to issue a warning right up front: this dish is delicious, but it has a very strong tart taste. Like I wouldn’t even try it with BF. I’m not saying it’s bad, because it isn’t–this is a flavorful recipe. But the next time I may cut the lime and capers in half because I couldn’t eat it too fast. It opened up my sinuses, too. It’s that strong.

Keto egg salad recipe

It’s a different take on egg salad.

The Setup:

Ingredients for keto egg salad

Except I think I forgot cilantro, which can be hard to find here sometimes.

Although Emilie tells you how to boil eggs, you know what I used:

Dash egg cooker

And why not? Because you can plug it into the generator, too.

Once they were ready, I got started scooping out the avocado:

Pitted avocado half

I could eat this with a pinch of sea salt, and often have.

Mash it up in a bowl:

Mashing avocado

A good, soft avocado is easy, just like mashing a ripe banana.

Now add in the rest:

Adding lime zest to keto egg salad

Lime zest

Then the juice of the lime:

Adding lime juice

Love this squeezer tool, but I will be replacing it soon.

Adding mayonnaise

I made this mayo myself from an original Suzanne Somers recipe in her first cookbook.

Then the capers:

Chopped capers on a board

These are VERY strongly flavored–so it’s a no for BF.

Drop them in with the minced up onion:

Tablespoon of chopped red onion

Drop that right in

Then the turmeric

Pouring turmeric into bowl

For flavor and color

Salt:

Adding salt to bowl

Then Pepper:

Adding pepper to egg salad

That’s everything.

Then take care of the eggs and add them in:

Chopping eggs and adding in

I’ve broken that egg slicer and have had to replace it.

Stir it all up:

Stirring the keto egg salad

Make sure it’s all mixed well.

Tah-dah!

Turmeric and avocado keto egg salad

There it is.

This recipe actually made two servings:

Two servings of keto egg salad

One for today, one for tomorrow, none for BF.

But I haven’t made this pucker-your-lips recipe since! For someone who is totally vegetarian, though, it might be OK.  I’ve read that vegetarians have a higher tolerance for spicier foods, and this definitely fits that bill.

Open-Faced Pizza Omelette, Page 60

Who among us has never had leftover pizza for breakfast? Well, OK, maybe you, Aunt Kathy, but even you can love this one.

Yes, Dear Readers, I actually have had pizza for breakfast. Twelve years ago, in the middle of June, while I was working for Boeing, I got really, really sick with some kind of bug that was going around–fever, chills, coughing, the whole horrible bit. I was told by coworkers and colleagues that it was “something the Shuttle people brought back from Russia,” and I was one of the last people who became ill. Camped out on the futon, I watched a lot of TV under a wool blanket with two big, hairy cats (weight total: 40 pounds) on top. In June, of course. I didn’t want to make anyone else ill.

For about two weeks, I had pizza delivered a couple of times, because I was just too sick to cook for myself. It was also when I discovered Pea & Pesto Soup. I started making the delicious soup after I quickly got sick of delivered pizza and Taco Cabana takeout. I’d been growing basil, so the pesto took a few minutes of prep.

Fast-forward twelve years, and now pizza for breakfast is a) keto, b) vegetarian, c) easy, and d) tasty. And, really, you can have it anytime you want a delicious pizza thing. What kind of crust, you ask? Eggs!

Keto Pizza

So, this dish isn’t too far away from a normal omelet. Somehow I didn’t get a shot of the ingredients, but this is the recipe with the list:

Recipe for keto pizza omelet

Pretty standard stuff

And because I made my own pizza sauce:

Frozen homemade pizza sauce

Easy to make and tastes fantastic.

It really did taste like a well-made pizza. I’ve used this sauce on Caulipower pizza crusts, and it works great.

First, make the base by melting the butter over medium low heat.

Butter in small pan

Doesn’t take but a minute

In case you’re wondering why there’s salt in there, I’ll explain. Emilie’s recipes call for salted butter, which I never have in the fridge. So I toss in a touch of kosher salt to hopefully make up for it.

And, this little cast-iron pan is just the right size. Bought two of these as well as two small covered cast-iron cocottes at Bed Bath and Beyond a couple of years ago, thinking I could make a quick dinner with them in the countertop oven. Well, I’ve used them, just not as much as I thought.

Meantime, mix up the two eggs, a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese, a quarter-teaspoon of Italian seasoning, pepper, and salt.

Mixing eggs

For this purpose, the mixing cup works better.

Pour this egg mixture into the little pan:

Pouring egg mixture into pan

Now do you see why the mixing cup works for this?

Let it cook (no stirring) for a couple of minutes:

Eggs cooking on stove

That small pan is just right!

Cover it and let it cook another 3 or 4 minutes:

Pan covered on stove cooking eggs

Lucky me, I have this old Cranberry Corning lid that sort of fits.

Once it’s cooked, take the cover off and add the pizza (or marinara) sauce, other toppings, and of course, the cheese:

Adding cheese to pizza

Right on top–a quarter cup of mozzarella cheese, and the second tablespoon of Parm.

Cook on the stove for another minute. Next, turn on the broiler, which in this case is in the countertop oven, and put the pan on the bottom rack:

Adding pan into oven

Almost ready!

Shut the door for a minute or two:

Pizza is cooked

Breakfast is ready!

Your Pizza Omelet is ready. And what’s better for a delicious lunch or even dinner than a dessert from Emilie’s first book, some Blackberry Cobbler?

Pizza Omelet with Blackberry Cobbler

It doesn’t get any better–or keto–than this!

BF would not touch it, despite his enjoyment of bacon or sausage and eggs for breakfast and pizza when he wants to eat his way. Well, I enjoyed it, anyway. And for the record, he does like the keto blackberry cobbler, too.

Dark Chocolate-Macadamia Clusters, page 126

What would any cookbook be without dessert? Again, Emilie doesn’t disappoint with a chapter called Sweets & Treats, including 11 dessert recipes. One even has grilled peaches!

For me, though, I wanted chocolate.

Picture of chocolate macadamia clusters recipe

Not too many ingredients, either

True to her word, Emilie’s ingredient list isn’t difficult to acquire.

Ingredients for chocolate macadamia clusters

The Setup

For most recipes, I am generally limited by what I can find at Walmart and Winn-Dixie. I only get to Rouses occasionally, so when I want to get something I can’t find locally, I buy extra and stash it in the pantry or freezer. Fortunately, I could get everything at Walmart.

Lucky for us, sugar-free chocolate chips are available here, and I’ve been buying them ever since. Walmart carries other varieties, like this newcomer to the candy game.

LIly's sugar free chocolate chips

More sugar-free chocolate.

Unfortunately, I tried some of these and didn’t care for them. Well, they were clearance-marked pumpkin spice, but I wasn’t impressed. So I’ve passed on these for the Hershey’s, and because the Hershey’s bag is bigger.

Melt 1.5 cups in the microwave:

Melting chocolate chips with coconut oil

Just like that, but keep an eye on it.

Stop it and stir every 20 seconds. It should take 1 minute, 20 seconds to complete, but stir it until it’s completely melted and mixed with the oil. Then add in the half-teaspoon of vanilla.

Stir in vanilla

All nice and smooth.

Add in 1.5 cups of roasted and salted macadamia nuts:

1.5 cups macadamia nuts

I was very surprised to find these locally.

Drop them right in and mix:

Mixing macadamia nuts into melted chocolate

Maybe I should have chopped them a little first

Once they’re all coated in chocolate, start dropping them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Dropping chocolate onto parchment paper

Almost there

Until you’ve finished:

Sheet of chocolate macadamia clusters

YUM!!

At this point, you’re supposed to sprinkle a touch of flaked sea salt on top of each one. Of course, I forgot. And I have a nearly-full box of Maldon’s Sea Salt, too.

Now stash them in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes, and they’re ready to eat:

Chocolate Macadamia Clusters

Dessert!

The other mistake is not realizing that these macadamia nuts were raw. I should have put them into the little oven for a few minutes and then maybe salted them. I don’t normally keep macadamia nuts around, and because I didn’t care for these, I’m inclined to avoid them. On the other hand, I might check Winn-Dixie or Rouse’s to see if they have them roasted, then try this recipe again. Because, chocolate.

Store these in the fridge in an airtight container, nibble at will. Just not all at once.

Frozen Hot Chocolate, Page 129

This was actually the first recipe I tried in the book. There’s a reason for that. Besides, it was hot out, and it was just after Hurricane Ida, in the days after we had power restored.

A few weeks prior at Rouses, I saw a can of coconut milk. I bought it, because I keep seeing it in recipes but can’t remember which one. Well, darn it, that can came home with us, and I soon found a use for it.

Recipe for Frozen Hot Chocolate

Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list.

I keep almond milk around for several reasons, including running out of milk for coffee. Intrigued by the name, I grabbed my little blender.

Hamilton Beach smoothie blender

I like having one around for small jobs, smoothie or not.

I won’t question Emilie’s naming convention, but technically it’s not “hot chocolate.” It is, however, a pretty tasty concoction. More like a dairy-free chocolate shake. Who wouldn’t like that?

I’ll admit the ingredients are not what you’d think of in a standard chocolate shake:

Ingredients for Frozen Hot Chocolate

The Setup

Note: after I took this picture, swapped out the Mexican vanilla for a different one that was actually sugar-free.

Adams Vanilla Extract

This kind, I’ve bought since I lived in Houston.

You’re probably thinking, “Amy, why is there an avocado there?” Sometimes there are ingredients in my blog pictures that are for another recipe, or just happen to be caught on camera. But this time, it is part of the recipe. Now you’re thinking, “enough with the avocado!” They’re not in *every* recipe, I promise.

I also made it when BF wasn’t around, and he only saw the finished product.

So you add the ingredients into the little blender:

blending ingredients in small blender

Including THAT:

Scooped avocado

Yes, the magic ingredient is a tablespoon of avocado

Blend it well:

Blending mixture

Pulsing rather than holding the button works best

I know you see the little green bits at the top. Just scrape down the sides with a spatula and keep blending. Then add your ice cubes:

Adding ice cubes to the blender

Makes it nice and cold, perfect on a hot day

Blitz again, and it’s ready:

Frozen hot chocolate in glass

Delicious!

It does taste a bit different, and the coconut milk is subtle but present.

I did ask BF to try it in a sweet tone of voice.  I cornered him on the sofa, where he was looking at yet another Big Foot video on YouTube, and asked him to PLLEEEEZZZE try a little sip. Reluctantly (and with a funny look on his face), he took the tiniest of sips. “It’s missing something,” he declared. And he felt like it wasn’t sweet enough.

I’ll agree, I felt like it needed to be a bit sweeter, but that’s OK, too:

Stevia in a bottle

The secret weapon!

It wasn’t until the next day that I informed him it contained a tablespoon of avocado. You actually can’t taste the avocado, even if you know it’s there. Mostly, I think, it’s for adding viscosity and healthy fat. Then he made a face and pretended to get upset at me. But that’s all in the fun of helping him try new things.

Occasionally, he likes something that he thinks he won’t (especially if I don’t tell him what’s in it.) For a recipe that works, I write in the cookbook, Winner! Make Again! That’s legally gathered evidence of his approval for future repeats, just in case.

There Is Tofu

Yes, there are several recipes for both tofu and turnips here, but not many. I’m allergic to raw soy, so I’m quick to avoid it. I’m sure they’re delicious in their own way–and I could make them with substitute ingredients, like meat. In fact, I might actually do that one day.

For instance: page 120’s Tofu-Stuffed Peppers With Feta could be converted by swapping out the 14-ounce package of extra firm tofu with, say, a pound of ground chicken or turkey. The two peppers are cut in half and laid on the side, used to hold the filling. Mix and bake as you would for the tofu, 25 minutes.

On page 84 is a Mushroom-Tofu Lettuce Wrap with Peanut Sauce, which might also be good with ground turkey or chicken in place of the tofu. The peanut sauce with soy/tamari, rice wine vinegar, sriracha, fresh ginger, and peanut butter sounds interesting. Wrapped in lettuce with some grilled chicken strips might be a nice summer lunch, too.

Think about it: in the same way one would use tofu in place of meat in a dish, the opposite is also true. So there’s no saying I won’t try a tofu-based recipe by swapping out the tofu. I just won’t make them when BF is home.

About Organic

Also found when buying ingredients for the Chocolate Macadamia Clusters were two items not normally found in Walmart:

Organic peanut butter and almond butter

Can you believe it?

The peanut butter is organic, but the almond butter isn’t. And the almond butter has no salt or sugar, which is unusual for anything you find at Walmart.

When you think “organic,” chances are the first thing you think of is “Whole Foods.” You’d be right–both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have a variety of organic foods, as does HEB and its upscale Central Market. In fact, on our last trip to TJ’s in December, we found some organic hot chocolate (in packets) for BF to enjoy. Whole Foods also has some organic hot chocolate in a can, with 22 grams of sugar in every serving. So understand that “organic” doesn’t always equate to healthy.

What It Means

Calling a product “organic” is more than just a name. The USDA has specific guidelines for the production of organic food, so it’s not just a term like “natural” or “healthy.” There is also a certification process that food producers must follow in order to have the seal on their labels.

I prefer to buy organic whenever I can, but I don’t do it all the time. For one thing, organic is more expensive because of the more intensive farming and processing practices involved, including the certification. Another is that not everything organic is necessarily better. Strawberries, yes, but bananas, not so much since you peel them to eat them (unless they’re marked down to sell fast–then you buy them and make banana bread!)

The FDA has a series of blogs called Organic 101:

Of course, no matter what, reading labels is essential for eating as healthy as you can.

Good Food No Matter Your Persuasion

Despite the “hippie” or “millennial” image that many people have of vegetarians, people from many walks of live became vegetarians for whatever reason. Miss Alice’s reason was practical and not as much of a choice as a decision, if that makes any sense. (As of late, she’s fallen back on the carnivore wagon, but she’s healing from injuries, too.)  Others make a conscious choice to avoid animal products, or just find avoiding meat less expensive. Again, everyone has a unique reason for going vegetarian.

For those of us who stay on the carnivore bandwagon, Emilie’s vegetarian keto book offers a range of recipes we might not think of otherwise. I see it as a supplement to her last two great keto books. It’s also an expansion of delicious keto recipes that I can enjoy and have in my pocket if someone drops by and says, “oh, I’m a vegetarian.” Mind you, the likelihood of that happening here in the middle of rural Louisiana is a bit low, but I like to be somewhat prepared for the remote possibility.

Another good reason to have this book: you’re out of meat, or you’re tired of the same old thing. Isn’t that reason enough?

Many thanks to Emilie and her publisher for sending me a copy and letting me preview the book, too.

Until Next Time

If you’re going keto, thinking about going vegetarian, or just want some new and different tasty dishes, Vegetarian Keto In 30 Minutes has 90 recipes that will keep you in tasty, healthy food that’s fast and easy to prepare all year long.

In the next blog, I have a non-keto, non-vegetarian recipe that involves one of Emilie’s occasional sponsors. However delicious, mine will not be a sponsored post.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

Floor fan in Rouses
Follow-Up From Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida is over, but the work is ongoing.

Follow me on Bloglovin’

Hi, again, Dear Readers:

I realized it’s been a month since my last post, and thought I should give an update. Hurricane Ida is a 2021 memory, but she left a trail of destruction from Grand Isle all the way up through the New York State area. Places like La Place, which are closer to the coast, had considerable damage and are still trying to recover. La Place is still without power, last I heard.

Let’s procrastinate a little with an afternoon cuppa and I’ll fill you in on everything. BTW, BF knows this to be true:

ImageOfGremlinsNoCoffee

Stolen from a Facebook group called COFFEE!! COFFEE!! COFFEE!!

That’s why he taught me how to use the camping stove.

The Return Of Electricity

Funny how you don’t think about it until you don’t have it. That’s true of most things, right?

Our power went down at 8:30 pm Sunday, August 29th, and returned on Tuesday, September 14th about 2:30 pm. And we were the lucky ones.

BF had an older generator already, and we were gifted a new one–no kidding. It’s a long story, but it’s a smaller model that uses less fuel than the bigger one, which now needs a new carburetor. BF plans to fix that in the near future, preferably before the next winter storm.

Others didn’t get their power back until after we did, depending on where they are located. St. Tammany Parish doesn’t have Entergy, but their power company is smaller, so they were back a week later. But nearby Albany, where two of our Buddhist friends live, have something else called DEMCO, and I don’t know if they have power back yet or not. I’m guessing they do, but I forgot to ask.

Ida left flooding nearly everywhere, although we didn’t have that problem. We ventured out to Hammond once or twice and visited the Rouses, which we knew was open.

Floor fan in Rouses

This was in the frozen food area.

Either the frozen food thawed without power and the floor was wet, or the store took on water–we didn’t ask, and we were happy Rouse’s was OPEN. Then we saw more keto foods:

I haven’t tried that yet, nor this:

Plantain pasta. What will they think of next?

Getting Generator Fuel

We were fortunate that we had the money to keep that generator filled–and even more fortunate for the new and more efficient generator. BF had a tangle of electrical cords everywhere, and I was afraid to touch it. However, he had nearly everything running except the HVAC, which is a central unit. What we did have running was: 

  • Kitchen refrigerator
  • Big chest freezer
  • TV (as needed)
  • Fans of all types
  • Portable air conditioner unit
  • Internet router and my work laptop (on a surge protector, of course)
  • Lamps
  • Other small things as needed–microwave, toaster oven, etc.

 

But being out of power for two weeks was. . .expensive. BF had some help with that at work, for which we are also thankful, and other than the cold showers, it was almost normal.  He was also working overtime, which helped. In addition to the extra money, I reminded him that his customers needed him and were counting on him. They were very glad to see him after the storm.

We drove once more north to Mississippi to get more fuel and took neighbor TT with us for a supply run. He doesn’t have a generator, but he does have a stove that runs on natural gas, so he can cook food and boil water for coffee. We only went to McComb this time, and there were no lines. But that Walmart had a lot of empty shelves around. The employees said that they were meeting plenty of people from “south of the border” like us.

Trees And Other Damage

Ida downed trees that are still everywhere, and people who want it are getting free firewood. But there are also contracted arborists coming through cutting and trimming as well. Translation: these are guys in bucket trucks, just like the utility folks, but they have chainsaws and things.

I forgot that I’d let the pit bull out when I approached the crew asking about their work. He came tearing out into the street and ran up to one guy who just looked down and stared at him. The man had no fear. I’m guessing he’s a “dog whisperer” like BF is. Of course, after sniffing the man, the pit bull was upset that he just walked off without playing with him.

They were very nice despite the pit bull puppy and cut down one large hanging branch for us. It broke off and fell only a few feet before catching on another branch. It was quickly cut and fell to the ground and won’t be touching power lines anymore. That guy was swinging the chainsaw like a sword!

House Damage

We know multiple people who have had various degrees of damage to their property, from a few shingles to full-blown destruction. BF is a big fan of the metal roof on the house.

“Car Guy” friend JJ also had a tree fall on her garage, but her place is otherwise livable if I understand her social media posts.

BF has started to cut some of the wood that Ida knocked over in front of the property but hasn’t finished. There’s one uprooted tree across the street that we need to borrow a tractor to drag over so he can cut it, eventually. He wants to put a wood stove in the living room in anticipation of winter. As so soon as he can get to cutting all that wood and making a place for it behind the house, we’ll have firewood.

How We Stayed Cool

BF’s Dad’s house, until last year, had one window air conditioner unit downstairs until his sister and brother-in-law added a second on the first floor. No AC in the upstairs bedrooms, but they had one of these window fans:

Holmes Dual 8" Blade Twin Window Fan with LED One Touch Thermostat Control

Electric window fan from Holmes. You can use one fan for intake and one for exhaust.

I remembered it a few days after the storm. We went over and borrowed it and put it in the bedroom–ahhhhh. It’s not “air conditioner cool,” but we could sleep a little. We also hit Target and got the last one available. One sat in the living room window with a box fan for the dogs. The other sat in the bedroom window. Both ran as long as the generator did. Ours will also be deployed occasionally as an exhaust fan for the kitchen.

I’d never seen one of these before until I saw it at their Dad’s place upstairs when we were taking care of the cat. Highly recommended to keep around for such emergencies, and kitchens without exhausts.

We were also loaned a Hisense 6500 BTU standing portable air conditioner and dehumidifier, but BF didn’t want to put it in the bedroom. So it stayed by my desk and cooled me and the dogs during the day. (This is the closest I can find to it on Amazon.) I returned it to the owner a week later. We do plan to purchase a window unit AC sometime between now and next spring.

An Organized Home (I Wish)

If you’ve never heard of Marie Kondo, she’s a Japanese “organizing consultant,” according to Wikipedia. She has a strong following worldwide. Kondo’s “thing” is to embrace minimalism, or getting rid of most of your things. One of her catchphrases is something about “only keep things that spark joy.” Her website also sells pricey things designed to “spark joy,” like this linen robe for $195 or this $45 bamboo silk sleep mask.

Obviously, this lady hasn’t been around the US much. A generator doesn’t “spark joy” for me, but the power it makes certainly does. Generator’s a keeper, thanks. That other rubbish, not so much.

I’m still trying to catch up on the house stuff. I haven’t been able to get back to the usual dance with the mop on Saturday. No sewing in over a month, either–not so much as a repair. We didn’t open the box of “rations,” and will likely store that for another day. They are made to last forever.

Getting Back To Normal After Ida

Or, well, whatever passes for normal, right? The mail re-started about 10 days or so after they’d stopped delivering. Very glad I signed up for the Post Office’s Informed Delivery service, where you can see greyscale images of your stuff in an email before it arrives, as well as track packages. I paid the water bill long before I got the physical card in the mail by going into my online bank account and requesting a “courtesy check.” Many banks offer that service now–they print the check and mail it for you, and you can forget about it.

I mentioned in the last post that I needed to review the new vegetarian keto cookbook by Emilie Bailey. Well, there’s a story to tell on that.

Because I agreed to be a reviewer, I received a digital copy first, and then the publisher sent a paperback copy. Well. . .that was the Friday before Ida landed. I looked over the digital copy before my last post, which is how I can tell you about it. I was also asked to provide an editorial review for Amazon–no kidding.

Screenshot of Amazon editorial review

That’s me!!

Emilie asked, and I was happy to do that for her.

Where’s The Book?

For a week, I kept seeing a note from UPS about trying to deliver a package to me, and it was from some company with the name “transportation” in the name, from Memphis. The original delivery date was the Tuesday after the storm hit–when trucks of all kinds were having difficulty getting supplies into these areas. What the heck is it?

I asked BF if he ordered any car parts to be shipped here. He does that sometimes, and I have UPS My Choice set up to tell me when to expect something to our address. His response: “No, those packages are your thing.” That’s no help.

I emailed the lady at Callisto, and she said she did send it UPS. Mystery solved, I know what it is. Finally, a week after it the originally scheduled delivery, UPS finally made it here and dropped it off.

I’ve made three recipes so far and have *not* been disappointed. I want to make more of them and try them out on BF. We’re not going vegetarian, but if it’s tasty, there’s nothing wrong with having it with meat or something. The first thing I made was the dairy-free “Frozen Hot Chocolate” recipe from the book and cornered BF to try a sip. Well, I like it, and I’ll tell you more about it in the blog for review.

Keto Ingredients

We did find some new keto-friendly ingredients in Rouses:

Riced Cauliflower in Rouse's

Found this, on the shelf, not frozen.

And this product, which I’ve only seen in Emilie’s books:

Hearts of Palm pasta

Can’t wait to try it–keto and vegetarian

Make no mistake–BF will not be trying this, ever. It’s one of those things I make for myself when he’s working late. If he’s home, I’ll make the regular spaghetti that he’s used to having.

Hoping everyone is well and getting back to life after Hurricane Ida came here and Hurricane Nicholas visited Galveston, Houston, and the GER’s home in Texas.

Happy Dining!

Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I’m sorry I didn’t post last week, I need to make a couple of phone calls and do a bit of updating on this site, but had other pressing matters to contend with. I’ve got a post in the can that I’m about halfway through, and it’s going to be good (I hope.) Nevertheless, I have a back-pocket recipe for you that would be good for a side dish or vegetarian dinner, as long as you have a toaster oven. (Or it’s cold enough for the big oven.)

Big paws-up to friend of the blog JK, whose mechanical intelligence solved a big problem rather quickly in the HeatCageKitchen sink. I did a lot of cooking the July 4th weekend, and unfortunately, while I was cooking, my stove-side shelf suddenly fell off the wall:

The condiment shelf, which has been by the stove for at least 8 years. Handy little item when you're cooking and don't want to stop to head for the pantry.

The condiment shelf, which has been by the stove for at least 8 years. Handy little item when you’re cooking and don’t want to stop to head for the pantry. (That’s kosher salt in the sugar shaker on the right.)

I bought it at IKEA, and it was fine for years, until last weekend, when it mysteriously fell. Between the shock of having it hit me, the crashing of the bottles, navigating a hot pot and moving it out of the way, one of the screws that holds it in place fell into the garbage disposal. Of course, I didn’t know it went into the garbage disposal until I turned it on. And then it stopped. The motor was on, but it wouldn’t move. A quick look with a flashlight confirmed it was stuck, and I didn’t have the right tools to remove it. Highly annoyed, I just kept cooking.

I mentioned it to JK this week, and because he’s a mechanic and he knows his stuff (like the GER, he’s a manly man.) He asked if I had a pair of needle-nosed pliers. I do, but they didn’t reach. He told me where to find 11″ long needle-nosed pliers. All this week, the sink has been backing up, and I’ve put my gloved hand into the off disposal to clear the little drain spot. Yesterday, in between cooking projects, I got fed up with it, went to the O’Reilly’s Auto Parts on Bay Area Boulevard and bought a pair of those infamous 11″ long needle-nosed pliers. I confirmed the screw’s location with the flashlight, reached in with the long pliers, and after a couple of misses, I pulled and heard the POP! And that was the end of that. The sink disposal is once again working properly, and I can clear out any little pieces that land down there.

WHEW!

Of course, I texted him and said Thank You.

Neighbor E and I went out to a fundraiser for our local library Friday night. Now, when I say we went out, well, let me explain–this wasn’t a nightclub or fancy country club. Our fabulous new HEB held a tasting event, and if the library could get 100 people to come in and sample food, get stickers for each stop, and turn them in, they would donate $1000 to the Freeman Library. I dragged him out (not literally) and a good time was had by all, plus some delicious food. I didn’t take any pictures, because it was kind of busy. But I went back on Saturday afternoon to get a few things and have lunch. I talked to one of the employees I see regularly; she told me that over 250 people showed up, so yes, the Freeman Library will get that donation. If you feed them, they will come. With delicious food they sample all the time, is it any wonder people showed up in droves?

On Saturday, I was wearing a summer dress that I finally finished. It’s a McCall’s pattern (click here if you want to see it, version D, made in a similar colored cotton.) When I was checking out, there was a lady from the pharmacy area who, I guess, was there to tell people about HEB’s in-store pharmacy. She said it was her first day at that location, and she just loved it. Well, we all do! Then, she complimented me on the dress, and also my flat Crocs, which were very comfortable. I put the straw hat back on because I was getting ready to leave, (keeps the sun out of my eyes) and she said that I was definitely “on-trend.” Nobody ever told me that before! So my day was made. I told her that I’d just finished it–surprise!–and that it was a McCall’s pattern. She couldn’t believe I MADE it. She said, “I don’t even know what that means.”  I said, “well, I wouldn’t expect you to–you’re a pharmacist!” Not as many people sew these days, but I do hope it becomes a thing like grown-up coloring books.

Now, about this recipe.

Neighbor E gave me a butternut squash, mostly because he didn’t know what to do with it. (He’s also given me more potatoes!) I gave it some thought, and I knew just the thing: Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash.

So, if you clicked on the recipe link, you’re probably wondering why the heck I would make a Thanksgiving dish during the summer. No, I’m not yet getting ready for Thanksgiving, but I did tease my former Buddhist district leaders about it. When we used to have our own local dinner, now and then during the year, I would tell them, “It’s never to early to start planning Thanksgiving!” Of course, in July, that got me some funny looks–but, see, these folks were originally from Taiwan. I forget that sometimes, not everyone gets our absurd American humor.

Since I was given the squash, I just wanted to treat it right. But as you read this post, remember that not everything in the HeatCageKitchen is perfectly symmetrical. This isn’t The Food Network! But in between cooking for the week and using it up, I think I did pretty good.

First thing I did was make my weekly breakfast quiche in the slow cooker, and then turkey thighs and a small pork roast. I had the brilliant realization that although I was preparing them differently, they could both go into the toaster oven at the same time. The thighs had some sage compound butter on them, and the pork roast had olive oil and a salt rub.

The setup.

The setup.

They both went in at 400F for an hour and 15 minutes, and came out delicious:

Lunch!

Lunch!

And, of course, the chef”s privilege, the roast turkey skin:

There is, honestly, nothing better.

There is, honestly, nothing better.

Pull it off with two forks, and let it drain and cool for a bit on paper towels. Then, enjoy the crispiest, tastiest thing you will ever experience. This works for roast chicken too, and is best with olive oil and salt/pepper or other dry spices. I introduced AC to this a while back and she was instantly a fan. Caveat: you will have to do this when the turkey or chicken comes right out of the oven. Don’t let it sit too long, or put it in the fridge; the crispness will be forever lost.

Once I got the meats cut and packaged for the fridge, I got started this tasty superfood treat.

Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash is a good thing to have in case one of your holiday dinner guests brings a friend and says suddenly, “Oh, he/she’s vegetarian.” Oh, bleep, now what do you do? Well, if you have this already made, with a few other nice little side dishes, it won’t be a problem. But if the non-veg folks get wind of it, it might not last, so make plenty if you’re having a crowd. (It helps to ask in advance, but even then, you never know.)

The setup.

The setup.

Those paltry looking sage leaves are the last from the garden. I don’t know if it’s because I planted it with the oregano, or what–but the darn thing is almost gone. That is what I could salvage from what’s left; I was going to give Neighbor E a big bunch. It was thriving and over-producing not long ago. Maybe it was too much water, or the heat, but it looks like I’ll be either buying another plant or starting seeds soon. I like sage for poultry, though, despite the stinky-feet smell of the live plant.

Also, this recipe is supposed to be vegetarian, but I was just in a hurry and used chicken bullion cubes instead of vegetable stock. I’ll show you a cheat with it shortly. Note that there is real cheese in it. If you wanted to make it vegan, you’d have to use some of that god-awful fake-me-out vegan stuff, which is probably made with soy. YUCK. You ruin it, you eat it!

So let’s make it.

First, the sage–I rinsed it, pulled the stems off 18 of them, dried them and set them aside:

Normal sage leaves do not look this skimpy

Normal sage leaves do not look this skimpy.

Then the rest were rinsed and dried for the finely chopped stuff:

Still not sure what happened.

Still not sure what happened.

Oh, and here’s an Amy tip for you: rubber anti-slip rug backing, cut into small pieces, keeps your cutting board from sliding all over the kitchen while you chop:

 

I don't know why I never shared this one before. MUCH safer than having your cutting board slip around!

I don’t know why I never shared this one before. MUCH safer than having your cutting board slip around!

Chop off the ends, and it will sit upright on the cutting board while you peel it.

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I actually have the vertical vegetable peeler, but for odd things like this, I prefer the horizontal bladed model:
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And this is why I say nothing is symmetrical in the HeatCagekitchen. I was supposed to cut rings for the bottom of the plate, but instead, cut it sort of wrong. However, the inside is similar to spaghetti squash, and you just scrape out all the seeds and stringy parts:

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And then I manufactured the rings:

Oh, don't ask. . . .

Oh, don’t ask. . . .

Then you chop up the rest of it in little quarter-inch dice:

Tah-dah! Got there in the end.

Tah-dah! Got there in the end.

Top with a half-dozen sage leaves and a bit of oil, and roast. I roasted them in the toaster oven, and honestly, it all came out just fine:
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Once it’s finished, just set it aside to cool.  Switching gears, it’s time to get the rest of this recipe going–the quinoa part.

Now, I used chicken stock, because I don’t care if it’s vegetarian; I’m just messing around with it anyway. I don’t have any veg bullion cubes (and I don’t know if they exist) but I’ll show you a trick I learned from Nigella Lawson: just make the broth from the bullion. This recipe calls for 2 cups, so I crumbled two cubes into a measuring cup:

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Added some very hot water:

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Stirred it and let it melt the bullion:

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And you’re there.

So, chopped onion:

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Deploy the garlic doo-dad and chop it:

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And finely chop the rest of the fresh sage:
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First into the pot is some oil, on medium heat, to cook the chopped onion and garlic.

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Rinse your quinoa well:

Always rinse to get rid of the powdery residue on it.

Always rinse to get rid of the powdery residue.

Then add the broth or stock to the pot, and the quinoa:

 

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If you’re not familiar with quinoa, this is the important part: keep an eye on it. It’ll take about 15 minutes to cook and absorb all the water. If you’re not careful, it will burn on the bottom of the pot. I know, I’ve done it. What you’re looking for is for it to be just a tiny bit liquid, but all of the water absorbed:

Like that. Not soupy, not dry.

Like that. Not soupy, not dry.

Take it off the heat (the recipe suggests putting it into a bowl, but why dirty another dish here?) Add in the chopped sage, the 3 tablespoons of Parm cheese, and the roasted diced squash into the quinoa, along with salt and pepper, and mix well.

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Now it just comes together. If you’ve ever made a Pineapple Upside-Down cake, this will make sense to you. Place the butternut squash rings at the bottom of a greased 9-inch pie plate, and put the prettier sage leaves inside them:

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There were actually supposed to be only five rings, but I made it six! I went to Tulane at night; I can’t count.

Now carefully add the quinoa mixture on top of the pie:
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And pack it down as firmly as you can. Remember, the only binder is a small amount of Parm cheese:

I should have used a different utensil to pack this down, like stainless steel, and wide.

I should have used a different utensil to pack this down, like stainless steel, and wide.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made this dish, but the last couple of times, it sort of fell apart on me. Even though I packed it down, it still came apart, although not like the last time. More pressure next time around.

Now it’s time to bake it–20 minutes at 375. If you’re like me, you turned off that darn oven for a while. The countertop oven re-heats quickly, so it wasn’t a problem. Let it cool for a bit, What comes out looks like this when you invert it:

Ain't that nice?

Ain’t that nice?

Unfortunately, the pie did not fall out of the plate like it should have. Since it’s not Thanksgiving, I don’t care. I just sliced it like any other pie and had me a slice. I also brought some to the HeatCageKitchen taste-testers, Neighbor E and Neighbor R.

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See? I didn’t pack it down enough, and it crumbles apart a little.

So, what did it taste like? Because I used the chicken bullion and there was Parm cheese, it was a bit saltier than I expected–my bad. Next time, veg broth or something else not as salty.

Neighbor E feels like it could be a stuffing/dressing, served as a side dish with turkey with Thanksgiving dinner. Never thought of that, but he’s right–it would go well with turkey as well as without. Maybe serving it in muffin form to make it easier, eliminating the squash rings for decor, and pressing sage leaves on top? It’s an idea.

Neighbor R also enjoyed it, and when I told her what E said, she smiled and said, “it does kind of taste like stuffing!” Plus, she hasn’t had squash in a while so it was a nice treat for her. (JK said he doesn’t like squash at all, but I could get him to try one bite of it, if he were here.)

However you make it, or whenever, Quinoa Pie with Butternut Squash is a tasty dish for carnivores and vegetarians alike. Agreed, it’s a little more work than the things I usually make, but one taste will tell you it’s totally worth it. For a Sunday dinner, you could make it the night before and just re-heat it to serve it warm, or serve it at room temperature. And it’s a back-pocket recipe for the occasion where you need a tasty, filling vegetarian dish that won’t leave the veggies feel unloved. (I’ve uploaded the printable PDF to the Recipes Page if you’re thinking about dinner for next weekend.)

Enjoy!

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