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Floor fan in Rouses
Follow-Up From Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida is over, but the work is ongoing.

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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

BF’s brother, sister-in-law, and niece are living in their Dad’s place up the street. Their house is, well, not livable at the moment. With roof and water damage, mold has set in, and they are picking through anything that’s salvageable and putting it into a storage container on their property. They won’t be back in their home until after the holidays, they’re told. Fortunately, they have a place to stay until then.

“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.

IMG_3159

I actually have the vertical vegetable peeler, but for odd things like this, I prefer the horizontal bladed model:
IMG_3160

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:

IMG_3161

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:
IMG_3165

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:

IMG_3170

Added some very hot water:

IMG_3172

Stirred it and let it melt the bullion:

IMG_3174

And you’re there.

So, chopped onion:

IMG_3169

Deploy the garlic doo-dad and chop it:

IMG_3167

IMG_3168

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finely chop the rest of the fresh sage:
IMG_3166

First into the pot is some oil, on medium heat, to cook the chopped onion and garlic.

IMG_3176

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:

 

IMG_3178

IMG_3179

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_3184

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:

IMG_3182

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:
IMG_3185

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.

IMG_3190

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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