"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Monday, December 17, 2018

Hotplate: Jack Monroe's Wine and Mushroom Risotto

Updated 11/19/19

See notes below after recipe.

I appreciate Jack Monroe's views on food and cooking. She wants people on a tight budget to learn how to cook healthy meals.

On their blog, Tin Can Cook (https://cookingonabootstrap.com/), she offers recipes, books and opinions.

Jack is creative and funny. They make cooking fun.

Red Wine and Mushroom Risotto
(Adapted from: https://cookingonabootstrap.com/2018/10/05/red-wine-mushroom-risotto-recipe/)

Finally, I made a Jack Monroe recipe. But, of course, I had to adapt it to my situation.

Opps, as I began, I forgot to convert the milliliters and grams to ounces, almost threw off the whole recipe. (See: https://www.metric-conversions.org/.)


A Dab Olive oil
1 Sprinkle Garlic powder
1 Tomato bouillon cube
14 oz Bottled water
1 6.5 oz Can of mushrooms, drained and rinsed in can
1 Cup long grain rice
2 oz Red wine
1 Tspn of each: thyme and basil, dry and crushed between palms
S/p to taste


Add tomato bouillon cube to water in microwaveable container. Microwave for 1-3 minutes on high to dissolve bouillon cube. Set aside.

Add a dab of oil to skillet.
Add garlic powder.
Add mushrooms.
Add herbs.
Stir thoroughly.
Cook on medium-low temperature.
Cook for a few minutes.

Add rice.
Stir to coat rice in oil.
Cook for a few minutes. Do not burn the rice.

Add wine.
Stir continually.
Cook for a few minutes to let the rice absorb the wine. By this time, the mixture should be at a simmer, a slow, low boil.

Add 1/3 of tomato liquid slowly to mixture.
Continue to stir.
Cook for a few minutes.

Add 1/3 tomato liquid.
Stir and cover.
Cook on simmer

Add 1/3 tomato liquid.
Stir mixture thoroughly.
Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Check frequently and stir, again.

Stir each time you check the mixture.

Update 11/19/19

I have revised this recipe. The order of the ingredients has changed, some of the quantities have changed slightly and a few of the instructions have changed.

I made this recipe again, to see if I could make the risotto creamier. Also, I only used Thyme and Parsley, this time.

This time the risotto came out much better, softer and creamier. I think it is because I added the bouillon in smaller quantities and over a longer period of time. Also, I stirred the mixture much more frequently.

More on Jack:

Canned Foods Helped Her Through Poverty
Washington Post

Meet Our Bloggers
The Guardian


Thursday, December 13, 2018

What's Next on the Blog

After announcing I was going to publish volume 2 of Recipes from the Kitchen of a Frugal Non-Cook based on my continuing experiments with cooking, I don't see another cookbook in all this because while I have expanded my repertoire, I have not elevated my cooking skills. I can still burn water.

Over the last few years, I tried to expand my cooking skills while still using a hotplate and a microwave.

I did increase my menu options to include: mug recipes, toast toppings, popsicles, salsas, crazy salads, slaws, and more.

Also, thoroughly enjoyed all the recipe and cookbook searches and research. Found a few gems like The Great Little Cookbook and Jack Monroe's cookbooks and website.

Learned to make a grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and mac & cheese multiple ways.

Got more comfortable using substitutions and spices even if I got it wrong sometimes.

While I don't have another cookbook yet, I have enough ideas to continue writing about cooking for a long time.

Plus, I am expanding my topic choices to include a Staycation series, more articles about writing and publishing, and more.

Afredo Pasta -- Nora's Recipe

This recipe is from a young, talented, creative baker, Nora. You can find her bakery at: https://www.facebook.com/norasbakery/

I met Nora at Starbucks on Paseo de Montejo, when I mentioned I could not cook, she was eager to help me learn how to cook an easy recipe, Alfredo Pasta.

Alfred Pasta
from: Nora the Baker


8 oz Fettuccine pasta
2 Liters Agua
poco aceite
1/2 Cebolla
Media Crema
100 gr de parmesano
10 camarones pelados
2 dientes de ajo finamente picados
poco romero
150 ml Vino blanco
1/2 taza perejil picado


Cocer la pasta en dos litros de agua, add sal, aceite y romeo hasta que este cocinda y suave.

En un sarten con un poco de manteqilla echar ajo y cebolla, luego el perejil y los camarones hasta que eren rojos.

Agregar crema, vino blanco y queso parmesano. Mezclar con la pasta. Cocida y listo!!

My Favorite Mexican Meal - Salbutes

I like Toast Toppings because they remind me of Yucatán Salbutes.

I love salbutes. They are a mini-meal on a small deep-fried tortilla. While each vendor makes them a little differently, I like the ones made at Castillo at Parque Santa Ana in Centro.

They are the perfect meal. The deep-fried tortilla offers a little crunch. Toppings include a variety of items and flavors like Yucatán pickled onions, bits of tomato, avocado slices, shredded turkey, chicken or pork. Sometimes you will get lettuce. Add hot sauce to your taste. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salbute)

Salbutes are a satisfying meal. So far, the Toast Topping - Pseudo Huevos Florentine is one of my more satisfying meals.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Scrambled Egg with Spinach, Guacamole and Salmon

Scrambled Egg with Spinach, Guacamole and Salmon
(Adapted from WW Egg and Avocado Toasts with Smoked Salmon, p161)


1 Slice of multi-grain bread
Olive oil
1 Egg
1 Can salmon, drained
4 TB frozen spinach
2 TB Guacamole, from a jar
Ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Note, there will be leftover mixture.


Toast bread in skillet, first.

Wow! I toasted my bread differently this time.

I used a quarter of a clean cloth napkin, I had cut into four pieces. I don't use paper towels. I poured a small dollop of olive oil onto the cloth and smeared the skillet bottom with the cloth to spread the oil in a thin layer.

I set the hot plate on 2 which is medium-low heat and toasted the bread on both sides and it came out evenly browned and not overly oily.

I thank Yasmeen for this tip.

Place toast on plate.
Microwave frozen spinach in a small covered dish on high for about 3 minutes.
Add a dollop of olive oil to the skillet.
Crack the egg into the skillet, add spinach and guacamole.
Scramble mixture until egg is cooked.
Top toast with layer of egg/spinach/guacamole mixture.
Add about 2 TBs of salmon on to top layer.
Sprinkle paprika, ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese over toppings.

This was delicious. I think it is partly because I used olive oil to make the toast, and the guacamole and salmon added a lot of flavor.

Updated: 12/17/18

Toast Topping: Pseudo Huevos Florentine

This is a Use What you Have recipe and it is only for the brave who want to try something experimental.

Toast Topping: Pseudo Huevos Florentine

I created this recipe from the idea of Huevos Benedictos, by making a version of Eggs Florentine which is a variation of Eggs Benedict.

To start with most variations of Eggs Benedict recipes call for Hollandaise Sauce, a sauce carefully cooked with egg yolks.

There was no way I was going to attempt to make Hollandaise Sauce. So, I got the idea to use mayonnaise as a base for a sauce. See below.


1 slice of integral bread or Pan Tostado Integral (a pre-toasted slice of bread)
Olive oil (for toasting bread)
1 Egg
3 TBspns of bottled water
4 TBspns of frozen spinach or mixed vegetables
1 Slice Turkey lunchmeat, cut in quarters (optional)
1 Tspn salsa, canned (optional)
Meridaise Sauce (See recipe below.)
Imitation bacon bits
Ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese


Normally, I use a skillet to toast bread by adding a dollop of olive oil to a skillet and placing a slice of bread in skillet. Then flip it so both sides gather a little olive oil. Cook and flip until each side is toasted. Set toast on a plate.

But, this time, I used a slice of Pan Tostado Integral, pre-toasted bread.

In a small bowl, add water. Crack egg into water. Place in microwave. Cover. Cook on high for 40 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to remove egg to drain any water off the egg. Set aside.

Place spinach or mixed vegetables in a small bowl. Place in microwave. Cover. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes.

Spread a layer of spinach/vegetables over top of toast.
Place pieces of lunchmeat over vegetable layer (optional).
Top with poached egg.
Add salsa on top of egg (optional).
Pour Meridaise Sauce over egg.
Sprinkle toppings liberally with bacon bits.
Sprinkle with ground black pepper.
Sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese

Meridaise Sauce

Lime juice concentrate
Plain yogurt
Hot sauce
Ground black pepper

I used a jar of mayonnaise that had about 2-3 TBspns of mayo left in the jar.

I added a capful of lime juice concentrate, a capful of basic vinegar, a dollop of plain yogurt, and a dash or two of hot sauce. Then I added a few grinds of ground black pepper. I put the lid on the jar and shook it vigorously to mix the ingredients thoroughly.

The slice of pre-toasted pan was crunchy. Since I don't use salt, it could have had more flavor, maybe add basil, next time.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Toast Toppings inspired by WW Freestyle Cookbook

My sister has had great success with Weight Watchers (WW). She had an extra WW cookbook, so I thought I’d try a few recipes.

What follows are my recipe experiments inspired by or adapted from several Weight Watchers (WW) recipes as toast toppings.

In many recipes, I am trying to achieve several purposes. One, I am trying to adapt recipes to fit a GERD (Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease) menu. Two, I am trying to make low calorie, healthy recipes.

Toast Topping - Chickpea Mixture
(Adapted from: The Essential WW Freestyle Cookbook, p126)

Opps, I see I use Chickpeas, Hummus and Garbanzo Beans interchangeably.


2 slices of multi-grain bread
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 dashes onion powder
1 capful lime concentrate
2 TB olive oil
1 dash garlic powder
1 dash hot sauce
Topping: Paprika

*GERD-Friendly - using onion or garlic powder sparingly does not seem to affect my acid production like real onions or garlic do.


In a bowl, mash chickpeas.
Add all ingredients except paprika. Mix thoroughly.
Toast bread on both sides in a dab of olive oil in a skillet.
Spread 1 TB of chickpea mixture over top of each toast slice.
Sprinkle paprika on top.

This was ok. I would have preferred a more creamy mix.

Variation: Going off the above recipe and taking tips from The Essential WW Freestyle Cookbook, Chicken Sandwiches with Avocado “Mayo”, p16. I made the following:

I toasted two pieces of multi-grain bread.

Then layered them with about 1 TB of chickpea mixture from recipe above to which I had added a TB of mayo and mixed thoroughly.

Then I topped that with a layer of my Avocado Mixture, then sprinkled paprika over the top and added a bit of ground black pepper.

With the Avocado Mixture, I was liberal with the parsley and lime juice. The lime juice gave the whole topping a fresh flavor.

Scrambled egg with Spinach, and Avocado Mixture
(Adapted from WW Egg and Avocado Toasts with Smoked Salmon, p161)


1 slice of multi-grain bread
Dollop of Olive oil
1 egg
4 TB frozen spinach (there will be leftover spinach)
1 TB Leftover avocado mixture
Ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese


Toast bread in skillet, first. Remove and place on plate.
Scrambled egg with some avocado mixture in skillet. Add more olive oil if needed.
Microwave frozen spinach on high for about 3 minutes.
Top toast with a layer of cooked spinach, about 1 TB
Top spinach with layer of egg/avocado mix.
Sprinkle paprika, ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese over toppings.
Optional: add 1 TB of canned salmon, drained, on top

Toast Topping - Leftover Corn Tortillas and more
(Inspired by WW Edamame Tostadas p116)

I hope this inspires readers to look at their leftovers differently.


1 Leftover corn tortilla
Dollop of Olive oil
Leftover spinach/avocado mixture
Leftover hummus/mayo mixture
1 egg
Ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese
Salt/macha mixture


Took a corn tortilla from a doggie bag from previous meal and fried it in a skillet with a bit of olive oil.

Spread a layer of leftover spinach/avocado mix over top of tortilla.

Added a layer of leftover hummus/mayo mixture.

Topped with a poached egg (Business Insider Style, add 3 TB water to a small bowl. Crack egg into bowl. Cover. Microwave on high for 40-45 seconds).

Sprinkled with ground black pepper, Parmesan cheese, and salt/macha mixture.

This was a hardy, tasty mini-meal. I am guessing it cost less than $1US.

Egg in a Frame

Egg in a Frame

I remember this recipe from childhood. We called it "Egg in a Frame" but many recipes call it "Egg in a Nest."


1 slice of bread
Dollop of olive oil
1 egg
Seasonings: ground black pepper, dry basil, salt/macha mixture, Parmesan cheese or seasonings of your choice


On a cutting board, use a small mouthed glass or small can to cut a hole out of the middle of the slice of bread.

Place bread in skillet with a dollop of olive oil. I flip the slice over so each side has gathered a bit of olive oil.

I also toast the bread circle removed from the slice. 

On my hot plate, I use setting 3, a medium-high temperature. As the bread is toasting in the skillet, crack the egg and drop it into the hole in the center of the bread slice.

When the yolk is fairly solid, flip the slice of bread over with a spatula. Make sure to slip the spatula under the whole slice before flipping to cook on the other side.

I usually cook the egg until it is almost fully cooked, the yolk is still a bit runny.

Place the cooked toast and egg on a plate and season.

Seasonings: Ground black pepper, basil, salt/macha mixture, Parmesan cheese or seasonings of your choice.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

2/12 Staycation: Gran Real Yucatan Hotel and Puuc Ruta

(Source: https://www.granrealyucatan.com/en-us/gallery)

Gran Real Yucatan Hotel
Calle 56 #474 esquina 55
Centro historico, Mérida, Yucatán, México

(999)924-8268 (999)928-6081 (999)928-6082

The Gran Real Yucatan Hotel is another historic home converted into a multi-story hotel.

The entrance surprised me, it was unassuming with two glass doors that opened onto an unadorned foyer.

I got a room on the third floor. I liked the room, it had a room safe, a refrigerator, a good air-conditioner and a balcony with a view of the pool. Maybe the third floor is lucky for me.

Placards in the room advised travelers how to save on water by reusing their linens for a day or two by placing a placard on their bed or hanging their towels up. But, I am not sure some of the staff pay attention to the cards or my hung up towels because they changed the towels.

The hotel has an elevator and ramps which I used everyday.

The Gran Real Yucatan Hotel is an easy walk both to the large mercados and Plaza Grande.

Friday afternoon, Fideo the bartender, made a papaya & agua, a non-alcoholic beverage, for me. Later, as I explored the mercados, I realized I could buy groceries from several grocery stores and keep them in the room's refrigerator. I bought some juice and bottles of water.

Later, I enjoyed the hotel's pool. The pool is about 4 feet deep. While not a large pool, I swam mini-laps. Lounge chairs and umbrella roofed tables sat on the pool's large, oval cement skirt. Garden areas, complete with geckos, filled in various spaces near the pool and along side the building walls.

While the hotel had several guests, it was quiet. The hotel staff were very attentive and helpful.

Friday night, I went exploring the area around the hotel. There wasn't much to explore. At night, there are few tiendas open. To get something to eat, you need to walk to Plaza Grande or eat in the hotel. I had a delicious dinner at the hotel in the bar area near the pool. The bar area has a TV and several round tables with barrel chairs. Also, the hotel had decafe coffee, not easy to find.

(Brochetas de Pollo)
If you read my blog, you know, I am not a food connoisseur. But, I can be discerning when I eat out. This meal was tasty due to the choice of roasted vegetables, the lightly grilled chicken and a delicate sauce.

Saturday, as I stood on the sidewalk before going exploring again, I thought about Mérida and all of the changes it has gone through.

As I began my Staycations in Mérida, changes are all around, new hotels, improved infrastructure, new cultural centers, businesses, restaurants, cafes, shops, services and more. I find the changes overwhelming in many ways. In a word, this is the gentrification of a city.

I tried to imagine what this area of Mérida looked like a 100 years ago. One hundred years ago, in 1919, Mérida was still lush with the riches from "Green Gold", the production of henequen.

I imagined unpaved streets, homes and businesses without electricity and various types of horse-drawn wagons and carriages used for passenger travel, and merchants and builders carrying supplies.

The 1898 Spanish-American war spurred the demand for natural rope fiber. Over the next years, over 1000 haciendas/henequen plantations were built and developed in and near the city to cultivate the "Green Gold."

The Gran Real Yucatan Hotel was part of a henequen farm and later a served as a farm export site. Mérida, at one time, was the richest city in Mexico due to the production of henequen. But, over the next three decades, the sales of henequen would decline then crash.

The Mexican Revolution, the U.S. Great Depression and Mexican land reforms reduced the price and demand for henequen fiber. In the 1940s, the creation of synthetic rope fibers reduced the demand for henequen significantly.

Most of the haciendas were eventually abandoned.

In the 1990s, a few remaining Hacienda and colonial home owners, and Mérida's city government strengthened their agenda to appeal to tourism through a program of preservation. Tourism is the new "Green Gold" for Mérida and the world.

I explored the mercados again and found several blouses for under 50 pesos each, that is a bargain. I also discovered another economica cocina, Super C&C, where I had a tasty torta pollo. Mexico appeals to my tightwad nature.

(Super C&C, economica cocina)
At most economica cocinas, you can get a meal for 50 pesos or less.

(Source: XE Converter)
Part of traveling in Mexico or other countries is checking the value of your currency against the currency of the country you are visiting.

For the last two years, the Mexican peso MX has valued roughly between $18.00 - 19.50+, meaning for every U.S dollar, you get approximately the value of the peso minus commission which varies depending on the money exchanger you use.

For example, today, 10/20/18, 1 US$ is worth $19.49 pesos. So, a lunch for 50 pesos is about $2.56 US.

Later, I went to Plaza Grande and visited one of the new tourist centers. This one had huge videos running various displays of tourist highlights to visit in the Yucatan. I found one video display fascinating. It was an interactive map. By putting in various terms in the search bar, the map would display locations related to the term. I put in "parque" and found lots of parques in Mérida.

While I was familiar with several of the parques, a few were new to me. The tourist guide explained some of the history of some of the parques like Zona Arqueológica de Xcambo near Telchac Puerto on the coast. This parque has not been had a complete archaeologic survey which illustrated there were still many archeological sites to be found, explored and studied in the Yucatan.

I stayed there for at least an hour, putting in different terms and exploring the map, planning future trips.

That evening, I swam in the hotel's pool, again. Hotel pools are my passion.

Sunday, I took an all day tour, Uxmal and Ruta Puuc booked through Tours Sol Turquesa at C60 #499 x 59 y 61, 999 593 34 88.

Because the Yucatan is basically flat, I had chosen the Ruta Puuc tour because I wanted to see the mountains as well as the other sites.

After a great hotel breakfast, the tour guide came around 8:30am. After picking up other tourists, we rode out of Mérida. As we approached, Grutas Loltun, you can see some of the small mountains in the distance.

Grutas Loltun is the location of a huge underground cavern that Mayans used for thousands of years. Because of my difficulty walking, I waited outside the cave for the others to return from their tour.

Our next stop was Kabáh.

While I have visited Chichén Itzá and Dzibichaltún, and continue to study Mexican and Mayan history, when I first saw the ruins of Kabáh, I was overwhelmed by a flash of insight at the immensity and complexity of the Mayan culture.

While Kabáh is not one the larger Mayan site, it is complex with beautifully constructed buildings and impressive architecture.

(Codz Poop Palace with repeating images of the Mayan God Chaac at Kabáh)
(Source: By Mesoamerican - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18453374)

(Chaac, Mayan Rain God, Source: By unknown Maya artist [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Two Mayan gods represented throughout most Mayan ruins are the rain god, Chaac and Kukulkan, the serpent. The more I study Mayan history and culture, I am attracted to these Mayan gods. Praying for rain seems universal to all people and Kukulkan's imagery as a feathered serpent also seems universal, too. The serpent invokes images of Chinese dragons and even the dragon in Beowulf.

(Snake featured on walls of Governor's Palace, Uxmal)
(Source:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Snake_and_traditional_Mayan_lattice.jpg&oldid=289049098)

(Kukulkan: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=147279)

After Kabáh, we drove to Uxmal.

Uxmal (thrice-built) is 62km south of Mérida. Mayan architecture of the classical period (850-925) in the PUUC region is considered unique and sophisticated among Mayan architecture. Uxmal's unusual pyramid, arched doorways and distinctive carvings that adorn the structures are some of the features that set it apart from other Mayan construction.

(Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Uxmal_Plan.jpg&oldid=158563541)

After you get your ticket and before you enter the site, you enter the visitors center which has tourist souvenir shops, a restaurant, a small museum and bathrooms. The center sits at the foot of the La Casa del Adivino, or Pyramid of the Magician, a large conical shaped pyramid, a different style of pyramid than those found in other Mayan sites.

Octavio Paz states:

"The pyramid is an image of the world; in turn, that image of the world is a projection of human society. If it is true that man invents gods in his own image, it is also true that he sees his own image in the images that the sky and the earth offer him. Man makes human history of the inhuman landscape; nature turns history into cosmogony, the dance of the stars." (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_of_the_Magician)

Other major buildings on the site are The Nunnery, a set of buildings forming a quadrangle, the Quadrangle of Birds, The Ball Court, The Governor's Palace, House of the Pigeons and the House of Turtles. The site is large and there are more features tourists on a tour don't have time to see.

Then, we visited a Chocolate museum and botanical garden. While the emphasis on the tour was the cultivation and preparation of chocolate, the botanical gardens are immense and wonderful. Many of the plants are used for medicinal purposes as well as for spices.

Within the garden are cages. Some cages held spider monkeys, others held jaguars or birds.

Also, as part of the tour, we witnessed a Mayan ritual which included music where the musicians used instruments made from natural elements like wood.

*Don't forget to tip the guides and presenters at each location,
including your bus driver and tour guide at the end of the day.

Later we returned to Uxmal and walked up the ramp past the Pyramid of the Magician to a seating area above the nunnery. It was dark, the sky was clear, the stars and constellations shone brightly above our heads. Thunder and lightning sounded and flashed in the distance.

The light and sound show that played across the face of various walls was tremendous. The history and myths of the Mayan were told in dramatic voices and sounds, in Spanish. While I don't understand a lot of Spanish, I enjoyed the show. It was dramatic, artistic and informative.

A major myth regarding Uxmal is the story of the Dwarf King. Some place the story in Kabáh, others in Uxmal. Basically, the story is about a childless old woman who wants a child. She finds an egg and tenderly cares for it. The woman is considered magical or a witch. The egg hatches and a child is born. The child grows into a man but of small stature.

In essence, the dwarf accepts the challenges of the King of Uxmal to various tests of strength, including the challenge to build a pyramid to the King, overnight. With encouragement from his mother, the dwarf meet the King's challenges and bests the King. In the last challenge the dwarf kills him and becomes King of Uxmal.

I appreciated Yucatan Today's version of the myth. In particular, I appreciate the quote below attributed to the dwarf's mother as she gives advice to her son.

“Be fair and always face the truth, but don’t forget it is more important to be good than to be fair. Follow the voices of the gods, but listen to the voices of men. Never scorn the poor and always distrust the powerful.”

Our tour group and tour guides were congenial. Because I have walking issues, many of the tour attendees helped me navigate some of the rocky walkways, and in and out of the van. I appreciated all the help.

The tour guide teased me in Spanish.

Visiting the ruins of an ancient culture that still thrives today, adds a dimension to the concept of culture.