March 20, 2003

And Now a Word on Eating

Funny where you get when you hop around the web. I started at Loobylu this morning, then jumped from there to French Toast Girl, where I saw a link to a diet that involved eating everything with chopsticks. The description of it reminded me of a book I read back in the mid-90s called Overcoming Overeating. I totally understood the principles, but it was really hard to let go and surround myself with food, to trust that eventually I'd stop wanting to eat everything if I realized I could have whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it.

Lately I've been following a modified Atkins plan. I didn't start with Induction (where you eat as much meat as you want and only 3 cups of salad greens a day for at least two weeks) because I only have about 10 pounds to lose, and because Induction is difficult for a semi-vegetarian (I eat fish). I lost about 4 pounds at first, but lately I've been bouncing around in that 4-pound range. Some days at the top, where I started, and some days closer to the bottom. So for weight loss, apparently I have to be more diligent about counting my carbs. The best thing about this plan is that I've managed to kick my addiction to candy and baked goods. I don't worry too much about small amounts of sugar in my foods, and I eat diabetic-friendly chocolate (sweetened with maltitol or sucralose), but I've cut out the overt sugars that used to make up the majority of my daily calorie intake.

Getting rid of sugar is great, but I've never really been able to get a grip on eating normal quantities of food. I like to eat things one-after-the-other too much. It seems almost impossible for me *not* to eat while I'm working, too. It's something to do when I'm stuck. I'm not sure that chopsticks will slow me down all that much, either, since I'm fairly proficient with them (Al's Korean relatives were impressed; they had been prepared to offer me a fork until they saw me tackle my sushi and soba noodles like a native). I've tried banning food from my cube, but that goes out the window during crunch times.

The trick for me really is determining whether I'm hungry, or whether I'm just bored or frustrated. Since I've been bored or frustrated most of the time since age 6—but rarely truly hungry—is it any wonder that I can't tell the difference?

Posted by Lori at 2:40 PM
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April 4, 2003

Another Sweeping Generalization

I've been doing some research lately. I've come up with a hypothesis that I'm trying to verify—entirely through anecdotal evidence, which isn't very scientific, I know. However, it's all I've got right now. Here's the hypothesis:

Women baristas make better lattes than men.

I had noticed that sometimes I got really excellent lattes (creamy, smooth, comforting), and other times, they sucked (bitter, sour, scorched, unsatisfying). I thought about who had served me the good ones and who had served me the bad ones, and I came up with a commonality: women were behind the former, and men the latter. I think men tend to overheat the milk (regardless of the kind—whole, skim, soy).

I've been putting this hypothesis to the test, and so far it's holding up. The smoothness of the espresso varies and does not seem to be related to the gender of the barista, but men definitely seem to have their thermostats set permanently on extra-hot, and women lean toward "drinkable now." (This penchant for non-tongue-burning temperatures can be taken to undesirable extremes: I recently got a short decaf latte that could be called lukewarm at best. And yes, I got it from a female barista.)

Because the smoothness of the espresso varies, it's important to get the temperature of the milk just right. Well-steamed milk can even out a bitter shot, and it can make a smooth one sublime—the ultimate comforting beverage. Scorched milk can make even a smooth shot taste icky.

If I come up with further evidence to support my hypothesis, or—as is not entirely unlikely—I become obsessive and start cataloging various short decaf latte experiences in a database, I'll follow up. In the meantime, I'll be smiling whenever I see a chick behind the steamer at Starbucks.

Posted by Lori at 2:04 PM
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August 14, 2003


I want a chocolate donut. But really, I want a chocolate donut the way it tasted on a Saturday morning when I was 7, not the way it would taste now.

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September 23, 2003

Light and Unsweet

So I walked into a Dunkin' Donuts this morning (my first DD trip in Philadelphia) and ordered a small decaf coffee, light. What I got was something so horrible, so undrinkable, that I began to wonder whether "coffee, light" means something different in Philly than it does anywhere else. It appears to mean the equivalent of "coffee, regular", which in New York (and, I thought, the entire northeast) means "cream, two sugars". I was under the impression that "coffee, light" meant "just cream".

If anyone knows of a "how to order coffee in various cities and actually get what you want" guide on the web, please point me to it. In the meantime, I will be ordering "decaf, milk, no sugar" just to be safe. Or perhaps, to be safer, "decaf, black".

Posted by Lori at 1:18 PM
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December 21, 2003

Birds and Baking

the baking tableI just returned from a really pleasant five days with my sister, her family, and my parents. I drove down to Maryland on Wednesday, picked up some last-minute Christmas gifts, mailed a few more, and then went to the local Giant supermarket to buy baking supplies. My super-kind sister was letting me use her kitchen to do my holiday baking, since mine is completely gutted.

After cleaning the Giant out of butter and sugar and cookie cutters, I headed to my sister's house. My plan was to make cashew cookies and sugar cookies on Thursday, and pumpkin cookies and bird ornaments on Friday. I found no one home when I arrived, but my sister had set up the kitchen in style: she'd put every baking item known to man on a tablecloth-covered fold-out table and set up her Kitchen Aid stand mixer on the counter. My sister rarely bakes, but she loves kitchen gadgets—which was great for me. It meant I didn't have to find the box with the mixer in it and the one with the rolling pin and haul those items down to Maryland.

my sister's stand mixer. I have one almost exactly like it.I figured since I didn't have anything else to do while waiting for my sister and the kids to get home, I'd start on some Oreo snowmen. (I'd brought down some white fudge-covered Oreos and bought some spice drops for the purpose, just in case I had time to make them.) I cut 20 pairs of spice drop earmuffs and several orange slice noses and started glueing them on to the Oreos with frosting. Midway through, my niece arrived and asked to help, which was fun.

It was still early when we polished off the snowmen, and my sister mentioned that she'd be volunteering at the kids' school on Thursday, so I made a batch of peppermint brownies (ingredients also brought along just in case) for her to distribute, along with the snowmen, to the teachers and office staff. I doubled the brownie recipe, which was probably a mistake; they had to bake longer, and the center never cooked all the way through. Next time I'm sticking with a 1.5 batch, my usual amount.

Between baking the brownies and frosting them with a dark chocolate ganache, I went to the Weis Market in Hampstead to try to find the white chocolate chip cookie mix that the cashew cookie recipe called for. (Aside from being delicious, the main appeal of the cashew cookies, and why they've been made two years running, is that they're super-simple, not-quite-from-scratch.) Whereas the Giant had at least reserved a(n empty) spot for the white chip mix, the Weis didn't even stock it. Hmph. The cashew cookies would have to move to Friday.

On Thursday I had the house to myself from about 10am on, so I got to work on the sugar cookie dough. It has to be refrigerated, so I figured I'd make that first and stick it in the fridge while I worked on the pumpkin cookies. I find that my scratch recipe for sugar cookies is a little floury, and pre-packaged sugar cookie mixes are a bit sweet, so I make one batch of each and mix the resulting doughs together. This time I was paranoid about having enough cookies for the kids to take to school—I'd hate to get all done baking and find that I was two cookies short or something—so I doubled my usual amount. This means four recipes, or 144 cookies, if the recipes actually yielded the amount they were supposed to (which, in my experience, they never did). Of course, this time I was using the only three cookie cutters I could find at the Giant, which looked small to me but which were apparently the size you were supposed to use. Thus, the quadrupled dough did indeed yield nearly 150 cookies. The pumpkin cookies didn't take long at all, but I was running back and forth from cutting board to oven with the sugar cookies for the next few hours at least.

some of the sugar cookies I decoratedWhen I finally reached the end of the sugar cookie dough, I got to work making frosting for decorating. My original plan called for my niece to help me decorate when she got home from school, but it turned out that she had a pre-arranged doctor's appointment after school. My sister and her husband took her together, and, along with their son, ate dinner out after a little Christmas shopping. By the time they arrived home at around 7pm, I'd decorated nearly 100 cookies and was running out of steam. J and M ran up to their rooms to do their homework, but M came down a few minutes later to ask if I could save her a cookie to decorate. I said I could save her about 40. She came back a bit later and started smearing on frosting. J, who's older and therefore has more homework, came down later still, and I gave him my seat at the decorating table.

When all the cookies were decorated and the frosting was set, I counted out 32 cookies for each of them (just to be safe) and put them in portable containers. I think M got the box with the kid-decorated ones, and J got ones that I'd done. There were still three other containers left! It occurred to me that even if I'd had a kitchen to bake in, I didn't have anyone to give cookies to this year. Well, I take that back; I could have distributed some to our neighbors, the contractor, the plummer, and the tile guys. I was thinking of the people I've given cookies to in past years: my neighbors in Truckee, my friends in the Bay Area, and my officemates at Macromedia. My sister really liked the pumpkin cookies (though my brother-in-law, who has an aversion to raisins, wouldn't get near them—he wanted to know if I had anything in a chocolate chip), so I told her to go ahead and freeze them for herself. The rest of the sugar cookies we distributed among J's lacrosse team, the guests at my mom's Christmas brunch, and my sister's family.

By Friday I still didn't have any white chip cookie mix, so I was planning to make some Toll House dough from scratch. My sister had some errands to run that I wanted to join in on, however, so we decided that I could skip the cashew cookies this year (especially given that there were already more cookies than anyone could eat). I would make the cinnamon bird ornaments that I'd read about in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living when we got back from the Amish market, BJ's, and Target, and M would help me decorate them after school. Unfortunately, I didn't re-read the recipe before setting out on the errands, or I would have realized that just the mixing, resting, and drying of the dough would take a minimum of 3.5 hours—and this didn't include cutting out the bird shapes with an Exacto knife. I got back at 1:15, wasted about 30 minutes cutting out bird templates (something I could have done while the dough was standing) and started working on the dough. The instructions said to mix together the 1 cup of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of applesauce, and 1/2 cup of white craft glue and then turn the dough over and over until it was smooth and dry. I did this, but I never got a dough to form. All I got was a crumbly mess. I added more applesauce and glue—and finally some water—but still got crumbs. I was ready to call it quits and declare that there would be no ornaments, but I remembered how much M was looking forward to decorating them. I ended up squeezing and kneading the stuff for about 30 minutes, spritzing it with water as I went, until I finally got a (precariously held-together) dough ball.

my cardinal, made with two different red seed beads, copper seed beads, and black glitterI was supposed to let it stand for one hour, but I figured all that kneading took 30 minutes, so I only let it stand for 30 minutes more. I was supposed to take a quarter of the dough and roll it to 1/4" thick. Of course, as soon as I hit this chunk of brown grit with a rolling pin, it crumbled to bits. I added more water, kneaded some more, and then alternately rolled and spritzed until I finally got the stuff to a bit over 1/4". I then set about cutting bird shapes. I repeated this scenario several times with each third of dough (I couldn't get it into quarters) and eaked out 13 birds. I figure I didn't get the 15 the recipe promised because I couldn't get the dough thin enough. Still, M and I counted all the people we needed to make ornaments for, and technically we only needed 12, so 13 was plenty.

I had put the first five birds in the oven as soon as possible, so they could start the 2-hour drying process. M came home from school with about 40 minutes to go on the first batch, so she helped me cut out the last few birds and set up the tiny beads and glitter that we'd use to decorate them. I explained the whole "smallest embellishments first" thing, and demonstrated how to tap the excess beads or glitter off so that it went back into the original supply. When the first batch of birds came out of the oven, we got to work. M had me squirt the glue for her the first time, but she quickly got the hang of the process and did another two birds all by herself. I have to say, her designs were nicer than the ones Martha suggested. (She's been an art prodigy since age 5, so this really shouldn't have surprised me.) I stuck to the Martha suggestions for my first two birds (a cardinal and a chickadee), but I tried the M method after that.

In between bird batches I had to go pick up Al at the train station. We thought M would have to manage the oven timer in my absence, but Al's train was delayed, so I had time to get the next batch out of the oven before I left. There was a further bit of a panic when Al got off at Penn Station rather than BWI, but he caught the next train down, and I eventually got him in the car for the 45-minute drive back to my sister's house.

When we arrived home M had showered and was in her jammies, but her dad let her put a big t-shirt on over the PJ's and decorate a few more birds. M got pretty absorbed in her art and forgot to tap the excess glitter and beads over the original supplies, which made things a bit messy, but I think the results were worth it. Her birds really were stunning. I'm kicking myself now for not photographing them all before we handed them out; I only have the cardinal I made as an example. She insisted that we leave a bird for Uncle Al to decorate, but he chickened out with the glue and just art directed while I did the actual decorating. His color and bead size choices were very nice, though, and the result was a lovely pale blue superfine glitter, green coarse glitter, and read seed bead finch.

The next morning M and I addressed and dated each ornament and set aside the ones for her three teachers before handing a bird out to each female relative at my mom's Christmas brunch. They were a big hit, and I could totally see why: they were beautiful. They smelled a bit more like glue than I'd hoped they would, but I figured the cinnamon smell was what would linger in a room. As long as no one stuck a bird up her nose, she'd never notice the glue.

I'm glad I stuck with the ornament project, but I'm thinking about writing to Martha to ask if she's sure about the ingredient proportions. Al is of the opinion that the craft projects and recipes in Martha Stewart Living are there for your reading peasure only; they're not intended to be made. Considering that I usually only drool over the projects and food photos in MSL and never get around to making any of them, he might be right.

Posted by Lori at 5:55 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
February 4, 2004

Baking Up a Storm

Now that we have a functional kitchen, I've been cooking and baking like crazy. I've been testing out several muffin and coffeecake recipes on Al (and on my parents, who visited this past weekend), as well as making freezable meals like quiche and baked ziti. (The more we eat in, the longer I can afford not to work!)

I've never really been able to bake so frequently before, so I now have an opportunity to really test recipes—to determine what difference sifting makes, if any (so far, it seems to make for a lighter, less hockey-puckish muffin), whether futzing with the quantities of butter and oil change the taste markedly, and whether substituting buttermilk for half the milk in a coffecake makes it taste better or worse. All of these things may be obvious to good cooks, but they're less so to me, and I'm having a ball discovering well-trampled territory. I hope to be able to make up my own recipes before long.

Posted by Lori at 12:43 PM
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September 29, 2004

Food Finds

I wanted to mention a couple tasty items I've come across in the past few months and that I've enjoyed again recently.

The rootbeer floats at Taylor's Automatic Refresher in the Ferry Building in San Francisco are the best I think I've ever had. The rootbeer is delicious, with a nice peppery finish, and the ice cream is smooth and creamy and has a fresh, authentic vanilla flavor. Best of all, the proportions of rootbeer and ice cream are perfect; most floats I've found elsewhere have had too much ice cream and not enough rootbeer. At Taylor's, you have a chance to eat a few spoonfuls of the ice cream, but there's still plenty of rootbeer to quench your thirst—and your curiosity. I loved trying to identify the faint herbal flavors that lingered on my tongue after each swallow.

Taylor's also has excellent garlic fries—better than the ones at SBC Park, IMHO. They're a bit thinner than the SBC/Gordon Biersch variety, with a better distribution of garlic. The result is a more subtle garlic flavor and fries that remain crispy all the way to the bottom of the cardboard basket. They're well complemented by malt vinegar (which can be found near the ketchup dispensers) and a bit of extra salt. Next time I think I'll try the sweet potato fries for variety... as long as someone else at the table gets the garlic fries. :)

On the eastern side of the country, the white pizza with spinach at the Fresh Grocer at 40th and Walnut in Philadelphia is not only delicious, it's also an amazing value ($1.60 per humongous slice, including tax). The crust is thin, buttery, and alternately chewy and crispy (think of a very thin pita brushed with butter and lightly broiled), and there's plenty of yummy cheese, garlic, and fresh (not frozen!) baby spinach leaves on top. For me, it's totally worth the nearly 20-block walk each way—and I can usually pay for a slice with the change at the bottom of my backpack.

One word of caution about this Fresh Grocer: While I've found the service at the prepared foods counter to be fairly good, it leaves something to be desired in the rest of the store—especially at the checkouts and the "customer service" counter. Employees seem more interested in picking up their paychecks and chatting with their colleagues than in waiting on customers. The lack of service attitude is appalling, really, even by Philadelphia standards. I wouldn't recommend buying groceries unless you're feeling especially patient and in good humor. One way to put a smile on your face: Eat your pizza first. :)

Posted by Lori at 2:52 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 12, 2004


From the wrapper around the New Queen Anne Bakery custard bun I bought at the local Korean supermarket:

Ingredients: All trumps, Almond Flour, Full Strength Flour, Soft-Silk Flour, S-500, Cake Mix, Corn Flour, Honey, Brown Sugar, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Srawberry Jam, Raspberry Jam, Margarine, Butter, Egg, Cheese, Milk, Dry Milk, Cream Butter, Mayonnaise, Oil, Whip Cream, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Yeast, Chocolate, Fudge, Chocolate Chip, Cocoa Powder, Cinnamon Powder, Apricot Filling, Almond Paste, Red Bean Paste, White Bean Paste, Coffee, Vanilla Flavor, Orange Flavor, Almond, Pecan, Raisin, Walnut, Chestnut, Sesame Seed, Peanut Butter, Ketchup, Tuna, Sausage, Corn, Salt, and Ham.

Funny, I didn't taste the peanut butter. Or the ham.

Posted by Lori at 1:11 PM
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January 10, 2005


I've never been a fan of Starbucks' hot chocolate—or of any hot chocolate that's made with syrup, for that matter—but today they've introduced something they call a "drinking chocolate" (very European), and it's outstanding. The banner ads for the drink, called Chantico, refer to it as (if I remember correctly) "a cup of chocolatey chocolateness, with extra chocolate on top." That about sums it up. They serve it in little 6oz. cups, which is plenty—it is indeed very intense, and those 6oz. pack 390 calories.

I sampled the stuff last week at the Starbucks at 34th & Walnut, but my Starbucks (the one at 20th and Market) didn't get it until today, so I only got the full-size serving this morning. I was thinking as I drank it (without the lid; somehow, it tastes better that way) that it was so chocolatey that it'd be hard to drink two in one day, but of course by the afternoon I was craving more. I came up with this reasonable home-made facsimilie, which is less expensive but more labor-intensive:

4 squares Trader Joe's Pound Plus Bittersweet Chocolate
4 oz. 2% milk

Melt chocolate in a 1 qt. saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Meanwhile, heat milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds. When chocolate is completely melted, pour about 1 oz. of milk into pan and stir until chocolate is completely smooth again. Repeat, adding 1 oz. of milk at a time. Leave on heat for another minute or two until chocolate is hot. Pour into small mug and enjoy.

This, of course, is just the way I made it; any good-quality dark chocolate would probably work just as well, as would whole milk instead of 2%. I imagine that 1% or skim, however, wouldn't be quite the same.

Posted by Lori at 4:52 PM
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January 19, 2005

Black & White

While at the Reading Terminal Market this morning afternoon (I keep thinking I'm getting out in the morning, but really it's usually around noon), I stopped at the Metropolitan Bakery stall in hopes of getting a cream cheese brownie for later. It's an intensely chocolate confection, and the closest thing to an Andronico's Adult Brownie that I've found out here. Anyway, the tops of the cream cheese brownies looked a bit brown to me, so I opted not to get one.

While scanning the display for an alternative, something that looked like an oversized Oreo with fluted edges caught my eye. It was labeled "Metro Cookie," which wasn't much of a description. I inquired, and was told that it consisted of two chocolate butter crisps (I'd call them wafers) with a filling of mascarpone cheese. The top wafer was sprinkled with huge sugar crystals. It was only $1.50, compared with the $2.00 cream cheese brownie, so I bought one to try.

I'd just stashed the bakery bag in the bottom of the stroller when I realized I hadn't had breakfast. I retrieved it and began noshing on the cookie. Absolutely delicious! It was a very unique taste, and quite satisfying as a breakfast item—especially since my breakfasts usually involve chocolate of some kind. The cheese filling was a perfect accompaniment to the chocolate wafers, and the sugar crystals were wonderful on top. I've never seen this cookie at the Metropolitan Bakery before, but if you spot a plate of them, I highly recommend spending the $1.50.

Update, 01.28.05 ~ I asked about the Metro Cookies at the Market today and was told that they usually arrive on Wednesdays (which would explain why I haven't seen them before—I usually go to the Market on Thursdays or Fridays—and how I happened to get one on the 19th).

Incidentally, Austen experienced his first snowfall today. It started as we were on our way to the Market, and it was coming down hard (and sometimes sideways) by the time we returned home. Of course, he slept through the whole thing. I propped him up near the sliding glass door when we got home, however, so he could see the marvelous white stuff.

We just went out again a little while ago to get some cards and photos at the CVS, and I must say that although I love our stroller (it's really just a frame for the carseat), for the first time I wished we'd gotten an all-terrain model. It was very difficult to steer in the inch or inch and a half of footprint-packed powder that covered the sidewalks, but then again, most people were having trouble just walking in the stuff, so I guess the stroller didn't perform too badly. And of course having something to lean on helped me keep my footing, which was nice. As tough as it was to push the stroller, I don't think I'd have preferred the Baby Bjorn in this situation, since it would have impaired my balance rather than improving it (and I still don't have a coat that's large enough to go around both me and the Bjorn, so in 25° weather, one of us would surely freeze).

Posted by Lori at 5:56 PM
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January 20, 2005

My Diet Doesn't Consist Entirely of Chocolate

If the seafood department of your local Whole Foods (aka Fresh Fields/Wellspring) has smoked salmon salad, I highly recommend getting a small container of it. It's delicious stuffed in raw yellow or orange pepper quarters; the crunchy, watery sweetness of the pepper perfectly offsets the saltiness of the smoked salmon and capers. It's also good stuffed in half an avocado, or rolled up in a whole wheat tortilla with avocado slices.

Posted by Lori at 8:30 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
March 27, 2005

Vignettes of Enjoyment

Things I'm enjoying but don't have time to write individual posts about:

John Adams, by David McCullough
Honeymoon With My Brother hadn't come in yet at the library, and I was in the mood for more Revolutionary generation reading anyway after finishing Founding Brothers, so I picked this up at the branch library off Rittenhouse Square (called the Philadelphia City Institute branch, not Rittenhouse, strangely enough) last week. I was a bit worried by its size, and that it might be as dry as the Benjamin Franklin biography I tried to read for six months in 2003-2004, but it's so wonderful that I can't wait to get in bed every night to read. It got me on the first page, and it's been just as absorbing since.

Fage Total 2% Yogurt
Man, this stuff is fabulous, especially with a spoonful of strawberry jam. At $1.69 (a whole $1 more than regular yogurt), it's more of a weekly treat than a daily indulgence, though I'd consider trading a Starbucks coffee for the smooth texture and incredibly fresh taste of this yogurt.

Iron Chef America
All the drama (and most of the kitsch) of the original, plus incredible food facts and breathless foodie enthusiasm from host Alton Brown. This second try at an American version of Iron Chef really hits the mark, managing to impress, inspire, and inform while whetting the appetite. (And thankfully, William Shatner is nowhere to be found.)

I've pretty much vanquished comment spam on all my blogs with a combination of moderation and MT-Blacklist... which means that the spammers have turned to trackbacks to propagate their filthy casino, porn, and pill URLs. I went to Jay Allen's blog to see if there was any news on the trackback spam front, and I found a post where he mentioned MT-Moderate. It overlaps with the built-in MT comment moderation, but since it's possible to remove the comment moderation module and only use the trackback moderation module, it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. And it plays nicely with MT-Blacklist. There's probably some unneeded rebuilding of entries (since the trackbacks that MT-Blacklist would normally remove from an entry never made it there), but all in all, a good, easy-to-use solution for managing trackback spam.

Posted by Lori at 1:01 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
July 8, 2005

The Nightmare Scenario, Continued

So as I was saying, it's pouring here in New York, and pouring rain wasn't part of the plan. I am wearing a skirt and neoprene flipflops. I suppose as raingear goes, these choices aren't so bad; the skirt material doesn't absorb water, and neoprene is what wetsuits are made of, so that's something. At first I was a little weirded out by walking through NYC puddles in almost-bare feet, but when the curb cuts disappeared under 2' wide, 6" deep white-water rivers I figured there wasn't any use worrying about germs anymore. I was literally ankle-deep in them, with the non-absorbent skirt plastered to my calves.

Austen, meanwhile, was managing to stay mostly dry beneath the rain cover on his stroller. I had to tilt the seat back a bit to keep him from trying to pull the cover off and eat it, and the (as far as I'm concerned, unnecessary) airholes at face level let in some of the downpour, but for the most part he seemed to be enjoying himself. At least, that's what passersby told me.

I never did make it down to the Magnolia Bakery (though I did get a couple cupcakes at Billy's yesterday; I just wanted some Magnolia ones to compare) or to Tea & Sympathy to stock up on Typhoo Decaffeinated, and I never did find an Adidas store (I want to see if I can find some lime green sneakers). In fact, I only made it 10 blocks before I caved and came here, to the conference hotel. I am finally mostly dry (except for my feet), and Austen's on his second nap. Al's preso is over (I saw about a third of it before Austen woke fully from his first nap and wouldn't stay still and quiet), and he just needs to make some calls before we leave. Sadly, it's still raining, so there's not much we can do in the way of kicking around before we head up to his brother's.

It's a funny thing, rain. I grew up on the east coast, and I've been back here for almost two years now, but still I never seem to expect it. Instead, I expect the endless sunny (or at least non-rainy) days that grace Northern California from mid-April until November.

Posted by Lori at 3:45 PM
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July 9, 2005

Chelsea, Saturday Afternoon

I'm not sure if I explained properly yesterday why a downpour in New York was the nightmare scenario, so let me address that omission before I talk about what we did today: Basically, a downpour meant that I was trapped—with Austen, and without any of the tools for entertaining him or giving my arms a break that I'd have at home. Being wet as well just made things even less comfortable.

Today dawned better and brighter (and cooler and clearer). Al, Austen, and I were up early, so we walked down to H&H Bagels and got some breakfast for the household. On the way there and back, we stopped to pet about a zillion dogs, and I remarked to Al that if we ever move to New York I'm going to get a dog just to ensure that I get out early every morning. New York is so cool in the morning before everyone is up.

broken brella well-behaved boston terrier

After snarfing down the yummy bagels, we took the subway down to 14th Street and walked toward the Bleecker Street playground. On the way we stopped at Mary's Off Jane for a mojito limeade (a little too tart for me, but very fresh—a couple packets of sugar would have smoothed it out nicely) and a slice of devil's food cake with "American buttercream icing" for later. (I just tried it now, and it was excellent: The cake was dense and chocolatey but still cakelike, very similar to my Aunt Judy's Black Cake, and the frosting was fluffy and sweet, a perfect balance of butter and sugar.)

At the playground Austen got to try his first swing; he was a little wary at first of being released into the black rubber contraption, but after a few pushes from Al, he really got into it. I have to say, whenever I have the opportunity to visit a playground in New York, I think how lucky are the kids who get to grow up here.

austen on his first swing Austen on the swing

After the playground we had a delicious lunch at Mi Cocina on Hudson Jane. I had the Frijolades Oaxaqueños (spelling approximate) and a strawberry lemonade; like the mojito limeade, the lemonade was too tart, but the entree—two white corn tortillas stuffed with queso fresco and covered with a black bean sauce and a pepper-studded cylinder of scrambled eggs—was mouth-wateringly wonderful. I can still taste it in my mind. YUM. We then ambled over to a part of town I don't think I'd ever been to before this visit, surprisingly: Chelsea.

We crossed through the old meatpacking district to the bike/skate/pedestrian path that led to the Chelsea Piers and then walked out onto the piers themselves. Cool complex! If it weren't for the fact that I don't think we could afford to live in Manhattan on one (or even one and a half) incomes, I'd be scanning the real estate section right now. (Of course, I can picture myself living in lots of cities; our visit to Vancouver actually *did* spur me to scan a few real estate listings there. :) I love the West Village, what I've now seen of Chelsea is intriguing, and my brother-in-law's neighborhood up in the 90s between Central Park West and Columbus is also charming. I think it'd be as hard to narrow down what part of the city I'd want to live in as it was when I tried to move here back in 1995 (I overshot then and landed in Norwalk, CT).

carl and al pushing strollers through the meatpacking district abstract art pigeon herding

We didn't get to stay in Chelsea long, as an approaching thunderstorm chased us back up to the West 90s (I'd left both the umbrellas and Austen's rain cover out to dry in the apartment, and I had my fill of rain yesterday, so I wasn't eager to get caught in another downpour). I hope to explore more of Chelsea and the West Village next time we come up. If nothing else, I'll be going back to Billy's for the cupcakes—and, if I have room, down to Jane Street for a giant slice of cake from Mary's!

Posted by Lori at 6:01 PM | Permalink
July 13, 2005

Food News

All kinds of food items to share today, from the gastronomical delights of our last hours in New York this weekend to local Philadelphia finds. First, New York: Al and I got up early again on Sunday (though not quite as early as on Saturday) and made it out for another morning walk, this time with Al's brother Carl for company. We walked down Broadway to the Starbucks at 81st, where I ordered a cappucino and (as usual) got a latte. The coffee was smooth and the milk heated to perfection, however, so I didn't complain.

From there we crossed the street to Zabar's, but since it was only 8:30 and Zabar's opens at 9am on Sundays, we weren't able to browse or buy. Instead we cut over to Amsterdam so Al could get a bagel sandwich at Barney Greengrass. On the way there (at 83rd, maybe? somewhere between 81st and 86th, anyway) we passed what appeared to be a new outlet of Le Pain Quotidien and picked up a couple pain au chocolates, a blueberry muffin, and a banana chocolate chip muffin. Al then got his bagel sandwich ("for $11, this better be the best bagel sandwich ever"), an extra plain bagel, and a package of Tate's chocolate chip cookies, and we headed back toward the apartment.

Luckily the street we chose to walk down was the same one that Tris and Henry had taken to walk toward us, and we ran into them about halfway up the block. We determined that we had enough baked goods to have a breakfast picnic, so instead of going home, we went to the hippo playground (real name: Safari Playground) in Central Park to eat at the picnic tables.

I had the banana chocolate chip muffin (wonderfully dense and flavorful... but how did they manage to get the batter so yellow—and so completely devoid of those little brownish-black fibers that are the hallmark of banana bread?) and a couple bites of Al's bagel, which was piled with three slices of the freshest-tasting nova lox I've ever had. Al declared the sandwich to be absolutely worth $11. Austen, meanwhile, noshed on a bit of his first-ever NY bagel (the plain one).

the $11 bagel sandwichmommy eating a muffinbagel boy

After breakfast, we played with the kids for a while in the canoe and among the hippos, and then we climbed up to one of the treehouses and chased each other around. (Had to burn off breakfast so we could make room for lunch!)

Henry and me in the canoeAl introduces Austen to the hippos
Al and Austen in the treehouseHenry comes down via the chain ladder

And speaking of lunch... As soon as we'd had a proper rest back at the apartment, we trekked back down to 83rd and Broadway to eat at Artie's. We'd been promising Henry a bowl of matzoh ball soup all weekend, and it was time to make good on that promise. (All that promising had given Al a craving for matzoh ball soup, too.) Instead of the cheese blintzes I'd planned to order (and which I'd so enjoyed last time), I decided at the last minute to get chocolate chip pancakes instead. (I later completed the chip trifecta by having a Toll House cookie bar for dinner.) Al got the soup, a potato knish, and a chocolate egg cream, and both of us noshed on the communal cole slaw and pickles the water guy had brought to the table. We agreed that the cole slaw was excellent—creamy-tasting but not dripping with sauce—but we split on the pickles: I prefer the "new" (half-sour), and Al prefers the "old" (full-sour). I don't mind trading a little bitterness for extra crunch.

stroller parking at Artie's
Artie's is popular with the stroller set

The chocolate chip pancakes were yummy, and the matzoh ball soup and egg cream very filling, so Al got the knish to go. We ate it for dinner when we got home, and I can say without reservation that it was the best knish I've ever had. As I said to Al, "this knish is to ordinary knishes what Mama's falafel is to ordinary falafel"... which brings me back to Philadelphia food news. I've been meaning to mention Mama's here (though Al has been begging me not to, lest it get more crowded than it already is :) for a while now; it's the best falafel I've had since college, when I used to haunt the Gyro Wrap on Broad Street in Athens, GA. Most falafel is dense, hard, and sometimes dry, while Mama's is crispy-crunchy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. I could eat the falafel balls with no toppings or salads whatsoever and enjoy the heck out of them, but the fact that both the Mama's Sandwich and the Mama's Platter come with hummus, tahini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a wonderful, slaw-like cabbage (not to mention a homemade pita baked in a special oven from Israel) make them absolutely heavenly. Try the sandwich or platter with a grapefruit drink (I forget the name of the one we like, but it's in a clear, nubby bottle with an orange cap), or make your own grapefruit spritzer with equal parts unsweetened grapefruit juice, Sprite, and plain or lime selzer. Very refreshing! Oh, and if you get a chance, try a "cigar"—a miniature egg roll-like snack that's filled with a potato mixture—for an extra $1. It was the perfect antidote to my knish craving on Monday night.

Sadly, I discovered yesterday that another Philadelphia food find (and hip hangout) is no more: Hamburger Mary's on Chestnut Street (and the Dragonfly Lounge above it, home of the city's best Lesbian dance party, according to Philadelphia Weekly) is now closed. We only got to eat there once, but I've been making a homemade version of their bleu cheese (veggie) burger ever since. HM's had avocado on it, but since a good, ripe avocado is usually hard to find when I have a craving for the bleu cheese burger, I make mine without. The recipe is simple: microwave a Boca burger for 90 seconds while you toast a sliced Kaiser roll. While the burger rests, spread bleu cheese dressing (I like Marie's) on each side of the roll, and then squirt a bit of ketchup on one side and a bit of mustard (I like a grainy horseradish version I buy in Canada) on the other. Stick the Boca burger in the middle, slice with a serrated knife, and enjoy. It's messy but oh so delicious.

Finally, I forgot to mention that Austen has also tried yogurt and ice cream in addition to his regular fruits and veggies. I've read that you're not supposed to introduce yogurt until 9 months and other dairy products until 1 year, but he seemed so interested in Al's ice cream on our trip to Vancouver and my yogurt last month that we let him have some. Both dairy products came right back up within a few hours, so we're going to wait until September to try again. In the meantime, Austen has lately been making a meal of his feet; I saw him try to shove his toes in his mouth last week without success, but on Monday he finally got the hang of it, and he's been noshing on baby toes and doggie shoes ever since. Yesterday he also tried a bit of my Kaiser roll and seemed to enjoy it. Ummmm, white bread: just like paper, only better.

yummy white breadeating kaiser!

Posted by Lori at 9:56 AM
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July 22, 2005


After really enjoying my last (and first) Princeton visit on Father's Day, Al and I decided to spend a weekend here. We're staying at the Nassau Inn on Palmer Square. I chose the place for its location and hoped for a bonus of charm; I'm not sure we've really gotten the bonus, but the location *is* great. Our room reminds me strongly of the one we stayed in at the Jameson Inn in Lakeland, FL on our honeymoon, though I believe this is the original early American design that the Jameson was attempting to copy. I like the copy better; though the top sheet on the bed here is excellent, the bottom one, inexplicably, is scratchy, and the bathroom is a bit grim.

We've already been out for a little walk around town to scout dinner options, and while wheeling the stroller around in 95° heat we formed our plan for the rest of the weekend: go to bed early, get up when Austen does, walk around the town and the campus early in the morning when no one else is up (and the temperatures are lower), and hide in the room or in air-conditioned cafes when the heat is on. Oh, and to buy these pants:

whale pants

Just kidding! I did buy a pair of pink capri golf pants recently because I thought they were funny as well as comfortable, but I draw the line at whales. Anyway, back to scouting dinner: We saw a place called The Ferry House on Witherspoon whose specials sounded yummy, but neither of us really needed a full dinner, and the idea of putting more dining room-appropriate clothes on our sweaty bodies did not appeal. Instead we opted for an ice cream pastry at Halo Fête followed by take-out from Olive's.

Halo Fête claims to be America's first ice cream patisserie, and they're probably right about that. The idea is interesting—traditional French pastries made with ice cream and sorbet instead of pastry cream, custard, and curd—and the execution amazing, but as someone who loves pastries and could take or leave ice cream, I'd rather have the regular pastry than the ice cream version. As it turned out, the pastry that Al wanted was the one I also would have picked (a cashew caramel dome), so we decided to share. I only had one bite; the caramel was a bit too sweet for me, and I hated the nuts. Al loved the nuts, but declared the dessert, on the whole, ordinary rather than sublime. Overall impression: Better to look at than to eat.

lemon tart with sorbet ice cream teddy bears

Next stop was Olive's, a mediterranean take-out/bakery on Witherspoon Street. Al went right for the carne asada sandwich with avocado, which they kindly heated for him, but I had a harder time finding something I wanted. I finally settled on a small container of cucumber, tomato, feta, and red onion salad and a slice of peasant bread. Al also got a blueberry muffin with lemon glaze, and I a miniature raspberry almond cake. Now that was sublime: yellow/white cake layers with raspberry jam filling, a traditional buttercream icing, and toasted sliced almonds around the outside. Really, really excellent. The salad too was very good, Al really liked his sandwich, and the muffin was on par with the Mmmmm Muffins ones Al gets in Vancouver, "only more homemade-tasting."

raspberry almond baby cake

Posted by Lori at 6:00 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
July 23, 2005

It's a Beautiful Day

Austen found his voice recently—and it's very shrill. Sometimes he babbles pleasantly, saying things like "ay ya ya ya ya ya" and "hey da da da da da", and it's super cute. Other times, he SHRIEKS. Loudly, shrilly, earsplittingly. It's annoying enough at home, but in public it's stressful in the extreme. I'm horrified and embarrassed that I might be bothering other hotel guests, restaurant patrons, and driving range golfers, and that I can't get him to stop. I used to think, "geez, can't you shut that kid UP?" when I heard toddlers shrieking in stores, and now I know that the answer is NO. I also understand why those mothers didn't even seem to be trying: Because as a parent, you have to tune some of the shrieking out in order to preserve your sanity. You know there's very little you can do, so you save the little amunition you have for when it actually might do some good.

shrieky boops

So anyway, after collapsing, exhausted, onto the bed last night at 7:30 and failing to convince Austen to (a) sleep or (b) stop shrieking, Al finally took him and let me conk out. They apparently jumped up and down on the couch for a while, and then Al snuggled Austen in next to me for his bedtime nursing at 8:45, and then got in bed himself at 9. We got up early, as planned (though Al and even I could have used another hour or so of uninterrupted snoozing)—early enough to get into PJ's Pancake House on Nassau Street for breakfast before a line formed out the door. From about half a block away I saw a large guy standing in the doorway with a cigarette, and I muttered to Al, "who smokes in the doorway?" As we approached, prepared to dash around him quickly to avoid the cloud of stale smoke, he said, "two? You can park the stroller right out here..." Apparently this was PJ, or at least the owner or manager of the place.

He ended up letting us take the stroller inside, where we folded it up and stashed it next to the table to avoid blocking the aisle, and PJ (or whoever he was) brought us a little baby seat that attached to the table. (We'd seen one like it on our NYC weekend when a couple brought their own to a Korean BBQ place on West 36th Street.) It was totally perfect for Austen; he got to sit at the table right next to me, but the sides were high enough that he couldn't quite reach onto my plate. Instead he amused himself with my empty creamer containers while we ate. I said to Al that this could possibly be the best meal I've had with Austen in attendance, even though the chocolate chip pancakes weren't quite as good as (though they were more expensive than) the ones at Artie's. The best thing we ordered between us was on Al's plate: the "mashed browns", which contained peppers and onions. The coffee was also quite good, especially with cream.

elbow to elbowthe creamer kid

From PJ's we started our tour of the Princeton campus. I already knew the stroller-friendly routes to the bookstore and the train station, and those for the most part also turned out to be the shady routes. We got a couple shirts for my sister's kids at the bookstore, walked down to the train station and had a rest on a bench there, and then walked back up to Nassau street via Alexander Street. By that time Austen had fallen asleep, so we sat on a bench between Mercer Road and University Place to give him time to snooze. From there it was to the CVS to buy a couple miniature notebooks for me to carry with me, and on the way back we passed the coolest little table and chairs outside Nassau Interiors. Both of us liked the set instantly, and the price was very reasonable, so we bought it on the spot. I'll drive back up on Monday to pick it up, as there isn't room in the car at the moment.

We detoured down Tulane Street on our way back to the hotel on the advice of a sign, which pointed toward The Little Chef pastry shop. An worthy detour, I'd say, as it led to a wonderful little shop full of French pastries baked by a gentleman with an actual French accent. I should have asked his name and where he was from, but I didn't. I did ask if he did all the baking himself, and he said yes. We purchased an apple-apricot brioche (a small bite of which I've just taken, and so far, so delicious) and a chocolate croissant for later, looked in another furniture store for a baby-safe ottoman/coffee table for our living room (the glass one with the pointy metal frame that we have now is really Austen-unfriendly), and then returned here to the room. We're about to go out again for lunch and a drive around the area, so there'll be more food news later...

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July 23, 2005

Stuffed Marlin

With all the cute little restaurants that Princeton has to offer, we somehow managed to eat at the same one twice today. Just after I last posted, we went across the street from the hotel to Teresa Caffe, where I had the pasta special (it's a pasta that I can't pronounce the name of, but it looked like rigatoni) and a glass of Merlot (I know, I know—that line from Sideways kept running through my head about how "WE ARE NOT DRINKING MERLOT!", but I had a craving for a glass of red, and the choices were limited). Al drooled a bit over the linguine with clams but decided he wasn't hungry enough to eat it, so he ordered the salad special.

the pasta special at Teresa Caffethe salad special at Teresa Caffe

Both dishes were very good, on par with the kind of food I'd expect to get in Napa restaurants. The wine was OK, not stunning; I might have appreciated it more if it was the kind of wine I actually wanted. What I was looking for was a light red, the kind that's more transparent ruby than dense purple. I know I've had a wine like that in recent memory, but god knows what it was. [I know that any wine connoisseurs who happen to be reading this will probably be groaning at my ignorance; if you have any wine suggestions, feel free to comment.] Even better than the pasta, surprisingly, was the dish of olive oil dusted with Teresa's signature rub (apparently also used on their meats) that was served with foccacia, crusty white bread, and chips made from what I assume was day-old sundried tomato bread. It was amazingly tasty on the foccacia, and I dragged some of the white bread through it before dunking the bread in my pasta sauce. Yummy.

Though today was about as hot as yesterday, it was much less humid, so after lunch we modified our midday plan slightly and took a drive instead of holing up in the hotel room. Our first stop was the driving range in Cranbury, where we hit a couple buckets of balls and tried to keep Austen from shrieking (I discovered that letting him play with a club helped, as did the old standby—holding him).

the shriekmonster and mommy

From the driving range we noodled around a bit, taking the long way back to Princeton via a route that passed a Pennsylvania Dutch Farmer's Market. It was similar to the one that used to be in Westminster, Maryland, only a bit smaller, and we arrived just in time to buy two pretzels, some fruit, two jars of pickles for Al and two half-sours from a barrel for me, and an excellent root beer before the place closed. I ate the two pickles on the spot and about a pretzel and a half over the next hour, along with some Haribo raspberries that I bought yesterday at Ricky's Candy, Cones, and Chaos on Nassau Street. Not exactly the most nutritious dinner... but that's basically what it turned out to be, since about fifteen minutes after I finally stopped munching pretzels and raspberries, Al declared that he was hungry. He wasn't able to forget about the linguine with clams and wanted to go across the street to Teresa again.

We did just that, only this time I got the salad, and Al got the pasta (though it was me who got the wine again, this time a peppery Cabernet that also didn't fit my light cherry flavor craving). I had the Insalata Farrauto, a small spinach, granny smith apple, and gorgonzola salad (hold the pine nuts, since I'm allergic to them) which was perfect for my overstuffed-with-sugar-and-starch stomach. I think I would have sliced the apples rather than diced them so that it would be easier to get a little of each flavor on the fork at once, but other than that small criticism, the salad was very good. There was no foccacia in our bread basket at dinner, though there was some sundried tomato bread, so it seems that my assumption about the lunchtime chips was correct. Though I missed the foccacia, I'm secretly glad it was left out, since I don't think I really had room for it anyway (and god knows if it was there, I would have eaten it).

Al's Linguine Vongole, of which I had a small taste, was outstanding—so much so that I'm actually considering eating at Teresa a third time this weekend, before heading home tomorrow. Aside from the red pepper flakes, which were a pleasant surprise, it tasted exactly as Al had hoped it would, so he was very, very happy. Sadly, I have no pictures of super fresh clams on a bed of garlicky al dente noodles to offer; I was busy keeping the Boopster's hands off our plates rather than taking photos of them. (The high chair was not as appealing to him as it was at lunchtime.)

Since it was still early and we were too stuffed to go to bed anyway, we decided to take a walk down Nassau street to investigate some of the other restaurant options (for future reference; obviously, we couldn't eat any more tonight!) and hopefully burn a few calories in the process. Almost every place we passed was packed, every outdoor table filled with diners, interesting-looking plates, and buckets of BYO wine. On the return trip, as we prepared to cross the street in front of Ivy Garden, I had to resist the urge to poke Al in the ribs when we were passed by a gentleman wearing THE PANTS. I was just thinking that his looked like they had marlins on them instead of whales when I heard him say, "gah, I got a spot of duck sauce on my pants." I assume it was his wife who responded, "nobody will notice, dear—they'll just think it's a marlin."

Posted by Lori at 10:00 PM
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August 10, 2005

Tuna Curry... Who Knew?

Thanks to ratphooey for tipping me off about Trader Joe's Tuna Curry (Yellow). When she mentioned it, I first thought (a) she'd added the tuna herself, and (b) that she meant Indian curry, but I discovered that (a) the tuna's already in there, and (b) it's Thai. It's also delicious, especially with some Trader Jose's Harvest Hodgepodge frozen vegetables thrown in. I've tried it with TJ's frozen Jasmine rice (good), but I like it even better with the little microwaveable rice bowls I get at the Han Ah Reum (and which I assume are available at other Asian markets as well). Yummy!

Posted by Lori at 12:10 PM
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August 17, 2005

Tuna Curry Update

I'd been thinking that the TJ's tuna curry might taste even better if the extra veggies I'd been adding had a chance to soak in their own curry bath, so over the weekend I bought a can of coconut milk (the premium kind) and some green curry paste and mixed them with the remaining half bag of Harvest Hodgepodge vegetables, a couple dashes of fish sauce, and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar. After heating this mixture through, I stored it in the fridge for use with the TJ's curry.

On Monday night I scooped out some of the veggies and a little of the sauce, mixed them with a packet of the Yellow Tuna Curry, and served it over the Korean steamed rice. Yummy! I started to wonder, however, whether my green vegetable curry might taste even better mixed with the Red Tuna Curry. I hadn't tried the red variety yet because when ratphooey recommended this gourmet bargain ($1.39!!), she'd mentioned that she preferred the yellow to the red. I think I would have, too, were it not for the special vegetable preparation, which, when mixed with the Red Tuna Curry and served over the TJ's frozen brown rice, totally knocked my (and Al's) socks off. We thought at first we might miss the potatoes (which are a tasty feature of the yellow variety), but the flavor was so good that we didn't. The brown rice turned out to be the perfect platform for the dish, better than both the TJ's frozen jasmine rice and the Korean steamed white rice.

I'm looking forward to experimenting with different combinations of vegetables, curries, and rices, though I really do think the proportions I used last night were perfect. The trick was to scoop out the vegetables from the green curry, but not very much of the sauce—whatever clings to the vegetables when the mixture is cold is about right when using only one packet of the TJ's red curry. When I heated the curry mixture (separate from the rice), it came out looking exactly like what you'd get in a Thai restaurant.

Incidentally, when I calculated the cost of the meal, the total came to about $3.50—for both of us. Can't beat that with a stick.

Posted by Lori at 4:03 PM
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August 22, 2005

Openings and Closings

A few weeks ago, I walked Al to work and then continued walking southeast toward Society Hill. I was on my way to check out a place my babysitter recommended called Homemade Goodies (on 5th between Lombard and South), but I figured that on the way I'd stop at The Inn on Locust and ask to see the bathrooms. I practiced my speech as I walked: "I know this is going to sound insane, but we're thinking about remodeling our master bathroom, and every time we talk about the design, my husband says, 'I wish you'd seen the bathrooms at The Inn on Locust, because that's exactly what I want.' So I'm wondering: Would it be possible to see the bathroom in one of your rooms?"

It might surprise my friends and readers to learn this, but I'm actually kind of shy/chicken when it comes to talking to strangers. I'd much rather keep to myself and interact with others only if absolutely necessary. After four blocks of practicing my speech, however, I was prepared to march up to the front desk at The Inn on Locust and sound like a total nut. Imagine my disappointment-mixed-with-relief when I arrived at Locust and 12th to find a padlock on the door and a business card from a real estate agent taped to the glass. I contemplated calling the agent, since I now wanted to ask another question besides "can I see the bathrooms?" (which I assume are still as they were): What happened?

I know businesses fail—heck, most businesses fail—but as someone who hopes to open a business someday (more on that in a future post), I find myself wishing that more of the failures would post an explanation in their windows rather than a "thanks for your patronage," a For Rent sign, or a real estate agent's business card. I want to know what happened, to learn from others' mistakes, to understand the business environment in my city. I'd love to know the story behind the closure of Hamburger Mary's and Club Dragonfly; it always seemed busy at lunchtime, but perhaps that wasn't enough to keep it going. Would it have done better in the Gayborhood? Would The Inn on Locust, which was smack dab in the middle of the Gayborhood, have done better in Hamburger Mary's location? Perhaps the spillover from the nearby nightclubs, which would have been a boon to Mary's, were what doomed a boutique hotel full of business travelers who needed to get some sleep? I guess I'll never know.

In any case, the title of this post is Openings and Closings because Mary's and The Inn on Locust aren't the only businesses along my usual walking routes that have closed recently—and because several new and interesting businesses have sprung up to take their places. The most important opening (to us, at least) is Aya's Cafe, which took the place of Nick's Pizza on Arch between 21st and 22nd. We've been watching the new commercial stoves go in, the sign go up, and the interior get redecorated for the past couple months with much excitement. We love our neighborhood, but we've been saying since we moved in that if we could change one thing, it would be to add a small, independent restaurant or two. Aya's is exactly the kind of place we had in mind.

We tried Aya's, which is a Mediterranean BYOB, the first weekend it was open. They had a high chair for the Beaner, gave him his own bowl of baby carrots to nosh on (most of which he just dropped on the floor), and did a pretty good job of keeping plates, glasses, and silverware out of his reach despite the limited table real estate, so thumbs-up for baby-friendliness. The decor is really warm and inviting—a big change from Nick's—though I found the banquette that runs the length of the restaurant a little too high. The pillows that formed the backrest were great, but I couldn't sit with my feet flat on the floor (nor could I lean my elbows on the table comfortably, though I know that's considered bad manners anyway). I tried to balance the weight of my legs on my toes, but the edge of the banquette still bit into my thighs, and my back was sore from the balancing effort by the end of the meal.

As for the food, I had the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer (I didn't need so much cheese, but the mushrooms themselves were very good—similar to the kind I make for parties), and I think Al had a salad. For entrees, I had the grilled salmon, and Al had linguine with clams. The salmon had a wonderful kabob-like grilled flavor, but it was overcooked for my taste and slightly fishy. The cous cous it was served on was nutty, buttery, and just plain excellent, however, and the grilled red peppers were great (I wish there were more of them than the green and yellow squash, which didn't grab me the way the peppers did). Al's pasta was also a bit overcooked; I like all pasta al dente, but especially pasta that's served with clams. When your flavoring is chewy, your pasta should be, too. Caffe Teresa in Princeton gets it just right: When in doubt, lean more toward undercooked than over. Other than that complaint, Al reports that the dish was tasty. The best thing we had was the rice pudding we shared for dessert, which was served icy cold and sprinkled with ground pistachios. Creamy and refreshing.

We left thinking that we'd surely go back, if for no other reason than to encourage a local business, but I notice we haven't been in a hurry. This is the problem with restaurants that are convenient but which don't serve food that knocks your socks off: You want them to stick around in case you need them, but it's hard to patronize them consistently when you don't love the food. Such was also the case with the Teriyaki Boy at Market and 20th, which closed this week; it was nice to have a fast food sushi/teriyaki place on the way home from Al's work—especially one that was open past 5pm—but the food wasn't so good that we wanted to go all the time. We're sad to see it go, but it was even sadder to see it empty all the time. I hope something even better ends up in its space.

Another sushi (and perhaps tapas?) place we kept thinking we'd try but never did, Cha Cha Sushi (on 19th), closed a couple weeks before the Teriyaki Boy. We lamented the missed opportunity for about five minutes, or until we realized that a new place called Devil's Alley had opened up almost simultaneously around the corner on Chestnut. Now there's a place we'll be patronizing frequently. We went for the first time last week, mainly because Al had noticed that they had a platter of three BBQ sandwiches on the menu (one each of chicken, pork, and beef). The trio of BBQ sandwiches was an appetizer (Devil's Alley also serves a BBQ sandwich entree, but that's limited to only one kind of meat), so Al chose a bowl of beans and the grilled sweet potato steak fries from the long list of side dishes to flesh out his meal. I had a really bad toothache that night and couldn't imagine eating a big meal, so I ordered a grilled caesar salad, which the waiter explained was a half a head of romaine thrown on the grill—"it's warm, not cold"—and then served with caesar dressing, parmesan cheese, croutons, and sun dried tomatoes.

The grilled romaine was FABULOUS, the BBQ sandwiches were huge (far bigger than their appetizer status would have suggested), and the sweet potato fries (with the blackened bits trimmed off) turned out to be the perfect dinner for the Beaner (Al couldn't finish them anyway because he was so stuffed from the sandwiches). I had assumed that the restaurant wasn't particularly baby-friendly because we weren't offered a high chair—and I was offered a sharp knife with which to cut my salad despite the fact that the Beaner was strapped to my chest in the Bjorn within easy reach of any utensils (I declined in favor of eating the leaves with my fingers)—and this almost prevented us from returning with Val on Thursday night. Memories of that grilled caesar salad kept floating through my brain, however, so we decided to go again despite the hardship of having to hold the Beaner.

As it turns out, Devil's Alley does have high chairs, they're perfectly OK with patrons parking strollers in front of the hostess stand, and they do have some wait staff with common (or at least kid) sense. This is a good thing, because I'm now totally hooked on the grilled goodness (or devilishness). My second salad was slightly smaller than the first, but every bit as tasty; the grilled vegetable platter we got to share was not extraordinary on its own, but it was excellent with the side of chipotle ranch dressing that came with Al's special, the dry-rubbed wings. I plan to ask for a side of dressing next time I order the grilled veggies. I'd definitely have another glass of the Forrestville Riesling, and I can't wait to try some of the sandwiches and more of the sides. For his part, Al is sad that the wings were only a special and not a regular menu item, but the bright side of that is that he'll definitely get to try something new next time.

I know I've already covered a lot of territory in this post, but I have one more opening to mention before I sign off—one that hasn't quite happened yet. In late winter the Midori Mart, a Japanese/Korean grocery and fresh fish market that had been between 21st and 22nd on Chestnut when we first moved to Philly and that had moved a block east not long after, closed its doors and posted a sign in the window. Not a "for rent" sign, not a "thanks for your patronage" sign, but something more encouraging: A "Korean restaurant coming in April" sign. When the end of April approached, a new sign went up that said "Open in May". In June, that sign came down, and newspaper went up. We've been passing by periodically, looking for signs that the venture is still on, that a restaurant really will be opening sometime soon. This week I saw one: A new sign that said "Waiter/Waitress Wanted." Woo hoo!

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August 28, 2005

Can You Believe The Size of This Sandwich?

I have a couple photos from my random sojourn to Ocean City, New Jersey on Friday that I'll probably post I've posted to Flickr, but I wanted to post this one here. It's the shrimp salad half sandwich I got at the Kibbitz Down the Shore deli. I gave the top slice of rye to Austen and ate the rest with a fork.

shrimp salad sandwich

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September 28, 2005

Backlog: Boston

It's time to clear my backlog of scribbled-on-hotel-stationery notes, most of which pertain to our trip to Boston on the 7th. Al had a meeting there on the 8th, and we decided to make a weekend of it so Austen and his godmother could meet each other, and so the three of us could have a little family vacation. The drive there was pretty easy; Austen didn't cry at all, and we made good time despite a stop at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, CT to see the singing milk cartons and buy bagels and snacks. (Sadly, I don't think I took any photos at Stew's.)

Stout @ Legal
We stayed in Kennett Square, next to MIT, the first night. By the time we got all checked in it was nearing Austen's bedtime, so we ate dinner at the nearby Legal Seafoods rather than searching for a unique Boston eating experience. (I like Legal, so I didn't mind.) On our way into the restaurant, I saw two people drinking pints of stout at a patio table and said to Al, "oooh, I'm going to have one of those." So when our waiter came to take our drink orders, I said, "do you have a stout on tap?", knowing that they must, but not assuming that it would be Guinness (you never know when a local brew is going to be available.) He replied, "sadly, no." I looked at him for a second; surely those hadn't been pints of root beer. I know a stout when I see one. After a pause, he said, "the closest thing we have to a stout is Guinness." I think I was still looking at him with that slightly puzzled, slack-jawed expression when I said, "OK then, I'll have a Guinness." I'm still puzzled by this exchange, and now I'm craving a Guinness again...

No 2T at MIT/Pete's chocolate
On Thursday I had a chance to walk along the Charles River/Memorial Drive as well as down to Harvard Square while Al was at his meeting. The weather was warm but dry—lovely for walking, and for stopping at playgrounds to push Austen on the swings. I took a bunch of photos on the walk, including a couple that I can't bring myself to post of some hateful anti-Asian graffiti on a park bench along Memorial Drive. I was reminded of how racially divided Boston can be, and of one of the reasons I was glad to leave back in 1984. Aside from the bench bigotry, the views along the Charles River at 9am were beautiful.

view toward fenway MIT sculpture yacht club numbered boats on the charlesgo fish

After the walk along Memorial Drive, I stopped at the MIT COOP to get Austen a t-shirt to add to his collection of college swag. Sadly, Austen will not be aspiring to MIT at this age, as they had no sizes between 12 months and 3T. (Austen's somewhere in the 12-24 months range, depending on the brand of shirt. His Stanford, Penn, and Princeton shirts are all 18 months, and they're getting snug, but the 24 month Boston Red Sox T we got him later in this trip is kinda huge.) It made me wonder whether they didn't order very many apparel items in Austen's size, or whether parents start thinking of MIT for their children when the kids are between 1 and 2 years old, leading to the store selling out of those sizes.

After a decently long nap (by Austen) at the hotel, during which I wrote a few more 9-month observations down for posterity, Austen and I departed for Harvard Square. We found a playground on Broadway and stopped to play on the swings, but we didn't stay too long as the swings were in full sun. This was probably the first time I noticed that Austen understood some of what I was saying to him: When he tried to remove his hat, I said, "Austen, you have to leave your hat on if you want to play on the swings. No hat, no swing." He stopped tugging at it and left it on.

From the swings we continued on to Harvard Square, where I bought Austen two Harvard t-shirts in size 2T and something called Chocolate Caramel Knowledge for myself at the Harvard COOP. The latter turned out to be a gourmet chocolate made by the Pete of Pete's Wicked Ale, and it was DELICIOUS. Reminded me of the Kaluha truffles I used to get at the mall when I was a teenager. Well worth the $2.50 I paid for it, as the four fat discs of coffee/caramel-filled 61% chocolate will last several hours (or several weeks, if you're Al). After eating one disc of chocolate to tide me over until I could get some lunch in my stomach, I found the perfect spot to sit and enjoy an excellent spinach, goat cheese, and spiced pecan salad and a pint of Guinness while feeding Austen apples and blueberries (no high chairs available, so I fed him in the stroller). I wish I could remember the name of the place; it was on the corner of Mass Ave. and something, near the Adidas store. (The third photo below is of a different place on Mass Ave. that also serves Guinness; I thought the "cheaper than gasoline" sign was funny. :)

swing stop cathedral cheaper than gasoline

Al and I met up again after his meeting was over, checked in at our next hotel in Waltham, and then drove out to Needham (where I grew up) to meet my best friend (and Austen's godmother) for dinner at Not Your Average Joe's. I actually found the food to be very average, but the decor was nice—much nicer than Gino's Pizza, which is what was in the space when I was a kid—and of course the company was great.

Walden Pond
On Friday morning Al suggested we go for a walk around Walden Pond in Concord. I wasn't super into it, but I also had no real objections, so I said OK. It turned out to be really lovely and peaceful, and carrying the boopster around the 1.25-mile loop in the Bjorn was good exercise. Al was a bit disappointed to see the wire fences lining the path, which weren't there when he lived in Concord back in the 80s, but I didn't find them too distracting. I'd rather have them—and preserve the woods around the pond for future generations—than see the woods and shoreline eroded.

We saw several people kayaking, canoeing, and swimming, and passed several folks strolling and fitness walking in the woods, but we always had more than enough space to ourselves. I think an important factor in our positive, peaceful experience was that we went on a cool, cloudy Friday rather than a sunny Saturday, when the beach on the pond is often mobbed, according to Al.

serenity circles contemplating the pond log at walden pond in walden pond cairn in memory of HDT

Lemon Slush
On Saturday we took the T in to Fanueil Hall, where we had a very underwhelming fried fisherman's platter and lobster roll. We decided that since we'd been to FH and the surrounding Quincy Market several times before, and the food this time had (literally) left a bad taste in our mouths, we'd walk somewhere else. Al suggested the North End, which I think I'd only been to—or rather, through—once before, when I walked the Freedom Trail as a kid. There we immediately found a bakery with a nutty, nougaty Italian delicacy that Al really likes, and not long after that we found the ultimate lemon slush. I am not a slush/water ice person, but this one was fantastic—exactly the right texture and flavor. I can't remember the name of the store where we got it, but it's at the corner of Salem and Parmenter Streets.

public alley 101 freedom trail 44 old north church boston water salem spa lemon slush

Walden Grille mussels
On Saturday night we cruised around the Concord area for a while, looking for a place to eat. We finally settled on the Walden Grille as the only real possibility after perusing the dinner and bar menus posted outside. I thought I wanted to order off the bar menu, and Al thought he'd like something from the dinner menu, so they seated us in the bar area, in which both options were available. As it turned out, I ordered from the dinner menu, and Al ordered from the bar menu. :) I got an arugula salad with grapefruit wedges, bleu cheese, and (I think) a passion fruit vinaigrette and an order of steamed mussels. I think Al got a french dip.

The salad presentation was a bit odd; instead of wedges, I got two huge slices of grapefuit. The taste more than made up for the basic, almost unappetizing presentation, however. Someone at the table adjacent to ours ordered the same thing I did, and she complained at first that there was no dressing for the salad. The waitress assured her that it had been tossed with the dressing in the kitchen. The patron insisted that it was missing, and asked for dressing on the side... only to discover that she had indeed been eating a dressed salad. "This dressing has NO TASTE. It tastes like NOTHING," she said to her companions. Personally, I loved the light flavor and thought the salad was dressed perfectly. The passionfruit really highlighted the arugula without overwhelming it, and it didn't clash with the cheese or the grapefruit.

Regarding the mussels, the woman at the adjacent table and I heartily agreed: they were EXCELLENT. The first time I ever had mussels, at Eastside West in San Francisco's Marina district, they defined the experience for me—and I've been chasing that perfect combination of tender, not-too-chewy, not-at-all-fishy mussel meat and savory broth ever since. Ladies and gentlemen, I found it at the Walden Grille. WG's version was different in many ways from Eastside West's, but both made me want to eat every last morsel and then soak up as much broth as possible with bread (I had to ask for an extra slice). I'm not sure if the woman at the other table was on a low-carb diet or just didn't want to fill up on bread, but I heard her ask for a spoon. Good choice, though Al's leftover batter-coated french fries also tasted amazing dipped in the tomato-y, garlicky broth. One thing you should note if you are semi-vegetarian/fishitarian, like me: The version of the mussels listed on the menu includes chorizo; I asked for mine without. I heard the woman at the adjacent table tell her companions that it was the chorizo that made the mussels so good (and it may indeed impart something special to the mix), but I can tell you that I was in as much rapture as she without it.

So to summarize: The presentation of the dishes at Walden Grille may have been careless, but the taste and quality of the food was excellent, and the service was fast. There was no baby seat for Austen, but neither were there any complaints when he made a total mess. Oh! And the prices were very reasonable. Give it a try.

Posted by Lori at 8:25 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
October 2, 2005

A Taste of Fall

These are REALLY, REALLY yummy:

1 package Trader Joe's pumpkin bread/muffin mix
1/3 c. fresh pumpkin, bought at farmer's market yesterday and steam-roasted this morning, pureed
1 T. oil
2 T. Trader Joe's pumpkin butter
2 large eggs
1 c. water
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix according to package directions (fold dry into wet), then stir in chips. Grease 18 muffin tins (or use liners) and fill each 2/3 full. Bake 16-20 minutes at 400°.


Note: I made these with all pumpkin butter and no fresh pumpkin the other day, and they were tasty, but the fresh pumpkin gives them a buttery, homemade, OH SO DELICIOUS flavor. Plus, the excess pumpkin puree will make several meals for Austen.

Posted by Lori at 3:39 PM
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October 4, 2005

When Life Gives You Lemons, Call Your Husband to Come Home Right Away and Then Make Lemon-Colored Frosting


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October 10, 2005

Get Up, Stand Up... Scare Your Mom To Death

I was saying in an e-mail to Valerie tonight that I only seem to have time these days to write about Austen's milestones OR mine, not both. (Hopefully our new twice-a-week babysitter will help me remedy that, though part of the reason I searched for a sitter in the first place—so I could attend open hockey sessions at UPenn during the day—will also generate more hockey blog material with which to keep up.) In any case, since Al is refusing to switch from Monday Night Football to The Apprentice: Martha Stewart on TiVo, and I've lost interest in the game because I've already won my two fantasy league games, I have time to blog about Austen stuff right now.

I mentioned that Austen's been getting on all fours and wiggling around a lot but rarely going anywhere (except backwards), but the other day I actually witnessed him crawl across the bed to get to my nightstand. Al didn't believe me that he'd crawled —or at least, he wanted to see it with his own eyes before he'd confirm than an actual forward crawl had occurred. On Saturday he got his chance: While we were waiting for a table at the Rock Bottom Brewery, Al set Austen down on the floor...where he crawled around in a circle and then over to me. It's weird that his crawling skills seem to be developing in tandem with his walking skills (which are really getting good—he's now taking independent steps between the furniture instead of securing a handhold first).

A quick aside to mention our experience at the Rock Bottom Brewery before I continue, mainly because I know if I don't write about it here, I'll never write a separate post about it. We thought it was a fluke when the service completely sucked the last time we ate at the King of Prussia Rock Bottom, but it now appears that it's company policy (a) to understaff the dining room, making for long seating waits despite the many empty tables, and (b) for servers to take drink and appetizer orders and then return 10 minutes later, sans drinks or appetizers, to take entree orders. Both last year's visit and this one had us imploring the server to PLEASE bring us our drinks before putting the entree order in. Sadly, at this visit they'd also run out of the house-brewed root beer (at 4pm!), which is the main reason Al wanted to eat there. The good news is that the appetizer I ordered, a cheese and beer sampler that included apples, grapes, grainy horshradish mustard, summer sausage (which I gave to Al) and lavosh crackers in addition to three kinds of cheese and three kinds of beer, was excellent. One of the cheese types was a little pitcher of fondue, which inspired us to try making fondue for the first time ever on Sunday... but that's another story.

Austen, who'd finished his Cheerios and baby food before the drinks arrived, was cruising around under the table when another couple with a 10 month-old was seated next to us. They had a very similar experience to ours in that their baby finished his meal before any sign of adult food or drinks arrived; unlike us, they showed some sense and left when the baby started to squirm (without eating or drinking themselves). They missed out on the excellent cheese and beer sampler (and the $8.30 gallon of the Rocktoberfest brew—bargain!—that I got to go), but I still think their course was the wiser one. We'll be making our own cheese platters at home from now on (and getting the beer to go) rather than sitting down at Rock Bottom.

Anyway, back at home, for the second time in a week we had trouble getting Austen to bed. It's been the norm for a couple months now to nurse him for a little while and then put him to bed asleep or nearly so with no fuss. One night last week, however, he was refusing to settle down, so we put him in the crib at 8:30 and let him cry for a while. I figured I could take the opportunity to vacuum the house, since I wouldn't be keeping him awake, and the vacuum noice might even soothe him. After 30 minutes, however, he was still screaming inconsolably, so I went into his room to pick him up... and the smell hit me as soon as I opened the door. He'd apparently worked himself into such a frenzy that he pooped. I changed his diaper, nursed him a little more, and then put him to bed without incident.

Saturday night was a repeat of the previous incident, only without the vacuuming. Even though Austen seemed to be shouting more than screaming inconsolably after 30 minutes, I went up to check on him just in case all that red-faced hollering had resulted in another poopy diaper. I was already saying, "OK now, what's all the fuss about?" as I opened the door, but "it's bedtime" turned into "it's bedARIEEEEEEEEEEEEEAUGGGGHH!!!!" Austen's crib is just to the right of the door, and there he was—the VERY SCARY BABY—standing up at the end of his crib, shouting. Of course, my screaming and leaping about five feet forward into the room scared the crap out of him as well, and he switched from shouting to crying again. It turned out he *had* pooped, though whether his diaper was dirty because he was shouting, or he was shouting because his diaper was dirty, I couldn't tell you. It's also possible that I really did scare the crap out of him; the timing is a little unclear.

In any case, I changed his diaper and let him sit on my lap and play for a while, and then Al put him to bed at about 9:30 (after a long speech about the power of meditation and self-soothing). Al says Austen wasn't asleep when he put him in the crib, but that he was calm. We didn't hear another squeak out of him until 6:30 on Sunday. Needless to say, between football games and fondue on Sunday, Al went up to lower the mattress on the crib from level 3 to level 4.

Eerie aside: On Friday night I dreamed that I asked Al to lower the crib mattress because I was afraid Austen would stand up and fall over the side. Thank god there was no falling involved when Austen did stand in his crib for the first time—only a near heart attack, and that on my part.

Posted by Lori at 11:29 AM
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October 15, 2005

Great Pumpkins

As I mentioned in the comments of the pumpkin muffin post, I love all things pumpkin. To demonstrate my dedication to this tasty fall treat and share with others the pumpkin possibilities, I herewith offer some of my recent pumpkin finds. [I reserve the right to revise and extend this post as I eat my way around town.]

Pumpkin Eclair from Metropolitan Bakery ~ Why didn't I think to photograph this beautiful pastry before I ate it the other day? It was the perfect mix of earthy and elegant—definitely not your average home-style dessert. Great pumpkin flavor in the custard.

Pumpkin Soup at Triumph Brewery ~ I've been wanting a meal of beer and soup for over a week (i.e., about as long as it's been raining here in Philadelphia), and I finally got it at Triumph Brewery in Princeton on Thursday. That Pumpkin was the soup of the day was great news; even better was that it was vegetarian. (For some reason, many restaurants feel the need to "flavor" what would otherwise be incredibly tasty vegetable soups with chicken stock.) I ordered a bowl of soup and a half-pint of the Oktoberfest. I preferred Rock Bottom's version of the martzen, but the soup was very good: Thick and savory with a strong pumpkin flavor. I usually like dunking bread in pumpkin soup (OK, any thick/creamy soup) and was at first sad I hadn't been offered any, but the soup portion was so large and the consistency so thick that I didn't really need bread.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies from Fisher's Bakery in the Kingston PA Dutch Farmers Market ~ You can get pumpkin whoopie pies at the PA Dutch bakeries in the Reading Terminal Market and at the market in Cockeysville, MD, but the ones at Fisher's get my vote for the best ever. The pumpkin cakes are perfect, and the filling is just sweet enough.

Pumpkin Torte from Glick's Salads ~ Again, you can get versions of this pumpkin dessert (which might be called Pumpkin Delight instead of Pumpkin torte; I can never remember the exact name) at the salad/deli/cheese stand in any PA Dutch market, but I like the one at Glick's best. It's like a cross between pumpkin pie and pumpkin pudding, with a cheesecake/Jell-O hybrid layer between the pumpkin part and the graham cracker crust. OK, I realize this sounds weird, but it's yummy—and it's only available through Thanksgiving. Get it while you can!

Posted by Lori at 9:06 PM
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October 23, 2005

Master Chef to Total Clod

I was so PROUD of myself last night for making exactly the meal I wanted from ingredients I already had in the house. I sliced a medium onion (with a knife), sauteed it until browned in a saucepan with a little butter and olive oil, and then added a can of vegetable broth, a dash of dry sherry, and a few grinds of pepper, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I then topped it with a toasted slice of Metropolitan Bakery whole wheat sandwich bread (oh, so seedilicious) and a handful of grated gruyere and stuck it in the oven at 275° for about 10 minutes. It was AWESOME, especially accompanied by the sliced Cameo apple I picked myself that afternoon (in a pouring rain, I might add) and a Yuengling Black & Tan (purchased from Pete's Famous Pizza, which is just around the corner, for $2.50). I obviously rocked as a chef, and this amazing onion soup was proof.

me and the boopster picking apples in a downpour
how do you like them apples?

Of course, the universe knows a thing or two about hubris. I wanted to use some of the 10 lbs. or so of apples we picked yesterday, so I decided to make an apple buckle/coffee cake. I wanted to make sure the apples were sliced thick enough so we could taste them in the cake, but not so thick that they wouldn't cook properly, so I pulled out the mandoline that Winsha gave us for our wedding three years ago. I'd never used it before because, quite honestly, I was scared to death of the damn thing. I just knew I'd lose a finger using it.

I got one Crispin apple sliced perfectly, however, so I thought, "OK, no problem! This isn't so scary!" And then, as I was slicing apple number 2, I looked up to tell Al what kind of butter to buy for me at Trader Joe's. In the middle of a sentence that started, "It's the unsalted European-style butter in the blue and yel......", "yellow" turned into a yell. "ARE YOU OK?" Al asked, loudly but as calmly as possible, since Austen was in the room. I grabbed what was left of my thumb and replied through a clenched jaw, "NOT OK. NOT OK. DEFINITELY NOT OK" while walking very quickly in a loop around the kitchen and dining room and holding a rapidly-reddening dishtowel around my wounded digit.

After a few minutes of attempting to hold panic at bay, I started wailing. We couldn't get my thumb to stop bleeding long enough to smear some Neosporin on it, so we finally smeared some on a Band-Aid and managed to get it wrapped around my finger fairly tightly. It took another 10 minutes or so of ice and elevation to get the blood to stop bubbling out the top of the bandage, though. The good news is that Austen showed concern when I was freaking out, but he didn't start crying himself; he stayed calm and out of the way in his Pack 'n Play. I think this was mostly due to Al's efforts to underreact than overreact, and the fact that Al's first instict when I started in with the "NOT OK, NOT OK" was to grab Austen and take him out of the room so he didn't see all the blood.

I do still have a right thumb, thank god, but a chunk of skin and an even bigger chunk of fingernail are now missing from it. Sadly, I think the mandoline will be going back into its box for another three years, and I won't be making apple buckle today. On the plus side, this wound makes the horrific papercut I got on my left middle finger earlier today seem like nothing at all.

Posted by Lori at 3:32 PM
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November 11, 2005

And... We're Back

Austen and I returned, along with Al (who flew up to Hartford to meet us on Sunday), from Maine on Monday. We had great weather every day except Sunday (which was foggy and drizzly), and especially on Saturday, when the air was brisk but not cold, the sun was warm but not roasty, and the wind was cool but not frigid. Perfect Dreamweaver fleece weather. Val, Austen, and I started the day with a hike around Mackworth Island just north of Portland in Falmouth, Maine. Fabulous and varied views and terrain; it was somewhat similar to our walk around Walden Pond, only with the water on the outside of the loop rather than the inside. (Walden, if you'll recall, was what prompted me to purchase the Kelty Kids backpack, and I wore it on this hike with pretty good success. I had considered going over to Walden while we were in Lexington, Mass, btw, but I went to a playground instead.)

mackworth island, ME
val still
the bench I would sit on every day if I lived here

From Falmouth we drove to the opposite end of Portland to visit Portland Head Light on Cape Elizabeth. The spectacular weather really enhanced the experience of visiting the lighthouse and the park around it. Austen fell asleep in the car on the way there, so he didn't get to admire the lighthouse or the amazing view, but I've shown him the photos.

danger, sleeping baby winter approaching

After all the beautiful views and brisk weather, we went to Silly's, a local Portland eatery, for lunch. There was a Magic 8-Ball on the table, and Val offered to get an answer for any question I cared to ask, but I found that I couldn't come up with anything I really wanted to know. (Guess I'm finally living in the moment!) Austen was another story; he was very eager to know when he would be walking on his own, when I'd let him drive the car, and especially when he'd get to eat.

consulting the magic 8ball
becky gibson we owe you $10 dollars

I fed him a jar of apples & blueberries while we looked over the menu. Val ordered some crab-stuffed mushrooms to share and a greek salad with the feta on the side, and I got a giant Harvest Burger with BBQ and bleu cheese sauces (yeah, I'm really that decadent) and sweet potato fries. The fries were EXCELLENT; I had no trouble finishing them, especially since Austen ate quite a few. They were fried with their skins on and tasted more like baked sweet potato strips than french fries. Yummy. The Harvest Burger was homemade and HUGE, and although it was delicious, I couldn't finish the whole thing. Ditto the pint of locally-brewed root beer.

After a sufficient interval, during which we played with Austen in the house and napped, Valerie made the most awesome zucchini-onion-broccoli-mushroom-tomato soup for dinner. How something so simple (and so vegan) can taste so delicious, I'll never know; credit Valerie's talent in the kitchen and experience with fresh fruits and vegetables.

On Sunday morning Austen was up at 6:30, as usual (well, he wakes up and wants to nurse before that, but he usually sits up and starts poking me—or Al, if available—around 6 or 6:30). Luckily Valerie also rises early, so we didn't interrupt her sleep routine too much by being in the house. We went downstairs to say good morning, brush teeth, etc., and then I took Austen back upstairs so I could get dressed and pack while Val cooked breakfast (wheat-free apple pancakes for me, and homemade applesauce for Austen; now that I know how easy applesauce is to make, I've made three batches since returning home :). This is when the crying started.

Val was being kind, or at least circumspect, when she said "Austen gave us a glorious example of the highs and lows of a day in the life of raising a toddler." She definitely got to witness highs and lows throughout the weekend, but the low I suspect she was referring to here was the non-stop crying jag-turned-tantrum that Austen threw when I put him down so I could pack. At first I set him on the floor, but he kept UNpacking the suitcase while screaming, so instead I put him in the Pack 'n Play not one foot from where I was standing, got dressed, and tried to pat down my sticking-up hair. This was when I realized that my arms were so sore from carrying him for the past four days that I couldn't hold them over my head, and when Austen decided that I was going to leave him there and never come back. Or maybe he noticed that I couldn't get my arms over my head, and despaired of ever being picked up again. In any case, the screaming reached a fever pitch.

I relented and lifted him out of the Pack 'n Play and stood him up at my feet. He hugged my knees and clawed my thighs and screamed even louder. With my hair still looking like shit and makeup on only one side of my face, I picked him up and tried to console him. He scratched my face, pushed against me with his feet, and tried to strangle me. These are indications that I have become both his tormentor and his savior. He wants me to help him, to fix him, to MAKE IT BETTER, but at the same time he hates me for any number of crimes I've committed against him. He ends up looking like the Exorcist baby, writhing, crying, and clawing, giving both "PUT ME DOWN" and "DON'T YOU DARE LET GO" signals. I got down on the floor with Austen and tried to snuggle him, to jiggle him, to kiss his forehead and tell him I love him, but he wasn't having any of it. And after 10 minutes straight of screaming, I called Al.

Usually I can last at least 20 minutes before going round the bend, but after four days of being the only parent on duty, I was already near my wit's end. (This happens at home sometimes, too, when I don't get enough of a break to completely regroup: My anger and despair stay just beneath the surface, waiting to be roiled up by a Difficult Child Attack.) I needed help, moral support, another parent. Unfortunately, when I reached Al he tried to comfort Austen via phone, instead of trying to comfort me. I think I said the reason I was calling was that Austen was throwing a tantrum, but I didn't make clear that it was I who needed soothing, not him. Austen threw the phone across the room as Al said, "it's OK, buddy, it's OK", and that was it for the call. Neither of us called back.

As Austen continued to thrash and scream, I started to wail, "Austen, you HAVE TO STOP CRYING!", and then I started sobbing. The initial shock of seeing me blubber caused him to dial it back a bit at first, but then he continued the tantrum where he left off. It was time for desperate measures: I was going to have to impose on Valerie. I brought Austen downstairs, tears streaming down both of our faces, and managed to whisper, "can you take him for a little bit? I need to regroup." Valerie gave me a hug and took Austen from me.

When I came down about 10 minutes later, dressed and packed, Austen was sitting on Valerie's hip while she made applesauce. I said to him, "will you give Mommy a hug and tell me all is forgiven?" He reached out for me, put his head on my shoulder, and squeezed me around the neck, lovingly this time. Then he struggled to get down so he could play with the jars and containers under Valerie's sink.

After snarfing down applesauce and pancakes, I loaded up the car with our luggage and a much-coveted jar of Valerie's blueberry jam, took some final photos of Valerie and her lovely house and yard, and Austen and I headed out for Springfield, Mass. The goal was to get to the hotel around 3pm, feed Austen lunch, and watch a little football until Al's plane arrived at Bradley International Airport at 5:50pm. We made it with time to spare, at around 2:30pm. Austen ate a bunch of cheese, some more baby food, and some of the applesauce Valerie sent home with us, and then both of us got restless. I decided to just walk to the end of the street to see if there was a Starbucks nearby, but I ended up going completely around the block (no mean feat while carrying a 24-lb. baby). Good thing I did, because I noticed that we were adjacent to the Mass Mutual Center, where the Springfield Falcons hockey team plays... and that there was a game at 4pm.

I realized that Austen probably wouldn't last more than a couple periods anyway, so it was probably feasible to take him to the game and still pick up Al at the airport. I went back to the car, got the Bjorn and a sweater out, strapped Austen in, and walked back to the Mass Mutual Center. We ended up getting a seat right in front of the visitors' goal, which was a mixed blessing; great view, but I had to worry about one of us getting beaned by a misfired puck.

fight! watching hockey

Luckily we didn't incur any injuries, though we did have to endure some loud and inane screeching from the teenage girl behind us, and some scary shouting from a 50 year-old guy in the next section over who wanted a specific Springfield player to know just how much of a pussy he was. That, and some ridiculously over-the-top cheering every time a fight broke out. This is the thing I'll never understand about minor-league hockey: Why do the teams, the leagues, and the fans all encourage—even promote—fighting? Go to a boxing match if you want to see a fight, for pete's sake. I want to see skating, passing, and shooting, thank you very much. In any case, it made me re-think the idea of taking Austen to minor league games in the future, even though they cost a fraction of NHL games.

We did indeed manage to pick Al up at the airport, and we had a nice evening together before heading back to Philly the following day. We made the requisite stop in Norwalk to visit Stew Leonard's and stock up on everything from asparagus to scones, and we even got the perfect photo of fall foliage when we put on the four-way flashers, rolled down the passenger window, and pressed the shutter button exactly once on the Canon 10-D before continuing on our way back to I-95:


Posted by Lori at 2:42 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 17, 2005

I Can Cook!

I've always been a better (and more prolific) baker than I've been a cook, though I do have some simple specialties—mostly casseroles and sautéd fish and vegetables. Since I returned from Maine, however, I've been on a tear with the cooking. I've been making applesauce like a maniac (I now have several jars, Pyrex dishes, and Gladware containers with blue masking tape labels reading "2:1 Cortland:Macintosh + 2 Organic Pink Lady Med. Smooth", "Cortland/Macintosh Chunky", "Cortland Lt. Cinn Smooth" in my freezer), which of course means lots of apple peeling if the apples aren't organic, which in turn means lots of apple peels. My wrists are certainly stronger from the peeling, and I now have two large pots of compost decomposing on the back deck. [Thank Valerie for inspiring me to finally start composting.]

On Monday I took the car in to Pep Boys to get a state inspection, and on the walk home I bought broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini at Trader Joe's with the idea that with the onions and tomatoes I already had on hand, I could make Valerie's "garbage soup". I'm not sure when I thought I'd do this, since I still had to pick up the car in the afternoon and most likely soothe Austen through his normal 4:30-5:30 meltdown, but I was feeling optimistic. I'd watched Valerie make the soup, and (a) the recipe seemed very forgiving, and (b) it didn't take more than 30 minutes or so to get everything in the pot.

God apparently was smiling on me on Monday, because not only did I have the energy to walk back to the Pep Boys (20 blocks away), but the weather was also nice enough to do so, AND Austen fell asleep in the stroller after a stop on the way for a Children's Menu grilled cheese sandwich and a nut brown ale at the White Dog (sandwich for him, beer and the accompanying potato chips for me). He even STAYED ASLEEP when I moved him from the stroller to the car seat, and he slept for another 30-40 minutes after we got home—time enough for me to chop all the vegetables and get the soup started. He woke up as I was dumping the mushrooms into the pot. The soup was delicious, and I made enough that we could have leftovers on Tuesday with a loaf of bread that the babysitter got for me while she was out with Austen.

On Wednesday, another non-babysitter day, Austen and I went to the mall so I could buy him a real pair of shoes (now that he's walking, he needs something sturdy and waterproof enough to wear outside) and myself and immersion blender. I'd been wanting one of these for a while, but making the garbage soup on Monday had moved the item to the top of my list, as it would have been easier to puree the onions and zucchini in the pot instead of moving a few cups at a time to a blender.

I found a Braun blender on sale, paid a near fortune for a pair of Stride Rite shoes, and spent more than I should have on some other necessaries, and then stopped at Whole Foods on the way home to pick up a couple organic apples (so I could make some sauce with a bit of peel in it) and some leeks. Of course, I had a brain fart and didn't think about how leeks were counted; I was thinking that each layer counted as one leek, but obviously it's the whole stalk that counts. Thus I only bought one leek instead of the two called for in this recipe for Potato Leek Soup from Gourmet.

I substituted a small yellow onion for the second leek, used the Yukon Gold potatoes I already had in the house, used all vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth/water mix, and added just a splash of milk at the end, but otherwise I followed the recipe to the letter. ;) Oh, and of course I used my new immersion blender to partly puree the soup instead of removing a cup if it to a regular blender as suggested. OK, so it seems that I, like most other cooks who comment on Epicurious recipes, only followed the recipe in the most general sense, but the results were still spectacular. I used the leftover ciabatta from Tuesday's dinner to make croutons and sprinkled these and a bit of Gruyere cheese on top of each bowl of soup before serving. DELICIOUS. Al has requested that I make this soup again asap. The best part was that it was really easy to make with a baby underfoot; the small ingredient list means that there's very little chopping to do.

For last night's dinner I got *really* ambitious—especially for a non-babysitter day—and decided to make a pumpkin risotto. I got the recipe from the pumpkin cookbook Heidi bought for me on a whim a few years ago, and I used the crook-neck pumpkin that Al bought for me at Weaver's Orchard when we went apple picking. I got the abborio rice, fresh sage, and vegetable broth from Trader Joe's (man, it's convenient having a TJ's two blocks away!) right before I started cooking. The result was OUTSTANDING, even if the rice was a bit on the al dente side. Oh how I wish I'd photographed the lumpy piles of orange-studded rice with their garnishes of shaved parmesan and fried sage leaves before we ate them!

It was definitely a labor-intensive dish, but I think I could have prepared it without much trouble if I hadn't also made an enormous pot of applesauce right before leaving for TJ's. Peeling, chopping, and coring 30 small apples and then chopping pumpkin and stirring rice was a little tough on my arms, especially since I had to hold Austen while doing some of the peeling and stirring. Still, it was totally worthwhile—all three of us loved it, and I'd definitely make it again. I think we'll probably have the leftovers for dinner (or at least for lunch), so I don't have to think about what to make next just yet. Still, I'm excited to know that I *can* make yummy dinners, and I can't wait to add new recipes to my repertoire. Yay, I can cook!

Posted by Lori at 7:35 PM
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December 16, 2005

Orange Bread

The holiday baking has officially started in the Hylan-Cho household: I made Orange Bread this morning. I don't know if this recipe was designed to be a holiday treat, but it's something I always associate with Christmas because that's when my mom makes it.

chopping_dates.jpg orange_bread.jpg

Mom sent us some last year with a note on it that said "remember that this is a dry bread, so it needs butter", which puzzled me a bit. Although a piece of this bread tastes spectacular with some softened lightly salted butter pasted around at least three of its four sides, I've never had a batch come out dry. Quite the opposite, in fact. Maybe mom has modified her recipe over the years? In any case, this is the one I'm following, and it's wonderful.

Orange Bread

1 pkg. (8 oz.) pitted dates
2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
2 c. orange juice
1 egg
1 T. olive oil
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. orange peel (from 2-3 oranges)

  1. Chop the dates, splitting lengthwise first and then crosswise. (If you just chop them crosswise, you'll have rings in which flour will get stuck.) Toss with the flour.
  2. With a sharp knife, cut the peel off the oranges and slice into thin strips. Try to get as little of the white pith as possible. (You can also use a lemon zester to generate ultra-thin peel strips, but it takes a little more effort and might take more oranges.)
  3. Sift together the powder, soda, sugar, and salt and add to the flour and date mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, mix the orange juice, egg, oil, vanilla, and orange peel.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently but thoroughly.
  6. Pour batter into a 9x13 pan and bake at 350° for about 45 minutes, or until the top is a rich honey brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Posted by Lori at 9:53 AM
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December 18, 2005

Weekend Update

Al and I started our weekend right with "date night", our third since the Boopster was born. (The first was in February when my parents were here, and we went out to see Sideways; the second was in October, when we went to see a New Jersey Devils game for my birthday.) This time we went to dinner at Washington Square, a Stephen Starr restaurant that's located, as the name implies, on Washington Square, and afterwards to a movie.

Washington Square is supposed to be a hip, trendy place, a place "to see and be seen," as one review we read indicated. We ate really early, however, long before the hip crowd—or any crowd, for that matter—arrived, so the only people-watching involved the 12 or so waiters keeping an eye on us. We had the full attention of the kitchen at that hour, and the courses came promptly, which was nice. We both considered the Unlimited Wine menu option, which included an appetizer, an entree, a dessert, and all the wine you cared to drink from among about 8 choices (the food options were more limited, with only 2 choices for each course) for $55. It seemed like a decent deal and a good way to have the wine you wanted with each course, but in the end we each decided we could put together a meal we would enjoy more by just picking random items from the food and drink menus.

I had a gulf shrimp cocktail with wonderfully, perfectly HOT cocktail sauce, a savory vidalia onion tart, the mushroom fettucini, and an Orange Hurricane. Everything was delicious, and the portion sizes were just right. The only thing I would have changed were the flavor proportions on the tart—half the phyllo would have been sufficient, and twice as much goat cheese would have made it perfect (the dot on top was half the size of a pat of butter). Al had a wonderfully fresh tuna tartare, more pork medallions than he could finish, and a glass of Mark West pinot noir (which he also didn't finish). The bill was about the same as it would have been under the Unlimited Wine option, but as we suspected, we enjoyed it more for being able to eat exactly what we wanted. Because we had a movie to catch, and because the overwhelming stench of cigarette smoke hanging in the air made it difficult to breathe (I actually had to take my inhaler), we weren't likely to linger over glasses of wine all night anyway.

From the restaurant we walked the few blocks to the Ritz to see Syriana. To avoid spoiling it for anyone who hasn't seen it, I won't go into the details; I'll just say that although it was excellent, were a couple scenes that really freaked me out. I squeezed Al's hand, pressed my lips together, and held my breath to keep from sobbing in one case, but I couldn't stop the tears from streaming down my face; in the other I had to hide behind Al's shoulder and try to plug my ears to keep from vomiting. Sounds horrific, I know, but I still recommend the movie, and the fact that I can now think of that first scene without bursting into tears makes me think I could see Syriana again. It's worth seeing twice. The casting was excellent except for Amanda Peet as Matt Damon's wife; I've never been an Amanda Peet fan, so I thought at first I was just biased against her, but Al also hated her in the role. I must say that it was a bit unnerving to see George Clooney looking so very much like my recently deceased Uncle Bruce, but that probably made a sympathetic character even more so in my mind.

OK, so now that I've spent four paragraphs on Friday night, I'll try to be more concise about the actual weekend. The summary is that I traded Al a Saturday of Projects for a Sunday of Cookie Baking. I was on baby duty all day yesterday while Al rewired light switches and outlets, filed down our bedroom door so it would close properly, assembled some storage cubbies in the basement, and did a bunch of other things that he never gets to do because we usually share baby duty on the weekends.

In return, I got to bake today. I'm almost done—the only thing that remains is the slicing of the Seven Layer Cookies (Gourmet, Dec. 2005)—and as usual, when I see what I have wrought I think to myself, "who is going to eat all of these things?" I'm sending some of the iced sugar cookies to work with Al, and I've assembled a sampling of each cookie type for our babysitter, but the rest will probably end up on our hips or going stale in their Rubbermaid containers. This is one of the things I miss about being in the Bay Area and going into an office on a regular basis: I used to have friends and co-workers with whom I could share my baking experiments.

Speaking of baking experiments, I did take a couple photos of the Orange Bread, but I forgot to post them along with the recipe. I'll be adding them shortly. Look for photos of today's cookies to be added to this post later right now, too.

Seven-Layer Cookies, Iced Cut-Out Sugar Cookies (top), and Rustic Nut Bars (bottom)

Posted by Lori at 10:30 PM
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February 2, 2006

Chocolate Pretzel Trauma

Austen just had a total meltdown, both literally and figuratively, over a chocolate pretzel. Hannah got us some at Maron Chocolates, and I'd just pulled one out of the bag when Austen grabbed it and ran off. I chased him, because that pretzel was NOT A TOY, and I didn't want it to melt all over the place.

I managed to wrest it away from him... and he promptly went ballistic. Cried, turned blue, the whole works. I tried to give him a taste of the pretzel to appease him, but what he really seemed to want was to HOLD it. I finally shoved a little piece in his mouth, ate the rest, and then just held him until he stopped crying.

post chocolate pretzel trauma

Posted by Lori at 4:50 PM
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March 3, 2006

Blogging Block

I am feeling so overwhelmed by the backlog of blog posts waiting to be written that every time I get a chance to actually write one, I end up reading other blogs instead of writing in my own. So yes, I am WELL AWARE that I owe y'all (and myself) a Vacation Summary, Part 2 and an Austen @ 15 Months update, not to mention various and sundry other observations that have been piling up on little slips of paper around the house.

In the meantime, in case you were wondering, those Vanilla Sunshine Cupcakes at Starbucks are actually pretty good. Good cake, good frosting, perfect little daisy-shaped sugar disc on top. Yummy.

Oh, and the main reason that I haven't had the time or inclination to write: I'm swamped with work. Yes, WORK! And for the most part, I'm loving it. I feel so lucky to be working full-time FROM HOME, and to have Hannah coming every day. It's good for me, it's good for Austen, it's good for all of us. More on this topic later, I'm sure, but to summarize: 1. Things are good. 2. I'm very lucky.

That is all. For now.

Posted by Lori at 9:25 AM
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March 8, 2006

More Good Baked Goods From Starbucks

The other day I was having a very specific craving (but then, when are my cravings not very specific?) for a cakey-but-very-dense brownie with a fudgy ganache icing. I didn't want just a brownie, and I didn't want just a frosted browie; I wanted a dense, cakey brownie with fudgy ganache icing.

I didn't actually think I was going to find such a confection, but upon stopping in at Starbucks to look for a black and white cookie*, I discovered that they're now featuring a mint brownie that, aside from the addition of a layer of mint fiIling, exactly fit the bill. The extra mint did not inhibit my enjoyment of the dense, cakey brownie or the fudgy ganache icing in the least, and I am now happily eating my second one in three days.

On the cupcake front, Al decided to try the chocolate companion to the Vanilla Sunshine Cupcake and immediately pronounced it "too chocolatey." To me this is an oxymoron, but after eating the remainder I can kind of see his point: If I wanted this much chocolate in a baked good, I'd probably opt for a brownie. I suspect the chocolate shavings on top of the chocolate icing were the tipping point, but I should admit that I have something of a bias against chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing in general. I'd rather have the aforementioned brownie or a slice of chocolate cake than a chocolate cupcake. To me, "cupcake" implies "vanilla cupcake with buttercream icing", or at the very least, "buttercream icing". When desperate for a baked good I will accept a vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing or a chococolate cupcake with chocolate icing, but in my heart I will pine for the white-on-white version.

*The story behind the search for a black and white cookie has to do with the less-than-efficient system for ordering take-out items at Artie's Delicatessen (home of my favorite black and white cookies) in NYC. The procedure is that you tell the guy behind the counter what you want, and then you move over to the cashier and tell her what you ordered. Unfortunately, there are no cross-checks in the system; if the counterman didn't hear you properly and the cashier does, you could end up paying for one thing and getting another. This is how I ended up paying for two black and white cookies and getting only one, thus leaving a one-black-and-white-cookie void. The one I did get, of course, was delicious.

Posted by Lori at 11:30 AM | Permalink
June 2, 2006

Cherry Bomb

I have a very strong craving for a Manhattan right now. Which is weird, because I've never had a Manhattan before. I can taste one in my memory so clearly, though.

I suspect what I'm remembering is eating the cherries out of my dad's Manhattans when I was little. They tasted better than regular maraschino cherries (which I also loved), so I'd always beg my dad for his when we'd go out to dinner and he'd have a cocktail. I can't remember how old I was (7? 8? I remember the table we were sitting at, but not the restaurant or the occasion) when my mom caught on that I was enjoying the taste of the alcohol as much as the cherry, but when she did, she cut me off. I don't think I've had a Manhattan-soaked cherry since. And yet the memory—and the craving—lingers.

The craving is even odder when I consider that I don't really *have* cravings anymore. My close friends will be shocked to hear me say this—most know me as the Craving Queen—but since I gave up sugar in April (or rather, since I got used to not eating sugar, which was a couple weeks *after* I gave it up), I'm not only more even-keeled in general, but I'm also no longer ruled by my cravings. I can walk into a Metropolitan Bakery now and buy only the Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. I feel no emotional attachment to the chocolate cream cheese brownies or the Metro cookies. I vaguely remember enjoying cupcakes at Starbucks, but I don't salivate when I see them (or any other baked good) in the case. Instead, I find myself inspecting the sandwiches.

It's a weird sensation, to be craving-free most of the time. I did notice that when I was under extreme work stress a couple weeks ago that my mind turned to thoughts of an incredibly dark, dense chocolate cake (though I wanted the chocolateyness more than the sweetness). Once the stress passed, the chocolate craving did, too. I've also noticed that if I eat popcorn, I'm more likely to want sweets the next day. I can't for the life of me imagine what brought on cravings for sweet vermouth, bourbon, and angastora bitters, though. Perhaps it was that I was just looking at photos of Austen and my parents, and it reminded me of when I was a child? Perhaps I am empathizing with my mom because I want to cut Austen off from sipping my decaf lattes before he forms a Starbucks habit? I'm not sure.

In any case, the bourbon-and-bitters craving is waning now, and I've no use for a maraschino cherry. A little snuggle from my kid, however, would totally hit the spot.

Posted by Lori at 11:23 AM | Permalink
June 17, 2006

Eating Out

This morning Al and I had brunch at Cafe Lift for the second Saturday in a row. Al had stopped in for lunch there after a meeting in the warehouse district a couple weeks ago, and he fell in love. It reminded him of the kind of place that's common in South Park, San Francisco—in other words, an industrial, arty, high-ceilinged-yet-homey space where you can get upscale salads and panini—but much rarer in Philadelphia.

@ cafe lift with sleeping boopster

While I like the space a lot—it's roomy without feeling cavernous; has nice lighting, big windows with sheer, billowy curtains, and a variety of seating options; and offers artists wall space from which to display and sell their works—I'm still not completely sold on the food. The brunch menu has many options for a fishitarian like me, including several meat-free fritatas, salads, sandwiches, and specials, but I've yet to hit on something I can say I really enjoy.

The first time we went I was jonesing for protein, so I ordered the smoked salmon fritata. First problem: it was more like a soufflé or a french toast than the denser-than-a-quiche dish I think of when I think 'fritata'. Second problem: SALT. Oh my, was the smoked salmon salty, and the capers only made things worse. (Normally I'm a giant caper fan, especially with lox.) I'd thought that ricotta was a strange topper when I saw it listed on the menu—sour cream or cream cheese would have been more expected—but it turned out to be the one part of the dish I liked. I ended up scraping it off and eating it on the panino bread that was served as a side.

I couldn't stomach the fritata, but I did eat the potatoes that came with it. They were sort of a homefries version of the garlic fries we used to get at PacBell (now SBC) Park in San Francisco, only (of course) saltier. Aside from the extreme saltiness, they were pretty tasty. (I suspect the amount of salt is tuned to the Philadelphia palate, which is particularly desensitized to the stuff.) Another plus was Al's choice, the daily special salad of mixed greens, grilled shrimp, cranberries, goat cheese, and pine nuts in a balsamic dressing. I'd actually considered ordering the salad myself, but the NO SUBSTITUTIONS sign scared me off (I'm allergic to pine nuts). As it turned out, the waiter agreed, after a short pause and a glance at the specials board, to hold the pine nuts at Al's request. Because Al was willing to share, I didn't go entirely without protein at this meal.

This morning I decided I'd go with salad, since Al's had been a success. The shrimp and goat cheese was no longer on the board, so I got a Niçoise... even though the lack of potatoes, haricots verts, and even niçoise olives in the description gave me pause. (The salad was served with roasted red peppers—of which I'm not a giant fan—the ubiquitous capers, and gaeta olives instead.) The seared tuna and boiled eggs over mixed greens sounded nice, however, so the Niçoise got the nod over the spinach salad, which offered only gorgonzola and pistachios for protein. I ordered a side of the garlic homefries with the hope that they'd make up for the missing boiled new potatoes in the salad.

The mixed greens with balsamic part of the salad was very nice—just like the salad Al had last Saturday. The peppers, capers, and olives, luckily, were arranged around the outside of the plate, making them easy to avoid. The tuna wasn't what I'd pictured when I read "seared", though I may be the only customer who expected rare to medium-rare slices rather than a grilled slab of well-done fish. It was seasoned well (if a tad on the salty side), however, so I have no other complaints there. The eggs were poached rather than boiled (and therefore hot rather than cold); the yolks were runny enough that I ended up eating them on the panino bread that accompanied the meal (and which I otherwise would have left untouched).

The potatoes were, again, extremely salty, which suggests that this is their normal state. I wish Lift would let diners salt to taste, as the potatoes are otherwise very good, and the side portion is large enough for two people to share. I shared them with Al, of course, who had the Grilled Chicken Panino (a repeat of the lunch that had captured his imagination). Three good meals on his part means, I suspect, that he'll suggest we go there again. Luckily, there are still a couple things on the menu that I'd be willing to try before I give up entirely. After all, the space is nice...

Posted by Lori at 7:04 PM | Permalink
August 30, 2006

Here and There

The Beaner turns 21 months old today, and there WILL be an update later. I'm throwing down the gauntlet right now and declaring that I will not go to bed without posting one. (That's some incentive, because I seem to running on a sleep deficit that rivals the early days of parenthood. Well, maybe not THAT bad, but boy, is my ass dragging.)

In the meantime, you might want to check out a restaurant review I posted at PhillyMoms Dish, a new blog for parents raising kids in the City of Brotherly Love. (Yes, it's true, you can stay in the city after having kids!) I hope to be posting (or cross-posting) there fairly regularly on topics that would fit into both the parenthood and philadelphia categories here.

Oh, and geotagging? SO ADDICTIVE. Must. Stop. Now. (or else no work will get done today, and work must get done in order to allow time for blogging.)

Posted by Lori at 9:51 AM | Permalink
September 21, 2006


I made the most awesome scones this morning! It was my fourth try fiddling with this recipe, adapted from The Healthy Kitchen by Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley, and while all four batches were good, this one was the best. I ate TWO scones this morning. They're very grainy, which I like (ever since I cut waaaaay back on sugar, I have a hard time eating any carbs that *aren't* whole-grainy), and not too sweet. If you like your scones sweeter, you can sprinkle some sugar on top. If you like them less sweet, leave out the fruit, or use unsweetened dried tart cherries instead.

Multi-grain Scones #4

1 egg
4 T. grapeseed oil
1/4 t. almond extract

1 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1/4 c. wheat bran
1/2 c. rolled oats (not instant)
3 T. flaxseed meal
2 T. millet
2 T. steel cut (Irish) oats
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
2 or 3 dashes of cinnamon
1/2 c. sliced, dry-toasted almonds
1/2 c. chopped dried apricots

1/2 c. milk

Heat oven to 375°. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs and oil together until pale. In another bowl, mix the next 12 ingredients (flour through apricots) together with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the mixture becomes hard to stir, abandon the spoon and attack it with your hands until you've got a bowl full of well-mixed crumbly bits. Add the milk and stir again with the spoon until thoroughly distributed.

Lightly grease two cookie sheets (or one large sheet pan). Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto the sheets until you have between 8 and 10 mounds. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until scones are lightly browned and dough is dry. Allow to cool 10 minutes, and then SNARF!

The original recipe called for poppy seeds where I used steel cut oats and 5 T. of grapeseed oil where I used 4 T. + 3 T. of flaxseed meal, and it had no nuts or fruit. It also had 1/2 t. of salt and 1/2 t. cinnamon, I think. Oh, and the sugar is technically supposed to go in with the oil and the egg. I accidentally put it in with the dry ingredients in batch #2, however, and I really liked the way that batch came out, so I tried it again. There's something magic in doing that (perhaps because it makes mixing with your hands necessary, and the hands are the magic bit?), so I'll be doing it again next time, too. In none of the 4 tries did I follow the recipe exactly as written, so it's pretty flexible. Enjoy!

Update, Oct. 2: I remembered after I put a second batch using this recipe into the oven last night that I'd put 1/4 t. almond extract in last time. Al says he prefers the scones without the extract (and also with cherries instead of apricots—I made half of each this time), but I prefer them with. Your choice.

Posted by Lori at 9:50 PM
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November 8, 2006

Recipe of the Week: Banana-Chocolate Muffins

I've made this recipe twice already this week; it's a variation on my mom's recipe for banana bread, which she cut out of the newspaper years ago—probably like 20 or 30 years ago. I copied it onto a piece of paper from a World Bank notepad I horked from work back in the mid-90s and pasted it into the recipe book I've been building since 2002. My mom's copy of the recipe is the actual newspaper clipping, titled Blue Ribbon Banana Bread, taped onto a 3x5 lined white index card.

my recipe book, open to the page with Mom's Banana Bread recipe

I've been making the recipe as written for years (in college I made it with something called Mummy Food—dates, figs, and cornmeal mixed together and extruded into little nuggets—and called the incredibly delicious result Mummy Muffins), but as I've been eating much less sugar and white flour in recent months, I changed it a bit when I made it this week. I know that adding chocolate makes the muffins more sweet, not less, but you don't need much chocolate to add a lot of flavor, and the chocolate makes the muffins taste amazing when served warm with butter (try splitting them in half and toasting if not serving them hot from the oven).

Banana-Chocolate Muffins

3 ripe bananas
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 t. baking soda
dash salt
1/3 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°. Mash banana with a fork (or puree in a food processor, as I do), then stir in remaining ingredients in order listed. Spoon into paper-lined muffin tins or into stand-up muffin cups (you can find these at kitchen supply stores). Bake ~18-22 minutes for regular muffin tins, ~30 minutes for stand-up cups. Cool on wire rack long enough to allow removal of paper cups without burning your fingers, and then split with a serrated knife and serve with lightly salted butter.

I'm realizing now that I don't have a photograph of a finished muffin because we already ate both batches. (Oops!) I'll have to make more as soon as the bananas in the bowl ripen, and update this post with a photo later in the week.

Posted by Lori at 11:10 AM
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November 10, 2006

A Thai Goodbye

I was all set to write about the new coffeehouse that opened up in the former art gallery space next to the Please Touch Museum recently—I even had photos!—but we ended up taking Hannah out for dinner tonight after work, and I feel like writing about that now instead.

Hannah had recommended Chabaa Thai Bistro in Manayunk to me a few weeks ago, and Al and I had noted its location when we were in Manayunk a couple days later picking out tile for our bathroom remodel (more about that in a later post), but we had yet to make it out there for a meal. Well, tonight it seemed like the perfect place to go for a last-day-of-work dinner.

Of course, I'd eaten an incredibly late (and incredibly large) lunch, so I wasn't the least bit hungry, and The Beaner kept repeating "no Thai food, no Thai food, no Thai food!" all the way to Manayunk, but in the former case, that just gave Al some cover to order more than one entree and take the leftovers home, and in the latter, we just replied, "ok, no Thai food. We'll just have noodles and rice."

The decision to go out to dinner was a late one, and we didn't call ahead to make a reservation. We totally lucked out, however, in that the host agreed to squeeze us in before an 8:00 reservation. (He was at first reluctant to do so because he didn't want to hurry us, but we assured him we could eat in under an hour, and we did. It's not like you can linger over a bottle of wine when you have a toddler with you... and in any case, we didn't bring one with us to this BYOB.)

Since I wasn't hungry, I only sampled tiny amounts of the food, but I can attest to its freshness and especially its flavorfulness (is that a word?). Our waiter was friendly and efficient, and he and the restaurant totally win points for bringing The Beaner's Thai Fried Rice with Tofu out first, as if it were an appetizer. The intimate venue is definitely better for a couple or a foursome of grown-ups than for a family with small children, but we were made to feel just as welcome as any other diners.

Al had the Chabaa salad, which was like no Thai shrimp salad I've ever seen, with fresh mesclun mix, huge jumbo shrimp with a light brush of sweet-spicy glaze, baby corn, pineapple, peppers, and broccoli. I horked one of his shrimp, and it was delicious. Hannah ordered the Pinapple Fried Rice with Chicken, and it was presented as an enormous cylinder with the grilled chicken on top. Gorgeous (and delicious, according to Hannah). The Beaner had the aforementioned Thai Fried Rice, which he really enjoyed. He ate the broccoli and the cucumbers (which he calls pickles), and then he begged some pineapple from Hannah before snarfing down the rice. He wasn't so interested in the tofu tonight.

As for me, I ordered Al's second entree, the Pad Thai with Tofu, and basically let it sit there while I helped The Beaner manage his rice and vegetables. I finally tried a forkful and found it, too, to be fresh and tasty (and not at all pasty). When The Beaner was done with his rice he had a few forkfuls of pad Thai as well and seemed to really enjoy them.

Dessert was a pineapple ice cream made with coconut milk (and served in a frozen baby pineapple); the texture reminded me of the coconut milk-banana-blueberry ice cream that Matt made for us up in Maine this summer. The Beaner LOVED it.

When we left the restaurant, I said to The Beaner, "Thai food is pretty good after all, eh?" He shook his head and said, "no Thai food!" I said, "oh right, you just had rice and noodles." I think there are likely more fabulous rice and noodles in his future—especially if Chabaa offers takeout.

Oh, and that goodbye? As Hannah herself said the beautiful card she gave us at dinner, "it's not goodbye. It's just a change in the frequency of hellos."

hannah and the beaner at chabaa thai

Posted by Lori at 11:01 PM
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November 12, 2006

After Game Delight

I had another hockey game today, this time at 2:40pm and at a rink 30 minutes away. It turned out that we'd be playing with a relatively short bench (only two lines) against a team a level up from us—and I'd forgotten to eat lunch because I was too busy cleaning the house right up until it was time to leave for the game. I actually had a cramp in my right hand from Swiffering.

I'll write about the game in my hockey blog tomorrow; the point of this story is that I spent the first two periods of the game skating my ass off (and the third trying to force my burning legs to skate faster), so by the time I got to the car I was starting to slide into that zombie-like state that's often brought on by extreme hunger. It's characterized by an energy level that dwindles so rapidly—in parallel with the ability to think coherently—that I end up not being able to figure out what I want to eat. And because I haven't eaten, I get weaker and more stupid by the minute.

The only thing I could think of that would revive me was a red clam pizza from King of Pizza, but I knew there were other options; I just couldn't get my mind to process any. I asked Al to pick a place for us to eat dinner if he wasn't interested in pizza (and he wasn't, since he and The Beaner had gotten a pizza from Pete's while I was out at my Saturday game). We were almost to the Betsy Ross Bridge exit when Al suggested Indian. I had no specific craving for Indian, but then, at that point I couldn't muster a craving for anything at all. I said fine.

We took the Ben Franklin Bridge over to route 70 to try a place called The Palace of Asia that was adjoined to a Holiday Inn (I think it was a Holiday Inn; it's just past the Bishop's View apartments on Route 70 East in Cherry Hill). We figured (or Al figured, since I was in no condition to do any figuring) that if it was closed or didn't look promising, we could always continue on to King of Pizza and get a clam pie to go.

It was empty when we arrived just shy of 5pm, but it was open, so we got a table. I ordered the Mutter Paneer, and Al got the Aloo Gobi; we also got a side of Raita and some Naan. Oh, and a mango lassi for Al and The Beaner. Mutter Paneer used to be my favorite Indian dish, but I haven't ordered it in a long time. I think I got a couple not-so-hot versions that turned me off to it, so my standbys have become Shahi Paneer, Palak Paneer, or a mixed vegetable curry. Well, either those or the buffet, where I get to try a bunch of different dishes all at once. Of course, my memory of my ordering habits could be faulty, given my weakened state and the fact that we haven't had much Indian food at all since we moved to Philadelphia, and even less since Minar Palace on Sansom was razed.

I won't bore you with recounting the number of papadums I ate while waiting for the real food to arrive (ok, it was two or three). I don't think the main course took unreasonably long to come out; it probably just felt long because I was starving, and I needed something more substantial in my belly than chick pea flour and mint chutney. In any case, it was worth the wait: It was the best Indian food I've had in a long, long time. The Raita was spectacular (though it's meant to be a condiment, I could have eaten it straight with a spoon), and the Mutter Paneer was a close second. The Aloo Gobi was also very good; Al would say it was even better than the Paneer, but I prefer a dish with gravy. I like my curry to sink into the rice. The only things that made the meal less than perfect were (1) the serious leak in the ceiling a couple tables over from us (it didn't bother us directly, but it was somehow worrying to hear a steady stream of water dripping into a giant trashcan, (2) The Beaner wasn't interested in anything but the mango lassi, and (3) he pooped while we were eating, and the bathroom did not have a changing table. Al ended up changing him in the car, in the dark, in a downpour. Not fun.

Since I was the hungrier of the two of us, I finished eating while Al did the changing, and then I asked that the remains be packed up while Al went to wash his hands. I also asked that an order of Kheer (rice pudding) be thrown in to go. The to-go bag arrived promptly, but for some reason the check did not; Al finally just took The Beaner out to the car while I flagged down a waiter and asked to pay the check up front. I still left a big tip because the waiters were so friendly, and because they'd brought The Beaner some chocolate ice cream at the end of the meal. (Surprisingly, he wasn't interested in eating that, either, though he did like feeding it to me and Al.) The total with tip came to $45—totally worth it, in my opinion. We still have another meal's worth of leftovers, and the Kheer (to which I added some TJ's brown rice and warmed in the microwave when we got home) was delicious.

We'll be going back again when the hankering for Indian food strikes (soon, I'm sure). We might try the weekend lunch buffet, or the dinner buffet on Monday through Thursday nights, just to sample as many dishes as possible (and to get our food faster, although the lure of amazing Mutter Paneer might make ordering off the menu the only serious option if it isn't available on the buffet).

Oh, and the restaurant wasn't empty by the time we left. Several Indian families came in for dinner, as well as a few non-Indian twosomes. Generally you'd look for good traffic *before* choosing the restaurant, but we didn't have time for that. I'm glad to see that we're not the only ones who appreciate what The Palace of Asia has to offer.

Posted by Lori at 11:20 PM
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November 16, 2006

Recipe of the Week: Homemade Mango Lassi

OK, this is so simple, I almost feel embarrassed posting it. However, I'm not sure many people would think to re-create a mango lassi at home, and I'm here to tell you: you can do it. It's delicious, nutritious, and much less sweet than the ones you get at Indian restaurants. (You can, of course, sweeten this recipe with a little sugar or mango syrup—check liquor stores for that—if you want.) I've made this for The Beaner for breakfast or a snack for the past three days; it's a good compromise when I'm trying to get him to drink milk, but he keeps demanding juice.

Homemade Mango Lassi

about 4oz. plain yogurt*
6 - 8oz. Trader Joe's Mango Antioxidant juice or Odwalla Mango Tango
1/4 - 1/2 c. mango chunks, room temperature
1/4 c. water or milk

* I like Fage 2% for myself; when I'm making this for The Beaner, I use the full-fat versions of either Fage or Trader Joe's Greek Style plain yogurt. You can also use nonfat if you prefer.

Throw first three ingredients in a blender and blend until mango chunks have pureed. Add water or milk to thin, if necessary (test thickness with a straw). Enjoy!

Posted by Lori at 11:48 AM | Permalink
November 22, 2006

Recipe of the Week: Whole Wheat Cranberry Muffins

OK gang, it's probably obvious by now that I'm a muffin freak, and that I like to bake. When I cut waaaay back on sugar in the spring, I pretty much stopped baking entirely, but now that it's fall and the holidays are approaching, the baking has been making a comeback—I'm just using less sugar.

I baked another batch of banana-chocolate muffins last night so I could use up some of the uneaten bananas in our fruit bowl, and this morning I found myself craving... cranberries. Not bananas or chocolate; cranberries. I stopped at the Metropolitan Bakery on the way back from dropping The Beaner at sharecare (he smiled, waved, and said "bye Mommy!" after two minutes this morning, which is about as far from how he acted yesterday as is possible) to see if they had any whole wheat cranberry muffins or scones, but alas, no. (Ironically, they had pumpkin chocolate muffins, of which I already have a few in the freezer from the time I made Shani's recipe.)

I got some falafel at Mama's after an appointment at around 11:30am, but I never got over my cranberry craving. I finally went downstairs at about 1:30 and adapted my To Die For Blueberry Muffins recipe on the fly to create a cranberry muffin that would satisfy the craving.

Whole Wheat Cranberry Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour*
1/2 - 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder

*I put about 2/3 cup of whole wheat pastry flour (which is all I had on hand), 2/3 cup regular whole wheat flour, and 2/3 cup unbleached white flour into a bowl and whisked it together. (The original recipe called for sifted white flour.) I then measured out 1 1/2 cups from that bowl.

Preheat oven to 400°. Mix the above ingredients in a medium-large bowl. In a 1-2 c. glass measuring cup or a pint glass with measurements marked on it, layer the following ingredients, in order:

1/4 c. chunky applesauce (I used some from a batch I made on Sunday)
enough vegetable oil to reach the 1/3 c. line
1 egg
enough milk to reach the 1 c. line

Wash 1 cup fresh cranberries and roll gently in a paper towel to dry.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir 2-3 times. Add cranberries and stir 2-3 more times. (There might still be a few bits of flour showing, but most should be mixed in.)

Line 6-8 muffin tins with paper liners and fill, or fill 4 free-standing waxed-paper liners and place on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with coarse or sanding sugar, if desired, and bake at 400° for 16-22 minutes, depending on number of muffins (more muffins = less time).

whole wheat cranberry muffin

Posted by Lori at 2:34 PM
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November 23, 2006

I'm Thankful I Made It Through The Day

3:28pm We're at my in-laws' house in Vienna, Virginia. The Safeway "Thanksgiving in a box" turkey is in the oven (and thank god it was fully cooked before it went in, because when we arrived it had been "thawing" on the kitchen counter for two hours, despite the fact that it hadn't been frozen when it was picked up this morning). We brought some yukon gold potatoes, some wild-caught king salmon, a bunch of asparagus, various vegetarian stuffings and gravies from Whole Foods, and some homemade cranberry sauce, cranberry relish, and butternut squash down with us to augment the box of sides that came in the Safeway box.

With my additions I am trying to relive that wonderfully cozy Thanksgiving in Truckee where Ken (a meat and potatoes guy), Al (a master of Thanksgiving cooking), Kristin (an omnivorous gourmand), Valerie (a virtual vegan), and I (a fish-eating vegetarian) pooled our culinary talents to create a meal everyone could enjoy. Everyone's plate looked different, and all looked equally beautiful. (I have photos somewhere; I should post them.)

5:45pm The kitchen is in chaos. There's a logjam at the microwave as we try to heat the butternut squash and the two different gravies and also try to keep the mashed potatoes warm. My mother-in-law does not approve of the way I've boiled my potatoes, and she cares even less for the combination pan-searing/steaming I'm giving the asparagus. "No water!" she shouts, when I sprinkle a bit over the oiled asparagus, and it sizzles exactly as planned. My salmon is under the broiler, but I'm already unsure it will satisfy; it smelled a tad fishy when I unwrapped it.

6:04pm The Beaner rejects turkey, salmon, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and milk. Instead, he demands eggs. We did not bring eggs. He ends up eating the bowtie pasta I'd shoved into the cooler at the last minute out of its Ziploc bag. He also eats two asparagus spears and shreds two more.

My plate looks the best, I think, but I'm not finding the fish very appealing. Is it really not as fresh as I'd hoped, or is wild-caught salmon just more gamey than I'd realized? I eat a bit, but not much. Mostly I scrape the cranberry relish off the top (I had an amazing salmon filet with cranberry-orange relish at the Pillar House in Boston one Thanksgiving, and I've associated this dish with Thanksgiving ever since) and scarf that down along with a mix of mashed potatoes, wild mushroom gravy, butternut squash, wild rice stuffing, and cornbread stuffing, and a few asparagus spears. This batch of relish is the best I've ever made, I think.

6:42pm Ugh, maybe a second piece of apple pie wasn't such a good idea. I probably just should have cut the first piece slightly bigger, since I only really wanted like two more bites. "That's when you just stick a spoon in the pie plate and pick out a couple apples," says Al. The rum raisin ice cream was an inspired choice, however (I picked up a pint, along with a pint of vanilla bean, when I went out to Safeway to pick up a meat thermometer shortly after our arrival). I don't think I've ever had rum raisin ice cream before, but ever since our meal at Nobu (I *will* write about it eventually, I promise!), which ended with a dessert of sticky date pudding and crushed plantains with whiskey ice cream, I've been wanting to put alcoholic beverage-flavored ice cream on any warm dessert that wanders by. In the absence of a whiskey flavored option, and with no way to make brandy-flavored whipped cream (I didn't bring a hand mixer with me), I decided to try the Haagen Dazs rum raisin over the surprisingly delicious Safeway apple pie. GOOD IDEA. (That small extra piece of pie, though? Bad idea.)

7:20pm The Beaner is running back and forth between me (in the family room, watching Tony Romo rack up tons of fantasy football points for my team) and Grandpa Cho (in the living room). I assume he's telling Grandpa the same thing he's telling me. "Hug!", and, once he's gotten one, "one minute. No, two minutes. I'll be right back in TWO MINUTES."

7:40pm We take a sweaty, napless Beaner upstairs for a bath. After the bath he tries to don his jammie shirt by himself. (He gets the holes wrong, but I admire his effort.) He's so proud of himself for almost getting it that he runs back into the bathroom to find his discarded rugby-striped shirt and tries to put that on, too. He now has two shirts on... but refuses to put on his jammie pants. I finally stand him on his head while Al pulls the pants onto his legs.

8:33pm The Beaner is sound asleep in his Pack 'n Play after watching a segment of Elmo's World "onna DVD". I am fighting with the cable modem in my father-in-law's office; I need to get my blog post up before I pass out to remain in strict compliance with NaBloPoMo. (It's not enough just to WRITE every day; you actually have to POST every day.) I have a major case of the sugar sweats from the carb-heavy dinner and the two pieces of pie + ice cream. I will be getting up early tomorrow morning and walking to the 7-11 to buy eggs for The Beaner myself. I'll also be eating a plain Fage yogurt for breakfast in addition to the eggs. Mmmm, protein. But now, good night!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Posted by Lori at 9:33 PM | Permalink
November 28, 2006

A Variation on Ratphooey Pumpkin Muffins

I have another post for today in the works, but right now I'm eating an *awesome* pumpkin chocolate muffin, and I have to share the recipe. It's based on the one Ratphooey posted in October, which in turn was based on a Bon Appetit recipe from 1995. I tried the recipe once before, and it came out OK, but I made some notes about adjustments I wanted to make. This time I made them according to my notes—and I also ran out of whole wheat flour. Here's what I did:

Ratphooey Pumpkin-Chocolate Muffins #2

2 cups + 1 tablesppon sugar
2/3 cup grapeseed oil
3 large eggs
1 15-oz can of organic pumpkin from Trader Joe's
1 large spoonful of mashed butternut squash, left over from Thanksgiving
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
dash ground ginger
dash ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup golden flaxseed meal
1/4 - 1/3 bag semi-sweet chocolate chunks (or chips)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs, pumpkin, and butternut squash. Mix flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and flaxseed meal in another large bowl with a wire whisk. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in chocolate.

Fill 12 panettone cups with batter and place on a cookie sheet. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes (I think mine took 34 or 35). Transfer to racks to cool.

Serving suggestion: Slice in half and plaster with mascarpone. YUM!

ratphooey pumpkin-chocolate muffins #2

Posted by Lori at 3:24 PM | Permalink
December 8, 2006

Ugh, Green Onions

I've been planning on writing about the three simple but perfect nights we had this week, but I haven't had a chance yet. It was on my agenda for last night, but I found I was so tired that I just... couldn't... blog.

The three perfect nights started on Tuesday, when we went to the Cherry Hill Mall to buy The Beaner a winter coat and some new pants (I guess we should have expected him to grow out of size 2T quickly, since there's not much difference between 18-24 months and 2T, but somehow we didn't). There's some sale-related goodness around the clothing story that I'll explain in more detail when I actually write the Three Perfect Nights post, but the thing I wanted to mention right now is that I had some delicious Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes at the Taco Bell in the food court that night. The best thing about those potatoes—the garnish that made the dish, IMHO—were the green onions.

Thankfully, the beaner refused to eat any potatoes, though he did have a few bites of my beans-only Crunchwrap Supreme.

Posted by Lori at 1:19 PM
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February 9, 2007

Afternoon Tea, Alternate Universe

In an alternate universe 700 miles and one day away, I am also having afternoon tea.

afternoon tea

Posted by Lori at 3:33 PM | Permalink
February 23, 2007

Celebrity Thai

A few decisions Al and I made in the past month (namely, to put the Beaner to bed at a regular, earlier time each night; to spend less money on frivolous things; and not to sit in traffic needlessly) have meant that we've been eating out less lately. Probably the colder weather also has something to do with it, as we're less inclined to walk to restaurants in the dark when it's 20 degrees out. We've been eating pretty well from the pantry and supplementing with a few key ingredients from Trader Joe's, which means we've been able to stick to our schedule and our budget.

Tonight, however, we decided to go out for a meal. I was craving pizza but didn't want to drive to New Jersey to visit King of Pizza (both because it would violate the 'sitting in traffic needlessly' rule and because I was craving a different kind of pizza), and below-freezing temperatures and stiff winds meant a walk to that coal oven place on Walnut was out, too. When you don't want to drive, don't want to walk, and especially don't want to walk with the stroller, eating out can be tough. Eating in was tricky, too, since we weren't in the mood for any of our delivery regulars.

I finally hit on the idea of driving to Manayunk. It'd be driving, yes, but against traffic. It'd probably mean paying for parking, true (which would negate any bridge toll savings), but we'd have several restaurant choices, and we could get in a little walk without having to take the stroller. The universe smiled on this idea by giving us street parking and a table at Chabaa Thai Bistro without a reservation. (Wait, what happened to the pizza craving? Well, once Manayunk came to mind, I knew I'd jump at the chance to have Thai fried rice with shrimp if it were in the offing. And if it weren't, I was sure we could find a pizza place.)

fresh, yummy thai thai fried rice with shrimp

We ended up sharing a YUMMY, YUMMY meal of fried rice, Pad Thai with tofu, Tom Yum, and a fried tofu appetizer that was meant for the Beaner but which I and Al ate most of. The Beaner loved the rice, the noodles, the "pickles" (i.e., cucumber slices), and especially the shrimp. He tried the soup but immediately made a very sad face and said, "I don't like the soup, Mommy! I DON'T LIKE THE SOUP!" When I tasted it for myself, I realized why: like all tom yum, it had a strong lemongrass and kefir lime flavor, but this one was also spicier than most. It had a serious kick. As a bonus, the first serving of soup they brought us was made with tofu instead of shrimp, and when Al mentioned the error, the waitress asked if we wanted to wrap up the tofu version and take it home. "They're just going to throw it out anyway," she explained. We said sure. (Yay, lunch for tomorrow!)

tom yum pad thai with tofu

The Beaner was very well behaved during dinner, thanks to my handy Finepix, with which I entertained him until the food came, and to the food itself once it arrived. He knelt in his own seat (as usual) with a cloth napkin tucked into the front of his shirt and happily fed himself. Dinners out are so much nicer when there's no Beaner-wrangling involved, I must say. It's possible that dinner out seemed special to him, too, after so many meals at home lately.

posing with his special fork

The bonus of the evening (as if great food, free parking, no traffic, and a well-behaved two year-old were not enough!) was that as I was putting on my coat and gathering our doggie bags, a really cute woman came over and said, "Lori?" (At this point Al and the Beaner were already downstairs.) I'm afraid I stared blankly at her for a moment, possibly with my head cocked to one side, until she introduced herself as Girlfiend. I said "oh, HI!," of course, and then I asked, "am I that recognizable? Or was it him?" (and here I pointed to the chair that had, until recently, been occupied by the Beaner). She said she was pretty sure when she saw us that it WAS us, "you know, with Flickr and all." I remembered that she'd commented on my previous post about Chabaa, but I hadn't put two and two together when she'd said it was her "favorite restaurant in the neighborhood" and deduced that she actually lived in Manayunk. In any case, I thought it was incredibly cool that she came up and introduced herself. I love meeting people I only know online; it's fun to put faces and mannerisms together with online personalities. (Sometimes they match, sometimes they don't.) Girlfiend, I hope to run into you again sometime—maybe even on purpose! Oh, and I love your hair. :)

Posted by Lori at 11:38 PM
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March 15, 2007

Chew, Chew, Chew

While we were waiting to see the doctor on Tuesday evening, I taught the Beaner how to chew gum. I did it mainly because his breath smelled so foul I couldn't stand it anymore (something I need to ask the dentist about when I finally get around to making his first dental appointment). Although we brush his teeth at least once a day (and sometimes twice), we're obviously missing something, and I figured maybe some sugarless gum would have a positive effect on his overall mouth freshness, and possibly its health.

I stuck a piece of Bubblemint Orbit into my own mouth and demonstrated chewing without swallowing. "See? See how Mommy's chewing the gum—yummy gum!—but not swallowing it? I just keep chewing. Chew, chew, chew." After doing this, I realized that an entire stick would be way too big for his toddler mouth, so I tore a piece in half, unwrapped it, and handed it over. "Now you: Chew, chew, chew, but don't swallow!"

"What is it?" he asked.

"Gum," I replied.

"Gim?" he asked.

"No, gim is green. Gim is seaweed. You eat it with your bop," I clarified.

We went back and forth on the difference between gim and gum and which one this was a few times, and then he chewed and chewed and smiled and chewed. When I was sure he had the hang of it, I let him return to playing with the other kids in the waiting room and started texting Al about the gum success. In the middle of thumbing out my text message, the Beaner yelled, "more gum!"

"You didn't swallow it, did you?"


I had to modify my text message slightly.

We tried again with the other half of the stick in the exam room, once it became obvious that (a) the Beaner's breath was still terrible, and (b) the doctor wasn't coming in anytime soon. With him sitting on my lap, we reviewed the basics:

  1. Chew.
  2. Chew.
  3. Chew.
  4. Do not swallow.
  5. Chew some more.
  6. When the gum loses its flavor or you get tired of chewing, spit the gum in the trash or hand it to Mommy.

This time the Beaner really got it. He chewed and chewed and chewed. Whenever he'd stop chewing, I'd ask to see the gum to make sure he hadn't swallowed it, and he obliged. He tried to get the mechanics of bubble-blowing, but he couldn't put the tongue-and-blow parts together (not surprising). Something to aspire to, I guess.

Finally the doctor came in, and we started going over the chronology of the hives and the antibiotics and whatnot. That's the moment the Beaner chose to remove the gum from his mouth and hold it up to my face. "I'm done, Mommy!" he said. That's my boy.

This morning, as I got out the ingredients for my breakfast—tuna masubi, the recipe for which follows below—the Beaner pointed to the package of gim in my hand and said, "gum?"

"No," I said, "this is gim."

"Gim is green," said the Beaner. "Gum is pink."

"Gim is always green," I clarified, "but gum is not always pink. The gum you had the other day was pink, though."

It's so cool to see him trying to describe his world this way. What are the absolutes? Which properties are relative? Tangentially related, this morning the Beaner had the following dialogue with himself: "This is my Saab. Where is Daddy's Saab? He lost it. At grandpa Cho's house."

Tuna Masubi

1 sheet gim or sushi nori
1/2 container microwave white or brown rice
dash of furikake (optional)
1/4-1/3 can Trader Joe's olive oil-packed tuna

The first three ingredients are definitely available at H Mart, a Korean grocery store, and may also be available at other Asian markets. I like the sesame oiled-and-salted gim, but you can use sushi Nori instead. I would not recommend using the TJ's microwave-in-bag rice; it's not sticky enough. The furikake is optional if you're using oiled-and-salted gim, but I think with plain nori it's really necessary. You want the kind with nori bits, sesame seeds, salt, and sugar in it.

Microwave rice according to package directions. Lay out the gim or nori on a bamboo sushi mat. Open the can of tuna and drain the oil. When the rice is ready, scoop out half of it with a fork and spread as thinly as possible on the gim or nori. Leave a bit of a margin at one end; there'll be a much larger one at the other end because you'll run out of rice. You can use more rice if you want, but I find that 1/2 a container is usually plenty.

Scoop out some tuna and spread out over the center of the rice, again leaving margins on both sides. Sprinkle with furikake, if using. Finally, roll up the gim or nori using the mat, just as you would a piece of sushi, squeezing as you go. Let rest for a minute or two to allow the steam from the rice and the weight of the roll to seal the gim.

I guess this is really more of a tuna maki rather than a tuna masubi, but the ingredients are basically the same as the Home Maid Bakery used in their tuna masubis when I got them at Kapalua's Honolua Store last year (they weren't available this year, sadly), so that's what I call it. I don't slice it as you would sushi; instead, I just eat it like a stick of string cheese.

Posted by Lori at 2:42 PM
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March 20, 2007

Curry Alert!

Just popped out to Trader Joe's to pick up a couple things (and enjoy the sunshine), and I noticed that they now have a Green Tuna Curry in addition to a Yellow and a Red. Ratphooey and I agree that the Red is OK and the Yellow is outstanding; the Green is closer to Yellow than Red, IMHO, only without the potatoes. It's also a bit spicier and not quite as thick. I'm eating a bowl of the stuff now over about 1/3 of a bag of TJ's Harvest Vegetable Hodgepodge, and it's delicious. Look for all three varieties of Thai-style tuna curry near the canned fish.

Update: OK, that was amazing down to the last drop. I might even go so far as to say that Green is *better* than Yellow. SO GOOD.

Posted by Lori at 11:59 AM
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March 25, 2007


Last night we took my parents out for a fabulous meal at one of our favorite restaurants, Goji Tokyo Cuisine. My mom loves food but is not an adventurous eater, so she chose the rather safe shrimp and vegetable tempura. My dad loves to try new things (and return to favorites that he can only get when visiting me in whatever city I happen to be living in), so he branched out a little and chose an avocado-cucumber roll, a shrimp tempura roll, and a pickled vegetable roll. Al had the excellent hog katsu, and I think I had the best meal of all (though everyone else would probably argue the same for their dishes): a Tropical Roll (tuna, mango, avocado, spicy sauce, and three kinds of tobiko) and a Sea Dragon roll (shrimp tempura and avocado topped with spicy kani salad). Outstanding.

When dad's avocado-cucumber roll came out, he asked mom if she'd like to try one. She said no thanks, and then, with a lightning-fast grab for the wasabi, she continued, "I'll just have this." I started to yell, "NO!", but I've lost most of my voice to a cold, and I couldn't intercept her with my hands because they were full of chopsticks and a napkin. My dad's reflexes, however, were even faster than my mom's. He managed to block her arm as she was moving to stuff the wad of wasabi into her mouth, and it went flying. Mom looked stunned, as I'm sure we all did. "DON'T EAT THAT!" my dad said sharply. And then, as my mom continued to look confused, he said, "What did you do with it???"

At this point I was laughing too hard to tell them where it was, so I just moved my plate aside so they could see it. I'd watched it come at me, so I'd seen where it landed. Al scooped it up and put it back on the plate, and dad apologized for whacking mom's arm while explaining that the move was designed to save her considerable pain and shock.

We all had a good laugh over it, especially me—because I'm convinced that this story will now supersede the one that my parents have been telling for years, about the time I stuffed the nose of my IHOP Funny Face pancake into my mouth, thinking it was ice cream. For mom's part, she made the same mistake the Beaner once did: she thought the wasabi was an extra lump of avocado.

Posted by Lori at 12:49 PM
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April 2, 2007

Chicken Soup for the Vegetarian

Tonight I did something I haven't done in almost 20 years. Well, two things. First: I made chicken soup (for Al, who was wishing yesterday that he had some to help him fight off a cold). Second: I ate some.

I stopped eating red meat in the fall of 1987, when I was a sophmore in college. I continued to eat poultry for almost a year after that, but then it got so chicken and turkey tasted like meat, too. I almost got to the point where I gave up seafood as well, but I had a chat with my tastebuds and my psyche wherein I explained to them that I had grown up on seafood (in New England), that it was an easy way to get enough protein, and that I planned to have my (non-bacon-infused) chowder and broiled scallops and fried Haddock as long as they were available to me. (I hadn't started eating sushi yet—I didn't discover that until the early 90s—but I'm glad we had that talk before sushi and I were introduced.)

Aside from a small nibble of ham and one of chicken while I was pregnant to see if they appealed (they didn't), I haven't knowingly eaten any non-seafood meat since 1988, if memory serves. Until tonight. Without thinking too hard about it, I decided to taste the chicken after I removed it from the soup pot. It was actually quite good! I'd used an organic, had-access-to-the-great-outdoors-but-never-actually-went-outdoors chicken from Trader Joes, and I'd simmered it with some onions, carrots, celery, fresh parsely, and a bit of dried rosemary and thyme. I didn't add any salt because I hadn't planned on tasting it to check the salt levels; I figured I'd leave that to Al.

So anyway, the chicken tasted very mild, and not at all like the over-processed, over-salted mechanized death that I'd come to expect chicken to taste like, based on the smell I associate with KFC and some of the rotisserie chickens all brings home. So I ate a bit more. In all, I probably ate about six small shreds of meat, plus a small bowl of broth and vegetables over egg noodles. (The broth did need salt, but honestly, the chicken itself tasted much better without any.)

My stomach feels a tad sour now, but other than that I seem to be processing this foreign food OK. Whether I'll eat any more tomorrow (or ever again) remains to be seen, but I don't regret eating what I did tonight. (Although I couldn't seem to get the phrase, "meat is murder. tasty, tasty murder" out of my head the whole time I was chewing.)

Posted by Lori at 10:25 PM
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April 23, 2007

Winsha is Short, Lori is Tall

OK, obviously I'm behind on blogging—after a week running around San Francisco meeting friends and former work colleagues for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and meeting current work colleagues for, well, meetings, I have a gazillion photos to upload and a few stories to tell. I also have the day off, but I chose to get a massage this morning to help mitigate the after-effects of Friday's migraine, vacuum the remodeling dust off every surface in the house, get caught up on laundry, file my expenses, deposit some checks that arrived while I was gone, upload some of the gazillion photos, sync my personal Outlook, work Outlook, and kitchen paper calendars with Al's hockey and my travel schedules, and have a beer rather than blog... until right now. Yes, with about 15 minutes until the Beaner and his sharecare nanny come through the door, I've decided to tell one of my SF stories.

On Thursday I had lunch with my friend and former colleague Winsha (she's now on the Flex Builder team, while I stayed on the Dreamweaver team). After lunch we stopped at the new-to-me Starbucks at Townsend & 8th, where Winsha ordered a short latte and I ordered a decaf double-tall latte.

The friendly woman behind the counter said, "can I have your names?" with Sharpie poised. I replied, "Winsha—W-I-N-S-H-A—is short, Lori is tall." And then Winsha and I totally cracked up. I proposed that we take a photo of ourselves and then the finished drinks, so everyone else could get the joke too. My self-portrait mojo was totally missing on this day, sadly, so this is the best I could do:

winsha is short, lori is tall
Winsha is short, Lori is tall

The missing self-portrait mojo wasn't the worst of it, though. It turns out that the lovely woman behind the counter stomped on the punch line by reversing the drinks. (Geez, that was the point: that the mnemonic was so EASY!) Oh well.

...and the barista stomps on the punch line
all evidence to the contrary, Winsha is short, Lori is tall

Posted by Lori at 5:06 PM
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April 26, 2007

Michael Pollan on the Farm Bill: Don't Be Fooled Again

Please, please go read You Are What You Grow in the New York Times Magazine. Some of its contents will be familiar to anyone who's read the absorbing, eye-opening The Omnivore's Dilemma, but it's more specifically about the farm bill—which Pollan argues should be called the food bill instead. An excerpt:

If the quintennial antidrama of the “farm bill debate” holds true to form this year, a handful of farm-state legislators will thrash out the mind-numbing details behind closed doors, with virtually nobody else, either in Congress or in the media, paying much attention. Why? Because most of us assume that, true to its name, the farm bill is about “farming,” an increasingly quaint activity that involves no one we know and in which few of us think we have a stake.

Au contraire, my friends who eat. Au contraire.

Posted by Lori at 5:57 PM
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May 16, 2007

Don't Try This at Home

My parents were here for the weekend, mainly to play with the Beaner and have Mother's Day brunch on Sunday (link goes to PHOTOS), but also so that mom could fill in for a vacationing nanny on Monday. Anyway, on Saturday I asked my dad if he wanted one of the scones I'd just made and a cup of coffee, and he said yes.

So I pulled the mason jar of coffee out of the fridge, poured some in a mug, microwaved it til hot, and had Al bring it downstairs to my dad. I then heard the following float up from the basement playroom:

Dad: Yum, this coffee is really good. Very flavorful and rich. What kind is it?

Al: I suspect it's a special Lori Blend.

It was. And like all of my successful experiments, the results are not necessarily repeatable. However, I try anyway—and here's what anyone else would need to try, too:

coffee supplies


  • Two spoonfuls (see spoon in foreground for size) of a 3:1 blend of Stew Leonards' Decaf Chocolate Mousse and Stew Leonards' Decaf Kauai, purchased last summer.
  • Two and a half spoonfuls of Decaf Kona, given to me for my birthday by Hannah in October.
  • Three spoonfuls of Blue Bottle Coffee Decaf Noir, given to me by Kristin last month.


  1. Grind the long-expired beans together for approximately 12 seconds in a coffee grinder.
  2. Fill the carafe of an automatic drip coffeemaker to the 6-cup line with water from all the half-drunk water bottles you've found in the stroller room, filtered through the Brita pitcher.
  3. Pour water into coffeemaker, then line filter cone with paper filter and dump grounds in (make sure to scrape off any clumps that stick to the grinder with the spoon).
  4. Close filter cone, replace carafe, and turn coffeemaker on.
  5. While coffee is brewing, fill mug 1/3 full with milk and microwave for 40 seconds, if desired. Frothing with crap frothing utensil purchased for $15 from Restoration Hardware optional.
  6. Pour coffee into mug.
  7. Turn off coffeemaker and allow carafe and coffee to cool.
  8. When coffee is at room temperature, pour remainder into mason jar and store in fridge for later microwaving or iced coffee.

Note: If you're planning to drink the coffee primarily over ice, I'd recommend swapping the chocolate blend and Blue Bottle ratios. The extra chocolate flavor is especially nice over ice with whole milk.

Note Note: In case it isn't obvious from the title of this post and the wackiness of the ingredients, YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. Mine does.

Posted by Lori at 12:31 PM
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May 17, 2007

On The Off-Chance That Someone *Does* Care What I Had For Lunch

I'm finding that I'm sort of blogging in my photo descriptions on Flickr rather than posting here with a link to the Flickr photo these days. The photo of what I had for lunch today is a case in point (though I've opted to link to the photo below as well because I'm really proud of how the croutons practically jump out of the screen), and so are the every-two-or-three-days ankle updates.

I think this is partly because I'm lazy (it's too much of a pain to copy the code to Movable Type), and partly because if the whole post is about a single photo, it makes sense to just tell the story in context, next to the photo. In any case, this is what I had for lunch today:

trader joe's shrimp and dill stuffed salmon with homemade parmesan multigrain breadcrumbs
trader joe's shrimp and dill stuffed salmon with homemade parmesan multigrain breadcrumbs

Posted by Lori at 5:46 PM
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May 30, 2007

Prescription: Doughnut

The Beaner has always been what people call "a good eater". We don't have standoffs over what he will and won't eat, he's never gone on an all-white diet or a hunger strike, and the biggest food problem we've ever had is running out of his favorite fruit of the moment. (He doesn't seem to understand that we're not just denying him when we say "there is no more mango, honey.") He's a healthy, strapping, active boy who's at the top of the weight charts, but not fat.

The main thing I worry about, I think, is his sugar intake. Ever since Al and I started eating less of the stuff, I think we've been a little more eager to give treats to the Beaner—perhaps as a means of living vicariously through him. It's not a good idea, and I've been trying to get incidental sugars out of his diet as much as possible. (The food industry seems to be conspiring against me, however, in that I'm not able to find many portable foods in child-friendly serving sizes that aren't also loaded with fat, sugar, and preservatives. Thank god for portable foods like carrots, apples, and bananas!)

I mention all this in prelude to a little story that both made me laugh and scared me to my very core: On Sunday, after I'd played my last hockey game and taken the Beaner swimming in the hotel pool, he and I went out to an early dinner together. Al wasn't feeling well (he hadn't been all weekend, sadly, which made being the parent on duty a bit hellish), so he stayed in the hotel room to sleep. I got a sandwich to go from the restaurant so Al could have some dinner, too, and then I realized that we'd be passing a Tim Horton's on the way back as well. Al had expressed a desire to stop at Tim Horton's for a donut when we'd been out the day before, but we hadn't had time.

"Are we going back to the hotowel?" asked the Beaner.

"Yes, sweetie, but first I'm going to stop here for a second."


"Because Daddy's not feeling well, and I want to make him feel better." I don't think I even mentioned that I was going to buy donuts, but the Beaner had apparently been paying attention when Al connected the location with the word "donut" ealier.

"I think I need a donut, too," he said, "because, you know, I'm not feeling so well either."

HE REALLY SAID THAT. When I posted this photo from Pike Place Market on Friday, the connection between eating and "feeling better" that the Beaner often makes was already on my mind. Now he's thinking a donut is medicinal? Uh oh.

eat this... feel better

If I thought he would forget this donut = medicine idea, I was wrong. On Monday, he spent the day sneezing icky yellow snot from his nostrils, and by the late afternoon I was worried that his affliction was catching. My glands were a bit swollen and my throat was sore, so I unwrapped a Halls cough drop to suck on (why menthol works to keep colds away, I don't know, but often a little Vicks or Halls will do the trick). The Beaner saw me peeling the paper off the red square and said, "I want one!" I said, "oh, this is medicine, buddy, not candy. I'm taking it because I'm not feeling well."

"Maybe you should have a donut," he replied.

Posted by Lori at 12:06 PM
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May 30, 2007

More on Food for Kids

Via Megnut: Don't Point That Menu at My Child, Please (NYT, free membership required to view).

Posted by Lori at 4:01 PM | Permalink
August 7, 2007

How Many Calories Does a Jog Home Burn?

Here I am with a long list of things to blog about, and Lori just reminded me of another one by commenting on the Flickr photo below.

On Saturday, after a long day for both me and Al (I'll get to that in two other posts, both on my list) and a bit of dinner together, I proposed that we go for a family walk to Capogiro. Al said he was too tired to go, and the Beaner and I should go without him. (I think he was dying to get rid of us so he could nap.)

We usually take the tricycle to Capogiro, but tonight I took the black stroller because Al had mentioned that the Beaner was wiped out from playing at the water park. I figured if he dozed off while we were out, I'd just get a cookie somewhere and walk back.

The Beaner didn't doze off, however; he seemed as hyper as ever, and couldn't wait to get out of the stroller to pick out his gelato when we arrived at Capogiro. He asked to taste some Fig, and then decided he would have a small cup of 1/2 Fig, 1/2 Papaya. (He asked for chocolate, but since the chocolate has dairy in it, it was a no-go.) I should have told the gelato woman to go easy with the scoop—how big a small is really depends on how heavy-handed your server is, and since it was just the two of us and I wanted something different, it would have been better if she'd skimped a bit.

Anyway, I set the Beaner up at a table with his overflowing Fig/Papaya cup while I tried to decide whether I just wanted a cookie, or an ice cream sandwich. The guy behind the counter recommended the ginger gelato-spice cookie sandwich, so I went with that. He was right: it was EXCELLENT... but it was also HUGE, definitely enough for two people. (Al and I have gotten the smaller round cookie sandwiches that come two to a pack and been totally satisfied with one apiece, and this rectangular confection was at least the size of two round cookie sandwiches.)

ginger gelato sandwich with spice cookies

The Beaner ate part of my cookie and all of his gelato; I couldn't help him with it, as Al usually does, because I was so busy trying to figure out how to get finish my cookie sandwich. Ideally I would have taken half home to share with Al, but it was over 90 degrees out, and home was a little over half a mile away, so that wasn't going to happen. I also could have abandoned half of it—that would have been the sensible thing to do—but the damn thing was so good that it seemed like sacriledge to leave any of it behind. I remarked to the Beaner as we shoveled our treats, "we're going to have to run home to make up for this."

I was as good as my word. As we washed up and prepared to leave, the Beaner said, "I don't want to get in the stroller; I want to walk." I said, "honey, we're going to RUN, remember?" I grabbed his hand and said Go!, and the two of us took off up 20th Street. I paused at the intersections more because it was awkward to run while pushing the stroller with one hand, holding the Beaner with the other so he didn't trip, and wearing my purse (shoving it under the stroller helped) than because I was tired... at first. Eventually even jogging at Beaner pace became a little strenous, and the only reason I kept it up was because he was so obviously enjoying it. "Let's run some more, Mommy! Again!"

I finally wore him out at 20th and Arch, when, after a long downhill run, he grabbed the stroller and threw his body in front of it. "I need to get in the stroller," he panted. "But you can still keep running. Here, buckle me." I did, without demanding that he say please, though I did put my foot down and wait for the niceties when he yelled, "RUN, MOMMY!" He did eventually say, "please can you run, Mommy?", so I indulged him. I'm not sure it worked off the gelato sandwich, but now Al and I have a goofy shorthand for "gah, I'm tired":

"Phew, I need to get in the stroller."

Posted by Lori at 9:41 PM
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November 5, 2007

Lentil Stew

I'm trying to remember now what inspired the lentil stew recipe I make regularly every winter. I think it was a similar dish served at the World Bank cafeteria 15 years or so ago; I know it was while I was living in Arlington, VA and working at the World Bank that I started making it, so that history seems plausible. I do remember that the dish I was trying to imitate was called Lentil-Mushroom Stew, so of course my version has mushrooms in it.

I made a batch yesterday that was so tasty that I ate it again for breakfast this morning. It may just be the best batch I've ever made. It was also the easiest, since I used bagged, pre-cooked potatoes, pre-sliced mushrooms, and baby carrots. I also had pre-diced onions on hand, but I like my onions a little bigger in this dish, so there *was* actual chopping involved. Here's what I threw into the crock pot/slow cooker:

2 cans Progresso Lentil soup
1/2 bag baby carrots
1 cup (roughly) frozen pumpkin or butternut squash (I can't remember which) from last season

Because I didn't have the rest of the ingredients, these two got a 2-hour head start. The carrots actually could have used more time, or perhaps a higher heat. When we returned from Wegmans, I added:

1/2 bag rosemary and garlic-seasoned, diced, pre-cooked red potatoes
1/2 container sliced baby bella (crimini) mushrooms
1/2 med-large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
a couple dashes dried thyme
a pinch of dried rosemary leaves, crushed

I stirred the whole mess together and let it cook on Lo for another couple hours while we took the Beaner ice skating for the first time in his life.

first time on the ice

When we got back, I opened one of the bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon that I'd picked up in New Jersey when we were on our way to Wegmans earlier, and I poured myself a glass. I then poured a couple splashes into the stew.

making lentil stew

Next I mixed about a teaspoon of cornstarch with maybe a tablespoon or so of water in a wee little mixing bowl until all the lumps dissolved, and then I dumped that into the stew and stirred until it disappeared.

Then I drank two glasses of wine. I think it was two. Anyway, eventually, maybe another hour or so later, the stew was ready to eat. As mentioned, the carrots could have used a little more time, but the rest was perfect. I actually served mine with some slices of Honeycrisp apple (stuck right into the stew), a bit of grated smoked cheddar cheese, half a slice of crusty multigrain bread, and a shake of very coarse sea salt. YUM.

It's not a photogenic dish, so I didn't bother snapping any pictures of the end result, but it's a great option for cool fall and winter afternoons. I also recommend the cabernet; it worked really well with the stew (though not so much with the apples).

Posted by Lori at 9:39 PM | TrackBack (0) | Permalink
November 29, 2007

Mushroom Stroganoff From Memory

I just got a craving for something warm, creamy, and savory for lunch, so I decided to make the mushroom stroganoff I used to make when I was in high school and college. The problem is that I haven't made it in about 15 years, and I couldn't remember the recipe. Also, I only had a single can of mushrooms, no fresh ones. (I *am* handicapped, aren't I?)

The one thing I remembered was that it tasted good over Minute Rice, which I also don't stock. I substituted Trader Joe's brown rice (in the stand-up package), and found it to be too hard. Next time I'll go with the traditional noodles. Anyway, here's what I did:

  1. Melt about 1 T. butter in dutch oven or large saucepan
  2. Dump in about 1/2 a bag Wegman's chopped onions (mine were in the freezer)
  3. Saute onions while opening small can mushrooms (large can, two small cans, or a container of fresh mushrooms would have been better
  4. Dump mushrooms in with onions and continue to saute
  5. Open can of reduced-fat condensed mushroom soup (regular would have been fine, too) and dump into onions and mushrooms; stir to combine
  6. Dump in 1/2 a bag of Trader Joe's vegetarian meatballs (I wish now I'd left these out, but in the absence of more mushrooms, they acted as filler)
  7. Cook until meatballs are heated through, then reduce heat to Lo
  8. Throw in about 8oz. sour cream and stir thoroughly
  9. Decide mixture should be soupier, consult Joy of Cooking, dump in some Pinot Grigio from a box (or whatever white wine you have on hand
  10. Stir and heat through
  11. Serve
  12. Decide the mixture is still too thick, go back downstairs and saute some more onions in a bit of butter until browned
  13. Deglaze with about 1/2 cup more white wine, and let some of the alcohol boil off
  14. Dump wine and onions into stroganoff and stir

Much better. Note to self: Buy more mushrooms.

Posted by Lori at 11:36 AM | Permalink
December 5, 2007

Wheat Free

I don't intend to eat wheat-free forever (in fact, I ate the three of the croutons off the Beaner's bowl of roasted tomato soup at the Corner Bakery Cafe today), but other than those croutons, I've spent the past two days avoiding wheat and overt sugars. I did it for two reasons: (1) because I seemed to be in a state of sugar shock, where even small amounts of bread or sugar could give me the sugar sweats and make me feel terrible, and (2) in an effort to eat more consciously. I have a habit of just stuffing things in my mouth while I've got my nose an inch away from the computer screen, and then wondering, "did I just eat something? If so, what?"

Anyway, while at the grocery store last night I happened to peruse the "natural foods" section to see if I could spot any wheat-free crackers. I'd just picked up some more drunken goat cheese (yum!), and IMHO, it tastes best on a cracker. I spotted these on the bottom shelf, and after some indecision over whether to get the pecan or the almond variety, I threw a box in my cart:


I actually got the non-Smokehouse almond version (because they were out of the Smokehouse version), and they're delicious. They're a bit like Asian rice crackers, but with a better flavor—and they're perfect under the drunken goat cheese. Highly recommended, even if you aren't on a wheat-free diet.

In addition to the Smokehouse almond flavor, Amazon also carries the cheddar cheese almond and pecan varieties. Your local store may carry the hazelnut flavor as well; Wegmans did.

Posted by Lori at 3:48 PM
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February 15, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

I thought of a new way to inject chocolate into my diet the other day, and I've been employing this new method every day since: I add a few Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chunks to my morning oatmeal. I've tried it with a Dr. McDougall's Maple Oatmeal cup (best of all, IMHO, but I only had one in the house), 5-minute rolled oats, and steel-cut Irish oatmeal. It makes the oatmeal taste like chocolate chip cookies—YUM! Be careful, though: better too few chunks than too many. You want it to taste like oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips in them, not chocolate syrup with pasty lumps.

Also: I haven't tried regular chocolate chips, but I did try mini chips one morning. Chunks are better.

Posted by Lori at 11:01 AM
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July 1, 2008

Portland Food Recommendations

I was all set to write a lovely first-day-of-July post on this month's NaBloPoMo theme of FOOD, but the hotel Internet has gone down, and I'm stuck typing on my iPhone's virtual keyboard with one thumb. I'll come back tomorrow and add links, but for now I just need to recommend a few things to try if you find yourself in Portland, Maine.

Standard Baking Company - At the back of the parking lot next to the Hilton Garden Inn on Commercial Street. Try one of everything, especially the blueberry oatmeal scones, the molasses cookies (get a whole package of those), and the brownies.

Coastal Confections "Rivermill" bar - Dark chocolate with Maine sea salt. Outstanding! Like a chocolate covered pretzel, only with much better chocolate and without the pretzel getting in the way. Available at La Roux kitchen supply on Commercial Street.

The sandwich counter at the Public Market House - I had a grilled cheese on three-seeded bread with cheddar, smoked mozzarella, and tomato, and it was delicious. The market's at 28 Monument Square.

The Merry Table Creperie - I'm not usually a crepe person, but I was lured by the promise of a Nicoise salad and mission figs with mascarpone (the dessert special today). Both were excellent, and the leek, mushroom, and goat cheese crepe I also had was the very definition of savory. The Beaner's berry crepe was delicious, too. The restaurant is on Wharf Street, which is closed to cars.

Posted by Lori at 9:28 PM
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July 2, 2008

Today's Tasty Treats

We started the morning in Portland, where we again visited the Standard Baking Company for both gifts for our Boston hosts and breakfast treats for ourselves. I tried the seasonal fruit buckle for the first time, and like the brownies, scones, and molasses cookies, it's outstanding.

We stopped at a rest area for coffee, where I was obliged to take advantage of Starbucks' "Your beverage should be right every time. If it isn't, we'll make it again" policy. The first decaf tall latte was undrinkable; the second, near-perfect. Glad the barista took the policy to heart and then put that heart into the second attempt.

Upon arriving here in Belmont, Mass, we placed an order for pickup at the local diner. I was surprised but thrilled to see that they offered not only breakfast all day—which meant that I could finally have the egg sandwich I'd been craving since we'd visited the bakery—but also veggie sausage among the meat options and goat among the cheese options. The egg-over-hard sandwich with veggie sausage and goat cheese on an english muffin could only have been made better by the addition of arugula. In the arugula's absence, it was still delicious.

Finally, we had for dinner what Al calls the best meal he's had all week: dinner at New Ginza in Watertown. I think Al had a shrimp tempura roll (it had a name, but I can't remember what it was), and I had another can't-remember-the-name roll that involved ebi, mango, spicy mayonnaise sauce, and tempura crumbles. I also got a spicy tuna roll with avocado instead of cucumber ("no problem," said the friendly waitress to several of our special requests) and an order of hotategai (scallop)—the latter so fresh and sweet that I immediately ordered a second set. It tasted great with the spicy mayo sauce from the mango roll.

There will likely be tales of more culinary indulgences through Saturday, and then the twelve days leading up to my trip to San Francisco (and BlogHer) will be filled with weigh-ins, remorse, calorie-counting, and tricks to get the most fill and flavor in the fewest number of Points (remembered from my Weight Watchers days in the late 90s and still used periodically today). Once in San Francisco, the talk will probably be all about cocktails and Mexican food. Stay tuned.

Posted by Lori at 11:58 PM
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July 3, 2008

Full Moon

Al and Tony went shopping for our 4th of July cookout today, but I'll detail what they bought—lots of "Lori foods," Al says—tomorrow, when we actually eat the stuff. Today I want to talk about the dinner we had at Full Moon, a sophisticated restaurant in Cambridge that caters to families.

I don't think I've ever seen a restaurant with a play area (outside of McDonald's, that is), especially one that also looked like a neighborhood bistro and that served California cuisine. See for yourself:

our restaurant has a play space. rock! coloring another sign of kid-friendliness

I had two appetizers: The beet, goat cheese crostini, and arugula salad, and the cod cakes with caper mayonnaise. The former was delicious, with hot/warm beets; personally, I would have preferred the goat cheese sprinkled over the salad rather than on crostini, but the tastes were still absolutely right. The cod cakes exceeded my expectations in both taste and portion size; I was thinking two, and I got three. They were fresh, tasty, and had just the right amount of potato. The Beaner agreed that they were very good.

Al had the carne asada, which I didn't try (since I don't eat meat), and Tony had the penne puttanesca (sp?), which I did (yummy, and probably my choice next time, if I'm in a pasta mood). Maria had a bowl of mussels topped with frites; when I saw it placed in front of her, I wondered how I could have missed such an option on the menu until Tony noted that the dish involved chorizo. I probably saw that word and just skipped over the menu item associated with it, but on a future visit I might ask if I can get the mussels without the chorizo. They looked fabulous.

BigP had a hot dog, fries, and fruit, and the Beaner had quesadillas, fruit, and carrots, both from the kids menu. Both kids ate about half their meals (and as mentioned above, the Beaner ate about half of one of my cod cakes, plus most of the avocado that came with Al's dish), and both drank two sippy cups worth of apple juice mixed with water. (Sippy cups are on the menu (!), though I would just get the Beaner a regular juice next time. He was a bit offended when he was given an actual sippy cup rather than the straw version that we refer to as a sippy cup.)

I went over to the play area with the kids when I was finished eating, where I read Danny and the Dinosaur and a Dr. Seuss book about monkeys and drums twice each, first to a rapt Beaner and BigP, and then to the Beaner, BigP, a little blond boy who was probably just shy of 3, and even the kid who was probably around 6 who was reluctant to share the trains on the Thomas table. The little blond boy practically crawled into my lap he was so enchanted with my reading skillz. (I admit I step it up a bit when there's hope of drawing an audience of slack-jawed toddlers.)

Dessert was the only disappointment at Full Moon. Al loved his apple crisp with ice cream, but I didn't love my warm chocolate pudding cake. It was OK, but a little burn-y tasting around the edges. Next time I'll try the maple bread pudding.

Overall, it was a delightful meal, and the kid-friendly atmosphere was incredible. For those not dining with children, here's a tip: Most of the families are gone by 8pm. :-)

Posted by Lori at 11:13 PM | Permalink
July 4, 2008

Ugh, Stuffed

Today's 4th of July bonanza consisted of: Two veggie dogs (one with bun & fixins, one plain); an ear of grilled corn on the cob; four grilled sweet pepper wedges (i.e., roughly one whole pepper); a giant grilled sea scallop; a bottle of Sea Dog blueberry wheat beer, bought in Portland, and half a bottle of Sam Adams Summer Ale; a crazy dense chocolate oval dessert from Whole Foods; some WF berry, cake, & cream parfait with extra blueberries; and a cup of mango ceylon decaf tea.

This does not include what I had for breakfast or snack.

Al, Tony, and Maria substituted hamburgers and beer brats for my veggie dogs and had slightly different Whole Foods desserts, and I think all of them skipped the beer.

Like the Beaner, I'll be sad to leave tomorrow, but I can't wait to get home, work out, and clean out the refrigerator. I've had some lovely meals and treats on this vacation, but now I've got the urge to pare back a bit. The return to reality starts Saturday.

Posted by Lori at 8:47 PM | Permalink
July 5, 2008

Petulant Foodie

Confession: I tend to get grumpy when I don't get the food I want. I find, however, that it's much worse when someone else chooses the restaurant and I feel dragged along; in those cases, I can become almost irrationally upset. Al knows this about me, and thus when I don't get the thing I want because of his or the waiter's mistake, he'll be the one to speak up and make it right. I admire both his chivalry and his cleverness, and I lament my childish poutiness.

When there's no one but myself to blame for a bad meal, I punish myself by eating it. Why, I have no idea, for it is punishment indeed—not only am I eating without enjoyment, but I'm stuffing unsatisfying calories into my already-overfed body.

This topic comes to mind now because today I had a lousy lunch and a disappointing treat—and I practically inhaled both. It was like bad sex: rather than saying "stop! This isn't working for me" and either trying something new or just putting down the damn fork, I faked the orgasm and hoped it would all end soon.

This is not good. I'd like to get to a point where I can enjoy an amazing meal without remorse AND push the plate away when what I'm eating is neither nourishing me nor knocking my socks off. As with many parts of my life—food is certainly not the only problem area—I'm not shy about telegraphing my extreme joy or my supreme annoyance. Evening out my relationship with food might just be the first step toward developing a poker face in other situations, too. Hmmmm. Food for thought.

Posted by Lori at 8:41 PM | Permalink
July 6, 2008

My Kingdom for a Plan

I was thinking this week about how both Al and I tend to shop for food based on what looks interesting, what we're craving, what's in season, and what's on sale rather than on what meals we can make out of the items we buy or what their expiration dates are. Thus, we often end up with many things that must be eaten within the next 1-3 days—which means either (1) something (or more than one thing) goes bad or (2) we end up eating way more food than we intended (or should have). Sadly, most of the time it's both (1) and (2).

The idea of meal planning crossed my mind again tonight, when I was writing down what I planned to pack for the Beaner's camp lunch each day this week—AFTER we'd been to both Stew Leonard's and Trader Joe's. I knew before we went to TJs (and after I'd packed Monday's lunch) that we were short on protein and vegetables and too well-stocked with fruit and carb-y snacks, but it wasn't until I wrote down my ideas for the rest of the week that I realized I'd not only bought ham, turkey, baby carrots, and pea pods, but that I'd added to our overstock of fruit by buying grapes as well. (In my defense, Al talked me into buying the grapes because "he [the Beaner] likes grapes." Yes, yes he does—but I already have blueberries and strawberries and pineapple and cherries that must be eaten this week.)

With my garden exploding (the peppers bloomed before we left on vacation last Saturday, but the plants are now covered with fruit, some sizable, and we have tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, beets, and squash all starting to produce as well) and so many tempting fruits and vegetables at the markets these days, it's going to be hard not to have things spoiling left and right if I don't come up with a plan. I need to write down what I've got, what I can make from it, what needs to be used first, and THEN go shopping for any missing ingredients. (Although I suspect we could eat from what's in the house for at least a week without going shopping once; after that, we'd only need a few fruits, veggies, and dairy items to last another week.)

I can do this. I can have a plan. I can have a plan that will save us money, help us eat better (and less), and make the most of the coming garden bounty. I can! I will! I RESOLVE TO PLAN!

Posted by Lori at 9:19 PM
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July 9, 2008

Just Ignore Me. I Get Like This Sometimes.

I am SO off the (wagon|rails) with my eating. All the resolutions I make upon waking up each morning have been broken by 11am, which means those of you who'll be seeing me in San Francisco next week will be seeing someone who's at the high end of her "normal" weight range (as opposed to decidedly fat, thank god; that would be 10lbs. northward of where I am now). It's rather unlikely that I'll be at my goal weight by next Wednesday.

The fact that I'm about 4 pounds (I know! a mere 4 pounds!) heavier than I was when I got pregnant four years ago, and 6 pounds heavier than I really like to be, seems like it shouldn't be that big a deal. But despite working out regularly, having back muscles that impressed my massage therapist at my last visit, and actual arm muscles for like the first time EVER, I'm a little annoyed at my body. What the hell happened to my middle? It's blobby in a way that usually happens at that point 10lbs. northward of here.

I'd blame it on having borne a child... except that less than a year after giving birth, I fit right back into the clothes I'd worn before I got pregnant. Those clothes do not fit me now, due to this blobby middle and what appears to be a slightly larger ass and thighs.

Right now, I have two theories about why my old clothes no longer fit:

  1. I've gained muscle in my hips, thighs, and butt from playing hockey HARD twice a week, without losing any fat in those areas (due to a high chocolate consumption rate).
  2. I'm getting old.

The fact that it usually hurts to climb stairs for two days after hockey indicates that I'm definitely getting a heavy-duty lower-body workout, which is where theory #1 comes from. I wouldn't give up hockey just to stay thin, and honestly, I'm thrilled that my legs are so powerful (ka-zam!), so #1 is more a source of pride than embarrassment. Anyone who wants to tell me I have a fat ass now can kiss it.

Theory #2 would account for the blobby middle, and frankly, it pisses me off. My stomach is the last place I gain weight (hips, thighs, and face all come before it), so I'm not used to waistbands digging into my gut. The pressure on my stomach would be bad enough on its own if it weren't also a reminder that I'm turning 40 this year. Forty seemed kind of cool when I considered that I didn't look 40 (in my humble opinion, of course, and apparently that of the neighbor who mistook me for my son's babysitter) or feel particularly old. Now, thanks to the love handles and uncomfortable waistbands, I'm starting to feel my age. The question is, would I also start to look my age if I wore yoga pants all the time to relieve the pressure?

I was about to end this post right there, but it just occurred to me that the painful post-hockey climbing of stairs may not be an indication of a great thigh- and butt-building workout, but rather further evidence of #2. Crap.

Posted by Lori at 3:58 PM
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July 10, 2008

Chocolate Saturation Point

I think I may have done it (again): I've reached my chocolate saturation point.

I've definitely done it before, and (luckily), it's usually the turning point that gets me eating healthier again. I remember one time in my early 20s when it happened—I'd eaten about 3/4 of a 1-lb. box of Russell Stover chocolates in a single day, while working my secretarial temp job at Washington Hospital Center—and I remember staggering home feeling almost drunk. My mind was a mess, I had a headache, and I felt vaguely nauseous. Yuck.

That's about how I feel now; that, and fat. (I'm a pound and a half heavier than I was when I wrote yesterday's hysterical post.) Oh, and bruised, as well, though it wasn't the chocolate that beat me up. The Beaner did that. My nose has been throbbing painfully for the past hour, ever since I leaned over to give him a final WILL YOU PLEASE GO TO SLEEP kiss and instead of settling into his pillow, he jerked his head up into my face. I had to leave the room to hide my tears, and I think that's what finally convinced him it was time to stop noodling around and nod off.

Anyway, I'm hoping to wake up tomorrow and get through the day without chocolate. I'll have yogurt and berries for breakfast (I bought some blackberries and strawberries to go with the blueberries already have), I'll eat a salad from the garden (the beets and beet greens I ate from the garden for dinner were fabu, and along with the sushi helped pull me out of my chocolate stupor), and I'll pick out a healthy, protein-y lunch from the freezer (I know we have some chik patties in there, and maybe a bean and rice bowl).

I also hope to wake up tomorrow and not have two black eyes. We'll see how that goes, too.

Posted by Lori at 10:37 PM | Permalink
July 11, 2008

Today's Randomness

One resolution down, more to go:



I find myself suddenly exhausted today and in dire need of a nap at 10:47am. This shouldn't be surprising; the more surprising thing is that it's only hitting me now.


I have high hopes of being able to sort out my multiple drive problems (only Lightroom and iTunes remain stubbornly anchored in the past and looking to the old locations for files that are no longer there) and get caught up on my photo uploading soon.

I'm also looking forward to upgrading my iPhone's firmware and finally getting push e-mail, calendaring, and access to the bugbase while not in front of my computer and logged into VPN. I LOVE that I can get my work e-mail now when I make arrangements to take the Beaner out for lunch or otherwise have to be away from my desk during normal California working hours, but I've definitely missed important meetings because without calendaring support, currently meeting requests are filtered out of my Inbox. I can't reply and say, "that time doesn't work for me, can we reschedule?" or even call in from where I sit. Soon, I *will* be able to do that, and it's thrilling. I just want to get my iTunes sorted so I can properly backup my iPhone, and then I will truly be free.


Speaking of iPhones, does anyone else constantly find themselves sending IMs to the wrong people because you fail to explicitly choose your intended recipient from the Text Messages list and instead simply append your latest thought to whatever conversation was ongoing when you last used your iPhone? I did it three times in one day a few weeks ago, and I just did it again this morning. Tedious! (Not to mention embarrassing.)


My Canon 10D has been stuck in -1 exposure mode for freaking ever, and it's been driving me nuts (though apparently not nuts enough to RTFM to figure out how to fix it). Well, in my defense, the manual's usually nowhere near me when I'm shooting, and I tend to forget about it when I'm not shooting. Consequently, I have to correct the exposure in lightroom for EVERY. PHOTO. I. TAKE with the 10D, and it's annoying. I also often lose photo quality, too.

Well today I finally resolved to fix the problem before shooting garden photos. It was easy, but not straightforward; the combination of buttons and knobs required to set the +/- back to 0 was unguessable (it involved holding down the shutter halfway and using the large wheel on the back of the camera to shift the pointer). However! I am now shooting at the correct exposure, and my photos are no longer all dark and gloomy. Woo!

Posted by Lori at 10:46 AM | Permalink
July 18, 2008

Blue Bottle: Cure for the Blues

Woke up feeling crappy: dehydrated, sleep-deprived, and with a voice 4 octaves lower than usual. (Thanks to Leah P. for bringing me a glass of water last night; I might have no voice at all otherwise.) Kristin helped set my day on a brighter path by meeting me at 5th & Market, from whence we walked to the relatively new Blue Bottle Cafe on Mint.

blue bottle

If you haven't been to Blue Bottle yet, and you like coffee, get thee there asap. This was one of the best lattes I've ever had, and I drink decaf—so you can imagine what the real stuff's like.

It's fascinating to sit and watch the employees do their thing. The place looks like a chemistry lab, with beakers and pipettes and all kinds of other contraptions for filtering coffee. It's also instructive to watch the barista do his or her thing behind the espresso machine: how precisely the grounds are measured, how carefully the edges of the doodad that holds the grounds are wiped (yeah, I know my coffee paraphernalia, eh?), etc.

It was a perfect way to start a gray morning.

Posted by Lori at 10:11 AM | Permalink
July 19, 2008

Waffles and Mussels and Wine, Oh My!

Met Kristin and Wisha for breakfast at my old haunt It's Tops! this morning. Last time I visited I had the chocolate chip pancakes, and they were fabu. I think the time before that I might have had eggs. I felt like I was due for a waffle. After briefly considering an egg combo that included a waffle, I decided on the waffle alone—well, with the addition of whipped cream—and I wasn't sorry. It was so good that I wondered why I didn't order a waffle every time I came. (In the next second I remembered: equally awesome pancakes, eggs, and toast). The bonus was that by ordering relatively small, I wouldn't be so stuffed that I couldn't eat something else again in a couple hours.

Wish I'd set the focus better, but I love the shuffling of the coffee cups.

San Francisco is such a great eating town, with delicious options ranging from a massive $3.75 vegetarian burrito to three-digits-in-front-of-the-decimal-point tasting menus at world-reknowned restaurants, that it's hard to decide what to eat and easy to eat waaaay too much. On this trip I'd *finally* resigned myself to picking something that looked good when I was hungry, and saving everything else for a future visit rather than trying to get it all in in one go.

After quick stops at Photoworks, Wolf Camera, and Safeway (where I couldn't resist the fat bags of cherries for $3.99 a pound, $2 cheaper than I've been able to find them for back home), we turned toward the Mission in search of sun and a working bathroom. We were foiled at our usually-reliable pit stop place; for some reason, the police station at 17th & Valencia was unmanned, and thus the key to the toilet was inaccessible. Good thing I can hold it.

In our wanderings in and out of funky antique and furniture stores and the pirate store at 826 Valencia, we passed a place called Frjtz that offered something I've been craving ever since I saw Amalah's episode of Throwdown! with Bobby Flay: MUSSELS. None of us was hungry enough to stop in when we first passed by, but we noted it as the place we'd like to return for lunch. (I surprised myself by not insisting on Mexican food, which is plentiful in the Mission and difficult to find at home.)

After much noodling in places that did not offer a bathroom, everyone's stomachs indicated that they were empty enough to accommodate lunch at about the same time that my bladder indicated that it was full enough to cause a scene. We returned to Frjtz, where we spent a few minutes mulling over the mussel choices (I'd been stuck on the idea of blue cheese mussels since the Throwdown!, but wasn't sure if I could get them without the bacon, or, if I could, whether they'd still be worth eating). I decided to ask if it was possible to get the Pompei without the lardons, with the Arles being my backup plan. The sans-lardons Pompei was approved; mine came with fennel as well as shallots, which might not be standard but a flavor substitute for the missing pork. Kristin got the Arles, which is what I would get next time without a doubt. They were exactly what I think of when I think of mussels. Winsha got the Spennes, which were made with Hoegaarden beer instead of the white wine of the Pompei and Arles, and which also contained lemon zest. I liked them, but I preferred the garlic of the Arles to the lemon of the Spennes.

I had asked the server who took our orders for a beverage suggestion, and he said, "I'd suggest a nice white wine. Do you like Sauvignon Blanc?" I do, and he was right: The mussels made the wine taste better, and the wine made the mussels taste better. (Winsha also remarked that Pepi made a good Sauv Blanc, so it might have been an exceptional glass of wine anyway.) I forget now whether Winsha had the Leffe and Kristin had the Hoegaarden beer or the other way around; I just remember that Kristin's was the lighter-colored one with the lemon in it. I also got a small order of frites with BBQ sauce (I know, I know, I should have gotten a mayo-based sauce—I realize my error now—but I was overwhelmed by the choices, and BBQ is my old standby), which we ended up sharing. The frites were excellent, but definitely eat them hot. We abandoned them when the mussels arrived and returned to them at the end, and they weren't as good cold.

winsha lurking behind the numbers
fries at frjtz

I ate all of my mussels and several of Kristin's (she quit before the bottom of the bowl), so I definitely got my mussel fix. My only quarrel with the meal was the bread: It was sort of Pepperidge Farm consistency where it should have been, IMHO, if not chewy in the peasant-bread style, then at least toasted. Not loving the bread meant not dunking the bread, and that's half the fun of eating mussels.

all gone

Of course, not eating the bread meant leaving room, however meager, for treats at Tartine. Well, after a couple laps around the block and a hike up the hill in Dolores Park, plus a pause at the top to catch our breath, let our digestive systems do their things, and admire the view. Note to self: You've had the fresh berry with vanilla cream tart twice in a row now; branch out! Another note to self: Two brownies is not extravagant. Also, they travel well. P.S. to self: If you're going to get the galette, eat it that day.

berry tart

Posted by Lori at 6:11 PM
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August 19, 2008

Fueled by Futureshakes

I'm on my second week at my new job, and it's been interesting so far. It's a bit harder to get rolling remotely when you don't already know the team and its procedures, as I did when I contracted for Macromedia from Philly and later returned to Adobe full-time after the merger, but I think I've been doing fairly well. My to-do list is huge—there appears to have been some pent-up demand for someone in my position—but I'm starting to knock things off, if not as fast as things are put on, then at least with increasing speed and confidence.

I'm looking forward to my first office visit, which takes place next week, to really get up to speed. (I doubt very much that I'll make it up to San Francisco while I'm there, but I'm making plans to meet Winsha for some skating sessions near the office in San Mateo.) I've also booked my trip to Boston for The Ajax Experience in Boston at the end of September, where I hope to talk with toolkit developers, JavaScripters, and Aptana Studio and Jaxer users (geekfest!) and hand out a few t-shirts. Look for me if you'll be there; I can't guarantee what color my hair will be, but I think I'll be hard to miss.

On the homefront, I've got a backlog of Beaner updates to post, family adventure photos to share, and food to describe. Taking the last point first: I've been on a shake kick lately, which seems to be both keeping me going physically, sharpening my focus mentally, and getting me out of the eat-everything-in-sight rut I'd been in. The "My Saved Meals" column on my daily plate is now filled with items such as Sir Strawberry Shake, Green Velvet Shake, Strawberry C Monster Shake, and my personal standby favorite, the Chocolate Future Shake.

The Future Shake is named after the Odwalla product that was available until a few years ago, when they ruined it (IMHO) by turning it into a high-protein shake. My version's a bit less sweet and slightly thicker, but it's very reminiscent.

Homemade Chocolate Future Shake

1 T. protein powder (I use soy-free veg, but any unflavored protein powder will do)
2 T. rolled oats or multigrain cereal
1 T. ground flaxseed
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Trader Joe's organic)
1/2 c. crushed ice
1 c. Odwalla Mango Tango
2/3 c. plain soy milk

Spoon protein powder, cocoa powder (I tend to use heaping tablespoons of these), oats, and flaxseed meal into a blender. Cover with the ice. Pour in Mango Tango and soy milk. Blend on low speed to mix, then high speed for about 2 minutes, until the oats are sufficiently ground, or until you go deaf.

Yield: One pint + a little extra. Nutrition info: 335 calories, 7g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 146mg sodium, 54g carbs, 36g sugars, 7g fiber, 13g protein. Keeps you full for hours, and satisfies a chocolate craving. The fiber always makes me want to drink more water after I'm finished, too.

Posted by Lori at 11:00 AM
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November 24, 2008

Cranberry Egg Nog Oatmeal

I think I made it through NaBloPoMo last year almost entirely on the back of my recipe book. This year I've only mentioned the apple butter experiment so far, and I haven't posted any actual recipes. Having just finished a bowl of Cranberry Egg Nog Oatmeal, however, I feel compelled to share. (Al says that this is one of the things I should serve in my cafe or B&B someday in the distant future when I actually have such an establishment.)

Cranberry Egg Nog Oatmeal

1 c. cold water
1/4 c. multigrain hot cereal (I use Country Choice, available at Trader Joe's)
1 packet Trader Joe's organic instant cranberry oatmeal
1/4-1/3 c. whole fresh cranberries, to taste (I keep a bag in the freezer year-round)
1/4 c. egg nog (I use Organic Valley brand)
1/4 c. 1% or nonfat milk
raw (turbinado) or brown sugar

Pour water into a small saucepan over medium heat and add the multigrain cereal and the cranberries. Bring mixture to a simmer. Add the packet of cranberry oatmeal and cook, stirring frequently, until water is absorbed and oats are plump, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for about a minute. Transfer oatmeal to bowl, pour egg nog and milk on top, and spinkle with turbinado or brown sugar.

Tastes like the holidays to me!

Posted by Lori at 2:43 PM
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January 3, 2010

The Glow

froginthebog.jpgStill have a glow from a lovely weekend in Princeton... or maybe it's the cold-mulled wine I've been drinking for the past couple hours. Hard to tell. It could also be the cheery feeling that reading A Frog in the Bog to the Beaner gives me, and the happy memory of buying that book in Pittsburgh this time two years ago.

I had such a nice New Year's weekend that I'm not looking forward to returning to work tomorrow, even though I like my job and feel like I'm in the right role for me, finally. (Although I have to say, re-watching the first couple seasons of The Wire over the holiday break has reminded me it's not just about the work and taking care of your people, it's about reporting up and not ruffling feathers—two things I rather suck at. <sigh> So much for the joy of a good engineering process, low bug counts, a solid product, and happy, effective engineers.)

Anyway, back to the glow. Some of it just might be from the crudité salad I made for dinner tonight. I tell you, I feel so fantastic when I eat mostly raw, no matter how much I might think I want Chick-Fil-A waffle fries for lunch or Ritter Sport Marzipan bars for breakfast.

Wait, mostly what?

Uh, yeah. Since April of 2009, I've been eating what I now refer to as the Lori Diet: lots of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, plus some cheese and a lot of chocolate. I don't shun cooked food entirely; I just eat it sparingly, choosing raw options whenever possible. Don't try to understand it; there aren't any rules you'll be able to follow to feed me, I can almost guarantee. If there's a salad on the menu, I'm good. If you have some apples or cauliflower or Korean pears in the house, I'm all set. And if you don't, not to worry; I've learned to travel with a few Lara or Organic Food bars, some raw sunflower seeds, or some raw cashews and dried cranberries in my purse. (Or, as I did this Christmas, a bag of carrots, a lemon, a fennel bulb, some cranberries, two apples, and a Japanese mandoline in a reusable shopping bag. I supplemented with the grapes, broccoli, cauliflower, and olive oil that my mom had on hand.)

I don't own a dehydrator (yet), but thanks to some birthday money from my in-laws and some saving on my part, I'm now the proud owner of a high-speed blender, with which I make a daily breakfast smoothie—usually some combination of banana, pineapple, and whatever fruit is in season, though cilantro and spinach-mint are also favorite bases, and I loooove key lime pie smoothies made from apple, banana, avocado, and of course limes. (Before I got the Blend-Tec, I used a regular Waring bar blender, which didn't get smoothies and juices as smooth, but was perfectly functional.)

I make my own raw nut milk, which I use to make chia pudding (yes, made from ch-ch-ch-chia seeds). I occasionally eat sea vegetables in salads. And my olive intake, already high, has gone up.

I don't claim that this is the "right" diet for anyone else but me. And since there are no rules to it, there's nothing I can't eat; only things that I prefer not to eat. What I do try to avoid consistently are wheat and meat... but then, I've been avoiding meat for over 20 years, and I've been avoiding wheat for more than one. (I actually think that giving up wheat a little over a year ago made the transition to a high-raw diet easier, if you're interested and want to start slowly.)

I still eat sushi once in a while. Ditto cooked vegetables. And a really excellent piece of cooked fish makes me happy, too. I don't care that maple syrup isn't raw, or that "raw" almonds grown in California have been pasteurized. (Well, yes, I care, but I'm not going to go to great expense to buy really raw almonds from Spain.) I care that eating a bowl of raw vegetables makes me feel alive like no other food can. That I can fill up at a meal and not feel weighed down. That I'm eating rainbow-colored dishes without an FD&C numbered dye in sight.

And now, two recipes, in case you're curious about the aforementioned wine and crudité salad:

Crudité Salad

A few broccoli florets, roughly chopped
A few cauliflower florets, roughly chopped
1 or 2 carrots, grated
A handful or two of grated red cabbage
5-10 pitted kalamata or oil-cured olives, chopped
One small handful dried dulse, rinsed, squeezed, and chopped (optional)
Sesame seeds (optional)
Lemon juice & olive oil

Toss vegetables and sesame seeds in a bowl with lemon juice and olive oil to taste (I use about 1/2 lemon and maybe 2-3 T. olive oil). You can substitute crumbled feta cheese for the lemon-olive oil dressing, or use both. In the summer, I'll add chopped cucumber and grape tomatoes as well. Tonight I used all the listed ingredients for myself, and gave Al a serving with feta instead of dulse.

Halloween salad
A version of the Crudité Salad I made on Halloween, using orange cauliflower instead of the usual white

Cold-Mulled Wine

1 glass nice red wine (I used a 2006 or 2007 Mas Carlot Les Enfants Terribles, which is some kind of Syrah blend that Al got as a gift)
1 small squirt (1 t.?) raw agave nectar
1 whole clove
dash vanilla extract (1/8 t.? 1/4 t.?)
dash cinnamon (optional)

Combine ingredients in a juice glass and stir. Taste, and add more agave if desired. The vanilla and clove will mellow, and the taste will improve, with time. Sip slowly!

Posted by Lori at 8:44 PM
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August 5, 2010

Mmmmm, Peachy

I've been enjoying this breakfast smoothie so much (and so often) lately that I thought I'd share it with everyone while it's still peach season.

Peach-Blueberry Smoothie

1 ripe peach, cut into sections
1 banana
1/3 - 1/2 cup blueberries (these are in season too, though frozen will work)
4 or 5 basil leaves
dash cinnamon
dash alcohol-free (or regular) vanilla extract (maybe 1/2-1 t.?)
6-8 oz. water
handful of ice squeeze of agave nectar (optional; I only add it if the peaches are peachy but not very sweet)

Throw all ingredients into a (preferably high-speed) blender on the smoothie or frappé setting. Makes ~24oz.

Posted by Lori at 12:12 PM
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October 9, 2011

Eating By Color

The Beaner has always had a healthy appetite, and from about 6 months on ate a wide variety of foods. He's still fond of fruit and avocado sushi rolls, but lately his plates have seemed somewhat monochromatic—with heavy emphasis on macaroni & cheese and white rice.

So back in August I embarked on a plan to try to get him to eat more vegetables. (Al argued that fruits should count, too, but for me it was about expanding his palate—which was already amenable to fruits—as well as his nutrient intake.) I told him that each night we would try a new vegetable until he could come up with a list of at least five that he would agree to eat regularly.

Shortly after starting on this program, the Beaner went to Grandparent Camp, so I asked my mom to continue with it. Tomato was a big fat no, but she found three vegetables he was willing to eat, including one he actively liked (cooked cauliflower). He'd originally proposed "corn, corn, corn, corn, and corn", as the five vegetables he liked, so we already knew corn was on the list. In the week after grandparent camp, we also added sauteed orange pepper.

And then we hit a wall. The problem was that while our fridge, counters, and freezer were often overflowing with fruits and vegetables, we didn't always have the ones he liked on hand, and I didn't make it part of my daily routine to make sure we did. Al and I were still eating well from the CSA, farmer's market, and weekly Wegmans and Trader Joe's runs, but the Beaner wasn't sharing in the bounty.

Enter Plan B: "What if we eat by color?" I asked the other night at dinner. "We could designate each day a different color, and make sure we have at least two items of that color for dinner." Al and the Beaner liked this idea a lot. For one thing, it gave fruits as much credit as vegetables for livening up the Beaner's plate. For another, it addressed my original concern: that the Beaner was eating entirely too much white starch and not enough color. The Beaner immediately suggested that we eat in the order of the rainbow, starting with red.

I wish I'd thought to photograph the plates starting on Monday (red), but it didn't occur to me until Wednesday (yellow).

haddock with pineapple and corn

One of the things that is making eating by color work (so far) is that the color is a great mnemonic: Al and I both know what color the day is, and we can plan to pick something of that color up if we don't already have something on hand. It also allows for more variety than the 5-vegetable plan: We're occasionally going to offer something he's not so fond of, but at least he'll be trying new things relatively continuously. Pomegranate was not a big hit last night, for example, but he ate a few seeds in the spirit of getting in his red. (He ate most of the sauteed red pepper, too.)

We're also finding that we can accommodate eating out, as well; we just ask him to save a little room, and we have our color when we get home. Green and blue/purple this week were served as the dessert course.

The Beaner eating green beans, kiwi, and his own addition, kim (seaweed)

blueberries, black grapes, and purple potato

It occurred to me while I was looking for red items at the farmer's market yesterday that perhaps we should incorporate a white/brown day into the mix from time to time (to allow for cauliflower, mushrooms, lychees, asian pears, etc.); I'm trying to figure out how often we should do that, given that we'd be giving up some color in favor of greater variety. Then later in the day, when I realized we had quite a few leftovers from previous nights, it also occurred to me that we should probably have a rainbow night periodically.

Tonight was our first rainbow night, since we still had some purple potatoes, kiwi, and clementines on hand. (We also had green beans, but I opted not to serve those.) In addition to the leftovers, I served Trader Joe's tomato and roasted red pepper soup with TJs frozen roasted corn and grape tomatoes from our garden (red, orange, and yellow all in the same bowl), some apple slices (which we counted as red), some deli ham for Al and the Beaner, and sauteed beet greens for me and Al. It was eclectic, awesome, and best of all, EATEN.

Posted by Lori at 9:50 PM
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May 2, 2012

Tropical Banana Bread

I've written about a variation on my mom's banana bread recipe before, but I have a new one to share. I'm not sure I've ever made my mom's recipe as bread until now, actually; I think I'm much more of an impatient muffin baker most of the time. This recipe is worth the extended baking time that a loaf requires, however.

I've been gluten free for a couple years now, so pretty much all my recipes, including our now-weekly Sunday morning pancakes, are just my old recipe with Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour and a bit of xanthan gum in place of the regular flour. If you're not gluten free, just leave out the xanthan gum and use regular flour.

2 ripe bananas
1 cup, give or take, pineapple puree (you can use canned crushed, which will be a bit chunkier, or whiz semi-thawed frozen pineapple tidbits in a food processor or blender)
3/4 c. sugar (1 c. if the bananas don't have brown spots)
1 egg
1 1/2 c. Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Flour
1/2-3/4 t. xanthan gum (I just don't level off my 1/2 t.)
1/4 c. coconut butter, melted (aka coconut oil at 75 degrees or so)
1 t. baking soda
dash salt

Preheat oven to 325°. Mash banana with a fork or potato masher, then stir in remaining ingredients in order listed. If using gf flour and xanthan gum, the batter will seem a bit thick and gloppy, but this is OK. Grease a loaf pan with some coconut butter and pour batter into pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes; tester in center should come out clean. (It is very likely that the ends will be done before the middle, and thus will be firmer. Don't worry; even if the middle is a bit gooey, it ends up tasting like an extra-yummy bread pudding. No harm, no foul.)

I usually cool for an hour or so on the stovetop, then slice into about 1/2" thick slices. I'll put half in the fridge, and half in the freezer for later. If you can't wait for the entire loaf to cool, cut one slice and eat it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Delicious!

Posted by Lori at 11:22 AM | Permalink
January 27, 2013

Yummy Gluten Free Pizza

I kind of can't believe I got such a delicious result on my first attempt at making a gluten free pizza crust from scratch, and that I got the slightly gummy, chewy texture I was hoping for (I know, regular pizza crust is a bit less gummy, but I've gotten addicted to Sweet Freedom's gluten-free pizza crust and now consider that the gold standard)—especially since I made a couple mistakes when following the recipe.

I'm less surprised that I got the toppings right, since I've had some practice at my friend Shelly's regular pizza nights (she and her roommates provide the dough, both regular and gluten free, guests bring toppings to share, and people take turns assembling pies and running them through the oven). The gf crust mixes that Shelly has tried are fine, but they have struck me as a bit too thick and too sweet—more biscuit-like than pizza-like. (I think at the most recent pizza party she used Bob's Red Mill's mix.) These more biscuit-like crusts actually make a great base for a blue cheese and fig jam-topped pie, but I wanted something thinner, chewier, and more savory.

My son got me a book called 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes for Christmas last year, so this is where I turned for an alternative to the prepared mixes. The author, Carol Fenster, has a recipe for what she calls "Carol's Sorghum Blend" that is the basis for most of her baked-good recipes. I apparently bought the ingredients for it a while back thinking I would make some but never got around to it; luckily everything was still in date (or close enough). It's simple:

1.5 c. sorghum flour
1.5 c. potato starch
1 c. tapioca starch

It makes 4 cups, and you will only need 1/2 cup for this recipe, so store the rest. (I spooned most of mine into a container, but what didn't fit—probably a scant 1/4 cup—I just left in the bowl and later mixed with glutinous rice flour for dusting.)

Now, the recipe for the crust as written, with notes about what I did wrong/differently.

1 T. active dry yeast (I used 1 packet of Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast)
2 1/2 t. sugar (I used only 1 unleveled teaspoon)
2/3 c. warm (110°F) milk of choice (I used 1/2 c. half and half and made up the remainder with Fat Free Lactaid milk)
2/3 c. potato starch
1/2 c. Carol's Sorghum Blend
2 t. xanthan gum (it looked like the pantry moths I've been battling for months got into my supply of xantham gum, but I have been leaning toward guar gum instead recently anyway and had a fresh batch of that, so I substituted 2 unleveled teaspoons of guar gum)
1 t. Italian seasoning (I threw out my supply when I cleaned out the spice cupboard last week and haven't replaced it yet, so I left this out)
1 t. onion powder (I don't have any of this, so I substituted a few shakes of granulated garlic)
3/4 t. salt (I used a scant teaspoon of kosher salt)
2 T. olive oil
2 t. apple cider vinegar (I thought to double-check the measure only after adding the first *tablespoon*, so I technically used 3 t.)
Shortening for greasing pizza pan (there's an admonishment to not use cooking spray; I didn't have spray or shortening, so I used unsalted butter and a nonstick cookie sheet)
White rice flour, for dusting (I used the sorghum blend-mixed-with-Mochiko mentioned above)

Place a rack in the bottom position and another in the middle position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°.

In a small bowl (I used a measuring glass), dissolve the yeast and sugar in the milk. Set aside to foam, about 5 minutes. In a food processor, blend the yeast mixture, potato starch, sorghum blend, xanthan gum, Italian seasoning, onion powder, salt, 1 T. of oil, and vinegar, until a ball forms. (I measured all my ingredients into a bowl first, and only noticed that I was supposed to reserve 1 T. of the oil after I'd added both tablespoons. I mixed it all up, dumped it into my mini food processor, and blended until the motor started to chug and give off a burning electrical smell, which was before the dough formed a ball. I scraped it out of the food processor and back into the bowl, then set the bowl on the stove while I greased my cookie sheet.)

Generously grease a 12-inch nonstick (gray, not black) pizza pan with shortening. Do not use cooking spray—it makes it harder to shape the dough. (As noted, I used unsalted butter and a cookie sheet.)

Place the dough on the prepared pan. Liberally dust the dough with the rice flour, then press the dough into the pan with your hands, continuing to dust with the flour to prevent sticking as needed. (I pressed my crust out as thinly as I could without leaving holes.) Make the edges thicker to contain the toppings. Bake the pizza crust on the bottom rack until the crust begins to brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes. (I guessed it would take 10, and was about right. I probably could have left it for 12.) Remove the crust from the oven.

This is where I said, "OK, I have a crust; I don't need instructions on how to top it," so what follows is not from any recipe. I used (amounts approximate; I didn't measure):

2-3 T. Trader Joe's pizza sauce (I should have mixed in a bit of barbecue sauce, which goes REALLY well with goat cheese, but I went a bit overboard in trying to avoid the sweetness of the prepared crust mixes)
1/4 - 1/3 c. Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio
1/2 c. chopped broccoli crown, stir fried with olive oil and granulated garlic in a very hot cast iron skillet
1 T. crumbled goat cheese
1/4 - 1/3 c. mozzarella cheese

I layered these onto the crust in the order noted, then greased my fingers with olive oil and rubbed the raised crust a bit. The pizza went back into the oven on the middle rack until the cheese started to bubble, and then I slid it onto the counter and cut it into slices. Very, very, yum.

gluten free broccoli pizza

Posted by Lori at 12:42 PM | Permalink