Category: Foodiebits

On pop and Lenten things

Once, back in high school – maybe my senior year? – I gave up pop (or soda, for the coastal peoples) for Lent, because the thing always seemed to be to give up some particular food item for Lent alongside the meatless Fridays. The year I gave up french fries was particularly awful, because my pre-two years of vegetarianism in college-self hadn’t really figured out what to eat other than french fries and mac and cheese when I couldn’t have meat as part of a meal. So in keeping with the foodstuffs-elimination-Lenten-observance-ritual, I gave up pop my senior year of high school.

It sucked. At least, it sucked at first because I had a massive caffeine headache from the withdrawl. Once the withdrawl symptoms finally dissipated, I was left with a profound sense of boredom. Until then, I had drunk pop at every meal and was prone to downing one or two during school. I really didn’t drink much of anything else – I’d occasionally grab a milk at lunch if I was feeling virtuous (or like my meal was otherwise entirely devoid of nutritional value and I was having one of those moments where that bothered me), but otherwise, pop. I hadn’t discovered coffee as anything other than an occasional drink, couldn’t/didn’t drink alcohol yet, and hated pre-made lemonade* and bottled tea.

I found myself stuck with water something like 95% of the time. For 40 days, I had water with pretty much every meal and any other time I was thirsty. I got bored with water quickly – the only thing that kept me going was that I reasoned I ought to be able to deal with *anything* for 40 days.

The only major break in my water consumption was a standing Friday night cappuccino/bookstore outing with a friend. The coffee outings turned into a sort of barometer for how long Lent had been going. The first week was awesome – caffeine! flavor! – until my caffeine headache returned the next day with renewed vigor. The second week was a repeat of the first – wonderful to taste, but headache-inducing the next day as my body tried again to figure out how to deal with the loss of the glorious, glorious caffeine molecules.

Then things got ugly.

By the third week, an 8pm cappuccino was a bad idea not because it gave me headache the next day, but because my body was becoming really adjusted to *not* having caffeine at all times. The upshot was that I was up until after 1am, trying desperately to fall asleep.**

The next week, it was later. And then later.

Meanwhile, I got to the point, roughly a month in or so, where I didn’t mind so much that I was having water all the time. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I did notice eventually that I could taste my food better when I wasn’t slurping Coke between every bite or three.***

Anyway, right when I got really used to having only water at meals, Easter happened, and there was pop. I remember being really excited to get out of church so that I could have a pop with lunch – I was more excited about pop than I was about anything else that day. Except that I then had one, and I couldn’t finish it. It was too sweet, too bubbly, too syrupy. The sugar and caffeine combination made me jittery. I’d never been jittery before. I didn’t like it.

I had another pop at dinner, simply because I could, and had the same reaction, plus the added inability to sleep that night. I continued on in the pop-drinking  anyway . My body adjusted quickly to the sugar, and almost as quickly to the caffeine. The flavor got closer to what I remembered every time I had one.

The thing was, though, that it never quite got all the way back to the light and fizzy drink I remembered. It felt heavy, and drinking a pop made me feel heavy in a way it never had before. Once the initial yay pop! feeling was gone, I found myself reaching for water at a meal as often as I would go for anything else. 

When I discovered coffee full-on early in college, I switched allegiance and relied on coffee for the vast majority of my caffeine intake, eventually elimating pop out of my diet altogether in the fall of 2000.+

*Seriously, the “let us squeeze a lemon into a cup and then fill it with semi-pre-made lemonade” stuff that we got at Worlds of Fun over the summers killed Minute Maid for me. Killed it.
**In high school, I was typically so exhausted from getting up so early and running nuts all day that I could set land-speed records for falling asleep.
***I refused to eat McDonald’s ever again at some point either immediately prior to or right around this time. I wonder sometimes if the pop ban contributed to the McDonald’s ban.
+Lest I sound really holier than thou about all of this, I should point out that my coffee habit at that point hovered around the ten cup a day mark. I am not trying to pretend health was a part of the no-pop decision – the decision to dump pop came entirely out of a sense of trying to make sure my caffeine level didn’t cause my heart to explode out of my chest. At this point, I’m down to a much more reasonable two cups or so a day (or three shots of espresso, depending), but yeah. It’s not gone.

Mountain Dew Cake

So. This exists.

I have yet to be able to wrap my head around the existence of Mountain Dew Cake. It’s been hours since I first learned of such a travesty, and I’m still stuck.

Bacon vodka. I can handle that.

Jimmy Dean Chocolate Chip Pancake-Wrapped Sausage On A Stick, I can laugh at that.

Mountain Dew Cake is beyond my ability to comprehend. Part of me is thinking some variation of “only in America” (which is not a compliment to my country, I have to say), and the rest of me is thinking “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.”

And some little part of me wonders if this was originally a Sandra Lee recipe, because it does sound pretty Semi-Ho. If only there were an accompanying Mountain Dew/coconut rum cocktail.

Homework Wine, Week of 11/7

Name: Seebrich Riesling Spätlese
Color: White
Country/Region of Origin:
Price: around $20

So. This stuff kicks ass if you’re looking for something sweet to go with a dessert course, like a slice of cheesecake with apricot glaze or something. Or maybe apricot chicken. If I’d known EXACTLY what I was getting into with this wine, I would have made a chicken and apricot tagine recipe that I’ve got laying around and haven’t made in forever. Or this would be fantastic with super spicy Indian or Thai.

The wine itself is thick and fairly sweet – lots of fruity notes like pear and apple in it. There’s a touch of almost honey-like sweetness as well. It’s a thick wine with a touch of carbonation.

I liked it and would recommend it, and this coming from someone who likes her wine dry and red.

Homework Wine 10/31/10

People, I have a bloody amazing job perk homework again. Each week, I have to try a bottle of wine and report back on it, cork attached to the report sheet to prove that I have indeed busted on in to partake.

Now, I’m awesome with beer. I’m pretty good with liqueurs and whiskeys and all that.

I comparatively suck at wine. Like, I’m not hopeless by any means, but my knowledge of wine is something like 1% of what my beer knowledge is.

But now I have homework wine, and since I’m incapable of remembering things without writing about them, I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you. Hopefully, in six months I’ll sound like I have a clue what the hell I’m talking about. I don’t think I will right now.

With that preamble, this week’s wine:
Name: Pagos de Equren Tempranillo
Color: Red
Country/Region of Origin:
Hrm. I should check, but the bottle is downstairs. I am not downstairs. I am lazy, so we’re not going to worry about this right now.

This has to be the lowest-tannin red wine I’ve ever encountered. It’s still dry, but it’s so low in tannins that my mom, who has the tannin allergy that makes drinking red wine intensely painful along about the jaw region, was able to drink it no problem.

The wine was… red wine. It had a sort of menthol-y, mineral-y undertone* that I frankly didn’t like all that much. It did have a nice sort of sour cherry/berry flavor though – much more pronounced than the mineral aspects – and I liked that.

Overall, I’d pass. I think this was the first Tempranillo I’d ever had. If this is what they’re like, then I think I’ll stick to recommending Riojas when people want Spanish wine.

* Note: it was my comment about the menthol/mineral combo that made Mom try it – one of those “that sounds gross, let me try it!” things that always happens with food.**

** Yes, I did link you to my other blog. Yes, I am that person.

Seriously, if  someone told you to find all the 1000 square foot parks in town and do rubbings of the plaques marking them, would you be able to find them all? Would you be able to answer trivia questions asking you where to find the bust of a town founder, or the date of one of the earliest-built houses? Could you find the back roads linking all of these things in order to cut down time between destinations, thus increasing your chances of actually answering all the questions?

Today Tony and I ran around Lawrence, KS, with a couple of our very close friends, playing an absolutely epic trivia game. It had us doing all of these things and several more. We drove from beyond the East end of Lawrence (a pumpkin patch just outside of town) to beyond the West end (right by Clinton Lake), from 6th St to 31st St and all over the University of Kansas campus (which was a damned good trick because it was Homecoming today and absolutely batshit on campus). And it was an amazing time.

For Lawrencians who haven’t paid attention: there are eleventybillion plaques on Mass St. Like almost every building has some kind of plaque to tell you what the building originally was and who’s owned it over the years and what happened during Quantrill’s Raid or whatever else of import that the building may have. It’s really neat.

For writers: if there’s a town you’re setting a work in and you can find some kind of tour or trivia game or anything else in that town, DO IT. You will learn an insane amount in a few hours and it’s all good stuff to draw on.

Back to Lawrencians: if you haven’t yet gone to Angler’s, GO: raw oysters and a bloody fantastically awesome, informative and friendly staff, raw oysters, the best crab dip I think I’ve ever had and a tap list that made me near-weep from the happy. Really, people, the beer list is to die for there (which is why they’re getting a plug on both blogs).
And similarly, if you haven’t gone to the Burger Stand at the Casbah, GO: rabbit hot dogs and duck fat french fries and quinoa patties and duck fat-fried corn dogs and OHMYDUDE THE EATS.

So I’ll go totally mushyromantic on how much I love Lawrence in some other post, but this was a really awesomehappy day. I hope you all get one like it soon.

Eat This.

If I have a favorite category of food, it’s “things on bread.” I can put almost anything on bread and be happy: Nutella, duck fat, cannellini spread, whatever (but, um, not at the same time). This recipe is one of my favorites, my best guess of a recipe that I modeled after something I had at a tapas restaurant once. I nommed the hell out of it last night while watching Sharktopus with Tony – good times.

The recipe is for a Spicy Tomato Goat Cheese:

You need:
2-3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
4-12 or so cloves of garlic, to whatever taste you like (I tend to go really heavy on the garlic, but I’m a nut), finely chopped
roughly 1.5-2 T tomato paste (if you don’t use tomato paste often, it’s well worth getting one of the tubes of the stuff rather than busting open a can every time you need a tablespoon – the stuff in the tube is higher quality and lasts for a year or two, so if you’re not going through much of it, it’s a big money saver to go tube)
a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
a handful of chopped fresh herbs (of the oregano/thyme/parsley-ish variety – whatever works) and or a hefty sprinkle of dried herbs
1 small log of goat cheese

1 baguette, sliced, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and toasted – or other bread of your choice (baguette is my personal love with this)

Heat up a drizzle – say 1-2 T – of olive oil in a frying pan to medium-low/medium heat, and throw in the garlic. The idea is to get the oil hot enough to cook the garlic but not so hot as to burn it. Once the garlic has been cooking for 3-4 minutes, move it to the side and toss in some red pepper flakes. You want these no matter what because they add really nice flavor, but adjust the amount to whatever heat level you like. I tend to throw in about a teaspoon here – it makes it hot, but not HOT – I’m kinda a babymouth when it comes to heat. Let the red pepper flakes cook in the oil for about 30 seconds and then mix everything around and let it go for about another minute. It will smell AWESOME.

Turn the broiler on to high (this is usually when I slam the bread in the oven to toast for a minute while I keep cooking the tomato mixture).

Then move everything off to a side again and squirt the tomato paste into an open area of the pan, mooshing it into the oil so that it begins to pick up some heat and flavor. Let it go for about 30 seconds to develop some flavor, and then stir everything back together again. If you’re using dried herbs, add then now. Then toss in the tomatoes. The tomatoes will start releasing their juices in a couple of minutes. Let them go until everything is sort of spicy-slightly-runny-tomato-garlic-awesome, and then pull it off the heat. If you’re using fresh herbs, toss them in right as the tomatoes are done.

Take the goat cheese and put it in a medium-sized ramekin or small casserole dish. Pour the tomato mixture on top of it. Put the dish under the broiler for a few minutes until the goat cheese starts to melt and the tomatoes start to caramelize a bit on top.

Be careful about the goat cheese dish, since it’s likely to be really hot. To eat, spread some of the goat cheese/tomato awesomeness onto bread. Enjoy. Nom.

How to make crack

At the moment, I’m procrastinating on cleaning, which I promised I would do and which needs to get done so that I can let myself go get Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy  and Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel.  However, I’m having a “clean ALL the things D: ” moment, so I thought I’d provide a recipe for another of my favorite writing fuels, some lovelywonderful stuff my family named crack.  Crack is so named because our collective inability to stop eating it resembles some other people’s addiction to a different substance of the same name.

So here goes:
– Take a large bowl.  Put in somewhere between 1/4-1/2 stick of butter.  Stick this in the microwave and nuke it for about 30 seconds until the butter starts to go all melty.  Pull it out of the microwave and swirl the butter around the sides of the bowl.
– Add in a 16 oz bag, or 2 10 oz bags, of marshmallows.  On top of the marshmallows, sprinkle a liberal amount of chocolate chips, and then add a large-ish glop of peanut butter.  (Yes, that really is how I measure this.  I’m thinking the chocolate chips are probably in the 1/3 cup range and the peanut butter is probably in the 3/4c-1c range, but I’m just guessing.  “Liberal amount” and “large-ish glop” really do seem more accurate.)
– Heat the whole mess in the microwave for 2-2:30 minutes, until the marshmallows are huge and puffy.
           -MEANWHILE (it is important to do this either beforehand or, if you’re like me, scramble to do it while the marshmallows are puffing):  make sure you’ve got your stirring spoon (I use an ice cream spade because it’s sturdy as hell), your Rice Krispies (you need LOTS of these!), and your greased (large) cookie sheet (or jelly roll pan) out and ready to go.
– When the marshmallows are large and puffy, take them out of the microwave and stir the whole mess up to get the marshmallows, peanut butter and chocolate chips all mixed up.  Then, without wasting any time (because timewasting means that this stuff gets damned near impossible to stir), pour in a bunch of Rice Krispies.  Like, 3-4 cups+ worth.  Then stir like your arm strength depends on it. 
– Continue to add Rice Krispies and stir until you’ve got the marshmallow goop/Rice Krispie balance where you like it.  Then pour and scrape the mess out onto the greased cookie sheet (it really needs to be greased, else you’ll never get your crack off of the tray when you want to eat it). 
– Also important: grease your hands.  I keep an end of a stick of butter for this purpose.  Once the glop of goop is on the pan, grease your hands and then press it down so that it covers the pan and is whatever thickness you like in your crack.
– Let cool and enjoy. And try not to eat the whole pan in a day.  Good luck with that.

This stuff is arguably healthy, because it has Rice Krispies in it (and Rice Krispies are allowed by whatever government agency to claim that they’re healthy), because it has peanut butter in it (yay protein!), and because it has chocolate in it (which, as I proved beyond doubt in an earlier post, is one of the healthiest and best foods you can have).  Share and enjoy, people.

A Guacamole Recipe for You

I’m feeling momentarily uninspired on the writing procrastination front because my cat woke me up several times in the middle of the night because she wanted to play.  Therefore, I’m half-zonked.  I also haven’t had much time to write in the past day and a half, so I can’t direct you to my writing procrastination activities from this time.  There haven’t been any.

Therefore, for your afternoon’s entertainment I’ve decided to give you my guacamole recipe, because it’s still summer and therefore still warm enough to want guac.  Here goes:

– 1 bag of tortilla chips
– 1/2 red onion, finely chopped.  No crying.
– 1 chili pepper of whatever variety you’d like, seeded or not, all depending on what heat level you’d like (I tend to use a seeded jalapeno because I have something of a babbymouth)
– 1 clove garlic, smashed and then minced
– 1/2 a bunch (or a whole bunch, if you, like me, think it tastes lovely and fresh and not at all of soap) of cilantro, finely chopped
– 2 avocadoes, cut in half, ginormous seed removed, lovely smooth creamy green insides taken from within and added to bowl, one ginormous seed kept hanging about what will keep the guac from turning icky brown colors
– 1-2 limes, squeezed over the avocado also what will keep the guac from turning icky brown colors

Add everything in the list, excepting the bag of tortilla chips and reserved ginormous avocado seed, into a bowl with the lovely smooth creamy green avocado insides and then mash and stir until it reaches whatever guacamole consistency you prefer.  I like it mostly-but-not-all mashed up, because I like getting little chunks of avocado in with everything else.  When you’re done mashing, throw the reserved ginormous avocado seed into the guac and ignore it.  It will keep your guac a lovely green color for a couple of days, should the guac last that long (mine usually doesn’t).  Then open the bag of chips and chow down.

You can probably add tomatoes, but I don’t.  Just because.  I also think it would be awesome to throw some lobster in, but I probably won’t be doing that any time soon as I’m a) funemployed and thus not really in a financial position to buy any lobster and b) living in Kansas, where fresh lobster is rather harder (although not impossible) to come by than it was when I was located closer to a coastline.  But lobster in guac is indeed awesome, and would help you pretend (should you so desire) that guacamole is a full meal rather than a really fun appetizer/condiment.

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