Munch, Munch, Munch

I’m hungry. Like, really hungry. I’ve been snacking all day, and I just want more. So far, I’ve eaten the following things:

  • Breakfast: cereal with chia seeds and raisins (Yes, I drank all of the milk.)
  • Snack #1: a clementine
  • Snack #2: NY Everything Bagel Graze box
  • Snack #3: a short bread cookie
  • Lunch: 2 chicken wings, broccoli cheddar soup, and cucumbers
  • Snack #4: 2 chocolate and peanut butter Girl Scout cookies

Now, I’m contemplating snack #5.

Sigh.

If she was here, my grandmother would yell at me and tell me that I’m going to get fat. My grandfather would make a joke about my hollow leg. The Dude would just ask what I wanted to eat next. (He gets me.)

I’m always thinking about food. Just ask The Dude: Whenever we start contemplating a vacation destination, I start thinking about (read: obsessing over) the food options. Sometimes, I plan vacation activities around restaurants I want to try or local delicacies that I don’t want to miss (mmm, Pork Highway…). I spend hours looking up restaurants and food spots, agonizing over which is the best option. Even after I’ve made a decision, I’m guaranteed to change my mind at least once. After that, I spend even more time looking over the menu, fantasizing about my perfect meal.

Food – cooking, eating, planning, sharing – just brings me so much joy.

I can’t help it: I live to eat.

 

Drink Up!

I got a latte at the college cafe today. A new student worker was being trained and she mostly made the coffee by herself (with just a bit of help from a supervisor). I’m ashamed to say that I was expecting it to be horrible.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite good.

Not nearly as good as coffee from The Gryphon or Victoria and Albert’s, but very solid.

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A New Favorite Cider: Thatcher’s Green Goblin, an oak-aged cider from Somerset, England.

I really love a good cup of coffee. Or, a good cup of black (preferably Nilgiri) tea. At work, you’ll never see me without a Disney mug filled with one or the other. Since I haven’t made a list in awhile, here are some of my favorite beverages:

  • Whole Milk Latte: The coffee has to be strong (strong, strong) and not bitter. I really like when there are caramel notes. And, yes, it has to be whole milk.
  • Nilgiri Tea: I prefer it unsweetened and with a splash of whole milk.
  • Pimm’s Cup
  • Hard Cider: There are so many varieties, but I’m really partial to English style ciders (usually more dry and less sweet than the one’s from here).
  • Orange Juice: When I get a craving for this, watch out. Do not stand in the way of me getting to my OJ. I have been known to drink an entire 1/2 gallon in a single day. Just ask The Dude.
  • Water with Mint and Lemon: I used to hate water. I used to choke on it. Once I made my peace with it, I’ve never looked back.

What are your favorite drinks?

The Dude Cooks: Banana Flour Pancakes

I love pancakes, but usually can’t having them in the morning. I don’t know why, for my first meal of the day, I crave savory food (though, I will make an exception for dipping maple syrup on my scrapple). So, what’s a girl to do but ask her Dude to make pancakes for dinner!

Want a fun, gluten-free twist on regular pancakes? Try some made with banana flour! The batter is a bit more savory than regular pancake batter, so feel free to add more of the sweetener. I really like the savory-ness though, and am itching to have the dude make them with chives or bacon or something. Another fun, sweet idea would be to add cinnamon or chocolate chips to the batter.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup banana flour
  • 2 tbsp gluten-free flour (we use King Arthur)
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil or melted butter (plus more to grease the pan)
  • 1 tbsp agave or honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup almond milk

Method:

  1. Combine both flours, salt, an baking soda in a large bowl.
  2. Combine oil/butter, agave/honey, almond milk, eggs, and vanilla in another bowl.
  3. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. (Gluten-Free fun fact: If something only as GF flour in it, mix to your heart’s content; there aren’t any glutens for you to over-develop, so you won’t end up with a tough batter.) When properly mixed, the batter should be slightly runny and similar in consistency to drinkable yogurt or keffir.
  4. Heat a non-stick pan or griddle over medium heat and grease pan with oil or butter.
  5. Pour batter into pan. You can make the pancakes as large or small as you like; we usually like ours to be circular and the size of a small saucer. The Dude recommends using a measuring cup for easy pouring.
  6. When bubbles develop all over the pancake (usually after 2-3 minutes), flip. Cook for another 2 – 3 minutes on the other side. The pancake should be golden brown and spring back if you gently poke at it.
  7. Repeat until all batter is used up. You can keep the pancakes warm in a very low oven or on a warming rack.

Mangia!

I could never understand (non-allergy related) picky eaters. There are so many varieties and tastes and textures and combinations that it always seemed crazy to limit yourself to a few choice items. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? It tastes gross and you spit it out? That it leaves you with a weird taste in your mouth that you get rid of by brushing your teeth and/or eating copious amounts of something you love?

Maybe I’m just spoiled. I was raised by a family that always encouraged me to try new things without pressure to continue eating (or doing) something that I hated. I grew up eating pigeon soup and scrapple and any vegetable that my pappy could grow in his garden. When we went out to dinner, I was able to order from the regular menu instead of sticking to the chicken fingers and hot dog heavy children’s version. My favorite dinner as a kid? Strip steak with sauteed mushrooms (and tons of garlic!), roasted or mashed potatoes, and broccoli.

Today, I’ll eat almost anything anyone puts in front of me. Fish eyes? Check. Foie gras soup? Double-check. I especially love going to a restaurant that offers a chef’s or tasting menu. Not knowing what’s going to be given to me is part of the fun!

I like also trying and playing around with unexpected (some might say unusual) flavor combinations, both at home and when I’m out. This past weekend, The Dude and I went to Princeton, NJ and got ice cream at The Bent Spoon. I loved the sweet basil and lavender mascarpone ice creams, and can’t wait to go back and try the sweet corn w/ old bay or the ricotta. I love when something as familiar as ice cream can turn into something new and exciting.

One of my favorite unexpected flavor moments happened at Christmas dinner a few years ago. Since The Dude’s gluten free, we brought some almond cookies from a local bakery for his dessert (and to share with the rest of my family). Thinking the cookies were a bit too sweet, my uncle decided to eat them with a bite of blue cheese. I remember him chuckling after the first bite, his eyes lighting up. Skeptical, I tried it, too.  It was wonderful: sweet, tangy, and perfectly balanced. We still talk about it.

That’s another thing I love about food and eating: the connection between food and memory. Not only are there so many varieties and combinations of tastes, but my strongest, most vivid memories are associated with food. And, for me, meals with an unexpected element are always much more memorable than the ordinary ones. So, take a deep breath, order something new, and mangia.

Flags a’ Flying

Few things excite me more than the news of a restaurant opening, particularly if it’s in our neighborhood or very close by. I love the anticipation of seeing the storefront change day-by-day, of reading blurbs about the chef and restaurant concept on blogs or in magazines or taped haphazardly to a front window. I love wondering what the food will be like and whether it will become a favorite spot and I love when it finally opens and I get to pour over reviews before The Dude and I get to try it for ourselves.

The Dude just wants them to take down their damn grand opening flags.

There is a restaurant in our neighborhood that has been open since 2012 and their grand opening  flags are still flying. I got a flyer from them the other day, in fact, that advertised a “Grand Opening Special!”. Whenever we drive by, The Dude squints and grimaces at the flags. He hates them.

He also hates the huge “Grand Opening!” banner on a Little Caesar’s that’s on our way into the city and has been opening grandly almost as long as our neighborhood joint. I think he’s actually shaken his fist at that one.

A part of me agrees with him, agrees that there should be a limit on how long restaurants can advertise themselves as new. But, another part of me feels bad for those restaurants. If they were as successful as they wanted to be, would they still feel the need to fall back on novelty?

I imagine conversations between the “new” restaurants and the old, successful ones to go something like this:

Flag Flutterer: But, I want everyone to notice me! Look, I’m new and shiny and have things flapping around everywhere.

Old Standby: Ah, but they know me. They know how delicious I am.

Flag Flutterer: But, I’m good, too!

Old Standby: But, I’m better.

Flag Flutterer: I’m just as good as you are.

Old Standby: Hah. You have to wave things in front of their faces to get them to notice you. They just remember me.

Flag Flutterer: I’m just as good as you are. I AM.

Old Standby: Hah. Prove it. Take down your flags.

Flag Flutterer: But, I’m new and shiny…

The Dude hates those flags: “Leave them up 1 month, maybe 2,” he says. “This is crazy. We can’t ever eat there. I hate those stupid flags.”

And, we haven’t eaten there, not at any of those places. I don’t think we will.

Mmm… BBQ

I love BBQ. I love the smell of the meats and veggies cooking (on the grill or in the smoker) and the sauces simmering. I love how tender everything is and the distinct, smoky flavor that everything has. I love that you get permission to eat too much coleslaw or potato salad or corn on the cob and that there’s usually watermelon for dessert.

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Ribs, beans, and coleslaw from the Firehouse BBQ truck at the Bands and BBQ Fall Festival in Celebration, FL.

I also really love how casual BBQ is, how unpretentious. You’re encouraged to eat with your hands and don’t have to bother with many utensils (and, that the plates are usually paper or plastic which means little clean-up). I like being able to get messy while I eat.

Now, I know that May is National BBQ Month, but it’s not until June that I really start craving it. In June, the semester has been over for a few weeks and all of the end-of-the-year craziness is behind us. We haven’t really started gearing up for the next year yet, so it’s just a bit quieter and more relaxed. The days are long and mild and all you want to do is eat outside. It’s the perfect time to drop pretension and just dig in.

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I love ribs.

This picture is from October 2013. The Dude and I went to Disney and took a long enough trip that we ended up spending an afternoon in Celebration, FL. I absolutely loved the town; it was quaint and quiet and lovely, but still seemed to have a nice array of things to do. Plus, it’s minutes away from Disney World! As luck would have it, we visited on the day of their Bands & BBQ Fall Festival. It was an absolutely perfect (if sweltering) afternoon. We walked around a new town (one that I could see myself living in), ate really great ribs, beans, and corn, and had ice cream for dessert.

I kind of want to have that day right now, don’t you?