Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's like heaven on Earth!

Or, at least in the blogosphere!

I stumbled upon (what a great name for a website) Annie's Eats blog yesterday. I feel like I've been to that site before. I can't remember when, how and why, but yesterday was the day that I scrolled down the blog and gasped every...oh...half a second?

These are some things that Annie has featured recently that I l-o-v-e (in chronological posting order):
  1. mango sorbet
  2. taco and mac in the same sentence
  3. hydrangeas!
  4. champagne cocktails!
  5. artichokes...I mean, are you kidding me? Is she reading my mind?
  6. fresh fruit
  7. lovely handwriting (and a "liquor store" section in a grocery list!)
  8. Earth Day + cupcakes x an awesomely simple cupcake design = awesome
  9. hummus
  10. pita bread
  11. baked good featuring oranges
The list could probably go on. I did click on "Next Page," but I figured that if I wanted to get any sleep last night, I should hold off on that.

And now that I've skimmed through the photos, I can take some time to read some text and get more than the gist of posts. Although, food + photography can kinda make one crazy...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The year of the coconut.

What is going on? Purely Decadent has gone Purely Crazy! It seems that grocery stores are replacing the regular Purely Decadent flavors with the coconut milk versions. It's hard to miss--I guess if you are sensitive to these perhaps premium products--all of Turtle Mountain's coconut craziness: the milk, the ice cream, the yogurt.

Ok, let's be honest. It's the "milk," the "ice cream" and the "yogurt." In any case, I am not amused.

My love affair with Purely Decadent came about in, oh, Summer 2006 or so when I discovered it's Cookie Avalanche flavor. It thought, jackpot! Over the years, new flavors rolled out and I tried a few until I stumbled upon a new flavor that knocked Cookie Avalanche out of the water.

That would be...aaaahhhh...Cookie Dough.

Now, after ditching most dairy a long time ago, not having milk or ice cream for at least ten years now, I really didn't miss it. My first taste of so-called ice cream was a delightful Tofutti Cutie and I loved it. When I noticed pints of the stuff from different brands, I was more open to the idea that I could eat ice cream again. Not just sorbet, but something I could make a sundae with!

Not that I actually make sundaes.

When the Food Lion near me started straight-up replacing the regular Purely Decadent Cookie Dough and other flavors with the coconut versions, I was taken aback. I was pretty sure that I was the person buying out the stock of the regular version but it always seemed to be restocked so I could continue to pay the extra 30 cents or so that the price rose about three times (grrr).

I mean, I did try the coconut version but it was too...coconut-y. I must say though, despite the somewhat overwhelming coconut flavor, the texture of the ice cream is amazing. I kept saying that it tasted like eating a cold, creamy pillow. That's the best I could think of.

I'm no poet.

Look, if it were just a coconut-flavor of the ice cream, I guess I wouldn't care. But I now assume that every other flavor of the coconut version is just the assigned flavor in a dense coconut-y fog.

Which is ok, if you don't mind that.

I live so far out from other grocery stores that it's basically not worth it to me to buy the regular Purely Decadent and drive home. That biz would melt.

Well, I could just save my money and stop dropping 4 bucks on something that I eat in a night or two. I would get an insulated bag but for some reason I have the perception that that is not an eco-friendly purchase. The world is complex.

The year of the coconut isn't all negative. I discovered coconut milk this year and it has made my cupcake baking pretty fun and interesting. I've got bags of shredded coconut and that's been a cute and tasty addition to things.

You think I can get locally farmed coconut in Greensboro?

Yea, sure.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I "Facebook" like you. How's about that?

I was looking up Panda Express since they are a new merchant on our discount card at work and I had to share: Panda Express' playing off of the new "Like" button on Facebook just cracked me up! Great way to get into the "Like" button!

"Do you 'like' me...?"

Monday, April 26, 2010

'Twas quite good, yes.

Another issue I have in restaurants is the concern the server has about my uneaten portion of the meal. I assume that on the server's part, he/she is doing some kind of damage control, just asking if my meal was alright. I usually say "yes," then ask for a to-go box. Yes, it looks like I didn't eat even half of my meal, but it's all good! And, by the way, relative to the portion size...I mean, dang, what am I supposed to do?!

Well, what I am apparently supposed to do is clean my plate. You know that whole "clean your plate" thing? Taught to young children without the added warning that heartburn may be a side effect of the good practice of eating everything that is served to you.

Often noted as a factor in our national obesity, the ever growing portion control sizes of restaurant meals may have led to people feeling as stuffed as they do at Thanksgiving every time they went to Applebee's.

And you know what? I don't want to do that anymore.

It wasn't just about the servers. I mean, damn, it almost doesn't even matter if the server asks how my meal was because even if it wasn't the best, I would say it was fine (unless I suspected bacon, of course). For me, for a while, it was also about the company I was with. For a while, I was eating out a lot with my boyfriend's parents who would always pay the bill. I made the effort to choose something on the menu that I figured wouldn't be overwhelming, that I figured I could comfortably finish. I didn't want his parent's to plop down 10 or more bucks for me to just be picking at my plate.

I am totally not blaming portion sizes (aka, the restaurants themselves). You can do whatever you want with the food you (intend to) pay for. Even of the portion sizes were smaller, I have found that as an individual, I just can't eat a lot.

I sure don't look it, but I have a small appetite.

I had to realize this. After problems with heartburn, breathing, and knowing that I wasn't chewing effectively (which was even harder when I got braces), I decided that I needed to take a chill pill and start paying attention to my body. And responding to it.

I don't have to clear my plate. I don't have to eat until I feel 100% full. I am sure I have a pretty smart brain and my systems can signal me that enough is enough.

Again, I am totally not blaming portion sizes because I, myself, am often to blame. I do this thing where I indulge. I get a bit more than I think I want. I take a bit of this, walk on, then step back to take a bit more. I am terrible with this at buffets. First of all, I take a bit of everything which I know just ends up as a plate of vastly different flavors melding with each other; what's the point of that? Second, I don't trust my first instinct to stop adding to my plate. My survival mode is kicking in at the wrong time...

It's almost sad, but figuring out how much I want/need to eat at a given meal has made me focus more on breathing, too. Breathing. It seems like something we're all good at...or maybe not. Maybe it's something we just don't think about since we kinda don't have to. But as I try to pay more attention to all parts of my meal--looking at what I eat, chewing effectively, eating slower and stopping at the first feeling of satiation--I am more receptive of one of the basic rhythms of my body: breathing.

Yes, the meal was great. Excuse me while I step out for a breather. | Why portion control matters
Google "portion control"

Friday, April 23, 2010

Does the word "teenager" have a bad connotation?

The older I get, the older I sound when I talk about "kids these days"!

Teenspeak, genderspeak

Well, I'm a 20-something, and I know there are people who have their thoughts on that. Probably just about when I'm going to get married and have kids already. Ha!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is the vegetarian option "just safer"?

Happy Earth Day!
(I love the Earth and I do what I can, but this is hilarious.)

Yesterday I was asked (for the third time this month) whether I was a vegetarian. Why? It seems that if you always seem to order a (or sometimes just the) vegetarian option, people make an assumption that you are not liking the bacon.

And I say: No, I'm a fake vegetarian.

Ok, probably not the best thing to say. I usually follow-up with some info to explain my selections though right now I'm thinking, why do I have to explain anything?

I usually follow up with:
"Well, I eat chicken, turkey and seafood sometimes, but not really."

I like to give the not-so holier-than-thou line that hopefully makes a stand:
"Oh, no, I order this because it tastes awesome."

Then I've said something awkward like:
"It's just safer."

You know, there are great dishes at restaurants (and made in homes) that are meatless or vegan.

I always choose the veggie option for work lunches or other catered events if possible and you know what? Especially at nice plated dinners, these veggie options are amazing in and of themselves and in comparison to the--what do they call it?--rubber chicken dinners. So much flavor that is often complex with...omg...vegetables and grains and nutrients and all that other cardboard-y stuff, right?

It doesn't always have to just be the vegetarian or vegan (if you're lucky) option. And often enough, that "option" doesn't have much thought put into it by the restaurant. Sad face.

I know allergies are a serious issue, but sometimes I get frustrated when I am embarrassed to ask about ingredients or feel awkward about removing feta cheese from my sandwich or making a meal out of sides because I don't want the restaurant staff to go out of their way to appease my preferences. Anyways, I assume that not meeting my preferences aren't that much of a liability to them.

Aside from sickness just because I don't usually eat meat and dairy (does dairy include eggs?), I won't get as ill as a person with allergies if I eat something that I say I "shouldn't" eat. Hopefully...

I guess I feel like it's a hassle for the restaurant because it's not just that I don't want to eat a certain food sometimes, it's a certain ingredient that I don't want. At fancier restaurants, I feel like I don't want to offend whoever created the complex dishes.

Sometimes I feel like the dishes (wraps, for example) are already mixed or prepared and so the staff will just pull out the bacon and so there would still be meat grease in there! Gross. Something like that.

A psychological allergy? Is that what I have? That doesn't count...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Out of context?

I find that a problem with the adverb "religiously" is that people don't even seem practice religion religiously anymore.

Or something like that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wiki "Pisgah"

Yesterday I had a confusing lunch. I knew that after almost 6 months of procrastinating, I needed to force myself to take my nicely wrapped donations to Goodwill. And that was done and done. I was content to shuffle back to the office and nibble on a Clif Bar because, yum, of course, but I had this urge to drive down Pisgah Church Rd.

I mean, what kind of urge is that?

I always seem to forget how lengthy Pisgah Church is. I seem to have the periodic mis-memory of swathes of a road. I realize how long the road is when I enter that area of seemingly random and high-priced housing developments. It's sort of like what happens when you are driving down North Elm. away from downtown and right before you hit Pisgah Church. Now those are some big houses!

Anyways, I was looking for a bakery. Lowercase "d" delicious bakery that is. I've heard only two but two very strong raves about the place so I figured I'd give it a go. I couldn't seem to eye-ball it while driving but that ended up being because the bakery is actually on Battleground so, not much lost there. Since I was already way into my lunch break, I happily decided to swing by Fresh Market which was just around the area where I gave up looking for the bakery. I used to be obsessed with Fresh Market. Back in the day, I would WALK there in Cary, in awkward suburban traffic.

What I came to realize, after living in Greensboro, is that what I wanted from Fresh Market was really what I wanted and actually got from places like Earth Fare and Whole Foods. Fresh Market is what it is and is good at that (you fill in the blanks for whatever you think Fresh Market is good for) but I don't see it as my go-to grocery store for regular grocery shopping.

Not that I do "regular" grocery shopping. I buy a little here, a little there; it's not like when my mother made the stop at Safeway, Giant or Shoppers Food Warehouse and bought at least a hundred dollars worth of comida for a month or so. The only time I've spent that much money is, almost sad to say, when I buy ingredients for cupcakes. And some other unnecessary items. Oh, sheesh.

I picked up a couple of items at Fresh Market which amounted to plenty for a nice, light lunch. However, I am quite indulgent at times and when I saw Gnam Gnam Gelato a few doors down, I made a run for it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How do you say...?

Yesterday was my last Arabic class at FaithAction International House. This past Thursday was my last Mandarin Chinese class, too. It seems like forever ago when I started those classes. I didn't learn as much as I would have liked to, but the circumstances involved with the classes allow me to be grateful for the foundation that I was still able to gain in the two languages.

I am planning on a series of posts based on my experiences in the classes. A lot of my motivation for writing these posts comes from the bloggers that have a home in my RSS feed and fulfill my need to read and think about language all the time! Check them out here:

I kinda like languages. (Twitter @ikll)
Language Log
Lexiophiles (Twitter @babla)
Lingosteve's place (Twitter @lingosteve)
The Linguist (Twitter @LingQ)
Spanish Only (Twitter @spanishonly)

I am so happy that I found these blogs and that I even discovered Twitter, where I follow others interested in language. The disappointing part is that I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of others out there talking about language learning. I get different feelings and perspectives from each of the above bloggers. Some of their ideas mesh with mine and some don't, but I am glad to see others think about languages as much I do!

Ok, I'm a nerd.

Immigrant Women in America (in Greensboro)

Every Monday I receive the "FaithAction e-News" email newsletter from FaithAction International House. This week's e-newsletter highlights one of the YWCA's lunch series on women's issues:

INVISIBLE BUT ESSENTIAL: Immigrant Women in America

An Asian face, a Caribbean accent, or the echo of Spanish reveals that millions of Americans entrust their most precious treasures--their children, their parents, their homes--to immigrant women. Are they invisible to us? Do we undervalue their contribution?

Tuesday April 27th, 12 noon (no charge)

YWCA of Greensboro
4002 Spring Garden Street, Suite E
Between Wendover and Market Streets
(336) 273-3461
Look for the balloons!

Invited Panelists for this topic:
-Kathy Hinshaw, UNCG Center of New North Carolinians
-Susan Feit, Executive Director, National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ)
-Marikay Abuzuaiter, Co-Chair, International Advisory Committee
-Laura Burton, Attorney, Smith Moore LLP

Learn more about this lunch series from the post I wrote here.

I plan on being there. I'll see some people I know and get the itch to join the discussion.

Friday, April 16, 2010

One less plastic bag...this time

I finally used my downtown Greensboro bag for grocery shopping!

I'll admit: I am very bad about using my reusable shopping bags.

I've even made the effort to put all of my (...many) bags--cloth and paper--in the car so that I can quickly grab them before going into the store. One of three things happens:

(1) I don't need a bag (or I can put it in my purse). Ok, this is ok.
(2) I just forget. Tsk tsk.
(3) I am too embarrassed to use it.

What?! Embarrased?

Sometimes. Actually, at Earth Fare, I am more embarrassed when I forget my bags. After all my time shopping in the "healthy supermarket," my efforts tumble when I try to act like I am actually choosing the better choice between paper or plastic.

They don't let you get away with that.

I am embarrassed when I go into a Wal-mart for example. Or, I could end up being embarrassed. I know, I know, even Wal-mart sells their own bags. P.S. don't even get me started on thinking about getting started on all the stores printing their own bags. Anyhow, it just seems to me that with all the hype about these bags, in big box stores and other retailers, it doesn't seem to be a part of their efficiency to have customers give the cashier or bagger their own bags. Maybe I should focus on Wal-mart since that's where it seems to take more effort for the cashier to bag items when the bag isn't on that carousel thing-y.

Ok, I am thinking too much about this. But, honestly, I feel weird about it when I go into some stores! I just have to get over it. Just look what I can fit in a fine ol' reusable bag:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No bacon, please.

I had lunch at Iron Hen a earlier this month. Can I officially love portobella mushrooms? I think I will. Uh-oh, look at that "very good deviled egg." Vegan? No. Well, I ate it and I ate Chris' and that salad was filled with mozzarella cheese. I felt guilty. Oh well. I also am sad that Iron Hen isn't what I want it to be--more vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. I got the feeling it'd be just from the local-ish, fresh vibe about it but I know that there's such thing as local-ish, fresh cheese, bacon, eggs, and on and on.

My only hope is that Iron Hen's hash browns aren't prepared with bacon/meat or on the same griddle as bacon/meat. I assume it is but I am either going to (1) still eat it because damn those hash browns taste good or (2) just drop by for the fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Hope there's no bacon in that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wiki "mimosa"

Yum. A version of my "mimosa" cupcake. I am so glad that I have found options to my VCTOTW buttercream. I love the buttercream for what it is, but since I've tried the book's chocolate mousse and finally experimented with my own icings and glaze, I've gotten more excited about trying new flavors.

But, that doesn't mean that I should have made a strawberry cake this past weekend and eaten it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But, oh did it taste good...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trying to do it all.

Look at the photo; look at the cute little cups. Focus on the cup on the right.

I want that.

That is the Pineapple Basil sorbet at the Whole Foods in Winston-Salem. I was skeptical at first while scanning the vegan selections amongst the gelato...glad that there was sorbet available, too, but...pineapple basil?

Yes, the flavor was odd but also, well, exciting. It was weird because I never tasted those two flavors together before and it was aaaaaah refreshing. Memorieeeees...

So, why don't I get some more? (Sighing) You know, you'd think that someone who is so intent on making the "right" food choices (begin eco-friendly, body-friendly, and all) would also care enough for the Earth to not drive over 40 minutes to Winston-Salem from Greensboro for some sorbet.

Every Whole Foods is at least 40 minutes away! The Biz Journal says the Triad wants a Trader Joe's. People seem to want a Whole Foods in Greensboro. I still love Earth Fare as my local "healthy supermarket." I really only have brand loyalty to Food Lion's own Nature's Place plain soymilk. I'm volunteering for Earth Day in Center City Park. I drive a compact car. I recycle but secretly believe that the powers that be dump all of my intent into the landfill. I volunteer with GCM's Edible School Yard. I want to be able to do it all and then George Carlin gives me this.

At the moment, I'm not really trying to "save the trees, save the bees"...all I want is some sorbet!

Just for a moment.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Is the Scrabble dictionary the ultimate reference? Hmmm...

Last Thursday I participated in the Reading Connections Scrabble Challenge at O. Henry Hotel and it was a fun time! Before that night I had no real memory of ever playing Scrabble which surprised me because you'd think that with my obsession with language, I'd be a certified Scrabble-nerd. I must say, after skimming the event rules, I got quite confused since all that ran through my head at the beginning of the first round were all the short words I could use from every language I half-way learned...

I was an individual player and played the same person for the two rounds, begging her to challenge my use of "ER" because I wanted one of the Winston-Salem Scrabble Club people walking around and selling advice to whip out some Scrabble Dictionary knowledge. Plus, they were wearing funny hats, so it was fun to see that up close.

Those Scrabble Club people giving advice put some pressure on me and my opponent since we didn't bring enough money to buy advice. That's how the winner got so may points! If I had the $10 per piece of advice and someone told me that I could lay down some tiles for 50, 60 or even 100 points, I's be all over it.

Is that cheating? Noooo, all proceeds from purchased advice would go to Reading Connections so it's all good!

I didn't win any of the fab-fab-fabulous raffle prize packs during the event, but I had mucho fun anyways.

Maybe I should buy a Scrabble board? I mean, damn, no one ever wants to play Sorry! with me...

Learn more about Reading Connections.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Not so random fact.

I've had a good time living in Greensboro for the past 7 years (especially those since I graduated from undergrad). Greensboro is on my map.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Brainstorming: Easter cupcakes 2

I am sort of sick of dealing with powdered sugar and sticky, sticky vegetable shortening, so I was looking for an alternative to the VCTOTW buttercream frostings that I usually made.

I mean, it was exciting at first that I found that I could make (1) frosting in the first place and (2) vegan frosting at that, but I was a bit scared about how much powdered sugar and cocoa storms I was inhaling. And, it was cumbersome.

The VCTOTW chocolate mousse has been amazing as a topping so far and it is so easy to make! It tastes especially good after the cupcake topped with the mousse sits in the fridge for about half a day, in my experience.

Well, I wanted to try something new and since I had plenty or marmalade on hand, I wanted to see if I could incorporate that into a topping (that wasn't just the cupcake topped with marmalade!). I was inspired by this simple recipe and tried it out first with my orange champagne marmalade. That experiment resulted in a creamy looking glaze that had similar ingredients to but tasted different than what I whipped up for this Easter.

I used the powdered sugar and marmalade, but this time I used strawberry marmalade (and added a bit of coconut milk). I was doing figurative back flips when I saw how red/pink the mix was turning out to be! It's not really a substitute for the "all-natural" food colorings I have been looking for (BTW), but it was an awesome way to have a colorful glaze!

The decorations are the same as what I used in the cupcakes in my last post.

BTW: Homemade food coloring for colorful spring cakes!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Brainstorming: Easter cupcakes

Last week I went all out and experimented with my VCTOTW cupcake recipes.

I created what I refer to as chocolate mimosa cupcakes which consist of the VCTOTW golden cupcake recipe with McKay's orange champagne marmalade added into the batter and the VCTOTW chocolate mousse on top.

For Easter, I replicated the recipe and added some decorations that I picked up at Earth Fare: vegetarian jelly beans, cocoa dusted almonds, and Annie's Bunny Grahams (in Honey). Damn. Those Bunny Grahams just un-veganized the recipe. Wonder about the jelly beans, too. If they were vegan, it'd probably say that instead on "vegetarian". Oh, well! Almost doesn't count, but these tasted good! Finally, I have faith in the Golden Cupcake recipe!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A post about shoes.

I just got an email about a shoe donation drive and CBL malls (like Friendly Center) are participating in the drive for Earth Day. I just called Customer Service at Friendly Center but the office wasn't open, so here's the info I have.

Soles 4 Souls is a shoe donation drive coming up in the area. If you have shoes to donate, take them to Friendly Shopping Center, at Customer Service. The drive began over a week ago. Shoppers will be able to drop off their gently worn shoes during the month-long campaign which includes Earth Day. In exchange, Friendly Center is offering special discounts to stores such as Palm Avenue, Simple Meg's and Yankee Candle Co.


I get it. I'm no fashionista but I get it: shoes are awesome. Functional, fun, fabulous, right?

I've gone through shoes phases for fashion, form and function: shoes for the house, shoes for work, shoes for recreation, shoes that can get wet without getting all...nasty...

I've got the high heels, the conservative (read: comfortable) heel, the heels I bought for one event and haven't worn them again. I have the pair of sneakers that were supposed to initiate my resolution to get more active. I've got the $5 pair of sneakers that I bought for the time being because I felt so bad that that first pair of sneakers is now four years old. I've got a pair of hiking boots that were almost as hard to purchase since I really didn't know what to look for. I've got a pair of rock climbing shoes that I bought way more than four years ago (and so, I had to beg my father to buy them for me since nay a job I had).

A few people criticize me because it seems like I have many pairs of shoes. Well, I don't think that that is the case. What one sees is the accumulation of shoes from years and years of trying to decide if I wear a size 8 or 8 1/2; what one sees is a pair that I bought for $40 next to a pair I bought for $10 over and over again; what one sees are the pairs of shoes that I got as gifts that had their practical uses...

Who buys shoes as gifts? I don't mean flip flops or anything like that...but, eh, I usually find uses for all gifts.

Anyhow, check out this presentation created by Sarah Embry, a student at at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory. It is called "Soles4Soles" and, well, I can't think of an adjective to describe how I feel when I read the presentation. I guess that makes me a weak writer, a poor poet. It's...nice. I remember in middle school they told us that now, as older students, we had to move away from the word nice and take the initiative to discover new ways of describing life. So, I will move on to say that this was an intriguing presentation. I know intriguing is my fallback/cop-out word, but it just fits so often.

Though it probably detracts from the presentation I just linked to, I am now reminded of an old New York Times article on the topic of, yes, shoes. Check it out:

You Walk Wrong: How we’re wrecking it with every step we take.