Monthly Archives: June 2012

Just Running in for Some Coffee and Torilla Chips…

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You may remember I’m a coffee snob (“Am I in the Chemex Cult Now?”). I’ve succumbed to the belief that I must buy coffee that was roasted w/i the last 24 hours. Anything less is blasphemous to my elaborate coffee-making set-up. So after getting my hair cut yesterday, I planned to go to Whole Foods. I don’t know if they are a national chain of grocery stores, but I’m lucky enough to have one a short 35 miles away. I was in the ‘hood after all.

Coffee Choices

I still pretend that I am doing the healthier thing by mixing decaf and reg. – less caffeine and all. But in the higher echelon of coffee snobbery, the types I buy aren’t just cranked out in a reg. and decaf version. So I mix it up. Yesterday I bought Bel Canto reg. and a Mexican decaf something. (I always mean to write the name on the bags, but forget.)

Tortilla Chips from God

One day, my friend Rhonda brought these over from Whole Foods (WF). I thought, okay, tortilla chips, that’s cool. She said to try one. I did and it changed my view of the lowly tortilla chip. These are homemade in-store and totally amazing – not greasy, not too salty. Next to TJ’s Cookie Butter, these are like meth.

Having completed my short list of  the two items, I intended to leave because this store is pricey. Mainly because I gravitate toward the World of Cheese That’s the Cost Per Pound of a Bentley. I resisted cheese world but took a detour to Wine World. Here’s what else I bought:

  • 3 bottles of wine – These were affordable. The most expensive was $7.99
  • Brownie bites – My rationale is that they are “two-bite” treats with fewer calories and fat. Right.
  • Smoked salmon salad – This is right up there w/ CB and the chips. I wasn’t going to cave, but the guy told me they had just smoked the salmon yesterday and he was making a fresh batch. OK, I’m in.
  • Beer – When it’s 90+ out and I’ve tried to die by working in my yard, I need a cold beer when I’m done. I bought Brooklyn Summer Ale on sale. I don’t usually like summer ales because they’re often Belgians/wheat, which I don’t like, but this looked good.
  • Arugula – I’m growing some, but I don’t want to deplete the crop.
  • Organic lemonade – It was $1.50.
  • Strawberries – I don’t usually spring for organic fruit, but these were $2.50.
  • Some other stuff I don’t remember.

Total was $68.00 which should not be a surprise. I go in there w/ the best intentions of grabbing just one or two items, but I’m weak.

Black Bean Burgers and Weirdness at the Mall

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Sunday, I went to a local mall w/ friends to see a movie. The one we wanted to see was sold out (the freaky Snow White one w/ Charlize Theron, who I think is way cool). So, since the other choices seemed lame (Tom Cruise as an Axl Rose wannabe? Yikes!), we headed to a fave restaurant for black bean burgers.

As you know from reading SPGL, I’m not a vegetarian, but I crave these veg. burgers like I do a cheeseburger which means when it pops into my head, I’m going to have to get one. My one friend had never had this item, so we were glad to make the introduction. After ordering and sitting down, we decided that because we missed our movie, we should have a bottle of wine. I don’t normally drink in the middle of the day, but it was appealing. We had a Lagaria Pino Grigio and it was tasty.

People Watching

Possibly fueled by the wine, we spotted some fashion disasters outside the restaurant window and entertained ourselves by commenting:

  • Cowboy boots w/ short skirts – Unless you’re receiving a CMA, leave this look at home.
  • Maxi dresses w/ running shoes – Where are your flip-flops or cute sandals, ma’am?
  • Kardashian Klones -We were blinded by all that faux bling, tight lacy apparel and a shoe style that starts w/ “f.”
  • Hair adornments – We even saw bitch clips, that old stand-by from the eighties you used to hold your big hair in place (in addition to your Paul Mitchell “Freeze and Shine” spray.)

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, but explain to me how it’s it possible for a cranky baby to hit that level of decibels in a restaurant w/o amplifiers? I don’t think it was just me because my friend has three kids and six grandchildren and she wanted to poke her own eye out w/ a fork. Mom walked baby around the restaurant, which wasn’t making the child any happier. She did calm down a bit when handed off to Dad. I bet that make moms really irritated when they do that.

Restoration (Black Amex Card) Hardware

As we left the restaurant, it started to pour so we ducked into Restoration Hardware. I’m not a shopper, but I do like me some RH stuff. Who doesn’t need a 6-foot high, folding office-in-a-metal-trunk? So cool. Maybe not for $8K. I don’t know if that’s the price, but I’m sure it’s not far off. Price tags were noticeably absent. To me, this usually translates to, “you better have that Black Amex on you.”

Since it was still raining, we settled into some fine leather couches. Attractive sales guys wearing headsets kept asking us questions. Haven’t seen that headset thing outside of Vickie’s Secret and those chicks scare me. But these guys were bored, so we must have been entertainment.

The girls wanted to head over to The Container Store, but I said I needed to go home and get some work done. But you know, I actually like that emporium of “stuff you don’t need, but have to buy.” People my age get off on that place – it’s kind of like a cool night spot for the over-50 set. Don’t judge. You know you’d like some brightly colored, stackable mesh storage cubes in 12 sizes…

Wine, Tall Bags and Green Beans

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Wine, Tall Bags and Green Beans

Thus began my latest grocery shopping list. Although I tend to drink more white wine in the summer, I was missing a red to have w/ a chunk of chocolate. So, red wine it is. Other items in the cart:

Green beans, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and an avocado – I WILL eat vegs. in between the other crap I’ve been consuming.

  • Insect sting cream – Yesterday, after eight years of peaceful co-existence, the wasps that build a nest in my shed attacked me. I have at least 3 stings on ONE earlobe. When I went to look for a first aid cream, the tube was dated 2003.
  • Small filet of beef -Well, it’s not small, it’s .52 lbs. and was kind of expensive. But I rarely eat beef and I’m grilling out for the week on Sat. I’ll save half to put on an arugula salad another night.
  • Peppered turkey– I buy tortilla wrappers and make sandwiches. I pretend like it’s less fattening than bread.
  • All natural chicken sausages – Had a coupon.
  • Six bottles of red wine – My fave, Baguala Malbec 2008 was on  sale for $4.99.
  • Two bottles of rose – Some French stuff on sale for $7.99
  • Tall kitchen bags w/ handles – I swear there are as many choices of plastic bags as there are feminine hygiene products. It’s a disposable TRASH bag, people.
  • Kleenex – Only I bought Puffs. I shared my opinion about buying paper products in this post, If Only Paper Towels and Toilet Paper Were Edible. But I have to say, I’m a sucker for attractive Kleenex boxes. And yes, I buy the little boxes that are 25 times more expensive because they’re cute, dammit.
  • Assorted other stuff that’s even more boring than my take on Kleenex.

I spent quite a bit of money this trip, which I’m trying not to do (because the funds are scary low). But my rationale is my cash-back rewards credit card, that had a pristine 0 balance, messed up the amount in my account. I had $55 instead of $7. Sooo, I used the bad, bad card and will get the $55 taken off my next bill.

Hey, it’s ice cream season. Not sure if I shared that I’m into making homemade ice cream. My best is butter pecan w/ artisan salt. Details to come…;-)

Ice Cream and Tomatoes Co-Habitate

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Is it me or do grocery store cashiers and baggers secretly hate people who bring in recyclable bags? Maybe it is easier to load up those creepy plastic bags, but give me a break. The way they exact revenge for having to load my Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and other cloth bags is as follows:

  • Put 50 lbs. in one bag. Then lift it and say, “Do you think this will be too heavy for you?” Well, how would I know?  – YOU’RE lifting it. 30-35 lbs. is about my limit. But hey, I have six more bags you could use to spread that weight around.
  • Put tomatoes in a freezer bag w/ ice cream. I probably instigated this when I asked if the frozen stuff and some of the other cold items could go in the freezer bag. WHY DO I HAVE TO ASK THIS? For some reason, I feel the need to add, “I live 30 miles away.” But tomatoes in there w/ frozen stuff? You’re not supposed to even refrigerate tomatoes.
  • Put fragile stuff w/ cans. This is a fave. Why? Is it just to be sadistic to my bread.
  • Put one item in one bag. This is usually a quart of club soda or a tube of toothpaste. Do these items need to be segregated? Have they been misbehaving?

I’ve even thought about talking to a manager about offering to do a training class. “Okay, people, let’s practice loading the freezer bag. No, Kleenex doesn’t need to stay chilled.”

Rant over. Thanks for bearing w/ me.

Raspberries

Are you as excited as I am about cheap raspberries this time of year? Today, I bought 2 packages that were 4/$5. Amazing for something that is usually $4.99 each in other seasons. I make a raspberry sauce to go on homemade lemon sorbet. If you behave (unlike the renegade gangs of club soda), I’ll give you the recipe. For both.

Trader Joe is My New Boyfriend

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After a really long hiatus (maybe a month), I headed back to Trader Joe’s (TJs for the cool crowd). I needed to stock up on essentials like cheap white wine and imported cheeses – you know, pantry staples.

I spent $133.90 but I got a boatload of food and six bottles of wine!

Frozen Food Finds

OK, I’m lazy when it’s hot and don’t want to cook much, but I also have a big assignment to finish by end of June. So I need easy food. Here’s what I found in the frozen food aisle.

  • Ahi Tuna fillets – Does it bug you when people say, “filets” when they mean fillets?
  • 3 Bento Boxes – These were marked down to .99 each! Cute little individual compartments w/ rice balls and other fun things.
  • Brussel sprouts – Don’t groan. If you hate Brussel sprouts it’s because all you’ve had are the crappy, gray-green ones. Try fresh. OK, these are frozen, but my pal Rhonda swears that when you roast them w/ olive oil drizzled on top that these things are amazing.
  • Rosemary leg qtrs. – Have to say these were a bust. No marinade as promised and the 20 minute thaw time and 30 minute bake time were way off. For $2.99, it’s not such a loss.
  • Reduced Guilt mac & cheese – I’ve had this before and it’s surprisingly good.

Fresh Stuff

  • Pasta Perline Proscuitto – I’ve seen perline in recipes, but never had it. They look like little purses. I’m going to probably just toss w/ olive oil and a little Parma.
  • Greek honey yogurt – This stuff is full of fat, but I eat 1/2 a container and I’m good.
  • Smoked salmon – This might be my “desert island” food.
  • Rosemary ham – Yes, it’s a bit silly to pay $2.99 for 6 thin slices, but this stuff is wonderful.
  • Sweet potato – You were probably wondering if I was going to buy anything in the veg. or fruit category.
  • 2 red peppers – I roast them.
  • 3-layer hummus – Reg., cilantro and red pepper.

International House of Cheeses

Cheese is my other “desert island” food. Yes, I know it’s all fat and I don’t care.

  • Fresh caprese mozarella – Make a salad by slicing this, a nice tomato (not one of those pathetic things) and some fresh basil. Drizzle w/ olive oil and you’re in heaven.
  • French swiss – I know, odd, huh?
  • English Stilton – If you’ve never had this blue, try it.
  • Italian gorgonzola – Yes, I guess most gorgonzola is Italian. If you are afraid of blue cheese, try this. You’ll be fine. I promise.
  • Mascarpone –For the uninitiated, this is Italian cream cheese – lighter than “ours.”
  • Parmesan Reggiano – This is the good stuff and it’s expensive. I think this was $15.99/lb (and that’s sort of cheap). But you only need a small amount and for topping pasta, etc., you shouldn’t waste your time/money on anything else.

Other Non-wine Stuff

  • COOKIE BUTTER – I’m convinced there’s a CB cult and I was indoctrinated into it. Members recognize each other. Two TJ cashiers and I did the secret CB sign and watched as a newb bought their first jar. That’s how it starts…
  • Salsa verde – I dip “healthy” tortilla chips in this goodness.
  • Herb & Spice popcorn – New thing. Will report later.
  • Capers – See smoked salmon above.
  • Olive oil -Get the good stuff. Extra-virgin. (Make 3rd grade joke here.)
  • Premium chocolate-covered Bing Cherries – New to me.

Wine

  • Gruner Veltliner – This may be a new one for you. It’s a German/Alsatian. Nice white to try. And you’ll have fun saying it to people you want to impress w/ your esoteric wine know-how. (Groon-r Velt-leener)
  • Rose – OK, you know there’s an accent on that, right? Try it – it’s not the pink wine that has scared you in the past. Trust me. Get a good French one. You can find inexpensive ones.
  • Vinho Verde – Another one to try if you haven’t. It’s from Portugal, has a little fizz and very low alcohol (9% or so). Great summer white.
  • Some new French white – The label looks like it says, Communist Revolution, but I doubt that’s right.
  • Blue Fin Viognier – Another white to try if you haven’t. It’s fruit-forward, but not sweet. It’s one of my ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) wines. This TJs one is $4.99. Nice.

So, that’s probably more than you wanted to know about my shopping trip to TJs. But it’s my damn blog and I’ll post if I want to. (Let me know if you’re old enough to get that reference!)

Cookie Butter is the New Crack

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Before I launch into my riff on this mind-altering substance, I must give a shout out to fellow grocery shopper Steve Barber. Steve’s post, “Why Men Shouldn’t Shop at Foodland” on the fab website An Army of Ermas gave my self-esteem a much-needed boost. He’s as clueless when grocery shopping as I am. Thanks for sharing your First Step with us (Admitting you’re powerless…for those of you non-12-Steppers).

Cookie Butter Madness

I found this magical substance at Trader Joe’ recently. It was on an end cap (yes, I used to work retail) w/ a Nutella-like product. I asked a clerk her opinion about both. Her eyes practically rolled back in her head as she chanted, “OMG, get the cookie butter!!! It’s amazing!!” With that recommendation, who wouldn’t want to give it a try?

I did and I’m attesting that this is like meth for the moderately upscale crowd that shops at TJ’s. When my excellent pal Sarah was over, I told her she had to taste it. She seemed mildly interested until she tried it and now I have hooked my first junkie. Amazing baker that she is, she was inspired to create something w/ CB as the star.

Brownies – No, I mean BROWNIES

Checking in w/ her grandmother who taught her to bake, Sarah liked the idea of making a cake frosting. Kind of like a peanut butter type, except w/ CB. Of course she made her signature brownies to host this amazing topping. Okay, it was brownie nirvana! The frosting was light and creamy, but rich on top of the dense fudginess. I would have mainlined them if I could.

CB Experiments

Here are some things I’ve tried w/ cookie butter:

  • Spread on a whole wheat bagel w/ sliced strawberries on top
  • Spread on a slightly nuked molasses crinkle cookie
  • On a spoon or finger straight from the jar

So go get some. Actually, you should get a case before they decide it’s an illegal substance.

We Explore Southern Writers and Krispy Kremes: Weigh In

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I thought it would be fun to veer from the usual SPGL format and interview a writer pal. Amy Mullis is a published author, humor writer and food enthusiast. Amy lives in South Carolina, “in a suburb of Sugar Tit, which is possibly the best thing that could happen to a humorist.” 

Amy and I met several years ago while writing for a digital magazine and immediately bonded over our finely-tuned sense of humor, inability to pay attention in meetings and love of Krispy Kremes.

SPGL: Welcome, Amy!

AM: “First I’d like to say that I love your blog. I regularly stop by to read it, but I don’t always comment because the lists make me hungry and I wander off for a snack. Also, I’ve noticed that your lists often contain wine. Handy tip:  I save money by substituting comparable but thriftier items, such as juice from the grapes I forgot to throw out last month.  Always remember that good things can come from refrigerator harvests.”

SPGL: Thanks for the plug, A! You’re a talented and successful writer. Here’s a question about your “process” – Do you live to write or do you live to eat? (Since this is a food-focused blog, I have to ask the hard questions.)

AM: “I believe that eating and writing can coexist peacefully. I haven’t seen an essay yet that isn’t made better by a smudge of chocolate and a sprinkling of crushed pecans. And raspberry filling. And whipped cream. And… could you excuse me a second? I have to go check on something in the snack aisle.”

SPGL: I know from previous chats that you’re quite a fan of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. As a writer, do those misspellings bother you? Is glazed your favorite?

AM: “Krispy Kreme originated in my back yard. Not my actual back yard because they’d be covered in red mud, but in the “other” Carolina just over the border.  So I thought Krispy Kreme was the correct spelling until I conducted in-depth research on Google five minutes ago. But people that spell doughnuts without the “ugh”?  I have ughly thoughts about them. (See what I did there? I call that humor. My kids call that an excuse to roll their eyes like Atlantic City dice.)  Also, I’ve had a flirtation with glazed for years, but my blood runneth raspberry cream. Or kreme. Either one makes my arteries go pitter pat.”

SPGL: You live in SC. We Northerners believe that y’all (is that correct?) live on chicken-fried steak and grits. Have you ever made a sandwich replacing bread w/ chicken-fried steak?

AM: “You can’t replace bread with chicken fried steak because done correctly there is gravy on top and that would send the whole meal into the “gooshy stuff we eat over the sink” category.  (Interesting fact: There is also chicken fried chicken which is not the same as fried chicken although it’s fried. And chicken. Go figure.) However, if you’ll check with Paula Deen (referenced below and who always, I mean ALWAYS, looks like a zombie in her photographs and who is probably planning a meal around chicken fried brainz) you can make a sandwich using a sliced doughnut for bread. Add bacon and it’s nature’s perfect food. Y’all.”

SPGL: According to Southern cook Paula Deen, TV Star and High Priestess of Fat Content, recipes should always stick to a 75% fat to 25% sugar ratio. Would you weigh in on that?

AM: “Never say “weigh” to a Southerner.”

SPGL thanks Amy for taking the time to stop by, especially since she had to put down a donut to focus. Catch more of her on her blog, Mind Over Mullis and on An Army of Ermas, where she’s a regular contributor.