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September 2008
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November 2008

Coming Soon to a Cocktail Near You...Whipahol

My friend Writer's To-Do List sent me a link to this article about a cocktail confection that you may soon see on the menu of your favorite drinking establishment (at least if you are in the Southern part of the U.S.): whipahol.

As a big fan of hard sauce on my pie and bread pudding. I'm surprised it took this long for someone to think of producing and selling boozy-sugary-fluff in a can. Coffee with Amaretto whipahol anyone?

Cook the Book club

For some time now, I've been looking in all the wrong places for a way to share good food writing and feedback on food writing (both blog writing and pieces aimed for print.) I've tried courses (both online and in person) but so far have just not quite found what I was looking for within the confines of a course. Which brings me to this...

Cook the Book club

I'm looking for San Francisco food lovers who are interested in a food-related book club. My idea is for picking a cookbook or a food mag each month, and having the book club meeting have discussion of the book/mag plus a side dish of good eats. And depending on the people involved, possibly doing some sharing of food-related writing (blogging or for print) as well.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, leave me a comment or send me an email. I'm thinking get the group organized now, start the idea-generation for the reading list, and start meeting after the holidays if folks can't start sooner.



Cheap Eats in Lean Times

Yesterday afternoon, I trekked to the Trader Joe's in Daily City for a little grocery shopping. The Westlake Trader Joe's has long been my favorite local Trader Joe's since it has plentiful parking, and the store itself is usually relatively uncrowded.

After parking at the far end of the lot, and trudging up the sidewalk, we saw there were no grocery carts to be found. This was the first bad sign. I waited about 5 minutes until someone came out of the store and emptied her cart, thus allowing me to grab it and head in. Inside, the aisles were packed with shoppers. It was similar to rush hour freeway traffic -- it was so crowded you couldn't get past the double parked carts in the middle of the aisles. Frozen food bins were picked clean (but luckily for me they still had some of the "French" pizzas.) Pretty much, it was my grocery shopping nightmare.

We completed our shopping and ran smack into the end of one of the checkout lines...halfway down the spirits aisle. With 12 shoppers in front of us, we spent almost a half hour waiting to pay for our groceries.

I don't think folks swarmed Trader Joe's just due to a renewed local focus on fresh fruits and veggies and organic foods. I think they are also now getting a bump up due to folks being concerned about the economy, and trying to cut back on expenses wherever they can. The shopping carts I peered into were not full of the usual alcohol and party food that I typically see people stocking up on. Rather, the carts had many of Trader Joe's good inexpensive basics (eggs, milk and cheese are all very good buys and made up the bulk of what others were buying.)

Personally, I've started going to Costco with more frequency. I've found that I can get good deals on meats, produce, bread, and pantry basics. Since our new refrigerator has a slightly bigger freezer than our last one, I am able to repackage the big packages of meat into dinner-for-two sizes, and thus take advantage of the low per unit prices without wasting anything.

When I make soup, chili, or any casserole, I've started putting the leftovers in Ziploc bowls and tossing them in the freezer. I slip the frozen container into my insulated lunch sack, and it's partially defrosted by lunchtime. I used to try just keeping the leftovers in the refrigerator, but inevitably found they would go to waste. Because when you are hurrying to get ready in the morning, you don't really want to wrestle the leftovers out of the refrigerator, find a container to take them to work in, etc.

Other than a few lunch dates with colleagues, I've managed to bring my lunch to work just about every day for the past 6 months. The key for me was making it easy to assemble a lunch in the morning rush:

  • I bought a really nice insulated lunch bag. I used to have to scrounge around for a leftover shopping bag of some sort, and would get to work with room temperature, squished lunches. This is a much better experience. And it's washable.
  • As noted above, I freeze leftovers in single-serving reusable bowls.
  • I make lunch for my boyfriend and myself every morning. No, this isn't a June Cleaver throwback moment on my part. Being responsible for his lunch ensures I make my own. It's easy to skip out on doing something like this for myself. And by us eating the same lunch as each other, we use up lunch items before they go bad, and dinner plans are not derailed by one or the other of us eating the main course for lunch.
  • I try to buy ready-to-package fruit and veggies to slip into our lunches. That's right -- apple slices, cups of diced peaches, baby carrots. We're eating a lot more healthily thanks to partially prepared fruits and veggies.

Lastly, I've started reading food magazines again to give me more ideas for making dinner. We'd gotten a little too used to ordering in from Waiters on Wheels, or going to the many great neighborhood restaurants within walking distance of our place. The November Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, for instance, has a piece on $10 dinners that gave me soe good ideas. And with many publishers offering great deals on subscriptions, it's worth the $1 an issue or so just for the inspiration.

Eating well on a smaller budget can be done -- you just have to get creative.

Easy Pulled Pork

Pulled PorkI love pulled pork. If I see it on a menu, I am compelled to order it. Despite this love, and my frequent making of roasted pork tenderloin, I had never tried to make it at home prior to last week.

I'd ordered a pork tenderloin from the grocery delivery but ended up with a pretty sturdy looking roast rather than the slim tenderloins I was used to. So I decide to throw caution to the wind and make some slow roasted pulled pork.

Here's what I did...

Preheated oven to 300 degrees.

Prepared large glass baking dish by coating the bottom with olive oil. Placed roast in the pain. Seasoned with salt and pepper. Poured can of coca cola over the top. Placed in oven. Turned meat over after a half hour. After another half hour, returned meat to its initial position, and added in some tiny creamer potatoes cut into bite-size chunks (sprinkled olive oil over them and salted them), and added 2 apples, cored and sliced into 8-pieces each. Baked another 45 minutes or so.

Served all the above inside pitas, with sour cream and white cheddar cheese on top. Simply yum. It is a real pain to clean up the pan afterward, but it's tasty enough to merit it.


Goodbye Mother's Cookies?

Animals My local paper reported that 92-year-old Oakland institution Mother's Cookies is shutting down operations. I've been a fan of their sugary goodness since I was small. During our weekly grocery store trips, my mom would let me pick 1 package of their cookies as my treat for the week. I'd usually alternate between the Taffys and the Iced Oatmeals. The circus animals with their garish pink and white icing and sprinkles were not on the approved eating list -- but my baby sitter would usually buy some for me. Shhhh.

Goodbye Mother's Cookies. You made many little (and not so little) children happy.

UPDATE: But you can remember the Circus Animal cookies forever via a t-shirt. Thx Joshua.

Not So Rustic Camping

Dutch OvenLast weekend, I went camping with my significant other's family. Although I am not a camping neophyte, I have never camped with them previously so I had no idea that I was in for a weekend of feasting in fresh air.

My normal camping larder includes soy milk and hot cocoa (usually fauchon cocoa packets), marshmallows, McCann's instant oatmeal, graham crackers and chocolate for sm'ores, hot dogs and buns, and some sort of salty snack, plus beer. This weekend went way past that.

Dutch Oven Peach CobblerThe key to eating well while camping, I've learned, is to bring a dutch oven, a camp stove and a big ice chest (or two). And to keep the fire going at a steady pace to act as a warming plate.

The dutch oven (which I will be asking Santa for) was used to bake cheddar biscuits (bisquick recipe+shredded cheese) and a yummy peach "cobbler." The cobbler topping was yellow cake mix rather than biscuit topping which I had never seen done before. The result was very tasty, and gave the camp an amazing aroma when the lid was lifted after dinner.

Dinner involved hot dogs for the kids, steaks for the grown ups, plus corn, salad, and ravioli with pesto sauce. Breakfast the next day involved scrambled eggs, sausage patties, and mimosas. Definitely not roughing it.

I don't know that I can commit to a big ice chest full of perishables, but this has given me some ideas for the next time we go car camping.