Wegman’s 80/20 Ground Beef. A French Cruller donut. A Utah State basketball game on ESPN3. Knowing what I like is what I like and not worrying about why I like it. Sometimes, a rainy Friday night in the house isn’t so bad.
Wegman’s 80/20 Ground Beef. A French Cruller donut. A Utah State basketball game on ESPN3. Knowing what I like is what I like and not worrying about why I like it. Sometimes, a rainy Friday night in the house isn’t so bad.
Christmas meal traditions. Everyone has them, I suppose. For my family, it’s usually lunch out on Christmas Eve, a plethora of cookies on Christmas morning, and whatever my aunt and uncle serve up at their place for Christmas dinner. The meals range from the memorably homemade to the bland and store-bought. Sometimes, we manage to get the best of both worlds. Like this Christmas, when my aunt and uncle had a catered Wegman’s turkey (brined, smoked, and helped out by plenty of delicious sides). Through the highs and lows of whatever were chowing on, however, Christmas eating has never really included the mysterious meal called ‘brunch’ (that is, unless you count the hundreds of grams of sugar in the cookies we’ve been known to put away during car rides en route from Baltimore to Buffalo.)
Things were a bit different this year though, and different for the better. After celebrating two extended family Christmases on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, we returned home to a slower, more leisurely pace on Tuesday. Mass was in the morning at nine, and not getting home until 10:30, we put ourselves squarely in brunch territory.
Unfamiliar ground, to be certain, but we were prepared. A rich and indulgent filet of smoked Sockeye Salmon Lox from Portlock had been shipped courtesy of my father’s employer, whole my mother had picked up enough fresh-baked rye bread and pumpernickel rolls to feed a football team during pre-game bowl preparations. While we had the prerequisite cream cheese, capers, tomatoes, and even ricotta on hand (mmm, ricotta) my mother also picked up some something called Greek Cream Cheese.
I was skeptical. After all, Greek yogurt is one of those buzz foods every company is trying to capitalize on. But when it comes to rich and lip smacking, savory spreads, I find most, if not all, substitutes to be unacceptable. A ‘butter blend,’ say you? Please. Canola Oil and whipped monoglycerides will never actually taste like actual butter. A Vegetable Pate? Be still my heart and just kill my taste buds, why don’t you!
Here’s the shocker; I was incredibly surprised by Green Mountain Farm’s Greek Cream Cheese . Whipped and full of that creamy, ethereal flavor that pairs so wonderfully with the buttery and smoky flavors of salmon, this ‘Greek’ Cream cheese tastes just as good as the expensive store-bought spreads that my favorite bagel shop, Einstein Brothers, charges an arm and a leg for. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a lower saturated fat alternative to traditional cream cheese. Why would you be looking for a little less saturated fat in your cream cheese spread? Because, like Christmas, the feasting on lox doesn’t limit itself to just one day in my house. With a few days worth of salmon and bread to get me through all my snacking, you might just say I’ve found a go-to cream cheese spread that’s not only delicious and affordable, but remarkably healthy.
Which is good, because I have a butt-ton of cookie eating to catch up on. And those definetly are anything but healthy.
One of my favorite local blogs, HowChow, recently opined on the best places to buy groceries in Howard County. With respect to his list, I’m going to have to add a nondescript, completely ‘white people’ grocery store to my favorite places in the county.
I shop at a lot of stores, and I love chains like Wegman’s. But I also like going to a place that offers good variety, competitive prices, and hearty bread. Being neither far away nor always crowded is also a huge plus. That’s probably the reason I’ve been loving the recent upgrades to my local Weis Markets so much.
I’ve talked about Weis’ unique ice cream flavors in the past, but this time of the year, when I find myself craving the warming effect of hearty vegetables and the simplicity and comfort of good, crusty bread, I’ve turned to Weis’ bakery department. While Weis’ house “artisan” breads don’t quite match Wegman’s, Weis does offer Old World style loaves produced by La Brea, including a deliciously rich yet tangy Three-Cheese Semolina loaf I picked up for half price last week.
That’s one of the big advantages Weis has over Wegman’s when it comes to baked good — unlike Wegman’s, you can buy “over baked” breads, donuts, muffins, and even cake slices from Weis at half the price of their original cost. And when life gives you an already reasonable, crusty Ciabatta baguette and makes it just a buck, then you’ve got yourself a recipe — literally — for a panini.
Saturday’s are the best days for Panini’s because that’s the day God made for football and food, as protected by the Constitution, the Magna Carta, and Hammurabi’s Code. Between watching my Aggies and Mids put the smackdown on UTSA and ECU, respectively, I took a look around my fridge to see what we had. Cheese was an easy choice. Low moisture, whole milk mozzarella is something I’ve begun to really appreciate over the past few months. It melts great, obviously, but it has enough milky flavor and richness to make an underrated companion for fruits like apples and pears. Here, I pair it with an assortment of fall vegetables, including grilled butternut squash, onions, and beet greens. I also made sure to add Granny Smith apples, as well as balsamic vinegar.
After grilling the vegetables on my panini grill, I pressed everything between the thin slices of Ciabatta, grilling up the already sturdy crust until the cheese was warm and melted and the bread even crunchier than before.
Then, in the word’s of Hamilton Porter, I ‘stuffed’ it.
Not a bad way to grab gameday lunch without having to drive to either the game, or the other side of the county, amidst a fall weekend.
I did not grow up eating a lot of beef. Burgers in our house were always of the Turkey variety growing up, and a childhood attachment to chicken tenders, nuggets, and all things poultry, breaded, and fried, left me digesting very little of the bovine persuasion as a kid. Aside from a short-lived, pretensions declaration of enjoying steak between ages of 8-10, I actually can’t remember a single instance where beef was among the regular eats of my childhood.
Eventually that changed. Gradually my family and I learned that honest-to-God hamburgers were tastier — and in some cases healthier – than Turkey burgers, and that the two cities our family held ties to — Buffalo and Baltimore — provided two of the very best beef sandwiches known to cellular existence (Beef on Weck, and Pit Beef, respectively).
For as much as I like meat and specifically beef, I don’t eat much of it. It is, for the most part, a cost and convenience issue. I like to cook my own food, and a creative flair for seasonal ingredients and ever-thrifty eyes have left me more inclined to purchase vegetables and grains. Plus, I just like to snack a lot on stuff like cottage cheese and saltines, which leaves precious little time for meat.
Lately, however, I’ve been feeling like a carnivore. Credit football season. Blame the changing weather. Chalk it up to a need to just assert a Tim Allen manly grunt not seen since the likes of Home Improvement, but for whatever reason, it manifested in several recent kitchen experiments and food excursions.
I was at Safeway one day a few weeks ago when I spotted these “previously frozen” beef bones. I bought them for no good reason except that I was feeling creative, and was determined to find something to put them to use for when I got home. I ended up finding a recipe that called for grilling them and extracting the marrow. I’ve never had marrow before, and judging by the way I cooked these bones, I still don’t think I’ve had it at its best. But even underdone, the rich, sumptuously grassy fat of the marrow makes an incredible spread for a nice slice of old world, crusty bread. A little salt and rosemary enhance the flavor with a romantic, french countryside ethos, giving a sense of satiety in a slow, savory chew. Next time I buy beef bones, I’ll make sure to cook the marrow completely, perhaps even splitting the bone to develop a caramelized crust.
We all know ground beef has gotten expensive. We all also know many grocery stores make you buy it in “value packs.” I hate that, because I really don’t need four pounds of ground meat for a quick dinner midweek. That’s why I like places like Target. They sell beef at competitive prices in manageable sizes — in this case, a pound of 85/15 for exactly three bucks. I bought it to add to a butternut squash chili for my parents one night, but saved half of it for later in the week to make hamburgers for myself.
There’s really something fulfilling and altogether cathartic about waking up at 4:30 in the morning, going to work all day, running errands, and then coming home to fire up the grill and make something for yourself, and only yourself. There’s also something rewarding about a minimalist burger. As much as I like a good, salty, gooey cheeseburger, I really like a meaty burger with fresh ingredients on a quality bun.
85/15 is like the middle child of ground beef. Many “burger eaters” swear you need the fat of 80/20 (if not fattier) blends, but I’ve yet to grill or griddle myself a burger from ground round that is anything less than juicy and delicious. I actually think it’s just a juicy as 80/20, and when properly managed, a heck of a lot more flavorful. After years of eating Turkey burgers with more filler than your grandma’s meatloaf, I’ve evolved to just adding salt and fresh cracked pepper to my beef burgers, although I like to finish grilling them on top of thinly sliced sweet onion. I picked up some delicious potato buns from Wegman’s that have the right sweetness and squish to lend support and taste to the meat. Tomatoes,green leaf lettuce, pickles, and low-fat mayonnaise add freshness, sweetness, and relief. Of course, I have to add ketchup and mustard too, just because.
The meat is beefy and sweet, just like it should be. Oh yea, and nothing beats those juices running free. This is the main difference between beef and turkey, if you ask me. All ground meat is going to have some amount of fat, but it’s the flavor of that fat which goes a long way. And when it comes to beef, you just can’t beat those natural flavors. You also can’t beat the price of making a burger at home. The cost of ingredients averaged out, and it’s a quarter pound burger for about a buck. Try getting that from McDonald’s…
I love the Wegman’s in Columbia for too many reasons to get into here and now, but “Buffalo foods” like Sahlen’s hot dogs and Weck Rolls are a huge reason why I drive out of my way to Columbia to visit Wegman’s. Weck, for those of you who don’t know, is a kind of yeasty Kaiser roll with coarse pretzal salt and caraway seeds on top. Served up with warm roast beef and as much horseradish as your snoz can take, it’s the kind of “perfect three” of bread-ingredient-condiment that makes fried chicken and pickles or tomato and mayo just work in all its delicious simplicity.
I picked up a Weck roll at Wegman’s before the Navy game against Indiana on Saturday (helluva comeback, by the way) and had it for lunch with some deli roast beef the next day. Granted, Hillshire Farms is not Charlie the Butcher, but that’s the thing about great bread. It can actually elevate a sandwich’s other ingredients, and for someone hundreds of miles from a real Buffalonian food staple, Wegmans’ rendition of a Weck roll more than does the trick.
Long story short, I really liked beef this week. But after that weck roll and a sourdough baguette from Weis that I lunched on, I think my next two-three week craving is going to be for good bread. And only good bread.
I spent the better part of the best years of my life writing about college football (and for that, they pretty much turned out to be the most unhappy years of my life), so like it or not, I’m subjecting you to my thoughts from each week’s action. DEAL WITH IT.
Notre Dame 50, Navy 10
Ohio 24, Penn State 14
Utah State 34, Southern Utah 3
FOX: Gus Johnson calls every game like it’s March Madness. Pair him with Charles Davis, who might just be the most intelligent play-by-play guy in all of college football commentary-dom, and you’ve got the most underrated announcing duo this side of the Joe Tessitore effect.
Nebraska’s running game: Ok, so it was Southern Miss. But the 278 yards (6.2 per) on the ground was impressive given the fact that Heisman candidate Rex Burkhead took to the sideline after only three carries (albeit, one for along touchdown). Ameer Abdullah showed some toughness between the tackles, but most of all, Taylor Martinez looked like he actually knew what he was doing with both his feet and his arm. And later in the season, with Burkhead back and hopefully healthy, you’ve got to think the latter part of that statement will open up thinks for the run game.
Turner Gill: When he was back at Buffalo, Turner Gill was the first FBS head football coach I met and interviewed. At the time, my credentials were that I had graduated high school and had once written a blog about Navy football. Yea, impressive stuff, I know. Yet the man treated me like a veteran, and at that Buffalo practice I attended, I saw first hand the kind of program that Gill looked to create. Most people know he struck out at Kansas, but few know he just coached his first FCS game. And while his Liberty Flames came up a dropped pass short of upending Wake Forest in week one, something tells me the efforts of first-time starter Brian Hudson will have Liberty staying near the top of FCS competition.
ESPN: I think I saw an Obama commercial between each TV timeout. Never mind for a second that I’m a conservative and consider this; isn’t the beauty of the college football season the fact that we can (kind of) ignore this politics stuff? Way to spoil a Saturday, ESPN.
Savannah State: I’m sure it’s a fine place to go to college and all, but how would you like to be the kid who has to respond to “yea, the team that was blown out 84-0 by Oklahoma State” when explaining where you go to college? Week One games are usually ugly. Like Battle of Hoth ugly. But this was the equivalent of the Death Star blowing up Alderaan.
Navy’s Use of the Shotgun: Did I mention how much I sincerely dislike it?
Coming tommarow…Week One Football Eats
When it comes to presliced sandwich bread, let’s get one thing straight. Most brands are just OK, and probably wouldn’t get my dollar if artisan, old-world style loaves were cheaper and had better shelve lives. The reality is, though, they don’t, so often times I’m forced to “settle” on a loaf of whatever is on sale at the store. There’s some brands I prefer over others, but most are pretty much the same. Serviceable, but not noteworthy.
All but one brand, that is.
Martin’s Potato Rolls have a cult like following amongst burger purists and hot dog aficionados alike. The sweet, chewy, soft hamburger buns are considered by many to be the gold standard (literally) for sticking a burger between, while their potato bread is renowned for its buttery taste and texture in any number of applications. Unfortunately, Martin’s products hardly ever seem to go on sale in my area, and tend to cost a dollar or two more than what I usually pay for presliced bread. So when I see a loaf on sale — like I did the other day — I make sure to buy it.
I don’t waste a good loaf of Martin’s on just any lunchbox ham and cold cheese. Maybe it’s the soft, pillow interior or the sweet-buttery taste, but for whatever reason, I tend to let my imagination run wild when making sandwiches out of Martin’s bread.
I’m a firm believer that a sandwich has to have goo, proper seasoning, and crunch. Goo is easy. I mean, melt a little cheese and fry an egg, and you’re begging for a second napkin. Sauces, well, those can either be as simple as a squirt of yellow mustard, or something a little more “personal.” And crunch? Cucumbers and Romaine lettuce are great. But with such great potato bread, why not go with something a bit more hearty. Like Potato Chips. The kind fried in Lard.
Today’s Sandwich isn’t an American classic yet, but if I had my way, it would be. It starts with frying an egg. I made the mistake of cooking to yoke a little too done for my tastes, but ideally you’ll want a slightly runny yolk to soak into the buttery, pillowy Potato bread. Muenster cheese — melted under the broiler — gives a satisfying and fatty goo, which is cut by a “special” sauce of my own creation.
Hold the mayo, because this sauce pairs ketchup, two types of relish, liquid smoke, and Old Bay seasoning to form a sweet, salty, smokey taste that goes great with the egg. But the real kicker (or cruncher, should I say)? That would be a pile of potato chips. You can use any kind you like, although with hearty crunch and slightly grassy taste, I’m particularly partial to Grandma Utz’s handcooked chips. They’re fried in Lard, and man oh man are they awesome. To recap, here’s the recipe:
1) To make the sauce, combine Ketchup, relish, Worcestershire Sauce and Old Bay to taste. Set aside.
2) Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Spray the pan with cooking spray or melt a teaspoon of butter, then crack the egg into the pan. Fry to your liking.
3) Toast two slice of bread in the skillet, placing the Muenster and the fried egg over one of the slices. After lightly browning both slices, transfer one to a pre-set broiler positioned as close to the heat source as possible. Broil until cheese is bubbly and releases a layer of fat.
4) Spread sauce over the opposite piece of bread.Position fried egg on top of the bread slice with the melted cheese, these sandwich potato chips, and, if you please, a slice of lettuce between the bread.
5) Stuff .Preferably, with napkins and not while driving.
Do you ever find yourself getting bogged down in the frustration of work? I did the other day. Don’t get me wrong; for the most part, I love my job. The people I work with our great, I have fun at work, and the challenge of using my skillset and education as part of a company can’t be beat. But there are some days — and some times of the day — when I hit a roadblock. Maybe it has to do with being unable to move along a particularly frustrating author in what he has to do, or maybe it’s a tricky legal situation which has me digging through legal publishing agreements. Whatever it is, there are bound to be times where I hit that 2:30 energy drain at, oh, about 11:30.
It happened the other day. Our business manager at the Press, an older gentleman who deals with the ‘boring’ but oh so important money ‘stuff,’ came over to my desk. He had given me a major project to work on a few weeks earlier which I had hardly touched because of other priorities, and as soon as he showed up, I found myself apologizing for getting behind.
It was OK, he said, he wanted to talk about something else. Phew.
Actually, not phew. More like “oh shinaz.” What he wanted to talk to me about was only THE major book project for our press. The book that was supposed to come out last year. The book which we’re running behind on now. The book, he reminded me, which will either make or break our financial year.
He could see the stress in my face, and I could see the stress in his. In that moment it didn’t matter that he was some 40 years older than me, came from a remarkably different background, and had a completely different and more senior role with the Press. At that moment we were both human beings under stress in the middle of a workday, needing a break and a reminder that some times, you just need to unwind before summoning the strength to get going again.
He looked out the window, and knew exactly what to do.
I’ve only had a fresh fig once and my life, and I couldn’t have told you the difference between a fig tree and an apple tree before the other day. But when our Business Manager pointed out the fig tree out back our office and asked me if I wanted to pick figs, I was not only relieved for the break from the stress, I was, suddenly, excited. Judging my the ways his eyes lit up when we got outside, I would say he was too.
It’s amazing how the spark of creativity can not only lift one’s spirit, but one’s physical energy. I’m usually zombie-like in my lethargy when I get home from work, but something about a bag of freshly picked figs had already put in motion the culinary wheels in my head. I wasn’t lost for ideas, and immediately knew my first task would be to try to recreate the Ricotta Tartine I had for lunch the fancy Euro-style chain Le Pain Quotidien a few years ago.
I decided to use a slice of P28 bread as the base. While I was hardly a fan of the bagels, P28′s bread does a better job at bridging the game between providing a whopping amount of protein (14 grams per slice) and taste. Lightly toasted, the slice of bread manages to avoid the gummy chew that plagues the bagels. The flavor gravitates towards a mix of grains and seeds with a hint of honey sweetness, making it a more than tolerable — heck, I’d even say enjoyable — option for an open-faced sandwich.
I wish I had some fresh ricotta on hand, but unfortunately I didn’t. Wanting to bumb up the protein even more I instead decided to cover the open-faced sandwich with cottage cheese. A layer of salt, black pepper, and a drizzle of strawberry balsamic vinegar was to follow, adorned with fresh picked basil. Next up came the figs, as well as some tomatoes picked from the garden. I decided to grill both of fruits, topping both with a bit of honey and more balsamic.
The result wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the Tartine I had from “Le Pain,” but then again, it wasn’t that far off — even with the cottage cheese substituted for the Ricotta. The star of the show here was the plump, honey and balsamic drizzled combination of tomatoes and figs. There’s something about balancing a floral sweetness with the harsh grind of black pepper than does an amazing job, while the salty cottage cheese underneath helps bind the tastes and textures together.
It was a nice, complete, and creative way to end a long day, and probably highlights exactly why I’d buy P28 bread in the future. What’s more, it was the kind of meal that allows you to look back on 8 hours of sitting at a desk and realize that you did more than just destroy your eyesight by looking at a Microsoft Word document. I don’t know how long that Fig Tree will hold up with fresh fruit, but as long as it does — and as long as the challenges of the job keep coming — you can bet I’ll be picking figs each and every afternoon.
Food for Thought: What’s your best way to alleviate stress at the office? Ever picked a fresh fig, or any fruit?
I distinctly remember the first time I ever tasted a plum. I was 21, and it was a cold, probably snowy day in Logan, UT. I remember being worried that day. Worried, and rushed. Come to think of it, that day must have been like every other day during the early spring of 2010, when the stresses and anxieties of life were wrecking havoc on my attempt to make it through junior year of college.
It was a Wednesday, I think, and I was in a dark office. Jessica’s office, to be precise. She was staring at me and not saying a word, allowing a silence others could only label as “awkward” to hang between us. It was never an awkward silence with her though, it was a frustrating silence. She wasn’t the first therapist who I had frustrated with my stubborn and recalcitrant habits, and chances are, she wouldn’t be the last.
I remember that day being particularly frustrating. I’m quite sure I had unleashed a torrential hail of thoughts and emotions within the first few minutes of entering her office, and having exhausted herself in tough-guy mode with me the prior few weeks, she could see I needed a break. Mostly, she could see I just needed rest.
Running between classes and meetings, it was customary for me to eat lunch while we met. I had a plum that day, just like I had a plum most days. I used to grab them two or three at a time from the dining halls, and would typically throw them into a nightly oatmeal concoction to warm me on those dark and cold Utah nights. How they got them so out of season I never knew, but I’d go through them like M&M’s. But even though I had eaten them many times before, I had never truly tasted one.
That was until Jessica decided to use my plum as the focus for one of her calming exercises. I swear, I used to hate those things. Chances are, if you’ve ever seen a therapist, you’ve probably hated them to. It’s that ”close your eyes” or “breath in” kind of mumbo jumbo that you’d expect from a yoga class, not a medical professional who you’re paying to help unscrew-up your life. Still, for the sake of both our collective sanities in that dark, expressionless office, I decided to play along.
And as I slowly took a bite from my plum, concentrating on the crisp and waxy flesh, the juicy, sweet interior, and the floral, bright flavors, I suddenly understood the words that Jessica was saying. It’s giving you strength. Nourishing your body.
I flash forward two and a half years. I’m grocery shopping for my family, and holding a plum in my hand. I close my eyes, embracing the summer bounty while transporting my senses through space and time.
I breath in, then breath out. My body and my mind are still in need of nourishment. A year away from Logan and I yearn for something to connect me with the people of the one place which ever really embraced me, and the one town in which I could see myself spending the rest of my life. I see Jessica’s blond hair in that darkened office, a look on concern on her face. I see my own detached self, shivering in the springtime thaw, unkept, unshaven as usual. And when I open my eyes, here and now, there and then, I see a plum.
I ended up buying several pounds of plums at Safeway the other day, and I could have eaten them one by one in perfect concentration and awareness of my surroundings, just like Jessica had led me to do two and a half years ago. Instead, however, I decided to move on. To show myself that I can do more when given a plum than just eat it mindlessly. Paying attention to the taste, to the source, and to the blessing of the bounty and nourishment the humble little purple fruit gives, I decided to make Grilled Plum Frozen Yogurt.
I started by breaking out a grill pan and heating up to medium high. After brushing the plum halves with a little melted butter and honey I grilled them cut-side down for four or five minutes, or until the surface sugars began to caramalize. I then grilled them another two to three minutes on the round side before transferring them to a blender with whole milk yogurt, lemon juice, and orange rind (I had no lemons(. I added 1/4 cup sugar to the mixture before blending, then transferred the blended mixture to my ice cream maker and froze for 20 minutes. Following the churning, I allowed the mixture to set in the freezer for another four or five hours, after which it reached a true frozen yogurt consistancy.
I’m not going to lie and say this was some artisan frozen yogurt. While my family loved it, I was a bit harder on myself, recognizing a distractingly intense vanilla extract flavor. Likewise, I could have settled for a few more tablespoons of honey added after grilling, or upped the sugar to a half or three-fourths a cup. Still, for only the third time in my life I’ve used the ice cream machine I’ve long had stored in my family’s basement, I’d say it was a worthy attempt, and one, I think, which Jessica would smile at.
Grilled Plum Frozen Yogurt
6-8 plums, pitted and halved
2 Tablespoon honey, divided
1/2 Tablespoon melted butter
2 Cups (16 ounces) whole milk yogurt
1/2 Cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lemon Juice, to taste
Grated Lemon Zest
Directions: Heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat. Meanwhile, brush plum halves with melted butter and 1 Tablespoon honey, and grill 3-4 minutes per side, until tender. Combine Yogurt with the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender, adding the plum halves when finished grilling. Blend until smooth, then transfer entire mixture to an ice cream machine and freeze
Food for Thought: Anyone out there with their own ice cream maker? What ice cream or frozen yogurt flavors would you make and why?
I live a kind of lonely life. Being a naturally social person it sounds like a misnomer, but it has more to do with a lack of real friendships than just being “friendly.” I guess that’s what happens when you choose to move 2000 miles away from the place where you went to college. Floating around from job to job, place to place, the past year hasn’t left me many opportunities to just hang out with people my age.
I’m guilty of exasperating this lack of a social life, if for no other reason than proclaiming that taking the time and money and effort to get together with people who are close to me would somehow endanger my career prospects or “master plan.” I’ve come up with a million excuses, especially when it comes to trying to get together with friends visiting Washington D.C. From not wanting to waste gas money driving down, to using my work schedule — which, oh by the way, I control — I’ve put off more than a few chances to reconnect with people from my past, including my good friend Rhett and his wife, Allie.
Former classmates of mine at Utah State, Rhett and Allie are the kind of people I love hanging out with. They’re positive, funny, and incredibly humble, and every second with them reminds me how much I loved my time in Logan, and how real and caring the people there are. People like Rhett took me into an extended family when I was at college — the Utah State family, for sure, but in a way, the entire cultural family of Utah’s Mormon population. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it as long as I live: The LDS community is filled with some of the nicest, most giving people you will ever meet.
It was about time I returned the favor to some old friends, and after driving down to D.C. to pick them up, the three of us checked out Old Ellicott City for some window shopping before Mass. While there, we stopped off at Sweet Cascades. I love this place. The guy who runs it just exudes that “kid in a candy store” nature that tells you he’s happy to be alive and enjoys every minute of what he’s doing. And what he’s doing is apparently making some wicked chocolate confections. This place covers everything in chocolate. Twinkies. Cheetos. Bacon. Old Bay seasoning. Most of it’s great, and most of it has precedence in the sweet and salty kingdom of foodies.
Most, but not all.
Say hello to the Chocolate Covered Bacon and Provolone Sandwich.
Need I say more? Amazingly, I do. Allie actually found the sandwich to be somewhat palatable, although Rhett, ever the diplomat, proclaimed “I was hungry” when later asked by my parents if he liked it. As for me, I passed. I’ve eaten quite a few questionable things in my life, and given the urge of hunger, might be so inclined to go for something as bizarre as a cold panini covered in chocolate.
More traditional palates eventually prevailed when we came back to my house later in the evening for some hot dogs and hamburgers, and after hanging out playing yard games and Nintendo-64 the next morning, I drove them back down to DC. For me, ever the cautious, usually self-absorbed person, the whole weekend was exactly what I needed. With the economy the way it is these days, and with a million competing voices telling us what we “should” do to get ahead, it’s tempting to go into a shell and act like a business man each day, denying yourself the kinds of out-of-your-way experiences of friendships like the one I had with Rhett and Allie. But we can’t live that way. We have to remind ourselves that life isn’t a series of transactions, and that the truest forms of love are those which see us invest ourselves in making other people happy. Because that’s what ultimately makes us happy. And, if along the way we chomp down on some truly bizarre culinary creations that remind us of just how fun we can be, well, then what more can we ask for?
Food for Thought: Eating out with friends. Are you cautious or adventurous. Epicureon or tried and true? And if you could cover one and only one sandwich in chocolate, what would it be?
I have a confession to make; I seldom eat cereal for breakfast.
Horrible, isn’t it? But before you label me a masquerading fraud of everything right and just in the cereal aisle, let me venture an explanation.
I snack on cereal throughout the day, and I enjoy a bowl of hyper-sweet cereal with cold milk after a good run as much as the next guy, but when it comes to those times where I do get the time, I like to cook. When it’s cold outside that means — you guessed it — oatmeal, but lately I’ve been craving summer produce. Something with a cooling effect, you know?
After a morning workout the other day I was mulling this craving over while staring into my kitchen cabinet. It didn’t take long for my eyes to drift to a box of Hodgson Mill Bulgur Wheat with Soy before the wheels of flavor starting to turn. Eyeing some locally grown honey (from our neighbors right across the street), fresh blueberries, and goat cheese also in our fridge and pantry, I grabbed a pot and let my instincts take over.
This was actually my first time trying soy-infused bulgur wheat, and, I’m happy to report, it tastes just as nutty and complex as regular bulgur wheat. Given a bit of fresh mint, the sweet blueberries and honey, as well as the tangy goat cheese, it made for quite a festival of flavors after cooling down. I added a dash of lemon juice to brighten the flavors and some stevia leaves from our garden for added complexity.
Given the state of my family’s garden of tomatoes, blackberries, and herbs, I more than imagine that I’ll be finding ways to work in some fresh summer produce to bulgur in the near future. Caprese, anyone?
I know there are some cooks out there (yes Chuck, this means you and your sweet potatoes, my friend) and maybe even some gardeners to. Anyone got any go-to summer recipes they’ve been enjoying recently?