Food

You Will Not Believe What We Ate In Bloomington Indiana (Go Hoosiers)

Dear Kid,

Continuing my attempt to eat enough calories to feed a small country in a single meal. Yesterday, Pi and I had lunch with one of her friends at a vegan/vegetarian restaurant.

It was absolutely delicious. But vegan does not mean low calorie. Nothing that starts with a mountain of sweet potato fries (with two dipping sauces) is low calorie. Even if it’s for the table to share (because tables don’t eat very much – ha).

Then, because why not, we went to a little coffee café for dessert.

Saying “dessert” in this case is like saying the Atlantic Ocean is a puddle.

We had a sundae that started with two kinds of ice cream (we chose honey and a chocolate loaded with all kinds of stuff), then added chocolate syrup, salted caramel, and whipped cream. And because there is no way that could be considered excessive, it was topped with a piece of to-die-for cheesecake, more whipped topping, more syrup and caramel and nuts. And two spoons.

Saying “dessert” in this case is like saying the Atlantic Ocean is a puddle. DearKidLoveMom.com

Again, stopping there seemed too conventional. So we added a piece of cinnamon pecan bread pudding with brandy sauce. And coffee. What’s dessert without French press brewed coffee? Black because A) that’s how I like coffee and B) I’m watching my calories. Watching them go right to my hips, anyway.

So we added a piece of cinnamon pecan bread pudding with brandy sauce. And coffee. What’s dessert without French press brewed coffee? Black because A) that’s how I like coffee and B) I’m watching my calories. Watching them go right to my hips, anyway. DearKidLoveMom.com

Since we were still full from lunch we took our time deciding about dinner, and eventually decided to try a Tibetan restaurant. I’d never had Tibetan food before. We thought we’d have light a light meal. Except not so much.

Dinner came with soup (excellent even though we had no idea what it was) and salad.

Then we had an order of momo (Tibetan dumplings) filled with mashed potato and different kinds of onions, served with soy sauce and hot sauce (the hot sauce wasn’t), and Kham Amdo Thugpa “a hearty stew made with handmade Tibetan noodles, daikon radish, onion, tomato, green onions, and cilantro.” Your choice of chicken, beef, or tofu (we chose chicken) and spice level 1-5 (we chose 2).

It was awesome. The spice level (2) would have killed Dad, but Pi and I thought it was perfect. Spicy goodness, set off perfectly by the not so spicy momos.

Then we rolled home. Can’t wait to see what we’re doing for brunch today…

Love, Mom

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Guanaja Chocolate (You Need to Know About This)

Dear Kid,

Are you familiar with Guanaja (Gwa-na-ha) chocolate? Of course not. Because if you were, you would have undoubtedly shared such information with your mother and I only learned about Guanaja chocolate last weekend in Chicago.

Are you familiar with Guanaja (Gwa-na-ha) chocolate? Of course not. DearKidLoveMom.com

This is clearly a giant hole in my education. And—being the kind of mother I am—decided it would be wrong of me to let you suffer from the same ignorance gap.

So—obviously—I consulted My Friend the Internet.

If you were to head into the Caribbean and stop approximately 43 miles north of Honduras, you might (if you’d planned things carefully) find yourself on the island of Guanaja.

This might surprise you since not many people aim for Guanaja, but there are several excellent reasons to go there.

The first is that the ocean around Guanaja is home to a gorgeous and enormous coral reef. There are also several beautiful waterfalls. Watch carefully for traffic. In 2006 there were only 3 cars on the island, but by 2011 there were 40. By now there is doubtless a traffic jam.

Apparently (pre-traffic jam), Chris Columbus landed on Guanaja. Here he discovered cacao for the first time and immediately dropped peanut butter in favor of chocolate.

All this according to My Friend the Internet.

The thing is, when you ask MFtI for more information about Guanaja chocolate, you are immediately offered opportunities to purchase Guanaja chocolate. When you protest and suggest history, amount of exports, or any other darn fact is what you’re looking for, the Internet giggles and wipes chocolate off its chin.

The point is Guanaja chocolate exists. One usually speaks of it as 70% Guanaja. If you pronounce it correctly you can look smug and superior, even if you have no idea what you’re talking about.

And even though I have no idea what I’m talking about, I can say with certainty: Yum.

Love, Mom

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Dateline: Chicago. I’m In A Sugar Coma

Dear Kid,

Dateline: Chicago.

I’m in a sugar coma.

According to Chicago native folklore (and by “native lore” I mean I saw it on a bag in a store here), the important things to do in Chi-town are 1. eat, 2. eat, 3. eat, 4. see the bean, 5. eat.

According to Chicago native folklore (and by “native lore” I mean I saw it on a bag in a store here), the important things to do in Chi-town are 1. eat, 2. eat, 3. eat, 4. see the bean, 5. eat. DearKidLoveMom.com

Because Dad and I are wild and crazy, we added 6. see Navy Pier and 7. the Field Museum, but other than that, the Wisdom of the Bag prevailed.

After breakfast on Saturday of our anniversary trip (temperature minus 4,783 degrees Fahrenheit—not including wind chill), we began with a visit to a patisserie for macarons. We chose balsamic fig (which turned out to be our favorite), coffee, and Guanaja chocolate. Yum. Then we rode the trolley to Navy Pier where we HAD to have Garrett Popcorn (yum—and orange colored fingers).

We chose balsamic fig (which turned out to be our favorite), coffee, and Guanaja chocolate. Yum. DearKidLoveMom.com

Our pre-lunch snack was at the Field Museum (where we also had lunch a few hours later because there is a limit to how much museum this girl can do without being fed and caffeinated).

Dinner (drinks, appetizers, entrees, and first dessert) was at Le Colonial, a very nice French Vietnamese restaurant.

By the time we finished dinner, the temperature had dropped a million or two degrees, so we walked (did I mention the high heels, skirt, and the temperature?) over to the new Water Tower where we planned to go to the Signature Lounge for Dessert 2. After we showed our IDs (yep, we were carded), we went up, up, up but in the lounge there is a limited dessert menu which did not include what we wanted. So we gazed at the view for a few minutes, passed on dessert, went down, down, down, and walked back to the hotel.

Most of the walk was along Miracle Mile. We had to walk there at night because we don’t earn enough to stroll there when the stores are open.

Dad was still dead set on finding Dessert 2. I was dead set on getting out of the cold and out of the 4 inch heels. We compromised by going back to the hotel and getting carryout dessert from the restaurant there. I chose banana bread pudding (shocker) and Dad got chocolate (bigger shock). I would have taken a photo but we pretty much snarfed them.

Tomorrow, I’m ordering a new wardrobe from Omar the Tent Maker.

Love, Mom

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Ick. That Can’t True. Can It?

Dear Kid,

Yesterday I heard one of the grossest things I’ve heard recently (and I encounter “ick” all the time). I was told that artificial vanilla flavor comes from the anal glands of beavers.

Ick. That Can't True. Can It? DearKidLoveMom.comUm, what?

The source was highly reliable, but…hmmm….

So I did what anyone named me would do. I turned to My Friend the Internet. Specifically, I turned to Ye Olde Snopes.

The answer (as it turns out) is a bit of “yes” but mostly “no” (so no need to run screaming to clean out your pantry—at least not because of this).

It turns out that beavers use one end of their bodies to eat (and gnaw trees) and the other to do several things including secrete castoreum which they use to mark their territories. When people get hold of castoreum, they use it in perfumes or as a food additive to enhance vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry flavors.

But the use of castoreum in food is pretty rare. There aren’t that many beavers lining up to have their castoreum harvested. In fact, in most beavers consider having humans touch their nether regions rather unwelcome and scream for HR to take action. Hostile work environment! In addition, there aren’t that many humans lining up be beaver milkers. Which means that castoreum is rare and therefore expensive.

The total annual national consumption of castoreum, castoreum extract, and castoreum liquid combined is only about 292 pounds, which works out to an average of less than a millionth of a pound per person in the U.S. That’s pretty dang rare.

So chances are that any artificial flavors you encounter never encountered anything more wild than a test tube.

Love, Mom

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Five Surprising Facts About Coffee

Dear Kid,

The thing about mornings is that they have a nasty tendency to start before coffee. I’m waiting for someone to figure out how I can drink a cup before I wake up so that by the time I hit my snooze button (for the third time) I’m actually awake and alive.

It's possible to talk before coffee? Not in my world... DearKidLoveMom.comOn the plus side, if I start the coffee before I walk the puppy, it (the coffee) is ready by the time I get back. Not everyone during History had the same luxury. I’m not referring to the lack of Keurig (although that’s sad too).

Surprising fact: Four times in Known History (count them, 4) coffee was banned. Which isn’t to say that there weren’t rogue brewers, but it seems wrong to research them.

Surprising fact 2: Dark roast coffees have a stronger flavor but less caffeine than light roasts. (Roasting burns off some of the caffeine.) Who knew?

Surprising fact 3: In the ancient Arab culture there was only one way a woman could legally divorce: If her husband didn’t provide enough coffee. This seems perfectly reasonable. Divorcing for insufficient coffee, I mean. Not that that was the only reason.

Surprising fact 4: J.S. Bach wrote an opera about coffee. Note to self: Consult favorite opera expert for info.

Surprising fact 5: The first webcam was invented at The University of Cambridge to let people know if the coffee pot was full or not. This seems entirely reasonable.

I need a refill.

Love, Mom

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Mondays, Coffee, and What Others Say About Coffee

Dear Kid,

It is Monday.

Man does not live by coffee alone. Have a danish. ~Author Unknown

Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee. ~Stephanie Piro DearKidLoveMom.comAnd somehow (as you probably know) Monday mornings arrive earlier than mornings any other day of the week.

Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee. ~Stephanie Piro

I don’t know why Mondays insist on being early.

In Seattle you haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it’s running. ~Jeff Bezos

I practically leap out of bed at the same time on weekends and feel like I’ve wasted half the day. Some weekend days it’s the same time.

And occasionally I leap. But not very often.

Herbal tea tastes so much better when it’s coffee. ~Author Unknown

The point is Mondays arrive on their own slightly sadistic schedule. Without the possibility of turning over and going back to sleep for a few hours.

Déjà Brew: The feeling that you’ve had this coffee before. ~Author Unknown

I really must teach the Dust Dragons to brew coffee. At least the first cup of the day. If they’re going to live here, they really should earn their keep. Mostly it seems they’re lazier than I am.

Forever: Time it takes to brew the first pot of coffee in the morning. ~Author Unknown

Meanwhile, I have a date with a K-cup.

Happy Monday.

Love, Mom

 

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