February 24, 2011

Have kids with food allergies? Check out KiDECALS

I just saw these KiDECALS on The Today Show. They're fun decals that you can personalize and stick on your kids' lunch boxes and containers when you send them off to school or to a play date. They can go through the dishwasher, and are also removable. What a fantastic idea for parents of kids with food allergies!

February 23, 2011

San Francisco, why you gotta be so cold?

Why did no one ever tell me that California is a cold, gray, dreary place where it rains non-stop every day? I am back from a week in California—my very first visit ever—and someone should’ve told me to bring my rain gear, not to mention my heaviest winter coat and boots. Yes, I checked the weather before heading out to Cali and saw that the high was in the 50s and low in the 40s the entire time, but I packed a few short-sleeved shirts anyway. Because I was going to California. High in the low 50s can’t mean the same thing there, I thought. It must be a warm 50 degrees. Well, just in case you were wondering, 50 degrees does in fact mean the same thing in CA as it does in NY. I know. What the crap? I was in CA and I was cold the entire time.

The average monthly high for San Francisco, it turns out, is in the 60s. Which explains why no one wore a proper coat (raincoats and fleeces are not appropriate for 50-degree weather) and why it’s just as cold inside as outside, and everyone keeps their jackets on inside—they have to get used to the cold, or they would have heat on all year long, and that would get expensive. So they must just get used to being kind of cold all year long. Sounds real amazing, San Francisco. And to think that people talk about your weather like it’s a good thing.

Also, spandex. Really? Is spandex appropriate for 50-degree weather? Is spandex appropriate for any weather? Then why does everyone in SF wear it? Maybe because they have to walk up those massive hills, and as their reward they feel that it’s their right to show off their shapely glutes and thighs. I will give them that. Everyone looks fit in SF.

Those fit people in CA are also very concerned about the environment and health. I saw a banner on a light pole that said “Sustainability: A San Francisco State of Mind.” How cool is that?

Even cooler: on the menu at One Market, there sits a little v next to all dishes that are vegetarian. Even better, there is a little vg next to all dishes that are vegan! And a note saying that other items can be prepared vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free! Seriously. This is my dream for the future. Restaurants where all food allergies, intolerances, and preferences are willingly accommodated. This wasn’t some hippie joint in the Mission either, it was a Michelin-rated restaurant in the Financial District! You do not need me to tell you how cool that is.

We had a lunch of ahi tuna burgers with mizuna and shaved fennel salad with saffron aioli (so good), roasted Brussels sprouts with applewood-smoked bacon, and tater tots. Yum.

So, while CA may be a cold, dark place, the inadequately coated spandexed people seem pretty cool, and I will be back.

February 10, 2011

Double Dipping

Here's a picture of the Sun-Dried Tomato dip that I made for Super Bowl Sunday. So good.

February 9, 2011

It's My (brother's) 30th Birthday!

I didn’t make it to my final Restaurant Week destination. Graybeard and I had too much to do, what with my baby brother coming into town for the weekend to celebrate the demise of his youth. As much as I wanted it to, my apartment wasn't cleaning itself. Plus, 30 is a big birthday, so we had to put up streamers and a banner, like Mom always did for us growing up.

And he had to have a cake.

Don't tell Baby Bro, who is a carnivorous non-vegan, but that cake is milk-free, made from a mix, courtesy of Dr Oetker. The icing too. I didn't have time to bake a cake from scratch, so I found organic cake and icing mixes that miraculously had no milk in the ingredients, and then when I made it I, of course, substituted rice milk for milk and Earth Balance for butter. The cake didn't blow my mind, but it is great to have cake and icing mix options--organic no less!--for when time is short. We had so much food on Super Bowl Sunday that the cake was really just a token anyway, though Baby Bro did have a huge piece.

Everyone should have cake on his birthday, and homemade (even from a box) is the best kind. Besides, I owe Baby Bro that, as when we lived together when he was in college (and I was just out of it), he attempted to make me a birthday cake. It didn't make it out of the pan in one piece (or two, or three, or four...), but he attempted to frost it anyway, yellow crumbs mixed with the chocolate frosting, and left a note next to it before he went to class that said, "Well, I tried. Happy Birthday anyway." How cute is that?

February 4, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday

Despite the Jets losing the AFC Championship game, we will still watch the Super Bowl this Sunday because we're Americans. There are still going to be commercials, you know, and this is the only day of the year since I've had a DVR on which that is a good thing. So this year we've invited a few people over and, before and then after my 3-hour chemistry class, I will put together the following spread:
  • Guacamole with tortilla chips
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Sun-dried tomato dip with crackers and veggies
  • Mom's chili
  • Potato chips
  • Beer
The sun-dried tomato dip and veggies are relatively healthy, and the rest is not, but it's Super Bowl Sunday, and that's a great excuse to stuff our faces with junk and a few carrots. Graybeard has filled the fridge with beer, we have more chips than any household should, and the Kosher (aka, dairy-free because of the meat) pigs in blankets, and I'll make the sun-dried tomato dip tomorrow and chop the veggies, then Sunday morning I'll get the chili going in a slow cooker before learning about energy and matter, and then I'll make the guacamole fresh when people start arriving. The Sun-Dried Tomato dip is a super quick and easy dip that you're going to want to try, adapted to be dairy-free from Texas Ties: Recipes and Remembrances from the Junior League of North Harris County, Inc., published in 1997, which was given to me as a gift by my wonderful friends Mary and Lauren when they came to visit me too long ago in Austin. Just about everything I make from that cookbook is amazing, and you would do yourself a favor to get your hands on it.

Sun-Dried Tomato Dip

2 cups drained garbanzo beans (aka, chickpeas) (about one 15 oz can
1 cup drained sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use vegan mayo)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried basil (or a bit more fresh, if you have it)
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Dump all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Scoop the dip into a bowl and chill, covered, for a couple of hours. Garnish with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and serve with crackers (I like cracked pepper water table crackers, but any kind will do), carrots, and celery.

See, easy! Only one note of caution: You need a good food processor for this. A wimpy one will not do.

February 3, 2011

Warning: Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Add Peas

To the Curried Chicken Thighs with (fake) Buttery Croutons, of course. You can add them to other things, if you'd like. The Curried Chicken Thighs were so good the first time that I had to make them again. When I made them previously, I did not have peas, as the EatingWell recipe called for, so I threw in carrots instead. The carrots didn't really do anything for the dish, so this time I added an entire bag of frozen peas, as per the original recipe. Big mistake. Don't get me wrong, I like peas very much, they just don't work in this dish. The peas overwhelmed the rich flavor of the curry. If I had made the recipe with peas for the first time I would not have made it again. As it stands, I lucked out, and know now to eat my veggies on the side of that dish, not in it.

This time I also took a picture:

So many peas. Don't use them.

February 2, 2011

Bocca: The Verdict

“Bonjour,” said the friendly waiter as he handed cousin Stephanie and me menus at Bocca, an Italian restaurant. His heavy accent was not quite French, not quite Italian.

Considering that most of the Restaurant Week options looked like the cheese couldn’t be easily left out, I ordered the only non-cheesy-sounding choices. Maybe Bocca didn’t get the poster, or the bonjour-ing waiter didn’t get the message, but I don’t think my dairy allergy was taken seriously, as there was cheese sprinkled over the Tuscan bean and escarole soup that I ordered, and the soup tasted a bit creamy. It wasn’t that tasty anyway, so I only had a little. (Unfortunately for my immune system, I am a chicken about sending things back and making a stink. The movie Waiting about waiters doing nauseating things to annoying customers’ food, however unrealistic, put ideas in my head that I can’t shake. Don't watch it.)

The salmon was great. Yes, I order a lot of salmon—it’s usually cooked perfectly at nice restaurants, it’s great for you with all those omega-3s, and most importantly, it never comes with cheese on top. The delicious spaghetti squash on which it was served, however, tasted like it was cooked with a stick of butter. It was amazing, and I probably should’ve checked on that butter thing, but I didn’t.

As you perhaps can tell by now, when it comes to eating out, I am not militant about the ol’ milk allergy. I’m just not there yet. Please don't tell my allergist. This milk-free thing is still relatively new (okay, it’s been a couple of years now since I’ve had to face it, but you try giving up all traces of milk for even two days and you will see how hard it is), and eating out is tricky. Cooking at home is a breeze though, and luckily I love to do that. No dairy ever enters our apartment, unless we have people over, in which case we are willing to humor out guests with their silly cheeses.

Alongside the salmon was what looked and tasted like ambrosia fruit salad. Weird. (I had a tiny bite to try it. Who knows... it might have been a large glob of pinkish mayonnaise, in which case I could've enjoyed it. Much to the disgust of Graybeard, I love me some mayonnaise, even when it's vegan.) It must have been the “apple cider foam.” Is it just me, or does “foam” not sound appetizing? This ambrosia “foam” looked like soupy yogurt.

Further confusing us as to the origin of his strange accent, our waiter approvingly informed me that my sweater (red with a black argyle pattern down the front with a few black sequins) was “ooo, very Italian, yes, very,” adamantly nodding his head. Despite not being sure whether Italian sweaters are fashionable, I assumed that’s what he meant, and I liked him. Not that I can claim credit for my “very Italian” sweater, as it was a gift from my in-laws (such a negative sounding word, for such wonderful people), who, it would seem, are more fashionable than me. (Nobody ever tells me that the sweaters I pick out look Italian.)

Despite our waiter’s friendliness, when I asked to substitute a dairy-free sorbet for dessert, he informed me that there was none, without even double-checking. I would find that hard to believe, but he liked my sweater, so he would bring me dairy-free sorbet had there been any, right?

Ultimately, we decided the waiter was from the French-Italian boarder. Perhaps he was from the French side, which would explain him greeting us in French in an Italian restaurant, but he always thought the grass was greener on the other side of the border, which would explain him working in an Italian restaurant and admiring Italian sweaters. Or maybe he's Italian, but always thought that the French language sounded so much more romantic than Italian, so he speaks it whenever he can. Wherever he is from, he was unpretentious, and therefore Bocca felt unpretentious, and I like that about a place. What I could eat of the food was good, and I would go back and try my luck with the regular menu.

Note: As you may have noticed by now, I did not pull out my camera at dinner. I hope that you’ll forgive me. Please know that my next and final RW meal this winter will be with Graybeard, who has no choice but to accept me embarrassing him in public, least he want to appear unsupportive. He is a prince among men, so he wouldn’t do that to me, or to you, dear reader.