My favorite holiday is here! Halloween! Happy Haunting everyone!!!
So last night we had our debut Delaware party in the form of the first Annual Pfarr Halloween Bash by the Bay. Of course, despite the fact I haven’t a hint of a hangover (thanks, pregnancy!), it was a success. Even though I missed downing a spooky cocktail or two, at least I had my stash of Hershey’s Halloween candy to scarf down to keep me in the party mood.
Not to brag or anything, but I PERSONALLY know a man who used to develop Hershey’s candy. As in — the actual food chemistry behind the world-famous confections. Yeah, we’re tight. He’s my best friend’s mom’s step-dad, who we all affectionately know as “Doc Chocolate.” Basically, Doc Choc’s cooler than Bono. I mean, could Bono whip you up a from-scratch chocolate cake that would make even the Virgin Mary week for joy with his eyes closed? Um, I think not.
So on this high holy day of candy consumption, here’s to the Hershey’s Corporation and its food scientists! Without you, Halloween would just be a bunch of lame treats like apples with razor blades, pennies, and stale pretzel sticks.
Can you tell I've eaten about 200 "Fun Size" Hershey bars? I've blown up like a blimp and my eyes can barely open. Oh well, it's Halloween!
Like mother, like son. This one will keep Hershey in business for a long, long time.
I must be in nesting mode because I suddenly felt the need to make 200 mini pumpkin cheesecakes with cinnamon whipped cream today. As in a trance, I gathered the ingredients and began the process of rolling out my own graham cracker crust and whipping up cheesecake batter from scratch. Of course, I didn’t do this on my own, but with the help of Paula Deen, the chef to whom I turn whenever I need a good dessert recipe.
So Ollie and I spent the afternoon following her recipe for pumpkin cheesecake and stuffing ourselves silly with batter and buttered graham cracker crumbs.
Paula is to dessert like Jesus is to eternal life. She pretty much has the market cornered. Anything — banana pudding, strawberry cake, blueberry tiramisu — she’s a culinary genius. Not that she’s bad at other recipes (um, her pimento cheese is to die for) but I just really love her desserts.
One thing I think is great is that she is unapologetic about her use of fat. Whole milk, real butter — things that make dessert an actual dessert. Because if you’re going to eat a slice of pie — why not have it come with all the calories that a pie’s supposed to have? Plus, I’m a firm believer that if you use full fat ingredients, you actually eat way less because it’s actually satisfying. And even if you don’t eat less — oh well! It just tastes better!
My favorite chef dressed as a stick of butter. Love this woman!
Next week I’m hosting both my new book club and an adult Halloween party so I’m gearing up for a balls-to-the-wall trip to Costco where I can stock up on enough cream cheese to build an igloo and more bacon than should be allowed by law. Sure, I could hit the regular grocery store, but what would be the fun in buying a block of cheese weighing less than twenty pounds? For once in my life I want to have a pork loin the size of a baseball bat sitting in my fridge.
So of course, Costco it is! Another thing I love about this giant big box store — aside from the bulk packaging — is that they let you snack while you buy. I’ve never seen Ollie more well behaved on a shopping trip — or even out in public in general — than at Costco because he’s constantly being handed little cups of cornbread stuffing or M&Ms. Granted, it’s usually treats made from high fructose corn syrup, trans-fats, and pure lard, but hey, considering I was practically raised on Crisco, I’m sure it won’t kill him.
The only thing is, the closest Costco is almost an hour and a half away from me. Which, I figure is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s annoying to have to drive so far just to hit up a grocery store. However, on the other, being this far along and living near an establishment that housed containers of Velveeta the size of Mount Rushmore would probably work against my pregnancy weight gain.
To continue my in-the-news thanking of important, smart people, I thought it appropriate that I thank Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro for her new bill seeking to label genetically modified fish and meat. I mean, it amazes me that some people can use science for such good (like Robert Edwards of yesterday’s note) and then others can use it for such evil — like the folks making the genetically modified salmon. I’m sure you’ve heard the debate at this point about the company that has spliced a bunch of different fish and eel genes together to make a gigantic “salmon” set to hit the seafood section of your grocery store in the near future. As if this isn’t disturbing enough (um, I want my spicy salmon rolls without eel DNA!), the FDA is planning allow this “fish” to be sold without being labeled as genetically-modified. So basically, as a consumer, you’d never even know if you were buying real, untouched, natural salmon, or the gross Frankenfish kind.
Thankfully, someone in our government finds this as seriously disturbing as the 78% of Americans that don’t want genetically-engineered salmon to be approved by the FDA. Representative Rosa DeLaura, a dem from Connecticut, introduced a bill the other day that would mandate labeling of genetically modified fish. Not only that, it’d also make sure any cloned animal meat would be labeled too — a good thing considering cloned meat/genetically modified food has caused everything from partially atrophied testicles to cancerous tumors to death in lab rats. I mean, getting a stomachache from eating something is one thing, but having your balls atrophy from chowing down on dinner? No one deserves that.
For that reason, I’m so happy Rep. DeLauro is trying to stop this nastiness. At least one person in office is against turning our world into some weird dystopic society where no one knows what the heck they’re loading into their shopping carts!
All week, I really try to be healthy. Despite my random blog posts about whoopie pies, Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out, synthetic cheese products, and all natural casing wieners, I think Grey, Ollie and I actually eat very well. But for some reason, come Sunday morning, a breakfast of wild Alaskan salmon, strawberries, and hard boiled eggs just doesn’t sound appealing. I daresay I’d rather eat my own crap, come to think of it. Lazy Sunday mornings just seem to necessitate lard and glaze with a hefty portion of vanilla creme. It’s like the law of the universe or the tidal pull of the moon — WE NEED IT.
So our little Sunday tradition involves the three of us piling into the car, looking like bums in our pajamas and flip flops, and driving to the local Dunkin’ for some doughnuts. The funniest part is that Ollie now sees the orange and pink sign and starts hyperventilating. As we pull through the drive through and try to order he starts screaming, “DONUTS DONUTS DONUTS DONUTS!” as if the clerk could give us any damn kind they wanted as long as they have a hole in the center.
Oddly, I remember feeling the same way as a kid. There used to be a DD right on 12th Street in Erie (now I think it’s a laundry mat –oddly Erie is one of the only places in the country that currently does NOT have a DD) and I remember there was nothing better when my dad and I would go for a Sunday morning sugar run to the shop. It’d be our sabbath from Raisin Bran and whole wheat toast and just knowing I’d have to face a bowl of fibrous oatmeal the next morning at breakfast made the Sunday treat taste all the better.
We may not go to church on Sunday, but at least we celebrate the glory of donuts!
When you have a big hungry son, an even bigger, hungrier husband, and the biggest, hungriest fetus growing inside your belly (so what if it’s 4 pounds?!) you spend a lot of time at the grocery store. In fact, I feel like I’m ALWAYS there. Always picking up some random ingredient for dinner and always doing the weekly grocery shopping. And frankly, I hate buying food. I’d so much rather be spending cash on clothes or makeup or something much less practical than sustenance.
However, today I found the most adorable little market where I’m sure I’ll do all my shopping from now on. Whereas most grocery stores are hideous concrete eyesores with florescent lights and ugly parking lots, The Good Earth Market looks like a little cottage. It’s covered in shake shingles and surrounded by an organic farm and garden. Very quaint.
And it’s not just cute — it has all the random items that I’ve learned I can’t live without like raw organic apple cider vinegar, probiotic kefir, grass-fed and finished beef, and sprouted live grain bread. You know, what I like to call “miracle foods” that in one way or another, I’ve been suckered into believing are the elixir of life and will make me look younger and skinnier than ever before. And healthier. Yeah, can’t forget that one…
This is my new grocery store. How charming is it!? It looks like a house or a B&B. Maybe I'll bring my sleeping bag next time and really creep them out.
I am buying a cow. Not a whole one, but a quarter, because after finally watching the movie Food, Inc. the other night, Grey and I were so disgusted that we decided we just couldn’t stomach eating any more nasty factory farm-raised beef. Or chicken. Or pigs. Or turkeys. Ick.
If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it. Most of it isn’t anything new, but watching the documentary in its entirety really gives you a lasting impression of the American food system. The film shows everything from the nasty chicken houses (which incidentally are not a far drive from my new house here in DE) which dirty steroid-birds bask in their own poo all day to slaughter houses where sick pigs are crushed to death to make hot dogs. But it’s not like the producers are trying to shock you into vegetarianism or anything, just educate so that things change.
It definitely made a lasting impression. I can honestly say that I think my Bojangles cravings are over and I would think twice about an In-N-Out binge (at least until I researched where they got their beef). Because even though I’m anal about feeding the three of us organic at home, it’s like everything flies out the window when I see a Chick-fil-A and I can’t help myself from eating it.
So, Grey and I are going to start with a small step and buy part of a cow from a responsible local farm that raises cows the nice way. That way, I won’t have to feel like I’m eating some poor animal’s soul every time I decide to grill a burger or make pot roast for dinner. Whew.
Well, it’s time to finish up my magazine column for the month so you know what that means: I’m procrastinating! It’s true. Whenever I have work to do I always find a million reasons to put things off. In fact, whenever my writing piles up, Grey says our house is clean as a whistle and we eat extremely well due to the fact that cooking and cleaning are at the top of my tasks-to-do-while-procrastinating list.
So, since I’m on deadline for the magazine, I figured it may be a good day to try my hand at canning my own homemade tomato sauce. Yep, I never canned even a simple jam before, but I figured what better time than the present to learn!? Somehow, I turned a laundry basket full of tomatoes, about 100 garlic cloves, red wine, red peppers, and a whole bunch of basil and oregano into sauce that is actually edible. I haven’t yet attempted to put it into cans to preserve — that’s tomorrow’s time-wasting activity.
I’d feel remiss if I didn’t give credit to the man who started me on this whole cooking-as-procrastinating kick — Bob Blumer. You may have seen him on the Food Network, he has a show, “Glutton for Punishment,” but I fell for him back in college when all he had out were a few cookbooks. It was finals week and, true to my nature, I was trying my best to avoid studying. On a “study break” to Barnes and Noble I discovered Blumer’s “The Surreal Gourmet” cookbook and decided then and there that I must go home and immediately make salmon in my dishwasher as one recipe described. After grossing out my roommates with a fish dinner that tasted like Cascade (I guess I forgot to seal the fish properly), I had not only found a way to put off doing work, but also a new passion: cooking. Yay for Bob!
The man who started it all! Here is he making his famous beer can chicken...yum! (And the chicken looks good too)
No time like deadline to whip up a gigantic vat of tomato sauce!
While I love airplanes and flying, nothing in the world compares to train travel. The longest train ride I ever took in my life was from Beijing to Ulan Bataar Mongolia. It was about 24 hours through China and Outer Mongolia and I loved every single second of it.
Mary-Alice, who I traveled with across half the world, and I had our own cabin and spent half the trip with our heads out the window, half naked, airing out our souls. That is until night fell and the train would randomly stop in the middle of nowhere. Then we prayed that our souls be saved.
At about two in the morning, in the middle of Mongolia the train just stopped and dumped out the passengers for two hours as they changed the wheels. The tracks in Mongolia and China are different so all the wheels of the train had to be changed and it takes a while. Let me tell you, there is no place that feels like the middle of nowhere like Outer Mongolia at 2 a.m.
I thought that was going to be my favorite memory of the trek, but I was wrong. Just before the Chinese officials boarded the train to check our visas and our cabins, our Mongolian train conductor came to Mary-Alice and I and asked if he could hide some produce in our berth. We of course said yes as Mongolia does not have much farmable land and who were we to deny innocent people of food. So we stuffed our entire room full of produce and kept our mouths shut.
When the border patrol came in, we all but glued our butts to our beds to keep them from finding the contraband tomatoes. Could we be thrown in jail for aiding and abiding the transportation of vegetables across national borders?
I’ll never know because no one was the wiser. When Mary-Al and I finally arrived in Ulan Bataar and headed for the platform, our conductor called for us and threw us a tomato as a thank you. And yes, I kept the thing until it was basically ketchup.
Mary-Al and me with our wonderful train conductor. This is what my eyebrows look like when I let them go. Now you understand...
For a pregnant girl who has to pee every two seconds, McDonald’s is a godsend. Yesterday, on the 9.5 hour drive from our house to Erie, I probably peed 200 times. And even though I was driving though farmland and forest, every other exit I’d still see a sign for a McDonald’s — no matter how desolate the area.
To be honest, this usually bothers me. I really don’t like the fact that ugly fast food chains are everywhere. However, one thing about this blog is that it forces me to see the good in things — and how can I deny that McDonald’s does indeed offer much better restroom facilities than some dumpy old gas station along the highway? I mean, at least at Mickey D’s you don’t need to ask some creepy clerk for a key to use the restroom around back and then fear someone’s watching you take a piss through a peephole the entire time.
Plus, after reading Fast Food Nationa few years back, I just can’t stomach the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s. However, I’m pretty much a hippocrite because I do eat Chik-fil-A, Five Guys, In-N-Out, and Bojangles. Not sure what the difference is, but for me, I look at the former as pee stations and the latter as sustenance. Now doesn’t that just make you hungry?! (Sorry if you’re a Big Mac lover…)