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food for thought: desserts

20 Feb

I celebrated a birthday earlier this month, and after a fun and tasty meal at Barrio, we pondered where to go for dessert. Pat threw out a few ideas, and ultimately decided we should try the bar at La Belle Vie. Apparently they are known for their fine desserts. La Belle Vie is a beautiful restaurant, and I found the bar ambiance to be classy and romantic. We chose a spot on a couch by the fireplace right near the bar. We were there for dessert only, so Pat ordered coffee and then we selected two desserts. We figured it’s not often we make it to La Belle Vie, so we may as well try two desserts (instead of sharing one) to get more of a sampling of their dessert menu, and also because…well…two desserts are always better than one!

We decided on the warm apple cake with truffle ice cream and thyme, and the something-or-other caramel cake with dark chocolate sorbet. We asked our server what she thought of our choices and she claimed they were her two favorites on the dessert menu. She described the apple cake as “not too sweet, but not savory” and the caramel cake as “think of your Grandma’s caramel layer bars- this is way better.”

The coffee came and I was very impressed by the silver service. Pat drinks his coffee black, and I rarely drink coffee (especially not at 9:00pm), but this coffee came with a lovely cream and some beautiful lumps of sugar, so I talked Pat into adding those delicacies to his cup. And he sure was glad I did, because then we got to SHARE his coffee. La Belle Vie’s coffee with cream and sugar gets two thumbs up from me!

Our desserts arrived and they were artfully and beautifully presented. The apple cake was alternating layers of white cake and baked apple, cut out into perfect circles. There was also a small scoop of truffle ice cream and a plop of thyme foam. The caramel cake was a small rectangular square of cake, with a scoop of rich, dark chocolate sorbet, and then way over on the edge of the plate was this glob of what can only be described as unidentifiable white stuff.

My conclusion: I don’t like fancy desserts. The apple and cake circles? They were fine. The truffle ice cream? Well, let’s just say in my humble opinion mushrooms should never be an ingredient in ice cream. And the thyme foam? Simply weird. The server was correct- the apple dessert was not very sweet and I would actually use the term savory to describe 2/3 of it. The caramel cake was good, but honestly I’d choose a homemade bar from my grandma any day. The dark chocolate sorbet was the only divine part of both desserts, and the mystery glob? I still don’t know what it was, but once in my mouth it provided me with the same sensation as eating a mouthful of pop rocks. Zesty!

In sum, I officially like my desserts hearty, large, simple, and delicious. Give me a chewy chocolate chip cookie or an amazing homemade bar or a generous scoop of ice cream or a warm piece of apple pie any day, and I will be happy. Desserts served at places like Birchwood Cafe, Crema, Izzy’s or A Baker’s Wife come to mind. Heck, desserts from my own kitchen come to mind!

So where’s the deep, deep ‘food for thought’ in all this? Do you like fancy frou-frou desserts? Or do you prefer a delicious, delectable not-very-exciting-but-always-dependable old stand-bys?

food for thought: denying the GS cookies

10 Feb

There’s been some controversy brewing in our household lately. On one side of the debate there is me, declaring a ban on Girl Scout cookies from entering our house this year.

My points, for the anti-Girl Scout Cookie position:

1. They are made with nothing but crap.

2. They are not that good.

3. The cost per box is ridiculous.

4. They are made with nothing but crap.

Last year Pat bought 3 or 4 boxes. Two thin mints, one samoas, and one of some random flavor that was new last year. If I remember correctly, we ate the samoas. We ate one box of thin mints over about a 6 month time-span. The second box is still in the freezer. The random new flavor sat in the cupboard for probably 8 months, until one day I made Pat bring it in to work. [As we all know, People At Work are great at getting food items to disappear.] I think my denial of the Girl Scout cookie purchase this year is valid. We don’t want to ingest the 5000 unhealthy chemicals that are in these things, we don’t even really LIKE them, and why spend $$ on something we don’t like, want, or need?

Girl Scout #1 came to the door about a week ago. I answered. She was very polite and cute and pleasant and asked if I’d like to buy some GS cookies. Her father stood behind her on the sidewalk pulling the sled full of cookies. [This must be a new development- instant GS cookie gratification!] I very politely and pleasantly said “we’re not buying any GS cookies this year. Thanks for stopping by, though!” And the girl very politely and pleasantly said “okay, thank you!” and turned to continue her selling journey down the block.

A few days later, Girl Scout #2 rang the bell. Pat was closest to the door. I urged him to stay strong. [He’s a notorious sucker for people coming door-to-door.] She asked if he wanted to buy any cookies. He responded: “no thanks, we’re not buying any this year.” And then he offered to make a donation to the Girl Scouts, which was declined!?!

Pat’s point in the Girl Scout cookie denial argument:

1. It’s mean to deny the Girl Scouts. “I feel like a curmudgeon.”

So, readers. Whose points are more valid, his or mine?

—————–

(footnotes)
It’s Anne writing this post. Hi! I’m here as a contributor.
My senior year in college I did an internship with the Girl Scouts Council.
I admit it: homemade thin mint blizzards are really good.


food for thought: some perspectives on the Oprah vegan show

3 Feb

Anyone catch Oprah on Tuesday?

I do like Oprah and will always watch her if I happen to be home. Thankfully, I saw a preview for this particular show so I was able to set the DVR.  The show was about the one week vegan challenge that many Harpo staff had just completed. With my upcoming vegan lent, it was perfect timing! My pals, Meghan and Willa, who are also doing vegan lent, were over last night for dinner, so Oprah was our entertainment. It led to a lot of discussion and I just knew I had to blog about it. Anne saw the show as well and she and I were e-mailing about it today. Like us, she had lots to say about it.

So….I have for you ALL of our thoughts from a few different perspectives.You are so lucky!

First, more background on the show. (I’m going to be pretty brief in my overview. For a more detailed account, Angela over at Oh She Glows did a great recap of the entire show.)

378 Harpo staff members volunteered (it was not mandatory) to go vegan for 7 days. That meant no meat, no fish, no milk, no eggs—nothing that comes from an animal. The charge was led by author Kathy Freston, who has sworn by a vegan lifestyle for seven years and just happens to have a new book out (shocker!).  The O cafeteria offered vegan fare and Kathy was there to offer suggestions and help educate people on being vegan.  Kathy was on the show talking about how to “lean-in” to being a vegan and about the benefits it can have.

Michael Pollan (swoon) was also on the show talking about how the food system in general needs to be reformed, not just ignored. He advocates more for being picky about your meat and knowing where it comes from. He doesn’t believe in turning our backs on the farmers that are doing it right. He believes that reform needs to happen to change the overall food system and how we think about it.

The other main part of the show was a trip to a Cargill slaughterhouse. Lisa Ling went inside and they didn’t leave much to the imagination.They described the process that each cow goes through from the feed lot to the slaughtering to the processing.  The only thing they didn’t show was the 4 inch bolt that is shot into the cow’s head to make sure he/she is brain dead and can’t feel pain. I must say, I’m glad they showed this process. You should know how the meat gets to your table. Period.

They profiled many of the staff members and how it affected them. There was a lot of talk about withdrawal from fast food, bowel movements (fun topic!), and what kind of foods they were now eating.

The thing that we all noticed immediately was the lack of fruits and vegetables. There was so much talk and hype about fake meat products (tofurkey anyone?) and how to turn meat dishes you like vegan by using substitute products. They took one woman who was doing the challenge with her family of four to Whole Foods to help her learn how to shop as a vegan. The only aisles they showed were processed foods! Willa asked, “when are they going to talk about shopping the perimeter of the store – starting with produce?”. The answer? Never. It was a bit disheartening.

Overall, we all were glad the show was on. People are now talking (the twitter world was quite a buzz) about food like crazy and that’s a great thing. Anything that can start a conversation about food and where it comes from is fantastic in my book. I doubt there has been this much talk about a vegan lifestyle….ever. That Oprah. She’s got a serious reach.

I gathered the thoughts of my fellow Oprah watchers and thought I would share our different perspectives.

Anne (meat eater and mother of two):

-They made such a big deal about going vegan and eating all this different food, but everything they talked about was packaged/processed!! So you’re replacing animal products with…chemicals?! They didn’t shop for one fruit or vegetable on that little shopping trip to Whole Foods. (Also- um, imagine how much that cart of packaged vegan foods COST??)  You could have prepared your own vegan entrees with fresh ingredients for less, and much tastier I’m sure.

-What is Michael Pollan’s mantra? Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants?  I was just sitting there waiting WAITING for him to say this to Oprah and that vegan woman (with the facelift!! Seriously!) but he didn’t say anything!! That sort of shocked me.

-And I can’t not mention Cargill. I was impressed they let the crew in to their meat packing plant, given that most companies have denied access in the past. I thought the whole process was pretty yucky, but not so much that I’d give up beef:) Oh, and the bolt to the cow’s head? I’ll always think of No Country for Old Men.

Note: Anne was eating puppy chow while watching the show. Just thought you should know. :)

Meghan (a long-time vegetarian and future vegan lent participant):

Meet people where they are at. Period. Yes I find it sad and, dare I say, irresponsible that the show had ZERO mention of shopping the perimeter of the grocery store and focusing on incorporating veggies and fruits into your diet. But I get it. Many of the people who were watching that show can’t even begin to comprehend getting any form of fruit or vegetable in their lives aside from lettuce and tomato on a bun. So for the purpose of the general public I like that she highlighted meat alternatives for pretty much everything as well as a cheese alternative. While all of these processed foods freak me out-they certainly have their place in many people’s lives and a non-meat brat is better for your cholesterol than a real one-I suppose. After being vegetarian for nearly 20 years I look at fake meat products as my junk food and grains and veggies as my real food. Can you imagine if even 10% of Americans could say that. It would have a profound impact on the health of our nation.

Michael Pollan is my hero. In some ways at least. He keeps it real. He keeps it simple. We need to talk about reforming our emotions, beliefs, ideals etc. surrounding food not just ditch everything and turn vegan. That show sensationalized it a wee bit much to the point where it will be a fad for many of the viewers and well… we all know-fads fade. We just need to think about where it ALL comes from. ALL OF IT. Who cares if Cargill goes broke? But I care when we see farmers losing their livelihoods because Betty Crocker says just pour, mix and bake. There are safe, healthy, sustainable ways to eat all of the foods you love… so give it a shot.

Those of you reading this blog get it…. But for those who don’t, if we can make any difference in their lives… baby steps… baby steps…. Baby steps…. If we can just get people to think about what they are eating-it would be huge.

I can go on and on as a vegetarian and one who works for the American Heart Association but alas I will sush-good on ya to everyone who gives a healthier lifestyle a shot! At the end of the day I love my cheese, ice cream and eggs. And I make poor food choices knowingly and often. It’s just awesome to know what goes in your body. So the unhealthy things are choices. Yummy, yummy choices!

Willa (recovering vegetarian, current meat eater, future vegan lent participant):

I definitely differ with Meghan on the point of meat vs. processed vegetarian products. From a health standpoint I think you are better off eating a grass fed free range rib eye steak than a tofu pup, in my humble opinion.  But I understand where she is coming from.

The main points that stuck with me after watching the show were:

  • Know where your food comes from. Cows and chickens are not born in seran wrapped packages. If you can, check out your local farmer’s market or visit a farm. These people are the fabric of our society.
  • There was little to no talk about the importance of eating a balanced, plant based diet. The focus was overwhelmingly on processed, convenience foods. So, don’t replace bad with bad.
  • They seemed to avoid the discussion about the cost of food. Good food does cost more, but it is worth it. You pay now or you pay later. And, it is easier to pay more for food when you meet the people who grow it; to make that connection of how hard they work for this.
  • Take baby steps, like Meghan said – meatless Monday is a good idea. Or, maybe do something like Mark Bittman (He’s vegan until dinner). Or be a vegan at home. But, you don’t have to go vegan to make a change in the system,  the environment, or your health. We don’t want to put the good farmers out of business. We just need to revamp our relationship with food.
  • People don’t like to work at anything. If it takes thought/consideration, they generally want nothing to do with it. This really isn’t that hard but there is so much resistance. Like Meghan said, I suppose we have to meet people where they are at.

Jen (part-time vegetarian, future vegan lent participant, married to a hunter):

I agree with many of the points that my pals above noted. While I get Meghan’s point about meeting people where they are at, I struggle with suggesting processed fake meat and other processed products. Once in awhile? Sure. To try something different? Great. But vegan or not, can we talk about the importance of produce?!  On Monday, the USDA published the latest dietary guidelines. One thing I was super excited to see was their push on vegetables. In fact, they suggest making sure half of your plate is made up of vegetables. YES! That’s what I’m talking about. Vegetables are nutrient dense (lots of good stuff for not a lot of calories) and dare I say tasty?  (By the way, my pal Heather in CO did a great post on the guidelines. She’s a Registered Dietician so I trust her. :)) The fact that vegetables or fruit was not talked about AT ALL on Oprah drove me crazy. I think it’s one of the most appealing parts of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.  I was also bummed that Michael Pollan didn’t say anything (or if he did, it didn’t make the cut).  Sorry Michael, I love ya, but I wanted you to speak up more.

Not once did anyone talk about the cost of being a vegan. They way they shopped at Whole Foods (with all their processed fake stuff), the cost would have been enormous. I’m all for spending more on food. Our mindset of cheap food = good bothers me. However, I don’t think you need to break the bank. In fact, eating a vegan diet can be incredibly thrifty. No Meat Athlete recently did a great post on this. Great meals don’t have to be spendy and they can include vegetables and yummy sources of protein. And they include all things you’ve hear d of.

I’ve seen the meat processing plants before (in Food, Inc. and Fast Food Nation) and it certainly changed the way I think about meat. I’m very picky about where mine comes from. Most of what we eat at home comes from things that Brette has brought home from hunting expeditions. I know everything there is to know about how it got to my plate. I can live with that. I also have gotten to know a few farmers at the Farmer’s Market and I love being able to support them and what they are doing. Many of those farmer’s have their meat available at the Seward co-op here in town, which is also a major bonus. However, I don’t eat a lot of meat, maybe a couple times a week. Just like Michael. (sorry, I love him, what can I say?)

The day after this show aired, Mark Bittman’s first op-ed piece in the New York Times was published. It offers more food for thought along with some suggestions on how to actually reform our system. It’s definitely worth a read.

So, I’m curious of other’s thoughts. If you saw the episode, what did you think? If you didn’t, what do you think about living vegan for a week? Would that be a challenge? Did you agree or disagree with any of our thoughts?

goodbye. so long. farewell.

11 Jan

As I’m sure many of you have noticed, Jen pretty much runs the show on this blog. When we began our blogging partnership I was doing a fair amount of cooking, a fair amount of dining out, and also had a fair amount of time to blog about it all. Since becoming a mom to a second kid last April, I do a lot less of all things food related (unless one considers the cleanup of a gooked-up high chair to be food related [and blog-worthy]), have way less energy to compose my thoughts into a coherent post, and pretty much have been an all-around blog slacker here on She Said. She Said. With that, I am going to hang up the towel as a pseudo food blogger, and will leave Jen to her own very capable and very talented devices.

I know Jen has some great ideas in store for her readers, including a possible name change. You may see me around here at some point as a contributor or guest blogger, too. (If Jen will have me:)

Thanks for reading! It’s been fun!

*****************

and before I go, I just wanted to share that this was my favorite post that I was a part of.

holiday highlights (yes, by Anne!)

29 Dec

Guess what? One time, before Christmas, I baked some cookies that were intended for the holidays. I took pictures and EVERYTHING. I was going to post the recipe and the visual aids that went with my cookie-baking, but I never got around to it in time for Christmas. So then I was going to post it in time for New Year’s, in case anyone wanted a New Year’s cookie recipe. But, I don’t think I’ll get to that, either. Maybe a Valentine’s cookie? I’ll see if I get there.

Instead, I’ll do a little holiday highlights post about some of the kitchen/cooking stuff that went on during our holiday.

We hosted our first ever Christmas Eve! We spent most of Christmas Eve day corralling children so that one or the other of us could either cook (Pat) or clean (me.) I borrowed a tablecloth from Jen, set the table with my Grandma’s china, got a centerpiece from Spruce, and had place cards made by the resident three year old. We had a total of four guests. I didn’t have to do ANY of the cooking for the meal itself (I did, however, provide us with a plethora of cookies for dessert), which was simply wonderful. Pat planned and cooked the entire meal. He went with a standing rib roast, mashed potatoes, a green bean/red pepper dish, and popovers. It was all very delish.

————————–

On to gifts… we received a number of kitchen/cooking related gifts this year (much to our surprise and pleasure!) Pat’s parents gave us this (!): Le Creuset oval french oven (I think. Not sure on specs exactly- Pat would know.) Did you know you can find deals on these things at Marshalls?
We also got this: Oxo SoftWorks carving and cutting board. This is going to come in handy when we need a flat, smooth surface for rolling out pie crust or cookies or a pizza crust. We have tiled countertops which I HATE because junk gets in the cracks and it’s just so yucky.

Pat’s stocking stuffer from me Santa was this: Waring Pro immersion blender. We’ve had one too many times lately where we’ve taken a boiling hot soup off the stovetop and carefully dumped it into the food processor for pureeing. Not exactly the safest.

And in my stocking I found this: J.A. Henckels boning knife. A boning knife appearing in my stocking?? It was just for show for the kids. Pat failed to get me any stocking stuffers, and thought Ryan would find it odd if Mommy didn’t get anything from Santa in her stocking, so Pat took this boning knife that he had purchased FOR HIMSELF when he was buying a knife gift for his uncle, and put it in my stocking.

Something I desperately, desperately needed were new cookie sheets. Jen had sent me this article, Pat read it, and immediately went out shopping. Did you know Nordic Ware is made here in the Twin Cities? Did you know they have a factory store in St. Louis Park? These cookie sheets are nice. Too bad I’m tired of making cookies or I’d try them out.

Last but not least, our toaster saga. The toaster I bought to replace our 10 year old one was a piece of junk. The inner mechanism was bent, so one piece of toast would only go halfway down, thus ending up being only half toasted. I returned it the other day, and today Pat went out (to Macy’s! to buy a toaster!) and spent what I consider to be w-a-y too much money for a toaster. This thing better make damn good toast.

Some other fun morsels of goodness included chocolate bars infused with interesting flavors like lime and chipotle; tea; and meat rubs. Oh, and holiday M&M’s. We mustn’t forget the M&Ms.

 

 

Ba Bao Tea

16 Dec

About a year ago, I was gifted a few packages of Pagoda Red’s Ba Bao Tea. Last year at this time, I was also pregnant, and aware that some ingredients in certain teas aren’t advised during pregnancy. So I decided to shelve the Ba Bao and save it for a time when I could fully indulge and enjoy a relaxing cup of the tea. Even though I had forgotten about it, the Ba Bao has been waiting for me in the back of my tea/spices shelf in the cupboard. This morning I was craving a mug of tea and to my surprise and happiness, found two packages of the Ba Bao tea. I quickly microwaved up a mug of hot water, grabbed my cup-sized brew basket, and was about to pour the loose leaf tea in when I happened to glance inside the package and saw this:

(?????????)

Let’s look a little closer, said I.

I closely examined these strange objects in my bag of tea, and then I read the package.

Ba Bao Tea, with 8 treasures: goji berry, red jujube, boat-fruited sterculia, lycium berry, crystallized cane sugar, chrysanthemum blossoms, fine green tea, and longan fruit.

(????????)

Then, on the back, I read the DIRECTIONS. Amazing things, those directions: Empty contents of package into a teapot and add boiling water. Let 8 treasures blossom. Steep for 3-4 minutes. Strain aromatic brew as desired.

(!!!!!!!!)

So, I got up on a chair and dug around in the cupboard above the refrigerator, and I pulled out an ACTUAL teapot. Then I put the teaKETTLE on the stove to boil. Then I did this:

Then when the water was boiling, I did this:

Then I looked in my cupboard to see if I had any Asian-esque type of teacup. I did not. So I selected this lovely mug instead. Then I used the strainer as I poured the tea into my mug (because there were some black floaty things I didn’t want to drink).

And then I drank it. It’s r-e-a-l-l-y good. So I had a second mug.

Ba Bao tea… read more about it here!

eeking it out

29 Nov

Please accept this lovely picture of churros y chocolate as my final post for NaBloPoMo 2010.