Review: Glutton for Pleasure by Bob Blumer

Recently I shared with you my cookbook shelf, as well as mentioning a very special and important cookbook to me, The Surreal Gourmet by Bob Blumer. It was the cookbook which gave me my wings and the confidence to fly, and fly away I did. In fact, I flew so far and didn’t look back, so I had no idea what Mr. Bob Blumer has been up to all of these years.

Turns out he had a pretty impressive and colorful career, including three subsequent cookbooks, two Food Network television shows, and numerous Guinness World Records. Needless to say, I was completely starstruck when Bob emailed me a thank you for the shout-out and mentioned he has a new and possibly cookbook-shelf-worthy book out, Glutton for Pleasure. I immediately ordered it on Amazon, so keep in mind my review is based on a book purchased with my own Ed’s hard earned dollars. In the interest of full disclosure, Bob was gracious enough to send me an autographed copy for The Shelf. How could he possibly resist his biggest fan?

I love this book! Part memoir, part guide, part recipes, and wholly entertaining. If I knew any young brides or young bachelors, I would give it as a shower gift or housewarming gift. There is so much great advice in here on the practical aspects of setting up a kitchen, choosing the right wine and entertaining in any sized space, in addition to humorous stories, classic recipes (my beloved Caesar salad, steak au poivre, and beer can chicken), new-to-me recipes (maple-icious salmon, mambo chicken, love me tenderloin), kid-friendly recipes (popcorn cauliflower, parking lot eggs) and just plain weird, uh, I mean surreal and clever recipes (lamb cupcakes with beet frosting, dishwasher salmon, cereal killer soup).

Some of my fondest memories are of our salad days, when we were newly married and living in our first townhouse. We would put on 10,000 Maniacs Our Time in Eden CD, prepare Bob’s Caesar salad in our small kitchen (beer and homemade croutons always mandatory) and talk about our life and our dreams. We had so much less back then, but we were very happy, and no salad ever tasted so good.

Twenty-plus years later, Bob is still inspiring me.


Product Review: Traders Point Creamery Whole Milk Yogurt

Any dummy knows you don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, but today I had no choice. I just spent a grueling two hours making butter with second graders for Pilgrim Day at school, and the one saltine cracker spread with germ-infested delicious homemade butter which I ate just wasn’t enough for me. I was starving and wanted to head home to refuel (and maybe nap) but I knew — oh, I knew — that each passing hour from here on out would be crazy with Thanksgiving Madness at the supermarkets. Shopping hungry was the lesser of two evils.

As we’ve established, I’m a sucker for packaging. Also, certain words really get me, too, words like “creamery” and “grass fed.” And a real glass bottle with a pink lid? Powerless. The rational part of my brain didn’t even care it was paying seven bucks for yogurt, because it was made from happy grass fed cows from a real creamery, see? Well played, marketers. You got me again.

But sometimes luck goes my way, because I really love this stuff. It is so fresh and creamy with just the perfect amount of yogurt tang and sweetness. I can’t wait until tomorrow so I can have some more! I bought the wildberry flavor today, and next time I plan on getting the plain because the website recommends sweetening it with…wait for it…maple syrup! My favorite sweetener! It’s like they know me!

Verdict: Pricy but worth every penny. Grass fed, people.

Product Review: Brad’s Raw Kale Chips

One Thursday morning a few weeks ago, I came across a display of Brad’s Raw Kale Chips. Chips, next to pizza, are my biggest dietary weakness. In fact, I rarely keep them in the house because they always lead to remorse. My poor children must suffer for their mother’s lack of self control.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Kale chips ARE NOT REAL CHIPS! Okay, I will give you that one, if we are defining real chips as salty and fat laden nutritionally-void goodness. The best part about kale chips (aside from the lack of self loathing brought on by consuming too many) is that they are made of kale. Have you heard how good kale is? Quite the superfood! You really should be eating kale.

I was intrigued by this product, although it was a bit pricey (just over $7.00) for a smallish bag. However, the idea of a healthy chip replacement was too good to pass up. As luck would have it, I had just passed the junk food aisle and stood there a bit too long contemplating the merits of Doritos versus potato chips. Brad’s Raw Chips seemed to be placed in front of my face at just the right moment, and I’ve never been one to ignore good shopping karma.

I started eating them in the car, proof that even healthy food isn’t immune from my bingey bad habits. The crunch was very satisfying. The flavor was good, although there was a slight aftertaste which diminished as you ate more. I bought the plain ones, and they were still quite flavorful. I look forward to trying the Nasty Hot and Vampire Killer kale chips, as well as some of their other chip varieties: red pepper, beet, sun dried tomato, sweet potato.

I have made my own kale chips before (recipe upon request) and while I really enjoyed them and they were pretty easy to make, they were also messy and time consuming. Thank you, Brad, for giving us a snack option that doesn’t lead to guilt and remorse.


Twenty Years Come and Gone So Fast

Twenty years ago, I went on a first date with a handsome engineer who was working on launching the UARS Satellite for GE Aerospace. I was a sales assistant at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, working for a blue blooded tyrant while studying for my broker’s license. It was a tough week, and by the closing bell, I was very tired. I distinctly remember telling my coworker that I had a date but I would much rather go home and get in my comfy clothes, read the latest Glamour magazine, and polish my nails. Even back then, I knew how to party. But I would never cancel a first date, so off I went.

Ed picked me up in his black Jeep Wrangler. He was wearing a purple tie. I was wearing a gray printed wrap dress, buff stockings, black suede pumps and pearls. Ask any of my friends, and they will confirm I am terrible with faces. But I am great at remembering clothes! I was glad to be dressed a little on the conservative side, because the restaurant was very fancy and formal…tuxedoed maître d’, candlelight, etc. I ordered a vodka tonic to start.

Our dinner was wonderful and romantic. We ordered wine like proper grownups, and not even white zinfandel like those losers still in college! The food, while very good, wasn’t what I would call innovative or especially remarkable. I probably ordered salmon. Ed said that he liked that I actually ate all my food — a little foreshadowing right there! It was a special dinner because I immediately realized the guy sitting across from me had serious potential. Conversation was easy and comfortable, and we clicked right away. I was glad I didn’t stay home and polish my nails.

Twenty years and three kids later, Ed came home early last night with flowers and told me to put on a dress! He was taking me to the Dilworthtown Inn, the place where we went on our first date. We had been there a few times over the last twenty years, and I was happy to go back. Not deliberately but because it was the only thing in my closet that fit, I put on a gray dress. Not deliberately but because I keep forgetting to pick up our massive dry cleaning order and nothing else was clean, Ed put on a purple checked shirt. He looked even more handsome than on our first date. Damn, men age well.

I ordered a vodka tonic to enjoy while I examined the menu. And what a menu it was! The Dilworthtown Inn has gotten much better with time. Neither stuffy and boring, nor tries-too-hard weird, everything offered was just right. After much deliberation and a little help from our fun and fabulous server, I decided to go with:

Wild Burgundy Escargot
Vanilla Scented and Dark Rum Glazed Roasted Pineapple, Serrano Chili, Sage Brown Butter

Manchego, Baby Spinach, and Arugula Salad
Fried Manchego, Sliced Plums, Serrano Ham, Marcona Almonds, Warm Pancetta Vinaigrette (Ed and I split this, and THANK GOD — it was a meal in itself)

Twin Lobster Tails
Whipped Potatoes, Haricot Vert, Baby Carrots, Drawn Butter

The lobster was delicious, but yes, a little boring. Of course, it was exactly what it claimed to be, and the right choice for someone who likes the classics prepared to perfection. I am always powerless in the presence of lobster and escargot on a menu, because I love them so much and rarely get to have them. Then I get mad at myself for ordering the same thing I always do. What would I get if they were not on the menu? What would you get? Take a look at this wonderful menu and let me know: Dilworthtown Inn Menu

I marvel that the last twenty years went by in the blink of an eye. As Mom Moms everywhere would say, “The days go slowly but the years go quickly.” After twenty years, I am so incredibly blessed to wake up every morning next to someone I love and respect, someone who brings out the best in me and who is always my biggest cheerleader. I can’t wait to see what the next twenty years will bring.


Can we talk about my Vitamix?

The last time I made a smoothie, I smelled something burning. My poor cheapy blender, which never served me well even in its heyday, was finally dying. I wound up putting everything in the food processor, then washing two appliances and choking down a lumpy smoothie. So many things wrong with that sentence.

I have toyed with getting the Vitamix for a while, but it is just so much money for a blender. A dear friend with good connections was able to get me one for just under $300, so being the bargain loving gal I am, I found it hard to resist. Before long, I discovered that my fellow Vitamix devotees have a bit of a cultish and slightly Amway vibe to them, to which I say without shame, “Sign me up!” This machine is so amazing that I honestly feel like it will change my life.

I struggle with breakfast and always have. The idea of just dumping a bunch of healthy stuff in a blender and drinking it down is so, so appealing to me. In one fell swoop I can consume a serving of kale, blueberries, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, raw walnuts, and coconut milk. The Vitamix handles all of those ingredients beautifully, and I’m instantly left with a cold, purple beverage. Does it taste good? Well, it’s edible. I am still working on tweaking the flavor. But it’s definitely edible! (Can you see now why I never succeeded in sales?)

I have only had my Vitamix for three days, but I can tell you without a doubt, it was money well spent. Highly recommend.

Review: Siggi’s Non-Fat Yogurt, Icelandic Style Skyr

Before I submit my first review for Siggi’s non-fat Icelandic style yogurt called skyr, there are a few things you should know about me. I am generally not a fan of non-fat yogurt. I believe that fat is a good and important part of the yogurt experience, so my general philosophy is “the more the better.” I am also not a fan of high sugar contents, both for health reasons and for taste reasons. And of course corn syrup has no place in anything other than pecan pie, so don’t get me started on that topic. Finally, I am a sucker for tasteful packaging. Truth be told, it was the packaging that led me to this yogurt.

Skyr is not just a turtleneck from the preppy glory days of the 1980s (loved those, by the way). Skyr is the traditional yogurt of Iceland, and it contains 3 to 4 times the amount of milk as a traditional cup of yogurt, but without the whey (milk-water), so it has the texture of a high fat yogurt without the fat. This yogurt is incredibly high in protein and low in fat and calories: 14 g protein, 0 g fat, 9 g sugar, 100 calories. If you are a person who likes high protein drinks after working out, two of these yogurts would give you more protein for less calories than Muscle Milk, plus the added bonus of containing ingredients your average second grader could pronounce: Skim Milk, Agave Nectar, Candied Ginger Orange Extract, Live Active Cultures, Vegetable Rennet. Okay, they might pronounce Agave like A-gave and not A-gah-vay, but we’ll cut them a break. Unless your second grader is in Mensa, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t pronounce most of the Muscle Milk ingredients.

But what about the taste? I’m not going to lie. If you like sweet yogurts (fake or otherwise), this probably won’t appeal to you. I don’t like sweet yogurts, and it was still a bit of an acquired taste. But by the end, I was pleasantly satisfied. Maybe next time I may add just a smidge of maple syrup to it, just the tiniest drop, or even pair it with some fresh fruit. I will definitely buy this again, and feel good about myself for doing so.