ginger ale

Aug. 23rd, 2013 02:36 pm
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A few years ago, Coca-cola started advertising that their new cans of regular coke contained only 100 calories. They had reduced the calorie count by making the cans slightly smaller--it seemed like a nice thing to do for their customers who liked the taste of classic coke and didn't want too many calories.

A couple of days ago, I was on an airplane, and I asked for ginger ale when the flight attendant offered me a drink. I hardly noticed the little green box on the green Seagrams can, announcing "25% fewer calories than regular ginger ales." When I saw it, I thought maybe they were using less sugar--a less sweet ginger ale would be nice. (There's a version of frosted flakes that just uses less of the frosting and brags that it's a lower cereal.) Then I thought maybe they were using a smaller can, but the can had a weird aspect ratio, and I picked it up trying to read the label to see how small.

It was a little tricky to read the label, because I didn't have my reading glasses. (I just had my e-reader, which lets me use big fonts and my distance glasses.) So there was a fair amount of dumb luck involved in seeing the sucralose on the ingredients list in the first place.* It wasn't diet pop; it had lots of corn syrup. It felt like they were just sneaking the migraine trigger into the can and hoping people wouldn't notice.

They really are being sneaky. It's not just that I was oblivious or that I've had so little ginger ale this year (while irrationally thinking of it as a familiar product I don't need to investigate before drinking.) I went back to the little airplane galley to discard the unused can and see if they could spare me a little water, and the flight attendant was shocked. "What seat are you in? I could have sworn I gave you regular soda!" No, really, it's not her fault. It looks exactly like non-diet soda. By the standards of people who want the diet stuff, it probably IS non-diet soda. Seagrams is just being sneaky. Or I suppose a person could use a less polite word than "sneaky."

*The flight attendant gave me the can in the first place, instead of just pouring me a cup.
I noticed the green-on-green box.
I read the ingredients list, when I didn't expect any need to.
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Yesterday, I had pigeon peas for the first time. Perhaps I should say I ate pigeon peas for the first time. They had been sitting in the cupboard for months, since the time I asked the grocery delivery people to bring me 3 cans of black beans and they brought 2 cans of black beans and 1 of pigeon peas. (Along with a great many other things.) When I called to tell them about it, they didn't charge me for the pigeon peas, but they didn't make an extra trip to exchange cans, either.

So, yesterday. There I was, not really on speaking terms with my hand or shoulder, so it was not a viable option to go to the store. Fortunately, I had the can of pigeon peas, rice, canned tomatoes, half an onion, lazy garlic, soyrizo, cumin, oregano, and green olives. (And a few things not appearing in this production, but really not very many.*)

I found a recipe for arroz con gandules, substituting soyrizo for chorizo, and leaving out the pork and bay leaves. I'm not sure if the back of my mouth was trying to warn me, as it sometimes does: Danger! You've never eaten this before, but it feels like a migraine trigger! Or maybe I just didn't like it much. I ate it anyhow, because I was hungry and didn't want to throw away the resources** that had just gone into making it. And then I ended up with a migraine.

Does anybody know of pigeon peas being a migraine trigger? Everything else in that recipe was something I had eaten before, with no problems. Many migraines do not have food triggers, and this one could have been set up by muscle spasms in the shoulder. It's just that taste (that feeling in my mouth, equal parts taste and smell and fear) that made me think the pigeon peas were problematic.

*Pickled herring, prunes, oatmeal, maple syrup, pickled carrots, eggs, soymilk, frozen squash, and soba. I can make a few more meals out of this before going out of town on Thursday, but it's a bit of a challenge. I may end up going to the store, but with significantly less than my usual 5-pound limit. Meal-planning suggestions are welcome.

**In this case, the scarce resources are "food in the apartment this week" more than "food, generally," or "food I can afford." I can get groceries delivered when I come back from Virginia, but they only deliver large orders so I can't get a little now and a little next week (which would be really useful.)
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I had a surprising amount of energy this afternoon, so I went out to the farmers' market. The Arlington farmers' market has excellent fish. (Not just from fish farms. I don't get it either, though of course I'm not complaining.) There are probably no cherries to be had anywhere, and I didn't waste carrying capacity on peaches. But I got various vegetables with the intent of making something (very) vaguely chowder-like I have made with great success in the past.

Unfortunately, getting the fish home used up my ability to cope. I don't have any left for cooking. And I just spent a significant amount on a piece of fish that I suspect will be noticeably less good tomorrow than it is tonight. And I need to be out of here by 9:30am, which makes it less appealing to cook the fish in the morning.

It's not a complicated fish recipe. It just requires cutting up fish and vegetables and putting them in a pot. And getting the pot out of the cabinet. And opening the can of coconut milk. And maybe opening the jar of curry paste, though I can skip that bit. There's no way to skip cutting things up or getting the pot out of the cabinet. And it's all just daunting.


Jul. 17th, 2013 01:03 pm
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I made something with chard last week that almost worked perfectly. It worked well enough to be worth trying again, but I'm trying to figure out how to get it exactly right. (I mean, other than having all the chard cut up beforehand, rather than trying to chop the leaves while the stems are cooking.)

I started with a bunch of rainbow chard and 5 eggs. I started cooking some lazy garlic in olive oil, like you do, then added the chopped stems of the chard until they softened a bit. Then added handfuls of chopped chard leaves and let them wilt down until they all fit and I could cover the pot. Then more garlic, because I had a LOT of chard. And then I mixed the chard with a handful of raisins and put it in a baking dish, beat the eggs with a little salt, and baked it at 400F.

I liked it, but it needed something. More raisins? Lemon? There was just a little more egg than strictly necessary to hold the chard together, and I think that was right. There weren't any of the hot spices, and I don't think they would have fit...but maybe something like sumac/zatar or ginger?
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It's a fool and I love it. Apricot Fool. Redbird and I made it this weekend, and it really is delicious. I found a non-dairy (soy-free, gluten-free) whippable thingee called Healthy Top, last week at Harvest, and substituted it for the whipped cream. It's made of coconut, almonds, and cashews, and it worked amazingly well. It tastes faintly of almonds, very faintly of coconut, and immediately became best friends with that rich and complex apricot puree.

Rush called the fool "a very simple and delicious dessert which is perfect for fall and requires no thought whatsoever except when you are finding the apricots." A comments on the post recommended a source for the apricots, directly across the street from my apartment, so one might have expected the thing to be dead easy. I'm sure it was, for Rush. (And generally. A "fool" is customarily simple.) The problem is that my standards for simple cooking are so embarrassingly stringent. In my kitchen, a recipe stops being simple after it starts talking about whipping cream.

It's not that it's such a hassle to find a pareve replacement for whipped cream. (It is, but I got lucky when I found the Healthy Top.) I had been considering an experiment with cooking down coconut milk, and I'm glad I didn't have to. We just had to chill the bowl and beaters, pre-chill the stuff, measure the stuff out of the carton, and take the electric mixer to it. That's pretty much what I used to do to whip cream.

It reminds me of how Papersky and Redbird make cakelings they think of as ridiculously simple, and that recipe isn't simple for me either. In that case, it's the need to chop the apples and melt the butter that makes it hard. (I have a microwave, so melting butter isn't even all that hard. Just not simple enough to put it on my list of easy desserts.) I recognize the intrinsic simplicity of crockpots, broilers, and large stockpots even though I myself can't handle them. But the complexity problems feel different.

(Is this just me?)
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It will cook everything but potatoes. I can't understand it.
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I rarely buy parsnips, because I don't know what to do with them. If I'm making carrot soup (the savory kind, with black pepper and herbs, as opposed to the kind with orange juice and ginger), I might add 1 or 2 parsnips...but otherwise? Here's what happened to a bag of these admirable root vegetables. They all turned out very well.

cottage ppie for a silly cottage )

vegetable soup )

lamb stew )
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I rarely buy parsnips, because I don't know what to do with them. If I'm making carrot soup (the savory kind, with black pepper and herbs, as opposed to the kind with orange juice and ginger), I might add 1 or 2 parsnips...but otherwise? Here's what happened to a bag of these admirable root vegetables. They all turned out very well.

cottage ppie for a silly cottage )

vegetable soup )

lamb stew )

bad apples

Oct. 12th, 2009 09:30 pm
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A few days ago, I bought half a peck of Cortland apples from the supermarket across the street. They taste bad.

If they were spoiled, that would seem to be a problem to take up with the supermarket. Only they aren't mealy, or bruised, or mushy. They don't smell like rotting fruit. I didn't keep the receipt, but it would be nice to know, for future reference, if their bags of apples are unreliable.

If it turns out I don't like Cortlands, that's a much easier problem. I had thought I liked them, but my memory could have been mistaken. Do some people perceive them as "winey" or "perfumey?" The smell and aftertaste reminded me of solvent, though I couldn't quite identify which kind. Maybe acetone or alcohol. Cattitude suggested (without tasting--he's in New York) that it might be going to vinegar. I'd really like to believe that, because it makes so much sense, but the raw apple I ate had about the same balance of sugar and acid as a Macoun. Lightly sauteeing slices of apple, just to carmelize the edges, made the solvent taste fade far enough into the background so I could mask it with cinnamon. I mean, if a person wanted to eat the rest of the bag of apples, rather than dithering about it until they actually do spoil.

(The other possibility, of course, is that I'm hallucinating all this. I don't like to think about that. My previous experience with illusory smells hasn't had them persisting for 2 days.)


Dec. 30th, 2007 01:08 pm
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(LJ asks about adult content these days, but they don't have a setting for juice boxes and chocolate milk.)

I'm having a little trouble packing lunches for work. With a 30 minute lunch break, nobody goes out for lunch. I am always terribly cold in this workplace, and hot food in the middle of the day seems to help a little. There is a lunchroom, with a sink, microwave ovens, coffee makers, tables and chairs, a tv. I started out just putting some tangerines and a little rubbermaid container of beans and rice in my backpack. Then I realized I needed to carry eating utensils, as well as food. Having a fork and an apple both tossing around loose in my backpack can be hard on the fruit. And I found it awkward to take my flatware, food, and cup out of my pack and carry them across the plant to the lunchroom (yet taking my whole pack to lunch is completely inappropriate.)

I tried the insulated lunchbox I bought a few years ago for another purpose. It will hold one medium rubbermaid container and one small one (or a fair-sized apple), along with a juice box and flatware. I don't like how much room it takes in my backpack, or how hard it is to pack around it. (It's strange that I have so much trouble working around it, because most of what I'm carrying is small notebooks, small electronic gadgets, and personal insulation. Nothing big and rigid.) I've seen cleverly designed bento boxes, but they seem cleverly designed for carrying cold lunches, and it's important to me to have something hot. More important, they seem cleverly designed for presenting lots of little bits and pieces of things, which would seem to involve more preparation than I can handle. When I have a big apple, I'd rather just take bites of it than fuss with making slices fit in the fruit cup, and worry about what to do with the other 2/3 of the apple. But I would like a way to keep the flatware from cutting up the apple before lunchtime.

Do any of you have suggestions? Either for what to take for lunch, or how to pack it? I want something I can reheat in the microwave and eat quickly. I want it to be reasonably healthy, with some vegetables, and substantial enough to be my main meal. (I often come home too tired to bother with dinner.) I don't eat anything with pork, shellfish, or dairy products. Eggs are fine. I'm dubious about bringing fish or cooked cruciferous vegetables in close quarters, partly because the smell might be impolite to my colleagues, and partly because I might not want to deal with the smell when I have a migraine flare. And of course it needs to be packed compactly, and enough to eat to get me through the afternoon and early evening. Shepherd's pie sort of works. Though with the amount I can bring in the medium rubbermaid container that fits in my lunchbox, and either an apple or some celery, I'm awfully hungry in the late afternoon.

Silk makes things like juiceboxes, only with chocolate soymilk. I would think of them as an expensive snack...but they're a lot cheaper than going to Starbucks for hot chocolate, both in terms of money and time. I started putting one in my lunchbox with the intent of drinking it at lunchtime, but I found I don't want a cold drink at lunch. I end up drinking it on my way home (or on my way to an evening appointment), after I've been in the car for 10-15 minutes and I'm starting to feel thoroughly warm.


Nov. 30th, 2007 01:04 pm
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When I stopped eating dairy, pumpkin pie became a problem. Traditional pumpkin pie is custard pie with a little mashed pumpkin, and non-dairy custard does not taste or feel quite right to me. Actually, my first thoughts about non-dairy pumpkin pie were a few years before my digestion had any objections to dairy, when I started having Thanksgiving dinner in a kosher home. After assorted custard pies with non-dairy milk or cream substitutes, I decided to eat apple pie at Thanksgiving and reserve pumpkin pie for occasions when I could eat real dairy products. Because I still liked pumpkin pie. Then the aforementioned digestive objections, such that there are no longer any occasions when I can eat real dairy products and not regret it later. Now, this appears to be my only solution. Fortunately, it's a happy solution.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie )

My other pumpkin pie problem is that I don't particularly like piecrust. It's not just that I think it's too much trouble to make, though I do. For apple pie, there's apple crisp, which doesn't bother with crust. For potpie, there's shepherd's pie, which replaces the piecrust with mashed potatoes (sometimes with chives and stuff and with a nice crisp top from the broiler.) But what to do with pumpkin pie?

Pumpkin, is it "cake?" )

When I was in New York last week, Cattitude made a pie according to the first recipe, with mashed butternut squash in place of the pumpkin. It was really excellent. (Even not caring about piecrust, I could tell this was a good one.) It might actually have been more practical to make my own than trying to take a significant amount of leftover pie on an intercity bus trip. Besides, this way I left all the crust for those who could appreciate it. I opened a large can of pumpkin, and messed around a bit until the batter looked right. I considered stabilizing it with some smaller aggregate than the nuts, such as rolled oats or coconut flakes, but just broke up the nuts a bit and left well enough alone. It came out just fine.

I had quite a lot of leftover pumpkin puree and no particular plans for it. I suppose a sensible turtle would have frozen it in 1.25 cup aliquots, until the next time for making pie. I just refrigerated it. Some went into:
Pumpkin Soup )

This morning, the last of the pumpkin and the last of the cinnamon went into my oatmeal. I'm in more of a hurry to replace the cinnamon, I think.
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I am really tired of my digestive system not working properly. I was horribly sick with what felt like food poisoning all last week (only food poisoning doesn't usually last that long). Not eating anything is not a sensible long-term solution. It did seem like a good idea for a few days when even a glass of cold water would set off fresh spasms.

I resent that so many comfort foods I remember from my childhood are now things I can't eat because they have dairy. I wouldn't have macaroni and cheese, or creamed spinach, or hot chocolate, when I was sick with a stomach virus (I don't think so, anyhow). But part of my memory of being sick as a little kid is my father making me tea and toast with pepperidge farm white bread, and cutting the toast with a cookie cutter. So of course I looked for that kind of bread when I went to the store, and it has milk in it. It probably always did, I just didn't care, before. At least saltines are safe.

After being sick for a week and a half, I finally reached a point where I felt ok eating bananas, or plain rice, or putting soymilk in mint tea. I even ate an egg, successfully! I was thinking in terms of food poisoning, so I boiled it for 25 minutes, and it had a kind of rubbery toughness to it. I don't know what it means anymore to make easily digestible food when I'm not well.
Then yesterday, I felt well enough to walk down to the farmers' market in the sunshine. I bought baby beets, and summer squash, and cucumbers, and a cookie. I ate the cookie and some of the squash, and it was a complete disaster. I'm right back to feeling as bad as I did 4 days ago.
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I tried this yesterday, and it worked pretty well. Not perfectly, but pretty well, especially considering my lack of experience with souffles. I think it could be perfect with a little practice.

I started with 3 medium eggs. That would make 2 desserts, or even 3 after a big meal, but I called it a main course for 1. I separated the eggs, of course. This was supposed to be a souffle. Everything clean and dry. I know that much.

Added to the yolks: 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder, 3 teaspoons sugar. That made it smell right, but it was much too stiff. I added half a cup of raspberry tea (the raspberry-rosehip tisane, which is hardly acid at all, but smells wonderfully fruity.) I had brewed it very strong and let it cool so it wouldn't cook the yolk...I just wanted some liquid that would carry flavor and not dilute it. Half a cup turned out to be too much liquid. I added some almond butter to stiffen the custard, and also to support the souffle when it rose. I know some people use ground nuts, but it was easier to use nut butter from a jar. I added about 2 tablespoons.

I whipped the eggwhites to stiff peaks with another teaspoon sugar and folded it into the custard. I baked it at 425 F, in a buttered 7" pan. I think that was another mistake--it would probably have cooked faster and risen better in smaller containers. My kitchen has a shortage of ovenproof containers bigger than cupcakes yet smaller than skillets. If I were to divide the batter into small ovenproof cups, how deep should I fill them?

It wasn't puffed up the way I expected of a souffle, but it didn't have a flat omelet texture, either. It was like a light, very rich, cake, tasting of chocolate and almonds, with a subtle hint of raspberry. I'm definately going to try this one again, maybe with a mint tea instead of the raspberry, and a bit less liquid. Or with raspberry tea as the liquid, it would be good to serve actual raspberries with it.
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I learned to make a basic white sauce when I was 8 or 9. For many years, it was a very useful thing to know. A second-order effect of not eating dairy products is that I no longer know how to make a white sauce. I tried replacing the butter with non-dairy margarine (which is astonishingly rare--most margarine seems to have some dairy in it. Why do people eat margarine in the first place?) and using soymilk, and wondering why I bothered. With olive oil and mushroom stock, it tastes like something, but it doesn't thicken anything like a white sauce. With olive oil and chicken stock, it thickens gelatinously...which is different.

There is a recipe in _The Enchanted Broccoli Forest_ that has been catching my eye for weeks. It's called "Deviled Egg Pie," and it's based on a mashed potato crust. I like the idea of pies that don't use real piecrust, because I don't actually like real piecrust (that flaky pastry thing with shortening.) So I mashed 2 potatoes with minced onion and oil and pepper, pressed it into a pan and baked it. Then boiled eggs, not hard-boiled, just boiled enough to peel and slice. The recipe called for making a thick white sauce with flour and butter and milk, horseradish and mustard and dill, and pouring it over the sliced eggs in the crust. Then bake again to set. So I wanted my stand-in white sauce to thicken, as well as taste good. As Cattitude suggested, I used V8 instead of soymilk to replace the milk. Because I was uncertain about it thickening, I increased the flour from 3 tablespoons to 4, for what was supposed to be a cup of liquid. It ended up thickening like crazy. I had to add more liquid to get a sauce liquid enough to pour, using almost 2 cups of juice and more horseradish and mustard to taste. I think it's because V8 has so much vegetable pulp (it's mostly tomato juice and carrot juice.) The larger volume of sauce turned out to be the right amount for the 9" pie plate I was using, and the pie set beautifully. It tasted good, and the cold leftovers were good for 3 days.

I think the sauce, and the pie, are worth making again. But as a white sauce, it probably counts as a failure, as it came out bright reddish-orange.
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Does the refrigerated Silk taste like the shelf-stable Silk? Almost like it?

When I started drinking soymilk, it seemed to me that the refrigerated types generally tasted better than the shelf-stable ones. My favorites among the refrigerated were Silk and 8th Continent, and if I had to have shelf-stable stuff, Westsoy wasn't bad. Then a friend pointed out the shelf-stable Silk...she thought it tasted just like the refrigerated Silk.

I bought a case of the shelf-stable Silk at BJs, and I didn't think it tasted like refrigerated Silk. It didn't even taste like soymilk to me. It smelled very strongly of mold, and I eventually threw it away because I didn't want it in my kitchen. Is shelf-stable Silk just like that, smelling and tasting different from the refrigerated version, or did I get a bad case? (Maybe a case that got wet and mildewy in transit.) I'm concerned now because I'm tempted to buy a bunch of small shelf-stable boxes of Silk for travel.
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Should I make peanut butter cookies? Or banana bread? Chocolate chips are a possibility in either case, but I have versions of both that are quite good without.
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It's only October, but there was already enough snow to stick. That called for serious cold-weather food. I pulled out the crockpot and the head of red cabbage, intending to make braised cabbage. (I didn't grow up with any kind of cooked cabbage dishes. My parents disagreed about the One True Way to make such things, and compromised by not having them in the house at all.) I like red cabbage with fruit, but on the tart side of sweet-and-sour.

The head of cabbage was about the size of my own head, so I only used half of it. I did not "finely shred the cabbage." I chopped it to bite-sized pieces, not wispy threads. Same with 2 onions and a large granny smith apple. The crockpot was getting dangerously full by this point. I had wanted to add chopped celery and smoked turkey, but there just wasn't room. (I know people who avoid meat because they don't have money. Fewer avoid it because they don't have room.) I added a spoonful of dried thyme and some whole peppercorns and celery seeds. Then I poured on a cup of chicken broth and half a cup of cider vinegar. It looked like there wasn't nearly enough liquid to cook all that, so I added a cup of water before setting the crockpot on high, covering it, and going away.

When I came back an hour later, with repaired shoes and a new appreciation for the local ability to snow despite air temperature being above freezing, the vegetables had wilted substantially. Clearly, there was no risk of dryness. In fact, it was going to be soup. I added the smoked turkey and celery, turned the heat to low, and went out for a few more hours. (Barbershop, gym, bookstore. I had planned to spend one weekend day doing the errands that needed to be done on foot, and the other doing stuff that needed the car. As I refused to drive in this mess, that meant getting snowed on.) The cabbage soup is excellent. It's soupier than I intended -- I shouldn't have added that cup of water, and might cook it uncovered for a bit to reduce it. All it needed was ground black pepper, which is trivial to add at table, and rye bread. I don't have any bread in the apartment, but I do have good soup.

As far as I know, most people like their cabbage soup sweeter than this. There were a couple of times when I considered adding a spoonful of brown sugar, or some crystallized ginger. I even contemplated stirring in a spoonful of ginger marmelade. But I decided to wait and add it to the finished soup if it needed sweetness or bite, which it doesn't.


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