Monday, October 10, 2011

Dinner and/in a Movie Theatre- Nighthawk Cinema Review

Yesterday my husband and I had a rare date...  We went to Nighthawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for Brunch and a Movie, The Ides of March.  The movie was good, great performances by Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney, but the experience is even better: at Nighthawk, you get dinner AND a movie IN a theatre, all at the same time.  Nighthawk is in a converted warehouse, and has two bars (upstairs and downstairs) to lounge in before or after the movie.  With three screens, the venue is cozy, without feeling cramped (Angelika in Soho, take note).

Both times we've been to Nighthawk, we've seen movies in the first theatre, which may be the biggest of the three.  The chairs are upholstered with fabric, and they're comfy.  Between every two chairs is a small triangular table with a little nightlight.  You write down your food order (there's a menu at each table) and a server takes your order for food and/or drink.  There are cup holders built into the tables, which is nice because they serve the sodas/iced coffee/teas in real glass and you wouldn't want them to spill or fall.  The first time we went to Nighthawk, we saw the new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, and I had the grilled chicken on a pretzel roll w/tarragon mayo ($13).  It (the sandwich) was okay... good, but not great. The movie was one of Allen's best in a long, long time.

Yesterday we went to Nighthawk for brunch, but I opted for the Drive-Thru special:  A In-n-Out Double Double Burger with Fries and a Soda for $12.  The double patty burger with American cheese sauce was delish, and the fries were hot and crispy.  Root Beer to wash it all down, with free refills on sodas.  (The Drive-Thru special was themed to match another movie they were showing in the theatre, Drive.; they also were serving an antidote to the movie Contagion:  Chicken Noodle Soup.  Clever, eh?)  My husband had the Veggie Burger both times, with fries.  I had a bite -- very tasty.

They also serve appetizers like mini corn dogs (puppy dogs), hummus, queso, seasoned popcorn, etc.  and desserts (soft service ice cream, root beer floats, home-made ice cream sandwiches, brownie sundaes, etc.)  They used to serve beer and wine, but there's some law that needs to be ironed out before they can serve alcohol again in a theatre.  We'll see.

Oh, and they serve the food on real plates and hand out silverware....not plastic.

What I love about Nighthawk is the feeling that it's an experience.  You get there early ON PURPOSE, not just to get a good seat, but because they show videos, short films, and quirky vignettes starring the film's actors (we saw Woody Allen clips before Midnight in Paris and Philip Seymour Hoffman zany clips before the Ides of March), as well as standard trailers.  It feels like an event....ordering food, being served, eating decent cuisine during a film....and it's FUN.

Review:  *****  Nighthawk is a welcome and excellent addition to the neighborhood.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

U and I and Me: A Tale of a Nicholson Baker book signing

I've been rereading the book U & I, by Nicholson Baker, a book that was assigned to me back in grad school.   It's a hilarious 179-page essay about his imaginary friendship with John Updike.   It brought to mind my one and only meeting (if you could call it that) with Baker, on a stormy night at a Barnes 'n' Noble in 2004.  I went home that snowy night and wrote down what transpired....  Here's a blast from my literary past.


U & I & Me.

I have just walked home in the slush from a reading at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble, where Nicholson Baker read from A Box of Matches, his new novel.  My right hand that is typing on this very keyboard just shook his right hand.  Except for handing the sales clerk my credit card to purchase said book, the hand has touched little else, as it was swaddled in a warm glove for protection from the cold and germs that would otherwise infiltrate the connection I’d just had with a great author. 

And!  He answered my question:  “My question is about U & I – after the book was published, did John Updike acknowledge you or did you become friends?”  He repeated the question for the benefit of the audience and gave a brief summary of the book – that he basically worshipped Updike and set out to write a book about the influence Updike had had on him, using quotes from U’s work, but entirely from memory.  He answered my question by saying that from what he’d heard from people that Updike waited awhile to read it.  “Eventually,” Baker said, “Updike sent me a letter and a signed book, saying ‘to the man that made me famous.’  But no, we haven’t been out to dinner or anything.”  I realize now I’m quoting Baker, perhaps misquoting him, not unlike how he tried to quote Updike.   In fact, I vaguely recall – and vaguely recalling something was good enough for Baker in U & I – that he had went to one of Updike’s readings and had him sign a book.  So now, having had Nicholson Baker, an author I have admired and tried to emulate in my own writing, sign “To Catherine  --Nicholson Baker,” in one of his books, I feel like the process has come full circle.  U & I & Me.

Why Me?  Well, I’ve recently written a novel, and incorporated footnotes –only when they seemed called for—placed at the bottom of pages, not unlike the placement of the footnotes in Baker’s novel, The Mezzanine.  His attention to the minutiae of every day life has inspired me on countless occasions, and his essay from Lumber and Other Thoughts has forever changed the way I look at seemingly idle book placement in catalogues from Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and the like.

Baker was older than I expected, with white hair and beard, very soft spoken and congenial.  With all of the fuss about Vox and Fermata, I figured he might be a little creepy, a little bit sleezy even, but no.  He seemed like the kind of guy you’d want to have as a neighbor, or a professor.

I want to write a review of Box of Matches, but I wonder whether my take on the book will be overly colored by his new celebrity status in my mind.  He’s no super-author, he’s no Tom Clancy, Ann Rice or Stephen King, but he has the kind of cult following you’d want if you were an author.  Literary, artsy types.  There were a lot of men in the crowd of listeners, and he probably liked that.   Not because he’s gay, that’s not what I meant--he’s married and has two kids—but because I suspect a literary author would want masculine readers, not readers of chic lit.  This was no Bridget Jones’ Diary reading, no.

While he was signing my book, I said, “Thank you for answering my question about U & I.”  He responded “It’s my best book -- I’m glad you asked.”

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gold Fellow Review

You've probably seen the commercials...a woman with broken or unwanted gold jewelry sends her loot to Cash4Gold.  I'd read some bad reviews of that company in the past, including ones by the actual "appraisers" who used to work for the company, so I did a little research and found Goldfellow LLC.

I used their online tool, printed out a Fed-Ex label and sent in some stuff -- a broken gold chain, a broken sterling silver chain, a gold cross (may have been gold fill...wasn't marked), a gold (or worthless gold fill -- not sure) bracelet, an old white gold ring with a topaz 10K, an old gold 10K ring and an old gold 14K ring with an amethyst.  None of these items were very nice, none of them had significant sentimental value, none of the narrow-band rings had much gold, and none of them were items that I've worn in the past five-ten years.  With the price of gold so high right now (I think it's around $1600 an ounce), I figured what do I have to lose?  I was hoping for around $100, but frankly I would have been happy with even $60.

I was extremely pleased with the fast turn-around.  I Fed-Exed the items (shipping was free) on Friday 7/29/11 evening.  Monday 8/1/11, I received an email saying that my package had arrived.  Tuesday 8/2/11, I received an email evaluating the jewelry, item by item, with a total worth of $121.  I was quite happy!  I logged into my account and clicked on the acceptance button.  This was easier than even I had thought it would be.

I'd requested a return of the gemstones, which is a $10 return fee.  I received today (Saturday -- just eight days after I sent the package), a check in the mail for $111.12.  Yea!  My husband and I can have a nice dinner date somewhere.

My review for Gold Fellow LLC is 5 Stars, for the following:
-Uses Fed-Ex, ensuring quality, quick shipping and insurance
-Quick turn-around in evaluating the jewelry
-Evaluation seemed fair enough -- I had modest expectations to begin with
-Transparent evaluation methods and gold karats measured by a meter
-Quick cutting of the check...faster than expected!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Moon Dough Disaster

My toddler received Aquadoodle for her third birthday—she loved it, and it’s mess-free and fun.  You fill up the “pen” with water, and it turns the white mat blue wherever you touch it with the pen, like a marker.  After awhile, the water dries and your child can start doodling anew. 

Inside the box was a free sample of Moon Dough.  It was a rainy day, and I thought, “Why not let her play with the Moon Dough?”

Bad idea.  Moon Dough is not as gooey as clay, silly putty or Play-Doh.  It’s crumbly, dry and gets on the carpet, your hands and everywhere.  I’ve had to use the DustBuster more than usual today, and I’m still finding traces of it everywhere.  It made my hands turn blue when we were first trying it out, and stuck to my hands like a thin paste.  Granted, this was a free sample, but I’d caution anyone who actually buys it.  The kits come with little molds, and I will say to Moon Dough’s credit, it does press into the molds pretty well.  It’s the crumbly mess that’s the issue.  Moon Dough is made in Sweden.  I guess they should stick to making Saabs.

My daughter likes it; she calls it “cookie dough.”  “Please can we make some cookie dough again?” she just asked me.  Well, the answer will have to be ‘no,’ since I’m going to throw it out soon.  Mom gets to over-rule.

My review is simple:  Aquadoodle = Good.  Moon Dough = Bad.  

Here's a photo of the messy moon dough, complete with carpet fibers because it got on the carpet....

Monday, June 27, 2011

Momdals - Sandals for Moms

I seriously needed to revamp my sandal collection this year.  I had been wearing the same pair of black Nine West wedge sandals for four summers in a row, and the wear-and-tear was definitely beginning to show. 

My main concern in finding a new pair was comfort.  I walk a lot – at least a mile or two a day – running errands and pushing my daughter in a stroller.  It’s great for keeping in shape, but can mean painful blisters if you’re not wearing the right shoes (and I only wear tennis shoes when I’m actually exercising for exercise sake). 

So, what’s a woman to do?  I headed to DSW and began to try on pair after pair.  The great thing about DSW is that there’s so much to choose from, and I don’t have to wait for staff to go find out if the chosen shoe is available in my size (8 ½ or 9, depending on the brand).  I wanted a dress sandal for, well, dress wear, and an every day Momdal for walking around, playing with my toddler in the park and running errands.  
I was disappointed because Clark’s, which I knew were good shoes, turned out to fit me funny (and their sizing is way too big…something has been lost in translation, I fear).  Bjorn sandals, which I also had high hopes for, were too narrow and the thingy that fits between the big toe and second toe was always too uncomfortable. 

Then I found the Merrell momdals.  They were higher than I wanted, but they have a cushy, Vibram rubber sole.  I like black sandals, but the black ones had black suede soles, which have been known to dye the bottoms of my feet black.  I walked for several minutes in a brown (officially known as “Earth” color) pair of Merrell Alyssums (like asylum, but for a woman named Alyssa?  Who knows.)   I liked the fact that the sandals are leather AND leather-lined (most cheaper brands use vinyl lining, but still get to call them leather since the top part is real leather). 

They were comfortable, but I was a bit worried that the molded insole would chafe the bottom of my foot, or that I’d land on it wrong.   I was also concerned that the price, $69, was a bit steep for an off-price shoe store.  (DSW is really not that cheap.  They’re not giving the shoes away.)  But I didn’t want to skimp on quality, since I knew I’d be wearing them every day of the summer.  I went ahead and bought them, and finally got around to wearing them a few weeks ago.

What’s the road report for these Momdals?  Very good, indeed.  I can walk two-plus miles without any blisters, chafing or foot pain.  They have very good arch support and the soles are super-cushioned.  On occasion, when walking on uneven pavement, my ankle turns just a little bit due to their height (2” heel in the back), but I haven’t had any falls or anything painful.  They’re very sturdy feeling.  For me, the pleasure of long summer walks has been found anew.  They’re not going to win any fashion awards, but they are attractive enough for every day use.  Yea for my new Momdals.  Rating: ****

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Korean Deli – Book Review

Ben Ryder Howe’s memoir, My Korean Deli: Risking It All For a Convenience Store, was a delightful, fun and, at times, poignant read. 

Ben is a self-described WASP, of Puritan lineage so pure that he can trace his ancestors back to the Mayflower.  His wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, has a remarkably different upbringing, family and cultural traditions—differences that he both relishes and suffocates under as the couple live “temporarily” in the basement of his in-laws’ Staten Island home.  Kay, his Korean-born mother-in-law, wants to open a deli in Brooklyn.  They decide it will be a family project, and invest $120,000 in a Boerum Hill deli that resides between the projects and gentrified new developments in the neighborhood.  The deli takes over their lives -- morning, day and night shifts turn their schedules and family life upside down, while they soon realize that bringing in over $2,000 a day in revenue is a mere fiction.  There are bills to pay, back taxes, shady regulars and the occasional fine for accidentally selling tobacco to minors. 

Ben’s other life is more WASPy, in location, culture and attitude:  he’s an editor at George Plimpton’s fabled Paris Review.  The scenes with George are full of personality, revealing a lonely, aging man, who still wants to be the life of the party, if not New York’s literary scene.  Ben must juggle his ‘day job,’ (which to many would be their dream job), and his ‘night job,’ pulling in shifts at the deli a world away in Boerum Hill.  By day, he’s reading short stories plucked from the enormous ‘slush pile’ of unsolicited manuscripts in the downstairs section of Plimpton’s posh townhouse.   At night, he’s holding down the deli fort, hoping the regulars won’t disrobe in the aisles, watch horror movies for two hours on the deli TV or get in drunken brawls with Dwayne, the deli’s own bouncer/long-time employee who’s always packing heat.  It’s an amusing and absorbing tale of two cultures—and one that’s not without sadness and pain. 

But in spite of the pathos, there are a lot of ripe details and stories that are deliciously retold.  Howe’s writing style is humorous to a fault, and at times I found myself laughing out loud. He also managed to make a book reading with Jamaica Kincaid and Robert Pinsky sound as suspenseful and exciting as a high-speed car chase—I kid you not.  

I would definitely recommend My Korean Deli – I was sad when it was over; I wanted it to keep on going…wanted there to be a second adventure.  Maybe running a Korean nail salon will be next?  Rating:  ****1/2

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mashed Potato Throwdown - Reviews

The best mashed potatoes are homemade; that's a given.  However, sometimes I don't have potatoes on hand, or I don't have the time, or I don't have the energy to make them.....  So I've been known to buy a few shortcuts.   Here are my personal reviews for three brands.
#1 Bob Evans Original Mashed Potatoes are my favorite of the group.  They're easy to heat up, the container doesn't contain BPA, the flavor is great, they're smooth without being too pureed, and the seasonings are pitch-perfect (not too salty, nice homemade flavor).  They're around $3.99 retail, but I usually buy them on sale.  In my grocery store, they're refrigerated next to the chicken nuggets and fresh pasta.  It's odd, since the Simply Potatoes (seen below) are in a different section of the store.  Rating: ****

#2 Simply Potatoes Traditional Mashed Potatoes come in second.  Points off for a BPA #7 plastic container.   The flavor is good, real butter is great, but I think the texture is a bit too mashed (as if they use a giant blender) to seem homemade.  They do taste good, and taste even better on sale (they're usually $3.89, but I've bought them on sale for as little as $1.89 or $2.50 at Key Food.)  I've found that heating them in an oven instead of a microwave makes them taste even better...but then there's the issue of time.  This method works well when I'm baking chicken in the oven already, so it's already hot.  The Simply Potatoes are refrigerated, and in my grocery store, they're next to the eggs, butter, and refrigerated dough.  Why?  I don't know.  Rating: *** 1/2

#3 Ore-Ida Steam n'Mash Cut Russet Potatoes come in last, way last.  I was disappointed.  You may have seen the ads...a woman so frustrated by the prospect of peeling all those potatoes...but along comes Steam n'Mash!  Now she just has to mash them, add milk, add's almost as much work.  But the real issue I have here is taste.  Ore-Ida has over-salted these potato chunks to the point that I find them almost inedible.  Although I like being able to adjust the amount of milk and butter to my liking, I find it quite frustrating that they are over-salted.  Also, the texture of these potatoes is all wrong.  They seem stringy or gritty...or a little bit raw.  There's something off, even though I cook them for the whole required ten minutes in the microwave (another draw back--that's a lot of energy!).  It seems like they are undercooked.  Steam n'Mash potatoes are in the freezer, next to Ore-Ida frozen French fries.  I usually buy them only on sale, and then only out of desperation, for $3.33 (or 3 for $10, but I never buy 3).  Rating: **

Friday, June 3, 2011

Through the Eyes of a Child - Toddler Photography

My daughter is about to turn three years old.  She loves to get into everything, including my desk, and take out and play with anything she can find -- staplers, tape, paper clips, you name it.  One her favorite 'found toys' is my digital camera.  I used to stop her in her tracks, but now I just let her play with it.  She actually has figured out how to turn it on and take photos.  It took her awhile to figure out how to keep her fingers out of the viewfinder and take an actual picture of something other than blurry fingers.  Here are just a few examples... ;)

Still Life with Sippy Cup

Little People's Precarious Tower

Her Room, with Training Pants hanging from Hamper

Moose on the Loose

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chicken Pad Thai Recipe

One of my favorite Thai entrees is Chicken Pad Thai.  I used to only get it in restaurants, since I had a hard time making it at home.  After several years of varying success, I've finally come up with a recipe that is light, has a nice saucy flavor and actually tastes like Thai food.  I think the secret ingredient is Thai Tamarind Concentrate .  It gives it a sweet/sour/savory component that sets it apart from other noodle dishes and is available either online or in most Asian grocery stores.  I like mine with lots of veggies, so I've added zucchini and carrots to the mix.  Hope you enjoy!

Chicken Pad Thai

1/2 pound dried rice noodles
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 lb. chicken breast, thinly sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 zucchini, cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 tbs. tamarind concentrate, diluted with 2 tbs. water
3 tbs. fish sauce
1 tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbs. creamy peanut butter
1 tbs. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1 egg, beaten
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 c. chopped dry-roasted peanuts
1 lime, quartered into sections
1 handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

Set a large pot of water to boil for the noodles.  Meanwhile, do all of the prep work in advance -- chop the peanuts, zucchini, carrots, cilantro and garlic.

When the water is boiling, add the dried rice noodles and remove from heat.  Let them sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don't stick together.  When the time is up, drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Add a splash of vegetable oil and stir gently so they don't stick.  Set aside.

Slice the chicken into small pieces on a separate cutting board and set aside.  (I didn't take a photo because I didn't think many folks would like to see a mound of raw chicken, eh?) Prepare the sauce in a small bowl -- whisk together the tamarind concentrate, water, fish sauce, soy sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar and red pepper flakes (if you like a bit of spicy heat).

Heat the 3 tbs. of vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat.  (I used a 13" French skillet, seen below.)  Stir fry the garlic until just sizzling, but not brown -- less than a minute.  Add the chicken and stir fry until opaque, but not brown.  Add the carrots and zucchini matchsticks.  Saute a few more minutes until cooked 'til the vegetables are al dente.    Add the parboiled rice noodles and stir.  The noodles will continue to cook a few minutes -- stir until they curl up a bit and whiten.  (The bite test is recommended -- again, I like them al dente -- mushy noodles aren't good, but then again hard noodles are too chewy.)

Add the egg.  There are two methods you can use -- either push aside noodle mixture and scramble egg in the same pan with a touch more oil, or scramble egg in a small bowl with a tsp. of oil and microwave for 35-40 seconds.  Cut into small strips and add to pan; stir.  Add chopped green onions and stir fry just a minute or so.

Garnish with the chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts and lime wedge.  Voila!  Homemade chicken pad thai.  Enjoy.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Radegast Hall & Biergarten, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Restaurant Review

Rating:  ****

Well, a Memorial Day isn't complete without some quality family time.  After we went to the East River Park, my husband, daughter and I sauntered over to the Radegast Hall & Biergarten in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  What's wonderful about this establishment is that it is both all about beer and totally kid-friendly, too.  Sounds like a paradox, no?

We've been there a few times, for both brunch and for dinner, and the staff is friendly, the beer is great and the food is good too.  There's a dark, intimate restaurant/bar side, with cozy booths, a labyrinthian bar and candle-lit tables, and a bright biergarten side, with huge skylights 20 feet up (which were removed for open-air ambiance today) and long communal tables.

The food is good in general, sometimes great.  The standouts are their enormous pretzels (served with delicious sweet/hot mustard and cornichons) and their fries.  Today I had a bratwurst, which was good, but I've definitely had better (I'm a Stassenfest/Oktoberfest veteran from Midwestern German stock)....  The skin-on fries which are perfectly sized (not too skinny, not too fat) were hot, crispy and delicious.  We devoured the fries while waiting for the sausages.

What's a bit of a pain is that the grill is self-serve -- so if you want any bratwurst, fries or sausage, you have to walk over to the grill, place your order and wait at your table.  The grill master wasn't too busy, so he took our orders over to us when they were done, but I think you're supposed to check on them yourself.  They have other food that's on the menu and ordered from a server...more expensive, more fancy, but not necessarily better than the hearty grill fare. One time for brunch I had the  eggs with potato pancakes, thick-cut bacon and apple horseradish relish -- it was quite tasty, especially the potato pancakes and bacon.

We've only gone to dinner there once.  I had the smoked pork chop with spinach mashed potatoes and cabbage.  It was an enormous portion -- I shared my meal with daughter (I think we called the cut-up pork "chicken" and she liked it) and there was plenty to spare.  The pork chop was smoky in flavor, juicy and thick -- quite good.  I used to hate eating pork chops as a kid because they were always so dry -- now it's a fun change of pace, but I only trust a few restaurants for good chops (nearby Fanny also has an excellent pork chop).

They serve .5 L tall glasses and enormous1 L mugs of of beer.  I prefer the half-liter glasses, because even if I want that much, the liter mugs would get warm too quickly for me to enjoy it.  My favorite draft beers are the Schneider Weisse and the Franziskaner Hefe-Weizen.   The Franziskaner Hefe-Weizen is a wheat beer, but its a lot more citrusy and tart than others I've had.  The Schneider Weisse is a nice medium amber beer that has interesting spice notes, but goes down very smooth and is not bitter on the tongue.

Back to the kid-friendly aspect.  I'd say 50% of the seated parties today had either infants, toddlers or kids with them.  It's refreshing to be among your peers, yet be with your kids and not feel like you're in a pizza parlor or a McDonalds.  The mood at Radegast is joyous...the sun was shining, the beer was cold and everyone was having a great time.  It made for a memorable Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Food Review: Shady Brook Farms Italian Style Ground Turkey

Rating: *

Before I go into this review, you should know that my husband and I eat a lot of Shady Brook Farms ground turkey products -- specifically the unseasoned Ground Turkey and the Sweet Italian Sausage.  We love them both.  So it came as a big surprise that the "Italian Style" Ground Turkey is such a bummer of a food product.

The first time I used this ground turkey was in an Italian meat ragu tomato sauce.  Unfortunately, the seasonings themselves do not taste Italian at all -- just very heavily seasoned with salt, pepper and hot red pepper.  Therein lies the rub.  The package isn't labeled as a "hot" product.  (In fact, if you're in a hurry, you can barely differentiate the Italian Style logo from the regular ground turkey logo.  Several times I've grabbed one of these packages by mistake when I just want plain ground turkey.)  It's just too spicy, and this is coming from a person who loves and adores hot Thai Green Curry and spicy Indian food.  The heat factor is just the beginning of my Italian Style Ground Turkey woes.

Two weeks ago, I prepared Turkey Sloppy Joes with this Italian Style turkey.  Okay, maybe not the best flavor combination, but I had grabbed the Italian style package by mistake.  I had been planning to make Turkey Sloppy Joes for a few days and presto, this was what I found in the fridge.  When I ate a bite of the turkey sloppy joes made with the aforementioned product, my stomach was immediately "in distress."  I began to have heartburn, burping and belching.  My throat became sore (and had been sore for days....thank you, GERD!) and I had to quickly pop some Pepto Bismo tablets for relief.  Since I make turkey sloppy joes all the time (with unseasoned turkey) without incident, I know that it's not my added seasonings that are the problem.  It's the dreaded Shady Brook Farms Italian Style Ground Turkey.  Also, my husband also experienced heart burn after eating this product, so it's not an isolated incident.

But do not lose hope.  Shady Brook Farms makes a delicious sweet Italian sausage that tastes like real sausage, isn't too spicy, and is wonderful in Italian dishes (I usually split the casings, brown in extra virgin olive oil with chopped onions and add herbs, tomato sauce, etc. for a great sausage ragu.)
Skip this in the poultry aisle and go for plain or the sweet sausage.  You have been warned. ;)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Vitamin D Deficiency

Yesterday I called my doctor to find out my blood test results.  I had gone to her the previous week, after experiencing several days of tingling hands and general weakness following a digestive issue.

Initially, she'd thought I'd had a Vitamin B-12 deficiency or a bacterial infection.  I was kinda hoping for a B-12 shot, having heard it gives you great energy.  (I've been largely caffeine-free for about nine years, so I can't just rely on coffee any more for a boost....)

It turns out I have a Vitamin D deficiency.  It comes as a bit of a surprise, since I use a women's multi-vitamin every day that has 1,000 iu of Vitamin D....250% of the RDA.  But if the digestive issue was preventing proper absorption, it would follow that the vitamins that I thought I was getting are just getting flushed out of my system.

The good news is that it's getting sunny again after over a week-long spell of rain and cloud cover here in the Northeast.  I've read that 15 minutes of daily sun exposure can help the body make its own Vitamin D, and with my daughter's enthusiasm for the playground, I'm sure to get more than I need this summer.

In the meantime, the doctor suggested I take Citracal with Vitamin D.  I just hope it gets absorbed better than my multi-vitamin, since otherwise I'm just duplicating efforts.

Has anyone else been diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency?  What were your symptoms?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Food Review: Starbucks Caramel

Rating:  *****
I'm not a huge Starbucks fan, since their coffee seems overpriced and over-roasted to me, but I used to go once in a blue moon to indulge in a caramel frappuccino. So when I saw this in the grocer's freezer aisle on sale, I grabbed it.

That was about a year ago.  Let's just say that this flavor, vanilla and coffee ice creams swirled with a caramel ribbon, is now my FAVORITE ice cream, perhaps ever. 

I go into convulsions of 'mmm-ing' and closed-eye reverie.  I never eat it in front of anyone, even my husband, since it might make him a little jealous.   The ice cream is a perfect match of flavors -- the coffee flavor is not too strong, the caramel is not too thick, the vanilla is smooth and complements the stronger flavors perfectly.  I used to love Ben and Jerry's, but now that most of their flavors have enormous chunks of things in them, candy, nut or otherwise, I find that I crave the smooth textured ice creams in their stead.

When I'm running low on my favorite ice cream, I add Hagen Daaz vanilla to the mix to extend the life expectancy of the Caramel Macchiato pint.  By the way, I appreciate the fact that it's a whole pint, yes 16 ounces, instead of a paltry 14 ounces that Hagen Daaz and other brands have shrunk too.

I also appreciate the fact that it doesn't make me wired -- I don't think there's much caffeine in a single serving.  The coffee flavor is balanced, but not crazy strong like espresso.

5-Stars, my fave.  I just hope you don't go to the same grocery store I do or we'll run into some inventory trouble.  Happy eating!


Welcome to Anon-o-mom!  I'm a SAHM and WAHM, depending on whether I'm freelancing at the moment.  My toddler daughter is quite a handful... and so are our expenses.  With that in mind, I'm hoping to create a mom-centered blog with parenting issues, food reviews, recipes and general musings.

I hope you'll stay awhile.


the Anon-o-mom