Monday, July 28, 2008

Oh, hey

I meant to post more as my voyage progressed, but I was ever so busy. So I've got a whirlwind post of just the highlights planned. A preview: something called "pickle" is on its way over from my co-workers. Not "a" pickle; just "pickle." It's spread and I actually quite liked it.

But my purpose here today is to tell you I have returned (with a load of Hotel Chocolat chocolates and Mars candies for the Significant Omnivore). All of my luggage returned as well, no thanks to the TSA people at O'Hare who, AGAIN failed to re-zip my suitcase. Luckily, on the return trip, I put all small items in zipper compartments and used the little clampy things to secure my clothing. All of those things were as I left them, so I'm not really sure what the point of unzipping my luggage was.

Also, I got my vegetarian meals on the return flight from London. This is both good and bad. Good because the options were "beef or chicken," neither of which could have easily been converted to a vegetarian meal (unlike the omelet and pizza). Bad because it was eggplant moussaka on potatoes and was such a miniscule portion that even with the small salad (as in, four square inches of salad) and fruit, it was not enough food (hello, protein? nope.). Also, I have history of getting food poisoning from eggplant dishes. But I took my chances and ate it because I had no choice. Despite allowing two and a half hours for check-in at Heathrow, I had to be pulled out of line to make the plane. So I had no time to stop and get any food or water to take onto the plane as I'd planned. American Airlines at Heathrow is a bloody mess. Even at 7:45 on a Sunday morning.

Anyhoo. So we got our first meal about an hour into a seven and a half hour flight. No snack accompanied it like on the flight over (I was hoping for that processed cheese product again--would have been a lifesaver). About two hours afterward, I ate some of the food I'd meant to bring back to the SO. I was starving. It was just as I'd pictured it might be. People were begging for drinks to combat low blood sugar. People were getting restless. Those of us who might have slept were being kept awake by a toddler who thought he was a monkey (he shrieked and cried the duration of the flight--I'm not exaggerating). We were Desperate Passengers.

The problem was compounded for me as my row had been assigned an utter bitch of a flight attendant. I don't think I've ever been treated so rudely by a flight attendant in all my life. She was rude to my seat neighbors as well. I don't know who peed in her Cheerios that morning, but it was still no excuse for the treatment.

When they finally came around for the second food service, there was maybe an hour left in the flight. Pizza! But not for me. I got another tiny bowl of eggplant--this time sitting on white rice. High glycemic index, little nutritional value. Yay. Oh, and a tiny container of grapes. I'd been told by the flight attendant on the flight coming over that they usually have extra food going back to the states (Ostensibly to serve large Americans--who knows), so when the cart came around with the pizza, I asked, "Excuse me, do you have an extra pizza?" Exactly those words. Yes or no question. What I got was, "Only one meal per person. And you have your meal--it's right there" in a tone that was so condescending and rude, it was all I could do to contain myself. I said nothing to her, but said to my neighbor "Well, that was completely unnecessary" in a voice loud enough for her to hear. Even if she'd just said "no" sharply, it would have been better. Oooh, I wanted so much just to kick her. Oh, and I didn't get my cookie. Everyone else got grapes and a cookie on their tray. No cookie for me.

While I'm complaining (and I really shouldn't--the only delay was in Chicago and the notorious baggage handlers at Heathrow actually got my luggage on the correct plane), what's the deal with security procedures? Why can't they have the same procedure and same rules at every airport? Flying out of the US and within the US, you can have tweezers and clippers and nail files but no gel insoles, but no sharp objects at all coming into the US from some other country. I don't remember the insole thing. Flying out of Nashville and Heathrow, I was able to keep my laptop in my bag, but I had to take it out at O'Hare (I had to go through security again their after coming back into the country). I had a Sprite in my bag that I had to surrender because I didn't know I had to go through security again and then I got ridiculed for not taking my laptop out. With a confused look on my face, I ask the guy with the thick Chicago accent to clarify what he has just said, "I need to take my laptop out of the bag?" "Yes, ma'am, it's been a rule for about five or six years now" (in a quite sarcastic tone). I'd had it with rude people, so I shot back "Well, not in London or Nashville." And I moved along.

To top things off, when it was (finally) time to board the plane in Chicago, my boarding pass had been flagged somehow. I was told there was an equipment (plane) change and I got moved from the sixth row to the seventeenth. As in the last row of the plane. The one with the seats that don't recline and is right next to the lav. Thank goodness it was only an hour. And that I had time to grab a sandwich and a bottle of water during the delay.

I had a good time, but I'm not ready to go back any time soon. My boss and her boss do this once or twice a month. God help them, I don't know how they stand it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

UK Trip Day One: 20 July 2008

~11:00 CDT 20 July 2008
I just did something I've never done before. I ate an omelet while flying 39K feet over Ontario.

The travel agent thankfully moved my seat from the back of economy (next to the lav) up to the front of economy but neglected to note a request for a vegetarian meal. I knew this before getting on the flight and brought some trail mix and pre-made bean and grain snack in a can, but I knew they wouldn't get me through 7.5 hours in the air on the way to London.

So as I watched an Indian family eat what looks to be a tasty vegan meal (though I wonder about that bagel), I got to choose between pancakes with scrambled eggs sitting on top of slices of ham and an omelet.

I've avoided omelets my whole life because I'm just not a big fan of eggs (nor of the egg-producing industry, but that came much later than my general dislike of the taste). Plus, omelets are pretty much eggs cooked in butter, right? Yuck. Sounds disturbingly fattening.

But this airline food "three cheese omelet" looked a little less buttery and came with roasted potatoes and mushrooms instead of dead pig, so I opted to give it a try.

It wasn't bad. I mean, it wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. Well, bad for me I'm sure, but not bad-tasting.

Incidentally, it came with a croissant, too. I haven't had a croissant since I was in France seven years ago. The logic being that if I'm going to consume that amount of calories, it better be the real thing. But something about being trapped on an airplane makes food more appealing than it would be elsewhere. As if I feel like this might be my last opportunity to ever eat, so I may as well go for it. I might need the energy on the island, you know. I even ate the honeydew melon. I don't even like honeydew melon. Later, I will likely eat something the package calls "pasteurized processed cheese spread." But, hey, they included a Toblerone in the package, as well. Sweet.

~14:00 CDT 20 July 2008
I ate every last bit of that cheese spread crap as if it were my last meal. I thought it would be, but no, now I have pizza! A miniature deep dish-style cheese pizza with a salad and oil and vinegar dressing. I'm so pleased to see a salad that I'm not even going to complain that it's iceberg lettuce. To save on my carbs, I think I'll leave the pizza bones behind. And forsake the "oatmeal chewie," though I'm sticking that little guy in the backpack. I might need it on the island, after all. Luckily, I have a pointed nail file (now allowed on flights in carry on luggage, yet gel-filled insoles are not), so I can fight off anyone who tries to steal it from me.

~23:00 GMT 20 July 2008
Well, I made it to London after all. And I'm feeling quite guilty about all the junk I shoved into my facehole during the day. It's amazing what being bored and trapped in an airplane for seven and a half hours will do to your level of standards.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fried Green Bananas

No, not a typo. Yes, fried green bananas.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at my local grocery and as usual, bought a bunch of bananas. And, as usual, they were green. I loathe green bananas and prefer my bananas to be yellow and freckled at the very least. Underripe bananas make my teeth hurt.

So I waited for them to ripen. And waited. And ended up buying some ripe ones last weekend from McNeil's. And yesterday it occurred to me that these things were never going to make it to a point where I'd find them edible. And they were so green that no human would find them edible now. So what does one do with green bananas? Google told me to fry them. After reading all the glowing reviews, I decided to try it.

First, I had to cut open the bananas. They were so green, they could not be peeled. And just to make sure that the skins weren't deceiving me, I tried a bite of one. Yick. So I proceeded to cut them into small slices, about the size of half a home fry. I didn't want them to be too thin and therefore higher in calories.

I poured some canola and peanut oil in the bottom of a pan--about 3/4 inch deep--and heated it on a high-ish medium high setting. Once it was good and hot, I dropped in the first fries. It didn't take long for them to start browning, but they had a tendency to stick together, so the frying required some monitoring (and poking). After just a few minutes, I took them out and placed them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. I repeated for six bananas worth of fries. Pictured is only about three bananas' worth. I like big bananas (I can not lie...).

Instead of eating them with something sweet or plain, the SO and I decided to salt and pepper those little bad boys up and dip them in a little ketchup. And just like the reviews say, they were delicious. We polished off a whole lot of fries. Yay, banana fries! Not quite as unhealthy as potato fries!

So, yay, right? Hang on just a second. Here's where I tell you the rest of the story. First, deep frying these bananas caused quite a bit of smoke to develop. I didn't see it actually forming but realized what was happening when my eyes started burning. Little bits had gotten left in the oil and started smoking (and were very charred by the end). Maybe this is an outside job. Luckily, I got that storm door with the panel that opens for ventilation.

Second, remember how I said it was six bananas? Six large bananas? Split between two people? If you've never tasted a really green banana, the texture is very cellulose-y, fibrous...woody, even. Do you see where I'm going with this? We ate what felt like (hours later) a pound of deep fried tree branches. Fiber is good for you and all, but indigestible fiber...not so much. I think that eating about half of what we did (or maybe a quarter) would have been smarter. But they were so good! So deep-frying the green bananas is a good way to use them up, but keep your consumption limited to a small portion. Unless you enjoy feeling like you have part of a tree in your gut.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Good news, bad news

I'm a bit of a creature of habit. Which is why I don't really treat this blog like a food diary; I'd be embarrassed for the world to know how often I eat the same thing over and over. But to anyone who's been reading a while, it's pretty clear that there are several places here in Nashville I love. Woodlands Indian Restaurant...Miss Saigon for Vietnamese...Los Rosales for Mexican...and McNeil's produce stand to get produce.

So I shouldn't be too embarrassed to admit that I visited two of those places this weekend. Saturday night, the Momster was in town for a reunion of some of our extended family (hi Perrys!) and I wanted her to experience this place. The SO and I also invited his parents, brother and sister-in-law and their daughter. Luckily, we got there early because (good news) the place got pretty busy Saturday night.

I did branch out a little bit this time and instead of getting the stuffed avocadoes, I got the enchiladas verdes that Laura at Fixin' Supper ordered on her visit. It was kind of a gamble because I really don't like cooked spinach at all (the smell makes me gag, actually), but the (organic) spinach in this quesadilla is cooked very delicately. No gagging at all; it was delicious.

The SO's mom got the stuffed squash that I'd considered and let me try a bite. She and the SO liked it, but it was a bit rich for my taste. I'm not a huge fan of eggs and they're fairly prominent (which is why the SO liked it). But there's plenty for me to eat.

Everyone seemed to enjoy their meal (I certainly hope they weren't just being polite--though I know my mom would be honest) and we had a great time.

Now for the bad news. This morning, I took the Momster out to McNeil's produce stand because I knew they'd have some fresh corn. When we got out to the spot, the building was gone. Mrs. McNeil was set up under some tarps off to the side, but all that was left of the stand was a concrete slab. I thought surely they wouldn't be remodeling in the middle of summer, but what really happened didn't even occur to me. Last weekend (actually, the night of my last visit), thieves robbed the stand and then burned it down. When Mrs. McNeil told me about it (I missed it when it was on the news), I was stunned. Who would do such a thing? They are such nice people. And it's a produce stand, for crying out loud. It just doesn't make any sense. I can't help but feel pretty angry about it. That may seem odd, but that's just how happy it makes me that they're out there.

But they're not letting this setback get them down too much. As I mentioned, they're still operating. It's a bit smaller an operation, but they still had some great tomatoes, green beans and fresh corn. They've got the bi-color Peaches and Cream as well as Silver Queen, a white corn I had for the first time this evening. I highly recommend it; it's delicious, sweet and juicy. If you're on the west side of town, drive on out there and pick some up. As I've mentioned before, they're on Highway 100, just west of the Loveless Cafe and the Natchez Trace Parkway. If you're coming from I-40, take the McCrory Lane exit and drive south until it dead ends at Highway 100 and turn right. It's down the street on the right just a little way. It's worth the trip.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


The coupons promised by the Earthbound Farms rep arrived quite promptly. Two coupons for any Earthbound Farms product for free. So I am thinking of sucking it up and heading to Whole Foods to take advantage of these lovely gifts and not waste them on four dollars worth of salad greens.

I haven't posted much in the way of recipes here lately because I haven't really been preparing anything new. I really should branch out a bit as I am stuck in a bit of a rut.

However, I did take the opportunity this past weekend to make some popsicles. I'd been promising them to the SO for a while and finally found the energy to prepare them. It's not difficult; it's just that I hate washing my blender. Anyhoo.

I started out with my personal favorite, the chocolate banana popsicle (banana + chocolate = yum). I'd love to give you a recipe for it, but I just sort of throw stuff in a blender and test it until I like it. I start out with a fresh or frozen banana, add in a few heaping tablespoons of (organic) yogurt (for creaminess, though I'm sure soy milk would be just as good), a small handful of chocolate chips, a pinch or two of cocoa powder, a drop of vanilla extract (because the yogurt was plain yogurt) and about four drops (or a little more) of liquid stevia (far better for sweetening than sugar or chemical sweeteners). I blend it all up and pour it in the popsicle mold. The mold I have holds about two cups worth of mix, but they vary. You can add a little water or soy milk to stretch your mix a bit.

Next up, I made strawberry honey popsicles (sorry, y'all--again, not vegan). I used frozen strawberries and some local honey, blended them up with a little water and one tablespoon of yogurt and that was it. No stevia needed for extra sweetness. I really like the balance I was able to achieve and hope to get it the next time since I didn't bother to measure. Eh.

The last batch was just a little mixed berries and cream. I have a lot of frozen berries in the freezer and I'm not the biggest fan of raspberries, so mixing them with blueberries and blackberries made for a winner. I added several tablespoons of yogurt, a drop of vanilla, and a few drops of stevia to these as well. They're pretty dense, though. I probably should have added a splash or two of carbonated water. Next time.

I have a few peaches in the fridge that started to get overripe before I could finish them, so I think the next popsicles will be peaches and honey or maybe peaches and cream. And after that? Either blackberry lemon or blueberry lemon. If you have any suggestions for flavors to combine with frozen blackberries or blueberries, let me know. I've got enough to do some experimenting, for sure.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

On Second Thought...

Last week, I inadvertently re-visited the two restaurants over in Antioch that are both in that little strip mall by the mini-golf place, PS Noodle Pot and Los Rosales. I hope these guys like each other, because they'll likely be connected for a while--they even got a combo review in the Nashville Scene.

I met a friend for lunch at PS Noodle Pot and opted for noodles this time instead of getting a rice dish. I ordered the "pineapple curry" which tasted suspiciously like massaman. The curry was good, but I have no idea if there's any fish base in it. I certainly hope not, but since I didn't realize what I was ordering, I didn't ask. It's in the "vegetarian" section of the menu, but a lot of people seem to think that fish broth is vegetarian (fyi--it's not). Regardless, the taste was good, but it was a bit heavy on the pineapple for my taste (I can't eat too much pineapple at a time--not good for the ol' tummy) and I was glad I could get it over noodles. The big disappointment, though was being told that there was not a vegetarian spring or egg roll to go with my lunch (on my first visit, I was able to get one). Frankly, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a vegetarian lunch special served with a non-vegetarian egg roll. I think all the rolls should be vegetarian; most meat-eaters I know wouldn't know the difference and if they did, wouldn't care. My friend was happy to take it with her along with her other leftovers (portions are generous).

Another evening, the Significant Omnivore and I headed back over to Los Rosales for dinner. I was able to convince him to get a vegetarian dish this time so we could share. He (okay, I) ordered the chile relleno, which is something I've never had because you never know if you're going to get a hot pepper or a mild one. This one was mid-range, but I discovered that the chile relleno is just not my thing. The SO liked it quite a bit.

For my entree--what can I say--I ordered the stuffed avocadoes again. But I swear that next time I'll try the squash. They were as good as before but without help from the SO, I wasn't able to finish them. The Scene's reviewer was right. But they were so very good. The SO got an order of guacamole (so nice to see freshly-made guacamole somewhere other than my kitchen) which is why he didn't help me with my dinner. Their guac is just the way I like it--chunky and with tomato. And these guys are experts at choosing good avocadoes.

A real highlight of the meal was the tortilla soup. I haven't had tortilla soup in about ten years because it's often made with a chicken stock base. At Los Rosales, they don't take flavor shortcuts, so this soup was veg-friendly and delicious. I ate every drop. The SO thought the soup was a tad on the salty side, but I thought it was great.

And even though we were quite full, we couldn't help but order a new dessert, flaming mangoes. I love mango, but I don't care to ever buy one to eat at home. Slicing up a mango is just too maddening a process for me. So given the opportunity to eat mango that someone else has toiled over, I'll take it. They place the mango slices on a dish with Grand Marnier and set it afire. If you let it burn long enough, you get the taste without the alcohol. So I blew it out quickly, of course. Grand Marnier is my favorite liquer, so this dessert was just perfect for me. Delicious.

While we were finishing up dinner, the owner of the restaurant came by to chat with us (as he'd done on our previous visit). The difference is that this time, he recognized me. He thanked me for the nice review I gave his restaurant previously, but as the SO and I explained, it wasn't hard to think of good things to say about this place. It's really so nice to have a place that serves really good Mexican (not Tex Mex) cuisine, particularly with high quality ingredients. Really, it's the kind of food I'd prepare myself if I had a cache of wonderful recipes. You can tell that the ingredients are thoughtfully and carefully selected.

We had a nice conversation about the restaurant and the recipes as well as some of the things he's been working on for dessert and at the bar. He was kind enough to share some Agavero, an amazing blue agave tequila. I don't generally like tequila, but this was no average margarita mixer. It's very smooth, the kind you sip carefully. Needless to say, you don't shoot it and it doesn't make you wince. It was a nice way to end a meal. A digestif, if you will.

Next time, though I swear I'll have the squash. I promise to branch out. And I think PS Noodle Pot will need to be a dinner choice and likely just pad thai (which I hope I can get without egg). No need to branch out there.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Just about every day, I eat a salad for lunch. Because I am lazy and picky, I buy the pre-washed organic baby lettuce (I prefer romaine), usually from Earthbound Farms. I stuck by them during the e. Coli scare last year because they've treated me well.

But today, I found wood in my salad. Luckily, a fork won't stab into a two-inch long shard of wood, so it flew out onto my desk. Digging into the bowl yielded another piece, about an inch long.

That is incredibly uncool. I'm really glad I didn't manage to eat those pieces of wood. It would have been really embarrassing to choke and/or die while I'm at work. Love my co-workers and all, but they're not the last people I want to see.

Guessing I'm'a gonna make a phone call when I get home.

FYI to those who might have some of this at home--it's the Earthbound Farms Pre-washed Organic Baby Romaine in the 5 ounce package, expiration date July 2 (just bought it Sunday at Harris Teeter and wasn't happy about the short expiration, but I prefer the Romaine, y'know).

And I'm sure it's probably psychosomatic, but now my throat feels funny like I may have swallowed some. I sure hope I didn't because that would not be pleasant. Not sure my stomach can process wood.

UPDATE: I called this morning with all the package information to let them know and they're going to do a "quality assurance check." Not sure what that means, but now they know. They said they'll send some product coupons, but I gotta be honest, it might be a while before I'll have the hankering for a salad. I had to scrounge together a lunch today of an Amy's pizza pocket, some yogurt, and grapes. I hope my taste for salad returns soon.