SP Squared Chili

Happy Halloween eaters!

Did you party it up this weekend or is there still some festivities for the actual night?

I’ve actually got a chill, but oh so enjoyable night planned so I have to suit up.

I’ll show you pictures tomorrow, though, because I promise my costume is awesome.

Anywhoo, let’s talk turkey. By which I mean, cold weather.

Ya see eaters, this whole weekend I’ve been hearing talk of Snowtober and the chilly weather most of the country is seeing.

I, of course, was soaking up the sun poolside. And while that was lovely, I was still a little excited to finally get to indulge in some of my cold weather favorites: boots, scarves, and chili.

O’m’gosh, I love chili. And I’m pretty freaking fantastic at making it.

So fantastic, in fact, that manly friend not only willingly ate, but actually preferred some tempeh chili I made last year over mother’s meaty chili because I seasoned mine, whereas she used a pre-fab seasoning packet.

But despite my immense love of chili, I’ve never posted a recipe for it. Nor have I ever made any of the fancy schmancy chili recipes I see around the blogosphere.

Why, you ask?

Because to me, chili is a bit of an art.

It’s a classic, timeless dish that is created through love and pinches of this and dashes of that and time and countless taste tests.

You can’t really measure love and pinches. Nor should you really mess with something so classic. So every year I’ve foregone adding cocoa or coffee or whatever else people add and instead favored my way.

Until this year…

Smoked Paprika Sweet Potato Chili

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 sweet potato, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added if possible

1 c (~1/2 can) tomato sauce

~1 1/3 c vegetable broth, divided

~½ t salt

~1/4 t cayenne pepper

~1 T chili powder

~3 T smoked paprika

oil

Heat a soup pot to medium and drizzle with oil. Then add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften and become translucent. Then add the green pepper and garlic, and sauté until it softens and becomes fragrant.

At this point raise the heat just slightly and pour roughly 1/3 c of vegetable broth into the pot to deglaze it. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pot to get all the good bits off before adding the beans, tomato products, and remaining broth.

Stir everything together and allow it to come to temperature before adding the seasonings.

Allow everything to barely simmer for about 5 minutes before tasting for seasoning. Adjust as necessary.

And when you’re about half an hour away from serving, it’s time for the sweet potato. This should be chopped into bite-sized pieces with the skin on.

Add this to the pot, lower the heat to below medium, and put the cover on ajar. Leave this to barely simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, which for me was about 30 minutes.

And then serve yourself up a big, steaming bowl.

The sweet potatoes made this even heartier than most chilis.

And the smoked paprika adds a wonderful depth, beyond just the rolling heat of my traditional chili.

So while part of me is a little disappointed that my first batch of chili for the year wasn’t my usual classically awesome kind, that fades as soon as I take my first bite.

But don’t expect to see cocoa or quinoa in my chili anytime soon.

What about you:

Are there some classic dishes that shouldn’t be tampered with?

What are you looking forward to most about fall?

G’night eaters!

#NCMC11

Ello eaters!

So sorry to ditch you for so many days. As I mentioned, I was geeking out like you wouldn’t believe at a newspaper conference and it ended up getting a bit crazier than I expected.

Or maybe you would believe it.

Oh well. That is life.

BUT since I always get jealous when you cool conference-affording eaters give recaps, I’m going to indulge right now. Luckily, though, it’ll be four days of conference fun in one post.

Yeah, collegiate newspaper conferences aren’t that exciting unless you’re on a collegiate newspaper. And unless you have a Twatter to follow the conference hashtag.

It all started at 4:30am when the staff left for the airport.

I went to bed at 2am, so this wasn’t fun in.the.least. Neither were the two flights and layover in Atlanta.

But that’s okay, because as soon as I stepped out of the airport in Orlando the sun was shining and warm. Oh, and the hotel was pretty awesome.

After some hardcore napping, it was time to find food.

Unfortunately our hotel was in the middle of a sea of theme parks.

Read: no food anywhere.

Not to fear, though, because our hotel provided FREE passes for the I Ride trolley.

If you’re visiting Orlando, use this trolley system. It was so freaking easy to use and navigate and the drivers were all crazy helpful.

Back to the food.

My fellow editors and I only had one thing in mind.

Immediately I filled up a salad bar box.

From the top going clockwise: Yucca con jalapeno y queso, almond and cranberry wheat berry salad, mac n’ cheese, seitan stir-fry, red Thai chili tofu, seitan fajitas, and garlicky kale on a bed of mixed greens.

I also stocked up on a few things to fill in between meals, like this muffin:

This was some sort of banana date muffin with avocado in it. As soon as I saw the avocado I was sold. And even though I’m not a huge muffin fan, this thing was fabulous. I ate half and couldn’t stop thinking about the other half during my first morning session. So I went back and ate the other half.

Other session snacks included gummy bears and Halo bars.

The conference wasn’t all lectures and workshops, though. We did plenty of staff bonding, like at our group dinner Friday night.

We went to some cantina, Adobo Gida, in the Pointe Place mall.

That's a giant lizard above the entrance.

The chips weren’t free.

The beer was expensive.

I was impatient for my $4 beer.

And the food was served on disposable plates.

Mojo pork, rice, beans, steamed vegetables and fried plantains.

But the mojo pork was fantastic and my first ever fried plantain experience was delightful. And our adviser told us stories of his high school years, like how he tried to help a nun break out of convent.

Yup, my co-workers are cool.

Unfortunately, we did some unbonding for dinner Saturday night.

Most of the staff wanted to go to Village Inn, which is a sub-IHOP quality diner chain. Two of m’lady editors and I didn’t. So instead we took Julie’s recommendation and hit up Opa!

Not long after we sat down there was a very costumed opa line and lots of napkin throwing. Oh, and there was wine.

I think I got the Nemea, which was really great and went down smooth — not too dry or too full bodied, but certainly not sweet.

While sipping, our waiter appeared tableside with a complementary order of hummus and pita. The hummus was extra amazing because it arrived in a mortel and pestel as chickpeas, lemon, olive oil and garlic and then he preceded to grind it by hand.

So much better than store bought.

Rather then ordering super expensive entrees (between $20-$27), we each got appetizers. First for me, spinach rice.

As soon as I took a bite I asked myself why I don’t cook Greek food more often. The ingredients are so simple, but always yield such fresh and flavorful meals.

And because I’m a falafelholic…

These were so light and fluffy and wonderful.

Also wonderful, was the Opa Harvest salad, which my friend ordered.

This was a huge and hearty salad for $10.

After eating and drinking our fill, we returned to the hotel to…douche it up in front of the mirror.

I love Liz.

There may or may not have been beer involved.

Really, I just wanted documentation of how great my hair was looking. Hard water always makes my hair extra curly and Orlando’s water certainly wasn’t soft.

Everything ended on Sunday morning with the closing speaker who came to us from NY via Skype to talk about using FB in journalism. But really, he was just explaining the newest FB features.

It wasn’t the best lecture, but at least now I understand subscriptions.

And now I’m sitting in the Orlando airport, using free wifi and killing time before our 5pm flight.

What are you doing?

And what are you going to be for Halloween?

Later eaters!

WIAW: But Tuesday

Greetings eaters!

Woohoo, it’s Wednesday! That means tomorrow I’m waking up at the crack of dawn to board a plane to Atlanta before boarding a plane to Orlando!

Have I mentioned that I’m jazzed to hang out with other college newspaper nerds?

Because I am!

But before the fun can start, I had to do some running around…yesterday.

Yeah, whenever I write a WIAW post it’s about WIATuesday. That may be cheating, but it still counts.

Breakfast:

PB and a honey crisp.

I woke up wanting eggs, but not craving them. I probably should have gone with eggs.

Once I took the spoon out of my pb, I drank some coffee.

Coffee with a dash of soymilk.

1) Is it weird that I don’t like to drink coffee before or with breakfast, but only after?

2) Since I’ve been making mugs in ceramics class, I’ve been borderline obsessed with the relationship between the vessel and the handle. This is a balanced relationship and allows for both handle-holders and cuppers.

Snack:

Honey graham Halo bar.

I won a box of assorted Pro Bar Halo bars in a Vegan MoFo giveaway. While the bars aren’t as orgasmically blissful as I had been hoping, they are good. And full of real food. And extra tiny.

The last part isn’t that great, but oh well.

Exercise:

I had planned on doing a lower body strength workout after Zumba, but my not good knee was bothering me on the way to class. So I decided to listen to my body and skip the second workout.

Lunch:

Cinnamon vinaigrette beet and kale salad with BBQ toast.

This salad was delicious, just like the first time I ate it. But like every salad, I need something on the side to help fill me up when I get tired of the green stuff.

Today’s side was the butt slice of Genesis bread with BBQ sauce.

Yes eaters, I really will eat BBQ sauce with just about everything.

No eaters, I don’t have a problem.

Mild self-mockery:

I wrote an article (which I’ll pass along as soon as it runs) on men’s health. So to promote my article, and bring a little fun to a heavy topic, I had this headshot taken.

You can look just like me for $4.99 from Party City.

It will run at the top of my article. And on the web. Oh the things I do for my job.

Socialization:

Red cappuccino with almond milk and an extra red shot.

After I peeled off my ‘stache, I met up with Maddie for some chitchat. And some non-caffeinated sipping.

Dinner:

Pizza with spinach, onion, artichoke, and black olives.

I should have eaten something healthier. I should have eaten some of the food in my fridge in case it goes bad by the time I get home on Sunday. But salad, eggs, or sweet potato didn’t sound appealing in the least.

And this was free.

So there you have it, eaters. A not too crazy, but certainly not boring day in my little old ‘Baby life.

Did I bore you?

And do you ever do slightly embarrassing things for work? If so, please do tell me about them.

G’night eaters!

Rawesome Veggies

‘Ello eaters!

Can someone please remind me what day it is?

All day I’ve been thinking it’s Wednesday or Thursday. I think that’s because I’ve been thinking about all the stuff I have to do by Wednesday night.

Why Wednesday night, you ask?

Ya see eaters, on Thursday at 4:30am I’m meeting up with the rest of the editors for my newspaper to jet off to Orlando for the annual collegiate newspaper conference.

This weekend makes all the unpaid hours and endless emails worth it. I’m so ‘cited!

But I do have a lot to get done between now and then. And on top of my mile long “To Do” list I also have a “To Eat” list.

Here’s the thing eaters, I know I’m not going to be eating my healthiest this weekend. I probably won’t have much time to exercise. And I’m going to be boozing a bit.

So in preparation for my rawessome (short for “really awesome”) weekend, I’m packing in the raw veggies.

First, beets.

Naked beets.

I heart beets so freaking much, but I don’t heart the multi-step roasting process.

Have I mentioned I’m lazy?

So instead of roasting them, I decided to go raw and grate them up.

When grating, you can be clean and wear gloves. Or you can revel in nature’s beauty and embrace your ruby fingers.

Oh, but watch out about nature’s beauty getting on your clothes.

I wore a dishtowel like a bib. It worked. Don’t judge.

With my hands looking extra “festive” it was time for raw vegetable number two: dino kale.

I think this bunch was the biggest bunch of kale I’ve ever bought. That made me freakishly happy.

Almost as freakishly happy as the prospect of spending my weekend with a couple of hundred college journalists debating the Oxford comma. Once again, don’t judge.

And while raw veggies can get super excited, they do need a little dressing up.

Cinnamon vinaigrette

½ c olive oil

2 T balsamic vinegar

1 ½ t cinnamon

1 t Dijon mustard

1 T honey

pepper, to taste

Mise (not) en place.

I’m a big fan of mixing dressing in jars. It’s easy. And environmentally friendly.

So with everything prepped, I got to assembling.

And a little massaging. A little hand washing. And a can opening later, lunch was served.

I topped this salad with some adzuki beans, which I had never had before.

But I know that these are occasionally used in Asian desserts, so they seemed a perfect match with the cinnamon and sweet beets.

The risk paid off.

This salad was delicious. And full of interesting textures. And just about as awesome as a bowl of raw veggies can get.

And once I have a few of these under my belt, I’ll be more than ready to handle the shenanigans of this weekend.

Bring it on, collegiate newspaper staff members.

Your turn:

How do you feel about salads?

Do you ever eat better in preparation for living it up?

G’night eaters!

Papa’s Cream Pie

Hiya eaters!

It’s Monday. Monday. Boy do I love Monday.

Even though I sang this to the tune of that dumb song, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it. (But this song does. CLICKIT!)

Oh well, I still had a pretty great day.

Even though I wish I could still be up on man mountain or laying on the beach, I do enjoy my routine.

But even though I’ve got my nose back in a book, not all of my mind is here. Instead, I’m thinking about cake. Not just any cake, though.

Oh come on eaters, I’m not that easy.

No, I’m thinking about the cake I made Papa for his birthday.

Ya see, eaters, I know my dad. He likes his desserts “gooey.” And to help stabilize his blood sugar, he eats a lot of protein.

Oh and he likes chocolate and bananas.

In the past I’ve made him a Boston cream pie. I’ve made him a chocolate angel food cake with chocolate marshmallow icing. I’ve made him a chocolate cake with banana icing.

This year, I got a little more creative.

Papa’s Cream Pie

2 c flour

1 ½ t baking powder

½ t baking soda

¼ t salt

1 c Greek yogurt (I used fat free)

½ banana

1 T oil

1 c minus 2 T sugar

1 T honey

3 eggs

1 batch banana cream*

1 batch chocolate ganache*

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another, larger bowl mix everything else together. Using an electric mixer (this is a really strong suggestion), mix together the wet and the dry.

O'm'gosh, this tasted good.

The batter will be thick. Somewhere between cookie dough and cake batter. That’s okay.

Pour the batter into a greased and bottom-papered cake pan (I used a 9”). Then bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.

The top will be round and golden.

Let the cake cool completely before using a long serrated knife to cut the cake in half. Once the cake is cool and cut, make the cream.

*Banana Cream

1 c (fat free) Greek yogurt

½ banana

1 ½ T honey

Put everything in a container and blend it together. I used an immersion blender, which worked like a charm. If you don’t have one, a regular blender or even a food processor would probably work equally well.

Once it’s blended, toss the cream back into the fridge for a bit to firm up again.

Or not. It’s really doesn’t matter all that much.

Once you’re ready to apply the cream, simply pour it on and spread it out.

Money shot!

Use all the cream and spread it as thick as possible. Creamy centers are no place to skimp.

Toss the cake back in the fridge while you make the last part of the cake:

*Chocolate Ganache

1 c chocolate chips

2 T milk

Set up a double boiler and slowly melt the chocolate chips and milk together. Once everything is creamy, pour the (kinda sorta, but not technically) ganache over the top of the cake.

I missed the money shot of this black velvet goodness cascading over the golden cake top, but luckily the ganache hardened so the drips stayed.

Almost money shot!

This baby sat in the fridge while we enjoyed a lovely dinner out. And then when we got home it was time to blow out the candles.

Or in our case, blow out the match.

And once Papa made his wish, we ate.

This isn’t your typical yellow cake. It has a large, firm crumb and a very real banana flavor. The cream is light and airy, not like pudding. And the ganache is thick and decadent.

The cake was just as good the next night when we did a ‘Baby family tradition — passing the fork.

Families that "even it out" together stay together, right?

Did you know that if you don’t actually cut yourself a slice then it doesn’t count? And it really doesn’t count if you just take bites to “even it out”.

Yup, it’s the truth.

So go make this cake and then pass a fork between those you love.

M’gosh, I already miss my family.

Your turn:

Does your family have any weird “traditions”?

Do you have a classic birthday cake or does it vary?

G’night eaters!

#ItsOkayToBeJealous

Hiya eaters!

Oh boy it’s been a day! But it’s been an amazing day, one that fully deserves the hashtag #ItsOkayToBeJealous. And now you’re going to see it.

I woke up to a gorgeous view.

#ItsOkayToBeJealous

Manly friend’s house is pretty much all windows. The sun comes in first thing in the morning, which may be annoying to some people, but I couldn’t be unhappy when I’m cocooned under the covers staring at this view.

I also couldn’t be unhappy when manly friend presented me with this plate.

Yup, m’man makes me scones for breakfast. #ItsOkayToBeJealous.

With a belly full of freshly baked cinnamon sugar love I eventually said my g’byes and started the drive home.

While driving back home from a vacation is never fun, the right scenery and music made it fly by.

What’s the right music, you ask?

An awesome mix of Delta Spirit, Kings of Leon, and Rooney. My iTunes Genius knows me so well. #ItsOkayToBeJealous

But before I got to relax at home, I had a couple of errands to run. #ItsOkayToBeJealous?

First, I needed a large grater.

Then, I needed food to grate with it.

Loot:

Organic free-range eggs, organic beets, Chobani plain yogurt, organic honey crisp apples, organic dino kale, organic red onion, organic sweet potato, organic green pepper, EF adzuki beans, vanilla rooibos tea, EF volcanic salsa, and organic four pepper grinder.

So much organic goodness. And so freaking many sales. All of this was less than $40. #ItsOkayToBeJealous.

And finally, I got home.

Oh m'humble, generic door.

I didn’t stay there for long because m’lovely lady Peach and I have a tradition of eating Chipotle for dinner the night we get back from a break. We’ve never missed a break in all our years of college.

But tonight was a little different than most Chipotle dinners: I didn’t finish my vegetarian burrito bowl.

So that means I have half a bowl with minimal rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, all the salsas, lettuce, and guacamole waiting for me for lunch tomorrow. Yeah, #ItsOkayToBeJealous.

Unfortunately, now I’m sitting in my room with a pretty wicked case of post-vacation blues. Hopefully eating chocolate chips and watching back episodes of Modern Family will cure me. #ItsOkayToBeJealous?

Your turn:

What did you do that’s jealousy worthy?

How do you feel about hashtags?

G’night eaters!

Nut-Free Fun

Hello eaters!

Are you ready for the cutest post ever?

Okay!

Sister has a nut allergy. She isn’t so bad that she can’t be around nuts, but Stepmother plays it safe by not letting her eat foods that were made in the same facility as nuts. As a result, she’s never eaten a granola bar.

A couple of months ago Stepmother emailed me asking for nut-free granola bar recipes. I sent her a few recipe links, but nothing that sounded super exciting.

So on this visit, Sister asked me to make some granola bars with her. And instead of turning the same lackluster recipes I originally sent, I decided to get creative. And to whip out a secret weapon.

It's school safe!

Sister was apprehensive, especially since everyone has been telling her over and over again to avoid nut butters.

Umm...how is she going to be in middle school next year?

But in the end, when she tried that first peanut-free fingerful, she was thrilled.

So together, we got to baking.

Nut-Free Granola Bars

3 c rolled oats

2 T flax seed

~1 c dried apples, chopped*

~1 c chocolate chips*

2 eggs

¼ c honey

1 c soynut butter

3 T butter

*Mix-ins are subject to change. Sister wanted chocolate. I wanted her to eat some kind of fruit.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Melt the butters together and then mix them with the remaining wet ingredients in another bowl. Pour the wet over the dry while your child labor assistant stirs them together.

Once everything is evenly combined, dump it into a parchment lined rectangular baking dish and flatten to an even thickness.

Note — Just like I don’t really care what size mixing bowls you use, I also don’t really care how big or what shape your baking dish it. It all depends on what thickness and shape you want your bars, and on what you have on hand. A large rectangular dish is my recommendation, though, if you want ½”-3/4” thick bars.

Bake the mixture in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes (which will vary based on how thick you spread the mixture). Once out of the oven, pick up the parchment and transfer everything to a cooling rack/other cool surface.

The bars will seem a little too chewy or like they’re going to fall apart.

That’s fine. Because of the butters, they will firm up as they cool. But they won’t be crunchy.

Can you see the chew?!

Sister was VERY specific when she said she wanted chewy, not crunchy granola bars.

Once the bars are room temperature cut them how you wish. Then either individually wrap them for quick and easy access.

Or put them in parchment layers in a Tupperware. Either way, I highly suggest storing them in the fridge for maximum firm-but-chewy-ness.

Either or.

And after all the hard work (except that is wasn’t hard in the least), once you see your nut allergy-stricken sister taking her FIRST EVER bite of a granola bar, it’ll all be worth it.

5th grader approved.

So parents, siblings, babysitters, and other people who interact with children/like to eat granola bars, ditch the Chewy bars. And the Nature’s Valley bars. And the grossly sweet Nutrigrain bars. And instead, whip up some of your own.

I promise, they’re more than worth it.

Your turn:

What’s your favorite grab on the go snack?

And more importantly, what’s your favorite packaged snack that you would like to see me try and make healthier and homemade?

G’night eaters!

Not Hooked on Red Hook

Hi eaters!

This is going to be a quickly because I’m quickly losing steam. That’s not surprisingly since I did almost nothing today.

Do you ever find that the days where you are the laziest are also the ones where you’re most tired at the end of the day?

Because that’s where I am right now.

Anywhoo, let’s talk beer. Brews. Ale. Adult beverage.

As I mentioned on IPA Day, I’ve been slowly developing a taste for that carbonated and fermented beverage usually reserved for frat boys and construction workers.

Just call me Al.

And since I know a lot of people don’t know much about beer beyond Miller and Bud, I thought I would share my thoughts. Granted, I’ve read no books on the subject. Nor have I done much research.

My thoughts come from simply drinking the beer.

Because no matter what anyone else says, as long as you can taste you can have opinions about beer, wine, scotch, or whatever else is your drink of choice.

So here goes: a little rundown of Red Hook beers.

First, from lightest to darkest, the Pilsner.

Tasting notes: Watery initial taste. Bitter, not quite hoppy after taste with no strong tongue feeling anywhere. Adapts more of the watery taste as it warms.

To me, this one was a little to reminiscent of Miller ad Bud and anything else you would find on tap at a minor league baseball game. So it just wasn’t my cup of tea beer.

Second, Copper Hook

Tasting notes: Even tongued initial taste. Bright, citrusy after taste with the possibility of a hint of metallic.

They all had these funny little sayings.

For me, this would be an everyday beer. I would drink this beer if I was trying to get social. I would drink this beer if I was in the mood for beer without a specific kind of beer in mind. I probably wouldn’t choose this one on purpose, though.

Third, ESB.

Tasting notes: Mildly bright initial taste. Even tongued. Malty, complex after taste, which mellows as it warms.

I think this one was my favorite out of the bunch. This beer had flavor and body, but it wasn’t overpowering or unpleasant. It was just a solid beer.

Finally, IPA.

Tasting notes: Fully hoppy, malty initial taste. Slight back of the tongue hit. Clean after taste. Hoppiness intensifies as it warms.

This is a beginner IPA. Yes, it has the IPA flavor when you first sip it, but it doesn’t hit you hard anywhere on the tongue and it doesn’t leave a bitter, malty after taste, meaning you’ll want to drink more of it.

Overall, I wasn’t thrilled with Red Hook. For four traditionally very different types of beer, they had too many similarities.

Yes, I would certainly choose it again over almost anything in a can (I’m trying not to drink beer out of cans anymore because it leaves a weird after taste), but I probably wouldn’t buy it myself.

But if you like your beers with a bit more “drinkability,” than this might just be the brewery for you.

I hope this helps at least a wee bit next time you find yourself cluelessly scouring the beer aisle.

Your turn:

What kind of beer do you like, if you like beer?

And what beer should I try next?

G’night eaters!

Trader Joe’s is Good

Hellooo eaters!

Today has been another truly blissful day at the beach. The only stresses I faced today were whether or not to workout (I did) and the hundreds of screaming 4th and 5th graders when I went to eat lunch with Sister at her school (something I do every time I visit).

But even those were oh so minor. So really, I haven’t had a care in the world all day. Unless you count deciding what to buy when I visited Trader Joe’s!

Ahhhhhhh

A trip to the Trader is another thing that I do every time I visit.

Yes, there is a Trader Joe’s in Chapel Hill, but for some reason I never make it out that way. So it’s still an extra special occasion.

Now I would show you pictures of some of the cool eats I perused or the really fun murals, but as I learned last time, I’m not supposed to take pictures inside the store.

And frankly, if I didn’t love TJ’s so much, I would without a doubt avoid this store because of that experience. By my love wins every time.

Anywhoo, time for something I can show you from my pilgrimage…

My goodies.

No, not those goodies.

Loot:

Animal crackers, dark chocolate covered powerberries, fat free black bean dip, goat milk brie, dried apple rings, semi-sweet chocolate chips, fasolia gigantes, Greek yogurt.

Some of those things are for recipes. Some of those things…cough animal cracker and powerberries cough…are my TJ’s staples that I absolutely have to pick up every visit. One of those things, though, makes me absolutely giddy just thinking about it.

I heart Greek and Mediterranean food so much. And ever since I saw this dish on my favorite hometown Greek restaurant’s menu, I’ve been dying to try it. Unfortunately, they never have it when I go in. So when I saw this little jar I snatched it up without a moment thought.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it is once I crack it open.

Speaking of cracking something open…

You better believe it wasn’t long before manly friend and I opened up that cheese. This goat milk brie is a little goat-ier than the last one I had, but I certainly don’t mind. And manly friend is a fan.

Have I mentioned that we both love cheese? Because we do.

Alright, enough shop(ping) talk. Time to go hang out with the family.

But first:

Is there anything else I should get from TJ’s before I go home?

G’night eaters!

Crocs Are Green?

Greetings eaters!

How was your weekend?

Because mine was pretty fabulous. A quick recap:

Friday I, with the help of a friend, babysat eight 12-year-old girls. We took them through a huge, elaborate haunted house/woods. There was only one injury and one crying incident. And at the end we got to shoot zombies. Saturday night some of my dear, old friends came into town to play a show. We ate. We drank. Some other things happened. It was a memorable night. And Sunday, manly friend showed up on my doorstep and together we drove up to Virginia Beach to spend the week relaxing at Papa’s condo.

Yes, it’s a hard life, but somehow I manage.

And the hardest part by far was that last night once manly friend and I got settled into our gorgeous abode, Papa and co took us out to dinner…at Virginia Beach’s only certified green restaurant, Crocs 19th Street Bistro.

The horror!

I kid. But this is the second time I’ve been to this restaurant and it actually was a bit terrible last time.

Ya see eaters, the last time I ate there I was newly vegan. Since it was a green restaurant I expected it to have a less meat-centric menu. Ya know, since producing meat is more taxing on the environment than vegetables. But unfortunately, there was only one vegan dish on the menu and it was…surprise surprise… a salad.

This was one of those dining experiences were I had to quietly hold back tears because I was forced to eat another lackluster, overly dressed salad.

This time, though, the menu was actually really green.

They had markers to distinguish the locally, sustainably caught fish. There were a handful of vegan/vegetarian appetizers, salads, entrees, and sandwiches. And as we were leaving, I saw out back all the pots where they grow their own herbs and greens.

That to me is what a green restaurant should be.

Okay, enough of me on my soap box. Time for food.

To start, we shared two appetizers.

On special was a trio of hummuses: spicy, original, and something that started with a “t”.

Those things sticking out are thin pita chips. They not only made this dish hard to photograph, but they weren’t very practical. The hummus was good, though. I especially liked the one that started with a “t”.

We also got a plate of fried calamari (which unfortunately, I don’t think was local).

This is pretty much our family’s staple appetizer. It’s a safe bet that anytime it’s on a menu we’re ordering it. Everyone from Sister to Papa loves it. And luckily, manly friend is a fan as well. (Though I certainly can’t say the same for hummus. He hates chickpea anything.)

Once we demolished those, it was time for dinner.

I went with the fish tacos.

Fresh (local, sustainable) fish with citrus slaw, Baja sauce, and avocado, served with chips and salsa.

These tacos were pretty fantastic. The fish was flavorful and tender. The Baja sauce added the right amount of creaminess. And the avocado was cooked, which I’d never had before. It made it less of a mushy mess and more substantial.

The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the citrus slaw. I enjoyed the bite of crispy freshness, but the citrus was over powering. I ended up pulling a good bit of it out.

As for the family: manly friend and Papa both got sirloins, which they put very respectable dents in. Stepmother got some kind of shellfish pasta special, which she seemed to enjoy well enough. And Sister got a burger, which she ate a surprising amount of. (She didn’t get even a fraction of my appetite.)

All in all, we were a very satisfied family. And I know that Papa and co will certainly be returning.

So that was last night. Today…has been more than chill. As for this week, expect some nut-free granola bars, a (hopefully) freaking ah-maze-ing cake, beer, and some pointers for minimum equipment at-home workouts.

Yup, that’s going to be my life. Like I said, it’s a tough life for a ‘Baby.

Your turn:

What makes a restaurant green to you?

And if you’re in/near Virginia Beach, would you be interested in meeting up for a bite?

Later eaters!