Thursday, May 31, 2007

True Confessions # 3: I Hate Water


As it gets hotter and hotter here in scenic Baltimore, I've been having to consume vast quantities of cool beverages. This makes sense, but is always a bit of a challenge for me. I am not much of a beverage person. I actively dislike water. I don't like ice. I adore cans of coke, but try to limit my intake. I don't like iced or sweet tea.
In the past year or so I have introduced water into my diet in the form of cans of club soda, but the bubbles can only fool me for so long. I've had to come up with some alternatives.
Enter my new favorite beverages:
  • club soda with a dash of Ribena or lingonberry concentrate
  • club soda with lemon, flavored simple syrup
  • absolute favorite: vodka, club soda, lime and ginger simple syrup*
  • Italian soda**

I also find that drinking out of tall, attractive glasses and using my fussy reusable ice cubes and sparkly straws helps me handle the trauma involved in increasing my beverage intake. So there you have it. I am not a picky eater, just a picky drinker.

*Recently I have read of this as being called a "vodka fizz" and how it is the predicted hot drink for this Summer. I have always been ahead of the crowd.

**Wegmans makes a few fun flavors of Italian soda. I like the blood orange one, it is made with real blood orange juice and doesn't taste like orange soda. I was excited to see that Safeway came out with a line of organic Italian sodas (I live less than a mile from Safeway and 25 minutes from Wegmans) but I tried the pomegranate one it was foul. Honestly, it almost tasted rancid.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dinner Planning

It is suddenly appropriately hot and steamy here in Baltimore. Until recently it had been unseasonably cool- so cool that early this week I actually had to wear a sweater!

We are having some people over for dinner, and being the people we are, we couldn't decide what to make. Matt really, really wanted to make lasagna but I was worried it would be too hot. After endless rounds of the "what should we make" game, we decided to make the lasagna after all, but in two parts. Matt made the sauce yesterday and today we are going to boil the noodles and assemble it long before we plan to eat it. It's not hamburgers and hot dogs, but it should be tasty and hopefully won't make the house too hot. It is days like this I long for central air conditioning. I think by spacing out the cooking (the long cooking sauce/boiling water time is what heats the kitchen up) we will be okay. We can also eat in the backyard as long as it doesn't rain.

I also made cupcakes yesterday for tonight's dessert and left them nude. Closer to dinnertime I am going to make a quick cream cheese/lemon frosting and ice them. I like doing that when I can because it cuts down on the day of work and there is no chance of the icing melting or getting the cupcakes soggy.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Website Help? Help!

I am trying to get some sort of website going for the food blogs. Basically I want a site that directs you to Coconut & Lime and has a few pages on it, faq, about me, etc. Nothing fancy, but I think I am a little out of my depth here. I have the domain and hosting and all, but I need help! I really think this would be a breeze from someone who knows what they are doing. Are you this person?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cherries, Bentos and ...

First off: cherries are on sale at Safeway for $3 a lb. Can't beat that.

Second: anyone have any good Baltimore area bento sources? Or even NYC sources? I can find the boxes fairly easily but not the cute accessories.

Third: the coconut & lime contest entries need to be in by May 29th!

Fourth: how many Baltimore bloggers read this? Leave a comment if you are a local!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Butter Size


I was on their site recently and noticed that Land O Lakes has a new butter product out- a half pound box of 4 individually wrapped ¼ cup sticks. Just when you think they can't do anything new with butter.
Normally butter comes in 1 lb boxes with 1/4 lb sticks. I think the idea is that it keeps longer and fresher than having to cut a larger stick and having the leftovers open and ready to absorb odors or dry out. I am not sure if I would use this product (I bet it is priced about the same as a whole pound is) but it would be great if you didn't use butter frequently and were ending up with a bunch of butter stubs. What I do when I have only part of a stick left is to put it into our butter dish and use it for toast and things rather than starting a whole stick in there and it works out well.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lunch Solution


While I was at Target today I found this cute lunch container as part of their "summer picnic" display. While I am normally a Tupperware only sort of girl, I think these off-brand containers might be the solution to some lunch packing problems we've been having.
Matt takes a lunch to work nearly every day, generally leftovers from dinner along with carrots/apples. The problem is that we store our dinner leftovers in large Tupperware containers and then he either needs to also pack smaller container for lunch or take the whole container to work. Then while at work, he needs to put it on a plate to microwave it, which results in a fair amount of dishes. He also some times forgets to bring the big containers home (or leaves them in his car) which leaves us without containers to put new leftovers in.
These lunch containers are pretty deep and large (big enough to hold a full meal for an adult), have snap-on utensils and are microwave safe. And best of all: only $2.99. I don't think they are air or liquid tight, but that really shouldn't be a problem for the short amount of time the food would be stored in them. They also will (hopefully) cut down on the number of snack and sandwich bags we use.
I bought myself one too, although I don't eat as much at work as he does. I really dislike the whole communal microwave, shared refrigerator thing so I generally only take things that can be eaten (safely, I am a little fanatical about avoiding food poisoning) at room temperature or that can be kept cool with an ice pack.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Community Supported Agriculture

I've been seeing on the blogs more and more mentions of getting CSA baskets of produce delivered to your house. It sounds like a good idea: you get fresh, local vegetables without having to venture to a farmer's market. Don't get me wrong, I love the farmer's market, but it is not always the first thing I think of when I wake up on the weekends, and it would have to be in order for us to drive across town to get to it in time.

So I am looking into it. There are a few places that deliver to the Baltimore area and a few farms we could drive to, so it might happen. The only thing I am not sure if I would like is the lack of control over what you get each week. I like the idea of being creative and working with what we get but what if one week it is all cantaloupe and green peppers and I have to give it away? That's not very cost effective. And what if we get pounds of tomatoes the same week our own homegrown, organic tomatoes ripen? Tomato overload! It also a fair amount of money to layout all at once ($300-500) for a season. I mean, I am sure we spend that now, but in much smaller chunks over time. One farm does allow you to join at any time (for $23 a week) and might have a pick up site just blocks away so that one would probably be my top pick. It also doesn't have a work requirement (we have enough of that at home) like some of the farms do.

Anyone have any personal experience they'd like to share?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ads or no ads

I was debating about adding ads to Coconut & Lime. Thoughts?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Question Of the Week



Question: what is your favorite type of food to eat out/take out and why?

My answer: I really like to eat out/take in sushi the most. While I have made sushi rolls (even with raw fish), I can't do it as well as a sushi chef. It is also a lighter meal and you always know exactly what ingredients were used.

What about you?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Reminder!

In honor of Coconut & Lime's third birthday (I can't believe I have been doing this for three years already!) I am having a little contest. Create and post a recipe to your food blog or flickr account using the ingredients coconut and lime by the end of the month and one person will win a prize. E-mail me the link with the recipe by May 29th.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Nutella Face-off: Italy vs. USA

Not far from our house is a little Italian deli, Mastellone Deli & Wine Shop, that makes one of my favorite sandwiches, the "old world Italian" and sells wine and imported Italian (and strangely, a fair amount of Goya products and mate, neither of which is very Italian) foods, cheeses and pasta. We get our Parmesan and mozzarella there and other Italian odds and ends fairly frequently.

We were there in Saturday to buy pignoli nuts (they were out, so we got sandwiches instead) and while we were waiting, I spied a new shipment of Italian Nutella. Now, they always have signs up that that say "Italian Nutella, Taste the Difference" and "The Original Nutella" and I am frequently tempted to get some, but some times, I swear, it is really just American Nutella (both labels are in English but you can tell the difference by the website address listed: you want nutella.it not nutellausa.com) in the bin. This time, however, it was clearly an Italian jar so I picked it up. It came in a reusable drinking glass, which is a fun idea instead of the usual plastic tub. They had a choice of clear glasses and some with images of a cartoon/comic called Monster Allergy. I went for the clear glass because I was unfamiliar with Monster Allergy (apparently it is some sort of Italian Disney owned comic book series) and it wasn't too cute.

Anyway, I brought it home and decided to have a taste test between that and the American stuff in the plastic tub (on the left) I had in the cabinet. And the results were....they taste nearly identical. I'd say that the US one was a little bit sweeter and the Italian more chocolate-y, but really, they were pretty much interchangeable. I am really good at telling the difference between similar products as well. The only real difference was that the Italian Nutella was much thicker than the American Nutella which was pretty soft and peanut butter-like in constancy American Nutella has hydrogenated peanut oil and the Italian jar doesn't, which probably explains its increased spreadablity. Not that Italian wasn't easy to spread, it was just thicker. I am not sure why they would make the American version differently, maybe because we are more used to the creamy style spread of peanut butter?

I am glad I did the test, now I can stop thinking about the Italian Nutella and its possible taste superiority and continue buying the more inexpensive and easily found US version. Not that I would turn down the Italian version (I rather liked the thicker texture and I bet it doesn't seperate like the US jars do sometimes) at only $1 more a jar, if I was at the store and I was out of Nutella, I'd certainly pick it up, but I don't feel bad about generally using the US product.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

New Pans!


I just had to share this new purchase: a 10 inch crepe pan and a "butter warmer" (basically a tiny pot with a spout), both from Faberware's Platinum line. I can't wait to try them, the crepe pan will be great for crepes of course, but also the flat " egg omelets" we frequently make for various stirfries, fried rice and sushi. I can't wait to use the butter warmer to make simple syrup-no more sticky spills down the side of the pan. Best of all, I only paid $12 (total! for both!) on Amazon.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Food Wishlist Updates: Goji Berries & Fizzy Cola


The Haribo Fizzy Cola gummi candies I ordered on Amazon arrived today (12 packs for $12) so I can cross that off my list. I had found some Happy Cola gummis while in NYC but the fizzy ones are my favorite, they have some sort of tart sugar coating that the Happy Cola variety don't have.


While at the afformentioned Amish, I also found a bag of goji berries for fairly cheap. They also had dark chocolate covered goji berries so I bought them too. The chocolate covered ones are sort of like Raisinets, if Raisinets were tasty and didn't remind me of chocolate covered squished bugs.

Stamp Out Hunger Drive

Stamp Out Hunger is an event sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers and the USPS that is taking place tomorrow, May 12th. Just place your donation in a bag and place it next to your mailbox. Your mail carrier will pick up nonperishable food items and take it to a local food bank. It is an easy way to help families in need (and clean out your cabinets!) without even having to leave the house.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What am I?



We picked these up at Amish while we were in Manhattan this weekend and seriously have no idea what they are. Well, they are tiny green plums, but beyond that, I am stumped. I thought maybe they were greengage plums, but they are smaller than that, I think. Matt thought they were Japanese plums (ume?) at first but now we are not sure. They have a very clear (not smudgy like some plums) bright green skin and matching green flesh. The guy at the store said they were grown in South America, but I don't think that makes much difference. Here's another picture with my very normal sized thumb in it for perspective. Tiny, tiny plums.

Sale Alert!

Now, I can't say that this is true of all locations, but Safeway has those premade graham cracker crusts in two sizes on sale this week (until next Tuesday) for only $1 each. Now, you can certainly make them yourself either from pulverized crumbs or buy the prepacked crumbs but these (Keebler Ready Crust) are made from the same Honey Made graham crackers* you'd probably use anyway and are pretty tasty.

Now if you want to do something fancy with your crust (like add ground nuts or ginger or something) then this clearly won't work for you, and making your own crust is certainly easy, but the difference in taste between the premade crust and homemade are not huge, and if you like to experiment with your pies like I do, it is a great and cheap (compare $1 on crusts to the $4 box of crumbs/crackers you'd have to buy) alternative. They also have chocolate graham crusts on sale (don't get the Oreo flavored one-ick!). Plus they all have an expiration date of October or November 2007, so you can stock up for the whole summer.



*I am sure someone, somewhere makes homemade graham crackers with the express purpose of crushing them for pie crust, but really, who is that person?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Popchips


Yesterday afternoon I was offered the opportunity to be mailed some samples of Popchips and less than 15 hours later they arrived at my doorstep. Popchips are a new variety of low fat "popped" chips that are not baked or fried, just popped. I love the idea of a lower fat chip and the idea of being able to choose between popped corn, rice or potato chips was appealing. They come in several varieties:

popped corn chips
sea salt corn chips
hint of butter corn chips
cheddar corn chips
salsa corn chips


popped potato chips
original potato chips
barbeque potato chips
parmesan garlic potato chips


popped rice chips
sea salt rice chips
wasabi rice chips

I have to say, I am really enjoying these chips! The first one I tried was the barbeque potato chips. I generally don't like barbeque flavored things-they are either too sweet or fake tasting but these were so good! Tangy, spicy and a good underlying flavor of potato. Best of all, they were completely grease-free and there was no flavor powder left sticking to my fingers. I also like how all of the varieties come in one ounce bags of about 20-25 chips each (and 95% of them were still intact, no crumbs!) which equal a single serving size of 120 calories (with only 40 coming from fat, and no trans or saturated fat) which means you can eat a whole bag with no worries. Frankly, there were so many chips in the bag and they are so big, I could hardly finish them all.

Right now they are only available at select stores, but you can also find them for sale (by the small case) on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Indian Mangos in Stores Soon!

Major mango news! Indian mangos (rumoured to be the best in the world) are now going to be allowed to be imported into the US (click on the link to hear the whole story on NPR.org). They had been banned because of fruit-fly worries, but the ban has officially been lifted. I can't wait to see these in stores!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Amish NYC


We're back from NYC where we attended the best wedding ever- everyone was wonderful and they had a raw bar and a seafood buffet just for the cocktail hour (on top of breakfast and a full course meal featuring lobster and filet mignon) -and where we had a lot of eating and drinking fun. I found some foods and drinks I have been looking for (posts forth coming) but my favorite spot was Amish. We went to the Murray Hill location and had the best ham & brie and turkey & brie sandwiches with cricket cola. And we found goji berries (dark chocolate covered and plain, now I can cross that off my wishlist), bulk chocolate and tiny green plums that we bought and schlepped back to Baltimore. What I love about New York is that even the tiniest store (not Amish, that was fairly large) has a variety of foreign candies and fun drinks. Amish was great, fancy and not so fancy food and for the most part, reasonable prices.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Culinate

I love Culinate and was thrilled to have the opportunity to write an article for them. It just went "live" today, so check it out!

It is called Meet Me at the Fair and is about one of Baltimore's traditional fair treats (the lemon stick) and other fair foods. As an added bonus it includes a silly picture of my husband eating a lemon stick at last year's flower mart.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Paletas Frutas Enchiladas

Hershey's owns Jolly Rancher which puts out some Thalia themed candies that come in some pretty exotic flavors. These lollipops come in tamarindo (tamarind), limon (lime) and mango and have spices embedded in them. The spicy/sweet combo is quite nice and the fruit flavors are pretty true to life but I had a hard time getting around their large, square shape and the slightly gritty texture of the spices. Cybele has a great post about them here. I really, really wanted to love them (and I gave some to my friend Heather who is now quite addicted) but I couldn't quite do it.

What I'd really like to find again, but have no idea what they are called are these fabulous lollipops I used to get at a deli when I was in college that has since closed. They were clear, the label was in French and (of all things) had clowns on it. The flavors were amazing, especially the extremely realistic pear flavor. I loved them. Anyone know what I am talking about?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Martha Stewart @ Michaels


Today I swung by Michaels during my lunch break and was excited to see that new Martha Stewart Crafts line of products in finally in stores. I have sort of a love/hate thing with Martha, but her stuff is beautiful. Pretty, coordinated craft sets for any occasion imaginable and it all high quality yet reasonably priced. A lot of it reminded me of things that more high end store like Paper Source might sell.

In addition to crafts, there are also a few baking related products. Some lovely cupcake liners and at least 8 kinds of boxes or bags for packaging edibles, all with matching labels and notions. Definitely worth a look, especially if you are looking for a more "mature" look for your baked goods.