No Drama Trail Mix

 No Drama Trail Mix

There’s no sheltering you from the truth. I turn into a drama queen when I get low blood sugar. Hard to believe, right? I start shoving food into my mouth to stop the tummy rumblings, and often grab no-so-healthy snacks in desperation.

To stave off the hunger, and the lingering food guilt later, I like to keep something simple and quick on hand. My mom used to mix raisins, peanuts, and sesame sticks, and send that to work or school with us. It always reminded me of a PB&J. I took my mom’s original and modified it over the years, always trying to keep the sweet and savory balance, but adding some more complex nutrition for variety.

I highly recommend experimenting by adding or subtracting ingredients. Most of these things I buy in the bulk section at Ward’s and just estimate the quantities needed, so don’t get too exact with measuring. It’s always fun to make adjustments and try new variations.

Some of these bulk nuts are naked and unsalted (because you don’t need all of that extra salt in your face), and they benefit from a quick roast in the oven before you mix them in.

No Drama Trail Mix
Serves ‘a lot’

5 c. Cheddar sesame sticks
1 1/2 c. Dry roasted unsalted peanuts
1 1/2 c. Dried cranberries (Craisins)
1/2 c. Sunflower seeds
1 c. Pumpkin seeds
1/2 c. Walnuts
1 c. Date pieces / golden raisins

1. Roast the walnuts and pumpkin seeds in the oven first. Spread them on a tray and bake at about 350 for only a few minutes. You’ll see them start to toast or the pumpkin seeds will start to pop. This just brings out the flavor a little better. Let them cool off for a minute. *I’m picky about ‘bite size’, so I like to break up the larger walnut chunks before toasting them.

2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large sealable container. I use one that’s somewhat bigger than I need because it makes mixing easier. You can shake and roll the container to mix everything up. Otherwise, have fun mixing these goodies all up with a spoon (or your hands!).

3. You can of course start eating this right away, but if you let it sit overnight, it gets all friendly and marinated.

Not only do I send a jar of this to work with The Man so he can snack during the day, I pre-pack some into smaller containers so I can grab one as I run out on errands. If I’m hungry during the day, and mooching round in the kitchen for something to eat, I drop the chips or cookies and reach for a handful of this instead. Not claiming it’s the answer to all of your problems, but it’s better than being cranky because your tumbly is rumbly.

[Girl21]

Finger Meals Fast

Only Martha Stewart and other aliens are always prepared for guests. The rest of us get get caught off guard by last minute guests or find ourselves feeling inadequate in the kitchen. If you live close to a decent grocery store, you can always come up with a classy spread after a ten minute dash around the deli and produce sections.

I have to say I’m quite practiced at this by now. I host a book club at my house (much to The Man’s amusement on those nights he’s home to witness the ladies’ gathering) and twice a month have to rush through the store on the way home from the office. A couple sorts of cheese, some savory crunchy things, some seasonal fruits and veggies, and some sweet tidbits… you’re gold.

Keep in mind the crowd you’re entertaining when choosing you yummy little bits and pieces. People used to potato chips and orange cheddar cheese are just not going to be game to try the Roaring Forties blue cheese. On the other hand, fresh fruit is usually a good option for just about any group. And of course you’re limited by your local grocery store.

We’re lucky enough to live near a Publix and Ward’s. We went to Upstate New York last summer and I was introduced to Wegmans, so my world has never been quite the same. Never the less, I shop at Publix happily because you can get a decent selection of fresh deli and bakery things. Plus the added Greenwise sections mean some good healthfood options. And of course I like Ward’s because it’s a locally owned business that has great local produce, super-healthfood sections, and a fun selection of wine and beer (that I can spend too much time perusing). And they stock the best coffee in town, Sweetwater Organic Coffee.

Anyhow, two things to keep in mind in these situations, SIMPLE and FRESH. Wait … three things… YUMMY! For a base, try getting a loaf of herb bread or a whole grain baton (yes, the long bread), which you can slice up and pop in the oven. Try a jar of pre-made pesto to slather on the bread first, topped with some deli sliced gouda and crumbled gorganzola. Or just sprinkle the slices with salt, pepper, italian herbs, and garlic powered, then cheese. Just toast them in the oven long enough to melt the cheese and let some corners get a bit golden. A box of Triscuits or some other whole grain crackers are also good if you’re in a hurry or want a variety.

For savories, if you have an olive bar, absolutely go a little wild. Even toss in some garlic stuffed and blue cheese stuffed options with the usual oil cured and kalamata. If you can find some Castelvetrano Sicilian olives, these bright green beauties are delish. Or splash out on a few nice jars of olives off the shelf. Try a jar of asparagus and artichoke hearts for a little texture.

Fruits and veggies are great balance, and besides a little cutting and arranging, are very little work. I usually go for some Granny Smith apples and whatever is in season… peaches, cherries, grapes, or pears. And for veggies it’s a no-brainer to grab some carrots (always organic carrots!), celery, cauliflower, broccoli, and maybe a pretty sweet pepper or two. I’m biased against tomatoes, but feel free to get some little cherry or grape tomatoes if you see some nice ones.

I left cheese for last because it’s the best place to go completely berserk. I could go on and on about cheese, but there are some safe bets to please the most people. Cheddar–no not the orange variety–is possibly the most obvious choice because you can easily chop it into chunks, it has a good texture, and its sharp but not overpowering flavor can pair with just about anything on the table (go for the sharpest version you can find… we like the Racer’s Edge Cabot since you can find it easily). I also usually grab a block of swiss if I can find it (I like Amish swiss) or even some Mexican queso fresco.

If you’re feeling adventursome, try a round of brie (or even goat brie). Keep the brie simple by unwrapping it, slicing the rind off the top and putting it in a shallow glass or ceramic oven-safe dish, drizzling it with olive oil and baking it at 350 for ten minutes. [In the above picture we had some cheese curds, and a super yum Humbolt Fog goat cheese.]

Notice I didn’t go on about wine or other drinks here. That’s pages of rambling. For my book club ladies I usually go for a mild red wine, maybe a chard if I’m looking to change it up a bit. I love a nice tempranillo in the $7-10 range. Or my standard seems to be a bottle of Our Daily Red (fantastic at about $7 a bottle). Basically you want to go for something the most people will be comfortable drinking, and something you like.

A little chopping and slicing, and some attention to arranging the goodies, and you can set up a nice little spread in less than 30 minutes. It’s fresh food that’s also kind of healthy, and it’s fun and easy to eat while talking and drinking. And of course it’s tasty!

[Girl21]

Flying Biscuit for Brunch

You’re with family or friends and everyone in the group wants something different to eat. It’s Sunday morning. You’re hungry. You don’t want to deal with this before you’ve had a cup of coffee.

Simple. Flying Biscuit. It’s a small chain from Atlanta. Our Gainesville restaurant is one of the few not in Georgia. It’s up near 43rd and 16th/23rd a few doors down from Fresh Market and Dorn’s. They open every day at 7AM.

It’s a medium size restaurant. A bit on the cute side with their interior design. Southern style food in a we-don’t-cook-everything-in-lard kind of way. It’s always busy on Sunday morning. Even if you call ahead to get on the list (and we recommend that you call ahead) the wait can get to be 1+ hour. But that’s a good sign.

Flying Biscuit for BrunchThe menu covers breakfast and brunch in depth, from omelette to grits (oh the grits!) to pancakes to french toast. And of course, biscuits. And let me tell you, if your meal doesn’t already include a biscuit, order one on the side. That is the whole point of the place, and you’ll thank me for the advice. Big, fluffy, sprinkled with seasoned sugar, and spread with cranberry apple butter. Num num num.

But most important before the food is caffeine. Duh! Coffee. Can’t tolerate your breakfast-mates until you’ve woken up the old grey cells, right? If you don’t think a good old cup of coffee is good enough, you can get a Steamer, which is basically four shots of espresso and steamed milk (or soy milk) in a BIG cup. Better yet, confuse your brain… get a Guinness with two shots of espresso. Yes, beer and coffee. What better way to wake up?

As vegetarians, we’re happy to find any place that recognizes our second-class status. Flying Biscuit has Morningstar Farms soysage patties, several variations of tofu scramble, and even organic oatmeal pancakes. And they’ve got a few healthier dishes in case you want to sooth your guilt and go for some collard greens or black bean patties.

The menu is laced with some other options if you’re not in a breakfast mood. They offer salads, sandwiches, wraps, burritos and daily stoup (that would be where soup and stew meet into a perfect bowl of goodness). Honestly, I’ve never been in a non-breakfast mood walking into that place though. A switch gets thrown in my head and I MUST order something I can put butter or syrup or apple butter on.

If you’re like me, you have a hard time settling on one thing on the menu. Especially when you look around and see the amount of food you get with each order. Which is why I love a corner of the menu where the sides live. They’ve got half-orders of some of their best goodies. That way you can choose the things that tickle your drool circuits without overdoing (much). Half order of french toast. One pancake or biscuit. A bowl of grits (probably the yummiest restaurant grits EVER!). A bowl of fruit. Soysage patties. Mix it up and pack your tummy with exactly what you want.

The prices are fair; you get a lot of food for your hard earned dollars. I don’t think we’ve ever been there without taking food away for later. Usually the car ride home. And might I suggest ordering a few biscuits to take home? Trust me on this.

www.flyingbiscuit.com
(Yes, they’re on Facebook too!)

4150 NW 16th Blvd.
Gainesville, FL 32605
Phone: (352) 373-9500

Hours: 7AM-9PM (Wed-Sat)
7AM-4PM (Sun)
7AM-3PM (Mon-Tue)
Tables & Booths (some outdoor tables, and breakfast bar stools)
Service: polite, personal, efficient
Payment: All of the usual options

[Girl21]

Salad Days

“So what do you eat?”

Lord, if I had a buck for every time I heard that, I’d be driving the tricked-out Beemer I’ve been wanting. Admitting to being a vegetarian seems to elicit a reaction comparable only to a child finding a jellyfish on the beach for the first time. Suddenly you go from being a fellow human to something tentacled beamed down from Sirius.

I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life…including those formidable years in school, which is partially responsible for me being the well-adjusted optimist I am today. It’s kind of like A Boy Named Sue. Growing up as a vegetarian with an odd name has certainly earned me the Self-Confidence Badge in life. And of course, I’m fluent in Sarcasm as a result as well.

Later on in life, when going out to restaurants with non-vegetarian friends, you get the usual… “I’m sure you can eat here. They have salads. I think.” Yup. Because that’s what we eat. Salads.

Never mind that there as many kinds of vegetarians/vegans as there are individuals committed to their choice of diet. I don’t need to go there. I did try to break the stereotype when I could though. A little gentle education by example goes a long way. Maybe a few less people in the world think vegetarians eat only salads.

My big secret is that I really love salads actually. Not because I’m a vegetarian. But because they’re a yummy meal that can be ready in five minutes and cover all of the food groups and nutritional requirements you feel like owning up to. And since it’s all fresh ingredients limited only by your mood and creativity, you’ll never eat the same salad twice.

In public and with non-veggie friends, I try to make a point of NOT eating salads all of the time. Maybe I have a little chip on my shoulder and need to prove a minor point. But in the privacy of my own home, drapes closed to the world, I do partake of salads often.

Salad DaysSpinach and lettuce, with a little chopped curly parsley. Dried cranberries, blue cheese crumbles, white corn, and a drizzle of pesto Italian dressing. Maybe a light snow of pecorino or asiago cheese. Well that was just today. Tomorrow it will be a little different. Depending on my mood and what’s handy in the kitchen.

My salad habit will have to stay at home for the most part though. I dream of a world where vegetarians don’t have to squelch the urge to punch people every time they hear that question. Its a small dream and a tiny mission. But we can’t all be Mother Therese I guess.

[Girl21]

Food DJ

I’m in love with a food DJ.

What? Yeah, I said it. A food DJ. He is the Ron Hardy or Frankie Knuckles of food remixing.

Hm… I could go on a not-so-clever tangent using all kinds of DJ slang, but that would be annoying. Let’s assume you even know what phasing, bubble scratching, and hamster-style is and move on to the food.

So what is a food DJ? We were at brunch last weekend with friends, all single guys, and the three of them look over at my DJ with the admiration guys have for the silverback male of the bunch. He had masterfully layered, condimented, and sliced his meal into a magical combination on one plate. We’re talking about a full Southern brunch pulled together into a delightful fusion of food. A single land mass. A Pangea of breakfast yumminess.

I’ve been watching out of the corner of my eye since. Every chance he gets, he brings together flavors and textures, a little here, a little something else there. Nothing is plain. Nothing is straight up and simple. Umeboshi vinegar is a favorite base track. Organic stone ground mustard. Pecorino or gorgonzola cheese. Dried cranberries, fresh ginger, lime zest. The little thrills that change the deep, predictable flavors of every-day meals.

He is a musician with the cutlery, the salt and pepper mills, the chilli sauce bottles. There is percussion and bass in the cheeses. High feathery notes in basil and parsley. Indistinct, intoxicating vocal samples of garlic. Long, low grooves mixed over the rhythmic breads. Slippery transitions in olive oil from sharp pasta sauce to mellow whole-grain cappellini. Scratch beats of chocolate. Zig zag beats of garam masala.

Our house is his night club. Our kitchen is his DJ booth. I am his number one fan, hovering at his elbow. He spins the plates and drops the tracks together. And he closes his eyes, lost in the moment. Enjoying the flavors.

[Girl21]