Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day Ninety-One: Playing Catch-up

Since I missed a day a couple of days ago, I thought I would pull double duty today. It's triple duty, really, since the crab cakes I had for dinner also contained itty bitty shrimps. So that's two kinds of seafood. Plus, I had key lime cheesecake for dessert.

First, the crab cakes. These were some expensive puppies, but I decided that any frozen food that assumes its clientele will take the serving recommendation of, "Serve with jasmine rice, sweet chili-lime beurre blanc and chayote-jicama slaw" has to be pretty fancy. Plus, they are a product of a famous seafood place in Seattle.

Really, they were pretty good. I might have had a tiny bit of crab shell in one of them, but they were fancy enough to include the crab cakes and the panko bread crumbs separately, so the breading can be done at the last minute and your crab cakes can crisp. Nice work, fellas at Elliott's. (I'm sorry--that's terribly sexist. Fellas and ladies.) I messed them up, at least aesthetically speaking, because I do not have a spatula in my tiny Spokane kitchen (a problem I keep remembering in times of need and forgetting when I have the chance to remedy it). So they were mangled, but they were cooked. I ate two of them. The other two are in my fridge, possibly for lunch tomorrow.

The crab and shrimp flavors were only mildly off-putting. This, my friends, is what you call progress.

Now, for the cheesecake. There's a story behind this (of course). You see, when I was in elementary school, there were pie auctions. Fund-raising pie auctions. And cakes, and our neighbor's world-famous cream puffs (town-famous, at least... a town of 300). One year, my adventurous little self got her heart set on a key lime pie, and the folks agreed, so we bid on it. It was so pretty and green. We were all excited. And then... it stunk. It turned me off to key lime anything for years to come.

But this cheesecake, man. This cheesecake. It was everything I hoped for and did not receive in that pie so long ago. I think it was the baker, not the recipe. Either way, I have key lime back. Yum yum yum.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day Ninety: Prunes and Accomplishments

The streak of lackluster blogging continues. Today, I did eat something I don't like. I had a few prunes. And, as the trend tends to be, with each prune I ate, I liked them more. I got a little less repulse by their squishiness. By the time I finish the bag, I'll be eating prunes voluntarily, like candy.

I know. This is bland, boring, and possibly disappointing. But people read blogs for the human element. (Right?) So here's mine:

I have conquered a lot in the last three months, and torn down my own walls. A few foods I know look forward to that I would previously have not touched:

Fish and Chips
Fried shrimp
Smoked Salmon
Liver pate

And a few items I would have begrudgingly eaten, but now eat with glee:

Lima Beans
Sauerkraut (especially Reubens)

And that's not all. That's a pretty good list, I think. I have pushed myself (sometimes too hard, sometimes not hard enough) and my horizons are broadening. That, and I'm getting my MFA in fiction soon. I'm working on a thesis. And, I think I'm becoming a better wife (though you might have to ask my husband about that one).

So there.

Day Eighty-Nine: Nothing.

That's right, nothing. It took me almost three months, but I finally missed a day.

Reason One: It is friggin' hard to plan your meals this deliberately.
Reason Two: I am lazy.
Reason Three: When my husband offered to bring home some seafood salad, I nearly broke into tears. No, I had not been watching sad movies or drinking or anything like that. This test of my gastronomical powers is simply stressful. Every item you add to your daily to-do list wears on your psyche that much more. And when you're already feeling a little iffy, when your feelings aren't 100% stable, it's just too much. Food is meant to be enjoyed. And though many of my conquests are now enjoyable, it's a tough road getting there. And I'm working my way toward grosser and grosser foods because I've come to like or love all the marginal ones.

So those are my excuses. Judge me if you will.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day Eighty-Eight: Everything's Better with Sugar-Free Jell-O

When I moved away from my parents' house, I stole a cookbook. No, it wasn't Mastering the Art of French Cooking or anything cool like that. It was Everything's Better with Sugar-Free Jell-O, which was an odd choice, since I've never really liked Jell-O, but I felt grown-up owning a cookbook. Also, the recipes were not just for gelatin--they had ones for pudding, too. And I love love love some good pudding.

So--that book was the inspiration for today's thing-I-don't-like. I chose to make a very simple, beginner's level Jell-O salad, with strawberry gelatin and peaches that had been soaking in syrup (I was going to use a fresh peach but it turned out to be in a sorry state, so I went for the canned stuff instead). I messed up the whole floating fruit thing (I suppose because I was impatient and dumped the fruit in too soon), but the dish was shallow enough for me to dig down to the fruit that lay waiting at the bottom and mix it with my gelatin.

You know, it's interesting--I rarely think of fruit as fibrous until it's paired with something incredibly smooth. There were bits of peach in this cup that seemed very tough in comparison with the Jell-O. Then there were others that were lovely and soft.

I think I'm going to have to try some more challenging fruit to really know if I can handle Jell-O salad. And I know, it's an antiquated dish and few people actually serve it any more, but there's a kitsch to it that I don't want to resist. I want to make silly-shaped Jell-O molds with chunks of things floating in them, maybe with Kool Whip on top. Boy, will I be hip then.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day Eighty-Seven: Flounder Is Not A Flounder

Before I tell you about my experience eating flounder, I have something to say. Flounder, the cute little sidekick from The Little Mermaid is not a flounder. Flounders are bottom-dwellers. Their eyes are both on one side of their heads. They aren't cute and yellow with blue stripes and fins that look like hair. They don't pal around with mermaids. So, when I had flounder for dinner tonight, I did not eat one of my childhood cartoon buddies.

That being said, I had flounder for dinner tonight. Flounders, as bottom dwellers, are not the most muscular fish. They don't move a lot, and thus are very tender. Which also means they don't have a ton of flavor. Which means that once I got my fish cooked (I didn't do it very well, I can tell), the flounder wasn't much of a challenge.

But it was fish. So there. Also, it was cheap. Which is good enough for me.

Day Eighty-Six: The Restaurant Hunt

Tonight, we had a bit of a hunt. We wanted to go out to eat--that much we knew. Our first choice (so I could have snails, but also because it's our absolute favorite) was West of Paris, the French restaurant in Moscow, Idaho. Upon trying to make reservations, we discovered that it was closed. For good. As in, the chef's kids finished college so he's moving away to resume his life as a minister.


So then we tried the Red Door in Moscow. Closed for renovations until April Fool's Day.


So then we tried Banyan's in Pullman. There seemed to be a wedding in the catering hall and a convention of Ducks Unlimited in the restaurant.

At last, we decided on Black Cypress, a fancy-ish restaurant downtown, which occupies the building where our old favorite restaurant in Pullman used to be, where we had our rehearsal dinner so long ago. Funny enough, we saw the old owners of that restaurant there. So they must have approved of the new place.

Black Cypress turned out to be a very good choice. I got the scallops (on round two with scallops, I discovered that my Seattle scallops were not a fluke--I really do like them, especially when served, as they were, with potatoes, bacon, cabbage, and a grainy mustard vinaigrette) and Ian got an orochiette pasta with a lovely, warm, spicy meat sauce (I suspected cardamom, which seems to be the spice du jour). We switched meals halfway through, but not because we didn't like what we ordered, just because we could. It was like getting two lovely, very different meals at one sitting. And we topped it off with profiteroles, which were absolutely delicious. They're one of those desserts that I really should learn to make.

So: more seafood crossed off the list. I like scallops. I mean, I really like them. More than any other fishy thing I've become accustomed to, I think I would order it at a restaurant without coercion. I'd like to learn to sear them nicely at home, too. A new day, a new skill to learn.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day Eighty-Five: Greasy and Crabby

Crab and artichoke dip is better than I thought it would be. Mainly because it doesn't taste like crab. But the version I had was also really greasy (buttery, I guess, but so much butter it floated on top) and paired with pita and breadsticks--both of which were deep fried. Basically savory doughnuts. While this is good, it's also something I would normally steer away from, just for my arteries' sake. So that's something I ate tonight that I don't like, though it was fine, but... you know. Sorry for another short post. This experiment is, at times, tiresome. And a little depressing. I mean, eating something I don't like every day? What the *&$# was I thinking?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day Eighty-Four: A Little of This, A Little of That

Today was a grab bag. I had:

  • Anchovy pizza (with part of the anchovy scraped off, but much of the flavor unfortunately still intact)
  • A handful of dried cherries (again, super tart fading into pleasant sweetness)
  • A prune (less revolting this time though still unpleasantly mushy)
  • Applesauce (still baby food, but tolerable)
So. There's that. I had a phone interview for a job today and I'm going to blame my lack of originality in today's post on that. I'll think of something more interesting for tomorrow.

Day Eighty-Two: Whoopsie

You know how sometimes you can't sleep and you think, I'm forgetting something, I'm forgetting something, I'm forgetting something.

Well, I forgot this. Sorry.

Which isn't to say I didn't have my thing I don't like. I had it this afternoon, actually. Chicken salad (cold food) with dried cherries (ew) and walnuts (my least favorite nut). So there's that. There's a whole story about why I chose that but it's not very interesting and it's 2am and I've pulled myself out of bed to write this so you'll probably hear it later.

Oh yeah and I also ate a handful of dried cherries plain, which started out painfully tart but ended up quite pleasant once the old taste buds adjusted.

Okay. Goodnight now.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day Eighty-One: Anchovies Two Ways

Tonight, I made Anne Burrell's eggless caesar dressing, which was absolutely amazing. And guess what? It contains anchovies! All caesar dressing does. I know, I know, I know--it shouldn't count because you can't taste them. Well, now that I'm so in tune with the flavor of anchovies, I feel like I can. But maybe I'm imagining it. Here's how tonight's dinner qualifies: I had leftover anchovy pizza. And I have to say, leftover anchovies are so incredibly terrible. I mean, beyond the fishiness that you would ever expect. And the fishies turn gray, which isn't exactly appetizing. I'll even admit: I scraped part of the anchovy off my pizza. Because: I don't think leftover anything should be on the list of things I have to learn how to eat. Of course, omnivores should probably eat EVERYTHING, whether it was made today or yesterday. In that case, there's a whole other realm of things I don't like, because I'm not a huge fan of a lot of leftovers. Some of them rock. Some are better than they were when they were fresh. But others--come on. They seem to go bad as soon as they cool. Anyway. In addition to these anchovy things, I also ate more tapioca tonight. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite sweets. Also, a bite of Ian's rice pudding, which is good, but still not great.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day Eighty: Anchovy Rematch

Tonight, I made anchovy pizza. It also had sauce, mushrooms, turkey pepperoni, and cheese (both mozzarella and parmesan). It had a wonderful crust (I gotta toot my own horn on this one--and Anne Burrell's, who taught me to dissolve my yeast with warm water and a little sugar for a few minutes before ever letting it hit the flour). But, of course, it had anchovies. Which made things a little harder.

I took it better this time than last time. Ian wasn't home when I topped it, so I actually had to touch the anchovies myself. Using a fork just wouldn't get them properly laid out on the pizza, so I had to use my fingers. It was a greasy, slimy, smelly experience, but I survived it. Actually, it wasn't that bad.

Eating it wasn't that bad, either, but it definitely wasn't great. Anchovies are just SO SALTY. Ugh! As I ate, I thought back to that first attempt at anchovy pizza, where I smeared some anchovy paste onto flatbread before topping it with other pizza things. That was delicious. Magnificent, actually. Because the anchovy was SPREAD OUT. But when you top a pizza with them, you leave the fillets whole. Well, next time, I'm chopping them up. I'm mixing them with the sauce. Not only will it be more aesthetically pleasing, but then I won't get a giant hit of anchovy on my tongue, when I just want its essence in the background. As seems to be the theme of this blog, it's all about balance.

The only trouble: if someone serves me anchovy pizza somewhere in my future, knowing that I'm supposed to like everything, those fillets will probably be whole. And I'll have to eat them like that. Which, as I proved tonight, is not impossible. But it makes me think I should get used to the more traditional anchovy pizza, too. But who's going to serve me anchovy pizza? Some friend I haven't met yet, I would imagine.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day Seventy-Nine: Lily-Livered

Did you know that you can buy pate in a can? Well, you can! (Ha ha--can.) I bought mine at Cost Plus World Market--I don't know where else it's available. But, if you like liver, I would highly recommend it. Moreover, I would recommend it with caramelized onions on a nice toasted baguette. Or, if you really like liver, you could eat it plain.

The last time I had liver, at Brasserie 4 in Walla Walla, I remarked that it had a bit of a sickly flavor. That was a chicken liver pate. Tonight's was a goose liver pate. I think, since the liver is the organ that processes poisons, that the sickly flavor might be unavoidable. I did think the chicken livers were sicklier than the goose livers; maybe chickens eat more junk food. Actually, I'm sure they do. My parents own chickens and they'll eat anything. In fact, I once went to a barbecue restaurant with my parents and helped them scrape every last bit of leftovers into a to-go box, except for the meat which got a box of its own. Fries, cole slaw, macaroni, garnish--all of that got its own box marked "chickens," and we got a box of meat marked "humans." We're a very funny family.

Anyway, I don't know how other people feed their chickens, but I know my parents' chickens aren't picky. In fact, it could be worrisome how not picky they are. I don't know much about the eating habits of geese, but regardless of the foods they eat, they might be eating toxins in the form of pesticides, and those things might be more concentrated in the liver. Who knows. I'm sure someone does, probably some guy at the FDA who did major research and discovered that fowl liver is safe to eat.

I'm also sure that after eating enough livers, that sickly flavor becomes more appealing. Like the foot smell with cheese. Once you've eaten enough stinky cheese, you enjoy it all. I do, anyway.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day Seventy-Eight: Seafood in Seattle

I'm still in Seattle, home of the seafood. Tonight, I tried something completely new to me--something that I've tried to try, and those attempts have ended in nausea, near to puking. It's a bit of seafood that my husband has always insisted is especially mild, and yet has never struck me as such. I speak, my dears, of the dreaded scallop.

Okay, so it's not so dreaded. At least not anymore. Because eating is believing, or something like that. Now that I've had scallops, I believe my husband when he says they're mild. But I also believe that I've learned a valuable lesson about seafood over the past few months. I've never experienced a food group that is more temperamental. On one plate of scallops (or shrimp or clams or mussels) there can be some little guys who are sweet and tender and delightful and some that are gritty and chewy. And I don't know exactly how much control the cook has over that. I know that there are things you can do to make mollusks give up their grit before cooking them (the Barefoot Contessa recommends bathing mussels in warm water and flour to make them regurgitate any sand before cooking) but I'm sure that's hit-or-miss. As for rubberiness, it could relate to freshness or cooking time, or it could be that one scallop spent more time swimming than his buddies did. I just don't know.

What I do know is that you shouldn't let the rubbery, gritty ones turn you off entirely. Because some little seafood things are actually quite tender and delightful. Though--the motto with seafood has to be (because they can cause illness) "when in doubt, throw it out." So it's a delicate balance, I suppose.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day Seventy-Seven: Attack of the Not-So-Giant Squid

Tonight, I am in Bellevue, WA, which is close to Seattle, WA. To usher in Spring Break, we're spending some touristy time on the west side of the state, an area where many foodies agree you can find the best seafood in the world. Tomorrow I will truly dive into my seafood (ha ha--dive)--I might even have more than one kind. But tonight, at an Indian restaurant near the hotel, I had my very first fried calamari. And it was pretty darn good.

I think this calamari experience was actually pretty unique. The breading was spicy (would you expect anything else from an Indian restaurant?) and I could taste the egg in the batter, which was interesting. But I had several pieces (four, I think), all of which were rather large, and one of which was batter-free (I peeled it off). It took a long time to chew, but it was actually pretty enjoyable. Which is totally not what I expected from fried squid. But I guess it's a pattern I'm developing. If I think it's going to be grodie, it's going to be delish.

So now I'm curious about other squid dishes. I'm curious about squid ink, too. (I bet squid ink risotto is pretty cool.) I actually kind of enjoyed the chewiness of the squid--it forced me to savor it. And it wasn't a wimpy kind of chewy, nor was it tough. It wasn't fishy but it did taste like seafood. It was much milder than I would have expected, and yet flavorful. A plateful of contradictions, I guess.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day Seventy-Six: A Clammy St. Paddy's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I do love a theme (you should see me: green shirt, green-striped leggings, green Converse, and a green crocheted flower in my hair) but it turns out, I like all the classic Irish dishes. And I've already overcome my Irish cream thing. I looked up some typically Irish foods, and the only one I was uncertain of was Dulse, which is dried seaweed, and which would be difficult to find in my little town, anyway. I didn't do a ton of research. I'm sure there are certain cow innards that appear in Irish dishes as they do in English dishes, but I was lazy and decided to go with something I already had in my cupboard. Something I've been dreading, even though I've had it before. Here's my logic in pretending it's a good St. Patrick's Day food: There are a lot of Irish people on the east coast. The east coast is famous for its clam chowder.

That's right, I finally went back to clam chowder. Actually, I've had it twice now. Once that I blogged about and once that I'm pretty sure I forgot to mention, on the weekend of the ski trip when I first had my stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates. The first time it was the canned, low-fat, low-salt kind and I found myself absolutely repelled by the chewiness of the clams, often swallowing the larger bits whole just to get them down. The second batch was much yummier, and infused with bacon (everything really is better with a little pig fat), though the clams were a little gritty. This batch, also from a can but full-fat and full-salt, was just about in the middle. I only had one instance of grit and it was minimal. The clams were chopped smaller than the first batch. The soup itself was just better than the first batch. And I think, both from eating clams and mussels and other chewy things in desserts (rice pudding, etc.) I'm getting used to chewier consistencies and they don't bother me as much as they used to. I'm also getting used to seafoody smells and flavors. They're almost pleasant. This clam chowder, that I was so dreading revisiting, was pretty good. I might even order clam chowder in a restaurant on a cold day.


As a little footnote, things are going to get more interesting soon. I promise. I've been really busy and I stumbled across this cache of desserts I don't like and kind of stalled out there for a while. But up ahead we have more sea creatures and mammalian/avian innards. Yum, right? If not yummy, they'll at least be interesting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day Seventy-Five: Feeling Crabby

A few weeks ago (or maybe a couple of months, at this point), the husband and I went to our local international store (translation: Asian food store) and picked up a few items. One of them, which we kept forgetting about, was a package of frozen crab dumplings. So tonight, feeling brave about my seafood, I decided to steam them for dinner.

Unfortunately, though I was feeling courageous, my mettle was not tested. We ate them. They were fine. I especially liked them with a little soy sauce and Sriracha (we also tried them with hoisin and teriyaki and even plain). But they didn't taste much like crab. They had a tiny fishy aftertaste. Not much, though. At first, I was inclined to believe my seafood aversion has been so overcome that I just don't taste it anymore. But my husband thought they were bland, too. So they were an okay dinner, but not much of a challenge.

If it helps, I did have tapioca for breakfast this morning, and this cup was much chunkier than the last, but I still found it enjoyable.

So, I tried. I really did try. Tomorrow I will have something more decidedly disgusting. At least, from my perspective.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day Seventy-Four: Pie in the Sky

I made it to the afternoon, today, without even thinking about what unsavory item I would eat today. And when I did think about it, it made me cringe. I was already feeling glum, possibly owing to the rain and my stupid decision to listen to only low-tempo, melancholy music on the drive into Spokane, and the fact that I've been working so hard and so much, and maybe some hormones to boot. Whatever it was, I couldn't imagine that eating the clam chowder I've had sitting in my cabinet for weeks would do anything but make it worse. And while my incredible hesitation to eat the stuff should have been my reason for doing so, I instead headed to the grocery store. I thought I would buy a plum.

Silly girl.

Every plum or peach in the place was nearly mush. It's not yet spring, I know, I know. So I thought, I'll find some other fish thing that I know I can handle. But if I know I can handle it, then that's cheating isn't it? So I wandered the store, wishing I didn't like bacon or sausage or nacho cheese. I wanted something mid-level, something I don't like, but that wouldn't give me lockjaw when confronted with a spoonful. On the way to the store, I'd passed the local Italian restaurant and discovered they had lamb tongue and octopus on their menu, but I was in no mood to eat at a restaurant alone. I put that one in my back pocket for later. But as I wandered the store, picking up and putting down things I longed to eat but shouldn't, I found myself blocked.

Until I remembered. I had apple pie in my freezer. Purchased last week for just such an occasion. I rushed home and got it in the oven, meanwhile making myself a happy dinner of grilled ham and cheese. When it was done baking, I even had the patience to let the thing cool. That's one of the benefits of eating food that doesn't make you drool.

I think part of my reason for hating apple pie is that my brother likes it so much. He always requested it for his birthday instead of cake, and part of me suspected it was to spite me. Or maybe I don't like apple pie because it's slimy. Or that the apples get mushy. Or that I haven't had the right kind. Whatever. I wouldn't expect a frozen pastry to overcome these expectations, but I have to say it was kind of nice. Maybe it was my stressed-out body calling for sugar and being answered in the form of apples. Maybe it was that factory-made pies are more consistent than homemade ones (sorry, home pie-makers--maybe that's not 100% true). Maybe I'm a grown-up now, I don't know. But the apple pie was fine. Fairly pleasant, even. I didn't eat the whole thing, but it was kind of a two-person dish. If only my hubby had been here to share it. I'll probably bring the remainder home tomorrow, and he can have it for dessert.

Maybe I'll eat the clam chowder tomorrow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day Seventy-Three: If Pudding and Gelatin Had a Baby

I tried making a homemade flan once. My husband wanted it, so I set out to make it. But I was partway through the recipe before realizing that I was low on milk, and the evaporated milk in my cupboard was expired. So I substituted vanilla coffee creamer, cut with what nonfat milk I had. The husband loved it, though he admitted it was remarkably rich. Okay, maybe loved is an overstatement. But he refused to hurt my feelings. Personally, I wouldn't touch the stuff.

So this time, when making flan, I trusted the Jell-O corporation. I didn't want to end up with vanilla coffee creamer on my face. I followed the directions almost exactly (I again used some milky substitutions--one quarter cup heavy cream and one and three quarters cups of 2%, to attempt simulated whole milk) but this time, with positive results. Those results being, of course, flan.

It's not the flavor that bothers me about flan. It has caramel on top, for goodness' sake--I would probably eat fish eyes if they had caramel on top (please don't hold me to that--I'm going for comedic hyperbole here). The thing is, flan is almost pudding, but it's not. It's somewhat custardy, but then it's also gelatinous. Like if pudding and gelatin had a baby. The thing is, if it were just custard with caramel on top, it wouldn't hold its shape--but it would feel a heckuva lot better on the tongue. But it's a rather ancient dish. Flan recipes can be dated back to ancient Rome, though it was originally a savory dish (eel flan, anyone?) which was probably more akin to aspic than to pudding (boiled calf's foot provides a good amount of gelatin, but would probably not be a first choice for dessert).

Overall, flan is okay. If I go to your house for dinner and it's your dessert of choice, I'll eat it. I might even like it. But if you're charged with bringing dessert to a surprise party in my honor, go for something less jiggly, please.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day Seventy-Two: Under Pressure

Yesterday, Ian bought some shrimp and crab salad, which we didn't have until today. Well--he had it. Which is weird, because I've had crab salad before (did I blog about that? sometimes I have more than one thing-I-don't-like in a day and they don't all make it onto the blog) and I actually enjoyed it. It was hardly any different from chicken salad, except the meat was moister. But today, as I stared that bowl of shrimp and crab salad, I couldn't do it. I took only one bite, which took maybe a minute to chew and swallow. Then Ian finished the rest and the cat mooched for leftovers. I was a little ashamed. I left my goal unattained.

However, tonight we did go to our favorite bar in town, My Office (ha ha, right?), and the special was fish and chips. So I got that. And I did have the one mouthful of the shrimp and crab salad. But for some reason, I just didn't have the resolve I've had on other days. I've been super stressed lately. I'm inclined to blame that. But really, this whole resolution has contributed to the stress as much as anything, so it's a bit of a vicious circle. I have not had a day in over two months when I ate only what I wanted to eat. It's a strange experiment, and a bit disorienting. Plus, it adds two more items to every day's to-do list. 1) Eat something I don't like, and 2) Blog about it. I guess I didn't think that would seem like so much pressure.

I'm getting to the point in the blog where I have to push to find things I don't like. This whole thing has been about pushing limits, but it's about to get absurd. I'm past pickiness, really, and into the realm of commonly disliked foods--foods many people would never eat. I'm getting to the point where I need to eat escargot and entrails, as well as various slimy sea creatures. I find myself wishing, occasionally, that I didn't like marshmallows or coffee or something easy like that. But I still wouldn't like them. It would still be tough. My logic is losing steam.

On the plus side, I've really done a number on my fish aversion--there are actually fish dishes that appeal to me now--and most of my non-fish aversions have been absolutely obliterated. In fact, I might go have a little cup of rice pudding right now, just because I can. Don't judge me for comfort eating.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day Seventy-One: Big Baby

I'm not feeling very clever or expansive today, so I'll keep this one short. We have friends in town, and today we went to lunch at the Old Post Office, which is now a brewery, used to be a wine bar (I think it's actually called Paradise Creek now, come to think of it) and though they've never really been know for their food, it was quite an enjoyable meal. I ordered the fish tacos--they were made with sole, a fish I had yet to sample. It was a really mild fish, though there were times when I definitely tasted the fish. Not much of a challenging lunch, but it was still fish. I also repeated my bacon-wrapped, cheese-stuffed dates and the pork with prunes and apples, both prunes and dates being formerly disliked foodstuffs.

One little nugget from today: the friends that are in town, staying with us, have a baby. He's learning to feed himself. Tonight, he refused several items (including yams, which surprised me, and prunes, which didn't) and his parents said something along the lines of, He always thinks he doesn't want to eat certain things until he actually gets them in his mouth, and then he loves them. So basically, he's a man after my own heart. Or maybe I'm just a big baby.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Day Seventy: The Rice is in the Pudding

Rice pudding is one of those things that makes me wonder, How the heck did this get invented? Of necessity, I suppose. Someone had leftover rice and leftover milk. They thought, what if I boiled these together? And thus, the least appetizing dessert in the world was born.

I would suspect the English.

But then I looked it up online, and it turns out rice pudding can be found in the cuisines of almost every region in the world. In Denmark, it's ris a la mande. In Spain, it's arroz con leche. In Egypt, it's ruz bil-laban.

But I am right, in a sense, about the English. It's a very popular dish in the UK, dating back to the Tudor period (about 1615), and early recipes for it were called "whitepot." Apt, don't you think? Because unless you season it heavily or use brown rice, that's just what it is. A pot full of white.

Don't get me wrong. As we both know, white food tastes good. But still. Those stuffy English. (I'm about 50% English, so I'm allowed to say that. Though I do love many elements of their cuisine and they make some good beer. I just finished reading Wuthering Heights, though, in which the characters eat little other than porridge and boiled milk.)

Anyway. Back to rice pudding. I had a very basic version this evening, and at first the texture was repulsive to me, but like anything, you get used to it. The flavor was just bland. Sweetish, but bland. I would like to experiment with this dish, I think. Vanilla bean and lavender might make it a little fancier. I know it's often flavored with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and the like.

We'll see.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day Sixty-Nine: From Your Grocer's Freezer

If there was ever a kitchen appliance I thought I'd miss having, it was definitely not the microwave. And then, tonight, I grabbed a box of Healthy Choice Lobster Cheese Ravioli from the freezer section while waiting for a friend to pick up a prescription, and didn't read the instructions first. Microwave instructions. Duh. I don't have a microwave in Spokane.

Thankfully, I do have some common sense and a regular oven. So I turned on the gas, chipped the block of frozen food from its plastic container, and dropped it in a baking dish. After a while, the food cooked (like magic!) or at least melted and got warm.

I know what you're thinking. Really, Laura? Frozen lobster ravioli? Why would you even try it when there's so much good fresh food out there? Well, I'm going to level with you. I'm busy. Busier lately than I've ever been in my life. I'm talking work from the time I get out of the shower in the morning until I nod off to sleep at night. Throw in a few potty breaks and some drive time, and maybe a little time to eat (I like to try to put work aside during mealtimes, but that doesn't always happen). Then, today, add taking a friend to the emergency room, realizing we should probably go to urgent care instead, driving across town, waiting for the doctor, driving to the store, and waiting for a prescription. It was time I had already accounted for (which is not to say I begrudge it--I am quite pleased that my friend is now medicated and sleeping soundly in the next room). So instead of a well-planned dinner and a trip to the fish counter at Rosauer's, I had lobster and cheese ravioli. It was that, or ditch my thesis reading.

I've got to do my thesis reading.

Overall, it wasn't a terrible dish. I mean, it was frozen food. I don't think there's actually any lobster in there, though. Imitation lobster. Something a little chewy and fishy. But hey, I got my fish flavor in for the day. It's all about acclimation, right? And the meal was healthy. Though I finished it off with about a cup of rum raisin ice cream (the remains of the pint I bought however many weeks ago... also in the name of acclimation/sweet toothery).

So now, I must get back to my thesis reading. But hey, if you'd asked me six months ago if I would ever have a dinner of lobster ravioli and rum raisin ice cream, I would have said Heck no. I might even have used a real expletive.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Day Sixty-Eight: Taking my Lumps

I'm having another one of those moments. You know, the ones where I think, How stupid was I as a kid?

I have to come to young Laura's defense--a little. She had some lumpy tapioca as a kid. Her little teeth experienced sticky, gluey, chewy bits of pudding, and she decided tapioca was out. It didn't matter how sweet and creamy it was otherwise. There were other sweet and creamy things. A child's world is full of them. So she shunned tapioca and never looked back.

Grown-up Laura is filled with remorse. She had a little cup of tapioca this morning, and saw the light. She is currently exercising all her willpower not to eat any more.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day Sixty-Seven: It's a Miracle!

For many years, I thought I hated mayonnaise because I thought that's what Miracle Whip was. You see, my mother loves Miracle Whip. I'm not sure we ever had real mayonnaise in the house. In some ways, maybe this was a good thing. For years I sidestepped mayo whenever possible, ate my sandwiches nearly dry. When I discovered what mayonnaise really was, a new high-calorie treat was introduced to me, for better or worse. Probably worse. Because, thanks to a lovely Russian coworker who was nice enough to bring me my lunch one day (and brought mayo with the fries, which I ate to be polite and then discovered this combo spoke to my soul) I now desire mayonnaise more than I probably should.

But back to Miracle Whip. It's had a bit of a rebirth lately, what with the new commercial campaign:

Of course, I scoffed at these ads. This white, sort of generically sweet spread was advertising itself as big flavor. Ha! (See--that's me scoffing.) But to be fair (and because I'm growing) I gave Miracle Whip another chance.

First, I had a little MW on its own. At first I thought, Yum! It's tangy. And then the sweetness I remembered hit. So that wasn't great.

Next, I had it on a piece of white bread. That was better. The bread balanced the flavors a little, held back the aftertaste. It was fine.

Third, with dijon mustard. MW does not hold up to that kind of flavor. It added a different element to the dijon, but mostly disappeared.

Fourth, with a lot less dijon. This was good. The sweet and the spice blended nicely.

Finally, more MW on bread, nothing else. Much better than my initial taste. My buds were warmed up to it, I guess.

So Mom, if you're reading this (you probably are--I love you!) I will stop laughing at Miracle Whip. I might even make you a sandwich with it when you come to visit (can't wait to see you!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Day Sixty-Six: In the Raw

Tonight, I had sushi again. Sushi! Raw fish. Some seared, but some that never hit a pan. I had three types of rolls: asparagus roll (no fish), seared salmon (partially raw fish), Philadelphia roll (raw salmon with cream cheese and avocado). I also had cream puffs, but that's neither here nor there.

As far as raw fish goes, salmon is an easy one. It's silky and creamy, without much flavor. It goes well with the rice and the soy. The seaweed actually tastes fishier to me than the salmon. And here's something interesting: I thought there was too much cream cheese in my Philadelphia roll. I love cream cheese, but I wanted more fish. Weird, right? Super weird. I'm probably prouder than I should be, but for a formerly staunch fish hater, these are leaps and bounds.

I'll admit, sushi still turns my stomach a little. I take my first bite and my stomach flinches. I start to feel a little sick before I swallow. That settles down after ten minutes or so, but it happens. And there are moments when something hits my tongue exactly the wrong way and my gag reflex tightens for a second, but then I'm fine. I'm conditioned, I guess, but I'm getting over it. And when I go out for sushi, I have a lovely friend to guide me toward the dishes I can handle. With her help, I'll be eating eel (or something equally adventurous) in no time.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Day Sixty-Five: A Cake By Any Other Name

I was just at a birthday party (as I mentioned in my last post) and on my way there, I had a rather selfish thought. I thought, I hope they serve carrot cake! Not because I like it or because I thought it would create any extra birthday merriment, but because it's one of those things I just don't like. But my friends are cool. They served chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with Sesame Street character faces on top (mine was Oscar the Grouch). So no carrot cake for me.

But I've been thinking about carrot cake, so I had to have some. I went to the grocery store today and bought one of those individual slices and brought it home for the husband and me.

Now, I like spice cake. And I'm okay with breads that are made from vegetables (zucchini, pumpkin). But I can't really get on board with veggie-based cake, even if at a basic level it is something I like, but dotted with carrot shards, raisins, and nuts. Even if it resembles another type of food I actually like. It just feels like carrot cake has been miscategorized. If someone handed me a slice of carrot bread and topped it with butter instead of cream cheese frosting, I'd be happy. If they gave me spice cake with the lovely cream cheese frosting carrot cake is known for, I'd be happy. There's just a mental disconnect.

I don't want to be a hypocrite. I get upset with my husband when he says he doesn't like meatloaf, because I can use the exact same recipe and form it into meatballs and he'll love it. I just have to accept carrot cake for what it is, I guess. And today, as I ate it, I found it was fairly enjoyable. Not amazing. Not my first choice in cake, for sure. But the next time one of my aunts serves it at a family function, I will probably eat my piece.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day Sixty-Four: Multitasking

I feel like I'm writing this post inordinately late, like it's two in the morning and I'm technically a day late, but it's barely ten o'clock. If I could have gone to bed an hour ago, I would have.

You see, I woke up at six this morning. Not only that, but I GOT up at six. We had to leave early to drive across the state to our friends' house for their son's first birthday. And while Ian drove the entire way, I couldn't nap (I also feel guilty napping on trips when he's probably as tired as I am but has to stay up--also, I fear that my slumbering presence will prove soporific and we'll drive right off the road). Then, when we got here, it was just so much activity! Fun activity, but activity all the same. And despite the fact that we were celebrating a child's birthday, there was some booze. And then a rather large dinner that put me over the deep end, sleepiness-wise.

So when, you might ask, did I eat my food for the day? And why, you might ask, didn't I sneak away to post this sooner?

I ate two things I didn't like today. The first was a deviled egg potato salad which we picked up at the grocery store this morning before we left and stashed in the cooler to eat for lunch. A cold salad, a traditional potato salad (I've had potato salad and enjoyed it but it was my tamer, less mayonnaisey version) and deviled eggs (which, when last consumed, made me gag violently) all in one dish. Wow! So, I ate it. It was pretty good, though there were bits of egg white floating about and it was absolutely drenched in mayonnaise. The egg whites were noticeable but so coated in sauce and so similar in texture to the potatoes, it wasn't bad. I don't know that this would be my first picnic pick but I certainly would eat it again.

The next thing was not premeditated but it certainly was an opportunity. It was an hors d'oeuvre involving apricot, cheese, and nuts. Apricots and other stone fruits are not my favorites, but this little bite was pretty good. And now I have a fun occasion to associate the flavor with, which helps.

Now I must go to sleep. Thanks to our fabulous friends and their hospitality.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Day Sixty-Three: Eggs-ellent Adventures

First, those beautiful eggs on the left have nothing to do with me or my eggy adventures, but their picture did show up when I typed "adventurous eggs" into Google pictures. So I thought I'd share. The picture comes from Handmade Spark, a blog I might have to start following.


A couple months ago, near the beginning of this project, a friend recommended I try hard boiled eggs in sandwich form. I remember she said to use feta cheese, and I thought that sounded good, but the feta is also the reason I have not yet tried it. I love feta. Adore it, actually. But I never remember to buy the stuff. But today, I really wanted to try a hard boiled egg sandwich, so I improvised. I could have gone to the store and gotten the feta, but here's what I did instead:

I took a little 100-calorie bun and swiped on some pesto (I had recently made some to use up leftover almonds and basil--so not a classic pesto, but still), then added some jack cheese and a hard boiled egg. This, I grilled in butter. I highly recommend you try it. I've said before that pesto makes everything better, and here's the proof. When a bit of egg white fell out of my sandwich and landed in a drop of pesto, I ate it greedily. And even though hard boiled egg white has incited gagging many times over the last two months or so, I enjoyed it. All hail the glory of pesto.

Overall, this was a sandwich that took advantage of the better qualities of a hard boiled egg. It was creamy and delicious, with nice crispy bread. Salty and high in protein--a satisfying combo.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day Sixty-Two: Shrimp Risotto

I have a very full belly, and I finished dinner a couple hours ago. The reason? Shrimp risotto, which is so dang good.

Of course, risotto in general is tough to resist. I truly thought this dish, which had a shrimpy stock absorbed into the rice, a shrimp-infused cream added at the end, and bits of shrimp floating around in it, would be a huge challenge. So much shrimp, I thought. I won't be able to escape it, I thought. And yet, it was magnificent! The texture of the bits of shrimp was still slightly unpleasant (I think they were overcooked, actually) but the flavor itself was amazing. I had more than my share. I would have taken a picture to show you, but the food was gone before I thought to take one.

I know, I know. Shrimp are getting boring to read about. And it's probably pretty boring when I so easily like these things I do not like. I am going to move on, really I am. I've got a lot of types of seafood I haven't conquered--types I haven't even tried.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Day Sixty-One: Rum Raisin Is Like Exercise

I tend to think of rum raisin as an old lady's ice cream flavor. And, as I mentioned in my dried cherry post, I am not a huge fan of creamy things with little bugs in them. Or raisins. You know. That surprising chunk of something chewy that hides inside the smoother mass. So, naturally, rum raisin ice cream presents a problem for me.

And then there's the rum flavor itself. Especially the first bite--I feel like I'm sipping a strong drink. A strong, creamy drink--and I'm not a huge fan of creamy drinks. So, naturally, I don't usually take another bite. Therein lies my mistake. Because it turns out, each bite gets better. Today, I had about a half a cup of rum raisin ice cream, and each bite became more enjoyable, and the alcoholic flavor gave way to the sweeter, creamier flavors. I got used to the chewy raisins, too. By the time I was done, I actually wanted more.

So rum raisin is like exercise. When you start off, it's terrible. You don't want to experience that ever again. But if you push through the pain, you might just get addicted.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day Sixty: All Dried Up

This morning, I had another bowl of cream of wheat, still sweetened with maple syrup, but this time I added cherries. Dried cherries. I had one on its own before stirring them into my cereal and they're just as tart as I remembered. I was hoping that the cream of wheat would level out their flavor, and to a certain extent it did--but I think it's just hard for me to eat dried fruit in hot cereal. I have a feeling that my brother or one of my cousins told me at some point that the raisins in my oatmeal were bugs. I get that kind of unpleasant association from my cream of wheat with cherries, even though it tastes fine--but nothing more than fine--and is not offensively textured, really. It's just something to get used to, I guess.