Archives for category: Food

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I can recall the day I decided to stop ordering drinks at restaurants. We were at a TGI Fridays, and we only ordered a few appetizers to share trying to keep costs down. Yet when the bill came, it was still super-expensive.

So I looked at the bill. $12 of it was soft drinks….sodas and my iced tea. TWELVE DOLLARS. For that amount of moolah one of us could’ve ordered a burger, and it was only for drinks.

So I turned to my girls and said, “Next time we eat out, let’s not order soda…we’ll just drink water.” And that’s just what we did.

And you know what? Nobody suffered without their Diet Coke, and although my usual beverage of unsweet tea with lemon would’ve been nice, water whet my whistle just fine. The best part? I really noticed the difference in the bill.

My husband is a professional soda drinker, and he’s the only one I have not been able to lure to the water side. He will still order a soda when we go out, but it’s okay. This way if one of the girls DO want to indulge in a sip of sugary sweetness, they just take a taste of Dad’s.

I figure I’ve saved myself at least $500 in the past few years by just cutting soft drinks from our lunch/dinner selections.

It’s an eating out strategy I am super proud of.

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Recently I was on Martha’s Vineyard, and my sister, with a penchant for apple fritters, insisted we wait in line at Back Door Donuts. It’s a bakery in Oak Bluffs that will sell hot, fried, sugary delights from the back door from 7:00 pm to 1:00 am.

We had taken part in this new island tradition the last time we were up there, but we did it earlier in the evening and sampled the greasy goods while sitting in ocean park during sunset. I was never really impressed – perhaps I’m just not an apple fritter kind of gal.

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This time we went much later in the evening. I think it was closer to 10 pm and the line was enormous. It snaked back and forth along a roped off path; I’d gamble to say that there were at least 100 people in line ahead of us. I think the line for Space Mountain was shorter.

I was already weary after a long night of walking around town, but my husband and kids wanted some hot donuts, so we decided to wait in line with the family. While waiting we perused the menu they had written out by hand on a couple of sheets of poster board. My brother aptly stated “these better be the best donuts on the planet for this long of a wait.”

After waiting in line for at least 45 minutes, we finally went to place our order, only to find out that 75% of the donut varieties on the menu board were sold out. At no time did any bakery employee come out and announce that they were no longer available, or better yet, place a sticky note or a placard saying “SOLD OUT” over that variety on the menu.

Nope, these greedy mothers wanted to you keep waiting in line, KNOWING that you would settle for any donut because like an ass, you had waited in line for an hour.

Typical of Tracy, I was not amused…especially since I didn’t even want a fucking donut. I got the fried dough instead, which wound up being a total disappointment. I got crispy, over-fried strips of dough that more closely resembled bread sticks. My idea of fried dough is like what you would get at an Italian fair…a zeppole. I gave the bag to my sister who had smartly decided to have a few beers while we sheep waited in line.

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I won’t ever waste my time there again. If hubby and my girls want to that’s fine.  I’ll sit in the park watching the gazebo and hearing the waves crash along the Oak Bluffs beach – let someone else wait in line.

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It’s really funny how as I get older, certain cooking techniques just seem to come more naturally. I don’t know where I gleaned some of the information that I apply to my cooking; quite possibly from Food Network, mainly because it’s the channel I watch the most, by far.

Used to be I couldn’t make macaroni and cheese without a full-blown, step by step recipe. I recall using an Alton Brown recipe that required me to temper an egg into the cheese sauce. After all that trouble, the mac & cheese sucked.

Now I know how make a killer mac & cheese with one hand tied. Ditto with creamed spinach, and now, gravy.

I can remember the first time I had to make gravy. I had just moved to Arkansas to live with a home-town fellow who was stationed at Eaker Air Force Base. We were having a couple over for dinner, and I had no clue how to make gravy.

The wife, a good old southern gal, was kind enough to help me. The final product tasted fine, but was so thick, it didn’t really pour. You sort of had to plop dollops of it onto your plate.

As years passed I stuck to either the canned version,  or the stuff in the envelopes that you mix with water. In most cases it was just easier and a real time saver. I mean, it was just gravy after all.

I’m not sure what clicked in me a year or two ago. Perhaps it was from when my sister cooked Thanksgiving for us, and her gravy rocked. she had left a huge container of pan drippings in my freezer, and one evening I decided to use it to make gravy.

I think this is where all those years of watching “Chopped,” “Barefoot Contessa” and Triple D payed off. I sautéed some onions and celery, made a roux, whisked in the stock/drippings and seasoned to taste. A drop or two of Kitchen Bouquet and viola! I had a really good gravy.

For a while my daughter liked her roasted chicken served with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. But not any longer. She knows mom’s gravy is killer – one that makes a respectable pool in her mashed potatoes.

Thanks to Food Network, I guess I’m actually getting wiser as I get older…

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This morning at the office an email went out stating that the refrigerator would be cleaned out at 4 pm. So imagine my dismay, when I return from my walk at 2:45 and go to get my snack out of the fridge and find the fucking thing empty.

Wait, I had a tote bag with 3 pickle spears encased in double ziplock bags (to prevent leakage) in that fridge this morning. They were nice, plump spears and I was really looking forward to them. I look around a little and find my bag thrown on top of the fridge, sans double zip locked pickles.

The dickhead who cleaned out the fridge, PREMATURELY I might add, actually went INTO my bag to throw OUT my PICKLES. And I call BULLSHIT!

I understand that the fridge needed cleaning, but when you give a deadline of 4 pm, that deadline should be adhered to. It’s what separates us from the animals for Pete’s sake!

Rant Over, and craving pickles.

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Last Friday my boss gave me the day off because we had just finished a very grueling production schedule that required a lot of overtime. I could have slept in and loafed around the house, but it was going to be sunny with temperatures nearing 80°. We needed to get out and DO something.

So, I called my daughter in sick and my girls and I headed to Richmond for the day. We spent the morning walking around Maymont Park, then lunched on Greek food in Carytown. We decided to visit this one candy shop my girls have always wanted to check out.

Now, every time I go to a new candy store I am always on the hunt for one candy in particular…Delfa Rolls – now referred to as Broadway Licorice Rolls. As a rule, I don’t like “red” licorice, but growing up these tightly wound rolls of strawberry ribbon goodness were a favorite of mine.

I was reintroduced to them at the Virginia state fair about 8 years ago, and once I knew their new name, I’ve been on the hunt for them. World Market used to sell them for a while, but stopped a few years back. A local candy shop just a block from my office carried them for a while as well, but also stopped.

When I stepped into this chocolate shop in Richmond, I was immediately encouraged. It was a fairly large store (for a candy shop) and they had a very large variety of old-timey candies. Not wanting to waste any time poking around the aisles in search of the candy of my dreams, I asked at the counter.

While I was expecting the typical look of puzzlement when I asked “Do you carry Broadway Licorice Rolls?” I was instead rewarded with a look of recognition, and a “now where do we keep those?” The clerk lead me to a shelf with a box of those strawberry beauties. I kid you not when I tell you I danced in place, clapping my hands like a giddy school girl.

blog-2There were only 6 or 7 packs left in the box, and I grabbed them all. My youngest said, “you know those are $1.29 each, right?” To which I looked at her and said, “And your point is….?”

It was a happy day. I ate one on the drive home from Richmond, demonstrating to my girls the various methods I had invented to eat a Delfa Roll as a child.

Right now the balance of my candy cache is tucked safely away in my cabinet. I will reward myself with one package each week. And I feel happy knowing that there is a finally place where I can still find my candy.

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Last week I published a post giving my review of the new Wegman’s grocery store that opened in town. I mentioned how they carried Rao’s pasta sauce, which I never buy because it’s way too expensive. After reading that, my friend John told me in no uncertain terms that I had to try it…that it really is that good.

So I tried it. While at the store, I saw the Rao’s jars on the shelf, saw the sale sign below it ($6.99!) I figured it was meant to be. I decided to pair it with cheese ravioli as opposed to pasta, because cheese ravioli has always been a favorite of mine.

Let me tell you, my friend is no liar. This sauce was GOOD. I mean wipe your plate with a hunk of bread good. I’ve never been a big fan of sweet sauces…brands like Prego and Ragu gross me out. But Rao’s had a flavor that was right up my alley.

In short, my humble bowl of ravioli did not taste like I made it at home. It tasted like something I would have gotten at a restaurant. It was really that good.

Sigh.

How am I ever going to be able to pass a jar of Rao’s by after this? How can I ever grab a jar of Classico again, knowing there is something so much better, and 3 times as expensive, on the shelf to the left?

I guess Rao’s will have to be my special occasion sauce. My “I just got paid” sauce. My Christmas bonus sauce. My “I won the Powerball” sauce.

I’m just so glad I still have 3/4 of a jar left at home.

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My family and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday in a small hotel room in Hampton, Virginia. Hubby had a week-long stint driving the Zamboni for Disney on Ice, and rather than make him spend the holiday alone, we decided to spend it with him.

I’m not a big fan of staying in hotels. I’m an early riser and my family is not which can be troublesome in a small hotel room. I don’t like not having all my stuff, and I don’t like living out of a suitcase. Plus, I never get to watch what I want on the TV.

But our biggest struggle was where to eat on Thanksgiving. Most restaurants were closed. Their were places offering a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but were also super expensive…like $40 per person.

Nuh-uh.

We were contemplating one restaurant with food that cost around $15 each, when we discovered that Golden Corral was open until 4 pm. $15 for all you can eat (which is half the point of Thanksgiving dinner) or $15 for one plate of food.

We opted for all you can eat. It’s not Thanksgiving unless you need to undo the top button of your pants, right? Besides, there was a certain white-trash allure to eating at a Golden Corral.

What an experience it was.  The place was absolutely mobbed. Line out the door, and a cashier who complained the whole time she was filling our water glasses and taking our money.

The food? It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible either. Kind of like Thanksgiving at home when I cook.

Ha ha.

What struck me as odd were the throngs of families, who, rather than gather at someone’s house to eat, decided to pay $15 a person to sit and eat at a Golden Corral. I mean some of these tables had 15 people at them – that’s a chunk of change.

In any case, it was a pretty hum-drum holiday…one that I don’t want to repeat next year if possible. The one good thing about it was, I had my family around me. My two girls and my Zamboni driving husband.

That’s really all that mattered.

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A brand-spanking new Wegmans super market just opened up in Charlottesville.

This was big, big news. In a town filled with Krogers, Harris Teeters, Giant, and of course, Food Lion a new supermarket with a stellar reputation and a cult-like following was all anyone could talk about outside of the disastrous Presidential election.

My daughter and I went opening day. I am always up early, so when I realized the new Wegman’s was opening in half an hour, I roused my sleeping girl and we drove the 30 minutes to town to check it out. We got there at 8 am and the store was PACKED.

We spent an hour browsing, ogling, tasting and fighting the throngs of people trying to navigate their way through the unfamiliar store. I didn’t come away with a “WEGMANS FOREVER!” attitude… but the store was crowded, and my daughter was getting over a cold, so the shopping experience wasn’t stellar.

I gave the store a 2nd chance the next time I went. The wine I like was way cheaper than where I usually buy it (check!), but they didn’t carry the brand of maxi pads my daughter likes (uncheck!). The jury was still out.

I took my husband with me to the new Wegmans yesterday, and although the store was still packed, I reached a verdict. While searching for items like pasta sauce and juice, I realized that Wegmans does not carry a wide variety of products. When in the pasta sauce aisle they had 20 varieties of Wegmans sauces, but only 3 Classico brands. They also had a ton of Rao’s sauce, which I can’t afford, and a ton of Ragu and Prego, which just plain suck.

And that was pretty much it. 5 choices. WTF.

Same with the juice. I usually buy a juice blend by Welch’s or Tropicana to drink with breakfast. All they had was Wegmans, Newman’s Own, and one other brand that escapes  me now.

When I needed breakfast sausage my only brand choice was Wegmans. Tzatziki sauce? Wegmans only. Sorry folks, I need more.

Yeah, if I need fancy brie, good bread or ridiculously expensive whitefish spread, I’ll go to Wegmans. Other than that, I’ll stick to Food Lion and Giant where I get variety at good prices.

And if we ever get a Publix? THEN I’ll be excited.

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I’m going to have a different kind of Thanksgiving this year.

Hubby will be driving the Zamboni for Disney on Ice in Hampton VA that whole week, so we are spending our Thanksgiving at a hotel. That means, for the first time in my life, I will eat Thanksgiving dinner out.

I’m not sure what that will be like. Sure it’ll be nice to not have to cook all day. It’ll be nice to not have to do 2 or 3 loads of dishes either. What I’m not looking forward to is the traffic. Whether I decide to travel the night before Thanksgiving or the morning of, I think I’m in for some serious bumper to bumper action.

Then I wonder, should we try to find traditional fare that day, or should we just eat whatever…steak, burgers, Chinese? I guess it all depends on what’s open. I’d rather not get stuck at a Golden Corral or a Cracker Barrel, because to be blunt – the food pretty much sucks. But I also don’t want to pay $35 bucks per person either. So we shall see.

I mean, why should I care…it’s just a meal, right?

But Thanksgiving has always meant a lot to me – it’s family, and food, and wine, and laughter and a feeling of home. I don’t know if I’ll feel that at all this year, spending it at a hotel.

It should be an interesting weekend.

We are spending Thanksgiving evening viewing the annual Holiday Lights at the Beach. Seems they gussy up the Virginia Beach boardwalk with zillions of lights and displays, and you drive your car down the boardwalk and soak it all in.

Perhaps it will give me ideas for my Christmas decorations…a thing hubby and I argue over every year. He likes it simple…I’d rather go all out.

One bonus about this weekend? I already know what I’m making for Christmas dinner. Turkey with all the trimmings. For sure.

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Today I had a salad with cucumbers that I grew in a pot on my front deck – I really dig that. While I didn’t grow them from seed, (for some reason when I do that I never get great cucumbers) I grew them from starter plants bought at from a local farmer.

And even though I’m not growing them in the ground…too many critters and bugs around for that…I got a halfway decent crop of cucumbers that looked like they could’ve been store bought.

I also tried growing tomatoes. For some reason this never works out for me. I only got two tomatoes off the whole plant, and only one of them was edible…the other had split and gone mushy before I had the chance to pick it. I’ll try another variety next summer…maybe cherry tomatoes instead.

The rest of my deck is devoted to herbs. I have pots of parsley, thyme, rosemary, mint, and oregano. Last night I made potato salad, and it was nice to be able to just go out on my deck and grab a handful of fresh herbs to chop up and add in. And the best part is my thyme is from last year. I just left the pot on the deck all winter and this spring, new green shoots appeared.

Next summer I think I’ll buy a few more giant pots and plant some peppers. My neighbors grew jalapeños this year, and I helped myself to a couple while we were pet sitting and made a big pot of chili.

It may not be “farm to table”, but I really like eating food that I’ve grown myself. It’s cool even it it is only deck to table.