What are we doing?

I love taking pictures of things in the grocery store.

Not good photos.  Not of colorful produce or smiling kids.  Not of friendly workers or fresh baked breads.

I like pictures of the most vile, frozen, processed, absurd products that come out of the dingiest, decrepit New Jersey food mills.

(Also, I like pictures of abundance.  Like the deodorant section at the Publix in St. Pete which, I kid you not, is at least 7 ft tall and 15 ft long).

I’m constantly amazed at the things that my local Publix adds to their shelves.  There is so much stuff that defies logic, and I just can’t imagine anyone (and I mean anyone) buying it.

And, despite the embarrassment it causes to my wife, I’m not going to stop taking pictures of this stuff.  I’ve talked about the wyngz already and the frozen bagels pre-stuffed with goo can wait.  I’ve got a couple of doozies from today’s trip.

First up – perhaps the least appetizing bag of chips I’ve ever seen.

Ruffles chili chips

Tempting, but no.

Chips can’t taste like chips anymore.  They’ve got taste like pizza or chicken wings or chili and cheese, and I don’t know why.  Frankly, I’m surprised there is an audience for these.  But, for the record, there were only two bags left on the shelf.  Including this one, which I put back.

Next up:  (really, I don’t know what to say about this)

mac and cheese flavoring

Who buys this?

How bad does your food have to be before you start adding imitation macaroni and cheese flavored topping to it?

I passed this in the aisle, realized what it was in hindsight, walked backwards with the cart, picked it up and stared at it.

“Please put that down.”

“I can’t.”

“Please don’t take pictures of that.”

“But I have to…”

I just can’t believe this exists.  And it exists at Publix – not at Spencer’s Gifts, but Publix.  Not at a prank shop next to the whoopi cushions.  At Publix.  It’s mainstream.


BBQ Tempeh Sandwiches

easy bbq tempeh sandwich

A midsummer night's bbq tempeh sandwich

When I say “temp,” you say “eh!”

“Temp” (“Eh!”)

“Temp” (“Eh!”)

I’ve got a confession to make.  I made these sandwiches a while ago, took my pictures and have since forgotten exactly what I put in them.

It was a last-minute meal but one that was surprisingly delicious and very filling.  The end result is something resembling a sloppy Joe in texture, but with a little more crunch and a lot more bbq.

The most vivid memory I have of making these was that I thought I had way more bbq sauce than I actually had.  So, my “sauce” was half bbq and half ketchup/honey/red wine vinegar/salt/pepper/etc.

And as far as the tempeh goes, I like the three-grain.  It’s got the best texture, and it doesn’t have that bitter taste that some tempeh has.  And you can buy it in most grocery stores (well, at least Publix).

how to cook tempeh

I know, it doesn't look appetizing yet... keep scrolling.

I know, for a fact (because it’s in my pictures), that I made some roasted asparagus as a side dish.  Tossed them in a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt and placed in the oven until they were soft but not mushy.

roasted asparagus

Roast 'em.

So here’s what I remember from this meal:

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 package of three-grain tempeh (you can make your own, but it’s complicated, and this ain’t the blog for that)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 cup or so of your favorite bbq sauce (check before you start cooking)
  • 4 buns
  • vegetable broth (optional)

Here’s what to do:

Step 1) Slice the tempeh into relatively thin slices and boil in vegetable broth for ten minutes or so.  This helps prevent the tempeh from getting too rubbery and gets rid of any bitterness that may develop after cooking (this step may be entirely unnecessary, but I’ve never not done it, so I wouldn’t know).

Step 2) Use tongs to remove the tempeh and lay it out on paper towels to drain off excess moisture.

Step 3) Cut the tempeh into small cubes and sautee with just the slightest bit of olive oil.  The goal is to get them golden brown on all sides but first…

Step 4) After the tempeh has been cooking for a few minutes, add to the pan (or start in another pan, as I did) some diced onions and bell pepper.  I didn’t want them fully carmelized, just a little softer than raw.

bbq tempeh filling

Stir it up, stir it up good, uh!

Step 5) When the tempeh is sufficiently golden (maybe 7-10 minutes on medium heat), add in the onions and peppers and a small bucket (okay, a cup) of bbq sauce.  Keep adding sauce until you get a sloppy-Joe-ish texture and everything is hot.

Step 6) Add to a toasted bun, and grab some napkins.

bbq tempeh

I paid extra for that sesame seed bun, just for this picture.


It’s a McMiracle

Like classic Nickelodeon shows, 60’s fashion and Betty White, I’m making a comeback.

Betty White hosts SNL

88 and better than ever

I’ve spent the last two months getting ready for the upcoming semester by not thinking about the upcoming semester, but the time for fun is now over and the time for studying, working and blogging has returned.

In the months that have passed, I have snorkeled in some fine Florida springs, kayaked some beautiful water in the Tampa Bay area, caved (still can’t really feel my knees) and camped in Central Kentucky, relaxed at a cabin in the North Carolina mountains and enjoyed some good old-fashioned family time.  I assure you, it was all much needed.

High Springs

Exploring > Studying

Hopefully you have all been eating despite my absence.

I’ll have some new recipes up soon, but in the meantime, I need to comment on a few things.

First, McDonalds.  I’ve hated on you before for your oatmeal-contaminated bowl of sugar and 38-igredient Chicken McNuggets.  But I’ve got to tip my hat to Ronald and his crew for finally cutting the calories in the happy meal.  For the first time ever, Apple slices will be included in every happy meal so the kids have something else to throw away.  AND, better still, the portion of french fries will be cut in half.

Now, now, I know what you are thinking.  They only did this because of pressure from Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, and this is just another socialist tactic to take money from the wealthy, greedy potato farmers and give it to the underprivileged yet charmingly hard-working apple pickers.  (C’mon Tea Party – you’re missing an opportunity here.)

Anyways, the fry packets are being cut down from 2.4 ounces to a 1.1 ounce bag.  Cool, huh?  Don’t worry that kids still have the option of doubling their fries if they don’t want the apples, because I don’t know a kid on this planet who would turn down a packaged bag of apple slices.

Happy meal with apples

Lots of kids choose apples and milk over fries and soda.

The full nutrition info hasn’t been released yet, but I’ll post it as soon as McDonald’s puts it out there.

There’s a funny flipside, though.   When I was in North Carolina, we stopped in to a McDonald’s to use the restroom and grab a cup of coffee.  They have a deal there (perhaps elsewhere too, but I haven’t been to many in the last few years) where you can take a regular meal deal and bump it to a large for only 90 cents – more fries, more soda, more regret.  But there’s more:  If you take the bait and get the large meal, they throw in an apple pie for FREE.

Maybe that’s not as interesting to you as it was to me, but I found it hilarious.  Cut the french fries for the kids and throw free apple pies at adults already buying the largest possible meal.

What else, what else?

Oh yeah, I still haven’t seen a Pepsi Social Vending Machine, nor has anyone sent me a free Pepsi.  A little bummed on that front.

I went to my first totally raw restaurant (nothing is cooked, no ingredients get above 105 degrees), Leafy Greens in St. Pete.  It was really good, but until someone convinces me otherwise, I think that’s a crazy way to live (it’s cool, though – people say the same thing about vegetarians and vegans).  I had tacos, which tasted like tacos, but had nothing I traditionally associate with tacos (no tortilla, cheese, sour cream or filling).  Worth a try, but I’ll keep my oven, thank you very much.

If you are still reading at this point, I’m impressed.  In terms of coherency, future posts can only get better.

Talk to y’all soon.

Quick and Easy Guacamole

Quick and easy guacamole

If it takes more than 5 minutes, you did it wrong.

Avocados are the best.  According to an Applebee’s commercial I  heard a few hours ago, avocados are a “superfood.”

Guacamole is a quick and easy topping for a lot of Mexican dishes, and it’s also darn good as a simple dip.

I wanted to drop this little recipe nugget in with the Chipotle Nachos post, but that one was getting a little long-winded already.  So, here it is: Casey’s patented 3 minute Guacamole (makes enough for immediate consumption by 2-3 people).

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 tablespoon diced cilantro
  • 3-5 shakes of salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 cup finely diced tomato (optional)

Here’s what to do:

Step 1) Cut the avocado in half.  Remove the pit and the outer shell.  Then cut the avocado into small chunks and put in a bowl.

Step 2) Take a fork or potato masher and mash the avocado until it turns into a chunky paste.

Step 3) Add in the juice from half of a small lime, the salt, cilantro (yum!), olive oil.  Using the fork, mix it all together.

Step 4) Add in the tomatoes, if desired.

guacamole on nachos

See how nicely it finishes the nachos?

A quick note on avocados and guacamole.  They go brown real quick, so make this right before you are ready to eat.  If you have to refrigerate for a while, take a piece of plastic wrap and push it right down over top of the guacamole in the bowl, so that there is no air between the guac and the plastic wrap.  If you just cover the bowl, your guacamole will look like mud in about an hour.

Chipotle Nachos with Beans

chipotle nachos

Perfect football game food

I really like Chipotle (the restaurant).  I know, I know, the burritos ain’t good for ya.  Over 1,000 calories, lots of sodium, fat and cholesterol, and I never feel good after eating a whole one.  But I feel great while I’m eating it.  Delicious.

As a restaurant chain, they also get brownie points for being conscious of dietary restrictions.  Everything but the meat and pinto beans are vegetarian (no rennet used in the cheese), everything but the taco shells are gluten free and they do a good job of buying local and from sustainable farmers.  They claim to buy a larger percentage of naturally raised meat than any other restaurant chain in the county, and I don’t doubt that.

Don’t listen to those who say it’s far worse than a Big Mac.  As they say, haters gonna hate.

But until a few weeks ago, I never really thought about what an actual chipotle chile is.  Turns out, it’s a jalapeno.

Apparently (and this is from Wikipedia, so if I’m wrong, it’s not my fault), jalapeno farmers pick and sell unripe green peppers early in the season and we buy those at grocery stores and produce stands and pickled in jars.  Then, later in the season, the peppers turn bright red and are picked and sold as fresh peppers in the US and Mexico.  At the end of the season, the peppers that are left usually begin to turn brown and shrivel.

Those are the chipotle peppers.  They are picked and then smoked, and you can buy them dry or canned.

chipotle pepper

Dried and smoked chipotle pepper | Photo from Wikipedia

I’ve cooked with ’em twice.  Once for this recipe and another time, where I famously (to my wife, at least) misread “add one canned chipotle pepper” for “add one can chipotle peppers.”  I added the whole can to a soup.  The whole can.  Tasted like lava.

But it’s an easy mistake to make.  It was a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, which smells sort of barbeque-y, not spicy.  So keep that in mind if you try out this recipe.  You need one PEPPER, not one CAN.

Here’s what you need:

  • Tortilla chips
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (your call on the type)
  • 1 can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 7 oz (or half a 14 oz can) diced tomatoes with basil and garlic
  • 1 tomato (diced)
  • Shredded lettuce (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Guacamole (bought or homemade)

Here’s what to do:

Step 1) Add diced onion and red peppers to a pan with a little olive oil.  Simmer until the onions become translucent (about 5 minutes).

Preppin' the onions

Step 2) Add in one finely diced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, plus another spoonful or two of the adobo sauce.  Add in the drained/rinsed pinto beans.  Add in the diced tomatoes.  Let it mingle for a few minutes, until everything is blended and hot and the mixture has reduced.

Step 3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 4) Spread chips on a cookie sheet and top first with cheese and then with the onion/pepper/bean/chipotle mixture.

Step 5) Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Step 6) Remove and top with diced tomato and lettuce, sour cream and guacamole.

Pepsi’s Pointless Social Vending Machine

I can’t believe I forgot to talk about this a few weeks ago – but I guess it’s better late than never.

Pepsi has unveiled the first social vending machine, which is perhaps the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.

It’s just like a regular vending machine, except that in addition to buying yourself a drank, you can buy them for your friends as well.  All you need is their phone number and your money.  Type in their digits, a personalized message (“‘Sup man?  Bought you a Mountain Dew Voltage.”) , and record a 10 second video right on the machine and you’re all set.

pepsi social vending machine

Somebody send me one.

Your friend will get a text with your message and a code to be redeemed for his free Mt. Dew, and then he just has to track down a stupid social vending machine to get his drink, which I assume will be pretty hard at first.

Even better, you also have the option of sending into the world “random acts of refreshment,” where you pay an extra couple bucks and trust that Pepsi’s vending machine army will buy someone else a drink with it.  They won’t know who you are, of course, unless you stand in a public place and look directly at the vending machine’s camera and talk to it.

What do these even taste like?

This is ridiculous.  Buying a drink used to be easy.  Soon, you’ll have to bang your way though a janky touch screen, refuse the temptation to buy sodas for strangers, skip the steps where you link your soda purchases to your Facebook profile, and hope that Pepsi doesn’t misuse the mass of telephone numbers they are about to get.

Can’t I just buy the room temperature Wild Cherry Pepsi and move on with my life – why’s everything gotta be “social”?

Pepsi released a video (below) explaining the whole thing.  A few things are clear.  Old people can no longer buy sodas (the first step is “Choose one of the three pathways from the master screen”).  Also, if there is anyone in front of you at the machine, it’s gonna take FOREVER to buy a Pepsi.  Instead of insert-dollar-retrieve-drink, you’re going to have to wait behind insert-two-dollars-select-pathway-buy-drink-for-yourself-buy-drink-for-friend-type-in-phone-number-and-personalized-message-record-video-try-again-try-again-print-receipt.

If you’re at, say, a mall, or any other place where groups of teenage girls congregate, just get a Coke.

Although, if anyone sees one of these things around, send me a drink, cause I can’t resist the novelty.

Summer Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad

Perfect for weekday lunches

I did it, y’all.  The research paper is done, the presentations are done, the reviews are done.  And now I have from now until August to work, read, write, blog and enjoy the pleasant Florida summer.

You’ll have to excuse my lack of posts over the last week.  It was a rough one.

But I’ll try to make up by posting some of the things we’ve been eating.

One of our favorite weekday lunch ideas is pasta salad, which we make in varying forms about every other week.  It’s great because we can make it on a Sunday afternoon and it’s good for several days of lunches – which means having less to do in the mornings which in turn means more time to sleep.

The recipe that follows was the mix that we happened to put together last week, but I encourage you to add in whatever you can find around.  Cool, crisp summery veggies seem to be the best compliment to the pasta, I think.  We like ours heavy on the veggies, so reduce those numbers if you like it more pasta-y.

Oh, and we added in a can of garbanzo beans, which don’t have a ton of flavor by themselves but add some good protein to the lunch.

What you need:

  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 diced cucumber
  • 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 box multi-colored rotini pasta
  • 1 cup Italian dressing (store bought or make yo’ own)

Here’s what to do:

Step 1) Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Prepping the pasta salad veggies

Prepping the pasta salad veggies

Step 2) Dice the carrots, celery, bell pepper and tomatoes.  Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas.

Step 3) When the pasta is cooled, place in a  large serving bowl and add in the diced veggies and cheese.  Pour in the Italian dressing and stir to coat.

Baddabing, baddaboom.  Lunch for a few days.

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