Tasting everything

If you’ve read this blog at all you already know several things.

  1. I love to try new grocery items.
  2. I love to save money while shopping.
  3. I love The Grocery Outlet.
  4. I make a lot of ridiculous videos that combine all of these things.

So today, I hope to enjoy some “brain off” time by tasting things and making silly videos. Here is the first one: Birds Eye Cauliflower Buffalo wings vs. Morningstar Popcorn Chicken

Later in the day I did a taste test of doughnuts — Giant Bakery vs. Maple Doughnots at Grocery Outlet. Fog crashed this video so you can get the cat’s opinion, too.

The Doughnut Debate on YouTube

And of course the teenager wanted to try something so she tried the ranch flavored Pirate Booty.

Review of ranch Pirate Booty: YouTube

And now as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I am mixing the Positive Beverage Cucumber into a gin cocktail and chatting with one of my Sarahs.

Mixing a cocktail: recipe here

Reviews, unboxing & YouTube

It started with an “eating things” video at Dunkin Donuts as I had to visit the notary at AAA to finalize my car refinancing paperwork.

I’ve wanted to try their stuffed bagel minis and they were definitely worth the trip. They are half the calories of a real bagel with cream cheese (though about the same price) and have I believe 6 and 7 grams of protein respectively for the plain and everything flavors.

The plain were a tad boring and tasted like doughy bagel cream puffs. The everything stuffed mini bagels were the favorite for both the teenager and I— and she doesn’t like everything bagels.

In this “eating things” video (perhaps I should consider adopting the term ‘mukbang’ though I do believe those are more focused on gluttony than silly, two generation food reviews), the teenager and I enjoy multiple items at Dunkin, too many items!

I must say we are a ridiculous pair, Trying mini stuffed bagels at Dunkin

When the teenager left for Marching Band practice (praise the Lord that despite the Coronavirus pandemic these band geeks can have their fun and hard work. It’s the closest thing to ‘hanging out with friends’ allowed), the postman delivered my Baby Bat Beauty package of three glittery eyeshadows, mascara and three lip colors.

I’m very pleased with my purchases but I do worry that I may not be able to pull off a bolder Goth look.

Watch me unbox on YouTube here: Baby Bat Beauty Unboxing

Tomorrow, I hope the teenager will join me in experimenting with new looks and we can do a follow-up post.

Red lips and glass slipper eyes

And in the evening, the teenager’s dad came over so we could walk over to her high school and listen to her marching band practice. Here they are rehearsing: Marching Band working on the Avatar show

So all in all it was a busy YouTube day. And I’m excited to try more of my new cosmetics.

Vegan food experiments

There are several reasons why I love vegan cooking, but there are also several reasons why I won’t go vegan.

Why I love vegan cooking:

  1. It’s simple.
  2. When done correctly, it usually features fresh, whole foods.
  3. Gaz Oakley, the avant garde vegan. Look him up on YouTube.
  4. It’s a great way to empty the fridge.
  5. It’s healthy.
  6. It reduces the impact of seasonal allergies by lowering the body’s production of phlegm.

Why I won’t go vegan:

  1. I have a high metabolism and I require an unusual blend of macros higher in fat and protein and lower in carbohydrates than a lot of my peers. To reach those macro goals via veganism requires a large amount of food.
  2. I can’t drink my coffee black.

I was vegetarian for eight years, which ended when I was diagnosed was gestational diabetes at the beginning of my second trimester of pregnancy. I remained primarily vegetarian until my daughter was about 18 months old. At that point, I started craving bacon cheeseburgers even though I hadn’t eaten red meat in a decade and I hated bacon.

Why I went vegetarian:

  1. I hate touching meat.
  2. I hate modern factory farming practices (luckily I live in the middle of some great family farms and can buy milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, honey and meat from them if I want to be ethical).
  3. It’s so healthy, when you’re not living on refined white carbohydrates— which I was.

Why I stopped being vegetarian:

  1. The teenager is a huge carnivore. As a preschooler she told my mom she had to go shoot a bear so she could eat the ham out of him.
  2. A French cookbook. A friend brought me a cookbook in French, from France. I had to cook the recipes.
  3. The onset of anemia, which is when I started craving bacon cheeseburgers.

Today I experimented with some vegan cooking. Do not try this at home until you read this whole post.

Pumpkin Tacos

A few weeks ago, I made vegan tacos with sweet potato in the filling. They were so good! (Recipe here) So I wondered if pumpkin tacos would be similar. The answer is NO!

I heated some corn tortillas— 3 — because you know what’s worse than a vegan pumpkin taco, three vegan pumpkin tacos. It reminded me of the vegan hot dog recipe that recommended steaming and sautéing a whole carrot and placing it in a bun and eating it like a hot dog.

Don’t do it.

Then I filled each tortilla with some canned pumpkin, organic black beans from the Grocery Outlet, and lots of lettuce that I got on clearance for 50 cents at Lidl, 10 days ago.

And I sprinkled each with fresh lime juice.

I ate them. But never again.

My second vegan experiment today involved making my own creamy, tangy hot sauce.

Now this, my lovelies, I encourage you to try.

Vegan black bean hot sauce—
upper left, 11 o’clock

Vegan Black Bean Citrus Hot Sauce

In the Nutri Ninja (or high powered blender or smoothie mixer) combine:

  • Hot peppers to taste— mine were from my mother’s garden and may have included habanero. I used about the equivalent of one cup.
  • 1/2 can organic black beans, rinsed—mine came from the Grocery Outlet
  • About 1/2 clove diced garlic
  • Juice of one small lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • A few tablespoons water
  • Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil—I like the cold-pressed imported from Lebanon that I buy at Forks Mediterranean Deli

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Nala approved, she kept sticking her head in the dirty Ninja cup.

Flecks of hot sauce on the bird

Evening snack: yogurt and rambling about granola

I said I’d keep everyone informed of my Grocery Outlet experimental purchases. For a snack before bed last night, as I was hungry and logged my food on Fooducate and saw I was high on carbs and low on protein, I grabbed a Siggi yogurt and a tablespoon of Van’s gluten free banana nut granola.

The only time I ever enjoyed eating plain yogurt was when I traveled in Yemen and they served plain yogurt and the best damn honey I ever tasted for breakfast.

Surprisingly this yogurt was good. I could definitely taste the cinnamon though not the banana, which is a good thing because I don’t like fruit in my yogurt. I think they put just enough banana in to keep the yogurt from having that strong tangy taste. 10 grams of carbs, no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, and 11 grams of protein. Nice.

I will definitely buy this again if I see it.

I bought the granola at Grocery Outlet in late December as a Christmas gift for a friend who was testing his sensitivity to gluten looking for an answer to some ongoing health issues. Then he upset me, so I ate it. I can be bratty sometimes. I let him open it on Christmas Eve, but he had to work that day so he asked me to keep it for him. He never asked what happened to it.

I was pleasantly surprised with this product too. Many commercial granolas don’t taste like anything.

I am famous for my homemade granola, having given it as a gift at the holidays. It’s a knock-off of the Imus Ranch Cookbook recipe, read it here: Variation of Granola Recipe.

My bedtime beverage tonight is Traditional Medicinals Nighty Nite Valerian Tea, which i swear by, but tonight it’s 90% so I iced it.

And for the record, I flossed my teeth tonight. I’ve been lazy about that lately.

A Daffy Charcoal BBQ

There are often silver linings to difficult situations, and that is true even when marriages end. Once upon a time, my husband and I were the couple that everyone thought would last forever and that expectation— and the shock I often see when I say we’ve split up after 20 years—makes the separation hard.

I still know everything I once loved about my husband, the teenager’s father, my first love. And I will always cherish those memories and I will miss those feelings we once had for each other. As I’m sure he has similar nostalgia and good-heartedness.

It was he who told me no matter what happened we would always be family.

And we will.

But there are some parts of this process that are uplifting. New beginnings. New traditions. No more compromising.

Ending family curses.

I mean that. You see, my household had a curse that involved grilling.

You see, every day time we tried to grill, it rained.

Today, I decided to grill. We have a couple of portable charcoal grills. I even sprung for the instant/match light charcoal.

But I decided to keep it vegetarian.

That way if I didn’t get everything cooked properly I didn’t have to worry about the internal temperature of meat.

And since I paid for about ten years of Girl Scout summer camp for the teenager, she should be able to cook on a fire.

So first I weeded the yard and cleaned up the grill.

Got the hose and some Brillo pads.

And the teenager reassembled the grill (and we lost some nuts and bolts— oops). I wrapped a sweet potato in some foil to toss in the coals and also some apples.

I put carrots and fingerling potatoes in the basket.

And I planned on making some chickpea Bubba vegetarian burgers once the grill got good and hot. Sadly, the burgers were freezer-burned beyond a level that could be salvaged.

So the teenager got some chip steak and I put it on my cast iron griddle.

Now if you note in the photos that there are two grills, that’s because once my grill fell apart, we transferred the hot charcoal into the other grill.

But hey— at least it wasn’t raining.

To make matters interesting, the sweet potato was half-cooked. The teenager thought the potatoes and carrots too crunchy and charred. And the chip steak overcooked. But it was a meal we laughed a lot over and we didn’t starve.

The teenager used my small cast iron pot to make tea on the grill, which she will tell you was the best part of the meal. I got a little ice cream so our hot apples could go in it.

When the teenager would come home from Girl Scout camp, she would talk about sugared apples on the fire. I thought I’d surprise her and recreate a beloved summer childhood memory.

Except I didn’t know to core the apple. Obvious now. And we forgot to turn them so they were only hot on one side.

I really had a lovely evening barbecuing with the teenager at the helm of the fire, but sometimes I think my family life might be the script for the next movie in the National Lampoon franchise.

Pandemic Experiments

  • Misty was staring at the ceiling. So I turned on the ceiling fan and watched his little kitten face go, “what the…”
  • I have gained four pounds since the shutdown started, and seven pounds since I lost weight in the beginning of the pandemic. I have become extremely sedentary, eat too many baked goods and potato chips, and have to stop stress-eating pizza.
  • Depending where on your person you keep your phone, the pedometer on it is highly inaccurate and can make you feel really lazy
  • Jackfruit was not what I expected and I think I say that in a good way
Jackfruit riced vegetable stir fry with potstickers
  • If I skip my allergy medicine I will be uncomfortable.
  • The teenager and I enjoyed Star Trek The Next Generation together last night. Wow— did it ever look primitive and dated.

Realities of lemons and tandem bikes

Yes, I know the title is nonsense— but the world has turned a tad upside down as the world tends to do as having billions of people and billions of animals on a planet will erupt into some unexpected situations from time to time.

The teenager loves to eat lemons. I love to cook with lemons. For a while, especially when I first discovered Gaz Oakley the Avant Garde Vegan (Check him out on YouTube—amazing falafel, his own recipe for peri-peri sauce) I always kept fresh lemons in the house.

That was also about the time I would have lemon water first thing in the morning. The juice of half a lemon with tap water.

I did that again this morning. First time in probably a year. Or more.

Today was also the first time in a week I haven’t gained weight. The first month of this pandemic, I was eating better but stopped because… Easter… or so I claim. I am a jelly bean addict and once I start eating the jelly beans I launch onto a sugar and caffeine roller coaster.

This was breakfast. Not ALL of them.

So maybe this post should be called “bad habits.” I originally lost about 5 pounds due to stress in the beginning of the pandemic, but between beer, pizza, Easter candy, homemade cookies and triple jalapeño bacon cheeseburgers from Wendy’s they have found their way back.

But look— I got a salad

It’s been rough. More pressure than ever at work. A good friend walked away coldly without even saying goodbye. A work colleague who often made me smile left unexpectedly. Medical bills still coming in.

But in the end, I still feel inside these struggles help us grow and bring us to the next level— as another work colleague likes to say— we don’t age, we gain experience like in a video game. So I’m less than a month away from my 45th Level with the teenager two months away from Level 16 and a drivers license.

Designated Driver AND babysitter, mom friends out there!!!!

Yesterday was a sunny day amidst a forecast of rain. Last week the teenager did not complete her three weekly gym assignments and she told her teacher in her log that she “got lazy” and he wrote back that sometimes he gets lazy, too. This is a great lesson for our (older) kids in communication and work ethic. Those of you with younger kids, God Bless You and Keep You.

I would be screaming every day if the teenager were, say, six. Our brains are wired too differently.

But back to gym. We got out the tandem bike. (Yes, we have a bicycle built for two— it was a gift.) I wanted the teen to “win” gym this week. And she should get extra credit for captaining a bike with her mom, who has cerebral palsy and no real balance skills.

Then her dad came over and brought his famous hot buffalo chicken dip for dinner, at the teen’s request, and included beer for us grown-ups. And he even got on the bike! (He doesn’t ride bikes.)

I excused myself to work on some more chapters of Bill’s novel Debauchery (and reached the first sex scene— those characters are so in love it hurts). Please don’t be scared by the violence and BDSM in this novel/series. The real theme here is the beauty of acceptance no matter who you are.

And the first of several pet related packages came. So here is a Petco unboxing and some animal videos:

Petco unboxing
Nala eating pretzels with the teen

Let’s see what adventures today brings! Stay well, friends! Let’s crush this day!

Review of my Ipsy April 2020 Glam Bag

My April 2020 Glam Bag came yesterday and the teenager and I did an unboxing video (that features more kittens than make up) here:

April 2020 Glam Bag by Ipsy unboxing

For those of you who don’t know, Ipsy offers a mail order cosmetic subscription “box” that, in the small “Glam bag” size offers a custom make up bag and five items, one of which is usually full size and the others are samples. It costs about $12/month. And they offer add-ons.

I treated myself to a mascara this month.

This service is perfect for me as I have a bit of fear and inexperience around make up. I want to try more, but don’t have money to invest in products I will probably not be ballsy enough to use.

So this allows me a chance to explore.

This is literally all the make up I own before Ipsy. (I love blue mascara. Would love forest and/or emerald green but haven’t found it.)

My go-to eyeshadow is gold, with a touch of red on the outside. I call it my “Monet sunrise” look.

This was last month’s Ipsy bag.

See related posts here: Lighthearted Ipsy Review of the March 2020 Glam Bag

My first Ipsy Glam Bag—pre-unboxing

So now to check out the April products:

  • Buxom mascara, black, $3 add-on, 3 ml
  • Seraphine botanicals 100% vegan lip gel, berry + juice, 6 ml
  • Aromatica Calendula Juicy Cream, vegan formula, sample size, maybe 15 ml
  • Oryza Beauty Nude Shimmer & Contour eye shadow palette, vegan
  • Estate Dew Me Lit baked highlight powder
  • Araceli Grande Blending Brush

Let’s start with the Aromatica lotion. Now, if you saw my video, you’ll know I tried it as soon as I got it. I didn’t notice anything remarkable about it at the time, but today I’m going to try again.

Smell appears neutral. That is good for me as my skin and my senses can’t handle heavy scents.

Applied quickly and smoothly.

But let’s compare to last month’s Hey Honey lotion.

The honey smell is intoxicating. The lotion this month by Aromatica is thicker and offers more coverage. So I think I like them both. But would use the Aromatica for hands and maybe Hey Honey on the face as it claims to be a calming lotion.

I put a layer of the Hey Honey lotion on my face, and I might have rubbed it in roughly as now my cheekbones hurt. I’m going to put on some of last month’s Tarte Quench hydrating primer. I love this hydrating primer but it’s my first experience with any primer so don’t take my word as gospel.

Now, the Seraphine lip gel smells amazing. (Why do I keep commenting on smells?) It’s smells like berry in that candy-that-is-berry-flavored way.

Here I am wearing the lip gel, with my old glasses, badly in need of a haircut and my Goth troll t-shirt.

Estate Highlighter Powder. No idea how to use this product. Watched some videos on YouTube. Applied some to my right cheekbone. Not seeing it. Okay, well, let’s keep going and see if I can notice it in different light. Maybe I’m too pale. I bet the teenager would look good in this.

Now the eye shadow palette. So excited as these are glittery neutral shades like the ones I favor.

I love every one of these colors on my face. And the Buxom mascara is a very long brush with shorter bristles that goes on very even. And looks natural (but in an enhanced way).

Very pleased.

I think these are some very practical products with some fun and sass thrown in.

Recent food and random Monday silliness

Today was hard—one of those days where I thought I had all my ducks in a row only to be asked why the sheep were still out to pasture.

A goofy image, but how I feel.

The teenager and I have been eating well. My neighbor has been sharing some of her Hungryroot deliveries. If she doesn’t like it, she sends it to my house.

That’s how I discovered that I like polenta.

So this weekend, I made spaghetti with Hungryroot’s Spicy Thai peanut sauce and sautéed fresh radishes and frozen stir fry vegetables in sesame oil and Bragg’s liquid aminos.

For breakfast that morning we’d had scrambled eggs in homemade crepes with turkey bacon, Gouda and a pickle.

Today for breakfast, the teenager had the last of the Thai peanut sauce and bacon on a bagel.

For lunch today we had leftover spaghetti, vegetable dumplings and Green Giant Steamfresh superfood edamame mix. So yummy.

Dinner was salad with sesame dressing and Hungryroot lemongrass tofu.

And yesterday the teenager baked me the most amazing dark chocolate cookies with dark chocolate chips and piles of fresh coconut.

My dear friend and traveling companion M got to meet Nala over FaceTime today and commented how she was more cuddly and quiet than he expected.

She’s been very tired lately, but she’s been waking often in the night.

Nana sleeping on my chest

And for one last burst of cheer, here’s a pile of kittens:

And the teen and I did some taste-testing:

Strawberry Twinkies

Lemon Hostess Cupcakes

A new Target run?

8 a.m. Originally my friend Nancy and I planned to go to the Grocery Outlet. Nancy is blind and likes to shop with me because of my love of food, how frugal I am and my eye for weird stuff.

I start looking at my list, and at my emails, and I realize for much of my list I can shop at Target. I worked at Target up until the middle of last year so I know Super Bowl weekend is a big grocery sale weekend. The things you learn working almost 9 years at the Bullseye.

It also looks like with the switch from Simply Balanced to Good and Gather, corporate strategy has moved into trendier products. Like vegan, Gluten free and other high-end groceries.

Our local Target is very middle of the road. I wonder how many of these products won’t be available because we aren’t a community high enough on the socio-economic scale.

10 a.m. Picking up Nancy. It’s always better to get in and out of Target before noon on weekends.

10:10 a.m. Arrive at Target and start to see old work friends. Wendy, my trainer from cash office, and Courtney, who used to supervise me in the front end, both meet Nan. And Nan almost shakes hands with a box instead of Courtney.

In their defense, Courtney was holding a box and a Frappuccino so she was too slow maneuvering.

We treated ourselves to a drink at Starbucks, made by my soon to be ex-husband’s niece, who is a dental hygienist on weekdays.

10:30 a.m. Shopping begins. I was hoping for some clearance hosiery, no luck. There were some beautiful clearance boots (and I am rapidly running out of shoes) but nothing under a size 11.

Run into several former colleagues who want to say hi and help Nan look for a can opener. There are five to choose from but we still can’t find the right one.

Run into a colleague from my current job.

Ran into the widower of one of my Target colleague whom I worked with very closely in food service. She died of cancer two years ago.

Discover my favorite deodorant is up to $8 and they changed the formula so my rose and vanilla is now rose and black pepper.

11 a.m. We finally hit the “Market” section, which is what Target calls grocery. There’s a lot of hit or miss. Avocados are an amazing value at 79 cents each, but the avocados themselves are lackluster. Most of the produce seems beyond it’s prime.

That’s a big problem with groceries at Target. Fresh produce isn’t culled regularly and the non perishables are often way out of date. I’ve found items on the shelves that the use by date is more than a year out of date. So you really have to check everything.

I know for a fact that the employees try, but the more Target increases wages, the more each employee needs to do. Retail survives by keeping employees at part-time hours so they don’t have to offer benefits and then they schedule at ridiculously low levels so it’s a challenge to keep the store properly manned. This isn’t just a Target problem. It’s the whole corporate/consumerism system.

People want cheap stuff with no concern for quality, its longevity, how it was produced, impact on the environment or the community, or whether or not they need it.

But that’s another tangent entirely.

I didn’t find many new products nor did I find some of the sale items I had wanted.

Noon Nan and I head to the front end.

I bought $100 in groceries and earned a $10 gift card, but I also didn’t appropriately load the $20 in gift cards I already had.

Highlights of my purchases:

  • The $7 giant tub of peanut butter pretzels. It was on sale and it’s the perfect pre-workout snack. Listen to me, I’m under some delusion that I will be going to the gym.
  • Doritos. The ultimate stress food. I shouldn’t even buy them but $2 a bag.
  • An $8 pork loin for $3. Expiring. But I can toss it in the crockpot for dinner tomorrow.
  • Turkey Perky jerky. On Target Circle for 30 percent off. Going in my desk drawer at work for those days where workload means lunch doesn’t happen until 2 or 3.
  • Waterloo sparkling water. $3 for eight cans. I got it as a treat. I wanted to try the watermelon flavor.
  • A giant bottle of white vinegar for $2.29. I use it instead of fabric softener. Cheaper, less chemical-y and less slimy that traditional fabric softener.
  • I got some canned carrots and peas. I don’t normally do canned veggies but if I want to make a shepherd or cottage pie, they will be perfect.
  • Cafe Mosaica and Traditional Medicinals Nighty Nite Valerian. My favorite coffee and my favorite pre-bedtime tea. Both on sale.
  • Smoked Paprika. $3.39 for the tiny spice bottle. Another splurge. But it’s amazing. It’s Gaz Oakley’s favorite spice and he has me hooked. If you haven’t looked up Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube, do it. His recipes are usually easy and delicious. Regardless of your dietary preferences.
  • Another splurge (which I ate for lunch): Birds Eye shaved Brussel sprouts. $3.19 a bag which is supposed to be two servings. But I sprinkled some imitation bacon bits on top and ate them for lunch with a side of Doritos.

  • Caulipower Pizza was on Target Circle for 20% off. They are normally $7 but with the discount and the sale price it was $5. Nan has wanted to try them so I will make it for her when she comes over for dinner Monday. I love them, but I’m not paying $7.
  • And ice cream. I promised the teenager malted milk shakes this weekend so I bought a pint of vanilla bean ice cream for $1.79. They have some very odd flavors in the full size containers, including my old favorite Unicorn and the new Mermaid. But I had to buy Rainbow because it has strawberry rhubarb swirl. And there is a Breakfast Cereal variety with, no lie, cinnamon toast flavored ice cream.