Typical Food, part deux (Restaurant edition)

Not long ago, I posted “Typical Food” in answer to several questions about what I eat. Then we celebrated our anniversary last weekend and went out to dine at several places, which was kind of a big deal to us, considering we hadn’t eaten out much (if at all) in a while. So I took a few pictures of that food, thinking I’d show you what some of those indulgences looked like!

Friday night: We went to our favorite Thai restaurant for dinner. The last time we’d eaten there was in 2011, right before we moved to France… we returned to Arizona a year and a half ago, but we still hadn’t made it back to that restaurant! We figured it would be a grand way to kick off our anniversary weekend, and it was. The food was as scrumptious as we’d remembered it.

I’m sorry to say that there are no pictures, for some reason. I totally spaced the picture part of the program, but I’ll tell you what we ate: I ordered Pad Thai (I asked for no egg, no bean sprouts), Callaghan ordered something with chicken, and we shared some Tom Kha to start – it’s a coconut milk soup – as well as an eggplant dish. Everything I had was vegan (they prepared the dishes without fish sauce), and it was out of this world good. The restaurant of which I speak is Yupha’s Thai Kitchen. Get Out Magazine has proclaimed that it’s the “Best of Tempe’s Thai Food,” and we couldn’t agree more!

Saturday mid-day: We went to Green New American Vegetarian, another old favorite. For the first time in many months, I sunk my teeth into their miraculous Calexico burger, and my all-time favorite menu item there, as well, the No-Harm Chicken Parm Po-Boy sandwich. We ordered both so we could split them. For dessert, I had a Cookies ‘n’ Cream tSoynami. Think Dairy Queen Blizzard, but without dairy. You would never know unless you we told, either! Green is a place beloved by omnivores and vegans alike.


Deliciousness at Green. Just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's healthy!

Deliciousness at Green. Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy!


Green's Cookies 'n' Cream tSoynami is fantabulous.

Green’s Cookies ‘n’ Cream tSoynami is fantabulous.


These gorgeous flowers added to our dining experience:


Anniversary flowers. We weren't home when the shop tried to deliver them, but we were near there, so we picked them up on our way to lunch. We brought them into the restaurant so they wouldn't perish in the heat of the car.

Anniversary flowers. We weren’t home when the shop tried to deliver them, but we were near there, so we picked them up on our way to lunch. We brought them into the restaurant so they wouldn’t perish in the heat of the car.


For dinner that night, we headed over to Oregano’s, where I ordered the Pasta Basta – another favorite dish! – asking for whole wheat pasta, and no feta cheese. Callaghan ordered a huge salad with beef, and we shared a side of their delicious Brussels sprouts.


Some of my favorite flavors are in this Mediterranean pasta dish at Oregano's.

Some of my favorite flavors are in this Mediterranean pasta dish at Oregano’s.


Oregano's Brussels sprouts, coated in olive oil and perfectly seasoned!

Oregano’s Brussels sprouts, coated in olive oil and perfectly seasoned!


After that, Callaghan ordered a Pizookie for dessert, which I admired from afar with the fondest of memories.

Those were some of the culinary highlights of last weekend. This weekend, we’re heading back to Green, because my parents are here with us, and I know they would love the tSoynamis.

Happy Friday, All!

What I’m Digging Right Now – October Favorites

Thing One: It’s time for October Favorites, which means that this is the one-year anniversary of my Monthly Favorites posts!

I’m not at all surprised that I started this series in October, because I find it easy to enjoy pretty much everything in October. It’s my favorite month, so there are lots of favorites in it.

Thing Two: I regret to say that I have to retract a previously-listed favorite. That Revlon Colorstay Moisture Stain lip color I’d raved about in my September Favorites post? Is no longer a favorite. September was a weirdly humid month here, and my lips didn’t know how to deal with it, I guess. That lip stain (stains are drying products, but that one seemed to be different!) turned out to be a disaster on my lips as soon as the monsoon humidity ended. They just suddenly dried out, and nothing I did could soften them. No amount of exfoliation helped. No variety of products helped.

Until I tried… and this brings me to my first favorite “little thing” on the list for October…


1). Nivea  A Kiss of Moisture Essential Lip Care.


Nivea A Kiss of Moisture Essential Lip Care

Nivea A Kiss of Moisture Essential Lip Care


As I was saying, nothing in my arsenal of lip care products worked when my lips dried out. Oil didn’t work. Vaseline didn’t work. The Aquaphor I traditionally use at night didn’t work. The L’Occitane lip balm I’d raved about a few months ago stopped working. The EOS balm I’d been enjoying did nothing but taste good (and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t getting any nutritional benefit from it). So I headed to the drugstore in search of something different, and I walked out with this modest little product by Nivea that’s literally the only thing that works. My lips went from extremely dry and flaky to soft and moist overnight. I have a feeling that this is going to be a favorite for life, not just for now.


2). Asymmetrical, geometric, metal statement necklace.


Wearing the necklace at Rage in the Cage.

Wearing the necklace at Rage in the Cage.


A former co-worker gave this necklace to me for Christmas one year, but somehow, I never wore it until October. I threw it on as we were heading out the door to Rage in the Cage, and I’ve worn it several times since then. It’s funny how our tastes change over time… something that seemed awkward to me at first now interests me with its unusual, unexpected appeal, and I love it.

Shall we move on to food?


3). Roasted Brussels Sprouts.


Roasted Brussels sprouts with quinoa

Roasted Brussels sprouts with quinoa


LET IT BE KNOWN that finally, after several years, I’ve discovered a way to get Callaghan to eat Brussels sprouts with genuine gusto. Brussels sprouts are way at the top my favorite foods list – I love cruciferous vegetables, particularly Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, rapini and kale – and the fact that he didn’t like them no matter what I did made things challenging. One day last month, I put them in the oven to roast. Callaghan enjoys roasted broccoli and cabbage, so I thought, why not try roasting the ol’ sprouts? And miraculously, he loves Brussels sprouts when they’re roasted! It’s simple… I just cut off the ends, remove the outer leaves, cut them in half length-wise, arrange them cut-side-up on a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle them with coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper before putting them in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. He demolishes them and then asks for more. SUCCESS IS MINE.


4). Organic Honeycrisp apples.


Organic honeycrisp apple! Apple perfection.

Organic honeycrisp apple! Apple perfection.


It’s apple season, and everywhere I look in the produce section, it’s applicious abundance all over the place! My favorite kind are the Honeycrisp apples. They’re so sweet, juicy and flavorful. I have one every day. I know I need to enjoy them while they last, because they are seasonal.


5). Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal.


Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal

Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble cereal


I’m always on the prowl for protein-rich foods, so when I spotted this cereal on the store shelf, I grabbed it, read the label and brought it home to try. Plus, toasted berry crumble! I had high hopes, and it didn’t disappoint. I eat it with plain, unsweetened almond milk, and it is SO GOOD.


6). Clif Builder’s Snack Size protein bars in Chocolate Mint.


Clif Builder's Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar

Clif Builder’s Chocolate Mint Snack Size protein bar


Oh my goodness. If you’re American – and maybe even if you aren’t – you probably know what Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies taste like. Imagine a Thin Mint in the form of a substantial little bar with 10 grams of protein and only 140 calories, and it should be evident why I have to rave about these today. This nutritionally-dense little bar functions as a dessert that means business… the business of supplying me with yet more protein while tricking my taste buds into thinking they’re smacking on Thin Mints. The best part is that you don’t have to wait for Girl Scout cookie season to get them!

Now exiting food territory…


7). Arizona sunsets.


Arizona sunsets are always beautiful, but they're especially dramatic in October....

Arizona sunsets are always beautiful, but they’re especially dramatic in October….


In Arizona, a sunset isn’t just a sunset… it’s an Arizona sunset. The Arizona sunset is a thing, and it seems that October in the desert brings the most unforgettable sunsets of all. Pictures don’t do them justice. I think it must have to do with the cloud arrangement at this time of year. I don’t know. All I know is that every year I’m in Arizona, I take more pictures of sunsets in October than I do in any other month. They are spectacular.

Let’s finish off the list with pop culture!


8). Homeland, Season 4. (T.V. series).


HOMELAND (Season 4)


No spoilers here, but just allow me to say that after the season three finale, we were kind of left with our jaws on the floor, thinking, What could be the point in continuing this? We were intrigued, and we knew we wouldn’t be let down, but we had no idea how not let down we’d be. Season four is turning out to be our favorite so far, and that’s saying a lot, because Homeland is one of our all-time favorite series.  It just keeps getting better!


9). The Good Wife (T.V. series).




Okay… how is it that we never thought to watch The Good Wife before? We started watching this masterfully written and crafted drama series in October, and it immediately sucked us into the depths of its rich and complex world. You guys, this show is on its sixth season; we’ve been binge-watching it as if there weren’t other things we needed to be doing. We’re half-way through the second season. We’re completely addicted. We’re gone. Bye. See you next year.


10). American Horror Story: Freak Show and Stalker (T.V. series)




T.V. is so good right now, it’s killing me. Between the shows mentioned in this post and Modern Family, I don’t even know what’s playing in the movie theatres right now, to tell you the truth.

So, we had no idea about Stalker until last month. We started watching it at about the same time as American Horror Story: Freak Show, and we’ve continued to watch the two as a double-feature every week, back-to-back. We start with Stalker, then move on to AHS, and by the time that’s over, I’m thoroughly creeped out.

With Stalker, it’s the camera angles… the way the show is filmed helps to build a sharp, paranoid intensity in a short amount of time, and you don’t even realize you’re on the edge of your seat until it’s over. With American Horror Story: Freak Show, it was mainly Twisty the Murder Clown that did it for me… until the other clown emerged. Again, no spoilers here. Just saying. There are two evil clowns, and the fact that the new one is the scarier one to me is telling.

I’ve actually been contemplating this season of American Horror Story beyond its dark surface display of evil and gore, and I might share those thoughts here at some point… probably when the season’s over and I’ve seen the whole thing to its conclusion. (It wouldn’t be fair to draw conclusions before watching the conclusion, right?)

With that, I’m off to enjoy another crisp and gorgeous November morning. Enjoy your week!

It Takes a Frenchman (to realize certain things)

Today, I’m thinking about food and cultural flavor preferences, how people appreciate or dislike certain flavors depending on where they reside, or where they were raised.

We usually have to acquire a taste for flavors that aren’t common in our native cuisines, especially if the flavors are intense or distinct. Some tastes are more difficult to acquire than others. For instance, it’s hard for many non-Australians to develop a taste for Vegemite, and most French are confounded by the whole concept of peanut butter.

Brussels sprouts are a good example in my case: I never ate them until they landed on my plate in an Army mess hall in Georgia when I was 18 years old, going through AIT training (31K, in case you’re curious) at Ft. Gordon. Prior to that, I never even saw one. Brussels sprouts just weren’t a part of my family’s culinary range. My reaction? It was love at first bite. I took to their strong flavor and dense texture immediately, and I’ve made them a staple part of my diet ever since. I haven’t been able to get my parents to like them, though, and Callaghan just barely tolerates them.

Predictably, being French, Callaghan also dislikes peanut butter. Not surprising! But before meeting him and moving to France, I didn’t realize that there’s another flavor ubiquitous in American foods that the French generally don’t embrace. They do eat it, but not nearly as much as we do… it doesn’t appear as frequently in their foods. It’s pretty rare in French cuisine, actually.

I’m talking about la cannelle, cinnamon, a spice that the general American palate knows and loves dearly. In fact, most of us emerge from the womb demanding cinnamon toast, one of America’s great comfort foods. We’re natural-born cinnamon addicts.

Apple crisp, Apple Brown Betty, applesauce, apple anything.

Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin anything.

Banana bread, zucchini bread, carrot cake, bread pudding.

Cinnamon toast, snickerdoodles, oatmeal cookies.

Cinnamon rolls, sticky cinnamon buns, coffee cake, crumb cake.

Red Hots, Hot Tamales, Big Red gum, and those little cinnamon heart-shaped red candies that come out for Valentine’s Day.

And, of course, apple pie – the Great American Dessert.

Many of these are comfort foods, and the list goes on. I think the general rule is, in America, if it’s sweet and it’s got apples, raisins, oatmeal, carrots or bananas, chances are that cinnamon’s going to be in it… and if the recipe doesn’t call for it, cinnamon will sneak into it somehow, anyway. At Starbucks and other coffee shops, the cinnamon shaker is usually found right next to the sugar, and in the home, a mixture of cinnamon and sugar in a jar has its place in most American pantries (conveniently on hand for late-night cinnamon toast attacks).

We love a good spiking of cinnamon wherever we can justify it, yes we do.

Furthermore, those of us living in and/or hailing from states bordering Mexico would likely add a few of Mexico’s cinnamon-flavored treats to the list, too, like churros, horchata and deep-fried ice cream. (I’ve lived most of my life in California and Arizona.)

Callaghan tolerates the flavor of cinnamon much better than he does peanut butter. He enjoys it to an extent… the cinnamon toast I make, for example, and he loves my oatmeal cookies… especially since the health benefits of cinnamon have been sprinkled generously throughout nutritional science reports in recent years. Everywhere I look lately, cinnamon keeps popping up on lists of things we can eat to promote wellness and longevity. It’s become widely known as a wonder spice.

All of this background brings me to the point of this post.

You know how it is when someone points out something that you’ve never noticed, even though you’ve been familiar with that thing your whole life? And how strange the surprise feels in that moment of realization?

I love Trident gum. It’s my favorite brand of sugarless chewing gum, and I’ve been preoccupied with the various new and exotic Trident flavors over the last few years. When I lived in France, my Dad thoughtfully sent over a 12-pack of Trident Tropical Twist in a care package. After we moved back to the States, I discovered Island Berry Lime, which became my new favorite fruity flavor. Callaghan likes Island Berry Lime, too, but he’s more of a gum purist and eventually requested that I add a minty flavor to the mix. I started picking up Trident Perfect Peppermint, which we both like. Actually, I don’t think a Trident flavor exists that I don’t like.


A typical Trident rotation at our house.

A typical Trident rotation at our house.


When regular old Original Trident materialized before my eyes one day in Target recently – I was actually surprised to find it! As in, Hello, my old friend! surprised – I snatched it up. Good old-fashioned Original Trident. I hadn’t thought about it in years.


Original Trident

Original Trident


I popped a piece into my mouth and started chewing, and sure enough, all the best memories of my childhood came rushing back through my taste-buds in a glorious fanfare of flavor. I was in ecstasy.

Swooning, I offered a piece to Callaghan. He took it and chewed it for a few seconds before uttering the words that would change my whole Trident worldview. His reaction to the flavor completely took me by surprise.

“Ew,” he said. “It tastes like cinnamon!”

And he spat it out.

I spent a second processing this. Then I thought, It does? Original Trident tastes like cinnamon? That’s interesting. And cool.

I’d never thought of Original Trident as having a cinnamon flavor. If I had to characterize it to someone, I’d probably say something vague, like, I don’t know. It’s just, you know, that Good Trident Taste.

Once Callaghan rejected Original Trident on the grounds that it tastes like cinnamon (his acquired, limited affection for cinnamon stops at the candy/gum line), I made a point of paying close attention to the flavor in my mouth. The exercise of striving for flavor objectivity was weird and somewhat difficult, but I found that he was right… there is an echo of cinnamon flavor in Original Trident gum! Callaghan’s cinnamon-sensitive French taste-buds picked up on it instantly. Somehow, I’d never noticed it. Maybe this is because, being American, I’m accustomed to a heavier cinnamon flavor everywhere else, and the dominant flavor in Original Trident is mint.


My current Trident line-up.

My current Trident line-up.


Now that I can taste the cinnamon in Original Trident, I have to say, I love it even more.