What I’m Digging Right Now – November Favorites

Oh, wow… December 1st! Time to rave about some of November’s memorable Little Things. How about this for a change: I’m starting with food this time, because there’s a lot of it. The month that just passed had a culinary focus. I actually didn’t experiment with any new cosmetic-type products in November, so this list is devoid of that kind of stuff. We didn’t see any movies, either (I guess we’ll catch The Martian at the cheap seats or online when it hits the site we use), and we only started one T.V. series… but man, we’re enthralled with that series!!

Let’s dig in.

 

1). Callaghan’s 7-spice Masala tofu.

 

Callaghan's 7-spice Masala tofu with brown Basmati rice

Callaghan’s 7-spice Masala tofu with brown Basmati rice

 

Callaghan enjoys dabbling creatively with Asian flavors in his cooking, and he often comes up with concoctions that are out-of-this-word delicious. This tofu dish was one of them. I can’t tell you what’s in the sauce because it’s a secret (all I know is that it includes masala), but I know it doesn’t contain coconut anything or any kind of nut butter, which makes it unusual.

 

2). Coconut Aminos (Coconut Secret original).

 

Coconut Aminos (Coconut Secret original)

Coconut Aminos (Coconut Secret original)

 

In my recent endeavor to drastically minimize the amount of processed food I eat, a lifestyle change I haven’t mentioned before (I embarked on this journey in October), I’ve been on the hunt for substitutes for old staples. One thing I learned is that coconut aminos make a fabulous stand-in for soy sauce, and in fact, we actually prefer it. No lie. Coconut aminos is simpler than soy sauce, more flavorful, and healthier. Get this: Coconut aminos contain TWO ingredients, zero chemicals, and a mere 90 mg sodium! Compare that to Kikkoman’s “less sodium” (green cap) soy sauce, which contains chemicals and 575 mg sodium. 575. That’s their lower sodium version. We haven’t touched it since we started using coconut aminos (which, by the way, tastes plenty salty to us). Last night, we finally just threw out the soy sauce. Our new motto is coconut aminos or GTFO.

 

3). Simple Truth walnuts halves and pieces.

 

Simple Truth walnuts halves and pieces

Simple Truth walnuts halves and pieces

 

I’ve been eating a lot of these unsalted walnut pieces lately. There’s something about fall that makes me crave or think about walnuts more, and when I get going on eating them regularly, I always wonder why I don’t think of them as much year-round. Walnuts in salads are great, but I also love them by themselves. They’re an awesome source of plant-basted protein, healthy fats, and trace minerals, too.

 

4). Sting ‘n’ Linger Salsa Co. (hot).

 

Sting 'n' Linger Salsa Co. (hot)

Sting ‘n’ Linger Salsa Co. (hot)

 

I know I recently included a salsa in a “favorites” post… I know! But I’m back with yet another one, and let me tell you, this one makes the other one taste like glorified ketchup. Sting ‘n’ Linger hot salsa is made locally here in Arizona, and it’s completely unprocessed. There isn’t a single chemical in it, and the flavor is fantastic. We get it at the Tempe Farmer’s Market down the street… I’m not sure where else it’s available, but you may be able to find it online. This stuff is the shizz as far as store-bought salsas go, and that’s coming from someone who’s lived on the Mexican border in three different states her entire life (except for temporary overseas living situations).

 

5). Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark chocolate.

 

Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark chocolate

Lindt Excellence 85% Cocoa Extra Dark chocolate

 

Like walnuts, I cycle in and out of periods of keeping the kitchen stocked with bars of bitter dark chocolate. This one by Lindt has been a favorite of mine for years. I have one or two squares a day, usually in the evening, and I cherish a kind of ritual around eating them: I take tiny nibbles from the square and let them dissolve in my mouth with just a little biting with my front teeth. Somehow, this slow melting prolongs the chocolate euphoria. I indulged thusly all through November, and I don’t see the end of the cycle as of yet.

Now for the T.V. series that took off with our brains (and a lot of our free time) in November….

 

6). Marvel’s Jessica Jones (T.V. series – Netflix)

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-MarvelsJessicaJonesNovFavs2015

 

What can I say about Jessica Jones? Stylish. Sexy. Smart. Badass. Beautiful. Oh, and the show itself is awesome, too, in pretty much every way. The only other comic book-based dramatic project I can think of that matches this one in all-around excellence (okay, in my personal enjoyment… I know art is subjective) is the movie Sin City. Netflix does it again!

Moving on to the objects part of the list:

 

7). Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes.

 

Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes

Asics Gel-Venture 5 running shoes

 

I knew from past experience that running shoes work great for me in cardio/plyometrics situations, so when we started Body Combat and I needed shoes, I got running shoes from Asics, my favorite brand. That was a year and a half ago, and the pair I got were Gel-Venture 4’s. They were amazing. Naturally, when I decided to splurge on a new pair a few weeks ago – my reasoning being that I was walking to and from work again and therefore needed good shoes for everyday street wear – I got another pair of Asics. They’re Gel-Venture 5’s now, and I honestly can’t tell the difference between them and the 4’s, though apparently the technology’s been updated somehow. I love them. Shoes aren’t my thing and I generally dislike shopping for them, but I do get excited about athletic shoes.

Yeah, if I can help it, I prefer not to wear street shoes in the gym. And yes, that picture shows me with my shoes up on the furniture. What.

 

8). Pentel EnerGel liquid gel ink pen, blue (needle tip 0.7).

 

Pentel EnerGel liquid gel ink pen, blue (needle tip 0.7)

Pentel EnerGel liquid gel ink pen, blue (needle tip 0.7)

 

It might seem silly to put a pen on a “favorites” list, but this pen and I were meant to spend hours together bonding over coffee. You know the feeling. There’s that one pen that feels perfect when you write with it. For me, that’s this one.

 

9). OfficeMax mug.

 

OfficeMax mug

OfficeMax mug

 

Okay, I have a thing for mugs, and I’m particular about them. I love drinking coffee from mugs of a certain size and shape, so when I found this cheerful yellow one for $2.00 in a clearance bin at OfficeMax, I had to get it. And I had to share it with you here, because it was truly a Little Thing that added to my enjoyment of November. (By the way, this pic makes the mug look a lot smaller than it is. I was more concerned with capturing the sunlight than the dimensions of the mug.)

 

10). Method foaming hand wash in Pink Grapefruit.

 

Method foaming hand wash in Pink Grapefruit

Method foaming hand wash in Pink Grapefruit

 

We’ve been using Method hand soaps for years, but we just recently picked up the foaming one in pink grapefruit. Its sparkly, bright citrus scent reminds me of the lemon kitchen hand soap from Trader Joe’s, but I love this one even more. We don’t even care that it’s pink.

That brings this post to an end, and 2015 is about to go away, too. Next time, I’ll write my last “favorites” post of 2015! That seems surreal.

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!

The Pizookie and the French

Down the street from our house here in downtown Tempe, there’s a pizza joint called Oregano’s. It’s been a local favorite for the last two decades. It was newly opened when I first started going there in 1994; now, 20 years later, there are 14 Oregano’s locations throughout Arizona. They’re famous for their pizzas, but their entire menu is made of yummy awesomeness… I love their salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes. And their dessert? There’s only one dessert on the menu at Oregano’s, and that, my friends, is the Original Pizza Cookie, or, as everyone calls it, the “Pizookie.” The Pizookie is available in three flavors – chocolate-chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, and peanut butter chocolate. I’m sure that all the flavors are great, but I’ve always only ordered the chocolate-chip.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-OreganosTempepizookie

 

The Pizookie, for the uninitiated unfortunates among you, is cookie dough slightly baked in a 6-inch, deep-dish pizza pan, topped with three scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and sprinkled with chocolate chips. The resulting concoction defies description. There are no words.

Many others have tried to re-create the Pizookie, but as far as I know, no one has succeeded at elevating the simple combination of cookie dough and ice cream to the sublime height of perfection that Oregano’s consistently achieves. It must have to do with the pan they use, the type and temperature of the oven, the amount of time they leave it in, the particular recipe for the cookie dough, etc. It is a feat of culinary genius.The cookie comes out of the oven perfectly half-cooked, with the underneath firm (scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan is a part of the delightful experience), the top just barely set, and the inside soft and hot… and then, fresh from the oven, it’s topped with ice cream. It is voluptuous. By the time it gets to your table, it’s a pan full of hot and cold melty, gooey, chocolately ohmygodthisprobablyhasathousandcaloriesbutwhocaresIcanworkouttomorrow goodness.

It’s meant to serve 2-4, haha!

 

We went to Oregano's last night just so I could take this picture. OH THE SACRIFICE! OH THE THINGS I DO FOR THIS BLOG!! Meet the Original! Pizza Cookie at Oregano's. PIZOOKIE.

We went to Oregano’s last night just so I could take this picture. OH THE SACRIFICE! OH THE THINGS I DO FOR THIS BLOG!! Meet the Original! Pizza Cookie at Oregano’s. PIZOOKIE.

 

Just to give you an idea – I’m vegan 95% of the time. Since we’ve been back in Arizona, I mainly reserve the 5% for Oregano’s Fancy Dancy Mushroom pizza and their chocolate-chip Pizookie.

Now all of this, of course, leads up to the little story I have to tell you today.

When I lived in France, one of the most baffling reactions I got from the French was their dubiousness and often mocking hilarity when they’d ask me what things I missed in the States, and I’d answer, “The food.” I honestly did not understand their mirth. In my experience, the diversity and excellence of food here is unparalleled. America is, pretty much by definition, a merging of cultures; we have all the food here. For instance, I couldn’t find decent Thai food where we were in France… between the Rhône-Alpes (Valence, Grenoble) and the Alpes-Maritimes (the French Riviera), all we encountered were approximations of the Thai food that we know here in the States. And Mexican food? Forget it! Those are just two examples… all the cuisines in the States are rave-worthy. I could not find Ethiopian food in France. The plethora of excellent Indian restaurants we have here? Nowhere to be found over there. Also, from our national classics to our regional specialties, American food itself is great, not to mention “New American Cuisine” and fusion styles. I just love food, and there were so many foods I missed while I lived overseas. I found it nearly impossible to be vegan in France… the variety of vegan-friendly foods over there was dismal, at least where we were (we hung out in Paris on several occasions, but we didn’t live there).

Anyway, my answer to What do you miss about the United States? drew laughter laced with disbelief. There were degrees of the same reaction. Some people just laughed. Others laughed and made mocking, disparaging remarks. And yet others simply made disparaging remarks about American food, or my food (when I’d show up with something of my own that I’d brought, or that my parents had sent) for no reason at all. The French that I encountered just could not conceive of anyone liking the food in the States, much less missing it. (Not ALL French reacted this way, mind you! Of course there were those who were super polite and nice and had manners. I’m not talking about my friends, for instance.)

Callaghan was just as perplexed and taken aback by this reaction as I was, and he was embarrassed by the attitude of the French. Not only had he formerly lived in the States for ten years, so he knew the truth about the food here, but he also couldn’t believe the rudeness of the responses when the subject of food in America would come up. He speculated that people probably assumed “food in the States” meant McDonald’s and hot dogs, and pretty much nothing else.

Thus, we were both fully expecting Callaghan’s Dad and his Dad’s girlfriend Nicole to turn up their noses at the food in any given restaurant we’d visit while they were here staying with us over New Year’s. To make a long story short, they loved all the food they ate everywhere we went. It was kind of funny how we could tell that they were enjoying the food, but for the most part, they kept their reactions, you know, low-key. But Oregano’s was their favorite. They loved the jazzy atmosphere, and they loved the food, and they could not hide their reactions there.

When we got there the first time, Nicole said that she wasn’t really hungry. She ordered soup. But when she sampled my Fancy Dancy Mushroom pizza, she couldn’t conceal her pleasure, and neither could Callaghan’s Dad when he tried it. They both reached in for more.

Then the Pizookie arrived. We’d ordered two, so they could share one and we could share one.

It was rapture at first bite.

Suddenly, Nicole, who “wasn’t hungry,” was shoveling in mouthfuls of the hot and cold melty gooey Pizookie goodness. Callaghan’s Dad was doing the same. Several times, they both tried to stop eating it, but they could only leave their spoons down for a few minutes before they picked them up again. They were hard-pressed to hide their ecstasy. I’m telling you… I had never seen either of them eat anything with such gusto, in France or anywhere!

The next day, Callaghan called me while I was at work.

“We’re at Trader Joe’s buying chocolate chip cookie dough,” he told me. “They want to make a Pizookie.”

My first thought was, I could make better chocolate chip cookie dough. I don’t think anyone would argue that homemade is better than store-bought. My second thought was, they’re going to be disappointed, because there is no possible way any Pizookie we’d make at home could even come close to the heroin-laced Pizookie that emerges from the pizza ovens of Oregano’s. I cringed at the idea of them even trying, but I was amused nonetheless.

That night, the “pizookies” resulting from Trader Joe’s cookie dough and our conventional oven were a huge disappointment, as I knew they would be.

The next night, after dinner, Nicole said that she wanted to go back to Oregano’s. She wanted a Pizookie. I couldn’t believe it. She ate some American food she liked so much that she literally couldn’t get enough.

I was scrambling to work on my December Favorites blog post, so I declined, but I ended up tagging along when Callaghan implored me to go and we compromised with me bringing my computer and them accepting that I was going to be anti-social.

There we were, at the end of December during an unusual cold spell, after dark, sitting outside on the patio at Oregano’s, cozying up to the outdoor heaters. I wrote for this blog while everyone dug into their Pizookies. It was kind of surreal, but not surprising. The Pizookie is a thing you have to experience to understand… and if you think you know what it is because you had it somewhere other than Oregano’s, then you really don’t know what it is, because only Oregano’s does it like that.

So, Arizona people, if you’re hosting visitors from France, take them to Oregano’s – the great food, atmosphere and top-notch service speak for themselves, but moreover, there’s nothing more American than a chocolate-chip cookie… and baked in a pizza pan and topped with ice cream at Oregano’s turns it into an experience they’ll never forget!

Happy Friday, All!

(NOTE: this post was not sponsored by Oregano’s.)

On Breaking Bad and Jedi Cookies

Well. It’s been over three days since The Shipping arrived, but we’re still negotiating around piles of boxes and stuff. However, there’s a reason for our lack of significant progress in unpacking and organizing. We have no self-control. In the last few weeks, Breaking Bad has happened to our lives; once we started it, we quickly realized that it’s as addictive as the drugs it’s about. The more we watched, the harder it became to stop watching. We finally caught ourselves up, and then this morning we hopped online as soon as we woke up (I admit this to you with no shame whatsoever) to see if we could access last night’s episode. We could! So that was the first thing we did today – we watched Breaking Bad while drinking our coffee, surrounded by the mayhem of boxes.

It’s a fine way to start any day, as far as I’m concerned.

In the last year, several television series have taken us delightfully hostage with their excellence: American Horror Story, The Following (brought to my attention by one of you awesome readers), House of Cards, Homeland, Damages and Game of Thrones. Stunning works of art, all. Cute fluff such as Hart of Dixie mildly amused and entertained us. We discovered Arrested Development and greatly enjoyed it… up until the newly released episodes of this year, which did not inspire hilarity the way the prior seasons did. (We felt that the momentum had been lost, and the revised strategy behind it somehow resulted in awkward and left the jokes sitting outside, where they went stale.) And somewhere along the way, we found ourselves inexplicably sucked into Pretty Little Liars, which made no sense at all on any level, but it provided a steady stream of light and cheesy entertainment for quite a while. Purpose served! We’re not above it.

But Breaking Bad? Genius! 99.9% Pure genius. Everything about it astonishes… the writing, the acting, the direction. The character development, and the story, itself, it’s all just phenomenal. It lives up to the hype better than anything I’ve ever seen. We’re glad that we waited so long to start watching it, because starting it when we did brought us seamlessly up to the Final Season now airing. Our timing was perfect, albeit at the expense of making a swift job of the unpacking and organizing around here.

So that’s our status today. Surrounded by stuff, but current with Breaking Bad and waiting impatiently for next week’s episode, along with the show’s hundreds of thousands of other addicts.

On another note, the kitchen being buried in boxes precluded cooking for a few days, so on Saturday night we called in for Thai food from a mixed Asian cuisine place. I found fortune cookies at the bottom of the bag, which excited me. I never eat them, but I open them, anyway, because I enjoy reading the fortunes. The superstition is a remnant of my childhood. I like to believe in these things.

The problem is that in the last ten years or so, fortune cookie “fortunes” have become platitudes more and more, rather than predictions. “Everything happens for a reason.” “This, too, shall pass.” Like that. Still, I feel a hopeful thrill when I see a fortune cookie. Maybe this time it’ll be an actual fortune! I always think.

I brought the two cookies to Callaghan, opened one, and read: “May the good spirits be with you always.”

“That’s not a fortune cookie. That’s a Jedi cookie,” Callaghan said indignantly.

Fortune from the Jedi cookie.

Fortune from the Jedi cookie.

Hmm… better to think of it as a Jedi cookie than as a non-fortune, right? That eases the disappointment somewhat! A Jedi cookie. I like that.