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Month: July 2011

Black Bear Diner

Black Bear Diner

Have you been to a Black Bear Diner? I had read a facebook post from SueAnn, a mom I really admire, she raved about the restaurant. SueAnn suggested Black Bear Diner was California’s answer to Cracker Barrell. Cracker Barrell? Isn’t that a kind of cheese that comes packaged in the salami baskets that are sold around Christmas time? Either way, Black Bear Diner had left a good impression in my mind.

Remember our impromptu vacation I posted about? It was only a bit more than two hours drive to Angels Camp from my hometown. We tried our best to leave at the right time on Sunday morning and failed oh so miserably. The boys cried and screamed for a good twenty minutes straight. Dallas was crying/yelling “Old McDonald had a farm” along with the book my husband was reading to Max. Max was just plain freakin’ out. I was driving like a mad-woman trying to get us a little past our halfway point, to the Black Bear Diner I had spotted on the way up.

We had found our family oasis!

DISCLAIMER – An oasis for a family with very young kids who are on a road trip is different than an oasis for anyone else.

Short wait, nice staff, cute merchandise, massive display of bear claws (the pastry kind, not a hunter’s kind) and shelves of pies. Not too bad. One of the best things about this place was the noise level. Woowee, was it loud. For those who take kids out to eat, you know this is helpful. If no one can hear your kid scream, you are in the right place.

The menus are newspaper prints with a seriously long list of highly caloric, sodium laden meals. Perfect road trip food for those who spent the night before sleeping in the same bed as their kids. You know who are and you know what I mean. The tired parent who has to keep rallying the troops just a little longer.

Let me stop here. If you are a parent who has ever taken your child out to eat, click the photo below and visit one of the best blogs ever. SO funny!

Click on the photo, you owe it to yourself.Hilarious, right?Ok, so back to Black Bear. It’s loud, fun, yummy food and has a very friendly service staff. At least the one in Tracy, California does. It gets even better though! The kids meal comes with an ice cream sundae and check out how it is served!The server brings a sundae tray!

Dallas got to build his sundae any way he wanted it. How cool is that?

One of my brothers just bought a house near this diner. I was so excited to find out that we’d have a reason to come back. About an hour later I learned that we have one of these diners about 20 minutes from where we live now. There is one in the same city my husband works in. It’s kind of like thinking you found a really special hole in the wall burrito shop called, Chipotle.

 

10 Pound Cake, Beardless Berries and Chocolate Syrup

10 Pound Cake, Beardless Berries and Chocolate Syrup

I’m gross

Let’s just get this part out of the way. Remember the cake I said I threw together two nights back? Turns out, baking is a science and willy-nilly won’t cut it. The cake tasted like a 10 pound biscuit with Tammy-Fae Baker butter slathered over the top. The boys liked it, but it is hard to find something sugary that they won’t eat.

I learned a trick today! Yellow banner berry man at the farmers market told me to not wash my berries until I am ready to eat them. He says that at his house they layer strawberries on paper towels in a container and refridgerate. If you wash all your berries first and then refridgerate, they grow mold much quicker. Maybe they just take in too much water that speeds up bacteria growth? Not sure.

A half flat of conventional berries is $8 at the farmers market. This is very comparable to most grocery stores, but the berries are so much sweeter. Plus, buying from a farmer keeps local farms in business.

I took the long way home from the beach a couple weeks ago and cruised through some farming towns. I could never be a field farmer, that life would suck! I truly pray that the men and women who work the fields in California enjoy their lives, they work so hard for such little money.

The third topic of the afternoon, chocolate syrup!

We stopped at Whole Foods this morning to grab some sugar and corn starch (for pudding). I was tempted to buy a bottle of their chocolate syrup, which was organic and looked fancy. It was a mere $3.99 for their brand or $5.99 for the kind with the polar bear on the bottle. Pass!

Then I remembered reading this post about making your own syrup, sans-Xanthan Gum, Soy Lecithin and high price. A bottle of homemade Hershey’s-esque chocolate syrup should run you about .80 cents. Yeah, I am serious.

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Chocolate Syrup
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Mix the cocoa powder and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add  sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes – watch it carefully and adjust the heat so it doesn’t boil over! Turn off the heat, add the salt and vanilla extract and stir to mix. Let it cool and store in your refrigerator.

*Let me add a quick note of DANGER here. The recipe notes that you should not let the syrup boil over. Let’s talk about that.

Have you ever tried to make candy at home or heard about people who have? Do you remember that sugar and water together can boil like a sweet pot of lava on your stove? Boiling sugar BURNS skin, big time. Be careful! When my pot reached boiling temp, I didn’t have enough time to take a photo before I started panicking. It boils up so fast!

Oh, I forgot to tell you that this syrup is going into my homemade frap later today. Of course I ran out of coffee yesterday (groan, eek, help, etc.)   and will need to get some more this afternoon for my expirement.

My Last Frappuccino

My Last Frappuccino

Starbucks hasn’t exactly caught on to the whole real food movement yet. Since dumping the option of organic milk back in 2008, their only organic option is soymilk! Crazy, huh?

Yummm, hormones.

Instead of continuing a rant over milk, I should stop and recognize that my Starbucks order is usally iced and frequently a frappuccino. Ingredients in a frap? Not so pretty. Which is why I have to let them go. Check it out…

  • Frappuccino® Premix: Whole Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Skim Milk Powder, Cream, Corn Syrup Solids, Natural Flavors, Salt, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Algin (Kelp Extract), Sodium Caseinate (Milk Protein). Concentrated Coffee and Water are added to make the Frappuccino® Base.
  • Frappuccino® Light Premix: Skim milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Oligofructose, Cream, Corn Syrup Solids, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Cocoa Powder (processed with Alkali), Disodium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Sucralose (Citric Acid, Trisodium Citrate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate), Acesulfame K. Concentrated Coffee and Water are added to make the Frappuccino® Light Base.
  • Universal Beverage Base Powder: (SKU #156011): Sugar, Nonfat Dry Milk, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Salt, Sodium Casoinate (milk protein), Mono and Diglycerides (E471, an emulsifier), Dipotassium Phosphate (E340ii), Artificial Flavor, Soy Lecithin (E322, an emulsifier), Tricalcium Phosphate (E341iii, prevents caking), Xanthan Gum (E415), Cellulose Gum (E466). Nonfat Milk is added to make the Universal Beverage Base.
  • Java Chips: Confectionary coating (sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel and palm oils, cocoa, emulsifiers [soy lecithin E322, distilled monoglycerides, sorbitan monostearate, polysorbate 60 E435], artificial flavor, vanilla)), Cocoa (processed with alkali, 9%), Cookie Crumbs (enriched wheat flour[wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], sugar, hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed shortening, cocoa processed with alkali, high fructose corn syrup, corn flour, chocolate mass, salt, dextrose, sodium bicarbonate [E400], soy lecithin [emulsifier, E322], natural flavor, chocolate mass (2%), salt.

Remember in the 90’s when frappuccino’s only harmed Beavis by making him a little jumpy?

I won’t lie. I’m sad. Really sad.

But, do I really need to drink my trans fat and corn syrup? (Uh, no.) I can make fraps at home and can make them tasty, too. In fact, that will be my mission to share with you tomorrow. I am especially excited to do so because I learned a secret from the kind barista today. Instead of milk added to your frap, opt for a little heavy cream and use coffee for the remaining liquid needed. Heavy cream will give the frap a milkshake consistency and the coffee some extra caffiene. (Is it already passe’ to say, Winning!?)

I know what you are thinking. Heavy cream? I’m not drinking that! Remember, you just need a little! Two tablespoons maybe? I’ll find out tomorrow. I’ll make a batch using half and half as well. Wanna see my frap from today? I couldn’t wait until I parked the car to snap a photo before drinking. Full of crap or not, they taste pretty darn good. Le Sigh.

Goodbye my lover. Goodbye my friend. You have been the one. You have been the one for me. (Lyrics by James Blundt. Probably written for his long lost frap as well.) 
Go Your Own Way

Go Your Own Way

So, I am taking advice from my good friend Rachel. She once sang an amazing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s, “Go Your Own Way” to her ex-boyfriend. She’s totally my pretend friend from Glee, by the way.
I’m not really Kim’s friend.

Anyway, I have decide to go MY own way! You might have noticed that this blog has posts with major gaps between and quite a strange mix of topics. I’ve been struggling to decide just which way this blog would go. While I want it to be a discussion ground for all things food, I also want to talk about my own food passions. Stop talking in circles girl, get to the point!

Ok, so after my experience with real food and Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, I have slowly been taken hostage by eating only…well, real food! So that coffee creamer I talked about in post number one, gone. I actually had some creamer in my coffee at church on Sunday and couldn’t drink it. How quickly my taste buds have jumped their artificial ship! So, this blogger found her voice and it speaks REAL! Booyeah, now we can get rolling.

*Oh, I say totally outdated things like booyeah and amazeballs. We watch a lot of Nick Jr., Alvin and the Chipmunks and My Little Pony. Sorry, I will work on my sassy talk.

So, wanna journey through the world of real food with me? No? Then check out Kendi, she has a delicious fashion blog. For the rest of you, I’d love to introduce you to a real foodist’s book list!

  

While I give you some time to click each book photo above, I will go finish making the “cake” I made with my son tonight. We started cooking the Basic Cake recipe from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.” I didn’t read the recipe ahead of time. It’s almost bedtime and I promised Dallas we would make a cake while I was in the middle of a conversation with my friend Lisa. Anything to get in some adult chat time, right? I should say, mom chat time. Adult chat time sounds like something else.

Halfway through the recipe I read that we needed to ground 1/2 pound of almonds? Uh, no thanks. I just threw in some flour, milk, eggs and more sugar in a good ole’ willy nilly fashion. I’ll let you know how it all turns out. (I’m guessing the next post will be called, “Cake Gone Wrong.” More real food talk to come as well.