Category: food

My Orange Juice Approved List

Call me a purist, but when it comes to orange juice, there are only a few ways that I think you should consume it. In fact, it would be easy to assume a post like this doesn’t even need to be written. But then I come across people who are using orange juice in decidedly unapproved ways, and I just can’t remain silent. It is my obligation–no, my duty–to speak out.

Case in point: Saturday, I came into the kitchen to see one of my children eating granola. Nothing wrong there. Good old fashioned crunchy goodness, right? Except they were eating their granola . . . with orange juice. I realize a number of you still don’t quite grasp the horror. After all, multiple sugary cereal commercials reminded us all growing up that orange juice is part of a complete breakfast, right? Nothing like having some granola and maybe some sips of orange juice from a glass next to your granola.

Except this child was eating orange juice with granola. Meaning, taking a nice bowl of granola and milk. Now take out the milk and replace it with orange juice. I apologize to those of you with weak constitutions, but that child isn’t the only one with such flagrant orange juice violations. On my mission in Germany, one of my companions would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches . . . and then dunk them in orange juice.

No, my friends. This sort of food abuse simply won’t do. What’s next? Pouring orange juice over pizza? Spaghetti and orange juice? Chocolate cake with orange juice? A tuna fish orange juice smoothie?

Not on my watch. If you want to safely consume orange juice, here are the approved ways to do so:

  • In a glass. By itself.
  • In some sort of a smoothie. This smoothie may contain fruits and possibly some vegetables if you’re feeling particularly healthy. No solids shall be added to the smoothie that is not fruit or vegetable based. Additional juices or milk is allowed, but don’t go crazy.

And that’s it. It’s a short list, so it shouldn’t be that hard to master. Any time you’re tempted to veer off the list and add something funky to your orange juice, don’t. End of story.

Friends don’t let friends abuse orange juice.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

An Ode to Mac & Cheese

Yesterday I told the world just how bad Grape Nuts really are. The response on my Facebook wall was lively, to say the least. It seemed like every Grape Nut aficionado in a thousand mile radius somehow sensed someone had thrown down the gauntlet, exposing to the world just how awful Grape Nuts really are. Unbeknownst to me, there must be some sort of Grape Nut pact people sign when they decide they like the taste of kitty litter for breakfast.

“These are my Grape Nuts. I must defend them.”

Not many people came by to say they didn’t like Grape Nuts either. (Can you blame them? They would have been trampled by the mob of Grape Nutters.) But today, I thought I’d perform an experiment. Yesterday I focused on a disgusting food I didn’t like, and it brought out all the people who like it. I wondered what would happen if I focused on a food I love, which many find disgusting. Will it bring out all the people who will tell me just how disgusting it really is, and how I’m wrong? Or will it attract all the people who also love it? My guess is that it will bring out the people who disagree with me, but there’s only one way to find out!

I’m speaking, of course, of macaroni and cheese. Not the homemade stuff. No, I’m focused right on the boxed variety. And not even the high end boxed mac & cheese. Kraft is way too high brow for me. My sophomore year of college, I pretty much lived on one meal. I would take brand X mac & cheese and make it, leaving out the butter (because who has time for butter), but putting in a can of tuna fish instead.

Denisa called it the Yellow Death. To me, it was (and is) pretty much the perfect food. Allow me to elucidate.

First, it’s dead simple to make. If you can boil water and operate a can opener, you’re good to go. Within ten minutes, you can have a warm meal. Better yet, it’s an easy cleanup as well. You make the dish and eat it out of the pot you boiled the pasta in. One bowl to clean up, and that’s it.

You’ve got your basic food groups covered. Carbohydrates? Check. Dairy? That’s what the cheese and milk are for. Fruit and vegetables? Overrated. Meat? Fish! The healthy meat! As an added bonus, it comes with built-in portion control. Once you’ve made up a single box, you’ll be way too lazy to want to make another. And the food is delicious enough that there are hardly ever leftovers.

But that brings me to an added bonus. If you thought warm mac & cheese with tuna fish was delicious, just wait until you’ve tried it cold. It’s like a whole new dish! Kind of like pizza that way. There were plenty of times that I would just stick the leftovers in the fridge (in the same pot still) and pull them out the next day for lunch. No need to microwave it or anything! (You don’t want to wait too long to eat them, though. After a day, the mac & cheese gets a bit . . . grody.)

Finally, there are enough preservatives in there that you could buy in bulk and be good for at least a decade or so, I’d guess. Smart shoppers could wait until tuna and the boxed mac & cheese were on sale. Talk about winning!

I know there have been other innovations in mac & cheese cuisine over the years. Hot dogs or chili were often cited as superior, but to me, tuna fish will always reign supreme.

Now if I could just convinced Denisa that it’s vegan . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Favorite Holiday Recipes?

I’m about ready to get into some holiday baking. There comes a point where you decide to throw diets and avoiding sugar to the wind and just revel in as much chocolate, peppermint, and egg nog as you can, until you wake up in a random gutter on New Year’s morning, groggy and not quite sure why you’ve got maraschino cherry stains all over your shirt. (Don’t tell me that’s only just happened to me!)

So as I get ready for this round of baking, I was wondering what recipes you consider your “must bake” each year. What foods make it so that the holidays are the holidays?

For me, I absolutely must make chocolate fudge. It’s not an elaborate recipe: just the one found on the Marshmallow Fluff container. I think it’s something very similar to this one. Boil butter, evaporated milk, and sugar, add chocolate and fluff, then let it cool. Simple and delicious.

I’ve made peppermint bark the last few years as well, though again, I just melt chocolate, add some peppermint extract, and then put it in a mold and sprinkle crushed peppermints on top of it. Caramels are another favorite I try to make every year, though they’re trickier. I can never seem to get them to just the right level of hard but still a bit gooey. (Probably because I’m lazy and never use a candy thermometer . . .)

Denisa bakes a ton of cookies, which are always delicious. And I typically make some orange rolls, but I make those throughout the year, and they’re not necessarily “Christmas” food.

What do you make, however? What are your go-to recipes that the holidays just wouldn’t be complete without? I’d love to get some ideas for other things to try this year. Because present-me always assumes that future-me will have way more time than past-me.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

An Apple is an Apple

I’ve been eating fruit for quite some time. I can’t say exactly how long, but I think it’s reasonable to think it’s been over forty years, depending on when my parents first started feeding me solids, and when they introduced whirled fruit into the regimen. I even have a list of my top ten favorite fruits, because lists. And you’ll note on that list that apples got an honorable mention (because I like them baked in things) but didn’t crack the top ten. So that might explain something of what follows.

More and more, I’m noticing people getting all gourmet with their apple selections. I go to a farm stand, and there’s not just “apples.” There are all sorts of named apples. Gala. Red Delicious. Macouns. Honeycrisp. And supposedly, these are all different apple experiences. Like, you can bite into one and have a certain expectations of what it will taste like versus what a different strain will bring to the table.

Yesterday I had a long debate about apple types, where multiple people tried to convince me they could see a difference between Macoun apples and Gala apples. And it felt like they were pointing out subtle variations in shades of white. They’d look at two apples and see all these differences between them. The color. The shape. Bumps on the bottom.

I looked at them and saw . . . two apples.

“Try eating them,” they told me. “Totally different.” So I tried eating them. One tasted like an apple. The other one tasted like . . . an apple.

I get that there are differences in some apples. I’ve eaten good apples and bad apples. I don’t like mushy apples. I don’t like sour apples. I only sort of like sweet apples. But maybe my commitment to apples just isn’t strong enough for me to care to distinguish the difference in the varieties. Maybe my brain just looks at them, shrugs, and says “Do we really need to care about this?”

I mean, when I go to the store, there’s just one banana section. It’s not like there are all these different strains of bananas to choose from. You get what you get. It’s yellow (or maybe green or brown, depending on ripeness). It’s curved shape. You peel it. You eat it. Case closed. Yes, there are clearly different types of bananas. There are some that are thicker and some that are stumpier. But in the end, they’re all bananas, just like apples are all apples.

If I were to bite into an apple and it was going to taste like an orange, then I’d want to know that going into my apple eating experience. I’d want a heads up that this type of apple was an orange-tasting-apple. But unless it’s something drastic like that, what’s the big deal? They’re all apples.

I realize this post is going to get many people popping up to tell me (online or in person) just how wrong I am, and just how much I need to learn to properly appreciate apples. To which I will happily agree, assuming they’re up for me telling them all about the different varieties of Magic: the Gathering cards, and how they should each be used in different situations. Or if that’s too geeky, let’s talk about surround sound system set ups, or television pictures, or the variation in quality between all the Star Wars movies or the Lord of the Rings films.

In other words, it seems like anything you want to study and devote time to can offer you some rewards, if you actually care about the item in question. And I discovered yesterday that there are some hardcore apple geeks out there, and I ain’t talkin’ ’bout computers. But just as I haven’t taken the time to care about Japanase anime, I also haven’t delved into the many wonders of apples. And that’s okay, just as it’s okay by me that you might not be able to tell the difference between 720i, 1080p, and 4k televisions. Or why a Black Lotus would be worth thousands of dollars while a Blacker Lotus is only worth five.

If you love apples, go nuts. Have a blast with your Black Oxfords and Mutsus and Blue Pearmains. But realize that your hopes of getting me to understand and recognize the differences between the two are likely going to leave you frustrated. Though if you’d ever like to bring me an apple cobbler, I won’t turn you down. Regardless of the variety of apple you used. Just make sure not to skimp on the cobbler.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

My Top Secret Swedish Nut Cake Recipe

Growing up, one of my favorite desserts was Swedish Nut Cake. It’s a delicious, moist pineapple cake with a cream cheese frosting, kind of like a less nutritious, sweeter carrot cake, if that makes sense. It’s easy to make, tastes great, and I’ve been having it for years.

Except yesterday I realized I hadn’t baked one in a while. Since I was feeling pretty chipper, I decided that was a problem I needed to rectify. And since the process went so swimmingly, I thought I’d share with you, my loyal readers, the secrets to making a really good version of this cake.

First off, it’s important to check to make sure you have the ingredients. Cream cheese is pretty much the only one that’s strange, so just check your fridge and make sure there’s some available. We had 3/4 of a pack, which I deemed to be enough. (You develop a sense for this after baking the cake enough.) Since we had cream cheese, it was Full Speed Ahead.

Next, turn on the oven and grease a cake pan. Because duh. Also, you want to make sure to commit to making this cake, and nothing says “commitment” like a greased cake pan. Cleaning that pan’s going to be a beast. You better at least get a cake out of it.

Now that the cake pan is greased, it’s time to get the pineapple. Of course, observant readers will have noted we failed to check to make sure we had a 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple ahead of time. That’s because, contrary to popular belief, a really good Swedish Nut Cake doesn’t need pineapple, as I discovered yesterday.

Once you’ve ascertained a significant Lack of Pineapple, it’s time to move on to the next step: figuring out alternative ingredients. You could Google this, but I’ll save you the trouble. Canned peaches are not an alternative to pineapple. Neither is canned fruit cocktail. The problem with these is that, while they are canned, they are the wrong fruit, and they taste nothing like pineapple, no matter how much you may wish they would work out.

However, you’ll find convenient substitutions in almost any recipe book. I personally found one in my grandmother’s, and I discovered that if you replace all the ingredients in Swedish Nut Cake (minus the greased cake pan, which I’d already committed to) with all the ingredients in her Chocolate Cake, you can still end up with a pretty dang good cake.

(You also have to swap out the directions for making the two cakes. This is key.)

Proceed to make the cake.

Now, we all know no cake is finished without frosting, and a cream cheese frosting doesn’t quite go with our new version of The Cake Formerly Known as Swedish Nut but Now Known as Chocolate, so you’d better whip up a batch of buttercream frosting to wrap this all up. This would be a convenient time to make sure you are all out of butter, having used it baking the cake. (Rookies might think being all out of butter is a problem, but it’s a vital step in making a good Swedish Nut Cake. You get a feel for where to go wrong and where to go right, over time. Don’t worry. You’ll get there too. Eventually.)

If you’ve done everything right, at this point you have a “Swedish Nut Cake” baking in the oven, and nothing to put on top of it. No way of making a decent frosting. You might be tempted to Google “How to make frosting without butter,” but I can save you the trouble. (I’m nice like that.) You can make a glaze. You can make a ganache. You can make a sauce. But you ain’t gonna be making buttercream frosting without butter.

However, there are ways around this. I delved into deepest reaches of my cake baking experience to remember that sometimes I’d poured a caramel sauce over a chocolate cake, and it tasted great. I decided that was just the thing for the task at hand. I looked up a recipe online and got cooking. Of course, the recipe called for heavy cream. Heavy cream, as any smart baker will tell you, is for chumps. I didn’t have any, so I used the handy substitute of 2% milk. The sauce was more liquidy perhaps than a novice might expect, but Swedish Nut Cake is supposed to be moist, remember?

Pour that sauce all over the top of your cake, remembering to poke holes in the cake first, so the sauce can drizzle into it. (It’s okay if you poke holes after you’ve poured the sauce already. That what the pros like me do, anyway.)

If you’ve done everything right, you now successfully have what some might call a “Watery looking plain chocolate cake swimming in caramel sauce,” but which we all know is actually a really good, professionally made Swedish Nut Cake. (If you’ve *really* done things right, your four-year-old daughter will look at the cake and ask, “Why did it melt?” But it’s okay if you don’t get to that level on your first try.)

Serve and enjoy.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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