Denial

What have I learned in the last few weeks? I had a pretty good case of denial. About what? Snacking. Random eating. How did I learn this? After having my Invisalign braces for less than two weeks, I’m down four pounds.

I have pretty much gotten used to them. I’m still aware that they’re there. But it’s not such a strange feeling now. I’m almost ready to switch to my second set, so my teeth have moved since I started. Talking is fine. There are some words that I find more difficult. The “s” and “th” sounds can be tricky, but not impossible. When I went to church last Sunday I realized that singing is harder. I think that one produces more saliva with these, so I was afraid I might accidentally spit while singing. Yeah, you really wanted to learn that, right?

Since it’s a hassle to take them out often, it’s much easier to eat at the usual times. Breakfast is usually 15-20 minutes for me. Lunch is about 30 minutes total. At school my “lunch” is at 10:06, so I eat half of it then and half during my PLC prep 7th period. For dinner I usually have them out for an hour and try not to rush myself. So I think I’m getting my roughly 22 hours per day with the liners. I’m more conscious of my food choices and aware of when I’m “full.” After dinner, I do the cleaning and brushing process and I’m good to go until the next day. Am I hungry when I used to snack? Nope. Not at all. Another benefit? I’m ready for bed earlier so I think I’m getting more sleep.

I have yet to go to dinner or be in a social situation with them. I definitely like the weekends when it’s easy to brush and clean them after each round of food. The only tricky thing about having these is your eating and drinking habits are altered. I have an event in late February about Prohibition Era cocktails that I’m attending. Snacks and beverages will be provided. So that will be a little tricky. I’ll test what it’s like to go out to dinner on Monday. So I’m still in the learning process with these things, but so far it’s going well. And my little bit of weight loss: bonus!

What to do with Smoked Salmon

P1070550

A few weeks back I bought some smoked salmon on a whim at Costco. The sample of it tasted good and I justified the purchase as being healthy. I thought about doing something with it over the holidays, but it didn’t quite happen. My cousin happened to post a photo on Facebook of an appetizer that she made with salmon. She got it from Cooking Light. I’m sure the recipe can be found in a magazine or online. But it’s basically the salmon with plain yogurt, wasabi mayo, capers and green onions. I didn’t find wasabi mayo and used something called “wasabi sauce” that I found by the flavored mustards. It’s served on slices of English cucumber. However, I’m guessing you could put it on a variety of things. The flavors are quite good together. I’m glad I tried it!

Bubbly?

P1070547

Are you having a little bubbly for the New Year? I recently took a class about Champagne. It was a 2-weeker in November. It was fun to taste some different champagnes and learn about the process and what to look for when making a purchase.

Did you know that ~55% of the market is controlled by LVMH? Who’s that? Louis Vuitton / Moet Hennessy. They do make some great champagne. From what I learned, consistency is the name of the game there. If you pop open a bottle of Moet & Chandon, it will taste how you would expect it should. We also tasted “grower champagne.” In other words, made by the little producers.

I was going to write about how you could tell if your bottle of champagne was produced by one of the little guys. But it’s so much easier to have you link to an article already written by the guy who taught the class. Here’s a photo of where the itty-bitty “RM” is on my bottle.

P1070548

What do you eat with champagne? Pretty much anything. It’s one of the most versatile wines. But a great pairing is anything salty and deep-fried. Yes, we had potato chips with our champagne on the first night of the class. And do you need to serve it in a flute? Nope. In fact, it’s better to not serve it in a flute. That way you can smell it and let it warm up a little so you can taste it better. If you want to read some good articles about champagne, I’m suggesting to go to The Wine Company page with links to their champagne posts.

So no matter what you are doing tonight, bubbly or no bubbly. Have a wonderful New Year!

Inspired by a former student.

P1070508

One of my former students was posting what she was making for the holidays on Facebook. I had totally forgotten about these delicious little things. I had actually never made them before. The first time I had them was when a student gave me a little holiday care package and some of these were included. They’re not difficult to make, yet they are so good! I happened to have the recipe filed away. Again, I got it from another student. This must be a staple of the East Side, regardless of your race – Hmong, white, African – American, they all make them and eat them.

It’s just a package of Oreo cookies and a block of cream cheese. Mash up the Oreos into crumbly bits. Mix in a block of cream cheese (most easily done with your hands). Make little bite size balls. Dip them in almond bark. If you want to add a little decoration, drizzle chocolate or shake some sprinkles over the top. I made one batch with regular oreos and the second batch with the mint oreos. Each batch makes about 25 – 30 of those little balls.

And one of the best parts of living in the “north country” is that you don’t need any extra freezer space. Just set your pans in the garage when your done so the almond bark can solidify.

Craft Beer Craze

P1070474

If you’ve read much of this blog, you know I’m more of a wine person than a beer person. But in the fall and winter, I do like to test out some seasonal beers. Friday I went out with some friends and they had Sweet Yamma Jamma on tap. Yes, you read that right. Sweet Potatoes! I like the pumpkin flavor stuff at this time of year and my friend, Margaret, had picked out this yummy delight by the time I got to the bar. I sampled a pumpkin beer and this one and decided on the Sweet Yamma Jamma. So far my favorite pumpkin beer is Southern Tier Pumpking. Sweet Yamma Jamma is by Indeed which is brewed in Minneapolis.

On a side note, today happens to be Darkness Day. Two years ago, I had my first Surly Darkness. I don’t necessarily want to buy the big bottles of it, since I don’t drink beer very regularly at home. But I would like to find it on tap in the next month or so. This is the time of the year when I enjoy the seasonal beers. Each area of the country probably has its own craft beer craze happening. It’s worth checking out! You might be surprised!

Thanks to Martha…

I had a nice lunch.

P1070407

Even I can follow Martha’s recipes. In fact, I just was looking at the website for this one and there’s a lot that look rather interesting. Here is the link to the recipe collection. The one I made was Sausage Stuffed Zucchini. I got the Zucchini at the Farmer’s Market and the sausage I got at the U of M Meat Lab. After I made the sausage mixture and stuffed my zucchini, I had some left over. I happened to have some peppers on hand, so I stuffed them. Do I have to bake them right away? Can I freeze them? Since the sausage is already cooked I think that’s a possibility. Normally I just call my mom and ask, but she’s not home right now… I guess I’ll just have to wait.

Oregon Wine Wrap-Up, For Now…

P1070198

Does it look like we tasted a lot of wine? Well? We did! But we hardly made a dent in what is out there. My trusty “Oregon Wine Country” book has several pages of maps with vineyards. We did a fraction of the Willamette Valley Central – Salem map. On that particular map, we went to: Airlie, 3 Fools, Emerson, Illahe, Johan, Firesteed, Van Duzer, Bethel Heights and St Innocent. On an earlier visit, we went to Willamette Valley Vineyards. Their Riesling is still one of my go-to wines and I can get it here. The Flying Dutchman is in Newport and Springhill is on a different map.

P1070181

As I said earlier, my favorite places were the ones where the people pouring were the ones that directly worked with the wine. Illahe, Emerson and Airlie would be my top picks. The photo above is from Emerson. Tom Johns, the owner, was doing the pouring. My cousin and I had a great time joking around with him. He even offered me the vineyard if I could guess the 5 grapes in his blend. I’d never heard of most of the grapes. It was a pretty safe bet on his part. But they are listed in the trusty book! Emerson needs a MN distributor and they had great wines. While we were at Emerson, a person from 3 Fools was using their tasting room. They are there most Saturdays and they use the Emerson facilities. The three fools are actually down to one fool now.

P1070170

Have you seen this label? I think they’re in all 50 states. They were right by the road so we stopped. They weren’t even on the map in the trusty book. Maybe I should’ve taken that as a cue. The wines were fine, but it’s a big production facility. They’ve got at least 300 acres in the area. I’d probably pass on this one and go to a smaller one, now that I know what I like.

P1070172

With my Norwegian heritage, I really wanted to like Johan. I got a bottle of the Pinot Gris. But I didn’t get excited about their wines. The wine maker is from Norway and fell in love with Pinot Noir and decided to make it. They do all sorts of fun celebrations of Norwegian holidays.

P1070174

Eola Hills has a tasting room right off 99W. You can pick seven wines to taste for free. I particularly liked their dessert wine. This was stop #4 on our first day, so we were a little happy at this point. Eola Hills sources their grapes from other locations, so they make a pretty wide variety. Some of their grapes come from Washington state. They have some fun activities that they host.

P1070191

Van Duzer has a beautiful location and a great place to enjoy a picnic. They’re tasting room gets more traffic and have hired people to pour. I particularly liked the Zephyra dessert wine. They had a nice port style wine too. We were limited to 4 pours, so we were selective about what we tried.

P1070194

Bethel Heights is a very beautiful vineyard. There are several right in that area. We first stopped at Bryn Mawr, but didn’t taste. It was getting close to closing time and I was the only one tasting reds. They had five different Pinot Noirs. Too bad I didn’t taste, but that’s for another trip. Bethel Heights had some good Pinot Noirs, but they were over $50 per bottle. They were a little out of the range that I like to spend. I think I got a bottle of their Gewürztraminer.

The last stop was St Innocent. Their Pinot Noir, Temperance Hill Vineyard was one of my favorite wines. We tried a variety of others, including their special blends that are used at their event center. This was at the end of the day and was our fourth vineyard. We were a little goofy and thanks to my cousin, my photos from St Innocent are all rather silly. Check out the website to see the location.

All in all, I love wine tasting in Oregon. It’s a nice, relaxed pace with fun interaction with the people making  and working with the wine. There are so many wineries that you can’t hope to put a dent into your tasting repertoire. Decide on a strategy and go with it. Mine was smaller, lesser-known vineyards in an area that was easily accessible to our location.