64. ♪ In Baltimore, you will find what you’ve been waiting for…and it’s Berger Cookies.

I participated in The Lean Green Bean‘s Foodie Penpals program in October! It’s been a few months, and I’m so glad I got back in on the fun. Especially since Lean Green Bean Lindsay just gave birth to an adorable baby boy and will be taking a break from hosting Foodie Penpals until next year. I’m sending warm, well wishes to Lindsay and her family!

Foodie PenPals
My penpal for October was the awesome, pumpkin-loving Emily from Maryland! This was her first time participating in Foodie Penpals, and the two of us were both super stoked to exchange boxes of fabulous treats, goodies, and noms. I’ve done Foodie Penpals twice before, but Emily is the first person I’ve been paired with to be closer to my age, which was fun! As the end of October approached, I eagerly awaited my package. It came on a chilly, cloudy Wednesday…

It was way more challenging to hold the phone steady, open a box and form coherent sentences all at the same time than I thought it would be. 😉

Can you guess what I tried first? I had just made a cup of Celestial Seasonings tea before getting the mail. Wouldn’t a cookie go great with that? Have you had a Berger Cookie? I had never had a Berger Cookie. I clearly wasn’t living life before my first Berger Cookie. Or my second. Or third…these rich, gooey, fudge-dipped Berger Cookies were the obvious star of the foodie package. Before she put my package together, Emily had asked me if I like sweets because she wanted to send me a “Baltimore treat.” Thank goodness I said yes. Yummmm. My brother tried two one as well, and he said he’d be willing to pay cross-country shipping to get a box all for himself. Yep, that good. Of course, we could always make our own with King Arthur if we got really desperate.

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Emily also told me about an ice cream shop in Baltimore that makes Berger Cookie ice cream sandwiches. Be still, my heart. Could it be here?

The Somersault Snacks didn’t last long either. I didn’t even get a photo of the snack itself! While Dad said they were “interesting,” my Grandma wanted to go around to local grocery stores and put in a stock request. Thankfully, I spotted them for the first time while shopping over the weekend. They’re light, salty and crunchy! The texture sort of reminded me of the airiness of a rice cake, but more seed-y. Since they don’t contain nuts, they weren’t dense at all like some granola and nut bars. They have a ton of flavors, and I’m hoping I can find more of them locally! Dutch cocoa, I’ve got my eye on you.

Somersault

I was of course thrilled about the Justin’s Almond Butter and Hazlenut Butter packets, Beanitos and the kind bar! I had never tried the Justin’s Chocolate Hazlenut Butter, simply because I never liked Nutella. Oh, how silly of me! Move over, Nutella. Justin’s version is SO delicious and chocolatey, but not too sweet at all. Plus, it uses all-natural ingredients. That’s tough to beat. Also, while working on this blog post I discovered Justin’s has a WHITE CHOCOLATE peanut butter cup?! Must find.

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Isn’t the card adorable?! Aww. Thank you SO much, Emily! I loved every part of my goodie box. I can’t wait for next year when Foodie Penpals starts up again! If you’ve never participated, you should give it a shot!

Have you don’t Foodie Penpals? What’s your favorite foodie item you’ve received?

 

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61. Friday Things – how is it Friday again?

Inspired by bloggers like Kasey and Brittany to do another Friday Things! They call theirs “Friday Favorites” and “Friday Five.” I like it!

1. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners new case study, I Am The New Creative. Watch it!

2. Quest Bars – all day, every day! I used to inhale one each afternoon, but now it has evolved into a nighttime snack. Cut it up, bake it, devour with some nut butter and greek yogurt. Oh yes.

Quest Bars

3. Mad Men. I don’t even care that I’m 7 years late. Better late than never! Currently binge-watching Season 1 on Netflix.

Doctore Who
4. Jamie Eason‘s Live Fit Program! If you’re looking for a FREE way to add structure to your weight training, I really reccommend it! I trained with weights for about a year and a half without seeing my strength improve much. With Jamie’s program, I don’t have to think about or really plan my workouts, which I really like! It gets me to write down how much I’m lifting, so as the weeks go by I can see my strength increase. I’m not following her food plan, not weighing myself or counting calories, and sometimes I alter the workouts to fit how I’m feeling each day. Haha! Does that mean I’m doing my own version of Jamie’s program? Either way, I feel so empowered each day that I can lift a bit more 🙂 Today I did Phase 2 -> Day 48 -> Back/Delts.

5. This ridiculously amazing video from Nintendo Direct. I just love rolling on the floor. Can I work at Nintendo now? I think it’s full of comedians…plus I’ve invested in so many issues of Nintendo Power.

That’s it for Friday things! What fun things did you discover, do or watch this week?

 


59. Friday Things!

It’s Friday!

My last blog entry was on a Friday (at the end of May?! Okay, let’s not go 10 months between posts again), so what better way to get back into posting than on a Friday?

I love Friday. The entire weekend is ahead of you. Endless possibilities! I think, “Now is the time to try out all those recipes I read during the week,” or “I should start watching that show…,” or “The weather is nice – time for a hike!” or “I’ll finally organize that stack of boxes in my room.” That last one rarely happens.

I think back to the fun things I did, watched, made or read during the week, and I want to share! Here we go – Friday Things!

  1. A thought. I want to start an additional blog, based more around food, overall wellness and balance. I’ve brainstormed names, trying to encompass my lifestyle and feelings about eating, food and health, but I think I’ve settled on something like “Ridiculissa Eats,” mostly because I’ve used “Ridiculissa” for multiple social media platforms to identify myself. Thoughts?
  2. I finally got a new yoga mat! When I first started yoga back in December, my best friend (thank you, lovely!) gave me a mat. I was thrilled! You can’t beat a free mat, but I practice yoga regularly now and wanted something a little more substantial. After much deliberation (internet research, asking everyone in yoga class, and basically becoming close friends will the entire floor staff at the sporting goods store), I got a Manduka, from their PRO Mat series. It’s HUGE and heavy, but I wanted a mat that I wouldn’t slide on and that was nice and squishy. My boney back would always hurt during floor work on the other mat.
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    New and old! Manduka on the left, my first yoga mat on the right.

    I’m still breaking in the Manduka, but I already like it. To care for it, I wipe it down with a blend of these three oils and water.Image

  3. Something that everyone should read –> “Explore.
  4. A super silly card game cover I saw at work. I would play it just because of the art! Sheep Impact. Anyone ever played it?Image
  5. This week’s breakfast obsession? Baked Oatmeal. One of my favorites was my own version of the Deep Dish Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie from the Nutritious Kitchen! I strayed from her recipe a bit…but maybe I’ll save that for when I start a food blog 🙂Image
    I also made a version of Once Upon a Cutting Board’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Baked Oatmeal and Fit Mama Real Food’s Blueberry Chia Seed Baked Oatmeal last week and this week.
  6. ORPHAN BLACK STARTS ON SATURDAY. TOMORROW. Does that still count as a “Friday Thing?”

What would your “Friday Things” be for this week?


58. Foodie Friday – Foodie Penpals!

Seeing as my last post was a “Foodie Friday” post, is it not SO appropriate that today, Friday, is the reveal day for this month’s Foodie Penpals? Amazing!

The Lean Green Bean

Never heard of Foodie Penpals? It’s an awesomely fun program that Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean started. I’ve been eyeballing the sign-up form for months and finally decided to do it! Each month, you sign up to be paired with two penpals: One penpal you send foodie goodies to while the other sends stuff to you! It’s a great way to meet fellow food fans and build the online community of foodies! Sounds fun, right?

I sent goodies off to a gal in California (she doesn’t have a blog so I can’t link over to her, but she was a great penpal!). The penpal sending me goodies was Hindy from Confident Cook, Hesitant Baker! I’d highly suggest taking a look at her recipes. Delicious! I find her blog so unique. As you can see in her “About” section, she prefers vegetarian meals for herself, while her family eats meat. Combine that with preparing kosher meals and you’ve got a wide range of recipes to look through! I’ve already spotted a few that I’d like to try (Hello there, baked salmon patties).

After letting Hindy know some food preferences, I waited impatiently for my goodies to arrive! When the package showed up in the mailbox, I was BEYOND thrilled! Here’s what I got.

Goodies

  • Oats Ingredients

WAHOO! So much foodie goodness. I’ve eaten the freeze-dried fruit (on top of some cottage cheese! Perfection) and am planning on cooking some couscous very soon! Unfortunately, the seal was broken on the hot cereal, and since I didn’t know how long it had been open or if it had been tampered with, I decided to throw it out. BUT. I was so stoked to try it that I ordered some for myself. I can’t wait for it to arrive.

Many thanks to Hindy for sending me such a great package! Everything she sent me fit in with the food preferences I gave her. Even better! This was an awesome first Foodie Penpal experience for me. A HUGE thank you to Lindsay as well for running this unique program! I can imagine it’s difficult organzing so many people to make Foodie Penpals run as smoothly as it does. Interested in participating next month? It isn’t too late to sign up! Visit Lindsay’s Foodie Penpal page for more details, rules and a link to the sign-up page.


55. Forget “plum perfect.” It’s POM Wonderful!

Zipping through the produce section the other day, I was stopped by this nifty in-store display by POM Wonderful.


I’ve never eaten a pomegranate before (does pomegranate yogurt count?) and was very intruiged. They seem to be all the rage as a new super fruit lately, but they look a little intimidating! Very hard outside, super-delicious looking inside. How do you get to the deliciousness?!

I’m obviously not the only person intimidated by this unique fruit. What really drew me in to this display was the little “how to” manual, containing information about pomegranates, how to cut them, and even some recipes. Just like the POM Wonderful website and product designs, this display was very crisp, clean and simple – just the way a natural pomegranate juice and fruit company should be! Very pure. Even with a simple and transparent design, POM Wonderful successfully elevates the pomegranate to a high level of sophistication (see video at the end for a giggle). POM products are often placed with the higher priced juices and health “smoothie” drinks in store as well, evoking a feeling of being a higher class sort of drink.

And while I didn’t take a fancy pomegranate home with me, POM Wonderful captured my curiosity with this display. It interrupted my speedy shopping trip and stopped me for a few minutes. It made me wonder…how DO you open one of these fruits? Next time I’m at the store, I might just throw caution to the wind and try one out. Great job, POM!

Now, grab your finest dinner party attire, some classical music and a sharp knife. Get slicing!


45. Jiro – serving succulent sushi with a side order of insight.

“You have to love your job. You must fall in love with your work.”

Two nights ago I saw the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Some viewers might see it as just an hour and a half of sushi food porn (which, I’ll be honest, it totally was), but I saw it as so much more! While Jiro made it very clear in the film that you cannot order appetizers or side-orders at his restaurant, I still walked away from the film with a belly…er, mind full of cultural insights.

Hearing an 85-year-old man who has worked in the sushi business for 75 years speak about not having reached perfection in his work could be taken in a few different ways:

1) It could be humbling.

2) It could be inspiring.

3) …it could be discouraging.

When it’s Jiro, it can only be humbling and inspiring. Jiro Ono is a recognized national treasure by the Japanese government. His dishes start at 30,000 yen (around $300 US dollars). Customers of Sukiyabashi Jiro have to make reservations at least one month in advance. The restaurant has received 3 Michelin stars, which basically means it’s a restaurant worth traveling to Japan to eat at.

You’d think all this success would really go to someone’s head! And yet Jiro still rises with the sun every morning, taking the same route to work he’s taken for years and continues to perfect his craft while training his two sons and a handful of already-talented Sukiyabashi employees.

Training with Jiro is difficult. One interviewed employee said he cried when he finally received praise from Jiro after years of training. All the employees loved what they were doing and didn’t seem to want to be anywhere else.

These attitudes from Jiro and his employees definitely gave me some general insights into the Japanese culture and its people. These are of course generalizations and not true of everyone, but still very insightful!

  • People are humble.
  • They understand the responsibility and value of hard work.
  • Jiro was encouraging yet strict with his employees when it came to the quality of their sushi.
  • Praise was given when it was deserved – no over-praising in Sukiyabashi Jiro.
  • Hierarchy in and out of the workplace is very important.
  • There seems to be a deep appreciation for simplicity and beauty. Jiro and his staff took great care in how their sushi was presented and displayed, only serving guests one simple piece of sushi at a time on a spotless, shiny black dish. In between each piece of sushi served, they would wipe the dish clean.
  • People are optimistic, possessing a fighting spirit during difficult times.

Finally, Jiro said that “you have to love your job. You must fall in love with your work.” Even if you’re at a job that might not be your favorite, try and find something about it you enjoy. You can learn something from every job you have if you’re open and willing. And without love, the work you produce will be missing something. Find that passion and pursue it! See how far it can take you.


44. Azusa of Japan

On my last night in New York City, I was determined to find a (inexpensive…) Japanese restaurant! I knew I had to swing back by The Roosevelt before heading out to see Phantom of the Opera, so I decided to wander the surrounding blocks. It’s New York! You can find almost any type of cuisine if you walk a bit. Sure enough, about a block away was a hidden, hole-in-the-wall sort of restaurant called Azusa of Japan.

When I first saw the sign outside, I couldn’t tell if it was a bar or a restaurant. Thankfully, they had their menu posted outside. Seeing it was decently priced and had a wide selection of sushi, sashimi and hot dishes, I knew I’d found the perfect place. I entered and was greeted with a happy 『いらっしゃいませ!』from the woman behind the bar. The only customer I could see was a man in the bar. I wondered if they had just opened for dinner. Another woman came out from behind a counter, asking if I’d like to sit at the bar or a table. Choosing a table, I was told to go upstairs. Upstairs and through the noren curtain, I could hear traditional Japanese music playing softly in the background as a waitress dressed in a yukata and geta seated me. All the other waitresses were also dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. Hearing them chitchat back and forth in Japanese made me smile! They also used an intercom to communicate with the woman at the desk downstairs.

Everything on the menu looked delicious! Outside, I had seen an item called Unadon (short for Unagi and donburi, which translates to “eel bowl”), which is a bowl of steamed rice, veggies, and cooked eel on top. It looks something like this.

When I got inside, however, I discovered that wasn’t something they served for dinner. Alas! Instead, I ordered かつどん/katsudon, which is deep fried pork.


It was displayed beautifully! Being a little vegetable-deprived for most of the week, I basically inhaled the little salad. This meal also came with steaming hot miso soup, but I didn’t get a photo of it. I would say this is definitely a meal you could share with a friend, seeing as I took some leftover pork and rice back to the hotel.

Finishing off the meal with some Oolong tea, I enjoyed every bite! With delicious food and friendly, quick service, I would highly recommend it to anyone in the Manhattan area or to anyone visiting soon.

This entry is also posted on the UO NYC ’12 blog, which has a collection of postings from fellow classmates who went to New York. It’s a fantastic curration of all we experienced.