Grapefruit • Acme vs. Trader Joe’s
Wow! Did you see the headline? American grapefruit sinks to record lows! Seems Americans want a fast east snack they can eat with one hand. Because we are so busy doing important things.
What a load of crock! The communications and media industry is shaping this image. If you can manage to think for yourself, try a delicious snack that requires a couple of minutes to prepare.
Usually I’ll cut a grapefruit into eights and eat it like it’s smaller citrus cousin, the orange. Or I’ll slice the fruit right off the eights into a bowl. Very civilized snack. A grapefruit spoon? I receive no joy digging small pieces of meat out of the fruit. Mouthfuls are so much more pleasant.
Since we are not in Arizona in December, eating half a dozen free grapefruit a day right off a backyard tree, the grocers are getting our business. Acme and Trader Joe’s. Both offer a decent fruit.
Acme still has South African, of even symmetrical appearance. A nice dark yellow/red rind, with tart pink dense innards. $7 for a 5 pound bag of six. Trader Joe’s has an American grapefruit for a buck each. I choose the heavier ones, but there are plenty of lighter ones. Yellow meat, looser, and sweeter.
Both grapefruit are nice. For comparison, I weighed fruit before and after cleaning. AmericanLunchbox has developed the M/F ratio for this purpose. The weight of the fruit under the weight of the cleaned fruit, expressed as a decimal. Two of each fruit were analyzed.
Conclusion: The Acme fruit was better quality right now if you like a tart grapefruit. Trader’s? Better value. I’d bet a shiny nickel Trader Joe’s quality is closer to the imported within a couple of months, or at least equal is quality, but available at a better price.
Acme South African 12 ⅞ oz –> 6 ¼ oz – M/F = .48
Acme South African 13 1/2 oz –> 7 ⅛ oz – M/F = .52
Trader Joe’s American 19 – oz –> 8 ⅜ oz – M/F = .44
Trader Joe’s American 16 1/2 – oz –> 8 oz – M/F = .48
Summer *Chicken* Soup
DOES ANYONE ELSE COOK soup in the summer? I find soup the easiest thing to make, clean up, and freeze. Chicken is still my favorite.
A four-pack of thighs is about five bucks. That’s the base. Just one thigh, and freeze the rest. One thigh in a pot with a quart of water + one cup to cover what will boil off. Peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer about 40 minutes, check the chicken, maybe another 10 minutes. Eat the chicken.
When the broth cools, strain into a quart container. *Hey, I made the right amount again with no waste; guess the rule is to add 25% more water of the amount of broth with which you wish to end?
After a day or two in the fridge, you can skim and discard the pancake of fat. Sometimes I let it go a week, but longer than that, I will bring the broth to a boil again before using.
So you need the broth, an onion, and a handful of carrots and celery . And some noodles. And some chicken; I’ve been using either the chicken thigh, if I didn’t eat it, or a can of Costco chicken.
Now the easiest part. Chop the onion and throw it in the pot over some olive/canola oil. On medium. Add the chopped carrot and celery. When cooked, about 8~12 minutes, dump in the broth and bring it to a boil. Add a handful of egg noodles. READ THE DIRECTIONS. Reduce to medium simmer. 6 minute noodles? Add the chicken at 4 minutes *use a timer* and test the noodles in another two.
After the chicken goes in, I add more thyme, salt, and pepper. And I TASTE IT. That is one of the tricks to cooking. Tasting as you go. Another is being aware of time.
Remove from heat when the noodles are ALMOST done. By the time you tidy up the kitchen, wash whatever you dirtied, and get out a bowl, spoon, and glass of water, the soup will have come together.
It is so easy to over eat. Enter any diner, and you’ll find the average “snack” has as many calories as a full meal of a century ago. We may be living longer, but are we healthier?
Blame competition among eateries who cater to the sizable contingent of those who feel quantity makes up for quality. A stomach-packing meal is the result.
Instead of heading to the diner in the middle of the night when dinner misses its mark, I economize as well as healthize. A snack is wanted, and a snack I have. Lately, I’ve been going for a cup of pear-apricot tea and some toast. Trader Joe sells a nice Tuscan Pane, a bit like sourdough. And butter, of course. Then I sometimes wanted a nice sharp cheese on top, but I stopped buying sliced cheese. So finally I rationalized using the grader for just a snack, with the associated cleaning involved. NBD, if you wash up immediately.
The cheese makes the toast. TJ’s “Collier’s Welsh Cheddar Cheese. Plenty strong, graded on the finest side, it’s slender curls almost begin melting if the toast is hot enough. And I double-toast my sourdough to a crispy brown with hints of black. Really melds the cheese into the whole project. Pulls the whole thing together.
I may someday visit Wales just for the cheese.
Apple Fritters • Reading Terminal Market
Math skills crumble. Resistance is futile. Calorie counting, after an excellent meal at the Terminal, flies far out the window. Sauntering post-lunch, how many times does one seem to end up “entirely by chance” in the Northwest Corner of the Terminal. Home to Beiler’s Donuts and Salads (Ha! I see a line of 20 people for donuts, but if you want a salad, there’s no waiting!)
The fulfilling meal of tofu, cabbage, and rice leaves little temptation for desert. But occasionally, deeply embedded instinctual desires for sweets overcomes even the most hardened fitness buff. We are led . . . no, pulled, toward the donuts . . . but if even the tiniest bit of rational sense can struggle to the surface, we approach with only a single dollar in our hands.
That’s it. 95¢ for a ticket to heaven. Churches would be packed if they gave out tickets like this. The apple or blueberry fritters seem to be the most popular; between the two, one of them will be just-out-of-the-fryer. I’ll carefully purchase just one. There’s always tomorrow.
Friskies Seafood Sensations
Wow! To read cat food reviews in preparation of this article, you’d think the outcome involved Freedom of Religion or a new 90% tax rate! The final determination? Americans are nutty about their pets. Tastes Great vs. Better Nutrition. Ho, hum . . . I’ll keep buying the food my “porch cat” loves.
A couple decades ago a different porch cat lived here. I’d lay out three or four types of food at a time, for variety. The cat would eat them all, choosing one for the whole meal. Patterns of brand preference developed, were observed, recorded, and added to a statistical database. The outcome? Two cats later, the results are in. Cats who eat dry food prefer Purina and Friskies.
The foo-foo “healthy” stuff? Sorry, that doesn’t work. The cat does not read labels. Rule of thumb: If it smells like fish food, the cat will not eat it. Would you?
Tofu and Cabbage
THERE IS A REASON SOME people live longer and stay healthier into their advanced years. Healthy living. Healthy eating. Moderation. The Cambodian shopkeeper has never used alchohol or tobacco, he’s in his 60s, and trim as a rail. The nonagenarian Chinese grocer hawking bok choi and odd-looking fruit experiences as little stress as a Pet Rock and has more energy than the average five-year old.
McDonalds and Coca-Cola both report declining sales. Unless on-the-road gathering stories for American Toolbox, I avoid their products, as most people my age seem to. So it is no surprise I hit the San Kee Lunch Counter once a week for a typical healthy lunch. Tofu and cabbage, stir-fried with sesame oil and oyster sauce. Depending on who makes it, the garlic might be of flame-throwing quantity. One thing is certain. I always feel great after this meal.
- 12 ounces firm tofu, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut same as carrot
- 1 pound cabbage, cored and shredded
Pickin’ in the Pines & Firecreek Cafe
AMERICAN TOOLBOX will be back on the road, visiting Flagstaff in September. Why? Pickin’ in the Pines September 18th to 20th, 2015.
Sierra Hull will be there with her mandolin!
Below is a reprint of the Firecreek Cafe review, in Flagstaff. When I’m not at the festival, I’ll probably be here . . .
WITH A FRESH FRENCH press, I sit in a long dim coffee shop. Coming and going are the ubiquitous tourists. More likely in queue, however, are one of the 22,000 students of this college town. And post students, people who stay and give the community its continuity. The true vitality of Flagstaff, shaping its future.
Bianca, 20-something manager of Firecreek Cafe, sit’s with me as I take a break from The Great American Road Trip, Part II. She grew up in Flagstaff and knows it’s heartbeat. After a stint at a Bay Area art school, studying permaculture, where best to settle? And settling she is, building an adobe house north of the peaks. Next visit, more on that!
Firecreek Cafe is Hub of the Universe of Flagstaff. Surrounded by the majestic San Francisco peaks, this eclectic hall with its exposed structural walls and open floor plan is the 1st Third Wave
coffee shop to hit town. Lighter roasts are back! But they may be better known for their cappuccino, made with organic unhomogenized Straus milk. Quality is not cheap!
Formerly the famous Alley Bar, Firecreek continues this legacy as an indefatigable hub of this active community through dance parties, costume-related theme parties, even the INNERSPACE DJ event, transforming the entire 20′ x 120′ space through decoration, lights, and music. A constant influx of forestry, English, and nursing students supplies steady support of touring musicians, art shows, and poetry slams. Locals ensure continuity between sessions. A self-perpetuating cycle. The lifeblood is, in the end, the locals.
Try the chai, Firecreek’s own blend of spices and herbs. Very popular among the artists of this art-related town!
Coca-Cola ecotainer® with Ingeo™
Sticky drink subjects are left to others. Usually. We did cover Monin syrup last summer in conjunction with Italian sodas. But an interesting thing can happen in this content and media driven environment we call life. I can become bored. Bored enough to read the advertising on my Coke cup at the airport, stranded temporarily between flights.
Rather exciting it was to discover the words “MADE IN U.S.A.” on the cup bottom. Reading further, I find that International Paper has developed a compostable paper cup with a plant-based lining, instead of the petroleum-based (plastic) linings one has traditionally found on paper cups.
And Coke wants McDonald’s to serve Coke products in this compostable paper cup with a plant-based lining, made from paper from responsibly managed forests (SFI®).
FAR OUT! – john denver
1] Tastes great 2] Refreshing 3] Certified BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) cup 4] Meets ASTM D6400 for compostability! 5] SFI Sustainable Forestry Initiative paper!
Mojo Yogurt ◊ Tempe AZ
When the tummy says “Eat” but you want something light and healthy, nothing can beat fresh ice cream-like yogurt from MOJO. Dozens of flavors! Self-serve soft-serve! Pay only for what you serve yourself.
My favorite? Banana with chocolate sprinkles -called “Jimmies” east of the Mississippi. Magnet Muncher goes for multiple varieties of chocolate topped with strawberries and more chocolate. The repeating theme which nurtures mind and body.
If you don’t immediately take a chair and sample your way through your choice, head a little further north along Mill Avenue to Tempe Town Lake. A nice place to sit, savor, and chat with a dear friend. I’ve never made it a dozen steps outside MOJO, however, before beginning my treat. A bench in an adjacent courtyard allows one contemplation of their Just Desserts. There will be plenty of time for a walk afterwards! : – )
Paul, @ MOJO in Tempe says, “Hi! Come on in!”
San Kee Lunch Counter • Philadelphia
Within the historic Reading Terminal Market, across from Old City Coffee, one finds a dozen stools affronting a high counter. Behind the counter, four or five white-clad employees, dedicated to quickly serving great food, dance and jostle. Dumplings, duck, pork, rice and chicken. Chop-chop fast-fast! Welcome to San Kee! *
At some point, I realized less is more. A small lunch at 11am before the tradesman’s slithering and crawling into the tightest depths of a colonial-era building was the most I might have. The colonists were of smaller stature, perhaps?
Regardless, the “80% full” mantra has stuck with me. Regular visits to this lunch counter have contained my belly and my wallet! My favorite? A bowl of rice and a bowl of steamed greens with scallions and oyster sauce. $3.25 in 2015.
* there are several in the Philadelphia area. this is my favorite.