For Serious Hot Chocolate Lovers

Hello friends and countrymen! I’ve been watching and becoming obsessed with Downton Abbey lately so I’m even more keen to write formally these days.

My apologies for my small absence away from the blog. Life has been nutso since the calendar turned to 2012. I’m hoping to be able to set aside more time for blogging very soon. I just gotta get taxes and other Adult Responsibilities taken care of in the meantime.

Today, I am sharing with you my homemade hot chocolate recipe. It’s something I’ve tweaked over the years and it’s one of those recipes that can be tailored to just about anyone’s taste, be it more or less chocolate, more or less sweet, more or less creamy–you get the idea.

In college, I made this a lot since it’s relatively easy and when we were feeling a little risqué, we would turn it into Adult Hot Chocolate, which is just adding Bailey’s, Kahlua, or even whiskey, if that is your desire.

I will preface my hot chocolate story by saying that this cocoa will not resemble anything remotely close to the likes of Swiss Miss or anything “instant,” nor does this recipe use a microwave. If that is your idea of what cocoa is supposed to taste like, you’re in for a shock and a treat. This stuff means srs bsns.

Hot chocolate is meant to be made with unsweetened cocoa, milk and/or cream, and your choice of sugar/sweetener. And that is IT. Really! I can’t tell you how many times I go into a restaurant or even coffee shop to find that nobody does it like this – it’s all instant or made with syrups. This is high fructose corn syrup free, people.

All right, let’s do this.

Get yourself some unsweetened cocoa. I used Hershey’s but Nestle and Ghiardelli are also fantastic.

For a single serving, you’ll want to put 2 T. of cocoa powder in a sauce pan. If you’re a cocoa junkie like me, use 3 T. I like mine very rich and chocolatey. For two servings, use 4-5 T. of cocoa powder. For each tablespoon of cocoa powder you put in the pot, put in 1 T. of water.

Now for the sweet stuff. For a single serving, add 2-3 T. of sugar or Splenda. If you like your cocoa REALLY sweet, you can add more. For two servings of hot chocolate, put in 4-6 T. of sugar or sweetener. I would start off with the lesser amount and add more to taste later. You can’t unsweeten it!

Turn your burner on medium or medium/low. This is very important. You can easily burn the chocolate mixture or scald the milk if you have the heat on too high.

Using a wooden or metal spoon, begin stirring the ingredients together. If it seems too dry or thick, add another tablespoon or so of water. The mixture should melt together into creamy, melted chocolate.

The key here is to stir constantly. The chocolate can burn easily or stick to the bottom of the pot. But since you have your heat on medium to medium low, you’ll be just fine. When the chocolate is clearly melted and getting very hot, time to grab your cream/milk!

Because I like my hot chocolate thick and creamy, I use 1/2 C. of cream or half ‘n half and another 1/4 to 1/2 C. milk. You can certainly use 100% milk. If you’re using skim milk, I don’t quite see the point since you may as well be using water, but to each his own. A full cup of 2% milk does quite nicely. For two servings, you may only want to use 1.5 C of cream/milk, but if you want it thinner, use 2 C. of milk.

If you use the cream/milk method, add the cream first, stirring constantly and making sure the chocolate blends in nicely. When that becomes dark and chocolatey, slowly add the milk. Keep up that stirring!

If you use all milk, pour it in slowly, no more than half a cup at one time, stirring and stirring away.

After all the milk/cream has been incorporated and it’s heating up, do a quick taste test. If it’s too bitter, add a a little more sugar or sweetener. If you like it slightly bittersweet, as I do, get it to a nice hot temperature and pour it into your favorite mug.

Optional toppings are marshmallows or whipped cream. If you make your cocoa slightly bittersweet, marshmallows are such a nice option because you’ll get a little burst of sweetness melting in your mouth with the creamy cocoa. But sometimes a naked cup of hot chocolatey goodness really does the trick.

I’d love to hear if you try this out and if you love it as much as I do! This is definitely filed under Zoe Recommends: Homemade Hot Chocolate! Bon appetit!

Hot Chocolate

Photo courtesy of Louish Pixel on Flickr.

Underdog Holiday Favorite

Well hello there.

Are you not much of a “baker?” Are you looking for something completely mind-blowingly easy to make for the holidays to share with friends that will astound them with deliciousness?

Look no more, for I am about to share with you a classic favorite that has wowed many with whom I’ve shared this recipe.

It’s actually not even a recipe from my own family; it comes from one of my mom’s best friends.

But it is a HIT and you would never guess that these little babies would rock your world–but oh, they will.

There are four ingredients and about three easy steps. Sound good? Of course it does.

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Toasted Pecans à la Zoe Says

(This recipe can easily be doubled – and probably should be, since they’ll go fast.)

4 C. pecan halves     1/4 C. unsalted butter (same as 4T. or half a stick)
1 tsp. seasoned salt     1 tsp. aromatic bitters

If you’re wondering what the heck aromatic bitters are, it’s an elixir that can be found in most liquor aisles of a grocery store. Or you can go straight to a large liquor store, where they’ll probably have it. You can search high and low for bitters in the baking aisle but you will not find it – take it from me. It’s usually used in cocktails. And now, it’s also used to enhance toasted pecans.

Oh yeah, and if you have a nut allergy or are like my friend Meg who just thinks pecans look and taste gross (she says the wrinkles creep her out), then yeah, you won’t like these. But EVERYONE ELSE will.

——

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lay the pecans flat within a jelly roll pan or on a baking sheet that doesn’t have an open end on one side. Toast the pecan halves for 20 minutes. They will look slightly darker and your kitchen will smell awesome.

Gently melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave or over low heat on the stove until it’s liquified.

Mix together the butter, bitters and seasoned salt. Mix well! Drizzle this Magic Potion over the pecans. Toss the pecans to ensure they’re equally coated (using two spatulas is easiest).

Bake for another 15 minutes, tossing every 5-7 minutes until done.

Cool on paper towels. Amaze friends.

Note: If you are going to put these in a festive holiday tin, definitely line the tin with paper towels. It’ll prevent the tin from getting the salt and oil from the butter in it.

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Did I take illustrative photos? Naturally.

You know what melted butter looks like. I just like my little French bowl.

The festiveness is killing me.

The Lustre of Mid-Day (to Objects Below)

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! I don’t know about you but before researching this a little bit, I had never seen a photo of St. Nick before. So here you go.

Bam!

The lean and holy Saint Nicholas (pre fat and jolly Santa).

If you want to read a very in-depth back story, click here where this other blogger has laid it out so nicely for us.

The real question is…did anyone receive any coins or chocolates in their shoes this morning?

I don’t know about you guys, but when I was a kid, December 6 helped to build up our anticipation of Christmas Day even more because my mom liked to have us participate in the ritual of putting a shoe out by the front door. In the morning, we’d run to check it and we’d usually have “gold” (chocolate) coins and a few other candies stuffed inside our shoes.

In our chocolate induced haze, we came to associate St. Nick with Santa Claus, though I never really understood the motivation behind having the mini Christmas (or “feast”) versus everything we did on Christmas Day. Wikipedia does a nice job of filling in some holes, though.

Now that I’m all grown up, I’m not currently celebrating the chocolate-in-the-shoe thing but I definitely reflected briefly with a hint of excitement that Christmas is getting closer and closer (and if I were a kid, I’d have enjoyed some chocolate with breakfast…or for breakfast).

Instead, I’m using the Feast of St. Nicholas to do a quick Zoe Recommends. I thought the St. Nick’s day thing would be a fun segue. Today’s Zoe Recommends is…a sunrise clock! It helps to make your room glow with “the lustre of mid-day to objects below,” a line I snagged from the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas, which features our boy St. Nick, just in case anyone hadn’t clued in on that.

What’s a sunrise clock, you say? It’s a lamp which you set to go off at a certain time in the morning and for about a half hour, the light goes from very dim to very bright (you set the highest bright setting) and the natural “rising” of the “sun” helps to wake you up more naturally than traditional alarm clocks that we all want to throw through a wall every morning.

Some sunrise clocks look like this:

And others look like this (including mine):

I don’t know if all sunrise lamps come with sounds but mine will not just use the light, it forces you to choose an ambient noise, such as birds chirping or meditation sounds or the radio. I choose the meditation sounds because they’re repetitive but not awful and between them and the light, I much more easily awaken in the morning, especially in the winter when the sun doesn’t come out until after 7 o’clock.

Both Kevin and I have found it sooo much easier to wake up in the mornings with this little baby. We’re in better moods upon getting out of bed (most of the time) and we’re not as aware of the pitch blackness going on outside.

Our sunrise clock is the gift that keeps on giving, year after year, day after day, Feast of St. Nicholas to Feast of St. Nicholas. It’s the new chocolate/gold coins in my shoe.

Zoe Recommends: Old-Fashioned Whiskey Sours

I am all kinds of excited for today’s post! Due to some adult content, if you will, I have a few things I need to mention before getting to the meat of things:

  • This is a post about alcohol. Please use common sense when consuming adult beverages, especially whiskey.
  • This recipe uses raw egg white. If you are allergic to eggs or have a severe phobia of consuming raw egg, you can choose to omit the egg white but you will lose out on a huge part of what makes this recipe so delicious.
  • This cocktail will change your life.
  • Kthxbai

One of the very first cocktails I ever got into was the whiskey sour. My grandfather on my dad’s side was known for making the best ones, even though I was never old enough to be able to have one and fully appreciate it when he was alive. Even though I never knew the taste of his whiskey sours, I did know that what most bartenders nowadays consider a whiskey sour – isn’t one.

Because I was dying to find a REAL source for old-fashioned whiskey sours, I scoured the corners of the interwebs, since I couldn’t ask my grandfather. (Who, by the way, was born in 1905, so when I say old-fashioned, I mean old-fashioned.)

I came upon this article from Seattle Weekly and knew immediately after reading it that I would be doing a post on making this woman’s recipe. Favorite line? “Lazy bartenders…sullied the drink’s reputation by doing nothing more than pouring a shot of cheap whiskey and topping it with a squirt of some neon piss out of a gun or a plastic bottle.”

Spot on!

I personally can’t stand the pre-made, neon green sour mix of present day and was thrilled to find out what actually constitutes a sour is a blend of simple ingredients like lemon juice and simple syrup.

And, because I planned ahead, I already did a blog post on how to make your own simple syrup. So check that out before proceeding.

Another reason for my being excited to present this cocktail recipe to you is that I not only made it and liked it but I took photos. We all love a good story told by photos, don’t we? I’ll post the cocktail instructions at the end, though I’m just copying it directly from the article I referenced above.

You will need the following:

You’ll also need something to put all of these ingredients in – preferably a cocktail shaker. If you do not have one, any tightly lidded container will do. I used a Mason jar.

I don’t have a photo of me pouring a shot of whiskey into my jar but that is what I did. Pretty easy to do and to imagine.

Next up: squeeze half a lemon!


The recipe calls for a “dollop” the size of a quarter of the first runny clear egg white that comes out of the shell. Because I was taking photos, I decided to use my handy dandy egg white separator. It looks like this:


I cracked the egg into the little plastic holder so I could catch the white below:


I took a tablespoon of the egg white and added it to my Mason jar. I then added “half an ounce” (I admit it, I eyeballed that) of simple syrup to my Mason jar. That’s about one tablespoon.

Now we’re ready to shake! REALLY shake it – it’s going to give you this creamy, delicious froth from the egg white that makes your whiskey sour all velvety.


You’ll have a mixture that looks like this:

Almost ready
If you have a little strainer, get that out. You definitely don’t want chunks of pulp in your whiskey sour (unless that’s how you roll) but I like mine smooth as silk.

Strain! I had shaken mine with two cubes of ice to get it REALLY cold before pouring it over more ice but you don’t have to do that. If you have a formal cocktail shaker, you’ll be able to get more of the egg white foam on top of your drink.


Mmmmmmm…….


Some people put a cherry in or a garnish of an orange or lemon wedge. I really just wanted to enjoy the drink as-is and it’s still very attractive and yummy looking, if I do say so myself.

Serve and enjoy! And just for fun, a couple more ooo and aaahh shots:



By far, making my own has given me the supreme gratification of saying that I now make the BEST old-fashioned whiskey sours. I have made these a couple of times now (actually, Kevin made the first batch) and didn’t get sick from consuming raw egg. Just be sure to use FRESH eggs and keep these babies cold.

Have I inspired you to try making these? I really hope so. I’d love to hear back if you do! Recipe below. Cheers!

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For two whiskey sours, shake:

Juice from one lemon
Two shots of whiskey (more if you like your drinks strong)
1oz. of simple syrup, which amounts to two tablespoons (adjust to taste, of course)
2T. of egg white, though you can add more if you want more froth

Strain and pour over ice, if that’s your thing.

Garnish if you wish and then ENJOY. These are seriously kickass. Zoe Recommends!

Maybe you’ve listened to a little album called “Born This Way.”

Have you been asking your friends, “Have you heard the new Gaga album?” or “So, what do you think of the latest Gaga?” No? Then you might not be interested in this blog post. However, several of my friends and I, as well as millions of others I can’t possibly fathom, have been doing this exact thing.

I know there are many, such as myself, who find it annoying when someone on iTunes/Amazon/Other Music Store I’m Not Aware Of puts the entire track listing down as part of his/her review of an album s/he’s downloaded. I can’t say I won’t be doing that in my review of Born This Way. There’s just too much to say about an, I’m sorry to put it this way, epic album such as this one. That isn’t sarcasm, either.

I know that Lady Gaga has famously predicted that this is the “album of the decade.” Considering her surreal rise to fame in the last 2.5 years, I think she’s probably earned the right to a little bit of ego. Didn’t The Beatles have their “more popular than Jesus” moment? Yes. I think most people know by now that that didn’t dim their star in the eyes of their fans. So, as an extreme fan of Gaga, her comment doesn’t faze me. Who’s to say it won’t be the album of the decade? Maybe she’ll have two. Who knows? I guess we’ll find out by 2020.

Anyhow, as far as this author is concerned, this album delivers. Like many others, I was extremely impatient for the album to drop and couldn’t understand why it was taking so long. When the single “Born This Way” came out in February, I said to myself, “I have to wait more than three more months to hear the whole thing??” It seemed a bit ludicrous. But now that it’s here and I’ve had it on non-stop repeat (iPod, car, iTunes at home, rinse, repeat), I can say that it was worth the interminable wait.

I’ll put it this way: I haven’t listened to an album this many times in a row without getting sick of it since 2006, when I had Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor playing absolutely non-stop between my stereo at home and my iPod. And those songs still hold special meaning for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I was obsessed with The Fame Monster, too. Those songs fully converted me to being a Gaga fan more than just The Fame, but to each her own. On Born This Way, Gaga did not lightly write her songs. Not a single fluff piece exists on this thing (especially “Scheiße”). The lyrics are important, absolutely, but anyone who was alive in the 80s can hear the strong musical influences that lie within this pièce de résistance, e.g. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and a plethora of 80s rock bands who were huge.

Let’s get to the tracks, shall we?

“Marry the Night” – I’ve always been one to believe that an album can be as strong as its opening song. I like that not one of the four singles released prior to the album dropping was the first one listed. This one gets your toes tapping, head nodding, and you singing along to the chorus with one short listen. This song also told me that despite what I may have heard and liked about the released singles, that this album isn’t effing around. It’s a completely different sound and vibe altogether. Gaga took this rebirth seriously. This song is a fantastic freedom anthem or, at the very least, could go right up there with one of my favorite road trip songs, “Running Down a Dream,” by Tom Petty.

“Born This Way” – I don’t think I have to go into too much detail about this one, since it was the first single out and  we all knew it was coming and what the message is. Whether you believe or not it sounds “exactly” like “Express Yourself” is up to you. The most Madonna-esque thing about the song, in my mind, is at the way end when the music stops and she’s singing the chorus on her own and then it goes out completely while she whispers, “Same DNA…but born this way…” And I thought that before the video came out and there is a quick shot of her doing her very best Madonna impression (via makeup).

“Government Hooker” – I was actually surprised I like this one as much as I do. Though it might have a funny beginning, it sounds really good when the beat hits. My favorite part is when she sings the reprise, “I’m gonna drink my tears tonight…” I was listening to it in the car the other day and it occurred to me that while she may have written it about politicians’ wives, it could also be about the politicians themselves. We elect and pay for them to be in office and more often times than not, they turn around and screw their constituents.

“Judas” – This one had to grow on me but grow on me it did. One of my friends has said that this is her favorite song on the album. I can’t say that for me but it is definitely good. From the very start, you’re in for a ride on this one. Although I can appreciate a song about loving the wrong man, I don’t read too much into the religious overtones of it, but I do like it. This one ends as it starts – abruptly. It’s like going on a Tilt-A-Whirl.

“Americano” – I know only one other person who likes this song as much as I do. It kind of made me think it was “Alejandro II” but it’s definitely got its own flavor, and it’s not about loving the wrong person. A few friends of mine don’t like the “mariachi” sound but I really like the fast-pacedness of it and it has its special message(s), of course. (I had to look it up but it’s about immigration/law in Arizona and gay marriage.) This one has a decisively less 80s flavor to it but keeps up the pace, if not sets it, for the rest of the album. No slowing down here!

“Hair” – How can you not like this song? It has a classic feel to it about rebelling as a teen and, well, being free as your hair! I feel like if there was a modern day version of the movie Grease, this would be in it.

“Scheiße” – Um…I really don’t like this song. I can’t get past the manic German-speaking. I skip it when it comes on now. I know, I’m not a purist. I didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, however. I still adore this album. I just couldn’t get on board with…whatever this song is about.

“Bloody Mary” – Gaga is quoted as saying that this song is about living between fantasy and reality. Makes sense, considering some of the distorted sounds that come out while she’s singing. To me, the song’s chorus has a very “come hither” sound to it. It’s kinda trance-like. I can’t explain it better than that. More Jesus/Biblical references. I haven’t delved into the deeper meanings.

“Black Jesus+Amen Fashion” – This one sounds the most Michael Jackson-esque, at least in its opener. The folks over at Palace of Gaga have said that this one tells us that putting on a new spirit is as easy as putting on fashion. It’s super catchy and has a little autobiography in it about her rise to stardom. Love it!

“Bad Kids” – Gaga sings to us about loving your perceived flaws in this somewhat unusual sounding track. Here’s a good article that breaks it down. This song has a sizzling electric guitar playing on the main verses. The chorus gets super 80s and reminds me of a Whitney Houston song or something.

“Fashion of His Love” – The tribute to Alexander McQueen. I don’t “know” fashion so I am not familiar with McQueen’s works but I know from paying attention that he had a massive influence on the world of fashion. Lady Gaga sings about this topic on pretty much all her albums and it’s a nice token to McQueen’s memory. To be honest, I thought it was about Jesus when I listened to it the first few times, and it sat well with me. I like that there are moments when we can hear Lady Gaga sing on her own before the drumbeats or guitar get going. This chorus, if you can’t hear “I Just Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston when it comes on, go listen to that song and then listen to this one again! It’s uncanny. But also awesome.

“Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)” – One of my favorites from Born This Way. You hear the chorus first and then she sings deeply with a strong beat that builds to the high chorus. This one can easily go on repeat until you learn every last nuance. There’s still no sense of stopping – the energy keeps flowing.

“Heavy Metal Lover” – Strong contender for my favorite song, though I’ll tell you soon which one I think steals the title. To me, the song is the slightest of nods to The Fame Monster but it retains this album’s flavor. Heavy synth and more pop. Great to blast in the car, especially with friends, since the song discusses how sometimes a crowd does it better.

“Electric Chapel” – After listening about 100 times now, I believe this one takes the place as Favorite. It’s such a tough call, though. Who knew that organ and church bells could sound not only cool but NECESSARY on an album? I can’t say enough how much I love this track. The opening guitar makes me think of the movie Top Gun. It has a nice story within it, though.

“The Queen” – Such a freaking awesome follow-up to “Electric Chapel!” Honestly, it’s the third in a row on this section of the album that I think was just genius to put together. This one has a lot of different meanings and you can certainly look them up…I think it’s kind of fun for this one to remain subjective. Can’t go wrong with this one – fantastic guitar solos.

“You and I” – I have a bitch of a toothache going on right now so I didn’t bother to Google the word You that has the umlaut over it. Cute way of putting it, though. (Better than U ‘n I or something.) Just when I think there can’t be a fourth song in a row that is going to blow my mind, this one kicks down the door with its Queen-esque vibe. The drums take this one. You could totally see Gaga singing this in some dive bar somewhere. It’s just overall fantastic and a great love song. I believe this is the only one that Gaga wrote on her own for the album. Not 100% on that, though.

“The Edge of Glory” – Um, yeah. Out of the four singles released prior to the album dropping, this one stole my heart. I didn’t think anything could top “Born This Way,” but this one just managed to do it. I like the more dancey feel to it and could totally see people going crazy in a club or venue somewhere – even me, who is not a self-proclaimed awesome dancer. She performed this on the finale of American Idol and I thought she did a fantastic job. I am waiting on pins and needles for the music video of this to come out and based on what I’ve read, the speculation is rampant as to how it’s going to look. I’m probably as excited for this one as I was “Telephone,” and that video was mind-blowing, let’s face it.

I’m not going to review the bonus tracks but I will say that The Country Road version of “Born This Way” makes you fall in love with this song all over again. It’s quite amazing how she was able to spin it two totally different ways. This has a bluesy, Springsteen-like feel to it. Even Kevin, who is decidedly not a Lady Gaga fan, has said that her and her music doesn’t completely suck. This is coming from a die-hard Bruce fan. So props to you, Lady Gaga! As if she needs more.

I know this was long. I felt it towards the end there, if you couldn’t tell. I probably haven’t done this long of a post since my very first one. But I can’t sing its praises enough. I know millions of others out there love it just as much as I know there are at least half as many who can’t stand it. One review I saw called it “schizophrenic” and an overall “disappointment,” which I couldn’t protest vehemently enough. I love that she reinvented her sound for this album and I hope she’ll continue to do so. The artists who do stick around for a very, very long time. (Hello, Madonna knows that formula all too well!)

My only wish is that Lady Gaga doesn’t completely abandon the sounds that have been a success for her. For example, Kelly Clarkson hasn’t done a single song similar to those on her first album Thankful, ever. And I really really like that album. If she did another pop/R&B album like that, I’d pre-order it, even. Now I have to wait for Clarkson’s albums to hit and test out each song before I commit. I love Kelly Clarkson and own all her stuff but I still go back to songs from Thankful and ask, “Why isn’t there more of this?”

Okay seriously, I need to be done now. If you’ve read all the way to the very end, I applaud you. Hell, I applaud me for finishing this tome of a blog post. I welcome any and all feedback if you’ve listened to this album and care to share!

Dear Wendy’s, I love ya but you’re not a bistro.

On a recent excursion to the sole Wendy’s in my fair town, I had the opportunity to try their new line of French fries. These new fries are supposed to call forth healthier images of a fried treat (more like a staple) that is consumed daily around the world as if the next potato famine will start any second now.

Made from Russet potatoes, left with some critical minimal amount of skin on for a more natural effect, and seasoned only with sea salt, Wendy’s portends that this is the new standard of fry that is going to beat out McDonald’s’. <~~~~I swear that that is the correct way to properly put McDonald’s in the plural possessive. Those two apostrophes are annoying, however.

Before I cite some other articles on this topic, I’m just going to give my totally subjective, casual opinion on them. Which is….they’re really not all that good. Honestly, what peeves me more than anything else is that these new fries completely took over the old ones, and I happened to like their classic yellow, thicker cut fries. We had no choice whatsoever in this matter. The old ones tasted great with ranch (quelle surprise) and Kevin liked to dip them into Frosties. I’m a big fan of Frosties. Big time. Chocolate, not vanilla. Their coffee chocolate dessert thingy is good, too, where they mix in candy and stuff with it. But in a pinch, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Frosty. Mmm.

Okay, back to the fries. We were mourning the old ones. Quite frankly, if we just had the option of choosing between classic and these new “bistro” fries, I’d be okay with that! I’d just never order the bistro fries. I mean, even Arby’s and Jack in the Box have multiple fry options. Curly vs. classic. Why can’t they get on board with this? Yeah, it’s one more thing to fry up but it’s just potatoes and chicken nuggets in the fryers over there. BFD, ya know?

These new fries are skinnier, the ends burn more easily, and I don’t know if it’s the 1% skin on them or what, but the flavor just isn’t….”Hurry up and eat me!” like I do with other places’ fries.

I love me some sea salt. But there’s no way that these fast food fries are potatoes + salt and that’s it. And I surmised correctly! Check out this article on all the crap that the fries are processed with – I’m telling you, it’s nasty. And if you have some extra time and wanna see what an actual food blog wrote up about the fries, check out what Serious Eats had to say about them.

I disagree that the old ones had no merit but I do agree that they were inconsistently cooked.

In summation, I’m sorry to say it, Wendy’s. The new fries are more a fail than a success. Please stick to what you do best, which is make above average fast food. And your new salads are bomb, too. But your thinly veiled marketing campaign to disguise your fries as anything but regular, same-old processed ones is lame. Bring back the old fries that never pretended to be anything than what they were – mediocre and bad for you!

Best Coffee Flavor? Creamy Chestnuts.

It occurred to me that I have yet to write about one of my favorite websites on my blogroll: Coffee Fool. If you love coffee and you’ve never heard of this website, I urge you to go there immediately and browse their insanely good selection of coffee. Then buy some.

It’s not just the flavors, though they are my favorite out of the kinds they have. It’s the joy and caring they put into their roasts, as well as a very detailed explanation of how they get their coffee a certain way. They also help you understand that most store-bought coffee is not freshly roasted and therefore is stale. If you’ve ever smelled ‘fresh’ coffee grounds and thought it smelled kinda ashy, like cigarettes, then yeah, they’re bad.

Big K and I like to get the beans because when we grind them ourselves, the powerful smell of truly fresh coffee hits you over the head. It’s akin to wine. You can inhale the scent up to your eyeballs and before you even brew the stuff, you feel more awake. I wish I were exaggerating but it’s really true.

To that end, we discovered that our favorite part of Coffee Fool’s website is the Friday Flavors. There, they “experiment” with different flavors and usually keep the roast at on the lighter, American side of things. (Don’t get me wrong – their Italian and French Roasts are like dark silk. Try one if you have any semblance of loving a rich roast.) Anyway, in Friday Flavors (which have now been incorporated into their regular line), they have many delicious concoctions but my favorite “potion” – and I’m talking all-time here – is Creamy Chestnuts. There is just something about this nutty flavor that keeps me buying pound after pound. I could probably get on their auto-delivery program for it because it’s that good. Every single person who has ever had it at my home thought it smelled amazing and tasted just as good. You don’t get that all the time with coffee – just sayin’.

I don’t know if they still do this but if you buy enough coffee from them, you earn a permanent discount with them. Needless to say, I get a slightly discounted bag of coffee each and every time I order. They also have wonderful staff and customer service. I really hope their whole business plan stays exactly the same.

So, to Coffee Fool: I salute you! Keep up the outstanding work and thanks for brightening my life with your creativity in a product as necessary as coffee. The variety and quality boggle the mind! At least mine.

Here are a few of the other flavors I’ve tried and my two cents on them:

Boolicious: they keep this one a ‘secret’ but Kevin and I have definitely discerned that it’s a mixture of blueberry and other flavors. This would be great for most people, since there are an odd number of folks out there who enjoy blueberry flavored coffee, but I do not. So while I do not recommend it, Kevin would.
Chocolate Pumpkin Pie: I like this version better than their regular Pumpkin Pie flavor. I found the latter to have too much pumpkin spice.
Cremera: Don’t bother. It literally tastes like a weird, subdued, creamy coffee. Wouldn’t buy twice.
Egg Nog Royale: I don’t like egg nog flavored things but my dude loved this one.
Santa’s Cookie Coffee: I bought two bags of this and liked it initially. Then when I tried it again, I didn’t like it enough to buy it again. It’s VERY popular, though.
Turtle Gone Nuts: This is pretty good. I love me some chocolate and caramel.
Vanillamykahlua: Give this a whirl if you like mild vanilla. (I can also highly recommend their French Vanilla, since it’s French roasted coffee with vanilla. YUM.)
Bacon: You’d think this one would have blown us away. The ‘bacon’ flavor was so mild that it didn’t blow our hair back. We’ll just stick with regular coffee and frying up some bacon.
Chocolate Espresso: Self-explanatory. And delicious.
Chocolate Raspberry: This stuff is amazing. Conversely, I tried the Raspberry Squared and wanted to throw up. I couldn’t drink the stuff. Too berry-y.
Creme Brulee: I can’t attest to this one but K-Dawg loves it.
English Toffee: very tasty! I’d buy this one again.
Maple Walnut: a new flavor that is really good. I think out of the “nut” coffees, it goes Creamy Chestnuts, Pecan Supreme, then Maple Walnut. This is a really nice flavor and can be mixed with others if it’s too mapley for you.
Melted Marshmallow: I wasn’t a big fan. It was just kinda ehhh for me. But I’m picky about marshmallow stuff.
Pecan Supreme: REALLY good. Not as good as Creamy Chestnuts but up there!
Pacific Espresso: I really adore dark roasts but I do not like this one. The best reason I can come up with is that it’s too bitter. Their Italian and French roasts are great for me, though.
Smooth Sailing: this is a reduced-acid coffee and has a wonderful flavor. It’s what “regular” coffee should taste like. And I can have multiple cups without having a Tums. Bonus!
Snoodle Doodle: One of my favorites. I have ordered this multiple times and would get this more regularly if it weren’t for Chestnuts eeking out the competition.
Highlander Grog: Also one of my favorite repeat orders. I like it because it’s not super hazelnut. It’s got a good blend of butterscotch and the hazelnutflavors.

Flatpicker Fuel, Fool’s House French, Fools’ House Italian Dark, Lock & Load and Velvet Hammer are all of the dark roasts I’ve tried. They’re really good about keeping the descriptions accurate so just double check what they say about each before picking. It’s almost hard to pick one you won’t like! (My God. I just went over to the Light/Medium roasts and realized I’ve tried a bunch of those, too. I really am a fan!)

R.I.P. to Two of My Faves

Some things are absolute in this world; this is both good and bad.

The good part is that when you find something that is the best, you can rely on it and you get satisfaction from it, whatever “it” is, every time.

The bad part is that if it disappears, you’re screwed. Such is the case with two of my beloved favorite things going extinct.*Sniffle*

Some of you may remember the brand Mentadent. They had that weird toothpaste where when you pushed down the top of the plastic dispenser, the baking soda combo would come out one side and the fluoride and other goop would come out the other. They’d mix together on your brush to create their magical form of teeth cleaning excellence. Right.

Well, one thing they got right were their toothbrushes. Specifically, their Pro Care line with the flexible handles and array of beautiful colors, not to mention full and soft bristle heads. Can you tell I’ve used these for years? They’re seriously fantastic and I have yet – YET! – to find a toothbrush as good in all aspects. Allow me to show you so you can oooh and aaah, as well.

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They first started being hard to find back in 2005. I just couldn’t find them at the drugstore anymore. I had a roommate that found them for me in NYC at a Rainbow store. I’m pretty sure Rainbow is a New York thing but it was a mixture of hardware and household goods. And they had my toothbrushes! I would buy four or five at a time.

Later, I found them at Drugstore.com. I was so happy! I conservatively purchased two of them upon my last order.

Then: disaster struck. They are now completely gone from Drugstore.com. Frantic, I searched Amazon but found them only in bundle packs for over $50. Someone clearly knew they were a popular item. As much as I adore them, I cannot bring myself to pay that much for toothbrushes.

Inside, I am mourning. I have to say goodbye to a true hero of dental hygiene. I don’t know why other companies can’t replicate this ergonomically sound, pretty, effective tooth tool. But they do not. Instead, I will have to resort to finding something that will have to serve as second best (if that).

As if that weren’t bad enough, my favorite shampoo and conditioner brand is no longer found in drugstores. For years, I was using Sunsilk’s yellow bottles of Anti-Flat shampoo and conditioner. It had a punchy (but not overwhelming) citrus smell and the conditioner has yet to be beaten by another. It’s lightweight, gives the hair a boost, reasonably priced, and flat out smells terrific. This is the perfect combo for people like me who need volume but don’t want to leave residue on the roots. Here’s a photo:

Photo has been removed multiple times due to whatever glitch that prevents it from showing up. Maybe Sunsilk doesn’t like former product photos being out on the interwebs. It was a bright yellow bottle with retro font wording. I miss it.

Even the conditioner bottle is designed so that it’s upside down, giving you maximum usage. I have one bottle in my bathroom that is dwindling away. I’ve found packs of these online, too, but they are overpriced. I heard a rumor that Sunsilk was completely redoing the formulas to “improve” their line but I can’t even find the new line in grocery stores or drugstores. Have they gone out of business? I have no clue. I only know that another one bites the dust. I’ve been experimenting with Pantene and Clairol’s Herbal Essence line (another one that was overhauled and the original smell was taken away).

My question to these companies is, if you have a bestseller, why are you striving to improve it? Leave it the hell alone! I can see redoing the packaging and that there is probably some marketing research done that shows that sales are kept up with new packaging but really? Redoing the formula? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – because you’re not fixing it, you’re ruining it!

I need to get a hold of myself.

Some might say, “Who cares? It’s only shampoo.” Some would be right. Except that finding that perfect shampoo/conditioner combo is really important to women. And some men. Having good hair is a part of our daily lives. Having good-smelling hair is important to people like me. I’m a Super Smeller. That’s a whole other post for another time.

I wish these companies would check with me first before they try to reinvent the wheel and then inevitably go bankrupt. And what about the leftovers? I would have taken all the remaining toothbrushes and shampoo/conditioner off their hands!

Goodbye, Best Toothbrush Evar and Best Conditioner (and shampoo) Evar. You meant a lot to me. You will always be in my memory. Hell, I’ve dedicated internet space to you. You were simply the best.

Love,

Your Most Faithful Fan Zoe