Monthly Archives: September 2009

Chocolate Monday: Good Humor Chocolate Eclair bars

good humor bookMy son has this Little Golden book he got in a collection when he was first born. The collection, is full of “classic” stories. One of them is called The Good Humor Man. Now, I had a lot of Little Golden books as a child, but I don’t remember ever seeing this one. The copywrite date is 1964, so I guess it is classic, since it predates me.

The story itself is sort of a big ad for Good Humor ice cream. I say sort of because I find it hard to believe that even in the trippy 60’s, there was a flavor of ice cream called raspberry-strawberry-marshmallow mash. Or for that matter, I can’t believe butterscotch-apricot-coconut chip ever actually existed. The book does show how the Good Humor man and his ice cream products (no matter how gross they sound), bring everyone together. It’s cute and harmless, but I have to admit that it did make me a tad bit hungry.

Minutes after I read it to him the other day, I heard the familiar tinkle of our local ice cream man’s bell. I found myself scanning the room for my purse and  contemplating running out to the curb to buy myself a treat. But I knew there was a good chance the ice cream man wouldn’t have what I really wanted, so I let it pass right by.

Today, while doing my weekly grocery shopping though, I happened to glass across the aisle at just the right moment to see the treat I’d been craving: Good Humor Chocolate Eclair bars. Without a second of hesitation, I pulled the door open, grabbed a box and dropped it in my cart. I was on my way to chocolatey goodness. chocolate eclair

As a kid I had two favorite ice cream truck treats, Bomb pops and Chocolate Eclairs. I know some kids really dug that freaky foot with the bubblegum toe. Others swore by the ice cream sandwich, but not me, I either wanted overally sugary sweet (my favorite part of the Bomb pop was the white lemonady center) or I wanted chocolatey goodness and unlike the rather boring sandwich, the eclair bar had a center of chocolate and tiny little chocolate cookie crunchies all over it. It was heaven.

Was is the operative word here. Today after lunch, I found myself still a might peckish, so I reached in and pulled out one of my shopping spoils. The first thing I noticed when I tore the package off is that the crispies looked a little sparser and not nearly as chocolatey as I remember. There were far more of the white crumbles than the brown ones. The ice cream itself looked a bit sickly pale, but I didn’t let that stop me.

I took a bite and was relieved to still find the chocolate center I’d loved as a kid. The only problem was that every part of it just tasted a little, well, flat. The crunchies weren’t very crunchy. The chocolate wasn’t as rich as I remembered. It was perfectly acceptable, but not the holy grail of ice cream bars I remembered from my childhood.

As I found myself biting nearer and nearer the stick, I started to wonder if my disappointment was due to a change in the recipe or from faulty memories. After all, getting something from the ice cream truck was always a treat, which was in turn, always shared with friends. It was summer and freedom. It was staying up late. It was cartwheels in the front lawn and swimming in the pool. It was also heaven.

I’m not sure the actual taste of the ice cream has lots its luster, nearly so much as the memory of it has. No doubt it was always mast produced cheap ice cream on a stick, just made better by all that came with it. It makes me a little sad. Especially since I have 5 more bars in the fridge. Now, I’m not saying I won’t eat the rest of them. It’s just that each one will taste slightly bitter in comparison with my 10 year-old tongue.

Appearance: 5/10

Taste: 5/10

Value: 6/10 (they aren’t very pricey and you do get several to a box, but the taste just makes them less worth it). Sigh…

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Chocolate Monday: Fannie May

I was first introduced to Fannie May when, well, I’m pretty sure it was when I was born. My mother might have melted their Mint Meltaways and mixed them in with my bottles. For those not familiar with the company, it is based in Illinois and if you grew up in Northern Indiana, Fannie May was nearly as popular as Hershey’s. Well, at least in my house.

One year, not long after I’d broken up with somone, I stopped by their store just outside the mall and bought a two pound box of heart shaped chocolates. Since it was the day after Valentine’s Day, I got it for half price, which made it just a tad bit sweeter.

I was very sad to find out they were going out of business back in 2004. I got to the store just in time to see all the notes of regret from former customers. I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I found my favorite of their candies, Trinidads in a Walgreen’s. I bought about two dozen and froze them. I ate them slowly and methodically.

Luckily the company was back in business just a little while later. At first it seemed the recipes weren’t quite the same, so I shied away from them. Last year they opened a shop back up in my local mall, so I stopped in for a taste. The recipes seemed to be back to normal, which made me happy.

So for this post, I thought I’d grab a few and try them out again. Even though they are covered in a pastel coconuty coating, they are filled with a fudgy, chocolatey center. It’s a bit of a heavier chocolate than I usually like. It is, however, very creamy and quite tasty. The light coating helps offset the rich chocolate, which I think is what makes it so tasty to me. I’ll admit that I can only eat one or two at a times tops because they are so rich, but that’s no doubt better for my waistline.

The second candy I tried was something new for me, but probably Fannie May’s most famous candy: The Pixie. From the description, Pixies are basically Turtles. It seems most candy companies make them, even though they all call them something different. Heck, even I make them around Christmas time. Every catalog I’ve ever seen from Fannie May seems to focus on the Pixie though, so I thought I should try it out.

The pecans are small and chopped up instead of the full pecans I’m used to. It takes a little bit of the crunch away, but does seem to allow more of the chocolate taste to come through. The problem for me with the Pixie is that the caramel is not as rich and buttery as I’d like. It’s very stringy caramel, which is nice, since these types of candies are often very hard to eat due to their rock hard caramel. To be honest, I find these cornerstones of their product line to be ok. Nothing fancy or great, but tasty enough. I’ve definitely had better. Heck, I think mine are better (and cheaper for me to make).

The last treat I tried doesn’t actually contain chocolate, so I feel a bit false mentioning it, but I have a huge soft spot for toffee. Fannie May makes two kinds of hard toffee–one coated in chocolate and one coated in the coconut pastel coating the Trinidad comes in. Since I like the coating on the Trinidad so much, I opted for that coating rather than my usual chocolate finish.

Now, this toffee is full of nuts, which is not something I’m used to. Once again, I’m used to my husband’s homemade toffee which is the one dish I can always bully him in to making and I happen to think is amazing. Honestly, I think I like toffee better without the nuts inside. It allows my to get a much bigger butter taste, which I do love in toffee. This toffee is very chewy. I expect toffee to get stuck in my teeth, but this seems to get stuck in a more uncomfortable way. I can’t quite explain it, but it feels a bit like the toffee is melting into the tops of my teeth.

All in all, the toffee is decent. Not my favorite, but much like the Pixie, still tasty. And the Trinidad’s are good enough that they make the trip to Fannie May worth it. The company actually makes a Trinidad cheesecake which I was very tempted to buy. I think I may have to pick one up at a later date and write another post about it.

Overall, I’d give Fannie May a 7.5/10. Trinidads get an increased 9.5/10.

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More breastfeeding snobbery

Every now and again I like to check my blog stats. I’ll admit it gets me excited when I see the line graph which tracks the number of hits I get per day rising rather than falling. I glance at which posts seem to be getting the most attention and who is referring people to my site. I also get a kick out of looking at what search terms bring people to my site. Sometimes they are very logical, others, just comical.

Since I haven’t had a post in awhile, I thought I’d check my stats today. There were two new sites people clicked mine from and on a whim I went to check them out (once I got to linked by a NY Times blogger). The first was an automatically generated link because I too had written about Freakonomics.

The second though, was someone who had posted a link to one of my entries on her forum. When I saw that the heading read “Anti-breastfeeding propaganda,” I knew whatever followed was going to be unpleasant. When I first started reading, I had hope. Here’s what I saw:

“Let me just say that I don’t care what other moms do. I really don’t. I personally think breastmilk is the better option for babies, but I understand if a woman has health reasons or something and can’t. No big deal.”

This seemed enlightened and maybe someone who was going to approach the debate from a cool-headed place. But then I read on:

“What is a big deal is all of this nonsense I keep reading from anti-breastfeeding people. I will not condone the behaviors of a pro-BF mother to badger or guilt a non, but I think this snotty ‘I’m not going to breastfeed my baby, so there’ attitude is so immature. The lies don’t help, either:”

The writer went on to post a link to my blog entry. If you haven’t read it or just don’t feel like going to it, it’s about a law NY was trying to pass to ban the inclusion of formula from bags given to new moms in city hospitals. Now, the writer’s post seems to imply that not only do I have a “to hell with all breastfeeding” attitude, but that my post is also a lie.

Now, as a journalism major (and teacher), I know what good and fair balanced articles are. I make no claims that my blog is news. It was clearly an op/ed piece. However, it’s a pretty balanced op/ed piece. I give an honest summary of the news article. I explain, with a cost analysis, why new moms who either can’t or don’t want to might appreciate the formula. I never once condemn those who breastfeed. I even acknowledge that it is healthy and prefered, but not everyone can or wants to do it. I basically preach tolerance. I won’t paint myself as a saint. I make my point that I think the law is unfair quite clear. But I never lie and I certainly don’t imply anyone shouldn’t breastfeed just to be a snot and show those damn breastfeeders whatfore!

Now, after the link to my article, the “non-judgemental” writer follows up with this:

“I really wish these defensive women who choose not to BF would own up to it instead of attacking those of us who can with these lies.”

Now, this is the woman who claims to each his own, and yet she does what every other breastfeeding advocate I’ve encountered does: assumes with snobbery that everyone is capable of breastfeeding and that those of us who don’t, are simply lazy liars.

I cannot speak for everyone who doesn’t breastfeed, but I can (and do) speak for myself. I could not breastfeed. It wasn’t a latching problem. He latched great. It wasn’t an exhaustion problem. It wasn’t a laziness problem. It was a “my body didn’t produce enough milk” problem. My breast tissue did not grow an ounce while pregnant. I consulted doctors, nurses and lactation specialists. I went on medication. I pumped (for 30 minutes every 2 hours and got less than 1/4 ounce from both breasts combined). I fed for 45 minutes, stopped for an hour and then relatched on a screaming hungry baby for another 45. After each feeding I weighed my son, he gained at most an ounce. Even the specialists were convinced I couldn’t produce milk. So there, I’m “owning” up to it: my body failed.

But see, breastfeeding advocates don’t want to hear that. They want to ignore all of recorded history when people had wet nurses (not just because they were wealthy) and we had sky high infant mortality rates (in part due to malnourishment). They want to ignore the fact that not all women’s bodies work. They want to call us hateful, lazy and negligent for sharing our stories and helping others who also can’t feel supported rather than guilty. They want to call us liars because it’s easier than admitting we might have a valid point.

The writer  closes with this gem:

“I’m just not a fan of handing out inaccurate information while being bitter and angry at everyone who doesn’t agree.”

I think someone should gift her a dictionary and tell her to look up irony. She gives no proof that anything I’ve written is inaccurate (both because she can’t and probably because she didn’t bother trying) and angrily calls anyone who disagrees with her point a liar and bitter.

This is exactly what new moms who can’t breastfeed are up against. It’s no wonder my son almost ended up in the hospital for dehydration and malnourishment. I was so convinced I had to be doing something wrong because that’s what everyone told me. It’s people like her who create the bitterness she rails against.

If only everyone could just live and let live and NOT make people feel guilty for their parental choices.

***Side note: This is the other link on the page which she associates my post with. Just more proof that this woman either didn’t bother to read my post or is just a moron. Read the link, it is appalling and even though I am not a fan of the breastfeeding advocates who bully, I totally understand why this would appal them. To associate my blog in anyway with this tripe is share malice or ignorance. I’m not sure which I’d prefer.


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Taco Tuesday

I don’t know what it is about homemade tacos, but I can eat the hell out of them. Now, I have no illusions that my tacos are in anyway authentic. I also do not even kind of argue that there is anything spectacular about my recipe. Heck, it’s really just ground beef, seasoning (from a jar) and fixins, but it doesn’t matter. I can polish off four or five of those babies and still find myself pausing to consider arm wrestling my husband for the last shell.

Growing up we didn’t have a lot of “ethnic” food. Despite that fact that I lived in California for a good chunk of my childhood, we were meat and potatoes people. My mother made meatloaf at least once a week. When we went out to dinner, it was either to Bob’s Big Boy, this amazing whole in the wall pizza place, or, if it was Sunday after church, Sizzler. The closest we came to adventurous eating was when mom would grab the Old El Paso mix and cook up a batch of tacos. Not that I complained. She could mix meat, a packet of seasoning and water like nobody’s business. Heck, I learned my skill from her.

Taco night was so much fun because not only could I stuff my face, but I got to decide what I wanted to put on my taco. I didn’t have to eat what my parents liked. My mom had everything separated out and I got to pick and choose. There were no icky sauces to scrape off or ketchup masquerading as a topping. I could identify every ingredient and they were all fresh. Plus, I could get really messy and not get yelled at because my mom and step-dad had taco juice dripping down their hands too.

Sometimes Mom wouldn’t feel like cooking and we’d hit up Del Taco* or El Polo Loco, but these were as close to authentic Mexican as we got. Once a classmate’s mother (Corey Cisneros) made homemade salsa for a class party and I couldn’t believe how good it was. I was 10 or 11 and never had it before. I didn’t quite know what to do since it didn’t come from a jar, but man did I love it. But I digress. Even at Del Taco and El Polo Loco, I ate at most two tacos. I mean they were fattening and tasty, but just not quite as good as what my mom made. Which I know makes no logic sense, but what can I say?

As I got older my horizons expanded a bit. Even though moving in with my dad and step-mom did not broaden my culinary horizons (whenever we’d go out my dad would order a cheeseburger with extra cheese, fries and a glass of milk), I did find myself eating Taco Bell about once a week since it was the only place open after the theater closed on weekends. And while I loved it, two tacos was my limit.

Once I got to college, I met people who ate outside the realm of American fare and I started going to places that not only had crazy things like tostadas and chile rellenos on the menu, but also had employees who not only spoke Spanish fluently, but sometime had trouble understanding me, so I felt I was getting a somewhat authentic flair…well, for the Midwest.

Even though I loved the new flavors and dishes, I found myself gravitating toward a few dishes: taco salad, taquitos and tacos. Coincidence? I think not. Still, even though I love our local place’s tacos, even at my hungriest I can barely eat three (and then I feel all bloaty and sick for doing it). But give me a cookie sheet of 12 taco shells at home and I’m enviously eyeballing the whole lot wondering how quickly I can eat them before my husband gets them all.

When I was dieting a few years back, one of my biggest food griefs was that I had to cut back on my tacos. I would still make them, but I’d limit myself to three, and in order to get that third one, I’d cut out the cheese. Every time I made them, I’d stare longinly as my husband finished off his fifth and sometimes six taco, and heave a big sigh when I realized he’d be the only eating the leftovers for lunch as a homemade version of taco salad.

Tonight was taco night and since I’m not on a diet, I scarfed down four. We introduced my son to them and although we cut them up into a version of taco salad, he still managed to gobble down two of them. There were two shells still in the kitchen and I thought long and hard about them. I won’t lie, I really wanted them. And even though I’m not on a diet, I am trying not to make myself sick with over eating, so I gave in and let my husband have them (for a total of 6). I was jealous.

I don’t know what it is about homemade tacos, but I kind of want to make them again tomorrow!

*Del Taco is a West Coast chain. Sort of a much, much better Taco Bell. I used to dream about their burritos. Then, when we went to Vegas last year I got to have it again. I wanted to bathe in the deliciousness that was Del Taco. I probably would have eaten there every day if my husband had let me.

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Chocolate Monday:The Popcorn Palace

popcornSorry for the absence dear readers, but I’ve been feeling a little under the weather lately. And as much as I love chocolate, I have to admit that even I didn’t feel much like eating anything cocoa flavored, which kind of annoyed my husband since half a shelf in our fridge is filled with different types of chocolates just waiting for me to try.

Since I’ve only just started to feel better, I decided to ease back in with something simple: popcorn.

For as long as I can remember, I have adored popcorn. As a kid I would press my nose up against the popper, just waiting for it to fill the bowl. I would beg my mom to buy Jiffy Pop so that I could watch her shake it over the stove and squeal with delight when the aluminum foil began to expand with the fluffy goodness. The purchase of a microwave meant our popper was retired, but it also meant I could throw a bag in and have tasty, salty goodness in minutes.

In high school, I worked in a movie theater, which was a cornocopia of free popcorn for me. Well, a lot of it shouldn’t have been free, but when no one was looking we all snuck handfuls. I would often buy bags of the stuff, douse it in butter and salt and eat it for dinner. Somtimes if I didn’t finish, I would even eat it the next morning for breakfast. I never claimed to be healthy, just to love popcorn.

Usually I’m a sucker for the salty stuff. I want my popcorn covered in butter and salt or some sort of cheesy coating. I can eat caramel corn every now and then, but I’m not a huge fan. Cracker Jack never earned a place in my heart either. My one real exception for sweet corn has always been Crunch n’ Munch. I could down an entire box in one sitting and still find myself craving more.

So when I found myself shopping for popcorn online, I really only expected to get something salty. I stumbled across the Popcorn Palace accidently. I was actually searching for Garrett’s Popcorn, since they were an online company I’d heard of. I clicked on a link that I thought would take me to them. Instead, it took me to the Popcorn Palace. As soon as I started reading their catalog, I realized I’d actually had their corn before. For years I used to take students on a field trip to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. On every trip, I’d stop by the popcorn place near the food court and get a big back of their cheesy ranch popcorn. It was fantastic! I had no idea what the place was called, but ate it up.

When I was going through all the flavors, there was one sweet variety that caught my attention: chocolate fudge brownie. A popcorn flavor that contains not only chocolate (using real Hershey’s syrup), but also brownies (a personal chocolatey favorite) was worth the rather hefty price tag ($20.95 for a one pound bag).

The corn itself was just as chocolate coated as the picture promised. It is very crunchy and very chocolatey. The taste reminds me a bit of Cocoa Pebbles. I can definitely taste the Hershey’s syrup. While it doesn’t remind me much of a brownie (seeing as it is hard and crunchy), it is definitely rich. In fact, it is so rich that I can only eat a few handfuls at a time. The taste becomes a bit overwhelming for me. For me this was a little disappointing. I wanted to adore it. Instead, I like it. On the plus side, it will last me a long time, since a pound bag is huge (and weighs way more than a pound). My only concern is that it may go stale while I try to work my way through it.

Now, I don’t want to bad-mouth the Popcorn Palace, because their cheesy ranch popcorn is quite possibly the best popcorn I’ve ever put in my mouth. I admit I’m jaded by my need for salty popcorn, and I might still be a bit biased by my tummy issues.

I’d say it’s worth a try, although I’d suggest making sure you have at least one other person to share it with. It might be easier to buy it and have it out at a party. I’d give it a 7/10.

*The cheesy ranch though, gets an 11/10 for amazing excellence!

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