Friday, February 27, 2009

Nuts For Pistachios!

(The pistachio, on the tree, just before harvest)
Awww…..nuts! I cannot believe that “February Foodie Love Month” is just about over. But, what better way to bid a fond farewell to February than with a salute to National Pistachio Day, February 26, which was actually yesterday.

The “Pistachio” is a small tree which is mainly seen in the mountain regions of Iran, Turkmenistan, and western Afghanistan. This tree was first cultivated in western Asia. It has a hard shell which is removed. The kernels are eaten whole and can be eaten either fresh or roasted and are also used in ice creams and many indulgent confections. Pistachios help in lowering the risk of heart disease.

Pistachios from Turkey are smaller and less open than California-grown pistachios and have darker shells, but they feature a richer, more distinctive taste. Turkish pistachios are left to dry with their outer husks on, which darkens the shells but protects the flavor. Consequently, many pistachio aficionados think Turkish pistachios are better-tasting than any other variety, including Iranian. And the best pistachios in Turkey come from the area around the city of Gaziantep, not far from the Syrian border, and are thus named Antep pistachios.

So….why the focus on Turkish pistachios when there are so many other varieties of fabulous pistachios? Well…I owe my “development” to both my mother and the nutritional integrity of this nut.

At the time my mother was expecting me, she, the wife of an Air Force man (my dad), found herself a young woman living off base in a tiny apartment in Yalova, Turkey. During her pregnancy, my mother and a fellow military wife, Nancy, wiled away the hours camped out on her apartment balcony drinking Chai tea – not the Starbucks kind, I am sure – and eating Turkish pistachios by the pound while studying the Turkish woman who lived in the house below the building. This woman spent her afternoons practicing the ritual of hand washing her laundry in her metal wash basin - outside. Better than reality TV for Mom and Nancy, that woman – and those Turkish pistachios - seemed to somehow make these young women forget that they were military wives living in a foreign country thousands of miles from home.

Forty-one years later, I still cannot get enough of pistachios…Turkish or otherwise….and I guess I owe it all to Mom, Nancy, and that Turkish laundress. Here’s to National Pistachio Day (a day late) and the end of February Foodie Love Month. Hope you enjoyed it. Until my next entry in March, I remain….1SweetMama

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's Fat Tuesday!

The term “Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday”. In many countries, the term Mardi Gras refers to the time period between Epiphany, or Twelfth Night and, Ash Wednesday. This time period varies from city to city, as some traditions consider Mardi Gras as the entire Carnival period while others just treat the final three-day period leading up to Ash Wednesday as being “Mardi Gras”.

Carnival is an important celebration in most of Europe, except in Ireland and the United Kingdom where the festival is called "shrovetide” ending on Shrove Tuesday, and pancakes are the traditional feasting food.

While this holiday is not nationally celebrated in the U.S., today IS a day that is recognized as Fat Tuesday….or even as “International Pancake Day”. In fact, I have been seeing that IHOP is giving away pancake dinners all day today - FOR FREE! Gosh, I LOVE this day!!

Because early generations of my family hail from European countries, our family’s traditional interpretation of “Fat Tuesday” also includes pancakes and sausage links – and plenty of it. I think my mother used to even throw in a year or two of potato pancakes – not as much my favorite as the buttermilk kind….

I was raised, and remain, a Lutheran so the practice of binging in excess prior to and then purging and doing without during the period of Lent has never really been anything we have done as part of a regular tradition but we do recognize this event by eating too many pancakes on Fat Tuesday, making an intention to give something up for the Lenten period, if we are so moved, attending Ash Wednesday service the next day and hunker down and wait for Easter.

Pretty easy. All I know is that tonight, my boys and I will gather at my mom and dad’s place, along with my sister and brother in-law and we will dine on stacks of light and fluffy carbcakes – er – pancakes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ice Cream Treasures Along the Treasure Coast

Ahhh….vacation! Every year, at this time, Mr. P.O.D. and I travel with friends to a Florida destination that is both conducive to golfing (for the guys) and lounging on the beach (for the gals). This year goes on record, for me, as one of the best years ever. Above average temperatures (mid-80s), great company, lots of sun, great wine and food, a fabulous shoe purchase and three ice cream opportunities all played a role in this trip obtaining the “best ever” title.

This year’s destination, The Treasure Coast, in Florida….specifically Hutchinson Beach, Jensen Beach, and Stuart…offered up a plethora of experiences. Did you know that the name "Treasure Coast" is derived from a number of ships of Spanish galleons (especially those of the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet) that wrecked off the coast during the 17th and 18th centuries? “The Fabulous Mrs. G” (I will call her “Fab” for short) is my female counterpart on this trip (while the guys go chase little white balls around in the grass) and it is up to us to fill our days with uncovering as many of those little treasures as possible.

And this year’s booty? Ice Cream!

Following dinner on Friday night at a little Italian restaurant, we stumbled upon a small dip shop called “Strawberries” where they served Mayfield ice cream. My chocolate and peanut butter combination paled in comparison to the caramel-coyote-something-or-other that Fab ordered. I can’t remember the name but it was pretty good. Nothing spectacular about this ice cream experience but it was a nice ending to a great Italian meal.

This year’s trip also included a 9-mile Valentine’s Day bike ride that afforded Fab and me a wonderful opportunity to watch about a dozen dolphins frolicking in the waters of the Intercoastal Waterway. What an awe-inspiring moment to see! We also uncovered an outdoor tiki-hamburger bar called J.B. Pipps that served really great burgers and fries. But on this particular bike ride, we had one main goal – to eat ice cream at our second ice cream destination of the trip, Killwin’s. Fab, a fan of Killwin’s for many years, turned me on to this shop during our Florida excursion last year. This year’s experience did not disappoint. Founded in Northern Michigan in 1947, this franchise of confectionary shops has about 60 locations throughout the country. Here are a few photos of the dipping cabinet and some of the confections they were making the morning that we arrived. Bear in mind, it was Valentine’s Day and they were obviously expecting a larger than normal patronage today. Our ice cream was “delish” and I enjoyed a double scoop of Rasberry Sorbetto and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – an odd combination – but who cares?? It’s vacation!
Finally, Sunday was the day we opted for a gelato case we found at a small café and wine shop just down the street and over the bridge from our hotel. Fab ordered a dolce de leche and pistachio combination while I tried my luck again with chocolate chip cookie dough on top of a yummy flavor – I can’t recall the name – but it tasted like an Almond Joy candy bar. This was also the day that we got to pet stingrays and identify fish in a lagoon at the Florida Oceanographic Costal Center.
Alas! Another vacation “in the can” and more time on the treadmill for me. As long as the vacations consist of sweet ice cream experiences, it is all worth it!

Next Tuesday we’ll chat a little bit about “Fat Tuesday” before we begin to “detox” our bodies from February “Foodie-Love” Month. Until then, I remain…..1SweetMama

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 19 is National Chocolate Mint Day!

Today’s blog is short and oh-so-deliciously sweet. I am busy writing my entry for Friday about all the great ice cream discoveries I made while on vacation in warm and sunny Florida this past week.

Here are some things you can dazzle your friends with at your next party:

Mint (from the Latin word, menthe) originated in Europe and the Mediterranean and its many varieties are now cultivated all over the world. Mint has long been regarded as the symbol of hospitality. Romans would scatter mint around the settings of feasts and banquets as a welcoming sign to guests….I guess kind of like many of us, today, perform the practice of popping a piece of mint chewing gum in our mouths before we know we will be sharing some kind of personal space with someone, either casually or intimately.

Chocolate, on the other hand, has its origins in central Mexico. In fact, chocolate residue has been found in several jars from the site of Puerto Escondido in Honduras, from around 1100 BC and it is the earliest evidence to date of the use of cacao. This evidence that was found indicates that the earliest use of cacao seems to have been used as an alcoholic beverage. There are many interpretations as to the origins of the word “chocolate” but I like best the description that gives it Mayan origins. “Chocolate” comes from the Nahuatl word xocolātl derived from xocolli, bitter, and atl, water. Xocolatl was a chocolate drink consumed by the Aztecs, associated with the Mayan god of Fertility.

So, in both histories of mint and chocolate, I interpret that both are used to welcome closeness with others, whether it is hospitably or intimately…

So, tonight……pull your friends, family, and lovers close and enjoy “mint-chocolate-anything”: ice cream, peppermint patties, hot chocolate flavored with mint. Whatever moves you. I, myself, may just treat the kids to a carton of Blue Bunny® Premium Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream…..with an extra shot of chocolate syrup.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Do I Smell chocolate?? February is National Chocolate Month!

(Photo by eszter,
To say that I love chocolate is a bit of an understatement. I just recently commented to a co-worker that I could wake up in the morning and go to bed at night and eat nothing but sweets in-between. Aside from any kind of ice cream and white cake with lots of frosting, I could ONLY eat chocolate. I get my sweet tooth from my dad who not surprisingly, is now being monitored for on-set diabetes. I have to be very careful in my sweets selection and I have tried to make “smarter” choices when it comes to sweets. Angel food cake as opposed to pound cake. Light ice creams instead of Premium (most of the time). Dark chocolate to milk chocolate. But….if I find that I have simply pushed the limit to my chocolate consumption, I have found some other very interesting ways to satisfy my craving for chocolate.

First – one of my favorite movies is “Chocolat”. This movie takes place in post-war France and stars Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, among a host of other great actors. The movie’s premise is that a woman and her daughter open a chocolate shop in a small French village that shakes up the rigid morality of the community (how dare she open a candy store during Lent??). One of the characters in the story, Yvette Marceau, describes an innocent piece of chocolate by saying, “...And it melts, God forgive me, it melts ever so slowly on your tongue, and tortures you with pleasure.” What the movie lacks in caloric intake it makes up for in satisfying other cravings – like feasting your eyes on Johnny Depp for two hours. Yowsa.

The second is a “bubble” bath bar (“Ma Bar Bubble Bar”) from a great handmade, organic soap company called “Lush”. I was clued in to this wonderful store by a fabulous fashion and couture-conscious friend of mine, Priscilla, in Chicago. This product makes me want to bathe all the time. All the clean…none of the calories. You can find it on their website here.

And in the late spring, I often like to top off my landscaped flower gardens with the smell of chocolate with cocoa mulch. This insanely delicious smelling mulch is actually ground up cocoa bean shells and it is used to keep ants out of your gardens. Makes working in the garden like an afternoon of aromatherapy for chocoholics. Here is one little caveat, though: Be careful not to let your pets close to the stuff….it has been suggested that this product contains theobromine, a chemical that can be dangerous to animals, when ingested and because the mulch smells so irresistible, pets will want to eat it.

And if you just cannot resist eating the stuff– as I know I will not be able to do tomorrow when I hope to be presented with a big, heart-shaped box of expensive chocolates – go for the dark kind as it boasts the most health benefits. And maybe a little red wine to wash it all down.

Ahh…now that is livin’ the sweet life!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you! May your day be sweeter than you expected.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Truth...With A Cherry On Top

(Photo, "I is for Ice cream with a cherry on top" by blondie478, from

Whew! February is such a popular month that I would think that the other months might be a little jealous!! Not only is it National Chocolate Month, National Cherry Month, American Heart Month and the month for celebrating lovers and Presidents, I thought it was fitting today to tell you a little bit about cherries and the President who taught us that “honesty is always the best policy”.

First, some sweet information on cherries….According to ( is sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI), an organization funded by North American tart cherry growers and processors):

Cherries – available year-round as dried, frozen and juice – are "America’s Super Fruit," a homegrown and colorful way to reap the health-promoting properties of antioxidants. Health and nutrition experts say to look no further than fruits grown on American soil for health and wellness benefits. Cherries are a great local alternative to exotic berries grown in faraway rainforests. It’s no coincidence that February is both American Heart Month and National Cherry Month, since science suggests cherries may offer powerful heart-health benefits.

Whether I am eating cherries for my heart or simply enjoying them and seeing how far I can spit the pits, I do love cherries – especially when topping an ice cream sundae but what about the presidential “deviant” who vandalized his father’s prized cherry tree?

According to legend and to the website and author, M.L. Weems:

When George (Washington) was about six years old, he was made the wealthy master of a hatchet of which, like most little boys, he was extremely fond. He went about chopping everything that came his way.

One day, as he wandered about the garden amusing himself by hacking his mother's pea sticks, he found a beautiful, young English cherry tree, of which his father was most proud. He tried the edge of his hatchet on the trunk of the tree and barked it so that it died.

Some time after this, his father discovered what had happened to his favorite tree. He came into the house in great anger, and demanded to know who the mischievous person was who had cut away the bark. Nobody could tell him anything about it.

Just then George, with his little hatchet, came into the room.

"George,'' said his father, "do you know who has killed my beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? I would not have taken five guineas for it!''

This was a hard question to answer, and for a moment George was staggered by it, but quickly recovering himself he cried: “I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet.''

The anger died out of his father's face, and taking the boy tenderly in his arms, he said:
"My son, that you should not be afraid to tell the truth is more to me than a thousand trees! Yes - though they were blossomed with silver and had leaves of the purest gold!''

So today, I will not tell a lie as I write that tonight I will be enjoying some warm, cherry cobbler topped with Blue Bunny® All Natural Vanilla ice cream. You should, too….just do me a favor and buy your cherries at the store - no hatchet necessary!

Friday, February 6, 2009

I Cry "Fon-Due-Over"!

Did you know that we missed National Chocolate Fondue Day?? For the love of all things sweet, smooth and chocolaty…how could we have missed that??

So I grant all of us a do-over….or, rather…a “Fon-due-Over”. It has only been a day. Kinda like the 5 second rule for when you drop the cupcake on the floor, frosting-side down and you can pick it up and eat it within 5 seconds and it is still good. I think that if no one actually sees it fall and your picking it up…you are allowed 10 seconds in order to use your fingers to scrape up the remaining frosting on the floor and eat that, too.

I digress.

Some of the sweetest (I apologize for the pun) memories of my youth include evenings when my folks had friends and family over to the house and mom had a melt-y pot of cheese or chocolate fondue bubbling in her “burnt orange” hued fondue pot. There were 4 or 6 little forks that you speared chunks of yummy pieces of food and dunked them into the goo. My favorite nights were when chocolate was the featured “fondue goo”.

There were usually bowls of marshmallows, strawberries, angel food cake, graham crackers and I might even remember a Twinkie® or two. Ahh, those were the days…my dad sporting a shiny disco shirt and me with the metabolism of an active, healthy 9 year old. Mom would lay out the spread and party guests would go at it. I can still remember how excited I got when I saw her pull that fondue pot out of the kitchen cabinet. I knew somethin’ special was gonna happen.

Of course, no one ever heard of “double dipping” at that time. It was like “free fondue love”. No one cared about being socially correct. It was all about sweet fondue-riffic indulgence, baby!

Ahh….those were the days. Today, I do not even own a fondue pot but I know they have made a popular comeback.

Maybe I need to run right out and purchase one so my boys can experience the same joy I did when the fondue pot became the centerpiece of the kitchen table.

‘Cause you know somethin’ special is gonna happen!

Go ahead…..serve up some yummy fondue this weekend and, since February IS National Chocolate Month, make it chocolate fondue. Here are some really great recipes for chocolate fondues from

Or add a little bit of ice cream fun by hosting a Blue Bunny® Rocky Road Fondue Party. The recipe and video can be found on the Blue Bunny website.

Enjoy a little warm and melt-y chocolate fun on our “Fon-due Over” weekend!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

February Foodie Love

February is a very exciting month for celebrating food.

Maybe it is because half the nation is still maintaining some kind of hibernation mode and all we seem to want to do these days is find justifiable reasons for us to eat. Did you know that February is National Cherry Month? Also – let us not forget that February is also National (a-hem, guys? You have 11 days until Valentines’ Day!!) Chocolate Month.

Because I love food and February is the month for love, I have decided to dedicate all of my blogs this month to my love of all these decadent foods and the days that are devoted to them.

Be looking for some exciting and insightful blogs to come your way in the next four weeks celebrating my love for these, and other, food items that are given a day of recognition this month.

Today’s blog is very brief as I am busy conducting some very important research into these “tasteful” topics!

Stay tuned, fellow foodies, for a month of sweet surprises!