Cheap Beer Tasting


We went to a neighbor’s house to watch the US – Portugal game in the World Cup last weekend, and they did this fun cheap beer blind taste-test. The object was twofold: see who could identify the most in a blind taste-test, and determine which one we all liked best.

Here were the eight beers in contention:

  • Budweiser
  • Bud Light
  • Miller Lite
  • Miller High Life
  • Busch
  • Rolling Rock
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • Natural Light

The results…

On most correct guesses, it came down to a tie between my dear husband and Jen, our host. In a tie-breaker, Barrak took top honors. And our surprising choice for Best Cheap Beer: Miller High Life. It is after all the champagne of beers.


Magic Bands


Our Disney World Magic Bands arrived the other day. These are a new thing. Last year, we had to carry around plastic cards that you swipe to get into the park, pay for stuff, etc. Now they’ve introduced these fun Magic Bands. You wear them on your wrist like a LiveStrong bracelet. When you enter the park, everyone just holds their arm up to the Mickey-shaped ‘reader’ and enter when he glows green.

The Bands are customized – you pick the color. And they’re inscribed with our names on the inside.

We’re already counting down the days with our Countdown calendar. Getting our Magic Bands in the mail just further revs our engine. Disney is so good at this.


Mexicali chopped salad with creamy cilantro lime dressing


I took this colorful salad to a Father’s Day cookout that one of Barrak’s trail running friends was hosting. I wanted to bring something healthy for this crowd of marathoners and triathletes, and I love the way this salad turned out.

It starts with a bed of torn Romaine. Add to that drained black beans, grilled corn sliced off the cob, halved grape cherry tomatoes, roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sliced red onion, chopped orange pepper, and chunks of avocado. The pepitas added great crunch. Don’t skip them.

The dressing is a mix of mayo, sour cream, lime juice, fresh cilantro leaves, lime juice, grape seed oil (supposedly ‘cleaner’ tasting than olive oil), white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Whir it all in the food processor for 10 seconds and you’re done! I picked up that Snowville-branded glass milk jug for $5 at the tour we recently went to. It has a snap-on cap and is perfect for storing (or toting) homemade dressings.

This one is a keeper.

Click here for the recipe, which I found on an increasingly reliable little blog called Simply Scratch.


Dinner for one


When I was living in L.A., I had no money and no oven other than a microwave. Lean Cuisine Cheese Cannelloni entrees were in heavy rotation. Earlier this week I had one (baked in the oven – a luxury!) for dinner, along with an avocado and yellow cherry tomato salad. The only accoutrement was kosher salt and ground black pepper, and that’s all it needed. The chunks of avocado were perfectly buttery and the tiny tomatoes were like warm bursts of sweet sunshine.

Heartland-style chocolate chip cookies

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Lately I’ve been obsessed with Amy Thielen’s cookbook, The New Midwestern Table – even thinking about cooking my way through it Julia & Julia style. Some of the ingredients and techniques in Thielen’s book are no less exotic than those in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

And she’s such a beautiful writer. I love reading her book in a few stolen minutes in the evenings.

This past weekend, I made her chocolate chip cookies. Barrak had to run to Starbucks to get a tall dark coffee for the one tablespoon of cooled coffee the recipe calls for. As Thielen advises, I made these cookies big so they’d be crispy at the edges and slightly underdone, nice and gooey in the center. There’s one other secret ingredient besides coffee: a dollop of peanut butter.

The family has been gobbling them up at night, after dinner.

Click here for the recipe.



Snowville creamery


Today we drove two hours southeast through Athens to Pomeroy, OH for a tour of Snowville Creamery, which is out in the middle of rolling nowhere. Magnus is a big fan of their white and chocolate milk, and their vanilla yogurt. He was happy to try their free samples. Greta got to pet a pretty brown calf. A lady named Joy demonstrated how to make butter with Snowville whipping cream. She was doing it by shaking a jar by hand for 5 minutes but said you can also use a Kitchen-Aid. Pretty neat!

I guess it’s called Snowville because that’s originally where the owner was going to set up shop – it’s apparently just up the road from Pomeroy.

The guy who gave the tour of the ‘milking parlor,’ where they milk a couple hundred cows twice a day, attributes Snowville’s superior taste to their processing, their ‘low and short’ pasteurization and that their cows are mostly grass-fed.