Used a Charcoal Chimney Starter (121/366)

“Grilling, broiling, barbecuing – whatever you want to call it – is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach.”
James Beard

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Made an Ice Cream Cake (118/366)

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!”
Johnson, Moll, & King, the “Ice Cream” song, 1927

We’re having a birthday BBQ for our cousin Sarena, and while I was asking her what kind of cake and ice cream she liked, I thought it might be cool to combine them and make her an ice cream cake! She likes chocolate cake, and she said mocha almond fudge was a favorite ice cream of hers. I just happened to have a box of chocolate fudge cake mix, too (next year I’ll make you the cake part from scratch, Sarena!). Perfect! I whipped up the cake batter.

The “
recipe” I found online (it was really just instructions, but they were helpful!) for ice cream cake had just one layer of cake and one layer of ice cream (like how they apparently do at Baskin-Robbins – I can’t remember), but I thought it would be cool to have the ice cream in the middle of two cake layers, like a regular cake would have, so I divided the batter into two tins, one having just a little more than the other (the thicker one would be the base layer).

After the cakes were cool, I wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. The recipe I was using called for ice cream in “a rectangular carton”, but I couldn’t find mocha almond fudge in those. The closest I could find was coffee ice cream from Breyer’s, which was in a somewhat rectangular container. I like Breyer’s anyway (they don’t have a bunch of crap in their ice cream like some others), so I figured it was the closest we’d be able to get. When the cakes had been in the freezer for a while, I decided it was time to put the “ice cream” in our “ice cream cake” – ha ha ha! I inverted the container and cut away at the carton. The ice cream was softer than I thought it would be, so it was a little messy. I used a piece of floss to cut the block in half, then put the slices side by side on the silicone mat.

I put the thicker layer of cake on top of the ice cream (like my
Giant manicure?). The cake and ice cream went back into the freezer for a bit to firm up again – the ice cream was really melty!

After some time in the freezer, I got another cookie sheet ready, and flipped the cake and ice cream over onto it. I smoothed out the ice cream – it wasn’t too bad that the ice cream was a bit soft – I got to spread it out onto the cake pretty easily. I just had to work fast.

On went the second layer of cake, and the whole thing went back into the freezer again.

One of the commenters on the recipe I was using said a great frosting to use was actually MORE ice cream, and I thought, “Why not?” After the whole cake got to chill a bit more, I started frosting the cake with vanilla ice cream.

Here’s the “frosted” cake!

Now, I was actually supposed to cover this with crushed
Butterfinger candy bars, since they’re Sarena’s favorite, but with everything going on with the BBQ, I completely forgot (I bought four of them, too!). When it was originally served, it was plain like this, but later I added the candy bars (sorry, Sarena! I’ll make it up to you!). Here’s a shot of the original (and a nice shot of the layers), and then a shot of how it was intended to be (they were both delicious):

This was really yummy, and not that complicated to make. I would just suggest allowing PLENTY of time to make this cake though, so you can let it sit in the freezer for a few hours between steps (that will definitely make the process less messy). Also, don’t forget time to let the cake(s) cool before freezing (to firm), and remember to have everything you’ll need for the current step on hand so you’re not running around like crazy while the ice cream melts all over the place!

If you have a special event coming up, and you (or the guest of honor) likes ice cream and cake (who doesn’t?), I’d totally recommend making your own ice cream cake for the occasion. You’re limited only by your imagination as far as the fun combinations you can come up with!

Related Links:
Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix 18.25oz (Pack of 2)
Butterfinger King Size, 3.7-Ounce Candy Bars (Pack of 18)

Joined "MyFitnessPal" (111/366)

“Happiness lies first of all in health.”
George William Curtis

As I’ve mentioned in a few other posts, I’m not currently in the shape I’d like to be in. I’m going for less of a “round” one. Ha! Seriously though, I’ve been slacking off on my nutrition and workouts for far too long, and though I don’t think it’s truly necessary, I do think it’s definitely helpful when you feel like you’ve gone off track, to be able to log your food and/or exercise (I’ve always liked logging my exercise) so that you have a record to look back on, and to help you just be a bit more mindful of your choices.

I’ve used SparkPeople and LoseIt! in the past, and I’ve liked those – I lost 20 lbs. with SparkPeople about 5 or so years ago – but at the time I felt I was “ruled by the log” and it was actually a lot more stressful and time consuming for me than I could keep up. Yesterday, I decided that just having a food log would be beneficial for me to get back on track, and I opened up my LoseIt app, only to be frustrated with the lack of items in their database. One thing I think is kind of sad with most food log/calorie counters is how many processed/packaged foods are in the database, but I get it – that’s how most Americans eat nowadays. But it makes it totally frustrating to try to write a food log when you have to “create a new food” each time you try to enter something that didn’t come out of a box or a wrapper.

Anyway, I got fed up with LoseIt! and decided to look at alternatives. In the wee hours of the morning, I was checking the app store, and came across MyFitnessPal. My friend Mike has been using it and has been doing spectacularly with his weight-loss goals. One of the hardest things about logging your food is that it takes a bit of time, and Mike is one of the absolute busiest people I know, so if he can log in MyFitnessPal, it must be good. I installed the app, and it took me just a few minutes to get acquainted with it. It’s streamlined and simple, and has a pretty similar home screen both in the mobile app and on the website:

I even entered all that I had logged from the day, and then realized I had put the entries on 4/20 instead of 4/19 (because it was technically 4/20, duh) and didn’t know how to change the date. After messing around for a while in the app with no luck, I checked out the FAQs section and got my answer, and was able to change the info quickly. All this when I was basically falling asleep in bed. Total win.

I feel like this system is a combination between SparkPeople and LoseIt, and just better. is great – it’s actually very similar to, but their mobile app leaves much to be desired (when I used it five years ago they were just developing a mobile app and the current one doesn’t have high ratings), and LoseIt! is a nice mobile app, but between the app and the site (which I never used much because it wasn’t that robust), there’s a lot of clunkiness. If you’re looking to start a food journal, I’d highly recommend MyFitnessPal – it’s easy to use, the database is huge, and its reports, charts, and breakdowns are great. It’s even got a barcode scanner for those times when you DO eat something packaged. That’s awesome. Good luck!

Related Links:

Eaten Falafel (109/366)

“It’s always been a street-food staple, but never as ubiquitous and eclectic as it is now.”
~ The New York Times on
Falafel in the city

Falafel is basically like a vegetarian meatball, or patty – it’s usually made of ground chickpeas, and I’ve always seen them served in a pita. I had never really been interested in trying any falafel dish – while I know a lot of people who love falafel sandwiches, I also know a lot of people who say that a good falafel is hard to find – they’re dry a lot of the time. But like I said, it’s basically a vegetarian meatball … and I’m no vegetarian.

I love shawarmas. Technically, the “shawarma” is the word for the spit that meats are cooked on, but it’s also the name for the wrap that is made with said delicious, juicy meat. It’s wrapped with grilled onions, tomatoes, and potatoes at Truly Mediterranean in the Mission district here, which is our absolute favorite place to get them – but tonight we got home late and were hungry. We wanted to order in, so we tried a new place that delivered. While looking at the menu, I mentioned to Nick that I had never had falafel before, and he told me I needed to try it! I ordered a falafel shawarma.

I was afraid it was going to be dry and kind of bland, but this was definitely not a dry falafel. I really liked the texture of the ground chickpeas, and the flavor was delicious! The cucumbers in this shawarma were a really great textural and flavor combination with the falafel. I really, really enjoyed it. While I probably won’t be replacing my normal lamb shawarma with a falafel one anytime soon, I am really glad I was able to try and enjoy this yummy and traditional food for the first time!

Related Links:

Tried a Blue Cheese Chocolate Truffle (107/366)

“If I had to give up cheese or chocolate, I’d give up chocolate in a heartbeat.”
Amanda Peet

When I made Paleo Almond Butter Cups for Nick earlier this year, I made a visit to a cool little chocolate shop here in San Francisco that had a bunch of cool different chocolate confections that I hadn’t heard of before. One thing that caught my eye in particular was their blue cheese chocolate truffles. Woah. Weird. But there’s a reason someone put that together, right? Tonight, we decided to find out.

You can smell a bit of the blue cheese fragrance before you even unwrap the truffle, which made me nervous at first – kind of like when you open a container of blue cheese – you can’t smell too much in the beginning, but when you fully open it, the smell sometimes just explodes out! This wasn’t the case here, so I was relieved. You can’t smell too much more blue cheese when you open the wrapper. We cut one of the truffles in half, to see the texture inside. The person at the chocolate store had told me they mix the blue cheese in with the chocolate truffle filling, so I don’t know why, but I still expected to see some kind of chunks (eew!). Thankfully, it looked really nice – smooth, creamy and rich. The coating on the outside is some sort of nut, but I’m not sure what kind.
IMG_8633-1 (dragged) IMG_8634-1 (dragged)

Here’s another close up of the filling:
Pasted Graphic 189

Beautiful, huh? And only faintly smelling of blue cheese. Still so strange sounding! We tried it. The outside texture is a nice compliment to the rich, dense, creaminess of the filling … and the actual flavor is interesting. Not too cheesy, not too chocolatey. Is that good? Or bad? I liked it.

At first I thought there was maybe not enough blue cheese (weird!). I liked how this truffle wasn’t as sweet as others. Most truffles are sickeningly sweet to me, so I’m not usually a truffle person. An interesting quality I noticed was the mustiness of the blue cheese – I think in the pairing of it with chocolate it became more smoky, which I liked, but it didn’t taste as much like blue cheese as maybe a smoked mozzarella or something. All in all, I think the flavors worked well together – the chocolate didn’t overpower the cheese, and vice versa … but the whole thing was a lot more mild than I expected, which I’m not sure was the goal of the chocolate maker. But if you like chocolate, and you like blue cheese, and you’re not afraid to try them together, I’d definitely pick some of these up!

Related Links:

Roasted Coffee Beans (106/366)

“Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.”
Edward Abbey

Nick and I love coffee. Nick even held a coffee tasting event last year, and we and our friends rated 11 different coffees side by side. It was fun, but also really interesting to be able to smell and taste the differences between the different brews.

A little while ago when Nick’s parents were in town, we were talking about roasting our own beans (Nick’s parents do). Nick had been thinking of doing this since last year, but we never got around to doing more research and buying a roaster. Then the other day, Nick’s mom told him that they had bought us a roaster, and it was on its way to us. Oh, man! We were so excited!

The roaster just came, and we found out that Nick’s parents also sent us 8 pounds of green (un-roasted) coffee beans of different varieties, too! How awesome is that?!

I chose a bean that sounded good, and filled the roasting chamber to the “fill line” with the green, unroasted beans, set the timer for 25 minutes (according to the machine’s directions), and let ‘er rip!

Here’s a little time lapse photography to show the change in the beans as they roast – don’t blink! They go from green to brown FAST, which is why you have to watch them closely! A “dark roast” turns into “undrinkable burnt stuff” in a flash.

Here’s the finished product – YUM:

This was awesome! Thank you again, Mom and Bill, for sending us the roaster AND all the beans! We’re so excited to roast more. I didn’t realize how easy it was to get started roasting our own beans – of course, we’ll need more practice to develop a good feel for the subtleties of it – but had I known that it wasn’t that complicated to start, I think we would have done this a long time ago. If you love coffee, I’d totally recommend looking into roasting your own beans. You don’t even need a special “roaster” to start – you can roast the beans in a pan on the stovetop, or even in a popcorn popper. Just do your research, even if you get a special roaster – like I said, the beans turn from green to brown … to burnt FAST… and can become a fire hazard if not watched carefully! Enjoy!

Related Links:
Nesco CR-1010-PRR Coffee Bean Roaster, 800 watt
Green Unroasted Coffee Bean Sampler