Saturday, September 26, 2015

Chocolate yogurt popsicle recipe, more or less

First off, here is a recipe for puddin' pops that I think you might like since I think it's pretty damn tasty. After the break there will be some chit-chat on my part. Please feel free to read that, too, or else skedaddle on over to your kitchen and whip up a batch of these for you and your kin.


• 1/4 cup whole milk

• 4 oz. milk chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli milk chocolate baking chips)

• 2 cups-ish of whole milk yogurt


Warm the whole* milk in the microwave.

Pour the warm milk over the milk chocolate chips and let them sit for a minute and then stir it up. There might still be some chunks, but who cares, right? Those are chunks of chocolate there, not chunks of gravel (despite the appearance).

Stir in approx. 2 cups of whole milk yogurt. Mix it all up and voila, you are done. Pour that yummy stuff into popsicle molds and try not to eat them all for dinner. Although there are way worse things to eat for dinner so I won't judge. And isn't dessert for dinner one of the perks of being an adult anyway?

I will admit that I didn't measure the yogurt because I didn't want to dirty another dish. This isn't rocket science so it's not imperative to get the proportions exactly right. I found that with a fair amount of tasting and then tasting again just to make sure it was really as tasty as I thought on the first taste, this recipe was just enough to make 6 popsicles in the Zoku.

The Zoku is ridiculous and I would never have bought one for myself, but I received it as a gift from my man. And now I can't imagine my life without it. What is worse than having to wait hours and hours for a popsicle to be ready? I can tell you: not much is worse than that.

I was surprised to see some negative reviews on Amazon just now for the Zoku saying it is hard to clean and hard to get the pops out. Okay, people, what is going on here? First of all, I pretty much never clean mine because I fill the molds carefully and then put it back in the freezer where it stays clean until the next time I need it. If I do happen to defrost it to allow for putting other stuff in the freezer, I fill the molds with soapy water and let it sit for a bit and then rinse it out. What is so hard about that?

To fill it carefully I spoon the mixture into a cute little quarter-cup that has a spout on it. That's just about the right amount to fill each mold. I suppose I could use a larger measuring cup, but this little guy has a very pointy and small spout, which is perfect for getting the mixture right into the molds. I read that some people use turkey basters, which I'm sure would work, but I would not want to clean the turkey baster out afterward so that's a no for me.

As for getting the pops out of the molds, if I fill them to the line as instructed (am I the only one in the world who reads the dang instructions? Sometimes I believe this is actually true.) and then use the nifty twisty tool to unstick them they pop right out. What works best, in my opinion, is to twist-twist-twist until the pop unsticks and then twist the tool all the way off the pop instead of pulling the pop out with it. Otherwise the pop comes out of the mold on the twisty tool and you have nowhere to hold on to the pop when removing the twisty tool except by the icy pop itself.

* I am a big fan of only drinking whole milk. A lot has been written on the subject so I won't bore you with it except to say that to make milk low-fat the milk becomes farther removed from its natural state. If you are trying to eat more foods that have not been overly processed, then I recommend drinking whole milk and eating whole milk yogurt and cheeses.

I became interested in sticking with whole milk dairy when I was trying to get pregnant as that is part of a commonly recommended protocol for women trying to conceive. And the more I learned about it, the more I realized that whole milk was what I wanted to stick with for the rest of my life. Jeff was easily brought on board, too, since the full-fat ice cream tastes soooo much better AND is not that many more calories than the low-fat varieties. And of course the whole milk tastes divine compared to the low-fat version.

So very much has been written on this topic and if you google it you will find plenty, but I like this NPR piece on how whole milk will actually keep a person trimmer than low-fat, which makes a lot of sense since whole milk products are more filling and more satisfying (IMHO) so you will presumably eat less of them. A little of something delicious is better than a lot of something mediocre, no?

And here is a blog post on care2 on what happens to the vitamins when milk is skimmed and also what happens to milk when it's homogenized. I'm so lucky that I can get non-homogenized milk in glass jars from a Pennsylvania dairy at a market (Bon Vivant) near me. After paying the deposit on a bottle ($2), it costs $4.50 per half gallon, which is in the exact same range as the organic homogenized milk from the grocery store.

Interestingly, I am reading on the site listed on my milk bottles that the dairy does make skim milk. I am curious to learn more about their process! They mention that they're required by law to add the vitamins back in to the low-fat milk and I suppose with enough demand for the low-fat milks it would be silly for them not to sell it as well as the wonderful full-fat version that comes with cream on top that you gently shake to mix in. Yummmm.

I forgot to mention that I used regular yogurt, not Greek-style. I have been making my own yogurt lately and straining it right after making it, but the whey that gets strained off is super healthy, so in preparation for making puddin' pops this week I left it unstrained. If using Greek, you'd perhaps need to use more milk. So, if using homemade, just keep the whey in and you're good to go.

I don't purport to be a food blogger, but I am a lover of food and of cooking. So I spend a fair amount of time hunting around on the internet for recipes. What I have determined is that food bloggers like to talk a lot. And often not about food. Fine! Blog! Who cares? But don't make me scroll through what color you're thinking about painting your living room just to see a simple little recipe.

Get back to the basics, food bloggers. Talk about how you created the recipe and *maybe* if it will really add some color, tell a little story about the memories the ingredients evoke for you or whatever. That's all I ask.

Unfortunately, you food bloggers think that because traffic to your site is high that strangers love reading your notions. Guess what! They don't! They land on your little blog because they are trying to find out how to make a recipe, such as puddin' pops, and your blog came up in the search results. I assure you that most people are skimming riiiiight past your living room paint plans and down to the recipe itself.

And then, for the love of all things holy and delicious, why would you agree to put a video ad smack dab in the middle of the recipe?! Criminy, people. Don't delude yourself that your little rant-space disguised as a food blog is going to enable you to quit your day job. Host those ugly ads on your site if you must, but not smack dab in the center of a recipe, especially if it's STILL there on the print preview. That's just rude.

I'm under no delusions that the world needs my blogging talents, whether about food or otherwise, but since I know all too well how skimpy the search results for chocolate yogurt popsicles is, I am adding my contribution to the fray. You're welcome.

So I did wind up chit-chatting a fair bit, but if you came upon this blog post to learn someone's experience with making puddin' pops, you learned that right away at the top of the page and if you're reading this now (and we're complete strangers), then I'm glad I didn't bore your pants off.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Australia tidbits

If there were a way to sum up how young white men dress in Sydney, Australia, it would be summery metrosexual. So many peg-legged pants and shorts that seem a little too short paired with tattoo sleeves and Birkenstocks or flip flops.

Okay I take that back. That was in a particular neighborhood reminiscent of Bushwick or Greenpoint.  But there are still a lot of shorts and Birks. Lots of shorts on women, too. I looked like a middle aged German man wearing capris. Oh well. Gesundheit.

Australia gets the concept of drinking water with your alcohol. Almost every bar we went to had a reservoir of water which patrons can help themselves to. In one bar's restroom was even a sign reminding ladies that water with your beer helps keep your head on straight. Sponsored by Diageo no less.

Many bars are located in what were formerly hotels or are still small boarding houses upstairs. "The reason dates back to late nineteenth century when, after pressure from conservative Christian groups known as the Temperance Leagues, new liquor legislation were implemented with a lot of restrictions, one of them forcing pubs to also provide accommodation. The presence of a few rooms (rarely used) and the "hotel" name then gave some impression the rules were being followed."

I can't be the only one who hears kangaroos referred to as roos by an Australian and assumes those are the babies. Kanga is the mom, obviously.

I'm so in love with passion fruits. They are the funniest little fruits -- a crunchy slushy in the ugliest shell.

Despite the news of Uber gouging desperate people trying to flee the hostage situation in Sydney a few months ago, Uber is not that well known in Sydney or Melbourne. Every driver we got was brand new to the job, some by only days. All were exceedingly polite and offered us mints and water.

It's hard to pick what to drink when everywhere we went there was such good beer and wine to drink. Australia does some lovely dry Rieslings, I discovered.

A lot of cool bars in Sydney are in hotels. Either former hotels or ones that have some simple lodging available -- old school pub style apparently. Don't quote me on this. That's just what I've pieced together.

Tasmania has the most micro climates I have ever encountered anywhere. When it rained, which was every day, it was only briefly and usually while it was sunny as well.

After practicing driving on the left in Scotland, it was much less harrowing this time. I even did it, with relatively few mishaps. I admit that I did turn into a grocery store parking lot on the right side of the road. I'm sure I got dirty looks but no one was hurt.

It didn't help that in the car we rented, the windshield wipers and the turn signal were reversed. Every stressful turn included a bit of wiper action. That was just a given.

See more photos here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Scotland in a nutshell

Scotland is not typically a destination of choice in January, but I highly recommend it if you happen to find yourself needing to go there in the middle of winter (which is what happened to us). Jeff had to do research on whisky (it's whisky over there, not whiskey like it is the US) for his book. He was going to go in November, but I didn't want to miss a trip to Scotland so I asked him to postpone until after my job ended.

I've been to a lot of snow-covered places, but Scotland wins hands-down at wearing its snow the best. Somehow it manages to snow there almost every day, but not a lot and some of it melts off, so there are not huge, dingy banks of snow on the side of the roads. And driving isn't too treacherous. It is rather scary, however, to drive on the "wrong" side of the road for the first time on snowy roads. We survived that and only got stuck on a giant rock when Jeff tried to eat an ice cream while driving. That might work with an automatic transmission, but you'd have to be an octopus to manage that with a manual. Luckily, we were on a farm when it happened and a kindly farmer was nearby with a tractor.

I'm not a fan of whiskey or whisky so after tagging along to a few distilleries I went off on my own, which really is the perfect scenario anyway since I love having my own time to tool around on trips and Jeff had his own adventures driving down narrow country lanes in search of whisky.

Cullen skink is smoked haddock in a milky broth with chives. Doesn't sound too appetizing but after trying it in two different restaurants I am sold on in wholeheartedly.

Bar tabs aren't allowed by Scottish law, to keep people from drinking too much. If you order food, however, it is allowed. The legal alcohol limit in Scotland is only 0.5, whereas it's 0.8 in the rest of the UK and in the US. That's like one beer. At one of the distilleries Jeff visited, he was told they don't give tastes to anyone who is driving as that will automatically put them over the limit.

There's no rhyme or reason to where people park or pull over. This seems to be a pan-European phenomenon that I will never understand. I saw someone parked in a bus stop, facing the opposite direction as the cars on that side of the road.

One day Jeff dropped me off in the small town of Grantown (pronounced Granton) while he went to a distillery nearby. First I took a walk down a lovely snowy path and then I poked my head into a cafe that didn't look too inviting so then I poked my head into a bar. Three gents were sitting there and they welcomed me happily. One was named Norman (last name of Grant, whose family is original townsfolk). The one with the mustache is Davie (don't ever call him David) and the third one is Iain, who had a voluminous beard. Davie's partner owns the bar but he works it when she's out. He kept up with the rest of us in beers, however.

They wouldn't let me buy my beers and they kept me thoroughly entertained. The only other bar in town is the Craig but they assured me it was not as good as the Claymore. I believe it! These 3 tease each other mercilessly. I get the impression most Scots are like that. For example, to tell Iain apart from another bar patron with the same name, he is called Upside Down Iain since his hair is below his head. There are various things they bet on in the bar and he always writes his name as U.D. Iain now. "It was easier to just go along with it," he said.

I was so eager to try a local speciality, squat lobsters. But, sadly, they are only available in the summer. A fish and chip shop owner told us it's just not worth it to prepare them in the winter for not much demand. And they aren't exported due to their delicate nature. Some day we'll have to come back in warmer weather, check out some of the islands and eat squat lobsters.

I managed to nearly eat my weight in other types of seafood, however. Smoked trout, smoked haddock, salmon, fried pollack, fried shrimp. And all local!

Women eat heartily in Scotland, thank goodness! Although if one is feeling less hungry (due to all the other eating), waitresses will try to tell you that you haven't ordered enough food. No salad for main courses! Maybe you want the haggis, too?

Speaking of haggis, it's fairly palatable, but I can't get over its components. Beef and ale pie is more my speed.

I will possibly never be able to see a “TO LET” sign without mentally inserting an i.

I sure love the existence of half pints. Not so much real ales, though. I just can't get used to beer being served that warm. Sorry, beer aficionados.

You know how in many parts of Europe if you want to drink water you have to order a bottle of if and even so it tastes funny? Well, in Scotland not only does hardly anyone buy bottles of it, but the tap water is top notch!

The only real downside to a wintertime trip is that there are going to be days that are just too yucky for being outside. Luckily in Scotland there always seems to be a welcoming pub or old bookstore.

The name Craig is all over Scotland, mostly as parts of longer words. I have never seen most of my name on so many signs! It was fun introducing myself as Craige as well, especially to the gents I met in the bar in Grantown.

So, that's Scotland in a nutshell. I absolutely want to go back, perhaps in slightly warmer weather, because I need to have those squat lobsters and because the ferries to the islands run only about once a day in the wintertime and I'd love to get out to the islands. Otherwise I'd absolutely go in the wintertime again!

Apex City Hotel, Edinburgh
The Gatehouse B&B, Inverness
The Ranald Hotel, Oban
CitizenM, Glasgow
Edinburgh City Hotel, Edinburgh