Monday, October 28, 2019

The flavor we've been indoctrinated into believing is pumpkin...

Canned "pumpkin" or fresh? Which one really makes the best pie?

If you haven't heard, prepare to be shocked. Shocked! Canned pumpkin is not (NOT!) pumpkin. Yes, it says pumpkin on the label. It even says, "100% Pure Pumpkin."




And the ingredients list has one ingredient: pumpkin.




But it's not pumpkin. The FDA says food companies can call it pumpkin. What's in the can is actually a mixture of various other squashes. Maybe fresh pumpkin is too expensive. Maybe it doesn't grow in large enough quantities. Maybe the texture and taste of fresh doesn't translate well in the factory process.

It really doesn't matter why. All that matters is that we've been lied to. And the pumpkin pie we grew up with isn't pumpkin pie at all. And once you taste the difference, you will realize that there is a difference. A really BIG difference.

So, here's what we did:

We bought two sugar pie pumpkins (those little ones made just for cooking), took off the stems, halved them lengthwise, and scraped out the seeds and stringy stuff. Then we placed them face down on a foil lined (and canola oil sprayed) baking sheet. We sprayed the skins with oil as well. We baked them in a 375° oven for an hour, until they were fork tender. We let them cool pretty much completely, then scooped out the flesh. This gave us more than enough for our pie test. We put it all into the Ninja bowl and pureed it.

Then we got to baking.

We made identical pies. The only difference was the pumpkin (or, in Libby's case "pumpkin").  We used Libby's classic recipe and after I dumped the squash into a bowl, hubs rinsed out the can and used it to measure out his real pumpkin.

Here's the difference:

Libby's


Real pumpkin

The real pumpkin was yellow! There is no indication that Libby's uses food coloring. It could be that they choose squash that yield orange flesh because it looks more like pumpkin...well, the outside of a pumpkin. The real pumpkin is also a tad more watery. You could use some cheesecloth to get rid of some of the water, but we didn't.

Then we got to mixing in the ingredients, exactly the same for each pie. We used Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, because that's what we always use.


Libby's ready for baking

Real pumpkin ready for baking

The real pumpkin pie took five minutes longer than the Libby's, but not out of range for the Libby's cooking instructions. Here's what we got:


Real pumpkin on the left; Libby's on the right

There was a clear and obvious difference between the look of the pies. Once they'd cooled, it was into the fridge with them! We eat our pumpkin pie (and squash pie) cold here in Florida.

The next day, ready with our Cool Whip, we dug in.

Libby's on the left; real pumpkin on the right

So, how did they taste? Excellent!

The results:

Libby's squash in the can was more dense and the texture not as smooth. And it had a distinct "taste" to it. Hubs read a blog about someone else's taste test and this blogger said that once she tasted the difference, the weird flavor in the canned pie was so unappealing to her, she would never eat it again. And I would agree that side by side, the odd flavor of the Libby's was apparent. We couldn't figure out what that flavor was. Hubs called it "pumpkin" flavor. And, if you've grown up eating canned squash (Libby's combination in particular) then you will associate this flavor with pumpkin.

But hubs kept insisting that this was some kind of pumpkin flavor added into the canned squash to make it taste like pumpkin. But that's absurd! The real pumpkin pie didn't have that taste. So whatever this flavor is, it's not pumpkin.

We've decided to call the canned flavor..."the flavor we've been indoctrinated into believing is pumpkin."

The fresh pumpkin made a lighter, silkier pie. Hubs said it had no flavor other than the spices we added in. I swore I could taste a light "squash" flavor. (Pumpkins are squashes, too, after all.) But after a time, I realized that this light squashy flavor was similar to milk. And there's a full can of evaporated milk in each pie. So, hubs could very well be right. The flavor is all in the spices.

Overall, I much preferred the fresh pumpkin. Lighter, tastier, lacking that pungent so-called pumpkin flavor, and not that much more work to prepare for a really great result. And if I taste that canned flavor again, I'll just be reminded of my indoctrination into the Fake Pumpkin Cult. I'll be forever scarred. But I can live on. As long as there are sugar pie pumpkins to be had, I will go on.






Thursday, October 24, 2019

Stuffing ourselves around the world at the Epcot Food (& Wine) Festival...



We spent a beautiful Wednesday at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival and ate ourselves silly! It wasn't crowded at all, but that also meant there weren't many drunk people staggering around. (Just kidding, there aren't usually drunk people staggering around. But we have been there when there were gangs of people wearing identical T-shirts drinking their way around the world.)

We're just there for the food. Here's what we ate:

First stop, Coastal Eats.
We had the so-called "Lump Crab Cake with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Avocado-Lemongrass Cream" for the second time. We really should have taken a pass, because we've already had it. No need to fill up on foods we've tried before. And it's not "lump" crab, but shredded. Why do they call it "lump" when it's shredded? Is "lump" a type of crab? I don't think so. (Lump crab, as it turns out, refers to the large portions of crab meat that come out of the main body of the crab. So I suppose the word "lump" refers to that portion of meat and not the texture of it.) But I do love crab cakes and anyway, we were at Coastal Eats for the "Pacifico True Striped Bass Tostada with Slaw and Fire-Roasted Tomatillo Sauce," so might as well get the crab cake, too. Am I right?




I'm not sure where the word "True" goes. Is it truly bass? Or truly striped? Or truly a tostada? I'd beg to differ on the tostada. I mean, technically, okay, the bass and slaw were on a round, fried, crispy tortilla. But I thought it should be a corn tortilla and I suspect it was not.

Either way, both dishes were delicious. The fire-roasted tomatillo sauce was hot, hot, hot! And the avocado lemongrass cream on the crab cake was cool and soothing.




Stop number two! The Chocolate Studio for dessert. (Dessert #1 anyway.)
Here we had the "Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel."




It was excellent! But I don't think you could call it a truffle. It was a hand dipped scoop of chocolate custard dropped into the nitrogen, then pulled out frozen, whacked with a mallet to break it up, drizzled with the caramel and topped with almond crumbs. It was yum-MEE! Silky smooth as the hard cold custard melts in the your mouth. I could've eaten more of that.

Stop three: Morocco!
Here we tried the "Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomatoes, Onions, Tzatziki, and Chipotle Sauce. Hot, spicy good!



Tzatziki is defined as a dip, soup, or sauce made with yogurt. The cucumber helped to cool your burning tongue after the chipotle sauce. Now, these weren't "fries" in the conventional sense. They were large rectangular chunks. And there were way too many to eat. I loved it, but hubs reaction was..."What's the point?" And I get that, I totally do. It's a snack. The hummus itself had no flavor other than "fried." But it was warm and spicy and comforting.




At the Morocco booth, we also had the "Chocolate Baklava: Rolled Phyllo Dough with Toasted Almonds and Dark Chocolate Sauce." It's cute how they have to explain what baklava is. I don't know what I was expecting, but this was...just...baklava...with chocolate sauce in it and on top of it. It was delicious.





On to number 4! Africa.
Poor Africa. We have avoided it for the last few years because the first time we had food there it was...I'm sorry, it was awful. But this year's offerings had promise. We had the "Spicy Kenyan Vegan Githeri with White Beans, Pigeon Peas, Curry Rice Pilaf, and Kachumbari Slaw" and the "Piri Piri Skewered Shrimp with Citrus-scented couscous."




Githeri is basically any bean dish. At first bite, the white beans were delicious, but soon after followed a rather disgusting taste. It was some sort of spice, I think. Hubs said it had a strong chicken broth taste to it. But it was supposed to be vegan, so I don't know what the problem was. I didn't like it. The curry rice pilaf had no flavor at all, but the slaw was nice.





As for the shrimp, I tasted the first one and it was horrid! Horrid, I tell you. But the rest of them tasted like...shrimp on the barbie. So I don't know what that first one was soaked in. From the picture, it looks like it was the Kachumbari slaw, but I tasted that by itself and it wasn't egregious. Who knows? The citrus-scented couscous was a bit lemony and nice.

Kachumbari is a fresh tomato and onion salad dish and piri piri is hot pepper. All in all, I will likely skip Africa again. I mean...I can get shrimp anywhere.




Fifth on our list was India where we tried the "Madras Red Curry with Roasted Cauliflower, Baby Carrots, Chickpeas and Uncle Ben's Basmati Rice."




What can I say. I guess I don't like curry. Hubs wouldn't even taste it. "After that face you made? I'm not trying it!"




Number six, The Alps.
Here we had a "Blueberry and Almond Frangipane Tart with Creme Fraiche Cream and Blue Diamond Almonds." Frangipane is the filling that has the blueberries in it.




The tart crust was really thick; we couldn't cut it up but had to just take bites. But it was like a sugar cookie so that was nice. The blueberries were lovely but the frangipane, though supposedly flavored with almonds by definition, had a basic bread aftertaste that I could do without. It was all very mildly sweet. After eating something like this I wonder about Europeans. Their desserts just aren't sweet enough for me.

The underside of an umbrella at a table. Epcot 2019


Stop number seven was Mexico where we tried the "Capirotada de Chocolate: Chocolate Bread Pudding served with Chocolate Abuelita Creme Anglaise." This time, I was grateful for the translation. But, I thought "abuelita" meant Grandmother! There's a granny in the anglaise!




This was pretty good stuff. Bread pudding with chocolate chips in it, I have to say, is far superior than bread pudding with raisins. Not too sweet, not heavy. But...bread! It was filling. We ate more than we should have. But we didn't eat the flower. Chickens.


Stone Head from the Three Amigos Ride; Epcot 2019

For stop number eight, we found ourselves at The Donut Box where I was expecting some "Sweet Corn Fritter(s) with Fresno and Red Pepper Jelly."




The corn fritters (and yes, though the description was singular, there were several) were not sweet, but they were corn fritters. The jelly was spicy and just "okay." I wouldn't have it again. Today we went to Titusville and had lunch at Dixie Crossroads where we had some real corn fritters, topped with powdered sugar. Sorry, they were gone before I even thought about taking a picture.




Our 9th stop was Ireland for the annual "Warm Chocolate Pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard." Hubs refuses to eat any of this because he believes that I am a princess and deserve to eat it all myself. Well, this year, I took several bites and brought the rest home in a storage container. It was really, really good later that night cold from the fridge! To die for.




Number 10: Italy.
We don't usually stop at Italy anymore either. We don't find their food very...good. But this year they had a "Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake: Vanilla Cake and Chocolate-Hazelnut Mascarpone Cream dipped in Chocolate." I had to try that. It was cake on a stick!




And was it ever delicious! The chocolate coating was thick and yummy. The chocolate hazelnut cream was light and not too sweet and sure, the cake was a little dry, but we ate the whole thing.

That was it. We couldn't eat another bite.


The line for the Frozen ride was only 45 minutes but we didn't bother. All in all, it was a wonderful, filling day. I look forward to doing it again next year.



Wednesday, October 16, 2019

What does "unscented" mean to you? A review...




I have a problem with a lot of smells. People who wear flowery perfumes are awful. And people who wear enough perfume to choke a passerby are horrid. Seriously...what are they thinking?

Luckily, on most days that I go out, all the gross smells of the world leave me with only puffy eyes. But on some days, just getting a whiff of some woman's gardenia stank can give me a headache. You can see why people in general might be a problem for someone like me.

It's not just people, though. There's a whole aisle in Walmart that I have to run past with my hands over my face. The dreaded scented candle aisle. dunh, Dunh, DUH!!!!

Anyway, I'm the lady in the Walmart unscrewing caps in the health and beauty section smelling everything.

The local Walmart stopped selling the only body wash I used for years: Body Essence. It was tolerable and cheap. I could handle all of their smells.





I tried to order it from the Walmart website but when I clicked to put it in my virtual cart a window popped up informing me that they'd "just sold out" of it. "Just sold out" my ass. Look Walmart, if you don't want to sell it to me, at least put "out of stock" on the product page.

Anyway, I had a really bad experience with Dial,* as you'll see, but managed to find a not-too-expensive "unscented" body wash from Olay at Amazon.

Amazon review ensued. I have added in the cursing I did as I wrote it but left out in the end, as I imagined Amazon wouldn't appreciate it.






First (and there is more), I have always labored under the impression that the word "unscented" means "having no scent," or in the vernacular "doesn't smell." Olay obviously sees things differently. Upon receiving your Olay Sensitive Skin Body Wash (for women!), the first thing you might do, as did I, is pop the cap and have a whiff. After all, who would be purchasing "unscented" body wash but a person who's just had the worst experience of her life showering with Dial Sea Minerals Enriching body wash and walking around all day with puffy red eyes and a headache? Someone who has a problem with smells, that's who. Am I right? (The second day I washed my body with my coconut smelling shampoo, thank you very much. And due to Amazon's amazingly speedy delivery was able to use the Olay on day 3.)

Does Olay "unscented" body wash smell? Why, yes. Yes it does. It smells like soap. It's a very mild scent, one I can tolerate nicely. And strangely enough, it seems to dissipate with the lathering (perhaps a new soap bubble de-scenting technology at work?) and after the shower, there is no lingering smell on my body. That must be what Olay means by "unscented;" but clearly that's too much to put on a bottle.

And here's the funny part: perfume is listed with the other ingredients on the back of the bottle! What kind of crazy world are we living in? (Seriously, like, what the fuck?) And that is the reason I knocked off one star in my overall rating. The scent itself (which shouldn't even be listed as an option on an unscented product, but I suppose I'm beginning to understand "marketing") got four stars because it's very light and didn't hang around.

Second, this product is not for women. It says in the description above that it is strictly "for women!" I was prepared to warn my husband off it. After all, it could contain estrogen. Or cooties. I don't know. But nowhere on the product itself does it say "no men allowed," or even, "for women." It's just body wash. Is it because there are French translations all over the bottle? Does Olay believe American men correlate French with feminine? That wouldn't surprise me if it were true, to be honest. Or perhaps it's the moisturizing? Because,

Third, this soap feels like washing your body with bubbly lotion. Am I getting clean? I have no idea. Do I care? Not really. I feel so...soft! And moist! Maybe Olay thinks men equate soft, supple skin with girls. That wouldn't surprise me if it were true, either. Nonetheless, I won't stop my hubs from using this product if he wants.

Fourth, it would be ever so helpful if this body wash came in a pump bottle. Maybe it does. If so, I'm a fan for life.



*Just to be clear, I did pop the cap off the Dial and have a whiff in the store. I thought I could tolerate it. But I was wrong. I was so wrong.



Tuesday, October 8, 2019

I don't want to reunite with that...

Rusted metal on beach at Amelia Island, FL


Apparently Titusville High School Class of '79 had their reunion last weekend. I can't pretend I didn't know it would happen as I'd blogged about its beginnings last year in my post 1979, in which I reminisced on that time in my life, especially the year.

I can't remember now if I thought I might attend last year. But I pretty quickly decided I was against it by the time the date had been set.

In my post last year, I mused that the only real reason I attended my reunions was to show my former classmates that I am still alive. This could be because I was, to say the least, a bit troubled at that time in my life. I'd probably have been voted Most Likely to Wilt Into Non-existence Through Tears if they'd had that category.

But I'm told by at least one person in the know that I certainly didn't come across that way to everyone around me at the time. I suppose I should be proud of my ability to hide what was going on in my mind. But since I didn't have any clue myself, I guess it makes sense.

There was a rumor going around way back when that I had actually died. I think the rumor came about after my junior college trip to Europe when one of my fellow travelers whom I'd gone to high school with got the idea she'd saved my life.

We were getting ready to cross a street in some little European town. I stepped off the curb as a speedy little sports car came around a curve. This girl whose name I can't remember put her arm out to stop me.

"I just saved your life," she said.

I might have smirked. But as was typical for me back in the day, I said nothing. But in reality, no. She didn't save my life. She stopped me as I stopped myself. And I wasn't nearly far enough into the road, nor the car close enough to the curb, for this to have been an heroic move on her part.

Either way, I assume the proper response would have been, "Thank you!" But not only could I not tell her she was full of shit, I couldn't say thank you. (But why would I if I didn't think she'd done anything as dramatic as saving my life? Etiquette? Never been my strong suit.)

Anyway, though the rumor was that I'd died of some sort of illness, I imagined that this girl told the story and it had morphed via the "telephone game" into me dying of encephalitis or something equally gruesome.

Well, this year, I guess I don't care if anyone I went to school with thinks I'm alive or dead. For most of them, I'd prefer they thought me dead, to tell you the truth.

I used to be connected with a lot of my classmates on Facebook. (You know, they say Facebook is for old people now...just sayin'.) Over the years I've lost a few in purges. But the Donald Trump purge was massive and devastating to my high school connections. Though devastating is not the right word...uplifting, enlightening, a joy to behold are more like it.

I had no idea so many people I went to school with were racists! Granted, at first it wasn't obvious that to be a Trump supporter one had necessarily to be racist. At first, I merely realized they were idiots. Anyone who could support that horrible creature had to be an idiot. And I didn't care for being connected on Facebook with idiots. And as the whole campaign and election trampled along, there were other problems. People who supported Trump had to overlook his vulgarity, his stupidity, his misogyny, his bullying, and cruelty.

And so many of them did. By last year's post, I'd purged my Facebook of anyone who supported the monster. And so many of them were people I'd gone to school with or knew from my hometown. Unfortunately, I still hear from some of these people because I'm connected with my brother, who also went to THS. And from them, I've heard sad, pity-me stories about how wrong it is, and how upsetting, to be accused of racism for the mere fact that they support a racist. And, worse, I've heard people brag that as long as the economy is strong, they'll support the lunatic.

What kind of person do you have to be to care more about your wallet than your fellow citizens, than your democracy, than decency itself? Not a good person by any means, I'll tell you that.

Why would I want to attend a reunion with people like that?

Sure, there are a few left on my list. And there are probably a few that I'm not connected with on social media who aren't Trump supporters. But when it comes down to it, I don't know any of those people. Not even the ones still with me on Facebook.

They're just faces from the past. Visions and memories of a time in my life that wasn't so great anyway. My hometown, itself, reminds me of something I would like to forget. It reminds me of the narcissistic mother who still haunts my fragile self-esteem and my pitiful, weak minded father who remains devoted to Fox News and the man who has destroyed our country.

I don't want to mingle with the past and pretend I'm friends with people I'm not. I was an outsider then, whether any of them remember it or not. And I am happy to be an outsider still.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Hello Blog: Country Music

Pine Cones in White
Viera Wetlands, FL


Hello blog.

For those of you not, like, super into country music, you might not get the reference there.*

This week, I'm getting back into my habit of evening reading after spending my nights in front of the television watching Ken Burns' Country Music instead. It was showing four nights a week on PBS at 8, with a rerun of each episode at 10. Some nights, I had to wait until the 10 o'clock showing because: football. But even when I was able to start at 8, I couldn't get myself to bed until well after midnight. Television isn't sleep inducing at all for me. And that was Sunday through Wednesday. Thursday through Saturday I kept myself up late because I had to stay in the groove. Right?

So...country music. I'm not a fan, really. At all. When my husband and I got married we specifically requested the DJ at our reception play "no country music," and just to be sure, we added, "NO WILLIE NELSON!"

So why would I want to watch the documentary, you might ask. History, of course. I love history. And it's been a while since I indulged in some. [Do NOT get me started on the History Channel, OMFG.]

I really like the film Coal Miner's Daughter with Sissy Spacek, so I'm not vociferously against the genre. And it was an excellent documentary. I learned quite a bit about the history of radio itself, and the Grand Ole Opry. About ASCAP and BMI (entities I knew about, but not so much).

The coolest thing I learned was that the song "A Boy Named Sue" was written by none other than Shel Silverstein. And here is a list of the Top 10 Country Songs written by him.

And though I didn't want Willie singing at my wedding, I don't dislike all of his songs. His history with Nashville alone was pretty cool.

There was this one little orange dude (he seemed less orange over time) who was interviewed and featured throughout the episodes and I still don't know who he is. His story, when it arrived, though, was pretty sweet. As a little kid, he and his mom went to see a young country music star on tour and he vowed he'd marry her one day. And he did. And toward the end (or at the end...it's all a blur now) Burns wove him in as he brought it all around to a conclusion with the recording of, I think, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

The early stuff was fascinating. Country music's roots in Europe, Great Britain, and Ireland. Race records and racism in the industry. The hillbilly mystique. I have to say, it was worth losing sleep over. But you don't have to. It's all available for your streaming pleasure at Country Music: A Film by Ken Burns on the PBS site.

And while you've got Ken Burns on your mind, check out this huge list of films he's done. I've got a lot of watching to do. 



*Willie Nelson wrote a song called "Hello Walls" which became a huge hit for Faron Young. In fact, Willie Nelson wrote a lot of songs recorded by other artists early in his career. According to Country Music, other artists made fun of the title by saying things like, "Hello cup," "Hello chair," and "Hello table." But it was a good song nonetheless.