Hello everyone!  This promised post has been a long time in the queue, but I’m only finally putting it together.  Pre-warning: these are all phone pics, so ahem, not super-high-quality, to put it mildly.  But they are iPhone pics, which I am kind of jealous of the iPhone’s camera which I think turns out way better pictures in normal lighting than my current Nokia Lumia…though I shouldn’t be ungrateful, because the Lumia is pretty good, especially compared to my last phone, the HTC 8x.

Featuring, in no particular order, some of the food I ate in California during my grandma’s surgery and the first part of her recovery from the strokes.

Believe it or not, the hospital had an amazing cafeteria!!  I was so surprised, as hospitals are certainly not known for being bastions of culinary excellence (though, let me tell you, the patient food lived up to all the rumors).  The cafeteria had different stations where short-order cooks could make you a customizable menu item on the spot.  This was from the grilled section of the cafeteria.  They offered grilled cheese, quesadillas, grilled vegetables (I think there was other stuff, but I don’t remember…) and a selection of additions you could have them throw in or on your dish.  Being poster child for #allthefoodthings, I of course always asked for all the toppings to add to my dish.  Of course, it helped that the add-ons were some of my favorite foods: bacon, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions and avocado (😍😍)

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{pictured with Rooster Sauce (Sriracha) of course!}

Funny story about this quesadilla.  The first day when I ordered this, I was stressed out, scattered and wrought up in my mind.  I saw there was an option for a cheese quesadilla and a chicken quesadilla.  My mind processes went something like, “Oh, no, I don’t want cheese; I’m allergic.  And I do want the chicken for sure.  I’ll order the chicken quesadilla and that way I can have the chicken and don’t have to worry about the cheese.”  (Giant sad face about no cheese though…)  I ordered it with all the extras of course, but then it arrived with cheese!  Boy, did I feel dumb!  Um, hello Hannah, like, quesadillas by definition have cheese in them!  To this day, though, I still don’t get why a menu would have to say “cheese quesadilla” (which I think is part of what confused me)…isn’t that kind of like saying wet rain?  Or sweet sugar?  But my family had no end of fun teasing me about it. 😌  Anyway, I enjoyed the yumminess of the cheese, despite later ramifications.  And after that, I painstakingly asked for a cheese-less quesadilla every time.  The poor short-order cook…my order slip always had lots of special instructions. 😖

 

My first attempt at making my own homemade, creamy, dairy-free hot cocoa. As is wont to happen, it was awesome the first time and I haven’t been able to make it quite so good since. Maybe it was just the novelty that made it seem so good…

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Another one of my weird foods.  This is like chocolate protein cookie dough base, but I added crunch with some buckwheat groats and I think some dried cherries too?  Basically, I start with a recipe I find on a blog and then tweak it and toss in other favorite flavors/textures…and pretty soon it’s an unidentifiable something that I don’t even know what to call. 😆  My relatives all thought I must be a member of some sort of obscure faction for knowing what buckwheat groats were and also then buying them! I’m like, “It’s all over the modern food trends!  It’s not weird!”  Haha, but it’s probably that I am so steeped in that world that I don’t even blink an eye anymore over ingredients like cacao nibs, jackfruit and goji berries, while I’m guessing most normal people are like, “What planet did you just float down from?”

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I saw this at Whole Foods and, while I’ve never had chestnuts, this had me so intrigued, I wanted to try it.  I took a picture so I could look for it at home, where I figured I’d have more people that would be game for trying it.  I mean, if I got weird looks for the buckwheat groats and the hemp hearts, I probably would be considered a certifiable alien if I brought chestnut purée into the house.  Especially if I a) wasn’t even sure I’d like it, or b) had no idea how to use it.  Now it’s probably out of season, but I’ll definitely be looking for it next year.  Has anyone else tried it?  If so, how’d you like it and what did you use it on?

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The inside of my cheese-less quesadilla with all the things.  The chef kept forgetting my avocado, which made me kind of a little grumpy.  I ❤️ my avocado!  This time, however, he remembered. 👍🏽

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One of my new favorite foods (I have a lot of those!)!!  I’ve always liked sweet potatoes, and in my days of restricting and disordered thinking around food, I was always drooling over sweet potatoes and wanting to have them.  Now my biggest problem is that I want so many things all the time and most often sweet potatoes are not in stock (also, I have a problem with always wanting it when I’m hangry and don’t want to wait for it to cook).  Every day that the cafeteria had the sweet potato fries in stock, I tried to make sure to get some.  Even to the point of going back three times through the checkout because I’ve forgotten this that or the other thing and heaven forbid that one of those things be sweet potato fries.  Sweet potatoes, I will love you forever. 💕

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Speaking of soul food…Greek/Mediterranean food is my new love.  Specifically, falafel will send me instantly straight to food heaven.  Funny, because about a year and a half ago, while I was still in the midst of aforementioned disordered tendencies around food, I was visiting my cousins in Vancouver and we went one weekend to the Portland Farmer’s Market.  We were there over lunch and my cousin Beth asked me if I’d ever had falafel and did I want to try some or go find my own lunch at a different booth.  I was like, “What the heck is falafel??”  When she explained it was blended chickpeas, herbs and other flavorings, fried to unbelievable yumminess, I was all, “Eh, maybe my sibs and I will look around and see what the other options are.” (Code for: “Eating something that’s mainly carb-based makes me feel insecure and uncertain.” <- but that’s a story for another day and I digress…)  Then, as I’ve been expanding my food horizons, falafel sounded more and more amazing, and I regretted and bemoaned many a time my refusing that offer of falafel.  I put it on my food bucket list, either to make or eat (or both! 😋).

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Then my Uncle Jim found out that I was dying for falafel, and being the Bay Area, most certainly one of the Foodie Capitals of the World, there was falafel potential everywhere you looked.  Moreover, there was a falafel joint just around the corner from the hospital.  So he just decided one day that he took Granddad and I to the hospital, that he’d treat us to falafel for lunch.  Best lunch I’ve had in a long, long time.  It was so, so beyond good, and for sure goes in the Camp of The Gyro, AKA foods I drool over, obsess over, talk about ad naseam, dream about having again sometime and drive everyone crazy with my constant perseverating.  Am I part Mediterranean?

 

One night, my Uncle Carl and Aunt Lisa treated us to pizza at Rocco’s. And it was awesome.  If you are in the Walnut Creek region of the Bay Area, I’d definitely suggest stopping by for a pizza (or just a plain Italian!) night.  And BTW, their kind of sketchy-looking website belies them; it truly is delicious food!  Pizza is one of my top three favorite foods (along with chocolate and peanut butter ❤️❤️), so Uncle Carl and Aunt Lisa knew this was pretty much my idea of ultimate comfort food, bringing warm, happy thrills of contented delight at the first bite. Especially this pizza!!  I mean, it may not look like much, but I knew from the moment I first laid eyes on the (most important section, the pizza part) of the menu that this would be one of my top picks.  Trouble was, we were ordering three pizzas for a bunch of people, and I figured the group probably wouldn’t be up for my more fringe (but very opinionated!) tastes that required white sauce for a first-class pizza experience.

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However, Aunt Lisa asked me what I wanted, so I generalized it, telling her I was fairly flexible when it came to pizza (I mean, no matter what, it still is pizza…), but my favorite combinations would be some mix of white sauce, cheese (uh, obvi), bacon and mushrooms. Caramelized onions could have been added to that list too, though at the time I didn’t think of it. This pizza seemed a delicious fit…and it was!! I think it was the one called the Chicken Gourmet, though ours came with tomatoes and that’s not listed on the menu. Everyone loved this pizza and was clamoring for leftovers. Uncle Jim had had to leave before it arrived, and he was one of the other big fans of it, so I told him I would save him a slice. I actually saved him two, and despite certain other people trying to convince me over the next week or so that Uncle Jim would have forgotten and/or forfeited his pizza right (😜), I froze it and delivered it to him as promised. Needless to say, it was very popular!

 

Trader Joe’s has these addictively juicy raisins.  They are undeniably the best I’ve ever had, and I wish I could buy them there all the time!  We go through too many though, so we buy the big one from Costco.  Much as I love Costco, Sun-Maid raisins have certainly taken a downward plunge toward the harder, drier side of life.  So these were like candy almost to me!

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So unfair!!  So, so unfair!!  I’ve been wanting this for a long time and I found it at a small mom and pop produce shop in Walnut Creek.  It’s a big (and I mean big!  Big enough for our family!) bag of already processed kale, stems removed and leaves cut into pieces.  What do you pay for this gem?  Two dollars, people, two little dilly-dollars!!  And in the Bay Area, too!  I feel so gyped.  Here, I would have to pay four dollars for a bag a quarter or less the size, with the leaves and stems all chopped up together.  I seriously was considering buying a few and stashing them home in my suitcase.  But I wasn’t sure they’d survive the importation. 😕

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One thing I really wanted to do while I was there was cook with my young foodie cousin Jaden.  He and I can really get to talking about food.  Like on and on…boring everyone around us.  I had pretty much written off the experience once Grandma’s surgery went badly, but Jaden’s dad (my Uncle Jim) was determined that we have the opportunity and bent over backwards to make it happen.  So one evening, Uncle Jim drove Jaden over and we got to brainstorming pizza flavors to make.  We were the perfect team, because I had lots of ideas and he is way more decisive than I.  We headed to the store and bought the ingredients we needed and then got to work.  It was so much fun and I was so, so glad I got the chance to spend some time with Jaden in the kitchen, making some delicious food (if we do say so ourselves!).  I hope we can do it again sometime!

This first flavor was my fav. 😍  Alfredo sauce (see above for my loud pizza sauce opinions), broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes with mozzarella and goat cheese.  And I’m telling you, folks, goat cheese is revolutionary on pizza…the goat cheese made this pizza!  I don’t know why it’s still so niche, but let’s change that! 🐐🧀🍕🏆

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My second favorite, with BBQ sauce, deli chicken breast, sautéed onions, jalapeño, mozzerella, cheddar and smoked Gouda. 😋

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The other pizza I didn’t take a picture of.  I didn’t have any of it, because it was all my least favorite pizza toppings: red sauce, pepperoni and sausage with cheddar and mozzerella.

 

Last food thing!  I was pretty proud of this dish, and wished I’d had a recipe and a professional photographer to turn it into an actual real-live post.  But I had neither.  I was inspired by Beth’s Apple Pie Waffles (which are THE BEST, and truly worth dying for! I could have those every week for a very long time without getting tired of them), but I was also wanting to experiment with a paleo crisp recipe I found.  Which I promptly un-paleo-ed by using part oat flour.  I love oat flour, and could sing its praises for at least a paragraph…but moving on.  Being allergic to almonds and therefore unable to use almond flour, one of the reasons I wanted to work with this particular paleo recipe was because I wanted to try making pistachio meal and swapping it out for the almond flour.  Obviously, since I was using leftover roasted pistachios, I had to be careful not to make pistachio butter, so I wasn’t able to get it very fine.  I don’t remember if I mixed in coconut flour, but I did add some spices and drizzled in some maple syrup to help hold it together and to give the topping a bit of sweetness (I also don’t remember if I used any other binder, like coconut oil or water…).

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For the apple part underneath, I cooked apples in apple juice until soft and then mixed in some freshly chopped.  Actually, funny story, because I cooked them on a different day than I made the crisp, and left them cooking way too long and they basically turned to mush, so I had to freshen them up with new apples.  But the two different textures really did remind me of the Apple Pie Waffles (even though mine all ended up being cooked to one degree or another) and so I decided to make it just be a happy accident.  I blended cashews, water and cinnamon together in the Vitamix to make cinnamon cashew cream, and then mixed it into the cooked + fresh apples.  I put that in a baking dish and piled the crisp on top.  It took forever to cook, but yummy, was it worth it!!  I topped it with Arman’s caramel sauce, although I made it with cashew butter since I didn’t have any coconut butter around.  It was still just as amazing, and seriously, guys, that caramel sauce has been life-changing for me.  That dude is smart, I’m telling you. 😉

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I couldn’t wait to try it, so much so that I burned my mouth quite badly.  I topped my portion with more caramel sauce, and left the rest on the stove to cool.  Later that evening, I was downstairs and my aunt called down to me asking if Granddad could have some.  Apparently, he thought it looked good.  And apparently, so did my aunt…she claimed that I “made” her eat some because it was sitting there looking so good!  I certainly enjoyed it, and my aunt was also a huge fan!!

 

Gosh, wow, I love to talk about food!!  Don’t you think that’s like the understatement of the century?!  I can’t believe I just wrote 2600 words all about food…oh wait, yes I can, knowing me (now that makes a little more sense why it took me so long to get this together, even with the fractionated writing sessions).  Kudos to you if you made it all the way through.  And thank you, because you just made my day if you did!! 👊🏼  There’s a good chance we’d really hit it off if we ever met for real. 😉  Have a wonderful and lovely Sunday, everyone!  See you next time!

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