Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fortune Cookie Factory

If you google "free things to do in the Bay Area," chances are that a tour of a fortune cookie factory will pop up at the top of the list. Always game for free AND food-related activities, I hopped on the chance to find out just how they got those hidden messages tucked safely inside the folds of the wafer.

Paranoid as I am about arriving at a place after hours or on an off day, I called ahead to inquire about the day's schedule. The man on the phone was clearly not a native English speaker; he merely kept repeating, "We open till 7 pm. You come any time." "Ok," I thought to myself, "This is kind of bizarre, but what do I have to lose?"

Several BART stops later, I found myself wandering through the brightly colored, lanterned maze that is Chinatown in San Francisco. 9-5ers raced through the streets around me as I desperately tried to keep stride with the New Yorker that accompanied me on this adventure. Guided by her I-phone (god knows I don't have one), we turned down an alley that looked more like a zone for illegal abortions than fresh baked delights.

And then we saw it. On the right hand sign was a miniature sign indicating that we had indeed arrived at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. In an airy, open storefront the size of a postage stamp, we were immediately greeted by the three employees and entire operation!

The same man who answered the phone stood by the doorway offering the rejected cookies as a sample of their wares and ensuring that anyone with a camera paid the requisite 50 cents for a photo of his ladies. This included the Floridian man, armed with a video camera, who kept referring to the edibles as "egg rolls" while filming!

Behind him, two women worked the assembly lines, making sure the batter was loaded into the dispenser, discarding cookies that didn't meet their exacting standards (boy, there seemed to be a lot of them), and carefully plucking off the prime tuiles from the hot iron press, filling them with a message, and folding them to fully envelope the surprise. Together, these two women made thousands of fortune cookies everyday, and I am pretty sure that they were all the nuts and bolts of the operation.

Satisfied with our discovery, we paid for a bag of adult fortune cookies and went on our way. A word of advice: don't spring the extra 50 cents (or whatever it was) for the naughty notes - out of about 10 that I ate, 9 were the same nonsensical and non-naughty message!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


No, this isn’t some kind of plug for an old Usher album. Nor does it have anything to do with time spent in a wooden box with a man wearing a robe. Instead, I fear that I must confess that my year of “unprocessed” eating has gone slightly askew. In all honesty, I would say that we made it until about June…and, then, I fell off the wagon – big time. A series of weddings, vacations, and out of town guests really threw my willpower for a loop. And, let’s face it folks, I’ve never been too strong in the willpower department.

To clarify, however, things aren’t all bad. We still aren’t drinking soda, eating chips (except for the rare drunken wedding night – yes, I did indeed raid the mini bar after Leslie and Reed’s wedding), digging into paper wrapped fast “food”, or binging on candy. The basic ideas are still in tact, but there are a few things to be learned here. I have three jobs. Ben has one that adds up to the time commitment of four. The reality of the situation is that if we want to eat, sometimes, we have to make exceptions. The efforts made gave me an even better understanding of just why busy Americans might turn to convenience foods even when they truly don’t want to. Something else that occurred to me ‘round about July was that healthy as my eating may have been, I was not getting enough of certain nutrients or food groups. Most of you know that I don’t eat a lot of meat – it totally sketches me out on a lot of levels. Yet, a girl needs protein. Trying to stick to our rules meant a lot of dinners of fruit and veggies – read: unprocessed and easily prepared. If I allow for healthy processed foods like fat free yogurt (God, I love Fage) and hummus (protein, fiber, AND heart healthy fats), my diet stays more balanced.

My hope, moving forward, is to really return to home cooking. Our trips for the year are mostly done, and we are only expecting a couple more visitors. Not only will we get our eating back on track but our financial situation as well! We have loosened some rules, but remain steadfast in others. I intend for this blog post to be a re-assertion of our unprocessed goals and a return to a better diet.

There’s one more reason that all of this is particularly important. At the onset of this project, I told you all that I have PCOS – a nasty condition that causes hair loss, abdominal fat, acne, insulin resistance, and totally out of whack hormones. Perhaps the most devastating symptom is that women who have PCOS don’t ovulate regularly. I recently read that a 30 year old woman with PCOS has a 60-70% chance of conception IF she maintains a healthy weight, eats well, and exercises daily. Odds go down drastically with age. So, here I am, 30 years old, practicing yoga 4 times a week, and trying every day to reign in my overwhelming desire to eat junkfood. I’ve even given up drinking alcohol. I can’t wait any longer as I know it’s going to be a long journey. I invite you to come along for the ride -- not literally – Ben and I will keep that part to ourselves! ;) ewww… – as this woman journals the trials and tribulations of eating well to achieve and maintain a healthy pregnancy. In less than two weeks, the goalie will be out of the game.

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Apple Compote

Whole-wheat pancakes with apple compote
September 29, 2010
Boston Globe

Serves 4

Whole-wheat pancakes, made with beaten egg whites, are hearty and nutty, a good match for an apple compote with walnuts, raisins, maple syrup, and warm spices. Double the compote recipe to keep on hand for other breakfasts or to set beside pork chops at supper.


4 baking apples (see Page 19), peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt

1. In a heavy saucepan over high heat, combine apples, walnuts, raisins, butter, maple syrup, water, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

2. Bring liquid to a boil, lower the heat, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until apples soften.


4 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Canola oil (for the pan)
1/2 cup heavy cream, softly whipped (optional)

1. In a bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks; set aside.

2. In another large bowl, stir together yolks, milk, sour cream, sugar, canola oil, and salt. With a rubber spatula, fold in the baking powder, baking soda, and whole-wheat and all-purpose flours. Fold in the whites.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a few drops of canola oil and swirl it around in the pan.

4. Ladle the batter by the 1/4 cupfuls, adding about 4 to the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbles form on the tops of the pancakes. Turn and cook 2 to 3 minutes more or until golden on the undersides. Wipe pan with oil between batches.

5. Serve pancakes with apple compote and whipped cream, if you like.

Apple Clafoutis

Apple clafoutis
September 29, 2010
Boston Globe

Serves 6

Traditionally made in the Limousin region of France with sour cherries, this rustic dessert offers a platform to showcase seasonal fruit. The mixture is similar to a crepe or pancake batter. Let it rest and it will develop flavor. Saute apples in butter and sugar, then combine the fruit and batter in a baking dish. As it cooks, it turns into a souffle with a golden crust, which falls as it cools (it’s supposed to) and tastes almost creamy.


2 eggs plus 2 extra yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. In a blender, work the eggs, extra yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla for 30 seconds. Add the flour and blend until smooth.

2. With the machine running, pour in milk and cream. When the mixture is smooth, set aside for 30 minutes.


2 tablespoons butter
4 baking apples, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons brandy
Butter (for the dish)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Confectioners’ sugar (for sprinkling)

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the butter. Add the apples, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and salt. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until apples are tender. Remove pan from heat, and add brandy. Return pan to heat, and cook for 2 minutes.

2. Transfer the apples to a plate; leave to cool.

3. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a deep 9-inch baking dish.

4. Lay the apples in the dish. Cover with batter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the mixture is puffed and golden, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Honey Caramel Apple Dip

Honey-caramel apple dip
Boston Globe
September 29, 2010

Serves 6

You may have noticed individual packs of caramel sauce lining produce shelves for dipping apples. It’s easy enough to make your own. You need a candy thermometer and a large saucepan (the steps are simple, but working with sugar is precise). Use caution with children around as caramel reaches extremely hot temperatures and crawls high up the sides of the pot. For added fun, set up a dipping bar with chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and red hot cinnamon candies. Skip the stick.

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup honey
6 apples, cored and cut into wedges

1. In a large, heavy bottom saucepan, heat 1 1/2 cups of the cream and salt over high heat just until small bubbles begin to form on the surface (just before a simmer).

2. Stir in the honey and bring to a boil. Let the mixture bubble steadily, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for 10 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees. Carefully remove saucepan from the heat.

3. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons cream. Stir warm cream into hot caramel.

4. Transfer caramel to a heatproof bowl. Set aside to cool completely. Serve at room temperature with apple wedges.