Hi, all.  I’ve missed posting and commenting on your blogs—school, as usual, is the culprit.  :(  Let’s just say this is my fourth day running on three hours of sleep, and I have been a-failin’ on tests and quizzes.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I dropped any entire letter grade in three of my classes just from this week… and not surprisingly, this is only the beginning.  This weekend is going to be hell with the amount of studying and preparation I have to do for next week, lest I die again like I did this week.  Right now, I have an ultimate plan saved on my computer for tomorrow, aka every freaking thing I must accomplish.  My heart probably hates me right now with all the worrying and frantic bouts of “must get this done NOW” that I’ve been experiencing.  Not looking forward to those blood pressure increases, nuh-uh.  -_- 

Aughhh, and I promised myself I would try not to worry about grades too much?!?!  :(  … Pffft, as if.  I’m going to worry about my grades until the day that they leave my life.  Oh, what a happy day that will be!…

Oh, and I’ve been writing this post in chunks at like, 5 AM when I wake up (the only free time I have), so please excuse any sleep deprivation-induced grammar mistakes or just stupid rambling in general… though tonight, a Friday night, I’ve decided to relax for once.  Actually, it’s because I tried to finish some of my homework and it didn’t work.  Like, at all.  I guess sleep deprivation does that to you?  Well, my friends keep telling me that I need to relax, relax, relax, so I’ve decided to be a good girl and take their advice for once.  I’m planning to go to bed early tonight, too, so I can be refreshed and pumped-UP for tomorrow!  Yah!  Jiayou! 

Again, I’m really sorry about the lack of blog-reading-and-commenting.  It’s just too distracting at this point, but once this bout of hell is over, I’ll be back to normal until finals, hopefully!  :)

Anyway, here’s something other than work that I’ve been drowning in lately:

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CHINESE FOOD!  This is soup and mixed white rice with roasted eggplant, lettuce, and pork.  Topped with black sesame seeds, per usual.  :)

I’ve been drinking my weight in soup for the past few days because it has been so. damn. cold. for my standards, at least (and that means below freezing).  I made myself a delicious, umami-rich rice soup with leftovers on Sunday.  (Eeeek, I’m behind…)

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Mmmm.  This was black chicken broth with white rice, mushrooms, roasted eggplant, seaweed, and pork, topped with black sesame seeds and wakame-rice ball furikake in place of salt.  ;)  The seaweed (kombu, I believe) came from this grocery haul over the weekend.  I’m not sure what type of mushrooms these were exactly, but they are freaking juicy and absolutely delicious.  They taste pretty killer with steamed chicken.  :)  Oh, and the more I think about it, the more I wish I cracked an egg into the sizzling hot soup.  It would’ve been so cool to see the egg just cookin’ away in there, mixed with the delicious broth!  :)

Oh, and I finally finished the last of my Vosges Haut Chocolate Goji Bar from way back when, although this picture was taken about a week ago when the majority of it still existed.  It’s long gone now…

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See the little fleck of goji in there?  The addition of the salt was pretty awesome, even though I couldn’t see it.  I think I’m going to start collecting the boxes.  :)

Dinner was at Ruby Tuesday tonight, chosen by my sister.  Alright, so here’s to the good, old-fashioned, American chain restaurant food of my childhood!  Not.

I was surprisingly nervous while I ate my meal of the veggie burger mini + garden salad bar combo.  I found myself questioning my fullness more often than usual, and more unnecessarily than usual.  The thought of calories even entered my mind.  And the longer I sat there, consumed by these thoughts, I began to question why exactly I was being this way.  Why was I suddenly, once again, worried about such frivolous things?  Why couldn’t I enjoy my meal here as I did in other restaurants (not to say the meal was particularly amazing, hence the lack of photography)? 

Psychologically, I associate restaurants like Ruby Tuesday and T.G.I. Friday’s with fat fat fat.  I used to gorge myself on cheese fries, deep fried macaroni & cheese, hot dogs, fish, etc. in these restaurants.  After I acquired DE thoughts, I feared these restaurants the most, because I believed that the greasy, disgusting foods there were the root of my woes and “fatness.”  I avoided these places like the plague.  And once I returned for the first time in a long while, that fear crept back.  I was nervous about stuffing myself until I couldn’t move anymore again.  I was afraid that I would gain ten pounds overnight and become “fat” again. 

In reality, when I look back on it, I was a chubby kid, but I definitely wasn’t overweight or obese.  The chub factor was probably due mostly to baby fat, anyway!  Of course, the way I used to eat (overstuffing myself on fried, nutrient-less foods) wasn’t healthy in the least, but I don’t do that anymore.  I have learned how to listen to my body, maybe eat a little more if the food’s really that good, or eat a little less if I feel sick.  Overstuffing myself on a regular basis just will not happen.  That’s what I need to remember.

Q: Your thoughts/experiences on this or a similar situation?  What is something you have a negative psychological association with?

Phew, another few paragraphs of rambling.  :|  I really missed the venting aspect of blogging, I guess?  My eyelids are starting to droop, so I think I’ll call it a night.

Good night all!  I may or may not return with pictures of a grocery haul tomorrow… either way, I love you guys :) 

The morning my aunt’s family left, my mom had to wake me up to say good-bye to them (oops), and apparently, my cousin cried again.  :/  He’s an only child, so I guess he’s lonely?  My mom said that he was tying his shoelaces and tried to cover it up with the age-old, clichéd, only-in-the-movies excuse: There’s sand in my eyes. :(  Poor thing… He’s such a boy.  Wouldn’t even let me hug him, so I went with the shoulder-pat.  :/

I was an only child for the first eight years of my life, and I practically begged my parents for a sibling (specifically, a sister).  Now that I have one, I feel like I don’t appreciate her half as much as I should.  I need to improve on that.  Later on in life, I want to be as close to my sister as my mom is to my aunt.  They have the ultimate sibling relationship—growing up in a poor household (and only being a few years apart…) really squishes a family together, I guess?  I suppose it was the same with everyone in China at the time…

2010 Goal #1: Be a better sister.

Apparently, our house is funhouse, because we have MORE company now.  Wahoo.  They brought us a nice gift basket from Florida and homemade treats!  :)

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Organic citrus and jams and locally-made candies!  I think they’re mind-readers, because I LOVE this kind of stuff.  I’ve already eaten two of the chocolate-covered coconut patties, and they’re deeelicious!  The citrus, although ugly, is super sweet, too.  :)

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I think there were chocolate-covered cookie bars, peanut butter bars, and hello dollies.  I had my first hello dollie last night, and it was good, although a little too sweet.  I love anything with coconut.  :)

And now’s the time for random.eats!

Noodles in chicken broth with sesame seeds and a single carrot slice was consumed for lunch.  I had some nice slurping action going on here.  That’s the best part of noodles, am I right?!  Vermicelli is no fun at all unless it’s in a salad.

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With a baby apple, the iconic fall fruit.  I’m just a tad late for the season, I know.  I saw Stef stuff her apple with nut butter the other day and thought it was brilliant, but I really just needed something fresh and juicy today.  (Gotta find me some blood oranges!)

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And a fab snack: half-banana + Maranatha crunchy peanut butter + sea salt.  Get this: I do not like Maranatha PB anymore.  o__o  I used to be obsessed with the stuff!… but now I really crave sugarless, super-peanutty peanut butter.  Weird.  Thus, I needed extra salt to counter the sweetness here.  Warning: food porn barrage coming your way.  Normally, I choose a few pictures to post from a selection, but this time, they all looked equally good!

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And a date stuffed with Crazy Richard’s creamy peanut butter, my next love.  Well, that is, until I use the jar up.  Then I’ll be making my own peanut butter… and THAT will be true love.  ;)  Topped with course sea salt once again, since Crazy Richard’s is just plain ol’ peanuts:

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Love!  <3 And speaking of making nut butter, that was precisely my very first adventure with my new toy!

How to Make Nirvana: A Step-by-Step Guide

You will need:
*
~2 1/2 cups pecans
* ~1/4 tsp coarse sea salt

(Errr… like I said, I don’t exactly measure.  ^_^;)

Step 1: Microwave pecans until perfectly roasted and just slightly burnt.  I would’ve used an oven to roast a whole batch at once (I had to microwave twice), but last time, I completely burnt the pecans beyond recognition, so I won’t be trying that again.  :|  I microwaved for 4 minutes total (mixed them up after 2 minutes to even out the roasting), but I have no idea whether the setting was on high or medium or what.  Sorry!

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Step 2: After the pecans have cooled (important!), pour them into the blender and start whizzing.  I had mine on the “nuts” setting.  Here they are half-pulverized:

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Step 3: Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape the edges down if necessary.  The butter comes pretty quickly with pecans, since they’re oily, though not so much with certain other nuts/seeds.  *coughpumpkinseedscough*

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Step 4: Add coarse sea salt into the blender with the luscious pecan butter it’s created for you.  Pulse for a few seconds to fold in the salt crystals.  They’ll add a delightful crunch in the final product.  :]

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Step 5: Pour into a jar and devour (not necessarily with something).  I promptly had an unpictured dried calimyrna fig dunked in nirvana.  I’ll be sure to catch that sneaky hand of mine so I can snap a pic next time… ;)

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Sorry for the dark/crappy action shot + final pic—I’m still working on shooting motion (holding a heavy blender while trying to focus is not very easy), and I was anxious to try the pecan butter at the end.  Forgive this amateur.  :|

Q1: Are you an only child?  If so, do you ever wish you had a sibling?
Q2: What is one goal you have for 2010?
Q3: What’s your favorite type of nut/seed butter? Me?  I like allll of them except for bitter tahini.  ;)
Q4: Thin or thick noodles?

Off to an Asian party today.  Have a great post-holiday day!  :)

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Errr, no.  Not my hair, guys.

So the weatherman was right for once, I guess, because we had a gazillion truckloads of snow dumped on us yesterday.  Hoooo boy.  I don’t think we’ve had this much snow in this area since 2003.  Yup—it was so awesome that I even remember the year!  We had a week off from school, and it rocked~ :D  I’m kind of hoping that the snow will stay until Christmas, so I’ll finally be able to have a white Christmas?!  I’ve never had a true white Christmas—either the snow melts during the day or I travel north and getting my dose of little white flakes there.  Stay, snow, stay.   

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Warring flakes!

The perfect snack for a day in the blistering cold of the house should be cookies with hot chocolate.  Well, turns out, I was about two marks away from having the perfect snack.  First of all, I don’t exactly want to melt a bunch of Lindt truffles or a goji chocolate bar to drink, and second, I don’t have any candy canes to stir with.  Does anyone else drink hot chocolate with a candy cane and/or peppermint extract?  I think it gives a very refreshing touch to a drink that would otherwise be too rich and cloying. 

Oh, and the lack of cookies?  I solved it… with an EGG!  :D  Which, of course, I would have otherwise never paired with hot chocolate.  o__o  Instead, I had it alongside some hot water.  Mmmm.  I think drinking hot water is an Asian thing?  Waiters/waitresses always look at me or my mom weirdly when we ask for it at restaurants.  I mean, who wants to pay for a teabag?!  :P

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Mmmm.  That was some microwaved goodness right there.  Gooey cranberry chèvre with furikake (mostly bonito flakes) and black sesame seeds is an impeccable combination—tangy, sweet, savory, and roasty.  It’s the easiest favorite snack ever (now tied with toast!).

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Let me explicate on cookies… I didn’t exactly bake them yesterday.  OK, well, I used my oven, but I ended up under-roasting chestnuts and majorly over-roasting  pecans.  :(  I guess I should think about using the oven timer, hm?  Or just microwaving the pecans like my dad does… Hey, it works!  :]  I would totally say that I am going to really make cookies today, but I don’t know if I have enough buttah.  :/ Cookies just don’t taste like heaven with vegetable oil.

Holy cow, five more days till Christmas!  Cue snow preserver dance, now!!!

To be honest, our tree looks a little lame.  It’s fat and short and stubby—short as in even I can touch the top.  o_o  But you know, I love it all the same!  I mean, there was a period of time where I thought I was a fat stub as well and ruthlessly berated myself for it.  But then… I acquired the magic power of perspective and vanquished the demeaning thoughts from my brain. 

Maybe we’ll just move the tree to a room with lower ceilings so it looks absolutely resplendent.  ;)

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Q1: What’re your “perfect foods” for a cold, snow-machine day?  Or just a snow day :P
Q2: What does your Christmas tree look like this year?  Actually, until this year, we used the same plastic Christmas tree year after year!
Q3: Do you ask for hot water at restaurants?  Or water with no ice?

GAG: Shall I jam to music while I shovel snow?

Off to… shovel snow!  :oD with “Our Lips are Sealed” stuck in my head.  And to all the wonderful ladies in recovery: I hope you, too, will regain the power of perspective.  :]

… onto my walls, my floor, my clothes, etc.  D:

Ahem, before I get into all that, let’s start with Thanksgiving morning.  Thanksgiving morning greeted me like so:

Hello, I am impending doom.

Yes, that is a super thick, impenetrable layer of fog out my window.  Good morning indeed…

It was a bad omen.

The crust was the good part.  I actually got a little creative with that—I can say that I have a recipe for it.  :D  My first ever, haha!  I was too lazy to make actual dough, so I resorted to using a “press in pan” crust.  It turned out pretty good.  :)

On the other hand, the pie filling was MESSY.  o_o  I screwed up a thousand times during the process of making it!  Actually, everything was going great… until the mixer. *shudder*  Electric whisks are dangerous.  When your squash ain’t fully blended.

-___- *facepalm*  How could I forget to purée the squash when the recipe calls for squash purée?!?!  Because I’m a nerd with no common sense, that’s why!  I ended up having the take out all the random hunks of squash in the mixture, along with any leftover seeds that were not scooped out initially… yeah, I’m fabulous at preparing squash purée.

Bleh.  It was a bleh experience, that’s what it was.  Cleanup was a pain in the (_|_).   However, I refuse to let my first go at pie-making bring me down for eternity!  I’m going to keep destroying my kitchen until I can make pie like someone’s grandma!  Yesss!  Who’s with me?!

puffin-pepita pie crust
makes 1 10-inch crust

– 2 + 1/2 cups Barbara’s Bakery Original Puffins
– 1/4 cup Barbara’s Bakery Peanut Butter Puffins
– 3 large handfuls pepitas
– 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
– pinch of sea salt
– handful of granola

Throw all ingredients into a blender and pulse until fully combined.  The mixture should have a slightly sticky texture when it’s done.  In all honesty, I eyeballed all of these measurements (except the butter), so this is just a guestimation of what I actually used, but you should end up with 2 1/4 cups of cereal “flour” to combine with the other ingredients.

And the results, after divvying up among the family—

Yes, I topped it with black sesame seeds.  Yes I did.

My piece, with ahem, whipped topping:

Eat me, good friends.

The verdict? My family loved it.  :)  Granted, it was just three people… four, if you include myself, but it was pretty tasty for my first pie!  I was really quite scared that they would hate it, and we’d have to resort to the store-bought pumpkin cheese chocolate ganache pie.  Uh, that sounds better than lame “kabocha pie” by a long shot.  But anyway, I’m pretty happy with the results, even though the steps that it took to get there were partial agony.  ;)

Our turkey this year happened to be incredibly juicy.  OMG.  Succulent, tender white meat… no gravy even needed.  The trick was to flip the turkey upside down to bake and fill the dish with water (something like that), according to my brilliant mom.  The best turkey I’ve ever had, period.  I don’t think I’ll get sick of the leftovers this year :)

I was also responsible for mashed potatoes this year.  Although I’d much prefer to eat mashed squash or sweet ‘taters (mmmmmm), my family is just… one potato.  :/  I did put a little spin on the more “traditional” butter-and-milk recipe though.  Anyone care to try it out?

miso-olive oil mashed potatoes with oregano, garlic, sea salt
serves 4

– 6 yukon gold potatoes
– 1 tsp red miso
– 2-3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
– splash of milk
– sprinkle of dried oregano
– sprinkle of garlic powder
– sprinkle of coarse sea salt

Boil potatoes until fork-tender.  Mash with your trusty potato masher until well-mashed.  Add a splash of milk and continue mashing—if the texture of the mash is still too dry, add another splash.  Continue adding milk until the potatoes reach the desired consistency.  Add olive oil (as much as you want—measurements are just an estimation of what I used), oregano, garlic powder, and sea salt to taste.  Mashmashmash.  The resulting mash has the slightest tint of red due to the miso, which I love, but of course, you could substitute any type of miso you happen to have on hand.

… I know, I know—I’m a terrible recipe-writer.  But I can’t help it—when I’m in the kitchen, I don’t think about measurements or anything (unless it’s extremely precise, like… oats).  I just do everything to taste and eyeball all the ingredients (which is why my crust recipe measurements may not be entirely accurate…).

I’m thankful for my sort of stellar Thanksgiving, the chance of reconciliation, and overall positivity for living in our new house.  Thanks for reading.  :)

After Thanksgiving, the air of the season jumps straight to Christmas.  I’m talking about trading pumpkin pie yogurt for jingly bells and white snow.  To be honest, I’d rather have the former… (Why, Stonyfield?  Why?!)  Jingly bells and white snow are nice and everything, but I can’t forgo the fact that even crueler weather is on the way.  o__o  I need to up my lotion and nut butter intake to make sure I keep crackly skin to a minimum.  Bleh.  Let’s not forget the midyear exams that will shortly follow winter break too… ><

What’s your (least) favorite part of winter? Holidays.  Angels.  My birthday.  :)  Cold.  Wind.  Midterms.  :(

But it’s not winter yet!  And today was the first day of “fall” break (aka 4.5 days of food food FOOD!), so I’m in a particularly good mood right now—cutting off any and all negativity!  :)

Yesterday afternoon, I went to my favorite Korean grocery store to buy only the foods that I needed the most in order to save money.  … Psh, no.  What kind of food-lover-nerd does that?  I mean, I spend more on food than clothes, and I think that grocery shopping trumps clothes shopping by a long shot, even though I enjoy both.  Yes, my friends think I’m insane, but what gives?  I can’t deny the truth, or else that would really count as insanity… :P

Ze haul was quite enormous, so I won’t post everything.  I did, however, buy two kabocha squashes for the pie I’ll be making for my family today.  I’m a little nervous—this is my first time baking a pie!  o_o  I’m modifying the spice-kissed pumpkin pie recipe from 101 Cookbooks and partially winging the crust, so I’ll post about how much of a failure my pie was after I make it/we eat it.  ;)

A pair of delicious kabocha lovers… :*

Some whole spices (cinnamon + cloves) for grinding—

My first time purchasing whole spices.

Oh, and I finally found chia seeds!!!  I was so excited—it seems like the entire blogiverse has eaten these teeny babies in some form or another (chia pudding, chia cookies, etc.), but I never had the chance to try them.  UNTIL NOW!  Muahaha, I can’t WAIT to use these.  :D  Suggestions, anyone? Gimme the gold~

Chia chia come to mama…

And I restocked on my beloved MSG-free furikake and black sesame seeds!

Mostly shaved bonito flakes.  :D

Good for my hair, I hear?

Ohhh… and I bought another box of dried persimmons. Man I love these things—so sweet, fleshy, and delicious!  They’re absolutely my favorite dried fruit, beating out apricots by just a smidgen.  Seriously unique texture.  Unlike most dried fruits, the innards aren’t “chewy,” but rather, soft and melt-in-your-mouth.  It’s amazing—I encourage anyone who has the tiniest appreciation for anything tasty to give one of these a shot.  :D

Jewels of autumn.

And they’re even lovelier when they have a plentiful amount of sugary snow crystals…

I had a speedy snack after my long journey in food heaven: Fage greek yogurt, pumpkin purée, TJ’s pumpkin butter, cinnamon, peanuts, and the last of the Bear Naked Chocolate Delight granola. ‘Twas love, but now I need more granola.  :|

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I can’t exactly talk about my Thanksgiving traditions, because in all honesty, we don’t really have any.  It’s basically just turkey + Chinese sides + mashed potatoes, year after year (I mean, this is my first time making pie, after all).  Actually, we mostly just go to parties… So that’s why you should tell me: what are your Thanksgiving traditions?

As for the post title, I’d like to give 100% thanks to my family, my friends, the Lord and the many ways He has blessed me, and more recently—you guys!!!  The blogger community!  Blogging has been so much fun this month, and hopefully, it’ll continue to serve as an outlet for my creativity and strange humor, as well as a chronicle of my life and every delicious bite that enters my mouth.  I’ll be salivating a lot for sure for the next four days… ;)

Update: “me” page updated and an “autumn” page added :)

I’m having a MAJOR stomachache right now.  ><  While contemplating the reasons why this could have happened, it all boiled down to…

Cold.

Our house was about 68*F at dinnertime, and apparently, that’s a few degrees below my optimal eating temperature.  i.e. when eating WON’T give me a stomachache.  Curse you, warm stomach!!!  D:  I’m a smack-dab middle-of-winter baby (February), but I can’t. stand. cold. weather.  Too many bad memories of standing at the bus stop in 18*F (which I know is nothing for some people, lol) weather, being completely numb in my feet, eyes stinging from the wind… I mean, it’s not winter yet, but the transition into winter weather has been brutal, especially over the past week.  *shivers* Rainy, windy, cold, and gloomy—oh, hello to you too, November.  On top of that, my agenda has been mocking me again…

But I digress.  On to sunnier rambling!  :)

One thing I do love about autumn/winter are the tasty root veggies. nomnomnom. Last week, my mom and I went to the farmer’s market and came back with an eclectic pile of produce, including my favorite type of sweet potato.  It’s the yellow-fleshed Japanese kind, with paler skin and starchier innards.  My favorite way to eat them is roasted, so predictably, I roasted them last night:

My gut food feeling told me that this was no ordinary sweet potato as soon as I pierced it for doneness.

Using my trusty silver fork, I broke through the crisp, marvelously charred skin into a heaven of soft, happy, tantalizing flesh…

And grabbed some MaraNatha almond butter with the same lovely fork…

… and snapped pictures frantically, yearning to dig in…

Oh BABY.  I can honestly say that this was the best sweet potato I have ever eaten.  I was literally drooling while taking the pictures, seeing how fluffy the flesh was and how crispy the roasted skin was… I’m taking pictures of a sweet potato. It has to be delicious!!!  And why was it special?

I’m convinced it’s because it’s from the farmer’s market.  Farmer’s market produce seriously cannot be beat.  Seasonal, fresh, and local—there’s nothing better.  The Japanese sweet potatoes I usually buy at the Korean supermarket are good, but nowhere near this baby.  I was floored.  Never had a yellow sweet potato with flesh as sweet or perfectly starchy, yet magically, not dry at all.

If you’re curious about how I devoured this, I’ll describe my method in the least barbaric way possible: scoop almond butter, scoop flesh, eat, luxuriate.  Requires a lot of thought process, yes?  I didn’t go back for more almond butter after it was gone; the sweet potato was just that could all by itself, with the teensiest sprinkle of sea salt on top to make the flavor explode.  Crrrrunchy sea salt with sweet, soft, flesh (I need better adjectives).  Mouthgasm.  Honestly, I could have eaten the entire thing plain, which is exactly what I did this morning.  With good produce, you don’t need any extras—the best of Mother Nature is enough on its own.

Last night, though, I encountered a familiar friend near the end of my journey…

Why hello there.

I just couldn’t resist a little sprinkling of sesame seeds!  :) As usual, the flavor addition did not disappoint.  Roasty toastiness + more roasty toastiness?  Bring it.

Q1: What’s your favorite winter produce?

Q2: How have your tastebuds changed? I can’t believe I used to HATE sweet potatoes!!!

Now the fun times are over.  It is homework time.  It is time to debate whether or not intelligence is inherited.

… Hmm…