Category: food

Scotch Whisky Tasting in Edinburgh

I’ve never been much of an alcohol connoisseur. Drinker, yes. Expert, certainly not. I like a few beers, generally in the wheat and blonde families. I enjoy wine when the time is right, but know nothing about it. So Scotch whisky tasting was a relatively new experience for me. It was a lot of fun, and I realized that a beverage can be sipped, not gulped, and still be enjoyed; and it doesn’t need to be mixed with something, either. (Just a little ice will do, though I know some would even frown upon that.) Here are the varieties we tried and the places we tried them, plus very general reviews. I will not be talking about “notes” or “finishes” as I honestly have no idea what that means.

Location: The Dome, 4 George St., New Town

We were served by a less than friendly bartender who nevertheless got us off to a great start.


Dalwhinnie 15yo at the Dome

  • Whisky #1: Dalwhinnie 15yo
    A light, mild, high-quality beverage.

Location: The whisky bar at Amber Restaurant, in the Scotch Whisky Experience, 354 Castlehill

Our well-versed and friendly bartender Caleb selected a range of four whiskies for us, and kindly answered all of our (mostly basic) questions. 

  • Whisky #2: Auchentoshan 12yo
    This was a strong lead-off for our tasting. Smooth and drinkable; good for first time tasters, for sure. Distilled in Glasgow; aged in bourbon casks.
  • Whisky #3: Scapa Skiren
    This may have been our favorite of the day. Light and smooth and enjoyable. Distilled in Orkney; matured in first-fill American oak casks.
  • Whisky #4: Glenfarclas 21yo
    The priciest and oldest of the whiskies we tried, this one was good but not our favorite of the day. Distilled in Speyside.
  • Whisky #5: Caol Ila Moch
    This was by far our least favorite of all the whiskies we tried. Described as smoky and peaty, I might describe it as “bacon-y.” I’m glad we tasted it; it helped us figure out what we did NOT like. Distilled on the Isle of Islay.

The lineup at the whisky bar at Amber Restaurant, in the Scotch Whisky Experience (steps from the entrance to Edinburgh Castle)

Location: The Queens Arms, 49 Frederick St.


Two happy travelers at the Queens Arms

Our friendly, patient and helpful waiter recommended amazing whiskies and fabulous food. One of our favorite dining and drinking spots of the trip. This was the hungry, thirsty end of a long day, and I don’t remember anything specific, other than my notes on the back of a receipt. I will share them verbatim here, and I’m sure you’ll find them illuminating.

  • Whisky #6: McCallan Gold—Speyside. “:)”
  • Whisky #7: Glenkinchie (I can’t remember which.)—East Lothian. “:)?”
  • Whisky #8: Balvenie Doublewood (My friend drank, I tasted.)—Dufftown. “:)”
  • Whisky #9: McCallan Amber (My friend drank, I tasted.)—Speyside. “:)”

Additional notes: All went well with haggis lollipops.

The bottle I came home with

I ended up bringing home a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15yo, my first love, purchased in the most convenient location of the duty free shop at Heathrow Airport. When I got home, I bought some large ice cube trays so they would melt more slowly. I cracked it open last week. I’m happy with my choice. Sláinte!



Useful Recipe Re-org

I’m thinking of reorganizing my recipe box. Rather than the standard “breads; salads; poultry; desserts” categories, I’m considering some actual useful deliniations. Here are some of my ideas:

Realistic Recipes

Aspirational Recipes

Recipes That Will Make Me Fat

Recipes I Won’t Really Try But Would Help Me Stay Skinny

Recipes Other People Have Given Me That I Will Never Try But Feel Obligated to Keep

What Was I Thinking When I Saved This

Recipes I Used To Love 10 Years Ago

Recipes I Can Never Find When I Need Them

Recipes I Will Make But Should Really Spend the Time Doing Other Things

I’m In Over My Head Recipes

Where Did This Come From?

Recipes I Will Prepare Out Of Guilt

Then maybe I’ll label the box “Open In Case of Emergency – When Internet Is Not Working.”

Staying on Your Diet at Disneyland

Summer can provide a number of pitfalls disney dietfor the committed dieter, not the least of which is that classic Southern California destination, Disneyland. As someone who’s had an annual pass for years, here are my Top 10 tips and tricks I’ve picked up while exploring the land of that famous mouse.

  1. Relax just a bit—you’re chalking up activity points! You may not realize it, but you will by the end of the day. Commenters on a popular Disney blog seem to center on 10 miles a day walked at Disneyland, give or take. Other estimates range as high as 12-14 miles a day; it depends on your pace. I think this applies whether you’re visiting one or both parks (Disneyland, or its slightly more grown-up sibling, Disney’s California Adventure, heretofore referred to as DCA. More on that later.) Take a pedometer with you if you’re curious.
  2. Drink lots of water. The heat and the walking will definitely dehydrate you, and this will help you hit your daily water intake target. In addition, Vitamin Water Zero and even my dear, sweet love Coke Zero are available all over the park.
  3. One of my favorite zero-point snacks: the GIANT PICKLE. It’s all vegetable and brine;  perhaps not the best option if you’re watching your sodium, but it’s yummy, cool and takes a while to get through.
  4. We all benefit from the trend of healthier food options for kids. Stands selling fresh apples, bananas, pineapple wedges, sliced mangos and more are all over the park. They even have trail mix, which for some reason is inexplicably labeled “Student Food.”
  5. Generally, an adult-sized meal at Disneyland is very big. I recommend splitting that burrito with a side of rice with one of your park buddies. Also, consider getting the kids meal. They are cheaper, smaller, and usually have a healthy side option.
  6. If you feel the need for some extra exercise, DCA features the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Great for kids and adults, it’s a maze of trails, slides and rope bridges on which you can explore and burn a few extra calories.
  7. Though Disneyland is alcohol-free (unless you can get into Club 33, which is no easy task), DCA offers a few choice adult beverages. Beer is available at a few locations, as well as blended margaritas. But if your want the best bang for your your alcohol and calorie buck, check out the wine options at the Golden Vine Winery. They actually have very good wines and knowledgeable staff who will let you taste before you buy and help you pick things you like. Just remember not to overdo it—keep drinking that water too!
  8. The Fortune Cookery at DCA serves edamame! Great price for a healthy, yummy snack. This little gem also has rice bowls with your choice of sauce and chicken, beef or tofu—a great vegetarian option and spot to work in a few vegetables.
  9. Continuing the “more healthy options” trend, many spots offer salads, and multiple kinds at that. For example, Tomorrow Land Terrace (AKA the Pizza Port) near Space Mountain has a number of different salads and other vegetarian options as well.
  10.  I haven’t tried them, but I wonder if the chocolate-covered bananas available all over the parks are at least a slightly better option than, say, the ice cream sandwich.

There you have it—tips for eating well at Disneyland, from a closet Disney dork. Another note—if you are going to splurge on something, I highly recommend the jalepeño cheese-filled soft pretzels. Just sayin’.

One word to the wise: Disneyland doesn’t seem to give out their nutritional information very easily. There are no calorie counts posted in the park, and I neglected to ask someone for this information while I was there. I’ve sent an email, and haven’t heard back yet. I’ll report back if I do get more information! Feel free to leave any additional Disneyland food tips in the comments section.

Originally published on the now-defunct 3 Shrinking Ladies blog.

Sunflower Granola Breakfast Parfaits – my attempt

I gave this recipe fromgranola 1 the June issue of Cooking Light a try. The granola keeps well, and this travels easily too. Altogether, two thumbs up! (Good thing, because with the ingredients I had to buy, I’ll be making a bunch more batches!)

Sunflower Granola Breakfast Parfaits (courtesy Cooking Light, June 2013)

To make this portable breakfast a snap, prepare the granola in advance and store it in an airtight container. Be sure to keep a close eye on the broiler so the granola doesn’t burn. You can also sub pitted fresh cherries or any ripe berry for the raspberries.

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seed kernels
  • 1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups raspberries
  1. Place oven rack on middle shelf, about 10 inches below broiler. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Combine first 7 ingredients on a baking sheet; toss well. Broil 3 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring every 1 minute. Combine butter, honey, and vanilla in a small bowl. Drizzle butter mixture over oat mixture; toss to coat. Broil granola an additional 2 minutes or until well toasted, stirring after 1 minute. Remove granola from oven; cool on pan 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Spoon 1/2 cup yogurt into each of 8 bowls. Top with about 1/3 cup granola and about 1/4 cup berries.

Serves 8

Calories: 235; fat: 10.6 grams; protein: 14g; carbs: 23.2g; fiber: 4.9g, cholesterol: 8mg; iron: 1.3mg; sodium: 150mg; calcium: 98mg

A Recipe to Scratch an Itch…

I’ve been dying for some carrot cake, carrot breadbut not for the calories that usually come with it. I recently remembered a recipe I’d tried a few years ago and enjoyed, and tracked it down in “Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2004.” (The Cooking Light Annual, by the way, is a great compilation of the entire previous year’s magazine recipes, sans ads and superfluous articles.) In addition to being yummy, this has a vegetable, whole grains AND tons of protein.) The Points Plus Value—10.5—is a bit steep, but this treat has legs. It’s breakfast, not a snack. Also, you can divide the loaf up into more than eight servings easily. And there are ways to lighten it a bit—I used one percent milk and light cream cheese, and cut the raisins (raisins should generally stay far away from my baked goods).  I made a double batch, because I hate to get everything dirty and heat up the oven for just one loaf. Enjoy!

Carrot Quick Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting (Cooking Light, July 2003)

This bread is rich in protein. Oats provide soluble fiber. Carrots contribute beta-carotene. Slice the entire loaf, wrap slices individually in foil, and freeze for up to one month.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup soy flour
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tblsp butter, softened
1/2 cup water
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrot
1/2 cup golden raisins
Cooking spray

1 cup (4 oz) block-style cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare bread, lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Place brown sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add water and egg; beat well. Beat in milk and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Fold in carrot and raisins. Spoon batter into a 9×5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack, remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare frosting, place cream cheese and powdered sugar in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Beat in lemon juice. Spread frosting over top of cooled bread. Yield 8 servings. (Serving size: 1 slice.)

Calories: 393
Fat: 11.9 g
Protein: 10.2 g
Carbs: 63.9
Fiber: 5.1 g

Originally posted on the now defunct 3 Shrinking Ladies blog. 

Hollywood Bowl Time! (AKA the fancy picnic)

In Los Angeles, Hollywood Bowl season is Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 9.36.07 PMupon us–when hoards of Angelenos dust off their wine backpacks and head out for nights of music under the stars, to hear everything from classical music to jazz to rock to “The Sound of Music” sing-alongs. And aside from a beautiful natural setting right in the middle of Hollywood, enjoying the lovely LA evening weather and hearing some of the best performers in the world, the BEST thing about the Bowl is that you can bring in whatever food you want. You can even bring in your own alcohol for most events.

This means the Hollywood Bowl is a GREAT way to enjoy really good food, but also control your calories. You aren’t limited to a stadium-style hot dog and garlic fries like at most concerts (though they have that stuff too if you’re in the mood for a splurge.) Here’s my FAVORITE Hollywood Bowl picnic recipe. Either pair this with some light chips and the beverage of your choice, or let someone else handle the side dish, because you’re bringing some awesome sandwiches!

Muffaletta Sandwiches

(Cooking Light, March 2003)

Sarah’s Note: This is perfect picnic food, whether you’re headed to the Bowl, the beach, the lake, or any non-grill-adjacent picnic spot. These sandwiches need to be made ahead, wrapped up, and “aged” a bit to get the full effect– it helps meld the flavors together.

They are about 7 Points Plus each– but you can do variations to make them even lower; leave off the cheese or use a low-fat version; make some without the roast beef; make vegetarian-friendly versions. The olive salad topping is so tasty you’ll barely miss what you leave off!

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 (7-ounce) bottle roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced

12 (1 1/2-ounce) French bread rolls
6 (1-ounce) slices Swiss cheese
6 cups gourmet salad greens
12 (1-ounce) slices deli roast beef
12 (1-ounce) slices roasted breast of chicken

To prepare olive salad, combine first eight ingredients in food processor. Process 30 seconds or until finely chopped; chill.
To prepare muffuletta, cut rolls in half horizontally. Cut each cheese slice in half crosswise. Spread about 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive mixture onto top half of each roll. Layer 1/2 cup greens, 1/2 cheese slice, 1 roast beef slice, and 1 chicken slice on each roll bottom; cover with top of roll.
Wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap; chill up to 8 hours. Yield: 12 servings. (and I always have enough to make more than 12, so you might want to buy a bit of extra meat and bread!)

Now I’m hungry…

Originally published on the now-defunct 3 Shrinking Ladies blog.