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It’s Okay to be Ginger Sometimes

Christmas is approaching, and with it comes the wonderful world of holiday snacks: snowman-shaped cookies for Santa, brownies with Christmas-colored sprinkles, and one of the most festive treats of all: the gingerbread house.

They range from tiny little things that fit in the palm of your hand to gargantuan, edible estates. The exteriors can be simple gingerbread and icing or Cake-Bossed to ornate, chocolaty perfection. Some culinary geniuses even go for extreme, pimped-out interiors – the ultimate ginger crib.

I’ve seen Hershey bar shingles, Life Saver Christmas wreaths, Twizzler skirts for the little gingerbread inhabitants. (I grew up with a lot of baking enthusiasts.) A coconut-dusted roof is also a great depiction of snow – although the last time I enjoyed one of those, I discovered I was allergic and my face swelled up in a most Santa-like fashion. And that’s how Regina George died.

While these houses are fantastic no matter what your spin on them is, there are so many other magnificent things people have made with gingerbread. Trains, treehouses, sleighs, and reindeer are other great experiments. My personal favorite, though, would have to be the gingerbread nativity scene. Delicious and religious, doesn’t get much better than that.

So this Christmas, jazz up the cookies for Santa: leave him a whole gingerbread microcosm instead. Because he’s worth it.

Fish out of Water

They’re in nearly every vending machine. They’re a constant favorite at the candy store. They even have their own website. (You can make your own little fish and make it say things.) That’s right, I’m talking about the one and only Swedish fish.

These are probably the most loved candy there is  that isn’t some form of chocolate. In a world of chewy sour candies, these little fish emerge as triumphant leaders of non-sour chewiness. And the fish just make them really cute. Trivia: They didn’t start off as fish. They were first  released as “Swedish Shells” in the 1960′s, and they came in four flavors: cherry, lemon, orange, and green. Thank god someone decided to nix the orange flavor. Now you can buy the mixed packs that come in yellow, red, and green – if you’re really into that sort of thing. There’s also another variation called “Swedish Berries:” Swedish fish in berry form, also coming in blue.

Personally, I’d stick with the red originals- don’t mess with the good stuff.

These are surprisingly good with a lot of things: I’ve had Swedish Fish brownies, which are actually amazing. They’re great with cupcakes, blondies, and Rita’s even has an Italian ice flavor dedicated just to cherry Swedish Fish.

Another benefit is that these are one of the only chewy snacks that aren’t made with the dreaded ingredient gelatin. As you may or may not have heard, gelatin is made of disgusting substances – so bad that I will not delve into them, so any innocent minds can remain untainted. Enjoy your fish in peace, and salute Sweden.

Cookie of the Cold

It’s that time of year again–Christmas music dominates the radio waves, wreaths are tossed up on every household door, and most importantly, the ultimate Cookie of the Cold has returned: that’s right, Mallomars have hit the shelves.

(They actually came out in October, but I didn’t know they were seasonal until about three days ago, so bear with me here.)

If you’ve never sampled one of these clouds of perfection, stop reading, close your computer, and go get a box. Immediately. I will not be offended. How could anyone resist a fluffy marshmallow perched atop a crunchy vanilla cookie, all completely encased in a flawless cast of milk chocolate? (Some of them even have sprinkles.)

Each box contains eighteen moments of pure bliss. Plus, Mallomars only contain 110 calories per serving, and – you better believe it - a serving is not one but two cookies. They only have 5 grams of fat – 2.5 each – and no cholesterol. So forget Cheerios, have Mallomars for breakfast.

Another thing that makes these cookies so charming is their timeless appeal: crafted in New Jersey in 1913, the name has remained the same as well as the ingredients, and the box design has hardly deviated from the original. It seems people love consistency in their cookies: they’ve played a role in “When Harry Met Sally,” and Oprah promotes the treat in her Book Club with Wally Lamb’s “She’s Come Undone” – the cookie is described as being a food group all its own.

Mallomars have encountered some adversity with their Canadian counterpart, the Whippet. I myself have never had the pleasure of trying one of these, but according to a brief but detailed Google search, most seem to consider them about the same. Well, hold onto your ridiculous hats, Mounties: our Mallomar has fewer calories than your Whippet, for all its hifalutin’ glory.

Actually, Canada might have us beat on this one: they can ship Whippets all year long because they live in that frozen tundra. Mallomars, with their pure chocolate exterior, cannot be shipped during the summer because they’ll melt.

I kind of thought that if we could put people on the moon, we could certainly develop some method to freeze pure chocolate. Hey, you learn something new every day. Still, seasonal or not, we’ll always love our Mallomars.

That’s Amore

Referencing the pizza pie song.

One food that pretty much everyone shares an obsession with is pizza. It’s actually a great way to strike up a conversation:

“Hey, do you like pizza?”

“You know what, I sure do like pizza!”

“Wow! Two people who like pizza – what are the odds?”

“I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful, long-lasting friendship! Let’s frolic to the malt shop!”

-FIN-

Trust me, I met several of my closest friends using this technique. No more tea parties with cats for me! (My friend Taryn is another story…)

But anyway, back to the more serious topic of pizza. Whether it’s a blessed Friday in the sanctity of the cafeteria, movie night wif the bifflz, or ran-out-of-real-food-let’s-head-over-to-the-microwave night, pizza is the classic go-to food. Even though too much of it will most likely cause you to implode, in moderation, it’s a delicacy that’s totally worth it.

Italian or not, it’s hard to screw up something good like pizza. However, as with everything, different people have diverse tastes when it comes to varying pizza brands (thank you Thesaurus.com). Personally, my friends and I are frequent customers of Domino’s, but I know several people who take a sacrilegious stance against it. Those peasants are clearly preferred patrons at Papa John’s or something.

Pizza, although I generally prefer it plain, can actually be a very adaptable meal. You can add the basic pepperoni or tomato, lettuce or spinach, or even barbeque chicken. If you really wanted to go all out, you could probably consume something from all five food groups in one slice of pizza.

There are some pretty crazy pizzas out there: “Mizza,” a little rice patty of a pizza, sweet potato crust pizza, cookie crust pizza – with cheese on top – and one pie surrounded by a ring of shrimp, tails in the air and all.

Whether you’re into that sort of thing or not, the universally beloved pizza is calling your name. Go answer. You don’t want to be impolite.

America Runs on Dunkin

Because I am not a frequent consumer of coffee, I can’t really vote on the Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts Battle of the Ages. I take more of a neutral stance: I like Starbucks for their tea, frappucinos, and scones, and Dunkin for their (drumroll, please)… doughnuts.

Doughnuts, especially those of the Dunkin variety, are a particularly versatile snack. If you’re feeling self-indulgent, grab a Boston Marble or Chocolate Frosted with sprinkles – I’ve heard through the grapevine that the holiday editions have just come out.  Or, if you’re in a more generous mood, pick up a box of Munchkins to share with your buddies. (Make sure you get extra chocolate glazed. Those go the quickest.)

Although Dunkin’s certainly has its place on the scale of doughnut hierarchy, the Mother Superior of all brands would have to be the extremely supreme Krispy Kreme. If you’re on anything close to a diet, steer clear. One of these could feed a family in Ethiopia for a month very hungry horse. The carbs and calories are crazy, so even I, Queen of the Calories, would recommend splitting one with a friend. But the sensation is even more insane. Few things in the world taste as good as a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Don’t eat for three days, try one, then thank me later.

If you’re in the supermarket and feel like picking up a box, go for Entenmann’s. They are the creme de la creme of store bought foods. (Pop-Ems are the heavenly equivalent of munchkins without the added burden of choosing between Starbucks and DD’s. Enjoy them, and rest easy.)

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Gimme Gimme S’more

I know s’more season starts in late July or August and probably ended about a month ago, but I’m pressed for time and running out of ideas for yummy things. So let’s pretend it’s still balmy summer weather, or you can just make them inside, I don’t care.

Everyone knows that no campfire-y starlight night on the beach would ever be complete without s’mores. It’s a wonderful combination of three very unlikely flavors: graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate, the basics. Some people add M&M’s or crumple them up and serve them with ice cream. I’ve also seen s’more ba which is pretty cool too. It’s generally accepted as a “mood food” (the aforementioned campfire on the beach scenario), but I recently made them in the microwave at a friend’s house. We enjoyed them indoors, and it was just lovely.

Just a heads up – marshmallows expand in the microwave. (Hmm, Grey’s Anatomy should really do an episode about that…)

Graham crackers by themselves are pretty boring, so I’d recommend getting cinnamon ones – you know, just for kicks. Marshmallows are pretty straightforward. As far as the chocolate goes, Godiva is the creme de la creme, but also the priciest, so head for the Hershey’s. You can’t really go wrong with that.

So fire up the campfire (that’s a catchy phrase), blast some tunes, and think of your grandpa’s old war stories to share. Or just prep the microwave, rent a few movies, sit down and shut up. Either way, it’s sure to be a night to remember. Can’t ask for s’more.

Substituting cookies for graham crackers... stroke of brilliance

Substituting cookies for graham crackers... stroke of brilliance

A S'MORE MACHINE!

A S'MORE MACHINE!

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SMEEPS!

SMEEPS!

Cookie Monster

And I thought I was running out of food to write about.

The weather’s getting colder, and what better way to spend a freezing day than making cookies? Available in an unlimited number of varieties, these are the perfect winter treat (gosh, I feel like Martha Stewart) , and you can make them any way you want.

There’s the basic but never disappointing chocolate chip cookie, which is great any time of year, but especially during these cold tundra months. (They’re also Santa’s favorite!!! Lolz) Pair it with milk or hot chocolate, pop in a movie, and have yourself a happy.

Peanut butter cookies are another great option. (Please consult your physician before consuming these delicacies.) You can add in Hershey’s kisses for a chocolate kick. And those aren’t your only options: cookie goodness is automatically multiplied by ten by adding sprinklesM&M’s, or even candy corn.

If you’re like me and can’t make something as simple as toast without complications, pick up a box of Oreos (the Halloween kind are on sale now!), Milanos, Chips Ahoy, or anything from the little Keebler elves.

Yep, it’s hard to go wrong with cookies. Whether you have them solo, in ice cream, or baked in a cake (oh hey, cookie cake is pretty amazing, too), cookies are perfect whenever. Pick up a box; you deserve it.

Deal with it

Deal with it

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I feel like PETA would be upset if I ate one of these.

I feel like PETA would be upset if I ate one of these.

FOR THE CONGO

On Saturday morning, I joined my fellow IHA-goers at the first annual Walk/Run for Congo Women. We were a rowdy bunch, to say the least, scream-singing Taylor Swift, frolicking, and sporting flattering sweatshirts and dark-circled eyes. We were just a really good looking group, especially by lap #3.

(Let the record show that both Mr. and Mrs. Brodeur cheated.)

In all seriousness, though, it was for a really good cause. Not enough people know about the devastating effects of the Congo War. Although the war ended several years ago, it left a path of hostility and discord in its wake. Small armies still plunder villages, inflicting depredation and rape upon its women. It has been said that rape is a weapon of war in this part of the world.  In April 2010, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative conducted a study in which they found a 17-fold increase in civilian rapes from 2004-2008.

“We think that this trend of increased civilian perpetrators suggests that there’s been an acceptance of sexual violence by the Congolese society,” says Susan Bartels, the lead researcher on the study.

Although this is happening thousands of miles away, the issue is still central and should be important to everyone. As the slogan on our new tee shirts point out, it could be happening to anyone. We’re thankful it’s not us, but what are we going to do to make things right?

Chocolate is Better in Color

It’s not really a secret that I love candy, particularly that of the chocolate variety.  And while Snickers satisfy, Reese’s relieve, and Twix tantalize, my go-to chocolate candy will always and forever be M&M’s. They’re tiny, they’re colorful, they’re chocolate, and they come in a mini size. Those are 80% of my favorite things wrapped in one perfect little brown package.

Not that the brown package is the only one you should pick up. M&M’s have this magical ability to make everything yummy. Their peanut (yellow), peanut butter (red), dark chocolate (purple), almond (tan), and the new pretzel (blue) flavors are all pretty great. I normally don’t touch almonds or pretzels, but in M&M’s, I love them. You should check out some of their crossover flavors, too.

If you really feel like indulging yourself, pick up a box of M&M’s Premiums: Though they’re a bit costlier in price and calories, these little dreams are totally worth it. I would recommend the Triple Chocolate. They’re three kinds of chocolate and they’re purple. Doesn’t get much better than that.

These are literally the most versatile candies ever. Clearly, they come in endless flavors, and you can add them to any treat to make them even treatier: cookiesbrownies, blondies, ice cream, and cupcakes can only get better when combined with M&M’s.

If you want to get fancy, check out MyMMs.com to personalize bags of M&M’s with (very short) words, specific color themes, or even your face. Not sure why you’d want people eating your face, but if you’re into that sort of thing, go right ahead.

Sup, Princess Paige?

These were ordered for Princess Paige's inauguration.

And of course, where would we be without the acclaimed M&M World? Located in Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York, this beyond enticing megastore is a must for all M&M lovers. Not only does it have a crazy amount of the beloved candy itself, but incredible merchandise as well with the characters we’ve all come to love. Pick up a mug, sweatshirt, pillow or other stuffed thing. (There are lots more, but I think I’ve gone overboard with the links.)

So go grab a pack, just for kicks. They’re quick, sweet, and with Halloween just around the corner, you’ve got an excuse.

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M&MSball

i throw mah hands up in the air sometimes

i throw mah hands up in the air sometimes

中国菜 (La Comida China)

It’s an easy translation. Everything sounds better in Spanish.

Yesterday, after shredding my school picture and burning the remains, I decided to cheer myself up by ordering Chinese food. (Using food to make oneself happy might not be the most psychologically healthy of all decisions, but it’s certainly effective.)

I know very few people who hate  Chinese food. Most people seem to be a bit fanatical about it. I myself had not tried it until last year, and I’ve been making up for lost time ever since. The sight, smell, or even the mention of it can evoke a crazed, instantaneous craving that must be immediately satiated.

I know I’m not the only one: Lana Ayyash, a sophomore at IHA and Chinese food enthusiast says, “I love Chinese food so much that I feel compelled to quote Confucius with every bit of fried rice I eat! IGNORANCE IS THE NIGHT OF THE MIND!”

Teriyaki chicken is pretty much the only thing keeping me from being a vegetarian. Same with cashew chicken. And Kung Pao chicken. And Wendy’s chicken. The Chinese just have a real knack for making chicken. It’s all amazing. Same with the rice. White rice, brown rice, fried rice – probably the best of the three – are all essential to any Chinese dish. So are noodles. Any kind.

EVERYTHING IS JUST SO INCREDIBLE. AND NOW I HAVE TO GO EAT MORE.

If you’re ever staying after school for an obscenely long time (not that I ever do that) and the vending machines are out of Pop-Tarts  order, Wing Lee’s delivers to IHA and is pretty fantastic, even for Chinese food.

Ultimately, the sensational experience of eating Chinese food will abolish all worried thoughts from your mind. So order up or take it out, pop in a movie or start some homework – it’s all good in the Asian hood.

And always remember: He who will not economize will have to agonize.

(Not sure how this is relevant, but thank you, Confucius quote generator.)

Flawless

Flawless

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It's just so pretty.

This looks pretty good for a place in Indiana. It's probably served with freshly husked corn and a Lewis and Clark bumper sticker.

This looks pretty good for a place in Indiana. It's probably served with freshly husked corn and a Lewis and Clark bumper sticker.

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