Friday Review: Joe & Sugar’s Cafe in La Grande, OR

I don’t normally write restaurant reviews, but the food at Joe & Sugar’s Cafe in La Grande, Oregon, is fantastic. So I thought I would tell you all about it. :)

I don’t expect most of you will ever go to La Grande, Oregon, it certainly was an unexpected stop for me (and a story for another time & post), but if you go there, be sure and eat at Joe & Sugar’s Cafe. The omelet was perfect, the muffins were out of this world, and the service went above and beyond any expectations.

They were accommodating of food requirements and preferences, understanding of children’s needs, and best of all, they had a giant book basket for children to peruse while they waited for their food.

Be sure and have a muffin while you are there. I had my muffin to go, and I was sorry, because I wanted another when I was done, and it was miles back the road by then.

Has anyone else eaten here?

Food Allergies? Beware!

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

A new study has come out claiming that many foods are not what they claim they are — they have been adulterated. Pomegranate juice was found to have unlabeled apple or grape juice in it, lemon juice was found to be mostly water, the list goes on.

This seems fairly harmless, even if annoying and illegal, until you realize that many Americans rely on food labels to keep them safe and healthy. If you have food allergies, ingesting even a little bit of a food you are allergic to can result in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, hives, swelling, or even death. Unlabeled ingredients threaten the lives and health of everyone with food allergies.

If you have food allergies, and you experience an adverse (bad) reaction to a food, and you are in the USA, contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Box Tops For Education: A Sneaky Ploy to Sell More Expensive Food

I’ve always seen those box tops on packaged food — you know, the special little dashed line boxes that say ‘Cut here and give to your school for money’. You’re supposed to cut it out and give it to your nearest school and then the school earns money from the manufacturer for things at school. And I always felt all warm and fuzzy inside, knowing that the manufacturer cared about kids.

No. That’s not how it works. I no longer feel warm and fuzzy about box tops. In fact, I feel very, very angry. Because it turns out that the kids are made to hold contests to see who can bring in the most box tops and they get prizes, like candy, when they bring in completed sheets of paper filled with box tops. Each sheet has 20 spots for box tops on it. That is an incredible amount of prepared food.

So the kids are saying things like ‘Mommy, buy more of [food we don’t buy] so I can get a prize!’ And of course parents want to make their kids happy, but not by buying food they don’t need or want, because they buy generic brands to save money and cook from scratch to be healthy. It’s all a ploy to get families to buy food they wouldn’t otherwise buy, under the guise of helping kids. It’s disgusting, really.

If you are one of the families that can actually afford to buy name brand foods on a regular basis and/or you live somewhere where the healthy foods on the list are actually sold (which is not the case in my area, for example, we can’t get Green Giant brand fresh produce here) and these box tops don’t cause you angst and anxiety, then I apologize if I have offended you with this rant.

Went to the fair today

Fair in Amsterdam

Fair in Amsterdam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was hot, and busy, and the hay in the animal barns made me feel odd (grass allergy) but it was fun! Way better than the time we went in a dust storm two years ago, and came home with dirt coming out our ears (literally)!

This summer was crazy, so I didn’t even think about entering anything in the fair, but I really want to enter a tassel next year, and some of my flowers. I think I have pansies to equal the 1st place pansies from this year.

The beading will be a challenge — there is way more beaded jewelry than last year. But I think I would enter in the off-loom category, and there was only one item in that category this year. It looks like the judges are looking for good use of color, technical proficiency, and taking some risks (but not too many) with technique or appearance.

On a different, but slightly related, topic, the cakes were amazing! Particularly the professional theme cakes this year. The wedding buttercreams were really nice, too. I was a little disappointed in the wedding fondants — not too daring this year. But it is just amazing what people can do with cake, icing, and some fondant.

Goodbye Sonoma Sparkler, I hardly knew you

Last month, I discovered an amazing new soda, Sonoma Sparkler, that is so yummy. I have tried the lemonade and the apple flavors. They are organic, and made by the same company that makes Reed’s Ginger Sodas. The label says they are made by a wine and cider maker. Delicious!

But don’t get too excited, they are only on the discontinued shelf of the shop where I found them. The clerks there say they just didn’t sell. But they are so yummy, I cry. No hope, they say, they just don’t move.

I went online, checked the manufacturer’s website. There is one other store in town that sells their products. Dare I hope that they sell the Sparklers? I doubt it — it is a full-service grocery, not likely to carry a small brand of delicious soda that tastes like melting sunlight on my tongue.

They don’t seem to sell retail, only wholesale. If I owned a store, I’d be on their wholesale list so fast, you couldn’t say boo. But I don’t have a store, so I’m out of luck.

My last hope is a blog post, sent into the void of the Internet. Will I ever taste the Sonoma Sparkler again (I drank my last bottle tonight)? Perhaps the store has not yet sold out. Perhaps someday I will visit Sonoma. Perhaps I will find a way to get Sonoma Sparklers in Idaho. I can only hope.


What do you call carbonated soft drink?

Fascinating map (and poll) at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer blog:

Freezing Tomatoes: A How To

Small tomatoes in Korea

Image via Wikipedia

Do you have more tomatoes than you know what to do with? I don’t yet, because here in Idaho we are still anxiously waiting for the tomatoes to bloom and set fruit. But for those of you with longer growing seasons and real spring, I thought I’d share this here. It’s instructions for freezing tomatoes that I wrote for another blog I occasionally contribute to. Read Freezing Tomatoes.

You will notice that I do not remove the tomato skins before freezing them, nor do I boil them. I believe the nutrients in the tomatoes keep best when the tomatoes are handled as little as possible, and many of the nutrients are in the skin, anyway. This way the nutrients make it into your final recipe, instead of being drained away with cooking water and discarded with the skins.

Friday Feature: Sweet Vegan

Today we visit with Sweet Vegan, creator of awesome vegan yumminess on Etsy!

How’d you get started on Etsy?
I don’t remember how I heard about it , but I am a florist and I wanted another outlet to sell my floral arrangements and bridal bouquets. I needed a bigger audience than the small town I live in. I thought it was such an awesome idea to have a site where things were handmade with love.

What was your inspiration for your shop?
I started with ExpressionsFloral because I used to own my own floral shop. However, I started Sweet Vegan because I saw a need for it in myself and in others… Most people I know think that Vegan food is bland and tasteless and I wanted to help change that stigma. I have tried store bought items and have been disappointed too many times by lack of taste and dryness. I wanted to make food that everyone can enjoy and show people that you can have great tasting food and not know it’s vegan. It shouldn’t be a word you have to shy from. I have lots of awesome recipes that have great flavor, I enjoy baking and I needed a new outlet for my creativity. So I created a store where I could do all that, bake foods that are made with organic, minimally processed ingredients that taste awesome and anyone can enjoy!

What’s your favorite shop item and why?
Oh that is a hard one, because I love sweets! However I would have to say that my Lemon Tea Cake Wookies

are my favorite. The cookies themselves have a unique flavor which comes from the EVOO and of course everything is better with cream cheese frosting :D

How do you unwind when you’re not creating?
I sit down with a good book or snuggle down with my sweetie and watch a movie.

What’s your favorite kind of cupcake?
Tirimisu :)

What pushes you to want to create something?
I don’t talk a lot, I listen and observe. Through that I get ideas and my brain starts mashing them into unique combinations and that is what makes me want to create .

What’s your fantasy job?
I would love to work in Las Vegas, LA, NY and do event planning and/or Hotel floral designing!

Do you have a secret guilty pleasure?
Etsy…well I guess it’s not secret anymore!

List 3 things you are so obsessed with it is torture to ever say no to.
Hats, books and movies, purses

Do you have a favorite author? When you read, do you use a proper bookmark, bend the page, or grab anything handy to mark your place?
Favorite author is tough because my taste varies, but here a few that I like to read over and over again: Jane Austin, D. H. Lawrence, Wilkie Collins, Leo Tolstoy, Dan Brown, Jean Auel and Ursula La Guin. I use whatever is handy at the time to mark my place :)

What is your best childhood memory?
Camping. Dad would come home from work on Friday and say “load up” we’d throw some things together and off we would go to the coast. Sand, water and lots of campfire fun!

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