Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wow, that's what I call a box.

I know that the line is "Now that's what I call a knife," in reference to Mick Dundee showing a would-be robber his large knife versus the tiny switchblade that the guy uses.  But, for some reason it was in my head when I saw this.

This box of cookies, I purchased for $7.99 plus tax, at the local Walgreens store.  This box is about 3 inches high, 6 inches wide and 36 inches long!  This was a box of real cookies made and imported from Germany.  I know that those in Germany may think that this is no big deal, but here in America, Germany has this connotation of being a location where cookies are the best.  This large box of cookies had 4 smaller packages inside of it.

So, going in a clockwise-rotation, you have; some super buttery chocolate chip cookies, some shortbread/ginger bread cookies, some shortbread cookies with a layer of milk chocolate on the back, some chocolate covered shortbread with a dark chocolate drizzle, some vanilla wafer cookies with a chocolate filling, chocolate covered chocolate cookies with white chocolate sprinkles and some of those rolled cookies. Every cookie was delicious and completely worth the price I paid for them.  If you are a cookie fan, I suggest you race to your nearest Walgreens and look for these cookies.

Also of note, that this is the last article for the year.  This year of 2011, I have written 127 articles, which puts me at 227 total.  Thanks for reading and keeping along.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Silver Spoon part 3

I wanted to let you know about this and how happy I was about making this dish.  I did the Chicken in Lager recipe from the Silver Spoon book and used the broth and the tender vegetables to make a risotto.  I took all of the broth and placed it in a pot, brought it to a boil and in the other pan, put some of those cooked carrots and leeks in some olive oil and then added a cup of aborio rice.  I played the normal technique of making risotto which is a long task but came out with some meaty, rich and very tasty risotto.

Now, what else did I make out of this cookbook?  Well, to continue my crusade, I made some Brussel Sprouts and almonds:

My wife then had some fake crab meat and she wanted something good, so I made her a cold crab salad.

But what made this salad a good addition to this blog, was the fact that the red sauce on top of this crab salad, was made from a different sauce.  I had to make a Velote' sauce which was basically just a roux and some seafood stock together.

Then I had to make an Aurora sauce, which is a Velote' sauce with tomato sauce added in.  I did that and had this finished sauce where was drizzled on top of this salad.  My wife liked the salad and made a good comparison to the Mexican layer salads of the 1970's.  This salad had a layer of raddichio, hearts of palm, crab meat, and then sliced dill pickles.   

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Is this too many cookies?

A recent trip to the local Walgreens proved interesting when I found and purchased this:

No, there is no smoke or mirrors here, this is a yard stick and that is a box of German cookies that is 3 feet long!  The best part about these cookies, isn't the fact that it is in the largest box I have ever seen.  The best part is because they were made outside of the US, there is no High Fructose Corn Syrup.  So, go to Walgreens and pick up a box today.  (Only $7.99!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Silver Spoon part 2

I love the recipes out of the book and thought it would be fun to post pictures and my reviews of the recipes I try from the book.  So, here is part two of this idea.  (If anyone buys the book and wants to cook along with me and tell me how everything went for you, please let me know, my wife thinks this would be an awesome idea.)

So, the way I cook, is that I wait for a nice Saturday or Sunday to come along and after having marked about 5-6 recipes, I cook away.  I cook at least two protein rich dishes, so that one may be used for dinner at home for the next few nights and the other gets taken to work for lunch.  This is what I have made within the past week.

This was listed as a Pizza Napolatana, which was me making pizza dough, then putting some extra virgin olive oil, chopped tomatoes, fresh chunks of mozzerella and then some canned anchovies.  I'm not an anchovy person, but I know I did a good job when my wife eats the whole pizza.

This one was an interesting one, this is cream of lettuce soup.  This had milk and vegetable stock boiling together as the base and then about 6 cups of chopped lettuces were added and then blended together.  It tastes surprisingly good.

There was a recipe for a dish called "chicken in lager".  Basically, the recipe wanted me to boil some chicken in some lager beer, chopped celery, leek and carrot with salt and pepper.  That sounded fine, but I'd rather cook a chicken in my Dutch oven than in a pot any day.  So, I set the oven to 400 F and then placed all of the ingredients as well as some extra beef stock and water to fill it more than half way, so the liquids can get into the cavity of the bird to cook it.  I put the chopped veggies inside and then covered it to cook in the oven for an hour and a half, turning the chicken every 30 minutes.  It finished and looked like this:

The broth that was created was delicious and full of flavor and the meat on the chicken was juicy and fell off of the bone.  Do the recipe the book's way or my way.

This above picture is beets with anchovies.  It is a very simple recipe which has you cooking the beets then dicing them up.  Next you take a can of anchovies and after rinsing them, you place them in a hot pan with some extra virgin olive oil and some red wine vinegar.  You stir them around for what seemed like 2 minutes as they completely disintegrated.  You spoon that fishy mixture on top and then mix it up.  My wife, the anchovy eater, loved the cooked beets and anchovies so this is a good recipe for her or anyone else who loves anchovies.

The last thing I cooked in this week was "lentils with bacon".  What you do is soak the lentils overnight then the next day, pour them into a pot.  This recipe is interesting compared to past lentil recipes which I have tried because this one doesn't have you keep the vegetables.  With this one, you cut the carrots and celery in large chunks so they cook with the lentils and give flavor.  When the dish is finished, you pull the vegetables out and toss them.  The bacon is cooked whole, with the lentils as well and then when it is finished cooking, you take the bacon out, chop it up and mix it back in.  I added chopped onions and kept them chopped instead of whole, as I like the flavor of onions. (I call onions "flavor enhancers" to my kids to help persuade them to eat them.)

Everything that I tried was delicious and as I move along in the cookbook, I will continue to do more pictures and more foods for anyone to see.  I am finding this Italian cookbook, easier to follow and make better tasting dishes than say a Mario Batali 350 recipe cookbook.  (I'm not suggesting that Mr. Batali is not a good Italian chef, only that the layout of this book is simpler for people like me to follow: anyone can cook.) 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A good idea but horrible execution.

How many times have you watched a cooking show or reality show and heard someone say that "it was a really good idea but the execution just wasn't there"?  There are bunches and bunches of new ideas and concepts in the food industry and while I think that they slowly become more and more hi-tech and futuristic and I applaud them, for their concepts, the real product doesn't make it too well.
I know, the picture is blurry, but that is because while this idea was solid, the execution was out of focus.

The idea was a can of coffee in which has its own self-heating element.  The can, has a thick foam around it, like those old beer can coolers which were just foam cups that the can goes in.  At the base of the can, under it, is what is best described as one of those portable hand warmers.  It has a button, that must be pressed and when it does, like the warming bags, probably has a metal disc inside that starts a chemical reaction which then heats the metal can and heats the coffee.  There were instructions that also suggested that after you pressed the button, to then shake the can, lightly for about 3 minutes or so, so that it could heat the contents.

There was a small problem: the can never became warm.  The can which was about $3-$5, was a great idea but when the can never heated, I had no idea how much longer it had to be shaken.  The instructions stated that you had to shake it until it started to steam.  Well, I shook it for a few minutes, my wife shook it for a few minutes and it never steamed.  It never got warm enough to steam.  When we finally opened it up, my wife took the first swig and was revolted by the taste of bad, luke warm coffee.  I hate coffee and even gave it a try as it tasted awful to me as well.

Now, could we have had the one bad can?  Sure.  But, if the coffee tasted that bad inside, that wouldn't have been just us, but everyone else who purchased this can.  Bottom line: don't buy it.  I think my wife and I agreed on a poor 1 out of 5 stars for me.  We ended up pouring the contents out as it was completely distasteful.  I know that the concept alone is brilliant and could be applied to cold drinks as well, so you could buy a soda and press the button on the bottom which instantly cools the can and thus cools the drink and you cannot go wrong there, even if it doesn't work and you are left with room temperature soda pop.  But having an item that is supposed to be hot and having it room temperature is a failure.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Doctor Who fix for the year...

When I was young, I was so interested and obsessed (seems a better word) with the Doctor.  I first watched Doctor Who in the early 90's, while the local PBS station was having their member pledge breaks.  The station would start off and play the first episode that they had and then have a marathon, working their way through until the current show's run in the 90's.  I immediatly liked the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, when I watched a few episodes.  This Doctor was eccentric, dressed in a mix of Victorian and other strange clothing and laughed in the face of danger.  He was captured many times, made fun of his enemies and even tortured and always stuck his neck out for others.  He may have been stuffy sometimes, often telling other scientists that they were stupid and making fun of some humans in general, but he always did what he could for the betterment of humanity.  I liked his swagger, his use of information and his one-liners.  I liked his playfulness and his seriousness and was instantly set out to incororate some parts of his personality into my own.  I wanted to be that Doctor.

Anyways, over time I watched the new episodes and even now as they are on the 11th Doctor, I started to like some of the pop culture references made in the series.  It does so in such a way that it helps to bring the Doctor Who world into our own and make it seem more real.  Well, all of this came even more real when I was at Global Foods and bought some interesting items.

The one one the right, comes first.  It is a Jammie Dodger.

The 11th Doctor loves these cookies.  They are a chewy raspberry filling in between of two vanilla cookies. There is a little heart cutout where you can see the filling and they are not only very tasty but addictive.  I know that at one point, the Doctor uses a Jammie Dodger for a TARDIS self-destruct mechanism to fool some Daleks.  The fact is, that this is a real product and it is very good.

I saved the best for last: Jelly Babies.  I believe the 2nd Doctor first used Jelly Babies but offered them once to Sgt. Benton of U.N.I.T. in the late 60's.  Now what I love about the 4th Doctor is at one point, he offered, Davros, creator of the Daleks, a jelly baby, only to be turned down.  His one liner: "Would you like a jelly baby?" has become umbiquous with his character as much as his long 16 foot scarf.  The Doctor has used his Jelly Babies to befriend alien creatures, cavemen and even used it as bait for traps.  It is to the 4th Doctor what the Sonic Screwdriver was to the 10th Doctor.  (But the 4th Doctor also had a Sonic Screwdriver)

Jelly Babies have a gummy outside, like a spice drop or a gum drop.  The inside is softer, almost a liquid filled center and very sweet.  I see why the Doctor offered these to enemies and friends alike.

If you are a Doctor Who fan and you want to get these, they were found at the Global Foods store in Kirkwood, MO. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

A request had been made...sorta

Here is the thing, around the end of November, my wife wanted to go out and celebrate her birthday.  So, I started to look for places to go.  I was looking for some night clubs but since there appears to not be a single decent nightclub in St. Louis, one without fights, shootings, thugs, or with at least somewhat dance-able music, we skipped the dancing.  I was thinking of places to go when I noticed that a restaurant had "Liked" my facebook page about Tasty-Magazine. I wondered if that was because the restaurant liked to read the blog in general or if it wanted to be reviewed.  Either way, I thought it should work.  My wife could order the Sushi and Sashimi choices and I could order everything else.

So, we arrived at Miso, on Meremac, on a cold and rainy Saturday evening.  We came in the upstairs area and upon seeing it packed, it was suggested that we move downstairs and then go and enjoy the full service in the Lounge area.  We walked down the stairs to a dimly lit area with some nice music and we were led to a smooth couch with some glass tables, lit with candles.  The are was pretty romantic, except for the big screen showing some college football.

I wanted to try many things and have a good time.  So, like other famous reviewers, I made a wide selection of foods as my wife stayed along things she enjoyed.  I ordered many items on the "Share Plates" selection as these were meant to go with many people but I ordered many, thinking that the serving sizes would be small, since the way the restaurant seemed.  I was wrong.  The overall severing size was quite large as you would need what I would guess to be 4 people to eat one Share Plate.

I first received the "Sesame Dragon Wings" with a creamy cilantro dressing.  I like the hot wings, which were good hot wings, a 3 out of 5, but there was nothing special about them.  Someone had sprinkled black and white sesame seeds on the hot wings and they were not overly spicy either.  The sauce wasn't that good, as it was described as being a creamy cilantro dressing but was really blue cheese dressing with a sprinkling of dried cilantro.  They were good and I think people should order them, but I have a thing for hot wings.

I then ordered a plate of "Kobe Sliders", which were described as coming with "carmelized onion, Yuzu truffled aioli and “Tokyo” style fries".  What I received was a plate of sliders, which is the term now for small hamburgers.  I forgot if there were four or three of them on the plate.  They had butter grilled buns, a large heaping of grilled onions and Kobe beef in the middle with just a dollop of sauce.  The burgers were cooked right for being Kobe beef, which meant that they were seared on the outside and pink on the inside.  The meat, by itself was very flavorful and moist.  The "Tokyo fries" was not what I had expected.  The fries were also an item on the "Share Menu" and a small discussion with my wife had resulted with a thought that the fries, which were said to be "nori-furikake style fries", should have been fries with the rice seasoning of seaweed and spices.  All that could be tasted was regular French style fries with salt on them.  I know what the nori-furikake seasoning tastes like as my wife has several cans at home for her use and they all have a stronger flavor than what was on the fries here.  Don't get me wrong, the burgers made up for the fries, so it wasn't a failure. Just don't expect some outrageous fries with your outrageous burger.  The burger was a 4 out of 5 and the fries were a 2 out of 5.
We then had the "Steamed Pork Pot stickers with pork, shrimp, soy vinegar sauce".  I'm not a huge fan of seafood and while I thought that the pot stickers wee very tasty, a 3 out of 5, the sauce was very fishy and I avoided it.  The pot stickers were light, crunchy and flavorful as the sauce was heavy and fishy.

I also ordered some sushi rolls for my wife, who loves sushi.  She said that overall the quality of the fish was very good, extremely good.  She loved the meal but had some misses in her hits.  The idea was that the classic sushi rolls were excellent.  Although, when there was a signature roll made by Miso, the flavors seemed to not work together and either fall flat or be to complicated to get a good harmony of flavors out of it.  One of the rolls which my wife ordered said it had Kimchi in it and was supposed to be Korean inspired.  However, my wife loves Kimchi, proper Kimchi, the kind which had been fermenting for up to a year, like REAL Kimchi.  The Kimchi that was placed within this roll, however was not real Kimchi.  The Kimchi tasted like lightly picked cabbage, not even pickled enough to taste like sauerkraut, but just like someone took some cabbage and poured some white vinegar on top.  My wife couldn't finish that roll and was quite displeased.  I think she would have given her overall sushi experience a 3 out of 5 though.

So, overall, it would appear that Miso is a good place to go.  It ranks right up there with some of the nicer places in St. Louis.  I would say that if you are looking for a nicer place for a Sushi date, then you need to go to Sushi.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It tastes just like real kittens

I went to another fun trip to Global Foods and picked up something very strange.  While looking in the Russian and Eastern European aisle, I found this:

I found out that this is a German import and it is supposed to be "chocolate cat tongues".  Yeah, you read that right, these candies were supposed to represent a cat's tongue that was chocolate covered.

Okay, this is weird, a candy that is supposed to look like or be related to cats is a bit strange.  I just hope that no cats were harmed in the making of this product.  The tongues are actually slender pieces of marzipan and then covered in dark chocolate.  It does taste good and you just have to make it past the idea that you are eating something made from cats, and then you are okay.  They are very tasty.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Silver Spoon

Alright, I'm not doing a Julie to Julia thing here as 1) I don't have the time and 2) I don't have the money.  But I purchased this book, several months ago and it has just been sitting in my basement, where most of my books are.

Now, I think I'm a few years late, for as long as this book has been out, there have been hundreds and maybe even a thousand reviews of this book as of late.  It is a massive book, the kind of book that you find in the largest section of the Harry Potter world as the type of book that weighs over 10 pounds on its own. The mere mention of weight makes me wonder how many people have walked around the house with bruised foot tops or toes due to dropping this book.  Ouch.

The book is huge and that isn't a bad thing as it is filled with hundreds and hundreds of recipes from the Italy region.  The book was first published in 1950 and is the most successful cookbook in Italy.  This is real Italian cooking and while you would think I would say that the best part of the book is the pictures, you are wrong.  There are hardly any photos in the book.  What I like the best in the book is the way that it is organized.  Let's say that you open most other books and you have some radishes in your house that you want to cook and can't think of a good recipe.  If you have other books, you look in the back under an ingredient index, if there is one, or look elsewhere and try to find a recipe.  With this book, The Silver Spoon, you go to the "Radish" section and look at the 5-6 recipes starring radishes.  This book is organized by main ingredient which lets you plow through and see everything you want to find.

So, without further adieu, here are some things which I have made and taste really, really good.
This is Sausage Crostini.  This was done by making my own "sausage" with ground beef, parsley, oregano, basil and salt and pepper.  I added the cheese to it and spooned it out on french bread slices.  After 15 minutes in the oven, it was all melty-yummy and worked well together, giving you a taste of sausage and toast.

Stuffed Grape Leaves. What I think is interesting, is that I have grown up within the past few years, making and eating the stuffed grape leaves from Lebanon, of which my wife's family is from.  From a past cookbook on Russia and European cooking, I made a stuffed grape leaf recipe from Turkey.  Now, I made this recipe from Italy.  It is interesting that the Mediterranean countries that have grape leaves, roll them up with something good.  I didn't think this recipe is as good as the Lebanese one, but still very good.

This is listed as a Cauliflower Salad (2), and it is steamed then thrown in a bowl with some olive oil, white wine vinegar, tarragon and parsley.  A nice sprinkling of salt and pepper and that is it.  It reminds me of the simplicity of some French dishes where the ingredients are the star.  It is a good vegetable dish.

This was a turnip greens baked parcel which wanted me to bake some turnip greens, with chopped turnips, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in the oven in wrapped up foil packets.  The greens were perfectly steamed and tasty.

Lastly, I have some of the Potato and Bacon Pie.  This is a quiche', I believe, as it has a base of eggs and cream (or milk) that encapsulates and cooks around some baton cut potatoes and some slices of bacon and onion.  This was so good that my wife and I were using it for breakfast.

I have decided to cook out of this cookbook for the rest of this year and I will post pictures of the recipes as I cook them.  If you see this book on sale anywhere, buy it!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

All hail the waffle

I've always wanted one and now I have one.  My wife picked me up a Hamilton Beach Waffle maker for an early Christmas present for me and I am thrilled.  I have been making waffles for the past week now.

I have to say that this on sale for $29.99 waffle maker is awesome.  You make a simple batter, pour it in, and flip the maker and within minutes you have a round waffle.

  I started with regular waffles and within minutes, I had a stack.

Let me tell you that if you place the setting on "3", the maximum, it will produce hot and crunchy waffles, that taste perfect.  What is really fun about the recipe I found, is I was able to tweak it.  I replaced the 4 tablespoons of sugar with Truvia and replaced the tablespoon of melted butter with extra virgin Lebanese olive oil.  A few cuts to calories does improve the taste.  What is also cool, is that you can make subtle changes of flavor.  For instance, when I went to the store and bought vanilla ice cream, at about 8:00 AM, the cashier and bagger were asking why I was buying ice cream that early.  I told them that I was going to put it on my waffles.  That made them silent and earily staring at me.  The thing is, I made root beer flavored waffles, using a root beer candy flavoring.  The waffles tasted like root beer so I wanted some vanilla ice cream on top so every bite tasted like a root beer float.  This shocked the two grocery store employees: "I've heard of root beer floats but never heard of anyone making waffles that tasted like them."  Well, that is what I do.

So, if you are looking for a waffle maker, I highly suggest using the Hamilton Beach one, I have pictures up there.  I have had waffles turn out perfect, every time.  This devise gets a 5 out of 5 for me, works perfect and every time and was less than $50.