Thursday, May 31, 2012

Meet Barbie

This is Barbie:

Barbie is an English Mastiff, whom I believe is about 4 months old.  She is expected to be at least 180 pounds when she is full grown.  She spent the day with us on Sunday, while her owners were out of town.  Now, we are part owners of Barbie, too, I believe, so we got to watch her.  I was thinking that there has to be something to do with her and decided to make her something.  I made her cookies.

They were really simple and were made with 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of milk, 2 cups of whole wheat flour, 1/4th cup of carob chips and 3/4cup of oats.  All was mixed and then set to cook for 15 minutes.

Are they good?  Well, I wouldn't eat them all myself.  They are very dry and full of fiber.  But they last about 3 seconds each when given to this puppy.  If you are interested in the recipe, it is here:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cake time.

I thought I would do something different and decided to make some cakes.  The first is a lime cake.  I used real, freshly squeezed lime juice and lime zest, baked into the cake and for the icing.  All sugar free.

While this was both tart and sweet like the perfect limes, I wanted something a bit more.....different.

I reached into my container of bacon fat and used two tablespoons worth in a cake batter, producing a maple and bacon cake.  

Well, both of these turned out great and while both were also sugar free, both still didn't taste like reduced calorie cakes.  If you are interested in any of these recipes, let me know.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Let's make ketchup.

Or is it catchup?  Or catsup?  It has so many different spellings that the name is impossible to set in stone; like Cuthulu.

So, this all started a year ago when my family decided to do away with all of the high fructose corn syrup.  We found it almost impossible to find a ketchup brand that did not have high fructose corn syrup in it.  Now, for those who are not into scientific research and think that there is nothing wrong with high fructose corn syrup, then just think of this as a sugar substitute.  For those of you looking for low sugar or low calorie foods, then you may miss this condiment.  Most people don't think of ketchup as a source of calories and when they diet and have it as a sauce, they wonder where those extra calories come from.
I am not associated or affiliated with this company in any way.  I have to say that I grew up, all my life, eating Heinz Ketchup and always thought it tasted like this.  I was alive when it switched from sugar to high fructose corn syrup but honestly didn't notice a change in taste.  What I notice is that a single tablespoon of this stuff has 20 calories.  However, who uses 1 tablespoon?  A large french fries from McDonald's requires about 1/4th of a cup, 4 table spoons at least, and that is already at 80 calories.  This is how calories start to secretly rack up.

So, I decided to do something fun:  I made sugar free ketchup.
First step, is to cook chopped onions.  I like this recipe already.  Then you add some vinegar, tomatoes and brown sugar, with which I used a brown sugar replacement.

So, everything gets cooked together and then it looks like this.  You use a blender and pure' it down so it can fit into a bottle or squeeze bottle.

  What does this taste like?  The best tasting ketchup, and I don't even use ketchup.  This was a great thing and now, with about 3 calories a tablespoon, it is way better than the latter.  The Heinz product has both sugar and high fructose corn syrup in it which adds added calories but no real tomato flavor.  My ketchup tastes like tomato, which is not what I can say for the big brands.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ahhhhh Summer...

This past Monday started the first real week of summer vacation for my son, from school.  This week has got me thinking of how I spent most of my summers as a kid and what I enjoyed eating.  I remember my dad working and my 3 brothers and I spending our summers in our backyard, playing with action figures and playing wiffle ball, while my mom was vaguely aware of our existence; as she watched daytime soap operas. We were not wealthy like some of the other families I grew up with but I remember what each morning was.

Every day, I would wake up early, sometimes before 7am and go outside and swing on our swing set in our backyard.  I would swing until I became tired and went inside for my cereal breakfast.  I always ate cereal and like most kids, I enjoyed the most sugar rich cereals as possible.  Nothing like frosted flakes and the last cup of the cereal in the box and the extra sugary powder at the bottom of the box.  After breakfast, it was time to go outside and play for the whole day.

Sometimes while playing outside or swimming in our cheap, plastic, above ground pool, one of those 8ft diameter and 2 feet deep ones, my mom would prepare a special snack lunch for us.  It consisted of a fried Bologna sandwich and some chips and a glass of kool aid.

BBQ's were not something that happened all of the time for us, so it isn't really a sign of summer for us, or for me.  I never was one for ice cream, although Ted Drews was a must at least once a month for us.  But besides eating almost anything in the hot sun, there really isn't a perfectly specific food memory associated with summer.

What about you?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How many points?

So, it finally is upon us: the weight watchers point system.  My wife did weight watchers for a bit before and now again but this time, the points are different.  Before, the points seemed to be based upon fat and calories, so you could get as much popcorn as you wanted with no point liability.  This meant that in theory, you could lose weight eating popcorn.  But, like everything else in the diet and food craze, healthy eating has turned from merely watching your fat intake to watching your glycemic load intake.

There you go, you heard it again.  I know I mentioned this a few posts ago, because my father-in-law was diabetic or is now pre-diabetic or whatever.  But, he has to watch his blood sugar levels and I took on the role of making sugar free and low glycemic load items.  So, what I started to do about 4 years ago, was to make sugar free things from cakes to jams and I thought I was pretty successful.

Now, weight watchers seems to be following the same idea.  Instead of that unlimited amount of handfuls of popcorn being at no cost or no points, now, they have points.  Which may hinder you and your set amount of points a day.

What I find interesting about this, and what my friends will say is cheating because I'm a chef or cook or whatever and can manipulate this to my advantage, is that there is a very large amount of food that has 0 points.  This way, someone could make a very large and colorful salad and it would take away none of your set amount of points for that day.  I see how this is starting to work.  I do have to say that the idea of points instead of counting calories does make it easier to keep track of things.  I also helps that Weight Watchers has their own calculator for recipes and foods.  This way, I can create something and check to see if it has low points or a bunch of points.

I do have to say that it already seems to be working as my wife has already lost some ounces of weight within 2 days of following this method.  Even though I am not on a diet, I do eat moderately healthy and will post anything of interest.  In the meantime, eat something yummy for me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

Okay, when I was younger my father used to make pot pies, like meat pies, where he would take whatever leftover meat we had, mix it with some vegetables and a gravy and bake it in a pie shell and crust.  It was great as it was a time when even mushrooms tasted good.  (I'm still not a huge fan of mushrooms now)

So, for fun, I noticed that at the store there was two kinds or brands of personal chicken pot pies.  One was from Swanson and the other was from Banquet.
So, is there any difference between the two?  Depends on what you are shopping for.  The Swanson has less calories than the Banquet, more ingredients and less taste.  It is also only 89 cents while the Banquet pie was $1.25.  So, I did mention taste and this is what that was all about:

Sure, both products had mechanically separated chicken as the main protein source, the stuff that nuggets are made of, and both had plenty of other vegetables in there as well.  The Banquet pie had more sodium and even had potassium in it.  It overall had a better taste, as the potatoes tasted like potatoes and the carrots tasted like carrots.  The gravy, tasted like chicken, almost as good as real chicken stock or chicken soup.  The company started in 1953 and it was in 1955 that Banquet's frozen meals first hit store shelves.

Swanson has most of the same ingredients as the Banquet version, except it also has about 100 more and in different orders.  Whereas the Banquet pie had their filling or gravy made with chicken stock as the first ingredient, Swanson has water as their first ingredient.  So, already you have one tasting better than the other.  Sure, the Swanson pie is about 45 cents less than the other so if you had one dollar to live, this would be the one to get.  But the lesser cost clearly shows and indicates a lesser value.  As mentioned earlier, this one tasted like someone watered down a can of chicken soup and the first tasted like fresh chicken soup.  I couldn't stomach this pie at all.  Swanson started in 1905 but it wasn't until 1950 that their first frozen meal hit the shelves.

So, my choice, as it seems painfully obvious, is that the Banquet one is better tasting.  And, if the amount of ingredients is any indication, the Swanson brand had many fillers, like whey protein and carrageenan and xanthan gum.  Now, would I serve these to other people?  No.

If you get either one, let me know what you think. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let's experiement

What I love about food, is that if you find some things that work together and taste great, you can deviate from the recipe and create your own invention.  I looked in the refrigerator and found out that I still had some fresh green beans from the weekend.
So, let's start off by snapping the last inch to 1/2 inch off of the beans and then snap them into smaller pieces.  A good rinse in a colander and then they are ready.
What I decided to do, was to make a Lebanese dish which I think was called Green Bean Stew.  It is basically, green beans steamed in some cooked onions and tomato sauce until tender.  This is what I did, at first.  I looked around and used half of an onion I had and then I found a can of V8, without high fructose corn syrup, and used that.

So, then, I had some sweet corn I had boiled a few days ago and chopped that up and threw it in a pan with some olive oil, cut up red peppers and a can of chopped tomatoes.
I then added them together with some cumin I grounded up.  It made for like a spicy and flavorful Lebanese fusion dish.
With some white rice, this turned out to be a great low calories and no fat dish.  Everyone come over.  Anyways, what I want to say is that while there are times that I experiment and it doesn't work, a lot of times it does work.  In this case, it worked just fine.  So, play around and try something new.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A long way for an energy drink

Along with my previous order from Cyberdog, I also purchased their energy drink. It does make complete sense that a company that sells rave and cyber wear would have an energy drink.  I guess it would be perfect if you had a club near one of the Cyberdog stores, so someone could go to the store, buy what they need and then go next door to the club.  The Cyberdog store would get so much  Anyways, here is the Cyberlog Energy Drink.

This shows the name of the drink in their "Cyber" font.  This is what has gotten so many attention:

Yeah...This is on my can.  Now while I have to commend the company on their great use of artwork on a can, the contents are what really count.  This drink can reminds me of an energy drink which was released several years ago and had featured pinups on the front of each can.  Anyways, the inside drink is tasty and smooth.  My friends couldn't decide if it tasted like Monster or Red Bull.  However, it still tastes fine.  I was a little concerned about the size of the can as it was a small 250ml can.  That is about 1 cup of liquid, or 8 ounces, when most energy drinks seem to be larger 16 ounce or 500ml or even 750 ml cans.  Still, it was a good tasting drink.  So, my review of the can is a 5/5 stars or (cyberdog logos) and the drink is also a 5/5 stars (or cyberdog logos).

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The chicken, the chicken, what to do with the chicken

My favorite protein of all time is chicken.  My friends could tell you stories for years about when I was younger and would go to any restaurant, day or night, and order something chicken.  It is one of the most versatile ingredients and can take on the flavor of anything that it is paired with.  It also is a scary one, with so many illnesses and problems that can occur with cross contamination of e-coli or salmonella. I always seem to over-cook chicken as I am always afraid that it is underdone.

I cleaned out my freezer last weekend and found this:
So, what can you do with a whole chicken?  Well, it is sitting in a container so it can thaw, in the refrigerator.  After it took 3 days to thaw, I found some spices:

I took out the chicken of the bag, cleaned it and removed the bag of "goodies" from within the cavity.  I then used my good scissors and cut out the backbone.  I laid it down carefully and used about 1/2 of the contents of the spices to sprinkle on top and inside of the chicken.

So, the chicken was sent into an oven and came out like this.

I know it will take me a while to get it past me that if you put a chicken, in water, in a pan with some tin foil on it, for long enough, it will cook perfectly and stay moist.  And most of all, it was fully cooked so I wasn't worried.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Let's make cake, cyber cake

I'm a huge fan of the cyber-punk genre.  I can't help it nor can I explain it, but I like the flashing lights, the bright colors mixed with dark colors, the Tron feel to everything and the futuristic way things look.  I remember going into the Cyberdog store in Camden, outside of London on a very cold, wintry day a few years ago.
Ever since I went there, it has been stuck in my brain of all of the awesome clothing they have.  Well, they also have house-wares.  This is something I purchased recently:
They call it a Retro Arcade cake pan, made of silicone and is green and shaped like an 8-bit video game character.  It is awesome, cute, funny and small, about 6 or 7 inches square.  So, on the back of this box, is a recipe and I thought that I should find out how it turns out.

So, I follow the recipe and instead of doing the basic vanilla flavored cake, I decide to zest a lemon, boil the zest to make it tender and then add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice as my flavoring agent.

I mix everything together as the basic and simple to understand instructions suggest and pour it in the mold.  After 25 minutes in my 355 degree F oven, I get this, which doesn't look like much now.  I was immediately worried because I had thought that the cake would have risen more.  I didn't know that the cake was like a pound cake.
Perfect.  My review of this cake pan/mold is a 5 out of 5 stars or 5 out of 5 cyberdog logos; whichever you prefer.  It worked great and it was very easy to remove the cake from the mold.  The great thing about silicone is that heat can transcend through it to heat the contents without heating the container too much.  It also cools off so quickly that within a minute, I was able to pop the little guy from the container.