Monday, December 8, 2008

This is some serious stuff

Everyone knows my main blog is a humor one, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. But this is not a joking matter--the Community Food Bank of NJ is in deep trouble. The shelves are nearly bare. Several NJ bloggers are working to raise awareness, and a little cash, to help out.

From the website:
The Community FoodBank of New Jersey works to provide support to over 1,600 agency programs that partner with us in the fight against hunger and poverty. These partners are nonprofit organizations that operate the following types of programs and services:
Emergency food pantries
Soup kitchens
Shelters and on-site residential programs
Senior feeding programs
Child care centers
Afterschool programs
Group Homes
Summer camps

As the economic situation in our country continues to decline, more and more of our fellow citizens in our state are relying on food banks to have enough to get the family through the week.
Some seniors have to choose between food and medicine, while some working poor have to decide whether they can afford to eat or not tonight.
This is a bank that can't fail. They need our help, and fast. My budget is stretched pretty thin, but I usually manage to find enough cash for a fast food lunch or two per week. I've stopped that, and plan to donate the savings to the Food Bank. If each of us can do a little, it will mean a lot.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Slow Food

The Slow Food Movement started in Italy in 1986 in response to the McDonaldization of Italy. The impetus for the group was McDonald's plan to open a restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

In a nutshell, part of what they do is preserve the specialty foods of a region, and help save heirloom varieties of various foods. This is in addition to stopping the spread of fast food, obviously. They seem to embrace the idea that food, while fuel, is also something to be enjoyed to the fullest. And scarfing down a quarter pounder with cheese after zipping through the drive through isn't savoring, it's surviving. Meals should be more than that. We take the time to sit and enjoy a holiday feast. Why can't every day have at least a bit of that attitude?

Wholesome food can be prepared quickly in about the time it takes to drive over to the clown's place. A buck for a cheeseburger may seem like a bargain and a half, but it is usually accompanied by fries and a drink. A really nice dinner can be prepared at home for the same price per serving or less. Also, consider that a fast food dinner creates so much garbage with the box or bag it comes in, the tiny aluminum package for the 1/2 teaspoon of ketchup, straws, and who knows what else. That cheap dinner is bad for your health, waistline, pocket, and the environment. Slow down, and have a nice dinner at home with those people who live in your house.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A new recipe

General Tso Chicken is a big favorite of mine. Unfortunately, it is full of fat and carbs. I have no idea how many calories in a dinner, but probably a lot.

So, at the store, the Mrs. found a bottle of General Tso's sauce. She stir fried some chicken breast, limiting both the carbs and fat normally found in the dish. She mixed in a bit of the sauce, and served it over brown rice to make a dinner healthy with low fat, high fiber, and loads of flavor. And it was much cheaper than picking it up at the Chinese restaurant. It probably took her as much time, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top Chef New Season Started

This year they are in New York. First episode was pretty exciting.
Pretty interesting that first episode had a reunion of sorts, two of the chefs knew each other from culinary school. In the very first challenge, one got eliminated, and then in the next competition, the other was on the block, and then he was cut.

This is an ok reality show. It may be a bit less scripted than Hell's Kitchen.
Update on muffin tops.

I just ordered the chocolate ones as my local store just is so limited in variety. Even direct from the company, they are pretty expensive, but I can justify them as they are healthy, and taste like a treat. They are comparable to bars that taste like crap, and price wise about the same as an unhealthy treat like a TastyKake.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Muffins A Health Food?

These could be. Vitalicious muffins are a healthy choice (not Healthy Choice) for everyone, and may even be a good choice for diabetics.
I had the chocolate muffins. They are 100 cal, with 6 gr of fiber, and 3 gr of protein. The taste was very good, but because they are so low fat, they tended to be a bit on the dry side. They wound up falling apart. Definately not my favorite because of that. While they are very chocolatey, I was pretty unhappy with the consistency.
I also tried a muffin top. Fans of Seinfeld are already excited, I'll bet. I had the cran bran one, and it did not have the same dryness of the chocolate muffin. I highly recommend the muffin tops.
I have a link below, but they are available in the freezer section of many stores. I bought mine at Stop and Shop.

They were very pricy, though. The online price was surprisingly cheap. To get free shipping, one needs to spend 175 bucks, which is a lot. What would be smart, would to get together with a few friends and put a nice order together. According to the website, they are 1.03 per box, while Stop and Shop charged $4+. That is significant. I'm guessing other stores charge much less, so it may be a good idea to shop around.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Marshmallow review

Here's the review of the Plush Puff Marshmallows previously promised.

I tried all 6 varieties. These were top of the line, premium sweets, and value always comes into play on this.

The Chocolate was excellent. They had a very good, intense chocolate flavor, enhanced by tiny chocolate chips on top.
I dropped two into my coffee, and it turned into a premium mocha cappuccino as good as any 5 buck cup at Starbucks. Worth every penny.

The S'more flavor was ok. I suppose it tasted like a s'more, but part of the s'more experience is the melting chocolate and toasted marshmallow. Hard to match that. It was ok, but not great.

The Caramel is a mixed review. I didn't like it at all, but the Mrs. loved it. Go figure. It was just too, ordinary, I guess, for me. Kind of boring. Pass.

The Vanilla, again, same thing. While it had a very pronounced vanilla flavor, it wasn't that much better than a Campfire. Considering one could buy a bag of marshmallows for about the cost of the two I put in my hot chocolate, I'd have to say pass on them, too.

The Mint were weird, only because I did not expect to find such an intense mint taste in a marshmallow. The taste was really good, and would probably be good on their own or mixed in tea.

Lastly, the Lemon Meringue. It tasted like lemon meringue pie. Really. The flavor was intense, and very natural tasting. I would seriously consider buying these again.

Overall, I would buy the chocolate and lemon, and maybe the mint. Yes, they are a bit pricey, but if used to make a couple cent home made coffee or tea into a high dollar gourmet treat, it's a good deal. And, in fairness to the company, the ingredients used seem to be the best. No cheap corn syrup. Sugar, brown rice syrup, honey and all natural extracts are not inexpensive.

They would make a nice treat, or a decent holiday gift.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Peanut Butter and Company

The Mrs. went to a new store over the weekend because that's what she does. I think the name is the Christmas Tree Shop in Freehold, and she found a bunch of stuff on spoecial. One of these things is Peanut Butter and Company Spicy Peanut Butter. This sells at QVC for around 8 bucks for a 16 oz. jar and around the same (with shipping) at the company website. She paid $2.69.

But it is only a bargain if it's good, right? And, it is very good.

And hot as heck, too. When I had my toast with this and jelly this morning, it brought the heat. And it stayed for a while. It wasn't painful heat, but it definately woke up the old taste buds. I would have to say I liked it a lot, but not for 8 bucks a jar. Ok, so I'm cheap, but prefer the term frugal. Unfortunately, we are out of tomatoes, so I couldn't have it as a PB&T, which, of course, is the ultimate test for me. If the jar makes it to the weekend, the Mrs. will make a trip to Shop Rite to get a tomato so I can really enjoy my peanut butter. It's good with jelly, for you non adventurist types.


Coming soon: Marshmallow taste test.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Last week the phone rang, and the nice lady on the phone wanted to know if it was ok to ship my marshmallows on Monday.

"What marshmallows?"

After some hemming and hawing, I got the story. It seems the Mrs. had ordered gourmet marshmallows. However due to some sort of client--marshmallow sales person confidentiality agreement she could not discuss the purchase with me.

So, I got her number, called the Mrs. at work and got the whole story. It seems she had clicked on an ad on this blog, and was interested in mail order marshmallows.

$45 and a week later, a box showed up with 6 rather small bags of marshmallows.

Naturally, after yelling about spending $45 for marshmallows, I tore into the chocolate chipetta bag.

Holy moley!!! These are the best marshmallows I have ever eaten in my life. Not that I am a marshmallow expert by any stretch of the imagination. Marshmallows are something to either toast or dump in hot chocolate. But not these.

They are crazy expensive. I'd estimate based on shipping and the cost of them, they are $7.50 for 16-18 of the little tasty sugary pillows, or about a half buck each.

So far, I have only eaten the chocolate ones (I'm a diabetic--you want I should lapse into a coma or something) and they are spectacular.

I checked the ingredients, and that may be part of the reason for the expense. No cheap corn syrup or unpronounceable things in them. Sugar, honey, brown rice syrup, and various extracts and what you would use if you wanted to make marshmallows at home yourself. The chocolate ones are topped with tiny chocolate chips.

The taste? Wow! I mean it. These are great. It took every available bit of restraint I had to not eat the entire little bag. I plan to add 2 to my coffee tomorrow morning to turn it into a mochaccino.

I would describe it as not very sweet, but really bursting with chocolate flavor. Not a wimpy flavor, but a full bodied chocolate.

I can't wait to try the other varieties. Don't confuse these with Campfire or Sta Puff marshmallows. That would be like comparing a steak house filet mignon and baked potato to a quarter pounder and fries.

They come in 6 different varieties. I'll get to them over the next few weeks or so, and report back.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Such a lunch!

Today I had a nice mid day repast with the Mrs. We ordered the "Lunch Special" from a local Chinese restaurant. It was a deal and a half. For $5.85, I had a large portion of General Tso's (Cho's, Tsao's?) chicken, some vegetable fried rice, and an egg roll. Oh, and the fortune cookie was included. I've heard of places that charge for the cookie. That's not right.
Anyway, it was a good portion of food. I'm full and happy. I could have gone to MickeyD's, Wendy's or the King, and would have spent just as much or more for a "value meal," and it would not have made me as satisfied. Of course I could have gone to White Castle and had a bunch of delicious Slyders for that price (don't want to upset the good folks at White Castle again--they get pretty sensitive) but tasty steam/ grilled little burgers with the big taste just weren't going to cut it today.
(Yes I'm a suckup. I know the VP of marketing from WC has read my blog, and I want to stay on her good side. Maybe she'll give my readers some free burgers, which would be a great promotion, by the way. Just sayin'. White Castle Slyders, as read on would certainly look swell on the next promotional poster.)
Back to my lunch. I'm not sure how great a general Tsao was, but the man could certainly make spicy chicken. The place we ordered from today spices it exactly perfectly for me. Some make it so hot, I can barely eat it. And I have to be careful because they may leave those little super hot peppers in the sauce, and more than once I've accidentally eaten one of them. And lunch should never hurt that much. This place just seasons it without leaving those stupid peppers in it. Hot without pain. I really don't want to sweat like a Cambodian hooker just from eating a piece of chicken.
Oh, and I got a fortune cookie and, of course, I played the fortune cookie game with it. The game always works, and is always funny.
Just read your fortune, and add "In bed" after it.
Today's fortune--Determination is what you need now--in bed. LOL. It always works.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chocolate egg cream soda

If you've ever been to New York, or the nearby area, you have probably come across an egg cream. It may sound disgusting, but it's a name not exactly befitting this wonderful drink. It has no egg in it, and really very little cream.
I guess the closest description would be it's similar to a lightly carbonated YooHoo. But better. Much better. It's more refreshing. You could make your own at home, I think the recipe is a squirt or 2 of chocolate syrup (U-Bet brand if you are a purist) and an inch of milk. Then fill the cup with carbonated water, stir and enjoy.
But if you don't want to fuss with all that, I highly recommend Jeff's Chocolate Soda Egg Cream.

Old stock photo

A 12 oz. bottle has 170 calories of mostly sugar. Personally, I'd rather make my own, or get one from the soda fountain, but if you have never had a genuine NY Egg Cream, Jeff's will give you an idea of how the final product should taste. While I never tried it, I'm sure about an inch or so of chocolate milk, mixed with seltzer would give the same results.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Here are some of the heirloom tomatoes Mrs. picked up this week.

It's hard to see in the pictures, but the sections are really pronounced. They tasted really good, slightly less acidic than the usual fare.


She also stocked up on focaccia. Need to post pictures of some of those.

Friday, September 12, 2008

MMM White Castle

Last night, after my monthly doctor's appointment we went to White Castle. We do this once a month, probably because more often would kill me.
Anyway, WC must have the absolute worst marketing department in the world.
This month, the special is a slyder with A-1 steak sauce.

Ok, not exactly the greatest innovators at WC test kitchens. Not to be outdone with such really uninspired cuisine, the advertising poster is proudly displayed in the windows. I like looking at details, and the sign has something I've never noticed in a fast food ad.

Small print at the bottom says limited time--ok, I've seen that. And then it says, "While Supplies Last." WTF

Don't they make the slyders right there? Is there a possible shortage of A-1 Steak Sauce?

I'm pretty sure Costco and Sam's Club has 100's of gallons of the stuff on the shelf.

Oh well. Tomorrow is farm market day. I'll be back Monday or Tuesday with the wrap up and see what the Mrs. finds.

The market is only open for a few more weeks.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Farm market report

The Mrs. went to the market this week and picked up some heirloom tomatoes along with peaches and baked goods.

She gets focaccia for me. The price isn't bad, but I can make this myself, better and cheaper when the weather breaks. This is one of my favorite things. It's like a thick pizza, usually without cheese. I like it with onions, in addition to the tomatoes. The tomatoes dry out a little bit and the flavor concentrates, making them even sweeter.

And talk about bargains. My sister went to her local farm stand, and caught a deal on organic Roma tomatoes. She bought a 50 lbs box for $15. Looks like she will be stocking the freezer with spaghetti sauce, and the cupboard with home made salsa. By the way, her grapes were exceptional this year. She has the vines growing on the chain link fence that surrounds her pool. So, she gets extra privacy, a nice bit of greenery, and some very tasty fruit. She harvested enough grapes to make a few gallons of her own organic grape juice, too.

This is the time of year to catch deals on tomatoes. It has been a pretty good year for them, and many farmers would rather pass along a bargain than dump them. Stock up and enjoy.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Peaches still great

The Mrs. brought home some softabll sized peaches from the farm market this weekend, and surprisingly, they were every bit as sweet and delicious as the smaller ones she has been getting. Often, when fruit is larger, to me at least, it just seems to not taste as good.
This has been the best peach season in a while, and I hope everyone has enjoyed them as much as I have. The season is winding down, so now is the time to stock up to can them or make special desserts.
A fellow Jersey blogger has a nice recipe forpeach upside down cake here :

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's a lot of work taking over the blogosphere

I've been pretty busy, between reading blogs and writing, and napping, so I haven't been up to speed on posting.
Today's post will be so stupendous, it will make up for it.
Ok, probably not, but you'll probably like it anyway. You have come to have low expectations from me here, and I meet them.
First, I'm a diabetic, so I don't drink a lot of soda and things like that. But, I do like one every now and then. One of the great bloggers I met has written about Jones Soda. It doesn't have corn syrup, so it has a cleaner, more refreshing taste. I tried a cream soda, and loved it. Here's my buddy's complete write up.

His blog is a mixed bag, and I think you'll enjoy the Hawg's take on Jones Soda.

Next on the agenda: The Mrs. hit the farm market this weekend, and got some corn. It wasn't the white corn I wanted, but it was some yellow with white hybrid. It was sweet as sugar. Fresh corn, locally grown, is better than anything trucked in. Most farmers pick it that day, or the day before at worst. Trucked in corn? Who knows when it was picked, or where it was from.

The tomatoes are looking great. I know the heirloom tomatoes are expensive, but please give them a try. Keep in mind, they are much more expensive to grow, as they generally have a lower yield, and are less disease resistant. As the market for them expands, the price will come down. And, the taste really is so different.

Lastly, I am starting to eat some meat. I'm have been pretty much a vegetarian for a while, but I am having some health issues. So, a couple times a week, I have bison. We get it from Home Shopping ( so I know I'm paying top dollar, but I eat so little of it (4 oz 3 x a week) it's not that big a deal. I'd like to get it locally, but, to be honest, Shop-Rite doesn't stock bison.
Tonight I had it with sauted onions and sliced tomatoes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Just catching up

The Mrs. caught a deal on Greek Yogurt at the store the other day. The brand was Chobani
While Fage is pretty much the standard around this part of the country, Chobani is made in NY state, so I don't know why I haven't seen it before.
On sale, it was a buck per 6 oz container, so I can't afford to have it every day. Regular price is probably about double that.
Greek yogurt is so much, I guess one could say, richer, than regular yogurt. It is really thick and creamy. It nearly reminds me of a cream cheese/yogurt hybrid. I've heard it is possible to replicate the process at home with regular cheap yogurt, but I've never done it. Back to the Chobani product. I had the strawberry yesterday, and peach today. Each was very good, not too sweet, and the fruit tasted fresh. It has zero fat, which is amazing considering how thick it is. The calorie total was 140 for the 6 oz cup. And it was worth every single one. It delivers 14 grams of protein, and 20 grams of carbs, of which 19 are sugar.
The Mrs. picked up peaches while at the grocery, and I was, to say the least, disappointed. I've become used to the great ones from the farm market, and these were hard, and the taste was more peachy, than peach. She did get some nice strawberries, so it wasn't a total loss as far as fresh foods. But this weekend, I'm going to really whine until she gets to the local farmers market. I want my sweet and juicy peaches. And the corn should be in. I need some sweet white corn. 'tis the season.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I love my tomatoes

It's well known to anyone who has read this blog that I love tomatoes.

Lately, at the farm market, the Mrs. has started buying heirloom tomatoes when she can find them. Last night, we had one.

It may have been the best tomato I have ever eaten. It was the perfect blend of sweetness, with just enough of the acidic bite that makes a fresh tomato such a treat. It tasted like it just came off the vine, at the peak of ripeness. It was meaty, not loaded with seeds.
Last week, she bought some that also had characteristics not found in the average tomato at the grocery store.
I like heirlooms. I'm not enough of a tomato snob to search out the exact heirloom I want, so I lump them all together. I don't even know one from the next by name. I just lump them all together under the banner "heirloom." But I have found that it doesn't matter to me.

I appreciate each one as I eat it. Last week's were very low in acidity. So, I didn't like them as much as this week's, but they still had so much more flavor than what often passes for tomatoes.

I rarely eat fresh tomatoes in the winter. Those hot house and imported from "Parts unknown" just do not have the flavor I want. I wind up using canned tomatoes and cook them. So, now is the time to stock up, so to speak.

And again, try one on a slice of bread with peanut butter.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Report from the Farm Market

The Mrs. just returned from the market with more peaches (this must be the best peach season ever) some peach praline pie (yum) and these tiny plums. I don't know what variety they are but they are about the size of a "shooter" marble, or a jawbreaker, if anyone remembers what they are. I can fit a whole one in my mouth, which is convenient because it prevents the juice from getting over everything. But normal folks would probably be better off eating them in a couple bites.

Plums are low calorie (about 20 for a small one) and are a source of vitamins A and E. They also combat fluid retention and aid in circulation.

A Philly Pretzel store/factory is across the street from the market, so I did have a garlic pretzel today, too.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

M and M Premium

The Mrs. just came back from CVS with these.

picture from

Mrs. bought the mint. Little pricey. 6 oz package for $4.00 at CVS. White minty chocolate, surrounded by dark chocolate. No crunchy outer shell. It's a very thin shell. They look really pretty, though.
At first, I thought they were like Junior mints (which are so refreshing ) but upon further research, decided they were probably more like an Andes Candies mint chocolates. I liked the crunchy ones they had a few months ago better. And, I much prefer Junior Mints.

I give these 3.5 out of 5.

By the way, for in depth candy reviews, check out This is a blog devoted to candy, and covers the gamut of candy available from around the world. Pictures are included along with ratings and serving suggestions.
A recent review suggested Hershey's marshmallow filled kisses paired with graham crackers.
Gastronomic genius.

Instant S'mores.

I love this site.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More tales from the farmer's market

My town started a farmer's market on Sunday mornings. It's not quite as good as the one 5 minutes away in the next town on Saturday mornings, but I'm glad it gives farmers a chance to sell their products in a better environment.
The new market was such a big deal the local TV station had a crew on hand. And, yes, if you looked quickly, the Mrs. was on film waiting to buy pickles.
After seeing her on TV it made me feel like I'm living with a movie star.

The new market is on Main Street in Edison, and the only complaint is different vendors show up, which is good in a way, but bad in another. They have a pickle guy, and we love our pickles. This week we had pickled mushrooms, some new pickles, and gardinara.(sp)
But the new market doesn't have a bread guy like the market in Metuchen has. And the bread guy has focaccia, so none for me this week.
But we did get some wonderful peaches. This year seems to be the best for peaches in a long time. And the Mrs also picked up some wonderful plums and heirloom tomatoes.
We really enjoy the heirloom tomatoes. We slice them up, and use the slightest sprinkle of sea salt. The ones we had were slightly less acidic than the usual tomatoes we get, but bursting with flavor.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The toast song "Yeah Toast!"

The market is in full swing

The Mrs came back with multi colored peppers today, along with zuchini, mushrooms, and a load of tomatoes. And, of course, more of the best peaches we've had in years.

Tomorrow, she will make spaghetti and serve sauted zuchini and onions over it.

One thing I've found is that really fresh local ingredients can stand on their own. A little extra virgin oil, a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes, and they are good to go. I don't even use sea salt most of the time. And just the smallest amount of shredded Romano cheese, and it's ready.

I'm looking forward to some thick sliced tomatoes on my sandwiches this week.

Whether it will be with mayo, or peanut butter (I'm telling you, this will catch on one day) New Jersey tomatoes are fine eating.

Low in calories, almost no fat, and one of the most versatile ingredients around. Delicious fresh, cooked, or dried, what other fruit has so many uses?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fresh, local produce hitting markets

Oh yeah. Here in New Jersey, the farm markets are starting to open with great local produce.

Yesterday, the Mrs. bought some local peaches that were absolutely perfect.

So sweet, with juice that just ran down my chin when I bit into it.

MMM. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is as good as eating fresh local foods.

And peaches are a great fruit.

A small peach (about 3 oz) has around 30 calories, with a tiny amount of protein, and lots of energy producing carbs. It is a complex carb, so it's not like eating sugar, although they taste as sweet.

I also has my first peanut butter and tomato sandwich of the season, on whole grain toast. And, it was wonderful. heart

Sunday, July 6, 2008

MMMM, Fish Tacos

I swear these are great. I've had them from a chain, Baja Fresh, and they are good. They differ slightly from regular tacos (besides using fish) in that they use a lime dressing, and a soft shell.
But this weekend, we ordered them from Rojo's Jersey Mex in Ocean City, NJ. Wow! These were so unbelievable. Instead of a tiny piece of fish, like at Baja Fresh, these tacos used a big piece of grouper. Grouper is a delicious white fish, mild and firm.
While on vacation, we had Rojo's deliver a few Jersey Mexican treats, and my favorite was the fish tacos, obviously.

If you ever have a chance to visit Ocean City NJ area, stop by Rojo's Jersey Mex for a real treat, and terrific fish tacos.

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is try different places to eat. I avoid the chains, and visit the locals. I'm rarely disappointed.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Geography of Food

This weekend, the Mrs. went to a craft festival sponsored by a Russian Church in a nearby town. One of the features was food. She told me she was going to bring home some Russian food for dinner. I was intrigued as I had never had Russian cuisine before.

I couldn't wait for her to get home because I was hungry missed her. Now, here's the surprise: Russian food is pretty much like Polish or Hungarian food.

We had something similar to pierogi (but they were triangular) and some kind of savory blintz. We also had stuffed cabbage.

Now, I have no idea why this surprised me. This is a part of the world that shared not only the same political and economic structure for 50 years, but it has the same climate, which means certain produce is available. That would be wheat (from the breadbasket of Europe (the Ukraine) and potatoes from all Eastern Europe. Meat is almost like a condiment, and again, this makes perfect sense because the region is rather poor, and meat is expensive as it uses up so many resources.
I did a little research and found quite a few Russian recipe sites.

Here's one with something we really enjoyed yesterday: pasta with mushrooms.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The best veggie burger

Plenty of meat analogs are available for someone who craves a burger, but doesn't want to eat meat, whether it is a permanent change or just for the day.

Get real, most of them taste pretty bad. While some may be more burger-like than others, none quite fits the bill.

And on top of that, they are very expensive, and some can be high calorie.

What to do, what to do?

My favorite alternative is a portabella mushroom burger. Once grilled, it can be dressed like a burger


and best of all, it is almost a calorie-free food. 100 gms (about 3-4 oz) has only around 20 calories, it's low in sodium, has a couple grams of protein, and no fat. It can be grilled, or just quickly cooked in a frying pan. Just brush lightly with some olive oil, and sprinkle a little garlic powder on and it's good to go.

As they cook, they become more "meaty." And because it is always a good thing to stretch the food dollar and use everything, save the stems. They can be used in many ways, whether diced and put in stuffing for another dish, or just added to a soup or stew.

While the traditional method of cleaning 'shrooms is by brushing the dirt off them, I always prefer to wash them. Alton Brown dispelled the myth that they act almost like a sponge and in reality, they absorb very tiny amounts of water during washing.

Tonight's dinner was a nice portabella burger on whole wheat with a slice of soy cheese. I'm feeling so healthy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tales from the Toaster

Sure a good sounding title, huh?

Lately the Mrs. has been buying bread from bakeries, and this is a special treat. She gets it sliced a litle thicker, and such a hearty slice just seems to make even better toast, if that could be possible. I have my own theory about this. When the bread is toasted, it just becomes such a perfect combination of textures that the whole toasting experience is enhanced. Oh yeah. The crunchy outside, spread with some peanut butter slowly melting into it, and the warm soft inside.....sounds almost like a romance novel, doesn't it? Top it with some fruit preserves, and it is as good as any dessert I've ever had. And much better than a typical breakfast.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

MMMM, blackberries

I haven't been posting as regularly here as I should. No particular reason, just haven't had a lot to write about.
I've been really enjoying the blackberries this season. Seems like they have been extra delicious. But what is up with the inconsistancy in a pint of berries?


One may be succulent and delicious, oozing juicy blackberry goodness, and the next, not so much. It may even be a little bitter. But, oh, when I hit a great one, it's possibly my favorite fruit. And it's healthy.

According to Driscoll's website:
A one-cup serving of blackberries provides:
60 Calories with 2g Protein and only 1g Fat
50% of your day's supply of Vitamin C
32% of your day's supply of Fiber
9% of your day's supply of Folic Acid
6% of your day's supply of Iron
4% of your day's supply of Calcium
4,654 ORAC Value

ORAC is the number assigned to a foods anti oxident value and is believed to aid in keeping us healthy in so many ways. many believe higher ORAC value foods help in prebventing the ravages of aging.

By the way, the USDA rates berries at 7700+, which makes them a nutritional powerhouse.

I'll have some toaster updates soon.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Farmer's Markets Are Open

Over the weekend the local Farmer's Market opened up, and the Mrs. was there right about opening time. This is pretty important when shopping at these markets because they don't bring tons of extras. they usually bring what they expect to sell, and little more. Plus, the "early bird" gets the choicest fruits and vegetables.
One thing she bought was strawberries. They were kind of pricy, about double the cost of Shop-Rite, but we believe in supporting the local guy when we can. But boy, were they worth it. They were possibly the perfect strawberries. Red, sweet, with just the hint of a tangy undernote that made me fully appreciate a fresh local berry picked at the peak of flavor.
I never put sugar or any enhancements on my berries anyway, and it would have been a shame to do it to these. They were the strawberriest.

She also had some fresh spinach that was turned into a quick dinner after being sauted and tossed with some Sicilian extra virgin oil and whole grain pasta.

She also stocked up on other fruits and vegetables that we will be enjoying during the week. One advantage of buying locally is that the produce lasts longer. Rather than spending a few days in a warehouse, then being shipped to us, we are getting wonderful food that was picked just a day ago about 20 minutes away from here. It has more vitamins, and much more taste.

We are making a conscious effort to eat from nature's bounty this summer. I'd have to say we are off to a great start.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Recipe--Cheap eats

The Mrs makes this pretty regularly. It qualifies as cheap eats, and a healthy meal, too. She can even make it vegan.

This is either German or Hungarian in origin. Quick to make and pretty tasty.

Start with either a bag of sauerkraut, or 2 bags of cabbage sliced for cole slaw. She buys one of red cabbage and one of green when she does the fresh cabbage option.

1 TBS of oil

1 large onion

1 lb of ground turkey, beef, or 1 package of Griller Crumbles

1 Lg can of tomatoes (crushed, diced, or whole is fine)

clove of garlic

hot pepper to taste

Start by sweating the cabbage or saurkraut. (BTW, rinse the sauerkraut first)

Then add the onions, then when they are nearly done, the garlic.

She usually browns the turkey/beef in a seperate pan. If she uses the Crumbles, she can skip this step.

Once the veggies and meat are done, she puts them all together in a pan, adds the can of tomatoes, sprinkles on hot pepper flakes, and lets it cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.

Serves 4-6. Tastes great (maybe even better) the next day.

This is low fat, low cal, and has the benefits of cabbage, a cruciferous, cancer fighting vegetable.

Let me know if you enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Foods of our forefathers

I know plenty of us have an image of grandma spending hours in the kitchen preparing complicated 5 course meals richly laden with sauces and home made breads.

Maybe some did, but I don't think most had the time or energy to do that. But what they did do is cook inexpensively. Most of the great dishes we love as ethnic cuisine, for the most part, came about because they were cheap.

A lot of Italians ate greens and pasta because they were dirt cheap. The greens were often found growing wild. I remember the old ladies used to go in the fields across the street from my home (and I lived in a small city) and pick greens throughout the growing season.

Early spring was dandelion. Before the flowers bloomed, the little weeds were excellent eating. And if it was a bumper crop, well, grandpa made some dandelion wine.

As the season progressed, they picked other greens, and incorporated these freebies into their diets.

Broccoli rhab should be out soon. This is a gourmet dish on some restaurant menus, costing 10 bucks or so a plate. It can be made at home for under a buck. Bitter greens like this can be very beneficial, health-wise.

Still others that I knew had gardens. Again, this was in a city, and I am talking about realtively small pieces of land. The entire property, including the house, couldn't have been more than 40' x 100'. And one neighbor, in particular, grew nearly all his family's tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn, grapes, zucchini, and beans. They canned a lot of it, too. He saved scraps for fertizer, and saved his seeds from year to year, so his cost was minimal.

Today, we would put up an awning, he had a grape arbor. It provided shade, fresh fruit, and some wine. This was a serious urban farmer.

And he wasn't the only one. It was common to see such things in very small spaces. We have gotten away from that, I think.

It may be too late to do much planting right now, but there may be some later crops that can be put in. At the very least, make plans for next year. Nothing is better (or cheaper) than fresh produce right from your own garden. And no need to worry about getting diseases from produce you grow yourself, organically, like tomatoes with salmonella.

Farmer's markets are getting ready to open. Pay them a visit for the best produce at the best prices. Eat seasonally and save the most.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Easy pasta e fagioli

One of my favorite meals is pasta e fagioli. If you grew up around Italians, you heard it called pasta fazool.
And it is a very inexpensive meal. And, to top it off, it's very healthy.

Serves 4

I start with a large onion. I chop it in big pieces because we like onions, but if you and your family aren't big fans, then just dice the onion. I sweated the onions in a 2 quart saucepan, using my garlic infused oil described in previous posts, but any would be fine. Just add a clove of garlic as the onions are nearly done if you don't have the garlic oil. Burnt garlic is nasty, so add it when the onions are almost done.

Then add a large can of tomatoes. I used Whole Foods store brand organic (365) whole tomatoes so I got the best for less. Pureed or chopped would work just as well. Use whatever you get on sale.

Add 2 cups (or one 16 oz can) of white Northern beans (or whatever you have on hand or got on sale.) I use White Northerns that I buy dried and then soak overnight, and cook first.

Let it simmer for a few hours on the lowest heat. This would be great in a crock pot.

Add some oregano (tsp) near the end of cooking.

Usually this dish would then have pasta (cooked first) added and simmered minutes before the end.

Garnishing with grated Romano cheese is optional.

Here's how I keep it healthy:
I use whole wheat pasta (ziti this time) and can control my pasta portion. I use it almost like a sauce, mixing a large ladleful with my pasta portion in the bowl.

It is good for diabetics because white beans have been shown to help control blood sugars. Also, various studies have shown that a vegetarian diet is better for diabetics. I like making it this way also because by not adding the pasta until serving, it doesn't get mushy when left over. I always make a batch large enough for leftovers. : )

Nice variation: don't add the pasta, and use a stick blender, and turn everything into a creamy soup. Very low cal, and tasty. Especially good for winter.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Need some cheap eats

The price of food is skyrocketing. Factor in all the other rising costs (fuel and healthcare) and I need to do something. Between the Mrs.'s short commute to work, and her healthcare cost increase, we are now bringing in $150 less per month.

About the only variable left is food. What to do?

I've been giving it a lot of thought lately. My grandparenst never had a lot of money, so what did they do?

They ate seasonally, and they ate beans. I'm working on some recipes for beans as we speak. One of my favorites is pasta e fagioli, which is a heart soup.

Only problem is I make it in big batches, and it's not a freezer friendly dish. Gets too mushy, while the pasta gets too gummy. I did make a sort of creamy bean soup that tasted like pasta e fagioli, but I want something with a bit more body.

I'll be experimenting in the kitchen in the next few days. I want to make something similar to a pasta sauce, loaded with beans. Sounds weird, but I have to google some recipes and see what I can adapt for my highly refined tastes.

I can hear you snickering. You call my tastes weird, but we'll see after you have your first PB&T sandwich later this summer.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What's up with Hell's Kitchen?

This crop of would be head chefs must be the worst ever in the short history of the show. In about 4 episodes, Ramsey will turn over the stewardship of one of his restaurants to one of these 5 remaining cooks.

All except for Petrozza and Bobby seem clueless.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like Ramsey is leaning towards either/both of them. It's still early, but they are the only two that haven't really annoyed him yet. At least they haven't done it too much.

I still like the show, but it isn't can't miss TV for me. Just a lot of yelling with very little cooking going on.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Mrs. had some fish at the Showboat. It was ok, but the creamed spinach tasted like nothing I ever had before. It might have had cinnamon in it. I should have asked for the recipe, but I was afraid the chef may have thought we liked it. It was kind of nasty.


The nachos were a disappointment, too. They looked good, but were strange, also.
Totally processed tasting, like it was covered in melted Cheez Whiz. At least dinner was cheap. And the roasted pepper on mine looked pretty, and tasted ok.


But I did have some fun, acting as if I were a photojournalist.

I have no life.

But one thing bothered me more than the bad food. The big basket of not to be eaten rolls. We didn't eat them, and most tables left at least a couple of them.

With the cost of food, and the many hungry people in the country, it's a shame. Within a few hundred feet of where we were, I know there are homeless people living. Yet these things were tossed. Wouldn't it make more sense to ask if the diners wanted the rolls, and to donate the rolls normally doled out to those unfortunate folks living under the boardwalk?

Makes sense to me.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

My breakfast buffet

First of all, I had some camera problems, so some shots were just not available.

We had the breakfast buffet at Trump's Taj Mahal, and it was good, but a little disappointing. It was all my fault. We went in at 10 or so, and I assumed it was brunch. Nope, breakfast only. And, the average age was somewhere between 90 and 119. I ranted about old people at a buffet at my Crotchety Old Man blog, so you may want to read that later.

But I digress. I decided to take pictures of my breakfast:


Notice the nice healthy muchroom and onion omelet. Pay no attention to the hash browns. And the corned beef hash was immediately passed over to the Mrs. after the photo op. It wound up my plate because, again, my fault, I mentioned to the Mrs. that they had corned beef hash. I'm sure if I had noticed a fish eye and pig intestine stew, that would have been served up, too. She means well, though.

But the highlight of the meal, and not available due to the stupid camera (I do have 11 other pictures of the omelet, though) wasn the toast. Yes! The designers of the breakfast buffet had the good sense and foresight to include, seperately from themish mash of all the other breakfast foods, a "Toast Station." It was more like a Toast Island, an oasis of toasted perfection in a sea of mediocrity. I selected a thick slice of rye. It was inserted onto the conveyor belt, and then emerged, bursting with well toasted goodness on the other side of the high speed toaster. It was then slathered with copious amounts of sweet creamery butter.

Tea and toast, the centerpiece of a perfect meal.

I'll be back later. Lots of meals to catch up on. And more pictures of my vacation meals.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Atlantic City, Here I Come

I'm going to Atlantic City for a few days, and while gambling is the main reason most folks go to a casino, foodies also know how important casino dining can be.

We will be at Trump's Taj Mahal. They have some really great dining available. Casino's are well-known for buffet dining. To be truthful, most buffets are a sucker bet. The food is usually awful. We have gone to the buffet at the Showboat because they usually give us a coupon, and that makes it cheap. It certainly doesn't make it good, though.

Trump's Taj, though, is different.

They have the Sultan's Buffet. While much smaller than Showboat's, the quality is easily seen. Last time the Mrs. had steak, and it was wonderful. Yeah, I said good steak on a buffet menu.

I'm not much of a meat eater, so I went for the pasta. It was excellent, aldente even on a buffet table.

But the highlight of the Sultan's Buffet for me is the dessert table. Again, slightly smaller than the Showboat's, but infinately better. I can't get exited about soft serve ice cream, but German chocolate cake, Italian pastries, and those kind of things really threaten my sugar levels.

It's hard to choose only one or two.

I'm leaving in a little while. I'll try to get and post some pictures of the best of the best.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Trimming the Food Bill Naturally

Every day, it seems, TV shows consumers complaining about rising food costs, and the news gives sobering facts about how much prices have risen world-wide.

Some staples have doubled or tripled. The most surprising thing about all this is that we waste so much food. Studies within the last few years ago have suggested that Americans and Canadians throw out about 25% or more of the food purchased.

Grocery stores also have what is considered shrinkage (stop snickering, Seinfeld fans.) That is, foods that are tossed either due to being outdated, or gone bad. Part of the problem is that we have too many choices. Walk in to almost any large grocery store, find mountains of various kinds of apples. In the dead of winter, find two or three (at least) types of tomatoes. Same with lettuces and other greens. Fresh foods are mounded to show plenty.

My grandparents never ate like this. When grandma went to the corner store, she had what was in season with very little variation. And Mr. Baccigalupe had only what he was going to sell in the next day or so on hand. And no one would even think of having fresh tomatoes in December.

I can remember a store in our little New Jersey town that only sold citrus. They were closed most of the year, and only opened up when the crop came in. My grandparents ate what we like to call “seasonally” because they had no other option.

But rather than feeling badly for them, I realized they were doing a lot of things right.

For the most part, they were eating locally, which is environmentally friendly. They were eating the freshest foods, again, getting the maximum vitamins and minerals.

Lastly, they were getting the best of the best. For anyone who has ever taken a tomato, still warm from the sun, sliced it and put it between 2 slices of bread slathered with peanut butter (ok, mayo for the provincial purists) knows nothing tastes better.

If anyone has ever picked corn, and gone in the house to drop it into some boiling water, knows niblets from the land of the Jolly Green Giant doesn’t compare, let alone some dreck shipped from “parts unknown.”

Start eating seasonally. The stores will catch on, and the grocery bill will come down. Plus the family will be eating better than ever.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Top Chef Show Review

I like cooking shows. A lot. I almost never use the recipes I see, but I learn from them. I have a take what I want and leave the rest attitude is how I would best describe it.

I can "taste" many of the dishes, as I can imagine how they would be. For example, the show I saw today, one chef prepared a cheesecake using gorgonzola cheese. Not very traditional, but I can imagine how it was, creamy, and sweet, but with subtle undertones with the zip of blue cheese. Sounds great, and is the kind of interplay I like in my foods.

Occasionally, a dish will be made that I can't do this with, and today, such a dish was presented. It sounded gross and disgusting. I almost expected the judges to fall in love with it. This expectation came from my familiarity with Iron Chef Japan in which absolutely strange dishes were considered delicacies.

Fortunately, the judges on Top Chef seem to be more stable. And when presented with scallops in a butterscotch sauce (you read that right--freakin' butterscotch) they were suitably disappointed. That must be what happens when the judges are chefs and food critics, and not actors and fortune tellers.


"I should have gone with chocolate covered tuna"

Friday, May 23, 2008

Balsamic Vinegar trick

Balsamic vinegar is one of my favorite ingredients. It is available in many different qualities or grades or vintages, if you will. The price for some of the better, aged vinegars go for some serious coin.

A lot goes into making aged balsamic. Here's the process:

while it ages and gradually evaporates, the liquid is transferred to successively smaller casks made of different woods, absorbing the flavour characteristics of each wood and becoming more concentrated with each transfer. Oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry, juniper, ash, and acacia are the most commonly used woods

That explains why it is so expensive, costing $100 or more for a rather small bottle. A few years ago, we received a bottle as a gift. It was wonderful, but didn't last very long. Mario Batali tells the story that his grandmother received a bottle as a wedding gift, and used only a drop or two in very special dishes, so the bottle lasted many years.

But I found a trick. I buy 2 bottles of balsamic at Trader Joe's. This is pretty decent vinegar from Modena, aged 8 years. I then take both bottles and pour them in a little saucepan. Simmer until the vinegar reduces by half. Cool, and pour back into one bottle.

You now have vinegar that tastes very similar to the much more expensive tiny bottle of 30 year-old balsamic for about 10% of the price. And, because it is affordable, it can be enjoyed more than a drop at a time.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Vacation Dining Adventures Part 2

This is the second and probably last part of my series on vacation dining at some of the finest resorts in the world. Ok, the finest resorts in Southern NJ, specifically the Atlantic City/Cape May area.
When we go away, we like to stay at decent hotels. We are every bit as happy at a Motel 6 as at a 5 star hotel. After all, the main reason we go away is to experience local culture, not to watch local TV in a hotel room. Generally, we do little more than sleep in the room, so the room is usually not that important.
We found a great place to stay a few miles out of Atlantic City (actually about half-way between AC and Cape May.) It's called the Pier 4 Motel in Somers Point, NJ, and it is terrific for a number of reasons. It's very reasonably priced. It costs half or a thrid the price of a place to stay in AC or Cape May. To save hundreds a night, we'll travel the 20 mnutes it takes to get to the casino. Same with visiting beautiful Cape May. We'll pocket those Benjamins and use them at the restaurant right next door to the Pier 4.

The Mrs. and I are foodies, you knew there had to be another reason for us to choose this place.

They serve a free continental breakfast, that is so far from the traditional free breakfasts I have seen, it's almost hard to call it that. We have been in hotels (some fancy name ones) that "continental breakfast" means a box of Krispy Kreme donuts (and you better get there early before they run out) and coffee. The feature at the Pier 4 is fresh baked mini blueberry muffins. Plenty of waffles, cereals, pastries (I'm starting to have a diabetic incident here) but those muffins are the most wonderful taste treat. We go and get them and bring them up to our room to have breakfast on our tiny outdoor balcony overlooking the bay.

We usually eat a late lunch next door at the Crab Trap. This is one of the finest seafood restaurants around. The meal starts out with hot rolls, and........warm blueberry mini muffins. Oh yeah, those same great muffins from the hotel next door.
The restaurant menu features such great starters like BBQ'd clams, and too many to list here. For a main course I usually have the Crab Imperial. Delicious and so rich, I can take half back to the hotel for the next day.

Then, at night, they have live music at the Tiki Bar next to our hotel. Few things are more satisying than enjoying an adult beverage while listening to music and feeling the soft, warm breeze wafting across me. It's a bit of paradise in New Jersey.

If you go away this summer, give the local places a try. Chains like Red Lobster, and MickeyD's are pretty much the same as back home. But the Crab Trap, and places like that, are perfect to enjoy while on vacation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Vacation dining adventures Part 1

I don't do restaurant reviews because most of my reviews would be for places in Central NJ, and how few readers would that serve?

I live in an area with many great places to eat within minutes of me. Heck, within 30 minutes, we have had at least 4 restaurants featured on different Food Network shows. And that doesn't include the ones featured on various "Dining in NJ" type shows that have been on the Travel Channel and on Food Network.

But, since vaation season is fast approaching, it would be a good idea to let everyone know about some of the great places to eat in Jersey near our resort areas. Yeah, we have resort areas.

My favorite "Must See" is Yesterday's Heroes Ballpark Cafe in Cape May. This is a theme restaurant, which often means overpriced bad food and lots of sceaming kids. I've been there a few times, and the kids were well behaved. Usually we go during the day, when it's not crowded. The food is simple fare, heavy on burgers and things like that. Most have cutesy names, like Jimmy Key Lime Pie. (Jimmy Key was a pitcher who spent some great seasons with the Yankees) I usually choose Joe Pepitone's linguini or whatever it was called. It's a hearty portion of a spicy dish, loaded with shrimp. The Mrs. leans towards burgers, and again, very tasty, and everything is moderately priced. But that is not the only reason we go there. The Cafe has one of the best collections of baseball memorabilia around. Some of the truly weird and wonderful. You may notice when first arriving many women sit alone at the tables, facing an empty chair with a Coke sitting in front of it. That's normal, because the man is usually wandering around the room looking at all the "stuff." And it's great stuff. A lot of memorabilia from the Mick and the Babe. Jersey's from various players line the walls, and signed baseball fill a huge display. I could go on and on, but won't. Just take my word for it. If you find yourself in the Cape May/ Atlantic City area, it's worth the trip to the Ballpark for any baseball fan.

I'll be back later with another dining adventure in the Cape May/Atlantic City area.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My big weekend

Did a lot of fun food stuff this weekend. The Mrs. fired up the new coffee maker. She had a Kona blend, and I had Italian something or other. Both were delicious. We both take ours with just some soy milk, no sugar, so the full coffee effect comes through.

I also had some fresh watermelon. I know it's not local, because we are a few months away from that here in beautiful Downtown, New Jersey. She bought it at a place called Delicious Orchards. I have no idea what she paid, but it had to be a lot. I have found, the more quaint the name and setting, the higher the price. The cheapest food prices are usually found at stores with names ending in Rite, Town, or Mart. Anything ending in Orchard, Grove, or Acres and you can almost be assured they will have a loan officer on duty.

By the way, Delicious Orchards is wonderful, albeit somewhat pricey. They have a lot of baked goods made right on the premises. The Mrs, did bring home a tray of brownies that were fantatstic. Really chocolatey. I have had an epiphany concerning chocolate lately. I checked the calorie count in a brownie, and find it's a bargain for chocoholics like me. I can have half a brownie (around 100 calories) and its chocolate goodness satisfies me as much as a much higher calorie candy bar.

I only hope it's not like the Seinfeld episode where the yogurt place lied about the calories in a serving.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

MMMM Sunday morning

I haven't had my favorite Sunday morning breakfast in a few months. It's a diabetics nightmare, so I have been avoiding it. I will give in soon, though, I'm sure.

Here's my way to start a Sunday:

Start with Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake Mix. Add the water as directed.

Add in some chopped pecans

Add in some fresh fruit (blueberries or strawberries rock!)

Then just make them on a griddle.

Serve with butter and pure maple syrup. Please don't use that artificial junk.

Give me a hot cup of coffee to go with it, and it's a meal of meals. Perfect start to a perfect day.

By the way, the Mrs. serves me a special coffee most days. She mixes in a package of Swiss Miss instant hot cocoa in my mug to make my ordinary coffee a mocha latte.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Welcome to our newest family member

We take our appliances very seriously in my home. First, we don't have a lot of them. A food processor, the uber toaster, a dust-covered bread maker (it was a gift)and an old coffee maker is pretty much it. I admit I like the bread maker for making dough. I then bake the bread seperately, usually as rolls or for pizza.

Oh wait, we do have a microwave and juicer (both gifts--why does everyone always give us appliances that we won't use?) The microwave is used to store the food processor and all it's components. The juicer? I have no idea where that is, for all I know it has been donated to Goodwill long ago. Anyway, the Mrs. bought a one cup coffee maker at Sears the other day. It was on sale, and she decided we deperately needed one.

I am normally opposed to buying excess crap unless it's a toy I like. In fact, she hid it from me for a few days. I think I'm going to make an exception for the coffee maker. It seems to make her happy, and that's what life is all about. At least she didn't buy another pair of shoes. Last I counted, that woman had more than 50 pairs.

I need to get some coffee.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Easy "Roasted" Garlic

This is one of the greatest recipes ever. It is so ridiculously easy, I almost feel badly about calling it a recipe.

Everybody has had roasted garlic. It's pretty easy to make, but requires heating the oven, and it's kind of messy. Try this method instead:

Take a large amount of cleaned garlic. By cleaned, I mean out of the husk or whatever you call that stuff covering the cloves. Because I am incredibly lazy, I buy garlic in bulk at Costco or BJ's in a container of ready to use garlic cloves. Dump them in a pot (I usually use about a 1 qt. or so pot) and them cover them with olive oil. Use good oil, preferably extra virgin (trust me on this.)

Then turn up the heat to what could be considered a simmer, I guess. Be careful, oil can "spit" or splatter early on. Anyway, let it go until it starts to turn light golden. Better to turn it off a bit early than too late, as it will keep cooking for a few minutes after the heat source is removed. And if garlic is over done it gets bitter. One can always simmer it a little more, if needed. After trying it a few times, you'll get better at timing it just right so the carryover heat "roasts" the garlic to perfection. Sometimes, I cool it, remove the small pieces, and cook the big ones a bit longer.

Let it cool down, and remove all the garlic and put it into a container.

Here's the good part. This will taste just like roasted garlic, and can be spread on toasted French or Italian bread, and will be terrific in recipes that call for roasted garlic (like in pasta.) We like to add a few cloves to a salad. Roasted garlic is almost buttery in texture, and moderately sweet tasting.

Now, here's the bonus that really makes this a super recipe: after the oil cools, put it back in the oil bottle, and you will now have the most wonderful garlic infused oil for salads and pastas. One easy cooking method, two high-priced gourmet products, for one low price.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Olive oil primer

Simple and healthy, yet delicious. What could be better?

Last night's dinner was some sauted frozen organic spinach, tossed with some heated leftover spaghetti. Then just drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on some shredded Roman cheese, grind on a bit of red pepper, and enjoy.

Two things I have found over the years. All olive oil isn't the same. I have been using an extra virgin oil from Sicily that tastes really delicious. Try different ones to find what you like. Also, a trick to using extra virgin, is to add it at the end of cooking. Just drizzle it on to add flavor to your dish. It gives more bang for the buck that way. The Mrs uses very little to cook with as we use Todd English's Green Pans, then adds oil at the end. A side note on cookware. Green Pans are the newest nonstick cookware. We use them because they can endure higher heat without the breakdown associated with Teflon. They also do not chip like Teflon.

Here's the differences in oils (occasionally, one may find some slight variations as some terms are stil not fully defined)

Extra virgin--the best and most flavorful. It is fruity, and from the first pressing. Usually a dark, rich color, with a pleasing aroma. It is generally from what is known as the first pressing, and about all that is done to it is the olive is washed and the oil is filtered.

Virgin olive oil--Little difference between this and extra virgin. It can be a blend from different regions

Olive oil--Usually made from lower quality oils, and is more highly refined and filtered, sometimes through charcoal. Not very flavorful, and can be used for deep frying or other applications where the oil flavor is not that important.

Lite or Light Olive Oil--I am reminded of an old Our Gang short, where the kids made lemonade by dipping fresh lemons in water.

Blended olive oil--dreck

Olive Oyl--Popeye's girlfriend


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No surprise at Hell's Kitchen

Last night was the traditional contest where Gordon Ramsey tested the palates of his chefs. And, every year, as usual, he was disappointed. This year was as bad as ever, as the chefs were tricked before the contest. Ramsey served them chicken parm, beef stew, and ravioli, and the chefs were asked to guess what was the missing ingredient. The closest anyone came was that one suggested the meat was of a strange consistency. The missing ingredient in every one was the meat. Soy based meats were used to replace the meat, and not one professional chef, aspiring to work for Ramsey in a dream job knew that. I've had plenty of soy based meats, and while many are pretty good, not one tasted exactly like meat. And the consistency was so different, it was almost impossible to not know it wasn't meat.

On to the rest of the challenge. Various foods were tasted blindfolded, and the chefs were able to identify less than half of them. The best anyone did was 2 out of 3. My point in all this? I pointed out, long before the challenge, to my wife that the chefs all smoked. I wondered why anyone who relied so heavily on their palate would smoke and dull it? Makes no sense to me. Anyone who so depends on one of their senses would be foolish to intentionally dull them.



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's for dinner tonight?

It's going to be a favorite. The Mrs. takes ground turkey and browns it. She then mixes in some packaged taco seasoning spice, and serves it with soy cheese melted over it and salsa. Sort of like a taco dip. Maybe it would be more like nachos. Either way, it's really good. And she serves it with organic blue, low-salt tortilla chips.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Dinner

Ever since I was a little toast crumb eater, Sunday dinner has been an important meal. It was the one time when the family tried to get together and have a favorite meal. At my parent's home it was always pasta with sauce. Ok, technically it was gravy, but I'm not going to quibble over that. My absolute favorite meal was rigatoni with ground beef in the tomato sauce. And I covered it with a veritable blizzard of Romano cheese.

Today, I'm not too different. Though I usually prefer the sauce a little different. My wife makes it with Griller Crumbles, lots of chunky onions and/or mushrooms, some hot pepper flakes and just a sprinkling of shredded Romano cheese.

And the rigatoni has been replaced by whole grain spaghetti. As I get older, I have made compromises. I sometimes miss the heavy meals, but I'm pretty happy with today's choices.

Here's my basic tomato sauce recipe:
bear in mind, I don't measure, so these are approx
1 small-medium onion (finely chopped)

2-3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

dried basil (about a tablespoon usually I just cover the sauce as it's in the pot, so I'm guessing on the amount)

dried oregano (about a tablespoon usually I just cover the sauce as it's in the pot, so I'm guessing on the amount)

pinch of salt (optional)

couple grinds of black pepper (optional)

small can of tomato paste

olive oil (about a tablespoon)

3 large cans of tomatoes (whatever is on sale, either crushed or whole--I prefer 2 cans crushed and 1 can pureed)

1 splash or so secret ingredient (revealed later)

Sweat the onions in the bottom of the pot (3 qt or so)

add the garlic and saute briefly.

then add the tomato paste and mix it in a little (sort of cook it?)

Then dump in the tomatoes. If using whole canned tomatoes they can be put in blender first, or just broken up by hand.

Simmer on low for about an hour.

Add the spices, stir in well.

Then add the secret ingredient.

This is either a splash of wine or some balsamic vinegar. Let simmer for about another 15 minutes or so.

If at becomes too thick, just add water. Too thin? Simmer longer.

This is a basic sauce. Add chicken, beef, sausage, or pork at the beginning for a slightly different taste. The meat will be delicious, too. And the acid in the tomatoes will make it really tender. Just be sure to simmer a little longer if meats are added. (closer to 2 hours total)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

M & Ms Update

M & Ms has a limited edition Mint Crisp Edition featuring Indiana Jones in a green wrapper.


I read on various candy blogs (yes, you read that right, there are candy blogs Photobucket) that they taste like Girl Scout Thin Mints.

I can understand that. They are chocolatey, crispy, and minty, like Thin Mints. I thought they tasted more like a slightly less minty Junior Mint, with a satisfying crunch. Oy maybe an Andes mint with a crunch might be closer to the taste.

Bottom line, they are wonderful. Maybe even better thzan wonderful. And my favorite part is that they are mostly mis-shapen little nuggets. Regular M & Ms are such near perfect litle globules of deliciousness, while these are oddly shaped little buggers. They are the rugged individualists of the candy world.

I most highly recommend trying these. They will only be around for a short time.

Go now. What are you waiting for?

Friday night delights

Friday night for us, like for so many other old farts, is take-out/delivery night. Last night, the Mrs. went to Baja Fresh on her way home from work.

Baja Fresh is very good Mexican fast food. Usually I order fish tacos, but last night, I wanted to go completely vegetarian. I do try to eat a vegan diet, but usually it is more vegetarian as I eat some dairy, and once or twice a week, I eat some meat or fish.

Before I go too far into last night's wonderful meal, let me tell you about fish tacos. At Baja fresh, they are pretty traditional, served with thinly sliced cabbage and a nice piece of white fish in a soft taco with some salsa and a tangy ranch-like dressing. They are very light, and full of flavor. They come with a lime slice, which I immediately squeeze and douse my taco with the juice.

But last night I went with the vegetarian burrito with pinto beans. It was huge, and full of peppers, onions, salsa, and mushrooms, with just enough pinto beans to add some protein, but not so much as to resemble a bean sandwich. I would say they were an accent to the burrito.


They do everything fresh, including the salsa
From the Baja Fresh website

No Microwaves,
No Can Openers,
No Freezers,
No Lard,
No M.S.G.®
No Compromises

I heart Baja Fresh

Friday, May 9, 2008

Life is Sweet

Peapod showed up late last night, so I didn't have my Greek yogurt until this morning. It was worth the wait.

I'm really looking forward to the weekend. My tastes in food, just like my tastes in TV viewing are, ummm, eclectic. So Saturday is my day for channel flipping. I start off with Showbiz India, then move on to The Soup. After that, I watch almost all PBS cooking shows for the rest of the day, or at least until the movie of the week comes on either HBO or Starz.

Here's some of my "must see" Saturday fare:

Farmer's Almanac TV--not a lot of cooking, but some interesting food facts, and production information. This week, they will discuss cheese making. I can't wait. : )

Colemeco's Food Show--Mike Colemeco tours various restaurants or locations, and eats. Then he goes back home and either tries to duplicate the recipe, or crates one that is similar, but simple for the home cook. His studio is very plain (may even be his home kitchen for some shows) and he does all the cooking himself. Nothing like watching most of the glitzy Food Network shows.

Christina Cooks--Vegetarian cooking with Christina Parillo. Watch carefully, you may catch me and the Mrs. in the background in one show. Christina provides a lot of philosophy, and education in addition to simple recipes.

These are just a few of my favorites. I'll chat about some more later.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Peapod is coming tonight; yogurt for everyone.

Oh yeah, tonight's the night Peapod shows up. This is always a good night here. We usually celebrate with a special treat. I'll get to that later.

Peapod is a grocery delivery service, and part of Stop and Shop. They have a limited variety of foods available. They offer more than enough for my typical needs, but some items aren't available. For example, the only ketchup (a staple here) is Heinz and Stop and Shop brand. I like Heinz organic ketchup, but that option isn't available. So, I make compromises. They usually will substitute,and sometimes the substitute is something I wouldn't have ordered. Again, that is part of the deal.

Now, on to our special Peapod night treat.

Fage Greek yogurt. Ok, not the most exciting thing, but this is a real treat for us. This yogurt is rich and creamy, not anything like the dreck I usually eat. It has been strained so the water that usually sits on top of a cup of regular yogurt isn't squirting out when the top is popped. We get the strawberry (the only other choice at Peapod is honey (sounds disgusting.) The strawberry mixture is seperate in a different compartment of the cup. It is possibly the best tasting strawberry stuff (can't call it topping because it isn't on top, what is it?) I would use this yogurt every day, but it is kind of pricy. It costs around 2 bucks a serving, compared to the 50 cent or so on sale stuff I usually buy. And we eat a lot of yogurt, a serving per day each, and just can't justify spending 28 bucks a week for yogurt. Although it is higher in calories than most yogurt, the Mrs. and I think it's worth every spoonful.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I love Crumbles

Meat analogs have come a long way in the last few years. An analog is a substitute for meat made from soy (usually.) We have been cooking lately with Morning Star Farms Griller Crumbles. This is a ground beef substitute that tastes pretty good. Not exactly like beef, but it works pretty well in most dishes. Tonight, my sweetie will be making her almost famous cabbage, beef, onions, and tomato dish. It is really tasty and healthy, and if I had any idea how she makes it, I'd gladly share the recipe. I just know she starts with sauerkraut that she rinses off first to get rid of most of the salt and vinegar.
The other tings she uses Crumbles in is a "meat" sauce for pasta. Growing up, my absolute favorite meal was pasta with ground beef sauce. This makes a good vegetarian substitute.

By the way, for the purists amongst us, it would be a ground beef gravy, technically. Tomatoes and spices are a sauce, add ground beef or any other meat, and it becomes a gravy. Not sure what it would be if a meat analog is added. Technically, it's a sauce, but it's a substitute for gravy. Hmmm.

I don't care. It tastes good.

Monday, May 5, 2008

MMMMM favorite pasta dish

This is so easy and so good. And, believe it or not, it's even healthy.

It's best with the extra virgin Sicilian olive oil I bought recently

It's broccoli served with spaghetti.

Take some oil (not a lot) and saute the broccoli. I usually use frozen organic mini broccoli because it cooks so fast and requires no prep. Add some garlic.

Serve over spaghetti with a drizzle of the oil and some crushed red pepper flakes. Some shredded Romano cheese kicks it up a notch, but isn't necessary. We often have some cooked spaghetti sitting around so it takes around 15 minutes or so to get dinner on the table because instead of boiling water for pasta, we just have to toss it in the pan with the broccoli. Also, we use whole grain pasta, so it's even more healthy.


I couldn't finish my Rita's Ritaccino on Saturday night, so I stuck it in the freezer. I had it last night, and it was even better. It had a different consistency, obviously, but I preferred that. Rather than being an icy drink, it was more like a really light ice milk. And, perhaps it was me, but it wasn't as cloyingly sweet. Could it be because as it freezes, it expands? I'm not sure, I just know it's good.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Citizen of Fast Food Nation checking in

I admit it. I love fast food. Not because it's cheap, and a lot for the money, but I like the way most of it tastes. I'm not talking about a regular Mickey D's burger and fries, and a Coke (although that can be pretty good,) but instead I am into the specialty stuff. Although I usually eat a near vegan diet (no meat or dairy-except for a yogurt in the morning) 5 days a week, I do find that when I'm out it is nearly impossible to maintain that. Factor in that I am pretty much limited to drive thru places, and the choices are even lessened further. That being said, yesterday we went to Arby's. I got a cheesesteak, which was pretty mediocre. The Mrs. ordered the corned beef rueben. I had a small bite, and it was wonderful.

But the highlight of the meal was the jalapeno poppers. They come with a berry dipping sauce that at one time is both disgusting and the most wonderful treat in the world. I never would have mixed berries and jalapenos, but it's not such a stretch to mix hot, creamy, and sweet. Bet everyone who laughed at my peanut butter, jelly, and jalapeno sandwich is feeling pretty silly now.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I'm pretty excited

Saturday is my traditional day for toast and an omelet. I don't know if anyone ever noticed, but I am a creature of habit. Of course, it's usually bad habits, but still.

Today, I'm hoping for an onion and mushroom omelet and some nice whole grain toast with butter. Usually, on Saturday, the Mrs. makes coffee, too. She puts a packet of Swiss Miss in my cup. Today she's making cinnamon flavored, which should be good with the chocolate.

Lunch is going to be my usual Saturday afternoon fare: grilled soy cheese on whole grain bread. Saturday night is my wild and crazy night. Not sure what I'm going to have, but it's important to have a bit of mystery in my routine. : )

Friday, May 2, 2008

Let Them Eat Toast

That's what Marie Antoinette should have said.

I had a toasted wholegrain bagel for breakfast this morning. Crunchy, with a soft middle, and butter slowly melting and mixing with the grape jam. MMMMM.

Lunch is going to be a PB&J&J.

Last night I had some Bush Honey Baked beans. Very delicious. However, I dare anyone to pull my finger today.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Is Food Network Star Show a Fraud?

The premise of the show is that they are seeking the Next Food Network star. The show has been on 3 years, and the 3 winners were the Hearty Boys, Guy Fieri, and Amy Finley.

The only one who became a star is Guy. The Hearty Boys, according to the website, are still airing, but it's on at 4:00 a.m.

Not exactly star billing. And I have no idea when Amy's show is on, but last I saw it I believe it was in the highly coveted early Sunday morning slot (sarcastic font).

I don't mind that the winners (Guy Fieri notwithstanding) really were not given proper promotion once they won, but it is kind of a bill of goods.

I just read that Food Network will produce a 4th season. I'll watch even though I know the premise is hokey.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This candy is the best is the home of the absolute best candy around. It is organic hard candy, flavored with fruit and all natural ingredients like beet sugar, and cane juice. The colors come from cabbage and carrots.
This is a candy one can feel good about giving to a kid. It is available as pops or drops. The drops are about 14 calories each.

Most flavors are available both ways. I really like the blood orange, lemon and cherry, and the "hot" ones are the best of the best. Really spicy and sweet. The candy costs a bit more than the bargain stuff, but it's worth every penny.

Proof that it's not just for kids:

from the yummyearth website:
Cynthia Nixon of
Sex and the City coined the
phrase Lollipoptail when she
stirred her own YummyEarth
organic Pomegranate Pucker
lollipop into her cocktail:

Shake Vanilla Vodka over ice.
Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
Stir with a YummyEarth organic
Pomegranate Pucker lollipop.

Drink. Lick. Stir. Repeat


Toast is toast, but a bagel is not

It's funny how toast has become a generic-specific term. It means a piece of bread, lovingly baked (or toasted) to a delectable brown, crunchy state. Go to any place in America, and ask for toast, and that's what you get. Rye toast, wheat toast, Texas Toast, cinnamon raisin toast, it's all the same. Well, except for French Toast, but that's not really toast at all. It doesn't have all of the toasty qualities, and some philistines put syrup on it. Blech. It's eggs and bread--a high class egg sandwich, so it should be slathered with ketchup. But that's another story.

Today, I had a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese and jam for breakfast. The bagel was toasted to perfection in the uber toaster. The combination of the bagel, crunchy on the outside, yet tender, soft and warm on the inside, spread with a cooling layer of cream cheese and some sweet grape jam made for a dining experience unknown to anyone but an East Coaster living near a great bagel shop.

But I wonder why that isn't called toast. Flour and water makes it a bread-like product. A short trip through the uber toaster makes it golden brown and delicious. Yet, no one would call it bagel toast.

It shall remain one of life's imponderables.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Love Hell's Kitchen

I'm a big fan of Hell's Kitchen, and I'm not entirely sure why. It doesn't have much of a cooking element to it. Of course, they cook, but it's not food anyone would make at home. Tonight I'm watching them make gourmet pizza. Ramsey said his one restaurant offers a $200 pizza. I can't even begin to wrap my mind around that.

Pizza developed as a simple street food. Why do chefs have a desire to turn it into something so complex? Do I need sliced truffle pizza? Is Kobe beef really going to make my pie any better?

I'm a huge fan of simplicity, with quality. A slice of crusty Italian bread, dipped in some really good extra virgin oil is a gastronomic masterpiece. Some fresh herbs like parsley or basil really guilds the lily, as Molto Mario would say. Serve it with some good provolone or fresh mozzarella, and that's as good as it gets.

I just bought a case of Sicilian extra virgin oil, and the taste is spectacular. It has a depth of flavor that is nearly indescribable. That is the basis of a perfect meal.

Welcome to the Joy of Toast

This is a blog dedicated to the weird things I eat, mostly on toast. And an occasional review of cooking shows. Hey, it can't be all about me.

Ok, some of it's not so weird, and to me, none of it is. But I have been told, Old Man, you eat some strange stuff. Not Andrew Zimmern weird, but strange by normal diet standards.

I'll start with today's lunch. I had a banana, some pineapple, and a sandwich.

But what kind of sandwich? Ok, here is where, I admit, it may be a bit odd. I had toasted rye bread, covered with peanut butter, grape jam, and sliced jalapenos.

This is one of my all-time favorites. And before you decide it's gross, think about it. It combines the sweetness of the jam, the smoothness of the peanut butter, and the spicy deliciousness of jalapenos.

Yeah boi!