Friday, February 24, 2017

Unboxing the Daily Goodie Box #Sponsor


When a rep from Daily Goodie Box* contacted me about reviewing their service, I was intrigued. Three steps required - join, receive, review. That's it. No charge. They didn't even ask for a credit card during the sign-up process.

But, from what I could tell, there was also no guarantee that you would receive a box. As soon as I had a login, the rep went in and approved me for a shipment immediately. Though, if you had simply stumbled across the website and signed up on your own, I still have no idea how that process actually works. How do they determine who will receive a shipment? How long does that approval process take? And, more importantly, what do they get out of the partnership with these brands??

So, I waited. Not long, of course. The box showed up within a week. We received items from ten different brands and, surprisingly, all but one were new to us. And all but one were products that we would definitely use. I don't use powder laundry detergent...but that's just me. The box was opened and greedy hands reached in. It was like Christmas. But my only rule was: if you take it, you have to report back on what you thought and let me know if it's something we would buy again.

A pouch of trail mix from Gorilly Goods. The ingredient list: Organic Cashews, Organic Raisins, Organic Coconut, Organic Coconut Nectar, Organic Curry, Organic Cayenne, and Sea Salt. That's it. Tester: Jake. New to us: Yes. Verdict: Thumbs up. "I liked the spices. It was a nice mix of sweet and savory. And it was a good size for packing for a bike ride."

A packet of XyliChew gum. Sweetened with xylitol extract from birch trees in sustainable forests, I liked the idea of the product and knew that it would be approved by our dentist, but I'm not a big gum gal. Tester: R. New to us: No. Verdict: Thumbs up. "I am pretty sure this is the same brand of gum that Dr. Miller gave me, but this was a different flavor. I liked it. I think we should try some of the other flavors soon."

On the same topic of tooth health...a tube of toothpaste from Jack N' Jill. The youngest in our family snagged that one immediately. "It's for kids, Mom. And I'm the kid in the family." Okay, I can't really argue with that. It was a black currant-flavored toothpaste. I loved that it was all an natural, hypoallergenic toothpaste formulated with organic ingredients; the packaging is minimal, recyclable and BPA-free. So, from the mom-perspective, I enjoy the company's environmental side. Tester: D. New to us: Yes. Verdict: Thumbs up. "I liked it, but - for little kids - I think they would think it was more a food than a toothpaste. It tasted TOO good."


A meat stick from Vermont Smoke & Cure. It was no mystery who was trying this one. R is our resident cured meat product lover. The kid opted to give his teachers pouches of a local beef jerky for Christmas. Tester: R. New to us: Yes. Verdict: TWO thumbs up. "It had a nice texture and good flavor. We should definitely buy more of these." And we did! Luckily, they carry these at our local Whole Foods Market. Sold!

One sachet of Aloha Daily Good Greens Chocolate. Tester: J. New to us: Yes. Verdict: Mixed. "It was interesting, but it didn't dissolve easily. I needed to shake and mix it longer than I thought. It was okay."


Can of Just Chill. Tester: J. New to us: Yes. Verdict: Mixed. "Nice flavor, but I don't think it does what it claims to do. It was a stress relief in the sense that I took five minutes away from work and enjoyed a cool drink. But, really, it could have been any drink. I definitely didn't feel that the drink itself gave me calm and focus."


Bar from Nature's Bakery. This was the only product in the box that wasn't new to us. We buy them all the time. But D happily snagged it for his lunchbox. Tester: D. New to us: No. Verdict: Thumbs up. "This isn't a flavor that you buy all the time, Mom. I liked it. And I definitely liked it better than the gluten-free ones that you buy. But it was a little bit on the sweet side. I think Lemon is still my favorite."

Detergent and a Stain Stick from Nellie's All Natural. Tester: me. New to us: Yes. Verdict: Thumbs up. We don't use powdered laundry detergent, so I didn't try that, but I did use the stain stick and I am a huge fan. HUGE. Such a great thing to have with two teenagers in the house.

One packet of Dream Water. Tester: me. New to us: Yes. Verdict: Thumbs up. Okay, so, anyone who knows me will tell you that I have a condition - that I don't sleep. It's not true. I do sleep; I just don't sleep as much as most people. I catch about 5 hours of zzzzzs a night and am good. Then, about once or twice a year, I crash and sleep for 8 to 10 hours. That's it. And I am definitely not an insomniac. When I sleep, I sleep hard. So, I was intrigued by this product. I found my eyes closing while I read. Typically, I read about 20 to 30 pages in bed before I turn off my light. After trying Dream Water, I could barely keep my eyes open for 5 pages. So, it's hard to say whether I was just tired that evening, or if the product was really effective. I will be getting more and testing it further.


One pouch of Coffee Blocks. Tester: me. New to us: Yes. Verdict: Mixed. So, adding butter to my coffee isn't new. I've been doing it for years. I was excited about trying out the Coffee Blocks. But, my biggest stumbling block: I'm not much for instant coffee. I can definitely see that these would be  useful on a camping trip...when I don't want to be carting along a coffee maker and butter. Other than that, however, I'll stick to my stovetop espresso and Kerrygold.

All in all, I was pleased with the Daily Goodie Box. I am still in the dark with how it works - or why. We were happy to be introduced to so many new to us products. In fact, we were really only familiar with one of them. And we have already purchased more of a few of the products. We definitely enjoyed the Daily Goodie Box and, if you sign up, I'd love to hear how it worked for you.

 *Disclosure: I did receive a complimentary shipment from Daily Goodie Box for the purpose of reviewing it. Opinions are my own. I received no further compensation for this post.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Gluten-Free, No Bake Banana Cream Pie


I had some bananas that I needed to use. Jake asked for banana bread. But, as my oven is still out of commission, I needed the dessert to be no bake and gluten-free. Thankfully I had some gluten-free cookies to make a crust!

Ingredients makes one 9" pie

Crust
  • 2 C crushed gluten-free cookies (I used Tate's Gluten-Free Ginger Zinger Cookies)
  • 6 T butter
  • Also needed: tart pan with removable bottom, food processor

Filling
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 C organic heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 C organic powdered sugar

Procedure

Crust
Use a food processor to crush the cookies and measure out 2 C. Place the cookie crumbles in a large mixing bowl. Melt butter and pour into cookie crumbles. Use a rubber spatula stir until well-combined.

Spoon the mixture into a tart pan and press firmly into the pan. Place crust in the refrigerator for 25 to 30 minutes to firm up. In the meantime, make your filling.


Filling
Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth. Spoon the filling into the prepared crust. Return the pie to the fridge to set, at least 1 hour. Serve chilled.


My critics - yes, the ones I live with - did comment that it was a little flat. So, next time, I might make more filling...or use a smaller diameter pan.

Pan-Seared Lamb Lollipops with Gorgonzola


For years I tried to get my kids to like lamb. I braised it. I grilled it. I roasted it. And for years, they resisted. Now, I'm kicking myself. I lament, "Why did you try so hard? Why?!?" 

Since they have grown to love it, there's less for me and Jake...or I have to buy a second rack! Lamb lollipops are one of our favorites because they feel fancy despite being really simple to prepare.


Our Valentines' version included a glaze of pear-rosemary jam with large crumbles of Gorgonzola. It went perfectly with our Roasted Beet & Ricotta Gnocchi with Wilted Beet Greens.


Ingredients serves 4 as an appetizer (2 ribs per person)
  • rack of lamb with 8 ribs, sliced into lollipops
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil
  • eight 1/2 t portion of jam (I used a pear rosemary jam)
  • crumbled gorgonzola, for serving



Procedure
Lay ribs on a plate or parchment-lined tray. Season each side of lamb liberally with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Once hot, add the lamb and sear for 1 minute and flip it over. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on the second side. Smear 1/2 t of jam on the top (first) side and flip over again. This time cook for 3 to 4 minutes. At a total of 4 to 5 minutes per side, these were medium done. Adjust cooking time to your preferred doneness.

To serve, plate them with the jam side up. Spoon crumbled gorgonzola over the top and serve immediately.

Griddled Delicata Squash


When my mother-in-law told me they liked lots of vegetables, I made sure to share some of our favorites with them this weekend. Thankfully, I had just received three or four delicata in our CSA box. This is a quick preparation that you can season however you wish. This weekend, I simply sprinkled the cooked delicata with fleur de sel and some fennel pollen.


Ingredients
  • delicata squash
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fleur de sel
  • fennel pollen

Procedure
Preheat griddle over medium heat. Halve the delicata and scoop out the seeds. Destem, then slice into 1/4" to 1/2" wide pieces. Arrange the slices on the griddle. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.

Cook for 5 minutes on each side or until the squash is softened and beginning to caramelize. Move to a serving plate. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with fleur de sel and fennel pollen. Serve immediately.

Gluten-Free Hoe Cakes #FoodieReads


We added the tradition of making hoe cakes on Presidents' Day to our culinary repertoire several years ago when the boys read George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz.* I love connecting history or a story to what we're eating; the boys seem to enjoy it, too. 

This year, we couldn't find the book. I don't know if it's still packed or if we donated it to the school. But they still remember the story.


Our Hoe Cake Breakfasts Through the Years
They loved, several years ago, when Jake brought in the garden hoe to show them where the person would have cooked the cake. 


Hoe Cake Breakfast v.2011
On the Page...
George Washington Allen knows a lot about his namesake - from the names of his dogs to the size of his shoes. But he doesn't know what George Washington ate for breakfast. He is determined to find out...and his grandmother promises to make the dish if he figures it out.



On the Plate...
This is the first year that I made my hoe cakes gluten-free. Or, at least, it's the first time I'm documenting that I made them gluten-free.

Ingredients makes approximately 2 dozen small hoe cakes

  • 1 C gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 C corn flour
  • 1/2 C ground almonds
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 T organic powdered sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C organic heavy cream
  • 1/2 C organic milk
  • 1 T freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 C butter, melted


Procedure
Put all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir till just combined. Let batter rest while you heat your griddle/pan. Swab the griddle/pan with butter. Place tablespoons of the batter on your griddle/pan and cook till bubbles begin to form. Flip and cook till golden brown. Serve with butter and jam.


*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Here's what everyone else read in February 2017: here.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Wicked Herb Pork for #FoodieReads


As February moves past its half-way mark, I am forging ahead with my renewed Foodie Reads Challenge. I picked up a copy of Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace* after I saw it mentioned in last month's Foodie Reads collection.

On the Page...
'Delightfully demented.' Those are not two words I would typically string together, but they seem an appropriate label for this book. Readers follow two cooks down a rabbit hole in this kitchen fantasy that feels like a dark, twisted carnival. It's good fun.

Lena and Darren are recruited as the two newest line cooks for Sin du Jour, a catering company who only has one client. "'Sin du Jour has a single client. That client is a branch of the United States government. However, it ain't any branch  you'll ever hear about on CNN or read about on Twitter or whatever-the-hell. It's a branch that deals with...it's like  diplomatic service, except it works with things...folks...like you saw today.'

'Angels and monsters in jars?'

...'Who or what eats angels?' Lena demands.

...'Demons,' Bronko says...'let me finish before you go making up your mind, okay? Please?'"(pp. 75-76).

When the team decides to try to fool the dueling clans of demons and replicate angel meat, they find themselves at the corporate headquarters for Henley's, famous for its Chicken Nuggies. They are tasked with stealing the secret recipe...only they find themselves locked in the research and development department with hundreds of reanimated clowns.

"'Everyone sees a legion of undead clowns worshipping a giant chicken, right?' Moon asks.

'Yes.'

'Yeah.'

...'Okay good.'

An ancient conveyor belt is tilted up to meet Mrs. Henley's manhole cover-sized cloaca. From that gargantuan opening through which a normal chicken would lay its eggs, raw Chicken Nuggies are constantly falling a dozen at a time. They're already formed into their signature circus-themed shapes of breadcrumb hats and oversized floppy shoes" (pp 158-159).

As I said: delightfully demented. If you want an urban fantasy set in a foodie world, give this one a shot. I was laughing and cringing at the same time.


On the Plate...
I toyed with the idea of making Chicken Nuggies. But, well, I thought that would be a waste of chicken. My mini food snobs would turn their noses up at that one. Instead, I was inspired by the passage where Lena and Nikki are trying to come up with a way to pass off fake angel wings.

"Since Ramiel's wings, and presumably all angel wings, possess no actual meat, they're experimenting with turning potatoes and fried dough into some type of crisp that looks like the plucked husk of Ramiel's feathers.

'What kind of dip should we do with these...?'

'I do a pretty wicked herb dip that might work.'

'It needs to be hot. Like, scorching. Demons only eat shit that comes out like lava later'" (pp. 149-150).

Okay, mine wasn't quite that hot, but I loved all the herbs in this braised pork dish.


Ingredients
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 pounds pork (I used boneless ribs)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 C organic white onion, diced
  • 1 t cumin seeds, toasted until fragrant and coarsely ground
  • 1 t coriander seeds, toasted until fragrant and coarsely ground
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 t dried rosemary
  • 1 to 2 bay leaves
  • 3/4 C chimichurri (recipe below)
  • 1 can green chiles (use more if you like) with liquid
  • 2 C stock* 
  • 1 C wine (I used white wine)
  • hot sauce, optional
  • cooked couscous, rice, or potatoes for serving
Spicy Chimichurri
  • 1 C fresh parsley
  • 1/2 to 3/4 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar, but I have used red wine vinegar in the past)
  • 1 T fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 T fresh cilantro
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 to 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 T hot sauce
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

*You really just need 3 cups of liquid. You can use any combination of stock, water, and wine that you wish.

Procedure
Spicy Chimichurri
Place all of the ingredient in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until desired texture. If it's too thick, add more oil and more vinegar. If it's too thin, add more herbs. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. If you like more heat, add more hot sauce.

Place toasted cumin seeds, coriander seeds, dried oregano and dried rosemary in a mixing bowl. Roll the pork pieces in the spice mixture, coating all sides as much as possible. Rub the spices in and set aside.

Melt butter in olive oil in a Dutch oven or other pot with a tight fitting lid. Add pork and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown meat on all sides, approximately 1 to 2 minutes per side. The more you let it brown, the better the flavor!

Add onions, parsley, cilantro, green chiles, bay leaves, and chimichurri to the pot. Pour in the stock/water/wine mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.

 
Let the meat braise for 90 to 120 minutes; I usually go the full two hours. The pork should be tender and easy to break apart. Break the meat into chunks.

Remove the pork and boil the remaining cooking liquid until reduced by half. Return the pork chunks to the pot and stir to coat completely. Season to taste with hot sauce, if desired.


Serve over cooked couscous, rice, or potatoes. I served this batch over smashed potatoes.


*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Here's what everyone else read in February 2017: here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Roasted Beet & Ricotta Gnocchi with Wilted Beet Greens

With R at robotics till 7 o'clock on Valentines' Day, D and I had plenty of time to make a nice family dinner. We served it just as soon as they walked in the door. To make them pink, I added some beet puree to my ricotta gnocchi. I used the beet greens in the sauce. And the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf was a great help in rolling the gnocchi. We put on some Fleetwood Mac and went to town.

Ingredients
Gnocchi
  • 2 to 3 small red beets with greens attached (I actually used all 6 beets for the dinner, but only 2 to 3 in this recipe)
  • 1⁄4 C olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • 2 C whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1-1⁄4 C gluten-free flour + more for rolling
  • 1 C grated Pecorino Romano + more for serving
  • dash of grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground pepper

Sauce
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 to 2 C beet greens
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T aged balsamic vinegar + more for drizzling

Procedure
Roasted Beets
Separate the greens from the beets. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Scrub and trim the beets, then roll them in olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Lay them on a baking sheet. Roast until they are fork tender. It depends on the size of the beet, but it usually takes about an hour. Once they are cool enough to handle, rub off the skin.

Rinse and dry the beet greens. Chop them into 1" pieces.

Gnocchi
Place 2 to 3 small beets into the bowl of a food processor. Process until nicely chopped. Add in the ricotta and process until well-combined and a uniform pink color.

Spoon the beet-ricotta mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add in the egg, cheese, nutmeg, and pepper. Add flour, stirring with a silicone spatula to form a soft, wet dough.


Shape dough on a parchment-lined surface with lightly floured hands. Roll into 1" ropes and cut crosswise into 1" pieces with a lightly floured knife to form pillow dumplings.


To form the gnocchi, press a piece of dough onto the tines of a fork. Use your thumb to create a dimple in the top of the gnocchi. Roll the dough down the tines to create gnocchi's signature indentations.


Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet until you're ready to cook them.


Cook gnocchi in a few batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water with a splash of olive oil. Add a few to the pot at a time, stirring occasionally. When they float to the surface, they are finished. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.

Sauce
In a large, flat-bottom pot, heat olive oil. Cook garlic until softened. Stir in the beet greens and cook until wilted. Once your gnocchi are all cooked, add butter to the beet greens. When the butter is melted, lay the gnocchi in the pan in a single layer, if possible, tossing to coat with the butter. When the gnocchi have browned a little bit, sprinkle the entire dish with more Pecorino. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve hot.

Amaretti for Murder in the Generative Kitchen for #FoodieReads


As February moves past its half-way mark, I am forging ahead with my renewed Foodie Reads Challenge. I picked up a copy of Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo* after I saw it mentioned in last month's Foodie Reads collection.

On the Page...
While the concept is interesting, I was more than a little disappointed with the execution of the book.

Set in the not-too-distant future, we are introduced to the Vacation Jury Duty system where sequestered juries enjoy an all-expenses paid vacation while watching the trial via virtual reality. This particular jury is enjoying their civic duty in Acapulco, Mexico, far from their hometown of Chicago. The case? A woman is accused of murdering her husband by using her high-tech generative kitchen.

"'On the night of her husband's death, no other person came near that kitchen while Mrs. Ellis mde dinner. And the evidence will show that the presence of cyanide in Mr. Ellis's food was no accident: the advanced nature of the generative kitchen leaves no possibility for error. Likewise, because a generative kitchen must be programmed to suit its owner's needs, Mrs. Ellis must have carefully planned the means and method of her husband's demise'" (pg. 2).

Intriguing, right? I thought so. But the framework of the story - told from the standpoint of one juror, Julio Gonzalez - and his side story proved distracting and, honestly, more than a little annoying.

I longed for more description of how the generative kitchen worked and more of an exploration about its artificial intelligence. That would have been more fulfilling than reading about Julio trying to outsmart the Vacation Jury system.

They're sequestered. We get it. He's lonely and horny. We get that, too. But I certainly didn't need to read 81 pages about it. Yes, I did write 'eighty-one.' That's the other thing that bothered me about this book: it felt incomplete. It fell somewhere between a short story and a novella, but it just ended. Abruptly.


On the Plate...
I wanted to make a recipe with "bitter almonds" as that's what was used to murder Mr. Ellis. I learned that there are three different types of almonds: sweet almonds which is what we usually find at the store; bitter almonds which are high cyanide-containing almonds and I have no idea where to find them; and "bitter almonds" that are actually the pits from stone fruits such as apricots, cherries, and peaches.

I decided to share my recipe for Italian amaretti. These are one of our favorite cookies, easy to make, and not poisonous! Enjoy.

Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 2 C ground almonds

Procedure
Beat egg whites to stiff peaks. Gradually beat in sugar, again, forming stiff peaks. Gently fold in ground almonds. Spoon mixture onto parchment paper and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake in a 375 degree oven till the cookies are firm and the tops cracked, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place baking pan on a rack to cool. When cool gently peel cookies from parchment.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Here's what everyone else read in February 2017: here.

Share Buttons