Vegan/Gluten-Free Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Yes, you read the title right, these cookies are both gluten-free as well as vegan.  No, they aren’t hard or brittle or taste like dirt, either.  In fact, I tested these out on a good dozen people and no one was able to tell that they weren’t a normal, everyday, chocolate chip cookie. Check out the photo below.  Do these look any different than your standard wheat, eggs and milk cookies:

You wont even miss the gluten!

You won't even miss the gluten!

Now are you interested?  It involves a few oddball things and a bit of science, but don’t let that scare you off!  Let’s first go through the ingredients:

Ingredient Breakdown:

  • 8 oz Earth Balance Sticks
  • 11 oz Brown Rice Flour
  • 1 1/4 oz Cornstarch
  • 1/2 oz Tapioca Flour
  • 1 tsp Xanthan Gum
  • 2 oz White Sugar
  • 7 oz Brown Sugar
  • 1 oz Pomegranate Molasses
  • 1/2 oz Vanilla Soy Milk
  • 8 oz Butternut Squash Puree
  • 12 oz Vegan Chocolate Chips
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract (divided)
  • 1/2 tsp Coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Allspice
  • 1/4 tsp Ginger (powdered)
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda

Right away I’m sure you’ll notice the Xanthan Gum, as it isn’t something most everyone has in their pantry.  Now, Xanthan Gum is actually just a byproduct of the fermentation of glucose/sucrose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium and it has a pretty cool property: It thickens things up.  In dressings and ice cream it adds to mouthfeel, but in cookies it (along with the different starches) help create a chewy texture that the gluten usually provides.  The other weird ingredient is the Butternut squash puree.  This actually replaces the eggs and some of the milk that would be in the normal cookies.  By reducing the puree it will get rid of the moisture in the squash, but help aid in the texture.  Weird, but it totally works.  One fair warning, though, the Xanthan gum may be a little pricey, but a little goes a long way, so don’t worry too much about it.

Instructions:

  1. Add squash, 1/2 tsp Almond Extract and spices to a pot.
  2. Reduce the squash mixture down until it reaches 3 oz (at this point it’ll resemble very thick mashed potatoes).  This is a little over half and you’ll want to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.  When it is done, remove from heat and cool.
  3. When cool, whisk with the soy milk, vanilla and remaining almond extract.
  4. Sift the Baking Powder, Xanthan Gum, Corn Starch, Cinnamon and Flours together.  Set aside.
  5. Melt the Earth Balance Sticks and cool.
  6. Stir together sugars and molasses in a large bowl.  Add butter and cream for 4 minutes on medium.
  7. Switch to low, add squash mixture.  Mix another 30 seconds, until well blended.
  8. Add in flour mixture in 3 parts and mix until well blended.
  9. Stir in chips (try not to eat too many).
  10. Chill the dough for at least one hour.
  11. Place oven rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 375°F.
  12. Weigh out 1 oz clumps of dough and roll into balls.  Bake only 8 to a sheet.
  13. Bake cookies for 8 minutes, rotate pan, and bake another 8 minutes.
  14. Let rest for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
  15. Eat and enjoy!

That’s it!  I find that they are most pleasing at room temperature, rather than fresh out of the stove, but that may just be me.  If you try this or alter it, please post your comments as I want to know how they turned out!!

Posted in Meal Ideas & Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Red Robin – Papillion

This is a first for me on this site… a bad review.  Not just a bad review, but a horrible one… one that has me preparing to go back there and speak to their management.

We’ll start at the beginning.  Jess and I had been out all day shopping and were craving a burger.  We happened to be in the vicinity of Red Robin and thought we’d finally give it a try.  We’d seen their commercials and it seemed like it’d be a place we’d like.

Upon entering we noticed that for a Saturday night (7:30ish) it seemed pretty slow.  The dining room was about half full, plenty of staff milling about talking to customers at tables, nothing to complain about.  We were greeted right away and led away to a table and told that our server would be with us shortly.  We ended up waiting over 10 minutes before someone showed up (this isn’t an estimate, I actually timed it on my watch after a couple minutes). The server (Wendpanga) asked what we wanted to drink and then vanished for 5 minutes.  He didn’t bother to ask if we wanted an appetizer or anything else.  When he returned it was only with my drink.  He said he’d be back with Jess’ and again, disappeared.

Finally he came with her drink and we asked for an appetizer, a main course and some water.  The food showed up promptly from the kitchen, though it wasn’t the nicest looking.  We had ordered their nachos and the chips were very soggy were covered with sour cream, guacamole and onions.  Tons of onions.  For something that praised the chili and cheese, there was very little of it. The other issue is that while he gave us plates, he failed to give us silverware or napkins, so we had to wait to eat the food until we could flag him down to get them.  This, unfortunately, was a good 5 minute wait.  By the time we got our napkins and began trying to eat the nachos, our food arrived and instead of trying to help clear the table, our server just set the food on the edge of the table and left, leaving us to work it out.  We ended up moving a bunch of stuff to the empty table next to us to have room to eat, so at least that worked out.  Now, the food…

Jess ordered a Bacon-Cheeseburger, medium rare, with cheddar.  I ordered a new product that I saw called the Chicken Caprese. Sounds good, right?  I love a good Caprese and it looked nice and light.  What I got, was unrecognizable… I took this with my cell phone:

Height of freshness... right.

Height of freshness... yeah, right.

Yeah, that’s in the ballpark, right?  If I bought a car that looked great in a photo and was given a dented up clunker it’s called a bait and switch, what do we call this?  Why do we expect food to not hold up to a standard?  There are even websites with comparisons like this (Fast Food: Ads vs Reality & Advertising vs Reality: A Product Comparison Project), it’s quite sad. This is beside the point.  The point is, my food was very wet, messy, and didn’t taste much like caprese.  Jess, though, was very upset.  While her meat was cooked right (it was pink), the entire sandwich can be described with one word: “Moist.”  The bacon was floppy, the bun was soaked, the entire sandwich was able to be “cut” in half with minimal effort using just her hands.  She simply just tore it in half.  When I tried a bite there was almost literally no resistance. Jess didn’t finish it (which is a first) and we decided it was time to go.

We waited another 10 minutes before seeing our server again, as he seemed to really not enjoy being out and about.  We asked for the check, and based on the food and service, I chose not to leave a tip. Now, I know a lot of you are tippers, as am I.  I just choose not reward bad service.  If I get what I think is “standard” service, I will usually leave around a 15% tip.  As the service gets better, I leave more and as it gets worse, I lower it.  I refuse to tip someone for substandard service, especially if I can’t say something like, “Well, it was a busy night.”  Now, what does this have to do with anything?  Simply, this:

adad

Now I'm not the best at math, but those should be the same...

On the left is my receipt, on the right is my bank account.  Notice anything wrong (besides the “Guests: 3)?  If you guessed “He gave himself a $5 tip,” then you win the prize (updated below).  Now, where I come from, that’s theft.  It also looks like the police agree, as the last time this happened at a Red Robin, the person was arrested.

Police today charged a Red Robin server with theft by deception after they said she altered credit card slips to reflect higher tip amounts than customers intended.

Colonial Regional police filed charges against Deidre Hartley-Jennings, 21, of Easton. Police said she changed about 40 checks between February and April for a total of $346 in thefts at the Red Robin at 3716 Easton-Nazareth Highway (Route 248) in the Northampton Crossings shopping center in Lower Nazareth Township.

She was arraigned before District Judge Joseph Barner and released on $1,000 unsecured bail.

Wonderful.  Perhaps Red Robin should start paying attention to the people they hire, no?

So, I didn’t discover the illegal tip until this morning, as I usually only check my bank accounts on weekdays, so I plan on going over there this afternoon and raising hell.  Expect an update.

So, conclusion (for now):

Red Robin (at least this location) has poor service, sloppy food and employees will possibly steal from you. Honestly, going back to get this taken care of will be the last time I set foot in this place.

———————–
UPDATE
———————–

Just got back from talking with the manager.  Luckily it seems that I was wrong in assuming someone added their own tip (very glad on this point).  It turns out that Red Robin has an interesting receipt system in which they don’t ring in tips until the end of the night and they manually process them.   What happened is that the person keying them into the system wasn’t paying too close attention and added someone else’s tip to my bill when it was being entered at night.  It’ll be a few days for them to sort it all out, but it looks like I don’t have to worry about theft.  So, I guess the lesson here is almost the same, always pay attention to your receipts and go back if it looks like you paid a tip that you didn’t (or it was more/less than you did). Of course, this still doesn’t help the food quality or service, so it’ll be a long time before I eat there again.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Ghost Cookies

Last weekend I was going through all the things I had leftover from the Farmer’s Market and decided to do my best to use ’em all up.  Among all the goodies I found a leftover Ghost Chile (Naga Jolokia) just sitting in my fridge, begging to be let loose on some poor sap’s tongue.  Unlike it’s poor brother, who was eaten by a co-worker after signing a release saying he wouldn’t sue me for the horrible pain, this guy was destined for greatness.

I had been craving some sort of cookie and thought I’d give a try in creating a pumpkin cookie that was chewy, rather than cakey.  Not an easy feat, but I figured if anyone could do it, I could.  So, the good news first: The cookie tastes wonderful and is perfectly chewy.  The bad news: I could probably ignite lumber with my tongue after eating these.  So, please feel free to recreate this cookie without the pepper or using less (or a less hot one).  I won’t mind at all.

Spoooky

A spooky looking cookie, just in time for Halloween!

Oh yeah, isn’t the red goo cool?  It’s actually a reduced plum and raspberry jam mixture that I figured would go good with this.  Unfortunately it was very sticky and while it tasted alright, wasn’t anything special, so I’m leaving it out of the recipe here. Ready to go?

Ingredient Breakdown:

  • 8 oz Butter
  • 12 oz All Purpose Flour (ran out of bread flour, but this worked amazingly well)
  • 2 oz White Sugar
  • 7 oz Brown Sugar
  • 1 oz Pomegranate Molasses
  • 1/2 oz Milk
  • 8 oz Pumpkin
  • 12 oz Dark Chocolate Chips
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Almond Extract (divided)
  • 1/2 tsp Coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Ginger (powdered)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Ghost Chile or other Hot Pepper (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Finely mince pepper (wear gloves) and add to a pot with the pumpkin and 1/2 tsp of the Almond Extract.
  2. Reduce the pumpkin mixture down until it reaches 3 oz.  This is a little over half and you’ll want to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.  When it is done, remove from heat and cool.
  3. When cool, whisk with the milk, vanilla and almond extract.
  4. Sift the Salt, Baking Powder, Spices and Flour together.  Set aside.
  5. Melt the butter and cool it.
  6. Add sugars and molasses to the butter and cream for 2 minutes on medium.
  7. Switch to low, add Pumpkin mixture.  Mix another 30 seconds, until well blended.
  8. Add in flour mixture in 3 parts and mix until well blended.
  9. Stir in chips (try not to eat too many).
  10. Chill the dough for at least one hour.
  11. Place oven rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 375°F.
  12. Weigh out 1 1/2 oz clumps of dough and roll into balls.  Bake only 6 to a sheet.
  13. Bake cookies for 15 minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
  14. Eat.  Alternately, top with a reduced jam, then eat.

That’s it!  If yours turned out like mine they will be chewy and tasting very much of pumpkin.  Also they will be horribly spicy, though not in a bad way.  As I said above, feel free to make these sans-pepper for a great pumpkin cookie!  As someone who loves pumpkin cookies, I’m always looking for ideas, so feel free to share your favorite here!!

Posted in Meal Ideas & Recipes | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Smashburger – Omaha

A little over a month ago, Jess and I were driving over to Jason’s Deli to grab a quick bite to eat and we noticed a new restaurant opening almost next door.  It was called “Smashburger” and I had never heard of it.  Doing a bit of research led me to find out that it is both a relatively new (first store opened in Denver back in June 2007) and fast expanding:

The company has sold franchise agreements that will total more than 200 locations over the next five years. The company, joint venture and franchise development deals are part of Smashburger’s plan to open 500-plus restaurants across the country, 30-60 in 2009.

That is crazy!  So, what is Smashburger?  According to the co-owner, Tom Ryan:

Ryan wanted to created a concept different than that of a standard hamburger restaurant. He noted that among the things separating Smash Burger from Red Robin or McDonalds is that customers can order breakfast, lunch or dinner from the counter, along with beer and wine.

“We’re not fast, but we’re certainly better quality,” Ryan said. “Everything is made to order; the buns are buttered to order.”

Smash Burger also offers onion blossoms and Haagën-Dazs ice cream floats.

The other cool thing is that Mr. Ryan has a pretty spiffy resume:

  • Business and Menu Developer for Pizza Hut
  • Senior Vice President of Business Development at Long John Silver’s
  • Executive Vice President, Worldwide Chief Concept Officer, US Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Menu Management for for McDonald’s
  • Chief Concept Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and Branding Officer at Quiznos
  • Ph.D. in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry – Michigan State University.
  • Masters in Lipid Toxicology – Michigan State University.
  • Undergraduate degree in Food Science – Michigan State University.

What else?  Well:

Tom is known for developing business building concepts, products and marketing programs throughout his career, including Stuffed Crust Pizza and Lovers™ line at Pizza Hut, McGriddles, Big ‘n Tasty, Dollar Menu, and Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits at McDonald’s and Steakhouse Beef Dip, Prime Rib and Sammies at Quiznos.

The guy obviously knows how to create a restaurant menu, a theme and a marketing concept, but how does it all work in the real world? Also, and more importantly, how does the food taste?  Well, today I found out.  I was invited as part of the Omaha Food Blogger network to come in the day before they opened and try out the fare.

Smashburger

Smashburger

Smashburger

Smash

Smashburger

Sizzle

Smashburger

Savor

When Jess and I arrived we were greeted by Ann Pedersen and were given a place to sit and told we could place our orders. From our localized menu, I decided to get a 1/3lb Spicy Baja Burger (with a fried egg added on top) along with the veggie frites.  Jess got a custom burger: 1/2lb burger, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, bacon and cheddar cheese on a multi-grain bun with the “Smashfries” on the side.

Once we placed our orders we were given a number and we went to sit down and wait.  While waiting we were introduced to the President of Smashburger, Scott Crane and told that while we ate we’d get a chance to sample everything they offered (if we wanted).  After only about a five minute wait our food was brought out, which is pretty good as they were also doing a “Friends and Family” meal and were pretty packed solid.

Now, I don’t really eat fast food and when I go to restaurants, in general, I want the food to be good.  Really good.  I cook 99% of the food I eat myself, so when I go out I like it to be at least as good as I can make.  Why am I telling you this? Well, simply because a lot of places either go for speed or cost or just play it safe when it comes to flavor.  This is definitely not something Smashburger does.  The burger was perfectly cooked, slightly pink inside, but we were assured, and shown, that it was temped at over 160°.  For those who didn’t know, a burger at 160 is cooked and could be brown or pink.  From the USDA:

Thomas J. Billy, administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, explained that USDA studies show that the color of cooked ground beef patties can be quite variable. At 160 degrees F a safely cooked patty may look brown, pink or some variation of brown or pink.

“The bottom line is that if you cook your burger to 160 degrees F on an instant-read food thermometer, you can enjoy a safe, juicy burger,” said Billy.

This burger was perfectly juicy, not dry, and was very flavorful.  We were told that they use only Angus Chuck at an 80/20 blend and that all their meat was seared for at least 10 seconds on their griddle using pure butter. The taste is amazing, can’t say I’ve made a better burger at home, to be honest.  The flavor of the sandwich as a whole was great… it was spicy, but not eyewateringly spicy.  Jess, who is a huge burgervore, had this to say:

“Screw Wendy’s.”

A bit of background, during this time of year Jess’ hours become crazy at work and she ends up eating mostly fast food.  Wendy’s was her favorite burger, but for almost the same cost at what she’d get there, she can get this and apparently it is her new favorite. One thing I noted, the 1/2lb burger is a bit “drippier” than the 1/3lb burger.  I don’t find this to be an issue, but it was noted by another person sitting with us and I thought I’d share.  Now, onto the sides…

Smashburger

Spicy Baja Burger

Smashburger

Veggie Frites

Smashburger

Smashfries

The fries were great… salty and crisp, but the seasoning was wonderful.  If you like rosemary, you definitely should get these.  They are nice and light, but full of flavor.  The cool side, though, were the veggie frites.  These were pan fried veggies that were lightly seasoned and perfectly crisp-tender.  They were soft, yet were able to snap.  I don’t think I’ve had anything like that at any other burger joint and I really think I’d get them as my side in the future.  Some of the other things we were allowed to sample:

  • Häagen-Dazs shakes (vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate): Great… not only did it taste good, but you could actually drink it through a straw without getting an aneurysm by sucking too hard.
  • Salads: Was too full to try these, but they looked stunning.
  • Hot Dogs (Chili Cheese and Chicago): Jess tried the Chili, I tried the Chicago.  Both were supurb.  Jess is very critical of chili dogs and usually is upset after getting one.  This, though, she asked me to get her again this weekend.  The Chicago was great, too.  Turns out not only do they use one of my favorite tasting dogs (I grew up eating Hebrew National), but they cut ’em in half and sear them on the grill to get some extra flavor.
  • Scott’s favorite burger: Turns out the President’s favorite burger is a 1/3lb patty, american cheese and a fried egg all on a “standard” roll.  I didn’t think it’d be that tasty, but it really was.  I’m not a big fan of American cheese, but I think this would be really awesome with Swiss instead.  The burger was juicy enough that you didn’t even notice it didn’t have any condiments.
Smashburger

Chicago Dog

Smashburger

Strawberry Shake

Smashburger

Smashwedge Salad

We were offered more to try, but we were all completely stuffed at this point.  We did, however, get offered a chance to get a tour of the kitchen and watch them make their burger, so how could I say no?

As you can see, they literally start with a ball of fresh ground beef.  It’s not a pre-shaped patty or anything like that.  Once they butter down the grill they smash it (that’s where the name comes from) and sear it for a minimum of ten seconds.  Once that’s done they toss on some seasonings (salt, pepper, secret spices) and flip it… what’s cool is that it is so stuck from the sear they have to almost scrape it up.  Once it’s flipped they cook it until it temps at 160° and they pull it off and right onto one of their toasted buns.  The whole setup is pretty clean, their walk-in is quite small, as their menu is pretty simple.  The fresh veggies and sauces all sat by the buns, waiting for the burgers… all-in-all, a very nice operation.

Smashburger

Fresh Veggies

Smashburger

Meat gonna get smashed

Smashburger

Where the magic happens

Once we were all done we got to talk with Scott some more and he gave us some more insight into the company and where it may go in the future.  This location is the 33rd location they’ve opened and so far it is going perfectly for them.  We were also told that the franchises are only able to be purchased by seasoned restaurateurs… no amateurs.  Not only will this help protect the brand, it will ensure that everyone has a perfect product.  Very good idea, in my mind.  You need someone who knows food to run a place like this.

So, that ended my first trip to Smashburger, but it won’t be my last.  This is great news for my tongue, though terrible news for my waist.  Oh well, that’s why they make sweatpants, right?  Have any of you tried Smashburger?  Do you have your own favorite burger joint?  Tell us about ’em!

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

From Corn to Hominy

This past week I had an idea.  I ended up with a ton of Indian corn from the Farmer’s Market and I thought I’d make hominy out of it.  Nice, right?  Let’s just say I have a whole new respect for this stuff and will walk you through all of what it takes to make it.

First up, you’re gonna need some corn.  Conveniently it comes on cobs, so you just need to pluck off the kernels into a bowl.  I suggest a knife and gloves as it will eventually start to hurt your fingers a bit.  This process took me about ninety minutes for 6 cobs.

Hominy

Corn on the cob

Hominy

Corn off the cob

Now that you have your big bowl of corn we can move to step two:  Boiling in caustic soda.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you need to go buy lye, but you will need to get yourself some Calcium Hydroxide.  What is that?  Well, most people like to call it “Pickling Lime,” but doesn’t “Add the Calcium Hydroxide to the Hydroxic Acid” sound cooler than “Add the pickling lime to the water?”  I like to think so.  Anywho, moving on.

I needed about a pound of hominy when all was said and done so I went with the following amounts:

  • 8oz Dried Indian Corn
  • 1 Tbs Lime (be careful with this stuff)
  • 2 c Water

Simple enough so far, right?  Next we want to do the following:

  1. Wash the dried corn off in a colander (get rid of all the dust and stuff).
  2. Add water and lime to a pot and bring to a boil (be sure to stir).
  3. Add the corn to the water, stirring occasionally.  If any kernels (or anything else) floats to the top, scoop it out with a slotted spoon.
  4. Let the water come to a boil again.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. When the 15 minutes is up, turn off the heat and allow it to soak for another hour.
  6. After it is done soaking, toss it back into the colander and wash it (really well) to make sure there is no lime left on it.
  7. Rub the corn around to help loosen the hulls (skin).
  8. Clean out the pot, re-add the corn, add 2c clean water, cover and bring to a boil.
  9. Boil for another 30 min to help loosen the hulls a bit more.
  10. When the 30 min are up, kill the heat and allow to soak another 30 minutes.
  11. Now go ahead and toss it back into the colander and rinse under cool water.
  12. Using your hands, try to remove the hulls.  I would suggest getting a bowl and transfering the corn back and forth between the bowl and the colander during the process.

Still with me?  At this point, hopefully, you will have a big bowl of husked corn. We’re still not done, though.  Well, we could be, but if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right.  In this case, it means removing the germ… the little pointy end of the corn. Rick Bayless had this to say about it:

Is it necessary to remove the pointy end (to dehead) of the corn?

The name pozole comes from the Aztec word for “foam.” And what gives the preparation a foamy appearance was the multitude of kernels that had blossomed like little stubby flowers, having had their pointer germ ends picked off kernel by kernel. Deheading corn kernels is not a procedure I’m inclined to do frequently. Make pozole a few times and, if it becomes one of your specialties, you may want to start plucking to make it even more special – preferably with the help of a few friends.

So, if I was going to make hominy for my pozole by hand, I was darn sure going to remove the germ.  Let’s get back to makin’ some hominy!

  1. Put all the corn in a bowl.
  2. Take each piece (yes, one at a time), and rub it to make sure the hull is gone.
  3. Using your thumbnail (or a paring knife), pinch off the germ and discard.
  4. Set husked and deheaded kernel in a seperate bowl.
  5. Repeat steps 2 – 4 about 1000 times (or until all the corn is done).

Soon (well, it took me 3 hours) you will have something that looks like this:

Hominy

The process is a bit messy...

Hominy

Finally, all the germ is gone!

Congratulations… you’re almost done!  Now…

  1. Take your newly husked and deheaded corn and put it back in the pot and cover with 3 cups of water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. When the 45 min are up, kill the heat and allow to soak another two hours.
  4. Finally toss it back into the colander and rinse under cool water.

Tada!  Hominy.

Hominy

Bam... now we're ready to go and it only took us an entire day!

Now you can take this and put it in your favorite pozole recipe (this is the one I went with: Green Pozole with Chicken @ Epicurious.com).  Pretty cool, huh?  I bet you have a new respect for hominy, because I know I sure do.  Did you know that there is a name for this process?  Nixtamalization.  Without it, people who use corn as their main food source would never survive:

The nixtamalization process was very important in the early Mesoamerican diet, as unprocessed maize is deficient in free niacin. A population depending on untreated maize as a staple food risks malnourishment, and is more likely to develop deficiency diseases such as pellagra.

[…]  In the United States, the nixtamalization process was not adopted completely by European settlers, though maize became a staple among the poor of the southern states. This led to endemic pellagra in poor populations throughout the southern US in the early twentieth century.

FYI – Pellagra is not cool.  It’s amazing to see that by not following the traditions they were taught, the settlers caused themselves a horrible disease.  In fact, it was originally thought that the disease was from “bad” corn and it took the US Public Health Service to discover the actual cause of the problem.

So, I hope this many hour long tour through the making of hominy by hand taught you something and perhaps gave you more respect for this canned product.

Posted in Meal Ideas & Recipes | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Pumpkin & Roasted Pepper Dip

This week I went to my first ever Slow Foods gathering and left as part of the new governing board.  I’d like to say that it is due to my skills and what was needed, but I think most of it had to do with what I brought to the potluck dinner that night.  Why do I say that?  Mainly because I brought this:

dsad

Best last minute dip I've ever concocted.

A quick bit of background.  I was invited to the Slow Food gathering a day before it took place and was asked to bring a dish.  The issue?  I didn’t have anything planned and didn’t want to go to the store.  The solution?  Come up with something off the cuff using whatever I had laying around (and make it tasty).  Presenting Pumpkin & Roasted Red Pepper Dip.

If you’re like me, you’re swimming in pumpkin and squash and I think this will help you get rid of some it without making a soup or a baked good.  The other cool thing is that (when prepared this way) it is both Gluten-Free and Vegan.  Ready to go?

Ingredient Breakdown:

  • 2 md Red/Orange Bell Peppers
  • 2 sm Jalapenos (red, if possible)
  • 1 c Pumpkin Puree (most winter squash work here)
  • ¼ tsp Molasses
  • 1 tsp Agave nectar
  • ¼ tsp Almonds, toasted
  • Juice of ½ Lemon
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 3 Gluten-free Vegan crackers
  • ½ c Walnut Oil (or other light-tasting oil)
  • ¼ tsp Cumin
  • ½ tsp Coriander
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • Dash of Ginger (powdered)
  • Dash of Aleppo Pepper (or paprika)
  • Salt & Pepper

Not too bad of a recipe list.  Now let’s finish up!

Instructions:

  1. Set your oven to Broil and roast peppers & jalapenos 2 – 3” away from the heating element until outsides are blackened, about 5 – 10 min.
  2. Move peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to sit and steam for 30 minutes. (see here for photos: Muhammara)
  3. Combine pumpkin, molasses and agave in a pot over medium heat.  Reduce by half, about 10 min.
  4. Add almonds, crackers, garlic and ½ tsp kosher salt to a food processor and blend until very well combined.
  5. Add in puree mixture and continue to process.
  6. Skin, core and seed peppers and add flesh and liquid to puree along with the spices and lemon juice.
  7. Continue to process until well blended.
  8. Slowly add in oil while the processor is running.  When it is done it should be creamy.
  9. Season with salt & pepper then put in the refrigerator.
  10. Eat!

The dip was originally created as an accompaniment for another dish I’ve yet to post (Vegan Chickpea Cakes), but works very well on pita chips and veggies.  Hopefully this gives you all a new way to use up some pumpkin without overdosing on sweets and I hope to get the other recipe up shortly!

Posted in Meal Ideas & Recipes | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Easy Spiced Apple and Pear Cake

Mmmm… apples!  Those red beauties are my downfall during the autumn months.  I unfortunately tend to overestimate the amount of apples I can eat and that is what happene this week.  I ended up with a ton leftover and will be tempted to get more at the farmer’s market tomorrow… what’s a guy to do?

Luckily rescue came in the form of a cake recipe by Gayle of Kosher Camembert and delivered via twitter.  Not only was the recipe simple, but I also had everything laying around.  I noticed this recipe was based off of an earlier one that called for fruits other than apples and it gave me an idea to also help get rid of the pears I had as well.  Sadly the ingredient list for this cake grew massively, but luckily they’re not all required.  So, let’s get started, shall we?

Cake

This is a very tasty cake... if you have some apples, go make it and be happy!

Ingredient Breakdown:

Fruit:

  • 2 small Apples, skinned/cored/sliced (8 – 12 slices per apple)
  • 2 Pears (I used bartlett), skinned/cored/diced
  • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 Tbs Butter
  • 1 Tbs Sugar
  • 2 Tbs Orange Juice
  • 2 Tbs Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka (tasty, but optional)

Batter

  • 1 c Flour (I used half AP and half Cake)
  • 3/4 c Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 c Walnut Oil (Veggie oil will work just fine)
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 tsp Allspice
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Cardamom (optional, if you have it)
  • 1/8 tsp Cloves
  • 1/4 tsp Coriander (weird, I know)
  • 1/8 tsp Ginger, powdered (optional, if you have it)
  • 1 tsp Lemon Zest
  • 1/8 tsp Grains of Paradise (optional, if you have it)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Topping

  • 2 Tbs Turbinado Sugar (optional, but awesome)

I know you’re thinking that this is an insane spice mix, but try it out and it works marvelously in most apple spice cakes/pies/etc.  It also meshes very well with the spiced pear vodka if you have it (I use it more for cooking than drinking, honestly).  Okay… let’s get cooking!

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
  3. Sprinkle the peeled/cored/sliced apples with lemon juice.
  4. Heat butter in pan over low heat and add apples, vodka, orange juice and 1 Tbs white sugar.
  5. Stir for 5-10 minutes until apples soften and the liquid is reduced.
  6. Separate apple pieces from juices.
  7. Reduce remaining juices until only 2 Tbs or so remain. Remove from heat and reserve.
  8. Mix together the dry goods (flours, sugar, baking powder, spices, zest, salt), the wet goods (eggs, oil, vanilla, reserved juices) and the diced pears.  Yes, you read that right… it works like a quickbread and has a good texture. Really.
  9. Mix until it just comes together (don’t over-mix).
  10. Pour into the prepared pan and spread the batter evenly with a spatula.
  11. Arrange the apple slices on the top of the batter as decoratively as possible (though even a mishmash will look nice).
  12. Sprinkle the cake with turbinado sugar and bake for 1 hour.
  13. Let cool before attempting to remove from the pan. It can be a bit difficult to plate due to the stickiness of the fruit.
  14. Eat happily.

That’s it! It’s actually pretty simple and tastes very awesome. I tried it out at work and it was gone before noon (which is saying a lot, as it has to compete with the donuts and bagels they set next to it).  As I was told by Gayle, this is meant as more of a guideline, so please feel free to mess with it.  I’m betting that all sorts of awesome can come from it.  If you do try any modifications, please let me know how it turned out!!

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Fruit Roll-Ups: Simply Fruit

Jessica is addicted to Gushers.  There, I said it.  Her horrible secret is out (sorry!).  Each week after I shop at the Farmer’s Market, with my car filled with fresh fruits and veggies, I drive over to the supermarket and sneak down that isle to satisfy her cravings.  This week was like every other, looking through all the brightly colored packaging for the one that makes her happy, when I saw them.

Simply Fruit

I wonder if a kid could tell the difference?

That’s right, Fruit Roll-Ups has a new “healthy” version.  I took a look at the box and I was pretty shocked, it was actually something I would be happy letting a child eat.  It contained no corn syrup, had some fiber, no artificial colorings, etc.  I decided to get them so I could do a review, but I had a little problem.  I hadn’t eaten a Fruit Roll-up since I was a kid, so I had to actually purchase a “normal” one for a comparison.  I looked for a normal strawberry and the one I purchased was the closest they had.  So… let’s compare, shall we?

Simply Fruit

Wow, the one on top sure looks fun!!

Simply Fruit

Yeah, BIG difference.

Simply Fruit

Fruit vs Chemistry

You’ll note that all the packaging is very simple and is mainly greens and whites, compared to the XTREME™ packaging of the original.  The other thing you’ll notice is that there is a complete difference in the color and texture between the two products.  The Simply Fruit resembles the old dark and rough fruit leather while the regular Roll-Up resembles some sort of neon plastic.  A quick breakdown of the ingredients:

Standard: Pears from Concentrate, Corn Syrup, Dried Corn Syrup, Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil. Contains 2% or Less of: Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Acetylated Mono and Diglycerides, Fruit Pectin, Malic Acid, Natural Flavor, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Color (red 40, yellows 5 & 6, blue 1).

Simply Fruit: Apple Juice Concentrate, Dried Apples, Strawberry Puree, Canola Oil. Contains 2% or Less of: Fruit Pectin, Lemon Juice Concentrate and Blueberry Juice Concentrate Added for Color, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Natural Flavor, Sodium Sulfite and Citric Acid Added to Protect Color.

That is a huge difference between the two, don’t you think?  The funny thing is that the nutrition values pretty much remained the same with no change in the size of the roll.  Both are 14 grams and have 50 calories.  The Simply Fruit has .5g less fat, 35mg less sodium, 3g more sugars, <1g more fiber.  That’s it.  Besides that, they are identical in “core” nutrition.

So, as a parent, I’d like to think if you were to buy your child Fruit Roll-Ups you would buy them these.  I would have to say “good job” to whoever at General Mills decided to pursue this avenue of children’s snacks.  Oh!  One last thing… the taste!  While the standard Fruit Roll tastes like a very sweet dose of artificial strawberry flavoring, the Simply Fruit tastes like fruit.  Not 100% like Strawberries (though you get that), but more like a blend of fruits (I assume this is due to the apple concentrate and dried apples).  I decided to let Jess try them and even she said she’d choose the new stuff over the old.  Shocking!

Now then, I want you to listen up, General Mills:  Please make a “Simply Fruit” version of Gushers, so I can feel better about her addiction.  Thanks!  Everyone else with little kids who clamor for Fruit Roll-Ups: Go get these instead.

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Puff that Parm!

Ah, Parmesan… one of my favorite cheeses.  It’s always available when I need something to tang up my pasta or soup.  The issue: the rind.  What do you do with the leftover crust?  You could always dump it in some stock, but that’s about it.  Until today!  You see, my interest was perked by an innocent twittering by Lemonpi of the awesome blog.lemonpi.net:

This sounds crazy, but I bought Reggiano today just for the crust, so I could do this http://tiny.cc/M2HjK Must be tried to be believed!

This sounded incredible… I just had to try it!  I discussed it with her for a bit and later that night I went out and bought myself a bucket of Parmesan crusts (thanks to Whole Foods it came to about $2.50 for a half pound) and fired up the microwave.

111

Before the "procedure"

111

Behold, the mutation!!!

The first experiment was a complete failure.  Instead of a nice, crisp texture I got hard and chewy.  Not good.  I messed around some more and I finally figured it out.  Instead of cooking it based on time, you should cook it like popcorn and “listen” for it to be finished.  When it stops popping, stop the time no more than 5 seconds or so later.  If you take it out too soon, it’ll be hard and chewy.  Too late, and it’ll be burned.  The next thing is that you need to treat it like microwaved bacon.  When you first take the bacon out it is all floppy, but let it cool for a min and it’s nice and crisp.  Same thing here.  Let it rest and it’s awesome, don’t let it and it isn’t.  So, to break this down:

  1. Cut a piece of parmesan and put it on the center of a plate.
  2. Microwave until it stops “popping,” usually between 30 and 90 seconds.
  3. Take out and let rest until cool, usually for 60 – 120 seconds.
  4. Eat your crunchy cheese!

So what can you do with this stuff?  Well, first of all, you can just eat it.  It isn’t as strong as you’d think and it has a nice crunch to it.  Secondly, I’d say let your mind play.  I think it could serve as a replacement for bread in certain gluten-free applications, or you could always do this:

Mmm!

This was a complete success... you should try it if you have the chance!

Yep, that’s bruschetta without the bread.  The recipe here is pretty simple:

  • “Puffed” Parmesan crust, 1/2″ cube before puffing
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil, chiffonaded
  • Prosciutto
  • Garlic, sliced thin
  • Tomato, 1/2″ – 1″ cube

Take those ingredients and…

  1. Spear the parmesan with a toothpick.
  2. Drip about 3 – 5 drops of both the olive oil and the vinegar onto the parmesan.
  3. Place the basil through the toothpick and on top of the parmesan.
  4. Place sliver of garlic through toothpick, on top of basil.
  5. Dash of salt and pepper.
  6. Spear through some prosciutto on top of the garlic.
  7. Finish with a bit of tomato
  8. Consume happily!

I think it serves as a great snack if you’re in a hurry or hors d’oeuvres for guests, honestly.  If you try this, please share what you do with it!

“Puffed” Parmesan crust
Drip of olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Dash of salt and pepper
Fresh basil
Prosciutto
Thin sliver of garlic
Tomato

Posted in Meal Ideas & Recipes | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Show time is slow time

This weekend I had to work a trade show. A hair trade show.  Really.  See… hair models:

Bright side? Models... quite a few more than pictured.

Bright side? Models... quite a few more than pictured.

Anywho, this has had the unfortunate side effects of causing me to miss two awesome sounding parties I was invited to, my weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market, getting my goods from my CSA, being able to really cook anything until next week and other things.

So, sorry for the delay, enjoy some of what I got to see this weekend via my cell phone camera:

Show

Not quite rock...

Show

Modern pack mule

Show

Gettin' hair done

Show

Behind the scenes

The worst thing about working these things is that I have to stand still on concrete for hours.  It woudn’t be so bad if I could walk around, but the just standing in place wrecks my feet and back.  Blech.  I tell you, trade shows can be fun… if it happens to be a trade you’re in (and you’re not working it).

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SweeTango – Honeycrisp’s nightmare

Ah, Fall… apple season.  Once again our favorite apple, the Honeycrisp is in season for a limited time and we must rush to eat as many as we can.  The Honeycrisp is as good as an apple can get, isn’t it?  It’s sweet, crunchy, juicy, crisp… everything you want in an apple.

Until now.

A couple of weeks ago Jess sent me this article with a ton of excitement:

Tim Byrne picked an apple from the spindly tree, sliced it and popped a chunk into his mouth. He couldn’t have been more pleased as he chomped and got a juicy blast of sweet-tart flavor.”This is what’s got us excited,” Byrne said as he shared samples from a perfectly ripe SweeTango apple, which he and other growers are about to introduce as the successor to the incredibly successful Honeycrisp.

The SweeTango?  Successor to the Honeycrisp??  This I had to see!  Unfortunately it will still be a couple of years before it reaches most supermarkets in the US, so I had to find a different way.  The article said it was being sold in select Farmer’s Markets in Minnesota, so I did some digging and e-mailing, trying to find a place to get one of these apples.

As fate would have it, I ended up getting in touch with Tim Byrne of Pepin Heights Orchard, himself.  Seems Tim is very proud of his apples and was more than happy to send me a few of these brand new apples to try.  Excellent!  Now, it wasn’t just me who was happy, but Jess was, too.  You see, Jessica hates apples.  Really, she hates them with a passion.  The only apples and apple products she likes are listed below:

  • Caramel Apples
  • Honeycrisp Apples
  • Apple Pie/Crisp

Yeah, that’s it.  She doesn’t like candy apples, apple pastries, apple cider, apple sauce, or any other apple breed.  I’ve tried bring home everything from Gala to Pink Ladies and she hates ’em all.  So the possibility of an apple that could add to her repertoire would be glorious.  Fast forward a week and our questions were soon to be answered.

Sweetango

These look like normal apples, but contained within is the secret to fruit happiness.

Look at those apples… you wouldn’t guess that they were mindblowingly good just from looking at them. They don’t look like anything special, but let me tell you, they are now my favorite apple, hands down.  Jess and I had to try one the second we got the box open and it was just perfectly crisp and juicy.  Very sweet with just a bit of a tang at the end.  It was the perfect apple.  I told Jess that is seemed very similar to the Honeycrisp and that I should do an “apple-off” to see which I like better.  I have never been so wrong.

It looks like its mom!

Awww... it looks like its mom!

It looks like its mom!

Sliced, but not diced.

On the left we have the SweeTango, and on the right we have a Honeycrisp from Small’s Fruit Farm (who actually were interested in the SweeTango when I told them about it). As you see, the apples look the same.  You can’t tell, but they also smell, feel and sound the same.  Yes, sound the same… if you tap it you get a nice “hollow thock” sound that you don’t get with all apples.  When it comes to taste, well…

I started with the Honeycrisp, and as expected it was sweet and crispy and just everything a perfect Honeycrisp should be.  Excellent.  I moved over and took a bite of the SweeTango… really nice.  It was very sweet and had a great tang to it.  Now I made my mistake: I put another slice of the Honeycrisp in my mouth.  Blech!  It was horrible… not that sweet, kind of sour.  Not good at all.  What in the world happened?  Well, have you ever tried two foods and the first is “okay” and the second is really good?  If you go back to the first it now tastes worse because you now have something to compare it to.  I think this is what happened here.  The SweeTango was so much better than the Honeycrisp that in a direct comparison the Honeycrisp lost all the awesome.

It was sad and I had to test my theory out on someone else.  I had Jess repeat the experiment and her beloved Honeycrisp suddenly tasted sour.  Luckily they taste fine when not being compared to the SweeTango.  I also tested the theory by grabbing a Gala apple and tasting it.  Tasted great… nice and sweet!  I then tried a bite of a Honeycrisp and as expected it tasted good.  I then went back to the Gala and…. bland.  Just didn’t taste as good in direct comparison. I assume that if you were to bake all these together in a crisp or a pie it would mesh well and you wouldn’t notice, but when tasted side-by-side, the sweeter and tangier apple destroys the competition.

So if you happen to live in the northern Mid-Western states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc) check out your Farmer’s Markets and you may find this little guy hanging out.  If you’re not in the area, you’ll have to wait until at *least* next year or longer to try what I think is the Honeycrisp killer.  I know it is now my favorite breed of apple for eating raw and I think when others try it they’ll be believers as well.  Soon Minnesota will have to change the State fruit from the Honeycrisp to the SweeTango.

So, what is your favorite apple cultivar?  Have you tried the SweeTango?  If so, did you like it as much as we did?

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RIP: Camera Lens

Well, I finally did it… I somehow broke my camera lens.  Don’t know how it happened, but it happened.  I first noticed it while Jess and I were out taking some photos in the woods and it refused to focus.  Looks like one of the pieces of the lens shutter was stuck open, causing many issues.  I had someone who knows a lot about these cameras take a look at it and he was semi-able to fix the problem.

Poor little guy... he didnt deserve this!

Poor little guy... he didn't deserve this!

I say “semi-able” because upon almost getting it back together, it happened again.  It looks like I’ll be looking for a new lens soon.  Until then, I’m sorry for the photo quality (in fact, the past four posts have been with my “spare” point’n’shoot camera and cell phone)… sucks to not have my dSLR in working condition.  Oh well.  So, since I have to get a new lens, any suggestions?  I’m rolling with a Nikon D50 and currently only have a working 70-300mm zoom and I need something much closer (maybe a macro?).  Cost is a factor, but so is performance!

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Absinthe Verte – St. George Spirits

A couple of weeks ago I was visiting my local wine and spirits shop (Spirit World) and I got to talking about the different absinthe that they had for sale. The person I spoke with hadn’t tasted them, but told me that he heard that if I was going to try one, St. George should be that one.  I thought about it and decided to do some research.

Absinthe

This is now the most impressive liquor bottle I own

Now, for those of you who are shocked that I could buy absinthe in a store, well it turns out that the FDA made some changes back in 2007 that allowed absinthe to now be sold in the US.  There is still a little bit of a restriction when it comes to the amount of thujone in it, from Wikipedia:

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food and beverages that contain Artemisia species must be thujone free. Thujone free is defined as containing less than 10ppm thujone. […] In 2007, TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) relaxed the US absinthe ban, and has now approved over 50 brands for sale. These brands must pass TTB testing, which is conducted using Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry. The TTB considers a product to be thujone-free if the FDA’s test measures less than 10ppm (equal to 10 mg/kg) thujone.

So what is so bad about thujone?  Well, at high enough doses it could kill you, for one.  Of course, so could caffeine and alcohol, so why the bad rap?  Well, I’ll let Wikipedia explain this one:

Thujone was an unknown chemical until absinthe became popular in the mid 1800s. Dr. Valentin Magnan, who studied alcoholism, tested pure wormwood oil on animals and discovered it caused an epileptic reaction different from plain alcohol. Based on this, it was assumed that absinthe, which contains a small amount of wormwood oil, was more dangerous than ordinary alcohol. Eventually thujone was isolated as the cause of these reactions. Magnan went on to study 250 abusers of alcohol noting that those who drank absinthe had epileptic attacks and hallucinations. In light of modern evidence, these conclusions are questionable and probably based on a poor understanding of other chemicals and diseases and were clouded by Magnan’s belief that alcohol and absinthe were “degenerating” the French race.

After absinthe was banned, research dropped off until the 1970s when Nature magazine published an article comparing the molecular shape of thujone to THC, and hypothesized it would act the same way on the brain, sparking the myth that thujone is a cannabinoid.

As you can see, it is false to believe that this chemical will cause the issues people used to blame on absinthe, yet it still persists.  When I mentioned that I was going to drink absinthe, my sister-in-law (among others) panicked and told me how horrible it was and how it could make me insane.  It is sad that this myth still exists to this day. Common sage has more thujone in it than absinthe and no one freaks out about that. So, for those wondering, St. George’s absinthe does have thujone in it, but not more than 10 mg/kg.

So, back to my story… I was very interested in trying absinthe and decided that I would give St. George Spirits a try.  Now, the cool thing about St. George is that they also make Hangar One, which is my favorite vodka, hands down. Another neat thing is that they are the company that helped make absinthe legal in the US again… really!  Here’s the article:

Earlier this year, a lone Washington, D.C., lawyer took on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in an attempt to lift the ban. After some legal wrangling, the agency agreed – with some limits.

Last week, St. George Spirits of Alameda received the news that, after seven applications, the federal agency had approved its label, the final obstacle before going to market. On Monday, the small artisan distillery sold its token first bottle, becoming the only American company since 1912 to sell absinthe in the United States. […]

For 11 years [Lance] Winters experimented, adding a little of this and little of that. No matter how close he came to perfection, each new batch had to be dumped down the drain to comply with federal dictate. But come Dec. 21, St. George will begin selling 3,600 bottles of its Absinthe Verte.

Cool, huh?  They also have a neat video on their site discussing what absinthe means to them and such which you can view here.  You can tell they are really proud of this stuff. I ended up getting in touch with them and procured myself a sample of the emerald elixir to finally try.

Absinthe

This stuff is just too cool!

When I popped out the cork the initial smell was a very pleasant “licorice” smell from the star anise, fennel and other herbs contained in the liquor.  I decided that my first taste of absinthe should be done in the “traditional” way with ice water, a sugar cube and a slotted spoon.

The classic French absinthe ritual involves placing a sugar cube on a flat perforated spoon, which rests on the rim of the glass containing a measure or “dose” of absinthe. Iced water is then very slowly dripped on to the sugar cube, which gradually dissolves and drips, along with the water, into the absinthe, causing the green liquor to louche (“loosh”) into an opaque opalescent white as the essential oils precipitate out of the alcoholic solution. Usually three to four parts water are added to one part of 68% absinthe.

This is the method I used as you can see below:

Before

The classic setup

After

After adding the water and sugar

It was pretty cool to see the absinthe slowly louche as the water slowly dripped in… not something I had ever seen before.  So, how did it taste?  I won’t lie, the first thing you get is a strong licorice flavor, but there are a lot of subtle flavors behind the scenes with this.  Jess, who hates anise flavored things, actually thought it was okay to drink (though the smell overpowered her a bit).  As you swallow you get other “grassy” flavors, I also get a hint of basil and mint among other things I just can’t place.  It is very good and for someone who doesn’t drink much, it is something I could see myself drinking on the weekends and just sipping throughout the night.  Because of how strong the absinthe is, I decided to wait until the next day to try another drink.  This time I thought I’d try an absinthe cocktail of sorts using Hangar One Spiced Pear vodka.  I made what is known as the Nectar Verde:

  • 2 oz. Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka
  • 1 oz. St. George Absinthe Verte
  • 1 oz. Agave Nectar (or to taste)

Aggressively shake all delicious ingredients in an ice filled shaker.  Kindly pour into an ice filled highball glass, or eclectic vessel of choice.  Garnish with sugar cane, or whatever inspires you.  Consume with care and a smile. Repeat.

This, right here, is now my favorite drink to sit and sip on, ever.  It was perfectly sweet and the flavor was superb.  The herbalness of the absinthe mixed perfectly with the spices in the vodka and when combined with the caramel-like tasting agave syrup just created perfection.  I will warn you, though, this is a strong drink.  The vodka is 80 proof and the absinthe is 120 proof.  I wouldn’t drink many of these and if you do, I’d be sure to drink ’em slow, just sipping it over the course of a couple hours.

In conclusion to all this, I’m quite sad I hadn’t tried absinthe sooner and I hope this helped make some of you want to go out and get a bottle and give it a shot!  Also, I didn’t hallucinate, convulse, have weird dreams or anything else out of the ordinary, so don’t buy into the hype that it will kill you or make you crazy.  If you have any favorite absinthe cocktails, please share with us!  I’d love to try new stuff with it!

The classic French absinthe ritual involves placing a sugar cube on a flat perforated spoon, which rests on the rim of the glass
containing a measure or “dose” of absinthe. Iced water is then very slowly dripped on to the sugar cube, which gradually
dissolves and drips, along with the water, into the absinthe, causing the green liquor to louche (“loosh”) into an opaque
opalescent white as the essential oils precipitate out of the alcoholic solution. Usually three to four parts water are added to
one part of 68% absinthe. Historically, true absintheurs used to take great care in adding the water, letting it fall drop by single
drop onto the sugar cube, and then watching each individual drip cut a milky swathe through the peridot-green absinthe below.
Seeing the drink gradually change colour was part of its ritualistic attraction.
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Around the Web 2

As most of you have probably done yourselves, I’ve happened to stumble on some good food-related articles/sites in the past few days and thought I’d share!  I’ll include an excerpt, but you should really visit the sites for the full articles!

1. In Taming Dogs, Humans May Have Sought a Meal @ NY Times

A new study of dogs worldwide, the largest of its kind, suggests a different answer, one that any dog owner is bound to find repulsive: wolves may have first been domesticated for their meat. That is the proposal of a team of geneticists led by Peter Savolainen of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

2. Hungry? How About Some Protein-Rich Cotton… @ Time

It’s as true in today’s world as it was in the antebellum South: cotton is king. The plant has been cultivated for its fiber for over 7,000 years, and today it’s grown by more than 20 million farmers in some 80 countries. But while cotton accounts for nearly 40% of the fiber used worldwide to make clothing, there’s one thing the plant has never been able to do well: feed people.

3. Top 5 Menu Items Most Likely to Contain Parasites @ Encarta

The parasitic life is all about finding niches in the ecosystem and exploiting them for all they’re worth. And after billions of years mucking their way through blood vessels and intestines, you better believe they’ve gotten rather good at it. Untold billions are clamoring for a chance to get inside you — and it just so happens that the best way to do that is to stow away in your next meal.

4. The Social Side of Obesity: You Are Who You Eat With @ Time

Sending your kids back to lunch-lady land this fall? Careful, your child’s dining mates may be upping his chances of packing on the pounds. A study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that how much tweens and teens eat can be influenced by how much their friends weigh.

5. For Your Health, Froot Loops @ NY Times

The green checkmark label that is starting to show up on store shelves will appear on hundreds of packages, including — to the surprise of many nutritionists — sugar-laden cereals like Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops.

“These are horrible choices,” said Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department of the Harvard School of Public Health.

6. Things You Should Never Eat on Vacation @ Fox News

Rodent brain is among the delicacies that tour guide Ann Lombardi probably wouldn’t eat.

“I just don’t like the consistency,” she says of animal brains in general, though fans of squirrel brain, a treat in parts of Kentucky, might disagree.

Cow brains, however, available on menus in Europe and the U.S. Midwest, “are in a whole different class,” Lombardi says appreciatively.

That’s it for today… please share any interesting links I may have missed in the comments!!

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