Monday, December 31, 2012

Monty's Blue Plate Diner, Madison, WI - Review

Link to Yelp Review

Part of the Madison based Food Fight Inc (16 restaurants currently?), Monty's was the first, or one of the first.  They are all different, yet are the same in one way.  They are good places to eat.

Monty's is styled after a 50's diner - counter, chrome, lots of "traditional" diner foods, and a lot that you never got at a diner.  Service is fast, food is good, prices are reasonable (but not cheap) and wait staff is friendly.  Feels neighborhood friendly, although they bring in people from all over the area.  Plenty of good vegetarian options also.

Food is interesting, with lots of things not found in your typical diner.   Coffee is from Just Coffee (that is a bonus feature people - if you like coffee, this is a great place) and many of the specials are made with organic foods.  Want a burger but don't eat meat?  Swap out the Walnut burger - which, as a meat eater, I can say is good.  Certainly better than their hamburger.  Speaking of which...

What is up with that hamburger?  First off, it comes medium well done - no burger should ever be cooked to that.  Second, it is heavily, and funky seasoned.  As in, if I ordered it, it would go back.  A good burger needs salt and pepper.  They add a bunch of stuff.  However my niece who ordered it liked it, so we kept it.

Deserts are very popular at Monty's, but that was our disappointment.  Cheesecake was rubbery and the carrot cake was dry - stale dry.  Really?  I am almost tempted to go to three stars just for that.

Overall, I have to stick with four stars.  Great coffee, mostly really good, and interesting, food, fast, good service.  Without a doubt I will be back if in the area.  But I will skip desert.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Champagne (OK, Sparkling Wine) Recommendations for New Years

This assumes you care what it tastes like?  If you are only getting something to fill a glass, buy what ever is cheapest.  But assuming you actually want to drink it....

Under $10 - Barefoot Extra Dry.  Odd think about "Extra Dry" - it is actually a little sweeter than Brut - however the rules for labeling sparkling wine allow a wide latitude in sugar levels, so it is fairly hard to actually know what you are getting without trying it.  Barefoot Extra Dry is just a touch sweet - really I consider this a dry, very slightly slightly sweet, fruity sparkling wine.  It tastes great with food, and it's fine by itself.  I bought four cases for my daughters wedding ($7.49 a bottle, Festival Foods).  I was not disappointed.  It was great for the toast, and it was good to drink with the meal.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brining Beans? Really?

Apparently So.

One of the many things I love about America's Test Kitchen is that they obsessively try things to find the perfect.  Thus, brining beans.  3tbs salt to 4 qts water to 1 lb beans.

Here is a video on it

I am making my red beans and rice recipe, so we will see

Friday, December 7, 2012

Aldi's K-Cup - Fair Trade Colombian Blend Review

Well, I was a little harsh on one of Aldi's coffees.  If you think saying it was better to cut off your tongue with rusty scissors rather than drinking it was harsh.

Let it not be said that I am not a glutton for punishment - here is yet another review - this time of one of their K-Cup coffees - coffee made to use in your Keurig brewer.

I love my Keurig - it lets me have a decent cup of coffee at work, so I don't drink the office swill.  And since the office coffee is free (and I am cheap), you really should believe me that it is swill.

My usual blend is Newman's Special Blend, which is an "extra bold" roast, and I usually put three of my land o' lakes half and half's into it.  But at $5.99 for 12 K cups, the Aldi's blend met my criteria for K-cups - I want to pay less than 50 cents per cup.  So, what the heck.

First off, it is a "blend", so I don't know exactly how much "columbian" coffee is in it - all, or just a whisper.   However, I don't care that much - it is all about the taste.

Second, for those that care, it is fair trade certified.  Nice, but if it tastes like crap, really, who cares?

So - what do you get?

Labeled a "medium" roast, I would almost agree.  Seemed to be a light to medium roast.  The taste is good, not harsh, but definitely not too strong.  Good if you drink it black.  I did not have cream, but I am not sure if I would use it - seems like it is not strong enough to hold up to it.  But as black coffee - good.

Moderate scent - doesn't knock you over or impress that much

Seems a little thin in color.

Overall - I will buy it again at sub $6 a box of 12.  Decent coffee.  Good price.  If you like a light to medium roast black cup of coffee, I think this will pass your test.

If you want a lot of K-cup reviews, try here - this guys has to much money on his hands, but hey, good for us.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

If you only have one thing in your kitchen, it should be this

Buzzfeed Food is exactly correct.

5.5 quart round Le Creuset Pot

I have owned 3 of them (one now resides at my Son's house), plus a 7 quart, plus a sauce pan, plus the goose pan.

But the 5.5 quart is the only one you must have

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Aldi's Coffee Review Part Deux - Donut Store Blend

After the last fiasco with Aldi's Coffee, where I threw out the cat poop after one cup, I tried a different blend  - Aldi's Donut Store Blend, Whole Bean.  It's a good thing I bought them at the same time, because the first try was so awful.

So - Donut Store Blend.  A pale to medium roast - quite variable between beans.  I ground in our burr grinder fairly fine, then brewed in our drip brewer.  While it is a blonde roast, if  you use enough, it still brews strong.  Daughter #3 liked it well enough black, but it had enough body to taste decent with cream.  Daughter #1's response was a shrug - eh, ok.

So - overall, a decent brew for the cost ($4.99 for 12 oz whole beans).  Not my favorite, but drinkable.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beans and Pasta (Pasta e fagioli)

Growing up my parents provided a wide and varied table.  No jello salad - we had things like Turkey Ballotine or risotto or a hundred other dishes that, trust me, were not common in the rural midwest.

However, one thing that was not common (or ever) was pairing pasta with beans.  Pasta e fagioli in Italian.  Which is to bad - because it took me a long time before I put the two together, and let me tell you, it is a great dish.  Inexpensive, quick, varied, vegetarian (vegan, if you like).

Now this dish can be made soup like or dry - I, because I am not a huge soup fan, always make it dry.  But anyway you do it, it is great.

Looks and Tastes Great

Basically dirt simple.  Cook beans, cook pasta, mix.  Add whatever else you want.

The above dish is a little more complicated (and not very healthy, truth be told).  But really good.

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.  You can use any white bean in it's place also
1 can diced italian (or not) tomatoes, drained
4 cloves of garlic, pealed and minced (don't use out of jar, please)
1 tbs Italian Seasoning from Penzey's
4 oz cured olives (order from Cresp, save yourself some money)
8 oz high fiber pasta
2 oz pesto (tastes great without it - if not using pesto, feel free to aggressively use fresh ground pepper)
Parmesan Cheese to taste (grate it fresh please, no jars)
Olive oil
1 lemon, quartered

Mix beans, tomatoes, italian seasoning and garlic with olive oil (at least 1 tbs, if not 2)
Roast in 350 degree oven for at least 20 minutes on a foil lined baking sheet.  The longer you go, the more dried out and nutty the garbanzos will be.
Cook pasta in salted boiling water - DO NOT OVERCOOK.  High fiber pasta is terrible overcooked.  I mean feed it to the chickens bad.
Drain pasta, mix with pesto and a tbs olive oil
When Beans are cooked, mix with beans/tomatoes on baking sheet, plus the olives, put back in oven for 5 minutes to let flavors meld.  Add more olive oil if it needs it.
Serve with fresh Parmesan and lemon - a squeeze of lemon really adds some nice acidity to the beans and pasta, which need it as there is a lot of fat on them.

Really quite a good dish.  Not diet friendly.  If you skip the parm, it's vegan.  Of course this is a fine dish to put sausage or chicken or shrimp in also

Monday, December 3, 2012

Drink Coffee, Live Longer


Money Quote - In this large prospective study, coffee consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Worst Coffee Ever

So bad it makes Folgers seem like fresh roasted Sidamo

So bad you would rather drink tea

So bad you would just as soon cut your tongue out with rusty scissors

I love Aldi's.  Cheap.  Good food (for the most part).  So shoot me, I tried one of their coffees.

So I went for the ground, Specially Selected Dark Roasted Ground Espresso

So incredibly awful.

So if you are thinking about buying some of this, remember the immortal words of Nancy Reagan

Friday, November 30, 2012

This is a Chicken Egg?

Pretty sure we have a goose in the chicken coop

Our normal chicken eggs are usually "large", the light tan is sometimes more of a medium.  The blue egg - that's more like super jumbo.  Must be a goose.

Not sure the chicken could sit down after that one came out.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Aldi Wine Review - 2008 Vina Decana Tempranillo

Vina Decana Tempranillo - a $4.99 wine from Aldi's

Made in Spain, there are a ton of online reviews of this wine.  Cheap Wine Finder sings it's praises, as do other.

Dry wine.  Some tannins, limited oak.  Some fruit, but not a lot

Plum, blueberry color - dark.  Not real fruity on the nose.  Fair bit of tannins

Gets better with a little air in it.  Fair to decent wine, at the price.  Better with food.  Better the second day

White Bean and Shrimp Stew

Until several years ago, white beans and shrimp is not a combination I ever thought about.  However, it is a great combo.

Started with this food network recipe.

And modified it a little.

2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can veg broth
1 can diced tomatoes, drained (but not rinsed)
2 tbs italian seasoning
olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 celery stack, fine dice
1 sm onion, fine dice
1 lb raw shrimp, thawed, pealed

Saute celery and onions in some olive oil
after they are cooked down, add 2 tbs garlic and italian seasoning.  Cook two minutes
Add tomatoes and beans.  Cook as long as want - 10 minutes, 1 hour.  Salt and pepper to taste.

While that is going, mix shrimp with the rest of the garlic and at least 2 tbs of oil,  Let sit for at least 10 minutes.  30 is fine.

Cook shrimp in hot pan.  When done (3-5 minutes), put in bowl, hit with some lemon and hold till your ready to eat.  Try one, add salt and pepper to taste.

When you are ready to eat, mix the shrimp with the beans, hit with some more lemon.  The heat of the beans will bring the shrimp back to temp.

Serve with a nice Italian or Spanish wine - a salad would be great to.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eggplant and Mushroom Taco's

Never been a fan of eggplant.  Mushy tasteless congealing mass of blech.

Yet one does what one has to do.  Aldi's started stocking eggplants - $1.49 each, which is cheap for November.  So, off to the interwebs I went

Started with this recipe from We Should Be Fat.

Actually looked pretty good, and simple.  So off we go.

First, gather all the ingredients

1 small eggplant, cut into pinky sized strips
8 oz mushrooms, quartered
1 tbs Chicken Taco Seasoning
1 tbs Adobo Seasoning
2 tbs oil

Mix it all up and put on a pan (foil lined)
Roast for 30 minutes at 350 - flip half way through

While that's going on, put together the rest of the fixings.

Sour Cream
Diced Jalapenos
Chorizo (what can I say - I like it)

Serve on tortillas

Plate it up and serve.  Makes 4 good size tacos

So I added Chorizo.  Shoot me

Saturday, November 24, 2012

St. Louis Pork Steaks - If You Like BBQ, You Will Love These

Pretty odd recipe, for those of us not from St. Louis.  Even though Pork Steaks are very common in Wisconsin (I understand they are not everywhere), I have never had St. Louis Pork Steaks until I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen. (great video at link).  Their recipe is here.

Recipe is fairly simple, but it takes a while to get done - in fact there are three distinct cooking phases.  I will often do the first two ahead of time, then the third phase just before I want to serve them - so it is great if you are having people over but don't want to invest a lot of time the day of the event, or you want to take them tailgating, because the third cooking phase takes like 10 minutes.

Also, most of these involve cooking outside - well, that is the best way.  However, you can certainly do this inside.

Basic concept is...

Step 1 - grill/brown pork steaks on high heat (over charcoal, wood or on the stove) - just to get them browned.
Step 2 - braise in barbeque sauce for one and a half hours
Step 3 - grill/fry again for 3-5 minutes to caramelize the sauce

Serve - they taste great.  Another recipe is found here, at Patio Daddio BBQ., along with some great photos.

The bbq sauce is the only thing  you need to really concern yourself with.  It starts thin, then cooks down as you braise the pork.  By the time the pork gets tender, the sauce will be thick.

1 jar (12 oz)  bbq sauce (I use Sweet Baby Rays)
1 light beer (12 oz) (Lienies Light for me)
2 tbs Sriracha (if you like it hot)
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs cider vinegar

That is a good amount of sauce for 2 lbs of pork steaks.  Up or down the ingredients as needed.  Basic deal is equal amounts beer and bbq sauce.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Brisket - BBQ Video

What a great video

If you want to smoke a brisket, start with this recipe.  Good Stuff

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yes, This is the BEST TURKEY EVER

I said it in ALL CAPS so it must be true - right?

Anyway - based on Alton Browns, with edits, has the best turkey ever - no, not the deep fried one, although that is very fine too.

My only addition - get about six dry ancho chilis - cut them up and put them in the brine. I started brining turkey with them years ago when I read about it in a Whole Foods thing - great addition - they do not add any heat to the turkey, but it is a great enhancer to the flavor


Brine - 1 cup salt (I use sea salt), 1 cup brown sugar, 6 dried ancho chilis, cut up, 1/2 gallon of water
Bring all up to heat, stirring to disolve. When the salt/sugar is disolved, take off of heat, and add ice cubes till the ice does not melt (about 5 lbs).
Why is it always cold when I deep fry?
Place cleaned turkey in turkey brine holder (I use a big stock pot), pour brine over, and top off with water till bird is almost covered. Put breast portion down, so if some of the turkey is not covered, it doesnt matter as much. Place stock pot in fridge, or if you are like me and have no room, in a ice chest, surrounded by more ice. If you are in Wisconsin, and it's about 30 degrees outside, put it in your garage, covered (keep out the raccoons dontchaknow.

I like to brine for about 6 hours, so I usually do it the morning of, as we start cooking the turkey 2ish, eating 5 to 6 ish)

Cook following Alton's instructions (dont forget to rinse off before cooking).

Feel free to smoke the bird after this brine, or deepfry, or just roast.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November Goodies Box - Wins Again

The November box came today - and it has some interesting things - and a lot of them!  Plus a bonus for first subscribers! 

This is the Entertaining made Simple box.  Interesting concept - the idea, I suppose, is that it is things to try that you might have on hand or purchase to impress your guests (or at least please them) without having to go through a lot of work.  With that in mind, that is how I will judge them.

Up First - Biscoff Spread!  What? Interestingly enough, a kind of nutella like thing - a european spread made of cookies and stuff, designed to spread on bread, toast, etc.  Have to try it tomorrow.
Next up, something familar - white cheddar popcorn, from Oogie's Gourmet Popcorn..  Now, I was not impressed this was in the box.  Popped popcorn?  Really?  However....It tastes good.  A little stale, sure, but great taste and not oversalted.  If I saw this in the store, I might buy it.  I would buy it.  Crazy.  I already want back to the bag twice while tasting other items.

Now the next one does not really fit the box - Entertaining made Simple.  It is a chocolate souffle mix - sounds great.  Says it "Includes everything you need to make 2 perfect souffles"  Awesome.

Everything but...
1 Jumbo Egg (who even buys Jumbo Eggs?  I have to go buy a dozen to make two souffles?)
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter, softened, not melted (Not salted butter, unsalted)
Hand Mixer
Ice Cream Scooper
Ok, this is simple?  Everything included?

Bobbysue's Nuts is next - tiny bag.  Ugh.  Nuts with a mission.  Ugh - really?  Doesn't everyone?

However...they taste really good.  Slight sweet, slightly salty, slightly something else.  Ok, I will buy these.  Not sure I would share them however....

Next...Tea?  Pass.  Give it to the daughter.  Plus I am so done with all the seasonal flavored items.


This will be popular in the house - Dark Quinoa Organic Chocolate from Alter Eco (Eco, get it, not Ego, Eco.  Can I just say blech - I am so tired of that advertising schtick) - light crispy crunch as it is made with nutty toasted quinoa.  First smell - very cocoa rich.  And the taste - it's dark, bittersweet chocolate alright.  Plus, it is all those things good foodies are supposed to buy - Vegan, GMO free, soy free, organic, fair trade and carbon neutral.  And saving the Amazon.  If you like dark chocolate you will like this.

Final food item - Cracker Snack - American Vintage Wine Biscuits.  Very interesting.  Thick, kind of like a cookie.  But savory, not sweet.  And while they are not hot, you can tell they have some cayanne pepper in them on the back end.  I bet they would be great with cheese or humus.  I could see putting these out in place of some ritz crackers.

And finally...the bonus for original subscribers -

A 100% Organic Cotton Farmers Market Bag


I can't wait till I go to the Farmers Market with my Walmart Bag.....Really?  Think that will be a welcome sight?

Well, I will be proud to carry it.  Not sure my kids will want to be seen with me, but hey, it's a nice bag.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's Goodies Time!, that is

The November box is here!  What will it contain?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Island Bamboo Over the Sink Cutting Board with Colander - the Review

Eight Inch Chef's Knife, Five Small Potatoes
 The Island Bamboo Cutting Board is an interesting idea - A cutting board designed to use over a sink, with a built in silicone strainer.

The strainer is a pop-up kind - it becomes flat for storing the board on it's side (3/4 inch thick, like the board) and then it can "pop" out to different sizes depending on need.  In the picture to the right it is extended all the way down - it is quite deep and can hold a lot of material.

Work in Progress
The strainer is strong enough to hold up a stainless bowl, which is convenient when prepping a number of different vegies.

The board itself is nice - 3/4 inch thick, firm, no flex.  Made of bamboo, it is very strong

The cutting area is a little small for me - I like a bigger work area for my cutting boards.  Although as you can see, my eight inch chef's knife fits easily  diagonally.

This is a great vegie processing tool.  Silicone colander lets you wash, chop and go through a number of vegies.  Also, being silicone, it can be tossed in the dishwasher, even cooked with as a steamer because heat will not degrade it.

I bought mine at Sears, but it is widely available between $29 and $49.  I got mine on sale for $10 with free delivery - a great buy at that price.  Not sure at $49 it would be worth it.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Box Has Been Shipped!

The October box was fun - we were anxiously waiting for Novembers box and I just got this email!

Dear David,

Your Goodies Co. Taster’s Box has shipped, and will be arriving on your doorstep soon. Here is your FedEX Smart Post tracking information: 

Awesome!  I will see if I can do a google hangout when we open the next one!  I have to say - Walmart set the bar pretty high with the first box.  I hope that they exceed my expectations!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day of Dead Bread - Pan de Muerto

Literally Bread of the Dead - I am posting mostly so that my wife has the recipe for next year in her Spanish classes that she teaches.  Kids love food - it's nice when you can combine it with education.

This recipe is from Mexico in my Kitchen, which is a fun, well done blog.  So if you want it, click on the link.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

This is how you get Fresh Eggs!

Raise Chickens!   Four Chickens, Four Eggs a Day!  Two brown, one green and one blue!

Run Free, Run Free!

Two Barred Rock and Two Araucana?

My better half is still looking for some Dominique Chickens that don't cost a ton of money.  As for the the Araucana, they could be Ameraucana or Easter Eggers.  Undoubtedly some 4H'r can set me straight - I only know what the store told me they were....

Chicken Run!  (their coop is in the garage)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Huevos con Chorizo for Breakfast (or anytime)!

Eggs with Sausage - what a classic. Made around the world - whats not to love?

The Mexican, or Tex-Mex, or Amer-Mex way is Huevos con Chorizo - a.k.a. Eggs with Chorizo.  Often served with beans (refried or not) on the side, with corn tortillas.  It is simple, hearty, filling, and delicious.

Ingredients are simple - eggs, chorizo, beans, tortillas, cheese.  Fry the chorizo, add the eggs, serve with the beans (which you heated along the way) and cheese and tortillas.  But there are a few secrets....

For my breakfast this am, it included:

3 eggs from our chickens in the back yard
1/2 cup of refried beans (homemade, leftovers)
1/2/ cup fried onions and peppers (leftovers)
3/4 cup chorizo
Cheese and Tortilla Chips


This is a great use of leftovers - the onions/peppers, refried beans and chorizo were all leftovers - it makes breakfast a 5 minute meal, most of which is waiting for the frying pan to get hot.

Find a local mexican grocery that makes it's own chorizo - shop around - homemade sausage is all different and there are definitely regional differences.  Consider it an adventure.  I got mine (this time) from  La Nortena.  Many stores sell chorizo (walmart, for example) but I find it meh at best.

Buy Mexican Chorizo, not Spanish Chorizo!  Definitely different sausages.

Chorizo is not often hot - spicy yes, but hot, no.  The hot stuff is usually called Longaniza.

Don't be pedantic with this recipe- use what you have.  You can make it with tortillas, or like me, tortilla chips (El Milagro, of course)

Chorizo is fatty - live with it


For me, dirt simple

Re-heat chorizo in pan
Nuke Beans
Add eggs to hot chorizo
Cook till just done (no, don't you dare overcook them)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Aldi's Grate Red 2011 - get it, Grate...

Photo stolen from Cheap Wine Finder 
I like Aldi's.  Low prices, generally good food products.  Never really tried their wine, as much of their stuff (Winking Owl) gets a really bad rap.

However, they have been adding more wine's, and those wines have been getting decent reviews.  So, I decided to go for it - Aldi's Grate Red, Vintage 2011.  Part of the gimmick is that it is advertised as "An Italian wine perfect for anything grilled".  A Toscana Rosso (that's red wine from the Tuscany Region for you heathens) has no listed grapes on it - it is surely a blend, likely with  Sangiovese  grapes as the primary.  Aldi claims it to be a medium dry, full bodied red wine.  With that....

Grate Red is a cheap ($4.99) bottle of red wine that is light in color (think Pinot, kind of like cherry juice), dry, with soft fruit, decent body (not thin) and not much tannins.  Not much nose, very slight alcohol  but none really on the tongue.  It does go great with steak (which is what I had it with), and I think it would be great with burgers or grilled chicken.

If your looking for a bottle of red wine for grilled foods, this is a winner at $4.99.  If your having a lot of friends over and would rather spend more on the steak than the wine, I would definitely go for it. It won't impress anyone as a great wine, but it might impress those who appreciate a good wine that is inexpensive.  Pretty much as advertised - you will not be disappointed in spending $5 on this wine.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Knife Fight

Wired has a reasonable good post comparing chef's knives - although they diss my preferred knife, the Zwilling (Henckels) Pro

When it comes to knives, there is definitely a personal preference issue.  What Wired finds mundane and ho hum, I find that this classic knife is classic for a reason - it's perfect and you don't need to change it.  I have used mine for 29 years - bought it in Switzerland on our honeymoon.  It is the right shape, the right size, the right weight - although some find it to heavy.

Having said that, I too would love if they could get the price down.  $130 is a lot of money to spend on a single knife, and you can buy a lessor, but perfectly capable Fibrox for $30 (or less).

I love my 8 inch chef's knife, but I know a number of cooks who think bigger is better and love a 9 or 10 inch blade.  Personally, I think the longer blade does not buy me anything except it is harder to use.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Kitchen Appliances That You Will Really Use

And my final Amazon Shopping List

General Observations

I have never been disappointed with Kitchen Aid. If you have to choose between a KA and something else, go with the Kitchen Aid.  As long as you can afford it.  Cuisinart is also a brand that almost always rocks.  

If you are going to bake, you have to have a Kitchen Aid Mixer.  My wife just gave our old classic model to our eldest daughter - 30 years after we bought it, it still works great.  We have moved up to the 7 quart model, which is darn near commercial size.

A pressure cooker is something I wish I had picked up on earlier in life.  You can make many dishes in 30 minutes what would otherwise take hours.  So you can have real homemade chili, with real beef, not ground, in 30 minutes.  Or stew.  Or coq au vin.  

You don't need most appliances. You just don't. But I admit I love some.

There are some things you never need, including a Quesidilla Maker.  Just say no.

Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole

Sweet Potatoes are one of our favorite things.  Great baked, they are equally fine in stews, breads, chili, pie or just about anything else.  They are also one of the mandatory items for Thanksgiving, at least in my book.

This recipe is effort number one in creating a low calorie, low fat version for this years Thanksgiving.  It tastes great - almost pie like.  I will be trying others, but this could be the winner.

I made this recipe scaleable - basically the ingredient list below is for 1-2 people - so just scale it up depending on how many you have.

1 Sweet Potato, baked
1 Medium apple, peeled and cored
1/4 teaspoon Apple Pie Seasoning (Penzey's)
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tbs (or none) brown sugar
Pecan pieces

You can peal, dice and steam or boil the sweet potato   However I feel that leeches out some of the flavor, so I recommend baking them until soft.  In either case, you want them well cooked.
Heat evaporated milk, brown sugar and apple pie seasoning, whisking as you go - you just need it warm enough to incorporate the seasoning/sugar.
Mix sweet potato, apple and milk mixture in a bowl.
Pour/scrape into baking dish sized appropriately for the amount you are cooking.  It should be like thick applesauce when you put it into the baking dish, not watery and not to dry.  Just right.
Sprinkle as much pecan pieces over the top as you like
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  If you made this the day ahead and it is cold, probably go 45 minutes

Do not over season with apple pie seasoning - more is not better.  Cinnamon can be bitter if there is to much - if you over add you will have to add more sugar


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Yellow Curry - Thai Style - Vegetarian (or not)

Some people love curry, some people hate curry.  Some love the spices like lemongrass, Some hate the spices.  Some love the heat, some hate the heat.  And it can be definitely not diet friendly (big bowl of rice and coconut milk?  Tastes great, but calorie wise, not good)

Well, with the Wife having abandoned us for the evening, leaving just Daughter #3 and myself at home, it was time for some curry.  We like the spice, and Marjorie likes some heat, so it was time for Yellow Curry, Thai Style.

I have no idea if this is true, but I find that store bought yellow curry pastes are milder than green and red curry pastes.  Now of course if you make your own you can control the heat, but lets face it, most of us 1) do not have the time, 2) don't have access to all the ingredients and 3) when we do, don't what to pay the price ($4 for lemongrass?  no thank you).  So do what most people do (including Asians , buy it already made, in the store.  I suggest going to a local Asian grocery, such as L'Oriental here in Eau Claire, but even the paste in most groceries is going to be ok.  The advantage of going to an Asian grocery is they will have many brands and you can ask the staff there about them.  I use Mae Ploy brand.  The stuff lasts forever in the fridge once opened.

The key for me to make Asian food more diet friendly is not to do away with ingredients like coconut milk and rice, but to fill the dish with other things so you don't use so much.  So the key filler ingredients in mine are white potatoes and sweet potatoes - they give you starch, but better starch than rice.

8 oz of Tofu, drained and pressed (or at least blotted) dried
1 can coconut milk
1 cup vegetarian stock
1 tbs fish sauce
1 red, yellow or orange pepper, sliced thin
1 bag frozen peas
8 oz white potato, pealed and diced
8 oz sweet potato, pealed and diced
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
1-3 tbs Yellow Curry Paste, use to taste (start small, you can add more)
1 tbs Tamarind Paste (ok, you don't have to, but it also lasts forever)
8 oz Chicken thighs, diced, if not veg
1 cup rice
Cilantro, diced
Lime, quartered
1 Fresh Jalapeno, sliced thin (if you like some more heat)

Add coconut milk, fish  sauce and veg stock to pot (le crueset works great here).  Bring to low boil
When heated, add Yellow Curry Paste and Tamarind.  Stir until mixed.  Tamarind may not fully disintegrate.
Add White and Sweet potatoes.  Cook until they are done to your taste.
Add Peas and Tofu, cook 4 minutes
Add sliced peppers, cook 1 minute

When you start the meal, start the rice separately and hold warm till the Curry is done.  I hate overcooked veg in my curry.
Serve Cilantro, Lime and Jalapeno on the side for people to add as desired

If you want meat, what I like to do is mix 1 tbs oil and 1 tbs yellow curry paste - mix together and let sit 15 minutes for the oil to pick up the flavors.  Then fry the chicken in the oil/curry paste (separately from the curry if you want to keep the main dish veg).  Hold and serve with the curry for those who want meat.

I like my curry wet - more like soup.  So I cook most of this with the top on the pan to prevent evaporation. If you like it dry, cook with the top off.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kitchen Tools Made of Love - All You Really Need in the Kitchen

Another Amazon List for your shopping convenience although I don't get a cut of the sales, so feel free to shop around for cheaper.

As our kids have left home, they sooner or later realize that Dad is no longer making dinner for them.  And that eating out is stupid expensive.  So sooner than later, they come around to asking what do we need in our kitchen?

General Observations:

There are often cheaper alternatives to some of my recomendations. Just don't go too cheap. I love high end Henckels, but if you need to spend less, don't waste your money on junk, buy all Victorinox with Fibrox handles. Can't afford (or steal from your father) Le Crueset? Tramontina is a good brand, less expensive.  A lot less expensive.

Good pans are heavy pans (in general).  A pot with a light bottom is one you will be throwing away in a year or two because it is warped.  And copper bottom pans?  Usually junk.  Avoid them.

Do Not EVER put you knives in the sink or the dishwasher. Use them, hand wash them, hand dry them, put them away. Don't make me stage an intervention.

The only knife you have to have is an 8" Chef's knife.  Others are nice, and handy upon occasion, but that will get you through everything.  Some like a 9" or 10", but my 8" Henckels has always just felt right to me.  Of course I own about 20 knifes....

Don't buy sets of anything (other than place settings and silverware). Sets are filled with things you won't ever use. Better (generally) to buy just what you need.

You don't need that much (this comes from a man with darn near every piece of junk ever made). Don't waste your money filling your cupboards - buy good things. You will love them, use them, and ignore everything else. You don't even need everything on this list to produce a whole lot of meals made of love.

Things I have left off that you should have include:

  1. Potato peeler - cheap, carbon steel. Buy at least four of them - they end up lost too often.
  2. Box Grater - Microplanes are great, but terrible for grating a pound of chedder. I understand they now have a box grater - expensive though.
  3. General kitchen junk - ladle, large spoon, whisk, potato masher, metal spatula, plastic spatula, colander. Again, buy things that don't melt.
  4. GoodWill and other second hand stores occasionally have nice stuff - Meme once picked up a $200 le crueset pot for $2 - so don't be afraid to check out the kitchen section. I think Jeremie now has that pot.

Chicago Style Pizza - How to Make at Home

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Basic Household Tools - The Ones You Need

Not exactly a food post, yet based on the same intent.  As our kids grow and move out, they end up with questions like, what tools should I own?  These are the tools that let me fix things, for the people I love.

According to Clint Eastwood,  “Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone.”  Who am I to argue?

Having said that, there are a few other tools that will make your life a little easier.

 I made this list on Amazon, so shopping is simple.

Best advice is however to watch for advertising fliers and pick up things when they are onsale - Sears, TruValue and all the other chain hardware stores always have a loss leader to drive store traffic.  Watch for those and fill out your tool chest.

I do have a few general recommendations in addition to the specific tools listed on Amazon

  1. For most tools, don't buy junk off brands.  Long term, not worth it.
  2. Craftsman hand tools have a lifetime warranty.  
  3. Electricians all seem to have a tool belt full of Klein tools - that's probably a good recommendation.  
  4. People call locking pliers vise-grips - it's a brand, and yes they are that good so only buy visegrips
  5. Channellocks are largely the same league as visegrips - buy them
  6. Once you start buying cordless power tools, you are locked into that brand because of battery interchangablity.  So be sure you are going to be happy with them.  I recommend Craftsman, Porter Cable, DeWalt, Makita, Milwaukee.  And buy ones with real batteries - 18 volt is heavy, but powerful.  If you don't intend on building a lot of things 9 volt is enough, but if you decide to get into construction you will burn them out.  And never store those batteries where it might get below freezing. 
  7. One of the things not on my list you should have is a folding utility knife - uses razor blades.  I am partial to my folding Irwin.  It is handy to have some of those disposable utility knifes also.
  8. Tool Bags are a handy way of carrying tools - I like them better than tool chests, tool buckets or any other device.
  9. A head lamp makes nighttime construction simpler - the light is always pointing where you are looking.

Best Way to Cook Bacon Ever?

Makes sense to me (great way to cook brats/sausage for sure).  If only my wife could eat bacon or my daughter would eat bacon.....

So sad for me

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Win a Free Anolon Pan

Yes, I am a sucker for free.  Need some personal information of mine?  Sure.  Need me to expose my facebook friends to your prying eyes?  What do I care?  It's all about the free.

This week Anolon is giving away this - a 4 qt hard anodized copper bottom pan

Want to enter?  Click Here!

Aldi's Greek Yogurt - the Review

Yogurt companies decided the next big battle ground is Greek Yogurt.  Basically thickened (by draining) yogurt, good greek yogurt is thicker, creamier and more healthy for you - basically twice the protein and half the carbs.

So everyone is getting into the the game - Yoplait, Dannon as well as of course all the others.  So I was interested to see when Aldi's came out with their own greek yogurt.  Since the retail price (at .89 cents) is far cheaper than the non sale price of all other Greek Yogurts, I had to try it.  It is even cheaper than most on sale greek yogurts.

The deal with Aldi's is that some of the products they label are better than others, some the equal, and some, not so good.  So, which is the Greek Yogurt?

Better than others.  I have tried both of the above (Pineapple and Peach) and they were the equal of others, better than some.  Smooth textured, thick and not too sweet.  Some brands (yes Yoplait, I am talking about you) just make their yogurts kid sweet.  Blech.  Others, not sweet enough.  I think Aldi's gets it just right.  The yogurt tastes like yogurt and the fruit mixture on the bottom is just enough - enough fruit and enough sweet.  Plus, being nonfat, it is just plain good eats.

Links to other reviews include Aldi Mom and My Word.  They both share my opinion.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tofu Cutlet

Never had this before - Tofu Cutlet.

Kind of an interesting product.  One of the issues with tofu is that it is very wet, and if you are going to stir fry it you typically need to drain and press out the liquid.  It takes a while, it is a little messy and it is not conducive to a quick meal.

So I picked up some Tofu Cutlet at L'Oriental, which is a local asian grocery.  Basically it appears to be pressed and deep fried tofu block.  Taste is somewhat bland (that's a surprise), however it is very easy to use - just cube, slice, whatever, and it is ready to go.

I used in in a stir fry - mushrooms and chinese mustard greens, with a hoisen sauce, with some buckwheat soba cooked and then tossed with.

At least I think they are chinese mustard greens.  I should of asked.  Peacock Tail mustard greens, I believe

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pork Tinga - sorta like Rick Bayless (but not)

At Casa Mexicana, Tinga is one of my favorite dishes there.

Fortunately, it is easy and cheap to make at home.  Basically think of it as a Mexican Pork Stew.  Easy to make in a crock pot or to braise on a stove top or in the oven.

Dad's Version of Tinga
I started with this recipe from Rick Bayless - but his version is considerably spicier than mine.  Good if you like spicy, not so good if you have to feed my family.  So mine is heavily spiced, but no heat.

One key item - I use adobo seasoning (from Penzey's), while Rick Bayless uses chipotles in adobo sauce.  They are NOT the same thing.  Adobo seasoning is garlic, onion, Tellicherry black pepper, Mexican oregano, cumin and cayenne red pepper.  Chipotle's in adobe sauce is
Chipotle Peppers, Tomato Puree, Vinegar, Onions, Sunflower Seed Oil, Sugar, Salt, Paprika and Garlic, and is quite hot.

Don't confuse the two.

Tinga with Home Grown (frozen) Sweet Corn


1 pound lean, pork shoulder, pork loin or boneless pork ribs  Trim and cut into pieces, 1- 2 inches in size.
3 medium  potatoes, pealed and quartered
1 large white onion, halved and sliced thin
1 green pepper, cut into chunks if you don't like to eat it, thin sliced if you do)
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1  28-ounce can diced tomatoes, in juice
Chicken Stock (enough to cover)
2 tbs adobo seasoning (not chipotles in adobo sauce)
Salt and Pepper


Season the pork heavily with salt, pepper and at least 1 tbs of adobo seasoning.
Heat the some oil in a le crueset, brown pork chunks, set aside
Brown onion and green peppers
Add garlic and 1 tbs adobo seasoning, cook for 2 minutes
Add chicken stock to deglaze
Add tomatoes
Add potatoes and browned pork.
Cook on low heat for 1-2 hours, or in crock pot for 6 hours till pork is very soft.

Many options on how to serve this.  You could use it as a taco filling - shred or chuck it up a little.  Serve it over mexican rice and beans.  Serve on top of a salad with lettuce, fresh tomato, onions, some cheese and avocado (no dressing required).  Serve over brown rice.  Eat it like a soup.  Serve it with sweet corn.  Any way you serve, it will be great.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Eye of Round - Roast Beef

this is just so I keep this recipe - I have done it this way - you want to be sure to keep it rare

McDonald's New Cheddar Bacon Onion Burger - the Review

Yes, I eat way too often at McDonald's.  Yes, it is terrible for you.  But it is everywhere, and it is usually open at 10 when I am traipsing home.

So, at not one of my favorite McD's, I stopped in and ordered one of their new Cheddar Bacon Onion Burgers.  Now, as you might expect, their advertising stops at nothing. White cheddar, hickory smoked bacon, fried onions, angus beef, artisan role, steak sauce.  They have a chicken option also.

Well, this is what mine looked like.

Not too bad, but when they made it, I think they whispered "onions" over it, rather than pile them on as their picture makes it appear.  But really the only important thing is taste - so how was it?

Better than a microwaved C-store burger.  Not a fan of McD's "Angus" beef - never seems to taste like real beef to me.  I liked their steak sauce (mustard mayo based?), the mushrooms were ok as were the onions, but a little short and the amount, as I said before.  Bacon was typical for McD's - cooked, but not crisp.  Kind of like that microwave bacon before you microwave it.  It was far better than the new Wendy's Bacon Portabella Burger, which is worse than a microwaved C-Store burger.

I will say that the fry's at this McD's were TERRIBLE.  Stale, barely warm, clearly at the end of their hold time if not past it.  Only to be expected at this McD's.  Like I said - not my favorite place, but it is very convenient for me.

A review of the chicken version is here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Starbucks Pumpkin Scone – dry, bland and just plain bad

I had some time to fill between meetings.  I like Starbucks if for no other reason I can get wifi and plow through some work.  I pay for this by purchasing a burnt coffee and some type of frozen and thawed/reheated bakery product.  It's generally edible, but like I said, I am paying for the wifi and ability to get some work done.

In doing this, I usually stick to one of their breads – lemon often.  It’s ok.  Nothing to write home about, but it’s generally edible.

No, I did not try to make those crumbs

I instead went for the pumpkin scone this week.  Bad Choice

Let’s see….it’s good points were….nothing.  Not much pumpkin flavor, dry, crumbly.  A perfectly terrible waste of $2.25.  I mean, awful.  Is it really so hard to make a product that your average starbuckian employee could thaw/reheat?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Places to eat in Madison - Paisan's

Daughter #2 moved to Madison, and asked me, where should I be sure to go out to eat?  So this is the start of a series - Places to eat in Madison

First up - Paisan's.  

Funniest, and most accurate review of Paisan's I have read said "Ownership of a UW alum license plate and likeliness of an appreciation for Paisan's are in direct correlation.".  That is a true statement - or at least certainly the correlation is there for anyone who has gone to UW Madison.

There is a definite split in views on Paisan's - either people think it is the best thing ever, or they think, meh, kind of average.  Put me in the column of best thing ever.  First up - best Pizza ever.  Thin, crispy crust, great toppings (love me some of that italian sausage).   The Porta salad also gets high marks.  Sandwiches - good. Pasta - only meh.  Stick with the Pizza.  

If your interested in an adult beverage, you have to have the Sangria - available in white or red versions, it is the original wine cooler, only it tastes good.

Only downfall is the prices have gone up - $13 for a small pitcher of sangria?  That used to buy you two large!  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review of October Surprise Box - Does Walmart Have a Winner?

Just to ruin the suspense, right off, yes, Walmart has a winner.  It was great fun getting a box of surprises.  We opened it together, and even did an unboxing video.  For those not aware, Walmart has started, which sends out samples to members who pony up $7.  You are then asked to rate the products and provide reviews.  For whatever reason, I cannot log in on the site, so here are our comments.

Of course, however, we had not done the taste test yet.  So, here are the results.  You should note that the survey was of four adults, no children.  Ages were 49, 49, 21 and 19, so consider that, if you will.

Four of us tried all six products.  We then scored them on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being "More, right now" and 5 being "I would rather eat grass".  I then added the scores each item got, then divided by the number of voters.  This gave us a composite score of the participants.  Very scientific.  Your results may vary. Some of the items got consistent scores, some scoring was widely divergent.  From the worst to best....

Juicefuls - 4.3 - Very divergent scoring - a 2, 3, 4 and 5.  Some felt they were far better than your average fruit gummy, others not impressed. You will either like these, or not.

Mayesa - 4 - Super divergent - 5, 5 and 2.  Very polarizing product.  Do not expect this to taste like chocolate milk.  Very strong seasoning.  We theorize that if you like soy milk, you will like this.  If you like real milk, then not so much.

Smartfood Selects Cinnamon Brown Sugar  Popped Chips - 3.3 - Pretty consistent 3, 3, 3 and a 1.  A common comment was like Cinnamon Crunch Cereal, but good tasting.  This is the opposite of the Mayesa - very mild flavors.

Dang  Toasted Coconut Chips - 2 - Everyone liked these, just some more than others.  Scores were 3, 2, 2 and a 1.  These were good on their own, and would be good with other things, like ice cream or nutella.  Interestingly enough, this was a kickstarter project.

Brownie Brittle Chocolate Chip - 1.5 - Now we are getting into what we really liked - a 1, 1, 1 and a 3.  They are advertised as the crispy corner of a brownie pan, and that is what they are like.  Very sweet.

Nutella & Go! - 1.25 - Well, duh.  Top scores - 1, 1, 1 and a 2 (the 2 only because the reviewer felt that Nutella is not new and exciting, just simply exciting.  We have been eating it for 40 years

Overall, it was not just the food products that made this fun - also the event - we waited for the box, the box had to sit on the counter till I came home, then we all opened it together and tried it.  It was an event - we had fun with it and argued over our views.  I (we) look forward to the next box.  For $7, it was great fun.