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.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Parmasan Pasta with Sweet Potato, Spinach and Peas, with Fraboni's Chicken Sausage

Stupid long title.  But descriptive.  In addition, this an interesting, and good, recipe.  My version is a riff from this recipe. Not that I could make it exactly the same way.....My version has a lot more vegetables and less pasta.  Got to cut the carbs down.

I made the pasta dish, then served the Fraboni's Chicken Italian Sausage sliced on top.  That way it could be vegetarian for may daughter and not so vegetarian for my beloved and me.  Or I.  Whatever.

Basically I roasted sweet potatoes, nuked peas (lightly), boiled whole wheat pasta, cooked down some spinich, then tossed it all with balsamic vinegar and fresh grated parm.  Meanwhile I had cooked the sausage and then served the pasta with the sausage on top.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Unboxing Video of October Surprise Box - Does Walmart Have a Winner?

I received my first box  So I YouTubed the unboxing!

I used my Acer A100 tablet - it worked ok. I did it in 5meg quality, which means the file is 185 megs.  Next time - VGA quality.

Next time - perhaps a live stream from Google Hangout!

Coming soon - a review of the products!

Cooking with Dad - Slow Cooker Pork bbq sandwiches

Spent the weekend with family, and a Saturday with my Dad.  For me, cooking with love started with my Parents, and likely my love for cooking because my Father loved to cook.  I still remember elaborate meals cooked over a coleman gas stove while camping.

While everyone else is over at my Sisters for a baby shower, my Dad and I got to hang out and make dinner.  Up on the list - slow cooker pork sandwiches, bbq style.

Now, no, this is not real bbq.  Is not made with smoke, it is not made with fire.  It is made in a crock pot, and tastes great.

We started with Pork Loin - not your typical bbq meat because it is so lean.  However, at about $1.89 a pound, it is a very inexpensive way of making a meal for a lot of people.

First, we cut up the pork loin and brown it in the cast iron pan.  Big chunks - heavily salted and peppered.  We did about 3 lbs, and yes, kit took several batches.  Don't crowd the pan - you want to brown the pork, not steam it.

As I brown the pork, my Dad diced the carrots and celery (aromatics).  A couple of each.

Next, cook the aromatics in the same pan.  Just to pick up some of the fond on the bottom and get them some of that pork flavor.  Then deglaze with stock.

Toss it all in the crock pot with seasonings, turn it on low, walk away.  Seasonings are some fresh thyme, 1 tsp celery seed, 2 tbs tomato paste, 1 tbs smoked paprika, 1 bay leaf, 1 large onion quartered and sliced thin.

Cook all day - serve for dinner.  We poured off the liquid, cooked it down on the stove, added some barbecue sauce (not much) and served it up.  Weck (crusty hard rolls) make a great base.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fish Oil, Fish Oil, Rolly Polly Fish Oil

Interesting article on fish oil and depression.

Of course, you might find this a cure also....

Free Wine! Woo Hoo!

Wicked Wine Weekend on November 9/10 at the Coffee Grounds, Eau Claire, WI

Friday, November 9

2nd Annual Wicked Wine Weekend
1:00 - 8:00 PM
Stop in, grab a glass, and sample great wines with wicked pricing! Our reps will be pouring everyday drinkers to cellar dwellers. There is no charge for this event. Stock up for the holidays!

Saturday, November 10

Day 2 of our Wicked Wine Weekend
12:00 - 6:00 PM
Come on back for yet another day of great pricing on different wines poured today. We won't charge you today either!!

Who could say no to that?  I may have to work out of the Coffee Grounds that day - they do have free Wi-Fi!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New York Times Article Hating on Starbucks – as Stupid as it Gets

The gray lady as an article on competing with Starbucks in Seattle, and posits it as Starbucks v. the little guy.  “Struggling against the Starbucks Tide”

Now, there are plenty of reasons to not like Starbucks.  Terrible bakery, bad coffee.  But the article talks about one chain (Starbucks) out competing a second chain (Tully's)  Really?  This is your point?  One corporation beating another is worthy of this screed. Tully's is freaking world wide, and somehow we should care?  Tully's strategy was to open up next to a Starbucks.  And they lost.  This could be an article on stupid business decisions, but no, it try's to make you think it is the big bad Starbucks putting down another local coffee shop.


Corn Fried Rice

Got this idea from Food Network

This is their picture and recipe - it's ok, but...

Scramble 1 beaten egg in peanut oil in a skillet over high heat; remove to a plate. Heat more peanut oil in the skillet. Add 4 slicedscallions, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and salt to taste; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wineand 1 cup thawed frozen corn; stir-fry 1 minute. Add 2 cups cooked rice and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Stir in the scrambled egg and season with salt.

I am thinking more corn and vegetables  less rice.  Even if you used brown rice that is way to many empty carbs.

My way...less carbs, more protein, more vegetables

Dad's Corn Fried Rice

6 eggs, beaten with a fork
1 cup leftover brown rice
2 carrots, diced fine and microwaved for 3 minutes
4 green onions, diced
12 oz frozen peas, nuked for 2 minutes
1 lb frozen sweet corn, cooked
2 tbs Braggs Aminos (or soy sauce)


Scramble eggs, place to side
In same frying pan, add 1 tsp oil, heat to back to medium/high
Add cooked rice, carrots, peas, sweet corn.  Cook till hot
Sprinkle Braggs Aminos over rice and stir quickly. 
Add eggs and green onions, mix

Using 1 or 2 eggs and then substituting chopped raw, peeled shrimp would be great also

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

25 Foods You Will Never See Again

From Buzz Feed

Some I am sad to see gone, some deserve to never have lived.

Barf Ketchup is the right name for it

Monday, October 22, 2012

Best Mexican Restaurants in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

What a change we have seen.  From when ChiChi's (RIP) was the reigning Mexican Restaurant (and only outside of Taco Bell/Johns) to now, where we are fortunate to have many.  Here is my list of Best Mexican Restaurants in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

#1  Taqueria Sandoval – located in the back of Eau Claire’s first, and still largest Mexican Grocery, Mercado Sandoval, this is pretty much just what its name is – Tacos.  And what a selection – all the normal, and then all the real Mexican.  They also have great Tortas, Burritos and Soups, along with a couple of dinners.  Real Mexican coke, horchata and a decent selection of beers round out your dining experience (plus three different homemade salsas!).  The  environment is low end tables and chairs, but if you’re lucky you will be able to watch soccer in Spanish.  Not a date place, unless your date loves the best Mexican food in the Chippewa Valley.  Always amusing to see employees from other “Mexican” restaurants eating their before their shifts.

#2 Taco’s Juanita – close behind is a slightly more upscale place, with a little more atmosphere and a few more fancy meals as well as some of the more traditional Mexican as well as some Amer-Mex fare – taco salad anyone?  Still great, still has real “Mexican”, but also offers some meals to those less adventurous.

#3 Casa Mexicana – Chippewa Falls contribution to the top three, Casa houses some of the wildest wall fresco’s, chairs and tables you will see.  The food tends more towards Amer-Mex, but still good enough.  Full Bar, so that is something not available at the top 2.

The quality starts falling fast after the top 3, although there are plenty of choices.  To a certain extent, it is whatever is closest after the best, although each offers something different.

#4 Cancun – We are now moving into Amer-Mex, hot table Mexican food range – Basically they get your order, get out the tortilla of choice, scoop out meat and sauce from the hot table, and serve.  It’s fast, it’s attractive in that Chi Chi’s kind of way and the food is better than Taco Bell.  Their menu has been expanding, and in a good way.  Whole fish, more interesting items has improved my opinion, which moved them up.

#5 Azul Tequilla – a former Ponderosa, the outside looks the same but they have done a decent job with the inside.  Full bar, good beer selection, but the food is definitely Amer-Mex hot table food.  Meh.  Cheap however, which earns it the #5 slot

# 6 Manny's Mexican Cocina – this is the “nice” Mexican restaurant.  Brand new building, nice d├ęcor, good service, but the food is so so and the prices are the highest.  Food wise probably would be the #4, but cost drives the rating down.  Plus, I have had some bad meals there.  If you needed to take a client or date out, and they wanted Mexican, this is where I would take them.  But I won’t go there otherwise – the benefit/cost ration is off.

#7 El Patio – typical college place.  Food is good, prices reasonable, but it is in an old fast food place that is beat to crap.  Amer-Mex hot table food, but good enough.  Plus, they have liquor license.

#8 Burrachos – the chains start in here.  Ok food, serve beer.  It’s fast.  Better than fast food.  Think of Chipotle, but not quite as good.  Better than Qdoba.

#9 Taco Johns – Best Breakfast Burritos in town.  Salsa bar.  Little hash pellets.  Good fast food.

#10 Taco Bell – ok, I will eat here if I have to.  As in if forced, or there is simply no other option.  But I will eat it.  Taco Bell is the cut line for me – I start all Mexican restaurant reviews with the question – better, or worse, than the Bell?  And yes, I have, twice, had food worse than Taco Bell.  None in Eau Claire however, so this ends the list.

Chipotle is coming to town – assuming they serve what they normally serve, they will become the new #8

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pressure Cooking Cheat Sheet

Just a holding spot for the link....

Recipes - Copywriteable or not?

Ok, so copywriteable is not really a word.  But you get the idea

Interesting post at the Volokh Conspiracy about an issue I blogged about here.

The post concludes with this .... Cookbooks, full of recipes that can be readily found (copied) on the internet, would seem to be a great candidate for a music industry-style economic implosion. But in fact, the cookbook industry is booming. Can you guess why?

I agree with the factual statement that both cookbooks and copying of the recipes on the internet are occurring.  Yet for the life of my I can't understand why.  With the internet, and handy tools such as Evernote, just why would you buy a cookbook?  What does it offer of value?     Yet they still sell.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Best Tortilla Chips Ever - El Milagro

El Milagro products are made in Chicago.  And, as with many great Mexican places, they combine both their factory with a taqueria.  Now that is a restaurant I want to eat at.

Anyway - the point is this - these are the best tortilla chips you will ever eat.  Thick, crunchy, tasting of corn, not to much salt ... incredibly addictive.  I buy mine at Mercado Sandoval in Eau Claire for $2.89 a bag - a great deal.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mona Lisa's Restaurant - Eau Claire, WI -

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you...

Are you warm, are you real, Monalisa?
Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art?
Monalisa, Monalisa

What a great song by Nat King Cole

If only Mona Lisa's Restaurant would live up to the incredible charm and wit of the song.  Instead, it lands just short. Yes, it leaves you a little cold...

I have eaten here five times over the past several years.  Summary ? - Great atmosphere, good service, food of variable quality, in particular considering the cost.  

Mona Lisa's is probably the nicest place to go out for dinner in Eau Claire - certainly in the top three.  Nice ambiance, attractive decor, well trained wait staff.  Certainly a good wine selection, best that I have found in the area.  If you want a nice setting for an important dinner out, it is about the best you are going to get here.


Yes, it's the food.  The food can be very hit or miss.  Which is exacerbated by the cost issue.  If I am going to drop $300 on dinner and drinks for a group, I would like it to be consistently above average.  Nothing should be below average.  Yet it always seems like at least one entree deserves a failing grade.  I have had meals that are the equal of good places in Minneapolis or Chicago, and I have had meals that are out performed by a decent chain restaurant.  I mean not up to the standards of Olive Garden.  That is very disappointing.

So, you may ask, why do I keep going back?  Well, it really is one of the few higher end places in Eau Claire.  If you want the service, the ambiance, the quality wait staff, that type of experience for either a business associates dinner or important family event, you can get all those things here pretty consistently.  Unfortunately, someone will be disappointed with their food.  So for me Mona Lisa's is a four, but down to a three because for the cost, they really should have a more consistent kitchen.

Link to Yelp Review Here

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Happy National Chocolate Cupcake Day

Get Baking

Black Bean and Sweet Potato and Sweet Corn Chili

When I first started cooking, more was always better.  Two spices?  No, lets add four!  Hmmm, doesn't taste right - lets make it six!  Needless to say, my cooking was not that good.

As time goes by (no, not that time going by) I leaned that sometimes, often, less is more. Fewer spices, fewer ingredients, make for a better meal.

Well, this recipe is a throwback to the bad old days - more more more!

Black Beans are one of our favorites - but as with many things, the same dish over and over is boring.  So with a limited amount of time and a dog walk to get in, I went for the old stand by - Black Bean Chili. But of course, black beans are not enough - we need more, More, MORE!

So in went the sweet potato.  Nope, not enough.  Lets add some tomato.  Not enough.  Fresh frozen sweet corn!

AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGG - more more more - onion powder, garlic powder, chili con carne seasoning, cumin, lime zest, vegetable stock, braggs aminos - more, More, MORE!

Tasted pretty good.  Served it over brown rice.  To be honest, I started with this recipe - but then the beserker took over.


2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 sweet potatoes, pealed and diced 1/2 inch size
1 lb frozen sweet corn (our own)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained.  Feel free to use those mixed with green chiles if you like heat
1 tbs chile con carne seasoning (Penzey's)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 lime, zested (no juice)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 square baking chocolate or 1 tsp cocoa
1 can vegetable stock (you might need more - add enough to cover all ingredients)
1 tbs Braggs Aminos
1 chipotle in adobe sauce if you like it hot.  Dice it small.  Skip if you don't like heat (wimp)


Toss all in pot.
Bring to low boil, reduce heat to medium
Walk dog
Cook till sweet potatoes are done (at least 30 minutes)
Serve with whatever- rice, pasta, chips, potatoes, sour cream, cheese.

That's it - dirt simple, and pretty good.  The key to remember is, chili needs time to cook for the flavors to meld.  It might me "cooked" and ready to eat in 10 minutes, but it will taste better after cooking for 30, even better after 45 minutes or an hour.  Just don't let it dry out completely.  And don't worry about the canned beans - they won't fall apart if cooked for an hour.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The New York Times Food and Drink Issue

'Nuff said.  Writing like this makes me want to subscribe.  Which I would not need to do assuming someone remembered to bring me a copy from school....

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cajun (or Creole) Stuffed Bread, aka Kolache, aka Calzone aka Pasty

I first had this on our trip to Lafayette Louisiana to help build a church - and had these in, as I recall, a Circle K Convenience Store.  Funny thing about the south, a lot of the gas stations also make real food.  And I don't mean subway or reheated burgers or crappy little pizzas.  I mean real food, 3 meat on a plate type of thing.

First Try - Creole Stuffed Bread
At this gas station, they make these stuffed, baked rolls.  Emeril calls them Creole stuffed bread, as does a blog called the Meat Meister.  Down in Texas they are called Kolache as they are in many other places.  Some purists, according to the almighty wiki, claim the stuffed breads are really Kolbasnek.  Whatever.  Basically it proves my theory that every culture basically cooks the same thing, just with different names and innards.  Call it a Kolache, Kolbasnek, Calzone, Pasty, Meat Bun - it's all the same.  And it's good.

What these are is spiced meat wrapped in bread dough, then baked.  In Lafayette, they were really spiced (but not hot spicy) and crazy good at 6am before starting construction.  Stuffed with beef, pork, spicy sausage, tasso and seasonings.  wow.

So I tried to make them

Of course, since we eat on a diet, mine are mo' bettah for you, if not mo' tasty.

I used Rhodes Whole Wheat frozen bread dough.  I am not a baker and I did not want to mess with the effort.   I also substituted other things in.

1 loaf frozen bread
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 onion tiny dice
1 stalk celery, same
1 tbs Penzey's Cajun Seasoning
2 Chicken Andouille Sausage, diced small
handfuls spinach, chopped up

Thaw bread according to instructions
Cut each loaf into three pieces

Turn oven on to 350, put in baking stone (pizza stone)

Toss all other ingredients into a frying pan, cook till done
Put in freezer for 15 minutes to cool

Using flour or cooking spray, roll out each piece of dough into an eight inch round or so
put in 1/3 mix of food
Roll into a ball (to tell you the truth, not sure the best way of doing that - I even looked on youtube and did not find good i did the best I could - you can tell from the pictures it was somewhat variable and the bottom is far breadier than I remember at the Circle K.  Here are instructions on how to make a calzone - I think I will try a variation of this next time, but still try to make a ball.
Let rest 15 minutes

Put on baking stone, cook for about 40 minutes.

Let cool on baking rack for 10 minutes


Mmmmmmmm.  I will have to make some vegetarian ones also - Broccoli, wild rice and cheddar anyone?

Emeril's edition is here

Monday, October 15, 2012

Shrimp with Isreali Couscous

I hate couscous.  I mean hate hate hate it.  It's like grits, but not as good.  Kind of like a nice big bowl of sand.  

So, I have heard about Israeli Couscous.  I have read about it.  And this week, I found it in the store. So I said, what the heck.  Lets try it.

First, it is not couscous.  It is more like orzo - except round.  Kind of like little tapioca pearls.  Except it is pasta.  Second, you actually have to cook it, not just rehydrate it.  Originally, according to wikipedia, it was created as a rice substitute.  But it's not rice, it's pasta.

So, I made it like rice - more specifically, like a risotto. 

I started with this recipe - which in turn got it's start from Martha Stewart.

1 tbs olive oil
1 cup Israeli couscous
4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb raw, peeled shrimp (I used 40 count)
1 medium onion, small dice
1 can diced tomatoes, diced
1 tbs Penzey's Italian seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
2 cups vegie stock
1 bag (12-16 oz) frozen peas, thawed
1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, cook till just about browning.  Add garlic.  Cook for 2 more minutes.  Add couscous and seasoning, cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. You are getting some color on the couscous.
2. Deglaze with the white wine.  After the wine is absorbed, add the vegie stock. Add beans.  Now if you were doing it right, the stock would be hot and you would add it 1/2 cup at a time until the pasta absorbed it, then add more.  Phooey.  To much work.  Dump it all in.  Add tomatoes.  Cover, cook on medium heat for 14 minutes..
3.  Stir in peas and shrimp, cook until shrimp turn pink (don't over cook) Serve immediately with lemon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sate Roasted Butternut Squash and Chick Peas

Step one - grow the best tasting butternut squash ever.  I mean the most succulent, buttery butternut ever.  I mean so good your cry when eating it because you realize you have never had a vegitable so pure in taste, so mouthwateringly good.

Ok, you will likely to just have to buy one.  T'ant pis.

This is a very simple, yet Delicious recipe.  Vegan, although you can certainly serve with meat if you like - lamb or chicken would be great.

This is based on a great Curry-Roasted Butternut Squash and Chick Pea recipe from Delish.  I made it even simpler.  Unfortunately, I managed to not take a picture.  If you cook the chick peas with the squash for a full hour, the chick peas will get slightly hard and nuttier in taste.  Good contrast.  If you don't want them like that, add the chick peas about a 1/2 hour into cooking the squash.


1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch dice
1 or two can(s) (19-ounce) chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and dried (kind of depends on how large your large squash is
1/4cup(s) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbs Sate Seasoning from Penzeys
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup(s) plain whole-milk yogurt
1/4cup finely chopped cilantro
3 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice
1 cup brown rice


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, toss butternut squash with chickpeas, olive oil, sate seasoning and season with salt and pepper.
Spread squash cubes on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil and roast 1 hour, or until tender.
Cook Brown Rice
Mix yogurt with cilantro and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
Serve Squash/Chick Peas with the rice and the yogurt sauce on the side.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Red Lobster Review - Pretty Good for a Chain

Sure, it is a chain. I think of Red Lobster somewhat like Texas Roadhouse - a themed chain restaurant that does what it does pretty well.  You would do better I am sure in a local place, but you get a consistent, good tasting meal at all the locations.  And for seafood in the midwest, very hard to do better.  Just don't order off the low priced options and expect to get the best meal.  

They have a limited selection of fresh seafood which can be very good. Not inexpensive. Great for a celebration dinner, as ours was.  We arrived early on a Friday (5 ish) - 10 minute wait - if you hold out till 6 or so, it is a 45 minute wait, so plan accordingly.  You can get a drink while waiting, but they don't have a bar area per se.

Dinner choices were the Pacific King Crab legs (off the fresh seafood menu), Maple Glazed Salmon and Shrimp, and the Steak Oscar, with Lobster and Shrimp.

All three dinners were prepared well, and were delicious.  I would say that they were just a bit overcooked - the steak ordered rare was served medium rare, the salmon was just a bit overcooked - you can tell when there is a little white "gunk" coming out of the fish - called albumen, it is a sure sign that it is overcooked.  But, it was still very tasty, and certainly not wrecked - just a little overdone.  Both the steak and the salmon were thin pieces, which are hard to cook correctly, although I suspect they overcook because most people don't really want rare steak or fish - even though they  should.

Conclusion - good place for a nice seafood dinner.  Especially if your in Wisconsin and most restaurants really don't have much of a selection after deep fried cod.  Link to Yelp Review Here

Starbuks Verismo - the promise of so much

Starbucks Verismo - promises to let you brew Starbucks Latte, Americanos, and all other Starbucks drinks.  Out for Christmas, they are peddling the story that it will destroy the rest of the market. I don't know - there are a lot of Keurigs out there already - can they overcome that lead?

Hopefully it will be a better tasting product than Via. While it certainly has good market share, it's taste is terrible.  I mean stale, burnt folgers bad.

Cute video for the Verismo however.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Home Made Pizza - thin crust

Not going to claim this is top end wood fire pizza oven pizza.  But compared to what you can normally get, pretty good.

Pizza on the left (overcooked, but not burnt) mushrooms, onions and spinach on a garlic olive oil crust.  Pizza on the right, same vegies, plus garlic shrimp and turkey Italian sausage, with tomato sauce over the garlic olive oil.

We used these crusts -

Good eats - and better than delivery - low calorie, especially since the crust is very thin and made with 100% whole wheat flour.  We also use very little cheese

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wendy's Bacon Portabella Burger - just say no

And when I say no, I mean hell no.  I mean do not pass go, I mean go straight to jail if you order it no.  Worse than a microwaved C-store burger no.  I mean please, for the love of all that is holy, no.

That picture - makes it look good compared to the taste.

Back story - I eat a fair amount of fast food - it goes with the territory - a lot of car travel, with a limited amount of time usually to shovel some food down before I have to go into a meeting.  So when I travel, even if it is fast food, I am willing to try something new in the hope that it will be decent.  And on the face of it, what's not to like?  Burger, Cheese, Bacon, Mushrooms.  And I like Wendy's - I like the sea salt fries, I like the spicy chicken, I even like the baked potato and cup of chili.

I wish A Hamburger Today had warned me...

So one day off the interstate I stopped for gas and dinner before a night meeting.  I ordered the above.  Worst food I have had at a fast food restaurant in a long time. Now this is at 6 pm, so you would think they are moving food reasonably quickly.  

First off, the burger was bad.  Bad like a frozen slab nuked in a microwave bad.  Then overcooked bacon.  Add processed cheese and processed melted cheese.  With a few portabella mushrooms that tasted almost canned (they were the good part of the sandwich).  And the fries were both not fresh and over salted.  Four hours later that sandwich was still with me. A true, bad, gut bomb.  It's one thing to eat food that is not healthy - at least it could taste good.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is there anything Coffee can't do?

Well, only the things that asprin can do instead.

More news on coffeeRecent studies have linked caffeine consumption to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease, and a new University of Illinois study may be able to explain how this happens.

Why yes, I will have another cup

Chef Steps - a free, online Cooking School

Who knows if they have some type of "freemium" model in mind, or how they plan on monetizing their website.   But it is free for now, and interesting in a kind of chef way.  For example, on their blog they talk about breaking down a whole pig.  Now that is something that most of us will never do, but it is interesting.

And if your into that kind of thing, the food porn is pretty impressive.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pan Fried Scallops over Carmalized Onions and Spinich, on top of White Bean with Roasted Peppers

While fish has never been my favorite, shellfish always was - shrimp, clams, lobster, scallops - whatever it was, I loved it.  Of course far to many recipes for shell fish are basically shellfish, butter, serve.  Not healthy.

So, I was happy when the store was closing out some frozen scallops (I know, spare me, this is Wisconsin - good quality frozen is the best one can hope for) that were in excellent shape, so I bought them out.

Next, what to do with them that made them heart healthy.  So I combined this recipe and that recipe, and viola - Pan Fried Scallops over Caramelized Onions and Spinach with White Beans and Red Peppers!  Delicious.  Of course, I did have to make some edits in order to get the fat content down, but a man has to do what a man has to do.

So, this is basically three dishes combined served together, as you can see by my awesome photography (courtesy of my Asus A100).  I did not have enough spinach  so that is a little light - if you follow my directions you will have quite a bit more spinach.

White Beans and Red Peppers with Carrots - start this first - it takes the longest.  Other than thawing the scallops - start that first.

2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 stalk celery, small dice
1 onion, small dice
1 red pepper, large dice
1 tbs thyme
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbs tomatoe paste
1 diced tomato (or 1 28 oz can)
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tbs Braggs Aminos
1 lb baby carrots

Saute celery, onion and red pepper over low/medium heat till soft (don't brown)
Add thyme and garlic, cook for 2 minutes
Add tomato paste, cook for 2 minutes
Add vegetable stock, braggs aminos, tomato and carrots
Season with pepper (I don't add salt as the stock has a lot - if you are using low salt stock then you will have to use salt here
Bring to low boil, then cover and turn heat to low/medium
Cook for about 30 minutes while you make the rest of the stuff

Spinach and Onions

2 sliced onions
6 oz fresh spinach, sliced

Heat pan to medium, spray with veg spray
Add onions.  Cook for 15 minutes till brown.  You will have to pay attention.  Add 1 or 2 tbs of water if they are cooking to fast.
Add spinich.  When wilted, take off heat and put in bowl - hold till scallps are done

Pan Fried Scallops

1 lb scallops.  Get sea scallops, not bay scallops.  Squeeze them a little when drying with paper towel - you want them dry so they brown and do not steam.  If possible, buy scallops that do not have TSP in them - hard to do, but they taste better and fry up
1/4 white wine (sure, Fish House Sauvignon Blanc)
Thaw, drain and pat dry scallops.  
Kosher Salt and Pepper
1 tbs butter

Heat pan to medium.  Spray with cooking spray. Or sure, 1 tbs olive oil
Salt and Pepper Scallops
Place scallop in pan.  Leave it alone for 3 minutes.  Don't crowd them either - you are browning, not steaming
Add butter
Flip scallops, swirl in butter.  Brown for 2 minutes
Deglaze with white wine. Cook for 1 minute.  Do not overcook

Get your bowls out and as soon as the scallops are done, assemble and serve

Beans, then spinach, then scallops, then remaining butter/wine sauce

Monday, October 8, 2012

Perfect Pan Fried Salmon

I hate fish.  I hate fishing.  I hate cleaning fish.  I hate cooking fish.  I hate eating fish*.

There, I said it.  Pretty sure it is the only time my cooking ever disappointed Meme was on the topic of fish.  Also pretty much got to the point that Meme and the rest of the family was happy when I was out of town because they could then have fish.

Yet I still prepared fish, occasionally  because it is what my family wants, and that is food made of love - food made for others because of the love you have for them.  But I did it grudgingly - is that really food made of love?

Yet I still tried, at least occasionally.

So at Festival Food they had a big Atlantic Salmon sale.  Lots of fresh salmon (it actually did not smell like fish, so it might actually be reasonable fresh, or recently thawed at least).  So even though I hate salmon particularly, I bought it and made it.  I hate salmon so much I made myself something else to eat.

But I discovered something.  I liked this salmon.  I mean I really liked it.  It was great.  So what was the difference?

First off, I learned to what degree or temp to cook it to.  Basically, salmon should be cooked rare - yes, that's right, cook it rare - about 110 degrees in the center, 150 degrees at the edge.  Start with a medium high pan, turn it down to medium after you put the fish in.  Which leads to ...

Second, how to cook it - skin side down till it is about 110 in the center, then flip over and cook just to brown it slightly.  In fact you can turn the heat off when you flip the fish.  Basically you are cooking it through on one side, then just setting the fish on the other side. Use an instant temp thermometer.

Third, seasoning.  Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  Sure you can do it a whole bunch of ways, but if you have good fish, that is all you need.  You don't even need lemon

Oh - and this way the skin gets crisp.  And tastes good

For all the gory details, go to The Food Lab.  However, this is the short version.

So the basic details are most salmon you get is horribly overcooked - and thus disgusting.  So a lot of places will highly season it - butter or soy sauce or other glop to cover the fact you screwed up the fish by cooking it well done.

Don't screw it up.

*I did not like eating fish outside of deep fried battered covered.  With tarter sauce on top and coleslaw and fries on the side.   Of course one could argue that is barely fish, but whatever.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Win Some Le Creuset (and get a cooking lesson!)

Nice contest - you can win some Le Creuset by also get a decent cooking lesson - Win Win!

And for those that love me, these would be a delightful gift.  #justsayin

Fish House - Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Wine Review

Cleaning out the bin at Gordy's again - $12.49 retail, $5 clearance

And, much like the Steak House Red, a good deal at regular price, a great deal at clearance - I have several more in the wine celler (err, basement)

The concept with Fish House is that Magnificant Wines wants to produce relatively inexpensive wines that go great with food.  And this is very fine with food, and pretty good by itself.   88 points from both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. is not your fathers sauvignon blanc.

Now I love sauvignon blanc for drinking and cooking.  It is a great, typically dry, white wine that is food perfect. Often a mineral taste, in addition to the fruit.

Fish House, at least the 2010 version, is a little unusual.  Tastes great - but boy it is like eating vegitables.  Fruity vegitables.  Now it is sometimes refered to as "grassy".  Or herbacious.  And yes, it is.  Kind of like a grass and herb and fruit salad.

Now that I have turned you off, go out and buy some.  It is good - different - but good.  If you like wine, and want something different than every other sauvignon blanc, this is very good.  If you want generic, but still ok, buy some Lindemanns or Barefoot.  A little more cash, Kenwood.  But for something very fine yet different, buy this.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Walmart (err box is shipping (soon)

Just got my email -

Hi David,
We just wanted to let you know your credit card has been charged for this month's Taster's Box service. Here is a summary of this month's order:
Order #1158930      October Taster's Box        Processing

I am looking forward to receiving it and doing a "un-boxing" video.  Marjorie suggests I live stream the event.

What is  Click the link.  And they are on facebook - i am actually doing this as much for the marketing experience as the food.

However, they did say that they have charged me, but I might not receive the stuff for 2-3 weeks.  What?

Carrot Cake Muffins

Well, carrots are healthy right?  So Carrot Cake Muffins are healthy right?


Well, perhaps not so much.

Picture is not the best - they really are more like the center one in color.  Of course after Marjorie got done putting the cream cheese frosting on, they were all white on top.

Creme cheese is dairy, right?  And dairy is healthy, right?


Well, at least it was reduced fat creme cheese.  And of course sugar comes from corn.  And corn is healthy, right?


Well, here they are with the creme cheese frosting - a little melty.

Anyway - Food made of Love from daughter #3, Marjorie

Pretty tasty - and she even went out to get me cofffee to go with them.

Recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.  No changes - but Mags made them.  Click on the link if you would like to make them also.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Another Fish Taco Recipe

From Anolon - the recipe for the fish is typical, but the salsa recipe looks really good.  Definitely worth trying, especially during peach season

Green Tomato Relish (salsa)

Recipe via Farmgirl Fare

Green Tomatoes via my wife

So the super hot summer turned cold, wiped out our garden and the last 10 lbls of tomatoes.

Trying to ripen some - leave out in cool room (but over 50).

The rest - well, it's is green tomato relish (or salsa, as the case may be)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Food Blogging Dangers - Screwing up the Recipe

Anolon has a nice social media presence - facebook, twitter, web site.  Works well, supports their business which is of course selling cooking gear to 1st world people like me.

They tweeted this morning a recipe for an Omelet Burrito - while a simple recipe I still clicked over because, well, who doesn't what a great omelet burrito?

Good picture, nice recipe.....wait a minute, isn't this recipe missing something?  Oh, its an egg less omelet.  No, not really.

Ooops.  Of course the beauty of the internet is you can always edit.  I do.

Fish Taco's - Why Don't You Make Them?

I mean really - how easy can you get?  You really just want to have some ground up mystery meat stuffed in a piece of bread?  No I say - especially with Tilapia available year round, and usually inexpensive.

So tonight's dinner - Tilapia Tacos with grilled onions and peppers, corn with black beans  and a salad of lettuce, tomato, sour cream and guacamole.

The other advantage is that this is about the only way I actually like fish, and everyone else in the family is usually wining at me for more fish.  So.....Fish Tacos

Served on whole grain tortilla, this is a very healthy and very delicious meal - one you don't have to feel like you deprived yourself in order to have a good meal.  No, this is not real Mexican food.  But is good.

Corn and Beans
1 lb frozen corn - a great use of your own corn
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
1/2 lime

Avocado or 1/2 cup Guacamole
1 tomato
1/2 cup sour cream

Fish Tacos
1 lb Tilapia fillets (cut fillets in half the long way so each filet gives you two pieces)
2 tbs Chicken Taco Seasoning from Penzeys
1/2 lime
1 Pepper - yellow, red, green or orange, sliced thin
1 Onion - sliced thin
1/4 cup Cilantro
4 large whole wheat tortillas or 8 small ones
shredded cheese if you like


This is a three pan dance.  Start the corn and beans in first pan, then lower temp and hold.  Make and place salad on plates.  Cook Onions and Peppers in one pan, Tilapia in the other, then assemble plates and serve (see above picture)

Corn and Beans
Heat Corn and Beans
Before serving stir in juice of 1/2 lime and cilantro
Serve.  If you like more spice, 1/2 tsp of cumin would be fine.

Pile it up - lettuce, tomato, avocado, guacamole, sour cream.  Sprinkle some cheese and cilantro.  Green onions over the top would be nice

Fish Tacos
Thaw and dry Tilapia.
Rub some oil (1tbs or so) on the fish, sprinkle with taco seasoning.  Let sit for 15 minutes
Heat two frying pans to medium/medium high (this is the only tricky part
In one pan put 1 tbs oil, add onions and pepper slices.  Toss till almost cooked to the way you like it, then turn off heat and hold.
In the other pan, at the same time, put 1 tbs oil, then add the Tilapia.  Cook almost all the way through, then flip.  Turn off stove - the residual heat will cook the fish through.
Arrange Taco by placing one to two filets on warmed tortilla, add onions/peppers, squirt some lime juice on top and toss with cilantro

Grand Finale
Set out four plates.
Arrange Salad, Corns and Beans, assemble one (or two) tacos per plate

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Food Porn from Saveur Mag

Title pretty much says it all.  Basically this is food porn.  But good looking air brushed food porn.  Really good looking food porn.

To celebrate our 150th issue, we present this special collection: 150 fabulous, classic recipes from around the world; recipes that speak to the timelessness and scope that are the essence of SAVEUR

Spicy Peanut Noodles (not really plagiarized recipes)

Does anyone really buy cookbooks anymore?  Does anyone even use them?  I mean other than as eye candy for the living room table or to fill space on a bookshelf?  I certainly don't (at least very often).

Instead, it is the Internet.  Yes, thanks to Al Gore, we have the internet were all things live in a kind of matrix, waiting for us to explore.  Kind of crazy really.

Which brings us to today's recipe - Spicy Peanut Noodles.  Now the recipe below is not plagiarized  exactly.  Well sort of....borrow from one source it's plagiarism, borrow from two it is research, after all.....

Ok then.  I found this first at Pink-Parsley, via a link on Pulse and Food Republic.  Which of course gave the HT to Pinch of Yum, which collected it from FN Just Recipes, which got it off of Serious Eats  by an author who has her own blog at Once Upon a Chef, but cites no one.  Perhaps she is Al Gore...

So, this is really research, right?

Well, what it is is great.  Great made a number of ways, vegetarian or not.  It is easy to make vegetarian and them simply toss in cooked chicken or shrimp for those of us who miss it.  You can make it spicy, or not.  Also dirt simple to take to a pot luck - make it the night before in it's constituent pieces, bag them, refrigerate, then mix all together at the pot luck.  If you have different veggies  use them.  Pieces of spicy fried tofu would be a nice addition

Dressing Ingredients 
5 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs natural peanut butter (I like chunky)
2 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
1/2 Tbs honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Siracha or Sambal - use more if you like heat, less if you don't
1 tbs Sate Seasoning from Penzey's if you do not have the ginger and garlic on hand
1/3 cup peanuts - I use unsalted dry roasted

Salad Ingredients 
1 cup julienne red and yellow pepper.  Heck, why not just one red and one yellow (or orange or green or whatever you have)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed in a paper towel to remove excess moisture
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken breast or 1 lb cooked shrimp (cook in the same sauce above if you like)
8 oz. cooked soba noodles or linguine or rice noodles
2-3 Tbs minced fresh basil - thai basil prefered
2-3 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

For the dressing, combine all the ingredients (except peanuts) in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Add the peanuts, and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped.  Season with salt or crushed red pepper flakes to taste.  If you just want to whisk it together, that works also.  It does not bother me if the peanuts are whole

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the salad.  Pour the dressing over the top, and toss to combine.

Before serving, top with cilantro and basil, and sprinkle with additional red pepper flakes to taste.