Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pastore Orrechiette Pasta

Orrechiette is the Italian word for "little ears", and it certainly resembles them. I remember seeing these being handmade on an episode of Jamie Oliver's Great Italian Escape, it takes a fair amount of work and skill, I would say, as Jamie found out. These are particularly good for vegetable sauces. I found this one at Highland Farms, though I have seen these in other supermarkets.

Fairy's Tonic Kombucha Uplift

I recently had the opportunity to try one of the made in Toronto kombucha drinks from Fairy's Tonic, their no-added-flavour black tea-based Digestif, which I enjoyed. Being in The Big Carrot on the Danforth the other week, I found for sale this kombucha, which is a green tea-based kombucha with lemon. It is very similar to the kombucha flavour I prefer from Wonder Drink, their Himalaya, though the Himilaya has a stronger lemon flavour and has oolong tea rather than green tea. They are very similar in price (this one was about $7 for 500 mL, but you can get it cheaper directly from the source much cheaper, see her website). I would say that this is a very good drink, the better of the two from Fairy's Tonic, and something I could drink on a regular basis.

I'm still looking for the elderflower one, but this one is pretty good.

Thai Bananas in Syrup

This is a simple Thai dessert, bananas cooked in a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water). Simple, but it takes a while to prepare. The red limestone paste firms the banana flesh, so it's better able to handle the heat (and not turn to mush); you can also use white limestone paste, if you can't find the red one (both of which can be found in good Asian supermarkets). Choose not quite ripe bananas for this, more green in colour; don't, I repeat don't, use ripened bananas for this, otherwise it will just turn to mush. We estimated the amount of the simple syrup, adjust if you are using more bananas (or less). These bananas look reddish-brown when cooked like this, that's the caramelized sugar, and has nothing to do with the red limestone paste. They're quite tasty, and great if you have a sweet tooth.

Thai Bananas in Syrup
7 Thai bananas, ripe (green-yellow) to just ripe (yellow-green)
1/4 tsp red limestone paste
1 cup cane sugar
1 cup water
a pinch of salt

Peel bananas and cut into half, or thirds if very large. Place limestone paste in medium container of water, then put bananas in water, so they are covered. Keep in water for 15 minutes (green-yellow), 25 minutes if ripe (yellow-green).

Take bananas out of soak water, then rinse off limestone water. Put bananas, sugar and water in pot, and bring to boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to very low and continue to boil sugar for about 1 hour. Occasionally, stir the contents of the pot slowly by picking it up off the stove and swirling (be careful not to spill the hot sugar contents).

Elevate Me! Cocoa Coconut Cluster

This protein and fruit energy bar from PROSnack Natural Foods Inc. I've seen in several health food stores, at various prices (and I bought this one on sale at one place, and later found it at regular price for less at another - go figure), and it intrigued me, because of the combination of cacao and coconut. The bar contains 16 g protein (which it gets from whey protein isolate), 6 g of fiber and is a raw bar (not baked). The ingredient listing is as follows, whey protein isolate, dates, raisins (Organic), apples, cranberries (cranberries, cane sugar and sunflower oil), almonds, coconut (Organic) and cacao (Fair Trade and Organic).

How does it taste? I was pleased to see that, despite the two featured ingredients were also at the bottom of the list, the bar did taste of both, and less like the dates. There are 3 pieces in the bar. I would say, that if I was interested in increasing the amount of protein in my diet, and I wanted to pay the premium price for these kinds of bars, that this would be a good one.

Weil Chia Razz

This is the second of the pure fruit and nut bars from Andrew Weil (made by Nature's Gate). This one features chia seed (an ancient grain, and something I have incorporated into my diet), with raspberries and cashews. The main ingredient in this bar is dates (all ingredients save the chia seeds are Organic), followed by raisins, cashews, apples, raspberries, chia seeds, flavour and lemon juice concentrate.

How did it taste? Pretty good, though I tasted more of the dates, the raspberries were an underlying flavour. One thinks that one could make something like this at home.

Irresistibles Le Suisse Dark

Here what we have is very much an attempt at a Toblerone bar, save the pyramid shape (it is wedge-shaped) and its price ($1.29 vs $2.29). These are also made in Switzerland (le Suisse) and are dark chocolate (there are also a milk chocolate version), though it looks like the Toblerone bar has a higher cacao content (in this one, sugar is the first ingredient; in the Toblerone, unsweetened chocolate is - though there is no indication of cacao content in either). The ingredient listing otherwise looks okay, sugar, chocolate liquor, cocao butter, honey, almonds, soy lecithin, dried egg-white and natural flavour (both have honey, though the Toblerone looks to use more sugar than honey).

How does it taste? Well, good, but if you are a Toblerone fan, this one won't win you away. And it didn't win me away either.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Spaghetti with Nam Prik Pao

This recipe is kind of a farang( like lao wai in Chinese - white devil) Pad Thai recipe, in that it has most of the usual ingredients of Pad Thai, but it uses the Thai nam prik pao, or roasted chili paste, instead of the tamarind sauce. It also uses spaghetti, a Westerner ingredient (Pad Thai normally uses rice noodles), and carrots and zucchini instead of chives and bean sprouts. We used the vegetarian version of nam prik pao, which doesn't have shallots or garlic (which are "hot" vegetables; in other words, stimulating - so, if you are making this dish for a Buddhist vegetarian, you wouldn't make it with the garlic, nor the shrimp) and no dried shrimp or shrimp paste, instead it uses soy sauce, soy protein, fermented bean and shiitake mushroom; either one is acceptable. This is a somewhat spicy dish, depending on how much of the nam prik pao you add. So saying, it tastes pretty good, a Thai influenced dish.

Spaghetti with Nam Prik Pao
1-1/2 cup cooked spaghetti
vegetable oil
1/4 cup diced extra-firm tofu
2" carrot, sliced
2" zucchini, sliced
1 clove garlic
6 prawns
2 Tbsp nam prik pao
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp lime juice
1 egg
3 green onions, sliced into long strips

Cook spaghetti as per package directions.

Fry tofu in oil over medium heat until brown. Set aside.

Fry carrot and zucchini slices in a little of oil until almost soft, then add prawns and garlic. When the prawns are cooked, set aside with the fried tofu.

Fry the nam prik pao in 2 tablespoons of oil for about 30-60 seconds, then add noodles, sugar, lime juice, fish sauce; stir to mix.

Make a big hole in the middle (push the noodles to the edge of the wok) and add 2 tablespoons of oil, and then crack in the egg. Stir to break the egg yolk and leave it until the egg is almost cooked, but still a little liquidy.

Fold in the noodle over the cooked egg, and add the tofu mixture and stir to mix everything.

Lindt Caffarel

These were the latest batch of interesting, and made with hazelnuts, individual chocolates from Lindt.

This Caffarel is an authentic Gianduja in the style of Torino. It appears to be a milk chocolate hazelnut. Quite tasty.

This Caffarel is called Antica Ricetta; it is a Gianduia, and appears to be dark chocolate. Also quite tasty.

This Caffarel is a Nocciolotto, which is a chocolate Gianduia, milk chocolate with whole hazelnuts. Also tasty.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Zen Tea San Qi Flower Tea

Oddly enough, I think that I have answered my own question, to this posting. It turns out that those were San Qui flowers, also called Notoginseng. The taste that I had gotten from that previous tea, was, of course, ginseng. It still tastes sweet and good. Notoginseng is a herb whose properties help invigorate and build blood. This tea comes from King's Zen Tea; they sell a number of green, white and black and herbal teas.

Sweet Limes

These were labelled with the little tag as SweetLimes. Don't know what they're about. They were definitely sweet inside, not sour. And yellowish outside. And, they have seeds, which limes don't have, so they must be a cross with another fruit.

Macoun Apples

A Christmas gift at work, Macoun apples (sometimes pronounced McCowan) are a cross between Macintosh apples and Jersey Black varieties (the Jersey Black is an old variety of apple, from the early 1800s, its skin is very dark red, almost black). Interestingly, the Macoun was crossed with another hybrid apple; from the two came the now popular Honeycrisp variety. These particular Macoun apples were a recent winner at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. They tasted like very good Macintosh apples; so saying, good tasting apples.

WaterBridge Belgian Extra Dark

I've seen these at Walmart for sale, and thought to buy this new version of their large Belgian chocolate bars (400 g). I have tried both their Dark and Hazelnut ones, both of which were not bad. This is the Extra Dark version, at 72% cacao content. The ingredient listing looks good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa powder and soy lecithin.

How did it taste? Pretty good, not too chalky, snaps well and smells a little fruity; it leaves a good aftertaste. The bar itself is quite large, and each individual piece is also thick and large (so beware, if you want to bite through two pieces). I think this is a pleasant bar that could be enjoyed now and again. So saying, I admit that it stayed in my cupboard a little longer than I would other pieces, mostly because it is very large, but then there are so many different chocolate bars to try!

President's Choice Whole Wheat Hazelnut Cantuccini Mini Biscotti

I like the idea of this twice-baked cookie (which is what biscotti means) having whole wheat, a healthier version of this treat. It also has honey in it, another good ingredient, as well as butter. The hazelnuts were whole before the individual pieces were sliced. These taste pretty good, not too sweet, and with good hazelnut flavour. I would say, that I would eat these again, and it gives me an idea to make my own version.

Unusual Russet Apples

Well, unusual in the sense that they are Organic. Russets are normally hard to come by, as a lot of apple growers just don't grow them, perhaps because of limited demand, and they have such a short season. These being organic, I'd think that there would be an even smaller supply of them. Well, they tasted great!

Eisiti Chinese Herbal Drink

I like trying new things, and occasionally there are new interesting things for sale in the Chinese supermarkets. Having tried a sample of this, I thought it tasted pretty good, kind of like licorice (and I found out later, one of the ingredients is Glycyrrhizin, which comes from licorice root). The herbal drink, which has been made for many years in China, I don't know the properties or effects, and the main ingredient is Ageratum (which, in searching the 'Net, might help with summer colds).

Green & Black's Hazelnut Chocolate Spread

I like a fair few of Green & Black's chocolate bars, and also like Nutella (as you might have guessed), so recently given the opportunity, this being on sale (it's much more expensive than Nutella, but worth it), I decided to try it finally. Comparing the ingredients, Green & Black's uses sunflower instead of palm oil, and palm fat and soy powder instead of whey powder; otherwise they are the same (the actual percentages could be different, certainly, and only Green & Black's states that the hazelnut content is 10%).

How did it taste? Which do I prefer? Well, no clear winner, though I do like the Green & Black's very much, the hazelnuts taste as if they might have been toasted, and the hazelnut taste is definitely there, strong and good. Given that the Green & Black's is much more expensive, I don't think I will be buying it as often as Nutella, but now that I know how it tastes, I definitely will be purchasing it when it's on sale.

Crofter's Organic Pomegranate Jelly

I'm not really a fan of jelly, I'm a jam fellow, but I am starting to enjoy pomegranates, not only for their flavour, but also for their healthfulness; they are high in antioxidants. So saying, it'd be hard to create a jam out of pomegranates, they're mostly seed with a little bit of juicy flesh around them; better a jelly. The ingredient listing looks good, pomegranate juice from concentrate, golden sugar, pomegranate juice, fruit pectin and citric acid.

How did it taste? Well, I'm still a jam fellow, I would say, this hasn't convinced me to join the jelly supporters, and the pomegranate is not as flavourful or tasty as eating the raw fruit. But, it's still a good spread that I could enjoy occasionally.

Slivered Lamb with Ginger

This recipe originally called for mutton (in other words, sheep meat), but I substituted sliced lamb shoulder (which you can find in most Chinese supermarkets; it is normally used for making hot pot). It also originally called for young ginger, a form of the ginger you would normally use, just picked earlier - it's milder in flavour. I found this to be a tasty dish, the lamb and the ginger paired well with the pepper; it was rather rich, though, and I think that I could only eat so much of it at a time. I like ginger, so this amount of ginger, which might seem like a lot, makes for good flavour. I also found it to be a little salty, so you might tone down the added salt; remember that soy sauce is also salty.

Slivered Lamb with Ginger
700 g lean boneless mutton
4 tsp rice wine
1 tsp salt
5 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sliced garlic
50-75 g ginger
1 tsp sweet fermented yellow bean sauce
2 medium green or red or yellow or orange pepper, halved and seeded
2 tsp dissolved cornstarch (corn flour) dissolved in 1 tsp water
2 tsp soy sauce

Cut the mutton into fine slivers and mix with the rice wine and salt. Cut the tender ginger and green pepper into slivers. Mix together the cornstarch-water and soy sauce. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok to very hot, or until the oil surface ripples. Add the green pepper and stir-fry until they start to wilt. Remove and drain. Add the lamb slivers and stir-fry a few moments. Add the ginger, green pepper, and garlic shoots, Stir-fry several times. Stir in the sweet bean sauce. Stir the cornstarch sauce and add, cooking, stirring until thickened. Remove and serve.

Late July Dark Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

I have seen these cookies in various health food stores, and decided to finally try them (being on sale). They have several flavours of sandwich cookies, this one we picked out, as it is supposed to be dark chocolate. Late July's cookies are a better, more nutritious version of a sandwich cookie, they contain whole grains and antioxidants, produced without pesticides or trans fats or high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavours, colours or preservatives; a lot of their ingredients are organic as well. So saying, a lot of the ingredients are what give commercial sandwich cookies flavour, so how did these taste? Pretty good, I enjoyed them, as well did my beautiful Bride (who liked their crispiness). They were definitely thinner than most sandwich cookies I've eaten in my day, but I didn't miss the thickness. The only nice thing that I would like, is that they were cheaper.

President's Choice European Dark Chocolate

The second of two of the President's Choice Organics chocolate bars, the other was Raisins and Hazelnuts (they were on sale for $2.50 each). This is a straight chocolate bar, dark chocolate, with 70% cacao content. The ingredient listing looks good, all organic ingredients, unsweetened chocolate, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and vanilla extract.

How did it taste? Not bad, snaps well and smells fruity. Though, I found it to be a little chalky when eating, and thus wouldn't choose this to eat on a regular basis.

BottleGreen Elderflower Cordial

The normal elderflower drink I go to often, and enjoy very much, it's for sale at a lot of supermarkets, is by BottleGreen in the UK. We normally drink the Pressé form; this is the Cordial, or concentrated, form. Add sparkling or still water to the cordial, and you get the Pressé. This 500 mL bottle makes 6.5 L of elderflower drink. I find the Pressé version better tasting, perhaps it's the water I have diluted it; too, I found I like it sparkling, rather than still (which tastes to me like just sugar in water; somehow the bubbles add flavour). This is definitely cheaper than the Belvoir one. BottleGreen has a wide range of flavours, only some of which are available here in Canada (for example, they have a Russet Apple and Blackberry Cordial that I definitely would like to try, being a fan of russets - they also have two more in that range, Cox's apple and Plum and William's Pear and Elderflower, both of which also sound interesting). Tasting the cordial straight, it is a more intense elderflower flavour, quite good.

Dove Almond Dark

My beautiful Bride likes dark chocolate with nuts, and especially with almonds. This bar from Mar is a dark bar, at 60% cacao content, though is more correctly a mixture of dark and milk chocolate. The ingredient listing, when broken down, is okay, dark chocolate (sugar, cocoa mass, milk ingredients, soy lecithin, cocoa powder, flavour, artificial flavour), milk chocolate (sugar, milk ingredients, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, lactose, soy lecithin, cocoa powder, artificial flavour), almonds, sunflower oil. The packaging is different than previous Dove bars, there are three individual portions, good for a single serving.

How did it taste? Not bad, though I don't particularly care for the ingredients. The almonds were small pieces, and my beautiful Bride thought it would be better with whole almonds. I don't think that I would buy this bar again.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Verkade Puur

The second bar I got from the Netherlands chocolatier Verkade is a pure Dark chocolate, though at only 55% cacao content. The ingredient listing is not bad, sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter and soya lecithin.

How does it taste? I prefer the Hazelnoot one over this, but, so saying, I did like this. It is sweet for a dark bar, but the bar snapped well and tasted good. I think I would eat this bar again, if I were in the Netherlands.

Verkade Hazelnoot

My boss had occasion to be in the Netherlands for a little while, and he kindly bought me a couple of large Dutch chocolate bars, one Dark and one Milk with Hazelnut. Verkade has been making chocolate since 1886; these bars were around everywhere he looked, so I would guess they are popular. This is a milk chocolate, as such the ingredient listing is not great, sugar, 25% hazelnuts, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, soya lecithin and natural vanilla flavour. This is a Fair Trade product.

How does it taste? Fairly good; the hazelnuts are quite big and tasty and fresh. I find it sweet, but kind of a honey sweet. I'm intrigued as to whether there is a Dark Hazelnut or other nut version. If I were in the Netherlands, I think I would try this bar again.

Celeriac Puree

I got this recipe off of Alton Brown's show (and oddly enough, it repeated again just three days after I made this recipe. having seen it first last year) as I was looking for another way to enjoy celeriac. I like the taste of celery root, but not celery so much, though they do taste similar. And this makes something akin to mashed potatoes, with the taste of celery, nutty and good. I toned down Alton's recipe, otherwise I'd have made a ton of this, as his calls for 2 or 3 celeriac heads. Tasty, and a good alternative to mashed potatoes. No picture, couldn't think of a way of making this interesting looking.

Celeriac Puree
1 medium head celeriac, approximately 1 pound
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups water
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 cup heavy cream

Brush excess dirt off of the celeriac. Cut off the bottoms and tops, cut into quarters and peel. Rinse in cool water if there is any remaining dirt or debris. Cut into 1/2-inch thick dice.

Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over low heat just until it shimmers. Add the celeriac, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, just until it begins to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the water. Bring to a boil and cook until the celeriac is tender and easily pierced with a fork, approximately 20 minutes. Drain the celeriac through a colander and return to the pot. Using a stick blender, puree until no lumps are present, approximately 1 minute. Place the butter and heavy cream into a microwave proof bowl and heat just until the butter is melted, approximately 45 seconds. Add the cream and butter and continue to puree with the stick blender for another minute. Serve warm.

HK Anderson Braided Twists Honey Wheat

The second of two pretzels from the Lancaster Pennsylvania baker HK Anderson I tried, having found these in a Chinese supermarket, is a more traditional tasting pretzel, though it is also less traditional, in that is comes in the form of braided twists; some three normal stick pretzels are twisted to make one large pretzel. They taste like pretzels should, pretty good.

Jjajangmyun (Noodles with blackbean sauce)

This is a vegetarian version of the dish I've enjoyed several times at Korean restaurants; there they serve it mostly with a little bit of pork. You can also try pork belly or chicken or shrimp, just stir-fry the meat in the first step in place of the mushrooms. This makes a thick chunky sauce; the restaurant version is thinner and definitely less chunky. Still delicious, though.

Jjajangmyun (Noodles with blackbean sauce)
Noodles (myun or other)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup fresh mushrooms (diced into 1/2 inch cubes)
7 Tbsp black bean paste
1 cup Asian radish (diced into 1/2 inch cubes)
1 cup sweet potato (diced into 1/2 inch cubes)
1 cup zucchini (diced into 1/2 inch cubes)
2 cups onion (diced into 1/2 inch cubes)
2-3 Tbsp potato or corn starch
1 Tbsp sugar
sesame oil, for drizzling
cucumber, diced small

Heat a small skillet over medium heat with 2 tbs of vegetable oil. Fry mushrooms for 2 minutes, until cooked. Then add black bean paste and stir fry for 1 minute; set aside.

Cook radish and sweet potato in a wok over medium high heat in olive oil and saute for 2 minutes. Then add zucchini and onion and saute for another 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of water, close the lid and boil it for 15-20 minutes.

Open the lid of the wok and skim off the foam from the surface. When the vegetables are cooked, add the fried mushroom and black bean paste from the small skillet and stir it up.

Mix potato starch powder (or corn starch) with 2 tablespoons water and add it into the boiling soup and stir it. then the soup ill turn into a sticky sauce. Add 1 tbs sugar to the sauce and stir.

Cook noodles faccording to the direction on the package.

Reheat the jjajang sauce and put it over the noodles.

Oasis Nature's Collection Red Orange Pomegranate Cranberry

Alassonde is a company with several fruit juice brand names, including Oasis, Allen's, Everfresh, Fairlee, Fruité, and Graves, you might have seen some or all of these in most grocery stores. This is a new product from Oasis, and because I like blood orange, I decided to try it. This is a fruit juice mixture, thus it has mostly apple or grape juice, along with orange, blood orange, pomegranate, elderberry and cranberry juice. The juice is opaque and a little chalky tasting, but not bad. I couldn't really discern each of the three, or any individual juice, though overall it was a pleasant drink. I might try this one again sometime.

Source Salba Soft and Chewy Blueberry Ancient Grain Bars

I like the ancient grain chia seed (used by Aztecs for energy and as food), and use it often in my morning cereal, Salba is a company which sells chia as a health food. They have also created several food products using their white chia seed, including this bar, which is a mixture of their chia seed, oats, wheat flakes, blueberries & almonds all bound together with honey. To me, it has the taste and consistency of a rice krispie bar (made with marshmallows), the blueberries were few and far between and small and dried, and I find the whole bar a little sweet. It's not bad, but not something I would enjoy on a regular basis.

Belvoir Fruit Farms Elderflower Pressé

As I have said before, I like the taste of elderflower, and was excited to see this for sale, it's normally about $7 per bottle at health food stores. Pressé is a gentle carbonated slightly sweetened beverage, similar in concept to pop, but better (no added colours, flavours, artificial sweeteners or preservatives) - which is why they assert that this is 100% good; they also sell a cordial form, which is a concentrated version, which you then dilute with your own still or sparkling water. Belvoir Fruit Farms is a British Farm that grows most of their own raw materials; they use their own spring water in this. Belvoir has a number of different flavours available with different fruit and flower combinations. How did this taste? Well, good, refreshing, with great elderflower flavour. I'd drink something like this on a regular basis, certainly I'm interested in the cordial version of elderflower, if it was more easily available and less expensive. It also tugs at the idea in the back of my mind, that I'd like to make my own.