Saturday, October 31, 2009

IPAC Easy Glide Frying Pans

I had long read about the effects of teflon coated non-stick cookware, and how it exuded a toxic gas once scratched (really, just throw them away if the become scratched), but there wasn't really a non-stick alternative. Until I recently came across this alternative, which is a ceramic based, PTFE and PFOA Free (what makes the teflon kind potentially bad). It is tougher than teflon, so it should as well last longer and be more resistant to scratches (always bad in terms of making the food burn in that spot). The pans, and I say pans, as I bought a large one and later a smaller one of the same manufacturer, are definitely non-stick, cook fairly well, are high heat resistant (up to 160C/320F, including the silicon handle), and are a breeze to clean. Both these pans were under $30, more expensive than the teflon ones, certainly, but worth the money. Now, if we can only get Jamie Oliver to switch over to ceramic non-stick cookware.

HK Anderson Pretzel Bites Honey Mustard

HK Anderson has been making pretzels since 1888 in Lancaster Pennsylvania, though, oddly enough, I found this in a Chinese supermarket. I have enjoyed honey mustard pretzel bites, bought at Bulk Barn, and these are fairly similar. The pretzels are the dry pretzels, and the honey mustard is not strong nor overwhelming, a good version of these, though I don't know if I could regularly find this product anywhere in the Mississauga area.

S&P Glutinous Rice with Durian in Coconut Cream

Another of the frozen desserts from S&P attempting to duplicate popular Thai desserts, I found this one to be very tasty. The durian was actually good tasting, and a fair amount of it as well. The combination of the glutinous rice, with coconut cream and sugar worked well. I definitely would like to make this myself.

IKEA Food Choklad Mörk - Dark Chocolate

This is the second of the three chocolate bars from IKEA that I tried (I didn't try their milk chocolate bar, and likely won't - the other one is Hazelnut Chocolate); it's a dark chocolate bar, at 60% cacao content. The ingredient listing looks good, cocoa mass, sugar, fat reduced cocoa powder, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and flavouring. This is also produced in Germany for IKEA, and it also has an IKEA number (I guess all their products do, but I just find it odd on a chocolate bar - that's me!).

How did it taste? This one I didn't like as much as the Hazelnut chocolate, as it was chalky tasting, also sweeter and fruitier than the Hazelnut. It smelled not quite so good, odd, but snapped fairly well. Well not bad for the price, it too cost $1 for a 100 g bar; cheap, but not really worth buying again.

IKEA Food Choklad Nöt - Hazelnut Chocolate

I had seen these chocolate bars in IKEA before (they have Milk Chocolate, Hazelnut Chocolate and Dark Chocolate), they appeared, I believe, in the last year or so, but it was only in the last month that I decided to finally try them. If you find it odd that a Swedish furniture store has food items, I would say that their restaurant is a prime feature of the IKEA experience; we ate there as well and enjoyed what we got. I chose this Hazelnut Chocolate bar despite it being milk chocolate (which I avoid), obviously because of the hazelnuts. The ingredient listing is typical for a milk chocolate bar, sugar, cocoa butter, hazelnuts (12%), whole milk powder, cocoa mass, sweet whey powder, lactose, skim milk powder, butterfat, soy lecithin and flavouring. The cacao content is at 30%. This is German made for IKEA, and I like that it has it's own IKEA number (as you'd see on the furniture).

How did it taste? Actually, I was pleasantly surprised that I liked this bar. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to give up my dark chocolate for this, but the relatively high percentage of hazelnuts more than compensated for the milk chocolate flavour; in other words, the hazelnut flavour was strong and good (though not whole hazelnuts, they were pretty large pieces). I might just buy this again the odd time, especially for the $1 it cost me.

New Zealand Spring Lamb - Moroccan Lamb

Having tried the Lamb Korma version of their ready-made product, I next tried their Moroccan lamb (which flavours I've enjoyed before). There is a Thai Lamb Curry that I didn't purchase, as it's not a dish that is familiar to my beautiful Bride, she says that lamb is not that popular in Thailand. Again I put both portions onto jasmine rice, microwaved it, and enjoyed the smell and flavour of the dish, better than the Lamb Korma (though it and the other prompted me to try and find one I could make myself). I have not seen this product in Loblaws since I purchased it, maybe an indication of its appeal.

Herbaria Elder Flowers Tea

I bought and tried, and enjoyed, Herbaria's Linden Flowers Tea, but this is the tea that I was actually looking for and thought I had bought. I have enjoyed Elderflower champagne, and sugary Elderflower drink, so I was intrigued to try to see if this tea could extend my enjoyment of this flower. From what I've read, elderflowers are normally used to make cordials, the sugary drink I mentioned, so this might be an unusual way of using elderflowers. From what I've also read, using it as a tea could help boost your immune system, soothe the respiratory tract, reduce fever and stimulate circulation (perhaps all good things in this flu season). When I did come to tasting it, I must say I liked it, and continue to enjoy it, but it didn't remind me of any of the elderflower I had drunk before. Well, similar, but different than the rest.

Kashi Soft-baked Cereal Bars - Ripe Strawberry

I came across this new offering from Kashi (it's so new it's not on the Canadian website, I had to go to the US one to find out more about it) in Loblaws; I like their granola bars, so I thought I'd give this a try (six bars cost $3). They also had Apple Cinnamon and Blackberry ones. The main ingredient in this is the strawberry filling, which is a mixture of strawberry puree concentrate with some sugar, cornstarch and pear juice concentrate and apple powder; surrounding this is their signature seven whole grain and sesame blend. This reminds me very much of Voortman's turnover cookies, they were very soft and crumbly, and, well, small (still, 120 calories for a 35 g bar). The strawberry filling was sweet and strawberry, but it didn't evoke in me the sense of ripe strawberries. I think I still prefer their granola bars.

New Zealand Spring Lamb - Lamb Korma

New Zealand is well known for producing Spring Lamb, a meat I have enjoyed on many occasions, but this is the first time I've seen lamb in a ready-made not-frozen product. Inside the box is a special fresh-seal pouch which keeps the lamb from spoiling, there are no added preservatives (I would say fresh is still far better, but so far I had kept an open mind). Opening the pouch and sliding the contents on to some white jasmine rice reveals a not-so-bad looking still tasty looking mound of meat and vegetables (though nothing like the box - I would guess that's what it looks like before it goes in the pouch), similar to if you had made it and stored it in the fridge. The box said two portions, but I would be eating very light if I took that advice, but I guess if you added side dishes, then it could be shared amongst two (ah well, my beautiful Bride doesn't like the lamb, so no need to divide). Heating it up in a microwave caused it to actually smell good and it did taste fairly good and filled me up, though again, it left me wanting for a fresh-cooked version.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fried Eggs With Mushrooms And Yellow Chives

Here's a recipe that uses Yellow Chives. Yellow chives are milder in flavour than green chives (their colour is yellow as they don't get sun exposure), but still good tasting. The combination of chives and eggs is one I like, add to this the taste of white beech mushrooms, or one could use Enoki or any other good mushroom, and you got a good lunch or as part of a main meal. Serve over hot jasmine rice.

Fried Eggs With Mushrooms And Yellow Chives
6 Large Eggs
100 g White Beech Mushroom
20 g Yellow Chives, cut into 1 inch length
2 Scallions, sliced
1 Red Chili, sliced
Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3 Tbsp Peanut Oil

Beat the eggs together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Clean and trim the mushrooms.

Add peanut oil in a wok and heat over high flame until smoking. Pour in the egg mixture. As soon as the egg has formed a skin over the base of the wok, add the mushrooms. Then wait until the egg is half-cooked and mix everything together. Stir-fry gently until the egg and mushrooms are cooked. (Don't overcook the egg: it should remain light and fluffy.) Toss in the scallions, stir once or twice and then tip into a serving dish.

Thailand Ginger

We came across this ginger from Thailand, which, as far as we can tell, is only a little different than the ginger from China. I find that the skin is darker than the Chinese ginger, and it smells a little more fragrant (so perhaps it's a little bit stronger in flavour). Thailand is in the top 10 of world ginger producers, though far behind China and the world leader India.

Yellow or Golden Chives

Yellow chives or Golden chives are exactly the same plant as the green Chinese garlic chives you see for sale in Chinese supermarkets, they are just grown without direct exposure to sunlight, thus the leaves are yellow instead of green. This also results in a milder flavour, more onion-y than garlicky. Where can you use them? Most anyplace that you can use the green Chinese chives. I've enjoyed green Chinese chives as part of an omelette, as part of a filling in Chinese dumplings (Jiaozi), and in stir-fries. And, of course, Pad Thai (but don't substitute the yellows ones in that dish, you need the flavour of the green ones).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

100% Georgian Mulberry Juice

Along with the Wild Plum Juice was this 100% Mulberry Juice, made from Georgian mulberries (the country, not the state). There was a mulberry tree down the road from where I live, but I never was intrigued to eat any. Mulberries look weird to me, elongated blackberries, kind of reddish-black. Tasting them now, I see that I might have missed something good. It tastes sweet and sour, very similar to that wild plum juice, but different. I don't know that it'd become my favourite, and my beautiful Bride thinks it and the other tastes like how they prepare juice for wine, but it's good, and a different treat than the ubiquitous apple or orange or grape juice. This, like the other, has no preservatives, no artificial colours and no artificial flavours, though there is a little added sugar.

Koleff Dark Chocolate

I came across this chocolate bar from the Bulgarian chocolatier Koleff in a Dollar store, so I didn't have high hopes for its quality. The cacoa content is at 72%, the high end of their XXI line of chocolate bars. The ingredient listing is not great, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, vegetable fat (the not so good ingredient), soy lecithin and vanillin.

How did it taste? This tasted much better than the previous Dollar store acquisition, despite the suspect ingredient of vegetable fat. It's a decent dark chocolate bar, with some good flavour. Despite that, I don't think I would buy this bar again.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Baron Excellent Dark Chocolate

I don't know what I would expect from a Dollar store, certainly my hopes for an excellent dark chocolate bar could not possibly be fulfilled. This bar from the Polish chocolatier Baron contains 70% cacao content, and its ingredient listing is good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa powder, soy lecithin and E476 as emulsifiers, and flavouring.

How did it taste? Well, I'm glad I didn't pay more than the dollar I did. Not bad, though a little chalky and ultimately not something I wanted the taste to linger for very long in my mouth. Definitely, not excellent.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Divine Mint Dark Chocolate

The UK chocolatier Divine Chocolate Ltd. uses Fair Trade chocolate from a cooperative of cacao farmers in Ghana, called Kuapa Kokoo. Unlike the straight chocolate bar, this one is flavoured with mint, both as a peppermint crisp (mint-sugar) and as a peppermint oil. The cacao content is at 70% and the ingredient listing looks good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, peppermint crisp (5% - sugar and peppermint oil) soya lecithin, peppermint oil and vanilla (all but the peppermint oil Fair Trade).

How did it taste? The mint flavour is definitely there, and it pairs well with the dark chocolate, and I liked the pairing of the two flavours, but I found the peppermint crisp disconcerting (it felt like I was eating crunchy sugar bits - which is what it is, but I don't think it's really needed - just the peppermint oil is good enough). This was bought at a health food store for about $3. I don't know if I would buy this bar again.

Divine Dark Chocolate

The UK chocolatier Divine Chocolate Ltd. uses Fair Trade chocolate from a cooperative of cacao farmers in Ghana, called Kuapa Kokoo. These are as well shade-grown cacao beans from small individually run farms. This is a UK company, but it also says it is produced in Germany. The cacao content is at 70% and the ingredient listing looks good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin and vanilla (all Fair Trade).

How did it taste? Pretty good, a fair indicator of how good their chocolate is and tastes (I always have said that the signature bar for any chocolatier, showcasing their chocolate, is their no-extra-flavours-added bar). I would say that this is the best bar made from Ghana cacao beans I have tasted. This was bought at a health food store for about $3.

Jamie Oliver's Butternut Squash Muffins without the Frosty Top

I like this recipe because it has butternut squash in it, and I had seen it before on Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home (and oddly enough, saw it again today, after making it). It is fairly easy to make, probably the hardest part is cutting up the butternut squash (though you can get it frozen), but I must say that I definitely need a new food processor, mine is way too small to make this, except in quarter-batches; instead, after I blitzed the squash, I put everything into a stand mixer and finished mixing. This is supposed to make enough for 12 muffins, though I got 18 out. They tasted excellent, and sweet enough, that I felt that I didn't need the Frosty Top (with soured cream and sugar) to enjoy. And enjoy it we did. For the whole recipe, with the frosty top, you can find it here.

Jamie Oliver's Butternut Squash Muffins without the Frosty Top
400 g butternut squash, skin on, deseeded and roughly chopped
350 g light soft brown sugar
4 large free-range or organic eggs
sea salt
300 g plain flour, unsifted
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
a handful of walnuts (we omitted this)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
175 ml extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line your muffin pan with paper cases.

Whiz the squash in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the sugar, and crack in the eggs. Add a pinch of salt, the flour, baking powder, walnuts, cinnamon and olive oil and whiz together until well beaten. You may need to pause the machine at some point to scrape the mix down the sides with a rubber spatula. Try not to overdo it with the mixing – you want to just combine everything and no more.

Fill the paper cases with the cake mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Check to see whether they are cooked properly by sticking a wooden skewer or a knife right into one of the cakes – if it comes out clean, they’re done. If it’s a bit sticky, pop them back into the oven for a little longer. Remove from the oven and leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

100% Georgian Wild Plum Juice

I came across this at Highland Farms, it is 100% juice from wild plums from Georgia (not the one in the U.S., rather the one in the Former Soviet Union). I like plum juice, and have fond memories of plum juice my mother made from plums from our backyard (small yellow-blue plums - I don't know the kind, and it's long since gone). So, I was pleased that this juice tastes as good as I remember plum juice tasting. I went and bought another bottle (they are $4) and probably will go back and buy another. They also have different kinds of juice (blackberry, quince, mulberry, others). This is almost 100% juice with no preservatives, though there is added sugar.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fairy's Tonic Kombucha - Digestif

I enjoy kombucha for its flavour mostly (kind of a bubbly not-sour vinegar which reminds me of elderflower wine), and as a health benefit second (lots of benefits, see some of my other kombucha postings), so I was pleased to find a local source for kombucha tea (local meaning made and sold in Toronto - though I hear that it just might be sold soon in Mississauga, that would be great).

I am talking about Fairy's Tonic made in Toronto by a lady named Zoey (whose mother, I read, is Ruth of Ruth's Hemp Foods) and sold in various health food stores in and around Toronto (see her website for a listing of stores, but I bought it at Essence of Life in Kensington Market).

The one I got was the one labelled Digestif with a green label (there are two others - Yellow/Uplift and Red/Revive; the three varieties are a light version, a more concentrated one and a ginger flavour, but I don't know which is which - okay, this isn't the ginger one) which is a straight kombucha made from black tea (ie. with no added flavours or ingredients). It comes in a 500 mL bottle (which I later read is for four servings - here I had drunk half of it in one serving already!). The couple I bought cost $6 each, though you can get it cheaper directly from her ($70 for a case of 12x500 mL, but if you buy it in gallon jugs, it's $38; check the website for current prices).

Normally, I don't care for black tea, and the Wonder Drink ones that I had tried before, and enjoyed, were all made with green tea. But, this one didn't taste of black tea, or what I don't like in black tea, and was quite good and refreshing, probably the best kombucha I had tasted so far. I know Wonder Drink is pasteurized, though I don't know if Fairy's Tonic is (other than her website saying Live and the bottle saying Live Brew; meaning live fermenting organisms).

One of the things I am interested in, is making my own kombucha, and I found out that Zoey sells a homebrewing kit that includes a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) from her own line as well as a 40-minute hands-on workshop to explain the brewing stages (contact Zoey for one-on-one and group prices).

If Zoey is taking requests, I would like to see one similar to the Himalayan Wonder Drink and one with Elderflowers.