Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trumpf Gourmet Dark Chocolate with Mint

This chocolate bar from the German chocolatier Trumpf has 74% cacao content and features mint flavouring. The ingredient listing looks good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa powder, mint crunch (sugar, cocoa butter and peppermint oil), soya lecithin and flavouring.

How did it taste? I didn't and don't care for the peppermint crunch, but this was fairly good chocolate, and I occasionally like mint with my chocolate. I don't think I would buy this bar again.

Kashi Raspberry Chocolate Granola Bar

This is the other new flavour of granola bar by Kashi, this one features raspberry puree along with the dates mixed with chocolate layer. The bar, like the Dark Chocolate Coconut one, is shorter yet taller than the normal granola bars. This bar I liked better than the Dark Chocolate Coconut, the raspberry flavour is quite good and pairs well with the chocolate. My beautiful Bride agrees. I think I would buy this again.

Kashi Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola Bar

Kashi makes some pretty good tasting granola bars with their sevn whole grain blend, this is one of their new flavours that I recently found at Loblaws. The bar is shorter than their previous versions (which my Beautiful Bride pointed out to me); on the other hand, it is taller, with the chocolate layer and the coconut and walnuts. I was a little disconcerted by the graininess of the chocolate, I thought it was badly tempered chocolate perhaps, but it appears that there are dates mixed in with the chocolate. The walnuts are small pieces and the coconut flakes on the top provide little if any added flavour. Overall, this is an okay bar, I still prefer their Dark Chocolate and Cherry one.

Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds

This bar from Endangered Species features the Gray Wolf, an animal that is thought, incorrectly, to prey on farmer's livestock and is thus hunted and/or killed. They are also threatened by human encroachment which leads to habitat and prey loss. The Gray Wolf is making somewhat of a comeback in the United States. The bar itself features cranberries and almonds, and is a Dark chocolate, at 72% cacao content.

How did it taste? The chocolate was pretty good, up to Endangered Species standards, but the almonds were very small (really almost non-existent in flavour and texture); the cranberries were not bad. This is a bar that I would not choose again.

Weil Pistachi-Oh!

This fruit and nut bar is by far the best tasting of the three that I tried by Weil (the others are Goji Moji and Chia Razz); the taste of pistachios is strong and great, one of my favourite nuts. Like the other bars, the main ingredient in this bar is dates (all ingredients are Organic), followed by cashews, pistachios, dried unsweetened coconut, flavour and lemon juice concentrate. I think I would buy this bar again.

Next Organics Dark Chocolate Bananas

I like the taste of banana and chocolate together, but don't like crunchy bananas, I hoped this offering from Tropical Valley Foods would live up to the hype on the packaging, that these would be better tasting fruit surrounded by chocolate. The ingredient listing, all Organic, looks good, bananas and dark chocolate coating (evaporated cane juice, chocolate liquor, cacao butter, soy lecithin and pure vanilla).

How did they taste? Pretty good, though it was still odd tasting "fruit leather" bananas (but still better than crunchy ones!), and the chocolate was not the best chocolate. I don't think that I will buy these again.

Elevate Me! Espresso Coconut Crunch

This protein and fruit energy bar from PROSnack Natural Foods Inc. I liked better than the Cocoa Coconut Cluster I tried earlier, it has the taste of coffee beans, or espresso, paired with the chocolate. The ingredient listing of the two are almost identical, this one's is whey protein isolate, dates, raisins (Organic), apples, almonds, cranberries (cranberries, cane sugar and sunflower oil), cacao (Fair Trade and Organic) and coffee beans (Fair Trade and Organic). I'm still not convinced of the wonderfulness of coffee and chocolate as a flavour pair, but this bar was pretty good, despite its high price.

Scallops with Black Bean Sauce

We got this recipe from a Chinese cookbook we have, with fairly good recipes; this one seemed interesting, as it has the salted, fermented black beans I've tried in other recipes. It turned out fairly salty, but still interesting enough. The next day, my beautiful Bride stir-fried it with some Chinese greens to make it taste better.

Scallops with Black Bean Sauce
1 kg large scallops
2 Tbsp salted, fermented black beans, rinsed and mashed
3 tsp finely chopped ginger
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp oil
2 spring onions, cut into 2 cm lengths

Slice the small, hard white muscle off the side of each scallop and pull off any membrane. Rinse the scallop and drain.

Place the black beans, garlic, ginger, sugar, light soy sauce and oyster sauce in a bowl; mix well.

Heat a wok over high heat, add the oil and heat until very hot. Stir-fry the scallops for 2 minutes, until the scallops are cooked through (they will be opaque). Add the spring onions just before the scallops are finished cooking. Place the cooked scallops in a colander to drain.

Lower the heat to medium, then stir-fry the black bean mixture for 1-2 minutes, or until it becomes aromatic. Return the scallops and spring onion to the wok and toss together to combine.

Kiju Mango Orange

I first saw these fruit juices from Kiju on Michael Smith's Chef at Home series on the Food Network, not sure if he actually used them or whether they were a product placement, but we decided to try it anyways. Like most 100% fruit juices with no sugar added, it does not have 100% of the advertised flavour; this is mostly white grape juice with mango puree and concentrated orange juice, also natural flavours. Still tastes pretty good, and Kiju's juices are Organic. They are also a Canadian company, located in Kitchener, Ontario.

Khanom Gluay

The other Thai dessert we used the smalls bowls we got with the Kanom Tuy uses the flavours of Thai banana, coconut and coconut milk mixed with rice flour to make a small and delicious banana cake. This again, like the Toddy Palm Cake, is a steamed cake, but, because of the banana, it ends up denser.

Khanom Gluay
2 cups well mashed ripe Thai banana
1 cup shredded young coconut
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
3/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Add rice flour and tapioca flour to mashed Thai bananas and mix well. Add sugar and 1/2 cup of shredded young coconut. Gradually add coconut milk and mix everything together well. Toss 1/4 teaspoon of salt with the rest of shredded coconut; set aside. Spoon the banana mixture into small bowls or silicone baking cups and garnish them with the prepared shredded coconut. Preheat the steamer until very hot, then place the prepared bowls in the steamer and steam them for 25-30 minutes. Take the khanom out of the bowl once they cool to serve.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Late July Vanilla Bean with Green Tea Sandwich Cookies

This is the second of Late July's sandwich cookies that I tried; the first one was Dark Chocolate - which was not "Intense and Decadent" but pretty good nonetheless. These 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.

How do they taste? Pretty good, though I prefer the Dark Chocolate one, and I didn't get much of the Green Tea flavour, though it was vanilla-y enough. These are expensive enough, too, that I couldn't eat them on a regular basis.

Lindt Excellence Intense Blueberry

I had not seen this chocolate bar until now, though I have eaten other flavours in that line. Liking blueberries, I thought I'd give it a good try - not having liked the other bars, and not having particularly thought they were "intense". This is a Dark chocolate bar, at 47% cacao content. At first, I didn't realize that this is a Blueberry and Almond chocolate bar; silly me, I thought it was a Blueberry Intense bar. The ingredient listing looks okay, sugar, cocoa mass, almonds, cocoa butter, butter fat, blueberry, apple, pineapple, soya lecithin, natural and artificial flavour, calcium orthophosphate, sodium alginate, citric acid and vegetable anthocyane.

How does it taste? Still, I don't think this is a particularly intense chocolate bar, though I do like the blueberry flavour. The almonds are there but very background, and the chocolate is up to Lindt standards. I don't think I would buy this again.

Lindt Petit Desserts Chocolate Mousse Hazelnut

The second of Lindt's new mousse-filled chocolates, there is also the milk one, I only tried, because it has hazelnuts for it (not having liked the Dark one). The ingredient listing isn't very good (other than the hazelnuts) and the chocolate is a milk chocolate.

How does it taste? Well, okay, about as good as the Dark one, and the hazelnut pieces are very small. Another reason I was tempted to try it, was that it was on sale, and even then it seemed expensive, $2.50.

My Favourite Pizza

I often wondered how I came upon these toppings as my favourite when ordering a pizza, though I do remember eating it in the 80's with my friend when we visited Toronto on our occasional Saturday shopping walks (and I say walk, because that is what we did, walk from store to store, Bloor-Yonge-Queen or Queen-Yonge-Bloor, hitting all our favourites). Back then, it was Pizza Hut that was our favourite, though this particular slice comes from PizzaVille (both of which beat Pizza Pizza down the street and around the corner). The ingredients, which you might find odd, and perhaps especially for a meat eater as I am, are tomato, pineapple and feta cheese (though it used to be just tomato and pineapple, but then I made the awesome discovery of adding feta cheese. Awesome!). Yummy!!

What's your favourite?

Khanom Tan - Toddy Palm Cake

Having eaten and enjoyed the frozen Thai Khanom Tan, my beautiful Bride though to make some fresh. Toddy palm flesh can be bought bottled from most Asian supermarkets and is the sugary sap, called toddy, extracted from the flower clusters of certain palm trees grown in hot climates (India, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka). We used shredded coconut flesh, though you could use desiccated coconut in a pinch. The small bowls came from our other previously enjoyed Thai dessert, Ka-Nom-Tuy. These turned out quite delicious and much tastier than the frozen prepared ones.

Toddy Palm Cake
2-1/4 cups coconut milk
1-2/3 cups sugar
2-1/2 cups rice flour, sifted
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup toddy palm flesh
shredded coconut flesh mixed with a little bit of salt for garnish

Mix coconut milk with sugar and boil it until sugar dissolves.

Filter it to remove any undissolved chunks. Bring back to a boil, then set aside to cool.

Mix together the sifted rice flour with toddy palm flesh until it becomes fine-grained (small lumps). Slowly add the prepared sugared coconut milk, kneading as you add, until it comes together into a dough. Add the rest of coconut milk and mix together. Cover with a lid and sit it for 6 hours or overnight.

Add 1 teaspoon of baking powder per 2 cups of the batter. Mix well.

Pre-steam the small bowls in the steamer for 10 minutes. Put the batter in the heated small bowl just to the rim. Steam the cake for 20 minutes. Garnish them with prepared shredded coconut. Take the cake out of the bowls to serve.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

How to cut a young coconut

There's been some buzz about coconut water being ultra-healthy for you, it's the latest trend for celebrities. Certainly, it is a healthy product, full with electrolytes (potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium) that is well balanced for human consumption (it has a similar electrolyte profile as human blood plasma); it is also a naturally sterile alkalinizing liquid. And it tastes good! You can buy the expensive pasteurized coconut water at the health food store, or you can make your own, by cracking open a young coconut.

This technique requires a sharp knife or cleaver, so caution is advised; don't allow youngsters to do this.

You will need a large knife or cleaver to do this, and a young coconut. Look for ones with white skin, no bruises and that are heavy when you lift them (indicating there is a lot of liquid). Also, they shouldn't really slosh when you shake them, they should be full. Place the young coconut on the floor or a sturdy table.

Chop downwards along one edge of the top of the coconut. Repeat several times until you hear the tough inner shell crack. Some liquid may spill out. You don't have to go deep; just until the inner shell is cracked.

Repeat on each side, making a square around the base of the pyramid shape.

When all four sides are open, use the sharp edge of the cleaver to pry open one side of the square. You may find that you have to chop one of the sides again if you didn't go deep enough.

Take off the square you just freed. You will be either left with a layer of coconut meat in the opening (if so, just use a knife to cut it out), or it will come attached to the piece you just opened.

Pour the coconut water into a container.

Inside will be the young coconut meat. This is also good to eat. It likely will be white (it gets white as it matures), but really young coconut meat will be slightly purple in colour.

We enjoy drinking the coconut water paired with the coconut meat.

Pickled Krachai

Another source of the Wild Ginger, Krachai, if you can't get it fresh (and we seem to be able to get this all year now), is to buy it sliced and "pickled" with salt and citric acid (with sodium benzoate and sodium metabisulphite as preservatives). It's obviously not as good as fresh, but will do in a pinch. You can buy this in only a few Asian supermarkets, normally ones which have lots of products from Thailand.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Penta Thai Dessert Ka-Nom-Tuy

Ka-Nom-Tuy is a two layer dessert made from rice flour and sugar (one layer) and topped with coconut milk (the second layer), that is a street food in Thailand. Though, if you get it on the street, it doesn't come with a ceramic bowl, they crack it out and serve it to you. Often too, the rice layer at the bottom is flavoured with pandan leaf, a particular favourite of my beautiful Bride (and she was a little disappointed that this one wasn't). These cost about $3 and come frozen.

This is a closeup of the ceramic bowl that comes with the packaged dessert (you get 6 of them) after I ate it. We are going to use them to make another dessert.

Red Limestone Paste

Red limestone paste is an odd ingredient in Thai cuisine, it is mostly used to make vegetables crisp (such as potatoes when making fries), and in batters for fried foods and pastries. We used it to make our Thai Bananas in Syrup.

To make limewater, add 1 tablespoon to 2-1/2 cups of water, stir well, then allow the paste to settle to the bottom. The resulting limewater can be used to soak the vegetables or add to desserts.

Fresh Roselle

We were in this new, to us, Vietnamese/Chinese supermarket called Jian Hing, located on the south-west corner of Jane and Finch (behind the Petro Canada), they have a lot of good Asian ingredients. One thing that they have, is fresh roselle, or hibiscus, flowers! I've had them dried, and in concentrate, but never fresh. I don't know where these came from, the Caribbean or Thailand, or China.

We boiled them to make Roselle or Hibiscus or Sorrel Juice. Great! And fresher tasting. Now, I'd like to try them really fresh.