Monday, May 31, 2010

Oasis Fruits Etc. Deliciously Yellow

This 100% fruit juice from Oasis features yellow fruits and vegetables, including pineapple, passion fruit, lemon, yellow bell pepper, with golden kiwi puree and turmeric (a natural yellow colour). There is also, like many fruit juice blends, a base of apple or grape juice. This tasted very good, though maybe a little on the sweet side (and 25 g of sugar per serving of 250 mL). This is definitely a blend, because not one flavour of the various yellow fruits and vegetables dominates.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tod Man Goong (Thai Shrimp-Cakes)

This recipe also came from Wandee Young, from her Cookbook "Simply Thai Cooking"; there are many good or interesting recipes within. To complement this dish, we served it with Thai Cucumber Salad, you can drizzle some over the shrimp-cake before you take a bite. These are quite good, and different from crab cakes, in that they have chunky vegetables within, in this case the Chinese long green bean. These are perfect as an appetizer or as a side-dish to a meal. This is similar to Tod Man Pla, made with minced fish.

Tod Man Goong
adapted from Simply Thai Cooking, 2nd Ed.
40 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Tbsp red curry paste
1 egg yolk
6 Chinese long green beans, trimmed and finely chopped
3 lime leaves, cut very fine
1 cup vegetable oil

Place the shrimp in a food processor and process until a fine pulp. Add the red curry paste; blend well. Stir-in the egg yolk. Stir in the Chinese long green beans and the lime leaves and mix everything together well.

Heat oil in a wok or heavy-bottomed frying pan on high heat till almost smoking. Turn down to medium heat, then add a tablespoon of shrimp-cake mixture that has been flattened. Add more, but do not crowd the wok or pan. Fry for 2 minutes on one side, then flip over and fry for 2 minutes on the other side. Flip over again and fry for 30-40 seconds, until both sides are golden brown. Remove from oil and place on plate covered with paper towels (to soak up the oil). Repeat with the remaining shrimp-cake mixture as needed.

Thai Cucumber Salad

This dish we used as a dressing for the Tod Man Goong (shrimpcakes) we made at the same time, the recipe comes from a lady called Wandee Young, who owns a restaurant in Toronto called Young Thailand

, ostensibly the first Thai restaurant in Canada. We haven't had the pleasure of eating at her restaurant, but we have met her, and she seems a very charming lady (and of course, she invited us to come try her food). And now we have the opportunity to try some of her dishes, albeit they are not cooked by her. This is a fairly tasty dish that worked well with the shrimpcakes. Or, you could add more of the cucumber, and eat it as an accompaniment to other Thai dishes. We used Korean cucumbers, which we got in a Korean supermarket (they are more expensive than English cucumbers, but really tasty).Thai Cucumber Salad
adapted from Simply Thai Cooking, 2nd Ed.
10" cucumber (English or Korean)
1/2 small red onion
1/3 medium red pepper
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
coriander leaves, chopped fine, as garnish

Wash and dry the cucumber. Slice into 1/4" pieces and place in bowl. Julienne red pepper and red onion; place on top of cucumber in bowl.

Whisk together sugar, vinegar and salt in a small bowl. Pour over vegetables

Kale and Chickpea Stir-Fry

The recipe that I got from the 'Net was adapted from another, which I found out has tofu in it; I think that it would be a good addition to this stir-fry vegetable dish, adding protein and some "meat". Even without the tofu, it tastes pretty good, the kale, often bitter, gets mellowed out by the chickpeas and lemon flavour. This is an easy recipe to make, and makes a good side-dish or even alone, for lunch or dinner. It can be eaten cold as well.

Kale and Chickpea Stir-Fry
1 can chickpeas
1 bunch Kale, tough stems removed and chopped
1/4 cup shallots, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tsp salt, to taste
1 Tbsp oil
juice of 1 lemon

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In a wok, heat the oil and saute the shallots and garlic till soft. Add salt and the chickpeas and saute till the chickpeas turn golden and crusty, about 8-10 minutes. Add the red pepper and mix well. Add the kale and saute for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and mix well. Season with more salt if needed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Santevia Gravity Water System

The good deal that we had got at the Apple Market's Health Fair in September was something for which we had been looking for a while; it filled a need that we had, to be able to drink water that was better for you, and certainly better than drinking water straight from the tap.

Their eight stage Water process is as follows: ceramic pre-filter, which removes rust and sediments, and inhibits bacteria, germs and parsites; activated carbon and charcoal, which removes chlorine, Trihalomethanes (THMs), organic chemicals, odour, colour and particulates; silica sand, which neutralizes acidic components creating optimal pH balance; zeolite granules, which inhibit bacteria, removes heavy metals (such as lead and mercury) and removes detergents, agricultural chemicals and other toxins; mineral infusion, which helps oxygenate the water and adjust to mild alkaline; bio ceramic, which breaks water molecules into very minute fractions to greatly improve absorption and increase the oxygen content of the water; mineral stone post filter, which continually releases easily absorbed ionized minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc and other trace minerals); magnetic tap, the magnet activates the water molecules and reorganizes them into simpler structures to aid absorption.

The measure of the water is always in how it tastes, and this one too suffers from what I can only describe as the Filter Taste, reminiscent of a number of other healthy filters that I have tried. Still, it’s better tasting than the chlorinated/fluoridated tap water. Our system or water is one of those who suffer from the green algae buildup, which affects some people’s systems, but doesn’t, apparently affect the taste or healthiness of the water (though, after I do clean it, it tastes “cleaner”).

Overall, I’m more than happy with this system, my beautiful Bride likes it very much, and the filter seems to work much longer than the Brita ones. I see they have now ones with silver, which is another way of reducing the harmful things in the water. There is also a version which sits on top of water coolers.

Fruit King Frozen Rambutan

Rambutan is one of those Asian fruits that you might see in an Asian supermarket, and some of them will have come from Thailand. These frozen versions, the whole fruit is frozen, would be my introduction to this interesting looking, well, kind of weird-looking, fruit. Rambutans are similar to longans or lychees, peeling the skin reveals a milky white fruit (could be yellow or pink) that surrounds a seed (in this case elongated and smaller than an almond).

Within the outer bag reveals an inner bag with the frozen fruit (I’m surprised that, unlike mango or durian, these are frozen whole, but perhaps that prolongs their shelf life).

This is a close-up of the individual rambutan, which looks similar to the fresh ones I’ve seen.

The fruit was definitely frozen, but we managed to slice open the peel, to reveal the white flesh within.

How did they taste? The fruit itself was somewhat difficult to separate from the seed, and I could not, no matter what it said on the package, eat it frozen, I left it to defrost before consuming. The texture is similar to the longan and lychee, slighly sour but sweet at the same time, not bad for my first try. I am sure that fresh in Thailand would taste infinitely better, and they seem to be a lot of work to eat, so I might decide to wait till I actually get to Thailand before trying them again.

Kombucha Wonder Drink Essence of Lemon

This is the third of the new large-bottle Kombucha drinks from Kombucha Wonder Drink, the others being Essence of Mango and Cherry Cassis. The lemon flavour comes from organic lemon extract, which gives it a good but not great lemon flavour. What I did like, is that this one was cloudier than the other two, as cloudy as the original ones I tried. Still, I don’t think I would drink this one again.

Kombucha Wonder Drink Cherry Cassis

This is the second of the new large bottle water+green tea+kombucha drinks from Kombucha Wonder Drink that I’ve tried, the other is their Essence of Mango. Again the ingredients focus more on the water and green tea than the kombucha, rather than previously the other way around (I wonder now if all they’ve done, is add water and more green tea, and carbonation, to their original kombucha drink). This particular one has black currant juice and cherry juice concentrates added for flavour, which gave it a great flavour and one I would have like to have seen in their original format, and even consider buying again.

Kombucha Wonder Drink Essence of Mango

Kombucha Wonder Drink has recently brought out some bigger bottles of a newer formulation of their Kombucha drinks, these are also labelled Sparkling Fermented Tea, and it seems to me, in drinking this, that they have created these products to be like wine coolers; it’s mostly water and brewed green tea, with kombucha (made from oolong), also cane juice (essentially sugar), mango juice concentrate, natural peach juice concentrate and carbonation - if you compare this to the original ones I tasted, and liked, before, those had kombucha as the first ingredient and they had far fewer ingredients with no carbonation (other than that from the kombucha). The liquid in these new bottles look far clearer, too.

I far prefer their older versions, long for the Himalayan. It tastes to me like a watered-down kombucha, and the mango flavour is not that good tasting either.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Spicy Chinese-Style Noodle Sauce

This came from a cookbook called Takeaway, essentially quick recipes which you might find at any restaurant that provides takeout/takeaway quickly. This recipe particularly looked tasty; there are others too that look good. The original recipe called for ground beef, I used ground chicken instead, and am thinking of trying it with ground pork. Pickled radish can be found in most Asian supermarkets, it's an ingredient in many Asian dishes, including Pad Thai. The sauce was tasty and not too spicy, but there wasn't really enough "sauce" for my tastes (I found it difficult to mix with the noodles). To me, this looked to be a cold noodle dish, though I ate it hot. This is a quick and easy recipe to make for a busy weekday, and you can also make the sauce ahead and store in the fridge for even more time savings.

Spicy Chinese-style Noodles
adapted from a recipe from Takeaway by Les Huynh
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
300 g ground chicken
100 g preserved radish, finely chopped
For dressing:
4 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1-1/2 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1-1/2 Tbsp chili oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
4 spring onions, finely chopped
handful cilantro leaves, finely chopped, to serve

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add the onion, garlic and ground chicken and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked. Stir in the preserved radish.

Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Pour over the cooked chicken and radish, and stir to combine.

Serve over cooked noodles; sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.

Lindt Chocoladen Seiten

Another thing that Lindt has in Germany that I don't see in Canada, is their own free magazine, all in German, called Chocoladen Seiten (or Chocolate Pages - though it should be Schokoladen; I would say it was a play on words, Choco + Laden=Chocolate Store(s)). The tagline is "The Lindt Magazine for Afficianados". There are articles and recipes, all featuring Lindt products, both new and old. This current one featured Easter. There are articles on Easter baskets, Egg/Gift Hunting, one on Roger Federer's love of Lindt chocolate with a picture of him holding a very large Lindor Milk, an article about Mexico and its cacao (which would mean they use cacao beans from there),recipes like Easter Chocolate Cake with Carrot Sponge Cake and Fruit Tartlets (with Mousse) and Black Forest Crumble (all using Lindt chocolate). The articles are obviously market-oriented and product-driven, but interesting, a little. Now, if we could only get an English version.

Everybody's Nuts Pistachios European Roast

The American Company Everybody's Nuts sells roasted large California pistachios (and has a guarantee which states if you find an unopened roasted nut, you can send it in for a free bag - though, I found one, and can't get it - it's only open to Residents of the U.S.). They have several flavours, No Salt, Salt and Pepper, South of the Border (spicy) and European Roast (which I chose). European Roast is flavoured with salt and malt vinegar, and tastes fairly good (though I don't like some of the extra ingredients that make the flavour, including fructose and modified food starch). Next time I'll buy the No Salt ones (all the other ones have similar ingredient listings).

GEPA Grand Noir Edelbitter

The German Fair Trade Company GEPA uses Fair Trade and Organic cacao beans from Peru, Colombia and the Dominican Republic (Amaribe Blend). This bar is at 85% cacao content. The ingredient listing is good, cacao mass, cocoa butter and muscovado sugar.

How does it taste? Very fruity, too fruity for my tastes (it was overwhelming for me). The chocolate itself was otherwise smooth. I don't think I would purchase this bar again, nor do I really have a source for it.

Restaurant Review - Mucho Burrito

I don't know why I got on this sudden kick on burritos, perhaps it had something to do with Cinqo de Mayo, but there are a few fast food restaurants around which make burritos, a change from the normal hamburger joint. And some of them even make them a fairly authentic Mexican way. Mucho Burrito has several outlets in Mississauga, I decided to try the "closest" one, which is located on Dixie, just north of Aimco Blvd. Essentially, a burrito is a Mexican sandwich, you have a flat bread, and you fill it with various fillings, and perhaps grill it. I chose the 12" one - there is also a small 10" and a Mucho XL size; the 12" was plenty big - I could have saved some for lunch the next day!

Once you choose either white or whole wheat wrap, they preheat it. Then you can choose from the many ingredients. First comes white rice, then grilled vegetables (peppers), and either black beans or pinto beans. You can choose a meat (from Beef (Barbacoa, Carne Asada), Chicken (Pollo), Pork (Carnitas, Chorizo), Fish (pan seared Tilapia) or go vegetarian with more grilled vegetables; I chose the Pork Carnitas - this is kind of like Mexican Pulled Pork. From there, you can choose from shredded cheese (looked like cheddar and mozzarella), sour cream, guacamole (for $0.99 extra; free with the Mucho XL), mild pico gallo sauce or medium green tomatillo or hot salsa, cilantro, sliced lettuce or southwest sauce. The mixture is then wrapped into a log form, and then grilled for a few seconds.

How did this taste? Quite good, the pork was tasty and the combination of ingredients (I chose nearly everything) complemented the meat. But boy, a lot of food, and likely a lot of calories (apropos, I read an article recently that stated that very fact, too many calories and likely too much salt). Eat only if you’re really hungry, are healthy, and can afford to gain some weight!

Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate

The second of the two new chocolate-covered fruit juice "gummis" from the Canadian company Brookside features juice from Pomegranate, also know for its health benefits and antioxidants. The ingredient listing is okay, dark chocolate (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, alkalized cocoa powder, soya lecithin, salt and natural flavour), fruit juice from concentrate (flitered water, pomegranate juice concentrate, cranberry juice concentrate, apple juice concentrate and elderberry juice concentrate), cane sugar, corn syrup, maltodextrin (corn), pectin, citric acid, malic acid, natural flavour, ascorbic acid, canola oil and confectioner's glaze.

How do they taste? The dark chocolate is a little sweet (I would think that it just makes the "dark chocolate" category, and the fruit juice pieces, like the acai/blueberry one, are really very sweet, too sweet that you sometimes get a "sugar burn" in the throat, if you eat them too fast. Overall, I think these are not bad tasting, though I don't really get the pomegranate flavour (perhaps there are too many other juice concentrates). The 200 g bag was about $5 at WalMart. I don't think I would buy this product again.

Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai and Blueberry

The Canadian company Brookside recently came out with a couple of interesting products; essentially they are chocolate-covered fruit juice "gummis" (thickened with pectin). This one features juice from Acai and Blueberry, both know for their health benefits and antioxidants. The ingredient listing is okay, dark chocolate (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, alkalized cocoa powder, soya lecithin, salt and natural flavour), fruit juice from concentrate (flitered water, acai juice concentrate, blueberry juice concentrate, raspberry juice concentrate, cranberry juice concentrate, pomegranate juice concentrate, elderberry juice concentrate and lemon juice concentrate), cane sugar, corn syrup, maltodextrin (corn), pectin, citric acid, malic acid, natural flavours, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), canola oil and confectioner's glaze.

How do they taste? The dark chocolate is a little sweet (I would think that it just makes the "dark chocolate" category, and the fruit juice pieces are really very sweet, too sweet that you sometimes get a "sugar burn" in the throat, if you eat them too fast. Overall, I think these are not bad tasting, though I can't really tell the acai from the blueberry flavour (perhaps there are too many juice concentrates). The 200 g bag was about $5 at WalMart. I don't think I would buy this product again.

Danielle Roasted Coconut Chips

The American company New England Herbal Foods makes chips out of fruits and vegetables; these are made from coconut (other products in this line are pineapple, banana, durian!, mango, jackfruit, pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, okra and taro). They are labelled as 100% All-Natural, no Trans Fats, no Gluten and no Preservatives. The coconut comes from Thailand. They are roasted and then baked using vacuum pressure. The only other ingredients are sugar and salt. These ended up tasting quite good, like roasted coconut, though perhaps a little sweet. They were crunchy, and all enjoyed these.

Annie's Homegrown Real Cheddar Bunnies

Annie's makes several better-for-you products, this one is a replacement for cheese crackers like Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish Crackers, and are in the shape of bunnies. They contain good ingredients, like organic wheat flour (though there is a Whole Grain version of the Goldfish Crackers that are fairly good), sunflower or safflower oil (so no hydrogenated oils), aged cheddar cheese (real cheese!) and real spices.

How do they taste? I like the cheese flavour better, though my toddler daughter doesn't much - and we really buy them for her! I would, and have, buy these again.

Lindt Fruhlings Mandeln

These dark chocolate covered almonds from Lindt I also got from Germany, I've never seen them in Canada (Fruhlings Mandeln means Spring Almonds). On the package these look like they are very sugar-coated; inside they do not look like that (fortunately, as I thought that there would be lots of sugar). The ingredient listing is a little high on the sugar content, despite being dark chocolate, cacao mass, sugar, almonds (15%), clarified butter, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, wheat starch, natural flavour and vanilla extract.

How do they taste? Pretty good, my beautiful Bride liked them as well. The chocolate coating is soft, it's more like a chocolate cream; the almonds are crunchy and seem to be sugar-coated. I don't really have a source for them, but would buy them again.

Le Chocolate Milk and Dark Chocolate with Nuts

This is another of Shopper DrugMart's Le Chocolat series, this one features milk and dark chocolate (1/2 a bar of each). The nuts in question are pecans, walnuts, almonds and cashews. The ingredient listing looks okay, the cacao content of the dark chocolate being 70%.

How did it taste? Not bad, the nuts were fairly tasty and crunchy, the chocolate was smooth and flavourful. Overall, I think this bar is just okay, and it was fairly inexpensive.