Saturday, January 01, 2011

Crudessence Passion

This is my favourite of the four kombuchas I recently discovered from the Montreal, Quebec company Crudessence.This one features rosehip and hibiscus, two flavours I really enjoy, also ginger. Some of their ingredients (cane sugar, black tea and ginger) are Fair Trade. This one I could drink again and again.

Enviro Mushrooms - Enoki Mushrooms

We've bought quite a few of these packs of enoki mushrooms (there's a recipe on that page, which I have lost count of how many times we have made it); I like them very much as mushrooms go. I like that they are very local, grown in Burlington, and that they are therefore very fresh. You can find these in most Chinese supermarkets here in Mississauga. Usually, they run about 2 containers for $2.50, or even less.

Toblerone Tobelle

This is the latest from Toblerone. Essentially, they've taken their normal long bar and sliced them very thin. There are 20 pieces within this box. Good, if you don't want to eat too much at one time.

President's Choice Chocolate Hazelnut

I like Nutella, have for a long while, so I thought to try this Nutella-like product from President's Choice. The ingredients of Nutella are basically hazelnuts, oil, cocoa and sugar; this one is very similar, using canola and palm oil, skim milk powder and low fat cocoa.

How did it taste? Quite good, similar in flavour to Nutella, but with its own unique flavour. I don't know if it would replace Nutella in my heart of hearts, but it's a good substitute.

New Zealand Spring Lamb - Thai Curry

I've eaten a couple of other of New Zealand Lamb's prepared lamb dishes, Lamb Korma and Moroccan Lamb, both of which I liked for a quick but not so fresh meal (I mean, it left me wanting to make my own freshly). I had seen this one before, a Thai curry, but avoided it, because I though to make my own. This is supposed to be a Massaman curry (with Green Curry mixed in), made in South Thailand by Muslims, a recipe I had heard of before, and one dish on a long list of dishes I would like to try in Thailand. Looking through the ingredient listing, I am pleased that the ingredients look to be fairly authentic, they use coconut milk, fish sauce, green curry paste, massaman paste, tamarind pulp, rice bran oil (something I'm getting in to) and kaffir lime leaves - all fairly traditional Thai ingredients. Lamb, though, is not really a traditional Thai ingredient, you'd only find it made by Muslims in the South. I would say that I enjoyed the flavour of this, equal in flavour to the Moroccan Lamb, but, again, it left me wanting to make my own.

I see now that their website has lots of lamb recipes, I think I'll check them out!

Gimbal's Fine Candies Scottie Dogs

Gimbal's Fine Candies has been crafting candies since 1898. The recipes have been handed down through 4 generations. They cook their candies in small kettles. I came across this what looked to be All Natural Licorice; I do like licorice. These, however, are different than Panda Licorice, in that they are mostly sugar (corn syrup and sugar are the first two ingredients). It does have a good licorice flavour, and the Scottie dogs are kind of cute, but they stick to your teeth awfully, something I don't like. They also have carnauba wax and caramel colour. I don't think that I will try these again anytime soon.

Sweets from the Earth Flourless Cashew Cookies

I liked these the first time I tried them, later I picked up this box at Whole Foods. Sweets from the Earth makes a number of healthier baked goods - the list is very long - all natural; gluten free; 100% vegan; dairy free; egg free; cholesterol free; lactose free; 0 trans fats; low in sodium; no refined sugars; low in saturated fat; GMO free; nothing artificial; no preservatives. These cookies are flourless, and eggless (they use tofu instead of an egg), and have only a few ingredients - cashew butter, evaporated cane juice, tofu, baking soda and salt (the evaporated cane juice and tofu are Organic).

But healthy doesn't necessarily mean not decadent or tasty, these certainly are quite tasty. They remind me very much like a peanut butter cookie, with a similar flavour, though different. Something I hope to enjoy often - I might even have found a recipe to make them myself.

Keralan Fish Curry

I made this recipe for our Christmas celebration this year, it went over very well. Kerala is a state of India. This recipe is from Jamie Oliver, it's different than other Keralan Fish Stew recipes I've seen (which use onion rather than shallot, add lime juice at the end and don't use tomato). I used Madras curry powder, rather than the chili powder it originally called for - Madras curry is from India, and contains lots of chili powder, so I feel justified (though, again, I'm not sure that this is a traditional ingredient). For the fish, I chose haddock, it turned out well, but you could also use cod. Because some of my relatives can't take the heat, I didn't add the green chili (the Madras curry powder provides heat in itself); feel free to even add more, if you like it, I've seen a recipe that uses 4-6 chilies. Serve it on basmati rice or Thai jasmine rice. Enjoy!

Keralan Fish Curry
Rice Bran oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
20 curry leaves
6 shallots, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 x 2.5 cm piece of ginger, finely sliced
1 green chili, finely sliced
1 Tbsp Madras curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
750 g firm white fish cut into chunks
1 x 400 ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400 g tin of chopped tomatoes
Chopped coriander

Heat a lug of groundnut oil in a large pan and fry the mustard seeds with the curry leaves till the seeds start to pop. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli, and cook on a medium heat for 5 mins, till softened. Mix together the chili powder and turmeric with a splash of water, and then stir into the pan. Fry for a minute, then add the fish, coconut milk and tomatoes. Season.

Bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins, or until fish is cooked and sauce reduced. Serve sprinkled with chopped coriander.

Heloi Rice Bran Oil

I've read recently about the health benefits of rice bran oil, and decided to buy some when I saw some for sale. Rice bran oil, pressed and extracted from the bran of the rice kernel (from Japan, India, Korea, Thailand and Indonesia), has a long shelf life and, perhaps more importantly, a high smoke point - almost as high as avocado oil and higher than peanut and canola oil, making it highly suitable for frying. It emulsifies well (making it suitable for dressings and mayonnaises) and has a subtle nutty flavour, so it won't overpower other flavours when added to baked goods, sauces and marinades. It is also good for the body, it lowers the bad LDL cholesterol while simultaneously raising good HDL cholesterol; it is a monounsaturated fat; and it has various antioxidants, including gamma oryzanole. I know that rice bran oil can be taken in gel capsule form, as a health benefit.

This particular rice bran oil from Heloi Foods is from India. I have used it several times, and it seems to work well in stir-frying. This 1 litre bottle, while it was on sale, was only $8, much more expensive than the more widely used vegetable oils.

Luna & Larry's Organic Coconut Bliss - Pineapple Coconut

This is the second of Coconut Bliss's coconut milk-based ice creams that I've tried. This is the one that my beautiful Bride selected; mine was Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge, which I enjoyed. This ice cream tastes more like pineapple to me than coconut, it has both pineapple and pineapple juice concentrate, along with coconut extract and rum extract for flavour. It does taste pretty good, very pineapple-y, and not sweet at all. I would eat this one again.

Lundberg Sante Fe Barbecue Rice Chips

Lundberg has been around since 1937, growing rice in harmony with nature. These tortilla chips are made from a combination of brown rice, masa corn flour and white rice flour. I like the barbecue flavour of these, not too much of a kick but a good spice. I also like that they use no artificial colours or flavours. You can find these chips in most large health food stores.

Voss Artesian Water from Norway

I first saw the what to me was very expensive water in health food stores, I was intrigued by the distinctive shape of their glass bottle more than anything. I had the opportunity to buy some of their still and sparkling water at still high but less expensive prices, and picked some up. Voss Water is artesian water from Norway, which boasts some of the most pristine water in the world. Tasting the water, I remarked on how similar it tasted, fresh, compared to the Santevia. The sparkling was very good as well, better even than my Gerolsteiner. I don't have a source for it here, other than in health food stores, but I saw that they sell the plastic bottle version in Montreal for half the price or less. Though, I prefer glass for water, you can re-use it certainly.

Panda Soft Licorice

I like the flavour of licorice and anise, so I'm a fan of real soft licorice candy. This one from Finland's Panda Licorice is made from only four ingredients, molasses, wheat flour, licorice extract and aniseed oil. People have been enjoying their licorice since 1927; I'm a latecomer to this bandwagon. I like that there are no artificial ingredients, a simple ingredient listing, and real flavours and colours. You can find Panda Licorice in most health food stores.

Crudessence Symbiose Kombucha

I do like kombucha, and was pleased to find this one at Whole Life Expo. Crudessence is from Montreal, Quebec, they make a number of different flavoured kombucha drinks. This one features white tea (kombucha is a brew made from tea and a combination of yeast and bacteria) and ginger (fresh ginger and ginger juice). Some of their ingredients (cane sugar and white tea) are Fair Trade. This one I liked very much, very ginger-y, one I hope to find a source for. They make it with lots of Love!

Crudessence Éternité Kombucha

Crudessence is from Montreal, Quebec, they make a number of different flavoured kombucha drinks. I do like kombucha, the bubbly brewed tea. This one features blueberry and maple; the tea of the kombucha (kombucha is brewed from sugar, tea and a combination of yeast and bacteria) is black tea. Some of their ingredients (cane sugar and black tea) are Fair Trade. This one I did not care for, perhaps because of the black tea flavour, perhaps because of the maple flavour; I also did not taste any blueberry. When I sampled it at Whole Life Expo, I knew I didn't like it, but just bought it for the sake of trying more than a mouthful.

Kambly Bretzli

As you might know, I like picking up interesting baked goods. These looked intriguing, they are Swiss waffle thins made by Oscar Kambly since 1910. These came in a special Christmas tin. I didn't realize how thin they were, until I opened up the package, when I though waffles, I thought thicker. Biting into them, they are crisp and drier versions that waffles, but do have the flavour of waffles. The ingredients look fairly good, at least they don't have many unpronounceable chemicals, and have similar ingredients to what I would expect waffles to be made from, save that they use coconut oil (not a bad ingredient). I think they are pretty good, though expensive ($8 for this box, essentially 250 g of waffles).

Ohgave! Raw Blue Agave Nectar

I've read about the benefits of agave syrup, as a better atlternative to sugar, it's lower on the Glycemic Index, and it's sweeter, so you can use less (and save calories. The sugar in agave syrup is a complex form of fructose, the sugar in fruits and vegetables, called inulin. This agave syrup from Ohgave! is made from blue agave from Mexico, and is processed in such a way that it retains its health benefits, and can be considered a "raw" food. Agave syrup can be used in a similar manner to any other liquid sugar, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, corn syrup (this last one is just as bad health-wise as table sugar). Agave can be also used as a substitute for granulated sugars, but, as it is sweeter, and a liquid, you might have to adjust the recipe. It does, though, work in a similar manner in food preparation, as opposed to artificial sweeteners. The taste is more subtle, and less likely to overwhelm other flavours. I see also, that, unlike honey, it is a good sweetener for babies (albeit, they shouldn't really have any sugar, or much). Try it out, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Lentils with Pancetta and Collard Greens

I got this recipe originally from David Rocco’s TV Series, and have made it several times. I thought today, to add some collard greens, to give it more vegetables, and to give it a more festive look. Doesn’t it look Christmas-y! It tastes as good or even better than the version I have made before. I used the sprouted lentils from Sasha Co., they turned out quite well.

Lentils with Pancetta and Collard Greens
Adapted from a recipe by David Rocco
9 oz pancetta, cubed (250g)
1/2 cup rice bran oil
2 x white cooking onions, thinly sliced
dried rosemary, pinch
dried thyme, pinch
1 medium red bell pepper
1/2 roasted red pepper
1 bunch collard greens, cut into medium strips
2-3 cups cooked lentils
Pinch of salt

Sauté pancetta for a moment or two in the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat, until they are browned on one side, then add the peppers and onions and continue cooking until the onions are browned and the bell pepper is softened. Add the collard greens, and cook until the leaves are soft.

Add lentils to pan. Cook for a few minutes so that the lentils absorb flavours of the other ingredients. Add a pinch of salt.

ShaSha Co. Bio-Bud Raw Organic Sprouted Lentils

I've read about the benefits of sprouting; it increases the nutrients within and makes them more available to the body. I like lentils, and they are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin c, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, zinc, magnesium, niacin and phosphorous. Because these pulses from Shasha Co. are sprouted, they require half the time to cook, just soak them for 25 minutes and cook for 30 minutes.

Cocoa Camino Panama Extra Dark

I picked this up along with their Chili & Spice. I was intrigued by the cacao content, 85%, though I didn’t hold much hope out for it being really good because of the high cacao content, and that the beans came from Panama, a country of origin whose beans I’m not that familiar with. The ingredient listing is good, cocoa mass, golden cane sugar, oocoa butter, whole cane sugar and ground vanilla beans. All the ingredients are Fair Trade.

How does it taste? Because of the high cacao content, 85%, it tasted to me a little chalky; not really surprised by that, 70% cacao content seems to work very well. The chocolate itself was okay in taste, nothing spectacular, and didn’t leave me wanting to try more beans from Panama. I don't think that I will buy this bar again.

Cocoa Camino Chili & Spice

I’ve tried Cocoa Camino’s Espresso bar before, and liked it well enough; it did put in the back of my mind to try some of their other products. I do like the combination of spicy heat and chocolate, give it a try if haven’t. The cacao content is at 71%. The ingredient listing is good, cocoa mass, golden cane sugar, oocoa butter, whole cane sugar, cinnamon, ginger, chili and ground vanilla beans. All the ingredients are Fair Trade.

How does it taste? The heat from the chili is good, more than moderate, and pairs well with the dark chocolate. It leaves a pleasant aftertaste, and a little burn. I would definitely buy this bar again.

Andrews Scenic Acres Rhubarb Raspberry Jam

This is the second of two jams I got from the pick-your-own Family Fun Farm Andrews Scenic Acres. I was intrigued by this jam because it wasn’t the more traditional strawberry and rhubarb combination, which works well and is a combination I enjoy and will enjoy, rather it was rhubarb and raspberry. Strawberries and rhubarb works well because they grow and mature together at the same time, so they say, and raspberries come out mid-summer, after rhubarb is gone. Like the rhubarb-strawberry jam, the ingredients are just rhubarb, raspberries and sugar, so very little sugar, more fruit, and no added pectin, and I like that it is rhubarb first in the ingredients (normally it would be the other way). Too, the jam says “Prepared For”, which I’m okay with, as long as it’s good, but, like the rhubarb-strawberry jam, this jam is just okay, though I do like the combination of rhubarb with the raspberry, and would look for this combination again.

Dry Soda - Rhubarb

This is the second of the natural and more healthy sodas from Dry Soda that I tried. This one intrigued me more than the Vanilla Bean one, you don’t see many sodas, or even drinks, with rhubarb. Like the vanilla bean, I don’t like that they use phosphoric acid, but I did prefer this one over the vanilla bean, and the rhubarb flavouring, they use natural extracts, was good and not overwhelmingly prominent. I doubt that I would buy this again, mostly because of the phosphoric acid.

President's Choice The World's Best All-Butter Scottish Shortbreads

I like shortbread, and especially Scottish shortbread, there’s nothing like this biscuit made from very good butter and only a few ingredients (flour, butter, sugar). This shortbread from President’s Choice has that short ingredient listing; they use demerera sugar rather than just white sugar.

How do they taste? I wouldn’t say they are the World’s Best, but they are a pretty good shortbread. I think they would have been better to make a smaller cookie, most of them were quite flaky, as they should be, but broke when I picked them up (and who wants to lose part of a good cookie). I probably just might buy these again sometime.

Loacker Gran Pasticceria Dark-Hazelnut

Loacker from Italy makes a number of creme biscuits of differing flavours; I’ve tried a few of them in my time, I was intrigued by this one, because it has 60% cacao content, and contains hazelnut pieces. I notice too, down the long list of ingredients, that there is also Bourbon vanilla pods.

How does it taste? I like the chocolate coating, it does taste like dark chocolate. The pieces of hazelnut were fairly small but still noticeable. I found them good but not great, and likely wouldn’t buy them again.

Nam Pad Kai - Sausage Fried with Egg

This Thai street food dish is from the north of Thailand, there they make it with Thai garlic, raw pork and garlic sausage. You can make this dish with almost any kind of sausage, I made mine with some chicken sausage that my daughter also likes, but I would think it’d be very tasty with European garlic pork sausage or chorizo; choose your favourite. I didn’t use as much garlic as it called for, just was lazy. I found the dish to be overall very tasty, but the fish sauce gave it too much of a salty taste; I am of the mind to try it with cider vinegar rather.

Nam Pad Kai
2 Tbsp oil
4 oz sausage (about two), cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 eggs
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 whole head fresh garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
3 spring onions, coarsely chopped

Heat the oil in a wok or heavy-bottomed frying pan until hot, then stir-fry the slices of sausage until they are almost cooked, two or three minutes. Break the eggs into the pan and stir to break up. Add the remaining ingredients and stir fry for a minute or two, until the egg is cooked and the tomato is slightly soft. Serve alone or with jasmine rice.

Lindt Excellence Roasted Almond

This bar is one of the newest from Lindt, it features dark chocolate, though only the minimum to make the grade) and roasted almonds. The cacao content is at 47%. The ingredient listing is fair (high sugar and butter fat are the culprits), sugar, cocoa mass, almonds, cocoa butter, butter fat, soya lecithin and vanilla.

How does it taste? There is definitely the taste of roasted almonds in this bar, and the almonds are fairly small pieces (but at least noticeable when chewing). My beautiful Bride, who likes almonds, doesn’t care much for the small pieces of almond. I concur, and we likely won’t buy this one again.