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To Sous Vide or Not Sous Vide

As our almost-never-impeccably neat kitchen would prove, we cook and bake often, taking pride in making things from scratch. We give each other cookbooks and kitchen gadgets. While some people would specify a no kitchen-related gifting policy, we embrace the opposite. I am thrilled to get spatulas, pastry brushes, kitchen towels or measuring cups and spoons. He got me a Soda Stream? and I bought him an oven toaster in the first year we dated. That’s normal, right?

One of the things we’ve been coveting for a while was a sous vide machine, and getting our hands on one was inevitable after he gave me the home version of the Modernist Cuisine tome last year. A few friends have–and love–their machines and arm lifting-worthy books. Being a half pescetarian? (a quarter vegetarian and a quarter no-meat, some vegetables) household, our main concern was how often we would use it. We have a small kitchen and very limited counter space for appliances.

We were lucky enough to have been able to try a demo unit from Cedarlane Culinary, complete with a vacuum sealer and a supply of bags to start. They have been very generous for letting us use them. Thanks so much, guys!

So what is sous vide? You’ve probably heard of it or seen chefs on TV vacuum sealing food and leaving them in a tub of water to cook. Simply put, sous vide is French for “under vacuum”. The principle behind it is to cook vacuum-sealed food at the same temperature throughout the cooking process, thus avoiding overcooking.

The sous vide machine is a water bath with a temperature regulator set to the desired final temperature of the food. Different brands have different ways of controlling the temperature, including water circulation. Some, like the SousVide Supreme, use radiant heat in an enclosed/covered unit.

Cooking sous vide tends to be done at a lower temperature than you would cook with direct heat, but for a much longer time, resulting in even cooking. The great thing is, there’s no need for guesswork when it comes to temperatures and cooking times. There are already recommended settings and the provided manual and cookbook have all the information handy. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the Modernist Cuisine and a slew of other sous vide books will not disappoint.

To test, we cooked eggs and fish in the SousVide Supreme. The process for cooking both is as easy as setting the final temperature and placing them in the pre-heated water bath for a set amount of time. Set and forget.

Sous Vide Eggs

Let's sous vide some eggs!

Placing the eggs in the pre-heated water bath (63°F)

For the eggs, Jens cooked them at 63°F, the temperature at which the yolk and white are the same consistency. [Different chefs have different opinions on this, varying from 62° to 64°F, but as always, do what tastes good to you.]

Right out of the water bath

It produces an incredibly silky poached egg that runny yolk-lovers like us appreciate. The white has turned white (not clear), and the yolk becomes custard-like.

Soft poached egg on potato hash

We put ours on top of some cheesy potato hash and ate it with some salmon sausages. It was quite the rich and tasty weekend brunch!

Sous Vide Salmon

The great thing about sealed food for cooking is that you don’t lose liquid or flavor. They all kind of meld together. We are fortunate to get good salmon here in BC and prefer to keep it simple so the flavors of the fish shine. We just put salt, dill and Meyer lemon slices.

Vacuum sealing the salmon with some salt, dill and slices of Meyer lemon

Vacuum sealing is pretty straight forward and the SousVide Supreme Vacuum sealer was easy to use. We cooked one big slice of fish and positioned the pouch rack horizontally to keep it completely submerged in water since we used the minimum amount of water required.

Sous vide salmon

We watched one of our recorded shows and voila, the fish is done.

Sous vide salmon

Sous vide salmon

After removing the everything from the bag and pick dill and lemon slices, we seared the fish on a hot cast iron skillet to quickly brown it then served it with some asparagus rice.

Browned sous vide salmon with asparagus and rice

That was it for a no-fuss weekday dinner.

How did our part-pescetarian household do with the SousVide Supreme?

This is all too embarrassing to admit, but we had the complete unit for months and did not use it as much as we thought we would and hoped. I think this has more to do with our varied household diets than anything. Our limited kitchen space also prevents us from keeping it there all the time. Having used it, I think we would benefit from it the most if it was always ready to use in the kitchen, and therefore consciously make more meals with it. As the sole meat-eater in the house (nowadays, I’m more of a social meat eater), I can actually have my meat dishes cooked separately. At the moment we simply don’t have the dedicated counter space for it.

What did we like about the SousVide Supreme?

It’s very easy to use. Like I said earlier, it’s basically “set and forget”. Once your food items are in the bath, you can forget about it until it’s time them out to eat or to store for future use. There’s not much of a learning curve for using it. Yes, you can sous vide food and freeze them for later consumption. If we bought more salmon, we could have cooked all of them them in separate single-meal sized portions and freeze the rest. We can just sear it when we are ready to eat them. I can see this working out for entertaining a group of people and precooking your proteins and just searing the beef or fish closer to serving time.

Essentially, it is quite healthy to cook sous vide. It’s like poaching, but because it is cooked in vacuum, the flavors are concentrated in the bag and not diluted into the cooking liquid or evaporated. We didn’t have to put as much salt on the salmon as we usually would and it still ended up being very tasty.

And here’s one more selfish reason and bonus: less dishes to use for cooking. We could have done without searing the salmon for sure, but we like our fish browned.

So there goes our sous vide experiment. We still haven’t purchased one yet and I don’t think we will until that counter space happens. We did have fun using it, though!

Thanks again to Cedarlane Culinary for letting us try your demo unit!

Disclaimer: We were given a demo unit to try sous vide cooking at home. We were not paid to test the SousVide Supreme machine and/or write this post. We did not receive compensation of any kind.

Review

Posted in kitchen tools and gadgets, reviews0 Comments

Blueberry Lime Jam

July. Summer. Fruit Season. Blueberries… {swoon} As someone who didn’t grow up with access to fresh ones, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to enjoy them as much as I can want for the past decade, call me a late blue-mer, if you wish. I bought close to three kilos of these plump indigo-colored berries last week: I ate them, baked with them, made smoothie pops with them, and made jam. Nothing says ‘I love you, fruit!‘ than consuming them in different ways every single day.

Homemade Preserves and Jams

One thing I haven’t posted on this blog are jam recipes and I have no good explanation for this. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I make them late at night when food lighting sucks (and I couldn’t be bothered to shoot photos by the stove with its incandescent lighting), or early in the morning right before breakfast and I simply have no time (or brain power) to think about photos. I know, it’s all about the photos for us food bloggers. And Instagram.

Today I have good reason to be talking about jam because I recently received a copy of Mary Tregellas’ new cookbook, Homemade Preserves & Jams: Over 90 Recipes for Luscious Jams, Tangy Marmalades, Crunchy Chutneys, and More. It’s a beautifully designed paperback that’s just the right size and weight for bringing everywhere (I do this with cookbooks) — like grabbing it last-minute before going to the farmer’s market to get some ideas. I’m thinking of packing this on our next island trip to make full use of the fresh fruits we find.

The recipes are very approachable, clear and concise. Each recipe is laid out in a single page, with often short ingredient list on the left and the step-by-step instructions to its right. Most are accompanied by photos. The book contains a primer on equipment, ingredient notes, and preserving tips, which are very helpful. I appreciate that it doesn’t inundate you with too much information, but has enough to get you started. As you can guess from the title, it does have more to offer: pesto, salads, scones, breads (yes, bread), tarts, and infused liqueurs. Recipes are grouped according to: Luscious, Juicy, Crunchy, Tangy, Tropical, Wholesome, Aromatic, Wild, Intoxicating and Daily Bread. That’s the most part if you would like to know what you can make with the produce you have on hand. Thankfully, the index does its job of pointing you in the right direction.

All in all, it’s a well-rounded book that’s best suited for beginners and preserving enthusiasts like me. This is the perfect gift for friends who are interested in making jams and preserves, but are too intimidated by the process and perceived “complicated know-how” — I know, because I used to be one of them. While it is not a comprehensive reference, this is a great Let’s-Make-Something-Now book, which to be honest, is what you want while the summer fruits and vegetables last.

Because I’m all about the blueberry right now, I made half the recipe for Blueberry Jam with a dash of lime. It made enough for us to last for a few weeks, plus a jar or two give away.

Blueberry Lime Jam

toast + butter + jam = Love

The hint of lime becomes more pronounced after a couple of days. Next time I would even add some finely chopped Moroccan mint for the jar that we’ll consume right away. The jam just has that kind of blueberry mojito character.

Blueberry Lime Jam

BC Blueberry Facts: 1. We have a BC Blueberry Council, which sounds like a cool company to work for, just because of the name. 2. British Columbia has over 800 blueberry growers. 3. BC is the number one highbush blueberry-growing region in the world.

For those of you who are still undecided whether jamming is something you’d like, just invest about half an hour of your time to try this out. It really doesn’t require much effort.

Blueberry Lime Jam

Cooking the blueberries until they soften.

Trust me, you’ll be happy you made it. It’s great on pancakes and waffles, PB&J sandwiches, muffins, rolls, biscuits, what have you. I even added it to blueberry smoothie popsicles!

Blueberry Lime Jam

Cooked blueberries with sugar and pectin added.

Blueberry Lime Jam
Recipe type: Jam
 
Ingredients
  • 1.5 pounds (680 grams) fresh blueberries
  • 2 limes, juice and zest
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1.5 pounds (680 grams) white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons liquid pectin
Instructions
  1. Mix the blueberries, lime juice and zest, lemon juice and water in a preserving/muslin pan or large heavy-based stainless steel pan. Cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, until the blueberries soften. Some will burst, while others will grow extra plump. Use a long wooden spoon to stir occasionally.
  2. Take the pan off the heat and stir in sugar until fully dissolved. Return the pan to the heat and boil. Allow to cook at full rolling boil for 4 minutes, then add pectin. Boil for another minute or two. Take the pan off the heat and proceed with testing for a set.
  3. Test for a set using the wrinkle test: Chill a saucer in the freezer for a few minutes. Place half a teaspoon of jam on the saucer and return to the freezer for a minute. Then push the jam with your finger -- it is set when it wrinkles. If it hasn't set, cook for a couple more minutes and redo the test.
  4. Ladle the hot jam into hot sterilized jars, filling them almost to the top. Screw the lid on tightly.
Notes
Makes 3 to 4 12-ounce jars of jam. Keeps for 12 months.

Posted in books and publications, fruits, quick & easy, reviews2 Comments

Cooking for Friends with Whitewater Cooks with Friends

Last February, Rachel asked via email if I was interested in reviewing Shelley Adams’ third and most recent book in her acclaimed Whitewater Cooks series, Whitewater Cooks with Friends. I have heard very good things about it and I’m eager to support a Canadian author and publisher, so I gladly said yes.

Shelley and her husband used to own the Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, BC, where she ran the Fresh Tracks Cafe. [I’ve never been there, sadly.] The first two cookbooks were born out of guests’ and locals’ requests for their recipes. This third installation came together after the couple retired, when Shelley thought that she’s done writing cookbooks. Her previous book collaborators and friends were more than happy to help her produce this stunning collection of recipes for the home cook.

The book arrived before one weekend and it just so happened that we had already invited a couple of friends with the promise of a home-cooked dinner that Sunday. Luring people with food almost always works and it’s a good excuse to get together. We usually make something we’ve made before and/or are fairly familiar with, but we were feeling quite adventurous and picked 2 dishes from the book with our Italian and Chinese friends in mind: a tomato and red lentil bisque and a seafood pasta with an Asian twist. To make it even extra special, we made some fresh pasta an hour before dinner. There’s something about kneading the dough by hand and rolling it with a hand-cranked machine. And we don’t mind taking the extra effort to make something from scratch for friends and family — they are worth it. [** My stand-by fresh pasta recipe is from Giuliano and Lael Hazan’s website, using 00 Flour.]

Whitewater Cooks with Friends by Shelley Adams

Our friends didn’t know they were going to be our test subjects for the cookbook until they arrived, but thankfully, they were willing to try whatever we served them. They helped us out in the kitchen, too. I love it when people get involved with the food, then enjoying the fruits of our labor afterwards in bowl- and platefuls.

We started off with the bisque with notes of cumin, ginger, mustard, turmeric, coriander, bay leaves, and a hint of jalapeño. The soup base of tomato, coconut milk and vegetable stock was hearty, but light enough that going for seconds would be easy to do even for a 3-course meal. Jens usually makes an Indian lentil soup similar to this, but we loved the Asian flavours mixed in here as well.

Tomato and Red Lentil Bisque

Tana’s Tomato and Red Lentil Bisque

We chatted a bit while the fresh pasta was cooking in a vigorously boiling pot of water, and Jens was quickly sauteing the garlic, onions, preserved black beans, tomatoes, chili flakes, prawns and scallops. There was much anticipation as steam wafted from the thick bubbling tomato sauce, across the kitchen and into the dining room. Before tossing everything together, a vote for how much arugula should be put came up. It turns out we all like it, so we had some slightly wilted with the hot pasta, and crunchy ones added just before serving.

Fettuccine with Prawns, Scallops, Chilis and Preserved Beans

Barely a phrase was said amongst four while we devoured our initial helping. The touch of saltiness and umami from the beans, with the peppery arugula and the touch of acidity from the tomatoes and the sweet fresh seafood melded together just like old friends catching up where they’ve left off. The black beans were similar to capers in pasta dishes, imparting saltiness, so if you’re not into the latter for pastas, it’s a good alternative.

Dinner was finished off with freshly baked pear frangipane brioche tarts and tea. We didn’t get a chance to make dessert from the book because we’ve already pre-made the brioche and frangipane, but there were more than a handful of pages bookmarked for near-future use, such as Lava Cakes with Sour Cherries — oh, yes!

We’re enjoying Whitewater Cooks with Friends so far. In fact, we cooked a miso-glazed black cod from the book a few days after this feast. It will definitely be in continuous rotation in our kitchen, both for family meals and cooking for friends.

What we love about the book so far:

– Most dishes were familiar and approachable, with each recipe having a unique twist. Those we’ve prepared so far introduced us to flavor profiles we would have otherwise overlooked.

– The flavors are spot on and are perfectly balanced.

– Wide variety of recipes, even vegetarians and pescetarians would love.

– Most dishes are quick to make, about 30 minutes to an hour.

– Most ingredients are already things you’ll have in stock, or are easy to find. If not, they can be easily substituted.

– Recipes are clearly laid out (not paragraph style), and it’s hard to miss a step.

– Notes on where to get ingredients in Nelson BC, which I found quite charming. It makes me want to go to there for a visit.

– Small-town feel from the headnotes to the recipe notes (see above) but boasts of big flavors.

– Beautiful photography for each dish.

If you’re looking for another cookbook to add to your collection, this would be a valuable thing to have. Ah, and a bonus: you will find yourself using it more and more, too.

Review

Posted in books and publications, reviews0 Comments

Ever Wished You Had An Instant Wine Chiller?

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I know I do! Sure, in some supermarkets in the US selling liquor, they have those wine chillers so you can cool your wine before hitting the checkout counter. However, if you’re home and you already have your room-temperature bottle of wine, it would be a hassle to go out just to buy some wine. And if you’re like me who have impulse cravings for wine that doesn’t leave enough time to chill anything (and don’t own a wine chiller), that puts a damper on saying yes to instant gratification.

That’s where ravi comes in! ravi is an “instant wine refresher”. I prefer to call it my enabler of instant wine gravification. I just have to take out the inner cartridge out of the freezer, assemble the unit in two snaps and place on the mouth of the bottle of my preferred wine and I’m good to go!

ravi looks like the cartridge of a faucet tap water purifier, and is almost the same size. Yes, the liquid passes through it as it’s being cooled down. Instead of cooling the bottle, wine is being cooled as it’s poured. It doesn’t change the flavor in any way.

I put it to the test with a bottle of red wine. The wine’s original temperature is 25°C, as you can see here.

I took out the ravi cartridge out of the freezer and set it up as indicated. The first two glasses I poured registered an almost 10-degree drop in temperature right there. You will see that even after 30 and 60 minutes, ravi was still able to hold the chill and cooled the wine to about 17°C. That’s pretty good, I think. I drank the wine at the “start” and “ravi” temperatures and they difference is noticeable.

I mentioned above that ravi has a valve that you can block with a thumb. This valve controls the flow of liquid through the  cooling tube. The principle is simple: slow down the flow and the liquid stays in longer, thus chilling it longer. Based on experience, I didn’t have to do this for the first 3 glasses. It cooled down quite nicely to a nice 15°C.

The possibilities are endless: you can use ravi for red, white, or rose wines. Just like your ice cream maker bucket, you can place it in the freezer and forget about it until you need it. I put the cartridge in a resealable sandwich bag in the freezer door. Cleanup is a breeze–just rinse and dry the internal tubing with the included pump.

I can definitely see this coming to potlucks (at private residences) for instant wine chilling, and placed in a tiny cooler, or even in those lined keep-frozen bags when traveling. As a self-confessed “girl scout” who brings whatever may be needed, this is another great gadget to have on hand!

We have partnered with OpenSky to bring products that we love to you, our dear readers. We do earn a small portion of each sale made through our store, but we will never recommend products we’ve never tried or don’t believe in. That much we can promise you.

If you like this product, you can purchase it here right now for USD$40. If you order anytime between today and August 16 and use the coupon code FREESHIPPING, you’ll get free shipping!

** Please note items at our OpenSky store can only be shipped to the US. I’m really hoping they would ship to Canada and the rest of the world at some point. If you have a friend in the US, you can use your international credit card and ship it to the US. **

Posted in kitchen tools and gadgets, non-food, reviews, shoppes3 Comments

Fry-Baked Tilapia

I forgot to mention that this is part of my efforts to “Eat Down The Fridge“, which simply means that I try to finish the food that I already have in the fridge and pantry before moving on to buying more. You know how we sometimes just accumulate food? Well, that’s the point of this experiment with Kim O’Donnel of The Washington Post’s A Mighty Appetite.

As a child, my absolute favorite food aside from fried chicken, was fried tilapia. I sure loved my fried stuff. When I didn’t know what to eat or our maids didn’t know what to feed me, they’d cook this because it’s sure to make me eat a lot. See, when I was younger than ten years old, I was so skinny and underweight. It wasn’t that I didn’t eat. I just need to eat more.

Everyone had their own theory as to why I was not gaining weight. My favorite and most remembered was my grandmother’s (mom’s mom) hypothesis that all the nutrients were going to my then very long hair. Ha ha.

Honestly, if I was served fried chicken and fried tilapia, I would just continue to eat until I was fat. Unfortunately (well fortunately!) I didn’t really gain weight until I was in college and that’s the time you don’t really want to gain any weight. Hahaha. I still continue to eat and enjoy tilapia, though.

Similar to the fry-baked chicken, I cooked this with the same methods but with different flavors. I went for something very (cliche?) Asian: ginger and green onions.

Fry-Bake Tilapia

Somebody told me that people don’t like looking at fish heads at the market and/or when cooking or eating. Uhm, do some people really think that the fish they eat are headless?

Ginger Tilapia

The tilapia was so darn good! Trust me, I’m a tilapia connoisseur from many years of first hand taste tests. ;-)

Fry-Bake TilapiaDownload the print-ready PDF file

Ingredients
•    1 med-large tilapia
•    1 onion (halved, sliced)
•    3 stalks of green onion
•    3 thin slices of ginger
•    1/2 cup chicken broth
•    1/2 cup dry white wine
•    1/2 tsp salt
•    3 cloves of garlic, mashed
•    olive oil

Preparation
1.    In med-high heat, heat olive oil and wait for it to ‘ripple’ in a frying pan. Fry the  fish about 2-3 minutes each side until golden brown. Here’s the cooking test I use as a guide: It’s good to flip once the skin doesn’t stick to the frying pan anymore.
2.    Transfer the fish into a rectangular glass baking dish. Preheat oven to 375°F.
3.    In the same pan, saute the sliced onions until they become dark brown on the edges, then add on top of the fish.
4.    Still using the same pan, pour the wine and allow to boil until it’s reduced to half. Add ginger slices and chicken broth cook for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer everything in the pan to the tilapia in the baking dish. Put fresh ground pepper on top of fish. Cover the glass dish with aluminum foil with 2 edges opposite each other is open (i.e. there is a vent).
5.    Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil, put green oonion, and cover again for 5 minutes before transfering on serving plate.

Posted in Asian dish, baking, dessert, experiments, fried, healthier choices, original Gourmeted recipe, reviews, seafood8 Comments

Strawberry Fro-Yo

First things first:

BlogHer Food 09

We’re going to BlogHer Food in SF this September! It will be the first blogging event we’ll go to, so we’re very excited. See you there? :)

Last weekend, the sun shone and it was beginning to get too hot for comfort in the house that there’s really no other thing I’d rather make with Fage yogurt** than strawberry fro-yo. I may be the most boring and redundant frozen yogurt maker, because I’ve posted about the same (yawn) flavor twice last year and coincidentally, around the same time, too! Can you blame me? I really truly believe that with a 2-cup tub of Fage, strawberries, some sort of sweetener and an ice cream maker, it’s HARD to get it wrong.

After I made this, just to spite me, you know what the weather gods gave us? Gray skies, rain (downpour!), aaand sunshine with hail. Snow would have completed the whole package, but that’s enough, thanks. I know you–yes, you Weather Guy up there!–made your point that Vancouverites can’t rejoice over good weather that much, but we still love it!

For the ‘recipe’, I just relied on my own ratio of:

one container of Fage : (maximum of) one Fage container of other liquids

[Speaking of ratios, I’ll be talking about Michael Ruhlman’s book called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking this weekend. In a gist: I highly recommend it so go grab a copy!]

First, I made a simple syrup by heating 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water, then added about 1 1/3 cup of strawberry puree***, 2 tablespoons honey, and a teaspoon of lemon juice and cooked it until it looked like this:

Strawberry Fro-Yo

I cooled it in the fridge for 30 minutes before blending all the cold ingredients with a hand mixer in a big bowl:  yogurt, sweetened strawberry puree, and 2 tablespoons of half and half light cream. Put it in your ice cream maker and churn it for 30-35 minutes, or until thick enough. Pour in a freezer-safe container.

One advantage of having a mother who shops for all sorts of things are finds like the thick metal fresh ice cream container that is so darn cute.

Strawberry Fro-Yo

Freezing and letting the frozen yogurt ‘rest’ overnight is best for flavor and texture.

Strawberry Fro-Yo

I couldn’t wait to eat it the next day. No suave scooping here; it was more like painful excavation of hard rock because I didn’t thaw it enough. I just took a few shots and devoured my sweet reward, despite of the soup it turned into.

Strawberry Fro-Yo

Not a problem, I love ice cream soup!

– – – – – – – – –

** After having used the different fat percentages of Fage, the 2% is still the best for fro-yo, in my opinion.

*** I didn’t strain the seeds out this time. I like the ‘character’ it adds to the ice cream. I don’t mind the seeds at all, but you can remove it if you like.

Posted in dairy, dessert, experiments, frozen treats, healthier choices, original Gourmeted recipe, quick & easy, reviews, snacks25 Comments

Better Than Ultimate Brownies

** You may also want to check out the Easy Fudge Brownie recipe **

Every now and then, an idea will spark for me from even the smallest triggers in life. This in particular was the result of a discussion about surprises. Mine was to be about dessert. The person that this surprise was for is someone special, so one cannot simply buy something from the store. I wanted to know what would make the best of the best. A kind of channeling of Tyler Florence, if you will.

I gave it a thought and I knew exactly what to do. Since my brother does not like cake, and my nieces and nephews tend to be picky, and my sister will eat generally anything with a sweet tooth, the only thing that made sense for me to prepare were brownies.

A quick google search led me here, The Ultimate Brownie Recipe. And I thought I had all the ingredients listed.

The result is this:

Ultimate Brownie

What was I missing? 3 unsweetened cocoa squares. Over 25% of the ingredient I needed was already used from what I thought was a full box of unsweetened cocoa.  What did I do? I dug up some semi-sweet chocolate chips and measured out on the scale 3 oz of the sweetened stuff.  I also reduced the amount of sugar by 1/4th cup to compensate for the sweetness coming from the chocolate chips.

Another thing I did differently was the choice of flour. I didn’t know the immediate impact on brownies but I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. I am also not a fan of nuts in my brownies, so I omitted the walnuts.

The result is this adapted recipe:

Better Than Ultimate Brownies Download the recipe

Ingredients:

  • 5 1-oz squares of unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 9 x 13 pan.

2. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate squares and chips, and butter; set aside.

3. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla at high speed for 10 minutes. [I definitely recommend a stand mixer for this.] Add melted chocolate mixture, salt and bread flour and mix until just blended. Let the batter sit on the counter for 20 minutes before pouring into the greased pan. Let air bubbles escape by tapping the pan.

4.Bake for 30 minutes and test with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, take the brownies out to cool before serving.

I believe my substitutions made these brownies above and beyond that of the original Ultimate Brownies! Each square is dense and chocolate-y, and has a nice chewiness to it. It’s better than store-bought or just-put-in-the-oven brownies. If you happen to be lucky enough to have some left over after a few days, you’ll be fighting over the the last few bites of super-moist and ultimately soft and chewy brownies. A little sacrifice of instant gratification truly pays off for these. ;-)

Give them a try in your kitchen and let us know how they turn out!

Posted in baking, cakes, chocolate, dailies, dessert, food g33kery, healthier choices, reviews, snacks, sweets42 Comments

Quick and Easy Meals with Amazing Taste

A few months ago, Sara of Amazing Taste sent us packets of their seasonings to try. To tell you the truth, we haven’t really entertained the idea of having prepared packet seasonings, and the only thing I can remember that we had was the gravy packets from IKEA for the meatballs (sorry, food snobs, but it is our once a year guilty pleasure). So why not go for something new, eh?

The first thing that we tried was their burger seasoning. For test purposes, although we were very tempted to add our own things into the mixture, we stuck with the recommended recipe for the burgers to see how good they are. We baked them in the oven to demonstrate just how ‘lazy’ we can be!  Haha. I really like the subtle flavor of this one. It’s nothing complex, but it works. It’s tender and juicy, and just enough flavor.

We also tried the Malibu seasoning is a “zesty blend of garlic, onion, black pepper, and paprika” seasoning to meat, poultry and seafood. I just rubbed the chicken with it, poked it with a fork and marinated it for an hour before frying it.

These seasonings weren’t too salty and they do not overpower the flavor of the meats. I find the Malibu one wasn’t as tasty as the burger, but it’s possible that I didn’t put enough. Between the two, I’d pick the burger. We still have the rest of the flavors to try, by the way.

Overall, I think they are nice to have in the pantry. They’re better alternatives to getting fast food on busy days: just get your choice of meat, poultry or seafood out, mix it and cook. For those who want to prepare a home-cooked meal without the fuss of mixing their own seasonings and figuring out flavors, this would be a blessing. It’s also recession-friendly at a price point of $0.99 each.

Thanks, Amazing Taste, for letting us try your seasonings!

Disclosure: We were sent the packets to try, but are not paid for this post.

Posted in dailies, reviews1 Comment

Review: Pizzeria Bianco

If you’ve heard of Bon Appétit’s Best American Restaurants episode from the Food Network, you will know that Pizzeria Bianco was named the best place in America to get a pizza. Between authenticity, taste, and quality of ingredients, it beat out countless thousands of  pizza chains and parlors in America. There is a great reason for it as well. Mr. Bianco himself is passionate about pizza as Joy and I are about eating it.

When we learned of this mecca of a pizza joint was in Phoenix, Joy and I planned for a date downtown. But this date did not come without setbacks. Our first challenge was getting there when it was open. We found that the restaurant is only open Tues-Sat. When we were able to get a night to do this, I wanted to verify my directions. In looking for them, I found a review and I thought I would cruise it. The review calls Pizzeria Bianco a low-rated location. His only argument? He had to wait 4 hours for a table. When I told Joy about this, she told me to call. The person who answered the phone confirmed. There was a 4 hour waiting list. This phone call took place at 4:05PM.

We decided that we will brave the wait. It was the perfect night to do it. It was not that cold, not too hot. After finding the location and being told it was a 3 hour wait, we took a couple of couch seats in the bar until the sun went down and ordered from their appetizers. I recommend the meat platter! The ambiance of the bar is cozy and their music library is a great mix of R&B, lounge, and other mixes for a comfortable experience.

Three hours later, slightly starving, our name is called.  We were moved to a table in the corner of the main house and we knew exactly what we wanted. I ordered “Wiseguy” — a sausage and onion pizza,

Joy got the “Margherita” — the basil and tomato pizza. It was the most flavorful pizza we’ve ever had!

But, was it worth it? Was the opportunity cost worth the value of the pizza that we waited for? I think it was, but, I think some little things could have been changed to make the flow of customers better.  The bar where we stayed at was filled with tables and chairs which could have easily been used for patrons to get the pizza. The location does not take reservations, for obvious reasons, but you can make one if your party is 6 or more. I think if we go again, we’ll get a couple of friends together and make sure we can get them to experience this pizza as well because this is a pizza worth the price, but not so much the wait.

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What’s the Safest Way to Send Food?

Why, printed on a card of course!

A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in blogging about a food photographer’s cards, and in exchanged I would receive the cards. I jumped at the offer because what’s not to like? There goes my love for paper AND food. It’s perfect!

The package arrived while I was in Vancouver, so Dan just told me about it. At first he said “You got a package from the photographer.” And I thought — uh, from a…photographer? A wedding photographer? How baffling. Haha. When I got back, it turns out it *is* from Chef Susan, who’s also a food photographer.

And these are the beautiful cards:

Coming from a paper addict, let me just say that these beautiful photos (she’s also a food stylist) have just the right amount of food and impeccable style that is nicely printed on high quality 100 lb. cardstock. In a few words: They are fantastic!

They would be hard to “let go” and mail because they’re just too pretty to use. Decisions, decisions. I want to start writing, but I don’t know which ones to pick!

They are beautifully packaged, too.

Visit Chef Susan’s Etsy store and get your cards now:
Blue Egg Photography

And just a random fact: they smell like good paper. If you know the magazine “The Believer“, the cards smell like that. I’m one of the weird ones who love the scent of new books and paper.

P.S. I’m super thankful that there are no photos of cookies or cakes. Why? that will make me hungry at midnight. Like right now.

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