Saturday, May 31, 2008

Osem Bamba Peanut Snack

Do you love Cheetos ? Okay, picture eating a handful of those, sans the cheese flavor [read: a plain corn puff]. Now imagine biting into that puff and tasting burnt peanut butter. If you're one of the few people still thinking "Yum, that sounds good," have I got a snack for you. They're called Bamba Peanut Snack and are made by an Israeli company called Osem [Random facts: "one of the largest food corporations in Israel"; Nestle has 50 % of Osem's shares].

Bamba Peanut Snack is made from peanuts, corn,rosemary extract, among other ingredients. There isn't a peanut filling in the corn puffs, just a peanut flavor. I give this snack a big thumbs down : P

*11/13: After 2 attack comments in this review, I would like to add two things:
(1)The information I posted came directly from Osem's website and the bag I purchased. Those were the ingredients listed.
(2)Yes, I did not think Bamba tasted good at all. Maybe you [general you] liked them. That's fine. Comments not related to the product will be deleted.

Pastry Dough [Pasta Frolla]

I made a pie crust from this recipe tonight. It has a nice biscotti flavor:

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup [1 stick] sweet butter
Grated rind of 1 lemon
3 egg yolks

Place flour and sugar in processor, add salt and mix for a few seconds. Using a knife, shave strips of butter and place in processor. Add the lemon rind. Using the pulse button, cut the butter into the flour for 10-15 seconds. Lightly beat the egg yolks and, again, using the pulse button, dribble the egg yolks into the processor. As soon as the pastry dough develops into a ball, turn off the processor and remove dough. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough for a few seconds into a round ball. Seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before using.

"Note: If pastry dough is a bit dry after adding egg yolks, add a bit of water if necessary. Pastry dough freezes beautifully and can be kept frozen for months on end in the freezer."

Credit: An Italian Peasant's Cookbook, by John Scialdone

Friday, May 30, 2008

Fiber One Chewy Bars: Oats & Chocolate

I know what you're thinking: "Ewww, fiber and chocolate !" The picture on the box isn't exactly endearing: 2 lumps of a rather messy, gooey granola bar, melted chocolate, and "35 % of the Daily Value of Fiber." If that's not an appetite killer right there : P And obviously that ruled out finding taste test guinea pigs for this post.

But Fiber One Chewy Bars really taste good. They're a little chewier and stickier than other granola bars. But they're sweet and chocolatey and not that bad. Word to the wise: don't eat an entire 1.4 oz bar in one day : X

Beigel Beigel Nish Nosh: Mediterranean Herbs

I spotted these "crispy baked snacks" yesterday at Super Wal-Mart. The crackers resemble puzzle pieces sprinkled with seeds [the main ingredients are wheat flour and sesame seeds]. I'm not sure what the Mediterranean herbs are supposed to be; the package simply lists "flavors, flavor enhancers." There is also an allergy warning about barley, rye, egg, mustard,poppy seeds, soy and oats. None the less, I enjoyed these very much. They have a light, pleasant garlic taste. I would buy these again. I think these would go well with a spinach and cheese dip.

*Update: The back of the package says "Zaatar mini crackers." This is what Wikipedia says about Zaatar:

...Za'atar is generally prepared using ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, sumac and salt. Some varieties may add savory, cumin, coriander or fennel seed....

  • Zaatar
  • Virginia Ham Biscuits

    2 cups flour
    4 tsp baking powder
    Pinch of salt
    2 Tbsp shortening
    3/4 cup milk
    1/4 cup ground Virginia Ham

    Note: I left out the Virginia Ham. I added 2 oz crumbled garlic feta, 2 oz shredded Colby and 1 egg. Instead of making individual rolls, I oiled and floured a loaf pan; then I made 1/8 cup balls of the dough and pressed them into the pan. I brushed the top with melted butter 5 minutes before the loaf was finished. This bread smelled
    amazing : D

    Sift flour and baking powder. Mix with salt and ham. Cut in shortening with a knife until all is consistency of meal. Add milk. Handle as little as possible. Pat out with hands or roll on floured board. Cut out. Bake in hot oven till brown.

    Credit: From Williamsburg Kitchens, 1968, Tory Hill Press

    Baked Devil Float [aka Floating Disaster]

    I tried making this recipe this afternoon. I'm still not sure what this was supposed to be. The batter tasted like brownie mix, but turned into a goopy mess when I added it to the syrup. Also, I was confused about "bake at 350." Was I supposed to scoop the dollops out and bake them in the oven ? Or just let them cook in the syrup ?

    1 cup sugar
    2 cups water
    2 Tbsp Crisco
    1/2 cup sugar
    3 Tbsp cocoa
    1/2 cup milk
    1 cup flour
    1/2 cup nuts [optional]
    2 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp vanilla

    Boil 1 cup sugar and water. Cream shortening and 1/2 cup sugar. Add dry ingredients: alternate with milk. Add nuts. Drop from spoon into boiling syrup. Bake 30 minutes at 350. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

    Credit: From Williamsburg Kitchens, 1968, Tory Hill Press

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Torestas Black Bean Sour Cream Crackers

    I spotted a coupon in the Sunday paper for Lance's Torestas Black Bean Sour Cream on Southwest Crackers. So I bought the 8 count box at Super Wal-Mart this afternoon [each packet has 6 crackers] The package promises "zesty southwest fillings on oven-baked crackers made from stone ground corn."

    I don't think the filling tasted like black beans or sour cream; it was more of a Dorrito flavor, which I enjoyed. The crackers were quite tasty, too. They were thick and crunchy, with a wheaty flavor. I would definitely buy these again, even if the name is a little misleading.

    The miracle berry

    Source: "The Tiny Fruit That Tricks the Tongue", by Patrick Farrell and Kassie Bracken, The New York Times, May 28, 2008

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    Del Monte Harvest Selections: Cheese & Spinach Ravioli

    I've seen Del Monte's ravioli several times at Super Wal-Mart. And you know I love spinach and cheese, so I had to try it.

    The bowl is microwavable. That'd be great, except the plastic was difficult to remove [yes, Delmonte reps, I know you cook with it on, not off] I pulled off one layer of plastic, only for it to split into two layers : / I ended up with sauce on my shirt, the counter and my fingers. The smell of the tomato sauce was repugnant. If you dislike Chef Boyardee and Spaghetti-Os, you will hate this smell, too. Yuck !

    But I decided to heat up the ravioli and give it a shot. That made the sauce taste richer and more flavorful. However, the ravioli filling was beyond nasty. The cheese and spinach filling resembled chopped mystery meat with green streaks. The filling and after taste again brought to mind Chef Boyardee. I won't buy Harvest Selections again : P

    This was all Del Monte had on their website about Harvest Selection:

    Del Monte® Harvest Selections® Meals
    Talk about convenience! Harvest Selections are a shelf stable meal that can be kept either in your cupboard at home or within easy reach in your office desk drawer. Pop them in the microwave for 90 seconds and you get a hearty and delicious meal loaded with vegetables. No more diet-dooming trips to the vending machine!

    Del Monte® Harvest Selections® Meals
    New Del Monte® Harvest Selections® entrees are a line of delicious, wholesome, microwavable meals that deliver two full servings of vegetables per meal. Harvest Selections® does not require a fridge or freezer. Available in six varieties, including Beef Stew, Italian Pasta Bake, Chicken Cacciatore, Homestyle Chili with Beans, Cheese and Spinach Ravioli and Santa-Fe Style Rice and Beans, this convenient new product can be eaten in the office, at home or on the go.

    Reese's Dark Chocolate Bat Signal

    I heard Reese's had a contest to win Batman memorabilia, with game pieces in specially marked packages. So I bought the Dark Chocolate Batman Reese's at Winn Dixie last weekend because of that contest.

    Hershey has a Bat Signal shaped candy on the website. What I bought was not shaped like that at all. [The Batman candies are sold in packs of one instead of the usual 2 cups]. Depending on how you turned it, the candy either resembles (1) a chocolate version of Yoda's head or (2) the imprint of very tiny shoes that stepped in *ahem* animal by-products.

    Oh, right, you want to know about the flavor ? The Reese's didn't taste like dark chocolate. It was darker in color, but no different in flavor, than a milk chocolate Reese's. [I bought a Batman milk chocolate Reese's for comparison] There was a faint texture difference between the two chocolates. But I think that difference was psychosomatic. I won't be buying dark chocolate Reese's again.

    Wild Cherry M&Ms

    I bought a bag of Wild Cherry M&Ms at Food Lion on a whim. I'm not usually a fan of artificial cherry flavoring. But it was Wild Cherry, so I thought that must taste better. After all, I enjoy wild cherry flavored sodas. Big mistake. Wild Cherry M&Ms are equivalent to eating a chocolate bar and cherry cough syrup in one mouthful : X

    Nobody in my house liked them. Even my dad, who loves all things cherry flavored, said "Um, they're...alright : P Okay, they're gross..." My mother offered the remaining candy to her co-workers. All of them found the candies disgusting, too. So a big thumbs down for this product.

    Mint Crisp M&Ms

    If you love Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, you're in for a treat. Mint Crisp M&Ms are the candy answer to the scout's best seller. Each one has a mint candy shell, a layer of chocolate and a crispy center. The candies are light green, dark green and white. Heaven, I tell you : D I bought 12 bags at Walgreen's the other day. We're already down to 6 bags. Yeah, they're that good.

    Greek-Style Bread

    My poor bread maker has been neglected and ignored for one year. I dusted it off last night, scrubbed the bread pan and insides clean, etc. Then I made this delicious loaf of bread:

    Greek-Style Bread
    1 cup milk
    1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil [I used olive oil]
    1 tsp salt
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    3/4 cups crumbled feta cheese, drained and patted dry is necessary
    1/4 cup sliced pitted black olives, drained [I left these out. We're not an olive family]
    1 Tbsp sugar
    2 tsp bread machine yeast

    Add ingredients to bread machine pan in order suggested by manufacturer,
    adding cheese and olives with flour.

    Recommended cycle: basic/white bread cycle: medium/normal colour setting.

    Credit: Bread Machine Recipes: Great Recipes from Gold Medal and Fleischmann's Bread Machine Yeast

    Maggiano's Little Italy, Jacksonville, Florida

    Maggiano's Little Italy
    10367 Midtown Parkway
    St. Johns Town Center
    Jacksonville, FL, 32246

    I heard about Maggiano's via a trade show coupon book. I decided to sign up for their email list, but never got around to visiting. I finally took my parents and my sisters to Maggiano's on Mother's Day this month.

    The menu was rather expensive, so we quickly decided on the family style meal. It came with a choice of 2 appetizers, 2 salads, 2 pastas, 2 entrees and 2 desserts. [Your table can get seconds or thirds [no charge] when you run out of whichever dish you've chosen.] It was $25 per person. With tax, tip and drinks, the bill was $157 for five of us. So yeah, it cost a lot. And I won't be eating there every week. But it was definitely worth the price. I've listed our menu choices below and my opinion of them:

    Calamari Fritte
    Crispy calamari coated in egg whites and seasoned flour, deep fried and served with our marinara sauce.

    4 of us found the calamari too chewy. One sister, who absolutely loves calamari, swears it was cooked perfectly.

    Stuffed Mushrooms
    Jumbo mushroom caps stuffed with spinach and topped with our seasoned breadcrumbs and house cheese; served in a white wine chicken broth.

    This appetizer came with 8 large mushrooms and 1/2 a lemon. These were magnificent ! Someone lost a finger reaching for the last one :D We ordered seconds.

    Caesar Salad
    A traditional Caesar salad of romaine lettuce tossed with Caesar dressing, croutons and shaved Parmesan cheese.

    It was very good. The salad had slices of Parmesan instead of the usual grated variety [a huge improvement, in my book]The Caesar dressing had a very pleasant, creamy flavor.

    Spinach Salad
    Tender leaf spinach tossed with roasted red peppers, sweet roasted onions, Gorgonzola cheese, apple cider vinaigrette and topped with smoked bacon and toasted pine nuts.

    We ordered three helpings of the spinach salad. It was just off the charts amazing. The Gorgonzola and apple cider vinaigrette were an excellent pairing.

    Four Cheese Ravioli
    Ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella, and provolone filling sprinkled with house cheese, then browned in the oven and served in pesto-Alfredo cream sauce with a touch of marinara.

    The ravioli was well received. The sauce was thick, creamy and rich.

    Mom's Lasagna
    Whipped ricotta cheese layered with pasta sheets, crumbled meatballs, Italian sausage and marinara sauce. Topped with provolone cheese and your choice of our meat or marinara sauce

    The one disappointment was this lasagna. None of us noticed sausage on the menu listing; otherwise we wouldn't have ordered this. To be blunt, it tasted cheap and gross.

    Chicken Parmesan
    Lightly breaded chicken breasts fried and topped with provolone cheese and marinara sauce. Served with Parmesan chips.

    This was the best chicken Parmesan any of us had ever tasted. This was not the nasty kind made of chicken parm made from spaghetti noodles and a cheap, breaded, frozen patty.

    Chicken Marsala
    Chicken breasts sauteed with Marsala wine, veal sauce, mushrooms, onions and basil.

    The wine sauce and mushrooms were heaven X D We ordered seconds on this, too.

    Ladyfinger cookies soaked in espresso and coffee liqueur layered with mascarpone cheese;dusted with cocoa powder and served with chocolate

    The tiramisu merited a second and then third order. Yum!

    N.Y. Style Cheesecake, Seasonal Fruit
    New York style ricotta cheesecake topped with fresh berries and whipped cream.

    Normally I won't order cheesecake in a restaurant. It usually doesn't taste as good as my homemade version. But this ? Totally worth a second order.

    Nanny Fran's Meatballs

    I came across this recipe in my 125th Anniversary Edition of the Pennsylvania State Grange cookbook. So I decided to make spaghetti and meatballs for lunch. The Parmesan gives the meatballs a delicious taste. Side note: Do not use grated cheese for this recipe. It does not hold up well [and you'll miss out on good flavor !] Also, I made the first batch with Great Value Italian seasoned bread crumbs. That was a mistake. I found the GV bread crumbs lackluster in flavor [read: sawdust in a can] and less durable in the cooking process than other brands. The second batch turned out much better when I used Progresso's Italian bread crumbs.

    Yield: 30 Servings
    Pan size: Electric Fry Pan

    2 lbs hamburger
    1 lb ground pork [note: I just used ground turkey instead of those 2 meats]
    6 eggs [I reduced it to 2 eggs]
    1 clove garlic or 2 tsp garlic powder
    1 teaspoon of parsley
    1 Tbsp oregano
    2 oz Romano grated cheese [I used shredded Parmesan]
    1 cup bread crumbs
    1 [48 oz] jar spaghetti sauce

    Mix all ingredients together except spaghetti sauce. Make into meatballs and brown. Cover meatballs with sauce and simmer for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

    Credit: Alice E. Potter, Shermanata #1796