Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dove Assorted Miniatures

Dove Silky Smooth Milk Chocolate
The Dove milk chocolate didn't have much of a smell. The taste was kind of plain. It tasted better than Palmer's milk chocolate but worse than Hershey's milk chocolate. The aftertaste reminded me of a Wendy's frosty or a Fudgesicle [read: not chocolatey enough]. "Silky smooth" seems a bit of a stretch. I found Dove Milk Chocolate boring in taste and smell.

Dove Milk Chocolate With Caramel
The Dove with caramel had a light milk chocolate smell. Caramel squirted out on the first bit. The caramel had a nice texture, but was not buttery enough. This candy was just so-so.

Dove Extra Dark Chocolate, 63%
The extra dark chocolate smelled like semi-sweet chocolate chips. The chocolate had a milkier taste than Hershey's special dark chocolate, but with a less intense cacao taste. The overall flavor reminded me of hard shell dark chocolate used on ice cream. This candy was not that great by itself. The flavor would be brought out better if paired with the right wine. This is another "will eat if there's nothing else" candy.

Ghirardelli Filled Squares Chocolate

Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate With Peanut Butter Filling
"perfect combination of intense creamy milk chocolate and gourmet peanut butter with crunchy peanuts roasted to perfection. This "grown-up" version of your childhood favorite is one you are sure to crave!"

This square had a sweet, pleasant peanut butter smell. The filling was peanut butter, with a few pieces of peanuts. I liked the smooth taste of the chocolate. The peanut butter filling was okay. I prefer peanut butter filling that's crunchy and gritty, like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. This bar fell under the category "will eat if there's nothing else."

Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate With Caramel
"delivers the perfect balance of intense Ghirardelli milk chocolate and a rich buttery center. Our smooth caramel center is so popular and uniquely delicious, we offer it with two different chocolate shells: milk chocolate and 60% cacao dark chocolate. "

When I broke the caramel square in half, a curtain of caramel drizzled out. The caramel filling was indeed buttery. I like my caramel a little thicker; but other than that, I have no complaints. I think this candy would be nice paired with a cup of espresso and a good book on a rainy day. I would buy the milk chocolate-caramel square again.

YouBars vs Element Bars

If you're interested in custom made energy bars:

  • YouBars official website

  • Element Bars official website

  • New York Times article on YouBars

  • Gadling Article on Element Bars

  • Sources:

    "With These Nutrition Bars, Every Order Is Special", by Lisa Napolin, The New York Times, 2/20/2008

    "Like energy bars? Element Bars lets you design your own", by Scott Carmichael,Gadling, September 18, 2008

    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Subway's Flatbread Sandwich Creations

    located in Wal-Mart Supercenter
    1580 Branan Field Rd
    Middleburg, FL 32068

    Subway recently added flatbread sandwiches to their menu. So of course a taste test was in order:

    Chicken Florentine
    "...tender, juicy chicken, olives, tomatoes, Tuscan spices and melted cheese, all topped off with our creamy spinach artichoke spread..."

    This sandwich had just the right amount of chicken, cheese and Florentine spread. The bread was oh-so-soft and a perfect pairing with the chicken, in both the toasted and untoasted versions. The Florentine spread was deliciously savory. Thumbs up!

    Steak & Bacon Melt
    "...steak, crispy bacon, peppers, onions, melted cheese and your choice of veggies..."

    When my sandwich was being made, I noticed two containers behind the glass. One had what looked like chunks of steak. The other had something that resembled Steak-Umms chopped into little pieces. What was put on my sandwich was the Steak-Umm type meat. I don't think I would've wanted the first bin, though; those pieces had an odd look and color. And by that I mean "overcooked and left to harden in a sunny, dusty spot." Ew.

    Steak issue aside, I should have requested the bacon be left off. The salty bacon flavor overpowered the rest of sandwich's flavors. I wouldn't order the Steak and Bacon Melt again.

    Simply Orange: With Mango, Pulp Free

    Yesterday I bought a bottle of Simply Orange: With Mango. I'm not a fan of mango in general; fresh mango tastes metallic to me. But I thought it would be fun to try something new.

    Simply Orange: With Mango tasted like peaches to me. The fresh mango and orange flavors were not obvious to me. This product had a heavy, overly sweet aftertaste. The aftertaste reminded me of cheap citrus flavored candy.

    I'm also skeptical about their slogan "Simply Unfooled Around With." The ingredient list reads as "Contains orange and mango juices, natural flavors." The mystery third ingredient(s) presumably negate the claim of "Oh, this is just o.j. with a squeeze of mango."

    I probably wouldn't buy Simply Orange: With Mango again.

    *ETA: Kitchen Sink / EatMyWords has a kick butt piece about why it's not "simply unfooled around with" juice:

  • Eat My Words
  • Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    B's Family Restaurant, Middleburg, Florida

    B's Family Restaurant
    2216 S Mimosa Avenue,
    Middleburg, FL 32068

    If there's one thing Clay County lacked until this year, it was a restaurant that had good down-home cooking. I couldn't name one non-chain restaurant here that served delicious fried chicken and all the fixings. Good news, Clay County: I've found such a place!

    B's Family Restaurant moved into the former site of Smokey's Barbecue in Middleburg late this year. Their breakfast menu has simple, homestyle meals. I have not visited them for breakfast yet. (If anyone else has, let me know what you thought of it).

    The lunch and dinner menu has a great selection of old Southern favorites. I highly recommend their fried chicken and macaroni. Both are as good as my homemade recipes! If you're not in the mood for fried chicken, try their hamburgers and fries. The burgers are juicy and mouth-watering. The fries are served piping hot. Finish off your meal with their delicious banana pudding, chocolate cake, lemon cake or orange cake.

    I found the food to be outstanding. And the staff at B's was friendly and outgoing. Thumbs up for B's Family Restaurant!

    *11/16/2012 update: B's is no longer in business.

    Fresh Coconut Cake

    This cake is best served after setting up overnight. Also, I made many substitutions. I didn't have coconut, orange liqueur, cake flour and mandarin oranges. Instead, I used lemon juice, all purpose flour and strawberries. I skipped the snow peak frosting since it's not popular in the AMW house. So I ended up with a custard & strawberries cake instead of coconut custard cake. Either way you make it, you won't be disappointed!

    Fresh Coconut Cake

    1 fresh coconut, cut into pieces
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    3 eggs
    3/4 cup butter or margarine, chilled
    3/4 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
    2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    Custard filling
    Snow peak frosting
    Mandarin orange sections

    Position shredding disc in food processor bowl; cover with top. Peel brown skin from fresh coconut pieces; cut coconut to fit food chute and shred, using firm pressure. Remove the coconut,and set aside.

    Combine sugar and eggs in processor bowl; process 1 minute. Cut butter into chunks, and add to processor bowl; process 1 minute, stopping once to scrape sides of bowl.

    With processor running, pour milk and vanilla through food chute.

    Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to processor bowl; top with cover, and pulse 4 to 6 times or just until blended.

    Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9 inch round cake pans. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely.

    Split cake layers in half horizontally to make 4 layers.

    Spread custard filling between layers; spread top and sides with snow peak frosting, and sprinkle with coconut. Garnish with mandarin orange sections. Yield: one 4-layer cake.

    Custard filling:
    2 cups milk
    4 egg yolks
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/3 cup cornstarch
    3 Tbsp orange-flavored liqueur or 1 teaspoon orange flavoring
    1 cup grated fresh coconut

    Combine milk, egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a heavy saucepan; stir with a wire whisk until well blended. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Stir in liqueur. Chill thoroughly. Stir in coconut. Yield: about 2 1/4 cups.

    Snow peak frosting:
    1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
    2 egg whites
    Dash of salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Bring corn syrup to a boil.

    Combine egg whites (at room temperature) and salt in a large mixing bowl. Beat egg whites at high speed of an electric mixer until soft peaks form; continue to beat, slowly adding corn syrup. Add vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form and frosting is thick enough to spread. Yield: enough for one 9-inch layer cake.

    Source: Southern Living 1985 Annual Recipes, Oxmoor House Inc. , page 281

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Arby's Mint Chocolate Swirl Shake

    896 Blanding Blvd
    Orange Park, FL 32065
    (904) 272-1225

    "Creamy mint chocolate flavored shake with a chocolate swirl"

    Today I went to Arby's to try their mint chocolate shake. It should've been a red flag when the girl making our shakes yelled "HEY (co-worker's name), I DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE THESE SHAKES !" What we received were two vanilla shakes with a puddle of green coloring and mint flavor at the bottom. The sides of the cups looked like someone played paintball with brown paint. Thumbs down for Arby's Mint Chocolate Swirl Shake.

    T.G.I. Friday's, Orange Park, Florida

    T.G.I. Friday's
    1301 Wells Road
    Orange Park Mall
    Orange Park, Florida 32073
    (904) 215-7030

  • Cobb Salad

  • Chilled and diced fire–grilled chicken, crisp bacon, avocado, Cheddar cheese, egg, black olives, tomatoes and bleu cheese on salad greens. Tossed with your choice of dressing.

    The Cobb salad was very good. It had the right amount of eggs, bacon and cheese.

  • Order of onion rings

  • The amount of onion rings was skimpy.

  • Chipotle Grilled Steak Sandwich

  • Tender Cajun–rubbed skirt steak served on toasted ciabatta with a blend of Colby and Monterrey Jack cheeses, roasted plantain slices, lettuce, tomato, onion & Chipotle mayo. Served with beer–battered onion rings.

    My first impression was "This sandwich is kind of small." But it was much more filling than I expected. The bread was soft and flavorful. The skirt steak was tender and perfectly grilled. I didn't taste any Cajun rub on the meat. It had just the right amount of Colby and Monterrey Jack. I would recommend asking for the mayo and lettuce on the side; the mayo and the heat of the steak made the lettuce limp and soggy. The three plantains slices were put inside the sandwich; I should have asked for them on the side, too. For some reason, the onion rings and the plantains all tasted like French toast. I guess they were cooked in the same oil. I was given a rather tiny amount of onion rings, just like my dining companion.

  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

  • Peanut butter graham crust filled with layers of chocolate ganache and fluffy peanut butter mousse topped with whipped cream and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup

    The peanut butter pie cost $4.89. What our waitress brought was a 3 inch wide, 1 1/2 foot long rectangular plate with a teeny, tiny sliver of pie. Most of the plate was just pudding (excuse me, mousse) drizzled artistically. The pie was tasty. But you can bet I won't buy desserts at T.G.I. Friday's again. What a ripoff.

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    M&Ms Holiday Mix: Mint Chocolate vs Peppermint

    Mars has a few holiday M&M varieties on the market. One version is peppermint & milk chocolate. The other is mint and milk chocolate.

    The mint milk chocolates had a smooth, cool mint flavor. The peppermint candies were another story. The peppermint bags had a mint smell but almost no mint flavor. The mint flavoring in both varieties tasted exactly the same. There was no difference in the ingredients listed, either.

    I would buy the mint M&Ms again, but not the peppermint M&Ms.

    Chex Mix Turtle Bars

    I recently received a sample of Chex Mix Turtle Bars in the mail. The package promised a mix of wheat Chex, chocolate, peanuts and pretzels. It also proclaimed "good source of whole grains."

    The Chex bars had a honey-nut smell. They were very sticky. The bars stuck to the bottom of the package, due to puddles of caramel. Each bar looked fairly like the package picture, except for the lack of chocolate chunks.

    The turtle bars had plenty of peanuts, caramel and cereal, a small amount of pretzels and only 1-3 candy coated pieces. The taste was like a poor knock-off of a Butterfinger bar. It was not satisfying to eat at all. There was a sore lack of sweetness or saltiness. The pretzels were overpowered by the honey, caramel and cereal.There was not enough chocolate, either.

    Hershey's Take Five bar is a tastier alternative to this product. I wouldn't recommend Chex Mix Turtle Bars to any of you.

    Mrs. DuBois' Yummy Mandelbread (Biscotti)

    Click the link in the title for the biscotti recipe. These were a hit with the AMW family last night. Instead of the cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg, I used the Vienna filling. Yeah, we're getting our money's worth from that recipe this week:

    Pecan Vienna Dream Coffee Cake

    1 cup flour, shifted
    3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
    4 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
    1/2 cup butter or margarine
    2 cups pecans chopped (Megan's note: I used 2 cups Blue Diamond cinnamon brown sugar almonds)

    Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter or margarine; blend until mixture is crumbly. Add pecans, mix well.

    Cake and topping source: The Best of Mayberry Cookbook,copyright 1996, by Betty Conley Lyerly, page 60

    Mandelbread source: Simmer Till Done Blog, 8/27/2008

    Mini Bread Loaves

    Check out the link in the title for a kick butt bread recipe. I made a batch of the mini bread loaves last night. They came out soft and delicious : D

    Source: "Mini bread loaves", Culinary Cory blog, 11/09/2008

    Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Orange Park, Florida

    Five Guys Burgers and Fries
    1910 Wells Road, #C02D-5
    Orange Park, FL 32073

    I'd heard about Five Guys Burgers and Fries on various food blogs, but never tried their food. There seemed to be two camps of thought: the long-time fans ("It's the best burgers ever !") and the nonplussed newcomers ("Um, I don't get the hype.")

    Recently, Five Guys opened a location at the Orange Park Mall, next to Maggie Moo's. There were four of us dining that day: two major fans and two newbies. We were assured "You don't know what you're missing. So yummy !"

    I'll note this up front: If you're allergic to peanuts, Five Guys is not the place for you. There is a warning about peanut oil and peanut dust on the front door. Upon entering, I noticed sacks of peanuts and potatoes stacked around the restaurant. There was another peanut warning sign posted, asking customers not to take peanuts outside the building.

    This location was very noisy. I have a high tolerance for loud music, but the volume of their radio was beyond ridiculous. The employees kept trying to greet us across he room, but the music drowned them out ("WELCOME TO FIVE GUYS !" "WHAT ?" "WHAT CAN WE GET FOR YOU ?" "WHAT ?").

    The employees were very friendly, once we were in hearing distance. They pointed out the sacks of potatoes were for homemade french fries. When asked about the brand of hot dogs, both employees shot each other panicky looks. Then they answered "kosher beef." No kidding, I could see that on the menu board.

    The wait for the food was rather short. Kudos for that. Our group had 3 drinks, 3 burgers, 1 hot dog, 1 order of plain fries and 1 order of Cajun fires. The hot dogs were worth trying. They were juicy and plump. The fries were hot, crisp and fresh. The hamburgers were hot, fresh and properly cooked. Although we newcomers commented "I'm not impressed with the meat itself. I've had this hamburger at street fairs. Meh." The price tag for this meal was $31. Ouch.

    My overall reaction: Five Guys gets an A for the concept, simplicity and efficiency. The service we received was quick, friendly and efficient. The fan girl hype is over the top, but the food is good. I might go back for a hot dog. I wouldn't order a burger again, though, due to the price. Also, I would be happy if Five Guys added a simple dessert option to the menu.

    Bertolli Pasta and Sauce: Spinach & Ricotta Cheese Manicotti

    Bertolli's Spinach & Ricotta Cheese Manicotti sounded good to me on a recent shopping trip. So into the cart it went. After all, I like cheese, spinach and pasta. What's not to love about that ? I probably would've put the bag back if I'd noticed the romantic, J. Peterman-ish story on the back of the bag. It was about an Italian artisan and how he gathered his fresh ingredients, from his cheesemaker friend and various places. That should've been a red flag.

    When I got home, I poured the bag's contents into a pan. My reaction was "Huh, there's not much pasta. And what are these other chunks ? Carrots ? Oh, duh, it's the sauce." In total, there were nine 2 inch x 1/2 inch pasta tubes. The servings promised was 4 cups total. Yeah, right, Bertolli. The picture Bertolli has of the manicotti is deceptively large (see the link in the title). The giveaway is that the fork is bigger than the manicotti.

    I will give Bertolli credit for the sauce. That aspect was rich and delicious. It was not too chunky or acidic. The filling, on the other hand, was just average. I considered the shells to be too soft (almost soggy) and missing any oomph.

    At $4+ a bag, this was not a good buy. Nine tiny pasta tubes is not enough for three people at dinner. I can make better manicotti shells and filling from scratch myself.

    Gourmet Dining: Chicken Florentine

    "Complete Skillet Meal With Rotini Pasta, All White Chicken Meat, Spinach and Florentine Sauce."

    I picked up a bag of Gourmet Dining's Chicken Florentine at Super Wal-Mart last week. It contained frozen, precooked chicken, a sauce packet, rotini pasta and spinach.

    The chicken: This meal needed 2 to 3 more tablespoons of chicken.
    The spinach: Had just the right amount.
    The rotini pasta: Had just the right amount.
    The Florentine sauce: At best, it's broth flavored. I wasn't wowed. Sun-dried tomatoes would have improved the flavor quite a bit. I expected a bigger punch from a sauce that was made with white wine, olive oil, Parmesan, Romano and garlic powder.

    The quality of Gourmet Dining's Chicken Florentine was average. I probably won't buy this again.

    Andes Peppermint Crunch: Indulgence, Candy Cane Design

    The other night, I was on an errand at Winn Dixie. I came across a stack of Andes Mints called Andes Peppermint Crunch: Indulgence, Candy Cane Design. You know I can't resist trying something new. And I do love Andes mints !

    The caption on the bag is "crunchy bits of peppermint & has a delightfully embossed candy cane design on top." The bag itself is red,white and silver, with 2 green holly leaves and 2 images of the candies. Each candy is individually wrapped in red, white and silver foil. There are about 28 pieces in a bag.

    The mints had a nice peppermint smell. Each piece had three layers:
    - Layer 1: White chocolate with red peppermint speckles and candy cane design
    - Layer 2: Red [tasted the same as white layer]
    - Layer 3: White chocolate with red peppermint speckles
    The white and red layers tasted like Wilton Candy Melts. They were very sugary. The peppermint bits were more like crunchy cookie bits than peppermint candy. Also, the peppermint flavor left the AMW family commenting "it's like I used mouthwash and ate candy melts simultaneously."

    I probably won't buy these again. They were not of the caliber I usually expect from Andes mints.

    Cinnamon Pineapple Babka

    A Jewish Classic

    3/4 cup lukewarm milk
    2 Tbsp yeast
    1 cup all purpose flour
    4 eggs
    2 teaspoons salt
    1/2 cup white sugar
    3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon mace (Megan's note: I didn't have any mace, so I left it out)
    4 cups all purpose flour

    In mixer bowl, mix milk, yeast and 1 cup flour; cover with plastic wrap and let stand 30 minutes, until spongy. Slowly beat in remaining ingredients. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. Dough will be soft. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 45 minutes before making up.

    1/2 recipe Babka dough
    Cinnamon sugar, see Index
    Streusel, see Index
    Vegetable oil
    Simple syrup, see Index

    Roll out dough on floured surfaces to 8x16 inch rectangle. Brush with oil. Sprinkle all over with cinnamon sugar; press sugar into dough. Roll up and seal edges. Stretch out to about 20 inches, fold in half and twist twice. Place in a greased 9 1/4x5 1/4 inch bread pan and press down. Brush top with vegetable oil, sprinkle with streusel, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. Cool on wire rack.

    Megan's note: I skipped the streusel, syrup and cinnamon sugar. Instead, I used the topping from the Pecan Vienna Dream Coffee Cake and added 2 1/2 cups frozen pineapple I'd shredded in a blender:

    Pecan Vienna Dream Coffee Cake

    1 cup flour, shifted
    3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
    4 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
    1/2 cup butter or margarine
    2 cups pecans chopped (Megan's note: I used 2 cups Blue Diamond cinnamon brown sugar almonds)
    Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter or margarine; blend until mixture is crumbly. Add pecans, mix well.

    Credit for babka: Gottlieb's Bakery: 100 Years of Recipes,Compiled and Tested by Sarah Gaede with Irving and Isser Gottlieb, page 106, Copyright 1983

    Credit for topping: The Best of Mayberry Cookbook,copyright 1996, by Betty Conley Lyerly, page 60

    Pecan Vienna Dream Coffee Cake

    This is a very simple, delicious recipe you should try. I keep a batch of the topping in my freezer to toss into various recipes. Enjoy!

    Pecan Vienna Dream Coffee Cake
    Great for freezing!

    1 cup flour, shifted
    3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
    4 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
    1/2 cup butter or margarine
    2 cups pecans chopped (Megan's note: I used 2 cups Blue Diamond cinnamon brown sugar almonds)

    Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and butter or margarine; blend until mixture is crumbly. Add pecans, mix well.

    4 cups flour, sifted
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 cup butter or margarine
    1 3/4 cups white sugar
    3 eggs
    1 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon extract

    Preheat oven. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream butter or margarine and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until light and creamy after each addition. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk and flavoring, blending well after each addition. Divide batter equally between three greased 9-inch round cake pans. Cover each evenly with an equal amount of topping. Bake until done and browned.

    Temperature: 350 degrees.
    Baking time: 35 minutes.
    Yield: 3 (9 inch)coffee cakes

    Source: The Best of Mayberry Cookbook,copyright 1996, by Betty Conley Lyerly, page 60

    Kraft Live Active Blueberry Almond Bars

    Thank you to my mom for this review of Kraft's Live Active Blueberry Almond Bars:

    I loved these bars ! A lot of times when a granola bar has "frosting" on it,it makes the granola bar too sweet ! This one has the perfect amount of sweetness coming from the frosting to compliment the granola part of the bar !! I would definitely buy these bars and I am no fan of granola bars with any kind of glaze or frosting on them !!

    Sunday, December 07, 2008

    The latest trend: tooth friendly foods

    Source: The latest lure: Joy for your teeth, Laura Capitano, Florida Times Union, 12/07/2008