Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tidbit Taste Test: Celery Soda

My mom knows me well. She knows that I like to try weird foods. She recently found a lone can of celery flavored soda in a discount store and knew that she had to get it for me. 

When mom brought the soda to me to try, my cousin and her husband were also visiting. I convinced everyone but my stepdad to take a sample. 

It really wasn't too bad. Light yellow colored and bubble, it tasted sort of like a very weak ginger  ale with a subtle celery saltiness to it.

It wasn't bad, but we all decided that we wouldn't be able to drink a whole can. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tidbit Taste Test: Baumkuchen

Aldi stores had a surprising selection of imported specialty items for the holidays and one of these happened to be Baumkuchen. I know enough German to know that it meant "Tree cake".  It sparked my interest so I inspected the box and, after reading the short description provided, decided to give it a try. I had the option of either milk or dark chocolate. When given the option, I always choose dark. It's just how I roll.


I'm going to save time of typing out an explanation or linking to one on Wikipedia and just post a picture of the box here. Sometimes I'm just lazy and I'm okay with that. I did look it up, though, and learned that not only is this a popular cake in different parts of Europe, but it is also very popular in Japan. Okay...here's the Wikipedia link. You should check it out. The history is quite interesting.


I offered the cake as dessert one evening. My adventurous husband was willing to try it. It was wrapped in plastic and felt like opening a Christmas gift. If people gave me cakes for Christmas, I would be a happy girl. 


The first thing I noticed, besides the obvious odd shape, was the frosting. It reminded me of those little chocolate Hostess Donettes that I may or may not have purchased in little packages at the gas station in my past. The similarity between the outside of this cake and that of a convenience store snack had me skeptical at first.




I put the cake on my finest paper plate and began cutting it. Once I got through the chocolate, I immediately noticed the layers that the description had mentioned. They didn't look like rings of a tree though because I sliced it the other direction.




The cake itself was kind of dry and dense. The flavor was pretty good though. It was definitely buttery and had a hint of almond to it from the marzipan. The chocolate outer shell definitely took me back to the gas station of my youth that was the source of many midnight munchies.




After a couple of small bites, I decided that milk would go great with it. It's probably blasphemous in Germany, but I dunked my piece into the milk and let it soak up some liquid - much like I would have done with a Hostess Donette. The flavor of the Baumkuchen was decidedly superior , however, and I figured that this Aldi store cake was probably closer to that Donette than an authentic Baumkuchen cooked on a spit in Salzwedel (the town where this cake was said to be invented). I really liked it but I'd like to taste a freshly made one someday. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to travel to Germany someday.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tidbit Taste Test: Golden Krust Jamaican Style Patties

This Tidbit Taste Test is brought to you by the Dollar Tree. Our local store got a small refrigerator/freezer section in late summer, which has a fine rotation of random stuff in it. We went there last week to get some supplies for Mr. Husband's classroom and ended up finding some interesting looking frozen items that we deemed "tryable." I mean, they were ONLY a dollar!

What we found were Jamaican Style Patties by Golden Krust, which is apparently a "Jamaican, West Indian and Caribbean cuisine fast food chain based in the Bronx, New York." I didn't know that when I bought the patties, but they seemed legit enough at the time. I mean, any product that changes the "C" to a "K" in the brand name always screams quality. Too bad it's difficult to pick up on sarcasm in a blog...
  


The thing I found to be the most interesting about the patties were their cooking instructions that only told the consumer how to prepare them in the microwave. Most individually wrapped frozen things like this, in my experience, have both microwave and conventional oven directions - do they not?  I apologize for not formatting the following picture to make the text horizontal but frankly, I don't give a damn. You get the picture.



The preparation instructions were simple enough: Make a slit on the provided dotted line, microwave, let stand, then consume.


I didn't look at the ingredients on the package before buying these, which is something I rarely do. I guess I was just excited by the novel idea of trying some weird new Jamaican treat that came from a discount store. Now that I look at it, I realize that everything about that last sentence is just wrong...

We were a bit surprised to see that the pockets were yellow. When I opened the package and saw the colored crusts, it was at that point that I realized I had no idea what was in these things. I checked the ingredients list and saw things like curry, turmeric, and annatto, which are all natural colorants. I admit, I let out a pretty big sigh of relief. I also browsed over the rest of the ingredients and didn't see anything too alarming. Very nice...
 


The patties were each a different hue of orange/yellow. The spicy beef had a deeper orange to it while the chicken was a lighter yellow, that seemed to almost blend in with the yellow plate that I put it on. Having a yellow item on a yellow plate drove me crazy, but it was too late - I had already dirtied it. I have this thing about food items not being the same color as the plate/bowl...

 



I took a bite of the chicken patty and immediately tasted curry. The second thing I noticed was that unmistakeable flavor of gas station burrito. For real. The filling was like a gas station chicken and bean burrito with some curry powder added to it.



The crust was kind of sweet and flaky. I was actually impressed with the amount of layers in the crust and it tasted pretty good.





The beef patty was similar - beef and bean gas station burrito filling just subtract the curry and add spiciness. The crust was just as flaky and sweet as the chicken. I honestly didn't notice that much of a difference in the crusts of the two, despite the color of the beef patty being more like that of a Goldfish or Cheezit cracker.  I suppose that maybe a bit more turmeric was sprinkled in the beef batch so that the manufacturers could tell the patties apart after they were filled and sealed? I'm going with that theory...

 

Overall, we decided that the patties weren't bad for a dollar. Would we buy them again? Probably not. They did, however, spark my interest in finding and making an authentic Jamaican patty some time.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tidbit Taste Test: Russell Stovers Seasonal Chocolates

Our local Walgreens recently had the seasonal Russell Stover chocolates on sale, which meant I had to buy a handful. I had originally gone to that store to look for something else but left solely with candy. I bought a few "Santa" chocolates and an Apple Pie treat. Over the span of a few days, my husband and I tried them. Here is what we found - 

I started out with Gingerbread Santa. I love gingerbread - that certain blend of spices and molasses really speaks to the cold weather months.




I opened the package and found a piece of candy that definitely did not resemble the jolly old soul on the package. I tried really hard to find Santa's likeness in the dark chocolate mass but was unable to.




I bit into "Santa" and discovered a soft filling that only slightly resembled ginger bread in flavor. I was pretty bummed that there wasn't a real gingerbread cookie enrobed in the chocolate. Overall, I wasn't impressed with it.




The next candy tried was the Apple Pie Big Bite. This had not been on sale, rather it was at the checkout counter when I was buying the other sale candies. I couldn't resist. I mean, I was already buying an absurt amount of Russell Stovers chocolate - the only things in my transaction.




This candy proved to be a bit more interesting that the Santa blob I had previously sampled. There chocolate mass was actually sitting on top of a graham cracker square, which I assume was there to represent the crust of the apple pie. A couple of the cracker's corners had broken, so there were quite a few crumbs in the package. Somehow I managed to keep things fairly tidy when I opened the package.




When I bit into it, I was surprised that there wasn't some sort of pie filling in the middle. Instead, there was some sore excuse of an apple and cinnamon flavored mush. I was beginning to realize that Russell Stover had the mush filled chocolate market of the candy world cornered.




My husband said, "It's not bad." I let him eat the rest of it.




Next, I opened the Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Santa. This one actually said "cookie" on the package which made me hopeful that there was something other than flavored mush under that chocolate. I was  also excited to see Santa's face this time. I mean, I was pretty sure that the last Santa was just one of those every-once-in-a-while mistakes on the conveyor belt at the candy factory.




Opening the package exposed another blob of chocolate - this time of the milk variety. Again, the shape didn't resemble Santa. Instead it looked more like a Triobite fossil.




For real. Trilobite.


The inside was once again a mush. NOT A COOKIE. I was surprised to find an actual raisin, though. At this point in our chocolate covered journey, I was the most satisfied with this piece. The mush actually tasted like an oatmeal raisin cookie. I was pleased. Not happy. Not satisfied. Maybe if it would have looked more like St. Nick and less like an ancient arthropod...



Next up was the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Santa.




Guess what? Didn't look much like Santa again. However, looking at the photo now - upside down - I can see what could be considered the ripples of the old man's beard and the cone shaped top of his hat. See it? Do a handstand and cross your eyes...it helps...




The inside was honestly the closest thing to representing what it said it was on the package. There were actually mini chocolate chips in there! Also, the signature Russell Stover mush had the mouth-feel of something very close to a spoonful of fundraiser tub cookie dough that had been thawed to a mushy state by sitting in one's mouth for a few minutes before swallowing whole. What, you've never done that?




I had a hunch that the Crunchy Peanut Butter Santa would be the best, so I saved it for last.




Shape assessment - not Santa. Oh well. I stopped believing in him decades ago anyway...




Guts? Actually a crunchy peanut butter! Real peanuts and all! Man, I was totally spot on about saving this one for last. It ended up being the best, for sure.



I learned a few things while sampling these candies.  First, 99% of Russel Stover's chocolates are filled with an under-flavored and over-sweetened mush of some sort. Second, no cookies are ever enrobed by Mr. Stover. Third, peanut butter always wins.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Peanut Butter Popcorn

Awhile back we purchased a couple boxes of microwave popcorn, which is super rare for us. We just don't eat popcorn very often. The store had a smokin deal that we couldn't refuse, though, so got two boxes and forgot about them.

We recently remembered our snack stash and popped some one night. I dumped Junior Mints in my portion, and my lovely husband put Peanut Butter M&Ms in his. We apparently didn't feel like eating it plain was an option. The holidays are upon us. Time to pack on the pounds by unnecesarily adding calories to things.


A few nights later I decided to look for recipes using microwaved popcorn and stumbled upon this recipe for peanut butter popcorn. It made a huge amount and it was just me and my guy, I halved the recipe.





It was so stupid easy to make. A half cup each of brown sugar, peanut butter, and corn syrup brought to a boil and poured over the popcorn. Ridiculously easy. 




Honestly, the hardest part was getting all the dud kernels out of the mix.  Second hardest part - stirring it up and not getting it on the counter.



I've made this again since the first time and added marshmallows and chocolate chips. Insanely good. This will be a new family favorite, I'm sure of it. Growing up, my dad's side of the family made caramel corn at family gatherings and I have fond memories of  relatives standing around counter tops full of wax paper and gooey corn. For me, however, peanut butter > caramel. Also, the ease of this recipe ensures that it will be made time and time again.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches

I've been using the handy dandy crock pot more lately than I have in a long time. It's quite the fabulous tool and I'm perplexed at how I ever let dust collect on it's lid over the years. I think that I've always been a little standoffish toward it because of one too many pot roast / mushy veggies meals proclaimed to be the best-thing-since-sliced-bread by a lot of people that I know. I myself have turned a few root vegetables into baby food in the crockpot but have since learned to do the veggies separate from the roast. Also, since having our little guy, the slow cooker has worked it's way back into the "commonly used tool" list in our kitchen. I'm sure it will continue to be a favorite, especially when I go back to work.

I had purchased a small beef roast on sale and wanted to make some sort of sandwich with it. I looked in a crockpot specific cookbook from my personal collection and also scoured the internet in search of something delicious and easy. I ended up deciding on using what I had available to me and based my recipe off of this.

Here's what I ended up throwing in the Crockpot:
  • a 2.5 lb beef roast
  • an open but barely-used jar of sliced peperoncini, juice included
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 cup beef broth
I believe I cooked it all on high for 4-5 hours. It's been a couple of weeks since I made this, so I'm not exactly sure. 



We served the beef on toasted hoagie rolls and added some shredded aged white cheddar. Cheddar is what he had available at the time but any cheese would have been great, especially provolone.


 Two bites in, my fabulous husband told me that I could make this anytime I wanted. He quickly inhaled the sandwich, made a second, and reminded me that these could be made again. He finished the second sandwich, leaned back, wiped his forehead with his napkin, and said, "Seriously. I could eat this every day." 

I'd have to agree that it was a darn good sandwich. Easy too. Can't say that I'd want to eat it everyday, but I tend to like to spice things up a bit.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Tidbit Taste Test: Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses

I've decided to start reviewing snacks and other food products on the blog. Why? Because I can't help myself from trying strange things. I love weird seasonally flavored and holiday themed snacks (especially when they go on clearance after said season/holiday), and one of my favorite things to do is peruse the aisles of Asian and Mexican markets and buy the weirdest looking thing to take home and try, then subsequently try to convince others to taste. It's probably my favorite game. My favorite version of it was when I bought a bag of durian candy. It lasted for months and the reactions were all priceless. I honestly didn't think they were that bad. I also want to make it clear that having people try durian candy was not purely for torture/amusement purposes. I wanted to broaden people's horizons, I swear.

I wanted to give the new posts a specific name to set them apart from those about recipes. It took a good week or so of brainstorming but over dinner tonight my wonderful husband suggested I use the word "tidbits". I consulted a thesaurus, threw around a few words, and from there Tidbit Taste Test was born.

The day after Halloween my husband went to a store for a couple of essential things and came back with some clearance candy. One of the things he got was Pumpkin Spice Kisses by Hershey's. Neither of us could remember if we had tried them before.




The packaging was very seasonally appropriate with earthy orange and brown colors throughout to remind us that the vibrant green life of summer was behind us and the cruel, cold winter months were soon upon us. The foil around the kisses featured a print that reminded me of wispy tiger stripes drawn by a 5th grader. The paper flags coming out of the foil were a darker brown which waved the words "pumpkin spice" proudly. 




The kisses themselves definitely tasted like pumpkin spice. They were sweet, pumpkiny, and nutmegy. Like a tiny two-toned teardrop shaped piece of pie. I think that the two tones represented different things - the orange outside was the pumpkin custard filling and the white inside was meant to be the sweet glob of whipped topping covering the slice. 




Overall, I thought these were alright. Very sweet - almost too sweet for my taste. I was able to eat about 2 of them then was on the verge of feeling like I overdid it. I did a quick Google search and found a few recipes that used the kisses on top of cookies and other things. I considered making something out of them for a moment but ended up grabbing a handful of them to put in our candy dish then sent the rest with my husband for him to take to work.