1oz…unwrap or snap?

*I will forewarn that I am leaning towards one side on my comments in this post.

I have baked a good amount of times that I have frequently reached for unsweetened chocolate.  The convenient, perfectly measured, individually wrapped pieces of goodness that are added with a variety of ingredients for a delicious end product.  I was making some brownies last night and had to pick up some of the chocolate.  I open it up and am taken aback.  I don’t get a 1 oz. piece.  I get a bar.

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I flip the box over to be sure I purchased the right thing.  Yes, I did.  But they are advertising this great new phenom!  4 oz Easy Break Bar.

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Grrr…I wanted my 1 oz wrapped piece(s) of chocolate so I didn’t have to break anything/put forth any more labor.  And, easy break is not the word.  I could not snap it easily.  I had to get the knife out.  I needed 2 oz for the recipe and the first cut barely made it along the line.  On the second, most of the bar split.  *Again, can you tell my bias.*

So, as nice as changes are and innovation is, sometimes sticking to the old stuff is good.  I rest my case.  Would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve used the new ‘cut’ of the product.

Bake on, bake on.

Domestic ‘Irish’ Beer

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, another storm hit the area, which means there is no work.  It even means I don’t get to teach class at the gym tonight.  So, after meeting a friend for lunch (and walking there and back in the nice (?) slush and snow to attempt getting a workout) I was on a mission to get a (n)ice cold beer for the day.  I stopped by a great local beer store in Bethesda, Beer, Wine & Co. to see what I could snag one bottle of vs. a 6-pack.  Of course I couldn’t get Guinness or Harp in a single, so a bottle by great local brewer, Flying Dog, was suggested.  It was their Lucky SOB Irish Style Red.  Very nice and perfect for the day.  Just a traditional red, crisp and what I wanted.  And, they say it’s brewed with 4-leaf clovers, you can never go wrong with that!

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No Recipe Green Sunday Dinner

Last night I wanted to make a pre-St. Patrick’s Day dinner, color-wise.  I had done an Irish brunch so needed something lighter but wanted a green theme.  I assessed what I had in my kitchen and off I went.

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Started with some green olives to nibble on while prepping.  Then went for some scallops with ginger, garlic and green onions, some Brussels sprouts (with pistachios) and arugula with grapefruit.

The key to the taste of this was some sesame oil!

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Put some of that in a pan then added the green onions, garlic and ginger.  My kitchen smelled SO good.

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Then, I purposely used a big pan to (1) save time and (2) get some of those amazing, drool inducing flavors/tastes into both the scallops and Brussels sprouts.

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Wanted to add some (more) tang to my arugula salad so added some grapefruit.

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While all this was happening, had some kale chips going — just tore some kale, tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and baked at 400 for 10 minutes.  I put the kale on a rack so I don’t have to flip it.

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Opened up a red from Italy that I’d had for awhile to serve with dinner — amazing!  Osel Ruche.

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Final product all around was AMAZING.  Plenty of green on the plate — green kale, green arugula, green Brussels sprouts, green pistachios (tossed with them), green onions, green olives for apps.  Love just throwing stuff together!

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Chocolate Toffee Cookies

I have a cookie recipe in my recipe binders that I’ve relied upon for years.  I never really get to enjoy the goods because of the butter in them but when people try them I hear rave, amazing, sometimes censor-needing (in a good way) reviews.  It’s Epicurious’ Chocolate Toffee Cookies recipe.  An amazing combo of chocolate, Heath bar…and dark rum.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon dark rum — I always throw a bit more in there
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate-covered English toffee (such as Heath bar; about 7 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped almonds

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy.

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Add egg, rum and vanilla and beat until well blended.

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Sift (or in my case I just add/drop in) flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into small bowl. (and then mix in with the power of KitchenAid) Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture.

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Mix in toffee and chopped almonds. (Ditto on the last KitchenAid statement — that’s what it’s there for!)

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Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto heavy large ungreased baking sheet (I still use Silpat mats), spacing 2 inches apart.

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Bake until cookies puff slightly and crack on top but are still soft to touch, about 11 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheet 1 minute. Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely (cookies will become crisp).  And then heavenly bliss arrives.

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Repeat shaping and baking with remaining batter. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

 

From Demo to Homemade…delicious find

I was at Whole Foods last week and they of course had all sorts of food demos/samples out in the store.  One was this delicious salad that they were charging a good amount for and extra to add salmon or chicken to.  I looked at the ingredients and mentioned how I’d love to just make it at home.  The girl doing the demo said quietly ‘just google it under Martha Stewart…’  Score!  So, last night I served some wonderful Toasted-Quinoa Saute with Lemony Cabbage and Dill with Pan Seared Chicken. There aren’t too many ingredients in the recipe:

IMG_02021 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed well
S&P
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 head Savoy cabbage (about 1 pound), cored and thinly sliced lengthwise, divided
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 ounces pitted large green olives, such as Castelvetrano or Cerignola, halved (about 3/4 cup) — picked up basic green at Trader Joe’s
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill

Step 1

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Stir in quinoa and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover, raise heat to high, and cook until water evaporates and quinoa is dry and tender, about 5 minutes (stir frequently to prevent scorching).  *I just cooked it like regular quinoa.

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Step 2

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the cabbage and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown in places, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining cabbage.

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Step 3

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet. Return sauteed cabbage to skillet, add quinoa, and raise heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is toasted and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chickpeas, olives, and lemon zest and juice, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in dill, and serve with yogurt.

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The salad was amazing!  And, it’s dairy-free and gluten free!  We enjoyed it with two whites (one was opened earlier in the night).  Chalk Hill 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and Chateau St. Jean 2010 Chardonnay.

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And for dessert we had some of the wonderful Ciao Bella Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet.  That stuff is deadly!

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Saturday Wine Tasting

I checked out a great wine tasting on Saturday and some of the wines made it home — can never go wrong with that.  It was at Wine Cellars of Annapolis and the theme/title was Value Imports from Vintus Wines.  We suffered through 3 whites and 3 reds from a total of 4 countries.

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2012 Talmard Macon-Chardonnay, Burgundy, France

Per the cheat sheet:  Gerald and Philbert Talmard are a father son team carrying on a four century family tradition of grape growing in the French village of Chardonnay, believed to have given the grape its name.  The vines are planted in calcareous soil, which provides the wine with a particular mineral characteristic along with fruity aromas.  This wine is luscious, showing scents and flavor of butterscotch, honey and lemon with a distinct mineral taste on the finish.  $14.99

My notes:  Dry Chard (score!), with some butter at the end.  Unique in the sense that you wonder how it’s a Chard then voila!  There it is right at the finish.

2010 Domaine Des Baumard Savennieres, Loire Valley, France (if you want to check out their true site, here it is, in French obviously — www.baumard.fr)

Per the cheat sheet:  “This is perfectly balanced dry Chenin.  It had just the amount of richness, aided by a touch of vanilla.  The green and white fruit are blended with deceptively soft acidity to give a wine that feels full and ripe in the mouth.  Good to drink now, but also worth aging 3-4 years and more.”  93 points Wine Enthusiast  $26.99

My notes:  Too sweet for me.

2013 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

Per the cheat sheet:  “This is powerful and rich with a reserve and tension.  Full and layered with beautiful dried fruits and a bright acidity.  Dried apricots and lemons.  Lots going on.  Loving it.  Turns to aniseed and dried lemons.” – James Suckling  $22.99

My notes:  AMAZING smell — grapefruit, mango.  But, the taste doesn’t match the nose.

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2011 Tommasi Valpolicella “Rafael”, Veneto, Italy

60% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, 15% Molinara

Per the cheat sheet:  This classic Valpolicella is full of dried-cherry flavor with a hint of smoke and grilled meat on the nose.  Offering loads of bold fresh cherries on the palate and a core of mouth-watering acidity in the background behind all the bright cherry fruit.  Tart dried cherries and a whiff of smoke linger in a long finish.  $16.99

My notes:  Cherry, smooth, light but still has body, cranberry.  Big stars on my piece of paper.  Left with a few bottles — and enjoyed it 1while watching the Red Carpet and Oscars on Sunday.

2010 Heartland Shiraz, Langhorne Creek, Limestone Coast, Australia

Made by star winemaker Ben Glaetzer, this deliciously dark and rich Shiraz has hints of chocolate, pepper and tobacco leaf on the nose.  Plums, blackcurrant and spice flavors abound on the palate and are perfectly balanced by fine supple tannins.  $19.99

My notes:  Coffee, smoke, amazing, light acid taste, will get some soon.

2009 Chatean Lyonnat Lussac Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

Per the cheat sheet:  “Firm, richly dark wine from the Saint-Emilion satellite village of Lassac, with chocolate and coffee flavor, layers of wood and spice.  It is packed with ripe plum and black cherry fruits, weighty and already concentrated.”  90 Points Wine Enthusiast  $24.99

My notes:  Light wine, taste of ‘wet rocks’ — we know exactly what those taste like, right?  So funny who we know the taste of random things.

Overall, some great new finds!

New Snack/’Chip’ Find

I was in the deadly Wegman’s the other day roaming through the aisles and an aisle-end product display caught my eye.  The main ingredients/flavors were things I like, the nutritional value was good, so I had to give them a try.  The product — Lesser Evil’s (love that name) Super 4 Snacks, White Bean, Quinoa, Lentil, Chia, with Kale & Roasted Garlic.  And, after visiting their site, I noticed a product I’d tried before that’s addictive, the Chia Crisps.

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A serving has 46 pieces — that’s a nice amount to be able to eat!  And has 110 calories, 3g fat, 2g monosaturated.  There are 18g carbs per serving, with less than 1 of the grams being sugars.

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The pieces you eat are light and hollow, the shape of ziti.  They just sort of float in your hand, they weigh so little!

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Very flavorful.  They were a little bit salty, and going back there are 220g of sodium per serving.  Overall though, addictive…  There are a couple other flavors of them, too — Roasted Red Pepper and Cheesy Nacho.  And, on the back of the bag, they nicely note, the product fits into a lot of (positive) categories:

-all natural
-gluten free
-beans are low glycemic
-kosher
-corn free
-good source of fiber
-no MSG
-baked not fried
-not genetically modified
-empty calorie free
-no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors
-no milk hormones