Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

An Update on My Tea Habit

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

It’s been a couple of years since I really started getting into tea. Two years later, we’re still totally in love with the stuff. We started with Teavana, since there was one located very close to us, got frustrated pretty fast with their high prices and aggressive sales techniques, and moved online. We’ve tried a few different mail-order places; here are the ones we’ve tried, in order of how much we love them.

#1: Harney and Sons

This link will take you straight to my favorite tea of all time, Harney and Sons’ Decaf Hot Cinnamon Spice. They have other good flavors as well, and they have sample size packages of almost everything. They also sell their teas in these nifty pyramid-shaped “sachets,” so you get the convenience of a tea bag with the tastiness of loose leaf.

Harney & Sons Decaf Hot Cinnamon

I’m drinking the decaf these days, in all things. Back when my anxiety was really turned up to 11, I discovered that caffeine made it way, way worse. So I stopped drinking caffeinated things. After I got the anxiety (mostly) under control, every time I tried caffeine again, it would grab a random emotion and crank it way up. The emotions it chose made no sense — one time it would be joy, the next it would be rage. So I’ve embraced my new decaf lifestyle.

I still haven’t tried all of Harney’s decaf flavors, because the hot cinnamon is so, so perfect. It’s like hot tea with red hots in it, but in a good way. And in the evenings, it’s especially good with a glug of Fireball cinnamon whiskey in it. Right now we have three containers of their cinnamon tea in the house — both loose leaf and sachets of decaf for me, and some regular-strength for Scott.

Ooh, AND. You might be able to find some tins of 20 sachets at your local grocery store. Our nearest Target has eight flavors available, a couple of them decaf. The Publix only has one flavor, but it’s the regular Hot Cinnamon Sunset, so that’s cool. (We’ve also ordered Harney teas from Amazon, when they’re out of stock at the Harney website. Many of their offerings come with Prime shipping, so I can get my mitts on the tea that much faster.)

(Edit: Just got an email from Harney. Free shipping now through November 30th!)

#2: Adagio Teas

Adagio has a GREAT selection of teas, be it regular, decaf, green, or whatever tickles your fancy. My link here will take you to their Rooibos Vanilla Chai, a great decaf chai that rocks my socks with a shot of cream in it.

They also have small sample packages for around two bucks each, just like Harney and Sons. They say the sample packets make 10 cups of tea, but your mileage may vary on that. (We only get 5-6, but maybe we just like it strong.) So you can try a bunch of different flavors and see what you like. (Turns out, I don’t like teas made from dried fruit. The best of them is like drinking hot fruit punch.)

IngenuiTEA

Adagio is also the source for the IngenuiTEA teapot, which I reviewed a couple of years ago. I still think it’s a great device for some people; I just didn’t like having to clean all of the soggy tea leaves out of it. Which is why I’ve switched over to either pre-made bags with loose leaf tea, or filling my own empty tea bags with loose leaf.

Right now (Thanksgiving weekend in the USA), they appear to be doing free shipping on everything.

#3: ESP Tea Emporium

We tried these guys way back when, and they come in a distant third place. Their smallest sizes are around $5 each to try (as opposed to Adagio and Harney with their $2 samples). A couple of flavors were all right, but not as great as other brands we’d tried, and a couple of the flavors we got tasted kind of stale and lifeless.

And, a new gadget!

As an early holiday present, I got a Panasonic 3.2-quart water boiler. Here it is with a cute tin of Harney regular hot cinnamon, and a giant ugly bag of 50 sachets of decaf cinnamon.

The tea nook

(I see they’re in the $90 range right now. If you keep an eye out and wait for a sale, you can get this model for under $70. Did you know that you can use sites like Camel Camel Camel to alert you when items on Amazon drop under a certain price? It’s awesome!)

Since we moved, we now have a fridge with a filtered water dispenser in the door (and I never want to go back to being without ice and water from the door, hoo boy). For hot beverages, we would fill a measuring cup with filtered water from the door, then microwave it. Now, it’s as easy as teabag in the cup, press a button, and blammo. Immedate steeping!

We weren’t sure it would be worth the money, but this thing is fantastic. It’s helping me cut down on pop (Caffeine-Free Diet Coke is a little Kryptonite-ish for me), because now a cup of tea can be almost as immediate as cracking open a can of pop. So it’s worth it for that alone. Scott also uses it for his coffee. I guess we could use it for ramen, as well, if we ate ramen. (I’ve tried these rice noodle soup bowls in the past; I should grab some more of those. They were almost ramen-ish, and delightfully gluten-free.)

Anyone out there have a favorite online tea shop, preferably one that sells little samples?

In Vino Veritas

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

I’ve never been a wine drinker. Many times I’ve tried, and many times I’ve failed to enjoy it. But through the years, I’ve made it to the point where I can drink a glass of Champagne (or other non-Frenchy sparkling celebration wine) without trouble.

But still, wine eluded me.

That is, until we went to Texas de Brazil, our favorite churrascaria in the world, with a wine drinker. He ordered a bottle of red wine (I had no idea what variety) and offered me some. I decided, why not, I’ll try a splash.

AND IT WAS GREAT!

(This picture of my trip to the Texas de Brazil salad bar reminds me that Scott still has his birthday coupon for a free dinner. I think it expires in a week and a half. Which means we may have to go have a meat festival in the very near future.)

Maybe it was the combination of red wine with all of those delicious meaty foods. Or maybe it was just the right kind of red wine. Turns out it was an Oregon pinot noir from King Estates. And immediately, I was on the hunt for other (less pricey) red wines that I might enjoy.

I’ve tried a number of things so far, and pinot noir is definitely one of the styles that’s up my alley. I’ve tried bolder wine, but can’t handle the tannins (which has always been my problem in the past) — that sharp bite that makes my tongue want to curl up and die, and makes my mouth suddenly feel dry as a desert.

I visited our local Total Wine superstore, where they also pointed me toward a variety of red wine blends. They’re meant to be lighter, fruitier, “juicier” (as the lady at Total Wine said, which is kind of disturbing), and generally meant for casual drinking without having to pair them with any particular food.

So far, my favorite is from Costco — the MacMurray Ranch Central Coast Pinot Noir, 2010. (That’s MacMurray as in Fred MacMurray, actor from days of yore.) But I also enjoyed Sexy Wine Bomb, one of the red blends. I’m in the middle of Ecco Domani’s pinot noir right now, and have blends from Barefoot and Fancy Pants (as well as a fresh bottle of Fred MacMurray) waiting in the wings. I got the Fancy Pants pretty much for the name, although the description on the back sounds good.

It’s cheaper for me than even cheap beer (and I like the cheap beer) — I can make a $10 bottle last two weeks, because I only have a half-glass or so at a time. And since our room temperature here is usually 76 to 78, and red is apparently meant to be consumed at cellar temperature (more in the 58-65 range), I drop in a couple of those plastic reusable ice cubes and it chills perfectly.

(I still haven’t bought wineglasses, and I doubt I’m going to. I just use our regular glassware (Old Fashioned size) from IKEA. I believe the product name is GODIS.)

So let me know, one and all — any red wines to recommend? Especially if they clock in at under ten bucks.

Fancy Tea-Drinking: A Little Teavana Review

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

I have a lot of teas to review, so I figured I’d break them up by source. That also gives me a chance to write about the tea-buying experience with each supplier, which I think is an essential part of the process.

First up is Teavana. They have a large website that’s fairly easy to navigate, but they also have stores in malls and shopping districts throughout North America — there are certainly fewer stores in Canada and Mexico than in the USA, but there are still a goodly number in both countries. There are 21 locations in Florida, and a mere 7 in Washington. But that’s not surprising, since national chains always seem to get to Washington after hitting everywhere else first.

I have not yet used their website to place an order, but I have created a user ID there so I could build a wish list. I’ve also reviewed a tea there, but in order to review a tea, you need to connect with your Facebook account, instead of using your Teavana account. Which is weird.

We visited two of the Orlando-area stores: Florida Mall and the Mall at Millenia. (Yes, they spell millenia wrong. It’s Florida.) We visisted one of those stores (Millenia) on two different days, and got to experience two different employees. At both stores, we had similar experiences — clearly, the sales staff works on commission, because they have a slightly frantic delivery and try to get you to buy as many teas as possible, while also trying to get you interested in the more expensive teas.

On our very first visit, we explained that we were total tea novices, and wanted to try some samples. Teavana, however, does not have a sample program of any kind — the smallest amount of any tea that you can buy is two ounces, and their prices are based on a cost-per-two-ounces. Two ounces really isn’t all that much, unless you end up not liking the tea, in which case it’s an ounce and three quarters too much. Depending on how much tea you put in each eight-ounce cup of water, two ounces of leaves should get you 25-30 cups of tea.

On our first visit, we purchased three teas, two ounces of each. (We also got three teas on our most recent trip.) The staff will try to sell you their airtight metal tins, promising that without them, your tea will go stale and flavorless immediately. We managed to convince them that we had tins already, so we could just get the tea in bags. They’re the same paper fold-over bags you can get coffee in. We’re keeping our most recent teas wrapped up tightly in those bags, and then the bags are kept in the tins. Seems to be working fine.

Everything at Teavana appears to be about the concept of blending multiple teas together, to make the flavors of other things. We were asked if we like apple pie. Of course, the answer was yes. The fellow then started to pull THREE tins of tea down from the shelf, telling us that combining these three would give us a tea that tasted just like apple pie. One of the teas we already had, and one of them, when I smelled it by itself, was not pleasant (several of their teas have lemongrass in them, and I’m not a fan of lemongrass). So we passed on that blend. There were another two teas that, when combined, were supposed to taste like banana bread. We were already getting one of the teas, and they each smelled good on their own, so we went ahead and got both.

I was fascinated by the fact that the commissioned sales guy needed to be dealt with kind of forcefully. Our most recent visit, I went in with a list I’d made from perusing the website. He’d pull a tea down from the shelf, pop the lid, and wave it over the top so we could smell it. If I made a grimacing face and said anything that wasn’t an absolute no, such as, “Um, I’m not sure I like that one,” he would set it aside and say, “So that’s a maybe, then?” I learned quickly to respond to icky-smelling teas with an “Absolutely NO on that one.”

They measure out two ounces, but somehow (just like when you’re getting meat and cheese sliced at the deli counter), it always comes out a little above two. I think all of our teas came out at 2.3 ounces. Which was only a dollar more each, but still. One time the first scoop came out to 1.9 ounces, and I would have been fine with that, but NO. Two ounces minimum.

Teavana also has an app for both Android and iOS. It has a tea timer, list of locations, list of teas, and of course, a guide to blending your teas. Because why buy only one, when you can buy three, and get the flavor of apple pie?

All right, so, onward to the reviews of the teas we’ve tried so far.

Earl Grey White – Scott’s a fan of Earl Grey, but wanted a decaf version, thus the white tea base. It’s certainly the flavor of Earl Grey (the citrus fruit bergamot gives it that sharp tangy note), but it didn’t excite me. It really didn’t rock my socks any more than any other Earl Grey I’ve had, which means it probably wasn’t worth the price of $10.00 per two ounces. 6 out of 10.

Tulsi Dosha Chai Rooibos – I’m the big chai fan in the house. And on every single visit of our three to Teavana, they pull out this chai, and the White Ayurvedic Chai, and want to sell us both together. I liked the smell of this one (and didn’t like the smell of the other), but the flavor itself isn’t quite what I love in a chai. It’s all right, but it’s not my favorite of all of the chais I’ve tried. It’s like there’s some key ingredient missing, which leaves it a little flat. It’s decaf, thanks to the rooibos tea base. 6 out of 10.

Zingiber Ginger Coconut Rooibos – This one just smelled great; I wouldn’t have chosen it from the name. So I guess the sales person did her job, getting me to buy a tea I wouldn’t otherwise have bought. The flavor is sort of like a gingerbread cookie, and somehow it’s naturally sweet enough that I don’t need any sweetener added. The website says it’s a coconut flavor with a dash of ginger, but I found it to be the opposite — very gingery, and just a very slight hint of coconut. I believe this was one of the three teas that make the apple pie flavor. 7 out of 10.

Toasted Nut Brulee Oolong – Scott just liked the sound of this one, and the smell was heavenly. It’s the best of the Teavana teas so far, a nice dessert-style tea with flavors of cookies and spiced cider. This is also one of the two teas you can blend to make a tea that tastes like banana bread. 9 out of 10.

Strawberry Lemonade Herbal – Most of these herbal teas don’t actually contain any tea; they’re made up of aromatics and tasty flavors that are supposed to just make a yummy, decaf hot drink. This one smelled great, but in the brewing, a lot of the great flavors were lost. Despite making sure our teaspoons of leaves were heaping, the finished product was weak and lifeless, like the berries and lemons just cast a sideways glance at my cup. I’ll probably double up on the leaves next time, and try it over ice. 4 out of 10.


Caribbean Calypso Mate on the left, Toasted Nut Brulee on the right, for the banana bread tea recipe.

Caribbean Calypso Mate – the second part of the banana bread recipe, as well as our only mate tea (which apparently has just as much caffeine as coffee). The funny thing is, they don’t mention banana at all on the web page for this tea. It does smell strongly of banana, and if you smell it at the same time as you’re smelling the Toasted Nut Brulee, it does indeed smell like banana bread. But for some reason, just like with the Strawberry Lemonade, the fruit notes just don’t come through that strong. Scott had this one on its own, and found it weak. In the blend, the fruit flavors were totally overpowered by the Toasted Nut Brulee. (There was also that slight icky tang of lemongrass.) Alone: 5 out of 10. Blended with Toasted Nut: 6 out of 10.

So we at least got a couple of good teas out of the batch, but I do wish they’d sell smaller sample sizes. And it’s definitely the right move to go in with a list of things you want to smell, so you’re not steamrolled into buying whatever tea they want you to buy. Don’t be afraid to tell them no, and don’t be afraid to just peruse the huge wall of teas and pick out what YOU want to smell, not what they’re currently pushing. The staff there do know their stuff, but they’re tainted by the untrustworthiness of commission sales.

Overall the quality of their teas is good, but I think they might make their teas a bit more complicated than they need to be. If each tea had one or two flavors, they’d be easier to blend (in my opinion) than these teas with six, seven, eight flavors. (I’ll get more into this with my review of Adagio teas [an online shop].)

I’m already building a fresh wishlist of more Teavana teas to try out, but with the pricey two-ounce minimum, combined with the fact that we have a ton of their teas hanging around already, it’ll be a while before we go back.

I Heart My SodaStream!

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

As a follow-up to my post about tea, I realized that I never posted about our other homemade-beverage machine: the SodaStream.

Yes, I take issues with it being “soda” instead of “pop”. Though I justify it by telling myself that the machine itself makes fizzy water, or “soda” … and through the application of flavored beverage syrups, I turn it into full-fledged POP.

Anyhoo.

We got the very base model, the Sodastream Jet. (I link to it here at Amazon, because of the affiliate link, but we got ours in person at Target.) There are other, fancier ones, but we weren’t sure that we would use it enough to justify the expense of a nicer model.

It’s pretty easy to use, overall — you put a cylinder of CO2 in the machine. Then you fill a 1/2- or 1-liter bottle with water and chill it in the fridge (colder water carbonates easier, they say). Screw the chilled bottle of water onto the machine, and press a button on the top repeatedly, squirting CO2 into the water, until you hear what they call a “buzz” sound. Me, I call the sound more of a fart, but then again, I’m 13 years old on the inside.

Three farts is average fizziness. You can go fewer farts, or maybe even up to 5 farts if you want really fizzy pop.

There are a ton of syrup flavors, ranging from the regular old cola to weird ones like pink grapefruit (which Scott likes, though it tastes like [ugh] Fresca to me), to their own Dr Pepper clone, “Dr. Pete”. As you can see, we have a number of syrup bottles lined up there.

So how do we like it? How much do we use it? The answers: a lot, and a lot. We’ve always been big pop drinkers, and this really cuts down on lugging cases of cans up the stairs. And we don’t have to stock cans in all of the different flavors — if you’re in the mood for something, you just have to take one of the bottles of cold water out of the fridge (we got a number of extra bottles, so there’s always one cold) and mix up whatever flavor you’re jonesing for. On the flip side, we probably drink LESS pop than we did before, since it’s not as easy as grabbing a can and cracking the seal — you have to actually get up the gumption to fizz up the bottle and mix up what you want.

The diet flavors are all made with Splenda, which took a little getting used to, since we were used to Diet Coke (sweetened with aspartame). I know many people out there have conflicting opinions of which is better or worse for you, so take that into consideration. Apparently their regular versions are sweetened with a mix of Splenda and cane sugar, with no high-fructose corn syrup.

You can also find, in the magical wonderous world of the internets, flavor concentrates for sale. With these, you basically make your own simple syrup from whatever sweetener you choose, then add the flavor concentrate, and you’ve made your own syrup.

I’m still working at dialing in the right ratios of concentrate to sweetener to water for our tastes. And yes, these concentrates (acquired from the Prairie Moon company) are really weird colors. The lemon-lime is an almost paint-like green. And the cream soda? Check it out:

Like cough syrup! Although Scott has found out from some people that red cream soda is actually a thing. Maybe in the south. I’m not sure.

At any rate, we love the crap out of this gadget, and I now wish we’d spent more on a nicer model (not that this one isn’t nice, but the plastic parts can feel a bit cheap at times). When this one gives up the ghost eventually, we’ll totally upgrade.

As for the flavors, I really like the diet cola. And I use both regular and caffeine-free, usually mixing the two together in a half-caff version. The ginger ale is also great, although I find I need a little more syrup than the little lines on the inside of the measuring cup recommend. Root beer, great. Scott says the Dr. Pete is really good, but he also mixes up his own “Dr. Meyer” mix, which is half Dr. Pete and half caffeine-free diet cola. Says it’s even more like actual Dr Pepper. The only flavor I didn’t like was lemon-lime, which tasted really artificial to me. But then again, I’ve been eating lemons whole my entire life. I’m probably just a lemon snob.

I advise getting some extra bottles, so you’ll always have chilled water on hand. We have three one-liter bottles, and four half-liter bottles — the half-liter bottles are colored orange and green, so we each have our own two. (I’m orange.) They fit perfectly in our lunch bags, which is nice for taking to work.

I also advise getting a spare CO2 cylinder, so you always have a full on hand to swap out when the one in the machine runs dry. When they’re empty, you can trade in the empties for full ones at a discounted price — Bed, Bath and Beyond will swap your cylinder for $15 (a new one costs $30). They also carry a large collection of syrups. You can also find the syrups at Target, Macy’s, and (weirdly) Best Buy, among other places.

Fancy Tea Drinkers, with Pinkies Extended

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

We’ve decided to explore a strange new world … of tea. Specifically, loose-leaf tea. Which we figured was probably tastier than the stuff that comes in bags (and boy howdy, did we figure right).

So instead of getting a perforated metal acorn-shaped tea ball or anything like that, we went with the techy gadget:

Yes, the name is a bit overly clever. But the IngenuiTEA is a pretty sharp little item. Scott already has an AeroPress coffee maker, which he loves the everloving crap out of. And it certainly makes the coffee creation process quick, clean, and easy.

Anyhoo, with this little doodad, you fill it with the tea leaves, heat up some water in a kettle or the microwave, then pour the water into the pot and close the lid.

Things get all steepy, for however long you’re supposed to let things steep. Most of what we’re trying out are black teas or spicy chai blends, so it’s usually 5 minutes or so. But then, the really cool part:

Put the thing on top of your teacup or mug or glass, and it takes a tea whiz through the bottom!

Because I’m twelve years old inside, I don’t think I’ll get tired of this device taking a tea-pee anytime soon.

We got the 16-ounce IngenuiTEA, but they also make a 32-ounce for the truly hardcore tea drinker. But we find the 16-ounce model gives us each a nice little 8-ounce cup, just enough tea for a tasty and refreshing treat, but not so much that it gets cold before you’re done drinking it.

So, how about the teas themselves? They’re all WAY better than stuff made with a bag.

We went to our local big bulk tea store, TeaVana, out at the mall. Unfortunately, the smallest amount they’ll sell is two ounces, which can range from five or six bucks up to twenty or more. And they stress how much you need to keep it in airtight, light-tight tins. Do you want to buy some of their tins? For another ten bucks each? No? Fine, we’ll put it in one of these roll-top bags. But if it goes stale, it’s all your fault.

We also ordered some samples from Adagio, the actual makers of the IngenuiTEA. They don’t try to foist their tins on you, and they’ll send 0.8-ounce sample packages of any damn tea they have, at two bucks for most of them (some of the fancy-pants teas are three or more dollars for the samples, but everything we’ve tried so far is a two-bucker). Plus, they come in light-tight zip-top bags. Which is just as good as an airtight tin, if you ask me. Heck, probably better, because you can squeeze out the extra air.

We did get some tins at the IKEA for the stuff we got from TeaVana. They have magnets on the back. So here’s a glimpse of our fridge, where we’re sticking them:

Fortunately, Adagio (home of the quick shipping and plentiful cheap samples) has the best teas so far. We have another selection of samples in the mail right now (it would appear they’re currently in New Jersey), along with a larger package of the rooibos vanilla chai, my total favorite so far.

(Perhaps we’ll open up that berry blast tonight. A tea without actual tea leaves is a fascinating concept.)

So, anyone out there a loose-leaf tea fan? Any recommendations, advice, or pointers? We’re total novices, but I can see how we can totally go down the rabbit hole and become real crazy tea hoarders. Let me know what you think!

Also, if you want to try out Adagio teas, they let me give out $5 coupon codes. But they’re only good for 24 hours. So if you’d like to get $5 off, while at the same time helping me collect some sort of “frequent teabagger” points, please let me know.

Now I think it’s time for a nice, warm cup of tea. Which I can sip while I’m playing Borderlands, happily shotgunning mutants in the face. Aaaah, such a life of finery!

Homemade Toasted Corn Nuts

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

As hinted at the end of my post about roasted garbanzo beans, I’ve embarked on using my roasting-toasting methods to make my own corn nuts.

First, I tried hominy.

Look, it’s even friends with garbanzo beans!

I used the same methods as garbanzo beans, but the hominy shrunk a crazy amount when toasted. What came out tastes corn-nutty, and looks like itty bitty baby corn nuts.

Seriously, these came out seriously small. Though I guess if you like feeling like a giant, you could use hominy for your corn-nutting needs. And on a side note, I don’t know that the term “corn-nutting needs” has ever been written before.

What to do? Well, if you’re me, you ask Dr. Google. And he’ll tell you that there are a couple of varieties of giant corn out there, and one of those varieties is what corn nuts are made from. So then, if you’re me, you ask Scott (who’s already going to Costco that day, and it’s just a little further to the local Hispanic supermarket) to go on a giant corn scouting mission. Then, if you’re me, you’re delighted at the bounty of giant corn he brings home.

Both bagged and canned! What a bonanza!

I decided to start with the bagged stuff. First off, just like with dry garbanzo beans, you have to soak them. I left my giant corn soaking for 24 hours, but I hear rumors that the people at Planters soak their giant corn for three days. Maybe I’ll try that next time, when I have more patience.

After the soaking comes the rinsing and drying — give them a good swirl in a colander, then pat them with paper towels. They don’t have to be bone-dry, just not soaking wet.

Then, just like the garbanzos, I tossed them with about three tablespoons of coconut oil. I then spread them on my non-stick foil-lined cookie sheet, and salted them.

I put on a glove, so I could thoroughly coat the kernels with oil. I’m also trying to make my way through this box of size-small gloves, because they’re a little TOO small. My hands always feel like sausage.

ANYhoo, spread them out on your non-stick surface, so they’re in a single layer. Again, set your oven to 375°.

This time, I timed my stir-and-mix sessions a bit differently. I started by letting them go for 20 minutes. Stir/mix. Then I set the timer for 15 minutes. Stir/mix. Then I went for 10 minutes. Still 45 minutes total, just divvied up oddly. It didn’t really make much difference, that I could tell.

Once they’re golden brown, put them on paper towels to get rid of the extra oil. Salt them more while they’re hot and oily, if you want more salt.

So how are they? Well, they’re very corn-nut-like. The flavor is a bit different from the packaged stuff, but it’s still really good. And the coconut oil gives them almost a movie-theater-popcorn vibe. There’s definitely more tinkering to be done — longer soaking of the dry corn, trying out the canned corn, maybe different cooking temperatures. But this first attempt is quite satisfactory.

Also, there was hardly any shrinkage. Unlike the hominy. And did you know that the back of the 2012 pennies was so pretty?

Those Roasted Garbanzo Beans I Mentioned

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

I made more roasted garbanzo beans (or chickpeas, for those so inclined) the other day, and they continue to be delicious. And so very easy, as well! Here’s a little more detail.

You can either use dry or canned garbanzo beans. This time, I used:

Ooh, I guess for some there’s the third option of “chick peas”.

If you’re using dry garbanzos, soak them in water overnight. Done? Good. Now you’re at the same step as if you’d opened up a can. Then move on to step two:

Rinse those mothers! No matter which kind. But especially the canned kind, because (just like beans) the water they’re packed in is slimy and foamy. (Scott is right, I should totally write catalog copy. Because I can’t stop myself from using words like slimy and foamy.)

Then, add my favorite two roasting friends:

Oh my goodness, I love cooking with coconut oil so much. Not only is it packed with healthy fat, and it has an incredibly high smoke point so it doesn’t go rancid in the heat (like most vegetable and seed oils do), but it also tastes really, really good.

Salt, likewise: delicious, and good for you.

Pat your garbanzo beans dry-ish with paper towels, then toss with … oh, I’ll say three tablespoons of coconut oil. Spread them out on a non-stick cookie sheet (or, if you’re like me, a gnarly mangled baking sheet lined with non-stick foil). Then salt them up.

Put them in a 375° oven and set your timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, stir everything around. Another 15 minutes, another stir around. One more 15-minute session will probably do it — my garbanzos are golden brown and delicious after about 45 minutes total.

They shrink a bit when roasted, but not as much as I thought they would.

Throw them onto some paper towels, or a brown paper bag — something to soak up the extra oil. Now’s the time to taste one, and hit them with extra salt if you like, while they’re still a little oily so the salt will stick.

They’re tasty, and crunchy, and relatively good for you.

Next up: if I can do this with garbanzo beans, can I use the same method to make corn nuts?

(Hint: you bet your bottom dollar I can!)

Photodump: Fruits, Legumes, and Abbreviated Musical Acts

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

My little lemon trees appear to have made it through the winter. They both dropped a LOT of leaves when the weather got colder, and I worried that they would both kick the bucket.

You can see the general leaflessness of the Eureka lemon, but a couple of weeks ago I noticed that it was starting to bud like crazy. And those buds are now getting ginormous. Within the next week or so, that sucker will be flowering.

The lemons that were growing on the Meyer lemon tree stopped getting any larger for a while, but they seem to be on the grow again. The Meyer is also budding up, but not as violently as the Eureka. It still has probably a dozen lemons in the works, with the largest ones about the size of a small lime. We’ll see if they continue their journey now that they’ve had a little winter nap.

The other night we attended an awesome concert — They Might Be Giants, with Jonathan Coulton as the opening act. Coulton played the electric guitar (as opposed to the acoustic performance two years ago [and I’m amazed that it’s been two years since JoCo visited]), and he was accompanied by a bass player and drummer. A small band, but a band nonetheless. His performance was awesome, as always, and he played many a good song, but it was too darned short.

We hadn’t seen TMBG for years; certainly not since we moved to Florida. They gave a great show, and did some fascinating bits with knit puppets. And we got to see what was probably one of the last public performances of “Marty Beller Mask” ever.

Paul and Storm are also visiting our town this coming Friday. I may have to venture downtown to see them.

I changed the strings on my second-best ukulele, and it sounds much brighter. I think I’ve had this thing for three or four years now, so it was about time for a string change. I’ve special ordered strings for my first-best uke, so I can get the low-g string instead of the high-g. Those should come in later this week. Then I’ll put the used first-best strings on my third-best, littlest uke. Yes, I have three ukuleles. And like cats, I’d have more if I was allowed.

Finally, in the category of tasty things, I made some roasted garbanzo beans (or chickpeas, if you prefer to call them that). I started with the Alton Brown base, then fiddled with the recipe. I ended up soaking the dry beans for at least 16 hours (overnight), then roasting at 375° for about 45 minutes (stirring them around every 15). Instead of his oil-vinegar-spice mix, I just used coconut oil and salt.

With the coconut oil, they smell like movie theater popcorn while they’re cooking. When they’re done, they have the texture of corn nuts, but a flavor similar to roasted pumpkin seeds. Me likey!

Gluten-Free Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Monday, December 19th, 2011

This was a surprisingly hard recipe to put together, only because there weren’t all that many recipes to reference on the internet. Half of the chocolate chip cookie recipes that mentioned coconut didn’t use actual coconut — they used coconut oil, or coconut flour (I admit, one of them was mine).

Then you get into the gluten-free world, and my permanent frustration with recipes there: the bulk of them are either dairy-free or totally vegan. That doesn’t fly with me — like Paula Deen, I’m big on butter.

So for this one, I had to use mostly recipes involving wheat flour, then use my old friend science to cobble together a recipe.

Fortunately, I have lots of friends in the baking box who can help. I have the baking box because this apartment doesn’t have all that much kitchen shelf space, so those are full of everyday staples. I think I like the baking box better, anyway — one quick glance and I can see what I have and what I don’t. For dry goods, anyway.

Bear in mind, this recipe is NOT low-carb. In fact, for giggles, I used actual sugar. And the sweetened coconut flakes you get at the grocery store, instead of the unsweetened dry stuff from the Whole Foods. I’ll tell you right off the bat (spoiler alert): these came out a tad bit too sweet. At least for me. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to sweet stuff anymore. Anyhoo, onward!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar (probably could have skipped this)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp coconut flour*
1/4 cup tapioca flour (also known as tapioca starch)
1/4 cup almond meal (also known as almond flour)
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips**

* I added the extra 3 Tbsp coconut flour at the end, since the batter still seemed a bit wet. This may be due to the Florida humidity. Your mileage may vary.

** I started with a heaping 1/2 cup, then threw a few more in. It’s chocolate, go nuts.

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add the vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Add the flours one at a time, mixing thoroughly each time.

Bake at 375° for 14-18 minutes.

I could have used my Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Baking Mix on this one, but I felt like cobbling. The coconut flour is one of my favorite foundations, but use too much and it sucks up all the liquid. The tapioca flour adds a springy stretchiness that non-wheat flours lack (it’s used to make the amazing cheesy rolls they serve at the Brazilian steakhouse). And almond meal is always welcome for flavor and texture.

Besides being a little too sweet for me (but probably just right for normal people), these are pretty darned good. The coconut adds a chewiness, and coconut flavor is always welcome in my mouth. Unless it’s mixed with pineapple in a pina colada, but that’s neither here nor there.

Overall, I’ll give them an 8 out of 10. Good texture, good flavor, and next time I think I’ll just cut out the regular sugar.

Now that I have this sweetened coconut, it may be time to make some macaroons. Once these cookies are gone, that is. Which should be soon.

Review: Tinkyáda Gluten-Free Elbow Pasta

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Last time at the grocery store, they didn’t have the Ancient Harvest gluten-free pasta. I checked both Target and Publix, and all either place had was this same purple bag of elbows from Tinkyáda. Usually, the 8-ounce box from Ancient Harvest runs about $3 or $3.50. But this 16-ounce bag of Tinkyáda was a mere $3.99.

Plus, they made a HUGE deal about the good texture. Not mushy. Al dente. Okay, Tinkyáda. We get it.

I was a little leery about the cooking time, for starters. I mean, the Ancient Harvest stuff was just right after 8 minutes in boiling water. But this stuff?

Seriously, 16-17 minutes? Not only does that seem like a really specific amount of time, but it seems like a really long time. And in case you’re wondering, the “Easy and energy-saving method” (which is clearly Easy with a capital E) is printed on the front of the bag. Bring water to a boil, insert pasta, cover and turn off the heat. Wait 20 minutes, then drain. Not so much with a time savings.

Oh, and if you think this packaging reads like Engrish, check out the Tinkyáda website. It’s not quite Dr. Bronner-grade weird, but it’s certainly unusual. The design takes me back to the late ’90s, and the writing doesn’t seem to be from a native English speaker. Though the stuff is made in Ontario, Canada, which I always thought was less French than Quebec. Hm, je ne sais quoi.

Anyway, with vows of such non-mushitude …

Promised by two happy bunnies holding a … gigantic grain of rice?

I had to try it out. I weighed out a 2-ounce serving, got water heating up in my little single-serve saucepan, and got my Tinkyáda on.

Once the elbows hit the water, I had 16 minutes to figure out how to dress the stuff. But really, when presented with elbows, there’s only one logical choice.

That’s right, neon orange. Sorry, marinara and alfredo. Maybe some other time.

(Side note: did you grow up calling it “macaroni and cheese” or “Kraft dinner”? I’d never heard “Kraft dinner” until the Barenaked Ladies discussed it in a song. Maybe that’s a Canadian thing. For some reason, it also makes me think of the battle of “Lik-M-Aid” vs. “Fun Dip”.)

(Oh, and that oven mitt in the background? The groovy orangey yellowy one with even groovier blue innards? I made that.)

Onward. I tested the pasta at 10 minutes and again at 12, and I actually pulled it and strained it at 12. I do like mine with a little bite, and I think the 12-14 zone will be just right. Melted some butter, threw in some cream (yeah, I know you’re supposed to use milk, but I don’t have milk in the house). Then I added the neon orange cheese powder. What I don’t get is how the container encourages me to shake and sprinkle the cheese on stuff, then says the serving size is 2 teaspoons. That would take a LOT of shaking. Anyhoo, I just screwed the cap off and shoved my teaspoon down in there. And I went with 3 teaspoons, because that’s how I roll.

This is really why I should invest in a non-clear bowl for food display purposes. It feels like the mac-n-cheese is hovering over a dish towel. I mean, I guess I could have put the food on one of my white plates, but only a monster would eat mac-n-cheese out of anything other than a bowl (or the pot it was cooked in).

So, how did it taste? CHEEEZY GOOD. And none of the vague rice flavor like the De Boles rice pasta had when I tried it. The pasta itself was mostly flavorless, which for me is a good thing.

As for the texture, it was indeed al dente and not mushy. Maybe one or two more minutes would be even better — I’ll have to play around with the cook time. So good on flavor, texture, and price — 50¢ per serving is a price that the other guys can only match when they’re on sale. I give the Tinkyáda brown rice elbows a solid 9 out of 10 and will certainly use the rest in a variety of tasty ways.

Unless I end up making 8 servings of neon orange.