Monthly Archives: August 2014

For the Kids: Bennett’s Awesome Drink

One of the most common complaints I get about my blog is that I don’t feature enough recipes for the children.*

*This is false. The most common complaint is: wait, you have a blog? Really?

Well, I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Two of my friend Jen’s kids were at the office the other day. Kate and Bennett are really fun kids and you’re guaranteed some laughs when you talk to them.

Bennett's Awesome Drink. Photo bomb by Kate.

Bennett’s Awesome Drink. Photo bomb by Kate.

Bennett was walking around with this drink, this pink concoction, so I asked him what it was. He said, “Write this down.”

Without further ado, I give you: Bennett’s Awesome Drink.

Bennett’s Awesome Drink

Ingredients

  • Cup of water
  • Spoon
  • Clementine juice
  • M&Ms
  • Sweet Tarts
  • Nerds, Pink only
  • Milky Way
  • Twizzlers
  • 5 Fireballs, specifically from the Media department

Mix to combine. Color should be shockingly pink. Drink by the spoonful.

It's really, really awesome.

It’s really, really awesome.

Now, some of my haters (Evan) will say that I can’t blog this recipe since I didn’t taste it. But, I did smell it. It is is a drink that we boring “grown ups” just wouldn’t understand. And therefore, could not appreciate.

If you’re as awesome as Bennett (or Kate), give Bennett’s Awesome Drink a try.

 

But if you’re like me, you’re nowhere near awesome enough.

 

Sigh.

 

 

 

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Betcha Can’t Eat Just One!: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Taste Test

On Tuesday night, Anna, Kevin and I embarked upon a Lay’s taste test cage match. Four flavors will enter, only one will survive. Who gets the vote to be saved??

Chip Tasting with a PBR palate cleanser

Chip Tasting with a beer palate cleanser

No, literally. You vote to save one flavor. This is some real Lost type shit happening here.*

*I only saw that first like 3 episodes of Lost. But, I’ve got a whole mythos created in my mind. Everyone on it was a potato chip and had to be saved. But in the end, all the chips wound up in heaven. Or something.

As promised, I am sharing with you the good (Wasabi Ginger), the bad (Mango Salsa) and the ugly (the DoUsAFlavor.com website).

Our incredibly scientific and not-at-all-ripped-off-from-a-wine-tasting criteria is as follows. We scored based on the following criteria: Appearance, Aroma, Taste, Finish, and Texture. Each category was worth 5 points for a total of 25.

Spoiler Alert: I can't spell cappuccino and I'm a huge nerd

Spoiler Alert: I can’t spell cappuccino and I’m a huge nerd

The good. The undeniable winner was Wasabi Ginger. While for me, its appearance was sort of blah (the little flecks of flavor feel cheap), the taste and texture were undeniable. Out of the 4 new flavors, these were the only chips that were kettle cooked. For that reason, they were by far the crunchiest. (Crunch = my favorite texture.) They also had the added benefit of being the chips that tasted most like the inspiration. The flavor started heavy on the wasabi and then rounded out with the sweetness of the ginger, with just a hint of spice in the finish. We just kept eating them. (Betcha can’t eat just one!) We quite literally finished the bag in one sitting and I liked them so much that I bought another bag at the grocery store yesterday. #savewasabi

Then, there’s the bad. To call the Mango Salsa artificially, cloyingly sweet would be kind. We started referring to it as a ‘garbage chip’ and we started feeding it to the dog. (YOU’RE WELCOME, FULTON.) We actually threw the bag away. It’s a real shame because mango salsa sounded like it would be the easiest one to accomplish. Plus, chips and salsa are a natural marriage. But the texture was unpleasantly soft, particularly when you compared to the crunch of the kettle cooked Wasabi chips (#savewasabi). The smell was overwhelming and the taste was chemical.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that these are standard, regular American potato chips. I’m not pretending these are organic or all natural. This mango salsa spice was created in a lab, not picked from the mango salsa spice tree. But, Kettle Brand potato chips have given us some really authentic chip flavors. So, it’s not impossible.

Beyond that, we were split in our voting. Anna and Kevin really liked the Cappuccino chips. I wasn’t sold. To all of us, they tasted like dessert (my brain: tiramisu, Anna’s brain: sopapillas). But even more than that, it tasted of gas station cappuccino. I couldn’t see eating them with a sandwich. Chips are the sidekick to sandwiches, so…

Bacon Mac and Cheese was heavy on the cheese, light on the bacon, and the mac wasn’t anywhere to be seen. This was a standard, cheesy chip. Would’ve been greatly improved by a thicker, kettle cooked texture.

So, the ugly. The Lay’s Do Us a Flavor website. Hoo boy. First things first. You can vote on the site, but ONLY if it links to your Facebook. All three of us opted to text our votes in. Because how embarrassing would it be if I voted for the Wasabi chips EVERY DAY for the next 66 days. (But #savewasabi, y’all.) But the weirdest part is that both the “Flavor Reviews” and “Flavor News” sections link to aggregated pictures from FB and Twitter using the Save Flavor hashtags. The #savewasabi hashtag (et al) aggregates to the Flavor Reviews section. And the #dousaflavor hashtag aggregates to the news section. I realize I’m being overly critical here, but very rarely are the #savewasabi comments more than that. I’d be hard pressed to call them reviews. Even more hard pressed to consider the photos of other chip tastings “news.”

In the end, I think the experiment is worth it. Only good comes from this. Except for the Mango Salsa chips.

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Challenge Accepted: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Tasting

Potato chips, like fine wine, should be tasted and savored. They deserve as much pomp and circumstance as said fine wine. Sniffing the bouquet, evaluating their appearance, swish and spit, etc.

Lay’s has put out four new limited edition, consumer-submitted flavors: Cappuccino, Mango Salsa, Wasabi Ginger, and Bacon Mac & Cheese. And tonight, Kevin, Anna, Alison and I taste them. We will then vote to save our favorite chips via dousaflavor.com.

The New Class

The New Class

We’ll be using an incredibly official template (that I will make up), similar to the one below.

Pinky out. (via myexceltemplates.com)

Pinky out. (via myexceltemplates.com)

I’ll report back on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Chip cage match, y’all. Four flavors enter, only one survives.

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Summer Salad That Isn’t Pizza: Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

I’ve been on a real salad kick lately. Mostly because I’d been working on my #pizzadiet (that’s pizza all day errday forever). I realized that while delicious, it’s not actually really that good for you. WHO KNEW?

I made one of my go-to favorites, the Zesty Taco Salad, earlier in the week.  But then I saw my buddies at Food52 post this link to the Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad and I knew I had to make it.

Just to be clear, I’m not actually buddies with the people at Food52. But, I pretend we’re friends since I follow them on Instagram and Facebook and love almost everything they do. Frankly, I’m better friends with them than some people I’m actually friends with on FB.

Anywho. This salad was so enticing that my friend Emily and I ran into each other at the store shopping for supplies (“I’m looking for napa cabbage.” “I’M looking for napa cabbage.” “Wait, what are you making…?”) After going to two stores to find the previously aforementioned napa cabbage, we both finally were able to make dinner. And to quote Emily again, it was pretty damn delicious.

If you have everything on hand, this is not only pretty damn delicious, but it’s a quick meal to assemble. It’s a meal that can be put together in the time it takes to boil water. Author’s note: this will happen much more quickly if you do not watch the pot.

This salad tastes like summer. It’s fresh and crisp, and with the dressing, sweet and spicy. There’s a ton of textures at play here, too. Rice noodles with just a bit of bite, crunchy cucumbers and cabbage, and plump shrimps.

In the nude

In the nude

Is it as good as pizza?

….no, cause what is. (RIP #pizzadiet)

But, it’s a pretty damn delicious meal.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad from Food52 Serves 2 to 3

The dressing

  • tablespoons fish sauce
  • tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons water, to taste
  • 1medium clove garlic, minced
  • fresh Thai (or bird’s eye) chile, minced | I couldn’t find one, so I used a serrano chile. Worked well! 
The salad

  • ounces thin rice noodles (roughly the width of linguine)
  • 3 or 4 napa cabbage leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
  • medium carrot, shredded or cut into matchsticks
  • ½ cucumber, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • handful chopped fresh herbs, preferably a combination of basil, cilantro, and mint
  • ounces cooked meat or shrimp, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

To prepare the dressing, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of the water, the garlic, and the chile. Whisk well. Taste: if it’s too pungent, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If you’d like more sweetness, add more brown sugar, 1/2 tablespoon at a time. Remember that you’re going to be putting this dressing on unsalted vegetables and noodles: you want the dressing to have a lot of flavor, but it shouldn’t knock you over. Pour into a serving bowl. (Covered and chilled, the dressing will keep for 3 days to a week.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rice noodles, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Immediately drain the noodles into a colander, and rinse them well with cold water. Lay out a clean kitchen towel on the countertop, shake the colander to drain away excess water, and then spread the cooked noodles on the towel to drain further.
Divide the noodles between two or three good-sized bowls, depending on the number of diners, and top with the vegetables, herbs, and meat. Scatter the peanuts on top. Allow each person to spoon on dressing to taste. Toss well, and eat. (Alternatively, you can present this salad family-style: Toss the vegetables, herbs, and noodles in a mixing bowl and then mound them on a serving platter. Arrange the meat over the noodles, and top with peanuts. Each diner can scoop their own portion from the platter and dress it as they see fit.)
Read to Go [sic]

Read to Go [sic]

 

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Facebook Pie: Atlantic Beach Pie

If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it?

If I’m being completely honest, I’d at least consider jumping off the bridge. Maybe there’s a big trampoline beneath the bridge. Or maybe there’s a beautiful lake filled with mermen. Sure, you MIGHT plummet to your death, but what if you were plummeting whilst being surrounded by the gorgeous vistas of the PCH?

The point is, just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s a bad thing (e.g., reading Twilight, watching Twilight, admitting you’ve read/watched Twilight). But it really isn’t always.

A few weeks ago, my friend Shaun told me about this pie she’d heard about on NPR called the Atlantic Beach Pie. It was a pie that was made at seafood restaurants in North Carolina back in the day. The theory was if you ate seafood, you really shouldn’t eat dessert because it would make you deathly ill. All desserts, except for this one.

Then I saw the recipe posted on Food52. I posted it to Shaun’s Facebook page and I started noticing it EVERYWHERE. Everyone was making it. Anna made it (and then made it again), then Alison made it, and so on and so forth. My friend Seton’s mom even called her, saying she was going to make ‘the Facebook pie.’ We were all jumping off the proverbial bridge together. And landing in a creamy, delicious pool of citrusy custard and whipped cream.

You want to believe that this pie is going to be weird. It has a saltine cracker crust. But one of my favorite treats is saltine toffee, which is simple, rich and salty-sweet goodness. (Note to self: make saltine toffee soon.)

Start with softened butter, smooshed up saltines and sugar and knead it all together into a ‘dough.’ I couldn’t get the saltine crumbs to come together. So I added a little more butter. Than a little more butter. Than it was almost another whole stick of butter. OOPS, MADE IT MORE DELICIOUS.

After a brief rest in the fridge, you bake the crust off, whisk all the remaining ingredients together, pour and rebake.

Seriously, I think the hardest thing about this pie is waiting for it to be cold enough to eat.

Go ahead, make this pie. Everybody’s doing it.

Pre-Whipped Cream. Or, Pre-Perfection.

Pre-Whipped Cream. Or, Pre-Perfection.

Atlantic Beach Pie, via Food52

For the crust:

  • 1 ½ sleeves of saltine crackers (about 6 ounces or 60 crackers)
  • ½ cup softened unsalted butter
  • tablespoons sugar
For the filling:

  • One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • egg yolks
  • ½ cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
  • Fresh whipped cream, for garnish
  • Coarse sea salt, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. (Just use your hands) Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8-inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

While the crust is cooling (it doesn’t need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Second piece. I ain't ashamed.

Second piece. I ain’t ashamed.

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#peaseparty: Learning to spell ‘Niagara’

This weekend, I had the immense pleasure of going to my friends Evan and Lauren’s wedding up in Niagara Falls.

It was my first time in the Buffalo area and in addition to wedding things, I did some tourist things and plenty of eating things. I learned a lot from this experience and will share this vital information with you below.

  • Niagara has three As, not two
    • Listen, I care a LOT about spelling and grammar. If you don’t use commas, I’m pretty sure you were brought up in a shed. But until this weekend, I did not realize Niagara was spelled the way it is. I thought it was Niagra. I was being the Shed Person that I so passionately judge. (Not really, but come on. Commas, y’all.)
  • My friend’s friends very quickly became my friends
    • Evan has some really terrific friends who he talks about a ton: his best man/brother (Jared), his groomsman (Brian) and his groomsgal (Jeighdeane). These are names I hear almost daily. I was a little nervous to meet them all, but I had no cause to be. When I met them, it was that sort of instant camaraderie because I kind of already knew them. It’s clear to me that my coolest friend has the coolest friends ever. I THINK that makes me cool by association. I’m looking into it.
  • Chris Pratt is my new celeb crush
    • Yeah, I still have celeb crushes, but I don’t keep my list laminated. I tagged along to see Guardians of the Galaxy with the crew on Friday night. Chris Pratt was so funny (and hunky). And Karen Gillan? Bonafide badass villain. I cannot wait to see it again.
  • Buffalo’s food is LEGIT
    • Being friends with Buffalonians and watching countless episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, I’d heard tell of the wonders of Buffalo cuisine. But I had never had the opportunity to sample. UNTIL NOW. I had two “must-eats” on my list: beef on weck and some authentic Buffalo wings. DID I SUCCEED? Spoiler alert: yes.
    • Beef on Weck
      • On Friday night, I went with Evan and Tony (my friend/a reality star/the officiant of the ceremony) to Anderson’s, a local joint known for their roast beef and custard. I experienced the magnificence that is beef on weck. It’s a roast beef sandwich on a ‘kimmelweck’ roll. A kimmelweck roll is a white roll topped with caraway seeds and salt (‘kimmel’ is caraway and ‘weck’ is roll in German). This is a perfect vehicle for the thinly sliced roast beef and spicy, nose-burning, eye-watering horseradish. Hurts so good. I’m going to have to learn how to make these because I don’t want to live my life without this roll. And Buffalo is FAR too cold a place for me to live.
    • Wings and Things
      • If you are looking to find the original Buffalo wing in Buffalo, you should go to Anchor Bar. But if you want the best wings in Buffalo, you’ve got to go to Duff’s. It’s a no-frills, no-nonsense experience, and it’s absolutely delicious. I went to the original location on Sheridan Road, which has been around since 1946. The menu is diverse, but I knew exactly what I wanted: Buffalo wings with flavor but that would not kill me and some blue cheese. These are absolutely, without a doubt, the best wings I’ve ever tasted. Perfectly fried, flavorful but not spicy (I did Mild Medium, but there are spicier versions for non-wimps). Wings come with celery, carrots and tangy Duff’s blue cheese. The Buffalo wing is an art form up here and Duff’s is the Mona Lisa (or, the picture of the dogs playing poker. Everyone has different taste in art.) Chase it down with a Labatt’s because we’re basically in Canada.

        I want more now.

        I want more now.

  • The Falls are rull pretty
    • If you’re in Niagara, you really can’t not go to the Falls. They’re right there. It’s pretty magnificent. Breathtakingly beautiful and HUGE. And loud, which shouldn’t have surprised me but did. I walked around the Niagara Falls State Park for about an hour and a half and was constantly worried I was going to drop my phone into The Falls when I took a picture. Stranger things have happened, surely.

      A wonder of the world, says the welcome sign.

      A wonder of the world, says the welcome sign.

  • My friends are way cooler than I am (in a good way!)
    • This was without a doubt the coolest wedding I’ve ever been attended. Evan and Lauren are an incredible couple. They’re smart, they’re fun, they’re creative, they’re artistic, they’re goofy, they’re sweet. And their wedding was a reflection of all of that. We all laughed (slash cried) through Tony’s ceremony. We listened to jazzy covers of pop songs during the cocktail hour and played peg games. We ate amazing food (basque frenched chicken with sofrito beurre blanc and Mighty Taco late night). We played name that tune during dinner (even with some light cheating, Table 9 lost BAD). We played pinball, skee ball, Mortal Kombat, and N64. We danced. We did ridiculous stuff in the slo motion video booth. (Note to EVERYONE: shimmying in a slow motion video booth is both funny/highly embarrassing.) We ate popcorn. Evan and Lauren chose North Carolina popcorn for their wedding favors. ‘Wedding Edition’ Chad’s Carolina Corn came in 4 flavors, with packages adorned with the adorable noses of their two dogs, Reuben and Ninja. I went with Buffalo Wing flavor. Seemed apropos.
      Peg games!

      Peg games!

      Cutest popcorn ever

      Cutest popcorn ever

If you find yourself up in Buffalo, don’t miss Duff’s. Or a beef on weck. But unless you’ve mastered time travel or have you stole a TARDIS, you’re probably not going to have as much fun as I did.

Sorry, not sorry.

Me, Sarah & Jordan with the Bride and Groom!

Me, Sarah & Jordan with the Bride and Groom!

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