Yep, for the next hour and fifteen minutes on the West Coast, it’s National Cheese Day, which, if we Americans would step up to the plate, would be the greatest holiday ever. Well, maybe second next to National Chocolate Day.
Just imagine… every National Cheese Day we could give each other huge wheels of cheese, cook up cheesy delights, give Cheesentine’s Day cards, make cheese wreathes…
Well, needless to say, it’s late and I’m a bit punchy, but it’s okay because all this zaniness has got me thinking about late night snack food. A lot of my late night favorites: pizza, nachos, burritos, or just cheese and crackers couldn’t be possible without cheese. So on this National Cheese day I’m going celebrate
indigestion late night snacking with a little quick-fix cheesy snack.
It’s something to feast on while I watch The Walking Dead which in no way puts me in the mind to eat anything.
Zombie Cupcakes: From the Grave to the Table with 16 Cupcake Corpses
I’ve been catching up on The Walking Dead Season Two the past several nights. I’m really enjoying the drama, the characters, the production, really…all of it. Still, for those of you who have seen the show, you’ll believe me when I say it’s not making me hungry. Like, not all. (Nor particularly cheery for that matter.)
On the other hand, when Zombie Cupcakes: From the Grave to the Table with 16 Cupcake Corpses crossed my desk (thanks to the great folks at Andrews McMeel Universal for the copy), I got to thinking that it might not be so bad to eat a zombie now and then. A cake zombie that is.
What’s the Book About?
This book is equal parts love letter to zombies and manual for making great cupcakes. Recipes are introduced with zombie trivia questions (I was dismayed to see how many I got wrong…) and the designs themselves pay homage to many popular zombie myths, including the T-virus from Resident Evil, baseball bats for zombie bashing, and, of course, step-by-step instructions for how to make brains delicious enough for zombies and children alike.
Recipes start with decorations and the basics including how to make royal icing, blood colored gel, teeth, crosses, maggots and the aforementioned baseball bats. Then the book goes on to give 16 different recipes ranging from Toxic Bite to Zombies Rising to my personal favorite, Bride and Groom (see the cover above.) What’s even more impressive is the cupcakes aren’t just pretty to look at, they’re also delicious to eat with their assortment of frostings and fillings.
Even better, author Zilly Rosen obviously had would-be/wannabe/never-was cupcake designers like myself in mind when she wrote the book because the illustrations and techniques are simple enough that I think I could even make these cupcakes.
Fun Fact(s) I Learned Reading the Book
The budget for the Thriller video was $500,000, which in those days I bet was HUGE money.
There was a zombie movie in 1943 called I Walked with a Zombie. I had no idea…
What’s Well Done?
This book gets high marks for three things. First, it’s passion. Either Zilly herself or someone involved in making this book loved zombies. That much is obvious because the book is so much fun to read.
Two, the visuals in the book are great. You know when you’re dealing with zombies, there’s going to be gore involved and this book doesn’t fail to deliver (for instance the Eye Popper recipe is very disturbing.) Still, it’s not so gross I wouldn’t show my kids or eat one of the cupcakes if they were served to me.
Three, the ease-of-use of the book. Literally, the illustrations of how to make the feet, eyes, zombie brides, etc. are fantastic and very userfriendly.
What’s a Little Rare
I thought the book was over before it was done. There’s a lot of creativity in the pages and I’m sure with all the work that went into making the book great that expanding it would have been difficult or even cost prohibitive, but I just wanted more.
I’m not saying the book isn’t worth it’s price tag or anything, I just wanted to see more ideas and more zombie gruesomeness.
If you like decorating cupcakes or if you want to be good at it, this is a great book. While the techniques focus on zombies, I have no doubt that they couldn’t work for other things, too.
Edible Cocktails – From Garden to Glass
So, I was lucky enough to receive an copy of Natalie Bovis’ (aka The Liquid Muse aka the person responsible for getting me into blogging) new cookbook Edible Cocktails: From Garden to Glass – Seasonal Cocktails with a Fresh Twist and am I impressed. I’m not much of a mixologist, in fact most of my at-home mixed drink making involves a one second pour of vokda or gin and filling my glass with soda, but I know a good cookbook when I see one.
And when I see Edible Cocktails, I see one.
What’s the Book About?
The premise behind Edible Cocktails is simple: take everything that’s great about farm-to-table dining and apply it to mixology. Organic produce, Slow Food (er Cocktails), growing your own ingredients, it’s all in there, but for cocktails.
It’s not something I had thought of, but it makes so much sense. If I want only the best, freshest, most-carefully-raised produce in my dinner, why not in my drinks as well? If I care about the tomatoes that go into my marinara, why not the tomatoes in my bloody mary? If I care about the herbs on my roast chicken, why am I not striving for the same in my mojito?
To make this vision reality, Edible Cocktails gives you a wealth of information about what you can grow at home, basics on how to grow them, and a full rundown of the different types of liquor and tools you will use to make excellent drinks.
Oh, and there are recipes. Lots of recipes! They range from classic martinis to sours to pizza slice cocktails to bacon cherry creek cocktails…and that’s just the drink recipes. There are syrup recipes, mezcal recipes (chorizo mezcal anyone???), garnishes, and instructions on making your own liqueurs, like homemade Irish cream–all of which keep the focus on farm to table cooking and mixing. That’s pretty sweet.
Fun Fact(s) I Learned Reading It
One, whisky and whiskey are both proper spellings of the hard alcohol. However, whisky applies mainly to Scotch and whiskey to everything else, including American bourbon.
Two, a cocktail and a mixed drink are not the same thing. Cocktails only refer to a subset of mixed drinks! This means Americans have been using the term wrong (including me in the paragraphs above… d’oh!)
What’s Well Done
Edible Cocktails is filled with information, but it’s not a textbook. The photos are gorgeous and the layout makes absorbing all of Natalie’s information easy. It never feels like this book is an info dump. It’s more like a conversation with a good friend who just happens to know how to mix a fantastic drink.
What’s A Little Rare
No pun intended, but I wish there had been more conversation around using meat and raw eggs in cocktails.
I have this feeling that Natalie is perfectly fine drinking an infused liquor that has had meat in it or a drink with a raw egg, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a lot of American audiences (myself included) are not. We need to be warmed on the subject, given reassurances, and given more tips on how to avoid foodbourne illness.
With that said, this is a great cookbook. Edible Cocktails is very clever idea whose time has come and who better to help us through it than bar industry veteran, multiple mixology cookbook writer, and long time cocktail blogger Natalie Bovis?
Well, that title pretty much sums it all up. But, brevity has never been one of my strong points.
I wanted to take a minute to give a huge shout out to Chef Jasper of Jasper’s Restaurant in Kansas City, MO, who got to feed the first lady his unique brand of classic Italian dishes inspired by foods produced right here in town and ingredients from his home town.
I’ve seen the menu (Boulevard Pale Ale Lobster Mac & Cheese, which was previewed in a slightly different form at the Chocolate Experience), Louisberg Cider Glazed Guanciale, Chilled Leek and Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Garlic Chives, local roasted chicken and on and on the menu goes.
My only regret is that Ms. Obama did not get to sit down at the legendary Kansas City restaurant where, undoubtedly she would have experienced what it meant to be Jasper’s full, but oh well. From the looks of it, I am sure she got a decadent meal.
In all seriousness, I am extremely proud of Chef Jasper and his entire team. It’s not every day you get to cook for the first lady and I’m just happy to say that I know you. I am less happy to think what this will do to my chances of getting a table at Chef’s restaurant any time soon. /Sigh
Anyway, keep up the good work. And if you want to have a Presidential Experience and let us taste some of the creations on your menu, Chef Jasper, you know I’m okay with that!
Oh, and One Other Chef Deserves a Major High Five
Chef Terry Mille of Cowtown Cheesecakes was also on hand to serve his CowTown Sweet Potato Cheesecake Missouri Praline Bourbon Drizzle. So that’s two chefs I am seriously proud of.
Oh, and if you like cheesecake, try Chef Terry’s. They’re about as perfect as cheesecake can be: sweet, just the right texture and firmness and the flavors. Oh the flavors. Lemon curd, chocolate, creme brulee, and the above mentioned sweet potato cheesecake. Seriously, they’re divine. My wife is ordering three next time she has the girl’s over. (Not that I think she’ll serve them, I think we’ll have them all eaten, but still.)
Anyway, congrats to all! You all deserve it.
(Oh, and Chef Terry I grabbed that picture from your Facebook page. If you want me to, I’ll take it down.)
Red Gold Tomatoes
So, every year Red Gold Tomatoes sends me an awesome gift tin filled with some of the coolest food swag imaginable. This year I got Red Gold stationary, a cool pencil, and a toy that BWD, Jr. claims as his own. (Last year it was a Red Gold 18-wheeler, this year we got a sweet Red Gold roadster which I would have taken to the office if someone’s grubby little fingers hadn’t grabbed it first.) Most importantly, though, the tin is filled with Red Gold canned tomatoes (still in the can, not loose and sloshing around.)
Every now and then, I still get this question. Yes, I use canned tomatoes. Yes, I swear by them. Me and Mario Batali both. (You may have heard of him.) Why you may ask?
Largely it’s a convenience thing. I can halve my own tomatoes, deseed them, roast them, and puree them to make a sauce that’s pretty much better than anything in a can. However, that process takes at least an hour and the result, while good, doesn’t justify the additional time. Besides, just because I can pull out the stops and make something amazing doesn’t mean that canned tomatoes aren’t great. It does mean that if I was a purest and only ate homemade, there’d by no quick-and-easy spaghetti dinners on busy school nights.
Does Red Gold Make a Difference?
So, +1 for canned tomatoes, but does the brand make a difference? Absolutely. Even in Red Gold’s “plain” diced tomato cans (which are plain only in they are not spiced nor do they include additional ingredients like onions, cilantro, etc.), you can tell a difference between Red Gold and other canned tomato brands. Red Gold has a bolder, fresher tomato taste that tends to be a little sweeter than other diced tomato brands. (And believe me, it pains me to say that. I’ve been a Hunts man most of my life.)
All of which means that when you’re shopping around, you should really give the yellow-labeled Red Gold tomatoes a shot. I think you’ll find that the finished product really does turn out better, whether you’re making Swiss steak, spaghetti sauce or a big pot of delicious chili.
Oh, did I mention I was making chili? ‘Cause I am. And I am going to use Red Gold dice tomatoes, probably the Culinary Classics Diced Tomatoes with Chipotle or the Diced Tomatoes Roasted Garlic & Onion, but we’ll see when I hit the store. (Tomorrow’s Grocery Day.)
Chris’s Champion Contest Winning Chili
Okay, so the title is a bit forward-looking since the contest is Friday, but I’m a “fake it until you make it kind of guy.” Still, I’ve made this before and it’s a crowd pleaser.
You will need:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil*
- 2 onions, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 pounds ground beef
- 2 tablespoons oregano
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 2 cans Red Gold diced tomatoes, your choice
- 2 chipotles in adobo, minced
- 4 tablespoons adobo sauce
- 4 cups beef stock
- 1/2 cup chocolate, grated
- 6 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cayenne
- 1 tablespoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
In a soup pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and let it get very hot.
Add the onion, a pinch of salt and the garlic, then saute until the onions turn translucent, about 8 minutes.
Next, add the ground beef, oregano, and black pepper and brown the ground beef. Once brown, add the diced tomatoes and their juice. Cook for about four minutes, or until the juice starts to thicken.
Add the chipotles, adobo sauce, and beef stock and continue cooking until it the liquid in the pot is reduced by about half. Finally, add the chocolate and the rest of the ingredients. Stir to melt the chocolate. The chili is ready when it begins to bubble.
Okay, that’s my award winning Red Gold chili. Eat and enjoy!
Thanks to Red Gold for the image.
(By the way, I go off on a tanget for a bit. If you’re just here for the review, go down to the break!)
I was in the mood for Dim Sum this morning…but I had one obstacle standing in my way: BWD, Jr. Ever the Chinese buffet connoisseur, BWD, Jr. wanted to get Chinese from a buffet and I wanted to go some place real. So, we decided to go to the all-you-can-eat sushi place instead. (Yeah, I don’t get it either.)
But … All You Can Eat Sushi???
Yes, all-you-can-eat sushi. I know what you’re thinking. When you’re paying $17.95 for all the sushi you can possibly stuff down your gullet (did I mention they’re learning to fear me there?), the first thing people think is: wow, the ingredients must suck. You, know, that’s not an unreasonable thought.
Anytime you go to an all-you-can-eat anything, you can feel assured you’re sacrificing quality over what you would get in a by-the-plate restaurant. However, in an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant, you have a leg up over most other buffets because the sushi is hand rolled. So whereas that vat of beef with broccoli sitting in a steam tray has likely been given all the care shown to the garbage as its tossed in the dumpster (note: I don’t know if that’s true. I am sure there are some places that really put effort into their buffet offerings, but I think about 99% of “Chinese” food was is made is a Cisco lab somewhere), the sushi you get at an all-you-can-eat place has been hand crafted.
Plus, Sushi Mido is pretty smart about how they do their all-you-can-eat. First, you can only get rolls, which are full of rice and more filling than individual nigiri or sashimi and, while I haven’t done an extensive survey, the ingredients that form the rolls are pretty limited: crab, fried shrimp, cream cheese, cucumber, etc. So, my assumption is that Sushi Mido buys a lot of stuff in bulk.
All of which leads up to something I figured out today
If You Turn Your Nose Up at All You Can Eat Sushi and Order Rolls Anywhere Else You Obviously Like Overpaying for Fish*
Well, at least you live in the Midwest.
Really, this insight hit me when the first artful plate of sushi arrived at my table. Looking at the rolls they present, they’re essentially the exact same rolls you get at any other sushi place, even the really fancy ones like Ra or Nara, where hip KC-ers go for sushi. Let’s face it, in the middle of the country, there are only so many outlets for sushi-grade fish. Plus, once it finds its way into any roll, whether it’s a fancy lollipop thingy at Ra or the Midnight Fantasy roll at Sushi Mido, it’s still a sushi roll. At that point, you should be judging the individual roll, not the style of restaurant.
Okay, so all tangets aside, let’s get back to why we’re here.
Sushi Mido Review
And also it’s the longest blog post title ever. Woot.
So, this morning when I woke up and there was snow on the ground, it occurred to me. This is cold and flu season (which in case you’re wondering is what’s up with the dude over there. He’s sick.) My least favorite season next to allergy season!
There are few people in the world that hate cold and flu season more than me. Not only do I not like being cold, I don’t like getting colds. Fortunately, for me, there’s a tea for that.
I don’t know if I really believe in the healing power of echinacea, especially after it has been steeped in hot liquid for fifteen minutes, but there’s something about this tea. I think it’s the fact it tastes like medicine, but drinking it makes me feel healthier. Anyway, to the review.
Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Complete Care Wellness Tea
I wish I could take a formal stance on whether or not this stuff actually makes me feel better. Sadly, as far as aroma and taste goes, Celestial Seasonings teas tend to rate a bit low for me in general and the Wellness tea is no exception. Still, the minute I get the sniffles, I reach for a bag. So, what am I to do but complain?
(Oh, and by the way, Celestial Seasonings, could you consider individually packaging your bags or at least separate the packages so the two aren’t stuck together? I feel gross offering a tea bag to friends after my hands have been all over it!)
Anyway, how does Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Complete Care Wellness Tea stack up?
Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Complete Care Wellness Tea: Ingredients
Echinacea is obviously the big ingredient and the tea packs a whopping 650 mg of the stuff. (Can someone tell me if that’s good?) Other than that, the tea is all natural and includes peppermint, licorice, star anise, and other flavoring ingredients.
I’m pretty sure this tea is an herbal tea, not a true tea itself, and mostly consists of the natural flavorings listed above and chicory. Still, the tea gets high marks for caring about its ingredients.
Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Complete Care Wellness Tea: Aroma
It smells like a eucalyptus plant with menthol extract (which in many ways it is.) So, in this humble blogger’s opinion, not very good.
Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Complete Care Wellness Tea: Taste
It tastes like a eucalyptus plant with menthol extract, which sadly is not a flavor even honey can cover up. So…um…next!
Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Complete Care Wellness Tea: Effects
Okay, so I’ve never done a study where all I drank was Celestial Seasonings’ tea when I don’t feel well. I tend to slam orange juice, take vitamin C tablets, and eat raw garlic along with drinking the tea. So I can’t be sure that it actually does anything.
On the other hand, when I have a cold, I don’t want to be without it. And the literature is pretty good in favor of echinacea.
Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Complete Care Wellness Tea: Overall
I don’t know…I recommend Celestial Seasonings’ Echinacea Complete Care Wellness Tea during cold and flu season for the perceived effects and because I seem to have a little more superstitious medicine man in me than I’d care to admit. It does not taste or smell good, but at least the taste can be improved (not perfected) with sweetener. Perhaps Marry Poppins was right: a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down?
So, with that said, I give this tea 2 cups out of 5.
Thanks to bark for the picture.
SheSpeaks and Macy’s Twitter Party
One other note:
Twitter Party Details: When: 11/9 @ 8PM ET TweetGrid Dashboard: http://bit.ly/tn7IQR Follow: #RecipeShare RSVP bitly.com/sYftgI
Stop by and we’ll talk holiday cooking.
Macy’s and SheSpeaks Recipe Share Program
Got a favorite holiday recipe? Wanna win $1,000? (I do!)
If so, great! Because SheSpeaks has teamed up with Macy’s to offer the Recipe Share Contest which will award one lucky winner $1,000 and the chance to get their recipe featured in Food Republic! Not too shabby, right?
(Oh, and if you are a regular reader and remember the SheSpeaks Aetna Healthy Food Fight contest…um…yeah…those rules don’t apply here. This is holiday cooking. It’s about comfort and chocolate and butter, which is okay because no one gains weight off holiday cooking. Trust me. I’m a food writer. )
What do you need to do?
Well from November 1st to November 30th, all you need to do is:
1. Head to www.facebook.com/macys 2. Click the Recipe Share tab (it's on the side bar) 3. Submit your recipe 4. Share the contest via Facebook and Twitter
Really, it’s that’s easy.
So…what recipe you’re going to submit? I’m thinking holiday punch, maybe my mom’s Christmas noodle soup, maybe a new family creation.
Who knows…but let the best recipe win!
FCC Disclosure: SheSpeaks and Macy’s provided incentive for this post. With that said, I still am working up a recipe for the content. I could use $1,000 this Christmas.
Established in 1858, Macy’s is the Great American Department Store – an iconic retail brand with over 800 stores across the country and online at macys.com. Macy’s offers an incredible selection and the best brands, tailored to each and every customer, while providing an experience that transcends ordinary shopping.
A big part of Macy’s unique heritage includes our special events?the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Fourth of July Fireworks, flower shows, fashion extravaganzas, celebrity appearances and holiday traditions that range from the arrival of Santa Claus to tree lightings and festive window displays. But beyond our signature events, Macy’s delivers magical moments every day through our shopping environment, service and merchandise – a great deal of which is sold exclusively through our stores. It’s all part of the excitement we’ve been creating for 151 years, and it’s all part of the magic of Macy’s!
This is so cool. I’m officially listed on Alltop Food!
If you click that link you’ll be taken to a listing of the best blogs on every topic in the world. And my little site is listed!! Yay me!