CatfishOkay, so in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought I’d do

Catfish Stew

Okay, so I don’t know how authentic catfish stew is in terms of good pirate fare, but I do know it tastes good (which is important) and it’s a great way to keep warm as it cools off.  Even better, unlike a lot of my recipes it only has a few steps.

Argh you ready?

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eggrolls#GoJunkFood Presents Egg Rolls

With all apologies to the #GoJunkFood crowd, this post is incredibly late (like months late), but as a few sharp people have noticed, I haven’t exactly been posting a lot.  Which is no good.

Most importantly, though, I must say sorry to the egg rolls.  You should have your story told to the world so you can be eaten.  You deserve it.

And if I don’t say something about you, egg rolls, who will?

Egg Rolls

Okay, that’s just silly.  Just about everyone who digs Chinese food (and many who don’t) love egg rolls and why not?  They’re fried.  Fried is awesome.  And they have pork inside.  Pork is awesome.

And they’re really easy to make at home.  No foolin’.  It really only takes three steps to put them together:

1. Make the filling.

2. Roll the roll.

3. Fry

Then it’s meal time.  Ready to give it a try?

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Golden CannoliWhen no one was looking, I snuck a bite of this thing and chipped a tooth.  Not cool guys.  Not cool.

Jasper’s Restaurant Announces

To celebrate Jasper’s National Cannoli Month, local baker and jeweler collaborate to make
The Golden Cannoli; Jasper’s sells a 24k gold cannoli.

Kansas City, MO (Sept. 12, 2011) – Kansas City’s King of Locavore and an intrepid traveler on the mythical
Cannoli Trail, celebrated Master Italian Chef Jasper Mirabile Jr., has declared the month of September
“National Cannoli Month.” By decree of Chef Jasper, master cannoli maker, dessert lovers in Kansas City
will be able to enjoy a massive show of cannoli power during September.
To commemorate National Cannoli Month, Chef Jasper has enlisted the expertise of famous Kansas City
jeweler, Tom Tivol, and award-winning Sprinkled with Sugar owner, Carey Iennaccaro, to create the World’s Most Expensive Cannoli. Tivol discovered a 20th Century Italian Diamond Necklace, valued at $26,000, which he is pairing with the cannoli created by Iennaccaro. This special star-power cannoli features edible gold and is paired with a bottle of Louis Roederer 1999 Cristal Champagne, making it the World’s Most Expensive Cannoli.
The cannoli can be ordered, with 24 hours notice, through December 2011. A replica gold leaf Cannoli is on display in the lobby of Jasper’s Ristorante. For those who don’t want to spend $26,453.25 but still want to enjoy a Golden Cannoli, Jasper’s is selling a 24k gold cannoli-dusted with real gold-for only $12.
“I’m obsessed with finding the perfect cannoli,” says Chef Jasper. “I even invented a Cannoli Therapy Patch for people who need a cannoli fix. I dressed up last year as a cannoli for Halloween. The last story in my most recent cookbook is On the Cannoli Trail’ that recounts my search for the greatest cannoli in Sicily. Two years ago I traveled to 15 cities in Sicily searching for the greatest cannoli ever. I finally found it, but you have to read my cookbook, The Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook, to discover where!”
Chef Jasper claims the cannoli originated in Palermo and its surrounding areas. The dessert, which is a sweet shell filled with a ricotta cheese mixture, was originally made for Carnival, a festival occurring before Lent. The cannoli takes its name from its long tubular shape and dates back to the time when the Arabs occupied Sicily during the 9th century.
Jasper’s offers melt-in-your-mouth cannolis that satisfy any craving. The local, award-winning institution has served cannolis for nearly 58 years and uses an old Sicilian recipe passed down from Jasper’s greatgrandmother in Gibellina, Sicily. The shells are crisp and flaky and are filled with fresh ricotta cheese, chocolate bits, candied orange and lemon peel, along with a hint of cinnamon. Jasper’s cannoli recipe can be found in The Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook published by Andrews McMeel.
Join Chef Jasper “On the Cannoli Trail” in Kansas City at Jasper’s Ristorante and around town, as he appears at festivals and farmers’ markets around the Kansas City metropolitan area in his custom Cannoli Mobile. He’ll also make live appearances in the Cannoli Mobile from Hen House Markets on his weekly radio show, LIVE! From Jasper’s Kitchen/KCMO Talk Radio 710. Jasper’s Ristorante will offer daily specials and dozens of specialty cannoli flavors and unique cannoli creations to celebrate “National Cannoli Month.”

For more information contact:
Chef Jasper Mirabile, (816) 941-6600

#SSFoodFight is On!!

Hey everyone, just a quick note to tell you that from 1-2 Eastern tomorrow I will be doing a Twitter panel on everyone’s favorite topic–healthy eating!!! Just look for the Twitter hashtag #SSFoodFight!!!!

Okay, maybe healthy eating is not everyone’s favorite topic BUT it is important, especially as kids are going back to school, lives are getting school-year-hectic (instead of summer-hectic), and it’s getting a lot harder to find time to eat healthy. That’s where Aetna Healthy Food Fight, the subject of tomorrow’s panel, comes in.

Aetna’s is two things. First, it’s a great source of recipes, videos, cooking tips, and glimpses of food personality Bobby Flay, who still won’t take me on in a Throwdown. Okay, in all seriousness, it’s a great website with lots of healthy food tips.

However, it’s even more than that!

Healthy Food Fight Recipe Contest

Aetna wants to make their site gets even better…with your recipes! All you have to do is enter a recipe at: in one of four regions. (Hello Dallas, here I come!!)

If your recipe makes the grade (for nutritional standards…sadly fried butter with mayo won’t cut it), you will be entered in the Healthy Food Fight semi-finals. Then it goes to the vote. The top three vote getters in each region will compete head-to-head in their region’s city for the chance to move to the finals.

Each Finalist will be flown by American Airlines to cook for Chef Flay (if it’s not me, whoever gets to the finals, slip Bobby Flay my Next Food Network Star video!) for the chance to win $10,000 in groceries from!

To summarize: eat healthy. Eat well. Post a recipe. Win $10,000!

Why not, right?

So, if you’re interested, post your recipe. If you want to know more or if you just want to say hi, I’ll see you at the #SSFoodFight Twitter Party! Nothing is required, just point your Internet browser to Twitter and look for the #SSFoodFight hashtag!

Oh, and if you are wondering what SS means, it stands for, who is putting on the Twitter party to get people aware of the contest.

See you then! Enjoy!

(Oh, and per FTC rules, I should let you know I’m being compensated to be on the panel.)

Lemon Lift TeaTea-sty Tuesday: Bigelow Lemon Lift

Okay, so I was looking and it’s been a long, LONG time since I’ve done one of these.  Yikes.  So, without any further ado we’re going to talk Bigelow Lemon Lift, a tea that in my head deserves it’s own 1970s jingle:

If you want a bit of lemon
And you want a bit of lift
Call Bigelow…
Get your lemon lift tea…
Spoken: Mmm…it’s so tasty
Lemon lift tea…. (cue jazz hands)

Let the record reflect that the quality of my made up jingle does not necessarily reflect my opinion of the tea.

Bigelow Lemon Lift Tea

As noted in other posts on Bigelow, I sometimes question why certain things get in Bigelow tea (namely soy lechitin.)  When compared to some of the hippie-ified teas I drink, namely anything from Yogi, I can’t help but wonder.  Then again, I grew up on Bigelow tea and I turned okay except for the second face I grew during puberty, so I shouldn’t complain.

…Anyway, the Lemon Lift tea ended up in my “to taste” pile when my wife bought a big sampler pack and I, needing fodder for Tea-sty Tuesday, snagged a pack.  How did it measure up?

Bigelow Lemon Lift Tea’s Ingredients

I covered this above.  I’m not going to harp on it.  It’s not fair to Bigelow since there is probably a good reason to have a non-tea/herbal/flavor substance in the tea.

Bigelow Lemon Lift Tea’s Aroma

A+++++  Lemon Lift tea has that amazingly clean, crisp, bright aroma that one associates with the best lemon products.  Within seconds of the hot water hitting the tea bag, my senses were filled with the sweet smell of warm lemon drops, sweet citrusy lemon zest, lemon pledge (which I like the smell of…sue me)…it was wonderful.  I could hardly wait for the tea to cool so I could take my first stip.

Bigelow Lemon Lift Tea’s Taste

D.  To this day, I keep wondering what happened to all the lemon aroma.  Where did it go?  Sadly, if the obviously chemical aftertaste of the tea is any indication, the aroma was a fraud.  And if the aroma was a fraud, the taste never had a chance. 🙁

Though, to be fair, I didn’t take any sweetener with the Lemon Lift.  I can’t help but think that the flavor would have matched the aroma with a little Truvia.

Bigelow Lemon Lift Tea’s Effects

I got a little caffeine boost.  It was a bigger boost than with a lot of Yogi teas, but that was about all.

Bigelow Lemon Lift Tea Overall

Yes, I was a little disappointed with the tea.  Given the strong lemon aroma, I wanted a fresh citrus taste to go with the smell. Unfortunately, the tea just never measured up.

It’s almost like Lemon Lift suffers from false advertising.  That aroma is so good, anything short of perfection isn’t going to match up.  Still, I think Bigelow could have added a little more natural citrus to improve the tea’s overall taste.

Still, at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, this tea is easily as good as Bigelow’s pomegranate tea, so I give it 3.5 cups out of 5.

Food at LivestrongEating Well at Livestrong Park

First of all, to whom it may concern: Chef Wade Taylor, Executive Chef at Livestrong Park working for KC American Sportservice, is a genius.  There, let me never be accused of burying my lead.

Okay, with that said, let me back up.  I love Twitter.  No seriously, one day I tried to say I was married to it on Facebook.  Why do I love tweeting so much?  Because I’m always finding myself talking to interesting people on it about food.  Which is how, one day out of the blue, I asked @SportingKC about the concessions at Livestrong and if anyone had reported on what they were serving.

And that’s the story of how I got to tour Livestrong Park’s many multiple kitchens with Chef Wade as my personal guide.

It’s also how I got to taste some of his creations.  Which is how I can say for sure he’s a genius.

The Setup at Livestrong

I’ll be the first to admit that when I first asked @SportingKC about the food at Livestrong, I was prepared to be underwhelmed.  I assumed that unless I was in the owner’s box, I’d be treated to a fine assortment of hot dogs, nachos, and maybe, if I was lucky, a burger.  Maybe.

Joke’s on me.  Livestrong Park is perhaps the most fantastic cooking set up in which these feet have ever tread.  Not only are there at least four kitchens (that I saw), the stadium has everything: fryers, ovens, pop corn poppers, smokers, sous vide machines, pizza ovens, a wine cellar with flour-to-ceiling bottles, and, more than likely, a partridge and a pear tree (though that wasn’t part of the tour.)  It was basically a “Chef’s Disney Land” according to Chef Wade.

Dining at Livestrong

Fruit and CheeseOf course, Chef Wade and his crew have to have a big capacity to make food because there are a lot of places in Livestrong to eat.  In addition to the concession stands, there’s the Field Club (an area at field level serving all-you-can-eat fruit and cheese, charcuterie, meat at carving stations, seafood selections, veggies, barbecue and other various chef’s specialty items.)

Then there’s the Shield Club, a less formal dining area offering an a la carte menu across seven different pods that range from sushi inspired by the chefs from Nara, Minsky’s pizza, a sausage station, BBQ, dessert, and a burger/beer station that offers perhaps the best value at the club.  For $10, you can get a bacon cheese burger topped with special potatoes and special sauce served with a side order of fries.  From what I hear, before it’s all said and done, that’s a six inch tall (or more) burger with fries for less than what you’d pay at any gourmet burger place in the city.SAM_0219

Then there are the luxury boxes which have a common serving area that offers many of the same amenities as the Field Club, but serves everything as beautifully presented small plates.  These plates include salad selections and the Food Network’s recipe for drunken pork.  So good.

And, if you’re not tired of walking by now, there’s still the wine cellar and the pizza oven in the owner’s box, which is actually two stories and can seat a small army of hungry eaters.

In other words, lots of good stuff going on.

Events at Livestrong

SAM_0235Oh, and if that’s not enough, when there’s not a game on, there’s concerts and special events.  For instance, this year Farm Aid’s at Livestrong, which will force Chef Wade and his team (in particular Chef Pascal) to build an organic, seasonal menu in keeping with Farm Aid’s traditions.  (I’m trying to get an idea of what the menu will be there…stay tuned for more details.)

Also, when there’s not a game, you can have your event (company meeting, corporate outing, wedding, eat-a-thon) at Livestrong.  The day I was there, the Mexican Chamber of Commerce and a Jewish business group were both holding functions.  I point this out because Chef Wade was given the opportunity to prepare authentic dishes for both groups…at the same time.  I didn’t get to try the food for the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, but I could smell it.  And it smelled good.

I did get to some of the Jewish group’s (specially ordered kosher) menu: smoked fish (flown in special for the event) on sliced bread with apple cream cheese.  It was so good.  So good.

What Else Did I Eat?

SAM_0192Well after walking across the stadium, up it, down it, and shutting Chef Wade’s hand in the walk-in (oops), he was gracious enough to let me try a few items.

Of what I tried, three dishes really stood out.  The first was the drunken pork mentioned above.  It was deep, carmelized, warm, salty and just a little bit sweet.  That pork was paired with the second of the memorable dishes: a spicy slaw with celery root.  The slaw was cool, which went well with the pork, but had such an amazing flavor from the celery root.  I never thought I’d like celery slaw but it was terrific and brought out the deeper notes in the pork.

Last was a cold white truffle polenta.

SAM_0217This polenta should have its own entry in the Encyclopedia of Awesome.  Although, even as I type “cold white truffle polenta” I am a man of many emotions.  One on hand, I still can’t get over: cold?  polenta?  No, that can’t be right.  On the other hand, I remember how amazing it was.  The cold of the polenta against a perfectly cooked rosemary chicken (and maybe some of the slaw and pork…)  The differences in temperature making the dish come alive, while still delivering just the perfect earthy flavor of white truffle.  I thought I had had good polenta.  No polenta is as good as that polenta. 

So in summary: I.  WANT.  MORE.

The Bad News

Sadly,  the Shield Club, Field Club and (strangely enough) the Owner’s Box, aren’t open for everyone.  You have to have a special ticket as part of your season ticket package (I checked) and they’re all sold out this year.  But, there’s always next year.  And it’s worth it for the food!

With that said, I’m going to do my best Tom Cruise/Ethan Hawke impression and see if I can’t Mission: Impossible my way into the Field Club.  Maybe I can dangle from the ceiling, dropping down to steal a bite when no one is looking.  Yeah, that will work.

In Conclusion

Buy season tickets.  It’s worth it to eat.

And thanks to Chef Wade for the tour.  I wish him the best of luck and to all of you looking for a job…

HE’S HIRING!!!  He needs to staff up, so maybe you, too, can play in a chef’s Disney Land.


Beef’s Biggest PR Problem

Prior to last week’s beef tour, I believed (and am not alone in this belief) that Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) were EVIL.  I had seen pictures of tens of thousands (maybe even millions…mainly joking) of cows stuffed into a tiny yard far too small to let them move.  Then I went on the beef tour and went to a CAFO.  Now, I am rethinking this position, but I still understand why I was so ready to believe that CAFOs are so bad.  Beef, like all meat producers, have a PR problem because their ultimate end is death.

I know that sounds unfair, but read on.

A Few Disclaimers

Before I go on, I want to set the stage properly.

1.  Yes, Missouri Beef did sponsor me to go on the beef tour.  However, my previous posts in regards to nearly losing my breakfast at the meat processing plant should let you know it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops.

2.  I want to a CAFO in Pratt, KS.  From going to a CAFO, I was able to compare that operation to some of the pictures of other CAFOs I’d seen.  I now believe those pictures to be misleading.

3.  I, like the beef industry itself, believe that there have historically been horrible treatment of the animals to their detriment.  We also both believe that there are cases where this continues, but that these are not rampant and are not condoned by the industry.

This post, then, is an examination of why I, and by extension others, are so willing to believe that the animal industry were villians.

Pets Are Family

But, let’s start with some statistics.

According to Doctor Dan Thomson from Kansas State (you know this has to be an important topic for me to quote a K-Stater and apologies to him if I am off 1-2% on his numbers):

  • 50% of people in the United States live alone
  • This plays into the fact that 85% of pet owners consider their pets their children
  • 84% would risk their lives to save their pets from bodily harm

Now, Dr. Thomson goes on to wonder what’s up with the 1% who wouldn’t risk their lives to save their children, but that’s the topic of another post.

Still, the big takeaway is that people are valuing their pets as humans and through purely anecdotal evidence, once you do that for your household pets, you start doing that for animals.

The End Product

Which leads me back to my thesis.

Right about the middle of the beef cycle, the cow has to die.  Even if the animal died of old age, it would still have to die.  All of the work before the cow dies is to ensure that it is as big, flavorful, and as high in quality as possible without sacrificing meat quality and all of the work afterwards is about handing the dead cow’s remains so they get to the table with as little fuss as possible.

But, still, the cow has to die, which means the beef industry is in the business of death and since 85% of people look at pets as people…it’s no great leap to start looking at the beef industry as essentially selling soylent green.

Fear the Slippery Slope

And I don’t think that’s fair.  I’m all for treating animals with dignity not because it leads to a better steak, but because I think as a race, humans are just better than sinking to hurting animals because they can.

But as the beef industry goes on, it’s that slippery slope–that association of killing cows to killing people– that they have to worry about.

And frankly, I am not going to ask people to stop thinking of pets, cows, birds, chickens or even snakes (I hate snakes) as people.  That’s their right.  However, I do think that we should stop vilifying people who treat their animals well just because those animals end up at a slaughterhouse.  It doesn’t do anyone any good to sling mud.  Period.

The Call to Action

So, the call to action here is to find a meat producer and talk to them.  Ask them about how they treat their animals and see the sincerity when they say they want no harm to come to them.  Even if the reason they feel that way has nothing to do with the reasons you might like.  Oh, and if you find that meat producer isn’t following industry regulations for proper beef treatment, tell the local beef council and the USDA (here are a list of USDA regulations.)

Also, stay informed about livestock raising practices.  As long as they preserve the dignity of the animal, it’s probably okay.

But also stay informed to see if generally accepted animal practices change.  If research comes out tomorrow that shows the best thing to do for steak quality is to tie a baby cow up by its hooves and beat it with barbed wire, we need to say in once voice that’s not okay.  We’ll take lesser quality meat to eliminate that type of suffering.

Oh, and if you are reading this and you’re veg*n, thank you for sticking with me.  I know this isn’t a condemnation of meat across the board, but I hope that it at least makes you consider the possibility that not all meat producers are villians.

And whether you sit down to a steak dinner today or not, enjoy!

Creekstone Farms

Okay, so I realize I should probably expand on my last blog post.  In all fairness to Creekstone Farms, the part about hurling was about me, not about them.

Tuesday was my first trip to a slaughterhouse ever and from what I hear, Creekstone Farms was as good a way to get introduced into the world of cattle harvesting as possible.  Doctor Temple Grandin, a big name is proper animal/cattle treatment, designed the plant to be as low stress for the cows as possible and to generally be as humane and sanitary as can be.

And all in all, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Still, I did watch cows die and I did get to see the insides of the cow far closer up than I would like.  And it was hot and smelly (not rotten smelly, but cows and their insides do have a certain odor to them) and when your nose is as strong as mine, the smell is distinct.

So, I certainly don’t want to make it out like Creekstone Farms was this awful place which mistreated the animals, harmed them, was unsanity, etc.  For all the meat I’ve eaten and for all the chickens and cows I’ve seen after the slaughter process, I’ve never seen the blow that ends the life or the animal move through the line.

Therefore, the gorge I felt a few times wasn’t Creekstone doing anything wrong.  It was about me being closer to the harvest than ever before.  In the end, it’s not something I’m going to go out and try to see/smell on a daily basis, but I can’t be too critical of the process and continue to eat meat.

And despite my support of plant-based diets, I don’t see myself returning to one anytime soon.