Category Archives: Products

Homemade Pizzas of Yore


I’ve probably mentioned that one of my absolute favorite things to eat is pizza. If I really HAVE to pick a favorite food, that would be it. You can do so much with it and it just tastes SO good. I mean, do I really need to explain why I love pizza? No, I didn’t think so.

Now quite some time ago (although it was recent when I first started this post in early January), we’ve had two occasions of pizza-making gatherings at my apartment. The first time, I bought some ready-made Pillsbury pizza dough, the kind the comes in those tubes you have to break open.

We did three halves marinara and one half pesto.

We did three halves marinara and one half pesto.

 

There were two cans of dough. “Cans of dough” seems like quite a strange thing to say, don’t you think? Oh well. So, two pizzas for four people. I can’t remember if there were leftovers but considering the amount of toppings we added, there was definitely plenty to eat that night. There was chicken, chorizo, avocado, mushrooms, broccoli, cheese of course, and probably quite a few other things that I’ve forgotten by now.

 

Since one of our number was vegetarian, we made sure there were several sections without meat as we got creative with our topping combinations. As I said at the time (or something like it), one of the perks of making pizza at home is that you can do really interesting things with the toppings that would probably take fifteen minutes to fully explain if you were placing an order.

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(The kitchen light was highly uncooperative, as is my camera, so unfortunately the pictures aren’t very good.)

The instructions say to pre-bake the crusts a little. We did not do this, but we were still satisfied with the end result. For my tastes, this crust does not make the optimal pizza. It tastes almost exactly like the crescent roll dough, which is great for crescent rolls, but not the right base for pizza in my opinion. I will be much more likely in the future to buy the pizzeria-style dough that you can usually find somewhere near the deli section when I buy premade dough again. However, this Pillsbury option would be a good choice if you wanted it to be a little faster. You don’t have to let it sit out at room temperature or spend time flattening it out–just unroll and go. In that, at least, the doughboy has the advantage.

Let's not forget the wine. This bottle was pretty tasty, if my memory serves.

Let’s not forget the wine. This bottle was pretty tasty, if my memory serves.

 

The second pizza-making occurrence yielded a much more delicious result. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any pictures–or if I do, I can’t find them. That time, one of my roommates made challah dough and we used that for the crust. That can result in a very thick crust unless someone wants to spend ages rolling it out, so if you like thin crust this might not be the way to achieve it. However, it tasted incredible. I can’t remember what we put on it anymore, but it doesn’t matter, because I remember that it was wonderful. And the lesson is to live with someone who likes making bread.

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Local Brew: Downeast Cider (Updated*)


You can’t call yourself a foodie unless you have an opinion on some kind of artisanal local/lesser known microbrew. I don’t call myself a “foodie” in any case, but that is the topic of today’s post. Specifically, I’m going to throw my hat into the ring (I don’t even know if that’s the right use of that phrase…) regarding Downeast, which is a brand I have personally enjoyed.

Since it’s now officially been fall for over a week, the general desire for cider here in New England will do its usual turn up to 11 (yes, I just made the Spinal Tap reference. Side note: Spinal Tap would be a great name for a bar or pub. A skeleton bar?). And while I’ve enjoyed regular old apple cider both cold and hot for as long as I can remember, since I became a legal drinker I have also favored alcoholic ciders. I’ve had many different brews, so I have some experience with them–but this is purely my own opinion of the beverage, so I guess you’ll have to get some to judge for yourself.

I first had Downeast’s traditional style cider at two different restaurants where they offered it on draft. I loved the flavor and the fact that it has that cloudiness that I was used to in regular, family-friendly cider but never saw in the adult version. When, many months later, I saw a display for it in a liquor store, I just had to buy some… it turns out, they make a range of flavors, and I decided to try some that would be new to me. First I went with the honey cider. It sounded delicious to me. It turns out this is a mead, or a mead-cider blend, and I don’t think I’m that much of a mead person. While I did like it, I much prefer the regular flavor and probably wouldn’t buy the honey variety again.

Most recently I tried the cranberry flavor. I really enjoyed this one. It feels very fall-appropriate, and might be a great choice for Thanksgiving. I decided it would be best consumed poured into a glass with a slice of lime. I am far from the first person to make use of the cranberry-lime combination, but I would venture to say that I’m probably among the people who love it the most.

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I think the lime really added something to the flavor that made me, personally, enjoy it more. I also believe pouring it into a glass added to the experience. I’ve never really been into drinking out of a can (aside from soda, which I don’t drink much of anymore).

My decision after having Downeast three ways is that it is a good brand that I’m happy to support. I do think that from now on I’ll most likely try to get it on tap/draft, and buy something else to drink at home–unless I’m really craving the cranberry cider, because I’ve never seen that from any other brand.

Until next time,

Cheers!
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*I know that people have different ideas of what “local” actually means. For some it only applies to products made within the same state or town/city. This is not my view of it, but as the good people of Downeast let me know in a comment, they are currently based in Boston, which is my area. After they commented I actually went to look up their website (downeastcider.com) and found that they’ll be at SOWA Open Market until the end of the season! I definitely want to go if I can, but regardless, you should go check them out if you’re in the area.

The Best Service


Hello! I haven’t been posting very often for a while, I know. I have been very focused on certain things in life and not feeling that motivated to talk about my food. I also haven’t cooked too many things that merited full posts–not to mention that no one has responded at all when I asked if anyone would be interested in posts about particular dishes, so I figured it wouldn’t matter…

While I have a few food-related posts on deck, I’m taking a minor detour at the moment to say how impressed I am with Drugstore.com, which is owned by Walgreens. I first purchased from them sometime in the past two months. I wanted to check them out because I’d heard that they have much more variety than any of my local drugstores and they have a lot of natural, organic products. They even have a tab just for “green” products.

EDIT: I just read that Walgreens is trying to take advantage of some of those ridiculous benefits corporations get from the government in dodging taxes and stuff, so I might not be able to buy from them anymore. NOT COOL, Walgreens.

The truth is, they have EVERYTHING. They’re like a mega-drugstore, with all sorts of products and so many brands, you’ll be REALLY GLAD you have a database to search instead of trying to pick it off a store shelf. They even have vibrators. Drugstore.com has all the basics for your hygiene and health needs. The other side of the site, Beauty.com, has more specialty and prestige brands, but you can shop on both and check out from both sites at once. It’s so damn useful, I don’t know why more sites don’t do this…

 

Not only do they have a ridiculously wide variety of products, they always have sales and deals going on, and they give 5% credit back on (almost) all purchases. It’s a good place to get a good price on things, and it cuts down on your physical errands–always a plus for me.

Having placed my second order just a little while ago, I am also reminded how quickly they fill orders. So far, my orders from Drugstore.com have been shipped on the same day. It doesn’t take a week for the package to come to me, either. It’s more like 1-2 days. I’m a frequent online shopper and it comes with the territory that your orders might take a while to reach you, depending on the shipping service the company uses. This is logical and I generally accept it, but this super-quick delivery is what we really want when we shop online. In this case, it means that you could buy cold medicine without actually going out to the store and have it the next day, theoretically. Since I don’t have anyone to go buy cold medicine for me, this is a great advantage. I just hope they’re not using delivery drones (as I heard a while ago Amazon was planning to do). Those things freak me out. And wouldn’t they have to launch it at your front door? Weird.

That concludes my somewhat rant-y review. Overall, I think this site is worthwhile and if you’re like me and hate going to the drugstore in person, you should check them out.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon to check for food posts!

Coco Cafe


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I’m trying this coconut water coffee today. I expect it to be on the sweet side, and hydrate and wake the hell out of me.

Have you tried these? What do you think?

Chicken Tikka Masala (from a jar) – Success!


My most recent anti-recipe dinner was chicken tikka masala. I have actually made this several times in the past and I have a method that I really like. It’s very easy, and I bet you could do it too. I am going to try to describe things in a way that lets you copy the method, even though I don’t have a recipe. I bet it would also be really good with shrimp or just veggies, if you want a meatless version.

The first thing you should know is that I do not make it from scratch. I have no idea how you would do that. I buy the sauce in a jar, usually from Trader Joe’s, but you can often find some version in the “world” sections of any regular grocery store. In just a minute, you’ll see a picture of the one I used this time.

I really like to play up the coconut flavor in the dish, so I add coconut milk. I combine one whole can with the whole jar of tikka masala sauce.

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These were the ones I worked with for this particular go at the dish. For this purpose, I really think that any can of coconut milk will do, so go ahead and get the cheap one. Alternatively, I think it says the can contains 14 oz of coconut milk, so you can figure out how to measure that out. You can also add less, if you don’t want it to be quite so heavy on the coconut, or MORE if you just can’t get enough.

I have in the past added minced or diced garlic to the sauce as well, but I didn’t this time.

So, because I had an onion left over from making chili, I decided I would add some sliced onion this time. I cooked them up in some canola or olive oil (I can’t remember) first, to make them less onion-y. Once they had been simmering a while, and a few started to brown, I tossed the chicken in the pan.

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The chicken should be cooked before you add the sauce. However, since you’re going to simmer it all for a while, it doesn’t have to be fully cooked. Just so that it’s not still pink and raw… if you make this with the onions, you don’t have to keep them separate from the chicken like that. It’s just something I do.

When the outside of the chicken is no longer pink, that’s when I add the sauce. All you do it pour it over and then stir it together. It’s very very simple. Be careful when pouring, because there’s definitely a possibility of staining if you happen to splash.

To try something different, I thought I would add some more vegetables to it. I added an entire bag of frozen peas with pearl onions. It was very pea-heavy. If you wanted a smaller peas-sauce ratio, half the bag would probably do. Or you can just make it a judgment call.

Stirring it in with a wooden spoon, so that the bottom of the pan doesn't get scraped up.

Stirring it in with a wooden spoon, so that the bottom of the pan doesn’t get scraped up.

At this point, I cover and simmer the whole pan for at least 30 minutes. Generally no more than 45.

The pan I used here is a very large, Cuisinart cooking skillet. If you don’t have a pan like this with high sides, then you should use a pot instead. You want to make sure it’s a container that will actually hold the sauce and that you can cover easily (because no one wants to struggle to cover their pans while they’re trying to cook. It’s just not fun).

When it’s cooked long enough to be sure the chicken is cooked through and all vegetables you put in are cooked, that’s it. You’re done. In fact, I probably cook it longer than I need to. I bet 20 minutes would be fine. You don’t want to cook it too long, because then the chicken will start to get dry.

So then you just serve it up and eat.

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Here it is just after cooking, over jasmine rice. Tikka masala has enough flavor that I didn’t want to do anything fancy with the rice. I put a little bit of butter into the water as it boiled, but otherwise the rice is just plain. Jasmine rice is my favorite and definitely my vote for pairing with tikka masala. Basmati rice would also be good.

And that’s all! It really is very easy to do, and you can experiment with any add-ins you’d like. It takes a little bit of time, but not all that much effort. Also makes great leftovers, tastes exactly the same warmed up the next day.

Food Acquisition, plus Spinach Tortellini with Tomato Saute


If anyone knows how to type  in the e with the accent on it so that I can spell “saute” correctly in the title, please let me know.

First, a brief review!

This is not the best coffee in the world. This is just a tribute.

This is not the best coffee in the world. This is just a tribute.

The caption there is a play on the Tenacious D song, “Tribute,” in case you aren’t familiar. These were bought online due to a Starbucks membership promotion. Yes, I have a Starbucks membership, and no, I don’t go there every day. I got a gift card for Christmas and registered it mostly because I wanted the free birthday beverage. I think it was a Vanilla Spice latte. If not… doesn’t matter. In any case, I had a discount coupon, so I ordered these items. Haven’t tried the coffee yet, so I guess it could actually be the greatest coffee in the world. Kind of doubt it though.

If you can’t see it well enough, the via product is an instant version of their “very berry hibiscus refresher,” which is made from coffee juice, I guess. I tried one the other day, and it wasn’t bad, but tasted very different from the one you can buy freshly made. I would only recommend buying this if you can get it on sale, like I did.

Last week, I did two grocery shopping trips in one day, spent nearly $70 total–quite a lot for one day for me (on food, that is), but I still have a lot of food left from those trips, so I don’t think it’ll work out to be much more for the month’s groceries than I usually spend. In case you’re now wondering, I do not work off an actual budget. I’m sure I should, but I manage fine without it, and I have a tendency to rebel against the approach of “you CANNOT spend any more than ___.” I’ll spend more just because. So I don’t bother.

Things I should always buy in multiple when I go to Trader Joe’s: Spicy Powdered Chai Mix, Chile Lime Chicken Burgers, Chicken and Cheese Tamales, Pumpkin Ice Cream (when available), individual serving Greek yogurt, frozen naan. Having these things available at any given time makes my life better.

Last, but not least, I have a non-recipe to share (finally)! It is a very uncomplicated thing to make, as its base is quick-cooking spinach tortellini. I used the package bought from Trader Joe’s, but any variety you can find will work.

I just want to take a moment to say that I LOVE spinach tortellini. It’s weird, because I’m not a fan of the flavor of cooked spinach. However, dishes that involve cooked spinach in which other flavors are more prominent than the spinach itself can be as delicious as anything. What I have done in the past with instant tortellini or ravioli is just melt some butter and mix in some herbs, and pour it over the pasta. This is a slightly more involved version of that practice.

The actual cooking part doesn’t take much time at all, but I always forget how long water takes to boil. Start boiling your water first or you’re going to be sitting there trying to keep your sauce warm and tapping your foot yelling, “Goddamn it water, boil!”

I’m not going to explain how to cook the tortellini, because there are instructions on the package. For the tomato saute, I started by melting a whole bunch of butter in a small pan. Read the rest of this entry

It’s Food


Uh oh… I’ve been neglecting my recipe-less life. I can’t remember if I’ve made anything worth writing about lately. I’m going to have to assume I haven’t… I’m sorry! I’ll just have to come up with something to say.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so I assume everyone is drinking green beer or Guinness or Irish whiskey, or Bailey’s, or something like that. Or eating soda bread, potatoes, butter, irish style bacon, stew, or anything someone once told you was a very Irish thing to eat. I’m wearing a green t-shirt, and I’m going to heat up some of my seasoned curly fries as part of dinner. Potatoes are so Irish! No alcohol for me today. And really… I don’t care.

Last weekend I went to Bertucci’s with my dad, and as usual I really think my family’s recipe for meatballs can’t be beat. I forget how to make them though. I ate a LOT and somehow went home with three salads and a bunch of other leftovers.

I have also finally been to one of the many Mexican places in my neighborhood, a place called Acapulco – I tried the enchiladas. Good, but I wonder if some of their other options are better. The week after that, I went to Tres Gatos, a tapas restaurant/bookstore. The food is very tasty, but the ambiance isn’t great (it was really loud in there), and I’ve been to other tapas places I definitely prefer. I would definitely go there again, but only once in a while.

In actual news, I subscribed to two different tasting boxes and received my first one from Love with Food!

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I’ve heard that some bloggers get paid to review the stuff in their boxes. I would be happy to be one of them, but I am not, so I’m not planning to go through the contents of each box and talk about them. I might note anything that really stood out, like this time, the Cosmos salted caramel corn snacks. They had the consistency of cheese puffs, and more of a buttery than caramely flavor. I gave the chocolate covered wasabi peas to my roommate, because I didn’t think I’d want them.

Love with Food is a good one to subscribe to, because there’s a charitable aspect. They give food to the needy for every box you purchase, or something… I don’t know the details, but you can look it up on their site.

The other one I ordered, Goodies Co., I won’t get until April. They’re cheap, $7 a month, and availability is limited because they’re in beta mode, but I think I waited a week or two before they emailed me that I could get the box.

The point of these boxes for me is to reduce the need to buy snack items at the grocery store. And of course, if I find that what I get is not really worth the investment for me, then I can always stop getting the boxes. We’ll have to see how it goes. For now I am sure I’ll be happy enough with them, as it’s under $20 a month for both boxes.

And, in food news, that really is pretty much all I have to say. Not too exciting, I know. I’m going to have to make something interesting to fix that, and in the meantime I might have other life adventures to share with you.

Hold It Right There… Now, Spread ‘Em!


I want to tell you about my new food love, which I totally forgot about until I walked into the pantry yesterday to inspect my food and was reunited with this:

 

Cocoa almond spread from Trader Joe’s. I spotted this while shopping and knew I had to have it. I thought, this will be like Nutella, but better! And I was right.

I used to really LOVE Nutella, back when I hardly ever got to have it, but a few years ago I sort of hopped off the Nutella train. I don’t have a problem with it at all, but I just found myself not caring that much once it was around all the time. That, of course, makes me sound like a hipster. Maybe I never loved Nutella as much as I thought I did… I still like it, mind you. Just not as much as everyone else seems to.

Almonds are my favorite nut. I like them a lot more than hazelnuts. And they make marzipan (right? They’re in that?) and awesome cookies and amaretto. So, yeah. Almonds.

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I’m eating some of this right now on a piece of standard grocery store multigrain bread. I’d prefer it on a croissant, or maybe a sweet bread, like challah… or I could put it on COOKIES. Wow, that would be delicious. Or fruit slices. I could dip pretzel sticks in it. I don’t have pretzel sticks, nor do I particularly like pretzels, but I could. I could just eat it off my fingers. No one else is eating from this jar. Go. Nuts.

 

Ha. Get it? That wasn’t even intentional.

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