My Thai Snack from Graze

MyThai

Photo from Graze
Click on the pic to go there.

Product Information:

sweet chilli sauce with baked soy bites

I received a tray of this snack in my December Graze Box.

Tea Suggestion:

I decided that iced tea seemed the ideal choice for this snack.  And since it’s a Thai inspired snack, I went with a lime flavored tea, specifically, this Key Lime Cheesecake flavored Iced Tea from Southern Boy Teas!  The tangy lime and cream cheese notes played perfectly with the spicy-sweet sauce in this snack.

What I Think: 

YUM!  After taking my first bite of this My Thai Snack from Graze, I immediately clicked on the “Love” button on the Graze website.  This snack is the perfect snack for me.   The whole snack tray is just 84 calories, too!

The baked soy ‘bites’ are little rounds that are thicker than a chip – they remind me of “tater tot rounds” which are about a third as tall as a typical tater tot.  These are about the same size as those tater tot rounds.  They are crispy and have a light texture to them.  They are lightly salty, and really, that’s mostly all you taste.  You get a little bit of salt and a whole lot of crunch … but no extraneous flavors to interfere with the delightful taste of the sweet and spicy sauce.

Then again, I’m not eating them without the sauce … so I can’t say with certainty that if I were to focus on the flavor of these soy bites that there wouldn’t be more that I could taste from them.  The sauce is just too amazing to not dip the soy bite into!

The sauce looks a bit like a jelly.  It is sweet and spicy, and there is a delicious balance between these two contrasting notes.  The sweet tastes a bit like a sugared sweetness … not really like honey or other sweetener.  The spiciness comes from the chili pepper (you can see the flakes throughout the sauce).  There is a slight vinegar-y tang to the sauce, and perhaps just a hint of garlic.  But mostly, what I taste is the sweetness and the spiciness of this sauce … and I love it.  I want a jar of this stuff.

My Final Thoughts:

LOVE!  This just may be my favorite snack that I’ve tried from Graze yet.  I’d be thrilled if they sent this my way every single month.  Oh!  And I didn’t let the extra sauce go to waste, either.  We had some chips in the pantry – Original Pringles – which are not as healthy a choice as the soy bites and did add to the calorie count of the snack (probably more calories than I care to know!), but I didn’t want to waste a single bit of this sauce.  I love it.  The chips tasted great with the sauce too.

Alfredo Extraordinaire from Wildtree PLUS Sfoglini Bronx Brewery Pasta

Alright … I know I’m still really behind … well, that’s because I’ve not been posting.  Funny how these things just keep piling up when you don’t do anything about them, huh?

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Finished Pasta Alfredo

Anyway … this is a “combination” review, because a friend of mine sent me a sample of Wildtree’s Alfredo Extraordinaire Sauce Mix and I received a package of Sfoglini Bronx Brewery Pasta in my February Knoshbox.  So, I decided to make Pasta Alfredo with the Spent Grain Radiator pasta that I received in my Knoshbox using this VERY EASY to make Alfredo sauce from Wildtree.

???????????????????????????????About Sfoglini Bronx Brewery Pasta:

These BxB Radiators are made with spent grains from the brewery’s flagship Pale Ale beer. The five different barley malts create a unique, rich flavor in the pasta that must be experienced.

alfredoextraordinaireAbout Alfredo Extraordinaire Sauce Mix from Wildtree:  

The Name Says It All – This Alfredo Is Extraordinary!

What I think:

Just about anyone can prepare pasta … just boil water, add a handful of salt to the boiling water, and then add the pasta and let it cook until tender, and then drain. Easy peasy, right?  (Yeah, it ain’t homemade pasta, but, I lack the patience needed to make my own pasta, I’m afraid, especially since my youngest is not a big fan of pasta anyway … it seems like a lot of work for something that is going to be received with less than enthusiastic results, you know?)  

Anyway, I like that this pasta only takes about seven minutes to prepare.  The instructions on the package say 5 – 8 minutes, but after testing it at five minutes, it was still a little more firm than I wanted it to be.  However, seven minutes on my stovetop, in my kitchen … produced just the right texture for this pasta.  

And I just want to give a shout out to Jennifer of Blissful Yoga Journey for sending me the Alfredo Extraordinaire sauce mix … check out her blog here.  (She’s also my SororiTea Sister!)

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The dry pasta, up close and personal…

On it’s own, the pasta has a pleasant flavor.  It is tastier than what I’ll call “white” pasta which is something I seldom buy anymore anyway, because I like to think that the whole wheat pasta is better for me and my family.  Even if it isn’t, I like to live under the illusion of selecting the healthier option. I like the texture of this pasta, it doesn’t taste or feel mushy, and it’s comfort food taken to a tastier, more satisfying level.

When tossed with the Alfredo Estraordinaire Sauce Mix from Wildtree, this pasta goes from good to GREAT.  As I mentioned before, the sauce mix from Wildtree is extremely easy to prepare.  Simply melt some butter in a saucepan with some milk (I used a 1:1 ratio of half and half to 1% milk, mostly because we didn’t have enough of the 1% milk in the fridge tonight), Once the butter is completely melted, whisk in the sauce mix until completely incorporated and smooth.  

The sauce is a bit thinner than I thought it would be … I expected a thick sauce.  But, once added to drained, unrinsed pasta it thickened up a bit, and by the time I reached the bottom of my bowl of pasta, I kind of expected a puddle of sauce, but there was absolutely NO puddle.  So, either time to set, time to cool, or adding the pasta causes this sauce to thicken (or perhaps a combination of all three of these factors.)  

I like the way the sauce sort of infiltrates the grooves of this radiator style pasta and clings to it so that I get lots of yummy alfredo taste in every bite.  The sauce tastes cheesy, creamy and it is nicely seasoned.  I didn’t add additional seasoning to the bowl of pasta except for a couple of grinds of freshly ground pepper which is something that I add to just about every dish I eat.  I garnished the top with a light sprinkling of fresh Parmesan cheese.  

My Final Thoughts:  

It is a very flavorful sauce … not at all bland, and I like the way these two products work together.  The pasta is filling and delicious.  The two together make for a seriously tasty supper, and it took me less than ten minutes to throw it together!

Brown Sugar & Apple Vinegar Skillet Pumpkin Sauce

Photo from Knoshbox. Click on the pic to go there.

Product Description:

In 2007, Chef Josh Henderson created Skillet Street Food in Seattle. Out of a vintage Airstream trailer, he created innovative lunch menus based on American-inspired food prepared with classic technique and seasonal ingredients. 

His new Skillet Pumpkin sauce was featured in October’s Autumn Harvest box- it’s a versatile sauce that can be used as a base for many recipes, spread onto all things grilled or used simply in place of ketchup on just about anything.

I received this jar of Pumpkin Sauce in my October Knoshbox.

What I Think:

For the purposes of this review, I tried this pumpkin sauce two ways:  First, I spooned some over a pork chop, and then I tried some right off the spoon.

This tastes a little less like pumpkin and a bit more like well-seasoned, vinegar-y brown sugar sauce.  That’s not to say that I don’t like it, it’s actually quite tasty … it’s just a little different than I expected it to be.  And I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – I guess I expected more of a pumpkin-y taste … like pumpkin puree.  Here, I can taste the pumpkin, but, it seems to be competing with the vinegar and spices.

It is a tasty sauce, though, and it goes spectacularly well with pork chops.  I suspect it would be equally as a condiment with turkey (I think I might try cooking down some cranberries and blend them to a puree, and mixing the cranberries with this pumpkin sauce for an alternative to my usual cranberry relish that I make every year)

My Final Thoughts:

I am REALLY glad that I got the opportunity to try this pumpkin sauce from Skillet.  I’ve been coveting it for a while now, contemplating an order, and while I don’t think that this is something I will reorder (I might, though), I am glad that my curiosity has been satiated by Knoshbox (thanks!!!)  Having this in October’s Knoshbox made the box worthwhile for me.  (Yes, I realize that the stuff doesn’t cost as much as the Knoshbox, but did you forget?  I also got Bacon Peanut Brittles in my box too)

Goats Milk Original Caramel Sauce from Fat Toad Farm

Photo from Petit Amuse. Click on the pic to go there.

Product Description:

This is not just your run-of-the-mill caramel sauce. This is cajeta – a Mexican specialty made from caramelized, reduced goat’s milk. Compared to standard caramel sauce, this is more savory with a slight tang. Even though we usually just eat this out of the jar with a spoon, it would make a delicious sauce for baked desserts, fresh fruit (mmm…apples!), ice cream, coffee drinks, and even mild cheeses.

I received a jar of this caramel in October’s Petit Amuse Sampler box, and this caramel can be purchased online at Petit Amuse.

What I Think:

For the purposes of this review, I drizzled some of the caramel over a sliced apple.  Then… I licked the spoon.  Mmm!

I think I’ve mentioned my love for caramel once or twice on this blog.  And I’ve been hearing about Fat Toad Farm’s caramels for a while, on various gourmet food sites and such, and I’ve been wanting to try it for a long time now!  So I was thrilled when Petit Amuse included it in the October box!

This stuff is awesome.  It is not quite as sweet as other caramel sauces I’ve tried, this has a somewhat savory edge to it that I find compelling.  Oh, that’s not to say it’s not sweet … it certainly is.  It’s caramel!  But because of the goat’s milk, it has a tangy quality to it.  This doesn’t taste like caramelized sugar sauce … this is smooth and creamy and rich … with a distinctive savory tone, a tangy note and maybe even a hint of smokiness to it.

My Final Thoughts:

This is so much tastier than anything found on the grocery store shelf.  You can taste the goat’s milk and that really makes all the difference in the world.  I love that while it is sweet, it doesn’t taste sickeningly sweet … you can eat it by the spoonful!   So, so, so YUM!

Bing Cherry Sauce and Preserves from Middleton Organics

Product Description:

Nothing says Country Summer Fair like cherry pie and barbecue. These fresh organic cherry preserves are amazing on anything from waffles to bbq pork, and we frequently eat them straight out of the jar!

Grown in Washington state, these are some of the best preserves on earth. Lori & Gary Middleton built their business on passion for the land and a promise to create healthy organic foods.

I received this jar of Bing Cherry Sauce and Preserves in my August Knoshbox.

Tea Suggestion:

When I eat this preserves spread on toast, I like to enjoy it with a breakfast-y blend, and one of the best morning/breakfast type blends I’ve come across lately is this Organic Morning’s Journey from Hugo Tea.  It is so rich and smooth, and the natural fruit notes of the tea go together very nicely with the bright, sweet flavor of the bing cherries.

What I Think:

My review for this jar of preserves is long overdue, as I received it in my first Knoshbox.  However, I had received a couple of different boxes around that time that all seemed to have some sort of preserves or spread in it, and I don’t eat that much toast!  So, I needed to wait until my supply of preserves had dwindled somewhat before cracking open another jar.  Actually, I did open this jar a while back, just to try it on the Belgium Waffle (also from Knoshbox), but, after I closed it tightly, I stashed it in the back of the refrigerator so that I could finish off the other jams/jellies/preserves that I had in the fridge.

Enough with the excuses already, right?

This stuff is really good.  As I scoop out a spoonful of it, I can see the huge pieces of bing cherry in there – most of them look like they’re WHOLE, pitted cherries!  This chunkiness makes it a little difficult to spread onto toast (for the purposes of this review, I tried the preserves on a piece of toasted, buttered 8-grain bread), but given that these are big, juicy cherries, I’m not complaining about the ability to spread.  It does spread onto the toast, it just takes a little more effort than with your average jelly.

I also tried this as a sauce.  I warmed it up a little in the microwave, and then topped a slice of pound cake with the warmed sauce.  This was really delicious!  When served over a sweet, rich piece of pound cake, it made the sauce taste even sweeter, so this application is recommended for those with a sweet tooth only!

My Final Thoughts:

This is no average preserves.  I LOVE that it’s a local product, made right here in the state of Washington.  It really tastes like fresh, sweet Bing Cherries that have been pitted and simmered in a light syrup to bring out the natural juices to create a loose preserves.   I like that it’s not too sweet (unless it’s topping something that is already sweet!) because Bing Cherries are typically a sweeter cherry anyway, and if they had used too much sugar to make this preserves it would have ended up like a cloying, candied cherry sauce.  But, that’s not the way this one turned out at all!  This tastes very true to the fruit, and maintains the level of natural sweetness that Bing Cherries have, without being too over the top sweet.  Overall, a very enjoyable preserves.

My October Knoshbox has arrived!

This month, my Knoshbox arrived on what turned out to be a very bad day for me.  As I was walking down to the mailbox to check the mail, I rolled my ankle and sprained it.  Painful!  And I mention this because there was no mail in the box – the mail carrier had not yet arrived – and because this box was delivered in a medium flat rate box the mail carrier had to bring it up to the door anyway.  My disastrous trip to the mailbox was completely unnecessary.  How fate laughs at me.

A scan of the theme card in this month’s box. I didn’t get a photo of the box and its contents before I started munching on the Bacon Peanut Brittles. By the time I got home from the hospital, I was on painkillers and had totally forgotten to snap a picture before I began munching! Sorry!

But… let that not lead you to think that this month’s box is also disastrous – far from it!  This may just be the best Knoshbox ever!  It contained only four items, but, one of these items is so beyond exciting!  A full-sized container of Pumpkin Sauce from Skillet Street Food!  OH yeah!  I’ve been wanting to try this since trying their Bacon Jam.

Also in this month’s box was a full-size package of granola as well as a Toasted Orchard Bar, both from Nate’s Naturals, and a full-size package of Bacon Peanut Brittles from the Redhead, NYC.  I’ve already sampled the Bacon Peanut Brittles, and they are amazing… so perhaps I might share this package with my husband.  Maybe.

Then again …

Anyway, this is a very exciting box, and I’m so happy that I have the opportunity to try these products.  Also included in the box is the theme card (this month’s theme is “Autumn Harvest”) which told of the inspiration behind the four selections.  The only thing that I’m missing this month is the little handwritten note on the back of the card.  It’s a small thing, but, I like that special touch.  It makes me feel like I am getting a gift from a friend that was packaged with care rather than an assembly line packaged box.  Knoshbox, if you’re reading this … I like the handwritten note.  It was a nice little touch.

As you can see by my little note under the scan of this month’s theme card, I have already started diving in to the yummy goodies in this month’s box!

# 7 Sultry Sauce from Torchbearer Sauces

Photo from Foodzie. Click on the pic to go there!

Product Description:

Add a little spice to your life!  Our original sauce, and winner of 18 national awards, Sultry Sauce is the pinnacle of heat and flavor. You can cook with it, put it on a sandwich, or add it to anything for heat that builds with every bite.

Learn more about Torchbearer Sauces on their website.

Note:  For the purposes of this review, I tried this sauce a couple of different ways:  first, I used it as a condiment on a fried egg, then, I tried it as a dip with some tortilla chipsNext time I’m in the grocery store, I might pick up the ingredients I need to try my hand at making this Spinach Dip.

What I Think:

It took me a while to get around to writing this review, mostly because this stuff is so tasty that I don’t think about taking the time to write my thoughts about it while I’m eating it!

As a condiment – in small amounts to minimize the heat and therefore be able to appreciate the flavor in addition to the burn – it really adds a lot of flavor and dimension to an otherwise humble fried egg. In addition to the HEAT from the habañero pepper, there is a slight sweetness that I taste from the carrots and mandarin oranges.

These other ingredients also give this sauce some thickness, making it quite nice to serve as a spicy-hot salsa-esque dip for chips.   And it is as a salsa that this Sultry Sauce really stands out for me.  I can really taste the sweetness from the oranges now.  This isn’t all about the heat – although there is PLENTY of heat to this sauce – and it doesn’t immediately set your mouth aflame.  Your taste buds get a chance to explore these other interesting flavors in the sauce, while the heat builds, and then BAM!  It kicks you right in the mouth.

My Final Thoughts:

If you read my article about the arrival of the “Some Like It Hot” box, then you’re probably aware that I had wished that Foodzie had put the local favorite Secret Aardvark Habañero Hot Sauce instead of this sauce that was – at the time – unknown to me.  That being said, I am really happy that I got to try something new, and this IS really very good.  However, I don’t think I’ll buy this particular sauce again (although I might try some of their other sauces) because I want to stay loyal to the local Aardvark.

Famous Dave’s

One guaranteed hit with my family is BBQ!  Everyone loves it.  For my husband’s birthday dinner, we went to Famous Dave’s this year (be sure to check their website and sign up for their P.I.G. email list, and they’ll send you a special coupon for your birthday!)

Baby Back-n-Meat BBQ Combo (with brisket, Wilbur Beans and Drunkin' Apples)

Order:  My husband wanted to try the Southside Rib Tips for an appetizer ($11.99) and as an entry, I chose the Baby Back-n-Meat BBQ Combo (Original Style, I chose Texas Beef Brisket to go along with my Baby Back Ribs:  $20.99).

Location:  9911 NE Cascades Parkway, Portland, OR

What I Think:

As I said in the introduction, barbeque is always a hit with my family.  It’s probably my youngest daughter’s favorite dinner, and it would probably rank in the top 5 for my husband, and the top 10 for me.  Of the few places that we’ve tried in the Portland area, my daughter’s favorite BBQ spot is Famous Dave’s.

Before our appetizer was brought to the table, our server brought a small bowl of salted potato chips to the table so that we could test out the rather impressive selection of barbeque sauces on the table:  Georgia Mustard (not your average mustard, this one was sweet with just a hint of sharpness from the mustard, and a tangy note from vinegar), Texas Pit (one of my favorites, this one had a nice balance between hot and sweet, with a nice tomato-y flavor), Sweet and Zesty (another favorite of mine, I actually mixed the Texas Pit & the Sweet and Zesty together for my brisket; this sauce had a delicious sweetness to it with a hint of citrus.  It goes light on the spice, but there is some spice to it that lingers in the aftertaste), Devil’s Spit (which, as implied by the name is quite spicy) as well as the classic Original Rich and Sassy.  Also on our table was Famous Dave’s newest sauce creation called Wilbur’s Revenge, which was (according to our server) is made with habanero peppers.  I was not feeling so adventurous as to try this one.

Our first visit to Famous Dave’s was shortly after this Portland location opened, and the appetizer we ordered was the Onion Strings.  These are yummy.  I was a little disappointed that we didn’t order them again this time … disappointed until the platter arrived at the table and I sunk my teeth into one of those amazing rib tips!  So good!  Succulent, juicy meat that’s been slow cooked so that it falls off the tip of the bone (which is actually more like cartilage than it is bone).  A good amount of char on the meat, but, it isn’t overdone.  So tender and good.  These came with a side of pickles and pickled red onion.  The pickled red onion makes a remarkable palate cleanser – not too spicy, not too sour, but just enough of a different flavor to enliven the palate after it becomes inundated with BBQ sauce.

My daughter consumed so much of the appetizer, she didn’t have room for her dinner when it arrived.  Seriously!  We had that packaged up (because hey, what’s better than going out for ribs for dinner?  Going out for ribs and having left overs for the next day.  Oh yeah!)

But, I still had some room for my dinner.  The brisket was amazing – so incredibly tender.  It melted in my mouth!  I shared some with my husband, and I think he was probably wishing he went with the combo instead of the Big Slab ($22.99)  The ribs were also quite tender, with a nice seasoning to them that was not too hot nor too sweet, and I found that these also reheated nicely since most of them ended up in the “doggy bag” for lunch the next day.

As side dishes, I chose the Wilbur Beans and the Drunkin’ Apples.  The beans were just alright … tasty, but not the best BBQ beans I’ve ever tasted or anything.  In fact, I think I’ve tasted better from a can.  The sauce could have been thicker, I think they needed to be simmered longer so that the sauce could reduce and thicken.  Not bad, but not great either.

But, I loved the apples.  So much so, that I found myself wishing I had ordered apples as both sides and foregone the Wilbur Beans.  These delicious, cooked until tender but not mushy apples were a little sweet warmly spiced from the cinnamon, which was sprinkled liberally over the apples.  I could also taste just a hint of almond flavor.   I liked how the sweetness of the apples complemented the the tangy barbeque sauce on the ribs and brisket.

My Final Thoughts:

I don’t know that I would say that Famous Dave’s is my favorite BBQ establishment in this area, but, I do know that it’s my daughter’s favorite restaurant, so I suspect that they haven’t seen the last of us at Famous Dave’s.  The food is delicious, though, and I especially loved the rib tips appetizer – so much so that I think I could have been happy ordering that as my entree.  Good food, lively atmosphere, and very friendly service.  Not much to complain about!

Famous Daves on Urbanspoon

Happy Thanksgiving!

If ever there was a foodie holiday, this is it.

Most people in the United States right now are busily preparing their feasts.   But not me.  Whats this, you say?  I claim to be a foodie and I’m not cooking a Thanksgiving feast?

Nope.  Not today anyway.  My husband works today, and for the last ten years has worked every Thanksgiving (save one or two, I think).  The line of work that he is in requires him to be there on this day, as it is one of the busiest days of the year for the company.

So, we generally postpone the holiday until it’s convenient for everyone in our household.  Which is just fine with me.  To me, Thanksgiving is more about gathering with those you love:  family.  It doesn’t really matter which day you choose to serve the turkey and all the trimmings, does it?

Photo from Wikipedia

But this IS a foodie blog and Thanksgiving is a foodie holiday, so I thought it would be appropriate if I share with you one of my favorite holiday recipes.  In my opinion, it’s the one overlooked dish on the plate:  the cranberry sauce.

While growing up, the cranberry sauce was so overlooked that we were served that jelly stuff out of the can, sliced haphazardly using the markings from the can to cut the slices, which were still imparted on the can shaped, jiggling ruby-red jelly.  I’m sorry, that stuff is alright if you’re a kid, but, one of the first things that I changed about my own Thanksgiving when I became an adult is the cranberry sauce, because… gross.  Just… gross.

Now, I am not one to go and get a bag of fresh cranberries and cook them down.  I wish I were, but, on Thanksgiving, there’s a lot of stuff to do, and that much work is not something I want to pile onto the list.  So I do utilize the can, but I use the canned whole cranberries instead of that jelly stuff.

Here’s a basic recipe, keep in mind that when I cook I do it primarily by eye and taste, not so much by measuring:

Cranberry Compote

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of cranberries (whole cranberry sauce)
  • canned pears
  • 1 orange
  • Dried Cranberries (I usually use Craisins, because I they’re my new raisins, I use them all the time)
  • Loose Leaf Chai  (your favorite brand, I think that a black tea or spice only blend works best in this recipe.  If you only have teabags, use 2 teabags instead of 1 for this recipe)
  • Nutmeg (freshly ground)

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Start by steeping the chai tea strong.  If you generally use 1 1/2 teaspoons of loose leaf chai to make a cup of chai, use 3 teaspoons.  Steep 1 cup of the chai using boiling water and steep for 3 – 4 minutes.  Add a handful of dried cranberries to a bowl and strain the chai over the cranberries.  Set the bowl aside.

Open the can of cranberries and put in a small saucepan over medium to medium-high heat until it comes to a simmer.  In the meantime, slice the pears into small chunks (I generally use the equivalent of 1 1/2 pears in this compote.  You can use more or less according to your own preference), and zest the orange.

Once the cranberries are brought to a simmer, add the chunks of pear and about 3/4 teaspoon of orange zest.  I don’t measure the orange zest.  I just eyeball it, and this is an estimate of how much I add.  Then cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice and pulp (no seeds, please!) into the sauce.  Stir.

Now add the dried cranberries which have reconstituted slightly in the chai.  Pour off the excess chai (don’t discard it though), and add the cranberries.  By this time, it’s probably getting a little thick and could use a little liquid.  Add the remaining chai by tablespoons until it is a little liquid-y (as it will continue to reduce down a bit), but not too much.  I generally find about 3 tablespoons is about right.  Just remember that you can always add a little bit more, but you can’t take it away once its in there, so add it slowly until you reach the ideal amount of liquid.

Allow to continue to simmer and reduce down a bit.  Once you reach a pleasing consistency, remove from the heat and grate some fresh nutmeg over the top and stir it in.  Then I put it in the fridge to cool because my family prefers it served as a chilled salad, but, it is also quite nice served warm.

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This is my absolute favorite way to serve cranberries, and while cranberries aren’t as popular with the rest of my family as they are with me, my family actually eats them when prepared this way (they don’t like the cranberry sauce as is).  It also tastes great on leftover turkey sandwiches the next day.