Archive for April, 2010

Frozen Food Test: Celeste Pizza

Posted on April 29, 2010. Filed under: frozen, hodgepodge | Tags: , , , , |

I was not sober when I decided this would be a good idea.

If you’re new to the blog, I’ve been occasionally testing frozen foods (mostly pizza) to see if there are good options on the market for those rare nights you can’t cook for yourself. Criteria is flavor, quality and sustainability of the ingredients, and convenience. However, this time it seems my criteria was a healthy combination of intoxication and nostalgia.

Strange as it seems, Mama Celeste’s frozen pizza was one of my first forays into “cooking”. When I was in college, I’d doctor up a plain pizza with fresh garlic and herbs, and call it a meal. Although it was only cooking in the silly “semi-homemade” sense of the word, it really did provide a launching point for future endeavors like doctoring up pasta sauce, which lead eventually to making my own pasta sauce. And I thought the pizza was pretty decent, too. Oh boy.

But Mama Celeste is no more. The pizza was once made by an actual Mama- Celeste Lizio. Lizio sold the recipe to Quaker Oats, it was then sold several more times, and is now owned by Pinnacle Food Group. Pinnacle has a proud history of taking once great brands (Duncan Hines, Swanson, Lender’s, Vlasic) and turning them into industrial food byproducts. They also own nutritional powerhouses Armour & Mrs. Butterworth’s. You see where this is going.

The pizza sells for $1.49 at Albertson’s in Los Angeles.

PROS:

  • It’s a pretty quick trip from freezer to plate. One minute in the microwave, five minutes in the oven.
  • You get 20% of your recommended Vitamin C. I’m not sure how that happens, but it does.

CONS:

  • There are 39 ingredients listed. 39! The only ingredients that I understood were tomato puree, water, salt, sugar, and spices. The vast array of chemicals was impressive. Impressive in a very very scary way. Please pass the L-Cysteine Monohydrochloride?
  • The imitation cheese made me want to punch myself. It tasted like…ah….like I wanted to punch myself. Who made this stuff? Bad scientist. Bad bad scientist!
  • 1020mg of sodium. Wow. I generally don’t watch my salt intake, but that is ridiculous. 45% of your RDA intake in one horrible little disk. I guess they needed all that extra salt to cover up the horrible flavor of the imitation cheese. Or the 34324 chemicals.
  • You can microwave it, but I wouldn’t. Even with the crisping tray, it’s not very nice.
  • It is a terrible mockery of pizza.

Overall:

I wonder if my palate has changed, or if this pizza-like thing has changed. I suspect it’s both.

Would I have it again? Never. I didn’t even finish this one. Lesson learned.

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Pineapple Chicken Stir Fry

Posted on April 27, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Want something quick and easy on a weekday night? Skip the fast food drive through, and make a little stir fry. It takes 10 minutes to prep, 10 minutes to make, and costs less than having a pizza delivered. On top of that, it’s super good for you.

Slice:
Two Chicken Breasts

Marinate chicken in:

2 Tbs. Soy Sauce
2 Tbs. Pineapple Juice
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Tsp. Minced Ginger
Pinch 5 Spice Powder

It would be best if you let the chicken sit for an hour, but it’s not totally necessary.
Set aside.

Prepare:
1 Carrot, cut into thin strips
1 Red Bell Pepper
, cut into thin strips
1 Small Red Onion, cut into thin strips
3/4 Cup Pineapple, diced
1 Small Hot Pepper, minced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 Tsp Minced Ginger

Mix sauce:
1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup Pineapple Juice
1 Tbs. Soy Sauce
1 Tsp. Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tsp. Corn Starch
Pinch 5 Spice Powder

Add a little bit of oil to a very hot pan or wok.
Stir fry vegetables for 4-5 minutes. Set aside.
Add chicken to pan and cook 4 minutes.
Return vegetables to pan.
Add sauce and cook 1 minute.

Cost:
2/3 Lb. Free Range Chicken @ $8.99 / lb. = $5.93
1 Organic Carrot = $0.40
1 Organic Red Bell Pepper = $1.60
1 Organic Red Onion = $0.60
1 Hot Pepper = $0.10
Ginger = $0.15
Organic Pineapple (1/2 Can) = $1.50
Incidentals = $0.50

Total Cost: $10.78 for 2 Large Servings

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Bowling For Angels

Posted on April 20, 2010. Filed under: hodgepodge |

I am helping to raise much-needed funds for Project Angel Food through their 15th annual Bowling for Angels on April 25th.

If you aren’t already familiar with it, Project Angel Food is a free meal-prep & delivery program that nourishes the body and spirit of men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses by preparing and delivering more than 13,000 healthy meals every week throughout Los Angeles County!

I hope you will sponsor me as a Bowler and help me raise $$$ for this great organization that I’ve recently become involved with.

Thanks to hundreds of devoted volunteers, Project Angel Food manages to cook and deliver healthy meals at a cost of less than $5 a main meal and about $3 a breakfast meal. They deliver directly to the home because the people they serve are too ill to grocery shop or cook for themselves.

Its very easy to sponsor me by visiting http://www.bowlingforangels2010.kintera.org/halbklein.

You can donate online with a credit card, debit card, PayPal, automatic check handling or you can print out a form to mail in. You can also give me cash or a check (made payable to Project Angel Food) that I will turn in.

If you would pass this on to any friends, family or coworkers to donate as well, I’d really appreciate it. Our goal is to help the many individuals who are bravely struggling with terrible life-threatening illnesses served by Project Angel Food.

Thank you!

-Hal B.

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Spicy Snow Peas

Posted on April 15, 2010. Filed under: easy, recipe, vegetable | Tags: , , , , |

I left town for a week. While I was gone, my garden went mad with snow peas. Apparently, it’s not a good idea to plant all your snow peas at one time, unless you plan on eating a mountain of them for several days in a row. I steamed some, chomped some raw ones, made chicken with snow peas, and even gave some away. But still, more snow peas. I had to get creative.

So I decided to make them spicy. I’m glad I did. The cool, grassy flavor of the snow peas balanced wonderfully with the hot sauce and subtle curry notes. And I felt pretty swell using my creativity to make a dish I hadn’t thought of before. Too bad I’m nearly out of snow peas now.

Add to a hot pan:
One Teaspoon Olive Oil
One Pound Snow Peas
1/2 Red Onion, diced

Cook for two minutes, and then add:
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Curry Powder

Cook one minute, and then add:
1/4 Cup Tomato Sauce
1 Teaspoon (or more!) Sriracha or other hot sauce

Cook one more minute. Serve hot.

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Technique: Breading

Posted on April 13, 2010. Filed under: technique | Tags: , , |

The classic technique goes something like this:

  • Dust item to be breaded in flour
  • Submerge in egg wash (beaten egg plus a few tablespoons of water)
  • Roll in breading
For a less heavy breading (and one less dish to clean), try this:
  • Mix three parts milk and one part flour, along with 2 pinches of salt and one pinch sugar
  • Submerge item to be breaded in mixture
  • Roll in breading
Finally a super-simple method:
  • Wet with water
  • Roll in flour or corn starch
All three have advantages and disadvantages. The first method is the most stable, but is also pretty thick. The last method is simple & uses only one dish, but the breading falls off easily. I generally go with method number 2- it’s the most balanced.
Suggested starches:
  • Flour
  • Corn Starch
  • Panko
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Cornflake Crumbs
  • Dehydrated Potatoes
  • Almond Flour (mixed with wheat flour)
  • Rice Flour
  • More? I’m sure of it. Use your imagination.

*For something a bit different, try using beer instead of flour in method number 2!

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Technique: Makin’ Bacon

Posted on April 6, 2010. Filed under: bacon, favorite, meat, technique |

Bacon. Bacon. Bacon. Possibly the most delicious of all meat. Salty, fatty, smoky. Pure goodness. Yet messy, and, for many people, hard to cook right. Here’s a good technique from your friend Hal B:
Wrap a cookie sheet in foil. Strictly speaking, you don’t have to do this, but it will save you a whole lot of cleaning up. If you’re like me and hate doing dishes, you’ll want to do this. If you have parchment paper, you can add a layer of that over the foil for more even cooking, but, no worries if you don’t.
Place a single layer of bacon. Cover the bottom of another pan with foil, place over the bacon, and weigh that pan down with bricks, rocks, bobble-heads, whatever. I know it seems like a bit of work- trust me, the bacon will cook more evenly, and it will be a snap to clean up.
Put the whole hullabaloo into a 350 degree oven. Cook for 8 minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees, and then cook for another 8 minutes. Remove the bacon, pat down with paper towel, sit down, eat bacon. You can strain the rendered fat and use it for lots of tasty things, like cooking eggs to go with your bacon. Do it!
Note: Cooking time will depend on the thickness and quality of your bacon. I’d recommend a thicker cut, and try to avoid the over-processed Oscar Meyer type bacon. If it’s undercooked after the cooking time, just take the top sheet off and cook another minute or two.

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Frozen Food Test: Trader Joe’s Marinated Chicken Breasts

Posted on April 1, 2010. Filed under: frozen, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Decided to take a break from trying mediocre frozen pizzas for something more practical. Trader Joe’s frozen food case has several intriguing items, and I chose the chicken breasts “glazed with a sweet & tangy Asian style marinade”.

Pros:

  • It tastes really good. Impressive, actually.
  • Super convenient.  All you have to do it take it out of the freezer, put it in the oven, and in 15 minutes you’re eating.
  • Inexpensive. The price at the Trader Joe’s in Silverlake is $4.99/lb.
  • No preservatives or crappy chemical ingredients. All ingredients listed pronounceable and understandable.

Cons:

  • The bag is not resealable. Come on Trader Joe’s, it’s 2010. Make a resealable bag so we can put what we don’t use back in our freezers.
  • No information on where the ingredients come from. $4.99 is a good price for chicken, but it leads me to believe these are big industrial chicken breasts.
  • Chicken is slightly dry. Not overwhelmingly so, but it could be improved.
  • Wide variety in portion size. Some breasts were giant, some were quite small. Just like life, right Trader Joe’s?

Overall:

You got me, Trader Joe’s. You got me good. Your frozen marinated chicken breasts are convenient and cheap, and, more importantly, are quite pleasant to eat. They’re not as good as home cooking, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be keeping a few in my freezer for an occasional lazy Wednesday night.

*That broccoli looks good too, right? That, my friends, was not frozen. It’s easy to make, so you should try it.

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