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Epic Bars: Stylish snacking

8 Dec

epicbars

You know what these are. You might deny it, but, come on. You can tell.

Even with the sleek packaging and the cool name promising an “Epic” experience, (though it delivers), you know.

It’s clear even though each parcel is veiled with the requisite hipster labels: “100% natural,” “X g. Protein,” the predictable “Sriracha” and the inevitable, “Gluten Free.”

There’s chicken, because that’s what’s for dinner anymore. And it’s NOT beef. It’s bison, the cow’s sophisticated cousin from the range.

You knew what these REALLY were from the moment you flipped the pretty package over and saw the enticing block of melded meat parts, albeit including cranberries, the tight-fitting plastic wrap clutching the treat within.

These are the next generation of on-the-go meat snacks. But you won’t find them sold at a service station. They rest in woven baskets at gourmet, high-end and unique food stores. They sit waiting for the lucky consumer in bins at the exclusive corner market in Brooklyn, and yes, at our favorite grocery mecca, Trader Joe’s.

Come on. You knew it: Beneath the slick wrapper and trendy words, these are your old friend Slim Jim with an advanced degree in delicious. “Stout James,” you might say.

What the new set of duds and fancy stores really do are take away our Slim Jim guilt. “Look at all these great qualities,” we say, trying to fool ourselves that Epic treats are more energy bar than meaty meat bomb.

We’re wrong, of course. But it’s a nervous, naughty, joyful wrong. When Epic slips out of his pop packaging, this bad boy’s all Jimbo. Healthier, classier, but still. Wink.

And while we’re devouring every speck, we choose to ignore the truth for a giddy glimpse of gas station bliss.

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If it’s watermelon time, it must be summer

2 Jun

It’s not the heat and it’s not the pool opening. It’s not the strappy dresses and sandals or the birds chirping too early and the fire-pitless porch parties lasting past midnight.

What tells me it’s summertime is the large, cardboard box full of big green orbs that greets me when I enter Trader Joe’s.

I received that happy welcome last weekend. There was even a woman handing out watermelon samples at a makeshift tasting station. She advised that the sweetest watermelons were ones with yellow on them. Taking her word for it, I grabbed (if you can “grab” a bowling ball without finger holes) a fine looking specimen and weighted down my cart immediately.

At the official tasting station, they were sampling Watermelon Cucumber Juice. Good stuff! I’d bought a container the week before, but hadn’t opened it yet. As Persian Cucumbers are one of my shopping-list staples, I looked in my cart and thought, “Cukes, watermelon…why not make my own juice?!”

Hydratedly inspired, I searched for a recipe and found a three-ingredient drink I thought I could master. The third ingredient was lime juice – and I found that it makes ALL the difference!

(Although there are several sites with similar recipes, mine came from AllRecipes.com. Thanks, AllRecipes!)

How To Make Watermelon Cucumber Cooler:

I used:

  • 4 Persian cucumbers
  • 1/2 the fruit from a watermelon
  • 2 limes

Trim the ends off your cukes and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Cut the watermelon into chunks.

Combine the cuke and watermelon chunks and liquify in a blender or food processor.

Stir in the juice from the limes. It’s OK if a little lime fruit drops in, too!

It makes a pitcher-full of juice. Enjoy!

This is what it looked like:

Glass2 ingredients

Notes: The cukes were unpeeled. The watermelon had very few seeds, so I just let the few involved get mixed in the batch.

I had planned to make a fizzy drink by adding carbonated water to half a cup of juice, but I got caught up in the deliciousness, and the batch was finished before I remembered I wanted to do that! Next time.

When is pasta not pasta? When it’s mushroom.

2 Mar

For me, cooking is usually an arts-and-crafts project or a science experiment. I imagine that certain flavors will go together well and then test the theory.

Other times, I challenge myself by trying to recreate an amazing dish I’ve had at a restaurant. Like I did this week.

Recently, I went with friends to John Bentley’s in Redwood City, Calif. Everything on the menu sounded delicious and I thought it was going to be hard to decide what to order, until I got to the end of the menu and found: “Trumpet Mushroom “Pappardelle” with tomato, garlic, basil,Kalamatas, edamame and Pecorino Romano.”

Mushroom Pappardelle

A carbless delicious beauty from John Bentley’s

The waiter said the chef created Pappardelle from mushrooms. The dish had a red sauce, and it was like a pasta dish without the pasta. I was so intrigued I had to order it. And WOW! It was SO delicious!

A week later, I decided to try to recreate the dish with a few embellishments.

For my mushroom pasta, I did not use edamame or fresh basil, although there was basil in the pasta sauce. I used shiitake mushrooms, garlic, Kalamata olives, spinach, onion, tofu and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan on top. I went with the short cut of using Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Maranara sauce.

I started by sautéing garlic and onion in olive oil.

Step one, saute onions and garlic in olive oil.

Onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil.

Then I added the mushrooms, olives, tofu and spinach.

A garden in a skillet

Ingredients. Not pictured: sauce, cheese.

After the vegetables were softened, about 10-15 minutes, I poured in some marinara sauce, sprinkled shredded Parmesan on top and. SOOO good!! (To make it vegan, don’t add the cheese at the end.)

As you can tell with the difference in ingredients and stage presence, it wasn’t exactly the meal I had at John Bentley’s, but it was close enough and very satisfying!

Give it a try!  Add your own twists, and please share your recipe thoughts in the comments.

Bon appetite!

Happy Summer! Recipe time: “Where Pasta Meets Kale”

21 Jun

Trader Joe’s serves up the ingredients for a healthful, nutritious, filling and yummy meal!

The intersection of fresh kale and hearty pasta

The intersection of fresh kale and hearty pasta

It’s Brussels Sprouts time, again!

29 Jan

A bag of shredded Brussels Sprouts = good eating ahead!

What’s that you say? You don’t like Brussels Sprouts?! Well, then, feast your eyes on a raspberry tarte or homemade lemonade. The rest of you, come with me to Brussels Sprout heaven.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s does the shredding. You do the eating.

Start by sauteing some garlic and onion in olive oil.

Sauteed garlic and onion

Add more onion and the bag of B. Sprouts. Include the balsamic vinegar and water as recommended on the bag.

BowlOfBrusselsSprouts

When done, I also squeezed some lemon juice on top. I did not use bacon, but that could be a meat-eater’s happy addition.

I separated the batch into four containers for easy access at meal time.

Here’s the official recipe, but be creative and make it your own:

RecipeBag

 

Recipe for a cool summer night

15 Aug

You have to realize that “cool summer night” is not a term we use often in August in Kansas City. In fact, could this be a first? Probably not, statistically speaking, but for me it is.

However, the stars aligned for my cooking sense this week, preparing me for just this sort of fluke weather.

onion and chicken combine to make soup. Water was an essential ingredient, too.

Hot soup on a cool August night

Recipe for a healthy summer hot soup:

1) Poach three or four frozen chicken thighs.

2) Reserve the water to use as stock.

3) Wait 24-48 hours for a chilly day in August.

4) Transfer chicken stock to pot, add:

  • three chopped onions
  • three minced cloves of garlic
  • a handful of chopped cilantro
  • slices of fresh lemon

5) Ladle into a bowl

6) Add salt, fresh lemon juice and freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste.

Enjoy and stay warm until the 90-degree weather returns in a few days.

This post is part of the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Fit to write

Tuna salad sandwich salad

12 Aug

How to make a tuna salad sandwich without the bread

Combine:

  • One can of tuna
  • 1/4 to 1/2 onion, chopped
  • Several chopped dill-pickle sandwich slices
  • A bowl of torn lettuce
  • Chopped tomatoes to taste (not shown)
  • Dressing: A smattering of olive oil, drizzled balsamic vinegar and the juice from half a lemon
The alternative tuna salad sandwich

Forkfuls of gluten-free goodness

Same sandwich, just served in a bowl instead of a plate. Oh, and without bread. Details.

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