Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Midweek Marvels - Jammie Dodgers

I know that it's ridiculous but I had a full on fan-girl freak out moment when I spotted these Jammie Dodgers for sale. As I mentioned I have a life long obsession with British things ( television shows in particular), and Jammie Dodgers are mentioned in an enormous percentage of them ( not to mention over and over in Doctor Who) so I have always wanted to try them.

I didn't really know what to expect flavor-wise other than the obvious 'jam' part, which the back label perplexingly classifies as "raspberry flavored plum jam filling". There's a familiar quality to the jam filling that I really enjoyed, something a little like the filling in a pop tart ( though a little less sweet?). As far as packaged shortbread cookies go, I thought they were a little on the bland side, but it's possible that the combination  of a highly flavored cookie with that jam filling would just be an overwhelming amount of sugar in one cookie. The overall taste combination kind of grew on me, they didn't strike me as particularly delicious on the first bite but the more I sampled the more I wanted to eat them. They reminded me in a way of how I think I would experience Oreos if I had never had them at all growing up. If I tried an Oreo for the very first time as an adult, I would find it to be a satisfying cookie to munch, with a sort of unassuming chocolate outside, and a sickly sweet cream filling, but not an earth shattering kind of good. Your history with the cookie I think adds a bit to your perception of it, I imagine I would love these Jammie Dodgers to pieces if I grew up sneaking them into school lunches, swirling them into ice cream, and demolishing sleeves of them at slumber parties.

That said, I didn't have any problem polishing off an entire package of these babies on shooting day, and even found myself making a special trip on the way home from school with a second package in mind.

It's not Oreo love yet, but I think we're halfway there...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Kind Of Love - Apples by Grace Schulman

Rain hazes a street cart's green umbrella
but not its apples, heaped in paper cartons,
dry under cling film. The apple man,

who shirrs his mouth as though eating tart fruit,
exhibits four like racehorses at auction:
Blacktwig, Holland, Crimson King, Salome.

I tried one and its cold grain jolted memory:
a hill where meager apples fell so bruised
that locals wondered why we scooped them up,

my friend and I, in matching navy blazers.
One bite and I heard her laughter toll,
free as school's out, her face flushed in late sun.

I asked the apple merchant for another,
jaunty as Cezanne's still-life reds and yellows,
having more life than stillness, telling us,

uncut, unpeeled, they are not for the feast
but for themselves, and building strength to fly
at any moment, leap from a skewed bowl,

whirl in the air, and roll off a tilted table.
Fruit-stand vendor, master of Northern Spies,
let a loose apple teach me how to spin

at random, burn in light and rave in shadows.
Bring me a Winesap like the one Eve tasted,
savored and shared, and asked for more.

No fool, she knew that beauty strikes just once,
hard, never in comfort. For that bitter fruit,
tasting of earth and song, I'd risk exile.

The air is bland here. I would forfeit mist
for hail, put on a robe of dandelions,
and run out, broken, to weep and curse — for joy.

Apple and Sausage Tarts with Cheddar Cheese Crust

While these tarts aren't the most attractive treat to be wrapped it buttery pastry (read:FUGLY), the combination of flavors is just too intriguing to miss out on. The sweet+savory combination of apples and sausage would, I think, make these wonderful for breakfast. Do give them a try. Although I will confess, the next time I make them, I'm going for a double crust!.

For the crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound extra-sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (2 1/2 cups)
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoon ice water

For the filling

2 1/2  to 3 apples ( I used a mixture of Envy, Macintosh, and Golden Delicious), peeled, cored and diced
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup Sour Cream
salt to taste ( about a 1/8 tsp or so)
8 ounces of pork breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled ( I used Jimmy Dean)

For the crust

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt, butter, shortening, and cheese and blend together either with a pastry blender or your fingers ( guess which one I prefer!), until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, with some smallish pea-sized butter lumps. Add the ice water, a tablespoon at a time, to the flour mixture, until the dough holds together when you squeeze it between your fingers. Divide the dough into two round, flat disks and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

For the filling, 
In a large bowl, toss the diced apples with the sugar, salt, cinnamon and flour. Then add the vanilla, sour cream and sausage and toss to combine.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Roll out the pastry dough to about 1/8 of an inch thickness and cut a 5"x 5" square for each tart*. Fill each tart with 1/4 cup of the filling and fold the points in towards the center until they meet.

Bake at  425 for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 350 and continue baking for 35-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is hot and bubbly.

Yeild approx 8 tarts

*A note on the tart design, only half of my tarts maintained the above shape with all that filling inside, the other four sort of did as they pleased with some corners flopping all around and others tight in place like soldiers. Were I to make this recipe again, I would be likely to either make enclosed hand pies or utilize a tart pan for uniform results.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Midweek Marvels- Mamma Chia Vitality Beverage

I am beyond traumatized. I consider myself to be a bit of a dabbler into the hippy food world, so I had I thought, read enough about chia seeds in the past so that I wouldn't be surprised at all. I've used flaxseed in recipes before, so that fact that chia seeds are high in fiber and have a tendency to 'gel' liquids didn't seem that weird to me. When I saw this drink on the shelf, I assumed that while it included the gelling power of chia seeds that it must still count as a drink, just a very thick one. You know, like a smoothie or a milkshake with just a touch of that seedy crunch like you get from raspberry jam. This was a fatal mistake, expecting this item to go down in any way resembling a drink is partially what lead to a total system crash when the strange brew crossed my lips. Chia seeds don't just gel in one large mass, the seeds gel liquid individually around them so when I went to take a sip my mind JUST COULDN'T DEAL. I got a mouth full of little crunchy beads surrounded in an orb of liquid, like caviar, or super soggy pomegranate arils, only the juice they were encircled in wasn't a highly flavored bite of pomegranate juice, I was a sort of dull faint taste, like a sugar free jello.

After my second sip, I had to take a moment. I needed to wrap my mind around what this experience was supposed to be like and stop being creeped out by new and strange sensory experience. So I sat down, closed my eyes and took a slow sip, trying to take in this chia seed mess without preconceptions.
And yet... NOPE!

My final conclusion is that while it might take me a few more tries to wrap my mind around this oddball chia thing, the drink itself didn't have enough taste on its own,( it was supposed to have a cherry limeade base) to act as sturdy enough training wheels for a chia seed noob like me. Maybe a home brew would work out better? If you've had a good experience with a chia seed drink or recipe, please let me know in the comments. Chia seeds have a long list of health benefits so I would love to make friends if I could just find a little direction.

P.S. If you have any suggestions of new or strange foods I should try, shoot me an email at desireelitchford[at]gmail[DOT]com.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Midweek Marvels - McVitie's HobNobs

I'm going to go ahead and confess that I have a problem with fetishizing European things. Maybe it's because I'm from Tennessee, that the UK seems so charming to me but it's a sickness I've learned to accept about myself. I love the slang, I love the television ( Mighty Boosh? Doctor Who?! Graham Norton!!!), I'm even getting pretty good at matching the lovely accents to the locations. So when I saw the teeny Union Jack on the top of this cookie box in the international aisle I couldn't resist. Plus, I mean, let's not even talk about the name. HobNobs?! What?!

Chocolate and oats seem like a combination that couldn't possibly conflict. Well really, if you put chocolate on most things you're pretty much sure to please, so even though this was a bit of a gamble it didn't seem too out there. Sadly though, I didn't love them. They tasted like a cross between a graham cracker and a Nature Valley Oats and Honey bar, except in place of the sweetness of either of those things was a strong sort of overly wholesome flavor, reminiscent of bran flakes, or even...hay. Call it my oversexed American sugar gauge but even the bit that was half dipped in chocolate wasn't sweet enough to compensate for a taste you would expect to find inside of box of something touting its colon health benefits.

In closing, I'd like to say a few things in defense of this little cookie;

1) My hopes were outrageously high with this one (see Fetishizing of the UK)
2) There's a possibility that this box was just a little bit stale (I mean, you never really know with large chain international aisles)
3) It does say 'Digestive Biscuit' on the top, which I could take as a little bit of bragging about colon health (even though the google says the term originated from the old-timey belief that the baking soda including provided antacid qualities.)
4) Although they weren't to my taste (or possibly just my expectations), McVitie's HobNobs did seem like they would go down marvelously well with a drink of something sweet and warm (should I go there and say tea?), if anyone has tested this out please let me know.

 Also the boyfriend liked them well enough to steal them away one by one in the dark of night so there's at least one glowing review out of two here. Let me know your opinion. Have you tried McVitie's HobNobs? (why did that sound dirty?) Did I simply get a not so good box? Enrich my mind grapes!

Also, on the P.S., if you know of any weird foods I should try, send your suggestions to desireelitchford[at]gmail[dot]com. Let's let this madness continue.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Kind Of Love - When I Heard The Learn'd Astronomer by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn'd astronomer;

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;

When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and
        measure them;

When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much
        applause in the lecture-room,

How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;

Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself,

  In the mystical moist night -air,

and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Brown Sugar Maple Picard Cookies
modified slightly from this recipe in Bon Appetit December 2000

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup  real maple syrup, ( the good stuff)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Royal icing for awkward, untrained decoration (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Then whisk in the maple syrup, the egg, and the vanilla extract until combined. Whisk in the baking powder and the salt, then add the flour and mix until it comes together to form a dough. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and hour is better).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll out the dough to about 1/3 inch thickness and cut out the cookies with the cutter. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes depending on how crispy you like your cookies. Enjoy straight from the oven or cooled and decorated. 

Yeild 25 Picards

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Midweek Marvels - Peanut Butter Jam Session

So I realize that this is probably cheating but... I found a new Ben and Jerry's flavor that I just have to share with you. It's called Peanut Butter Jam Session, and it's a deceivingly simple combination of flavors in a simply gorgeous way. Peanut Butter Jam Session combines Ben and Jerry's already wonderful peanut butter ice cream with swirls of crunchy peanut butter and an intensely flavored raspberry jam. This combination ordinarily wouldn't spark my interest, (What's so exciting about peanut butter and jam, right?) but it's executed in such an elegant way that the flavors hum together with the harmony of an old standard.
It's hard to pin down exactly what it is about this flavor that makes it such a hit,( is it the just right level of tart-sweet from the raspberry jam? Is it the perfect bite of salty crunch from the chunky peanut butter? Is it the possibility of secretly added narcotics?) but something in the combination is sooo satisfying.

I was really surprised by how much I loved this flavor, I typically rate fruity desserts lower just based on personal preference, but here... I'll even be so bold as to add it to my top 10 favorites. (What? Wut?!) I may be 77 flavors in, but I'm happy to find that every once and a while Ben and Jerry's can still produce a flavor that will dazzle and delight even the oldest of fans. Give it a try!