Tea posing as juice

And now, for the Trader Joe’s Random Food Product of the Week!
juice
I like to buy my juice at TJ’s. It’s because I believe that most, if not all, their juices are 100% natural, meaning that they don’t contain junk like high fructose corn syrup (although if you believe this Corn Refiners Association commercial, maybe you don’t mind so much).

Here is what it does contain:
juiceingrds

An odd collection of ingredients, to be sure. I don’t remember if I read this carefully before I purchased the product. Probably I didn’t. If I had, I might have thought, “Hmm. Most of this stuff might taste pretty good in hot tea. But as a cold juice? Really?

And my instincts would have been right. On the tongue it’s got some lemon and honey notes, and there’s a definite gingery zing, especially in the aftertaste, but combined with the apple and grape juices, it doesn’t work that well.

As an experiment, I heated it up and tried it as a “tea.” Much better! Plop in a cinnamon stick, you’re good to go. Plus, it’s got built-in echinacea, which is my signature cold prevention trick.

Drink this product as a tea when you’ve got the sniffles. Not recommended for breakfast with your toast and cocoa puffs.
Rating: 6 out of 10 Joes. joefoxjoefoxjoefoxjoefoxjoefoxjoefox

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Obamenu

Anyone out there watch that inauguration the other day? If you were anywhere near a TV or a computer, it was pretty much unavoidable. I’m an NBC guy myself, but you could have been watching ABC, CBS, CNN, HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, Telemundo, Golf Channel, SoapNet, Sundance, QVC, or Logo. They all had it covered.

Three quick observations from me (your go-to source for political commentary) before I get on with this post:

  1. Chief Justice John Roberts totally did that on purpose. Clearly, he’s not qualified to be chief anything.
  2. Michelle was trying too hard with that gold dress. Just seemed a bit flashy for the occasion.
  3. A friend commented that Dick Cheney, in his wheelchair, looked like Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You think Obama, and especially Joe Biden (who apparently detests Cheney), didn’t restrain a chuckle at the sight of this?

21norris_190

Anyway, while watching the coverage of the inaugural luncheon (I’m aware of how odd that sounds), I learned that the luncheon menu was posted on the official inaugural website, and that this was the most visited page on the website.

The menu is as follows:

First Course
Seafood Stew

Second Course
Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney
Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing
(it’s not clear whether there was a choice of fowl)
Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Winter Vegetables

Third Course
Cinnamon Apple Sponge Cake

[My first thought is, that’s a lot of food, of rather diverse protein and fiber and spice content. What happens if it doesn’t sit well with some of those older senators? Or Obama? Is it embarrassing if you have to run to the men’s room? And what is the bathroom like in Statuary Hall?]

You can find the full recipes on that website if you like, but I’ve posted the Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes here for your convenience. It is by far the least convoluted – easily doable without a lot of fuss, so if you want to sample what all the VPs and VIPs ate in the minutes after the inauguration, here’s your shot.

3 large sweet potatoes (about 3 lbs.)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup orange juice
½ tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 400. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Peel the skin off of the sweet potatoes while still hot. By hand or mixer, smash potatoes until all large chunks are gone. Combine the potatoes, butter, salt, orange juice, brown sugar, cumin, molasses and maple syrup in a large bowl. Continue to mix all together until all lumps are gone. Adjust any of the seasonings to taste.

Squash this

Today, I have a squash.

squash

A beautiful, butternut squash. Along with Acorn, Spaghetti, Buttercup, and, yes, even pumpkin, it is a variety of “winter squash,” which is not to be confused with “summer squash,” which is more like zucchini.

Winter squashes are hard – if one falls on your head, it will hurt. But they’re simple to prepare.  One preparation that I enjoy is to slice it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, put some butter and brown sugar in the cavities, and bake it for about an hour at 400 degrees. Mash up the flesh with some more butter and brown sugar or maple syrup, and you’ve got a side dish that’s almost like a dessert. For you calorie counters out there, that may be a little much, so in honor of you, Mr. or Mrs. Watching Your Weight, we’re just going to do a lighter braised squash that will allow you to have your oreo brownie sundae or your deep fried twinkie later on.

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything.”

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
1-2 lbs. buternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
1/4 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable broth (or water)

Heat oil and garlic in a large skillet until garlic begins to color. Add squash and broth, with some salt and pepper. Bring to boil, cover, and turn heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender (about 15 minutes).

Uncover pan and turn heat to medium high. Cook until liquid is evaporatred and squah begins to brown (5-10 minutes). Turn heat to low, and cook until squash is as brown and crisp. Season with salt and pepper.

Cod help me

And now for a photo essay on the making of my dinner last night. What do you do when you have a nice, thick piece of cod fillet? The thought of it just sends me into a tizzy.

You can do a lot of things with cod, from baking it with a crumb topping, to broiling it with some butter and paprika. Last night I was in the mood to saute it with a nice, crispy crust. So easy, and delicious. Here’s how:

You start out with a beautiful cod fillet. Any other thick white fillet will do. This was mine. I actually bought it a couple of weeks ago and froze it. If you’re not into going to the market every day, when you are there, just buy a bunch of fish and freeze it, and stick it in the fridge the day before you’re going to cook it to defrost.

cod1

Cut the fillets to about a half-pound in size. Season with salt and pepper, and dredge in flour.

cod2

Yikes – if I’m going to do photo essays, should I get better lighting in my kitchen?

Then dip it in a beaten egg, then bread crumbs. The egg acts as a glue to help the bread crumbs stick. I happened to use matzo meal I had left over from my matzo ball soup. This will give the fish the nice, crispy crust. For a bit of a softer crust, leave out the egg and bread crumbs, and just use the flour.

cod3

Heat a skillet and add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. When hot, drop in the fillets, and cook until you achieve a nice, golden brown on each side. The fish is done when its lost its transluscence and a thin-bladed knife passes through the fish with little resistance. The general rule of thumb is it will take 8-10 minutes to cook per inch of thickness.

cod4

I garnished with a sweet potato and some broccoli, and gave the fish a shpritz of lemon to finish.

cod5

Devil of a night

Last night, I was out to eat at a lovely restaurant called Gargoyles on the Square. This might be my new favorite place, although that title seems to change with many of the new restaurants I try.

Interestingly, I wasn’t even supposed to be there; I was supposed to meet up with my smokin’ hot date at another place, but, well, things happen, and it turned out she couldn’t walk the extra few blocks down to our original spot (there was a shoe incident). So we decided on Gargoyles (closer to the scene of the incident), which was fine with me, because I’d never been there, and I wanted to check it out.

Everything on the menu sounded fabulous, though I think our primary purpose was to, um, take the edge off a little. But we had to eat too, and I wanted to try everything! If you haven’t checked out the menu on their website, supplied above, please take a moment to do so.

Ready? Did you see the lobster salad deviled eggs? We got those. They were delicious, but, the thing about deviled eggs is that the “bowl” area of the egg is not that big, so there’s not much lobster salad that fit in there. But, no problem. Deviled eggs are not meant to be your main course (although last night, they kind of were, because we spent most of our time taking the edge off).

But they are simple and fun to make. At your next party, instead of the usual veggies and dip, Cheetos, cheese balls and Cheez Whiz, give these a shot (Cheez Whiz does have its place, however.).

This recipe, according to The Amateur Gourmet, is “loosely adapted from [Food Network personality] Anne Burrell.” If you want more eggs, adjust the ingredients accordingly.

3 hard boiled eggs
1/2 – 3/4 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp. mustard
Juice from half a lemon
cayenne pepper (optional)
Smoked paprika

Slice each egg in half vertically. Remove the yolks to a bowl. Take 1/2 cup of mayo and stir into the yolks. This is the filling; if you want the mixture creamier, add more mayo. Add mustard, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. If you like it spicy, add a bit of cayenne. Pipe, or spoon, the mixture into the whites. Dust the with smoked paprika.

Pancake party

Yesterday here in the Northeast was one of those picture-postcard Norman Rockwell snowy Sunday mornings. You know, the ones when you’re sleeping in, huddling under the covers, dreaming blissfully … then, yanking the alarm clock out of the wall socket when it goes off at 6 a.m., telling the kids to go watch whatever on TV (anything except Daddy’s “special” DVDs), wondering why your spouse isn’t making coffee for you, hearing the plow guy hit something in your driveway, getting up to see that you no longer have your car’s tail lights intact, and wondering if there’s any way you can move the family to San Diego.

Now that we’re all up, let’s make some pancakes! And leave the Bisquick in the cabinet. These pancakes are almost as easy, and so much better. Guys, you’ll score major points with these.

This recipe serves 4, so double it if you’re having a pancake party.

Sift (or, stir) together flour, baking powder, and salt. In separate bowl, combine egg and milk. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Stir in butter. Cook in hot pan with oil or butter until brown on one side, flip and brown other side.

2 cups

2 cups

2 tbsp., melted

2 tbsp., melted

2 1/2 tsp.

2 1/2 tsp.

1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups

one

one

1/2 tsp.

1/2 tsp.

Eminems

Long story short, I had this surplus of M&Ms. I’m talking, like, at least a pound. If I had to guess, I’d say I had about 836 M&Ms. And they were the Plain. I like the Peanut.

And I have this on my ipod

OK, OK, I’ll give you the short version of the long story: The M&Ms came from my brother’s engagement party 3 months ago. His favorite candy is M&Ms, and he had them on every place setting, and not a small amount of them either – about a bowl’s worth of M&Ms for each guest. Not every guest took them home, so I took home about 3 bags. It was a lot of M&Ms. I stuck them in the freezer and grazed on them every now and then, but, 3 months is a long time to have the same M&Ms, so I decided to kill them off.

I also had some leftover rolled oats from some cookies I made a while back (sorry, it was pre-blog, so no pictures available), so I decided to combine them into an oatmeal M&M bar type of situation.

After some Googling, I came up with this recipe on Cooks.com, which can be applied to bars or cookies:

1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp. hot water
1 1/2 cup sifted flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups rolled oats
836 M&Ms (or 12 oz. chocolate chips)
1/2 – 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Cream butter, add sugar, cream together. Add eggs, hot water, mix together. Add flour, soda, salt. Add oatmeal, chocolate chips, vanilla and nuts slowly. Mix well.

For cookies: Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet. Bake 350 degrees, 10-12 minutes.
For bars: put in greased 9×11 inch pan. Bake 350 degrees 20-25 minutes.

And here’s how they turned out:

mm11mm21

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