Friday, August 30, 2013

Blueberry Sweet Corn

One custard we definitely wanted to try from this month's calendar was blueberry sweet corn. We've liked blueberry custards at Shake Shack before (like blueberry coffee cake) and wanted to see if this would join the ranks of our favorites.

M's thoughts:
Unlike the sweet corn custard we had before which tasted like vanilla, this one actually had a very noticeable flavor of corn. The blueberry flavor was also very present. So no complaints about whether the custard actually tasted like blueberry and sweet corn - it did. However, I'm just not sure if I like the combination of blueberry and sweet corn together. I think if you do, it's a good custard, but I'm ambivalent. It's well done though.

A's thoughts:
This was an odd flavor. I liked the corn flavor as it was much stronger than the corn flavor they had before, and I liked the blueberry swirl they added as it looked to have actual blueberries in it. However, corn and blueberry don't really go together as flavors in my opinion. In the end I don't think it worked, but I really hope that they bring them back individually.

Blueberry Sweet Corn
A's rating: 6/10
M's rating: 7/10

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reducing Guilt

There is a discussion going on right now on one of the food boards I read and it's all about why people like Trader Joe's. One thing that has come up in the conversation is the prepared frozen food. I've gotten a couple of frozen dishes there before, but there are a lot I haven't tried yet. In this week's shopping, I picked up one for lunch that I've been wanting to try for some time - the reduced guilt chicken breasts in poblano sauce with barley and sweet white corn risotto ($2.99).

The microwaved meal doesn't look quite as good as it does on the box, but I was willing to overlook that if it tasted good. Overall, I think it was just okay. The poblano sauce had a good flavor, and you could definitely taste the poblano peppers, which was good. There weren't many other vegetables in the dish - little bits of tomatoes, scallions, peppers. The barley and corn provided a good base. But the biggest problem was the chicken itself. I followed the box instructions exactly - heat 2 minutes in the microwave on the defrost function and then on high for 4-5 minutes (I did 4:30). But the chicken came out really overdone, too chewy and a little dry. It was still edible but it wasn't great. Covered in the sauce (even though the sauce somehow completely overflowed the container in the microwave), it shouldn't have been that dry.

Buy again? Undecided. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. It was $2.99, which isn't that expensive for lunch, but you can definitely get some frozen meals at the grocery store that have about the same amount of calories and nutritional content for less money. I do like that in the TJ's products I can recognize most of the ingredients on the box, but I'm not sure if I like this enough to get it again.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spicy Lentil Curry

When reorganizing the pantry a couple of weeks ago, I realized we had a ridiculous number of bags of lentils, but hadn't made lentils in a really long time. How to remedy that? By trying a new lentil curry recipe!

I decided to go with an adaptation of the spicy lentil curry recipe from the American Heart Association Low-Fat Low-Cholesterol Cookbook that I got from the library. I liked it because it was healthy and didn't involve any butter or ghee, and only a minimal amount of oil. The healthier we can cook at home, the better.


How many different grocery store brands do you see in the photo?

- 4 cups of water ($0)
- 1 cup of dried lentils ($1)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds ($0.06)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin ($0.05)
- 1 tsp canola oil ($0.05)
- 1 large onion, chopped ($0.54)
- 1 medium tomato, chopped ($0.50)
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced ($0.10)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric ($0.12)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.01)
- 2 medium garlic cloves ($0.03)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro ($0.30)

The recipe also called for a red chile pepper, but I didn't find any when grocery shopping that day. I have since learned that cayenne could be an acceptable substitute. Next time maybe I'll try that if I can't find a red chile. I definitely think the recipe would be improved with the spice.

The grand total for this dish was under $3 (and still would be with the cayenne). Legumes are so affordable! We should definitely make more legumes for budget eating.


The recipe was fairly simple. It took some time, but most of that time was cooking the lentils and you can do all the prep during that period.

1. Sort lentils for stones and shriveled lentils. Rinse. In large heavy saucepan, bring water and lentils to boil over medium high heat. Then simmer on low, partially covered, for about 45 minutes (or until they are tender). Skim off the foam and stir occasionally.

Lentils rinsed and ready to boil

2. While lentils are cooking, prep everything else. Chop onions, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, ginger.

Still takes me forever to prep this little amount of food

3. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Cook cumin seeds for about 1 minute (but don't burn them), until you hear them pop and they are fragrant. Stir in oil and add onions and ground cumin. Cook 4-5 minutes or until onion is light brown. Then stir in tomato and chile pepper.

Mmm cumin seeds

Cook for 5 more minutes until tomato is reduced to pulp. Stir frequently. Discard chile pepper if using a whole dried pepper. I really wish I had a chile pepper.

Ready to mix

4. When lentils are tender, stir in tomato-onion mixture and all other ingredients except cilantro. Simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Tomatoes and onions mixed in

Adding everything else

5. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. (We ate the curry over brown rice.)


My version of spicy lentil curry - no idea if this is how it's supposed to look since the cookbook had no pictures

We really liked this recipe. It was simple, healthy and hearty and overall a good dish. The only negative was that it seemed to be missing something, like there was a mild lack of seasoning. Could have been the spice. After all, without the chile pepper, it wasn't exactly a "spicy" lentil curry, just a lentil curry. We definitely want to try this again, but next time with a red chile pepper or possibly adding in some cayenne. And we were really pleased with how much this recipe made, even after I cut down the amount. Using the ingredients above over rice could have yielded us two full meals for under $3! Happy to find another tasty, healthy and cheap recipe!

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Premium for a McWrap

I think I've been to McDonalds more this summer than I have in the past few years. I get a craving every once in a while for a sausage biscuit and hash browns or a Filet-o-Fish, but that's about it. But between our hunt for the Happy Meal minion toys and occasions when we've been short on time and options (like one night earlier this week), there has been more eating than usual at the Golden Arches.

One (late) night earlier this week we were stuck at the hospital (long story) and ended up grabbing some sandwiches at McDonalds. My parents seem to be fans of the new(ish) Premium McWrap sandwiches (they usually get the ranch version with grilled chicken), so I thought I would try that.

The Premium McWrap can be ordered with grilled or crispy chicken, and comes in three flavors - chicken & bacon, sweet chili chicken, and chicken & ranch. McDonalds advertises that each wrap also comes with "gorgeous fresh vegetables" inside a "soft, warm tortilla." I'm not sure that I've ever had any "gorgeous" vegetables at McDonalds other than the Alvalle gazpacho in Barcelona. That was wonderful. Anyway, I went with the sweet chili chicken because I usually like sweet chili sauce more than ranch dressing.

After I got home, I looked over the McDonalds site to see if there was any truth to their advertising for this particular wrap. They called it a "unique mix of juicy, grilled chicken breast filet, crisp cucumber slices, spring greens, shredded lettuce, all drizzled with sweet chili and creamy garlic sauce, wrapped in a warm flour tortilla." Agree on the chicken, cucumber and shredded lettuce, but spring greens? I didn't notice any spring greens, only the lettuce. It's guess it's entirely possible they were buried on the bottom and I didn't notice because by that point I was trying to stop the sandwich from dripping all over my backpack (at least it was juicy?), but I don't remember them. The sweet chili sauce was there but very mild, with not as much sweet or chili as sweet chili sauces I've had before. I didn't know it was supposed to be creamy garlic sauce, and it just tasted like mayo to me. All that said, the filling inside the wrap wasn't too bad at all. It was tasty and the chicken did have a nice seasoned flavor. It did taste fresh. The worst part, however, was that tortilla. It was cold and alternated between dry and gummy like most fast food tortillas. If only something could be done about that wrapper.

This does taste better than the original version snack wraps, but they also cost more than twice the amount of a snack wrap. One of these Premium McWraps will run you about $4 here in Manhattan. I'm not really sure it's worth that price. It also took forever to get the wrap. We went to McDonalds figuring that it would be quick, but it took over ten minutes to get the sandwiches and it's not like we had huge orders or there was much of a backlog ahead of us. Maybe that's how long it takes for freshly grilled chicken? I suppose that if I got this again, I would get the ranch, since the toppings sound more interesting than sweet chili chicken. Or maybe I'll just stick with the Filet-o-Fish.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Confetti Rice

We have a bunch of sides from Trader Joe's in our freezer, and one of the ones I was looking forward to trying was the confetti rice. It's basically rice combined with lemongrass, ginger and baby corn. We like all of those flavors, and rice with vegetables in it is healthier than rice without them, so how could this not be a good idea?

The box makes it look so good...

Each box comes with 2 microwaveable pouches. You snip off the corner of the package and then throw it in the microwave. When it's done, you have to carefully open the steamy pouch. Simple instructions on the box, but didn't really work in practice. Ours was really hot in parts but still kind of cold in others, so we had to cut it open, stir it up on a plate and then re-microwave it for a short time to get it all hot enough to eat.

Frozen confetti rice

The texture of the rice was okay - not really soft or fluffy but also not super-dry or falling apart. It tasted more like lemon than lemongrass, but the lemon flavor and scent were so artificial. I had read on a TJ's thread on Chowhound recently (weeks after I bought this) that it reminded someone of lemon Pledge, and unfortunately, we could definitely see the resemblance. If you like that fake lemon-ness, then this might not bother you, but we didn't like it. The corn didn't add much flavor even if you could see the small pieces of it. The ginger flavor was really strong, and not in a good way. It was a bit overpowering. Combining the strong ginger with the perfumed lemony scent/flavor was just not a winning combination.

One serving (half pouch) = 250 calories

Buy Again? No. We still have one pouch left and we're thinking that maybe we'll eat it with fish sticks or something. Hopefully the extra strong lemony flavor will rub off a little on the fish and balance it out more.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


I am no stranger to Cuban-style sandwiches (see all the Sophie's posts). But the one sandwich that eluded me until this year (partially because of all the years I spent not eating meats like ham) was the Cuban sandwich (also known as a Cubano). Somehow, the Cuban sandwich we tried for WorldEats was the first real Cuban sandwich A and I have ever tried! 

The Barclays Center glows in golden light

We were at the Barclays Center for a basketball playoff game (yes, we are months behind on blogging) and I took advantage of that opportunity to grab a Cuban sandwich from the Habana kiosk on the concourse. Cafe Habana was one of the Cuban places on our "to try" list, so it was quite convenient that we could combine trying the sandwich with basketball.

Habana's Cuban sandwich

The Cuban sandwich at Habana consists of sliced ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and chipotle mayo on Cuban bread. I wasn't really paying that much attention to how they made the sandwich since my space was being forcibly invaded by some weird guy who kept acting like he was entitled to jump the line and trying to grab my sandwich even though I was ahead of him. I'm guessing that they compressed it or flattened it in some sort of panini press or something similar. It was a nice warm and melty sandwich.

We're no experts on Cubanos, so we definitely cannot proclaim whether this is the best in the city, but it was tasty, a good kind of salty, and creamy. I do feel safe in saying that it's probably one of the better options at the Barclays Center, having tried a bunch of different places at this point. We really enjoyed the combinations of flavors in this sandwich and would definitely return to the real Cafe Habana or another Cuban spot for another one. 


It's summer which means it's the perfect season for lobster rolls. Most of the good lobster roll places are not in our area, so when a voucher popped up for the one lobster roll place we have - Claw - we jumped at the chance to buy it. Lobster rolls are expensive so any way to save on them without sacrificing quality is welcome! (I miss free lobster roll promotions.)

Proclaiming that you have the best lobster rolls in the city really raises expectations

We tried three times to use our voucher at Claw before we finally succeeded. It wasn't that they didn't accept it, but they sold a lot of vouchers so the wait was always in excess of an hour. It seemed like a lot of people waiting had also come back multiple times, frustrated with the long waits (for the tiny number of tables) until they finally had no choice but to wait because of an expiring voucher.

The voucher was $28 (a $56 value) for 2 lobster rolls, fries, and glasses of wine. They had a few choices for wine, but I don't remember exactly which ones other than that they were the cheapest ones on the menu. It's been over a month so I don't remember what we got, but A remembers we each got a different white one. They were fine but nothing special.

Voucher wine

We started out with a free appetizer of crab beignets thanks to our Foursquare check-in. One nice thing about Claw was that they honored that promotion alongside the voucher, which many restaurants won't do.

Free crab beignets

The crab beignets were basically like crab rangoon. Crispy crab-filled wontons with spicy mayo and sweet chili sauce on the side. At least that's what they said it would be, but neither of those sauces were really very much like any sweet chili sauce we've been accustomed to eating. The beignets weren't bad. Lots of shell, creamy sauces, not a ton of flavor, but at least there was real crab inside the wonton.

Inside the crab beignets

On to the main attraction - the lobster roll, which is usually $17 each. According to the menu, the lobster roll is served on a toasted potato bun with cornichons and fresh cut fries.

When we got the voucher, we thought that the 2 fries mentioned in the voucher meant sides of fries, and not the fries already included in the price of the lobster roll (which is what we got). After we got home from dinner, I added up the price of the wines we'd been offered and 2 lobster rolls, and it came up $6 short from the "value" of the voucher. The only way that could be the case would be if they had counted the $3 sides of fries as part of the "value" to make it sound like a better deal than it really was. Not a huge deal food-wise since I don't really need more fries, but it's a little deceptive and it annoys me on principle.

As for the food itself, it ranged from nothing special to disappointing. The fries were fine but unremarkable. The cornichons and ketchup were standard. Although that lobster roll bun looks like it's been toasted and/or grilled and/or griddled, it was cold, mushy and dry. It didn't even taste that buttery. The texture drove me crazy, because the bun is one of the things I love most about lobster rolls. We appreciated that the lobster roll was not full of mayo and had actual pieces of lobster, but the lobster had no flavor. Why would lobster not actually taste like lobster (really, why doesn't any of their seafood taste like it should)? It was also a pretty small lobster roll, the size of two ketchup cups in the photo. The entire roll was disappointing and didn't really hold up because of the lousy bun. We're not lobster roll connoisseurs but we've definitely had better.

The whole point of these vouchers for a lot of businesses is to bring in new customers who will hopefully return (and we have returned to some of the good ones). But the problem is that, if you don't put your best stuff forward, there is no reason for anyone to want to return. On our visits:

- the waits were extremely long and you could not make a reservation
- the food was either unremarkable or not good, just a really mediocre experience
- the servers seemed completely overwhelmed and no one could estimate correctly how long it would take to either get a table or receive your food
- it was ridiculously hot inside and it seemed like they had no A/C on, even on sweltering nights
- we waited forever to get our lobster rolls - the server told us multiple times they were just about ready but they didn't come for at least half an hour after the appetizer (and after other tables that ordered after us); it really seemed like they forgot even though the kitchen could not be overwhelmed as we were one of only two tables there still waiting for food for most of that time.

None of that makes us want to go back. I won't officially hold against them the fact that I got 8 mosquito bites that night while sitting in the heat during the endless wait for our lobster rolls, since I should have worn repellent.

I don't really like doing negative reviews for restaurants based solely on one visit. But reading many, many other people's experiences from the past couple of months that sound like we could have written them ourselves convinces us that the food and service issues we experienced aren't an isolated incident. Unfortunate, but true. We're definitely not going back to Claw. And there are definitely better lobster rolls in this city.

Jitlada Revisited

Back on our 2010 LA trip, we visited Jitlada for a large, spicy lunch. One dish that really made an impression on us was their special rice salad - the khao yam. We could not find any references online to anywhere else in the country that we could get it, and we loved it so much that not only did we think about it a lot afterwards, but it made both of our year-end favorites lists.

So when we started thinking about where to eat on our LA trip earlier this year, one thing that immediately went on the list was khao yam at Jitlada. We didn't need to eat an entire lunch there again (even though their menu of southern Thai specialties is so extensive that you could eat there for days), but thought we would drop by for the khao yam and maybe another salad or appetizer. 

I forgot to take a picture of Jitlada from outside, so here's the entrance to one of the dining rooms

With that "light snack" as our plan, it's no wonder that we thought it would be an appropriate "second lunch" on the day we went to Tsujita. Knowing how filling the tsukemen was, it seems ridiculous in retrospect.

We don't normally plan 2 lunches in one day, unless both are light snacks. Since we had more lunch restaurants on our list than we did lunch slots and we were trying to balance the various days different restaurants were closed, it seemed to make the most sense to get to Tsujita early when it opened, eat tsukemen, do some active sightseeing and digesting (thought maybe the Getty, but we ended up at Runyon), and then get a late lunch at Jitlada before they closed for the afternoon. If tsukemen was at 11, surely we could fit a couple of salads in at 2:30. Or so we thought.

We (mostly me) seriously underestimated the size of the bowls and how filling tsukemen would be. Even an hour long walk around Runyon Canyon in jeans (another planning error) didn't leave us much stomach space by the time we drove up to Jitlada. But we didn't want to skip it. Our hearts pined for that incredible khao yam (which is now spelled khao yum on the menu).

So of course we got the khao yum ($9.95).

In case you didn't read the other posts on khao yum, it is a Songkhla province style rice salad tossed with homemade sauce and assorted vegetables. The Jitlada version includes jasmine rice, mango, green beans, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai chiles, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, bean sprouts, coconut and dried shrimp. The khao yum was still delicious, but we didn't feel as blown away as last time. I don't know if it's because it was our second time eating it, or because we've had a lot of good Thai food in the meantime (we were just at Lotus of Siam within the 6 months prior to the LA trip). It was still fantastic and unique, but just didn't move us the way it did last time.

We decided to try something new for our second dish. We had tried a delicious dip while at Lotus of Siam (which we haven't gotten around to writing about yet), which was light and refreshing, and that sounded like the right type of dish for that afternoon since we were still pretty full. Jitlada's menu had a whole section of spicy Thai dipped dishes. We went with the nam prik koong ($19.95).

Nam prik koong has shrimp, ground chicken and tomato in a spicy chili dip. We were imagining something like at Lotus, a small cup of dip surrounded by vegetables to dip, but couldn't imagine how that cost $20. (Most of the special dishes at Jitlada now seem to be within that price range.) Luckily it was much bigger than what we were visualizing.

It comes with a bowl of raw vegetables - cabbage, carrots and cucumbers - on ice. It looks vaguely similar to the bowl of vegetables they gave us on our last trip when our mouths were on fire from the spice level and we were melting in our seats.

The dip, although a bit pricey, was quite tasty. We really liked the spicy tomato flavor that permeated the dish, and the shrimp and chicken were cooked to just the right texture. The cool raw vegetables were the perfect dipping instruments and the dish was fun. It would have been a great dish if only we weren't so full. We were so full that we even took some khao yum to go.

We're glad we returned to Jitlada. We're not sure that we would make a special trip there on our next LA visit since it is rather expensive and LA has a lot of good Thai food. (Note that we don't feel it's pricey because it's Thai food, but rather above what we budget for most of our casual vacation meals.) Maybe we'll just get an order of khao yum to go since that is relatively cheap and what we want the most. That said, if you've never been to Jitlada, it is worth a visit, since they have a lot of southern Thai dishes we've never seen anywhere else.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pulled Pork Mini Pies and More

A new branch of Australian chain Pie Face opened in our neighborhood recently. We have been to Pie Face before (remember when we wrote this after our first visit?) but over the past 1.5 years, have never actually reviewed any of the pies or rolls!

This past Tuesday, Pie Face introduced a new promotion for the first Tuesday of every month: pay with a tweet. (You can also use Instagram or Facebook.) If you mention them on social media, you get a free mini pie! Great deal. The mini pie on offer for this month was the BBQ pulled pork. We definitely wanted to try that.

The line moved a little too slowly considering it wasn't that long (it was so slow that we saw our tweets cycle on the wall more than once), but eventually we got our free mini pies as well as some other Australian treats.

We each got a free BBQ pulled pork mini pie, which contains pulled pork, onions and a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce.

The mini pies are pretty small (although M likes the small size better). M really liked this one. It was overflowing with sauce, but also had bits of onions and pork in it, and the sauce was really tasty. A didn't like the mini pie as much. His was almost all sauce, had very little pork, and he didn't notice any onions. The sauce was also a little tangier than he preferred.

In addition to our pulled pork mini pies, we got some other pies to split. A was really hungry and didn't think two pies would be enough for both of us, so he ordered a stack. A stack is a savory pie topped with mashed potatoes, peas and gravy, and packaged in a deep red box.

For his savory pie, A picked the mince beef with tomato pie, which had ground beef, a crushed tomato sauce (one menu says crushed tomato sauce, another says tomato chutney), onion, garlic, coriander and cumin. This pie was the best that we had that day. The flavors were rich, and the beef and tomato chutney combined to form a really tasty stew. Add that to potatoes and peas and you have a very hearty shepherd's pie-like combination. This would be really great in the fall or winter when the weather is cooler.

M ordered the Thai chicken curry pie, which A had tried on a fairly recent visit to a different branch of Pie Face. A really liked this pie last time, and we are both big fans of Thai curry, so M ordered one.

Poor pie's face got a little bit crushed in!

The Thai chicken curry pie has pieces of chicken, carrots, onion, garlic, coconut milk, and a mild green curry paste. Before M read the ingredient list, she thought it would be more like the curry chicken pies you can get in Chinatown, which have more of a yellow curry or curry powder flavor, but this sounded like it would be different.

Unfortunately, this just tasted like a chicken pot pie, and not a very flavorful one at that. It was kind of bland and didn't seem like it had any Thai curry. A was really disappointed since the one he had last time was so much better.

So far, we've only really been talking about the fillings. The shell of each pie is pretty much the same, is butter-based and baked until golden and flaky. It definitely isn't healthy, but it's tasty. We don't really have any other Australian pies to compare with (rolls are a different story) since we never get the pies at Tuck Shop, but since Pie Face has lots of Australian locations, we would guess it's authentic.

This "pay with a tweet" promotion is supposed to recur on the first Tuesday of every month. What a great excuse to go get a pie! If the promotion lasts awhile, maybe we'll be able to try every pie and roll on the menu. Looking forward to the challenge!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Free at ABP

Less than an hour left to the promotion (in this time zone), but if you go to Au Bon Pain, you can get a free iced coffee or iced tea!

If you're going through Port Authority before 6 pm, there is no reason NOT to get a free drink!

From 2-6 pm today only, those drinks are free, no purchase necessary. It also seems like any size is valid, as the person in front of me got a large.

I went for the unsweetened goji berry green tea. It was just okay. I was expecting some sweetness and some tartness from the goji berries but in the end, it just tasted like green tea. I probably should have also added more ice since it wasn't that cool from the dispenser. But in the end, I can't really complain too much. It was completely free!

Cilantro Jalapeño is a Winner

The last time we went to Costco, Hannah (makers of one of our favorite taboules) was having a roadshow spotlighting their Greek-style yogurt dips which they said were only available at Costco. They were sampling five different ones, and the question was never if we were going to get one, but which one we were going to get. Tomato basil? Chipotle? Garlic chive? Cilantro jalapeño? (There was also an olive tapenade, but that's not really my thing.) We tried all 4... and ended up getting 2. It was nearly impossible to narrow it down to 1, since they were all so good.

The cilantro jalapeño dip is the current accompaniment to my carrot snacks, and it's one of the more unique dips I've had since it's not spinach, garlic or chive based. (I'm a sucker for those dips.)

The dip is creamy but not as heavy as regular dip since it's yogurt-based (but not solely yogurt). There is definitely a little bit of a kick from the jalapeño which is refreshing. It's about 60 calories for 2 tbsp, so it's not awful for you either.

I'm really enjoying this cilantro jalapeño dip, but it comes in a gigantic 24 ounce tub, so I hope it doesn't go bad before we can finish it. After that, it will be on to a more traditional garlic chive. I'm not sure which one we'll like better. We couldn't decide at the store when trying them one after the other, so I'm not sure we'll be able to pick a favorite now!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

10 Minute Farro

I love farro. Some days I even prefer farro to rice. (Am I allowed to say that or is that sacrilegious?) The nutty flavor, the chewier texture, we love all of that. Unfortunately, semi-pearled farro isn't that easy to find. Remember the great farro hunt of 2012? I wasn't as skilled at grocery shopping then (despite my great love for it) and didn't even think to look at Trader Joe's. But not only does Trader Joe's have farro, they have a quick cooking farro that's ready in only ten minutes. And it's not that expensive either ($1.79).

We made a 1/2 cup (uncooked) of farro last night to go with our Vesuvius tomatoes recipe and some sauteed kale with mushrooms, onion and thyme. It was our first time making this quick cook farro and we were pretty happy with the results. It's very simple - heat farro with water in a pot until it boils, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Let it stand for 5 minutes and it's done!

This was about half of what we made

I'm not enough of a farro expert to judge the pluses and minuses of this quick cook farro compared to other types or brands. But we liked it, the nuttiness was there, the texture was right, and it was easy. Can't wait to try some new farro recipes!

Buy Again? Definitely yes!

August Custard Calendar

We've been eating significantly less custard than we used to, but we still enjoy doing these custard calendar reviews. Last month we only made it in once for blueberry coffee cake, one of our favorites, but didn't try anything new. Maybe we'll try something new this month as blueberry sweet corn sounds really intriguing.

This month's calendar is (with average ratings of previously tried custards in parentheses):

Monday - strawberry cheesecake (7/10)
Wednesday - apricot jam cookie (6.75/10)
Thursday - caramel popcorn (new for us!)
Saturday - Boston cream pie (7/10)
Sunday - blueberry sweet corn (new for us!)
     (We've had sweet corn before, even if not reviewed here, but mostly tasted vanilla.)

Looking forward to blueberry sweet corn and hoping it's good!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Vesuvius Tomatoes

At Costco last weekend, we bought a gorgeous box of Campari tomatoes. They were beautifully red and plump on their vines, and we couldn't wait to use them. Unfortunately one week later (since we spent so much of the week trying to finish our stash of kale), we still had over half a box of tomatoes left, so we had to finish them off for part of tonight's dinner before they went bad. I wanted to try something new, and wasn't in the mood for yet another salad.

I love tomatoes on the vine!

I found a recipe on Epicurious for Vesuvius Tomatoes, a stewed tomato dish published in Bon Appetit in 1996, and based on a dish at the Rialto in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It sounded tasty and simple to prepare, so I immediately got to work. I made a few modifications to the recipe as I went along, but the published recipe was a good foundation to work from.


- Olive oil (1-2 tbsp for sauteing the onions, 1/4-1/2 cup for the roasting), $0.15
- Half of a large yellow onion, finely chopped in long slices, $0.27
- About 15 Campari tomatoes, quartered, $3.37
- 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped, $0.09
- 12 basil leaves, cut into thin strips, $0.05
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme, $0.42
- 1/2 tsp salt, $0.01
- 1/2 tsp sugar, $0.05
- 1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper, $0.01
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme, $0.05
- 1/2 tsp dried basil, $0.05

The total cost was about $4.50, and the vast majority of that cost was the price of the tomatoes. So if you're in an area where you can get more affordable tomatoes (and the Campari price at Costco was pretty decent), the cost might be even less.


1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute onions until tender (8-10 minutes). The other ingredients can be prepped while the onions are sauteing. Also, preheat the oven to 250-275 degrees (see note in #3).

2. In a roasting pan, place tomatoes in a single layer. Add sauteed onions, remaining olive oil, garlic, basil, thyme, salt, sugar, and crushed red pepper. Toss all ingredients together in the pan.

3. Place pan in the oven and roast until tomatoes are tender but not falling apart. Stir occasionally (I stirred every 1/2 hour or so). The entire process should take about 2 hours at 250. It took us about 1.5 hours at 275. The only reason I had to do it at 275 instead was that it was late and I hadn't noticed the recipe took 2 hours when I chose it. So be prepared - this is an easy recipe to make but give yourself plenty of time to roast! 275 was fine, but I don't think I would set the temperature any higher to get it done quicker because the slow roasting is really what you want.

Tomatoes after ~30 minutes

Tomatoes after ~60 minutes

Tomatoes after ~90 minutes



This dish was delicious. We ate this on top of some farro, but think this would make a really great sauce on top of pasta. It might take a couple of hours to roast, but it's definitely worth it. The slow roasting makes the tomatoes so soft and infuses them with all the garlic and herbs. Definitely a recipe we would try again!