Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Week 23 - Concession Foods

When you hear concession foods, what do you think of? The first things that come to mind for me are all fried, especially every variation of fried potato (mmm, garlic fries). The theme for Week 23 was concession foods, and I wanted to do some version of fries, but I don't deep fry at home. I decided to go with chili cheese fries, but a healthier take on them - chili cheese (baked) potato wedges.


I didn't follow a recipe for this challenge, but came up with it on my own for the most part, just making some chili, wedge fries cut like the ones I made before, and topping it with some garnishes.

For this dish, I used:

- about 3 lbs of potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into wedges ($1.19)
- olive oil for sauteing ($0.20)
- 1 lb of ground turkey ($4.10)
- 1 can of chili beans ($0.58)
- 1 can of small red beans ($0.80)
- 1 can of diced tomatoes ($0.75)
- 1 yellow onion ($0.60)
- 5 cloves of garlic ($0.08)
- black pepper ($0.05)
- chili powder ($0.15)
- onion powder ($0.05)
- garlic powder ($0.05)
- cumin ($0.05)
- salt ($0.05)
- red pepper flakes ($0.05)
- shredded Mexican cheese ($1)
- cilantro ($0.50)
- scallions ($0.50)

The total for the chili cheese fries was about $10.75, not too bad for dinner for 2 that includes a substantial amount of meat. It helped that we got a 5 pound bag of potatoes on sale to get dinner to that price!

Making the Chili Cheese Fries

The recipe had a bunch of different components. First up, the chili. I pretty much made this off the top of my head, tasting as I went along. Of course, had I blogged about other times I made chili on time, maybe I would have just redone the halftime chili I made before that we liked. Basically I cooked the turkey with the olive oil, then added the onions and garlic, and then once those cooked for a bit, added everything else on the list (other than the potatoes, cheese, cilantro, and scallions). I cooked it for a while. Not sure exactly how long, but at least as long as it took to bake the potato wedges.

As for the potatoes, I employed the same wedge roasting system that I did when making the mustard-roasted potatoes last fall. Instead of the mustard sauce though, I just tossed them in some olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a pinch of chili powder. They took about 45-50 minutes to bake using the same method I used last time.

Once the potatoes and the chili were both done, it was time to assemble our version of chili cheese fries. First, a layer of potato wedges topped with a couple of heaping spoonfuls of chili.

And then the garnishes - cheese, scallions, and cilantro.

Overall, these "fries" were good, but not amazing. We liked them and they were healthier, but they were definitely not the guilty pleasure you get from the concession stands.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Halftime Chili

I was looking through some old draft posts from February, and randomly decided to open this post about chili. I figured it might be some old recipe post that I would end up deleting because I couldn't remember what I did (this happens a fair amount), but surprise! It was a post that was pretty much fully written other than ingredient prices. So I'm ditching the prices and just putting this up, almost exactly as it was written (so many) months ago. Enjoy!

We often watch the Super Bowl at home, but even though there's just 2 of us, we still like to indulge in a special Super Bowl meal. Last year, we made queso fundido and the year before, it was a mercimek kofte experiment. This year we decided on chili, a very classic Super Bowl food. I call this recipe halftime chili, because if you start it an hour or so before the game or during the pre-game show, it's perfect to start eating during halftime. Of course, you could start it earlier or throw it in the slow cooker in the morning (probably what we would do next time), and have it ready for the start of the game, but we didn't, so this was our halftime chili.

I looked over some basic turkey chili recipes and from there, put together one of our own that we tweaked as we went along and tasted the chili. The ingredients we used were:

- 1 lb ground turkey
- olive oil for sauteing
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 head of garlic, minced
- 1 16-oz can of kidney beans
- 1 16-oz can of pinto beans
- 1 14.5-oz can of diced tomatoes
- 1 14.5-oz can of diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 1 cup of chicken broth
- chili powder
- chipotle chili powder
- ground cumin
- garlic powder
- ground cinnamon
- paprika
- oregano
- salt and pepper
- ground cayenne pepper
- ground nutmeg
- brown sugar

For garnishes once the chili was done, we used:

- light sour cream
- shredded Mexican cheese blend
- 6 scallions, chopped
- corn chip dippers

The steps for making the chili were:

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot or a Dutch oven (which is what we used).

2. Add onion and green pepper and saute until tender.

3. Add minced garlic and heat for about 30 seconds.

4. Add ground turkey and cook until browned, breaking it up as it cooks.

5. As turkey is cooking, add the seasonings. We didn't measure anything but just estimated based on what we thought would be good. The one we used the most of was the chili powder, and that was probably about 2 tbsp or so. The next "tier" of spices by quantity used were cumin, garlic powder, chipotle chili powder, and cinnamon, followed by the last "tier" of paprika, oregano, salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, and brown sugar. I really think spices depend on individual tastes but that's about how ours broke down in the end.

6. Once turkey is cooked, add the beans (rinsed and drained), diced tomatoes (both kinds, with juices), and the cup of chicken broth.

7. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium low or low to keep it at a simmer. Cook for a few hours. We probably simmered it for close to 3 hours before eating it and it really gave the flavors time to meld. About halfway through, we tried it and adjusted the seasoning to taste.

8. Spoon out chili and garnish with sour cream, cheese, scallions, and chips.

We really liked this chili, even if we didn't get to try it until halfway through the game. It was warm and comforting, and the flavors were really good after simmering for so long. We would definitely make this again sometime.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Zia Green Chile Company

We finally made it out to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg this weekend, which meant we had the opportunity to try a bunch of food vendors that aren't at the other smaller Smorgasburg locations or other food fairs. One of those was Zia Green Chile Company, which specializes in the amazing green chiles that come out of New Mexico. Our only exposure to these green chiles so far (since we haven't yet made it to New Mexico, but it's on our list) has been from canned chiles from the grocery store (which are good, but we're sure not as good as the real thing) or green chile cheeseburgers (which are good, but not that plentiful around here).

Zia was actually our last stop on this Smorgasburg visit, so we're posting about this a little out of order. By this point, we weren't that hungry but just wanted one more thing to finish off our eating adventure for the afternoon. We were also desperately in need of a drink. The day was supposed to be mostly cloudy and/or full of showers, but instead it was blue skies, lots of intense sun, and pretty high (around 75%) humidity. We were drenched, had already gone through multiple bottles of water and iced tea lemonade, and were extremely dehydrated. That was another reason we ended up at Zia, besides the fact that the green chile food items sounded great. They were advertising a drink that sounded perfectly thirst quenching.

Zia's drink of choice was a prickly pear cactus limeade ($4).  This was a very refreshing drink for a hot day. Bright pink, it was pretty mild in flavor, and not overly sweet like some drinks. It also wasn't very tart despite the lime. It was great for that afternoon with its light sweetness.

For our final Smorgasburg snack, we got the green chile Frito pie ($6). Somehow, after all these years of wanting a Frito pie, this was the first one I ever had. Basically it's a bag of Fritos topped with cheese and chili or some other form of meat, which was in this case topped with a layer of green chiles. We really liked these green chiles. They had great flavor, and it made us want to go to New Mexico even more to try them there. There was a good subtle heat to them, but they weren't painfully spicy or anything like that. The Frito pie itself was good, but a little bit hard to eat and mix up in the bag since it wasn't cut open on the side like some Frito pies are. Overall, it was a nice snack.

We enjoyed what we got from Zia Green Chile Company, and would recommend a stop by their stand at Smorgasburg if you want to try some good green chiles. Next time maybe we'll have stomach space for the sopapillas, or if it's in the fall, the posole. (Too hot for posole right now!) Right now though, could really go for a green chile cheeseburger...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Week 26 - One Bite

I'm up to date on the challenges and for the most part, did them in order, but I can't seem to finish these posts in order! Anyway, here's Week 26.

Since I usually make challenge meals for dinner, the Week 26 challenge, one bite, led to a bunch of logistical questions. Most hors d'oeuvres don't have lots of vegetables, so would I be able to fit them in with protein and starch? How would I get hors d'oeuvres to be filling enough for dinner for the 2 of us without getting bored? In the end, I decided that they just wouldn't be enough and we'd have to eat something else on the side. What I ended up choosing was crab toast, an adaptation based on this recipe I found on Serious Eats from a Jean-Georges cookbook, which was already a home adaptation of the ABC Kitchen crab toast that made both of our favorites lists back in 2011. We loved that crab toast, so we hoped we'd like this one too.

I skipped a couple of steps by using bottled sriracha mayo, but I couldn't see making my own when we already had this bottle in the pantry (free from a fundraiser). So the ingredients I used were:

- 3 slices of sourdough bread ($0.50)
- 6 oz can of crab meat ($1.99)
- 3 spoonfuls of sriracha mayo ($0)
- 1 scallion, chopped ($0.15)
- crushed red pepper flakes to taste ($0.05)
- lemon juice to taste ($0.10)
- black pepper to taste ($0.05)

Using canned crab and free sriracha mayo brought the total cost of this part of our meal to less than $3. We ate it with the 5 cheese Greek spiral we picked up from TJ's so it was a pretty cheap dinner. Our original plan was to eat it with an arugula and beet salad, which would have been much healthier, but the Greek spiral cover opened up in transport (you can read more about that here) so we had to eat it sooner rather than later.

Making the crab toast was really easy. I cut up the sourdough slices into smaller, "bite size" pieces (although for me some of them were more like 2 bites), and toasted them for 5 minutes or so in a 350 degree oven while I made the crab topping.

To make the crab part, I just put together the crab, scallions, sriracha mayo, pepper, chili flakes, and lemon juice in a bowl, and mixed them together well. Once that was ready and the toast had cooled for a few minutes, I topped the toast pieces with the crab mixture. For once, I estimated things correctly as the crab topping made with 1 can of crab meat matched up almost perfectly with 3 slices of bread.

The crab toasts were pretty good, but not amazing. They were light and refreshing, definitely helped along by the scallions that weren't in the original recipe. I'm sure they would have been better with freshly made sriracha mayo and crab that didn't come from a can, but it worked for the challenge. That said, I'm not sure if I would make these again for dinner. They were fine, but making little one bite pieces really isn't an extra step I want to take when trying to get dinner on the table during a weeknight. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Blueberry Lemon Curd

Last week's custard at Shake Shack was blueberry lemon curd. This was the one we were most excited about trying this month, and we finally remembered to get it on the last day of its run when we were down in Battery Park City.

A's thoughts:
I enjoyed this flavor quite a bit. I could definitely taste the lemon curd, and the milder blueberry flavor managed to hold its own against the stronger, tart flavor of the lemon. The texture was also an interesting combination of the grittier blended blueberries and the smoothness and creaminess of the custard and lemon curd.

M's thoughts:
I was really excited for this custard since Shake Shack's blueberry coffee cake custard is one of my all-time favorites. This one was good, but that one is still better in my opinion. The first spoonful of this custard had a good mix of blueberry and lemon flavors. As I kept eating it, the blueberry got a bit milder, and most of the flavor was a general citrus flavor with a bit of sweetness. It was fine and I liked it, but I'm not sure if I need to get it again.

Blueberry Lemon Curd
A's rating: 7/10
M's rating: 7/10

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Week 24 - Portuguese

Skipping over the Week 23 post for now since I haven't finished writing it yet, but here's Week 24!

Week 24 was devoted to Portuguese cuisine, and after some searching and wondering whether this would finally be the time that I would tackle salt cod, I decided to make caldo verde, a Portuguese sausage, potato, and kale soup that is sometimes mentioned as the national dish or national soup. Since it was the middle of summer, soup wasn't the obvious choice, but it sounded so healthy and tasty that I couldn't resist. I'm glad I didn't.

I started with this recipe for caldo verde on Allrecipes and then made some adjustments. The ingredients for this simple soup were:

- olive oil for sauteing ($0.30)
- 1 onion, minced ($0.60)
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced ($0.10)
- 7 small to medium sized Russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced ($0.80)
- 12 oz package of smoked linguica sausage, sliced thin ($6.89)
- 2 quarts of water ($0)
- 2 heaping tablespoons of chicken bouillon ($0.60)
- freshly ground black pepper ($0.05)
- 10 oz bag of kale, finely chopped ($1.99)

The linguica, which I picked up from Whole Foods, was not cheap but it was a really good quality product. Even though most of the ingredients were relatively inexpensive, the linguica pushed the total for this soup up to $11.33. (It was over 60% of the cost!) For that price though, it made enough for each of us to have multiple bowls of soup for dinner, and I had enough left for lunch the next day too. So even though it broke the $10 mark that I like to measure our meals by (more of a curiosity measurement than a strict budgetary guideline), it was still fairly economical compared to going out for a filling Portuguese dinner.

As I said, making this soup was really simple, and it's perfect for a weeknight. It takes a bit of time to prep everything, but it was quite manageable. The steps were:

1. Prep - mince onion and garlic, peel and slice potatoes. (It's not required to soak them in a bowl of cold water, but I did it because I prepped them first and didn't want them all to turn brown.)

2. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and saute until onions are softer and translucent. Add the potatoes and saute for a few minutes.

At this point, I forgot to take more step by step pictures (sorry).

3. Add the water, chicken bouillon, and black pepper, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let it simmer on medium low for at least 20 minutes so that the potatoes soften.

4. While the potatoes are softening, in a separate pan, brown the linguica sausage so that a lot of the fat gets released, and then put the sausage in a towel-lined bowl to drain.

(As a side note, that was some really good linguica. I wish I had taken a picture of the sliced up linguica so you could see what it looked like inside. Since it was fully cooked, we ate some slices right out of the package (good), and then some after they cooked a bit (even better). It didn't stay in whole slices after we cooked it, which is probably because I cut the slices too thin, but I think it was even better that way. When I bought it, I said I hoped it was worth the price. It was.)

5. After the potatoes have softened, use the spoon to mash the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the soup and also just break the potatoes up a bit. (The original recipe suggested a food processor, but I really like it partially mashed to add great texture to the soup. Also, if you miss some potato slices in the mashing, who cares? It works just fine.)

6. Add the linguica, put the temp back to medium, and cook for another 5-10 minutes or so.

7. Chop up the kale into small pieces (especially any ribs/stems). Add to the simmering soup and cook for another 5-10 minutes or so. Adjust any seasonings to taste (I didn't do anything). The original recipe also said to add a tablespoon of olive oil here to finish it, but I forgot to do it because I really wanted to start eating. Maybe I'll remember next time.

This caldo verde was great. During the first few spoonfuls, I didn't think it had as much flavor as I was expecting that it would with how seasoned the linguica was, but it really grew on me by the end of the first bowl. I think it's probably one of the best soups we've made at home, and outside of the sausage, it's so healthy. Loading this soup up with so much kale made it taste light and fresh even though it was simultaneously hearty and comforting.

The leftovers tasted even better the next day, and I was so happy that I made this fantastic soup. The key really is the smoky and salty flavoring that comes from the linguica, and I think having smaller, more crumbled pieces really worked well to distribute that flavor even more throughout the soup bowl. Although we might not make this again until the weather gets a little cooler, this will be a great dish to add to our rotation when that time comes.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Taqueria Diana

We've been meaning to post about Taqueria Diana in the East Village for a long time. I first went there back in 2013, a few months after they opened, and loved the tacos that I got. It had been a while since we visited Taqueria Diana, so we decided to head over there for the Mexico slot in our WWC challenge.

Taqueria Diana is a small shop with limited seating in the back, but so far, we've managed to go at the right times to always get a spot. There's a lot to choose from - tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, and chicken - but until this past visit, we always got tacos. (Just a note that this menu photo is outdated, from one of the older drafts we were supposed to finish, and prices have gone up a little since then. Not a tremendous amount, but this isn't completely accurate.)

The tacos at Taqueria Diana are great. Since it's been some time since we had them, we can't describe in detail the flavors of the tacos we got, but here's a photo so you can see how good they look.

On this visit though, we were there for the nachos. I had heard so much about the nachos there, but my love for tacos had always won out on other visits. We decided to go for the chicken nachos ($9.87) and added guacamole (an extra $1.38). The nachos came with a giant pile of chips, topped with chicken, beans, cheese, sauce, some pickled jalapenos, and 3 scoops of guacamole.

The nachos were really tasty, and the portion was far bigger than we had expected. We thought we might go on a food crawl, but this was enough for both of us for lunch and at a very affordable price (for 2 people). What was great about the portion they gave was that there was enough stuff for all of the chips, which you don't find at some places when it comes to nachos. The chips are all fried fresh in-house, and you can definitely taste that difference. Although we liked the chicken version, we're thinking next time we might get the al pastor, since it always looks so good on the spit at the front of the restaurant.

While the nachos were good, we think they would be even better topped with some pico de gallo or the onion/cilantro mix that tops the tacos, just to give it a little bit more brightness and freshness. Also, there's a lack of vegetables which would be fixed by adding one of those toppings. That said, we would definitely get the nachos again.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

WWC 2015 Challenge

The Women's World Cup is officially over and the USWNT won! We're thrilled with their success and hope women's sports will continue to gain more respect in the years to come.

We didn't do that well with our challenge, visiting just 37.5% of the countries involved (although it goes up to 71% if you count the ones we "waived"), but between the July 4th holiday weekend, a bunch of weekends with other things planned, and general fatigue, we did the best we could. We're happy that at least we got to one African restaurant, since we failed to do that last year and were really disappointed about that. Unlike last year's challenge, this time we can say that we visited at least one restaurant for each confederation.

Here's how we did:

Completed (post links to be added as we finish them, hopefully soon)
China (1, 2)
New Zealand
South Korea

Waived (see here for why)

Not Completed
Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ivory Coast, Norway, Switzerland

We feel a little bad about missing Canada since they're the host country, but we did do a Canadian WorldEats exploration before, so at least we haven't completely neglected Canada during our blog's history. Now that the Women's World Cup is over, it's time to concentrate on WorldEats (and writing up all the posts we still haven't gotten to about all the places we've tried) and exploring lots more new foods!

Mandoo Bar

Early in the World Cup, we checked off South Korea for our WWC challenge. Technically, we didn't have to get Korean food at all for the challenge (explanation here) since we did it last year for the men's challenge, but we were having a lazy Saturday, just walking around instead of biking, and Koreatown was close for lunch. We almost went to get Korean fried chicken, just like last year, but decided to try to do something different and headed into Mandoo Bar for some mandoo (dumplings). The menu sounded good and we could see them making the dumplings in the window, so we were hopeful that they would be good.

To start off the meal, they gave each of us a salad. It was a very simple salad - just lettuce, red cabbage, and carrots with a ginger dressing - but it was refreshing and great for a summer afternoon.

They also dropped off a bowl of cold soy-pickled vegetables, including carrots, pickles, and what seemed to us like turnips. These were pretty good, also very refreshing.

We got 2 orders of mandoo. We weren't sure if that would be enough for lunch but with so many options in the city, we figured we could make a food crawl out of it if they weren't. First to arrive were the kimchee mandoo ($11.50 for 10 pieces), which were steamed dumplings filled with kimchee, tofu, pork, and vegetables.

We also got the combo mandoo plate ($14 for 12 pieces), which was 4 pieces each of the boiled pork, vegetable, and seafood dumplings. The pork ones were the white ones, the vegetables were green, and the seafood were orange. Rather than order any of those separately ($11 for 10 pieces in the case of pork or vegetable, $12 for 10 pieces for seafood), we thought it would be better to try out the combo so we could taste more, especially since we didn't know which would be our favorite.

The dumplings were all pretty good, but even though this is a restaurant that seems to specialize in mandoo by their name, we wouldn't say they're the best dumplings we've ever had. The flavor of the kimchee one was probably our favorite. It had a bit of heat to it from the kimchee, but it wasn't that strong or overwhelming. It just lent a nice flavor to the dumpling. However, the outer skin on that one, especially as the mandoo sat longer, got a bit tough and chewy, making it harder to eat.

From the combo, we liked the flavors of the pork and vegetable ones. Our least favorite dumpling overall was the seafood. It was fine, but the shrimp, crabstick, and vegetable combo inside just tasted a little strange in the dumpling, and we preferred the others. The texture of the combo dumpling wrappers was fantastic, just the right amount of chewiness, and that lasted for as long as it took us to eat them, unlike with the kimchee dumplings.

Overall, we had a nice lunch at Mandoo Bar. If we go back, we think we would want to try the goon mandoo - the pork and vegetable pan-fried dumplings - that we saw them making in the window. Those looked pretty good. We love dumplings and it's nice to have a spot where you can get so many different varieties!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Lunch

Today, to celebrate Independence Day, we took part in the closest thing we have to an Independence Day tradition - a morning movie followed by lunch at Five Guys. Cheeseburgers and fries always seem like the perfect way to celebrate the United States. This time, we decided that this visit would also count as our USA visit for the Women's World Cup challenge.

There isn't too much to say about this meal since we already reviewed the Five Guys Times Square location back when it opened (although it's much more crowded there now), and Five Guys is pretty standard across all of its outlets. On this visit, we got some cajun fries, free peanuts, and cheeseburgers (a "little" cheeseburger for me and the regular double patty for A) with lots of toppings as always. It was as good as it always is.

The final for the Women's World Cup is tomorrow, and we're really excited. Go USA!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Turkey Club Wrap

Today for lunch I picked up a turkey club wrap ($3.99) from Trader Joe's. We don't often get the pre-made sandwiches from there (unless we're headed to the airport), but I was getting groceries after running some errands in Jersey and got really hungry (the sample of fried avocado was not enough). I went with the turkey club wrap because it didn't require dipping sauce (I was eating in the car) and it was one of the few we hadn't already tried. I hoped it would be good!

The turkey club wrap consisted of turkey, spinach, and uncured turkey bacon with a creamy tomato dressing in a tomato tortilla. Overall, it was just okay. The turkey was basic sliced turkey, not very flavorful, but fine. The spinach seemed a bit wilted and had that "older spinach" taste to it, which I suppose is not entirely unexpected since it came in a refrigerated wrap. I didn't really taste much from the creamy tomato dressing, but there was something there. I wouldn't have been able to tell you it was "creamy tomato dressing" without the label though. The tortilla was clearly a tomato tortilla since it was orange, but it didn't have much distinct flavor other than a tinge of sweetness. The tortilla was also a bit gummy unfortunately. The standout was definitely the turkey bacon. The placement of the bacon was a little off-center, so the first few bites didn't have much of the bacon, but that's what really added all of the flavor to the wrap.

Buy Again? Probably not. The sandwich was okay, but nothing amazing. It's also pretty high in fat and sodium. There's still a few more sandwiches that we haven't tried yet so I'd probably go for one of those instead.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 2015 Custard Calendar

Hello July! (How is this year going by this quickly?!) New custard calendar is up!

We did okay with the June set of custards, but it's still been a challenge trying to adjust to this weekly schedule (instead of a custard of the day schedule). Before, if you forgot and missed a custard, or if you were away or busy for a week, no big deal, just get it next week. Under the new system, we seem to be missing out on a lot of custards. We did manage to get the Stumptown coffee cardamom, but we mixed up the dates on cherry streusel and missed it (our fault), and then just ran out of time in a busy week for strawberry almond. We kind of miss the old days.

Anyway, here's the line-up for this month, full of bold summery fruit flavors:

Week 1 (July 1-5) - caramelized peach (6.25/10)
Week 2 (July 6-12) - blueberry lemon curd (new to us)
Week 3 (July 13-19) - malted chocolate cheesecake (new to us)
Week 4 (July 20-26) - raspberry fromage blanc (8/10 - assuming it's the same as fromage blanc raspberry swirl)
Week 5 (July 27-31) - salted buttery caramel (new to us)

Pretty excited about blueberry lemon curd! Hopefully we won't mess up the dates on that one like we did for cherry streusel....