Thursday, August 31, 2017

Stan's Donuts and Coffee

After feasting on fried chicken sandwiches and a donut, M and I decided to digest a bit by walking around the block. We did this because we ended up wanting another donut from Stan's Donuts and Coffee. Stan's is an LA institution that opened their first outpost in Chicago in 2014, a year before our visit. They have since opened additional locations across the city and suburbs.

Stan's was started out in LA back in 1963 near UCLA. They moved out to Chicago when they partnered with a Chicago-based bakery that loved the passion from the owner of Stan's on TV. We ended up only getting one donut, the lemon pistachio old fashioned, since we had just eaten lunch and another donut, and I got some coffee to go with it.

The donut itself had a nice crunch to the exterior that covered the soft, moist interior. The glaze had an amazing amount of pistachio flavor, and they studded it with crushed pistachio. Overall this was a delicious donut. I don't remember much of anything about the coffee, but it served its purpose of pairing with the coffee. It was a delicious dessert to our first dessert.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Doughnut Vault

Since we're currently in the middle of a bunch of Chicago doughnut posts from our 2015 road trip, this seemed like a good time to jump back to another doughnut shop we visited in 2012 that we didn't have a chance to revisit on that 2015 trip: Doughnut Vault.

At the time, Doughnut Vault had been open for a little over a year in their tiny location on Franklin Street, and we only knew three things about them: the doughnuts were supposed to be good, they sold out fast, and the lines could get really, really long. They made a set number of doughnuts every day, and once they were gone, the shop was closed. We were a little on the later side when we headed over there (around 10:45 am) since we had gone to Do-Rite first, so we weren't even sure they would still be open when we got there. They were, and we were happy to see that there were only a couple of people in front of us in line. Maybe it was because it was cold or because it was a random Tuesday in September, or maybe we just got lucky. While they did still have doughnuts, they were almost sold out of their entire inventory. They only had about 10 left, so we really just made it.

We got the gingerbread stack, which for some reason I thought was going to be a single gingerbread donut but turned out to be three. (You would think I would have realized that from the name "stack" but apparently not.) They were a little smaller in size than other doughnuts because of the stack, and were very soft and kind of cake-like with a light gingerbread flavor.

The other doughnut we got was the buttermilk old-fashioned. This one had a little bit of a chewier texture to it, which we kind of liked, but because of the type of doughnut it was, it was much, much richer. We had been hoping for a glazed doughnut or maybe a special if they had one, but these were the only two types left by the time we got there so we of course got them to try. They were good, but we prefer other styles so they weren't our favorites.

We sat outside, shivering in the cold, eating our doughnuts (and in A's case, drinking coffee to try to warm up), and watched as the last few customers wandered into the shop and bought the final doughnuts for the day. Before we even finished eating, the sold out sign was in the window and any future patrons were out of luck. We did enjoy the doughnuts there and would return, but considering how many good doughnut shops there are in Chicago and how much we dislike waiting in line, I doubt we would wait if the line was wrapped around the block, as it still seems to be five years later.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Double Do-Rite Donuts

After our less-than-satisfying char dog, we spent some time enjoying the sunny weather in Millennium Park and took a walk up the lakeshore to our old neighborhood of Streeterville. Our plan was to get lunch from Do-Rite Donuts, which we had visited in the Loop on an earlier trip, but which now had chicken sandwiches that sounded delicious. (Funny coincidence, on that earlier trip, we had gotten Do-Rite and then Gold Coast Dogs later in the day, while on this trip we had Gold Coast Dogs and then Do-Rite later in the day, something I never even realized until putting this post together.)

On our first visit to Do-Rite a couple of years earlier, we were kicking off the morning with some coffee and doughnuts. I don't know when it happened, as it wasn't the case when we had moved out of Chicago seven years earlier, but by the time we made this visit in 2012, Chicago had become a serious doughnut city. We hit up quite a few of the big players on the trip, and Do-Rite was one of them. A picked up a Dark Matter coffee (which he thought wasn't bad, but he was expecting a dark roast because of the name and it turned out to be lighter and not as bold), and then we got three doughnuts to split.

The three doughnuts we got were the valrhona chocolate glazed, the maple bacon, and the special of the day, which had a pineapple glaze, shredded coconut, and nuts. It's been about five years, so we don't really remember that many details, but we do remember that we thought the doughnuts were quite good. If I had to guess, I'd say that my favorite was probably the daily special since I love pineapple and shredded coconut, but A thinks we might have liked the valrhona chocolate the best because the chocolate was excellent. (This is the problem when you don't take notes and don't write a post while the memories are still fresh.)

And now back to our 2015 road trip visit. We knew we would eventually get doughnuts from Do-Rite since we knew they were good, but first, it was time for chicken sandwiches. We split two for lunch, the "original" and the CBR. We had considered getting the one called "The Sweet Heat," which was a fried chicken sandwich with spicy maple aioli on a glazed doughnut, for the novelty of having a fried chicken sandwich on a doughnut "bun" (although we have seen that concept elsewhere since), but decided not to and to get "regular" chicken sandwiches instead.

The original chicken sandwich contained a fried chicken breast, special mayo, lettuce, and dill pickles. This sandwich was good, very basic, but a little bit bland in flavor, especially compared to the other sandwich. The texture of the fried chicken was good. The lettuce was a little more like cabbage, which was something we weren't expecting, and we weren't really sure what made the mayo special but it seemed nice and creamy.

The CBR stood for (aged) cheddar, bacon, and ranch (mayo), and we got the spicy version of this sandwich. This sandwich had much more flavor than the other one, probably from the bacon, but we wouldn't really call it spicy. Cheddar, bacon, and ranch is usually a good combination, and that was the case here as well. The CBR is still on the menu online, which is nice to see.

Considering we eat a lot of fried chicken sandwiches (especially in 2015, which was kind of the year of fried chicken sandwiches for us personally and they seemed to be everywhere), these probably fall in the middle part of the list for us. They were good and we enjoyed them, but we definitely have others we like better at home (like Hill Country Chicken, Bobwhite). We would try more varieties at Do-Rite though. Who would say no to more fried chicken sandwiches?

After we finished our chicken sandwiches, we went back in for a doughnut, this time choosing the cinnamon old fashioned topped with cinnamon sugar. This was a good cake doughnut, very soft in texture, with good cinnamon flavor. Do-Rite definitely does doughnuts well. We've had good experiences both times we've visited, so we would return.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Gold Coast Dogs

Two years ago today, we were in Chicago, kicking off a day of sightseeing and family time with some Chicago-style hot dogs, so we're going to jump back into recapping some of the spots we visited back then. Since some spots (like this one) are repeats of places we went to but didn't recap on other trips, we're just going to combine them all together.

We lived in Chicago together for three years, and during that entire time, I never once had a Chicago-style hot dog (mostly because I wasn't eating much red meat back then). To remedy the situation, we decided to go on a hot dog crawl on one of our visits back to the city in 2012. We hit up Hot Doug's and a few other spots, trying lots of Chicago-style dogs. After trying a bunch of them, my favorite was Gold Coast Dogs, a decades-old Chicago mini-chain. It was so good that it even made my top 10 list that year, and that was a year of really tough competition.

The offering from Gold Coast Dogs consisted of a charred hot dog on a poppy seed bun topped with mustard, onions, tomatoes, pickles, neon green relish, sport peppers, and celery salt. While we had a lot of good ones on our crawl, this one just stood out for the freshness of the toppings, the snap of the dog, and the flavor of the charred hot dog. It was really satisfying. After that crawl, I really started to understand why people loved Chicago-style hot dogs so much. With all those toppings, they were much more exciting than your average hot dog.

Having had such a good experience at Gold Coast Dogs the first time, we were excited to return during our road trip back in 2015. On our way from our hotel to Millennium Park, we stopped by the same location in the Loop that we went to the last time and ordered a couple of char dogs. When we looked down at our tray, our first thought was, "Where did all the toppings go?" It felt like there was a lot less on the hot dog than on our other visit, and a quick comparison with the photo from a few years earlier showed a stark difference. The taste of the hot dog was fine, but it was definitely lacking in the toppings department. Since that's one of the best parts about eating a Chicago-style hot dog, we were really disappointed. We probably won't be returning to that location again. Instead, on our next visit, we may have to go on another hot dog crawl to find a new favorite!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August TJ's Medley

This past weekend was the 50th anniversary of Trader Joe's, meaning that they had parties at some locations and a fantastic sale with several popular items (avocado, eggs, canned corn, spaghetti, and baguettes) for only 50 cents each. We definitely went there to take advantage of that. We're pretty behind on posting about a lot of the new TJ's stuff we've tried lately, so here are some quick reviews.

Rosemary and Cheese Biscuits ($2.99)

Quick review: Rosemary and cheese (here, cheddar and parmigiano reggiano) are a great combination, so it was no surprise that these biscuits were really tasty. They're called biscuits on the box here, but they were basically like crumbly savory cookies. You could really taste the rosemary, and it gave the whole biscuit a nice herbaceous flavor. The cheese added just the right amount of saltiness to balance it all out. We bought these last fall/winter but only ate them recently since their expiration date was nearing, so unfortunately we have no idea if they're still on the shelves. (We were kind of distracted by the sale on our last visit, and they were marked as holiday crackers on the receipt at the time.)

Buy again? Yes. We probably wouldn't get them on a regular basis since they're not that great for you health-wise, but they're a nice treat.

Cold Pressed Matcha Green Tea Lemonade ($3.99)

Quick review: M saw this in the Fearless Flyer and was pretty intrigued by it because it contained several of her favorite things. The ingredients were simple - lemon juice, water, Manuka honey, and matcha powder - and because it was cold pressed, it wasn't cheap. It pretty much just tasted like good lemonade with a little hint of matcha to it. 

Buy again? Maybe as a treat. We don't regularly buy cold pressed juices from TJ's because they're kind of expensive (cheaper than a juice shop though), but we do like trying some of the new varieties and getting them every so often as a treat. We would get this one again in those circumstances.

Turkey Meatballs (can't find receipt for price but will update after our next visit)

Quick review: These meatballs come from the frozen section, and are really quick and easy to make. All you need to do is microwave them for 4 minutes, and they're ready to eat. We ended up only microwaving them for 2.5 minutes because we were going to finish heating them up in tomato sauce, but that worked fine. A touch spongy in texture, but overall good flavor.

Buy again? Yes. They're a quick and easy supplement to pasta night, and fairly versatile in other dishes. Sometimes you just need simple conveniences that are always around in the freezer.

Kohlrabi Salad Blend ($2.49)

Quick review: We've never actually bought kohlrabi before because we weren't sure how closely related it really was to broccoli (for food allergy concerns), but this salad blend looked like a good way to find out (it was fine). The blend had shredded kohlrabi, red cabbage, kale, and golden beets. Although it could be eaten as a raw salad, we opted to cook it instead so it would be easier to digest (and the bag also suggests it as an option). We prepared this simply, sauteing the vegetables in olive oil with garlic, salt, and a dash of Trader Joe's onion salt. We did our best to put in just enough to accent the flavor while allowing the tastes of the fresh vegetables to come out. Everything was crisp with a hint of sweetness from the slices of the golden beets. It was actually a really good mix of hearty vegetables, which we needed since we ate this on pasta night.

Buy again? Yes. It's a quick and easy side dish to prepare that's also quite healthy.

Friday, August 11, 2017

2nd Ave Deli

We haven't made as much progress on our pastrami taste-off for this year as I thought we would, but I at least was able to get out to 2nd Ave Deli with my coworkers to welcome some new members. I still wish I had been able to try it when it was at its original location on 2nd Avenue, but walking over to 3rd Avenue was well worth it.

Pastrami is always a little on the salty side, but this pastrami was so rich and delicate. It melted in my mouth, and was incredibly delicious. I ended up adding a small spot of mustard to enhance the flavor, and the tartness really accented the flavors of the pastrami. This was easily the best pastrami sandwich I had ever had, and I'm extremely excited to next try to hit up Katz's as the coworker who set this lunch up made it very clear that, as good as I thought this was, Katz's is just transcendent. Hopefully M and I can make that judgment for ourselves!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Georgetown Patties

On one of our visits to the Queens International Night Market, we chanced across Georgetown Patties, a Guyanese stand serving an assortment of patties, tarts, and drinks. Seeing as how there are so few Guyanese restaurants in NYC, and definitely none close to us, we figured this would be an excellent opportunity to check off another WorldEats country.

When we first got to the stand, we asked what they had, and all they had available were the pine tarts. We first thought that meant something using pine needles or some sort of extract from them, but it ended up just being pineapple filled tarts. It was the start of our "dinner" at the night market though, so we weren't really in the mood for sweet at the time. They said the chicken and the beef patties would take a little more time to finish baking, so we decided to go back later.

When we went back, they were just finishing up taking out the beef patties, so we got one chicken and one beef to make sure we could try them both. Because of our experience with other pies and patties from Caribbean islands, we were expecting flavorful, stew-like fillings inside buttery crust, something like turnovers or Jamaican beef patties. What we found inside the bags instead were patties that bore more resemblance to British pies. Of course, this made some sense seeing as how Guyana used to be British Guiana back when they were part of the British Empire, but we didn't really make that connection until we saw the patties (which we can't stop calling pies). 

We first tried the beef one. Inside was a filling of ground beef with a minimal amount of spices. We both thought this was the better of the two as the beef just seemed to pair better with the crust. Even after we tried the beef patty and found it to just be ground meat instead of a stew, we were still for some reason expecting the chicken patty to be filled with some sort of stew or curry. Clearly our other experiences with Caribbean cuisine were influencing our expectations (although Wikipedia's summary of Guyanese cuisine suggests we weren't far off since curry is very popular there). The chicken patty was mostly filled with chopped chicken. It also had some chopped up vegetables mixed in that were visible after we bit into it the first time, but couldn't really taste. Similar to the beef, it wasn't very highly seasoned, and probably even less than the beef.

We really weren't sure what to expect from our first experience with Guyanese cuisine, but we enjoyed it. We were mildly disappointed at first because, in our heads, we kept thinking about Caribbean patties when they were, in fact, more like British pies. That being said, the flaky, buttery crust was delicious, and the filling, while not of the same flavor profile as some other Caribbean pies, was still good. Hopefully at some point we'll get to a Guyanese restaurant in our city, but for now we can eat patties in the summers.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Week 28 - Vanilla

After baking and berries, seeing vanilla pop up on the challenge list was a little painful. All of those things would be great if I were making desserts for the challenge, but I have been pretty set on sticking with dinner whenever possible. There was a vanilla challenge during my first year doing this challenge and I made some tasty macaroons, but really wasn't feeling inspired to make any dessert with vanilla this time around. Been there, done that, don't really feel like making more vanilla-flavored things. I looked at all the vanilla submissions that other people sent in and other sites of vanilla-filled recipes, but couldn't find a single savory dish I wanted to make, so I just decided I wasn't going to make something new.

Somewhat recently, A made some banana bread, and his version of banana bread used vanilla extract (along with flour, sugar, bananas (obviously), and coconut oil). Sure, it wasn't a whole vanilla bean like I did for the last challenge, but vanilla is vanilla. Good enough for me since I'm not officially participating anyway. (Normally A uses melted butter to make this, but just for fun he opted to use coconut oil to see how it would turn out this time, and it was good.)

I really like when A makes banana bread since it's not overly sweet, and the magic number for the texture of banana bread we like seems to be three bananas. Since the temperature is kind of warm in our apartment and bananas ripen quickly, it's a good thing we have a tasty banana bread recipe to rely on.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Week 27 - Garlic

We love garlic, and so much of what we cook already includes garlic, so the big question for the garlic challenge was to figure out what we could make that really shone a spotlight on garlic. Sometime after the challenge theme was announced, BBC Good Food published a recipe for cheesy garlic bread wedges, and the timing couldn't be more perfect. I bookmarked it for the garlic challenge, and then got around to making it a few weeks after the challenge. (Very behind this year...)

We generally followed the recipe, since the photos that accompanied it were drool-worthy and we wanted similar results, but did make some adaptations as usual. The ingredients we used were:

- 2 ciabatta sandwich rolls ($2.50)
- 5 tbsp of butter, room temperature ($0.31)
- 10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped ($0.40)
- freshly ground black pepper, dried oregano, dried parsley, red pepper flakes ($0.20)
- about 1/4 lb of Jarlsberg lite cheese, shredded ($2.21)

The cost of the garlic bread was about $5.62. We probably could have gotten less expensive bread, but we made this several days after our grocery store visit and went to the local bakery instead for some fresh ciabatta.

The process for making the garlic bread was simple, but time-consuming, especially if you don't take the butter out to warm up to room temperature until you start prepping everything else. Basically, you chop up the garlic, mix it with the seasonings, and then beat that with the room temperature butter. Shred the cheese and then combine that with the butter mixture. Spread the thick butter-cheese-garlic mixture over each half of the ciabatta all the way to the edges. Last steps are to bake it at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes in loose foil pouches, and then open the pouches to bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Our garlic bread didn't come out quite as cheesy as the one in the BBCGF picture, as they probably used much more cheese than we did. We were happy with the results here though as the garlic flavor really came through, and it was so buttery and garlicky and delicious. In addition to the bread, the little bits of buttery cheese that fell off the ends of the bread and cooked on the foil were tasty cheese crunchies by the time the bread was done which was a nice bonus. This was actually the first time we had ever made garlic bread at home, and it was a pretty successful experiment.

Since garlic bread alone wasn't going to be a full meal, and we also needed some vegetables to offset the bread, we decided to make some pasta with a sauce full of zucchini, mushrooms, onions, and of course, lots of garlic. It was originally going to be turkey meatballs and mushrooms, but then one of my parents' friends gifted them a giant homegrown zucchini which was too big for them so they passed half of it down to us. It was seriously massive, so we decided to just swap that in for the meatballs for an unintentional Meatless Monday.

We had a ton of sauce left over after dinner, mostly thanks to the zucchini. It was a pretty good sauce and a nice garlicky accompaniment to the garlic bread, which was really the star of the night. Would definitely make that again.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Antiguan Adventure

We love going to the Queens International Night Market. There are so many interesting things to eat, and it's the perfect spot to go to make some WorldEats progress. While many of the vendors return every week, the lineup does vary week to week, and it's always fun looking to see who is showing up on any given Saturday. When we looked at the list for the most recent night market, we were excited to see Caribbean Soul, specializing in Antiguan and Southern eats. We've never had anything for WorldEats to represent Antigua and Barbuda, and we didn't have any places on our list to go, so we mentally bookmarked them for a visit.

They had a few different menu options. We saw some people get the fried chicken and cole slaw, which looked delicious, but we were really focused on the Antiguan dishes we had never had before. The first thing we tried was the codfish fritter ($1 each), to which they added a honey and tamarind sauce before serving it.

The honey tamarind sauce gave everything a pleasantly sweet note. The crisp exterior of the fritter encased the smooth, almost creamy texture of the fish inside. The fish itself was mildly salty, and it paired very well with the sweet sauce on top.

The dish we most wanted to try was ducana and saltfish ($5). We had no idea what ducana was when we got in line, but that was why we knew we had to try it. We looked it up on Wikipedia while waiting and learned that it was an Antiguan boiled sweet potato dumpling (also found in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (another country we haven't done yet for WorldEats) and other islands in the Caribbean). Texturally, it was like a tamale but without filling and much denser. Flavor-wise it was like nothing we had ever had. The sweet potato and coconut gave it a really nice, mildly sweet and nutty flavor. You could really taste the coconut, and it was quite delicious.

We tried the ducana, the saltfish, and the spinach separately, and while the saltfish and spinach tasted good on their own, very fresh and clean, they tasted even better when mixed with the ducana. The freshness of the spinach, combined with the saltiness of the cod, and finally melded with the sweetness of the ducana made this a truly unique and delicious flavor combination. We were really glad that we happened to go to the night market on the day that they showed up with delicious Antiguan food. We got to try something new and it was great!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Week 26 - Berries

I think I say this on a regular basis because of the cooking challenge, but I'm not a huge fan of mixing fruit into savory dishes. Citrus really isn't too much of a problem, apples are generally fine, and there are some other fruits I can tolerate in savory dishes, but outside of lingonberries with my Swedish meatballs (and I have no access to lingonberries really), I'm not into using berries in savory dishes. For one, I find them incredibly sweet, almost too sweet for most dishes. Second, berries are so expensive that it just seems like a waste to blend them up for sauces and stuff. Third, my favorite way to eat berries is whole and unadulterated. So needless to say, I wasn't a big fan of the Week 26 challenge.

At least, I wasn't until I read the weekly challenge description where they gave a very broad description of what constituted a berry. Basically, this comes from the difference between what we normally think of as a berry and the botanical definition of a berry. Botanically, according to Wikipedia, a berry is "a simple fruit with seeds and pulp produced from the ovary of a single flower." That brought in tomatoes, eggplants, pumpkins, bananas, and things I was much happier about making for dinner. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to make, but I knew it would be centered around the tomato.

We were shopping for groceries for the week, and unlike most weeks, I was without a meal plan and shopping list since we weren't originally supposed to be in the city at the time (long story). I was browsing through the tomato section and the grape tomatoes just looked so plump, red, and fresh. Not far away, there was a section of gigantic local cucumbers, so I decided to just make a salad full of grape tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and feta cheese, along with olive oil, red wine vinegar, and some salt and pepper. All together, it was probably about $6 for a giant bowl of fresh vegetables, perfect for a 90 degree summer day.

We paired the salad with a couple of baked chicken tenders, and it was a healthy, light dinner. I was so much happier making this than I would have been using anything we commonly think of as berries, and was very thankful for the botanical definition!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Week 25 - California Cuisine

When I thought of California cuisine, the first words that came to mind were local and produce, since the produce out on the West Coast is so much better on average than anything we can get here. In addition to local produce, even though we've never been to the restaurant, one of the places that really stood out in my mind when I thought about California cuisine was Gjelina in Venice, so I started off looking for fresh vegetable recipes inspired by or from Gjelina. Lucky for me, there was a Gjelina cookbook with some recipes reprinted online, and the recipe for braised sweet corn seemed perfect for this challenge.

Whole Foods had an amazing sale on corn - 10 ears for $1 - around the time we were going to do this challenge, which made this so much easier and more affordable. The ingredients for our version of the braised sweet corn were:

- 6 ears of corn, shucked
- salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallots, minced
- crumbled feta cheese 
- onion salt (TJs), to taste
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 batch of cilantro, chopped 

The steps for making the corn were:

- shave corn kernels off cob and set aside
- scrape cobs with back of knife to extract milk and set aside milk
- cut cobs into smaller pieces
- place cut cobs in saucepan covered with cold water and season with salt
- bring to boil, cover, simmer on medium low until stock is cloudy and smells like corn (about 40 min)
- strain and discard cobs, but save corn stock for use
- prep shallots and cilantro while corn stock is in process

[I had no idea there was corn milk or that making corn stock was even a thing until I saw this recipe, but it felt really good knowing that we were using all parts of the corn and nothing was going to waste.]

- heat olive oil in sauce pan and add shallots, cooking until softer
- add corn kernels and season with salt
- add corn stock (1 cup), corn milk, some feta cheese, and cook for a few minutes until liquid has reduced a little
- add the lime juice and onion salt
- remove from heat and stir in cilantro and some more feta cheese

We ate the braised corn along with some baked panko chicken and avocado (how could I leave avocado out of California cuisine week?), and there definitely seemed to be California vibes to the dish. We really liked the braised sweet corn, but it didn't taste so dramatically different from and/or better than other similar corn dishes we've made before (if we were to make them with non-roasted corn, dishes like esquites or a simple corn and vegetables saute) considering all the extra work involved. Glad we tried this experiment, and it definitely had great corn flavor, but considering how slow I am in the kitchen, I think I'll stick to the easier versions.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Avocado or Matcha

On one of our Trader Joe's shopping trips this summer, I came across some new flavors in the Greek whole milk yogurt line that I just had to try. I'm always up for trying new yogurt flavors, especially ones that are unique. I didn't actually get around to trying them until weeks later since we were eating the yogurt in the fridge in order of expiration date, so hopefully the availability of flavors on the shelves hasn't completely changed in such a short time.

The first was avocado citrus, and this one has been pretty widely publicized by both TJ's and the food sites, probably because people love talking about avocado. The citrus here comes from blood orange concentrate, also not your typical yogurt flavor, which brightens up the flavor a lot. I'm not really sure what I was expecting, but the avocado gave the yogurt an earthiness that I'm not sure I really liked that much. It was fine, but I probably won't get this one again.

The other new yogurt on the shelves on that shopping trip was the matcha green tea flavor. Throughout the year, TJ's has seemed to be experimenting with a bunch of new matcha products, like the Joe-Joe's and some other stuff, so the yogurt seemed like a natural next step. Oddly, there is almost nothing online about this yogurt except some posts from 2007-2008. It's almost like it doesn't exist, which is a little worrisome for me since I liked this one so much more than the avocado citrus which earned a spot in the Fearless Flyer.

It completely slipped my mind that I should take note of the ingredients in this yogurt, but I think at the time I had just expected that it would be widely reviewed online. I'm not sure what exactly was in it but you can definitely taste the matcha. I had never had tea-flavored yogurt before, but after eating this, I loved it and wanted to buy a case of it if it was still in stock. The flavor was so light and clean and really pleasing, a nice way to start the day. I really hope they're still carrying this, because I need more of it!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Week 24 - Baking

I couldn't decide on something new and special to make for the baking challenge, so I decided that whatever I baked around the challenge weeks would be good enough. In this case, I needed to use up an open package of smoked salmon, so a baked salmon and tots casserole was the plan.

There wasn't too much prep to this. I baked the tots most of the way to done, cooked the peppers and onions from a freezer bag that had been sitting there for far too long, and beat about 4 eggs. (Yes, this was kind of a pantry clean-out meal.) After greasing the baking pan, I added the tots in a layer on the bottom, topped them with the peppers and onions, and then added about half the egg mixture. The smoked salmon went on top of that, along with the rest of the egg mixture and then a layer of Mexican shredded cheese blend.

I made this some time ago and am only getting around to writing about it now, so I don't remember the actual baking details like temperature and time (you know, the actual challenge). I'm guessing I would have done 400 degrees, and then just baked it until the eggs looked fully cooked through.

The casserole was pretty good and an easy way to use up things that were taking up space in our fridge and freezer. It was also quick and simple to make with minimal prep, so perfect for a weekday meal unlike a lot of my challenge choices.