Showing posts with label Tastemaker's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tastemaker's. Show all posts

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Book Reviews & Burgers: Spiced Beef Patties in Pita Pockets with Sweet Potato Fries & Tzatziki for Two Great Mystery / Thrillers

I am still working on reading and reducing the stack of review books by my nightstand and I am a bit delinquent on getting some of them posted. Here are two great reads--especially for anyone interested in mystery/thrillers with strong female lead characters. Although the characters and settings are different ... a cop and a lawyer, Nashville and Nova Scotia ..., both books are the kind of absorbing reads that once you start, you will want to keep reading until you are done--even if it means missing a little sleep along the way! With the reviews, a tasty dinner (somewhat) inspired by the books.

"So Close the Hand of Death" by J.T. Ellison, is the sixth book in the Taylor Jackson series, following the Nashville homicide lieutenant as her nemesis, "The Pretender" draws closer, threatening Taylor and those she loves. Meanwhile killings are going on in different locations of the country, copying infamous serial killers--Son of Sam, the Zodiac Killer and the Boston Strangler. With murders in so many places, it obviously not the work of one person and Taylor, fiance FBI profiler John Baldwin, and her team are working frantically to find the killers. The action is non-stop throughout the book and author Ellison makes it feel very real and authentic. J.T.
Ellison used to work both in the White House and for The Department of Commerce and was a financial analyst and marketing director for defense and aerospace contractors in the private sector before quitting and moving to Nashville. There she followed her passions for writing, forensics and crime--researching her books with the Nashville police and the FBI.

Although the book is part of a series, it does stand just fine on its own--although it will leave you wanting more Taylor Jackson. I started with the fifth book in the series, "The Imortals" (my review is here), but I got so caught up with the characters that I bought the first four books and read those too. A good stay-up-late-until-you-finish-it-and-then-desperately-wish-there-was-more kind of read.


The second book, "Indefensible" by Pamela Callow is the second book in a series, with a third coming out soon. In this mystery/thriller, attorney Kate Lange defends her boss and senior partner of her law firm for the murder of his ex-wife, when everyone, including his partners and even his children thinks he did it. The book is suspenseful, although most of the action really gets going in the second half of the book. It can stand alone, but references to the earlier book and the things that happened made me wish I had read the first book ("Damaged"), before starting this one. No matter, I loaded it onto my Kindle right after finishing this one and it is equally as good.

Author Pamela Callow, grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the setting of her books. A degree in English Literature, then law school and acceptance to the Nova Scotia Bar lead to an interest in public policy and a Master's Degree in Public Administration, followed by a stint as a strategy consultant before staying at home to raise her family and starting a career in writing. Right now there are planned to be four books in the Kate Lange series, and I intend to read my way through all of these well-written, legal thrillers.

I always cook alongside my book reviews and it was a bit difficult coming up with a dish inspired by both books for this post. Although Taylor Jackson does seem to enjoy food and several meals were eaten in the book, the only real food Kate Lange ate was takeout Indian at the beginning of the book. Since Taylor seems to love a good burger, I decided to fancy one up. I was going to make an Indian-spiced burger, but tastes of a "chakchouka" (a mixture of red bell pepper, tomato, garlic and harissa popular in North Africa and the Middle East), and tzatziki from the farmers market made me decide on a more global burger. It might be a little fancy for Taylor's burger tastes but it should be multi-cultural enough to please Kate. These Spiced Beef Patties in Pita Pockets tasted great with some Alexia Crinkle Cut Sweet Potato Fries with Sea Salt and Pepper (which I received from the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program) and Tzatziki.

Spiced Beef Patties
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 3 full sandwiches)

1 lb lean ground beef, preferably local (I used Maui beef)
1/2 cup sweet onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp chopped mint
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil

4 whole wheat pitas, cut in half
8 slices of tomato
lettuce, shredded
red pepper or prepared chakchouka

Mix all ingredients through pepper together. Make into 6 oval shaped patties that will fir into pita pockets. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add burgers and cook until done to your liking.

Open pita pocket halves and place shredded lettuce and a spiced beef patty in each half. Add 2 tomato slices and 1 tablespoon of chakchouka spread. Serve warm.

Notes/Results: These turned out very well--moist and tender burgers with good flavor from the onion, garlic and spices. The sweet and spicy taste of the chakchouka spread was delicious on them. I bought mine at the farmers market but I plan to play around with making my own sometime--it's great on burgers, sandwiches, crackers, pita bread, etc. The Alexia Sweet Potato Fries taste great but texturally I like my fries crispier than these--they were a little soft for my taste, even pre-heating the pan and cooking them a bit longer at a higher temperature. I am a bigger fan of the brand's Oven Fries and Oven Reds but wanted to try something new with my coupon for a free Alexia product from the Tastemakers program. I did like dipping the sweet fries into the cooling tzatziki. All in all, a delicious dinner that I think either of our heroines would have enjoyed--I know I did.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: Copies of these two books were provided by the PTA Reviewer Rewards Program for me to review if I chose to do so. I also received a coupon for a free Alexia product from the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program. There was no monetary compensation involved with any of the items and as always, my thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

Happy Saturday!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fall-Inspired Chop Salad with Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette (Or When Life Gives You Hickory Farms Cheese & Summer Sausage, Make Salad)

Last week the UPS man delivered a large box to my door and inside was a Hickory Farms"Home For The Holidays" box--full of 3 Summer Sausages, 4 kinds of cheese, crackers and two kinds of mustard. Thanks to the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program and Hickory Farms, I had enough for multiple holiday gatherings. Besides enjoying it with friends, I wondered how else I could use some of the bounty and my thoughts ran to a Fall-Inspired Chop Salad. I love a good chop salad with lots of even-sized bites full of different ingredients, tastes and textures.

I used the Hickory Farms Summer Sausage, two of the cheeses, a can of garbanzo beans and veggies (cucumber, radish, tomato and romaine) from the fridge, and added a few fall touches like fresh pear and candied nuts. I dressed the salad in one of my favorite dressings, a Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette (using both kinds of the mustard in the box). This a hearty salad with the flavors of fall. No Hickory Farms gift box? A chop salad is still a good way to use up any extra cheese and salami and other goodies in your fridge after a holiday party.

Fall-Inspired Chop Salad with Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 12 cups of salad)

1 heaping cup Summer Sausage or salami, chopped (I used a mix of Beef Summer Sausage and Italian Recipe Summer Sausage)
1 heaping cup cheese, chopped (I used Big Barn Cheddar & Creamy Havarti Blend)
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 Japanese cucumber, chopped
3-4 large radishes, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 pear, chopped and mixed with lemon juice to maintain color
4 cups baby romaine, shredded/chopped
Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Honey-Sesame Glazed Walnuts, (recipe below)

Make sure all ingredients are chopped roughly the same size as the garbanzo beans. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and serve with the Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette and garnish with the Honey-Sesame Glazed Walnuts.

Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette
By Eating Well Magazine, Feb/March 2006
(Makes 1 1/4 Cup Dressing)

1/2 cup olive oil, or canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons coarse-grained Dijon mustard (I used 1 Tbsp each Hickory Farms Sweet Hot Mustard & Honey Pineapple Mustard)
2 tsp soy sauce (I used 2 tsp Braggs Liquid Aminos)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Put all ingredients into a small jar and shake vigorously until well-mixed.

Per 2 Tbsp serving: 62 calories; 6 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbs; 0 g protein; 0 g fiber; 92 mg sodium.

Honey-Sesame Glazed Walnuts
by Alyssa Moreau
(Makes 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup walnuts or other raw nuts like pecans or cashews
1 tsp olive oil
sea salt
2 tsp honey
1 tsp sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove and transfer to a saute pan heated with the olive oil. Toss the nuts in the olive oil to coat, add a pinch of sea salt, the honey and sesame seeds and stir to coat. Place on foil or parchment paper to cool.

Notes/Results: Hearty and full of lots of flavor and texture, this is a great lunch or dinner salad. You can of course use whatever meat, cheese and veggie combo you have on hand. I used some sweet candied nuts I had already made but if I were making them special for this salad, I might add a little spice to them for another layer of flavor. The Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette is from Eating Well magazine and it is excellent--its sweet-tangy combination compliments the other elements of the salad. If you aren't going to serve and eat all of the salad at once, I recommend keeping the dressing on the side and adding it as you serve. I accompanied the salad with some of the Sesame, Caraway & Sea Salt Crackers in the box. I would make this again.

Mahalo to Foodbuzz and of course to Hickory Farms for providing the gift box and giving me the opportunity to enjoy a pretty delicious salad too. ;-)

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Soy Joy Blueberry & Emergen-C: Product Reviews

I'm still trying to catch up and get back into the swing of things--cooking, blogging, homework, life, etc. after a busy week so I thought I would post a couple of product reviews today.

First up--As part of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker program, I had the opportunity to try the newest flavor of SoyJoy bars--Blueberry. Described by the company as: "SoyJoy offers an all natural mix of real fruit and ground whole soybeans. Whole soy is a naturally powerful food rich in protein, fiber, antioxidants and B vitamins. Plus, Blueberry SoyJoy bars have 0 grams trans fat, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives or chemical additives and they have only 140 calories!"

The bars are small--more snack size than a breakfast bar, and each bar contains about 140 calories, 4 g of fiber, and 4 g of protein. The ingredient list isn't too bad--mostly whole and natural ingredients, and it is certainly better than the highly-sugared, more artificial snack bars out there.

The taste--This was my first SoyJoy experience and I actually liked these bars much better than I thought I would. The appearance of the bar made me think it would be crumbly and dry, but it was actually tender--sort of like a chewy bar cookie. The flavor is good--sweet without being too sweet, and there were plenty of chunks of blueberries in there.

I think they are a good snack to have in a purse or briefcase when you are on the go and you need something to tide you over. With the fiber and protein they contain, the bars are pretty satiating for their size. All in all, a good little bar and one I would be inclined to purchase.


I received a two-week sample pack of Emergen-C from the company for taking a survey on their products. Now I am a longtime Emergen-C user, especially for travel (I put a couple packs in a bottle of water for plane trips), or for when I am feeling run down and it seems like my immune system might need a boost. I am fairly predictable though--generally choosing either the Cranberry-Pomegranate or the Tangerine flavors. My sample pack came with those, as well as Super Orange, Raspberry, and my new favorite flavor--Tropical.

I saved my sample kit to try when I thought I would need it to give it a proper "test." With seasonal weather changes kicking up my allergies, some added life stress, and some extra hours to plan a big event last week, it was the perfect time to try them. I decided to double up and have two packs a day for a week. Now I don't know whether it was truly the packet's "1,000 mg Vitamin C and 24 Nutrients with Antioxidants, Electrolytes and 7 B Vitamins" or simply the power of suggestion, but my stuffy allergy head never turned into a cold, asthma or bronchitis (sadly the norm for me), and I ended my week feeling a little tired but good. So, based on my unofficial trial, I will keep buying my Emergen-C packs and using them when I feel I need them. Better safe than sorry! ;-)

Thanks to FoodBuzz, SoyJoy and Emergen-C for giving me the chance to try some new flavors!

Hope your week is going well!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Barley, Edamame & Hijiki Salad with Miso-Ponzu Dressing: Delicious & Heart-Healthy

I look for cooking inspiration in many different places. In my quest to make sure I am getting nutrient-rich, healthy food onto my plate one source of ideas has been the deli and takeout sections of my local natural food stores. It's the kind of "fast food" that is actually good for you and I love the variety of ingredients and flavors especially in the soups and salads. A couple of days ago I grabbed a kale salad and an Asian-inspired whole grain salad with pearl barley, edamame and hijiki (seaweed) in a miso dressing from the grab and go deli case at Umeke Market. Usually the first thing I think when I try something I like is "I bet I can make this at home, cheaper and better," and since I had all the ingredients to create a version of the barley salad I decided to give it a go.

Since a few of the ingredients might not be that familiar to everyone; here is a little bit about the key players in the recipe.

I love to try different grains and bought a bag of Purple Prairie Barley from Timeless Natural Food: a couple months ago to try. The website says, "This very unique, naturally hulless Purple Prairie® Barley originated in Tibet. It is 15% protein and the highest source we've seen for healthful, cholesterol-fighting beta glucans. Sweet in flavor, it's a great whole grain substitute for pearled barley." Isn't it a pretty color?! Too bad it ends up a bit more brown when cooked, but it is still fun.

I have been trying to get more sea vegetables into my diet and experiment with cooking them them and had picked up some several varieties of dried seaweeds to play around with. Seaweeds in general contain many minerals, vitamins, amino acids and are great sources of iodine, calcium and iron and hijiki is a nutritional powerhouse and has a nice robust, slightly salty flavor. (BTW: The hijiki is in its dried form directly below and rehydrated in the close-up of the salad the next photo down)

From "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth" by Johnny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S.: Hijiki--"This contains the most calcium of any of the sea vegetables and is also a rich source of iron and vitamin A. It's very tough in it's natural state; you usually get it dried, but when cooked it rehydrates and expands to about five times its dry volume. Like arame and wakame, hijiki contains more than 10 times the calcium of milk. It also contains eight times the iron in beef."

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program I received a bottle of Kikkoman Ponzu Lime Seasoned Dressing & Sauce to try. Ponzu is a citrus-based sauce that is commonly used in Japanese cooking and Kikkoman's Ponzu combines it with their soy sauce. The company says that It has the perfect balance of salty, tangy and sweet and adds "umami--the fifth taste" (after sweet, sour, salty and bitter) and often described as "meaty, savory, brothy and delicious." Although ponzu and soy sauce are flavors primarily used in Japanese and Asian dishes, Kikkoman says it is also well-suited to Latin and Mediterranean foods. I thought it would be a great ingredient to make the dressing for this salad really pop.

I have both soy sauce and ponzu sauce in my refrigerator and often mix them together for sushi, a dipping sauce for gyoza (potstickers) and other things, so Kikkoman's Ponzu is a convenient combination to have on hand and I'll be trying it in a few more recipes. There are recipes and a coupon on the Kikkomans site (follow the link above), if you want to give it a try.

Barley, Edamame & Hijiki Salad with Miso-Ponzu Dressing
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 9 cups)

4 cups cooked barley
2 cups cooked edamame
1/3 cup hijiki, rehydrated
1 medium carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds plus additional to garnish
Miso Dressing (see recipe below)
arugula or spinach to serve salad on

Miso Dressing:
2 Tbsp white miso
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
2 Tbsp Kikkoman Ponzu
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 tsp black pepper

Cook barley and edamame according to package instructions (I soaked my barley overnight--which reduces cooking time by about half--then cooked it for about 30 minutes). Rehydrate hijiki in a bowl of water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile whisk all dressing ingredients together and set aside.

Combine cooked barley, cooked edamame, hijiki, carrot, cucumber and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Add dressing and mix gently but thoroughly until mixed through. Place arugula or spinach on a serving plate, top with salad and garnish with remaining toasted sesame seeds.

Notes/Results: A really delicious, healthy grain salad and dare I say it--better and more flavorful than the original it was inspired by. I love the texture and slightly nutty taste of the barley and the way the miso dressing compliments it. The ponzu, lemon juice and brown rice vinegar brighten up the flavor nicely. Don't be frightened by the seaweed--it adds a nice layer of flavor and is not overpowering. Besides if you are not trying something new at least occasionally, you are missing out on a lot of great food out there! ;-) Since the miso, ponzu and hijiki all have a slightly salty flavor, no added salt is needed. I used my Oxo Julienne Peeler to cut the carrots and cucumbers into ribbons and it worked great. The salad is good cold or at room temperature and is very filling and satisfying. I would make it again.

Notice the red in the frames of the photos? Since today's recipe for Barley, Edamame & Hijiki Salad with Miso-Ponzu Dressing is such a heart-healthy dish, (it has tons of essential nutrients and fiber and is low in fat), I decided my blog should join me in wearing a little red for National Wear Red Day. Today Americans nationwide will wear red to show their support for women’s heart disease awareness as heart disease is the #1 killer in the U.S. Do you have your red on? ;-)

Happy Aloha Friday!