Friday, September 27, 2013

New Product Review! (Banquet Bowls)

Hello again everyone. As I mentioned in this week’s Free Recipe Wednesday I finally have a New Product Review to post here on the blog. Last weekend while grocery shopping I was in the frozen food section picking up some Banquet Sausage & Gravy Pot Pies, which I did a review of previously, and I noticed 5 new frozen meals that Banquet has come out with. Banquet doesn’t really call them anything, they just tell what the dish is and have a picture of it on the box, but I have started calling them Banquet Bowls because every one of them is pictured in a bowl on the box. Obviously the container inside isn’t really a bowl but rather a container like most frozen dinners come in. As with just about every Banquet item, these were cheap at only $1 each so I decided to pick up 3 of the 5 to give them a try. The ones I bought, and tried, were the Cheesy Rice and Chicken, the Queso Mac, and the Three Cheese Ziti. There is also a Cheesy Potato Bake and a Fettuccini Alfredo which I will most likely buy and try after trying the other three.  (Click the pictures on the right to enlarge them.)

With all 3 of the ones I tried, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor. A lot of frozen meals just lack flavor and you have to salt the heck out of them just to make them taste good enough to get down. These were so good just the way they were and I didn’t even have to salt them, although I did anyway. My favorite of the 3 I tried was probably the Queso Mac. Usually cheesy frozen meals have a runny cheese sauce and you really don’t get a lot of cheese flavor or if you do it’s a weird flavor. This was creamy, almost like Velveeta shells and cheese and the flavor was really good. I could probably eat that one every day. I also really enjoyed the amount of food you get for your dollar. All of the ones I tried were the perfect size for lunch, with maybe a small bag of chips or a piece of fruit to go along with it.

Overall this was another success by Banquet in my opinion. The price is just right, the quantity of food is good, and the flavor is definitely above par when compared to other frozen meals. I personally look forward to trying the other 2 that I haven’t tried yet and buying more of the ones that I did try. Give them a try yourself and post comments below letting me know what you thought about them.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Free Recipe Wednesday! (Pumpkin Fluff Dip)

Hello again food lovers. Welcome to another edition of Free Recipe Wednesday. Today I'm continuing the fall theme with another pumpkin recipe. This one, however, is a dessert dip that's served with graham crackers. This would be perfect for Halloween parties at work or at home if you're hosting a Halloween party. Enjoy and as always feel free to post comments below.

Stay tuned for an upcoming "New Product Review" in the coming days.

Pumpkin Fluff Dip

  • 1 (16 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • 1 (5 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (15 oz) can solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1. In a large bowl, mix together instant vanilla pudding mix, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. 
2. Fold in the thawed frozen whipped topping. 
3. Chill in the refrigerator until serving.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Gluten Free Friday! (Buffalo Style Meatballs)

Hello again everyone and welcome to my new semi-regular feature I’m calling “Gluten Free Friday”. With my wife’s recent realization that she has a gluten allergy, I’ve been all over this gluten free thing and its fascinating what you can find and make that’s gluten free these days. Most grocery stores have gluten free sections now and where I’m from we also have several large health food grocery stores that are loaded with gluten free items. Anyway, I thought this feature would be a nice change of pace from my usual Free Recipe Wednesday which is usually not so healthy (but still delicious). One of the nice things too about gluten free recipes is that most of them are also low carb.

Today’s recipe is low carb and gluten free and looks delicious. My wife and I are big fans of buffalo wings and will eat just about anything “buffalo” such as buffalo chicken, buffalo dip, and of course buffalo wings themselves. Hopefully I’ll give them a try soon and let you know what I think. In the meantime, try them yourself and post a comment below letting me know what you thought. Stay tuned for more Gluten Free Fridays in the near future.

Buffalo Style Meatballs

For the Meatballs
  • 1 lb Ground Chicken or Turkey
  • 2 oz Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Chopped Celery
  • 3 Tbsp Crumbled Blue Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

For the Sauce
  • 1/2 stick (4 oz) Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot

Note: Do not add salt! The hot sauce and the blue cheese are already salty so you don’t need more.

1. Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl.
2. Form into 1 inch, cocktail/bite size, meatballs; place meatballs onto a greased cookie sheet.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
4. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine Frank’s Red Hot and butter; heat until butter is melted and sauce is hot then set aside.
5. After 10 minutes in the oven, remove the meatballs and carefully dunk them in the buffalo sauce.
6. Return sauced meatballs to the cookie sheet and bake for another 12 minutes.

*For extra saucy meatballs: pour any remaining sauce over the meatballs at the end of the final 12 minutes and then cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.

Approx nutrition info per meatball: 132 calories, 11g fat, .6 net carbs, 8g protein

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Free Recipe Wednesday! (Pumpkin Quesadillas)

Hello again foodies, welcome to another edition of Free Recipe Wednesday. The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are starting to change, and the grocery stores have their decorative displays of squash and pumpkins set up. With the first day of fall just 4 days away I’ve decided to kick off the season with a fall recipe. I found today’s recipe on the website for Rachel Ray Magazine and it seems like a really interesting idea. It looks like all of the flavors would mix together great to create that warm, comforting, fall dish. It’s also meatless so it’s perfect for lacto-vegetarians or even vegans if you omit/replace the cheese. Give this a try and let me know what you think. Over the next couple of months my goal is to post more fall recipes like soups and crock pot meals so stay tuned. As always, feel free to post comments below.

Pumpkin Quesadillas

  • 2 cups Canned Pure Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 8 8-inch Flour Tortillas
  • 4 ounces Goat Cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil

1. In bowl, stir together pumpkin and cumin. 
2. Spread over 4 tortillas. 
3. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts. 
4. Top with remaining tortillas. 
5. In large skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-low. 
6. Cook quesadillas 1 at a time, turning once and adding more oil between batches, until browned, 3 minutes. 
7. Cut into wedges and serve.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro (Vacation Post #2)

Here it is, as promised, Vacation Post #2. This is a restaurant review of a place called Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro, which we ate at in New Orleans the night before the cruise. I think with this review I’m going to break it down into a few different sections so I can cover each little bit of the experience we had.

The Restaurant
With just about any establishment in New Orleans, you can’t judge a book by its cover. The buildings are old and just not fancy looking like someone from any other region of the country might be used to seeing when they pull up to a nice restaurant. Copeland’s was no different. My only real complaint was that the entrance was on the side, almost hidden even, with very little signs directing you as to such. However, it was interesting to see valet service and a door man like you would see at some of the fanciest restaurants around the country. In fact, the interior of the restaurant actually felt less like a bistro and more like a fancy restaurant. The d├ęcor was nice, with candles for accent lighting, and it was quite a bit nicer than what we had imagined it would be like.

The Food
My wife ordered the Crescent City Chicken Wrap with a side of Sweet Potato Fries and I had the Crawfish Ravioli. Of course when you’re in a place called Cheesecake Bistro you’ve got to try the cheesecake as well so for dessert we had the Bananas Foster Cheesecake.

My wife’s Crescent City Chicken Wrap was breaded chicken, mozzarella cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, ginger honey, and mayonnaise in a flour tortilla. It was a really good size wrap, as you can see from the picture, with a lot of sweet potato fries. I was able to get a few bites of her food and what I tried was really delicious. The sweet potato fries were my favorite part and I probably would have eaten them all if she had let me. Overall she said she really enjoyed what she ordered and what I tasted was definitely better than I had initially expected.

My dish, the Crawfish Ravioli, was toasted ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and then topped with crawfish tails in a spicy cream sauce. I had been looking forward to this all week and was not disappointed. The ravioli were cooked perfectly and the amount of crawfish and sauce was perfect for the amount of ravioli. My only complaint about the dish was that there just wasn’t enough on the plate. I’m not saying that just because it was so good, there really just wasn’t enough on the plate. I was actually still hungry when I finished. Personally I think the dish could have used a vegetable like asparagus which would have complimented the dish perfectly or they could have offered baguettes and butter prior to the meal which I think would have made everything more filling. Overall I really enjoyed the dish and I’m actually looking forward to making this myself sometime.

For dessert my wife and I shared the Bananas Foster Cheesecake. I really can’t describe how good it was. Just look at that picture and however good you think it looks, multiply that by 100. It was absolutely amazing. They actually ship their cheesecakes too and after tasting it I’m seriously thinking about ordering one.

The Service
Unfortunately this was the most disappointing aspect of the experience. When we entered the restaurant and were told there was a 45 minute wait to be seated, we didn’t think twice about it and waited. It’s quite common for a popular restaurant to be busy after all. However, it was very interesting to see about a third of the restaurant was empty when we did finally get seated. Maybe they were short staffed that night, we just found it interesting and a little confusing. We didn’t have many complaints about our waitress except that she was a bit of a scatter brain. She asked us if we wanted to see the dessert menu which we said yes to, then she comes back 5 minutes later and asked if we had decided what we wanted for dessert even though she had never given us the menu. My wife and I also sat with empty glasses for well over 10 minutes despite our waitress walking by the table multiple times. We also heard at least 2 other tables around us complaining about the service and both of those tables actually had the manager called to them. Our service wasn’t bad enough to need to talk to the manager but it was very disappointing. Overall, between the waitress and the girls working the front desk, the service just wasn’t very warm and inviting. It was not at all like what we’re used to getting back home in the Midwest.

On a 5 star scale, I give the restaurant 4 stars, the food 5 stars, and the service 2 stars. The experience overall was a good one and I do believe that the next time we’re in New Orleans we’ll certainly consider eating there again. The food was good enough to make up for the lackluster service. Copeland’s also has 3 other locations in Louisiana and 1 location in Atlanta, Georgia and we definitely recommend you give them a try if you’re ever near one.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Free Recipe Wednesday! (Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos)

Hello once again friends and food lovers! I hope everyone had a good week while I was gone on vacation and enjoyed my first vacation post reviewing Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ in Kansas City. I have more where that came from but have been busy trying to get back into the swing of things with work and everyday life. Hopefully tomorrow or Friday I will post my review of the food and service we had at Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro while we were in New Orleans. I’ve also got pictures of 4 awesome dishes and 1 dessert that I had while we were on the cruise. Now let’s go on with today’s recipe.

Today’s “recipe” is something I like to make as often as I can. I use the quotations around the word recipe because you’re not really making these as much as you are preparing and cooking these. In the BBQ smoking community these are affectionately known as Atomic Buffalo Turds, or ABTs for short. There are 2 ways you can cook these jalapenos… grilled or smoked. I’ve included both methods below since there are slight variations depending on your cooking method of choice. Also, while plain cream cheese in these is awesome, I personally like to use Honey Nut Cream Cheese. The slight sweetness from the Honey Nut Cream Cheese works really well with the jalapeno flavor. My wife and I have also used the Garden Vegetable cream cheese which is nice as well. One more note… if you seed these jalapenos well, they’re really not even spicy. They’re mildly spicy at worst. Give them a try, you won’t be disappointed. As always, feel free to post comments below.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos

  • 1 (8 oz) pkg Cream Cheese
  • 1 pkg Sliced Bacon
  • 6 Fresh Jalapeno Peppers (if grilling)
  • 10-12 Fresh Jalapeno Peppers (if smoking)

Wear gloves when preparing the jalapenos, you’ll regret it if you don’t.

Cooking Method #1 (Grilling)
1. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
2. Slice the 6 jalapenos in half and remove all seeds.
3. Spread cream cheese to fill jalapeno halves.
4. Wrap cream cheese filled jalapenos with bacon; secure with a toothpick.
5. Place jalapenos on the grill; cook until the bacon is crispy.

Cooking Method #2 (Smoking)
1. Preheat smoker to 250-275 degrees; add wood chips of choice.
2. Slice the jalapenos crosswise 2/3 of the way through, just below the stem, and then slice lengthwise on one side to open up the jalapenos; remove seeds with a small paring knife or small melon baller.
3. Stuff cream cheese into each jalapeno.
4. Wrap cream cheese filled jalapenos with bacon; secure with 2 toothpicks.
5. Place jalapenos into the smoker and smoke for approximately 1 hour.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Oklahoma Joe's BBQ (Vacation Post #1)

Hello friends and food lovers. So I'm sitting here in my hotel room in Kansas City and figured I'd go ahead and post my first vacation pictures. This is a restaurant review of sorts. Knowing that we would be in KC for 1 night and knowing how famous KC is for BBQ, I decided to google 'best BBQ in Kansas City' and ended up at Oklahoma Joe's which has been ranked #1 BBQ in Kansas City by Zagat. Oklaqhoma Joe's was opened by the members of the competition BBQ team 'Slaghterhouse Five' who have won multiple BBQ awards.  When we first got to Oklahoma Joe's we almost left due to the line (see picture) but decided to wait anyway. About 1 1/2 hours later we finally got our food. We both ordered the Z-Man Sandwich and spicy slaw. The Z-Man Sandwich is slow smoked brisket with melted provolone and 2 onion rings served on a kaiser roll (I ordered mine on texas toast). As you can see from the picture, the sandwiches were loaded with meat. The flavor of the meat, the BBQ sauce and just everything in general was really good and honestly I'd have to say it was worth the wait. The spicy slaw was good but nothing to write home about. It had your basic vinegar based sauce with some cayenne and maybe some other spices in it. One of the best parts about the entire meal was how cheap it all was. The sandwiches themselves were just over $6 each and in total we only spent $25 on 2 sandwiches, 1 large side, and 2 drinks. Definitely a good value. We will more than likely be visiting this place again in the future and if you ever make it to KC  I certainly recommend you give them a try as well.