Having a little seltzer fun

I learned at the last Gastropod live event at the Museum of Science that Polar is 1) a Massachusetts company, and 2) releases five limited edition flavors every season.

This led me to go looking for this seasons flavors.

(They also have super limited edition flavors sometimes, ie. the infamous “unicorn kisses” but I’m not that crazy.)

I found the last summer flavor! #polar #limitededition #summer

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I can smell the mango, but I really only taste berries.

I like the watermelon one. Haven't tried the strawberry one yet. #polar

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Watermelon margarita I like.  Strawberry Sunrise… just tastes like some generic fruit to me?

Not sure what i think of this one

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Strong on the pineapple flavor.  I decided in the end that I wasn’t into it.

I've recently turned into a Polar girl #polar #seltzer

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Raspberry Rose just tastes like raspberry to me.  Oh well.

Long story short, I suspect I’m drinking the watermelon one all summer.  (^_^)

Nüssli118° day tote unboxing and review

First of all, what?  Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re asking yourself right now.

Nüssli118° is a raw foods store in North Cambridge, Massachusetts.  They sell a variety of snacks, smoothies, and juices.  It’s not fancy shmancy (or is the correct description “celebrity hip”?) like Sakara Life.  Their website isn’t filled with slick sounding product descriptions like Splendid Spoon (which I might try some day because they do make their soups sound very tasty!).

Now, I’m not vegan or a raw foodist (I’m not even vegetarian) in any way, but I do get curious about the raw food culture.   I guess it’s because I do like diversity in my meals, and healthy is always appreciated.

I’ve had a some Nüssli118° products in the past.   There was some sort of ginger round, chocolate pecan squares, and their chocolate cashew smoothie.  All of which were delicious.  So, I’ve been really curious about the Nüssli118° day tote for a few months now.

From their website:

The Nüssli118° Kitchen Share Day Tote is a day’s worth of delicious meals, drinks, and snacks delivered to your home or office once a week.  The products are ready-to-eat right out of the mason jar or to be gently warmed, served, and savored.  Either way, they will nourish, satisfy, and energize you throughout your day.  Each Kitchen Share Day Tote includes 2 drinks, 3 meals, 1 savory, and 2 sweets.  We look at what’s in season, combine fresh, great tasting, high quality ingredients, and create delicious nutrient-dense meals.  They are all organic, plant-based, and ready-to-eat, just enjoy!

Oooooh

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Note, you can save money on the delivery fee by picking up the tote yourself.  The tote I picked up was this:

Week of April 10, 2017  Kitchen Share Day Tote:

Pineapple Turmeric Fresca
Vanilla Chai Smoothie
Chia Pudding Topped with Kiwi, Orange, and Apple
Butternut Squash Soup
Taco Salad
Garlic & Herb Crackers
Super Dark Chocolate Rounds
Lemon Ginger Square

Unboxing

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If you go through my photos, you’ll notice that I didn’t get the taco salad.  That’s because I’m allergic to raw celery and raw carrots.  So, the store provided their mango kale salad as a substitute.

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Overall, I liked this salad.  I just wished that there had been a bit more of it.  Besides kale and mango, there was jicama, lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup and red pepper flakes.  And since I was still hungry, I went ahead and had the soup.  (Afterward, I remembered that each jar in my tote was technically a meal. Oh well.)

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You can have the soup hot or cold.  It was a really nice warm spring day in Boston, so I went for it cold.  I liked this meal too.  The cranberries and parsley helped to jazz up the otherwise plain tasting squash soup.  I might have forgotten that cashews were in the soup and topped it with a tablespoon of hemp seed from my pantry.

Regarding the snacks, this is where Nüssli118° really shines.

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No surprise, the super dark chocolate rounds were my favorite from the tote.  The rosemary crackers were a close second.  The lemon ginger squares were my least favorite only because it’s a little too sweet for my personal preference.  But the texture is great.  It’s got crunch from the nuts but it’s not hard on the teeth.  The brightness of the lemon flavor shines through, but I’m not sure I could taste ginger much.  At the end of the day though, I’m always pro-chocolate.  The rounds are quite dense, but the chocolate flavor satisfies quite nicely.

Finally, I had the chia pudding for breakfast the morning after I picked up the tote.  I was unsure if I was going to like it.  Generally, I stay away from chia seeds because they get stuck in my teeth too easily.  Maybe because I had let the chia pudding sit for so long, I didn’t really have an issue.  It would have been boring if it hadn’t been for the fruit topping – apples, kiwi, and oranges – even though the pudding says it was spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg.  I could tell that the pudding wasn’t just chia, cashews, and water.  However, the spices were really muted.

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As for the drinks?  The cashew vanilla smoothie was good.  Not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly not the worst.  It’s just a basic cashew smoothie.  The tote list says vanilla chai, but the bottle I had was just vanilla.  The ingredients were water, cashews, dates, coconut oil, vanilla, and Himalayan salt.  The pineapple turmeric was probably my least favorite thing in the whole tote, and that’s just personal preference.  I found the turmeric flavor to overpower every other flavor.  The ingredient list is pineapple, water, mango, orange, lemon, maple syrup, turmeric, and cayenne.  I could barely taste the pineapple.  I really couldn’t taste any mango or orange.

So, would I do this again?  Quite possibly.  It’s not cheap.  It’s $65 and then there’s a $10 deposit for the tote and the mason jars.  If you return the tote and mason jars, you can get a $10 credit toward your next purchase.  I like that the packaging is reusable, and am not against the deposit.  Overall, the quality of everything is great.  (And it had better be!  Everything is organic, and some ingredients have been sprouted.)  The experience has definitely given me ideas on things to make at home.  It also makes me want to work on snack recipes.  But chances are pretty high that I’ll probably be lazy and swing by Nüssli118° when I’m hankering for healthy crisps and sweets.  (^_^)

Links:
http://nussli118.com/

Disclaimer – This post was not sponsored in any way.  A family member purchased the tote for me as a gift.  I just wanted to share my excitement.

Meal prep kit from bfresh

Two posts in one week?  After weeks of nothing?  Yeah, I know.  My posting is inconsistent.  What can I say?  I need to feel inspired.

And inspired is definitely the right word here.  I hadn’t planned on doing another meal prep kit post so soon.  However, a new market opened in Davis Square/Somerville called bfresh last Friday.  There are bfresh stores in Allston and Brighton, which I’ve never been to, but I’ve heard that Somerville is their largest location to date.  I was unsure what to expect other than something that would fit the lifestyle of busy urban dwellers.

Quick review of the market – it’s smart looking.  The price tags on many of the shelves were digital.  It’s bright and small, but probably carries a little bit of everything.  Prices were average.  Some items were expensive.  For example, I saw a package of tempeh for about $5.  I usually pay just $3.  There was onigiri!  At $5 a pop.  But I bought a bottle of coconut aminos because it was a $1 less than what I saw while shopping recently.

They have an app to get coupons and I’m not impressed so far.  There were about 6 coupons available, and I only tried to use one.  My one coupon didn’t apply for some reason when I checked out.  Also, their website said something about getting free shopping bag when you download the app and I didn’t see any coupons in the app for said shopping bag.

I’m not sure if I missed something somewhere, or they just aren’t on top of their communications game.

I was also unimpressed that for a market that has literally only been open for a handful of days, there might be some mislabeled prices already.  My coconut aminos checked out fine, but the meal kit I bought was a $1 more than I thought it was.  I could have sworn that all meal kits were $13.  (Ok, technically $12.99 but I always round up that one silly penny.)

Having said all that, bfresh’s strongest points are their ready made items, their cheese selection, and their bulk selection.  And price annoyance aside, I was there primarily for their meal kits.

(Yeah, that price tag under gnocchi kit looks like it says $12.99.  My receipt, though, shows $13.99.  And I really wasn’t about to turn around and head back into a fairly bustling market to argue over my receipt.)

I didn’t even realize that they were selling ready to go meal kits until a friend of my commented on it recently.  There were about 6 different recipes to choose from – pizza, lemon cod, salmon, sweet potato gnocchi, steak tips, and I think one with turkey.  All of the kits are 2 servings.  These kits don’t claim to be 30 minutes of activity like many other meal kits out there, although most of them probably don’t take too long.

I’m masochistic and picked the sweet potato gnocchi to experiment.  This kit took me almost 2 hours to make, because roasting the gigantic sweet potato in my kit took about an hour in the oven.  I made the sauce easily enough, but the gnocchi making took me more  time than I had expected.  I’ve never made ricotta gnocchi before, and it was quite the sticky mess.

Overall impression of the kit?  Everything seemed pretty fresh.  The spinach in my kit hardly had any bad/slimy bits.  There was less packaging than the ready to go Purple Carrot kit I previously bought.  (Or at least that’s how it felt as I carried it home.)  The only potential downside is that you have to be somewhat comfortable with cooking and ingredients in general.  The recipe card isn’t full of photos.  The packaged ingredients had no labels.  But for me, I was still impressed.

Bfresh sweet potato gnocchi kit

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Now, remember how I called the Purple Carrot recipe card mildly cheap in my previous post?  It’s because the bfresh recipe card is seems expensive by comparison.  It’s laminated and shows the full ingredient list up front.

Shiny laminated card is shiny

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OH HEYYYYY!  I JUST REALIZED THAT THE ESTIMATED COOKING TIME IS UNDER THE INGREDIENT LIST!

Anyway.

The recipe came out fine.  I wish there were a bit more flavoring in it though.  But that might be because, after all these years, I’m still not fond of goat cheese.

Yes, you read that right.  The woman who’s not fond of goat cheese intentionally bought a meal kit with goat cheese in it.  I should have subbed it out, but I thought that if I just didn’t use the full amount that I’d be ok.  So, that’s just me being ridiculous and no fault of the meal kit.

I am sorely tempted to try every flavor of the meal kits.  And since it’s affordable compared to shipped meal kits, I may just do so.

(Here, have another badly lit photo.)

My gnocchi are… rustic

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Reference Links:

http://www.cambridgeday.com/2017/02/06/davis-square-grocery-eyes-feb-24-opening-testing-bfresh-concept-for-regional-growth/

http://somerville.wickedlocal.com/news/20170227/ribbon-cut-for-bfresh-market-in-davis-square

http://bfresh.com/

Meal prep kit from Purple Carrot and Whole Foods

I heard about Purple Carrot, the vegan meal prep kit, when Mark Bittman left the New York Times to work for them.

I kept my eye on their recipes, but I generally found that I was only interested in *maybe* one recipe a week.  But my interest in Purple Carrot rose when it was announced that they were partnering with Whole Foods in Massachusetts for meal prep kits available in stores.  It was rolled out in Dedham first (I think… or was it Danvers?) which was nowhere near me.  Then last week, a few more stores were announced including the Whole Foods at Alewife/Cambridge.  Finally!  A location that I could get to a little more easily.

So I went on Sunday.  My choices were:

  • a cauliflower/beets/green beans with orange sauce
  • a pesto pasta with brussels sprouts
  • a tofu dish that I would have gotten if I weren’t mildly allergic to soy (sadly, I don’t remember which tofu recipe it was exactly)

I decided on the cauliflower/beets/green beans recipe because it wasn’t something that I’d normally picked from a cookbook.

In hindsight, I wish I had picked the pesto pasta.

Now, some quick disclaimers:

  • I am specifically commenting on the in-store pick up kit.  I have no experience with the online, full-service meal kits.
  • I was not paid to do this.  I paid for this out of pocket because I was really curious.
  • I am not vegan.  However, I think one can never had enough vegetable recipes in their repertoire.  (Maybe because I know it’s something I need to work on?)

Got it?  Good.

The cost was $20 for the kit (which like many kits is only 2 servings).  This seemed a little high to me since there are no at-home delivery costs.  My only consolation was that there was a $2 Whole Foods coupon on the box to encourage the sale of a new product.

Ok let's try this

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Unboxing

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The kit I picked up had a moldy beet in it.  ONE MISERABLE MOLDY BEET.  The actual recipe on the website says 6oz of beets, and I’m pretty confident that one moldy beet (which was smaller than my fist) was not 6oz.  I tossed it.

Well… that's disappointing

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Luckily, I had my own beets…

… which I proceeded to not even use out of laziness more than anything.

Then to add insult to injury, the mildly cheap looking instruction card mentioned parsley in the recipe.  There was no parsley in my kit, just a ton of thyme.  Said instruction card also did not have an ingredient list.  I was just smart enough to google it (which I will link to at the bottom on this post).

For the record there is no parsley in my box

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Overall impression of the recipe?  Tasty but required too much equipment for a meal prep kit.  Technically, it needed a pan to roast the cauliflower, a pot to boil the beets, and a pan to cook the beans.  Oh, and a small pot for the sauce.

I liked the sauce better than I want to admit.  The sauce was just orange juice, water, cornstarch, brown sugar, and ketchup.  I think that it’s the addition of ketchup rubs me the wrong way.  At any rate, I have more sauce than I need for the cauliflower and the green beans so I’m going to serve with with some baked pieces of chicken.

I am aware that adding chicken will void the vegan-ness of the meal.

Maybe I’ll even throw in the beets by then.

Will I try this again?  Well, I’ll be open minded about it but it’s not the only game in town.**

Oh!  And, fair warning, you might want to measure the ingredients against the original published recipes.  The meal kit gave me almost twice the amount of apple cider vinegar than I needed.

Leftover apple cider vinegar that unfortunately looks like pee in this photo

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Reference Links:

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/cauliflower-l-orange-with-beets-and-fresh-herbs

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/kale-pesto-cavatelli-with-crispy-brussels-and-sundried-tomatoes

** = hint, hint… I have another meal prep kit post coming.  Maybe as soon as tomorrow.

Cook Korean, a cookbook review

Cook Korean, A Comic Book with Recipes by Robin Ha, has to be the only cookbook on my shelf that I wanted purely for visual reasons.

Oh, wait.  I just remembered that I have Modernist Cuisine at Home.  Oops.

Ok, it’s the second cooking I’ve ever wanted just for the pretty.  lol!

Anyway, the book is focused on Korean home cooking.  Nothing looks terribly intimidating, and there’s a good variety recipes.  There’s a fairly typical looking recipe for easy kimchi (mak kimchi).  But then, I was surprised to see chayote pickle (chayote jangachi) a few pages later.  Chayote is one of my favorite vegetables, and I have never thought to swap it with another vegetable in a Korean recipe before.

Some recipes that I don’t think are in my other books are:

Acorn jelly salad (dotorimuk)
Braised daiko with saury (mu kkongchi jorim)
Seaweed soup with beef (sogogi miyeokguk)
Hand-pulled dough soup with potatoes (gamja sujebi)

A lot of the fun, though, is in the illustrations.  They are ridiculously cute.

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You can find a video preview of the cookbook I made here:

Whee!

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Anyway, I tried my hand at one of the recipes.  I decided to go easy since I didn’t really have time to spend at the grocery store.  In this case, I went with the book’s steamed Asian eggplant (gaji namul) recipe.  The only major substitution I made was to use small hot house eggplants than Asian eggplants.  (Again, this was due to time constraints.)  I even used some of the sauce as a dumpling dipping sauce.

Overall, I really liked this recipe.  I also liked the simplicity of the sauce.  I’ve made other sauces from Asian cookbooks, like Momofuku’s octo vinaigrette, but the combination of flavor and ease of this one might very well make it my favorite.  

I eventually modified the recipe to cut out the sugar.  It wasn’t a lot of sugar to begin with, but I still preferred to swap it out.

 

All-purpose Asian dipping sauce (good for dumplings and vegetables)

– freshly grated ginger to taste
– one part sesame oil
– one part mirin
– two parts soy sauce
– small handful of chopped scallions (optional)

Whisk everything together, and use however you wish!

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(There’s no way to make steamed eggplants look fabulous. *sigh*)

Overall cookbook impression?  I love it!  Obviously, you can’t fully judge a book based on visuals and on one recipe, but I’d be more than happy to cook from it over and over again.

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  But for the record, I had been planning on buying this book long before.  I’m a sucker for cute things.

Cookbook price alert

  1.  This post is not sponsored in anyway.
  2. You must be able to travel to Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA.

I was killing some time the other day, and meandered around the cookbook section of The Coop, the official book store of Harvard University.  Believe it or not, I got bored.  For fun, I walked over to the sale section which is just one room over.  Most of the time, there isn’t anything I want.

This time, there still wasn’t anything I wanted… but that’s only because I already owned it.  The Coop had several copies of The Big-Flavor Grill: No-Marinade, No-Hassle Recipes for Delicious Steaks, Chicken, Ribs, Chops, Vegetables, Shrimp, and Fish for about $8.  I bought this book, written by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, back in 2014.  I could read it all day because it appeals to me that much.  Seeing it on the shelf reminded me that I should cook from it before the weather turns cold.

Honestly though, I can make a lot of the recipes indoors sans grill.  The appeal of this book is in all the sauce and condiment recipes.

I love this book so much that I want to buy a copy of it just to gift to someone.

Alas, no one I know is addicted to cookbooks as I am.

But if you are or you like to grill, head over to the Coop.  You can thank me later.

kimchi fail so let me try amazake instead

It’s hard to see, but the radishes in my dongchimi had some color change.  Everything smelled fine, but I wasn’t convinced so I didn’t eat it.

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Both photos were after I drained out the liquid.  Before I drained it, it looked like this:

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That’s a lot of life going on in there.

I haven’t had the energy to buy the ingredients again.  But I still wanted to work on some fermentation so I decided to try my hand at amazake.

Amazake is a drink made from sticky rice and koji grains.  Koji are rice grains that have been inoculated with the bacteria you would use to make miso soup and other Japanese fermented products.  Amazake, like yogurt, needs a certain temperature range to ferment.  It was the primary reason why I never bothered to make it.

Last week, it occurred to me that I had access to a couple of sous vide products which could make DIY amazake possible in my house.  So, it’s currently doing its thing in a slow cooker hooked up to a Codlo device.

This is what determination looks like:

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It’s not the most thought-out set-up, but that’s what I get for not planning ahead.  What you see is a 3qt sauce pan (with the rice and koji) set into a 4.5 qt oval slow cooker.  The sauce pan was too tall, and the handle was in the way.  So, I resorted to covering it with aluminum foil.

I am ridiculous, I know.

This also won’t be done until about 10pm because cooking the rice and then cooling it took me longer than I had anticipated.