Product review: Sheets Energy Strips

How many energy products are on the market today? 50, 200, a million? Seriously….we’ve evolved from coffee and tea and iced versions of those to Red Bull and other energy beverages to 5-Hour Energy to countless other items. But convenience in today’s now-now-now society and workplace is increasingly important. That’s why those 5-Hour Energy thingies come in tiny bottles. But now there is a product that is even more convenient than that–Sheets Energy Strips. I’m talking stupid convenience here–a flat package about the size of a baseball card with four serving strips in it.

But while many energy products are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners, this one will not set you back calorie-wise or give you that rush and crash thing that sweet products do. Instead it is a neat little breath-strip-like product that is chock full of B- and E-vitamins. Of course, it also has 100 milligrams of caffeine, something they don’t boast about in the press materials, but something that no doubt has significance here. That’s also about the same amount of caffeine as there is in a cup of regular coffee, but without the risk of spilling it on your lap or having to drink a hot beverage in the middle of summer.

Sheets also claims no crash like there is with sweetened products, and they are correct. But not only is there no crash, I took this after that inevitable post-lunch sedation that happens, especially after eating two chili dogs today like I did. And I had almost instant energy to continue my afternoon. Yes, Sheets Energy Strips are not only convenient–they also work as they claim to. And you can’t say that about every pick-me-up on the market. Oh, and one more thing….I don’t know how many flavors there are, but I tried the Berry Blast version, and this stuff actually tastes pretty good too. So if you need an afternoon pick-up, or a burst of energy before a night out on the town, give Sheets a try.

Hot Dog Friday (Tuesday): Mikey’s Buffalo Dog

Whew. I was on vacation last week, so my apologies for the lack of posts. But since I also did not post a hot dog recipe on June 17, here is one now. Then I’m going to give you a new one for 4th weekend.
I will also fill you in later this week on some of the food we had on vacation, including Tony Packo’s in Toledo and Michael Symon’s B Spot in Cleveland. And I’m pasting a photo below of a chili dog I had from one of those awesome dairy dip places that are all over the place in summer. Nothing beats a chili dog (or 2 or 4) on a hot day, followed by a thick shake.

But meanwhile, here is my Buffalo-style dog recipe…..

Mikey’s Buffalo Dog
I know, it seems like I have a buffalo chicken theme for just about every recipe. But that’s because I’m positively addicted to wing sauce, and the flavors that go along with wings—the sauce, blue cheese, and celery. And I know many of you are too! So it stands to reason that we just have to have a buffalo hot dog, right? Right. So here it is….

4 hot dogs, any kind
4 hot dog buns
1 cup Buffalo chicken hot sauce (I like Buffalo Wild Wings medium sauce)
1 cup cole slaw mix
2 small celery stalks, cut into match sticks
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup blue cheese
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Place dogs in a pot of boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain, and then add wing sauce to pot, and let dogs sit off heat in the wing sauce for a few minutes. Meanwhile, make the slaw. Combine cole slaw mix, celery, mayo, blue cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. To assemble, place dogs in buns and top evenly with the slaw. Drizzle with a little more wing sauce.

Product review: Emerald Breakfast on the Go!

I didn’t quite get the robot analogy that came with a package from the PR firm who sent samples of the new Emerald Nuts Breakfast on the Go! Nut & Granola mixes. Their message was that robots can turn out ordinary granola bars, but these Emerald “deconstructed” granola packets “humanize your morning.” Um, okay. But we’re not here to poke holes in the PR campaign. No, we are here to test out the food and let you know how it is. And in this case, the food is really good. They sent a sample of all three flavors, so let’s go over each one, shall we?

Berry Nut Blend–this one has granola clusters, glazed walnuts, yogurt raisins, peanuts, and of course–dried berries. It’s a nice, sweet blend without being overtly sweet, and the glazed walnuts take it up a notch.

Breakfast Nut Blend–very similar to the Berry Nut Blend, but with dried apples instead of dried berries. It also has the awesome glazed walnuts, but I will say that I like the dried berries better than the hard-to-chew dried apples.

S’mores Nut Blend–A bit different than the other two, this one features cocoa roasted almonds and has bits of dark chocolate, tiny graham cracker cookies, and also dried marshmallows to created the s’mores effect. Nuts and berries are good, but let’s face it, chocolate anything is better. This was easily my favorite of the three.

The only drawback to these bagged snacks is that they are a tad more difficult to eat than a granola bar, at least if you are driving or doing something else at the time. But it sure is a nice alternative. That was probably the message all along, but robots? I still don’t get it. Anyway, give these a try and let me know how you liked them.

17 hours in Vestal NY

Well, 17 hours plus 6 more waiting in the Binghamton airport. But that’s for a story on another blog. So let’s talk about my whirlwind on Sunday as I flew back with my mom, who visited us in Wisconsin. As with most families, my family gathers for and rallies around (and consumes happily) food. Not that I’m complaining, of course…I mean, I have a food blog, right?

Anyway, here were the three highlights from Sunday….

Chef JimMy sister made a lunch of chicken spiedies on the grill. These are marinated chunks of meat that are popular only in the central part of New York State for some reason. I mean, kebabs are everywhere, but only in this region are they called spiedies. And man, they are delicious. They are served on bread, often with sauteed hot peppers–this is especially awesome during the summer when my sister and brother-in-law grow the peppers and garlic in their garden. Yum. Oh, and don’t use whole wheat bread. As my brother-in-law says, who wants to put spiedies on “sawdust?” Sorry, Ellie Krieger.

Chef JimFor dinner, we ate at the place that, in my opinion, has the best pizza in the free world — Bud’s Place in Appalachin, New York. It’s thin, crispy, and has a cheese and sauce blend that is about as close to food nirvana as there is. Seriously…..if I could have Bud’s ship me frozen pies, I would be happy. We just don’t have good pizza in Madison, despite the fact that cheese is what we do here. Or at least, I haven’t found good pizza yet. I’m from Long Island, so I’m partial to NY pizza, but still, no one does it like Bud’s–it’s truly one of a kind.

Chef JimFinally, we stopped for ice cream at The Big Dipper. I was so full from pizza that I could only stomach the “lite” stuff called Dole Whip. Now, I wish I would have had the custard instead, but the pineapple whip wasn’t too bad. Still, we do have good custard places in Madison such as Culver’s and Michael’s.

Oh, and even though I got stuck in Binghamton’s airport for far too long, Bud’s pizza survived in plastic wrap at room temperature, well enough for my wife and I to have it for dinner when I got home. Man, that pizza is amazing. If you’re ever in that area, make sure you check it out.

Hot dog Friday: basic chili dog

It’s time once again for Hot Dog Friday! Here is a recipe for a basic chili dog that we published last year on Grub for Guys. Enjoy!

If done right, nothing beats a good chili dog. But if you use the wrong kind of chili, or cheese or even dog, it can easily get messed up. So here is our take on a classic….

4 all-beef hot dogs
4 hot dog buns
Yellow mustard
1 small can Hormel chili without beans (avoid so-called “hot dog sauce,” which is all mashed up beans and fillers)
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Cook the dogs, either boiling them on the stovetop for 10 minutes, or grilling on a preheated medium heat grill for about 5 minutes, turning frequently to avoid burning. Meanwhile, put chili in a microwave safe bowl and nuke for about 45 seconds on high. Assemble dogs by putting each in a bun and topping evenly with a squirt of mustard, the chili and the cheese.

Shout out to Epic Meal Time

My nephew turned me on to this site, and it’s freaking hilarious and scary at the same time. It’s Epic Meal Time. If you are a producer or trainer from “The Biggest Loser,” turn away please. If you are a veg-head, turn away please. If you are offended by someone making model cars with meat, turn away please. Wait, what? Model cards with meat? Yeah, I thought you’d like to see that. Check it out and if you think it’s as funny as I do, I will re-post more of their stuff…after all, I sure as hell don’t want to try this at home!


Try these wings…..

Chef JimBut first, you’ll need a stovetop smoker like the one I have from Cameron. When Jen and I got hooked on the Food Network about five years ago, more than one program pimped the use of a stovetop smoker, where you put a few wood chips in the bottom of the unit and put it on the stove on low heat while it smokes anything (within reason) and makes your whole house smell like bacon. But to me, nothing comes out as consistently amazing as the chicken wings. These smokers cost around $50 and are easy to store. And hey, Father’s Day is around the corner, so you might consider this for Dad. Anyway, I posted this on Grub For Guys a few years back, and it’s a good time to re-visit it….

I know most of you probably have your favorite place for Buffalo chicken wings, or any chicken wings. Either that, or you think that the ones you make yourself are better than anything else out there. Well, since this is my column, I’m going to lobby for my own take on chicken wings. And I’ve got buddies to back me up about how good they are.

Two years ago, my wife and I became enamored with the Food Network. And on more than one show, they were using this device that I just had to have – a stovetop smoker. In other words, you don’t need one of those giant, bulky contraptions to smoke meat. You can buy a small one that you put on your stove for around $50. My wife bought one for me as an anniversary gift and I still say it was the best present ever. So without making this into an infomercial, just read this article I wrote praising the Cameron indoor smoker which has links to buy one. I’m sure there are other varieties out there, but this is the only one I know of.

Okay, you’ve got your smoker, now what? Well, buy yourself a 5-pound bag of fresh or frozen chicken wings. Lay them flat on a baking sheet, and spray both sides of the wings with olive oil spray. Then sprinkle the wings with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and then a very generous shaking of any type of Cajun seasoning (I use the dry rub stuff from Rendezvous restaurant in Memphis, which you can order online).

Then, prepare the smoker according to the directions, meaning you have to put a small amount of wood chips in the bottom of the unit and spray the grill rack with cooking spray.

After this, you’re in business. Put the wings in the smoker (it will hold 5 pounds easily, 10 pounds if you stuff them in there), and smoke on low-medium heat for about 3-4 hours. Folks, this is one of the most amazing smells known to man—natural smoke that will make your whole house smell like bacon. My mouth is watering as I type this.

Anyway, once you’ve thoroughly smoked those wings, you have to finish them in the oven or on a grill. I prefer the grill, because not only do you have the smoky flavor and spice from the red pepper and Cajun seasoning, but the crispy barbecue chicken texture.
Grill them for maybe three minutes per side and then keep warm in one of those tin party platters. Or bake them for maybe 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

I have made these smoked wings for many occasions, mainly on Sundays during football season. Any time we’re having a get-together now with friends, I am asked to make them, and so far they have not disappointed. What are you waiting for?

Hot Dog Friday: Chicago dog

Greetings, fellow food lovers. Last year I did a feature on Grub For Guys on Hot Dogs for July 4 weekend. Being that July 4 is a month away, I’m going to declare Fridays in June Hot Dog Friday and give you a different hot dog recipe each week. But first I will recap the ones I posted last year in that article, and then give you a few new ones for July 4 weekend. First up, the classic Chicago dog:

Basic Chicago Dog
True hot dog fans have tasted Chicago style dogs and not wanted to ever have them another way. Trust me, they are that good. Here is our take, and it may or may not be authentic, but it’s close enough.

4 all-beef hot dogs
4 hot dog buns
Yellow mustard
¼ cup sweet relish (bonus points if you can find that neon green stuff they use in the Windy City)
1 small dill pickle, chopped
½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ small tomato, seeded and chopped
Pickled jalapenos or skinny pickled chili peppers
Sprinkle of celery salt

Grill dogs on medium high heat, and about 2 minutes into the cooking time, carefully (and by that, I mean without burning your hands off) cut a sliver down the center of each dog, about halfway through it. Turn every minute or so to avoid burning, then assemble by placing a dog in a bun and topping evenly with remaining ingredients.

Bring on the summertime!

Product review: Slim Jim Dare

Chef JimSeems like products are getting spicier these days. Last year, Doritos came out with those 1st, 2nd and 3rd Degree Burn flavors. We also recently reviewed some spicy Planter’s peanuts. Now, in Walgreens, of all places, I came across Slim Jim “Dare”–a new line of spicy meat snacks, featuring two flavors–”Freakin’ Hot Jalapeno” and “Really Freakin’ Hot Habanero.”

I grew up on beef sticks like these–at least as I sort of out-grew candy, I remember my grandfather taking me to the deli and buying me beef sticks, and how I came to love the flavor. Well, the texture of these Slim Jim’s is similar to those that I remember from my childhood–though let’s face it, who knows what kind of mystery meat I’m eating.

Anyway, the “Freakin’ Hot” is very hot, and takes 5-10 seconds to creep up on you. It is also tasty with a nice, slightly lingering burn. Meanwhile, the “Really Freakin’ Hot” were slightly more tender, but that could be the lot of Slim Jims and not the flavor. These took a good 10 seconds for the heat to kick in, and it was a much stronger burn. Well, duh. But it was really nice for someone that likes spicy food as I do.

So if you do like spicy food and if you like Slim Jim’s or meat snacks, go grab some of these and as the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage used to say, “Snap into a Slim Jim!”

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