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Product review: CitrusZinger

As things you can be addicted to go, seltzer water is not something that can do the body much harm. It’s basically carbonated water, and thanks to my SodaStream device, I drink even more fizzy water now than ever before. And because sometimes the flavor extracts can get boring, I like to use real lemon or lime juice (or small amounts of soda syrup). But that’s not always easy; that is, it’s not easy squeezing citrus juice into a small mouth bottle.

But now, there is a product that makes it super easy to have water or carbonated water with a twist of real citrus juice. The product is called CitrusZinger and the concept is simple. There are two ends to the plastic bottle–a large mouth screw top with a juicer attachment; and a small mouth drinking side. So basically you cut some lemon, lime or orange, juice that and close up the bottom of the bottle. Then you flip the bottle over and add water, seltzer or even maybe cola or iced tea. And you’ve got instant and fresh twisted beverage.

Of course, there are a million ways to use CitrusZinger, but I was boring and only tried it with lemons and oranges and the combination of the two. But you can even add sweeteners, herbs such as mint, and spices such as cinnamon. If you look at the booklet, you’ll see what I mean. But there are also a VodkaZinger, AquaZinger and SaladZinger–which means seriously endless possibilities.

Right now the Zinger products are only available online and at Brookstone Stores. For more information, please visit the Zing Anything website.

Mikey’s This and That

A few random food observations on a snowy Madison Thursday afternoon…..

*Is there a reason why many canned soups have this gummy, almost plastic sheen of a taste these days? This is particularly true of so-called diet soups which I think use gummy fillers to make up for the loss of fat–i.e. loss of flavor. But they wind up making a chemical concoction that has totally turned me off of canned soup. I’ve been trying to make more of my own, which always tastes better, but it’s not always easy to find the time. Thankfully football season is over (well not really thankfully) which means more cooking for the week on Sundays with the wife.

*Salads just are not appealing in the winter. I sometimes find myself not getting enough vegetables in the winter, and a big reason is that I have almost no desire to eat healthy salads. That’s a summer thing, right? Maybe I need to make more soups. Where have I heard that before?

*I can’t believe Kristen fell on a sword on Top Chef: Seattle last week and didn’t throw Josie under the bus as she should have. I pegged her as the potential winner. I haven’t watched Last Chance Kitchen…but maybe she still can win if she won her LCK battle. But wow, Josie. Please go away.

*Speaking of Food TV, did you guys catch the first episode of that Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity cook off show on Food Network? That’s one of those reality shows that grabs its players from the depths of wherever they get contestants for Celebrity Fit Club. This season they’ve got the likes of Carney Wilson, Hines Ward and an actress and a socialite I’ve never heard of. And then there was Gilbert Gottfried. The poor dude doesn’t know how to boil water. So the first episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich. Then, as he’s battling another contestant for elimination in the same episode, he makes a peanut butter sandwich AGAIN. Dude, who is your agent and why would they put you through that?

*I often profess my love for Trader Joe’s on here. But I’ve come across something that’s amazing even by their standards. This Speculoos Cookie Spread. It won their award for customer favorite product of 2012, so I bought a jar. Holy smokes. It’s like peanut butter-like crack in a jar. I don’t even know what it is made out of…but it’s like a “butter” that is sweet and has cookie pieces and hints of cinnamon and….well, just go try it, and if you don’t love it, then you don’t like food. It’s impossible to not like it.

Product review: K-cup catch up

It’s sure been awesome being a K-Cup Ambassador, but I’ve lagged behind a bit on trying all of the great new beverages they have been sending along. So here I’m going to catch up on some of the November and December installments with a quick wrap of some of the flavors I tried:

Cafe Escapes Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa and Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa–I’ve said that the convenience of the Keurig is one of its best features. In particular, this is true when making tea or hot chocolate, because who wants to bother boiling water these days? And if you put the water in the microwave, there is that point where it goes from tepid to scalding with no in-between. The K-Cup remedies that by brewing a perfect cup in like 15 seconds. Same is true of the hot cocoa. And both the milk and dark chocolate varieties are delicious, if maybe a bit thin. But you can add a splash of cream or half and half. Or better yet, some whipped cream.

Cafe Escapes Cafe Mocha–A jolting blend of chocolate and coffee, but for me the accompanying jolt of sugar was a bit too much. Still delicious and if you are a fan of mocha, you’ll love having it brewed in a few seconds.

Green Mountain Coffee Golden French Toast–You might think “ewwwwww” but you’d be wrong. The first thing I thought of was, “will be be egg-y like French toast?” Well, yeah, kind of but it’s not a bad egg-y and there is this hint of maple too, and somehow it just works. I really dug this one.

Green Mountain Coffee Gingerbread–I don’t know how these engineers do it, but again they have created a coffee that tastes like a gingerbread cookie. It’s literally like you dunked a gingerbread cookie in your coffee, and it’s an awesome snowy morning warmer-upper.

Green Mountain Coffee Spicy Eggnog–Here is another one that tastes like, you guessed it–egg nog. But while the French toast and Gingerbread varieties were pleasing, this one was a tad off-putting for me. My wife loved it, so there is hope for the flavor, especially because she does not like egg nog. Of course, I didn’t even think to try this one spiked with, you know, spiked egg nog–but I can imagine that maybe that would be more up my alley.

Finally, I will mention that the fine folks at Green Mountain sent along a K-Cup® Pack Countertop Storage Drawer with the December mailer. Since we have boxes of K-Cup flavors now coming out of kitchen cabinets and around the sink and counters, this was a really welcome holiday addition.

What’s the obsession with green onions?

I came to realize well into my adult life that, while I may not be allergic to them, my belly just does not like green onions. Or, as my grandfather would say, “They don’t like me.” The thing is, though, I try. I love the taste of green onions. One of my favorite holiday foods growing up was green onion chip dip. But for whatever reason, if I eat more than a few of them, I have to reach for the Alka-Seltzer.

But let me tell you, avoiding green onions is almost impossible. If you like Mexican, Chinese, Thai or anything Southwest, you are likely going to encounter this vegetable. They are chopped up and added to wonton soup, stir fries, dumplings, quesadillas, spinach dip or get this–Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza. No joke, I have had to ask for my fast food Mexican pizza with no green onions. If I forget, I have to pick them off the top–but they have this way of multiplying and frustrating me. I have to look at ingredients before buying them.

Oooh, these Trader Joe’s dumplings look delicious–oh wait, green onions are the third ingredient. I took a Thai cooking class a few months ago and we made egg rolls and spring rolls from scratch, and guess what was in them? Same with the dumplings we made. Oooh, Southwest corn and chile dip! Wait, green onions. Hey, what’s Bobby Flay making? Oh, there he goes with the green onions.

I guess the one saving grace is that oftentimes the green onions are added as a garnish and can be omitted or scraped off before they immerse themselves in whatever dish it is. But as I mentioned earlier, they get tough to pick out, especially if they are stuck to melted cheese.

Then sometimes I think, “Hey, maybe I should try green onions again.” After all, I don’t like raw onions either, but I do love them grilled or caramelized or stir-fried….or, in onion rings. So recently I tried grilling some green onions that we received from our local CSA. Maybe the charred version would be okay to my insides. The result? Delicious, but the same old green onion indigestion or heartburn or whatever it is came right back. So I guess it’s something I’ll have to continue to avoid, and well, there could be worse things to have an aversion to I guess!

And hey, if you like green onions, more power to you, and you can have mine.

Mikey’s food resolutions for 2013

Happy New Year foodie friends! My first resolution is to post more regularly here. Beyond that, here are some of my food resolutions for 2013, and feel free to add yours in the comments or by e-mail to mikeyskitchen@gmail.com.

1. Create two new original recipes per month. Any of you that are creative types know that getting started is the most difficult part. But once you figure out your medium (meat/veggies/sauce/herbs/spices), the possibilities are endless.

2. Try four new foods I’ve never tried before. This one is tricky as I am not the kind of person who wants anything to do with foods like snails or even squid. But one new food item every three months? I think I can do that without having to try anything too far out of my comfort zone.

3. Make better use of a local specialty. In Wisconsin, that would be cheese. I have had some of the best cheddars of my life here in Madison, and yet there are so many other varieties. Maybe this will also go hand in hand with both #1 and #2.

4. Eat less junk and eat more healthy but tasty food. That means less packaged chips and crackers and more homemade beef jerky or celery with spicy hummus. It can be done.

5. Create a new column or two. The first idea I have is to re-create vintage food items that I can’t find or that no longer exist. The first of these–Buitoni’s toaster pizzas. I think I have written about these before, and I miss them dearly. But I think with some experimentation, even without an elaborate test kitchen, I can work on coming close to re-creation. Intrigued? So am I.

6. Figure out a better way to organize recipes. We have mountains of magazines and cookbooks, and it’s getting scary. I try and clip recipes, and toss magazines when I can, but it’s hard to keep up. But hey, it’s winter time in Madison, and that means it’s freaking cold outside and time for indoor projects. No excuses.

7. Watch more food TV. Not necessarily Food Network, but any of the other food related shows that are popping up on various channels. Or maybe just watch all of the episodes of Sandwich King and Best Thing I Ever Made or The Minimalist on DVR for a change.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Any more, and I won’t even try to keep said resolutions. Now let’s get cooking….

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