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Mikey’s This and That

So for Super Bowl Sunday, we stayed home which is how I like it–primarily because I’m a football purist and like to focus on the game. But hey, I’m a foodie so made some good food too. My wife has been doing something similar to South Beach Diet, and so we kept things relatively healthy and low-carb. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be tasty. We made Andrew Zimmern’s Asian wings that I have covered on here before, South Beach Texas Bowl o Red which is basically beef chunks in a thick chili sauce, and Mark Bittman’s Black Bean Soup from a Men’s Health Magazine. I could not find that online, but here is a version of Bittman’s that is close.

This new show “The Taste” on ABC looks pretty cool. It’s essentially a food version of “The Voice,” with big names like Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre and Nigella Lawson–the judges have to taste a spoonful of food prepared by someone that they don’t know is a home cook or a professional. And it looks like it has a big budget set. My wife and I barely got through the long 2-hour premiere, but it’s definitely a show that looks like it will be worth watching.

Have you guys noticed food prices going up? I have not researched this but man, it seems like simple things that were $4.99 a year ago are $6.99 now. Or maybe I’m imagining things.

Man, speaking of food, it’s dinner time and I’m hungry. See ya!

  

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.

  

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.

  

Andrew Zimmern’s crazy awesome wings

So a couple weeks back, I happened on an episode of Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Made, which is the replacement for Best Thing I Ever Ate, for which I think they just ran out of ideas and categories for. And Andrew Zimmern was on there. You know, the guy from Travel Channel who has a show called Bizarre Foods, and eats some of the absolutely craziest things that anyone would ever put in their mouth–including one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen–bull schlong. Quite honestly, I drew the line right there and haven’t watched that show since.

But when I saw him dial up this recipe for “Grandmother’s Chinese chicken wings” and my mouth was watering right away. My mouth is watering as I type this, because I tried these things two Sundays ago and they were phenomenal. I made them again this past Sunday and I may make them every Sunday until the end of time. They were that good. And it’s not like they are crispy–you make them in a large pot and essentially stir fry them for like an hour. But holy crap, the sauce is like a parade of flavors–sweet, spicy, tangy, soy-ee. Anyway, I get it. I get why he tried to re-create these for years before a friend came across the recipe from a Chinese grandma. You have to get a few ingredients you may have trouble finding–dried chiles, star anise, sake and mirin. But you can usually find stuff like that in a store like Whole Foods, or giant grocery like Woodman’s here in Madison.

So do me a favor and do Zimmern a favor and try these wings for your next party. They will go FAST.

  

Mikey gives props to…..

Cooking Light Magazine–I’ve mentioned on here before that I am on Weight Watchers. Yes, it sometimes affects and stifles my creativity as a home cook, but it also opens up possibilities and challenges me. Well, I recently started subscribing to Cooking Light Magazine. And of all of the food magazine recipes I’ve made lately, almost everything we’ve tried the past two weeks from their 25th anniversary edition have been phenomenal. Here are a few you can try that we did:

Chef JimCreamy Four-cheese Macaroni & Cheese–You will not believe how few calories this is per serving. I defy anyone to find me a full-fat recipe that is as good as this one.

Chef JimCheesy Meat Loaf Minis–Some of the best meat loaf we have ever had. It helps that you can use full-fat cheddar, and being in Wisconsin, we have some good cheddar.

Chef JimTop Chef: Seattle–I need to be honest. I am a fan of the Top Chef brand, but have found Curtis Stone hosting Top Chef Masters to be grating. And their new Life After Top Chef is kind of so-so. But the original, which now is in Season 10 for Top Chef Seattle, remains one of the best shows on television, cooking show or otherwise. Bravo to Bravo and to Magical Elves production. I mean, I’d rather look at and listen to Padma Lakshmi than Curtis, and Tom Colicchio is like the Godfather of the show, but every season they do not disappoint with the collection of chefs, and with the episodes and challenges. It’s just a fun show to watch and guaranteed to make home chefs inspired.

Chef JimHome Run Inn Frozen Pizza–This is hands down the best frozen pizza on the planet. It comes from Chicago, so I’m not sure if they ship beyond the proximity of the Midwest, but my goodness. The crust is ridiculous–it tastes like fresh bakery bread. The sauce is perfectly simple with no garlic whatsoever, unlike many sauces on other frozen brands that ruin the pizza that way. The cheese is just mozzarella. And now they have thin crust varieties that are Weight Watchers friendly–for real.

  

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