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Product review: Planter’s Dry Roasted Peanuts Honey BBQ and Roasted Onion & Garlic

Greetings and happy weekend everyone! If you are looking for a snack that has more substance the chips, perhaps more protein without being greasy, look no further than new Planter’s Honey BBQ Dry Roasted Peanuts, and Planter’s Roasted Onion & Garlic Dry Roasted Peanuts. I specifically say chips, because these are flavors most often associated with potato chips.

One of the nice things about these nuts is that the flavors are not super assertive–a good thing if you plan on eating more than a few handfuls. This is also a drawback if, say, you like big and bold flavors.

Chef JimThe Honey BBQ flavor taste like honey roasted peanuts a bit–though not as sweet, and with a background flavor that resembles the barbecue seasoning on, well, barbecue potato chips. For me, the flavor was just too subtle. Of course, my nut of choice in this case would more likely be the spicy ones, a la Planter’s “Heat” nuts.

Chef JimThe Roasted Onion & Garlic peanuts were more flavorful and had a really nice savory flavor profile that was also mellow and subtle enough, but with just the right amount of onion and garlic punch. The thought here is maybe that real roasted onion or garlic is more sweet than harsh. If you have ever had Wise brand Onion/Garlic chips (do they still make those?), that’s what these nuts taste like in reference to snacks I’ve had before. And I did like these more than the BBQ ones.

It’s summer and time for outdoor barbecues and just lounging around outside, and these Planter’s peanuts will definitely be a nice addition to your snack pantry for these occasions.

Mikey’s March Madness spread

As originally posted on the Bullz-Eye.com blog……

March Madness, like most big sporting events, has become a free-for-all of food options. But just because the Madison Avenue crowd tries to pump your eyes and ears full of pizza, tacos and subs, you don’t have to fill your belly with that commercially made food (and I use the word “food” loosely). So here are a few options to try and mix things up in your own kitchen, literally.

TANGY SWEET SOY-LIME WINGS

I’ve been trying to create and perfect various wing recipes, and lately I’ve been into the sweet, tangy and spicy notes of Asian flavors, so here is the most ambitious of this group of recipes.

Ingredients:

¼ cup each soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup sake (rice wine)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 inch piece of ginger, trimmed and chopped fine
5 lb. bag chicken wing sections (if frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before using)
¼ cup vegetable oil (such as canola or peanut oil), divided
Salt and pepper to taste
Sriracha hot sauce to taste
Juice of 2 limes
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar and ginger in a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven on medium heat. Lay wings on a large platter or a few plates and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When you put your hand about 2 inches from the oil and can feel the heat, add half of the wings, skin side down. Sear for about four minutes per side and remove to another plate. Repeat with remaining oil, wings and salt/pepper, but after searing the second batch, return the rest of the wings to the pot, and dump in the sauce. Turn down the heat and cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove cover, and let simmer another five minutes, until sauce is reduced and thick. Using tongs, carefully remove wings to a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until browned and crispy. Remove wings to a plate, drizzle with some of the remaining sauce in the pan and Sriracha, and sprinkle with lime juice, peanuts and cilantro.

TRIO OF FAT FINGER SANDWICHES

People like tea-like finger sandwiches. They are also the food of choice for many fancy cocktail parties. But for dudes like us, they should be called something that reflects our caveman instincts, hence the name “fat finger sandwiches.” For the purpose of making this easy for you (and me), I’ll show you how to make about four sandwiches at a time, and you can multiply out as necessary.

Crispy Cristo Sandwich

Is it even worth saying that this may be the single most delicious thing I have ever made or tasted? Because, well, it really was. And after wrestling with the idea that I would have to figure out how to butter the donuts, I realized that with the sugar glaze, the donut as “bread” would become crisp on its own.

Ingredients:

Butter
4 glazed donuts, preferably Krispy Kreme
4 thin slices smoked deli ham
4 slices yellow American cheese
Cooking spray

Directions:

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and throw in a pat of butter. Slice each donut, lay a slice of ham and then cheese on the bottom and replace with the top, and then place donut sandwich in the skillet and press down with a spatula. Repeat with all donuts, and when bottom begins to brown (about 60 to 90 seconds), flip the sandwich over and cook for another 45 seconds to a minute. Move to a plate as is or slice in half or quarters.

Pizza Bagel and Sausage Slider

Another super easy and tasty snack.

Ingredients:

1-2 links (fully cooked) smoked Italian sausage, sliced
8 small pizza bagels

Directions:

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, fry sausage slices on each side until brown and crispy, then drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, bake pizza bagels according to package directions. Let cool a few minutes, then put a few slices of sausage on four of the bagel halves and top with remaining bagel halves.

Chicken and Wafflewich

I’ve been semi-obsessed with this classic combo lately, and this is about as simple as it gets.

Ingredients:

6-8 small breaded chicken strips
4 double maple waffles (such as Eggo)
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 pats butter

Directions:

Bake chicken strips according to package directions and set aside. Meanwhile, combine syrup and hot sauce in a small bowel. Toast waffles and spread butter on each slice. Then, top two waffles with chicken strips and drizzle with syrup. Top with other waffles (they should be those waffles that are perforated that you can break into four large finger sandwiches) and serve.

PIMENTO CHEESE CANOES

Because you need some vegetables (well, maybe not!), here is an easy and tasty way to put three food groups together.

Ingredients:

1 bunch celery
½ cup pimento cheese (in a jar, looks like cream cheese)
Handful of slivered toasted almonds (Trader Joe’s has them pre-toasted like this)

Directions:

Wash and trim celery, leaving them as long “canoes.” Spread cheese on each and sprinkle with almonds.

BLOODY MIKEY SHOOTER

I imagine this would be a kickass hangover cure, although I haven’t tested that theory just yet.

Ingredients:

½ cup tomato juice or vegetable juice
1 Tbsp. Buffalo wing sauce
1 Tbsp. hot pickled cherry pepper juice
Juice of half a lime

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a small juice glass and stir Drink up! (Note: This makes one shooter, but you can use this guideline to make as many as you want).

Bacon and egg torpedo

Sometimes you just gotta eat a pile of bacon. I didn’t know what I wanted for breakfast this morning, and pulled out some bacon. I took four thick slices out and cut them in half, and put them on the bacon tray. So that meant 8 short slices of delicious bacon. Now what? I spotted some hot dog rolls, and then it came to me–a little sub of sorts…..a torpedo. Of course, sometimes you have to accent the bacon with a scrambled egg, and you have to then accent that with cheese. So I stacked the bacon on the bun, put the egg on top and the cheese on top of that, and closed it up.

Bam–the bacon and egg torpedo. If I would have thought about it, and if I wasn’t so hungry that I didn’t have time to look for them, I would have thinly sliced up some jalapeno too for some good, clean heat. But hey, it was still pretty good.

Two food items from Bullz-Eye’s Holiday Gift Guide

I was asked to write up a couple of cool products for Bullz-Eye.com’s Holiday Gift Guide, and I thought I should share them here with you. Both are already getting much use here in Mikey’s Kitchen!

NFL Crock-Pot® Slow Cookers

Chef JimWhen we saw an ad for these NFL logo slow cookers, our resident New York Giants fan had to have one. Crock-Pot slow cookers have traditionally been marketed to women, and they have always been a great kitchen staple across America. The concept is awesome—you put meat, vegetables, potatoes, and/or rice, canned tomatoes, broth and whatever else your recipe calls for, let it cook slow for 8-10 hours and you have dinner ready when you want. For Sunday football, these are great for chili, hearty soup, or for keeping hot dogs warm in a slow cooker full of water. And what better way to tailgate than to show off your team logo while you’re doing so? Another great feature of this particular slow cooker is that there are latches on both sides in order to clamp the lid on tight, and also a small hole in the cover to allow steam to escape. So the NFL themed Crock Pot is efficient AND looks great on Sundays.

The Essential James Beard Cookbook

Chef JimWe love to cook, but as hard as it can be sometimes, we try to stay on the healthy side. Of course, like most guys, we do like to make steaks, burgers and wings and some heavier soups, chilis and pastas. Indulgence is something reserved for holidays or for special Sundays. Such is the case with the new James Beard cookbook—a compilation from 12 of Beard’s books. We thumbed through it and noticed that almost every recipe calls for A LOT of butter. Beard was an American chef, but there is no doubt that some of his techniques are classic French. And on that note, the two recipes we tried were Gruyere soup and Beef Bourguignon Saute. Total amount of butter for both recipes—somewhere around two sticks. But the thing is, these recipes were fairly easy—time consuming, but easy. And the best part was that we learned so much, like taking a cooking class from a master. In particular, we learned how to make an amazing sauce for the beef dish. But wait, there’s more—literally. There are 450 recipes, including appetizers, pasta, soups, entrees, sides and desserts. In other words, we have 448 more to try.

Football season = smoked meats time

One of my favorite things about football season is that while there is a chill in the air outside (for the most part, as even in Wisconsin we have some pretty warm weather through September) is that it’s a great time to break out the indoor smoker my wife bought me a few years ago. And while typically I make chicken wings in my Cameron Indoor Smoker, and occasionally ribs–the first two weeks of the season I went a tad healthier to honor the fact that I’m trying to lose weight.

Last week it was chicken tenders–extremely easy as I put them in the smoker frozen, sprayed with cooking spray and sprinkled with salt, pepper and other spices. The cooking time is minimal compared to the low and slow time needed to “tenderize” wings and ribs. I am pretty sure the chicken smoked for about three hours and came out perfect, albeit maybe slightly overcooked before I finished the tenders on the grill. I mixed up some homemade ranch dip by mixing light mayo, light sour cream, a splash of vinegar, onion and garlic powder and salt and pepper. Perfection.

Then yesterday I made a flank steak in the smoker. And it was made even more perfect by the fact that I was in Nashville this past weekend, and picked up some Loveless Cafe dry rub–an awesome sweet, spicy and savory blend to rub on meat before grilling or smoking it. I had the steak in the freezer, so also put that right in the smoker frozen and rubbed it generously with the spice mix. Then I smoked it for about four hours until tender and slapped it on the grill for about five minutes. Done deal: meat snacks! It’s like homemade jerky, but more like a combination of thick steak and jerky that is nicely smoked and seasoned.

An interview with folk musician Charlie Parr

In my other life, I am a music publicist. And one of my clients is Duluth based folk musician Charlie Parr, who is a global icon in Americana/folk circles. For good reason, too. The publicist in me says you should all listen to Charlie Parr (he re-released fan favorite albums 1922 and Glory in the Meeting House yesterday on House of Mercy Recordings and has a new studio album due in early 2013), but Charlie has an interesting method of cooking while on tour in his van — he cooks meals on top of his exhaust manifold. Well, being a foodie and music publicist, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to discuss this cooking method with Charlie and share it with all of you…..

Mikey’s Kitchen: When did you start cooking on your manifold and what was the first dish you made?

Charlie Parr: Year’s ago, at least 20 or so. I started with real simple re-heating stuff and made brats, warmed up corn-bread, heated up sandwiches.

MK: How long does it take to heat up any given dish?

CP: There are many variables, such as the weather. If it’s raining it won’t work, if it’s cold out, you may need to construct a simple air-dam to trap some heat, if it’s real hot you can’t go too far. Generally, all things being equal, I can get sufficient heat to warm something through in 20 miles or thereabouts. Cooking things like beans or veggies, or meats will usually go to about 50-75 miles depending on the dish. A nice melt-sandwich can be had in 30 miles depending on the weather. This is all freeway, by the way, traveling in traffic changes everything and is harder since if you cook in hot weather and your commute is 30 minutes in traffic, you’ll end up burning your breakfast burrito. It needs checking at about 15 minutes or less if you’re idling to see how it’s going. If you have a Dodge Van from about 1965 or so you can open the doghouse at the top while you’re driving and check it that way. But I don’t have one of those.

MK: What dish works the best with this method?

CP: I like making mixed veggies or black beans and rice. You start with three layers of tin foil with the folds at the top, make it easy to open and close since you’ll be checking and stirring once, add a bit of water for steam, and plenty of spice (I like Sriracha). If you’re using rice, the instant kind works best unless you’re cooking them separate (need a V8 for this). Make sure everything is mixed well and let her go for 30 miles–then stop and check and stir, re-wrap and maybe grab a new hot spot and go another 30-40 miles and it should be ready to eat.

MK: What limitations do you have cooking this way?

CP: Things that need to be checked a lot. Seafood is hard unless it’s precooked. Potatoes take a while and often need to be given more water about halfway through. Meat is hard unless it’s ground or in a sausage form, then it’s very easy. Things that need direct contact with heat (steaks, etc) are out since you’re really steaming everything and can’t apply direct heat (the food would get dirty/oily). Tin foil is the only thing I’ve found that conducts heat well enough to cook – I’ve tried little pans, foil pans, tin cans and those work sometimes, but tin foil works all the time and rarely leaks if you wrap it carefully.

MK: What you have you not tried yet that you would like to?

CP: I’ve started doing a few bread-style things and want to do more. I also have been meaning to do Toad-in-the-hole for some time, and I also got a vegetarian cookbook that I’m going to dig into and try some things. Emily’s (Charlie’s wife) not into this, though, so I can only really cook when I’m touring on my own.

For more information, please visit www.charlieparr.com

Product reviews/recipes–alcohol edition

I will never complain that from time to time I receive some free alcohol to sample in exchange for writing something up about said liquor. With that, I’m going to talk about three such liquors and what a novice mixologist like me did with them. And when I say novice, I’m talking still-in-the-womb novice. Most of my experience with booze is opening up some beer or wine, but occasionally I step out of my comfort zone. But at least you know that going in.

Chef JimFirst, I was sent three different types of tequila from Hornitos–Reposado, Plata, and Anejo. I’m looking forward to having a Mexican themed party with margaritas and Coronas, but meanwhile, I used the Plata (clearest form of tequila) for the following recipe sent to me by the rep for X-Rated Fusion Liqueur and substituted the Hornitos for the tequila they suggested:

The Garden Fresh Skinny Summerita

By Travis London

Chef Jim1 oz. X-Rated Fusion Liqueur
1 oz. (Hornitos) tequila

Juice of half a lime
3 sprigs fresh cilantro
3 thin slices of fresh cucumber
3 thin slices of a fresh jalapeño pepper
Cucumber wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (except cucumber wheel) filled with ice and shake vigorously. Pour into a chilled glass and garnish with cucumber wheel.

I will say this–it’s not a sweet fu-fu drink. With the jalapeno in there, this is a downright spicy drink, but it’s also extremely refreshing. If you can take the spice, you can probably drink three or four of these without blinking on a hot summer day. And let’s face it–it’s freaking hot everywhere in the country right now.

Chef JimThen there is this drink I created using SKYY Infusions Coconut vodka. I’m a big coconut fan, so it was easy for me to like this one. I’m also a big fan of flavored carbonated water, and for this one I used La Croix Coconut and Lime flavors:

Mikey’s Lime in the Coconut (make sure the Harry Nilsson song “Lime in the Coconut” is playing when you drink this)

1 oz. SKYY Infusions Coconut vodka
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. sugar water (1 tsp. of sugar dissolved in 1 oz. water)
1 oz. La Croix coconut carbonated water
1 oz. La Croix lime carbonated water

Combine vodka, lime juice and sugar water in a shaker with some ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a glass with ice. Slowly pour in the seltzers and stir before serving. Garnish with a slice of lime.

This one was pretty refreshing as well, but perhaps it could use a touch more sugar. Or maybe more vodka. Hey, I told you I was a novice!

A delicious lunch–burger and spicy ketchup

I have a confession to make. I have many items that were sent to me that I have on tap to review, and I will start hammering those out in the next couple of weeks. Good for all of you for content, good for me for content, and good for my publicist friends who are being patient!

Now, I have another confession to make. I love burgers, and I found these most excellent Kobe beef burgers at Trader Joe’s. You let them defrost for a day in your fridge (or under cold water in the package if you have less time), and either grill or make in a skillet on your stove. Yesterday I remembered that I bought some Melinda’s Habanero Ketchup, and so I paired the two items for lunch. Even better, I picked up a nice big kaiser roll at the grocery store to put it on. Man, I’m getting hungry again.

So since it was about 95 degrees at lunchtime, and my deck is right in direct sun, I cooked this burger inside, with a dome over the pan to keep the steam and juices all locked in. And for some burgers, you just can’t load on lettuce, tomato or even (gasp!) cheese. So I did this the way I like it–a little salt on the burger, and then just the ketchup on both sides. And I lucked out too by cooking the burger perfectly–a little pink in the middle, and with the juices intact. And with the spicy tang of the ketchup, it was a masterpiece.

The downside? I had to finish working rather than take a long nap.

The Fourth–hot dog time

Last week I celebrated the 4th of July early with one of the synonymous food items for it–the hot dog. Specifically, I had a two-dog Chicago style dog rolled up in a tortilla. And really, this is a great way to have a dog with all those toppings, because you don’t have toppings all over your plate or the floor. It mostly all goes in your mouth. And also, it’s an easy way to slide two dogs into your bread vehicle.

So what goes on the Chicago? Any combo of this–yellow mustard, tomatoes, onions, sweet relish (neon green if you can find it), pickles, cucumber, hot peppers and celery salt. And it is best with all beef dogs, but that is not at all necessary. For me, I can’t eat raw onions without heartburn and bad breath, so I do myself and my wife a favor and omit those.

But really, you can also come up with all sorts of combos to top a dog. It’s the 4th, right? Also, the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest is on ESPN, another tradition that we have–going to our local parade, and then watching the contest and eating a dog (or 50!). Have a great holiday everyone, and make sure to hand your keys to someone if you have too many (drinks that is, not hot dogs).

Product review: Gatorade’s three new items and Cam Newton endorsement

Sometimes food and sports intersect, and as a fan of both, that doesn’t bother me one bit. So when I was asked to check out three new items from Gatorade, and plug Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton’s endorsement, it was hard to say no.

First off, the products–new Gatorade G Series Energy Chews; 28 oz. thirst quencher bottle; and G Series Protein Recovery Shake. The chews were orange flavor and came in a small sleeve with six chews. You squeeze the wrapper, making them easy to pop out and into your mouth, and a serving size is six chews/one package. Let me say that not only were they tasty like a big soft jelly candy, but I tried these on Thursday afternoon, and I literally felt like I was going to fly out the roof of my office. I think it has to do with the B-vitamins, but wow.

The 28 oz. thirst quencher bottle (they sent me this in orange as well) was regular Gatorade, or what they call the “perform” part of their new-ish “prime-perform-recover” mantra. But the bottle had an hour glass shape, making it easy to hold, and likely easier to hold with sweaty hands than the standard bottle of water or sports drink.

Finally, the G Series Protein Recovery Shake. Well, I had back surgery a few months ago and have not been able to work out beyond walking, so it’s not like I could test out the post-workout aspect. But I know the difference between chocolate milk and a protein shake. Protein shakes often tasty chalky or too much like health food. But the G Series chocolate flavor they sent was more like chocolate milk–no weird aftertaste, and delicious.

As for Cam Newton, here is a clip of him discussing staying ahead of the competition, including proper nutrition that now involves the G Series Energy Chews:

If you work out a lot, or even a little…or if you love Gatorade like I do, you should check this stuff out.

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