Category Archives: Appetizers

Trader Joe’s – Poutine Review

I’ll be the first to admit that I was never a fan of Trader Joe’s. I remember when family members would make a trek to one store, nearby downtown Milwaukee, and as we recently had one built not too far from where we currently live. I’ve been there, once, and bought random frozen products, only to be nearly disappointed every time I tried one of their products. I’ve asked my coworkers who live near the downtown location, and they also did not believe the hype. They’ve stated (and others) there are a couple of things that they did like about some of their stuff, including some of the jarred salsas, frozen Indian food, and wine specials. That is about it. Regardless, during last year’s Christmas season, my colleague gave me and my coworker a bag of Trader Joe’s poutine, yep, that’s how we roll in our office. Months later, I figured I would give these a try. As much as I love poutine, and I’ve made it before back in 2007, as well as put a twist on a chicken satay poutine (which rocked  by the way), who could go wrong, right?

Trader Joe's Poutine - Product Review

While looking at the bag, I had to somewhat drool. If you never had poutine, you are essentially getting french fries, drizzled or soaked in great gravy, and smothered with cheese curds. It’s pretty awesome. So when I opened the bag, I got a frozen packet of gravy, a frozen packet of cheese curds, and frozen french fries. Directions were simple, bake the fries until done, and simmer the two packets in hot water until cooked through.

Trader Joe's Poutine

When everything is ready, go ahead and assemble. I laid out the cooked fries, which looked good, onto a serving plate, then cut open the bag of gravy and curds. I squeezed the gravy all over the fries, and layered on the curds.

I then dug in. My first bite was just OK, second bite, less then OK, and it seemed to hang at that point from there on out. In all honesty, I was tasting every bite as though I was doing a product review. The fries were just OK, maybe slightly less than OK. I had to add salt, even though there was gravy and curds to be dealt with. The cheese curds kind of freaked me out to the point where I no longer wanted to eat them. Granted, the cheese curds had a great squeak to them, as every good cheese curd should, but the texture was totally off, and that is when the squeak freaked me out. I did not even want to look at the ingredients, or better yet what the hell that squeak was.

Overall, I would not purchase a bag of Trader Joe’s Poutine again, but I was appreciative of my colleague giving us the bag as a gift during that time. It really confirmed why I do not shop at Trader Joe’s, and I will continue to not believe the hype. If you are wanting poutine, make your own. You know what you are getting, and putting into your dish. Have you tried this product, and if so, what were your thoughts?

How to Make Homemade Butter

Homemade butter? Yes, and trust me on this that it might change your take on butter. My oldest kid uses butter on a regular basis to sear up ham and buns, yep, he is into that and I don’t mind as he is exploring in the kitchen and cooking on his own. After watching a recent Vimeo video of this guy’s passion of making bread and butter, I decided that I was going to make my own butter. If you have never made butter before, try it. It was super simple, and you know what you are getting when you are making it yourself, and that is the beauty of it all.

Homemade Butter Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints of Organic Heavy Cream
  • KitchenAid with Whisk attachment or a large mason jar with lid
  • 2 cups of ice cold water
  • Salt, optional
  • Cheese Cloth, optional

Yep, that’s how butter is made. Way to simple.

I used a KitchenAid, however rumor has it that you can shake the crap out of the cream in a large mason jar. I support KitchenAid, so I went that route.

Start by adding the heavy cream to the KitchenAid bowl. Place in the mixer, and spin on medium to medium-high spin for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on it along the way.

After about 10 minutes, possibly sooner, the cream begins to curdle and separate. It’s cool, it’s really cool. Once it separates, turn off the mixer. Strain the liquid from the solid. You can reserve the liquid should you desire. Once the liquid has been strained, return the solids back to the mixer. Add in the ice cold water, and continue to mix until you have a tight, solid mixture. Drain the excess water.

how-to-make-homemade-butter-ingredients

Once you think the liquid has been strained, it has not. Use a large wooden spoon and press the butter against the bowl. Lots of liquid will come out, trust me. Continue until you know that all of the liquid has been removed. I ensured this by placing the butter into some cheese cloth and tightening it until all of the liquid was removed.

Now you can add salt if you desire. I added about half of a tablespoon of course Kosher salt. You could add Sriracha salt as well. Give a gentle stir, and save in a sealed tight container, in the refrigerator.

The end result is a great, really great butter. I haven’t seen my wife spread butter on a bagel in some time, and she was all over that. We spread it on corn, as well as seared up some ham sandwiches. Give this a shot if you want some really good product, and remember, use organic, I think that makes a huge difference.

Feta Cheese and Mint Dip

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to one of the family’s annual pool party. With that said, I needed to come up with something to make. I normally do a spin on one of my taco dips, but this year I wanted to make something different. That’s when I immediately turned to all of the mint growing in my garden. Let me just say this, I have a TON of mint. I normally use the mint in dishes such as larb, or give handfuls to my daughter when she picks fresh raspberries from the backyard, but here I wanted to make a dip, using mint, and that is when I came up with a feta cheese and mint dip. It was great.

Feta Cheese and Mint Dip

The great thing about this dip, besides all of the wonderful flavor, is that you can serve it with pretzels or chips, or better yet, some nice garden vegetables.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dill weed
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Pita chips

This recipe is super quick to make, so lets get busy.

Heat a skillet on medium heat. Add in one tablespoon of the olive oil.  Once heated through, toss in the onions, and cook just until they begin to caramelize. Remove from the heat and set to the side.

To a mixing bowl, add in the cheese, lemon juice and zest, mint, dill weed, and cracked black pepper. Using a fork, begin mashing all of the ingredients.

Slowly add in the olive oil, and half of the cooked onions.  Stir until you have a lightly creamy texture.  Scoop the mixture into a serving dish, and garnish with the remaining cooked onions.

How to make Feta Cheese and Mint Dip

Serve with pita chips and fresh cut vegetables.

The result is a well balanced dip that has that great punch of feta cheese, while the mint just takes it into a whole other direction. Give this one a shot if you are looking for something other than a taco dip to bring to a party, especially if you love feta cheese. I wish I would have made more as this would probably be great on a grilled burger. Hope you enjoy!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza

It was not too long ago when some friends of ours said they were heading up north Wisconsin to visit some friends and that there was some cheese, the best cheese, in Wisconsin there. They had asked if I wanted some to bring back, and I said sure, get me twenty dollars worth of cheese, a mixture of a creamy blue, and some cheddar. I love soft blue cheese. I truly do. About a week later, I met up with them at our kids baseball game, and she forked over a bag of cheese, as promised, and she also threw in a blended cheese called Jamaican Jerk. They were not too pleased with the blend, however she said that I could probably make something out of it. I did. This pizza.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza

At first bite, I really did not care for the cheese to be quiet honest with you, however I wasn’t going to let it go to waste. I figured I was going to make a queso fundido out of it, and then it sparked of how much I love Jamaican jerk chicken, that I would make a pizza out of it as I already had made a batch of pizza dough for the family.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of your favorite pizza dough, rolled or tossed to your desire
  • 2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded
  • 2 1/2 cups of Jamaican Jerk cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite pizza sauce

That’s it. Pretty simple. The Jamaican Jerk cheese is actually a blend of a mozzarella style jack cheese so it went perfect when melted.

Start  by preheating your oven to the highest temperature, mine only goes to 500. If you have a pizza stone, preheat that as well.

Next, get your dough tossed or rolled out to your desired thickness. I went a bit on the thinner side on this pizza.

Spread a thin amount of pizza sauce on the pizza. Top with the Jamaican jerk cheese, and then add the shredded chicken. If you have some cheese left over, sprinkle it onto the chicken.

How to make a Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza

Place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the crust is nice and golden and the cheese is nice and melted.

I’ll admit, the result was pretty darn good. The cheese did still have some of the funk that it had when eaten by itself, but the pizza sauce, along with the chicken somewhat balanced it out.

Have you ever tried Jamaican jerk cheese? What are your thoughts? Hope you enjoy!