Category Archives: Game Day

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?

Bacon Fried Rice

One of my kids favorite recipes is fried rice. I think that even at a very early age, my father-in-law had served it up for breakfast to him while they watched him while we were at work. Yes, I’m talking like two years old or something of that nature. Let’s just say he was young. But at that age, that food stuck in his head, that’s what fried rice can do to someone. Since then, he has come a long way in terms of exploring food. He is big into smoked meats such as ribs, brisket, and chicken, and lots of other things. Let’s just say he is no longer a chicken tender and french fry kid. With that said, one of his favorite dishes is bacon fried rice, so much that he makes requests for it. I’m down with that because this is a great opportunity to get vegetables into this rice, along with eggs (that he hates), that he devours it all up. That is called winning.

Bacon Fried Rice

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Jasmine, or long grain rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 5 slices of Nueske’s Bacon, diced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 whole carrots, diced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp Red Boat Fish Sauce or Three Crabs Fish Sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp chili oil, optional
  • additional water

Start by making your rice. I use a rice cooker, and to that I add the rice to the rice pot, and rinse several times in cold water until the runs clear. Drain and add equal parts of water. Cover, and turn on the rice cooker until it is finished. I love the rice cooker.

Now I do this the same day, and the trick to making fried rice the same day is to make sure the rice gets dry. I accomplish this by removing the cooked rice onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, fanning it out, and letting it sit on the counter for several hours. Otherwise, let the rice cool, store in the refrigerator and use the following day.

Make sure you have prepared the remaining ingredients.

Heat a large wok on medium heat. Add in the diced bacon, and cooked until slightly crisp. Keep the bacon fat in the wok, along with the bacon. Next toss in the garlic and shallot and cook for about 40 seconds or so. Add in about two tablespoons of butter and your chili oil. Stir, then toss in the carrots.  Add in about 2 tablespoons of water. Stir.

How to make bacon fried rice

Turn up the heat.

Add in the beaten eggs, and stir, ensuring the the eggs are thinned out and cooked. Using your spatula, break up the eggs into pieces.

Toss in your rice, and begin breaking that up, using your spatula, and scraping underneath the rice in the wok. Use your wok master skills and wok like you mean it. Toss in the fish sauce, cracked black pepper, and soy sauce. Keep woking, aggressively under high heat until you get a nice light crust on the rice.

Serve immediately.

The result is an awesome bacon fried rice. You get the great smokiness from the bacon, and when everything is mixed together, well, let’s just say it’s awesome, and perfect for breakfast as well. Hope you enjoy!

Vodka Macerated Cherries

It’s that time of year again where fruit is in season, and a few weeks ago, cherries were on sale at my local market. I’ll be honest and tell you that as I do like cherries, they are not my favorite fruit. I know those folks like my father-in-law who will show up to a picnic with a bag of them and chomp away at them, and I recall my dad sitting around on a couch nibbling on them for some time as well, but me? Well, not so much. I did buy them with the idea that my kids would make an attempt, or better yet, my wife make an attempt at eating them, but a few days later, I still saw the lonely bag of cherries. I ultimately knew that if I was not going to take matters into my hands and do something about the cherries that they would most likely go to waste.

That’s when I remember seeing a show about removing the seeds from the cherries by using a straw. Yes, a straw. I figured what a better way to see if the straw technique actually worked, rather than buy some pitter gadget. The straws worked. That’s when I thought of macerating cherries for the upcoming cocktail season.

Vodka Macerated Cherries

I’ve made macerated cherries in brandy some time ago, and they were awesome, so why not soak them in vodka, right?

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh cherries, pitted, approximately 1 bag
  • Vodka
  • Mason Jar
  • Straw or cherry pitter

How can it get any easier than that right?

Using a straw (I use a metal straw), insert into the center of the cherry, at the stem side, and push the pit through the cherry. Repeat. You can also wear gloves while doing this as the cherry juice stained my hands for a few days. No lie.

How to make vodka macerated cherries

Once the cherries have been pitted, fill them to the top of a mason jar. I used a large mason jar, just because I wanted more cherries. Once filled, pour in your favorite vodka all the way to the top. Seal with the lid, and cover tightly.

Place in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. When you are ready, for some out and enjoy, otherwise serve them in some sparkling water, white soda, or place a couple on a skewer in a great summer time cocktail. Enjoy!

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!