Category Archives: Kids

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!

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.

Blueberry and Ginger Pie

So I entered a pie contest this past Fourth of July. If you have known me long enough, you have probably figured out that I am not a baking kind of guy, nor am I one that is big into desserts. However, my kids are all about the desserts, and my daughter in particular is one who is really into fruit, and fruit pies for that matter. So it was last year that we were up at our local festival and that is when I found out there was a pie contest. A friend of ours actually came in first place, and that is what drove me this year to submit one. I’ve really been into blueberries lately and use them quiet extensively when I juice, so I figured that would be my pie, or the base of the pie that I would submit.

As a side note, my pie did not win and I’m fine with that, but what I did notice is that I had a line in front of my pie, full of people just dying to try it. My pie was gone in a matter of seconds. I felt like a winner after all.

This blueberry and ginger pie was so good my daughter asked me to make another one a few days later, and so I did, but taught her how to make it. I was winning again.

Blueberry and Ginger Pie

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pints of fresh blueberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 generous pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp additional sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 pie crusts, store bought or homemade
  • 1 tsp course salt

The great thing about this pie is that it is so simple to prepare. I will also admit that I included a couple of other items in my pie submission and I will keep those a secret until I win next year.

Start by preheating your oven to 385 degrees.

Next, add your cleaned  berries to a large bowl and add in the ginger, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Gently mix to get everything incorporated.

I used frozen pie crusts with my daughter, just thought I would let you know.

How to make blueberry and ginger pie

Take one frozen pie crust, in its pan, and add in the blueberry mixture. Carefully place the other pie crust on top of the blueberry mixture, then using a fork, crimp the edges to seal the pie.

Mix the egg and water in a small bowl. Lightly brush the egg wash mixture onto the pie crust. Cut a few slots with a sharp knife on the middle of the pie dough to allow steam to escape.

Sprinkle the course salt and additional sugar on the top of the pie. Place on a baking sheet (as the blueberry mixture will escape), and cook for about 50-60 minutes. Once nice and golden, remove from the baking sheet and place the pie tin onto a plate to let cool.

I like to place my pie into the refrigerator to let cool overnight. Obviously my daughter (and wife) could wait no longer.

When you are ready, slice and serve. The pie just hits the spot. Maybe it is that bit of salt that cuts the sweetness along with the zip from the lemon. Whatever it is, this pie is special, and super delicious, especially on a hot summer day. Enjoy!