About two years ago, while I was still working at my prior employer, a co-worker of mine and I were discussing hot tea. I have been a tea drinker most of my life. I usually have had to watch it in the past few years as hot tea would make me sleepy more than anything else. Hot drinks do that to me – they have for quite some time. But I love the flavors of hot tea, especially black teas.
I remember, as a kid, that we used to use a Mr. Coffee machine to brew fresh tea for dinner each night, and my thermos for school usually contained hot tea. Of course, the thermos that came with my lunchbox wasn’t one of the really premium quality “Thermos” brand, but hey, it was high quality or stylish; obviously, I had to have my Ghostbusters lunch box and matching drink carrier. But I digress.
The simple fact was, fresh tea, daily, was a major part of my life. As I got older, I started drinking less of it (during high school, and then in college) until I hit almost 22… at which point I started drinking it more frequently again, though mostly at night since, once again, the caffeine wasn’t as powerful as the heat, so it put me to sleep more than anything else.
At any rate, I started drinking it occasionally for work again in 2005, and in late 2016 I started looking for loose tea again in stores. And to my chagrin, I found that it was actually not an easy find anymore. Tea bags, convenient as they are, were really all you’d see in most grocery stores, save a few limited, very expensive choices.
As I said, I was discussing tea with my co-worker, and I mentioned how frustrating it was to not see much of a selection in stores for loose tea. Her suggestion was to check out a company called Adagio. I started looking at the products, and honestly, I liked what I saw. I made a mental note to order something and give it a try.
Yeah, it took me over 2 years to get back to that mental note. But finally this week, I looked around and found a very neat Apple Cinnamon black tea, and ordered a bag. I also ordered a tea maker. Namely, the Adagio VelociTEA. It’s a moderately pricey unit, but the reviews from customers led me to think, “OK, this seems like a slightly expensive, but very effective investment, so what the heck, I will try it.”
As it happens, the purchase of a bag of tea and the unit also nabbed me a free sample of my choice, so I decided on a Scottish Breakfast tea. I’m a black tea person.
The unit came in yesterday, along with the teas. First, I have to note that the entire unit was very nicely packed, very secure and well protected, with a few layers of bubble wrap around the box for the machine, and some additionally padding inside of the product box itself. So obviously, they care to protect their product. Set up took all of 5 minutes, most of that was reading the instructions and doing a quick wash-out of the actual tea pot.
5 minutes, and then another 8 minutes, and I had a fresh pot of tea, ready to go. I’m not kidding. This machine nicely brewed and steeped a pot of black tea to a very good strength and temperature in about 8 minutes. Now maybe that seems like some silly statement. Big deal, you can put a tea bag in and have tea that way in 4 or 5 minutes. Yes, but the quality of the flavor…. the fact that the heat was just right for the flavor, and the fact that it just tasted…. fresh. Look, I’m not saying everyone can justify spending money like this. The tea pot is $120, so it’s not exactly cheap. Then again, if you look at it as an investment, and you are brewing the gourmet blends at home rather than paying a premium at a coffee shop or restaurant, the eventual price per cup will come down pretty quickly.
I’ve already brewed at least 3 pots of tea with this machine. I use 10 oz mugs, and I get 4 mugs worth from a pot. So I’ve brewed 12 cups of coffee. Right now, that’s $10.00 per cup. I imagine during the winter I’ll be brewing at least a pot a day. so by the time winter ends in Buffalo, that probably means about 120 days (hence 120 pots) of tea. 480 cups. That’s $0.25 a cup. And the estimate for how much the tea costs at that volume ends up being about the same. So $0.50 per cup for any tea flavor I have. Even McDonald’s charges at least $1.00 for a cup, and it’s not necessarily a nicer premium blend flavor.
So did I make a wise investment? For me, absolutely. For my family? Sure! My kids love tea, and so does my wife. There are a lot of great flavors out there, and we intend to try more. Is this a purchase for everyone? No, not by a long shot – if you’re not much of a tea drinker, you probably won’t be interested. But I’m pleased with the unit. I’m pleased with the tea. I’m enjoying a Thermos (an actual Thermos brand container) full of it today at work. I’d say it was worth doing. My tummy agrees.
If you are interested in checking the maker out, here is the link for it. And check around their site. They do sell many of the flavors in tea bags, if a machine isn’t in your budget, or you can’t justify the money.
If you prefer, you can skip my long-winded intro by clicking here.
This actually was something I did a couple weeks ago, and while I called it a Kitchen Activity, this was really done on the grill outside. Nevertheless, I felt it was appropriate to share this pair of recipes because their may be people with unusual dietary restrictions (or even just adventurous souls look for something new) that might benefit from the information.
There are, of course, a lot of different dietary restrictions people face these days. Some are relatively simple to deal with (low-fat, nothing fried, etc). Some of them, however, are a lot trickier (diabetes; Celiac; Phenylketonuria or PKU) and of course, some people face several health conditions that can make the seemingly simple task of making a meal into an absolute nightmare.
The nice thing, in some respects, is that there is a lot more in the way of alternatives today for recipes than there have been in years past. And while some of the alternatives developed from diet choice, they still have a benefit to people who are required to live with restrictions. I’ve never had a problem with the idea of people deciding to have a vegetarian diet, or even a vegan one, so long as they can respect my position that I am not a person who will be doing that. If you don’t feel right eating meat because it bothers you, that’s absolutely fine by me. Just don’t expect that I’ll do that, too. I like chicken, beef and pork.
But in the case of a dietary condition like PKU, vegetarian or vegan diet isn’t a choice, it’s a restriction that you HAVE to live with, and it’s not as simple as not eating meat. It’s an outright limitation on proteins. That’s right, natural occuring proteins, whether meat-based or plant-based, are a severely restricted part of the diet of a person with PKU, and given that even things like bread often have too much protein for a person with the disorder, meal planning can become quite the challenge.
A few years ago, my wife brought to my attention a fruit she had been reading about – jackfruit. Jackfruit is a multiple fruit which can be used unripened or in ripe form. When ripe, it is a very sweet fruit easily used in desserts and snacks. But in it’s unripe form, it has properties that make it very meat-like in texture, and a mild flavor which lends itself well to seasoning and various forms of preparation.
My wife and I first found jackfruit available as a product in the specialty refrigerated foods of our local Wegman’s supermarket. Kelly actually found it, and told me about it, and I discovered soon that they had a few different varieties of pre-packaged, pre-marinated flavors. Kelly tried out the various recipes and discovered, to her delight, that the flavor was fantastic, and it made for a very nice, fibrous filler for any number of meals. Most impressively, the texture of the cooked product was akin to shredded pork. With that, a new major option for Kelly was born.
We later found out that there was an option to by young jackfruit (the unripened version) in cans, conveniently located in the Asian cuisine isle at the same store. The canned version had no flavoring initially, so we were free to put on whatever Kelly would want. And the result was, frankly, fantastic. Kelly has since tried home-made taco seasoning, BBQ, and even a variation using the local favorite, Chiavettas (pronounced sort of like this: Sha-ve-tas) Chicken Marinade; a very popular vinegar-based marinade which is a hallmark of the Buffalo area. She could shred the jackfruit after cooking it and use it on sandwich buns, over salads… the possibilities seemed extensive.
Naturally, we needed to see if we could push it even further, for variation’s sake.
And so I set out to find her a new way to use the jackfruit meat. And (to get to the point of this story), I found it, in the form of a jackfruit patty.
This is essentially the same thing as a hamburger patty, but the vegetarian / vegan properties make it something anyone can have if they choose that sort of diet; and for a person who has to count protein to the gram, this is a fantastic choice, because you can literally season your mix like any normal hamburger, and away you go.
So how do you go about doing this?
First, you will need something to grind the jackfruit. A food processor will probably work, though a meat-grinder definitely worked better for us.
Start out with a can of young jackfruit. Open it, drain out any water, and put it aside. You’ll want to dice up some onions (I used red onion, but this is a matter of taste) so that you have, perhaps 1/4 cup when chopped finely.
Next, grind the jackfruit with a course grinding head, and put it into a good-sized mixing bowl. If you use a foot processor, try to use an attachment that won’t puree it. You don’t want it broken down that much. You want beef-like texture for mixing. If you do use a grinder, be prepared for some liquid to squirt from the fruit as it’s grinding.
In the mixing bowl, add your diced onion, and then add 1/4 cup of flour. For people with PKU, I suggest using the baking mix from Cambrooke foods. If you don’t need to worry about that, you can use any type of flour you’d prefer. Some people prefer coconut, other people will just use standard white flour. That’s entirely up to you and based on what you’re needs are.
At this point, you can also add different seasonings, spices and herbs into your mix. I used some parsley, oregano, Italian seasoning, and lemon and garlic peppers. A little of each was all I sprinkled in. After that? You mix the ingredients together, by hand. Now, this is where you have to watch the recipe a bit. Your goal is to get raw-hamburger-textured balls to form into patties. So you may need to add a touch of flower at a time to absorb some of the moisture. Don’t add too much at once though. I literally had another quarter cup sitting aside, and added perhaps a teaspoon at a time, mixing thoroughly by hand, and checking the consistency as I went. I’d judge that I used about 3 teaspoons to get the consistency that felt right to me. Then I put it aside and cleaned up the space a bit.
Now, forming patties isn’t exactly rocket science, but I will say that if you want to make the process as easy on yourself as possible, get a patty press of some sort. There are tons of options on Amazon, and just about any type would do. The one I have is a press with an adjustable press plate. And make sure you have some wax paper or patty sheets nearby. Also, get yourself a small metal tray, something you can put in the freezer. A cookie sheet works great.
Press your patties and lay them out on individual sheets of wax paper. I got 3 patties out of 1 can’s jack fruit. Then we put them in the freezer for about 20 minutes. During this time, I went back and made the same recipe with ground beef, egg and breadcrumbs in place of the jackfruit and flour (you do not need egg for the jackfruit version; the moisure of the fruit seems to be enough of a binder with the flour). Again, I pressed out a bunch of patties here. I used more ground beef, but I wanted to make enough regular patties so I’d have 2 for each of the rest of us; that’s approximately a pound-and-a-half of ground beef. I used 1 large egg, and about 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. Again, you’ll want to see how the consistency is for you, but these are decent guidelines, I think.
After that, we heated up the grill and waited for it to get to at least 400 degrees. Then we get the jackfruit patties out of the freezer, and take those and the beef patties outside.
Now you should get why I suggested the freezer for the jackfruit patties; they’ll have hardened enough that you can get them onto the grill and off of the wax paper without them falling apart. Don’t just slap them down like you would with the beef patties. You’ll need to be a bit more gently, but it shouldn’t be too hard to get these transferred on. After that, you can close up your grill and lower the temperature a bit. As long as you’re at 325 or higher, you’ll be fine.
Now the beef patties could be flipped over after about 5 minutes, the first time, but the jackfruit patties should stay un-flipped for at least 10 minutes. After that, though, you can use a spatula to carefully pick up and turn them over. Once you’ve cooked them like that on each side, you can proceed to flip them a bit more to cook them through. I know a lot of people like to flip their burgers repeatedly, frequently, to get them to cook just right. You can do that with these patties too, but give 10 minutes on each side before you do – this ensures that they fully bind together.
And at this point, you might actually start having a hard time really knowing which patties are which. Well, maybe. Obviously, you won’t see any of the red juices from the ground beef on the jackfruit patties, but from this shot, they look pretty convincing.
Finally, if you like, you can add cheese on. Again, there are a lot of options out there for different tastes and restrictions, so you just choose what works for you.
If you look closer, you can see that they are lighter in color, and the texture will be slightly different; more like ground pork or chicken than beef, but given that people have made other types of meat patties, this isn’t a big deal. And it gives you options. Next time we get a chance, we may grill these and then put them into a slow cooker with some BBQ sauce; but whatever we do, I’m sure it’ll come out as another versatile recipe to help with restrictions in diet.
The Short Version
1 can of young jackfruit, drained of water
1/4 cup of flour (or baking mix for PKU) – have a bit extra for the kneading
1/4 cup of finely chopped (diced) onion – pick your favorite; we used red
additional seasonings as desired
Grind the jackfruit (do not puree). Mix in flour / baking mix and onions, and add other seasonings as desired. Mix by hand (use a folding / kneading motion for good results). Form into patties (I strongly suggest using a press; makes it easier) and place on wax paper / patty paper. Put the patties (on the paper) onto a cookie sheet and freeze for about 20 minutes. Grill at 325+ degrees (Fahrenheit) for 10 minutes on one side, gently flip to the other and repeat. After that you can flip a few more times in a more frequent fashion, and then add cheese on to melt at the end.
For the ground meat version, the same instructions apply, with these ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs of ground beef
1 large egg
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs – have a bit extra for kneading
OK, I’m not sure if hydroponically is actually a word, but given that I’m not getting a spelling error from a proofreading application, I’m guessing it is. So to start off, I will state that I am no green thumb. I mean, I have successfully grown plants in the past. When I was younger (maybe 12), I had a small garden I raised in my parents back yard with some basics. Tomatoes, onions and (I think) some herbs.
It was a pretty rewarding experience, and given that I actually followed through on that and maintained it all summer, I feel pretty good saying I managed to do OK. But beyond that, I’ve never really tried my hand at gardening.
The fact is, it’s kind of hard to maintain a real garden of that nature when you live in a rental unit and have dogs that would likely tear everything up. Not to mention wild animals eating your crops. So after due consideration, I’ve had the crazy idea of trying to do a bit of hydroponic gardening.
I won’t lie, I am NOT experienced with this in the least. But one thing I love about the internet and YouTube is that, if you want to learn, there are ample opportunities to do so. And it’s a nice break from the usual garbage that makes up political discourse, religious nonsense (not that faith is a problem, just people who are hypocritical about their supposed faith) and the general insulting and condescending nature of Social Media.
At any rate, I found a few great videos on YouTube and it inspired me to look much more seriously at the necessary efforts to do some hydroponic gardening. My big takeaway is: yes, I can probably manage this, with a bit of effort and some minimal to moderate funding.
So in the next few weeks, I plan to set up, with my daughter’s help, the basics of an indoor, hydroponic garden… as soon as I figure out where we will do it, that is. The first planned crop will be strawberries. If you haven’t heard, I have cut out a large portion of foods that are not beneficial to my health; candy (not that I ate tons), ice cream, fast food (again, not that I ate a ton), and most other carbohydrate-heavy foods that contain added sugars and starch. I also cut out pop, which was the only real thing I had a hard time controlling myself with, but that’s a whole other topic to discuss. One thing I don’t have to cut out, according to my doctor, is fresh fruit. But have you seen some of the prices for that? Man, sometimes you end up paying $4 for a small container of strawberries – and either you consume them in two days and have to shell out more, or you get to day 3 and… wait, they’re already spoiled or getting moldy? REALLY?
So gardening it will be. I’ll be starting a new section on the topic soon, and as I work through the process, I will be trying to document it here. So watch for a new set of articles coming soon on my experiments with gardening.
This was less of an experiment for me and more of one for my daughter. Caidi made white bread with me today. It’s my second time with this recipe and only the 4th time ever that I’ve made a yeast recipe and not had a failure. I credit the Instant Yeast (something my mom introduced me to).
If you’ve never seen his stuff before, there is a guy named Steve who has a YouTube channel (linked below) who covers a lot on how to make no-knead bread. His recipes are very easy to follow and the results are spectacular.
So last night, Caidi approached me to follow-through on my promise that we could make a loaf this weekend. This was around 11:00 P.M. Now that may sound like a bad time to do it, but to be honest, with the recipe we followed, it’s actually not. Steve’s approach to making bread is apparently what all the good baker’s knew for years; you make the dough at night and let it proof, overnight, for at least 8 hours before you bake. More to the point, if you use the Instant Yeast instead of Active Yeast (which is a nightmare for me, most of the time), it will do a fantastic job of making your dough rise up in that 8 hour window. The outside of that window is 24 hours, but I doubt I’d ever be planning far enough in advance for something like that.
Anyway, this recipe was derived from a Betty Crocker classic, so we followed the simple recipe, and Caidi and I had the dough ready for proofing in about 10 minutes. Then we went to bed.
This morning, I got up and checked the dough before I got Caidi. This batch came out just fine.
So after I got the kids up, Caidi and I went to work on the final step of patting out, forming and getting the bed ready to bake. We had it sitting under a towel for it’s second rise.
Finally, the dough was ready and we got it in the oven for the duration. And the results?
I’d say Caidi’s baking skills are coming along great! We have to wait a bit before we cut this open, but I have no doubt that we’ll enjoy this. I’m attaching a direct link below for the recipe we used, in case you’d like to give it a try.
It’s been a number of years since I first found and tried Calypso Lemonade. The first time I encountered it was at one of those gas-station / convenience store hybrids that dot the landscape of Buffalo nearly as much as the average Tim Horton’s donuts.
By my very nature, I prefer cool drinks to warm drinks. And of course, my biggest weakness has always been Dr. Pepper or any cherry cola. Growing up, in fact, I didn’t really enjoy lemonade. But as I hit my late teen years and then got into college, I did discover that lemonade was a taste I’d acquired along the way.
Today, I like my homemade blend, and I enjoy the sparkling lemonade that Wegman’s makes as part of it’s soft drink offerings, but a real special treat are the flavors of lemonade offered as part of the Calypso line. My ultimate favorite is either their strawberry or black cherry flavored varieties, but today, I discovered a new (for me) flavor, Island Wave Lemonade.
Non-Sponsored, Unsolicited Promotion Ahead
Calypso Lemonades have to be about the best drink offering of this nature I’ve ever had. There are at least a half-dozen flavors that I’ve tried and I have never had one that I didn’t enjoy. Of course, as with any of these drinks, you have to limit how much you have because they are, as expected, sugary drinks. So I don’t have these daily (mom, if you’re reading this, I’m not kidding, I only get these every so often, so don’t worry), but they make for a nice alternative of flavor every so often, and are a great reward on a hot day. Between these and some bottles of fresh water, I tend to feel the energy without the later sluggishness of having a regular soda.
So if you really want a neat and unique take on a good summer lemonade, but don’t want to make your own flavors, this is a great product to try. This isn’t a sponsored ad, but just an honest, simple point that I wanted to share. This stuff is fantastic!
Check for nearby retailers that sell the brand, and give one a try. If you’re a lemonade person, I guarantee you’ll find a flavor you love, just like I did.
If you’ve ever been to Red Robin, you might have noticed one of their appetizers is a serving of fried pickle chips. Now, I’ll be honest that sometimes I think fried recipes can sound a bit bizarre. Fried Twinkies, Fried Oreos, Fried Cheese Curds… they sound a bit bizarre at times. Fried pickles were another example of a dish that made me think “that sounds weird”. But much like Fried Ice Cream which I first had at Chi-Chi’s some 30 years ago, Fried Pickle Chips turned out to be a bizarre, but ultimately very tasty dish.
So of course, with having an air fryer, I realized “hey, wait a minute, I wonder if”… and so the idea was born to search for a recipe that would work well. Pinterest to the rescue, and in 5 minutes I had over 2 dozen recipes that all sounded pretty good. Ultimately, I chose a recipe with just 5 ingredients and 10 – 15 minute of prep work to make a variation of this side dish… and much like the lemonade recipe, this was a complete win!
I’ll post the link below, but here are the ingredients you need:
Dill Hamburger Pickle Chips (or you can slice your own chips if you get regular dill pickles, whole)
2 large eggs (you might end up with extra left over from this)
2/3 cup of bread crumbs. I used panko seasoned ones, per the recipe
1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (mine was a Parmesan / Romano blend)
1/4 teaspoon of a preferred herb. The recipe called for dried dill, but all I had that made sense to try for now was basil. Frankly, I think there are a lot of options for this, so you can certainly experiment with blends.
Optional (recommended) is some form of Ranch dressing for a dip
Simply put, you mix the bread crumbs, cheese and herbs til evenly mixed. Crack and beat the eggs until you have a nice smooth mixture. Dip pickle chips into the egg wash and then coat in the crumbs mixture. Place these on the rack of your air fryer. I have the largest of the Philips models (thanks to mom and dad for that!) and set it to 400 degrees. Cook for 8 minutes if you like them a bit more chewy, and up to 10 minutes if you prefer a bit more crispiness.
My most recent experiment definitely toes the line on not being the most healthy, but this isn’t an everyday sort of recipe for me, so I don’t feel bad having made it. The recipe: Apple Fritters.
I actually found this recipe as a result of the suggested links on YouTube. The recipe is different (according to it’s author, Chef John, from Food Wishes) in that it involves sauteing the apples first in a butter / sugar mix before actual inclusion into the rest of the batter. It definitely made for a nice flavor and I’d handle the recipe this way again. About the only thing I need to change in the future is the amount of apple and how finely I cut it out. I admit part of this might have been my misjudging the size of the apple chunks, but also I appear to have had bigger apples than what the author of the recipe used, because I ended up with a bit of leftover, which the kids and dogs graciously accepted in lieu of raw batter (which I know some people are scared of).
Nevertheless, the rest of the recipe was just terrific, so come fall, I may have to try this one again, along with the candy apple recipe I have.
Included below is a link to the original recipe page.
After last week’s success with the freckled lemonade, I decided to play with the recipe a bit to get a plain lemonade that does NOT require you to actually juice lemons. The upshot to this is that the recipe can be made in as little as 10 minutes.
The problem with that other recipe (problem is loosely used in this context) is that it requires you to buy a lot of lemons to juice. Now if you have an juicing machine, it’s not a terrible ordeal, but even so, you need at least 10 lemons for that recipe, and that alone is like $5 with of supplies for a single batch. Don’t get me wrong, the flavor is outstanding, but it is a lot of work to do, and if you want more than one batch, you’re going to be doing the juicing thing for a few hours.
So this recipe is done instead with a bottle of Lemon Juice, typically found in 32 oz sizes in grocery stores, and for about $3.00 per bottle. This will get you 2 – 3 batches of lemonade, depending on how strong you like to make it.
12 oz (1 ½ cups) lemon juice
16 oz (2 cups) water
1.5 cups of white sugar
Bring the 16 oz of water to a boil in a medium sauce pan on the stove. Slowly add in the sugar, a half-cup at a time, stirring until it dissolves. Once you’ve dissolved in all 1.5 cups of sugar, let it boil for about another minute, than set aside.
Pour the 12 oz of lemon juice into a large (48 oz or larger) pitcher. Add some ice. After the sugar / water mixture has cooled, you can add it to the ice and lemon juice. After that, you’ll need to fill up the pitcher slowly with cold water and stir it regularly. This part will need to be done to taste. I like a slightly more sour flavor, but some people prefer it more balance and others prefer sweeter, so you’ll need to mix it to your preference. I suggest playing with the balance of the portions until you find one you and / or your guests will like.
The best balance seems to be 2.5 cups of cold water to 12 oz lemon juice and 16 oz of syrup water, but again, that’s something you do to taste.
Technically not my first successful experiment in cooking / baking / etc… not by a long shot… but this is the first one I’m documenting on here. I don’t have a bunch of pictures or anything, but hopefully this will serve as a decent springboard of content.
So I have a major addiction to freckled lemonade from Red Robin. Of course, It’s like $3.50 to get it with your meal, and I certainly don’t want to have to drive 25 minutes every time I have a craving, and have to get the meal, just to get a taste of their drink.
Well, Pinterest comes to the rescue. I found a copycat recipe that I gave a try, and amazingly it worked… it worked VERY well. I’ll include a link to the original recipe, but I’ll also post my variations here in the future.
You don’t need a lot for this recipe, though it did call for manually juicing 10 lemons, which is a LOT of work if you don’t have an automatic juicer. Still, the flavor was excellent, so it might be worth the investment in a small counter-top juicing machine if you want that fresh flavor.
As a follow-up to this experiment, I will try creating the same recipe soon using store-bought lemon juice, and also see if a limeade version works out. My only other thought is: this stuff is pretty potent, so I watered it down a bit after I made the initial batch, and it still ended up with really strong flavor.
At any rate, I considered this first experiment a success and I encourage you to give it a try if you like strawberry lemonades. Any I apologize in advance that the picture I have for this isn’t super attractive. I took it right before bed and not in a really fancy setting, but frankly, I was less worried about presentation than just making a good drink. Mission accomplished!