Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sahale Snacks Ksar Pistachio Nut Blend

Today's review was brought to you by an intriguing comment by a cowardly reader. Recently, it was brought to my attention that my reviews were pretentious and favored expensive, low quality foods over cheap, high-quality condiments that I'm clearly missing out on loving to death. Yup, I'm just out to squash the little guy under my leather Charles Jourdain pumps. I had no idea I was Satan and Big Oil and Pacific Gas & Electric, but that's why the website is called Commenter Reviews, right? All these things make me think a lot of feelings about myself.
Of course, the last time I checked, it wasn't, and that's why I'd like to highlight one of my favorite products to prove you wrong. Have you met my friend Honey Badger? Sahale Snacks is easily one of my favorite snack companies because it takes boring base ingredients (nuts) and gives them thirty pieces of flair (spices, herbs, fruit, and other nuts) to keep them exciting and awesome. Sahale's blends are some of the most original I've come across. I mean, how often does your government-issued campfire trail mix come with lavender, orange zest, or lemongrass? Tonight's offering was indeed found at our local discount grocery store, and I did love it.
The Ksar nut blend features a base of pistachios accented with sesame seeds, pepitas, fig, and harissa. Definitely sounds more like something you'd find orbiting a sphere of pork butt or pumpkin rind at Alinea, no? But this stuff is available to the masses without a crazy reservation for the mere price of $2 and change. Not bad at all. In yet another delightfully self-promotional twist, I'm going to go as far as to liken this to my own website. Perhaps in individual elements, it's not perfect. Your eyes may hurt from my cheap orange and turquoise color scheme or you might not like how chewy the fig balls are in the Ksar blend. You might find my prose trite and the pepitas too spicy, or my photos crappy and the sesame seeds invisible. But quite honestly, if you open wide and take the whole thing in, you'll find that it's awesome. It's a little whacky, and it's definitely not for everyone, but it's delightful to behold and will satisfy you long into the night. Just like that, baby, just like that.
This mix has a charming versatility to it that makes me want to cancel any dinner plans I have on any given day and experiment with this- with grinding the nuts and coating chicken breasts with them, or mixing them into a stew or shredded taco meat. Maybe even blending them with a little oil to create a savory, spicy nut butter? There's just so much to this flavor profile that aches for customization to an individual dish. Not that it's not excellent to eat on its own. The harissa really comes out when paired with the earthy pepita seeds. For whatever reason, this heat is strongest on them, possible from their higher concentration of oil and toasted flavor. The figs added a much needed jamminess to the whole mix to counterbalance the buttery, savory indulgence from the nuts. All in all, pretty darn perfect. And only a few dollars for a quality product. See? Just get to know me. Perhaps you'll find that my elitism isn't as bad as you may think. Or maybe you won't. I guess the truth is that I don't really give a Ksar.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ginger People Ginger Peanut Chews

After a fairly awful week of fairly awful items, I figured you all deserved a break. Here's some good old fashioned food, with calories and flavor and edible components that you might actually want to eat. My good friend Rodzilla once clarified his reasons behind an A+, illustrating his point with an impressive stack of ice cream cartons. Tonight's product follows a similar principle. What makes a good, solid product for Foodette? Well, for starters, it's an embarrassing lack of photos due to consumption. Believe me, we were very close to photographing an empty package for you!
This product has some of the most unique packaging I've ever encountered, not so much in the physical execution so much as the visual. Their logo is an anthropomorphic ginger root, with hedonistically plump features and a come hither gaze. He is typically entwined with whatever additional flavored component is in the actual candy, in this case, a shapely peanut. Perhaps the most disturbing part is that on each package, he is featured either preparing or eating his own flesh- ginger pieces! That being said, if the Ginger People ever marketed a plush version of their mascot or slapped this guy on a t-shirt, I'd be all over it.Once we ate one of these peanut ginger chews, courtesy of the Ginger People, we simply could not stop. With a short ingredient list and a mere 20 calories per chew, these are a winner in not only flavor, but health. Obviously, the Ginger People are known for ginger, and these chews incorporate said ingredient in a very refined and well-executed fashion. For the most part, I found that these chews had an addictive enough flavor and spiciness that grew in intensity with each bite, but weren't so mindlessly chewable that I felt as though I was at risk of eating too many. Each chew is roughly the size of a Starburst, though rectangular, and is coated in corn starch and powdered sugar. It has an initial coolness on the tongue as a result of that coating, but then the sharp ginger flavor comes through brilliantly, with a clean and smooth heat that permeates the entire chew.
The peanut influence is also strong, and manifests itself in a flavor and format similar to the texture of natural peanut butter, with a pleasant graininess and not-too-sweet taste. The sweetness of the ginger really accentuates the nutty flavors of the peanuts, and supplements their lack of sweetness with the natural fruity flavor of ground ginger. Really well balanced and delicious to eat. Because they're individually wrapped, they're incredibly easy to slip in a pocket or purse if you don't feel like taking the whole package along on a trip or to class. These will definitely come in handy for soothing a winter cold as well as satiating my sweet tooth in the months to come.

Sixth Anniversary

It's the end of January, and that means it's Mac & Cheese's sixth anniversary! Where does the time and calories go? Well, I know where the calories go, and that, my friends, is one of the reasons why I've been taking it easy on the posting front this past year.

Many thanks to all who read the blog. Now, here is a roundup of this past year's highlights.

Favorite Posts It was my first year as a CSA member, and I can't say enough good things about the experience. I've signed up again this year! While the weekly posts of how I used the bountiful CSA produce is admittedly a bit boring to read, you can get a sense of how I really eat. Plus, these posts practically write themselves, and those kinds of posts are every blogger's dream.

Favorite RestaurantsMany of my favorite establishments I reviewed last year aren't really restaurants in the traditional sense. Little Baby's Ice Cream is a tricycle (a brick and mortar store is in the works) that makes irresistibly quirky ice cream flavors. While I don't do the Korean fried chicken at Federal Donuts, I love the donuts at this deservedly hyped corner take-out so much that I've had to set myself some limits. Va La Vinyards has long been my favorite winery in the Brandywine Valley, but I only just got around to telling you about it (maybe for selfish reasons). So happy to see the gourmet hot dog trend take off this past year in Philly, and glad when establishments, like Hot Diggity, include us vegetarians.

Favorite RecipesI can't count how many times we've made this recipe for rosemary roasted cashews in the past year; it's that good! Once you go raw kale, it's hard to go back to cooked. I have a soft spot for quirky and fabulous desserts, and these corn cookies hit both marks.

Most Popular Posts
This is the first year that recipe posts did not take the top three spots as the most viewed posts. Coming in at number one and number two, respectively, are Frankford Hall and El Rey. I explain their victory because they are both restaurants from Philly's most popular restauranteur, Stephen Starr. Coming in third is Memphis Taproom Beer Garden. I explain this ranking because Memphis Taproom's courtyard garden selling gourmet hot dogs (they also have veggie dogs!) and canned craft beer from a truck is simply awesome.

VacationWe kept it stateside this year with trips to Seattle and Portland, two cities I've never been to previously, but have long been on my wish list. Our annual trip to Pawleys Island in South Carolina where high humidity, sweltering temps, and pimento cheese nights always make me long for home.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gross Food Week #7: Walden Farms Calorie Free Marshmallow Dip

Ah, yes, Walden Farms. We used to go there on field trips when I was a waifish little girl. Take a stroll past the emaciated cows, lowing for calorie-free feed and water as the calorie-free breeze blew gently on your face. Old Farmer Walden would strap up ol' Treadmill, the starving mare, and we'd take a ride around the field, its crops skinny and sexy as always, the abundant corn and wheat sheaves nearly translucent after shedding all those calories.
Those were the good old days, and no trip would be complete without a taste of Mrs. Farmer Walden's special calorie-free marshmallow dip. Of course, this was before WalCorp bought out the farm, but it was just as heavenly as it could be- just like the real, horrifically fatty obese child snack, only...more wholesome. Ha ha, no it wasn't. I'm just screwing with you. In fact, this has the air of a product made prior to a big corporate buy-out. With its incredibly precious label and short ingredient list, it almost does look like something that an ingenious housewife would whip up in her kitchen, until you open the jar. Shit is downright chemical.
For a brief, miserable summer, my dad decided to teach me some of the basic intricacies of home repair. One of the only things I retained from that summer was how to properly wield an axe to chop firewood, how to perfect my summer burn while lounging outside watching actual home improvement workers do their jobs, and how to use caulk in a small imperfection in an area. Lest you underestimate my mettle, know that this is typical behavior. Because this post isn't about calorie-free axe murder or harassing working people, let's see if you can figure out where this is heading. Caulk is not edible, but appears to be. But if you're a closeted pica sufferer, I've got great news: Walden Farms Calorie Free Marshmallow Spread is as close as you can get to legally ingesting caulk, and it's sort of, kind of, real food.
Let's get the legal mess out of the way: according to the FDA guidance, compliance, and regulatory information, chapter 9, appendix A, the definitions of nutrition claims, a product is able to state that it is "calorie-free" if it has 5 or less calories per serving. You will receive no legal compensation for ingesting eighty jars of this and getting fat. But it's not even worth your zero to five calories per serving. With a perpetually cold, thick texture, like cold cream without the lingering scent of baby powder, and a pure white color that absorbs all darkness and shadows, it's definitely providing all of the defensive indicators to alert you not to consume it. But we forge on, as always. It has a congealed, wet smell like molding wood, with a harsh sugary edge behind it, like the sweet powdered sugar and corn starch scent on marshmallows. It's not quite a solid and yet too gelatinous to be a liquid, and falls off both spoons, knifes, and fingers, leaving a watery, chalky smear of a trail in its wake. Think saturated marshmallows that have taken a trip down the river, capisce?
The flavor is downright abrasive, with a hideous gloppiness, like poorly cooked pudding, that doesn't disappear once placed on the tongue. It's similar to taking an injection of Splenda right into the vein. Any trace of vanilla that was once in this, or at least near this, was absorbed by the great white mass and spat out into the ether, never to be seen again. The flavor is part synthetic and part Elmer's glue, with an emphasis on the latter. It's heinous. There's no better way to tell you. It's nothing like marshmallows, dip, or marshmallow fluff, which I took out to remind myself what real fake marshmallow spread is like. Phew. This product isn't worth saving its exaggerated, implausible claim of 330 calories a day. You're better off eating actual caulk and sealing your own mouth shut. I'm just thankful I didn't spring for the zero calorie peanut butter and make myself a FlufferHater sandwich.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Gross Food Week #6: Nexcite

I suppose I've developed a little reputation for myself. The Huffington Post described us as "no holds barred," while my own family took the more direct approach and wondered if we weren't "pushing the line." Frankly, I just like to think of myself as the girl who tried all of the carbonated sexual aphrodisiacs the world has to offer. Simple pleasures, that's what defines me.
This particular beverage came to the United States by way of hatred and copyright infringement in equal doses. Nexcite, a whimsical Swedish penis pumper, is a soda designed to provide a proprietary formula of herbal extracts and caffeine with which will fuel your manbits like no other. Like no other, I say! And because it was fifty cents on clearance and had a rabbit on the label, I tried it for you today. The soda is Viagra blue and smells like an energy drink, if an energy drink was consumed by a toddler and vacated with 50% more melted blue Jolly Ranchers than it originally contained.
It just leads me to wonder, why oh, why would the manufacturers of this drink make it bright blue and candy-scented? With its cute bunny logo, it's just asking to be guzzled by a small child. Or worse yet, it's all getting clearer to me now. With its emasculating smell and antifreeze pallor, it's the perfect way to get a little kink into the bedroom by tricking your man into thinking he's about to down a shot of Prestone. The five supplements, not to be confused with the fifty ways to leave your lover, which yours will undoubtedly do after watching you wince this down, are as follows: Yerba mate, an herb traditionally used in hot tea, which everyone knows makes you look brooding and sensitive, damiana, nature's off-brand Viagra, illegal in Louisiana, ginseng and guarana, everyone's favorite acid-flavored energy drink supplement, and last but not least, schizandra. This is not a Mary Sue-esque Final Fantasy character as I initially thought. It's a Chinese berry that aids in soothing the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. How sexy is that?
Nexcite tastes like the darker side of liquified cotton candy and green tea mixed together at a frat party. It's both bitter and overly sweetened and as a flavor best described as being throat-punched by a lime, with a potently sour aftertaste like a Warhead. Extremely sugary, in a weird way that sticks to your gums and works its way into the crannies of your mouth, like sexual harassment for your teeth. It numbed my taste buds for a good ten seconds after each sip, which I suppose aids in diffusing some sexual tension if you're not sure of, how shall we put it, the provenance of some particular after-dinner treats you may partake in. This'll fix you good. In regards to the state of my sexual performance prior to and after consuming this drink, I can't tell you if it helped. I was too busy looking slack-jawed at the recommendation on the side of the bottle: "As a supplement, drink 1-8 bottles a day." Holy crap, Nexcite, I'm a woman, not a machine. Here's to drinks directly fueling the sex working industry, one male gigolo at a time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gross Week #5: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Grilled Cheese Explosion

Ugh, I just had a grilled cheese explosion all over my sweatpants. Too much? Perhaps. One might even call it...wait for it...cheesy. I'd personally call it a gloopy, room temperature mess. Welcome to our fifth day of Gross Week, readers. Here's the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Grilled Cheese Explosion, brought to you by bewildered kittens! Hold your horses, adult baby fetishizers- this is so easy you won't have to have your aging mom make it for you.
How many different ways can companies try to shuffle around cheese, anyway? Seeing asiago Cheetos and camembert Easy Cheez just bothers me. It all tastes like the basic, vaguely tangy saltfest we all know and love. I'm not quite eager to whip out a bag of ten-year old vintage Ritz Bits with aged cheddar, if you know what I mean. So the Kraft Grilled Cheese Explosion, now with 100% more splooging on the package, eschews the familiar elbow macaroni format for little ditalini noodles. All the better to hold you with, I suppose. These looked appetizing dry but took on a translucent, slippery quality unlike any pasta I've had recently. It definitely wasn't how I remembered eating it as a child.The directions for Kraft's mac and cheese have also changed, in no part due to their stellar legal team fighting the obesity crisis. What used to be the "light" instructions in small print on the bottom of the box has now replaced the classic preparation and has cut the butter and milk in half. Of course, this doesn't hinder you from adding a half stick of butter rather than a half tablespoon as I did as a child, but does try to detract and sort of screws with the ratios of the proper sauce mixture. When mixed, the entire pot of pasta seizes up unpleasantly instead of melting into a nice sauce, and the cheese powder never quite loses its grainy texture. I was surprised at how large the individual grains of powder were- they were more corrugated and crystallized than the fine powder of yore but surprisingly flavorless.
Despite smelling sharp, like actual cheddar, the only noticeable flavor was incredibly offputting, reeking of salt and butter, and not just the butter I added. It had more of a fake butter quality to it, making it more appropriately flavored as "$9 movie theatre popcorn" and had a clumpy, weirdly thick texture. Even after adding more than the recommended amount of milk, the sauce separated in some parts and seized in others, leaving each spoonful half-full of milky, runny sauce and half-full of chunks of undissolved powder.
As much as I love macaroni and cheese, this was inedible. Add its poor flavor to the confusing fact that there are two more of these "cheese explosion" varieties and you have a god-awful tasting menu. I don't understand how Kraft's menu team translated grilled cheese to a butter-on-butter sleazefest, but there you have it. Even piling a bit on top of a homemade nugget with some hot sauce like a cheap wedding appetizer didn't help it. It was a veritable onslaught of hypertension crammed into small tubes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gross Food Week #4: The Hungry Ghost Bakery, Northampton, MA

In planning out my selections for Gross Week, I initially thought it would be overkill to include a restaurant in an undoubtedly negatively centered theme. However, after trying the pizza at The Hungry Ghost Bakery in Northampton, Massachusetts, all bets are off. To some Northamptonites, this review will strike the wrong chord. They will place it in the same shock category as a "Nobama" bumper sticker. The Hungry Ghost, a two-time James Beard semifinalist, is a small town staple atop a small hill in the center of town, flanked by office buildings and groceries just off the main drag. When I first came here for school, it was all everyone spoke about.
"Oh, you must try the Ghost- they only bake one kind of specialty bread a day and don't bake any more when they run out! The owner wrote a ballad about the bakery! They have a schedule for their bread." Handwritten menus and a shabby workspace pass for status indicators in this area, I noticed. In fact, I entered the bakery twice prior to their late 2011 renovation and left before ordering as I was appalled with the putrid state of conditions there. Formerly a dusty, dank bakery, albeit one with lovely smells, the reviews of The Hungry Ghost's bread range from passionate to pallid. But it was their recent renovation and switch to pizza that piqued my curiosity one evening, prompted by an October 2011 review by Serious Eats writer Liz Bomze, when the bakery had first branched out to pizza. I'm not one to place SE on a pedestal, but I respect their input and recognize their experience in eating many different types of pizza, so their range of comparison would be vast and hopefully serve as a good benchmark for my own experience.
What Liz described as "some of the best pizza in New England" was something I wouldn't have the heart to feed my dog. (Who, for the record, was raised on New Haven apizza crusts slipped under the table.) Perhaps this would pass for good pizza to someone who was heretofore fed exclusively Domino's and Digiorno, but for a Connecticut resident, this barely has the life and character of a freezer-burnt Ellio's. Entering the bakery, we were the only patrons yet stood for a few minutes as the cashier finished a lengthy conversation about boys with a friend of hers. When we made a motion to order and ask for a recommendation, as it was our first time checking the place out, it was made painfully clear that the delicate rhythm of the discourse was disrupted by our presence. This was reflected in the service. Hideously annoyed that her soliloquy about menfolk was stopped in its tracks, the cashier was surly, exhibiting a vapid passivity nearing autistic levels, thrusting a paper menu toward us and all but telling us to go screw ourselves. Any further requests for recommendations yielded blank stares and eye rolls.
We finally agreed to try their margherita pizza, a basic set of flavors that, when done well, transport the eater back to summertime. A simple choice for a first time. Informed that the pizza would take twenty minutes to cook, a strangely long time in a brand new Llopis wood-fire oven, we were told to come back. We perused a local deli and returned only to be informed that the bakery was cash-only. No signage alerted us to this fact, nor did our server choose to capitalize on our twenty minute wait by offering up this fact. Thus, our pizza was delayed another ten minutes as we found an ATM per her vague directions and went on our way.
That ten minutes made no difference at all. In fact, I doubt ten seconds would have made a difference, because this pizza was abhorrent both hot and cold. For starters, the composition. A margherita pizza is retardedly simple: tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and a little extra virgin olive oil. Our pizza had rivulets of grease pocking its surface and running down the sides and into the crust and was sparse in the basil department. Apparently there's a shortage of skimpy, free-range basil leaves in the region. Fresh tomatoes were replaced with what tasted like canned tomato sauce, and the cheese was barely browned. Checking out the upskirt, we were once again dismayed by the shoddy performance of this seemingly new oven. I'm not sure if the owners got an upcycled oven or if it was left on the curb and posted on freecycle, but it yielded a flaccid, soggy crust with a gummy interior, each piece collapsing on itself, saturated and glistening with more oil than a male model and shedding dandruffy flakes of cornmeal and flour when moved from box to plate.
The first few bites of each slice were wet, thick, and slimy, the result of the copious amounts oil migrating to the center of the pie. With each bite, I was waiting for International Bird Rescue to come clean my mouth in the same way oiled seagulls are cleaned after a disaster. $13 bought an extremely bland, oversweetened twelve inch pizza that left a sheen on our lips and carried a pervasively annoying sourdough tang, more tangy and sour than their bread. I've suffered from heartburn with a more nuanced flavor than this.
Unfortunately, Jesus did not grace our grease-stained napkin with His presence. He must have seen our pitiful meal and appeared in the craggy crust of a McNugget across the street instead.
An undistinguished and frugally filled alfajore did not make for a delightful end to the meal.
We had structured our day around getting this pizza tonight. I'm just pleased that we didn't go "full pizza" and snag more than one pie or even upgrade to a larger size. This was so unappetizing that we didn't even bother to sit down at the table with it, much less open the bottle of Mondavi we'd left chilling for the occasion. From the many Bret Easton Ellis novels and old issues of the New Yorker I've perused, I gather that high-end restaurants of the 80's were proud of being stingy and standoffish, cultivating the type of clientele who would know better than to question the difference between ceviche and cilantro. I don't, however, understand why this snobby "value" is superimposed onto the more mediocre examples of fine dining I've seen in small towns. It seems like a certain strain of naive people equate this attitude with quality dining, and it unfortunately causes restaurants like this to thrive where they can be king of the college pizza scene. Hungry Ghost comes across as a ludicrously arrogant big fish in a small pond. The hype is not deserved.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gross Food Week #3: Jeff's Chocolate Soda

Guys, I just discovered instagram. And you know what else I discovered? Jeff's Chocolate Soda. And you know what else I just discovered, today? The futility of mankind and the heartbreaking realization that we're all doomed, man, you know? Probably as a result of this soda's existence. All three are connected. Come, let's take a journey.
Jeff's Chocolate Soda, found in a Stop and Stop but easily purchased at www.getcreamed.net, the only non-porn website on the planet with an extremely porn-like name, is the end of mankind. Nowhere else can a label entice you with 50's style clip art graphics and brutally pervert you with a singular message. Get creamed. And by all means, the package warns you, do not shake this beverage. Why that is is not explicitly stated, but I think we can all figure out the rest.
The chocolate soda is 97% fat free and 99% flavor free, too, and allows you to get your daily recommended value of authentic Tootsie Roll flavor without compromising your lack of dignity. The soda smells like marshmallow cream and is a little salty, a scent that, combined with its visual euphemisms, makes this feel like an episode of dirty Blue's Clues. Luckily, this off scent disappears quickly after opening the bottle and does not translate to the drink's flavor. It has a thick texture that straddles a line between saliva and whipping cream- not quite solid, but nearing dangerous levels of mucus. It comes out of the bottle matte brown with a few runny bubbles on its surface. It's not a very appealing beverage for this and many other reasons.
I will give it this; for a soda containing one gram of fat, it certainly packs an enjoyable and authentic Dutch chocolate flavor. It is fair, simple, and immediately chocolatey- again, much like a Tootsie Roll. That's presumably also where the 48 grams of sugar (per 12 ounces) come in. With a soda like that, who needs enemies? This is a scant 5 grams of sugar away from beating out Sunkist as the world's worst soda, according to Men's Health. If poor Paula Deen wasn't already diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, one or two of these would have easily done the trick.
Unfortunately, I can't say I'm impressed. This soda's future is bleak if the company thinks it can ride with the big boys successfully on sugar and catcalls alone. For the sake of my health and my sense of humor, Miss Love and I will be sticking with something lighter and will likely find a more satisfying way to get creamed without all that fluff.

Corn Cookies

Christina Tosi's decadent desserts, like crack pie and compost cookies, have been all the rage the past couple of years. I've never actually been to Momofuku Milk Bar in New York to eat pastry chef Tosi's desserts, but I jumped at the chance last year to sample five of her cookies when South Philly's Green Aisle Grocery started overnighting Milk Bar cookies in from New York. (Haven't seen a tweet about Milk Bar cookies from Green Aisle in a long time, so not sure if Green Aisle is still getting them in.)

From my taste test, I concluded that Tosi makes great cookies, if not a little too sweet and greasy. The standout cookie from the bunch, though, was the corn cookie. Oh man, is Milk Bar's corn cookie good! It tastes somewhere between a sugar cookie and the sweetest summer corn you've ever had. The secret to getting that sweet corn flavor is corn powder. What's corn powder, you ask? Nothing more than freeze dried corn, that's been pulverized into a powder in a blender or food processor. If you can't find freeze dried corn in the snack section of Whole Foods or some other similar grocery store, you can always order it on Amazon. Tosi unleashed her recipe for corn cookies last year in a issue of David Chang's quarterly magazine Lucky Peach, as well as in Tosi's new cookbook Momofuku Milk Bar. The recipe for corn cookies is even posted on the Amazon page for Tosi's cookbook, so the cat is long out of the bag. I've had this recipe bookmarked for quite a while, but had to 1) procure freeze dried corn, and 2) get over the holiday hump of mega indulgence. The original recipe calls for two sticks of butter, which, really, isn't out of the norm for a batch of cookies, but in recalling how I felt her cookies were way too greasy, I cut out just two tiny tablespoons of butter from the recipe to great results. The cookies are still very buttery, but not sickly so. Next time I bake them, I might try to get the recipe down to one and a half sticks of butter.

I also measured the cookie dough out into uniform sizes, which is something I never do. And, would you believe it, the cookies all came out consistently sized and looking professional! Might have to be more exacting in my baking in the future.
Corn Cookies
adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar
makes about 13 to 15 cookies

14 tablespoons butter, at room temperature (original recipe uses 16 tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup corn flour (I used fine corn meal)
2/3 cup freeze-dried corn powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the egg and beat for 7-8 minutes.
  • In another bowl, add all of the remaining ingredients and stir until just mixed. (I used my hands to mix the rather thick dough together.)
  • Measure out uniform scoops of cookie dough (I measured 1/4 cup scoops, but original recipe calls for 1/3 cup scoops), pressing the tops of the dough balls down slightly, and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Wrap baking sheet with cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour, and up to a week before baking. It's very important to start with chilled dough when baking these cookies!
  • Place chilled dough about 4 inches apart on a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven, or until the edges are slightly browned.
  • Cool cookies on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Gross Food Week #2: Yoplait Splitz Birthday Cake

Long-time reader MrsBug was being optimistic when she commented that Gross Week could only improve from here. So, riddle me this: is there birthday cake in hell? The obvious answer is "no" as there are no birthdays, but I'll leave that one up to the theologians. After tasting Yoplait's birthday cake flavored yogurt, I can definitely assure you that there is some form of birthday cake in hell, as this is as abominable as they come. Yoplait's new Splitz line, which coincidentally sounds like an incredibly flexible line of Bratz spinoff dolls, combines flavors of foods that traditionally come in or eventually turn into liquid form: rainbow sherbert, strawberry banana split, and strawberry sundae.
And then there's birthday cake. Yes, now you can have your cake and eat your live bacteria, too. As you can see on the package, they're not talking about some sexy Elizabeth Faulkner-commissioned dealy either. We're talking low budget, half-off day old birthday cake with Cool Whip frosting and a misspelled name in cursive. Classic grocery store fare, misery guaranteed. Ignore the festive bunting and sprinkles: it all tastes the same after the first bite.
This is something a kid gets when his dad has a new hippie girlfriend he's trying to impress. He can't shake the novelty of buying dessert-flavored products but has switched to yogurt for the kids to look like he doesn't order Taco Bell for dinner most nights a week.
The yogurt is translated into a "layered" format with a frosting-inspired layer and a cake-flavored base, all studded with sprinkles. It's the little sister of its adult counterparts scientifically designed to make adults resent dessert. Weirdly enough, the yogurt definitely smells like vanilla cake frosting but does not taste like it at all. There's that weird super-vanilla flavor all yogurt has, the one that tries to be dessert but simply lacks the sugar to do so. The creaminess is indulgent and thick with a solid body to it that makes it feel less like light yogurt. I feel like I'd have enjoyed this more if it was a pudding. It just seems like it's tiptoeing the line between health food and dessert and falling off to its death.
Even sampling this frozen didn't improve its flavor. As a child, I had a friend whose birthday fell on Passover every year. Her Orthodox mother would always make her a birthday cake that looked beautiful, but had a strangely subdued, bready flavor that put it squarely in the savory category rather than dessert. This yogurt brought back memories of those awful cakes because it had the same visual appeal with the same disappointing flavors, only this time I wasn't encouraged to have seconds and didn't have to play with pipe cleaners afterwards due to there being no television to entertain ourselves with.
The sprinkles, typically the most enjoyable part of a birthday cake, made this one fall apart worse than a Cake Wreck. For whatever reason, they were grossly oversized and rather waxy, giving the impression of biting into a crayon every few spoonfuls. Their two-tone neon color did no favors to the anemic yogurt and tasted bitter, much like the Funfetti sprinkles in my failed pancake experiment. If you're feeding this to your kid on their birthday, they're either ingesting this via IV because an actual cake was too difficult to liquify or you should have had your genitalia removed years ago. Yoplait has made birthdays sad even for the under-10 set now.