Friday, February 3, 2012

Fujiya LOOK Baskin Robbins

LOOK Baskin Robbins

It's been a while! Sorry for being so quiet. I'd like to say that I've been too busy with work and graduate school to post, but the truth is, I've had free time, I've just been doing other things. I did notice some new followers, so thanks for being patient with me!

Getting back into the swing of things, I thought I'd give LOOK chocolate another try. LOOK has been hit or miss; their French- and Italian-themed collections were fantastic, but their plain chocolates left a lot to be desired. This is the Baskin Robbins collection, so naturally, the four flavors are ice cream inspired.

LOOK Baskin Robbins

It's fitting to start off with Jamocha Coffee because the coffee flavor seemed to find its way into many of the adjacent chocolates. On its own, it was all right. The milk chocolate went well with the mild coffee flavor, and it definitely reminded me of a blended iced coffee drink.

Strawberry Cheesecake had a slightly tart berry flavor with a hint of yogurt. It didn't really taste like cheesecake, but it was still tasty. As I mentioned, I think there was some flavor mingling going on, because some of the Strawberry Cheesecake pieces had a weird and off-putting coffee note.

Matcha, always the flavor I look forward to the most, had a slight bitter matcha flavor, but it was so subtle that it was easily overwhelmed by the milk chocolate. It was disappointing. One of the Matcha pieces tasted like coffee, too.

Vanilla had a sweet fake vanilla flavor. It was pretty standard fare, but the coffee essence seeped into a couple of these pieces, too. It wasn't too bad for this flavor.

Overall, when the non-coffee flavors didn't taste like coffee, they were fine, but flavor mingling was an issue in this package (even though they were well within the expiration date). It didn't happen to every piece, but I'm thinking the fresher you can get these, the better.


LOOK website

Saffron, Yuzu, and Pepper Crème Brûlée Shooters

I don't want this blog to veer too far into the direction of cooking blogs. God knows the world needs another cooking blogger, but I need to tell you that I am smugger than a dog with a raw steak right now. And not because I've learned how to use the manual setting on my camera. Yes, triggered by the birthday of my sweet partner in crime, I have successfully wrestled crème brûlée to the ground, tackled it into submission and crowned myself the ultimate victor of the eternal battle of man versus flame.
I love my new toy.
As a result of a few rather irrelevant things, I had an awful evening last night. Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: nothing solves problems like a butane torch. Simply figuring out how the torch worked and experimenting with it worked wonders on my mood. I'm not saying you have to do something bad with it, but just having the ability to turn on a bright blue flame and torch the heck out of a jiggling, creamy dessert brings a little peace of mind in itself.
For Miss Love's birthday dinner tomorrow, we decided to keep the menu simple: pasta carbonara (topped with lox, thank ya) and salted rose crème brûlée. As I'd never made it before, it was a daunting, yet fun project for me to tackle. Never one to stumble blindly into pyrotechnics, I decided to start practicing (as one girlfriend can never enjoy too many imperfect tester desserts) a few days early and fooled around with the flavors and the recipe. Without further ado, I must confess to you that I have decided that crème brûlée is totally my new thing. I'm utterly obsessed.
With such a versatile and pleasant base, one can almost put anything into crème brûlée. Had I more time and weren't planning for a special event, I would have been jazzed to try upping the salt in this recipe, decreasing the sugar, and plopping a few pieces of lobster tail into the mix for a savory treat. I experimented with a few flavors and receptacles, settling on the crème you'll see in a few days, but wanted to showcase these adorable saffron, yuzu, and pepper shooters I tinkered with in the process. The yuzu was a gift from Miss Love that I thought would be a blast to incorporate into the dessert.
Saffron, Yuzu, and Pepper Crème Brûlée Shooters (loosely adapted from here)
Ingredients (makes six shooters)
1 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste/extract or 1 vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup of sugar
A few grinds of freshly cracked black pepper (I used the flower pepper from Trader Joe's...amazing!)
2 tablespoons of honey
A few strands of saffron- enough to color the mix, but not too many
4 pieces of chopped candied yuzu
Superfine sugar for the top

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix the cream and the vanilla bean paste/extract together in a small saucepan, simmering over a low heat until warm.
2. While the cream mixture is heating, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until frothy and smooth.
3. Turn off the burner and drizzle a small amount of cream into the egg mixture to temper. Don't use too much or your mixture will seize up and scramble, but add a little at a time while stirring until it is fully incorporated.
4. Once the mixture is smooth, add your pepper, saffron, honey, and yuzu. Mix thoroughly and pour into shot glasses. The yuzu generally sinks to the bottom. I advise mixing it in and putting a few pieces into the shot glasses or sticking it in after you've mixed.
5. Place the shot glasses in a shallow pan filled with water and bake for 25-30 minutes. Make sure the tops don't get brown. When they don't quiver when shaken and are slightly porous on top, you're good to go. Take them out and chill them for 1-2 hours.
6. Take the shooters out of the fridge and lightly sprinkly with superfine sugar. When the time comes to give them their crispy tops, don't fear the butane. Holding the torch at an angle, lightly torch the sugar, moving from side to side so that you are not focusing the flame in one place. When the granules are gone and the sugar has bubbled and hardened, they're done.
Would you not want to hoard these at a party? Or just eat one for breakfast? I did- twice.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Blue Corn and Pistachio Chicken Tenders

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I'm a chicken tender wizard. I have literally perfected my recipe for creating amazing, crispy nuggets and tenders to a science. While I could eat plain nuggets and sauces for the rest of my days and die happy, I decided to fool around with some of the ingredients Target sent over as part of our giveaway (details here) and review.
Although we don't have a television at home, I love turning on the TV at the gym or at my dorm to watch Chopped. It's my equivalent of Sunday night football or watching a particularly rousing game of Wheel of Fortune. Once I see a contestant fumbling around with a Buddha's hand or staring blankly at a langoustine, my triggers are set off and I'm screaming at the television- "Are you freaking nuts?! Use the cumin! How effing hard is it to make a hibiscus foam? Jesus!" So I thought it would be fun to see how many components from the Target selection I could use in my nuggets.
Granted, it wasn't too difficult- let's be honest, I wasn't working with whole branzino or gummy bears, but I still had a ton of fun with it. Taking a leaf from the pages of Dude Foods, who also received a similar selection of products and made cheese ball chicken tenders with it, I also went for a funky approach and ground up the blue corn and flax seed tortilla chips along with some pistachio nuts as a crust. I marinated the chicken in a mixture of the salsa as well as some orange zest and harissa for a little zing.
The verdict? Freaking awesome. Served with some of the orange harissa salsa, they made a great and easy meal. Using nuts in chicken feels like an underrated technique that I'll definitely try again. It's a healthy and unique twist on traditional football food and gave the tenders a tremendous burst of protein. Thanks again to Archer Farms and Target for providing the goods, and don't forget to enter our contest so you can make these, too!
Blue Corn and Pistachio Chicken Tenders
Ingredients (makes twelve tenders)
2 large chicken breasts, pounded to roughly 3/4 inches thick
Orange zest
1/2 teaspoon of Moroccan harissa
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup salsa
1/4 cup pistachios
1 cups blue corn chips
Oil or cooking spray
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your chicken breasts up into twelve strips, roughly the same size. Toss with salsa, orange zest, orange juice, and harissa and marinate for fifteen minutes.
2. Grind your tortilla chips and pistachios (shelled, of course) in a food processor until finely ground. Pour into a bowl and coat chicken strips in the crumbs.
3. Bake in the oven for ten minutes on 425 degrees, and then turn up the oven and let them crisp at 475 degrees for five more minutes. Let cool briefly and eat with salsa or dip of your choice!
Superbowl Sunday has never been so...fab!

Target and Archer Farms Super/Puppy Bowl Giveaway!

The Puppy Bowl is this weekend. What's that, forlorn jersey-wearer? You say there's something else, too? What, did I miss your birthday? I celebrate no other event this week, unless said event includes chew-toy interceptions and fluffy wummy paw-paw tackles.
Because of the Puppy Bowl (okay, really in commemoration for the Super Bowl!) Target and Archer Farms have provided me with a bevy of awesome goodies to send to one lucky reader. That's right, two simultaneous giveaways. Just how you like it. Comment on this post and tell me what your favorite Puppy Bowl contestant is. If yours matches mine, you win! I won't post the winner until Sunday evening, so multiple people will have the chance to win...if you all guess correctly. Even through they snubbed Corgi dogs again.
(image courtesy of That Cheap Chick)

The prize pack includes:
Archer Farms Blue Flax Corn Tortilla Chips
Archer Farms Corn, Black Bean, and Roasted Pepper Salsa
Archer Farms Buffalo Style Blue Cheese Dip Mix

Trust that I will be creating a Chopped-style recipe with these components later on in the week. Comment now! Puppies! Puppies!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chuao Sweetheart Box and a Giveaway!

Yes, Valentine's Day is coming. And yes, I'm plenty aware that some of you hate it and that some of you love it. Whether you're single or attached, bubbly or bitter, nothing beats the fact that chocolate is everywhere. Before you flip the bird at the Russell Stover samplers or kick the display of bloated teddy bears onto the ground, the Chuao Sweetheart selection should cheer you up. And there's also the possibility of a trip to San Diego and a $50 gift card to Chuao's store. So buck up and play along, and you could be stuffing your face with popping chocolate and potato chip chocolate bars in no time. How do you win? The San Diego deets are on Chuao's Facebook page. If you click through on my link to the right from now 'till February 14th and check out the information, you'll automatically be entered in the running to win the contest. If we get enough clicks through the banner, Chuao will give me a $50 gift card to giveaway to one lucky reader. How's that for awesome? It's blogger-driven, so only bloggers whose readers participate will be entered to win!
To give you a little taste of the goodies to come, Chuao sent over two truffles exclusive to their newly debuted Sweetheart Box, filled to the brim with aphrodisiac-inspired truffles to delight your sweetheart on Valentine's Day. The first truffle, the Love Child bonbon, was squat and petite, filled with a port-drenched dried strawberry hunk in a chocolate ganache. It had an incredibly creamy, milky texture, with a sour tang almost like balsamic vinegar infusing the strawberry. The port influences seemed to come more from the ganache, a delicate, fluffy core with a silkiness similar to cheesecake, and the entire thing was perfectly poppable and not too sweet.
The next truffle, the Firecracker bonbon, was easily one of the tastiest chocolates I've sampled from Chuao. Incorporating all of their funkier elements, like chipotle caramel and popping candy in a ganache with a touch of sea salt, the only thing that could have made this more orgasmic would have been the inclusion of potato chips. Oh, and maybe about fifty more of these. With a crispy texture like a brittle piece of feuillitine and an intense smokiness, its delicate exterior completely belied its inner contents. The caramel was luxurious, the sea salt tangy. I'm honestly inclined to order a box of these and these alone for myself.
If you're too impatient to wait for the contest to end, you can order your own Sweetheart Box here. In the meantime, I'll keep you updated with Twitter- keep those votes coming!