Full Disclosure

Wed, Oct 14 • 0

According the the US Federal Trade Commission, effective Dec. 2009, all bloggers have to disclose any connection they might have to producers of products that they review. I just wanted to reiterate my policy, which is up on the About page…

Cooking Monster’s Code of Ethics
Here at Cooking Monster, we’re not averse to accepting food or products from people in the business, but we promise that if we ever do, we’ll disclose the fact in anything we write about. We do believe in using associate links to places like Amazon, in an effort to recoup some of the money we’ve invested in this project. Dollars to donuts, if there’s a link to a product on Amazon, there will also be our referral information. All of the opinions expressed on these pages will be our own, and we promise not to shill for any sponsor without completely disclosing that fact.

Since I started doing this blog, I have received some items from producers. So far, it’s been in the form of meat, from two mail order butchers. (And, technically, one was the result of a contest I won on another blog.) Both were written up on the blog, and both blog entries included notes about the fact that I received the product for free. I’ve also published countless links to Amazon, and I receive a small kickback every time one of you makes a purchase from them after you click the link. I’m also a member of Amazon’s Vine program. So far as I remember, none of the items I’ve reviewed have appeared on these pages, but if they ever do, I will post that fact.

Roasted Winter Squash Pasta

Mon, Oct 12 • 0

So I had this scheme to make pasta with the flesh from some autumn squash. It turned out pretty good, though I’m not sure if it was worth the trouble. In the end, I couldn’t really detect any flavor difference, though the pasta did have a nice golden-orange color, and I imagine it had more fiber than it would have otherwise.

hubbardI started out with a red hubbard squash, a variety of buttercup, which has a dark orange flesh and a mottled red-orange skin. I cut it in half, removed the seeds, and put a little olive oil on the exposed flesh. Then I put it on a baking pan, cut side down, and cooked it in a hot oven for about an hour, and then turned it over and cooked it for another 30 minutes. The flesh was quite soft, but still really, really moist — in fact, too moist.

So I scraped out the flesh from the skin, and mashed it with a fork. In my food processor, I put three whole eggs, and 3 good sized handfuls of semolina flour, and a healthy dash of salt, along with about a cup of the squash. I also added a teaspoon of smoked paprika, in hopes that I could maintain the red-orange color. Well, like I said, the squash was really moist, and I ended up adding quite a lot more flour. I sort of lost track with how much I added, but I ended up adding all-purpose flour along with the semolina. Despite that, the resulting dough was still quite sticky.

If I were to make this again, I would probably figure out some way to strain the squash of some of it’s excess liquid — though I’m not sure how, exactly. Maybe like you do for yogurt to make yogurt cheese.

Anyway, in the end, the dough was a beautiful golden orange. I kneaded it, and ran it through the pasta machine, making strips of dough ultimately at the #6 thickness, and then I cut it into rough ¼” fettucini.

I served it with brown butter and sage sauce. The pasta had a great consistency, and my wife was quite impressed because when I first told her about my plan to make squash pasta, she made a face like she didn’t think it would be that good, but she really liked it.


Sat, Oct 10 • 0

Due to a problem with my old webserver, I had to do a little shuffling, and in the end, lost a couple weeks worth of posts as well as about a dozen comments. Sorry about that.  Things should be otherwise back to normal.

August Food Related Neologisms

Mon, Aug 31 • 0

A monthly look at new words and phrases about food.

rito n. A clipping of burrito. “I just got out of a noise violation because the cop recognized my roommate as his favorite chipotle burrito roller. just another reason I love ritos.”

weed in a can n. Drank” is being billed as the anti-energy drink, to help you relax and soothe out the day. The key ingredients in the grape-flavored drink are melatonin, valerian root and rose hip. Those are all herbs used to help in relaxation and trouble sleeping. The concept of the “relaxation beverage,” has led some people to refer to the drink as “weed in a can.” (Not to be confused with Purple drank, which is the slang term for a recreational drug popular in the hip-hop community of the southern United States. Its main ingredient is prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine.

vampire n. A traditional dish in the Republic of Chad in central Africa that is made with animal blood. “Vampire,” as it is jokingly dubbed, is making a comeback amid a global surge in food prices that has left meat too expensive for many. It is made with peppers, salt, onions, spicy sauce and maggi [stock cubes], and then fried together. Some nutritional specialists say that “vampire” is a good source of nutrients and protein, especially for children. One local was enthusiastic about its culinary merits too, stating: “The taste is good, a bit like liver. I really like it. … I suppose it doesn’t sound very good to be associated with sucking blood, but I don’t really care. Perhaps it will give me the strength of a vampire!”

Courtesy of The Double-tongued Dictionary, Word Spy, and Schott’s Vocab.

Boycott Whole Foods?

Sun, Aug 23 • 1

boycottSo, I’m feeling a little torn.

Recently, the CEO and co-founder  of Whole Foods, John Mackey, wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that criticized President Obama’s health-care initiatives. In it, he insists that Americans don’t have an intrinsic right to health care, and in a bit of self-service, he suggested that if we all just ate wholesome, organically grown food, we could keep the costs of health care down without involving the government. Progressive action groups and bloggers were pretty much up-in-arms over the piece, which the Whole Foods company quickly disavowed as being purely the opinion of one man, who happens to be their CEO, and not representative of the organization.

Nevertheless, the leftwing bloggers will not be dissuaded. They’ve called for a boycott of the store, to let Mackey know that it’s not very smart to intentionally alienate a large percentage of your target audience.

As I said, I’m on the fence. While I personally tend to identify with those who want health care reforms, I’m not really willing to boycott the store, mostly because I feel that the guy is entitled to his opinion, but also I’m not too keen on the idea of possibly depriving the people who work for the store of their livelihood just because their boss might be a total butt-head.

As it is, it’s debatable whether or not the boycott is really working. Despite protesters picketing outside branches of the store in Washington DC, Maryland, New York and Austin, Texas last week, this past Friday, August 21st, Whole Food posted a record high stock price for the year. (Confidentially, I think that people might be inclined to boycott, but they just can’t bear to buy their rice cakes anywhere else.)

What do you think?

Maple-Glazed Ham Steak

Sat, Aug 8 • 0

¼ cup water
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup

1 ham steak

Combine water, syrup, butter, soy sauce, and ketchup in a frying pan big enough to hold your ham steak. Bring to a slow boil, and lower the heat to a simmer. Add the ham steak, and put on the lid. After 5 minutes, turn the ham steak. After 5 more minutes, remove the lid and the steak, increase the heat to medium, and let the cooking liquid condense to a thicker sauce. Once it’s back to the consistency of the maple syrup, return the ham to the pan, and coat all the sides. Serve immediately.

The Price of Seasonal Buying at Trader Joe’s

Fri, Aug 7 • 4

A crankygram to the people who run Trader Joe’s.

I’m kind of annoyed at my local Trader Joe’s. A few weeks back, I walked into the store to find it stocked like some communist era grocery store — most of the shelves were bare. Their excuse that time was that the corporate warehouse was moving, and due to some sort of snafu, the last shipment for my store didn’t arrive, but, rest assured, the shelves would be stocked in a day or so. This sort of thing has got to be a one-off, but I’ve noticed that it happens all the time on a smaller scale at Trader Joe’s, moreso than any other grocery store I frequent.

I find some great new product that I really like, and then, without warning, it’s gone. It’s happened often enough to make me annoyed. This time, it was a Brazilian roast beef hash in one of those foil packages you can keep in your pantry forever. Another time, it was a mixture of organic frozen vegetables that I really liked. There one day, and then gone forever. I don’t think it’s the fault of an inept stockboy at my local store. I think it’s an issue with the whole corporation.

Their website claims that they stock their store based on seasonal variables. I can understand it if, say, peaches are in season now, but they’re not in January. There’s the assumption that peaches will be back on the shelves again, in time. And maybe this is just their way of introducing variety and spontaneity into the lives of their shoppers — no more complacency! Don’t get used to anything! I guess I’m at the age where, if I find something I like, I want to keep buying it. And I don’t want to have to buy 50 units and stockpile it. And all that will do is make the person coming after me encountering the same empty shelves or missing products that I am finding.

Or maybe it’s an evil plot to get me to come back more frequently, in the hopes that my beloved missing items will be back the next time … or the next time. Whatever the cause, it’s almost enough to make me not want to shop there anymore. I guess if they expect to be people’s main grocery store, and not just some impulse buying adjunct to a more traditional grocery store, they have to get more reliable supply lines for the products they sell.

Foodie Jargon for July

Fri, Jul 31 • 0

A monthly look at new words and phrases about food.

eatertain v. Kessler spends a lot of time meeting with (often anonymous) consultants who describe how they are trying to fashion products that offer what’s become known in the food industry as “eatertainment.” Fat, sugar, and salt turn out to be the crucial elements in this quest: different eatertaining” items mix these ingredients in different but invariably highly caloric combinations.

phantom fat n. Body-image experts say it’s not uncommon for people, especially women, who have lost a lot of weight to be disappointed to some extent to discover that they still aren’t “perfect.” Some specialists use the term “phantom fat” to refer to this phenomenon of feeling fat and unacceptable after weight loss.

Courtesy of The Double-tongued Dictionary, Word Spy, and Schott’s Vocab.

Eleven Herbs and Spices Revealed?

Mon, Jul 27 • 1

Ron Douglas, author of America’s Most Wanted Recipes, claims he has discovered the secret recipe after lots of chicken, and years of testing. According to an article in The Guardian, the secret ingredients are :

1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Accent (MSG)

Unfortunately, it’s still pretty difficult to duplicate the fast food chain’s cooking methods, since they use pressure cookers to fry their chicken. However, the home cook does have the advantage of being better able to drain the excess grease from the fried chicken, since we’re not cooking dozens of chickens at once. Also, home cooks have the option of buying better quality, organic, free-range chicken if they choose to. The Guardian even claimed to have come up with what they call a superior mix of herbs and spices, that doesn’t include MSG. This is their recipe and recommended process, the best I can interpret it from the article, as they only roughly describe the process, but they do give a detailed listing of their choice of herbs and spices. The recommend poaching the chicken in milk to insure the chicken is cooked completely to the bone, but that’s a step I’ve never seen in any fried chicken recipe.

“It’s worth noting that chicken marinaded and poached in milk has an unbelievably suave flavour and texture, and that the poaching liquid thickens to create the most soothing cream of chicken soup I’ve ever achieved,” says the article.

1 half gallon whole milk
1 whole chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp sage
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried onion flakes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
peanut oil
for frying

Cut the chickens into 8 parts, splitting the breast in half to allow for even cooking, and saving the backs, necks and wing tips for stock. Marinate overnight in the milk. The next day, lightly poach the chicken in the milk bath for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and drain. Use enough peanut oil to make a depth of 1 inch in a frying pan. Bring up to 350º heat. While the oil is coming to temperature, mix the spices with the flour. Coat each piece of chicken with the flour mixture, and let set for a couple of minutes, then re-coat each piece. Fry the chicken in the oil, 6 minutes on each side, or until the coating is golden brown. Remove the chicken to a rack and allow excess oil to drip off.

The results were ok. Nothing fantastic. Each piece of chicken was fully cooked, but I didn’t really detect the suave flavor and texture described. In fact, some of the skin was a little chewy and flabby. And frankly, the coating did not come near the flavor of KFC, or any other chain-store fried chicken place I’ve tried. In fact, I’d say it was comparable to cheap grocery store fried chicken.

In the end, my wife and I just didn’t think it came close to competing with my personal favorite recipe for fried chicken, which I think is better than anything you can buy. What I may do, though, is use most of my technique from that recipe, but try to spice it up with the different herbs and spices from these new recipes. Look for that in the coming weeks.

“You Don’t Win Friends With Salad.”

Tue, Jul 21 • 0

So says Homer Simpson. Nevertheless, Mark Bittman, writing for the New York Times has come up with 101 ways to make a meal out of salad, ranging from vegan, to vegetarian, to omnivorous.

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