Sunday, July 26, 2020

Crepini Egg Wraps

While Whole30 has been largely successful for me, I have definitely modified it to my tastes. One of the big no-nos is using a legal food, eggs for example, to replicate a non-legal food, like a taco shell. That is apparently "not in the spirit of the diet." I call bullshit, because the spirit of the diet lies in the dieter, not in the list of forbidden foods. While I have gotten used to eating potatoes as my primary starch, one can't really wrap a taco in them, or use them particularly successfully to sop up egg yolk, etc. I understand that grains are forbidden on Whole30, and I do my best to avoid all of them, including ground corn, so I won't eat a corn tortilla (though I will eat fresh corn), or rice, but I draw the line at giving up clever facsimiles made from "legal" substances. 

Not long ago, I read about Crepini wraps, made from egg and cauliflower, in a specialty food magazine. I inquired about samples, and two days later received both large and small wraps in my mailbox. I figure the large ones could be used for bigger sandwich-style things, and the smaller ones as taco shells.
 
They smelled a little farty when I opened the package, but that's the whole cauliflower thing. The flavor, however, is pretty neutral, like a flour crepe, and pretty close to the same texture. They are super thin, but not super delicate. Still, I found that I liked to double the large ones before wrapping up any goodies and tripling the small ones for tacos. I mean, 24 calories is still much fewer than the amount in a corn tortilla, right?

I tried the large ones with grilled sausages (while hubby ate a hot dog bun), with eggs as a breakfast burrito, and on their own as "bread." The small ones made lots of tasty tacos. 

While Crepini Egg Thins aren't a perfect substitute for bread, etc., they are pretty damn good. I am quite pleased that I discovered them and will be buying them regularly in the future.

Thanks, Crepini, for the free samples!

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Pancho's (Sponsored Post)

Who doesn't appreciate some cheesy goodness now and again? I'm not just talking a slice of cheese on a sandwich or sprinkled on a taco. I mean real, ooey gooey, sexy cheese, draped over everything from a tortilla chip to a stuffed pepper.

I'm talking queso. Specifically Pancho's cheese dip.

There are only two Pancho's restaurants (in West Memphis, AK, and Memphis, TN) but their famed cheese dip is available in 1200 locations across the country, including Giant Food Stores in Baltimore, and the Weis Market on Goucher Blvd in Towson. (Check their store locator--https://panchosdip.com/store-locator--for info.) People have called this stuff the Best Dip on the Planet; it even has a fan club. I can see why. It's not too thick, not too spicy, and it tastes fresh. As I was putting these dishes together, I was literally scooping the cheese out of the tub with my fingers and eating it.

But then, I do like me some cheese.

I crumbled some freshly fried Mexican chorizo on some Pancho's to make a super easy and delicious choriqueso dip. And I thought it made a brilliant topping for some Mexican-style stuffed bell peppers.


Papas con Chorizo-stuffed Bell Peppers with Pancho's Cheese Dip

2 fist-sized red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
Salt
1/2 lb Mexican chorizo
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, cut in half from top to bottom, seeds removed
Your favorite salsa
Pancho's Cheese Dip
Minced green onions or chives

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water seasoned with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Put the chorizo in a saute pan set over medium-high heat. Breaking the chorizo up with a wooden spoon, cook the sausage until it's crumbled and browned. Add the minced garlic, turn the heat to medium, and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove the meat and garlic from the skillet, leaving the fat. If there doesn't seem to be much fat in the pan, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Add the potatoes to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the potatoes start to brown. Return the chorizo to the pan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F. Fill each bell pepper half with a heaping amount of the chorizo and potato mixture and place them in a baking pan--ideally an 8" glass pan. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. NOTE: If it's too hot to put the oven on for this long, as it is in my house right now, you can microwave the peppers for 10 minutes on a covered plate to make them tender. Then they'll only need about 15 minutes in the oven. 

Put a puddle of salsa on each of four plates. Top with a pepper half. Generously drizzle Pancho's Cheese Dip over the peppers, and garnish with the onions or chives.

Serves 4.


Posted on Minxeats.com.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Thursday, July 02, 2020

WholeMinx

Happy Thursday, Readers!

Now that I'm not doing Top Chef recaps, I have no idea what week this is. I'm guessing Week 16? It's July, which is a long way away from mid-March, when this all started, and there's no end in sight. If there's a light at the end of the tunnel (as one of my friends tried to convince me some weeks ago), we still have miles to go. It's like we've only just left Folkestone and there's another 50km to Coquelles*. States have been opening prematurely, and cases are spiking. In fact, the number of cases posted yesterday was about 14k people higher than the previously highest number from April. Go USA! We're Number One! :::raising giant foam middle finger and waving it madly:::: 

Meanwhile, at Minxeats HQ, we're staying home until there's a vaccine. No, I mean it. We've already been invited to the opening of a new burger joint in Baltimore County and to the anniversary of a Ramen restaurant in Bethesda. Um, thanks, but no thanks. If I had been offered carry-out from the burger place, then I'd have gone for it. But ain't no way I'm going to dine indoors with a bunch of yahoos with their masks off, spittle flying as they hoot and holler over absolutely nothing important. I don't even want to dine outdoors with other people. In fact the only people with whom hubby and I have broken bread over the past three months are my hermit brother, and friends Dara, Cyrus (both at the same socially-distanced lawn party) and Jeremy. Yes, I know we're food writers, and that part of our bread and butter, so to speak, is dining in restaurants, but we want to stay safe. My life is far more important than a free meal, don't you think? In any case, it's not like we're eating poorly. We get carry-out at least once a week, ordering enough food to last us at least a few meals. The rest of the time we're eating leftovers or something I've concocted. The grocery store that we visit every two weeks has had all of the necessities (well, not toilet paper until recently) and I can get fancier produce delivered from Washington's Green Grocer.

I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, though I am not anywhere near a vegetarian. Some days I'm doing the whole Mark Bittman "Vegan Before 6" thing, not eating any meat until dinnertime. Other times--more rarely--I have meat for lunch (it depends on what leftovers need to be eaten soonest). I have been doing my own version of Whole30 for the last year now, and it's a lifestyle that works for me. I'm going to call it WholeMinx.

The basis of Whole30 is to eat only whole foods and to give up processed ones. Also, one must give up grains, sugars, alcohol, dairy, and legumes. It's pretty strict about what one cannot eat, but it does allow fruits, veg, meats and fats. It's not a weight loss diet, but one intended to "reset" eating habits from crappy to healthy. Still, I've lost 43 lbs so far. I've always had trouble losing weight. The last time I did significant dieting, I ate 700 calories per day and exercised like a fiend. Those calories weren't always nutritious...I went more for filling. In other words, I ingested terrible low-calorie bread that was probably more cardboard than wheat, low-fat cheese slices, and "diet' salad dressings and such that are more poison than food. I'd eat cans of zucchini in tomato sauce (about 120 calories) for dinner. Yes, I felt light-headed frequently. But the weight fell off me, and, for a few years, I was slim (ish) and cute (er). But that kind of eating is not at all sustainable, so I fell back to old habits and gained all of the weight back, and more, rapidly.

That was dumb. And unhealthy. Now I know better.

After a few weeks of doing Whole30, I decided that wheat was probably my downfall. Bread and pizza are my favorite foods, and I can't say no to cookies, cake, pie, or donuts. If I eat any of those things and count calories, I don't lose weight. But if I don't eat any of that stuff, and don't count calories, I do lose weight. If I add a little sugar to my diet, but stay off the grains, I continue to lose weight. Adding beans and corn (which they count as a grain, but I count as a vegetable) to my diet does not affect the weight loss. Dairy doesn't, either. In other words, I found that if I eat a balanced diet of everything but grains, I can lose weight. Not just like that, of course, I have to exercise, too, and reduce my portion sizes, but considering I can eat just about anything I want, that part is fairly easy.

I'm going to tell you about my typical eating day, and you're going to say it sounds like a punishment diet. But it really isn't. These days, eating is one of the few things I look forward to, and I make sure to create meals that I really enjoy. (I am fortunate to like pretty much all fruits and veg, which makes things so much easier. YMMV.)

Weekdays

Breakfast: a smoothie. I've never been a smoothie person; the ones from juice bars are crazy expensive and full of sugar. But I got a bag of Bob's Red Mill Vanilla Protein Powder as part of my ongoing promotion with them and figured I had to use it. I put a single scoop (using the scoop that comes in the bag, a serving size is 2 scoops) in a blender with a whole banana (frozen, if possible), a cup of hemp milk (use the milk of your choice), and various goodies like chia seeds, golden flax meal, matcha, gotu kola, collagen, and cacao nibs, plus some water to top it off. (I bought some reusable smoothie straws to make drinking easier.) The protein powder has monkfruit extract, cornstarch, and a tiny bit of sugar, so it's definitely not Whole30 compliant, but it fits fine with WholeMinx. I also drink at least one cup of coffee and have a bowl of assorted berries and pineapple.

Breakfast is preceded by a half hour video workout of some sort. My favorite is Jessica Smith's Walk On series of low-impact walking cardio, but I also do Nia, Pilates, and just plain walking around the neighborhood. This might sound horrible to some of you, but I have to admit that my mornings have become my favorite part of the day.

(Who am I? and what did I do with Kathy?)

Lunch is often a cold cooked beet dressed in a lemon vinaigrette and topped with crumbled feta, bleu, or goat cheese and some walnut pieces. Sometimes I make some non-garbanzo bean hummus (they give me stomach cramps) and eat it with the beets, or roasted carrots, a sweet potato, or winter squash. For crunch, I'll eat some Simple Mills almond flour crackers (which are super yummy). Today, however, I have some leftover carry-out chicken wings. Mmm!

Dinner is whatever we feel like eating. Except pizza. If hubby wants pasta, he has pasta and I eat zucchini noodles. If we get carry-out Chinese or Indian or Thai or Vietnamese food, I don't eat the rice. I've had burgers in bowls from Five Guys and wrapped in lettuce from Red Robin (damn, I miss the buns though), super fatty pork belly from Red Pepper in Towson, and Korean BBQ fries from The Local Fry. Pretty much anything goes.

I do have a late snack most nights, either dried or fresh fruit or a few nuts.

Weekends

Breakfast one day is sunny-side-up eggs, which I eat with Utz plain potato chips instead of toast, plus fruit and coffee. The other day is occasionally a grain-free porridge made with stuff like coconut flour and hazelnut meal, or oatmeal for Mr Minx and a sweet potato or leftovers or an RX Bar for me.

No lunch normally. Maybe a handful of potato chips.

Dinner is whatever I feel like eating that doesn't involve wheat or other grains. Last week it was pork chops with sauteed grapes and leeks. This week we'll be celebrating the 4th with various grilled meats and corn on the cob.

So not torture! I am eating so well and feeling good these days. I did have a plateau earlier in the year that lasted a few frustrating months. In May I allowed myself pizza and pie and other wheat-y stuff, which made me feel like crap but reset whatever it is in the brain that decided I had lost enough weight. I lost 4.5 lbs in June, and if I keep up that pace, I should reach my 2020 goal by mid-fall.

If you've read this far down the post, you probably deserve a medal or something. At least a fun new recipe. And I promise you'll get one, just not today. I really wanted to re-set this blog, which has felt neglected recently (by me and by you!) and hope to feature more nutritious food in the future. That is not to say "diet" food - I won't be trying to sell you on anything with that word on the label. But I will promote more products that fit in my new eating lifestyle, and hopefully in yours, too.

I predict the pandemic will be with us well into 2021. This is as good a time as any to start taking better care of yourself. Stop using being stuck at home as an excuse for constant baking and binge eating. Use the extra time--if you have it--to start a new exercise routine. No need to go crazy, just take a walk around the neighborhood every day rather than turning on the TV. Exercise is just as good for the mind as it is for the body, and we all could use a mental pick-me-up right now.

*The start and end points for the Chunnel that runs under the English Channel between Great Britain and France.

**Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats.
*** Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Top Chef Season 17 All Stars Recap - Episode Fourteen

Greetings, Readers! Writing this week's recap has got me a bit verklempt. Not only is this the last Top Chef recap that I'll write for a while (maybe ever), but it also marks the end of fourteen long weeks of staying home, socially distancing, and all that other good stuff. When this season of Top Chef started, I was pretty sure I'd be back at work by this point. Back to the usual routine of twice daily bus rides fully of smelly and rude people, sitting in an overly-cold office for 8 hours, daily walks around Oriole Park at Camden Yards, listening to my co-workers chatting loudly instead of working, and watching the weirdo who eschews wearing shoes walking up and down the filthy hall carpet on his way to the even dirtier men's room down the hall. But no. I am still at home, with a 1 minute commute from bedroom to dining room table/work desk, which I share with my husband of 20 years (jesus christ, when did that happen?). The only thing--other than my employment and relationship status--that has remained constant in my life, pre- and during the pandemic, is my thoughts of food. I think of food pretty much every waking hour of my life. What to eat, how it will be prepared, where to obtain it. I conjure up recipes in my head regularly, not always bringing them to fruition, but enjoying the process nonetheless. Food is what has kept me somewhat sane over the last three months. To that end, I have enjoyed Top Chef this season because the show is primarily about food. But it is also about a group of people who have spent a great deal of concentrated time together and so have become good friends. And I have envied the interactions between these people, watching them coexist these last 14 weeks, even as I have not been able to see and touch my own friends. Of course, these same chefs have also had to endure the trials and tribulations of pandemic life just as I have, but with the added burden of wondering if their businesses will ever recover. Will life ever be the same? Will we ever have the relative frivolity of a food competition show like Top Chef again?

I'm going to try to make this recap brief. But then I say that every time and fail miserably.

There's no Quickfire again this week. The cheftestants--Bryan, Melissa, and Stephanie--find a note from Padma that urges them to eat breakfast before meeting her on the very foggy and damp terrace. Tom's there too, and they both compliment the chefs' performances so far before reminding them that their next challenge involves the best four course meal of their lives. Again Padma stresses that it be a progressive meal, which, as I have stated before, normally refers to a meal eaten in various locations rather than at one table. But I think the Top Chef meaning of the word is a meal that goes from appetizer to dessert. Not four courses of soup, or pie, or pate en croute. They want soup to nuts, but not necessarily soup or nuts. 

Out of the fog emerge their helpers for the contest: Kevin, Malarkey, and surprisingly, LeeAnne. Gregory has not been feeling well (his back still acting up, I assume) so LeeAnne agreed to take his place. Big of her to agree to travel to Italy, huh? The Final Three draw knives to determine who chooses first. Stephanie is number one and her choice is...Malarkey? She claims she chose him for his skill and enthusiasm. Bryan then chooses his bestie Kevin, leaving Melissa with LeeAnne.

Each pair gets their own SUV and heads off to do meal planning and shopping in Florence. Melissa of course is planning to continue her fusion (though she admits its a dirty word) of Italian and Chinese cuisine. Lee Anne is very opinionated, offering strong advice on how to prepare octopus and suggestions for ingredients Melissa might want to incorporate into her dishes. Melissa, however, is able to say no and shoots down most of Lee Ann's ideas. Stephanie tells Malarkey that she is going to make several things that she's made in the past, dishes that mean something to her. Personally, I think they sound a little done, particularly the kataifi-wrapped shrimp, which was a thing a few years back. Hopefully she doesn't shoot herself in the foot. Or shoot Malarkey for being annoying. Finally, Bryan--who last episode was deeply wounded by criticism that his food has no heart--wants to make dishes that are less his usual modernist tweezerings and more food with soul.

After spending a thousand euros on ingredients (much like my weekly food budget these days), the cheftestants head back to the Renaissance and cook for 5 hours. Everyone seems very enthusiastic about their menus. After the day's cooking is complete, they head off to a farmhouse in the countryside for a dinner promised to them by Tom. In a rather lovely twist, the meal has been prepared entirely by Tom, Padma, and Gail. It's a very nice gesture.

We then see our trio of finalists at home, skyping with their loved ones. Stephanie chats with her BFF Kristin Kish, winner of Top Chef season 10, whom she met in culinary school. (Stephanie also participated in that season, but was eliminated in one of the initial qualifying rounds.) Melissa converses with her excited mama, and Bryan calls Michael Voltaggio for some supportive brotherly love.

The next day, the chefs have another three hours to finish their dishes and serve them to a group of highly regarded chefs including Marcus Samuelsson. Their first courses are well-regarded by the judges, whose only quibble seems to be that Melissa's char siu sauce is a bit sweet. Tom praises Stephanie's kataifi shrimp, saying it's perfectly cooked. (So maybe the judges aren't sick of that particular dish quite yet.) The dish reminds Stephanie of her late brother, and her tears cause Gail to shed a few herself. Each of the three finalists serve pasta for their second course--so appropriate in Italy--and these dishes are also praised. There are a few more issues with the third course, mostly with Stephanie's veal breast dish which is a little dry. Bryan's squid ink foccaccia is also criticized for not being absorbent enough. (By the looks of it, it wasn't foccaccia, either.) Dessert also seems to please the diners, which means the judging will be difficult. 

You all know that I've been rooting for Bryan, who was competing on Top Chef for the third and final (so he says) time. You all also know that he didn't win any Quickfire Challenges and few Elimination Challenges this season. So something was off with him this time around. If Bryan couldn't win, I would have loved to see Stephanie get the prize. She was clearly an underdog who came on strong toward the end of the competition. Melissa was strong the whole season and clearly a chef to be reckoned with. And while I liked her just fine, and loved her concept of adding Chinese elements to just about everything she prepared (Chinese cuisine is my very favorite), she was not my choice to win.

So of course she won.

Congratulations to Melissa King for an amazing run. She's the winningest competitor ever, and only the 6th woman in 17 seasons to earn the title of Top Chef. She was also the Fan Favorite.

Sorry, Bryan, you will always be my favorite.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.