Monday, August 31, 2009

My Take on a Kashi Frozen Entrée

Why does "healthy" food have to taste so bad? I had a Kashi Lemongrass Coconut Chicken frozen entrée for lunch the other day. I'm not a big fan of frozen entrées in general (most of them taste awful and reek of onion powder) but this one was free so I tried it.

The package boasts "same portion 11% less packaging." While that may be eco-friendly, I have to wonder about the inks used to print the box - they have a harsh chemical smell. I do not recommend using the flattened box as a trivet for the hot meal. Just toss it directly into recycling.

I feel pretty much the same about the food. There was a very strong, almost overpowering lemongrass flavor, rather like a mouthful of Pledge. The multi grain pilaf had too many textures, all of which were crunchy; this was only exacerbated by the crunchy vegetables and crunchy coconut flakes. The texture of the chicken, on the other hand, was very tender. But, being boneless, skinless breast meat, it didn't have a lot of flavor of its own to help balance the lemongrass. Although the dish had 680mg of sodium, I would say it wasn't salty enough. In fact, if one took away the lemongrass, the dish would taste like...nothing.

I'm going to go back to disliking frozen entrées now.

RIP Sheila Lukins

Sheila Lukins died yesterday of brain cancer at the age of 66. She, along with her partner Julie Rosso, was one of my foodie inspirations. Their Silver Palate cookbooks, with their cute Lukins-drawn illustrations and boldly-flavored, gourmet-style recipes, were at least a cut above my mom's home library of Better Homes & Gardens staples. The recipes also seemed more accessible than the ones I read in Gourmet and Cuisine (my all-time favorite food mag, btw). They were among the first cookbooks I devoured as novels, absorbing all of their recipes into my burgeoning culinary mind. Although I don't refer to her books much anymore, they still occupy a proud place in my cookbook collection.

Thanks, Sheila, for helping to kick-start my imagination.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Belated Happy Blogiversary...to Me!

Can you tell I'm not paying attention? August 14th marked the 4th anniversary of MinxEats. Can you believe I've been plugging away here for that long, and still no book deal? ;)

My first post was about dim sum, something I still very much enjoy, even if the venue has changed. Actually, our most recent trip to Asian Court left us believing that the food there might be better than at the late, lamented Jesse Wong's Hong Kong. At least I try to convince myself of that.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode 2 Recap

Welcome once again to fabulous Las Vegas, vacation destination to lots of fat tourists in ugly shorts! This week's episode starts off in the chefs' digs at the M Resort & Spa where they are brushing their teeth, comparing tattoos, and disinfecting their various piercings. Eventually they get their asses in gear, put on their ugly shorts, and head to the hallowed Top Chef kitchen where they find Padma and this week's guest chef, Todd English, a man possibly more well-known for his good looks than for his cuisine.

In addition to Chef English, Padma is also accompanied by a "big-ass craps table." (Thank you, Kevin. Let's hope it's not wearing shorts.) Padma wastes no time in giving the cheftestants their Quickfire Challenge. Duh! They're going to play craps!

In the "Roll With It" Quickfire (a.k.a the Steve Winwood challenge) the chefs must create a dish using the number of ingredients that comes up on their roll of the dice.

The chefs get rolling. Some ruminate on the ideal number of ingredients they'd like to be able to use. Or not.

For the most part, it seems the cheftestants roll 8s (Jesse, above, rolls a 9). But we only get to see what 11 of the 16 roll. The rest apparently aren't important enough to show in an episode that's merely an hour long.

Speaking of time, they get half an hour to create their dishes.

Will this competition ultimately become a battle of the Voltaggio brothers?

Padma and Todd taste everyone's wares and decide that Jesse, Eve, and Bryan were the least yummy. Jen, Kevin, and Mike V. made the best dishes. And just to piss off Bryan, Todd chooses brother Mike's Gazpacho from Space as the winner of the $15K chip.

You know there was some noogie action going down afterward. Maybe even a wet willie or two.

Next: the Elimination Challenge!

C'mon. Doesn't he look like a cuddly version of something out of Lord of the Rings?

For this contest, there will be two teams - boys against girls. A"battle of the sexes," if you will. Honestly, it can't be as entertaining as a Battle of the Network Stars, can it?

The boys' team has to cook for the bachelorette and the girls' team has to cook for the bachelor. The happy couple, Karen and Greg, arrive bearing trays of shots. They want the party food to match with these drinks - Moscow Mules, tequila, and something called a "Golden Delicious," which Ash describes as "sweet, gooey, and disgusting."

Sounds dirty, at least the "gooey" and "disgusting" parts.

After a mere 10 minutes of planning, the cheftestants head to Whole Foods to spend $800 per team in 30 minutes. Back at the kitchens, they have two hours to prep.

Meanwhile, Ashley has a problem with the challenge.

Preeti, the obviously less-politically-minded lesbian in the competition, doesn't let it affect her.

Thirteen years! Although she looks about 13 years old, Preeti is actually 33.

Anyhoo...it seems that most of the chefs are making ceviche. Like Eve:

...and Hector:

Jennifer is making ceviche again too.

Sigh. It's kinda like pronouncing "tortilla" to rhyme with "Godzilla."

The Voltaggio brothers don't do ceviche, regardless of how it's pronounced. Both decide on the unconventional - for Mike, an apple sorbet with a goat cheese cracker to match with the Golden Delicious shot...

...and for Bryan, meringues stuffed with...guacamole. Oh man, I'm envisioning Mike on top again, and brother Bryan at the bottom.

Oh God, you sick people...get your minds out of the gutter! They're brothers!

The next day, the chefs get one hour to set up in a large pool-side cabana. It's sunny and hot and personally I'm worried about all that suh veech raw fish.

Soon enough, the guests arrive - hot girls and guys. Hot and probably sweaty too.

They hit the girls' table first.

They didn't like Eve's shrimp ceviche, but they thought Jen's octopus suhveech was tasty. Robin's molé was nice, as was Laurine's lamb chop. Jesse's lettuce cup had too much going on and didn't seem to work well enough with the Moscow Mule. Preeti's fish was overcured and not professionally-done. Plus her shiso had wilted in the heat. Ashley's watermelon dish was good but the bay leaf panna cotta she made to satisfy the bachelor's sweet tooth didn't set up properly.

Then it was the boys' turn...

...to act like asses.

Kevin's dish was delicious and lovely. Mike V.'s goat cheese and apple dish was so good it was called "ridiculous." Hector's ceviche, made with tofu (!), got high marks. Ron's lobster was flavorless. Mike I.'s char was flabby and flat and didn't match well with tequila. Plus, he's a douche. Bryan's meringue with guac was suprisingly very good, a nice riff on chips and salsa. Eli's tartare (no ceviche for this boy!) matched well with the Moscow Mule. Mattin's croquette and bouillabaisse weren't good. And Todd deemed Ash's chicken wing something he could "eat all day."

Overall, both the bachelor and bachelorette seemed happy with the food.

Time for the fake-out scene!

Back at the Glad Family of Products Stew and Booze Room, the cheftestants wait for the verdict.

Padma comes in and calls for Hector, Eli, and both Voltaggio boys. They made the favorite dishes of the day. Team Boy wins! Although the tofu ceviche was intriguing, it was a toss-up between the Brothers V. They decide to give it to Bryan for his unusual dish.

Back in the Booze Room, Eli tells Eve, Jesse, Preeti, and Ashley they're on the chopping block. They hang their heads and go out to face the firing squad.

Poor Jesse cries as they tear apart her dish.

Eve's salsa was too strong but her shrimp were tasteless. Preeti's tuna was overcured, a surprise to her because she was proud of her dish. Ashley used too much bay in her panna cotta, giving it an unpleasant tannic flavor.

Overall though, Eve's mistakes were deemed the biggest, and she was sent packing.

Next week: Still too many damn chefs to keep track of!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Choice Bites for August 26, 2009

I do a lot of browsing, especially of food-related Web sites. What can I say? I'm obsessed. :) I would like to share some of my finds with you. I'm thinking of making this a regular feature here at MinxEats. What do you think?

Yum Makeua Yao with shrimp, Thai grilled eggplant salad. Photo by eGulletteer BryanZ.

Photos like the one above of amazing Asian cuisine from Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan can be found in this eGullet thread. OMG delicious-looking stuff.

It's State Fair time again! Check out these lovely nibbles from Iowa. Well, they're not all lovely.

I'm a little obsessed with Banh Mi right now. Don't these burgers look delish?

Mastering the Art of French Cooking tops the NY Times best seller list! About time!

I love looking at the food photos on Photograzing and checking out the food blogs behind them. You'll even find some of my photos there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Birthday Food

My handsome hubby, aka Mr Minx, had a birthday this weekend. Traditionally we partake of steamed crabs with his family on the nearest weekend. This year was no different.

The bounty of crabs came from some joint on Wise Avenue. They were big and heavy but probably steamed a mite too long, as the meat was on the mushy side. Flavorful, but mushy.

We had a bunch of leftover bread and some heavy cream that I had originally bought for another use, so I whipped up a savory bread pudding (using this recipe, more or less) to go with the crabs. (Onion rings are my usual preferred accompaniment, but I have a fear of frying.)

For dessert: a chocolate bundt cake. Mr Minx likes his cakes simple, chocolate, and sans frosting, and that's what he got. It wasn't as moist as I would have liked, but it went well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

There were almost a dozen crabs left over, so looks like we'll be having crab cakes and Lord knows what else this week!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jeffrey Saad, the Spice Smuggler

Apparently there was quite the clamor for runner-up Jeffrey Saad after Melissa D'Arabian was announced as the winner of The Next Food Network Star. So much so that TFN has given him a little Web show called The Spice Smuggler (better than the Ingredient Smuggler, don't you think? Leaves so much less to the imagination. "Hey - is that a ridged gourd in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?")

So far, four videos are up on the main TFNS page of foodnetwork.com, but here are direct links to each episode:

Tacos with anise seed
5-spice stir-fry chicken soup
Smoked paprika lasagna
Garam masala chicken pot pie

For goodness' sake, give the guy his own show!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode One Recap

Finally - a new season of Top Chef and a new batch of cheftestants to mock and/or cheer on. Plus Padma and Tom and Gail! Nothing against Kelly Choi and her motley gang of "critics," but Top Chef Masters was a little too nicey-nice for theminx.

So what are we waiting for? On with the show!

First we meet the chefs. There are 17 of them, as last season, and that's entirely too many to keep track of this early in the game. Especially since several of them will be long gone before we have time to hate them. Or love them. I'm not even going to bother to go through them all, but I'll give you the highlights.

As with last season, there are three members in Team Rainbow. Ash outs himself immediately, saying he is the only chef with a boyfriend. A male boyfriend. Yes, we get it. Hello! we're watching freaking Bravo. There are also two lesbians, Ashley and Preeti, who look like adorable little boys.

In the accent department, we have Mattin, a Frawnch dude in a really gay neckerchief whose theeck accent (hon hon) makes Fabio seem like a native American. No, no, not a Native American. Then there's Hector, from Puerto Rico, and Ron, from Haiti. Both have growly low voices that sound like a mashup between late Frawnch pro wrestler/actor Andre the Giant and Yaphet Kotto, with maybe a soupçon of Herve Villechaize.

Several of the cheftestants have tattoos, most notably Jesse and Jennifer Z., who also has grossly disfigured earlobes. And after Baldarama 2008, there is a suprising dearth of the follicularly-challenged.

We see all the chefs meet by the pool, then head to their suite at the M Resort Spa & Casino. After everyone is unpacked (except for Jen Z.), they go to the kitchen to meet Tom and Padma.

The first Quickfire of season 6 looks very familiar - we saw it on Top Chef Masters just a few short weeks ago. In this version of the Mise en Place Relay, the cheftestants will be grappling with ingredients that are favorites in landlocked Las Vegas - seafood!

First the chefs must shuck 15 clams, then peel 30 spot prawns, clean up 5 lobsters, and finally cut 2 chops from a prime rib. (They must have run out of fish.)

It's a team event and the chefs draw poker chips (guess the airline lost the knife block in transit) to see which chefs they get stuck with teams they will be on.

Team Black is Eli, Mike I, Ashley, and Hector.
Team Green is Jen Z, Ron, Ash, and Laurine.
Team Red is Kevin, Preeti, Mike V, and Eve.
Team Blue is Mattin, Jen C, Jesse, and Bryan.
Team Yellow is Robin.

Huh? Why is there only one person on Team Yellow? Because there's an odd number of cheftestants! By picking the lone yellow chip, lucky Robin gets to sit out the Quickfire. Not only that, she receives instant immunity from elimination.

The chefs set to work, with the clams seeming to get the best of everyone.

During the clam portion of the program, Mike I. shows himself to be a bit of a prick when he notices that Jen C. has shucked as many clams as he has.

Offense taken. Mike wins the round by a hair. Maybe he won't be so lucky next time, eh Jen?

Finally the blue team pulls out the victory when Bryan is the first to complete the beef portion of the contest.

Now comes a second Quickfire, one Padma refers to as "High Stakes" - the blue team must participate in a cook-off, the winner of which wins a chip worth $15,000. Lonely Robin on Team Yellow can trade her immunity to compete, but she's no dummy and decides to remain safe. And immune.

For the High Stakes QF, each member of Team Blue must create a dish using the ingredient they handled in the Mise en Place Relay: Bryan gets beef, Jen gets clams, Mattin gets lobster, and Jesse gets prawns.

Jen wins for her ceviche, which she pronounces "suh veech." Not only does she get the money, but she gets kisses from Tom and Padma. Yeah, I know you're jealous.

Not wasting any time, they get straight to the Elimination Challenge. Each chef must prepare a dish based on a vice of which he or she is guilty. The best and worst chefs from each team will be up for the win or the elimination.

Each chef gets $150 and 30 minutes to shop at Whole Paycheck, then 2 hours to cook their dish at Wolfgang Puck's steakhouse, Cut.

Next we see Tom Colicchio shilling for Diet Coke. What? No Hardee's commercial?

In the Cut kitchen, the chefs scurry to prepare their dishes. Because Robin couldn't be both winner and loser of her one-man team, she had to abandon Team Yellow for another group.

Everyone interprets "vice" differently than I did. I thought of the Seven Deadly Sins. The cheftestants mostly thought about alcohol, which I suppose if one drinks enough, it can be quite deadly.

Jen Z. says her vice is her hot temper, so made chiles rellenos. Stuffed with seitan, or wheat gluten.

I wouldn't go so far as to call it yucky, but it seems too...healthy?...to represent a vice. And I wouldn't call chiles rellenos a "hot" dish, necessarily.

Anyhoo...we find that Mike I. lives his vice: douchebaggery. He's obviously superior to everyone else, and he's not even European.

I'd watch out if I were you, Mike. Hector doesn't seem like someone to be messed with.

Me too! I don't get the "Swiss cheese" earlobe look. Bet it's fun when the baby pulls on 'em.

Time's up, utensils down - on to Judges Table! And look who's joined Tom, Padma, and special guest judge Wolfgang Puck....

Each team presents their dishes to the judges, who discuss them in turn.

First up is Team Black: Douchebag Mike chose to represent his hot temper and foul mouth rather than his sexist attitude; Eli represented his arrogance, bitterness, and penchant for drink; Ash considered bourbon and red wine to be his vices; Hector chose excessive cigar smoking.

The judges felt Hector would have gotten more of a smoky flavor in his steak if he had cooked it on the wood-fire grill rather than deep-frying it. Ahhh...but that's logical.

Sounds like Wolfgang has been watching too much Hell's Kitchen.

Next up is Team Blue: Bryan's vices are bourbon and cigars; Jen C. drinks too much and does stupid stuff as a result; Jesse likes whiskey and excess; Robin is a bad Jew because she likes pork; and Mattin wears a stupid red neckerchief.

Green Team goes next: Ash's deadly sin is procrastination; Jennifer Z. is hot-tempered; Ron growls something about not letting go of a 27-day journey from Haiti; and Laurine's vices involve bacon, beer, and donuts. What? Those aren't vices, they are necessities of life!

Jen's chile relleno is the big target for her team.

Laurine's donut doesn't escape criticism, as Wolfgang grabs one off Padma's plate and hurls it across the room.

Finally we have the Red Team: Mike V. does a tribute to plastic surgery with "rack" of lamb; Preeti's vice is Maker's Mark Manhattans; Eve wishes she could be more simple and cook less-complicated food; and finally Kevin is a big procrastinator so he cooked slow food fast and fast food slow, hoping he'd finish in time. Or something like that. At this point my bacon, beer, and donuts have kicked in and I'm half asleep.

After the tasting and bitchery, the judges send the chefs to the Glad Family of Products Stew 'n' Booze Room. Padma then puts on her best funeral-director voice and calls out Ron, Mike I., Kevin, and Jen C. After 5 seasons of this, everyone knows the highest-scoring cheftestants get called out first, so Padma can cut the act. (Did anyone else think she seemed a little stoned this episode?)

All four had good dishes, but Kevin's slow-cooked salmon won the challenge.

Back in the Stew 'n' Booze room, Jesse, Hector, Jen Z., and Eve get called to face the judges.

Hector defended his choice to deep-fry the steak by saying he wanted to make it chicaron-style and "cronchy." He says he cooked with his "heart and balls."

Jesse's chicken breast was dry, Eve's seafood was not cooked properly, and Jen's dish was too clunky. Overall, they were least impressed with the flavorless seitan-stuffed not-hot pepper, and she was given the kiss of death from Padma.

Will make it easier to move to the sequester house....

Next week - still too many chefs!
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