Friday, July 31, 2015

Peas Please Snacks

Peas seldom get any respect. They were the vegetable you pushed around on your plate when you were a kid. They are almost never a featured player on a restaurant menu like kale or Brussels sprouts. They tend to be tossed in with other vegetables as a "medley" or in a casserole like an afterthought.

The people at Peeled Snacks are giving peas the spotlight with a line of new snacks called Peas Please. Using organic whole green pea flour and organic brown rice flower, these pea-pod shaped snacks are baked and enhanced with seasonings. The effect is something like puffed Cheetos or a similar snack, but without the overpowering fake cheddar flavor. Or the thirst-provoking amount of salt. Or corn.

Peas Please come in three varieties: Sea Salt, Garden Herb, and Southwest Spice. Sea Salt is the most subtle with just enough salt to bring out the flavor of the peas. Garden Herb tastes of vegetables and herbs with a strong hit of garlic. The one with the most kick, of course, is Southwest Spice, but unlike some of the other crunchy snakes out there, Peas Please is not a raging salt bomb. The cayenne, paprika, onion, and garlic stand on their own with just a hint of saline. Any flavor works well as an accompaniment to a lunchtime sandwich (even on a salad), or as a snack eaten directly from the bag (our favorite way to eat them).

Completely organic and gluten free, Peas Please snacks provide 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving. They're also relatively low in fat compared to other snack foods with only 4.5 grams of fat per one ounce serving. Peeled snacks are available at major retailers around the country like Target, Whole Foods, and Wegman's. In the Baltimore area, Peeled products can be found at MOM's Organic Markets, Wegman's, and some Giant stores. (Starbucks also tends to carry Peeled dried fruit snacks.)

* 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!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015


A couple months ago, we took a field trip to Southern Maryland for a fishing tournament. Figuring the ride would be long, we took snack foods in the form of a box of Triscuits and a tub of Trader Joe's Muhammara. We'd never tried the stuff before, muhammara, but the combination of walnuts, roasted bell peppers, and pomegranate molasses sounded really good. And it was. Really good. I could have eaten the entire container myself (AND the whole box of sweet potato/onion Triscuits - yum), but I did share with Mr Minx.

When the next stitch and bitch rolled around, I decided to make muhammara. I typically make some sort of dippy thing, because it's the neatest thing to consume while knitting. There were only two of us this time, but we pretty much killed the entire batch. So tasty, and I think this recipe from Epicurious, with my adjustments (much less bread and oil), tasted pretty similar to TJ's version, only, of course, home-made, and therefore, better.

Muhammara (adapted from Epicurious)

1 large red pepper, peeled, seeded, and roasted, or 1 1/2 jarred roasted red peppers
5 tablespoons fine fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Big pinch cayenne
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Blend everything together in a food processor until it's a fairly smooth paste. Serve with crackers or crudite.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Diner en Blanc

Ok, this is kinda cool.

Ever see photos/video of a Diner en Blanc dinner party? It started in France more than 25 years ago and involves people dressed in white dining at white-decorated tables. It's a high-class picnic idea that's spread around the world, and now we're having one in Baltimore.

The Lord Baltimore Hotel's restaurant, The French Kitchen, will host this special "Picnic le Blanc" at Center Plaza (222 N Charles St) on Saturday August 22nd from 7-11pm. There will be a cash bar and DJ, and maybe even food. I say "maybe," because it's up to the diner. For $50 a couple, guests can bring their own food* (it doesn't have to be white). For $100 per couple, guests receive a picnic basket with a roast chicken, couscous salad, fruit and cheese, baguette, and petit fours). All tickets include white-covered tables and chairs...but the guests are expected to bring their own white tabletop decor.

The best-dressed couple and the couple with the best table decor will receive $100 gift cards to The French Kitchen.

If you want to attend, tickets will be available starting August 3 via For info, call 410-659-5257.

*No outside alcohol will be allowed into the event.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Bonefish Grill - Hooked on Tuesday

Hooked on Tuesday is Bonefish Grill's new promo featuring three course meals starting at $14.90. Diners have a choice of house or Caesar salad, one of nine entrees (each with a side and veg), and a dessert. Depending on the entree chosen, dinner can cost as little as $14.90 or as much as $20.90, which is still super inexpensive, especially considering all of the choices are either steak or seafood.

Bonefish Grill in Towson invited us to try a Hooked on Tuesday dinner for ourselves. How could we refuse?

We started with a couple of cocktails, including a "Fresh Watermelon Icicle Aphrodisiac Martini" (hand-muddled watermelon, fresh sour, house-made cucumber infused vodka, and frozen watermelon cubes), and a Summer Kiwi Smash (Olmeca Altos silver tequila, freshly muddled kiwi, mint, lemon juice, and an edible summer orchid.) Over the years, I've had several drinks that didn't taste particularly watermelon-y, but this one had a nice fresh melon flavor. The kiwi drink was basically a light-flavored margarita.

There are only two options for appetizers with the Hooked on Tuesday dinner, a house salad with hearts of palm, kalamata olives, and a citrus herb vinaigrette, or a Caesar salad. We tried both. The former was pleasant and light. The Caesar was enormous, with a super garlicky dressing that was quite good.

We skipped over the three $14.90 entree choices (Angler's steak, spicy tuna bowl, salmon) and went for the pricier items. I chose the cold water lobster tail for $17.90. While not particularly large, the tail was nicely cooked. I used the pesto olive oil that came with the bread service as a dip for the lobster; like the Caesar dressing, it was quite garlicky, which I enjoyed. Accompanying the lobster were small Yukon gold potatoes that had been battered and fried. They reminded me of a cross between Thrasher's fries and my grandmother's potato pancakes, only super crispy.  

Mr Minx went for the pecan Parmesan crusted rainbow trout with artichoke hearts and basil lemon butter from the priciest ($20.90) tier. He chose potatoes au gratin for his side, and both of us got the same combo of zucchini and bell peppers with cheese as our veg. Trout and pecans go so well together, and we were not disappointed by his fish.

Next came dessert. Mr Minx's cheesecake, served with chocolate and caramel sauces, was extremely light and creamy, almost like a no-bake cheesecake. My "Jen's Jamaican coconut pie," was quite homey, with a heavy coconut to custard ratio, a boozy Myers's rum sauce, and toasted coconut on top. Honestly, it was one of the best restaurant desserts I've had in a long time. And, according to the manager, it's only available on Tuesdays during the Hooked on Tuesday promotion, so if you want to try it for yourself, that's the time to get it.

Our verdict: Bonefish Grill's Hooked on Tuesday promotion is a great deal. The portions are generous, the food is good, and when else can you get that fab coconut pie? With rum sauce. Seriously the pie is worth the trip. Go. Eat pie. And some salad and fish, too.

* 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!

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Authentic Italian Pasta Chips

For too many years, snack foods promised more than they could deliver. The bag might say, "spicy salsa flavor" or "rich caramel goodness," but they would usually end up being a giant salt bomb or sugar bomb with little actual flavor. Recently, however, a growing number of entrepreneurs have been putting some real effort into creating snack foods with unique flavors that taste exactly like what they're supposed to taste like. One such product is Authentic Italian Pasta Chips.

Made with Durum wheat semolina flour like real pasta, these thin, square crackers look like dried out pieces of ravioli dough. But don't worry, it doesn't taste like dried pasta. The crackers are light and crisp. Pasta Chips come in six flavors all classically Italian in origin: Mediterranean Sea Salt, Garlic Olive Oil, Spicy Tomato Herb, Marinara, Alfredo, Spinach-Broccoli-Kale and Sea Salt. Okay, the last one might be a little New American, but they're all quite tasty.

If you're looking for a good dipping  chip, I would recommend the mildly flavored Mediterranean Sea Salt, Garlic Olive Oil, or Spinach-Broccoli-Kale and Sea Salt. Since they taste exactly like the flavors they purport to be, you can match each one to the flavor of dip you have so they will compliment each other. The other flavors are best eaten on their own. Although I didn't think the Marinara tasted much like marinara sauce, it does have a really addictive flavor, like a low salt version of Doritos (I mean that in a good way). Spicy Tomato Herb actually reminded me more of a tomato-based pasta sauce and was really delicious. Parmesan and Romano cheese are the primary flavors of the Alfredo chips with a hint of parsley in the background.

All six flavors of Authentic Italian Pasta Chips are well worth trying, and since they are made with non-GMO ingredients, you can feel good about eating them.    

* 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!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fancy Food Show Summer 2015 - Tea

The Summer Fancy Food Show has come and gone and I'm just getting around to writing about it. :) But the summer has been busy with other stuff, and it's always a good idea to cogitate on things before putting them on paper. Or in this case, online.

Judging by the many tea products I sampled, tea is trending. Here are a few products that I really enjoyed.

Kombucha is a tea-based product that some find hard to drink. Granted, fermented tea does have a lot in common with vinegar, and for the most part, the non-hipsters among us don't go around drinking vinegar. I think kombucha is quite palatable, but it all depends on the flavor. Ginger works really well to mask the fermented taste, for example. What really works to hide the whole kombucha-ness of the stuff is to add fizzy water and sweetener and turn it into soda. Live Soda company does just that in flavors like rhubarb and rootbeer that are actually very tasty. And because the company is based in Texas, they also make a flavor called Pure Doctor that mimics Texas' own Dr Pepper quite nicely. There's just a bit of tangy afterburn with each sip, but it goes down like a refreshing soda. Unlike soda, Live Kombucha Soda has probiotics (Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces boulardii), electrolytes, b-vitamins, and antioxidants.

I also had a rose flavored chai tea latte by Bolani that was scrumptious. It was sweet and creamy, with chai spices and also a fairly heavy hit of rosewater. Not enough to be perfumy, but it was definitely there. It was like drinking liquefied Turkish delight, which, if you're like me, you'd be totally into. They also do black tea, plain green tea, and a mint green tea that can be consumed straight from the package, or warmed up.

Numi Teas has come out with a line of organic, fair trade teas made with turmeric, a spice with anti-inflammatory properties. They also have four new "Indulgent" teas flavored with chocolate. The turmeric teas are on the unusual side, but the chocolate flavored ones are quite a treat. I like to drink them warm, with milk and sugar.

My favorite tea product of the show also involves milk and sugar. Tea-rrific Ice Cream, out of Connecticut, is a line of tea-infused ice creams in six flavors: Ginger Matcha, London Mist (Early Grey with vanilla), Masala Chai, Chamomile, Chunky London Mist (with chocolate and pecans), and Lavender Blueberry. The ice creams are made with hormone-free cream, cage-free eggs, and evaporated cane juice infused with high quality teas, like chamomile from Egypt. I don't even like chamomile tea (nor did any of the people I spoke to at the Tea-rrific booth), but the chamomile ice cream, with its distinct honey notes, was my favorite of the bunch. Honestly, they were all excellent. In fact, Tea-rrific Ice Creams were my favorite product at the whole show. And considering how many things I tried, that's saying a lot.

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Monday, July 20, 2015


When the Joy America Cafe opened in the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) in November of 1995, it brought a new style of restaurant to Baltimore City. Chef Peter Zimmer's cuisine reflected a number of different cultural influences, from the Southwest to the Chesapeake, which at the time was quite innovative for this area. Today, twenty years later, quirky restaurants that fall somewhere between formal and casual are the norm in Baltimore, as is food with world flavors.

But the innovative spirit of Zimmer's Joy America Cafe lives on in Robbin Haas' new restaurant at AVAM, Encantada. The decor is a bit all over the place, with large areas of black and white patterning punctuated by bright colors and examples of the "outsider" art found all over the rest of the museum. It's wild and fun, and somehow it all works. But don't let the room distract you from the menu, which is focused on small plates. Before you say, "What's innovative about that? They're everywhere!" let me add that the small plates are primarily vegetarian, and some are vegan. And the dishes are so interesting and flavorful that you will not miss the meat one bit.

And if you do, there are a handful of dishes that do have meat. Because there will be people who wander into the restaurant and not expect it to be so vegetable-forward.

Menu as of July 8, 2015. Click to enlarge.
We started our meal off with cocktails, naturally. The Cheshire Cat involved Anchor Junipero gin, cucumber-lemongrass syrup, fresh mint and lime, fizzy water, and something called "Magic Velvet Blue Ice," which turned the drink pink as it melted. It was bright and cucumbery, lightly sweet, and very refreshing. I preferred it to my Melon Spruce, made with Deep Eddy’s lemon vodka, watermelon juice, pomegranate juice, rose water, and micro flowers. It was sorta melon-fruity, only vaguely sweet, and very very strong. I mean, I can swill a cocktail or three with the best of them, and I was feeling tipsy halfway through this one. Woo!

I really needed the drink to be able to tackle the menu, which is one of those that list ingredients without giving much indication of what the dish will be like. I really kinda hate that. Other descriptions are just confusing, like the one for the first dish we chose, "TURNIPS deviled, faux eggs, smoked paprika." Were we getting deviled turnips served with fake eggs? Are faux eggs some sort of weird vegan thing made with tofu? Not exactly. The turnips themselves, halved and cooked until tender, formed the "white" of the egg. The yolk was a loose puree of chick peas. They looked like deviled eggs, and they sortakinda even tasted like deviled eggs, only the textures were wrong. It's actually a very clever and cute dish; I just would have described it differently, perhaps as Turnip deviled "eggs."

Sorry. As a professional writer, I can't help myself.

The next dish we tried was potato croquettes. Some of the little potato balls had a fairly smooth mashed potato filling and others had chunkier bits of tuber, which I liked. The rich and tangy saffron aioli was a nice accompaniment, and the dish was visually appealing. So much better than the tater tots that have infested menus recently.

We also tried the heirloom tomatoes, which was recommended by our server. They were pretty good; it's not high tomato season here in Maryland yet, judging by my garden full of small green hard specimens, so this can only get better as the summer goes on. The sauce of black garlic, however, was mighty tasty, and I need to concoct something like it at home now.

We decided to order items in shifts, so they wouldn't all end up on the table at the same time. If you're into ordering more than three or four dishes, you should probably do the same. Since most of the dishes are veg, they come out pretty fast.

One of the non-vegetarian items recently added to the menu is oysters on the half shell. These were Malpeques, from Prince Edward Island. topped with a green tomato granny smith mignonette, and cilantro oil. Also a fennel flower, which added an unexpected bit of crunchy texture. Pretty good, very fresh, the hint of cilantro was interesting.

Then we had the list of ingredients that read "GREENS shaved zucchini, smoked tomato vin, crumbled tofu, heirloom tomato, avocado." I see "greens" and think collards, etc., so was a little surprised it was a nearly entree-sized cold salad. The smoked tomato vinaigrette was delicious, and the chunks of firm pressed tofu were a nice change from croutons. Pretty and tasty.

Out of everything on the menu, I was most interested in the dish pretty accurately listed as "CARROTS roasted, whipped goat cheese, harissa honey, hazelnuts." I adore roasted baby carrots with tops, and these were pretty perfect. Tender but not mushy, sweet but not cloying, with an impeccably smooth goat cheese to add a bit of tang. The best part was the chopped hazelnuts, which added so much lovely crunch. And it was gorgeous. Love the blue bowl.

At this point, we were getting pretty full, despite eating mostly veg. We were going to order the gnocchi and the brussels sprouts, but after the manager came over and talked up the duck (which had appealed to us early on in the decision-making process), we had to order that as well.

First, the sprouts. They were fried and had both crunchy (less-cooked) and crispy (more-cooked) textures, with tiny sweet red grapes and lots of toasted pine nuts, all tossed in a figgy syrup. The dish could have used a bit of salt, but was otherwise fine. One can never go wrong ordering brussels sprouts at any restaurant owned by Robbin Haas that has Melanie Molinaro in the kitchen (try them at Birroteca and Nickel Taphouse if you get a chance - both excellent).

The mushroom bolognese on the gnocchi had the salt the sprouts lacked (so I tried to eat them together). Otherwise, the sauce had a nice depth of flavor despite containing no meat. The ricotta gnocchi were firmer than my homemade ones, almost like potato gnocchi, but they were very tender and had a smooth bite. A shower of crispy breadcrumbs added a nice nutty texture.

Saving the best for last - I am so glad we ordered the duck. While not the promised medium rare (closer to medium), the duck was juicy and nicely seasoned, with crispy skin and little or no fat. I loved all of the flavors and textures on the plate, from the tangy rhubarb jam to the strips of raw fennel and nubbins of farro. I mostly wanted this dish to see how the caramelized white chocolate was worked into it. Would it be a sauce or a coating on the meat? No, it was sprinkled on the plate here and there, small beige bits that offered a bit of creamy sweetness that tied the dish together.

After nine plates (oink) we were too full to even think of dessert.

At this point, Encantada had only been open for a week. Not all of the dishes were perfect, but most were very very good. There certainly is a ton of variety on the menu, with both bold and subtle flavors, meat and non-meat dishes, and even a trompe l'oeil plate. And while (I think) the menu isn't the most helpful, your server will definitely be able to guide you into selecting dishes that will make up an interesting and balanced meal.

Encantada is the fourth restaurant in the third floor space at AVAM (if you count the Gjerde brothers' incarnation of Joy America Cafe as a separate entity from the original), and we hope it will be around for a while.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review - Superfood Sandwiches

Recently I received a review copy of a new cookbook by fellow food blogger, Katie Chudy,
Superfood Sandwiches: Crafting Nutritious Sandwiches with Superfoods for Every Meal and Occasion. The cover photo (caramelized endive and fennel sandwich with gorgonzola dolce found on page 87) attracted me with its colors and textures, and I was hoping to find more of the same inside.

I was not disappointed.

Chudy, who co-owns a personal chef/catering company, The Skinny Beet, with her husband and is also a professional food photographer, understands that a sandwich can be a versatile meal. It doesn't have to mean turkey on white with mayo. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) She also understands that a sandwich can (and should) be full of both flavor and nutrition. So each recipe in Superfood Sandwiches is packed with superfood ingredients (like kale, avocado, mushrooms, beans, chia seeds, honey, or eggs).

I love that she starts off with basic parts; bread recipes like Parmesan kale bread and condiments like smoky and spicy red pepper pesto or chipotle black bean spread. Then come the sandwiches, and every recipe is new and interesting. There are those that feature exotic flavors, like the Thai take on Elvis' favorite peanut butter and banana sandwich, and a sandwich with Moroccan kale and ratatouille. There are also more simple flavor profiles, like in the spring-like sandwich featuring edamame, peas, and lemon pepper ricotta cheese.

While many of the sandwiches are vegetarian (sweet potato felafel, edamame fried rice burger), there are plenty of meaty options as well, utilizing turkey, salmon, and pork tenderloin. The only problem with this book is deciding which sandwich to try first.

We've tried three recipes (so far); the mushroom, walnut, and brie sandwich was first. A simple combo of sauteed portobellos, lightly candied walnuts, and brie cheese, this sandwich was hearty and filling. The Asian sloppy Joes were next. They were good, but even better when doctored up a bit to have some of the sweetness of a traditional sloppy joe. We added organic ketchup and some brown sugar to the eggplant and cut back on the soy sauce. Terrific, and an easy lunch sandwich ingredient for the work week. The fish sauce, which some folks might consider optional, really makes the dish.

We also tried the tarragon salmon cakes with orange avocado walnut salsa (to which I added a handful of home-grown cherry tomatoes, because we had a ton). Pretty tasty, and even better without the bread. (I see recipes as guidelines, not laws. You should, too, if you are confident in the kitchen.)

It's a good book with good recipes. Go buy it.

* 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!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sheila G's Brownie Brittle

Have you ever found yourself nibbling on the crispy bits of brownie clinging to the pan after you've served up a fresh batch from the oven? Sheila G has. In fact, this is her favorite part of the brownie, so she decided to make a line of snacks specifically created to taste like those crunchy morsels there never seems to be enough of.

Brownie Brittle, as she calls it, comes in four flavors: Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip, Toffee Crunch, and Salted Caramel. They're cracker thin and roughly square shaped, but tend to break apart into smaller pieces in the bag, much like real brittle. Despite their diminutive snack size, Brownie Brittle is intensely chocolate flavored so you won't need to eat too many to feel satisfied.

The Chocolate Chip flavor is the most reminiscent of a traditional brownie, but the crispy texture might also give you nostalgic memories of eating Coco Pebbles while watching cartoons on TV. The Toffee Crunch is also quite good with just enough toffee to give you the flavor without getting unwanted bits of gooey sugar stuck in your teeth. Salted Caramel is a hot flavor right now, so it's no surprise that Sheila G has a version of it. I just wish it had a tad more salt to drive home the contrast with the caramel.

After an unfortunate childhood incident where I ate a half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream by myself and got sick, I've never been a fan of that flavor combination. However, in the interest of thorough reporting, I sampled the mint chocolate chip Brownie Brittle. To my relief, the mint is fairly subtle, providing a touch of refreshing support to the rich chocolate flavor. I could actually eat a few of these without any bad flashbacks. For mint and chocolate lovers, I'm sure this would be a favorite.

Sheila G's Brownie Brittle allows you to enjoy the flavors of a brownie with far fewer calories than eating a whole brownie square. In fact, a 1-ounce serving has only 120 calories. So if you go hog wild and eat the whole 5-serving bag, well, at least you'll still have a couple of calories left in your daily allowance for some vegetables. You know, for balance.

Later this year, Brownie Brittle will be available with holiday decorations. The mint, chocolate chip, and salted caramel versions will each have a chocolaty drizzle on top, to make them a little more festive.

* 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!

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Sour Cherry Spoon Fruit

After I made that cherry pie, I knew I had to get more sour cherries while they were in season. I snagged the last quart at the local farmers' market and waited until the weekend to do something with the tiny red beauties. Originally, I figured a quart would be enough to make a clafouti and a bit of jam or preserves, but because I waited a few days to pit the late-season cherries, some of them had started to rot. I ended up with a scant three cups of pitted cherries and gave Mr Minx the choice of using them in either the clafouti or the jam. He figured the latter would be more versatile, and so did I.

I didn't want to make a full-on jam. It was too hot to boil anything for 40 minutes, so I cooked the mixture for about half that, only until the cherries were nice and tender. I then took a stick blender and gave it a whiz, breaking down the fruit into a very chunky puree. Technically not a puree.

The result was thick enough to spread on toast, and that's good enough for us.

Sour Cherry Spoon Fruit

3 cups pitted sour cherries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch salt

Bring all ingredients to a boil over high heat. Turn back heat a little and cook at a rapid simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and whiz with a stick blender until the fruit is mostly broken down/the liquid is less liquid-y looking. Pour into a jar with a lid.

Keep refrigerated. Makes about 1 pint. Eat within 1 week.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

B'more Organic Skyr Smoothies

Recently, we were approached by a new local company called  B’more Organic about their skyr-style smoothie which just hit the market. Skyr originated in Scandinavia and is a yogurt product made from strained skimmed milk.  It's high in protein, fat-free, and contains probiotics for healthy digestion. Those sensitive to dairy may find skyr more friendly to their tummies as it is lower in lactose than other dairy products. The Minx and I have tasted skyr-style kefir products before and were put off by the slightly lumpy texture and chalky taste. The people at B'more Organic assured us that their Icelandic-style skyr is rich and silky, so we thought we'd give it a try.

With 32 grams of protein per serving, zero fat, no added sugar, and naturally  occurring nutrients, these skyr beverages are intended to serve as a satisfying meal replacement rather than just a snack. Indeed, after imbibing an entire 16 ounce container (which is two servings), I felt quite full and was able to go about my day without any sense of lethargy.

Andrew Buerger, CEO of B'more Organic, came up with the inspiration for his product while on a hiking trip in Iceland. "I discovered the amazing flavor and healthy energy provided by  skyr, It was the first dairy product that did not aggravate my lactose intolerance and the protein content is incredible. I couldn’t wait to share this protein-rich treat with other active Americans!”

The smoothies come in five flavors: Vanilla, Café Latte, Banana, Mango Banana, and Strawberry Banana. I tried the strawberry first and was pleased with its bright, fruity flavor. The drinks are touted as having no added sugar, but they do include stevia extract. While not obvious in the fruity flavors, it can be tasted in the vanilla. As for the texture, it is pleasantly smooth, but I did get a hint of chalky after taste. Still, it was not enough to turn me off from drinking more.

Founded in Baltimore, B’more Organic is a certified B Corporation, dedicated to sustainable business practices. Their smoothies are USDA Certified Organic and GMO-free, using grass-fed organic milk  from small farms in Lancaster, PA. And if drinking a healthy, organic product isn't enough to make you feel good about yourself, ten percent of sales goes to Jodi’s Climb for Hope, a charity that raises money to fund research on breast cancer and Multiple Sclerosis.

* 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!

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Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Sour Cherry Tart

My brother purchased two pies, one cherry and one apple, to serve as dessert on the 4th of July. While the cherry pie was tasty, it had an edge of artificiality, despite coming from a local bakery. The glaze was just too gloppy and red, as if the filling had originated in a can. I was pretty sure I could do a better job baking a cherry pie myself.

Just days later, kismet revealed quarts of gorgeous sour cherries at the farmers' market. I snapped one up and immediately began searching for pie recipes online. Smitten Kitchen's crumb-topped pie appealed, because it didn't require a top crust. (While I normally don't mind admitting to using store-bought crusts, I thought a home-made cherry pie deserved a home-made crust. I just didn't want to make two of them. Or, heaven forbid, a lattice.)  In another stroke of luck, I received an e-mail from Saveur magazine, touting their new brown butter blackberry tart recipe. The crust recipe seemed easy and didn't require any rolling out, so I resolved to use it. I ignored the fact that the shell was intended to be used for an unbaked pie.

While the crust recipe seemed pretty simple to begin with, I simplified it even further. The original recipe called for butter, water, oil, and sugar to be placed in a heatproof bowl and baked for 20 minutes until the butter began to brown. Why not put them in a saucepan and cook for fewer minutes?

I made the rest of the pie (filling and crumb topping) pretty much according to the original recipe. Because the crust was intended for use with a non-baked (pre-cooked), custard-type filling, the texture is pretty different from that of a regular pie crust. No matter, the combination of brown butter flavored crust + lightly sweet cherries was pretty swell. And the crust held up well enough for me to take the tart out of the tart pan without it falling apart.

Mmm...cherry pie. It was lovely, and much better than the gloppy bakery pie.

Sour Cherry Tart (adapted from Saveur and Smitten Kitchen)

For the crust:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup flour

For the almond crumble:
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the sour cherry filling:
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 pounds fresh sour cherries, pitted, or 2 pounds frozen sour cherries, partially thawed

Make the crust: Heat oven to 400°. Stir butter, water, oil, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until butter begins to brown, 5-8 minutes. Stir in flour until dough comes together. Press dough into bottom and up sides of 9" tart pan with removable bottom. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes until browned; let cool.

Make the crumble: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until everything is coated with the butter.

Make the cherry filling: In a large bowl, mix the cherries with the sugar, cornstarch, and kosher salt.

To assemble the pie:  Reduce oven heat to 350°F. Pour the cherries into the pie shell. Sprinkle the crumble over the cherries. Place the pie plate on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and thick. Remove to a rack to cool to room temperature before serving.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Mason-Dixon Master Chef Tournament 2015 Updates

If you haven't yet made it to any of the battles, do go! It's so much fun!

The field of 16 top area chefs has been narrowed to the top 10 as the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament prepares to complete Round 1 of competition next week.

After just three weeks of competition and six matches, the field of chefs competing in The Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament ( is starting to dwindle, while the money raised for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (the Tournament’s charity partner, who receives 10% of the proceeds) continues to rise.

Remaining chefs include:

Christopher Vocci, Alexandra’s at Turf Valley
Wilbur Cox, Jr., Bistro Rx
Cole Whaley, Café Rue
Lanydrek Christ Pandzou, Colony South Hotel
Rick Koplau, Duke’s Grocery
Sean Praglowski, Luckie’s Tavern
Jirat Suphrom-In, My Thai
Melissa Fordham, Personal Chef Services
Bill Kelley, Renditions Golf
Jeff Keeney, Tark’s Grill

With Battle Backyard BBQ, Battle Breakfast and Battle Chocolate over, the remaining chefs are looking forward to Battle Comfort Food next week to finish off Round 1. The Tournament was dark this week in observance of Independence Day, but will resume on Monday, July 13 and Tuesday, July 14 with the following match ups:

Monday, July 13
Melissa Fordham
Personal Chef Services/Blue Bistro & Catering/Gourmet Again
Wilbur Cox, Jr.
Bistro Rx

Tuesday, July 14
Sean Praglowski
Luckie's Tavern
Cole D. Whaley
The Cafe Rue

Competition will continue with Round 2 beginning July 20 and 21.

Tournament Details
Tickets for all dates of this summer-long single-elimination chef competition are available for purchase at: Tickets for most matches are $25 for general admission and $45 for judging experience (including all taxes). In addition, the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament donates 10% of the net proceeds of each ticket sold directly to their charity partner Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (

Remaining Competition Dates (6:00pm – 9:00pm); Doors open at 5:30pm:

July 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28

August 10, 11, 16

Event Timeline:
5:30 p.m. – Happy Hour with Complementary passed Hors d’oeurves and Wine Tasting by Boordy Vineyards, plus Drink and Food Specials

6:30 p.m. – Cold Prep Begins for the Competition

7:00 p.m. – Chef Competition

8:00 p.m. – Judging Begins, Complementary Dessert and Coffee Served

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Monday, July 06, 2015

Shuck It, Shake It, Smoke It @Wit on the Water

If you've never been to Wit & Wisdom in the warmer months, they have a terrific 85-seat patio overlooking the Harbor. Chef Zack Mills and lead bartender Aaron Joseph have combined their considerable forces in creating a special Wit on the Water menu featuring the three things we enjoy most in the summer: shellfish; barbecue; and cocktails. "Shuck it, smoke it, shake it," as the menu is titled.

We were there recently and tried a number of things. We'll start with the shellfish, which included:
--Blue Crab Cocktails, Flying Dog orange ale vinaigrette, avocado
--Scallop Ceviche, citrus & horseradish vinaigrette
--Steamed & Chilled Half Maine Lobster, yuzu creme fraiche
--Court Bouillon Poached Shrimp, Old Bay Cocktail Sauce

Foreground: crab salad; Right: ceviche; scattered elsewhere: lobster and shrimp
From the "smoke it" portion of the menu, we tried:
--Oak Wood Smoke Catoctin Mountain Pulled Pork, House-made Barbecue sauce, corn bread
--Smoked War Shore Oysters, Herb & Old Bay butter
--Grilled Half Maine Lobster, drawn butter

We also tried several cocktails, including:
--Orchid Punch: Clyde May's whiskey, white orchid tea, apple-citrus syrup, lime
--Charm Peace: roasted tomato-infused Stoli Elite with basil-infused Dolin Blanc dry Vermouth
--Hon Punch: reposado tequila, lime juice, lavender mint tea, and kumquat sacrum
--Country Ride: roasted sweet corn-infused Blanco Tequila, lemon juice, and agave syrup with Old Bay rim and cilantro garnish
--Honeydew and Cantaloupe "boozy pops,"

Hon Punch, Orchid Punch
Country Ride
Charm Peace
Boozy Pops
The grilled items were our favorites. Somehow lobster is more lobster-y when it's grilled, and the grilled oysters topped with a slick of Old Bay-flavored butter were delish. In fact, we demurred at the idea of oysters to begin with, as we had dozens of them at home. But I'm glad we tasted the War Shores. Now I know how to treat oysters on the half shell next time we have some. The pulled pork, in a lightly sweet, very tomatoey sauce, was excellent, but my favorite part of that dish was the lightly lemony cornbread. Citrus was an unexpected touch that made it unique.

The seafood was all impeccably fresh and perfectly prepared. The scallop ceviche was tender and tasted like more, and the poached shrimp was some of the best I've eaten. As for the cocktails, they were full of innovative ideas, like corn-infused tequila. My favorite was the Charm Peace, which was like a Caprese salad in a glass...all it needed was a little ball of mozzarella....

It didn't hurt that we had the most gorgeous early summer day to enjoy the patio, that, coupled with good company and fine food made for an enjoyable evening outdoors. The only regrettable thing was not being there on the weekend and missing whole pig roasted on the new la caja china roaster. Next time....

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