Monday, March 20, 2023

Restaurant Review - Tbiliso

Don't let the photos on the web site fool you--Tbiliso isn't a trendy, well-lit, café with hunky, tweezer-wielding chefs in the kitchen. It more resembles granny's living room transported into the shell of a 70's-era bank building. To be honest, I have no idea what the bizarre space with 20' ceilings and partial mezzanine once held, but it functions as a restaurant now, one that has enough space for large parties, live music, and dancing. At Minxeats, we're only interested in the food, which [spoiler alert] is quite good.

I discovered the restaurant whilst randomly perusing Google Maps. (One never knows what one can find!) Tbiliso's online menu lists both new-to-us items like the vegetable stew ajapsandali as well as the more familiar dolma, lula kabob, and olivier salad. Some items have intriguing descriptions, like the kupati, "minced meat and spices in intestines" (yes, it's sausage), and the tbiliso, "fried pork with fajitas and cherry tomatoes" (surely a translation issue). Each item is also spelled out in the delightfully squiggly Georgian alphabet. What caught my eye, however, was the selection of breads stuffed with cheese or meat. I'd always wanted to try Adjarian khachapuri, a bread boat filled with melted cheese and topped with an egg, and I was finally getting my chance.

On our first trip to Tbiliso to enjoy the cheesy bread boat, we also ordered the ajapsandali and kupati, plus the chakapuli, a tasty stew of lamb with sour plums. Eventually we'd like to try everything on the menu, but this was a good start.

kupati with rice
Kupati are fat pork sausages with a nice snappy casing and a garnish of onions and parsley. The online menu offers a side dish choice of fries or rice, and on that first trip we tried the rice. On our second visit, we were served a larger portion of sausage without a choice of starch. More tasty sausage = good, though the slightly oily, vegetable-packed rice was quite delicious. Though everything we ate at Tbiliso was good, the kupati was a standout both times.
We also enjoyed the ajapsandali, a stew of peppers and eggplant somewhat like a Georgian ratatouille. It reminded me a bit of the Indian eggplant dish baingan bharta. The spicing of the ostri, a stew of tender beef in a tomato-y broth with a whiff of coriander and fenugreek also brought to mind the food of the Indian subcontinent.

Though I have recently been cursed with lactose intolerance, I was not deterred from sampling two (so far!) of the ten or so breadlike starches on Tbiliso's menu. Perhaps the most famous Georgian bread, the adjarian khachapuri is a boatlike vessel of white bread filled with a pool of molten cheese and topped with a raw egg. One (carefully) tears off chunks of bread and dips them into the fondue-like pool of melted dairy, repeating the motion until the khachapuri is gone or there are no more Lactaid pills left. It's simple, filling, and very good.

Adjarian khachapuri
The equally mouthwatering Megruli khachapuri is similar, at least in the quantity of cheese it contains. The dairy goodness is both stuffed into and layered on top of this bread, making it quite pizza-like. It's a bit easier to eat than the Adjarian version and just as delicious.

Megruli khachapuri
Tbiliso, or "fried pork with fajitas and cherry tomatoes," came with strips of multicolored bell pepper (but not tomatoes) and was served in a sizzling hot bowl, much like the popular Tex-Mex fajitas. The tender hunks of pork would have seemed right at home nestled into folds of tortilla. I might have tried to wrap it with the khachapuri, but the Megruli style was far too oozy with cheese (not a bad thing).

I can't really find fault with any of the dishes we tried at Tbiliso. Not being familiar with Georgian food at all, I cannot attest to the authenticity of any of it. From what I can tell, however, much of the menu represents the "greatest hits" of  the cuisine. The flavors and seasonings were all pleasing to my palate, and I feel like everything had been prepared lovingly by people who know what they're doing. Even if none of them is wearing a long stripy apron and tweezering microgreens onto every dish. 

Next time we're in the mood for some შემწვარი სოკო კარტოფილით or შქმერული and a boatful of cheese, we're heading back to Tbiliso. Next time, I hope to try some of the many dishes that contain walnuts, a popular ingredient in Georgia.

Church Lane Shopping Center
9926 York Rd,
Cockeysville, MD 21030
Rating - Highly Recommended

* 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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Chilis and Stews

When someone says chili, what comes to mind? Ground beef cooked with canned tomatoes, beans, and a packet of chili seasoning? I think that's probably the norm. That's the kind of chili that my Dad used to whip up using Wick Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili kit. My Aunt Stasia, on the other hand, made a loose ground beef sauce that was closer to Coney Island sauce that was meant to be served on a hot dog. I blithely went along with the idea that either one was the Platonic ideal of chili until I picked up a copy of a cookbook that included thirty or so recipes for Texas chili. This type of chili, the book insisted, required chunks of beef and absolutely did not include beans of any sort. Real Texas chili doesn't even have tomatoes in it. Rather, it should include only beef, chile puree, and seasonings. After reading the subtle variations presented in this manual to one of the carnivore's most important dishes, I fell into the Texas chili camp. No more ground beef chili for me! Ok, so that's not entirely true. Ground beef chili definitely has it's place. For one thing, it's a quicker cook than chili made with hunks of pork or beef. And I'm more likely to have ground beef, chicken, or turkey in the freezer. Still, my heart belongs to Texas chili.

Chili isn't the only belly-warming stew-like substance on the menu at Chez Minx. I have tossed together many a supper-in-a-bowl in the fall and winter months. Scroll down to find links to some of my favorite non-chili creations.

Non-Chili Stews

* 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, March 13, 2023

Pot Roast with Korean Flavors - Sponsored Post

I received a box of various globally inspired sauces and seasonings from Serious Foodie and have enjoyed using most of the products. The Moroccan Grill Spice Rub sits close at hand on my kitchen island so I can use it to toss on whatever I feel needs a little oomph--like the tuna salad I made for lunch the other day. I've also added it to chili, sprinkled it on roasted vegetables, and added it to a frittata. It's almost time to procure a replacement jar!

Serious Foodie makes several other products with the word "grill" in the name. We Minxes don't really grill much at all--maybe once or twice a year--so I had to be a little more creative with their offerings. I felt that the Korean Lemon Garlic sauce might work really well in pot roast, even if lemon is not a typical beef flavoring. I had to check it out anyway, and I didn't disappoint myself. 

I don't typically marinate meats before cooking, but I felt that if I was already disobeying the "grill" mandate, I couldn't also avoid the word "marinade" on the label. So I dumped the bottle into a zip top bag and added a chuck roast. The next day, I removed the meat from the sauce and browned it on all sides, careful not to burn the sugary residue from the marinade. Then the marinade went into the pan along with the typical carrots, potatoes, and onions. I upped the Korean flavor profile by adding a lot of garlic and some fresh ginger, and garnished the dish with scallions and sesame seeds. A drizzle of toasted sesame oil would not have been out of place, but I didn't think of it at the time. IMHO, it turned out pretty darn well. The dish tasted like traditional pot roast, but with an Asian twist. I'd definitely make it again, and I might add a few glugs of gochujang (Korean chile paste) or some gochugaru (Korean chile flakes) to add a spicy element to the dish.

Do let me know if you try it.

Pot Roast with Korean Flavors

A 2.5 to 3-pound chuck roast
1 10oz bottle Serious Foodie Korean Lemon Garlic Grill Sauce and Marinade
1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil (canola, vegetable)
1 beef bouillon cube
2 large yellow onions, quartered
1 2-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into small dice
4-6 large cloves of garlic
8 ounces of button or cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and halved or quartered if large
2 good handsful of baby carrots
4-6 medium yellow or red potatoes, peeled, halved or quartered if large
Corn starch (optional)
Chopped scallions
Toasted sesame seeds

Place the roast in a zip top bag. Add the entire bottle of Serious Foodie Korean Lemon Garlic Grill Sauce and Marinade. Seal bag and refrigerate 6 - 10 hours or overnight. Fill the empty sauce bottle with water and refrigerate.

When ready to cook, remove roast from bag (reserve marinade), and pat dry. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a large wide skillet or dutch oven with lid. Sear the roast on both sides over medium-high heat until golden, being careful not to burn it (due to the high sugar content of the marinade). Once both sides of the roast have been seared, add the leftover marinade from the bag to the pan. Shake the marinade bottle of water to make sure you have all of the sauce residue and pour that into the pan. Add another bottle of water, the bouillon cube, onion, ginger, and garlic. Bring sauce to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cover pan and simmer for 90 minutes, then add the mushrooms, carrots, and potatoes. Simmer another 60-90 minutes until the beef is fall-apart tender. 

If the sauce seems too thin, you can turn up the heat, take off the lid, and evaporate some of it. Or you can mix a few teaspoons of cornstarch in warm water until it forms a slurry and drizzle that in. Bring to a boil to activate its thickening action.

On each plate, serve some of the beef, carrots, potato, mushroom, and onion. Garnish with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. 

Serves 8. 

* 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, March 06, 2023

Chili Crisp/Crunch

I like spicy food, though I am not a "chile head" by any stretch of the imagination. Personally, I think the folks who enjoy high Scoville-scorers like bhut jolokia and Carolina Reapers, who are willing to endure the special kind of pain those peppers inflict on their innocent butt-holes, are totally bonkers.

I'm particular about the source of my spice, preferring the mellow palate-singeing heat of dried chiles over the lingering lip-tingling burn of fresh ones. A great way to add that dried pepper zing to dishes, IMHO, is to add a spoonful or two of a condiment known as either chili crisp or chili crunch, depending on the manufacturer. Generally, this is an Asian condiment--made with toasted chile flakes, shallots, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, fermented soy beans, and sometimes peanuts, in soybean oil--though the Mexican salsa macha, a mix of nuts and chiles in oil, is similar.

Eating chiles can boost dopamine levels, and therefore becomes somewhat addictive. I can't tell whether my now-customary spoonful of chile crisp on my over-easy eggs is a habit or an addiction. What I can tell you is that I enjoy them even more now than I did before, though dippy eggs have been one of my top ten favorite things to eat since childhood. 

It used to be that chili crisp products could only be found in Asian stores in the form of the OG, Lao Gan Ma. Available both with and without peanuts, this sauce might be called the platonic ideal of chili crisps. It's hot, but not too hot, with crispy bits of shallot and garlic for texture and flavor. It's great on dumplings and noodle dishes, and everyone should have a jar in their fridge.  

But wait, there's more! 

Trader Joe's sells a Chili Onion Crunch that is a bit too crunchy for my liking, quite oniony, and somewhat sweet. A little goes a long way for me, so the tiny jar lasted for quite a long time before I determined that I didn't actually like it and gave myself permission to throw the rest away. 

Zindrew Crunchy Garlic Chili Oil  has the perfect amount of crunch, but it has an odd flavor to it that I think of as "fishy." The primary ingredients are oil, chiles, and garlic--no fish--though I wouldn't say the sauce is particularly hot or garlic-y. (They do sell a hotter version they call X Batch.) The only thing I like this particular brand of chili crunch on is over-easy eggs. Somehow egg yolk tempers that fishy quality for me. I feel like I've used this sauce on my weekly eggs for months and months now, and there's still always a little bit left in the jar. It's a pretty big jar, so a good deal for the money (fancy chili crisps are $$$), but I wouldn't buy it again.

Right now, I think my favorite brand of chile crisp is Oomame. The company has received some flak for cultural appropriation--it's run by a white guy--but there's no faulting the flavors of the product. Their chile crisps come in four styles, influenced by the cuisines of Mexico, China, Morocco, and India. My favorites are Mexico and Morocco, with India and China in distant 3rd and 4th places. Not those two aren't good--they are--they just don't tickle my palate in the same way as do Mexico and Morocco. I cook a lot of Mediterranean- and North African-style dishes, and Mexican food is a favorite, so perhaps my palate is just tuned in those directions. In any case, I appreciate the subtle differences in ingredients among the four flavors, including spices native to the countries represented. Also, each of the non-Chinese variants contains a dried fruit which adds subtle sweetness: fig in the Moroccan; mango in the Mexican; papaya in the Indian. The Mexican and Moroccan versions also contain orange peel. You can read more about Oomame in another blog post, which includes a recipe for ice cream made with Mexican Ooomame.

I discovered The Flavor Society via Christopher Kimball's Milk Street shop. They make two flavors, pizza and everything bagel. Considering that (good) pizza is one of my all-time favorite foods, how could I pass up on pizza-flavored chile crunch? I know you're wondering if it actually tastes like its namesake. Yes, it does--it's quite reminiscent of pepperoni or Italian sausage pizza. Fennel and herbs do their magic in this stuff, with mushroom powder adding the umami that comes from the fermented soy beans usually found in more traditional versions. The everything bagel flavor is also delish, swapping out the fennel and herbs for sesame, poppy, caraway, and sunflower seeds. I find both flavors to be eat-off-the-spoon mild, but there is also a spicy pizza version that I have not yet tried. 

Fans of restauranteur/chef/tv personality/podcast host/entrepreneur David Chang swear by his Momofuku brand of chili crunch. I am a regular listener of his podcast (even if I am about 18 months behind) and felt that as a fan of chili crisps, I should give his a try. With coconut sugar as the third ingredient on the label, Momofuku chili crunch is appreciably sweeter than any other brand I've tried. Three kinds of chiles and both garlic and shallots make it spicier and more allium-forward as well. It is good, and I prefer it to both Zindrew and Oomame's Chinese chili crisp, but Lao Gan Ma edges it out by a couple of hairs...and it's much less-expensive!

So far, these are all the chili crisp/crunch condiments I've tried. I know there are plenty more out there, but I'm not that interested in trying more variations on the Chinese chili crisp theme. Lao Gan Ma is great and very affordable, so there's not much reason for me to shell out an additional $8 - $15 for another brand. Point me in the direction of more unusual versions, however, like those from The Flavor Society and Oomame, and I'll fork over the dough. I'd also like to get my hands on a few versions of salsa macha. If any readers have suggestions, I am all, palate. Please leave a comment if you think there's something I should try.

* 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, February 27, 2023

What We Ate for Dinner

"Wow, you're really organized," said my friend Fran, after I explained the process I had recently undertaken to clean up our "junk room." While I do like to complete things in a particular logical-to-me order, having a "junk room" in the first place makes me the opposite of "organized." I think I just like to make lists. I make lists to prepare for trips: clothes to take; restaurants in which to eat; subway directions to places I want to visit. I create a to-do list of goals at the beginning of every year. And in May of  2020, I started a spreadsheet for meal planning. 

We'd been home in COVID lockdown mode for 2 months at that point, eating home cooking most nights. In the Before Times, Mr Minx and I went out to eat 2 or 3 times per week, sometimes more if there were media dinners planned. We had both been working outside the home, full-time, and were not in the habit of cooking very often. That had to change pretty quickly and we soon found it difficult to keep track of what food we had on hand, what we had recently eaten, and what we should eat the next day. So I started a dinner spreadsheet. Three years later, that spreadsheet is still an important part of our daily nutrition experience.

I try to plan a week at a time. On Sunday I usually make something substantial that creates leftovers for at least another dinner--pot roast, chili, black bean soup. Currently, we go out to dinner every Saturday. That leaves five weekday dinners to plot. In the early part of the pandemic, we'd order enough carry-out or delivery from our favorite Chinese or Indian restaurant to eat at least three times. We don't do that as much now because we feel safer going to the grocery store more regularly--masked, of course. There's always a cauliflower in the fridge, canned and dried beans in the pantry, various types of sausages in the freezer, and potatoes, for those nights when I don't want to think too hard. Normally that would be Monday - Wednesday, the days I am expected to show up at the office in person. When I get off the bus in the afternoon, I am not in the mood to do much more than bake a potato and heat up some sausages. With my spreadsheet, I know exactly what I will be doing when I get home, whether it's plopping Italian-style chicken sausage in a skillet with some onions, or heating up the leftover Kung Pao chicken and Sichuan string beans from Saturday. 

We did Whole30 in February '23, so I attempted to plan most of the month at once. Restaurant choices become fairly limited on a diet that disallows grains and dairy, so our Saturday dinners tend to be at places that offer omelets and home fries, or barbecue. We buy more vegetables on our shopping trips so I have more green things to choose from, and we eat more baked potatoes and chicken sausages than usual. But we also add meatloaf and Swedish meatballs to the agenda, as we have favorite recipes for both. A meatloaf is also good for 3 dinners: with mashed potatoes; as a "sandwich" between Trader Joe's hash brown patties; as cottage pie, topped with the leftover mash. All with at least one healthy veg, of course. 

If you've read all of the above, thanks for sticking with me. I know I'm weird, and I embrace my weirdness. Allow me to reward your patience now with some photos of food I've eaten in the past three years. Surprisingly, while I plan every dinner, I don't photograph them all. (Most aren't that photogenic.)

On Saturday, June 27th, 2020, I made pork chops with grapes and leeks, and mashed potatoes for dinner. 

Saturday, September 5th, 2020, we had carry-out sushi from Yama Sushi. Love this place.

On September 11th, 16th, 25th, and 31st, October 14th and 23rd, and November 6th, we dined at La Cuchara. They had recently reopened for outdoor dining, ten concrete tables arranged a dozen feet apart in the parking lot. We wanted them to stay open, so we made sure we gave them our business. On several other occasions, we purchased their chef-prepared foods to heat at home or tuck into the freezer. Happily, La Cuchara survived the pandemic and is currently open for dinner 7 nights per week. 

On Sunday March 14th, 2021, I made a vegetarian curry with white beans and kale. We ate the leftovers on March 19th.

On Sunday, October 3, 2021, I made pot roast with a bottled Korean marinade (recipe coming in a future post). We ate the leftovers on Tuesday 10/5 and Friday 10/8.

On Friday, April 8, 2022, I pulled a Cajun Kate's "Brisket Baum" (roast beef and cheese in puff pastry) out of the freezer and served it with roasted brussels sprouts. 

Uncle, you say? Ok. I won't torture you any more. I know I'm not as interesting as I like to think I am. But hey, in a world that's not as safe to navigate as it was just a few years ago, one needs to find one's joy where one can. And keeping a record of the meals I have eaten (and will eat in the next week) makes me happy. 

Monday, February 20, 2023


As I was poking around this blog, looking for stew recipes, I realized that over the years I had written not one, but four different recipes for cassoulet. Go look at other popular blogs and tell me how many cassoulet recipes they include--I'll wait here.

Ok, back? I think you probably found a lot of variations of what we think of as a classic cassoulet, a combination of duck, fatty pork, and beans. Food writer J. Kenji Lopez-Alt referred to it as Southern French Beanee Weenees. "What?!" you say, aghast. "Cassoulet is some fancy-ass dish that Julia Childs might make! Please don't compare it to all-Amurican hot dogs and beans!" Wrong! For one thing, it's Julia Child. No S. For another, cassoulet is just a casserole of beans and meat--oftentimes sausage, but also other fatty cuts of pork--with whatever other meat that happens to be around. It's a hearty peasant dish that requires a few slow hours of cooking time and is perfect for the dark winter season. 

While the French use white beans, fatty pork, and game birds in their cassoulet, there's absolutely no reason not to make substitutions. Yes, there is a Cassoulet Academy in France that will tell you there are three official variants of the dish, a Holy Trinity of sorts: the original, or father, recipe for cassoulet de Castelnaudary; the cassoulet de Carcassonne, thought of as the son; and the cassoulet de Toulouse, or the Holy Spirit. There are subtle variations between the three, in the types of pork products and other meats used as well as in cooking method (on stovetop or in oven), but they are essentially the same dish much as bourbon, rye, and scotch are all whiskeys. 

I do enjoy a cassoulet made with duck, but chicken thighs are just as tasty and much easier to find. I'm  not picky about beans, either, and am quite content to use canned cannellinis rather than tracking down the traditional tarbais beans. (However, I have purchased tarbais from Rancho Gordo, purveyor of all sorts of delicious bean varieties.) The pork element is also pot luck. I usually use some kind of sausage, even chicken sausage, and have not made a bad cassoulet yet.  

it's totally possible that these Chinese plates have lead in the glaze, which may explain some things

Chinese Cassoulet - duck legs, Chinese sausage, and canned beans make a tasty cassoulet.

Deconstructed Cassoulet is definitely fancy pork and beans with some duck on top.

Jerk Chicken Cassoulet - seems like a stretch, but works really well!

Southwest Cassoulet involves soaking black beans, but you could use canned beans and skip adding them to the chicken mixture until the last 20 minutes of cooking.

* 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, February 13, 2023

Lamb Charcuterie - Sponsored Post

I grew up eating ham. My maternal grandfather worked for Esskay, a Baltimore-area company that produced hot dogs, sausages, and various other meat products. Even after he retired, the company continued to send us a ham for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas until Grandpa's death in 1979. Ham deli meat (imported, please, chipped into the thinnest shards) between slices of rye bread with iceberg lettuce and Thousand Island dressing was my regular childhood lunch (with a side of Funyuns). By the time I was a teenager, I was honestly sick. of. ham. 

Now that I'm firmly into adulthood---tbh, on the slippery slope to old age--ham is very rarely on the menu. Certainly not for the holidays. A ham has never been in my oven (not a euphemism). 

Sure, I buy fancy ham sometimes, the raw stuff like prosciutto or Serrano. It's nothing like the flabby, water-logged, ham of my youth. I figured if I never ate pre-cooked ham again, I'd be ok. 

And then I discovered Lamb Ham. Aussie Select's Agave Rosemary and Tikka Masala hams, to be specific. This woman-owned business, based in Marietta, Georgia, was kind enough to send me samples of both products, and I have to admit I was blown away. I honestly had no idea that tender and lean Australian lamb could be turned into a ham-like product. It tastes very much like pork ham, but it's also unmistakably lamb. Unlike most sliced pork ham products, Aussie Select's hams have what I would call gentle flavor. In other words, they're not salt bombs. I used slices of the Agave Rosemary(my favorite) on both a charcuterie plate and in a grilled cheese sandwich, and was pleased at the way it stood out against the various saltier elements.

I thought I'd use the Tikka Masala ham in a completely different way: as a wrap for fresh asparagus. Typically, a dish like that would use a stickier and stretchier ham product like prosciutto, or one that is overall sturdier, like a deli ham (which is more of a Franken-meat, made of patched-together pork pieces). Lamb is a more delicate meat than pork, so my slices fell apart during the process of wrapping the asparagus. No worries (mate!), I simply did not turn the asparagus in the oven to prevent the ham from falling off. Eventually, the ham shrank to fit, and I had no problems getting the asparagus off the baking sheet and onto a plate.

I wanted to emphasize the Indian-inspired flavor of the ham by using a little bit of a sweet glaze, but opted instead to make a post-oven drizzle of mango chutney and mayo. And because I enjoy ALL the textures, I made a nut topping. This dish had it all--sweet and juicy fat asparagus, a lovely cured lamb with intriguing spices, a sweet and creamy touch, and something to crunch. I think this would make an elegant appetizer, but we Minxes enjoyed it as a main course.

Lamb Ham-wrapped Asparagus

For the asparagus
6 slices of Aussie Select Tikka Masala Lamb Ham
12 fat asparagus spears, tough ends snapped or cut off 
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
Kosher salt

For the sauce
2 T mango chutney
1 T mayonnaise
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

For crunchy topping
3 T chopped toasted nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews - I used hazelnuts)
1 T hemp seeds
1/4 t nigella seeds (also known as kalonji, charnushka, or black cumin, a tiny, vaguely oniony-tasting, seed and one of my favorite seasonings--optional)

To make the asparagus: Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with foil.

Carefully tease apart the slices of ham; they will tear. Divide the slices in half as best you can--not only will they tear, they'll tear unevenly. Wrap each half slice around an asparagus spear and carefully place them on the baking sheet. Make sure the spears aren't touching. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the asparagus and ham, and sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on just the asparagus. 

Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. You will not be able to turn the spears, as the ham will fall off. But after 20 minutes, the ham will shrink and cling somewhat to the asparagus. If the asparagus still seems too crunchy, and the ham isn't too brown, you can leave it in the oven for an additional 5 or so minutes (I like tender asparagus).

To make the sauce: While the asparagus is cooking, combine the chutney and mayo in a small bowl or ramekin. Add a bit of lemon juice to taste. You want to be able to drizzle the sauce, so thin it out with a little bit of water...a couple teaspoons-ish. Taste again to make sure it still tastes like chutney. Add the barest pinch of salt and taste again. It should still seem sweet, with a hint of lemon. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the topping: Combine the nuts and seeds in a small dish. Set aside.

To serve: Using tongs, remove the spears to a serving dish. Drizzle with sauce and sprinkle with nuts. 

Serves 2-3 as a side or appetizer.

* 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, February 06, 2023

Easy Three-Ingredient Chili

I promise this is the fastest and easiest chili you'll ever make. Let me clarify - it's a green (or white) chili, made with tomatillos, green chile peppers, and pork. I've made it from scratch many times and have posted recipes for both pork and chicken versions here on the blog. But why go to all the trouble to make it from scratch when you really only need 3 pantry items: a jar of salsa; a can of meat; and a can of beans. Heck, you don't even need to add the beans if you don't want to!
My salsa of choice is Desert Pepper Salsa del Rio. It's spicy, delicious, and contains only ingredients I'd put in my chili--green chile peppers, onions, tomatillos, jalapeno peppers, salt, lime juice, water, vinegar, cilantro, cumin, oregano, and garlic. No preservatives or other weird additives. And did I mention that it's delicious? And it can be hard to find, so when I spot it at the supermarket, I buy three or four jars at a time.

The second ingredient is a can of pork. Wait! Before you get upset at the idea of meat from a can, I can assure you that this stuff is good! I mean, you eat canned tuna and salmon, right? So why is the idea of canned pork or beef so abhorrent? 

Keystone products contain only 2 ingredients: meat and a little salt. Opening a can reveals a mass of meat chunks in a bit of broth and a few globs of fat. It's not pretty, but neither is homemade refrigerated pork shoulder, which will probably have even more congealed fat on top. Don't skim it! Add the entire can--juice, fat, and all--for optimum goodness. If you can't find Desert Pepper green salsa, you could use another brand, but I cannot vouch for the deliciousness of your final product. 

Fast & Easy Green Chili

1-16oz jar Desert Pepper Salsa del Rio
1-15oz can Keystone All Natural Pork (or chicken)
1-15oz can cannellini beans (optional)
Optional garnishes - cilantro, sour cream, sliced avocado, sliced radishes, shredded cheese, cilantro, green onions

Dump the three cans of stuff into a pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes, until heated through. Taste for seasonings, but you shouldn't need to add anything, unless you want it saltier or spicier. 

Serves 3-4 

* 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, January 30, 2023

I Scream For, Well, You Know....

My favorite foods are the ones that are the worst for me: bread and ice cream. Good bread only please--you can keep your supermarket white. But I kinda like all ice cream, even the stuff with carageenan and polysorbate-80. (Mmmm...Baskin-Robbins Jamoca Almond Fudge!) Sadly, not only is ice cream a bunch of empty calories with a ton of sugar, it's also made with milk and cream. And no, I'm not a vegan...I am severely lactose intolerant. 

It came upon me suddenly last year. One day I could consume dairy products with no problem. The next, well, let's just say shit happened. And now the really great (I think) recipes for dairy ice cream here on Minxeats will need to be recreated in a non-dairy format. In the meantime, please enjoy them as is. Some early recipes include eggs, but after discovering Jeni's secret I now choose to dirty a couple more small bowls in order to avoid the potential disaster of scrambled eggs in my custard. (Egg drop ice cream isn't a thing.) 

Does anyone have suggestions for dairy substitutes in ice cream? Of course coconut milk is always an option, but the taste of coconut might not work for more delicate flavors like chamomile tea. I've tried some non-dairy ice creams, and while some are good, others don't quite hit the mark. Van Leeuwen's can be a bit dense, particularly when eaten side by side with a dairy flavor. (I know--I shouldn't do that.)

On with the show.

Apple Pie Ice Cream even has crust pieces in it!

Apricot Cardamom Pistachio Ice Cream So many great flavors together!

Cardamom Carrot Ice Cream is my favorite Indian dessert, gajar ka halwa, in ice cream form.

Chamomile Honey Tea Gelato Will it surprise you when I say this is my all-time favorite ice cream? (Technically, it's a gelato.) It's infused with a very specific brand of now-discontinued tea bag, and I might have enough of them left to make another batch. One can use regular chamomile tea, as long as it's of high quality. It won't have the honey flavor, but a drizzle over the top, sundae-style, will get you close. Celestial Seasonings, Twinings, and Bigelow make chamomile honey tea with vanilla that might also work, as long as the vanilla isn't too obvious. If you find another honey chamomile tea out there, please LMK about it.

Cracker Toffee Ice Cream This ice cream is also infused with tea and includes the crunchy delight of cracker toffee bits. If you don't want to make the toffee, just throw in handfuls of Heath bar bits, which will be different but still delicious.

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream Everyone's favorite dessert, in ice cream form. Or just make the pie. lol

Meyer Lemon Poppyseed Ice Cream Please make sure your poppy seeds are fresh! The little buggers get rancid quickly, and rancid poppy seeds will ruin your day. And your ice cream.

Oomame Chile Crisp Ice Cream Some people put chile crisp on vanilla ice cream. I put it in ice cream. I thought it was super delicious, but Mr Minx was not convinced. No problem. More for me! (I ate the entire quart, apart from a couple tablespoons.)

Pudgy Partner Ice Cream  This is my version of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby. Tasted at least as good, maybe better. 

Sour Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream Sweet cherries are fine, but I prefer sour cherries. Pitting them is a pain in the butt though.

* 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, January 23, 2023

Otto's Naturals Grain-Free Ultimate Cookie Mix

cookies and oat milk
Here at Casa Minx, the annual Baking of the Holiday Cookies has long been one of our favorite Christmas traditions. We make rolled sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, oatmeal cookies, and a double batch of chocolate chippers. Sometimes I add an oddball, like biscotti, or last year's chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons. My brother helps out and gets to take half home, the rest we nibble into January or February or however long we can make them last. In recent years, they've lasted a good long time, as I've taken to wrapping about 1/3 of them in foil and tucking them in the freezer for a rainy day. I know you're thinking, "how do they have the strength not to snarfle up ALL the cookies right away?" It does take some willpower, believe me. Also, we tend to start Whole30 sometime in early January. It's the only diet that works for me, and it doesn't allow wheat. Or sugar. Or dairy. By packing up the cookies, I reduce temptation to cheat.

I'm not sure if it's related in any way, but after several years of giving up dairy periodically, I am now lactose intolerant. I must have perpetrated some real evil over my lifetime to deserve this punishment. Even semi-sweet chocolate morsels contain milk, as do most chocolate candy, cake, and cookies. And as mentioned above, cookies also contain wheat. Rather than give up on the joy of cookies entirely, even when dieting, I have found a work-around for my problem: Otto's Natural Grain-Free Ultimate Cookie Mix, which can be found in the fancy organic/special diet/gf aisle in many grocery stores. It's made with cassava flour, which makes a pretty darn good substitute for wheat flour in many things, plus the usual brown and white sugars and baking soda called for by a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe. It only requires an egg, a soupcon of vanilla, mix-ins like chips or nuts, and a fat. The traditional fat for cookie baking is butter, but I know many families use margarine. I grew up in a no-margarine-ever household. To my palate, the butter substitutes of my youth were nasty. Today, however, there are a few tasty faux butters on the market. My personal favorite is Earth Balance, which comes in stick form as well as the usual tub. So not only can I have gluten-free cookies, they can be dairy-free as well. I even found non-dairy chocolate chips in the form of 72% cacao from Ghirardelli. (They also make 100% cacao chips, but they don't have any sugar in them. While they're not particularly bitter, they might still be a rude surprise in a chocolate chip cookie.)

If by some miracle there are cookies left by January 1, I still need to tuck them away as they contain the very non-Whole30 sugar. A bag of Otto's cookie mix only makes about 4 dozen small cookies, however, which are pretty easy to destroy in 2 weeks. In fact, I don't know how well they freeze, so I'm not even going to try. 

raw dough
Chocolate Walnut Cookies (non-dairy, gluten-free)
You may make these cookies at any time of the year. I make them for Christmas. They're not super sweet, and they taste great with an ice cold glass of oat milk (or the milk-like fluid of your choosing).

1 large egg
1 4-ounce stick Earth Balance, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bag Otto's Naturals Grain-free Ultimate Cookie Mix
1 tablespoon pure cocoa powder
3/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (I used 72% cacao Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a medium bowl, beat the egg into the cooled margarine with a fork until combined. Stir in the vanilla, cookie mix, and cocoa, and mix well. The dough will not hold together in the same way as standard cookie dough and will appear a bit loose. Stir in the chips and walnuts. 

Preheat oven to 350F. 

Scoop a heaped half tablespoon of dough at a time, pressing into a ball. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with your palm. They won't spread very much, if at all. 

Bake 10-12 minutes. Allow cookies to cool several minutes on the sheets before moving them to racks to cool, as they are somewhat fragile while warm. Cool completely before storing in a lidded container.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

* 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, January 16, 2023

I Love Soup

Allegedly, to everything there is a season. Right now it's time for soup, though I'm the kind of person who enjoys it all year long. Maryland Crab in the summer is a must, but so is gazpacho and any other chilled soup. But when there's a nip in the air, my instinct is to toss things in a pot, add water, and a few hours later enjoy a hearty bowl of something that warms me from the inside. (When soup isn't possible, I use bourbon.) 

There are 30+ soup recipes on Minxeats, a dozen cold and the rest suitable for the current season. The simplest of hot soups doesn't need a recipe. To make it, you need aromatics (onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, carrots and/or celery), stock, bouillon, or broth, and seasonings. French onion soup, for example, only requires onions cooked low and slow in olive oil and butter, stock (beef or a rich chicken or veg), and seasonings (salt, pepper, sugar, bay leaf, thyme, a bit of wine). A topping of sliced baguette and Gruyere cheese and a few minutes under the broiler is totally optional (and a great way to burn your mouth, if you're into that sort of thing). Homemade tomato soup needs tomatoes, garlic or onion, stock, seasonings, and quick rendezvous with a stick blender. Or an actual blender, if you are adventurous. Hot liquids expand while blending and can blow the top off. To avoid the mess, remove the center rubber cap from the blender lid and hold a folded kitchen towel firmly over the opening. Or better yet, avoid hot soups and blenders. Unless you really want to clean the kitchen thoroughly afterward. (I love my 40-year-old Cuisinart Stick Blender!)

If you decide to try any of my recipes, please do leave a comment and let me know how it went.

Avocado Soup and Crab Salad There are other versions of both avocado soup and crab salad below, but they're not the same as the ones in this recipe. Feel free to mix and match; I can't tell you what to do in your own kitchen. I can try, but I know you won't listen.

avocado soup with chipotle shrimp and blue corn polenta croutons

Avocado Soup with Chipotle Shrimp and Blue Corn Polenta Croutons Feel free to leave out the croutons, or use purchased ones instead. 

Black Bean Soup I often make black bean soup with some sort of meat protein, but this version is vegetarian. Use non-dairy yogurt instead of sour cream and it's vegan.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho Gazpacho, with celery, Worcestershire,

broccoli cheese soup

Broccoli Cheese Soup This is unlike a typical broccoli cheese soup in that it's not the texture of wallpaper paste. It's thickened with a modicum of roux, and flavored with hard cider and roasted broccoli.

Cantaloupe Gazpacho Keep reading, and you'll see that I can make gazpacho out of anything.

Cauliflower Soup This simple recipe is from a Rocco DiSpirito cookbook. His non-diet book, so it's actually good.

celery root vichyssoise

Celery Root Vichyssoise Vichyssoise is traditionally made with potatoes, but it can be made with any starchy tuber or root. Celery root just happens to be one of the more delicious root vegs.

Coconut Gazpacho I don't know why I called this gazpacho. It's more of a chilled tomato soup with Thai seasonings and coconut milk.

Creamy Chilled Tomatillo Soup was reverse engineered from a dish at SoBo Cafe. Tomatillos can be pretty tart, so add more honey or agave syrup if you can't hang with the tang.

Creamy Chorizo, Chicken, and Corn Chowder If you've never cooked with Mexican chorizo, definitely pick some up. It's an annatto-bright and spicy raw sausage, not cured like Spanish chorizo, with a distinctive flavor and crumbly texture. It's not easy to locate, but I have found it at Asian markets like H Mart.

Creamy Parsnip Soup Parsnips are another tasty root veg that is under-utilized. This soup is easy and filling, but if you need more than a bowl of soup for dinner, make the bacon pie recipe included in this blog post.

creamy roasted vegetable gazpacho

Creamy Roasted Vegetable Gazpacho I was tasked to use up some cottage cheese and this was the result. Yes, it's good!

Creamy Tomato Peanut Soup My Dad used to make peanut soup when I was a kid. IIRC, it was pretty simple: onions; peanut butter; chicken stock. I loved it, but it was a little heavy. This one includes tomatoes and seasonings and is a little lighter on the palate, though just as tasty.

Edward Lee's Tomatillo Gazpacho This version of the chilled soup uses cooked vegetables that are cooled before pureeing. 

Gazpeacho aka peach gazpacho.

Green Gazpacho Tomatillos instead of tomatoes and a wee bit of yogurt make this one different.

Mashed Potato Soup Random leftovers tend to make pretty good soup. 

Mediterrasian Seafood Soup I've made many variations on this theme, based on a reverse-engineered dish I ate at a long-closed restaurant called Ixia. It's easy and delicious, but needs to be simmered for quite a while to guarantee that the flavors meld.

Mr Minx's Gumbo Soup Gumbo is usually more stew-like, thanks to thickeners like roux, filé powder, and okra. This batch came out rather more runny, but still had that lovely browned flour and Cajun spice flavor.

nectarine soup with crab salad

Nectarine Soup with Crab Salad This chilled soup is a little sweet, but the citrus dressing on the ceviche-like salad balances the dish nicely.

Polish Mushroom Soup Simple mushroom and potato deliciousness.

Red Cabbage Soup reminded me of my Grandma's barszcz, or Polish red beet soup. IYKYK.

Roasted Parsnip and Sweet Potato Soup I used white Japanese sweet potatoes, but you could use the easier-to-find red or orange ones instead. This would make a nice Thanksgiving starter.

Roasted Poblano Soup This is more of an appetizer soup than a full meal, but would work well as a side to a sandwich.

Spicy Corn Gazpacho This recipe calls for corn on the cob, which is cooked before blending. But you could use frozen corn kernels and skip the cooking part. Just make sure they are thawed before proceeding. And don't forget to strain the soup!

spicy fish soup

Spicy Fish Soup see Mediterrasian Seafood Soup above. Same base, different flavors. 

Spiced winter squash soup

Spiced Winter Squash Soup The cumin/coriander/cinnamon/paprika/cayenne mixture is fairly common in the southern Mediterranean cuisines and goes beautifully with mellow and slightly sweet winter squash.

Strawberry Gazpacho Strawberries stand in for tomatoes in this version, with balsamic in place of the usual sherry vinegar.

Thai Avocado Soup Apparently I like making soup with avocados. This one has that bright/sweet/ garlicky/ fishy/funky thing that reminds me of one of my favorite Thai dishes, drunken noodles.

tomato garlic parm soup

Tomato Garlic Parm Soup This is a copycat recipe of a dish served at my favorite Cajun restaurant, Cajun Kate's, though it's not quite as decadent as theirs.

White Bean and Kale Soup While there's a classic Italian soup that stars these two ingredients, this version is a pastiche of leftovers + freezer staples that is a bit different.

* 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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