Monday, October 29, 2018

Thanksgiving in October

When Keystone Meats sent me several cans of their products to play with, the temps were still in the upper 70s and low 80s, yet it was already October. I really wanted to do something with pumpkin, like a nice curried soup, but I was also in the mood for an easy chicken salad. The best solution seemed to do both. And to make the chicken salad a more seasonable companion to the soup, I thought it might be nice to add some Thanksgiving-ish flavors to it. Sage and cranberries made the most sense to me, as stuffing and cranberry sauce are two of my favorite sides and are both essential elements in the traditional post-dinner turkey sandwich.

If you'd rather crack open a can of cranberry sauce and add that to the dressing instead of dried cranberries, be my guest! Some chopped walnuts would be nice in the salad, too.

Thanksgiving Chicken (or Turkey) Salad

1 teaspoon dried sage or 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
2 heaped tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon chopped scallion
1 tablespoon finely diced celery + 1 tablespoon chopped celery leaves
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
1 14.5-ounce can Keystone All-Natural Chicken or Turkey, drained
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 slices of your favorite hearty bread, lightly toasted, per sandwich

Combine first seven ingredients in a bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Pile onto bread and serve.

Makes 2-3 sandwiches.

Easy Curried Pumpkin Soup

2 cups chicken stock
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
1/2 cup coconut milk + 2 tablespoons
2 teaspoons curry powder (I like The Spice House or Penzey's)
Salt and ground white pepper
Maple syrup

Combine stock, pumpkin, 1/2 cup coconut milk, and curry powder in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cook 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper. Add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup to balance the curry flavoring, but not enough to make the soup sweet (unless you want sweet soup!)

Pour into bowls and garnish with a bit of the extra coconut milk. I put a pinch of fresh thyme on top, too, because our thyme plant is out of control.

Serves 2-3

* 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, October 26, 2018

Flashback Friday - Time Machine Chefs Recap

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on August 17, 2012.

I might have used this as a Flashback Friday post before. I cracked myself up reading it, I thought I'd use it again.


Did anyone watch Time Machine Chefs last night? No worries, because I watched it for you! Yes, I sacrificed an hour of my life to this entirely fake "reality" cooking competition show that ripped off everything from Top Chef to Doctor Who. Yes, I said "Doctor Who."

It really was quite remarkable.

The four contestants are no strangers to reality cooking competitions: Art Smith and Chris Cosentino are currently hating on each other on the fourth season of Top Chef Masters; Ilan Hall was the winner of Top Chef season 2; Jill Davie made a valiant attempt at being the Food Network's Next Iron Chef (but failed). Rather than competing for money for themselves or for a charity, the four are vying for the title of "Best Chef in History." How is that possible? It's really not. For one thing, there were probably far better chefs in the long history of cuisine than Art Smith and Jill Davie.

Anyhoo...the four intrepid travelers enter a giant set at the center of which is a huge blue Tardis. I mean...old-fashioned refrigerator which serves as their time machine. A Re-Tardis, if you will. The super-annoying Brooke Peterson, supposed "lifestyle expert" and otherwise loud/shrill blond, plays the role of Curtis Stone. She tells the chefs they will be traveling through time to cook, and the chefs pretend to get excited. Art Smith wants to end up in the court of Marie Antoinette because he wants to wear tights and a powdered wig, and Ilan Hall wants to roll out matzoh balls for Jesus at the Last Supper. He'd probably put bacon in them.

Peterson herds the chefs into the fridge and closes the door. Then some cheesy special effects take over and suddenly the Re-Tardis disappears...

...and reappears in China, 1416 AD - the Ming Dynasty. Or a Hollywood backlot made up to look like a market, with actors dressed up in coolie hats.

The chefs pretend to be excited. Suddenly, we see that Brooke has a completely different outfit and hairstyle, and for several minutes I'm not sure it's the same person, but another bland loud blond who is taking over the China leg of the tour.

She brings out the judges for the competition - Nancy Silverton, from LaBrea Bakery and Mozza, with obviously-dyed hair; Dave Arnold from the French Culinary Institute; and Silvena Rowe, chef from Quince at London's May Fair Hotel.

Silvena needs a show of her own. She's a big, imposing bottle blond from Bulgaria, with a tough manner. Art Smith is immediately afraid she's going to crack his head open like a walnut between her powerful thighs. And you know he wants to get nowhere near a woman's thighs.

It's explained that in China, Peking Duck reigns supreme (at least in Peking, maybe, sorta) and that despite not having the same modern conveniences as chefs do today, Ming Dynasty cooks were masters at achieving very crisp skin. The secret is to separate the skin from the meat by inflating the bird. Silvena happily demonstrates the technique - she grabs a duck, puts it to her mouth, and blows. Art's gonads immediately get sucked into his body cavity, but Chris Cosentino is turned on.

Each chef has to make a dish of crispy duck skin, and utilize any of the rest of the duck as they please. But first they have to light a communal outdoor oven, which Cosentino handles by rubbing things together to create a spark. No lighter fluid or charcoal chimneys in 1416! The four set to cooking, and Cosentino tries out Silvena's duck inflation method.

Ilan gets started by cutting off his duck's head and stuffing it before hanging it over the fire to roast. Jill Davie is running around like a duck with her head cut off, confused, and Art Smith is busy dropping celebrity names.

The end of the cooking time is signaled by a round of firecrackers going off, and the chefs' dishes are brought to the judging panel. Happily, they are all quite harsh in their criticisms, and Silvena especially seems to enjoy bringing the pain. She did, however, appreciate that Chris used her "blowing technique" on the duck skin.

The chefs are told that only three of them will get to travel back in the Re-Tardis, and one of them will be stuck there in China. Ilan and Chris are safe, and while we're hoping that Art Smith will be abandoned, it's Jill Davie who gets to spend her days in the past. (Eyeroll)

The three remaining chefs re-enter the Re-Tardis with Brooke Peterson and head off to another place and time. Their second destination is England in the time of King Henry the 8th, ca. 1532.

Their task there is to prepare a simple Sunday supper fit for a King. King Henry was fond of something called a "cockentrice" which is like an Old World turducken - several different beasts combined to make one new beast.

The beasts provided to the chefs are cod, suckling pig, venison, lamb, and peacock, and they are to use at least three of them to create their dish, which must be cooked on a rotisserie in a large fireplace. But first...they are introduced to their sous chefs.

Three women in period dress walk in with three tiny dogs wearing neck ruffles and leashes. Cosentino wonders for a moment if he's supposed to hold the dog while he's cooking before he's told that the cute little critters will be put into wheels which, once the dogs start running within them, will turn the crank that controls the rotisserie. That seems a little cruel, but once the dogs are put into the wheels, they dutifully start running, and the spits rotate at a nice speed.

This time, to signify the 2.5 hour cooking time is over, a candle has been stuck with nails. As the candle melts, the nails fall out. When the last nail falls, time is up. Rather clever, but Art doesn't understand.

Art is completely annoying. A shame he wasn't left in China. He flirts with Ilan, who may or may not be uncomfortable with it.

Eventually, the chefs get their beasts assembled. Chris started out with a deboned pig face, which collapses on the spit. He goes to alternate plan B, which is to turn it into a soup. Ilan uses a spit-roasted lamb's skull as the front of his cockentrice and inserts a peacock head into its mouth, Alien-style. His creature is the most fantastical and uses the most meats. Art's creature is just a hodgepodge, and not as well-designed as that of either of his competitors.

The judges enter to check out the spread and dine. With their hands.

They like Chris' a lot. Ilan's was the creepiest, but also on the chewy side. Art's was tasty, but not so hot looking. Brooke tells the chefs that two of them will be stuck in the Tudor period, and Ilan says, if he's one of them, he hopes he can find a job cooking. He also mentions that he has "weird man boobs," which I don't think we needed to know.

And then the judges quickly decide that Chris Cosentino is the Greatest Chef in History and put a tacky medal around his neck. What? I thought this was a series, and that the four of these chefs would be competing for several weeks, cooking in several different times and places, before someone was crowned a winner. But it seems this show is a one-off, which is a shame, because it was so cheesy, scripted, and awful that I really enjoyed it.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Quick Chicken and Dumplings - and a Giveaway!

One of my favorite meals as a kid was my mom's chicken and dumplings. She'd put some chicken leg quarters in a pot and stew it down, remove the bones, add veg, and thicken the gravy. Then she dolloped some biscuits on top and cover the pot to steam them. Mmmm!

Though it doesn't really take all that much time to cook chicken, sometimes I don't even have an hour to spare. So when Keystone Meats sent me samples of their canned chicken, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. But... let me be totally honest with you--I was skeptical at first. I tried Keystone's beef last year and I think it's great. So damn convenient, it's crazy. It's as if I did all the work of slow-cooking the meat, but I did nothing but open a can! It's absolutely perfect for making something like Texas-style chili (which is made with chunks of beef, not ground, and has no beans). But chicken, well, that's something else entirely. I've had other brands of canned chicken before and it was dry and mostly flavorless, reminding me of canned albacore tuna. I gave Keystone the benefit of the doubt, and to my surprise and pleasure, their chicken is really good, too. Like the beef and pork (also great), the meat comes in large chunks, all huddled together in the can with a nice broth as a cushion. And like all the other meats Keystone produces, the meat is tender and flavorful and contains only two ingredients: meat and sea salt. The chicken is perfect for things like a quick chicken salad or soup, and in this case, chicken and dumplings.

If you'd like to try Keystone All Natural Chicken for yourself, you're in luck. Minxeats and Keystone are giving away a pack of six cans, for your dining pleasure. All you need to do to be entered is to follow these rules:

1) Go to Minxeats on Instagram and follow the account.
2) Follow Keystone Meats on Instagram as well.
3) Comment on this post with a tag for someone with whom you'd share your prize.

The winner will be notified via Instagram message on October 26.

If you don't have an Instagram account, then leave a message here on this blog post telling me what you'd do with six cans of Keystone All Natural Chicken. Be creative!

Here's what I did with one can of it....

(Relatively) Quick Chicken and Dumplings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1 cup frozen green beans
1 tablespoon Cajun or Blackening seasoning, or to taste
1 14.5-ounce can Keystone Meats Chicken
1 cup + 1/3 cup whole milk (divided use)
1 cup Bisquick baking mix
Freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a 4-5 quart pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veg have softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook another 3-4 minutes. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth. Turn up the heat to bring to a boil, [make dumplings, below] then add the frozen vegetables and the chicken, including the liquid from the can, and 1 cup of milk. Bring back to the boil, then turn heat down to a simmer.

During the time that you're waiting for the soup to come to a boil, combine 1/3 cup of milk with the Bisquick. Do not overmix.

Once you've reached the simmering portion of the program, taste the broth for seasoning and add more salt and some pepper. Gently dollop the Bisquick dumplings evenly over the simmering broth. Cook for 10 minutes uncovered, then cover the pot and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

* 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, October 19, 2018

Flashback Friday - Top Chef Bastards Part II

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on March 3, 2010

If you missed part one, head back to last Friday's post.


Welcome back to Top Chef Bastards! Today, three contestants get to pack their can openers and head back to New York's Chelsea Market...wait...except for Rocco DiSpirito, who can go back to skulking down 22nd Street, cursing the day he met his good buddy mortal enemy former financier, Jeffrey Chodorow, opened a Restaurant together, and sealed his fate as whipping boy to foodies the world over, including this week's guest judge, Anthony Bourdain. And of course, theminx.

After Sandra Lee pulls a surprising win in the Quickfire Challenge, the competitors realize they have to bring their "A-Game." Even Guy leaves the flaming bowling shirt at home and breaks out the chef's whites.

Host Kelly Choi, badly in need of a cheeseburger or three, joins the competitors in the Top Chef Bastards Glad GE Swanson Quaker Oats Macy's Product Placement Kitchen and presents their next challenge.

Each of the four competitors gets fifteen minutes to plan their meal with a budget of $25, after which time they are sent off to the Wal-Mart to shop. They are also allowed to use any ingredients they find in the Swanson Quaker Oats Alexia Crunchy Snacks Chef Boy-R-Dee Product Placement Pantry. Except, of course, for anything produced by Alexia Crunchy Snacks or Chef Boy-R-Dee.

For winning the Quickfire Challenge, Sandra is awarded an advantage in this challenge: an additional $15 in spending money. Which will come in handy while picking up a little post-prandial something-something at the liquor store.

Forced to use fresh foods, Sandra is stumped. Meanwhile, Rocco has decided to go low-cal, in keeping with his new cookbook, Stuff You Can't Possibly Want to Eat.

Maybe you can use those eggplants in a Tablescape, Sandy.

Back at the Top Chef Bastards Glad GE Swanson Quaker Oats Macy's Product Placement Kitchen, the chefs scramble to assemble their meals in the allotted one hour time frame.

Eureka! Aunt Sandy gets inspired.

Looks like Rachael Ray found her garbage bowl.

In 59:59, Kelly Choi enters the kitchen with today's judges: the funny-hat-wearing Gael Greene, the still-cranky Anthony Bourdain, and the boobaceous Gail Simmons. Hands up! Knives Down!

(Oh, heh. That looks like Bourdain is stealing a glance at Gail's breasteses, doesn't it? Unintentional happy accident there.)

Time to adjourn to the Top Chef Bastards Ikea Room Store Crate & Barrel Product Placement Dining Room, hurriedly constructed in the parking lot of the Hollywood YWCA, to chow down on the competitors' offerings.

The incessantly perky Rachael Ray is up first.

"For my starter, I made a yummerific BLT Salad, smothered with chopped bacon - because I'm all about the bacon - and drenched with home-made balsamic Dijon vinaigrette with lots of EVOO..."

"My entrée is a delish Grilled Fish Sammie served with awesome waffle fries. How great is that?"

"To finish this delish meal, because I'm all about the dessert, we have healthful fresh berries with freshly whipped cream. Yum-o!"

Next up is Guy Fieri, replacing Rachael's saccharine with a touch o' douchebag.

"For my appetizer, I'm driving the bus to flavor town with my Good Karma Schwarma. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!"

"For my main dish, I made my off-the-hook Mac-Daddy Mac & Cheese. Oh, that's money."

"Finally, my Shock-o-lit Habanero Mousse. This'll put some hair on your chest! Awesome!"

A much more subdued person in the form of Rocco DiSpirito presents the next three courses.

"For our appetizer, I've prepared my low-calorie yet still awesome New England Clam Chowder with cauliflower and skim milk. You're going to love it, and it has less than 300 calories per serving."

"For your entrée, I made Flash-Fried Finger-Lickin' Chicken. Only 200 calories per serving!"

"Finally, for dessert, these are my Low-Cal Brownies - only 53 calories and I bet you'll never guess what the secret ingredient is!"

Finally, Sandra Lee presents her dishes.

"For the appetizer, my delicious Porch Swing Iced Tea..."

"...followed by my entrée, mugs of delicious Spicy Red Beer..."

"...and for dessert, my delicious Mango Margarita."

After all courses are served, the competitors are sent to the men's locker room Glad Family of Products Stew and Booze room to get stinking drunk on leftover iced tea while the judges discuss the horror they just witnessed.

Finally, the four competitors are brought in front of the judges to meet their fates. Although it worked for her in the Quickfire, Sandra's excessive use of booze may have backfired on her.

Rachael Ray was disqualified because her overly-perky yet grating personality caused each of the judges to vomit.

Rocco didn't wow the judges with his bland diet food. Who puts cauliflower in New England Clam Chowder?

Guy Fieri, despite his obnoxious over-use of catch phrases and hair gel, impressed the judges with the amount of flavor he packed into his dishes.

Looks like Guy will be competing in the finale! That's definitely crazy!

Photos of actual dishes mentioned are from and
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