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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

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.

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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, and...vodka.

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, filĂ© 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, January 09, 2023

Underground Pizza Company

the Woodlands pizza from @Underground Pizza Company
I first heard about Underground Pizza Company and "Detroit-style" pizza sometime in 2020. At the time, UPC was functioning as a ghost kitchen establishment in Mount Washington. Despite being about 2 miles from my home, we never made it there. By the time we were ready to give UPC a try, however, they had made the move to a real brick-and-mortar shop at Power Plant Live. Unfortunately for everyone involved, we weren't going to pay for downtown parking just to eat pizza, no matter how good it was. Only recently did I realize there was another UPC location in Towson. Clearly I have my finger on the pulse of the restaurant industry these days...not. 

What's Detroit-style pizza? It's rather like Sicilian-style in that it's square or rectangular and made with a thick, bread-like crust. It's topped with brick cheese and mozzarella, which go on first and is spread to the edges so that it caramelizes into a lacy brown crispness as it melts against the sides of the deep metal pan in which it is baked. Toppings, like pepperoni, come next, with sauce applied in stripes as if it were just another topping. The resulting pies are hearty and satisfying.

the Roni Boy@UPC
We decided to get carry-out from the Towson UPC rather than to dine in. My brother was joining us, so we ordered three different half pies--each about 10" x 7" and yielding 4 slices. The Roni Boy was topped with the type of small-diameter pepperoni slices that tend to form cups when they meet the heat of a pizza oven, two strips of UPC's signature red sauce, and a bit of parm. The Woodlands included a good amount of thyme-roasted fancy mushrooms like hen of the woods, oyster, and beech, over mozzarella and Gruyere cheeses, topped with two stripes of red sauce, and parm. The Nonna included crumbles of spicy Italian sausage, caramelized onion, vodka sauce, and fennel pollen. The online menu doesn't mention the kind of cheese, but I imagine it's the classic brick/mozz combo. We also ordered the Old Bay Garlic Parm fries.

The verdict?

Yum.

the Nonna @UPC
The crust was chewy, with a medium bubble structure that comes from dough with a high moisture content. Focaccia-esque, but not. The pizzas weren't piping hot when we got them home, so they likely had sat for a few minutes while awaiting our arrival. Still, the caramelized cheese part of the crust was crispy. Both the pepperoni pizza and the Nonna had a nice hit of heat, but not so much that it would turn off those with delicate palates. The red sauce was sweet and herby, and reminded me a bit of the sauce at Squire's, which endeared UPC pizza to me that much more. We loved that the mushroom pizza featured a selection of fancy mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms, etc., have more interesting textures than the standard buttons or creminis, and a lot more flavor, too. The Nonna pizza was tasty, but the onions were far from caramelized and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they were raw before the pie went into the oven. Also, the vodka sauce was excellent and I wanted more than just a drizzle. Didn't notice the fennel pollen at all. I think our next order must include the pie called "The Destroyer" which has pepperoni and two stripes of vodka sauce.

Good so far. Then there were the fries. Womp womp.

Billed as a pound of fries topped with Old Bay, garlic, and parm, they were just plain not good. The menu doesn't claim the potatoes are hand-cut, so at least that lie wasn't told. Not only were the fries flabby and uninteresting, but also I found no evidence of either Old Bay or garlic. There were tiny nubbins of something adhering to the potatoes, which may have been the parm. Or they may have been the abhorrent flour-tossed fries that are studded with hard bits that I think of as shrapnel but might be more accurately compared to pills on an old sweater. Not pleasant in either case. If they hadn't cost $8, I might not be complaining as strenuously. The pizzas were $16, and while that seems expensive, they were certainly a better value than the fries.

Overall, we enjoyed the pizza and will definitely be going back for more. Maybe we'll try the arancini or the wings, but probably not. 

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

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, January 02, 2023

Best of 2022

I suppose it's not surprising that we didn't do a "best of" post for 2020 or 2021. Not that we didn't eat well those years--we did. We were just in a totally different groove, and blogging wasn't part of it. But we're back in the swing of things here at Minxeats--at least I am, not sure when Mr Minx will start adding his twenty-five cents (inflation!) to the blog. In any case, this post represents my thoughts on the best foods we consumed this year, both at home and in restaurants. Here's a TL;DR if you're not up to scrolling to the bottom: many of the items seem to be sandwiches or pizza. 

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT. This post contains many images of food. You may find yourself drooling uncontrollably. Minxeats takes no responsibility for your actions after viewing.

January

pollo catalana @La Barra  
My BFF Andree and I went to New York in January to spend some quality time together. One of the best things we ate was a dish of chicken and plums, aka pollo Catalana, at La Barra, a restaurant within Jose Andres' Little Spain in the Hudson Yards complex. 

February

roasted cauliflower with babaganoush and other stuff.
Roasted cauliflower is a regular in the Minx household and I try to make a different version every time. This was my favorite, which involved a Stonewall Kitchens feta spread. Find the recipe here.

March 

salmon @La Calle
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: La Calle makes the best salmon in Baltimore. It's always moist, with crispy skin, and perfect seasoning. I think I ate it twice in 2022, which is not nearly enough times.

pork belly @Kung Fu 12
The Shanghai braised pork belly at Kung Fu 12 in Towson is so rich and luscious, with the perfect ratio of fat to meat. If you're not a fan of fatty foods, or somewhat gelatinous textures, you may not go for this, but that kind of food is right up my alley. 

loaded yuca fries @La Food Marketa
Another dish I ate at least twice in 2022 was the loaded yuca fries at La Food Marketa. Crispy planks of fried yuca are mounded with a pile of shredded beef short rib, drenched in queso, and topped with a fried egg. $13. Cheap and delicious, and one of my all-time fave restaurant dishes.

bone marrow crab dip @True Chesapeake
Another dish we ate multiple times in 2022 (at least thrice) is the outrageous bone marrow and blue crab dip at True Chesapeake Oyster Company. It comes with just enough grilled crusty bread on which to spread the rich and decadent delight. 
April

motzi bread @Dutch Courage
I'm not a fan of smoked salmon, but Dutch Courage's tartine of salmon mousse with horseradish cream on locally baked bread from Motzi sounded pretty good. And tasted even better. The bread was incredible and I think I might make a real pig of myself if I ever got my hands on a whole loaf.
June 

June was a good month for eating! Especially pizza-eating.
pizza with smoked baby scallops, pancetta, pesto @Cosima
This is one of my all-time favorite pies, and if it's on the menu at Cosima, I order it. Normally I go there with a group and have to share my pie, but this time it was just me and my friend Kim. I ordered the capesante pizza as my entree and loved every bite of it.

kupati with rice @Tbiliso 
I stumbled upon Tbiliso, a Georgian restaurant, while poking around Google Maps. We tried several items on our first visit (and need to go back and try more), and this sausage dish was my favorite. 

morcilla with eggs @Spanish Diner
I know blood sausage isn't everybody's thing, but I grew up eating kiszka, a Polish blood sausage. I was in the mood for a simple lunch after slogging around the Fancy Food Show so stopped into Spanish Diner at Hudson Yards for an order of fried eggs with crusty bread and these lovely patties of morcilla. So good, especially with sangria and a flan chaser.

jambalaya pizza @Earth, Wood, & Fire
Another of my favorite pies is the Jambalaya pizza at Earth, Wood, & Fire, jam packed with andouille, chicken, shrimp, and jalapenos. It's spicy, but not too, and tastes remarkably like its namesake rice dish.

Everything pizza @Squire's
Squire's has always been one of my favorite places for pizza, and theirs is not quite like others in town. The crust is drier and firmer, and the sauce is sweet and herby. I love it piled with all the meats and mushrooms, aka the "everything" but without the green pepper (which ruins it, IMHO).
July

patty melt @Nautilus Diner
Back in the day, all burgers at Friendly's were patty melts. I couldn't understand why they didn't have buns, only bread. Today, the patty melt--a burger on griddled rye with sauteed onions and preferably swiss cheese, 1000 island on the side--is one of my all-time faves. I hadn't tried Nautilus' version and am generally not impressed with most of their burgers, but I was in the mood and we were there.... And it was excellent, with just the right amount of greasy lusciousness. 

beef milanesa torta @R&R Taqueria Honeygo
Another one of my favorite sandwiches is the torta at R&R Taqueria, which I normally order with a breaded beef cutlet (Milanesa). It's also full of veggies, beans, and cheese. Far too big for one person, this sandwich is perfect for sharing. 
August

roasted cauliflower, meatballs, muhammara @home
I''ve been lazy in the kitchen this year, relying on stuff from the freezer (homemade soups and chilis) or leftover takeout. Sometimes I get creative, and this dish of meatballs and cauliflower with various Mediterranean sauces and seasonings was pretty darn delish.

sriracha lime dumplings and seafood pancake @Random Access
Another trip to New York meant another food fest. I had wanted to try Random Access, a new Thai restaurant in "my" K-Town neighborhood, but somehow couldn't squeeze it in on prior trips. This time, I feasted on these tangy, spicy, creamy, juicy, cilantro-y dumplings and a pancake/omelette thingy topped with various seafoods and more cilantro. All the bold flavors made my mouth happy.

mortadella sandwich @All'Antico Vinaio
Legendary Florentine sandwich shop All'Antico Vinaio has two outposts in Manhattan that serve up monstrously large sandwiches of Italian cold cuts on a focaccia-like bread. My La Paradiso, which included pistachio cream and pistachios as well as a kind of fresh mozzarella known as stracciatella, on a pile of thinly sliced mortadella, was easily enough for a small family. I admit I ate the whole thing.
October

lobster roll @Charly's
My friend Cyrus Keefer is currently the chef at Charly's Sue Creek, a new waterside restaurant in the wilds of Essex. He crams a whole chick lobster (1.5 lbs) into his succulent version of a Connecticut-style lobster roll. More, please.

black and bleu burger from Alonso's @home
Alonso's has the best burgers in town. Always fat, juicy, and perfectly cooked, on a super fresh roll with the perfect amount of cheese. Go try it if you haven't already.

November

cajun mac and cheese with pulled pork @Cajun Kate's
We've started a tradition of going to Cajun Kate's on my birthday (November 17, if you want to send gifts), and it's hard to leave there without trying the mac and cheese du jour. This particular day they had three varieties, and we ordered the most decadent. The creamy and very cheesy mac doesn't need a layer of smoky pulled pork, but now that I've tried it, it seems wrong to eat it any other way.
December

nonna pie @Underground Pizza Company

Our last pizza for the year came from Underground Pizza Company, which specializes in Detroit-style pies. Among the three variations we tried, our favorite was the Woodland, though the Nonna was pretty darn good. Love that vodka sauce!

peking duck on a bao bun @Kung Fu 12 Szechuan
Christmas Eve dinner at Kung Fu 12 involved half a Peking duck, which came with the option of pancakes or buns, and duck soup or crispy salt and pepper bones. The first time we had the duck there, we went for the soup and ended up bringing 2 quarts of stock home. Though it is soup season, I didn't want to have to think of what to do with all that duck stock (and it wasn't going to fit in our very full freezer), so we went with the bones. I didn't photograph it, because it was literally a plate of bones. Fried bones with crispy bits of juicy fat and skin that were a delight to eat. Though we had some other good stuff that night, I think the bones were my favorite thing on the table.