Archive | February, 2009

The Perils of Packaging

25 Feb

tropicana-packagingSo: Old and reliable wins out over the shiny and new.

PepsiCo unveiled new packaging for Tropicana Juice, and let’s say it was a big NO from the public. The major complaint from consumers said that it wasn’t clearly marked anymore ( which I can attest to). Last Sunday, I went to  my over-priced chain supermarket with the newly- designed “Whole Foods” style decor, and it took me a minute to find my no-pulp juice. I really didn’t notice the change in design until I noticed the new retro-style lable, complete with the Helvetica typeface.

I wonder how nostalgia plays into how consumers relate to and ultimately choose the products they buy. In this case, PepsiCo relented, and will return to the packaging its consumers are used to.  I don’t get bent out of shape about packaging changes as far as logos and branding are concerned, what gets me twisted is when they change the size of packaging.  Now, that’s a soapbox you do not want me to get on ( just thinking about the change in sizes of laundry detergent, ice cream, peanut butter, candy bars, ect., just raises my blood pressure to the point of one day  finally meeting Elizabeth Sanford, whew!!!)

But, I digress.

Pepsi is all over the whole throwback look. If you haven’t bought a Pepsi lately, you are missing the whole nostalgia craze. Here is an example of how Pepsi Looked last year, and how it looks now:

old-pepsinew-pepsi If you noticed, the lettering went from futuristic and slanted on an angle denoting action and speed, to a solitary, minimalist design with the retro-style lettering. I wonder why the decision was made to go with this style. Does the economy have something to do with it? Is it the return to a design that inspires nostalgia within us. Hell, I jut noticed that the Pepsi can isn’t red on the bottom anymore.  I’m not a design expert, but I do notice stuff.  I notice the shift in advertising to  something a bit more confortable and reassuring. Its no wonder that stock in Campbell’s Soup and McDonalds is up, one for the cheap prices of their products; and two, because of the comfort food factor.

If there is anyone out their that can explain to us how this all works with graphic design and advertising, let me know!

Yet Another Food Recall

23 Feb

U.S. News and World Report has announced another food recall. Some potato products called Simply Potatoes were pulled from Giant and Stop & Save supermarkets. Products puuled from the shelves were as follows:

20 oz. Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns

20 oz. Simply Potatoes Potato Slices

20 oz. Simply Potatoes Red Potato Wedges

All have sell by dates of  March 29 to April 3, 2009. These products are said to be contaminated with Lysteria Monocytogenes, Listeria is found in soil or water and can contaminate foods that are grown using manue as a fertilizer, or a contaminated water source. Typical symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarhea , confusion and other assorted symptoms.

More information on Lysteria can be found at the Centers for Disease Control website.

Check your paticular market if you should return this product for a refund, or how should they be disposed.

Obama Sushi Roll

20 Feb
photo courtesy of Http://www.boingboing.net

photo courtesy of http://www.boingboing.net

Seriously.

I love the Japanese!

Minestrone for whatever ails you

20 Feb

Well, what do you do when you want a vegetable soup, but not just any vegetable soup? You make minestrone, the king of vegetable soups. The good thing about this recipe is that with the omission of the meat,  this becomes vegetarian; and with the omission of the cheese, it becomes vegan.

Ingredients

3 Tbl. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped bacon, ham or smoked turkey meat ( omit for meat free option)

1 cup onion, peeled and diced

1/2 cup  chopped celery, diced

1/2 cup green or red bell peppers, diced

3/4 cup chopped carrots, peeled and diced

1 cup zucchini, diced

2 tbl. chopped garlic (  add more if you like)

15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained

8 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 bay leaf

2 cups packed chopped fresh escarole or chopped raw spinach

1 5 oz. can  drained and rinsed cannellini beans, or 1 cup cooked pasta ( bowtie, elbows, penne)

2 tbl.  chopped fresh parsley

Parmesan cheese for garnishing

Directions

Prepare all vegetables and meats, and measure out all liquids and seasonings before preparing soup. In a 3 gallon heavy bottomed stock pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat.  ( If going meatless, skip the following step, and go to the next step) Saute bacon until crispy, or ham until browned slightly; being careful not to allow to burn, about 10 minutes. At this time, a brown substance may form on the bottom of the pot. This is called fond, and is valuable for flavoring soup. Do not allow fond to burn.

Add carrots, onions, celery, peppers, garlic and zucchini to the pot. Add I cup of the broth, and cook vegetables until wilted, about five minutes.  Add the rest of the broth, seasonings, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to simmer. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off any accumulated fat off of the surface  with a spoon.

Add the spinach or escarole, and the beans or pasta and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until greens are tender. Serve in bowls with generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top.

Enjoy!

Valentine’s day dessert ideas

14 Feb

So you’ve decided on what you are going to serve for you “impromptu” indoor picnic, but are lost for suggestions. What should a budding culinarian like you do, perchance? Well, let a girl guide you through the sea of complicated dessert items. You could always buy something, but what I would like to see you do is to combine purchasing basics with a home made touch.

Fun With Chocolate

Let’s start with a basic chocolate sauce; the foundation to any intitimate celebration requires at least a chocolate fondue or dipped strawberries.

4 0z. bitterweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

2-6 tbl. heavy cream

Break up chocolate by one of two methods: On a cutting board sith a damp towel underneath to stabilize the board, place the chocolate on the board. With a heavy knife, place the heel of your hand on top of the knife away from the blade towards the tip. Take the handle of the knife and with a rocking motion, chip away pieces of the chocolate.

Method Two: Double bag the chocolate in ziploc bags, one inside the other and with a skillet and on a sturdy surface, bash the hell out of it until in small pieces.

In a glass bowl, put the chocolate in along with the two tablespoons of chocolate and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Place in microwave and cook for 1 1/2 minutes and check to see if chocolate has melted. Whisk together with the cream, and if chocolate sauce is too thick for your liking, add two more tablespoons of cream and heat for an additional 30 seconds, and repeat until chocolate is  to the desired consistency

Chocolate Fondue:

Chocolate sauce (made with six tbl. cream)

Fresh Fuit of your choice, either whole ( strawberries0, or peeled and cut up ( bananas, apple, mango, ect)

Pound cake and/or brownies, cut into chunks

wooden skewers

The Chocolate sauce should be on the thinner side for this ( should slightly drip). The good thing about this is, is that the choice is yours what you want to serve. Just make sure that you cut and arrange the fruit on a plate, and prepeare the fruit that will turn brown last. Use the skewers to dip the fruit into the chocolate. Don’t even think about buying chocolate sauce; it’s not the same.

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Chocolate- dipped Strawbwrries

1 pint strawberries, blemish free

chocolate sauce (made with 2-4 tbl cream)

The chocolate sauce should be on the thicker side for this one ( it shouldn’t drip).  Wipe off each strawberry with a damp cloth; inspecting for blemishes, and discarding ( eating ) the blemished ones. Leave the tops on.

Cover a tray with plastic wrap. Grab the tops of the strawberries, and dip the bottoms into the warm chocolate sauce, placing on the tray as you go. Refrigerate until sauce is firm, about 2 hours. Arrainge strawberries in a decorative glass container and serve with whipped cream on the side.

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Fun with Macerated  Berries

1 pt berries of your choice

3 Tbl. or more of your favorite Liquer, or Liquor

-Grand Marnier

-Kirshwasser ( cherry brandy)

-Peach schnapps

-rum, brandy, ect. ( with 1 tbl sugar added to berries)

Inspect berries for blemishes, and discard old and moldy ones. Take liquer and pour over berries.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours;  if using liquor such as rum or brandy, add sigar to berries and follow directions for marinating. Serve over ice cream, on pound cake with whipped cream, with sweetened marscapone cheese, or alone.

There you go. I hope you tell the ones you love how you feel everyday; but if you don’t, here is a great start.

See you Monday!

The CC

More Valentines Day Fare: Portobello Fries and Roasted Asparagus

12 Feb

So, you’ve read my previous post on appetizers for you and your intended, and you said to yourself, ” But CC, I want to have at least some veggies to offer my lover, or Hey CC; I don’t eat meat! Sure you do, just not of the four-legged variety 😉

Try these two appetizers that can be prepped ahead of time and served in the most intimate of surroundings. Remember, all of the appetizers in my  Valentine’s Day series should be finger food, designed to be fed to one another. Have fun with these appetizers. Tomorrow, I will put up some dessert ideas for you so you can surprise your main squeeze with your culinary prowess as well as, er,  umm, you get the picture!

Portobello Mushroom “Fries” ( serves two)

2-3 portobello mushroom caps

1/2 cup flour

1/4 tp. salt

dash ground pepper

1 egg slightly beaten with 2 Tbl. cold water

3/4  cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup  grated Parmesan cheese

Vegetable oil for frying

Wipe portobello mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt from the top of the caps, DO  NOT CLEAN WITH RUNNING WATER, OR SUBMERGE UNDER WATER. Mushrooms cleaned in this manner are like sponges and will retain water, and will spatter uncontrollably when frying.

Season flour with the salt and pepper and place on a plate.  Take bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, mix together and place in a  large Ziploc bag.  Crack egg, blend with the water and place in a bowl.

Cut mushrooms into 3-5 large finger-sized pieces, depending on the size of the caps ( think western fry size). Roll mushrooms in flour one at a time , shaking off excess and set aside. Dip slices in egg, shaking off excess egg, then throw mushroom slice in ziploc bag, close and shake thoroughly.  Check mushrooms for any bare spots, and if any bare flour spots appear, dip bare end in egg again, then in bread crumbs. Repeat with each slice until well coated. Refrigerate “fries” for twenty minutes or more to set breading.

In large cast-iron skillet, heat up two inches of oil over medium high heat to 360° , or throw a piece of bread into the oil. If it sizzles instantly, the oil is ready. Remove test bread, and CAREFULLY add the fries, a few at a time and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. and serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

If frying for a party, fry in batches and keep warm in a 250° oven on a cookie sheet with paper towels

Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch fresh asparagus, medium

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

Heat a cookie sheet in  a 400° oven until hot. Wash asparagus and pat dry. Trim off wooden end ( about one inch) off each spear; then with a potato peeler, peel off outer layer of skin from the bottom half of the asparagus. Toss asparagus in 2-3 tbl of olive oil, salt and pepper. Using an oven mitt, remove tray from oven, dump spears onto the hot tray, and quickly arrange in a single layer. Place tray in oven and cook for 5-6 minutes. Shake tray to turn asparagus, and cook doe an additional 3 minutes, or until slightly browned and tender. Remove from oven and squeeze lemon over the spears, toss and serve hot or warm with good-quality balsamic vinegar.

Valentine’s Day Appetizers: BBQ Bacon Shrimp and Twice-baked Mini potatoes

12 Feb

Looking to score some points with your main squeeze? Is going out putting a strain on the old finances? Well, the Culinary Chick is looking out for you.

Here are two simple, yet elegant appetizers to win the favor of your intended. They also are siutable for that cocktail party or sporting event at your house.

If you plan to serve these two together; prep the shrimp and set aside. Make the twice-baked first and when cooking them for the final time, put the shrimp in the oven.

Bacon-wrapped BBQ shrimp ( Serves two)

1/2 lb.   either U/15 or 16-20 shrimp (about eight shrimp)

4 strips of raw bacon ( no turkey bacon, please!)

1/2 cup to 3/4 cup your favorite BBQ sauce

Four 6-inch bamboo skewers

Soak skewers in cold water for 30 minutes.  Heat oven to 400 °. While skewers are soaking, assemble the shrimp.

Peel, devein ( see video for help) shrimp and set aside. Wash all surfaces with warm, soapy water before cutting bacon to avoid cross-contamination.  Cut each piece of bacon in half crosswise.   Bend each shrimp so that the top end of the shrimp touches the bottom ( in a circular shape). Wrap each shrimp in the piece if bacon so that the beginning and end of each piece of bacon is on the side of the shrimp. Drain and pat dry the wooden skewers, then skewer each shrimp through the ends of the bacon, two shrimp for each skewer. Place  shrimp on oiled cookie sheet and bake in oven for six minutes. When bacon begins to brown, baste each skewer with the BBQ sauce. Shrimp are done when bacon is brown and sauce thickens on shripm, about 10 minutes.

Twice- Baked Yukon Gold Potatoes ( serves two)

I lb. yukon gold potatoes ( see note)

1 tbl. vegetable oil

1 tbl. unsalted butter, melted

2-4 tbl milk or sour cream

Salt and pepper

2 tbl fresh chives

1/4 cup grated white cheddar, fontina, or swiss cheese

**Note:   when selecting the yukon gold potatoes, keep in mind when cut in half , they should be large enough to be eaten in 2 bites; no larger.

Preheat oven to 400°.  Select four potatoes, then wash and pat dry. Pierce each potatoes with the tines of a fork three or four times. Rub each one with vegetable oil and bake unitl tender, about 25 minutes. remove from oven and cool.

When potatoes are warm to the touch and easy to handle, cut three of the potatoes lenghtwise and set aside. Peel the fourth potato and dice, placing in mixing bowl. With a spoon, carefully scoop out the remaining potato halves, leaving the skin and some of the flesh intact, the goal is having a shell to put the mashed potatoes back in. Place the potatoes innards with the diced potatoes in the bowl.

In the bowl with the potato scraps, add milk or sour cream, butter, chives and mash until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff potato shells with the mashed potato mixture and top with the grated cheese. Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until hot, and cheese is bubbly on top.