Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Review of the Remarkable Veggetti and a Giveaway




Is it an egg timer? No.
Is it a medical device? No.
Is it a model railroad water tower? No.

It's a Veggetti!

I received this nifty little kitchen gadget from the Ontel Company just in time for the hot and humid summer season when the cucumbers, zucchini and other summer veggies start catapulting out of the garden.

Cucumber Salad

I first tried out the Veggetti with some garden cucumbers. They went in the thin end, but were TOO thin, so I used the thick blade side and they were perfect. The Veggetti spirals through the cucumber very quickly and I then chopped up the long strands, doused them with rice wine vinegar, a splash of olive oil, some salt, pepper and chopped fresh herbs, and voila! A quick, refreshing cucumber salad for the dinner table in short order.

We were wise enough to only plant one zucchini plant in our garden this summer, so we are not being overrun by these plants (the buttercup squash is another story-what a space hog!). I made the recipe for Cold Zucchini Salad that was in the recipe booklet that came with the Veggetti. You run several zucchini through the thick end of the gadget, chop them, and then toss them with 2 tsp. salt in a sieve. After 10-15 minutes, you squeeze out the excess moisture and toss in a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and chopped herbs. Easy and luscious! One can also toss in some chopped toasted walnuts as an option, which sounds even more decadent.


I haven't yet tried to make pasta from vegetables with my Veggetti, but I am looking forward to that for some lighter-on-the-carbs summer dinners. Also want to make some hash browns soon using potatoes in my Veggetti.

I found this kitchen gadget very versatile and easy to use. It is incredibly sharp, so cautious handling when cleaning it (I poke errant veggie pieces out of the Veggetti with a chopstick) is definitely advised. There's a spiked disk that is included that one stabs on the end of the vegetable when you are working it through the Veggetti so that protects your fingers when you are slicing things up.

Ontel has graciously offered to provide a giveaway opportunity to one of my Crispy Cook readers to receive a Veggetti Gift Package from Ontel consisting of a Veggetti, recipe booklet and $25 Visa gift card. To enter the giveaway, you can leave a comment below. You can earn an additional giveaway entry by liking the Crispy Cook on Facebook. If you already have liked the Crispy Cook, you can earn a second giveaway entry by leaving a comment on the Crispy Cook Facebook post about this Veggetti giveaway.  Deadline for entries is August 15, 2014. Contestants limited to the U.S. No Post Office box addresses allowed.

**Note: I received a Veggetti Gift Package as described above from Ontel, but I was not obligated to post and my comments about this product, as always, are completely my own. 


Friday, July 25, 2014

Pies and Peril Culinary Mystery Giveaway Winner and another Giveaway tomorrow!

As mentioned previously here at The Crispy Cook, a blogger buddy of mine, Janel Gradowski, has written a new book: Pies and Peril: A Culinary Competition Mystery (Gemma Halliday, 2014) which was a delightful debut. As part of the blog tour for this tasty new book I was able to offer an ebook version of this culinary mystery to one of my readers.


The randomly generated winner from my giveaway post is comment number 6, Annabelle, who lets us all know that her favorite pie is Strawberry Rhubarb. Good choice Annabelle, and congratulations! I'll be contacting you with the details to claim your prize.

I will have another giveaway posted tomorrow here at the blog that you won't want to miss, so be sure to stop by .

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jacques Pepin's Venison Revenge

Our June/July book pick at Cook the Books has been Jacques Pepin's memoir "The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen". While I was familiar with Chef Pepin's smiling face, easygoing manner and uncomplicated, but awesomely tasty, recipes from his many appearances on public television cooking shows, I was not familiar with his personal story. "The Apprentice" tells his remarkable tale, from his childhood in France during the darkest days of World War II, his years of apprenticeships at various hotels and restaurants, his emigration to America and various experiences at fancy restaurants, and his remarkable friendships with Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, Pierre Franey, Howard Johnson, Barbara Kafka and James Beard.


Through it all, his down-to-earth style and personal warmth shines through. I have always thought Pepin was an admirable TV chef because he never cops an haute cuisine attitude about cooking, but instead deconstructs recipes and techniques so that his audience can replicate the dishes he makes on screen. After reading his autobiography, I am even more impressed and endeared by his manner. Despite being a foodie superstar he always stresses the importance of cooking good food for your family and friends in order to share time and love with them, not show off.

I am looking forward to trying Pepin's recipe for Smoked Trout a la Gloria, named after Madame Pepin, an expert angler who brings home fish for her husband to smoke in a roasting pan on the stove. Sounds delicious and while I am not the fisherman in the family, I am willing to smoke up the trout that Dan loves to catch.

For my Cook the Books Pepin-inspired dish, I looked over the two dozen recipes that stud each chapter of this memoir. They were tempting, but I decided to create something with venison, in reference to the most harrowing incident related in the book: Pepin's nighttime car accident with a deer that left him with a broken back, two broken hips, a broken leg, cracked pelvis and a left arm that was so badly fractured that his surgeon considered amputating it. What an ordeal! But Pepin doesn't dwell on that incident, and segues into his subsequent experiences in teaching cooking classes, working with corporate clients and writing cookbooks. But I feel Jacques should have his revenge against that kamikaze deer with a venison dish, so I pulled some venison stew meat that we had in the freezer care of Dan's hunting cousin and put together a delicately seasoned venison stew.




Jacques' Venison Revenge Ragout

1 lb. venison, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 stalks celery, medium dice
3 carrots, peeled and medium dice
2 cloves roasted garlic
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 Tbsp. sorghum flour
1/2 cup dry white wine

Pat venison dry with a paper towel. Mix flour with salt and pepper and dredge venison in this mixture.
 
Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Brown venison in batches over medium-high heat until browned on all sides and a nice crust forms. Remove and set aside.

Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to pan along with celery and carrots. Cook five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in potatoes and cook another five minutes.

Add wine and bring to a boil. Return venison to pan. Cover and simmer until vegetables and venison are tender, about 30-35 minutes. Add herbs during the last two minutes of cooking.

Serves 4-6.

This is a very delicate, aromatic venison stew. A couple of turnips or parsnips would be nice additions in here too.

Please join us after the July 31 deadline for Cook the Books to see the roundup of dishes inspired by our reading. 

I am also linking this post to Souper Sundays, a weekly celebration of soups, stews and sandwiches at Kahakai Kitchen.

The next book selection at Cook the Books will be Marlena de Blasi's "1000 Days in Venice". Deb of Eliot Eats is hosting and notes that the book is one of her favorites. Submissions due September 30, 2014.




Monday, July 14, 2014

Pies and Peril, a book review of a new culinary mystery series and a giveaway!

Janel Gradowski's new book, Pies and Peril: A Culinary Competition Mystery (Gemma Halliday, 2014), is the first in a new mystery series that is sure to win over fans of foodie fiction. Amy is the heroine of this novel, a former hairdresser turned baker and competitive cook. She enters her small town Michigan baking contest and aims to win the triple crown in Cookies, Cakes and Pies, but the pie contest crown has been worn for the last five years by the villainous Mandy Jo, Amy's former friend and coworker. 


When Amy delivers her scrumptious pie entry to the contest she discovers Mandy Jo's recently murdered body, garnished with a raspberry pie to the face, and sets about aiding the police in uncovering the murderer. This cozy mystery is full of humor, mouthwatering food descriptions, and engaging characters, from Amy's sidekick, emergency room nurse Carla to her pie-scarfing dog Pogo, and is the perfect summer read, as light and luscious as, well, a Key Lime Pie.

I am honored to be part of the author's blog tour and pleased to be able to offer a giveaway of an e-book version of this fun new mystery to one of my Crispy Cook readers. To enter the giveaway just leave a comment below telling me about your favorite kind of pie by the deadline of Wednesday, July 23, 2014 and I'll pick a random entry to receive this prize.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the Pies and Peril Blog Tour for other reviews of this book and to enter other giveaways for the ebook.

Janel is a frequent participant in Weekend Cooking, a weekly roundup of foodie posts over at Beth Fish Reads, which is where I met her, and so naturally I am linking up this post over there.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Gallimaufry of Gluten Free Product Reviews

Here at the Crispy Cook we've been test driving some new gluten-free products and perusing some new gluten-free cookbooks and here are the verdicts:

1) Outer Spice

There are some new low- and no-salt seasoning blends on the market, which are also gluten-free and MSG-free. The Austin, Texas based Outer Spice company recently sent me a jar of the original Outer Spice No Salt blend to try.

It is an aromatic blend of garlic and black pepper (nice heat and kick there!) with other herbs and spices which I used in a variety of ways: topping grilled steelhead trout, as the seasoning base for a vinaigrette, spicing up buttered noodles and omelets, and as a general spice to have on hand at the dinner table. Outer Spice tasted very fresh and if one is on a salt-restricted diet, this would be a great seasoning to have on hand to zip up all kinds of meals.

Outer Spice sells for $6.99 for a 3.75 oz. jar and can be found at Whole Foods stores or online at the Outer Spice store.



2) Cooking Light Gluten Free Baking by Robert Landolphini (NY: Oxmoor House, 2014).

The publisher sent me a review copy of this new Gluten Free baking cookbook and I found it to be a real keeper. Landolphini really knows his subject inside and out: he's a culinary professional AND his wife and two of his children have celiac disease, so he knows the gluten-free diet.


Even though I own and have reviewed dozens of gluten-free cookbooks, I found the kitchen basics chapters informative and gleaned some new information. There are great photos of the rainbow of gluten-free flours, leavening agents, gums, dairy substitutes, sweeteners, oils and other GF baking ingredients and discussions of the merits and drawbacks of each for various kinds of baked goods. His recipes are for family favorites as well as more exotic fare, and are geared for the home cook of average ability. One does not need to be a baking expert to whip any of them up (see paragraph below) and there are plenty of color photos to provide guidance.

This cookbook gets a rave Crispy Cook review for its awesome Snickerdoodle recipe. We love these chewy, cinnamon-kissed cookies and this recipe is the best we've tried. I thought the author was being a bit diet-conscious when I read that the recipe made 16 cookies and one cookie would suffice as one serving. Who eats just one cookie? But this recipe produces cookies of impressive diameter, not little button cookies, so be prepared to indulge. The turbinado sugar coating adds excellent crunch. I have penciled a note in my copy of this recipe to place the unbaked cookies on two baking trays next time, as they really spread out during the baking time.

The publisher graciously agreed to let me share the Snickerdoodle recipe with you, so here it is:

Snickerdoodles ( Cooking Light Gluten-Free Baking page 113)

Hands-on time: 8 min. Total time: 36 min.

Ingredients:

4.2 ounces garbanzo bean flour (about 1 cup)

1.3 ounces potato starch (about 1⁄4 cup)

1-teaspoon baking soda

3⁄4 teaspoon xantham gum

1⁄2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter, softened

1⁄4 cup packed brown sugar

1⁄4 cup granulated sugar

1-tablespoon corn syrup

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1-teaspoon ground cinnamon

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour and potato starch into dry measuring cups;

level with a knife. Combine flour, potato starch and next 4 ingredients

(through salt) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.

3. Place butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat

with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add corny syrup, vanilla, and

egg yolks beating at low speed. Add flour mixture, beat at low speed until

blended.

4. Combine turbinado sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Shape dough

with moist hands into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in sugar mixture. Place 2

inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; flatten cookies

with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges

of cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on pan. Serves 16 (serving

size: 1 cookie)


Okay, back to some other gluten-free products:

3) Redpack Tomatoes

I've shared my favorable views about Redpack canned tomatoes before and when they asked if I would like to share information about the Toss in the Flavor promotion, I had no trouble agreeing. Their tomato products always have a nice fresh flavor and I use the petite diced tomatoes a lot in my marinara sauces, pasta salads and stews.

The Toss in the Flavor Sweepstakes invites readers to check out some new summer salad recipes (Peach Chipotle Salad sounds amazing) and visit the Redpack Facebook page to register to win free tote bags and a Grand Prize of a Gourmet Picnic Gift Basket worth $350.


4) Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Pops

I received a coupon for a free box of Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Pops. I found all five of the Yasso flavors available in the freezer case at Price Chopper: Peanut Butter Cup, Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Fudge, Dark Chocolate Raspberry, and most tempting of all, Sea Salt Caramel. They were delectable and creamy, but I did find them expensive. There are four pops to a box which retails for $5.49, so that makes them on the luxury end of the frozen treat spectrum in my book. 

The Sea Salt Caramel Pops disappeared in a jiffy, and since I do approve of tasty things with all-natural ingredients, I went back and plunked down some of my own Crispy Cash to buy a pack of the Dark Chocolate Raspberry pops. Also decadently good.


***I received complimentary product samples and a review copy of Landolphini's book, but as always, I was not obligated to post a review of any of these items and my comments and opinions are completely my own.