Thursday, April 24, 2014

Garden Lites Veggie Muffins Review

Dan and I recently received a complimentary sampler of five flavors of Veggie Muffins from the Garden Lites company based in Queens, New York. These muffins are not only gluten-free, but each muffin also contains 20% of one's daily recommended fiber requirement, so that was a big plus.

The muffins come frozen, so to heat them up we placed a couple in our microwave for a minute (your microwave may be less anemic than ours, so timing may vary) and then unwrapped them. Each of the flavors was delicious though we each had different favorites:

Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip - My favorite flavor. Tasted just like a slice of cake.

Carrot Berry: Dan's favorite flavor. He is a big carrot cake hound, so no surprise here.

Veggie Blueberry Oat: We both liked this one for its chewiness. The oats give it a lot of good texture. Another reassuring feature is that the ingredients list notes that certified gluten free oats are used. Oats can sometimes be cross-contaminated with gluten in their processing, so this was important to us.

Zucchini Chocolate: This was a very moist muffin, and with a little bit of frosting, you could call it a cupcake! This variety also contains 50% of one's daily Vitamin A allotment, so that was also a nice bonus.

Golden Corn: This was our least favorite of the flavors, but it was still tasty. We're just not big corn muffin fans and the other flavors had more vitamins, anyway, so why not go for more nutrition AND more tastiness, I say.

The company website says that these Veggie Muffins can be found at Target, Whole Foods, Price Chopper, and Walmart, so I will have to verify that when I'm out grocery shopping. The company also makes vegetable souffles and currently has a $1 off coupon which you can download at their website.

Overall, these muffins get two thumbs up from us. They are an easy way to get a quick vegetable and fiber boost to your day and are delicious and moist.

**Note: I received a complimentary sampler pack of five muffin varieties and a tote bag from the Garden Lites company, but as always, I was not obligated to post a review and my comments are completely my own. And Dan's.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Chicken Riggies: An Upstate New York Specialty

I thought I knew all about the local food specialties in my corner of the world, but then I had a peek at this blog post at All Over Albany. I can't say that I have every had -or desired- mozzarella sticks with raspberry sauce, or know why mini hot dogs made the list, and I lived in Albany for over ten years. As a Saratoga Springs resident for two decades, I can attest that potato chips were allegedly invented at Moon's Lake House in Saratoga Springs and for the last twenty years a local candymaker has been putting out a purportedly traditional Victorian holiday treat, the Peppermint Pig (complete with miniature hammer for smashing it to bits for consumption).

A map of New York state foods subsequently was posted on All Over Albany, which I reproduce below:

food regions new york state shannon glazer

I have had the delectable spiedies of the Binghamton area, those marinated grilled chicken sandwiches, and of course Buffalo chicken wings are the best. And I must say no one really eats bark in the Adirondacks, except for the wildlife.

But I had no idea about Utica's Chicken Riggies. It seems that the Italian-American community there love a very saucy, spicy chicken with rigatoni (the "riggies" part) so I had to try that. The secret ingredient is chopped up hot cherry peppers, so do yourself a favor and buy some fresh or at least buy the biggest jar of pickled cherry peppers you can find and keep it on hand to make this great recipe.

I found this recipe at The Brooklyn Ragazza blog which claims to be the original recipe as created by chef Joe Morelli (one of Stephanie Plum's love interests in Janet Evanovich's comic mystery series is named Joe Morelli, so that was another propitious sign inspiring me to make this dish).

I cut down on the hot peppers called for in the recipe and had a slightly more judicious hand with the meat, and dairy products, and served up our Chicken Riggies over gluten-free corn rigatoni.


And husband and child number 2 tell me it must now be part of our regular menu rotation.

Here's my version of Chicken Riggies, made Gluten-Free and a bit lighter on the old stomach.

Chicken Riggies (adapted from The Brooklyn Ragazza)

1 pound of Rigatoni
1 lbs. of boneless chicken breast, cut up into  1/2 inch cubes
2  large roasted red peppers, medium chopped ( I used jarred roasted peppers)
4 hot cherry peppers, roughly chopped (fresh is traditional, but pickled peppers worked great too)
1 (28 oz.) can of whole plum tomatoes, broken up into chunks (your hands work well for this- just get in and get squishy)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped (divided)
1/2 c. of grated Pecorino Romano cheese (plus more for topping)
1/2  c. dry Sherry wine
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (divided- half for sauté, half for sauce)
2 Tbsp. butter
¼ c. heavy cream
½ tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large pot heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil on low heat with 4 of the garlic cloves. Be careful that the garlic doesn’t get brown or burnt. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes and Sherry. Simmer for a few minutes.  Add the butter, dried basil and the sea salt.  Allow to simmer on very low heat.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute the chicken in remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil. When chicken is almost browned, stir in the roasted red peppers, cherry peppers, and remaining garlic and sauté for a couple of minute so the flavors marry.

Stir tomatoes and Romano cheese together and add to chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Cook rigatoni until al dente and toss with sauce mixture. Serve with additional grated cheese.

Serves 4-6.

I'm sending over a plate of this Utica, New York signature dish to the Pasta Please Challenge, hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and guest hosted this month by Slice of Me.