Posts Tagged ‘Food’


I am not much of a soup person. Just one of those things that passed me by while growing up. “Mmmmmm mmmmm good”  was never good enough. Until the other day when I saw a plastic can of Campbell’s Tuscan-Style Chicken & White Bean Soup with Asiago Cheese, Thyme & Rosemary premium soup sitting on the top shelf of my grocery store’s soup section. It was the “Asiago Cheese, Thyme & Rosemary” that got me. All favorites of mine. Okay, maybe it was the nifty plastic can.

Several days later I was watching an absolutely terrible movie on the Sy-Fi Channel (I hate that name WAY more than any of the SY-Fi movies) — something about bogus sharks, skimpy bikinis, teeth, blood, skimpy bikinis, summer break, stOOpid kids, skimpy bikinis, and a town mayor who refused to close the beaches. You know the one, similar to all the other dozens of bogus shark, skimpy bikini, teeth, blood, summer break, stOOpid kids, with a town mayor who refuses to close the beach movies out there.

So, there I was, watching this boring movie when out of nowhere I decided to jump up from my La-Z-Boy and raid my soup pantry, where — by golly! — the plastic can of Campbell’s Tuscan-Style Chicken & White Bean Soup with Asiago Cheese, Thyme & Rosemary soup was staring me in the face. I added a pinch of fresh basil, red pepper, and some grated, sharp cheddar cheese, and into the microwave it went. “Mmmmmm mmmmm good” never tasted so — good.

The bogus sharks, skimpy bikinis, teeth, blood, summer break, stOOpid kids, and a town mayor who refused to close the beaches movie still sucked.

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It began many years ago when I realized taking pictures from a TV screen was easy if you had a digital camera. Just for fun, I began taking snapshots of outrageous television advertisements. Outrageous from the viewpoint of product reality: what they advertise vs. what we get.

I want one!

My first experience was a Burger King “Whopper” sandwich ad. I mean, have you EVER bought a “PERFECT WHOPPER” that looks like this one? Sesame seeds placed just so; exquisitely deposited dollops of ketchup and mayonnaise; thick onion slices to die for; perfectly arranged serrated pickles; Ginsu-sliced tomatoes and leafy lettuce straight from Martha Stewart’s garden?

Hell, I don’t want to EAT this burger — I want to frame it and hang it on my wall!

Which got me to thinking.

I printed the picture and carried it into my local BK. When my Whopper was delivered I opened the wrapper on the counter and asked for the manager. Yeah. I was a butt-head. I placed the ad picture I had taken next to the pathetic burger-thingy. “I want one that looks like THIS one!” I said, pointing to my picture.

Needless to say, I was not very popular with that particular BK establishment for a long time to come. Like — forever. Of course, I realized the burger-thingy’s shortcoming was not the manager’s fault, false advertising or not. And even though I received an extra burger or two, I went home to the internet and did a little “false advertising” research, where I discovered it is nearly impossible to get a “false advertising” conviction because of  little known legalese gobbledegook often referred to as “reasonable expectation”.

In the above link, the following excerpt pretty much sums it up: “An advertiser cannot be charged with liability with respect to every conceivable misconception, however outlandish, to which his representations might be subject among the foolish or feeble-minded.”

At least the bureaucrats who concocted the document did not exclude themselves from the folks they are trying to confuse.

Today’s FFT is not about the Whopper, however.  It is about “Mrs. Paul’s frozen, 100% WHOLE FILLETS — Beer Batter Fillets”. Man, does that picture on the box look terrific — or does it? When I got the package home, I noticed a tiny, unobtrusive bit of text on the bottom right corner of the box: “ENLARGED TO SHOW QUALITY”.

"Enlarged to Show Quality" Perception vs. Reality: the REAL fillet is to the right.

Do those advertising folks know how to gobbledegook us foolish and feeble minded folks or what?

BTW, the 4-inch long fillets tasted “okay”.

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What a Joke -- no, No, NO!

I was going to tell you about “Dockside Classics” Premium CRAB CAKES”, and how great a disappointment they were, and how their packaging was misleading with fantastic images that were not representational of what the product REALLY looked like, and how, instead of lumps of crabmeat like the packaging indicated, the texture was more like ground up cornmeal pudding, and how — although the package said “Made with Real Crabmeat” – the second mystery ingredient was something called “Crab Surimi (?) that turned out to be nothing more than ground up “Alaskan Pollock and/or Whiting”, and how MSG and a host of other unpronounceable and undesirable ingredients were hidden in there, and how terrible “Dockside Classics” Premium CRAB CAKES tasted, but I won’t bother. Stick with SeaPak Crab Cakes!

Instead, I’m going to tell you about a stupid simple Spanish Rice recipe I came up with that tastes like a million bucks:

  • 1, 16-oz can chicken broth,
  • 1, 8-oz can of “RO*TEL ZESTY Tomato & Green Chili” (mild)
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 4-5 pieces cooked crispy bacon, chopped
  • 1-1/2 (+ 1 clenched handful) cups non-sticky converted rice

Combine everything in a microwavable bowl, cover with commercial grade plastic wrap, and nuke at 60% for about 22 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. If you happen to have a small tomato handy, chop it up and throw it in there.

Doesn’t get any better that that.

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From time to time my body speaks to me. “Tim, don’t fall out of this tree; Tim, get off the top step on the ladder; Tim, turn the razor blade box cutter AWAY from you; Tim, eat some salad. Now.”

"Tim, eat some salad. Now."

So, I have been directed to pursue a salad binge, one that I am enjoying: give me a decent tomato, some leafy bits of salad greens, a sweet onion, virgin olive oil, Pompeian red wine vinegar, sweet basil, fresh oregano, a crumbled hard-boiled egg, maybe some exotic cheese, and I’m good to go.

I can eat salads all day long.

As a matter of fact, I just finished a large bowl of something similar to the salad mentioned above. Okay, forget the exotic cheese. (I’m all out of exotic cheeses.) Forget those little greenie thingies placed just so.  And, I ate my last hard-boiled egg yesterday.

Now, I’m going to enjoy a small bowl of Breyers Chocolate Crackle ice cream. Sometimes, the refrigerator speaks to me, too.

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Having lived in Maryland for more than a decade before moving to North Carolina, I have come to appreciate a decent crab cake. Of course, no crab cake can compare to one you make yourself using fresh, jumbo lump crab meat and a good Maryland recipe. (Never, ever, use “pasteurized” crab meat, which is tantamount — in my opinion — to using synthetic, FAKE “Krab” meat type products.)

What a surprise!

While grocery shopping the other day, I noticed SeaPak Maryland Style Crab Cakes sitting in the frozen fish freezers, on sale, “2 for 1″. Apparently, SeaPak Maryland Style Crab Cakes are normally priced in the 6-7$ range, and had they not been on sale for half-off, I would have passed them by like I have for years, because — after all — no crab cake can compare to one you make yourself using fresh, lump crab meat and a good Maryland recipe.

I decided to give them a try.

I prefer crab cakes fried over medium heat in 75% butter/ 25% olive oil until both sides are brown and crispy, served with a slice of lemon. (Some folks prefer theirs less crispy.) Directions were simple and straight forward.

What a surprise! Although I can make better, I plopped down in front of my TV and could ALMOST fool myself in believing I was back in a Maryland sports bar enjoying crab cakes with my friends.

To be fair, I have to point out that the SeaPak Maryland Style Crab Cake recipe uses a tad too much mayonnaise, but not enough to be a show stopper. In the future, from time to time, I will have no problem buying a box of SeaPak Maryland Style Crab Cakes at non-sales pricing.

Just for a treat.

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Tim says: I found this post in my earliest archives. It is Recipe du Jour’s very first “FRIDAY FOOD THING”. Probably circa, 1998. I laughed so hard when I rediscovered it, I just HAD to post it again.

I think you will agree, FRIDAY FOOD THING has come a LONG way since then…

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Husband: “The two best things I cook are meat loaf and roast chicken…”

Wife (peering at her dinner plate): “So, give me a hint — which one is this?”

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Feeling a lot more better now. Man, that flu or cold or whatever it was I caught a couple of weeks ago is a real terror. I think I may have gotten out and about a tad bit too early last week, though, when I managed a trip to South Hill to fetch a new set of tires. What was I thinking?

South Hill, Virginia

I gotta tell you, while I was waiting for my tires, I was introduced to the “Horseshoe Restaurant” by my Lake Gaston friend, Al Hartley. Turns out The Horseshoe Restaurant makes absolutely the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten. Evidently, most of the meat on their menu (as well as the vegetables!)  are locally-grown and — whenever possible — of the “free range” variety. Meaning, no chemicals and just about as organic as you can get. The out-of-season tomato slice topping my burger tasted like I had just plucked it from a summertime garden; same with the leafy lettuce.

Bison burgers and elk burgers are also available, a treat to look forward to during my next South Hill visit.

Maybe I’ll even take my camera along and snap some decent pictures so you can see a little bit more of that delicious burger!

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Tim says: I’ve been sick for the past week. That damn flu caught me by the chest and just wouldn’t let go. I coughed so much I was afraid I was gonna die. And then I was afraid I wouldn’t. It was that bad. One night I heard the phone ringing. For a lot of reasons, I refuse to have a phone in my bedroom. If I’m sleeping I’m not going to answer it anyway. That’s why they invented answering machines, right?  Whoever was calling was very persistent. Laying in bed, drenched in sweat, I dreaded the thought of getting out of bed to answer it. Eventually I figured out it wasn’t the phone in the living room ringing at all: it was my incessant wheezing with every pillow-filtered inhale. It was that bad.

But yesterday I turned the corner. Crawled out of bed. Made a cup of coffee. Peeked at the world. Drove to South Hill and bought a set of tires for my truck. Exciting stuff. When I got home I crawled back in bed and — well, here it is Friday morning and I haven’t even thought about a FRIDAY FOOD THING. So I dug this out of the archives. Added a photo. Hope you like it.

My bed is calling to me again. It has a nice, Lauren Bacall kind of voice. Low, gravelly. Sexy. Think I’ll go slip under the covers…

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I used to bake a lot more bread than I do now. Even with the bread machine, bread making is a chore. I remember joining what we called a “food co-op” way back in the late sixties, a place where various grains and organic produce were sold in bulk. I recall carrying home pound sacks of cracked wheat, coarse wheat, and unbleached white flour, as well as garbanzo beans (chick peas), whole wheat spaghetti, goat’s milk cheese and tofu. Sometimes members sold their various creations right in the rented storefront, everything from organic eggs to stained glass windows and artwork. Oftentimes an oil painting could be swapped for a 50-pound sack of rye flour or a brief visit by an enlightened co-op plumber to fix a leaky sink when lazy landlords wouldn’t. In those days it seemed everyone was anxious to help everyone else in exchange for being helped in return.

At any rate, just because I used to bake a lot more bread than I do now doesn’t mean I don’t like good, wholesome bread from time to time, even though it usually costs more in a grocery store. The other day I discovered a new (new to me, at least) Pepperidge Farm Natural Whole Grain bread called GERMAN DARK WHEAT that is absolutely outstanding. Without a doubt it comes closest to bringing to mind those dark grained co-op flavored days of yesteryear, and the friendly communal-kitchen-rich atmosphere when bread was baking in the oven and everyone was anxious to help everyone else in exchange for being helped in return.

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Homemade Steamed Dumplings

Potstickers — otherwise known as steamed dumplings — are one of my all-time favorite Asian dishes. I like them so much, they have become my benchmark for judging Asian restaurants: if a restaurant can’t make a decent steamed dumpling, forget about the rest of the menu. The steam dumplings you see to the left (served with sesame crackers) are some I made years ago while my friend, Rich, was visiting for a weekend of culinary invention and bliss. I will post a full version of this “Potsticker Afternoon” here on my blog in the near future.

Ready in 2 minutes!

Today’s Friday Food Thing, however, is about a commercial variety worth mentioning that recently showed up in my local grocery store’s frozen foods section, called Pagoda Express Potstickers. This particular Pagoda variety is pork; a chicken variety is also available.

The Pagoda Potstickers were delicious. However, the sauce was a disappointment, being just a simple packet of regular soy sauce. REAL potsticker sauce is a bit more intricate than that. Potsticker sauce recipes are way more creative and generally contain a mixture of soy sauce, sweet sauce, hot pepper, chopped chives or green onions, and sesame oil.

I was impressed with Pagoda Express pork Potstickers, and have every intention of trying their chicken variety.

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Nothing fancy today. Just a another magic meld: “a cosmological event wherein two or more ingredients, when blended together, produce an outstanding and often surprising marriage of molecular culinary enchantment.”

While mixing up an egg-yolk dumpling recipe for a chicken and dumpling dinner the other night (the dumplings didn’t turn out — still searching for that ever-elusive Grandma recipe from my past), I ended up with two leftover egg whites. Not wanting to toss them away, I poured them into a hot skillet, added some salt, pepper, red pepper, and a dash of oregano. As they sizzled, I spread a thin coating of tartar sauce on two pieces of toasted oat bread, onto which I plopped the fried egg whites and a sprinkle of mild cheddar cheese.

It was the tartar sauce that produced the “magic” of the meld. Next time I’ll try adding Swiss cheese and a perhaps a garnish of thin-sliced shallots.

Tim says: curious because that is my nature, I Googled “egg white sandwich recipes” and one of them immediately caught my attention: “Egg White, Caramelized Onion and Fig Jam Sandwich“.

Man, does this look good or what? (Presentation is everything!)

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I have recently discovered how cool rice noodles are. You know what I’m talking about — they’re the noodles you see in almost any movie where the actors are hunched down in one of those small, ambient-rich Asian side-street restaurants with a bowl cupped in their hands, shoveling steaming noodles and seafood tentacles into their mouths with chopsticks. (There is an incredible rice noodle scene with Harrison Ford in one of my all-time favorite movies, Blade Runner. Every time I see that movie — which is quite often — my taste-buds wake up and begin jumping up and down, hammering the roof of my mouth in protest!)

What I really like about rice noodles is their preparation: bring a pan of water to a boil, toss in the dry rice noodles, stir, turn the heat off, let sit for anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes (depending on the type of rice noodle you are using), drain in a colander, and chill by pouring cold water over them (to stop the cooking process).

How simple can it get?

To die for!

Good question!

How about covering a couple handfuls of dry rice noodles in a bowl of water and soaking them overnight in the fridge, where they store well until you are ready to create a colorful stir-fry, or a tasty broth soup?

Needless to say, an amazing wide range of rice noodle recipes are available in a Google search, limited only by your imagination.

Damn, there go my taste-buds again — waking up and  jumping up and down, hammering the roof of my mouth in protest!

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Chicken-Apple Gouda Sausage

My culinary discovery-of-the-week is Hillshire Farms Gourmet Creations Chicken Apple with Gouda Cheese Premium Smoked Sausage. A mouthful no matter how you cut it.

I like almost any kind of smoked sausage, but this one took me by surprise. I cooked mine by first simmering it in a skillet of boiling water for about 8 minutes, which maintains a pleasant water content. Then, I poured out the water, added a touch of olive oil, and browned the sausage over low heat, which maintains the pleasant water content as well as providing a crispy snap to each bite.

Beef and Jalapeno with Monterey Jack Cheese Sausage

In my opinion, Chicken Apple with Gouda Cheese Premium Smoked Chicken Sausage is tasty enough to serve as a trusted main dish, when served with sides of sticky rice, baked or scalloped potatoes, and a zesty Italian salad.

Just for kicks, I went back to the grocery store a few days later and purchased Hillshire Farms Gourmet Creations Beef and Jalapeno with Monterey Jack Cheese Sausage, and was pleasantly surprised all over again.

Two other varieties are available. Check them out!

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