Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bitter Melon Tea

There are some days when people honestly shock themselves at how idiotic they are. Tonight was one of those nights for me. I've had plenty of laughs at my own expense, but more on that later.

Big News: I got my digital camera tonight.
Big Bad News: I don't think the USB cable is compatible with my computer, so no pictures yet.

Lesser News: National Hot Tea Month is coming to a close.
Good News: I have finally made bitter melon tea.

I've had two bright, shiny bitter melons sitting in my refrigerator for several weeks now. I've hardly cooked at all, so it's not really surprising that I hadn't even touched them. Until now. I was going to post about wine. I was going to post about new kitchen toys. Yet the allure of that shiny camera and all the cool pictures I could post drew me back to the bumpy magnificence that is the bitter melon. It looks faintly like a very glossy dragon hide. I've stopped bouncing since I realized I couldn't show you one of my own pictures. So here's someone elses'.

I could only afford two the last time I went to Harry's, so I figured some tea and fried chips were in order. They would make the best use out of them, and I would try a tea that is lauded for its use in dealing with diabetes. I had even been fantasizing about what this tea would taste like. Everything I read told me how bitter they were, but I could take it. I could at least try it. Searching the internet for any particular way to make the tea was disheartening, though I did finally find something that stated the obvious: pour boiling water over melon. Nevertheless, I was ready to shake some enthusiasm back into myself when I reached into the very back of my refrigerator and pulled out a pure piece of culture shock. I dutifully washed, cut, seeded, then sliced before steeping a few pieces in water.

You're probably wondering exactly what it taste like and why I'm going on about it. Well, I'll tell you why. I'm an absolute moron. Weeks of wondering and reading about the bitter bite of the fruit, and I was actually shocked at the taste. Not that it was too bitter- I don't think I made it strong enough for that- but at the fact that I was entirely expecting something SOUR. Honestly, I assure you that I know the difference between sour and bitter. Most of the time anyway, though apparently not now. It stunned me enough to hold the scalding water in my mouth until I'd thoroughly burned myself and almost had to spit it out. I've been laughing ever since. Next time...

Really though, onto the tea. It's nothing spectacular. I could have made it a bit stronger, but it tastes like I just boiled vegetables in water and then drank the runoff. I can't quite place the taste though. Green pepper? Maybe mixed with a little cucumber? It's hard to tell, both because the taste is so new and because I don't have any working taste buds left. Maybe frying them into chips will give me a better basis of comparison. Until then.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ice Cream Reviews

I love ice cream. I really do. I've driven over an hour just to visit the closest ice cream shop in my area (almost an hour away- yes, it's pathetic). Now having said that, I'm not the kind of person who can just sit down and swallow down a pint. A full gallon of ice cream will sit happily in my freezer crusting over with ice for quite some time until one of my friends sees it and finishes it off for me or I finally take pity and trash it. Even a pint of ice cream may suffer the same fate. You see, as much as I love the taste, the refreshing feeling, the good memories, and the tempting new flavors of iced treats, I really only enjoy them in phases and small doses. Oddly enough, my taste for the cold and creamy has been revived during the coldest part of the year.

With a town this small, the selection of frozen foods is limited to the tried and true, and the family sized. I'm generally not in the market for either of those things. Hence, my hour trek to the next big town to get ice cream at Publix. I had Tofutti on the mind, and really wanted to try one of the vegan desserts that they'd finally started selling this far South. I ended up going for a pint Soy Delicious and Whole Fruit.

Soy Delicious is a product obviously relying on soy for creaminess. And it succeeds beautifully. I'm generally not that crazy about products with soy milk unless it's cooked because, as tasty as soy is, it sort of makes me sick to my stomach to taste more than a few mouthfuls of it. I could taste the soy milk in this, but without that added pleasure of nausea. The Mocha Almond Fudge was thick and creamy with mocha ice cream and a ribbon of gooey fudge. I'm not particularly fond of almonds in frozen meals due to their tendancy to get chewy, and this was no exception though not really "bad." I think I'll go for a nut free version next time, but they've convinced me that it's Soy Delicious enough to try again. The company also works for the Sea Turtle Resoration Project, so animal lovers look out. They have a very impressive website as well that you may want to check out:

I was initially wary of the Whole Fruit Mango Sorbet because of the amount of sugar. I love my sugar just fine, but a fruit sorbet with a ton of added sugar seems a bit odd. Regardless, I bought it. Aside from the fact that it was slightly too sweet for me, it tasted like cold, fresh mango puree. They bragged on the label that "each bite bursts with the intense taste of fruit" and I couldn't argue with that; it really was like eating the real thing. They also laud that it is fat free, though I don't think it matters if it sends me into diabetic shock. Since both Dreyers and Edy's teamed up to create this product, I knew that they would deliver on the promise of a smooth and creamy texture, and naturally they did. Overall, a pure taste of summer and deliciously fresh. I've checked online and they also have a no sugar added line, though not in mango. I'll probably go for that next time.

I hit Harry's Market, a branch of Whole Foods, when I went home this week. Despite the four hour drive, I braved buying even more ice cream. Last time, I'd seen that Celestial Seasonings, a company known for its flavored teas, had branched out into the ice cream business. I just had to, especially since the flavor I wanted to try was on sale. Celestial Seasonings Tea Dreams has a variety of flavors that tea drinkers will be familiar with. In particular, I chose the Vanilla Ginger Spice Chai. It's labeled as "Velvety Vanilla Rice Dream with a Zesty Ginger Ribbon and Gingersnap Cookie Chunks." I guess I could taste a hint of the chai taste I bought it for, but it was more like a cold ginger snap. Ginger recently is one of my favorite flavors, so I couldn't argue with that. I picked up a box of Rice Dream rice milk a few weeks ago, but haven't cracked it open yet, so I can't compare. All I know is that this stuff freezes hard. Point in case, it was still mostly frozen after over five hours in the car. I'm not crazy about this as an eating ice cream, so I plan on making ice cream sandwiches which I think will enhance the flavor while cutting it enough to eat more than one or two bites.

Also while at Harry's, I gave in a picked up some bitter melon and agar flakes like I had planned before. Expect news on that coming up soon.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tea Time Scones and Lemon Curd Review

So, a few hours after I posted my last message, I decided that I needed to act on this newfound tea month. I've been meaning to make scones now for several weeks because I've had clotted cream and two kinds of lemon curd sitting in my refrigerator taunting me. Sometimes you must give in. I chose a recipe off of for its simplicity. The link again is at the bottom. I used dried cranberries because I had half a bag on my shelf and also decided to add some dried rosemary. I was a bit apprehensive about that, but they turned out beautifully- sweet, slightly savory. It went well with my sweet condiments and the cheese and venision sausage I added later.

This was also my first experience with clotted cream. I've wanted to try it for quite some time now. I managed to pick up a 1 ounce jar of it from World Market about a month back. It's even from the Devon Cream Company, so color me shocked. It wasn't what I expected. Not to say that it wasn't sinful, but I guess the word cream made me think of a more cream cheese consistency. It was more like cold, unsalted butter. It was exceptionally creamy, but there was no real flavor to be found. I'm not sure it I enjoyed it more because I actually liked the way it worked with warm scones or because I basked in the hardening of my arteries through cholesterol. Either way, it made me feel all warm and accomplished.

My mother passed off an entire jar of lemon curd on me because she was not fond of it. Robertson's Lemon Curd tastes more like very sweet lemon pie filling. There's nothing inherently wrong with that; it's just too much for me. I made the crust days ago for a lemon curd and kumquat tart, but have yet to make it. I also picked up a 1 ounce of Duerr's English Traditional Lemon Curd at world market with my clotted cream. I've yet to try it but I have higher hopes for this one.

Tea update: Lipton makes an apple cinnamon tea that is nice. I could have done with more spice, but as it was it tasted like a mellow apple pie, and there's nothing wrong with that. One of the girls I work with hates tea, but came into possession of four boxes that she's giving to the rest of us. That was one of four. I'll have updates as I steal more.

Scone Recipe Link: href=",1954,154182-230201,00.html">

Monday, January 15, 2007

National Hot Tea Month

The past few weeks have been a series of very odd coincidences. Not huge ones. Not ones that really affect me in any way. Not ones that are even that bad. Still, they are coincidences nontheless. This... afternoon really... I discovered on another food blog, Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea (linked below since I haven't yet figured out my link deal), that January is National Hot Tea Month.

This just so happens to be one of those strange coincidences since my tea kick started back up about two weeks ago and I was drinking a cup of tea while reading the entry. I have a "drink cart" in my kitchen that holds all my drink mixes. I currently have more tea than I really know what to do with. I think my goal is to start finishing off what I have so that I can finally order a box of Yogi Tea's Black Chai. That one sample bag spoiled me so rotten that no other chai now comes close. My tea list is as follows:

Cozytime Chamomile
Bigelow Mint Medley
Vanilla Chai
Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger
Raspberry Zinger
Mandarin Orange Spice
Canadian Vanilla Maple
Teahouse Chai
Hedley's Green Tea
Snapple Mango Green Tea (currently sipping)
Great Value Orange Pekoe
Twinings Red Bush
A dozen or so bags of some kind of flu tea
Miscellaneous bags scattered across the kitchen

Does anyone here drink Red Bush tea? I can't seem to make it taste like anything other than dirty tree bark. I mean, the name is Red Bush, but I can't make it palatable. Until then, it will remain hidden in the back of my drink cart where it can't hurt anything.

Blog link: href="">
You can find more National Hot Tea Month banners on her site as well as a delicious looking new recipe for Chocolate Marshmallow Tarts.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ground Beef and Sauerkraut Soup

Since the holiday boom hit, I’ve tried a dozen new recipes. While I will end up sharing my experience with those, I’d like to start off with something new. Now, I love food blogs. I regularly hunt them out, though many don’t hold my attention. Upon finding this blog, I almost did an about face since the woman blogging was on the South Beach diet and included mostly recipes that fit into the guidelines. I have a tendency to run for the hills when I see any words relating to diet, which is absolutely ridiculous since many of the foods I love are healthy. Knowing my bias was irrational, I forged ahead. I quickly stumbled upon a recipe that made me stop. And drool a bit. I had to make it.

This recipe is listed in Kalyn's Kitchen (link at bottom). I would write out the actual method I used to cook this, but I’ve completely forgotten since I wanted it RIGHT THEN and used what I had on hand. That included a can of sauerkraut, just in case you were wondering. It was wonderful- tangy, filling, and delicious.

Also, I'm having trouble figuring out how to rename links so that the hyperlink is to a specific page but the underlined text you click on says what I want it to. If anyone could point out how to do that, I would appreciate it.

Ground Beef and Sauerkraut Soup

1 lb. very lean ground beef (less than 10% fat)

2-3 tsp. olive oil (depends on your pan)

1 cup chopped onion (one large onion)

1 T minced garlic (or less if you're not that fond of garlic)

2 cups chicken stock(or 1 14 oz. can chicken broth)

2 14 oz. cans beef broth

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice

1 14 oz. can sauerkraut with juice (or use bottled sauerkraut)

1 cup water (if needed)

1 T Splenda or brown sugar

1 T Worcestershire sauce

3-4 dried bay leaves

3 T minced parsley or 1-2 T dried parsley

1 tsp. rubbed sage

fresh ground black pepper to taste

In heavy frying pan, heat 1 tsp. olive oil, add ground beef and brown well, breaking into small pieces with turner. This will take as much as ten minutes but don't rush the browning step.

While ground beef browns, combine chicken stock, beef stock, canned tomatoes, sauerkraut, Splenda or brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, parsley and sage in large stock pot. Bring to a low simmer.

When beef is well browned, add to soup in pot. Deglaze pan with a bit of the soup liquid, scraping off any browned bits, and add to soup.

Wipe out frying pan and add other 2 tsp. olive oil. Saute onions 2-3 minutes, until starting to soften, then add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes more. Add to soup, reduce heat under soup pot and let soup simmer at low heat about one hour. After an hour, taste for seasoning and add water if soup seems too strong. Simmer 15 minutes more if adding water. Season to taste with fresh-ground black pepper before serving. Serve hot, with sour cream if desired.

Monday, January 8, 2007

The Beginning of the End

I've done it. I've finally done it.

Not only have I finally started a food blog, committed myself to buying a digital camera, and created yet another space to self-importantly babble, I've nearly lost my mind in the process. The better part of a year has been spent considering remodeling my old blog into a food blog, but no one is on livejournal for such things. I was also relatively certain that anything I created could not hold a candle to other sites, not in the sense of competition, but in giving back to the community that has given me so much. I've since realized that the whole notion was silly and that everyone else started food blogs for the exact same reason that compelled me- creative ideas, problem solving cooking techniques, good food, and most importantly, good people.

So without further ado, I present Mostly Adventurous Eating. This will be a compilation site for recipes, cooking techniques, cultural food significance, product and restaurant reviews, and pretty much anything else I do, make, or learn regarding food that makes me look cool. Already, I have a stockpile of things that I would love to add, but am hesitant to do so without pictures. We'll just have to make do for now. So please bear with me while I get the ball rolling.