One of the delights of downtown Brussels is their waffle stores. Here, you can eat freshly made waffles with a variety of toppings. A big variety. The ones I tried were delicious but a pain in the but to eat on the go, specially as the plastic forks provided were too weak to easily cut the thick waffles. The flavors were great, however. I might want to recreate this at home.
I usually use thinly cut top round to make milanesas. While the cut has an annoying fat vein in the middle, it’s very tender, the version sold by Safeway is very thin and it just works great for milanesas.
This week, however, Safeway had thinly cut bottom round at half the price as top round – so I figured that I would give it a chance and see how it worked. The answer is that it will do in a pinch, but it’s definitely inferior to top round.
First, the “thin” bottom round steaks sold by Safeway were two to three times thicker than the top round ones. Bottom round is a very tough cut of meat, so I beat the hell out of the meat to tenderize it. It worked quite well, though I ended up with a blister on the side of my finger. A larger problem was that as the cut was thicker, so were the pieces of fat/gristle in the middle of the steaks. There weren’t too many and I try to cut them, but it made it harder to eat the milanesas in sandwiches (it’s not a big deal if you’re using fork and knife). I also don’t think the flavor was as tasty as the top round, but the issue might also have been the olive oil I was using.
All in all, I’d use bottom round again under similar circumstances, but at full price, I definitely prefer top round.
Candy Club: Up to 3 lbs old-fashioned candies, $34/month
Promo: fbtreatyourself20 for $20 off your first box
I paid: $14 with promo, box value: $
To unsubscribe: call 888-598-5995, quick & easy
The Candy Club is a monthly subscription that sends you 2 to 3 pounds of old fashioned candies every month. Boxes come with 3 plastic jars of lose candy and individually wrapped candies filling up the rest of the box. The box is also supposed to include a “surprise confection”, generally a wrapped cookie or candy bar, but it was missing from my box. I didn’t notice until now, which makes me sad as it would probably have been my favorite item in the box. The candy containers look pretty cool, but they are actually made of thin, flexible plastic – so they are not really reusable.
This boxed is supposed to have a retail value of $60. To me, that seems impossible. I came up with a $16 value for this box, using online prices. Now, those values are calculated based on the purchase of much larger quantities, but even at regular candy stores, lose candy goes for $8-$12 a lb. I got 2 1/2 lbs of candy so, at the most, this box is worth $30. It was a deal at the $14 price I paid, but not much of one at the $34 cost of subsequent boxes. Fortunately, cancelling was easy. I just called the number and was unsubscribed without
Sour Power Candy Belts in Wild Cherry, 9 oz, $2.5
These were sour, really sour. I had trouble eating even the tiny piece I tried. My children, however, enjoyed them.
Gimbal’s Sour Gourmet Jelly Beans, 14 oz, $8.5
I also found these to be incredibly sour, though quite tasty after you were done with that. Nobody else in my family found them sour, however, showing their taste buds are gone. Enjoyable but not better than regular Jelly Belly’s.
Gimbal’s Red Licorice Scottie Dogs, 10 oz, $5
I didn’t realize these were made of licorice until I just checked what they were call to write about them. You would have fooled me, they don’t taste at all like licorice. That’s a good thing as I hate licorice. That said, these didn’t taste of much anything. Everyone at my house agreed these were not worth the calories.
Sweet’s Cotton Candy Salt Water Taffy, ~7 oz, $2.5
These were everyone’s favorites. Really delicious taffy that really tasted like cotton candy. I may very well buy some more of these in the future.
OrangeGlad, sweets from artisan bakeries, $22/month
Promo: LACOOKIES15 for 40% off or SPRING30 for 30% off
OrangeGlad is a subscription box that sends you goodies from bakeries around the country. It’s a great concept but it’s pretty expensive at $22 a month, in particular because they send very few treats. This box had a value of approximately $15. They do have coupons, though, and if you catch a good one and use it on a 6 month subscription, you can bring your costs to the low teens. I got this box with a $15 off coupon, so I only paid $7. It was worth it for that price.
Apparently the box used to have packaged much more nicely. It’s pretty utilitarian now. This is what it had:
Itty Bites from OrangeGlad
Chocolate Almond Macaroon from Smackaroons
Kiss Me I’m Irish Cake Pop by Sweet E’s Bake Shop
Russian Tea Cakes from Lark’s Fine Foods
San Juan Sea Salt Milk Chocolate Truffle Bar by Seattle Chocolates
Itty Bites from OrangeGlad, bag of 10, est value $5
These are cute and tiny little shortbread cookies. I’m estimating their value because they are not currently for sale at OrangeGlad. Unlike regular shortbread these were pretty short and came with instructions to eat right away (as if I wouldn’t). We all thought they were delicious.
This was your run of the mill macaroon. Delicious like macaroons are. I did find it a little dry, however, which is to be expected.
I love red velvet cake and this cake pop was very good – but also pretty generic as far as red velvet cake goes.
Russian Tea Cakes from Lark’s Fine Foods, 3 cookies, est. value $1.15
I’m a fan of Russian tea cakes and these were delicious – though a bit on the dry side.
San Juan Sea Salt Milk Chocolate Truffle Bar by Seattle Chocolates, value $3.5
This was probably my favorite item in the box. Oh so good. Unfortunately I left it out and my dog ate most of it. But I’ll keep an eye for these bars ’cause they are yummy.
Unsubscribing from OrangeGlad was quick and easy, just took an e-mail.
We did a major Trader Joe’s shopping trip yesterday, and I got quite a lot of frozen items to try. I haven’t been into cooking for months now, and I don’t see the muse hitting me any time soon. So frozen food it is. I thought I’d share my opinions of what I’ve gotten. I’ll be adding them here as they go.
Mushroom & Black Truffle Flatbread with Mozarella Cheese
This had a real truffle flavor. If you like truffles, this is the flatbread for you. I do, so I’ll be buying more. I think it was $3.
Vegetable Pad Thai
Mika complained that it was spicy and didn’t taste like pad-thai, but she did eat it.
Love with Food, $12/$20 a month snack subscription ($29 for gluten-free box)
Promo: 50% off first box by using my link, GFLS = 50% off gluten free box, Groupon for deluxe box ($10 for 1 month/$26 for 3 months)
I paid: $2 with expired promo
As part of my general addiction to subscription boxes, I’ve ventured into the realm of subscription snack boxes with its most heavily promoted box: Love with Food. This box features a variety of not-too-bad-for-you snacks, both from niche and heavily distributed brands. The monthly subscription is $12, though you can get your first box for a discount by using my referral link (or any other referral link you find).
The snacks were all good, and I definitely enjoyed them at the $2. However, the total cost of the snacks included in the box came up to $7 – so I’d have been bummed if I’d paid full price for the box. Needless to say, I unsubscribed, which was a very quick and easy process, though it involved filling out a survey but that was actually a plus, as it gave me the opportunity to tell them why I was cancelling.
This is what I got in my box:
Snikiddy Snacks Mac N’ Cheese Puffs, 1 .75 oz package (65 cents)
My 12-year old really liked these mac n’ cheese puffs. To me they tasted somewhat citric and not at all cheesy. She felt they tasted like mac & cheese (which I, personally, avoid). Other pluses, non-GMO and gluten free. The main ingredients are corn, rice flower, oil, whey, cheddar cheese and buttermilk. The package had 90 calories. Not a bad snack.
Made in USA
Boulder Canyon Olive Oil Totally Natural Kettle Chips, 1.5 oz ($1.50)
These are pretty good, run-of-the-mill kettle chips. I like that they contain only three ingredients: potatoes, olive oil and salt. And I like that they are not too greasy and not too hard. I think they need more salt, however. They mostly taste like plain chips, with the olive oil only giving them a hint of bitterness. I did quickly finish the whole package (220 calories), but I was pretty much full afterwards. I’d buy them. They are made in the USA and they are available at some supermarkets.
Honey Stinger Peanut Butter’n Honey Energy Bar, 1.75 oz bar, ($2)
This was a pretty tasty bar. I can’t say that it was particularly delicious, and I did find it too sweet, but I enjoyed it.
Made in USA
Dolcetto Petites Lemon Wafer Bites, .7 oz (85 cents)
These lemon wafers are delicious. They are crispy wafers, filled with a sweet, lemon-flavored creamy filling, not too unlike those in lemon cookies. They are full of flavor, and much lighter than a cookie. The packages are tiny, but at 100-calories they should satisfy your need for a bit of sugar. They seem to be made in Indonesia, and they have sugar rather than corn syrup.
Dilettante Toffee Crunch Truffle Cremes No. 39, 2 candies (70 cents)
These are nicely sized (perhaps even a little too big for a bite), and quite tasty – but I found them to be too smooth for my taste – I prefer more crunch. Definitely a nice treat, though. Each candy has 55 calories and they are made in the USA
Mombana Traditional Hot Chocolate, 1 envelope (70 cents)
I still haven’t used it.
Enough for 1 8-oz cup. Made in the USA.
Divine Milk Chocolate Mini Pieces, 2 5 gram pieces (50 cents)
Nice, tasty chocolate. Not exceptional, but a nice little treat. They sell this occasionally at Grocery Outlet.
Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, 2 sample envelopes (no value)
Available at Walmart for less than $3 for a 1 lb jar. The samples are tiny and I can’t imagine I can really try them, but maybe I’ll sprinkle them on something.
My 12-yo vegetarian child has been pretty reluctant to try vegetarian frozen entrees. She’s particularly offended by fake meats. She’s a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and she doesn’t see the point in eating fake animals. But she probably was tired of eating pasta, so she gave this entree a try. She was underwhelmed. She said the chik’n nuggets tasted mostly of potato, but they lacked flavor altogether. They were edible but not enjoyable. She wouldn’t have them again, but she’d eat them if there was nothing else around.
I’m once again in a funk about cooking, so I’m back at eating frozen meals from time to time. Grocery Outlet is now carrying the Jimmy Dean Delights brand, which I hadn’t seen before. It’s pretty much just like every other frozen food brand – forgettable.
I had their pulled pork sandwiches in chipotle bbq sauce. An acceptable snack for $1.50, but with too much bread to meat ratio. The pork is pretty much a paste (not chunks as in the promotional photo), and the sauce tastes like your generic tangy/sweet bbq sauce.
My vegetarian oldest was OK with the three cheese pasta bowl, but she’s not that demanding. The grilled steak bowl was edible but unmemorable. The photos on the boxes definitely look better than the real thing tastes.
I’ve never been much of a fan of flavored teas, I like black tea enough as it is. I’ll make an exception for Earl Grey, but that’s about it. I didn’t even begin tasting flavored teas until we started going, more or less regularly, to the Golden Tea Garden in Hayward. The owner is a huge flavored tea aficionado, and her menu of teas reaches into the dozens, if not hundreds. Every time she gives you a taste of something new and features special flavors. I still always order black tea, but the girls and whoever else comes with me freely explore the flavors.
Last week, as I was considering Christmas presents for the kids, I remembered how much Mika loves caramel tea and decided to buy her some. Browsing through Amazon.com, I was amazed to find out just how expensive caramel tea was! Fortunately, I eventually came about ESP Emporium teas. ESP Emporium is an online tea specialty store selling all sorts of exotic, flavored and regular teas, as well as tea making/drinking equipment. Basically, they seem like a competitor to Teavana. Fortunately, they price the items they sell through Amazon.com much more reasonably. More importantly, they have some amazing, if very fleeting, sales on items – I’m not sure if they are overstock or lower quality (the photos of what I got do not always match the ones on ESP’s website) -, but the prices are definitely attractive. I now make it a point to add in whatever ESP Emporium is on sale at a good price whenever I’m making a qualifying Amazon purchase.
ESP Emporium sells teas either in canisters or in bags. If you buy them at Amazon.com, it’s very clear which you are buying. It’s much less clear on their website – I assume they all come in bags, but don’t really know. They both seal very well, but the canisters are difficult to open – so if you have arthritis, you may want to order the bags instead. That said, I prefer them in canisters.
Also, please note the brewing time for each tea on the bag/container. Rooibos and fruit teas require longer times than regular black teas.
I’ve been using my Keurig machine to brew the tea, as it’s very easy. You can usually get at least 3 10-oz mugs of brewed tea from each filled canister. But fill the canister, otherwise you’ll end up with a very weak tea.
Also to note, I only recently realized that Chinese tea comes from China (duh!). I mean, I knew it, but Chinese tea has been such a commodity for centuries that it did not occur to me that it might suffer from the same problems of soil contamination that every other food from China does. Unfortunately, studies show that it does. It contains high level of lead, though fortunately the lead stay with the leaf and doesn’t make it into the tea itself. Still, I think I’ll be cautious and stop buying Chinese tea in the future. I’m also going to be noting where teas are made, whenever I can find the information.
These are the teas I’ve tried:
Goldrush Bergamot Lemon Premium White Green Tea Blend has green & white tea, white rose buds (I didn’t get any in the photo, but they’re there), yogurt granules and natural bergaot and lemon flavors. This is a pretty weakly flavored tea, not too citrusy, but enjoyable with quite a bit of sugar.
I also really liked this light, fruity tea. It didn’t remind me of piña colada as much as it did of candy in general. But it was light, and easy to drink. Again, I felt it needed sugar and did best without milk.
Sir Stuart is a blend of black and green teas with “ginger pieces, fennel, cardamom seed, flavoring, rose petals, cornflower blossoms”.
This is a really nice tea. It is very balanced, with a grown up orangy flavor, a little bitter and a little bit spicy at time. I always drink my teas with sugar, and I felt this one really needed it for the full flavor to burst through. This is often my to-go tea when I don’t know what else to drink.
Chocolate/Cream/ Truffles Black Tea Blend is a mixture of black tea with “broken cocoa bits, coconut shreds, chocolate chips” and “flavoring”.
I got a bag of this one and the smell when you open it is unbelievable. The chocolate and coconut really come through and work well together, so that the end product is really neither. It’s very tasty though, but I do thing it needs both milk and sugar for the true flavors to shine – otherwise I found the tea sort of weak.
This is a Sencha green tea from China and includes cocoa peel, orange peel, cocoa pieces and other flavoring.
I made this in my Keurig and I found it to be very weak. Of course, the Keurig doesn’t give it the 2-3 minutes seeping time this tea needs, but yet it does well with other teas that require longer seeping times. I will try it again using a tea kettle and report back.
Caramel Black Tea Blend is black tea with caramel pieces and flavoring. It retails for $11.50 for 100g. I paid $3.
I originally came across ESP Emporium while looking for caramel tea, so I was very disappointed at how weak this tea is, both in terms of caramel flavor and flavor altogether. This was the case both through a regular brew and in the Keurig.
This black tea has cinnamon pieces, dehydrated maple syrup, cinnamon rods, popcorn, white cornflower blossoms and flavoring.
I have to confess that I just loved that this tea came with popcorn. I don’t know if it added anything to the flavor, but just how cool is it to make popcorn tea? The tea, meanwhile was very good. It had a nice old-fashion caramel flavor and was definitely better than the caramel tea.
Flower Garden Fruit Tea Blend is a mixture of pieces of dried sour apples and pears, pink rosebuds, freeze-dried strawberry and raspberry pieces, blackberry leaves, cornflower blossoms, marigold blossoms, rose petals, Roman chamomile and flavoring.
This tea is just beautiful, pretty much just a combination of flower bulbs. And it tastes like flowers too. If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s mostly like a rose hip tea. Definitely needs sugar to bring up the flavors, though.
Also see Piña Colada tea above
Creamsicle Rooibos Tea has rooibos tea, flavoring, orange peel and freeze-dried yogurt pieces. I guess I was expecting this to taste like an orange creamsicle, but it tasted like a very good, very balanced cup of tea with milk. It was really nice, and definitely something to keep in the pantry for when you want just a classic tea with milk, but have no milk around.
Tiramisu/Mascarpone Rooibos Tea adds chocolate chips, brittle pieces, caramel pieces, freeze-dried yogurt pieces, roasted coffee beans, Roman chamomile and flavoring to the rooibos tea.
I’m not sure I can see all those ingredients in the tea, and perhaps that’s why it doesn’t actually taste like either Tiramisu or Mascarpone or a combination of either. It lacks the sour element of both, other than perhaps as an aftertaste. While I can’t quite describe the flavor of this tea – beyond being a well balanced rooibos – it is very pleasant, with or without milk.
Ginger/Pepper/Orange Rooibos Tea has almond slivers pistachios, orange peels, coriander, pink peppercorns and flavoring added to the rooibos tea.
This is pretty much a generic rooibos tea. It’s good if you like rooibos tea, which I do, but I think the added ingredients substract from each other rather than add, and what you are left with is pretty generic.
My last visit to Santos Spice market ended with us buying several “exotic” drinks to try. My oldest daughter loves trying new things, and while these weren’t cheap, they turned out to be very good.
My daughter loves mango lassis, and Verka Mango Lassi is pretty good. It actually tasted more like a mango yogurt drink, though it doesn’t have any yogurt. The ingredients are milk, mango pure, sugar, cream and water. It comes in a 1 pint bottle. It’s made in the USA.
Mika was excited t try Coco Passion Fruit Drink because she’d never had passion fruit or passion fruit juice before. The drink, actually bottled in Thailand, is made of water, sugar, passion fruit juice, citric acid, artificial flavor, and gellam gum – so it’s not as pure as the lassi. Still, it was very tasty. Indeed, it tasted very much like guava juice, though it was thicker than the guava juice we usually get.
We’ve never had lychee juice before, and T.A.S. Lychee Drink was sort of a revelation. It has the same flavor profile as guava juice but it’s sweeter, if you can imagine that, with a subtle floral/rose-like flavor. We liked it, though I personally would have preferred it being less sweet. Mika thought it was refreshing. I’m thinking that I should explore lychees more. It seems like a sophisticated fruit that could enhance a multi-course menu. The drink comes in a 10.5 oz can and it’s also made in Thailand. The ingredients are water, lychee juice, sugar and citric acid.