Tag: desserts (Page 1 of 2)

Trader Joe’s Cheese Blintzes Review

Good flavor, bad texture

Trader Joe’s does many things well, but cheese blintzes is not one of them. These little crepes are sold frozen and meant to be warmed in a skillet or an oven, though I used the air fryer instead – which worked pretty well.

The crepes themselves were slightly sweet, soft and elastic, and I liked them. The problem was the cheese filling. They use a combo of farmer’s cheese and cottage cheese which tastes fine, but has an annoying, gritty texture. Both my husband and I hated it. The cheese is lightly sweetened, so you don’t need to add anything to them, but this actually bothered my husband, who would have preferred them less sweet. We wouldn’t order them again.

The blintzes are around 6″ long, they have 105 calories each, with 16g of carbs and 6g of sugar, all added. The box of 6 blintzes sells for $4.50. The package doesn’t indicate where they’re made, so I assume it’s in the US.

Bubbies Mochi Review

The Ube Purple Yam flavor made me a fan

I’m not the biggest fan of mochi, a Japanese pastry made from glutinous rice, so I surprised myself when I added these Bubbies mochi ice cream treats to my cart after I came across them while online shopping at Safeway. I was also surprised at how much I ended up liking them.

The treats consist of flavored ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of mochi. The mochi is chewy and gelatinous, but thin enough that it actually complements the ice cream.

Ube, a purple yam from the Philippines, has a difficult to describe flavor, which to me is utterly forgettable – probably for this very reason. It’s sweet and somewhat fruity, pretty subtle and filled with umami.

The results were for a very enjoyable, not very sweet, treat. It actually made me think it’s something my grandmother would have enjoyed – which only confirms the fact that I’ve gotten old.

The treats come in a wide variety of flavors, though only a couple where available at my local Safeway. I’m totally intrigued about some of the others – blood orange, milk tea and passion fruit sound particularly interested – but I’ll have to wait to find them elsewhere. The package of 6 was $4 on sale at Safeway, but they usually sell for $7.50

New Orleans Food Tour: Brennan’s

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

A disappointing breakfast at a beautiful restaurant.

Brennan’s is one of New Orleans famed historical restaurants. It opened on Bourbon Street in 1946 as Owen Brennan’s Vieux Carre Restaurant, and moved to its present location after the death of its founder. The restaurant, located in an 18th century building, underwent major restorations last decade, and it’s now famous for its several outrageously beautiful dining rooms, which so toe the line between elegant and kitschy. The front dining room, where we had breakfast, was wonderfully fun and Disneyesque. We could have been in a set from Beauty and the Beast.

Despite its age, Brennan is still a very popular restaurant in New Orleans, and its particularly noted for its breakfasts. Indeed, I read so much about them that I made reservations to eat there out last morning in New Orleans, despite the fact that I usually don’t eat breakfast. Alas, it proved a mistake. As lovely as the surroundings were, the food was underwhelming and overpriced.

As I wasn’t very hungry, and was planning to have after-breakfast dessert, I ordered the Shallot Tarte Tatin (caramelized shallots, sherry caramel, puff pastry, taleggio – $15.00). I expected the portion to be small, given that it was a (breakfast) appetizer, though perhaps not so small – still, it was delicious. I’d been afraid that the puff pastry would overwhelm the shallots, as is often the case, including when I’ve made similar tarts. Here, however, the puff pastry was barely there. There was just enough of it to hold the shallots together, and the chef must be recognized for this achievement. I will definitely try to copy this sometime. The shallots were perfectly caramelized and just beautiful, and they went wonderfully with the warmed cheese – which maybe needed to be a tad warmer so it wouldn’t cool down before I finished eating it. Still, this was a very successful dish, and for that reason, worth its rather steep price.

Brennan’s offers both New Orleans style chicory mixed coffee, and regular coffee from a local roaster. I had a pot of the latter ($9), and it was fine, though nothing to write home about. It did feel overpriced.

Mike had the Crawfish Omelette Cardinal (Vital Farms eggs, Louisiana crawfish tails, lemon scented Mascarpone, sauce Cardinal  – $28.00) and he was very disappointed in it. The biggest sin was that the crawfish were served separately from the omelette, instead of being incorporated into the omelette itself. The omelette, on its own, was pedestrian. He liked the dish, but was not awed by it and found it overpriced for what it was.

Mike had a French Quarter Fest (honeydew purée, Chareau aloe liqueur, sparkling wine – $15), which was basically a honeydew melon mimosa. He enjoyed quite a bit, and it has inspired me to try mixing champagne with a variety of fruit juices and purees to see which ones might work.

One of Brennan’s main claims to fame is that its antecedent restaurant was the originator of Bananas Foster. As the story goes, Ella Brennan created the dish based on a dessert her mother used to make and named it after Richard Foster, the chairman of the New Orleans Crime Commission and a friend of her husband’s. That meant that we had to have the dish. You can only order it for at least 2 people, at $14 per person.

At Brennan’s, the waiter will come and flambee the dish table side. This means that you can see everything that goes into it: an enormous amount of butter and sugar and a banana, split in two. The banana is then served with the resulting toffee sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m sorry to say that as much as we loved the show – and enjoyed seeing kids seating nearby be fascinated by the flambeeing -, the results were underwhelming. The toffee sauce was unbelievably sweet – or rather, quite believable – and the banana didn’t really have the time to absorb much of it, it just slid off it. The ice cream was quite bland, and didn’t really work with the caramel. It was just not worth the sugar content.

Service was fine though uneven. The floor manager in our dining room – I don’t recall what title he used when he introduced himself – was an incredible salesman, welcoming everyone into the restaurant and convincing patrons that yes, in New Orleans, breakfast cocktails were a thing. It was a pleasure just to see him work the room. The waiters themselves were less impressive.

In all, I felt this was our most disappointing meal in New Orleans, as well as our most overpriced one, and it’s the one place I would not return to, at least for breakfast.

Brennan's
417 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA
504-525-9711
M-F: 9 am - 2 pm, 6 - 10 pm
Sa-Su: 8 am - 2 pm, 6 - 10 pm

New Orleans Food Tour


NYC Food Aventures: Sugar Factory

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

A ridiculous milkshake, but that’s the point.

We had time to kill after our dinner at John’s of Times Square and Mike wanted something for dessert, so we headed towards the Sugar Factory location around the corner. While we didn’t have reservations, we were able to grab a couple of spots at the counter.

The Sugar Factory is a casual restaurant chain with locations in many parts of the country, including two in New York City. They serve burgers, sandwiches and tacos, in addition to alcoholic drinks, but they are best known for their “insane milkshakes.” These combine pastries/cakes and milkshakes in outrageous presentations. Of course, that’s what Mike wanted.

milkshake


At the recommendation of our waitress, Mike got the Brownie Volcano insane milkshake (“chocolate shake served in a chocolate frosted mug, mini chocolate chips, topped with a chocolate frosted donut, a brownie ice cream bar, chocolate pocky cookies, whipped cream and dark and white chocolate sprinkle mug”). It was, indeed, insane as was its price (around $25). I, being a sane person, wasn’t hungry – but I did enjoy the pokey sticks and some of the shake, which was your good, standard chocolate milkshake. Mike liked the whole concoction, though it left him in a sugar coma.

The Sugar Factory Times Square location was pretty cute when we visited. It was obviously decorated for Valentine’s Day, and with the proper photographer, I’m sure it’d be instagramable. That wasn’t our aim, however, as shown by the poor quality of our photos. Our waitress was very kind and attentive, absolutely lovely. I’m not big on chains, but this was a pretty nice experience.

Sugar Factory
694 8th Ave
New York, NY 10036
(347) 721-9066

NYC Food Adventures: Magnolia Bakery

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip
bakery

Is the banana pudding worth the hype?

Magnolia Bakery apparently became famous because of a scene in Sex and the City – an early 2000s show about four single women living in NYC. While I watched the show, I didn’t remember the bakery at all, but it came up repeatedly during my research of what to eat while in New York City.

Magnolia Bakery is particularly famous for its banana pudding. So much so that, at least in the case of the branch at Rockefeller Center, they have a line dedicated for people ordering the banana pudding alone. As you can see, very few people seem to visit the bakery and not order it.

banana pudding

The pudding is prepackaged into ice-cream style cartons, and comes in thee sizes. We had the medium (12 oz, $7.25) the first time, and the large (16 oz, $8.75) in a subsequent visit.

The banana pudding is light, with large chunks of cooked banana. The top is somewhat frothy. It has a strong banana flavor but it’s not as sweet as I feared – though that’s relatively speaking, as cooked bananas are incredibly sweet. I liked it, as far as banana pudding went, but I didn’t love it. Then again, I’m not a huge fan of banana pudding. My husband, who is, was in love with it. He pronounced it “really good” and went back our last night, after an incredible dinner at Kochi, to get more.

So, is the banana pudding worth the hype? I think yes, if you are a banana pudding lover – and no, if banana pudding is not your “go to” dessert.

Magnolia Bakery serves, of course, a plethora of other baked goods. The cupcakes and cheesecake are said to be particularly good. However, we didn’t try anything else.

Magnolia Bakery has 9 locations in NYC, one in West Hollywood and one in Chicago. In addition they have a plethora of locations in Asia and the Middle East.

Magnolia Bakery
1240 Avenue of the Americas (at 49th Street)
New York City
(212) 767-1123
Hours of Operation

Sun-Thurs: 8 AM - 10 PM EST
Fri-Sat: 8 AM - 11 PM EST

Pasquier Macarons – Ooh La la

I’ve finally found a brand of macarons worth the hype

My oldest daughter loves macarons – which really the only reason I ever buy them, or eat them. I’ve tried a few here and there: frozen and fresh ones from the supermarket or specialty stores, gourmet ones from French bakeries, both in the US and in Paris, and I’ve even made them myself – but I never have really gotten the point of them. They usually consist of a too-dry-cookie with an underwhelming filling. I’ve never been impressed, until now.

I’m pleased to say that Pasquier makes the best macarons that I’ve ever had and that they are easily available and not too expensive (as far as macarons go, these are very expensive pastries to begin with). The cookies are moist while still having a bit of crunch, and the flavors of both the cookie and the filling are explosive. They are just delicious.

The macarons come in six flavors: vanilla, pistachio, caramel, raspberry, lemon and chocolate, and I can’t say I have a favorite (OK, maybe pistachio, but maybe lemon). They all hit the right spot, albeit with a tiny bit too much sweetness. They are tiny, I’d say the size of a silver dollar if I remembered just how big those were. But if you can resist not emptying the box, you do get a lot of flavor for your buck. They are made in France, they are refrigerated and you must consume them within 2 days of opening the box. I don’t think you’ll have trouble.


I found them at Grocery Outlet for $5 for a box of 12 (5.6 oz total), but they also seem to be available at Sprouts and Good Eggs for $7-8 and at Target for $11.

Goya Platanos Maduros – Fried Plantains Review

Good, quick dessert from an evil company

As a matter of course, I try to avoid buying Goya products, but I needed to get a few things to meet the minimum for deliver through Instacart, and I figure I might as well tried these. I was pleasantly surprised. The frozen fried plantains are heated up in the microwave for a couple of minutes, so it’s basically an instant dessert. They are quite sweet, and not too mushy, and they pair well with either ice cream or whipped cream. It’s a rather rich dessert, so though the 11 oz package (pictured above after microwaving) doesn’t seem like much, it should be able to feed 3-4 people. It was on sale through Instacart for $3 at Cardenas market. I’m going to look to see if there is a similar product from a manufacturer other than Goya.

Note: the link to Instacart is a referral link, if you subscribed immediately after you click on it, I might get $10 credit and you would as well. You probably can get a better deal elsewhere, though.

Vegan Pecan Pie Recipe

I made this recipe for vegan pecan pie for Thanksgiving, and my vegan daughter was quite happy with it. Unlike most vegan pie recipes this one didn’t use corn syrup and it wasn’t too sweet. It had the right consistency, however, and the pie set perfectly – no need for eggs.

I was cheap and made it using a Safeway refrigerated pie shell and it was horrible! There are far better vegan pie shells out there. The filling, though, was good:

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell
  • 3/4 cup canned coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp cup corn starch
  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter
  • 6 oz pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pie crust for 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl. whisk together the coconut milk and corn starch until dissolved. Set aside.

Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it melts. Add the pecans and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Whisk in the coconut milk mixture, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract and salt.

Pour the mixture onto the pie crust. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Cool on the counter for two hours and then let cool completely on the fridge.

Adapted from Ana’s recipe at Making thyme for health

Easy Pear Tart

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG-1928-e1551241784938-1024x640.jpg

“These pears are getting soft,” my daughter announced from the kitchen.

I sighed. I buy so many produce that goes bad because the child that requested it forgets about it. Indeed, I buy so much food that goes bad before anyone uses it. As it happened, at that very moment I had a two or three week old puff pastry sheet in my fridge. I’d bought a package to make mushroom empanadas for my vegan daughter and only used one sheet.

The softening pears I knew I could use – but the puff pastry? I searched online and found people asking if they could use it a few days to a week after putting it in the fridge – but two to three weeks? That seemed crazy! Still, my pastry sheets did not smell bad, they had no hint of mold in them (I do keep my fridge very cold), they were not slimy and they only had a couple of spots were they’d dried out and even then, not too much. So what the heck! I figured I’d use them.

I placed the puff pastry on a cutting board and rolled it a bit with a rolling pin. Then I transferred it to a lined cookie sheet. I sliced the pears somewhat thinly (I used the two large ones I had) and placed the pear slices on the puff pastry. I mixed some raw sugar with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and sprinkled it on the pears. Then I ground some almonds and sprinkled these on top.

I put the baking sheet in the fridge and turn on the oven to 400F. Once it was preheated, I put the baking sheet in the oven and baked it for about 20 minutes.

The results were great. Really, really delicious. And vegan!

Vegan Chocolate Tart

This year, I made a beautiful chocolate tart for dessert for my Christmas Eve dinner – and that meant I had to make a vegan alternative for my vegan daughter. This recipe had great reviews, so I decided to make it for her. It took some doing, as the recipe called for Medjool dates and a specific brand/type of chocolate, which the recipe-maker insisted was just the best. Only after I’d searched for and found the chocolate (at Walgreen of all places) I realized that her post was actually sponsored by that chocolate brand. As it turned out, this chocolate was probably too dark for this cake. It would have probably worked best with 50-60% cocoa content chocolate. Just make sure you look at the ingredients to make sure it’s vegan.

Medjool dates are a particularly sweet type of dates that cannot be substituted by regular ones. Neither of my local supermarkets carried them but I was able to find them at Trader Joe’s (I think).

As other chocolate tart, this tart is beautiful when topped with fresh berries and mint leaves – which also provide a nice light tart contrast to the very rich chocolate.

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 8 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 cup peeled almonds
  • 1 oz semisweet vegan chocolate, chopped and melted
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 3.5 oz semisweet vegan chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 8 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Put the dates and almonds in a food processor and process until the mixture is very fine. Add the melted chocolate, melted coconut oil and salt and process until they are fully incorporated.

Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of a tart pan. Place in the refrigerator and cool until the crust has set.

Meanwhile, make the filling.

In a small saucepan, melt together the chocolate and coconut oil. Mix in coconut cream. Transfer to a clean food processor bowl. Add dates and vanilla extract. Process until all ingredients are combined and have a smooth, pudding-like consistency.

Add the filling to the crust. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

Top with berries, mint and whipped coconut cream, if desired.

Adapted from Regina’s recipe at Leelalicious

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