Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Health Snack Wednesdays: Snacks that Pop!

This week is full of snacking opportunities – snow days, Healthy Snack Wednesday, and the Superbowl! Part of the reason we started this series is that snacking can get boring. So this week’s post is dedicated to snacks that pop!

First, congratulations to the winner of two vouchers for Veggie Patch Products! The winner, as selected by is Jordi, who said” my favorite veggie is cucumbers or celery. i like to eat them raw with some italian dressing (on the cucumbers)”. I’ll be in touch to get your mailing address and the vouchers will be sent your way!

To celebrate this week’s popped up recipes, popchips™ has generously donated two one-month supplies of popchips! Two readers will each win one box full of popchips to snack (see if they last the month!). If you haven’t heard of popchips, they are popped potato snacks. Think potato chip crunchy without the greasiness of a regular chip or the cardboard taste of baked potato chips. They are made for snacking – and one bag of original flavor will set you back just 120 calories and 4 grams of fat (more nutrition info here). If you are a potato chip lover, than popchips are a healthier option to satisfy your craving. They even have a Snacker’s Credo!

Quick disclosure: popchips sent over a sampler pack of chips to use in this week’s healthy snack recipes and two boxes of chips for the giveaway. I was not obligated to use or review the products and I was not compensated financially. All opinions belong to me. Now on the fun!

This week I have two popping recipes for you to try out. I am admittedly not a potato chip lover – I usually go for tortilla chips if I have a chip choice. I wanted to come up with a creative way to use popchips in a healthy snack good for weekdays or maybe a Superbowl party. We’ve already made dips a few times and that really isn’t incorporating the popchips. I thought about potato chip cookies (saw them on a few blogs), but every recipe involved a lot of butter or shortening. After thinking about it for a few days, I decided on making mini-quiches with popchip crusts. It is similar to last week’s snack, but this is more party ready! You can pick your own combination of flavors for the crust, but I chose to mix original, salt and pepper, and cheddar for flavor that popped. I didn’t use any cookbooks or recipes for this, so while it could use some tweaking I had blast putting it together!

This is a fairly quick dish to put together. It can be served hot or cold and you could make them the day before and keep them in the refrigerator until party time. Just reheat  before serving. To have a crispier crust, make sure to coat the entire mini-muffin tin with the popchip mixture and only fill to the top of the crust (I got a little excited and overfilled mine). Only a few came out with crispy crusts due to the extra filling, but they tasted like little egg & hashbrown bites. I didn’t add any extra seasoning, because of the flavors in the popchips.

Poppin’ Mini-Quiches
Makes 24 mini-quiches

3 bags of popchips (I used 1 original, 1 salt & pepper, 1 cheddar)
3-4 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (about 1 teaspoon)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Lightly spray a mini-muffin tin with cooking spray
Add popchips to a food processor and pulse until they are the texture of panko breadcrumbs
Pour into a mixing bowl and mix the crumbs with butter, add a little oil if it is not moist enough
Spoon a little of the crust mixture into each muffin cup (you might have extra mixture)
Using a tart shaper, or your hand, press the crust mixture down firmly into the bottom and sides of the cups
Bake for 5-7 minutes, until slightly golden brown
Remove from oven to fill

4-5 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
About 15 spinach leaves (I forgot to measure!)

Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender
Mix until frothy
Pour on top of prebaked crusts in muffin tin

Place tin back into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until puffed up and golden brown
Remove from the oven and serve immediately, or cool on rack and refrigerate
Serve with a dash of hot sauce, if desired!

Popping Snack #2
For my second snack, I popped up one of my favorite treats, popcorn! During the last snow day I played popcorn roulette, mixing up three different flavors and then spinning the bowls around. One bite could be lavender, the next za’atar, and the last green chili. I have an Cusinart Crazy popper and can control the amount of oil I use when I pop – and be sure that my popcorn isn’t loaded with oil, butter, and other funny chemicals. I wanted to make a sweet popcorn for this week. The hubby loves kettle corn and caramel corn, but the store bought versions are loaded with fat and sugar. I popped up a batch of red popcorn kernels from the farmers market and made a quick glaze to add on top. After the popcorn glaze dried, I packaged it into sandwich bags in appropriate serving sizes. It’s great to throw in your bag for the car, an afternoon snack, or a something to tide you over until dinner.

Maple-Sesame Popcorn
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon canola oil
Pop popcorn in a popcorn popper (say that three times fast!)
Makes about 6 cups of popped popcorn

Maple-Sesame Glaze
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup maple syrup (I used Grade A Dark Amber)
1/2 tablespoon water
1/2 tablespoon butter

Add all ingredients, except sesame seeds, into a small sauce pan
Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook for about 10 minutes, until slightly thickened
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees
Drizzle half the glaze over the popped corn in a large bowl
Add sesame seeds and mix
Add remaining glaze and toss to coat

Pour onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes until popcorn has dried
Try not to eat it all while putting into bags.

Now, on to the giveaway!

There will be two winners for the giveaway. Each winner will receive a box containing a one-month supply of popchips! I didn't count the bags, but you will be snacking for a while! There are a few ways to enter this week, please leave a separate comment on the blog for each action. You can do any or all of them for a chance to win!
  • Like popchips on Facebook and leave a comment on their wall saying "@GoodCookDoris sent me! Thanks for the giveaway!". Come back and leave a comment below telling me you did so.
  • Leave a comment below letting me know your all-time favorite snack food, no healthy answers needed.

Popchips provided me with the boxes to give to the winner. If you are local in the Boston area we can meet up, or if you are somewhere else in the country I can ship them. (U.S. addresses only, sorry!)

Entries accepted through Tuesday, February 8. Winner to be announced on Wednesday, February 9. For an extra entry, head over to Renee's blog at Eat.Live.Blog. and be sure to check out her snacks that pop!

Happy Snacking!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rocky Mountain Organic Meats with a New England Twist

A quick look at my post archives will reveal that we love beef in the Good Cook Doris kitchen. But with the hubby’s genetically-caused high cholesterol and a desire to incorporate more variety into our meals, we have reduced the amount of red meat we eat at home. When we do buy beef we are conscious about purchasing high-quality meat. Our first preference is from the local vendors at the farmers market. That isn’t always the most convenient, so we look for grass-fed beef and/or local beef at the grocery store.

Last month I received a tweet from @Grassfedorganic that said, “Omnivore?” My reply was, “Yes, most definitely!” @Grassfedorganic is the twitter handle for Rocky Mountain Organic Meats. The CEO, Rod Morrison, generously offered to send me some of their grass-fed meat to try in my kitchen. They have a variety of products from ground meat to beef jerky to deli meats. I told him that I loved brisket, but looked forward to trying any of their beef products. Located in Wyoming, Rocky Mountain Organic Meats offers certified organic grass-fed beef and lamb through their website. According to the Rocky Mountain Organic Meats website:

“Each of our farmers and ranchers, as well as our processing plant has been inspected and certified organic. This means that our livestock have not been given antibiotics, growth hormones, genetically modified organisms or animal by-products and have eaten only organic feed such as certified organic pasture grasses.”

Confinement? What's that?
Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Meats.

I’ll add my usual disclosure here. I did not receive any compensation for writing about Rocky Mountain Organic Meats. They generously sent over an assortment of products for me to taste (no obligation to review), and all opinions expressed are my honest opinion. Here’s a look at the assortment:

Beef Jerky, Hot Dogs, Brisket,
Beef Sticks, Ground Brisket, and Beef Pastrami

I love brisket. Smoked, braised, or stewed I will eat it. It’s a cut of meat that lends itself to creativity. Over the summer I smoked the brisket on the backyard grill and enjoyed it with pickled onions. With three feet of snow on the ground and more piling on every other day (that’s what it feels like!), we have to stick with indoor cooking for the time being. Rod sent a 2 pound grass-fed brisket for me to try. When our package first arrived, we opened the Styrofoam cooler and looked under the still-frozen solid ice packs to check out the goods. We put most of the products in the freezer, except for honey pepper beef jerky and the brisket. I can’t remember ever eating beef jerky and the hubby has never really liked jerky of any kind. But this he liked. It was because he felt confident that the ingredients were natural (not like the convenience store jerky). We gnawed on pieces of spicy sweet jerky for a few days for snacks and it was gone pretty quickly.

We also tried the organic beef hotdogs for a quick weeknight dinner with coleslaw and baked beans. The hot dog ingredient list is full of recognizable items: 100% USDA Certified Organic Grass Fed Beef, Water, Organic Black Pepper, Organic White Pepper, Organic Paprika, Organic Ground Mustard, Organic Ground Celery, Organic Granulated Garlic, Sea Salt and Celery Juice Power. I can’t even tell you the last time we ate hot dogs outside of a baseball game or cookout. These were smoky and beefy and if you are craving a hot dog will do the trick.

For the brisket, I wanted to keep it simple to make sure I could taste the flavor of the meat. Rod sent an email describing their meat:

“This beef has never ever seen a feedlot, and does know what corn looks like or taste like. I believe you’re going to taste flavors that you have never had before. Understand that when the cowboys from Texas drove cattle north the cattle got fatter. The high mountain grasses of the Rocky Mountains carry a lot more protein and mineral than always green grasses of the south”.

Using my grandmother’s basic brisket cooking method, I substituted my own flavors for a New England Winter Brisket. I also wanted to make barbecue sauce to top it off. With access to really great locally produced maple products this winter, I’ve been adding maple to a lot of my recipes. For the brisket I used granulated maple sugar, ground roast dark coffee and salt and pepper. While the brisket cooked for a few hours I made a homemade mustard-maple barbecue sauce to top it off. The sauce came out sweet & tangy and was made me think about summer (even with all the snow).

So how did the brisket stack up? The brisket was 2 pounds and had a thin layer of fat on one side. I usually trim off most of the fat, leaving just a few pieces. Grass-fed beef is generally leaner than conventional beef, so it isn’t necessary to trim all the fat away. It will help baste the meat as it cooks. Regular brisket can sometimes shrink in size almost by half after cooking. I weighed the Rocky Mountain brisket before and after cooking for comparison. Since I did trim off some fat, the brisket didn’t shrink very much. It was 1/2 pound lighter after cooking. That meant more to eat! Brisket holds up well to long cooking times, but in general it’s best to cook grass-fed beef for less time than regular beef. Because it is so lean, it will dry out and overcook faster.

New England Maple-Coffee Brisket
This is best prepared the day before you want to serve.

2 pound brisket, some fat trimmed
1/4 cup granulated maple sugar
1/4 cup ground dark roast coffee
1 tablespoon kosher salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup beef broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a small bowl mix together maple sugar, coffee, salt and pepper
Place brisket on a large piece of foil (large enough to wrap meat in)
Sprinkle 1/2 of the rub on top and massage into meat, turn the brisket over and repeat on the other side
Sprinkle beef broth on top and wrap tightly
Place wrapped meat in a large roasting pan
Roast for 2 hours
Remove the pan from oven and take brisket out of the foil, placing it on a large platter for about 30 minutes
Wrap in new foil and refrigerate
Drain any juices from the original foil and the platter into a container, refrigerate

On Serving Day:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Slice brisket into 1/8 inch slices, being sure to cut against the grain (short fibers = more tender meat)
Place meat into a roasting pan or casserole with either the gravy or barbecue sauce
Cook for 20-30 minutes before serving

Sweet & Tangy Maple BBQ Sauce
Warning: You may want to drink it…

Makes 3-4 cups of sauce, depending on how you measure

2 cups of tomato ketchup
3/4 cup Grade A Dark Amber Maple Syrup (or Grade B)
1/4 cup prepared Dijon mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons mustard powder

In a large saucepan, heat ketchup over medium-high heat (wear an apron – it bubbles!)
Whisk in the remaining ingredients, bring to a bubble and then lower heat
Simmer for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally

I wrote down the recipe as I went, but I know I tweaked amounts while I cooked. I’m pretty sure I added extra maple and extra mustard powder, but no record of how much. Have fun and tweak it to your liking!

I served the brisket on toasted hot dog rolls with a generous serving of sauce (that's my Sunshine Soup on the side). The sauce is so delicious that I’ve been topping rice, chicken, couscous, really anything I can get my hands on with it. I hope that you enjoy!

For a fun take on barbecue and the taste of summer in winter, head over to my friend’s blog at The Food in My Beard for barbecue soup!

Thank you Rod and Rocky Mountain Organic Meats for sharing your delicious grass-fed beef. To learn more about them, visit their website at

Next on the list to make are burgers using the ground brisket.  What's your favorite beef cut to cook?

Organic Meats Tetonlogo
Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain Organic Meats

Friday, January 28, 2011

Food is Fun: A Weekend of Delicious Eating

Winter in Boston means fighting the desire to stay inside to cook, watch movies, and snuggle up under a warm blanket on the couch.  Last weekend I had two great events to motivate me to get dressed up and head into the city. Both events were at fabulous Boston hotels and filled with delicious food and delightful company!

My extravagant winter weekend started on Saturday at the 5th annual Gamma Phi Beta Boston Alumnae Chapter High Tea. A group of alumnae met at the Taj Boston for an afternoon of mini sandwiches, rich pastries, and great conversation.

Our group loves tea at the Taj. The service staff is fantastic and we always have a wonderful experience. The Taj Royale is a manageable amount of treats (if you didn’t eat lunch!). My absolute favorite is always the egg salad sandwich. Thankfully you don’t have to share anything as they give you one of each item. No worrying that you won’t get your favorite!

While the sandwiches are delicious and paired well with my vanilla earl grey, it’s the pastries that really steal the show. They are decadent and some are topped with gold leaf. The lemon curd is rich, tart, and creamy and it was hard to put down. On top of cherry scones it was even better! Renee could make a meal of scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam alone. She talks about them for days before tea. You can see her setting up her photo shoot below.

Some of the ladies at the table didn’t polish off their pastries like me….and we took home delicious packages for a late night snack!

After an indulgent tea, I went to bed without dinner. The next morning I woke up excited for my second adventure of the weekend. I decided that a fabulous brunch deserved an equally fabulous outfit and got myself ready to head downtown. I skipped breakfast to leave more room for total food overload. My destination was The Langham Hotel for the City Brunch in Café Fleuri. I met up with 14 fellow food lovers, the Boston Brunchers to experience the extravagant Sunday brunch.

Thanks to the Langham, my brunch was complementary. I did splurge on a delicious grapefruit mimosa ($9) and made sure to leave a generous tip for our fantastic server, who asked us why we weren’t live blogging through the meal. Our answer? We were too focused on food to think about blogging or tweeting while eating! I was not required to ‘review’ brunch and the opinions below are my honest thoughts about my meal.

If there is one breakfast food I love more than eggs, it is smoked salmon. The City Brunch did not disappoint when it came to salmon offerings. I started with the house smoked maple cured salmon topped with finely diced eggs and red onions. My next stop for salmon was the rolled-to-order sushi station. The salmon nigiri was a beautiful shade of coral and melted in my mouth. Ask my table mates, I had at least 2 pieces of salmon on my plate at all times. Even for dessert (salmon nigiri and a chocolate chili brownie). Just look at the beautiful offerings:

One of the other unique offerings at brunch were the hot out of the fryer beignets. After one bite I can see why they pass these out one at a time. If they were on the buffet everyone would overdose on them! The sugary exterior enclosed a light, airy, steamy interior. I savored each bite with a cup of hot coffee making it last as long as possible.

I think I finished the meal having taken at least five trips to the buffet. Some trips resulted in just one or two items and I ended up not finishing all of my dessert. The chocolate croissant bread pudding with caramel sauce was a decadent end to the meal, but it was almost too rich for the amount of food I had already consumed.

More fun than the food was the company! The Boston Blogger scene is filled with friendly, unique, creative, and fun people! No matter who ends up at your table, the conversation is lively and enjoyable. It was great brunching with everyone!

Top photo, left to right: Justin, Katie, Meghan
Bottom photo, left to right: Emily, Athena, Renee, Brian, Bianca, Sarah

After a lavish brunch most people would head straight for the couch and spend the afternoon in a supine position. When it comes to food adventures, I am not like most people. I don’t regularly have the car in the city and wanted to take advantage of it. Renee nicely agreed (well, I was her ride home) to join me for a trip over to Central Bottle Wine and Provisions and Flour Bakery and Café. I love the Blue Room (same owners as Central Bottle) and chat with Central Bottle on twitter, so I knew we were in for a great experience. Of course you can’t visit a wine & cheese shop and not taste the cheese. There was house marinated goat cheese, aged gouda, creamy cow’s milk cheese and more. I chose a tangy little Bijou Goat Cheese from Vermont and Renee took home a wedge of mimolette and Cabot clothbound cheddar. It was impossible to leave without picking up wine also.

I spotted a red that looked interesting – Marche Rosso Fontezoppa. I chose it because I know that I like the grapes in the blend (50% sangiovese, 40% cabernet, 10% merlot). Another bonus, it was $11! When it came time to pick white, I had no idea what I wanted. Thankfully I was able to explain my likes/dislikes to the friendly staff who presented me with four different options in my desired price range. I haven’t opened that bottle yet, so I’ll save it for another post. I paired the red with a variety of dishes and it was dry, coated my tongue (which I love), and kept me going back for more. I paired it with a grilled goat cheese, fig, and lavender sandwich and a hearty bowl of lentils with a garlicky balsamic vinaigrette.The flavor paired well with the bold flavors in the food and was perfect for a cold wintery day.

And of course I should mention what delicious treats I got at Flour! I was so full from brunch it was hard to decide. Since the hubby didn't enjoy either of the meals (he did get the leftover tea pastries), I picked something I knew he would like. I took home two beautiful cornmeal lime cookies. They were the perfect combination of sweet and tart. The lime glaze on top was amazing - I need to try to make that at home!

Now you can see why Healthy Snacks Wednesdays are so important! When you know you have a lot of weekend eating on the schedule you have to be more healthy during the week. Don't forget to enter the giveaway for two vouchers for your choice of Veggie Patch products. You can enter through Tuesday night.

What fun food adventures do you have planned for this weekend? I hope they are delicious!

Taj Hotel (Bar, Cafe and Lounge) on UrbanspoonCafe Fleuri on UrbanspoonFlour Bakery + Cafe on Urbanspoon


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