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StringerBell's Profile

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What Fruits and Vegetables would you love to get your hands on reliably?

Not sure if you eat pork since you have an Arabic-sounding name, but quince works well with pork IMO.

Oct 30, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics

Rao's maranara sauce @ $10 - What gives?

I bought a few jars a year or two back on sale for $5.99 after reading all the praise on here and I was really underwhelmed. It just tasted like oily stewed tomatoes, and average (at best) tomatoes at that. It was marked down over 40% and still wasn't worth the price in my opinion. $10+ per jar is absurd, you're just paying for reputation IMO.

Oct 28, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics

What exactly is San Marzano "style"?

That is unsubstantiated by any objective measure, and IMO, is a contrived marketing gimmick to get people halfway around the world to buy expensive imported tomatoes. Since the invention of agriculture people have been making up reasons why whatever product grown/made where they're from is better than the one grown/made somewhere else.

I've grown hundreds of different varieties of tomatoes and from my experience it really practically all comes down to genetics. Volcanic ash doesn't provide any minerals or nutrients you can't find in other soils. And IMO San Marzanos are a little above average as far as heirloom paste varieties go. They're miles better than those terrible romas they sell in grocery stores, but other than that I don't know what all the hyperbolic praise is about. I'll take Opalka, Polish Linguisa, Amish paste, Heidi, and others over them. Or better yet, a meaty oxhart low in seeds, since the paste varieties aren't the best for flavor to begin with.

A few blind taste tests...

"DOP. None of the top 4 (OVERALL) spots were won by DOP tomatoes. In fact, the top two spots aren't even San Marzanos. Looking at the OVERALL ratings, there is only one DOP in the top 11 spots. The top two rated tomatoes are grown in California's Central Valley."

http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/09/what-are-the-best-tasting-canned-san-marzano-grocery-store-italian-tomatoes.html

"Let's address the buzzwords. Only one out of the top eight spots in the overall flavor category is a San Marzano tomato. The Bella Terra (I picked it up at a Shop Rite in Garwood, NJ) claims to be "Grown in the San Marzano Region." Fair enough. The highest rated DOP tomato appears at position #9 (Afeltra) with the remaining two DOP's landing in position 13 (Strianese) and 14 (Collucio & Sons) out of 15 total tomatoes tested."

http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/11/the-best-tasting-canned-san-marzano-grocery-store-italian-tomatoes.html

"Our questions: Are San Marzanos really the ultimate canned whole tomatoes—that is, bright, sweet, and tangy, with meat that’s plush and soft enough to melt into a sauce but without completely dissolving? More important, would they taste noticeably better than regular tomatoes once they’d been cooked down in a sauce with aromatics and wine?

Surprisingly, the answer to both questions was a definitive “no.” Though each of the three San Marzano samples elicited a few lukewarm compliments here and there—“agreeable flavor”; “nice blank-slate tomatoes”—none of them delivered the bold, deeply fruity taste that we were expecting, nor did they hold their shape well. In fact, these tomatoes scored well below several of the domestic samples, the best of which were deemed “bright,” “complex,” “meaty,” and—as one taster noted in amazement—like “real” tomatoes.

Also remarkable: Whether or not the tomato was a true San Marzano didn’t matter. The DOP-certified brand was actually our least favorite of the three, which debunked the hype over the San Marzano pedigree once and for all. But now we had a more challenging question to answer: What made the other samples taste good?"

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/taste...

Oct 27, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics
1

What Fruits and Vegetables would you love to get your hands on reliably?

I'm definitely with you on this one. I did find some at Meijer yesterday. They were $4 each, but I bought a couple anyway since they're hard to find.

Oct 27, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics

What Fruits and Vegetables would you love to get your hands on reliably?

I saw a bunch at Meijer here (Southwest Michigan) yesterday. I almost bought some.

Oct 27, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics

What Fruits and Vegetables would you love to get your hands on reliably?

In Southwest Indiana it is very common as well. Same for Southeastern Michigan, where I currently live. Kohlrabi is very easy to find in these places, Kroger, Meijer, even Wal-Mart usually have it.

Oct 27, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics

IKEA, a recent visit to their marketplace

I didn't take any offense, don't worry about that. Tomato juice is not listed as an ingredient. It could have something to do with how the rose hips are processed or maybe the cultivar of rose hips that they use. These are likely boiled whereas rose hip tea is just steeped with fresh or dried rose hips. But like I said I haven't had rose hips in any other form so I don't know what they're "supposed" to taste like.

I don't know. I will have to try it again, and try something else made with rose hips though. I'm kind of curious now.

Oct 27, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

IKEA, a recent visit to their marketplace

Seriously...try it. It's not my taste buds.

Here's another review:

"The Taste: The aroma is odd, with a whiff of tomato and flour. The taste is lightly sweet, with notes of tomato, earth and jam. It has a thick, rich mouthfeel. I don’t like the taste at all. It reminds me of the tomato sauce from canned pasta."

http://www.nearof.com/?p=611

Here's another one:

"I don’t want it to have the texture of watered down tomato sauce. Actually, that’s also what it tastes and looks like. It’s a bit sweeter than just tomato, but overall it’s just yuck."

"Maybe you can repackage it and sell it as a tomato drink? I would still not like it, but it gives people a better idea of what it tastes like."

http://omnominal.wordpress.com/2012/0...

These two reviews, along with that youtube one I posted earlier, were the first three results (aside from Ikea's website) when I typed in "ikea rose hip drink review."

I've never had rose hip anything else so I can't comment on what rose hip tea, fresh rose hips, etc. taste like. But this is drink is most definitely reminiscent of tomato. I did kind of like it though.

Oct 26, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

How do you like to use chipotle powder?

I don't know if it would work as well with the powder, but I like to make a honey/chipotle or maple/chipotle sauce with canned chipotles in adobo.

I'll take a small can of chipotles en adobo and put them in the food processor and puree them with a very small amount of water. Then I dump the pureed chipotles in adobo in the pan and let it simmer for a little while. Add the honey or maple syrup to the desired sweetness and that's it.

It makes a really excellent sauce for chicken or pork. Sometimes I'll add caramelized onions and/or a little garlic but they're really not necessary.

The chipotles in adobo have tomatoes, onions, and other things too, so they probably work better than the powder. But you might want to consider something along those lines. Maple and chipotle are two flavors that go really well together.

Oct 24, 2013
StringerBell in Home Cooking

IKEA, a recent visit to their marketplace

Well, I guess they still have it at some locations, just not the one here. You can't order it online though unfortunately.

Have you tried the rose hip drink? My girlfriend and I both took a drink and she said it tasted like tomato juice before I could get the words out of my mouth. It had a slightly more fruity taste than tomato juice but still very similar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v7oV...

See, I'm not crazy. "It smells like V8" "It tastes like sweet tomato juice"

Oct 24, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

IKEA, a recent visit to their marketplace

I went there recently. I bought some lingonberry and gooseberry jam, a few frozen desserts, a rose hip drink, and a spiced apple drink.

The lingonberry and gooseberry jams are really good, especially the gooseberry. The frozen desserts (an almond one and a blueberry cheesecake) were ok. The rose hip drink was decent, tastes fairly similar to tomato juice. The spiced apple drink was too heavy on the cloves for my tastes.

Really wish they would bring back the cloudberry jam.

Oct 23, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

Chili - Home Cooking Dish of the Month (October 2013)

I've been really wanting to make chili, but unfortunately I'm staying in a hotel right now. It has a full kitchen, but I don't have any of my spices or equipment so there's no point. :(

For the chili powder I briefly toast a bunch of dried chiles in a dry pan, usually a mix of cascabel, ancho, New Mexico, red jalapeno, chiltepin and malagueta. I toast some whole cumin and coriander seeds, and black and white peppercorns, and add everything, along with some salt, marjoram, and 2 or 3 cloves, to the coffee grinder and grind it to a powder.

I usually do about a 1:1 ratio of beef to pork (sasauge or ground pork, occasionally chorizo) that gets thrown in a pan with a chopped onion and roasted green chilis. Sautee for a few minutes and drain about half the fat since I start with fatty meat. Add the chili powder, sautee a few minutes and then add in a few cloves of garlic and sautee a few more minutes. I throw this in a pot along with a box of chicken stock (or chicken stock from the freezer if I have it).

Then I put a 32-ounce can of Muir Glenn fire roasted tomatoes (or better yet some homegrown opalkas, Amish paste, and/or oxhearts if I have them) in the food processer with some chipotles in adobo and some of the adobo sauce, and puree. This gets added to the pot with a little water to get the desired consistency (actually a little extra since a lot of it will evaporate).

I simmer that for a few hours and then about 30 minutes before it's done I'll add a handful of chopped Mexican oregano. Then I taste and add a chicken bouillon cube if needbe, some salt, brown sugar, a little apple cider vinegar, etc.

Sometimes I add pinto, mayacoba, black beans, or even black lentils (urad dal). Or I'll add a 7 Pod, bhut jolokia, or Trinidad scorpion from the garden if I want it really hot.

I usually serve it with Frito's scoops and shredded cheddar. Or on a baked potato with shredded cheddar and sour cream. Or with some jalapeno cornbread.

I'm getting really hungry now. :/

Oct 21, 2013
StringerBell in Home Cooking

What Fruits and Vegetables would you love to get your hands on reliably?

That's surprising, in Indiana and Michigan they sell pluots at every grocery store, usually at least a few different kinds.

Oct 21, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics

I don't care if I never set foot again in a...............

High quality ingredients don't have to be expensive ingredients though. I can usually go to local places and leave feeling like I got what I paid for, whether it's $8-15 for a meal or $30+. I leave places like Outback and Olive Garden feeling like I got robbed. Price is all relative to what you're getting, and the food at chains is usually neither good quality nor cheap.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in Chains
1

culantro vs shado beni

That's a nice herb too! Did you get it?

I ordered my culantro from companionplants.com (same place I got one of my Cuban oregano plants from, I highly recommend them).

I tried to start some from seed from Baker's Creek before. People say it's hard to start from seed but they say that about a lot of things, like holy basil, that really aren't hard at all. Germination was 0 for ~50 in a mini greenhouse with very fine seed-starting mix, that was misted regularly and kept at ~80-85 degrees using a heat pad and thermostat. Maybe I just got some bad seeds, supposedly they lose viability pretty quickly. Once you get a plant it's pretty easy to keep propagating them from cuttings though.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics
1

What Fruits and Vegetables would you love to get your hands on reliably?

You can come here and pick all the pokeweed you like! It grows all over my yard, I can't get rid of it...

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics

I have never been to Chipotle!

I agree completely. I don't understand the appeal to this place. If it were 1995, sure. My favorite restaurant growing up in the late 80s/early 90s was Chi Chi's for Christ's sake. But it's 2013 and there are good Mexican restaurants everywhere. The run-down dump of a city in Southern Indiana that I lived in for the last 5 years, with a population of 50,000 people, has *5* good Mexican restaurants, one of which is a local place with a very similar setup as Chipotle, focusing on burritos. For the price of a meal at Chipotle I can go to a real Mexican restaurant and get a sizzling molcajete with chicken, shrimp, steak, pico de gallo, queso fresco, grilled nopales, jalapeno, and green onions, with tortillas, rice, and beans. And chips and salsa. It takes me at least 2 meals to eat it. Why would I eat at Chipotle? Having said that, it IS a lot better than Moe's Southwest Grill and Qdoba.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

Panera for lunch -- NEVER AGAIN!

I ate there recently and I agree completely. I got some kind of turkey sandwich on some tomato-basil bread and a bowl of chicken and wild rice soup. The sandwich was tiny and looked like it belongs on a kids menu. The bread had the texture of couch cushion stuffing. There were only 1 or 2 tiny slices of cheap, slimy, processed turkey, along with some unripe, mealy tomatoes and about a quarter teaspoon of some kind of mayo-based condiment. It wasn't there in a sufficient amount to tell what it was. The most flavorful thing on the sandwich was the lettuce. The sandwich tasted like something that came in plastic wrap from the Kroger deli, only with less meat.

The soup tasted like canned soup, really dull and flavorless. It came with chips and a wheat baguette too. The wheat baguette with butter on it was easily the best/most exciting part of the meal, though I'm not sure why I would want to eat a piece of bread with a sandwich. The meal cost like $10 and I was still really hungry afterward despite the mountain of superfluous carbs I just ate (which made up about 95% of the meal).

And the place was PACKED. The line was like 20+ people long. People were lined up like they were camping out for Air Jordans.

Now they're serving these cute little tiny frozen pasta TV dinners that they microwave and hand to you for $9. They put all kinds of buzzwords on them like "San Marzano," "Sicilian" and "rustic." You can get the same thing in a bigger portion for $3 in the freezer section at the grocery store.

I don't understand this place.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

I don't care if I never set foot again in a...............

Maybe I shouldn't have said any Darden restaurant, since I haven't eaten at a few of them. Eddie V's online menu sounds pretty good. Darden has only owned them for 2 years though, hopefully they won't steadily lower the quality and raise the prices like they've been doing at their bigger restaurants.

When I worked at Olive Garden it was a constant downhill slide in quality. A lot of the sauces the prep people used to make, then they started coming pre-made from the factory in bags to reduce prep hours. Or it's a dry mix that they mix with water. They used to make the stuffed mushroom stuffing fresh with clams, cheese, fresh parsley, bread crumbs, etc., then they switched to getting frozen bags of pellets that looked like tater tots. Just stick one in the mushroom and let it thaw. The spinach dip comes frozen in bricks. Yellow soybean oil-based goop with artificial butter flavor goes on all kinds of things, bread sticks, vegetables, stuffed mushrooms, etc. They constantly came out with "new" sauces that were just alfredo mixed with something else. The "roasted" potatoes are just frozen potatoes they drop in the frier for a few minutes. The "roasted" chicken for the never ending pasta ball came frozen in huge bricks and smelled like canned tuna. Meanwhile the prices went up and up and up, much faster than inflation. I find it funny that as their same-store sales continue to fall the CEO points the finger at everyone but himself.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

culantro vs shado beni

Yeah I use both of them. They're really good for chimichurri, herb pastes, herb butters, marinades, rubs, soups, etc.

The variegated one tastes very similar to regular oregano so I use it fairly often in place of regular oregano. The flavor doesn't hold up as well to long cooking as regular oregano though, so I'll usually add it more towards the end. One of my favorite uses is chopped and added to Cuban-style black beans near the end of cooking. Some people bread the leaves and deep fry them like others do with basil.

The other one (that looks like this: http://www.houseplantblog.com/wp-cont... ) doesn't really taste like oregano, so it's a little harder to find uses for. It seems when people say "Mexican mint" this is the one they're talking about, not so much the other ones. Even though they're the same species this one is a lot different in shape and aroma than the others.

With its slight mint-like taste I think it's good in fruit smoothies and also works really well in Middle Eastern-style yogurt marinades. The leaves are really plump and full of water. If you squeeze a leaf between your fingers water runs out all over your fingers. It's also good in herb blends with a lot of other herbs.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics
1

I don't care if I never set foot again in a...............

Longhorn, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, any Darden restaurant- The quality at these places is so low, and the prices are high. I was dragged to Longhorn a few weeks ago for the first time and everything was just dreadful. The soup, salad, entree, appetizer, they were are all horrible. Darden restaurants all have the nastiest sauces, especially the "seafood" sauces. Ever had imitation bacon flavor? That's what their "seafood" sauces taste like, except for seafood. When I worked at Olive Garden I read the ingredients for their "butter" sauce. It comes as a dry mix that they stir water into. There was no butter in it and only traces of dairy products. It consisted almost SOLELY of things like maltodextrin, canola oil, modified food starch, etc. with natural and artificial flavors. It tastes like the artificial butter flavoring people put on popcorn. Nasty.

Applebee's- their entrees taste worse than $6 skillet entrees from the grocery store. I'm not kidding.

Subway- bland, slimy meat, stale bread, and way too much bread compared to everything else.

Ruby Tuesday- I can look at their menu for 4 hours and not find anything I want to eat.

McDonalds- rubbery "meat", especially the breakfast sausage. If you compress it with your fingers and let go it expands to the same size it was before. Low quality everything, menu stuck in the 50s. Except for when the out-of-touch Boomers in charge come out with new items like Caesar wraps that they mistakenly think the millennials will want.

Penn Station- bland, boring, only have white bread.

Chipotle, Qdoba, Moe's Southwest Grill- Chipotle is a lot better than the other two, but they're basically high end Taco Bell. You can eat at a real Mexican restaurant for the same price.

Five Guys- extremely overpriced for inexpensive fast food. I ate there one time and it was $12 for a burger, fries, and a coke. And it took about 15 minutes. The burgers are good but not exceptional, fries are soggy.

Outback- The last 3 times I've eaten there (gift cards) I swore I would never go back. I'm serious this time. If anyone gives me a gift card I'm trading it in online for one to somewhere else. I would sell a $50 outback gift card for $15 before I would eat there again.

Long John Silvers- One meal with 33 grams of trans fat? Why are they trying to kill what few customers they have left? Most of them are 60+ already.

Burger King- every time I drive by one I'm amazed they're still in business

Arby's- Overpriced, the "roast beef" comes in as some weird gelatinous mass. Pretty gross.

Panera- They try to pass their food off as being high quality and fresh, but it isn't. The sandwiches are similar to the ones found in plastic wrap in gas station coolers. The soup comes frozen in plastic bags that they put in a water bath to heat, and they taste like Campbell's (although I'll admit the butternut squash one is pretty good). The portions are small and overpriced. Now they have tiny pasta TV dinners that they microwave and then hand to you for $8.50? I can microwave my own TV dinner, thank you. Not to mention they're a complete zoo much of the time.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

McDonald's to debut "Mighty Wings" nationally on Sept. 24, 2013

$1 per wing? From McDonalds??? How about no, Scott.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

Anyone shopped Big Lots for grocery items?

Texas Pete is pretty common in Indiana.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in Chains

Am I the only person on the planet that doesn't "get" Trader Joe's?

I like Trader Joe's, but for me it's not a primary grocery store. I'll buy certain things like fresh fruit, greens, cheese, Kerrygold butter, nuts, dried fruit, and wine. Their produce is pretty good quality and fairly cheap, and they often have things like fresh green figs or uncommon greens that I can't normally find other places. Sometimes I'll buy a few condiments. I don't really buy any of their frozen or boxed foods, or fish or meat. The prepared foods usually come in tiny overpriced packages (like at other grocery stores) so I usually avoid those. The fish and meat selection is pretty poor.

I tend to buy a lot of different things at different places. Meijer for fish and cheap produce. Costco for bulk items like meat, oils, rice, potatoes, apples, cheese. International markets or Hispanic/Indian/Asian stores for spices, produce, rice, beans, fish, condiments, etc. Trader Joe's helps to round out my other shopping, but if I were to only buy groceries in one place Trader Joe's wouldn't be too high on the list. It's not somewhere I would want to buy a whole week's worth of groceries.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in Chains
1

culantro vs shado beni

Yeah, these plants are a pleasure to grow. They don't like waterlogged soil/potting mix but even then the leaves just start cupping and looking a little sad, they still grow well. They can handle 100 degree temperatures and full sun just fine, and they do great indoors over the winter in front of a window sill. They're pretty much foolproof. The medium can be practically bone dry and they don't wilt. When I want to make a new plant I just rip out a chunk, roots and all, and pot it.

They're really nice looking plants and their aroma is incredible too. I have to rub my fingers on the leaves and smell them almost every time I walk by. There are a lot of herbs that are more useful in the kitchen but these are my favorite all around plants. Even if they had no culinary value I would still grow them.

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics
1

Would you ever feel comfortable asking for ...

How much salt it takes to properly season something varies not only from person to person, but for any given person it fluctuates from day to day or meal to meal as well. If you're a little dehydrated, you'll crave more salt. If you're deficient in electrolytes you'll crave more salt. If you just ran 15 miles, you're going to crave more salt. Medications and biochemistry affect it as well. If you ate something really salty like french fries for lunch then you'll probably want less salt for dinner. I could eat the exact same thing two days in a row and it might taste too salty one day and the next day it's just right. There's no magical "correct" level of salt for a dish any more than there is a "correct" amount of water to drink in a day. If you're dehydrated you become thirsty, if your body needs more salt you get salt cravings. Getting offended at someone asking for more salt doesn't make any sense. If they asked for ketchup to put on their prime rib on the other hand...

Oct 20, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye.... WELL worth a try ....

I agree, I've had it a few times and it's really nice. It has a feint grapefruit taste in the background to me, which I really like.

Oct 19, 2013
StringerBell in Beer

When to pick jalapenos?

It's true. Most years I dig up and overwinter a few peppers inside, they can produce a ton of peppers the second year. This past winter I overwintered this 7 Pod Brain Strain and it was about 3' by 3' by the end of May (as seen in the picture). I planted it in a 15-gallon pot and it got to about 6' x 5' and produced around 250-300 peppers.

C. Pubescens varieties like rocotos and manzanos can REALLY get big in mild climates that don't freeze (e.g. San Diego).

If you have a productive plant that you really like you can overwinter it and around the beginning of the year you can make a bunch of clones from it to plant out the following year too.

As for when to pick jalapenos...I know it's a little late now, but if I'm going to use them green I like to wait until they have some black color and they've started to cork. If you pick them immature they won't have much flavor or heat. I like them best fully red though.

Oct 19, 2013
StringerBell in Gardening
1

Are you hungry after a bowl of oatmeal?

Oatmeal is pretty filling for me, as far as carbohydrate sources go. Especially steel-cut oats, but I have to have something higher in protein along with it. I've lifted weights for a long time and have to have a decent amount of protein with every meal or I get that aching protein hunger regardless of how many carbs or how much fat I eat.

Eggs satisfy that protein hunger for me, but not for very long. I could eat a huge 6-egg omelet and I would still be hungry 2 hours later. Eggs are one of the fastest digesting proteins, so they don't fill me up for long. Not like meat, fish, or dairy do, or even nuts.

Oct 19, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics

What Fruits and Vegetables would you love to get your hands on reliably?

Black sapote, any annona (paw paws, soursop, cherimoya, sugar apple, custard apple, etc.) ramps, morel mushrooms, Asian persimmons, rambutan, saskatoonberries, hardy kiwi, lychee, green figs, acai, cloudberry, mangosteen, bilberries, oca, purple sweet potatoes, jaboticaba,

Higher quality: tomatoes, peaches, corn, green onions, raspberries, blackberries, starfruit, dragon fruit, prickly pears.

Oct 19, 2013
StringerBell in General Topics