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FOODIE TALK

Admit it, we're all addicted to cookbooks…

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Written by foodie pam   
Monday, 09 May 2011

Ok, my turn. Hi, my name is Pam and I love cookbooks. No, the truth is I'm addicted to cookbooks. And I'm willing to bet that if you're reading this you probably are too.

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Just one of my many cookbook stashes

For me, it all started innocently enough.  I moved out of my parents house, got an apartment and my mom bought me my first cookbook-"The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook" (Yeah, that's it, we'll blame this all on mom!).  It had the recipes I grew up on.  But since I was on my own I wanted to try *new* recipes.  I subscribed to a magazine.  The next year I subscribed to more and by the time I got married my husband and I were eagerly trying new recipes all the time. 

Life was good.  We'd get a few magazines a month, pick out recipes to try and cook them.  Over time the magazine pile grew, the recipes to try grew and we couldn't possibly cook them all. 

I'm not one for chaos.  That's why I started Project Foodie - I kept losing track of the recipes in all those magazines.
For a short time life was good again. Chaos was limited.

Then one day, a package arrived by UPS.  I hesitantly opened this unexpected package finding a cookbook.  I honestly don't remember which one; but I am sure that when that book arrived I owned less than 10 cookbooks.

I was a cookbook novice.  I'd heard stories of people who owned hundreds of cookbooks, but couldn't imagine why.  Until I sat down and read the cookbook. 

That was the day my addiction started. Today, my cookbook collection spans several rooms.  I've lost count how many I have.  I frequently enter a room and 'find' some cookbooks in a corner.  And lest you think I'm the only addict in my house my husband has his own piles of cookbooks.

Chaos again entered my life.  But not in the way you might think.  This time my problem was finding new cookbooks to feed my addiction.

Search the web for cookbook reviews and book sellers pop-up.  Sure you'll find some reviews but, I at least, find it difficult to find lots of reviews in one place.  That was the seed for CookBookKarma. Finding cookbooks.

Then one day while browsing tastespotting, or was it foodgawker, I'm not sure which, it hit me.  Wouldn't it be cool if we could get a visual on the cookbook reviews?  BINGO - cookbook reviews + fabulous food photos; CookBookKarma was born.

And life is good again. 

CookBookKarma feeds my cookbook lovin' soul.  If you love cookbooks check it and I bet it will feed yours as well…

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 14 June 2011 )
 

What's Tasty: March, 2011

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Written by Team Project Foodie   
Monday, 14 March 2011

If you're looking for some delicious treasures that don't require any time in the kitchen, look no further.  This month we've been sampling some great baked goods that more than fit the bill.  We've also found a new fav yogurt and stumbled upon some March Malbec Madness along the way…

Yesterday's Memories Delivered Today

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A friend stopped by for tea the same day I received a shipment from Sweet Sally's. As she swooned over Rainy Day Fudge Brownies, I helped myself to another Right Size Chocolate Rugelach (inspired by the minis made by Sally's Grandma Gracie). By the time I bit into a Romantic Raspberry Square, I was ready to book a flight to the east coast. No need for that, however, as Sally lovingly ships her deliciously wholesome, freshly baked goodies anywhere in the continental U.S.  Treat yourself. www.sweetsallys.com - picked by Peggy Fallon

Pound Cake Love

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Janie's Cakes from Tyler, Texas is THE place for pound cake lovers. I'm further convinced the secret ingredient in these baked-from-scratch pound cakes is love. I happily taste-tested "The Italian Jane", a vanilla pound cake filled with Italian Buttercream and topped with pecans. Utterly delicious and unique, especially since the moist-on-the-inside cake has an exterior texture reminiscent of a madeleine.  Our tasters unanimously agreed, "That cake is gooood!" Janie's offers an inspired assortment of flavor profiles, with most available in either a 12-15 person or 2-4 person serving size. I for one can't wait to try out the "La Dolce Vita Jane," a mixture of chocolate and vanilla created for Whole Foods, but fortunately also offered online by Janie's.  To try them out for yourself, visit Janie's Cakes at www.janiescakes.com - picked by Foodie Pam

More than Cheese

ImageDid you know that Tillamook makes yogurt? I've always known them for their cheeses, but as a large dairy cooperative they also make other products. Back to the yogurt: it's good, very good, and with interesting fruit flavors to choose from, too. (Check out all the flavors on their website.) Unfortunately you'll need to live in the western part of the US in order to find their yogurt in stores. - picked by Foodie Husband

Malbec Madness

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I've enjoyed Malbec for years, and Argentinian Malbecs definitely rank up there with ones from other parts of the world.  "Malbec Madness" is a collection of Argentinian wines from Trapiche, Michel Tornio, Failing Star and Astica, combined with a promotional event offering a chance to win a trip for two to Argentina. I enjoyed the Trapiche Icons Malbec Vina Adolfo Ahumada (2007) the most.  This Malbec was rich and earthy, a little on the heavier side, which paired perfectly with a big meaty meal. - picked by Foodie Pam

Disclosure: Items discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by vendors, publicists, and/or manufacturers.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 13 March 2011 )
 

Project Foodie Gift Guide 2010

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Written by Team Project Foodie   
Friday, 26 November 2010

ImageAre you looking for the perfect foodie gift?  We're constantly looking for things that foodies love.  This year we've found (and tested out) some wonderful gifts that are sure to put a smile on your favorite foodie's face.  Read on to see our top holiday gift picks for foodies including gifts for the kitchen, stocking stuffers, and the gift of food itself.  We've also even found some fabulous kitchen gifts for Hanukkah. 

 

Gifts for the Kitchen - every foodie wants more things for the kitchen…

ImageHanukkah Gifts:  While any of the following gifts would be loved by a foodie celebrating Hanukkah when we found these cute Yiddish ceramic bowls ($15 each) at ModernTribe.com we simply had to share.  Each hand painted bowl has a Yiddish phrase—Nachas (pride), Mazal (luck), Simcha (Joy) and our favorite Nosh (snack!) on the outside along with a colorful swirl on the inside.  They are a fun way to share Hanukkah snacks and stir-up conversation at the same time. These bowls are much larger than they appear in the pictures, you can nosh to your heart's content out of one of them. — picked by Foodie Pam

 

ImageImmersion Blender: No kitchen is complete without an immersion blender—indispensable for  everything from breakfast smoothies to soup suppers. Cuisinart now offers a dazzling array of delicious colors to choose from: tangerine, pomegranate, parsley, buttercup, and crush. Best of all, this $55.00 value is $29.95 at Sur la Table. What a way to stuff a stocking!  — picked by Peggy Fallon

 

ImageVintage Wine Glasses:  Can anyone ever have too many wine glasses? I think not-especially ones that are lead-free, dishwasher-safe crystalline by Waterford. While the supply lasts, here's a great deal on a set of 4 Marquis Vintage Deep Red Wine glasses: a mere $59.00, with no shipping charges and free gift wrap.  While there, check out all the other gorgeous glasses and gifts available at bargain prices on www.cashs.com— picked by Peggy Fallon

 

Green Cookware:   I recently wrote a print article on "Greening" your kitchen and in it I discussed the various types of green cookware available including the coveted Le Cresuet and those faithful old school cast iron skillets. I also talked about the latest in non-stick where I sang the virtues of a brand of green cookware that you will love enough to toss out your Teflon.  Belgium brand Beka Chef Eco-Logic cookware ($60 and up), a non-stick ceramic coated line of cookware that has none of those nasty chemicals from traditional non-stick cookware (like PTFE and PFOA). These pans perform beautifully at lower heat ranges, needing very little heat to sear meat and sauté.  I've been using their fry pan for some time now and everything that I've cooked in it has come out perfectly which is what matters most right? This cookware is a perfect gift for newlyweds, singles, and anyone who is ready to make a change with their cookware. — picked by Heather Jones

 

ImageThermapen:  One kitchen tool that every chef (yes even a home chef) should have is a good instant read thermometer. The best tasting meats (not to mention lively yeast) are the ones that are cooked to exactly the right internal temperature and there's no better way to learn how to do this than with an instant read thermometer. Our absolute favorite instant read thermometer is the ThermoWorks Thermapen —fast, accurate, totally waterproof, and it comes in a bunch of cool colors.  — picked by Foodie Pam

 

Soda Stream:   I confess I love my carbonated beverages.  I especially love creating my own flavored syrups and adding a little bubbly water (seltzer) to it.  A Soda Stream machine ($79.95 and up) makes this at home for you.   In 30 seconds you can turn tap water to something fizzy and fun.  This is great for the family barkeep, hostess with the mostess, and those of us with little ones who like bubble water.  — picked by Heather Jones

 

ImageGlass Vision Toaster:  For those who really want control when toasting, the Magimix Toaster sold by Williams-Sonoma offers the ultimate toast experience. It has glass windows on either side that lets you watch while it is toasting.  Not only do I find this really cool, but I love that it lets me make sure all my efforts in making my own bread don't get wasted by over toasting. Besides the good looks, it works exceptionally well and makes great toast. The Magimix toaster and food processor only available at Williams-Sonoma in the United States. — picked by Foodie Pam

 

The Gift of Food — Some people really do have everything…or at least, everything they need. Gain their attention (and gratitude) with a gift of good taste—the edible kind—that can be shared with friends or savored all by their lonesome…

ImageTell Tale Society:  If you know a foodie who enjoys great tasting preserves, confections, cookies, cakes and other tasty goodies then this is for them.  The Tell Tale society is a monthly bag of these goodies ($35/month plus shipping) prepared by Executive Pastry Chef William Werner from the Tell Tale Preservation Company.   An example month could consist of chocolate fig jam, shortbread cookies, chocolate carrot cake, almond brittle and caramels.  This is the kind of gift that truly tells your friend you care!  And the best part is that the society can be joined on a month-by-month basis so if you want to treat your friend to this for just one month or several you can. — picked by Foodie Pam

 

ImageNudo Italian Foods: Our holiday gift guide a couple of year's ago included Nudo Adopt-an-Olive tree, which remains a fun gift of high quality olive oil.  But, Nudo also provides gift boxes with a decidedly Italian focus that can be combined with the olive oil tree adoption.  The gift boxes contain artisan products from Italy including combinations of sundried tomatoes, capers, pesto, artichoke hearts and tagliatelle mixed with a selection of Nudo's olive oil (of course!).  Gift Boxes range from $39-65 or they can be combined with a tree adoption for $134-159. — picked by Foodie Pam

 

ImageMet Bakery Gourmet Popcorn: Philadelphia is a great food city and one of its less hidden treasures is the Metropolitan Bakery .  I had the good fortune of spending a day at their headquarters last year where I sampled artisan breads that rival some found in the best European bakeries and their new granola which is still my all time favorite.  This year they've added handmade flavored popcorn to their list.  Created by co-owner and head baker James Barrett this is the most sophisticated take on caramel corn that you will ever see.  Hide this from the kids, heck hide it from your spouse.  You will not want to share it and that's what makes it a perfect gift. Just in time for the Holidays there is a lovely three flavor gift sampler ($25 plush shipping), Stout with smoked almonds, Bourbon Infused, and Spiced Peanut Butter flavor.  Each is rich and flavorful, not to be consumed in one sitting, but nibbled on with your favorite cocktail.  Try it, and gift it to someone who will share.  — picked by Heather Jones

 

ImageMomofuku MilkBar Cookies & Pies:   Last time I was in New York City, I had the opportunity to visit David Chang's Momofuku MilkBar, his confectionery outpost run by Pastry Chef Christina Tosi. One quick glance at the menu and I knew what I wanted, "Crack Pie", I had to know what a pie worthy of being named after one of the most addictive street drugs tasted like.  The pie is incredible, a rich buttery goodness, and I experienced a sugar high like no other. So imagine my delight when I found out that you can now order your own crack pie and have it shipped just in time for the Holidays ($44 plus shipping).  The overnight night shipping will cost you but this pie, like so many other goodies on their menu is a wonderful treat for the super sweet lover in your life.  — picked by Heather Jones

 

ImageMeat CSA:  We've all heard about getting weekly (or monthly) boxes of local, seasonal vegetables thru community sponsored agriculture (CSAs), but what about meat?  What better way to explore local meant than to join a local meat CSA?  Although they are not as common as vegetable/fruit CSAs they are are growing in availability throughout the country.  While I can't offer specific suggestions for the entire country, if you are from the San Francisco Bay area you should check out Marin Sun Farms .  I've been in their meat CSA for several months now and really enjoy it.   They have several packages to choose from depending on your family's size and the amount of meat you eat.  Each month you'll get a selection of meat based on your selected package from either beef, lamb, pork or goat. Packages range from $30/month to $170/month. — picked by Foodie Pam

 

ImageBison:  While I'm on the subject of meat, another great meat option is Bison.  It's a lean red meat that tastes great.  Sadly, Bison is not wildly available.  In fact, until recently I'd only had it in restaurants.  High Plains Bison   offers mail order Bison that arrives on dry-ice.  They have a wide selection of Bison meat cuts and also offer sausages, hot dogs and burgers.  The sausages, in particular, were quite good and offer a less fat alternative without less taste for those who, like me, crave sausages.  Some options include a Bison sampler  ($39.99) or 10 3.2 oz Bison Sausages ( $35.99). — picked by Foodie Pam

Gifts for Stuffing the Stocking - it's the little things that count!

Moleskine Recipe Journal: I always keep a small notebook with me in the kitchen so I can jot down recipes from some of my more memorable home cooked meals. But this Moleskine recipe journal ($19.95) beats my dollar store notebooks any day.  Perfect for the serious cook or food professional in your life.  It's divided into six themed sections, appetizers, main courses, etc. with plenty of blank pages to let your inner recipe developer run free.  I could use about three of these right now.  Available at Amazon and wherever Moleskine Journals are sold.  — picked by Heather Jones

 

Beer Soap:   Do you know someone who loves their beer so much you wonder if they'd be willing to bathe in it?  Well wonder no more, for the ultimate beer lover in your life, handmade Artisan style soaps made with Nogne Winter Ale, Sam Adams Holiday Porter and many more of your favorite brews.  That nightly beer has never felt so good. — picked by Heather Jones

 

ImageWine Salame:  Columbus' Wine Salame Collection is made with fine wine varietals and other quality ingredients specifically selected to complement and enhance their unique flavors. Choose from Pinot Grigio salame with a hint of lemon zest; Pinot Noir with pink peppercorns; or Cabernet Sauvignon with juniper berries. Around $ 5.99 for 8oz; available at select specialty food stores and grocery retailers nationwide.  — picked by Peggy Fallon

Cookbooks!

Cookbooks are always a great foodie gift.  We've got some picks for you that we'll  share next week in our foodie cookbook gift guide and in our annual selection of the best cookbooks of the year.

Disclosure: Items discussed in this post may have been provided by vendors, publicists, and/or manufacturers to Project Foodie. 

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 22 November 2010 )
 

Discovering Gelato

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Written by foodie pam   
Tuesday, 02 November 2010

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Double Dark Chocolate
In this age of seasonal, local and homemade, I'm not ashamed to admit I buy ice cream. It's not that I don't have an ice cream maker. In fact I've made some rather tasty frozen delights on my own, but I also lack will power (especially when it comes to ice cream) and prefer not to have even the makings for ice cream on hand.  Instead, if I absolutely must have ice cream (a rather frequent occurrence I admit) I force myself to get out of the house and go buy some.  Call it forced restraint—although I admit it doesn't really work that well and I still end up having frozen treats more often than I probably should.

That's why it should be no surprise that I'm sharing with you a new favorite frozen delight in November—a time when hot from the oven pies and other warm desserts may be more common.  I have a bit of an addiction to ice cream—one that started long before I was a soda jerk in high school and one that continues to evolve.   I recently shared a locally produced boozy ice cream that got me on the hunt for additional intriguing frozen delights and this month I want to share another amazing find - Talenti Gelato and Sorbetto

ImageTalenti is a Dallas, TX company that handcrafts gelato and sorbetto using what they say is a 500-year old artisanal process.  They also carefully select the ingredients opting for fresh pasteurized milk (without growth hormones), pure cane sugar (no high fructose corn syrup), and fresh quick frozen ingredients (no syrups, flavorings or fruit preserves).  The result is smooth, creamy, delicious and flavor packed.  Despite this, because gelato is made with milk rather than cream, it is lower in fat than ice cream (Talenti says their products have 30-100% less fat than ice cream). 

Talenti has nearly 20 different flavors!  I've tried a bunch of both the gelatos and sorbettos and enjoyed them all.  They each have very distinctive and somewhat addictive flavors.  Picking a single favorite wouldn't be fair since I really liked several of them including the Caramel Cookie Crunch, Double Dark Chocolate, and the Toasted Almond gelatos.  For the sorbettos, the Blood Orange and Italian Ice really stood out for their intense natural flavor.  Which one will I grab on my next gelato run?  It's a hard choice and with so many good choices I may simply have to close my eyes and grab!

Disclosure: Items discussed in this post may have been provided by vendors, publicists, and/or manufacturers to Project Foodie. 

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 November 2010 )
 

Picking a Favorite Vanilla

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Written by foodie pam   
Friday, 08 October 2010

ImageEach year as the cool Fall weather kicks in I start baking more.  Usually, my first big Fall baking activity goes hand-in-hand with a big shopping trip. Staples like flour and white sugar need to be re-filled. Baking powder and some baking spices need a refresh even if they are not gone as they lose their oomph over time.  I also stock up on chocolate (cocoa powder, dark chocolate and bittersweet chocolate) which I don't keep in large quantities because it can absorb other flavors.  And then there is vanilla extract, which is suspended in an alcohol solution and I believe best kept in relatively small quantities. 

In general, I'm not specific about the brands or types of my baking staples, although I prefer to use a high quality chocolate like Scharffen-Berger and am very careful about the amount of cacao for each particular use.  Similarly, in years past I've been  careful to use a high quality vanilla extract like Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, but I must admit I didn't pay much attention to what type of vanilla I used.

Recently I was reading through some baking cookbooks and noticed that most authors state a favorite vanilla extract.  Usually they state not only a brand but also a specific vanilla origin.  That got me thinking - why don't I have a favorite vanilla?  Honestly, it's just because I've never compared the various vanillas. So, I decided to do a vanilla taste test, and of course, share the results with all of you…

Since I wanted to compare different vanilla origins rather than different producers, I limited my testing to four different types of vanilla (Mexican, Tahitian, Organic Madagascar Bourbon and Madagascar Bourbon) all from Nielsen-Massey Vanillas which is my favorite brand of vanilla.

The first question I had was how to taste vanilla?  I mean, it's not really something you want to drink right out of the bottle is it?  I queried fellow foodie and cookbook author Peggy Fallon who immediately replied that drizzling vanilla on sugar cubes was a good first step.  She also was quick to point out her current favorite vanilla, but I was not going to let her bias me in my quest…

To make the test blind, I covered the labels on the four vanillas and with the help of foodie Husband we got down to tasting the vanillas.  We both unanimously agreed on the results which essentially divided the vanillas into two groups.  The first group, consisting of the Mexican and Tahitian vanillas, had a more pronounced and somewhat spicier vanilla flavor with the Mexican being a bit more mellow than the Tahitian.  The two Madagascar Bourbon vanillas had a less strong vanilla flavor that almost seemed like a secondary note compared to the Mexican and Tahitian vanillas.  Of them we preferred the organic Madagascar Bourbon which was more mellow that the non-organic. (As a side I should note that Madagascar Bourbon is not related to American whiskey, rather it refers to the Bourbon island chain that Madagascar is in. Nevertheless vanilla extracts are suspended in alcohol and we felt both Madagascar Bourbon vanillas had a bit of an alcohol flavor). 

ImageGreat, we both ranked the Mexican vanilla higher which also just so happened to be Peggy's favorite as well.  We were done right? Nope. My foodie consultant cautioned me that the vanilla might taste different when incorporated into a baked good.  A true test must incorporate the vanilla into something - preferably a baked good that is vanilla centric.  Rather than make four batches of cookies I limited the second stage of testing to the top two vanillas above.  I made Vanilla sugar cookies (as much fun as slurping large batches of whipped cream sounded it seemed a bit over the top and still didn't involve baking!). 

The results with the cookies were essentially the same as above. Our favorite was the Mexican Vanilla which resulted in a stronger vanilla flavor in the cookies.   As a side, I should note that the product information for the Tahitian vanilla states it "is best used in products that are not subjected to high heat, such as in refrigerated and frozen desserts, pastry creams, fruit pies and sauces, smoothies and shakes, and puddings and custards".  Guess I should have done a whipped cream comparison too!  Perhaps the Tahitian would have won that one…

Still, I'm glad I did the comparison. I was surprised by the clear differences between the Mexican and Tahitian compared to the Madagascar Bourbon vanillas.  How about you? Do you have a favorite vanilla?  If you want to be your own judge and have a spare afternoon, some sugar cubes and an outlet for batches of cookies give the taste test a try.  But, if you'd rather not spend the time on such a project you may want to just trust Peggy Fallon, myself and foodie Husband and go with the Mexican vanilla. I know that's what I'll be using for all my fall and holiday baking this year…

Disclosure: Items discussed in the What's Tasty posts may have been provided by vendors, publicists, and/or manufacturers to Project Foodie.

Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 08 October 2010 )
 
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