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Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Exactly Is In My Vegetarian Worthington FriPat?

(D9)
Hi my fine friends,

Remember my "Battle of the Veggie Burgers" blog?  Hey!  I'm not asking much as it was just posted yesterday!  Are you really reading my blog???  I'm not much of a photographer so it can be just the pictures that you "read".


Well, I've done some investigation to see exactly what Worthington (Kellogg's) is selling me and what I have consumed.  Will I obtain super-plastic doll powers?  Will I be able to leap tall buildings with a single bounce?  Will I turn Hulk green?  Can I now spin spider webs?  Yeah... I want to know too!

Ingredients (as listed below)

Here are the ingredients and what I have learned of each.  Maybe we can learn something?

Textured vegetable protein (wheat gluten, soy protein concentrate, water for hydration):  Acceptable.  Bob's Red Mill brand simply lists TVP ingredient as "defatted soy flour" and nothing more.  It appears that Worthington combines wheat gluten and water with their soy flour.  By the way, the expression "soy flour" is analogous with "defatted soy flour".  Afterall, soy flour is the by-product when oils are extracted from soybeans.

Corn oil:  Grudgingly, acceptable.  It's cheap and high in saturated fats.  For comparison, corn oil has 1.761 g of saturated and 0.0388 g of trans fat per 0.05 oz (1 Tbsp).  Canola oil?  0.994 g saturated and 0 g trans fat for same.  Olive oil?  1.864 g saturated and 0 g trans fat for same.

Water:  Acceptable.  H2O.  Enough said?  I'm trusting they utilize an acceptable water source.

Egg whites:  Acceptable.  Would prefer free-range cage free egg whites but I'm okay with this.

Calcium caseinate:  Acceptable.  It's a protein produced from casein in skim milk.  Research shows me that this is a perfectly acceptable food ingredient.

Dextrose (< 2%):  Acceptable.  Nothing more than a simple sugar.  Problem in high concentrates but acceptable as used by Worthington.

Modified tapioca starch:  Acceptable.  Modifying a tapioca starch is used enhance the starch as a thickening agent, stabilizer, or an emulsifier.

Natural and artificial flavors from non-meat sourcesTo Be Determined.  I have e-mail Worthington to inquire what this may be or what it means.  I will let you know what they say (and if they say).  
03APR Update:  Received a most satisfactory response from Kelloggs as follows:  "The natural and artificial flavors used in our products may be made from products that exist in nature such as plants and even yeast. As an example, natural flavors may include natural peanut butter, spices, vanilla extract, etc. We are not at liberty to disclose the the components or make up of the flavorings as these mixes are confidential and proprietary to our suppliers. We apologize for the inconvenience."  I am pleasantly surprised to hear back from them so quickly and this reinforces my trust in Kellogg's products.  Kudos to Kelloggs!

Hydrolyzed corn gluten:  Okay, but why???  Safe for human consumption but rarely used due to taste.  Makes a great herbicide though!  It's a by-product created during the wet milling of corn.  But, again, why use it Worthington?

Soy protein:  Acceptable.  Dehulled, defatted soybean meal.

Wheat gluten:  Acceptable.  Composed of two wheat proteins, gliadin and glutenin.  Also sold as "sietan".

Autolyzed yeast extract:  Acceptable.  Autolyzed yeast (containing the cell walls) or autolyzed yeast extract consists of concentrations of yeast cells that are allowed to die and break up, so that the yeasts' endogenous digestive enzymes break their proteins down into simpler compounds (amino acids and peptides).

Soy protein isolate:  Acceptable.  Made from defatted soy flour which has had most of the non-protein components, fats and carbohydrates removed

Maltodextrin:  Acceptable.  Produced from starch by partial hydrolysis.

Dried onion:  Acceptable.

Caramel color:  Acceptable.  One of the oldest and most widely-used food colorings.

Garlic powder:  Acceptable.

Cellulose gum:  Acceptable.  Cellulose gum is a popular substance due to its ability to help thicken, stabilize and emulsify a product. Cellulose gum is farmed from trees and cotton and is therefore readily renewable, abundant and cheap.

Spices:  Acceptable.

Celery:  Acceptable.

Corn starch:  Acceptable.

Onion powder:  Acceptable.

Niacinamide:  Acceptable.  Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that occurs in most natural foods.

Iron [ferrous sulfate]:  Acceptable.  Ferrous sulfate is the chemical compound with the formula (FeSO4), known since ancient times as copperas.  It is most commonly encountered as the blue-green heptahydrate.

Vitamin B1 [thiamin mononitrate]:  Acceptable.

Vitamin B6 [pyridcodine hydrochloride]:  Acceptable.

Vitamin B2 [riboflavin]:  Acceptable.

Vitamin B12 [cyanocobalamin]:  Acceptable.

Paprika:  Acceptable.

Soy lecithin:  Acceptable.

So... There you have it my fine friends.  I now know what I am putting into my body.  But, of course, this would have been better served had I done this before consuming the product?  We plastic Hollywood dolls aren't the brightest bulbs in the bunch.

But, after the belated research I feel comfortable consuming Worthington's FriPat patties.  However, once again I shall reiterate that my mind will now be focused on a less processed product.  I am certain that with experience, knowledge and time the food scientists at Kellogg's have developed these components to manufacture and distribute their vegetarian burger alternative.  Unbeknownst to me, I am confident there are issue and concerns related to the mass production and distribution of a safe food source to the general public.  Therefore, let not Chucky judge these nothing less than safe and delicious!

Hi-dee hi-dee maybe-I-should-be-checking-out-what-I-am-about-to-eat-BEFORE-consuming-ho my friends!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Battle of the Veggie Burgers

(D8)
Hello my friend,

Last night Tiffany and I decided to try two new veggie burgers which neither of us had previous tried.  There was the Jason's Quinoa Chili Burger and the Worthington FriPat burger.  The first being of local (Melbourne, FL) source and of grain origin.  The latter being a Kellogg's product of vegetable and grain origin.

Jasper's Quinoa Chili Burger & Worthington's FriPat

It really wasn't a fair competition as the two are obviously quite different.  Nonetheless, Tiffany and I grilled one of each patty and placed it onto identical sandwich construction:  fresh Publix bakery onion roll, clover sprouts, avocado, pickle, tzatziki sauce, tomato, and bleu cheese crumbles. 

The test?  Place each on the grill, add it onto the sandwich, slice them in half, and we taste them both.

From freezer removal, there is absolutely no doubt which is which.  One appears red (chili) grain based and the other appears to be more vegetable based.  From the onset, our experiment won't hold any merit. 

Jasper's Patty and Worthington's FriPat (L to R)

But ~ Are they any good?  Are both of them tasty?  Were they a smart purchase?  There were some things that might be learned.


Jasper's Patty and Worthington's FriPat (F to B)

Let's begin with the ingredients.  I cannot compare the nutrition as Jasper's does not provide the information.  From the ingredients, one can gather the relative knowledge that calories would be under control.

Jasper's Quinoa Chili Burger (12 oz):  pinto beans, organic quinoa, organic sweet brown rice,  chili powder, tomato paste, garlic, organic sweet onions, and molasses.

Worthington's FriPat Burger (9 oz):  TVP (textured vegetable protein), corn oil, water, egg whites, calcium caseinate, dextrose, modified tapioca starch, natural and artificial flavors from non-meat (mystery) sources, hydrolyzed corn gluten, soy protein, wheat gluten, autolyzed yeast extract, soy protein isolate, maltodextrin, dried onion, caramel color, garlic powder, cellulose gum, spices (again, mystery), celery, corn starch, onion powder, vitamins and minerals (niacinamide, iron [ferrous sulfate], B1 [thiamin mononitrate], B6 [pyridoxine hydrochloride], B2 [riboflavin], B12 [cyanocobalamin]), paprika, soy lechithin.

Hmm... I see a near-future blog here.  Exactly what are these things that I eat???

In the honest opinions of Tiffany and Chucky?  How did these to vegetarian burgers fare?  To be honest, both were delicious, tasty and held their own.  Neither crumbled and fell apart and the FriPat making the more convincing mock-hamburger.  


Worthington's FriPat and Jasper's Patty (L to R)

I truly liked both.  The FriPat is much cheaper than the Jasper's but the ingredients clearly spell out the reason.  Jasper's is a locally produced natural product.  Made of good product and therefore, good for you.  The FriPat?  This is TBD (to be determined).  I will investigate these mysterious ingredients and report back to you in a near-future blog.



Until then, I cannot see reason I should not enjoy both.  Truth be told, I shouldn't be buying these products and should be making my own.  This too will be a blog upon success in my quest to find the perfect vegetarian patty.

Hi-dee hi-dee what-the-heck-are-Chucky-and-Tiffany-actually-eating-ho my friends!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Indian Coconut Green Beans

(D7)
Hello everyone!

Betcha thought that I would be doing another wine tasting blog huh?  <hehe> Well... a co-worker of Tiffany's was kind enough to share the following recipe with us.  I don't know exactly how to describe it other than "deliciously exotic".  I, myself, am not a particularly big fan of green beans.  I don't hate 'em.  I simply don't rank them high on my desired edibles list.

Indian Coconut Green Beans

However, this recipe may very well bump them up on that list!  You get the sweetness of the onion and green bean, heat of the serrano chilies, and tropic flavors of the coconut.  The mustard seed provides a toasted nut enhancement to the dish.  I cannot quite put my hands around the effect of the turmeric unless it's simply for the aroma and health benefits?  Turmeric is often referred as Indian saffron.

Green beans, onion, mustard, chilies, coconut, & turmeric

Ingredients:
  • 2 cans French cut green beans (I used fresh organic frozen instead)
  • 1 large yellow onion, white or sweet onion acceptable
  • 2-3 serrano chili peppers, quantity to heat/taste
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon black mustard seed (I used brown mustard seed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3-4 tablespoon coconut oil

Sautéing popped mustard seed with onion, chilies, & turmeric

Directions:
  1. Coarsely chop the onion and mince the serrano chili peppers and set aside.
  2. Prepare to sauté the mustard seeds in a very hot pan using 3 to 4 tablespoon coconut oil.  Cover the skillet when sautéing mustard seeds as they quickly will pop.  Allow to pop until mustard seeds slow down but all seeds not entirely popped.  Approximately 30 to 60 seconds.
  3. Open lid and add the chopped onion, minced serrano chili pepper, and turmeric.  Sauté until the onions have softened and turned translucent.  Stir frequently to prevent the mixture from scorching and sticking to the pan.
  4. Dump the green beans and coconut flakes into the sauté pan. Stir to incorporate all ingredients.
  5. Turn down the heat to low and cook until the green beans are heated through.
  6. Serve as-is or add spoonfuls into handmade whole wheat flour tortilla pieces.
Tiffany and I each took 1-cup to work for lunch along with 2 homemade whole wheat flour tortillas each.  We tore the tortillas into four equal parts, pinched them into a cup shape, filled them with the Indian Coconut Green Bean mixture, and savored the healthy delicious tastes!

Note:  Homemade whole wheat flour tortilla recipe to follow soon.  I first need to perfect the texture and chewiness before introducing it to the blog.

Nutrition per cup

Hi-dee hi-dee think-healthy-and-eat-healthy-ho my friend!

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Wine Tasting - Cesari "Mara" Ripasso Valpolicella 2007

    Vino bonjour my friends!

    Tiffany & I sat on the back porch this evening enjoying slices of fresh artichoke & mushroom pizza, sipping this wine, and watching Mother Nature pass time away.  A most comfortable evening assisted with the use of a floor fan.  It's beginning to get a little warm here in Central Florida with 90's expected before the weekend is over.
    But it's never too hot for a great wine!  When we pulled this wine from the rack, it looked neither familiar to Tiffany nor myself.  We're confident that this bottle was a Christmas gift from my sister.  She could not find wines from Peidmont, Italy but found some other Italian wines for us to enjoy.  This one is from Northeastern Italy and the Veneto viticulture region.

    Vineyards in the Valpolicella region.

    Point Score A:  88
    Point Score B:  90


    2007 Cesari "Mara" Ripasso Valpolicella

    Appellation:  Quinzano, Italy
    Grape Varietal(s):  undisclosed blend ("dry red wine")
    Retail Price:  unknown (gift)
    Vintage:  2007
    Producer:  Gerardo Cesari SPA
    Alcohol:  13.5%
    Calories:  94 per 4-ounce

    Tasting sheets as follows.

    Review A
    Review B

    We both experienced a beautiful elegant dry red wine.  Lots of initial tannins to pucker the palate.  As it breathes, it roars in bold smoky cherry notes.  We rated the nose and the flavors equally.  It was the balance and finish where we differed only slightly.  Where we described our tastes, they may have differed in descriptive words but signaled a mutual impression of the wine.

    Recommended by both Tiffany and Chucky.  It's not a Barolo or Barbaresco from Piedmont but it's quite as delightful as a Barbera.  This Cesari "Mara" Ripasso Valpolicella may very well be that wine that Jeremiah's friend always sang about.

    The label reads as follows:

    "Mara is named in honor of Mara Cesari, the matriarch of one of the Veneto's most reknowned winemaking families.  The secret of Mara's soft, velvety character is a light, springtime, refermentation on Amarone lees, called Ripasso.

    Thanks to the ancient technique of Ripasso and to the skillful winemaking of the producer Franco Cesari, Mara has a full-bodied yet balanced presentation.  Mara ages in oak casks for 6-12 months and at least 6 months in the bottle.  Serve at room temperature, suitable with game, grilled meats and mature cheese."

    Conclusion?  I owe my sister a big hug and thanks for finding this bottle and sharing it with us!

    Hi-dee hi-dee wine-make-great-gifts-ho my friends.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Wine Tasting - Santa Rita 120 Carménère 2009

    Hello my fine friends!

    Another wine tasting?  Are you kidding me?  What in the heck is going on here, you ask?  It's quite simple actually.  Tiffany and Chucky both love wine.

    For those who do not appreciate vino, I sincerely extend my apologies.  For those who do, I sincerely hope that you find something within my blog worthy of your time.

    Carménère grapes

    Why a Carménère?  That was my first selection when Tiffany and I saw the 3 for $15.00 wine special at Eat More Produce.  When I saw that the wines are from Chile, I immediately chose the Carménère.  A grape varietal common to the Chilean vinicultural region.  When I think of Carménère, I think of South America.

    Point Score A:  88
    Point Score B:  88

    2009 Santa Rita 120 Carmenere

    Appellation:  Central Valley, Chile
    Grape Varietal(s):  Carménère
    Retail Price:  $5.00
    Vintage:  2009
    Producer:  Vina Santa Rita S.A.
    Alcohol:  13.5%
    Calories:  94 per 4-ounce

    Tasting sheets as follows.
    Review A
    Review B

    On the initial first sip, "Wow!"  Talk about a fruit-forward grape varietal.  The beautiful grape color as depicted in the photo above is truly reflected in the pour, the nose, and the sensations delivered by this wine to the palate.

    Both Tiffany and I both rated this one the same.  Quite allot of similarities in our tasting reviews.  I changed my scoring after further review and consideration.  Subsequent sips dictated a higher rating for the balance of this wine.  It was a symphonious blossom of taste that occurred from the initial sip.  The angels of grape danced happily upon my taste buds.  A Balance rating of "3 - Nice" simply was too low.

    If you love a big bold red with lots of dark chocolate cherry taste, this one is for you my friend!  No, it's not a value.  Instead it's a steal of a deal!  As sure as my dagger remains sharp, this is a wine you'd be a fool to overlook.

    Hi-dee hi-dee Chilean-wines-are-a-true-value-ho my friends.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Green Day Cafe - Revisited (over and over again)

    Salutations of best wishes my fine friend!


    Uh-huh.  You guessed it.  Another blog entry for the Green Day Café.  "But... Why Chucky?  Why do you keep going on and on and on about this place?", you ask.

    Mediterranean Platter  (Fresh Grilled Pita Bread, salsa, guacamole, hummus, & tabouli)

    Well, folks.  It's that good.  And, in so many ways.  No ~ I don't expect you to jump on a bus, hop a ship, or charter a jet to get to Winter Park, Florida.  But, should you ever happen to be in Central Florida a visit might be well worth the short drive from the "attractions" area (Disney, Sea World, Universal, etc.)

    Turkey Cranberry & Harvest Grain with Portabello Soup  (Turkey, walnuts, romaine lettuce, dried cranberries, and raspberry vinaigrette - substitute hummus for turkey)

    It's quickly became the favorite dining spot for Tiffany & Chucky.  And, it's not just the food.  Certainly the food is a measurable reason but the little "extras" add up quickly.  "Such as?"

    The food, the eco- construction of their building, the eco- friendly menu, the organic food source, the friendly staff, the menu variety, and the entire minimalized green footprint for everything they are striving to accomplish.  You simply walk in hungry and walk out completely satisfied.  From your tummy to your Earth conscious.  You just know that you did something good for the day!

    Oriental Chicken Wrap & Cream of Squash Soup  (Chicken, spring mix, carrots, chow mein noodles, mandarin oranges, and sesame ginger dressing - substitute avocado for chicken)

    So, if you take anything away from this blog might I suggest to consider your personal environmental footprint of the daily activities.  You don't have to make dramatic changes but each little bit counts.  Recycle that bottle.  Choose paper over plastic and Styrofoam.  And, patronize those who are "Earth future" conscious when making choices.  It's a competitive dining market out there.  Why not give your hard-earned dollars to those who seem to go the extra mile?

    Hi-dee hi-dee have-a-minimized-environmental-footprint-day-ho my friend!

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Wine Tasting - Santa Rita 120 Syrah 2008

     Greetings and salutations to one and all!  No-one excluded, naturally.

    Uh-huh... another wine tasting and review.  As long as there are grapes.  As long as they keep fermenting it into wine.  As long as they keep bottling and selling it.  As long as my wallet can afford it.  Tiffany and I will continue to enjoy this simple pleasure of life.  A most generous gift from our Mother Earth and Cousin Nature.

    Point Score A:  90
    Point Score B:  85

    2008 Santa Rita 120 Syrah

    Appellation:  Central Valley, Chile
    Grape Varietal(s):  Syrah
    Retail Price:  $5.00
    Vintage:  2008
    Producer:  Vina Santa Rita S.A.
    Alcohol:  13.5%
    Calories:  94 per 4-ounce

    Tasting sheets as follows.

    Review A

    Review B

    Wow!  A 5-point rating difference between Tiffany and I on this one.  We're not certain why but I have a theory.  Although Tiffany could not detect the licorice notes, I found it to be delightfully strong.  Black licorice is one of those things that I love and Tiffany detests.  Perhaps her subconscious recognized what her palate did not?

    But this is NOT to imply that I am right and that she is wrong.  Please do not construe this of me.  With wine there is one thing abundantly clear, there is no one correct answer.  Just because I like it, just because Tiffany likes it, just because your cousin Freddy likes it; it doesn't mean you have to like it.  What I taste will NEVER be exactly what you take away from the identical wine.  What another tastes and what another smells means little.  Do you like it?  If you enjoy it, this is all that really matters.

    Trust me... A $3.00 bottle of wine can be as delicious as a $30.00 bottle of wine.  If there are more than one of you tasting a wine, I ask a favor.  Take turns and each of you "blind" taste and review the wine.  One person selects, uncorks, and pours the wine.  The other provides their honest and true review without knowing appellation, varietal, age, or price.  Rotate turns doing this and your eyes will be opened wide!  No longer will you or can you judge a wine by it's label, it's vintner, or it's price.

    Hi-dee hi-dee take-the-blind-wine-taste-challenge-ho my friends.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    St. Patrick's Day - Eating Green

    Top of the morning to everyone!

    Yes.  I realize that St. Patrick's Day was this past Thursday (March 17th).  But I'm just getting around to writing this blog.  Sorry.  But better late than never, right?


    No, neither Tiffany nor I are of Irish descent.  Myself?   I am of Chinese doll factory origin by way of Hollywood (my movies).  Why go out to eat on St. Patrick's Day?  Doesn't everyone want an excuse to celebrate on a daily basis?  Tiffany and I certainly did.


    On St. Patrick's Day as I was crawling along at the world's crummiest software factory, I got a message on my cell phone.  It was from my friends at Green Day Café who were offering 10% off in celebration of the holiday.  I know, I know... It isn't the greatest discount but it pays for the tax (6.5%) and then some.

    Besides, sustaining their eco- and organic approach to fresh foods comes with additional costs not burdened by your ordinary bland & fatty fast-food chain.  I, myself, have no issue paying a little extra as overhead for biodegradable cups, bowls, straws, lids, etc.  The immediate costs far out-weigh the long term cost being passed along to everyone's grandchildren.  And, too, Green Day Café meets me part way as their costs are extremely low for all that they offer.

    7 Layer Rice Bowl
    (brown rice, vegetarian black beans, colby jack cheese, western style guacamole, fresh salsa, zesty hummus, spicy buffalo sauce drizzle)

    Can I share something with you in the strictest confidence?  Can you keep a secret?  Discount or not, it was a wonderful day to visit the Green Day Café.  Psst... Everyday is!


    Sunset Veggie Wrap and Mushroom & Brie Soup
    (Spring mix, cucumber, dried cranberry, walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, tomato, and raspberry vinaigrette)

    I figure from the most technical sense, both Tiffany and I did something most certainly "green" on this holiday.  From the 100% recycled materials within their restaurant to the 100% recyclable plates, cups, straws, etc.; could we get any greener?  If closer to home and the office, we could have walked or cycled there I suppose.

    Add the delicious food, healthy choices, and 100% organic raw ingredients and Tiffany & I feel quite satisfied with our St. Patrick's Day dining choice.  Twelve months ago we would have gone somewhere to find consume a most carnivorous meal of corned beef.  I write this on the sixth month of my vegetarian life and can without any doubt or reluctance state that I do not and have not missed carnivorous meal choices.

    As long as wonderful places like the Green Day Café exists, I have a plethora of dining choices.  In addition, I sacrifice neither quality, value, nor taste.

    Hi-dee hi-dee reduce-your-environmental-footprint-ho my friend!

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Wine Tasting - Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

    A round of wine for everyone!  Except... you have pay for it yourself.

    Cool!  It's wine tasting time once again.  And this time it's a Cabernet Sauvignon.  What I like to call "the safe red wine".  It's the true middle-of-the-road wine and the perfect accompaniment for a large group of guests.  Not too timid but not overly powerful like a Shiraz or Zinfandel.

    You're guests may not like Cabernet Sauvignon but they will drink it.  And, 99.9% of the time they will enjoy it.  If they fall into the 0.01% category, offer them a beer or a soda.  They should not be drinking wine.  Many a good Cabernet Sauvignon grape offered it's rind and pulp to make the delicious nectar!

    Tiffany and I had a pretty good feeling about this wine before we uncorked it.  We've had positive experience sipping on a Smoking Loon Chardonnay at a local Indian cuisine restaurant.  They had done such a nice job on their Chardonnay, we expected similar from their Cabernet Sauvignon.  And we lucked out to find this on sale at Eat More Produce at only 2 for $14.00.

    Point Score A:  87
    Point Score B:  86

    Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon

    Appellation:  Napa, California
    Grape Varietal(s):  Cabernet Sauvignon
    Retail Price:  $7.00
    Vintage:  2009
    Producer:  Smoking Loon Wine Company
    Alcohol:  13.5%
    Calories:  94 per 4-ounce

    Tasting sheets as follows.  As always, these are the fair and honest opinions of two 4' plastic Hollywood dolls.  Do with this information as you may.

    Review A
    Review B

    An authentic Cabernet Sauvignon experience if not a wee bit abundant on the fruit notes.  Both of us experienced the earthy traits of Cabernet Sauvignon with our first sips.  Tobacco, spice, chocolate and leather.

    From the first glass until the next.  Everything was simply splendid until the bottle became empty.  Have you ever seen two 4' plastic dolls cry?  Well, my fine friends... It simply isn't pretty!  $7.00 very well spent, indeed.

    Hi-dee hi-dee Cabernet-Sauvignon-ho my friends.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Lucia di Lammermoor

    Hi Everyone!


    Where have Chucky and Tiffany been you ask?  At the opera!  Today was the Metropolitan Opera's final season performance of Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.  It was part of the MET Live in HD series. Only four more remaining for the 2010-2011 season.  <See Chucky cry.>

    Natalie Dessay as Lucia in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor"

    Outstanding!  Simply outstanding.  Winner, winner, toi-toi-toi opera.

    Mr. Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848)
    Mr. Donizetti receives my kudos for this masterpiece.  As does The Metropolitan Opera.  The music, the vocals, the synopsis, the sets, the costumes, the performers, and everything in between appeared beyond perfect to all of my senses.  3-hours 40-minutes of our lives very well spent!

    The synopsis in a nutshell?
    • Girl (Lucia) loves boy (Edgardo).  Boy (Edgardo) loves girl (Lucia).
    • To keep from going belly-up and to keep castle, brother (Enrico) wants sister (Lucia) to marry wealthy dude (Arturo).
    • Brother (Enrico) no like poor boy (Edgardo).
    • Bummer!  Girl (Lucia) doesn't want wealthy dude (Arturo).
    • Bummer!  Brother (Enrico) finds poor boy (Edgardo) obstacle in getting sister (Lucia) to marry wealthy dude (Arturo).
    • Bugger!  Poor boy (Edgardo) has business trip and must go away for a little while.
    • It's a deal!  "You girl (Lucia) stay faithful and I, poor boy (Edgardo), shall do the same."
    • Brother (Enrico) tricks poor sis (Lucia) with fake letter implying poor boy (Edgardo) not faithful.
    • "O-M-G!", screams sis (Lucia).  Heartbroken girl (Lucia) reluctantly marries wealthy dude (Arturo)
    • Guess who returns after marriage ceremony?
    • Wow ~ You're good.  Poor boy (Edgardo) back.
    • Poor boy (Edgardo) not happy camper and states so to married girl (Lucia).  Poor boy (Edgardo) becomes heartbroken poor boy (Edgardo).
    • Married girl (Lucia) becomes sad married girl (Lucia).  Married girl (Lucia) say, "What the hey?"
    • Yadda yadda yaddaYou can see where this is going can't you.  Hey!  Look up at the picture above.  
    • That's blood on that wedding gown!  Whose is it?  Go watch the opera and find out yourself!  It shall be well worth the trip when you do.
    Hi-dee hi-dee do-not-miss-the-MET-Live-in-HD-ho my friends!

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Tortellini Sostanza

    Hi everyone!  How about a simplified version of the Pasta Sostanza recipe?

    Tortellini Sostanza

    I've decided to call this one Tortellini Sostanza and it's a much quicker dish to prepare than its precursor.  I've simplified it by using canned tomatoes instead of fresh whole tomatoes.  Also, I've excluded the "optional" items (capers and olives) not found in the Carrabba's dish.  And Carrabba's uses fresh baby spinach instead of fresh basil in their recipe.

    Again, both Tiffany and I are extremely happy with the results of the recipe.  This recipe made enough sauce for 8 servings (16 ounces) of tortellini.  It was delicious, fresh and quite satisfying!

    Note:  The following recipe makes sauce for 8 servings.  I am cooking 4 servings of tortellini and freezing remaining sauce.

    Ingredients

    Ingredients:
    • 1 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
    • 1 can (dr wt 4 oz) diced mushrooms, drained
    • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes with juice
    • 1 can (dr wt 8.5 oz) artichoke hearts, drained
    • 10 large fresh basil leaves, each torn into 3 to 4 pieces
    • Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
    • 1/2 tsp Italian herb seasoning
    • 8 ounce tortellini, dry (2 oz dry per serving)
    • 8 Tbsp Italian bread crumbs (1 Tbsp per serving)
    Diced onions sauteing in coconut oil.
    8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped.

    Directions:
    1. In medium saucepan, cook diced onion in coconut oil over medium heat approximately 8 to 10-minutes.  When diced onion are soft and translucent and about to caramelize, add roughly chopped garlic and cook 1 additional minute.
    2. Add diced tomatoes, drained diced mushrooms and Italian herb seasoning.  While simmering, add salt and white pepper to taste.  Cook approximately 20-minutes over medium heat until juices evaporate and sauce thickens. 
    3. Begin cooking tortellini according to package instructions.
    4. Within minutes of tortellini being done, turn off saucepan and add artichoke hearts and torn basil leaves.
    5. Cover and allow basil to wilt.
    6. Drain tortellini and add portion size (2 oz dry = 1 serving) to each bowl.
    7. For each serving, spoon 1/8th of sauce on top.
    8. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp Italian bread crumbs onto each bowl. 
    Diced tomato & sliced mushroom added to sauteed onion & garlic.

    Suggestion:  Use sliced fresh baby portabello mushroom in lieu of canned mushroom.  If substituting fresh for canned, add to diced onion after first 5-minutes of sauteing.

    Freshly torn basil leaves added.
    Steaming basil leaves.
    Nutrition (per serving):

    430-calories per serving

    Hi-dee hi-dee it's-time-for-a-tortellini-meal-tonight-ho my friend. 

    Print recipe

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Wine Tasting - Crane Lake Riesling 2009

    Cheers to one and all!

    Uh-huh.  Another leisurely wine tasting afternoon (Saturday) on the back porch.  Weather was perfect for a wine tasting.  Plenty of sunshine and cool light breeze.  But, to be quite honest it could have been thunder and lightening and still been a most wonderful day for a wine tasting!

    Today's wine was a California Riesling.  When one thinks Riesling, one thinks Germany.  How will this California selection fare in our most arduous tasting and review?  Especially one on sale at Eat More Produce at only 2 for $10.00.

    Point Score A:  85
    Point Score B:  83

    2009 Crane Lake Riesling

    Appellation:  Napa & Sonoma, California
    Grape Varietal(s): Riesling
    Retail Price:  $5.00
    Vintage:  2009
    Producer:  Crane Lake Cellars

    Tasting sheets as follows.  No ~ neither Tiffany nor I cheated and read off of each others notes.  Each is independent and honest as the other.

    Review A
    Review B

    We both agreed it to be of the most traditional German Riesling taste!  Superb!  Sweet with lots of apple notes.  We both agreed that the bouquet was a little lacking but the taste made up for it.

    Also ~ it was agreed that the second and subsequent glasses shined much brighter than the first.  Do yourself a favor with this particular wine and allow it to breathe for a just a few minutes before closing your eyes, tipping your glass, and allowing the nectar of grapes to flow upon your palate.

    Ha!  What a steal for $5.00.  Although not an ardent fan of Rieslings, the Crane Lake Riesling holds it's place upon our wine rack.

    Hi-dee hi-dee sip-savor-and-enjoy-a-glass-today-ho my friend.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Green Day Café

    Hello my fine blogosphere friends!


    Green Day Café?  I think that they should rename themselves "A Most Marvelous Day Everyday Café".

    Tiffany and I began our day (Sunday) with our weekly shopping trip to Hoover's Essential Market.  They're not open on Saturdays and we like to visit them early when the aisles are quiet.  We needed some healthy essentials like organic kale, organic collard greens, vegan cheese, and sliced deli Wham (meatless ham).  The Seed was in need of her favorite Happy Hips canned dog food.  

    It was Tiffany's suggestion to try this place in Winter Park, Florida which we regularly pass by.  It's called Green Day Café and has an clean, fresh and inviting look about the building.  We kept saying to ourselves in passing, "Let's check this place out some day, okay?"  Well, today was this long awaited day.  Both Tiffany and I only regret that we hadn't tried it earlier.

    Green Day Café - a Winter Park, FL restaurant gem.

    We arrived when they first opened and we were the only patrons.  From one aspect, this is nice.  We were able to ask lots of questions of the friendly staff.  On the other hand, it truly saddens me that a place as nice as this isn't jammed packed full of patrons with a line waiting going out the doors.  Although probably not the nicest store front location in Winter Park, I am still bummed by the sight of an empty restaurant gem.

    Green Day Café facing towards front.

    Let me be honest here, my friends.  "Health" just doesn't sell well in Orlando, Florida.  I am sad to report that the words "tofu", "vegetarian", "vegan" and "healthy" just do not reverberate here in the South.  In the heart of Central Florida, we'd rather plow away a pristine sub-tropic parcel of land and build a fried chicken franchise, greasy hamburger joint, a corner drug store or used car lot instead of allowing a business that promotes health or environmental sustenance.  "You can pry our greasy chicken drumstick and fat-laden hamburger from our cardiac-arrested dead hands!"

    But ~ amongst the foreclosed, tacky, and franchise-laden parcels sits a true gem... The Green Day Café!  Wonderful menu selection, tasty food, great prices, fast healthy choices, and eco-friendly materials.  From the "plastic" utensils made of a sugar to the "plastic" cups made from corn, the place is amazing!  Upon entering for the first time, I could not help but notice the recycled natural wood floors!  Beautiful!  You get an immediate appreciation, sense and feel that the designers of this restaurant did a most excellent job minimizing their green foot-print.

    Green Day Café facing towards rear.

    The menu?  What you would expect from a minimally environment invasive establishment:  wraps, rice bowls, and soups.  The menu choices eliminate the need for commercial ovens and energy robbing grills/griddles.  And as an added bonus, it equates to fresh choices.

    Once again Tiffany and I ordered different items and shared.  Tiffany ordered the Sunset Veggie wrap (Spring mix, cucumber, dried cranberry, walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese, tomato, and raspberry vinaigrette) with side of Broccoli Crunch (broccoli coleslaw with dried cranberries and sunflower seed).  She added a small cup of Creamy Barley & Vegetable soup.

    Sunset Veggie wrap, Broccoli Crunch, Creamy Barley & Vegetable soup, and Mushroom & Brie soup.

    Me?  I ordered the Mushroom and Brie Rice Bowl (brown rice, vegetarian black beans, fresh cooked chicken, our famous mushroom and brie soup, diced purple onions), substituting hummus for chicken.  I added a small cup of Mushroom & Brie soup.

    Mushroom and Brie Rice Bowl, hummus substituted for chicken.

    You get your biodegradable drink cups, go into the dining area, serve your own drink, find a table and wait for their environmentally friendly paging system to call your order number.  Within a matter of minutes, the pager went off.  From the front counter we heard the young lady scream, "Order #1.  Your meal is ready!"

    Wow!  The pictures simply aren't fair.  Although everything looks delicious and tasty, trust me, the pictures don't do justice.  Everything tasted fresher and nicer than it looks (if this is possible).  Yes!  Tiffany and I found yet another killer of a restaurant to patronize.

    I sit here hours later writing this blog and still have a sense of the flavors and deliciousness of our meal.

    Any regrets?  Yes, one actually.  That it's a rather new restaurant and the franchise simply hasn't had a chance to blossom yet.  I honestly expect that someday you too will have a Green Day Café near you!

    Hi-dee hi-dee kudos-to-establishments-who-aim-to-reduce-their-environmental-footprint-ho my friend!