Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

It’s Back!

January 14, 2016

Blog crashed and was only able to restore data to 2011, rest assured I’ll have new items and ideas in the very near future.  Stay tuned!

Check out some frozen drinks featured on WHAG 25 –


Red Monkey Seasoning and Rubs

July 4, 2011

I stumbled across the Red Monkey website over 2 months ago and they graciously sent me a few samples to try. I’ve been using them in a variety of recipes from commercial to home use and each seasoning is loaded with flavor.

The main three that I have utilized are:

Mango Habanera – a delicious blend of sea salt, dried mango, orange peel, spices, peppers, smoke, garlic and a few other spices.

Smoked Paprika and Roasted Garlic – a nice blending of sea salt, garlic, smoke, onion paprika and select spices.

Hickory Smoked Balsamic – a perfect blend of sea salt, dehydrated garlic, spices and herbs, dehydrated onion, apple cider vinegar powder, ground mustard, citric acid, and balsamic vinegar powder.

I used the seasonings on chicken, ribs, steaks, pork loins and chops, fish, lobster, shrimp, vegetables, dips, sauces, gravies and the list goes on. Don’t take my word for it, go online and look up the seasonings and pick up some to try. They are certainly worth it, and at $3.99 a bottle they go a long way. They also carry foodservice sizes in a few of their blends if you need larger quantities. I’ve been using the smaller bottles but will be placing an order for foodservice sizes in the next two days. I really hope they have the Roasted Raspberry Chipotle in stock so that I can try out on some smoked pork or beef brisket.

Try taking 1 tablespoon of the Smoked Paprika and Roasted Garlic seasoning and add it to 1/2 cups of sour cream, 1/2 tsp lemon juice, and 1/2 cup Greek yogurt. Mix well and allow to sit for at least 3 hours for seasonings to blend. You can add more or less according to your personal taste, just remember that the flavor will intensify as it sits in the fridge.

Stay tuned in for more ideas and recipes featuring Red Monkey seasonings!

June 11, 2011

If it were not for Auguste Escoffier we would be eating to get by or simply eating as a fact of life. Food takes on a different flavor when treated with skill and understanding. All too often quality food is purchased, hidden away in a bag or drawer in the fridge, pantry or cupboard and left to the demise of time.

For some they like to look over Good Housekeeping, GQ, Taste of Home and magazine of all style of food presentation offering up a variety of cooking techniques. Suffice to say Auguste went down that path before any of these modern day versions of the quick fix recipe came to print. In 1903 he published what I believe is the mother of all magazines, cookbooks, guides and articles on taking cooking seriously.

True, I like to have fun in the kitchen but when the oil hits the skillet I like to rely on basic foundation principles. So when the latest copy of Le Guide Culinaire hit the bookshelves I was more than interested in using it for classroom instruction, and was beyond excited when a good friend from John Wiley & Sons, Inc contacted me to see if I would like to use it for educational purposes.

In the next several months I will digest the recipes as Auguste had written them, then later revised a second, third and lastly in 1921 for a fourth time. I’m also looking forward to imparting some of Escoffier’s time tested culinary skills to those paths i cross during my travels.

Cuisinart SM-70 7-Quart Stand Mixer

March 16, 2011

The Cuisinart Stand Mixer arrived on the doorstep and my two daughters were thrilled to be part of the unpacking and product testing. When I say product testing I mean anything and everything that comes out of the mixer, they want to taste.

Setup was easy and I had the bowl and attachments cleaned up and ready to go in a few minutes. I first tried out some chocolate chip cookie recipes and then moved onto fresh dinner rolls. I used a variety of flour in each recipe, even incorporating whole wheat flour to see how the mixer powered through thicker dough. The ease of adjusting the power by a turn of the knob was really nice and the fold button really helped when adding in the chips and other particulates. The 12 speeds give you a wide variety of mixing possibilities and pared with the auto shut off countdown timer you can work your recipe magic to the exact time needed. Cake mixes and muffin batters are equally a breeze with this awesome unit. I’ve yet to tax the powerful motor or find something that bogs down the paddle, dough hook or whisk when working up my recipes.

When I attached the dough hook I powered through several batches of whole wheat and buttermilk rolls back to back without an issue of overheating or loss of power. With the clear cover guard in place I simply added ingredients in the orders called for and went about my business until the dough formed a nice ball ready to kneed, rest, portion and bake. The cover is a nice feature in that my two girls and son at times ask to add ingredients, and I was forever worrying about the cover falling in or coming apart on my Kitchen-Aid. Well, no worries with this system, the cover pressure locks into place and will not slid off or move since it’s made to fir around the entire bowl as a one piece unit.

I don’t have the attachments yet, but I’d love to try out the three power ports available. If you pick up the attachments you can chop, blend, process, squeeze juice, grind sausage, make pasta, and so forth. With this one machine and it’s attachments you can have the power of a fully stocked kitchen in the space of a stand mixer.

Cleanup is a breeze with a simply wipe down and since there are very few corners and hooks you don’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning those occasional spills.

Here’s a listing of the stand mixer with included items:

Tilt-back Head
Top Cover
3 Power outlets
7 Quart Stainless Steel Bowl with Handles
Head-lift Release Lever securely locks stand mixer head into raised tilt-back position
On/Off, Fold and Speed Control Dial
12 speeds for precision mixing.
15-Minute Countdown Timer with Auto Shutoff
Chef’s Whisk
Flat Mixing Paddle
Dough Hook
Splash-guard with Pour Spout

If you are looking for a gift, or to replace and ailing mixer with a something that will stand up to years of use and mixing then look no further. The Cuisinart SM-70 Stand Mixer has what you need and I highly recommend it.

Cuisinart ICE-30BC 2-Quart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker

August 6, 2010

This machine has been really neat to use. It’s has a very small counter foot print, everything stores within itself, and it’s very easy to use and clean. The quality of ice cream, yogurt, sorbet or mixed drink is dependent upon what you place into the freeze bowl before you switch it on. I’ve made ice cream, ice milk, frozen yogurt, frozen drinks and everything mixed up quite well and were very flavorful. The more fat in the mix the better the consistency and flavor. The ice milk did freeze up nice but after going into the deep freeze it hardened up too much. My recommendation is to stick with the full flavor varieties of ice cream and yogurt.

However, sugar free drinks did not freeze well at all in the machine. They tended to cause the machine to run hard and stop when the ice built up on the sides. That nice slushy granular ice texture never formed and I had to stop the machine and pour warm water into the bowl to remove the ice. You need the sugar to combine with the ice to get he granulated texture so I suggest to sticking to the real thing and use sugar.

Cleanup is fast and simple and took just 2 to 3 minutes and every component was cleaned and the freeze bowl was back in the freezer ready for the next mixed drink or luscious creamy dessert. You need to be careful with the freeze bowl and make sure that you refreeze the bowl upside down so any water can run out of it while it’s drying and freezing.

You won’t be disappointed when you purchase this machine, and you will have loads of fun creating a plethora of frozen delights.

The Cheeses of Wisconsin: a culinary travel guide

August 5, 2010

This book is a great read even though it’s not a real in depth study of cheese. It was never meant to be an in depth study but more so a road-map on how to get to a variety of really great Cheese Makers that are spread across the state of Wisconsin. You get information on the cheese and cheesemakers and what styles of cheese they create along with their website, phone number and address.

It’s an excellent culinary travel guide and one that is certainly worth purchasing. To round out the book you are given Day trips to Cheesemakers, a Wisconsin map of the Cheesemakers, how to shop for Wisconsin cheese, resources if you are interested in cheesemaking, beverage pairing with cheese, how to serve cheese in “flights”, and finally recipes using Wisconsin cheese and suggestions for cooking with cheese. You simply can’t go wrong if you are heading to Wisconsin or are interested in Wisconsin cheese. California may have Happy Cows, but Wisconsin has Happy Cows and Happy Customers.

The Great Big Cheese Cookbook

August 5, 2010

As a newly appointed Chef Ambassador to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board I’ve been working overtime incorporating a variety of Wisconsin cheeses into my menus. It’s been great to have this collection at my fingertips to go through and see what has already been created utilizing the wonderful flavors and varieties of Wisconsin Cheese.

This inspired collection of recipes are every bit as good as their pictures and descriptions. I’ve made several recipes, most notably the Chocolate Moussecarpone Tarts which were well received at our last Catering function. The simply addition of rich creamy mascarpone cheese to melt chocolate gave a velvety richness to the tart as well as a beautiful presentation platform atop the chocolate tart shell. That’s just one of over 300 classic and modern recipes presented within the cookbook from celebrated chefs across the country. Classics such as fondue, or Wisconsin Cheese Straws blend well with Steak and Gorgonzola Thyme Crust followed up with Wisconsin Cheddar Peach Shortcakes.

Cooking with cheese comes easy if you follow the opening pages of the cookbook. It walks you through choosing, handling, storing, freezing and cutting and trimming the cheese. You are also given a “Perfect Pairing” guide at the end to help with pairing cheese with suggested wines and beer. There is even a Cheese substitutions guide to assist if you are in a bind. If you don’t have Brick then try Havarti or Muenster and if your Pasta dish is lacking in Parmesan then try grating on some Asiago.

Where cheese comes from truly matters, and unless you have quality milk you can’t produce quality cheese. No matter how happy the cows are in California; the difference is that Wisconsin has Happy Cows AND Happy Customers.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i

August 5, 2010

I’m by no means a professional photographer, but I do take a good bit of semi professional shots of food, landscapes and assorted images for my online reviews and publications. I was previously doing all that with a Canon 40D but it became to cumbersome and awkward and downright heavy when I had to go from location to location to shoot food images and landscape shots.

So, when the Canon T2i came out I looked over the material and decided it was time to sell the Canon 40D and look into a smaller more feature oriented camera, and I’ve never looked back. The setup was straightforward out of the box and I was up and running after a quick charge of the battery. The buttons are well placed and the manual certainly laid out the specifics of what I needed to select if I desired manual, semi auto or automatic settings. I attached hte body strap and was off shooting pictures.

The first images taken of my daughter were right on the money and I’ve been using a Canon 60mm Macro lens along with a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle and the kit lens that came with the camera. I’ve also purchased a SanDisk Extreme card that allows for rapid firing of pictures with a quick read/right capability and picked up a new sdhc external card adapter to use for downloading onto to my Macbook.

The software including is very easy to install and assisted in setting up my files to get my pictures from my SD card to my external Hard Drive. I can go on and on with the specifics of the camera or the details of the electronics but others have done so, and I don’t want to fill your time with extra words. Suffice to say that this camera is certainly worth every penny. It’s lighter, more user friendly and gives you the ability to take high quality video, something the 40D never offered. I’m looking forward to putting this camera through it’s paces at the next food test kitchen and family vacation.

If you decide to purchase this camera you will not be disappointed.

The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War

June 4, 2010

In the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s many immigrants crossed the Atlantic ocean to step foot onto Ellis island in the hopes of gaining a better life and building something of themselves in America. Some left poverty others left war, yet each one had the commonality of finding America as the land of opportunity.

When the united States entered the Great War, World War I, many thousands of these individuals took the call and enlisted or were drafted to the cause. They returned back to the lands they once called home and fought a war often on soil they once traveled in peacetime. The were become Americanized in the sens that they had the mannerisms of the old country mixed in with the beliefs of their new found allegiance to the Red white and Blue.

By taking the focus off the masses Laskin brought forth a very small number of individuals so you can get a micro study of their life, the hardships and even death at the hands of war. The stories are incredible and hard to put down, from working in small mining towns or factories these individuals were trying to get a better life. Some were simply struggling to fit in, while other family members such as older brothers had no problem. Some enlisted before the war but the majority represented in the book enlisted or were drafted when the United States entered the struggle.

I had to smile as I looked at each person and realized the difficulty the army must of had in training as related to the variety of languages spoken. Not many immigrants spoke, let alone read fluent English so the drill instructors certainly had a hard time in getting instruction across to the men. So the soldiers muddled through their training, trying to understand what was expected of them, and were eventually shipped out to fight.

The author then takes us through the muck, and gassing, from fighting in trenches to the boredom of the silence between battles. My of the immigrants own words, misspelling and all are used to explain the horrors and tedium of war they experienced. I was honestly surprised that he was still able to interview one old veteran who was over 100 years old. Laskin’s accounts are right on the money and give the reader an excellent accounting of those who have borne the battle.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Military History, Immigrant history and World War I History. The writing is well done and quite captivating and easy to read. You will find yourself wanting to keep reading long past your eyes ability to focus on the pages; as you nod off dreaming of what life was like for early generations of future Americans that arrived on our shores and then were called to war.

Professional Garde Manger

May 24, 2010

To manage cold food preparation in a creative fashion is what Garde Manger is all about. The basics and skills needed to handle the station can flow through into the home kitchen as well if you follow along in this book. For the professional this book will be a way to refine your skills in Catering, Banquet service and general foodservice operations. For the home cook this book will open your eyes to the wonderful world of Garde Manger and help you develop skills that will assist in your home cooking and possibly moving into a professional setting.

The book is broken down into 18 chapters, starting with the Garde Manger Profession and finishing with Buffets and Food Bars. You will learn the very basics of production and follow through with design, plating and adding condiments and decor to round out the recipe. The different levels and expectations of cold food are laid out quite well in Chapter one and certainly leave no stone unturned. If you are a novice in the kitchen you may want to study the book a bit first to pick up the terminology so you can better prepare yourself for what’s ahead.

The recipes and methods for preparation are easy to follow and include step by step instructions with pictures and diagrams. If you take the time to look over the recipe before you begin then you have mastered the first rule of the kitchen. Read everything and set your station or area up with the needed ingredients and kitchen tools to get the job done. Once you work through the first selected recipes you will gain a measure of satisfaction and accomplishment that will carry your through the book.

I’ve enjoyed reading through the book and have utilized several recipes in my professional kitchen as well as adapting them a bit to my home kitchen. I look forward to utilizing these recipes to enhance my cold food preparation skills and as well as giving me some new ideas in cold food production. This book certainly deserves a nice spot on my culinary shelf and I’m sure you will enjoy it as well.