Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tea Cookies (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

OMG!  Guess what?!...

Okay, cool.  

So now that I've got your attention, I have some business to discuss.

And since I know I'm going to lose most of you in like T minus 102 words, I'm gonna bore ya while I have ya.  


The rating system is up!!!

I post-rated each and every baking entry and all posts from here on out will contain star ratings as well.

And why would I do this?  
Because I wanted to go through and re-live all of my baking experiences, duh!  

Actually, not really.  
And some of my earliest posts are just plain awful.  Picture-wise.  Content-wise.  You name it.

But even so, there were some good recipes in there and you deserve to know about them...without having to dig through my lifeless entries.  

Honestly, though! Makes you wonder what the heck I was going through back then. 

Plus, I pride myself on being, honest.  

I follow a lot of blogs and I rarely come across a post where a recipe came out as less than Martha Stewart worthy.  Really?  Really???  I don't think so.  

If something's a bummer, you know about it.  
Now you can spot one from a mile away.  You can even sort and search for them.  Frankly, they've been my heavy hitters...everybody loves a good rant.

But back to busz...

Each title will now feature a number of stars, from 1 to 5.

With "★ ☆ ☆  ☆" being  - "Run.  Joey.  Run, Joey...RUN!!!"
And "★    ★" being  - "Are you ready for a miracle? The Spirit will set you free!"

Want more deets?  Scroll to the bottom of my last post: Nats Ratings System
And now back to your regularly scheduled Thursday trip through the Viola cloaked garden.

Cause you know, today is Tea Cookies.

But in order for you to understand how these came about you'll have to follow me back to the sixth grade...

...when I saw the Titanic for the first time.

I know, I know, but I always bring it back don't I?

It was like my eyes had been opened, and cupid had struck my heart.  I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Kate Winslet's long, red, curly hair...
Leonardo DiCapro...
Amazing costumes...
Leonardo DiCapro...
The chemistry...

To me, it's the most romantic movie of all time and rare in that it only gets better every time I watch it.

On the 100th anniversary of the sinking, at that very second in fact, I was sitting at the IMAX with my 3D goggles on hyperventilating as the water poured in around me and Rose and Jack were frantically trying to reach the deck through eerily lit stairwells.

Talk about intense.
That hundredth anniversary was April 15th - all of five months ago.  Obviously, it was time for another viewing.

Best Friend bought this crazy edition with an extra forty-five minutes of previously deleted scenes.
Well, wunderbar!  The perfect excuse.

I was perfectly contented to just curl up in a blanket and have a good cry, but Bestie was the one who convinced me a "time-period" snack was in order.  We literally pulled up the first class menu to see what kinds of desserts would be appropriate.

It is a sickness. 

So long story short:

We didn't want to make any of the highfalutin "sweets" offered to the ships finest guests.  Chartreuse jelly?  The name alone tells me time, detail, pain.

What simple, yet elegant delicacy would please even the most conniving "needing to marry off my daughter to a complete turd so I can continue lavishing myself in luxury" of mothers?

Well, the Tea Cookie of course!  The embodiment of Edwardian living.

Not too sweet.
Slightly buttery with a refreshing orange zing.

Think of a moist scone or a less oily madeleine.
Sure they're a little hard on the eyes...But they're oh, so good.

All you need is a cup of steaming hot tea.
But the flavors are subdued enough to allow for your favorite jams, butters, and spreads.

In fact, Bestie's dad, who is an incredible gardener, provided the plum and strawberry preserves for this endeavor. Seriously, the best strawberry jam in. the. world.  I do not exaggerate.
Tea Cookies
Slightly adapted from "Fork, Spoon, Knive" Buttermilk Tea Cookies

3 Cups Flour
Zest of 1 Orange
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Room Temperature
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2/3 Cup Buttermilk
*For best flavor results refrigerate dough overnight.  Although, as far as look and texture they remained essentially the same.

1) Preheat oven to 350F Degrees.  Grease baking sheet.
2) In medium sized bowl, mix flour, zest, baking soda, and salt until well combined.
3) In large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
4) Add eggs to butter/sugar mixture one at a time.  Beating thoroughly after each one.
5) Add vanilla
6) Alternate adding buttermilk and flour to the wet ingredients in the large bowl, beating on low in
     between each addition.  Dough will be slightly sticky.
7) Place heaping teaspoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet about 1 inch apart.
8) Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until puffed and dry to touch.
9) Let cookies cool 1-3 minutes before moving to cooling rack.
Lemon Curd, Plum Jam, Strawberry Preserves
The Titanic, Tea Cookies, and a Tale. 
Come on, that's destiny right there.

Linking Up Over at Bloom Designs Link Party.  Go and check it out!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Food Review: Trader Joe's Extra Dark Chocolates (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

The best part of vacations: (clockwise) PB S'more, Olive Oil Tasting, Magic Show, Largest Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Ever!, Ice Cream on the Lake

Well, today is my last day of vacation and, thus, the last day of Food Review Week.

It's okay.  Everybody together - aaaawwwwhhhhhh. :(

I know, I know.  

You'll still get your weekly Thursday dose though, so no need for the tears.

And since it's Friday...and everyone loves Friday...I thought I'd end on a happy note - chocolate.

Everybody together - yippee! hooray! this is the greatest day of my life!  
                                 (Okay who said that?  That is what we call an over-re-ac-tion).

Anywhoo, this may seem like a repeat of the famous Fair Trade 72% Dark Chocolate Review, but I assure you it is not.  

That was an out and out rave.

This is a compare and contrast.

See totally different!

So let's get down to the nitty gritty.  After finding the new chocolate bar love of my life at Trader Joe's, I was intrigued by all the other 70%-ish dark chocolate bars they offered.  

Not being able to bear the thought of "settling," I decided to take drastic measures.  

The mission: to try them all.  

A daunting task, but someone had to do it.  And once again, I did it for you.  

Geeze, I should get a medal or something.  You guys are so lucky to have me to do your dirty work.  

The Trader Joe's Players:
  • 72% Fair Trade Organic Belgian Dark Chocolate
  • 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate
  • 73% Super Dark Organic Chocolate
  • 72% Swiss Dark Chocolate
  ★ ★ ☆ 
2nd Place.  Let's get the known out of the way.  Delicious!  Wonderful!  Fantastic!  This is one of my top 5 favorite chocolate bars.  Flavors: Very Fruity.  Distinct notes of raspberry and apple.  And oh so smooth.
  ☆ ☆ ☆ 
4th Place.  Maybe if I had tried this bar by itself I wouldn't have disliked it so much.  But compared to the others this was a huge step (or 20) down from the Fair Trade and Swiss bars.  I found this rather surprising considering the price difference was mere pennies and it carried the Trader Joe's label like every other bar I tested.  Flavors: Extremely bold. Coffee essence.
  ☆ ☆ ☆ 
3rd Place.  While a few steps up from the "red" bar, this was still difficult to enjoy after tasting my first and second place choices.  Maybe it's just a personal preference, but I like creamy and smooth, which this certainly was not. Flavors: Very earthy, dirt.  (No joke, I took a wine class. I know my flavor palate!) Hints of blueberry.  The texture was also unique - slightly chalky and grainy.  Not my first choice for a chocolate bar.
  ★ ★ ☆ 
1st Place.  Did I think I would be putting first place on anything other bar than the 72% Fair Trade?  Nope.  No way. How could I get so lucky as to score TWO mega awesome chocolate bars not only from the same store, but also the same generic brand?  Are you kidding me?!  This is crazy!  I think the Fair Trade is a better bar all around, but this Swiss bar knows my weaknesses.  Flavors: Hints of vanilla and custard.  Super creamy and completely smooth.  Way to win this girl over.  Plus it's gluten free and vegan...although, I'm guessing so are the rest of these bars.

Mission Accomplished.  

Exhaustion and the dwindling availability of abdominal real estate could not keep me down.
Seriously, guys.  Why are you still reading this when there are so many wonderful - and cheap - chocolate bars at your fingertips?

But before you go, a recap for all your shopping needs:

  • Fair Trade: Raspberry Smooth - Yum 
  • Red 72%: Bold - Yuck
  • Organic: Dirt - Yuck
  • Swiss: Vanilla Cream - Yum

Coming Soon:

I'm going to be introducing a new rating system starting next Thursday.  Each title will now feature a "star" rating from 1 to 5.  This way it will be easier to sort out the winners from the losers.  Courtesy of a suggestion from my dad.  See kids it pays to listen to your parents!

★     - Mayday, mayday.  Make this now or pay someone to do it if you are a baking hazard. 
    ☆  - Good stuff here.  Definitely worth a rebake. 
   ☆ ☆  - Your average crowd pleaser.  Most items will have this rating. 
  ☆ ☆ ☆ -  Problems abound whether with ease or taste.  Repartee will be abundant. 
★ ☆ ☆  ☆ -  The worst of the worst. I.E. Vegemite.  More wit. 

I will also be labeling each item with "1 Star" through "5 Star" key words so you can easily find what you need in my labels tab.  I also have a "Worth A Re-bake" label already in place that lists all my favs.


Word Count: 742.  Sooooo, report length.  Eh, are you really surprised?


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Food Review: Vegemite (★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆)

I have a soft spot for the Olsen twins.  

Scoff if you must, but when you are indoctrinated by something from birth it gets pretty hard to shake.

Full House, 
It Takes Two, 
Two of a Kind,
And too many straight-to-DVD (I mean, VHS) movies to even count...

If you take away Disney, the Olsen twins made up pretty much the rest of my elementary years.

There was one particular movie that the sister and I used to watch over and over.  It featured the twins thrust into the witness protection program after stumbling upon a jewelry heist.  And where were they sent? Well, to Australia, of course.

The home of Vegemite.

Ever since that movie, I've always been intrigued by this brownish substance.  As a kid it looked kind of sticky, chewy, a little like burnt far as I was concerned it was delicious.  

Problem, though.  I had never tried it.  
You know that phenomenon?  The one when you get introduced to something you've never heard of and from that day onward you see it everywhere?

That definitely happened here.

I'd see Vegemite in movies, television, and any interview with an Australian inevitably ended up on this subject.

So I'm not sure what made me wait 12 years (!!!) before I actually broke down and tried it.

I recently found it at World Market, and even with the $9 price tag for 7.5 measly ounces, I decided the time had come.

I couldn't wait to try it.
Now before I reveal my verdict, please know I did not go into this blindly.

I no longer anticipated a sweet, gooey substance.

I knew that growing up with Vegemite is the only way one can really appreciate it.
I knew that it was more of a salty, meaty paste than the caramely goop it appeared to be.
I even knew that most Americans are immediately put off by it.

What I didn't expect was that I was about to experience the single most revolting tastebud moment of. my. life.

Meaty and salty don't even begin to describe the flavors permeating from this nastiness.  Picture 6 bouillon cubes and 4 bottles of soy sauce packed into each tiny taste.  Insurmountably salty...and that doesn't even include the basic car oil, yeast, meat flavors going on.

I took the smallest "tester" bite ever and my tongue tingled...TINGLED...from the stuff.  

But like the good blogger/reviewer I am, I took another bite.  1st bites are for discovery and 2nd bites are confirmation.

Yup, nothing new here.  Tingle, tingle, tingle.  

See that picture up there  ^ ?  That's my two bites worth.  If that amount can pack such a punch, I can't even fathom how someone could enjoy...let alone entire piece of toast covered in Vegemite.

They say hindsight is 20/20.  And you know what?  Even with the 20/20, I'd still do it again.  

Life is about experiences and if I've already tasted the worst thing in the world at 25, then guess what?  Only deliciousness awaits me.

Plus, I had to find out for myself just what those Olsen girls were talking about.

Anybody intrigued?  Cause I've got a "like new" $9 jar sitting at home!  

Me and the fam-bam being outdoorsy. 
Word Count: 532.
Welp, it is my normal Thursday posting day.  Old habits die hard.
Plus half my vacation posse left today.  What else was I supposed to do with all this extra time?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Food Review: Nutella & Biscoff (★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆)

Dear Nutella,

     We didn’t hit it off right away.  I remember the first time we met. 

It was Paris, 2003.   

     I walked into the breakfast room and there you were.  I tried you on dry baguettes and later on a street vendor crepe.  I’m not sure why, maybe it just wasn’t our time, but I didn’t feel the connection that seemed to so immediately engulf everyone else. 

     Flash to the present, it was just me and a Belgian waffle on a casual night in. For some reason, I felt compelled to invite you to our little party.

Wham bang, hello.

      You are like the fun-loving, chocolate hazelnut version of peanut butter.  I want you on graham crackers, on pancakes, on ice cream.

Sometimes love is gradual.  But that love is strong.   

Pst…hey, Biscoff,

Don’t tell Nutella, but you are like my dream come true. 

     When we met in the grocery store on my way to a picnic, I knew something magical had occurred.  A pulverized spread of one of my favorite cookies?! Sigh. 

     You are spicy, cinnamony, gingery goodness.  And you get along with all my friends! Apple, celery, pancake, spoon. 

Sure you have more tang than Nutella, but I kinda like that.

Really like that.  

Me blogging and board gaming...Vacation multi-tasking at its finest.

Word Count: 206 :D  Yeah, me!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Food Review: Ovomaltine (★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆)

Kayaking Day!  Beautiful.  Bar on the beach.  Brother-in-law, sister, me.

I don't know about you, but when a friend comes to stay with me from out of town and they bring a thank you gift I want with all my heart to love it.  

But life can be cruel...

Enter Ovomaltine.  

Supposedly the best chocolate drink mix in Europe.  At least that what my friend and his wife from Germany claimed.

I was excited to try it. 

Let's be honest.  As an American, it seemed like a blatant rip off of Ovaltine.

But European's do a lot of things better...including anything chocolate so I was game.  

If they wanted to rip us off and make our sorry attempt for powdered malt and chocolate taste glorious then, please--and take my purse and passport to boot. 

Sadly, though…I’m going to need my stuff back.


And I tried everything. 

Using milk instead of water.
Blending it in our power machine…you know, the one from Costco that can pulverize bricks?
Adding yogurt.

Nothing helped. 

For once, in the chocolate department, I can say we have them beat.

Europe, don’t be sad. 

So you lost in this race of powdered drinks. 

But in the grand scheme of things what is the greater accomplishment?

A kiddie drink?

Or Nutella…
     And Crème Brulee?

Just something to think about.


Word Count: 216.  

Boom.  That's progress people.