29 September 2011

The Best Thing I've (kinda sorta) Never Eaten - Take 3.5


Since I crapped out on y'all last time with the couscous, I'm making up for it with a special bonus entry...at NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU! I'm calling this Take 3.5 because I have kinda sorta had chickpeas before in the sense that I've had hummus before--and most hummuses (or is it hummi?) are made from chickpeas. Let's roll...

My source for all things accurate, Wikipedia, says that chickepeas are also called garbanzo beans. They are from the legume family and were first cultivated nearly 8,000 years ago. In 1793, ground-roasted chickpeas were brewed in Germany instead of coffee (because they were a lot cheaper than coffee)...much like chicory root (for all my South Louisiana peeps).

I guess I should include a little disclaimer here--I'm not generally a huge fan of peas and beans. If the pea ain't purple and the bean ain't green then I ain't interested, generally speaking. And don't even get me started on how much I hate black-eyed peas...

...both the kind you eat and these guys right here.

I was skeptical to say the least. Also, having tried hummus (for the love of all things delicious never do I want to eat hummus again), I was fairly certain I wasn't going to fall in love with the humble chickpea.

I had a recipe for toasted chickpeas and thought this was my best shot at liking them...as I'm generally a fan of all things crispy. So first I opened the can and rinsed the chickpeas. Let me just say that when I opened the can the aroma wafting up to my nostrils was reminiscent of canned dog-food. Then I drained the chickpeas on some paper towels. The trick was you want them to get completely dry. So I patted them really good.

Then you spread them out on a cookie sheet, sprayed with cooking spray, and put them in a preheated oven and bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Once they're out of the oven, they'll be golden brown and will be crunchy throughout. Sprinkle them with whatever spices you want. I used salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and a little chili powder.

They were less than mediocre. Not terrible, not good. They tasted sort of like nothing. I mean, had there been no spices on them I wouldn't have tasted much. So they kind of just taste like whatever spices you use. I came to the conclusion that if I never eat another chickpea again I'll be ok. I didn't hate them but I wouldn't choose to eat them on purpose. Between the two of us, we ate maybe seven peas...I threw the rest away. That was .68 cents and 40 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

Here's a pic of the Hubs right before he did a taste-test. His face pretty much sums it up:

p.s. I realize there are MANY people out there who simply adore chickpeas. If you're one of them, more power to ya...they're just not for me.

28 September 2011

The Best Thing I've Never Eaten - Take 3

Like I said from the beginning of this little experiment...some of the stuff I try will be totally normal stuff people like you eat all the time...it's just I've never had the opportunity to try them. This is one of those...


Couscous is a very tiny pasta, traditionally served in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. It's been around for centuries and was first mentioned in the 1200s. (Once again, totally true...Wikipedia says so.)

I've been wanting to try couscous but just never did. Yes, I took the easy road and got a box of already seasoned couscous. Sure I could've done my own but I was being lazy this week. So I got something akin to Rice-a-Roni. I got regular couscous instead of pearled so it was smaller, slightly larger than the grains of grits.

Cooking is a snap. Basically mix seasoning packet with water and bring to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, fluff with fork, and voila! This is very versitle...can be used for salads just as you would pasta for pasta salad. I'd be hesitant to put a heavy sauce over it because I don't think it could stand up to a heavy sauce like a sturdier pasta could but it makes a great side dish.

I liked this, flavor was good. I did add some cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to spruce it up a little. The texture reminded me very much of thick grits (like my cheesy grits that I make to go with my Shrimp & Grits). It was alright--not my favorite but that could just be because I got the pre-seasoned boxed kind. I'll definitely be making couscous again when I'm feeling less lazy. Will try the pearled couscous next and will likely try to make some sort of couscous salad.

I know I kinda crapped out on this one. So to make up for it, tomorrow I'll have a "The Best Thing I've Never Eaten - Take 3.5" to make up for it. Next week I plan to do something really out there in the realm of things I've never heard of or seen.

20 September 2011

The Best Thing I've Never Eaten - Take 2


Parsnips are a root vegetable like carrots...and they basically look almost exactly like white carrots...and they smell almost exactly like carrots. Since cooked carrots aren't my favorite, I was skeptical. According to Wikipedia (so you know, it's like totally true) parsnips are, indeed, related to carrots (third cousins twice removed). While in the same family, parsnips have a sweeter taste than carrots when cooked. They are native to Eurasia and have been on the menu as far back as ancient times.

Everything I read about parsnips said they were especially delish when roasted so that's what I set out to do. You want to look for a small to medium parsnip rather than a large one so they're more tender and less bitter (would have been good to know prior to purchasing said parsnips). At any rate, you cut off the ends and peel same as you would do for a carrot. Then I sliced them in spears (really terribly cut, unevenly proportioned spears--Chef Ramsey would be so disappointed in my knife skills). I sprayed a cookie sheet with cooking spray, seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.

I put them in a preheated oven and baked at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. You might want to try 35 minutes just to see...mine were very dark in some places, which I personally really like but you might want to check them at 35 minutes. After I took them out of the oven I grated some nutmeg over them with a microplane.

They smelled pretty yummy but I was still skeptical because I was worried they would taste almost exactly like a cooked carrot (which if it ain't in a pot roast no thank you). I was pleasantly surprised. They do, in fact, have a slightly sweeter taste than carrots but not as sweet as a sweet potato. Then they have a slightly spicy finish reminiscent of a chai spice or nutmeg. Turns out the decision to grate the nutmeg over them was a good one...my nose told me to do it and I always listen to my nose because the nose knows. They would make a very yummy substitution for fries with a burger. They would also be really good in a pot roast, or as a side dish to pork loin or roast beef. They actually reminded me of the taste of roasted pumpkin seeds. Ragan was a huge fan.

So there ya go...two for two. I think this eating something I've never eaten before thing just might work out.

19 September 2011

Book Review No. 50

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Summary: When someone you love dies, people ask you how you're doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you're okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires. (It's three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that's about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will.) They don't want to know that you'll never again eat birthday cake because you don't want to erase the magical taste of the frosting on his lips. That you wake up every day wondering why you got to live and he didn't. That on the first afternoon of your first real vacation, you sit in front of the ocean, face hot under the giant sun, willing him to give you a sign that he's okay. (taken from back of the book)

First Chapter of the Book:

"Frankie Perino and I were lucky that day. Lucky to be alive--that's what everyone said. I got a fractured wrist and a banged-up knee, and my best friend Frankie got a fat little scar above her left eye, breaking her eyebrow into two reflective halves. Up one side, down the other. Happy, sad. Shock, awe. Before, after."

"Before, all of us were lucky."

"After, only me and Frankie."

"That's what everyone said."

My Critique: Recently banned from the Republic, Missouri High School curriculum, this book beckoned me to read it. Why do people insist on banning books anyway? Everybody knows that's the quickest way to get people to read the very book you're trying to keep from being read in the first place. At any rate, I read it and I'm glad I did. This novel is a complete emotional journey from utter brokenness to healing, taking a detour down the path of true friendship along the way. This novel is the story of Anna, Frankie, and Matt. Frankie and Matt are brother and sister. Anna is their best friend. Together they are three inseparable best friends. Anna secretly pines for Matt and on her 15th birthday her dreams are realized when Matt kisses her. Over the next month Anna and Matt keep their budding romance private until they can figure out how best to tell Frankie. They know this new development in their relationship will change the dynamic of their friendship of three and want to tell Frankie in a way that won't make her feel alienated. So Matt asks Anna to keep it a secret and he plans to tell his siter while on vacation. Before he is able to do so, he tragically and unexpectedly dies. And so begins the journey. Frankie is grieving the loss of her brother. Anna is grieving the loss of one of her best friends and her first love. How do you even begin to deal with such a significant loss and 15? Sarah Ockler expertly delves into the raw, true emotion only experienced by those who have suffered such an impossible loss. Unfortuantely, I am all too aware of these emotions and can attest as to their accuracy.

SPOILER ALERT! Stop reading now lest ye be subjected to details of the plot!!

Anna withdraws into herself to deal with her feelings of loss privately. She is alone as she tries to come to terms with the loss of her first love. Meanwhile, Frankie turns to destructive behavior...acting out, smoking, drinking, seeking the attention of boys, etc. Fast forward a year and the Perino family sets out to take the vacation they were denied the year previous in hopes of gaining some modicum of normalcy. Anna is invited along. Frankie conjures up a plan for she and Anna to meet twenty boys while on vacation. Frankie, having experienced sex, is on a mission to help Anna shed her "albatross" (i.e. her virginity) that summer. Anna reluctantly agrees to go along with Frankie's plan (at least most of it) because it seems to be the only thing bringing happiness to Frankie, with glimpses of the old Frankie coming to the surface. Imagine Anna's surprise when she actually falls for Sam, a local boy who has stolen her heart despite her best efforts to keep it locked safely inside. Struggling with her new feelings for Sam and the guilt that accompanies them (she feels like she's betraying Matt), Anna finds herself not reluctantly following Frankie's plan, but wanting to. As the vacation is coming to an end, events escalate when Frankie finds and reads Anna's journal (thereby discovering her relationship with Matt) and Anna discovers that Frankie has been lying all along about the extent of her sexual experience (she had not, in fact, had sex). They both feel betrayed. Many arguments and tears ensue.

Eventually they find a way to forgive each other, and in the process discover that they have come to terms with Matt's death (as much as one can come to terms with such an impossibility). Anna realizes that life will go on. Her experience with Sam confirms that she has the capacity to love again without her biggest fear coming to fruition--erasing Matt. Frankie realizes that she is on a path of self-destruction and commits to being different...to finding the old Frankie. In the end, the book is about the realization that eventually things do get better, the loss isn't quite so raw anymore, and true friendships (and first loves) can never be erased.

If you continued to read after I told you not to, you'll know that the spoilers are over now.

Having read this book for myself, I guess I can see the reasons why this book was banned--only in the sense that the elements they claim are contained in this book, actually are, in fact, contained in this book. However, I truly feel that these certain events and behaviors had to take place in order to bring Frankie and Anna to a place of healing and acceptance. At any rate, I highly recommend this book and think it is a fantastic emotionally complex read.

Don't take my word for it, here's what others are saying: "Breaks your heart and puts it back together again." ~Jo Knowles, author of Lessons from a Dead Girl and Jumping Off Swings

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in the afore mentioned book, Twenty Boy Summer, are the sole views and opinions of the author and have nothing to do with me or my own views/opinions/beliefs...so get off my back. I am in no way affiliated with with afore mentioned author...except that one time in Vegas------------uh, nevermind...

14 September 2011

The Best Thing I've Never Eaten - #1

So a couple of weeks ago I decided to embark on a new journey. Each week, until I bore of it and decide to stop, I am going to be getting, preparing, and eating one thing I've never eaten before...then I'm going to blog about it so all of you can share in my experience...and maybe, just maybe you'll be inspired to try a few of the things I've tried. Some will be totally exotic off-the-wall things I run across in the produce section of Kroger, but some will be totally normal, common things people eat all the time, only I've never eaten them. Keep in mind that I'm a total meat snob (meaning I get grossed out easily) so I'm probably sticking to non-meat items here.

Last night was adventure one. Let's go...


Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, derived in South America and has been part of a human diet for 3,000 to 4,000 years. Quinoa is actually a seed that softens when boiled--much like rice--and is often used the same as one would use rice. (I got all this info from Wikipedia so you know, it's like totally true.)

In raw form, quinoa looks a lot like birdseed. I tasted one kernel and it had a nutty flavor. Inspired by a couple of recipes I saw online I decided to go Asian with it. You prepare quinoa by boiling 2 parts liquid and adding 1 part quinoa. I brought 2 cups chicken broth to a boil and added 1 cup quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. I added a clove of minced garlic while it was simmering. Once liquid was absorbed, I added a bag of Asian style vegetables I had steamed in the microwave, some salt, pepper, and a little soy sauce.

However, I will say, I think adding this stuff made the dish not great and I would've preferred the quinoa on it's own...prior to these additions. Next time I'll prepare the quinoa the same, and simply add salt, pepper, and a little parmesean cheese.

The taste test:

I like it.

The flavor was nutty and earthy but not overwhelmingly so. The texture was sort of like grits only a bit more pronounced as the grains of quinoa are larger than grits. I will most definitely be keeping this in my pantry. It was sort of hard to find...I wound up finding it at World Market.

So what I want to know is...have you ever had quinoa? What do you think about it?

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