Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Step into Asia... without leaving Milwaukee

Just a few items available for purchase at Pacific Produce.

Pacific Produce, located on Milwaukee's south side, opened in November 2010.  This Asian super store is definitely worth the trip.  They are not lacking in imported products.

The stores produce section has many familiar fruits and veggies, but there are a few of the unrecognizable items to us westerners. The prices for vegetables are outstanding.  It is the about the price that you might pay at a local farmers market but without that "just picked this morning" taste.  I paid about $2.50 for 4 green bell peppers and $2.63 for 3 yellow bell peppers.

The poultry and seafood section of the store is like something out of Bizarre Foods (Andrew Zimmern, Travel Channel).  Some items that you will not find at your typical grocery store are raw duck heads and pig nose.  The seafood counter also has many imported frozen fish that are not likely to be found in this part of the world.

Pacific Produces' meat counter isn't lacking in unique items.  Ever heard of a "beef honeycomb"?  Many countries in Asia have found ways to utilize every part of an animal into their diet.  They do not waste any thing! We are fortunate in the United States to have things like protein bars and shakes.  I certainly enjoyed learning about a different culture through their food.

I purchased a few items (picture above) for my own personal version of "Bizarre Foods".  My attempt at trying to be adventurous may not be at the same level as Andrew Zimmern, but was definitely something fun to try. 

Mara's "Bizarre Food" Adventure

Shrimp Flavored Crackers -  The smell is definitely worse than the taste.  I opened the bag and it smelled like a shellfish had died in there.  The mind can be a powerful thing and I was starting to get a bit nausea thinking about what it might taste like.  Mind over matter... just go for it!  It wasn't too bad.  The cracker has a very slight shrimp after-taste.  Other than that... it's just a regular cracker.

Grass Jelly Drink -  What prompted me to want to try this?  The strange name, of course!  There is 110 calories in 1 can.  I shook the can (as instructed) and prepared to try this brownish liquid.  Surprisingly... it tastes a little like southern sweet tea with a hint of black tea and herbs. 

Aloe Vera with Lychee Juice -  So what does Aloe taste like?  Please refrain from eating the post-sunburn lotion and try this drink instead.  It reminded me of a tropical beverage with hints of coconut and pineapple.  Very smooth and delicious!

Veggie Noodles -  (In photo at top) This does not qualify as a "bizarre food".  I recommend the veggie noodles plain or with veggies.  Boil the noodles (2 bundles per person) for 2 or 3 minutes.  Drain.  Combine in a non-stick cooking pan with sesame oil for 4 minutes.  For extra flavor add green or yellow peppers.  It is a great "meatless Monday" option.

The next time I am able to visit Pacific Produce, I will definitely go even further out of my comfort zone to try a new and exotic food.  Thank you for joining us on this food adventure.  There will be more "bizarre food" posts to come. 

A big thank you to my husband for being such a good sport when I bring strange food home and ask him to try it.
We had a lot of fun trying different food from another culture. Thank you, my love!

We could all use a hint of more time!
Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Flashback Friday - Comfort Foods

"Flashback Friday"

Let's be honest, when we are looking for a dish to bring comfort and wrap us in loving, tasty goodness... we don't say, "I totally need a spinach salad to comfort me today".  Although I love me a good spinach or leafy green salad, I do not turn to the produce drawer on a day that requires comforting. 

What is your ultimate comfort food?

Typically I will make my favorite variation of home-made macaroni and cheese, but one of my other favorite comfort foods is pizza.  Obviously these choices are not as healthy as a spinach salad BUT that's exactly why it's called comfort food.

There are so many different kinds of pizza's.  America has managed to take an Italian tradition and turn it into their own greasy empire.  So despite how much you love the BBQ Chicken, the BLT, and the Philly Cheesesteak... this post is all about a "flashback" to some traditional white pizza's on Hint of Thyme.

Last summer my sister came to visit and I felt obligated, as a cook and her loving-older sister, to entertain her bored taste buds with delicious white pizza's.  This "Flashback Friday" is a tribute to the pizza that we can guarantee will comfort you when needed. 

Check out the Non-Tomato Sauce Pizza post from September 2010.  We hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as we did.  It is quick, easy and of course... full of comfort.  We could all use a hint of more time. 

Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Meat & Potatoes - Man Style

Who puts potatoes on a pizza? ... This girl! 

My husband, Jon, would probably eat anything that included bacon or potato.  If your man is anything like my husband, I suggest giving this recipe a try.

If you've ever ordered from Toppers Pizza, then maybe you have seen a Potato Pizza on their menu.  The concept of putting potatoes on a pizza does seem strange at first.  After the first bite of my recipe... you will completely change your mind. 

Get ready to send your man's taste buds on a trip.  Guaranteed to please the male tummy!

Prep time:  15 to 20 minutes
Cook time:  10 to 12 minutes

Mara's Bacon & Potato Pizza
- 1 roll of store bought pizza dough (I used thin crust)
- 8 slices of bacon, diced (Healthy Option: Use turkey bacon)
- 2 medium russet potatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1/2 a medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 TBSP of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
- 1/2 TBSP of dried Rosemary
- 1/2 TBSP of dried Parsley
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cup of Colby Jack or Cheddar Cheese, shredded (Healthy Option: reduced fat cheese)
- Salt and pepper
- Optional: Sour cream or BBQ for a topping or dip (per the suggestion of the husband)

We'll break the pizza down by layers. 

Step 1:  After you have very thinly sliced the potatoes... add them to a non-stick saute pan and cook until fork tender or golden brown.  Make sure that the potatoes are separated and each one has been browned.  In the mean time, slice the onion and dice the tomato. 

Step 2:  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.  Roll the pizza dough onto the baking sheet.  Add the EVOO, rosemary, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper directly to the pizza dough.

Step 3:  After the potatoes are done cooking, add them to the pizza crust.

Step 4:  Add the bacon, onion and tomato over the potatoes.

Step 5:  Add the cheese.  Bake at 425 for 10 - 12 minutes.

Step 6:  Serve and enjoy.  The optional toppings or dips are suggested above.

This is obviously not the healthiest choice for a meal but it's something that my husband enjoyed very much.  I hope that you man enjoys this recipe just as much as mine did. 

The best part of this recipe is that it didn't take much time.  I served it with a salad on the side.  After all, we could all use a hint of more time.  :)

Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Product Love: 4-in-1 Grill Station by Food Network

Image taken from Product Manual

Kitchen tested.  Bragging rights reserved.  This 4-in-1 grill station is a product of the Food Network.  This product features a grill, griddle, panini press and waffle maker.   Learn more about the grill station on their website.

This product is absolutely perfect in my kitchen!  I received this helpful grill station as a Christmas gift from my parents.  I've put it to good use in the winter months; since we aren't able to use our outdoor grill in the snow.  I am excited to try some summer panini's using the press soon.

Buying this product for a friends bridal shower or as a wedding does not make you cheap.. it makes you smart.  As a cook with a smaller kitchen, I can definitely appreciate the extra storage space that this 4-in-1 station offers.  No need for an electric skillet or heavy grill pan.

Product Plus:  Food cooks very fast on this contraption!  I grilled steak, pork and chicken on this speedster and it was cooked through within 10 minutes. 

I am showing this product some blog love because it has saved me a lot of time!  We all love more time. 

Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cinco de Mayo Entrees - Meaty and Meatless

When you think of Mexican food do you instantly think of fajitas or tacos?  Well these recipes are putting an American spin on some of our favorite dishes.  I hope that you love them as much as we did. 

I am also striving to push myself to try something new.  As always the goal of these recipes are to be quick and easy... but FULL of flavor.  I received a couple requests for something meatless and possibly kid-friendly.  Give these recipes a try and let me know how you liked them.

Guacamole Turkey Burger
- 2 lbs of ground turkey meat
- 4 oz can of green chili's (mild or hot depending on your preference)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
- 1 TBSP of cumin
(Optional) 1 tsp of chipotle pepper
- Seasoning salt and pepper
- Recipe from Mara's 10-Minute Guacamole

In a large bowl combine the turkey meat, chili's, garlic and seasoning.  Take your rings off and get your hands in the bowl to thoroughly combine the meat and ingredients.   Fire up the grill to medium-high heat.  Grill for 15 to 20 minutes. 

Add the guacamole to your hamburger.  Serve and enjoy.  This would be great for kids, especially if you made the burgers into sliders.

Ranchero Bean Tostada
- 2 cans of ranchero beans (with or without the sauce is fine)
- 1/2 of medium red onion, diced
- 1 TBSP of cumin
- 5 or 6 red radishes, sliced
- 1 package of plain feta cheese
- 3 "hand fulls" of cilantro (leave them whole without the stem, no need to chop)
- 1/2 of a large tomato, diced
- White corn tortillas (2 or 3 per person - these are SMALL tortillas.. not fajita size)
- Salt and pepper

In a medium sauce pan combine the beans, onion and seasoning.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 425 and add the tortillas to a baking sheet.  (You could also toss these on the grill for a minute per side.)  Bake in the oven until golden brown and crispy - approximately 5 to 8 minutes. 

When the beans are done simmering and the tortillas are crisp... add the toppings over the tostada. 

The only "complaint" that I received about the tostada is that it was a little tricky to eat.  Most of us ate it like a taco. 

I also cannot take complete credit for this idea.  Part of the tostada recipe idea did come from  Check them out for more Cinco de Mayo ideas. 

Beer Margarita's
- 12 oz of limeade frozen juice
- 12 oz of white soda
- 12 oz of beer
- 12 oz of Tequila

Stir and serve.  You might actually be surprised how refreshing this is.  Cheers!!!

-  If you use MGD 64, you will save yourself some calories too.  :)

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cinco de Mayo Appetizers - Heart Healthy, Kid-Friendly

Frozen burritos and taquitos no more!  Get ready to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with simple recipes that are also heart-healthy and possibly kid-friendly.
(Note: Look for the entree recipes tomorrow)

The celebration of Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated in the United States.  In 1862, the Mexican army was victorious over the French army in the battle over Puebla.  According to Wikipedia, Cinco de Mayo is an American Civil War holiday and not a Mexican holiday.  Learn more about Cinco de Mayo.

I hope that you find these recipes refreshing, quick and worthy of the celebration.

Pineapple & Red Pear Salsa
- 1 whole pineapple, diced (for added flavor.. put it on the grill)
- 2 red pears, diced
- Half of red onion, minced
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- (Optional) 1 jalapeno, minced

The idea for this salsa came from my friend, Danielle, who originally suggested grilling the pineapple.  The flavor from the grill will add depth to the salsa.  We decided to use pineapple to steer away from the typical mango salsa.  If you are do not enjoy pineapple... give the mango a try.

Tips for making this salsa:
1) If you want some heat, be sure to add the jalapeno without the seeds.  Remove the seeds and be careful not to touch your eyes or face.  I know plenty of people that wear gloves when handling hot peppers too.  The jalapeno is entirely optional though.
2) Children would love this because there is sweet fruit in it.  Do not add the jalapeno if you are serving this to kids.
3) If you prefer less "chunky" salsa, then add it to a food processor and blend until the consistency is to your preference.  There is no oil in this salsa so it will not become completely smooth.

Mara's 10 minute Guacamole
- 3 avocado's (look below for instructions on easy cutting)
- 1 cup of fresh tomato, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
- 1 lime, juiced
- (Optional) 1 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 TBSP red onion, minced
- Salt and pepper

This recipe will serve about 6 people. 

Tips on making the guacamole:
1)  Cut the avocado last because it will start to turn brown right away.  Lime juice prevents the avocado from turning brown.
2)  The cilantro is optional because it tastes just fine without.
3)  This is meant to be a "chunky" guacamole.  You are welcome to use a food processor if you prefer. 
4)  Dicing the avocado - Run your knife the long way against the avocado and slice into halves.  Twist and pull apart.  Remove the pit with the blade of your knife (careful!) or a spoon.  Dice the avocado inside the tough skin.  Run your knife through the halves to create small diced squares - but do not put your knife all the way through the skin.  Scoop out with a spoon into the bowl with other ingredients.  Stir and serve.

There is no oil in the guacamole or the salsa.  Avocado's are very good for you and so that's why I am calling these appetizers "heart healthy".


Tomorrow I will post the Cinco de Mayo entrees.  Be sure to come back for that!

Preview of the entree menu.

Big thanks to my ladies for helping cook this menu.  Jo, Molly, Haley, and Danielle... you're the best!

Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Milwaukee Restaurant - Screaming Chaos

"Screaming Tuna" is a brand new restaurant located next to the river in Milwaukee's historic third ward.  We were invited to a friend's graduation party and were thrilled to try a new sushi restaurant.  The designer did an amazing job of decorating and matching the decor to the food style.  The menu options were outstanding; there were enough options without being too overwhelming.

We were seated in the private party room near the back of the restaurant.  Our party of 22 ordered drinks and waited for the servers to return to take our entree orders.  It became obvious within the first 5 minutes of being seated that there might be some communication problems within the restaurant. 

To put it simply, my husband and I waited 30 minutes for our Edamame appetizer that should have only taken 5 minutes.  I will, however, say that the edamame was steamed perfectly and salted accurately.  There were a few cold pieces near the edge of the dish though.

The rest of our table was served sporadically - no one was ever eating their appetizer or entree at the same time.  This should signal that the servers were either not familiar with serving a large party or they didn't know how to organize the orders. 

We received our 4 sushi rolls after about an hour or so.  We ordered the Champion, Spicy Tuna, Philly and California Roll.  The food was absolutely delicious.  Without a doubt.. some of the best sushi that I've eaten in Milwaukee.  It was fresh and perfectly wrapped. 

In my opinion, that kind of service is completely unacceptable in the restaurant business.  We did talk to the manager and they did compensate for the extra time that we had spent waiting for our food.  She promised to make improvements where necessary.  It was obvious that they were genuinely sorry for the service we had received.

"Screaming Tuna" is a very classy sushi restaurant and I would gladly visit again.  I hope to see that some improvements were made to the service.  Despite the situation we all managed to have a great time and enjoy the food and drinks. 

If you are interested in checking out this new restaurant, I would recommend giving them a few weeks and allow time to make improvements.  The restaurant business is highly competitive... I hope that this place can turn it around.

I apologize if this review seems harsh at all.  I do not enjoy giving bad reviews.  It's hard to give a good review knowing that I've received better service down the street.  I guess if all fails, at least gather with an entertaining group of people and try to make light of the situation.  :)

Personal note: 
Congratulations to my friend, Amy, on her college graduation! We are so proud of you and all your hard work.

Copyright 2011 Hint of Thyme. All rights reserved.