Kashi TLC Pumpkin Pecan Granola Bar

Well, the dawn of pumpkin pie Pop-Tarts brought about the question of exactly how low a person can stoop if they’re eating alone on Thanksgiving. And now, for something different. What do hipsters eat on Thanksgiving? What could possibly distract them from their daily diet of ecstasy, PBR, and better bands than the one you are currently listening to?

The answer, my friends, is this Kashi pumpkin pecan pie granola bar. It serves multiple purposes, like both eliminating the need to cook a pie and contributing yet another poem on how one’s mother ruined Thanksgiving, and also satisfies that one guest who insists on bringing Tofurky to any friendly event. It’s crunchy both in texture and in spirit and is a surprisingly good snack.While this definitely evokes more of a Thanksgiving feeling than Halloween, it’s still a very rustic and interesting snack. A layer of pumpkin pie goo on top isn’t the most texturally palatable sensation, but accurately imitates the flavor of pumpkin pie. It’s abound with spices galore and a crispy granola layer. This was my favorite part of the bar as in most pumpkin pie flavored treats, the crust goes ignored or is really underrepresented in the composition of the snack. It was flavorful and adequately spiced.I was underwhelmed by the nut content on the bar, mainly because it was part of the title and also because it was heavily presented on the package. And I do love pecans. What little nuts I did manage to ingest (ha ha) were crispy and crunchy and really built on the medley of textures already playing out. This was a fantastic fall find and a great healthy treat.

Laurel Hill Pepita and Spice Tortilla Chips

We’re in the home stretch of October, with only three days before Halloween, and I’m going to cram as many pumpkin-themed snacks on this blog as I can possibly allow. There will be three.

So the other night, the very same evening we made Batter Blaster, I was at our favorite little deli and noticed some exotic chips on clearance. If it was a trap, then I was heading straight to it, Admiral Akbar. There is no better way to lure me to peril than weird, cheap shit. But I digress. On the shelf for a mere $1.99 was a large bag of Laurel Hill Pepita and Spice tortilla chips. And what’s more, they had lots of pumpkin mixed in. Or so they said.I snapped them up immediately and brought them home to Keepitcoming Love to munch on before our pancake venture. These were easily one of my better purchases, and if I saw these again, I’d be hard pressed to not get them again, even at full price. The chips are cut into wide, thick strips, perfect for dipping, and are balanced seamlessly between salty and sweet.There’s an obvious cinnamon and nutmeg flavor in these, but each sweet element is countered by a savory one- the pumpkin blends with the corn, the cinnamon with the salt, and mixed in the chip are crispy, crunchy toasted pepita seeds, giving the entire thing a nutty and rounded flavor. I love these. It’s like a prelude to pumpkin pie. I want to try them with dip- I bet melted brie, chopped smoked turkey, and cranberry salsa would make these into killer Thanksgiving nachos. That could very well be our next recipe.

Homemade Spatzle (Or, Finger Lakes, take two)

It’s been exactly one week since we left for the Finger Lakes and now that we’re back, we’re reeling from the shock of both discovering (in Keepitcoming’s case, rediscovering,) and leaving behind spatzle in a scant three days. Because last night was so beautiful and autumnal, we decided to relive the experience one more time and make spatzle with three kinds of sausages from the River Valley Market, one of our local favorites.Spatzle, like bread and gnocchi, is another of those freakishly simple and quick recipes that adds instant points to your foodie credentials. It takes literally no time at all, often less than making boxed pasta, and is easily customizable and twice as delicious.

Ingredients (serves four)
1 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg or paprika (we lacked nutmeg)
2 eggs
1/4 cup of milk

1. Start by boiling a pot of water. While reaching its optimum heat, mix together your dry ingredients.
2. Beat your eggs and measure your milk and make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients. Alternatively add your eggs and milk in small increments and mix thoroughly until elastic and combined.
3. Roll out your dough into a lump, maybe half an inch thick. With a large knife, slice off uneven bits and scrape them off onto your cutting board. The trick is to get little dumpling bits, not strips. Once they’re all sliced, dump them into boiling water for eight to ten minutes or until very tender. If you’ve been frying something (like sausages) you can sautee the noodles to get a nice brown crust on them. Serve with butter and salt and eat immediately.The sausages we picked out were ones we’d been eying since the summer- chicken curry, mustard horseradish, and ginger scallion, all fried with a golden crust. Surprisingly, the former two sausages were simply not as satisfying as we’d expected them to be. Perhaps I’m just more used to leaner sausages, but the fat ratio (a level I normally like to be on the rich end) was simply too high and the saltiness was just overly intense. Nevertheless, unique and interesting flavors.

Batter Blaster

Motherfucker. I can’t believe I didn’t get around to nipping this in the bud in a more timely fashion. Actually, I can. Like a footlong penis, Batter Blaster is tempting, yet daunting. This sat in our fridge for a few weeks before we ran out of dinner options and mustered up the courage to tackle the beast.Batter Blaster is pancake slash waffle batter in an aerosol can, like whipped cream. Unlike whipped cream, it is unwise to use Batter Blaster on your partner’s naked, writhing flesh, as it is thick and rather pudding like in texture and will make a mess. (That’s what she said.) Batter Blaster is pretty easy to use. Points get shaved off for forcing you to invert the can and hold it directly over a pan splattering oil or butter, as it definitely heightens the risk for third degree burns.One thing that I was really hoping this would bring to my pancake artistry was a little more ease in modulating the amount of batter that I blasted so that I could make designs. Unfortunately, it was difficult to control the flow and I ended up with Batter Blaster all over my hands and in an amorphous blob on the pan.Even when attempting perfectly circular pancakes, the shape of the nozzle makes them all sort of hexagonal. And, like a post-coital organ, they shrink up significantly after being poured. Don’t think I’m hating on Batter Blaster, though. The flavor and texture makes up significantly for its shortcomings on the stove. There is a crispy crust along the exterior of the pancake, probably from the sugar, that really melts in your mouth and gives a sweet flavor. The batter cooks up fluffy and soft and unless aggravated, is never tough.
While I cannot vouch for the value of the Batter Blaster- a single can makes roughly approximately 20-25 smallish pancakes for $5, I can agree that it’s fun and much easier than going through the hassle of mixing. If this was a money-grubbing mommy blog, I’d say something about how simple it is for busy moms on a tight schedule, but I’m a broke-ass college student so I’ll say that it’s simple to prepare before, after, and during a long night of drinking. I cannot wait for the release of bacon Batter Blaster.

Bonus: the photo that didn’t make the cut for this post, on Twitter. (It was too hot for TV)

Homestyle Barbecue Potato Flyers

I didn’t get to do a whole lot of grilling this summer. I spent many a sleepless night pondering the hows and whys of this situation and came up with a small flowchart (not pictured) to explain.

The main reason was because I don’t have a grill in my nine by nine dorm. Keepitcoming doesn’t have a grill either, and I wasn’t home long enough to actually use the one we had. I also think that I tend to really glorify grilling when, in reality, it’s not as much fun as I want it to be. This has also happened with Slip ‘n’ Slides, MRE’s, and James Frey, so I’m not too surprised. But when the time comes to actually grill, I tend to balk at the opportunity.I do, however, love items that are traditionally grilled, so as a preface to a review sometime in the very near future of delicious grilled sausages, I bring you…Homestyle Barbecue Potato Flyers.

The preceding “homestyle” may not be so much of a descriptor than a warning. Perhaps, like me, your family is Jewish and lacks the gene for grilling well and ends up creating charred chicken breasts with raw insides. In this sense, it is an accurate flavor. While I appreciate the effort to make the seasoning vibrant, it is literally overpowering. On my first bite, I inhaled sharply from the smokiness and had trouble finishing the chip. It’s not spicy or hot, it’s simply too much seasoning. I love a good smoky flavor, but this was almost potent. There’s a heavy emphasis on black pepper and paprika, and the flavor is good and barbecued, but only in moderate doses.The base of the potato chip is baked and light, and I liked the airy texture and crisp- not styrofoamy. None of these felt like they were bogged down with oil or were overcooked. I’d try these again in another flavor- New York Pizza looks tempting. But this flavor, for once, was too pungent and ended up being mediocre as a result of that. Too much of a good thing, perhaps.

Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca Lake, Hector, NY

Okay. After three days of travel, tasting, talking, and typing, I bring you my taste of the Finger Lakes. Keepitcoming and I took a miniature vacation out there on Friday to conduct some research on my latest project and took the opportunity to get a taste of what the lakes have to offer.

First, a little bit about our trip. We stayed at a fantastic bed and breakfast, crushed cabernet frank with the wonderful staff at Hermann J. Wiemer, and enjoyed the breathtaking scenery in Seneca, Watkins Glen, and Dundee. However, one of the biggest successes of the trip was eating at this little restaurant on the Seneca Lake, Dano’s Heuriger- a place that was so good, we made reservations on both our nights there.On our first night, we went all out with a charcuterie plate and a classic entree, as well as a side of spatzle, my new favorite food. To prepare for the next day’s excursion, we opted to have a bottle of Hermann Wiemer’s 2008 Semi-Dry Riesling, America’s answer to the kabinett. We were worried that our selections wouldn’t be enough for us to be fully satisfied, but were quickly proven wrong after eating.

I can’t believe that prior to that fateful night, I had never been graced with the presence of spatzle. Fucking spatzle. It was a noodle experience like none I’d ever had before. These were a beautiful cross between noodles and dumplings and were perfectly seasoned. The bite was toothsome and comforting, with a simple buttered coating. I would have liked to eat more of these, but we were too full from the rest of our dinner! They were fantastic and perfect without any additional seasoning. These and the wiener schnitzel inspired a potential future trip to Austria! Delicious.The charcuterie plate was presented simply, but had all the rustic artistry of a beautiful landscape. It was incredible, with all of the ingredients smoked or prepared in house, and arranged around a central pair of condiments. (yes!!) Each component was carefully thought out and placed, with careful attention to detail on the flavors and sensations one would experience.The dish consisted of, (starting at twelve and moving clockwise) crisp flatbread, smoked chicken wings, duck and pork rillettes, (their take on a pate!) pickled green tomatoes, smoked pork loin, an apple and apricot membrillo, (another sweet interpretation of a pate) with a limburger cheese and brie, cornichons, smoked pork belly, fresh baguette, and Austrian garlic sausage. In the center of the plate were their two spreads, a housemade mustard and a cranberry chutney.

Each aspect of this plate was better than the last. We had so much fun mixing and matching the foods and really relished the flavors that came out of them. The pickled green tomatoes were a fun twist on a classic charcuterie component and brought our Riesling out to a more magnificent level of flavor and acidity. The delicacy and tiny portion of the chicken wings brought the normally robust and messy bar snack to a gourmet level, and they were tender and perfectly seasoned. The flavor of the meats was enhanced to a savory and zippy level with the mustard, which had a playful flavor without being too grainy and intense. This plate should be on their full-time menu. We really enjoyed getting small tastes of the foods, and found that the overall composition was thoughtful and varied.We also shared a plate of wiener schnitzel, a classic Austrian dish. This particular schnitzel stayed true to tradition and was made with a veal escalope base. I’ve never had schnitzel, but I have had veal and know that I love fried foods, so I was more than elated to try this.It was a simple preparation, with a wedge of lemon on the side, and we made short work of the dish. I don’t think I’ve ever derived so much pleasure from such a simple and classic dish. The crust clung to the meat, which was pounded to a nearly invisible thickness, and the veal was tender and sweet, with the lemon providing a nicely acidic punch. It was crispy and addictive, and I wanted to order more and eat all the crispy edge pieces. None of it was mushy or stringy, and it was a dish that could have sated me and still made me crave more immediately after.After all that food and wine, we decided to try two desserts, the rigo jansci and their special of the night, a pumpkin crumble tart. The rigo jansci is a traditional Austrian dessert, a cube of chocolate cake with a layer of mousse and apricot jam in between. The pumpkin crumble tart seemed to be unique because of its featuring pumpkin puree as a key ingredient.And indeed, it was. The crumble had a predominantly squashy flavor instead of masking its true identity with an abundance of spices and herbs, and with a really delicious crusty base and decadent crumble, was the perfect fall fare. What was even more unusual was how much we enjoyed the whipped cream that came dolloped on the side. It was fresh and luxuriously flavored, whipped gently to stiff peaks. I could have honestly eaten an entire bowl of this for dessert, it was that good. It ranked above most ice creams I’ve had.The rigo jansci was also really delicious, with velvety soft chocolate cake in a neat cube, like an oversized petit four. It was stuffed with a thick layer of mousse, but still managed to retain its form. Between the mousse and the cake was a bit of apricot jam. The cake was delicious, if singular in texture, and was paired with a nice bittersweet chocolate powder on top. I would have preferred a little more oomph from the apricot jam. Again, the dishes were heaped with more of that addictive whipped cream.After that impressive dinner, we had no choice but to return for a second night! The building was aesthetically beautiful and had a large partitioned window as its largest wall, so we picked a time that would allow us to see the sunset through the windows. Unfortunately, it was a little rainy, but our second night brought more exciting selections and festive foods.

A special dish of gnocchi with various autumnal flavorings had caught our eye on the previous night, and we’d planned on ordering it upon our second visit, but they’d changed the menu and it was no longer available. We opted for a shared selection of a few sausages, two of their spreads, a salad, and bread on the side. This was easily enough food for two people, and we enjoyed making little open faced sandwiches with all the toppings.The sausages were presented with more of that fantastic housemade mustard, which we greatly enjoyed, and were boiled. I personally enjoy grilled sausages, but their flavors were bold and peppy. The Hungarian sausage was easily the more pungent of the two, with pork, beef, and paprika, and I found it a little rich for my tastes and could only finish half. However, it really combined well with the mustard, both being very intense flavors that played well together.

The bratwurst was my favorite of the two sausages, with pork and veal. It was mild and served as a juicy base for the sauces we put on top. It was garlicky and not too spicy or rich and had a dry but firm texture. Again, had this been grilled and in a bun, I would be hard pressed to not have returned for a lunch special! Especially with that mustard.For our spreads, we enjoyed two, a traditional liptauer, made with feta cheese, cream cheese, various spices, and most notably, carroway seed. This was present and gave the spread a quirky multi-dimensional effect not unlike time travel. It was creamy and tangy and was easily something I’d love to add to my morning bagel. It paired well with each sausage and made each even more divine. The texture wasn’t weighty, it was whipped and rather delicate, making it easier to enjoy.The second spread was another I’d easily want to use on bagels and would have really savored in a roast beef sandwich. That was a horseradish walnut spread with a cream cheese base. It was a very versatile and surprisingly mild spread that benefited from a little mustard on top! I was a little taken aback that the horseradish played such a small role and was not typically spicy, but was pleased with the overall fresh effect it had on the spread as a whole. The walnuts were chopped up just enough to give the spread a nice crunch but not dislodge any teeth.With these small picnic-like foods, we shared a cucumber dill salad. This was a little less acidic than the pickled green tomatoes but was still a neutral and crunchy base to carry such a fresh flavor. The salad was both sweet and sour and was free of seeds, allowing it to remain firm and crispy.All of this food satiated us, because we also wanted to make room for dessert. This time, we shared a classic mohn torte, a traditional poppy seed cake. I tend to shy away from overly mawkish desserts, so I figured poppy seed would not only provide a nutty base, but be flavorful without saccharine. And it was! It was a crumbly cake dense with poppy seeds, probably a 50/50 ratio, with that luscious whipped cream.The cake needed no additional flavorings or garnishes and was perfect on its own. It was probably a little too crumbly for a portable breakfast cake, but I’d still love to eat this as an early morning or late night treat.Overall, we loved Dano’s and if we ever end up returning to the Finger Lakes, would be delighted to return and enjoy more comforting, imaginative foods!

Clif Peanut Butter Pretzel Mojo Bar

I’m no stranger to the Clif granola bar line. Hell, when I was a kid, I was sitting on the bench, that one summer my dumb parents signed me up for teeball, eating those granola bars and cheering on my teammates. “Go, Jeffy! You can do it!” I’d turn to my coach and tell him gently that I probably ought to sit one out. “I think it’s my lumbago, coach. It’ll heal up with some TLC and another granola bar, but Jeffy looks like he’s handling the field pretty well.”

I was a bench warmer all summer. It was a short-lived experience, teeball, but through my teenage years and adulthood, I still enjoyed Clif bars and enjoyed pretending to be an exercising athlete even more. When I saw this new version in the store, I nearly blew a gasket. UMass had been dodgy in stocking this particular flavor, and since there’s nothing more that I love than salty and sweet, it was hard to pass this up.

Peanut Butter Pretzel boasts peanut butter chips and peanut butter filled pretzels. Talk about a yo dawg. The granola bar resembles a disgruntled rice krispie treat with various chunks and pockmarks studding its exterior. It has that airy, chewy texture, too, but less thick and less gooey.

The flavor is a little strange. It’s funny because in the last bar I had, I experienced this similar weirdness which leads me to believe it wasn’t related to the batch. It had an aggressively salty flavor like unmixed natural peanut butter that didn’t settle well with the creamy peanut butter chips. The pretzels sort of faded away into the generic crispies in the bar, and left a strange tang on my tongue. This is weird and kind of gross aspect that definitely solidifies my previous fear about buying these again. If I want a peanut butter and salt fix, I’ll stick to Target’s brand of granola bars. They taste much better and are way cheaper.

Olive and Sinclair Salt and Pepper Chocolate Bar

I have a genuinely disturbing compulsion to put condiments in places that they don’t belong. It’s a pretty unhealthy relationship. If condiments and I were on the post-season finale of Teen Mom, Dr. Drew would be asking me and my adorable food-based child why we were still with the babydaddy. Sour cream goes on eggs, potatoes, and pancakes. Mayonnaise has become an edible primer for literally any flavor before going on sandwiches, and I need at least three dipping sauces for whatever appetizer we’re eating before I stop hyperventilating over a lack of dipping sauces.

Seeing this chocolate bar and needing it confirmed that I do have a problem and that, further more, I am completely unwilling to do anything about it. Salt and pepper in a chocolate. Both are fantastic on their own in chocolate, but together evoke fantastic images of two of my favorite things, artisan chocolate and cheap fast food, consummating an unrequited love and creating this thing.The resulting chocolate bar was about as successful as all of the participants of Teen Mom. Clearly, these two foods should have never made love. The dark chocolate was average at best, despite having a beautiful engraving of the company logo on it and being studded with the spices, and had very few notes to it. To be frank, it tasted like Hershey’s take on dark chocolate. The spices were obnoxious. The salt was palpably melting on the tongue and the pepper was barely present until, like a persistent sexually transmitted infection, it started burning in the back of my throat. It was annoying, but detracted from the mediocre chocolate, and we didn’t end up finishing the bar. Overall, it seemed as though the additions in the chocolate never really melded with the bar, but rather, sat on top of it and interfered with enjoying it.I was surprised at the positive publicity this got from other chocolate connoisseurs, but to each his own. I’m still going to search for the perfect mustard/sriracha/ketchup/soy sauce/barbecue sauce related chocolate bar. Hopefully it will be more integrated than this.

Rustic Crust Crispy Italian

Keepitcoming and I have been cooking up a storm lately. Something about the weather really whets a girl’s appetite and with the chill in the air and early nights, hot and comforting food is the way to go.Rustic Crust supplied the crust for this pizza, and Keepitcoming and I thought of the toppings. Having spent many nights dreaming of Bread Euphoria’s prosciutto pizza, it was only natural to try and emulate that unctuous flavor. We picked up some fresh figs, prosciutto, and fresh mozzarella. The marinade we used for the figs acted as a light sauce and gave the pie a sweet, saucy edge. Delicious.We julienned the prosciutto into rough slices and sliced the figs, adding dry fresh mozzarella on top. Keepitcoming sauteed some scallions until crispy and brown and those went on top, too. The marinade was two parts olive oil, one part maple syrup (we didn’t have honey) and a few twists of black pepper. It was a huge hit! I’d definitely slice this into squares and serve it at a dinner party. It’s quick, approachable, and sophisticated.The crust itself was decent. It had little holes in it, no doubt to crisp up the dough while cooking, but those made it impossible to have a sauce on top without seeping through and burning on the bottom of the oven. This is all well and good if Rustic Crust includes oven cleaning services with their product, but would be a pain for the average home cook. Or the experienced home cook. Nobody wants smoke and burnt residue in their oven!Our pizza came out delicious and didn’t get soggy or mushy, but rather, the opposite. It was more cracker-like than crusty, providing very little yield upon biting. I was almost worried that I’d chip a tooth. It was just a little too thick to comfortably bite, but the flavor was great and with the maple olive oil sauce, made a great dipper.

Durian Cookies

Swagger speaking. On a routine trip to the local Asian grocery to pick up some cooking goods and snacks, I saw these on the shelf next to the cookies I usually get. I’ve heard so much about durian and how bad it smells and how the taste is actually pretty good compared to the smell so I decided to pay the $1.60 for them and give them a taste. Aside from getting totally trashed that one time at this party and hooking up with a 3/10 then waking up in a bed naked the next morning and realized what had occurred, buying and tasting these cookies was the worst mistake I’ve ever made.

I don’t know if any of the people who read this blog have had encounters with durian, but the smell of the durian fruit is definitely as bad as everyone says, maybe even worse. I don’t know how many readers here are combat veterans and have been up close to the smell of death and dead bodies of exploded enemies; but according to my close friend, Sgt. Blastmaster, who is a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the worst thing he has smelled before encountering durian fruit was when some guy decided to blow up rotten fruit stand next to a public bathroom with a suicide bomb in Fallujah. Apparently, even the smell of charred human flesh and exploded rotten fruit and sewage matter cannot even hold a candle to the smell of durian.From the one bite I took from one of these monstrosities before I had to go throw up uncontrollably I was able to gather that the wafer cookie itself tasted like a very thin layer of greasy particle board. The myth that durian tastes better than the smell is an awful lie people made to deceive the gullible, maybe it’s the same people that came up with Feng Shui house decorating. An equally cruel joke would be to go to a buddy’s house and leave these cookies hidden all over the place but it might result in them getting evicted or investigated by the authorities for suspicion of hiding dead bodies.

I cannot stress enough how bad these things smell or taste. They are probably the worst things I’ve ever encountered and I’ve been to underdeveloped countries. If you want to give these cookies or even the real fruit a try, go for it. Just make sure you have a bucket nearby and plenty of mouthwash.