GIVEAWAY: West Bend Versatility Cooker

Have you seen my Facebook page? No? You should. It’s pretty awesome. It’s the mecca of all the behind the scenes fun that I don’t post on the site. I can’t write about everything that comes to mind, believe it or not, and often have to be pretty selective. Oh, and I’m also giving away a slow-cooker on it.
West Bend sent me an awesome slow cooker for the winter and is also providing one for a very lucky reader. Details for the giveaway are at the bottom, but here’s my scoop on all things slow. Like I said, the Facebook page exists solely for me to show off my leftovers and creepy creations to the general public without being the recipient of a restraining order. One of my favorite recent posts was the onslaught of tacos I made back in November- simple, easy homemade masa tortillas with shredded chicken and the best salsa in the world. I can easily eat six at a time, for I am the great taco destroyer.
With the Versatility Cooker featuring a slow cooking function and a griddle, making these was a no-brainer. They’re easy and deeply spicy, with a heat that threatens to vanquish even the most clogged nose or sorest throat. Chicken soup v2.0, if you will. Setting up the cooker was pretty easy, and the parts came apart for simple assembly and later storage. There are a few neat customizable settings on the cooker- low heat, high heat, keep warm, and griddle, as well as a timer so you can set your own time should you so choose.
I found that my recipe, which made roughly three servings of shredded chicken, definitely didn’t require the five hours allotted for the high heat setting or the nine hours for the low heat. The preprogrammed cooking times are definitely formatted for larger quantities of food. Not necessarily a bad thing, but also a little much for a smaller recipe. I chose not to fiddle with the customized timing and just set my tacos on high, checking periodically and stopping about two hours in when I felt it was finished. There’s a reason why “set it and forget it” is so appealing- a few hours later, dinner was ready. The cooker is perfect for multi-taskers with limited space. While the chicken cooled, I cooked the tortillas on the griddle.
Everyone loved them.
Yes, everyone.
Clean-up is a little unwieldy as the griddle cannot be removed from its base, so you’re limited to the space around you to clean it in. Scratching is also a hazard. It includes a stainless steel roasting rack, another feature that slightly worries me with the metal-on-nonstick friction, never a good sign. While the pot can be cleaned in the dishwasher, I’m leery of trying it out as I’d hate for the non-stick finish to get warped or scratched in any way. That, and the somewhat harsh beeping the cooker makes when it is turned on or any setting is changed, are the only two features I wasn’t keen on. It’s a fantastic appliance for anyone with limited space or time and is incredibly easy to use.How do I win this awesome device? Easy. If you’re already a fan of my Facebook page, you’re ahead. Simply email me at detailing the next recipe or idea you think I should use with my cooker and you’ll be entered into the running. I’ll pick the best recipe on Sunday, January 15th, and follow up with a feature post!
Chicken Tacos Verde
Ingredients (serves 3)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 boneless chicken thighs
2 cans or 6 whole roasted jalapeno peppers
3/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, or one garlic clove
1/8th cup of Cognac
1/4 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon of orange zest
2 cups of water
Salsa verde and tortillas to assemble
1. Put all ingredients (with the exception of the salsa and tortillas) in a slow cooker or pot on the stove, allowing the mixture to slowly simmer for four hours.
2. Remove chicken and shred with two forks.
3. Serve with tortillas and salsa and enjoy!

Vote on the Next Feature Week!

2012 is upon us and the bar has been raised: now it’s your turn to vote on the next feature week! In case you don’t remember, we’ve done a few of these in the past, including the ever-popular Spicy Week and Avocado Week. In the past, I’ve chosen topics and have held votes, and now it’s your turn to choose once more! Here are the features in the running.

Ice Cream Week: Despite the fact that it’s the dead of winter, I’ll be picking seven or eight of my favorite ice creams and ice cream novelties to write about. It’s the food you love to hate in January.

Food Hack Week: Love Reese’s but hate the chocolate outside? Can’t find good salsa or natural peanut butter where you live? I’ll be hacking some of my favorite foods and perfecting the recipes for a week in this series with step-by-step recipes. Recommended for those who wish Foodette was a hair more domestic.

Trader Joe’s Week: Fairly self-explanatory. Taking a page from What’s Good at TJ’s, we’ll be featuring seven of the tastiest and whackiest products from Trader Joe’s.

Gross Food Week: Yep, it’s time to hit up Big Lots. No food too expired, no snack too scary. Expect a week of “delights” from Asian groceries and garbage cans. Requests taken, of course.

Reader Request Week: Send in your requests. If this is chosen, I’ll take the seven best suggestions from regular readers of Foodette and write about them. I will also riff off the subject of your choosing if you demand it. Shoot requests over to or with the handy little widget (soon to be posted)

Vlog Week: Please, please, please don’t vote for this. Seriously, guys, I look like the baby Ellen and Rosie O’Donnell had if it had Jeannine Garofolo’s mouth and wore Patrick Bateman’s wardrobe. But if this gets the most votes, I will don my best vests and worst hats and post seven unedited videos of seven products, yadda yadda, possibly with some of the latest and greatest in food bloggery!

Voting goes for ten days, until the 15th, and the poll is live now. Let the games begin!


Hungry Jack Funfetti Buttermilk Pancakes

Well, it’s happened. The internet’s obsession with combining the crap out of various foodstuffs has seeped out, like a spilled red velvet cupcake fudge milkshake onto a white Maud Sienna carpet, staining the world of brands as we know it. Yes, Virginia, there are now Funfetti-flavored pancakes, Funfetti being the socially acceptable way to literally eat candy with candy. And I have eaten them and lived to tell the tale.
Hungry Jack, the company that brought you breakfast by Dad on school days when Mom was busy and the Australian Burger King now offers up an easy pack of pancakes dotted with the perennial birthday party favorite, sprinkles. Visually, these look like the calling card of a rogue, murderous IHOP employee on a quest for vengeance. I’ll call him Murray the Pancakinator. They’re upsettingly neon with a lazy heaviness to them, a density that emcompasses a mental weight far beyond sprinkles and pancake mix.
The mix, which could double for a My Little Pony recreational club drug, ballooned from a scant two cups to like, thirty cups of gloopy batter a result of sitting out on the counter for five minutes while the stove heated up. The first few pancakes were pretty and evenly speckled with sprinkles, while the remaining pancakes took on a dingy grey tinge, the result of the sprinkles melting together like a cheap watercolor set.
After cooking, the result was fairly underwhelming from an edible perspective. Funfetti is just another way to add delicious sugar and birthday colors into an already sugary edible, the cupcake. When you take the sugar out, in the case of the pancake mix, you’re basically eating the poor man’s Funfetti. And man, is it awful- the flavor is chalky with no sweetness to speak of outside of a few sharp little pockets of astringency from eating straight up sprinkles. The heaviness from the batter translated poorly to the pancakes. Each one was leathery on the outside with a burnt flavor, despite being a perfect golden brown color, and had a doughy chew to them.
But there are options. Yes, there is always a plan B, in this case, B for Birthday Massacre. Also known as, BM. In true Buddy the Elf fashion, we pimped out these pancakes with three different kinds of frosting, butter, syrup, and powdered sugar. We even garnished them with candy canes because we are literally sugar pimps. And you know what? Despite looking like clown vomit, they tasted pretty darn good. The excessive amounts of sugar definitely gave it a more cake-like flavor, which made sense being that it contained all the components of a cake but fried in a pan, and even moistened the dry little suckers up to make for a fairly manageable one bite before we and everyone in a three mile radius contracted diabetes.
So, the moral of the story is this: when you have a product that tastes like sand, copious amounts of frosting and food coloring will prevent it from being bland. Or so the saying goes. Honestly, the real moral of the story is that it’s never good to trust $1 pancake mix, even if it does seem to be a small price to pay for sugary childhood memories.
It does get a point for value- it used water and nothing else and yielded nine medium-sized pancakes, but when that value roundhouse kicks your health and dental insurance plan in the stomach, you begin to realize that your money would be better spent hiring a psychiatrist to unbox your childhood instead of pancakes. But on the plus side, #fuckyeahrainbowpancakes!
Seriously, don’t do it.