Mantry Unboxing: Bourbon Breakfast + November Favorites

So I missed posting about my favorites from the October Mantry box, GQ: How to Entertain in Style, but looking back, I don’t think it was as much “I forgot” as it was “I wasn’t that impressed.” The salami was good, as most cured meats are, and the chocolate “salami” was as tasty as it was an interesting concept but nothing really hit right-on for me. Thankfully our November Mantry box, Leftovers, was different and I want to share some of the things I enjoyed most:

  • Good News Cashews and Coconut Granola by Hudson Henry Baking, Co.
    Just before starting on this blog post I ate about a handful and a half of this stuff. Something about granola makes me think it’s going to be a terrible snack but if you can look past how messy it can be if you eat it by itself, it’s really not. I paired it this morning with a bit of blueberry Yoplait Light yogurt. The bag it’s delivered in is sizable – probably one of the most impressively large items I’ve had delivered via Mantry, and the flavor it provides is not lacking in either the cashew or coconut categories it draws its name from. Fresh and crunchy, this is some A+ granola!
    Buy it Here

  • Maplewood Smoked Bacon by Broadbent’s
    This was the first thing I tore into upon receipt of the box. The bacon is thick-cut and fries up beautifully. I added nothing to it or the pan aside from some fresh-cracked black pepper and even it wasn’t necessary. Mine and Erin’s tastebuds were assaulted with the strong, salty flavor you’d expect from country ham with a texture that was much thicker and sort-of chewier than your average bacon. There’s very little grease when you fry it up, likely because of how it’s cured, so you feel like you’re getting a nice fatty protein without as much of the fatty part. I enjoyed this bacon so much I ordered some for my parents and for my sister and her husband for Christmas.
    Buy it Here

  • “Ragin’ Rooster” Sriracha Mustard by Green Mountain Mustard
    Last week I made up some hamburgers that were equal parts lean ground beef and breakfast sausage. With a side of hand-cut cheese fries, the burgers didn’t need anything extra to assist with flavor but the addition of this Sriracha Mustard was a wise one. The mustard was a nice flavor compliment to the spice in the sausage while the Sriracha aspect provided a spicier “kick” while also adding a hint of sweetness that you don’t normally find in your average hamburger. We were both big fans of this one!
    Buy it Here

  • Spicy Maple Bourbon Pickles by Brooklyn Brine
    Also going on the aforementioned sausage burger, these Spicy Maple Bourbon Pickles stood well against the strong flavors of the sausage and Sriracha mustard, allowing for an even fuller range of tastes that basically attacked the palate on every front. I’m not a huge pickle-eater but these pickles along with the tiny onions floating around with them brought forth a nice extra bit of spice (but not too much) and a sweetness to the table. Again, not a big pickle eater, but I think these would stand well even on their own, let alone a kick-ass burger.
    Buy it Here

I’m trying to keep up the practice of utilizing my newborn Pinterest account to maintain a list of the Mantry items I’ve reviewed. You can find that board here.

December’s Mantry crate’s theme is Bourbon Breakfast and aims to give us a legit reason to look forward to waking up in the morning, especially during these cold, dark winter mornings most folks are currently experiencing (I say most because it was 53 degrees on the way to the gym at 5:30am here in east Tennessee). So maybe it isn’t as cold here as it is other places and maybe I’m more of a morning person than most but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to enjoy some of these bourbon-infused and inspired breakfast delights in this month’s box! Let’s get going:

Going left to right:
Hazelnut Whiskey Cookies from Whimsy & Spice, Brooklyn, NY
Bacon Spread from Skillet Street Food, Seattle, WA
100% Pure Vermont Maple Syrup from The Syrup Shop, Burlington, VT
Hazelnut Pancake Mix from Freddy Guy Hazelnut Farm, Monmouth, OR
Bourbon Blueberry Jam from Jam Stand, Brooklyn, NY
Spicy Borsellino from La Quercia, Norwalk, IA

Saying I’m excited to get down on some of these breakfast goodies is an understatement. I struck out when I made these Pumpkin Chocolate Chai Protein Shakes from PaleOMG this morning – a little too bitter for my taste and, according to Erin via text message, adding honey doesn’t do it any favors. I do intend to give these another shot on Wednesday, though, and will be adding some things I think will make them taste better (and still keep it Paleo-esque) since serving them in our Butterbeer cups we picked up in Diagon Alley back in October apparently didn’t do the trick on its own!

Fingers crossed for good results from everything and tasty breakfasts!

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Mantry Unboxing: Leftovers

So much gets me down anymore. I’m an extremely blessed, extremely thankful and extremely happy guy but when I dwell on the news of murderous, racist police offers attacking with impunity, I get bummed out. When I think about collegiate athletes raping young women, the news getting out and society at large, especially the local community, are so willing to turn their heads or jump right into victim blaming all in the name of making it to a bowl game, I get pissed. Or professional footballers getting away with domestic abuse while the heads of the league twiddle their thumbs and practically show their female fans they mean nothing to the league but dollar signs. Sometimes at the end of the day I’m left with nothing but pure outrage and a broken heart.

It isn’t healthy to ponder this stuff as often as I sometimes do and so I like to indulge in the few things that do the total opposite for me. One of them being shopping. Another: spinning records in the den. Another: being active. As an early birthday present Erin got me a membership at the local Title Boxing Club and I’m about to jump out of my skin I’m so excited. Also: technology. I recently bought a Raspberry Pi and I’m very excited to begin working with it in the coming weeks. Finally: FOOD. But you all already knew that.

With that reasoning one could argue that my monthly Mantry subscription is, indeed, healthy for me. And I’d support that argument. This month’s theme is Leftovers and is meant to assist in the upgrading of one of a man’s favorite things: Thanksgiving leftovers. The cold turkey in the fridge next to the potatoes. The cranberry sauce chilling out next to the pumpkin pie. While a couple of days ago I mentioned that I have the turkey and the pie, our Thanksgiving is far from traditional and our leftovers were minimal, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make good use of this month’s goodies. Let’s dive in!


From left to right:
Maplewood Smoked Bacon from Broadbent’s, Kuttawa, KY
Chili Spice from Oaktown Spice Shop, Oakland, CA
Good News Cashew and Coconut Granola from Hudson Henry Baking Co., Palmyra, VA
Chef’s Cut Turkey Jerky from Chef’s Cut, Naples, FL
“Ragin’ Rooster” Sriracha Mustard from Green Mountain Mustard, Richmond, VT
Spicy Maple Bourbon Pickles from Brooklyn Brine, Brooklyn, NY

The back of the booklet that came with this month’s box illustrates a usage idea that incorporates the “Ragin’ Rooster” Sriracha Mustard, the Spicy Maple Bourbon Pickles, the Maplewood Smoked Bacon, what appears to be avocado and “leftover” cranberry sauce and turkey on two slices of thick bread all coming together to form the Ultimate Thanksgiving Club Sandwich. It looks heavenly. If I buy the items to make this sandwich is it cheating since I’m not using true leftovers? I guess no one has to know.

Except you, faithful few blog readers. You’ll probably know.

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This Week’s FN Recipes + a Bonus (10/13)

This Week’s FN Recipes 10/13

One of the best things about having a blog with relatively few followers is I can make some freaky changes without anyone really noticing (yesterday’s 1 viewer may have noticed the change in appearance – probably not). If you’re an email subscriber then you wouldn’t notice anyway and I appreciate you not deleting my posts right away, assuming you don’t.

Anyway, another change I’m hoping to try out here is to consolidate my weekly cooking into one post when I don’t document the steps in photo-form. A lot of people come to food blogs to learn how to make something new and I rarely ever explain how to actually make something so I’m hoping to at least be able to give folks ideas and point them in the direction they need to go in to get a tasty dinner on the table that night.

If I’ve not mentioned it before, for the last three weeks I have switched my weekly cooking menu to include mostly items from Food Network Magazine’s “Weeknight Cooking” section and surprisingly the items are usually fairly low in calories, high in tastiness and somehow friendly on the wallet as my grocery bill has gone down by about $30-$50 per week.

And here are those items I put together this week, plus a bonus:

Monday Night: Chicken Stroganoff: Food Network Magazine, October 2012
Recipe Here

This was a quick and simple recipe. Erin and I have always been suckers for Hamburger Helper’s Beef Stroganoff (subbing ground turkey for the beef and adding some mushrooms) so it’s always exciting to try making one of our boxed-favorites from the ground up. This sour cream / chicken broth based sauce was creamy and a great compliment to the mushrooms and chicken that fried in the same pan minutes before.

Tuesday Night: Brats with Sauerkraut Potato Cakes: Food Network Magazine, October, 2012
Recipe Here

Everyone loves bratwurst. Grilled, baked, fried, seared, whatever – it’s awesome. This recipe calls for pan-seared brats with nothing else fancy going on. Simple. The surprise in this recipe is the potato cakes. Nearly equal parts grated potato and sauerkraut, I stood mixing together with some fresh chives and egg and spices wondering how these would turn out since they seemed to have barely enough potato to be considered a potato cake. Would a sauerkraut cake work? In the end, the combo was wonderful and paired well with the brats. The sauce was a nice addition, too, a simple combo of sour cream and spicy brown mustard.

Thursday Night: Pan-Fried Pork Chops with Peach Sauce & Green Beans: Food Network Magazine, April 2012
Recipe Here

We love pork chops – I’ve seared them, baked them and grilled them but never once have I dipped them in batter and fried them. These were a little bit of effort but was well worth it. The batter recipe creates a nice, biscuity outer layer to the chops that was soft on the inside and crisp on the pan-fried outside. My only gripe on this recipe is my own fault since I left the sauce alone for 30 seconds without whisking which is apparently just long enough to burn. Sauce was still good but came out a little more like molasses when the photo I saw looked more like sweet & sour sauce. I’d try this again.

Saturday Night: Sausage and Polenta Parmesan: Food Network Magazine, September 2012
Recipe Here

Last night’s dinner was probably my favorite this week. The spicy Italian sausage was super up against the chopped mushrooms and tomato sauce. This turned into a great meaty alternative to chicken or eggplant parmesan – I sliced some polenta and fried in some EVOO for a few minutes per side – done. My deviation from the recipe: This was supposed to be a one-skillet meal, frying the polenta, removing and adding the sauce ingredients, then adding the polenta again, layering on the cheese and then sliding in the oven. Instead, I assembled everything on a plate, added the polenta and cheese and slid the plate under the broiler. Extra step, yes, but your humble narrator doesn’t have an oven-safe skillet. Yet.

And here’s the bonus:

I’m sometimes afraid to bake anything to bring to work because a lot of folks are for some reason afraid to eat in front of each other. That’s a giant pet peeve of mine and it bothers me that I’m hesitant to bring baked goodies to work for fear of them not getting eaten. Sometimes I suck it up, though, and good things happen. After dinner Monday I busted out a great recipe from frequent blog feature Budget Bytes: a nice combo of sweet tooth satisfaction with fall pumpkin hipness, Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies.

These were a quick, simple recipe that I doubled to make enough cookies for my co-workers (around 12), for some of Erin’s close co-workers (6-8) and a few for us to much on at home (about 6). All disappeared quickly. I have a gripe about these delicious cookies: The batter is awesome and it was really, really hard for me to not just sit down in the living room with my mixing bowl and spoon, feeding my face with raw dough goodness.

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