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!

Get Connected!
Mantry Online
Mantry on Twitter
Mantry on Facebook
Mantry on Instagram


This Week’s Food Network Recipes (11/17)

Continuing with consolidating all of my non-process weeknight treats into one post, here are some of the goodies I’ve put together from the Food Network Magazine “Weeknight Cooking” section.

I was fortunate enough to be able to cook five nights this week, though only four were Food Network recipes, the remaining night being this great #MeatlessMonday dish from BudgetBytes.

I’ve also been doing something a little different with my recipes:

Normally I go through my stash of Food Network magazines and build my weekly menu from the “Weeknight Cooking” section of each, make a quick grocery list and start knocking out some serious foodage during the week. In an attempt to make some room, though, I just started saving all of my favorite recipes in Food Network’s In the Kitchen app for iOS. That being said, I won’t be able to indicate which issue these came from anymore.

That was a lot of explanation for something no one will care about. On with the food!

Tuesday Night: Beef Taco Salad with Chunky Tomato Dressing
Recipe Here

E and I used to really like having a “Taco Night” (usually Fridays) where we would take some ground turkey and cook it with one of those 59ยข taco seasoning packets, some refried or black beans and Spanish rice. I would make myself burritos and I would stack hers atop tortilla chips and lettuce then a packet of Wholly Guacamole guac. This taco salad isn’t much different from what we made her only no pre-made mix was used and the beef was cooked with black beans. The “Chunky Tomato Dressing” was a simple mixture of diced tomatoes, EVOO, lime juice and salt + pepper but was a great way to add more healthy flavor to taco night. Maybe we’ll turn Tuesdays into taco night because #tacoTuesday just sounds more hip!

Wednesday Night: Chicken, Sausage and Peppers + White Rice
Recipe Here

There’s a fairly funny story that goes along with this recipe that I’m not going to share in this particular post but know it involves me buying the wrong kind of pepper at the grocery and later finding out it was the hottest pepper I’ve ever eaten in my life. The rest of this recipe was filled out with onions, mild Italian turkey sausage, chicken and cherry tomatoes in a buttery sauce that also included white wine and chicken broth. By itself this is a low calorie meal but I didn’t think I would get far on the serving so I added the white rice which I boiled in chicken broth to support it. With the exception of the unknown pepper your humble narrator mistakenly picked out, this was an incredible meal, one that Erin said she could “eat every night.”

Thursday Night: Lazy. Drive-thru. 50 points from Slytherin. Boo.

Friday Night: Soy-Glazed Salmon with Cucumber-Avocado Salad
Recipe Here

I didn’t photograph this one because I burned the sauce, used ugly salmon and used the full recipe (4 servings) for the salad when I only wanted 2 servings. My plate upon completion was full of green salad pieces and half-assed looking salmon but both tasted wonderful. I’m definitely going to give this another shot sometime and try to make it a little sexier because it’s really a good recipe.

Saturday doesn’t count (usually)

Sunday night: Steak Pizzaiola
Recipe Here

Boy the pressure was on with this one. I showed Erin the Food Network version of this recipe about 30 minutes before I started cooking it and she excitedly asked “Is THIS what you’re making!?” Confident mine wasn’t going to look anything like the beauty image FN used for the recipe, I swallowed hard and headed to the kitchen. This is a fairly simple recipe using common ingredients – nothing fancy like the pepper I tried to use earlier in the week – and came out phenomenally. I served this up with cornbread and served us each and split the steaks down the middle, which I think was more than the recipe called for, but I intend to use the remainder of the simple sauce as part of breakfast sometime this week. I went shopping late so I didn’t have access to sirloin steak like the recipe called for so I bought and trimmed some NY Strips that worked really well but I think I’d rather try a thicker steak since my strips came out medium at best. Either way, it’s beautiful!

This is post 17 of my very first time participating in NaBloPoMo, a “Blog a Day” project for the month of November.

Follow me on Twitter

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.

Follow me on Twitter @justintfirefly