Tomato based, stirred with sugar, and finished off with a generous dose of paprika, Kansas City barbecue sauce stands apart from its Texas and North Carolina cousins.
A few weeks ago I had a chance to sample some of Kansas City’s most legendary barbecue hotspots, Gates Bar B.Q. and Arthur Bryant’s BBQ along with a couple off-the-beaten gems LC’s Bar-B-Q and Woodyard BBQ.
But what sets Kansas City barbecue apart?
First, it’s gotta be pit smoked. The smoke tends to be mild woods like hickory and pecan instead of the bolder mesquite. The gently smoked meats stay moist in the pit and are basted with sauce.
Every barbecue establishment in Kansas City has their own special sauce. When I asked around at Arthur Bryant about offering a few hints on the spices the answer I got–”Even the cooks don’t know what’s in the sauce.” The spices are mixed offsite and unmarked to keep the mixture of decidedly strong paprika and pepper a secret. Yeah, they’re top secret. But what’s similar in all Kansas City sauces is that they’re sweet without even a hint of spice.
Kansas City makes dang good brisket and pulled pork but their sweet spot is the ribs and burnt ends. (Burnt ends is a conversation for another post.)
There’s also the undefinable something in Kansas City barbecue. I suspect it’s from a long, strong tradition of making amazing smoked meats. I found that the folks making the barbecue–the so-called “pit masters”–weren’t big talkers. They were all business when it came to barbecue.
Did you know chocolate is a vegetable? That’s right. Explaining her recent study results, which showed that people who get a daily dose of chocolate are slimmer than those who don’t, Beatrice Golomb, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego said, “It’s my favorite vegetable.” Dr. Golomb cited chocolate’s antioxidant prowess when comparing it to other vegetables. She also relayed that chocoholics those in the study who ate chocolate each day had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who didn’t.
Well, of course, I want to make sure that we’re all getting enough vegetables in our diet so here’s a week’s worth of recipes so you can get your fill.
Keep 100% whole wheat bread moist by adding in plenty of Greek yogurt and chocolate, of course!
These brownies have a boost of extra nutrition from a blueberry-spinach puree that you mix in the batter. My teen loves these brownies even though they do turn out a bit softer than your straight-chocolate recipe.
Easy peanut butter cups (no bake!)
These homemade peanut butter cups are easy to put together. Thanks for the idea Martha and Me.
From Garlic Girl, add cocoa to your chocolate chip cookies for a extra boost of the good stuff.
My signature dessert that I try to make infrequently because it’s soo tempting. (I should point out that technically you should be sticking to around an ounce of daily chocolate so you’d need to be nibbling your cheesecake slice.)
Chocolate and lemon make such a surprisingly perfect combo–add a toasty marshmallow topping to make this updated kid classic from Good.Food.Stories.
End your week with these simple treats that have both cocoa powder and mini-chocolate chips (although feel free to add the regular size if you feel like you haven’t been getting enough chocolate in your diet).
*Special thanks to the National Institutes of Health for funding this study and others like it. Dr. Golomb mentioned she needed to do additional studies. The big question: WHERE CAN I SIGN UP?
My kids each have favorite finds at Cleveland’s West Side Market, an indoor/outdoor food mecca that boasts about 100 vendors selling everything from fresh blackberries to spicy beef jerky.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the market so I thought I’d share some of my favorite food vendors there. Although I haven’t yet visited all of the booths—and we do try to visit a new place each time we go—these are my top finds.
You can download a map so that you won’t get lost when you visit. Then again, getting lost has its advantages—new discoveries.
What to buy: ravioli, yummy sauces & specialty butters
We usually buy a couple different kinds of ravioli along with one carton of sauce to make a meal at home. My kids love the asiago cheese-stuffed ravioli with the lobster cream sauce. There are also daily specials. The walnut butter was a hit, but the cilantro-lime linguine (my choice) wasn’t so tasty.
What to buy: monk cake, pecan rolls
Monk cake is a West Side Market original. Chocolate cake with layers of mouse and raspberry filling are enveloped by a thick piece of chocolate. There are two bakeries that happen to be right next to each other that both sell monk cake. Cake Royale, created it, but
Theresa’s offers it too. I’m partial to Theresa’s version since it’s denser and less sweet than Cake Royale’s but I’m holding out a final verdict until I’m sampled it a few more times;) Maybe I also favor Theresa’s since I’m addicted to their pecan rolls.
What to buy: the best brats. ever.
I don’t like brats, really. Mr. Squid tried to get me to try Frank’s, but I wouldn’t budge until someone walked by me eating one and it smelled…heavenly. The folks at Frank’s make the brats using ground veal and then flash fry them before cooking. The result is a crispy brat outside and a moist, smooth inside. When they ask, make sure to get the hard roll versus the soft and even though the
sauerkraut is good, I’d stick with just the meat and the roll to get the full flavor.
What to buy: beef jerky, bacon, whatever’s on sale
My tween actually saves her allowance to spend on homemade beef jerky at J+J. The little mom-and-pop shop has been busy since it was featured in The Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” as Iron Chef Michael Symon’s pick. The folks who own J+J also own another food booth with the same offerings, Czuchraj.
What to buy: gyros
You have to get in line at Steve’s before about 11:15 a.m. to avoid the lunch crowd. And I mean crowd. And there are rules to Steve’s line. No cutting. No holding a place for someone else. No ordering more than one extra sandwich per person. Yeah, it’s that good. This booth solidified its fame in an episode of the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food. I’ve eaten gyros off the street in Greece–these are better. Maybe it’s the mounds of meat that have been basting on the vertical spit all day or the warm, fresh pitas, or the creamy yogurt sauce. Whatever it is, a stop at Steve’s is a must (a regular sandwich IMHO will easily feed two people).
What to buy: sweet or savory crepes
Looking for a vegetarian meal? Or maybe something sweet that’s not too heavy? That’s when I head to Crepes De Luxe. Whether you choose a savory a crepe that’s piled with veggies and cheese or a dessert one filled with fresh fruit or Nutella (or both!), these huge crepes are folded so they’re easy to eat while you meander through the market. And each one is made right in front of you.
*If you go to the West Side Market (and you should) it’s open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday during the day. Check the website for hours and where to park. Keep in mind that some vendors are open different times than others.
Last weekend, Mr. Squid and I surprised the kids with a weekend away in Detroit to see the musical Wicked and to visit some of our favorite southeast Michigan foodie haunts. While Detroit’s reputation might be more tied to auto-making, or ‘the Big three,’ Michiganders would say, this town knows how to eat.
Here are my favorite foodie spots in and around Detroit.
We drove straight from Cleveland to New Yasmeen. There you’ll find meat kibbee, tabouli, fattoush, madardara, and a dozen other dishes I can’t even pronounce, but love sampling. That’s what you’ll find at this Middle Eastern restaurant in the heart of Dearborn. The city also happens to have one of the largest Middle Eastern populations of any town in the U.S. In other words, if you’re looking for authentic flavors, stock up on pitas and hummus here.
My suggestion: Chicken shawarma–grilled chicken pieces spiced with cardamon, allspice and slathered with a garlic/yogurt/tahini sauce, peppered with pickles and wrapped in a homemade pita.
What the kids liked best: Uh, the pastry counter. Seriously, they have chocolate cups filled with whipped vanilla and chocolate cream. On the savory side, my two youngest daughters downed cheese pies while my oldest polished off a meat shawarma.
There’s no website for Best China and if you blink, you’ll miss this dive that’s tucked in a mini-mall behind a gas station in Canton. The owners, who are from Shanghai, have two menus, one for English speakers, and another full of regional favorites, all listed in Chinese.
My suggestion: Sesame chicken. I know, I know, it’s not authentic Chinese cuisine, but I could seriously drink the sauce that doesn’t suffer from the sticky-sweet flavor, or worse, ketchup-based blandness you normally encounter when you order sesame chicken elsewhere. Order the pork potstickers (fried or steamed) as soon as you get in if you want them before your meal, otherwise you’re likely to get them as dessert, which is just fine with me.
What the kids liked best: Everything. But dipping their potstickers in sauce with their chopsticks is always fun.
Regular readers know I love Mexican food, especially tacquerias, or taco shops. In the Mexicantown area of Detroit there are several good places for authentic fare, but Lupitas stands apart for their tacos and endless chips and plentiful salsas that are served as appetizers. *Lupitas is only open for lunch and I must admit, I think it’s better during the week versus the weekend.
My suggestion: Tacos al pastor, which are made with pork that’s marinated, then roasted on vertical skewer and before it’s slivered off in pieces. If you’re feeling more adventurous ask for the torta ahogada, which isn’t on the menu, but is a specialty of Mexico’s Jalisco. The sandwich is usually filled with pork, beans, and cheese then it’s dipped into a chile-infused sauce. Warning: it’s hot!
What the kids liked best: Tacos lengua. My middle child who shuns peanut butter loves tacos lengua, or beef tongue tacos. Go figure.
Located in Detroit’s Corktown district, Mudgie’s inventive dishes–on one visit the soup of the day was cheeseburger–use fresh, local ingredients. For a taste a Mudgie’s check out their recipe here for brownie waffles.
My suggestion: We weren’t able to visit Mudgie’s on this visit, but I’ll admit I follow their Twitter feed just to get meal ideas. Whatever the special is, that’s my order.
What the kids liked best: Brownie waffles, of course.
Coney Island restaurants are a Michigan novelty. You just don’t get these anywhere else. Even though the restaurants are named after the chili-doused New York dog, the food here tends to veer more toward Greek flavors–along with your typical diner fare. Note: there are several different Coney Island chains, Kerby’s (spell coney with a K), but Leo’s are the best IMHO.
My suggestion: The Greek salad. And make sure to get the small (the large feeds 4+). Mr. Squid likes the Greek salad with peperoncinis, feta, olives, beets, and chickpeas so much he bought a bottle of dressing to bring home.
What the kids liked best: The coney dog
I just had to pass along more pictures from New Yasmeen. Enjoy!
You might call Jamie Roster a sour cherry aficionado. In 2005, along with her husband, Nick, she became the owner of The Cherry Stop, “the world’s largest selection of cherry food and gifts” in the heart of Traverse City, Michigan, which happens to supply 80% of the country’s sour cherry supplies.
The Cherry Stop is definitely a hands-on business. Along with picking local cherry processors that select cherries from nearby farms, Jamie comes up with new products to highlight the smooth, tart flavor of the berries. Keep reading to learn more about sour cherries and how you can use them to pump of the flavor of your recipes. After talking to Jamie, I used dried cherries to add a zing to my pico de gallo recipe–my kids loved it. And my husband kept asking, “What did you put in this, I like it.”
For more on cherries, here’s Jamie…
Can you explain the types of tart cherries available?
There are two types: Montmorency, which are the premiere cherries for making cherry pies, and Balaton cherries. Montmorency cherries have a red exterior and yellow flesh. They bruise easily once they’re picked. Balaton cherries have a darker skin and a burgundy color from skin to pit. The Balaton cherries are larger and hardier than Montmorency but they’re not quite as tart. Balatons were originally from Hungary and through a collaboration with Michigan State, they were introduced here about 20 years ago.
How are tart cherries processed?
We’re not involved in the growing or the processing, but I can explain how it’s done. Typically tart cherries are shaken off the trees. There’s this machine that holds the tree and shakes the trunk so that the cherries fall into a canvas underneath. Then the cherries are placed into water containers on trucks. They’re very fragile, so farmers have to be careful transporting them. But the cherries go right from the tree into the processor or they’re frozen. Tart cherries have to be processed very quickly. They don’t last very long off the tree.
Our cherry jams are a staple. And our cherry salsa is incredibly popular: it’s tomato based with a little tart and a little spice. Our old-fashioned cherry butter… But we’re constantly coming up with new product ideas.
How do you create new cherry products?
My husband and I are pretty much hands-on in every aspect of production. It’s either my ideas, or my husband’s. At home, we come up with crazy things and try them out in small batches until we perfect the recipe. That’s how I came up with cherry ginger jam. You have to try it—it’s a phenomenal jam. We also have a new product we’ve called ‘cherry catsup,’ but that’s misleading because it’s very versatile—you can use it for everything from pork chops to ice cream.
What should cooks know about using cherries?
The big thing is not to be afraid of trying out something new—cherries are so versatile, whether it’s for something sweet or savory. Cherries compliment other flavors instead of overwhelming them.
To find just about anything “cherry” from jams to t-shirts, you can visit The Cherry Stop in Traverse City or order their products online. And for those of you looking for a unique Father’s Day present, Jamie mentioned she gets more than one call around June asking if they ship fresh, frozen, tart cherries. The answer? You bet.
Next week I’ll have Jamie’s recipe for Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies available for you to try!
1.5 million pounds. That’s how much peanut butter, and peanut butter products, we consume here in the U.S. each year. And I couldn’t be happier about it. I heart peanut butter. Seriously, I was one of those kids who had a daily dose of PB sandwiches (forget the jelly!). Since March is National Peanut Month, I couldn’t let the month go by without highlighting an all-natural peanut butter company.
Grand Rapids, Michigan based Koeze has been making peanut butter the same way since 1925. Their Cream-Nut brand, which lists just two ingredients—Virginia peanuts and sea salt—has been featured in a variety of popular publications, from Oprah’s O Magazine to Everyday with Rachael Ray to Esquire.
And just how did a company that was founded in 1910 by Netherlands immigrant, Sibbele Koeze, go on to sell over half a million jars of peanut butter each year? According to Koeze’s Creative Director Martin J. Andree, it’s all about quality ingredients. Along with explaining more about Cream-Nut, Andree gave me a few more insights into one of my favorite things during our recent interview.
What makes Cream-Nut peanut butter so unique?
What draws people to our peanut butter is that it tastes really traditional. It’s wholesome and old-fashioned. Part of that is our company’s story: We’ve been making our peanut butter the same way with the same ingredients that we have been since the 1930s. It’s the kind of food that takes you back. If you compare ours to commercial peanut butters you’ll see that on theirs the second ingredient is molasses or sugar or something like that. The peanut butter tastes sweet, but ours really tastes like peanuts.
Can you tell me more about the peanuts in Cream-Nut?
There are four types of peanuts in the U.S—Runner, Valencia, Spanish and Virginia. We use Virginia in Cream-Nut. With Virginia peanuts the flavor tastes like a handful of fresh roasted peanuts you might get at a baseball game. Even though the name is Virginia, these peanuts are grown throughout the Southeast in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.
With our organic peanut butter, Sweet Ella’s, we use organic Spanish peanuts. It’s really tough to get organic peanuts. They grow in more arid places like New Mexico and Texas, dry ground. With the wet, humid environment in the South they have to do more to keep the weeds away. But with the Spanish peanuts, they grow in different areas and taste entirely different. They’re naturally sweet. And to crush them to use in peanut butter—well it’s a little like we’re making hamburger out of a filet.
What’s more popular smooth or creamy?
For us, it’s a 60/40 split in favor of creamy. But even our creamy peanut butter is more chunky. We use vintage WWII machinery to crush the peanuts and because of that process it still has some chunks in it. That’s why we work in small batches. With commercial varieties they put the peanuts in some like a big, high-speed blender so that the peanut butter almost has more of a yogurt consistency. Ours just isn’t like that.
And your personal favorite—smooth or crunchy?
I’m a smooth guy. I like the Sweet Ella’s organic smooth, but I also like the Cream-Nut smooth too, of course.
Check back in Wednesday for Andree’s favorite peanut butter cookie recipe.
The concept for the Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery has literally been stewing for years. The eatery located in downtown Ann Arbor is the brainchild of chef, and managing partner, Maggie Long and brewer extraordinaire Ron Jeffries. Jeffries has been crafting his artisanal sour beers in Dexter, Michigan for years and now has a restaurant and brewery in Traverse City along with the café, which opened in September of 2009.
Long says the philosophy behind the food at the café is fresh, organic. For example, her oldest daughter volunteers at an area farm where some of the ingredients come from for the café. And the sourdough pizza is fashioned with a sourdough starter that Long received from a fellow foodie whose held onto it for 130 years. Beyond the fresh ingredients, Long says that the aim of the café is “welcoming.” “We want everyone to feel comfortable here, especially families,” explains Long. “I love to see families here and I’m honored to provide food for them that is both healthy and delicious.” She notes that the menu includes kid favorites like chicken strips, but that the strips are made from locally raised chickens and breaded in organic cornflakes.
For a taste of Long’s organic creations, you can try this recipe from the Jolly Pumpkin café’s appetizer menu; this edamame spread is served alongside fresh, grilled sourdough pizza.
What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?
Your favorite meal to make or serve?
That’s a hard one. I absolutely love Tamworth hogs. A braised pork shoulder is my favorite meal–slow cooked. Tamworth is a heritage breed of hog and it’s a flavor not to be missed. It’s a darker meat and it has a ton of flavor.
We all have a favorite indulgence, for a foodie like you it must be something spectacular?
Ron introduced me to Alan McClure of Patric Chocolate, a small chocolate maker in Missouri. I’m not usually a fan of dark chocolate but the stuff this guy puts together is absolutely amazing. My favorite is the 70% Madagascar chocolate bar with little cocoa nibs in it. It’s addictive.
What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?
Anything that I burn. Once, I burned the mac ‘n cheese sauce—totally toasted it. I tried to fix it, but you can’t. I use really good pasta and really good cheeses, but nothing can take that scorched flavor out.
There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?
For me, anything seasonal. Rosewood Farms makes a phenomenal tofu.
What do you suggest for first-timers to Jolly Pumpkin? What menu item should they make sure to try?
I make a smoked tofu salad that’s really good. There’s spinach, cherry tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, shaved broccoli, a sesame vinaigrette and, of course, smoked tofu. The flavors meld really well. The sourdough pizza is always good too.
Apples are my idea of a perfect school snack–a medium-sized, crisp Empire apple. But I know that apples will only appeal (no pun intended:) to my kids so many days in a row and then I’ve got to get creative. I’ve been looking around for easy, healthy school snack options and Revolution Foods has some that may be just right. I haven’t sampled Revolution Foods’ line yet, instead I’m going to rely on one lucky MKES reader to do it for me.
The giveaway package will include samples of their kid-friendly
- Grammy Sammy–which pairs soft baked graham bars with creamy yogurt fillings. The cocoa graham with banana yogurt fillings sounds good to me.
- Jammy Sammy–for those of you with gluten allergies, this might be your answer to the standard PBJ. The bars come in several varieties including peanut butter and grape.
- Mashups–good-for-your-kids fruit snacks. Only organic fruits make it into these treats. Although there are several flavors, their newest creation, strawberry banana would be my pick.
Here’s how you enter–tell me your kids’ favorite school snack. Don’t have kids? You’re still eligible to enter–tell me one of your favorite snacks. The contest runs until next Wednesday, August 25th, when the winner will be chosen at random and announced on Thursday, August 26th. (Only participants in the continental U.S. will be eligible–sorry Kiwis.)
I’ll start–one of my kids’ favorite school snacks (beyond apples) is whole, black olives. I send in ten–one for each finger and let them know that playing with their food is just fine. How about you?
MKES readers have been busy trying out new foods! Alligator and escargot seemed to be a common theme along with an occasional ostrich and some lentils thrown in.
Thanks for participating, the prize package winner was chosen at random, Jennifer M. will be receiving the sampler from High Plains Bison. I hope she’ll report in once she’s had a chance to try out a bison dog or two.
Don’t worry, even if you didn’t win, MKES readers can still receive a discount using this code, EATGOOD22. You’ll get 20% off your total order. Note that the discount won’t appear until you review your purchase on the billing page. This is the biggest discount that High Plains Bison offers.
And if you’re still itching to try out some new flavors stay tuned…next Tuesday I’ll be announcing another giveaway.
Squid, sure. Tripe, why not. Bison? You betcha. My kids love to try new flavors and foods (me too!) so I’m happy to announce that High Plains Bison will be offering a $50 meat sampler to one lucky MKES reader. If you’ve ever snacked on bison jerky or maybe even a bison burger, you know this would be fun to cook up bison dogs, indulge in a bison filet mignon. Okay, now I’m getting hungry and it’s only 9am!
But before you skip ahead to figure out how to enter, I’ve got to point out a few things I learned about bison when I was getting ready for this giveaway–I promise, you’ll be impressed it involves a certain Oscar-winning actor and a large, hairy beast. I’ve got your attention now, right? First, the good stuff–bison meat is packed with protein (okay, you probably figured that one out) but with less fat than beef, chicken, even salmon.
Now for a little trivia you can share with your kids–bison meat is completely different from buffalo. A whole species apart (not to mention an ocean). So you know that scene in Dances with Wolves where Kevin Costner has his fingers pointed to make little horns and he’s trying to learn Lakota? Yup, he should have been saying, “Tatanka? Bison?” I guess buffalo sounded a lot better and most folks still think of bison as buffalo (myself included until about a week ago!).
So here’s the deal, share with MKES a favorite food you’ve either been meaning to try or something you’ve tried out recently for the first time. My take–I sampled pork belly at a tasting event a couple weeks ago. I didn’t expect to like it with a name like pork belly–but I should have known that something with hints of bacony crispiness and a smoky vibe would be delicious.
What have you tried lately? The winner will be chosen at random August 12th.
*Note: the giveaway can only be sent to a U.S. locale. Sorry kiwis!