Back To Snacking with Peruvian Popcorn!!!

It’s been a long while since I’ve been “talking snacks” on this blog.  I certainly have not stopped snacking in private, but have lapsed in blogging about my culinary adventures on the web.  So have no fear, I am back to “snacking in public”.   
I’ve spent most of the year trying to navigate the new digital landscape, figuring out how to “Twitter“, how not to spend all day on my Facebook page, and deciding which new phone/mobile device to upgrade to.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
Today, I placed my order for the new IPhone 3GS.  When I realized that I will now be able to take photos and videos of anything I eat and post them to my blog immediately, I thought, now my readers will have food news hot off of the press or more poignantly, my tongue.  So, stay tuned to more SNACKTIME.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
Mystery Food

Just for starters, I took this photo over a year ago when I traveled to Peru and hiked to Machu Picchu.  This is Peruvian Popcorn or Canchita, a unique snack that I fell in love with while visiting the amazing country.  We found this popcorn served as a bar snack in many of the bars and taverns we visited. 

Instead of the kernels popping inside out like the popcorn we eat in the states, these kernels pop internally.  Once they are cooked in oil, puff up and pop open slightly, they easy to eat and taste similar to the leftover kernels at the bottom of the popcorn maker or pot .  The slightly split kernels are my favorite, so, I was so happy to be introduced to this fun snack.  Similar in size to Cornnuts, the kernels are much larger than our popcorn but have a similar crunch

To prepare the Canchita, you cover the kernels with oil in a wide pot with a lid.  The popcorn is cooked a few minutes until the popping stops.  Then you strain them from the oil, salt and eat.   Check out this Simply Delicioso video with Ingrid Hoffman  http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/surprising-peruvian-popcorn/29007.html to see how to make the popcorn.

The popcorn is sold in limited places around the country, mostly stores that sell Peruvian or South American products.  You can purchase the popcorn on line as well. 

Check back for websites that offer the corn.  I am in the process of online stores where it is available.

Happy popping!!!!!

June 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm 4 comments

Cookies — Red, White and Blue and 25% off for you!

My long overdue return to writing this blog comes just in time to celebrate the upcoming Independence Day holiday , or “the Fourth of July”, as it is commonly known.  One of the most important days in our nation’s history, we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and our independence from Great Britain. 

In keeping with the patriotic theme, last weekend I visited Grant’s Tomb, or the General Grant National Memorial, the official name.  Visiting this important monument, I was reminded of the sacrifices those before us made to make America what it is today.  We need to be thankful for the vision of our forefathers, the sacrifices of the military heroes who fought for our freedom yesterday, today and every day.Byrd Cookie Company Apple Pie Cookies

 

While most of us think of July 4th as a day off, a trip to the beach or a bar-b-q.  This year, amongst the fireworks, hamburgers and red, white and blue iced cupcakes, let’s remember the brave men who fought so we could have a day of celebration. 

Now onto the good stuff.  What would a Snacktime post be without uncovering a new snack!  Well just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July,  the Byrd Cookie Company, one of my gourmet food clients, is offering discounts on all of their red, white and blue gift tins and jars, 25% off selected cookie gifts, and free shipping on other items.  Recently introduced new, Apple Pie Cookies are also on sale.  All the products at Byrd Cookie Company make great gifts so place an order before July 4th to take advantage of the special pricing.  Enter the promotion code JULY4 at checkout and save.   Buy one for you and one for a friend. 

 Happy snacking.

 

June 24, 2008 at 8:37 pm 2 comments

Chocolate and Pretzels, the Perfect Combination

chocolate-pretzels.jpgimg_0230.jpgimg_0230.jpgimg_0230.jpgI’ve written about my love of pretzels, hence the “Pretzelgirl” handle, but I have yet to tell you about my favorite foods to combine with them.  Nothing goes better with the salty crunch of pretzels than the smooth, creamy, chocolatey taste of any kind of chocolate.  White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate or even chocolate flavored chocolate, you can’t beat chocolate covered pretzels, a famous treat, which chocolate-pretzels.jpgchocolate-pretzels.jpgmakes a perfect snack. 

In trying to come up with a clever idea to bring to my nephew’s college graduation celebration, I decided to make my own chocolate covered pretzels.  I had seen them made once before but forgot how simple they are to make.  All you need is some good chocolate, pretzels shaped to your liking, a microwave oven, and some wax paper.

First you melt chocolate in a bowl in the microwave for one to two minutes or until most of the chocolate has melted.  Stir the chocolate until all of it is smooth and creamy.  Dip, submerge or spread the chocolate on pretzels and lay the finished product carefully onto a wax paper lined baking pan.  Decorate with sprinkles, nuts, cookie crumbs or whatever you want and let sit until chocolate sets. 

You can chill the pretzels in the refrigerator but be careful that the temperature change is not too dramatic after you take them out or the chocolate will develop those nasty white spots or streaks.  While there is nothing wrong with the taste, it will just look bad. 

The other two most important steps to remember are to not over heat the chocolate and make sure you don’t disturb the pretzels until the chocolate has set. 

You can use colored chocolate wafers, which work great, and mix colors, drizzle or double or triple dip the chocolate with a combo of milk, dark and white for a true gourmet candy.  Wrapping then in cellophone bags tied with ribbons  also gives them a professional look.  The bags are ususally available at most baking supply stores or on line.

Whether you make them or buy them, if you have never tasted chocolate covered pretzels, you are in for a treat.

Here are links to some of my favorite chocolate covered pretzel companies:

Asher’s – Traditional chocolate covered pretzels in milk, white and dark.  They also make yummy chocolate covered potato chips (try them – you’ll love them)

Fretzels – I have never tasted these but they look absolutely amazing.  You can order them online for gifts or as a pretzel of the month club.  What a great idea? Fretzels all year round.

July 26, 2007 at 5:56 pm 4 comments

Natural Snacks, Good For You and Tasty Too!

On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I had the chance to visit many of my old “food” haunts which kept me sane while I lived there.  It’s so difficult for a New Yorker to be satisfied gastronomically in most other cities, but the one thing LA had going for it was the fresh produce at the farmer’s markets.img_0170.jpg

When I lived in LA, every Saturday, I would walk to the famed Farmer’s Market in Santa Monica to buy my week’s worth of fresh California fruits and vegetables.  Who could resist snacking on fresh California strawberries, the many varieties of oranges, and yummy tree ripened peaches and plums. 

But my favorite treat  from the market were the fresh apricots, just picked and still firm to the touch, with a slight blush to the golden yellow skin.  No where on earth have I ever img_0179.jpgtasted such juicy little bundles of heaven.  On my recent trip, I had to stop at my favorite market and pick up a few pounds which I devoured in only a few days.  I am so spoiled by their tasty goodness that I still can’t bring myself to buy them anywhere else.

img_0167.jpgIn addition to the local farmer’s markets, the famed Fairfax Farmer’s Market is still in existence and more popular than ever since they built an outdoor mall, called The Grove, just next door.  One think I enjoyed snacking on while roaming through the stalls was the mixed nuts from Magee’s House of Nuts.  They also make delicious homemade peanut butter, but on this trip, I stuck with the mixed nuts.  So what’s so special about these nuts?  Well, take a look.  Crunchy, salty, with a perfect blend of Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Pecans and the best part — giant, collossal Macadamia nuts.  Have you ever seen Macadamia’s this big?  They almost dwarf the almonds.  These have to be the largest nuts I have ever seen!

While you can’t beat the fresh produce, the one thing LA was lacking in was a variety of Pretzels.  So, while I lived there, I shopped at the farmer’s markets religiously and mail-ordered my pretzels from the east coast.   I have to admit, LA does have the best produce (which the exception of Jersey tomatoes and blueberries) but when you can find delicious fresh fruit from anywhere, it’s the best snack in the world – good for you and tasty too.

July 7, 2007 at 1:01 am 6 comments

The Wonders of Cheese Toast

After reading Alex Witchel’s “ode to wonderbread” called “A Soft Spot for the Anti-Artisanal” in this morning’s New York Times, I got to thinking about my own love affair with the soft, white, all-pupose sandwich bread which I have long abandoned. 

Growing up in my house, the perfect snack was something my mother creatively named,  Cheese Toast.  img_0069.jpgThis delicacy was a slice of white Wonder-like sandwich bread, (although I think my mom bought Stroehman’s more often) topped with a single slice of munster cheese, with it’s distinctive orange edges.  The cheese topped bread is melted in the broiler or toaster oven until the cheese bubbled all over and the bread was slightly toasted around the edges.  Cheese Toast was the perfect quick, simple, inexpensive, tasty breakfast, lunch or even late night snack.

We sometimes jazzed it up topping the cheese with a slice of tomato or grilled bologna and even used different kinds of cheese, although Munster does the best bubbling.  The one cheese that really does not work is processed American.  Upon melting, the cheese never really bubbles and develops a scary film that sticks to the roof of your mouth. 

I have continued to make Cheese Toast throughout my adult life having graduated to using fresh baked sourdough, rye and whole grain breads.  Bagels work too, although you have to orchestrate the cheese into a perfect circle on top of the bagel half so the melted cheese does not run down the sides into the pit of the toaster oven and start a fire – a warning my mother constantly gave.Bagel cheese toast

Over breakfast with my eldest brother last week, we talked about our memories of Cheese Toast and how we have both continued the family tradition.   Who knows why but even today when we visit my mother, she still bellows up the stairs, Does anyone want a Cheese Toast for breakfast?”  The answer is always yes. 

Recipe for Cheese Toast

Ingredients:

Slice of white, jewish rye, sourdough or whole wheat bread

Thinly sliced cheese – munster, provolone, mozzarella or cheddar

Directions:

Top bread slice with cheese.  Make sure the entire slice is covered.

Broiler or toast until cheese bubbles for 5-10 seconds.

Remove carefully.

Enjoy!!!

April 25, 2007 at 11:02 am 11 comments

Fresh, Hot Matzo Year Round

streitstore1.jpg

Yes, Passover is over but wouldn’t it be nice to have hot, fresh baked Matzo anytime you want it?  Well, that is definitely possible thanks to the Streit’s Matzo Factory, which I recentlydiscovered is still baking “sheet-loads” of Matzo at their Lower East Side factory on Rivington Street.

148-154 Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002
Phone:
212-475-7000

The other day, after a delicious lunch at The Clinton Street Baking Company (try the fried green tomatoes – yum-yum), I headed up Rivington Street and came upon a simple, sparse looking storefront on the street level of what I thought was the abandoned Streit’s factory.  I had seen the billboard on the side of the closed building many times before. 

But on this day I was lucky and in for a surprise as the store was opened for business.  I entered the store and was greeted by a jovial Orthodox fellow named Adam.  The shelves were stocked with Matzo, left over passover products and some other kosher items like egg noodles, soup, pickles and cake mixes.  Adam explained that the store was only open now Monday through Thursday, closed on Fridays and Saturdays due to the Jewish sabbath and now closed Sundays too, since Ratners and the rest of the kosher restaurants in the area had closed and the foot traffic for them had dwindled.

matzo.jpgWhile the store was nostalgic for me, what was most exciting was that tucked away through an open door were some men wearing gloves catching hot baked Matzo as it rolled off the conveyor belt from a gigantic oven.  I was amazed to see the huge sheets of Matzo which were being separated at perforated lines into the smaller sheets we are used to eating. 

One of the men offered me a piece to taste fresh out of the oven.  Now, I have eaten my share of Matzo but this was delicious.  Not only was it hot and crunchy but it was sprinkled with salt and was much more tasty than the regular Passover Matzo.  Adam explained that this was their new multi-grain Matzo which was made with a hint of oil and apple juice.  I thought if Matzo tasted this good, I could eat it all year round so I bought a pound.  With paper bag in hand, I headed to the production line as one of the men placed a stack of the steaming squares into my sack. 

So, you don’t have to wait until next Passover to partake of this unleavened bread.  Just head on down to the LES and make a visit to Streit’s.  Tell Adam I sent you and maybe you will be as lucky as I was to catch them baking while you are there so you too can have fresh hot Matzo year round.

Matzo

Jews who celebrate Passover are limited with what they can spread on Matzo during Passover.  So, during the rest of the year when you can eat anything, try “shmearing” a little cream cheese, butter, hummus or peanut butter on Matzo for a tasty snack.  You can even make Matzo pizza in a toaster over or microwave.

April 14, 2007 at 5:08 pm 3 comments

Passover Trail Mix

trail-mix.jpgIn my quest this week to find tasty snacks that are “kosher” for Passover, I uncovered this fabulous recipe for Passover Trail Mix that actually tastes like something you could eat year round.

Can you believe this delicious looking crunchy, nutty and chewy trail mix is made with Matzoh?  What a treat!  My friend Dana from West Hartford, CT shared this recipe with me this weekend and I could not wait to rush home and try it. 

It was incredibly easy to make and took very little prep or baking time.    

Make sure you have a secure place to hide it from the family or it will be gone before you know it. 

Passover Trail Mix

1/2 box Matzoh Farfel (3 1/2 cups)

1 stick of butter or Passover margerine

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup nuts

1/2 cup raisins

3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with tin foil.  Mix farfel, cinnamon and nuts.  Melt butter, add brown sugar and water.  Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Pour butter mixture over dry ingredients and mix well. 

Spread  mixture onto foil-lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Add raisins for last 10 minutes.  Toss at least once or twice while baking. 

Cool thoroughly.  Add chocolate chips, mix well and enjoy. 

Note:  I used a mixture of walnuts, almonds and cashews.  Any nuts will do. 

I also used dried cranberries and golden raisins which added nice color to the mix.  Any dried fruit would be a nice and tasty addtition.

April 6, 2007 at 12:03 pm 4 comments

Tasty Passover Snacks

matzah-crunch.jpgWhile there are many delicious foods to eat during Passover, one thing missing is a selection of good tasty snacks.  There are numerous recipes for cookies and cakes made with special matzo cake meal, or sponge cakes made with an obscene amount of eggs and sugar however, most of these treats taste bizarrely similar.   

One of my favorite snacks involves a simple piece of matzah, doctored up with Chocolate, nuts and a toffee crunch.  How can you go wrong with that?  It’s simple to make, stores well, and tastes yummy. 

This seasonal snack goes under many names, but I think Matzo Crunch is the most appropriate.  Here is the recipe:

 Toffee Chocolate Matzo Crunchmatzo
2 sticks butter 
1 cup brown sugar
1 bag chocolate chips 
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds or pecans generally)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.   Use cookie sheet with sides.  Line pan with aluminum foil or parchment.  If using foil, grease sheet.  Cover pan with sheets of matzo.  Break matzo into smaller pieces to fit if necessary.   Melt butter, add brown sugar, stir frequently and cook 2-3 minutes till bubbly.  Pour mixture over matzo and bake it until bubbly and slightly toasty looking.  (note: I have read recipes saying anywhere from 7 -15 minutes).  Make sure to watch closely so the matzo does not burn. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the matzo.  Let stand a few minutes to let chocolate melt.  Spread evenly over matzo.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts.  Refrigerate or freeze till chocolate and toffee hardens.  Break into pieces.  Serve and enjoy!
 

April 6, 2007 at 12:39 am Leave a comment

Fresh Philly Soft Pretzels coming to your home town?

ist2_1000086_pretzel_with_mustard1.jpg In preparation for my Passover Seder tonight, I have had to eat every last pretzel in my house before the week of “unleavened bread” is upon us.  Just as I finished the last crumb and mentally prepared that I would not have any more for 7 days, my friend forwards me a link The Pretzel Boys website. 

Interesting concept……Two “boys” who live outside of Philadelphia, want to make the world a better place, have opened Pretzel bakery retail stores in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, so that pretzel lovers like myself can get a hot, steaming, salty soft pretzel without having to rely on driving past a man at an intersection selling the delicious Philly treats out of a shopping cart, (the usual way of finding them).

Kudos to Tim Dever and Mark Gosik for bringing more Philly soft pretzels into the world.  They offer franchise opportunities so that Philadelphia soft pretzels could be available say in Cleveland or Manhattan, Kansas.  Wouldn’t that be amazing? 

Living in NYC, I still contend that Philly soft pretzels are the best in the world and the NY ones can’t hold a candle to my hometown favorites. 

Good luck guys and maybe I’ll just open up a franchise in NYC so that people here can have a taste of the real thing. 

April 2, 2007 at 9:27 am 3 comments

What the hecken’s a “Schnecken”?

This past weekend, I went to a going away party for friends in Bethlehem, PA.  I brought along a plateful of my famous Schnecken.  After the oohs and ahhs people kept asking what it was.  I proudly announced…..Schnecken was the name of the delicious delicacy they had sampled.  This resulted in the usual reaction.  What the heckin’s a Schnecken?  So, I thought I would make the world aware of this special snack, so there is no more confusion. 

 schnecken2.JPG

This is a schnecken (pronounced shnek-en).  I know it’s a strange word and even more difficult to say, unless of course, you come from Jewish or German descendants, but I want people to learn how to say it rather than confuse it for rugelach, which happens way too often. 

A schnecken is a tasty little croissant-like pastry generally filled with nuts and raisins and occasionally chocolate chips (however my brother Todd prefers them without chocolate), rolled in cinnamon sugar leaving a crunchy, chewy caramelized bottom.  While I am sure Schnecken is made in baked in many places around the world, this version is popular in and around the suburbs of Philadelphia.  I don’t know why, and will continue to search for the origins, but as far as I know, this kind of Schnecken has it’s roots in the city of Brotherly love.

I recently did an on line search and came across the Brusken Bakery in Cincinnatti that sells something called Schnecken which is very different than my version.  Theirs is more like a sticky or cinnamon bun and much larger, so don’t be confused.

 The word Schnecken actually means “snail” in German, so I think this baked good gets it’s name since it’s “rolled up” like a snail.    Some people make Rugelach that looks like Schnecken but it’s the dough that really makes the difference.  Schnecken is made with sour cream, whereas Rugelach is made with Cream Cheese.

What is it about this scrumptious little snack that causes people to close their eyes, lick their lips and mutter, mmmmm?  I have been baking Schnecken on my own for about 10 years.  I learned from my mother who taught me everything I know about Schnecken.  How to prepare the dough, how much cinnamon sugar to use, and the best direction to roll them up.  This is one of those recipe you must watch someone make before you tackle it. 

Some day, I may open up a Schnecken business to share this yummy treat with all of you.  So, stay tuned.

March 29, 2007 at 4:40 pm 48 comments

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