Pickled Willy’s Gourmet Pickled Seafood #PickledWillys

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Pickled Willy’s is a family/veteran owned and operated specialty seafood processing plant in Kodiak, Alaska. They sell a variety of seafood related items in various forms. Their smoked fish seems popular and they have won awards for it. Their flagship products, pickled seafood, are what is unique about the company. They use an old family recipe with secret seasonings they won’t divulge! Their commitment to quality is commendable. All of their products are 100% sustainable and fished from Alaskan waters. The products are¬†hand packed, low in fat, high in Omega-3‚Äôs, all natural, and have no preservatives. Their ingredients are simply as follows: Halibut/Lining Cod/Sockeye Salmon/King Crab, Organic Vinegar, Cane Sugar, Water, Pickling Spice, Onion, Salt (Fish).¬†Bonus:Their products are also gluten free! They are also committed to providing their long-distance customers with the freshest product. They¬†shipped it UPS expedited and it was extremely well packed with bubble wrap, ice packs, and lots of “this end up” stickers (which UPS ignored).

Also, if you car ever in Kodiak, you can visit their shop and sample the various products they sell. Pickled Willy’s products make great souvenirs and gifts. If you happen to do some fishing while you are in Kodiak, Pickled Willy’s will even process and ship your catch back home to you! You choose the preservation method. So cool!

Now, your first question is probably “Does¬†it taste good?”

I assume this is your first question, because it is usually the first question anyone asks before they try something new. Some people might be wary because the combination of pickles and fish is a bit unusual, aside from some tuna salad recipes that contain pickle relish. Also the only pickled fish most people have heard of is the Northern European delicacy pickled herring, which has an unfortunately bad reputation. I want to debunk this unfortunate reputation, because Pickled Willy’s seafood is quite tasty! It is a mild pickling solution, so you don’t notice the vinegar bite you get in many pickle products. The sugar is also not overpowering, which is nice. The pickling spices also compliment the fish, so they don’t cover up the natural flavor of the fish. Best of all the fish tastes fresh. If there is one taste¬†I cannot stand, it is the pungent taste of fish that has been frozen or sitting around for a couple of days. Pickled Willy’s obviously uses fresh caught fish that they pack right away to preserve the natural subtle taste only found in a fresh catch. So overall, the pickled seafood has a mild, subtle taste that can only compliment your meal, not overpower the other ingredients. And don’t forget the health benefits!

Your next question “How on earth do you eat it?”

There are many things you can do with pickled fish. The simplest is to serve it as an appetizer on a cracker, piece of toast, or slice of cucumber. Adding a dollop of sour cream is often recommended (but I can’t say if it is good, because I cannot eat it!). Pickled Will’s packs all of their fish in bite-sized chunks, so they are convenient for appetizers. The seafood is also tasty¬†as a main dish in sandwiches, wraps, and on salads. You can even mix it with other ingredients to make a dip! The Pickled Willy’s website also has a recipe page to give you some ideas.¬†If you want to eat it plain, then some popular pickled fish accompaniments are cold mayonnaise based salads, such as potato or macaroni salad, beets, boiled potatoes, and¬†hard boiled eggs.

Seriously, how great (and unique!) an appetizer would it be to serve the salmon on a slice of cucumber with a dab of sour cream and a sprig of dill on top! This would be a great idea with the holidays just around the corner!! Here is my test batch:

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For more information or to purchase visit pickledwillys.com

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All my opinions are my own. One may or may not have the same results as myself when using this product.

“Keep Calm My Apron Is On” Cooking Apron Review #KeepCalmMyApronIsOn”CookingApron

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This is a wonderful apron. I love the pockets in the front. You don’t see them on many aprons, and when you do they are usually more decorative than functional. My favorite part, though, is how adjustable it is. I usually have to knot the neck strap of my aprons in order for the apron to sit properly. This apron has a buckle on the neck strap, so you can easily tighten it to the preferred length. The length of the apron is also great. It is nice and long, covering a large area. Perfect for those of us that spill things a lot. The “Keep Calm My Apron Is On” saying is cute too. It fits me well. The fabric is nice too. Not scratchy or uncomfortable. It is breathable and sturdy too. It washes well. Overall, I think this is a great apron that is both fun and functional.

To purchase: Amazon

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. I was not monetarily compensated for my review and all my opinions are my own. One may or may not have the same results as myself when using this product.

Reviews and Freebies

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This is a wonderful apron. I love the pockets in the front. You don‚Äôt see them on many aprons, and when you do they are usually more decorative than functional. My favorite part, though, is how adjustable it is. I usually have to knot the neck strap of my aprons in order for the apron to sit properly. This apron has a buckle on the neck strap, so you can easily tighten it to the preferred length. The length of the apron is also great. It is nice and long, covering a large area. Perfect for those of us that spill things a lot. The ‚ÄúKeep Calm My Apron Is On‚ÄĚ saying is cute too. It fits me well. The fabric is nice too. Not scratchy or uncomfortable. It is breathable and sturdy too. It washes well. Overall, I think this is a great apron that is both fun and‚Ķ

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Korean Briased Tofu with Green Onion

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Before I found out about my gluten intolerance, my husband and I used to go to our favorite little Korean restaurant once a week. I love that in addition to your main dish, you also get a variety of little side dishes called banchan. Unfortunately, it is hard to find gluten-free Korean food in a restaurant. Almost every dish involves soy sauce, fried elements, or gojuchang (a Korean chili paste that contains wheat!). So, as always, I have begun to try to replicate these dishes at home. I think that tofu is an under appreciated food here in the US, because it has been labeled as an option for vegans and vegetarians. Omnivores seem to avoid it here. However Asian countries have long since included in in their diets, in addition to meat. I greatly respect that, as it is a healthy and versatile source of protein. This particular dish is normally served as a banchan, but it is so good I could eat it by itself or maybe on top of some greens as a salad!

Ingredients

1 block tofu (14 oz)

2-3 stalks green onion – cut into 2 inch long peices

3/4 cup gluten free or tamari soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp gluten free gojuchang or other chili paste (I used a chili garlic paste I found at the Asian Market)

1/2 tsp minced garlic (omit if using chili garlic sauce)

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp sesame seeds (for garnish)

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan.
  2. Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, chili paste, garlic, and sesame oil in a separate bowl.
  3. Drain and cut tofu into desired size. I chose larger rectangles, but smaller bite-size pieces work too. Pat dry with a paper towel (this is very important, since any excess water will cause the hot oil to spit while cooking).
  4. Pan fry tofu on both sides until lightly browned.
  5. Add in green onion and saute to wilt it slightly.
  6. Add in sauce mixture and cook for a few minutes until it is slightly reduced.
  7. Top with sesame seeds, serve, and enjoy!

Blue Apron Box Review

A growing trend in both food and other products seems to be home delivery boxes. The draw of the weekly food boxes is that you get 3 pre-portioned meals delivered, without having to go to the store or worry what to do with leftover ingredients. This seems great to me, as I hate food waste. I am constantly trying to figure out what I can do with something that is about to go bad! You also don’t have to plan our own meals and you usually end up with more exotic choices than what you would have thought of on your own. The company gives you a bunch of choices (in BA’s case,¬†six¬†choices) and you pick out three. It is basically convenient.

Here are the Blue Apron specific pros and cons:

Pros

  • Everything comes well packaged in a cooler box with large ice packs. In this box they even wedged the meats in between the ice packs to assure they didn’t spoil.
  • All of their packaging is recyclable, so it is environmentally friendly!
  • They only send you the exact measurements of ingredients you need.
  • They include recipe cards with detailed instructions and pictures, so you can follow them easily.
  • The recipes often feature ingredients you don’t regularly use, so you find new things to try!
  • The flavors were actually very good, though I wish they used more seasonings. I felt like every step of every recipe included “season with salt and pepper.” I didn’t.
  • Each meal is portioned to make two or four servings, based on your box size. Side note – The portion sizes are large, so most of the¬†recipes actually made three portions for me.
  • Most portion sizes are 600-800 calories each. This makes it easier for those on a diet. Especially, if you reduce the portion sizes like I did, to make 3 meals.
  • The Blue Apron website posts many of their past recipes, so you can browse them for new meal ideas!

Cons

  • It is costly. Normal price is $60 per box, which is $10 per serving. I can eat at quite a few restaurants for that much per meal. Also, most of my home cooked meals cost much less per serving, even including the food waste.
  • You still have to cook the meal yourself. You pay take-out prices for food you still have to prepare.
  • Most recipes take at least 45 minutes to make, even if you are a trained chef and quick prepper like me. These who cannot chop quickly will need more time for that.
  • Most recipes use A LOT of dishes. The recipes start out by having you cut up everything and place them in individual bowls, so they are at the ready when cooking. With my skills, I can avoid much of that, because I can judge from the recipe what I can do while something is cooking. However, I found it exasperating to wash so many dishes EVERY night, because I didn’t have leftovers and had to cook again.
  • Unreliable ingredients. The company replaced a couple of ingredients with similar ones, leaving a card stating the change was due to availability of the ingredient. This is understandable, but you don’t always get the intended taste when swapping out ingredients. Also, two of my ingredients were spoiled by the time they got to me (a piece of fresh ginger and an eggplant). When you are missing an ingredient, the box no longer becomes convenient. You either need to forget it and worry about the recipe being off, or replace it which means running to the store you were trying to avoid! ¬†The eggplant was the most inconvenient, as it was a major ingredient. Luckily I keep fresh ginger in my freezer (yes you can freeze it!), so I was able to replace it with little trouble.
  • Mediocre customer service. I personally had some trouble contacting their customer service. They charged me for a second box the day after I received the first (Saturday). I immediately went into my account and skipped the next box, since I didn’t want to commit to it, when I hadn’t tried the first yet. I also filled out the contact us form, asking that they refund me, since I did not want it. On Monday, I tried calling them during the stated customer service hours to check on it and no one answered, so I left a message. Tuesday I called again, again no answer and no call back. Wednesday, I sent an email directly to customer service, no reply. Thursday, I got a notification that they had shipped me a box! I replied to that email explaining the situation and left another phone message, no reply. Then¬†I took to social media and tweeted to them. Finally I got a response! In the end they cancelled my account and refunded me the money for the box I didn’t order, so I cannot be too upset. But still, by Thursday I was panicking!
  • Lack of options for people with allergies. I found it difficult to find 3 out of the 6 recipes that were adaptable to my allergies, mostly the wheat. Almost all of their recipes contain wheat ingredients. The ratatouille and salmon both came with baguettes. I used my own bread as replacement. The chicken came with ponzu sauce, that contains regular soy sauce. I had to make my own (tamari, brown sugar, rice vinegar, lime juice, and mirin). I was able to¬†replace the ingredients fairly easily, but I also don’t like throwing out ingredients¬†that I paid for.

Here a the meals I received in my box:

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Ratatouille with Polenta

Unfortunately, one of the eggplant’s for this one was rotten, so It didn’t have as much in it. I also would have liked it to have more seasoning. It only required salt and pepper, with fresh oregano as a garnish. I would have liked some garlic or Italian herbs in the dish as well. I ended up adding some balsalmic vinegar to my bowl for taste (even though it isn’t traditional). I did like the freshness though. The polenta was also good, even though I had to swap the Parmesan cheese out with nutritional yeast.

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Seared Salmon and Panzanella

This was actually a fairly simple recipe. It was not bad, but I doubt I would make it again. I had to replace the garlic bread with my own bread. Also rubbing garlic directly on the bread after it toasted made it very pungent. I would do that before toasting to mellow out the bite of raw garlic.

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Stir-Fried Ginger-Basil Chicken with Coconut rice

I actually really liked this recipe! I love the coconut rice, but I have never seen coconut milk powder in my life. Fortunately I have successfully made it before with coconut milk instead and would do that next time.

My overall opinion is that it is not right for me. I feel like it was too much money and too much work for me. It will not work for those of us with allergies, especially since they really don’t label allergens as well as other companies do. However, I think this would be great for people without dietary restrictions, that want to learn how to cook some interesting recipes. I also think it is great for people that don’t want to take the time to do meal planning. This is really more of a convenience or novelty product. Even if you don’t get the box, I encourage you to take a look at their recipe page. You may find some interesting recipes to try or adapt.

French Onion Soup

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I have to say that this is my absolute favorite soup! It is simple to make, low in calorie (until you add the bread and cheese!), and tastes great! I don’t get to eat it very often though, because it is made with beef stock, which often contains gluten. Also, there is the bread and cheese to contend with!

Ingredients

2-3 medium onions, yellow or white, sliced thinly

1 – 32 oz box of GF Beef broth (I used Rachel Ray’s brand, because it is all natural)

1 bay leaf

1 tsp of dried thyme (or 1 sprig of fresh)

1 Tbl of GF Worcestershire Sauce (I used Lea & Perrins)

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  1. Slice onions and saute until translucent in a small amount of oil or butter. This can be done in the same stockpot (4 qt for this recipe) you will cook the soup in, to save dishes.

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2. Add in bay leaf, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and beef broth. Cook 10-20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

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3. Portion out into oven save bowls, top each with a piece of your favorite GF bread (the crustier the better), and your favorite cheese (soy mozzarella for me!) and broil in the oven until the cheese melts.

  • If you ¬†do not have oven safe bowls or do not want to take the extra time to cook the soup altogether, you can cheat! While the soup is cooking, top your bread with the cheese and toast it in either a toaster oven or in your conventional oven. When the soup is ready, pop the toasted cheesy bread on top and serve!

Easy GF Vegan/Vegetarian Chili Recipe

One of the things that surprised me when going gluten free is the amount of soups and stews that contain gluten, especially chili. Chili is one of my favorite meals to make because it is hearty, wholesome, and delicious! It goes great on hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries too. However, I have to be careful about ordering it when dining out. Many kinds of pre-packaged chili contain gluten. Premixed chili spice packets also can contain gluten. I even had a friend offer me some of her “famous” chili, but declined when she told me her secret is to dump a bottle of beer in it at the end! That is also why I ask what is in each thing I consider eating, even if it seems obvious.

This recipe is my favorite, because of it’s simplicity. Basically you dump a can of every vegetable you like into a pot and let it stew. You can do it quickly in a stock pot on the stove or let it stew all day in your crock pot. You can easily add or remove any ingredient, based on taste, without damaging the recipe overall. I added an onion and peppers for flavor, but they aren’t necessary. This time, I even replaced the chili spices with two of the new McCormick GF Chili spice packets, to make it even easier! It may not be haute cuisine, but it is great in a pinch. Probably the best aspect is its low cost. I purchase the canned goods when they are on sale, never paying more than $1 per can. I estimate it cost me $12.22 to make the whole pot. I usually get 8-10 servings per pot. Assuming the 8 servings, that is $1.52 per serving! It also freezes well too, so you don’t get tired of leftovers. I portion out the leftovers, so I can bring them to work or eat them later, when I don’t feel like making a meal from scratch.

Ingredients – Chili Base

1 small onion, white or yellow, rough chop

1 bell pepper, color of choice (I used green this time)

2 – McCormick Gluten Free Chili spice packets

1 – 15 oz can of black beans

1 Р15 oz can of kidney beans

1 Р15 oz can of corn

1 – 15 oz can of okra

1 – 15 oz can of sqaush

5 Р15 oz cans of diced tomatoes, flavor of choice (some brands offer chili seasoned ones!)

1 – 6 oz can of tomato paste

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  1. Saute onion and pepper, if desired. Add it to your stock pot or crock pot. If you are using a stock pot, you can saute in the same pot so you have less dishes.

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2. Add in spices or spice packet, cook for a few minutes until fragrant. This brings out the flavors more, so you can use less spice.

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3. Add in mixed veggies, making sure to drain the liquid from each can. Rinse the beans thoroughly too. I usually throw the contents of each can in a colander and rinse.

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4. Add in the tomatoes, also well drained. If you purchased spiced diced tomatoes, do not rinse them or you will loose the spices!

5. Cook on low crockpot setting for 6-8 hours or medium heat on the stove for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. As the vegetables cook down, the chili will look a little watery (see image above).

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6. Add in the tomato paste to thicken the chili. It is ready to eat!

  • I serve mine with vegan cheese and avocado or guacamole. Sometimes I also include tortilla chips or GF cornbread on the side too.
  • For a meaty version, add in 1 lb cooked ground beef or turkey in between steps 2 and 3.
  • For a fall twist add cooked pumpkin or another winter squash. Adding cinnamon to the squash version is great too!

For those of you who don’t want to use a spice packet:

Ingredients – Homemade Chili Spice

2 Tbl Chili powder

1.5 tsp red pepper flakes

1.5 Tbl Garlic Powder

1 Tsp Onion Powder

1.5 Tbl Cumin Powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp sugar

Gluten Free Banana Bread

This is my favorite quickbread recipe and also my most frequently used recipe over all. It makes a great breakfast item or a nice snack with a cup of coffee. It works well for potlucks, bake sales, welcome wagons/baskets, gifts, and as an easy breakfast when you have visitors. I have even brought one, instead of the customary casserole, to a grieving family. They really appreciated a breakfast option, since everyone else gave them lunch or dinner items.

This recipe is a favorite, because I love adaptable recipes. The batter can be scooped into muffin tins for those who don’t like having to slice a loaf. It can be topped with oats, crushed nuts, or a gluten free streusel to make it more attractive. My favorite thing about this recipe is that you can switch out the nuts for dried fruit or chocolate chips. Cranberries add a holiday flair! You can also experiment with the spices or leave them out for a more basic banana bread. I have been known to add¬†a gluten free bourbon or coconut flavoring in the past too! Just be careful not to add more than two tbsp¬†of liquid (this includes the vanilla) or it will effect how the bread rises.

Ingredients

2 c GF Flour blend – I used Domata in this one, but have used Bob’s Red Mill and Wholesome Chow with success in the past

1 tsp Xanthan gum – only if your flour blend doesn’t already contain it

2 tsp GF baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 c sugar, granulated

1/2 c sugar, brown, not packed

1 stick butter, margarine, or earth balance, melted

3 bananas, medium, smashed

2 ea egg, large, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 c pecans, pieces

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Sift flour, Xanthan gum, baking powder, cinnamon , and nutmeg together.

3. Mix in both sugars.

4. Mix in melted butter, mashed bananas, and eggs.

5. Fold in pecans.

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6. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan, then pour in batter.

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7. Bake 45-60 minutes until crust is golden or until a knife or toothpick you stick in the middle comes out clean.

8. Allow to cool in a pan for 30-40 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack.

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Pro Tips:

*DO NOT open the oven to check on the bread while it is baking. I know this is a well ingrained habit, but gluten free baked goods will collapse if you do this! Gluten is what normally gives breads and cakes their structure and stability. The rapid change in temperature caused by opening the oven will collapse what little structure is created by the xanthan gum. It is better to use the oven light to check on your baked goods through the oven window. I do not recommend opening the oven until the 45 minute mark to quickly check the doneness on this specific bread.

*If you have parchment or wax paper on hand, cut a piece the size and shape of the bottom of your pan (this works for cakes and bar cookies too!) place it in the pan after it has been greased. Having this paper at the bottom of the pan, keeps your baked good from sticking to the bottom of the pan and tearing apart when removing it.

Sweet Coleslaw

One of my favorite sides in the summertime is coleslaw. It is easy to make, since you simply mix everything together and let it sit overnight. This also makes it a great pot luck dish!

The origional dish was brought to the Americas by Dutch settlers who called it koolsla, meaning cabbage salad. Today there are many types of slaw, some of which are mayonnaise based, vinegar based, and red slaw.

My favorite is the classic sweet mayonnaise based slaw that you get in most fried chicken restaurants. Since I can’t eat the chicken, I don’t get to eat the slaw too often. Here is my version of the sweet coleslaw:

Ingredients

1 small onion, minced (or 1 Tbl onion powder)

2/3 cup mayonnaise

¬Ĺ cup white sugar

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon gluten-free white vinegar (Heinz is a safe option)

¬ľ teaspoon salt

¬ľ teaspoon pepper

¬Ĺ teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

¬Ĺ teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)

1 small fresh cabbage, chopped to desired size

1 medium carrot, grated

1. Whisk mayonnaise, sugar, vegetable oil, vinegar, salt, and poppy seeds together in a large bowl until smooth.

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2. Add in cabbage and carrot (or coleslaw mix) and toss to coat.

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3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or lid; refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Overnight works best.

Tips:

*You can substitute the fresh cabbage and carrot with a 16 ounce bag of coleslaw mix from the bag lettuce section of the grocery store. It also saves you from having to chop and grate.

*For a tangy version of this coleslaw add 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

*I have in the past used Veganaise instead of mayonnaise for an egg-free version. It works, but the flavor is not quite the same.