Category Archives: Favorite Foods

Cannoli Death Match

The time had come to see if any cannoli in the Capital Region could compare to the penultimate cannoli from the Alpine Bakery in Smithtown, Long Island.

Based on the kind suggestions of the readers of this blog, we purchased cannoli from the following:

1.  Bella Napoli

2.  Civitello’s

3.  Hannaford (in Clifton Park)

4.  Mrs. London’s

We had additional participants in this cannoli death match in the form of two close friends who were more than happy to act as objective taste testers.  I do have to say before anything else that this would not have been possible had J not been so dedicated as to drive around to each of these different places to get the cannoli.  He is really dedicated to finding good food.

J was the only one who knew which cannoli came from where.  We sliced the cannoli into four for the blind taste test.  We then thoughtfully sampled each of the four pieces and arrived at the following ranking (number 1 being the most preferred cannoli):

1.  Bella Napoli

– This was a unanimous decision, it was the most balanced cannoli.  The filling had a strong almond and anise flavor which was tasty but not exactly what I was looking for.  I would have preferred a little brightness to it but it was still delicious.  The crust itself was chewy and had  nice texture.

2.  Hannaford

–  The filling for this cannoli was probably more in line with what I had in Long Island, however it was a little too sweet, but there was a nice gingerbread quality to it.  The crust didn’t stand out with this cannoli.

3.  Mrs. London’s

– First off, this cannoli did not look like a traditional cannoli in the sense that it had pistachio pieces in it as well as lemon zest.  So while this was the most untraditional cannoli, it was still very good.  The crust was flaky and the best crust out of the four.  This was also the most expensive cannoli, ringing up at around $5 for one cannoli.

4.  Civitello’s

– This also was unanimous in that no one really liked this cannoli.  The filling was too one note, way too much cheese, not enough flavor.  The crust was okay.

While the winner of the Capital Region cannoli is from Bella Napoli, the cannoli from the Alpine Bakery in Long Island surpasses any of these competitors.

We all had such a great time performing this taste test that we have decided to perform additional death matches for the following types of food:

  • Italian Sub Sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Mustard
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Hot Dogs

The focus for all of these death matches will be local products.  I welcome any suggestions for any of the categories on what we should be trying.

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Home Cooking, Chinese Style

I had a friend from India who I used to work with and one day, she asked me how Chinese people stay so slim. I said I didn’t know.  She said she was surprised at how Chinese people managed to stay thin when all we ate was fried food like Sweet and Sour Chicken, and Egg Rolls.  I laughed and told her that was the American version of Chinese food and that I didn’t know any Chinese people who cook that type of food at home much less eat it at a restaurant.

So in recognition of real Chinese food, I thought I would share a favorite Chinese recipe of mine that I got from my mom. When you want a freakishly good Chinese meal, you go to my mom.  She can put a bunch of seemingly disparate ingredients together and 95% of the time end up with a fantastic meal.

Without further adieu, I give you Shanghai style Chinese Rice Cakes.

Ingredients:

1 bag of Chinese Rice Cakes (if frozen, empty bag into a big bowl and thaw in water)

1 large head of Chinese Mustard Greens (buy at the Asian Market)

1/4 bag of Baby Bok Choy

1/2 cup Fresh bamboo

1 – 2 shiitake Mushrooms

Some type of meat: chicken, beef, or pork – 1/2 lb

2 cloves Garlic

1/2 Tablespoon Ginger

Soy Sauce

Chinese Rice Wine

Kosher Salt

Canola Oil

Sriracha Hot Sauce (Bright red sauce with a green cap)

Cooking Instructions:

Prepare the mustard greens 2 days in advance by first cleaning them thoroughly. Spread open a leaf, layer it on the bottom of a large container, sprinkle liberal amounts of kosher salt on the mustard green. Repeat the process until no leaves are left.  This step tenderizes and breaks down the mustard greens.  Cover and place in refrigerator at least 2 days in advance.

Mince both the garlic and ginger and set aside. Slice the meat into 1/4 strips.  Marinate meat with all of the ginger and garlic, add a 1 tablespoon of rice wine and 3 tablespoons of soy sauce.  You can do this the night before.

Squeeze the mustard greens of any liquid (handful at a time).  Chop the greens into small pieces.  Set aside.

Clean bok choy, rough cut and include white stems.  Set aside.

Julienne fresh bamboo. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in the wok/saute pan over high heat.  Add meat, cook for 3 – 4 minutes max. Stir constantly.  Transfer meat to a separate bowl.

Return wok/pan to heat, lower heat to medium high heat.  Add mustard greens.  Stir frequently, cook for approximately 10 minutes or until greens are cooked.  Add 1/4 cup of water during the cooking process as necessary.  You don’t want leaves to dry out.  After 10 minutes (regardless if leaves are cooked or not) add bamboo and shiitakes. Stir together.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add bok choy.  Keep stirring, cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Add meat back in and place rice cakes on top (if thawing, make sure to strain all the water out from the rice cakes).  Cover the wok/pan.

This will steam the rice cakes and soften them.  Check the consistency of the rice cakes after 5 minutes.  Should be soft and chewy.  Cook longer if needed.  Once cooked, mix all ingredients together in pan.  Add soy sauce to taste.

Serve.

For the brave ones out there, add Sriracha (makes everything taste 100x better).  Promise.

Also – the key to Chinese cooking, at least with this dish, is that you can be flexible with the ingredients.  Add more/less depending on what you like.

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I’m a weenie…

When I’m not feeling well.  I just want to be coddled and taken care of.  Reality is, my toddler doesn’t care if I’m sick or not, she wants to read The Foot Book for the 18th time that hour and I’m the only one for the job!

I do have a process I follow when I’m sick:  two vitamin c tablets a day, as much sleep as I can get (which is really not much) and hot, steaming comfort tea.

The ingredients to my comfort tea are:

3 -4 thin slices of ginger root

1 heaping spoon of Buckwheat honey (has a VERY strong smell, like a barnyard as J says, but do not be deterred as it is very good for you, especially if you have a cough)

1 heaping spoon of regular honey (we buy the local honey at the Honest Weight Food Co – Op, which by the way we are completely in love with)

1/4 lemon slice

Hot water

A big mug

Just combine all the ingredients and increase/decrease the amounts to your liking.

Voila! I have a delicious, comforting, hot cup of tea that immediately soothes me and makes me feel like tomorrow I just might feel better.

Another thing that made me feel better today…news that the Olive Garden is coming to Clifton Park!  I read it on one of my favorite food blogs, Table Hopping on the Timesunion website.  Steve’s the food dude and he keeps my husband and I up to date on what’s going on around here.

About the Olive Garden, I love their salads, but feel so-so about the rest of their food. But my dear husband, is a bit of food snob and it’s like pulling teeth for him to even step into an Olive Garden with me. However, I will win that fight once Olive Garden makes it way up here.  He knows it, I know it, and now you know it.

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The First of Many

Today I attempted to make Bubble Tea from scratch.  I had my first upstate NY bubble tea yesterday and was not impressed, so I figured if I want some good bubble tea, then I damn well better do it myself.  Bubble tea by the way, is an Asian drink, prepared many different ways but always with large clear tapioca balls at the bottom that you slurp up through a wide straw.  Sounds weird and it looks weird but it’s so refreshing and I love having texture in a drink!  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (HA! I hate puns!) but I have to say Asians seem to particularly love it and in this instance, I don’t deviate from my culture’s peculiar concoction.

My favorite type of bubble tea is with jasmine green tea, a small amount of simple syrup, and LOTS of tapioca balls.  Really if the drink was 80% tapioca balls, I would be the happiest Asian on the block.

Anyway, I brewed some jasmine green tea, and chilled it.  I boiled some water and threw in the tapioca balls (which weren’t big enough which I didn’t figure out until I cooked them).

The tapioca took forever to cook, a lot of them stuck together and 30 minutes later, some of them were still undercooked. I  need to refine my technique here obviously.

The simple syrup was really easy – 1/2 part of white sugar, 1/2 part of brown sugar to 1 part water. Since I didn’t need too much, I did a 1/4 cup of each sugar to 1/2 cup of water. I stirred the syrup on medium high heat, and when the mixture started bowling, I took it immediately off the stove.

I excitedly put it all together and took my first sip with my big straw that I had been saving for just this occasion.  I have to say I was mildly impressed with myself.  Cindy, as my sister Diana said, it’s just tea with tapioca balls but still, I made it all by myself.  And it was good.

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Desperately in search of a good cannoli…

My family lives on Long Island, so I get to enjoy delicious pizza, real bagels, and other tasty delights whenever we go and visit.  Unfortunately I developed an addiction the last time we were down there.  My brother, very sweetly, brought home some desserts from the Alpine Bakery in Smithtown, NY.  These desserts included some very innocuous looking cannoli.  I actually ignored those cannoli for a while, who needs a cannoli when you can eat amazingly soft and delicious rainbow cookies???

But I was silly and it was a mistake I will never make again because once I took a bite of that cannoli, my world changed.  I’m not really a dessert person but MAN, these cannoli were good.  They had chocolate chips in the cannoli filling and the filling was probably 50% crack, it was so good. It had a sharpness to it and some lemony flavor and it was just yummmm, there just wasn’t enough to satiate my sudden addiction.

Which brings me to today.  My husband thoughtfully brought some cannoli home from Villa Italia in Schenectady, NY.  Let me just say this, Villa Italia makes a damn good cake, but they got nothing on those cannoli I had on Long Island.

My search continues…

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