Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer Product Recommendations

Since I blatantly tried to snatch some money out of the corporate money-grubbers' hands in my last post, I thought I should balance things out with some new product recommendations (or maybe they're just new to me). First off, the item that should be on the top of everyone's grocery list: ICE CREAM! Haagen-Dazs has a new "reserve" flavor called Caramelized Hazelnut Gianduja that is just CRAZY GOOD, especially if you're a fan of Nutella. It's a mild hazelnut-flavored ice cream with a thick ribbon of gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut spread), and the best part, caramelized hazelnuts (toffeed hazelnuts, if you will).

Also, Haagen-Dazs has a new line of ice cream called FIVE, and each flavor has only five ingredients and no additives or preservatives. As another bonus, they have 30% less fat, and though the texture is not quite as decadently creamy as the full-fat version, it isn't enough of a difference that you would feel deprived, especially as the ice cream is so darn tasty! I tried the brown sugar flavor, which was delicious, kind of like the inside of my very favorite See's Candy, the butterscotch square. Or folks from the south might liken it to a type of fudge called penuche. I think it would be delicious paired with many different kinds of baked goods. In addition to the brown sugar flavor, they also have coffee, ginger, milk chocolate, mint, passion fruit, and vanilla bean. I think I'll try the coffee flavor next, but in my head, I am already planning some dessert pairings with the ginger flavor.

Now for a savory recommendation. When I was at Sam's Club yesterday, I was in a snacks-for-dinner mode, as I didn't feel like cooking when I got home. So I splurged on a delicious-sounding dip from Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant called Artichoke Jalapeno Garlic Dip. It costs between five and six bucks, but it comes in a very large, party-sized container, and the product itself is very thick with a very spicy kick from a healthy amount of jalapeno pieces that are swirled into it. And I can tell you from personal experience, if you mix a good amount of the dip with a very ripe, mashed avocado, you will have an amazingly zippy guacamole-like dip! And I even have an recommendation for what to put it on...

Last weekend, I was rummaging around in the back freezer and found a package of frozen southern-style hash brown potatoes, so I decided to throw together a fairly basic breakfast casserole. I was guided somewhat by a recipe on my friend, Jen's gluten-free blog. I got to know Jen when I was in grad school in Seattle in the very early 90's. She was/is the little sister of one of my dearest friends from college, Kim, and their family lived in my beloved Emerald City. (Of course, I don't call her Jen. I call her "Spike," because long ago, one of those girlie magazines like Glamour or Mademoiselle instructed young ladies to try on a new nickname for some summer fun, so I chose "Spike" for my cute little friend, Jen!) Anyway, flash forward years later...Spike is happily married with a beautiful little girl, and she has not one but TWO blogs--one all about her daughter, Danielle, and one about her struggles to convert to a gluten-free life. And I saw a version of this breakfast casserole on her blog, Feeling Better Gluten-Free. Here's my take on it:

Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole

2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced small
1 bell pepper, chopped (I used some roasted red peppers from a jar I had in the fridge)
2 lb. bag frozen southern-style hash brown potatoes (thawed a minute or two in the microwave)
6 to 8 oz. deli ham, sliced into thin strips (I used black forest ham)
8 large or 10 small eggs
1/4 cup milk or half-n-half
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
good pinch of cayenne (1/4 teaspoon?)
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
handful of fresh herbs (1/4 cup?), chopped (parsley, oregano, thyme, basil--your call!)

Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish* with non-stick cooking spray. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onions and peppers to soften through.** Add the potatoes and saute' until heated through and lightly browned. Dump everything into a very large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, crack the eggs and whisk them with the milk or cream and the seasonings. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and veggies, then mix gently. Stir in the shredded cheese and chopped fresh herbs. Transfer to the greased baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until set, puffed, and lightly brown around the edges. Let cool for about ten minutes before serving.

*Yes, a 9 x 13 pan makes a TON, which is perfect for a large family gathering or party. You can halve the recipe, of course, but I have to tell you that it makes great leftovers that can easily be warmed up for quick weekday breakfast. And the very best use for the leftovers is to fill a large tortilla or sandwich wrap with the warmed cheesy and eggy potatoes, top with fresh salsa and a good glob of the guacamole stuff that you made with the Margaritaville dip, and you've got some good breakfast/brunch eats, let me tell ya!

**I planted my garden late, so my summer squash is just coming on, but when it's ready, and overly-abundant, and I'm trying to find new uses for it, I will definitely be shredding or dicing some up and throwing it into this casserole along with the other sauteed veggies!


Randi said...

The vanilla,mint and coffee flavors are great. The brown sugar didnt thrill me. It had a weird texture. But, I only paid 2.33( on sale) at Kroger( in MI) so I bought them all( except passion fruit) to try. I really, really wanted the coconut reserve flavor but didnt want to spend 5.99 on it when the others were on sale.

Lisa Michelle said...

Lindsey, love the hash brown casserole, you (with the addition of your friend's recipe) are SO creative -- BUT, Holy Moly, I'm sending a friend to get me some of that Haagen Dazs hazelnut Gianduja ice cream..NOW!! Love your recommendations!

Anonymous said...

The new Hagen Daz ice creams sound awesome. It was fun to see you write about Jen and Kim. Jen calls herself "Spike" every once in awhile and we sigh and say, "Oh we'd love to see G***!! BTW, you must come to homecoming this year! This is not a plea, it's an edict. We have awesome new buildings and Kim and I really really want to see you!