Wednesday, June 20, 2012

eFoodsDirect Product Review

I was recently contacted by a company called "efoods Direct" and asked to review some of their products, as well as offer my readers a chance to try meals at a reduced price. 

eFoods Direct is a company that sells packaged dried foods and meals suitable for long-term storage, as well as for use while hiking and camping.   There are a lot of reasons to store food, including disaster preparedness--one that hits close to home for me, since I live in a hurricane prone area, and have personally gone through a hurricane, and what's worse, in many cases, the aftermath. Having some of these easy-to-prepare (in most cases, stir into boiling water, cook the recommended time, season, if necessary, and serve) would have been a real blessing while we had gas and food lines for weeks.  There were some things that were just not available afterwards, and some of our stores didn't re-open for weeks and even months later. 

I was given and opportunity to try three different products, the cheesy chicken and rice, tortilla soup and creamy potato soup.

The first meal that I tried was the "Cheesy Chicken & Rice" which I was hesitant to try at first, after looking at the list of ingredients and not finding 'chicken' anywhere on the list.  There is no 'chicken' in the "Cheesy Chicken & Rice"; there is, however, texturized vegetable protein that looks and tastes remarkable like chicken.  This was actually very good.  It was creamy, it was cheesy, and it tasted chicken-y.  It got two thumbs up, from my son and from me.  All it needed was a little black pepper. 

The tortilla soup was the next product I tried.  I have to admit, it looked awful in the pot, sort of gray and unappetizing.  When it was ready, though, you could see the seasoning and bits of vegetables in it. This was not our favorite, but it was quick and easy and tasted.  It wasn't a thumbs up, but it wasn't a thumbs down either.  It was okay, I could eat it again, but I probably wouldn't order it in a restaurant. I have to admit, though, that I'm not really wild about most things that have a "southwest" seasoning flair--some kind of seasoning is just not to my taste. 

It was better with just a little cheese added to the bowl.

And last, but not least, was the Creamy Potato Soup.  I loved this--so easy, and delicious. 

I added salt & pepper to taste, as the directions on the package tell you to do, and then a little cheese, just for good measure--this one was good without the cheese, too, though it added just a little something extra.  I could easily see adding some corn and chicken to this to make a quick-and-easy chicken corn chowder.  This one is definitely thumbs up. 

All three of these meals were easy to make--boil water, stir in, cook the required time.  The creamy chicken & rice mentioned adding a couple of tablespoons of butter, which I did.  I think all of them say to add salt & pepper to taste, which I did to the potato soup, but the rice needed only a little black pepper.  All three of these meals were kosher, all had an extremely long shelf-life (like 25 years long--I have to admit, I've thrown away my share of bargain stock-pile items that I "lost" in the back of the pantry and found only after they were well-expired--something I wouldn't have to worry about with these products!) efoodsDirect prides themselves on using only the best of ingredients, so that the end product is the very best it could be. 

I would definitely try the two I really liked again.  They would make excellent additions to your long-term food storage, whether for disaster or economic downturn preparedness, and I think they'd be wonderful on a camping trip--light to carry, easy to prepare. 

Right now, efoodsDirect is offering a couple of special discount deals, which you can see at efoodsDirect offer.  They include special coupon codes giving you 40-50% off of specified packages, as well as a free trial offer where all you pay is shipping and handling to receive the same three meals to try that I did.  (If you choose the percent-off deals, be sure to use the coupon codes to receive the discount at check-out!)

(Disclosure: I received free products, but no other compensation for doing this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bread Machine Challah

 I know that it's been awhile since I did anything new and different in the kitchen when I stop what I'm doing and run around the house trying to find my camera and making sure the batteries in it are good!

Challah is one of those breads that just seems mysterious and difficult to make--but after I made three different batches with the help of my bread machine this week, I found out that it's really not that hard--at least not once I made up my mind to to get a little messy with the flour! That was the fun part!

The first part is no different from making any bread machine bread--but in this case I used the "dough" feature which mixes and kneads and rises, but doesn't cook the bread.

I made a 1 1/2 pound loaf size--the first time I made one big loaf, but the other two times I divided the dough and made two smaller loaves per recipe.

Here are the basics of Bread Machine Challah:

  • 3/4 c warm (not hot)water
  • 3 c bread flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 c butter, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 t fast rise bread machine yeast
Load the ingredients in the order listed, making sure to push the flour into the corners of the breach machine pan to keep the water from seeping up.  Place the other ingredients in the corners and around the edges, then make a little well in the middle for the yeast.  (This is especially important if you're using the delay feature, which really isn't a good move for this bread, since it uses fresh raw eggs--not one you'd want to use your "time" feature the be ready in the evening when you come home from work!)

Seat your pan in your machine, select the "dough feature".  You may want to check it after a few minutes and be sure that the knead bar is attached correctly and everything is starting to mix.  After that--leave it alone until it's finished--mine takes an hour and half.

This is what it looks like when it comes out of the machine at the end of the "dough" cycle-- a little bit puffy, and smooth on top.  Turn it out onto a well-floured surface, because... may be sticky underneath!

Punch it down and work just enough flour around the outside so that it isn't sticky any more.

Divide the dough in half to make two loaves.  (The first time I made this, I did only one big loaf, but the tradition for Shabbat and holidays is to have two, so the next two times I made two smaller loaves).

Divide each portion into fourths, and shape into four long ropes of dough.  I think these were maybe 8-9 inches long.  And now the fun part--braiding them together!

This was my first effort at a 4-rope braid.  Be sure to tuck the ends in well, if not, they may come undone during the rise or baking.

This was my second loaf--I still need to practice those ends!

Place on a well greased or cooking sprayed baking pan...

...then cover with greased or cooking-sprayed cling wrap.  Put it in a warm place, away from drafts, to rise...

...I use my oven, with just the oven light turned on.  If it's really cold, you might want to turn you oven on at the lowest setting for just a couple of minutes.  Then turn it off and put your bread dough to rise, until doubled in size, or about an hour.

Remove from the oven, take the cling wrap off, and it should like the one in front.  I made the mistake of trying the shift the position of the back one on the baking it sheet, and it sort of deflated.

Bake at 350-375 for 20-25 minutes...and you'll have a beautiful, crusty loaf of Challah!

These were the next two I made---I didn't make the mistake of touching them again, but somehow I just can't seem to get two "pretty" ones out of the same batch.

They looked good enough to eat, though! (and photograph!)

Remove to a rack and allow to cool--if you can stand it--or tear right into one of them--after all, the gal who cooks the bread gets to taste first--at least in my book!

This made a delicious bread with a firm, crusty outside--I'm determined to perfect that braiding technique so they'll look a bit more uniformly "pretty" but "good enough to eat" suits me just fine, too!

This recipe is linked to:

Meatless Monday at My Sweet and Savory
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Tuesdays at the Table at All the Small Stuff
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed by Grace
Delicious Dishes at It's a Blog Party
Bring it with Bizzy at Bizzy Bakes
What new recipe have you tried lately?

New Look

How do you like my new look?

I've been wanting a new look for a long time, and recently started playing around with some different blogger templates, but I'm such a scaredy-cat, plus I waffle back-and-forth so much that always just went back to my original look---until this time. 

Something about this one I like.  So here it is--my new look--at least for now.

Coming this week, I have:
  • some pictures and a recipe for a beautiful loaf of Challah (bread), made simple by using a bread machine to make the dough.
  • also a review of some freeze-dried soups and an entree from eFoodsDirect, a line of freeze dried products available for use for long-term storage, camping, disaster planning, etc.
So, what's been cooking in your kitchen?