Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Blueberry Lavender Tea Infused Chia Seed Pudding Parfaits {#SipBySip Tea Party}

I am very excited to be taking part in the #SipBySip Tea Party today, hosted by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla and sponsored by The Republic of Tea to celebrate the release of their Beautifying Botanicals line.

(FTC Disclosure: I received free tea from the sponsor company for the purpose of reviewing and creating recipes. All opinions are my own.)

I admit to already being a fan of The Republic of Tea and several of their tins (Ginger Peach, Hibiscus Pineapple Lychee, get some ZZZ's, Immunity Super Green...) regularly grace my panty tea shelf, so I was looking forward to sampling the new botanical line featuring: 
  • Daily Beauty Blueberry Lavender Tea (Organic green rooibos, organic hibiscus, organic lemongrass, organic rosehips, blue butterfly pea flower, apple, organic lavender, organic hibiscus extract, sweet blackberry leaves, organic lemon balm, bamboo, blueberry, schizandra extract and natural blueberry flavor) and  
  • Beauty Sleep Chamomile Rose (Organic hibiscus, biodynamic chamomile, organic rosehips, organic lemongrass, blue butterfly pea flower, sweet blackberry leaves, licorice, organic hibiscus extract, bamboo, schizandra extract, natural honey flavor and natural rose flavor).
I had a little trepidation too since anything with strong florals like lavender and rose as ingredients needs a deft hand so it isn't like drinking a bowl of rehydrated potpourri, but I needn't have worried since The Republic of Tea has done their usual excellent blending of flavors so the teas are well-balanced and the floral notes are pleasant rather than overpowering. Both teabags brew a lovely color of herbal tea or tisane (sorry I didn't take a pic when sampling) and are a treat to sip. The packaging is beautiful and perfectly matches the tea--in colors and mood. (I think a tin of these teas paired with an antique tea cup in similar colors would be a lovely Mother's Day, bridal shower, or birthday gift.

For the task of creating a tea-infused recipe, I chose Daily Beauty and wanted to make a healthier pudding that nodded to all of the healthy botanicals in the tea. I love eating chia seed puddings and they make great breakfasts or snacks as the chia seeds are filling without being heavy and provide many good nutrients like fiber, protein and Omega 3 fatty acids and are hydrating too. 

I made a simple blueberry compote to serve with the chia pudding and ended up layering the pudding and compote with fresh blueberries and topping it with dollops of coconut yogurt. Putting them in jars is fun and gives me a grab-and-go breakfast to take to work. 

Since the tea is not overpowering, I used 3 bags in my coconut milk and added 1/2 tsp of culinary lavender. Since these teas are really botanicals or tisanes and not actual tea, I steeped them for about 15 minutes, to maximize the flavor without fear of the tannins that occur in 'real' tea (grown from camellia sinensis bush) making it bitter. 

Note: What is a lovely purpley-blue in the cup takes on a bit of a grayish cast in coconut milk, so I added a touch of purple food coloring to my chia pudding which gave it a light lavender hue that doesn't come through well in the photos.

Blueberry Lavender Tea Infused Chia Seed Pudding
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 4 Servings)

1 can coconut milk + extra if needed
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp culinary lavender
3 bags of Republic of Tea's Daily Beauty Blueberry Lavender Tea
1/3 cup chia seeds
purple food coloring (optional) 

In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk the coconut milk, honey, vanilla and culinary lavender together. Add the tea bags and bring slowly to a simmer over medium-low heat--stirring and not letting the milk boil or scorch.  Once at a simmer, remove from heat, cover and allow tea bags to steep about 10 minutes. 

Pour the mixture through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on the tea bags against the strainer with a wooden spoon in order to press out all of the liquid, then discard tea bags . Allow strained mixture to cool to room temperature. Once mixture is cool, add the chis seeds, whisking them in and then set the mixture aside for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to avoid the seeds clumping together. Add a couple of drops of purple food coloring if desired. Cover tightly and place pudding in the fridge several hours, preferably overnight.

Once pudding has set, remove it from the fridge and stir it, adding additional coconut milk if mixture is too thick or firm.


Blueberry Compote for Parfaits
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups Compote)

3 heaping cups fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Place the blueberries, brown sugar, lemon juice, and 1/3 cup of water into a small saucepan and heat over medium. Bring to a simmer and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring ocassionally, until mixture has thickened. Set aside and allow to cool before making parfaits.

To Assemble: Blueberry Lavender Tea Infused Chia Seed Pudding Parfaits:

Alternate layers of the blueberry compote, the chia seed pudding, fresh blueberries and yogurt of choice (optional) in small juice glasses or jars. Garnish parfait tops with fresh blueberries and a few buds of culinary lavender. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I really like the pudding--especially when layered with the blueberry compote and am happy how these turned out. Blueberry is the prominent flavor with the lavender as more of an after note. The fresh blueberries and yogurt are optional but add different textural elements to the parfaits. I ate one last night for a dessert/snack and took another for breakfast today and I would happily make them again.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Check out the #SipBySip bloggers and their recipe creations and reviews:
A big thank you to our sponsor! And mahalo to Camilla for hosting and for the packs of lavender and honey she included with our tea.

You can find The Republic of Tea on the web, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,& Instagram

Monday, May 29, 2017

Gingery Green Curry Miso Broth with Zucchini Noodles, Kitchen Tools Review & Giveway {#worksmarter #sharpenyourkitcheniq}

When my blogging friend, the amazing Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla was gathering a few bloggers together to test kitchen tools from KitchenIQ and create a recipe using them, I quickly signed up--especially hearing that one, an all-in-one ginger tool, might help me with my ginger problem. Yes, I have a ginger problem. I love the flavor of ginger and using it in my recipes but I REALLY hate messing with it--peeling it, grating it, and trying to do it quickly and efficiently without losing all of the wonderful ginger juice that fresh ginger puts out. I will confess that I often resort to those frozen ginger cubes or ginger in a tube--just to save myself the hassle. I was also looking forward to testing the spice grater and the zester as I love cooking with spices and between citrus, cheese, and chocolate, I find myself zesting often.

  The three KitchenIQ products we would be testing were:

Note: KitchenIQ has supplied these three products to me for free (and a set to giveaway to one U.S. reader below) in return for a fair and honest product test and review so I'll give you my thoughts on each of them--how easy they were to use, how well they worked, and (important to me) how easier they were to clean, care for and put away.

    The V-etched Better Zester:

    I have a microplane zester that I was given by and friend and that I use pretty much constantly so I wasn't sure that I needed a new one but the V-etched Better Zester lives up to the name, it is actually better than my microplane for a few reasons. It has a comfortable handle that is easy to grip--which I like as my old zester is one long strip of teeth/blades. This zester also has 300 tiny teeth that really catch the peel well, without the pith (as long as you don't press too hard). My main love and something I didn't realize I loved so much is the storage container on the back of the zester that not ony collect and measures whatever you are zesting, it has a tiny "squeegee" that removes the moist zest from the citrus from the back of the blade, making clean up a snap and giving you dry, sprinkle worthy citrus zest. Love it! I also tested it with Parmigiano-Reggiano and bittersweet chocolate and it was equally handy for grating, measuring, and cleaning up afterward. Sorry old zester, you have been replaced! 

    The Grate Ginger Tool:

    As I mentioned, this was the tool I was most interested in trying and I was not disappointed. Everything you need to work with ginger is together in one hand-size tool. This one took its first test with the back-of-the-package instructions handy to review as I went through the different steps to peel, juice, grate and slice a piece of fresh ginger. Probably everyone knows the best way to peel ginger is with a spoon but the hard green plastic spoon that is attached is equally as effective in in removing the skin as a regular spoon. Juicing and grating sort of happen together and this was my favorite part about the tool--you simply grate your peeled ginger, remove the grater tray and use the grater cover to press the juice from the pulp--with no waste. You can then use the juice--or reserve it for other recipes and use the finely grated ginger. There is also the magic "squeegee" that runs along the underside of the blade as you pull it out and cleans the ginger from the grater making it easy to clean. I tried the slicer and it works pretty well with the blade slicing fairly easily through the tough ginger root. I usually slice my ginger thicker than this blade does, but I don't see that as a problem for most recipes and it in fact might be better for some. Out of the three tools, this one has the most pieces and I realize I am going to have to be careful not to lose the clear blade cover and forget to put the spoon back in ;-) but it does clean and go back together pretty easily. I did not try it with the other aromatics it was recommend to be used for like garlic and daikon, but I am sure I will soon. Another win--I would buy this one for myself or as a gift.

    The V-etched Spice Grater:

    I have an electric spice grinder that I seldom use because I hate dragging it out of the cupboard, cleaning any leftover spices that I didn't clean well the last time and plugging it in, then repeating the whole process. So I either tend to use my spices whole--as in my chai tea blend or I resort to quickly grabbing my jarred powdered spices. This grater is easy and fast to grab, has tiny sharp teeth for hard spices, and makes quick work of cinnamon, nutmeg, and one of my favorite spices, star anise. There is a tray to catch the grated spices so you can easily measure them for your dishes. I saw on the package that you can grate nuts (walnuts and pecans are shown) and I am looking forward to trying that. The blade and tray are easily rinsed and wiped clean and it is a lot more convenient than dragging my grinder down on a regular basis for hard spices. Sometimes a bit of the spice I was grating flew loose, or I found that I lose a little more of the spice at the very end than I do with an electronic grinder, but the consistent fine powder I got and the ease of using it outweigh that in my opinion. A great tool for any spice-loving cook.


    I have a very small and too-full-of-stuff kitchen so as much as I love them, I try to limit my kitchen tools to those that I use regularly, have more than one purpose, and really work. All three of these KitchenIQ tools pass the taste and I will be using them all often--plus they are just fun to use and to look at with their bright colors and shapes. An honest thumbs up to all three of these tools from me.

    Be sure to check out the giveaway below for a chance to win your own set.

    Besides testing the tools, we were asked to come up with a recipe that allowed us to showcase the tools in action. I had several things in mind but in the end, it was a craving for a brothy and flavorful bowl of zucchini noodles that came to mind. I wanted something quick and easy but with a good mix of flavors and my own touch, so I enhanced prepared green curry paste and white miso with grated ginger and ginger juice from The Great Ginger Tool, added a kiss of star anise to add complexity with the V-etched Spice Grater, and finished it with lime juice and perfect zest from the V-etched Better Zester

    This is a light lunch dish that goes together quickly and is about the flavor of the broth so I kept to spiralized zucchini noodles but you could of course use any quick cooking noodle and add other veggies and/or tofu or another protein to bulk it up however you like. 

    Gingery Green Curry Miso Broth with Zucchini Noodles
    By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
    (Serves 2)

    1 Tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
    2 green onions, chopped
    1 Tbsp finely grated ginger
    2 Tbsp Thai Green Curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen brand)
    1 Tbsp ginger juice (optional)
    4 cups good veggie broth
    1 cup water
    1/2 tsp star anise
    2 medium zucchini, spiralized into a fettuccine noodle size, or rice noodles, or noodles of choice
    2 Tbsp white miso paste
    2 tbsp fresh lime juice
    1/2 Tbsp lime zest
    salt and pepper to taste
    fresh lime zest and sesame seeds to garnish

    Heat oil in a medium sauce pan and add green onions, grated ginger, and green curry paste. Cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add ginger juice if using (I recommend), veggie broth, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer soup about 10 minutes to meld flavors.

    Add zucchini noodles and let cook for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Place the miso paste into a small bowl and ladle in a cup of the hot broth. Whisk thoroughly with a fork until miso paste is dissolved into the broth, then add broth back into the soup. Add lime juice and 1/2 Tbsp of the zest. Taste for seasoning and add additional lime juice and salt and pepper as desired.  

    Divide into two large bowls. Garnish with additional lime zest and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

    Notes/Results: This is a simple dish that really packs in the Asian-inspired flavors and totally hit the spot for my ginger, green curry, and miso cravings--why should I have to choose just one? The lime juice and zest keep it bright and the star anise is there--subtle in the background--but making you wonder why this broth is so darn good. I won't lie, I ate both servings myself because I didn't want to stop eating it. ;-) I will happily make this again using my fun new tools. 

    I'm linking up this tasty soup to Souper Sundays, hosted here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup  

    ***KitchenIQ Tools Giveaway!***
    Note: KitchenIQ is generously providing a Three-Tool Prize Package to one lucky U.S. resident (in the 48 contiguous states--sorry!) Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and notified here as well as email and have 48 hours to respond or the next winner will be chosen. We cannot be held responsible for items lost in the mail.

    To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me about either your favorite kitchen tool to use or your worst kitchen chore to complete.

    There are a few other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or KitchenIQ (@KitchenIQ), 
    (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me or KitchenIQ on Twitter.)

    Deadline for entry is Tuesday, June 6th.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Good Luck!

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    Heavenly Island Lifestyle Restaurant at Shoreline Waikiki Hotel {Media Dinner & Restaurant Review}

    Like many bloggers, I get periodic requests to attend a media event or try out a new restaurant. I don't do it a lot. Often it is due to time constraints, sometimes due to the type of restaurant--for a mostly-veggie-with-some-fish-thrown-in blog, I get a lot of steakhouse and meat-centric invitations. ;-)  When the email for the new Heavenly Island Lifestyle Restaurant came through, I was immediately attracted to the philosophy and the menu. A 'health-conscious menu reflecting the richness of Hawaii and using local and organic ingredients' is something I can get behind. So, I asked if I could bring my favorite foodie friend Natalie along, and Monday night we met up with a dozen or so bloggers, food and travel writers, and other foodie types to check it out.

    *Hotel & hotel room photo provided from Shoreline Hotel Waikiki & Joie de Vivre

    Heavenly restaurant is at the Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, a hotel that was purchased and renovated as a boutique hotel by the popular Joie de Vivre Hotel group about a year ago. Both the hotel interior and the restaurant have a beachy, surf chic feel. I neglected to get (iPhone) photos of more than the food (yes, I have a one-track mind and stomach) but Natalie got a lot of great interior shots (check her photos out on Twitter @asknatalie and Instagram asknataliehawaii). 

    The restaurant had a soft opening about a month ago and has been serving breakfast and lunch. Monday night they were very brave to host a media dinner on their very first night of serving their dinner menu. We were welcomed with a variety of tropical fruit mimosas (mine was mango) and given an extensive tasting menu with shared plates of thirteen of their menu items. The actual restaurant menu was provided with the details of each dish with local and organic items clearly called out. The back of the restaurant menu features the different local vendors that the restaurant sources the bulk of their ingredients from.

    Plating of the dishes was fun and in keeping with the surfer chic vibe of the restaurant. The pupus--appetizers came out on wooden boards inscribed with the restaurant name. Heavenly's take on a bagna cauda featuring a miso paste instead of garlic oil for dipping had a small glass "vase" filled with a bouquet of fresh veggies for dipping. The poke came with a kale salad, a chunk of fresh ginger and a grater to add the amount of ginger you like. Being a big ginger fan, I appreciate being able to add a lot to my dish without worrying about any less ginger-loving dining companions. The guacamole was chunky and fresh and served with cilantro, taro chips and corn chips. I think the chip amount could be increased a bit--especially for sharing. It's hard to make mushrooms look pretty but the meaty Hamakua mushrooms made this mushroom addict very happy. The standout appetizer dish for me was the Kona 'Kanpachi' Coconut Ceviche. The kanpachi (aka kampachi, amberjack, yellowtail), was fresh and buttery, the disks of Big Island hearts of palm added a nice crunch beneath, while the coconut oil, cilantro and lime made a flavorful dressing. 
    There was a bit of a wait between courses but given the number of dishes for our group, the fact that this was their first night of dinner operations, and that they were serving a decent-sized crowd of customers too, the kinks in service speed were expected. It looked like food was coming out in a timely fashion for the bar and smaller groups. The service was friendly, my water glass was constantly filled and the (organic) wine was plentiful. We had good company at our table including John Henry, the Regional Managing Director for Joie de Vivre, fresh off the plane from San Francisco, Will McGough a free-lance travel writer (Wake and Wander) on a hiking adventure through the islands, and @saGEMom, from Hawaii Mom Blog and Sage and Savvy, a local blogger who I have followed on Twitter from a while now but had not had the pleasure of meeting until last night.   

    Green Cobb Salad was next up--I didn't get a great shot of it mixed up but hidden in that forest of green were lentils and quinoa and the herby green dressing was light and complimented it well--another favorite dish for me. (I hid my pre-mixing photo in with the main dishes above.) Speaking of our Main Dish and "Rice, Pho & Pasta" courses, there was sauteed Shinsato pork with (more yea!) mushrooms and onions in a very lickable ginger sauce. The Makaweli Ranch ribeye came out tender and was sizzling in a decadent truffle sauce with local veggies. If you regularly read this blog you know I am no longer a  regular meat eater but, I make an exception for tasting menus and I had a bite of each of the meat options to try them out. (How I suffer for my art!) ;-) I also had a bite of the patty on Heavenly's Organic Veggie & Beans Loco Moco. Loco Moco is a Hawaii classic and Heavenly's take on it--with a 10-grain rice and black bean mixture and a ginger and soy glaze instead of gravy, was fabulous. The egg was cooked perfectly--as you can see from the photo as it was cut open. I would return for this Loco Moco--but for my veg-friendly soul, I would ask to order it with more vegetables and no patty. I would have liked a bit more herb flavor or acidity to balance all of the creamy in the Kuhuku Shrimp Ravioli but I liked the cauliflower on top. It could also be that even sharing plates, I was getting pretty full by the time the pasta hit the table so was looking for something that 'popped' more in flavor.

    As stuffed as we were getting, we did manage to squeeze in tastes of the three desserts. I liked that the House Made Kona Coffee Tiramisu was not too heavy and that there wasn't an overpowering harsh rum flavor that you get in some tiramisus. In this one the coffee and chocolate flavors were at the forefront. The 'Pina Colada' had coconut sorbet on the bottom and a Maui Gold pineapple shave ice on top with jelly cubes (coffee jelly?) in between--a good combo of sweet and tangy and not too heavy. Having a love for both crème brûlée and ginger--I had a feeling it would be my favorite dessert and I was right. The ginger was present without being overpowering and it was light and creamy.

    As we were enjoying the last bites of dessert, our host "Mild" (Makoto Hasegawa), Heavenly's manager, brought out the Executive Chef, Keigo Yoshimoto (see center photo of first collage). Chef Yoshimoto is the chef for the Aloha Table Group --including Aloha Table and Goofy Cafe & Dine (both in Waikiki). The chef's attention to detail and Mild's attention to service made for an overall delicious and fun evening. 

    Would I return on my own dime to Heavenly Island Lifestyle? Yes, definitely. The freshness of the food, the fact that I can get a meal that is on the healthy side, and the support of Hawaii's local agriculture and businesses will bring me back. (Plus the Kona 'Kanpachi' Coconut Ceviche, Green Cobb Salad, and Heavenly's Loco Moco especially would draw me back to Waikiki for their all day breakfast or a light lunch or dinner.)

    The Details: 
    Heavenly Island Lifestyle
    Shoreline Hotel Waikiki
    342 Seaside Ave, IF
    Honolulu, HI 96815

    Open 7AM - 12PM

    Note: My friend and I were hosted at a media dinner by Heavenly Restaurant and Shoreline Hotel Waikiki, a Joie de Vivre, property in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

    The Better Chip: Product Review #2 (New Spinach & Kale with Sea Salt)

    Offers to review products seem to come in cycles for me. I don't accept most of the ones I receive. They really have to relate to my blog values, represent how I choose to cook and eat and be something I would actually purchase myself. After a spate of ones that didn't match up--like fireplace logs (um... it's summer AND I live in Hawaii), bacon and pork products (I had to turn down the nice woman several times assuring her that since I went meat-free a few years ago there are plenty of other blogs people would think to visit for meat recipes) ;-), and a diet book for smokers (just hmm...). Finally, when Michael from The Better Chip emailed me last month and asked if I would be willing to try their newest flavor--Spinach & Kale with Sea Salt. I immediately said hell yeah! yes please! 

    I reviewed The Better Chip last year (you can read that review here) and really enjoyed the flavor of the chips and the quality of the ingredients. I love me some greens and wanted to see how the new Spinach and Kale flavor would taste. (Also, the company sent me a super-soft, women's cut tee-shirt last year that I love and have about worn to death and I was really hoping for another.

    My box from The Better Chip arrived with a large bag of Spinach & Kale with Sea Salt, small bags of their four other flavors (Corn with Sea Salt, Sweet Onions with White Cheddar, Red Peppers with Salsa Fresca and Jalapeno with Sea Salt), AND another tee-shirt! (I think I adore this even softer grey shirt {upper right corner of collage} with a avocado-ish green heart more than my green one from last year.)   

    Now we can debate the whole health aspect of chips in general, and I am not here to tell you that snacking on chips is better than carrot sticks, but hey, sometimes the urge to grab a handful of crispy corn chippy goodness strikes and when it does, I prefer to pick a chip that is made with natural ingredients. 

    The Better Chip offers:
    • All Natural and made with fresh Non GMO ingredients
    • Gluten-Free
    • Made in a completely nut-free environment on a line dedicated only to tortilla products
    • Vegan-friendly (except for the Sweet Onion with White Cheddar flavor)

    Check out the ingredient label for the Spinach & Kale chips: Corn Masa Flour, Sunflower and/or Canola Oil, Spinach, Kale, Sea Salt. Simple, natural and absolutely nothing you can't identify or pronounce. The chips are a gorgeous green, not from food coloring, but from the actual spinach and kale that is in the chips. A serving of 1 oz--about 1/2 the bag or 10ish chips is 130 calories, 11% fat, 100 mg sodium and 35% of your vitamin A and 110% of vitamin K for the day. Not a bad choice when the urge for a chip strikes.

    Taste-wise, The Better Chip's tagline is "The Flavor is Inside"--they have enough great flavor that you don't necessarily need to dip them, but of course you can. The Spinach & Kale have that sweet fresh green taste from the leafy greens but not the bitterness. They are definitely munchable right from the bag like the other flavors. I also found them a perfect match for homemade hummus mixed in a bowl with the Red Peppers with Salsa Fresca flavor. I also really like to cool a little of the fire of the Jalapeno with Sea Salt chips with guacamole. Mmm...

    The Better Chip's products are not everywhere yet (although you can order them at Amazon and you can look up where to buy them in your state at the locator on the website). In fact, I was going to lament that I couldn't get them here in Hawaii but, the other day on my way out from a mad lunchtime dash for a brown rice ahi sushi roll from the Safeway deli, I saw a small rack with some bags of them. Sadly no Spinach & Kale, my new favorite, but I plan to investigate further and make a request--maybe while wearing my tee-shirt!  ;-)

    Note: Although the chips and tee-shirt were provided to me from The Better Chip in order to do an honest review, I received no monetary compensation for the review and my opinions (and picky tee-shirt standards) ;-) as always, remain my own.

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    The Better Chip: Product Review (+ the Joy the Baker Cookbook Giveaway Winner!)

    As do many bloggers, I get regular offers to try products and potentially review them. I am always grateful, but I turn a lot of them down. For me to be comfortable reviewing a product it has to fit into the spirit of Kahakai Kitchen. Items that get reviewed have to relate to (or I have to be able to relate it to) food and cooking, and if it's food, it has to fit the "(mostly) healthy" label. That means that although it can be snack food or indulgent item, it needs to have whole, natural ingredients and not contain things I won't eat (high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and scary preservatives, etc.). The first thing I do when I get a product sample offering is to go to the website and check out the ingredient list before even thinking about saying yes.

    When a chance to try a new snack called The Better Chip, came about, a quick trip to their website was all it took for me to say yes. It said: "Made from double corn masa, 40% fresh veggies and enhanced with a smidgen of sea salt or natural seasoning for a better tasting and better dipping chip. We understand, not everyone appreciates better taste. Unfortunately for artificial ingredient lovers, we only use natural ingredients. No preservatives. No gluten. Nothing genetically modified. And no cholesterol. Simply better for you." Sounds good to me!

    The ingredient labels backed up the claims and a couple of weeks later I received a box with two each of three of the four different chips in The Better Chip's product line; Sweet Onion and White Cheddar, Red Pepper and Salsa Fresca, and Jalapeño and Sea Salt, along with a tee-shirt. (There is a plain, Fresh Corn and Sea Salt chip that I didn't receive to try.)

    I slowly, snacked, dipped and sampled my way through all three flavors and here is my feedback

    • Sweet Onion and White Cheddar: The website says, "We blended real, fresh onions into our double thick corn masa and then sprinkled on some naturally delicious white cheddar. The result: A sturdier, thicker, onionier chip that can handle any dip." I say: These were my favorite chip straight from the bag. The onion and light cheese gives these an almost sweet and savory taste that makes it hard to stop eating them. They do leave a slight bit of lingering onion breath, but it's worth the breath mint afterward to enjoy the natural oniony flavor.
    • Red Pepper and Salsa Fresca: The website says, "We really did blend real red bell peppers into our double thick corn masa. And then gave them a happy dusting of salsa fresca. So strong, tasty and crunchy, you won’t have to worry about leaving chip stragglers in your dip." I say: These chips on their own were slightly too "tomatoey" for me--the tomato flavor came through more on my palate than the red pepper. Dipping them into hummus however, greatly improved my feelings about them. They have the smallest hint of chile powder that works well with a creamy dip and I think they would be great dipped into or sprinkled on top of a a creamy soup
    • Jalapeño and Sea Salt: The website says, "Hey, don't blame us if your lips are on fire. We warned you. That’s what happens when you blend real jalapeños with double thick corn masa. Add to that a bit of sea salt and you’ve got a thicker, crunchier and ouchier chip that can take on any dip." I say, Ouchier is right! these are definitely spicy chips that provides a lingering heat on the lips and tongue. For those who like it spicy you can eat them plain. For me, they were just perfect with a small mound of guacamole as the cold creamy avocado puts out the fire, but the spicy jalapeño flavor still comes through loud and clear.

    All of the chips are 130 calories for half the 2-oz bag (about 10 chips) with about 6 grams or 9% fat and no cholesterol. (The onion chips do have a sprinkling of white cheddar so there would be trace amounts of cholesterol in that variety--although not enough to register on the label.) They range from about 115 mg of sodium to 160 mg per serving and about 2g of fiber and protein. So, while no chip is health food of course, these aren't too bad for an occasional snack and are better both nutritionally and in flavor-wise than many chips out there. And, much as I love a good chip, and these are good, I'll be completely honest here and tell you that The Better Chip won my heart with the super soft, women's cut Nature Always Does It Better tee-shirt that they included in the box. ;-) I love comfy tee-shirts that are cut right.

    Right now these chips are in limited stores and states (see where to buy here), but they hope and expect to grow.


    ***Joy the Baker Cookbook Giveaway Winner!***

    It's time to announce the winner of my Joy the Baker Cookbook giveaway. Thanks to everyone who entered--I wish that I could send cookbooks to all of you.

    For the drawing, a separate entry for each applicable comment went into a bowl and one name was drawn. Yes, we do it old-school here as I like the fun of drawing a name versus automatically generating one. (What can I say--I don't get out much!) ;-)

    (Drum roll please...)

    The winner is:

    All Things Yummy!

    ATY's comment says "I saw her features in Sunset magazine this month and I'd love to try out her cook book. My favorite baked goods are cookies. I always have to have some type of cookie in the house."

    Congratulations All Things Yummy! Please email me (@[email protected]) with your mailing address and I'll get the book out to you ASAP.

    Note: Although the chips and tee-shirt, as well as the cookbook for the giveaway were provided to me from the companies, I received no monetary compensation for the reviews and my opinions as always, remain my own.

    Happy Aloha Friday!

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Mojito Melon Fruit Skewers and a Cookbook Review of "On a Stick"

    A friend of mine can't stand wooden skewers or chopsticks. Seriously... It is almost a phobic state. She can't bear the feel of them in her mouth or seeing anyone else at the table eat with them. (Not that I am one to talk about phobias--I am a supposed grown-up with a deathly fear of hypodermic needles and can't even stand to see them in person or on a television or a movie screen.) In any case, (if you were wondering where I was going with this), ;-) my friend may not be the best audience for "On a Stick: 80 Party-Perfect Recipes" by food blogger and photographer extraordinaire, Matt Armendariz, but nearly everyone else is.

    "On a Stick" is a fun and drool-inducing book of easy recipes for a variety of foods that require no silverware because they are stuck on wood or metal skewers, cocktail picks, Popsicle sticks and even rosemary branches and sugarcane. Recipes for global foods both common (satays, kebabs, fruit skewers, ice pops) and unusual (Deep-Fried Mac 'n' Cheese, Panzanella, Pizza Skewers, Pineapple Funnels) can be found as Armendariz proclaims "Food on a stick just tastes better!"

    Each of the 80 recipes, divided between sweet and savory foods, is accompanied by a gorgeous color photograph that seems to leap off the page. The book has chapters on Sticks and Skewers--to showcase how to serve your food on a stick, and Dips and Sauces--to pair with your your skewered treats. "On a Stick" is a great addition to any cookbook shelf and is perfect for those who like to entertain or anyone who just enjoys good, fun-to-eat food. It would be an excellent hostess, birthday or shower gift, especially when packaged together with a variety of different skewers.

    Many recipes caught my eye to "road test" this book. I ruled out the meat and the fried foods to fit with my current eating plan. I thought something sweet would be fun and when I came across the Mojito Melon Fruit Skewer, I knew it was the recipe for me. A well-crafted mojito is my favorite cocktail, and I loved the idea of combining it with healthy honeydew melon for a delicious cocktail on a stick.

    Matt says, "Fruit on a stick is fun for the grown-up set! The minty sweet taste of a mojito makes a tasty dressing for cool honeydew melon. This recipe is a favorite at summer parties."

    Mojito Melon Fruit Skewers with Mojito Mix
    Reprinted with Permission from "On a Stick"
    (Serves 4)

    8 pop sticks
    1/2 honeydew melon, cut into 8 wedges

    Mojito Mix:
    1 Tbsp powdered sugar
    juice of 3 limes
    5 sprigs of mint
    3/4 cup white rum

    Arrange melon wedges in an 8-by-8 inch baking dish.

    Make the mojito mix: Place all ingredients plus 1/2 cup water in a blender and pulse until mint is finely chopped. Pour mixture over melon wedges and refrigerate 1 hour.

    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pierce each melon wedge with a pop stick and arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Freeze 20 to 30 minutes. Serve cold.

    Notes/Results: Genius! These potent little sticks are delicious--the tangy lime, cooling mint and kick of rum soak into the melon making it a slightly sweet and very refreshing adult treat. Placing them in the freezer for 30 minutes makes them cold and just slightly icy--adding to the enjoyment of eating them on a warm afternoon or evening. They could not be easier to make and can be prepared ahead of time, making them perfect for a party. The honeydew was excellent and I think cantaloupe or watermelon would also be wonderful. I will definitely be making plenty of these in the future.

    What's your favorite food on a stick?

    Obligatory Disclosure Statement: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Quirk Books but I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Book Review & Recipe: "The 4-Hour Body" by Timothy Ferriss and "On the Go Hummus"

    When I was given the chance to review "The 4-Hour body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman" by Timothy Ferriss, a few months ago, I wasn't expecting almost 600 pages of how-to's on to transform myself and become "superhuman." The book's size was somewhat intimidating, and it sat on my shelf for weeks until I finally opened it up and read "Rule #1: Think of This Book as a Buffet" where the author instructs the reader not to read the book from beginning to end, but to instead pick the chapters that are most relevant to them and just read those. Whew! ;-)

    Author Ferriss, author of the business best-seller "The 4-Hour Work Week," states clearly that he isn't neither a doctor nor a Ph.d, but instead "a meticulous data cruncher with access to many of the world' best athletes and scientists." I would also venture to say that he is just a little bit crazy too, spending 10 years and more than $250,000 to test every workout, diet, supplement, and health fad he could find on himself to find the ones that work with the least amount of effort and time. Throughout his journey, Ferriss worked with more than 100 experts-- doctors, scientists, Olympic athletes, and different specialists, and tested his results for 3 years with over 200 volunteers, male and female.

    His Result: The book states that you will learn (in less than 30 minutes each):
    • How to lose 20 lbs in 30 days (without exercise) on the ubersimple Slow-Carb Diet
    • How to prevent fat gain while bingeing on holiday meals
    • How to increase fat-loss 300% with a few bags of ice
    • How to sleep 2 hours per day and feel fully rested
    • How to produce 15-minute female orgasms (yikes I just said orgasm on my blog!) ;-)
    • How to triple testosterone and double sperm count
    • How to go from running 5 kilometers to 50 kilometers in 12 weeks
    • How to reverse "permanent" injuries
    • How to add 150+ pounds to your lifts in 6 months.

    10 Surprising Tips from "The 4-Hour Body"
    • To increase fat burning up to 300%, drink at least 500 ml (about 17 oz) of ice water on an empty stomach immediately upon waking, follow with a 5-minute cold shower, and place an ice pack on the back of your neck for 30 minutes while watching TV in the evening.
    • Eat within one hour, ideally 30 minutes, of waking to increase fat-loss. One subject went from approximately 5 lbs. of loss per month to more than 17 lbs. per month with this one change, based on a few protein-rich foods.
    • Pig out on junk food one day a week to lose weight. This will ensure that your metabolic rate (thyroid, hormone, etc.) doesn't downshift from extended calories restriction.
    • On these scheduled "binge" days, drink yerba mate tea so food will exit your stomach faster and add less fat to your waist line. Lime juice or wedges can be timed for more effect.
    • Add cinnamon to your pastries to increase your insulin sensitivity and minimize fat gain.
    • Consume three tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice just prior to meals to lower your blood sugar peaks by approximately 10%.
    • Eat two tablespoons of raw almond butter before bedtime to make even four hours of sleep feel like eight hours.
    • Take a cold bath one hour prior to bed for a good night's sleep (faster time to sleep).
    • To increase your sex drive, eat three to four hard-boiled eggs the night before sex and Brazil nuts and raw almonds a few hours before.
    • Increase your step cadence to help you jog farther with less effort.

    "The 4-Hour Body" says that it isn't a "diet book or a fitness book." Ferris writes that instead. "It's a manifesto, a call to arms for a new mental model of living: the experimental lifestyle. It's up to you to learn what your body best responds to."

    Does it work? Good question! As you know, I am not a doctor myself and I am also not one to put much stock in quirky tips and special diets and promises for quick results as I think it is hard to sustain them for a healthy long-term lifestyle. That being said, there are parts that do seem to make sense while some are a little (or more than a little) out there. Remember I said that this book sat on my shelf for many weeks? Well, I finally pulled it back out after a good friend raved about needing to buy new jeans after a couple of weeks following just some of the rapid fat-loss tips from the book. She was pretty sold, and that made the "Rapid Fat Loss" section of the book the part of the "buffet" that I took a closer look at.

    Some of the rules and tips were already things I was doing (at least part of the time) -- like avoiding "white" carbohydrates, and not "drinking your calories." Others like not eating fruit (due to the fructose/sugar) and eating the same few meals over and over again (difficult for a food blogger), aren't so workable for me. I think eating within 1 hour of waking, preferably within 30 minutes makes sense. Taking daily cold baths and cold showers and putting an ice packs on the back of your neck for 30 minutes a night... well that just makes me cold and kind of grumpy! ;-) I didn't end up being committed enough to follow things through for a complete test but the book (or at least sections I covered in the book) is interesting and gave me some things to think about and possibly try. It doesn't seem like there is anything in it that would be especially harmful, but I will likely stick to my current ongoing healthy lifestyle plan to continue to reduce those extra "blogging pounds" that creep up occasionally. Still "The 4-Hour Body" is entertaining--just reading about the experiments Ferriss went through in his quest is fun and some are pretty fascinating, so it was worth a "buffet-style" read.

    There are a handful of recipes in the book from Ferriss and others. Since I like to cook something related to the book to accompany my book reviews, I chose the "On the Go Hummus." I have my basic favorite hummus go-to recipe but found the lack of olive oil and addition of tamari (fermented soy sauce) in this one were interesting.

    "On The Go Hummus"
    From "The 4-Hour Body" by Timothy Ferris
    (Serves 6-8)

    3 cups garbanzo beans
    3 Tbsp tahini
    3 Tbsp tamari
    3 cloves garlic
    1/4 cup lemon, lime or orange juice
    1/2 tsp cumin
    1/4 -1/2 cup water

    Process all ingredients except water in blender or food processor. Add a small amount of water at a time to keep ingredients moving in blender or processor, as needed.

    The book says, "Great with tortillas or pita and laced with kalamata olives for trailside lunch on those long runs. For a great sandwich add slices of red bell pepper, tomatoes, and choice of salad greens."

    Notes/Results: It won't replace my favorite hummus but it was still pretty tasty. I did add a bit more cumin to it, and some extra lemon (I used orange juice for my quarter cup of juice, but ended up adding about 2 extra tablespoons of lemon juice to the mix), to give it a bit more flavor but the consistency was creamy and you do cut down on calories omitting the olive oil. As a veggie dip or sandwich spread it worked well.

    Obligatory Disclosure Statement: I was sent this book free of charge from the publisher but was not obligated to review it and my thoughts, experience and opinion of the book are entirely my own.

    Happy Tuesday!