Monday, December 31, 2018

Cheers to the Holidays

The holidays are often a time for me to try some interesting spirits, new and old. This year is no different.

Rumchata options…
Rumchata has been a favorite of mine since it first hit the market. I love cordials that you don’t have to get too creative with if you aren’t in the mood.

I love it straight over ice, but you can mix it with just about anything. They even sell a gift box that includes shot glasses so you can measure perfectly.

One of the options for Rumchata is to put it in your coffee and the company has no made that even easier with Rumchata Creamer. This is not a flavored creamer, it has the real liquor in it and it will make your coffee into a major treat.

Another cordial to enjoy…
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Tippy Cow Peppermint Bark, but it was a perfect mix of sweet, creamy and minty, without too much of any of those. 

My friends devoured the mini bottles (great for picnics) chilled. I managed to put one aside to have with my hot chocolate the next day. It made me forget all about that Peppermint Mocha coffee I wait for every year.

Whisky winner…
Rain at Bourbon and Beyond that cancelled day two kept me from doing much tasting there, but Rabbit Hole Bourbon Whiskey, kindly sent me a bottle to sample and I was not disappointed.

Although this bourbon has a strong nose, the taste is smooth, with lots of sweet corn flavor, yet the distinct bourbon notes of vanilla and toasted grain.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Start of Holiday Food & Spirits

It’s the start of the holiday season and I’ve been receiving some interesting spirits to enjoy during your celebrations.

Eggnog Vodka? Worth a try…
I was a bit leery when I heard about Eggnog Vodka from Three Olives, but I agreed to give it a try.
As expected, it did nothing for me as a straight shot. I decided to bring it down to my clubhouse, where the bartender, Lionel, played around with it a bit.

Lionel loves creative challenges when it comes to spirits. His first thought was a hot chocolate, with a bit of half and half and a shot of Three Olives Eggnog Vodka. It was quite delicious, but the big hit was this:

Eggnog Vodka Martini:
2 ounces Three Olives Eggnog Vodka
½ ounce amaretto
½ ounce Whipped cream vodka
Splash of half & half
Sprinkle of nutmeg

Pour ingredients into a mixing gup filled with ice.
Strain into a martini glass.

For another twist on Eggnog… shout out to Sugarland’s Distilling Company, who sent me another bottle of their Eggnog Sippin’ Cream this year. If your looking for a ready-made shot, this is it. Strong stuff, but very tasty.

A red for all occasions…                                                                                  
In general, I prefer white wine, but one red that I usually go for is Sangiovese so I was happy to give Luna Vineyards 2015 a try. I was not disappointed. It’s fruity and rich, not too sweet and not dry.

A must for your holiday bar…
The biggest hit at my gatherings this month was Jack Daniels Winter Jack Tennessee Cider. Give it a try over ice, slightly warmed, with some seltzer, or in coffee. No matter how you like it, you’ll love this apple filled whiskey.

I strongly suggest you buy at least two bottles while it’s in season.  

Chocolate Banana Buckwheat Bread you’ll love…
I’m still playing around with my box of Pereg Naturals products. This month I decided to see what I can put together with the Buckwheat Flour.

I was surprised how well it baked. The Chocolate Banana Buckwheat Bread went quickly around here. I didn’t even have time to freeze some for later. You can find my recipe here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fun and Tasty Treats for Halloween Month

Halloween isn’t the only thing fun this month. I got to try some new products, that included a kitchen creation.

Black Box Spirits…
I’ve had mixed feelings about Black Box wines. I thought a few were good, but when my local bar replaced their pinot grigio with Black Box, I switched to another blend.

I can’t say anything bad about the Black Box whiskey, vodka, and tequila. They were all fantastic, and so easy to put out at a party. I especially had my doubts about the whiskey (whiskey in a box?), but it had nice vanilla notes and blended well in the cocktails we made.

Speaking of Wine…
Just the Wine  is for people like me who are sensitive to sulfites, a compound used in food to prevent browning (think about all those bright vegetables on the salad bar).
Sulfites are most known for being in red wine, though they are there to a lesser extent in white wines. It’s sulfites that are responsible for “red wine headaches” in people who are sensitive to them. I tend to avoid red wine because of sulfites, yet I was able to finish a glass by adding three drops of Just the Wine. (It does not alter the taste in any way.)

You can purchase Just the Wine at Amazon.

Sweet Potato Toast? Yes, please…
For the record, I am way over the cauliflower craze. It would probably be more accurate to say I was never into it at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cauliflower – as a vegetable on my plate, next to the rice, pasta, or potatoes. It’s not rice, pasta, or potatoes just because you change the shape.

Anyway, when Caulipower offered to send me some samples, I had to warn them in advance where I stand. Their Turkey Pepperoni Pizza wasn’t bad, if you like your crust to taste like cauliflower, not crust. They did send something else that I had no reservations about – Sweet Potatotoasts.

I am a sweet potato fan so the idea of such a convenient packet in my freezer was a winner to me. I popped a couple in my toaster and then sprinkled them with cinnamon for a meal finisher. Another time, I layered a couple with some margarine and through them in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

Sweet Potatotoasts is definitely something I’d recommend buying, just remember that they are raw and frozen, so turn your toaster on the highest setting, or cook accordingly in the microwave.

And, this month’s creation…
I took a break from trying out Pereg products to do something completely out of the ordinary: make a dish with Edward & Sons Organic Young Jackfruit. I decided to go with a recipe that mimics pulled pork, using the jackfruit. I told a few friends I was bringing it to a pot luck and they were skeptical. Well, it was a big hit. In fact, one person didn’t even realize it was jackfruit and not pork!

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much healthier it is, not to mention fat free. You can find the recipe for Pulled Jackfruit on my Pinterest page. You can purchase the Edward & Sons Jackfruit at Amazon.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hello Kitty Makes Wine, and latest in Cruzan Rum and Pereg

This month I have some tasty food to go with rum and wine, from an unexpected brand.

Hello Kitty…
I was too old to be enthralled in the Hello Kitty phenomenon, but my daughter wasn’t. Like many others her age, she is of age to enjoy wine. This fact was not overlooked by Sanrio. The makers of just about everything you can think of with a Hello Kitty logo has cashed in on its aging fans by producing a wine that carries the iconic name.

The company came out with an entire line of wines and sent me the Hello Kitty 2018 Collection to check out. With the exception of the Pinot Noir, which I had a fan of the grape check out and enjoy, it’s a collection of what I like to drink. I have to say, they were all done well.

The Sparkling Rose just has a touch of sweetness and is mostly fruit forward. If you want something even more flavorful, do the Sweet Pink Sparkling, which will give you more berry and less floral notes.

The Hello Kitty Prosecco is another great bottle to have on hand this holiday season. In addition to the conversation starter of the design, it’s a good aperitif for everyone, with light pear and honeysuckle, more dry than sweet.

Pinot Grigio is always a safe bet to serve and I love Hello Kitty’s 2018. It’s a ripe green apple, crisp and fruity, but light enough to pair with anything.

Cruzan for endless summer…
If rum is more your thing, I was sent two of Cruzan Rums latest, Peach and Tropical. They are a perfect end of summer, served on their own over ice, with some club soda, or in cocktail recipes that will help you forget summer is over and put you on a tropical island – if only for a short while.

Peaches ‘N Wheat
1 1/2 parts Cruzan Peach Rum
12 parts wheat beer
Combine ingredients in a pint-size glass.
Gently stir and garnish with a fresh peach slice.

Cruzan Island Mixer
1 part Cruzan Tropical Fruit Rum
3 parts Lemon Lime Soda
Pour rum, then soda in a tall glass filled with ice.
Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Cruzan Undertow
1 part Cruzan Tropical Fruit Rum
2 parts Ginger Beer
Lime juice
Mix ingredients into a glass of crushed ice.
Garnish with lime.

And, more Pereg…
I took a break this month from baking and creating with Pereg naturals grains and flours, to check out their spices.

I’m usually not a fan of Chipotle spices, but the Pereg Chipotle is a nice blend of seasoning, without being overwhelming. I decided to give it a try with ground beef.

First, to cut out some fat and calories, I finely chopped white mushrooms to equal the amount of beef. I then divided the meat mixture in half and put a teaspoon of Pereg Chipotle in each, blending it in.

I browned all of the meat and then drained off the fat.

With the first half, I made simple sliders with a package of eight Pillsbury biscuits.  

I put four biscuits on a cookie sheet and evening divided the meat among the four. Then, I sprinkled some cheddar on top and pressed the remaining biscuits on top of the sliders. Cook as directed on the biscuit package and enjoy your sliders!

I used the other half of the meat mixture for another quick and easy meal. Simply mix it with your favorite tomato sauce and spread it over cooked rice, spread into a loaf pan. Heat and serve when you are ready to eat (this freezes well).

For more of my favorite recipes, including ones I’ve created, check out my Pinterest page.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Get Ready for School Days

It’s time to think Back-to-School. One of the issues that has come to light is the increase in awareness of severe childhood allergies. Nuts is the biggest culprit, but there are others. Check out these safer treats, as well as a dinner recipe with less allergens.

Rulebreakers for Nearly Everyone
If you are in a quandary trying to decide what to send your kids to school on to snack that’s safe, or bring to the office that won’t send someone to the hospital, or if you have allergies yourself, you’ll want to give Rule Breaker cookies a try.

These treats eliminate nearly every allergen that produces anaphylactic reactions, including nuts, dairy, eggs, and soy. They are also vegan and gluten-free. The first ingredient is chickpeas and they also include healthy ingredients such as dates and brown rice syrup.

So, how do they taste? I sampled Deep Chocolate Brownie, Birthday Cake, and Chocolate Chunk Blondie. I thought they were all pretty good (the chocolate brownie was my favorite). The only downside is that you only get three grams of protein for 240 calories, so it’s definitely more of a dessert or snack than a meal replacement.

More from Pereg…
Yes, I still have more Pereg products to try! This month, I challenged my daughter to create some things and she did. I really loved the Freekeh Meatballs she made. Check out the recipe on my Pinterest account.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sip and Taste

It’s my favorite month of the year, which, of course, is because it’s my birthday! July 24th also happens to be National Tequila Day and I’m always happy to celebrate that.

Happy day with Suerte Tequila…
This year, Suerte Tequilla sent me a selection of their spirits. Anyone who reads my stories and social media regularly knows that I prefer my spirits (and wine) not oaked, so I went for the Blanco first.

Suerte Tequila Blanco does not disappoint. It’s very smooth and has that touch of honey sweetness you get when the agave is allowed to shine.

The award-winning Reposado was also very good, with notes of butterscotch and vanilla, but no heavy oak. For those who do like their tequila aged, you’ll find the Anejo from Suerte a good option, with a more powerful presence.

Sugarland’s latest creams…
I tried Sugarlands Distilling Company Appalachian Sippin’ Cream in Pumpkin Spice Latte last year and loved it. It was just as good as I remembered and this time it came with some new flavors from the spirits brand.

The Eggnog Appalachian Sippin’ Cream is really good. I thought it tasted a lot like Rumchata. I also liked the Creamy Kahlua, which wasn’t quite as strong as the others, though it also has 20% alcohol. Both are especially good in coffee.

I’m allergic to strawberry so I had to rely on some friends to taste that one. They said it tasted very natural, with real strawberry flavor highlighting the creamy drink.

More from Pereg Gourmet (with Manuka Honey)…
I still haven’t finished experimenting with the carton of goodies Pereg Gourmet sent me! This last month I asked my daughter to help out with some ideas. (She’s a creative cook like her mom.)

She started our day with some delicious Plaintain Pancakes with Peanut Butter Honey Topping. They were made with the Pereg Plaintain Flour and another product I received recently, Comvita Manuka Honey (which is also delicious as a daily sweetener in tea and other products).

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Summer Fruit and Healthy Recipes

It’s summer time and fruit is ripening everywhere. I’m always ready for something fresh (and healthy) this time of year.

Cinnamon for any fruit...
Remember Fireball? If you’re over 30, chances are you haven’t (hopefully) been downing those sticky sweet cinnamon shots in a while. Heeet Vodka is the grownup version of Fireball. It’s not as sweet, definitely not as sticky, and you’ll want to enjoy it, not down it in a gulp.

This all-natural vodka is distilled six times and made in small batches for ultimate flavor. I loved Heeet Vodka just on the rocks, but here’s a quick recipe that will give you a fruitier alternative to enjoy this summer.

Tropical Heeet
4oz Pineapple Juice
11/2 oz HEEET
1 oz Ginger Ale
Splash of grenadine
Garnish with a slice of pineapple

Fill a tall glass with ice and add the ingredients in order.

Nothing like cherry cobbler…
Cherries are my favorite summer fruit.  Oliver Winery has taken that semi-sweet fruit to a different level in their Cherry Cobbler wine.

They definitely got this one exactly right. It’s a bit tart, and a bit sweet, making a perfect finish to a summer night (just like cherry cobbler is).  If that’s not enough to get you to run out and buy it, it’s under $10.

That hint of vanilla really gives you the buttery pie feel too. I definitely wouldn’t add anything to Oliver’s Cherry Cobbler. Just chill and serve.

More from Pereg Gourmet…
I’m still having fun with that big box of Pereg Gourmet flours and grains. This month I decided to try two products in one recipe for a Healthier Turkey Meatloaf.

I still have more products to try, including plantain and chickpea flours, so stay tuned for more recipes.

You Can Have It…
Speaking of healthy, I received a copy of a new book, You Can Have It! More than 125 Decadent Diabetes-Friendly Recipes.

The book is put out by the American Diabetes Foundation so you can trust the nutritional values. It’s written by Devin Alexander, the celebrity check from The Biggest Loser, who has also written The Biggest Loser Cookbook and The Most Decadent Diet Ever.

You don’t have to be diabetic to take advantage of the recipes in this book. It’s filled with healthy ideas that are low in sugar and fat and high in protein, vegetables and whole grains. Pick up a copy on Amazon

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Wine and Healthy Foods

Wine and food are the perfect pairing. Which wine you put with which food is a matter of personal taste. In the summertime, I like to keep it healthy as much as possible.

More from Pereg Gourmet…
As I mentioned last month, Pereg Gourmet sent me a basketful of goodies to experiment with. I always enjoy cooking, baking, and creating, but it was a busy month. I asked my friend Betty if she’d like to give it a try with Kamut, an ancient grain. She did and the Creamy Kamut and Chicken Casserole was excellent. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to give it a try for yourself.  

I’m looking forward to trying out a few more of the Pereg products in June for some healthy, tasty treats.

Summer nights & New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc…
It’s not a secret that my favorite wine is New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I’ll never turn down the chance to taste one and I got two great options delivered this month.

The Sisters is a little less grassy than the usual, with lots of grapefruit and lemon. It’s an excellent choice for the summer. It’s also only $16.99, so pick up a few bottles to have chilled for those summer nights.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I opened the NZ Sauvignon Blanc from Dave Phinney’s Locations brand. This was perfection for me – light and filled with kiwi and a bit of citrus. It’s also a bargain under $20.

For red lovers, Locations also sent me three good ones:

France, your steak wine. On the heavy side, with fruit forward and spice in the back.
Spain, not quite as bold, with clear blackberry and cassis.
Washington, lighter than the others, not as dry, with dark raspberry and blueberry. This one is my favorite.

Pasta good for everyone…
I’ve written about Explore Cuisine previously. They make plant-based pastas that are full of protein and fiber. They are all also gluten free. I tried some new ones and have to give a shout out to the Green Lentil Lasagna, perfect with your favorite sauce and cheese, and the Red Lentil Penne, which needs just a little olive oil and Parmesan to make a nutritious meal.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Gift Options and Healthy Indulging

It’s time to celebrate moms and get ready for bikini season. Yes, that’s an odd combination, but it seems to be the best way to describe some of the things I tried this month.

Everything you can do with My Photo…
My first thought when I was asked to try My Photo was that there are already a dozen great places online that do this: upload a photo and turn it into a gift, or something to hang on your wall. I promised I’d give it a try and it definitely has its unique points.

My Photo is definitely the easiest service of it’s kind I have seen. All you need to do is email any picture to Within minutes, you’ll receive an email back showing your photo in different products! I did order Wall Clings. The good news is that the photo quality is the best I’ve seen on any of these services. The bad news is that I got the Wall Clings because their canvases and products are higher priced than most of the others.

Bottom line: If you are looking for a really high quality piece that’s easy to produce, give My Photo a try.

For your favorite guy or gal, any time of year…
Gourmet Gift Baskets has lots of unique ideas for all holidays, but they sent me one for Mother’s Day that I certainly love.

The Premium Spa Gift offers many relaxing hours in one basket. It contains everything needed to pamper yourself, whether you are a woman, man, or a couple. You’ll receive all these products for $99 (there’s so many that you can even divide it into more than one gift):

Moisturizing Body Lotion, Body Wash, and Triple Milled Bath Soap from San Francisco Soap Company;
Terry Cloth Slippers;
Four Points Massager;
Wooden Pumice Brush;
Loofah Disc;
Premium Skin Smoothing Brush;
Foam Sea Sponge;
Wooden Foot Brush;
10” Massaging Bath Brush.

Let’s get healthy for summer…
Pereg sent me a selection of healthy products to try out. It’s going to take me a while to get through them all (can’t wait to try the Banana Flour), but I got started creating something simple. Check out my recipe for Blackberry Yogurt Muffins, made with their Coconut Flour.

Vodka drinks in a can…
Why limit your choices this spring and summer? How about some vodka cocktails in a can?

I was a little confused at first, but the healthy options from Vrai had me ready to test them out and they did not disappoint. I had to rely on friends to sample the Tangerine since I have a citrus allergy, but it was a big hit. I can certainly understand, because I loved the Green Tea. The interesting part is that I don’t really like green tea. This had a bit of fruit-flavor and wasn’t bitter.

Be careful because Vrai goes down just like (all natural) iced tea, but 5.5% alcohol can add up if you down too many.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Satisfy your Hunger and Thirst with these New Products

I loved the options that arrived on my doorstep this month and I think you will too.

Stock your fridge with Muuna Cottage Cheese…
It’s no secret that I tend to eat lots of extra calories when I’m traveling. Things are a lot different at home, where I’m looking for healthy options.

Yogurt is usually may go to for packing protein in a quick cup. I’m always careful to pick the least amount of sugar too. Now, I have another option, Muuna Cottage Cheese.

They sent me a case in plain, black cherry, and raspberry. They were all delicious, with fruit and little sugar, and only about 120 calories. A small container of Muuna Cottage Cheese is also loaded with  at least 15 grams of protein.

In addition to the flavors I tried, it also now comes in peach, blueberry, strawberry, and mango. Check for it in your supermarket.

An Instant Coffee find from Alpine Start...
Alpine Start Instant Coffee sent me a box of their instant coffee, made from high altitude Arabica beans. The idea was to make a product similar to Starbuck’s Via, only better. I think they’ve succeeded.

I poured a packet into a glass full of ice and water, then topped it with a little almond milk. It was delicious. The coffee flavor is fresh and distinct, and it blended in with no pebbly taste. (Does anyone remember Sanka?)

I can’t say I loved it hot, I felt it was a little thin, unless I put it in a small cup. It is great for rubs (i.e. steak, chicken) and smoothies. Skip the frapuccino and make yourself something delicious with one of these little packets.

ArT Wine Preserver so you don’t have to finish the bottle…
...Of course, you may want to, but it’s no longer necessary. The ArT Wine Preserver will keep preserving that same bottle of wine. You can pour a glass, but it back in the refrigerator or wine rack, and not worry about what it will taste like.

A two second spray of argon displaces the oxygen in the bottle to keep the wine fresh. I gaspiritstraveler-20ve it a try and you couldn’t tell the bottle had previously been opened. It’s well-worth the $15 investment to preserve up to 50 bottles of wine. You can buy it on Amazon right now.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Ginger Beer, Growlers and Tea Tree Oil

The shortest month of the year is over, and it looks like we will have an early spring.  It’s time to try some healthy and refreshing items.

Nothing like ginger…
I love ginger beer. It’s my drink when I’m out and I am not drinking alcohol. Contrary to what people think, it’s nothing like beer and certainly not soda. A good ginger beer tastes like the best ginger ale you ever had, but without so many bubbles.

Brooklyn Crafted got all that right. I really enjoyed the samples they sent. The Unfiltered Ginger Beer Earl Grey is made with lots of fresh ginger, and has a bit of the English black tea in it for substance (and some caffeine).

I also tasted the Brooklyn Crafted Extra Spicy Ginger Beer. It’s got a nice kick to it with some ginger extract in addition to the ginger. It’s a very interesting mixer and will certainly take your Moscow Mule up a notch.

Brooklyn Crafted also makes their ginger beers in Sugar Free. I’ll definitely be looking to try those.

Growler Werks delivers a pint…
As craft beers become more popular, so does the use of growlers. Bringing your own to your favorite brewery can save money and help save the planet from excess bottles and cans.

Growler Werks has a selection of sizes to keep your beer at the right temperature and taste, even for a large crowd. They sent me their UPint. It’s the fit for 16 oz of beer, with double installation, side divots for an easy grip, and a wide lid opening. It’s a great thing to have packed for vacation as UPint also can be used to keep beverages hot.  

With just this one oil…
Even princess-to-be Meghan Markle has declared, “The one thing I can’t live without when I’m traveling is tea tree oil.”

Despite the fact that it has become the oil of royalty, I confess I had not tried it until I was contacted by Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Oil. I was a bit skeptical when I received a list of what this magical potion can be used for. It has been said to cure bug bites, cuts, burns, and even acne. While I thankfully didn’t have all those maladies, it did work for everything I tried it on.

I told a few friends about my tea tree find and discovered I was definitely late in discovering it. One said she uses it on our face for wrinkles, another swore there’s nothing safer for her kids bug bites. While I can’t make any medical claims, I can tell you that Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Oil is 100% natural.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fun finds and Valentine’s Day ideas

I have some really unique finds to suggest this month. I hope you like them as much as I did.

Going wild for Beetology…
This definitely qualifies as unique! When I was first approached by Beetology to test out their juices and make cocktails, I was a bit apprehensive. I love beets, but couldn’t imagine drinking them. Even borsht, a well-known Russian soup my father loved, was not my thing.

I took the case of Beetology to my favorite bartender, Lionel, along with the recipes I was given. It was a cold night so there were just a half-dozen of us there. We did some experimenting with the juices, making the Beety Bloody Mary, Tropical Beet-a-colada, Berry-Beet-a-rita, Bourbon Beet-It, and the Beetology Zinger.

A couple people liked the Berry-Beet-a-rita and Beetology Zinger, but we couldn’t say we’d go out of our way to make them again. That’s the bad news. The good news is that we all LOVED the juices on their own. They are very healthy, 100% natural juice with no added sugar, and only 90-100 calories. 

While I’m not putting them in my bar, the extras are in my refrigerator and I suggest you buy the Beetology Beet + Lemon + Gin
ger, Beet + Cherry (the favorite), Beet + Berry (a close second), and Beetology Beet + Tropical Fruit.

Israeli Wines to Try…
I had some delicious wines when I was in Israel, so I was more than willing to try some more. Here are two I really enjoyed. I actually have two more to taste, but I’m running a bit behind here so look for more next month.

Galil Mountain Winery, in the Upper Galilee mountains, has a Sauvignon Blanc that is ideal. It’s light and very citrusy, easy drinking with or without food.

As for red, the Hermon Red from Golan Heights Winery is filled with fruit and semi-dry. At just $12, it’s a bargain you should have on hand.

Kohler treats for Valentine’s Day…
If you are looking for a deliciously appropriate Valentine’s Day gift to send, checkout the offerings from one of my favorite resorts, the American Club at Kohler.

This Valentine’s Day they not only have their luscious chocolates, but they are also selling a sweet libation: Dark Chocolate Brandy. You can purchase chocolates online if you can’t make the trip to Kohler, Wisconsin, and find locations for the brandy here