Tuesday, December 31, 2019

For the Holidays and Beyond

I have some delicious ideas for you this month, including one that brings me back to a place with a lot of memories.

A Sweet Serendipity…
As a teenager growing up on Long Island, I would go with friends into New York City a few times a year, on breaks from school. We’d go into a museum or to see a play (from the half-price ticket booth). Whenever we had extra money, we’d also head to Serendipity for Frozen Hot Chocolate.

In the following years, my trips were less frequent, but I did make it back occasionally to this iconic place for delicious treats with my daughter when she was younger and when we were both adults.

Given my history, I was all too happy to get a copy of Sweet Serendipity: Delicious Desserts and Devilish Dish. The book, by the restaurant’s founder Stephen Bruce, was issued to celebrate the 65th anniversary of one of the most famous eateries in Manhattan.

This is far from just a recipe book, even though it provides the recipes to the famous Frozen Hot Chocolate and many other Serendipity sweet sensations. It begins with a forward from Cher and continues with celebrity endorsements and “dishing” on the comings and goings in this famous restaurant.

I had to try the Frozen Hot Chocolate for myself and, even though my cupboard and fridge contain more low fat than indulgent, it still came out close to I remember. So, if you can’t make it to one of the Serendipity locations (there are now others in Florida and Washington DC, as well as a Serendipity in Tokyo.

While you may not be making it, you’ll also want to check out the recipe for the $1,0000 Golden Opulence Sundae, which is in the Guinness Book of World Records as its most expensive dessert.

More fruit-filled Alize…
In June, I talked about how much I enjoyed Alize Pineapple, a French vodka made with natural flavors. I recently received two more of the brand’s products and they are also worth raving about.

Alize Peach is also full of flavor with a powerful kick, almost like a pre-made cocktail in a bottle. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet either.

Alize Red Passion includes passion fruit and cranberry, and was even more tasty. It brought me back to my childhood. It tastes a lot like Hi-C fruit punch, but without any artificial flavors. Just be careful – this “fruit punch” is 16% abv (alcohol by volume).  

Some Special Whiskey…
Angel’s Envy, a long-respected brand of whiskey known for its unique finishing, sent me some samples I was happy to check out.

Angel’s Envy Bourbon is finished in Port wine barrels, to give it a bit of a unique taste. It brings out the vanilla, with a hint of wine on the back.

The latest release is Angel’s Envy Rye, aged in Caribbean rum casks. This one is definitely smoother and sweeter, for a different whiskey than you might be used to. This bottle will run you about $100, but is worth having around for special occasions.

Looking for more spirits ideas? Check out my story for Proof

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Getting holiday Ready

Thanksgiving was late this year so it’s feeling like a tighter holiday season. I’ve been inundated with samples to try and finally seeing the end of the (tasty) tunnel.

Wine for your dining…
Seven Falls Cellars in Paterson, Washington sent me a case of some of their most popular wines. I have to say I liked them all, especially since they have a price point around $20.

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is a quality cabernet sauvignon at a $22.99 price. It’s starts with the familiar black cherry and ends in smoke and spice.

Seven Falls Cellars Merlot (2014) is more flavorful for my taste, when you add in the black raspberry and currant, and a finish with a hint of cocoa.

The 2015 Rapids Red is filled with red fruit, with just a little spice on the back. I could actually take this wine warmed with some cinnamon or nutmeg, or a full set of mulling spices, to drink in front of the fire.

Although I prefer my chardonnay unoaked, the Seven Cellars 2016 is the red lovers white. It’s bold and buttery, with an oaky vanilla.

Canned Wine with a twist…
Don’t worry about flipping that metal open to drink this wine. ICAN has a unique can: it’s a reusable, insulated can, resembling a bottle, with a twist top.

I love the design and the fact that it can be reused for wine, water, or anything you’d like. The wine also happens to be pretty good because it’s produced by an established winery, Mercer Wine in Washington State.

I was sent the current options: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, and Red. Although Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite wine, I liked that one the least as it tasted a bit watery.

I thought the others were really good – especially the Rose. The Chardonnay had a light frizzante, which made it even more tasty.  I also loved how the cans kept the wine cold.

A most unusual cordial…
I’ve had some unusual spirits over the years, and Somrus Chai Liqueur tops the list. I wasn’t really sure what to think of a chai liqueur, but I’m always willing to give liquor a chance. I’m glad I did.

I found this cordial to be a bit spicy and very creamy. Although the taste is nothing, I can describe beyond a super-rich chai latte at 27 proof. The Indian spices, especially the cardamom, are very obvious, and it’s made with real cream.

I don’t believe in taking a perfectly mastered cordial and doing anything other than sipping it, but there are some fascinating recipes on their website.

A new offering from an old favorite…
Just in time for Christmas, Bailey’s Irish Cream has a very appropriate new liqueur - Red Velvet. I was thrilled to get a bottle of this one and gathered some friends to give it a try. It is even better than we expected.

Bailey’s Irish Cream has always been known for its natural flavors, and the Red Velvet is no different. You’ll taste that dark chocolate, cream cheese, and butter, with a smooth and sweet finish.

It’s delectable by itself (cold or on the rocks) or added to coffee or hot chocolate.
The folks at Bailey’s seemed to agree with my assessment that a cordial doesn’t need to be a cocktail, however, it has become popular in recipes (like the ultimate red velvet cupcakes). We finished my bottle before I had a chance to do any baking, but it’s certainly worth considering.

You’ll want to pick up a bottle (or maybe two) of Bailey’s Red Velvet Irish Cream for the holiday season.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Fall Spirits and Food

There was lots of frost on the pumpkin this Halloween, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying fall food and spirits.

A little bit of spirit in my bread…
I first tried Sugarland Distilling’s Pumpkin Spiced Latte Sipping Cream two years ago. I loved it and it was a huge hit with my friends. 

I received a note from the company promoting it for the fall season. I asked them to send me another bottle, this time for cooking.

I had a pretty good idea of what it would work in and I was right. You definitely want to try this recipe I created for Pumpkin Spiced Latte Cream Cheese Bread.

Try this tequila selection…
I didn’t know much about Alacran Tequila before I received a box to sample. I am a tequila lover and was impressed with their selection, as well as the product.

My favorite of the bunch was the Autentico Tequila Cristal. This premium tequila will remain one of my favorites. It’s got the perfect mix of smooth and sweet that I wouldn’t waste mixing in a cocktail. This is a tequila I want to sip.

The Alacran Blanco, which comes in a pink bottle for Breast Cancer October, is a good lower level tequila (it runs about $33 to the $44 of the Cristal), a little less smooth and sweet, but certainly worth keeping around and great for mixing.

While Reposados are not my favorite, I did like the Alacran, which is only aged four months in American Oak Barrels, so it’s not too strong, but does have some tasty vanilla and caramel.

All of the Alacran Tequilas are 100% agave, cleaned by hand and fermented with their own yeast. They also distill the tequila multiple times.

Not as strange as it sounds…
I was a bit thrown by Sonoma County Distilling Black Truffle Rye. I love black truffles, but wasn’t sure I wanted them in my whiskey. I was pleasantly surprised.

While Sonoma is better known for its wine, Sonoma County Distilling is making its name producing California whiskey with a flavor twist. (In addition to the one I received, they also make a Cherrywood Rye Whiskey.)

Don’t expect this to taste like anything you’ve had in your risotto. Instead, Sonoma Black Truffle, has an earthy, almost musty, taste from the truffles that will more remind you of Scotch whiskey. You’ll sense the nuts more than the vanilla.

At 100 proof and $80 for 375 ml, this is definitely a bottle you savor, or give someone as a special gift.

Fully cover that bottle…
You certainly have to give kudos to whomever came up with the name “Wine Condoms.” I’m sure you can think of a dozen friends to buy them for – before you even know what they do.

Well, after receiving two boxes and trying them out, I can tell you that Wine Condoms have more than a good name. These are an ingenious invention, inexpensive and practical. Instead of worrying about where you put the bottle stopper, just rip over one of these in their little wrapper and cover up your wine.

In addition to being easy to use, I found the Wine Condoms work great. I was able to lay my bottles down in the refrigerator without any spillage.

You can purchase Wine Condoms on Amazon.

Easy, Healthy Popcorn…
I confess that, despite reading about some of the dangers of microwave popcorn, I use it for convenience. That’s why I was anxious to hear about Colonel Popper, a simple option.

Colonel Popper is definitely easy to use. I didn’t need more than a teaspoon of oil and, miraculously, all the kernels popped. They were light and flavorful, with no chemicals, no wasted bags, and no extra cost.

I also love the pop-up bowl that stores easily with its cover. You can buy Colonel Popper here.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

End of Summer Approaching

As we get ready for Back to School and the end of summer vacations, everyone is looking to keep things as simple as possible. I’ve got some product ideas and recipes that should keep every member of the family happy.

Keep it warm…
I’m not sure where HotLogic has been all my life while I struggled with bringing leftovers to work. There’s usually one microwave and everyone is lined up to use it. Rather than waste your lunch hour waiting for it, pick up one of these lunch boxes.

HotLogic starts at $30 and is your own little portable oven. You can not only use it to reheat food (from fresh or frozen), but it can also cook food, albeit not at microwave speed.

You can pick up a HotLogic at Amazon. They come in various colors and sizes.

Best bags for nearly everything…
I confess to be a hoarder of plastic zipper bags. I have them in various sizes and use them all the time. The only problem is that, although I always buy the ones labeled “freezer bags,” they don’t keep my food from freezer burn very long.

Although I was approached by Smelly Proof to check out their bags for holding everything from odor filled products (like fish) to travel supplies, I am the most in love with these for my freezer. I received them over a month ago and my chicken, meat, and even vegetables, look like they just went in the freezer.

Although they cost more than your supermarket zipper bags, these are easily washed and re-used over and over. It’s definitely worth picking up a batch of Smelly Proof in various sizes.

In keeping healthy…
Back to school season is also known as back to sick season. Germs are everywhere. We can’t completely protect ourselves, but as someone with autoimmune issues, I try. Unfortunately, anti-bacterial gels often leave my skin super dry.

Elyptol has a line of anti-bacterial products which are good for you and the environment. They come in packets of biodegradable wipes, gel, lotions, and hand santizer spray, all in various sizes.

The Elyptol line is made from eucalyptus oil and said to kill up to 99.99% of germs, bacteria, and fungi which can cause disease. My favorite part of these products is that they are also moisturizing, leaving my skin softer than before.

More coconut milk…
You may want to drink Gefen Coconut Milk as it is, but I’m having fun putting together recipes with it. In June month it was the Easy Blueberry Coconut Ice Cream. This month I thought I’d make a nutritious meal.

I’ve gone back to vegetarian for a bit. After my back surgery in January, I added a lot more animal protein into my diet to promote healing. I got through the recovery without any complications or infections (a miracle when you have autoimmune diseases) and now I’m feeling like I’ve become too much of a carnivore – with a few extra pounds to prove it.

I’m doing a reset of vegetarian and easing back into flexitarian, where I really need to be to keep my protein up. A recipe that I thought would be great with a little makeover is Rice and Beans. My Better for You Crockpot Rice and Beans came out delicious.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Get Ready for Summer Fun

It’s the height of the summer and I’m ready for to enjoy. That includes quick recipes and summer drinks.

A rare release by Sailor Jerry…
I spent a weekend with the crew from Sailor Jerry a few years ago. It was a fun exploration of the brand’s connection to tattoos.

I also learned a lot about this delicious spiced rum. One of the things that has made is so unique is the fact that they haven’t introduced various flavors, as so many rum brands have. Sailor Jerry finally decided to change that when they found something that had the characteristics to represent their brand.

Sailor Jerry Savage Apple is as exceptional as the original brand in that it takes a simple recipe – Sailor Jerry Rum and apples – and turns it into something you an enjoy all year round. It’s a hard apple cider, with emphasis on apple and a touch of cinnamon, and a clear peak into Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum, with its vanilla undertones.

Sailor Jerry Savage Apple is something you’ll want to chill for the summer barbecue, or warm up for a winter night.

Easily bring that drink to the beach or pool…
Speaking of having your drinks ready this summer… I recently received the PortoVino Wine Tote.

I was a bit skeptical at first that this could comfortably and safely hold the equivalent of two bottles of wine without leaking or breaking, but it does. An insulated pocket keeps the “bladders” filled with up to 1.5 liters of liquid chilled for hours.

You’ll find plenty of room left in the purse for all your needs. The best thing is that you won’t have the weight of a bottle.

I love my red, white, and blue, but the bag comes in many different options, including some that look like an everyday purse for work or travel.

Healthy and free of many allergens…
Last month, I wrote about this Flourless 5-Seed Cake I created with Beyond Equator creamy nut-less butter. This month I decided to try the crunchy one in another recipe.

It’s no secret that I love chocolate. I’m always looking for a piece of chocolate that has some added protein to give me a little afternoon boost. I scoured some recipes and didn’t find anything quite right, so I decided to put together these Nut-Free Chocolate Protein Cups on my own.

These chocolate candies are terrific for just about everyone as they are nut-free, gluten-free, and low sugar (can be made no sugar). They are also delicious.

If you aren’t already, follow me on Pinterest for more of my favorite (many original) recipes.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Delicious Drinks and Eats

It’s time to celebrate the warmer weather with some refreshing drinks and healthy foods (with recipes).

If You Like Piña Coladas…
How about a French vodka with all-natural flavors? That’s what Alize makes and for this summer they introduced Alize Pineapple, priced at only $20.

Pineapple happens to be my favorite fruit, so it was easy to get me to try this one and I wasn’t disappointed. It was the star of my tasting event over ice. I’m sure there are plenty of cocktails you can make with this, but it’s so flavorful and not too sweet and I want it straight. If you are in the mood for a Piña Colada, just add a little coconut milk.

Speaking of coconut milk…
Gefen Coconut Milk also arrived at my door. The company sent me the Sweetened and Unsweetened. I haven’t worked with the unsweetened yet (stay tuned for next month), but I came up with this recipe for Easy Blueberry Coconut Ice Cream with the sweetened. 

It’s a cool, refreshing, treat that tastes more like sherbet.

Sugarlands introduces Roaming Man…
I’ve really enjoyed Sugarlands previous releases, including Eggnog and Pumpkin Sipping Creams. This time they sent me some of their whiskey.

Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Whiskey was aged in white-oak in the Gatlinburg distillery. It has an average proof of 121, and you can definitely taste it. It’s as powerful as it is flavor-filled. In addition to the sweetness of caramel and vanilla, it has a bite from the tobacco and pepper.

Camarena goes for gold…
I usually save the tequila for National Tequila Day, July 24th (aka, my birthday), but I couldn’t wait to try Camarena Anejo Tequila.

This award-winning tequila is made from 100% blue weber agave and is only $30 a bottle. It’s recently partnered with The Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Football association to be their official tequila during the 2019 Gold Cup. I thought it was delicious, just a bit of toasted oak and lots of sweet agave flavor.

Without the nuts…
Beyond Equator sent me a few containers of their 5 Seed Butters. I love peanut butter, so I was anxious to try these. 

I didn’t want to have them at once so I could tell the difference. I started with the Chia, Flax, Pumpkin, Sunflower & Hemp. It tasted really good, but I took it one step further. I put together this Flourless 5-Seed Cake.

I’m sure I’ll have some other creative surprises with Beyond Equator products to come.

It’s always time for coffee…
I love my Keurig, one thing I miss is the smell of brewing coffee. I never expected to get it from what’s essential an instant coffee.

Steeped Coffee is not your grandmother’s instant coffee so forget any comparison.
The smell is incredible from the moment you open the package and it stays with out as you drink it. It tastes good too.  The coffee bags are available in light roast, medium roast, dark roast, French roast, and decaf. Subscribe on their website, or start with a free trial to check it out for yourself.

Flavor without sugar…
Choc-Zero sent me a selection of their zero calorie, zero sugar syrups. I’m going to try some in smoothies, desserts, and coffees, but the Maple Vanilla was screaming at me “French Toast.”

I have a delicious and Easy Crockpot French Toast recipe and the Choc-Zero Maple Vanilla was just perfect in it.  Give it a try. I’ll keep you posted on what I do with the other Choc-Zero samples.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Springtime for Food & Wine

Spring has sprung and it’s time to make things simpler so you can enjoy the weather. I’ve got some great options for you this month, and plenty to wash it down with.

Spring Chicken…
Moore’s Marinade sent me two of their popular sauces to try out: Asian Teriyaki Wing Sauce and Honey BBQ Wing Sauce. I invited some friends over and got cooking – without a sweat.

For the Asian Teriyaki Wing Sauce, I marinated wings in a Ziploc bag for the day. In the meantime, I put a family-sized package of drumsticks in my crockpot with the Honey BBQ. I cooked that on low for 6 hours. A friend through the wings on the grill (with a little extra sauce on top) just before the drumsticks were done.

Both recipes were delicious – and so easy! I recommend picking up some from Amazon.

Mangia Italiano…
My Italian grandfather always pushed me to get better and better at my Italian cooking game. I’ve got my sauce down to a science, so I was a little hesitant to try Tuscanini Tomato Sauce.

I was making a pasta dish that required a cup of sauce. I didn’t have any homemade out of the freezer, so I thought I’d give it a try. I opened up the convenient box (much nicer than cans), added some spices and a little parmesan cheese. I only simmered it for 20 minutes and it was really good.

Mediterranean Crockpot Chicken
My cousin created and owns Scott’s Food Products. I’ve tried and enjoyed their products over the years. There’s one, the Mediterranean Garlic Marinade, I was never quite sure what to do with.

I had some chicken thighs defrosted and thought it would be a good time to experiment in the crockpot. The result was this simple Mediterranean Crockpot Chicken, with only a few ingredients.

Grab a Bottle of this…
If you are looking for the perfect wine to bring to your next barbecue, the 2018 Rosé from Marshall Davis covers all the bases. It’s light and refreshing, fruity enough to enjoy alone without being overbearing if you serve it with food, and priced right at $25.

The wine comes from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and it’s made from pinot noir grapes.

Wine in the can…
Canned wine is very portable, and the selection has come a long way over the last few years.
Archer Roose Wines has seven different flavors and they sent me samples of each to try. I gathered a group of friends and we poured them all out.

The favorite of all was the Sparkling Rose. In fact, we were all ready to head by the pool with this one. It’s quite fruity and not overly bubbly so it’s very refreshing. The Bubbly and still Rose were also very good. 

The Malbec was sweeter than you’d expect the grape to be. I was a bit disappointed in the Sauvignon Blanc, but I don’t drink a lot of the Chilean variety, which has a much stronger taste and bolder citrus than I prefer.

Also in a can…
Alcohol of all kinds in a can appears to be popular this year. Another one I had a chance to try was Hard Frescos. Aside from the fact that it tastes much more like fruit and natural flavor than a soda, it’s hard (pardon the pun) to taste any alcohol in this one.

It was a hit, especially with one friend who kept a can to herself. She loved all the citrus for a summer thirst quencher.

Put the Rum in the Coconut…
RumHaven is a different kind of rum, that easily turns itself into a cocktail with little effort. It’s a mixture of Caribbean rum, pure cane sugar, and coconut water. It’s a little bit sweet, but not as much as a coconut rum you might pick up. It still has enough flavor to hold its own with a little club soda, pineapple juice, or coca cola.

If you’d like to get a bit more creative with RumHaven, they have recipes on their website.