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 whisky. 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.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Ready for Fall?

Fall is when the products I receive begin to increase, in anticipation of the holiday season. While I’m not quite ready to rush into Thanksgiving, I do have to keep up! Here’s some of the best that I’ve gotten to try out this month.

DeLille Cellars Wines…
It’s been a few years since I’ve visited Washington state to check out their wine regions. Woodinville was a spot I really liked because it’s close to Seattle and contains a quite a few wineries, as well as tasting rooms for wineries from other areas of the state.

One of the wineries there, DeLille Cellars, recently sent me three wines that were quite good.

The 2016 Four Flags Cabernet Sauvignon is smoky and oaky, with a sweet cherry nose and a long finish of herbs and fruit. The flavors finish dry, as a good cab should.

As good as the Cabernet Sauvignon is, I am more drawn to the DeLille Cellars D2. The chocolate-filled smell attracted me and the light, fruity taste kept me drinking. I loved the black raspberry mix, with a hint of cocoa.

The 2018 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Blanc is an interesting blend of semillion and sauvignon blanc. It’s lightly oaked and a bit buttery from French oak. The citrus finish is satisfying as well.
True root beer taste...
I am not a soda drinker, but give me a good root beer and I’ll really enjoy it. Although I was skeptical at first, I was pleasantly surprised that Root Out Whiskey has that delicious root beer flavor.

This combination of vanilla and sassafras and aged Canadian whisky is a winner. While my ideal would be with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, I was more than happy to just sip it over ice.

Keep it healthy and green…
NatureZway™ sent me two of their eco-friendly cleaning products. They are made from bamboo and are reusable, making them better for the environment and cheaper to use in the long run.

The Vegetable Brush is made with natural fibers. It works well on fruits and vegetables and cleans easily.

You won’t need to buy anymore paper towels if you purchase the Perforated Towels. I haven’t had them long enough to prove the claim that they can be used 100x, but I can tell you they clean well and can easily be rinsed out and reused.

More from ChocZero and Beyond Equator…
I’m still experimenting with the products I received from ChocZero and Beyond Equator. This month, I came up with some delicious ChocZero Superfood Brownie Bars.

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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Back with Lots of Goodies!

It’s been awhile, I know. I’ve been battling health problems the last few years so a major spine surgery has put me (literally) on my back for months. I’m able to sneak in a little tasting now and then. I thought it was about time I took a little time to tell my readers all about some of the great stuff I’ve found.

All you need is cheese…
That’s all you will find in Just the Cheese Crackers. Not only are these snacks tasty, but they are perfect for many who had given up on crackers. They are gluten-free and low in carbs since it’s all cheese and no wheat. They are available in bars and mini bites, in a range of flavors.

Just the Cheese sent me an assortment of flavors so I was able to try them with some friends. They were unanimously loved, with the Wisconsin Cheddar and Grilled Cheese as favorites. You can pick some up on Amazon for a nutritious snack for the whole family.

A box of shots…
Here’s a unique idea for a monthly gathering or to give as a gift. The Shots Box combines two great ideas: a chance to try a selection of shots, and the chance to discover craft spirits you might not haven known about.

I loved the idea when I first heard about it and I’m glad it’s been doing well. It was a lot of fun for a few friends and I to open up the box at a recent gathering and be surprised about what we would be sampling. We discovered some new spirits, in this case Adelaide’s Dreamscicle Orange Wine Cream and Sipsong Spirits Gin and found a new go-to gift.

The Shots Box is $39.99 a month. Each one contains 10 different mini bottles, as well as recipe cards if you’d like to make them into cocktails. You can also share reviews and purchase full-size bottles of anything you’d like on their website.

Your favs turned vegan…
I’ve done a strictly vegetarian diet and currently consider myself a flexitarian. Vegan is one thing I couldn’t see myself ever sticking too. Dairy and eggs are too much a part of my diet. I especially love (as you may have noticed above) cheese.

The Dirty Vegan by Catherine Gill is an interesting compilation of the food we all love to eat and think we can’t if we turn vegan, as well as some delicious vegan recipes that we won’t believe are void of all animal by products.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of vegan cheese and would just as well skip the “Slow Cooker Two-Cheese Broccoli Cheddar Soup” and “Artisan Sicilian Pizza,” but I’m happily serving tasty dishes such as “Vegan Pancakes,” “Olive Oil Biscuits,” “Harvest Apple and Acorn Squash Soup,” and “Easy Ratatouille Stew” if I have vegan friends over or I’m looking for a meatless meal.

I do wish the author would have done the obvious and simply made the “Classic Chili” without ‘beef crumbles,” but that’s easy enough to alter.  The Dirty Vegan is available here.

Shoutout to Lisa’s Pie Shop…
When I was in Hamilton County, Indiana, I was welcomed with a goodie basket that included Peach Pie-in-a-Jar from Lisa’s Pie Shop. I finally had a chance to put it in a pie shell and it was absolutely delicious!

Keep it clean…
Cheese and liqueurs can definitely leave their mark on your mouth. I even have something for that. I received a sample of Dr. Plotka’s Mouth Watcher’sToothbrush to try out. The brush, which comes in adult and child sizes, is made from naturally antimicrobial bristles that are thin enough to floss as you brush.

Dr. Ronald Plotka, who has been a dentist in Boston for more than 40 years, created this toothbrush.

My mouth did feel a bit cleaner after brushing. I can’t promise this toothbrush will solve all your dental problems, but at less than $5 each, you really can’t go wrong buying one to try as your next replacement.