Influenster: Slim Fast Bar, Crisps, and Shake VoxBox Review #ItsYourThing #Influenster

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Being part of the Influenster network, allows members to qualify for VoxBoxes. My latest one arrived in late December, which featured an array of Slim Fast branded products. Being the new year we all want to lose weight or at the very least get rid of that holiday poundage brought on by cookies and treats. I gained 6 pounds in the last week of December because I behaved from Thanksgiving to Christmas but once Santa came, he brought treats, candy, chocolates (I’m surprised I did not consume the stocking) and it seems I ate them all between Christmas and New Year’s Eve!

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I’m pretty good at restricting myself and believe with all the advancements in food today, that leaving food as it is, meaning less to zero processing allows us to eat pretty much anything (with portion control) and not suffer the consequences. I eat my weight in salads and I’m not even a fan of most dressings, as I think they tend to drown the freshness out of the produce as it is. I love avocados and find them to be nature’s dressing. They are creamy and never ruin a salad like a fake creamy dressing can. I have those days though where I am in a snacking mood or just running short on time, so I pick the brands I trust carefully. I look for meal replacement or snack products that are not full of fake sweeteners or loaded with sodium. Finding real ingredients is “my thing”, so let’s see how the Slim Fast VoxBox did.

The Slim Fast VoxBox included:

  • SlimFast® Advanced Ready to Drink Shake in Vanilla flavor
  • SlimFast® Advanced Nutrition 100 Calorie Snacks in Sour Cream & Onion Baked Crisps flavor
  • SlimFast® Advanced Nutrition Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Meal Replacement Bars
  • SlimFast® Advanced Nutrition 100 Calorie Snacks Drizzled Crisps in Cinnamon Bun Swirl flavor

 

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First, I tried the items that were easy to munch on and that was the Sour Cream and Onion Baked Crisps to satisfy the salty urges and for the sweet cravings, I tried the Drizzled Crisps in Cinnamon Bun Swirl. First thing I noticed with both bagged products, was the large amount of “dustings” in the bag. I call that the powdery and broken up bits in a bag that barely resemble the whole product you see pictured in the front of the bag. Like the posters for drive-thru burgers, my product did not resemble the picture on the bag. The Sour Cream and Onion crisps had the higher amount of “dustings” that I wondered if I should just use the contents as a batter coating! I taste a pinch-full of what these crisps use to be and the flavor and texture resemble closely to those chips that come in a canister….but more broken up. The odd part was when you ate the product, it tasted good enough to satisfy a chip craving but when you drank water, you had an odd aftertaste that lingered. The taste was not like potato or the sour cream and onion coating, think more milk solids or dry milk and it was what it tasted closely too. Each bag is 100 calories and states it comes with 18 to 20 crisps. I am not kidding when if I say I got 4 whole ones and that is counting the ones that were 3/4 whole. The breakage takes away from the enjoyment and if you get past that, the aftertaste did me in. I did not finish the bag but I figured that means I consumed less calories!

 

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Next, came the Cinnamon Bun Swirl crisps. These were a little more in one piece but the drizzle on top was mostly on the bottom of the bag. The sweetness is not overwhelming and the cinnamon had a nice balance to it. Again, the odd aftertaste was present but you could overlook this one more. The crisps had a pleasant crunch and like some products on the market, these did not leave you with a cotton mouth after you ate them. I could actually see myself picking up a bag if a sweet craving hits me that is overwhelming because a bag is just 100 calories for 20 to 22 crisps. These were also 30% whole in the bag!

 

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SlimFast’s Ready to drink shake that comes in an easy to go bottle. The bottle idea I like because sometimes messing with powder and a scoop can be a pain, but I usually take a bottle water (or almond milk) and just scoop into a shaker bottle when I am on the go. I then combine the ingredients (wet/dry) when I am ready to consume them, so this way I don’t end up with chocolate powder that found it’s way out of a plastic baggy and went poof in my purse! I made sure to try the drink cold from the fridge and upon opening the bottle, the Vanilla scent is not very Vanilla like. I take a sip and the drink is about 4 out of ten when it comes to overall taste and flavor. I have had much better and this drink had an odd thickness to it. I made sure to shake it just in case and the thickness left a film in my mouth that was not very vanilla or real milk tasting, or even a nut milk flavor! It took away from the enjoyment and even with time, I could not get use to it. Being able to get 20 grams of protein on the go is a plus, but when I priced it out, weighed in the flavor/texture and the ingredients, I would still opt for a premium powder mix that is usually higher in protein. I did fix the flavor by adding part of a scoop of powdered Peanut Butter and Chocolate, and that is when I noticed that my PB and Chocolate powder had a better quality of chocolate and real flavor than what the Slim Fast drink.  I then felt I wasted a scoop of the “good stuff” on trying to make the not so good stuff better! I also noticed there is natural and artificial flavors but no where but the title of the drink says Vanilla.  It’s called Vanilla Creme but nowhere is Vanilla listed! I then stopped looking at the ingredients because they made my tummy rumble more.  😦

 

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Last but not least, the bar in Dark Chocolate and Sea salt. This is a meal replacement bar and has 10 grams of protein and 200 calories.  Ninety of those calories come from fat and the protein derives from Soy, not Whey. I look at the list and there are so many other bars on the market with better core ingredients and even protein impact, and with less fat! This bar is super sweet and off in taste, plus costs more than the better bars. The Dark Chocolate has a waxy texture and is of poor quality. I did not go past the one bite because my calories and fat matters. The bar is filled with syrups derived from everything from brown rice, tapioca and simple cane. They added Inulin as a source of fiber, plus Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil to hold it all together. Let me add the above comes before the Cocoa itself and Oats was still listed before the chocolate! They might as well called the flavored Sweet Oats-y. The only positive is that it has Almonds as a first ingredients but I felt they were ruined by the rest!

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Final Verdict:

I love the VoxBoxes and Influenster!  I am not so in love with Slim Fast.  I think back and they are a company that his been around a long time but I feel they are always playing catch up and still stuck in the motto of “portion control baggies”.  Most people that are serious about losing weight and/or managing their weight, can portion out an individual serving.  They sell containers to baggies to help you out that serve as a carrying vessel and probably keep the products in more decent shape.  You can use a scale or like I do, I still use a scale but I test myself first to see if I can visually guess-estimate on my own and then verify with the scale.  I notice I usually serve myself a little under the 1 serving a packaging lists.  I can do math, so I don’t need someone doing it for me.  Next, the ingredients used are “old school” but not in a good way.  Cheap sugars, bad oils, artificial flavors and dyes, and poor protein sources is not what I call healthy eating.  Yes, you get less calories but that is barely the entire picture when eating well.  You need good fats, a good source of protein and more to stay energized.  Yes, the Slim Fast products come with vitamins and minerals but again a multi-vitamin can do that for you if that is what you desire!  I looked at the products as a whole and asked myself is this a balanced diet?  Slim Fast does not state just eat our food solely but the 1 meal or 2 real meals you add in a day should not make-up for everything you did not get.  I want energy and I’m not even asking for a boost of it from products, just keep me going in the day.  If I started with a shake, ate a bar for lunch (maybe 1 or 2 crisp snacks) and then ate dinner…..well, when my body is suppose to be winding down is when my body got the better fuel.  Yeah, that did not sit well with me!  Then I saw the price points because convenience comes at a price and Slim Fast was more expensive than the “golden dietary products” on the market.  Um, I’m paying more to eat less better is what entered my head.  Yeah, I prefer paying the bills Santa brought and managing my weight with other products than paying for products that are sub-par both in how they were made and how they came out of a bag!

 

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Slim Fast and Influenster.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

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Modern Table: Bean Pastas and Meal Kits #Review #ModernTableMeals

 

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Modern Table has been a guest on my blog before and it’s one of those products I tried and still continue to purchase today. We all eat them both in cold and warm dishes because it’s a great alternative to pasta that I really don’t see it as just a substitute. The noodles have flavor because they are bean based. I admit there are even times I make a pasta salad and add the Modern Table noodles along with semolina flour based pasta! Yes, that is how good they are.

I was sent another sampling of the newest products released by Modern Table:

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I have at times deconstructed the meal kits to just get to the bean pasta, so this was a welcoming site. Finally, the pasta alone will be sold. There is a lot of benefits when it comes to Modern Table’s meal kits and bean pastas. For starters:

  • Modern Table does not use GMO based ingredients (non-gmo)
  • Their products are Gluten Free (except for the Teriyaki Meal kit)
  • Dairy Free (Southwest and Teriyaki Meal kits, plus the Bean Pastas)
  • Vegetarian Friendly
  • Packing a protein punch like no other pasta because they are bean based, so you also have an excellent source of fiber.
  • No artificial colors or preservatives
  • This is real food with no gimmicks!

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Verdict-
Taste means everything in this home because I don’t believe eating healthy means you should sacrifice flavor. It’s actually the opposite! Fresh meals that provide a good source of protein and vegetables should be packed with flavor and enjoyable to consume. Modern Table shares this same theory because we find their products amazing. You are also not limited! You can add fresh vegetables to even meats to the meals and customize them to fit your needs and/or cravings. I have over time learned to not boil the pasta as long as listed in the directions because we prefer a more al dente’ texture. The bean pastas lend themselves to many creations. Many times I have been in a hurry and need a filling meal that is also quick to make. I add a handful of the pasta to a roasted Red Bell pepper and Tomato soap and it creates one delicious meal in less than 12 minutes. I think it takes me more time to make the accompanying sides like toasting a slice of bread for dunking. There are times where I want a Pasta Primavera and use everything from eggplants, frozen organic veggies, to kale to bump up the flavors and I’m also a veggie junkie.

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The possibilities are endless with Modern Table and their new bean pasta bags mean I can just pour from the bag versus picking the pasta out from the kits. The Pesto meal kit goes great with grilled shrimp.  The new Mac & Cheese meal kit is my ultimate favorite from the meal kits. It’s cheesy and has real white cheddar…….it just takes Mac & Cheese to whole another level! I added pancetta to mine and I don’t think I can go back to Mac from a box again.

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Find the Modern Table Kit that fits your Cravings or Pick-up a Bean Pasta Bag at:

 

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Modern Table Meals.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

The Modern Table Meals: Delicious and Healthy meals made Easy #Review #ModernTableMeals

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I rarely cook out of a box or canned goods, and I consider that a good thing. If I need to open anything canned, it’s usually to make quick bean based side dishes, like black beans for Cuban meals, pinto for Mexican night, and so forth. I even making a kicking Italian salad with Quinoa, white kidney beans and garbanzos! I just try to make everything from scratch so I can control how much sodium, protein, to just avoiding preservatives and dyes when possible. Yes, it drives me crazy knowing I could sometimes really appreciate making a quick meal in 20 minutes or less and not have to dedicate the weekend to making meals for the week. I just tell myself….we are worth the hassle of eating better.

When I saw Modern Table Meals at Target, I just walked away and never thought about them again. It’s just another pasta dish with fake-o ingredients I thought to myself. The next week I saw them again and saw the bubble with the protein count listed (17 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, per serving!). I stopped. Again, thinking I know everything, I imagined some soy or whey protein mixed in with whole grains and more corn based products, to make a meal. Again, I was so wrong so before I dug this hole any deeper…..I decided to just read, absorb and see what Modern Table Meals is all about,

My parcel arrives with 4 beautiful bags, a bag to store everything in, a wooden spoon with some serious nice weight and quality, oh and coupons galore! I’m starting to love them even though I wrongly judged a book by it’s cover here (insert foot in mouth).

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Modern Table has 4 delicious Meals to satisfy every craving:

See, what makes the magic? Beans!! Legumes!! Whatever you call them, the **sparkle** of protein and real food comes from gorgeous pastas and noodles that are bean based.

I’m all for eating healthy and practice Meatless Mondays that get moved around during the week (rarely is it on an actual Monday), but the point is it takes place at least once a week and if not two. So, good only goes so far in my book. I eat kale but I like the flavor, so when kale became the “It Food to Eat”, I had to hit a few stores to find 2 great stalks because everyone was juicing and pulverizing the heck out of them. My point is, I have to enjoy the meal beyond the numbers and healthy is not a reason alone food should not taste spectacular.

I started by making the Mediterranean Green Lentil Rotini. I open the bag and notice the veggies are dehydrated but retained shape and their beautiful color. Best looking dehydrated green onion I ever saw! It was just perfect in shape (not just turned into green dust) that I found myself squeezing the veggies to see how they looked and felt. Yes, I’m “that girl” that touches the produce before bagging it and I admit I sniff Pineapple bottoms too! 🙂

I read the instructions and everything is so easy to do. You just boil the bean pasta, whisk the sauces with water and/or oils, then toss and add the topping included. Everything in the bag contains no artificial colors or preservatives. Modern Table Meals took a shelf-stable product (i.e. beans) and just made it better and something a long time coming.

Cooking the Meal:  As with everything, I made the product as instructed to see how it performs just out of the bag.  I followed the directions and noticed that just 10 minutes had lapsed and I’m 75% done with cooking dinner.  I felt like I forgot or missed something.  You know like when you went out on a shopping trip and made it out of the store with good timing……yeah, I knew I forgot something.  Retraced my steps and nope!  This is too easy!  Five minutes later and I try to make my insanity justifiable by noticing I forgot to cut open the topping bag (see, I did forget something).  I top the dish and begin plating.  I took out “insurance” on this meal by making it a side dish.  I figured it’s better being safe than sorry and paired it with veggies and Naan Herb bread that I topped with left-over roasted chicken, goat cheese and an olive medley.  It was Mediterranean enough and the chicken needed eating.

Taste Test: Just by the sniff-test, I am starting to regret having made other food but then sometimes things smell better than they taste.  I taste the pesto sauce and I am already wanting to save some for later separately because it’s so good.  I can believe I just added water to make this!  Then comes tasting the pasta alone because if it tastes bad, I’m saving the sauce for another meal.  I forgot the pasta was bean based because the texture is desirable.  I expected a floppy noodle or one that just disintegrates into odd pieces even though you never bit.  Not this guy! It tasted like a flavored pasta shape, sort of like it belonged with the three color pastas you find at the market.  So far, so good!  I toss everything and then sprinkle.  I have a taste before serving because why dirty the dish if I won’t be eating it…….I serve myself more than what a side dish called for!  I must admit at one point I mixed my veggies into the pasta because I wanted everything to have that wonderful flavor.  The sauce tastes real and the package tells me there is all this good stuff and none of the bad, but this tastes real like in homemade fresh.  It does not taste like anything I ever had out of a box.  I tell myself that I was always right about Modern Table Meals because things out of box are horrible, but these come out of b-a-g! See, I was right all along 😉

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I can’t wait to try and share all the other ones!

Connect with Modern Table Meals at:

 

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Modern Table Meals.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

The Gourmet Nut: Tilapia Fish Bites made with the Himalayan Pink and Hiwa Kai Hawaiian Sea Salt #Recipe #Review

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With fish prices rising and myself still craving fish, I have pretty much made every fish readily available in a manner of ways. Nothing satisfies a dual craving of seafood and fried food like the recipe below. The combination of salts brings a unique flavor to the dish as do the flours, which create a perfect thin crust that is super crunchy but remains light. You can make the dish using pretty much any fish (that is not ultra oily)or even use shrimps….po’ boys style or just bites to enjoy. You can also make “Devil Fish” bites by adding Sriracha to the buttermilk soak. Great for fish tacos too because the batter is crunchy but not heavy!

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The combination of salts is what makes the impact because the salinity in the Himalayan Pink Salt is great in the buttermilk soak but does not “pickle” the meat. The Hiwa Kai Hawaiian Salt brings those earthy notes that is almost like a truffle but so unique that is difficult to pin point. In the end, you just end up with a flavor combination that is perfect and better than anything you can buy. It’s also quick to make!

Let’s get started……

I start the night before to allow the fish soak up all the flavors and I like making meals that allow me to prep the evening before, so I get less mess but the benefit of capturing every flavor note without doing a thing.

 

  • Start with 3 Tilapia Fish Fillets and cut them into finger size pieces and I usually try to make bites in size that take one to two bites each to eat.

Buttermilk Soak:

  • 1/8 of teaspoon of each (Dried Herbs)- Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, Dill Weed, Marjoram, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Black Pepper, and the Gourmet Nut’s Himalayan Pink Salt.
  • Optional- You may add 1/8 of a teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper or more to suit your taste. I have added Sriracha in the past to create “Devil Bites” but again this is to your own discretion. You can also make 1/2 normal and 1/2 deviled to get different bites out of one dish.
  • 1/2 cup of Buttermilk

You add the dry ingredients and the fish to a bowl and mix to combine and cover everything evenly.

Then add the buttermilk and allow the fish to soak over night. I like to give it at least 4 hours but the more you give it, the more the fish absorbs and the better the flavor.

The following day, take the fish out and allow it to lower in temperature for about 20 minutes and then begin making the coating/batter.

Batter/Coating:

  • 1/4 cup of Corn Flour
  • 1/4 cup of Rice Flour
  • 1/2 cup of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Gourmet Nut’s Hiwa Kai Hawaiian Sea Salt
  • Cracked Black Pepper to taste
  • Optional- Cayenne Pepper to taste

Combine the batter and no egg needed bath is needed as the buttermilk serves as a great “glue” to make the coating stick. You simply drop each bite and coat evenly, repeat until finished.

 

Frying:
I use Peanut Oil to produce a nice crisp outside and a clean taste when frying but you may use any oil you desire. I heat up the oil between 370 and 395 degrees because I find this heat point perfect for less spatter and spitting, even though my chicken tends to cause more than the fish does. Simply drop the bites and because this is a light batter, the fish coating will remain light in color and you will achieve a light golden tone. The fish literally stops making noise when they are done. You will see within the oil the bubbling starts to subside and it takes only a few minutes to fry in small batches. It’s quick and self telling when it’s done, so that works for me.

 

 

Serving:
You can make fish tacos or serve the fish as-is with a side of tartar sauce. I made shrimps and crab cakes that evening, plus fries because I wanted to nip my fried food craving. I also like to grind a little finishing salt of the Hiwa Kai Hawaiian Sea Salt when serving because it gives it touch of extra flavor and the color against the white meat of the fish is just gorgeous! Enjoy!

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Get in touch with, or find out where to buy Gourmet Nut’s fantastic products by visiting them:

I received the above product(s) free of charge from The Gourmet Nut.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

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HouseParty: Triscuit Thin Crisps in Sour Cream & Chive, Wasabi & Soy Sauce and Cinnamon Sugar #Review #TriscuitParty

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Who does’t love a house party? This HouseParty, sponsored by Triscuit, was not only filled with goodies for the host and guest, but we were able to try the three newest flavors. The HouseParty kit also included the following:

  • Large totes for each guest
  • Free coupons that guests can redeem for free Triscuit Thin Crisps
  • Triscuit boxes for guests to take home
  • 3 boxes in the new Wasabi & Soy Sauce flavor
  • 3 boxes in the new Sour Cream & Chive flavor
  • 3 boxes in the new Cinnamon & Sugar flavor
  • A chip bowl to share Triscuit Thin Crisps with guests
  • Recipe card for the loaded baked potato dip
  • A dip bowl for guests to try different dips I made

As always, Houseparty is very generous with the kit and provides you with pretty much everything you need to hold a successful event. You just supply the guests and party on! I had each guest provide feedback on the each flavor and also if they enjoyed attending the sponsored event.

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The new Triscuit Thin Crisps are very different from the original recipe, as these are made with brown rice. The flavors are also not typical but delicious indeed.

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Triscuit Thin Crips in Sour Cream & Chive– This was a liked crisp but ranked third in likability. Some guests reported that the crisp tasted more like a sour cream & ranch chip and could not pick-up the chive notes that usually resemble onion. The texture was very well liked, as were the ingredient’s list on the box. You have a short list and everything is identifiable. 10 crackers are just 130 calories and 25 only come from fat. Definitely a savory snack that not only satisfies your taste buds but does not punish your waist line. The dip most enjoyed with this cracker was the caramelized onion dip I made because it helped bring out the desired onion notes some felt were missing.

Ingredients-
LONG GRAIN BROWN RICE, WHOLE GRAIN SOFT WHITE WHEAT, SOYBEAN OIL, NATURAL FLAVOR (CONTAINS MUSTARD), SALT, ONION POWDER, SOUR CREAM POWDER (CREAM, NONFAT MILK, CULTURES), NONFAT MILK, BUTTERMILK, YEAST EXTRACT, SPICES (INCLUDES CHIVE), CITRIC ACID, SUGAR

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Triscuit Thin Crisps in Cinnamon & Sugar– This is the crisp that satisfies your sweet tooth and can even be paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Some even dipped it in a caramel sauce and guests reported the flavor is addicting! I liked that the crisp is not too sweet or overly covered in cinnamon. The base on this cracker is brown rice and sweet potato. You taste the sweetness the potato gives, but it pairs very well with chocolate or just munching as is. I had a few guests comment that this flavor tasted like what you find on “deep fried ice cream” but again at 130 calories for 10 crisps, minus the frying mess.

Ingredients-
LONG GRAIN BROWN RICE, WHOLE GRAIN SOFT WHITE WHEAT, SOYBEAN OIL, DRIED SWEET POTATO, SUGAR, CINNAMON, BROWN SUGAR, SEA SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR, YEAST EXTRACT.

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Triscuit Thin Crisps in Wasabi & Soy Sauce– The most liked of the savory variety was this one and it has a flavor that bites back! New and not the common flavor you would expect in a snack but it does not only satisfy your salty cravings, it makes you come back for more. This one was great with a horseradish pub cheese dip I had out for the sour cream & chive flavor. We were all surprised a cheddar based dip went so well with it! Same 130 calories per serving as the other flavors!

Ingredients-
LONG GRAIN BROWN RICE, WHOLE GRAIN SOFT WHITE WHEAT, SOYBEAN OIL, SUGAR, SEA SALT, MALTODEXTRIN, DEHYDRATED SOY SAUCE (FERMENTED SOYBEANS, WHEAT, SALT), YEAST EXTRACT, CITRIC ACID, PARSLEY FLAKES, NATURAL FLAVOR (CONTAINS MUSTARD), DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, WASABI POWDER

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This Houseparty was easy and everyone did not dislike any of the snacks or dips that were available!  Guests enjoyed taking home gifts and of course being able to redeem a coupon towards a free box.  I did find a coupon on-line so you can also save when try these.  For more information on the new Triscuit Thin Crisps, please visit the links below.

Connect with Triscuit Thin Crisps:

  • On-line Coupon– http://bricks.coupons.com/Start.asp?tqnm=vdupdvh57561263&bt=vg&o=116999&c=TL&p=eRQ3gNZj
  • Triscuit On-line– http://brands.nabisco.com/Triscuit/
  • Facebook– https://www.facebook.com/triscuit
  • Twitter– https://twitter.com/TheRealTriscuit
  • Pinterest– http://www.pinterest.com/TRISCUIT/

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I received the above product free of charge from HouseParty & Triscuit.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

 

 

The Sugar Lab: Key West Lime Strawberry Shortcakes, a all-in-one bowl #recipe

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I made an awesome Apple Cheesecake fusion pie on Sunday and then realized that it needed to cool, and then be placed in the fridge.  I was minus having any sweet tooth treats for after dinner! I needed something new to make but also not time consuming…..it’s Key Limes to the rescue!

Let’s Begin…..

  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup of Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon of Salt
  • Zest from 2 Key Limes
  • 3 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter (cold)
  • 1/2 cup of Buttermilk (you can just use milk too or an Almond/Coconut milk will do too)
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons of Key Lime Juice
  • 1 tablespoon of Key West Lime Sugar from The Sugar Lab
  • 1 Key Lime thinly sliced (you will need about 5 very thin slices)

Makes about 5 shortcakes in 10 to 15 minutes time!

Set the oven to 400 degrees

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This one is super easy and can be made all in one bowl. You take all your dry ingredients, including the zest and combine them in the bowl.

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Then take the butter and I used a Pastry Cutter to combine the butter with the dry ingredients.  You are aiming for pea sized pieces when it comes to the cold butter.

Combine the Buttermilk, Vanilla Extract and Key Lime juice and then pour it into the bowl.  Using a spatula, just fold all the ingredients together but do not over stir.

 

Once everything is combined, I use an ice cream scooper and just scoop and evenly place the batter on parchment paper.

I then top each shortcake with a thin slice of Key Lime and shake the Key West Lime sugar on top, but also making sure the Key Lime slice gets a hefty amount, so it can get a candy effect 🙂

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Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, you will see the shortcakes brown a little.  Allow the shortcakes to cool about 15 to 20 minutes and then slice in half.

 

I served mine with fresh Strawberries and freshly whipped cream.  Enjoy!

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Get your Sugar and Spices Fix at:

  • The Spice Lab on-line– http://shop.thespicelab.com/index.php/peppers-spices/sugars/gourmet-sugar.html
  • Facebook– https://www.facebook.com/TheSpiceLabInc
  • Twitter– https://twitter.com/TheSpiceLab

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I received the above product free of charge from The Spice Lab.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

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The Spice Lab: Ghost Pepper Crispy Oven Fries

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The myth. The legend. The Ghost Pepper.

I have heard about the Ghost Pepper and even seen people taste it but their reaction was always to the intense heat with very little to report on taste. Scary stuff. I’m a girl that loves heat and spice but I want flavor too. My best description is that this pepper tastes like a non-latin red pepper, but with attitude. The notes are actually good and intense but end with a touch of smokiness. Not like a chipotle or a poblano, so there is where I come off with the “non-latin” description. It’s good……like, really good. After I tasted the salt as-is, I not only respected Mr. Ghost Pepper but could not wait to try it in a recipe. But wait for me to get some more water 🙂

Potatoes are usually bland so I felt they were the perfect pairing, plus I am always in that race to use up every Russet potato I purchased in the bag because then what I paid is not a super bargain. These fries are simple to make and only take 25-30 minutes to cook. You are left with crispy and I mean extra crispy fries from the oven. I am not overstating that here, because I have tried so many oven fries recipes and ended up with floppy sticks….no flop here.

Let’s get started…..

  • 3 to 4 Russet Potatoes (washed but with peel….I said this was easy)
  • 1/8 cup of Pecorino & Romano cheese blend (grated and if you just have Parm, that will do)
  • 1/8 cup of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup of White Rice Flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon of Onion Powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of Granulated Garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Oregano (dry)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Parsley (dry)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of Dill Weed (dry)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of The Spice Labs Ghost Pepper Infused Salt (or more if you dare 🙂 )
  • Smoked Salt (to taste) and I used The Spice Labs Applewood Smoked Salt
  • Black Pepper (to taste)

 

  • Baste- 1/4 cup of Buttermilk and 1 tablespoon of Peanut Oil (or a oil with a high heat point of your choosing). I find Peanut Oil gives me the perfect crisp!

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Cut your potatoes into fries and soak them in cold water for an hour, just make sure to change the water about 3 times. Removing the starch helps aid with the crisp factor.

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Take a bowl and just add all the above dry ingredients and mix, then set aside.

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Once the hour passes of your fries swimming in water, I spin them in a salad spinner to dry them. Patting them with paper-towels until completely dry works too.

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Place the fries in a bowl and allow them to bathe in the 1/4 cup of Buttermilk. You will think a 1/4 cup is too little but as long as you come by and give them a stir, you will see that it covers nicely without waste. If you feel your bowl needs more Buttermilk, feel free to add more because this is just for the fries to soak in it for 30 minutes. Once the fries have been basting in the Buttermilk for 30 minutes or so, add the Peanut Oil and toss making sure to coat the potatoes well.

Turn on oven to 425 degrees. I used the convection setting.

Then comes the dunk! I take the fries by the handful (leaving whatever Buttermilk/Peanut Oil that did not soak up behind) and dump them in the batter. I make sure each fry gets a nice crust adhered to it and then place it on parchment paper.

It took me two pizza pans (the ones with holes) to get all my 3 potatoes to fit. I spaced them enough and in the oven they went for 25 to 30 minutes. At the half-way point, I made sure to get them out and give each fry a flip, so it would cook evenly. If you cut your fries bigger, they may need a little more time to finish but always taste-test to know if they are done.

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These fries are crisp and have heat, so I paired them with a dip and chose a Caesar dressing! It’s yogurt based and went really well with them, plus saves you from the heat when needed.

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Get Your Ghost Pepper kick and many others at:

  • The Spice Lab On-line– http://shop.thespicelab.com/
  • Via Facebook– https://www.facebook.com/TheSpiceLabInc
  • Twitter– https://twitter.com/TheSpiceLab

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Don’t forget to pick-up their wonderful Applewood Smoked Salt too and they carry so much, you will get lost in Spice Lab’s World!

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I received the above products free of charge from The Spice Lab.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

 

 

Bob’s Red Mill: Crake! a Fusion Dessert made of a Cinnamon Roll and caKE all-in-one

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With all the fusion of desserts going on today, I thought I would enter into that playground and have a go at it.  I present to you what I call a Crake!  It’s actually pastry dough that I made using a blend of flours and a cake that engulfs each roll.  Being that Valentine’s Day is around the corner, we all need a hug and this moist buttermilk-based cake does just that to each roll.  So let’s get started creating and let me add, this has a sticky bun topping so I made sure to splurge!

We start by getting our starter going:

Starter-
3 ounces of Warm Water (105 to 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon of White Sugar
1/2 tablespoon of Yeast
1 ounce of Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour

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I have a proofing option with my oven that I set at 110 degrees.  No need to have one, so you can also place the starter to bloom in a dark warm corner in your kitchen.  I gently mix everything in a small bowl, but one with enough room for the rise. Then cover with plastic and give it about 15 minutes.

While that starter get’s….well started, I begin with the Sweet Dough Mix for the Rolls:

Dough-
3 ounces of Yogurt (or you can use 3 ounces of cream cheese, plus 1 tablespoon of milk)
2 ounces of Unsalted Butter (softened)
1 egg at room temperature
1 3/4 ounces of White Sugar
1 teaspoon of Salt
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
6 1/2 ounces of Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Flour
4 Ounces Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour

Between a 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of All Purpose Flour (separate from above measurements) will be needed while the dough kneads.

I cream the sugar and butter together with a mixer (stand or hand will do, use your whisk attachment).  I then add the Yogurt but in this case I went with the 3 ounces of cream cheese (with 1 tablespoon of milk).  Add the egg and vanilla.  I then add the starter and incorporate everything, being careful not to over mix.   In another bowl, I mix the salt and both flours with a whisk.  I add the mix to the wet ingredients, still with the whisk attachment on.  Things will look a little shaggy at this point; that’s okay. I then change over to the dough hook.  I find using a little butter on my dough hook makes it easier in preventing the dough from sticking to it.  I begin to knead and add All Purpose Flour as needed.  Sometimes I need a 1/4 cup and other times I need up to a 1/2 a cup, it all depends on the elasticity it builds.  I knead for about 10 minutes using the mixer.

After the dough is a nice texture, I place it in a buttered bowl and cover it with plastic. In it goes to the proofer for a hour to an hour and 20 minutes. You want the dough to grow almost double in size.

I then begin on the “sticky bun” topping that I call “The Glaze”:

Glaze-
4 tablespoons of Butter (salted)
3 tablespoons of Maple Syrup
1/2 a cup of Brown Sugar

I melt the above items down and I find my little “gravy” pan works great as it has a notch for pouring.  Stir frequently and don’t hurry it up by turning up the heat.  Use low heat until things melt and just begin to bubble.  You want no sugar crystals (grains), just a smooth glaze.

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While the glaze melts, I get 1/2 a cup of pecans and throw them on some parchment paper to toast.  This intensifies the flavor profile and also adds a nice texture to the glaze.  The glaze will actually almost create a butter nut toffee texture over the pecans, so it is really delicious and beautiful looking at the same time.  I use my toaster oven because my dough is proofing in my oven.  Just place them at 350 degrees and then watch them so they do not burn.  It may take 5 minutes or 10 to be done, so the time is never exact but keep an eye on them until the color changes (darkens slightly).

Nuts-
1/2 cup of toasted Pecans (or any nut of your choice)

I then get a glass pan that I will use to bake this entire concoction in.  I use a “lasagna” pan that is the size of 9 x 13 inches (3 quart).  This allows enough room for the rolls to rise and for the cake batter to fit.  I use cooking spray on the glass and then place parchment.  The spray allows my parchment paper to stick and stay put better so I don’t have to fuss with it.  I also find that it’s easier to first cut and shape the paper to your liking BEFORE spraying so you don’t then end up with baking spray on your hands too.  Yes, it has happened where I forget and then end up with slippery hands!

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Pour the glaze onto the paper and make sure to help it spread evenly.  Once it spreads out, add the Pecans.

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I get started in making the filling for the Rolls:
Roll Filling-
You can use the standard cinnamon roll filling of 1/2 tablespoons of melted Butter, 1 cup of Brown Sugar, 1/2 to 3/4 tablespoon of ground Cinnamon, with a dash of Nutmeg.
Roll Filling Variations-
With Strawberries being in season and I am going for a Valentine’s Day dessert, I picked Strawberries.  You can go with any berry you wish like Blackberries or even a mix.  I used 6 ounces of fresh Strawberries that I sliced up and because they were already sweet, I used less than a teaspoon of White Sugar and just tossed them.  Take note the glaze is sweet and you don’t want an overly sweet filing too but do sugar the fruit by taste.
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By now the dough has “poofed” to my liking and close enough to being double the size so I get it out of the proofer and just flip it on to a floured surface.  Have a 1/2 cup of flour ready if needed when it comes to rolling the dough out.  I roll the dough out to about 14 inches (length wise).  I then spread the filling and in this case the fruit, and then I begin to roll like I would any cinnamon roll.
You want 8 rolls in total and this is my method:
Cut the ends off and then cut the roll in half.
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You now have 2 small rolls and you will cut each on in half again.
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You now have 4 pieces and you then simply cut each piece in half and you end up with 8 (close enough) equally sized rolls.
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Place the rolls in the pan that has the glaze and in it goes back in the oven to proof for about 30 to 45 minutes.  You want expansion but not so much that you won’t have room for cake batter.
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While the rolls proof, off we go to make the cake batter.  Start making the batter when you are about 10 minutes away from the rolls finish proofing:
Buttermilk Cake Batter-
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup of Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 cup of White Sugar
1/2 teaspoon of Salt
1/3 cup of Unsalted Butter
1 Egg (room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon of Maple Syrup
1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
1/4 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
3/4 cup of Buttermilk
Cream the sugar and butter together.  While that incorporates nicely, get the 3/4 cup of buttermilk and add the egg, vanilla, maple syrup to it until well blended.  Then in a separate bowl blend the dry ingredients, the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Once the butter and sugar are nice and creamy, add 1/2 of the “wet” buttermilk mixture and 1/2 of the “dry” flour mixture to the mixing bowl.  Make sure to not over mix as this results in a tough textured cake.  Scrape the sides and bottom, then add the rest of the wet and dry ingredients.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
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Take the rolls out of the proofer and then add the cake batter to the areas around each roll.  Make sure to not get cake batter on the top of the rolls since you do not want a soggy roll.  A couple of drips is okay but do not spread the cake batter on top of the rolls.  I used all my cake batter because the point here is for the cake to rise to the height of the rolls.  You do not want when you flip these over to collapse.
By now my bossy oven has beeped at me that it is ready for the Crake to go in.  I then bake it between 30 to 40 minutes.  If you see it start to over brown, just place foil on top and make sure to not over bake.  Take it out when the cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean.  Mine was ready at 37 minutes.
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I allow the pan to cool for 8 to 10 minutes and carefully place a dish that accommodates the size of the pan you used over the Crake.  I use a glass cutting board so that I just dirty one thing and I can just slice when needed.  Use oven mitts to keep a nice grip and also in case it’s too hot.  Flip and this is where you will thank the parchment paper….just carefully peel and I use a small spatula in case a pecan here or there tries to escape.
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Viola, you made a Crake!
I then heated up dinner and allowed the Crake to cool.  It won’t get soggy on the bottom as the glaze stays on top.  After dinner I cut into it and served it with a whipped topping made of Heavy Cream, Mascarpone Cheese, and Powdered Sugar.  You just whip until you get nice stiff peaks but don’t over-whip as you will make butter.  To let my guest know the pastry had a Strawberry filling, I added a cut Fresh Strawberry on top and also a whole one to a dollop of whipped cream I placed on the plate.  This allows anyone to get more topping in case I went light on it.  Enjoy!
You can do this any way you desire.  What I mean is this is a dessert that is really two-in-one.  Want to just make the glaze and the cake, you can.  Stop at the glaze and the rolls….go for it.  I write my recipes as I go on a note pad and the above was created on my first try, so if I can do it, so can you…..so make it any way you want 🙂
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I received some of the above products free of charge from Bob’s Red Mill, an employee-owned company.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.
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Fresh Pineapple Upside Down Buttermilk Cake

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Everyone loves pineapple upside down cake. If someone doesn’t, then they haven’t had it made right. Little things make the biggest differences. Like, I always just used canned Pineapple. One day I had a fresh pineapple on the counter and decided to try my recipe with it. Best ever, and I have never gone back! One of my easier cakes to make and perfect during the warmer months. Bakes quickly and you can serve it warm, room temperature or even cold. The buttermilk keeps the cake moist and gives it a unique flavor that is not typically associated with cakes. So, I hope this breaks up the usual and you enjoy it as much as we do.

Let’s begin….

Glaze:

  • 4 tablespoons of Butter
  • 3 tablespoons of Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 cup of Brown Sugar

Fruit:

  • 1 whole fresh Pineapple (canned may be used if needed)
  • 6 Maraschino cherries

Cake Batter:

  • 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter (softened)
  • 2/3 cup of Sugar
  • 2 large Eggs (room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup of Buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon of Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 a Vanilla Bean
  • 1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) of Cinnamon and Nutmeg

First you start by cutting your pineapple slices and coring the rounds. Set those aside and begin making your glaze.

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Add your butter, brown sugar and maple syrup to a nonstick pan.

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Over medium-low heat, you begin to dissolve the sugar.  I usually use a silicone spatula to make sure undissolved sugar crystals do not get stuck to the sides of the (non-stick) pan. Keep stirring and increase the heat slightly. You will reach a gentle boil as you stir and then continue cooking for about 45 seconds, and then remove the glaze from the stove.

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I take a large lasagna pan (sprayed with cooking spray)

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Pour the glaze carefully over and evenly.  Then place your pineapple slices carefully over the glaze.

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Next comes the cherries.

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Start your cake batter by first blending the unsalted butter with the sugar, until nice and fluffy.

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Add one egg and blend until it is incorporated into the mixture.

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Then add the second the egg and fully incorporate into the mixture.

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Follow with the buttermilk, maple syrup and vanilla. I tend to mix all three and pour them at the same time.  Pour only half of the mixture in.

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Follow by adding the 1/2 Vanilla Bean.

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Then comes the dry ingredients. I mix the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.

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You then take half of the dry ingredients and add it to the mixer. Mix well until everything is wet, remembering to scrape the sides of the bowl.

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I slowly then add the second half of my buttermilk mixture intermediately with the left over half of the dry mixture. I do this so I do not over whip the batter, since this tends to produce a dryer cake if you over beat it. You will end up with a nice smooth mixture by halving the wet and dry, and not over beating.

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Once everything is incorporated, I take the batter and drop spoonfuls into the pan with the glaze and pineapple. I do six large spoonfuls so I can get a nice even layer without disrupting the fruit’s placement.

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Place in oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until the cake is springy to the touch. You can use a toothpick to check if the cake is done too.

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The sides will be bubbling!

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Allow the cake to cool down for 15 minutes before flipping. I usually place a glass cutting board on top of the cake pan.

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Flip.

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Remove pan.

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I allow for it to cool a bit more and then start cutting, usually 10 minutes.

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Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if desired!

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You can store the cooled cut cake slices in the fridge (just wrap in plastic) and it holds very well. Enjoy!

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