Gourmet Living: Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Review #IGPInitialPromo #GourmetLivingBalsamic

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Some things are beautiful and I always admire a gorgeous looking bottle. Presentation matters and especially when purchasing a product that retails higher than it’s counterparts but that is if you look at vinegar as plainly an acid, disregarding origin, grape used in production, to aging. This can get blurred and sometimes on purpose by the manufacture. We all want what we pay for and that is something I was critical of when I had the opportunity to review Gourmet Living’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. I love Balsamic and use it almost on a daily basis in it’s “raw form” or to enhance the taste of sauces to meats. Nothing tastes like it and it may look like wine but a good tasting Balsamic will make you forget about wine all together.

When I received the parcel from Gourmet Living, the box was beautiful with gold colored foil highlights and it almost felt like suede when touched. I open it and I see a beautiful red wax seal on top, and the bottle is as noteworthy as the rest. Every detail has been thought of but in the end I seek what is inside the bottle. Does the vinegar have a pleasant taste and will it play well with the others, meaning I don’t want an acidic pungent base that overpowers all the other flavor notes and even the smallest drop makes me just taste vinegar.

I figured the best test was trying it as-is and making a simple at home Vinaigrette. I never buy dressings and just make my own because as much as I want the dressing in the bottle to last, everything a manufacture adds to make it long living also makes it poor tasting. I save money and fridge space, plus I can adjust my dressings by the meals I am serving that day. A Vinaigrette made at home will always be friendly to a waist-line too.

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Retail Price Point: $36.95 for a 8.5 fluid ounce bottle via Amazon

You will look and notice years and size of bottles fluctuate drastically when it comes to Balsamic. I thought the more the ounces combined with greater years, makes the price tag higher, but that did not remain factual. Some expensive brands had poor ratings along with the low quantity of ounces they gave. I get it that aging takes storing, time and care. This is not even what it takes to make the initial fluid in the first place. Boiling a product down reduces the quantity and intensifies the flavor but it depends on the cook and the “starter product”, if even the final product will be worthy. Balsamic may look thick and smell sometimes strong but it delivers sweet notes when done well. As it ages the flavor matures and the wood that is used for storage will also affect the vinegar. The Balsamic from Gourmet Living also has an IGP certification that has certain criteria that must be met for a bottle to pass and reach the seal. Think of it like a diamond and how certain outside agencies will only certify if certain standards are met, down to origin of the stone. The vinegar from Gourmet Living is from Modena and had the proper labeling I have seen with products of this kind, so they passed the visual test and now to how it tastes.

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Taste Test:
I made my dressing and I always taste before adding salt. The Balsamic had a pleasant sweet taste without bitter after notes. You could pick up what the wood had added a distinct flavor to the vinegar, and it just intensifies that aroma you get when using the product and tasting it. I actually found this vinegar very pleasant and for the price, it was a fair price point. I have only been able to get a better price point at Whole Foods on 2 bottles that were being cleared out and that was a once in a lifetime opportunity. A bottle of Balsamic lasts because you use a small amount. Think of when you use demi glace and how a little goes a long way. The same applies here and that makes it a worthy purchase in my book!

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Gourmet Living.  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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Kiva Health Food: Hot Smoked Paprika and Sweet Smoked Paprika #Review #SmokedPaprika

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When I first began to cook, I started with blended spices and herbs. Such blends are easy to use and take the guess work out of finding a balanced flavor, however you usually are charged for fillers like with most products of this kind. If the flavor notes are savory, you get salt and if you get sweet, you get a plethora of sugars to choose from and making up 50% of the product you just purchased. After a year of trial and error, I finally learned to purchase individual ingredients and let me be the one in control of flavor!

Kiva offers you with pure products and what you see, is what you get. Sounds so simple but in a world where sodium and sugars are not the only fillers, you get products that are made with higher standards from Kiva:

  • All Kiva products are non-GMO certified.
  • Kiva uses a third-party testing facility to ensure purity and safety.
  • Eco-friendly methods are used by Kiva from Sustainable Farming to cultivating in smaller batches.
  • Kiva also minimally processes everything from their Superfoods to their spices.

The food word has changed dramatically in the last 20 years and we now know more about food processing to ingredients that sound healthy-ish but are not. There is no excuse when it comes to not knowing where to buy from because there are still good companies that take pride in what they make like Kiva. My first products to try from Kiva, is their paprika and they sent me two kinds to review.

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  • Kiva Sweet Smoked Spanish Paprika-

With my father originating from Spain, paprika was highly used at our home. We made on a weekly basis a Paprika chicken dish, which was braised chicken thighs and are paired it a simple vegetable (whatever was in season) saffron rice. I am very familiar with this pepper spice that is usually made by air drying the chili peppers, however smoked versions use a fire to add flavor, and the woods will enhance and even add to the taste. Kiva’s sweet version is made in the La Vera region of Spain. Their peppers are hand harvested and are dried by using Holm oak. The oak toasts the peppers nicely and adds a nice true smoked flavor. No fake liquid smoke used here! You don’t get a sugary sweetness but a mild pepper flavor, which differs from the hot version. The sweet version also usually has the seeds removed to decrease any bitterness, which you usually find in the “bittersweet” Agridulce version. This sweet version plays well with seafood, rices to even spreads. I also used the Kiva sweet version over avocados that I added to a simple salad and the flavor complemented the simple vinaigrette I made very well. You will use less dressing when using Kiva’s sweet smoked paprika because flavor is there and it did not need sugars to notice it!

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Sweet Paprika & Chives Shrimps. The shrimps were grilled on skewers!

 

 

  • Kiva Hot Smoked Spanish Paprika-

Like it’s counterpart, the Hot version of Kiva’s paprika is smoked for 14 days to increase intensity and richness. You get chili peppers that have been ground to produce a light powder that delivers those smoky notes, which derive from the Holm oak. Holm oak trees is the only wood used if you are making true Pimenton from the La Vera region of Spain, so think of it like Champagne, you can only call it that if comes from the grapes that came from that region of France. The Holm oak also produces acorns, which is a food source for Iberico pigs of this region. I like to pair the smoked hot version with pork tenderloins to create a nice rub and it gives roasted potatoes a beautiful hue and peppery taste, that you can only find in paprika from this region. Kiva’s paprika is milled perfectly and no bitterness or fillers are ever detected. You get true spice from the peppers without the high price tag!  I also halved potatoes and we grilled them over charcoal, added sour cream and a touch of butter with a nice sprinkle from the hot smoky paprika.  It’s a tater you cut to eat and enjoy every bite!

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Retail Price Point: The duo costs $10.99 via Amazon or $11.80 from Kiva’s website

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Connect with Kiva and their other Superfoods at:

 

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Kiva Health Foods.  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.

 

Wafu style Chicken Egg Rolls

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I have been enjoying myself and trying all of Wafu’s wonderful dressings that are so delicious, that they can be used as marinades. Tonight was one of our “trips to Asia”, so that means I needed something that went beyond a potsticker for dinner. I had one defrosted chicken breast that was screaming I don’t do my fall back and make Orange Chicken. My answer was simple and quick egg rolls since the chicken breast seemed to be dictating the night 🙂

I don’t own a mandoline because so many seem to have poor reviews, that I can never decide which one to actually buy. I make do with the knives I own, plus that also means I don’t need to make room for another kitchen tool.

Filling:

  • 1 Carrot thinly shredded
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Cabbage
  • 3 Green Onions thinly sliced
  • 1 large Chicken Breast
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 to 3 Garlic Cloves (diced)
  • 1 tablespoon of Peanut Oil and 1 tablespoon of Seasame Seed Oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of the Original Wafu’s Japanese Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated Ginger (less or more, as to your taste)

Wraps:

  • Egg roll wraps (you will yield 10 to 12 egg rolls depending on how you stuff)
  • 1 egg whisked

Frying Oil:

Peanut Oil for frying, about 1 to 1/2 cups

Dip:

  • Wafu’s Wasabi Edamme Japanese dressing
  • Sriracha sauce to taste (between 2 to 3 drops or be brave and do more)

I start by peeling the carrot and discard the peels. I then take my peeler and make thin slices of the carrot. I take my knife and then julienne the carrots into fine slices.

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I then finely slice the cabbage.

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Next, comes the green onion and I use all the white parts, saving the green stalks that can be used for garnish.  I start by slicing the onions in half, and then in halves again to create thin strips.

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Your trio should look like this:

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Next comes the chicken breast.  I start by dicing the breast into chunks and then add Chinese Five Spice

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This is about the size of my chunks but please cut them to any size you are comfortable with.  I then just add salt and pepper to taste and massage the seasonings into the meat.

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The vegetables do not require to be pre-cooked but the meat does.  These egg rolls take only but a few minutes to cook, so the meat needs to be fully cooked before frying.  I start by adding a mix of peanut oil and sesame seed oil, plus the fresh garlic I diced up.

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While that cooks, I take a bowl and add 3 to 4 tablespoons of Wafu’s Original Japaneses Vinaigrette.

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I fry the chicken on both sides until the breast pieces get a nice color and are fully cooked, making sure to not burn the garlic.  I then add everything once it cools for 5 minutes to the Wafu dressing.  This includes the garlic, any left over juices and oils.  I toss making sure everything is incorporated.

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I then take my fresh Ginger out of the freezer because it’s the only way I can make it last.  Using a knife, I finely grate enough to make 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of shavings.  I then add it to the chicken and toss.

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Next comes the fun part, assembly time.  I went to three stores that I knew stocked egg roll wraps, however everyone was out of stock. I finally found some at Von’s market and this is the brand I used.  Use whatever brand you desire as I do not have a favorite.  Just make sure the ingredients the wraps are made of are to your liking.

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This how I assembled and I did not take certain amount of vegetables and meat.  I went with what seemed like an even amount and sometimes even a little more meat than veggies because then I could almost hear my husband asking if there was a chicken shortage he did not know of 😛

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Then add the egg wash all around.  I used a silicone brush to make it easier to swipe all around.

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Next, comes the folding and it’s just like making mini burritos.

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I then add a little more wash to the folded edges to insure things remain closed and also stuck together.

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Then just finish rolling.

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Repeat the process until you are out of chicken.  I was able to make 10 of this little guys.

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I covered my uncooked egg rolls with slightly moist paper towels while my oil heated up.

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Once my oil was hot, I began to fry three egg rolls at a time.  They cook up quickly….like less than a minute on each side.

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Flip once you see the edges slightly brown.

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When done, I just take them out and pat them on paper towels.

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Continue to fry until you are done and this goes by quickly, which is a good thing!  I then make my dip.  I take 1 to 1/2 tablespoons of Wafu’s Wasabi Edamme Japanese dressing and add 2 to 3 drops of Sriracha sauce.  Mix and you are finished!  This is my first time making egg rolls, if I can do it….so can you!  Enjoy!

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I received the above dressings and vinagrettes free of charge from Wafu.  I am not obligated to provide positive/favorable feedback, just my honest opinion.  I highly recommend this company because they have one of the best dressings on the market.  From flavors that make a simple salad that much more enjoyable, to the practicality of being able to use their products as marinades.  I love the ingredients and the pride the company takes in keeping things simple but delicious.  My review is based on my experience with the brand, which may differ from yours.

Check them out at: http://www.wafu.ca/  on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/wafubrand Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/wafubrand or even on Pinterest at: http://pinterest.com/wafubrand/

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