HouseParty: Bertolli® Imported Cask Aged Balsamic Vinegar Paired with Caramelized Onion #Review #BertolliSauceParty

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I usually make our sauces from scratch and especially when the heirloom tomatoes start hitting the markets, with the quality and season being at it’s peak. I enjoy incorporating everything from a bell pepper medley to a combination of different onions. I make several jars worth and then have the freedom to create different meals and additions like ground lamb to pork. Then time gets in the way and especially during the “bottom months” where holidays start coming and I’m trying to make every comfort food we have been waiting to enjoy and sometimes you get that simple request of spaghetti and meatballs. I open the fridge and then memory strikes…..I used our last jar I made last time and now have none! So, I always purchase emergency back-ups and this means a jar or two of previously made sauces. I already feel bad when I let time get the best of me, but I don’t want to add by feeling bad about what I am serving at dinner time. So, I pick wisely and have found a few brands that I can depend on.

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Bertolli makes everything from sauces, olive oils, vinegars to frozen meals. They are a company that has been around family tables for over 150 years. Their sauces range from organic, white bases to their newer variety called Riserva. The Riserva brand is a rename of the Imported line “Gold Label”, you previously saw with the colored “old-style” font. Even the flavors are identical, so thankfully Bertolli did not discontinue the “Gold Label” line. I was able to pick-up a glass jar of the bottles, with the older version label, at my local Von’s.

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What I look for when purchasing a jarred sauce is simple ingredients like I would use when making it from scratch and also variety. I want something away from the norm, so I look for blends with wines or vegetables that we don’t commonly consume. I want also a sauce that does not need to be “fixed” to be enjoyed. I’m not going to dedicate 20 minutes to get a sauce to taste right when I could allot the same time to one made from scratch. So, the first thing I do is take a label apart when it comes to ingredients and thankfully the sauces by Bertolli contain what the label in the front states. The Balsamic vinegar is there as is the caramelized onions. Tomatoes in all forms from puree, diced and even in juice form are listed. To intensify the tangy notes, grape must was added and mostly you have real ingredients in this sauce. My only pause was to caramel coloring even though I know manufactures add it to enhance the look of the sauce since it may not look too pleasing in the jar without it, but I could have done with out it. I hope when Bertolli changed the label, they dropped the coloring off the list too.

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Verdict:
The Balsamic Vinegar and Caramelized onions by Bertolli advertises a nice balance in flavor where the sweetness from the caramelized onions goes very well with the tang you get from the vinegar. No bitter notes or after taste, and the sauce has a rich texture and taste. Very enjoyable and not a jar that needs additions to correct it, but you can always add a protein from chicken and beef to enhance it. Upon opening the jar, I expected to smell a wine like scent  from the vinegar, as I do when I add Balsamic to my marinara sauces. I unfortunately did not. I taste the sauce and it’s ultra sweet, like way too much sugar. It’s not the sugars I’m use to even when I have used sweet onion varieties like Cipollini onions. Even Shallots when caramelized never give off this much sugar and then I notice actual sugar noted in the list of ingredients BEFORE garlic and spice. Okay, so I start thinking what can I make with this and it hit’s me……a dip. This way the sauce stays unaltered and I make Mozzarella sticks from scratch. Everyone can then enjoy the sauce as it is and I can curb the sweet factor by the spices I add to the breaded cheese. Simple to make and also quick, plus batches can be kept warm in the oven while I make more.  This is unfortunately not a sauce I would buy again.  I will try this version again under the Riserva label if the ingredients differ.  So, far the only change I can tell is that the new label does not state “Imported” on it.  Unfortunately, Bertolli does not list the ingredients of their sauces on the site, just the nutritional facts, so I wan unable to compare beforehand.  My Mozz sticks are always a hit but I did ask for feedback on the sauce and thankfully received some honest remarks.  It’s sweet was the chief complaint and maybe this was a batch where the sugar over-spilled, but I was left with dip and this is uncommon at my house where I witness guests usually use even bread to clean a plate.  I feel that without the overpowering sweetness, this sauce could actually be good and enjoyed.  The warming of the sauce intensifies the sugar and when tasted cold, the sugars mellow out a bit.  Maybe adding a little to a pasta salad would help.

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Connect with Bertolli at:

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Bertolli and HouseParty.  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.

Feel Good Foods: Gluten Free Pork Dumplings #Review #FeelGoodFoods

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At my house, we no longer eat out or order in when it comes to Asian cuisine. We were never happy in the end with the amount of protein the dishes delivered, the amount of sodium and the feeling after we ate such meals. Vegetables were usually overcooked from sitting under a heat lamp and I noticed my Husband was always picking out what he liked and disliked, to the point he always had a mountain of mushy vegetables along the side of his plate from things that did not pass the cut (to be eaten). So, I started cooking it myself. I do though appreciate help and even though I am picky about what I purchase from the freezer aisle, I can say that Feel Good Foods was a welcoming sight and taste.

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I was sent several coupons and visited my local Sprout’s Farmers Market. I went with an idea from what Feel Good Foods carried by visiting their website, but it was amazing in the amount of dishes, meals and sides they make. The company has a plethora of items that I had a list longer than the amount of coupons I had. I get to the store and I tell myself just get one item. Try them out and see what happens.

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I pick the Pork dumplings and even though no one thankfully suffers from celiac disease, there are times I just want a gluten free meal like other times I pick no meat to no corn days. Our bodies (well at least mine) needs a break when it comes to what I eat. I don’t want corn in any form in my system on a daily basis and there are days I want a gluten free meal. It changes what I put in my body and it’s welcoming to my taste buds. Labor Day was approaching and we always barbecued outside but this year I wanted something low key and different, so I opted to make it an Asian night. I made everything from Orange chicken, Korean-style BBQ ribs, Shrimp Japanese-style fried rice, Vegetable Lo-Mein to Ponzu Lime Fish. I always love the dumplings and sides but I honestly don’t always have the time to make them homemade but that should be no reason on why I should skip on flavor or real ingredients. Feel Good Foods uses simple ingredients and made from real stuff. No funny fillers and ingredients that come from a lab.

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Cooking- I have 4 burners going at the same time on a 5-burner stove. One was a grill for the short ribs, so that meant my 5th burner was not accessible. I never like to try products from the get-go in the microwave, so I went with the method I came up for times like this, when I have more pots going than burners available. I take the dumplings out and they are a nice size and a decent weight. That surprised me because I am use to the type that really are more wrap than filling. Feel Good Foods does not play that game and they are beautifully sealed too. I placed them on parchment paper and while I prepped the other food, they defrosted for 10 minutes. I use a baster brush and give the dumplings a thin coating of oil (a mix of peanut and toasted sesame oil). I literally use my hand and gather a few droplets of water from the sink’s faucet and let them drop onto the pan, cover with foil and cooked them at 400 degrees. I cooked them for 15 minutes, with the last 5 to 7 minutes uncovered. I get the best of both worlds, the softness and moistness on the inside from a steamed dumpling and the crisp on the outside from a pan fried one. You don’t even have to over brown them because they will be crisp without looking brown. Easy and problem free cooking, for those days I have more going on than usual.

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Verdict-
I serve our meals and noticed I went crazy with the sides but I tell myself this is what we would get at a buffet, share, and always end up eating a little bit of everything. I even made a Jasmine vegetable rice to add to the mix at the last minute, just in case no one felt like hijiki seaweed and wanted a less crispy rice texture. I serve the dumplings and the sauce and everything smells great. We dig in and of course I always tell my Husband to go easy with the Sriracha but noticed I’m too late because not only has his Lo-Mein noodles picked up a red hue, but he has a spoonful on top of the Sriracha garlic paste (too late!). We all continue eating and he asks me about the new sauce. This is the sauce that came with the dumplings. It’s good and not salty, simple but better than plain soy sauce. It’s a welcoming flavor that takes nothing away from the dumplings. Now, the Pork dumplings are plain awesome! Full of pork and the wrap is thin, so you taste the filling and not just the dough. You first taste ginger and this is the real stuff…..none of that powder and they are the best frozen I have bought. I love(d) the Trader Joe’s ones but I have to honest, I would buy the pork and the chicken bags and could never tell, which was which. The flavors just blended and sometimes the wrap was so thick, that the crimped top of the dumpling would not cook right. The Feel Good Foods dumplings were filling and I ate just 2 of them and was very satisfied. I actually wish I served myself 1 more! I cooked the dumplings along side of the Pork Shu Mai dumplings and the Feel Good Foods dumplings had more meat and the filling was not mush. You could see the strands of what made the filling and even though they come frozen, that did not effect the texture of the dumpling. Easy to make and they taste wonderful and I have purchased pretty much every dumpling out there from the Costco Roadshows (featured) brands to the common ones found at the local market. Nothing comes close to Feel Good Foods and the nice part, we just felt satisfied with our meal and no bad after effects from things like MSG or too much sodium. The way meals should be!

I can’t wait to go shopping next week and I will be picking up a new item from Feel Good Foods every 3 weeks and sharing my experience. The company was generous with their coupons, plus they have so much to offer!  You just have to check-out all they have because it’s overwhelming but in a good way 🙂 This is a company that cares about using non-GMO ingredients and where they source their foods from, plus they believe in all natural products and best of all, they see no reason why frozen should not look and taste good.  I never knew gluten-free could taste this good!

Connect with Feel Good Foods at:

 

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Feel Good 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.

 

Daiya Foods: Daiya Deliciously Dairy Free Pizzas #Review #DaiyaPizzas

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Even if we are a household without dietary restrictions, I still like to mix things up a bit. Eating the same way is just utterly boring no matter how good the food can be. To not get in a meal rut means I need to introduce new foods and start weeding out the things we want to take a break from.

Daiya Foods Pizzas, is a leap of many kinds for us. For one, we rarely eat frozen prepared meals and/or side dishes. I do freeze meats in raw form and that is as frozen as we get, along with frozen veggies and fruits. You just can’t grab something from the freezer and nuke it……yeah, that comes back and bites me, so I made some tamales and the such for those days I want to actually use the microwave beyond just softening butter in it. Secondly, I have tried gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, to meatless but never really ventured into non-dairy, unless it’s a fruit based gelato or some kind of sweet treat. This means Daiya foods is eating a way for us that is entirely new because it’s taking everything we have tried before, but all in one dish and at the same time. I’m game!

I was offered to try out the pizzas and no one had ever tried anything from Daiya Foods, except for a faux cream cheese style spread. Some of my group admitted to seeing the cheezes in the dairy alternative aisle at Sprout’s, but never actually tried it. Okay, this is now an entire new experience for us all.

Daiya Foods makes 6 Pizzas to choose from and they all sound delicious and tempting:

  • Supreme Pizza, which includes a meatless sausage topping from Beyond Meat
  • Pizza Bianca Pizza, featuring a white bean sauce that has mushrooms and spinach toppings
  • Cheeze Lover’s Pizza, a simpler non-topping pizza, which features Daiya’s version of cheezes, like Mozzarella and Cheddar
  • Margherita Pizza, a traditional twist on a classic and comes with tomato chunks and basil
  • Fire-Roasted Vegetables Pizza, Daiya did not skimp and you have three bell pepper varieties, onions, garlic, tomatoes and even a dash of basil
  • Mushroom and Roasted Garlic Pizza, even when it comes to mushrooms, Daiya makes sure you get something beyond the button kind.  You have shiitake and crimini in a blanket of roasted garlic and all nestled on their tomato sauce

I purchased two of the selections available, the Supreme and the Fire-Roasted Vegetable to try out.  This was what was available at Sprout’s and they were redoing that section when I was shopping and I grabbed the ones that looked more tempting.  I grabbed to of the veggies kind and one of the supreme.  First, one up to cook and see how well it is received is the Fire-Roasted Vegetable:

The pizza was easy to cook and even though the instructions stated to cook directly on the rack, I just got a new range and it’s less than a week old.  A few of the cheeze shreds were dangling off the crust, which I like when eating but not when cooking, so I opted to cook the pizza on my pizza stone just like I would any pizza.

The pizza was cooked and ready in 13.5 minutes!  You have the option to use the standard bake and convection instructions were listed, so I went with that cooking option.

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Verdict:

By the seven minute mark, you could smell the vegetables and they smell as good as they look.  Daiya did not skimp on toppings and that is always a plus in our book.  The crust is crisp and upon slicing, you hear it cut just like a normal pizza crust would.  The dough has a darker tint that can be described as almost wheat-like in color.  It also tastes like a wheat crust but a good one!  Daiya nailed it when it came to how the crust tasted, broke apart when eaten and this made the eating of the pizza enjoyable.  The vegetables are out of this world.  We all agreed the freshness and texture makes you wish Daiya sold the veggies by the bagful.  They are roasted but not soft and a mushy mess from being frozen.  There is still texture and they are so good, plus the tang you get from the tomato sauce provides a nice balance of flavors.  The sauce is light and not super sweet, you just taste fresh tomatoes and a touch of basil.  Now, the only small negative is the cheeze.  The browned portions we all agreed tasted better than the whiter ones, so toasted on top is the way to cook the pizza if you desire this flavor profile.  The cheese does not melt and or string apart like normal dairy versions, it’s almost a little too soft in texture and one guest felt it was like sour cream in taste.  I did not feel the sour notes were present but I can see where the comparison in texture can be made.  This was the only downer but because the crust and everything else was top-notch, it would not prevent me from buying it.  It’s a pizza that I would say has that “rustic” taste but think of it more as a flat-bread pizza with superb toppings and cooks in 15 minutes or less!

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The other positive is that 2 pizzas and I had boneless chicken wings to pair with it, filled us!  I still had dessert to serve and when it came to putting the third pizza in the oven (The Supreme), we were full.  I thought that is a good thing because 8 people were fed very well and we were satisfied with what we ate, so we opted to give the third pizza to the guest that is always late.  She also brought a third extra guest, so she could enjoy the pizza for dinner (versus lunch) when she got home.  Okay, I’m thinking if I give free meals away, people will start showing up late now 🙂 I’m also eye-ing those cheezecakes they sell and they have a Key Lime one……oh’ yummers!

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Connect with Daiya Foods and enjoy their products at:

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Daiya 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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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.

 

Oloves Olives: Veggie & Bean Delight Quinoa Salad #Recipe

 

 

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  • Veggie & Bean Delight Quinoa Salad

You have a great salad that is packed with protein and fiber that is perfect for a “Meatless Monday”. You can also make this in the evening and it holds well for up to 3 days in the fridge. No dressing needed and you can eat it over a bed of lettuce, fill two tomato halves, or stuff an avocado. I opted for a little bed of lettuce to go with my avocado and it made two beautiful and very filling cups.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 /2 cup of Tri-Color Qunioa (cooked, drained and cooled)
  • 1/2 cup of White Kidney Beans
  • 1/2 cup of Garbanzo Beans
  • 1/4 cup of raw Carrots (diced)
  • 1/4 cup of raw Celery (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup of raw Zucchini (diced)
  • 1/8 of a cup of raw Red Onion (diced)
  • 1 pack of Oloves in Lemon & Rosemary
  • 1 pack of Oloves in Basil and Garlic
  • Optional- Feta crumbled Cheese (add this before serving as a topper)

 

Begin by cooking your Tri-color Qunioa, draining and allowing it to cool.  I always cook mine with a touch of smoked salt and this is why I did not any more to the salad.  The flavor comes all from Oloves olives!

Then chop up all your veggies and add to a large bowl that is big enough to mix and toss.

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Drain and rinse both cans of beans and take 1/2 cup out from each type of bean.

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Add to veggies and toss.  Then open an avocado in half, so you are left with two equal sized halves.  I always brush mine with a little lemon or lime juice to preventing browning and add a little flavor.

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Then simply open 1 bag each of the Oloves pouches in Lemon & Rosemary and the Basil and Garlic varieties.  Add to salad and toss to combine.  Taste and if you want to add a little salt or freshly cracked pepper…….go right ahead but I found the flavors were perfectly balanced by just using what Oloves provided.

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Then simply lay out some lettuce (even Kale) so the avocados don’t feel lonely, top with the salad and you can add some Feta cheese if you desire.  You can store the remainder in a glass container for up to 3 days.  I never store with the cheese because for no reason it sounds “icky” to me, so I top just before serving.  Enjoy!

 

 

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Get your Oloves and you can make the above recipe and more at:

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Oloves.  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.

 

Oloves Olives: Perfect Olives in every pack #Review

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I really enjoyed the Oloves pack I received with a subscription box and served as my introduction to the brand. You have perfectly shaped green olives that are infused with flavors, not even a pit to get in the way of your munching. Perfect brine paired with a nice “meaty” olive, both the quality of the olives and the ingredients make for one spectacular combination. The company was kind enough to share their selections with me and every Oloves pouch leaves you with a very happy and satisfied taste!

You have several flavor variations to choose from, so the Oloves party never gets dull:

  • Basil & Garlic
  • Chili & Oregano
  • Lemon & Rosemary
  • Chili & Garlic

All products are made with simple ingredients that are Vegan, Kosher, Gluten Free, and all natural. Low in saturated fats and each pouch is a friendly 50 calories.

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Basil & Garlic:

These are natural green pitted olives and they have a touch of salt, sunflower oil, basil, garlic, vinegar, and acidifiers listed as lactic and citric acid. The pouch weighs 1.1. ounces and safely keeps the green olives intact. No broken or smashed ones and I added them to a salad, which made my dinner look like a beauty and my taste buds were 100% satisfied when it came to the flavor and texture. You get a nice brine that is not over loaded with acids or too high in flavor when it comes to the marinade. Oloves found the perfect balance where the other flavors compliment versus taking away from the olive.

 

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Chili & Oregano:

An olive with a little attitude! I love this one and the pouch made a delicious muffuleta spread that went wonderfully paired with a Rosemary Ham sandwich. The chili adds a little heat and zest but because the olives are plump and “meaty”, this olive can handle the heat! I will be making a brushetta next time and topping each bread slice with half of an olive in this variation. It changes up the flavors and the Oregano compliments the topping nicely.

 

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Chili & Garlic:

I love garlic but I shy away from it when it comes to packed goods and mostly because manufactures do not respect the clove. You want garlic in it’s full real flavor, not some powdered stuff that looks and tastes like saw dust. Oloves not only got the harissa spice right but the real garlic notes are so there. This is a black olive that slaps back when it comes to heat and flavor but I polished 2 baggies off because I was going to win this battle!

 

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Lemon & Rosemary:

I never knew lemon went so well with that nice acid and brine flavors you get with olives. It just awakens your taste buds with the freshness and the rosemary even made me add a pack (chopped up) into the daily bread I bake. It went so well with the rustic loaf that I will be repeating that concoction again. I also made a salad that has zero dressing because like I mentioned, these are not boring olives. They are the spice of the party!  I will be posting the recipe next!

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Get your Oloves kick at:

 

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Oloves.  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.

 

 

 

 

Healthy Surprise: Subscription Snack Box filled with goodies and delivered right to your door

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Healthy Surprise is a company, which delivers snack filled boxes to your door on a monthly basis. The company also offers specialty themed boxes, like their Chocolate Box that is filled with anything and everything having to do with that cacao bean we all love. You also have different box levels and they just get fuller and fuller as you go up the scale:

  • Starter Box- $40.00 a month and filled with snacks for 1 to 2 people. Each box has 11+ full sized snacks to enjoy.
  • Big Box– $60.00 a month and filled with snacks to satisfy 1 to 4 people. This box comes with 16+ full sized snacks to indulge in.
  • Combo Box– $95.00 a month and filled with snacks to satisfy 2 to 6 people. The Combo Box is huge and filled with 27+ full sized snacks that will satisfy any taste-bud and then some.

All treats are soy free, gluten free, natural to vegan. Snacks are corn free and even plant based. I also found they research very carefully what they offer in their boxes from products not made in China to the ingredients used. You won’t find MSG to High Fructose Corn Syrup. Worried about allergies? Healthy Surprise hunts for dairy free, peanut free, shellfish free, no artificial flavors, dyes, color, to even no artificial sweeteners used in their health friendly boxes. No Partially Hydrogenated oils or yeast extracts to upset your taste buds! It’s munching but at a higher level of quality and some can same say less guilt. I’m always for feeling better and less guilty about snacking!

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One thing I dislike about monthly subscription boxes is the wait. You miss that delivery window and you are waiting 30+ days to get anything. Not with Healthy Surprise!  They even have a count down and I ordered one day in the early hours and I am not kidding, I was opening up my box within 48 hours. Healthy Surprise is a California based company, so I got quick delivery and so can you, as they ship for free anywhere in the U.S. You can also set when you want a box shipped and I like that level of control when ordering.

Now to the box we go! I received the smaller box called the Starter Box and calling it small is an understatement, with 13 items but does it live up to it’s price tag? Let’s see….

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  • Hail Merry Macaroons Blonde– The bag comes with 1.75 of puck shaped macaroons. They are small but packed with flavor and no skimping on the coconut. I loved these and ate them with fruit, then dipped some in chocolate and two macaroons swam in an almost empty jar of Fleur de Sel Caramel that was too good to waste. Love these and they are addicting. The product is gluten free and Vegan friendly. Hail Merry uses top notch ingredients from organic maple syrup, shredded coconut, extra virgin coconut oil to raw almond flour. You add vanilla and sea salt and that makes up the entire list of contents. Simple and delicious and I’m a fan. A bag this size retails for about $4 to $5.

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  • Gorge Delights, Just Fruit Bar in Apple Cherry 100% grown U.S. fruit, this bar is sort of like the “fruit leather” you find at Trader Joe’s. A little thicker and it’s made of apple puree, apple concentrate, and cherry concentrate. The bar is simple but delivers more of an apple punch than a cherry one. Due to it’s ultra minced texture, the bar is a little on the gummy side but not satisfying in texture like a gummy bear is. It’s more gummy and smashed. Was not a fan of the bar and stopped at two bites because the cherry was just not there for me and it started to taste like fermented fruit. I really wanted to like this bar because it does satisfy 2 fruit servings of your daily requirements and I would try it again but in another flavor. This bar retails for about $1.16 when purchased in bulk sizes (for retail).

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  • Oloves in Basil and Garlic These are natural green pitted olives and they have a touch of salt, sunflower oil, basil, garlic, vinegar, and acidifiers listed as lactic and citric acid. The pouch weighs 1.1. ounces and safely keeps the green olives intact. No broken or smashed ones and I added them to a salad, which made my dinner look like a beauty and my taste buds were 100% satisfied when it came to the flavor and texture. You get a nice brine that is not over loaded with acids or too high in flavor when it comes to the marinade. Oloves found the perfect balance where the other flavors compliment versus taking away from the olive. A bag this size retails for a little over a $1.00.

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  • Hail Merry Grawnola in Orange and Cranberry– Another hit for the Hail Merry family and this raw nut and fruit blend is packed with flavor that is perfectly balanced. Many orange flavored items are over powered with a poor tasting juice that smells better than it tastes, but not here. You get the hints of citrus and the granola is crunchy and not coated with that honey/orange juice glaze that gives you sticky fingers. You have ingredients like raw almonds, maple syrup, buckwheat groats, fresh orange juice, dried apples, raw pecans, and cranberries. The blend continues with raw sunflower seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon and salt. Perfect and craveable, plus energy packed. Most ingredients are organic and this product is gluten free, Vegan friendly, grain free and packed with Raw Omegas. Hail Merry products make you look at the label twice and it’s not a trust issue, it’s that you can’t believe something so good is not doused in sugars and bad stuff! This 1.5 ounce bag retails for between $2.50 and $3.00.

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  • Buddy Fruits in Mango Passion & Banana– The drink comes in a resealable container and Buddy Fruits is simple in the ingredient list. You have pure blended fruit derived from Mango. Apple, Banana, and Passion Fruit juice…..that is all. The pouch delivers a taste just like you would imagine the fruit combination would be. Great product to drink as it is or even add to smoothies. I semi-froze mine to enjoy on a hot day and it got a nice slush consistency that made me wish I had 2 of these in my box. The 3.2 ounce pouch retails for about a $1.00 to $1.25.

 

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  • Freshly Wild Super Foods, Kale Joy in Jazzy Sweet Mustard– Healthy surprise sent me another thing I’ve been dying to try, kale chips. Because let’s face it, everyone gets “munchy” from time to time, but potato chips are all kinds of unhealthy and bad for any diet in excess. From Freshly Wild, a small Portland, Oregon-based health food company, comes Kale Joy in Jazzy Sweet Mustard flavor. Not just your average dehydrated kale chip, these are handcrafted and carefully dehydrated in a small kitchen “powered by renewable wind energy”. Cool. Gluten-free, non GMO, and vegan, three things that are quite popular right now. Using “… only the best juices, nuts, seeds and spices”, this little guy is coated in crunch and flavor, with little bits of nut and seasoning all over. Neat-o. In a resealable .75 ounce package to boot. Crispy without being crumbly, and a satisfying crunch that fills that “munchy” feeling I mentioned earlier. Tangy and sweet. Two things jump out at me: 1 is that unfortunately, a lot of the chips became “shards” at the bottom of the bag. And 2 is that for only an ounce, you’d be paying between $4.50 and $6.00 a bag. Yowza. Fortunately, a little bit goes along way.

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  • Snip Chips in Dill Pickle– This is a Parsnip and Coconut snack mix. I have never even sniffed a blend like this or much less had one but I’m a try it all and then decide type of gal. The product is parsnips, raw coconut, raw cashews, apple cider vinegar, dill, garlic and lemon, plus a touch of chipotle, mustard seed, and Himalayan crystal salt. I dive in and it’s not crispy but more of a dehydrated like texture, I have seen these at my local Sprout’s Market and they come in other flavors. I like dill pickles and found myself puzzled by the blend as I knew it.  I did go back for a second and third piece. The verdict is still out on this one for me as much as I tried to make-up my mind about it. I guess I’m in the middle about it, I don’t love them or dislike them but unsure if I will be having more. Sun Chips does have other flavors and maybe the cheesy one would be better. This bag at a weight of 2 ounces retails between $5.49 and $5.99.

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The Daily Crave Veggie Chips– Remember that “munchy” feeling I mentioned? The one that comes between meals and runs diets? Yeah, that one. Here’s another product that should make you feel a little less guilty about munching. Note that I said “should”. I’ll explain that in a minute. The Daily Crave is a snack food company that boasts on their website:

*100% All Natural
*100% Vegan
*No Artificial Ingredients
*No Dairy
*Non GMO
*No Artificial flavors
*No Artificial coloring
*No Hydrogenated Fats
*Perfect for Dipping

That’s a mouthful. And it’s got a neat package, a good price, clever marketing, what’s not to love? Well, a close look at the ingredient list reveals that these are not all that different from, say, those chips in a tube shaped can that stack so nicely. Potato flour, potato star hotel, and oil are the first 3 ingredients. And while there is salt and sugar, it’s thankfully in very small amounts. Almost as small as the amounts of actual veggies in these veggie chips. Now, that’s not to say they aren’t tasty, because they are. But for all they got right, they also got quite a bit wrong. Snazzy packaging and trendy buzzwords do not a great product make. A small filled bag at just 1 ounce retails for $1.33 (retail bulk price).

  • Snapz Premium Grilled Zucchini Crunch & Snapz Premium Pineapple Crunch– I hate being a snack buzzkill, so let me mention a couple of yummers that I loved. Snapz Crisps makes an entire line of gently dehydrated fruit and veggie crisps, so there’s something for everyone. They are a “Brand leader for non fried fruit and vegetable crisps, 100 % natural, not fried or baked. Using unique technology to ensure the products are very crisp (?) they combine the fun and enjoyment of crisps with the goodness of fruit and vegetables. Appealing to all ages groups — young and old alike.” I got to try both sweet and savory with their Premium Pineapple and Grilled Zucchini flavors. While I appreciated the subtle flavors of the grilled zucchini, a little touch of sea salt would have really livened it up. But the pineapple crisps were a hit all around. Too often there are added oils and sugars in dried fruit that completely drown out the flavors of the fruit, but not here. I love the one item ingredient list: Pineapple. Winner! Tasty, crunchy, tangy. Not oily, not overly sweet. What’s not to love? Fat free, gluten free, nut free, GMO free, sugar free, salt free, preservative free…can it be true? It is, but I came crashing down to earth when I went to buy some more: 12 bags (0.46 oz each) were over $17 plus tax and shipping at Amazon. That stings. I really hate that the closer you get to real foods the more it costs, but that’s the reality in America anymore. I will say I really, really enjoyed these and will be on the lookout for them when next I darken the market’s doorstep.

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  • Righteously Raw Chocolates in Mint, Rose, and Dark chocolate– The Dark has a nice creamy and intense cacao notes. It’s not perfume-y, just chocolate satisfaction all the way through at 83% pure cacao you can believe it’s good and no bitter notes at all. It’s the espresso of chocolates! The Mint version has 82% cacoa and it’s not your typical mint that is creamy, think more of a “dry mint” taste where your mint is derived from peppermint so you get the sharp notes combined with the dark chocolate. A good combination and I liked that it was different than the typical mint flavors I have tried before. Then comes the Rose. I love roses and have even indulged in pastries that contain rose water……I took a bite and the flavor was so off, that I quickly chewed and opened the Dark version for salvation. It tasted like something bad had been infused and not like any rose I have eaten or even smelled. The tricky part is the bar smells like just dark chocolate but when you bite, something bitter and sour just takes over your mouth. It says red raspberry powder, brown rice protein powder to red beet are mixed in with the chocolate. Rose hips is last on the list and maybe it’s the flavor combination but it’s a no-go on the Rose and I love chocolate and have even continued to eat chocolate that when asked how it is, I reply “ummm, it’s okay”, but continue munching. Could not do that with the Rose. Righteously Raw did well with the Dark and surprised me nicely with the Mint, so go there when buying this one. The 3 chocolates I received are considered “bite-size”, so finding a price point was a bit difficult but buying in bulk of a bag of dark was 16 pieces for $22.99 via Amazon, making it under $0.70 per bite size bar.

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  • A $25.00 gift card– was also included and can be used towards the purchase of a Healthy Surprise box, making the smaller one more than 50% off. Good company when it comes to continuing patronage with their customers.

I liked being able to try some brands I had never heard of, brands that I have seen but knew nothing about, and seeing the familiar ones like Hail Merry but trying new items from a company I know and purchase products from. Exploring is fun and The Healthy Surprise Company does the hunting while you do the munching. I believe every subscription company should at the very least be tried once and to get a good idea, try it a second time. I did feel some items were overly priced by companies but that is not Healthy Surprises’ fault. It did let me adjust my shopping list by making sure to add some companies to my list and knowing what products to just walk away from. If you are into exploring new items and new flavors, but in a “better for you” way, try Healthy Surprise. I found a great link you can use, which is via Groupon. For a limited time you can get the $60 box for $30!!!

Visit Healthy Surprise and get the Groupon deal at:

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I received the above product free of charge from Healthy Surprise. 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.

Garlic Gold: Double Crusted Cheese sticks made with Marinated Mozzarella #Recipe

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I’m so in love with the Garlic Gold brand, that I made another easy recipe to enjoy. These go with everything from pizza, wings, to even a light Italian dinner.  I even pair them with a dinner salad and these sub for my croutons.

Let’s Begin…..

  • Large Mason Jar
  • 1/4 cup of Garlic Gold’s Red Wine Vinaigrette
  • 8 to 10 sticks cut from Mozzarella Cheese (from a semi-soft block, not the soft fresh type)
  • 1/4 cup of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup of plain Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of plain Bread Crumbs
  • Dash of Garlic Gold Nuggets
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Optional- 1/4 teaspoon of chili flakes if you want to make Fire Crackers. Add the flakes to the marinade.
  • Peanut Oil (or one of your choice) for frying

Take your Mason Jar and add 1/4 cup of the Garlic Gold Vinaigrette. Take your cheese sticks and close the jar, give it a toss and lay it down in the fridge.

I marinated mine overnight and I would walk by the fridge and shake it a few times. You can use a small jar if you wish but I wanted to not fill the jar and waste vinaigrette, so I opted to not filling and used this shaking method.

You will notice the oil will solidify so take the cheese out an hour before cooking and allow the marinade to liquefy and every now and then give the jar a shake.

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Take out a plate (I use a glass pie plate) and use that as your flouring station and another dish for the bread crumbs (both the panko and plain combined). Add salt and pepper to taste to the bread crumbs and a dash of the Garlic Gold Nuggets.

Take cheese out of jar (reserve the vinaigrette) and dip them in the flour, rolling and making sure to not forget to dab the tips too.

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Once the cheese is floured, dip the cheese back into the vinaigrette and then roll into the bread crumbs.

You will notice that not much will stay, but this is the first dip that will insure you have that great flavor. The flour will soak it up and give it a beautiful layer and crunch. Do all the bread sticks and let them relax in the bread crumbs.

Crack open the egg and whisk.

Dip each bread stick in the egg and back into the bread crumbs. I lay the cheese sticks on a plate because they will be relaxing in the freezer for 20-30 minutes after they have received their second coat. This is the coat that will stick really well and just continue until all cheese sticks are nicely covered and coated.

Put plate in freezer and depending how cold yours is, it only takes 20 to 30 minutes for them to set nicely. This buys you time when frying and also allows the breading to set.

Once the above time has lapsed, it’s time to fry! I use Peanut Oil for how it tends to fry everything really crispy. You can use any frying oil of your choice. Heat up the oil and this is a quick dish to make.

It takes less than 30 seconds to get golden. I take about 2 to 3 sticks at a time because I used a small frying pan but you can use a larger one (I don’t like wasting oil either 🙂 ). You just drop them in and you can see my oil comes up half-way and then once they are golden and this happens in a few seconds, just flip and finish.

I placed my fried cheese sticks on parchment to rest. Serve immediately and enjoy.

If you are frying more than the above quota, no worries as you can use a pan with parchment to rewarm them. Again, this happens quick as we are dealing with cheese. Heat your oven to 375 degrees and set your cheese sticks on a cookie sheet (with parchment) and heat until warm and gooey. This can take 5 minutes and I do this with leftovers (from the fridge). You can serve with a pesto and I opted for a eggplant and vegetable marinara sauce. The cheese sticks are flavorful and you can make these into “fire crackers” by adding the chili flakes to your marinade.

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You can also make this easy dish by getting your own Garlic Gold Products at:

  • On-line– http://garlicgold.com/
  • Visit Garlic Gold on Facebook– https://www.facebook.com/GarlicGold
  • Twitter– https://twitter.com/garlicgold
  • See the pretty Garlic Gold products and the other dishes you can create onPinterest– http://www.pinterest.com/garlicgold/

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I received the above product free of charge from Garlic Gold.  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.

NAZQIZ: QANCHA air-toasted Peruvian Corn snack in Original, Picante and Chimichurri #Review

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I am not a huge snacker but when I get my snack-ems on, I usually like to try something new and off the chart. In comes Qancha snacks, a corn snack that is poppable and off the chart when it comes to flavor. I was a huge muncher back in the days of another brand of corn snacks but after time, I noticed the product changed and it’s mostly now an oily and salty mess! So I moved on to buying the store brand Inca Gold nuggets in picante flavor. I need saving when it came to my corn snack-ems!

Qancha uses toasted Cancha corn, which you have probably heard as also being called Chulpe corn. This Peruvian variety is a maiz that pops when exposed to heat. You get an airy product that has a great crunch and achieves those toasted notes that we all chase after. You will notice from the images that the Cancha has a different shape that is almost elongated, sort of like a peanut but trust me that a peanut wishes it could be this airy and poppable. Nazqiz makes sure to never fry this snack and it’s loaded with better ingredients that makes sure your taste buds are left satisfied. Qancha snacks are air toasted with avocado oil and are naturally gluten-free, high in fiber, soy-free, dairy and nut free. Also, free of preservatives or any artificial ingredients! Freshness is key and the resealable packages state they have a shelf life of 3 months after delivery but it won’t last you that long! Other facts to note is that this product is high in fiber, non-GMO, no trans fat and insanely good!   This is the good stuff so let’s get started with the flavors……

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Original:

What started the party! This classic version combines the toasty Chulpe kernel with avocado oil and sea salt.  The simplicity can be appreciated and it even pairs well with mixed with the other flavors.   I tasted this one first and fell in love with the distinct flavors this maiz has. It’s not heavy and because the product is toasted perfectly, you get none of those “burny corn” notes you sometimes do with the fried stuff. The taste is clean and the salt content is perfect, you don’t even end up with crusty salty fingers, so I can munch with no evidence of my snackings left behind. I was so satisfied with the lightly salted Original that I had to keep going until I tasted the trio.

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Picante:

Comes with a Latin kick that gives you a touch of heat but with plenty of spicy flavor. Not the kind of heat that burns but just a slight smothering of spiciness. You get freshness from the lime that leaves a nice citrus and toasty aftertaste when finished. I noticed this product also contains Lime oil and this was a first for me and I can say I am a fan of the flavor and freshness you get from this ingredient. The Picante variety is not oily and every Chulpe kernel has the perfect amount of flavoring, so you get maximum flavor in every bite.

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Chimichurri:

I love the stuff as my father was raised in Argentina, so we of course dipped everything from bread to meat and even cheese in Chimichurri sauce. Every person has their own interpretation of the spice blends but I liked that Qancha kept things on the traditional level. You get a nice garlic and herby kick here, that just kept coming back for more. The garlic and onion is well balanced but you get the acidity (just a touch) from the red wine vinegar that leaves your mouth just craving more of the zest. I am always cautious with Chimichurri because some interpretations are just off balance, like I love garlic but there is more to the sauce. Qancha captured that “more” and thankfully paired it perfectly with a corn crunch. I had to force myself to stop eating this version and it’s our favorite!

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Price Point: Fairly priced for 3 packets (1 of each flavor) for $7.99 on Amazon

These corn snacks attract attention just by how they look and even how they smell. They are different but will make any guest at least give them one try by the aroma of each distinct flavor. I really never met anyone that does not like one type of corn snack and Qancha by Nazqiz (made in California) gives you three versions to fall in love with. These are great as-is or you can try them over salads, pair them up with other snack foods or spread them over a dip. They take you out of the snacking rut, so try a snack that is thankfully better for you but your taste buds won’t know better!

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For more information or you just want to get crunching, visit Nazqiz Qancha snacks at:
On-linehttp://www.nazqiz.com/
or Order on Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Qancha-Air-toasted-Peruvian-Variety-Flavors/dp/B00I3JXCXM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390936131&sr=8-1&keywords=qancha
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/QanchaNazqiz

I received the above product free of charge from Nazqiz.  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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