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.

 

HouseParty: Boursin® Gournay Cheeses in Pepper, Shallot and Chive, and Garlic and Fine Herbs #Review #BoursinCheesePack

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I was fortunate to be able to have Boursin® Cheese be a guest at our holiday table and I was very lucky in visiting Von’s Markets and finding all the cheeses in stock.  The deal became sweeter when Von’s had a promo going of Buy-one-get-one-Free (BOGO), so using the free item coupon provided by Boursin, yielded an extra cheese item.  We were Boursin-ing it at our house this holiday so much, that 2016 will also feature a nice cheese platter when it comes to welcoming the new year.

Some companies have cheeses that tend to all taste the same no matter the flavor listed.  They use the same base and are not generous with the add-ons, so when you buy one kind, you pretty much bought them all.  Not with Boursin cheeses!  Every flavor tastes different from the other.  You may have a texture that resembles each other but if the package states Pepper, peppery goodness is what you will enjoy!
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Boursin Gournay Cheese in Garlic and Fine Herbs-
Ingredients: Cultured pasteurized milk and cream, granulated garlic, salt, white pepper, parsley, chives*.*Dried

I was worried that the garlic would be overwhelming even though I love garlic, however I worry when it comes to dairy based products, that the ingredient can drown all the others out.  Again, Boursin found the right balance and you taste garlic but it has not permeated the entire cheese.  The white pepper provides a zingy taste that differs from the usual black peppercorns.  You get a mild spice that is perfect for even non-pepper fans!   The parsley and chives bring the herb notes, but chive also provides a nice mild onion flavor that tends to also brighten up the cheese’s overall taste.  This is the one you buy if you are new to the Boursin family.

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Boursin Gournay Cheese in Shallot and Chive-
Ingredients: Cultured pasteurized milk and cream, shallots*, salt, chives*, green onions*, potassium sorbate (preservative). *Dried

This version of Boursin cheeses is one of my favorites.  You have a blend of dry herbs and that creamy Boursin cheese that is smooth in texture and flavor.  The onion notes are real and not like what you get from a powdered product, that tends to even dry a cheese out.  There is freshness here and if you like onion based dips, this is the cheese that takes your taste buds on an onion-y adventure.

 

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Boursin Gournay Cheese in Pepper-
Ingredients: Cultured pasteurized milk and cream, salt, black pepper, potassium sorbate (preservative).

You have black pepper as the main ingredient and this is the more simpler flavor that tends to combine with all other toppers or spreads you may want to add with the cheeses.  The peppercorns are mild in flavor and thankfully the texture is pleasing.  You do not get huge chunks that disrupt the smoothness of the cheese’s texture and Boursin was still able to produce a smooth textured product that is enjoyable on a cracker or even added to a dip.

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Verdict:

This year we enjoyed the cheeses as-is and added them to crackers.  I visited Costco and they sell a trio package there.  Costco was sampling the cheeses by adding them to mashed potatoes and it created a smooth and appealing product.  It was a nice way to spruce up a comfort food and give it a little gourmet twist.  This New Year’s Eve, I will be baking fresh loaves of Rosemary rustic bread, cutting the loaves (not all the way through) to create pockets (crisscrossed pattern) and filling them with a a little butter and then Boursin cheese with shredded cheeses, and then baking.  This will create a nice pull-a-part bread that guests can enjoy eat while still being able to enjoy the festivities.   It is an easy appetizer to add to our others and melted cheese is something we all love.  I may add even some pancetta to some of the loaves to create a different flavor.  Boursin cheeses go with anything you serve because they stand on their own on a cheese platter, or you can add them dishes and dips.  There is no rules or limits here, so I highly suggest bringing a smile to your guests this year by welcoming 2016 with Boursin!

 

Find your favorite(s) with Boursin at:

I received the above product(s) free of charge from Houseparty/ChatterBox and Boursin Cheeses.  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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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: Herby Cheese Crackers made with Rice Flour, Gluten Free #MeatlessMonday

DSCN4421 Going with my Meatless-Monday dish, I decided to pair up my soup with a nice Gluten Free option, Herby Cheese Crackers. I used a mix of Gouda and Parmesan, however I have made these with a white cheddar cheese and plain sharp cheddar varieties. The cracker’s texture will vary by the cheese you use! I make sure to stick to a good quality cheese because the recipe only requires 2 ounces and I have had unpleasant experiences when a cheap cheese (this is not always connected by what you pay) that has oozed tons of oils and fats. No one wants an oily cracker….I want flaky with a nice crumble. Let’s Begin!

Dough:

  • 2 Ounces of grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese or a cheese that has a close enough moisture content. You can use a semi-soft and pair it with a freshly grated harder cheese too. Allow the cheese to come to room temperature (after you grated).
  • 2 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup of Bob’s Red Mill Rice Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon of herbs (I mixed dried herbs with fresh)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste (taste your cheese to measure saltiness before adding salt)
  • *Optional- You can add Red Pepper Flakes, Smoked Paprika even a dash of Cayenne Pepper. You can also crumble pre-cooked bacon or pancetta to change the flavors.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the Rice Flour, baking soda and herbs. I used dried parsley, thyme, tarragon and oregano. My plants have been blooming well in this mild Winter we have been having in California, so I used some fresh sage and thyme to make a 1 teaspoon’s worth with the dried herbs. Add your salt and pepper. I used a smoked salt for additional flavor and a pepper medley variety. I also included (optional) a dash of smoked paprika, a dash of red pepper flakes and also a small dash of cayenne to give the crackers some kick.

In another bowl, grate your cheese. I used a semi-soft gouda and a grated hard cheese variety of mixed parmesan and romano. DSCN4382 Add the cheese to your flour mixture and then incorporate the softened unsalted butter to the mix. I do not want to smell crackers on my hands all day so I use a glove to pretty much make a ball. Want a different way? Cream the butter and cheese in your with your mixer and add the flour mixture after. If the mix seems dry, add a 1/2 teaspoon of water. You do not want a super moist dough as this dough will rest and re hydrate in the fridge, plus we are making crackers and not bread. I usually rarely add water and just keep gathering the crumbs around until they play nice 🙂 DSCN4383 DSCN4388 Using plastic wrap, create a log that is almost 11 inches long. You can decide how large you want the crackers but since I want to have mine swim in my soup, I always go small. DSCN4390 The log can be shaped and in this case I used the assistance of a wooden chopstick to make a crease, which will then help me work these into a heart shape. You can just go square or even round….or we can also have fun and create and abstract shape!

Allow the dough to rest in the fridge 20-30 minutes if you need to shape after, or 40 minutes if you will be just slicing and baking. Heat your oven 350 degrees. Take the dough out and you can I usually slice half a log and return the other half to the fridge while the first batch bakes.  I used the chop-stick to help refine the heart shape too.

Bake the crackers for about 10 minutes and then cool. DSCN4409   You then bake the other half and these go great with soup, salads, or just by themselves. Enjoy!

Find out more about Bob’s Red Mill products at:

  • On-line– http://www.bobsredmill.com/
  • Twitter– https://twitter.com/BobsRedMill
  • Facebook– https://www.facebook.com/BobsRedMillNaturalFoods
  • Pinterest– http://www.pinterest.com/bobsredmill/
  • Save with a $1.00 off coupon– http://www.bobsredmill.com/get-a-coupon.html

DSCN4154 I received the above product free of charge from Bob’s Red Mill.  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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