Influenster: Products that go beyond the Winter Season #Influenster #FrostyVoxBox

 

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I was very excited again to get a VoxBox from Influenster. There is never a box that does not contain a new item to new brands I have never tried. This box was a beauty and food themed box, which really sums up the holiday season. The Frosty Vox Box really brought a little bit of everything from several very know brands:

 

  • Rimmel London

Was very generous and gave us two products to try out that go hand-in-hand, the Gentle Eye Make-up Remover and the ScandalEyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal eyeliner.  Both products are reasonably priced and that is welcomed after the holiday splurges.  What I like about the line is that their beauty items always exceed expectations and they allow me to keep up with whatever new fashion trend and/or look is in, but still be able to keep the lights on!

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  • NYC New York Cosmetics

Even with the nude colors being in, we still need lipstick and sometimes things get too pale or plain.  NYC fixes that by adding a touch of color with their Expert Last Lip line in Sugar Plum. The Sugar Plum color is rosy but also sheer, with a hint of shine but thankfully not super glossy.  The last thing you want to do is look back at every picture you took in Winter and your lips are blinding everyone.  With Valentine’s Day approaching, this color again fits perfectly with the season……so not just a one holiday and done product.

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  • EcoTools Hair Brush

This is my first time using this line and I was happy that the brush kept my locks nice and smooth, did not create static and was gentle enough to not break or stress my hair.  The brush has a nice handle for easy hold and also is nicely balanced, which is appreciated when I do a ponytail look.  What I like is how easy it is to clean because even though I use a low amount of leave-in products, the oils I do use can cause our hair tools to create build-up.  Dirty bristles is not an issue with this brush!

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  • No7 Protect and Perfect Intense Advanced Sachet 

I was so happy when I saw this brand included and before the box arrived.  My happiness sort of faded when I noticed this was not even a deluxe sample, but more of a packet with maybe 2 uses if I am lucky.  Two uses does not mean I can be fair or even really know about performance.  I may be able to share my opinion about the texture, and this product does have a light feel and quickly absorbs.  Unfortunately, that is all I can share because results take work and time, plus I’m always willing to give it to a beauty product but that also means I need a little more than 2 applications. 🙂

 

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  • Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane Decaf Green Tea

Just when I thought I was peppermint and pumpkin out with the holidays, this shows me that a tea can make the difference.  This tastes like true peppermint with it’s subtle and refreshing notes, that not only soothe but also calm me perfectly before bedtime.  Being decaffeinated allows me to enjoy this selection of herbal tea anytime I want and still get a good snooze in.

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  • McCormick Gourmet Thyme

I grow our own thyme but sometimes the cold snap we get decides I did not need that plant, so I always have thyme in dry form.  I also like to add dry ingredients with fresh ones because the flavor profile does change and even sometimes is preferred over the fresh (i.e. oregano) kind.  This jar arrived and I was happy to have more thyme and then looked at my thyme and even though it was not an aged bottle, my thyme was lacking that nice color, aroma and started to feel ashamed about how pretty the McCormick Gourmet one looked so I set it free and left this new bottle in it’s stead.

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  • Fruit Vines Bites

Not all can be winners and this was one again taught me all because it says cherry, it does not mean even 1% of a real cherry is in it.  Not the juice, I would have even been happy with cherry skin at this point but these vines are fruit lacking and sugar is all they bring.  I even chuckled when it came to vitamins and everything was 0%.  I know it’s candy and even for some a snack, but let me sin with something at least partially real.  I think the cherry needs an asterisk or maybe it should be called wanna-be cherry or sugar vines.  It has no preservatives but then again there is nothing real to preserve!

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Final Verdict-

Influenster always delivers an array of products that make me re-look at what I buy, own or even want.  I brought economical beauty brands back into the mix and just like my clothes, my fashion looks now are like my beauty products……in all price ranges!  I’m happier this way and that is really what matters.  These Vox Boxes are always a hit even when I get some so-so products because trying is really the only way to know and share with others!  Thank you again Influenster for another Vox Box experience!

 

  • #FrostyVoxBox
  • #GetAdvanced
  • #Rimmel
  • #SugarPlum
  • #CelestialTea
  • #LoveMyECOhairbrush
  • #McCormickGourmet
  • #SweetSide

 

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

 

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HouseParty: Mixing it up with Mezzetta Party #MezzettaMixer

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Mezzetta has been a brand we have used in our home for decades. From the roasted peppers that go great on a pizza, blended to add to a sauce to the Peperoncini that I slice up for sandwiches or eat whole with a salad. I have started baking our own breads because finding a bread with “friendly ingredients” is possible but at a hefty price point. I don’t believe you should pay more when you want less chemicals! When HouseParty announced they had openings for a Mezzetta Party, you bet I signed up.

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Mezzetta Party Kit contained:

  • (1) Apron with a cute Mezzetta logo that has an Olive and finally an apron with 2 large pockets. Those that give you one pocket don’t realize that I have 2 hands and usually I act like I have three by grabbing more utensils that I can hold.
  • (1) Visa Card for the Host to purchase products/ingredients for the event.
  • (1) One of the cutest Slotted Spoon that is perfect for draining the brine/liquid but still getting the olive and/or pepper you seek. No need to attempt to “harpoon” a pepper with a fork or pretend I can balance an olive out of a jar like Houdini.
  • (16) Coupon Booklets that included Mezzetta inspired recipes.
  • (16) Reusable Mezzetta branded Tote Bags that were very welcomed by my guests, due to the new state law, which will make California the first state to pass a state wide law of banning shopping bags.

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I have been doing really good with puff pastry and just like that, you can make the dishes savory or sweet. Easy to use and a great way to showcase what is in season. I found the most beautiful baby heirloom tomatoes, so they were a must mixed with a ricotta and Mezzetta’s Sun Dried Tomatoes “bedding” for them to rest on. I allowed guests to make their own dish by pre-chopping veggies they could add to their tart. Easy and almost mess free (well, bunching up the used parchment paper can be labor intensive 🙂 ).

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Combined with an Italian braised pork that I used Mezzetta’s Sweet Cherry Peppers and also paired with fresh Italian (Cubanelle) Green peppers, and doused in Pinot Grigio wine. You simply brown the seasoned pork first, brown the veggies and then add the peppers with a nice healthy wine bath. I add a bouquet of Lavender and Herbs, and just stick in the oven (covered in a braiser) at 350 degrees for a couple hours. Easy and tastes like you took all day to make when it was the oven that did all the work. I also love the all in one pot cooking method!

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The Olive bread was a cinch too. I use my “lazy girl” method, which can be used with any combination of Mezzetta’s Olives and most of their peppers.

Mezzetta’s Olive Blend Bread:

  • 1 3/4 cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/2 to 3/4 of warm water (105 degrees)
  • Olive Oil to baste bowl and bread

I put the above in my mixer (with dough hook) and make a well with the flour. I add the yeast and the warm water and allow it to “bloom” (bubble a bit) for about 5 to 8 minutes. I add my salt and then mix. If it needs more water to allow for a dough that is supple, I add by the teaspoon. I knead (well, the mixer does it) for about 7 to 10 minutes. I then get a bowl and add some Olive Oil to allow the bread to proof in the oven (105 degrees) for an hour (cover lightly with plastic wrap). Once the dough is proofed, I then put it in the fridge (do not punch the dough down).

I used about 1/2 a cup of mixed Mezzetta Olives, you can use peppers of your liking as long as the seeds are removed and they are chopped. Same goes for the olives, no stones or anything. Once I chopped what I want, I then take the dough out and start kneading my ingredients in. I sometimes add cheeses and a mix of dry and fresh herbs. Try to not over knead when incorporating your olives/pepper mixes. This can produce a rough dough. I will then shape the loaf into a desired shape and I then put the dough on a baking stone (a pan is fine with parchment or at least oiled to reduce sticking). Cover with a light towel and allow the dough to proof again for about 40 minutes to an hour. I sometimes baste mine with more Olive Oil or you use Warm Water to create a nice crust. I have sprinkled Parmesan to even Maldon (flake) Salt on mine before putting it in the oven. Add a couple slashes to allow the bread to breathe (steam escape) and bake at 450 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes (depending on size/shape) or until done. Allow to completely cool before slicing! You can also make the dough ahead and leave it in the fridge for up to a week after the first proof (the dough gets a richer flavor if you at least leave it overnight in the fridge)…….told you it was a friendly
recipe 🙂

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Mezzetta allows us to make dishes that look beautiful, taste great, but took only a few minutes to make. I like that! The less time I spend in the kitchen, the more time I can spend with Family & Friends!

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Get you Mezzetta Fix and Make it betta’ at:

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from HouseParty and Mezetta.  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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Bolthouse Farms Review: 100% Carrot Juice made into a Hearty Soup #MeatlessMonday #GlutenFree

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I first tried Bolthouse many years ago and then became reintroduced to the brand when I visited my local Costco. The “samplings” got me and of course I then had to usher my husband over and he became a fan too. Recently the wonderful company sent me 4 bottles to try and I am in love with the one I had the least expectations on. I love carrots but it’s usually the vegetable that acts as a filler in every vegetable medley I purchase, that I started to take it for granted. I tasted the juice and learned that not all carrots are created equal. My carrots from the baby to the large are missing the Bolthouse touch! The sweetness is unbelievable but not derived from sugar or some unholy syrup…..just the carrot. I know the bottle in the front stated clearly 100% Carrot Juice but I still flipped the thing around looking for further contents and then saw the ingredient list: Carrot!

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I stopped drinking bottled vegetable juices because most taste like they took the oldest and not so prime vegetables to create the juice, and like a bad grape makes a bad wine, bad veggies make horrific juices! I should not have to pinch my nose to drink something that is suppose to be healthy and good for me, to then have it repeat on me after…..sort of like, “surprise, you pinched your nose, but here I come, back so you can taste my awfulness!”. Bolthouse juices have none of that. They are good from the blends to just the plain ones like this 100% Carrot juice.

Being that today was #MeatlessMonday, I looked at my left-overs and got creative. I have diced plum tomatoes, wild rice, and some Thyme left over from the crackers I baked. It’s the last real cold day we will have in California this week, so I want to make the most of it!

Let’s Begin….

Soup Base (great portion for Lunch Time):
1/4 a cup of Bolthouse’s 100%Carrot Juice
1/4 a cup of canned Diced Tomatoes. I used Plum Tomatoes that have been canned with Basil (unsalted)
Fresh Thyme
Smoked Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional- Dash of Oregano before serving

I put the above all together in a pot and just bring it to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Once it’s done, I paired it with the Herby Cheese Crackers I baked.  You can find my Herby Cheese crackers recipe here: http://wp.me/p2B5Rd-Dh

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Now, for dinner, I wanted something a little more hearty. I used the above soup base but went up to 1/2 a cup of the 100% Carrot Juice from Bolthouse and 1/2 a cup of the Tomatoes. I added 1/2 a pat of unsalted butter, smoked salt and pepper medley to taste, and a dash of oregano. Let that come to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

I had some left-over wild rice I made over the weekend and added 1/4 cup to the soup base, along with 4 ounces of diced fresh zucchini. I brought that back up to a simmer and cooked it until the zucchini was the texture I desired. To serve, I added some parmesan cheese and a few of the crackers I baked earlier. Done! You can get creative by using wheat pasta, fresh kale to any vegetables that need attention from fresh to even frozen ones. A Meatless Monday meal that takes 10 to 12 minutes to make and is not only filling but delicious! Enjoy!

Visit Bolthouse and their Countless Juice Selections, Juices from Blends to the Plain; to Cafe drinks and even Protein ones:

Next time, I will be reviewing the juices from 100% Pomegrante juice to Multi-V Goodness Smoothie.

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I received the above product free of charge from Bolthouse Farms. 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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