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Do the Can Can! Great Tips for Canning Peaches with The Happy Homemaker

September 23rd, 2012

So, you want to learn how to Can do you? When people ask me how to do it my reply is usually something like “I dunno…...I just do”.

Growing up we had a fair sized garden and my mom did lots of canning. It was really more out of necessity than anything. We lived in a very small isolated community and in the winter we often couldn’t go to town for weeks at a time. We had a small community grocery store that had the basics, you know, bread, eggs and milk, but it was very expensive and didn’t have everything you needed.

My mom canned the basics….peaches, pears, cherries, salmon. Yes salmon, but don’t worry, today we will start with something far easier than Salmon.

I always suggest apples as a good place to start. They are abundant in the fall and very forgiving no matter what you do to them but since I am already up to my eyeballs in peaches, we will start there, and I’ll do this in laymans terms so feel free to follow along with a glass of wine.

What you NEED (there are lots of other things that are nice to have but you can start out with a very basic set up)......

~a large stock pot,
~canning jars (500ml/pint jars are great for beginners),
~fruit of choice (we are using peaches today),
~a pair of tongs
~a whole lot of ambition.

The very first thing you do is wash your jars and rings. I run mine through the sani cycle. Set the seals aside for now we will get to those shortly.

Now you want your peaches to be nice and ripe because you need to peel them. You can dip them in boiling water for ten seconds and then ice water to shock them and the skin should just slide off but I prefer to use peaches that are ripe enough that the skin just peels off without having to blanch them. Beware though, they are so yummy at this stage you may eat more than you can. So cut the peach around the pit the same way you do an avocado, then twist the halts and they should come apart, this is where you will be thankful that you got freestone peaches. The stone will come right away, then pick the stone out of the other half, it should pop right out. Then grab a piece of skin and just start to pull the skin off. If the peach is the perfect ripeness it should slide right off. You can leave them in halves for quarter them or slice them. Whatever you like then toss them in to the jars. Pack them pretty good, and get about 3/4” from the top.

Once your jars are all full you want to make a syrup to pack the jars with. I use a very light syrup. 1cup of sugar to 4 cups of water. Put sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil. While waiting for the syrup to boil Put the seals in another pot of water and bring them to a boil. Once boiled, remove from heat and set aside. Pour the syrup in to the jars leaving about 1/2”-3/4” of headspace. Use a knife slid into the side of the jar to remove any air bubbles and top up with syrup of needed. Wipe jar rim, using tongs remove seal from hot water pan and put on the jar, screw ring on but only finger tight. What this means is just screw it on and give it one good crank. Don’t go overboard tightening it. This inhibits the ability for air to escape and a vacuum to be created.

Once you have all of your jars filled and lids on place in your large pot….ideally you will have an actual canning pot with a rack but no worries if you don’t. You can buy the racks separately to fit in your really big soup pot or I just cover the bottom with extra rings until a little rack is created. Place jars in the pot and fill with water until there is 1” of water above the jars and put the lid on (I had not yet put the lid on in the photo to the left). Turn stove on high (if you have a flat top range you need to do this on a camp stove outside or at a friends house. Flat top stoves don’t like canners) once the water comes to a boil you start your processing time. For pints you process for 30 minutes and for quarts 35 minutes. Once the timer goes off, turn the heat off and remove the jars from the pot. Use tongs to do this and place the jars on a heavy towel to cool. You want to leave them alone until they are fully cooled, as they cool you will hear the lids snap, this means they have sealed. Once the jars are completely cool, check the seal by tapping on the lid. An unsealed lid makes a hollow sound and you can push it down in the center, a sealed lid is already sucked down on it’s own. Now you have canned peaches to enjoy over the winter. Peaches will remain shelf stable for at least a year. They are still good after that but a year is generally when the quality will begin to decline.

When you put up your jars remember to remove the rings and store them separately. This is important, if a seal breaks in storage and bacteria grows you want to know that when you take the jar down. If the rings are off, the seal will be broken when you take the jar down alerting you to the spoiled jar, if you leave the ring on the contents can ferment and bacteria can grow and the jar can reseal itself trapping the bacteria in and you would never know, and you put yourself at risk. Now this sounds scary, but in my entire life I’ve never had a jar unseal while in storage. I did have one jar of jam that looked iffy when I took it down but it was still sealed….I tossed it. Better safe than sorry.

So there you have it, happy canning!!
~Chey
The Happy Homemaker

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Day 8: Gina Halladay Traditional Family “throw up” Dip

December 19th, 2011

Hi this is Gina from Quilter’s Buzz! This is a family favorite for many many years. What’s a party without some “throw up”? Not a good party, that’s for sure. (wink)

This simple and quick “chili con quese” dip is so easy to make, we let all the kids and grandkids help. Plus, it is a tasty treat for those in our family that are “gluten intollerant”. You can even make it a couple days before the party.

Why the name? Because it looks like “throw up” after you make it!

One recipe is great for 12-15 people. Easy to double the recipe for a bigger crowd.
We add an extra 4-5 more bacon strips to our dip, ‘cause we LOVE bacon. (My personal favorite meat!)

Gramma Halladay’s Throw Up Dip

1- can chili (without beans)
2- cans stewed tomatoes, drained
3-5 pieces of bacon
1 large onion-diced
1 lb processed cheese (Velveta)—cut into small chunks

Fry the bacon and crumble into small pieces. Add diced onions and cook until onions are soft and translucent.
Drain the stewed tomatoes and add to the bacon/onion mix. Stir and simmer for a few minutes. Add the chili and the cheese chunks. Cook over low heat until cheese melts.
(I transfer the dip to a crock pot and let it simmer until party time!)
Serve warm as a dip with tortilla chips.

Save the leftovers and reheat the next day—sometimes it even better!

Its the best “throw up” you have ever tasted!

Gina Halladay
www.QuiltersBuzz.com

Enjoy Life Foods scores a double win!

February 18th, 2011

EnjoyLifeFoodsI love Enjoy Life Foods. In fact, I’ve reviewed them a handful of times on Boutique Cafe’s Daily Dish and their allergen-free products are always a hit. I can still remember their semi-sweet chocolate chips, and that review was in 2008! Any time they contact me about taste-testing a new product, I’m all over it—and so is my mouth.

First up I have Enjoy Life Foods’ gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, tree-nut free, soy-free, egg-free and casein-free soft baked cookies. One thing they’re not free of? Taste. The Double Chocolate Brownie and Snickerdoodle varieties were delicious. So delicious I had to physically remove them from being within arm’s reach so I didn’t polish off the entire box!

Olivia and George helped me taste test the Snickerdoodle, Lively Lemon and Double Chocolate Brownie varieties:







...
Nathan enjoyed the Lively Lemon, as did Lauren. The other boxes were polished off by day’s end. Soft, chewy, tasty AND all that allergen-friendly goodness makes them the perfect healthy snack! Other flavors of soft baked cookies include: Chewy Chocolate Chip, No-Oats “Oatmeal,” Gingerbread Spice and Happy Apple.

Enjoy Life Foods also sent us some boom CHOCO boom chocolate bars. These little bars of chocolaty goodness are the first, truly allergy-friendly chocolate bar. Dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free and gluten-free. And once again, NOT free on taste. I should know. George and I downed the Dark Chocolate Bar, and then Madison, Lauren and I polished off the Crispy Rice Bar:







...
Enjoy Life FoodsDid you catch how Lauren said they taste better than that other crisp rice bar? Major compliment! They also have a Rice Milk Bar to round out the collection of guilt-free chocolate indulgence. (My kids don’t know I’ve hidden the rest of the samples…and yes, Olivia was able to break out the watercolors.)

Enjoy Life Foods seriously rocks the allergen-free food world with it’s variety of good-for-your-insides cereals, cookies, granolas, snack bars, bagels, trail mixes, chocolate chips and chocolate bars. Thank you, ELF, for allowing me to eat “freely” and with abandon!—Emily

A new twist on the ol’ pretzel

January 13th, 2011

You’ve seen plain and salted pretzels, and I’m sure you’ve even seen fancier ones like cinnamon sugar and Asiago cheese, but what about ooey gooey filled pretzels? Or ooey gooey filled pretzels made with all-natural, premium ingredients that are microwavable, a good source of whole grains, twisted by hand, made by scratch without preservatives, trans fats or hydrogenated oils? I was able to try these gourmet pretzels of which I speak, also known as Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels.

Kim & Scotts Gourmet Pretzels

First a little bit more about these pretzels:

Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels offer an assortment of amazing pretzels, using all-natural and premium ingredients, like freshly shredded cheeses, hearty spices, unbleached flour, and whole grains. Our pretzel creations are then flash frozen, in order to deliver a superior quality and amazingly fresh delicious flavor.

My family received four flavors from Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels: Pizza Pretzel, Grilled Cheese, Cheddar Jalapeno and Spinach Feta Pretzel.They came packed in dry ice and were still nice and cold when they arrived.

Kim & Scotts Gourmet Pretzels

The first time we baked them, we were in a rush heading out the door for a long drive south to St. George. The baking directions claimed 5-7 minutes, but they were still extremely cold in the center, so we baked them another 5 minutes. And even then they weren’t super hot, making them not gooey. We are them because we were rushing and hungry and late, but the kids weren’t fans. Nathan and I were okay with the Cheddar Jalapeno and Pizza Pretzel but didn’t sample the others. (Wish I had photos but we were in way too much of a hurry.)

Two nights ago we baked them again. I wanted to give those pretzels another shot in case our first review was a random one due to the circumstances. This time I baked them for at least 10 minutes before taking them out because they started to look too toasted. The centers were again cold—definitely NOT ooey gooey like in the photos, so I microwaved each one for another 10 seconds before serving. That definitely helped, but the consistency of the Grilled Cheese and Cheddar Jalapeno was still far from gooey and cheesy. Only one of the four kids liked their pretzel (the Pizza Pretzel), although I became a fan of the Spinach Feta Pretzel that evening. I really did find that one delicious, even if I couldn’t taste much of the feta. Nathan thought they were all pretty good. I would say the Grilled Cheese was probably the least favorite, while the kick in the Cheddar Jalapeno was tasty. (Again, wish I had photos but dinnertime was far too crazy.)

After taste-testing the samples, I won’t be ordering any of those flavors, but I am still tempted to try Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels classic pretzel flavors like Traditional Bavarian, Whole Grain Bavarian and Sourdough Asiago. Though we didn’t like the fillings per se, I did love the flavor and texture and lightness of the dough…and I do love a good pretzel, so I’d be more than willing to give their non-filled versions a shot.They look tasty, don’t they?

https://www.kimandscotts.com/

And who’s to say a filled Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzel freshly made and hot out of the oven wouldn’t be totally delicious and decadent? Unfortunately Utah doesn’t yet have a Café Twist!—Emily

Cereal gets personal with [me] & goji

May 13th, 2010

me & gojiAfter reviewing MixMyGranola almost a year ago, I’ve been a big fan of the whole customized food thing. The granola I created for that review was super tasty and all mine (in more ways than one when you hide it in the back of the pantry). I was super excited when I heard about [me] & goji, a company offering customized organic cereal and granola. I’m as big a fan of cereal as I am of personalized granola!

adamsapple1[me] & goji’s story is one of “dorm-crapeteria breakfasts,” Northwestern grads, Craigslist, a Swedish intern and muesli:

[we decided] to address the need … discovered in college. Our solution results in America’s favorite breakfast food, cereal, revamped with the nutritional focus of muesli and the flexibility of customization. Our solution is [me] & goji. We love this concept because it can benefit so many different people: both serious and unserious athletes, on-the-go moms, blueberry-haters and soy nut-lovers, Saturday morning cartoon connoisseurs and those with special dietary needs.

[me] & goji offers customers a yummy selection of pre-made cereals like San Marino Sunrise (artisanal cereal, golden granola, corn flakes and dried fruits: banana, apple, strawberry, pecans and pumpkin) and i <3 my <3 (artisanal cereal, oat bran, flax, chia, soy nuts, walnuts and dried cranberry and strawberry). They also have Strawberry Monster and Apple Monster for kids plus a couple granola mixes. (Anyone for Plum Island Pirate Booty?)

And these are just the pre-made mixes. Don’t forget you can create your own cereal using organic ingredients like goji oats, raw 5-grain muesli, quinoa flakes, cacao nibs, shredded wheat, dried fruits (goji berries, raspberry, banana, blueberry, currant to name a few), and nuts and seeds (pumpkin, flax, almonds, macademia, etc.). I swear that not even half of all the goodies you’ll find on the site!

me&goji1

[me] & goji sent me the popular Adam’s Apple mix, which includes their “flaxed & flaked” cereal base and cinnamon plus dried apple, cranberry, goji, golden raisin and pumpkin. Now, I’m not a huge fan of “fruity” cereals unless it’s Trix, so it was a bit too sweet and chewy for my taste, but I adored the cereal base (even if it did get soggy a bit too quickly) and even enjoyed the apple and pumpkin.

My husband didn’t get a chance to try it but I know he’ll be a big fan—he loves dried fruit. I think for me it will better serve as a dry snack than a cereal, but it was tasty enough to have me already planning a future order. (Mine will have more almonds and granola and less of that healthy fruity stuff.)

me&goji2

A typical [me] & goji capsule is about 15 servings versus your traditional 8-serving cereal box. Your base cereal starts at $4.99 and each additional ingredient is $.99. You can make a decent, organic—and in some cases gluten-free— batch of cereal for under $8. A box of organic cereal at the store will run you a good $5 or so, and that’s for half the servings and a totally lame, non-customized ingredients list. Oh, and those off-the-shelf brands probably aren’t donating 5% of profits to charities and using earth-friendly vegetable inks for their printing needs. (You can view a full list of [me] & goji’s efforts to make a difference here. And before I forget, you can view the good-lookin’ guys behind the company here.)

Need a great gift idea for graduation? Whether you’re there to see the hat toss in person or sending a gift from afar, a capsule of custom cereal shows you care more so than a $20 in what is probably a non-recycled greeting card.

All I can say is, go [me] & goji or go home.—Emily

* Promotion! [me] & goji is offering Daily Dish readers 10% off their order! Simply enter code GOJIGRAD when checking out!

I want my Chili’s…Chili’s new menu! {giveaway}

April 6th, 2010

(Read to the tune of the classical “I want my new baby back, baby back, baby back, baby back…Chili’s baby back ribs {barbeque sauce}”) And yes, you’ll want some of Chili’s new baby back ribs. Just ask Nathan who inhaled half a rack of them during our recent visit to Chili’s.

NOTE:
I totally spaced bringing my camera and had to take all photos with my lame cell phone. For honest-to-goodness mouthwatering photos check out Chili’s online menu.

I love any excuse for a date night so when Chili’s sent me a $50 gift card for the sole purpose of trying—and reviewing—some of the tantalizing dishes on their new menu, I was all over it. I called in the reinforcements (my mom, sister and brother-in-law) and we headed to Chili’s location in South Jordan. The first thing we always order is Chili’s bottomless chips and salsa. I mean, who doesn’t order chips  and salsa within seconds of sitting down? But this time I noticed something I’d never seen before: bottomless tostada chips with the option of a house-made salsa-ranch for $.49 extra. Um, has anyone else ever asked for a side of ranch and then mixed their ranch and salsa for the sole purpose of downing a full basket of bottomless chips in record time? Yeah, me too! So I ordered this new little dip and anxiously awaited its arrival (top right corner in photo below).

Chili's new menu

I’m here to say it was well worth the wait, which wasn’t long at all, thank heavens. I could drink gallons of that house-made salsa-ranch and then bathe in it before bed, it was THAT good. In fact, next time I’m there I just might ask if I can buy it by the bottle and take some home with me. To die for!

Then it was entree time. True to my mom and sister’s “I stick with what I like; I’m not brave enough to venture out of my comfort zone” restaurant mentality, my mom ordered her favorite quesadilla (thank you, Chili’s, for making it even though it was no longer on the menu) and my sister ordered the Triple Dippers with double Big Mouth bites (no onions) and spinach & artichoke dip. BORING!

Chili's new menu

My brother-in-law did his duty and tried Chili’s new Shiner Bok BBQ burger. He thoroughly enj0yed it though he wished it had been a bit spicier. My husband ordered the Shiner Bok BBQ full rack of ribs with a side of mashed potatoes and Chili’s new spicy coleslaw. The ribs were a hit as I mentioned in the first part of the post while the coleslaw was a bit too jalapeno for his taste.

Me? I ordered the new Steakhouse sandwich: seasoned sliced sirloin with provolone, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, arugula and horseradish cream on warm flatbread. The verdict? YUMMY! The steak was cooked perfectly and I loved the fresh arugula mixed in with the mushrooms and onions. The flatbread was so much nicer than a bun or French roll, and the horseradish cream gave it just enough kick to make it fun. It was pretty messy, so plan to go through lots of napkins, and I don’t see it being a leftover-friendly meal due to all the juices and the soft flatbread. But don’t worry; you’ll clean your plate (though you may leave a few fries).

Other items that tempted me were the Texas cheese fries, smoked chicken taco and of course their new brownie sundae. Unfortunately we stuffed ourselves with so many chips we didn’t leave room for dessert. Next time I’m ordering dessert first! All I know is I’m heading back to Chili’s very soon for more of their bottomless tostada chips with house-made salsa-ranch and for their always friendly “Welcome to Chili’s” greeting.—Emily

P.S. Follow @ShoutOut2EatOut and visit ShoutOutToEatOut.com and enter to win a $50 Chili’s gift card by uploading a 10- to 30-second video telling Chili’s why you don’t want to cook tonight. (It shouldn’t be hard finding a reason!)

*** Giveaway! Chili’s is giving away one (1) $50 gift card good at any location! ***

Here’s how to enter. You can do as many of these as you’d like. Each one is worth one entry into our giveaway; please leave a separate comment for each one you do:

•  Visit Chilis.com and leave a comment telling us what menu item you’d most like to try.
•  Become a fan of Chili’s on Facebook and leave a comment telling us you joined.
•  Follow Chili’s on Twitter and leave a comment telling is you’re their newest follower.
•  Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment with the URL of your tweet.
•  Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with the URL to your blog post.

Include a valid email address for our drawing. We’ll draw the winner from the comments and contact her via email. Deadline: April 13, 2010 (midnight). The winner will have 24 hours to claim her prize or a new winner will be chosen.

  • Congratulations to Deborah T., the winner of the Chili’s giveaway! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

yubo lunchboxes are all about you…

November 19th, 2009

yubo_logo...and the environment. With the latest info about phthalates and BPA and the move away from plastic bags and non-reusable containers when it comes to packing your child’s lunch, a few companies have taken up the cause to create lunchboxes that are both child friend and earth friendly. I’ve reviewed both the Kids Konserve lunch bag and the OOTS! Lunchbox and today I have a new one for you.

Though my girls don’t pack their lunches very often I am still trying to take baby steps on my way to helping our family be a bit more “green.” A reusable, eco-friendly lunchbox is one way we can make a small change in our habits, which will hopefully lead to more changes as we go. yubo sent me their Deluxe Lunchbox in a snappy orange—a good color for a family with both girls and boys. Before the lunchbox even arrived I was pretty excited to review it because although the previous ones I’ve featured on the Daily Dish were nifty, other than choosing your color or pattern, they weren’t extremely unique. yubo’s lunchboxes not only have removable faceplates but you can personalize them with your child’s name of even one of your own photos!

yubo

yubo’s Deluxe version comes with the lunchbox (of course), faceplate set (ours came with the “peace” set), three containers (one square plus two small rounds), a custom ice pack and a name tag. The kids saw the new lunchbox on the counter and immediately called dibs on who got to use it first. (My oldest won that one.) Though I quickly hand washed everything you can stick pretty much every part of the yubo into the dishwasher (except faceplates, tags and the ice pack). We love easy! The night before school my daughter packed her lunch complete with PB & honey sandwich, pretzels, carrots and fruit snacks.

IMG_2287

Because her sandwich container had a little room she was able to throw in a pack of fruit snacks on top before closing it. Other than that there isn’t much room for anything except the ice pack. Of course if you don’t really need the ice pack you could throw in a granola bar or other small snack on top. She put everything inside, snapped on the lid, slipped in the faceplates and was ready to go. It fit nicely in the fridge so it kept the carrots cold until it was time for school the next day.

IMG_2288

I would say out of the three this is my kids’ favorite lunchbox, but I will say as fun as it is to be able to change the design or personalize it or add one of any number of cool tags, it doesn’t hold that many items…unless you get creative and don’t need the ice pack. Otherwise you have a sandwich, two sides and that’s pretty much it. Perhaps that should be all you need for a school lunch, but I know by the time my girls eat (5 or so hours after breakfast), they’re pretty hungry. Of course you can buy different size containers so you could have three oval ones or four rounds and one oval one. But I have to say though the OOTS! lunchbox stacks vertically, which can be a pain if you need something on the bottom, it does offer a little more room for packing a few more things.

IMG_2289

We didn’t received the drink holder to test but I do love that yubo lunch boxes offer this option, though I do wish it came included with the deluxe version. It’s a holder that attaches to the outside so you can carry a reusable water bottle and it’s insulated, which is super nice!

Overall the yubo wins our vote for its ease of use (easy access to everything, dishwasher safe); custom ice pack that takes up very little space; BPA-free materials, food-safe, anti-microbial agent; soft handle (forgot to mention that earlier); 100% recyclable materials AND the super cool faceplates and tags. Plus it comes in pink, orange and blue…and did I mention it’s easy to clean? At $29.95 for the Deluxe and $21.95 for the standard lunch box, it is more of an investment than your typical lunchbox but you are helping save the environment, and who can put a price on that?—Emily

  • Promotion! yubo is offering Daily Dish readers 15% off their orders. Simply use code boucaf15 when checking out. Offer expires December 25, 2009.

Lasagna Pan—Cornered.

November 11th, 2009

The pan you’ve seen…it’s the corner lover’s dream. Emily did a review on the Baker’s Edge brownie pan.

The u-shaped pan bakes corners in more than just 4 corners. The brownie pan has been the craze with bakers everywhere and now the bakers edge has introduced the lasagna pan with the same extraordinary u-shaped lines.

pr_slp3I’m a simple cook…by that I mean I’m not very good at it. Lasagna is a big meal for me so I felt a bit overwhelmed with the task of putting this u-shaped pan to the test with all the ingredients that go into creating this pasta.

The preparation wasn’t bad at all. The noodles just fold into place with the u-shaped corners and everything else just pours perfectly into its spot. I put the pan in and minutes later I had a delicious crispy lasagna.

I think anything I create in the oven that comes out unburned is a masterpiece, so I needed an objective opinion. I took the lasagna out of the pan and dished it onto a couple plates and took it to my neighbors to get their take on the taste of this dish.

Sheepishly they began eating away because it did look crispier than any lasagna ought to be…but that is what makes this lasagna so good. Immediately they raved about the perfect pasta that is crispy on the outside yet deliciously cooked on the inside. I admitted that it wasn’t my amazing cooking skills nor my brand new oven that delivered such an appetizing lasagna but it was my incredible new u-shaped pan.

Available online at bakersedge.com.
-Amber

POURfect comes pretty close to perfect

September 8th, 2009

41lAX0UGyPL._SS500_The POURfect line of measuring cups and measuring spoons claim to be “the world’s most complete and accurate set of measuring spoons and cups.” Considering the measuring cups have 9 pieces and the measuring spoons have 12, that’s probably true. I have yet to see a more complete set of measuring cups and spoons, and I have a few sets in my kitchen drawer.

83046I received the POURfect spoons and cups in the Kitchen-Aid’s Imperial Red. (They have spoons and cups to match 6 of Kitchen-Aid’s colors.) The first thing I thought when I opened the box was “those are some serious measuring spoons and measuring cups!” Apparently they both include some hard-to-find sizes. The cups come in 1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 3/4, 1C, 1½C, 2C while the spoons come in 1/64, 1/32, 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4, 1t, 1½T, 1T, 2T. Whew! Both sets have bold text and include English, metric and even braille; calibrated measurements that are “guaranteed accurate;” polished bowl so ingredients release easily. (I’m still not sure peanut butter releases easily in anything but Pampered Chef’s Measure-All Cup.)

Anyway, I tried and tested both the measuring cups and spoons and here are my thoughts:

  • Who the heck needs a 1/64th teaspoon? or a 1/32nd for that matter? And the 2 c. measuring cup seems a bit redundant. Is it really that much more effort to use the 1 c. twice? Save some plastic, people!

  • Though the thought of the “POURfect” pouring lip on the cups is a nice one, I think it really works best on their POURfect bowls. I don’t ever pour from the front of a measuring cup; 99% of the time I pour from the side.

  • I loved the stabilizing rubber rings on the larger measuring cups. That feature was nice!

  • LOVE the Imperial Red—yummy, yummy kitchen color.

  • I also really like the raised text. I find when measuring cups have the measurements painted on they wear off after time and then it’s anybody’s guess as to how much brown sugar your packing into your cookies. Of course those same raised measurements are the same color as the cups so it’s sometimes hard to read.

At $12 for the POURfect measuring spoons and $18 for the POURfect measuring cups, I think you’re better off with a standard yet high-quality set from Target like the Kitchen-Aid line. I am intrigued by their POURfect bowls, which you can learn more about via videos on their site. A POURfect mixing bowl would come in handy when we use our Baker’s Edge brownie pan. It’s not easy getting that batter in there!—Emily

HomeFree for homemade (allergen-free) treats

August 25th, 2009

So far our family hasn’t had to deal with any food-related allergies. The closest we’ve come is Livi being sensitive to peanut butter while younger but since about the age of 18 months she’s been just fine. But food allergies are a part of life for many families and though allergen-free food is easier to come by these days, allergen-free treats that taste good can be a bit harder to find. That’s why I’m a big fan of companies like Enjoy Life Foods and today’s reviewee, HomeFree. HomeFree offers a line of kid-friendly treats free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat and dairy. You will also be hard pressed to find soy in their products (except soy lecithin, which is tolerated by most people with soy allergies). Not only is their food free of the aforementioned ingredients but their kitchen as well: “No peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat or dairy are permitted in our facility for any reason at any time.” And HomeFree goes even further; their selection of ingredients are chosen for quality but also how they are processed and packaged to help prevent allergen cross-contamination. HomeFree even “conduct[s] allergen testing for peanut, almond, egg, and milk proteins on incoming ingredient batches and on random product batches as well.” This attention to detail is no surprise when you learn a mom is behind HomeFree. I love her philosophy about why she started the company:

As a mom, and a clinical psychologist, I realize how important it is for kids with food allergies to feel included at social occasions, where a sweet treat is often part of the fun. I created HomeFree™ bakery, with a line of delicious, wholesome cookies and cakes, as well as a cook book full of easy to make allergen-free recipes, so that kids with food allergies can enjoy treats along with everyone else. Seeing the smiles on the faces of kids eating HomeFree cookies and cakes, you’ll feel good knowing that these really are treats you can trust.

We received a sampling of HomeFree’s cookies, which included their organic chocolate chip cookie, organic oatmeal raisin cookie and organic mini chocolate chip cookies. Though they weren’t nearly as decadent as, say, a Mrs. Field’s cookie, for a healthy, allergen-free, organic, whole grain treat they were definitely a hit! My kids devoured the mini chocolate chips in one sitting and asked for more, so you know they tasted good! (My kids are pretty discerning when it comes to goodies.) It’s hard to believe a treat can taste this good when it’s also free of corn sweeteners, artificial colors, artificial flavors, MSG, cholesterol and trans fat. The start of the school year is all about new backpacks, school supplies and lunchboxes, but for kids with food-related allergies, it’s probably the same ol’ school lunch. Start the school year—and their lunch hour—off right with a tasty treat from the HomeFree bakeries.

** Giveaway! HomeFree is giving away five boxes of their yummy cookies (1 box to each of 5 winners)! Here’s how to enter. You can do as many of these as you’d like; each one is worth one entry into our giveaway:

  • Visit HomeFreeTreats.com and leave a comment telling us which product you’d most like to try.

  • Follow HomeFreeTreats on Twitter and leave a comment telling is you’re their newest follower.

  • Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment with the URL of your tweet.

  • Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with the URL to your blog post. Include a valid email address for our drawing.

We’ll draw the winner from the comments and contact her via email. Deadline: September 1, 2009 (midnight). The winner will have 24 hours to claim her prize or a new winner will be chosen.

  • Congratulations to lise and Tricia Z, the winners of the HomeFree giveaway! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

How healthy is your pantry?

August 13th, 2009

If you were to grade my pantry on how healthy it is it would probably get about a B. We have lots of healthy food in there like all-natural peanut butter, almonds, olive oil, rolled oats but we also have a few not-so-healthy selections like Cocoa Puffs and the occasional box of  Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. But our pantry just got a whole lot healthier with the addtion of family meal kits from The Healthy Pantry.

The Healthy Pantry believes that “many common lifestyle illnesses resulting from eating the Standard American Diet (high calorie/low nutrient density foods) can be prevented, remediated or reversed with four fundamental dietary changes:

  1. Reducing overall glycemic load of diet

  2. Upgrading quality of dietary fats

  3. Avoiding chemical, artificial and highly processed food products, ingredients or additives

  4. Increasing micronutrient content and variety in diet

I would love to give you the complete lowdown on how they do this with their pre-packaged meal kits but it would take the entire page. Believe me, their nutritional philosophy is worth the read. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn about nutrition and how your food choices could be affecting your family’s lifestyle.

I’m all for improving the quality of food I feed my family but it has always seemed a task requiring more work than I have time or energy for. That’s why I love The Healthy Pantry—their meal kits take very little time to prepare, use quality, natural whole foods and are backed by sound nutrition. Their meal kits are basically simple bags (and an applesauce cup or jar of chutney once in a while) you open and mix with an ingredient or two from your fridge. They have a huge selection of meals, from whole grain apple cinnamon pancakes to chicken tenders with apple-baked beans to oatmeal raisin cookies. And customers can review each meal so you know what others thought of the recipe before trying it. Though some of the prices may seem a bit high for a mix, take into account someone else is buying, measuring, chopping those all-natural, healthy, good-for-you ingredients so you don’t have to. That’s definitely worth it, especially when school is back in session and weeknights get crazy!

The Healthy Pantry sent us a few of their meal kits to test, and though I didn’t have time to test as many as I’d like, we did try out their whole grain oatmeal raisin cookies (a bestseller) and pineapple meatloaf. The oatmeal raisin cookies were a cinch for my 11-year-old to make even with the “help” of her little brother and sister, and they were super tasty even for a “healthy” cookie. The dough was a bit trick to work with when it came to scooping it onto a cookie sheet (a little on the dry/crumbly side so we had some runaway raisins) and we found the baking time was way off for our oven and size of cookies (about 11 minutes instead of 18). But I’ve managed to eat about half a dozen a day, so it’s a good thing it made a lot!



 


The pineapple meatloaf was quite possibly the easiest dinner I’ve made in weeks (except for the Stouffer’s enchiladas I baked the other night…but those are definitely not the healthiest meal!). A spice mix, a jar of chutney, three eggs and two pounds of ground turkey. I had been looking for a way to incorporate ground turkey into meatloaf but was scared to do so ever since my grandmother made a “turkey loaf” once. It scared me off ground turkey meatloaf for years! But this changed my whole perspective! The Healthy Pantry’s pineapple meatloaf had a wonderful blend of peppery spices and pineapple chutney, which made for a sweet and spicy meatloaf that was super moist and full of flavor. You couldn’t even tell it was ground turkey! I totally loved this new take on our traditional recipe, though two of my kids stayed true to Grandma’s version and turned up their noses at this one. What can I say? They love Grandma’s meatloaf!


 


I am anxious to try more of The Healthy Pantry’s meal kits and not just because they make meal prep easier. It’s about time I paid a little more attention to what I feed my family and The Healthy Pantry makes it easy to do so&mdashand with my life as it is now, I’m all about healthy and easy!—Emily

*** Giveaway The Healthy Pantry is giving away a $100 gift certificate for use in their online store! To enter to win you can do a few things:

  • Become a fan of The Healthy Pantry on Facebook and leave a comment telling us you’re their newest fan.

  • Visit their site and tell us which meal kit you would like to try.

  • Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment with the URL of your tweet.

  • Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with a link to your blog post.

We’ll draw the winner from the comments and contact her via email. Deadline: August 20, 2009 (midnight). The winner will have 24 hours to claim her prize or a new winner will be chosen.

  • Congratulations to Bonnie Walker, the winner of The Healthy Pantry giveaway! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

Enjoy Life Foods does it again!

July 19th, 2009

I first reviewed Enjoy Life Foods when they sent me their semi-sweet chocolate chips back in May of 2008. For a product that was free of the seven most common allergens, those little mini chips were surprisingly tasty. We gobbled those up in dozens of cookies and my kids had no idea those flavorful little chips were devoid of seven things: wheat, gluten, dairy, nut, egg, lactose and casein (the principal protein found in milk and other dairy products). Yes, all of Enjoy Life Foods’ products steer clear of these ingredients and are produced in a nut-free, gluten-free bakery. Pretty impressive, huh?

So when Enjoy Life Foods wanted to send me three bags of their new granola to taste test, I was totally up to the challenge. I love granola and I love Enjoy Life Foods—seemed like the perfect review! I received their Cinnamon Crunch, Cranapple Crunch and Verry Berry Crunch “new and improved” granola mixes. Why are these guys new and improved? Well, they are now crispier with smaller granola clusters so they “look and taste more like the ‘real’ thing.”

Um, I’m not sure what they tasted like before but these babies definitely taste like granola to me. Okay, so they’re not as decadent and diet-killing as my favorite, fat-packed French vanilla almond granola, but they do have more vitamins and whole grain than my current granola choice. (Enjoy Life Foods granola is vitamin fortified and includes 23 grams or more of whole grain per serving.)

I didn’t test the mixes on top of yogurt, one of my favorite ways to enjoy granola, but the Cinnamon Crunch held up well as a breakfast cereal (i.e. no soggy clusters). I’m thinking these mixes would also make a great base for a customized mix including Enjoy Life Foods’ chocolate chips and a few other fun ingredients!

*** Giveaway! Enjoy Life Foods is giving away one of their totes and coupons for three (3) free products! Please leave a comment with a valid email address for our drawing. We’ll draw the winner from the comments and contact her via email. Deadline: July 27, 2009 (midnight). The winner will have 24 hours to claim her prize or a new winner will be chosen.

** For an extra entry tweet about this giveaway and leave a link with the URL to your tweet in a separate comment!

  • Congratulations to Lisa C., the winner of the Enjoy Life Foods giveaway! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

I’m all for enhancements!

July 16th, 2009

...and for once I’m not talking about the kind I may end up purchasing for myself one day. (That’s one review I won’t be writing here on Boutique Cafe!) I’m actually talking about a new line of enhancers from MixMyGranola, a company whose “personalized” granola mixes I reviewed back in May and of which I am a big fan!

The company just released a new line of Enhancers as part of their custom granola mixes. These enhancers take all that yummy fruity, nutty, granola-y goodness and add a little extra boost to help keep you going throughout the day. As a mom, business owner, blogger and wife I was definitely intrigued, especially when I heard you can add caffeine powder to help with sleepiness. You can also add pomegranate to help detox; VitaCherry to give you a vitamin boost; and green tea powder to improve health and lower cholesterol. They actually have over 16 Enhancers from which to choose.

A few notes about MixMyGranola’s Enhancers. One, they don’t really add any taste to your mix but because they’re a bit on the bland side the max number of Enhancers per mix is two. This keeps your granola mix at its super tastiest best! And two, Enhancers are not for everyone; they are recommended for adults 18 and older. Also, If you are pregnant or nursing PLEASE consult your health care professionals before using any Enhancers. Hopefully you’re well aware of that disclaimer when it comes to any kind of enhancement!

MixMyGranola sent me a mix with the maca powder for my half-marathon training. It was a very small sample so I’ve actually been saving it for my 12-mile training run which is in a couple weeks. But I did take a taste test and you can’t taste the maca powder at all, which is a pretty important test for me. I don’t like anything with a funky aftertaste and there’s no aftertaste with this Enhancer. I’m about out of my last batch of customized MixMyGranola mix and will for sure be adding an Enhancer or two when I order again!—Emily

That’s the way (aha aha) I like it!

May 14th, 2009

Mix My GranolaFrom jewelry to picture frames the Daily Dish has had plenty of reviews featuring personalized products, but until today we had yet to review a personalized food item—and I’m not talking about those giant frosted cookes from Mrs. Fields. This one is tasty, my friends…oh, so tasty! And like the title of this review, when it comes to MixMyGranola I can’t help but channel KC & The Sunshine Band.

Mix My GranolaEver browsed the granola bins at Whole Foods or the granola shelves at your local supermarket? Though both offer a wonderful variety of mixes have you ever wished you could add a little dried pineapple to one or remove the cashews in another? That’s how MixMyGranola was started—three friends all describing their perfect granola mix. MixMyGranola was started in 2008 and is taking the granola world by storm, one personalized mix at a time. Why is it so popular? Three reasons: it’s easy; it’s super yummy; and it’s all about you.

Easy: Here’s how easy it is (and I know because I’ve created two mixes already). Simply choose a healthy granola base and add your favorite ingredients (good luck keeping it under five when you’re offered dried blackberries, macadamia nuts and pomegranate cordials). That’s it. MixMyGranola will then mix your order and ship it anywhere in the U.S. You get the can, pop the lid and pour either directly into your mouth (tried that one) or into a cereal bowl, yogurt cup, or other “traditional” container. The possibilities—like the mixes—are endless!

Mix My GranolaTasty: I can state for a fact the ingredients are yummy. MixMyGranola let me create two mixes, which I named Low-fat Choco Cranberry and Choco Fruity Vanilla. I wanted to try the low-fat granola and it didn’t disappoint. Of course the addition of mini chocolate chips helped. Yum! And my Choco Fruity Vanilla had the hugest chunks of sweet, dried pineapple EVER. My only regret was not ordering twice as much! I’ve already emptied the can of Choco Fruity Vanilla and am almost out of the other. You better believe I’ll be ordering more! My favorite snack is now a container of low-fat yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup of granola (see image at left). I’m addicted!

All about you: Self-explanatory. You choose the base, you choose the ingredients. Enough said.

I’d tell you what my family thought of MixMyGranola but unfortunately for them I didn’t share any. I’m hoping I can be a little less selfish the next time around but I highly doubt it. I take my personalized granola very seriously. I can’t do MixMyGranola’s ginormous ingredients list justice; you’ll have to create your own mix and check it out yourself! Believe me, you’ll be channeling KC & The Sunshine Band before you’re through.—Emily

*** Giveaway! MixMyGranola is giving away a $20 gift certificate to one lucky Daily Dish reader! Please visit MixMyGranola.com and start creating a mix, then leave a comment on this post telling us which granola base and ingredient(s) you chose. Include a valid email address for the drawing. We’ll draw the winner from the comments and contact her via email. Deadline: May 21, 2009 (midnight). The winner will have 24 hours to claim her prize or a new winner will be chosen.

* For an extra entry, mention this giveaway on Twitter and leave a separate comment with the URL to your tweet! (To find your URL simply click on the timestamp from your tweet.)

  • Congratulations to Sandra, the winner of the MixMyGranola giveaway! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

Does your child have Balance?

February 4th, 2009

Balance WaterI’d say my children are pretty well balanced but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Take their diet. Though they don’t drink a lot of sugary drinks (hey, I’m doing something right), they sure don’t drink enough water. That’s why they were the perfect reviewers for Balance for Children, a non-flavored, homeopathic beverage containing spring water and Australian flower essences.

Balance WaterI’m familiar with spring water but flower essences? Apparently the use of flower essences dates back centuries across various cultures. More specific to Balance Water, Australian wildflowers are “particularly interesting and unique in their properties given their diversity, beauty, remote growing locales and the harsh conditions they typically have to endure.” Who knew? It’s actually quite interesting. I almost included info about the specific flowers used in Balance but it would have made the review too long. I highly recommend reading it; it’s extremely interesting!

Balance for Children contains four flower essences: Bush Fuchsia for creativity; Crowea for calming and centering; Black-Eyed Susan for focus and concentration; and Paw-Paw for digestion. These essences promote calm and focus while helping restore balance, all without affecting a child’s natural energy. (So maybe I wish it removed just a titch of their energy…) This enhanced natural spring water doesn’t have any flavors, colors, preservatives, artificial additives, sugar or calories. So what did my kids think?

Balance WaterHere you go:

  • my oldest thought it tasted funny and didn’t finish her bottle

  • my next oldest didn’t say much at all but downed hers

  • my three-year-old sipped his while carrying it around the house thinking he was pretty cool to have his own water bottle

  • my youngest (though below the suggested age of 2 to 9) enjoyed taking a swig from everyone’s bottle.

My opinion? My oldest must have been smoking something (no, not literally) because that water doesn’t have one tiny little ounce of taste to it. Yes, I had my own bottle while working out at the gym. I absolutely LOVED it. Sounds crazy but I loved that Balance for Children didn’t have an aftertaste. I swear Dasani and Arrowhead both have a funny aftertaste. It was crisp, clean and truly refreshing…and I’m not saying that just because I was hot and sweaty. I would really love my second oldest to drink a bit more and see if it does help her to focus. She is my “free spirit” and could use a little calming. We have a few bottles left so it’s worth a shot!

I will say I’m intrigued enough by the concept of flower essences to try Balance for Women, which is infused with eight flower essences including Peach Flowered Tea Tree for mood stabilization and Bush Iris for circadian rhythms. Heaven knows I could use more balance in those areas! They also have a Balance for the Mind and Balance for Traveling (helps combat the stresses of traveling, i.e. physical and emotional fatigue).

A six-pack of Balance for Children retails for around $7, which is on the higher end of bottled waters, but this isn’t your typical bottled water and it’s a heck of a lot better for your kids than the other ,strike>crap beverages you usually find them drinking. I say a little more balance in your child’s life is worth it!—Emily

*** Giveaway Balance is giving away one six-pack of their fabulous flower-essence-enhanced Balance for Children. Please leave a comment with a valid email address for our drawing. We’ll draw the winner from the comments and contact her via email. Deadline: February 12, 2009 (midnight). The winner will have 24 hours to claim her prize or a new winner will be chosen.

  • Congratulations to Melissa B., the winner of the Balance giveaway! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

How balanced is your peanut butter?

February 2nd, 2009

If it’s like our current selection (Peter Pan, Jif or Skippy) then it’s out of kilter, full of hydrogenated vegetable oils and sugar. I have purchased all-natural peanut butter in the past but got so tired of stirring it every time I wanted a toasted PB&J (yes, I like to toast my bread first and then spread the PB&J—makes for a totally ooey gooey yummy sandwich) that I soon went back to the old aforementioned favorites. When we put it in the refrigerator the peanut butter would become unspreadable and tear holes in our wimpy low-cal bread. And did I mention my kids didn’t like the taste? With four kids I tend to  pick my battles and peanut butter just wasn’t one of them.

Earth BalanceThen along came Earth Balance and their line of award-winning Natural Spreads (award-winning for taste, mind you). The 100% natural, nutritionally beneficial ingredients of their spreads are of the highest quality but they have also won The American Culinary Institute’s ChefBest Award for Best Taste (that same award you see on the side of some Dreyer’s “healthier” ice creams). Like many of you, I’m big on how my food tastes so I wanted to see if Earth Balance’s Natural Peanut Butter in both creamy and crunchy would pass my kids’ taste test. But that wasn’t all I was interested in. The “no stir” graphic emlazoned in the upper right corner caught my attention as well. A no-stir all-natural peanut butter? Was it really possible?

Well, yes and no. We received our Earth Balance peanut butters and broke open the crunchy version first. It had a little oil on the top which we did have to stir in, but it took a lot less muscle than your typical all-natural jar of peanut butter. And once mixed in it only required a quick and easy stir or two when we opened the jar for the next PB&honey. No biggie since I tend to stir the non-oily versions anyway. As for the taste, the crunchy passed everyone’s taste test but my oldest wasn’t a big fan of the creamy. She IS my pickiest eater so I wasn’t surprised. I thought both tasted great and much better than that all-natural brand I’ve tried in the past.

So it tastes great, doesn’t require much in the way of stirring and is made from all-natural ingredients. sounds pretty good, but what sounds even better is Earth Balance’s proprietary blend of expeller-pressed oils, which actually helps increase good cholesterol while lowering bad. Oh, and it’s also rich in Omega-3’s, free of GMO’s, gluten, trans fats, hydrogenated oils and artificial ingredients. So maybe Earth Balance’s peanut butters are a bit out of balance as well, but in a really, really good way.

Earth Balance also has a line of Buttery Spreads, including olive oil, vegan and organic options, and even Earth Balance shortening. Yes, heart-healthy shortening. We didn’t receive samples of those but I enjoyed the Earth Balance Peanut Butters so much I’m going to have to give their other Natural Spreads a try!—Emily

Here we go loop de loop, here we go Loopa bowl!

November 4th, 2008

Loopa bowlSometimes I feel like the pretzels and goldfish crackers I give my little ones do series of loop de loops around the family room and in the car. I find pretzel twists under the car seat and goldfish tails inside the media cabinet. Even when I give them a little snack cup with a lid that swivels just large enough for little fingers, those crackers manage to escape. Aside from duct taping your busy toddler to the barstool, a parent doesn’t have many options…until now.

Loopa bowlI was mesmerized by the Löopa bowl the first time I laid eyes on it. The design reminded me of a past American Inventor where the winner designed a car seat that swiveled, protecting the baby in the event of a crash. I thought the design was nifty back then and when I saw it applied to a snack bowl, I thought it was ingenious. But would it work? Would snacks really stay put when my one-year-old new walker toddled around the house? And would my toddler’s booster seat remain goldfish-free? Designed by parents, I had high hopes…and I wasn’t disappointed.

Necessity is always the mother of invention when it comes to children’s products, and I am so glad the Brad and Melinda Shepherd’s little one “spilled Cheerios all over the back seat of the minivan for the umpteenth time” because it eventually led to the Löopa bowl. This spill-resistant bowl swivels and oscillates in all directions keeping snacks in the bowl and not under the couch, behind the computer desk or on the dashboard. The weighted inner bowl rotates 360 degrees so pretzels, fruit snacks and Cheerios stay inside even when held vertically, something my one-year-old loves to do. When not holding munchies it’s a great toy, even for adults. I often found myself twisting and turning the Löopa bowl, watching it swivel and spin. Yes, I’m easily amused but this thing is pretty dang cool!

Loopa bowlThe only time we had goldfish go flying was when my little ones literally swung that thing in earnest, and nothing could have held up to that test! And if your snacks are on the smaller side, like those toddler dried fruit snacks, they can get wedged between the innermost bowl and the piece next to it, locking the bowl in place. When that happens it’s pretty likely you’ll find dried fruit outside the Löopa bowl rather than in it. But overall, I’m totally sold on the design because preventing that “umpteenth time” means preventing a moment of insanity.

The Löopa bowl is available online for around $10 on Löopa’s website and both online and off from One Step Ahead and Bed Bath & Beyond.—Emily

* Promotion! Löopa is offering Daily Dish readers “Buy One, Get One Half Off” if you purchase a Löopa bowl from their website. This is a really great deal on a really awesome product! Just enter code “boutiquecafe” at checkout. The offer expires November 22, 2008, so don’t wait!

Snikiddy snacks go likity split!

October 2nd, 2008

SnikiddyI’ve admitted to a lot of things on the Daily Dish, like owning way too many pairs of jeans, being addicted to chocolate and having a thing for diaper bags. Today I’m admitting to something else: not stocking our pantry with enough healthy snacks. My kids eat the occasional banana or handful of mini carrots but they’d rather get their five servings a day of fruit and vegetables from five packs of fruit snacks. For families like ours there are companies like Snikiddy that provide delicious organic treats for the healthy-snack-deprived.

Snikkidy was founded by Mary Schulman, a mother of two looking for healthy, great-tasting snack foods for her children. Made from original family recipes, Snikkidy Snacks like Organic Cheese Puffs and Chocolate Chippers are absolutely free of hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Fortunately they are not free from taste.

SnikiddyAll of us kids (let’s face it, when it comes to cookies we’re all five-year-olds) were able to test the Grilled Cheese Puffs, Chocolate Chippers and Cherry Oaties. Though the cheese puffs were the clear winner with the kids, I thoroughly enjoyed the cookies myself. I’m not sure the kids were even able to try the chocolate chip ones; I inhaled them too quickly!

I love what’s outside the package as much as what’s inside. The packaging features cameos by the Snikiddy Kids, a “group of five healthy, active boys and girls who share their ideas and adventures …, encouraging other children to be active, socially responsible and environmentally conscious.” I’d rather have my kids read the back of the Rockin’ Ranch Cheese Puffs than the back of the Fruit Loops box any day!

Snikiddy Snacks Organic Cheese Puffs are gluten-free and available in Rockin’ Ranch, Pizza Pie, Grilled Cheese and Mac n’ Cheese. Their Organic Cookies are available in Chocolate Chippers, Cherry Oaties and Banana Nibbles. All are available with healthy ingredients and great taste. It’s not too late to incorporate delicious good-for-you snacks in your child’s lunchbox, so get Snikiddy likity split!—Emily

*** Giveaway! Snikiddy is giving away a two-pack of their yummy snacks (one sharing pack each of Cheese Puffs and Cookies). Please leave a comment with a valid email address for our drawing. We’ll draw the winner from the comments and contact her via email. Deadline: October 10, 2008 (midnight). The winner will have 24 hours to claim her prize or a new winner will be chosen.

* Congratulations to Elizabeth Y., the winner of the Snikiddy Snack giveaway! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

BOT – a great alternative to sugar drinks!

July 15th, 2008

BOT Looking for a great solution to keep your kids hydrated in a healthy way this summer? I know personally the woes and struggle it can be to keep your children’s beverages healthy but still drinkable. Bot beverages are a parent’s best buddy, I can’t wait to tote them around for my kids in the heat of our holiday time knowing that they aren’t injesting a ton of sugar.

Bot was created in 2006 by a husband and wife team (Cricket and Brian Allen). As parents of twin daughters, these savvy parents wanted to find a healthy, low sugar drink for their girl, but they weren’t able to find any on the grocery store shelves. That’s when mother invention stepped in, and they decided to create with a tasty and “good for you” drink that will hydrate kids without the sugar high.

I was sent several bottles of the Bot beverages to test with my team of taste testing critics (my kids). Let’s face it, if the kids won’t drink it then no matter how good for them it is it won’t fly. We tried them both chilled and room temperature, the consensus was that everyone preferred the chilled Bot in our family. They come in subtle flavors of Lemon, Orange, Grape and Berry. The kids loved the Orange and Grape the very best. For my husband and I who also took our taste test, I loved the Lemon and he was a big fan of Berry.

Bot really stands out as fortified water with 75% less sugar than juice, but still boasting a lovely flavor to entice your children to drink up. The packaging is outstanding and definitely branded to appeal to kids and parents alike. Finding bot beverages is easy peasey, just visit their website and place your zip code in their handy store locater web page.

Oh Mama! soothes pregnant tummies with its new Ginger Ale Elixir

July 8th, 2008

Oh Mama!Back in August, 2007 we reviewed the popular line of Oh Mama! snack bars. The bars, created by a mother of three with a Masters of Health Science in Health Policy and Management and experience in maternal and child health, are all natural and complement your prenatal vitamins without running the risk of over supplementing. They also include DHA and omega-3 fatty acids. Impressive! Now the same care and attention that goes into Oh Mama!’s snack bars is in Oh Mama!’s latest product, their Ginger Ale Elixir.

Oh Mama!This new Elixir is definitely not your typical ginger ale. This sleek and portable drink is specifically designed to help alleviate specific symptoms of morning sickness and soothe the stomach during pregnancy. To do so the drink is infused with nature’s top-three nausea calming ingredients: ginger, lemon and vitamin B6. It’s also fortified with 100% RDA of folic acid. Check the label on your 2-liter of ginger ale. You’ll find carbonated water, citric acid and caramel coloring but no ginger, no lemon, no vitamin B6 and definitely no folic acid. Perhaps the theory that typical ginger ale soothes stomachs is from back when you could actually find ginger in it!

Because I’m done with the morning sickness thing (whew!) I could only test the drink for its taste. I actually enlisted my kids’ help in taste testing as well. After my 8-year-old made sure she wouldn’t “turn pregnant” from drinking the Elixir, we all took a sip…and then took a few more sips. Everyone, including myself, thought it tasted just like ginger ale and one daughter thought it tasted even better. I had to agree with her. Oh Mama! Ginger Ale Elixir with its nausea-calming ingredients and folic acid was a big hit! Perhaps the company should start offering it in a 2-liter size. We could all use some stomach soothing after a stressful day at work or crazy day at home, right?

With its great taste and stomach soothing abilities, Oh Mama! Ginger Ale Elixir is a must-have for expectant moms with morning sickness. You already have a lot to worry about during those first couple trimesters (which carrier to buy, how many onesies you’ll need, just how you’ll survive on 4 hours of sleep)...morning sickness shouldn’t be one of them!—Emily

CurrySimple is gourmet Thai food made easy!

July 4th, 2008

CurrySimpleI once bought a wonderful Thai food cookbook hoping to make yummy Thai dishes for my husband but as soon as I learned all the work and preparation that went into creating an authentic Thai dish, I closed the book (and have yet to make a single recipe). Tonight that all changed when I tested one of CurrySimple’s line of gourmet, restaurant-quality Thai sauces.

CurrySimpleCurrySimple’s sauces have received rave reviews from a variety of customers and publications alike, and that’s probably because they’re actually prepared in Thailand from scratch using fresh, natural ingredients. The company’s products are so authentic, so yummy they sell to restaurants, caterers and private chefs and package their sauces in smaller sizes so people like me can cook gourmet Thai food at home. And that’s just what I did tonight!

Using CurrySimple’s Yellow Curry Sauce and their Yellow Chicken Curry recipe I created a dish that got its own rave reviews here at home. The recipe was super easy to follow and preparation was a minimum—just some slicing and dicing, sauteing and simmering and about 15 minutes later dinner was ready. I served that yellow chicken curry over brown rice (another favorite) and my husband was in Thai heaven!

CurrySimpleDon’t be turned off by CurrySimple’s basic-looking packaging; it is probably the most advanced packaging in your pantry (this stuff is even space-shuttle ready!). Unopened, CurrySimple sauces need no refrigeration or preservatives and have a 1-year shelf life. This is a great lesson in how you definitely can’t judge a Thai sauce by its cover! CurrySimple’s product line includes curry sauces (red, green, yellow and masaman, Thai tea concentrate, Pad Thai sauce, Thai stir fry sauce and Coconut Soup (Tom Kha). I have a few more CurrySimple sauces to “review” and my husband’s mouth is watering in anticipation of more yummy Thai recipes!—Emily

  • Promotion! CurrySimple is offering Daily Dish readers $10 off their best-seller, The Best Coconut Curry Combo. Use coupon code “boutique” at checkout. Offer expires July 31, 2008.

FRS gives you energy without the post-energy crash

June 22nd, 2008

FRSMy daily energy boost is Dove dark chocolate and a can of Diet Coke—probably not the healthiest option even if dark chocolate has those great antioxidants. I ought to try getting a full night’s rest, but because that’s probably still a few years away I was excited to try FRS, a new line of energy products I found via the Hungry Girl website.

The FRS (Free Radical Scavenger) formula was created in 1997 after 7 years of research into the benefits of plant-based antioxidants on human health. You can read more in-depth research here. FRS Healthy Energy combines quercetin, which is a natural, powerful antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables, with 7 essential vitamins. “Quercetin helps extend your body’s natural energy and fight fatigue caused by oxidants that build up in your body from daily activity, exercise and stress.” One can of FRS Healthy Energy has the same amount of flavonoid antioxidants as 3 servings of blueberries, 8 servings of red onions or 10 servings of raspberries. (Kind of reminds me of the Total cereal commercials…why eat 10 servings of raspberries when you can drink just one can of FRS Healthy Energy!)

FRSFRS Healthy Energy comes in four different variations: cans, concentrate, powdered drink mix and soft chews. I was able to review all four, and I have to say the Low Cal Orange and Peach Mango concentrates were my favorite, followed by the same flavors in the cans. I wasn’t a big fan of the powdered mix but they’re a great way to take your Healthy Energy with you. The Orange soft chews tasted almost like an orange Starburst, but because I’m a calorie counter I had a hard time wasting 40 calories on a soft chew even if it was for added energy. Though I didn’t have scientific research to back it up, I felt like I got the quickest energy boost from the concentrate. FRS says you should feel the effects within about 30 minutes, but the company says it may take some people a few days to start to feel the positive effects

FRSFRS can also enhance your focus and alertness and support overall weight management. My favorite use for FRS was to take it about 30 minutes before a workout so I not only had the energy to get on the treadmill but had the energy to exercise just a little harder (so I could have an extra Dove chocolate or two later). On what I think is an impressive and important side note, Lance Armstrong recently joined FRS’ Board of Directors and chose FRS as the exclusive beverage he represents worldwide:

... FRS fits in line with me wanting to live to be ninety, wanting to keep running marathons, riding my bike, being fit and having fun. A lot of people just reach for a coffee or supercharged energy drinks when they need a little pick me up, but I believe our lifestyles and the daily choices we make are some of the most important decisions we face.As an athlete and a cancer survivor I’ve got a responsibility to myself to think about my long term health when I put something in my body. After studying the antioxidant science behind FRS, I feel confident in making it a part of my daily routine.

Sounds like a quality endorsement if you ask me! If you’re tired of the low that comes after the Diet Coke and chocolate high then incorporate FRS Healthy Energy into your daily routine. It’s a tasty way to get your “daily allowance of enhanced mental focus, increased performance and the energy to keep you going”...and we could all use some of that!—Emily

* Giveaway FRS is giving away a 2-week supply of Healthy Energy (a $60 value!) to 20 very lucky Daily Dish readers (yes, I said 20)! Please leave a comment telling us which Healthy Energy product will best fit into your lifestyle (and if you’re willing to admit it, the unhealthy energy “supplement” it will replace!). Please include a valid email address for our drawing. We’ll draw the winners from the comments and contact them via email. Deadline: June 30, 2008 (midnight). The winners will have 24 hours to claim their prize or a new winner will be chosen.

* Congratulations to all the winners of the FRS giveaway (too many to list)! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

The Scoville Food Institute, dedicated to the science of heat

May 29th, 2008

ScovilleBefore I came across The Scoville Food Institute on The Big Idea’sMillion Dollar Question” segment, I thought hot sauce came in one flavor, one color and one level of heat (“hot” of course). Leave it to the Scoville Food Institute to create a whole periodic table of peppers and a wonderful line of hot sauces.

ScovilleThe Institute, founded in 2007, bases its work “on the historic findings of Professor Wilbur Scoville. Often called ‘The Father of Pepper Pungency,’ Scoville was a mild mannered and hardworking chemist/scientist who invented a ranking/rating scale measuring the pungency of peppers way back in the late 1800’s.” And you thought I was kidding when I mentioned a periodic table of peppers! These people take their hot sauce very seriously—just as seriously as they take their all-natural ingredients. Scoville hot sauces may have “a dab of this and a smidgen of that” but they are free of additives, preservatives, MSG, Red #4, and other “unworthy” ingredients.

ScovilleThe current line includes seven—yes, seven!—different flavors (and five different heats) of hot sauce: Cayenne (medium), Jalapeno (mild), Orange Habanero (hot), Red Savina (x-hot), 4 Pepper (medium), Extra Hot Habanero (x-hot), and Super Hot Off the Charts (xxx-hot). So if a mild hot sauce is still a bit hot, can an “xxx-hot” hot sauce burn a hole through your plate? Let me know what happens—I’m way too chicken to test this one! I’m planning to pass my bottle of Otc to my brother-in-law, who orders Thai and Indian food “spicy” and has yet to meet a hot sauce he didn’t like.

ScovilleIf you’re thinking these would make a great Father’s Day gift, you’re right! But the gift isn’t just the sauce. I am in love with Scoville’s creative packaging. Not only is it eye catching, fun and unique (and a million-dollar idea according to Donny Deutsch) it is also easy to understand. There’s little chance of your mixing up the Extra Hot Habanero with the 4 Pepper. And here’s something you probably didn’t know: Scoville also does Valentine’s Day labels, wedding favors—whatever you want—as long as there’s hot sauce inside. Now that’s almost as cool, or should I say as hot, as their winning three major awards at the 2007 Fiery Food Challenge! —Emily

** Giveaway! The Scoville Food Institute is giving away a gift set of sauces plus a Periodic Table of Scoville Units t-shirt (size XL). This would make the perfect gift for Father’s Day! Leave a comment telling us your favorite (or craziest!) use for hot sauce; include a valid email address for our drawing. We’ll draw the winner from the comments and contact her via email. Deadline: June 6, 2008 (midnight). The winner will have 24 hours to claim her prize or a new winner will be chosen.

** Congratulations to Amy L., the winner of the Scoville Food Institute giveaway! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

Woodbridge Grill makes for a smokin’ backyard BBQ

May 22nd, 2008

Woodbridge GrillOnce Memorial Day is over, Father’s Day is just around the corner, which really stresses me out because I’m always at a loss for great gift ideas. You can only give so many ties, Old Spice soap-on-the-rope (hey, my dad swears it was his favorite gift), and men’s facials (okay, that gift probably never gets old). But if the man you’re shopping for is big on barbecuing, I’ve got a “hot” gift idea for you—and it’s not a “kiss the cook” apron.

Woodbridge GrillWoodbridge Grill’s Get Smokin’ smoker boxes are an easy way to give a yummy smoked flavor to whatever you’re grilling. How easy? Easy enough for me to do after reading the directions only once. ;) Get Smokin’ wood smokers come in three flavors: Applewood, Mesquite and Toasted Oak. The canister contains wood chips and seasonings along with a small, metal smoker box and magnet. Simply fill the box with wood chips, securely close the lid, and then use the magnet to mount it underneath the grill over the hottest point of your barbecue. Turn on the heat and once it starts smoking add your meat, fish or veggies around the smoker.

Woodbridge GrillWe tested the Applewood smoker with country style boneless pork ribs. Usually we like to marinate our pork ribs but to truly test the smoker we left them completely naked. I wanted to see what kind of flavor the smoker would add to our ribs. Sure enough, the ribs had a faint applewood flavor to them, but what I really liked—and I think this was due to the smoker—were the almost caramelized grill lines on the ribs; they were lightly sweet and crispy. The ribs did need a little Famous Dave’s barbecue sauce, but I found this only enhanced the smoked flavor. Everyone had seconds, so I’d say Woodbridge Grill’s Get Smokin’ smoker box was a big hit!

Woodbridge Grill was recently nominated for two SoFi Awards including Outstanding Food Gift. (SoFi, which stands for Specialy Outstanding Food Innovation, is the NASFT’s prestigious annual product awards competition.) Looking to give the barbecuer in your life an award-winning, “tasteful” gift this Father’s Day? I suggest the Family Pack from Woodbridge Grill. He’ll get all three flavors and you’ll have a few less meals to plan this summer!—Emily

** Giveaway! Woodbridge Grill is giving away a gift pack to two lucky winners! Please leave a comment telling us your favorite grilled food; include a valid email address for our drawing. We’ll draw the winners from the comments and contact them via email. Deadline: May 30, 2008 (midnight). The winners will have 24 hours to claim their prize or a new winner will be chosen.

* Congratulations to Stacey M. and Cheryl K., the winners of our Woodbridge Grill giveaway! Thank you to everyone who took the time to read the review and add a comment. Keep reading the Daily Dish for your chance to participate in more giveaways!

Foogo from Thermos keeps food–and kids–safe

May 18th, 2008

FoogoDo you ever wish your child’s sippy cup had the insulating power of your favorite thermos? Or wish your thermos had a leak-proof top complete with pop-up straw so your child’s OJ doesn’t ferment on the drive to Grandma’s? Well your wish has been granted with Thermos’ new Foogo line.

FoogoThermos has taken its superior insulation and put it into its new Foogo line, which includes a sippy cup, straw bottle, and food jar. Besides protecting food from spoiling and possible food-borne illnesses, Foogo products use all FDA-approved materials and do not use plastics containing Bisphenol A (BPA). With all the new research and latest news about the negative side effects from BPA, Foogo offers peace of mind for parents…and fresher, safer food for kids.

FoogoWe received samples of all three products, and though we haven’t used the food jar yet we have definitely broken in the sippy cup and straw bottle. In fact, both my 10-year-old and 2-year-old love the straw bottle and we’ve had to do the take-turns thing with that one. Though they have a few more parts to wash than our typical single-valve sippy cup, it’s worth it knowing at least one food-related product is BPA free. For those into the science behind Foogo, here you go:
• The vacuum-insulated stainless steel interior and exterior is non-reactive to all food and beverages
• The soft drinking spout is made from “food contact safe” Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE)
• The valve plate and lid are made from polypropylene (PP#5)
• All materials are FDA approved
• All plastics used for Thermos Foogo products are BPA free

I found the Comparative Study of Foogo an interesting read as well. And if preventing food-borne illness isn’t that important, at least buy them because they look cool. I’d choose Foogo over a Spongebob sippy cup any day!—Emily

Enjoy Life foods are surprisingly enjoyable!

May 7th, 2008

Enjoy LifeAnd that’s surprising for someone like me who originally thought food free of wheat, gluten, dairy, nut, egg, lactose, casein (the principal protein found in milk and other dairy products) would also be free of taste. Enjoy Life has changed my way of thinking about gluten-free and allergen-free foods.

Enjoy LifeSo if they’re products are free of so many allergen-inducing ingredients what ARE they made of? I went online to read more about a company whose dairy-free, soy-free and gluten-free semi-sweet chocolate chips are just plain yummy. (I’ll get to those in a minute.) Though Enjoy Life foods have some rice products (rice flour, rice flakes, rice protein) they differ from “other” manufacturers by using nutrient- and flavor-rich alternatives like amaranth and sorghum flour. “Instead of eggs, we use a combination of aluminum-free baking powder, flax, and applesauce. Rather than saturated fats, we use non-hydrogenated, trans fat-free safflower oil. For sweeteners, we skip the refined stuff and use a combination of natural fruit juices and honey or pure brown cane sugar. Instead of the artificial stuff, we bake with rosemary extract and a fruit juice/grain dextrin mixture to lock-in freshness and extend shelf life.” With all that good stuff inside it’s no wonder Enjoy Life foods taste so dang good!

Enjoy LifeAnd my family should know—we recently used their semi-sweet chocolate chips in our favorite cookie recipe. Read the rest of this entry »

LightFull Satiety Smoothies are simply super!

May 4th, 2008

LightFull FoodsOkay, that was a lame attempt at alliteration but it’s still true. LightFull Satiety Smoothies are my new favorite snack, and considering they’re made from all-natural ingredients and are low cal and heart healthy, that’s saying a lot! Move over Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered raisins and reduced-fat Oreos, there’s a new snack in town.

LightFull FoodsThe lowdown: LightFull Food’s Satiety Smoothies are 90- to 100-calorie smoothies designed to keep you satiated (i.e. “full to the point of satisfaction”). They have 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein and they’re sweetened with all natural sweeteners like real fruit puree (fruit flavors), evaporated cane juice (only a touch) and erythritol (low-glycemic sweetener that occurs naturally in pears, grapes and melons). Because foods high in fiber and protein slow digestion and prolong the “I’m full” feeling, you’ll eat fewer calories and feel full longer. These smoothies also contain no saturated fats, trans fats or cholesterol. But can something so good for you—they’re also gluten free and an excellent sources of calcium—taste good? They wouldn’t be my new favorite snack if they didn’t!

LightFull FoodsI received samples of LightFull Food’s 8.25-oz bottles in Mango Oasis, Chocolate Satisfaction, Peachy Cream, Strawberry Bliss, and Café Latte. Though I didn’t test the Cafe Latte (from other reviews it’s really tasty!), I did taste test the other flavors and I can honestly say they are all pretty yummy. If you’re a fruit lover you’ll enjoy the Peachy Cream for sure, and even though Chocolate Satisfaction wasn’t as tempting as, say, Starbucks’ double chocolate frappuccino, it still tasted pretty good (and had a lot fewer calories, sugar, and fat).

But I have a personal story to share that help prove the satiety power of these little drinks. Before heading to a family party (about a half-hour drive) where pizza was the main—and only—course, I drank a Chocolate Satisfaction. By the time we arrived I didn’t feel the need to fight my way to the front of the line and I only ended up eating two pieces (an all-time personal low) before feeling pleasantly full. So now LightFull Food’s Satiety Smoothies are not only a favorite snack but a favorite weapon in the fight against overeating at family get-togethers! —Emily

Gourmet Momma

January 15th, 2008



One of our favorite past Boutique Cafe guests has recently launched a new blog, to help busy momma’s feed their families. Nikki (Ragazza Bella Couture) has started Gourment Momma for all of us struggling to find easy, heathly meals for our families. Nikki knows what she is talking about:

“I was formally trained at the Texas Culinary Academy, a division of Le Cordon Bleu Paris. I hold a degree in savory culinary arts, but I also love to bake and can make some mean desserts!”

Congratulations Nikki and best of luck to you in your new endeavour. Click to visit the Gourmet Momma site >

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