Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Ode to Mushrooms

A list of things for which I have an undying, burning love includes, but is not limited to, the following:

-chocolate chip cookies
-Nugget Boy
-Pig Cat
-Puff Cat
-chapstick in pockets (but not when it is forgotten and makes a journey through the washer and dryer and comes out all empty and sad)
-a cat found asleep in a basket with blankets

Oh mushrooms. So many kinds, each with its own flavor profile. So full of nutrients like Vitamin D, potassium, and B vitamins. To this day I never cease to be surprised, to be delighted by, the meaty taste of mushrooms. Somehow the mushroom can taste even more savory even more umami filled than meat itself, a fact that continues to amaze me each and every time I eat them.

To capitalize on that meaty quality, I sometimes take out the meat entirely and replace it with mushrooms.
Like these teriyaki skewers. Instead of beef, as we have done in the past, we went ahead and used a variety of mushrooms. Such a great idea, if I do say so myself. And here, instead of our usual pork dumplings, we swapped the meat for mushrooms. And here, instead of using the seasoning mix on some chicken like we had been doing, we went with mushrooms. Those mushrooms picked up that smoky grilled flavor and the spices like nothing else in this world.

If swapping out entirely isn't something that floats your boat, just swap out part of the meat with some mushrooms. I've been making meatballs these days with a mixture of turkey meat and minced mushrooms, stretching the meat further as well as giving an umami boost.  The mushroom - one of the great loves of my life.

This post is sponsored by The Mushroom Council and Kitchen Play. The love of mushrooms is all my own.

Declare your love for mushrooms and connect with the Mushroom Council on Social Media! Also, you may want to check out the recipe database for more ideas on using this most wonderful of foods, the recipient of my everlasting love - the mushroom.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter "Deliciously Simple" and Country Crock "Simply Delicious," A Review

It can be a lonely existence for butter, hanging out alone amongst the eggs, and milks, and cheeses.  Part of the group, but yet, so very very different.  So alone.  And especially these days, as sticks of butter are quickly being placed in the refrigerator, and almost immediately, taken back out of the refrigerator and turned into various holiday treats, leaving no time for mingling. And nothing to top our toasts.

Luckily, Unilever took pity on our single sticks of butter and sent some friends, some family to keep it company.  Unilever has two new spreads - I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Deliciously Simple and Country Crock Simply Delicious.  These two spreads use simple ingredients like yogurt, canola oil, and salt.

After receiving these spreads, Max and I sat down together to try them on bread, to get a good feel for their tastes.  Despite having the same ingredient lists, they tasted surprisingly different.  Max preferred the Deliciously Simple, while I preferred Simply Delicious.  I actually found the Deliciously Simple spread to taste canola oil-y (which, as a neutral oil, I didn't even think was a possibility in life), even a bit distracting. But again, Max liked this, so who am I to argue?

One trait that both share is a glorious spreadability.  It is so wonderfully easy to spread on your bread, ensuring that each nook and cranny gets coated.  This trait, however, is perhaps a double-edged sword, as its ease of spreading facilitates copious amounts of the stuff to be spread on the bread by miniature people and then eaten with gleeful, mischievous abandon.

During our tasting, Max and I sampled  the spreads, and as a control, we had a beloved butter out to compare along side.  The Country Crock Simply Delicious was pretty good.  Even with a side by side comparison to the butter, it was hard to say I loved the butter more.  Plus, the Simply Delicious, as noted earlier was so easy to spread.

Max and I found Deliciously Simple and Simply Delicious to be useful and tasty toppings for our toast, something we are quite fond of in this family.  There is room for everyone in the fridge.  Well, kinda.  Our fridge is small.  But theoretically speaking, there is room for all.

NOTE: We did not receive financial compensation for this post. We received a sample kit from Unilever for review purposes. The opinions are completely based on our own experiences.

Want more info about the spreads? Click here and here! #DeliciouslySimple and #SimplyDelicious!

Friday, July 12, 2013

ProCook Gourmet Stainless Steel 11" Frying Pan

I had just assumed that finding a good nonstick frying pan was like trying to find that cute, gray sweatshirt that fits you oh-so-perfectly and goes with everything. Like going to the beach and not having your kid start throwing sand. Like trying to find footwear that can truly be called "comfortable." Like going to the farmer's market and coming home with a reasonable amount of fruit.  Like eating just one cookie.  Like forgoing chocolate for just one day.

In other words, I didn't think it could happen.  Over the years, we have gone through many nonstick frying pans.  Handles fell off by merely whispering in the presence of the pan.  Scratches would appear by breathing near it, rendering the pan unusable after only three uses.  I had basically given up on the category of
 pans, using only our stainless steel pans and cast iron skillet instead.

Until now, when the ProCook Gourmet Stainless Steel 11" Frying Pan came along.  I never thought I would say this, but I do love this pan.  It has a solid, sturdy handle covered in silicone.  Deep sides.  Conducts heat amazingly fast (like oh my god, this egg is already cooked, I just put it in the pan fast!).  Dishwasher and oven safe.  No scratches yet, even after being used daily (we perhaps eat too many fried eggs - but how can one resist its allure?).  Food slides easily out of it.

I can't vouch yet for its longevity, however.  But so far, it has proved up to the task of being our nonstick frying pan.

I wouldn't hesitate to use ProCook for other cook/bakeware needs.  Prices are reasonable, they have wide range of goods, and as of today, have free 2-day shipping with $50 purchase.

NOTE: We did not receive financial compensation for this post. We received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely based on our own experiences.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hidden Talents and Super Delicious Veggie Chips from Green Giant

I hate being in the spotlight. I'm more on the shy, reserved, bookish side of the spectrum. I'm self-conscious and anxious. It takes awhile for me to be comfortable in showing all my cards, so to speak.

So when you have all these traits, they converge into a person who will never dance in public (among other things - see also public speaking). A wallflower, perhaps. But I prefer to think of it as "sitting back and observing the human condition."

But back to the dancing. It just doesn't happen. I was never interested in going to clubs. Pubs, yes. But not clubs.

However, once I'm back home...with Seth and Max and the cats...that's when I can let go of inhibitions. And dance!

Not at all in a coordinated manner. But at least a passionate one. One looking to experience the joy of (clumsy) movement.

And Seth and Max and Rambo and JiJi definitely get a show. A full spectrum of dance exploration. Maybe some ballet leaps and pirouettes. Then maybe a can-can followed by a sort of running man style move.  And animated facial expressions to go right along with it.

Just like I have this hidden talent (or non-talent, depending on your definition of the words "dance" and "talent"), this (arguably) more fun side that gets a chance to come out and experience the world, Green Giant does as well! They don't just do the frozen and canned vegetables. The steamed broccoli as your side dish. The peas you add into your pasta to round out the meal. They too have a hidden talent, a fun side, a snack side. Chips!

Glorious, glorious chips. Two different kinds - a Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chip with Zesty Cheddar Flavor and a Multigrain Sweet Potato Chip with Sea Salt. These were both seriously so, so good. Crispy!  Flavorful!  And contain vegetables!  It was love at first bite.

Here is a nutritional rundown on these goodies:
The Green Giant™ Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips – Zesty Cheddar Flavor are made with real vegetables (like bell peppers and corn!), 17 grams of whole grain per serving (48g are recommended daily), and are naturally flavored.
The Green Giant™ Multigrain Sweet Potato Chips – Sea Salt Flavor are made with real sweet potatoes and made with 14 grams of whole grain. Plus, they contains 40 percent less fat than regular potato chips.

So if you want to experience more surprise talents (which you totally do!), check out Green Giant's Facebook page or YouTube channel.  And if you want a coupon for 85 cents of Veggie Snack Chips (you definitely do), click here!

Thank you to The Green Giant™ for being a sponsor. Show the Giant your surprise talent at  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Taco Bell's Carnitas Steak Burrito - A Review

It had been one of those days.  The words "Wow Max, that is quite a mess you've got going on here" were overheard as I stumbled out of bed. Stools were being maneuvered around the kitchen, the key to toddler muffin stealing.  Painting time turned into finger painting.  Which turned into a trail of hand prints as I attempted to wrangle the toddler for a cleaning.  Markers were used to color not pieces of paper, but tiny hands.  And again, the toddler had to be chased for more cleaning.  Tantrums appeared to be erupting all over the place.  And each mess of toys seemed to give birth to three more messes.

On a day like this, I knew getting dinner on the table would be challenging, to say the least.  More likely, an impossibility.

That afternoon, the most wonderful of emails was sitting there, just waiting to be read.  One that said we would have the opportunity to review the Carnitas Steak Burrito through Daily Buzz Food and Taco Bell.  It appeared to be fortuitous timing.  Dinner was figured out!

This burrito, created by Chef Lorena Garcia, includes "citrus-herb marinated steak, premium Latin rice, flavorful black beans, guacamole made from real Hass avocados, roasted corn & pepper salsa, a creamy cilantro dressing, and freshly prepared pico de gallo, all wrapped in a warm flour tortilla."

Promising, no?  This delicious sounding burrito coming on the most desperate of days.  In the midst of messes galore, lunch had been neglected.  I was ready to embrace this burrito in all its glory, welcoming it with widely open arms and to proceed in shoving it straight into my belly.

And then the burrito arrived.  It was stuffed.  Definitely full of things.  And by things, I mean black beans and rice.

After eating a few bites, I realized it lacked flavor.  And then I realized that it didn't have any of that guacamole on it.  And I couldn't taste or see cilantro dressing, so that was likely missing as well.  The bits of corn provided fun little bursts of sweetness, but they were very few and far between.  The pico de gallo suffered from the same difficulties as the corn and pepper salsa.  And the steak?  Well, I had to spit a piece out because the texture was so weird and off-putting.

There was a lot of very unappetizing carnage left in the wake of this burrito eating, so I didn't want to photograph it.  I got one a few days later, and gave it the old college try, despite the bad experience from before.  Perhaps I am a masochist at heart.

This time, it was still inelegantly packed.  By which I mean move one piece and the whole thing just falls apart.  But at least this time, not just with the rice and beans and inedible steak.  A decent amount of crispy Romaine was spotted.  More of that surprisingly tasty roasted corn and pepper salsa could be seen.  Tomatoes from the pico de gallo were much more frequently observed.  I couldn't bring myself to eat the steak, however.  I am not that extreme of a masochist.

It had been a strange day - hail storms, rain storms, and sunshine were all swapping places.  One moment, blue skies, and the next moment, dark clouds and the sound of little ice particles pelting windows were heard.  Maybe this is the reason that I found myself with a spoon getting at the vegetable and rice/beans portion of the burrito.  So I suppose it has it's uses, but sadly, I can't recommend it.

I was financially compensated for this review by Taco Bell through DailyBuzz Food. The opinions are completely my own, based on my experience.  Clearly...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

RedLaser App, Pomegranate Banana Dip, and Sugar and Spiced Tortilla Chips

I'm not super awesome at adopting new technologies.  I'm just not.  Like, for instance, writing this blog.  I keep a pen and notebook for scribbling down recipes and such.  Definitely old-school.  I should probably point out that I have terrible handwriting.  I try to make it legible, but then my need for speed wins over readability.  Then I take a ridiculous amount of time trying to decipher the scrawlings of a madwoman.  Which completely negates any time savings.

That is the advanced technology that I use.  A notepad and pen.  There is an iPad and an iPhone in this family, which I use to browse the internet at night when I can't sleep.  Or to do Google Image searches of Max's favorite things -buses, trains, etc.  Maybe playing a game if I'm feeling fancy.  But I have yet to use these things in a way that was actually useful.  

When I saw this opportunity through Daily Buzz Moms to use a list making and shopping app for the iPhone (the app also works on the Android and Windows Phone), I thought, maybe, just maybe, now I will become a person living in the year 2012 (almost 2013-where does the time go!).  So I seized the day and all that carpe diem jazz.  I decided to just take the plunge into this new era of life.  One filled with order and ease and apps, to make everything in your life run smoothly.  A whole new Jenn. 

This year, we are having a small Christmas Eve party, and I thought, this...this is the perfect catalyst to become that whole new app-organized Jenn.  And so I downloaded the RedLaser app (which is free, how awesome is that?)

When you open the app, there is a home screen, with some menus listed along the bottom.  There is a "deals" menu, a "scan" menu, a "search" menu, and "more."  More is where you can see things like your loyalty cards, your lists, create a QR code, your history, your purchases, and settings (one of which is whether you want to post your purchase to Facebook).  The home menu will tell you items you recently viewed and recommend items for you based on your search history.

There is so much to love about this app.  I liked that you can scan all your store loyalty cards and keep them all in one place- right on your phone.  Now my wallet doesn't have to be so obnoxiously bulky and barely keep itself closed with all those cards - yay!  The camera and scanning features are intuitive and easy to use.  Navigating around the app in general is actually pretty intuitive.  It didn't take me long to figure out how to get to the various features, and the app is super helpful in directing you.  

The deals section of the app is great, you can see online and local deals for major retailers like Michaels (oh how I love Michaels!), Gap, Target, Kohls, Macys, Walgreens, Home Depot, and this list goes on and on.  Definitely nice!  A one stop place to check out any good bargains, which is super convenient at this time of year! Another really useful feature is their in-app checkout, so you can easily access those good online deals.

Just having a place to store a list is really great.  And you can have multiple lists.  Many lists! All in one place.  So no more trying to make out my illegible scribbles while standing in the grocery store aisle.  No more losing my lists!  Oh god, I make so many lists. and I have to, with so many lost to attrition.  Crumbled and lost to the ether in the bottom of bags and purses.  Forgotten on countertops and then fallen into an abyss, most likely knocked over by a bored cat.  Now I can store them all in the phone!

But once I used the app to make a grocery list (which, lets face it, is the most common list I make), things went a little wonky.  You can manually type in a list.  Or you can take a photo of the item and have the app find the item to add to the list.  Or you can scan the barcode of an item to add to a list.  So in theory, these options are pretty cool.  I know you won't always have the barcode or ability to take photos of everything on your list, but it is convenient when possible.  I decided to take a picture of some milk, as that is always a fixture on our grocery list.  But the app wasn't able to recognize it as milk, instead it was recognized as a plastic bottle.  Okay, not really useful, but no biggie.  I then used the app to scan the barcode of the milk.  Here it came up with "product of dean foods company," a description that isn't useful on your grocery list.  I tried the barcode scan again on a bag of pecans and the app added "product of poindexter nut company" to my list.  Correct information, but not useful as a grocery list.  So I was left with manually adding items to my grocery list.

When you finally get something added to your list, you can get price comparisons from both online and local stores, reviews, and details about the item (theoretically).  I looked at truffle oil, and it gave me online prices from internet retailers but "check back soon - new results added daily for the local prices" came up under the local store section.  This was also the result in the reviews section, a section that would be useful. How great would it be to have reviews for the brand of oil you are interested in right in front of you?  It did have information, though, in the "details" section.  This is quite nice, giving nutrition facts and allergen information,  both useful and convenient!  Most items I entered onto my grocery list had online prices, but none gave me local prices. Giving you more grocery options would be seriously awesome - like, if you typed in "bacon" and then the app gave you prices for various brands of bacon in both online and local stores.  That would make this a killer app! 

I decided to take a look at some non-grocery related features on the app, and that is where this app really shines.  Seriously!  I did a price search for a car seat, as this is something we need for Max when he outgrows his current one.  Here I could see online prices and local prices, though the reviews section did say "check back soon," again.  Which is a bit unfortunate, as that is useful information to have at your fingertips.  I also did a search for diapers.  Here I got multiple online and multiple local options, letting me know how to get the best price for this item.  Which is absolutely amazing.  The future - it is awesome!

Maybe this app won't completely revolutionize my grocery shopping habits.  But I will be using the list functions, even with its clumsy barcode scanner.  It will also help me price some specialty ingredients (especially from online retailers).  It will most definitely help me with some of the non grocery things.  Like for our party, all those other things, like a punch bowl and Christmas decorations - these are things for which this app is designed.  And all those other life things like car seats and dvd players and books.  These are the sorts of things I will be using the app to research and buy.  And I will definitely be checking out the deals at top stores, just to see if Santa can pick up any more good buys.  With all those loyalty store cards stored in one spot.  So I may not be ready to give up my notebook and pen completely.  But I am ready to incorporate some apps into my life.  Including this RedLaser one.  Maybe not a completely new Jenn, but one with some new organizational and shopping tricks under her belt.  And also a dip - a festive pomegranate and banana dip for holiday parties. 

This post is brought to you by RedLaser. Get the free app at RedLaser
I was financially compensated for this review by RedLaser through Daily Buzz Moms.  The opinions, however, are completely my own based on my experience.

Pomegranate Banana Dip

8 ounces cold mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 small, ripe banana
3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest
pinch salt
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (arils), plus more for serving

Place mascarpone and sugar in bowl of electric mixer and beat on medium speed. Mix in remaining ingredients.  Sprinkle top with additional pomegranate seeds.  Serve with Sugar and Spiced Tortilla Chips and fruit (I like it with apples).

Sugar and Spiced Tortilla Chips

4 tortillas, each cut into 8 equal size wedges
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
pinch salt

Place tortilla wedges in bowl, toss with oil, cinnamon, sugar, clove, salt.  Use tongs to distribute oil and seasonings as evenly as possible on the tortilla wedges.  Bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes, until crispy.  Serve with dip.