Saturday, April 5, 2014

Russian Sailor and a Lovely Candy Co #Giveaway


Spring is in the air. Gardening is on many of our minds. Prepping the earth, plotting and planning and planting. Then comes the nurturing and tending to those little seedlings, with high hopes of a bountiful harvest. The sweet, sweet satisfaction of growing your own fruits and vegetables. The pureness of it all. Fresh, flavorful, and nutritious.

We all do our best to feed our families healthy foods. Although it's not always easy or affordable. Organic, non-gmo produce isn't in everyone's budget. With our own gardens though....it's a bit more affordable and very controllable, making every garden prepping, back breaking moment worth it.

But every once in a while (or more) we have that craving....the child in us is crying out for some good old fashioned candy. Sure, that freshly picked strawberry is as sweet as sweet can be. But it's not candy. There are times when I really want candy! I dunno about you, but I have never seen a mainstream candy bar with the words organic or non-gmo on the label. Maybe when you're hunting down a candy bar, you're far from thinking ...'is this good for me?" cuz when the craving hits, all that matters is getting your fix.


Well, if you shop at Target....I have some good news for you. You can get your candy fix and feel good about it, at the same time.

Check it out!!! Lovely Candy Co. makes non-gmo, organic, gluten-free, certified kosher. no soy, no artificial  colors or ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup Fruit Chews and Caramels. And they can be found in many U.S. Target stores.

And...they are seriously delicious!!


The Fruit Chews didn't last long in my household, with this little bits of fruity flavor. The only reason the caramels did, was because their were 2 bags...Original Caramel and ...Chocolate Swirl Caramel.


Which reminds me....today, April 5th is National Caramel Day!


And you get to enter for a chance to WIN 3 bags (one bag of each flavor) of this wonderful candy! 


How sweet is that?!

Let me give you an adult way to enjoy it ....



I say 'adult' because it does include alcohol. What I'm about to do can be done with any of the candies I was given. I chose the Chocolate Swirl Caramels. Mainly because I wanted to make a cocktail with it afterwards.

Now you all have seen flavor infused vodka at the market, haven't you? Do you know how easy it is to make?

I took about half a dozen of the Chocolate Swirl Caramels and placed them in a mason jar filled with Vodka.


And let it sit on the counter for a couple of days. Every once in a while (when I thought of it) I shook that jar up. Once the caramels had dissolved, I strained it through a coffee filter lined sieve


And whaddya know....I had infused vodka!

Perfect for making my cocktail.



Russian Sailor

3 oz caramel infused vodka
2 oz coffee liquor
1 oz cream
good pinch of sea salt
caramel sauce to drizzle (optional)

In a shaker full of ice, combine the vodka, coffee liquor and cream. Shake for a few seconds then poor into a chilled martini glass. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and drizzle some caramel sauce over it if desired.


This will not only take care of any sweet craving you could possibly have, but it'll knock your socks off as well. Which you just might need after a long day prepping the garden.

How would you like to give this consciously crafted, better-for-you candy a try?

Lovely Candy Co. will send one lucky U.S. resident winner a 6oz bag of each of the following:

Lovely Candy Original Caramels
Lovely Candy Chocolate Swirl Caramels 
Lovely Candy Superfruit Chews

Leaving a comment is a mandatory requirement for entering to win. All other entries are optional.

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


This giveaway is open to US residents only. This giveaway will run from Saturday, April 5, 2014 through Thursday, April 10, 2014 (11:59 pm PT). Winner will be notified within 48 hours of the close of the contest and given 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. 

I was not compensated for this post, however Lovely Candy Co supplied me with 3 bags of candy to try. They are also supplying 3 bags of candy for the giveaway.  All opinions are my own.





Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pork Chops with a Smokey Date Glaze


I don't know if you've heard about the new product that's been recently launched by Erica from In Erika's Kitchen, called Not Ketchup. In case you haven't, let me tell you a little about it. It's Not Ketchup because it's not a tomato based sauce. It's fruit based. But it's not a dessert sauce because it's not sweet (although with a little imagination, I'm sure you can use it with a dessert). It's a dipping sauce that's versatile.....spicy, tangy and savory.

There are currently 3 flavors: Smokey Date, Cherry Chipotle, and Blueberry White Pepper. More are in the making, and from the names of them, they sound like they're going to be just as amazing as the original 3. She's putting together some exciting flavors: Plum Five-Spice, Carrot Ginger, Raisin Rosemary, and Cranberry Cayenne.


Because Not Ketchup was developed by a fellow food blogger, she knows what we want. She's in touch with what foodies are looking for. We want natural. We want convenience without the 'hazards'. Not Ketchup helps us achieve that. No processed sugars, no artificial flavors or colors and no preservatives.

Where can you get this amazing sauce? Well, if you're in the Los Angeles area, here is the list of stores:
Store that carry Not Ketchup
or you can buy it online:
Order Not Ketchup online

Let me show you how easy it is to jazz up your dinner. Of course you can just pour the sauce over any meat dish you serve or use it for dipping....but one simple little step makes it even more...decedent.

Pork Chops with a Smokey Date Glaze
4 pork chops
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup Smokey Date Not Ketchup

Preheat your oven to 400' F.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil over your pork chops and season with salt and pepper. Heat an oven proof skillet (I use my cast iron) on medium-high heat on the stove. Place the pork chops in the skillet and sear for 3 minutes.

Turn the chops over and put them in the oven. Bake for about 6 - 9 minutes depending on the thickness of the chop and whether or not you're using boneless or bone-in. They're done when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 140-145'.

Remove from the oven and place the pork chops on a plate to rest while you make the glaze.

Place the same skillet on the stove, over a medium heat. Pour the chicken broth in the skillet to deglaze, stirring and scraping up the bits off the bottom. This will take about a minute. Add in the Smokey Date Not Ketchup, stirring to combine. Stir and heat through until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

To serve, just pour the glaze over your pork chops and enjoy along with a serving of mashed potatoes and sauteed asparagus and mushrooms.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Quinoa Pasta and Roasted Beet and Garlic Sauce


Only one other time in my whooooole life have I liked something with beets. It was about a year about when I made a Quinoa and Roasted Beet Salad.

I don't enjoy the earthiness of them. I love the color though.

My girls love beets and it's because of them that I found this recipe. I won't proclaim to be a beet lover. But I love this particular recipe.

I recently signed up to have fresh, organic produce delivered to my home...straight from local farms. It's pretty cool. I'm just giving it a test run to see how it goes. Anyway...my first delivery was the other day


I got beets. I knew they were coming. I could've put them on the 'no-no' list but since my girls love them, I went ahead and let them come.

In my Google search for beet recipes, I came across a Huffpost link that claimed to turn any beet hater into a lover. (They weren't kidding!)

A little tweaking from the original recipe and we have here a vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free recipe. So delicious! Just a slight hint of that earthy beet flavor (that I usually don't like) but the sweetness that beets are known for pulls forward from the roasting, offset and wonderfully paired with roasted garlic and thyme.



Quinoa Pasta and Roasted Beet and Garlic Sauce
Inspired by: BevCooks
Printable Version

3 beets, peeled and cubed
3 TB light olive oil, divided
3 sprigs fresh thyme (I use lemon thyme...love the stuff)
4 cloves of garlic (papery skins left on)
1 TB balsamic vinegar
2 TB extra dry vermouth
1/2 cup Parmesan style aged nut cheese divided
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup plain cultured coconut milk (similar to plain yogurt)
1 tsp sugar
8 oz quinoa pasta,cooked according to the package directions
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400' F

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place beets, thyme and whole garlic cloves on the baking sheet and toss with 1 TB of olive oil, salt and pepper.

The reason I left the papery skins on the garlic, was to protect them from burning while in the oven.

Bake for about 45 minutes. Check them after 30 minutes just in case. The actual baking time will vary depending on how big or small your beet cubes are. Once they're tender, they're done.

Once done, remove the papery skins from the garlic and any thyme stems you can find. Place it all in a food processor along with the remaining 2 TB of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, vermouth and 1/4 cup of 'cheese'. Puree until smooth.

Place your deep rich beet puree into a saucepan along with the vegetable stock and cultured coconut milk. Stir well until combined and heat to a simmer, over medium heat.


Add the sugar, remaining 1/4 'cheese' and if needed, a bit more salt. Simmer on low for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

This is a good time to cook your pasta. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add it in with the sauce and give it a good stir.

Serve with more 'cheese' and a bit of thyme leaves.


(ok, I confess here...I'm not lactose intolerant the way my youngest daughter is, so I topped mine with real, shredded Parmesan cheese)

Oh so good! So beautiful. So hearty. Not to mention...GOOD FOR YOU!!

Btw...those beet leaves that you cut off? Save them! Do. Not. Throw. Them. Away.

Why?

You can bake them. And make beet greens chips, just like you do with kale. Just wash, dry thoroughly, remove tough stems. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of garlic powder. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes in a 375' oven. Turn off the heat and let sit in cooling oven for an additional 10 minute or until the edges are starting to brown but not burnt.


Other than the stems and the skinny root at the end of the beet...we have just consumed a lot of beet stuff.

And it was good!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Irish Meatball Soup


I love corned beef with cabbage and potatoes.

My family doesn't.

Not a single one of them.

Such a pity, really.

Rather than continuing my yearly torture of a traditional St. Patrick's Day feast that only I enjoy, I have recently started a new one. I don't know if this is actually an authentic Irish anything, but it contains lamb, cabbage and potatoes. With a side of some sort of soda bread, it's Irish enough for me.

Lamb...some people aren't much into lamb. To be honest, I'm one of those people. But what I do is mix it wish some bison and wow! It's rich and delicious without being overpowering in any way. I know they're both an expensive meat...but after all, I only make it once a year. And it's worth it. Especially when everyone loves it and I'm not left eating a whole corned beef on my own. If you can't get or don't like either of the meats I use...by all means, use ground beef.

Irish Meatball Soup
Printable Version

Soup
8 cups chicken stock (I sometimes use turkey stock)
1 russet potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, diced
1 leek (white and light green parts) sliced
7 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4 - 1/2 (depending on the size) head of cabbage, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 TB barley
Salt and pepper to taste
Bouquet bag of a sprig of parsley, a couple of sprigs of thyme, 1 bay leaf (you can make a bouquet bag using cheesecloth or by using a tea strainer)
2 lbs meatballs, partially cooked (recipe below)
Garnish with a nice herb butter made with melted butter with added minced parsley, chives and thyme

Meatballs
1 lb ground bison
1 lb ground lamb
1/4 cup diced onion
4 TB minced garlic
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/3 cup panko crumbs
2 eggs
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper

To make the meatballs:
Mix together all of the ingredients and gently stir until just combined. Don't squish it around too much or you'll end up with a dense, dry meatball.

Roll about a tablespoon of the meat into 1 inch balls. In a medium-hot pan drizzled with a little oil. brown on all sides and set aside. You will do this in batches....probably 3 batches.

To make the soup:
Pour the chicken stock into a large pot. Add the vegetables and seasoning. Heat to just before a boil and reduce heat a bit, allowing it to barely bubble but not boil. Cook for about 30 minutes. Add the meatballs and continue to cook until the vegetables and meatballs are cooked through, about 15 more minutes.

Remove the bouquet bag and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Drizzle each serving with the herb butter.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Paddyrita


If any of you know me, you know that I'm a margarita gal. Even on St. Patrick's Day.

My go-to margarita is made with equal parts tequila, sprite, limeade and beer (usually Corona). A few years ago I started substituting a Guinness Extra Stout for the Corona on St. Patrick's Day. Add's a nice little twist in flavor...very good.

This year...I took it a step further.

I omitted the tequila all today (gasp!)

And replaced it with Irish Whiskey.

Think about it....beer and lime and good together. (Just as Bud). Whiskey and lime are good together (just Google it and you'll see all sorts of options).

Ooooooh yuuuuuuuuum! There's something that happens that I can't explain. A flavor thing. As if someone added some spices to this drink. I love it! Bubble, flavorful...lime, spice something or other...and you can't even taste alcohol. Perfect!!

Paddyrita
12 oz frozen limeade
12 oz Sprite
12 oz Irish Whiskey
12 oz Guinness Extra Stout

In a large pitcher, combine all ingredients. Server over ice. Garnish with a lime wedge.

May the luck of the Irish be with you!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!




Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mexican Chicken Chowder


This is one of those super tasty, easy dinners. It's satisfying and pretty quick to make. It would be even quicker if you had some leftover cooked chicken on hand.

One of the things that makes this meal so quick and easy is the flavoring packet I used. Now typically, I stay away from seasoning packets. Well...the ones at the local market. What makes the one I used here an exception? It's organic. No GMO's, no pesticides, no preservatives, no insecticides, no irradiation, do food dyes. So what we have here...is quality AND convenience. All neatly wrapped up in one.

Where can you get Wildtree products? From my friend Michele (whom by the way is responsible for me starting a blog, and joining Facebook):

Website http://www.mywildtree.com/MICHELEBCOOKS/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/michelebcooks
She also has a blog: My Italian Grandmother

Meanwhile, back at the bat cave.....

Mexican Skillet Meal Seasoning contains every flavor you would want in a Mexican dish, such as peppers, onion, garlic, cumin, cilantro, and jalapeno. Its all conveniently packaged for your ease of not only time, but peace of mind. Your meal is loaded with flavor, not time. Aaaaand health is not compromised just because you need 'fast food'.



Mexican Chicken Chowder
Printable Version
serves 4 - 6

3 good sized boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tablespoon of light olive oil for sauteing
Salt and Pepper according to taste
4 oz fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 large white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 14.5 oz can of chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 packet of Wildtree Mexican Skillet Meal Seasoning
1 - 15.5 oz can of Cannellini Beans, undrained (or any white bean that you prefer)
1 - 7 oz can diced green chiles, mild

Heat oil in a thick bottomed 2 quart sauce pan over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add to sauce pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown on all sides and almost cooked through, about 8 - 10 minutes (less if you're using chicken breast). Remove from pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add a bit more oil to the pan if needed. Toss in the mushrooms and onions. Stir to coat with oil and saute until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute an additional minute.

Pour in the chicken broth and stir, scraping up any bits off the bottom and along to sides.

Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the milk and the Wildtree Mexican Skillet Meal Seasoning. Stir to combine.

If you have a stick blending (immersion blender) put that baby to use and puree what's in the pan. Otherwise, either leave it as is, or puree it in a blender, only filling the blender half full and covering with a towel (may have to work in batches).

Once pureed, add the cooked chicken back into the pan along with the cannellini beans and the diced green chili. Stir and continue cooking until heated through.


Garnishment recommendations are endless:

Avocado
Cilantro
Cheese
Tomatoes
Green Onions
Tortillas
Tortilla Chips
Jalapenos

Whatever your little heart desires. (I had mine with a margarita, but I don't think that is considered a garnishment).

This recipe is similar to a white chili that I make, that's either made in the crock pot, or for quite a bit more time on the stove. The Wildtree Mexican Skillet Meal seasoning give this baby that boost of flavor that so often is lacking in quick meals. It's sure to be a family favorite. It's not spicy, although if heat is your thing, add a dash or 2 or more of cayenne pepper to spice it up a bit.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Vegetarian Breakfast Burrito


Filling, tons of flavor and a very hearty breakfast. I love breakfast burritos but the ones I usually eat are loaded with potatoes. And meat. This time I went a different route (inspired by my very health conscious youngest daughter). There are more vegetables in this burrito than anything else.

I did not miss the potatoes (and I happen to love potatoes). Although there are sweet potatoes in that mass pile of veggies. I didn't even miss the meat. much. Well, if I think about it too much.....naaa. I'm not that bad.

This breakfast was perfect for another reason besides being a satisfying breakfast. It gave me the opportunity to clean out the crisper. And that's exactly what I did...I grabbed everything I could find that I thought would go well together and started chopping away...


Leeks, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, jalapenos. (I wish I had some zucchini). All thrown into the sizzling pan with olive oil....sauteed, then some minced garlic thrown in....oh, and a bit of rosemary. Of course salt and pepper were added in the end.

My daughter cooked up some meatless crumbles (odd little brown crumbles that look just like ground beef but aren't. They don't have much flavor, but they aren't bad) and fried up some vegan bacon. The vegan bacon had nice flavor....and it tries real hard to have that bacon texture but it doesn't quite get it done. I'm not opposed to it, but you won't find me giving up bacon in the long run. Or the short run. Once in a while...I don't mind eating better than I usually do. I should do it more often. Maybe some day.


Then there's this stuff...almond jalapeno jack style cheese alternative (that's a mouthful to say). Not bad. Texture is about right. The flavor isn't cheese...its more like...nothing. With the jalapenos and the cheesy texture, sure...it works.

So, you take all these goodies, pile it on a warm tortilla, pour some really good salsa over the whole mound of good-for-you yummy stuff, top with sliced avocado. If you're not a vegan, throw on a poached egg or two and garnish with cilantro.


I think the only trouble you'll have here is rolling up that bad boy. Work it, it'll happen. Almost. Then you shove it your face and think...(if you're not already one)....ya, I can be a vegetarian.

Once in a while.

I don't have measurements here. You just eyeball it. If you have leftover veggies (which I did) use them in your next meal. Toss them in a soup. Mix them with some quinoa and dinner is a done deal. No brainer.

After eating this, you might want to skip lunch. A nap wouldn't be out the question either. If nothing else, you'll feel better just for eating better.