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Sprogs Rice Scooters™

Sprogs Rice Scooters™

For a few weeks, I’ll be cross-posting links to my new blog, It Was Just Right. Come on over to my new home and subscribe for email updates to keep receiving my recipes, reviews, and how-to’s. Today’s post features a San Francisco-made snack, Sprogs Rice Scooters™.

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Red Palm Oil

For a few weeks, I’ll be cross-posting links to my new blog, It Was Just Right. Come on over to my new home and subscribe for email updates to keep receiving my recipes, reviews, and how-to’s. Today’s post features an essential ingredient for authentic Brazilian recipes, red palm oil.

organic sustainable red palm oil from nutiva

Red Palm Oil from Nutiva

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Plantation® Peat Pellet Greenhouse

Plantation® Peat Pellet Greenhouse

Plantation® Peat Pellet Greenhouse

I don’t have the greenest of thumbs, but my husband does — this week, I was so excited to see little green shoots coming up from these Peat Pellets! They come with their own little “greenhouse” — it’s a small (11-inch square), clear-lidded tray that helps trap in warmth and moisture, allowing seedlings to thrive. My husband planted a few jalapeño and cilantro seeds, and we can’t wait until we’re ready to harvest some peppers and herbs. When they’re big and strong enough, we’ll be transferring our seedlings outside to larger, modular raised garden boxes. You can just nestle the whole pellet into potting soil, making for an easy transplant.

Cascade Ice Organic Citrus Twist

Cascade Ice Organic Citrus Twist

Cascade Ice

These are super refreshing! The carbonation level is just right, which is nice since I’ve often found sparkling waters to be too bubbly for my taste. My favorite was the Citrus Twist flavor, which I enjoyed on its own, as well as mixed with cranberry juice for a mocktail treat.

 

EcoJarz Small Mouth Silicone Drinktop and Stainless Steel Straw

EcoJarz Small Mouth Silicone Drinktop and Stainless Steel Straw

EcoJarz

Speaking of that mocktail, I enjoyed it in a stylish and functional jar-turned-drinking-glass, thanks to some fun new accessories from EcoJarz. The silicone lid sits on top of a standard mason jar (they also have a size for wide-mouth jars if you prefer), and the screw-top band holds it in place. They also sell stainless steel straws, a fantastic alternative to the disposable kind. I’ve been taking my little EcoJar with me all over the place, and it’s encouraging me to sip more water during the day. Next week, I’ll be reviewing some of their other products, including a genius little whisking attachment — stay tuned!

 

Nutiva O'Coconut Snacks

Nutiva O’Coconut Snacks

Nutiva O’Coconut Snacks

Nutiva has been making great coconut oil for some time, but more recently they’ve gotten into the snack game as well. I’m so glad they did, because I absolutely love their O’Coconut bites. They remind me of macaroons (the Passover ones, not the dainty French variety), except with a fresher, cleaner coconut flavor. At 60 calories each, they’re just big enough to satisfy a sweet craving. They come in two varieties, Classic and Hemp & Chia, which has a little extra crunch from the seeds.

 

Among Friends Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

Among Friends Gluten Free Double Chocolate Cookies

Among Friends Gluten-Free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I whipped up a batch of these for a ladies’ get-together, and they were a big hit. More like a brownie bite than a cookie, they cook up soft and a little chewy. The flavor is rich and super-chocolatey. Oh, and they took me about 20 minutes to make, from start to finish — you just add eggs and butter to the mix, stir it into a dough, roll into balls, and bake. Among Friends, you’ve got a winner here! Next time, I think I’ll push the dough into a mini-muffin pan for brownie bite-like treats.

 

Vegan Strawberry Orange Julius Smoothie

Vegan Strawberry Orange Julius Smoothie

Nielsen Massey Orange Extract

I’d used Nielsen Massey’s vanillas before, but the orange extract was new to me. I decided to try it out in my recipe for a summer smoothie, the Vegan Strawberry Orange Julius. The orange extract really helped bump up the flavor, eliminating the need for tons of extra sweetener. Next, I’ll have to try it out in a shortbread recipe (thanks to Cheryl for that idea!).

 

Le Creuset 3 1/2-Quart Oval Dutch Oven

Le Creuset 3 1/2-Quart Oval Dutch Oven

Le Creuset Oval Dutch Oven

This thing is so darned cute. Thank you, Aunt Janet, for getting us such a beautiful wedding present! I just love the even heat, easy-to-clean enamel interior, and perfectly classic Flame color of my new Le Creuset 3 1/2 Quart Oval Dutch Oven.

For a first recipe in this pretty pot, I made a simple but flavorful lentil soup. I look forwared to baking breads, simmering stews and braises, and putting together some delicious vegetable tians this summer!

 

TruRoots Sprouted Green Lentils

TruRoots Sprouted Green Lentils

TruRoots Sprouted Organic Lentils

I’m always looking for new sources of vegetarian protein to incorporate into my diet. When I spotted these sprouted lentils at the Winter Fancy Food Show, I was happy to take a bag home! They reminded me of my college days, when I’d always have a jar of sprouting mung beans or lentils out on the counter, waiting to be folded into salads and stir-fries. Check out my review over at The Kitchen for more info on how to prepare them — they’re ready in about 10 minutes.

 

Taylor Organic Prune Extract

Taylor Organic Prune Extract

Taylor Organic Prune Extract

It seems like there are tons of natural sweeteners coming out these days. Prune extract is one of my recent favorites — it’s just prunes in liquid form. With a thick, syrupy consistency, it’s great for making your own plum sauce, adding a dose of sweetness (along with iron and potassium) to smoothies, and mixing into barbecue marinades. I used mine for a stirfry of ground turkey, mushrooms, and carrots, and it gave the ingredients a beautiful glossy sheen and lots of flavor. Served on lettuce cups, it was a great light lunch.

Whether I’m sent a product free of charge or have purchased it myself, all opinions are my own. Samples provided by Cascade Ice, EcoJarz, Nutiva, Nielsen Massey, TruRoots, and Taylor Brothers Farms.

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Sweet Earth Za’atar Burgers

These veggie burgers made for two healthy and filling lunches — I’ll definitely be getting them again. I loved the pop of whole sesame seeds and the generous hand with za’atar spice mix — it was kind of like falafel on steroids! I enjoyed one burger simply on a whole wheat hamburger bun, and another broken up into a bowl with julienned, sauteed zucchini, shredded cooked beets, and sliced avocado.

Kiss Me Organics Matcha Powder

First, I’ve gotta give props to my adventurous husband for sipping the banana matcha smoothie I placed in front of him without a second of hesitation. A dull shade of tannish green, it tasted far better than it looked! I really enjoyed the tiny hint of bitterness from the matcha (I used a teaspoon for two servings), and it paired well with plain soymilk and ripe bananas, no extra sweetener required. I look forward to trying it out in savory recipes as well — a half teaspoon mixed into a tablespoon of salt, and you’ve got a topping for poached eggs, popcorn, and more.

Ayurvedic Roast Coffee Substitute

I’m a huge fan of coffee, but once I’ve gotten my morning cup of caffeine, any more during the day just makes me jittery. An afternoon cup of decaf often sounds like a good idea, but my stomach doesn’t like the extra acid, and I’ve dealt with acid reflux issues in the past. For a while now, I’ve been trying to find a good coffee substitute for those times when I want a nice warm mug of coffee minus the caffeine and acid.

I’m happy to say that Ayurvedic Roast is a great option! It’s a 100% organic mix of roasted barley, chicory root, and rye mixed with Ayurvedic herbs. I tried brewing it a couple of ways, and extracted the most flavor by boiling it on the stove for ten minutes, one heaping tablespoon per cup of water. I’ve been enjoying it with a splash of whole mlik, and it really hits the spot. It comes in two varieties, original and vanilla.

CocoaPlanet Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate

These disks of chocolate are perfect for a portion-controlled desert. The chocolate and caramel flavors are so intense that you’ll be happy with a small portion. The dark chocolate has little spherical pockets of caramel throughout (they call them “pearls of flavor”), so each bite has a burst of caramel, and it doesn’t squeeze out all over the place like other liquid-filled treats. CocoaPlanet also recommends dissolving the chocolate disks in a cup of hot milk for instant, flavored hot chocolate.

Sur La Table Coupe Cereal Bowl

I just love the size and shape of this bowl. It holds 16 ounces, perfect for my morning bowl of oatmeal or an afternoon strawberry snack. The coupe line is basic but modern, with shallow, sloping sides and a low profile that’s great for food photography, too. I picked up a pair of these, along with a couple dinner plates (you can see one in the photo of lettuce cups above), and I’m glad to have such basic but stylish pieces in my collection.

Where To Buy

1. Sweet Earth Za’atar Burgers via their Facebook Store Locator App

2. Kiss Me Organics Matcha Powder at Amazon

3. Ayurvedic Roast Coffee Substitute at AyurvedicRoast.com

4. CocoaPlanet Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate at Amazon

5. Sur La Table Coupe Cereal Bowl at Sur La Table

 

Whether I’m sent a product free of charge or have purchased it myself, all opinions are my own. Samples provided by Sweet Earth, Kiss Me Organics, Ayurvedic Roast, and CocoaPlanet.

 

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A Few New Things

Welcome to my review series! In “A Few New Things,” I’ll be talking about the latest newcomers to my kitchen.
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cocotte-sourdough-bread
For as long as I can remember, I’ve coveted my mother’s flame orange, Le Creuset dutch oven. She received it as a wedding gift in the 70’s, and it is still going strong in my parents’ kitchen.

After our elopement, Brendan and I received a few entreaties to put up a registry, which we did a bit sheepishly — after all, we’d snuck off and gotten married without inviting anyone except our two best buddies. Some of our incredibly generous friends got together and bought us this Staub Cocotte, which is as gorgeous as it is functional. This first loaf of sourdough bread turned out with a perfectly crackly crust, and I can’t wait to bake and braise more recipes in this beauty!

bonavita-variable-temperature-kettleAnother wedding gift, this variable temperature electric kettle by Bonavita came courtesy of my aunt and uncle. It has everything I want in a kettle — a gooseneck spout for accurate, controlled pour-over coffee, and temperature controls. I use it for everything from proofing yeast to brewing different types of tea.

new-pan-mushrooms-oreganoIn the last year, I’ve finally phased out all of my teflon pans and transitioned to exclusively cooking with cast iron, ceramic, and stainless steel cookware. Brendan’s aunt and uncle gifted us this All-Clad 12-inch pan, and it is rapidly becoming a workhorse in my kitchen! It sautés vegetables with extremely even heat, including the crimini mushrooms pictured above, which were seasoned with garlic and fresh thyme, then tossed with spaghetti for a quick weeknight dinner.

nakd-bars-all-flavorsIf you are a fan of Larabars, you will enjoy these energy bars from Nākd, a natural foods company based in the UK. My favorite so far is the Cocoa Orange flavor — I’m a sucker for anything chocolate, and this classic combo makes for an indulgent tasting afternoon snack. Each petite Nākd healthy snack clocks in at less than 150 calories, so they’re just right for a post-yoga bite that won’t spoil my appetite for a meal an hour or two later.

dvida-shakes-2d’Vida smoothies are a bit more of a substantial meal — their four varieties range from about 200 to 250 calories, and each packs a generous wallop of protein. They’re great for mornings when you’ve got no time to make breakfast, as you only need to blend them with water and ice for a perfectly creamy consistency. The Vida Pump variety was my favorite — its banana and peanut flavor made breakfast feel like a dessert-y treat, and the 20 grams of protein kept me full for hours. All four varieties are available on Amazon.

doxy-dip-and-roasted-potatoes-2The veggie dip pictured above has only two ingredients: plain yogurt and Doxy’s Basil Poppy Starter. I loved the crunch of the poppy seeds, and was happy to have a creamy, natural dip to go with my afternoon plate of vegetables. No preservatives and a short list of whole food ingredients make this spice mix I’ll reach for again. I also used their Delectable Dill Starter last week to roast up a pan of new potatoes — a glug of olive oil and a spoonful of the spice mix were all it took to make a flavorful side dish.

Whether I’m sent a product free of charge or have purchased it myself, all opinions are my own. Samples provided by Doxy’s, d’Vida, and Nākd. 

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Corn quesadillas made with fresh masa and queso oaxaca.

In case you hadn’t heard, Oaxaca has established itself as Mexico’s gastronomic capital.  With varied geography including a coastal border, mountainous regions, and fertile farmlands, indigenous and transplanted cultures have created a diverse cuisine that defines the state. Whether you’re seeking chicken mole, banana leaf tamales, seafood dishes, or a glass of mezcal, you’ll find a quintessential example in Oaxacan cuisine.

Adolfo Gomez and his mother, Doña Libo.

Adolfo Gomez and his mother, Doña Libo.

Thanks to the Gomez family, we have a fantastic Oaxacan restaurant right here in the Bay Area. Located in downtown San Jose, Mezcal’s beautiful dining room and large patio appeals to corporate clients and downtown diners alike. Owner Adolfo runs the business, and his brother Octavio and mother Libo preside over the kitchen. Adolfo’s sister and aunt still live in Oaxaca, where they make the chocolate and grow all of the epazote, oregano, and other herbs used in the restaurant.

Doña Libo Gomez creates all of the recipes. Here, she demonstrates making tortillas by hand.

Doña Libo creates all of the recipes. Here, she demonstrates making tortillas by hand.

Doña Libo is extremely particular about sourcing Mexican ingredients for authentic Oaxacan dishes, and her recipes sing with fresh flavors. The tortillas are made in-house, horchata is blended fresh daily, and guacamole is prepared table-side in imported molcajetes.

foodie-fest-mezcal-3-2-2014-6

Only cilantro, white onion, jalapeño, and salt are added to the avocado guacamole.

Chapulines, a.k.a. grasshoppers, are a common ingredient in Oaxacan cuisine. While they’re not necessarily an every day food in Oaxaca, they are far from exotic in the region. At Mezcal, you can eat them in a traditional manner, served with chips and a creamy avocado sauce. They’re a bit chewy, adding an extra savory, salty note to an otherwise familiar appetizer of chips and guacamole.

Chapulines, a.k.a. grasshoppers, served with chips and a creamy avocado sauce.

Chapulines, a.k.a. grasshoppers, served with chips and a creamy avocado sauce.

Aside from the queso-filled quesadillas and pecan ice cream, very little dairy is used in the recipes at Mezcal. The tortilla soup is thick and creamy without any cream — the tomato-based soup is thick and flavorful, with garnishes of crispy tortilla strips and silky avocado.

foodie-fest-mezcal-3-2-2014-4

Thick and creamy, dairy-free tortilla soup.

You won’t find a lot of lime juice and hot peppers in the dishes here, either. Adolfo explained that those ingredients are used to mask off flavors, and they prefer to let the taste of the other ingredients come through.

foodie-fest-mezcal-3-2-2014-5

Horchata with cantaloupe and chopped pecans.

While most people outside of Mexico are familiar with tequila, mezcal is only starting to gain a following here. Tequila is actually a type of mezcal, its name denominationally controlled, not unlike French champagne or Italian Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese. Unlike tequila, mezcal is known for its smoky flavor, produced when the agave is cooked before its juice is extracted and distilled into liquor.

Traditional condiments for mezcal: salt with arbol chiles, sal de gusano, lime, and oranges.

Traditional condiments for mezcal: salt with arbol chiles, sal de gusano, limes, and oranges.

The restaurant has an extensive list of regional mezcales, all made with 100% agave juice. With our meal, we were treated to a tasting of three mezcales from Don Amado, a distillery based in Oaxaca. The Rustico, Reposado, and Añejo varieties are aged for varying amounts of time, resulting in their different flavors. The Rustico is a mezcal blanco, aged for the shortest amount of time. It is clear in color and has a stronger bite than the longer-aged añejo, which is smooth and mellow. The reposado is aged for a medium amount of time (about 4-8 months on average), and is generally preferred as an ingredient in cocktails.

Don Amado mezcales. From left to right: añejo, reposado, and rustico.

Don Amado mezcales. From left to right: añejo, reposado, and rustico.

We capped off our meal at Mezcal with a delicious, house-made ice cream. Its texture was similar to granita, with bits of chopped pecan and a dollop of raspberry jam on top.

Ice cream with pecans and raspberry sauce.

Ice cream with pecans and raspberry sauce.

Thank you, Adolfo and Doña Libo, for sharing so much of your knowledge and culture with us at this event! I can’t wait to come back for dinner with my friends and family and try more of your Oaxacan specialties.

This event was sponsored by Foodie.com, a Glam Media company. 

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marukan-seasoned-vinegar-cucumber-salad

When the kind people at Marukan sent me some product samples a couple weeks ago, I had one dish in mind: Japanese cucumber salad, a.k.a. sunomono. I wanted to use their seasoned rice vinegar to streamline the salad — instead of adding sugar, salt, and vinegar, I’d use one convenient ingredient containing all three.

This salad has only four ingredients, and comes together in about ten minutes, or as fast as you can thinly slice a pound of cucumbers! It’s the perfect first course for a sushi dinner, or as a vegetable side with miso-marinated fish and steamed rice.

I’ve given classic sunomono a little twist by adding one of my favorite ingredients, hot sesame oil. This roasted sesame oil spiked with hot chili oil is meant to be used sparingly — just a few drops adds wonderful sesame aroma and a hint of heat.

Sesame Cucumber Salad

serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon hot sesame oil

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving, allowing cucumbers to lightly pickle in the vinegar dressing.

Marukan rice vinegar was provided to me for review, free of charge. All opinions are my own.

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