Friday Fixins: Subscription Box Review – Love With Food, June 2013

I got both the LWF box and the Goodies Co. box for May; neither was killer, but there was enough in the LWF box that I loved (namely these three) that it survived the competition.  Goodies Co. has since been canned.

Nothing to do with the fact that one of their items last month was the hugest bottle of coconut water in the universe.  And that it tasted like feet, because that is what coconut water tastes like.

lwf 6/13

Anyway, here we are with another month and another box on my front step!  Super exciting.  June is the Summer Beach Bash box and tastes appropriately tropical (read: if you don’t like pineapple, get the hell out of this box).  According to the insert, each of the June boxes helped to donate not one, but TWO meals to Oklahoma food banks– just go on ahead and hit me with the feelgoods, LWF.

Roasted Seaweed from Seaweed Love
lwf 6/13 seaweed
This stuff had the approximate texture of a Listerine strip.  I’m not huge on seaweed as a food product in general, so that might’ve tipped the scales for me here, but I wasn’t too in-love.  They smell a lot stronger than they taste, true, but the only flavor I was actually getting hit with was a (very) light saltiness.  Eh.

Coconut and Mango Fruit Ice from Smooze
lwf 6/13 smooze
I liked this better than I thought, considering I’m not huge on mango and that that’s the flavor that comes across as dominant.  It’s a reeeally smooth fruit popsicle (I’m guessing that has something to do with the coconut milk) with a punchy flavor; I can imagine loving this if it was sitting in my freezer in something other than mango.  The problem is that I can’t figure which; the Smooze website lists mango, pineapple, and pink guava, all of which are a little off my flavor dreamland.

(P.S.: tropical and I are not close.)

Gluten-Free Pineapple Coconut Cereal Bar from Do More Bars
lwf 6/13 Do More
The packaging advertised this as “tasting like a Rice Krispie treat with the bonus of brown rice” and that, my friends, is a very apt description of what this is.  Like crunchy brown rice cooked with brown sugar and a little pineapple juice.  Can’t see myself making these a regular part of my snack routine, but I enjoyed my sample.

Organic Fruity Bears from Surf Sweets
lwf 6/13 Surfsweets
Tropical gummy bears?  I’ll bite.  (Hilarious, right?)  These are like no gummy bears you have ever found in the store.  My tester was grapefruit.  When have you ever had a grapefruit gummy bear?  Never, that’s when.  And you can definitely taste the fruit; if it weren’t for the fact that you were chewing, these little guys taste almost juicy.

Sweet Plantain Chips from Turbana
lwf 6/13 Turbana
These little guys have a nice subtle honey flavor and the texture of a thick-cut baked potato chip.  I could imagine munching them with like a strawberry-and-mozzarella grilled cheese sandwich, because who doesn’t like having an all-sweet lunch?  They have a slightly bitter aftertaste, though, which I’m attributing to the fact that plantains roll like that.

All-Natural Fruit and Soy Bar from SoyJoy
lwf 6/13 SoyJoy
I LOVED this thing.  It’s like a cookie had a baby with fruitcake and soy.  I know that sounds really weird, but it was super awesome.  The bar is thick and chewy and the little bits of fruit inside are a nice textural surprise.  The sweetness was subtle and the pineapple was subdued and in general I was a happy camper while I was munching it.

Plus, protein.  I am a fan of protein.  Protein makes me perky in the morning.

Pomegranate Mint Chewing Gum from PUR Gum
lwf 6/13 PUR
I was super excited at the idea of this stuff, and I was ready for love at first chew.  The first few bites definitely do pack a nice pomegranate flavor, after about the fourth you’re left with a weak pre-chewed mint taste in your mouth.  So much promise, but execution just needs a little oomf.

Organic Hard Candy from GoOrganic
lwf 6/13 Go Organic
Another product that seems standard (hard candy!) but comes with unique flavor (blood orange!).  They were a little sweet for me, but that’s just hard candy’s deal.

Organic Drink Mix from Flavrz
lwf 6/13 Flavrz
So when I tried this stuff in a super-concentrated capacity (aka with about a shot of water) it was like drinking pomegrante juice, but when I tried it at full dilution (aka into a bottle of water) I could barely taste anything.

Overall: again, I wasn’t overwhelmingly gaga over the things in this box, and this time around I’m not sure there’s anything I would go out of my way to buy again (those SoyJoy bars, maybe, if I found them in a store I actually go to) but it was still nice to kick a little variety into my routine– which is why I do this, anyway.  Hopefully next month’s box will be a little less tropical (hint, hint, LWF).

Also, again with the Naked Wines gift cards?  I do not drink nearly enough wine for these to be helpful.  And when I do it’s bottom of the bottom shelf wine.  Talk to me about beer gift cards, LWF!  Please.

Please.

Please.

(For those of you with eagle-eyes, or for anyone who just acutely watches my blog like it’s some kind of high-drama series about people with interesting lives: a, what is going on in your life that that’s your top priority and b, you might’ve noticed that the Friday Five has been replaced with the Friday Fixins.  Why?  Because I’m in the slow process of tweaking a lot of things around here, that’s why.  And so that my Friday post can be more of an “anything goes” kind of situation– if I have five things I dig that week, that’s dandy, but now I can fall back on things like subscription reviews and CRACK or whatever it is strikes my fancy when I’m drafting the post.

And that has been my Blog Insight for the day.  Certainly giving y’all a lot of that lately, aren’t I?)

Weeknight Cooking: Down-and-Dirty Chicken Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

A few weeks ago, my parents went on a weekend jaunt to Pennsylvania.  They had a grand time and brought back some neat swag, while my sister and I minded the house and the animals like the good offspring we are.

Or something similar.

When they got back, as is tradition, we got the rundown of the trip’s events.  Last year, when they went to Chicago, my mom opened up the map of the L and pointed out all the stations they’d stopped at; no luck this time, since PA’s not so big into mass transit.

(Damn.)

It’s all really interesting, really.  Case in point, I learned that the Yuengling brewery has always been family-run, and rather than just passing the company from generation to generation, anyone who wants to take over has to buy it at full market value.

Also that their current brewmaster is a lady; props to ladybrewers.  (Soon, I will join your ranks.  Soon.)

Also that during Prohibition, they kind of just said “fuck it” and made ice cream.

(See!  You just learned three things about Yuengling that you didn’t know when you started reading this post.  How do you feel?)

But for all that their stories are interesting, and that I like hearing about the things they ate and the places they went and the things they did, every time they get home I’m just sitting there, trying to be excited about all of these things, and thinking “goddamn it, why don’t I get to go anywhere fun?”  They’ve been taking these little weekend trips since like my sophomore year of college, with increasing frequency in the past few years, and goddamn it I’m jealous.  I want to take time off and go do fun things just because I can.

My dad said “so…do it?  Just go somewhere for the day.  Nobody’s saying you can’t.”

Fine.  Touché, papabear.

There’s an interesting downturn to the trip; when my mom got back to work on Monday, she learned that Stephen King had flown out of the airport on one of the days she took off.  And she tried the leftovers of this stir fry; taste-bud-lust ensued.

Down-and-Dirty Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

Ooh! A recipe two-fer!

Quick Chicken Stir Fry

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pound thawed frozen vegetables (plus whatever you have leftover in the crisper)

Cooking Directions

  1. Thaw your chicken and cut it into 3/4″ chunks. Toss it in a large bowl with the flour, ginger, garlic, salt, and sesame seeds.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the soy sauce, sriracha, hoisin, sesame and chili oils, lemon juice, and remaining salt and ginger.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken for just under thirty seconds, then add about two tablespoons of the sauce mixture. Toss to coat, then cook two to three minutes more.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add the vegetables plus another tablespoon of the sauce. Let cook until the vegetables have heated through and gotten a good sauce coating. The remaining sauce can be served on the side for anyone who wants a little extra.

Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover cooked white rice
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • cooking oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots; cook until just softened, about four minutes.
  2. Push the vegetables to the side and add another teaspoon of oil to the center of the pan, then add the rice and ginger. Stir to combine.
  3. As the rice browns, keep stirring and adding oil as necessary to keep it from sticking or going soft. When the rice has just started to brown, kick the heat up to high and add the soy sauce; stir, and once the sizzling has gone down reduce the heat to medium. Cook until crisp.  (Note: you’ll need way more oil than you ever thought you would, so be prepared.)


Eating around the Web This Week:

What’s cookin’ in all y’all’s kitchens this week?

Happy Father’s Day: Boston Cream Cake-Pie-Monster-Thing

Whenever I ask my dad what he wants me to make for dessert that weekend, I always get the same answer.  Without fail.

“Flour.  Sugar.  Frosting.  Can I put it on cereal?”

I used to find this a lot more annoying.  I get that it’s his way of enjoying whatever I’ve baked, or something, but there was a while when I would so indignantly declare that he was ruining the dessert that I’d worked so hard to make delicious and pretty and why was I even wasting my time, because he was just going to dissect my beautiful creation with a spoon and stuff it with ice cream?

He answered with his infamous (at least in my house) theory that the uglier food is, the better it tastes, and that he didn’t give a rat’s ass about how pretty my food was.  We’ve since agreed to disagree on the issue.

Our second-biggest dessert disagreement is muffins v. cupcakes: I have explained the difference probably thirty times, and he still seems to decide arbitrarily whether something is a muffin or a cupcake.  Frosting?  Definitely a cupcake.  Chocolate?  Probably a muffin.

Or in most cases in my house, an unfrosted cupcake.  But again, agree to disagree.  And not be able to explain, apparently.

His latest “food whut” has been a bit of a griper, though: what constitutes “frosting”.  He gets the difference between whipped cream and frosting just fine, but all other filling categories (with the exception of pudding, which he is totally on board with) fall into the vague “frosting” category.  I told him I was going to make a tart with a pastry cream; that was frosting.  And when I pitched the Boston cream monstrosity that I made him for Father’s Day, going over each layer with him, his response to the cream filling was something along the lines of “that’s frosting, right?”

When I told him it wasn’t, he asked if we could replace it with frosting.

When I said no and told him we could replace it with something like a cannoli filling instead, he nodded and said “Frosting.  Good.”

I give up.

Happy Fathers’ Day, weirdo.  Glad you like your cake, whatever it is you want to call the filling.

Boston Cream Cake-Pie

Pybrids for victory!

Boston Cream Cake-Pie
adapted from this recipe, reprinted on Huffington Post from Vegan Pie In The Sky

Ingredients

for the cake:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the crust:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups graham crackers, crumbled fine
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar

for the filling:

  • 6 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup milk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon powdered, unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

for the ganache:

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and generously spray a 9″ pie dish with cooking spray.
  2. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vinegar, sugar, oil, and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.
  3. Pour the batter into the pie dish and bake 13-14 minutes, or until a toothpick draws clean. (The top will be shiny, and the cake will strongly resemble a very large, very short flan.) Let cool for about five minutes, then invert onto a large dinner plate.
  4. Clean and dry your pie plate, then start on the graham cracker crust. Pour the graham crackers, sugar, and butter into the pie plate and mix by hand until combined; press into the shape of the pie plate and bake 10-12 minutes.
  5. In a blender or stand mixer, blend the ricotta, vanilla and almond extracts, and lemon juice until smooth. Set aside.
  6. Working in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1/2 cup milk and the gelatin. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer after 20-30 seconds and cook 5 minutes more. Stir in the sugar. Combine the remaining milk and cornstarch separately, then pour into the gelatin-milk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
  7. Add the milk mixture to the ricotta and blend until smooth. Pour this mixture into the pie shell, tap to release air bubbles, and transfer to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set.
  8. Once the filling feels slightly firm, gently place the cake layer on top and return to the fridge.
  9. In a small saucepan, prep your ganache: bring the cream to a rapid boil over medium-high heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and butter. Pour the ganache out onto the center of the cake, tilting to spread the chocolate out to the edges.
  10. Let sit at least 3 hours in the fridge before serving.

Cook the Book: Terry’s Jailhouse Chili

There’s a funny thing about True Blood: sometimes I actually care more about the characters in the background than the ones you’re supposed to be tuning in every week for.  Sookie’s latest dramas aren’t ever interesting unless they involve shirtless Eric and/or Alcide; Billith….not even going to go there.  But stick in a little bit of Terry action and I am there.  Terry is never not entertaining.  Even when he’s fighting his PTSD and going crazy over an Ifrit, I still always want to see his face.

(Though he will always hold a place in my heart as Zach.  Gilmores for lyfe.)

It probably has a lot to do with the fact that the rest of the show is so out there and the list of relatable main characters has gotten so short (um.  Sometimes Jessica and Jason, and that’s about it for me) but it’s the guys on the sidelines that make the show seem more down to earth.  Yeah, in the last two seasons Terry and Arlene have dealt with 1) the potential demonic possession of their child, 2) the actual haunting of their child by the tormented ghost of a murdered woman, and 3) that whole business with the Ifrit, but they’ve handled it all like people.  Arlene freaked out, Terry told her to calm down (and then freaked out later), and we all watched and thought that might actually be a reaction to the above situations that a normal person might have had.

And Terry, rest assured that out of all the characters on TB, you’re high on the list of people I would let handle my kids.  Good job, man.

Terry Bellefleur's Jailhouse Chili

Chili, Fritos, and a hairy-armed dude in the background. Sounds about right.

On today’s edition of Cook the Book: True Blood: Terry Bellefleur’s jailhouse chili.  Apparently he made this for the men in his unit overseas, and apparently it’s not the same without the Fritos.  I’ll be taking the intro’s word for it, since Terry’s not really around for me to ask.

Half of this book is pictures and I don't even mind.

Half of this book is pictures and I don’t even mind.

I promise you one of these days I’ll be cooking complicated things again.  One day real soon, honest.  But this is weeknight food, man.  And if Terry wants to help me make food real easy on a Wednesday, I’m going to let him.

Recipe didn't call for peppers.  I didn't listen.

Recipe didn’t call for peppers. I didn’t listen.

Chili is definitely on the perfect weeknight food list: just throw it in a pot and call it a day.

Chili is definitely on the perfect weeknight food list: just throw it in a pot and call it a day.

Salting of the chili was minimal, and with very, very good reason.  See, also, the serving suggestion of this chili:

Salt situation: covered.  Delicious situation: also covered.

Salt situation: covered. Delicious situation: also covered.

Terry’s Jailhouse Chili

Adapted from the True Blood Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 chopped bell peppers
  • 2 chilis, diced
  • 2 15oz cans kidney or cannelini beans
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • corn chips

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the meat, crumbling with a wooden spoon until you can’t see any more pink.
  2. Add the onions, chilis, and peppers; cook until softened, about eight or ten minutes.
  3. Add the beans, tomatoes, and tomato paste; stir to combine. Season with chili (2 tablespoons for milder, 3 for hotter) and cayenne.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer, uncovered, for an hour and a half. Keep an eye on it and add more liquid if it appears too dry.
  5. Serve hot in bowls with shredded cheddar and crumbled corn chips.

 

Linked up at A Glimpse Inside, 36th Avenue, and the Mandatory Mooch!

Cook the Book: LaLa’s Gumbo

True story, it’s weirdly hard to find gifs of Lafayette.

Me neither, LaLa.

You have to be weirdly specific, apparently.  For instance, searching “Lafayette tip yo’ waitress gif” gets you this:

Mm. AIDS.

Okay, anyway.  My struggles finding gifs are not the point of this post.  This post is about food, right?  And not at all about how excited I am for the next season of True Blood.  Because that…well.  That’s just kind of a constant.

To kick off my season of Cooking the Books (see also: all the cookbooks I got for my birthday) I cracked the spine on True Blood: Eats, Drinks, and Bites from Bon Temps with Lafayette’s “Gumbo Ya Ya”.

Aka, I made gumbo.  Aw heck yeah.

Lafayette's Louisiana Gumbo

New favorite font? Yes.

I have this idea and granted it may be a very incorrect idea but in my head gumbo is like Louisiana’s answer to chicken soup.  And by “answer”, I really mean something more along the lines of someone in Louisiana once took all the things that are great about chicken soup and decided to make it sassy.  And then added shrimp.

(In my head, this was probably the fault of some long-lost Lafayette ancestor.  Doesn’t even matter that Lafayette is a fictional character.  Don’t crush my dreams.)

A good gumbo has a thick sauce with enough oil to coat your throat and more than enough spice to clear you out.  That sauce should be vegetable-laden, and the whole thing should be something you want to stick your face over for long enough to steam every ounce of bad juju out of you.

That’s what I think, anyway.  And I mean, what do I know?

But whatever.  My gumbo fit all of the above criteria.  It’s a little off from LaLa’s recipe (mostly because we couldn’t find a piece of chicken small enough to thaw in the time we had because we are sometimes airheads) but it was still mighty delicious.

The great part about gumbo (other than the “eating it” part, which I think is pretty inarguably the best) is that all the hard work happens right off the bat.  Yeah, you have to make a roux, and yeah, you have to babysit the shit out of that sucker to make sure it gets dark enough but doesn’t burn.  But after that, gumbo is smoooth sailing.

Making a roux will make you feel a little disgusting at first with the amount of oil you're unabashedly pouring into the pan.  Embrace it.  It gets better.

Making a roux will make you feel a little disgusting at first with the amount of oil you’re unabashedly pouring into the pan. Embrace it. It gets better.

(Roux: pronounced like “rue”.  The basis of many great things, used in French and by default Cajun cooking.  Made from cooking together fat and flour.  Varies in color depending on what you’re making; for a béchamel, you’re going to want a very light roux, but for a gumbo you want that sucker browned.)

Casper, the friendly roux

Pale chocolate milk..

Liquid gold chocolate

Liquid gold chocolate

Once you’ve got your roux situation under control, it’s all easy.  You’ve already got enough oil to cook any/all veg your little heart could desire, so go ahead and dump all that in.

Stir to coat.

Stir to coat.

Except the okra.  The okra has to wait.

Sad okra is sad.

Sad okra is sad.

(Also; yes, I cheated and used frozen okra.  I say again, don’t judge me.)

There’s a few more things that go in here– chicken broth, spices, some sausage, and, if you’re using it, the chicken itself; with about ten minutes to go, add the okra and shrimp if you’re using either of them.

Okay, so LaLa didn't say to use either.  But a, okra, and b, there wasn't really a good deal of protein otherwise unless we DID put the shrimp.

Okay, so LaLa didn’t say to use either. But a, okra, and b, there wasn’t really a good deal of protein otherwise unless we DID put the shrimp.

Again, planning ahead helps so you don’t wind up using still mostly-frozen shrimp and having to pull the tails off while you try and eat it.  Live and learn.

Mmmm-mm.  Tastes like summer.

Mmmm-mm. Tastes like summer.

Lafayette’s (modified) Gumbo

Generously adapted from the True Blood Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
  • 3/4 pound andouille or hot sausage, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne
  • 1 pound shrimp, veined
  • 1 pound okra

Cooking Directions

    1. In a large Dutch oven, combine the vegetable oil and flour over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is dark brown– this will take about 30 minutes.
    2. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, and cook until the vegetables have softened (about 10-12 minutes).
    3. Add the broth and stir to combine. Add the bay leaves, cayenne, and thyme; bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and let cook for about ten minutes.
    4. Add the sausage and let cook for 10 minutes more. Pull the bay leaves out and adjust the seasonings as you wish; add in the shrimp and the okra and let cook 10 more minutes.
    5. Serve over white rice.

Subscription Boxes: Food Edition

I’m replacing Friday Five this week with Friday ALL OF THE THINGS!  I should probably pick a day to do this in the future, but whatever.  That’s tomorrow’s problem.

A few months back I discovered the magic that is subscription boxes: monthly packages of goodness and fun delivered right do your door.  They’re great because of two key reasons:

1. Mail. I have never met someone that could say honestly “man, I hate getting things in the mail”, bills excluded.
2. Surprises.  Because it’s one thing to get something in the mail that you specifically ordered and knew exactly what it was– it might be exciting, but it’s not as exciting as a box of SURPRISE.

Okay so having established that subscription boxes are great.  Moving on.  I started out with beauty subscriptions, thinking (oh so stupidly) that they were the only kind; I was an Ipsy subscriber and an occasional Cravebox-getter (back before they changed their entire format, egads).  And they were both pretty cool.  But after a while I realized I wasn’t really using much out of the Ipsy bags on a regular basis (aside from the actual bags, which I use always because they’re such a perfect size) and the aforementioned Cravebox re-formatting happened.

So my time as a box subscriber ended– until, that is, I discovered something great last month.

Apparently, subscription boxes aren’t just for things that make you pretty anymore.

April marks my first trial month with two food subscription boxes: Goodies Co. and Love With Food, which gives you stomach-food and heart-food all in one by donating a meal to a hungry kiddo for every box purchased.  (I know, right?)

Anyway.  Now that I actually have both boxes in hand, I thought I’d post my thoughts on both.

(Don’t mind the photos of open packages.  I was hungry.)

Love With Food

LWF 4/13

Got this one first, on the 17th.  Paid the monthly price of $12 ($10 for the box plus $2 for shipping) and by “paid” I mean “used a coupon code to get the first box free”.

So, yeah, I didn’t actually do that “helping the hungry” thing, but I’m still subscribed for next month.  I am helping!  Just not yet.  The contents fall into the “good” category– things that are all-natural, vegan, gluten-free, GMO-free, blah de blah.  (Generally, shit I do not otherwise give a single fuck about.)  But I’m not holding that against LWF; as I’ve said before, I don’t have so much a beef with things being gluten free/vegan/whatever, it’s really just when they try to make me feel bad about not eating solely gluten free/vegan/whatever food.

I like meat, hi.  And that’s okay.

Mini-rant over; on to the box!

Cocomels Coconut Milk Caramels by JJ’s Sweets

LWF 4/13: Cocomels

I’m not a huge caramel fan so this was kind of an ‘ehhh’ for me.  But that’s because I’m not huge into caramel more than it’s because they weren’t any good. They were good, as far as soft candies that aren’t a flavor I like are concerned.  Nice and chewy, very smooth; good amount of wrapper-cling, which is always a good sign when you’re eating something you want to get caught in every single one of your teeth.

Lemony Lover Olives by Oloves

LWF 4/13: Oloves

I like olives!  I also like lemons.  I haven’t had a chance to bust these bad boys open yet (I’m waiting for a salad, I think) but if you do that math, you can guess that these will be pretty well-received.

Salty Pepper Sunflower Seed Snacks by Somersault Snacks

LWF 4/13: Somersaults

I. AM. IN. LOVE. Um, I kind of want to eat these forever.  And when I went to look at their website and found you can get a snack pack of 2 oz. bags of all the flavors, delivered monthly– clever move, boys.  They’re like a perfect texture, and they taste kind of nutty and wonderful.  They’re apparently packed with fiber and protein, which are two things I really like.  Plus they’re like the size of your thumbnail, and I am a lover of small things.  See also:

Gluten-Free Itty Bitty Butter Popped Sorghum by Mini Pops

LWF 4/13: MiniPops

Literally popcorn’s baby cousin.  The baby cousin that everyone talks about for being so great, when really they’re not much different from grown-up-popcorn.  But they’re small.  And they’re cute.  And look how precious.

That basically describes my experience with these suckers.  They’re good, though.  Maybe not mindblowing enough to make me buy them normally, but still enjoyable.

Organic Fennel Pollen by Pollen Ranch

LWF 4/13: Fennel Pollen

I don’t even know what this is and to be perfectly honest, I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.  I’m probably going to spice some pork with it and we’ll see how that goes.  Smells real good, though.

Smoky Chili & Lime Roasted Chickpea Snacks by The Good Bean

LWF 4/13: Good Bean

Hi, chickpeas, have I mentioned that you’re one of my favorites?  Because you’re one of my favorites.  When you’re dry roasted and mingling with chili powder and lime, I like you even more.

These guys were tasty, but putting them in a bag is really just a convenience thing; I’m one of those ‘I WILL MAKE EVERYTHING’ people, and the only reason I haven’t roasted my own chickpeas up until now was out of sheer laziness.  I’ll make sure we get like a trillion cans this week so I can do everything with them, just to make up for it.

Creamy Buffalo Ranch Dip by Buff Lo Dip

LWF 4/13: Buff Lo Dip

I’m planning on mixing this into my next batch of pimento cheese to see if I like it any better.  We’ll see.

It’s..creamy, slightly blue cheese flavored buffalo dip product thing.  I shrug.

Goodies Company

Can we talk about that box lining for a minute?

Can we talk about that box lining for a minute?

Came in on Wednesday, and my mom has been wondering what it is every hour since.  (Hyperbole, mama.)  Don’t even care that its run by Walmart.  I did a little bit of Googling and apparently there are some people out there saying ‘well they’re just proving Love With Food is awesome and PS, it’s awesomeer’– yes, sure, whatever.  I’m not one for internet wars.  The box is $7, and while it doesn’t seem to put on as many airs about it as Love With Food does (sorry) the products are still largely of the artisan/gluten-free/vegan/all natural variety.

Green Giant – Sweet Potato Multigrain Chips

GC 4/13: Sweet Potato

A solid chip.  More sweet potato-ey flavor than sea salt-y flavor, which I think I liked because hey, I like sweet potatoes.  Texture is halfway between a chip and a corn chip.  I’d eat them if they were in front of me, and I’d probably pick them over a normal potato chip in the store, but I’ve kind of backed off from chips lately so it’s all a little moot.

Frontier Snacks – Pecan Cherry Cinnamon Bites

GC 4/13: Frontier Snacks

My test bite was mostly a piece of pecan, which may have influenced what I thought JUST a hair.  (Because pecans, oh my god pecans.)  But they are pretty tasty.  Cherry flavor was light in the aforementioned test bite (it was a crumb, I’ll be honest; I didn’t want to eat the whole thing JUST to get the post out) and the cinnamon was a nice background compliment.

Help me, I sound like a wine taster.

Celsius – Sparkling Cola

GC 4/13: Celsius

Hadn’t tried this at press time.  Their site says it’s super great before a workout– helps you burn more calories, or something?  Whatever.  I’m trying it today before I hit the gym, largely because I think having something with substance in my stomach rather than my usual large dose of water might do me good.

True Bar – Apricot Almond Bar

GC 4/13: True Bar

The chai flavor hits you before the almond and the apricot have a chance to, and once they catch up it’s not too bad– but for those first few seconds it’s really an overpowering experience.  Good texture for a granola bar, very dried-fruit with nuts stuck in (yes, that is what I like in a granola bar these days do not judge me).

Angie’s Popcorn – Sweet & Salty Kettlecorn

GC 4/13: Angie's Kettlecorn

Kettlecorn.  -shrug-  No better or worse than any other kettlecorn in the world.  There was a piece stuck in the back of my throat for the better part of a half hour, though, which was slightly pesky.

Zone Perfect – Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bar

GC 4/13: Zone

Um, this tasted like a chocolate chip Pop Tart.  A chocolate chip Pop Tart with fewer calories and actual nutritional value.  That is the highest compliment someone can give anything, ever.

PLUS: Naked Wines $50 Voucher

GC 4/13: Naked Wines

YES. Hello, wine that is maybe better than the wine I buy normally.  I was less excited when I got onto the website and found out you had to buy six bottles to place an order, so we’ll see what I actually wind up with (cheapskate, party of one), but this was still pretty cool.

Also, Things I Learned: blogging while the largely-useless-kid in the office is sitting behind you staring agape out the window…really hard.

The Roundup

Would I buy some of these?  Sure.  The Somersaults and the Frontier Snacks would definitely make it into my shopping cart without too much trouble, and I’d be willing to try the True Bar in a flavor that wasn’t so..chai.  The Zone bar would make it if I were planning on not being able to eat real food for a while (how perfect would that have been when I was still in school and finals were still a thing?) and a few of the others might find themselves in my future if they were on sale, maybe.

Overwhelming success?  No.  But tasty experience?  Definitely.  I’m excited to see what next month brings, and then we’ll see where I want to go from there!

Interested in subscribing?  Let me know and I’ll get you a referral code; that way we both get points (for both services!) that can be redeemed for more goodies later.  

(Also, anyone who wants to go in on six bottles of wine…you know where to find me.)

Friday Five: April 12th

HAPPY FRIDAY!

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Remember when I did the five food trends I didn’t get and promised I’d get to five that I think are pretty great?

Guess what we’re doing today.

1. “Beer as an Ingredient”

DRINK MORE BEER

I’m sorry, was this not already a thing that everyone acknowledged should happen, always?  Beer is like one of the best things to cook with, ever.  End-of.  Braises, stews and slow-cooks, they all benefit from the addition of beer.  Chicken is best when beer roasted, and most meats don’t suffer.  Hell, if even cake is made better by the addition of beer, that is a sign.

Rule of thumb: if a recipe says to add wine, add the same amount of beer and drink whatever’s left over.  You’ll be a happy camper.

2. Bourbon

I promise you I’m not an alcoholic.  But on the coattails of the overwhelming Southern-food-love that’s been sweeping since the end of last year, I was real excited to find bourbon making food trend lists!  I’m mostly a beer girl, but if I have to pick a liquor I’m picking whiskey and if I’m picking my whiskey, I’m picking bourbon.

I love it by itself, but cooking with bourbon is a good second-best.  It lends itself to all of the above things that beer does, and then goes the extra mile and makes so many sweet things great, too.

And, you know.  The drinking.  That’s pretty good too.

3. BREAKFAST ❤

It is a truth universally acknowledged that breakfast is the best meal, ever.  That’s why brunch was invented, because people couldn’t get enough of how awesome breakfast was and they wanted an excuse to eat it more than once in the same day (citation needed).  Breakfast is God’s gift to consumables.  You can eat all of my favorite things at breakfast, and the ones that you can’t eat at breakfast?  Whatever.  I can live without them.

(Besides: name one.)

I’m eight different kinds of excited that breakfast is getting its day in the sun.

And yes, there are eight different kinds of excited.

4. Artisan Bread

As much as I hate slapping the word ‘artisan’ on anything and calling it a day, I actually really do like artisan breads– because artisan breads are really just fancy breads with nice flavors and generally better grains.  So if succumbing to the vile ‘artisan’ trend in this instance means being able to have delicious bread all day every day (even when I don’t have the time to make it myself), then I think that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Sigh.

5. Veg Trends: Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

MORE OF THESE IN MY MOUTH, PLEASE.  I have an unhealthy love of both of these vegetables, no matter how much that love may have been overshadowed in the past month by my newfound ardor for celery.  I’m one of those weird people who liked brussels sprouts when they were a kid, so I’ve pretty much always been pro-sprout.  And cauliflower?  Who in their right mind could not love cauliflower?

And that concludes my Friday Five, known for the day as “Bee gushes about things she likes that she is glad other people appreciate”.  Now it’s your turn: what food trends are you into this year– and which could you leave behind?