Pretzel Crisp Winners

Winners of the Snack Factory Pretzel Crisp Prize Pack are:

#59: Jill at My So Called Health Life

#78: Ruth at she-fit.com

Congrat’s ladies!!

Giveaway! Modern Classic Pretzel Crisps Uncensored

Have you ever had those amazingly delicious dark chocolate covered pretzel crisps from Trader Joe’s??

The Snack Factory pretzel thins from the new Modern Classics line are very much the non-chocolate coated, less caloric version of that treat. My favorite, the cinnamon toast flavored pretzel crisps!!

I’m not gonna lie, I also am a sucker for beautiful, colorful, gourmet-looking packaging and Snack Factory definitely has this down. You may have already enjoyed several products created by Snack Factory founders Warren and Sara Wilson. With 30 years of snacking behind them, the Wilsons were the creators and former owners of the New York Style Bagel Chip Company and the Funnel Cake Factory. In 2004, they founded Snack Factory and in 2010 launched a new line of pretzel thins with a focus on natural and healthy snacks!

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There are 3 product lines by the Snack Factory company:

Deli Style: Original, Garlic, and Everything

Special Edition: White chocolate peppermint, Dark Chocolate, Peanut butter & Choc

The Modern Classics: Tuscan Three Cheese, Supreme, Cinnamon Toast, and Classic

With only 110 calories per serving (average of about 10 pretzel thins), Snack Factory is encouraging consumers to “Rethink Their Pretzel.” Below are my takes on the “Modern Classics” line and here’s a chance for you to win 4 flavors of these delicious pretzel crisps!

The Classic

Stats (11 crisps/28 grams): 110 Cals, 0g Fat, 330mg Sodium, 23g Carbs, 1g Fiber, 2g Sugar, 3g Protein

Original Pretzel Crisps

Tastiness: 6.5/10. Nothing against classic/plain pretzel chips, but without the extra flavoring, all I can focus on is the saltiness…which is, I suppose, inherent in all things labeled “pretzel”. These crisps are uber crunchy (not crispy) and hold up well to any dip. It also isn’t as dry as a regular pretzel, which I like. Overall, a 6 because there is nothing special about its flavors – a solid savory snack, but too salty yet still bland when eaten without accompaniments.

Cinnamon Toast

Ingredients: Flour, Seasoning (sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt), Soybean oil, Sugar, Salt, Malt Syrup

Stats (10 crisps/28 grams): 110 Cals, 1.5g Fat, 230mg Sodium, 23g Carbs, 1g Fiber, 4g Sugar, 3g Protein

French Toast Pretzel Crisps

Tastiness: 9/10. I will always be a sucker for the cinnamon and sugar combination. I have to seriously give Snack Factory major kudos for resisting over-dosing the pretzels with sugar. Although sugar comes in as the 2nd and 3rd most plentiful ingredients in the list, one serving in total only amounts to 4g of sugar! That’s definitely an upgrade from lots of sugar-laden energy bars on the market. The best part is that this was done so strategically NO flavor was compromised. Yes, it may not be sweet enough for some folks, but to me, this was the perfect amount of sweetness for an after dinner snack or mid-afternoon munchies.

Tuscan Three Cheese

Ingredients: Flour, Seasoning (Whey, sea salt, sugar, natural Romano, Asiago, and parmesan cheese flavors, brown sugar, cheddar cheese powder (pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), buttermilk, soybean oil, whey, disodium phosphate, citric acid), non-fat dry milk, dehydrated red bell pepper, dehydrated garlic and onion, tomato powder, natural olive oil flavor, chili pepper, citric acid, red pepper), soybean oil, sugar, salt, malt syrup ), Soybean oil, Sugar, Salt, Malt Syrup

Stats (10 crisps/28 grams): 110 Cals, 1.5g Fat, 520mg Sodium, 22g Carbs, 1g Fiber, 3g Sugar, 3g Protein

Tuscan 3 Cheese Pretzels

Tastiness: 8/10. For someone who does not like the flavor of stinky cheese, I loved the Tuscan 3 cheese!! Call me crazy, but the seasonings on these pretzel thins border more along the lines of a ranch sauce gone gourmet. I’ll call it, ranch-lite!

Personally, I am rejoicing over Pretzel thins because FINALLY there is a pretzel that doesn’t leave my mouth feeling like the Gobi desert!!! Something crunchy, flavorful, satisfying all on its own, and yet will actually hold up to any chip dip I choose to dip into!   There is a flavor for every taste bud:

  • If you like sweets, THEN head for the Cinnamon Toast
  • If you love savory,PICK up some Tuscan 3 Cheese (though it does have the most complicated ingredient list)
  • If you like dips or if you enjoy original/seasoning-free flavors, THE Classic is for you

I am more than surprised at how flavorful and delicious the actual pretzel seasonings are without going overboard. Nutritionally, the pretzels actually beat out a ton of other “healthy” products, including many granola bars, cereals, wheat thins, and yes, chips!

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THE GIVEAWAY

The who: Two lucky winners

The What: A total of 6 bags (each 6oz) of modern classics pretzel crisps, including:

  • 2 bags Tuscan Three Cheese
  • 2 bags Cinnamon Toast (my favorite!)
  • 1 bag Classic
  • 1 bag Supreme

The (Easy) How:

  1. Comment below and tell me which non-reviewed product from the Snack Factory you would like to try (mandatory entry)
  2. For 2 additional entries EACH: blog, tweet, or link back on your next blog post about this giveaway with a linkback to this post. Make sure you comment in the section below for each item!
  3. For 1 entry: Add Lucky Taste Buds to your blog roll or google reader (new readers only please!)

Giveaway closes June 7th at 6pm CST!!


Graham Elliot: Spring Menu Review

Although Graham Elliot was a contestant on Top Chef Masters twice…and lost BOTH times, it did not seem to dull my desires to experience his modern, “deconstructed”, new American cuisine. Paired with the fact that GE is one of the most highly regarded, interesting and fun restaurants in Chicago, GE is practically a foodies playground.

For our 3 year anniversary, Nick took us to GE to experience the Spring 2010 menu. Graham Elliot changes its menu every season, including its famous original cocktail concoctions.

Our impressions before going: Creative delicious cuisine that’s “fancy food without being stuffy”

Check out the drink menu. Guess which one we went for?

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Starter: The Popcorn Basket(s) complete with truffle oil, freshly shaved parmesan, cracked black pepper, chives, and salt

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Rating: A+ fresh, A- stale(ing). Apparently, it takes 3 rounds of popcorn to be able to get the freshest, least stale popcorn possible. Our first basket, despite the kernels being cold and starting to stale (i.e. getting chewy and undesirable) was still full of flavor, delicious and pungently awesome. If you happen to get a fresh basket, you’ll find warm medium-sized plain popcorn, evenly coated with a light film of truffle oil, salt, and pepper. Over the top of the basket, there’s a generous sprinkling of thinly shaved parmesan cheese that even a cheese hater (such as myself) came to enjoy. The cheese brings richness to the light popcorn but the servers seemed almost reluctant to bring our refills! Is that truffle oil so expensive you have to be stingy with bringing a second…or third basket?

Cocktail: Carrie Me Home

Rating: B. The cocktail didn’t blow me away and wasn’t so unique that I’d recommend it. That being said, it was one of the less intoxicating, more palatable and pleasantly sweet cocktails I’ve ever ordered at a restaurant.

At this point, popcorn basket #1 was gone. We asked our server sweetly for another basket right away. Basket #2 came 10 minutes later.

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From the “Cold” Appetizers

My Starter: White Tuna Sashimi with passion fruit sorbet, crispy plantain, whipped avocado, and cocoa nib ($13)

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Rating: A. This was not only a stunner, but incredibly delicious to eat. “sashimi” instills the idea of Japanese cuisine, yet when you actually combine all the elements of the plate together into one bite, the flavor screams CEVICHE!! The fish itself was extremely fresh and the flesh was actually the sweetest element on the plate. It took me a few bites to warm up to the school of sorbet that accompanied the dish, but it was unmistakably necessary to bring the acidity and icy cold element to the dish. The sauce itself didn’t just provide beauty, but it was actually the cream, rich component to the sashimi and tastes almost as if it were guacamole. Needless to say, I scraped the plate CLEAN.

Nick’s Starter: Carpaccio of Beef with hydroponic watercress, french baguette, red onion, horseradish custard ($15)

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Rating: A. I have never heard Nick rave so much about an appetizer. As a dude who has never had carpaccio before, he went out on a limb to try this dish. The beef was fresh and supple and was laid upon what appeared to be a long thin rectangular bar of cream cheese.

From the “Hot” Appetizers

My starter: Scallop Almondine with haricot vert, blood orange, marcona almond, brown butter ($15)

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Rating: B+. Apparently, this was such a successful entree from the winter menu that they decided to move it into spring as an appetizer. Despite the fact that the scallop itself was seared to perfection (browned on the outside but still soft, tender and juicy on the inside), the sour blood orange based topping was not anything I’d ever order again. The

Nick’s starter: Satay of Duck with green papaya, thai curry, purple basil, coconut emulsion ($14)

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Rating: B-. Highlight of the dish was the flavorful peanut sauce (but to be honest, it’s hard to mess up creamy, peanut satay sauce) and the presentation. Flavor-wise, the duck was not too gamey but also not very ducky perhaps because it tasted a little overcooked. The texture was chewy almost to the point where it was tough. I had one bite and refused another.

At this point, popcorn basket #2 was out. We asked the busser clearing our dishes if it was possible to have more popcorn. He said yes…and never returned.

Entree Options

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I’m embarrassed to ask someone else, but that popcorn is like crack to me.

10 minutes later, our server came to check back with us and I asked for more popcorn. I kinda got a funny look and 5 minutes later, fresh popcorn arrived! WOOHOO!!

The Entrees

My Great Lake Whitefish with red lentil, curried cucumber, currant chutney, chai froth ($28)

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Rating: A+ Awesome. This Indian-themed, Asian inspired seafood dish really hit home for me. Personally, I am the hugest fan of pickled vegetables and Shanghainese vinegar (thank my Chinese heritage), which I’m guessing was what GE marinated their sour berries in. The rest of the dish, including the pureed lentils, fried curry cauliflower, and pan-seared fish were actually one the heavier side, so to have some acidity from the cucumbers and berries really made this dish sing for me. The individual elements of this dish were prepared perfectly including the tender yet crispy outside of the whitefish. However, I can see someone who’s not too crazy about Indian spices or tart flavors be too fond of this dish.

Nick’s Crispy Jidori Chicken with rice gnocchi, black garlic, pickled maitaki, and edamame puree ($28)

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Rating: B. Although the flavors of the dish were solid, both Nick and I agreed that the chicken breast was dry and over cooked.

Popcorn Newsflash – By the time we got to dessert, popcorn basket #3 was out. I seriously debated whether to ask our server for another basket, but before I could ask, she said, “I’m going to have you wean you off the popcorn. It doesn’t go very well with the desserts!” I was totally taken aback.

Boy do I wish I had asked for another basket of popcorn instead of dessert.

A Shared Dessert

Pineapple ($10)

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Rating: B-. Wish we hadn’t spent $10 on this. Nothing to write home about. Freshly chopped pineapple was soaked in syrup and plated with a sweet custard sauce and a sour lime-based sauce. The dome-shaped angel food cake was awfully dry and required plenty of that deliciously sweet mango sorbet to make it palatable. The most creative aspect to this dessert was the black sesame brittle, but even that wasn’t that impressive.

Total tab: $150 (without tip)

RATINGS

Taste: 4/5

Plating: 4.5/5

Originality: 5/5

Value: 3/5

Service: 4/5

Overall, the dishes were either a hit or a miss. He either nailed it, or it just…didn’t work. My favorite aspect about this restaurant was the fact that it allowed diners to be playful with their food and have some autonomy over the flavors you’d like to pair, all on the same plate. The deconstructed food concept will make it or break it for some diners, but for me personally, I appreciate the fact that I can alternate between one flavor combination to another all on the same dish and all within the same flavor profile/theme. The whimsical fun factor and laid-back atmosphere was also a plus.

However, some of the portion sizes and certain flavor pairings were a little disappointing. GE would certainly benefit from modifying its prices to reflect the cost of the actual ingredients better (i.e. 3oz of chicken breast is definitely not worth $28). I wouldn’t say this restaurant was the best value for money…the man paying for it (Nick) definitely said he prefers MK over Graham Elliot for new American food. I would have to agree, although GE was such a unique dining experience (I’m clearly still wowed by the whimsical food factor) and that popcorn…oh that popcorn.

Nick and I decided that yes, we would go again during another season, but make sure you have the server describe the dish for you pre-ordering to avoid disappointment!

Recommended for: people looking for a fun special occasion restaurant who are feeling a little more adventurous than usual.

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For some reason, food is most fun when eaten messy. And most tasty when it looks rather unappetizing. Anybody else agree?


Fabulous Food For Thought Organic Preserves Giveaway!!

I have never been more excited about a giveaway because the prizes this time are simply THE Most Uniquely Delicious Gourmet Preserves in this entire world. No, Universe! (And 4 winners will be picked!)

Wild Blueberries + Merlot = ??

Strawberries + Basil = ??

After reading my review on Food for Thought products, their incredibly awesome sales director got in touch with me to thank me for the review…and soon enough, we got talking about a giveaway for Lucky Taste Buds readers!! woohoo!! *drool*

To refresh your memory, Food For Thought is a Michigan-based company founded by an ex-human relief worker who served for years in war torn regions of the world.

Through his experiences, founder Timothy F. Young realized that he couldn’t go home and simply be “another naïve member of the mass consumer market in the West that wallows in an indulgence of anonymous consumption, blind to the connection between how we choose to eat and others ability to simply live.

Timothy came back to America and built a company upon these exact values and beliefs. If you work for his company, you get PAID to volunteer at a non-profit organization!

Low and Behold…my Favorite Giveaway(s) EVER.

These jams aren’t even sold in grocery stores, so if you want to try some flavor combos that will blow your taste buds’ little minds, you’ll want to enter this giveaway.

Who gets to win? FOUR lucky winners! 4!! That’s insanely good odds no?

Prize? Each person will win TWO full jars of Food For Thought organic preserves shipped to your door. In your box will be:

–       Organic Fair Trade Strawberry Basil Preserves

–       Organic Fair Trade Wild Blueberry Merlot Preserves

How to win?

3 Winners will be selected at random. 1 winner will get to win based on the creativity of the recipe submitted:

Mandatory Entry: Please visit the Food For Thought website and let me know what specific product has a flavor combo that blows your mind and why.

Recipe Entry: Please post a recipe using less than 5 ingredients and including a Food For Thought Product below (see below vegan overnight oats example if you have questions).

All the other ways you can win by spreading Food For Thought’s great name!! (+1 entry each)

  • Blog about the giveaway with a link back to this post
  • Convince a friend to enter this giveaway and let them know to drop your name when they enter as well.
  • Twitter about the giveaway with the following “@luckytastebuds Check out a 4 winner giveaway for insanely delicious strawberry basil and blueberry merlot preserves!” with a link back to this post.

Make sure you leave a comment for every additional entry you’ve fulfilled so I can enter you in the draw! There’s no limit to how many times you can plug this, so keep goin’!

Giveaway ends Monday May 24th, 2010 at midnight CT.

THANK YOU Food For Thought!!!

XXX

*Vegan Overnight Oats with Blueberry Lavender Preserves*

When it comes to breakfasts, Angela has continued to inspire me with her creations. Enter vegan overnight oats. The addition of chia seeds creates the creamy texture that the non-vegan version has by using thick greek yogurt. Here is my slightly modified, 5 ingredient version:

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup regular oats
  • 1 cup plain almond milk
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Simply throw everything into a bowl and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, I layered my oats with:

1 defrosted spotty banana (sliced thin) + Food for Thought Blueberry Lavender Preserves

My Review: VOO was an excellent change of pace from hot oatmeal during the warmer summer days. I loved the creamy yet chewy consistency of the oats that were ALMOST pudding-like thanks to the chia seeds! With greek yogurt, overnight oats tend to be more sticky and tart, so it was fun to really experience the more earthy flavor of oats from the vegan version. Because the oats were such a great “canvas” to decorate, the blueberry lavender preserves and banana had a chance to shine!

Food For Thought Uncensored

It’s Official.

I’ve found the best tasting, most unique, local, sustainable organic fruit preserves on this planet. Wanna know where this picture came from? Keep reading! 🙂

Food for Thought is a Michigan-based company founded by an ex-human relief worker who served for years in war torn regions of the world.

Through his experiences, founder Timothy F. Young realized that “[he] could not return home and simply be another naïve member of the mass consumer market in the West that wallows in an indulgence of anonymous consumption, blind to the connection between how we choose to eat and others ability to simply live.”

How true.

Food for Thought not only protects our environment through their commitment to organics, they also donate a percentage of their gross earnings to non-profit organizations that work to preserve and protect our human and natural environment. As if that were not great enough, FFT also encourages their staff to take what they call “paid volunteer days” whereby workers can volunteer to work for a non-profit organization while FFT keeps them on the payroll.

What an incredible company to work for.

So what do they make? Everything from jarred fruit preserves (including wine-infused, herb-infused, and fruit juice sweetened), to salsa, pickled leeks, coffee, maple syrup, mustard, hot sauce, and even organic tee shirts!

As you read the reviews, please do keep in mind that this company is still a small family-owned shop that is supporting local farmers, sustainable farming, eco-friendly, and healthy products! I would certainly rather pay $6 for a jar of preservative-free jams from Food for Thought than a $5+ organic jam made by a corporate giant.

Strawberry Basil Preserves

“Basil grown on our organic farm combines with strawberries grown by Bernie and Sandy Ware of Ware Farm in Bear Lake, Michigan. This preserves transcends breakfast. Bernie and Sandy pick these Morning Glow strawberries early in the morning and deliver them to our facility where we sort and wash by hand to assure gentle handling and that only the best berries get used.”

Ingredients: Organic strawberries, organic fair trade sugar (evaporated cane juice), pectin (from citrus), organic lemon juice, organic basil.

Tastiness: 9.5/10. Definitely one of the best jams I have ever tasted, though I was weary at first of what the basil would add to the classic strawberry. The sweet preserve is smooth in texture, not overly thick and jelly-like, but more of an extra-thick and goopy-in-a-good-way consistency. There are small mashed pieces of beautiful organic strawberries that add a slightly chewier and seedy dimension to the preserve. I loved the hint of basil as an aftertaste, which added a whole different complexity to the jam flavor. I appreciated the fact that a wonderful balance was struck where the herb didn’t overwhelm the fruity flavors at all. This preserve makes the BEST almond butter and jelly sandwich I’ve ever had – very much the grown up version of your childhood PB&J!  

Apricot Chardonnay Preserves

Ingredients: Ingredients: organic apricots, organic fair trade sugar (evaporated cane juice), pectin (from citrus), organic chardonnay wine, organic lemon juice.

Tastiness: 8.5/10. Apricot Chardonnay is a delicious, fresh, and sweet tasting preserve that is probably one of the most versatile flavors possible. I’ve never been one to love dried apricots, but the fresh fruit used in this flavor was mind-blowing delicious. The Chardonnay flavor is almost unnoticeable, which is a plus in my book. The preserves itself were extra chunky with bands of fresh apricot strewn throughout, almost like a marmalade. I would definitely recommend having this over toast, or even baked with brie cheese, or as a glaze for grilled meats and vegetables like they suggest on the website. I did find this jam a little more sweet than I’m used to, but paired with a savory food or unsweetened nut butter, this is really a treat!

Blueberry Lavender Preserves

“These Blueberries come from the farm of John VanVoorhees and Joan Donaldson, 2 off-the-grid farmers that when I met them many years ago they were in their 17th year of organic blueberry farming. We combine those [blueberries] with lavender flowers from our gardens.”


Ingredients: Organic blueberries, Organic Fair Trade Sugar (evaporated cane juice), Lavender Flowers, Lavender Oil.

Tastiness: 7/10. I normally love blueberries, but made into a jam with herbs, I’m not so sure. Flavor-wise, I was shocked at how well lavender works with the berries. Again, not overwhelmingly herby, but definitely noticeable in terms of the dominance of the floral flavor. It was a little confusing to eat when I topped my oats with this jam due to the complexity of the flavors, but once you get used to it, the floral flavors really bring a lot to the flavor party. The major downside to this flavor was the consistency. It was far lumpier and chunkier than any other preserve I’ve ever had, more gelatinous than the picture shown above. It’s also more difficult to spread than the other Food For Thought Preserves, hence a tad off-putting initially.

Organic Cherry Salsa Atento

Taste the simply fantastic balance of fresh Michigan tomatoes, Montmorency cherries, lots of love and pure intention. Try as a traditional dip or as a grilling accompaniment.

Ingredients: organic diced tomatoes, organic tomato paste, organic sugar (organic evaporated cane juice), organic yellow onions, organic green onions (scallions), organic diced jalapenos, organic chopped garlic, Organic Pale ale, organic red wine vinegar, organic lemon juice concentrate, sea salt, organic cilantro, organic thyme.
Michigan-made.

Tastiness: 8/10. I’ve never had salsa with cherries inside, but my first experience was a good one, though it took a little time to get used to. It is rare that you find a salsa with fruit chunks LARGER than the tomato chunks themselves. I absolutely love that so many fresh organic ingredients went into this jar to make the flavors as bold, complex, and delicious as it was! Slightly tangy, a little spicy, and sweet, this salsa is such a unique product with a refreshing and exciting flavor profile! It tastes absolutely DELICIOUS stirred in to chili to give that extra kick, and also served chilled with chips. Once the jar is open though, be sure to eat it up quick or this preservative-free product will likely grow mold within a week.

Blueberry Lavender Banana Vegan Overnight Oats

Overall, I’m a sucker for spicing up regular food with fruit preserves with a twist to it (see above). I think Food for Thought is an ethical, creative, FUN company with the highest morals and standards of practice. I would love to see more companies like this flourish!!

At the moment, these products can be ordered online and in select stores. Please click here to find a store near you!

To learn more about Food For thought, visit Food For Thought!

Tosca Reno:Eat-Clean Diet Recharged Review

I think diet books are usually a bunch of nonsense. No blood-type diets,  “Skinny Bitches”, and no Atkins for me, thank you very much. However, I recently discovered a book written by an inspiring woman who has opened my eyes to those “diets” that I’ve always been skeptical about.

To some of you, Tosca Reno is no stranger. Ms. Reno writes a column for Oxygen magazine and has a huge following of both men and women that have gotten healthier, fitter, and lost weight successfully on her eat-clean “diet”.

The Eat Clean Diet Recharged Book Review

Tosca does NOT preach strict dieting, will not force you to give up meat, and won’t berate  anyone who doesn’t eat
“intuitively”. She makes it clear that she is not trying to invent a new way to diet, but is here rather to give people knowledge, guidance, and ideas on how to eat a cleaner, less-processed diet. The book was so easy to read and Tosca’s “voice” so friendly, yet authoritative that I couldn’t help but finish the book in 48 hours. Of course, the photos didn’t hurt. 🙂

If you’ve done your homework and enjoy reading blogs and articles on health, then most concepts in this book won’t be life-changing for you, but what WAS helpful was the way Tosca introduces key concepts – whether it’s new research, personal recommendations for nutritional ratios, tips on portion size etc. – to explain WHY and HOW this diet will work to give you a healthier, stronger body.

The book is split into 17 chapters, each addressing a different topic or issue. I admit, I didn’t read ALL chapters in depth; rather I skimmed some and read others in-depth depending on what concepts were new or interesting to me. It will be different for each person and this book is well-organized so the reader has the option of jumping to the chapter that is relevant to them. There is plenty of hand-holding, explaining, and detail – check out a brief summary of what I think were the most interesting chapters below:

Ch. 1: The Eat-Clean Diet Principles

According to Tosca, following the Eat-clean diet will help you achieve your ideal (aka happy) weight, whether it means you gain some, lose some, or stay the same.

–       Tosca advocates 5-6 smaller meals a day to keep the metabolism going: I used to be a 3 square meals a day with 2 snacks person, so for me, I had to scale back the size of my meals and up the size of the snacks. A process that was actually easier than I thought it would be!

–       The winning combo: Complex carb + protein at every meal.

–       Portion control. Tosca teaches you how to eyeball different food groups to help you eat more yet still lose weight.

Ch.2: What to Expect

Here, Tosca tells you why you can eat more calories that you did before and yet still lose weight. She sets some realistic expectations for the reader and gives reasons for weight fluctuations throughout the diet.

Ch.3: Breakfast – An entire chapter

Tosca mainly preaches the benefits of oatmeal, suggests toppings and additions she incorporates into her oats, and teaches us how important it is to add some protein to our AM meal! She prefers hers in the form of egg whites but introduces vegan options as well.

Here’s a sample breakfast Tosca would approve!

Ch.4: The basics of metabolism

Ch.5: Hydration – the power of water (How much water should you drink?)

Ch.6: Reclaiming your life (Why Clean Eating is a lifestyle plan, not a “diet”)

Ch.7: Shopping Clean (How to meal plan)

Ch. 8: Eating clean on the go (Suggestions for eating clean on the go and while you travel)

Ch. 9: Eating Clean in Social Situations

Ch. 10: Getting started with exercise (Start small. Incorporate weights. Make it an integral part of your life)

Ch. 11: Cellulite, Loose skin and saggy bits (How to diminish unwanted lines with your clean diet)

Ch. 12: Longevity

Ch. 13: Making the most of superfoods

Ch. 14: Meal plans and grocery lists (One of my favorite chapters!)

Tosca gives 4 different meal plan ideas, each 1 week long and the basic guidelines, grocery lists, and how it’s supposed to work. It includes a vegan menu, a “cooler 1” menu (for greater weight loss), “cooler 2” menu (a laxer version of cooler 1), and a family menu for when you have to cook for your spouse and the kids.

Ch. 15: Recipes

Ch. 16: FAQ’s

Ch. 17: The Eat-clean diet at a glance (summary of all the key concepts)

Overall, I highly recommend you pick this book up if you need a little guidance and definition as to what a clean diet looks like. Tosca gives great tips on how to eyeball portions, what to eat, and fantastic recipes. I love her style of writing and casual yet commanding tone. It definitely gives me confidence in what she teaches. The recipes themselves are easy to follow, contain natural wholesome ingredients that are not hard to find, and actually taste good!!!

If you already eat pretty clean and you are happy with your weight, energy levels, and eating patterns, you probably already know most of the advice from Tosca’s book…but her recipes are awesome! Meat-eaters and vegans alike will learn more than a thing or two from Tosca’s cooking ideas, so if that’s what you’re after, her cookbook – The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook –  may be what will suit your needs better!

For more information on the books or to see results of many Eat-Clean dieters, check out Tosca’s website at Eat Clean Diet. http://www.eatcleandiet.com/

Cauliflower BlackBean Hummus

*Warning* this is not your conventional chickpea hummus recipe.

As you all already know, cauliflower is one of many nutritious vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea. The Brassica oleracea species also includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and collard greens, though they are of different cultivar groups (whatever that means).

Why cauliflower? As a thickener for the hummus because I only had 1 tablespoon of tahini! It does not change the flavor at all, and in fact, I truly believe it enhances the nutty flavor of the tahini. No one will ever know there was cauliflower in your dip.

Most hummus recipes I found call for at least 1/4 or more cups of tahini. But I’ve found that steamed cauliflower does the trick without compromising flavor! Of course, the other ingredients and seasonings helped!

By substituting 1 cup of cauliflower for ½ cup of tahini…

–       More volume (I can always use more hummus, dips, whatever you want to call it)

–       More vitamins, nutrients, and minerals

–       Lowered fat content

Skinny Cauliflower Black Bean Hummus

Yields 2 cups and a little more

Stats (per 2 tbs): 45 Calories, 0.5g fat, 9g Carbs, 2.3g Fiber, 3g protein

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15oz) black beans, drained
  • 1 Tbs tahini
  • 1 heaving tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/8 cup salsa (I used Frontera Chipotle salsa)
  • ½ – 1 cup cauliflower, steamed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Simply puree first 4 ingredients in blender and blend till smooth.

2. Add ½ cup cauliflower and blend, see if you’ve reached desired consistency. If not, add more cauliflower until hummus is thick enough for your liking. Blend in S&P at the end.

3. Enjoy over a salad, with chips, chopped vegetables, whatever you like!!!

TIP: Use the hummus as a salad dressing if you don’t add the cauliflower. PROMISE it tastes AMAZING!!

Best enjoyed after refrigeration!

Michelle’s Self-Tasting: Very garlicy, very flavorful, not as beany as I thought, and no hint of cauliflower at all. The hot salsa wasn’t pronounced and instead added some tartness to the hummus (which replaces lemon juice in many traditional hummus recipes.) Next time, I’ll be adding some siracha to therecipe, or perhaps throwing in some roasted pepper. I also cheated and used Costco pre-minced garlic. SO convenient, but nowhere near the depth of flavor you can get from fresh garlic!

May I just add that I LOVE my Blendtec blender?? It’s $50 cheaper than a Vitamix, does exactly the same things, I can leave it uanttended while it blends and it stops at exactly the right consistency, it’s easy to clean (just rinse under the sink!!), and it’s pretty!!*sigh* Love.

Giveaway Winner Announcement:

Winner of the Yoplait and Built lunch bag giveaway is…Entry #5) Yaz at It’s a Wrap Teacher!

Congrats and look out for an e-mail from me! 🙂

Galaxy Granola Winner!

Winner of the Galaxy Granola is: Entry #23 via Random.org, Leah of Why Deprive!!!

Congratulations Leah!

I’ll be sending you an e-mail and getting your raspberry Granola out in no time!

**Still 2 days left for you to win a set of Lunch Boxes!! Click here!**

Easy Lunch Boxes Giveaway!

Today, we’re featuring Easy Lunch Boxes!! They are colorful, fun, and inspires creativity in the kitchen.

If you missed my review, click here to read it. (You may need it for the giveaway!)

Prize:

  • A Blue Easy lunch box container
  • A Red Easy lunch box container
  • An Orange Easy lunch box container
  • A Green Easy lunch box container
  • A cooler bag with YOUR color of choice!

To win:

  • 1 entry – Visit the Easy Lunch Box website and tell me what color cooler you’d like AND what you’d pack in each separate lunch box compartment (mandatory)!
  • 1 entry – Twitter about this giveaway with link-back to the post!
  • 2 extra entries – Blog about my giveaway in your next post!!

Make sure you come back and leave a comment after each entry!!! Winner will be picked via Random.org.

Giveaway Ends Wednesday April 7th at Midnight CST!!


Hope for a Green Zebra?

**Galaxy Granola Giveaway ends tomorrow!!! Click here to enter!**

How many vegetarian restaurants do you know in Chicago? I can name about…5, and trust me, I’ve done my research.

Chances are, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan living in Chicago, you have heard of or been to Green Zebra – probably one of the most hyped up veggie restaurants in town. Sadly, I have to say that “Overhyped” would be the word I’d use to describe my GZ experience.

Nick and I have heard a mixed bag of reviews for Green Zebra, but most of them decent! All the dishes are priced around $12 a plate, and because the dishes run small, the restaurant recommends diners order 3-4 dishes each.

If you read Lucky Taste Buds, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of vegetarian and vegan food, even though I don’t have strict dietary mandates (love my seafood!), so I was SOOO excited about going to Green Zebra. What I love about the GZ concept is that it isn’t vegetarian food pretending to be anything. IT JUST IS. The chefs try to create an inspiring menu with non-meat options that have a unique spin by itself.

While I found the concept refreshing, the execution was poor on most of the dishes we ordered. Over-salted and over-greased seemed to be a recurring theme across all 6 plates.

Starter: Bread, Butter, and an Amuse Bouche

A waiter came around with a small metal basket of sliced crusty bread – you can choose between white or whole grain. I picked the nutty whole grain, which was delicious by itself with a crunchy crust and a soft chewy center. Paired with the butter cube topped with coarse sea salt, it was a perfect starter…and you can bet I asked for 2 more slices.

Amuse Bouche was a carrot salad that was in a vinegar dressing. Nick and I agreed this tasted exactly like pickled sweet and sour Chinese cucumbers you can get as cold appetizers in restaurants. In other words, DELICIOUS!!

My Dish #1: Grilled Mu Shu, eggplant, cucumber, spring onion, peppers, pickles $7

Tastiness: 4/10. ULTIMATE FAIL. I asked the waitress if she would recommend this, and she said she “likes it” kind of half-heartedly. I now realize she probably lied. The dish was made of a few components – 2 oiled and grilled wraps, 1 of which was soggy and had no grill marks (boo!), and 4 different vegetables. What the menu does not tell you is that you are literally eating sliced up kimchee from a jar, sliced pickles from a jar, and diced red peppers from a jar. The only exciting element was the curry flavored eggplant that MAY have been “cooked” at the restaurant. This dish was a slack-off and I was incredibly disappointed. I can DEFINITELY remake the same dish at home from grocery store ingredients, and there is no doubt that any one reading this can make a BETTER one that the dish I had.

My Dish #2: BBQ Black Eyed Pea Dumpling, hoisin, ginger, Chinese mustard, scallion $12

Tastiness: 5/10. The menu should have said: a sweet pot-sticker served with jarred hoisin sauce you can get from the grocery store for $1.49.  I did not expect that the black eyed pea filling inside the dumpling to be so sweet and so salty all at once. The dish had 4 dumplings, 1 of which was soggy and mushed. The other 3 were fried well and had a dark crunchy char on the bottom. The skin of the dumplings were chewy and well-made, but everything was extremely greasy. What was more maddening was that the dumplings sat atop a boring thick hoisin sauce that made the dish even more salty than it already was. Let’s not even talk about the sad looking strips of green on top and stingy scattering of shelled edamame.

I’m half-annoyed by this point and asking for my third slice of bread.  Don’t worry, the review only gets better from here because Nick had better dishes than I did.

My Dish #3: Slow Roasted Shittake Mushrooms, in crispy potato with savoy cabbage $12

Tastiness: 7/10. If you can look beyond how much oil and salt was used in this dish, this would have been quite a successful dish in terms of concept and execution. The mushrooms and cabbage were sautéed and wrapped in thin slices of potato. The whole roll  is then fried to perfection, sliced into pieces, and topped with a light foam. While I found the level of salt in this dish appalling, Nick was able to rescue me and finish this dish while downing 3 glasses of water while he was at it.

Nick’s Dish #1: Sunchoke Ravioli, grilled leeks, medjool dates, preserved lemon, quail egg $12

Tastiness: 7.5/10. Sunchoke is a Jerusalem artichoke that has a sweet flavor. This dish was a compliation of 3 ravioli’s, boiled and served atop an INCREDIBLY sweet bed of leeks and dates. The mush was so sweet this dish could have passed as a dessert. The egg was perfectly cooked and placed atop the sweet ravioli to add some savory flavors into the dish. Nick enjoyed this dish, but probably wouldn’t be something he’d order again. The concept is definitely a win here!

Nick’s Dish #2: Creamed Spinach Filled Crepe, oyster mushrooms, confit artichoke, parmesan $14

Tastiness: 9/10. Both of us agreed this was the best dish of the night, on par with the scallops. The crepe was soft and fluffy, stuffed fully with piping hot spinach, and topped with an even layer of melted parmesan. The chef topped the crepe with a delicious concoction of fresh pan fried mushrooms and flavorful artichoke confit that I could NOT stop eating. I have no complaints about this dish…I just wish I had ordered it instead. And…I wish I took a better picture!!! Sorry guys.

Nick’s Dish #3: Maine Sea Scallops, braised wild mushrooms, yukon potatoes, pomegranate $17

Tastiness: 8/10. Two large fresh sea scallops were pan fried with the top slightly seared and the inside still soft, sweet, and chewy. The braised mushrooms and tiny cubes of potatoes decorated the center of the plate, and apart from (again), the over salty flavors of the elements, this was a delicious dish. Pomegranate was in the form of a SPECK of sauce on the side of the dish, which I found unsuccessfully implemented. Also, $17 is too much to pay for 2 scallops.

RATINGS

Taste: 2.5/5 (Hit or misses all the time…but mostly Misses)

Originality: 4/5

Plating: 4/5 (Dishes were far better looking than they were tasting)

Value: 2/5 (A restaurant I’ll probably never go back to)

Service: 4/5

It sucks that I have to give mostly negative reviews of Green Zebra, but I honestly believe vegetarian can be done SO MUCH BETTER and I am incredibly disappointed. Nick and I filled up on pieces of bread and thank god the waiter took great care of our water glasses – making sure it was filled up 100% of the time. (Probably a good thing since salt content in the dishes were sky high)

A hit ratio of 2 great dishes out of 6 is hardly good at all, considering the menu is not large and 1/3 of it is a salad of some sort (anyone can throw some greens together, no culinary skills required). Green Zebra’s sister restaurant Spring was far more impressive, in my opinion.

Overall, it was a decent restaurant but I would not go back again. Both Nick and I felt our dishes were ALL over-salted and unnecessarily greasy. Perhaps the chefs felt that vegetables didn’t have enough flavor by itself and overcompensated by adding too much salt and oil. This approach may work for some diners, but not for Nick and I. Green Zebra is far better off NOT changing their menu all the time and making sure the ones on their permanent menu rocks.

For those who still want to/need to go: *My Green Zebra Tip* Dishes are hit or miss. Make sure you know what you’re ordering, ask for descriptions, and keep your mind open!

Green Zebra on Urbanspoon

Have you ever been to a restaurant that you had high hopes for, but left utterly heartbroken??

Easy Lunch Boxes Uncensored

**Click here to enter my Galaxy Granola Giveaway!!!!**

Before I review the lunch boxes, I just found out that you can SAVE UP TO 70% ON EASYLUNCHBOXES FOR 1 DAY ONLY on Jasmere.com! NOW and for 24 hours only, online shoppers can purchase the already very affordable lunch box system for up to 70% off the retail price!! (Click HERE to buy!)

And this is what you’d be buying…

At first glance, the plastic lunch boxes look like your standard compartmentalized Tupperware. However, here is what is missing from the picture…

1. The Lunch Boxes are more sturdy and durable than your average plastic Tupperware. It is made out the highest grade plastic polypropelene plastic (#5) a thick, PBA-free plastic that will hold up very well to rough journeys to work or school.

2. Safety safety safety!! Easy Lunch Boxes have ensured that all the materials used in their containers and bags are food and child safe and even pass strict FDA requirements! Easylunchbox products contain NO Lead, Vinyl, PVC, Phthalates, or Bisphenol A (BPA)!!

3. Microwave Safe. Easy Lunch boxes are FDA-approved for microwave usage. The plastic that does not leach any BPA or Phthalates when heated or cooled.

4. Lots of Colors. Lunch is way cooler when you have 4 colors of Tupperware lids to pick amongst. If you buy a cooler bag, you’ll also have multiple colors to pick from!

5. Portion-controlled and Size-appropriate. The well-sized Tupperware allows you to pack a lunch that is more nutritiously dense and filling. There’s enough room to pack your sandwich and 2 sides. Check this out! No more sandwich bags for your extras!!

6. Bento/Compartmenting concept! I love the fact that I don’t have to just pack sandwiches. Sometimes, I like bringing stir fry with a side of rice or beans or meatballs, but I don’t want it to turn into one giant bowl of jumbled mess. The separate compartments really allow your food to appear as elegant as when you first packed it.

7. Get creative in the kitchen!! See the picture below? Homemade guacamoleeee!

Downsides…

  • I found that you can’t pack anything that resembles liquid or else…it will leak. The seals are not made to snap all around the container, so I would recommend solid foods, no sauces or soups.
  • I haven’t been able to replace all my Tupperwares with Easy Lunch Boxes. Sometimes, I do need a hearty thick stew for lunch or a ginormous salad, which just won’t fit.

My Recommendation: these lunch boxes ARE perfect to supplement your stash of leak-proof Tupperwares. They are also great for kids and folks who like color. The bento concept inspires me to think out of the box when it comes to lunch packing! You definitely don’t have to always have sandwiches or wraps for lunch.

Online: Food Container Set (Contains 4 lids and 4 bottoms) $13.95; Cooler Bag (In 5 colors) $7.95

Take advantage of the Jasmere.com deal, 4 entire food container sets are only $4.19!!!! That’s $1 a piece!!! Jump on it savvy bloggies!!

Galaxy Granola Giveaway!

Since so many of you commented about how you’d love to try your own Galaxy Granola on my review, the Galaxy Granola folks have generously offered to give away one bag of their granola to a Lucky Taste Buds reader!! (Don’t worry, there will be more GG giveaways!)

Prize: A big 12oz bag of Galaxy Granola in your flavor of choice!!!

To win:

  • 1 entry – Visit the Galaxy Granola website and tell me what your favorite flavor to try would be (mandatory)!
  • 1 entry – Twitter about this giveaway with link-back to the post!
  • 3 extra entries – Either add me to your google reader/blogroll OR blog about my giveaway in your next post!!

Make sure you come back and leave a comment after each entry!!!

Giveaway Ends Thursday April 1st at Midnight CST!!