SnackTAXI Winner!

Winner of the SnackTaxi eco-friendly bags giveaway is…

# 58 via Random.Org

Ashlei at The Vegster!

Congratulations to Ashlei and Thank you to everyone who entered!!

More giveaways will be coming your way soon!

Habanero Curry Black Bean Muffies

Once upon a time there was a girl who was inspired by all the awesome black bean burger recipes she’d been seeing in the blogworld, so she decided to make her own without thinking to check if she had all the ingredients in her pantry.

She decided she’d pick the easiest recipe and improvise from there. Unfortunately, at step #2, she realizes she had NOTHING that resembles breadcrumbs. No panko, no flour…uh oh, SCREWED.

She looks in her giant, well-stocked, over-filled pantry (ironic isn’t it?) and suddenly a stroke of genius hit her.

Trader Joe’s Multi-grain pancake and waffle mix!!!

No patties today! Muffins they will be! And then, the black bean muffin balls were born. Seriously, the easiest, simplest, tastiest savory muffin I’ve ever made.

Habanero Curry Black Bean Muffies

The bottoms of these guys are messed up because I forgot to grease the muffins pan…Oops!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans, mashed
  • 1/3 cup Trader Joe’s multi-grain pancake and waffle mix
  • 1 egg white or a flax-egg (dissolve 1 tbs flax seed with 3 tbs water and let stand for 2 minutes)
  • Up to 2 tbs Seasonings of your choice! (I used 1 Tbs curry powder, and pinch of Hot Habenero Salt Blend from Beyond the Shaker)

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350.

2. Roughly mash 1 can black beans and combine with the remaining ingredients.

3. Grease your mini muffin pan (or regular muffin pan) and spoon mixture into the pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes until muffins are firm on the top but not dry.

You can substitute this for corn bread when you eat chili or homemade vegetable stew!

My Recipe Self-Evaluation: I was surprised at how delicious these were. It wasn’t a black bean burger by all means, but they were fluffy, chewy, moist, and flavorful. I went a little heavy-handed on the curry, so next time I’d cut that back a little and perhaps add some finely diced onions. Apart from that, I LOVE my newly invented source of “protein-carb”!

A helpful flavor addition…since I like things HOT – Beyond The Shaker Hot Habenero Blend

Who is Beyond the Shaker? They are a company that makes premium gourmet salts.

How is that possible? Beyond the Shaker says, “Real salt should excite the senses similar to the finest five-star meal, and so we would like to introduce you to this amazing agent of flavor.  Beyond the Shaker offers several collections to choose from: the Pure Foundation series highlights natural, unrefined salts in their basic form. The Beyond Blends collection contains chef-crafted blends that marry superior salts with only the finest ingredients. Our unique Wet Salts combine exotic oils with unrefined salts.”

Hot Habenero Blend (on the Right)

Tastiness: 9/10. The ingredients say it all. You might be thinking, HOW does one review salt?? Simple! This isn’t JUST salt. Apart from providing plenty of saltiness like regular salt would, the blend has a bold, unmistakingly spicy, aromatic flavor profile to it. I like my things hot and flavorful, and this blend offered the complex flavors I was looking for – almost as if it were a hot sauce, a spice blend, and salt all in 1.

If you’d like to check out Beyond the Salt company and their BIJILLIONS Of other flavors, check out their website here. To get you started, think: Bolivian Rose, Bamboo Jade, Citrus Basil, and Cyprus Black Lava.

*Disclaimer” The product reviewed is a complimentary sample from Beyond the Salt. This by no means has an impact on the product reviews given. All opinions of the products are independently formed and reflect my own personal opinions.

And there you have it. Muffins made out of an unlikely product! Success!!

What have you created lately with a product/ingredient that isn’t made to do that job? In what ways do you think out of the box?? 🙂

(For me, rarely, so I’m super proud of these my muffies!)

Galaxy Granola Uncensored

**Enter the SnackTAXI eco-friendly, adorable lunch & snack bag giveaway here!**

I don’t know why nobody “invented” and sold this product sooner, but FINALLY, granola that isn’t baked with fat! How oats turned into an unhealthy product with loads of sugar and oil I will never know. That’s why I stick to baking my own granola, or if you’re busy…Galaxy Granola!!

Galaxy Granola really has it down – they absolutely 100% show that granola does not require fat to taste great! I highly recommend their products, especially the fruity raspberry flavor.

Galaxy Granola was founded by a few health conscious folks who had the ingenious idea to substitute applesauce into their granola instead of oil or fat.

If you’re a blog reader, you may have noticed that Galaxy Granola is popping up all over the place and always with raving reviews!! I was fortunate enough to be invited to join the “Fit not Fat” movement and sample some of their truly healthy granola.

Check out 1 serving (1/4 cup or 30g) of Galaxy Granola. For most flavors (except vanilla almond), each serving is 115 calories, almost HALF the amount of calories of standard store-bought granola!

My overall verdict: I would DEFINITELY buy Galaxy Granola over any other brand of Granola on the market! Raspberry is my favorite flavor followed by vanilla almond and not sweet vanilla. The granola is chewy, crunchy, fresh, flavorful and absolutely healthy ‘n DELICIOUS!

Raspberry

Click here to find out nutritional stats and exact ingredients.

Tastiness: 9.5/10. This flavor is my absolute favorite. Galaxy Granola absolutely did NOT skimp on their freeze dried raspberries, which were mostly whole and uncrushed in my bag. They add a wonderful tart crisp airiness to the denser, crunchier texture of the oat flakes. I love this flavor eaten just with unsweetened almond milk because the lightly sweetened oats and the tart raspberry naturally brighten up the milk with flavors. The granola doesn’t get soggy quickly so you can enjoy your bowl of granola cereal as leisurely as you please!

Not Sweet Vanilla

Click here to find out nutritional stats and exact ingredients.

Tastiness: 7/10. Contrary to what the name suggests, this flavor is not NOT sweet, and don’t worry, it’s not salty at all.. I like to think that the natural sweetness and nuttiness of the oats really comes through in this flavor. The granola has a very mild flavor overall and there is a light vanilla aroma. This flavor is perfect on a flavored or fruity yogurt. In terms of texture, the bag is dense with chewy oats and a few light crispy cereal bits, but overall more one-dimensional (may be bland to some people) than the other 2 flavors.

Vanilla Almond

Click here to find out nutritional stats and exact ingredients.

Tastiness: 8.5/10. This is an addictive flavor mainly because of the extra-crunchy whole glazed almonds scattered throughout the granola bits. This is certainly more sweet than the “not sweet vanilla” flavor and holds up very well in both milk and yogurt. There aren’t as many almonds as I would like, but I guess nuts don’t come cheap!

For more information on Galaxy Granola, check out their website here!

*Disclaimer* The products reviewed are complimentary samples from Galaxy Granola. This by no means has an impact on the product reviews given. All opinions of the products are independently formed and reflect my own personal opinions.

P.s. Check out Anne’s awesome (or should I say Amazing) giveaway!

**Don’t forget to Enter the SnackTAXI giveaway here!**

SnackTAXI Giveaway! Easy. Eco-friendly. Adorable.

Dear SnackTaxi, thank you for inventing a “stick ‘n lock” bag to help me carry my little lunch snacks without being wasteful.

When I first saw Hungry Girl introduce these bags, I was skeptical as to how useful they’d be. After all, I use zip lock bags for a variety of MESSY and sometimes, wet things!

Enter Erin Kelly Dill – the owner and inventor of SnackTaxi bags, who sent me a starter kit to review on Lucky Taste Buds. Ever since I got ’em, I realized that (A) I don’t pack liquids/wet things in sandwich bags as much as I THINK I do, and (B) I really do enjoy NOT being wasteful! I haven’t used a single plastic ziplock bag once! (No need to buy ’em in the future!)

This mom of 3 started her own business in 2003 to eliminate waste from packing her kids’ lunches!

#1. I’m a sucker for color and adorable designs! There are a million patterns to choose from on their online store.

#2. The bags are a great size! The sandwich sack fits 4 mandarin oranges…

Here are the dimensions to all the bags you can get!

  • snack-sack  6″W x 4.5″H
  • sandwich-sack  7.5″W x 6″H
  • lunch-sack 10″W x 11″H w/ a 3″ bottom
  • bulk/produce bag 10″W (20″ circumference opening) x 18″ L

#3. The fabric of the pouches are thick, durable, and the inside is WATERPROOF!

Jill put a lot of thought into the design of these pouches. While the outside layer is 100% cotton, the inside is made out of nylon with a polyurethane waterproof coating. The nylon is free of heavy metals (like lead), PBB’s, and PBDE’s.

#4: They’re eco-friendly!! Eliminate waste and cut down the cost of buying plastic bags to hold your snacks and lunches.

#5: EASY CLEANING!! You can throw ‘em in the dish washer or run water and soap under the sink straight into the bag!

#6: A great way to support local business – SnackTaxi pouches are made in a home workshop by local sewers in Plainfield Massachusetts!

#7: You get to be creative with the things you pack! Bake homemade treats and bring ‘em to work or school!  Pack cereal or granola with no spillage! It has more padding than a zip-lock, and when you’ve finished what’s inside, simply turn the bag upside down and pat out all the crumbs!

Jill and her baggies were featured on Daily Grommet, so check out the video here and see if there are any designs that float your boat!

If you’d like to order your own adorably awesome pouches, click right HERE for the online SnackTaxi Store!

And if you’d like to win a SnackTaxi sample pack, enter this GIVEAWAY!!!

Prize: You will win a sample pack of 3!

  • 1 Sandwich Sack
  • 1 Snack Sack
  • 1 Twice-As-Nice Napkin

To win:

  • 1 entry – Visit the SnackTaxi website and tell me what your favorite pattern is (mandatory)!
  • 1 entry – Tell me what you’d pack into your eco-friendly SnackTaxi pouches
  • 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 Friday March 26th at Midnight CST!!

Chia Winners!

Thanks to Everyone who participated in the Chia seed giveaway!

These are the 4 winners, selected by the trustee Random Number Generator! (It pays to be #1! ;))

#1: Ellie at Inside I am Still Dancing

#35: Running Kentucky Filly

#70: Kelsea T.

#200: Jodie at Jodie Pilates

Please e-mail me your mailing addresses and phone number ladies! 🙂 Congratulations!!

Barbara’s Bakery PUFFINS Uncensored

***Last Day to Enter the Bob’s Red Mill CHIA Giveaway!!! 4 Winners! Click Here***

After having consumed all Puffin flavors of the Barbar’s Bakery PUFFIN line (yes, on my own dime), I have come to a conclusion that: All puffins are not made equal! (Though all puffins ARE created wheat-free!)

If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s worth it to try all 5 flavors of puffins, these reviews should be perfect for you!

Did you know that Barbara’s Bakery was actually a real bakery started by a 17-year old Barbara back in 1971?? Today, the famous company continues to carry on Barbara’s commitment to create the best-tasting organic and natural products free and clear of artificial preservatives, artificial ingredients, hydrogenated oils, or refined white sugar.

My personal order of favorite flavors:

#1) Multi-grain (I love!)

#2) Peanut Butter

#3) Cinnamon

#4) Original & Honey Rice (Tied for last place! You have better choices dude.)

Let the Reviews Begin.

Multi-grain Puffins – 100% natural whole oats, brown rice and corn.

Ingredients: Corn Flour, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Brown Rice Flour, Whole Oat Flour, Fructan (NutraFlora® Natural Dietary Fiber), Oat Hull Fiber, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Flavor, Baking Soda, Natural Caramel Color, Sea Salt, Ascorbic Acid, Iron, Annatto, Vitamin D, Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols [Soy]).

Tastiness: 9/10. Tear open the box and you are greeted with 4 different colored and sizes of puffins. They each have their unique flavor, but delicious in its own way. I love that these don’t get as large as the peanut butter puffins, but aren’t dry and bland like the original. They are a little powdery on the outside, crunchy, and hold up perfectly in whatever milk you want to soak them in. This is an addictive blend of puffins and doesn’t require any additional mix-ins! (Yes I’m talking to you cereal mixers out there like me!)

Peanut butter Puffins

Ingredients: Corn Meal, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Natural Peanut Butter (Ground Peanuts, Salt), Oat Flour, Rice Flour, Sea Salt, Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols [Soy] Added to Maintain Freshness), Baking Soda.

Tastiness: 8.5/10. My second favorite Puffin flavor, these PB puffins can pass as a dry snack (without milk) thanks to the sweet, rich, ultra peanutty flavor baked into every piece of cereal. (PB lovers heaven!) They’re very powdery and the outsides are coated with a film of what appears to be dried but smooth peanut butter. The cereal itself is ultra crunchy because of the cornmeal “walls”, while the inside is hollow. The cereal itself is rather large and bulky, sadly, the calories add up too quickly with these guys.  They have a hard time soaking into the milk on its own, so I like to mash ‘em up a little and eat them with milk so they’re not as dry. Overall, ultra flavorful, crunchy, but yes a tad too big and on the dry-side.

Original Puffins

Ingredients: Yellow Corn Flour, Corn Bran Flour, Unsulphured Molasses, Oat Flour, Expeller Pressed High Oleic Oil (Canola and/or Sunflower), Salt, Baking Soda, Natural Vitamn E (Mixed Tocopherols [Soy] Added To Maintain Freshness), Vitamin C.

Tastiness: 6.5/10. Sorry original lovers, but despite how light and crispy these Puffins are, I can’t get over the bitter aftertaste. The original puffins are the smallest in size and have ultra thin, crisp “walls” and a hollow interior. While the cereal is lightly sweetened, it doesn’t make your milk sweet, and it has an unfortunate bitter aftertaste. If you can ignore that, this is a great healthy, light-flavored cereal with a great crunch to it. I just wish it had more flavor.

Cinnamon Puffins

Tastiness: 7.5/10. These cinnamon puffins didn’t quite meet my expectation. They are built very much like the original puffins – so, not powdery in texture, more dry, and smaller in size – and hence have the same light crunch. The cinnamon coating addition is what elevates the flavor of the cereal, which will successfully flavor your milk (though not as excessively as I would like)! They are sweet, but not overly so, and definitely a tastier, more flavorful choice over the original flavor to me!

Honey Rice Puffins

Ingredients: Wholegrain Brown Rice Flour, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Rice Bran, Honey, Expeller Pressed High Oleic Oil (Canola and/or Sunflower), Sea Salt, Natural Flavor, Natural Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols [Soy] Added To Maintain Freshness).

Tastiness: 6.5/10. I thought I would fall in love with this flavor, but unfortunately its slightly bitter aftertaste makes this one cereal not to be devoured dry. These puffins are medium in size and very powdery. They soak up milk better than the PB flavor and I did learn to enjoy it when I ate it with sweetened hazelnut milk. The honey flavor was extremely faint, but what I found to be the dominant taste was actually an almond extract-like flavor…and of course ends with some bitterness. I wouldn’t buy this cereal again if I could get any of the other sweet ones!

***

If you’d like more information on puffins, click here to go to the Barbara’s Bakery Website.

P.s. As a hint, I always buy my puffins from Trader Joe’s because they stock the larger boxes of puffins for a lower price than the smaller boxes at Whole Foods or other grocery stores. The catch is that they don’t have ALL flavors! (BOO)

Updated to add: Check out this cool giveaway at Bake it After All!!

CHIA Giveaway(x4) + Cocoa Pumpkin ChiaNola

After walking by the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin granola for the 5th time this weekend, I vowed to myself to STOP vowing to myself that I’d make pumpkin granola….and JUST MAKE IT!!!

I saw Allie’s awesome looking Pumpkin Coconut Pecan Granola pumped up with flax seeds, but all I had was this big bag of CHIA seeds from Bob’s Red Mill (which I won in BRM’s giveaway).

Yup, the brain juices got a churnin’, and let’s just say I’m not 100% ready yet for chia pudding (unless someone makes it yummy for me) but chia granola?? Bring it!

Vegan Cocoa Pumpkin ChiaNola!

Adapted from Pumpkin Pecan Granola II at Live Laugh Eat

I modified the recipe according to what I have in my pantry, but I also wanted to lighten it up and unsweeten it a little…plus add in a favorite mix-in of mine – puffed wheat!

Ingredients:

Dry

  • 2 cups rolled oats (I used 1 cup spelt flakes, 1 cut rolled oats)
  • ¾ cup puffed wheat cereal
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp ground pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (I used Bob’s Red Mill black chia seeds)

Wet

  • 1/4 cup pumpkin butter
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/2 tbsp almond extract
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1/8 cup vanilla almond milk (or another milk/liquid of our choice)

(*Optional*) Ground Mixed nuts or Dried fruit to mix in at the end

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Cover a baking tray/sheet with cookie sheet or foil.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the wet.

3. Mix the wet into the dry and coat evenly.

4. Pour granola mixture on tray and place into oven. Bake 50 minutes on top rack, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure granola doesn’t burn.

5. Remove from oven and toss in nuts/dried fruit. If you’re feeling naughty, drizzle extra agave over the top and mix to coat granola evenly.

Meet Bob’s Red Mill Chia seeds…

Chia is an ancient Grain that is quite possibly the most nutrient-packed seed EVER. It has:

  • Over 5X the calcium of milk
  • More Omega-3 than flax!
  • Contains 3g of protein & 5g dietary fiber in just one 70-calorie tablespoon
  • Is Gluten-free & lactose-free
  • Chia can absorb many times its weight in liquids, giving a feeling of satiety, and hence keeps hunger at bay.
  • You can use chia as a thickener or egg replacer in recipes!

Bob’s Red Mill grows chia by passionate farmers dedicated to sustainable farming methods to produce clean and nutritious chia of the highest quality!

***4 WINNER GIVEAWAY***

PRIZE: 4 winners will receive 1 16oz bag of chia seeds from Bob’s Red Mill!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave me a comment with a Bob’s Red Mill product you’ve never tried but would like to OR your favorite BRM product (1 entry – but mandatory!)
  2. Comment/leave me an idea of how you’d use your chia seeds (1 entry) and if you include a recipe, you get 2 extra entries!
  3. Post about this contest on your blog and leave me a comment that you did. (+3 EXTRA entries!)
  4. TWEET about this giveaway with a linkback to this post (+1 Extra entry)

DID I mentioned odds of winning are HUGE??? Seriously, 4 winners?! (sorry, just had to put that out there)

Giveaway ends Friday March 19th midnight CST!


Sahale Glazed Nuts Uncensored + Giveaway!

*Giveaway is now closed* Winner is: Beth at Biggest Diabetic Loser!

***

Honey Almond, Almond PB&J, and Pomegranate Cashew (top row)Sahale Snacks was founded in 2003 by 2 dudes on a mission to create a sophisticated and convenient healthy snack for busy people using natural whole foods and “culinary Magic” to help busy people snack better.

Sahale Snacks has 2 different nut lines:

1) The Glazed Nuts: Honey Almond, Almond PB&J, and Pomegranate Cashew (top row)

2) Nut Blends: Ksar, Sing Buri, Socorro, Soledad, Valdosta (bottom row)

To find out what the blends are, you might just have to visit the site since I don’t have reviews for them. Here were the few that I got to sample!

Overall, I love  glazed nuts, especially if it’s a little sweet and a little salty. It reminds me of caramel corn for the most part, but Sahale keeps the amount of glaze pretty toned down. To me, the highlights are: the tart dried berries, the super crunchy factor…and of course,  the perfect amount of glaze.

Glazed Nuts Cashews with Pomegranate and VanillaWhole roasted cashews with pomegranate extract and apple, balanced with pure, fragrant vanilla bean.

Was awarded “best Snack Award” by Shape Magazine in July ’09!

Main Ingredients: Cashews, Evaporated Cane Juice, Dried apples, Organic tapioca syrup, brown sugar, natural vanilla extract, sea salt, dried pomegranate, pomegranate juice

Tastiness: 9/10. Out of all the samples, the glazed cashews were my favorite (although almonds are my favorite nut.) This is a crowd-pleasing nut blend with the perfect blend of sweet and tartness, with just a hint of sea salt to bring out the natural nutty flavors. Though the dried pomegranate bits were not as plentiful as I would have liked (because they’re really delicious), the ones that were in there offered a wonderful chewy textural element to the crunchy nuts and a kick of acidity to balance out the sweetness of the glaze.

***

Honey Almond with Cranberries, Honey + Sea Salt

Ingredients: Almonds, Dried cranberries, Organic evaporated cane juice, white sesame seeds, honey powder, organic tapioca syrup, brown sugar, sea salt, organic orange blossom honey, natural vanilla & almond extract, pure ground vanilla beans, natural honey flavor.

(Source)

Tastiness: 7/10. The glazed almonds have a very unique flavor profile – upon first bite, you taste the sweetness of the glaze and a strong almond flavor from the extract. The honey-sugar glaze is not too sweet, and well-enhanced with a generous sprinkling of white sesame seeds. The lasting flavor in your mouth is unmistakably (almost too) salty from the sea salt with a strong nutty, almond aftertaste. The nuts are incredibly crunchy and fresh, but I wish that there was more than 1 withered little cranberry in my packet to balance out the sweet and saltiness with some acidity.

***

Almond PB&J with Peanuts + Berries – Reminiscent of the beloved PB&J sandwich, our whole almonds are paired with peanuts, and complemented with the summertime taste of raspberries and strawberries. Our light glaze adds just the right amount of sweetness.

Major Ingredients: Almonds, Peanuts, Organic evaporated Can Juice, Dried Strawberries, Brown sugar, Dried Raspberry, Natural vanilla extract

Tastiness: 8/10. There was a mixture of almonds and peanuts, unevenly glazed with sweetness (I happen to love the glaze) and two tiny shriveled little chewy berries that I was able to pick out and devour first. In my mini bag, there were 7 almonds and quite a few more peanuts that were in general, less glazed than the almonds. While sweet upon entering the lips, the aftertaste the nuts leave you with is definitely salty. Fresh and crunchy, the nuts are a great snack to tide you over, but I definitely didn’t get the PB&J flavors the packaging promised and wished for more even coatings of glaze on all the nuts.

Retail Price: From $3.29 – $5.29 (Large 4oz bag) at your local grocery store

My Cost: Complimentary from Sahale Snacks

***GIVEAWAY***

THE PRIZE

(Source)

  • 1 Sahale Snacks T-shirt that says, “Who says indulgent can’t be healthy?”

A sampler pack of:

  • Honey Almond glazed nuts,
  • Almond PB&J glazed nuts, and
  • Pomegranate Cashew glazed nuts!!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave me a comment with something you learned about Sahale Snacks from their website. (1 entry – but mandatory!)
  2. Post about this contest on your blog and leave me a comment that you did. (+2 EXTRA entries!)

Giveaway will end Thursday March 9th (Tuesday) at midnight CST!!

The name says it all: Eggsperience Pancakes!

A 24-hour breakfast joint is PERFECT place to dine on a humble weekday evening.

Nick and I stumbled upon the opening of Eggsperience Pancakes and Café on a random stroll in the city one day and we vowed to come back here for dinner. There is something amazingly comforting about eating brunch food for dinner.

Click here for the full menu – Not only are there eggy things, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, Crepes, and benedicts, they also have lunch-type foods like sandwiches, burgers, panini’s, and salads. I won’t be rating Nick’s dish since I didn’t have any, but he said it was “good!” like, the average type of good.

Nick’s Omelette Experience – “The Cook’s Calling”
A meat lover’s dream of diced ham off the bone, bacon and sausage baked with Jack and cheddar cheeses $8.99

All their gourmet omelettes are made with three Grade AA farm fresh eggs and baked in the oven…(I think)…French style. It is offered with hash browns and a choice of toast or pancakes.

Maybe I’m crazy, but DOES THAT look like only 3 eggs to you???

Clearly…you need blueberry pancakes for dinner, not toast! Now that’s a lot of goodness for 1 person, so obviously I helped Nick devour one of ‘em. *note* This is a SIDE to the omelette, not a whole order!! Good deal eh?

Tastiness: A. One of the fluffiest, most blueberry-packed pancakes I’ve ever had at a restaurant! Obviously, there are extra brownie points because they were served with warm maple syrup and extra sweet fresh berries sprinkled on top!!! With the powdered sugar, only a little bit of syrup was needed to make this plate perfect.

Yes, the warm maple syrup needs its own picture because heated syrup is NOT served enough at breakfast joints!!!

My Eggsquisite Benedict – “Lox Bennie”
“An English muffin layered with tomato slices, Nova Scotia lox and poached eggs. Topped off with creamy hollandaise sauce” $9.99

I apologize if the messy ketchup and runny yolk looks off-putting to you…I swear the combination is amazing though.

Tastiness: B+. Of course I asked for sauce on the side! Runny egg yolks are most delicious eaten with tangy ketchup. (No organic ketchup here though. Just the HFCS stuff) the salmon portion was plenty for the price, served warm (not hot nor cold), flavorful, but a little on the greasy side. The muffin was toasted and crispy, and unlike some other benedicts I’ve had, it didn’t get soggy because the chef drained the poached eggs well!

Last but not least, because I am always ready for a heartier dinner…we ordered a salad to share!

California Avocado Chicken Salad
“Featuring sliced char-broiled chicken breast, mango slices, avocado, tomatoes and red onions over baby greens. Served with lime mango vinaigrette” $9.99

Tastiness: A-. As you can see, this giant salad had GIANT pieces of topping. The chef clearly isn’t into slicing food finely, so we got great big bites of tomatoes, avocado, and mango chunks. The chicken breast were seasoned so well and grilled to perfection – not dry AT ALL! The highlight is really the lime mango vinaigrette that made the dish sing. The biggest downside might have been just how spicy the raw onions are…and I definitely think chopping up the tomatoes and mango into smaller pieces would have made the dish better.

RATINGS:

Taste: 3.5/5

Originality: 4/5 (Huge huge menu with some pretty interesting dishes!)

Plating: 3/5

Value: 3.5/5 (Pricing was similar to every other brunch place in Chicago, but big portions on certain dishes helped)

Service: 3/5 (Our waitress got our order perfectly and was polite, but I wouldn’t say she looked thrilled to be working on a Friday night)

Overall – I would totally go back again, especially when I’m craving breakfast for dinner. Such a hearty meal, comforting, and relaxing all at a fair value.

Click here for a location near you (Illinois residents only so far!)

Eggsperience on Urbanspoon

What are YOUR weeknight comfort foods both dining out and staying in??

On a random note, here’s a milky giveaway!

Bootleg Kashi Sesame TLC’s

When I saw these home-baked TLC Crackers on Kristen’s (awesome) blog, I KNEW I had to give them a go. While TLC crackers can be oh-so-delicious, they can become an expensive habit.

While the ingredient list for the real Kashi cracker is…extensive, this recipe only contains only 5 (or 6 if you add sesame seeds). It is really easy to make, you can cut them into any shapes you want, and you can switch up the cracker flavor according to your likings! Here is an adapted recipe from Kristen at Flexy Fare. THANK YOU for such a fantastic recipe, this is definitely a keeper.

Without further ado…

Bootleg Kashi Sesame Almond TLC Cracker

Adapted from Flexy Fare

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3.5 tbsp oil (I used vegetable oil)
  • 1.5 tbsp agave or sugar (I used Wholesome Sweeteners blue agave)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 6 tbsp vanilla almond milk (soy, almond, rice, even yogurt is supposed to work)
  • Sesame seeds* (optional)

1) Mix all ingredients into a dough that is tacky and shiny.

2) Knead dough for 3 mins. Let dough rest for 20 minutes in a bowl, covered with a cloth or towel.

3) Roll dough very thin (~1/2 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface and cut into cracker shapes. Lay crackers on baking tray making sure they don’t overlap.

4) Bake for ~25 minutes at 300 or until your crackers achieve appropriate browning. Then lower temperature to 180 and bake for another 10 minutes if you like your crackers ultra crispy.

My Review: My crackers were seriously on par with kashi’s cracker flavors. The addition of the sesame seeds enhanced the flavors, but I would say that I would add a 2nd grain into the cracker to bump up nuttiness next time. The crackers were a tad more sweet than they were salty, but that’s how I like my crackers. When I rolled out my dough, the sides were thinner than the middle, but I loved how light and crispy the texture came out while the middles pieces were heartier and crunchier. No more buying Kashi crackers for me! Wooo!!

My secret (ingredient) weapons? (Ready for 2 product reviews?!)

1) Silk Vanilla Almond Milk – Silk has their own line of almond milk now and it’s on sale at Safeway till April!

Flavor: B+. Silk almond milk is super thick and creamy, unlike any other almond milk I have ever had. The vanilla flavor is obvious, but not as natural tasting as I hoped for. Both Nick and I agree that this is REALLY sweet, much like all the other sweetened brands of almond milk. For 90 calories a cup, I think this is a creamier substitute to the Blue Diamond brand, but both are just as sweet. Go for unsweetened versions for less calories and sugar.

2) Wholesome Sweeteners Blue Organic Agave – Wholesome sweeteners has a giant line of natural sweeteners from honey, to raw agave, to organic turbinado sugar. They are one awesome company (based in Chicago now!) with healthy, affordable products.

From the WS website: “Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave is a natural sweetener extracted from the core of the Blue Agave plant.

  • Sweet, mild nectar is 25% sweeter than sugar (so more is less!)
  • A perfect multi-purpose sweetener for beverages, fresh fruit and general table-top use
  • Glycemic index of 39 or less; Natural sweetness without the blood sugar spike
  • Blue Agave is non-crystallizing and quick dissolving
  • Blue Agave has a bright sweetness that quickly dissipates. Perfect in baked goods, fresh fruit and smoothies, salad dressings and savory sauces.

Agave Cooking tips:

  • Use as a one-for-one replacement for sugar, then adjust to your own personal taste. (Some chefs prefer to use 75% as much Blue Agave nectar as they would sugar in a recipe, but others prefer a straight 1:1 replacement.)
  • Reduce the other liquids in a recipe by up to 30%.

Cook lower and slower: reduce your baking temperature by about 25 degrees and bake for a little longer.”

*Disclaimer* Wholesome Sweeteners provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it or give is a positive review.

Check out this giveaway awesome giveaway at Lil Veggie Patch!! And another one here at Leslie Loves Veggies! And Missy’s gift card giveaway!

What’s your favorite cracker?


Double-Boiler Slow Cooker BananaNut Oats

What do you do if: You have a 6-Quart slow cooker (read: HUGE cooker for 1 person), and yet you don’t want to make 10 bowls of oatmeal all at once?

Answer: Double-boiler method Slow Cooker/Crock Pot oats!

I used to avoid making steel-cut oatmeal because they take so much time to make, plus you have to baby-sit it while it cooks! I also don’t enjoy having to heat up leftover oats in the microwave because it gets all crusty, so making giant batches is less appealing.

The double-boiler method avoids all this hassle!

I did a TON of research on how to do this right, and now, I love how easy, convenient, and FRESH my oatmeal is in the morning.

The Weapon: The slow cooker that I used is a 6-Quart Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker from CSN Cookware. It is AWESOME.

Without further ado, let’s jump in to the How-To’s!

1) Throw together your Oatmeal ingredients into a beautiful heat-proof bowl (ceramic and pyrex bowls work well!)

My Ingredients (feel free to modify to your liking):

–          ¼ cup steel cut oatmeal (I used McCann’s)

–          1 cup water

–          ¼ cup hazelnut milk (Optional)

–          ½ chopped banana

Some people prefer to “grease” their bowl with some butter or oil to prevent crusty edges, but my oats didn’t have this problem without the oil.

2) Take a strip of aluminum foil and curl it into a circle so the bottom of your bowl sits on top of it firmly to create a hollow “padding”. (This is a safety precaution to protect the crock pot. I’ve read the pot can crack if there isn’t anything between the outer pot and the bowl inside)

3) Secure your bowl on top of the foil. Make sure it’s sturdy. Pour water into the space between the pot and the bowl inside. (I fill it up till the level of water is comparable to the liquid level inside the oatmeal bowl)

4) Cover the pot with the lid. Switch slow cooker to “Low” and let it cook overnight.

5) Exactly 8 hours later, this is what my oatmeal looks like! I didn’t have to stir the ingredients in any way throughout the entire cooking process.

In the morning, top with anything your heart desires! Nuts, berries, frozen fruit, peanut butter, cereal, yogurt…just top it!

So to re-cap Why I love Slow Cooker Oatmeal:

–          Wake up to evenly cooked, hot oatmeal daily

–          Zero Breakfast prep time in the AM!

–          No need to wash POTS!! (Just the bowl your oatmeal is in!)

–          No need to stand over a stove 20 minutes at a time

Now, if you don’t have a slow cooker but you DO have a rice cooker, simply use the same recipe but reduce cooking time down to…something like 20 minutes for my Taiwanese Ta Tung rice cooker!

If you’re interested, it sells on New Egg for $60 bucks. I carried mine all the way from Asia. 😛

With this rice cooker, things are a little messier…but you don’t have to watch the oats, and steel cut oatmeal is DONE in less than 20 minutes.

If you’re patient enough to let it cool and thicken up, you can pack ’em away into little bento boxes to bring to school or work!

Ta Da!!!

Don’t you wanna try the slow cooker method now?

How do YOU cook your oats? Any secret recipes or gadgets you’d like to share? 🙂

Restaurant Review: Desserts at Tru

I guess Tru is a semi-big deal in Chicago because it is  ranked a four-star Mobil, five-diamond AAA, Relais & Chateaux Relais-Gourmand restaurant…and their executive pastry chef Gale Gand is a considered a celebrity.

I have yet to come to Tru for a full-out 6 or 12-course dinner, but the 3-course set Dessert Menu ($40 per person) wreaks enough havoc on my wallet. Check out the full menu here. And so the desserts begin!

To start

We were offered a complimentary amuse bouche. Essentially, it was A Grapefruit mouse served with a grapefruit sauce, white tapioca pearls, and topped with a fried mint leaf.

Tastiness: B+. An excellent way to start, this was refreshing, not too sweet, fruity and light. The fried mint leaf was unique and I actually liked the grapefruit mousse thought I’m normally not a huge fan of grapefruit itself.

First Course

Nick’s: Star anise semifreddoPomelo, ruby grapefruit, honey sponge, fennel con­t

Tastiness: B. I wasn’t impressed with the semi-freddo, which should have been like an ice-cream cake, but the texture was more mousse-like than creamy and dense. Funny enough, my favorite part was the little fruit segments…probably the cheapest and “easiest” component of the dish.

Michelle’s: Lime + blueberry “vacherin”- Cinnamon chiboust, pan-fried buttermilk cake

Tastiness: B+. The buttermilk cake was the best part, particularly the different textures of the layers – soft and cake-like on the top while crunchy on the bottom. The vacherin was more dense and sweeter than I expected, but enjoyable! Creamy and sweet. Despite how  cute white sugar rod was, it didn’t add ANYTHING to the dish.

To Share

A complimentary plate of tiny vanilla butter Madeleine’s

Tastiness: B-. While the flavor was great (can’t go wrong with butter, sugar, and vanilla right?), I found the little cakes over-baked, dry, and cold. They had a good texture – a little chewy, dense yet airy, but a very unremarkable Madeleine.

Second Course

Nick’s: Chocolate barCoffee ice cream, burnt caramel mousse, malted caramel

Tastiness: A. I wanted to eat all of Nick’s dessert after that first bite. The slightly bitter coffee ice-cream went extremely well with the dense chocolate “cake” that was more like ganache than cake. The entire dish screamed chocolate!!! The chef was able to control the sweetness level well, and this was an overall beautiful and successful dish.

Michelle’s: Plum + sarsaparillaMilk chocolate, ginger-lime meringue

Tastiness: C+. Great for diets because I didn’t want to finish this dish. I was not a fan of this dish at all and probably wouldn’t have finished it if it didn’t cost so much. The only thing that was minutely interesting was the sheet of sugar on top hardened with pepper bits inside. The dish was unmemorable and the texture combination of all the ingredients were awkward at best. You have the soft, stewed fruit (which you can’t go wrong with), and you have the overly tough “cookie” topped with an average-tasting milk chocolate. I wanted Nick’s dish. Period.

Third Course

Nick’s: Grapefruit gratin (Not listed on the Menu)

Tastiness: A-. The gratin was so incredibly refreshing and delicious I wanted to eat it all. Unlike most gratins, this one was so smooth it was like ice-cream. The other elements of the dish were cold refreshing ice-cream scoops that had their own citrus kick to it. Served with the stewed plums…it was pretty much perfect.

Michelle’s: Gianduja Soufflé spiced pumpkin ice cream, hazelnut, roasted pepitas

Tastiness: A. This was a chocolate soufflé served with a side of pumpkin ice-cream. However, the highlight was the creamy hazelnut sauce that the waiter poured into the center of the soufflé…The best way to eat this is dumping the ice-cream into the soufflé! That way, you get the cold and the hot, the creamy and pillowy, the nutty and the fruity. Clearly, my favorite dish.

Dessert after Dessert

A rolling trolley full of bite-sized desserts was wheeled to our table after our 3-course dessert “meal”. I thought we’d get to pick a couple, but the waiter simply explained what each pastry was, and then proceeded to collect 1 of every piece for each of us.

Clockwise: Lemon marshmallow (Yum!!), Crystallized Ginger, Gingerbread French Macaroon (I requested 2 because I am obsessed with macaroon’s), Chocolate lollipop (ick – the only thing I didn’t finish), Espresso Chocolate, Almond Chocolate, Chocolate-dipped brioche (ick- gave mine to Nick),

RATINGS

Taste: 4/5

Plating: 5/5

Originality: 5/5

Value: 3/5

Service: 4.5/5

Overall, it was a fabulous first experience to taste desserts of so many different textures, temperatures, and unexpected flavors all on one dish. On the other hand, no matter how beautiful something looks, high quality chocolate will always taste like chocolate and ice-cream will always taste like ice-cream. It’s the unique pairings and the experience that is worth going to.

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