Snacktime: Broth Concentrate

This may seem like a strange snacktime post but I have to say that sometimes a warm cup of broth can be the best thing. A lot of my meal prep and planning go into making certain that I have healthy meals in a certain calorie level. I watch my proteins and my carbs as well when I am planning. This way I get the nutrients that i need and generally my food tastes pretty good.

However because the work week is so hectic and lunchtime so short, there is often a craving for something deeper. Here is where the concentrates really help out. A broth concentrate is basically a flavorful broth that has been boiled down to a gel like consistency.

You can buy them in boxes like this one pictured in a variety of flavors, including vegetarian ones). My personal favorite is the pho Chicken Broth Concentrate. There are not only a variety of flavors but a variety of brands. To be honest i really haven’t found that much difference in taste between the less and more expensive ones. This one happened to be on sale at the grocery store around the corner so I stocked up. I think typically the box sells for around $1.50 and contains four packets.

While I will for a dinner, dilute this into a stock pot and add all the delicious veg and noodles making it a full meal, I often find this is good as either a snack or a lunch time on the go. I take an insulated thermos and pour boiling water over the concentrate, stir and pop on the lid. I find my Teami mug perfect for this actually. It is made for tea but it works really well for broth.

Sipped slowly this broth feels far more filling than it actually is. One packet has only 25 calories. It feels like it should have at least a hundred more. It does have a high salt content so I do then to limit consumption to once a week at most and on the days when I drink it i tend to add several extra cups of water to my personal daily intake level.

For me soup has always had a comforting element to it. I think because the best soups seem to take all day to simmer. For me this is a way to get that comfort with out a lot of extra calories added to the day’s diet. It is also a good way to liven up a dinner that requires broth. While I always watch the salt content, for the occasional comforting snack or lunch break, this is a very good option to have on hand.



Weekly Weight: April No Scale Continues

Today I was actually relieved not to have to get on the scale. We had company last weekend and to be good hosts we brought in things we normally wouldn’t have in the house. Much of the week we have been dealing with left overs just to clear them out of the pantry. One of the things I have noticed though is the sugar intake.

I long ago cut out sodas from my normal day. We will keep a six pack of mini ginger ales in the cabinet, but to be honest, a six pack will last several months and then more than likely one can will be incorporated into a Friday night cocktail (Sometimes even a mocktail I really like taking one of those cans pouring it into a glass and adding a drop of sour cherry syrup to it and calling that my Friday Cocktail.)

We had three 12 can (regular sized) boxes on hand for company. My baby took one box to work just for meetings. I had a couple earlier in the week because they were there but after I realized the sugar was affecting me and my sleep patterns, i stopped drinking it. It is one of those things I simply don’t think about any more. People talk about how sugary drinks are bad for diets, but since I rarely indulge I focus more on salt and fat when I think about diets. Also my big weakness is cheese rather than chocolate so I know I can walk away from the sweets more easily than the savory.

It also helps that we don’t bring it into the house. But this week it was there. and because it was just there I indulged. I had one of those moments where I realized how much grocery shopping affects my diet. Simply put, you can’t eat what isn’t in the house. I know that sounds like a foolish statement to make but it was really brought home to me this week. This week I ate things simply because they were there. Why bother to add a little flavoring to water if the soda is right there taking up space? Why cut up celery sticks if there is a bag of chips right there? Do I know the other stuff is better for me? Of course, but the other stuff can be consumed with no effort or thought. And since we prepared things for company instead of preparing snacks and other things for the week, I hadn’t helped myself out by doing the prep work early like i usually do.

It was a bad week for food, but an eye opening one. even when you realize that what you by matters, sometimes you just need a hard reminder that you are the gatekeeper. You are the one who decides what to bring into the house and you are the one who ultimately decides what you will eat based on what you bring into the house. I knew that. Of course I knew that. But sometimes, it is really good to have that hard reminder. This week more than anything else, that was what I got. Sometimes, I just need things spelled out for me.

Hopefully it helps you too if you are on a similar get healthy journey with weight loss.

Kitchen Kit: The Coffee Press

I know, some of you are thinking, ‘But Mimsy I don’t drink coffee.’ I know, and I got you. I am a huge coffee fan and quite honestly I do love a cup of French press coffee.

And I will admit, I bought my first French Press because I had a cup of French Press Coffee and not only thought it tasted good, I thought it looked cool. and I do love a bit of cool Kit. I have several coffee presses and I will tell you that this is one of my favorites because it comes completely apart for easy cleaning, however the truth is i like the orange.

For those who have never used a French Press, You grind your coffee and place it in the bottom of the glass carafe. You then pour boiling water and let it steep (generally around four minutes) then you lower the plunger. The press pushes the grounds to the bottom while leaving the coffee clear and free to pour. The inside lid of my coffee press has a divot cut out for easy pouring. Most do. it should turn so you can keep the heat in while you brew and then turn to dispense. (at the bottom of the page is a diagram with measurements and timing if you are interested.)

I know, not an earth shattering revelation.

Prior to this I only had drip coffee (this was quite some years ago). I loved that i could play around with the strength of the coffee by altering the time I let it steep and adjusting the grind of the coffee. But most importantly I found i could adjust the flavor by adding things to the grind. I believe a cinnamon stick went first. I remember cardamom pods went second and then the third time i tried it, I combined both the cinnamon stick and the cardamom pods.

I played around with different additives for my coffee and then I finally thought, what about things other than coffee? i started playing around with beverages. There were things that needed to be boiled like blueberry simple syrup. I made the simple syrup, added the berries to the caraffe and let them steep then lowered the plunger. I also made cold things. I took out the plunger added a bunch of fresh black berries, filled the caraffe with gin and covered the top with plastic wrap. I sat it in the fridge for a week, took it out and used the plunger to seperate the blackberries from the gin. I actually tend to make that almost every summer so we can use it for cocktails.

However, once my brain switched out of ‘this is a coffee press’ mode, the world was my oyster. As long as the world fit into the coffee press.

the three pieces of the machine

While I love making coffee with my coffee press, my favorite thing to do is to use the press to adapt store bought stock. Chicken stock from a reputable brand is fine, but often it tastes very one note. It honestly tastes like chicken, which is what it should taste like. And Veg stock can often just sort of taste like salty water that might once have been near some vegetables.

But boiling up the stock and putting it into the coffee press with crushed ginger, a crushed garlic clove, lemon zest and some bruised rosemary turns it into something else.

Once you have let it steep you lower the plunger and keep all of the added bits in the bottom of the carafe while the delicious, freshly infused stock, tailored perfectly to your taste and your dish, is poured out and ready for you to use. You don’t have to wonder if someone is going to bite down on a chunk of ginger or garlic, or suddenly find themselves flossing with a bit of rosemary.(Although rosemary is sneaky, I suggest leaving it on the stem and using the back of your knife to bruise the leaves so they let out the oils into the liquid but stays as a branch.)

In my house we keep a couple of different coffee presses. We have both metal and plastic ones. Part of why we have multiples is that I had a couple and my babydoll had a couple and then when we combined houses we had many. This carafe is glass and the plunger is metal which doesn’t tend to keep flavors and if it seems like it isn’t getting clean enough by hand, we put it in the dishwasher which takes anything off of the metal, especially on sanitation mode. My babydoll thinks that the plastic of the carafe (which I don’t send through the dish washer) I use for stock smells like herbs, so we have a separate one so the coffee is never rosemary scented.

I have had to replace the glass carafe and places like Grosche International do carry the glass carafe separately. They also sell replacement plungers if yours has reached the end of it’s life. I know we had to replace a plunger on another one we have a while back. I keep thinking i will purchase a new one at some point, but honestly they are such a simple mechanism that if you take care of them they will last for a really long time.

Personally, I consider this one of my essential Kitchen tools. While I love it for coffee, it is a true multitasker. even if you don’t drink coffee, I would urge you to look into picking one up and playing around with it. they are fairly inexpensive models out there and they are versatile enough that I think they easily earn a place in even a non-coffee drinker’s kitchen.

Although if you are using your coffee press to make coffee, this helpful image from Grosche International has all the measurements and timing you need.

best french press

Happy Hour: Blue Cheese Bacon Bread

Ah my darlings, Friday is nearly complete. The work week is done and soon the feet will be clad in fuzzy socks and propped up on the footstool. My baby and I will finally have the chance to sit down together and unwind.

Getting back to work after the holidays was especially hard this year as the bad weather hit just as we were starting to get back to the normal daily grind. Even though it was January, we were previously having 70 degree days so ice storms and snow fall took everyone by surprise. It also delayed projects, rescheduled appointments and a host of other things. For both of us this week was all about catching up and getting things back on track. We both had a lot of late nights this week.

Which makes the Friday wind down extra special. Tonight’s treat is Blue Cheese Bacon Bread. Each week I make a loaf of regular bread to be used for sandwiches throughout the week. This week I doubled the recipe used one half to make the regular loaf and the other to make the blue cheese bacon one. The recipe list is the single one with the ingredients for one loaf. This bread does freeze really well though. Just let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and then add a layer of tin foil and it will keep well in the freezer. when you want to use it take it out and let it thaw completely before using. We tend to take the loaves out in the morning before work and then they are ready by dinnertime.

What I like about the recipe is that it is easy to do when working from home. There is about ten minutes of activity, then a forty five minute waiting period. Then another five minutes of activity, with another forty five minute rest followed by a forty five minute bake. I like to use it to focus on activities. For example i had a couple of tasks I was putting off so I took one forty five minute wait and one task and tried to finish it before I had to go back to the kitchen. Then when I returned I took down another task I’d been putting off. It is kind of a nice way to clear off things i’d been putting off doing. Plus I get a delicious treat at the end of it.

pulling away from the sides in the mixer

Ingredients

3 cups AP flour + pinch

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 Tablespoon yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 cup milk, room temp (I like to put it in the microwave for 15 seconds to take the fridge chill off rather than leaving it out)

1/2 tsp sugar + pinch

1 Tablespoon Honey

1 Table spoon salt

half a cup of cooked bacon crumbled (you can use store bought bacon bits if you don’ want to cook bacon, just get the ones that look like real pieces of bacon (mostly for texture)

half a cup of blue cheese crumbles

Steps:

piled in the center before folding in.
  • stir the yeast together with the 3/4 cup of water and add the pinch of sugar and pinch of salt to the mix (to feed the yeast) Set it in a warm place until it is foamy (10-15 min)
  • If using a stand mixer, using the dough hook: Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of the mixer. When the yeast is foamy add the entire bowl of yeast mix to the flour, then add the milk, melted butter and honey. Turn the mixer on the lowest speed for 3 minutes while the dry and wet ingredients come together. When it no longer looks like flour will fly everywhere, increase the speed just a little bit (for mind it is no higher than three lines and well below medium speed. You are bringing your dough together not beating it into submission). When it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides, turn the mixer off.
  • If mixing by hand, once your yeast is foamy combine everything except the blue cheese and the bacon into a bowl and bring it together to form a ball.
  • If your dough ball is sticky, regardless of mixer or no mixer mixing, dust it with a little bit of flour and knead it just until it comes together to form a smooth ball.
  • Lightly grease a bowl (I tend to just use a spray bottle of oil on the bowl from my stand mixer) and put the dough in the bowl. Cover and let sit for 45 minutes.
  • After 45 min, come back, take your ball of dough out of the mixer (If making regular bread with no flavorings (i.e. bacon and blue cheese) then just put the dough into a well greased bread pan, cover and let sit for 45 min.) For the blue cheese and bacon bread. put the risen dough on a floured work surface and stretch it out as though you were making a pizza (don’t throw it in the air, just stretch on the table and try not to press too much air out. put the blue cheese and bacon crumbles in the center. fold the sides over the fillings, covering them completely. Knead the dough a few times to work the blue cheese and bacon into the dough. Then you can either put it in a loaf pan or make a free formed size on a greased sheet pan. Cover and let sit for 45 min.
  • Just before the 45 min rest is over, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.
  • When the 45 minute rest is done, put the loaf in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. When it sounds hollow as out tap it with a knife, it is ready to be removed.
all rolled up, slashes in the top so it looks nice when it comes out

Without fillings, this makes a really good white sandwich bread. The fillings are of course your own choice. Try to go for fillings that don’t have a lot of moisture in them and you can’t go wrong. we often turn this loaf into cheddar and jalapeno bread or walnut and fig. It also makes great cinnamon and raisin bread. If you are going to start adding wet ingredients, reduce the amount of water you use with the yeast to keep it from getting soggy or cook out some of the moisturize from the ingredients. When I use this bread recipe for a mushroom, sage and onion bread, I cook both the mushrooms and onions ahead of time to reduce the moisture so that i can leave the recipe as it is.

the final loaf

Tonight I used blue cheese and bacon and I will pair it with a nice crisp hard apple cider. I find it pairs well with the blue cheese and cuts through the fattiness of the bacon. Sometimes I will even serve this bread with crisp slices on granny smith apple on top. It makes a great snack as well as a happy hour treat. Whatever you do tonight, I hope you take some time to rest and regroup and just allow yourself the space to breath. Have a great weekend.

Creatives to Promote Hint Still

The Daily: November 23rd, 2021

Ah my darlings, another day, another bake. Today is kind of interesting. While I am making pies tomorrow, today I am making pound cake. It is kind of interesting and something I didn’t realize until this year. While my family has many really good cooks, we only have a few bakers. All of the other bakers in the family are older than me and have sadly died off.

Which leaves me.

Last year we didn’t go back for Thanksgiving. Well we didn’t actually go anywhere actually. Apparently there were no deserts at the table. At Christmas someone remembered to pick up a pie from the store, but at Thanksgiving the baking wasn’t on anyone’s to do list, since i wasn’t coming. I think that might be why there was such a request this year. And not just bakes. I made the rum balls yesterday and this afternoon while I the cake is baking, I will be making Chocolate espresso truffles. I’ll post the recipe down below for anyone interested. I know it is kind of strange adding the recipes where the makeup usually goes, but at this time of year I find that having a few quick and easy recipes you can make ahead of time and just have out for guests when they arrive makes entertaining so much easier. with these, you can make them a few days ahead and keep them in the fridge. They actually taste better if they have been allowed to sit and have the flavors mingle and meld a bit better, so getting them done early, not only clears them out of the way, but it is better for the flavor. Don’t you love when things like that work out?

Chocolate Espresso Truffles

Makes 50 truffles

12 oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate chopped

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 T instant espresso powder dissolved in 1T boiling water

(Optional – 2 T Sambuca)

1 cup cocoa powder for coating

In a double boiler melt the chocolate with the butter cream and coffee. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat. If adding stir in the Sambuca. Cool and chill in a covered bowl for at least three hours. Scoop out and form rounded balls. Roll the balls in cocoa powder.


What I like about this is that you can easily play around with flavors. If you decide chocolate and coffee isn’t your thing, take out the expresso and replace it with maraschino cherry liquid instead. You can add alcohol in or not as is your preference. When we have parties, I often end up using the tail ends of flavored liquors in the truffles. Fruit, nut or coffee flavored liquors work well but so do Bourbons and whiskeys. what is important isn’t if they are alcoholic or not, but that you pay attention to your ratios. If you add too much liquid, whether it is Irish whiskey or orange juice, it will throw off the texture. So take the measurements and play around with flavors. A word about fruit juices though. The flavor tends to dull down in the chocolate, so if you are using orange juice as your liquid, grate in some orange zest as well to punch up the flavor. Since it isn’t a liquid it won’t throw off the ratios and it will really make the flavor pop.

And it is easy to make different flavors at the same time, just split the mix and melt the chocolate separately with the individual flavors. If you don’t have a double boiler, just put a bowl over a pot of boiling water, just make certain the bowl is bigger than the pot (but not a huge amount bigger) You don’t want the bowl floating in the boiling water and you don’t want the pot so small that only a small part of the bottom curve gets heated. Or you could just pick up a double boiler. For a long time my only stove top pots were a set that was part of a double boiler set. The bottom could be used as a regular pot, he top pot could either be used separately or as the double boiler and there was a steamer basket for veg as well. So even though it sounded fancy, it ended up being really versatile. I think 360 Cookware has a set like it in their cookware section.

I know having one saved me a lot of space with cookware because it was not only versatile but it stored stacked up in one easy tower. I’ve lived in some rather small apartments in my life. It was practical for cooking and saved space. It has long since worn out though. I really need to replace it. It is on the list. We’ve reached the stage in cookware with a lot of items needing replacement. But that is a new year’s goal this year. For now, we use what we have. And possibly take advantage of sales.

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Happy Hour: Cheese plate and planning

Hello my darlings. I know I have skipped a few happy hour posts lately and to be honest the next few weeks these posts are going to be more about more than just treats for myself and my babydoll. With so many gatherings there are treats to take with me to other places and easy entertaining recipes that don’t take a lot of time or money to put together.

Tonight’s happy hour is more of a planning session for me and my babydoll. Not that we both won’t enjoy putting out feet up and having a little treat. Tonight’s treat is a glass of beer that my babydoll made himself. It is quite delicious and quite frankly I chose this glass because everything feels fancier when sipped from it. Plus, I really like the way this particular beer smells and the shape of the glass seems to sort of capture the scent and funnel it directly to the nose, which I really like.

To go with the beer we are doing a simple cheese with crackers (and a few late season cherries. I was quite surprised the store had them and honestly they aren’t the best but I like a little fruit with my cheese so we are using them up.). I like water crackers as they have less of a competing flavor when paired with the cheese.

The cheese is actually a truffle goat cheese ordered from the igourmet cheese shop. They have a really great selection. I don’t think the truffled goat is still available at the moment although they do have quite the selection if you are looking to build a holiday cheese board. Since we will always use the goat’s cheese we tend to order extra and freeze what we don’t use right away. Because of the texture and moisture content goat’s cheese tends to freeze really well.

While we are having it plain with crackers tonight, I love putting it into my roasted beet salad. I roast and peel the beets and then use a mandolin to slice them super thin. Then I layer beets, crumbles of goats cheese, walnuts and a little bit of fresh sage in a small roasting pan, like you are layering a lasagna actually. Then I put it in the over at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes to get the cheese soft and oozy (it won’t fully melt like other cheeses so just look for warm and soft with all of the beet layers warmed through).

The earthy truffle pairs well with the beets and the tang of the goat cheese and fresh herbs help lift it up a bit. The walnuts are both a bit earthy and they have that slightly bitter element as well as adding crunch. It is a bit messy to eat and the cheese does turn a bit pink, but it is absolutely delicious. You can make it sweeter by using golden beets instead of red ones, but I personally like the dark red beets with this.

If you are looking to do super simple entertaining, you can also get pre made holiday platters from igourmet. They have pre made plates if you don’t want to choose your own elements or a selection of elements if you are looking to create your own. Where I live sometimes the foods I want aren’t easy to come by so ordering from a reputable company like this really helps. They also have various food based subscriptions and gift baskets if you are looking for gifts for food lovers. We have never had any problems with anything we have ordered from the, the quality is great, the variety is good and even with all that is going on the shipping has still been really good.

They are actually on the list of things my babydoll and I need to discuss tonight. While we will be bringing several things to other people’s houses as our contribution to the gathering, we will also be hosting our own gatherings in the near future. My babydoll looks at this as a way to get all the delightful treats that we don’t usually indulge in so we will be looking at not only my recipes but things to order in. No doubt there will be much perusing of both the igourmet website and the Vital Source website. (we tent to order our seafood from them and we are running low on salmon at the moment).

there will of course be some debate as the things my babydoll wants are usually about three times as many as we actually need. Tonight however is just the listing of desires. It can be as long a list as he wants to make it. We’ll save the paring down to a non-Friday night conversation. So tonight I will nibble my cheese coated cracker, sip my beer and watch my babydoll’s eyes twinkle at the delicious list for feasting.

Paired down reality can wait for a few days.

I hope whatever you are doing tonight, you are planning to have a fantastic evening and an excellent weekend.



Happy Hour: Mushroom and Onion Puff Pastry Bites

This week there will be little drinking. My babydoll is still trying to knock out a sinus infection and my allergies are making under eye patches more appealing than cocktails. I generally find that when my allergies are acting up the best thing for them is to drink as much water as possible in an attempt to flush my system.

So tonight’s delightful beverage of choice is from HINT water. While I adore the blackberry, tonight I went with pomegranate and I rather like it. It has a hint of sweet, a hint of tart and is quite refreshing. I also poured it into a stemless champagne flute (Rachel Zoe Collection from TJMAXX if you are interested). It makes any drink feel fancy.

And to be honest our Friday night Happy Hour is more about resting and regrouping together at the end of the work week than it is about having a cocktail. The cocktail is just a nice way to celebrate and slow down. But quite honestly, the Pomegranate Hint Water in my pretty glass is plenty fine for me to sip tonight.

And I get to pair it with a super simple treat that always feels like I spent way more effort on it than I actually did. This is a super easy treat that is just plain yummy. The ingredients list is short.

Ingredients:

One red onion, diced

8 ounces of button mushrooms, diced

1 Tablespoon of fresh sage leaves, minced

1-2 Tablespoons of butter (i use unsalted butter)

1 sheet of puff pastry

salt to taste

Okay are you ready for the cook? First dice and chop all of your ingredients. The melt one tablespoon of butter in a pan and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Use medium heat and cook until they are soft. You can go all the way to caramelized if you want, but I generally find red onions to be sweet enough without caramelizing. If I use a yellow onion I take the onions to a caramelized state.

If the pan is dry add another table spoon of butter and add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until the are brown and have released the juices.

You may notice that I have used two pans. You don’t need to do this. The onions take longer but you can add the mushrooms in once the onions start to look translucent. I just started my onions in a non-stick skillet by accident. Mushrooms won’t brown in a non-stick skillet. They will cook, but they won’t brown. That is the only reason that i cooked them separately.

Once the mushrooms are almost done, add in the sage leaves. You want them in the pan just long enough to release their oils. If you start them with the mushrooms then by the end they get a little sour and overly medicinal. So just toss them in towards the end and let them just release the oils.

Take out your onion mushroom and sage mix out of the pan and let cool. I put my mix in a strainer so that any excess liquid comes out but really there isn’t much liquid that remains. It is mostly so it cools faster.

Once cooled, cut your puff pastry into squares (or circles or stars or whatever shape you want). Place a spoon of your mix on the pastry and seal it up into a little triangle, or make it like a ravioli, or a dumpling. The shape is up to you, just make sure it is sealed. Then place the parcels on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 until golden brown and crispy.

my puff pastry got a little warm so my squares are a bit wonky. They may not look perfect, but they taste lovely

While this is a basic recipe, feel free to play around with it. Sometimes we add goats cheese to this mix. Sometimes I’ll make them sweet with a filling of mascarpone and apricot jam. It is one of those super simple tricks that make an easy happy hour treat, or canape for drop by guests. The trick is always to make sure that your filling is not too wet. I also like to use cooked fillings so that all I need in the oven is time to brown the puff pastry.

And actually if you make too many of these, they freeze really well. Just don’t cook the once you plan to freeze. Fill the puff pastry and then freeze them flat. Once full frozen, put them in a bag. Then when you take them out, thaw in the fridge and bake.

Whatever your end of the week looks like, I hope you take a few minutes to just slow down and spend time just to enjoy a few moments of peace.

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Snacktime: Verb Energy Blueberry Crisp

Welcome to another snack time trial. I recently ordered a four pack of Verb Energy bars to try out. I ordered the trial pack because I liked the idea. A small snack that has a hit of caffeine sounded like a really good idea. And when I looked at the ingredients list it listed all things I have no problem consuming. And so I ordered the pack.

This is the second flavor from the trial pack that I’ve tried and it is labeled Blueberry Crisp. The full sized pouch (which the link will take you to should you be interested) is $19.95 for 12 bars. So it comes to about $1.66/1.67, which isn’t too bad. each bar is a serving and it has 90 calories. So in general it fits into the snacking calorie range for me.

I know I’ve mentioned this before but I find a snack in the afternoon does keep me from overeating at dinnertime. It is one of my favorite diet tricks. And I am fairly lenient on those snacks. As long as the calorie count stays within range I can use the snack as an indulgent moment. So if I am craving chocolate I can have a square of Dove Chocolate as my snack. Sometimes I need something that feels far more substantial than it is and for that Chomps Sticks are fantastic because they are also in the 70-90 calorie range but give you the feeling of sinking your teeth into something far more substantial.

As a dessert I love blueberry crisp. And the ingredients in this led me to think the flavor profile might be similar.

Ingredients: Gluten-Free Oats, Organic Agave, Almonds, Organic Crisp Brown Rice, Maple Sugar, Blueberries, Organic Quinoa, Vanilla Extract, Natural Flavors, Organic Green Tea Caffeine, Pink Himalayan Salt

I have to be honest. I hated this blueberry crisp energy bar. First off it is very dry. I had that same problem with the first of the trial pack I tried but i thought the fruit might help. Like that first one , this bar broke a it came out of the package. The texture of the almonds in the bar is nice, it gave it a bit of crunch. That is the only nice thing I have to say about this. It tasted like the filling from a very stale fig newton that was rolled in oatmeal dust. I got the crunch of almost and a bit of oat flavor and then some generic ‘fruit’ flavor that tasted very stale. The only reason I said stale fig newton is because of the color. If I closed my eyes and took a bite then I couldn’t identify the fruit. To call it blueberry is actually an insult to blueberries.

To be honest, I couldn’t finish it.

cross section

The first one I tried (the salted Peanut butter) wasn’t bad. Just a little too salty for me. The other two I have to try are Peppermint Mocha and Double Chocolate. Given the ingredients lists for those I think they will have a similar texture, but I think that the flavor profiles may work better with those textures than the blueberry crisp. I think the blueberry as a fruit was just too subtle for the mix of everything else they put into this bar and it simply didn’t work. At least not for me.

I really hate that I have so little positive to say about this but I just did not find it enjoyable. I have my fingers crossed for the next two bars though as I think the flavor combinations should be enough to make the bars taste like their labels. Butt for now, for me, this Blueberry Crisp is an utter failure as an afternoon snack. I am throwing away the rest of the bar and slicing an apple. It may not have the caffeine, but it has the calorie count, a great deal of good fiber and it will take the taste of this energy bar out of my mouth.



Home Happy Hour: Sweet and Spicy Salmon

Normally this would be a post dedicated to a cocktail and a small pre-dinner nibble. It is usually the indulgence that my babydoll and I have at the end of the week when looking to unwind. Sometimes the cocktail is a non-alcoholic one and sometimes it has alcohol in it. It really just depends on the mood of the day. The point is to take a moment to breathe and just unwind at the end of the week.

Today however is a little different. This evening we have someone coming over to look at the computer (and hopefully fix it’s issues) so we are skipping the happy hour. We will probably have a glass of wine together later, but I thought that I would just post about the quick and easy dinner I am putting together.

I’m guessing since you saw the title you know that it is Sweet and Spicy Salmon. I used to be really intimidated about cooking fish because i was so worried about over cooking it. This is one on those super simple recipes that is really hard to mess up, so if you have that fish intimidation factor, take a deep breath, let it out slowly and let’s begin.

everything but the fish into the bowl once in, stir- easy peasy

Ingredients

2 portions of Salmon

1/4 tsp garlic salt

1 T soy sauce

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 T red pepper flakes (you can adjust depending on how spicy you like your food – the 1 T will give just a mild heat to the fish)

Okay now that we know are ingredients, let’s put together the super simple cook. Ready?

  • Mix all of the ingredients other than the fish, together in a bowl. Taste the marinade and adjust seasonings (pre fish). The salt and spice are just what we use but you can adjust for your palate. If not spicy enough add more red pepper. If too salty add a little more maple syrup.
  • When they are mixed together, put the fish into the bowl.
  • Roll the fish around to cover the fish with the marinade. (then wash your hands)
  • Put the bowl in the fridge for fifteen minutes.
  • After fifteen minutes go back to the bowl, flip the fish over in the marinade and put it back in the fridge for another fifteen minutes. (wash your hands)
  • Pre-heat the over to 400 F
  • Take the bowl with the fish out of the fridge. Lay the fish in a glass baking pan skin side up (if you have skin on your fish) and pour the remaining marinade over the fish
  • Place the pan on a center rack and bake for 20 minutes.

The fish will be cooked at that time, but the skin will not be crispy if you are cooking it with the skin on. If you want crispy skin then you will need to shift it to cook under the broiler for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Watch it though since you don’t want to over cook the fish with the broiler. I tend to like the crispy skin but my babydoll will peel the skin off no matter what level of crisp it has on it. what I have taken to doing lately is when the Salmon comes out of the oven, I have a hot pan waiting. I take the skin off and crisp it in the pan really quickly, then add it back to the top like a cracker. That is when we use salmon with a skin. Often we don’t.

Tonight I am making couscous with peas to go with the salmon. Mostly because we have couscous and frozen peas in the house. This is one of those meals that we make at least once or twice a month at our house. Sometimes I will change it up and add ginger instead of red pepper. It is a really easy recipe to play with. While I like to flip the fish midway through marinating it, There have been times when I have made the marinade in the morning, left it in the fridge all day and then just cooked it that way. If you do that, just marinade it skin side up so more marinade goes into the salmon.

Well our regular happy hour may be missing today, but dinner will be a delight. It will also take very little effort. Just make sure that your salmon is good and it is hard to go wrong.

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Happy Hour: Shrimp Ceviche and Cherry Ginger

Tonight is an interesting take on happy hour.  In our house we long ago realized that if I made ceviche as an appetizer for our happy hour, that we would reach the end of the appetizer portion and not really want a regular meal, but instead want more ceviche. 

So as a consequence when I make Shrimp ceviche, I tend to make a dinner time sized portion and we have ceviche with crackers or chips for the main meal.  It is a light summertime meal.  On occasion I will also make some corn tortillas and we will just use it as a taco filling.  Tonight however we went with tortilla chips.

There is a local Mexican restaurant that sells them by the bag full, but only Thursdays. I think during lock down they sold them twice a week.  Either way, we were lucky to get a bag of the chips yesterday so we can use them tonight.  Actually if they just sold their tortillas I would never bother making my own again, but alas, they only sell the chips. 

To go on these chips, we make the Shrimp ceviche:

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into a suitable size for your method of serving (if we make tacos I don’t cut them)

1 cucumber, peeled and cubed

1 serrano chili, diced

1 red onion, diced small

1 cup fresh cilantro chopped

The juice of six limes (apx ¾ cup)

The juice of three lemons (apx. ¾ cup)

1 avocado

Salt to taste (I use about 1 tbsp for this)

Pinch of sugar

The hardest part of this recipe is breaking down all of your veg.  There will be a lot of chopping.  The bonus is that once you chop, it is all basic assembly and resting time.

Juice your limes and lemons putting the juice in a bowl.  Add your prepared shrimp.  While the juice of each fruit varies, you want enough juice to submerge the shrimp and post of the veg in juice. You also want about equal parts lemon and lime.

Leave the shrimp in the acid until they start to turn white on the outside.  (you want to give them a little bit of a head start before adding the veg – maybe ten minutes).  Then add the salt, cucumber, serrano, and onion. Mix it up a bit with your hands and then transfer it to the fridge.  Leave it sit for about an hour or until the acid has cooked the shrimp enough for your taste.  If you leave it too long, it will get slightly rubbery so check them after an hour and then if you still need more time check every ten minutes until you are happy.

When everything looks ready, slice your avocado into cubes and add the cilantro and the avocado to the ceviche. After mixing it up, taste the mix.  If it is too acidic, add a pinch of sugar to mellow it out.  If it needs salt, add it now and then stir it up.  this is very much a by the taste recipe. Serve cold with chips, crackers, or tortillas. 

I really like this mix.  It is pretty basic so it can be used in a variety of different ways.  It is easy to adjust to taste as well as being fresh and light on a hot summer’s evening.  If you don’t have shrimp you can use fish.  If you don’t eat seafood, try tofu. Go with the firm kind if you are doing that.  Often what I will do if I do substitute tofu is that I will cube it, add a little fish sauce to it and then do a quick pan fry to add some texture to the cubes.  Then I let them cool and then add them to the mix.  If you don’t use fish sauce then maybe go with a vegan soy sauce before pan frying them.  I just like the little difference in texture that the pan gives, but it isn’t a necessity. You can just cube and add them to the veg mix.

This in general is a fun recipe to play around with. When we are finished, there is always some of the juice left over and we end up slicing a couple of extra cucumbers into it, and maybe adding a bit more onion to it.  Then the next day we have that as a side salad for dinner. So nothing gets wasted.  It is one of my favorite summer time treats.

As a drink tonight I am just going simple.  I have my Sour Cherry Syrup that I am still working my way through.  I really like it, but it is a large bottle that takes up a lot of space in the fridge so once opened I tend to lean on it often until it is used up. 

Today I didn’t really feel like alcohol so I made a non-alcoholic drink with one ounce of the sour cherry syrup topped with ginger ale.  Served in a pretty glass it is a perfectly lovely happy hour drink.  My babydoll added an ounce of lemon vodka to his before topping it off with the ginger ale.

It is a relatively simple happy hour tonight, but as it has been a bit of a crazy week, simple is just fine.  While sometimes I like to use Happy hour as a time to try new recipes and be just a little more adventurous, sometimes simple works better. On a day when the thought of turning on the oven or stove and adding more heat to the house is just not pleasant to contemplate, a no cook happy hour that spills into dinner is just the thing. I hope whatever you do to relax and unwind from the week is exactly what you need to let it all go.  I’ll see you back here on Monday, ready to take on another week.  Have a great weekend.

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