Review of Adagio’s Children of Lir Tea

Children of Lir.  This one comes in a delightful little tin illustrating the cursing of Lir’s children to be turned into swans.  I found it really hard to get the tea OUT of the tin without making a mess (it is packed full to the brim).  I love the smell of this tea.  The hazelnut and chestnut notes are really strong when you open the tin.  They’re far subtler notes when actually steeped (which I did for 5 minutes because it’s a black tea and that’s what I do with black teas).  With a couple of spoonfuls of turbinado sugar and some half and half, this is a truly lovely afternoon cuppa.

From Adagio:

The Children of Lir is an Irish legend that starts with Bodb Derg being eleceted as king. Wanting to appease his rival, Lir, Bodb gave one of his daughters, Aoibh, to Lir to marry. They were very happy together and she bore Lir four children – one daughter and three sons. Sadly, Aoibh died. Wanting to keep Lir happy, Bodb sent another of his daughters, Aoife, to Lir to marry. Aoife was jealous of Lir’s affection for his children and plotted to get rid of them. One day while Aoife was traveling with the children, she decided to solve her problems by using her magical powers to turn the children into swans. The children were cursed to spend 900 years as swans before finally being turned back into humans and perishing of old age soon after. Suggested brewing instructions: 212 degrees for 3 mins.

Ingredients

Blended With Black Tea, Assam Melody Tea, Ceylon Sonata Tea, Natural Hazelnut Flavor, Natural Chestnut Flavor
Accented With Cornflowers, Marigold Flowers And Ginger

Teas: Irish BreakfastChestnutHazelnut

Review of Adagio’s Thai Chai Tea

I am a lucky duck!  Being that I’m a big fan of tea, the fabulous folks at Adagio gave me a chance to review some of their teas.  Of course I said HELL YES!  Teenager and I pored over their catalog and picked out samples of about ten different teas and have been slowly working our way through them around vacation and all the crazy of summer (how is she busier now than she was during school???).
We started with Thai Chai, which is just fun to say.  Had as a post dinner beverage following massaman curry from Paleo Takeout (which has a similar spice palette).  From Adagio:
Creamy sweet coconut and playfully floral lemongrass highlight this succulent black tea chai blend. Let the aroma draw you in and you’ll swear, you hear it beckoning to come closer, just take a sip. We suggest two heaping teaspoons per 8 oz cup, sugar, cream or coconut milk if desired.
This tea contains a high level of caffeine | Steep at 212° for 5 minutes.
I have never been a big fan of chai.  This one ended up being a random sample that got thrown in and as we dig this spice palette in curry, we thought we’d give it a try.  I added a couple of spoonfuls of turbinado sugar and half and half.  The verdict: I think I should’ve used more tea (I didn’t manage to use the two heaping spoonfuls), so overall it was a little bit weak for my taste, but the overall flavor was quite pleasant.  The lemongrass was a really lovely note.  Definitely worth trying again.

Product Comparison: Daiya Mozzarella Shreds vs. Go Veggie! Vegan Mozzarella Shreds

I recently received a box of Go Veggie!’s entire vegan line of alterna-cheese products to test out (thank you Go Veggie!).  This is a brand my local grocery carries, but they only have the Lactose free line (it has been my experience that unlike gluten intolerance, the average person has never heard of casein intolerance and they assume that a dairy allergy is lactose intolerance–not the same thing, peeps), so I was eager to give these a try, as I feel like if Kroger carries one, they might be willing to start carrying the other.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be trying all of them, but for now, we’re starting with the mozzarella shreds.

Go veggie cheese

We had pizza for dinner tonight, which gives a great opportunity for a head to head comparison of my usual Daiya mozzarella shreds vs. these Go Veggie shreds vs. the real cheese at my hubby’s end of the pizza.  Here you can see what all three look like before going into the oven.  Straight out of the bag, you can see that the Go Veggie! looks a bit more like thick shredded mozzarella than the Daiya.

Go veggie cheese

 

Now, let’s look at this OUT of the oven.  Right off the bat I was SHOCKED that the Go Veggie! shreds MELTED LIKE REAL CHEESE.  I mean, look at that!  It CONFORMED TO THE PIZZA TOPPINGS (chicken and bacon, in case you were wondering).  It even oozed off the side.  In fact, it melted a little bit more than regular cheese, but I can deal with that.  The Daiya, by contrast, still looks much as it did when it went in the oven.  Now one of the weird things about Daiya is that when it heats, the inside liquefies, so as soon as the surface tension of the outside of the cheese is broken, you get this glorious, creamy texture.  So when you EAT Daiya on pizza, it’s all melty in your mouth.  Just not for your eyes.

Go veggie cheese

 

Now, finally, let’s talk about taste.  I really enjoyed both of these mozzarella shreds.  Taste wise, I don’t think they were too terribly different.  If blindfolded, I don’t know if I’d know which was which by taste alone–at least not in this dish where there are a lot of other flavors competing.  So, since at least part of eating is a visual experience, for pizza, I’m actually going to call the Go Veggie! Mozzarella shreds the winner.  I could have a pizza with this and looking at it never know I wasn’t eating real cheese.  Anything that makes me feel like less of a freak with this dairy allergy is a real winner for me.
 

Review of Daiya Cheese Substitute

So in the whole wake of the no cheese drama, there was much flailing and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  I grabbed The Uncheese Cookbook and kept trying stuff.  There was a recipe in there for a faux buffalo mozzarella that the author swore would melt.  It totally didn’t and the pizza I tried to make with it was possibly the most demoralizing food experience of my life and triggered a total food depression.  Various other dairy free friends had been recommending Daiya as THE CHEESE SUBSTITUTE.  They don’t carry it at my local grocery and I was expecting to have to wait until I drove through the state capitol next month to pick some up at the Whole Foods there.  But as luck would have it, I found some in a town an hour away.  I picked up the cheddar shreds, the mozzarella shreds, the cheddar wedge (actually their version of block cheese), and the jalapeno garlic havarti wedge.

That night, I came home and tried tacos.  They tasted like tacos and the cheddar shreds melted like cheese.  I had a cheeseburger after that and the Daiya melted all over my fingers just like a real cheeseburger.  Tonight I tried the mozzarella shreds with mini pizzas.  OMG, y’all, I cannot tell you how happy I am.  IT MELTS.  IT TASTES LIKE CHEESE.  I give it, two thumbs up!  I no longer feel like my food life is over.

 

Mix It Up Monday: Baked Lemon Pasta With Chicken and Pastamore’s Lemon Garlic Orzo

One of my great pleasures as a food blogger is the opportunity to try products that I otherwise would never have access to.  A while back I was offered the chance to try out some of Pastamore’s gourmet gluten free pasta line from J.D. Gourmet.  I got three (so there will be more recipes to come) but straight out of the box I KNEW I had to try the lemon garlic orzo in Pioneer Woman’s Baked Lemon Pasta.  The only changes I made to her recipe was to half it, use light sour cream, and add in some rotisserie chicken for Mr. Carnivore.  And of course using this gluten free orzo instead of the spaghetti.

The pasta itself has a lovely flavor, though not quite enough on its own to enjoy with just a touch of olive oil, IMO.  It paired beautifully with the lemon and garlic in this cream sauce.  The texture was properly pasta-like and did not become overly gelatinous on sitting (we had half for leftovers) as so many gluten free pastas do.  Overall, I was very impressed with the quality of this product!  Thank you J.D. Gourmet for this opportunity.   I’ll be writing about the tomato basil fettucini and the wild mushroom linguini as I try them.

Review: Lean Cuisine Chef’s Pick Culinary Roundtable


I make no secret of the fact that I am a food snob.  Or the fact that I really like to eat.  So when I think of Lean Cuisine, the first word that comes to mind historically is DISAPPOINTED.  They never ever look as good as the picture on the box.  The portion sizes are miniscule and hold me over for about half an hour.  And the food itself was usually fairly tasteless and unimpressive, often with a rubbery, overcooked texture that I have come to expect from a microwave dinner.

But I’d been hearing noises about the Chef’s Pick collection.  This is a thing the last few years with the insane popularity of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.  People bringing in chefs to overhaul their food and raise the bar for what people expect.  So when the opportunity came up through the Tastemakers program to try some of Lean Cuisine’s new Chef’s Pick dinners, I signed up.

I’d checked out the list of possible flavors on the website and was EXCITED.  Among them:

  • Spinach Artichoke Ravioli
  • Chili Lime Chicken
  • Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli
  • Chicken Makhani
  • Chicken Carbonara
  • Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce
  • Chicken Pecan
  • Thai-Style Chicken

It took me a while to find them in my local Walmart.  We have gobs of Lean Cuisines but only ONE SHELF (out of about 10) of the Chef’s Pick options.  Sadly MOST of the ones I’d wanted to try weren’t here.  Small town, what can I expect.  But I did pick up the Chicken Marsala and the Ranchero Braised Beef.

First, the chicken marsala.  As you can see from the box, this is a beautiful dish in its base form.  I know something about staging and food photography and this is something Lean Cuisine actually has always done well…making what’s supposed to be in the box LOOK appealing.  But hint hint.  This thing is only 220 calories and 6 grams of fat.  That dish you see there is about the size of a saucer from a tea set.  Again, this is expected.  It’s part of that restricted calorie thing.  But what about what’s inside the box?

Um, yeah…this is not what the picture looked like.  Not really anything they can do about that.  It’s part and parcel of the whole microwave dinner phenomenon.    So I grabbed a salad plate and scooped it out in an effort to see if I could, in any way, replicate the picture.

Clearly there’s WAY more gravy in this box than they used in the shoot, and I’m fairly certain there was more risotto in the shoot than is in the box.  But I’m not really grading them for presentation.  I do not expect to eat a frozen dinner with my eyes first.

So what about the most important question: How did it taste?

I was…shocked.  This was truly delicious.  I had no idea it was possible to pull chicken out of the microwave that was this moist and flavorful.  The flavor combinations tasted fresh and very, very appealing.  The portion size is still only enough to feed a half starved pixie, but pair it with a big green salad or another veggie and you might actually have a solid lunch.

Now for the Ranchero Braised Beef.  Same kind of thing. Pretty on the box.

Not so much on the inside.

Tiny portions, though a bit more filling than the chicken marsala.

The flavor here wasn’t bad.  I really enjoyed the chipotle mashed sweet potatoes (I love the combination of chili powder with sweet potatoes in general).  The beef didn’t fair quite as well as the chicken in the reheating department, though it still was better than such things usually are in a frozen dinner.  I didn’t find this over spicy, though some people might.  There are no jalapenos in the box, in case you were worried.

The verdict:  I think Lean Cuisine has really upped their game with this line.  Much better flavor, much better texture and quality of food.  Kudos for that.  My only gripe is that it’s not enough food for me.  Never has been.  This is a snack, not a meal, IMO.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Lean Cuisine through DailyBuzz Food to help promote their new line of Chef’s Pick products. I have been compensated for my time commitment to work with this product. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments. Thank you Lean Cuisine!

Vegetarian Stuffed Shells with Classico Creamy Spinach and Parmesan

So it’s National Pasta Day!  How cool is it that we have a day for that?  So of course I had to feature, you know, pasta.  I got invited by Classico to try out their new Creamy Spinach and Parmesan Pasta Sauce, along with a fabulous pasta pot, a swanky new Oxo grater, and some pasta tongs as part of their Classico Creations starter kit.  However, no payment was given or expected for posting about the program, and as always, all opinions given here are fully my own.

I’ve also got A GIVEAWAY!  They also gave me 5, count ’em FIVE coupons for a free jar of Classico Pasta sauce!  I will be picking five random peeps from commenters to pass these on to so you can try your own Classico Creation.  Just leave a comment saying which Classico sauce YOU’D like to try.    Be sure to leave your email address in the comment field (I won’t publish it, but I’ll want to be able to let you know you won!).

Ingredients:

  • 1 box jumbo shells
  • 1 24 ounce container of light cottage cheese (I like Kraft’s Simply Cottage Cheese)
  • 1 28 ounce bag of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
  • 8 ounces fresh baby bella mushrooms, diced
  • 1 12 ounce jar of roasted red peppers, diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 ounce asiago cheese, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 jar Classico Creamy Spinach and Parmesan Pasta Sauce

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, LESS FOUR MINUTES.  You want these to be under al dente so that you can handle them without actually tearing the pasta while you’re filling them.   Drain, dunk in ice water, and set aside to drain again.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
  3. Saute the red onion and zucchini until starting to soften.
  4. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and red peppers and cook another few minutes, until the mushrooms cook down.
  5. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Combine the cottage cheese, spinach, cooked veggies, asiago, and spices.  Mix well.
  7. Prep a 9×13 baking dish and a second 9×9 baking dish (this second you will be lining with foil and spraying THAT with the cooking spray because this is gonna be a meal for later).
  8. Stuff the shells and line up carefully.  You should be able to fit 24 into the 9×13 and another 12 into the 9×9.  You may have shells left over.  You won’t have filling.
  9. Fold the foil closed and pop that one as is into a freezer bag and stuff in the freezer to cook with some other jarred sauce at a later date.  I say this because I made WAAAAY too much filling and too many shells and this is what I decided to do with the overage!
  10. Pour the jar of Classico sauce over the 9×13 dish of shells.
  11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20-30 minutes, until heated through and the sauce kind of oozes down around the shells.
  12. Enjoy!

 

 

Vegetarian Stuffed Shells with Classico Creamy Spinach and Parmesan
 
So it's National Pasta Day!  How cool is it that we have a day for that?  So of course I had to feature, you know, pasta.  I got invited by Classico to try out their new Creamy Spinach and Parmesan Pasta Sauce, along with a fabulous pasta pot, a swanky new Oxo grater, and some pasta tongs as part of their Classico Creations starter kit.  However, no payment was given or expected for posting about the program, and as always, all opinions given here are fully my own. I've also got A GIVEAWAY! They also gave me 5, count 'em FIVE coupons for a free jar of Classico Pasta sauce!  I will be picking five random peeps from commenters to pass these on to so you can try your own Classico Creation.  Just leave a comment saying which Classico sauce YOU'D like to try.    Be sure to leave your email address in the comment field (I won't publish it, but I'll want to be able to let you know you won!).
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 1 box jumbo shells
  • 1 24 ounce container of light cottage cheese (I like Kraft's Simply Cottage Cheese)
  • 1 28 ounce bag of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
  • 8 ounces fresh baby bella mushrooms, diced
  • 1 12 ounce jar of roasted red peppers, diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 ounce asiago cheese, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 jar Classico Creamy Spinach and Parmesan Pasta Sauce
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, LESS FOUR MINUTES.  You want these to be under al dente so that you can handle them without actually tearing the pasta while you're filling them.   Drain, dunk in ice water, and set aside to drain again.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
  3. Saute the red onion and zucchini until starting to soften.
  4. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and red peppers and cook another few minutes, until the mushrooms cook down.
  5. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Combine the cottage cheese, spinach, cooked veggies, asiago, and spices.  Mix well.
  7. Prep a 9x13 baking dish and a second 9x9 baking dish (this second you will be lining with foil and spraying THAT with the cooking spray because this is gonna be a meal for later).
  8. Stuff the shells and line up carefully.  You should be able to fit 24 into the 9x13 and another 12 into the 9x9.  You may have shells left over.  You won't have filling.
  9. Fold the foil closed and pop that one as is into a freezer bag and stuff in the freezer to cook with some other jarred sauce at a later date.  I say this because I made WAAAAY too much filling and too many shells and this is what I decided to do with the overage!
  10. Pour the jar of Classico sauce over the 9x13 dish of shells.
  11. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20-30 minutes, until heated through and the sauce kind of oozes down around the shells.
  12. Enjoy!

Review: Classico Light Alfredo

Light alfredo sauce sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?  I mean, everything about alfredo sauce is rich and delicious.  My prior attempts to make it lighter just didn’t have the right texture or taste, so I admit my skepticism when Classico Light Alfredo sauce came up as an option for the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program.  I signed up anyway because I was curious.  This comes in at 60 calories and 5 grams of fat per 1/4 cup and is gluten free.  And I have to say I was impressed with it.  I usually have very low expectations from any kind of jarred sauce (I’m a food snob; I admit it) and this was really marvelous for an easy weeknight dinner.  I’ve already bought a second jar!  What follows is my recipe for an easy, gluten free chicken and mushroom alfredo.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar Classico Light Alfredo
  • 8 oz. Tinkyada brown rice fettuccine (certainly use regular wheat pasta if you like)
  • 2 cans mushrooms, drained (or 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, diced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 10 chicken tenderloins or 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • parsley

Directions:

  1. Season your chicken with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Cook as desired.  I tossed mine on the grill for 5 minutes per side, then cut into bite sized pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet.
  4. Add the mushrooms and peppers.
  5. Saute for approximately 5 minutes until heated through (or until fresh mushrooms are cooked down).
  6. Add the drained pasta and chicken.
  7. Toss until ingredients are well combined.
  8. Reduce heat to medium low.
  9. Add the jar of alfredo sauce and continue to stir or toss until everything is well coated.
  10. Sprinkle fresh ground pepper and parsley to taste.
  11. Serves 4.

Printable version.

Review: Marzetti Simply Dressed

Foodbuzz is going to think I’m a bad food blogger.  I was supposed to post this by the 20th.  But, well, I live in a small town and despite the generous coupon for a free bottle of Marzetti Simply Dressed salad dressing as part of the Tastemaker’s program , I had a devil of a time actually FINDING any to buy!  So…better late than never.  I DID finally find some and because we are a big time ranch family, that’s the variety I chose to purchase.  I was really excited about this product because I’m definitely into foods with all natural ingredients and no preservatives or other creepy stuff.

From their website:

Marzetti® Simply Dressed® is our newest line of salad dressings. Made with a minimal number of all-natural, simple ingredients, such as extra virgin olive oil, canola oil and sea salt, Simply Dressed offers 10 tasty varieties to complement any salad, any day.

And I’d like to add that they are GLUTEN FREE, always a big selling point in our household.

Check out this list of ingredients for the Ranch:

CANOLA OIL, BUTTERMILK, WATER, SALTED EGG YOLK, DISTILLED VINEGAR, EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, SUGAR, SEA SALT, GARLIC*, ONION*, XANTHAN GUM, SPICES.
*DEHYDRATED
I actually know what ALL OF THEM ARE!  And I can PRONOUNCE THEM!  How awesome is that?
We wound up trying this on a basic spinach salad with avocado (as it’s what we had on hand and I was in a rush to put this together!).  The dressing itself has a definite oniony twang, much more so than other ranch dressings I’ve tried.  Since I happen to love onion, that’s good in my book.  It didn’t feel like a copycat of any other brand but absolutely had its own unique flavor.  It would make a marvelous straight up veggie dip, and I’d love to give it a try in a pasta salad or in a wrap.  It’s a bit on the pricey side compared to what I usually buy, but the line itself has some unique flavors I’ve not seen before, so I’ll definitely be giving some of the others a try.  Look for this in the refrigerated section around all the fresh salad ingredients.

Sargento Cheese Tasting

Boy do I have egg on my face.  This was supposed to go up by the 15th and I totally mis-scheduled it.  Oops.  Sorry Foodbuzz!  In any event, via the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program, I got chosen to receive a $25 gift card to put on a cheese tasting with Sargento cheese.  How awesome is that?  LOTS OF CHEESE.  Cheese is one of my favorite foods and there are seldom fewer than 7 varieties in my fridge.  Technically we were supposed to be comparing Sargento cheese with processed cheese products, but y’all, I live in a small town.  The only processed cheese products we’ve got is blocks of Velveeta and those plastic wrapped cheese slices.  And the only Sargento cheeses available were all slices rather than blocks.  I was not deterred however!  I picked up Pepper Jack, Aged Swiss, Reduced Fat Colby Jack, Sharp Cheddar, and Smoked Provolone to try.  To accompany, I grabbed some Pepperidge Farm Beef Summer Sausage and some Multigrain crackers. We also put together a veggie and fruit tray to balance out the grazing.

I have nothing but good things to say about this cheese.  Apart from the fact that it pairs well with everything, each slice is simply bursting with flavor.  None of this drab mild cheddar.  This is cheese where you can actually tell what flavor you’re eating if you were blindfolded.  The aged Swiss, OMG, I can’t wait to melt that over some French onion soup.  My hubs and I tried the pepper jack on mexi-burgers and it was amazing.  Even the reduced fat colby jack was delicious and absolutely retained the proper cheese texture and taste (not all reduced fat products do).  The sharp cheddar with the summer sausage–wooooo buddy, it was fantastic.  And I can’t wait to try the rest of that provalone in my baked ziti.  All in all I am impressed by the range of flavors in Sargento cheeses, and I’ll absolutely be buying them again.