28 July 2010

S'mores Bars

S'mores Bars

Do you know the scene in The Sandlot where Smalls is heading over to the clubhouse to be told the drastically revised edition of the story of THE BEAST by Squints, and after he explains how his mom made him do dishes before heading over (the same parents who don't even attend the block party on the 4th of July???) to hang with his new friends, Ham asks him if he wants s'mores, and Scotty, in his innocence, verbally wonders how he can have some more of something he's never had before? (If that's not a lesson in keeping your thoughts to yourself, I don't know what is. Forget not knowing who Babe Ruth is, but where did he live that he never heard of a s'more!) For me, I don't have any fond memories of summertime evenings spent near a bonfire roasting marshmallows to assemble s'mores, getting my daily dose of carcinogen in, but it reminds me of The Sandlot. EVERY TIME.

If you want to skip the carcinogen, and frankly I feel that's the only flavor missing in this recipe, and want a less messy and make ahead-able s'more, I highly suggest these cookie bars. The dough is used as the base as well as the crumbly topping, and what's great is that the dough is made with crushed graham cracker crumbs. Once the base is partially baked, it gets a sprinkling of chocolate chips (I used those over the Hershey bars, marshmallows, and the remaining cookie dough that gets crumbled on top.

What you get is a gooey and rich s'mores bar that you'll be able to take anywhere (very transportable), and can be eaten at any time. Like, say, breakfast. Or any time you need to take a break, because s'mores remind you of good times.

Recipe after jump




S'mores Cookie Bars
Recipe from Hersheys.com

Yield - 16 bars

Ingredients -

1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars (1.55 oz. each) (or enough chocolate chips to cover bottom layer)
3 cups miniature marshmallows

Directions -
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Beat butter and sugar until well blended in large bowl. Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

  2. Stir together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Press half of dough in prepared pan and bake 15 minutes.

  3. Arrange unwrapped chocolate bars over baked layer, breaking as needed to fit. Sprinkle with marshmallows, then scatter bits of remaining dough over marshmallows, forming top layer. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or just until lightly browned.

  4. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.


27 July 2010

Starbucks Natural Fusions Coffee & French Press giveaway winner

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest!

giveaway winner

The winner today is the 6th commenter, Sandra. Congrats! I'll be contacting you to collect your info so your coffee can be shipped out ASAP.

Stay tuned for more giveaways in the future, and thanks for reading. =)

26 July 2010

River Run 10k Race Report

River Run 10k

This actually took place, um, last Saturday? I don't know. But it completely crapped me out, probably both mentally and physically. I mean, I'm not brooding over it kind of Prozac mental, it just kind of made me really tired. If you've been keeping up with my Daily Mile, I think I've only run once or twice since then. Apparently, I took last week easy.

I have a habit of picking races with inappropriate names. For example, this race course ran along the lake, not the river.

The temperature was bad with a humidity percentage of fail. The shaded sections were nice and breezy, but the contrast of the coolness of the shade with the inappropriate sun beaming down on your skin was terrible.

Mile 1 - 7:43
May have been too fast. There was a really steep downhill and I didn't make sure to slow down after it ended.

Mile 2 - 7:56
That's more like it.
River Run 10k

My brother ran the 5k. Hello, brother!

Mile 3 - 9:20
I forgot how bad that hill was, exactly. It slowly steeped up, then suddenly was completely almost vertical. I AM NOT KIDDING ABOUT THAT. I never really recovered.

Also, running on a brick road is ridiculous and I can see now why Dorothy chose to skip along down the freaking yellow brick road instead of running. Never mind that she was wearing heels.

Mile 4 - 8:20
I guess this was getting better.

Mile 5 - 9:45
This was the point where I mentally checked out. I got passed by a few people, and passed some people, and kept other people in my line of sight, but that was all I was able to do.

Mile 6.2 - 9.59
Works out to an 8.18 pace. I really had nothing left except to make sure I didn't get passsed by anyone. This was successful. I saw some of the 5k walkers walking three in a row. There was a gap between one of them, and I momentarily considered running between the gap, though I did not.

River Run 10k


Total - 53:05

My slowest race this year. I feel I paced this terribly, and I didn't take the heat and course conditions into account. I did place 4th in my AG group, and I've never placed top 5 here so I'm happy about that. I wasn't really looking for a PR, but I wanted a time close to what I got at the Sunburst, which is why I didn't like my results here. However, it was a slow race for everyone, though that isn't much of a consolation for me.

River Run 10k

The Skipper presented me with my age group medal!

In the end, it's all Al Gore's fault. And if you ran the 5k, YOU DID NOT NEED TO TAKE ALL THE GATORADE, LEAVING NONE FOR ME. Thanks for nothing. Maybe my brother took one, but he let me have some.


23 July 2010

White Chocolate-Macadamia Cookies with Dried Cherries and Coconut


I made these cookies a while ago to use the macadamia nuts and dried cherries I got, two ingredients made for cookies. My mind went to the classic white chocolate-macadamia cookie, though my additions included the dried cherries and also coconut chunks. I saw the coconut at the store and it was probably the best purchase I've made in a while. The chunks have more of the raw coconut taste without being overly sweetened like the flakes you buy in the baking aisle.

My only problem was the base -- which recipe did I want to use as the platform? I wanted a chewier cookie with a lot of depth of flavor. I haven't yet tried the NYT chocolate chip cookie and I thought about trying that recipe, but then I remembered a chocolate chip cookie recipe from Sugar Plum that I hadn't yet tried. The recipe includes brown butter and softened butter, and I went ahead and added a teaspoon of instant yeast as per her previous recipes. The other reason I tried this was because I had recently made a cookie where I made sugared pecans to add to the dough, and Emily did the same here (which is what stood out to me about the recipe the first time I read it).

So you have awesomeness, and it's amped up, all in the same cookie! Things I've noted about this recipe:

It makes A TON of dough. When I cook these, I use a mere 2 tablespoons, but you still get a decently sized cookie. Added bonus, you have a crapton of dough left in the fridge to cook up fresh batches whenever you want a cookie.

Yesterday, I accidentally overcooked these cookies. I baked them for 16 minutes instead of 11. However, the cookies haven't really been baking well at just 11 minutes so I was always planning on increasing the cooking time, just not by 5 minutes. But even when thoroughly browned (not burnt) and looking like it'd come out crispy, the added toastiness really allowed the flavors to come through even more. To make things better, they still were a bit chewy. Good to know, because I never would have baked these that long and I never would have known what I was missing out on.

I sprinkle salt on my cookies. A few grains. I've played around with regular kosher salt, and bamboo jade sea salt. Whatever you use, use a coarse salt. You will not be disappointed.

That's all I have to say about that.

22 July 2010

Starbucks Natural Fusions Coffee Review & Giveaway

Starbucks Natural Fusions Coffees

A while ago I received an email from Olga, a rep for Starbucks, asking me if I'd like to try Starbucks' new "natural fusions" coffee for review, and to host a giveaway. Due to my my ongoing interest in coffee, I felt it would be wrong to turn down the generous offer.

Natural Fusions comes in three flavors, vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon. What sets these apart from other flavored coffees is that the natural flavorings (partly nondescript "natural flavorings", and also from real ingredients) are added to the beans as they're being roasted. The flavorings are also paired with different kinds of coffee and different roasts to enhance the flavor even more. Here's my lowdown on all three flavors. I brewed about 4 cups worth of coffee for each flavor, and uses 1 1/2 tablespoons grounds per cup. I also tried one cup black, and one cup with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a little whole milk.

Starbucks Natural Fusions Coffees


  • Vanilla
    In this coffee, they chose to use lightly roasted Latin American beans to allow the flavor of the vanilla to come through.

    As soon as you open the package, an incredible vanilla scent goes wafting through the room. When brewed, the coffee had this natural sweetness. I find that most flavored coffees benefit from the addition of a little milk and creamer (this coming from someone who drinks their coffee black), but the taste is really present alone. The flavor might not be as strong as what you would expect from a flavored coffee, but I liked that it had a mellower (yet still very present) taste. There is also Indian sarsaparilla root

  • Caramel
    The caramel particularly intrigued me because caramel isn't really natural, but more a combination of ingredients cooked together. The ingredients used in this coffee are licorice root, dehydrated orange peel, ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg. This coffee, as well as the cinnamon, also uses Latin American beans, but here they are roasted dark instead of light. Caramel is a deeper, richer flavor, so it makes sense.

    As with the vanilla, this coffee stands alone when drunk black, though it tastes equally as good with the addition of sugar-cream, though the resulting flavor is more smooth and blended. When black, the flavors of the ingredients are sharper, and the caramel flavor is really rich and delicious.

  • Cinnamon
    I figured the cinnamon would be the easiest flavor to do since it's literally just ground cinnamon sticks blended with the beans. Along with ground cinnamon, they also added dried orange peel, ground nutmeg, and Indian sarsaparilla root (which I think has a woody, deep flavor, and is a common ingredient in root beer).

    Firstly, as with the vanilla, you open the bag and this intense cinnamon scent just comes bursting out. And it definitely smelled natural, as if you just ground some cinnamon yourself. When brewed and drunk, it was almost like drinking a cup of coffee that you sprinkled ground cinnamon into -- it was that strong! The cinnamon had a warm tone here.

What surprised me the most about these coffee was that none of them, especially the dark roasts, tasted over-roasted and bitter at all. These definitely would be worth picking up at the store.



Giveaway Info

And now for the giveaway! If you would like to experience these coffees for yourself, I've been offered the chance to host a giveaway for my readers. Included is one bag of each flavor, and a French press. Just a few simple steps needed to enter:
  • Leave a comment letting me know you want to be entered (required)

  • Blog about the giveaway on your blog, and comment with the link to that post

  • Become a fan of She Runs, She Eats on Facebook (let me know in your first comment, if you did), to be eligible for another entry

  • Follow me on Twitter, and recomment to let me know

That's it! The contest ends on Tuesday (the 27th) of next week. Good luck!

15 July 2010

EcoTools Body Mists Review & Giveaway

EcoTools Body Mists

It's been review city around here lately! I was contacted by Rebecca on behalf of EcoTools, a natural line of bath and beauty products, asking if I'd be interested in reviewing their body mists, which come in two enticing scents, Passion for Change and Blooming Planet.

Body mists (or sprays) are light scents meant to offer a burst of fragrance without being as strong as perfume, and gradually fade away as time progresses. Whether you're looking for a way to brighten your morning, want an easy way to freshen up after cleaning up at the gym, or simply want an invigorating boost in the afternoon, these two scents will do the job.

Passion for Change is my favorite scent of the two, with the spicy and earthy scents of organic ginger and sage extracts, plus undertones of citrus and florals, the aroma easily makes me imagine that I'm taking a walk in the forest after a light rainfall.

Blooming Planet has a boost of floral explosion with each spritz, like carrying a bouquet of freshly cut flowers. The scent, to me, is almost typical, but the aroma feels more lively and playful.

Both are 98% natural, and the EcoTools line is a member of "1% for the planet". These are a definite must if you prefer natural products instead of ones with synthetic ingredients.



Giveaway Info

If you're interesting in trying one of the body mists, the first five people to comment will win one of the body mists. There are only 2 Passion for Changes and 3 Blooming Gardens, so specify the body mist you want and the order of the comments determines who gets which. If there's a duplicate, I'll have to give you one of the remaining scents.

If you miss out, the body mists run for about $5.99 -- a sweet price for yourself, or to buy as gifts.

Good luck! Once the five comments are received, I'll try and contact you, or you can email me with your contact info.

14 July 2010

Review: Farberware Percolator

Farberware Percolator

Wayfair gave me the opportunity to review a product from one of their many stores. I chose an item from Cookware, their online cooking store with hundreds of different items for the kitchen.

I went with the Farberware percolator a 12-cup capacity stainless steel percolator with an automatic "warm setting". This is a "no frills" percolator, as there are no settings and the strength of the coffee is adjusted by adding more or less grounds to the basket. In a way, this would be a better way to prepare coffee since a higher temperature might overbrew the coffee.

Farberware Percolator

What is a percolator, and why didn't I go with a drip coffee maker? A percolator heats the cold water at the base to a boil, and passes the hot water up through the tube and onto the basket filled with coffee grounds. Once the water passes through the grounds, it falls back into the pot. The cycle continues until all the cold water has been heated and passed through the tube.

While generally it's frowned upon to boil coffee, I believe that the only water boiling is below the pump tube in the center well, right above the base where the heating mechanism is, and it's not quite at boiling temperature when passed up through the tube.

However, because the water is hotter, you can taste the strength in the brew, though it shouldn't taste bitter (unless the beans you use happen to be bitter).

Farberware Percolator
Farberware Percolator


For my first taste test, I ground up some Boca Java beans I've had for a while. The roast was a blend of dark and lighter roasted arabica beans. Did I mention that I've had these for a while? I'm lazy when it comes to grinding coffee beans, though lately I have been.

So I ground up enough for a full 12-cup pot of coffee, and dumped the ground beans into the lined basket.

Farberware Percolator
Farberware Percolator

I then placed the basket on the pump tube and put the two into the cold water-filled percolator, followed by what's called the "spreader". Topped with the cover, and plugged it in.

The instructions say the brew rate is about 1 minute per cup, so that's a total of 12 minutes. Obviously, the timer starts when you hear the coffee percolating (which is another reason I love the percolator -- the sound and the smell wafting through the house). Once the coffee finishes, the maker automatically switches down to the "keep warm" setting, during which you should remove the basket and pump to keep the coffee from re-percolating and turning bitter.

Farberware Percolator

Percolators produce HOT coffee. Steaming, comforting, VERY HOT coffee, meaning you can linger over your coffee for a while without worrying about it going cold. So clearly I wondered if the warm setting would change the taste of the coffee, though I had it plugged in for a few hours (still filled with a few cups worth of coffee so as not to burn out) and the taste remained the same without any bitterness, and the coffee was still hot.

Farberware Percolator

If you've ever been interesting in purchasing a percolator, I can recommend this model without hesitation. Although I've only used it twice, the review (on Cookware.com and elsewhere) are generally high and everyone seems to like it. Head on over to their site to see it for yourself.

Thanks again to Wayfair!

13 July 2010

World Cup Fever and Kalahari Tea

Kalahari Tea Review

You thought you were safe from hearing any more about soccer and the World Cup, weren't you?

WRONG!

I've rather enjoyed the coverage, as I enjoy watching most sports because I like seeing people do something they're passionate about. Soccer for me isn't about the goals, but the control of the players and their athleticism. And I do get a big kick (ha) out of karate tactics on the field. Shaolin Soccer, anyone?

My brother really got into it, as he joined a fantasy league and stuff, looking up statistics and making some good guesses. We both signed up for Kalahari Tea's World Cup Contest on Facebook. Kalahari Tea is based of the South African rooibos tea, a caffeine-free herbal tea which grows on bushes. After the processing, the leaves turn reddish-brown color that you see after your tea steeps. It's really pretty and lovely, and has turned into my favorite flavor after going through a box of Kalahari's chai rooibos tea.

Kalahari Tea Review

Anyway, I placed second in the first round of the contest, and my prize was being able to pick two teas out of the offered selection.

Kalahari Tea Review

My choices were ChocoLatte Cherry Vanilla and Highlands Honey.

Kalahari Tea Review

The ChocoLatte Cherry Vanilla intrigued be by the blend of roasted cacao with rooibos, vanilla beans, and cherry flavor along with a few other ingredients. I was particularly interested in finding out how the cacao flavor would come through.

Kalahari Tea Review
Kalahari Tea Review

I quickly set off to steep a cup. What I tasted was a subtly sweet tea with the flavor of the roasted cacao as a backdrop, intermixed with the essence of vanilla. I would say there was a fruity note throughout the whole cup, but I couldn't pinpoint the cherry specifically. What I liked the most was the "dessert-essence" quality of this tea, and it makes a perfect accompaniment to after-dinner desserts since it has the richness you would expect from coffee thanks to the roasted cacao, with the bonus of being caffeine-free.

The Highlands Honey has a natural honey and vanilla flavor with their rooibos tea. The description on the website says it has a subtle sweetness, though I'm not sure I necessarily tasted that. In fact, I didn't really taste the honey flavor at all because the vanilla stood out to me the most. I'm not ruling it out, though I have a tendency to detect vanilla in foods more easily so it may have simply been my palate. I like to drink this tea before going to bed, or in the morning before heading out on a run.

So thanks to Kalahari Tea for running this contest, and giving me the opportunity to taste some of their teas I can't find in the stores!


12 July 2010

keftka beef meatballs and homemade naan

Keftka beef meatballs and homemade naan

How can you follow a meal like the persian chicken with jeweled rice with ramen? You cannot. So dinner two days later consisted of another very flavorful recipe, and wasn't really any more complicated to prepare.

homemade naan

I've made homemade naan before, but haven't blogged about it. I still plan on created a single post showing the process, though for now I'll just talk about how great this stuff is.

The recipe (found on AllRecipes.com - I will link to it at the end of post) is enriched with milk, an egg, and sugar and comes together quickly and allowed to rise for an hour. I've changed the process up by making the dough a day ahead of time and refrigerating it, though you have to make sure the dough comes to room temperature either before shaping into individual balls to let rest, or increase the resting time.

Naan are generally prepared in a tandoor, or clay oven, though you can cook them on a skillet or a grill. I chose a regular cast iron skillet, and next time I may try the skillet I have that has grill indents. I didn't time how long it took, but the first side took less than 2 minutes, and once flipped the other side needed less than 45 seconds. As soon as I placed an uncooked naan in the skillet, I brushed the side facing up with melted butter with garlic. The garlic flavor isn't overwhelming and adds a wonderful flavor boost to the naan. (A note: The skillet doesn't have to be heated to high, but medium will work just fine as long as you make sure to let it thoroughly heat before cooking.)

The best way to cook naan is to either have someone in charge of cooking them whilst you stretch the dough out, or get the process down so that as soon as a naan comes out of the skillet you're ready to put one in. Place cooked naan in a heated oven, covered, to keep warm.

Keftka beef meatballs and homemade naan

Keftka is a Middle Eastern lamb meatball, though I subbed ground beef for the lamb. The ingredients from the recipe I used sounded incredibly good, with a spice trio of allspice, cinnamon, and cayenne powder. Also included is finely ground nuts (I used pecan, though the recipe called for pine nuts), and a processed mixture of onions with fresh cilantro and parsley. A different kind of meatball compared to its Italian counterpart, but every bit as delicious and definitely unique.

Instead of broiling these as a kabob type meal, the meatballs skewered on bamboo skewers, I formed them larger, browned them in a skillet, then set them aside. After I drained most of the fat away, I sauteed an onion with salt and cumin powder until soft, adding 2 cans of diced tomatoes that I pureed. When that mixture came to a boil, I added the meatballs back, reduced to a simmer, and let cook whilst I cooked the naan. A really simple and easy dish that produced a brothy tomato mixture that you could be sopped up by a couple naan. (I also removed the meatballs about 5 minutes before serving and let the sauce continue cooking at a higher heat until ready.)

Keftka beef meatballs and homemade naan

The naan comes out so chewy, warm, slightly sweet with a hint of garlic. It's very difficult to just eat one, so I don't; I ate three. I once made a different version that was leavened by baking soda and yogurt, though I didn't like it as much as this yeast version. It lacked the sweetness I liked and it also wasn't as tender. It would have made a good substitute if you're pressed for time, once I tweak the recipe.



Recipes ~

Keftka Kabob recipe

Homemade Naan

09 July 2010

Persian Roasted Chicken with Jeweled Saffron Rice

So I had used the macadamia nuts Oh! Nuts had sent me, but not the dried red sour cherries. I vaguely remembered some rice dish studded with dried fruit, and when I looked it up I found many recipes for Persian jeweled rice, a rich rice dish with dried fruits, nuts, and a crapton of butter. Clear winner.

persian roasted chicken with jeweled saffron rice
persian roasted chicken with jeweled saffron rice

The recipe I settled on included instructions for roasted chicken with a simple marinade consisting of cumin, olive oil, onions, and saffron. I don't think I used 1/4 cup olive oil since I used less chicken, and I halved the amount of cumin, otherwise everything was the same. I also didn't toss out the onions when the time came to roast the chicken since it would add more flavor to the broth.

persian roasted chicken with jeweled saffron rice

The rice. I love the stuff and would eat it everyday if I made it that often. However, I rarely venture outside of the typical manner of preparation. Sure, I've made sushi rice and mango coconut sticky rice, also risotto and rice puddings, though pertaining to side dish rices I stuck with the norm. One interesting aspect in the preparation for jeweled rice is that you parboil the rice first, as it will continue to cook on the stove or in the oven after being layered.

Let me talk about boiled rice. Typically, you would steam rice, using just enough water to be fully absorbed by the rice by the end of the cooking time. With this method, prepared as you would pasta, the rice is boiled in salted water until tender (or in this case, less than al dente). The salt seasons the rice, and the rice comes out tender, separate, and perfectly cooked. The first recipe I used says to parboil the rice for 5 minutes, and it can be left to sit until you're ready to use it, drained and covered. (During which, it practically finished cooking itself by the residual heat.)

Did I mention that it took a mere 5 minute to reach an almost cooked state? That would mean a few minutes to 5 minutes longer would have resulted in completely cooked rice, which is half the time it takes when steamed. I remember reading about this in a thread on Chow.com, I think, and some people swore by this method. And to think I never would have tried it had it not been for this recipe.

So, the link up there says to cook it for 10 minutes, and if you're not going to let it sit for a 1-3 hours, you probably should. Otherwise, 5 minutes would do. I'll post the second link below.

Also of note, I used jasmine rice since I didn't have basmati and it came out fine.

persian roasted chicken with jeweled saffron rice

When ready to assemble, crushed saffron gets mixed with water, then tossed with the rice. The saffron I used came from a Mexican store, and it wasn't very expensive. Maybe it's a sub-quality saffron or a different type that produces more from each crop, I don't know. It didn't really color the rice much, so possibly old saffron loses its dying ability or I just needed more of it.

persian roasted chicken with jeweled saffron rice

Next step is to melt the butter with the dried cherries and sugar. I used 1/2 cup dried cherries and a 1/4 cup packed dark raisins.

This used a lot of butter -- 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons. I was tempted to reduce the amount to half a stick or 6 tablespoons, but the idea of the excess richness intrigued me enough to give it a go and see if it was worth it.

Separately, I toasted 1/3 cup pepita seeds for 3 minutes in a 350 degree oven (if you hear popping, stop).

persian roasted chicken with jeweled saffron rice

The rice gets layered in a 2-quart baking dish with two layers of the butter-plumped dried fruit and toasted pepitas. Once you finish with the last layer of rice, the butter gets poured on top.

How this recipe differs from the one I was going to try is that this is baked, whereas the other recipe tells you to cook the rice during the second stage over the stove, which helps the rice develop a golden crust on the bottom that gets broken up afterwards. I would follow this recipe for ingredients and the other recipe for the cooking method next time, as it would taste exceptionally good with the crispy crust pieces.

persian roasted chicken with jeweled saffron rice

The chicken came out incredibly moist and very tender. I skipped the broiling step, as the chicken actually cooked 5-10 minutes longer than the recipe said (I didn't start the layering of the rice soon enough) and the skins were already crispy and golden.

THE RICE was incredible! Just on the verge of sweet, and very buttery and rich. The sweetness and flavor of the cherries with the taste and crunch of the pepitas made the dish unique. Although it was a little sweet, it was a great pairing with the chicken. I also ate some leftover rice for breakfast this morning with milk and fresh strawberries.

But I cannot express enough how incredible this rice was. Not very difficult to prepare, even with the many steps, and since the rice can be made ahead of time it helps to break the steps up so you don't have to do everything at once.



Recipes

Persian Roasted Chicken with Dried Cherry-Saffron Rice ~ I followed this recipe exactly, though I prepared the rice according to step one from the recipe linked below.

Jeweled Rice with Dried Fruit ~ Here, I used the their method of preparing the rice ahead of time. Next time, I would follow these instructions for preparation and cooking method of the entire dish. I will note that the inclusion of the sugar is vital to the taste of this recipe, though you can leave it out if you'd rather.

07 July 2010

Coming Soon: Wayfair Product Review

Hey again. Just a little teaser to let everyone know that I'll be reviewing a product (not chosen, at the moment) from Wayfair. I was contacted by the Wayfair team asking me if I'd like to work with them again, and since my experience in hosting a review and giveaway has been pleasant, I took them up on it.

If you haven't heard of them, Wayfair is like a mega-store, but on the internet. They sell items ranging from cookware, home furnishings, and bedroom furniture like twin beds and more, all adding up to 200+ stores located conveniently on one site. Take a look the next time you feel like shopping from home.

Wayfair also is active in the community side of things, and takes great pride in being able to do what they can for those who need help, which is pretty cool coming from a company like this.

So stay tuned and come back later to check out the review. If I can decide what it will be...

apple pie

apple pie

Hello everyone. Hope you guys had a great 4th of July weekend! I'm going to talk a little about the pie I made for the 4th of July. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as I planned, but the crust came out almost perfect.

So I set out to make an apple-peach pie, using Martha Stewart's mile high apple pie recipe as a base for the filling. However, the peaches were actually nectarines and was a complete failure. I kept telling myself that the skin on the "peach" didn't seem normal, but it took up to the point of trying to slice the "peach" when I resigned to the fact that I misjudged the fruit. The fruit segments wouldn't separate from the pit, and I ended up having to use my hands to squeeze the flesh off. This didn't even come close to stress relief because I kept calling myself names in my head throughout the entire process. Fortunately, the filling tasted good, though it needed more spices because the flavor didn't come out well in the end.

apple pie

I've been having trouble with pie crust, and I've had my eye on Cassie's recipe for a while now, which I decided to make this time. The overall recipe yields enough for a double-crust pie, and includes baking powder. I think it might help to keep the crust from shattering. Both butter and shortening are used here, and since I've come to prefer a butter-shortening crust I have no problem with the inclusion of shortening. I definitely had really great success with this crust, especially considering that I made it by hand instead of in the food processor (I felt lazy). It rolled out nicely enough, though I didn't get it into a perfect circle.

Sometimes when I'm forming the dough into discs there are areas that look like a crack. When there are "cracks", the dough separates at the crack when you try and roll it out. It's fine if you can manage to keep the separated areas at the edges that can be covered with the top crust, otherwise you look like a failure. Or not you, but me. I get paranoid about overworking the dough so I stop handling it after a while.

apple pie

Here is the pie with the filling. The dough was pretty easy to work with and tasted really good. I eat the pie scraps because what else am I going to do with them, so I can tell you firsthand that the raw dough was delicious. I did have one concern...

apple pie

My concern was the rather large and conspicuous pieces of butter. I know Cassie said she had a mixture of fine, medium, and large chunks, though I wondered if someone it would melt and ruin the shape of the crust. I didn't really have to worry, though, because there wasn't much shrinkage except that the crust still lost it's crimp after baking.

apple pie

I cut a star on top because I'm patriotic like that.

apple pie

May I present you with a beautifully baked pie? I liked the even golden-browning and that the crust was decently thick and mildly flaky.

UNFORTUNATELY, I say in all caps, I seem to have this issue with the bottom crust not baking up and coming out like some saggy skin flap. Seriously. I don't really know what I'm doing here because I bake it in the bottom third of the oven, and on a baking sheet (which some pro baker said helps the bottom crust to brown). The only thing I can think of is that it needed longer time, or that the filling was too juicy.

As for the filling, it was lacking in flavor. Which is odd because it tasted good before I put it in the pie to bake, though maybe it needs to be overly good before being baked so it ends up as just good when it's finished. At least it looks pretty.

05 July 2010

Running Gear

This post pertains to the "gear" I use associated with my running. Not so you can see all the awesome stuff I have, but because sometimes it helps to know what other people use in case it'll work for yourself.

  • Socks

    running stuff

    Probably the most important part of my running. Well, one might argue that it's the shoes, but the wrong socks can make your running a complete pain in the @ss.

    In case you can't tell, these are the socks I received from the Iron Girl gift pact, and I like that they tell you to "do more with grace". These socks are thin with a blend of nylon, coolmax, and lycra. The webinar panel stated that a synthetic blend is great for running, basically anything that isn't entirely cotton and wicks moisture to prevent blisters. It's the friction between the skin and socks, which is also brought on by excess moisture, that leads to blisters.

    Personally, I've found that I cannot run in thin socks. In fact, I prefer socks with some cotton and synthetic fabrics so that my feet are more protected and I still get the benefit of moisture-wicking. Currently, I bought some runnings socks from Target that have been great because they're a bit thicker and provide more cushioning, and they're cheap. I was using some bamboo-blend from the Wal-Mart that I really liked, too. I'd like to try out a pair of Injinji socks because the concept sounds great (the concept being that these are toe socks, so each toe is separated from one another, further preventing friction from rubbing together inside a traditional "mitten" sock).


  • Blister Treatment

    running stuff

    If you decide to deviate from what you know works with disastrous results (*cough*), you're going to need to do something about those blisters. I swear by Spenco 2nd Skin Blister Pads. You remove the cover and simply cover the blister with the hydrocolloid pad, which lasts for up to five days to help the blister disappear without scarring. I sometimes have trouble keeping them on for five days due to taking a shower, small toes, etc., but they really do work.


  • Sun Protection

    running stuff

    Yeah, sunscreen is important. Prevents skin cancer, rapid aging, all that stuff. But I'm talking about ways to avoid the sun beaming directly into your eyes, which I found has the unwelcome tendency of seriously draining me of energy during a run. When I don't squint constantly during a run lasting longer than an hour, I save a lot of energy. So. Sunglasses, hats, anything to keep the sun from your eyes. You don't have to spend a lot of money here. These sunglasses I bought from Target from their Ironman line since they were the most snazzy. They offer complete eye cover for me, so when I look down I don't see a line between the end of my lenses and the ground (this annoys me). The edges of the... uh, handles? They have this rubbery grip on it. Basically, they don't move or jostle when I run. They offer 100% UVA protection, which you should look for when you go to purchase a pair of shades.

    The interesting part about me and sunglasses is that I refuse to race wearing them. I'm not sure why, it's just that I've never done it and don't care to start. I feel like I can't "see" people when I wear them, so I keep them off. I will, however, race wearing a hat. Like a Colts hat.


  • Running Clothes

    Much like socks, you will probably feel better if what you wore wasn't soaked with sweat that clings to your skin. Cotton absorbs moisture, but doesn't release it (like a sponge). I used to run in cotton shirts so I have nothing against it; however, as I bought more running shirts with synthetic fabrics, I feel much more comfortable during my run than before (also because I seem to sweat more than I used to).

    Another article of clothing we don't often consider until it's too late is underwear. Yeah. It can bunch up and make for THE MOST uncomfortable run of your life. This is not that big of a deal if you run in a completely secluded area where you don't have to wait until you're out of eyeshot of houses to deal with it, but if you run in a neighborhood or city you're pretty much screwed. I've found that seamless underwear with a synthetic blend to be the most comfortable, and actually, some of the underwear that Victoria's Secret sells has been the most comfortable for me to run in because it just stays in place and doesn't move. It's so thin that it's like a second skin that you don't notice.

    Which leads me to a discovery I found on a blog called Rundurance for a brand of Brazilian-inspired underclothing called Vivvos. I haven't tried these at all, so if you click on the Rundurance link it'll take you to a review on her site. What I like about them, besides the fact that they look hot, is that they're a very thin, microfiber underwear designed to stay in place without bunching up. Much like the Victoria's Secret pair I have, the review says they seem smaller than you'd expect, but that's exactly why they stay in place.


  • Misc Gear

    You all probably know by now how much I love my Moeben running sleeves. Literally the best discovery I've ever had for my running. They keep you warm in a different way that a long sleeve shirt does, and they are very comfortable. And eye-catching. The offer UV protection and also come in an eco-friendly line. They keep you warm in the cold, and cool in the heat (the fleece-lined sleeves can be dipped in water).

    Watch

    Garmin, regular watch with a stop-watch, anything that can help you gauge your time and pace is very beneficial to your training. Sure, you can go to the extreme with it and find yourself needed to back off, but for the most part it's a good tool to have. I have a Timex Ironman watch that is really good. There are two models, I believe, one (the 50-lap model) that includes more features, such as the ability to store workouts and recall them to figure out your average pace, fastest lap, etc., an interval setting, and a countdown timer as well as three different alarm settings. I have the 30-lap model, and I miss those extra features, but I still get along fine. You obviously have to manually press the lap button yourself (which you don't have to do with a Garmin) and know where the mile splits are, but it fits your wrist nicely. Both models are water resistant and has an "indiglo" light, plus two time zone settings.

    Hydration

    As the temperatures warm up, you'll need to pay more attention to hydration during your run. I bought a Amphipod hand held water bottle that carries 22 ounces of liquid. There is also a pouch to stuff some gels into, as well. It took a little bit of time to get used to, and I still don't particularly like running with it because during the end of my run I start fiddling with it because my hand begins to sweat underneath the strap. However, the times I have intentionally left it behind, I end up regretting it. I try to keep the bottle in the freezer for at least an hour before heading out so the stuff stays cooler longer.


  • That's all I can think of for now, and I'm getting bored. I'd like to know what you guys use, so let me know in the comments!


    02 July 2010

    Macadamia-Lime Crusted Ocean Perch & Oh Nuts! Product Review

    Oh Nuts macadamia nuts

    I was contacted by Sam from Oh Nuts!, who generously offered me some products to review on here. I took up the offer, and in a few days I received a bag of raw macadamia nuts and dried red sour cherries. Of course I couldn't wait to try them, so I opened the bag and tested a few of each. Macadamias have a rich, round flavor that's rather neutral whilst imparting a subtle nuttiness to recipes. The cherries were delicious and slightly tart, though I will need to plump them if I use it in baking since they weren't really plump to begin with (I'll be using these in a different recipe later).

    Macadamia-Lime Crusted Ocean Perch

    For now, I decided to use a portion of the macadamias as a coating for fish. When ground, the macadamias resemble panko bread crumbs, which is great considering that's what mixed with them, along with a few herbs, spices, and lime zest.

    Macadamia-Lime Crusted Ocean Perch

    The process went like this: Fish dipped in flour, beaten eggs, then the macadamia coating. Afterwards, the coated fillets took a rest on a baking sheet with a cooling rack on top to dry out a bit. This makes it easier to pan fry the fish as the coating will remain intact.

    The coating crisped up nicely and the subtle heat from the cayenne pepper contrasted nicely with the flavor of the lime zest. Ocean perch is a good fish to cook with since it's a bit heartier than many other white fishes with a neutral flavor that won't overpower the rest of the meal.

    Macadamia-Lime Crusted Ocean Perch

    Since I made these for sandwiches, I made a lime aioli (omitting the sweeteners, subbing lime juice for lemon, and tripling the garlic). For the greenery, I wanted a simple slaw and used up napa cabbage I had with jalapenos and red onion, which was drizzled and tossed with some of the aioli, additional olive oil, and white vinegar, plus a sprinkling of salt. Delicious on its own, but even better as a sandwich topping.

    Thanks again to Sam for sending me these products. Oh Nuts! has a great variety of nuts, dried fruit, and loads of other goodies to check out. Head on over to see what they have that you might need!

    Recipe after the jump.




    Print this recipe

    macadamia-lime crusted ocean perch
    Recipe by Christina Provo

    ingredients ~

    1 cup raw macadamia nuts, ground to the consistency of panko bread crumbs
    1 cup panko bread crumbs
    2 teaspoons dried oregano
    1 teaspoon coarse salt
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    grated zest of two limes
    1/2 cup flour
    2 eggs, beaten
    8 frozen ocean perch fillets, thawed
    3 cups thinly shredded napa cabbage
    1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
    1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
    1 recipe lime aioli
    Olive oil
    White vinegar
    Coarse salt
    Oil for frying

    directions ~
    1. In a wide, shallow dish (such as a pie plate) mix together ground macadamia nuts, panko, oregano, salt, cayenne pepper, and lime zest. Place the flour in a separate pie plate, and the beaten eggs in a bowl wide and deep enough to dip the fish in.

    2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a cooling rack and place next to where you'll prep the fish. To coat the fish, coat lightly in flour. Dip in beaten eggs, then coat completely in the nut-panko mixture. Place on lined baking sheet; repeat with remaining fish. Set aside to dry for 15-20 minutes.

    3. Toss cabbage with jalapenos and red onion in a medium sized bowl. Coat with 1/4 cup aioli and a drizzle of olive oil and white vinegar, tossing to mix thoroughly. Season with salt if needed.

    4. Preheat an oven to 200 degrees. Heat a skillet over medium heat with enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. When hot, add 3 fish fillets and cook until the coating is crispy and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip over and continue to cook for another 3 minutes; remove to another sheet baking sheet lined with a cooling rack and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining fish, adding more oil as needed.

    5. Serve with salad and additional aioli sauce between hamburger buns.


    01 July 2010

    Holy Grail Granola

    granola

    So I've been on a bit of a granola kick. I don't enjoy a steaming hot bowl of oats during the summer (when it's hot), especially after running, and since I have been lackluster when it comes to breakfast ideas (waffles everyday is a fun idea that I get sick of) my best option is to bake a batch of granola that'll last me for long enough to not have to think about breakfast until it's gone.

    And this is it. The best granola of 2010. I finally bought the proper ingredients and I mixed this and that together to come up with a granola that turned out exactly how I wanted. Granola clusters mixed with two nuts and one seed, plus some dried cranberries. All this is coated with a sweet honey-brown sugar mixture that transforms the mixture from dried to candied. Yeah, definitely not the healthiest granola on the block, but that wasn't my aim.

    granola

    What I did differently with this recipe was make a sugared coating with the pecans, pepita seeds, and almonds consisting of a lightly beaten egg white, and sugar mixed with grated orange zest. I debated between baking it separately and mixing it into the oat mixture after it baked, but I wanted everything to be combined so I added the nuts to the oats after I mixed the oats with the oil, honey, brown sugar, and salt. I chose not to use orange juice in the syrup because it makes the oats soggy and requires longer baking time to dry out. I also used a mixture of whole oats and quick oats since I read that the quick oats makes better clumps.

    Oh yeah. Whilst heating the syrup up in a saucepan I started thinking of caramel corn, and how you add baking soda to the caramel syrup after it reaches the correct temperature. I don't know why, but perhaps it aids in a harder coating without soggifying the popcorn. I decided to add a bit, about a 1/4 teaspoon, just for the sake of experimentation. Although I'm not sure if it helped, the consistency of the finished granola turned out exactly how I wanted and in the future I will not leave out the baking soda.

    granola

    Because I finally made a successful granola recipe, I'm naming this "Holy Grail Granola", because it's entirely worthy of such a name. The oaty clusters are delicious with the dried cranberries, and it's still not so sweet that I'd only want to eat it with ice cream. This remains my favorite summer breakfast with fresh fruit and protein powder mixed into the milk.

    Recipe after the jump.




    Print this recipe

    Holy Grail Granola
    Recipe by Christina Provo

    Makes a ton

    ingredients ~

    3 cups old fashioned oats
    2 cups quick oats
    1/2 cup wheat bran
    1 cup pecans
    1/2 cup raw pepita seeds
    1/2 cup sliced almonds
    1 eggs white
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    grated zest of two oranges
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    1 cup honey
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    2 tbsp unsalted butte
    1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
    1 tbsp vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    12 ounce bag dried, sweetened cranberries

    directions ~
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. Mix oats and wheat bran together in a large bowl. Whisk egg white in a medium bowl until just frothy, then stir in pecans, pepita seeds, and almonds to coat. Mix sugar together with orange zest in a small bowl, pressing with a fork to release oils and tint the sugar. Sprinkle over nuts-egg white mixture and stir to coat thoroughly; set aside.

    2. Place oil, honey, brown sugar, butter, and salt in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, heat until brown sugar has dissolved and butter has melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Stir in baking soda and whisk until completely mixed (it will resemble liquidy brain matter until it blends together to form a tan, foamy mixture).

    3. Pour over oats and stir until evenly saturated with oil-sugar syrup. Stir in nut mixture until mixed. Spread on baking sheet and place in oven. Lower heat to 325ª and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Lower oven to 300ª and cook for another 15 minutes until a deep golden brown. Remove from heat and place baking sheet on cooling rack. Stir once more, then let cool completely. Once cooled, break up granola, leaving many small clumps, and mix with dried cranberries. Store in a covered container or a zip-loc bag.


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    Chronicling my adventures from the kitchen to the road, and back again.

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