30 November 2011

Kettle Cuisine Frozen Soup Review

Kettle Cuisine Soup Review

Kettle Cuisine is an independent, artisan soup maker specializing in wholesome, flavorful soups made from real ingredients. Founded by Jerry Shafir, the goal of Kettle Cuisine was to remain close to the roots of the culinary industry by offering minimally processed soups that contained no artificial ingredients. When Jerry learned that his daughter needed to maintain a gluten-free diet, he transformed his soups into great tasting gluten-free soups that everyone can enjoy.

After learning about Kettle Cuisine when I received an email from Lucinda, I was eager to try them out. I like having a quick meal option on hand when I get back from a run and warm soups fit the bill.

Kettle Cuisine Soup Review

I received six different flavors, Thai curry chicken soup, tomato soup with garden vegetables, roasted vegetable soup, chicken chili with white beans, New England clam chowder, three bean chili, and organic mushroom and potato soup. I was expecting just two or three, so that was a nice surprise! The flavors all sounded delicious, and in a little over a week I had eaten them all.

The creamy soups contained cream (or coconut milk in the Thai soup) and are thickened with rice flour and/or rice starch. I know from baking with rice flours that it can leave a detectable taste, but I didn't notice it at all here. Nutrition wise, the creamy soups had around 330 calories and 10-15 grams of fat. The protein content was about 15-25 depending on the type of soup.

The lightest soup I tried was the tomato soup with garden vegetables, which had a mere 110 calories and is more as a side to a sandwich or something heftier.

You can cook the soups two ways, in the stove or the microwave. I tried it in the stove first. Before plopping the soup out of the bowl and into a pot, the instructions say to run the bottom of the bowl under cool water to loosen the soup from the bowl. Make sure you hold the plastic film top down or else it'll pop off.

Kettle Cuisine Soup Review

There were no instructions on cooking temperature, so I heated the soup up on medium-low and covered the pot. It took a little longer than ten minutes to heat the soup up this way.

For the remaining soups, I heated them in the microwave. It took 4-5 minutes for them to be heated thoroughly and it tastes just the same.

Kettle Cuisine Soup Review

I was blown away by the flavors. They were pronounced, lively, and tasted like soup from a restaurant or cafe. My only "complaint" was that I felt there needed to be more salt to bring the flavors to life. They were present and identifiable, but they lacked that extra punch that marries the tastes together. I added a pinch of kosher salt and was satisfied. Other than that, the soups contained a good amount of vegetables, meat, or beans and the broth wasn't runny, even in the creamless soups. Many soups seem to skimp on ingredients or use filler vegetables like corn, but not here.

Kettle Cuisine soups are more expensive than other brands, at $4.95 a bowl online, or $3.99 in stores. This might deter me from buying them because while they're very tasty, they don't make up an entire meal for me. They are available for purchase online or in select stores.

29 November 2011

FiberScrumptious Mini Muffins Review

FiberScrumptious Muffin Review

A few weeks ago I received an email from Ashley, founder of FiberScrumptious.com, asking if I'd be interested in tasting and reviewing their high fiber muffins. I hadn't heard of FiberScrumptious before so I went to their website to read up. After doing so, I quickly agreed and was looking forward to tasting the muffins.

FiberScrumptious was started by Ashley who, after being diagnosed with IBS, was constantly on the lookout for ways to incorporate more fiber into her diet. She looked to premade fiber muffins from the store as a snack, though she found that she had to buy just a few at a time or else they'd become dry, stale, and moldy quickly. During her pregnancy it was even more difficult to make the weekly trip to the store, so she whipped up a batch of homemade, high fiber muffins in her kitchen. And so her company was born.

FiberScrumptious is now an online muffin factory of sorts where batches of tasty, fiber-packed mini muffins are whipped up. A serving of four muffins contains 100-120 calories and 13-15 grams of fiber, and costs $3.50 per pack. Each batch of muffins are frozen after being baked. Because there are no preservatives, freezing the muffins helps keep them fresh during transit. When they arrive, you can freeze them until ready to eat.

FiberScrumptious Muffin Review

There are many wonderful flavors available, like Lemon and White Chocolate Chip, though the Roasted Black Sesame and Peanut Butter Chip and Banana Chocolate Chip stood out to me at the time. My package of muffins arrived on Thanksgiving Eve, packed in a foil liner with ice packs to keep the muffins chilled. Instructions for thawing are on the label. They were a welcomed snack to munch on while prepping for the Thanksgiving meal.

FiberScrumptious Muffin Review

The highlight of these muffins for me is that there are no unnatural ingredients, additives, or fillers. Most of the ingredients are organic, but mainly they're all ingredients you can find in stores to cook with on your own. I appreciate.

The texture was moist and spongy. They weren't dry at all and the flavor of the Banana Chocolate Chip tasted great. The banana was prominent, and the taste was complimented by the chocolate chips.

While I liked the idea of the Roasted Black Sesame and Peanut Butter Chip, the flavor was a little too earthy for me. I felt that there needed to be more sugar, or peanut butter actually in the batter. As a savory muffin it would be excellent. Black sesames can have an intense taste, and it's a flavor I don't think I am used to. Texture-wise, though, I felt the same about these as I did the banana muffins.

Overall, I really liked this product. While it's more costly than buying packaged fiber cookies/muffins/sawdust blocks from the store, with FiberScrumptious Mini Muffins you know exactly what you're putting into your body. They're a light snack and healthier than a latte from the coffee shop, to put the price into perspective. If I were to develop a Running Foodie rating system consisting of soles and whisks, where soles are for non-edible products and whisks are for edible items, I'd give five whisks. Check them out!

FiberScrumptious on Facebook

28 November 2011

Gingerbread House '11 - The Beginning

Gingerbread House '11 - The Beginning

It's that time of year again. For the next 3-4 days, my family and I will be rushing frantically to create our gingerbread house for the yearly contest at the College Football Hall of Fame. We started cutting out the template last night.

Gingerbread House '11 - The Beginning
Gingerbread House '11 - The Beginning

To get an idea of the dimensions of the house, and so that we could size out a platform, the house was constructed with cardboard cutouts. It looks pretty plain, but by doing this we were able to work out some ideas we had, which is better than trying to make decisions when we're in a hurry.

Gingerbread House '11 - The Beginning

One batch of gingerbread was put together and refrigerated overnight. We use this recipe because it makes a crapton of dough, bakes up crispy, and doesn't spread. The original recipe uses butter, though we use shortening so it won't spread and because we aren't eating it.

Gingerbread House '11 - The Beginning

There has already been a casualty - the handle of a giant red spatula. This is a seriously heavy dough that can only be mixed by a KitchenAid or sturdy wooden spoon.

If you'd like to look at our gingerbread houses from the past, here are the links. And when you're done, vote for our house from last year that's listed under Provo Family in the Global Gingerbread Contest. Thank you!

Gingerbread House '08, Part One
Gingerbread House '08, Part Two
Gingerbread House '09
Gingerbread House '10

Cake Plate Boutique - Guest Post by Avriel Weston

One and a half weeks ago, on November 17, Skirt PR hosted a trunk show in Chicago featuring Cake Plate Boutique from Napa, CA. The event, taking place at Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique, showcases Napa fashions, featuring outfits and accessories from various designers. Along with fashion, cupcakes from Sugar Bliss were served with wine straight from Napa.

My plan was to attend the event on behalf of Foodbuzz, but I wasn't able to go. Instead of scrapping the event, I asked a friend, Avriel Weston, from Chicago if she would like to go in my place. Luckily, she and one of her friends were able to attend Cake Plate Boutique. Avriel was kind enough to snap some pictures and write up her thoughts of the event, so take a look!

Cake Plate Boutique Trunk Show

I was very excited for the opportunity to attend the Cake Plate Boutique Trunk Show on behalf of Christina for Foodbuzz. The trunk show was set up by Skirt PR, a Chicago Public Relations Agency, that worked in conjunction with Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique to bring the Napa Valley based boutique to Chicago. After we worked out the kinks, like if I needed to wear a skirt or not, I took a friend and attended the event.

Cake Plate Boutique Trunk Show
Cake Plate Boutique Trunk Show

Good thing skirts weren't mandatory because the night of the show was one of the coldest Chicago has had since last winter. Since I came straight from work, I was a bit early, and due to the weather, I ended up going in before they could roll out the Pink Carpet at the entrance (which I was a bit bummed about because that seemed like it would be real fun).

Cake Plate Boutique Trunk Show

The location of the show is actually Sugar Bliss' second location. It is a quaint space that fits the Napa Valley fashion very well. The ambiance was nice: free champagne and many dresses that I found could be worn in a Chicago winter, which I liked. The event was more laid back then I expected, and everyone was very nice. I like that the clothing seemed to be in the background of the event and I didn't feel obligated to purchase anything; however, the highlight of the event had to be the cupcakes!

Cake Plate Boutique Trunk Show

Sugar Bliss bakes their cakes daily. They have set flavors they make everyday, as well as another six flavors they make depending on the day of the week. Along with that variety, there is also a different breakfast cupcake each morning and a daily seasonal flavor, which was Cranberry Orange that day. The cupcakes were delicious. The only one out for the tasting was the chocolate mini-cupcake, so I bought a mix of six differently flavored minis that I took home. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to take a picture of them before they flipped in the box and no longer had the cute Signature Sugar Bliss Bloom intact.

Cake Plate Boutique Trunk Show
Cake Plate Boutique Trunk Show

The cake itself is very moist and the frosting is light and flavorful. I'm more of a thick buttercream frosting type of gal but found that I really enjoyed the lightness of their frosting. The six minis I bought were: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Carrot Cake, Red Velvet, Orange Creamsicle (which the boyfriend ate and said tasted surprisingly like the real deal), and Chocolate Coconut. They were all great, but the Chocolate Coconut is a must have--I will definitely go back for a large one of those! I was given strict directions not to put the cupcakes in the fridge if I couldn’t eat them right away; unfortunately, I have two cats that love to get into food that’s left out, so I had to break the rule. The good news is that even after two days in the refrigerator, the cupcakes were still moist and delicious!

I'm glad I had the opportunity to go to this event and learn about a new bakery in Chicago. And learning of a boutique to go to if I ever find myself in Napa Valley? Priceless!

Cake Plate Boutique Trunk Show


23 November 2011

How to Indulge (In a Healthy Way) This Holiday Season

Running With Mascara Guest Post

Hey guys, fancy seeing you again! I hope all your Thanksgiving cooking preparations are coming together smoothly, and I hope I was able to give you a few last minute ideas if you needed inspiration.

Running With Mascara asked me if I was interested in guest blogging for them. In exchange, they created a guest post for my blog! Our topic of interest is how to indulge without breaking the bank during the holidays. You can check out my article on their blog. For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the post.

How to Indulge (In a Healthy Way) This Holiday Season
By Emilie Yount

It’s inevitable; when family and friends are back in town, whether it’s from school, the armed forces or after a move to a new city, the urge to go out and party hardy is a very real dilemma. Whether you’ve just started a new diet or exercise regimen or just don’t want to pile on any extra weight around the middle this holiday season, you have some decisions to make. There are more than a few ways to avoid weight gain from holiday food and those nights out drinking with friends:

1. Know Your Limits

The last thing you want your ‘back in town’ friends to remember from the Christmas or New Year’s party is you falling face-first into the bar floor after one too many. Letting loose is natural around the holidays; most people have a few days (or a week, if you’re lucky!) off of work and it’s natural to want to unwind and enjoy yourself. Avoid weight gain and general embarrassment by switching off between your alcoholic drink of choice and a glass of water or sparkling water. That will also help you avoid that soul-crushing hangover the next morning. Stick with Amstel Light or vodka with soda water to curb your carb intake. Go ahead and get down to some music by Ke$ha while sipping- we won’t judge! ;) That will also help burn off some of the calories you’ve been imbibing.

2. Skip That Extra-Large Coffee Beverage

Most people enjoy a coffee treat now and then, whether it comes in the form of a hot chocolate, vanilla latte, smoothie or thick shake. The only thing we don't like is when we end up eating our weight in calories that we don't need to be consuming. There are plenty of guiltless beverages you can buy at the mall while doing your holiday shopping, so seek out smaller sizes that you can add soy milk to instead of getting the standard 10 pumps of sugar and heavy cream put into your travel mug!

3. Chocolate Isn’t Off Limits

I would never say it’s okay to eat two chocolate bars a day, but a bit of dark chocolate is actually good for you - in moderation, of course! Chocolate contains the same antioxidants found in bananas, strawberries and spinach. Try this recipe for Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!

4. Pre-Veg

No, not ‘pre-drink’. Save that for the college freshmen. ‘Pre-veg’ by enjoying some veggies with hummus and whole wheat pitas before you hit the holiday party circuit. This will keep your paws off the chicken wings, spinach artichoke dip and other super-appealing-but-oh-so-fattening appetizers. I’ve found that the best way to enjoy some veggies with the same flavor of Buffalo wings is to dip carrots and celery into low-fat blue cheese dressing (just a little!) with a touch of hot sauce. Check out the ways you can flavor boost and calorie reduce here!

Enjoying the holidays is key. It’s important to unwind and relax before you head back to work after the November and December holiday celebrations. Follow these simple tips so that you will still be able to enjoy yourself in a smart way. Planning on spring vacation? Sign up at the gym or find a great new workout DVD NOW. Waiting until after the New Year never did anyone any favors! Get into the habit during the season so that you aren’t forced to work through a half-hearted resolution come January 1st. Believe me, I know!

Last Minute Meal Ideas

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! You probably have your menu all set and ready to go, but if you're still undecided about certain dishes, you forgot an ingredient for your special recipe and can't make it to the store, or you want to add a new dish or dessert, here is a selection of previously blogged recipes for you to contemplate.

Appetizers -

Mushroom & Walnut Spread
Lentil Olive Salad with Fresh Mozzarella
Caramelized Onion Latkes with Aioli

Side Dishes -

Candied Sweet Potato Casserole
Butternut Squash Aioli with Blanched Asparagus
Lentils with Jalapeno, Cilantro, and Queso Fresco

Bread -

Cornmeal Rolls
Rustic Sun Dried Tomato Rolls
Everest Biscuits

Tired of turkey?

Roasted Lentil Gravy with Prune Stuffed Pork Loin

Dessert -

Tigger-Proof Pumpkin Pie
Apple Custard Crumb Pie

21 November 2011

Masoor Dal - Indian Lentils

Masoor Dal

Masoor dal is one of my favorite comfort dishes. It doesn't contain a pint of cream, nor is it loaded with a stick of butter, as my variation uses significantly less oil than the original recipe. What makes it a good comfort food is the rich flavor from the spices and the heartiness from the lentils. It's easy to put together and doesn't weigh heavily in the stomach. I like to serve it with rice, but today I served it with cornbread. You could even serve it with pasta because it's pretty versatile.

Masoor Dal

Garam masala, a traditional Indian spice mix, is what you're supposed to use, though I subbed Chinese 5-spice because that's what I have in the spice cabinet. There are a few similar spices used, but overall it's different. It's still imparts a spicy, smoky flavor, which is the important part. I did have ground coriander, an ingredient in garam masala, so I added some of that along with turmeric for color, like the recipe says to do.

The spices work to flavor the dish in two ways. First, half the spices are added to the lentils as they cook. The remaining spices are sauteed with onions. These spices are fat soluble, meaning the flavor is released the most when they come in contact with fat.

Masoor Dal

To begin, rinse 2 cups of black lentils. Add to boiling water and simmer until halfway cooked. The spices and salt are then added and the lentils continue to cook until soft. You're looking for a texture similar to thick cream, as the recipe states. This doesn't mean you want to cook the lentils to a mush. The lentils need to be combined with just enough water to maintain a loose texture without being too soupy. Additional hot water is added throughout the cooking period if needed to maintain consistency.

This was my first time making masoor dal with black lentils instead of green lentils. I liked it because the black lentils hold their shape better and have a heartier texture. It works with any type of lentil that retains their shape when cooked, so there's no need to buy a specific type.

Masoor Dal

If your lentils are cooked and there is still too much water, as pictured above, simmer gently, uncovered, to let the excess water evaporate.

Masoor Dal

The additional ingredients are onions, garlic, ginger, and pureed tomatoes. You're supposed to use jalapenos and cilantro, but I didn't have any. Luckily, the canned, diced tomatoes I used were Mexican-style and contained green chiles, so I got some heat that way. Make sure you puree the tomatoes because it contributes to the texture of the sauce, whereas leaving them diced would make it chunkier and less saucy.

Masoor Dal

Saute the onions in two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute until tender and translucent, taking care not to let them brown.

The garlic, ginger, and chiles, if you have them. Right now, it's smelling pretty great. Continue to saute the mixture until onions are deep yellow. Now, the rest of the spices and salt are mixed in and fried until the spices "stick".

Masoor Dal

When the spices soak up the moisture are sticking to the skillet, the pureed tomatoes and cilantro are poured in to release the spice fond. I cook this mixture for 3-5 minutes to heat the tomatoes and reduce them slightly.

Add the cooked lentils and stir to combine with the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Masoor Dal

That's all it takes to get of Indian lentils for dinner. This meal is full of protein, and the flavors taste even better the next day. I often eat a bowl of lentils for breakfast because it's so good. I'll be making this recipe often throughout wintertime.

Print this recipe

Masoor Dal
Recipe modified from Indian Food Forever

Ingredients -

2 cups black or green lentils
2 1/2 teaspoons garam masala or Chinese 5 spice powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped finely
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-inch piece) ginger root, chopped finely
2 jalapeno chiles, chopped (seeded if you want it less spicy)
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, pureed
1 bunch coriander, chopped

Directions -
  1. In a 3 quart pot, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Rinse lentils thoroughly. Add them to boiling water. Stir, and reduce heat to maintain a continuous simmer.

  2. Cook the lentils for 15 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon garam masala or Chinese 5 spice, 1/2 coriander, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 1 teaspoon salt. As lentils cook, uncovered, water will evaporate and mixture will thicken. Add more water to keep dal loose, like texture of thick cream. When dal is soft (an additional 10-15 minutes), turn off heat.

  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is very hot, add onions and cook until tender and translucent but not browned.

  4. Add garlic, ginger and chiles. Continue to fry until onions are deep-yellow. Add remaining spices and salt. Do not allow spices to burn. Keep stirring until mixtures starts to stick to skillet.

  5. Add tomatoes and cilantro. Cook until tomato softens and thickens slightly, about 3-5 minutes. Pour in pot of lentils and simmer to blend flavors. Taste and add more salt if needed.


19 November 2011

Classico Light Creamy Alfredo Sauce with Homemade Tomato Pasta

Homemade Tomato Pasta with Classico Light Creamy Alfredo

My pasta-plating skills need work.

Homemade Tomato Pasta with Classico Light Creamy Alfredo

Foodbuzz Tastemaker sent me a jar of Classico Light Alfredo Sauce to review. I typically stay away from light products, but the ingredient list here looked decent and contained just a few thickeners. Alfredo sauce is exceptionally heavy, so perhaps a light version would be a good thing.

To accompany my review is a batch of homemade pasta, which I had been meaning to try make for a while. What stopped me was the process of rolling it out by hand. But it tastes so good, and I was prepared to do whatever it took.

Homemade Tomato Pasta with Classico Light Creamy Alfredo

I knew I wanted to make a flavored pasta. Tomato seemed easy enough, especially after finding a tomato paste-based pasta recipe. The tomato paste greatly enhanced the flavor and was simple to prepare.

In a small saucepan, I heated half a can of tomato paste with olive oil until warm. The recipe says to add olive oil, though it isn't amongst the ingredients. I used about a tablespoon. The warm tomato paste is whisked into beaten eggs, then poured into the flour.

Homemade Tomato Pasta with Classico Light Creamy Alfredo

After a ten minute knead (which made my palms itchy), the dough is covered and rested for an hour to help relax the glutens and hydrate the dough. It also supposedly makes it easier to roll out.

I don't have a pasta machine, but I do have a nice rolling pin. It's long and has tapered edges and makes rolling out wide doughs easier than using a rolling pin with handles. I would suggest picking one up (or adding it to your Christmas list...).

My method for rolling out pasta dough is to flour the underside and top of the dough. Roll it out, then lift the sheet and dust with flour if needed. I repeat this five times and let it rest, covered, for ten minutes to relax the dough. Once it's rested, I roll it out again 5 times. Sometimes I flop the sheet over. Once it's fairly thin, about 1/4 of an inch, I dust with flour, roll the sheet up, and slice into strips.

Homemade Tomato Pasta
Homemade Tomato Pasta with Classico Light Creamy Alfredo

I sliced my pasta into thick strips. It doesn't look like there's much pasta, but because it is thicker it works out to the same amount as pasta from a box.

Unroll the strips and toss with a little extra flour. Since I wasn't making the pasta a day in advance, I laid the strips on a cooling rack and let it stay out overnight to dry. The pasta takes about 5 minutes to cook in boiling, salted water. It's chewy, delicious, and has a great tomato flavor. You could add herbs and it would make it taste even better.

Homemade Tomato Pasta with Classico Light Creamy Alfredo

The sauce tasted great. It was lighter and not as heavy as a richer sauce, though it still had a pronounced parmesan flavor. It coated the pasta nicely. The alfredo sauce contains 60 calories and 5 mg of fat per 1/4 cup serving, and serves seven. For me, though, I used the jar up for 4 servings, but that's fine with me. I'd purchase this again if I found it on sale.

What's your favorite pasta sauce?

18 November 2011

Seventh Generation Dish Soap Giveaway Winner

Hey guys. Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway! It's a pretty neat prize, and I wish I had more than one to give away.

The winner for today is:
Susan, 16 November, 2011 22:57

Fresh Citrus and Ginger, especially after the food pairing.

Congratulations, Susan! Please email me at christina@runningfoodie.com so I can collect your shipping info.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

16 November 2011

Blackened Tuna (or Salmon) with Roasted Ginger-Orange Green Beans


In yesterday's post, I mentioned the recipe I made that incorporated the flavors of the soaps (click here if you need to refresh your memory or enter the giveaway). I chose citrus and ginger since that is the soap I'm currently using, and because I like cooking with both those ingredients.

Blackened Tuna with Roasted Ginger-Orange Green Beans

I started by tossing fresh green beans with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Fresh ginger gets grated on top and mixed in, then slices of orange are placed on top of the green beans while it roasts. The ginger isn't overwhelming and the flavors taste pretty good. I was nibbling on them while the fish cooked.

Blackened Tuna with Roasted Ginger-Orange Green Beans

As for the fish, I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to prepare it. It wasn't until I was getting a coffee at Victorian Pantry that I got an idea. I've mentioned before that Steve, the owner, has started selling specialty blended teas, which I once used in cupcakes. I saw a Tangerine Rooibos this time and figured it would taste pretty good as a seasoning for the fish, and keeping with the citrus theme. Rooibos tea leaves aren't as strong as black tea, so I didn't have to worry about the tea overpowering the taste of the tuna and salmon. Eventually, I settled on blackened fish, a dish I haven't made before.

Blackened Tuna with Roasted Ginger-Orange Green Beans

Both tuna and salmon were on sale at the local store. I got some of each since I knew some of my eaters wouldn't feel comfortable eating seared tuna. The salmon was wild, and the tuna was sushi grade yellowfin.

So blackened fish. What is it? I looked up some recipes online and I found that it's just a paprika-based seasoning that completely coats both sides of the fish. The fish is then seared in a hot skillet, long enough for each side to develop a crispy coating that looks almost blackened, but isn't. You either finish cooking it in the oven, under the broiler, or in the case of tuna, you don't keep cooking it.

My seasoning mix consisted of the tangerine rooibos tea, paprika, oregano, onion and garlic powder, coarse salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar.

To prepare the fish, I melted butter in a skillet on low heat. Both sides of the salmon and tuna were dipped into the butter, then into the tea seasoning until completely coated. I seared the salmon on both sides for two minutes, then finished baking it in the oven for about seven minutes.

The tuna was given a two minute sear on either side, after which I sliced them up and plated it. Is there a proper way to slice tuna, like cutting steak against the grain? When I sliced the tuna, it either began to fall apart or looked flaky. Perhaps my knife wasn't sharp enough.

Blackened Tuna with Roasted Ginger-Orange Green Beans

And that's how it went down. This was my first time eating tuna (aside from sushi), and I decided I liked it. It has a very meaty, rich taste different from other fishes. I like it, I want some more of it, but it's too expensive.

The tangerine rooibos coating was incredible. It was faintly floral and citrusy and was a good compliment to the light taste of both the fish. I didn't taste any of the salmon, but I think they liked it. (I hope?) If you made this, you could use any citrus rooibos tea available to you or any citrus-flavored herbal tea you enjoy drinking.

Print this recipe

Citrus Rooibos-Blackened Tuna
Recipe by Christina Provo

Serves 4

Ingredients -
2 tablespoons tangerine rooibos tea leaves, or another type of herbal tea
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 3-4 ounce sushi-grade yellowfin tuna pieces
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
A starchy side dish

Directions -
  1. In a pie dish, mix together the tea, paprika, oregano, garlic and onion powders, salt, sugar, and pepper. In a large skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Working with one piece of tuna at a time, dip both sides in butter, then in the coating, making sure each side is completely coated. Place on a platter while you prepare the rest of the tuna.

  2. Raise the heat to medium high. Add the tuna and sear for 2 minutes. Don't move the pieces or else you won't get a good coating. Using a spatula, flip the tuna over and sear for another 2 minutes. The tuna should still be pink in the middle. Remove to a cutting board.

  3. Slice a piece of tuna and fan it out on the plate.

Print this recipe

Roasted Ginger-Garlic Green Beans
Recipe by Christina Provo

Serves 4

Ingredients -

1 1/2 pounds green beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
black pepper
1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 an orange, thinly sliced

Directions -
  • Preheat oven to 400°. In a 12x9-inch baking dish or a rimmed baking sheet, toss the green beans with olive oil, salt, pepper, and grated ginger. Place the orange slices on top and bake until green beans are tender, about 25 minutes.


15 November 2011

Seventh Generation Dish Soaps & Le Creuset Baking Dish Review + Giveaway

***Giveaway Closed***

Seventh Generation Natural Dish Soap Review & Giveaway

Through MyBlogSpark and Seventh Generation, I was given the opportunity to review their natural, plant-derived dish soaps. Included in the package were some plant-derived cleaning tools and a Le Creuset stoneware baking dish. I was asked to create a recipe based on the scents of the dish soaps in the baking dish and to clean it using the soaps. I'll talk about what I made in a moment, but first I'm going to review the benefits and potential drawbacks if the soaps.

(If you would like to skip to the giveaway information, scroll down to the bottom.)

So you want to help the environment in any way you can, right? You might spend a little more, but you walk away knowing that you aren't using petroleum-based dish soap. Everyone's happy and daisies bloom under the sunshine in lush fields of green grass where children happily trot barefoot.

Cleaning with Seventh Generation Natural Dish Soap

But how well do these products really work when compared to their generic, oil-based counterpart? Throughout the week of washing dishes where I replaced my usual soap with 7th Gen, I fully expected the need to use more soap, but I surprisingly found that the suds lasted longer and the soap effectively cut through grease, especially on plastics. When I have a lot of greasy dishes to wash, I usually have to rewash a few dishes where grease remained, or refill the sink with more hot water and soap. I haven't had to do that yet. It also cuts through the stains on the stove vent hood, toaster oven, and other surfaces where grease stains tend to gather, so it's good for more than just dishes. As for it being cost-effective, starting at $3 and going up, a generic dish soap will probably save you more money in the long run, even if you have to use more of it. But given the envoronmental benefits, you might not mind.

The scent is great. I've been using the Fresh Citrus & Ginger, and it has the intoxicating effect of making you excited to wash dishes, so unless you're Anne of Green Gables, no one in their right mind looks forward to it, so the scent is another plus. The label says that their scents are derived from whole essential oils and botanical extracts. Seventh Generation is hosting a Nature Makes Perfect Sweepstakes, where you can enter for a chance to win a trip to visit France, Italy, or Vermont where they produce the ingredients for their scents.

Which made me think... Seventh Generation is made in the USA and manufactured in Vermont, but a few of their ingredients come from Italy and France? Are Sicilian lemons really better than Californian lemons? If, as they say on their bottles, "every household in the U.S. replaced just one 25 ounce bottle of petroleum-based dish liquid with a 25 ounce bottle of plant-derived dish liquid, we could save 127,000 barrels of oil", are we really just offsetting how much oil it takes to transport out-of-country ingredients to the manufacturing plant?

I then analyzed a few of the ingredients on their label more closely, which led my brother to point out that the two final ingredients, benzisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone, are both synthetic preservatives commonly used in body care products, washing agents, and varnishes. Both are known to be irritants to skin, eyes, and possibly lungs, as well as being potentially toxic to the human immune system with continued exposure. I've also looked at a few other standard dish soap brands where these ingredients are not used. I'm not saying their synthetic ingredient lists are better over the long run, but they don't claim to be hypo-allergenic and toxic-free. I'm surprised that a company with that platform would use two synthetic preservatives that could be harmful to consumers, even if they use lower percentages of the preservatives.

Seventh Generation Natural Dish Soap Review & Giveaway

As for the accompanying Twist dish tools, some are plant-derived and free from oil, others use 100% organic cotton and loofah material. So far, I've only used one of the cotton towels and the white scour pads. The scour pad doesn't seem like it's going to hold up as long as other scour pads I use. I like the cotton towel because it's bright, cheery, and works well on dishes that need a simple wipe off, or on hard surfaces.

Overall, I enjoyed the soaps and might buy them on my own, but had a few concerns about their claimed environmental benefits.

Click through for recipe info and giveaway details.

Ginger-Citrus Roasted Green Beans

Now, on to dinner. I'm sure you're hungry by now if you've made it this far! Since I really enjoyed the fresh citrus and ginger scent, I incorporated those ingredients into dinner. Fresh green beans are roasted with fresh ginger and orange slices and served with blackened and seared tuna. The full recipe post will be up tomorrow since this post is wordy enough as it is. I'm excited about it because I used a tangerine rooibos tea from a local bistro in the tuna rub. Citrus and ginger are two ingredients that really liven up a meal, thanks to their vibrant flavor and aroma.

Giveaway Details

So, how can you cook up a meal in a 12x9-inch Le Creuset stoneware baking dish and clean up after dinner with Seventh Generation Dish Liquid and Twist dish tools? Here's how!
  • Leave a comment on this post telling me which scent of dish soap you like the most

  • "Like" Seventh Generation on Facebook and leave a comment on their wall with a link to this giveaway. Comment here to let me know you did it.

  • Tweet about this giveaway using the following comment: I entered the Seventh Generation dish soaps and Le Creuset baking dish giveaway from @RunningFoodie!
    Comment again to let me know.

Three chances to win! Please include your email address in the first comment if I won't be able to contact you myself. Giveaway is open to US residents only. Winner will be chosen on Friday.

Good luck!

14 November 2011

Cupcake Fail = Cake Ball Win

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

It wasn't my intention to make cake balls. I made them once before for New Year's Eve, mixed in too much frosting with the cake, and ended up with something that disgusted me. Initially, I planned on making cupcakes flavored with Celestial Seasonings' Sugar Plum Spice tea.

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

Every year, mid-November, their holiday teas reach the shelves of the grocery store. I really like all their flavorings, like Gingerbread Spice, Nutcracker Sweet, and Candy Cane Lane, a peppermint green tea. I haven't tried Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride yet, so I can't say what it's like. But my favorite of them all is Sugar Plum Spice. It's spicy with a floral note and perfect to sip when the weather outside is frightful. While drinking a cup, I thought back to previous cakes I made with tea and figured Sugar Plum Spice would make for a delicious cupcake flavor.

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

I have my favorite go-to cupcake recipes, though today I mixed it up and used the Amy Sedaris Vanilla Cupcake recipe,, but halved the original recipe (the link I gave shows the original cupcake recipe scaled in half). I figured that although I hadn't tried it before, I'm sure it would work out well. It looked like a basic recipe.

To begin, I scalded milk and steeped two tea bags in it. After five minutes, I removed the bags and let the milk cool to room temperature.

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

I also cut open a tea bag and added the leaves to the butter and sugar. I found this adds even more flavor to the cake and you don't notice the tea leaves when you eat it.

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls
Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

When you make a pot of Sugar Plum Spice tea, the tea has a reddish plum color. That wasn't going to work with the cupcake batter because the steeped milk was a little gray, so I added a tiny bit of Wilton food gel coloring to the butter and sugar.

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

After those two little additions, the recipe proceeds like standard cake recipes. The eggs and vanilla are added to the creamed butter and sugar followed by the flour, in three additions, and the milk in between the flour. I always give cake batters one final stir with the spatula.

I noticed that there didn't seem to be much batter and I was worried the cupcakes weren't going to look very impressive. I like tall, domed cupcakes, not small squatty cakes. There wasn't enough batter to fill the cups up 2/3rds of the way, which technically is what you want. Personally, I always fill them up a little higher when I make cupcakes but there wasn't anywhere near enough to do that this time.

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

As I expected, the cupcakes didn't really rise much higher than the top of the tin. I also failed to grease the tin properly and almost all of the cupcakes tore as I prodded them out with a butter knife. Failure. Fortunately, they at least tasted flavorful and buttery, with a delicate crumb that melted in your mouth.

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

I didn't really know what to do with the cupcakes until I decided to turn them into cake balls.


Thinking back on my last cake ball venture didn't leave me with fond memories. Because I didn't want to waste perfectly good tasting cake, so I proceeded with the idea, making a quick batch of buttercream. I may have made a bit too much because the mixture was kind of tacky after combining the buttercream with the crumbled cake. I stuck it in the fridge overnight and hoped it would be edible.

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

The next day, I melted two cups of white chocolate chips over a double boiler with shortening. Shortening helps create a smooth consistency that makes it much easier to coat the balls. I don't know how much I used, but it was probably close to 1/3 of a cup until I got the consistency I wanted. It easily flowed from a spoon and wouldn't result in a gloppy mess. I would use Wilton Candy Melts or bar chocolate next time since they melt more easily than chips, which are made to keep their shape. Chips can be used and I often use them because that's what I usually have in the pantry, but it takes longer.

The process went quickly and the cake balls were firm enough to be rolled in the chocolate without melting. I think I was a little sloppy when I transferred them to the wax paper-lined baking sheet, though, because mini disks of chocolate spread out underneath. The tops of the balls were sprinkled with coarse sanding sugar mixed with raspberry jello powder to make a subtle pink sugar. They looked pretty and festive.

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

They tasted really good, too. The spiciness was dulled a little by the frosting (which I didn't flavor with more tea for whatever reason), though they still were good and the tea flavor did come through. The white chocolate coating wasn't overpowering, either. All in all, success!

Sugar Plum Spice Cake Balls

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