December 21, 2013

NatureBox {my new favorite way to snack}

Have you heard of NatureBox?  I thought all monthly subscription boxes were kind of dumb until I tried this one.  I had ignored their ads on Facebook for months, but signed up after I read a blog post on Daily Garnish.  Proof that having bloggers talk about your product can be better advertising than traditional media.

It wasn't so much the blog post though as all the comments from people talking about their experiences with NatureBox that convinced me.  My undergrad degree is in Consumer Behavior and this kind of thing fascinates me.  For my first box I chose to receive sun-dried peaches, granny smith apples, praline pumpkin seeds, cranberry jubilee and vanilla macaroon granola

The vanilla macaroon granola was delicious on Greek yogurt, but also tasty funneled straight from the bag to my mouth :)

My absolute favorite snack in this box though were the dehydrated granny smith apples.  I only wish my TMJ inflicted jaw liked them too.  I figured I'd try all new snacks each month until I found my favorites, but couldn't help myself from adding the apples to next month's box jaw is just going to have to deal with it.

Before signing up, I googled NatureBox as I typically do with everything I'm researching and came across an interesting Forbes article.  If you're interested in trying NatureBox, click here to get $10 off your first box.  That's how I got my first box and now I'm on the 6 month pre-paid plan which is $16/box.

December 14, 2013

Fall Salad with Cranberries, Squash, Pomegranate & Wheat Berries

For the past two months, I've been looking for fresh cranberries and they have finally arrived in South Florida!  There are quite a few cranberry recipes on Grains for Your Brain, which is the website I found this wheat berry salad recipe on.  I love the festive colors in this salad and it would be perfect to serve with a Christmas meal, especially for vegetarians.

There are quite a few steps to this recipe, but everything for the salad comes together while the squash and cranberries are roasting.  The smell of cinnamon and brown sugar coming from the oven will quickly convince you that this recipe is worth making.

The dressing quantity is perfect for this salad, the only aspect I didn't like was the addition of lemon juice because it was a little too tart when combined with the cranberries.  I really like the Arbequina olive oil from California Olive Ranch; it's a great olive oil for salad dressings!

I miss being able to buy olive oil at Oro di Oliva in Milwaukee and especially their 18-year balsamic vinegar, but I'm slowly discovering new favorites especially those that can be ordered online because traffic is such a nightmare here in Miami.

While I loved the flavor combination of this recipe, I plan to slightly alter the ratio of ingredients next time to add more spinach and less wheat berries.  I also think the addition of walnuts and goat cheese would be lovely.

Chris loved this salad cold, while I preferred it slightly warm (30 seconds in the microwave).  This is definitely a hearty main-dish salad that will leave you full for hours. 

Disclaimer: I received the California Olive Ranch olive oil at no cost to me.  Also, I'm currently participating in a sponsored social media campaign for the Grain Foods Foundation, however this post is not sponsored.

December 11, 2013

Coconut-Lime Sugar Cookies - Blogger Cookie Swap

Last year was my first time participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I thought it was a great way to discover new bloggers and get some delicious cookies in the mail.  The swap is sponsored by Oxo who raises money for Cookies for Kids' Cancer

I made pecan sandies last year and decided I needed Miami flavor in this year's cookies, so I went with the tropical flavors of lime and coconut.  I followed a recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything that was definitely a winner.  Delicious chewy sugar cookies with a hint of lime and coconut.

I'm a big fan of cooking shows, but only recently got cable so I can now watch Food Network shows.  My favorite show is definitely Barefoot Contessa and I've been watching lots of her reruns lately (it's been on the air since 2002).

There are some things that are just easier to learn by watching someone else do them and for me, zesting was one of them.  I used to rub limes against the microplane grater instead of the other way around.  It makes such a difference, thanks Ina!

I recently received Glad MatchWare in the mail which ended up being perfect containers for shipping my cookies to Lisa, Jennifer & Krista.  Each shape is a different color and I thought the festive green color of the round containers worked quite well for the holiday season.

Getting packages in the mail is always fun, but especially when you know they contain cookies :)  I received old-fashioned ginger crinkles from Catherine at Kitty's Baking Time and chocolate-covered shortbread cookies from Ruthie at The Tasty tRuth

I should have received three total and am not sure what happened to the third package but that's ok because the two I received were delicious.  I love ginger cookies year-round and they're even better around the holidays, and crushed peppermint is an excellent addition to holiday treats.

Disclaimer: Glad MatchWare was provided at no cost to me.

Coconut-Lime Sugar Cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes per batch

Ingredients (5 dozen 2" cookies)
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of two limes
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (from two limes)
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (silicone baking mats don't work well for these cookies).
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, lime zest and juice. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients and coconut.
  • Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets (I use a small Oxo scoop which holds 2 teaspoons of dough) about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Let stand on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.
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December 10, 2013

Farro Soup with CSA Vegetables

When I returned last week from a 9-day trip to Wisconsin, I was excited to pick up my CSA box and get back into the kitchen.  Eating out can be fun, but becomes tiresome day after day as does staying in hotels.

I've talked about farro soup quite a few times before because it's one my favorites and it was the perfect way to use multiple items from my recent CSA delivery.

Each batch of my farro soup starts with carrots, celery and onion.  The CSA items I added included radishes, grape tomatoes (in place of canned tomatoes) and for greens I added sorrel, kale and radish greens.

I've had a hard time finding ingredients here that I became accustomed to easily finding in Wisconsin.  For example, farro and wheat berries are nearly impossible to find.  Any recommendations for a good place to order them online?

I finally found a 3-lb bag of farro at Laurenzo's, an Italian specialty store, but didn't open it until I came across half-gallon Ball jars on clearance at Target, which was the perfect size to store 3-lbs of farro in!

5 weeks into the CSA season I'm really happy that we became members of TeenasPride CSA.  There's a great variety in each week's box and it's fun getting items I haven't seen before such as sorrel and watermelon radishes.

Also, pickup is really convenient because they drop the boxes at Whole Foods stores throughout Miami.  In Wisconsin, I picked up my box from the front porch of a house, which meant having to arrive within a small window of time.  Now I can go anytime Whole Foods is open and the boxes are refrigerated, so there's no need to rush.

December 07, 2013

Miami South Beach Food Tour

Now that the weather is a bit cooler, Chris and I are determined to get out and explore Miami.  After moving to Milwaukee, we found that Milwaukee Food Tours was a great way to learn about the city and today, Miami Culinary Tours showed us what South Beach has to offer.

Our first stop was 660 at The Angler's, where I had fried yucca and Chris had sea bass ceviche.  I've been on over a dozen food tours, and so far have always been impressed with the vegetarian options I'm given. 

At Bolivar, a Colombian restaurant, we sampled empanadas and had refajo, a mixture of Colombian soda and beer.  I don't typically like any beer, but it was a really tasty combination.  My empanada was filled with cheese and tasted like a delicious fried cheese curd.

After our first two stops, we headed to Ocean Drive which is responsible for the South Beach aesthetic that most tourists expect.  In Miami, Art Deco is marked by the pastel-hued buildings that line Ocean Drive.

It's also home to Gianni Versace's former ocean front mansion.  I was surprised by the location which seems very out of place among all the hotels and restaurants along Ocean Drive.

Next we headed to David's Café for Cuban coffee and a guava pastry, or pastelito as the locals would say.  Chris, the coffee drinker of the two of us, really liked it but I couldn't swallow it fast enough.  It's one of those things you have to try in Miami though.

From there we headed to Jerry's Deli, which was my least favorite stop.  Perhaps it was the back-to-back pastries.  It would have been nice to try a sandwich bite or something more deli-like instead of a rugala.

Blocks Pizza Deli got a split vote, Chris disliked it and I loved it.  At this stop everyone was given a vegetarian "sun dried hippie" blocks pocket, which contained sun dried tomatoes, feta, baby spinach, basil pesto and kalamata olives.  It was really good, but next time I'd like to try their pizza.

At Charlotte's Bakery, we tried the Argentinian version of empanadas which I loved.  Mine was filled with spinach and ricotta, but the creamy avocado sauce is what really completed it.

Española Way was conceived in 1925 and modeled after Mediterranean villages found in France and Spain.  Miami is so congested with cars that this pedestrian-only area was a great place to walk around, unfortunately it's only a couple blocks long.  I've heard it's a gorgeous area at night and I'd really like to return.

Our final stop was at Milani Gelateria for gelato.  Chris and I both chose pistachio and while it was good, it paled in comparison to the wonderful gelato I had throughout our trips to Italy.

Overall, Miami Culinary Tours has done a great job in selecting restaurants for their South Beach tour.  Each one reflects the cultural melting pot that makes up Miami, from the heavy Latin American influence to the sizable Jewish population.  I highly recommend their South Beach tour and we plan to check out their Wynwood tour next!