Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Digging in to Halo Top #Sponsor

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Halo Top Ice Cream. All opinions are my own.

I'll be honest: I've seen Halo Top Ice Cream* in the freezer section of the store, but I've never tried any. Until now. When I was approached to do product review, I knew virtually nothing about the company or the product.

As we made our way through the four flavors the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and I chose, I learned a lot about Halo Top and, interestingly enough, discovered how differently the four of us view eating ice cream.

Oh, the flavors! D and I perused the choices and decided on Pistachio, Chocolate Almond Crisp, Black Cherry, and Sea Salt Caramel. You can view all of the Halo Top flavors here; our local grocery did have all of them. And, if you're wondering where you can pick up a pint or two - or more -, check out this pint locator.


About the Ice Cream...
When I saw the numbers on the front, honestly, I had no idea to what they referred. '240' read the Pistachio. All the others we chose were labeled with '280' and there were a few choices that had '320' or '360' on them. Turns out those are the calories - for the entire pint, not each serving. 

We pulled out a pint of another brand's ice cream, from our freezer, and the numbers started to make sense. Pint for pint: servings, same (4 per pint); cholesterol same per serving, actually Halo was slightly higher; total calories 280 per serving (other brand), 70 per serving (Halo Top), so 280 for the entire container; total sugar, one quarter of the amount (Halo Top) per serving, so the same total for the entire container.


Pint for pint, I was beginning to see the truth behind the foil wrappers that covered the ice cream. "Stop when you hit the bottom," declared one. "Save the bowl!" was another.


But, for my ice cream lovers, it's not about the number. Or, it's not just about the numbers; they are pretty well-trained to read labels! More importantly we wanted to know how it tastes...and how it stacks up to other ice creams that we love. So, we started with tiny scoops of all four flavors.


We discussed. We scribbled down notes. And we rated them against each other. Then we scooped more...and discussed even more. You wouldn't think that ice cream tasting could be so involved. But, my trio, well, let's just say that they take ice cream very seriously.


Our Thoughts...
First impressions were about the texture. Words used: airy, fluffy, light. It definitely feels lighter than other ice creams. Here's where I was surprised to learn how differently people are about why they eat ice cream.


My friends and family joke that I need an ice cream scoop. I have one, but it's a truffle-sized scoop. And it's all I need. I prefer strong flavors condensed into small servings. Kinda like how I drink my coffee. I'm an espresso gal versus a large cup o' joe guzzler.

I have seen people eat an entire pint of ice cream, my college roommate for instance and, yes, my husband, who is affectionately called the 'Sugar Pig.' But, I myself have never had the urge to eat an entire pint. 

Jake loved Halo Top because he could eat the entire pint and not feel guilty about it. "This is a guilt-free pleasure," he declared. "I can enjoy more of it without being overly concerned with sugar and -"

"Oh! I know, I know," interrupted one of the elves, "you mean because of diabetes - "

"And weight gain!" said the other.

"Yes," Jake continued, "both of those. The act of eating ice cream should be enjoyable. This one definitely is." 

So, where I eat ice cream for the flavor, my husband loves the texture and the coolness. "Ice cream needs to be refreshing." When I want refreshing, I drink water! "Ice cream needs to be pleasurable." Okay, I agree with that.


After the texture, we talked about the flavors. Words used: simple, mild, intoxicatingly sweet (when your mom is a food writer, these are things you say, I suppose).

We were divided on the Chocolate Almond Crunch. "Love-Hate" Jake wrote below the score that ranked it tied with the Sea Salt Caramel which I described as 'cloying.' We all agreed the Chocolate Almond Crunch wasn't chocolate-y enough. And where D loved the almond flavor, Jake objected to it, saying it reminded him of marzipan. "That's why I love it!" said the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf, an admitted marzipan fanatic.

We compared the flavors to previous ice creams of the same flavor and rated them. For instance, compared to other pistachio ice creams, where would this one fall? For both R and D, they declared this the best pistachio they've ever had. Jake and I both gave it a 4 and a 3, respectively. Again, I prefer stronger flavors and like biting into actual nuts.

Here's our quick list...

Pros: You can eat the entire pint, relatively guilt-free. The texture is airy and refreshing. And you can eat the entire pint by yourself. I wrote that already, right?!?! The. Entire. Pint.

Cons: The flavors aren't particularly sophisticated and they are mild.

We decided that if you make a mental shift away from wanting all the extras - chunks of nuts, ribbons of fruit, swirls of caramel - and you just want the flavor, Halo Top is a great choice. If you prefer more daring flavor combinations - I recently tried a Ylang Ylang & Fennel ice cream and Grapefruit-Juniper sorbet is one of my favorites - then this brand might not be particularly satisfying.

But, I'm going to say it again, if you want to dig your spoon into a pint of ice cream and eat all the way to the bottom by yourself, Halo Top is definitely the way to go.

Have you tried Halo Top ice cream? 
What did you think? I'm curious!

*Disclosure: I received complimentary product from Halo Top for the purpose of review. Comments are 100% accurate and 100% my own. I have received no additional compensation for this post. *



You can find Halo Top Ice Cream...
on the web

Sunday, March 26, 2017

{Gluten-Free} Kimchi Burgers


Kimchi burgers are a family favorite. So, after D and I finished our loop of the property on the Deuce Coupe, I whipped up these yummies for our anniversary lunch while we waited for Jake and R to finish their rides.


Ingredients 
makes 6 slightly larger than 1/4 pound burgers 

  • 1 pound organic, grass-fed ground beef (we used a 15% fat)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 T ginger syrup
  • 4 cloves garlic 
  • 3 T gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T chile sauce
  • 1 t toasted sesame oil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • freshly ground salt
  • Also needed buns (I used a mixture of gluten-free, regular, and pretzel), bell peppers, kimchi


Procedure
Prepare grill. Combine all but the last two ingredients and the extras. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions, shaping each into a 3/4" thick patty. Place patties on a grill rack coated with cooking spray and grill on each side until your preferred level of doneness. Grill the peppers and toast the buns, too.


Remove burgers from the grill and let stand for 5 minutes. Assemble the burgers with grilled peppers, burger, and top with kimchi. Enjoy!


It was warm enough for us to eat on the deck. Since Jake is gluten-free, burgers and brews has become burgers and cider. I found a Mandarin Hard Cider from Portland's Reverand Nat's Hard Cider. Delish.

Steak #FoodieReads


I packed this book in my backpack on our snowshoeing adventure because I knew I'd have time to read while they built snowmen or had an epic snowball battle. They did both...and I logged lots of pages. So happy to do some catching up in the Foodie Reads Challenge while we were on Spring Break.


Snowballs flew all around me while I dug into Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef  by Mark Schatzker.*


R took a break from the fight to sit down next to me and have a snack.

R: Mom, why do you read books about food all the time? Banana. Steak. It's always about food.
C: Well, it's not just about food. These books have history and biology.
D: And she likes food. She doesn't like vampires or zombies.

On the Page...

Steak is a wonderful read. And I can't stop talking about it. On our eleven hour drive home from the mountains, I think I brought it up at least half a dozen times. 

Its premise is simple: locate the best steak on the globe and understand what makes it the best. This book includes biology, nutrition, history, and more. It's also a veritable travelogue as we follow Schatzker from Texan feedlots to Nanteuil-en-Vallée where there is a herd of descendants of the now-extinct aurochs; he observes bull semen collection in Scotland and debunks from myths about Japanese Wagyu beef - they don't drink beer and get sake massages!

He even raises, slaughters, and enjoys a cow of his own. Fleurance is grass-fed and finished with hazelnuts and chestnuts. Yum!

I love this passage: "I would like to tell you how that steak tasted, but the truth is, we lack an adequate meat vocabulary. The flavor burst over my tongue with each chew was comparable to a symphony, but any attempt to describe the individual notes would sound pretentious and be meaningless, I fear. ...What I can tell you about that steak is how it made me feel. The flavor reached deep into my subcortex and uncorked a sensation that bubbled up and drowned out every other thought, concern, and anxiety drifting through the chaos and endless dialogue that rage in the mind. I chewed, swallowed, cut more steak, and chewed, sustaining my state of mind with each bite. It is the feeling that no human, or animal, for that matter ever tires of experiencing. It is a feeling that makes life, for all its pain, frustration, and sadness, worth living. The feeling is joy" (pg. 265).

The downside to reading and learning about steak is that I will forever be on my own personal quest for the perfect steak. I have two good friends who have cattle. One, in Ohio, raises his on grain**; one, in California, lets his graze on grass. I am interested in what they think after reading this book.

**I stand corrected. My friend in Ohio wrote: "I like to think of our operation as pasture raised and grain supplemented. To say raised on grain in my mind connotes a feedlot operation where grain is the only source of caloric intake." Duly noted, Rich. Corrected! And, I will be sending him a copy of this book ASAP.

On the Plate...

One of the things missing in the book: how to cook a steak! Thankfully, he included it in the afterword, titled "How to Cook a Steak in 15 Easy Steps." I followed the guidelines to a tee for my 17th anniversary dinner. My Love declared it perfect!

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Here's what everyone else read in March 2017: here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

{Gluten-Free} Oven-Baked Chicken Over Waffles


I've joked that my boys think they live in a restaurant. But, sometimes, I realize that they practically do.

"Mom," requested the little Wom yesterday, "I'd like to have chicken and waffles for breakfast for your anniversary." Okay.


So, today, on my seventeenth wedding anniversary, I made him chicken and waffles. But I made them gluten-free so Jake could enjoy them, too.

I'm just going to share my recipe for the chicken as I used a gluten-free mix from Trader Joe's for the waffles...and the gravy was an afterthought that I threw together after I discovered that I forgot to pack the maple syrup. So, just use your favorite waffle recipe and your favorite gravy recipe. I'll share mine eventually.

Ingredients

  • ¾ C gluten-free baking mix (I used the blend from Trader Joe's)
  • ½ C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins (approximately 10 tenderloins)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3 T butter, melted
  • Also needed: waffles and gravy for serving

Procedure

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium size bowl mix together gluten-free baking mix, cheese, and oregano. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Dip chicken into eggs then toss in flour mixture. Place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat for the remaining tenderloins. Drizzle melted butter over the chicken (approxmately  ½ tsp on each).

Bake for 10 minutes. Flip chicken and bake for an additional 8 minutes or until chicken is firm to the touch and no longer pink in the center.

To serve, place a waffle on your serving plate. Top with 2 tenderloins. Drizzle with gravy. Serve immediately.


It was a hit! Jake even declared, "Now I know why he orders this when we go out to brunch." I'll admit: It was pretty darn tasty!! 


With full bellies, we walked across the street and rented bikes for the morning. What fun. Happy anniversary to me...and Jake! I'm glad D suggested chicken and waffles. It was a great way to start the day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hard Cider Tasting


After a seven mile trek (round-trip) to Tumalo Falls, Jake spotted Atlas Cider Co. on our way home. We swung in and picked up three different ciders from cider houses in Oregon and Washington. I have never seen any of these brews at home, so I was excited to try them. Ever since Jake went gluten-free our beer tasting evenings ended. This was great fun.


We bought the Hard Apple Cider from Atlas. We selected the Marionberry Dry Cider from Incline Cider Company; and our third pick was the Basil Mint Hard Cider from Seattle Cider Company.


He poured and we sipped.


Sadly, we didn't love any of them and, oddly, we ranked them exactly the same. The top cider was the Marionberry Dry Cider. It was slightly bitter with a hint of sweet. The one we liked second was the Basil Mint which was also slightly bitter, but herby and intriguing. The Atlas cider came in last. We found it too sweet and too weak. It just seemed watery.

If we have a chance, we might head back there for a few more. Or, perhaps, we'll stop back by The Bite  - read my tasting notes - and have a pint while we play cornhole and giant jenga!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cavendish Cream Pie #FoodieReads


As March nears its end, I am logging my first selection for the month. It's not that I haven't been reading, it's just that most of my books this month didn't have a foodie element. I know, that's almost unheard of for me. So, I'm trying to do some catching up in the Foodie Reads Challenge while we're on Spring Break.


I grabbed my copy of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel* and, while Jake stayed in the house, I took the boys to the pool and breezed through the second half of the book. I had just started it in the morning.


On the Page...
Bananas are not my favorite fruit, but I'm always interested to learn more about a food's history and biology. After reading this book, I know more about the banana than I ever imagined knowing. Who knew how politically charged the banana industry was?!?

A few fun facts that I just learned: the banana tree is actually the world's largest herb; most of us eat just one kind of banana, the Cavendish (hence the title of this recipe!); there is a banana in the Philippines that tastes like crème brûlée; banana cultivation and trade has had a significant impact on world history. I learned all of this and more in this well-written, quick read. There was also an interesting discussion about GMOs.


On the Plate...
When I asked my trio what I should make that used bananas, I can't remember who suggested it, but the other two were quick to agree: yes, banana cream pie!! So, I made my gluten-free crust and the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf found a recipe on the Food Network that we adapted to fit what we had.

Ingredients makes one 9" pie

Crust
  • 1-1/4 C gluten-free flour
  • 1-1/2 t organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 C butter (1 stick), cubed
  • cold water
Banana Cream Filling
  • 4 C whole milk
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 C organic granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C cornstarch
  • 3 T butter, cold and cubed
  • 3 ripe bananas, sliced into coins 
  • whipped cream, for serving (if desired)

Procedure

Crust
In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter cubes and pulse until chunks the size of small peas form. Pour in 1/4 cup of cold water and pulse, again, till the dough comes together in a ball. Turn out the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and knead 2 to 3 times. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, approximately 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper, then transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.


Prick the crust all over with the tines of a fork. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Let cool.


Banana Cream Filling
Combine the milk, salt, and vanilla in pot and heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, turn off the heat and stir the mixture for one minute. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale yellow, then whisk in the cornstarch until moistened and smooth. Gradually whisk in half of the hot milk mixture.

Pour the yolk-milk mixture back into the pot and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture boils and begins to thicken. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, approximately another 5 minutes. The mixture should become very thick, like a set custard. When cooked, turn off the heat. 


Stir in the butter until it melts completely and fold in the bananas.

 

Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie shell. Gently push the banana slices below the surface to prevent them from browning. Cover with plastic wrap, gently pressing the plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 7 hours or overnight, and serve with whipped cream.


*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.



Here's what everyone else read in March 2017: here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tasting Notes: Taps and Trucks in Tumalo


On our way into town, we spotted a gathering of food trucks in Tumalo. And, we decided that when we didn't want to cook lunch, we'd head over there. Today was the day.


Turns out, it's called The Bite. Today there were four trucks there, but only three were open. We perused all the menus and ended up ordering from Heidi's Grilled Cheesery and The Rogue Chef.


We found a table under the twinkle lights inside and I couldn't resist getting a pint of Blood Orange Cider from Elemental Hard Cider in Washington. I have never seen any brews from them before. But, if this cider was any indication, I definitely want to get my hands on more. Cheers!


Jake and I ordered from Heidi's. I got the special: Stella Blue. Jake had the Cheesus Crust on gluten-free bread that was sharp cheddar, cream cheese, bacon, and jalapenos on gluten-free bread. He also tried the French onion soup. Yum!


Also, from Heidi's, D tried their soup of the day, their Sunshine Curry made with red and yellow curry, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and yam. It was spicy and delicious.


The boys both ordered from The Rogue Chef. R can never resist a BLT when he finds one. And D wanted a burger with bleu cheese and bacon. 


The Rogue Chef delivered on both counts. D declared it almost the best burger he's every had. That is saying a lot as he loves burgers and has had great ones.


All we had left at the end of the meal were empty plates, drained glasses, and dirty napkins. Wow. I hope we can squeeze in one more visit to The Bite this week!

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