Friday, January 27, 2012

Jamba Juice Smoothie Kit Review

In the past I was pretty shameful when it came to buying new products.  I would watch an infomercial and immediately think that my life was incomplete without that product.  That is how I wound up with a hair waxing product that was heavily advertised as edible.  Since then I have become a wiser consumer, and I think about whether or not I really need something for at least 30 seconds now!

Since I never visit the snack and chip aisle at the grocery store, I hardly ever get to see anything new and exciting foodwise.  However, Jamba Juice has a newish (at least to me) product- smoothie kits!
Image from
These kits are sold at Target, Walmart, and other national/regional locations.  At Target one kit will run for $2.50, which is much cheaper than getting your smoothie fix from the actual Jamba Juice.  Apparently Costco sells these as well, I just need to get there to see how great of a deal they will be!

A lot of amazing restaurants (California Pizza Kitchen, PF Changs, etc.) have expanded their reach into the aisles of grocery stores, which seems like a great idea when you are grocery shopping and want familiar restaurant flavors without the high price.  Then you get home and you realize that you ended up overpaying anyway for the name and are stuck with an average product.  Even though I have only tried one smoothie kit so far, I can say that the kits do deliver on their authenticity.

What I love the most about this kit is that I don't need to spend money on a bag of blueberries, a bag of strawberries, etc..  I don't think that you could even buy a bag of just blueberries for $2.50....  You do need to have juice (in this case apple), but if you forget to pick some up I don't think that you would regret making your smoothie with milk or another juice variety.

The only con is that you need to have a pretty powerful blender to make this quickly.  Even at my blender's most "powerful" speed I had to stop it and stir up the contents several times.  However, I didn't mind spending the extra time manipulating the slush since I didn't have to stand in a mile-long line.

I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for the Orange Dream Machine variety- that is my favorite!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tallarin Saltado

I have been crazy for Peruvian food ever since my mom and I hit up a Peruvian restaurant for an extra credit project for Spanish class.  When I went off to college I was thrilled to find that there was a fabulous Peruvian restaurant, Inka Heritage, right off of campus.  Al and I spent many Valentine's days, anniversaries, and date nights gorging on saltados.  When I saw the caught the word saltado out of the corner of my eye in my latest cookbook, I made sure to check the recipe out. 

I'm so glad that I did, every other recipe that we have tried out to this point has been lacking.  Usually we have had our saltados served over fries, but using pasta instead was a fun way to spice it up.  Peruvian food is a fun fusion between Latin and Asian flavors, which work so well together.  This recipe is on my official dinner roster, and I'm looking forward to trying out some new Peruvian dishes as well.

Recipe from The Sunset Cookbook- I checked this book out from the library, looked through the recipes, and was so impressed by the them that I ordered it without making any of them.  Best impulse decision ever.

  • Pasta- I used whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 lbs sirloin steak- cut into 1 inch cubes or strips
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion- sliced into wedges
  • 1+ tbsp cilantro
  • 1/2-1 tbsp sriracha sauce (this really makes the dish)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 medium tomatoes- sliced into wedges and then halved
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • salt
Heat a large pot of water until boiling and cook pasta as directed. 
Strain the pasta and set aside.

Heat up a few tbsp of olive oil in a wok over medium heat
Cook the meat until it is browned, then cook for 3 more minutes- stir as needed
Remove the meat, but leave any leftover oil in the pan.
Cook the onion until softened
Add the cilantro, sriracha sauce, soy sauce and cook for an additional minute
Add in the tomato and cook until it starts to soften just a little bit- probably around 30 seconds
Add in the pepper
Return the meat back to the pot along with the pasta
Stir everything together and cook until the pasta and meat are reheated if necessary
Add salt to taste

Friday, January 20, 2012

Healthy Buffalo Wings

Back in the day when I was "sort of cool" I used to hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings with my pseudo-boyfriend and his buddies.  I was so nervous about being judged that I wouldn't even order anything (because that isn't weird at all), and for some reason I somehow convinced myself that I didn't like hot wings.  I guess watching a bunch of pimply dudes inhale them isn't the greatest appetite stimulant...  Anyway, I would just sit there and listen to whatever manly stuff 15 year olds could think of to yammer on about. Major mistake, I should have spent that time making that skater-haired kid spend his allowance on plate after plate of wings.  I might have shared.

Now that I am old enough to realize the glory of wings, I am also old enough to realize that if I don't work out every day that I can't eat at BWW as much as I really want to.  That is why when I found myself curled up on the chairs that are oh-so conveniently located by the cookbook section at my bookstore I went crazy when I found this recipe in Ellie Krieger's latest and most desirable cookbook Comfort Food Fix.  I wanted to make it so badly that I took pictures of the recipe with my obsolete cell phone.  Keeping it classy!

This recipe doesn't include any deep-frying, and some of the fat is separated from the wings by boiling them.  In the end it definitely took longer than just dumping the wings in some hot oil, but the taste was just as good if not better, and it doesn't hurt that there was 0 guilt afterwards.  Apparently this method will save you ~500 calories compared to the traditional frying method- woohoo!

Recipe from Comfort Food Fix

  • 2 lbs chicken wings- split at the joint
  • 1/4 cup Frank's hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Set an oven rack on the second highest rack and preheat the broiler
Combine the hot sauce and lemon juice in a large bowl
Place the wings in a wide pot and cover with 2 inches of water- bring to a boil
Boil the wings uncovered for 10 minutes
Remove the wings with a slotted spoon and place on a broiling pan
Broil for 5 minutes- or until the skin browns- flip the wings and repeat
Remove the wings and place them in the hot sauce bowl- stir to thoroughly coat each wing with the sauce.
Return the wings to the broiling pan and broil for 1 additional minute to adhere the sauce to the chicken.
Serve with additional hot sauce.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Simple Yet Gourmet Filet Mignon

One of my best friends in high school had an awesome connection that resulted in me eating at a place way out of my budget for free.  Thanks to him, I had my first filet mignon.  Thanks to my middle classness, I had no idea what it was that I was ordering and so I ordered it well-done.  The waiter probably thought that I was bonkers.

Since then I have learned how to properly order a filet mignon.  Not that I do this frequently- the most that I'll spend on a restaurant steak is $12 and only if I'm feeling like a millionaire on that day.  Anyway, yesterday I ended up going grocery shopping alone since Alex was off being a stud at BJJ class and we were completely out of non-water beverages which is a huge no-no in his book.  Without Alex there to restrain me, I filled up my cart with all sorts of meat that was on super-going-to-go-bad-in-two-days-sale.  This is how I wound up with filet mignon- and a freezer jammed with things that I never usually buy like turkey legs.   

Ok, this recipe is really good and can be made for two for under $14 if you are classy like me and grocery shop at Walmart.  I spent $9 since the filets were on sale, and I had everything else at home.  Trying to impress someone?  Make this.

  • 2 filet mignon steaks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup red wine (I used Barefoot's Sweet Red)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 red onion- chopped
  • 1 tbsp each of butter and extra virgin olive oil

Season the steaks with salt and pepper to taste.  
Heat up a grill pan over medium high heat and a small pan over medium heat.
Add your chopped onion, the butter, and EVOO to the small pan and stir every once in a while to brown the onions.  
Once the onions have browned, add in the red wine and balsamic vinegar- reduce heat to low-medium and stir occasionally while the liquids reduce.
After adding in the liquids to the small pan, pour in a few good glugs of olive oil onto the grill pan and cook steaks on each side for 5-7 minutes.
Let the steaks rest on a warm plate for a few minutes.  
Cut into a steak to make sure that it isn't too rare- if it is then throw it back on the grill pan for a few more minutes.
Top with the onion sauce and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Taylor Digital Thermometer Review

Today for lunch I baked a chicken.  For myself.  You see, I had intended on making this for Al's birthday dinner last night but for some reason the oven stopped working and was stuck at 77 degrees.  We ended up ordering Dominoes (their upgraded recipes are amaaaazing- especially the herbs and cheese that are sprinkled on the crust), and I was left with a raw chicken that would not cook.  I wanted to see if the oven was being less fussy today.  It was- and in went the chicken!

I love baking whole chickens because I live for dark meat, whereas Alex turns his nose up at it.  I made him appreciate pork, so maybe one day he'll be able to enjoy the delicacy that is dark meat.  Baking chicken can be a real B, since most recipes will say "the chicken is done when the juice runs clear at the leg", but I have had a really hard time with reading how clear chicken juice is.  Also, for some reason traditional thermometers don't like me.  I've bought two and both have failed to give an accurate reading- even though it should be a simple process.  Enter the digital thermometer!

After doing a ridiculous amount of research for my wedding registry (I swear that I've read every review on every single item), I decided that I couldn't wait to see if someone would buy me this thermometer.  So I bought  it (yay for Prime membership's free shipping!) and I finally got around to using it today.

The Taylor thermometer is my new best friend!  The screen shows the goal temperature, the current temperature, and it has a timer as well.  If you are using it for its ability to reach a certain temp, there is a temp alert that you can switch on.  The best feature is that the display sits outside of the oven, so you don't waste any heat by opening the oven door for a temp reading.  It was only $14 on Amazon, which is only a few dollars more than the traditional thermometer.

This chicken turned out to be the most crispy and succulent version that I have ever made.  The recipe is quite simple, but is worth sharing.

  • 1 whole chicken- thawed
  • ~2 tbsp butter- at room temp
  • ~2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt- I used the pink Himalayan salt which is available at Trader Joe's and it tastes even better than sea salt!
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel
Massage the entire chicken with the butter, then repeat with the olive oil
Generously sprinkle salt on both sides of the chicken
Place in a baking dish and bake until a thermometer inserted into the breast (but not hitting any bones) reads 165 degrees.
Allow the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes.
I had a hard time keeping Lyonel away from his dream feast

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Frozen Elvis

Today was one of those days where you slave away at something and as a reward it flops horribly.  In my case I made butternut squash ravioli from scratch- but I didn't roll out the pasta thin enough and so it didn't cook evenly.  Normally this would put me in a foul mood for a few hours, but I had a new kitchen toy to distract myself with.

I had been wanting an ice cream machine for quite a while, and since it was more of a want than a practical need I had not yet splurged on one.  My spectacular sister got me one for Christmas, and since then I have worked feverishly to free up enough space in the freezer to accommodate the freezer bowl.

The machine is pretty slick, it makes a batch of ice cream in under half an hour!  My favorite part about making ice cream (aside from the obvious) is that the top isn't completely covered so that it is easy to taste and adjust the ingredients as needed.

2 cups Greek yogurt- I used fat free plain Fage
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 overripe bananas- broken up
1/3-1/2 cup peanut butter

Place all of the ingredients together in the ice cream mixing bowl and follow manufacturer's instructions.
Taste and adjust ingredients as necessary- I found that starting light on peanut butter and adding more as needed worked best.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Scurvy-Free Salad

A few months ago I dragged Alex to a darling cafe (Cafe 318 in Excelsior for those of you who are interested).  I ordered a pretentiously amazing pizza, and it came with a salad on the side.  The salad had no other obvious ingredients in it besides the lettuce, and I only got around to eating it because I needed something to occupy my time while I was waiting for the waitress to bring the bill.  IT WAS AMAZING.  Instead of being dressed with something oily/fatty/or both, it was tossed with plain old lemon juice.  Maybe Mcdonalds should start offering lemon juice as a dressing so that people that are on a diet yet wind up at Mcdonalds ordering a salad actually have a chance at walking out of there successfully.  Maybe.

I was sick over the holidays and I have been inhaling several variations of this salad in an attempt to load up on vitamin C and to make my calories count.  Tonight's version was probably my favorite, but my key to having a fabulous salad is to have these main ingredients that I always have lying around: lettuce, craisins, walnuts, apples, and lemon juice.  Adding in other fruit just makes it even more irresistible.

Rating 10/10.  This salad is so addicting that I have two servings of it before I get around to actually eating the main course of the meal.

1 head of lettuce- washed, chopped, and given a whirl in a salad spinner
1 apple- chopped
1 pear- thinly sliced or chopped
1 persimmon- sliced into half moons
Lemon juice- for dressing

Combine all of the ingredients together and drizzle with lemon juice.

FYI- Costco sells bottles of pure lemon juice and huge bags of craisins.