Archive for March, 2012

Photo from Foodzie

Product Description:

We love the act of opening a box of Valerie’s toffees, all trussed up with beautiful silk ribbon; it’s almost like you’re undressing it. Inside, handmade rich, buttery toffee, enveloped in dark Valrhona chocolate, beckons. Crunchy, organic California almonds stud the toffee, which is made in small batches, and the whole thing is finished off with fleur de sel for a lingering savory finish.

Tea Suggestion:

While these are delicious enough on their own, everything goes better with a spot of tea!  I chose to pair these toffees with Samovar from Kusmi Tea.  The smoky notes of the tea added a lovely depth to the toffee, and brought a savory quality to the overall experience.

What I Think:

In the Valentine’s Box from Foodzie, I received an elegant little box tied up with a pretty pink ribbon that contained two of Valerie Confections’ Dark Chocolate Toffee squares:  one topped with a whole, roasted almond and one encrusted with a sprinkling of sea salt.

The toffee inside is crunchy and hard, much like what you’d experience when biting in a Heath bar.  But this is WAY better than a Heath!  It is buttery and sweet with a delightful nutty flavor in the background.  What really surprised me is just how buttery these are.  I could taste the sweet, creamy butter with which these were made.

Each piece is enrobed in a thin coating of bittersweet dark chocolate, which offers a pleasing contrast to the sweetness of the toffee.  What I really like about these is how the different toppings change the flavor of the confection, even though inside each square is the same toffee.  The almond topped square brought out the nutty tones to the toffee; while the salt encrusted square brought a compelling roundness to the confection – providing sweet, salty and bitter flavors for the palate to enjoy.

My Final Thoughts:

An immensely enjoyable set of toffees … tasting this treat made me happy that I chose the Valentine’s Box for February!  These were absolutely delicious!

Product Description:

Picture from Foodzie. Click on the photo to be taken to their website!

We can’t get enough of these shortbread cookies from Rustic Bakery. Buttery and just the right amount of sweet, they’re outfitted with the best ingredients like Tahitian vanilla beans and Callebaut chocolate chips. We love them in the morning, dunked in our coffee, at night with a little ice cream or just on their own in the afternoon as a little snack.

Learn more about Rustic Bakery on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

I can think of no better pairing than shortbread cookies and tea, so really, any tea that you choose will go fabulously with these cookies.  I chose to eat my cookies with this Pure Bud Black Tea from Mandala Tea.  The rich, robust flavor of the tea went together very well with the buttery rich shortbread.

What I Think:

In this month’s Ski Lodge Cafe Tasting Box from Foodzie, I received not one but two different shortbread cookies from Rustic Bakery:  a vanilla cookie and a chocolate chip cookie.  I adore shortbread, so, I was very excited to try these.

But before I talk much about the cookies, I want to say how happy I was when I opened the box to see that these two cookies were placed in bubble wrap so that they did not arrive crushed.  As I have previously received cookies in my box that had been crushed, I was very glad that Foodzie is now taking precautions.  I like that Foodzie listens to their customers!

The chocolate chip cookie is LOADED with itty bitty Callebaut chocolate chips.  It is nearly impossible to bite into this cookie without biting into a chocolate chip … unless you’re taking mouse-sized nibbles.  I love how many chocolate chips are in this cookie, all too often when biting into a chocolate chip cookie it ends up being more cookie than chocolate chip, but that is NOT the case with these!

The cookie itself is rich, buttery and has that flaky characteristic that I love about shortbread.  You know what I mean, don’t you?  That flaky, melt-in-your-mouth goodness of shortbread?  And it’s so buttery that I can actually taste the butter!

And as much as I love chocolate and adored the chocolate chip shortbread, I think my favorite of the two shortbread treats was the vanilla.  It tasted so rich and decadent, and I could really taste a creamy note from the vanilla.  So amazingly good!

My Final Thoughts:

OK, so maybe I’m a sucker when it comes to shortbread because I love it so much, but that’s all the more reason that I should know the good stuff from the not-so-good.  And let me tell you, this stuff is GOOD!

Product Description:

Each summer, when our herb garden begins to blossom, our boys can’t wait for the first batch of my homemade (Dude) Ranch dressing.  So, it seemed only right to model the seasoning for this chip after the one I make at home.  We added the seasoning to the multigrain chip and the combination was an instant hit!  We were all excited to have developed an organic chip that’s 100% whole grain, has 280mgs of Omega 3s, is gluten-free, peanut/tree nut free and most importantly mouth-wateringly delicious!

Learn more about Late July Organics here.  These are sold at Whole Foods Market.

Tea Suggestion:

When it comes to snack chips, I like a glass of iced tea.  One of my favorite iced teas is this Black & Blue tea from 52Teas (I have one pouch of this available for sale here) and it tastes great with these chips!

What I Think:

These are really tasty.  More often than not, when I encounter a “healthier” snack chip option, I am really excited about them, but I get bored with them pretty quickly.  After a couple of times of snacking on a few chips, the novelty wears out on them, and they don’t really taste all that great.

These chips from Late July Organic are an exception!  They have all the wonderful flavor of a ranch flavored tortilla chip (you know which one I’m talking about) but, they taste even better!  That’s because unlike those tortilla chips made of corn, these are made with whole grain corn PLUS brown rice, chia seeds, flax, millet, quinoa, amaranth and sunflower seeds!  And these whole grains and seeds impart an amazing texture and delicious flavor.  And the flavor is so lively that my palate couldn’t possibly get bored with them!

They pack a good crunch.  Salty, yes, but not over-salted (just know that the final bits at the bottom of the bag are very salty, so, if you’re one who doesn’t care for overly salty things, don’t eat the crumbs!)  The ranch flavor is zesty with a subtle creaminess to it.  I taste the tangy sour cream like flavor, along with notes of onion, garlic and tomato.

My Final Thoughts:

I try to avoid chips when I can, usually choosing rice cakes over chips for when I’m craving something crunchy.  But, lets face it, those air-popped bits of rice simply do not satisfy the hunger-grumblies the way a hearty tortilla chip can.  They may not be health food healthy, but, I think they are probably a better choice over the big-brand tortilla chips, if for no other reason than the whole grain content of these chips.  PS:  They’re gluten-free, too!

 

Product Description:

All natural Java Rocks® Dark provide an unpretentious and portable way for the dark chocolate enthusiast to enjoy coffee confections™ of the highest quality. Made with a decadent 72% dark chocolate and fairly traded organic Arabica coffee, Java Rocks® Dark contain only slightly more caffeine than plain chocolate.

All natural Java Rocks® Dark…Curious, yet wholesome. Simple, yet exotic.

Learn more about How Do You Take Your Coffee? on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

It seems a little weird to recommend a tea to drink along with these coffee-ish candies, and since these have caffeine in them already, I suggest trying them with a naturally caffeine-free tisane or perhaps this Organic Decaf Masala Chai from Arbor Teas!  I love how the deep chocolate-y flavors mingle on my palate with the spicy flavors of the chai.  It really is quite a delicious treat.

What I Think:

Of all the delicious goodies that were included in this month’s Ski Lodge Tasting Box from Foodzie, this was the one treat I was least excited about.  I mean, I’m a tea drinker, not a coffee drinker.  I haven’t had coffee in many years now, as I had a big falling out with the beverage when I realized it was the culprit of my late morning nausea I’d experience every day at work, right about 11 am, just a couple of hours after drinking that all-important cup (or two) of the day.

Since that time, I’ve been drinking tea (and even writing about it) and I’ve never been happier.  I’ve not really missed coffee much, although there are times when I happen to walk past a coffee shop in the mall or grocery store and smell that roasted aroma and I think to myself “maybe just one cup won’t hurt.”  Then I remember how sick I’d feel afterwards and that momentary desire for a cup of coffee disappears.

But, one thing I do have to admit, coffee and chocolate do go very well together.  And these Java Rocks from How Do You Take Your Coffee? prove it.  They are yummy little bits of chocolate-y coffee goodness!  They are shaped like little pebbles – but not nearly as hard to bite into! – and they are quite unlike any candy I think I’ve ever tasted.  The chocolate is rich and flavorful, and the texture is at first pleasantly crunchy but there is also a creaminess from the chocolate.

I really like these crunchy, munch-able candies much more than I thought I would.  I’m really glad I had this opportunity to try them … yet another example of why I absolutely LOVE the Foodzie Tasting box!

My Final Thoughts:

The coffee enhances the flavor of the chocolate very well, giving it a depth that is not usually experienced without the coffee.  And I really do like the little bit of crunch from the coffee bean, as well as that deep roasted coffee flavor.  It almost makes me wish I could drink coffee again.  Almost.  The verdict is not yet in on whether eating these little bits of chocolate-y goodness will leave me feeling nauseous in a couple of hours … but I’ll be sure to leave a comment to update you on that!

Product Description:

Hand made and hand cut, these bring out the kid in all of us. Sweet delicate puffs, available in vanilla and peppermint. Great as a confection on their own, on top of hot chocolate, or a midnight snack.

Learn more about Rubicon Bakery on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

While marshmallows are typically thought of a topping for hot chocolate, I enjoyed these right out of the package with a fresh, hot cup of Masala Chai!  Which one?  Well, the Original Masala Chai from Yogic Chai that was featured in the Ski Lodge Cafe box, of course!  The soft, fluffy, vanilla-y flavor of the marshmallows seemed to bring out the warm spicy tones of the chai so wonderfully.  And… here’s a tip:  instead of making a chai latte, try pouring the freshly brewed chai right over a marshmallow and let it melt in there like you might with a cup of hot chocolate.  It’s a cup of creamy spiced deliciousness!

What I Think:

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it wasn’t but a few years ago that I actually “discovered” homemade marshmallows.  Before that, marshmallows were those stale bits of cloyingly sweet stickiness that came in a plastic bag from the grocery store.  They made a good roasted marshmallow, mostly because they were so dense and sticky that they are able to adhere nicely to the end of a roasting stick.  But, really, other than for that occasional marshmallow roasting, I wouldn’t buy commercial marshmallows because they’d end up going even more stale before the bag was consumed.  They just weren’t all that good.

Then … I tried a homemade marshmallow.  I think I found my first package at Trader Joe’s.  And, let me tell you, I was in marshmallow heaven!  Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to try many different homemade marshmallows, but it is one confection I of which I never tire!

These Vanilla Marshmallows from Rubicon Bakery are delicious.  They are sweet and fluffy, not heavy or cloyingly dense like commercially manufactured marshmallows.  When they melt in a cup of hot chocolate (or tea!) they impart a delightful creaminess without tasting too sweet.  And… when I eat one on its own, it’s like a soft, vanilla cloud!  However, I don’t recommend eating more than one, they tend to get a little too sweet after the first one.  But that just leaves more for later!

My Final Thoughts:

I am not going to say that these are the best marshmallows that I’ve tasted, because I’ve tasted quite a few homemade marshmallows that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and I don’t know that these were necessarily “the best.”  But they are VERY good!

OK… when it came to selecting this month’s Foodzie box, I was in a bit of a quandary, because I really did not know which to choose.  There was the Brooklyn Box which included some very intriguing choices like the rosemary onion crackers and bacon old bay peanuts and THE KING candy bar.  In fact, all of the items in the Brooklyn Box sounded very tempting to me, and I almost chose it.

But, then there was the Ski Lodge Box that is filled with treats (and you know my sweet tooth!) and … Masala Chai.  So, ultimately, I chose the Ski Lodge Box.  But, despite my sweet tooth, I didn’t choose this box because of the sweets inside, but because of the Chai.  For me, tea is one of the most important “food” groups, and masala chai is one of my favorite types of tea.  I already found myself second guessing my February choice because I didn’t go for the Chai cola, no way I was going to do that again.  So, as tempting as the Brooklyn box was … it was the tea that made me choose this month’s Ski Lodge Box.

And now that the box has arrived, I don’t regret it for a second!  What a wonderful array of goodies to enjoy!  This month’s box includes Fresh Marshmallows from Rubicon Bakery, two different types of Shortbread Cookies from Rustic Bakery, Java Rocks from How Do You Take Your Coffee?, Peppermint Mints from Vermints, two Hot Chocolate on a Stick from Ticket Kitchen and of course, the Masala Chai from Yogic Chai.

YUM!

OK, so I’ve tried and reviewed the Masala Chai from Yogic Chai, but, you know what?  It’s so good that I’m happy to have more of it.  It’s one of the best chai blends out there.  (So good, in fact, that it has won first place at the North American Tea Championship two years in a row!)  And I received the Hot Chocolate on a Stick in a previous tasting box (interestingly enough, it was the March box from last year!  Here’s my review of this product.)  And, I’m already a fan of Vermints – I always keep a tin of their Chai Mints in my purse!  But, I haven’t yet tried their peppermints!

As always, Foodzie also included their theme card in the tasting box which included brief description about this theme:

Fireplaces are the best parts of winter aren’t they?  You curl up beside it after a day outside skiing, snowboarding or sledding and feel your frosty fingers thaw around a soothing mug of something steamy.  This month we’re embracing the last month of winter and the warming flavors we crave during it.  A hot cup of cocoa topped with squishy tender marshmallows (and delicate cookies to dunk inside), spicy chai, chunks of chocolate-espresso, finished off with a little minty freshness for fireside cuddling and canoodling.  So don your best Nordic sweater, and imagine you’re at the base of the slopes, living it up at a ski lodge cafe.  Make the most of these last days of winter — spring is right around the corner.

Sounds good to me!

Product Description:

  • Organic Cold Pressed Coconut Oil
  • Vegetarian Certified
  • Fair Trade Approved
  • Amber Glass Jars with Gold Metal Lid

Kelapo Extra Virgin Coconut Oil can be used as a replacement for butter and other oils. The unique flavors of our extra virgin coconut oil turn any ordinary meal into a truly indulgent experience.

Learn more about Kelapo on their website.

Tea Suggestion:

Since, I tried this on a slice of toast, I went with a smooth Ceylon to drink with it:  Morowaka Ceylon FBOP from KTeas.  This made for a delicious, light breakfast.  However, I think that this can go with just about any tea … I’m wondering how it would have been to enjoy that slice of toast with this Coconut Cream Black Tea from Zen Tara Teas – YUM!

What I Think:

I’m not going to lie, I had my doubts about this one.  I mean, I was raised on the cheapest margarine available at the supermarket, and after a few years on my own, I switched to unsalted butter and I’ve never looked back.  I don’t miss margarine one bit.  I love my butter!  (Or, in the words of Paula Deen:  Butter makes it better!)  So, when Foodzie included a sampling of this in the Jump Start my New Year, I was certain I was NOT going to like this!

But I do like it!  For the purposes of this review, I spread the sample on a piece of toasted 8-grain bread.  It provides a nice, creamy texture like butter, but it adds a lovely coconut-y flavor!  With this product, not only would I not need to spread butter on my toast, but I also would not need jam, because the coconut flavor is delicious on it’s own.

Then I compared some information.  With this product versus my unsalted butter, I’m not really saving any fat or calories.  In truth, this Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is slightly higher in both fat and calories.  The biggest difference is cholesterol.  My unsalted butter has 30mg of cholesterol while this product has 0.  That’s right.  Zip, zero, zilch … nada!

So, if you’ve been ordered by your physician to lower your cholesterol intake and can’t stand the taste of margarine, you should really give this stuff a try.  I personally have not been told that my cholesterol is high by my physician, but that’s probably because I’ve not been tested.  But, given that my family has a history of heart problems, I can see how this can be a very beneficial addition to my diet.  There are other health benefits to adding coconut oil to your diet, read more here.

My Final Thoughts:

I only tried this on toast, but it was good enough to pique my interest.  I am going to look for coconut oil the next time I’m shopping, because I’m really curious how this will affect other foods in which I use butter (I’m really wondering how an egg fried with this tastes!)