Reviews

February 2015 Stitch Fix

Having your own personal stylist isn’t just for the rich and famous. Sign up for Stitch Fix and get real style advice for real people.

Stitch Fix

It’s Stitch Fix time again! I don’t shop much beyond groceries and crafty things these days so it’s fun to get this box in the mail. What I like best is that you can pick how frequently they arrive from as frequently as once a month to as little as only when you ask for one. Right now I am thinking every other month may suit me. For more details on Stitch Fix and how it works, check out my post from December 2014. Otherwise, let’s dig in!

Side note: Stick through the entire post and you’ll also get a chance for a free month of another fun fashion service – Rocksbox.

Feb 15 Stitch Fix 1

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December 2014 Stitch Fix #6

Having your own personal stylist isn’t just for the rich and famous. Sign up for Stitch Fix and get real style advice for real people.

Stitch Fix

The first time I heard about Stitch Fix over a year ago I signed up immediately. Haven’t heard of it before? Simply put it is an online styling service. You create an online profile by answering questions to help define your style, link to some of your Pinterest style boards so they know what your tastes are and then leave the rest to the stylists! Based from this information, they send 5 items that get delivered right to your door either once a month or whenever you want one – there’s no subscription. For example, after 5 fixes I hadn’t ordered another fix in a year but this month I jumped back on board for fix #6 with the prospect of my new job and to snag a couple new items for the colder climate to which I am moving.

Once the items arrive, you have 3 days to try everything on and figure out what you want to keep. Want to send a few things back? Toss everything into the provided prepaid USPS envelope and drop it in the mail. Want to keep a few things? Log onto your stitch fix profile and check out. The total amount gets deducted off your credit card with a receipt sent to your inbox. And if you keep everything you get 25% off the total!

Dec 14 Stitch Fix 1

Great things about this service:

I tend to get bored with what retail stores have to offer and it’s refreshing to find new items that I cannot find anywhere else.

Online shopping is already my primary method of shopping, and it’s so easy to return any unwanted items.

You can leave comments about each item, and the more feedback you leave, the more info the stylists have to use, the better your box gets.

You can pick your price points. I selected the “the cheaper the better” price option. But if you are looking to splurge on a particular item you can choose what you are most comfortable with.

The stylists really do look at your Pinterest style boards if you provide one. I pinned a couple items from the Stich Fix blog and actually received one of those very items in my next box!

Things to be aware of for this service:

Before your fix is shipped, you do pay a $20 styling fee. This is the cost for the stylists to pick clothes, box them up and ship them. But that money is not lost! If you decide to keep anything from your fix, $20 gets applied towards your total. I have yet to not like at least one thing in my box and therefore have never seen that $20 go wasted.

Sometimes you get hits, sometimes you get huge misses, and sometimes they have been so spot on I already owned something similar and had to return it anyway. This is where the feedback when you checkout is very important – tell your stylist what you did or did not like.

The only thing I don’t like it not being able to exchange items for a different size. While they do a great job sending things in your indicated size, some brands fit differently. It doesn’t happen often but so far two items I have really liked were not quite the right size. There’s a slight chance they might have the other size in stock, but so far no such luck. Of those two items, one I kept anyway and the other I had altered.

Dec 14 Stitch Fix 2

Ready to see what I got this month? This months box is the best I have received thus far (which is why I joined in on the trend of sharing my fixes on my blog like many others). Here goes…
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Apple Pie Cookies

Cookies or apple pie? Now you don’t have to decide between the two because you can have them both at the same time with these fresh apple pie cookies.

Apple Pie Cookies 1

Since today is National Dessert Day it seemed fitting to share a dessert recipe, but I decided one dessert wasn’t enough. Introducing “Dessert Mash-Ups” from Dorothy Kern, the mastermind behind Crazy for Crust, with 52 creative recipes combining your favorite desserts – Blueberry Muffin Waffles, Pumpkin Cheesecake French Toast, Mint Chip Truffles, Oatmeal Cookie Cheesecake Bars, Snickers Cake Roll, Banana Cream Pie Dip, Chocolate Chip Cookie Toffee Bark, etc.

Dessert Mash-Ups

With is being apple season I jumped on the apple pie cookies. You cannot go wrong with cinnamon cookie cups with apple-pie filling and I bet you could change up the fruit in the middle depending on the season. I’m dreaming of blueberries and I happen to have some frozen from the summer’s haul. But for now let’s focus on apples and apple pie in miniature cookie form.

What’s your favorite two-in-one dessert combo?

Apple Pie Cookies 2

One year ago: Pumpkin Spice Brownies

Three years ago: Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate with Oreo Crumbs
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Spinach and Feta Chicken Rollatini & Cookbook Giveaway

Chicken rollatini is easier to make than it looks. This version is stuffed with spinach, feta, and sun-dried tomatoes and coated with almond flour.

Prevention RD Cooking and Baking with Almond Flour

I’ve been following Prevention RD for awhile and had the pleasure of reviewing Nicole’s first cookbook, Everyday Healthy Cooking, and was excited to get my hands on her second installment, Cooking and Baking with Almond Flour. Although I do not have a gluten allergy/intolerance I do have some close friends who are and I find myself playing with almond flour more often. In her newest cookbook, Nicole provides gluten-free recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and between-meal snacks. Recipes include honey-almond granola clusters, banana nut waffles, caprese quinoa bake with balsamic reduction, cranberry pumpkin bread, meyer lemon–raspberry cupcakes, key lime pie bites, and many more.

Similar to her first cookbook, Nicole also includes Cook’s Comments, Fun Facts, and Nutrition Notes that teach readers how to adjust portion sizes, make heavy recipes “light,” and convert recipes for non-gluten-free friends. In addition, each recipe includes nutrition information including the amounts of calories, carbohydrates, and fats.

And guess what? I’m also giving away a copy of her cookbook to one lucky reader! Enter using the Rafflecopter located at the end of this post.

Spinach and Feta Chicken Rollatini

The first recipe I tried was the lemon bars. I was super excited because I have never made regular lemon bars, let alone gluten-free. Unfortunately the crust floated to the top when I poured the filling over it and although it still tasted wonderful it was not very pretty. I’m not entirely sure what I did wrong except maybe I did not bake the crust long enough.

The second recipe I tried is the one I am sharing with you. Chicken breasts are stuffed with spinach, feta, and sun-dried tomatoes then coated with an almond flour-Parmesan mixture. It was a no-fail recipe both in execution and flavor. I am a huge fan of nut-crusted chicken and the nutty flavor that it adds – so much better than regular bread crumbs.

One year ago: Lighter Chicken Parmesan

Two years ago: Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Three years ago: Apple Butter Granola
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Review: Kitchen Executive Chef Silicone Baking Mats & Giveaway

If you have spent a decent amount of time baking then you are likely aware of these things called silicone baking mats. They are a great little invention as they save time and money by eliminating the need for non-stick sprays, oil, parchment paper, foil, and other items frequently used to prevent sticking to baking pans.

I have used several brands over the years and the only complaint I’ve ever had was only having one size. Thankfully the manufacturers have listened and companies such as Kitchen Executive Chef have come out with 3- pieces sets. This particular set  includes three silicone baking mats designed to fit your toaster oven, jelly roll pans and cookie sheets.

Some info about the Kitchen Executive Chef 3 Piece Silicone Baking Mat Set:

  • Most silicone baking mats vary in thickness from 0.4 to 0.75 mm. Kitchen Executive Chef’s are 1.0 mm making them more durable and ensuring that they lay flat.
  • Silicone baking mats usually have a border that is 1-inch wide, losing over 20% of the useable area of the mat. Kitchen Executive Chef mats have an edge that is just under 1/2″ wide (11 mm to be exact), allowing you to bake more each time.
  • Safe for use up to 500 degrees F, dishwasher safe, and backed by a lifetime guarantee.

Kitchen Executive Chef

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Rainbow-Surprise Lemon Cake & Surprise-Inside Cakes Cookbook Giveaway

Traditionally frosting is the star of cake decorating, but what about the inside? Amanda Rettke proves that it’s the inside that counts with her cookbook, “Surprise-Inside Cakes”.

SurpriseInsideCakes hc c

When it comes to decorating cakes I am not an expert. Upon receiving the Surprise-Inside Cakes cookbook by Amanda Rettke (I Am Baker) I was a bit intimidated to go beyond the recipes for different layers of color and/or frosting without any cutting and cake-puzzle-assembling. It is truly impressive how many different interiors she was able to design and execute. But after reading through a few of the more complicated recipes I realized that with the right tools and some patience, paired with her excellent step-by-step photos and directions, I might be able to pull it off.

I really loved the smiley face cake and argyle cake but decided to start out small with one of the easier recipes – the rainbow cake. First I had to decide on a cake flavor. Amanda provides recipes for perfectly level cakes and frostings which can be used to create any of the surprise-inside cakes. However, you could also use your own recipe or even a boxed mix, I won’t tell. If using other recipes you may end up with a domed top which will need to be leveled off, unless of course you know that particular recipe does come out flat. Either way, a cake with these interior designs will look made from scratch no matter what recipe you choose.

Rainbow Balloon Lemon Cake 1

To see if a boxed mix would work, I decided to doctor up a white cake mix to create a lemon cake. (Did you know that rainbows taste like lemons? Well, at least this one does.) The cakes did dome but that was easily solved by slicing off the tops with a long serrated knife. After that I followed Amanda’s detailed instructions for assembling and frosting the cakes. I don’t think I’ve ever frosted such a smooth cake before.

Rainbow Balloon Lemon Cake 2

Upon that beautiful white scene I created my own balloon decorations using the cake-top scraps and leftover frosting. It looks like fondant doesn’t it!? Nope it’s something even better, something I have decided to call cake-ball-fondant! Yup, I am a genius. Instead of forming balls to be dipped in chocolate, roll flat with a rolling pin and cut out shapes with cookies cutters. Consider your mind blown.

Rainbow Balloon Lemon Cake 3

In order to find out exactly how I colored and assembled this cake you’ll have to read about it in the Surprise-Inside Cakes cookbook! To assist in keeping a copy into your hands asap I am giving away a copy of this awesome cookbook to one lucky reader. After checking out the recipe use the Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of this post to enter.

Rainbow Balloon Lemon Cake 4

One year ago: Baked Eggs with Crispy Hash Brown Crust

Two years ago: Cheesy Cat Treats

Three years ago: Funfetti Cake Batter Smoothie
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Review: The Laughing Cow – What’s your snacking style?

The Laughing Cow® provided me with product and a $10 gift card for this review. However, thoughts and opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the brand.

Besides your typical cream cheese on a bagel in the morning, I’ve used The Laughing Cow Cheese Wedges in a variety of recipes on my blog: Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese, Corn, and Bacon Waffles, Jalapeno Popper Crostini, Peanut Butter-Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes, Creamy Chicken and Herb Skillet and even the Baked Reuben Taquitos I shared yesterday. I’ve particularly enjoyed using them in single servings recipes such as White Cheddar Mac & Cheese in a Mug, Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas, and Cream Cheese and Bell Pepper Stuffed Chicken. The individual 3/4 oz. wedges are perfect for such portion sizes.

But then The Laughing Cow brought me back to the basics by asking, “What’s your snacking style?”. Well, I am not a snack-planner. I will plan every meal of the day but planning snacks is not on my radar, which means I have a “grab and go” snacking style. Granola bars, fruits, and cheeses are my typical snacking choices. My ideal snack is a small plate of fruit, cheese, and crackers. Which means The Laughing Cow Cheese Wedges fit right in with my snacking style.

I’m curious, what’s your snacking style?

The Laughing Cow Snacking Style

The Laughing Cow Cheese Wedges are rich, creamy and the perfect snack for any occasion. With 35 calories per light cheese wedge and seven delicious varieties to choose from (such as creamy swiss, white cheddar, and queso fresco & chipotle), there are endless pairing options to enjoy whenever and however you want. Check out their product locator to find your favorite flavors at www.TheLaughingCow.com.

One year ago: Steel Cut Oatmeal with Bananas & Cobbler Topping

Two years ago: Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Smoked Paprika

Three years ago: Potica Nut Roll
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Review: Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer

I have to admit, I had never heard of Sanford D’Amato before reading his memoir, Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer. Regardless, I found his memoir to be very interesting. D’Amato takes the reader through his childhood in Milwaukee, training at the Culinary Institute of America, and his challenges and successes thereafter which eventually led to the opening of his restaurant, Sanford. He also included 80 recipes which woven into the stories, and places at the end of each chapter.

GoodStock

Before talking about the recipes I tried, I wanted to recall a couple lines from his text that I, and I am sure many others, can relate to:

“It’s a shame that the first time we try foods, we don’t always have the perfectly prepared versions; many folks go through their lives hating certain foods for no other reason than that they were prepared incorrectly.” – Talking about his experience with sweetbreads, which I have never had myself but I definitely experienced this phenomenon with other foods. This list covers things such a meringue, meatloaf (wasn’t prepared incorrectly in the past, just different), red snapper, etc.

“I found out that with forethought, ingenuity, and organization, you don’t need all that extra space to create good food.” – Talking about his mini kitchen while living in NYC. His was probably smaller than mine, but I definitely applied those skills to pull off some creative and/or large meals. People sometimes cannot believe that I have a food blog after seeing the small size of my kitchen.

“Anyone who has ever seen a professional cook eat knows that the word savor is not in their vocabularies. Cooks usually eat at a frantic pace in large, voluminous bites, as time is always at a premium.” – I am by no means a professional, but I definitely have difficulty savoring my food. As a child I was always the last one done eating at the dinner table, preventing my other siblings from being excused. But then college happened and I had to woof down my food in between classes, and it has stuck ever since. You would think that with an exceptionally delicious meal or dessert I would slow down to savor but it’s the exact opposite, I want to stuff another forkful/spoonful into my face after barely swallowing the previous bite.

On to the recipes! The first I tried was the Lemon Curd Meringues which I opted to make with Meyer lemons. This was my first experience with homemade meringue on top of a dessert and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. In the past the meringues I made at home were crispy but this was fluffy like whipped cream with a slightly crisp exterior from the broiler. Great topped for lemon curd!

Lemon Curd Meringues

The other recipe I tried was his Black Bean Chili with Cheddar Cheese Toast. I’ve never made a chili that wasn’t my dad’s recipe, but this recipe was relatively similar using chunks of beef and beans, using black instead pinto beans, serrano instead of a bell pepper and a little bit of bacon. With a side of toast covered in melty cheddar cheese it was a success and a fun variation of chili from what I normally make.

Black Bean Chili

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy from Agate Publishing, Inc.. I was not compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

One year ago: Overnight, Slow Cooker Eggnog Cranberry Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Three years ago: Stuffed Green Peppers

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Review: OodleTip Pastry Bags

When it comes to baking, frosting can sometimes be a challenge, especially when using tips and pastry bags. Seeing a need, Brenda Grimes invented the OodleTip® pastry bag – the World’s only disposable pasty bag with an attached versatile tip. The OodleTip® bag debuted this past March 2013 at the International Housewares Show in Chicago. Since then the OodleTip® bag has been picked up by companies around the world. Michaels Craft Stores will begin carrying the OodleTip® & Little OodleDoodle® (for children) this month.

OodleTip® Bag Features and Benefits:

  • One piece bag with an attached tip – no more hassle assembling and dismantling
  • Disposable – no need to wash tip and store for future use
  • Customizable tip selection – includes several designs and sizes:
    • Food-Filling and large Swirl Size = 1”
    • French Star: Sizes 1/4 – 9/10”
    • Round and Piping Sizes: 1/32 – 1/4”                                                                                           
  • Flexible squeezable tip – no clogging during food filling
  • Retail box package includes: 10 disposable, 16″ OodleTip® bags with attached tips
  • MSRP: $9.99                         

OodleTip

I received samples of this product a couple months ago and have enjoyed using them for all of my frosting, filling, and piping needs. Since I don’t do a lot of mass quantity baking, I tended to use more of the OodleDoodles (meant for kids), but both kinds work the same. You start out with a plastic bag already fitted with a versatile tip. I liked to fill my bag before proceeding any further, ensuring that none of my filling/frosting would ooze out. Depending on the shape desired, you then cut the tip with a pair of scissors at the appropriate spot. One cool idea is that you could start with a writing tip, and then cut higher to change to a star.

OodleTip 1

After cutting you are free to squeeze away just like you would with a normal bag and tip set-up. The tip is also flexible, making it easy to squeeze out every last drop of frosting. Something you could not do with a normal metal tip. My only hesitation with using these tips is that I am the type of person that washes and reuses zip-top baggies, so it felt wrong to throw away these pastry bags. I actually did wash and reuse a couple of them, and they withstood the reuse. (And it was nice not worrying about the tip falling into the garbage disposal, subsequently being forgotten and ruined.)

OodleTip 2

So what did I make using these OodleTips? Remember these Peanut Butter Mousse Cookie Cups? I cut the tip to a round shape to fill these babies.

Peanut Butter Mousse Cookie Cups

Then, I cut the tip to a star to frost these White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes.

 White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Cutting to a French star resulted in the frosting on top of these Hazelnut Baci Cupcakes.

Hazelnut Baci Cupcakes

And finally, I also used the French tip to top this lemon curd with meringue. Not my best piping job ever, but it still tasted wonderful!

OodleTip 4

What do you think? Would you prefer using these OodleTips over the tradition piping bag fitted with a metal tip?

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary product from BonNosh, LLC. I was not compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

One year ago: Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Two years ago: Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie Bricks

Three years ago: English Muffins

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Eggnog Dip with New York Style Sweet Swirls Snack Crisps

When it comes to potlucks, it is always expected that I will bring a dessert (a safe assumption as I usually do). However, I mentioned wanting to bring something else to The Pharmacy potluck but was scoffed as if to not bring a dessert was unacceptable. I am not discounting the praise I receive when people say that they love my desserts, but give my non-baked goods a chance!

In order to win the masses over, I decided to team up with the new Sweet Swirls from New York Style for a dip to bring to the aforementioned potluck – yes a dessert dip, I compromised. New York Style Sweet Swirls is a new baked snack crisp product that comes in Cinnabon and Chocolate, and transforms any snack into something extra special. I knew they would be a perfect match with this eggnog dip.

Although I could have easily devoured them by themselves, the flavor of the Sweet Swirls was not dramatic. Instead they added just right amount of flavor to compliment the eggnog dip rather than overpower. My favorite for this particular dip was the Cinnabon and appeared as though most people agreed with me as that bowl dwindled faster than the chocolate. I thought for sure the chocolate would go first!

What would you serve with New York Style Sweet Swirls? Another idea I had for the Chocolate Sweet Swirls was to make little fruit pizzas, using them as the “crust” instead of a brownie. I’ll have to buy more in order to try it out!

Eggnog Dip

I also made an appetizer using the Garlic Parmesan Panetini. I will share that recipe at a later date.

Two years ago: Red Velvet Truffle Stuffed Funfetti Cupcakes
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