Reviews

Review: Taste of Home Recipes Across America

One of my favorite things about traveling is sampling the local food. What food items have you tried during your journeys that you would love to have again? Chicago Deep-Dish Pizza, Southern Fried Chicken or Mississippi Mud Cake? You’ll find those classic regional recipes in Taste of Home Recipes Across America.

Divided into five regions (Northeast, South, Midwest, Southwest, and West), Recipes Across America offers 735 specialties enjoyed by locals using regional produce. You’ll even discover ethnic specialties passed down through generations that became hometown favorites. In addition, hundreds of snapshots of food festivals and landmarks are scattered among the pages. And as a bonus, you’ll also find food folklore, recipe histories and fun food facts.

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Review: Baker’s Secret Giveaway & Lattice Chicken and Sweet Potato Potpie

If you’ve ever shopped for bakeware or have spent any time in the kitchen you have probably heard of Baker’s Secret. Not only do many bakers depend on Baker’s Secret, all Baker’s Secret Essentials products have a premium non-stick coating, are durable & long lasting, are metal spatula safe, are dishwasher safe, and have a full lifetime warranty. What’s your favorite fall recipe using your Baker’s Secret products? Tell me about it in the comments section and then enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post!

Lattice Chicken Potpie 1

With the holidays fast approaching, Baker’s Secret gave me an early holiday present of two of products in order to create two different festive recipes to share with you. I received their 9-inch pie pan and 12-cup muffin pan. Today I am sharing a savory recipe using the pie pan because your pie pan has more utility than just making sweet, delicious pies. How about POTpie? But not just any potpie, a potpie with sweet potato and a lattice crust!

Lattice Chicken Potpie 2

This potpie recipe had been my go-to for many years. The original recipe used canned condensed potato soup, but I like to use cream cheese instead and add in my own potato. This time I decided to use sweet potato (which I peeled and cooked in the microwave for 4 minuets) and some extra seasonings to make it even more fall-appropriate. As for the crust, don’t let the lattice top intimidate you. I simply used a can of crescent dough, sealed the seams and cut into strips. Easy peasy and looks great with the addition of an egg-white wash.

Lattice Chicken Potpie 3

One year ago: Apple-Cranberry Oatmeal
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Review: Carapelli Olive Oil & Crispy Gnocchi

Olive oil is one of those things that I typically buy the generic store brand of. Mostly because it’s less expensive, and also because I generally cannot tell the difference unless using in a recipe where it is the main attraction. So when I received a bottle of Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to try out, I made sure to pick out recipes where I would be able to taste the difference.

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The first thing I decided to make with my bottle of Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil was herb infused olive oil. I got excited thinking about what I would cook with the infused oil once it was prepared, but to my disappointment it grew mold in the air-tight container stored in the refrigerator! Next time I’ll use a different method that doesn’t require leaving the herbs in the bottle. Thankfully I still had half a bottle remaining to try something else in the meantime.

After my failure to make infused olive oil, I decided to prepare something a little safer – homemade pesto. My basil plant had been growing out of control and it seemed fortuitous. This olive oil made me fall in love with my homemade pesto all over again. Pesto is definitely one of those things where the quality of the olive oil matters.

With the remaining small amount of olive oil, I decided to make crispy gnocchi by pan-frying cooked gnocchi in olive oil. This results in what you would expect – gnocchi with a crispy exterior. Served along with the Lighter Chicken Parmesan I shared yesterday, this meal was a hit!

Crispy Gnocchi

Two years ago: Butternut Squash Soup
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Review: Fleischmann’s Pretzel Creations & Apple Cinnamon Pretzels

Like many people, I cannot get enough of the pretzel trend. I enjoy many different versions of the soft-baked pretzel, whenever possible. In fact, my meal selection is easily swayed by a pretzel bun. Oh that sandwich comes on a pretzel bun? Sold. But of course, my favorite is making my own pretzel buns at home.

Pretzel Creations

Now Fleischmann’s Yeast is making it even easier to make your own pretzel creations at home. Fleischmann’s Simply Homemade Baking Mixes is introducing Pretzel Creations, which makes fresh-baked pretzels in less than an hour. The package contains pretzel mix, yeast, baking soda and pretzel salt – all you need is water and oil.

Pretzel Creations 2

In a large bowl, I combined the pretzel mix, yeast, water, and oil. According to the directions all that was left was to mix it together and then let it rise, covered, for only 25 minutes! But I decided to knead my dough a little bit to get a smooth dough which I am more accustomed to.

Pretzel Creations 3

After the dough was done rising, I decided to divide the dough in half and make two different things. With one half I made regular pretzels and they came out perfect. I served them with a bacon cheddar ranch dipping sauce.

Pretzel Creations 4

With the other half, I decided to stuff the dough with apples tossed in cinnamon-sugar. After boiling, I sprinkled them with more cinnamon-sugar. Don’t they look like little apple pies?

Apple Cinnamon Pretzels 1

They even tasted like apple pie, but with a pretzel crust. Originally I had contemplated stuffing them with apple pie filling, but worried that would be messy and more difficult to seal. Using fresh apple slices and cinnamon-sugar sounded good enough to me and they turned out to be delicious. Eat alone or serve with a cinnamon-sugar cream cheese dip.

Apple Cinnamon Pretzels 2

Two years ago: Basil Butter
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Review: Dining Out at Home Cookbook 2

For those of you familiar with Stephanie Manely of CopyKat.com, you know that she specializes in recreating dishes from your favorite restaurants at home. She also put together a cookbook called the “Dining Out at Home Cookbook” to further pursue restaurant favorites in the home for less. Today I am sharing a review for the sequel called “Dining Out at Home Cookbook 2″.

In her second cookbook, she hares copycat recipes for Starbucks’ frappuccinos, Logan’s Roadhouse Loaded Potato Skins, Olive Garden’s baked pasta romana, Coldstone Creamery’s cake-batter ice cream, and many more.

Dining Out at Home Cookbook

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Review: Prevention RD’s Everyday Healthy Cooking Cookbook & Giveaway

I interrupt today’s regularly scheduled Single Serving Sunday post with a celebration of the release of Nicole Morrissey’s cookbook, Prevention RD’s Everyday Healthy Cooking (Skyhorse Publishing). Complete with a giveaway of the cookbook to one lucky reader!

Nicole Morrissey is the blogger behind Prevention RD and is a registered dietician offering smart, sustainable solutions to healthy weight loss since she started her blog in 2009. She firmly believes that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and this motto is evident in her recipes. From healthier versions of mozzarella sticks and chicken tortilla soup, to creative recipes such as creamy chicken pesto enchiladas and carrot cake pancakes you’ll be satisfied while also being proactive about your health. There are even chapters dedicated to carb and dessert lovers

Prevention RD Cookbook

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Review: The S’mores Cookbook & S’mores Macarons

In honor of today being National Toasted Marshmallow day, I thought I would share a new cookbook that is all about such toasty goodness – S’mores!

S’mores have come a long way from the staple campfire-side treats during the summer months. You no longer even need a fire to enjoy the taste of s’mores which means you can enjoy them in your home, year round! This food trend is summed up in the foreword by Chef Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes fame, when Duff says, “This book is a fine example of a culinary evolutionary eruption.”

Oozing with fifty mouthwatering recipes, The S’mores Cookbook: From Chocolate Marshmallow French Toast to S’mores Cheesecake Recipes, Treat Yourself to S’more of Everything (Adams/F+W Media, August) by Susan Whetzel, of DoughMessTic, shows you how to indulge in the rich blend of creamy chocolate, toasted marshmallows, and honeyed graham crackers at every meal this summer – or satisfy your cravings for the gooey campfire treat all year long!

From Chocolate Graham Pancakes drizzled with a sweet marshmallow syrup to S’mores Éclairs smothered in a dark chocolate ganache, this book combines this favorite trio of flavors in ways you’ve never imagined to create delicious plates that will impress friends and family.

S'mores Cookbook

The cookbook begins with some s’more history and what its components are, followed by a chapter full of “not your average s’mores” with recipes to make nontraditional versions. The next chapters cover breakfast, cakes/pies, cookies/brownies, chilled treats, drinks, and even giftable treats. The final chapter covers all the essential basic recipes which are used throughout the cookbook such as marshmallow frosting and chocolate ganache, but also homemade graham crackers and homemade marshmallows for the extra daring baker.

The very first recipe that caught my eye is actually pictured on the cover, s’mores macarons, and knew I had to try them. I had only made macarons once before and although they tasted great, they weren’t visually perfect which is what macarons are all about. This time around they grew perfect little feet! Serious excitement. And of course they tasted just as good as they looked (despite my haphazard frosting-piping).

S'mores Macarons

The only thing I would change in this cookbook, is listing the page numbers when referring to the recipes in the essential recipe chapter. Not that it was a huge burden, but when preparing the macarons, it would’ve been nice if I could’ve flipped directly to the page number where the marshmallow frosting recipe was, rather than flipping through the chapter to find it. Despite that minor thing this cookbook is a hit! Next I definitely need to try the S’mores oatmeal. Although, the ease at which is can be prepared might be a dangerous thing.

Two years ago: Feta Stuffed Pesto Turkey Burgers
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Review: Leafy Greens Cookbook

I’m pretty sure most people don’t eat enough greens in their diet and typically make it a goal to fix that. I’m not a crazy health nut, but still find myself frequently saying such things to myself in order to balance out all those cookies.

Instead of green side dishes, how about making those leafy greens the star of your meal? Introducing “The Leafy Greens Cookbook,” a new cookbook featuring 100 easy-to-make recipes that unlock the of kale, chard, spinach, bok choy, collard, etc. Enjoy recipes such as Pomegranate-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans, Arugula and Tomato Pizza, Stir-Fried Bok Choy with Beef, and Chicken-Kale Enchiladas.

The cookbook starts out with an introduction on getting to know your greens. There are descriptions of each green used just in case you have never seen, heard of, or tried it before. Then there are 5 more chapters covering salads and soups, appetizers snacks and sides, vegetarian entrees, poultry fish and meat entrees, and juices and smoothies.

Leafy Greens
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Review: Rent the Runway

A few of you have asked me about my Rent the Runway experiences after I have shared a bit about it on Twitter, so I decided to dedicate an entire post to it!

RTR

RTR has a revolving roster of over 200 top designers of the season’s best dresses and accessories. Upon visiting their website, you can search for your perfect dress based on many criteria: designer, price, length, style, rental date, occasion, or just check out what’s new. There’s also a section called “Our Runway” which filters dress reviews based on women who are similar in age and size. You can save dresses you like by clicking the little heart icon. My favorite part of the website is the reviews. Reading others’ experiences along with their body type, size, size worn and photo really helps with deciding on what dress and size to book.

Once you have found a dress you want to rent, they recommend scheduling it for 1–2 days before your event. You can book it for a 4-day or 8-day rental period and you can even add on a backup size for free! That way if you normally wear one size but reviews suggest going up a size, you can do so at no extra cost. There are also stylists ready to chat with you for any size or style questions you may have. But if none of the dresses end up fitting, contact them immediately and you will be refunded. In reviews I sometimes read about people who run into this problem but RTR overnights them other options! Thankfully I have not run into this problem yet, but it’s great to know in case I do.

You can even add on accessories to complete your look or essential extras like Fashion Tape. Need multiple dresses for an event-packed weekend? You can add on another dress of equal or lesser value for only $25. Your order will arrive by 8pm on your delivery date via UPS (or by courier in NYC). I have always scheduled mine for the day before I need to wear it and it has always arrived on time.

RTR2

The dress(es) arrive on hangers inside of a garment bag that you get to keep. Any accessories are packaged in their own boxes, usually inside at the bottom of the garment bag. Included with every order I have received was a little goodie bag. Sometimes it had travel sized Q-tips, Dove body wash and a Magnum ice cream coupon. Other times it has been a sample of Neutrogena’s shine control powder, make up remover and a coupon for a can of spray tan. Apparently it has been a feature for all summer rentals.

After you enjoy the night, just send everything back in the easy pre-paid envelope provided by noon on your return date – they take care of the dry cleaning. If your return date lands on a postal holiday or Sunday, be sure to get it in the mail the following day.

A few of the items I have rented were hard to return. Not because of physically difficulty, but I wanted to keep them! But every now and then their styles will go on sale for purchase. Right now they have a clearance event going on with up to 90% off the retail price. As a bonus, you get rental credit for the things you buy from the sale. Unfortunately nothing I really wanted is available for purchase, but I will be watching out for the next time a sale comes around.

So what have I rented so far? The first thing I rented was the Parisian Cabaret Dress by Sachin & Babi for my cousin’s bachelorette party. I booked my usual size 4 and also the size 6 because the stylist and reviews recommended going up a size for backup. I was even able to ship it to the beach house where we were going to be staying that weekend – one less thing to pack! Upon arrival on Friday, I tried both on and the 4 fit perfectly and I instantly fell in love with the dress (one which I will buy if given the chance). The lace at the bottom was my favorite detail. Saturday we danced the night away, and then I had until Monday at noon to drop it off at UPS using the prepaid padded envelope. Couldn’t have been easier.

RTR3

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Review: I Scream Sandwich! Cookbook & Good ‘n’ Nutty Ice Cream Sandwiches

This month had been full of fun food holidays and today happens to be another – National Ice Cream Sandwich Day! But not only am I sharing an ice cream sandwich recipe today, it come from a cookbook dedicated to ice cream sandwiches, I Scream Sandwich! by Jennie Schacht.

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The book begins with a brief history on ice cream sandwiches and progresses into the secrets of making them (such as assembly and storage) and the essential tools/ingredients/basic recipes needed. The sandwich recipes then begin with chapter 3 on Classics such as ‘Pure Nostalgia” (vanilla ice cream on soft chocolate cookie bars) and “Cookie Monster” (chocolate chip ice cream on cookie dough). The next chapter called Farm Fresh uses ingredients such as rhubarb, apricots, and goat’s milk. Chapter 5 takes on the World View with recipes inspired by the many continents of the world. Chapter 6 ventures out from the traditional cookie sandwiches with ice creams served on butter toast and croissants. There’s also an entire chapter full of seasonal ice cream sandwich ideas to prove that they can be enjoyed throughout the year. And the final chapter covers all the mix-ins and coatings.

In case the list of recipes included in this cookbook isn’t enough, she offers a “sandwich it your way” chart for creating your own combinations. And each recipe also comes with suggestions in order to “take it easy” and make a similar version with store-bought ingredients, or “dress it up” and take it a step further by adding mix-ins or toppings. Take the recipe I made for example, I could havepicked up almond cookies and toasted almond ice cream at the store to assemble at home or I could have rolled the edges in almond brittle, chocolate covered almonds, or even painted the cookies with some chocolate shell before sandwiching. I chose to try them out the regular way first.

The recipe noted that for a creamier ice cream the ground up almonds could be strained off right before churning, but I thought it would be a shame to waste all those tasty nuts so I left them in. Besides, I am a girl who likes her nuts (take a moment to snicker at that). The ice cream ended up being really creamy even with the bits of ground up almond. And paired with the crispy almond wafers these ice cream sandwiches were a nut-lover’s dream. They were a little messy since the wafers cracked while eating but it was worth licking off my hands. Oh and don’t judge me, but I totally ate one for breakfast. It was glorious and every day should begin with ice cream.

Good n Nutty Ice Cream Sandwiches

One year ago: Cinnamon Candied Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Two years ago: Feta, Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomato and Pine Nut Pizza with Sourdough Crust
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