December 24, 2009

Exciting news about Blissdom and a conference pass giveaway!

First, the exciting news:
Blissdom Conference ~ Nashville ~ February 4-6 2010

My client ConAgra Foods, a client, is the title sponsor and another client of mine, Steaz, is sponsoring a conference pass giveaway. Click for details on the Blissdom pass.

Good luck!

Pirate Booty New York Pizza Flavor

pirate_booty_pizzaI'm a sucker for clever packaging, so I was won over when I saw the packaging for the review samples the Pirate Brands (formerly Robert's American Gourmet) folks sent me for New York Pizza, their newest flavor.

The flavor was not as big of a hit as the packaging. The pizza booty wasn't bad; it had the typical and satisfying corn and rice puff crunchiness, it just didn't have a whole lot of pizza flavor.

I can see the essence of pizza in the ingredient list- tomato powder, mozzarella cheese, but neither my tween boys nor I tasted that pizza essence.
Pirate booty pizza
If you're a Booty fan, it's worth a try, but I think we'll stick with the classics- Veggie Booty and Aged White Cheddar.

Read our thought on some of the other recent additions to the pirate booty line.

One ounce packages retail for $1.49.

Disclosure: I received a free sample pack, but was not paid to post this review.

December 14, 2009

CTA Santa Train Tweet-up on the Yellow Line

I was so taken when I first set eyes on the CTA's Holiday Train that instead of pondering whether taxpayer money funds this delightfully extravagant ode to Santa, I found myself wondering if the train would make it out to the Yellow Line, the Skokie Swift.

Yes it does and I'm planning a Tweet-up in its honor! (And also my four-year blogaversary.) Please RSVP here.

Local bloggers and their little ones (keep a close eye on them please!) can join in the fun at 3:00 on December 23!

We'll meet up at the Skokie Swift Starbucks and about 3:15 head over near the tracks for ride on the train or a photo op. You'll have to buy your own train tickets, but Starbucks will provide tweet-up guests with drinks and treats afterward. Guests on the RSVP list will be the first priority for the Starbucks goodies.

The wonderful folks at Edelman are providing me with a gift card for the event, so you'll need to check in with me, not the baristas.

December 12, 2009

World War III

Is this the final battle that will end the world as we know it?

From the gift shop at Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, Kentucky.

December 09, 2009

Bonefish Grill Gift Card Giveaway!


Check out my post at The Full Mommy and enter to win a $25 gift certificate to Bonefish Grill. Hurry, the contest ends 12/13!

November 29, 2009

Whole Foods Chicago, Lincoln Park

And I thought the Northbrook store was large! The new Whole Foods in Lincoln Park, which is located just across the street from where the old and impressive for its time Lincoln Park Whole Foods, is huge and fantastic.

It's the kind of place that makes you forget that part of living a "green" lifestyle is limiting consumption. The store is packed with hormone-free, additive-free, dye-free, organic, vegetarian, vegan and local goodness.

And the food court...ZOMG. They're got everything--at $7.99 a pound. The store also has a quite wine bar, fresh sushi and noodle soups, as well as a diner. In terms of size and variety, the store's food court rivals that of any shopping mall circa 1986.

I was there for a blog event with Underwriter's Lab, but I'm definitely bringing the family back for a field trip and a meal.

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November 27, 2009

First Blush: Wine Without Alcohol

Wine without alcohol? What's the point?

Well, we're always up for something new, so when I saw First Blush "grape juice all grown up" on the shelf at Whole Foods, I wanted to give it a try. No, I'm lying. My 11 year-old son spotted it first and since we'd seen the product on TV (Food Network? How Things Are Made? I don't recall), he begged me for it.

As someone who can't stand the taste of wine, I was curious to see what this would taste like. Like wine? Grape juice?

I purchased the merlot juice and the general consensus was that it didn't taste like either one. And that we probably won't be buying this product again. At least not this flavor. There are other flavors, erm, varietals, to try as well.

Have you tried this? What do you think?

November 24, 2009

Shopping Safeway for the Local Food Pantry

Though I do most of my grocery shopping at Jewel and the local green grocer, when I was offered a $25 gift card from the folks at Safeway (known in California as Von's and as Dominick's here in my Chicago suburb) I decided to pay the store a visit.

I used my windfall for good and dedicated my shopping trip to a local food pantry.

I went slightly over the card amount because my oldest son brought a bit of tzedakkah money along. But as you can see, For about $31.00 we got a good deal of food. There's a mix of name-brand and store-brand items.

We bought two 2-pound bags of spaghetti and two large cans of Hunts sauce, many packs of ramen, a jar of peanut butter, two large containers of chicken broth, canned vegetables and more. We didn't have any coupons with us, but we did take advantage of the in-store discounts and if I was more organized, we could have saved with a trip to the Safeway website.

The Dominick's I visited has a full-service pharmacy that provides things like immunizations at a low-cost, without an appointment. In fact, the last time I'd been in the store was to get my flu shot a few weeks ago.

Given how tight our family budget is right now, I appreciated the opportunity to do good with the Safeway gift card. Please note, I was not sent any other type of compensation beyond the gift card for this post. Also, I was free to use the gift card as I chose.

November 14, 2009

Artisan Chocolates from Sucre New Orleans

As if the offer to receive a sample pack of artisan chocolates wasn't enough, the folks at Sucre added a few tempting details about their business when they reached out to me. Not only are they in New Orleans (who doesn't want to support small businesses in that city?), they are donating a portion of their online sales this holiday season to the New Orleans SPCA.

Chocolate, charity and a city on the mend? What's not to like?

I was so taken by the lovely presentation and the unique confections in Sucre's holiday collection, that I devoted a Whrrl story to it.

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I've never seen a chocolate bar quite like the pistachio rose petal milk chocolate bar Sucre sent me. Its appearance was striking and unusual as was the bar's scent. Though the presentation was dramatic, and the taste was sweet, I'd like to see smaller bits of both the pistachio and the rose petals scattered evenly throughout the bar and maybe even a dark chocolate version to temper the sweet rose petals.

Of the three chocolates in the Sugar and Spice Holiday Collection, Candy Cane, Ginger Bread, and Eggnog, the Candy Cane was the clear winner. Filled with white chocolate ganache and bits of peppermint candy, they were smooth and creamy with just the right touch of mintiness. I'd love to see Candy Cane truffles offered in their own box next year (or next week- in which case, I promise to order some).

If you're looking for a unique hostess gift, something that goes beyond the typical bottle of wine or box of drug store chocolates, let your fingers do the clicking and consider Sucre. I've even got a discount code to share:
$5 off of shipping on Sucre confections (or shipping for $4.95) with code: SPCA

Good through November 30, 2009.

Disclosure: The folks at Sucre sent me a product sample for review. I was not compensated for this post or the Whrrl story beyond the complimentary samples noted above. Yeah, I'm easy when it comes to chocolate. It's better than being paid in gum, though, if you ask me.

November 13, 2009

Free Steaz Zero Calorie

Steaz, maker of tasty organic, fair trade, vegan iced teas, is my newest client. These bottle caps are from their Zero Calorie Sparkling Green Tea. It's like each bottle comes with a bonus mantra.

Am I Grateful? Yes, and you should be, too. Use this coupon and pick up a free bottle of Steaz at Whole Foods or your nearest natural foods store.

Am I Balanced? Not even close. But maybe if I fashion that bottle cap into a necklace or charm and keep in close at hand, I'll be making a step in the right direction.

If you're an old fan of Steaz, check out their new look below.

October 27, 2009

Pampered Chef's New Cookie Press

The attendees at last week's Pampered Chef event were given a cookie press to take home and try out. Always up for an excuse to bake cookies, I put it to the test the day after I received it. Watch as my son demonstrates the press.

I followed the Pampered Chef's spritz cookie recipe, but I think my butter was not softened enough and as a result I mixed the batter more than I should have. This resulted in a dough that was a bit stickier than we used at the Pampered Chef demo, and as you can see, there is a bit of a learning curve.

Everyone who ate one of the cookies raved about the taste. They were delicious.

October 23, 2009

My Afternoon at Pampered Chef

I spent yesterday afternoon with a wonderful group of bloggers at The Pampered Chef's headquarters in Addison, Illinois. It was like going to a Pampered Chef party, or cooking show as they call them, only I didn't need to open my wallet. This was not a recruitment event; they focused on the products, the company, and the food and it was all very interesting.

We met with various representatives of the company and learned about the recipe development process, all while sipping a delicious cranberry fizz and nibbling delectable butter cookies.

Pampered Chef's recipe developers love their jobs. Truly, they get to follow their passions and foodie dreams with the added bonus of keeping typical office hours, something that's nearly impossible to do in many restaurant and hospitality jobs.

Office hours aside, even the developers are PC consultants and are required to host cooking shows a few times a year. This keeps them in touch with their network of consultants and makes them more aware of what they are asking those consultants to do when they host shows.

The Pampered Chef folks are especially proud of their redesigned cookie press, which (and this jazzes me perhaps more than it should) is also a potato ricer. It can also be used make crackers, too, which is something I'm excited to try. (Sounds very gourmet, no?)

In addition to the aforementioned cookies, as you will see in the photos below, we made and devoured honey-apple brie bites (yum!) and turkey tetrazzini (not quite my thing).

Our gracious hosts allowed us to create a wish list of Pampered Chef products we'd like to try. Though, indeed, I can look longingly through the PC catalog, we're in such a state of paring down that I only requested a few simple ones that I know will I will use like bamboo salad tongs and as cheese grater that I think the boys will like to use.

They gave us a few goodies for the road, as well--including said cookie press. I already have a cookie date night set with my boys.

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October 18, 2009

The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen

Though a dedicated carnivore, I was tempted by the offer of a review copy of The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless recipes that will change the way you eat.

According the book jacket, cookbook author Tal Ronnen is among the most celebrated vegan chefs around. A glimpse at his full-color cookbook confirms why. Ronnen is renown for applying traditional French culinary techniques to vegan food and this book shows the results. His original recipes for hearty corn chowder (thickened with cashew cream), a satisfying salad (with tofu ricotta), Gardein "chicken" scaloppini, are all pictured in tempting glory.

The book contains a primer of the vegan lifestyle and includes commentary from guest chefs like Chad Sarno, as well as seasonal menus and a listing of Ronnen's favorite vegan restaurants.

I have no doubt if Chef Tal were to cook nearly any of these meals for me, he'd have a good chance of turning me on to a vegan lifestyle. As for getting it on myself, well, I'm not quite ready. Many of the recipes called for ingredients we didn't have on hand like nutritional yeast flakes, the aforementioned cashew cream, or seitan. We could easily pick these on a trip to Whole Foods, but we're lazy like that sometimes.

Ultimately, this book is little more than vegan food porn for me. I'm going to pass it along to a vegetarian or vegan-curious friend who will surely be intrigued by the stunning photos, the gourmet recipes and the encouraging words related to a vegan lifestyle.

October 03, 2009

Ninja Master Blender and Starbucks VIA: A Video Review and Giveaway

When I received samples of Starbucks VIA and my Ninja Master Blender (turn down your sound before click) for review in the same week, I was inspired to try them out together in one tasty review.

Watch as I mix up a fancypants homemade coffee drink in my Ninja.


I enjoyed my iced mocha-like drink and the Ninja cleanup was simple.

I'm not one for drinking coffee straight, that is without a bit of mocha and topped with whipped cream, but I brought a few samples of VIA home from BlogHer09 courtesy of SoCal Vacation Gal Jennifer Miner, anyway. I gave them to my mom and she's now a huge fan of it. Gosh, I feel kind of like a drug dealer. The woman is now hooked.

Don't tell mom, but now I've got a few extra VIA samples to share with you along with a coupon for a can of Reddi-Wip whipped cream, so you can make your own fru-fru coffee drink.

US residents only, leave a comment by Sunday, October 12 at 1:00 PM CST . For extra entries, tweet or blog about the contest and come back to let me know in a new comment. Winner will be chosen at random.

Edited to add: After making the coffee drinks, my crew couldn't wait to try making other items with the Ninja Blender, so we followed up with guacamole and deliciously smooth mashed potatoes. The blender is a hit and I can tell we're going to be putting it to the test over the coming weeks.

September 21, 2009

Kids Eat Free at Boston Market

Just in time for my trip to New York City, Boston Market is offering a kids meal deal. This is a great one, because it only requires the purchase of one adult meal ($6 minimum) to receive two children's meals. DH is set for my first night out of town.

According to their website kids meals are for those 10 and under. A meal with a drumstick, roasted turkey or meatloaf comes with milk or a soft drink, a kid's size side and cornbread would normally set you back over $4, so this sounds like a great deal.

Children must be present to claim their meals. This budget-friendly special runs through October 31. See full details on Boston Market's Kids Eat Free promo

Hat tip to Jessica Smith.

Edited to add: This offer is good for children up to age 14 see the link in the comments. Whew, my oldest son is 11.

September 14, 2009

Taste This! A Cookbook Review

What happens when you begin posting again on a blog you've ignored for a wee bit? Oh, you realize that you have more than a few dusty draft posts, sitting and waiting for review and the glory of being published.

Take Gina Von Esmarch's cookbook, Taste This! I received a copy in...let's just say it was in 2009.

This book is full of simple recipes. In fact, they're so simple, it makes me wonder why I don't cook a fresh meal every night* of the week.

I made the White Bean Casserole. Because it will be months before we can harvest tomatoes from our garden, I used canned ones. (*Cough* I warned you this post was a bit dusty.) A can of tomatoes, a few white beans and spices was all it called for.

I admit I was skeptical. How can it possibly be that easy to cook a decent meal? But within minutes my family had a delicious casserole which, served alongside a loaf of crusty bread, made an easy, healthy and filling meal. It was like magic!

My friends Ana at Bonggamom and Ilina at Dirt and Noise tried out other Taste This! recipes with equally delicious results. Go read and see for yourself.

*Oh yeah, because I'm disorganized and have a wicked Twitter addiction. Speaking of which, follow Taste This! author @ginavon.

September 09, 2009

Pirate Booty: My Boys are Hooked

I planned to share a treasure chest full of Pirate Booty products that the company sent me with a group of tween boys. As I imagined it, we'd do a an organized, if not sophisticated, tasting, working our way through the product line.

What was I thinking? They snarfed up the snacks right away; they practically inhaled one bag as I turned my back to open the next. I was tempted to serve up a bowl of packing peanuts topped with garlic salt just to make sure they were paying attention.

I managed to take a few quick notes during this process, though.

Veggie Booty was an old hit in our house. It was a favorite snack when my boys were toddlers during the early days of this millennium. It turns out the product isn't quite as healthy as it claimed to be back in the day, but labeling adjustments have been made. Because I had a bit of proverbial egg on my face for having been a vocal word-of-mouth promoter of the unbelievably healthy snack I wasn't a paid advocate-after all this was in the days before momblogs- but all my friends served Booty to their kids; I had talked it up as an amazing way to get some veggies and fiber into their little bodies.

Sooo, I guess I'm more unresolved about that then I realized.

Anyway, after the salmonella scare had cleared (in early 2007) we returned to the brand because damn it, my kids love the stuff.

I thought we'd sampled all of their product line- puffy rice snacks and crunchy corn creations- until I received the pack.

Sea salt and vinegar? (
"Delicious, but a bit sour, but not as strong as most chips. Goes well with the puffiness," according to my boys.)

Barbeque? ("So good! Yum!")

Onion? ("So good! Tastes like onion rings, but smells like blah.")

Who knew about all these newfangled flavors?

The Tings are crispy, like a certain "rhymes with feetos" snack, but come without the seemingly toxic bright orange gunk. In fact they are just naked, crispy goodness. Tings are way better than "feetos" to serve to a basement full of videogaming boys. And by better, I mean
less damaging to the house and Wii remotes.

That said, I take issue with the "nutritious" on the front of the bag. To me nutritious suggests a food loaded with vitamins and fiber (think, a tangerine). I mean, you could do worse than Tings or Booty puffs for a snack and I like my boys to enjoy a "chippy" starch in their lunches or as part of an after school snack, so I do buy these for my family, but let's not pretend they're nutritious.

Overall, the new flavors were a hit with the kids. With a little more truth in labelling (especially considering their--our-- history), they'll be a hit with mom, too.

Oh, and based on experience, the Booty products go stale quickly; you'll want to finish the bag within a day or two---fortunately this is rarely a problem in our house. If you're serving them at a party it's best to wait until the last minute to empty them into a serving bowl.

Photo: the Pirate Booty folks send me samples in an adorable treasure chest. Pressed for a last-minute birthday gift for a boy, I hacked the chest into a birthday present by tossing in a bunch of coins and bandanna. Argh, matey; it was a hit.

Kim Moldofsky who muses on parenting gifted children and life at Hormone-colored Days and writes about marketing to mom bloggers at Positive Impact, Inc.

June 06, 2009

All Candy Expo now with Snacks!

In 2010 the All Candy Expo will change its name to the All Candy and Snack Expo. I really enjoy two of the salty snacks I sampled at the Expo this year.
First up, Sensible Portions MultiGrain Crisps. I tried the Sea Salt flavor and couldn't get enough of them. Literally. All I took home was a small 90 calorie, .75 oz. snack pack.

The Sensible Portions chips were salty, and crispy. They were comparable to, but much thinner and tastier than rice cakes. Nutrition-wise, the 90-calorie bag had only 2.5 grams of fat and 220 mg of sodium. The smallish snack pack might have satisfied my snack, but there were several little hands dipping into the bag to grab chips.

Thumbs-up all around for these chips.

Another salty snack that left me salivating for more was Joseph Banks Cassava Chips. These are not diet-friendly, but they are satisfyingly crunchy. And how often do I get to eat cassava root? Pretty much never. I hope these Javanese crisps will be widely available here in the US. They're an interesting change from the plain old potato. 

Now I'm craving a salty snack. Gotta run. I hear Orville Redenbacher calling my name! 

(Disclosure- I am ConAgra's Social Media Mom and my pantry is packed with their popcorn right now.)

May 19, 2009

Candy Expo Round-up: Nonchocolate sweets

Candy without chocolate? What's the point? I can easily pass up confections that are made without chocolate, so I had my boys, Smartypants age 11 and Pikachu age 9, share their feedback on a few sweet treats.

GUD FUD Gud Fud is the name of a tiny marshmallow with filling in it. The flavors of the fillings are grape, strawberry, orange, or chocolate.
Smartypants: I think they are good but very sweet. They mush in your mouth. Pikachu said he hated them before he tried it, but he put it in his mouth and spit it out anyway.
Pikachu: Yuck.I spit it out.

Toxic Waste hard candies:
SP: Too sour to describe. Probably as sour as Warheads.
P: Awesome!!!!!Even though they are VERY sour. I had to drink water. I finished it. My brother spit his out even though he had my favorite flavor.

Tung Toos
Tattoos that get put on your tongue.
SP: It does not taste good when you put it in your mouth. It also makes you gag because your mouth stays open with something big on your tongue for a long time.
P: They're sour. (And, full of food dyes, mom adds). But fun!

Chewy Lemonhead and Friends Like regular Lemonheads, but chewy. The"friends" are the other flavors: apple, cherry, grape, and orange.
P: They are good. I think that they are better than the original Lemonheads. (My brother can't eat them because he has braces.)

C. Howard's Fine Mints and Gum
P: The flavors are: spearmint (really good), peppermint (I didn't get to try it), lemon (even better than spearmint,and it tastes like lemonheads), and violet (violet tastes bad!)

Mom: We'll be back with more reviews of sweets and treats in the coming week. Unfortunately, we had a problem with one of the above reviewers sneaking a bit of candy and then lying to me about it. I can forgive the sneaking- heck, I've been known to sneak a bit of chocolate now and again, but the lying is unacceptable, so we're down a taste-tester.

I know; such a sad ending to such a sweet post.

Hammond's Candies

Live from the All Candy Expo, a big shout out to Hammond's Candies. This Denver-based family-owned business makes the most beautiful handcrafted candy canes and lollipops I have ever seen. And they give free factory tours. Best excuse ever to visit the Mile High City.

Aunt Sally's Pralines

Make that pralines *lite.* The Aunt Sally's folks had the brilliant idea to send me a sample of the lite praline before I'd ever stepped foot in the All Candy Expo, which longtime readers will know is a Good Thing. Aunt Sally's Lite Pralines have 85% less sugar and 40% fewer calories that the full octane version.

Admittedly, when it comes to food from New Orleans, I'm partial to beignets over pralines. Indeed, when I showed it to my Yankee boys, ages 9 and 11, they asked me to describe a praline. "Um, it's got a lot of sugar and butter and nuts." Yup.

Aunt Sally cuts down on the sugar by substituting Swerve Sweetener. The result is a super-sweet praline with no aftertaste.

Edited 5/19 to add:
I hadn't heard of Swerve before, so I'm adding this bit their website: Swerve is the first all-natural zero calorie sweetener that tastes, measures, cooks and bakes like sugar.

Swerve™ has zero glycemic index, so its perfect for diabetics; Swerve™ does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels.

April 10, 2009

April 05, 2009

Yes I can...make horseradish

Amy over at MomAdvice writes up what she calls a weekly notebook experiment where she often tries making this or that new food. I channeled her as I decided to whip up a batch of horseradish for this week's Passover seders. Horseradish is the condiment of choice for gefilte fish, which itself is the traditional Passover appetizer. If you click on this link, you will understand why I chose to try the condiment, rather than the fish.

When I Googled for a recipe, I found one from my blog sister Andrea from Andrea's Recipes. I know she knows food, so I gave her recipe a try. I noticed that she made hers outside, but from what I learned on Google, sensed I could try it indoors without overwhelming my senses.

Unlike what you see on her blog. I began with one long, firm horseradish root. It was so huge, it resembled a femur (but feel free to insert a phallic or dildo joke in the comments if you're up for it).

In my kitchen, I chopped it by hand into 2 inch bits and tossed it into a blender with water and cider vinegar, per the recipe. I'd also roasted a few pieces of beet and added a handful of those to the blender. It gives the prepared horseradish a nice pink color and adds a hint of sweetness.

I decided to run the blender on our porch because I'd read that this is where the smell can start getting unbearable. A few minutes later, my pink condiment was almost ready. I lined a colander with paper towels and drained my mixture.

After draining it for a minute or two, I spooned the mixture into storage containers. That's when the fumes became intense. My eyes stung and began to water as I scooped up the prepared horseradish.

I called DH in for a taste test (I'll wait to eat it at seder). It didn't make him cry, but I don't know if that's good or bad. He likes intensely spicy foods that give him a near-death experience. Me? Not so much.

On a related note, do you include a Miriam's Cup as part of your seder? Click through for ideas on how to incorporate this. After all, a little Girl Power is a good thing. Unless you ask my niece (just click).

Also, you don't have to be Jewish to love this amazing Passover dessert that's good all year long.

Cross-posted to Hormone-colored Days.

March 11, 2009

Endangered Species Chocolate Bars are out of this world

Literally. Eight Endangered Species Chocolate (ESC) Bars are heading into space on an upcoming Shuttle Discovery mission based on an astronaut's request.

Maybe the company's sales will take off too.

With this year's healthy eating habits, I've traded my weekly Starbucks mocha with whipped (15 grams of fat in one sitting!) for a high-quality, fair trade chocolate bar each week. The Starbucks and the chocolate bar each cost around $3. I nibble the chocolate bar throughout the week whenever I need a fix because, let's face it, I can't go a week without chocolate.

I'm eating chocolate that tastes good, that I can feel good about eating. Check out the story behind ESC. I'm going to try one of their bars next week. For now, I'm working on a Terra Nostra 60% cacao double dark truffle; mmmmm. (No link because their domain is down.)

I'm definitely going to look for ESC at the All Candy Expo.

Edited 3/11 to add: How did I miss this? They do factory tour on request. Squee! To read up on other family-friendly factory tours, check out my latest post at TravelingMom.

March 05, 2009

Eating from a Toilet

Would you? Ewww! No! Unless it's at this hip, irreverent restaurant in China. It's a chain called (wait for it) Modern Toilet. Not only do patrons sit on toilets, but they dine from mini-versions of the throne.

This concept makes me a bit squeamish even as someone whose career is in the toilet.

Your thoughts?

h/t Jessica Y., a Facebook friend.

February 25, 2009

Spatulatta Filming: April Fools!

Earlier this month, my boys filmed a webcast for Spatulatta.com, the award-winning by kids/for kids cooking show. They were filming for the April Fool's Day show and made faux gross, that is, foods that look disgusting, but are quite tasty. April Fools!

Here a few a few photos from the shoot to tide you over until the webisode goes live.









Photos include making a "moldy" sandwich, doggy-doo fudge, and kitty litter cake (yum!).

February 20, 2009

It's like a trip to CandyLand

Yeah, baby. I'm going to the All-Candy Expo when it comes through town in May. Let's just hope I can keep my healthy eating habits going until then because I will no doubt nibble myself up about three sizes as I walk the show sampling this or that.

This year the press application was a bit more thorough than in the past. I had to tell the sponsor what I wanted out of the show (um, beside lots of chocolate). Of course, I'm always interested in candy and snack trends as they relate to kids, but this year, I also hope to find out more abut how chocolate is sourced and whether more companies are using fair trade certified farms and co-ops.

In December, I hosted a giveaway of Divine Chocolate fair trade chocolate bars at Momformation. Among the commenters was Susan Smith of the National Confectioners Association. She responded to my talk of fair trade chocolate with this:

On behalf of the chocolate/cocoa industry, I wanted to take a few minutes to address your comments.

In West Africa, there are more than two million cocoa farms – and most have children who help out as a part of the family working on them. These farmers care deeply about their children, and are working hard to give their kids a better future.

At the same time, there are issues. Too many children are being harmed in the process of helping out on the family farm.

By working with organizations such as the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), we are teaching these farmers the importance of education for their children and we are making a difference.

On July 1, 2008, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana (the world’s two largest cocoa producers) made separate announcements that they have put a certification process on child labor in place across an area that produces at least 50 percent of their cocoa. In both countries, the data collection element of the certification system has been completed and reports detailing the preliminary results of these surveys by the respective countries can be found here for Ghana and here for Cote d’Ivoire. (ed. note. links are included below, but not here.)

Too many are not attending school. But to indict non-fair trade chocolate is to indict – sight unseen – hundreds of thousands of African farming families.

It is also important to note that there is no chocolate – including fair trade – that can provide a 100% guarantee that no child was in any way harmed or exploited. One would have to monitor each and every cocoa farm on a regular basis.

We have a lot to do, but more than 70 chocolate companies, including my employer – the National Confectioners Association—are supporting organizations like WCF to make positive changes.

I encourage you to take a look at what else is being done to help cocoa farmers and their families, by visiting WorldCocoa.org or CocoaInitiative.org

Admittedly, I've only peeked at those sites so far, but the show is not until May, so I have time to dig in before I, well, dig in.

February 12, 2009

Whole Foods Whole Story Podcast: You are (in bed) what you eat

This is my second sponsored post about the Whole Foods Podcast because DH is still unemployed and I gotta keep Smartypants in Omega-3 oils, and given that DH just bought the most expensive gummy kind which will ruin Smartypants' new orthodontia, I gotta grab a few dollars when I can.

Who wouldn't want to listen to this month's podcast? It's all about libido, and it's about time we look at this as a wellness issue. Click over to listen to Chris Kilham talk about "hot plants."

Cheat sheet: among the top ten libido-boosting plants are Maca (Peru), Rhodiola rosea (Siberia) and Ashwagandha (India).

I'm glad those Siberians had something to enhance hot times in their cold region. (Hmm. I think there's an even better play on words, there. Any suggestions?)

January 14, 2009

Thai Coconut Curry Broth from College Inn: A review

We've been making a lot of soup lately and though I will use fresh chicken in, say, chicken soup, I always add a store-bought stock or broth to enhance the flavor. In fact, when I took a knife skills class at Chicago's Chopping Block last year, the chef/teacher recommended store-bought stock for the convenience.

I was excited to try the College Inn Thai Coconut Curry Broth because it sounded a little different. And it was.

Rather than the hot, spicy curry DH was hoping for, this "culinary broth" was fragrant and flavorful. The delicate blend of coconut, curry, garlic and coriander flavors suited me just fine.

I also like that the broth does not have MSG, but I don't like that each cup has 42% of a day's serving of sodium. As with so many processed convenience products, I'd like to see that number drop.

Check out the Singapore Lettuce Wraps we made using the broth and find other unique recipes as well.

January 11, 2009

The Whole Story: Whole Foods podcast on supplements, a sponsored post

Here's the deal: my unemployed but fabulous tech writer/project manager husband is on his third month on unemployment. How does one shop at Whole Paycheck without a paycheck? It's a challenge.

Seriously though, he loves Whole Foods and we both love that they source local products. In fact, one of their reps was at the Family Farmed Media Meet-Up and I could tell from the discussion that she took her job as a local sourcer quite seriously.

So anyway, when I saw an email from WH offering me a $15 gift card for posting the link to their monthly podcast, Whole Story, I figured I'd give it a listen and post if I learned something.

I did. So here's the link to the podcast, the ABC's of Supplements.

DH has been going on and on about the benefits of fish oil and suggesting we give it to our boys, well, at least one of them. The boy in question isn't great at swallowing, so we chose the capsules, which the podcast confirmed is an expensive option, because they'd go down easily.

Oh, and we bought them at Whole Foods because we're using a brand our friend recommended.

Turns out this boy refuses to swallow and instead in putting the capsules in his mouth and popping them open with his teeth. These are fish oil capsules, people. Can you imagine how disgusting this is? But he likes it.

We figured we'd go with a liquid next time, but after listening to the podcast, I think we need to get our boy to swallow good old tablets.

January 03, 2009

Crockpotting

I'm doing it. I was just Twittering with BlondeMomBlog about using our crockpots this week.

I don't know if it's just me or the lame recipes I've chosen, but it seems like everything I cook in the crockpot has the same taste and texture- that of food that's simmered for hours.

I finally clicked over to A Year of Crockpotting and picked the first recipe I saw- Black Eyed Pea Crockpot Soup. good luck for the new year, right? And healthy, too!

I'll be back with details!

If you have a favorite crockpot recipe or cookbook, let me know!

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