Healthy Choice pumpkin ravioli (with asparagus, apples and butternut squash) Review.

Healthy Choice’s Pumpkin Ravioli with apples and Butternut Squash. What a mouth full.

Ever since the commercial with Mindy Kailing advertising new Healthy Choice’s Pumpkin Ravioli with apples and Butternut Squash, I was curious. Mainly because I wondered what butternut squash tasted like. It seems to have become more popular in dishes, such as soups, and as side items. But I also was curious about pumpkin ravioli.

This by far has been one of my favorite frozen entrees. Firstly, the warm flavors of the apple and the pumpkin bring a ring of autumn depth you often experience with rich flavors like these. The subtle butternut squash adds a tinge of sweetness to the tart apples. The asparagus is sharp, but blends beautifully with the delicate butter sage sauce. I could not imagine the harmony of this dish unless all the ingredients were mixed together. The meal contains 310 calories per serving.  My only gripe is that you get about 9 ravioli. Why? Because it’s so good, I always wish for 10. Or 12. Also, whenever I follow the microwave directions on the package, I notice that one ravioli gets hard, to where when I chew it, it’s overly cooked on the edges.  I have no idea why. This  has also occurred with the Lobster ravioli I sampled from them. (Post coming soon). This balance of bold richness, smart calorie content (which may not suffice if you’re starving, but hey it’s not supposed to) and important vegetables make for a convenient lunch or dinner, and invoke a unique flavor experience.

Another picture of what the box looks like.

Healthy Choice Pumpkin Ravioli with asparagus, apples and butternut squash Yumfactor: 4 tongues and a tastebud (4.5 our of 5 stars). I really like this. I find that the flavors are well balanced and very exotic. It can be a bit fall for some, however, it’s very tasty. If you are famished, I recommend possibly eating 2 entrees if you’re not into calorie counting and are buying this entrée just to taste it. That’s what I’m doing. If you don’t, you may be hungry an hour later, just as a sidenote. It may not be flavorful enough for some, but you can always add pepper, garlic or whatever else to spice it up.

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Banquet Pot pies and feeding hunger in America. You can help.

Really quick,I have been buying Banquet’s chicken, chicken and broccoli and turkey pot pies, and not only are they delicious, but there is a code on each box you buy. When you log on to the provided website and enter the code, money goes to feeling the needy in America. As far as the pies themselves,  these pot pies (ready in less than 5 minutes) are delicious. The crust is flaky and they are a great value (<$1). They taste as if they are out the oven and are quite filling. Try it and let me know what you think! But if you do but them, look out for the label on the front that says “Hunger Ends Here”. You’re doing a charitable service to those in need. Nothing but positive instant karma, and the supply of food on the table of those in need. It’s a win win for everyone 🙂

Side note: There are also fruit pies available.

Click http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/business/media/21adco.html for more information on the company, and other products that can help feed hungry children.

Low Budget Gourmet: Boston Cream Pie Coffee? Home Goods Raid..Sorta

Today a friend and I went to Home Goods, which is a store that offers gourmet food/coffee, furniture, and bath goods for discount prices.  Think Marshall’s, Ross or TJ Maxx, but without the clothes. I love this place, because it’s easy to access quaint adorable tea pots, funky, vintage “distressed” mirrors and desks, and features the best flavored coffees available- all at a bargain, or a decent price. I appreciate the variety. I went straight to the gourmet foods section, passed the strawberry flavored balsamic vinegar, and the garlic olive oils, to the fun flavored coffees.  What caught my attention first was the flavored coffee syrups (for about $5.99 for a 25.4 fl oz bottle).  There were sugar-free vanillas, to classic hazelnut and regular vanilla, and even Kahlua all manufactured by Monin and Davinci brands, who seem too be the to leading suppliers of coffee syrups. What I appreciate is the lack of corn syrup Monin and Davinci brands offer, and the attention to the importance of making pure, and natural, Organic syrups if you will. And you should. 😀

 

Lovely...

Tangent: I prefer Monin over Davinci just because they offer a wider variety, and it just tastes better.  It does, however contain a little bit more sugar. I love getting the Vanilla syrups because they are a versatile item that can go well with milkshakes, in milk alone,cocktails, sodas (Vanilla Coke, anyone?) in smoothies, and of course in coffees and teas, not to mention a flavor enhancer for baking items. (I will post both websites below just in case you are curious about the flavors they carry.)  Monin has over 100 flavors, also, many which are fruit based like (Mango,Passion Fruit, Strawberry) to other types. Their Vanilla syrup uses pure Madagascar Vanilla. Fancy!

I moseyed over to the coffee, my eyes shifting quickly from the standard “French Vanilla” to “Kahlua” when it hit me- “Boston Cream Pie” flavored coffee. I literally squeaked because there is nothing more exciting than interesting flavors of food or beverages, and this was one flavor I was not going to find everywhere. Then it hit me again…. “Pralines and Cream”. I had a dilemma here, folks. The Pralines and Cream smelled rich and had caramelized nutty and vanilla notes that were enticing, but the Boston Cream Pie- that indulgent cakey base, with deep chocolate and buttery, creamy custard seemed to beckon me as well. I was afraid that the chocolate would override what vanilla custard was there, although I smelled creamy notes through the bag (it has a scent hole). I figured since it’s not a layered edible item, all the flavors would run together, and the chocolate may even be a tad bit muted by the vanilla. Plus, if you have chocolate syrup and vanilla creamer at home, you could probably duplicate this! Especially with a creamier vanilla based creamer, such as Vanila Latte (Coffee Mate) or Sweet Cream (Int’l Delights Coffee) or perhaps “Italian Sweet Cream” (Coffee Mate) Both bags were $4.99 for 12oz Arabia coffee. I will do a review on these items in the future.

monin carries a wide variety of flavors, offers free monthly recipes on their site and even has flavors like “Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Pie and Blueberry Pie” to florals like”Lavender, Rose and Hibiscus” and your standards fruits, exotic fruits (Chipotle Pineapple) and dessert type of flavors. How innovative is that? o.O You can buy Monin’s syrups here baristaproshop. As for davinci  they offer Buttered Run which Monin didn’t have, and Zabaglione (Italian egg nog with Marsala wine) but has a smaller variety. You can shop on their site.

What interesting coffee flavors have you tried? Interesting cocktails or sodas that featured unique syrups? Please share and of course let us know if you’d recommend them to anyone else! Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to comment/rate/subscribe! 

Almond Joy Flavored COFFEE (not just creamer) vs Almond Joy CREAMER

I was at Home Goods (I love that place) and was shopping when I scoped out a bag of Almond Joy Flavored Coffee (the brand is Grande Kaffe Collection). The coffee smells rich of coconut and chocolate, and upon sipping its smooth flavor, I tasted  well balanced undertones of chocolate, coconut AND almond (which was a complaint of mine in tasting the Almond Joy Creamer) Not only do you get stronger flavors in the coffee, you also save time in not having to add creamer to your coffee, let alone having to find the creamer in the first place.  (NOTE: It may help if you read my blog reviewing the Almond Joy Creamer https://thetalkingspoon.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/coffee-creamer-review-new-international-delights-almond-joy/)

Pretty blue packaging!

If I had to compare it to the creamer, I’d say this is a better deal.  The only challenge may be not being able to locate this at Home Gods, T.J. Maxx, or Marshalls stores as it may be a seasonal flavor, however, I cannot say for sure, so be on the look out! I paid $6.99 for a 160z bag of coffee.  The fragrance has velvety top notes of chocolate, and the rich, tropical intensity of flaky coconut, and the warmth of almonds. Again, well balanced in all three flavors. Perfect with vanilla creamer, which in its subtlety brings out the flavors.  The coffee itself is an Arabica blend, which tends to be your standard coffee used in these types of flavored varieties. This blend may or may not be strong enough for some, but you can always amp up the coffee in your coffee maker.

Almond Joy Coffee Yumfacotor: 4 tongues. (4 out of 5 stars) I love the even textures of all three flavors that I felt lacked in the creamer. This flavor is exotic, fun and makes for an alive cup of coffee. Vanilla accentuates the almond flavor, as well as defines the coconut and the chocolate characteristics. A must try. Gourmet indeed. May even make a great gift for foodies!

Have you tried this before? What are your thoughts? Think I’m bashing the creamer a little too much? Rate. Comment. Subscribe.

5 Uses for Butterscotch Pudding Mix~Low Budget Gourmet Ideas

Butterscotch is a classic candy flavor with buttery overtones that add richness to a lot of recipes.  Here are a few idea to kick start using this ingredient, which is perfect for the fall. Butterscotch pudding mix will add both flavor and moisture to the some of the following items
  • Butterscotch Cake. Simply add butterscotch pudding mix to cake mix (I’d say 1/4 of the package) to add flavor, rich color and moistness. I made a butterscotch cake by adding pudding mix to a box cake to experiment.  I also added coconut and topped it of with a chocolate glaze.
  • Butterscotch Milkshake.This is an amazing, and easy way to go gourmet. I added a teaspoon (this can change according to taste preference), soy milk or regular milk (about 1/2 a cup) vanilla (optional) and a cup of ice cream.  This will create a thick and indulgent shake!

    Homemade Butterscotch Milkshake with Whipped Cream and Cinnamon Sugar for a garnish.

  • Butterscotch based cheesecake. (Butterscotch and chocolate, butterscotch and rum cheesecake, butterscotch cheesecake with caramel, chocolate and pecans for the fancy folks out there)
  • Butterscotch Pudding (of course) Pie with coconut, or chocolate, or nuts. This is an alternative for those who want the butterscotch pie without the density of cheesecake.
  • Butterscotch and Walnut/ Butterscotch ad Chocolate Chip cookies. Adding pudding mix to any flour based recipe should give it a nice change of flavor while creating a  chewy texture.

Sure, there are butterscotch chips out there, but they don’t have the same influence on the flavor and moisture of a cake that pudding mix would have. Why not experiment with other flavors like pumpkin, vanilla,white chocolate, chocolate or even pistachio to see what ideas you can come up with! Or if you have already tied this,what items did you make and how did it taste? Don’t forget to rate, comment and/or subscribe!

TTSPTip: Play With Your Food! (Faking Your Way Into Baking)

In my view of things, a great way to learn how flavors interact with one another is to start with semi homade ingredients, and slowly add your personal touches to them. I think this lessens the pressure on the individual to make a “perfect dish” while making their way around unique seasoning combinations.  I started cooking, and most recently baking, but taught myself how flavors meshed together by experimenting with box cakes.  I am all about expressing one’s self creatively through food, and took it upon myself to create unique flavors, by adding things like pudding, or flavored syrups to cake batters.

Butterscotch pudding cake, with rum, coconut and a chocolate glaze. Semi-Homeade!

Why pudding? Pudding, (along with pieces of pineapple, carrots, and even apple sauce) add a richness to a cake, but also a lot of moistness.  My mother taught me this trick, an I have made it a point to experiment with fruits, pudding, and even Greek yogurt to discourage dry cakes.

One cake I experimented with was a yellow cake, but added about 1/4 of butterscotch pudding mix, (or less according to taste and awareness of sugar content) a little rum, and coconut flakes, and allow it to bake.  I drizzled melted chocolate icing from the package on the cake, giving the cake a somewhat homemade feel (because of the flavor originality) and a moist texture that made it much more indulgent. So, fake your way into baking by using semi homemade recipes

Two layer box cake with a homemade icing, and strawberries in the center and on top.

and jazzing it up! Now, I can say I have a much stronger sense that certain ingredients like vanilla can enhance other flavors, but nutmeg and cinnamon can be paired up with certain fruits to round it out or add depth. Now, I am a baked good snob, and often make cakes and other baked good from scratch. The same goes for non baking food; adding a pinch of garlic, or pepper, or even exotic ingredients to pastas, means, and rices can make cooking more adventurous and exciting. Play with your food, and you’ll have a better sense of how seasonings work, and more confidence!

Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich- Reviewing My Obsession+Copycat recipe

Close Up

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love and often crave Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich. Here’s why. It’s light and refreshing, healthy, full of both sweet and savory flavors, and it’s rather exotic in nature. First, let’s analyze this sandwich from inside out. Sun dried tomato and basil bread, with a sweet undertone around the crusts, a tangy hummus spread on the bread adding a nice kick of flavor and complexity,cilantro,  fresh cucumbers, lettuce, spicy Peppadew  peppers, red onions, and tomatoes…and FETA cheese!!!!  The bread is soft and full of flavor itself.

Inside Shot

And no, I’m not a vegetarian,but this sandwich is good enough to make me order it faithfully at Panera for over 5 years. I have tried other items as well, but this Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich with a cup of their epic Iced Green Tea is all I need to have a great day. Plus, it’s under 650 calories!! (or a few little numbers above 650, but not above 670)

Copycat Recipe link!!!! alla *Debbie Does Dinner*

http://debbidoesdinnerhealthy.blogspot.com/2010/09/mediterranean-veggie-sandwich-with.html

Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich Yumfactor- 5 tongues!!! I just only wish there were sun-dried tomatoes versus regular ones, but it’s still amazing! Cost- $6.30 including tax.