Salads: They’re Only As Boring as You Make Them!

Many people frown up at the idea of eating a salad, providing endless excuses as to why they’re uneatable. With a little creativity, you can create appetizing salads, full or meat (or not) and fun toppings to satisfy the beast within. Below are quick tips to sprucing up greens, and adding a dash of colorful nutrition to your lifestyle.

  • Themed salads. Make salads with meats and follow through on flavor with themed ingredients. You can try a chicken taco salad, beginning with a layer of bagged salad, cheddar cheese, taco-seasoned chicken,  sour cream, tomato and beans. Adding rice underneath the layer of mixed greens can be a more filling option to give you carbs and a feeling of fullness.
  • Add fruit and be merry. Adding berries,  oranges and other fruits can fan any salad fun. Here’s an example. Take a half a bag salad, add mandarin oranges (1-2 8 oz. servings), a Asian Toasted Sesame flavored salad dressing, and add fried chow mein noodles. Stir until you’ve got a fun Asian-inspired salad your tastebuds will beg you for. This can be spruced up with cold grilled chicken strips or shrimp seasoned with peanut sauce. Adding cold noodles in place of the fried chow mein noodles will also rock your mouth’s tastebuds off.
  • Be creative and add seasonal touches to your salad. Fall usually beckons orange and red-colored fruits and veggies, savory flavorings such as apple or pears spiked with nutmeg and cinnamon, and the ever popular butternut squash. Why not try to expand the borders of plain salads and dressings to a mountain of colors, roasted veggies and ripened, yet tangy fruit? Cranberries, croutons and chicken with a balsamic vinaigrette would make anyone’s tastebuds rave. Here is another savory, autumn-themed salad for the spirit.
  • Pair up your salads with comforting and indulgent soups, sandwiches or fuller meals. Still think salads are for sissies? They can make fun side dishes and are a versatile, easy way to up your nutrition. The water content in salads hydrate your body and invigorates the living sludge out of your low energy levels. They perk up your day and are chock full of vitamins to help you live your best life possible. Just go out, have fun and make the salad your canvas.

Visit this site to find out more about salads and their purpose in life.  Don’t forget to rate, comment and subscribe to this blog for fun food ideas, restaurant reviews and must try products! 

Panera’s New Dessert Item

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I admit, this is not the most appetizing angle, but trust me, it’s a must try item.

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Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad

Panera has introduced a juicy, ripe and sweet menu item–a strawberry rhubarb mini cake. For $2.29, customers get a moist cake with real strawberry fruit pieces and tangy rhubarb chunks. This little cake comes in a cute mini paper loaf pan and perfectly compliments the strawberry poppy seed chicken salad. Hail the succulent strawberry! 

Tip: Warm it up for 20 seconds. You won’t regret it.

Don’t forget to Rate, Comment and/pr subscribe!

Taco Bell Taste Off: Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco Review.

Cool ranch taco, taken by Shinai (do not use without permission).

Cool ranch taco.

On March 6, 2013,  Taco Bell added a cooler addition to the sharply cheesy, nacho-flavored crunchy indulgence–the cool ranch Doritos™ locos taco. For those of you who don’t know, this is the second Doritos™-inspired taco flavor, which seems to be selling very well.  I think it’s important to bear in mind that the flavor of these tacos can be hit or miss depending on whether or not your local Taco Bell is heavy handed with powdering their taco shells. This taco shell is a standard corn yellow chip color with fun ranch-like shavings on the edges. To put this in perspective, (when eating with pieces of chicken) imagine eating a chicken ranch salad with crumbled Doritos™ chips as a salad topping. Pretty simple. Add sour cream and you’ve got something worthy of worship. Let’s continue.

  Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with beef)

I ordered this taco with beef and wasn’t really impressed, because I felt that ranch flavor was muted when paired up with the beef. The little bit of ranch flavor was easy to detect on the upper edges only; the beef flavor overpowered the ranch and I could barely taste the ranch flavor. I should have taken the minimal visible ‘ranchness’ on the edge as a hint that the ranch flavor probably wasn’t evenly dispersed.  And boy was I right. Perhaps the taco didn’t have enough cool ranch powder on it. Maybe this taco needed the powerful help of sour cream to make it fun.

  Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with chicken)

This is where chicken becomes relevant. I ordered this taco with chicken, because I like the pairing of ranch and chicken together  I figured it would be a more natural flavor blend than beef. This flavor compared to the beef was lighter, more refreshing–almost like a salad with those crisps on them. It made me think of summer for some reason. I enjoyed this more than the beef, because the chicken flavor played off the ranch on the taco. You can taste the cool ranch flavor better and the chicken almost rounds it out.

  Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (chicken supreme)

And this is by far, my favorite combination–the sour cream was like the cherry on a sundae. Cool ranch, paired with chicken  veggies, cheese and sour cream.  It’s amazing how muted sour cream is on its own,but in this case, it was the glue that held all of the flavors together. In the supreme taco, I didn’t feel as if the beef overpowered the ranch flavor. This time, I actually had a taco that wasn’t shy of ranch. This again, reminded me of a light and refreshing bite of summer. I was sad I didn’t get another one.

Here are my ratings:

Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with beef) Yumfactor: 2 tongues and a taste bud (2.5 out of 5 stars). The beef tasted good, but I didn’t like the combination paired up with the ranch. It could have been the lack of presence the ranch had when I ate this; the ranch seasoning on the taco shell didn’t come through very well. My taste buds prefer chicken with the cool ranch taco. It just tastes healthier–more wholesome and complimentary.

Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with chicken) Yumfactor: 3 tongues (3 out of 5 stars). I enjoy a lighter-flavored meat with this shell. I felt as if I was eating a crisp salad with a powered ranch overtone. Overall, everything blended well together. No overpowering flavors or meats with this one. The cool ranch came out of its shell a little more to say hello to the world around it.

Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos™ Locos Taco (chicken supreme) Yumfactor: 4 tongues and a taste bud (4.5 out of 5 stars) I really enjoyed this. Every flavor completes the other, creating an indulgently harmonious blend of bites. The cool ranch flavor seemed to latch on to the cool sour cream and held hands; the sharp shredded cheese, lettuce and tomatoes also meshed well with the tangy ranch shell. The chicken–buried under all of the flavors–also made a humble appearance in this taco. It’s just natural this way. The chicken varieties are perfect for those who don’t eat beef, want a break from beef/horse meat/sand/whatever else, or crave a light, yet filling snack that will leave your conscious devoid of calorie guilt.

What Doritos™ flavors would you like to see as a taco shell flavor? What are your thoughts on this taco? Do you prefer chicken or beef? Rate, Comment and Subscribe!

Taco Bell Taste Off: Nacho Cheese Doritos™ Locos Taco Review.

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Taco Bell has recently launched an inventive and tasty batch of tacos utilizing two popular Doritos™ brand flavors–nacho cheese and more recently, cool ranch. Last year, Taco Bell released their Doritos™ Locos Taco in a nacho cheese flavor, available in both chicken and beef varieties.  Here’s my experience with the nacho cheese-flavored taco in both chicken and beef.

Nacho Cheese Doritos™ Locos Taco (with chicken)

A year ago I tried the popular and well-marketed nacho cheese flavored Doritos™  locos taco (at about $1.29/regular taco; $1.56/supreme; add $0.70 for chicken). As many of you probably know, it’s noted for it’s vivid orange color, which is heaps of nacho cheese powder flavoring on the taco shell. I ordered it with chicken and thought pretty highly of it. The cheese flavor resonated with the chicken, complimenting the sharp and intense cheese-flavored taco shell. Then, I decided to be a big girl and try it in it’s original form–with beef.For those of you who don’t know, I don’t eat very much beef and I’m almost sure some people may have questioned eating beef at Taco Bell ever since the sand scare. But I digress.

Nacho Cheese Doritos™ Locos Taco (with beef and beef supreme)

I ordered the supreme nacho flavored taco with beef and thought even more highly of this pairing. Why? Well first, the meat had more depth on its own and meshed well with the nacho cheese flavor; the sour cream pulled all the flavors together.  To put it simply, imaging dipping a nacho cheese flavored Doritos™ chip in chili with sour cream then sprinkling fresh shredded cheese. Top it all off with a 1/4 teaspoon of sour cream, lettuce and tomatoes and there you go. Sorry chicken, I actually prefer the nacho cheese taco with beef and instead. Don’t worry, though. You redeemed yourself in the cool ranch taco.

Here’s the verdict, folks–plain and simple.

Taco Bell Nacho Cheese Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with chicken) Yumfactor: I’m giving this taco three tongues (3 out of 5 stars). This isn’t to say it’s bad. It was above average, but not exciting to me especially in comparison to the beef flavor. The chicken creates a lighter taste. The chicken seasoning is detectable and the taco shell tastes saltier compared to the beef. Of course this is because of the mean. Great for those who want to mix it up from beef. Or sand. Or horse meat (allegedly). Hey, I ate the beef/horse meat or whatever it is and lived. *shrugs apathetically*

Taco Bell Nacho Cheese Doritos™ Locos Taco (regular, with beef) Yumfactor: 3 tongues and a taste bud (3.5 out of 5 stars).The overall flavor here is slightly amped up compared to the chicken. The seasonings of the beef paired well with the sharp nacho cheese top note; the vegetables and the sour cream all created a delicate dance of flavor.

Taco Bell Nacho Cheese Doritos™ Locos Taco (beef supreme) Yumfactor: 4 tongues (4 out of 5). This was fun to eat. The seasoned beef again played well with the nacho  cheese and the cool sour cream added a nice component. I shrieked in delight (no seriously, I did. I’m dramatic when I eat). This combination tasted like it was kismet, the savory beef complimenting the sharp and intense cheese-flavored taco shell. It’ll be interesting if Taco Bell plays with this inventive tacos. I’d be interested in seeing the sweet chili spice as a taco flavor. The next post is going to cover the cool ranch flavor.

What do you think about this flavor? Is it better with chicken or beef? Love it? Hate it? Don’t forget to RATE, COMMENT and SUBSCRIBE!

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.

Cooking Goals: What I’ve Accomplished and not yet accomplished

I love challenging myself and testing my willingness to step out of my comfort zone by assigning myself daring, fun and daily goals. I have a list of many items I have been wanting to cook, and will include them on here. So far, I’d say my progress has been pretty steady. I think cooking goals is a great way to break free of cooking the same dishes over again, and obviously a wonderful method to increase one’s cooking confidence! What cooking goals do you have for yourself? What are your general opinions on goals for success? Have you reached many of your cooking goals? What do you think of making a cooking goals list? (Restricting or innovative) If you has a list, what type of things would you include on it?

I’d love to hear your input, and if you like my posts, please comment, rate and subscribe! Thanks!!! 🙂

This is NOT my comprehensive list. These are just some of the more interesting items I have decided to include.  ENJOY! and feel free to add yours!

  • Peach Cobbler (with fresh peaches and brandy)
  • Chinese Orange Chicken

    Goodness this was divine! Original Photo

  • Thai Tea 
  • Naan
  • Curry Chicken (Jamaican Style)
  • A Breakfast Stratta (with herb sauteed mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, fresh basil, feta cheese, and artichokes)
  • Kimchee
  • Zabaglione Cupcakes

    Grilled Tandoori Chicken- a spicy Indian dish

  • Hummus
  • Crab Cakes (jerked flavored?) from scratch with some kind of an interesting pineapple and jalapeno relish/salsa.
  • Baklava
  • Bhakri
  • Tandoori Chicken
  • Banana-Pineapple Upside down cake
  • Stir Fry the way my mom makes it
  • Pancit

    The popular and delicious Filipino dish Pancit

  • Korean BBQ Chicken
  • Spring Rolls
  • Sweet Potato Wedges with a savory garlic and chipotle mayo.
  • Asparagus cooked in a dry white wine, then topped with a garlic and herb hollandaise sauce OR topped with Italian seasoned panko break crumbs, still cooked in a garlic, butter white wine.
  • Thai Chicken in both light and dark soy sauces, fish sauce, spices, and oyster sauces, with sweet Asian chili sauce.
  • Green Tea and Coconut Cake with a Coconut Glaze
  • Falafel
  • At least 5 frostings from scratch (3 down 2 to go: buttercream, cream cheese, and a glaze so far)
  • Enchiladas
  • Mochi

    Mochi-A traditional Japanese dessert. A Similar delicacy is called "ttoek or Ddoek" in South Korea

  • Samosa (Veggie)
  • Tabbouleh
  • Paella (Seafood)
  • Chicken Patty Jamaican Style
  • Lox
  • Buttermilk Biscuits
  • Chinese Donuts (made during the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit 🙂
  • Bagels from scratch
  • Strawberry Chocolate Layer Cake
  • Veggie Lasagna
  • Orange Cranberry Scones
  • S’mores Cupcakes
  • Strawberry Chocolate Champagne Truffles
  • Pink Grapefruit Yogurt Layer Cake
  • Croissants
  • Layer Cake
  • Danishes
  • Red Lobster Biscuits
  • Guacamole
  • Sweet Mango Sticky Rice

    Add sweeteners to cheesecake, whip and dish it. Easy.

  • Berry Cheesecake (everything from scratch except crust)
  • Chai coffee cake
  • Seafood gumbo
  • Bruschetta 
  • Caramel
  • Pear Brandy Custard Galette with vanilla bean (and a caramel drizzle?)
  • Ginger Coconut Blondies
  • Flavored Frozen Yogurt
  • Nectarine Ice Cream (from scratch)
  • Fun Salads
  • Miso Soup
  • Carrot Cake (with a homemade cream cheese buttercream frosting)


TTS Tips: Stuff To Do With Pesto Sauce

Pesto, the perfect mix of pine nuts, basil, garlic, parm and olive oil enhance bland dishes and can be quite a versatile condiment to have in your household. I’ll admit that I’m a pesto fanatic. Mostly because I love anything with garlic and basil, and find that pesto can really add pep (Oh, goodness.what a cheesy adjective.) To almost anything!! I’m going to give a few tips on what else your pesto may be good for. But mind you, I am *not* a pesto expert and these ideas will be from the top of me head, so here goes.

  • The most obvious use- in your pastas!  This is what pesto has been used for historically, and it’s practical, and delicious!
  • As a spread for sandwiches! Try this- Grab a toasted bagel, spread some pesto on there, and fill the center with whatever you want! From a veggie sandwich (using mushrooms, onions, sprouts, and sun dried tomatoes), or for a baked chicken sandwich, this spread is sure to please. Even add it to a wrap for a fun snack.

    Asiago Cheese bagel with baked chicken patty and *pesto sauce*

  • As a dip. Combine pesto and mayo to create a fun dip for company, or not.  (Honestly, I just came up with this one, and don’t have a recipe, but just combine both ingredients until it’s well balanced in flavor.) I’m curious abut what a pesto bean dip would taste like. You can even toast some Italian bread, add a little ore olive oil, and di it in the pesto-olive oil mixture.
  • As a pizza base. Yes, as a pizza base. I love pizza, but often react to the harsh marinara sauce, so I find that having a variety of pizza bases from a “white base” (usually olive oil and maybe garlic) or a “green base” are fun ways to enjoy my pizza in a new and exciting way, without the heartburn!You can build your own pizza by buying the ingredients at your local grocery store, and add some pesto on th crust, followed by cheeses, veggies and your meat. I do recommend chicken or a turkey with pesto, because I have had it and know it’s tasty. I cannot be certain of the darker meats, though.
  • Combine pesto with cream cheese and make a fabulous spread on a bagel or a cracker!
  • As a marinade for chicken/other meats. You can combine some salt, pepper, pesto and maybe a little white wine, whisk it together in a bowl and spread it evenly over the meat. Let it sit for a few hours/overnight, and you’ve got well seasoned, and tasty chicken!
  • In baked goods, or quickes/fritatas/strattas. Combine small amounts (or to taste) in quickes/fritatas/strattas to add a new element of flavor, or even make pesto+ veggie flavored breads, or savory muffins. Even make a pesto and cheese loaf (with a mozzarella, parm, garlic and cream cheese spread?)
  • Pesto butter!!! Combine pesto and butter until the desired consistency.
  • Pesto Bruschetta- Take a few slices of Italian(French or Cuban) bread, and either smear it with a fresh clove of garlic, and the pesto sauce, toasting it until crisp. Then, Add chopped tomatoes (fresh or sundried) and minced garlic (optional) as well as grated parm, mozzarella, or feta cheese. While I was writing this, I wondered if there was actually a recipe for this, because I didn’t want to make something up that was not going to taste good. I found one!! Here it is-http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Pesto-Bruschetta
  • And on a salad- either pasta, chicken salads or green leafed salads! There i actually a salad dressing that combines basil and balsamic. Though its not pesto, the basil flavor is strong and gives the idea of how basil would taste on a salad.

Where Have I Been? Recipes and New Cooking Ventures

The last blog (aside) that I wrote was nearly two weeks ago. Instead of blogging, I have been using some time to get some things done, but most of all, I have been cooking more!!!! I have made scones from scratch, biscuits, dinners, a peach cobbler with fresh sliced peaches, cakes, and interesting drinks! I have a few pictures of them prepared items and will try my best to share the recipes. (Some are from an app on my phone, so I’m not sure if you all will be able to access the same recipes I have used.) (Actually, the app is powered by allthecooks.com) Although I use recipes, I also get creative and add my own ingredients to it to give the dishes originality. So the way they come out will be a tad different from the ways your may if you do follow the directions very closely. Let me know if you are interested in anything else I have listed. I plan on doing a smoothie blog full of recipes and drink ideas I frequently use. Enjoy the 4 or 5 recipes!!!

  • Fun smoothies (like Green tea, mango, orange juice and lime an original- Heavenly!!!) and classic ones, like mango strawberry yogurt smoothies.
  • As of late, I have made three cakes from scratch (green tea and coconut with a glaze, and a pink grapefruit yogurt cake, which I covered previously, and layered  carrot cake with a cream cheese icing), however I decided to make a box cake. This is a French Vanilla Box cake, (with a homemade buttercream icing), but baked in as a layer cake, adding fresh strawberries (which I soaked in sugar and vanilla extract for 2 days). I then assembled the berried in between the layers, and frosted the cake, adding fresh sliced strawberries atop the cake for a pretty garnish. The cake was great, but the recipe I used for the buttercream icing was too sweet!  I will NOT use that recipe again! There is no other recipe to link, so I will just post a pic, and say that you can make layered cakes from the box, and add whatever flavoring, fruits, or icing you want to make it more creative. So think of this as more if an idea, not a recipe.
  • The lovely inside. See the itty, bitty berries?

French vanilla layered cake with homemade buttercream icing and fresh strawberries.

  • Tropical French Toast with bananas and coconut (with a hint of rum which I incorporated in the french toast egg/milk wash) This recipe calls for flour to be used, which makes the french toast more decadent. I also added approx.1 teaspoon of vanilla pudding mix to made the toast more creamy (which I got from another recipe) I did not have any thick bread on hand, so I used plain old wheat. http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/fluffy-french-toast/Detail.aspx For the fruit, I simply took some banana pieces, added butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cook it until it got soft to my preferred desire. I then took some shredded coconuts, and sprinkled it over the banana.

Tropical French Toast with slightly caramelized bananas. They weren't super ripe, and I probably didn't use enough brown sugar. Still good,though.

  • Peach Cobbler with fresh peaches, and a “special ingredient” not listed. I again made it my own by using 3/4 cup of vanilla soy milk, less than 1/4 cup of half and half (to make it a tad fluffy), water (I do that sometimes) and 1 service which is a teaspoon of french vanilla creamer. I added an ingredient that gave the sweet peaches depth, and also some apple pie spice to round the spicy and sweet flavors out. The crust was a bit more dense that other cobblers I have had, and slightly cakey, but I actually liked its richness.

Goodness this was divine!

Cobbler before I tore into it like an animal.

Buttermilk Biscuits From Scratch!!! Recipe and Review!

I have heard from biscuit enthusiasts that biscuit making was no joke. From the wide variety of methods to the variety of styles, biscuits are diverse, yet timeless. This essential food is one I often crave, and have been contemplating making. I searched from a biscuit recipe that I was not familiar with, offering my a sense of culinary innovation and a dash of a challenge/risk element. Would I even like these biscuits? Would this uncommon ingredients used in this recipe pay off, or disappoint?  Plus, it’s somewhat sweet! The recipe is adapted from P4  on food.com.  The link to the recipe will be available upon clicking on the 2nd biscuit photo below. I hope you enjoy it!

My biscuits. Not the best photo as it was taken on my phone. Sadly,I am *not* a phone photographer.

I made the biscuits today, and they came out fluffy, moist and provided my taste buds with an underlying richness that is not typical is the biscuits I have tried previously. They were slightly sweet as the recipe called for 2 tablespoons of sugar. (I suggest toning it down to one if you’d like to have a less sweet aftertaste)

Biscuits pictured on the site. Click photo for the recipe!

I also occasionally have an issue with the bottom of my stuff getting burnt, so I slapped some a thin layer of butter on the cookie sheet, and turned the oven down to 375 degrees, compared to the 400 degrees that the recipe called for. I’m not sure if you have that issue, but if you do, I recommend doing the same. Only thing is the baking time will change, (from 8-10 minutes, to almost 20!) but the inside will be done,baking evenly and the bottom a little darker than the top, but not burnt. More so of an average brown color. I also added some butter atop the hot biscuits, adding more flavor as it melted into the biscuits nooks and crannies.

Also, if you don’t have a jumbo size egg, I read you can substitute that with a regular sized egg and a tsp. of milk.  You can click the picture which should direct you to the site. Granted, mine don’t look as smooth, but the texture if fluffy and soft (and the darn things were delish!). Also, I’m not sure how much of a difference having a bicsuit cutter makes visually, but I didn’t have one. The glass I used was good enough, though. =)

I give these biscuits 4 tongues and a taste bud (4.5 out of 5) just because I’m not so used to sweet biscuits, however, the sweetness would make an excellent compliment to a savory dish. {TIP} Pair these beauties with savory meats like

  • sausage
  •  bacon
  •  turkey
  •  chicken
  • seafood based breakfast items (seafood grits,ect)
  • Savory seasoned eggs (like Southwest types) to balance the sweet undertone, giving the dish a nice balance.

Also, you can get creative and make a unique butter/spread for these biscuits. From Almond butters, to Honey butters (even with vanilla!) to garlic butters (which may be unflattering with this biscuit), or even a spicy cinnamon butter may be a nice touch! Even your tangy fruit, like blood orange jam, or cranberry relishes may bring out that depth you may want!