Vanilla Bean Coolatta? I think yes!

I went to Dunkin Donuts  today to get my usual croissant, egg and cheese, when I ordered a Vanilla Bean Coolatta. At first, I was apprehensive, bc I don’t drink these type of slushy drinks unless they are fruity, and figured if this had too much milk in it, it may alter the texture a bit too much.

Vanilla Bean Coolatta with no Vanilla Beans

Well, I was pleasantly surprised with how good it was. In describing this, I’d summarize that it’s much like a vanilla popsicle, but has the texture of a slushy. Not too hard to imagine, right? 🙂  I suppose when you think about it, that may be the image you conjure up.  What I really liked was the strong vanilla flavor.  Granted, I saw no vanilla beans, but whatever vanilla based syrup they used has a strong, creamy, almost custard taste, but NOT a heavy texture. It’s perfect for hot day, because you’re indulging in a creamy, and  ice cream like experience, without the heaviness of ice cream.  I had done some research on this product and found that it has been consistently popular, but has been discontinued for a bit.  That caused many fans to be enraged because this item is indulgent and has a richness that is understandably unique.  Here is a post on the product, along with fans responses to it: http://www.slashfood.com/2009/06/03/exclusive-dunkin-donuts-brings-back-vanilla-bean-coolatta-toda/

Drawbacks?- the calorie and sugar content, which should not be surprising because *drum roll please* this is a *sweet item* Therefore, if you are watching your weight, or have a special diet, or have diabetes,please don’t drink this.

Tangent warning: I had to emphasize this, because I get comments from time to time from people who say how unhealthy an item is because they are on a special diet,which is great, but let’s be real, folks- that’s up to you to supervise what goes in your stomach. I’m NOT recommending you drink this if you are trying to live a certain lifestyle, so be aware of this for the future and please don’t send me comments of this nature. (i.e. “How do you expect me to drink this if I’m a diabetic?” Hmm, that’s easy. I don’t. ) Thank you for your cooperation 🙂

Back to the topic at hand;According to Dunkin’s website, a small size (16oz ) has 67g of sugar, and 440 calories. So let’s just say too much of this is not a good thing. 😉 What I did was drank 3/4 of the product, because I do watch my sugar from time to time. I’d recommend maybe drinking a half size, and sharing it with someone else if those numbers scare you, or if not, that’s fine, also. See more here: http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-dunkin-donuts-vanilla-bean-coolatta-i119136

I paid about $2.99 for it, and felt it’s a great indulgent treat from time to time. I even heard that mixing this flavor with the strawberry flavor is blissful. I wanted to keep it simple, so I didn’t, but if you try it, please, let me know what it was like for you.

Vanilla Bean Coolatta Yumfactor: 4 tongues and a tastebud. (4.5 start out of 5)  All around yummy, light, yet creamy and rich. Not as weird as it may sound IF you think it sounds weird. No vanilla beans are in it, so be prepared to be deceived by the name. 😦

The copycat recipe will be posed on another blog post. Stay tuned!

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Three Earl Grey Teas and Cream.

Lately, I have been drinking more tea. I tend to notice an affinity to drink coffee in the colder months, and teas in the hotter months. I have also been leaning towards more teas because of their wonderful health benefits. I have challenged myself to drink a cup of green tea, and black tea per day to increase my body’s immunity, fighting free radicals, and indulging in something that can stimulate me without the aftertaste of coffee. I love the variety teas offer and have been more creative in selecting unusual flavors and twists on classics.

Earl Grey Tea #1-Art of Tea’s Earl Grey and Creme.

I was at a local shop with a friend of mine, and noticed a bag of Earl Grey Creme by “Art of Tea”. As a side note, I had previously purchased their Coconut Creme black tea and found it’s tropical, nutty aroma true to life, natural and the richness of the tea a pleasant experience.  This caught my attention because I never imagined Earl Grey, it’s light, subtly floral flavor with the refreshing bergamot quality fused with rich and creamy French Vanilla. And its organic.

Perfect for first time introduction to your tastebuds, this individually packaged tea may not be enough it's so good.. I wish I bought the entire tin!

I sniffed the package, and inhaled a wonderful, strong aroma of bergamot and an underlying French Vanilla-custardy delicate note that encouraged me to buy it.  I reflected briefly and remembered my mom making this tea- Earl Grey with a splash of mil and a Vanilla flavored creamer, and wondered why she was so hooked. One taste, and I understood completely.

The first thing I noticed was the fragrance. Uplifting to the senses and emotions, I detected a strong current of bergamot, that married perfectly with the smooth vanilla flavor. Not only was this tea smooth and full in body, but the French Vanilla had toned down the citrus, but didn’t hide it too much. This was a delectable, dessert like treat that had depth. I added 2 teaspoons of white sugar, a little milk, and a Vanilla creamer (Coffee Mate’s French Vanilla). I was also able to make 2 additional cups after my first one, and although the flavor dissipated slightly, it was still strong enough to go around 2 more times. (One who for my friend) Impressive. I literally milked this tea to death-no cheesey pun intended. I paid $2 for this 1 bag, however, it was well worth it. As far as caffeine content is concerned, this tea has a medium amount, perfect to awaken the mind, but not too much.

Art of Tea Earl Grey Creme Yumfactor– 4 tongues and a tastebud. (4.5 stars out of 5) It’s rich, fragrant, citrus and sweet, perfectly balanced by that creme, and the black tea base itself is nothing but quality. True indulgence. Here is the link to their site- http://www.artoftea.com/

Earl Grey #2Bigelow’s Earl Grey Tea.

Since my first true experience with Earl Grey tea was nearly perfect, indulgent, and rich, I expected to have a similar one from here on out. I remembered my mother making Earl Grey Tea at home, and decided that all I had to do was to add French Vanilla, or regular Vanilla creamer to the tea, and I’d have a similar concoction as the prior. Boy, was I wrong. -_-

Bigelow’s tea to me is hit or miss. There are times I have had their tea and felt that the flavors weren’t strong enough. For instance, take their Vanilla Chai. Pretty packaging, however, too sweet. I have had other brands of Vanilla Chai and felt the Vanilla accented the Chai well, but still tasted the warm, earthy essences of the spiciness. The spices in chat make it chai! Now, I’m no Chai expert, however, I had the pleasure of tasting all types of chai, and even tasted Chai made from scratch by a native Indian on a regular basis in the past. I wasn’t expecting the same spice factor, but I wasn’t expecting to have a tea that was extremely sweet, either. I digress, though.

Earl Grey #2

So, upon making my Earl Grey with Vanilla creamer, milk and sugar, I noticed that the fragrance was lighter. Okay, not a big deal. I tasted it and compared to the first tea, noticed that the citrus undertones were a bit muted. The vanilla flavor was pleasant,(Coffee Mate’s Italian Sweet Cream Creamer) but the tea was overall not as strong and inviting as the other one. I realized  three things at this very moment: 1) Art of tea makes incredible teas. 2) I shouldn’t compare the two, because this tea doesn’t have the creme finish and it’s a different brand/quality. 3) According to my tastebuds, Bigelow teas are average in my opinion. Some flavors just won’t suffice for me because they are not full/strong. Then I stopped comparing, and realized that the tea itself wasn’t bad. It just won’t be one I drink on a regular basis.

Bigelow’s Earl Grey Tea Yumfactor– 3 tongues. (3 out of 5 stars) It’s not disgusting, but I was left searching for another brand. Specifically one with a stronger flavor of bergamot.

Earl Grey #3- Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea.

I was at Target (which I love!!) and saw a tea sale, and went crazy and bought 3 different teas: Mango Coconut Oolong, Double Spice Chai, and Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea. I figured the Double Bergamot would suffice because Bigelow made me feel lie it didn’t have enough bergamot. Maybe the bergamot flavor in the Bigelow brand was a bit shy, and didn’t want to be noticed. I understand, bergamot, don’t worry *pats it on its shy back*.

First and foremost, Stash teas are often lovely, full of flavor and priced at reasonable prices with a variety that is hard to ignore. I have often found myself pleased with the variety of teas, and the flavors they offer. Now, on to the tea.

Good stuff, Stash, good stuff.

I brewed a cup, and took note of the strong presence of the bergamot. Ah ha! I figured going off of the scent alone I would have a great replacement for the other brand (I was not able to make it to the store and get another box/bag/tin because of a few reasons so I needed a replacement). I added the milk and Italian Sweet Cream creamer and was pleasantly surprised with the similarity in body, richness and fragrance this tea had compared to the first one. I bought it for about $2.15 (for a box of 20 bags, which was *much*cheaper than the A.O.T, which was  $12/6oz tin of loose leaf. There was also the individual bags, but, you get the picture.) When I added the Vanilla, it danced gracefully with the citrus overtones, and completed it effortlessly.

Stash’ Double Bergamot Earl Grey Tea Yumfactor– 4 tongues. (4 out of 5 stars) It’s inexpensive, rich, delicate and is satisfying.

*Remember, all of these tea do contain caffeine, so be aware. If I had to rate according to faves, I’d say Art of Tea ranks in 1st place for innovative taste and over all quality, but is pricey, in my opinion. Stash follows closely behind, because of quality and value, although Art of tea’s Earl Grey has a stronger dessert like creamy presence. Then last, comes Bigelow, because, apparently, the bergamot in that tea has an inferiority complex and doesn’t like much attention.

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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.

Pepperidge Farm Strawberry Milano Cookies Review

Pepperridge farm has recently released a new flavor in addition to
their line of the delicately sophisticated Milano cookie.  Saddened by their
discontinuation of my favorite French Vanilla flavor (side note: This saddens me VERY deeply. Seriously, this flavor was epic.), I was eager to try the new and somewhat sexy Strawberry variety. First things, first, I ate the entire package within a day, and I intended the cookies to last me at least a week. The flavors are extremely complimentary to the other, as the
strawberries’ sweetness dances seductively with the rich, complex dark
chocolate. This by far is the best combo in my opinion. 

Irony= Me taking this pic and placing a raspberry candy beside the epic strawberry chocolate Milano cookies. Oh well. It's pretty, darn it.

I have had the pleasure (as previously mentioned) of trying the French
Vanilla flavor which gave the chocolate flavor a creamy, toned down,yet subtle accented, contrasting note, and the displeasure of sampling the Raspberry flavor.  Personally, the raspberry tasted like cough syrup gone bad (as if good cough syrup is ever tasty) with bitter-sweet chocolate domination. I gag sometimes  randomly, when I imagine its taste then note how my  taste buds hate me for a few hours after. Negative association much? I have wondered what on earth the orange ones taste like, but with my recent experience of orange flavors with interesting pairings (such as cappuccino, which strangely tasted like sand and smelled like a burnt ham sandwich), I have since  been cautious.
For only $2.50 on sale at Target, but suggested at $3.39 (Really? These are good, but let’s not get cocky here, Peps. This is actually the suggested retail price of ALL  their Milano cookies. Not sure about the other varieties), it’s well worth a try. I can’t stop eating these cookies, and it kind of annoys me how little control I have over their time span! Pure indulgence.
Pros: Beautiful mix of sweet and bitter as strawberry and chocolate go together well. A sexy combo I might add *wink,wink* Soft, crunchy yet delicately spongy texture of the Milano cookie. Not Raspberry flavored. (thank Goodness) Pretty to look at.  Isn’t pink and brown together just the prettiest color combo ever? 🙂
Cons: Buying it for $3.39 versus $2.50. *rolls eyes*
Strawberry Milano Yumfactor: 4 out of 5 tongues and a taste bud. (4 1/5 out of 5)