Sunday, December 12, 2010

Raw Chocolate-Almond Ice Cream

I am in a very peaceful mood today. Two reasons: I was on a five hour writing jag last night. I managed to get four chapters of a story written. Yay! And I made raw chocolate-almond ice cream from a Raw Food Living recipe. When I was writing, I kept thinking "This is great! Three chapters! Now four! And sweet homemade ice cream in the morning!" If you haven't guessed it, I'm still bouncing off the walls at the prospect of getting two or three more chapters written today. But enough about the story writing. On to the ice cream!

This is the original recipe from Raw Food Living:

Chocolate Ice Cream

For all you chocolate lovers out there, this one's for you! I actually used cacao powder in place of the cocoa powder. I think carob powder or finely ground cacao nibs would work well too.

Ice Cream Recipes

1 3/4 cup cashews or pieces
1 3/4 cups purified water
1 cup maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla flavor
1/4 tsp almond flavor
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
2. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to instructions.

The adjustments I made:
1 cup of almonds, ground up on the ice crush setting on my blender
1 cup tap water
2/3 cup Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Blue Agave Vanilla Flavored Syrup
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Cook's Pure Chocolate Extract
1/3 cup Hershey's Natural Unsweetened cocoa powder

-I knew maple syrup wouldn't go over well with the AMW family, hence the change to vanilla syrup. I switched to almonds because that's what I had handy.

-Before pouring the vanilla syrup, I sprayed my measuring cup with cooking spray. I saw that on Martha Stewart the other day. It made pouring and later cleaning up much easier!

- I should have used a food processor instead of a blender. My blender made the almonds powder fine, but not the buttery consistency I needed. The ice cream came out creamy and absolutely delicious, except for the subtle almond powder grit. Maybe I'll use almond butter next time ?

- Lacking an ice cream maker or large metal bowls (as I've seen recommended elsewhere), I grabbed the top pot of a double boiler, lightly sprayed it with cooking spray and poured in the ice cream batter. I covered the top with aluminum foil and left it in the freezer overnight. The ice cream scooped out quite easily today.

I was pleasantly surprised to find such a simple, tasty ice cream that didn't require eggs, milk, cream or rock salt. Definitely try this one for yourself!

*12/14 update: I made this recipe a second time, but used peanut butter instead of almonds or cashews. Total perfection! I went back and forth between "Nom nom, this tastes like Nutella!" and "Nom nom, this tastes like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup!"

Monday, December 06, 2010

Carmex Blog Squad: Moisture Plus Tint Lip Balms

The most important items in my makeup case are lip balms. I can skip putting on nail polish, for example, but lip balm ? No way. Soft lips are a must! Just one catch, though: To get soft lips and wear lipstick, I usually resort to putting on either a lip balm or chapstick, followed by a layer of lipstick. Yuck!

Happily, I have found a solution. The Carmex Blog Squad sent me samples of Carmex Moisture Plus Sheer Pink and Carmex Moisture Plus Sheer Peach Tinted Lip Balms. Each tube gives you a perfect combination of lip balm and lip color.

I tested each balm for 40 minutes. Carmex Moisture Plus Sheer Pink was the first sample. Shea butter is one of the ingredients, and there is a light shea butter taste. Sheer Pink left my lips moist, but not sticky as many lip balms do. The pink color was flattering against my fair colored skin, too.

Carmex Moisture Plus Sheer Peach worked equally well as far as moisturizing. Sheer Peach was darker than Sheer Pink. I assumed this meant the color would therefore be too dark on me. But Sheer Peach was actually a slightly lighter shade on my lips than I expected. The second surprise was the subtle pineapple taste I picked up (pineapple is not on the ingredient list).

Both the Sheer Pink and the Sheer Peach have "vitamin E + aloe moisturizing protection", sunscreen (spf 15) and a slanted tip. Those of us in Florida really value having sunscreen in a beauty product! The slanted tip was helpful, too. It made putting on the lip balm quick and simple.

Carmex Moisture Plus Tint Lip Balms are also portable. You can easily stash one in a purse and have it handy to prevent dry winter lips. They also make super cute stocking stuffers or Secret Santa gifts.

Carmex Moisture Plus Tint Lip Balms are must have beauty products this winter. I highly recommend them. Look for Carmex Mositure Plus Tint Lip Balms exclusively at Walgreens and

The Carmex Blog Squad has sent samples for one lucky AMW reader, too. The prize will be one Carmex Moisture Plus Sheer Pink and one Carmex Moisture Plus Sheer Peach Tinted Lip Balms.To enter the drawing, check out Carmex on, then share on AMW which Carmex product is your favorite. One winner will be drawn at random on Monday, December 13, 2010 at noon EST. Entry limit is one per person and per household.

*Update #1: The winner of a Carmex pack is Ashley! Congrats! Ashley, please email your name and address to me by Friday December 17 at noon EST. Otherwise the prize goes to the runner up.
*Update #2: Ashley, your prize has shipped out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Contest Alert: M. Sartin Design

If you love unique cake toppers, head over to M. Sartin Design. Their current contest is for a cute pair of Margaret and Maurice penguin cake toppers by Lesley Wellington of The Cat's Pajamas

Here are the contest rules:

"Win Margaret & Maurice:
Be sure to check out Lesley's shop to see what she's up to and don't forget to comment below for your chance to win the giveaway. Just tell me the name of your favorite cake topper and be sure to leave me your email address so I know how to find you. Winners will be announced on 10/20/10, so make sure you enter right away.

Extra Entries:
- Follow my blog
- Become a Fan @
- Blog about the giveaway and leave the link below
- Sign up for my mailing list
(Please leave one comment for each entry)"

Friday, October 08, 2010

Buca di Beppo: What did *that* mean ?

Today I received this email from Buca di Beppo:

"Your holiday party never tasted so good!

Bring the whole office to Buca for the Holidays

At Buca, our falls are decked with family-style fun, convenience and meatballs. Enjoy authentic Italian cuisine in our group-friendly atmosphere.

Call your local sales manager to make your reservation, visit for a complete listing of locations."

Included in the ad were pictures of the usual office party attendees (the head honcho, the suck up, etc). The full picture is too large to post, so click here to view it. None of those characters bothered me, except this one:

I'm assuming Frosty is supposed to be an older woman with earrings (or a large ear lobe ?), suit & a masculine hat, and not a feminine looking older man. And Frosty certainly isn't dressed like Jack Frost or Frosty the Snowman. So I must ask why she was dubbed Frosty ? Is she frosty for being a career woman, focused only on getting ahead ? A woman leaving a frosty impression for liking to dress masculine ? A lesbian giving the office men the cold shoulder? Someone who is disdainful of the holidays, office parties & giving gifts ?

I have had many fine meals at Buca di Beppo in the past. So I have no issue with their food or service. I'm just bothered by the bizarre, possibly questionable decision to include a woman labeled Frosty in their advertisements. Anyone care to shed light on this mystery ?

Friday, August 06, 2010

Nestle Toll House Mini Morsel Toppers

In my email today was this ad from Nestle Toll House:

...which lead to this product page:

Premier White Mini Morsel Toppers
"These rich and creamy vanilla-flavored toppers are a delicious addition to a variety of mouth-watering recipes. NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE Premier White Mini Morsel Toppers are a great addition to your cakes, cupcakes, ice cream and even pancakes. Shake on the Fun!"

Sweet Mini Morsel Toppers
"Made from real semi-sweet chocolate, these toppers are a delicious addition to a variety of mouth-watering recipes. Our NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE Semi-Sweet Mini Morsel Toppers are a great addition to your cakes, cupcakes, ice cream and even pancakes. Shake on the Fun!"

If you have a sweet tooth like mine, you probably thought "CHOCOLATE CHIPS IN A PORTABLE CONTAINER ?! DO NOT TOY WITH MY HEART, NESTLE." The rest of you are no doubt thinking "Okay. Chocolate chips. In a cup instead of a bag. Can't you just buy some Tupperware for your chocolate ?" Allow me to explain: What would happen if you brought out a bag of regular sized chocolate chips & snacked on a few of them ? Somebody would say "Umm, what are you doing ? Shouldn't you bake cookies with those ? Or put them into trail mix ?" But what if you instead take out those same chocolate chips, albeit in a smaller size, & in the new Nestle container ? You'll probably hear "Oooh, gimme a handful!"

Mini chocolate chips in a closeable container are more socially acceptable in the same sense as one taking 2+ cake slices & nobody batting an eye, but more than one cupcake is considered eating too much ; ) That's my logic today and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Godiva Ice Cream Parlor Truffle Bars

I saw these chocolates in the Godiva e-newsletter today. I would step on someone for truffle bars. Shopping trip, anyone ?

NEW Ice Cream Parlor Truffle Bar Collection

Our Chef Chocolatiers have combined ice cream favorites with rich Godiva chocolate to create the quintessential summer chocolate bars. Our 6-bar assortment includes two Vanilla Sundae in Dark Chocolate, two Hazelnut Gelato in Milk Chocolate, one Mint Chocolate Chip in Dark Chocolate, and one Oranges & Cream in White Chocolate. 6 bars (8.4 oz.)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Spicy Etorki Pizza

*Update: Please vote for my entry in the Ile De France Springlicious Recipe Contest.
**Update #2: Thank you to Robert, Jamie & David for posting my entry on your respective Twitters and FB. Love you guys X D
**Update #3: Shout out to Simon & Jennifer for posting the link on Friendster

One thing I've always enjoyed eating is cheese. After all, nothing is more relaxing & fun than sipping wine & tasting new cheeses with friends. I was really happy when Ile De France sent Etorki sheep's milk cheese to me this month.

Etorki was the first sheep's milk cheese I have ever tasted. The cheese has a soft, smooth feel, with a delicious taste similar to white cheddar. When melted, the Etorki takes on a mellow flavor reminiscent of mozzarella and Parmesan combined. I knew from the first bite that this sophisticated, flavorful cheese would work perfectly with spicy foods.

That is why I decided to bake Spicy Etorki Pizza. The flavors of the Etorki cheese and the spicy adobo sauce balance each other well.

Spicy Etorki Pizza

Two 8 oz packages of crescent rolls
2 2/3 cups Etorki sheep's milk cheese, shredded
One 8 oz can of adobo sauce with whole peppers
6 deli slices of oven roasted, cured turkey breast
1/4 cups frozen white onions
1/3 cup frozen yellow corn
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp thyme
2 Tbsp frozen green pepper
Baking spray

Preheat oven to 365 degrees.

In a small microwavable bowl, mix the corn, onions, green peppers, salt, pepper & thyme. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Put the adobo sauce with whole peppers in a blender or food processor. Blend for 10-12 seconds until peppers are integrated with the sauce. Set aside.

Cover a large baking sheet with a layer of aluminum foil. Give the foil a quick spritz of baking spray.

Remove crescent roll dough from packages. Roll out over the aluminum foil lined tray.

Spread the adobo sauce over the crescent roll dough.

Next, sprinkle 1 1/3 cups Etorki sheep's milk cheese over the sauce layer.

Six overlapping slices of deli turkey go over the Etorki.

Now add another 1 1/3 cups Etorki sheep's milk cheese.

The final layer is the corn, green pepper & onion mixture.

Bake at 365 for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

If you can't manage a reservation book... *sigh*

Real phone conversation from today:

"Hi, XYZ Restaurant. How can I help you ?"
"Yes, do you take reservations ?"
"What, you mean like for today ?"
"Actually, for Mother's Day."
"Welllll....We tried having reservations at Easter. But there were so many people showing up that people with reservations didn't get seated. Total disaster. We won't do that again. So yeah, we don't have reservations on Mother's Day. But you can still show up."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dean and Deluca Easter Treats

Easter is generally not my favorite season to find new foods. Many products simply receive a dash of pastel coloring or an egg shape. And that's it. What I (vainly) look for in Easter gifts are new flavors in exciting,innovative forms. When I opened my email today & saw these Dean & Deluca treats,though, I went "Oh, cuteness overload! Need an Easter shopping spree now!"

Marzipan Bunny Family
"Every holiday, Rebecca Russell crafts charming figures for us out of flavorful almond marzipan. This Easter she's outdone herself with her adorable bunny family, all dressed up for spring and each toting a colored egg. We love them as placeholders at the Easter table."

Easter Mini Cupcake Candies
"These may look like little cupcakes, but they're actually chocolates dreamed up especially for us by the talented artisans at Knipschildt Chocolatier™. Each box contains nine 71-percent Ecuadorian dark chocolate shells topped with a milk chocolate nest and a hand-painted egg that gives a clue to the luscious filling inside. The red egg perches atop a dark chocolate ganache filling, the yellow egg nestles on passion fruit ganache filling, and the green egg sits on coconut ganache filling."

Garden Patch Cookies
"ONLY AT DEAN & DELUCA. Eleni started her business baking trays of her mom's oatmeal cookies from her New York City apartment. Luckily for us, she's added a few things to her repertoire since then. She's become famous for these hand-iced sugar cookies in whimsical designs. We can't get enough of them and think these Garden Patch cookies perfectly capture the freshness of spring."

Easter Glory Baskets
"The extraordinarily talented artisans at Knipschildt Chocolatier™ craft each one of their chocolate eggs by hand, one at a time. They then fill them with passion fruit ganache, and hand paint them with glorious spring colors before tucking them into bright little baskets that are sized up just right to show them off."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Toys R Us, Part 2: Girl Gourmet Refill Pack

Continued from Review # 1

Girl Gourmet Ultimate Deco and Sprinkler Refill Kit. It included 3 frosting packs: chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Just add water to the mix for frosting. Can I say how cute that cartoon baker is ? I would use that for my icon here if it wasn't trademarked.

This kit had 6 sprinkle packs. I'm saving those for another day.

Each pack made 1 shot glass of frosting.

The chocolate frosting smelled and tasted like a thinned Duncan Hines frosting. It tasted good, except for a mysterious metallic taste.

The vanilla frosting had a metallic taste and smell. It was sickly sweet. The second scent this frosting had was similar to the honey flavoring you find on granola bars.

The strawberry frosting had a very nice smell. Not artificial like I expected. Unfortunately, the strawberry frosting tasted like strawberry medicine laced with metal. Yuck!

I do not recommend purchasing the Girl Gourmet Ultimate Deco and Sprinkler Refill Kit. It tastes metallic and is a waste of money.

Toys R Us, Part 1: Easy Bake Super Pack

When life hands you a Toys R Us gift card, you do what ? Buy toys for the godkids ? Get something sensible for yourself ? Heck no. You grab an Easy Bake 12 Mix Super Pack and the Girl Gourmet Ultimate Deco & Sprinkler Refill.

The Easy Bake Super Pack had 3 packs of yellow cake flavored mix, 3 packs of chocolate chip cookie flavored mix, 3 packs of sugar cookie flavored mix and 3 packs of chocolate frosting flavored mix. Each mix required a dash of water. If you're wondered why I said "flavored" four times, that's Hasbro's wording, not mine.

Left to right: Chocolate frosting, yellow cake batter, sugar cookie mix and chocolate chip cookie mix. Each shot glasses holds three packets worth of mix or frosting. Yep, you're not getting a lot.

The chocolate frosting tasted & smelled like chocolate cake batter. The only reason it was better than Girl Gourmet (see review #2) is because Girl Gourmet frosting had a metallic taste.

The yellow cake batter had a sweet, buttery, pudding scent, just like other yellow cake mixes.

The sugar cookie mix smelled like Yogi Fresh Strawberry Crunch. I have no idea why.

The chocolate chip cookie mix smelled like a less buttery yellow cake mix. The chocolate chips were not solid. They were those little soft pieces that are precariously close to being labeled "chocolatey chips."

7 Chocolate chip cookies & 6 yellow cakes in a small muffin tin.

6 Sugar cookies in a small muffin tin

Yeah, I used a normal oven. I know you're supposed to buy the actual Easy Bake Oven. I couldn't justify buying it for a one time taste test.

I started off baking the treats for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, the cake tops and the cookies were both fluffy, but not done. So I put the tray back in for 20 more minutes. The cakes unfortunately started to get crisp, but again, still not done. I scooped the cookies and cakes out of the muffin tin, put them on a sheet of foil and baked for another 20 minutes. That only helped partially. I gave up after that. The comment over here was "Well, duh, of course they're not coming out right. They're supposed to cook under a light bulb, not in a regular oven."

I give this product a B for taste and a C- for over all usefulness. Unless you're a big fan of Easy Bake and definitely plan to buy the refills, this is not a great value for your money.

Monday, February 15, 2010

POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice

One of my favorite drinks is fruit juice. The caveat is that many brands of juice either have unhealthy, unpronounceable ingredients or are made with imported juice from other parts of the world. Which left me with two options: (1) buy an expensive at home juicer or (2) give up fruit juice altogether. Yeah, I didn't love those two options. When the folks at POM Wonderful sent me samples recently, I found my tasty, healthy third option: POM Wonderful 100 % pomegranate juice. POM Wondeful's pomegranates are grown in the USA in orchards in California, not overseas. And there's no fillers or extra sugars. After learning that, it was goodbye to the juicer catalogues & the monotony of tap water for me.

Here are some easy recipes you can make at home, using POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and a few simple ingredients:

Pineapple, Onion & POM Burgers

4 vegan meatless burger patties, thawed
1 cup POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1/2 cup chopped white onions
1/2 cup pineapple chunks

In a medium mixing bowl, combine vegan patties, POM, onions and pineapple. Marinate for 10 minutes. Grill for 5-7 minutes. This is one burger recipe where buns aren't really necessary, since the POM juice adds such a great flavor to the food.

POM And Buttermilk Biscuits

My biscuits were inspired by Vaish Ali's recipe for vegan buttermilk biscuits. Instead of 1 cup of buttermilk, I went with 2/3 cup buttermilk + 1/3 cup POM juice. Also, I used heart shaped muffin tins. These were the lightest, fluffiest biscuits I've ever made. The next time I make this recipe, I think I'll add in pomegranate seeds.

Buttermilk And POM Pie

The filling of this pie is Emeril Lagasse's recipe combined with 1/2 cup of POM juice. The POM replaced the lemon called for in the pie.

The crust was 2 1/4 cups of crushed sandwich cookies, 5 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of POM juice.

The buttermilk pie took about 45 minutes to bake. It was definitely worth making, though. You won't believe your mouth when you taste the filling of POM and buttermilk. It is out of this world good!

POM Rock Candy
My yummy homemade candy started with wikihow's rock candy recipe. I replaced the flavored food coloring with 1/4 cup POM juice. I'm normally not big on hard candy, but I was very impressed with how the rock candy turned out. I also liked the kick of natural flavor from the POM juice. This recipe is great for holiday gifts and wedding favors.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dollar Store Recipe

Inspired by Caleb at Ramen Days and an NPR article, I gave myself a challenge. I would make a dish using only ingredients from the local dollar store. And I would limit the budget to five dollars.

The closest dollar stores to me were Dollar Tree (everything for $1) and Family Dollar (discounted prices, but not everything is $1). I decided to start at Family Dollar. I had never been in that particular store before today. So I was surprised to see (a) it was clearance sale day and (b)they had a big refrigerated case of milk, eggs, hot dogs,cheese, ice cream & appetizers.

I took a cart around the store to get ideas. At first, I thought I would make a casserole. I tossed canned, chopped ham & a packet of broccoli-cheese rice into the cart. Then I decided that would be boring. So back on the shelf those went. My next idea was homemade corn dogs, after spotting cornbread mix, hot dogs & cooking oil. I finally settled on making dessert when I saw cans of strawberries.

Here is what I bought:

Capitol Golden Pound Cake, 10 oz, $1

Family Pantry Strawberries In Light Syrup, 15 oz, $1
Velvet Evaporated Milk, 12 oz, 85 cents

Baron Dark Chocolate, 5.3 oz, $1

With tax, I ended up spending $3.99. I decided on the way home I'd make French toast with my groceries. I would top it with strawberry syrup & grated chocolate. Sounds easy, right ?

I started the recipe by heating a frying pan to medium high. I poured the evaporated milk into a small mixing bowl. Then I cut the pound cake into 8 thick slices. Half of the chocolate bar was put in the blender and chopped. I opened the can of strawberries & realized "crud, this is whole strawberries in light syrup. There goes the strawberry syrup idea."

I dipped four of the pound cake slices into the milk & placed them in the hot pan. That was not a good idea, in hindsight. The pound cake ended up crumbling very quickly when turned over. And it stuck to the pan. What a mess!

So it was time for plan #2. Thank goodness I had four other cake slices left. I heated the oven to 365 degrees. I put the remaining cakes on a baking sheet, sprinkled them with the chocolate gratings & toasted them for five minutes. After removing the tray from the oven, I smeared the chocolate with a knife.I placed the strawberries on the side of the plate. And that was dessert.

My dessert didn't turn out as creative and amazing as I'd hoped. But I've learned from this not to overthink a recipe. And people did like how it tasted. Sometimes you need to cut yourself a break and say "Okay, we're taking the Pillsbury cake mix + frosting from the dollar store and calling it a day."