Love with Food review – February 2015

Love with Food, $12/$20 a month snack subscription ($29 for gluten-free box)
Promo: 50% off first box by using my link, GFLS = 50% off gluten free box, Groupon for deluxe box ($10 for 1 month/$26 for 3 months)
I paid: $2 with expired promo

As part of my general addiction to subscription boxes, I’ve ventured into the realm of subscription snack boxes with its most heavily promoted box: Love with Food. This box features a variety of not-too-bad-for-you snacks, both from niche and heavily distributed brands. The monthly subscription is $12, though you can get your first box for a discount by using my referral link (or any other referral link you find).

The snacks were all good, and I definitely enjoyed them at the $2. However, the total cost of the snacks included in the box came up to $7 – so I’d have been bummed if I’d paid full price for the box. Needless to say, I unsubscribed, which was a very quick and easy process, though it involved filling out a survey but that was actually a plus, as it gave me the opportunity to tell them why I was cancelling.

This is what I got in my box:

maccheesebitesSnikiddy Snacks Mac N’ Cheese Puffs, 1 .75 oz package (65 cents)

My 12-year old really liked these mac n’ cheese puffs. To me they tasted somewhat citric and not at all cheesy. She felt they tasted like mac & cheese (which I, personally, avoid). Other pluses, non-GMO and gluten free. The main ingredients are corn, rice flower, oil, whey, cheddar cheese and buttermilk. The package had 90 calories. Not a bad snack.

Made in USA

kettlechipsBoulder Canyon Olive Oil Totally Natural Kettle Chips, 1.5 oz ($1.50)

These are pretty good, run-of-the-mill kettle chips. I like that they contain only three ingredients: potatoes, olive oil and salt. And I like that they are not too greasy and not too hard. I think they need more salt, however. They mostly taste like plain chips, with the olive oil only giving them a hint of bitterness. I did quickly finish the whole package (220 calories), but I was pretty much full afterwards. I’d buy them. They are made in the USA and they are available at some supermarkets.

energybar-peanutbuttanhoney-webHoney Stinger Peanut Butter’n Honey Energy Bar, 1.75 oz bar, ($2)

This was a pretty tasty bar.  I can’t say that it was particularly delicious, and I did find it too sweet, but I enjoyed it.

Made in USA

lemonwaferDolcetto Petites Lemon Wafer Bites, .7 oz (85 cents)

These lemon wafers are delicious. They are crispy wafers, filled with a sweet, lemon-flavored creamy filling, not too unlike those in lemon cookies. They are full of flavor, and much lighter than a cookie. The packages are tiny, but at 100-calories they should satisfy your need for a bit of sugar. They seem to be made in Indonesia, and they have sugar rather than corn syrup.

Dilettante Toffee Crunch Truffle Cremes No. 39, 2 candies (70 cents)

These are nicely sized (perhaps even a little too big for a bite), and quite tasty – but I found them to be too smooth for my taste – I prefer more crunch. Definitely a nice treat, though. Each candy has 55 calories and they are made in the USA

mombanaMombana Traditional Hot Chocolate, 1 envelope (70 cents)

I still haven’t used it.

Enough for 1 8-oz cup. Made in the USA.

divinechocDivine Milk Chocolate Mini Pieces, 2 5 gram pieces (50 cents)

Nice, tasty chocolate.  Not exceptional, but a nice little treat.  They sell this occasionally at Grocery Outlet.

Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, 2 sample envelopes (no value)

Available at Walmart for less than $3 for a 1 lb jar.  The samples are tiny and I can’t imagine I can really try them, but maybe I’ll sprinkle them on something.


Lightlife Crispy Gold’n Chik’n Nuggets Review

My 12-yo vegetarian child has been pretty reluctant to try vegetarian frozen entrees. She’s particularly offended by fake meats.  She’s a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and she doesn’t see the point in eating fake animals.  But she probably was tired of eating pasta, so she gave this entree a try.  She was underwhelmed.  She said the chik’n nuggets tasted mostly of potato, but they lacked flavor altogether. They were edible but not enjoyable. She wouldn’t have them again, but she’d eat them if there was nothing else around.

 


Jimmy Dean Frozen foods

grilled-steajimmyI’m once again in a funk about cooking, so I’m back at eating frozen meals from time to time.  Grocery Outlet is now carrying the Jimmy Dean Delights brand, which I hadn’t seen before.  It’s pretty much just like every other frozen food brand – forgettable.

I had their pulled pork sandwiches in chipotle bbq sauce. An acceptable snack for $1.50, but with too much bread to meat ratio. The pork is pretty much a paste (not chunks as in the promotional photo), and the sauce tastes like your generic tangy/sweet bbq sauce.

My vegetarian oldest was OK with the three cheese pasta bowl, but she’s not that demanding.  The grilled steak bowl was edible but unmemorable.  The photos on the boxes definitely look better than the real thing tastes.


Tea, lovely tea: Reviews of ESP Emporium flavored teas

I’ve never been much of a fan of flavored teas, I like black tea enough as it is.  I’ll make an exception for Earl Grey, but that’s about it.   I didn’t even begin tasting flavored teas until we started going, more or less regularly, to the Golden Tea Garden in Hayward.  The owner is a huge flavored tea aficionado, and her menu of teas reaches into the dozens, if not hundreds.  Every time she gives you a taste of something new and features special flavors.  I still always order black tea, but the girls and whoever else comes with me freely explore the flavors.

Last week, as I was considering Christmas presents for the kids, I remembered how much Mika loves caramel tea and decided to buy her some. Browsing through Amazon.com, I was amazed to find out just how expensive caramel tea was!  Fortunately, I eventually came about ESP Emporium teas.  ESP Emporium is an online tea specialty store selling all sorts of exotic, flavored and regular teas, as well as tea making/drinking equipment.  Basically, they seem like a competitor to Teavana.  Fortunately, they price the items they sell through Amazon.com much more reasonably.   More importantly, they have some amazing, if very fleeting, sales on items – I’m not sure if they are overstock or lower quality (the photos of what I got do not always match the ones on ESP’s website) -, but the prices are definitely attractive.  I now make it a point to add in whatever ESP Emporium is on sale at a good price whenever I’m making a qualifying Amazon purchase.

ESP Emporium sells teas either in canisters or in bags.  If you buy them at Amazon.com, it’s very clear which you are buying.  It’s much less clear on their website – I assume they all come in bags, but don’t really know.  They both seal very well, but the canisters are difficult to open – so if you have arthritis, you may want to order the bags instead. That said, I prefer them in canisters.

Also, please note the brewing time for each tea on the bag/container.  Rooibos and fruit teas require longer times than regular black teas.

I’ve been using my Keurig machine to brew the tea, as it’s very easy.  You can usually get at least 3 10-oz mugs of brewed tea from each filled canister.  But fill the canister, otherwise you’ll end up with a very weak tea.

Also to note, I only recently realized that Chinese tea comes from China (duh!).  I mean, I knew it, but Chinese tea has been such a commodity for centuries that it did not occur to me that it might suffer from the same problems of soil contamination that every other food from China does.  Unfortunately, studies show that it does.  It contains high level of lead, though fortunately the lead stay with the leaf and doesn’t make it into the tea itself.  Still, I think I’ll be cautious and stop buying Chinese tea in the future. I’m also going to be noting where teas are made, whenever I can find the information.

These are the teas I’ve tried:

Fruit Teas

IMG_20150301_130632

Goldrush Bergamot/Lemon

Goldrush Bergamot Lemon Premium White Green Tea Blend has green & white tea, white rose buds (I didn’t get any in the photo, but they’re there), yogurt granules and natural bergaot and lemon flavors.  This is a pretty weakly flavored tea, not too citrusy, but enjoyable with quite a bit of sugar.

Piña Colada (my photo)

Piña Colada tea

Pina Colada Rooibos Tea Blend is a mixture of Rooibos tea with pineapple cubes, coconut shreds and flavoring.

I also really liked this light, fruity tea.  It didn’t remind me of piña colada as much as it did of candy in general.  But it was light, and easy to drink. Again, I felt it needed sugar and did best without milk.

Sir Stuart tea

Sir Stuart tea

Sir Stuart is a blend of black and green teas with “ginger pieces, fennel, cardamom seed, flavoring, rose petals, cornflower blossoms”.

This is a really nice tea.  It is very balanced, with a grown up orangy flavor, a little bitter and a little bit spicy at time.  I always drink my teas with sugar, and I felt this one really needed it for the full flavor to burst through.   This is often my to-go tea when I don’t know what else to drink.

Chocolate Teas

Chocolate/Cream/ Truffles Black Tea Blend

Chocolate/Cream/ Truffles Black Tea Blend

Chocolate/Cream/ Truffles Black Tea Blend is a mixture of black tea with “broken cocoa bits, coconut shreds, chocolate chips” and “flavoring”.

I got a bag of this one and the smell when you open it is unbelievable.  The chocolate and coconut really come through and work well together, so that the end product is really neither.  It’s very tasty though, but I do thing it needs both milk and sugar for the true flavors to shine – otherwise I found the tea sort of weak.

Chocolate Sun

Chocolate Sun

Chocolate Sun

This is a Sencha green tea from China and includes cocoa peel, orange peel, cocoa pieces and other flavoring.

I made this in my Keurig and I found it to be very weak.  Of course, the Keurig doesn’t give it the 2-3 minutes seeping time this tea needs, but yet it does well with other teas that require longer seeping times.  I will try it again using a tea kettle and report back.

Caramel Teas

Caramel tea (my photo)

Caramel tea

Caramel Black Tea Blend is black tea with caramel pieces and flavoring.  It retails for $11.50 for 100g. I paid $3.

I originally came across ESP Emporium while looking for caramel tea, so I was very disappointed at how weak this tea is, both in terms of caramel flavor and flavor altogether. This was the case both through a regular brew and in the Keurig.

Maple Taffy

 Maple Taffy Black Blend

This black tea has cinnamon pieces, dehydrated maple syrup, cinnamon rods, popcorn, white cornflower blossoms and flavoring.

I have to confess that I just loved that this tea came with popcorn.  I don’t know if it added anything to the flavor, but just how cool is it to make popcorn tea?  The tea, meanwhile was very good.  It had a nice old-fashion caramel flavor and was definitely better than the caramel tea.

Flower Teas

teagarden

Flower Garden Fruit Tea Blend

Flower Garden Fruit Tea Blend is a mixture of pieces of dried sour apples and pears,  pink rosebuds,  freeze-dried strawberry and raspberry pieces, blackberry leaves, cornflower blossoms, marigold blossoms, rose petals, Roman chamomile and flavoring.

This tea is just beautiful, pretty much just a combination of flower bulbs. And it tastes like flowers too. If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s mostly like a rose hip tea.  Definitely needs sugar to bring up the flavors, though.

Rooibos Teas

Also see Piña Colada tea above

Creamsicle Tea

Creamsicle Tea

Creamsicle Rooibos Tea has rooibos tea, flavoring, orange peel and freeze-dried yogurt pieces.  I guess I was expecting this to taste like an orange creamsicle, but it tasted like a very good, very balanced cup of tea with milk.  It was really nice, and definitely something to keep in the pantry for when you want just a classic tea with milk, but have no milk around.

Tiramisu/Mascarpone Rooibos Tea

Tiramisu/Mascarpone Rooibos Tea

Tiramisu/Mascarpone Rooibos Tea adds chocolate chips, brittle pieces, caramel pieces, freeze-dried yogurt pieces, roasted coffee beans, Roman chamomile and flavoring to the rooibos tea.

I’m not sure I can see all those ingredients in the tea, and perhaps that’s why it doesn’t actually taste like either Tiramisu or Mascarpone or a combination of either.  It lacks the sour element of both, other than perhaps as an aftertaste.  While I can’t quite describe the flavor of this tea – beyond being a well balanced rooibos – it is very pleasant, with or without milk.

 Ginger/Pepper/Orange tea

Ginger/Pepper/Orange tea

Ginger/Pepper/Orange Rooibos Tea has almond slivers pistachios, orange peels, coriander, pink peppercorns and flavoring added to the rooibos tea.

This is pretty much a generic rooibos tea.  It’s good if you like rooibos tea, which I do, but I think the added ingredients substract from each other rather than add, and what you are left with is pretty generic.

 


Exotic Drinks Review: Verka Mango Lassi, Coco Passion Fruit Drink &

lassiMy last visit to Santos Spice market ended with us buying several “exotic” drinks to try.  My oldest daughter loves trying new things, and while these weren’t cheap, they turned out to be very good.

My daughter loves mango lassis, and Verka Mango Lassi is pretty good.  It actually tasted more like a mango yogurt drink, though it doesn’t have any yogurt. The ingredients are milk, mango pure, sugar, cream and water. It comes in a 1 pint bottle.  It’s made in the USA.

passionfruitMika was excited t try Coco Passion Fruit Drink because she’d never had passion fruit or passion fruit juice before.  The drink, actually bottled in Thailand, is made of water, sugar, passion fruit juice, citric acid, artificial flavor, and gellam gum – so it’s not as pure as the lassi.  Still, it was very tasty.  Indeed, it tasted very much like guava juice, though it was thicker than the guava  juice we usually get.

lychee1We’ve never had lychee juice before, and T.A.S. Lychee Drink was sort of a revelation. It has the same flavor profile as guava juice but it’s sweeter, if you can imagine that, with a subtle floral/rose-like flavor.  We liked it, though I personally would have preferred it being less sweet.  Mika thought it was refreshing. I’m thinking that I should explore lychees more.  It seems like a sophisticated fruit that could enhance a multi-course menu.   The drink comes in a 10.5 oz can and it’s also made in Thailand. The ingredients are water, lychee juice, sugar and citric acid.


Foster Farm Recall Throws Light on Private Brands that Use Their Chickens

foster-farmsFoster Farms is the most ubiquitous brand of fresh(ish?) chicken in California. Go to a supermarket and your chicken choices tend to be Foster Farms, the store’s brand or some organic chicken brand you don’t know much about.  As it turns out, many of those privately branded chickens also come from Foster Farms. This came to light this week when Foster Farms issued a recall for chicken that had been found to have salmonella.  That chicken was sold in March, so it’s unlikely anyone has any left in their freezers.

The private brands that are really Foster Farms chicken  (but often sold at lower prices) are:

  • FoodMaxx (parts)
  • Kroger (friers & parts)
  • Safeway Eating Right (boneless chicken breasts & thighs)
  • Safeway Farms (chicken parts)
  • Savemart (drumsticks & thighs)
  • Sunland
  • Val Best

 


Three Sausages: Gilbert’s, Open Nature & Aidell’s

I’ve been kind of lazy about making dinner lately, and what is easier and tastier than grilling some hot dogs or sausages?  Grocery Outlet, meanwhile, has had an explosion of sausage choices this week so we were able to try a few new ones.

open-nature-sausage-pork-171009The winner of this batch was Open Nature Smoked Uncured Sausages. This is actually the Safeway brand of sausages.  These are 100% pork sausages. They are pretty big, with four sausages in the 12 oz package, and very tasty.  That’s probably because they are full of fat, 23 grams for one of these vs. 15 grams for one of the Gilbert sausages below (which are 1/2 oz smaller).  Still, if you’re going for flavor, you can’t go wrong with these sausages.  Mike rated them an 8.5.

gilbertsGilbert’s Craft Sausages is a very new company (started in 2010) offering “gourmet” uncured beef sausages.  I got the beef & cheddar and we thought it was pretty good.  Mike would rate it a 6.5.  Camila, my 9 yo, liked it – and she can be picky.  It had a nice flavor, not very overwhelming, and was pretty juicy.  I think I might enjoy it more without the cheddar.

One convenient thing about Gilbert’s sausages is that they are individually wrapped.  The bad thing is that they don’t have the type/expiration date printed on the plastic, so I still have to keep the carton in the fridge to remember what they are.  A 10 oz package of 4 sausages was, I think, $3 at Grocery Outlet.

aidellsFinally, one of my kids like chicken sausages and we often buy the Aidells kind.  There were none at Grocery Outlet, buy they had Awesome Apple uncured chicken hot dogs.  The 10 oz package has 5.  Both kids really liked them and they seem marginally healthier, with 7 grams of fat each.  But one kid had to eat two to get full, and the other 3 .  Of course, the kids gave them a “10”.  My oldest says she prefers these to the sausages as they are thinner and easier to eat, plus they look smaller.  Less messy too.

One good thing about these chicken apple hot dogs is that they don’t have pork casings.  Aidells chicken sausages don’t either, but other manufacturers do.  If you are specifically avoiding eating pork products (as my daughter is), this matters.


Simply Homemade Bread Mixes – Product Review

countrywhiteI got a breadmaker for Christmas, and Mike picked up one of Fleischmann’s Simply Homemade bread mixes at the store.  I thought it was sort of silly, isn’t the whole point of having a bread maker to be able to throw some ingredients together and get great bread?, but after a couple of failures doing exactly that, I decided to try it.  It was delicious!  Seriously, soooo good.

I think I got the Country White, though I threw away the box and the bread was actually sort of brown.  I also cooked it for 3 hours, rather than on a rapid cycle.  You don’t get a particularly large loaf – but if what you want is flavor, this has it.  I think next time I’d select light crust rather than medium, however.

I don’t know how much the package was, my bet is that it’s not cost effective, but if I found them on sale I might buy a couple to keep to make some quick bread without having to put much thought into it.


Hormel Natural Choice Apple Gouda Chicken Sausages – Review

AppleGoudaChickenSausage-largeI got these at Grocery Outlet yesterday.  They were only 50-cents, or so, as today was the expiration day.  I was going to use them in quesadillas, but we ended up eating them whole.

All in all, they were good, but so sweet that none of us wanted to have a second sausage (and at 3 oz, they aren’t that big).  My youngest particularly enjoyed how juicy it was.  The cheese, indeed, seems to be there more to provide juiciness than flavor.

They are actually made from “natural” ingredients: chicken, Gouda cheese, dried apples, brown sugar, vinegar, salt, paprika and spices.  They are in pork casings.

I don’t know that I’d buy again, unless they were on sale at 50-cents.


Trader Joe’s Classic Lemon Bars

Lemon-BarsI got these to serve as the last course of my 13-course Xmas Eve dinner and they were perfect.  Indeed, these were very good lemon bars overall. They come frozen, and the curd is perhaps more cream-like and less sticky than that of a regular lemon bar, but it had the right degree of balance between sweetness and sourness, and they were the perfect size for an after dinner bite.  All in all very satisfying for anyone who likes lemon bars.