Coffee Break {A Giveaway}

Now that I’m back in the workforce my love of java has grown even greater.

coffee barWhen you read my recaps from now, on you can assume I had at least one (big!) cup of coffee a day, even if I don’t always blog about it.

DSC06233I was recently sent a new type of coffee to review.  This post is so that I can share my thoughts on it… and share the love with you guys!

DSC06168Please note – I was sent the coffee free of charge.  The company is also providing another bag for me to share with one of you.  I was not provided additional compensation for this post.

The Cafe Amani coffee is a blend of Fair Trade beans from Ethiopia, Sumatra, and Costa Rica.  It was delicious: roasty but smooth.  The coffee came with a gorgeously printed handmade bag (which I’m actually using to store tea bags, don’t tell the beans!) and a cute, little wooden coffee scoop.

DSC06167My only complaint about this product is that it only comes in whole bean form and not grounds.  I don’t have a coffee grinder at home so we had to sneakily use one that the grocery store and I felt like a criminal idiot.

World Vision sent me the coffee because they asked me to blog about their gift catalog.  Here is a quick video that explains how the gift catalog works –

Basically, you can do something nice for the world in a loved one’s name.  Like provide a goat and 2 chickens ($100) to a hungry family in Grandma’s name or send 5 ducks ($35) in Uncle Bob’s.

The catalog also has options for buying a tangible good for your loved ones while knowing that the proceeds from the sale will directly help children and families in urgent need.  The following are three options that they’ve put together for the foodies in your life –

  •  “Prosperity” Cinnamon Box – Vietnam’s renowned sweet cinnamon is a renewable resource collected from the Cassia tree by skilled artisans. It is presented in a beautifully carved cinnamon bark box that bears a common Asian character for prosperity.
  •  Hand-Carved Serving Spoons – this beautiful set of two hand-carved olivewood serving spoons is delivered in a hand-sewn gift bag of African fabric and can be used as a decoration or for serving.
  •  The Fair-Trade Coffee Set – includes whole bean coffee from Ethiopia, Sumatra, and Costa Rica blended by OneCup.org and is delivered in a bag hand-sewn by local women with a hand-carved olivewood scoop.  <— this is what I was sent

FYI – The One Cup Project is a partnership between Seattle-based Silver Cup Coffee and World Vision.  For every bag of coffee purchased at http://www.onecup.org, a $2+ donation is sent to World Vision.  That donation is then multiplied 5x by matching grant partners.  This means that when you buy a bag of coffee, a sum equal to the total purchase price goes to fund the work that World Vision does in Africa.

Now for the giveaway.

I am giving away one Fair-Trade Coffee Set to one lucky reader.  For a chance to win, just leave a comment on this post by 2 pm on Saturday, December 8th.

Pumpkin Pie Facial Scrub

It turns out that we threw away most of our Halloween decorations in the move, but I have managed to jazz up the apartment for the season in a few small ways –

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A hand towel here, a plastic pumpkin there, and we do plan on carving jack-o-lanterns.

Plus I’ve taken the pumpkin theme into my beauty routine,

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with Pumpkin Pie Facial Scrub.

Pumpkin is a great ingredient to use in products that go on your face (and in your face!) because it’s loaded with antioxidants and vitamin A and C.

I’ve seen a lot of DIY scrubs on Pinterest and other blogs, but they mostly utilize sugar or salt as the scrubber.  These larger grain options aren’t great for face scrubs because the crystals can actually make tiny tears in your skin.  Baking soda is a great exfoliant that is gentle enough on your skin to be used daily.

This scrub contains pumpkin, which means that it will have to be stored in the fridge between uses.  I separated mine into single-use containers (dressing cups) for convenience.

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You can play around with the amount of scrub that you make, just remember to keep the baking soda and pumpkin in a 3:1 ratio.

Pumpkin Pie Facial Scrub, makes enough approximately 12 uses

  • 3 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp honey

Mash all ingredients together until well combined.  Store in the refrigerator.

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Peanut Butter Cheddar Pupsicles

This post has gone to the dogs!

Calm down, Cheech, I know you’re hungry.

Hey, over here!

There we go.

My dog, like all dogs, loves peanut butter.  My dog also, like all German dogs, gets hot quickly in warm weather.  These factors mean that he is a big fan of Purina’s Frosty Paws frozen dog treats.  He gleeked out over them but my wallet wasn’t as excited; those things aren’t cheap.  And because dachshunds are prone to back troubles with weight gain the large serving size means he can only have them as an occasional treat.  Plus, Webster is not a one-note dog, he likes cheese too!

Since I love the dog almost as much as he loves peanut butter, I set out to make a treat that works for both us.

These Pupsicles are full of protein from his favorites – cheese and peanut butter – and made with low-fat yogurt that is good for his tummy.  They are cheap and easy to make and the smaller size means I can treat him more often, which makes us both happy.

Peanut Butter Cheddar Pupsicles; yields 20 frozen treats

  • 4 oz sharp white cheddar
  • 2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  1. Cut the cheese into fourths and use a food processor to crumble it.  (You can probably make these in the blender, just shred your cheese first.)
  2. Add yogurt and peanut butter to the bowl and process until well-combined.
  3. Spoon the mixture into clean ice-cube trays and freeze until solid.

Note – I based this recipe off of similar ones that I know have been vetted (ha!) by the AKC.  Please ask your vet what foods are appropriate for the breed before giving your dog any new foods.

White Girl Broad Rice Noodles

If I had to name my favorite foods, Pad See Eiw would top the list every time.  It beats out baby carrots and even jalapeño nachos, though it’s worth noting that diet pop isn’t a contender because it’s considered a necessity.  Broad rice noodles have the best chew.  If you get a well made dish of Pad See Eiw the noodles are almost like marshmallows, but in a delicious, savory way.

Tragically, I’ve never been able to find broad rice noodles on sale for the home cook.  I’ve searched at Thai markets in Buffalo, Brooklyn, and Toronto with no luck.  I haven’t given up hope but I’m not too broken up about it either.  I figure that the universe is just telling me that we need to go out for Thai more often.  Plus, I’ve found a white girl substitution that works in a pinch –

lasagna noodles

You simply cook the noodles according to the package directions, drain and cool, chop into large squares, and stir fry.  The flavor and texture aren’t identical to broad rice noodles but they are good.  It’s the closest I’ve come to approximating that great chew at home.

For tonight’s meal I made “broad rice noodles” with veggies and a spicy basil sauce.  The final dish was chewy, spicy, healthy, and a little sweet and sour; we were big fans!

To make the meal, I used 1 Tbsp canola oil to stir fry 2 servings of chopped lasagna noodles, 3 small heads roasted broccoli, 2 roasted zucchini, and 2 eggs.  Then I tossed everything in a spicy basil sauce and cooked it all for another 3 minutes.

spicy basil sauce

  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped basil
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp tamari
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha

Dinner was great but I’ve been a hungry mungry all afternoon and my stomach is still growling!  Before dinner I made myself a sliced green apple with 2 Tbsp Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter.

The cookie butter is tasty but it’s not exactly like Biscoff Spread.  I still can’t put my finger on what the difference is.

When I was still hungry an hour after dinner I made myself a serving of Ritz crackers with 1 oz of melted Cabot 50% Reduced Sharp Cheddar.

Yummy, but not very filling.  We don’t have a ton of options in the house though and I’ve definitly consumed enough calories for the day so I’ve decided to suck it up and just go hungry.  Hopefully when I get back to work I’ll get distracted and my stomach will give it a rest!

Are you a broad rice noodle fan?

Birthday Benefits

There are a lot of benefits to having a birthday.  For one, you exist; yay!  For another, free Starbucks.

I got a tall, iced, skinny caramel macchiato and loved every dollar-free sip of it.

When it’s your birthday your in-laws might drive up to take you and the husband out to lunch.

We chose Cheesecake Factory.  I ate one of the avocado egg rolls, but they were mostly Adam’s reward for putting up with me.

For lunch I got the Fresh Vegetable Salad, my favorite salad of all time.

If you’ve read my how to post, you know that I ordered my salad with dressing on the side and a to-go box.

Once I packed half of my salad away for lunch tomorrow I dressed it with the spicy peanut cilantro vinaigrette I requested on the side.

Delicious.  And nutritious; I checked several sites and I am fairly certain that this salad (before the split) contained less than 300 calories.

After we ate I had to do a lot of blowing.  (<– and wasn’t even a first date; ba dum cha!) 

The CF employees heard it was my birthday and sweetly brought me a sundae.

I made a wish, but passed the ice cream off to Adam.  I had my eye on bigger and better things.

We split the Chocolate Coconut Cream Cheesecake four ways and were all swooning.  I told you I hated cake.

Another birthday benefit is getting to set the day’s agenda, because I totally don’t wear the pants every other day of the week.  Adam walked around the mall with me for hours, cashing in birthday coupons without a complaint.  P.S. Sephora will give you free Philosophy birthday cake body wash – no purchase necessary! – if you create an account online.

Where else could we do a birthday dinner if not Wegman’s hot bar.

I served myself two kinds of Asian chicken, heavy on the veggies.

I kept dinner on the smaller side (about half the weight of usual) because we were heading to a movie and I was looking forward to this –

“This” is the container of pretzel bites I split with Adam and forgot to photograph until after the lights were turned down.

We saw “Friends with Benefits” and looooooved it.  Mila Kunis is hot, Justin Timberlake is hilarious, and it was just raunchy enough to not be a total chick flick.  I declared it my new favorite movie!

Let’s recap – freebies, coconut cream, mall-walking, Wegman’s, pretzels, and a movie.  <– best birthday ever (until next year!)

Why The Heck Not?

Good morning!  I know I don’t usually blog weekend mornings, but I was up so I figured why the heck not?

I also usually don’t eat breakfast on the weekends, but I had to get out of bed at 7:30 to make Adam a smoothie so why the heck not?

I’ve never made buttermilk pancakes before (I doubt I’ve ever eaten them either), but there was a half used container of buttermilk in our fridge that was speaking to me.  Buttermilk as a muse, why the heck not?

I used this recipe for buttermilk pancakes, and topped mine with banana slices and chia seeds before the flip (why the heck not?).

It took me a while to get the hang of the flipping, and I ended up with one of Kath’s pancake tacos

It was actually delicious.  P.S. My serving today was also topped with a drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of extra chia seeds, why the heck not?

AllRecipes lets you scale the recipes (amazing!) so I could have just made one serving but instead I made four, why the heck not?

I’ve got them individually wrapped – use wax paper to separate the individual pancakes within the serving – so they can be easily reheated for breakfasts throughout the week.

We’ve got a busy day around here, Adam has a clincal test this morning (hence the 7am smoothie) and we have to prep for the poker party he’s hosting here tonight.

“Honey, it’s my turn to host the poker game this weekend.  You can’t come, it’s just boys, but can you make the food for us please?  Oh, and baby, all the other wives made really good food, so please don’t make anything that sucks.”  Why the heck not?

How To: Order a Salad at the Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory is the husband’s and my favorite chain restaurant.  CF is the food of the Gods, but the portions are also God-like.  I know that no matter what I order there, including a salad, my meal will end up being at least two servings.

If you have the control not to devour the whole plate, two meals in one are great – instant lunch!  But what if you like to order salads, invariably soggy by the next day?  Here’s what I do –

  1. Order your salad with dressing on the side.
  2. Request a take-out box as soon as your meal comes.
  3. Portion half of your salad into the take-out box, set aside.
  4. Top remaining salad with desired amount of dressing and dig in.
  5. Enjoy a delicious, crisp salad at tomorrow’s lunch.

I added a little Newman’s Own Asian Sesame dressing from home for lunch today.

Extra-credit?

– No matter what salad I order at CF, the dressing I request on the side is always spicy peanut cilantro vinaigrette.  It is ridiculous good, I would lick it off the floor.

– My favorite salad is the Fresh Vegetable Salad (from the appetizer menu but still a solid two servings).  The toppings are all fun, but not in a bacon-ranch-crouton-I-just-gained-20pounds-from-a-salad kind of way.  Asparagus, Green Beans, Tomato, Cucumber, Roasted Beets, Apple, Edamame, Radicchio, Romaine and White Cheddar.