Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Purely Elizabeth Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Back when we were pretty much gluten free/dairy free to see if that diet would help Bobby, we stocked up on a variety of different items and brands.  While we didnt care for the Purely Elizabeth pancake/waffle mix at all, and the oatmeal cookies were more of a success with people outside our household, I decided today to try the box of chocolate chip cookie mix.  Gluten free and vegan, I thought I'd compare it to my own recipe.  I love mine waaayyy more, but these cookies weren't bad.

I followed the directions (1/2c oil, 1/4c applesauce, 1tbsp vanilla) and baked them at 350 for 12 minutes.  After cooling for 1 minute, I put them on wax paper to cool.

Because I'm me, I snuck a bite before they were cool and, honestly, I think the just-hot-enough-but-not-mouth-burning cookie tasted better than the cooled one, which had more of an earthy taste and less of the sweet, cookie taste you think of when you think chocolate chip cookie. 

In general, they weren't overly sweet and with their ingredients (millet and almond and garbanzo bean flours, and chia seeds), they are treats you can feel good about eating.  But if I wanted a chocolate chip cookie, I'd probably cook up a batch of my own.  If I just wanted a lightly sweet cookie that had the texture of an oatmeal cookie but the hint of chocolate chip, I'd bake these up again.  They are definitely something to share with the GF, vegan crowd in my life.


(I was not compensated for this review, nor did I recieve any free products of any sort in return for this review.)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Asparagus Pasta with Saffron Sauce

I initially found this recipe in Classic Vegetarian Cooking, on page 198.  I've modified it from time to time and it works well for two or for eight.  Serve it with some warm bread and a salad and it is divine.  For a lighter option, replace the heavy cream with half and half, or make only half the recipe for the sauce; the somen will soak it up and still be delicious!

Serves 4

1. Soak 1 pinch of real saffron in 2tbsp boiling water.

2. Wash 1 pound of asparagus and trim the tops off, slicing the stalks into small rounds and saving the tops (about 2 inches). 

3.  Melt 2tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add 2 diced shallots (or 2 small sweet onions) and saute until soft.  Add 2tbsp white wine, 1 cup heavy cream, and the saffron infusion.  Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer gently until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon (around 5 min).  Add the juice of half a lemon and the zest of half a lemon, with 1tsp salt and 1tsp pepper.  (You may add more salt/pepper to taste when it is done).  Remove from heat.

4.  Bring a large pot of water to a bnoil and blanch the asparagus tips before removing them and adding them to the sauce.  Add the asparagus rounds and 1 cup peas to the boiling water and cook for 7 minutes or until tender.  Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce.

5.  Cook 12oz somen noodles in the water for 3 minutes or until tender.  Drain.  Pour the sauce over the drained noodles.  Stir well to coat and sprinkle with grated parmesean cheese (optional) before serving.

***For a vegan alternative, use a nondairy butter like Earth Balance and Mimic Creme (a cashew and almond cream alternative) and remove the parm cheese at the end.

Review: Whitmor 12-Bin Organizer

Whenever you write a review the really, really endorses an item, it sounds like you were paid to do it.  And, if you were paid, it sounds contrived.  I wasn't paid for this review, nor did I get anything in return for reviewing this item.  I actually bought it earlier in the week and I just really dig it.  So I thought I'd share.

I live under the false illusion that I am organized.  Of course, for months, my idea of living room organization (as it relates to the kids toys) is this Sterlite bin that I kept under the train table.  The kiddos would randomly (and not even to play with anything) dump it in the floor.  It drove me nuts.  But, it was easy enough to just throw all the trains, cars, tracks, etc in it when someone was coming over.  In spite of the fact that it was unorganized and didnt look all togethern neat... But hey!  Trains and cars (that REALLY hurt when you step on them) weren't in the floor, so I'm organized. 

Honestly, it got to the point this week (probably because a fair amount of my time is spent loving the couch) that the sound of the metal and wood and plastic crashing to the floor, the kids standing on the bin just for fun, and the all around lack of 'neat' look took me down.  I just couldnt take it anymore.  So I pulled up my trusted buddy, Amazon, and looked for some sort of storage.  I wasn't sure what I'd get but I needed something... I wanted the living room to look more organized (I mean, it's the twins' living room too, so I didnt want to banish their living room toys to the playroom because I couldnt deal) and I just wanted something that looked (and was) more organized.  Enter the bin system.

I looked at a few and, because I'm anal, read all the reviews and I opted to get the Whitmor.  At an Amazon price of $55 (retail listed as $90), it was cheaper than all the other bin organizers and it had the best reviews (4 out of 5 stars).  I even opted, with my Prime, to overnight it for $4 because I.WAS.DONE.  I needed something and I was on the verge of meltdown central.  (I know, it sounds crazy to be this UP over something so pointless but hey... I am me... This is how I roll.)  I ordered it Monday afternoon, it arrived Tuesday afternoon and, after my run and while our neighborhood babysitter was still here with the kids, I unloaded the box, which consisted of 2 MDF side panels, 8 metal rods, 16 screws (17 actually), 4 large bins, and 8 small bins.

No kidding: in 15 minutes, it was assembled.  The poles lined up to predrilled holes and I screwed in the one side before laying the second side on top of the poles and screwing those in.  All while carrying on a conversation.  It was a breeze.  Then, we slipped the bins into place and voila!  Ready to go.  I organized the toys and decided to count down how long it would take for at least one of the bins to end up on the floor.

I'm still waiting.

For whatever reason, Bobby and Maya dig this.  Maybe it is the primary colors.  Maybe it is because they can now find their different types of trains and cars.  Who even knows.  They take toys out and play with them, but no throwing, no mess.  And, when they are done, they have started putting them back!  (When they havent, I have put them back, but even my stress about cleaning up has dropped- probably because I'm not cleaning up what seems like a billion small trains/cars!)  It looks wwwaaaayyyy better and it even inspired me to move their chairs up and put their train table behind them (instead of in front, where it worked almost like a psuedo-coffee table to the main living area.  Now, it's almost like our living room has been divided into "living room" and "play area", which is nice.

But the mess... Oh the mess... Or lack there of!  THANK YOU!

It is made out of MDF (which isnt great but lends to the fiscality of it) but the metal rods seem stable (not enough to have little monkeys climb on but to able to do the job they are fine).  The bins are a good, hard plastic, which I think would work well even if we didnt have the organizer anymore.

Did I mention it cleaned up the clutter? 

So... if you have little ones (or you do lots of crafts) and you want something that is easy to put together, wont break the bank, and is very functional (and may even inspire your little guy or gal to clean up after themselves), I highly recommend this.  I even gave it 5 stars on Amazon, so you know I like it!