Jazz! Apples

jazz applesThe power is still out due to Hurricane Irene and therefore this week’s grocery trip was short and sweet.. literally. I was only in the store for about 25 minutes (I check lots of labels and compare prices so this is short for me!) and I bought apples and new snack bars for work. I needed items that don’t need to be refrigerated, but I also didn’t want to completely sacrifice nutrition, either.

I have been in the market for new snack bars that are low in fat, calories AND sugar – a combination, come to find out, that is hard to come by. More on my thoughts on sugar and snack bars in a later post. This post is about Jazz Apples!

As I walked through the produce section, admiring all of the need-to-be-refrigerated fruits and veggies, I thought to myself: Apples and Pears! Both are great snacks for me at work and don’t have to be refrigerated. AND I could keep them in the office. Looking around for my normal favorite, Fuji or gala apples, I was surprised that I didn’t see any. I settled on some other variety, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign that said Jazz! Confused at first and then intrigued, I put my apples back and made my way over to the Jazz! apples. They looked like both fuji and gala in that they were yellow and red in color. They were larger, though, and had a more of a “tall and skinny” look than the normal “short and fat” apple shape. Only 10 cents more per pound, I figured what the heck? Eat something new, right?

I snacked on one at work yesterday (and today) and they are delicious! Crisp, dense, NOT gritty at all – my number one attribute I look for in a good apple (the only macintosh I like is my computer) – and just the right amount of sweetness. Jazz apples have a distinct taste that is hard to explain, but nothing crazy or strange, just delicious!

This is what Wikipedia had to say about Jazz apples:

“Jazz is a relatively new apple variety from New Zealand. It is the result of a cross between Royal Gala and Braeburn made by Plant & Food Research in 1985.[1] It is also known as Scifresh. It was launched in April 2004.

The apple is sweet, crunchy and juicy. It has a firm, dense flesh and a complex flavor with the acid of Braeburn and the sweetness of Royal Gala giving it broad appeal.

The speculation about why the apple variety is named Jazz, is most likely the exciting color combinations that can be compared to the music style jazz which is often an advanced harmony with discoloration of a piecework.

Jazz apples are being grown under license in New Zealand, UK, Washington state in the US, Australia, France, Chile, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_(apple))

After doing a simple Google search I noticed that Jazz apples even have their own website: jazzapple.com.

Here are a few images they featured that I thought were worth sharing:

They also boast many health benefits including:

  • Lots of fiber
  • Cancer fighting abilities
  • Help facilitate easier breathing

Anyone ever hear of the 3-A-Day Apple Diet? Jazz Apples link to the 3-Apple-A-Day Plan, claiming that on average, those who participate lose 20 lbs. in 12 weeks. Let me know if you’ve ever hear of or tried this. Very interesting!

Do you have a go-to apple variety?

What do you look for in a good apple?

What’s your favorite way to eat an apple? (plain, peanut butter, pie?)

Any out-of-the-ordinary fruits you think I should try?

Drink Something New: Harney & Son’s Green Tea with Coconut, Ginger and Vanilla

Today was the first day back to work since Hurricane Irene and we still don’t have power at home. Being that I have a few side projects (including this blog) that I usually work on at night, I had to go somewhere after work to get some things done. Where else but Starbucks where the caffeine and power are a plenty.

After setting up shop in at the Starbucks in my hometown Barnes and Noble, I headed over to the counter to ask for a platic spoon so I could eat my YoCrunch Greek (post coming soon!). As I sat down and started to “borrow” their electricity and their plastic spoon, I started to feel guilty. I also started to feel thirsty, so I decided to buy a hot tea. At the counter they had some point-of-sale items nicely displayed and, as a marketers dream (really ironic, I know) I fed right in to it.. kind of.

Sitting there was a bright green, beautiful tin of Harney & Son’s tea sachets. This is my favorite brand of tea – so much so that I’ve ordered some offline. If you know me, you know this is mildly out-of-character and shows just how much I love their tea. The Earl Grey Supreme with Lemongrass and Bergamot is my absolute favorite. But I digress.. Tonight they had Green Tea with Coconut, Ginger and Vanilla (and, come to find out, lemongrass). I just could not resist.

I thought it was a long shot, asking if they sold this in single cups, hoping I didn’t have to buy the whole tin that boasted a $10.95 price tag to satisfy my intrigue. I was in luck! I ordered a venti and brought it back to my work station to cool off.

I’m not a huge fan of green tea. Tea in Chinese or Japanese restaurants, quite frankly, I think is gross. I get it. I appreciate it. But I don’t like it. With the other flavors mixed in – all of which rank amongst my favorites – I figured I would like it.. and I was [mostly] wrong.

I take my tea plain. I hesitate to say black because unlike coffee, even black tea isn’t all that dark. I love my Earl Grey Supreme or Tazo Awake with nothing but, on occasion, a little light agave nectar. Sometimes I’ll add a splenda if I’m in the mood or if the tea stinks, but usually plain is just how I like it.

This tea is okay, but it tasted a little “earthy” and needed that extra bit of sweetness. I add a few drops of honey, which did the trick, and it wasn’t too bad. But then by sip three I started to think It tasted like spinach.

My tea tastes like spinach. Never a good thing.

I would recommend trying it if it sounds like something you would like and if you like green tea. But, unlike many other things I suggest, I don’t suggest you try it if it doesn’t sound like something you’d like. I will not be ordering this one offline.

Side note: These sachets come out to less than 40 cents each, which is less than K-cups. I was surprised and thought I would share! If you’re a tea lover and don’t mind spending 40 cents per cup, or currently buy the tea in K-cup form, I would head over to http://www.harney.com! The elegant tin is decieving, it’s really not that expensive.

Harney & Son’s Earl Grey Supreme, however, I would strongly recommend! Many restaurants bring a wooden box filled with Harney & Son’s Tea, so next time you’re out to eat and  in the mood for a little post-dinner tea, ask if they have Harney & Son’s and try the Early Grey Supreme.

Caprese-Style Bruschetta

I ate at an Italian restaurant in Newark, DE for six years, working there for about 2 of them. I practically lived there and still ate there on my days off. It is a local favorite with great food, huge portions and extremely reasonable prices. The name of the restaurant is Cucina di Napoli and if you find yourself in Delaware, I recommend it.

Now, one of my favorite things they have is their bruschetta (pictured above). It may sound silly since this is a simple appetizer, but they hit it out of the park every. single. time. It usually comes with five large slices of bread, perfectly toasted to be crispy on the outside as to not get soggy and soft on the inside making it easy to bite in to and chew. They go the tomato-garlic-onion route with basil and a standard dressing. Absolutely fresh and delicious. I could eat the whole plate as a meal.

I recently had some people over for a dinner party and wanted to make a light, yet delicious and satisfying appetizer, so I attempted to re-create this appetizer. The biggest difference is that I added small pieces of fresh mozzarella cheese. Hence the “caprese-style” part of the dish’s title. Overall it was a huge success!

Turing for a second to the wonderful-for-familiarization-purposes website Wikipedia,

Traditional Caprese Salad

“Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri) is a simple salad from the Italian region of Campania, made of sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil.[1][2] In Italy, unlike most salads, it is usually served as an antipasto (starter), not a contorno (side dish).”

Traditional Bruschetta

“Bruschetta (Italian pronunciation: [brusˈketːa] ( listen)) is an appetizer from central Italy whose origin dates to at least the 15th century. It consists of roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Variations may include toppings of spicy red pepper, tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, and/or cheese; the most popular recipe outside of Italy involves basil, fresh tomato, garlic and onion or mozzarella. Bruschetta is usually served as a snack or appetizer.”

So the american-ized version of Bruschetta with the tomatos isn’t exactlyyyyyy traditional – but it is delicious, and it’s pretty close, so who cares?

Here is what you’ll need: 

  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 small white or yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 7 or so leaves of fresh Basil – fresh makes a big difference, so I would suggest splurging for it!
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese (as much as you want – but one small container of the mozz balls in water would do it)
  • Whatever kind of bred you’d like – I would suggest italian or fresh bread cut in to slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Here is what you’ll do:

  • Slice bread, toast in the oven or a toaster oven on 400 for about 10 minutes – until they reach desired toastiness- (Not really a word, but I like it so just go with it)
  • Chop the tomatoes in to small pieces (but not minced!) – For tips, you can go here. Add to a large mixing bowl.
  • Chop onions in to desired sized pieces. If you like the taste of raw onion you may want bigger pieces the same size as a the tomatoes. I like to chop the onions very small – almost minced.
  • Peel and chop garlic. Add to the bowl.
  • fold all Basil leaves together and in half, then chop finely. Add to bowl.
  • Chop cheese in to small pieces – again, any size you’d prefer. For this particular dish I think that smaller pieces, but again not minced, works best.
  • Add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. I would start with 2 tablespoons of oil, mix, and go from there.
  • Top bread slices with mixture and enjoy!

Your thoughts on bruschetta?

Any other favorite appetizers you can share?!

Happy National Mojito Day!

Today is national mojito day! If you’ve never had one, I strongly recommend you take this opportunity to indulge and drink something new!

Not sure what I’m talking about? A mojito is a cuban rum citrus cocktail.

The ingredients:
– White Rum – I’ll suggest Bacardi
– Sugar – It’s best to use simple syrup. Boil 1 part water with 1 part sugar or Splenda until it is syrup-y.
– Fresh lime slices
– Fresh mint leaves
– Seltzer or tonic (or even Sprite if that’s all you have)

The fun part: Muddling. Mojitos are made using a muddler – a stick-like tool used to press the mint leaves and limes (gently! don’t break them up!) to release the juices and oil which give the drink it’s fresh flavors.

Above is a photo of a mojito I made during a mojito making lesson on a cruise. So fun, super delicious and skill building – can’t beat that!

Mixing it up:

Place mint leaves and lime slices in the bottom of your glass. Add rum. Muddle fruit ever-so-gently. Add ice if desired and fill the rest of the glass with your sparkling drink of choice – I suggest plain, diet seltzer or tonic.

Enjoy!

Do you like mojitos?
There’s lots of variations – what’s your favorite?

Perfect Foods Bar

 

 

Perfect Foods Bars are high-protein, organic and gluten-free large snack or meal bars, depending on your food schedule. I had seen them on lots of blogs, but never in stores and was super curious. They were nice enough to send me a sample pack of their flavors, so here it goes!

Almond:
This is the first perfect foods bar I tried and I wasn’t a fan, to be honest. You can read my review here, but to summarize: It wasn’t terrible, I didn’t need to spit it out or anything like that, but I didn’t finish it.

In an attempt to find other opinions, I brought some bars to the office and had a female colleague of mine give this one a try.

Here is what she said:
“I liked how I could taste the honey – it was a prominent flavor. The almond flavor was also good. Overall I liked it!”

Cranberry Crunch:
This one was much better! This is the “Lite” version, with 199 calories as opposed to 304. The peanut butter taste isn’t overly intense, but it is prevalent. The cranberries and the “crunch” which taste like tiny pieces of rice cake, were great. Looking at the label, one of the ingredients is brown puffed rice, so there you go – that’s why I taste the rice cake! (But better – if you’re thinking rice cakes are bland- these are not!) I think I would really like this if the other ingredients had smaller proportions in order to make room for more cranberries.

Peanut Butter:
I alerted Katie at Perfect Foods Bar that I am not a big fan of things that are primarily peanut butter flavored, but she sent them along anyway so that I could have some peanut butter lovers in my life give them a whirl. So, I brought them to the office and this is the response I got.

“They’re OK. They really taste like peanut butter, like organic peanut butter. But I’m really not picky.” By the looks of it, he needed some milk; he was struggling to speak between bites. And judging by the fact that he finished it in less than 3 minutes, I would say he liked it.

If they sound like something you would like I would definitely recommend giving them a try. They are really, really nice people and this is a good product.

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Full disclosure: I had seen Perfect Foods Bars on other blogs and could not find them in stores anywhere. When I e-mailed them, they offered to send me some if I would give them a review. This is my 100% honest review of their bars.

DRINK something new! Iron Hill Beer Sampler

A good friend of mine suggested that I add a Drink Something New component to this blog, and so I am! Sometimes you just feel like eating your favorites so why not mix it up when it comes to your beverage order? As far as I can tell this section will mostly consist of drinks of the alcoholic and caffeinated persuasions. I’m really excited about this and hope you enjoy it!

To borrow a phrase from a friend: here is my inaugural post for Drink Something New: The Iron Hill Beer Sampler

Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant has nine locations in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and describes its self like this:

“you’ll find fine handcrafted beers, creative yet informal cuisine, and friendly, attentive service in a casual, upscale atmosphere.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Their new-american cuisine is amazing, and is a must-visit any time anyone comes back to UD for a visit. It is a little “nicer” in terms of formality, but casual enough that it is fun and beers an burgers are a common pairing.

They are a brewery so of course they brew their own beers. They offer a beer sampler, which I’ve ordered a few different times, but the most recent time was the best, by far – due in large part to our server, Rick at the Newark, DE location.

The sampler starts with a paper place mat with eight circles on it, one for each of the samples. Then the server places each sample down one at a time and describes each one. Rick was awesome and way more thorough than any other server I’ve had explain it to me. He told us the name, the type of beer and the different ingredients. And any question I asked he had the answer to. It made it really fun and informative – an experience more than just a drink order.

The number one reason why I think this beer sampler is so awesome is because it teaches you what kind of beer you’re in to. What I came away from it with was the difference between hoppy beers and more malted beers. From sampling these beers it reinforced the idea that Belgian white beers or ‘witbiers’ are my favorite – with citrus tones – think Blue Moon, Hoegaarden and Shock Top. My second favorite genre is malted beers – think Yuengling. So now, when I go out to eat and am in the mood to try a new beer (and let’s be honest, that’s 99% of the time) now I know what to ask in order to pick something I think that I’ll like.

If you don’t consider yourself a risk taker, experimenting with drinks is a little less risky and usually less of an expensive risk – so I challenge you to drink something new next time you make a beverage order – whether it be at your local coffee shop or brewery. And let me know hows it goes 🙂

Best Ever Breading Mixture & Best Ever Breaded Chicken

One of my go-to meals is breaded, baked chicken with a veggie and a starch – usually rice. Chicken is tricky since there is such a fine line between perfectly cooked and overcooked, and no one likes dry chicken. But plain old breading just doesn’t cut it – way too bland for my taste. So I experimented and came up with what I truly believe (and what others have told me) is the best ever breading mixture.

I have gotten tons of requests for this recipe, so here it goes:

Best Ever Breading:

  • 1 c. seasoned, whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tblsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tblsp italian seasoning (feel free to mix it up – basil, parsley, whatever you prefer!)
  • 4 turns of fresh cracked pepper

The whole wheat bread crumbs are absolutely key. Yes, they really do make a big difference. Even members of my family who are white bread fanatics prefer this breading, so even if you’re not usually a whole-wheat eater, make an exception for this breading. Will regular breadcrumbs work? Yes. But you will not get the full effect. Use up what you have left of the regular and then make the switch, you’ll be happy you did.

The other key is the parmesan cheese. I never claimed that this recipe was going to be uber healthy – and just wait for the butter I mention below – but it is absolutely worth it, especially if you pair it with healthy sides.

Now, this breading is amazing and works well with both chicken and fish, but there’s more to the deliciousness than just the breading. Below is the classic chicken recipe. In posts to come I will be including other recipes that use this breading and ways to mix it up a bit as well as different ways to use this chicken recipe (paninis, a healthy take on chicken cordon bleu, etc.) – so look out for those!

Best Ever Breaded Chicken:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Add egg whites and a splash of milk in to a bowl and set aside.

Mix up Best Ever Breading and set aside.

One at a time take a boneless, skinless chicken breast that is completely defrosted and at room temperature (yes, room temperature) and use a meat mallet (spiky side down) and tenderize the chicken. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Dip chicken breast in egg mixture and then coat with breading. Place the chicken in the baking dish – they can be close together, but make sure they are not touching.

Melt 1 table spoon of butter, margarine or buttery spread – whatever you use will be fine! I’ve tried this with butter, Olivo, Country Crock and Best Life Buttery Spread and they were all the same. Using a teaspoon, pour about 1 teaspoon of butter over each piece of chicken. Do not coat the entire piece, just drip some of the butter over the breading. If butter is a concern you can leave this step out – but it does make it very tasty!

Bake time will differ based on how thick your cut of chicken is, so I would suggest baking for 10 minutes and checking on it, then going from there.

Testaments to this chicken recipe’s deliciousness:

My mom doesn’t really like chicken, and one night when I offered to make dinner this is what she says to me “Well, what kind of chicken, because I really don’t want just a dry piece of chicken” – She was skeptical, but one bite had her singing a drastically different tune. She commented on how good it was at least five times while we ate and several times around the rest of the family the next day.

For new year’s eve this past year we did a little bit of a potluck-style appetizer hour at my friend’s apartment. I wanted to make something with some protein since I knew that this would wind up being dinner for some guests, and knowing the type of night that NYE tends to be, I knew we needed something of substance. I made this chicken, but before breading it I cut it up in to bite sized pieces. I brought them prepared, but no cooked (I’ve done this a few times, it travels pretty well, actually). I put them out with a dish of spicy brown mustard for dipping. Half an hour later, there was only one left (my friends are pretty polite) and the mustard wasn’t even touched. The next morning all anyone could talk about was how good the chicken was.

Moral of the story: This really is the Best Ever Breading mixture and it is a sure-fire crowd pleaser.