Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Product Placement Wednesday - Trader Joe's Platinum Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Truffles

Yes, after MUCH delay Product Placement Wednesday is back! Between work, life, and my other (often neglected) blog On The Tart Side is getting so much needed love!

Trader Joe's Platinum Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Truffles

Trader Joe's always comes out with some amazing seasonal products this time of year - particularly in the chocolate department. I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that this gem makes the cut to be a year round item! The Platinum Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Truffles are make with 70% cacao dark chocolate and yes, Cabernet! The wine flavor is present but not overpowering - they remind me a bit of the Ghiradelli Intense Dark Cabernet Matinee. The advantage that the truffles have over the bar is that they are made with actual wine plus the delicious soft truffle center! I have enjoyed them with several varietals of red wine but as to be expected they paired best with full bodied wines.

While they are not overly huge truffles, at only 50 calories each you can enjoy more than one. This product is so new it is not on the Trader Joe's website yet. The only other mention I could find online was on eBay with someone selling at twice the cost! I recommend buying them ASAP and then hoarding them. They would also make nice gifts throughout the holiday season!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Super Bowl Snack - BBQ Pulled Chicken Bites with Tex-Mex Feta Slaw

With the Super Bowl less than a week away, I thought it was way past due to share this super snack I made for last year's festivities! One of my favorite things to do when making a food item for a particular event is to take classic types of foods and give them a new spin. For example, the Super Bowl is all about American snack foods, meat, and beer. I went with BBQ and made a tasty treat that while a little higher end than what you might find at a Super Bowl party it fit in perfectly. Unfortunately the photos I took were not very good but I promise you the food is delicious! I probably could have made twice as many!

BBQ Pulled Chicken Bites with Tex-Mex Feta Slaw

The slaw was inspired by the Feta Slaw in Cooking Light.

1 package Trader Joe's BBQ Pulled Chicken (or your favorite local brand or restaurant)
1 package Trader Joe's Puff Pastry, thawed (2 sheets, total weight 1lb)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I substituted red wine vinegar and it turned out fine)
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups angel hair coleslaw (I used one bag (10 oz) Trader Joe's Shredded Green Cabbage)
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I used Trader Joe's Fat Free Feta)

1. Heat the oven to 400. Combine vinegar, mayonnaise, and black pepper in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add coleslaw, cilantro, jalapeno, feta and green onions; toss to coat. As with most recipes, I suggest that you work with this as to your own preference. Want a little more heat? Add more jalapeno. Want more moisture in your slaw? Make more dressing. For best results, make at least an hour before serving so the flavors and meld.

2. Cut puff pastry into approximately 2 inch squares. I suggest that you measure you puff pastry and take those measurements into account so that your squares are even.

3. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and press a piece of puff pastry into each muffin cup. Top with pulled chicken.

4. Bake for approximately 15 minutes (you may wish to check beginning at 10 minutes. They are ready with the pastry is golden brown.

5. Serve either with the slaw on the side or top each bite with the slaw before serving. This will make about 36 bites though you will likely have leftover slaw. It was even better the next day!

Super Bowl Decor

Last year I posted some fun decor items for your Super Bowl party. There are so many great inspirational sites out there with great ideas from the simple to the elaborate. I was impressed that Target has created some cute items of their own for game day. You don't have to be crafty to elevate YOUR Super Bowl game! Here are two of my favorites - mini foam fingers and astroturf coasters! Of course the foam fingers aren't in either team's colors but they are in MY alma mater's colors (hint: Ohio University - buy these out!).

Have a great Super Bowl everyone!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Product Placement Wednesday - Crate & Barrel Stacking Acrylic Wine Glasses

If you have read my previous posts over the years, you know that I LOVE picnic season! Yes, I realize it is January and picnic season seems very far off to many of you but GREAT deals on picnic items don't wait for the sun to shine!

You may already be familiar with some of my other picnic favorites from the past such as Steady Sticks and the Table in a Bag. Well this little steal goes perfectly with those items.

Crate & Barrel Stacking Acrylic Wine Glasses

These glasses great for picnics, pool side, or anywhere you don't want to take glass wine glasses. The alternative of drinking wine out of a red Solo cup just doesn't work for me! They fit perfectly on a Steady Stick for all of you fellow picnic lovers out there! Also, they are stackable so they take up very little cabinet space!

So why am I sharing this item in January? Because Crate & Barrel has them on super sale! Normally they are $3.95 a piece but right now you can get them for a fraction of the cost! Clear and blue are marked down to $.97 and green & red are just $.47!

Of course you don't have to save these cute glasses just for outdoor use! With the colors available they also lend themselves nicely to both Christmas and Hanukkuh. At this price you can pick up enough for next year's holiday party or any other occasion!

I personally picked up some blue glasses - which color are you getting?

Don't forget to check out my picnic recipes here, here and here!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Last Minute Holiday Recipes

Is it just me or did this year fly by? I just can't believe that Christmas is less than a week away! As you finalize your dishes for your holiday table, I would like to share a couple that I created for Thanksgiving that would translate well for events through the rest of the month! The Apple Cider Sangria is a great drink for a crowd and doesn't involve too many specialty (or unnaturally flavored) ingredients like many of the other recipes I encountered. The Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing Bites were just the right about of sweet and savory to accompany a traditional or non-traditional holiday meal. They would also be great on a appetizer buffet! Please excuse the photos as always. These items are much more beautiful in real life! Enjoy!

Apple Cider Sangria

6 cups Trader Joe’s Pear Cinnamon Cider (If you can't find this particular cider, I would recommend adding some pear juice to your traditional cider as well as some cinnamon. Mix to taste.)
1 cup Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum
1/2 cup Patron Citronage (or another orange flavored liquor)
2 apples (I used Sweet Tango), chopped
2 Bosc pears, chopped
1 orange, chopped
1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc

1. In a large bowl sealable bowl, combine the cider, rum, and Citronage.
2. Add chopped fruit to cider and alcohol mixture. Stir well.
3. Seal and refrigerate for at least 3 hours though overnight is recommended.
4. Prior to serving, mix in 1 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
5. Serve in a punchbowl or a pitcher. Make sure each glass gets some of the delicious fruit in it!

Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing Bites

4 cups Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Cornbread Croutons (Can't find these croutons? You can try regular cornbread croutons with some pumpkin pie spice.)
4 slices of bacon, chopped/crumbled (more if you want to amp up the bacon flavor, this can also be left out to make it vegetarian)
½ cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned
2 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth can be substituted, if you prefer a slightly more moist stuffing, you may want to consider adding another 1/2 cup broth)
¼ cup fresh sage, chopped

1. Pre-heat the oven 350.
2. Brown the unsalted butter in a 12 inch skillet (directions for creating browned butter can be found online).
3. As the butter starts to foam and brown, add the shallots so that as the butter finishes the shallots will get a quick saute.
4. Add the crumbled bacon, sage and broth. Heat to boiling.
5. Remove from heat and fold in the croutons and mix well.
6. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
7. Make small balls out of the stuffing mix and place one into each slot in the mini muffin tin.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are crispy and the bites are set. This made exactly 2 dozen bites!

Notes: I prepped the stuffing mix earlier in the day and didn't bake for several hours and had no problems. They were a little crumbly but that didn't bother me. As mentioned above, you may wish to include a little more liquid of some egg to help bind it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Product Placement Wednesday - Vaseline Spray & Go Moisturizer

Today I bring back Product Placement Wednesday to share a great product that is PERFECT for summer! 

I will confess - my skin is under moisturized. I am usually in a hurry to get ready and don't have the time to wait for a heavy lotion to soak in before getting dressed. Plus in the summer who wants the weight of a thick moisturizer sitting on their skin? I live in California - it's summer here more than it isn't! Recently a friend was doing a promotion for this product and offered me a bottle as a sample. I had high expectations but this product has exceeded them. Application is simple - spray on the areas you would like to moisturize (it sprays upside down too so you can even reach your own back!) and then quickly rub the product to make sure it absorbs properly. Personally I like to apply and then brush my teeth. By the time I'm done, the Spray & Go is fully absorbed! There are three types - Total Moisture, Cocoa Radiant (with cocoa butter), and Aloe Fresh. So far I have only tried the Total Moisture but envision the Aloe Fresh to be perfect after a day in the sun - especially if you keep it in the fridge! 

This week Vaseline Spray & Go is on sale at Target! What better way to kick off summer than with freshly moisturized skin at a discount price! 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Angel Food Cupcakes - 2 Ways with 1 Box of Mix!

I'm back! I have been MIA for so long due to a wrist sprain (of course when that finally healed work/life got busy!) but my wrist is more or less better and I'm so excited to share this fabulous recipe with you. It's actually a recipe x 2 and is perfect for spring and summer gatherings!

I do not profess to be a baker. Baking is science and while I dig science, I'm more of a mad scientist. This year I decided to make Champagne Cupcakes for the Oscars which was risky for sure. The recipes I found online were all 100% from scratch so I started to think how I could reconceptualize this idea. What is light like champagne? Angel Food! Do they make it in mix form? Yes! What else do you mix in? Water. Perfect! Champagne is my usual substitution for water anyway!

Instead of full sized cupcakes, I decided to make minis which had I used the entire box would have made about 70 - too many for the Oscars. Instead I made half the box and therefore used 1/2 the water/champagne. For the frosting, I found a great recipe for a Champagne Buttercream on The Curvy Carrot however I tried to make from memory (and with butter that wasn't quite room temperature) so my frosting didn't look quite right but it tasted GREAT. This is my common problem in baking - taste 10, looks 5. Plus I threw in some additional champagne so that might have also been part of the problem. Enough of the prologue, let's get to the recipe!

Champagne Cupcakes (Makes approximately 70 mini cupcakes if you use the entire box)

1 box Angel Food cake mix
1 1/4 cup champagne (or other sparkling wine)

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Line your muffin pan with liners. Angel food cake is a little sticky so I would not recommend using silicone baking cups without liners.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture for 30 seconds at a low speed to moisten and then 1 minute at medium. DO NOT OVERBEAT. This will make it too airy.

3. Add batter to liners, filling about 3/4 full. DO NOT OVERFILL. They will be misshapen and stick to the pan. Bang the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles. Very important or you will have giant holes in your cupcakes.

4. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes. Each oven is different so I suggest checking them at 10 minutes and determining how much longer by the look. When done, they will be golden brown and the cracks will be dry.

5. Cool on a wire rack.

Champagne Buttercream

3 & 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature (I used a bit more for flavor)

1. With an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes.

2. Add vanilla and champagne, beating on medium for another minute.

3. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes using your favorite pastry tip or just by filling a plastic bag and cutting of the corner to create your own pastry bag.

Before you look at the final product, remember that I did NOT follow these directions as I should have. Learn from my mistakes and have prettier cupcakes!

Angel Food Cupcakes with Blueberries

For the second Angel Food cupcake preparation, it is more in the presentation than changing the recipe. Angel Food and berries are a natural and classic combo however I wanted to serve them together without a frosting. Transporting frosted cupcakes is always a challenge so I came up with this simple yet attractive way as an alternative.

Angel Food mini cupcakes
Blueberries (or any other fruit you prefer)
Powdered sugar

1. Using a sifter or mesh strainer, dust the cupcakes with powdered sugar.

2. Thread three blueberries on to each toothpick and then place the free end of the toothpick into the cupcake.

I love this idea for summer as you can use whatever fruit is in season. For 4th of July you can alternate blueberries and strawberries or raspberries. It is perfect for picnics as you can assemble on site and they are temperature stable. Plus they are actually a pretty healthy dessert - Angel Food cake is fat free!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rice Krispie Treat Pops

My birthday was last month and I decided I wanted to make somesort of treat to share with my friends. Since we were going to be at a bar, I wanted something that would be easy to eat - something on a stick. I am not much of a baker and did not want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I recalled seeing some photos on Pinterest of Rice Krispie Treat Pops - bingo!

After looking at several recipes, I really did not find what I was looking for in any one single recipe. So of course I put together the best parts along with some advice from Lisa at The Little Red Apron and my own ideas! My pops turned out great so hopefully this will help you in the creation of your own pops! I wanted to make sure to share these before Valentine's Day for all of you parents that are looking for a fun treat for a classroom party. What I love about this recipe is that it is completely adaptable for any holiday or occasion just by do any of the following:

  • Using different colors of chocolate
  • Adding or subtracting sprinkles
  • Changing the color and/or shape of sprinkles
  • Adding a few drops of food coloring
  • Using different sticks
  • Mixing in other cereals
  • Cutting shapes out of the treats
It's like the Choose Your Own Adventure of desserts!

Rice Krispie Treat Pops

4 tablespoons butter or margarine (Note: This is one tablespoon more than Kellogg's recommends.)
1 10 oz package of fresh marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispie cereal (Note: There is now a gluten free version and I have been told it tastes the same.)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract, optional
sprinkles, optional
Melting chocolate

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Add optional extract for a flavor boost (I used vanilla). This is also when optional food coloring should be added. Remove from heat.

2. Slowly add cereal to marshmallow mixture. Sprinkles should be added with cereal - I like a lot of sprinkles so add to your liking. Do not add sprinkles to measured cereal as they will sift to the bottom and will be a challenge to mix evenly. I recommend adding half the cereal and some sprinkles to start. Then keep adding both until all of the cereal is used and you have achieved your preferred level of sprinkle. I probably used just shy of a 1/4 of a cup of sprinkles.

3. Once thoroughly mixed, use a buttered spatula or wax paper to press into a 13 x 9 inch (or similar sized) pan that has been greased with cooking spray or butter.Traditionally you wouldn't want to push the mixture down too much as it can make for a dense treat. You want a dense treat for the pops. Make sure to build them up so that they are square enough to be a pop. You will likely not fill the pan.


4. Cool on the counter or pop into the fridge of freezer to speed the process along.

5. Cut into even squares no smaller than 2 x 2 inches. I did not measure exactly so mine are different sizes. If you want them to be uniform you will need to measure your pan and do some math. You will likely have some scraps on one end where it wasn't exactly the same height as the rest. This is the cook's treat. Enjoy while you finish the pops!

6. Melt the chocolate (I got mine at Michaels) in the microwave or a double boiler. I recommend the microwave as it makes clean up that much easier. However make sure you are using the type of chocolate that can be used in the microwave. If you use regular chocolate chips you run the risk of scorching the chocolate.

7. Dip a treat stick into the melted chocolate and then push through the shorter end of the treat until it is about halfway through. As the chocolate hardens it will help anchor the treat to the stick. I also recommend you wear an apron. As you can see by the photo below I did not.

8. Stick your pop in the melted chocolate. I find that the microwave chocolate is very thick so I used a mini spatula to help brush it up on the sides and also to make sure each pop wasn't TOO chocolaty. Place pop on a piece of wax paper to allow the chocolate to harden. If you want to add MORE sprinkles, this would be the time to do so before the chocolate cools.

9. Repeat for remaining pops and once they are cool place them in an air tight container. As with traditional treats, these are best the day they are made and should be consumed within two days.

I promise these treats will be a hit. One girl at my party ate four of them. Yes, four of them. Is it wrong that I want to make another batch of these right now? Have fun and be sure to let me know about any interesting combinations you create!!!