Nutella & Go!

Oh, what a sweet, sweet treat! This reminds me of a similar product called Yan-Yan that I used to enjoy as a kid. I remember that bringing a Yan-Yan to school elevates your status because all your friends would be crowding around you in the hopes of getting a piece of bread stick dunked in thick chocolate.

Nutella & Go is not a new product. I believe it was released in 2009, but I have only recently seen it in local grocery stores. After sampling a pack, here is what I thought.

What I like:

- Delicious. I might be biased of course - I love Nutella and Ferrero chocolates.
- Cheap thrill. Only about $1.50 a pack.
- Chocolate is thick and creamy. The same consistency you would find in a jar of Nutella spread.
- Convenient. Small enough to fit in lunch boxes, but big in taste.
- Enough chocolate to last (and even outlast) the bread sticks.
- Bread sticks are small enough to dip in the chocolate without breaking them.

What I didn't like:

- 260 calories a pack. Well, this is the price you have to pay for something this good. I imagine I would get more with my usual "spoon out the Nutella from the jar and eat it" ritual so I guess this is worth it. 
- Hard to find in grocery stores. Really? Where are you hiding them?

The Verdict: 

Yes, I will definitely buy them again - if I ever find them! They are great snacks and you won't feel very guilty eating them since there are "bread sticks" with the chocolate (yeah, keep saying that to yourself). Would I recommend them to a friend? Absolutely. 

Disclaimer:  Nutella has been in the news lately for a lawsuit. This post is not sponsored by Nutella. I wrote this post several days ago, but wasn't able to publish it until now.


Lime-Cilantro Rice

This rice dish was an attempt to copy a similar fare that we had from a Mexican restaurant several months ago. It didn't turn out exactly the same, but I always love to experiment and make adjustments to recipes, trying to find that perfect "taste" that my family would like.

Not to say that this dish was a failure - nope. It was delicious. Different, but delicious.

Lately, I have been utilizing my herb garden a lot and making dishes based on what I harvest (and I use that term loosely). This is why I love Spring - it marks the end of frosty days, and I see my plants come back to life. I am pretty excited because there were several sprouts from the pepper plant that hubby started several weeks ago. That was actually the third attempt at growing peppers - twice, we put them in small pots and tried to grow them meticulously but nothing appeared. I thought the seeds were bad, and just before throwing in the towel, hubby tossed the seeds in the pot where my tomatoes used to be. After a few weeks, I saw some slivers of green, and was very happy about it. Still am, actually. I just wish the birds would leave them alone - they seem to enjoy picking at the baby pepper sprouts. Aaargh!

Anyway, back to the dish.  I didn't include the meat recipe - I can't seem to find the paper I wrote the recipe on. :-( But the rice was awesome! And easy to make too! Try it!

What you need: 

1 teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons fresh cilantro
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 1/2 cup water
dash of salt
juice of 1 small lime (or about 2 tablespoons)

What to do: 

Rice cooker method: Place everything in your rice cooker and cook according to manufacturer's instructions. Easy.

Stove top method: In a saucepan, heat oil over low heat. Add uncooked rice and lime juice. Stir. Add water and salt, bring to a full boil.

Cover the pot, turn down to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Using all the juice of one lime might be too tangy. Adjust according to taste.
2. You can also include the zest of the lime for added depth.
3. Instead of water, use chicken stock!


Review: Philadelphia Indulgence (Milk Chocolate)

My neighbor gave me two small crates of strawberries a few weeks ago (yes, this is a long delayed post) and I enjoyed them tremendously. Mostly, I cut the strawberries and made fruit shakes, but the rest I ate with my Philadelphia Indulgence.  Oh, and did I tell you that it was the same neighbor who let me pick some lemons from their tree?

Because Kraft Philadelphia Indulgence was fairly new and still in the introductory phase, they were on sale (BOGO) at our local grocery store. My mother-in-law snagged a pair and I was the lucky recipient of the "Get One" part of the sale (thanks again, Mom!). We got the milk chocolate variety (apparently, the dark chocolate kind was very popular and the store quickly ran out of stock). Here is my two cents worth.

What I liked:

- Good taste. No pretensions - it tasted exactly like cream cheese with chocolate.
- Not overly sweet. 
- Works as a frosting too! Try it with brownies! (Yum!)

What I didn't like:

- The texture is something that might take getting used to. Especially when trying it with fruits.
- 120 calories per serving. I guess I shouldn't be surprised - it IS cream cheese, after all.
- Regular price is about $3 per 8 oz tub. A bit too pricey for me.

The Verdict:

I have mixed feelings about this product. I like it, but am not overly crazy about it. Cream cheese and chocolate seemed like a good idea in cheesecake - but it didn't really translate with the Indulgence. Would I recommend it to a friend? Hmmm... I don't think I will. Would I try it again? Maybe the dark chocolate variant.

P.S. As a thank you to my neighbor, I made this card for her!

Thank you "berry" much!

Visit my shop to see more!



Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

I have to admit - these delightful cookies are not my work. They were baked by my mother-in-law. She followed the recipe from a Quaker Oats box to create these delicious treats. They were so good that I checked my pantry to see if I had butterscotch chips myself, and was so happy to find a pack. Unfortunately, I have not gotten around to baking these yet. I promise I will - unless I think of a better way to make use of the butterscotch chips.

Speaking of Quaker Oats, "Larry" aka the Quaker Oats guy, got a slimmer look lately. He definitely looked healthier. He must be eating better (more oatmeal?).

Anyway, did you know that aside from being a healthy food, oatmeal is also an all-around wheat? You can use it to treat acne (sweet!), neutralize odors, soothe dry or irritated skin, and even to make modelling clay! Wow... time to stock up!

This recipe was adapted from 

What you need:

1 stick + 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
 2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups oats
11 oz package butterscotch chips

Look at those yummy butterscotch chips... *drool*

What to do:

Heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

Using your electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars (brown and granulated) in a large bowl on medium speed. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well to incorporate. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, butterscotch chips and oats. Mix well.

Scoop a tablespoonful of the mixture and place on lined baking pan.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let sit on a cooling rack for about a minute before serving.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Original recipe called for raisins. Feel free to add some if you wish!
2. Always serve with a glass of milk!


Chilled Avocado Treat

I know some of my American readers would probably gag at this drink, especially since avocados are considered more of a veggie here than a fruit. Sure, it goes great with salads, hamburgers, nachos, etc. But really, an avocado is a fruit. Proof? First, it grows on a tree. Second, it has a seed. Third (and probably the most definitive) - it is a ripened ovary of a flower (eeeew).

Not to say that all that falls in one of those categories are fruits - green beans have seeds but they're really not fruits, right? But I promise, an avocado is a fruit, and as such, can be used in a lot of sweet dishes. In fact, Alton Brown - in one of his Good Eats episode - made avocado buttercream frosting. How's that for creativity?

Growing up, an avocado is a fruit and had you said otherwise, I would have laughed in your face. Don't we love it when our moms would mash some avocados and add milk and sugar, then chill it so we can have a refreshing treat on a hot summer day? Or when our neighbors sell avocado ice candy? Or when we just plainly cube some avocado meat, dip it in sugar and pop it in our mouths?  Ahhh, those were the days.

Anyway, this treat reminds me of my mom's chilled avocados, only I prefer it as a drink nowadays. I also love adding a sprig of mint to it - sort of "makes" the taste for me. So before you thumb your nose at this drink, try it first!

What you need: 

1 Haas avocado
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 to 5 pieces ice cubes
4 mint leaves (plus more for garnish)

What to do: 

Scoop out the avocado meat and put them in a blender. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Pulse three or four times for about 5 seconds each, until desired consistency is reached. Pour into a glass and chill for at least 15 minutes. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Enjoy!

Why, hello old blender!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. I prefer mine with a thicker consistency, but if you want yours thin, add more ice cubes.
2. Try honey instead of sugar for a healthy twist. Warning, though - honey usually doesn't mix well with cold drinks. They usually just sit at the bottom of your blender. 
3. Don't like mint? Skip it!
4. You can use regular milk in lieu of evaporated milk. Just add a bit more sugar to your drink.
5. If you are impatient and can't wait to try it - DON'T! It is better chilled!


Dark Chocolate Bird's Nest Cupcakes

This recipe came about because my mother-in-law gave me half a gallon of buttermilk, and some yummy Jordan almonds. I thought it would be a cute Easter cupcake, but it was gone in 2 days. Didn't even make it to Easter eve.

I got the recipe for the cake from Tartelette, but I tweaked it a bit and used some dark cocoa powder. For two reasons - first, I really ran out of regular cocoa powder. And second, I like dark chocolate anyway. So it really was a win-win. ;-)

I wasn't in the mood to whip some frosting from scratch, so I just used a store-bought one. The frosting wasn't really the "star" for me - it was the cake! It was so moist and dark and yummy! I had to stop myself from finishing the batter before I could pour them in the cupcake liners! Yeah. They were THAT good.

Anyway... I originally wanted to make a "nest" using toasted coconuts, but a.) I don't like coconut in desserts and b.) I don't want to make a special trip to the store, so I just used buttercream frosting. I attempted to make "wisps" of some sort, but unfortunately, I used the wrong cake decorating tip so I ended up with a different kind of nest. Oh well. I thought it still looked cute.

What you need: (Yield: 24 cupcakes)

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup hot brewed coffee
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tub (16 oz) buttercream frosting
Jordan almonds
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
few drops of green food color

What to do: 

Using your food processor, coarsely grind chocolate morsels. Place them in a bowl and pour in the hot brewed coffee. Stir until the chocolate morsels melt. Set aside to cool.

Put cake flour in a large bowl. Add by sifting the cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Sift sift sift!

With your mixer in medium speed, beat together the eggs and sugar for about five minutes, or until thick. Add the oil in a continuous stream, then the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and the coffee mixture. Continue beating until well incorporated. Divide the flour mixture in three and add it, a third at a time, to the liquid ingredients while beating. Do so until you have used up all the flour.

Meanwhile, prepare your pans by greasing it with baking spray, or placing cupcake liners into 2 pans. Preheat oven to 300°F.

 Divide batter among cupcake liners. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool on rack.

To prepare your frosting, put about 5 drops of green food color to the tub of buttercream. Mix well. Scoop frosting in piping bags and decorate cupcakes. Top with Jordan almonds.

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Not a fan of dark chocolate? Use 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder instead.
2. Substitute cake flour with all-purpose flour. Just make sure you sift it.
3. If you don't have a food processor, you can just chop the ingredients by hand.
4. Use a regular zip loc bag as a piping bag. Just fill the bag with frosting, seal, then cut a small corner off the bottom. Voila!


Sweet Potato Fries

These were actually the fries that I made along with the Buttermilk Fried Fish to complete the "Fish and Chips" combo. Not very traditional, but definitely healthier than just regular potatoes. Don't get me wrong - I love me some good ole' french fries, but sometimes I like to shake things up a bit.

I was pleased at how my sweet potato fries turned out. Despite the fact that it was baked (not fried), it tasted great and my family loved it. Preparation took longer than I cared for, but in the end, taste won over. I decided not to be lazy and it paid off.

Oddly enough, I never was a fan of camote que (fried sweet potatoes on a stick) as a kid. I would much rather munch on those delicious banana ques (fried plantains on a stick) and pick on the sugar pieces that hardened on the surface. Maybe because the sweet potatoes were a bit "tough" and chewy. Or not as sweet. I don't know. But I have since turned over a new leaf and am loving this tuber now.

What you need: 

1 large sweet potato, peeled
1/2 tablespoon packed brown sugar
dash of salt and pepper
olive oil

What to do: 

Cut sweet potatoes into spears. Put the cut pieces in cold water and let soak for about 30 minutes. Then drain and pat dry.

Taking a dip in the pool!

Place the dried potatoes in a pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil on top of them. Then spread them in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd them.

Sweet Potato: Ugh, some privacy please!

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle on top of sweet potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn over with a spatula or tong. Cook for another 10 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with kosher salt. 

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. The soaking part is important - it takes away the starch from the potato.
2. Patting dry is a pain, but it would make for a crunchy (not soggy!) potato. 
3. Do not add a lot of sugar. Remember, it is called SWEET potato for a reason!
4. Keep an eye on your oven. If your potato pieces aren't cut uniformly, some of them may cook (or burn!) faster than the others.

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