Posted by alisa on September 12, 2011 | 12 Comments
Over the weekend I tested three recipe batches of chocolate granola for Attune (yes, yes, the recipe is coming – in October! I’ll keep you posted) and chocolate muffins for my next cookbook. This week I have several cookies on deck for testing along with round 2 on those muffins (very good, but not perfect) and two loaves of bread. Though I definitely don’t eat all of these goodies myself (no, I share the calories with my husband and neighbor), a lot of baking means a lot of tea consumption for me.
To say that I love herbal tea would be a dramatic understatement. I have at least five different types of herbal tea on hand at all times, so this weekend when I was down to just two, it was time to go shopping. Thanks to grocery sales coupled with some Yogi Tea and Tazo Tea coupons from Mambo Sprouts, I repacked my tea box with all of these …
Yogi Ginger Tea used to be a staple in my tea box, but I actually haven’t had it in months. I’m looking forwad to enjoying this spicy one again.
Yogi Vanilla Tahitian Tea is a new one to me. I like it. Mellow, notably vanilla, and lightly sweetened with stevia. Not my favorite, but not bad.
This Rooibos is a nice one, simple but bold.
Stash Mellow Moments I’m still indifferent on. I like having a nighttime tea around, and this one isn’t bad, but I think I still like Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile better.
Tazo Refresh is our favorite mint tea, and probably one of the only herbal teas that my caffeine-loving husband will drink. A nice natural pick-me-up sans caffeine.
I still need to hop on the making my own tea blend bandwagon, and also buy some teas in bulk since I do have a diffuser now.
Do you drink herbal teas? What are your favorites?
I’m off to work off some of that chocolate right NOW! After seeing that this is being released …
… I knew it was time to get my rear in gear. Today is the first day of P90X round 3 for me. The first round I did was almost three years ago (yikes!). It was amazing. I did a second round about 18 months ago that was a bit half-assed (okay, cutting myself some slack, it was more like three quarters-assed). But I’m ready to do this full force, and this time I’m trialing the Lean routine. Once I’ve conquered this again (expected end date Dec. 3), I’ll have earned the right to beg my husband for P90X-2 for Christmas.
How do you stay active in the cooler months?
(Two new recipes this week, stay tuned!)
Posted by alisa on March 17, 2011 | No Comments
I’m a guest blogger at Attune Foods today. I’m discussing Making Healthy Changes and would love your feedback!
You can view my whole post and comment Here on Attune Foods! Thanks!
Posted by alisa on February 9, 2011 | 60 Comments
It is so easy to forget that any food that comes in a package was derived from somewhere. Apples don’t magically dehydrate on trees, nuts don’t shed their shells and roast in the afternoon sun, and grains don’t simply turn into a floury dust without some coaxing. But all of these processes can be done quite easily in your own home.
For what seems like ages, I had been avoiding certain recipes because I simply didn’t want to invest in more gluten-free flours. My local grocer doesn’t carry several of them, which means ordering online, paying shipping, etc. Also, to get a fair price, you really need to buy in bulk, and I didn’t even know if I would like their taste and texture.
Then I had that big “Aha” moment … you know, the one where you feel like a total idiot for not thinking of it prior … the flours come from whole grains, right? Why now simply grind them up and home! So, so simple.
Within minutes, I had just enough quinoa flour (from my stash of quinoa) and millet flour (yes, I love millet, so it is in my cupboard) for my recipes. Believe it or not, all this took was 20 seconds in my handy-dandy, cheapo spice grinder. And isn’t that the freshest flour you have ever seen?
I know what some of you are thinking though … was it fine enough? Did it perform well? Yes, and yes! It worked perfectly in the recipes, producing a wonderful taste and texture … I’m venturing the flours were as good as store-bought.
You can also make nut “flours” in your spice grinder, and contrary to popular belief, they perform just as well. To test, I baked two identical batches of almond flour banana muffins, one using a very popular blanched almond flour brand, and one using unblanched “raw” almonds that I ground in my spice grinder. They were near impossible to tell apart, and my homegrind muffins were actually the winner! They rose a bit more and had a slightly bolder flavor (since the almonds had the skins on, I assume). I also make cashew flour often, as it is one of the lower fat nuts, and powders easily.
Some flours are a bit harder to make than others as the product needs to be dried and possibly defatted in some fashion first (ie coconut flour – though I will be working on it!), but you can actually make wheat, spelt, oat, and a variety of other flours to order with nothing but a spice grinder (or maybe a food processor or high powered blender if you’ve got one – but I like the ability to make small amounts with the spice grinder) and the whole grains.
Do you make your own flours at home? If so, which ones work well for you?
Posted by alisa on January 11, 2011 | 9 Comments
Thanks for all of your tips too on my money-saving organics post. Keep ‘em coming!
Now onto another great value … I love that I’m on the “deal announcement” email for Whole Foods. I haven’t been the best about keeping up with some of the corporate blogs as of late, so this little update helps. So just in case you haven’t heard yet …
“Whole Foods Market will have fresh tilapia on sale for $4.99/pound this Friday, Jan. 14 – that’s nearly half off its everyday price. At that price, you can cook some up this weekend and freeze the rest for an easy late winter or springtime dinner.
Best of all, you can feel good about serving our tilapia to your family because it’s raised by our supplier partners to meet our strict farmed seafood standards, which happen to be the highest in the industry. Whole Foods Market quality standards prohibit antibiotics, added growth hormones, preservatives such as sulfites, and poultry and mammalian byproducts in feed. Plus, we have extensive requirements for protecting water quality, wildlife, and sensitive habitats such as mangrove forests. And, all farms must pass a third-party audit to ensure our standards are met. More here: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/products/aquaculture.php.
Little known fact: our tilapia is different than the rest because our standards prohibit the use of methyltestosterone – a hormone used by many tilapia farmers to grow all male fish. This allows for more growth, as the fish direct their energy to grow larger, rather than reproduce. Our supplier partners, however, let the fish reproduce and grow naturally and sort the males and females by hand.
Whether it’s a sweet tilapia fillet quickly broiled with fresh citrus and Kalamata olives or a zesty baked tilapia fillet with a Southwestern bite, tilapia is a winner for a simple, high protein meal on a budget.”
And for that “high protein meal” they offered some RECIPES …
Whole Foods is a trek for me, so I will be missing that Friday sale, but hopefully some of you can take advantage!
Posted by alisa on January 10, 2011 | 13 Comments
I’ve known it for years, you’ve likely heard it dozens of times in your life, but let’s face it, most of us are often a bit too timid to utilize this sage advice or it simply doesn’t occur to us at opportune times …
Don’t Ask Don’t Get
Over the past year I’ve made a conscious effort to remind myself of this phrase everytime I want something. I take a breath, and just go for it. I might blog, I might write and publish books, I might be able to speak in front of large groups, but like many of you, I come from a very shy place. This bold and brazen approach has taken some getting used to, but I can guarantee it pays off.
This past month alone I could rattle off at least a dozen times where this advice has resulted in exactly what I wanted (though this isn’t always the case, there wasn’t a single rejection to my requests, and people couldn’t have been friendlier), but today I want to talk about how this strategy can help you buy better quality food. Starting with an example …
If I lived alone, my food allowance would likely be a bigger part of my budget. But, to my husband, food holds equal importance to say, phone bills, and should be analyzed according … best value (quality) for the money, but not simply paying more for quality. It has to be “worth it.” When boneless skinless chicken breasts are on sale for $1.99 per lb, there is no way he will let me purchase the organic ones for $7.99 per lb. But, if they are discounted to a certain point, say $2.99 per lb, he can see the value and we upgrade.
The other day our grocer had an abundance of organic chicken that was slated to expire in two days, so about a dozen packages were marked down to $3.99 per lb. Shoot, still above the husband’s threshhold. So what did we do? We asked. We gave the butcher an option. We politely approached him, mentioned how a few weeks ago they had a couple packages marked all the way down to $1.99 per lb (this was the truth mind you!), and said, “We’ll take all of those packages off your hands if you will mark them down to $1.99 per lb.” You know what? He did it! Before you start throwing in the buts, this was a traditional, conventional large grocery chain … not a specialty or natural food store. Also, he wasn’t the manager, he was a regular employee who felt empowered enough that he could help us out. He knew that all of that chicken wasn’t going to sell in the next two days and that it would go to waste … better to sell it all at a bigger discount.
We have begun doing this sort of thing more and more with natural and organic foods to also help increase demand and hopefully bring down prices … possibly even making organic the new norm … how cool would that be?
To some it may sound like we got a steal, but the fact is, we helped all of that organic chicken sell through (if the chicken is repeatedly thrown out, the store would probably stop ordering it). Plus, we showed that there will be a bigger demand for the product at a lower price.
Other things you can do and consider to increase quality options:
- Always, and I mean always, compare prices of organic vs non-organic. Even my husband is okay with paying $.89 for organic green onion vs $.69 for conventional. Decide your threshhold for value. And, organic could actually be cheaper! Just this week I purchased a head of organic cauliflower which was $1 less than the conventional head (which was also smaller)! Yes, sometimes you can save money by choosing organic. Buying in-season will also help ensure that you are getting local or at least domestic produce at that lower price, bonus!
- If you don’t see a product, request it. My local grocer had a brand of organic milk alternative advertised as on sale, but I couldn’t find it on the shelves. When I inquired, they said, “Oh, we have some in the back, let me know how much you need.” That inventory would have sat in the back and registered as unsold, but because I requested it, they brought some out to the shelves so it would actually sell!
- Also, if the grocer simply doesn’t carry the food or product, they can and likely will start ordering it if you request it.
- Always keep in mind the idea of supply vs demand. The more we demand of higher quality products, the lower the prices will become. I’ve watched it for years. Seldom heard of fruits like pomegranates catch on, and the price drops from $3.99 each to $1.99 each. Fresh dates gain in popularity and suddenly my grocer adds them to their “bulk” fresh produce options with a much lower price than pre-packaged. People raise alarm about the “dirty dozen” and now I can buy organic apples from Washington for the same price as conventional. Do not underestimate your power. Consumers speak with dollars and companies listen.
I live in a remote mountain area, so these tips are especially for those of you who may not have many options for a garden, farmers market, big natural food stores, or direct from the ranch purchasing. If you have any of those, even better!
What are your money-saving ideas for good quality food? I would love to hear them!
Also, check out this great post at Elana’s Pantry: Michael Ruhlman: Why I Cook. Both Elana and Michael are true leaders in the food revolution.
Posted by alisa on December 31, 2010 | 12 Comments
Do you ever watch a really good movie or read a fantastic book and feel like you have no one to tell? Since I do my best to stick to recipes and avoid company-sponsored reviews on Alisa Cooks, I always hesitate to write about something besides a recipe. But … that is all changing now … yes, I know, it isn’t even 2011 yet and I’m already going on the resolutions, I’m crazy like that.
The focus of this blog will stay the say … revolving around food, my kitchen, and recipes, but I will be posting more often on various foodie topics and I have started a Favorites Section on this blog. This is not a links page, but rather my honest to goodness, totally unbiased recommendations of things I love. There are various categories, and I will add to it whenever something new that rocks my world pops onto (or back onto) my radar. The favorites include books/cookbooks, foods, movies, kitchen stuff, fitness stuff, etc.
So go, now, checkout the new Alisa’s Favorites Tab (above), read, and let me know your favorites in the comments too!
My good bloggy friends Katie and Lori have just posted their favorites too! What can I say, we all just love to hear ourselves talk share.
From the party-animal Fleming household … Happy New Year!!!
Posted by alisa on December 12, 2010 | 19 Comments
For fun, I thought I would post up some of my favorite “small but insanely thoughtful” gift ideas. Some of these items are things I am gifting to my family this year, and some are simply on my own wish list. Note that this is a completely unbiased list. No disclaimers are required here as no one has sent me any of these products, but I won’t complain if they do!
Please pipe up with comments on some favorite gifts you are giving or hope to receive. I would love to hear your ideas (I’m not done gift-buying yet!) and personal picks too …
Anything by Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up just might be heading to a special niece.
Food Matters and The Food Matters Cookbook have my interest peaked.
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters is a classic in my opinion.
Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is one of those giant tombs – I can’t bring myself to buy it for myself, but inevitably pick it up every time I’m at the book store to glance through.
The Flavor Bible is definitely a top priority on my wish list.
The foodie books above are all on my “wish” list. For some of my current special diet favorites, see my Top 10 Cookbooks list.
The Blind Side was truly a Sandra Bullock best.
The Bourne Series shows why Matt Damon should always play features in action and drama movies.
Avatar is like Pixar for grown-ups – fun, adventurous, and a little sappy.
Iron Man (1 or 2) makes me grateful for Robert Downey’s comeback!
Harry Potter (and or all), come’ on you know you like them too.
Crowd Pleasers Puzzles are the ultimate in fun for this jigsaw geek.
Pretty but Practical Stuff:
Holly Yashi jewelry is awesome, and so fairly priced for the quality.
Envirosax reusable bags for all that grocery shopping! Seriously, I’m addicted to reusable bags and totes.
Good Morning Mugs are nice and big (I have a jumbo mug addiction), and I love the way it looks like they are shouting at you.
Cosmoda has the most stylish insulated lunch totes I have ever seen (one pictured below)
Pier 1 Porcelain Dishes come in a whole bunch of cute but simple little designs that are perfect for dessert (or food photos).
Kiss My Face Sheer Organic Shine Lip Gloss has been seen in little gift packs in stores and is naturally luscious. I love the simple ingredients (reads like a healthy nutrition label!) and the more grown-up vibe.
Writersblok Bamboo Mini Notebooks or so perfect for making shopping lists, jotting down recipe ideas, and taking notes in the kitchen. Love the eco-friendly edge too.
French Coffee Press - We bought this French Press at Cost Plus for Tony over a year ago and he still uses it daily. Pleasing to look at on the counter and it makes a darn good cup of coffee.
More For Foodies:
Analon Baking Sheets (or other bakeware) are the shiznit.
Kitchen Scales are not only handy, but addicting. I measure everything. I own a Salter (mine is old and the model is discontinued) and this cheapy – both work great! Tony actually prefers the cheapy.
Smiley Face Measuring Spoons would seriously take my baking up another notch in cheerfulness. I couldn’t help but smile when I spotted these.
Penzey’s Spices, so I have heard (yes, these are on my wish list), are amazing and quite attractive for gift-giving to boot!
Chopsticks are a fun gift for fans of sushi and Asian food in general. I’ve always got an eye out for a good dishwasher safe set – yes, dishwashing is my least favorite chore!
Seriously, I could go on all day on food gifts. This is just a short list of some favorites that quickly came to mind. Keep an eye on Go Dairy Free as I review indulgent stuff there all the time. Yes, life is rough.
Premium Chocolatiers makes the best dairy-free chocolate assortments in my opinion (with “milk” and white options too! – gluten-free & nut-free).
Enjoy Life Boom Choco Boom Bars are awesome stocking stuffers. I eat mostly dark, dark chocolate, but their Rice Milk bars are a special treat when I’m craving something sweeter. All made in a gluten-free and allergy-free facility too!
Liz Lovely Cookies are still tops from all that I have reviewed, vegan or not (yes, they offer some tasty gluten-free cookies too!).
Tea is always high on my list, and these Numi Tea Mini Bamboo Boxes and Numi Organic Tea Bamboo Treasure Chests caught my eye as awesome gifts.
Peanut Butter & Co. Flavored Peanut Butters look unreal. Yes, I’m probably the only recipe blogger out there who still hasn’t tried them. They offers some fun gift packs too.
This really is just the tip of the iceberg (I googled that word to double check the spelling – do you ever google when blogging to check these kind of things?). But, I should probably get to some work, so tell me your ideas and wishes …
Posted by alisa on November 19, 2010 | 20 Comments
I could use some of your creative brain power. I need to make a few recipes with these …
They are awesome (I will be writing about them soon), but my ideas are running up short. What recipes might you like to see me make with these chocolate chips? Though chocolate chip cookies are my all time favorite dessert, that is probably a bit too ordinary of a concept. I need something somewhat seasonal, something that uses easy to find ingredients. I will be making the recipe dairy-free, so an old idea made new is a possibility too. Any ideas?
Not to steal Katie’s weather thunder, but oh my goodness …
Guess who’s going to be baking cookies (hopefully chocolate chip filled ones!) and drinking hot tea (INDOORS) for the next three days. My eyes went first to the snow (and, um that “white out” picture was a new one for me – looks like excellent driving conditions), but then I spotted the temperatures. A HIGH of 21 degrees in November? Get out the thermals and the warm fuzzy blankets, crank up the oven, and find those slippers, Alisa is officially going into early season hibernation.
Just like I hope this mama and teenage baby are doing right now …
They were in our backyard last week having a snooze pretty well all day. This photo was taken from the other side of our sliding glass door … we aren’t insane you know! The little guy was actually snoozing and rolling around back there for several hours without a care in the world. Mama joined him later for some chill time.
Our photos of mama when she was moving didn’t come out so well, but you can see a little more of her cute face here …
She is HUGE! Seriously, the picture doesn’t tell. Her little one was about the size of me (but probably double the weight), but she was gosh, I don’t know, at least 400 to 500 lbs or so. Not as big as the 700 lb bear vandal that likes to break into garages and churches and steal peanut butter (seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up!), but pretty big. Mama was tagged already, so here’s hoping they are back in the mountains now.
Posted by alisa on November 15, 2010 | 21 Comments
You might not guess it to look at my many chocolate (and usually peanut butter) inspired posts, but I’m a vanilla girl. I didn’t even like chocolate until some strange metamorphosis happened in my late twenties. But, even as much as I have grown to adore (large) squares of dark chocolate, vanilla is still my first love.
And though the temperature may be dipping its toes below freezing, cool-weather desserts (pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie … need I say more?) just aren’t complete without a nice big scoop, or three, or vanilla ice cream (yes, shakes and ice cream – I was a summer dessert crazy lady this past week! I just can’t let go). Perhaps I should be making my own … but, that small and ill-designed freezer I am currently living with has not an inch for our ice cream maker. Not to mention, they keep putting the darn stuff on sale at our local grocer making it impossible for me to not put a pint, or three, in our cart.
I recently confessed our guilty love for a certain cheap brand … yes, for us it’s taste and texture, however processed, still kicked the pants off of store-bought coconut milk ice cream. But fortunately, I think I have found an equally suitable alternative with slightly more virtuous ingredients. And the blessing in disguise part is that it costs more money … so I’m not as likely to buy a pint, or three, of it every week.
Truth be told, I was actually hesitant to buy this brand of vanilla. While we loved the Tempt Chocolate Fudge, as it turned out the Mint Chip just wasn’t quite right. It was a touch icy, very (very) minty, and the overall flavor just did melt nicely onto our taste buds. Since I sensed a vanilla base in the Mint Chip version, I feared that the vanilla would fall to the same fate.
Fortunately, Tempt Vanilla Ice Cream is smooth, creamy, and incredibly rich with vanilla. Even after suffering a drastic melt and refreeze, there were no ice crystals, no chunkies … mind you it was hard-packed, and I nearly needed an ice pick to pry some loose, but it still melted like a creamy dream on my tongue. And it was delicious! At least in my opinion. The flavor, not unlike Tofutti, is certainly different from traditional dairy ice cream, but rich and tasty in its own right.
This entire pint serviced a big batch of chunky apple crisp that I made to use up some nearly expired granny smiths. Sorry, no recipe for this particular crisp, it was a throw together. But, I won’t leave you hanging. Try these …
- The crisp above was based on my recipe for Crumbly Maple Apple Crisp. This is my favorite crisp recipe to-date, and also my dad’s. We are both maple and oat lovers.
- Traditional sugar fiends, like my grandma and husband may prefer Grandma’s Easy Apple Crisp.
I also sampled the Coffee Biscotti flavor, but it is strictly for coffee fans. I really do not like the taste of coffee (yep, seriously), but some of those mocha-ish “ice creams” that are labeled as coffee make the grade. This wasn’t a mocha-flavor, it was a true coffee flavor with cookie-like chocolate chunks throughout. Perfect for all of you recovering Starbucks-aholics, but not for these herbal tea taste buds.
The only other current flavor of Tempt is Coconut Lime – but I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy it. I love coconut, but am seriously on burn-out from the very concept of coconut ice cream!
To note, taste-wise, I’m not a fan of agave nectar and neither is my husband, which could be one of the reasons the coconut milk ice cream isn’t our cup of tea (all major brands seem to be sweetened with agave). Tempt is sweetened with organic sugar. This to me, just fits better.
Have you tried any dairy-free ice cream? Any raves or rants?
Posted by alisa on November 2, 2010 | 10 Comments
So this month’s Amazon sales have popped up, and there appears to be some good deals, but honestly, I need a little help in deciding this month. Here are items I am considering:
Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour – It comes out to about $7.30 for 4-24oz packages ($1.22 per lb), much cheaper than I can buy it locally. But, can anyone comment on the quality? Do you like it? I know Authentic Foods is the best, but it is also way out of my budget for such a product, so I’d love to know if Bob’s is next best.
Note: There are loads of Bob’s Red Mill products on sale this month. I can personally recommend the coconut flour, which I bought on Amazon and have been pleased with, but they even have certified gf oats on sale. I would avoid the almond flour, which I have read is way too coarse.
Coombs Organic Maple Syrup – Comes out to $14.85 for a 32oz jug (or $7.43 per lb). This is the maple syrup I usually buy, but I have lost touch with maple syrup prices. Is this still a good value? Is it cheaper at TJ’s or elsewhere online. Love the quality of this maple syrup, but I think it is more expensive now.
Yogi Herbal Tea – I need some new teas, and have always liked this brand. Any recommendations on the herbal/caffeine free versions? Good Earth Tea is also on sale, but I’m a bit burnt out on them. Their Green/White Tea is excellent though if you like that type!
Okay, any thoughts? Any other awesome deals you see here that I shouldn’t live without? I’m amping up for recipe testing and for gift baskets, so your opinions are welcomed! Thank you!