Tag Archive | Food

New Plant-Based Pastas from Explore Cuisine!

Explore Cuisine Packages Display
All Photos By Gail

There is no denying that Pasta is a popular go-to ingredient for creating quick, versatile and delicious meals to please any palate. For Pasta Lovers who may have had to eliminate this tasty staple from their diets due to a gluten intolerance, there are now many gluten-free pasta options on the market that make it possible for everyone to indulge. Explore Cuisine has a line of organic pastas made from beans and other plants that are a great place to start when you want to prepare a tasty, healthy meal for yourself or your family. Take a  look at a few of the super quick and easy dinners that I’ve recently prepared for myself with Explore Cuisine Pastas and absolutely no advanced planning!

Edamame Spaghetti Package

I bet that you had no idea that Edamame, familiar to most as the little green soybeans that everyone likes to nosh on before the meal at Japanese restaurants, can be use to make some of the most delicious pasta you will ever taste. Explore Cuisine makes a few different varieties of Edamame pasta, including everyone’s favorite; spaghetti.

Edamame Spaghetti Package

Edamame Spaghetti can be used in all of your favorite recipes as a substitute for wheat-based pasta. You might find that you like it even better, and it’s good to know that Explore Cuisine’s Edamame Spaghetti contains nearly half of your daily protein and fiber requirements in just one serving!

Edamame Spaghetti Serving Suggestion

I made an easy and scrumptious Primavera by adding frozen mixed vegetables that I had on hand, and tossing the pasta in butter, salt and pepper to taste.

Edamame Spaghetti Serving Suggestion

Then I covered it with cheese, which is how I like my pasta!

Chickpea Fusillii Package

Explore Cuisine also specializes in a line of Pulse Pastas; a term that may be unfamiliar to you. Pulses are part of the legume family, and the term ‘pulse’ refers to the dried seed. Dried peas, dried beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses. Pulses are very high in protein and fiber, antioxidants, and low in fat! This where Explore Cuisine’s Organic Chickpea Fusilli comes in.

Chickpea Fusilli

Chickpea Fusilli is a healthy and delicious mealtime choice that contains only four organic, whole food ingredients. This pasta also contains 11g of protein and nearly 20% of your daily dietary fiber requirement per serving. With its soft and supple texture, and mild taste, Chickpea fans will be in Heaven!

Chickpea Fusilli Serving Suggestion

Since this pasta is a bit more sturdy than the spaghetti, I topped it with Trader Joe’s frozen meatballs and jarred sauce. Delicious and satisfying!

Red Lentil Penne Package

Red Lentil Penne is also a pulse pasta. With the smooth texture of flour pasta and the benefits of lentils, the Red Lentil Penne is a fantastic choice for any penne based pasta dish. Comprised of only two ingredients, Red Lentil Penne pasta is  protein rich  and a good source of fiber. Organic, gluten-free and free of GMOs, it’s pasta reinvented!

Red Penne Pasta Serving Suggestion

Here is the penne topped with a light tomato vodka sauce and a dollop of creamy cottage cheese (you could also use Ricotta, if you had that on hand). Out of this world delish!

Explore Cuisine Packages Display

Explore Cuisine’s Italian style pastas were created in the Apulia region of Italy, which is famed for being the home of pasta. Explore Cuisine worked side by side with pasta masters and professional chefs to deliver the authentic taste and texture of the best Italian pasta but made with the goodness of chickpeas and lentils.

Learn more about Explore Cuisine foods, and get recipes, at This Link!

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How to Get The Most Out Of Your Kitchen!

Woman in Kitchen
Image Source

Your Kitchen should be so much more than a space for chores and microwave meals: it should also be a place in your home that you go to for fun and relaxation. It  If you feel guilty about leaving your kitchen in neglect, now is the time to turn things around. There are plenty of exciting ways for you to engage with this space. Below are four suggestions to get you started!

Making Cocktails

Prepare Your Own Cocktails

If you are someone who loves to spend time socializing with your friends, you should think about making your own cocktails. This is a brilliant way for you to save money and to create drinks that are perfectly suited to your tastes. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be a complicated process. You can start off with incredibly simple recipes and then work your way up to more complicated concoctions. If you have an eye for interior design, you could even treat yourself to a vintage drinks cart or invest in beautiful glassware. Just imagine how impressed your loved ones will be if you are able to prepare their beverages from scratch.

Home Brewing

Make Your Own Beer

Another great idea, for lovers of alcohol, is to use your kitchen to brew your own beer. Home Brewing is a wonderfully creative opportunity for you to make a product that you are truly proud of. Once you are happy with your recipe, you should consider sharing your beer with your loved ones. You could even think about setting up your own business. Why not start by designing custom beer labels online? This is a free and simple way for you to upgrade your bottles.

Prepare Your Meals From Scratch

Even if you are far from a culinary expert, you should still have a go at preparing your meals from scratch. There are plenty of cost-effective and simple dishes that you can prepare in under ten minutes. Once you have mastered the basics, you can start experimenting with unusual flavors and ingredients. You could also start to create your own recipes instead of following someone else’s. Then, you could celebrate your progress by hosting a dinner party or throwing a party!

Edible Gifts

Make Your Own Edible Gifts

Alternatively, you could spend time in your kitchen making edible gifts. Home-made gifts the perfect option for anyone who is operating on a tight budget. However, even if money is no object, home-made gifts are still a brilliant way for you to show your loved ones just how much you care. You could start by preparing do-it-yourself kits for hot chocolates, gingerbread houses, and cookies. Then, you could have fun completing your own projects. Finally, you should have a go at combining all of your skills. Why not create a gift basket that is filled with a DIY cocktail set, a selection of your home-made brews, your favorite recipe cards, and a generous helping of edible treats? What better way to get the most out of your kitchen?

Product Review: Muuna Cottage Cheese

Cottage Cheese Pyramid
All Photos By Gail

Hey, do you like Cottage Cheese? I sure do. I grew up in a household whose refrigerator was never without a container of cottage cheese. Because Cottage Cheese is Awesome. When I was a small child, my Mom would give me and my brother cottage cheese mixed with canned fruit as a snack, and we just loved it. Cottage Cheese with Pineapple has been a thing forever, but now Muuna, a new, innovative food company, has launched a line of healthy and delicious cottage cheese products with a variety of fresh fruit chunks already mixed in.  Attention Cottage Cheese Fans: this is cause for excitement!

Muuna is on a mission to change the way consumers think about cottage cheese, having re-imagined this dairy favorite in single-serve cups of melt-in-your-mouth creamy and protein-rich cottage cheese with delicious pieces of fruit, including Strawberry, Blueberry, Pineapple, Peach and Mango. Kill me! Each 5.3oz cup contains  15 grams of protein and only 130 calories. Muuna also offers its single-serve cups in Lowfat Plain, which has 19 grams of protein and 120 calories.

Blueberry Cup

Muuna Cottege Cheese with Fruit has already replaced fruited yogurt as my go-to office snack or lite breakfast. Here I am about to enjoy the Blueberry variety at my desk.

Blueberry Fruit

The above photo was minimally art directed to show the creaminess of Muuna cottage cheese. The fruit is on the bottom of the cup so you can stir it up to blend.

Mango Container

Mango is my personal favorite, because it tastes like you just cut up a fresh, sweet mango and tossed it into the container!

Muuna Peach Cottage Cheese

Look at this beautiful stuff. Just look at it. The contrast of the juicy fruit pieces and firm, tiny curds create an exceptionally delightful mouth feel that makes Muuna Cottage Cheese, dare I say it, fun to eat!

Breakfast Toast
Serving Suggestion

Here is one of my weekend breakfasts at home: a tasty cup of Muuna Strawberry Cottage Cheese, and toast with berry jam. Mmm, yummy! All Muuna products contain zero high fructose corn syrup, no artificial sweeteners, and are also free of artificial flavors and colors. Not to mention (but you can see I am about to) Muuna is gluten free and certified kosher.

Plain Varieties

Muuna has also launched two multi-serve varieties: Classic Plain Cottage Cheese, with 4% milk fat, and Lowfat Plain, with just 2% percent milk fat.

Plain Cottage Cheese Serving Suggestion

I enjoy regular Muuna Cottage Cheese by itself, and also as a side dish (or even an ingredient!) for lots of savory dishes such as Pasta and Mexican food. It is so delicious, no matter when or how you eat it!

Meatball Dinner

The New Way to Cottage

Visit Muuna online at This Link for more information on their products and to find a store in your area that sells Muuna Cottage Cheese!

Yes, It Exists: Place Setting Place Mats By Stephen Shore

Place Mats by Steven Shore
All Photos By Gail

The International Center of Photography in New York sold these Bob’s Your Uncle disposable placemats, featuring photographer Stephen Shore’s images of food and plates, in 2007, when the institution hosted a survey of Shore’s work that had toured throughout Europe and the US.

Photographed as Part of the Stephen Shore Career Retrospective, on Exhibit Through May 28th, 2018 at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Place Mats by Steven Shore

Cocina Del Sur: A South American Grill Specializing in Healthy Indulgence!

Eat What Makes You Happy Signage
All Photos By Gail

As we become increasingly health conscious when it comes to dining out, the concept of fast food that can be prepared on-demand from fresh ingredients has been popularized by chains like Chipotle, and Moe’s, among others. It’s no accident that these restaurants feature southwestern flavors, because — let’s face it — Mexican food is awesome, and the variety of preferred-ingredient combinations is almost endless. Who misses a Burger when you can do a Burrito Bowl dozens of different ways? What’s really fun and exciting for a foodie like me is to see the Chipotle model emulated to expand beyond Mexican into tasty Mediterranean and Latin cuisines. Recently, I was invited to visit Cocina Del Sur, a midtown fast-casual restaurant specializing in Latin dining that is both healthy and indulgent. Let’s check it out!

Store View from Front Door

Aside from the food, the Latin flare extends to the music and decor of the restaurant, which customers seem to enjoy.

Menu Interior

Open since 2016, owner Ronny Abenhaim draws on his South American roots to create Cocina Del Sur’s simple menu of fresh and vibrantly flavorful ingredients. Ronny explains, “although Cocina Del Sur has a bit of every country in South America, it has a heavy Colombian influence since that’s were I grew up. You can find many of my childhood favorite dishes and ingredients on the menu.”

Diners can custom-build a meal from two basic starter options: a Plate, which includes your choice of two side dishes and a sauce for $10.95; or a Salad or Bowl, which includes a base of Lettuce, Rice or Quinoa, plus three additional ingredients and one sauce for $8.95. A selection of seven different proteins, with choices like grilled organic chicken, organic tofu, and grass-fed hangar steak can be added to your meal for a nominal extra charge ($1.00 to $4.50). All meats are brined and marinated overnight to be extra flavorful and tender.

Front Counter Ordering

If this seems confusing at all, the staff is very friendly (on my visit I met Kevin and Daisy, who are both really nice and excited to be working with Ronny at Cocina Del Sur), and they will be happy to explain how ordering works or to answer any questions about how the food is prepared.

Sauces
Customize your level of spice with a choice of sauces that include Green Chimichurri, Pico Del Gallo, House BBQ, Tomatillo (with little Avocado in it), Chili Pepper, Mango Salsa, or the House Dressing.

Chicken and Rice Plate
Pictured: Bowl with Cilantro Rice and topped with Organic Grilled Chicken, Roasted Corn, Black Beans, Fried Onions and Sliced Avocado. Amazingly Delicious!

On my visit, I brought along my foodie friend Anne and we had fun customizing our meals from so many delicious options. I chose the Bowl option (pictured above) with a base of cilantro rice, with roasted corn, black beans, crispy fried onions as my ingredients, and garden-fresh pico de gallo as my sauce (total $8.95). I then added the organic grilled Chicken ($1.00) and a sliced half ($2.00), which brought my total to just $11.95 for  a huge, healthy and delicious meal!

Steak and Rice

Anne also chose a bowl with cilantro rice, roasted corn (which is cut from the cob after roasting in-house), caramelized onions and black beans, adding sliced, grass-fed hanger steak to her meal for an additional $3.00, bringing her total to $11.95 as well. If you dine regularly at Chipotle, Chop’t or Sweet Green you can see that Cocina Del Sur’s prices are very competitive.

Trio of Salsas

Anne chose the Green Chmichurri sauce, which goes so well with hanger steak, and they gave us an extra Pico De Gallo to share! You can see how fresh it is. “The sauces are what takes you to a certain country in South America,” Ronny explains. “What sauce you add to your meal is kind of what decides ‘which ride you will take.’ For this reason, everything is made from scratch, chopped and prepped in house; since our lunch hours are very busy, nothing stays on the shelves for long and everything feels very fresh. We don’t own freezers or microwaves and we don’t allow cans in our kitchen. We use seasonal and quality ingredients to get better flavor and keep the menu healthy.”

Sweet Plantains

We also ordered a side of Sweet Plantains ($3.50) to share. These plump plantains were fried up just the way we like them: sweet, moist and tender and just slightly caramelized on the outside. Perfect!

Juices Sign

If you want to add a healthy beverage to your meal, why not try one of Cocina Del Sur’s fresh juices, which are a specialty that Ronny wanted to have on the menu, as they are made with exotic fruits imported  from South America. “Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil are right on the equator line,” Ronny explained, “so the climate is perfect for all the delicious, exotic  fruits in the world. Growing up, I would have breakfast and lunch accompanied always by a different juice freshly made in the blender minutes before. I can’t always find Passion fruit, Guanabana, Honeydew, Watermelon, Mango, Blackberry, Nispero, Lulo, Tamarind here in the US, so the fresh juices is the only category on the menu where we are always looking for ways to bring these beautiful fruit flavors from South America.”

Blackberry Juice

I tried the Blackberry Juice, made with a Colombian Blackberry which is a bit different in color and flavor from the Blackberry in the states. Ronny described it as being “like a combination of a raspberry and a blackberry,” which is flash frozen at its peak ripeness, then vacuum sealed and sent to the restaurant. The juice was sweet and light and very refreshing. All juices are $5.50 and come in a bottle for grab-and-go-convenience.

Hallway

Our order was ready in about ten minutes and we sat at one of the small tables in front to dig in to our Latin feasts! Everything in the bowl was bursting with fresh flavor! The rice was fluffy, the black beans tender from hours of slow-cooking, and the corn had that just-picked sweetness with a subtle roasted flavor, while the crispy texture of the fried onions added such a perfect compliment to the other flavors. The very generous portion of creamy avocado was perfectly ripe as well. Most importantly, the chicken was grilled to perfection, moist and tender.

Steak and Rice

Anne also loved her meal and noted that the hanger steak was perfectly cooked: seared on the outside and just a little pink in the center. If you’ve eaten food that is so good, you wish you could eat the plate, that is how I felt about my meal at Cocina Del Sur. Eating their health but undeniably indulgent food made me feel comforted and happy, but also excited about a return visit! “Our customers tell us how fresh and flavorful the food is at Del Sur,”says Ronny. “In Midtown, it’s hard to find good food at a decent price, and served quickly, so we can offer a freshly-made, healthy meal for around $15 dollars in under 15 minutes. And our menu is so flexible, you can visit us 30 days in a row and have a different meal every day!” Asked what he enjoys most about operating Cocina Del Sur, Ronny didn’t hesitate, “I get to do what I love, and I get to feed a lot of people each day and remind them that it is food that makes them happy!”

Catering Sign

Cocina Del Sur can also cater your Holiday party! Contact them at the email address or phone number shown above to get all the details!

Cocina Del Sur is Located at 40 West 38th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues) in NYC. Hours are from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Friday (Closed Weekends). Connect with them online at Del Sur Dot Com and Follow them on Instagram at @delsurnyc! You can order from them on Seamless as well!

Pick Up Here Sign

Wall Paper Design

Product Review: So Right Frozen Entrees!

So Right Frozen Entrees
All Photos By Gail

Working peeps know this much: buying lunch in the office cafeteria, or out on the street, provides you with a greater variety of tasty meal choices, but it can get pricey over the course of a week. The thing is, bringing lunch from home isn’t always an enticing option for those of us who don’t cook, and who don’t want to be stuck with a boring sandwich every day. We all want good taste and variety, but we want to save a little cash also. This is where So Right’s recently introduced line of  single-serve frozen entrees comes in!

So Right microwave meals (from Bellisio Foods)  are made with 100 percent natural ingredients like white meat chicken, roasted vegetables, and whole grains. To put an emphasis on a healthier lifestyle, they are free of trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial colors and flavors; and are preservative-free. Tempting flavor varieties include Sriracha Chicken Mac & Cheese, Chorizo & Potatoes with Cheesy Chipotle Sauce; and Creamy Chicken Corn Casserole — comfort foods that taste especially delicious when it’s cold outside! Best of all, So Right entrées come at an unexpected and affordable price – the average retail price is just $1.80 per meal! That’s insane!

After meeting brand representatives at the Health and Nutrition Editor Showcase event in NYC,  So Right sent me an assortment of five different meals (seen above) to review for The Gig, which I prepared in the office and enjoyed for lunches over the course of one work week. My findings follow!

Set against The Hype of a press release blurb on each dish, the entrées were judged in the following categories:

Appearance: What is the dish’s degree of visual resemblance, after coming out of the microwave and being sufficiently stirred, to the photo on the front of the box.

Quality of the individual ingredients: Self explanatory.

Taste: What were the most (or least) appealing  flavor and textural qualities once the food was in my mouth.

Enjoy-ability Factor: How good, on a scale of 1 to 10 — with 10 being best — did eating the dish make me feel.

Ready to have some fun? OK, here we go!

Chicken Burrito Bowl

Chicken Burrito Bowl

The Hype: We sliced up a piece of all-white-meat chicken and threw it together with a veggie mix of red bell peppers, poblano peppers, and corn, as well as some tasty black beans. We then topped it with some cheddar cheese and a red chili sauce rich with paprika and cumin flavors. The final result: One of our favorite meals that’s ready to enjoy in minutes.

Chicken Burrito Bowl

Appearance: Does it look like the picture on the box? Pretty much, yeah.

Quality of the individual ingredients: This dish contains many familiar-favorite southwestern-style ingredients (listed above), on top of a bed of white rice. There is also a red chili sauce, and a small amount of cheddar cheese that melts into the sauce upon cooking. As is the case with most pre-cooked chicken found in a frozen entrée, the meat was not exceptional, but it was decent. All other ingredients were of the quality that you would find in a home-cooked meal.

Taste: Who doesn’t love a Burrito Bowl in all of its endless variations? While it is not going to compete with the indulgence of a trip to Chipotle, the So Right Chicken Burrito Bowl is an excellent choice for a light lunch. Eating the So Right Chicken Burrito Bowl reminded me of eating chili over rice with some corn in it, so if you love chili, you will be very attracted to the comforting paprika and cumin flavors of the sauce. Very tasty.

Enjoy-ability Factor: 9. A dollop of sour cream or a handful of tortilla chips would have upped that factor to a 10.

300 Calories. Read more about this entrée at This Link.

Chicken Lo Mein

Chicken Lo Mein

The Hype: Multigrain pasta and a mix of vegetables that includes carrots, broccoli, onions, and red bell peppers is the base for this dish. We added in all-white meat chicken and covered it in a tasty sesame garlic sauce to create a delicious Asian-style meal.

Chicken Lo Mein

Appearance: It could have used more broccoli.

Quality of the individual ingredients: The Lo Mein Noodles are quite clearly spaghetti noodles. Otherwise, all good.

Taste:  The distinguishing flavor profile is a sweet-soy sauce taste.  If Take Out Chinese Food is your thing, you will not be disappointed.

Enjoy-ability Factor: 8

270 Calories. Read more about this entrée at This Link.

Sriracha Chicken Mac and Cheese

Sriracha Chicken Mac & Cheese

The Hype: This delicious meal starts with the perfect cheesy base and adds an exciting chili pepper twist to create a cheesy sriracha sauce. The addition of pasta and all-white-meat-chicken make this a meal you’ll be sure to remember.

Sriracha Chicken Mac and Cheese

Appearance: This entrée’s appearance is remarkably faithful to the picture on the box, except that is has more sauce than in the photo.

Quality of the individual ingredients: Of the five entrees I sampled, the chicken in this dish was especially was tough and gristly. I picked it out. The pasta is on the well-done side, which I enjoy, and the sauce is very rich and flavorful with a powerful spiciness.

Taste: Once I got rid of the chicken, the meal was delicious! I’m a Mac & Cheese lover since birth, so the mix of tender pasta and creamy cheese sauce make this a very good comfort food choice. And when they say Sriracha, they aren’t kidding. The bold and spicy flavor kick from the sriracha elevates this from a kids’ meal to an adult meal. Unless your kids like the taste of fire.

Enjoy-ability Factor: Without the chicken, a 10.

390 Calories. Read more about this entrée at This Link.

Sriracha Chicken Mac and Cheese
Mmm…So Cheesy…

Creamy Chicken Corn Casserole

Creamy Chicken Corn Casserole

The Hype: All-white-meat chicken with pasta and a vegetable mix made up of yellow corn, poblano peppers, red bell peppers, and black beans is the base for this delicious meal. We cover it all with a creamy white cheddar cheese sauce to create a tasty casserole that has a twist that can only come from the southwest.

Creamy Chicken Corn Casserole

Appearance: Does it look like the picture on the box? It does.

Quality of the individual ingredients: While the Creamy Chicken Corn Casserole is somewhat of an unusual combo of beans, southwestern style veggies and noodles, it somehow works.

Taste: I enjoyed the tender pasta in this and the addition of corn and beans. The cheese sauce is really is very mild (so much so that it almost tasted like a gravy to me) but that gives it a homemade taste. It reminded me of eating a Pot Pie without the crust. I liked it.

Enjoy-ability Factor: 10.

310 Calories. Read more about this entrée at This Link.

Szechuan Chicken

Szechuan Style Kung Pao Chicken

The Hype: The right combination of all-white-meat chicken served over brown rice with a vegetable mix of broccoli, carrots, red bell peppers and green onions. We tossed a few water chestnuts and some Szechuan peppercorn spice into the sauce to create a delicious meal with the right kung pao kick.

Szechuan Chicken

Appearance: Does it look like the picture on the box? Yes.

Quality of the individual ingredients: This entrée had the best quality chicken of the bunch, with overall high quality ingredients and, especially, crispy water chestnuts! Bonus points for using Brown Rice!

Taste: The Kung Pao sauce had a sweet taste similar to the lo mein meal (which is expected) and it was spicy enough to make my nose run.

Enjoy-ability Factor: I’m going to put this one in the Take Out Chinese Food category and give it a 9.

290 Calories. Read more about this entrée at This Link

So Right Frozen Entrees

To find a store in your area that sells So Right entrees, visit This Link!