Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to All...

...and to all a good night.

I wish you light in your life:



Lots of sweet surprises:



Gifts to remember all year through:



Loved ones to share the memories with:



And the true Blessing of Christmas to fill your heart with love.



Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wendy's Natural-Cut French Fries with Sea Salt

I was totally that kid in college who went to events and meetings just to get free food (c'mon, didn't you?) :)  Just kidding.  Maybe. ;)

Moving on.  Given my love for all freebies, one of the things I love about being a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher is the opportunity to try and review new products for free.  When they offered the opportunity to try Wendy's new Natural-Cut French Fries with Sea Salt, I jumped at the chance!

I love French fries, especially when they are super crispy and hot out of the fryer.  If they're not hot enough to burn your tongue, in my opinion, they're not good.  I was intrigued by Wendy's new fries - were they going gourmet on us?  Now was my chance to find out.

Foodbuzz sent me two $10 gift cards to Wendy's, and when I mentioned it to Hubby, he had that kid-in-a-candy-store look on his face.  "You got two gift cards?  For free?  Can I go?"  Of course I knew I would bring him all along :)  So thanks, Foodbuzz, for the extra brownie points and a free date night at Wendy's :)

We had to visit Wendy's on a Friday evening between 2 and 6 p.m., so I picked up Hubby after work and we headed on over.  This Wendy's looked really new and it was quite sparkling and pretty for a fast food restaurant, if I do say so myself.



I had already eaten quite a bit that day, so I wasn't too hungry, plus I had to save room for my fries.  Wendy's now offers a great Pick 2 deal: you get a half size of one of their new Garden Sensations salads plus a side.  I picked a Diet Coke (of course!) to go along with the Baja Salad: salad greens, pico de gallo, guacamole, cheddar and jack cheeses, and topped with a bit of Wendy's delicious chili.  It was served with crispy tortilla strips and Marzetti's Creamy Red Jalapeno dressing on the side.  I skipped both since there were already plenty of goodies dressing the salad.



It was delicious!  I was really impressed with how tasty this salad was - it was definitely something I could picture eating in a nicer fast casual Mexican restaurant.  The half size was perfect and plenty filling.

All right, onto the fries.  That's what you came here for, right? :)

I ordered a value size (the smallest one) and Hubby and I shared them.  I loved that the fries still had the potato skins on them, as they made them extra crispy.  The fries were hot, crunchy, and soft inside.  The sea salt was a nice touch, as I find fast food fries to be either way too salty or not salty enough.



I think we liked them.



I was pleasantly surprised by these fries.  I don't know if I'd go out of my way to Wendy's to get them again since I don't eat a lot of fast food, but they are definitely worth a try - probably some of the better fast food fries I've had.

Frosty the Snowman at the "Frosty" restaurant.  Ha ha :)  Wendy's was quite blinged up for the holidays!



Thanks, Foodbuzz and Wendy's!

Wendy's on Urbanspoon
Disclaimer: As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received two $10 Wendy's gift cards in exchange for reviewing the new French fries on my blog.  All opinions are solely my own.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Giveaway/Gift Exchange Goodies

Luck's been on my side lately!  I was fortunate to be selected from lovely Noelle's Turtle Mountain giveaway.  I received 4 coupons to try their products for FREE (one of my favorite words).  I picked up 2 boxes of their vanilla and mint ice cream sandwiches, a carton of unsweetened coconut milk, and mint chip coconut ice cream.



They have all been delicious.  Hubby commented on how many desserts are in our freezer now, but I don't think he's complaining :)  Thanks Noelle and Turtle Mountain!




I also received a great jar of Simple Summer Strawberry Syrup in the mail from Joyce at October Farm thanks to Katie's Thyme for Cooking Season's Eatings blogger food gift exchange.  I can't wait to try Joyce's French toast recipe.  How did Joyce know I'm obsessed with French toast? :)  Thanks ladies!



And thanks to Arlene's giveaway at Flour on my Face, I won a beautiful 2011 calendar and coupon to try an entree or sauce from Buitoni.  I've never tried their products before so I am excited to grab one for dinner and enjoy it.  Thanks Arlene and Buitoni!



I have also enjoyed several yummy snacks and meals lately.

If you live near TJ's, you must buy this.  It will change your life.  'Nuff said.



Lovely fresh raspberries and blueberries.  Simple and delicious.



Frozen mixed berries + packet of flavored instant oatmeal --> microwave for 1 minute = instant fruit cobbler.  YUM.  I seem to be trying a lot of random cobblers lately.



Whole wheat French toast made with egg whites + cinnamon, topped with natural peanut butter, fresh blackberries and blueberries, drizzled with agave.  I cooked the leftover egg whites + cinnamon and ate 'em on the side.  Simple, easy, filling, healthy, and of course, yummy :)



The snack that smiles back - homemade potato + corn chowder topped with Goldfish :)



A delicious salad mix: spinach, baby greens, turkey, sliced pear, pecans, grapes, and raspberry vinaigrette.



Remember the whole wheat coconut oil pie crust I made for Thanksgiving?  Well, I had leftover dough, so I pressed it into mini muffin tins, filled half with strawberry jam and the other half with Nutella, baked for about 15 minutes, and called it a day.



I had this for breakfast the other day: plain Greek yogurt with one packet of Stevia, cinnamon, and ground flaxseeds mixed in + fresh blueberries, blackberries, and unsalted roasted almonds.  YUM.  I also have to give a shoutout to Menchie's for their adorable spoons.  One just opened near us and I LOVE it.  Yes, I took my plastic froyo spoon home with me because it was so darn cute.  Who wouldn't smile eating yogurt with this spoon? :)



And finally, I must give the jammies some love since they haven't made a blog appearance in quite a while.  These are velour jammy pants from Old Navy and I've had them since early college.  They are super soft and comfy.  I also love my fuzzy Ugg slippers I received for Christmas from my grandma last year.  My feet are ALWAYS cold (seriously) and they're not when I wear these.  Yay for comfy jammies and warm feet :)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I love gift exchanges.  I immediately signed up to participate in Itzy's Kitchen's December Blogger Baked Goods Exchange when I saw it posted on Erica and Mandi's site.  A chance to bake and get something yummy in the mail in return?  Heck yes!  Thanks ladies :)

Corey from The Runner's Cookie was my recipient (please check out her lovely blog, and her post on receiving the goodies), and she requested something healthy as her baked good.  Since it's the holidays, I figured I could "healthify" a special treat for her by making it with natural ingredients.  Perusing my cookbooks, I found Alicia Silverstone's recipe for Homemade Peanut Butter Cups in her fabulous cookbook, The Kind Diet.

Since I am a PB and chocoholic, I thought this would be a great holiday treat for Corey.  Lucky for me, I found out later she loves PB and chocolate!   Phew :)

One of the great things about this recipe is that it's no-bake AND can easily be made with items you probably already have in your pantry.  Hooray for no extra trips to the grocery store!



Crush up the peanuts...



...and the graham crackers...



Line the muffin tin with paper liners...



I measured my peanut butter and gulped helped myself to a few extra tastes from the jar:



Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat:



Since the recipe called for crunchy PB and I only had smooth, I added a few extra crushed peanuts to the melted butter.  You can never have too much PB flavor, in my opinion.



Once the butter is melted, add in the PB and crushed graham crackers.  Stir it up!



Warm, gooey PB, butter, and graham crackers.  Why didn't I think of this before? :)  Yes, you can go ahead and eat a bite.  Just don't eat it all before you finish making the PB cups.



Spoon a few tablespoons of the PB mixture into your muffin tins.



Next, melt the chocolate and milk in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently,



Once it's nice and melted, you'll have this lovely mixture.



Spoon the chocolate mixture into the cups over your PB mixture until thoroughly covered.



Top with crushed peanuts.



Mmm.  You know you want some.



Pop these babies in the fridge for several hours or overnight to harden.  When they're ready, you'll have this morsel of deliciousness:



I couldn't resist a bite.  Besides, I had to show you what the inside looks like, right? :)



All ready to send off!



Can you tell I really liked these?  Why else would I take so many pictures of them? :)

Seriously, they are to die for: rich, chocolatey, peanut buttery, mmm.  This is one of the best recipes I've ever made, and it's incredibly easy.  What's not to love?  Go make 'em - you'll be glad you did.



Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - adapted from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet
Makes 12 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter (or creamy - just add in a few extra tablespoons of crushed nuts), preferably unsweetened and unsalted
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs or 10 graham cracker squares
  • 1/4 cup sugar or other granulated sweetener
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or peanuts

Directions:
  • Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.  Set aside.
  • Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat  Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and sugar.  Mix well.  Remove the mixture from the heat.  Evenly divide the mixture, approx. 2 tablespoons per cup, among the muffin cups.
  • Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan.  Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.  Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture.  Top with chopped nuts.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set before serving.

Monday, December 13, 2010

SusieCakes Review!

Thanks to Corey for the shoutout on her blog - I'm so glad she liked the treats.  Recipe to come soon, promise!

There is just something about freshly-baked cake that calls out to me.  Ever since I was a little kid I've loved sweets and my mom was nice enough to treat me to bakery desserts every once in a while.  She now uses me as an excuse to go to bakeries when I visit her and my dad, but hey, I'm not complaining :)

Enter SusieCakes - one of my not-so-new faves.  It's a gourmet bakery chain based in SoCal and fortunately, there is one not too far from my parents' house in OC.  Over the Thanksgiving long weekend my dear friend Audrey was in town visiting her parents, and having visited her in Seattle a few weeks before I kept raving about SusieCakes' red velvet cake to her.  Audrey LOVES red velvet cake so, of course, we had to have a pre-Thanksgiving SusieCakes date :)

One thing I love about SusieCakes is their all-American, homestyle d├ęcor and concept.  You walk into the store and you immediately feel transported back to the 1950s - gleaming white walls, sparkling display cases, and all the employees wear super cute bandannas as part of their outfits.



How cute is the "Eat Cake" sign?  Of course I will! :)



I bought a slice of their Vanilla Celebration cake.  SusieCakes offers a variety of HUGE layer cakes made to order and by the slice, and this beauty had been calling my name the past several times I'd visited.  I went for it this time :)  SusieCakes describes it as "6 layers of vanilla cake filled and frosted with SusieCakes signature retro-blue vanilla frosting".  I call it funfetti cake on steroids :)

Lord have mercy, this cake was awesome.   I've had funfetti cake a million times before and the boxed version is usually really light and almost spongy, if I remember correctly.  Not this baby.  It was rich, moist, and dense.  I loved how many layers of cake and frosting there were - the flavor was bursting through in the best possible way.  There was plenty of frosting on top, too - no skimping around here!   I ended up eating about one third of the cake and taking the rest home to share with Hubby and my parents.  My dad especially (who enjoys his desserts indeed) commented, "This is good cake."  He couldn't stop raving about it :)




I had also mentioned to Miss Audrey the gloriousness of SusieCakes' whoopie pies, so I bought one for us to share.  This is the whoopie pie to top all whoopie pies, let me tell you.  Their website describes it as "two thick, chewy chocolate cookies sandwiched with vanilla and buttercream".  Yes indeedy!  These puppies (or whoopies, rather) are incredibly rich.  They're not quite the size of a bagel and about 2 inches thick.  The picture makes it look quite demure, but I guarantee you, it's not :)



Ahh, the inside of the whoopie pie.  We each had a quarter of it, and I took the rest home.  It's SO rich!  The cookies are perfectly chewy and just chocolately enough, and the vanilla buttercream is thick and sweet.  YUM.  I couldn't stop raving to my dad about these before we went, and of course he was trying to be cool and said, "it's just a whoopie pie, how good can it be?"

He took a bite when I got home, looked at the rest of it in his hand, and said, "This is GOOD!"

So there :)



Om nom nom.

Now you didn't think I'd say so much about the red velvet cake not to show you a picture of it?  This is Audrey's slice.  I had a few bites and it is DIVINE.  It's SusieCakes' bestseller: "deep red, moist cake lightly flavored with cocoa, filled and topped with traditional cream cheese frosting."


I couldn't describe it better: rich, dense, perfectly balanced flavor.  It's easy to see why this is their bestseller - it's sweet without being too sweet, and the frosting is just right.  Just thinking about it makes me drool (in a good way) :)

Thanks, SusieCakes - y'all can do no wrong.  I'll be back!

SusieCakes
2043 Westcliff Dr. #104
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949)646-6881
Check out their other locations here
Susiecakes on Urbanspoon
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