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Ice Pop Extravaganza & Zoku Giveaway

24 Jun

Zoku Ice Pop Maker

I LOVE ice cream. I’ll try any flavor. I’ll occasionally eat it for breakfast. I’m the person at the ice cream shop who asks for scoops of multiple flavors (yes, sometimes I ask if they don’t mind putting them in a certain order…). But, as much as I love this creamy treat, whole fat dairy with delicious chunks of chocolate and swirls of caramel is not the best food to consume in large quantities.

Enter ice pops. I don’t mean those full-of-sugar, five-types-of-food-coloring ice pops in the freezer section. I mean all-fruit, no added sugar, totally good for you ice pops. It’s not exactly ice cream, but it’s a refreshing way to satisfy my dessert cravings.

I’ve been eyeing the Zoku Quick Pop Maker for about a year, so when I saw it a few weeks ago on a beautiful spring day, it was a sign that I should go for it. There are different sizes of the ice pop maker; I bought the one that you can make two at a time in (there are a single pop maker, or three pops/time). What I love about this ice pop maker is that you store it in the freezer. Then, when you take it out and fill it with a cold mixture (see below for some ideas), it makes an ice pop in about 8 minutes. Instant ice pop satisfaction!

Mango Ice Pop

This was the first one I made: just fresh mango and a little water, pureed in a blender. It was so easy and yummy.

Ice Pop Grapefruit Mango

I decided to get more adventurous with my second try: equal parts fresh grapefruit and mango, pureed, with a little water and maple syrup.

Strawberry banana yogurt pop

For my third pop I made my regular smoothie in the blender of frozen strawberries and bananas, blended with yogurt and water, and then poured it into the mold to make a yogurt pop!

I’m not typically into specialized kitchen gadgets, but I have been thoroughly enjoying the Zoku Quick Pop Maker. I love the option to have almost instant ice pops. Plus, I’ve been making four at a time, eating one, and freezing the other three for later.

This contest ended on 7/1/14.

Thank you to all who entered!

The Giveaway!

Want to try out the Quick Pop Maker for yourself? I’m giving away a Zoku Quick Pop Maker! It looks like this:

our_products_quick_pop_maker (1)

(Image from the Zoku site)

Here’s how to enter: Click here to enter! You are required to leave a comment below sharing your favorite ice pop flavor. Then there are some additional ways to get more entries by following EatingPlaces and Zoku on Twitter and Facebook. If you win, you can choose which color you’d like (white, blue, purple, red, orange or green).

The giveaway ends Tuesday, July 1, at midnight EST. Please note: this giveaway is limited to US residents. I will use Rafflecopter to select a winner at random and individually contact the winner. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them below.

I bought the Zoku Quick Pop Maker on my own and was not compensated for this post. Zoku provided the giveaway Quick Pop Maker – thank you, Zoku! All opinions are my own.

Delivered to Your Door: Healthy Habits Kitchen

18 Jun

Healthy Habits Kitchen, based in Wellesley, MA, contacted me about trying their meal kits. As much as I love traditional from-scratch cooking, I’m always open to trying a quick (while still healthy) alternative for weeknight dinners. Healthy Habits Kitchen’s ready-to-make meals are portioned out so the serving size is under 400 calories, with less than 30% fat and no more than 800mg of sodium. Plus, the meals take less than 30 minutes to prepare. I tried out three meals. Please note: while Healthy Habits Kitchen offered to send over these complimentary meal kits, all opinions are my own.

Healthy Habits Kitchen ingredients

How the shrimp with tomato and feta ingredients arrived (each meal is packed inside a mini box)

The meal kits arrived by mail in a small insulated box and were portioned out into the three meals. When they arrived the ingredients were slightly frozen: each box has a ‘prepared on’ and ‘best by’ date. I put one box in the fridge and the other two in the freezer. I chose three seafood meals because I don’t cook fish and seafood as often as I’d like to, and I was hopeful this might provide some inspiration. On the Healthy Habits Kitchen website, you can find all of their current meals: there are vegetarian, red meat, chicken, and pork meals as well.

Here’s what I made:

Shrimp with Tomato and Feta

The first meal I tried was the Shrimp with Tomatoes & Feta: sauce (diced tomatoes and onion), shrimp, orzo pasta, seasoning (lots of dill), and feta. This was delicious and the flavors were different from what I usually put together, which was exactly what I had hoped for.

photo (7)

For the second meal I made Asian BBQ Salmon with Rice. This meal fell flat – the salmon wasn’t high-quality and the sauce was too thick, so the rice and salmon were very plain and dry. I was also craving vegetables in this meal, which is odd because you’d think for the company to be called ‘Healthy Habits’ that they’d have more vegetables incorporated into the meals. I ended up eating the salmon over a spinach salad with oil and vinegar dressing.

Tilapia and coconut curry

The last meal was Broiled Tilapia Thai Coconut Curry with Rice. This meal was slightly better than the salmon, because the sauce was more substantial, but again the quality of the fish wasn’t great. I expected to make a yellow coconut curry (see image below), but this ended up being more of red peppers and shallots in a sweet garam masala sauce. I make quick curries often, so this wasn’t something I’d make again.

 

The verdict: Very easy-to-make meals, slightly expensive for my budget, recipes were hit or miss, lots of packaging

It’s easy: It felt odd to make a meal without prepping anything, but that’s just because I love the process – start to end – of cooking. For someone who doesn’t want to spend time cooking, or doesn’t feel at home in the kitchen, this would be a great option. Clean-up was limited to the two or three (for the curry) pans I used; I didn’t need a knife, cutting board, or any bowls for ingredients, which made clean-up easy. For all three dishes, the recipes were simple and straightforward. The meals took between 20-30 minutes to make.

Cost per meal: I’m cost-conscious while buying groceries and find that cooking a big meal at home saves so much money compared to going out. Portioned out, each serving from Health Habits Kitchen ends up being about $7, so if you typically go out to eat and want to transition to cooking at home, this would be a great option. Or, if you want to cook a healthy meal, and $22 for three servings outweighs the difficulty of planning a meal, going shopping for the ingredients, prepping, and then cooking, this could also be a good choice!

HHKSiteImages

Tilapia Coconut Curry (left) & BBQ Salmon (right) images from the Healthy Habits Kitchen site

The recipes: I enjoyed the shrimp dish, but the other two fish recipes could have been better developed. I would liked to have seen more accurate pictures of the recipes on the Healthy Habits Kitchen website (see above – these are very different recipes, and it looks like there’s chicken instead of fish in the curry).

Something that was a very positive experience for me was learning about portion size. When I looked at the ingredients in the box and saw that they added up to three “healthy portions’ or two ‘hearty portions’, I was skeptical whether this would be enough food for me. I was surprised, though: when it all came together, I portioned out 1/3 of the total amount for a meal, and it was fine.

Packaging: The convenience factor is obviously there with these meal kits, but as I worked through each of the recipes, I realized just how much plastic packaging I was throwing in the garbage. All of the fish was vacuum-sealed in its own bag, each additional ingredient came in a bag or a plastic container. I understand the necessity to have each ingredient in a separate container, but I am careful to limit packaging when possible and recycle everything, so it was hard for me to generate so much waste simply out of convenience.

 

Live in the Greater Boston Area and want to try out Healthy Habits Kitchen? You can order Healthy Habits Kitchen online, and then pick up your meals at their facility, a farmers market, or have them shipped to your home. Healthy Habits Kitchen has offered 15% off your first order. Just use the discount code “EATINGPLACES” through July 31 for 15%off.

 

Thank you to Healthy Habits Kitchen for three complimentary meal kits. As with all EatingPlaces posts, opinions are my own.

Homemade Sushi

24 Feb

Thank goodness for the warm(er) weather this weekend. I dodged puddles Saturday and Sunday, going for long walks around the neighborhood. It felt so good to be outside again. I was also inspired to put together a few food projects this weekend, including sushi.

My mom taught me how to make sushi when I was in middle school. My mom, sister, and I loved making it together – we made all types of veggie rolls, Philadelphia rolls (smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber), and others. Yes, it takes a while, and no, it’s not the same as having a trained-for-years sushi chef carefully carve sashimi, but it’s still a healthy, delicious, and fun-to-make treat.

When I was an RA in college, I hosted a sushi party for my residents. I prepared all of the ingredients, set them out buffet-style, and then everyone made sushi. It was a lot of fun and I have since done the same thing with some friends in Boston. I wrote a quick post about it years ago with one blurry picture, so when I made sushi again this weekend, I thought I’d post an update with a little more information.

homemade sushi

Making Sushi: Ingredients

  • sushi rice (see instructions below)
  • nori
  • blanched asparagus
  • julienned carrots, cucumber, red pepper
  • thinly sliced avocado
  • wasabi (I buy the all-natural powdered kind and add water)
  • pickled ginger (I should make this sometime, I’ve never tried though!)
  • other items: cutting board, bamboo sushi roller, plastic wrap to cover sushi roller, sharp knife

ingredients for sushi

Sushi Rice

  • 2 cup sushi rice (short grain)
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch salt
  • sugar (about a tablespoon)
  • rice wine vinegar (about 2 tablespoons)

I love to use a rice cooker to make sushi rice. Simply rinse the rice in water until the water runs clear, put in the rice maker with the water (1 cup of water for every cup of rice) and salt, and turn on. When the rice is cooked (i.e. when the rice cooker lets you know it’s done – so easy), transfer to a large bowl, and carefully fold over the rice with a rice paddle or large spoon so it begins to cool. As you are turning the rice, add about half a tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. Keep turning over the rice, and then add the same amount of sugar and vinegar again. If you’re making a larger batch of rice, just use a bit more. I never measure them out and the rice always tastes great.

Put everything together!

1. With a sheet of nori on the plastic wrap, sushi roller, and cutting board (see image above), add about a 1/4 cup of rice to the lower third of the nori. Lightly press the rice down – I like to use the paddle and my fingers with a little water on them. Add a few pieces of vegetables (5-8 slices, depending on what fits) on top of the rice. Then, roll it up! Start at the bottom, rolling tightly. Wet the top edge of the nori with a little water. When you have a tightly wrapped roll, use a sharp knife to cut the roll into pieces.

To go with the sushi, I made miso soup with seaweed, tofu, and shiitake mushrooms (my go-to cold weather soup lately), and green tea.

Lemon Quinoa Artichoke Salad

23 Jul

Lemon Quinoa Artichoke Salad

I love quinoa, but without some focused flavoring, it can be on the bland side. Cooking Light has Cooking with Quinoa: 22 Recipes, including one recipe for lemon quinoa with artichokes. I made a few changes from the original version here on MyRecipes. This is an easy recipe for a weeknight meal that can also be lunch the next day. Plus, combining lemon and artichokes creates a sweet and slightly tangy flavor that’s perfect for summer. I couldn’t get enough.

Lemon Quinoa Artichoke Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 jar of artichoke hearts (I used a 12 oz jar)
  • 1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • greens of your choice, perhaps mixed greens or a spinach salad

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and thyme; saute for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add artichokes and saute for about 2 minutes. Add broth and quinoa, turn burner to high until it reaches a boil. Cover, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 18 minutes or until liquid is completely absorbed.
  2. Remove pan from heat. Stir in parsley, rind, juice, and salt. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature over a bed of greens.
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