Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Enjoy Life Baked Chewy Bars Review

I'm a snacker. It's a condition I've lived with it for a long time. Most notably in high school, I would get so hungry between my 6:45 breakfast and 12:20pm lunch period that I would have to keep granola bars stashed in my bag and sneak them between classes. Of course, we were not "supposed" to have food outside lunch, but then again, I often broke those rules.

So regardless to say when Enjoy Life sent me their new and improved baked chewy bars, I was very excited. I'm a big fan of Enjoy Life and I have been happy to see their products pop up in stores more and more since I first tried them. They sent me these bars last month, but I waited to post my review as I wanted to give these bars photos worth their goodness. 

It is important to note what makes Enjoy Life’s products so special. Not only are all of their products gluten-free and vegan, they are also free of the 8 most common allergens such as nuts, soy, dairy, fish, and even casein (an allergen found in dairy products and most “vegan” dairy alternatives that also cause issues.) They are also all natural, nothing artificial, GMO-free, Pareve, etc. everything good. Basically these babies are good for anyone on your list from your gluten-free sister to your kid’s school birthday parties.

I've tried several of Enjoy Life's many products before including their Plentils Lentil Chips, chocolate chips, and granola. So far, these backed chewy bars are my favorite.

They sent me four flavors:
Caramel Apple
Cocoa Loco
Mixed Berry
SunButter Crunch

Sporting the line, "now featuring ancient grains," it was hard to pick a favorite. Surprisingly I think I'd have to go with Mixed Berry. I actually thought this would be my least favorite due to past experiences with the flavor and overly sweet strawberry bars. I mean, the other ones were up there. But the Mixed Berry bar itself was my favorite. It tasted like fresh sugar cookies, and the bites of chewy red fruit was just icing on the proverbial cake.

The taste of the Caramel Apple bars reminded me so much of the classic Nutri-Grain variety, but I like that the apple flavor went throughout the “cake” of the bar instead of just jelly shoved inside. It was also the moistest of the varieties and you could really taste those "ancient grains," meaning quinoa, amaranth, and millet which are all in there. The only thing I would say is I didn't get the "caramel" they were boasting, but rather a flavor reminiscent of apple cinnamon than caramel apple.

Cocoa Loco with a bite taken out of it...
The SunButter Crunch was really good. Made from sunflower seeds it is supposed to be a nod to the classic peanut butter that so many allergy suffers cannot enjoy. While the flavor is definitely not as nutty as peanut butter, it was such a satisfying, and lightly sweet bar.

Surprisingly, the Cocoa Loco bar was my least favorite. And not due to lack of flavor. The chocolate flavor is as decadent as a store bought brownie, especially with their “melty” vegan chocolate chunks tucked inside. What turned me off from this bar was the texture. With a lot of gluten-free products, the after taste can lend towards the grainy side, like after drinking a smoothie with whey powder in it. With that said, I didn't dislike the bar. It was quite tasty. But compared to the other bars, the texture was so different. It did include the "ancient grains" tag-line of the other bars, but I am always impressed with richness of Enjoy Life's chocolate products without the dairy.

I loved the "oaty" texture of the other bars, the visible quinoa flakes, and the subtle crunch. It made me feel healthy while still enjoying a treat.

Another thing is, these bars are small. Weighing in at about an ounce they are much small than the more commercial brands. But, again this isn't necessarily a bad quality. The bars ranger from 110-120 calories each with the Cocoa Loco and Sunbutter Crunch on the high end. This is more for portion control than skimpiness. So these are definitely a filling snack or addition to your packed lunch. You definitely won't feel jipped once you finish a bar. You just have to get used to the weight and not try hard not to eat it all in one bite…

I’ve seen Enjoy Life’s baked chewy bars at a few stores now and as always, you can purchase them online.

Overall, I would definitely buy these bars for myself, gluten-free or not. And that’s what I like most about their products—they are for everyone, not just the allergy sufferers. They fit easily in even a small bag, and are perfect for snaking between meals or a chocolate indulgence at night. And hey, I’m serious about those birthday parties, but I don’t think these are quite the thing to pass as homemade at the next bake-sale.

Disclaimer: Enjoy Life did not pay nor endorse me for a positive review. I did receive samples of their product for purpose of review.

Happy New Year to all!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Edamame and Corn Dumplings

My work is never done. After a Thanksgivukkah recipe hangover and starting a new job at the county library here in Texas, I’ve had a busy December. Before we ring out the new year I thought I’d share my new favorite recipe.

Asian edamame and corn dumplings. Yep.

If you still need a recipe for Christmas Eve or maybe a New Year’s party, these are definitely a crowd-pleaser. The below substitutions are also great if you have guests with special dietary restrictions. If you know a Gluten-free vegan who is also allergic to soy and corn, you can substitute the corn for delightfully crunchy canned water chestnuts and just omit the soy sauce, simply using salt or even ketchup for the tang.

Aaron’s new favorite meal is Asian lettuce wraps, first made with ground turkey and later beef for him and tofu for me. As good as the lettuce wraps are, you need something else to feel hungry. That’s where the dumplings come in.

I found those pre-made won-ton wrappers at the Commissary, which I have used before but haven’t been as creative as I could be. These dumplings were perfect. I also recommend there eggroll wrappers.

I love edamame and with all the fabulous Asian flavors in the dumplings, these babies don’t even need dipping sauce. Frozen corn added a little sweetness and the cream cheese held it all together. If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan, you can easily omit the cream cheese and fish sauce to make this recipe. The mixture will be a bit more crumbly though, so just be aware when assembling your dumplings.

Though previously stated these babies do not need a dipping sauce, they would be lovely with hoisin or terayaki.

Asian Edamame and Corn Dumplings
Makes about 16-18 dumplings

1 cup shelled edamame
1/4 cup corn kernels
1-2 scallions chopped
1 " ginger root, minced
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
Garlic powder
3 oz. cream cheese
Dash of chili powder
Pinch of Red pepper flakes
Black pepper
Dash of Sriracha
16-18 wonton wrappers

Vegan or vegetarian recipe: omit fish sauce and cream cheese, add additional soy sauce if needed.

Gluten-free? Try this great recipe for homemade GF wonton wrappers and use GF soy sauce instead.

Microwave edamame and corn in separate bowls according to package instructions.
Allow corn and edamame to slightly cool, then transfer to food processer or blender.

Blend until edamame is slightly chunky, but well mashed.

In a small bowl or cup microwave cream cheese for 10 seconds until soft, not melted. Add cream cheese and remaining ingredients to the food processor except wonton wrappers, cooking oil and water. Blend until mixture is creamy and mixed well. The edamame should still be noticeably chunky.

Lay wonton wrappers out on a clean, dry cutting board or plate, working in batches if necessary. On each square wrapper, scoop about ½ tbsp. of mixture onto the enter of each wrapper, making sure it doesn’t spill over to the sides.

With a small pastry brush or paper towel, gently brush the edges of the wrapper with small amount warm water.  Immediately fold wrapper over making a triangle and pinching closed with your fingers.

In a large flat frying pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Once hot, add 4-5 dumplings at a time and fry on each side for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Once all dumplings in the pan are crispy, pour ¼ cup of water into the pan and immediately cover for 1-3 minutes until water is evaporated and dumplings are soft and cooked.

Remove dumplings from the pan and cover to stay warm while cooking remaining dumplings in the same fashion. Serve while still warm with or without sauce.


The Cuisiner

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

#Thanksgivukkah Ideas and Wrap-Up

As I had neither enough time or money to make all of these great Thanksgivukkah recipes, I thought I share them with you in case you still need some Thanksgivukkah or simply Thanksgiving ideas.

Many people have talked about how Thanksgiving is a much more appropriate holiday to associate with Hanukkah than Christmas. I've learned how true that is as I went through this series. In the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is minor holiday compared to the biggies of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover. 

It's also quite fun: Fried foods, small gifts, song, and yes, the dreidel.

As Thanksgiving is only a few days away, I thought I would wrap up the Eight Days of Thanksgivukkah with a list of my recipes along with some other ones I know you'll love.

My #Thanksgivukkah Recipes:

Pumpkin Pie Muhallabieh (Israeli Milk Pudding)

Eight days of Thanksgivukkah, kicking Chrismakkuh's butt one recipe at a time

Recipes from Others:

A great Thanksgivukkah Wrap up from Princess Pinky Girl

This looks amazing: Celery Root Latkes with Pastrami

An updated version of the Hanukkah classic, Sufganiyot: Salted caramel filled doughnuts

The best thing my sister makes at Thanksgiving:  Quince and Cranberry Sauce

A great looking recipe for mulling spices and Mulled apple cider  
from the Mountain Rose

Ideas I didn't get to make:

Mashed potato lakes with garlic and celery root

Turkey dreidel

Roasted turkey with Naples pears or apples

Black and white cookies with turkeys on them 

or this Black and White Cookie...yum

Smoked salmon on challah (or my Everything encrusted salmon on top!)

Cocktail with Dr. Browns Cel-Ray soda, gin, cucumber, and mint

Grilled turkey Brest kebabs in tahini parsley sauce

Rolled turkey Breast with chestnuts, cranberries, and parsley

Just because I thought this was neat: a list of Thanksgiving/Hanukkah prayers from Rabbis across the country. 

I looked far and wide for a Thanksgivukkah video. and let me tell you, there are so weird ones out there. This was the funniest, yet not-so weird one I could find.

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Thanksgivukkah with all your family and friends. Thanks for indulging me these last couple weeks. It was fun.


The Cuisiner

Photos by other sources are credited by links below them.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Matzo Chicken Stuffing #lastdayThanksgivukkah

I love stuffing, dressing or whatever you call the savory bread pudding. It is always one of the best parts of the Thanksgiving meal and one of the more simple dishes to make…at least in theory. We’ve all had that greasy, oily tasting stuffing. Or maybe the pre-chopped bread cubes were undercooked and dry. 

Honestly I was a little afraid of the latter when making stuffing with the classic Jewish Matzos crackers. 

I used Manischewitz, THE brand for boxed matzo, and luckily found in the West Texas grocery store.  I did find a recipe for homemade matzos which I still may try, but if you are going crush them up for stuffing, it seems a little silly to go through all that work just for the stuffing. But hey….I bet it would be amazing.

I originally planned to post this recipe on Friday, rounding off the week and posting my Thanksgivukkah wrap-up today. Though I decided I wanted to tweak this recipe a little more, making it easier.
On first try I used a recipe from The New Jewish Table by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray, which stuffed their bread pudding into Cornish hens or 5 lb. chickens. There were two problems I had with this recipe:

First, they used chicken livers to keep the stuffing from crumbling while remaining moist. I don’t like livers, so I used an egg as many stuffing call for. It’s still Parve, so it’s okay. My problem was they stuffing felt apart and wasn’t as moist as I wanted it to.

Second, all the experts say-DON’T STUFF YOUR TURKEY! Why? Because when you stuff the cavity with the bread pudding, you create a breeding ground for salmonella unless you cook it long enough. Unfortunately doing that will over cook your bird. That’s why those turkeys of the 80’s and 90’s were so dry. 

Instead, I made this stuffing on the stove-top in a medium sauce pan. This was the best solution in my opinion. The stuffing got soft and moist and stayed together instead of crumbling, or falling apart. And of course….no salmonella!

If you really miss oven stuffing, I added an optional step to transfer the stuffing to casserole dish to crisp the top before serving. It is prettier.

While photographing this stuffing, I ran into one problem: It’s hard to make stuffing on a plate look sexy. What do you think of my stuffing?

Matzo Chicken Stuffing
(Inspired by The New Jewish Table by Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff Gray)
Makes 4-5 servings

5 matzo crackers, (1 sleeve) crushed unto small pieces
3 celery stalks, chopped into a ¼ inch dice
1 large yellow onion, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2-3 cups chicken broth
¼ cup white wine
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. chopped fresh sage or thyme (not both)
1 tbsp. unsalted butter 
1 tbsp. olive oil

For Parve version: omit butter
Note: If you chose to bake stuffing, you can brush top with one beaten egg yolk with 1 tbsp. water for a golden crust.

In a medium pot bring olive oil over medium heat. Begin to sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic, celery, and sprinkle of salt. Sauté until beginning to soften.

Add crushed matzo crackers and coat in mixture. Add 2 cups of broth, white wine, 1/2 tsp. salt, pepper, garlic powder, chosen herb, and butter. Stir and bring mixture to a boil. Cover with lid and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. If crackers are still hard add more broth, 1/2 cup at a time until stuffing is soft and slightly wet. Adjust seasonings to taste if necessary.

Optional: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Scoop stuffing into a lightly greased casserole dish, drizzle top with olive oil. Bake stuffing until top is crispy and golden brown. This should only take 5-10 minutes so watch stuffing closely due to high temperature. 

Serve with turkey and all the fixings.


The Cuisiner

The Eight Days of Thanksgivukkah wrap-up coming tomorrow! Stay tuned for lots of ideas for your Thanksgiving and Hanukkah alike!