Popcorn Indiana Review and Giveaway

Peanut Butter. Chocolate. Sweet. Salty. 
If you are anything like me, you don't need to hear any more than than that. But for anyone who needs a little bit more information, let me tell you about this great new product I had the chance to sample... 

This indulgent popcorn is the ultimate choice for those who, like me, love a sweet and salty combination. The large puffy popcorn pieces are generously drizzled with peanut butter and chocolate, and are unbelievably delicious. Having a child with a peanut allergy means that my husband and I had to devour the whole bag in one evening while the kids were sleeping...It was the only responsible thing to do, right?! Or maybe we couldn't stop ourselves!

Unlike many popcorn products, it uses Non-GMO corn. And unlike so many of the most popular treats, it contains no artificial flavours, no artificial preservatives, no artificial colours, no high-fructose corn syrup, and zero grams of trans fats. I challenge to to show you me another decadent, affordable goodie that can compare! You know what else? This treat is kosher and gluten-free!  

I would love to give you the chance to try it too! Enter below to win 6 bags of Popcorn Indiana's Chocolate Peanut Butter Drizzlecorn. How popular would you be if you brought it to a holiday party?!

*This is a sponsored posts. I have received free product and/or compensation for this post. The opinions featured here are always honest and my own.*

Pear Bread

For the second year in a row, I hit Country Harvest (a local produce stand) on the day they were closing for the season. Once again, I bought an obscene amount of pears. Like, 44 Lbs worth. And in case you are wondering what 44 Lbs of pears looks like...

Do you want to know how much I paid? $15! $15 for 44 Lbs of pears...$0.34 per pound for fresh local pears! Since pears are my kids' favourite fruit, this deal was extra exciting for me.

Like last year, I canned most of them (as described here) and froze some slices for snacks, smoothies, and baking. Of course, I have been stocking up on new pear recipes to try. Out of all the new recipes I tried this fall, I think this one (which I've adapted slightly) was our favourite. It makes two loaves, which is great for our hungry family, but you could always freeze one or share with a neighbour. This bread has a lovely crust, a subtly sweet flavour, and a a perfect texture. If you don't have an abundance of pears or if they aren't your personal favourite, simply make this an apple bread using apple sauce and chopped apples in lieu of the pear.

1/2 C oil
1/2 C pureed pear 
3 eggs
1 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 C chopped pears
1 Tblsp sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Mix oil, pureed pear, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth and uniform. In a separate bowl, whisk all dry ingredients to combine. Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture until just combined. Gently fold in chopped pears. Spread into two greased loaf pans and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake at 325' for 55-65 minutes, or until tests done. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Looking for some more great pear recipes? Try this Vanilla Pear Coffee Cake or these Chicken, Pear, and Baby Kale Quesedillas

Caprese Breakfast Bake

This post is part of the YummyMummyClub.ca and Kraft Cheesefest #KraftComfortCheese sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors. 

My brother in law is a great cook. No one ever expects the handsome mechanic to show up to a dinner party with a cheesecake he made for the host, or to steal the show at a potluck with something he whipped up....but I love watching people's surprise when it happens!

This easy dish is my take on one of my brother-in-law's standards, which makes an appearance on Christmas morning and lazy long weekends. You really can't go wrong with a dish of comfort food that uses three cheeses. And a leisurely pyjama-clad family breakfast on a lazy holiday morning? Can't beat it! What's your comfort cheese? Find some great recipes and inspiration at the Kraft Cheesefest Comfort Zone!

6 eggs
1/2 C flour
1 C milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 C cottage cheese
2 C Kraft Creamy Mozza Shredded Cheese with a Touch-of-Philadelphia
3 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese, cubed
1/2 C sliced grape tomatoes
1/4 C julienned basil

Combine eggs, milk, baking powder, and cottage cheese. Beat very well. Stir in Kraft Creamy Mozza Shredded Cheese with a Touch-of-Philadelphia. Pour mixture into greased 9X13 pan. Drop cubed cream cheese, grape tomatoes, and basil on top. Bake at 350` for 45 minutes or until set and lightly golden around the edges.

**If you have kids who will turn up their noses at tomato and basil, omit them for a simple Cheesy Egg Bake that pleases anyone.

If you love cheese, join us for the @KraftCanada #KraftComfortCheese Twitter Party on September 29th where we’ll be giving away ten $50 President’s Choice gift cards! Get all the details here.

Then you can use your gift card to get the ingredients needed to create the mouth-watering, cheese-inspired dishes at Kraft Comfort Zone. It’s a page filled with ooey gooey goodness.  

Frosted Coffee Squares

Monday September 29th is International Coffee Day. For a coffee lover like me, that sounds like a great excuse to pour an extra cup! Are you a coffee lover too? Do you like free stuff? (Who doesn't love free stuff?!) Staples Canada is hosting "Pick Me Up Hours" throughout the day, and will be giving away different coffee kits. Just follow @StaplesCanada and #CoffeeBuzz to get in on the action!

What better recipe to post on International Coffee Day than one containing coffee that also pairs well with coffee! Look no further than this adaptation of my Nan's coffee squares. This light cake cuts very cleanly and offers a sweet coffee flavour, but the icing...oh the icing! This icing is like coffee ice cream that doesn't melt. It's sweet, smooth, creamy, and just the perfect coffee flavour!

1/2 C strong coffee, cooled
1/2 C butter, melted
1 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 Tblsp melted butter
1 1/2 C icing sugar
1 Tblsp (+/-) hot coffee

Combine coffee, melted, butter, and sugars until smooth. Add eggs and mix until well incorporated. Combine dry ingredients, and add to wet. Beat until smooth. Pour into greased or parchment-lined 8X8 pan. Bake at 350' for about 20-30 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

To make icing, beat butter and icing sugar until butter is distributed in coarse crumbs. Add coffee gradually and beat until smooth. Add more or less coffee to reach your desired consistency. Frost cake and allow to set before slicing. (I prefer 1 Tblsp to yield a thick icing that sets nicely on the cake and cuts cleanly). 

Don't forget to check out @StaplesCanada and #CoffeeBuzz 
to get in on the "Pick Me Up Hours" Giveaways!

*This is a sponsored post. I have received free products and/or compensation for this post. The opinions featured here are always honest and my own*

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Although this recipe has some common ingredients with my granola bars, these are much more of a dessert or a treat than a healthy snack. But hey! We all need treats once in a while, right? Especially yummy peanut buttery ones! 

I saw this recipe from Mom on Timeout  shared on Facebook, and I knew I had to make them for Josh. He is a huge Reese's fan and has been working lots of overtime lately, so  I figured he could use a little treat. Since Isaac is allergic to peanuts, we have to keep these treats hidden away in a high cupboard, which means they are reserved for adults. Score one for the parents!

1/3 C brown sugar
1/4 C peanut butter
1/4 C honey
1/4 C butter
2 C quick oats
2/3 C Rice Krispies
3/4 C Reese's Peanut Butter Chips
1/2 C Reese's Pieces

Combine oats and Rice Krispies in a large bowl, and set aside. In a small pot, combine brown sugar, peanut butter, honey, and butter. Stir to combine as things melt. Bring to a boil, then continue to boil for 2 minutes while stirring regularly. Pour peanut butter mixture over oats and Rice Krisipies, and stir until well coated. Allow to cool for several minutes before adding the peanut butter chips (to avoid melting). Fold in peanut butter chips, and press into a parchment-line 8X8 pan. Top with Reese's Pieces and additional peanut butter chips, if desired. Press mixture firmly and allow to cool and set completely before slicing.

Cucumber Watermelon Popsicles

I posted a photo on Instagram recently, saying that the kids and I were making our favourite Cucumber Watermelon Popsicles. Someone asked for the recipe and when I came to look it up, I realized I had gone all summer without sharing it! I think I neglected to post the recipe because I actually started making them in the winter, when it was a lot less fitting to post popsicle recipes. Before Ruthie had her tonsils and adenoids removed this past March, I made a bunch of different healthy popsicles for her to eat while she recovered. We tried a lot of different combinations, but this one was far and away the family favourite. I originally found this recipe on Wholefoods Market Cooking, but the recipe does't seem to be published there any longer.

2 C watermelon, chopped*
2 C cucumber (If English cucumber, peeled and chopped. If field cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped)
1 Tblsp lime juice
2 tsp (+/-) honey

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until as smooth as possible. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid.

*Note: The original recipe called for 3C watermelon and 1 C cucumber, and I've gradually changed the recipe to use equal parts of each. If you are unsure if your family will go for these, you may want to start with the original ratio.

Ruth LOVES having ring-popsicles. My sister got us the mold at The Christmas Tree Shoppe (love that place) for $1.99!

Cafe Santo Domingo - Review and Giveaway

I was delighted to receive this lovely package of goodies from Cafe Santo Domingo, a Dominican coffee company whose products are now available in Atlantic Canada.

As soon as I opened my first bag, the aroma hit me and I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. This coffee is bold, but so smooth and with a subtle sweetness that I haven't found in other coffees. The absolute perfect crema forms on top of each cup, which makes it seem like I am really indulging in something special when I pour my early morning cup!

Guess what? Cafe Santo Domingo wants to share with you! Enter below to win this awesome prize pack!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*This is a sponsored post. I have received free products and/or compensation for this post. The opinions here are always honest and my own.*

Ask a Dietitian - Part 2

In honour of National Dietitians Day earlier this year, I interviewed Natalia Baker, a friend who is a Registered Dietitian. (See the original interview here). We had some really great feedback and some readers posed their own questions via social media. Natalia was gracious enough to let me interview her again to answer questions I received from readers. Here's our conversation!

Jane: Hi Natalia! Thanks for agreeing to another interview to take some questions from readers!
Natalia: Hi Jane! Thanks for having me back on your blog. I enjoyed reading the feedback from the last interview and was impressed by some of the great questions asked by your readers. It’s really encouraging that so many families are interested in nutrition and committed to offering healthy foods to their children. I hope I can shed some light on their questions.

Jane: Let's get down to business. Our first question comes from an anonymous reader who left a comment on our previous interview: "What are your thoughts on juicing for dieting and detoxing?" 
Natalia: Juicing is not a new concept but it seems to have made a big come-back lately. First things first – adding more veggies to your diet, in any shape or form, is always a good thing. Green juices can certainly contain a lot of good stuff and may help to improve nutrient intake. That said, the term “juicing” is more likely to be promoted as a method of losing weight and cleansing or detoxing the body. Quite simply, these claims are unfounded.

Let’s first talk about weight loss.  Often juicing is sold as a way to kick-start a diet. Remember that losing weight comes down to a simple equation of calories in versus calories out. So yes, if you’re doing a juice cleanse or fast while limiting other foods you may very well lose weight. However I think that you need to view juicing in this context like any other fad diet. Will you be able to maintain it for the long term? Is it nutritionally adequate? Is it safe? Consider that when you extract the juice from fruits and vegetables you lose the fibre. Juices that are low in fibre, as well as low in fat and protein, won’t keep you feeling full very long and certainly won’t be satisfying as a meal replacement. Adding juice on top of  your usual intake may also backfire. Depending on the recipe, some juices contain multiple servings of fruit which can equate to a lot of extra sugar and calories.

As for the popular appeal of the “detox” or “cleanse,” the reality is the human body is already equipped to perform these tasks. Our liver, kidneys and even skin do a pretty amazing job of keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. While it may be tempting to try to erase poor eating choices of the past, it’s better to save your money than to invest in the teas, supplements or juicers marketed for this purpose. Instead, use a food diary to keep you on track and build on good eating habits.

Jane: I have often thought that the words "cleanse" and "detox" sound like things we think we want for our bodies (want moreso than need). I am glad to hear that you don't think they have much merit!

Image credit: Dreamtime

Jane: Our second question was submitted by Melissa via Facebook: "I find it frustrating how most yogurt is marketed as healthy but a lot of it is sweetened with aspartame (!!!). Do you have any recommendations on what I should look for when choosing a yogurt for my 12 month old?" 

Natalia: Yes, the overwhelming number of yogurt products in the dairy case is a pet-peeve of mine as well. Whether in a tube, carton or pouch, the range of flavours and compositions has really exploded. Probably the largest variants are the type and amount of sweetener, and the percentage milk fat. Given the fact that traditional yogurts contain only two ingredients, milk and bacterial cultures, it is mind-boggling that  the ingredient list on some products is so long.

Without getting into a lot of numbers, my best advice is to keep it simple. You can’t go wrong with a plain, unsweetened yogurt. Many of the flavoured yogurts available contain a lot of sugar (or artificial sweetener) and should be viewed more like a dessert. Avoid yogurts that list sugar near the top of the ingredient list. Plain yogurt may take some getting used to but you can always add your own sweetener like pureed fruit or honey. Plain greek yogurt is also a good option because it contains more protein (in some cases as much as a serving of meat!). As far as percentage milk fat, I tend to shy away from anything that is “fat-free”. These foods usually have other additives to replace the fat and just aren’t as satisfying. Look for 3.25% M.F. or higher for your child.

Jane: Using berries and honey to sweeten plain yogurt is such a great suggestion. I love plain greek yogurt with honey and blueberries. My kids love it in a parfait (served in a clear drinking glass...nothing fancy) layered with granola and a variety of fruit.

Image credit: Student Life 101

Jane: Our next questions is from Julia via Facebook, and it is something I am curious about too: "Do you have any advice on vitamins? I find it overwhelming and confusing with all of the "recommended" daily vitamin intake information out there. Are there specific vitamins we should be taking everyday? Is a general multi-vitamin recommended or should we be able to get all of the nutrients we need from our diets alone? What about children?" 

Natalia: Great question. For the most part it is possible to get the nutrition you need from your diet. Whole foods are always a better choice than vitamin or mineral supplements. If you feel that you may be lacking in a particular nutrient, always look to improve your diet first. Multivitamin/mineral supplements can help to reinforce a healthy diet but are not meant to replace it!

Image credit: My Kids Fan

That said, there are a few groups who can benefit from supplementation. Below are recommendations from Health Canada:

·        All woman who could become pregnant and those who are pregnant should take a multivitamin containing 0.4 mg of folic acid every day.
·        All men and women over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 µg (400 IU).
·        A daily vitamin D supplement of 10 µg (400 IU) is recommended for breastfed infants.

Beyond this, I’d recommend discussing any individual concerns with a Registered Dietitian. If you don’t eat fish it may be worthwhile talking about an omega-3 supplement. Vegans and older adults may benefit from vitamin B12. Probiotics may be an option if you don’t like yogurt and are looking to increase the friendly bacteria in your gut.

The same advice goes for kids. Vitamin and mineral supplements are not usually necessary if the child is eating a variety of foods and is in overall good health. Remember that supplements do not provide the benefits of whole food such as fibre, carbohydrate, fat, protein and calories. Because the long term use of multivitamins in children has not been studied I’d be hesitant to give them to my children without good reason.  

The problem with dietary supplements is they are not well regulated. It’s possible that there may be variation in potency from different manufacturers and even in pills from the same bottle. Remember that this is a multi-billion dollar industry. I always caution my clients to be skeptical of advice they receive from anyone who both promotes and sells supplements. Big conflict of interest.

Jane: Much of what you have said is the same as what my family doctor has told me. So often we get conflicting advice that it's like a heavenly choir when experts agree! (Okay, maybe that comparison may be a bit much...but it is so great!) I think we have this want to buy something to "fix stuff" about ourselves or our children (similar to the idea of cleanse or detox discussed above). We feel like vitamins are insurance or something, but we don't look at them with the same skeptical eye. What you say is so true - we have to remember that it is a big business!

Image credit: Modern Guide to Health

Jane: Our final question comes from an anonymous comment on our previous interview: "We make all of our own bread. What kind of flour do you recommend for maximum nutrition?"

Natalia: Well, kudos to you for taking the time to make your own bread. You are already ahead of the game! The benefit of making bread from scratch is you can control the amount of sugar and salt added, as well as avoid other additives and preservatives found in most commercially-prepared breads. Another great benefit is you can take advantage of the wide variety of flours available to boost nutrition and flavour. Whole grain flours are definitely the way to go. Whether it be whole grain spelt, rye, oats or wheat, the best way to maximize nutrition is to mix it up! Add seeds, dried fruit or spices for more variety. It can be really fun to experiment with a live culture and try a sourdough bread too.

In this area, I like to support local by purchasing my flour from Speerville Flour Mill. Whenever possible look for a stone ground milling technique to ensure a minimally processed flour that contains all parts of the grain (bran, endosperm, germ). If you haven’t tried whole spelt flour, I’d recommend this bread recipe courtesy of Speerville Flour Mill:

4 c       Organic Stone Ground Spelt Flour
2 t        Fine Grey Sea Salt
Combine in large bowl.

1 1/3c Warm Water
2 t        Yeast
Dissolve yeast in warm water

1          Egg - beaten
2 T       Sunflower Oil

Add all liquids to flour.  Mix and turn out on floured board.  Knead approx 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  Place dough in greased bowl and let rise in warm place until double.  Punch down dough and form into loaf.  Put in greased loaf pan and let rise until double.

Place in preheated oven at 350º F for approximately 35-40 minutes or until brown and hollow sound when tapped. Cool on wire rack.

Thank you Natalia, for taking the time to share your expertise and experience by answering readers' questions. And thanks so much for sharing a recipe! I can't wait to try it.

Best BBQ Pork

When I was growing up, I hated pork. I remember seeing porkchops on my plate and a bowl of apple sauce on the table, and wishing for almost anything else. (Sorry Dad, but it's true!) 

But guess what? Now that I'm grown up, it turns out I love pork. Let me rephrase that: I love good pork. Dried out pork is still yucky. ;)

This pork is SO good. I hate to sound like the old cliché, but it tastes like chicken. Pork can dry out so easily on the grill, but this brine makes it very moist and it cooks up perfectly.

3 C water
3 Tblsp sugar
3 Tblsp salt
Boneless porkchops

Dissolve sugar and salt in water in a large dish or Ziplock bag. (I use a casserole dish with a lid) Submerge pork in brine and allow to rest in fridge for at least one hour.

Remove pork and discard brine. Season pork as desired with salt and pepper or other spices to suit your meal. (In the photo below, I used the Spice-It-Up mix I recently posted about) Cook on a hot BBQ for about 3 minutes on each side. Top with BBQ sauce, and cook for an additional 3 minutes per side. Total cooking time should be about 6 minutes per side, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145`.

Remove from grill and cover with foil. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Granola Bars

This recipe is something I am always tweaking and playing with, depending on what we have in the pantry or what I feel like throwing in. As long as you keep the butter/sugar mixture the same and use 2 cups of dry ingredients, they always turns out great! You may want to start with the original recipe I started with (found here on Lauren's Latest) and make it your own gradually, or you may wish to just jump right into new combinations. It's a fun recipe to play with! Here's the combination I made today, as pictured below.

1/4 C butter
1/3 C brown sugar
2 Tblsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 C quick oats
1 C Rice Krispie cereal
1/4 C wheat germ
2 Tblsp ground flax
1 Tblsp flax seed
1 Tblsp coconut
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 Tblsp mini chocolate chips (optional, but always sells the kids!)

Combine butter, brown sugar, and honey in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and boil for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients except chocolate chips. Once butter mixture has boiled for 2 minutes, stir in vanilla and pinch of salt. Combine butter mixture with dry mixture until well coated. Press into a parchment-lined 8-inch square pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and press into granola mixture to stick. Allow to cool completely at room temperature before slicing. (I remove the parchment to take the full pan of bars out at once. I cut into 12 to yield bars the same size as commercial granola bars) Wrap tightly for freshness.

On the right: a store-bought granola bar with 21 ingredients. On the left: my homemade granola bar with 12 ingredients.  I don't think you will miss what I left out: "...canola and/or soybean oil, fructose, glycerol, soya lecithin.."
Which one would you choose?

Are mine as thick and chewy as theirs? You bet! Even more! 
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