Kroger’s Simple Truth

The Simple Truth brand from the Kroger family of stores was created to support the concept that organically grown foods and other natural products should be easy to find, select and integrate into our daily lives. Not only have they given us a visible symbol that’s much larger and more recognizable than any USDA stamp, the variety is seemingly endless.

“With our Simple Truth® Organic line of food and beverages, we aim to make it easier than ever to find a wide range of certified organic options throughout the grocery store. You’ll find products in the produce section, of course — but you can also be on the lookout in the dairy, meat and snack sections, as well as many other aisles in the store.”

Part of the Simple Truth campaign is promoting goods that are “free from” a broad assortment of additives and chemicals. The website maintains a full list of ingredients you no longer have to suffer eye-strain to figure out if they are in a product or not.

Simple Truth also backs Fair Trade certified goods, offering more than 30 products from coffee to coconut, with more to come in the future.

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After receiving a free sample of some Simple Truth products in the mail, with instructions to share some, we’ve had a great time not only sharing, but meeting other folks who enjoy the products as much as we do.

We liked them so much, we keep going back for more.

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Ann Cathey

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Dr. Praeger’s

I was recently asked to try out part of the Dr. Praeger’s line of frozen products. Information from My Magazine Sharing Network states:

“Dr. Praeger’s is a family-owned, natural products company founded by heart surgeons more than 20 years ago. All products are made from sensibly sourced ingredients that can be enjoyed by all ages and cater to a variety of lifestyles. You’ll find everything from veggie burgers to cakes, littles, puffs, hash browns, seafood and ready-to-heat bowls.

Look on the packaging for Non-GMO Project Verification, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Kosher, Vegan and Marine Stewardship Council Certified Sustainable seafood logos.”

My Magazine Sharing Network offered me some coupons including a free item. Of course, we had to try them out!

While not the easiest things to find in the spread out freezer section of my local grocery, find them we did. Making our selections wasn’t easy with all the tempting varieties, but we settle on three: Fish Bites (for me), Buffalo Fish Bites (for my partner), and Four Potato Hash Browns (for both of us). Each of the boxes seemed a bit small, but we found out quickly that the portion sizes were larger in our stomachs than they looked to our eyes.

We followed the directions as indicated, finding them to be simple and quick.  Then we started tossing ideas back and forth to come up with some fun ways to serve up the goodies.

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My partner’s rather large taco, topped with the hashbrowns. No hot sauce needed. Flour tortilla, Romaine lettuce, sour cream, and Colby Jack cheese.

 

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My own plate.  A “burger” of hash browns filled with Colby Jack cheese, sour cream, fish bites, and served with more fish bites, kosher pickle and Romaine lettuce. Delicious!

The Fish Bites surprised me by including jalapeno, but they were not hot. They were flavorful, crispy, and had a good balance of meat and breading for their size. They’ll make great fish tacos, would be good tumbled with other like sized seafood bites, and may be eaten with or without any sort of sauce.

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The Buffalo Fish Bites were much warmer, being spicy but maintaining a fairly low heat.  They offered a good baseline buffalo flavor that might be added to for those who like their buffalo sauce to be hotter. They made a very tasty taco, and could be presented as a lighter alternative to traditional wings.

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The Four Potato Hash Browns were a delightful surprise. They include red, gold, purple and sweet potatoes shredded and formed into lovely round patties. They have a sweetness natural to the potatoes, and crisp up on the outside very nicely when baked.

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Any of these combinations would have been great with other additions such as avocado,  diced tomato and/or onion, yogurt in place of sour cream,  or salsa. Let your imagination take you away!

We plan on picking up a few other Dr. Praeger’s products in the future and seeing what we can do with those. I’m excited at the prospect.

— Ann Cathey

 

Breakfast! It’s Good for You!

It is said that breakfast is an important part of your day, and I have found this to be true. Making a few minutes every morning for food to get your day started has a lot of potential benefits.

There’s a lot of research out there on the effects of a nutritionally balanced morning meal (whenever your relative morning may be), though even a simple glass of orange juice can get your motor running more effectively than an empty stomach.

Your metabolic rate will get a boost if you wake your system up with some breakfast. This not only gets your fat-burning potential revved up, but can energize your whole system. Your body and brain can benefit from the boost. They should me more energized and active all during the day.

Your heart, the central motor of your circulatory system, will likely thank you. Breakfast may assist in reducing the risk of a number of heart disease risks, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Cognitive function can be difficult to maintain if you are being distracted by a cramping or growling stomach. Higher protein foods can help your stomach remain satisfied, which in turn tends to keep down overeating later in the day.

Your mood is another factor that breakfast can help with. Starting your day on an empty stomach can make you cranky, especially if you are a coffee drinker. Adding food to your morning can help keep you on a even keel. Even a cup of yogurt can help, and add 1 of the 3 recommended servings of dairy to your daily intake.

Breakfast doesn’t always have to be super healthy granola and berries, either. As the start to your day, it can be a wide rage of tasty things depending on your dietary requirements. The two recipes below are bacon-based palate pleasers!

BREAKFAST CLUB
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 1

Ingredients:
1 croissant
1 egg, fried or scrambled
2 leaves Romaine lettuce
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon, cooked
3 slices oven roasted deli turkey
3 sliced honey deli ham
Mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper to taste

Slice your croissant in half as a base for the sandwich. Apply condiments to taste. Layer on remaining ingredients as you prefer. Insert two toothpicks, one on either side, and slice in half. Enjoy.

NOTES: Why anyone would want to pile more salt on top of the sodium in the meats is beyond me, but some folks prefer a lot of salt. For this sandwich, I prefer fluffy scrambled eggs held together by a slice of cheddar or Swiss above and below, a brown mustard, and sliced pickle instead of tomato. The suggested condiments are all right, but not to my personal taste. My partner on the other hand, loves yellow mustard and black pepper.

The prep time for doing two to four of these sandwiches is not noticeably different. Not only are they great for a fairly quick breakfast, they are also a delicious addition to the brunch table.

 

BACON CINNAMON ROLLS
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
1 package refrigerated cinnamon rolls (with cream cheese icing)
2 slices bacon, cooked (not too crispy) PER ROLL

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Prep a baking sheet with either parchment paper or baking spray.

Unroll the dough onto a flat surface with the cinnamon side up. If the rolls do not separate during this process, cut them apart gently. Lay 2 slices of bacon along each strip on the cinnamon side. Re-roll each strip of dough, maintaining the bacon along one long edge of the dough.

Place the bacon rolls flat side down on on the prepared baking dish. Bake 16-20 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Remove to wire rack and let stand for five minutes.

Glaze the rolls with icing while still warm. Let stand until glaze is set. Serve warm.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: Make sure you have 2 slices of bacon per roll noted on the packaging – some packs of cinnamon rolls contain 6 rolls, while others may have 8 or 10. Adjust your recipe accordingly.

Whip an ounce or two of cream cheese with the icing from the package, or just spread cream cheese instead of the sugar for a less sweet breakfast roll. When using the cream cheese by itself, you might consider adding a dash of chili powder to the roll before adding the bacon, or dried or fresh herbs for a more savory presentation.

I prefer to cook the bacon, drain and pat it dry of excess grease. Beef bacon as well as pork bacon both go well with this recipe. I have not tried it out with turkey or tofu based bacon products.

I had to learn the hard way that breakfast really was a good way to start my day. In making it a practice, however, I find myself with more energy and have actually lost a few pounds over the last year – without really trying. You might give it a shot if you don’t already eat breakfast in the mornings and see how you feel after a week or so.

Enjoy!

– Ann Cathey

Rachael’s Mostly-Lazy Tomato Bisque

A friend of mine tried to record her own recipe for tomato bisque while she was making a batch recently. This is what she came up with. Give it a try and leave a note for her in the comments. I’ll be sure any comments get to her.

Rachael’s Mostly-Lazy Tomato Bisque
Serves 4 as side dish/appetizer, 2 as a meal

Ingredients:
28-oz can crushed tomatoes
14 oz can vegetable broth or seafood broth(lobster/shrimp)
Garlic cloves, peeled (as many as you want. I used an entire head)
Butter (2-8 tbsp…go with your preference)
2 tbsp dried basil (or a handful of chopped fresh)
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp paprika (I used smoked-highly recommend)
1 tsp salt (again, used wood-smoked cause it’s amazing!)
1 tsp pepper
1/2 c heavy cream

Optional: 
Truffle dust (yes, seriously. I love this stuff and have an addiction. Don’t judge me.)
Splash of olive oil

Directions:
Add first 4 ingredients to pot. Simmer on medium, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.

Slowly stir in the herbs and seasoning (or just dump ’em in if you’re a rebel). If you’re using truffle dust or olive oil, add them now. Simmer until garlic is soft, at least 30 minutes.

Add the heavy cream to a separate bowl and slowly pour a couple of ladles of the bisque into it, stirring to prevent curdling. Pour this back into the pot and stir until well combined.

If you want a smoother bisque run it through a blender, but I prefer to leave a little bit of texture to the soup and only pureed a portion of it. If you do only puree a portion, make sure you get all of the garlic cloves into the blender.

Serve hot with your favorite tomato soup/bisque toppings. Shredded cheese, sour cream,  shrimp, bacon are all tried and true additions.

 

 

Please leave Rachael a comment if you try out her recipe. It looks delicious to me!

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Cool Drinks for a Warm Spring

We are having a warmish spring in my part of Texas, hence the title of this post. Drinks like the ones below are great for any time you want a refreshing cool down, be it spring, summer, fall, or winter (if you live in Texas!). They have been popular on quiet mornings out on the porch, and lazy evenings when the sun starts to set.

The recipes below have been built from several sources and my personal preferences. The notes on substituting ingredients are from my own playing around with the recipes.

MOCHA FRAPPE
Prep time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:
2 cups ice
1 cup strong coffee (brewed double-strength and chilled in advance)
1/3 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
Whipped cream and chocolate shavings for a pretty topping

Place all ingredients (not the toppings) into a blender and blend until smooth, adding more ice if needed.

Serve in glasses with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: This mix is way too sweet for me, though it is definitely richly decadent.

I prefer ice cream to the ice, or coffee frozen into cubes instead of ice of plain water. This increases the richness of the mocha frappe without watering it down.

I also prefer to use the heavy cream with no sweetened condensed milk or sugar. While this may decrease the overall sweet taste of the drink, it will also pull down the calorie and carbohydrate counts significantly.

The whipped cream and/or chocolate shavings are up to individual preference, of course. Personally I don’t care for them (piling on more calories), though they do make an attractive presentation.

 

MIXED BERRY SMOOTHIES
Prep Time: maybe 10 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients:
¾ cup cranberry or cranberry mix juice (cranapple, crangrape, etc)
¾ cup frozen mixed berries (blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, etc)
6 oz yogurt, berry or vanilla
½ medium banana, sliced

Combine all ingredients in a blander and on high until smooth. It won’t take long, probably just a few seconds.

Pour into large glasses and serve.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

NOTES: Once again I like to freeze the juice in an ice tray if I have time. This adds extra chill to the beverage without any watering down.

Yogurt may be replaced with sherbet or ice cream for a variety in textures and flavors. For example, substitute the yogurt for lime sherbet, add lime juice to taste, and garnish with a slice of lime for a bitter-sweet alternative. A mellower alternative uses cranapple or cran-blueberry juice, blueberries, and vanilla ice cream. Experiment and find the flavors that suit you best.

In any of the ice cream variations, there are “carb control” ice creams available that may help those on low carb diets to enjoy these beverages.

I hope you have fun with them, and enjoy many happy moments with a cooling drink!

– Ann Cathey

“My Magazine Sharing Network”

You may have seen some sharing posts on Facebook and Twitter concerning My Magazine Sharing Network. This is a program connected to Kroger and affiliated stores offering free goods and coupons supporting trying new things. This might be recipes, how individuals handle suggested items in creating a meal or dessert, and photos of what folks have done with the various challenges in the program.

So far, it’s been interesting and fun. I’ve been able to take Kroger products into my kitchen and see what I can do with them. Don’t worry – I won’t be keeping the ideas all to myself. As I finish projects, I’ll be writing about the experiences and sharing photos of my creations, and possibly some guest creations as well.

I hope you will enjoy this aspect of our blog as much as I will, and that some of you will check out the My Magazine Sharing Network program.

— Ann Cathey

Waldorf Salads

Waldorf Salads have a long history in America, as noted in the exceprt from the Wikipedia page below. As Americans are wont to do, things have changed to suit different tastes over the years since it’s initial creation, giving us numerous ways to prepare and enjoy them.

From Wikipedia: “A Waldorf salad is a salad generally made of fresh apples, celery, grapes and walnuts, dressed in mayonnaise, and usually served on a bed of lettuce as an appetizer or a light meal.

The Waldorf salad was first created for a charity ball given in honor of the St. Mary’s Hospital for Children on March 14, 1893 at the Waldorf hotel in New York City. Oscar Tschirky, who was the Waldorf’s maître d’hôtel and developed or inspired many of its signature dishes, is widely credited with creating the recipe. In 1896 the salad appeared in The Cook Book by “Oscar of the Waldorf”.

The original recipe did not contain nuts, but they had been added by the time the recipe appeared in The Rector Cook Book in 1928.

Other ingredients, such as chicken, turkey, grapes, and dried fruit (e.g. dates or raisins) are sometimes added. Updated versions of the salad sometimes change the dressing to a seasoned mayonnaise or a yogurt dressing. A variation known as an Emerald Salad replaces celery with cauliflower. The salad also may include zest of oranges and lemons.

One thing about Waldorf style salads is that they are chunky rather than smooth. This allows an individual to experience not a mash of flavors, but individual spikes of flavor and texture. That aspect has always appealed to me personally, and has led to some outlandish tuna salad coming out of my kitchen!

CHICKEN WALDORF SALAD
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Servings: 4-6
Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1 large Gala apple, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup mayonnaise Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
Place all cut ingredients into a large bowl.

Add mayo on top and fold together gently.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on a bed of greens.

 

TUNA WALDORF SALAD
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 12 ounce cans tuna in water (albacore recommended), drained
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup brown mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Place all cut ingredients into a large bowl.

Add mayo on top and fold together. Be gentle so the tuna remains chunky.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on a bed of greens.

 

The Meat
Meat was not originally an ingredient in Waldorf salads, though it has become very popular over time. Chicken is likely the most popular protein source in use in the United States, though tuna, cubed ham and beef, turkey, and venison have all been seen in Waldorf style recipes. Leftover or broken meats are a popular source.

The Nuts
Nuts are also a later addition to the Waldorf salad. Use nuts that add a contrasting element to your salad. Walnuts are a dryer flavor with a softer texture. Pecans add a subtle sweetness and a stronger flavor. Almonds, whether they are whole, blanched, slivered or sliced, add a definitive hard texture and savory flavor.Pine nuts are generally smaller and have a popping mouth feel. Match your nut choice to your other ingredients and your individual tastes.

The Fruit
Grapes and apples are the tradition. Red grapes are the usual choice due to their size and sweetness.

Apples come in so many varieties that choosing one to your tastes can be problematic. The choices in the recipes above were made as examples of the use of a sweet apple and a tart one. Gala, Pink Lady, and a host of other firmly fleshed, round, sweet apples are available in most grocery stores. Granny Smith on the other hand is a consistently tart, firm apple that adds a bit of punch to the combined ingredients. Choose an apple that suits your tastes.

Celery
This is one ingredient I don’t particularly care for the taste of, but a lot of people do. It’s mildly sweet with extremely firm flesh, and adds a lot of fiber to the dish. Choose fresh stalks. De-vein them, removing the hard, fibrous strings from the backs of the ribs, and shop them into appropriately sized pieces. The leafy tops can even be used as a garnish for a finished salad.

The Binders
Mayonaise is the base binder for the Waldorf style salad. Adding spices, different types of mustard, or other similarly textures sauces can dress your salad up or down. Brown and honey mustard are quite popular.

The Spices
Be aware of the amount of salt, pepper or other spices used to cook the meat you use. This will add flavor to the salad and may negate the use of additional salt in your dish.
Curry is another wonderful addition to the Waldorf style salad. It adds a distinctive aroma and flavor to the other ingredients, and the sweet notes become more pronounced.

The Greens
Fresh baby spinach or mixed greens are used often as the serving base for Waldorf salads, though it’s very likely in the beginning to have been a pretty Romaine. Use what you like. Arugula is bitter, iceberg is mild, spinach has a texture all it’s own.

 

I hope you’ve found this dissection of the Waldorf salad as enlightening as I did writing it. This has been one of my favorite types of salad since I was a child, and is likely to remain on my personal menu for many years to come.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey