Friday, April 17, 2009

Lemon Bar Cupcakes

Originally I was going to share a killer recipe I use for making zestalicious lemon bars with wheat flour but as I hunted for mouthwatering images of those tangy squares I discovered a fantastic recipe for another tasty treat: lemon bar cupcakes. The mini delights are an innovative creation worth the extra baking process. Lemon bar cupcakes are made in four super simple steps: the shortbread crust, the lemon layer, the lemon cake topping and the cream cheese frosting.

Zip on over to BakeBakeBake to snag this scrumptious recipe!

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Alexis Lynn

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Buitoni Pasta: Wild Mushroon Agnolotti Pasta

Thanks to the folks over at Foodbuzz I was given the opportunity to sample Buitoni’s new Wild Mushroom Agnolotti pasta. Buitoni is known for offering all natural and creative meals in minutes and I absolutely agree, my pasta was ready in minutes. After tossing a few in boiling water and letting them cook for about 5 minutes, my serving was ready. I drizzled a small amount of virgin olive oil as to enjoy this Italian specialty as au natural as possible. The pasta was generously filled with portobello and crimini mushrooms and savory Grana Padano cheese. The roasted garlic added a tangy essence and the Parmesan cheese completed the dish. I thought it was quite delicious and the pasta itself was obviously premium quality made of stone ground semolina flour. My only complaint is that it was a little on the salty side but that can be balanced out by combining it with other ingredients. So overall I would say Buitoni’s Wild Mushroom Agnolotti pasta is decent and hearty however beware of the high sodium content.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Easter Chocolate Hunt

Spring is here and Easter is right around the corner and we all know what that means-- fabulous Easter chocolates and delights. From Cadbury eggs to marshmallow peeps, to the granddaddy of them all, the chocolate Easter bunny, I’ve got you covered. Here are my picks for the top Easter treats…

Milk Chocolate
Lindt is prided for creamy chocolates and this spring it’s bringing fabulous milk chocolate goodies including the delicious Lindt Gold Bunny. This solid milk chocolate bunny has the perfect consistency and just melts in your mouth.
Lindt Gold Bunny, $4.50-$25

Dark Chocolate
The chocolatiers of Hotel Chocolat are committed to producing the finest quality chocolates and their dark chocolate confections for Easter are superb. This original creation is called the Serious Dark Fix Egg from the Extra Thick Easter Egg line. It’s a 74% dark chocolate egg that opens up revealing 14 luscious dark chocolate delights.
The Serious Dark Fix Egg, $45 (11.64 oz.)

White Chocolate
For fresh and natural treats, chocolate lovers flock to Lake Champlain Chocolates. This Vermont company utilizes all natural ingredients for their indulgent creations. If you want tempting chocolaty confections for your Easter shindig try Lake Champlain’s tantalizing solid gourmet white chocolate bunnies.
Chocolate Easter Bunny, $10.50 (4 oz.)

Delicious chocolates are always a pleasure to bite into but what’s even better is when there’s a surprise filling. Fannie May produces fantastic chocolates and this spring add their dark and milk chocolate covered marshmallow eggs to your list of must haves. The smooth dark chocolate and fluffy marshmallow are a delight to sink your teeth into.
Marshmallow Eggs, $11.49 (8oz.)

Sweet Earth makes the freshest chocolates around. They use the purest organic ingredients and recommend that you devour their succulent confections within a week of purchasing them otherwise their rich flavors start to diminish thereafter. This Easter, Sweet Earth is offering a box of 15 of their most enticing truffles.
Easter Truffle Box, $24

For chocolate geared to those who are lactose intolerant or for those who prefer animal-free products there are plenty of chocolatiers who cater to those needs. Allison’s Gourmet is among my favorite vegan chocolate vendors, 100% of the ingredients in their fine chocolates are certified organic and dairy-free. Jazz up your Easter holiday with a bag of fabulous vegan chocolate eggs filled with delectable centers ranging from espresso caramel to raspberry ganache.
Truffle and Caramel Filled Eggs, $13.95 (5 large eggs)


Lots of kiddies are allergic to peanuts and other tree-nuts which is why Divvies is the place to go get goodies for the little ones without worrying about aggravating any allergies. This spring Divvies is offering a sweet, solid chocolate bunny made with nut, dairy and egg-free chocolate.
Chocolate Bunny Rabbit, $8.50 (4 oz.)

Not everyone can indulge in sugary sweets that’s why Russell Stover is the chocolate company to go to for sugar-free treats. Fill those Easter eggs with these delightful and fruity sugar-free jelly beans.
Sugar-Free Jelly Beans, $3.79 (7 oz.)

The king of luxury fine chocolates is without a doubt Neuhaus Createur Chocolatier. This Belgian company produces exquisite confections worth every dollar spent. If you are willing to splurge on truly luscious Easter delights look no further. This spring Neuhaus has put together fabulous Easter baskets filled with spectacular creations including delicious marzipan cubes, creamy piped gianduja confections, pralines and chocolate eggs with delectable fillings (my personal favorites).
Easter Gift Baskets, $87-$273

Nothing signifies Easter more than the Cadbury egg. For decades, Hershey’s has been known for a variety of novelty chocolates that have been a part of all of our childhoods. This Easter, spring for a festive gift basket stocked with the best Hershey’s creations including scrumptious Reese’s peanut butter cups, chocolaty Hershey’s kisses, chocolate eggs all in colorful pastels and solid chocolate Easter bunnies (which you can personalize).
Easter Gift Baskets, $14.95-$62.95

No Easter celebration is complete without a delectable chocolate bunny to bite into. It would be easy to recommend any old solid chocolate bunny however I like to spice things up, literally. Vosges Haut-Chocolat is bringing out the spices this season and creating the zestiest bunnies. With ingredients like chipotle chili peppers, Ceylon cinnamon, lemon zest, pink peppercorn and grey sea salt your taste buds are in for a treat.
Easter Bunnies, $12 each (2.5 oz.)

Spring has arrived once colorful marshmallow peeps start appearing. This season pick up peeps that aren’t so traditional. Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company is putting a new spin on this classic by covering them in, you guessed it, chocolate! The marshmallow sweeties are saturated in velvety milk chocolate and are ready to be gobbled up.
Chocolate Covered Peeps, $11.95 (8 peeps)

What would an Easter egg hunt be without the eggs? Scoop up some delicious milk chocolate eggs from Ghiradelli for your festivities. The brightly colored foils contain mouthwatering chocolaty delights guaranteed to satisfy your chocolate craving.

If you are willing to splurge a bit, I highly recommend Neuhaus’s seasonal eggs infused with decadent fillings including nutty praline, creamy gianduja, salted caramel and white chocolate. These morsels are truly eggs-quisite.
Ghiradelli Chocolate Eggs, $15 (20.75 oz.)
Neuhaus Easter Eggs, $58 (40 eggs)

Take a break from all of the chocolate by biting into a soft and chewy cookie. Harvard’s Sweet Boutique is a personal favorite of mine because they use the freshest ingredients in their freshly baked goods. Munch on these scrumptious cookies glazed with sumptuous white chocolate and hand decorated to look like Easter eggs. These whimsical creations would be a tasty addition to an Easter party.
Easter Egg Shortbread Cookies, $30 (16 cookies)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Coffee Break

If you’re like me and are active but can’t stand achy muscles during physical activity, you might be delighted to know that that extra cup of joe may just do the trick. In a recent study published in the April issue of International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, researchers concluded that downing a cup of coffee before an intense workout reduces exercise related pain.
Competitive athletes regularly gulp a cup of coffee before competitions because they feel that caffeinated buzz gives them an extra edge. The researchers who conducted the study found that may be the case because caffeine lessens muscular discomfort felt during intense exercise. The 25 subjects who participated in the experiment were given a pill containing the equivalent of two or three cups of coffee and a placebo (sugar pill) one hour prior to engaging in an intense 30 minute cardio session. The participants reported feeling less pain in their leg muscles during the caffeine assisted session than with the placebo. What researchers found to be the most interesting is that caffeine tolerance had no effect on the study, that is, people who regularly drink coffee still get the pain reducing benefits of caffeine. Source
Don’t expect to see coffee mugs replacing water bottles at the gym but this is great news for those of us who want to reduce pain during exercise but increase athletic performance. I did a mini experiment of my own to test the results of this study. Since the sun is out a little longer these days I have been able to go on my intense two and a half hour run/hike after work. For the last two days I chugged down some espresso before the big workout and after. I actually cut my time by fifteen minutes and had enough energy to go further. The usual muscle achiness I feel during the run and the soreness I feel later on in the day never seemed to show up. Now, I’m no scientist so I’m sure my results aren’t as accurate as they should be however I think I’ll be drinking a cup of coffee before any intense workouts.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pistachio Recalls

Another crop not normally associated with salmonella, a bacteria most known to effect animal products, has become the latest item to be pulled from the shelves. Pistachios are the latest victim in what seems to be a sudden increase in salmonella contamination. It was only a few months ago that the national peanut butter recall due to salmonella jolted the food industry now consumers are being advised to stay away from pistachios and products containing the nut that came from a specific distributor. Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc. is the California nut grower and processor at the center of the latest recall. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the recall will include products in which pistachios were used as an ingredient.
It all started when Kraft Foods Inc.’s Back to Nature trail mix tested positive for the bacteria (which can be fatal in young children, the elderly and people with a weakened immune system). Setton also may have distributed contaminated shelled and unshelled pistachios to Kroger Co., and Wal-Mart which produces Sam’s Choice private brand of pistachios. The Setton recall will involve more than 2 million pounds of pistachios. Kraft is recalling more than two dozen products containing pistachios under the Planter‘s and Back to Nature brands. Many grocery stores are following suit by pulling any items containing the nut from their shelves until they receive further information about the safety of the products. Diamond Food Inc. and some distributors of private label pistachios such as Walgreen Co. say their goods did not come from Setton therefore are not contaminated.
Though pistachios are not consumed as widely as peanuts, they do make their way into many products including ice cream and Middle Eastern pastries such as baklava. Source

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Flickr