Tex-Mex Pumpkins

October is generally regarded as pumpkin month, because this fruit (yes, it’s officially a fruit–a member of the gourd family) is usually harvested in October.
In 1584, French explorer Jacques Cartier reported his “discovery” of pumpkins in North America (though pumpkins are native to Central America and Mexico).

These days, limited-time offerings in coffee shops and restaurants include pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin scones, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin bagels, pumpkin sorbet, and more…

If you’re looking for a unique, spicy pumpkin appetizer, try the Tex-Mex idea below!
Pumpkin Tacos

2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 large dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon ground ancho chiles
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin purée
3 ounces cream cheese, cut in chunks
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup orange juice
36 small (4 in.) corn tortillas*
1/2 cup salted toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 orange, cut into small wedges
Kosher salt


1. Make slaw: Mix cabbage, cilantro, and onions in a bowl.
2. Toast chiles: In a small frying pan over medium heat, cook sliced chiles in oil, stirring often, until some turn reddish brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer chiles to paper towels, using a slotted spoon; reserve oil.
3. Make spread: In a medium saucepan, cook butter over medium heat, swirling often, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add ground chiles and allspice all at once and stir until foamy, about 10 seconds. Reduce heat to low and stir in pumpkin, cream cheese, and salt; cook, stirring, until cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in juice; scrape into a bowl. Just before serving, drizzle with reserved chile oil.
4. Warm tortillas: Divide into 2 stacks, wrap in a cloth napkin, and microwave until hot, turning over once, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Set tortillas, spread, slaw, pumpkin seeds, toasted chiles, and orange wedges on a tray and let diners make their own tacos, adding a squeeze of orange and more salt to taste.

Recipe from http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-tacos-50400000107261/
Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe?
Feel free to share a Pinterest or Instagram link!


Healthy Snacks: Blue Diamond Artisan Nut Thins

Disclaimer: I received samples from the Naturally Savvy blogger program. Learn more at: Naturally Savvy http://naturallysavvy.com/

Time for a healthy snack. Hmmm…nuts or crackers?
How about both!
I just tried Blue Diamond Artisan Nut Thins.
These just might be THE crunchiest crackers I have ever eaten. They would be great with soft spreads or creamy dips and would DEFINITELY not get soggy!
The Nut Thins do NOT melt in your mouth like buttery crackers.
If you want something super-crunchy they will satisfy your cravings.
There are three options:
1. Sesame Seeds are paired with brown rice and almonds in this baked cracker. The gluten-free Sesame Seed Artisan Nut Thins provide three grams of fiber with every serving.

2. Multi-Seed Artisan Nut Thins are made from brown rice, almonds, and six kinds of seeds (quinoa, flax, millet, amaranth, sesame, and black sesame). They have 21 grams of whole-grains per serving.

3. Flax Seed Artisan Nut Thins combine brown rice and almonds baked into a cracker. You get 400 mg of ALA omega-3 per serving.
Learn more on on the Blue Diamond Artisan Nut Thins page: http://www.bluediamond.com/index.cfm?navid=677

Each box has 4 servings (at 130 calories per serving), so you don’t have to worry about portion distortion (as in a huge bag of chips).
What is YOUR favorite topping for crackers?

Tastykake® Kandy Bar Kakes

Making “S’mores” is a quintessential summer activity. We always bring graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars when we go camping so we can melt up some gooey treats around the campfire. The S’mores experience is hard to replicate, but the flavors can be captured in other goodies. I just tried S’mores Kandy Bar Kakes from the Tastykake® company.

There is a graham-flavored cake and a marshmallow-flavored layer of frosting that is enrobed in a chocolate coating. It’s like S’mores-on-the go (no campsite required)!
This is what the inside looks like:

The chocolate coating is super. I would have preferred a thicker marshmallow layer (frosting, after all, is my favorite food); however, overall, it was a delicious dessert.
I would recommend cutting the bar into 2 or 3 pieces to serve kids. I would also suggest freezing it and eating it right out of the freezer (sort of like an ice cream bar).
Kandy Bar Kakes are available in S’mores, Peppermint, and Peanut Butter flavors.
Learn more at the Tastykake® website:
The Tastykake® Kandy Bar Kakes are sold at grocery and convenience stores across America, in boxes or individually.

Which flavor would you like to try?
What’s YOUR favorite summer treat?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary sample for testing and review purposes.

Coincidentally (while on the subject of S’mores), Dairy Queen just announced that S’mores Blizzard® Treat is its Blizzard® of the Month and will be available all summer long at DQ®!

Keep it Together with the LunchBlox™ Kit!

The kind people at Rubbermaid sent me a new LunchBlox™ Sandwich Kit.
It’s a set of BPA-free containers that snap together, so you can efficiently use the space in your lunch box or bag.
There is a Blue Ice™ pack to keep everything chilled.
It’s convenient and much more organized than tossing everything in my bag (as I used to do).

Some of my favorite healthy foods to pack in the LunchBlox™ Kit are
–Jicama, carrot, and celery sticks
–Spinach/hummus wraps
–Fresh blueberries
–Whole grain crackers
–Greek yogurt dip with basil

I would love to get one for each of my family members!
You can find all the details at

Happy lunching!

Quaker Soft Baked Oatmeal Cookies

My grandma always made oatmeal cookies when we went to visit her in Connecticut.
The kitchen would smell heavenly when we stormed in to give her big hugs.
I’ve never been able to replicate the deliciousness of her warm cookies—and now, as a mom but not yet a grandmom, I don’t seem to have time to bake my own cookies as often as I would like.
I was excited to try Quaker Soft Baked Oatmeal Cookies!

I won’t try to convince you that they are as fantastic as my grandma’s cookies.
You can tell they are store-bought, not homemade…but that’s like comparing apples and oranges. As far as packaged cookies go, they passed my tests.
I loved the texture; the kids loved the taste.
I appreciated fact that they are made with Whole Grain Quaker Oats; they are low in fat (6 g per serving); and they are a good source of fiber.
The kids liked the “plumpy” raisins.

I had no trouble devouring an entire cookie, but a single package is actually rather large for a child.
So, you might want to split one between two children.
Aside from that, I was pleased with the product and look forward to trying the other flavors—Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Almond, Cranberry & Yogurt, and Banana Nut.

You can find Quaker Soft Baked Oatmeal Cookies at most major retailers. Suggested retail price: $2.69 for a box of 6 cookies.

When I’m a grandma myself maybe I’ll have more time to bake big soft cookies, but for now I’ll lean on Quaker for a bit of assistance!

(disclosure: a complimentary Quaker cookie sample was provided to me by Influenster for testing and review purposes for the Mom VoxBox).

Unjunk Your Junk Food

In my family, we think of ourselves as avid label-readers. When shopping for new foods, we scan the ingredients to see if there are any trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, or other scary items on the list. If so, the box/can/package goes back on the shelf. This is the same approach taken by Andrea Donsky, Randy Boyer, and Lisa Tsakos, the authors of
Unjunk Your Junk Food: Healthy Alternatives to Conventional Snacks
(Gallery Books, 2011).
Donsky is the co-founder of NATURALLYSAVVY.COM, and I received a complimentary copy of the book from those kind folks.

Link to book: http://www.naturallysavvy.com/book/unjunk-your-junk-food
The NaturallySavvy.com team wants you to Join the edible (R)evolution!
You can read the manifesto at: http://bit.ly/wXJWMF
“You don’t have to give up the foods you love, just give up the toxic ingredients.
Take the junk out of your junk food.”
The goal of this edible (R)evolution is NOT to force yourself to eat bland food just because it’s healthy. Rather, we can all learn the fine art of substitution and make Good Choices instead of Bad Choices. Avoiding harmful ingredients can be very beneficial for your overall well-being.
The book includes a tear-out Worst Ingredients Chart that you can bring along to the grocery store. Simple!
I used the Worst Ingredients Chart and looked through my pantry—several items had indeed made it past my initial screening, because I found plenty of items with artificial flavors and artificial colors and preservatives in our cupboard. Oops!

Thanks to this book, I will be more vigilant on our shopping trips.
It helped me decipher some of the more ambiguous ingredients. It’s very easy to read and is visually appealing in presenting good-vs-bad options.
I look forward to keeping our family healthy and happy and well-fed!

A Week of Diet-to-Go

I recently won a contest from the nice people at Diet-to-Go
You can see my winning Pinterest board at:

What is Diet-to-Go?
Diet-to-Go is the diet delivery plan that has been helping people lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle for over 20 years. Our concept is simple: provide fresh, healthy food that is both properly portioned and unbelievably delicious, make it easily accessible, and the weight loss will come. It really works! Our success stories speak for themselves.
How does Diet-to-Go work?
1. Choose Low-Fat Traditional, Low-Fat Vegetarian, or Low-Carb.
2. If you’re in the Washington DC, San Francisco, Baltimore, or greater Philadelphia area there are fresh local pickup options; if not, you get national home delivery via FedEx.
3. Select 1200 or 1600 calories/day
4. Choose 5 or 7 days/week
5. Choose Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner or just Lunch & Dinner
Pricing varies based on these choices (according to the site, as low as $6.48/meal).

You can take a free diet analysis quiz on the site to receive a personalized body type profile that recommends calorie counts for optimal weight loss.
Menus run on a 5-week schedule, so if you sign up long-term you go through a full cycle and then it repeats. You ARE allowed to ask for substitutions if there are certain meals that you detest!

I selected the low-fat vegetarian option, with 1200 calories and 3 meals/day.
All the meals arrived in one big freezer-packed box; one of the yogurts had exploded in a plastic bag, making a goopy frozen mess, but everything else was in perfect condition.
I immediately put the first few meals in the refrigerator and the rest in the freezer to take out as needed.
I was beginning on week 5.
Five days in, I was already very impressed with the meals. Breakfast foods were fairly standard (e.g. waffles or pancakes or a Greek burrito or a muffin with fruit or juice); aside from a VERY dry scone all those were fine.
Lunch options included a Tomato Pesto Meltover with apple cake; a Ciabatta Bake with Quinoa Salad and fresh apple; and a Black Bean & Feta Cheese Wrap.
Dinners included Eggplant Parmesan; a Soy Salisbury Steak with mashed potatoes & green beans; and Channa Masala.

The lowdown: The meals were indeed tasty and filling. I NEVER eat such a wide variety of dishes in the span of one week, so I also enjoyed the novelty of it all.
My primary reason for not continuing with the program is the expense, but I would consider it in the future.

The site says:
Diet-to-Go is about healthy eating made easy. We pride ourselves on creating the best tasting, nutritionally balanced, freshest food available. We are all about making people’s lives easier through promoting common sense healthy eating choices.

Considering the repeated use of the word “healthy,” I have a few surprising (to me) ingredient notes to make: the “wheat pita” in the Tomato Pesto Meltover was just enriched wheat flour. Even the “Whole Grain French Toast” was just enriched flour plus high fructose corn syrup. The Soy Salisbury Steak’s mashed potatoes & gravy both contained trans fats (partially hydrogenated soybean oil). There were artificial colors/flavors in several of the meals.

So…those seeking an all-organic or preservative-free diet would want to look elsewhere (though I don’t know where).
Diet-to-Go’s primary competitors would be Nutrisystem, eDiets, and BistroMD, none of which I have tried.

… “For over 20 years, Diet-to-Go’s tasty, low-calorie, high fiber, nutrient-dense, satisfying meals have helped thousands of men and women shed unwanted pounds and live a healthy lifestyle. Based on years of experience and sound nutrition, we have created a simple, affordable and proven weight loss program that really works.

If you’re looking for a customized and convenient diet plan and can afford the price tag, it’s worth a try!

Best Food Blog Awards 2012

Do you write a food blog? Do you have a favorite food blog that you visit regularly?
Nominate yourself or another for the Saveur 2012 Best Food Blog Awards!
Starting on March 6, visit saveur.com/blogawards
to send in nominations

Starting on April 5, come back to vote for the winners.
Winners last year include Smitten Kitchen as Best Cooking Blog http://smittenkitchen.com/

and Home-sick Texan http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/
as Best Regional Cuisine Blog

Let the competition begin!

Protein on-the-go

Review: tera’s whey Organic Whey Protein
As a member of the Real Moms Love to Eat Food Affairiate Program, one of the “Real Mom approved” products I received to sample was a pouch of tera’s whey Organic Whey Protein (Bourbon Vanilla flavor). As a vegetarian, I have tried many different protein powders, and this all-natural one stood out because it had low-glycemic stevia leaf extract, 22 grams of organic whey protein, and 120 calories (per 30-gram packet).

I never feel that protein powders are that tasty, but you can mix them with any kind of juice; and I did feel that this one was nutritious and effective.

Subsequently, I ordered a canister of tera’s whey Organic Blueberry Whey Protein from Abe’s Natural Market. I have been adding a scoop of that to my smoothies or shakes, and I am very pleased with it. I can almost feel the antioxidants working!

I like supporting tera’s whey, because all of their ingredients are sourced from sustainable family dairy farms (mostly small, Wisconsin family farms).

If you’re looking for an all-natural whey protein, I recommend this!
Thanks to Beth Aldrich and Real Moms Love to Eat (see my previous posts) for introducing me to tera’s whey!

Real Moms Love to Picnic

When I became a Food Affairiate for Real Moms Love to Eat I received some products that Beth Aldrich endorses (brands that are sponsors of her book tour).
This is my review of the Go Picnic ready-to-eat-meals http://www.gopicnic.com/

I tried the Hummus + Crackers meal, which includes Wild Garden Hummus Dip, Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers, Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame, Sweet Perry Orchards Baja Blend Fruit & Nut Mix and an Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Square.
It was a nice mixture of flavors. Each separate package is fairly small, and if you’re the kind of person who prefers to nibble at your desk all day rather than eating a huge meal all at once this is perfect. It comes in a convenient box that you don’t have to assemble yourself! I particularly liked the roasted edamame in the box I tried.
Health advantages: All-Natural, Gluten Free, Vegan & Kosher.

The Go Picnic meal options include:
Sunbutter + Crackers
Hummus + Crackers
Tuna + Crackers
Salmon + Crackers
Peanut Butter + Crackers

You’ll feel like a kid discovering what fun snacks each one has inside the box!

Have you pre-ordered your copy of Real Moms Love to Eat yet?
Check out the book trailer here:

Here’s to a New Year full of loving food and feeling fabulous!