I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of time at home, as of late. Being within the reassuring confines of our house enjoying time with family has truly been a joy in the midst of these extraordinary times.
What else has been a joy? Having a variety of foodie products sent my way has been a rather unexpected – and most definitely appreciated – development of this pandemic. I never ask companies to send me products, and those that do don’t do it regularly, which is fine with me, of course. These past few months have been different from this perspective: now more than ever before, companies have contacted me and have offered to send me products to try out. The vast majority of these companies are small, and they need our support now more than ever before. I have said yes, and the delightful eats – and reads! – have kept on coming. Here is my review of some truly exciting products!
1. America’s Test Kitchen’s Foolproof Fish
To me the name America’s Test Kitchen has always symbolized great food, painstaking attention to detail, and thorough research – so when they offered to send me a copy of their book Foolproof Fish to add to my summer reading, I jumped at the chance. Foolproof Fish provides approachable recipes, most of which you can make with more than one kind of fish. The authors guarantee a flavorful meal no matter what you bring home from the market/fishmonger!
The book offers recipes for vibrant appetizers such as Sizzling Garlic Shrimp and Peruvian Fish Ceviche with Radishes and Orange; easy weeknight meals like Moroccan Fish and Couscous Packets and Tuna Steaks with Cucumber-Peanut Salad; elegant dinner party fare such as Roasted Whole Side of Salmon with Orange Beurre Blanc; or comforting soups like Cod in Coconut Broth with Lemon Grass and Ginger.
I loved the introductory section of the book (“Getting Started”), which delves into the categories of water/fish/crustaceans, cooking techniques, and things to look for when buying seafood, in a straightforward and easy to understand manner. Each element in focus is explained at length without the explanation being boring or cumbersome, and the end result is a book that benefits both fish connoisseurs and beginners alike. You want more knowledge? You’ve got plenty of pages of reading! Want to jump straight to a delicious recipe? That’s definitely possible too. Overall, great job, America’s Test Kitchen! 🙂
2. Ayo yogurt
If you’re into plant-based, healthfulness for yourself and your family, and mindful eating, then you are bound to love AYO almond yogurts.
The Billings family has been growing almonds in California’s San Joaquin Valley since 1913. Over 100 years later, while others buy almonds as a commodity, without tracing their origin or farming practices, the Billings cultivate the organic almonds for their yogurts themselves. Acting as stewards of the land, they are passionate about quality, sustainability, and transparency.
Ayo farm-to-spoon yogurt comes in 4 flavors: vanilla, strawberry, peach and blueberry. There is no dairy in these yogurts, which makes them safe to eat by those who choose to avoid dairy products or are lactose-intolerant. They are also vegan, gluten-free, and non-gmo certified!
I absolutely loved all of the Ayo varieties, but if I were asked to pick a favorite, I’d choose peach. Creamy, reasonably thick and not overly sweet, this yogurt ticked all of the nutritional boxes I am currently interested in. I served it as a crepe filling, with fresh fruit and chopped hazelnuts, and I also drizzled it over the crepes. The luscious texture of the yogurt coupled with the crunchiness of the nuts and the moist fresh fruit pulp made for a dreamy combination of light summer goodness. It was absolutely fabulous, and the crepes “vanished” in no time!
I recommend Ayo yogurts as a great snack or dessert option for adults and kids alike. They are imagined with passion, made with care, and served to consumers in a manner which emphasizes love for the planet and a concern for others’ well-being. Such a laudable food undertaking!
3. Chocolate PBfit
I have never cooked with peanut butter powder before this review, but I’ve always known that it is a popular choice for fitness aficionados and health-conscious chefs due to its superior nutritional benefits. PBfit is one of the peanut butter powder brands out there, and they recently sent me their chocolate variety to try.
Chocolate PBfit is made from pressed peanuts, premium cocoa, cane sugar, and a pinch of salt. It contains 82% less fat and about 1/3 the calories of traditional chocolate nut spreads.
I decided to use Chocolate PBfit as a partial flour substitute in my famous pound cake recipe, a family favorite (you can find the recipe here). Instead of 2.5 cups flour I used 1.5 cup flour and 1 cup peanut butter powder.
I was very impressed with how easy it was to incorporate the peanut butter powder into the batter. Just look at that smooth consistency!
Half-way through incorporating the flour & peanut butter powder I came up with the idea of adding 12 crushed hazelnuts for extra crunchy texture.
I couldn’t wait to see and taste the finished product. So far, so good!
45 minutes later, the pound cakes came out of the oven sporting a perfectly baked texture. Such a resounding success! I was delighted 🙂
I served the sliced cake with sauteed cubed mango, tart fruit preserve, and more crushed hazelnuts.
This cake was everything I had hoped it’d be: moist, peanut flavored, and multi-faceted, it spoke about summer, freshness, and nutrition in utterly enchanting ways. I never knew peanut butter powder could make up such a delicious addition to cakes, but now I know. I will continue to use PBfit in my baking because it adds great peanut flavor, and the texture of the cakes becomes rich and luxurious – and absolutely perfect!
Oat milk continues to be one of this year’s biggest food trends – and for good reasons: this milk is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and is suitable for people with allergies or intolerances. Following the successful launch of Swedish oat milk Oatly on the American market a few years ago, US-based companies have stepped up to deliver oat-based beverages to an ever-growing market of health-conscious and interested consumers.
Enter Oatsome, an organic oat milk made by Better Body Foods from gluten-free oats without gums, thickeners or stabilizers. The creators of Oatsome take pride in the fact that oats are one of the most sustainable grains on the planet, and I definitely share in their commitment to sustainability.
Oatsome sent me their recently launched organic chocolate milk to try.
Consumers are advised to try Oatsome “straight out of a glass, warmed up like hot cocoa or in your favorite smoothie. Hot or iced, and anywhere you want luscious, lactose-free flavor.” As for me, I decided to drink it in combination with the pound cake I’d made using PBfit chocolate peanut butter powder. The milk had a delightful light texture and a pleasant chocolate-imbued taste, which went really well with the moist and satisfying cake.
5. Bug Out protein bars
Perhaps the most unusual product I have tried this summer has been the newly launched Bug Out protein bar. These chocolate brownie flavored bars are made with cricket flour, a source of protein that is nutritionally dense and more environmentally friendly than other proteins out there. Bug Out Bars have 15g of protein and provide all 9 essential amino acids, B12, iron, and omega-3s from DHA and EPA.
I suggest you give Bug Out Bars a try if you’re looking for sustainable alternatives to meat, which use less natural resources while also providing extensive nutritional benefits. As for me, I’m so glad mindful eating is here to stay – and I can’t wait to see how these bars fare on the market!
6. Flax 4 Life
Aren’t you glad the days of tasteless, cardboard-y gluten free products are over? I had the chance to do some further reflection on this topic recently, upon sampling Flax4Life’s gluten-, nut- and dairy- free baked goods.
Flax 4 Life is a family owned and operated bakery based out of Bellingham, WA, which has an incredible personal story. The family have been in business for over 19 years, and are continuing to come up with new flax based gluten-free products made in a dedicated gluten, nut, and dairy free facility. As the name suggests, Flax 4 Life products are made with flax and contain Omega 3, fiber, and lignans. They also don’t have preservatives, hydrogenated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats.
Flax 4 Life sweets tasted as good as they looked! My firm flavor favorites were carrot raisin (in the muffin category) and cappuccino (in the brownie category). The brownies were packed with chocolate richness and decadence, and the muffins were full of plump, naturally sweet fruit.
So good! Mmmmm…
Good to know these yummilicious treats can be found at Fresh Thyme and Fruitful Yield across Chicagoland- I’ll definitely need more once this delightful assortment is gone!
7. Kombucha Town
Up next, another range of products produced in Bellingham, WA – this time, it’s all about kombucha 🙂
Kombucha Town are “brewed using USDA Organic and Non-GMO certified ingredients” with “an energizing mix of antioxidants, living cultures, organic hero ingredients, and caffeine.” There are 170,000,000 to 240,000,000 live active cultures in each serving.
Kombucha Town was the first kombucha brewery to package its products in 16oz US made aluminum cans, which are recyclable, lightweight, space efficient (for improved packing and distribution), and last but not least safer than glass.
These beverages are made in a 6,500-square-foot brewery in the basement of the historic Herald Building in downtown Bellingham, Washington. Kombucha Town has its own canning line, a 500-gallon commercial brew kettle, several conditioning tanks, and dozens of fermentation vessels.
As expected, sustainability is key to the Kombucha Town execs: the power used is 100% offset by renewable energy through Puget Sound Energy, the brewing system is fired by clean burning natural gas, and the organic tea makes great compost.
Delicious kombucha, amazing values!
8. Pure Inventions
Pure Inventions Water Infusion Drops is a woman-owned small business with an exciting mission: to promote beauty and wellness from within. The company was founded in 2003 by lifelong friends Lynne Gerhards and Lori Mulligan, both Certified Clinical Nutritionists and Nutritional Consultants. This duo’s motto is simple, straightforward, and all the more impactful: “Balance is the key to a healthy life. Nourish your mind and body on a daily basis and make choices that are as close to natural as possible. Our main goal is to achieve the wellness of the whole person in a way that is easy, convenient and simple to incorporate into a busy lifestyle.”
Each Pure Inventions product creates a tasty beverage that supports a healthy lifestyle. Just mix to taste 1 to 2 dropperfuls into hot, cold or sparkling water – and that’s it: your drink is ready! Pure Inventions are sweetened naturally with low-glycemic lohan fruit and stevia extracts, and are free of synthetic colors and flavors. There are no sugar, calories, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, or gluten.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Pure Inventions flavors I tried, their versatility, and last but not least convenience. I can definitely see myself using these infusion drops while out and about, with friends or family. Sometimes drinking plain water can be boring – this is when Pure Inventions steps in to provide refreshing flavor and to invigorate one’s daily routine. Small business, but oh-so mighty 🙂