Tasting Box – April 2014

This post is so late! Gah!

Here’s most of the April Tasting Box!

Tasting Box April 2014

Yeah, I kinda already had the pasta sauce and, no, I’m not sorry I finished it already.

What is it?

Tasting is believing! The TASTING BOX includes 5 scrumptious tastes to enjoy, made by our favourite Canadian small batch food artisans and delivered directly to your door – a different box each month.  The TASTING BOX is the perfect opportunity to discover and sample the culinary talents right in our own backyard! Only 50 TASTING BOXES are available each month, so order yours today!

It’s $14.95 + shipping for a box, so people in Ontario and Quebec get it for around $22 or so after tax. This month, they sent a HUGE box because of the pasta sauce!

This time, there was only 4 items in the box, but that jar was HUMONGOUS!

Louise Prete Fine Foods’ Sugo Pomodoro all’Amatriciana – Toronto, ON (Full Size 737g – $9.99)

As you can tell by the absence of a product, we finished it ALL! It was really delicious with a good balance between sweet and savoury flavours between the Italian tomatoes, fresh herbs, double smoked bacon and that little touch of chili flakes.

It was a little more watery than I like in a tomato sauce (I seem to like my foods and sauces on the thicker side), but it goes super well with mushroom pasta!

Manning Canning's Spicy Tomato Jam

Manning Canning’s Spicy Tomato Jam – (45mL – $1.44)

It has a really good spreadable consistency, which would be great with crackers at a party!

Even though it’s a tomato jam, it’s actually pretty sweet! It reminds me of a really fancy ketchup with a pretty strong molasses-y scent that probably comes from the cloves and cinnamon they put into it.

I found it to be a little spicy at first but it faded away pretty quickly with the sweetness taking over and then made way for the more subtle flavours like the tomato, ginger and lime juice.

I may have to try and pair this with a cheese of some sort.

Kimberley's Own Nibscottis

Kimberly’s Own’s Biscotti Three-Pack Sampler – Toronto, ON (25g - unknown price)

I’m not too sure what the pricing is on this since it’s not listed anywhere!

They’re handmade biscottis with raw cacao, organic walnuts and chia. It may not be completely gluten free because oats generally carry very trace amounts of it, so be careful if you’re sensitive! However, they’re not made with wheat and it’s sweetened with maple syrup, brown rice syrup and honey instead of sugar!

Compared to traditional biscottis, these ones are much lighter and airier in texture but they still have a great crunch and mouthfeel to them. They’ve got a great mild sweetness and high fibre with a little cocoa hit that makes them a great mid-afternoon snack when the 3:00 slump hits!

Batch Sweet Kitchen's Salted Caramel Popcorn

Batch Sweet Kitchen’s Salted Caramel Popcorn – Vancouver, BC (50g – $3.33)

I really love salted caramel anything, so when I saw this, I almost squealed.

Be warned: it contains walnuts! I didn’t know that it had anything else besides popcorn and salted caramel, so it was a little shock when I took a piece out and a walnut was right in front of me!

The caramel is really crispy and evenly covers the popcorn so you get a bit of salted caramel goodness in every bite without having to smash the popcorn apart. The combination of that thin layer of crispy caramel, fluffy popcorn and delicious saltiness makes me keep going back for more!

I will note that the salt was a touch too heavy in the caramel, so it really brought out the slightly burnt taste that comes out during caramelization.

Verdict: I really enjoyed everything in the box, especially the salted caramel popcorn and the pomodoro sauce! But, I think I would’ve wanted to see a bit more variety. April’s box contained two tomato-based products and two treat-like things. I’m looking forward to see what May brings!

Did you get the April Tasting Box? What did you think about it?

xoxo,

B.elle

Quinoa Salad with Sunflower Oil

I got a small bottle of cold-pressed sunflower oil in my March Tasting Box from Kricklewood Farms and I thought that it’d be best to try out the flavours of it in a delicious quinoa salad!

Quinoa Salad

Now, I love quinoa salad! It’s so easy to make, extremely versatile in dishes and it goes with practically every savoury flavour that you can think of. (I haven’t tried a dessert with quinoa, but that would be something I’m open to try!)

Another reason I love quinoa salad is because it’s already packed with easily digestible proteins, it’s gluten-free, and has a bunch of other nutrients like calcium and magnesium that helps maintain a balanced diet. It just has a very, very slight bitterness when it’s cooked because of the saponin it produces as part of its defense mechanisms in the wild. I know, most North American quinoa is thoroughly washed before packaging, but palates as sensitive as mine can still detect it!

Quinoa Salad with Sunflower Oil

I firmly believe that anything can be added into a quinoa salad and it will come out delicious, as long as you like the flavours that you add in. Today, I decided to put in some diced carrots, red bell pepper, cucumber and a boiled egg!

 

So, where did I use the sunflower oil? First, I used it to roast the quinoa a bit with some diced garlic.  I also used the sunflower oil to cook my diced peppers and carrots!

Quinoa Salad Prep

Finally, I used about 2 tbsp of the oil in my dressing! I used some rice wine vinegar, a bit of red wine vinegar, pinch of sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper and just a touch of sugar to help round out the flavours. I really wanted the quinoa and oil to come out instead!

It’s a great salad to have either warm or cold and it would taste even better with a bit of fresh chopped herbs and a glass of dry cider!

Cooking Quinoa

I like to use a 1:1.75 ratio for my quinoa to chicken broth ratio because I like more of a textured bite to my salads. Usually, recipes call for a 1:2 ratio.

Cooked Quinoa

The sunflower oil has a very mild taste that gets along with almost every flavour and I think it can be used in any culinary application in place of vegetable oil or olive oil! It even has an incredibly high burn point, as I accidentally discovered when I got distracted while cooking the veggies.

Quinoa Salad

Number of servings: 4

Ingredients

225g / 1 cup of quinoa
1 3/4 cup of chicken broth (or other liquid you like)
1 boiled egg, chopped
1/4 cup carrots, small dice (about 1 small carrot)
1/4 cup red pepper, small dice
1/2 cup cucumber, diced
2 tbsp + 1 tsp garlic, finely diced
50ml sunflower oil, divided
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar, to taste
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1. Add 2 tsp of sunflower oil into a small pot on MED heat. Gently saute 1 tsp garlic until fragrant.

2. Add quinoa into the pot and stir until all seeds are covered in oil and lightly cooked, about 30 seconds (if that). Add chicken broth into the pot and stir.

3. Turn heat to HIGH and let it come to a boil for a few seconds. Then, turn the heat back down to LOW and let simmer, while covered, for 15 minutes. Once cooked, fluff with a fork (like you’re trying to separate the seeds by combing them with your fork).

4. Add 2 tsp of sunflower oil to a separate pan on MED-HIGH heat. Saute remaining garlic, carrots and bell peppers until cooked but not soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Whisk together red wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp (30mL) sunflower oil, sugar and season to taste. (This would be a pretty basic dressing, if you couldn’t tell)

6. Mix together cooked quinoa, carrots, bell peppers, cucumber, boiled egg and dressing. Serve warm or cold.

Next time, I’m adding a bit of goat cheese into my salad for that extra bit of flavour! What would you add to your quinoa salad?

xoxo,

B.elle

KURIOS: A New Show by Cirque du Soleil!

It’s a steampunk-inspired Cirque du Soleil show that’s coming to Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto later this year.

All rights belong to Cirque du Soleil

All rights belong to Cirque du Soleil

About the Show

Reality is Relative
What if you could alter reality at will? Delve into a world of curiosity where seeing is disbelieving: the world of
KURIOS™ – Cabinet of Curiosities from Cirque du Soleil®. The show immerses you in a mysterious and fascinating realm that disorients your senses and challenges your perceptions, leaving you to wonder: “Is it real, or just a figment of my imagination?”

Step into the curio cabinet of an ambitious inventor who defies the laws of time, space and dimension in order to reinvent everything around him. Suddenly, the visible becomes invisible, perspectives are transformed, and the world is literally turned upside down in a place that’s as beautiful as it is mysterious.

KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is an ingenious blend of unusual curiosity acts and stunning acrobatic prowess from Cirque du Soleil. Let KURIOS show you that anything is possible through the power of imagination.

Right now, they have a promotion on Facebook where they’re giving out 250 pairs of tickets! All it requires is 30 people to enter through your link for them to mail a pair of tickets to you. It sounds like a lot, but it’s worth a shot! I’ve never been to a Cirque show that hasn’t been completely worth the admission fee.

Enter through my link! :)

https://apps.facebook.com/cirque-kurios?app_data=bt7c2hi9

xoxo,

B.elle

Kombucha Wonder Drink

Whelp… I caved in and did it.

No, I didn’t get a new, questionable tattoo or pole danced in Dundas Square. I actually went and tried kombucha tea!

image

Kombucha Wonder Drink in Green Tea & Lemon – $2 for 250ml

Ingredients: water, organic brewed green tea (water, organic green tea leaves), organic kombucha (water, organic cane juice, organic oolong tea leaves, yeast and bacteria cultures), organic cane juice, organic lemon extract, carbon dioxide.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this new trendy drink, it’s tea with added live culture like yeast and bacteria to naturally create fizzy bubbles like in pop and beer.

“But wait,” you say. “The ingredient deck says that there’s organic cane sugar in the drink! Doesn’t yeast cause fermentation with sugary drinks?”

(You probably didn’t say that, but you might’ve. If that’s the case, you’re awesome.)

Why, yes! Fermentation DOES occur with certain sugar-based beverages. Not only is it the main reaction that creates alcoholic beverages like wine, beer, vodka and many blacked out, vomit-filled nights around the world, it also causes food spoilage.

I think you can see why I was so hesitant to try it!

Anyway, I found this can at the Richtree Marketplace convenience store in the Eaton Centre mall in downtown Toronto and decided that it was a good day as any to be culinarily adventurous. I picked the green tea and lemon variation over the original just because I figured that some extra flavouring would help me get over the fact I was drinking yeast.

The lemon extract flavour did come out quite well with a good amount of sweetness and the astringency from both tea leaves was very noticeable, even through the very distinct yeast flavour.

And I mean VERY distinct.

The recurring thought I had while drinking the kombucha tea was that it felt like I was drinking a the dregs of a very strong, very yeasty and possibly spoiled stout mixed with sweet lemon tea. And that’s a really weird combination, even for me!

The most prominent factor for me was this: It left a very unpleasant aftertaste on my entire palate and left me kind of bloated, not unlike downing half a pint of Guinness in a few gulps but without the buzz that comes with it.

After doing some light research, I found out that kombucha’s supposed to be a sort of cure-all tonic back in the older days, but there’s no real scientific backing to any of these claims. This would be why I couldn’t find any health claims besides the organic certification on the can!

Verdict: 1.5/5 I do appreciate the all-organic ingredients that they sourced and the lemon green tea combination, but I can’t get over the fermentation flavour and how it tastes like a badly-made beer.

Have you tried kombucha tea? Do you like it? Maybe I need to try a different brand. Any suggestions?

Xoxo,
B.elle

Nerd Block – March 2014

I finally got my Nerd Block today after worrying for a day and a half that Canada Post had lost it in the mail.

But, I finally have the precious box and here it is!

Nerd Block March 2014

What is Nerd Block?

It’s a monthly subscription box featuring all things gamer, geek and nerd collectibles. For $19.99USD+tax, you get about 5 random full sized collectibles and a tshirt of your size with a design from ShirtPunch!

They mentioned that they partnered up with Ubisoft for the March box and they totally delivered with an official Assassin’s Creed figurine!

Again, they haven’t provided a product card, so I’m not too sure where these things are sold or any details about how much they might retail for.

Nerd Block March 2014

McFarlane Toys Assassin’s Creed Connor Action Figure – $19.99 (approx.)

AHHHHHHH! I squealed when I saw Connor in my box! I know that AC3 wasn’t the best out of the franchise (AC2 has better story, I haven’t played AC4:Black Flag yet, and AC1 and Altair hold a special place in my heart), but I loved Connor’s arsenal and the setting they put it in!

I am going to have to clear some space to put him up in my room!

Topps Wacky Packages Stickers Series 7

Basically, it’s a pack of trading parody stickers. They’re like trading cards, but you can stick them on your products for a little laugh.

They’re made by the same designers as the Garbage Pail Kids – parodies of the Cabbage Patch Kids – and are apparently making some sort of trendy retro comeback, somehow.

I didn’t even know that trading cards were still a thing these days. I’ll probably end up giving the unopened pack away. Email me if you’d like it! (knowyournoms [at] gmail [dot] com)

Nerd Block March 2014From left to right…

The Simpsons 25 of the Greatest Guest Stars – Yao Ming

This is a new series that just launched this year! It’s great to see The Simpsons still going strong in mainstream culture. But has it really been 25 years?! Damn, I’m old.

Legend of Zelda Mini Figure – Tetra from LoZ: Phantom Hourglass

I really have to stop throwing out the little cards that come with the figures because I have NO idea what the official name is!

Anyway, it’s Tetra! She’s such an adorable, annoying pirate princess brat, but she has her moments! I also love the fact that she came with a full heart container!

Star Trek Skele-Treks – Borg

This is sooooooo cute! I have to admit that the Borg is one of my favourite antagonist species in Star Trek and I am so looking forward to seeing if the new movies will bring them around and how they reinvent them! (I only have a LITTLE problem with the Klingons in the last movie and that was the fact that the ridges were way too shallow.)

But I love how it’s such a delightful mix of Star Trek and sugar skull designs! So morbidly adorable!

Nerd Block March 2014

No, I didn’t get 2 tshirts! I got the Darth Vader one on the left in my box, which I will be doing my damnedest to wear during parkour training to get a chase going!

The Totoro tshirt came from ShirtPunch, which is a partner company of Nerd Block! Each design is (usually) available just for a day, unless it makes it to a grab bag day. I am loving both designs!

Verdict: 4/5 It’s a great box! Everything’s pretty cool and now I even have a new tshirt and an awesome Assassin’s Creed figurine!

But, I’m still going to cancel.

Although it’s a great box and a fantastic subscription company, I was reviewing my credit card statement and Nerd Block charged me $35.80CAD for this box. That is a VERY far cry from the $19.99 price that it advertises. I know that it’s all from the taxes and the conversion rates, but I just can’t justify spending that much every month on collectibles that won’t be consumed or used up like cosmetics or food.

Likewise, my tshirt from ShirtPunch was originally priced at $6.99 and I was charged $16.61CAD because of (I think) shipping and taxes.

To me, this isn’t a fair deal since everything looks like it’s processed and sent in Canada. If it’s American owned and operating in USD, I would like to know that first!

I might revisit this box in the summer, but I have to stop for now.

Did you get a Nerd Block? What did you think about it?

xoxo,

B.elle

Tasting Box – March 2014

It’s the time of the month where I’m getting a ton of goodies in the mail! Yay! Christmas all over again! (The weather here agrees with me. Seriously, when is it going to get warm?!)

Anyway, The March Tasting Box!

Tasting Box March 2014

What is it?

Tasting is believing! The TASTING BOX includes 5 scrumptious tastes to enjoy, made by our favourite Canadian small batch food artisans and delivered directly to your door – a different box each month.  The TASTING BOX is the perfect opportunity to discover and sample the culinary talents right in our own backyard!  Only 50 TASTING BOXES are available each month, so order yours today!

They’ve recently changed their shipping policies for the Tasting Box so it’s now $14.95+shipping instead of including the shipping in the price. I live in Toronto and they ship from Ottawa, so I don’t have a problem with that since it’s a bit cheaper for me than it was before!

Let’s take a closer look at what’s inside.

Tasting Box March 2014

Ferme Guy Rivest’s Strawberry Wine Jelly – Rawdon, QC (Full Size 140mL – $3)

This is a really nice jelly! You can absolutely tell that it’s made out of strawberry WINE, so if that’s not your thing, you might not like it too much.

It only has 3 ingredients: strawberry wine, sugar and natural pectin. It’s super hard to find a good jelly that has so few understandable ingredients although I’m sure the strawberry wine has something else in it since it takes a bit more to ferment it.

But for some reason, I think it’s a little too much on the liquidy side. Maybe it’s because it had to go through some pretty polarizing temperatures as it went through Canada Post?

Carolina’s Box of Goodness’ Artisan Dulce de Leche Brownie – Ottawa, ON (1 square, approx. $2.15)

I don’t know if you know this, but I love brownies yet I’m not a huge fan of chocolate brownies! I might’ve only had fudge up to now, but I don’t know why I prefer blondies instead! (Note: I like blond and brown hair on my men, I don’t discriminate! ;) )

It’s so soft that it literally melts in your mouth and absolutely delectable! My square had a little bit of sugar crystallization in it so it didn’t have a completely even texture, but it shows that it’s handmade. Personally, I would’ve preferred it to be a little more firm, but I’m not going to argue with French dessert traditions!

Tasting Box March 2014

JBars All Natural Protein Snack – Toronto, ON (2 full sized bars in Lemon and Cocoa, $12 for a pack of 3)

These were supposed to be samples, but Anne-Marie was a darling and gave me the full sized bars! What a sweetie!

I love how JBars packaged them into clear, resealable plastic baggies. I get so frustrated at the traditional sleeve packaging even though I know that it’s a lot cheaper! The resealable function is great for keeping the freshness and they do mention to keep it in the fridge if you need to!

I tried the cocoa one and the cocoa flavour is pretty balanced even though I found it slightly bland. (But that could be because I ate the brownie first. Oops!) But, even though I had the brownie first, I could really taste the toasted quinoa! I found that the texture soft, but almost too crumbly for a protein bar.

Tasting Box March 2014

Dad’s Westcoast Awesome Sauces’ Wildfire Awesome Sauce – Mill Bay, BC (40mL – $1.44)

This hot sauce is indeed an Awesome Sauce! It’s super spicy, packed full of flavours like jalapeno, bell peppers, cumin, garlic, bird’s eye chili, sugar and jarred with the cutest two kittens ever on the front.

I anticipate this tiny jar to be finished very soon after a few dinners.

Kricklewood Farm’s Cold Pressed Sunflower Oil – Frankville, ON (100mL- $2.80)

I haven’t opened this yet to try it out, but I’ve never used sunflower oil before and this seems like the perfect time to try it out! I’ll have to make up a new recipe for this… ;)

Verdict: It wasn’t as great as the February Tasting Box, but March had some good offerings! I definitely enjoyed the Brownie and the Wildfire Awesome Sauce, but the weather must have wreaked a little havoc on the Strawberry Wine Jelly! I’m looking forward to see what April’s offerings are!

Did you get a Tasting Box? What did you think about these products?

Want a Tasting Box of your own? Keep an eye on FoodiePages.ca on the 1st of each month at noon to get one of the 50 that they make!

xoxo,

B.elle

Note: I am not paid by Foodie Pages or any of the companies mentioned in this post for this review. All opinions and views are mine.

Topbox – March 2014

Look what I got in the mail today!

Topbox March 2014

My March Topbox! Yay!

What is it?

Topbox is a Canadian monthly beauty box subscription that features 4 deluxe samples for $12 per month, shipped right to your door via Canada Post. Some months, they include full sized products for customers to get! Keep in mind that they do have a waitlist of about 2-3 months from initial sign-up before you get a box!

It’s great to see that they included another coupon code, but I don’t think I’ve ever ordered cosmetics online OR from Lise Watier! I hope one of you readers can use it! Just punch in the promo code TOPBOXLW at checkout on a purchase $50 or more to get 10% off!

Topbox March 2014Clinique Superprimer Face Primer (7mL sample) – $29 for 30mL

I’ve been using foundation a bit more often these days, but I’ve been using Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primer so far. I’m looking forward to trying Clinique’s to compare!

It’s very lightweight, non-oily and dries extremely fast. It doesn’t leave any residue at all, either! Looking good so far!

Belvada Cosmetics Blackhead Facial Mask (2 packets)

There wasn’t a price listed nor is the product listed on Belvada’s website, so I’m going to guess that this is an unreleased product that’s going through some market testing.

The great thing about them is that they’re made with bamboo charcoal and I LOVE using charcoal facial products! I can’t wait to try them out!

UPDATE: After reading a bunch of reviews about how painful it is and how some girls have reacted really badly to the mask, I’ve decided not to try it out.

Topbox March 2014Cina Nail Art Pen in Purple – $8.79 Full Size

It’s an alright colour, I guess? It’s a bit dark for my liking, but… I’m not really into doing nail art on my own, but there’s nowhere on ANY beauty profile out there that goes, “Do you like nail art pens?” so I can’t really complain.

The tip was really weak and pretty much got crushed right after I pumped the tip to get the nail polish out, so now it’s not even a fine tip for detailing, which is what nail art is supposed to be!

Lise Watier Solution Double Dual Phase Eye Makeup Remover (38mL sample) – $24 for 120mL

Yay! I love getting makeup removers! I was just running out and I even bought some makeup removing wipes, but this will definitely get used!

It’s got two different solutions in the jar, so you have to shake it up before moistening a cotton pad to wipe off your eye makeup. Remember: this is EYE MAKEUP REMOVER, not for the rest of your face! It just doesn’t work as well on the rest of your face, trust me!

It works pretty well to remove my daytime makeup gently and it’s fairly affordable as luxury makeup removers go, but it will be interesting to see how well it does against some more aggressive nighttime makeup.

Verdict: 4/5 The nail art pen was a TOTAL miss, but I do really like the other products in the March Topbox! There weren’t any colour cosmetics, but I didn’t miss it and I know I can use most of it up by next month!

What did you get in your Topbox? What did you think?

Interested in joining? Click here and get on the waitlist now! Don’t forget to check out their Facebook page for the latest updates!