Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Love Samples (and Marketing): Things I've Tasted Lately

Anyone who has known me for a long time will attest to my love of samples. From the grocery store to fairs to markets to promotional giveaways; I love to try new things and ask questions. So one of the things I enjoy about blogging is the opportunity to try new things and find out about new products. And as a lifelong lover of marketing, I'm interested in how products are presented and distributed. I love to think about things like who the product is geared to, why the packaging is a certain color, and of course what the product tastes like. I think getting to sample products is a two way bonus - the company's get their product out to an engaged consumer and I get to do my own little marketing study. The business of food is fascinating to me.

Here are some of the things I think about when getting new products to try. How was it shipped? Is the package personalized? Did the company send detailed product information to convey their message? If I saw this product in a store, would it be something I'd pick up? If I wanted more information, does their website have what I'm looking for? Is this something that I would recommend to friends and readers?

With that said, here is a look at a few products I've had the opportunity to sample recently. These products were all sent to me as complimentary samples and I was not obligated to review or post about the products. I did enjoy them and decided to share them with you. This is part one of a few posts about products I've tried lately. I'll sprinkle them in along with my regular posts with recipes and healthy snacking.

Somersault Snacks

Somersault Snacks found me on twitter when I was tweeting about Healthy Snack Wednesdays. I had never heard of them before, and I asked if they would be able to send me a sample to try out. I was quite surprised, and delighted when I opened the package that arrived at my house. Enclosed in colorful tissue paper with a hand-signed note were snacks in four flavors. Not just one of each, but three sizes of each flavor!

I started with the chocolate and fell in love. They almost taste like grown up cookie crisps. Just the right amount of sweet and I loved the taste of the sunflower seeds. I'm working my way through the flavors during snack time. The only problem I found is that they aren't readily available in my neighborhood! They are available at a few coffee shops and in the online store. I think I will need to email my grocery store about stocking the chocolate.

Mexican Apple Soda - Sidral Mundet

Thanks to the magic of social media, I was sent two bottles of Sidral Mundet apple soda and a fun shopping tote. According to their website, Sidral Mundet is "an apple-flavored, authentic Mexican soft drink made with 100% real sugar. Sidral comes in two great flavors – regular and green apple – and has been a mainstay in the Mexican-American community since the early 1900s." The sodas are pasteurized and available for purchase mostly through mom & pop restaurants, soda shops and food trucks. A quick look on their store locator showed that the closest stores to me were down in Connecticut. Guess I'll have to be on the lookout on my next road trip!

The hubby and I pulled out our trusty tasting glasses (thanks Sam Adams brewery tour!) and juice glasses and split the sodas for a taste test. The regular flavor was like a fizzy apple cider. It was a deep caramel brown color and sweet, but not too sweet. The green apple was almost a seafoam green color - it was hard to capture it just right in the photo. This flavor was more tart and definitely had that green apple flavor. I really enjoyed the regular apple flavor. I love apple cider and this was a great apple flavor.

Lindsey Olives

I love olives. They consistently rank in my top 5 foods (bread, cheese, eggs, avocado & olives). Since I was little I've been snacking on them. I don't discriminate - I like all kinds green, black, pitted, marinated, or alone. I like them on top of carrots, out of the jar, or cooked into a dish.

When I was down at Eat Write Retreat in May I had the opportunity to sample some of Lindsey Olives newest offerings. Pictured above are their Green Ripe Naturals. In addition to tasting the olives we also learned about the history of the Lindsey Olives company. Founded in 1912 by the Bell brothers, the still family-run company is approaching their 100th year of growing and distributing California olives. In the late 1930's one of the brother's stepsons joined the team and the Carter family joined the name. I learned from their website that Bell-Carter Foods, Inc. is the largest table olive producer in the U.S. and the second largest in the world. That's a lot of olives!

The naturals that we tried at the conference are harvested just once each year. There are no preservatives added to the olives. The ingredient list reads olives, water, and sea salt. The olives are freckled in appearance and milder in taste than the usual green olive. I enjoyed them and the would be a good addition to an appetizer platter or used as topping for chicken. For my first tasting, the olives went straight from can to my mouth. No stopping for anything else in between.  Luckily, these are easy to find in stores in my area. Lindsey Olives has a store locator on their website and are carried at many different retailers. 

That's just a peek at some of the fun things I've been tasting. As usual, I was not compensated in any way by these companies and was not obligated to review their products. As I mentioned, I enjoy the process of evaluating products and sharing with others!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Daring Cooks Challenge: Healthy Potato Salads from Around the World

After sitting out a few challenges, I’m excited to be back for the June Daring Cooks challenge! Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana.

This was my kind of challenge – a theme and ingredients and the freedom to create! I had a weekend cookout to head to where the hosts don’t eat any onions, garlic, or spicy foods. So I wanted to create something that met everyone’s tastes and was delicious!

I started thinking about dressing options and decided on Greek yogurt. From there, the answer came quickly. Potato salad with tzaziki dressing. It would be light, fresh, and perfect for a hot afternoon. And a great accompaniment to burgers & corn. To make the dish even more festive, I used a mix of red, blue, and gold potatoes. This made enough to serve 6 as a side dish.

Tzaziki Potato Salad
Approximately 3 pounds of baby red, Yukon gold, and blue potatoes, rinsed well
1 single-serve container of Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
1/2 of an English cucumber
Zest of 1 medium lemon
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
A few sprigs of parsley for garnish
Kosher salt
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Prepare the cucumber
This will eliminate excess moisture from the cucumber so that the potato salad isn’t soupy
Wash the cucumber well
Using a box grater, grate the cucumber into a colander set over a bowl
Add a sprinkle of kosher salt and toss to combine
Put a plate on top of the grated cucumber and place a heavy can on top
Leave the cucumber to drain while you prepare the rest of the ingredients

Step 2: Cook the potatoes
Add the rinsed potatoes to a large pot
Fill with cold water until the potatoes are covered by about 2 inches
Bring to a boil over medium high heat
Cook for 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are tender, but still a little firm when you stick a knife into them
Drain and return to the hot pot for a minute to dry them off
Pour potatoes onto a baking sheet and allow to cool completely

Step 3: Mix the tzaziki while the potatoes are cooking
Zest the entire lemon and place zest into a small bowl
Juice the zested lemon into the bowl, being careful not to let any seeds get in
Add the chopped parsley into the bowl and mix the ingredients together
Remove the cucumber from the colander and squeeze out any remaining moisture with your hands
Add the cucumber to the bowl and mix to combine
Add the Greek yogurt into the bowl
Mix until well combined
Taste and add salt and pepper to taste

Step 4: Assemble the salad
If any of the potatoes are large, cut so that they are of even size
Add to a large serving bowl (or storage container if transporting)
Add tzaziki mixture and gently toss, making sure to coat all of the potatoes
Garnish with parsley and serve chilled

Serves 6 as a side dish
Cook time: 10-15 minutes for potatoes
Prep time: About 30 minutes

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Healthy Snack Wednesday: Visit the Farmers Market

Here in Massachusetts, it's farmers market season all year long. But now that it's June you can visit wonderful markets every day of the week! From downtown to MetroWest to North and South shores there are markets to explore.

Local farmers markets aren’t just for freshly harvested fruits and vegetables. Stop by any market and there will be a wide variety of vendors. There will be traditional farm stand booths with produce and farm raised products. Almost every market around the Boston area has booths with freshly made cheese and locally raised meats. In addition to the growers and farmers, there will also be food entrepreneurs with prepared salads, jams, baked goods, smoked fish, and more locally made products.

Smaht Fahm honeys and jams at the Boston University Market

Seta and her delicious prepared foods
 at the Copley Market

Now, I can't guarantee that the pastries and sweets you pick up from Danish Pastry House or Tatte Cookies and Cakes are a healthy Wednesday snack. But combined with fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy dairy they go perfectly. I'm a believer in moderation. If you walk to the market and pick up a healthy selection of items, I see nothing wrong with an almond macaroon (just $1!) or a cinnamon brioche rose.

So check out the list of Farmers Markets in your area (\ or, get up from the computer and get outside! Happy healthy snacking!


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