Tuesday, July 18, 2017


(Image from www.artofeating.com)
The English poet and hymnodist William Cowper (1731-1800) said it best in his poem “The Task” (1785): “…Variety is the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor...” For me, everything I approach, I try to do so openly, and with a curiosity to learn from that new experience, and then apply it often. 

Following are my latest reviews of foods, cooking workshops, and restaurant tastings that exemplify Cowper’s goals.  Today’s edition includes Mama Bella Hot Sauce, Productos Los Tres Soles, Wild Garden, McCormick & Schmick’s, Mariano’s and Westmont Public Library, and Zemas Madhouse Foods.  Enjoy!

~ Food Tastings & Beyond ~

Mama Bella Hot Sauce Mild Red Jelly and Mild Kumquat Marmalade ~ The Red Jelly is made from locally sourced red bell peppers, and the Kumquat Marmalade is made from locally sourced kumquats with the addition of spicy wax peppers.  Both products worked well when added to dips or salsa, or used as a topper of cream cheese, which was my favorite; or, try using these as glazes for grilled or roasted meat, poultry, or fish and seafood.  For more information, visit https://www.mamabellahotsauce.com

Productos Los Tres Soles Datil Enchilado (Chili Dates) and Candy Coated Medjool Dates ~ The Medjool Dates are definitely a dessert treat; I was disappointed that I didn’t receive plain Medjool Dates, so I could try them in my own recipes.  Medjool Dates have their own natural sweetness and the addition of sweetened coatings (milk chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate with nuts, etc.) made these too sweet.  The Chili Dates are a blend of sweet and savory spice and can be added to chili dishes, salsas or in dips.  For more information, visit http://los3solesdates.com

Wild Garden Traditional Mediterranean Couscous and Turkish Kabob Marinade ~ The Traditional Mediterranean Couscous is made from whole couscous and chick peas, seasoning and tomato sauce is the perfect side to any meal; fully cooked and takes less than two minutes to microwave.  The Turkish Kabob Marinade is made from a blend of tomatoes, cumin, and garlic, and is the perfect marinade for lamb, beef, poultry, or seafood.  These products are perfect for the home cook who wants to expand their culinary experiences by introducing authentic Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes to their family and friends.  For more information, visit http://www.wildgarden.com

(Jill Motew, Founder, Zemas Madhouse Foods)
Zemas Madhouse Foods Mini Ancient Whole Grain Sweet Potato Spice Cookies, Mini Ancient Whole Grain Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies and Ancient Whole Grain Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix  ~ Zemas Madhouse Foods was developed by Jill Motew, a young busy mom of five who wanted to create a brand of foods that had all the right stuff, and was also healthy for her family…foods that were minimally processed, and free of dairy, soy, rice, sesame, yeast, tree nuts, sulfites, addivitves, trans fats, GMOs, preservatives, and refined sugar.  The result was a unique and delicious variety of products that even gluten-loving folks without a dietary concern, like myself, who would love.  Two food groups I love are COOKIES and PANCAKES.  My favorite time of year is AUTUMN and THANKSGIVING.  When you combine these factors, you can appreciate why I selected the Mini Ancient Whole Grain Sweet Potato Spice Cookies, Mini Ancient Whole Grain Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies and Ancient Whole Grain Peruvian Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix to review.  The Sweet Potato Spice and Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies had a nice crispness to them that made it perfect for crumbling into yogurt, or dunking in my homemade “Maple Extract and Maple Syrup Yogurt Sauce”; I also liked the taste aspect of pumpkin seeds in the Sweet Potato Spice Cookie, and dried cranberries in the Oatmeal Cranberry Cookie.  The Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix required eggs, milk, maple syrup, cooking oil, and vanilla extract; I switched out the vanilla extract and used maple extract; the maple extract intensified the overall flavor of the maple syrup, the recipe’s natural sweetener.  The batter consistency was a bit dense, so I added a bit more of the milk to slightly thin the batter; it was still a bit dense; while the pancakes cooked, I had to keep an eye on them as they cooked, because the batter began browning quickly due to the syrup’s natural sugars.  Although the batter appeared dense, the taste was light, and overall, the pancakes were delicious.  I topped the pancakes off with my homemade “Pumpkin Butter”, some of my homemade “Maple Extract and Maple Syrup Yogurt Sauce”, a hit of my homemade “Baking Spice Blend Sugar”.  Obviously my using yogurt and granulated sugar is a deviation from the intent of these foods, but for me, these additional items intensified the delicious taste profile of the Cookies and Pancakes.  For more information, visit http://zemasfoods.com/

(Photo by T. Herman)
I made the Zemas Sweet Potato Pancake Mix...to go along with it, I made a 1) Maple Extract and Maple Syrup Yogurt Sauce, and also served my homemade 2) Pumpkin Butter (made from Pumpkin Pulp, my homemade Baking Spice Blend Sugar), and my homemade 3) Baking Spice Blend Sugar (Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Allspice, and Sugar)...I also served the Sweet Potato Spice Cookies and the Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies...the cookies could also be dipped in the Maple Extract and Maple Syrup Yogurt Sauce... I cooked the pancakes in organic butter...for my topping, I added my homemade Pumpkin Butter topped off with the Maple Yogurt Sauce...I cooked the pancakes in sweet cream organic butter (unsalted)...I then topped them off by adding my homemade Pumpkin Butter and homemade Maple Extract and Maple Syrup Yogurt Sauce...delicious…

~ Event Tastings ~

McCormick & Schmick’s (Oak Brook, IL)

(Photo by T. Herman)
In 2012, Landry’s, Inc. purchased all of the nationwide McCormick & Schmick’s restaurants.  I recently went to at my local McCormick & Schmick’s for a light lunch of Coconut Shrimp with Orange Marmalade Relish, Mixed Green Salad, Bleu Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Bleu Cheese Dressing, and for dessert, their signature Chocolate Bag with White Chocolate Mousse and Mixed Fresh Seasonal Berries (Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries).  While everything was tasty, I enjoyed the Chocolate Bag the most; however, my only complaint was that the White Chocolate Mousse tasted a bit old and was very thick and pasty, versus fresh tasting, light and airy. For more information, visit http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/Locations/chicago-illinois/oakbrook-illinois/butterfield-road.aspx

Mariano’s (Westmont) and the Westmont Public Library
Sushi and Sake 101 Workshop

(Photo by T. Herman)
I’m fortunate to live in an area where I have a number of public libraries that regularly offer educational programs and workshops; my favorite ones to attend are those based in food.  Recently, my hometown public library offered a hands-on workshop at my local Mariano’s on “Sushi and Sake 101”.  While I’m not a huge fan of sushi, except for California Rolls, I was curious how to make sushi, so I signed up for this workshop.  Attendees would be guided to make a California Roll, and a Spicy Tuna Roll.  We were given all of the implements needed to roll our own sushi; this included latex gloves, bamboo rolling mat, Nori seaweed sheet, and sushi rice; for the California Roll, we were given a few julienne sticks of fresh cucumber and mashed avocado; for the Spicy Tuna Roll, we were given a prepared filling of raw tuna that was pre-seasoned with hot spices.  After making our rolls, we then rolled them in plain and black sesame seeds; to minimize time, our guide then cut each of the two Sushi Rolls for each attendee, since there’s a special technique to cutting them.  Servings of pickled ginger, wasabi paste, and soy sauce were also distributed.  As we tasted our masterpieces, a Sake expert gave a guided presentation of the finer aspects of Sake; we sipped five different varietals of the brand Ty Ku Sake; it was unique tasting the various nuances for each variety; the levels of fermentation translated to intensity of flavors; we also got a chance to sip some refreshing mixed drinks using these Sake varieties.  This was another informative and enjoyable food-based workshop offered by my library.  For more information, visit http://westmontlibrary.org  For more information, visit https://www.marianos.com/

~ In Closing ~

(Image from www.hopespeak.com)
Take the time to be culinary-curious…discover new tastes…go out and explore your surrounding area for some new experiences…make it an adventure…claim your new culinary finds as your own.

That’s it for this edition.  Until the next one, remember to always celebrate yourself and your culinary curiosity.  Happy creating…happy cooking…happy eating!

By Terry Herman

TERRY HERMAN continues perfecting her passion for food and wine.  She has been covering culinary related for many years as it relates to wellness and a healthy lifestyle.  Her popular blog, Terry's Spa, Beauty and Wellness Go-To has featured formidable reviews of cookbooks, restaurants, wine and food, food prep and tools, chef interviews, and coverage of prestigious events such as International Home+Housewares Show, National Restaurant Show, Sweets and Snacks Expo, United Fresh, and Food Marketing Institute.  She has served as a food judge at the Bellavita Italian Expo Excellence Awards (Chicago).  She has been published since the mid-1990s in both consumer and trade publications, and is regarded as an expert in spa, beauty, wellness, travel and lifestyle, and is frequently interviewed by publications for her expert content.  She has also presented at major industry conferences, and has served with distinction on numerous governing and advisory boards.  She has a background in strategic and qualitative management, consulting, and motivational speaking.  In addition to her blogs, her social media outreach also includes Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Don’t forget to “Like” her Facebook Page, Terry’s Second Helpings.  Please note that the “Comment Section” has been disabled.  For additional information, email her at terry.herman@gmail.com.


(Photo credits as indicated, or as represented by the specific brand.)

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