Thursday, April 29, 2010

Olivia's Croutons Review and Soup!

I was recently given the opportunity to sample and review Olivia's Croutons. But I didn't want to just use them as toppers on a salad. I envisioned them floating in a bowl of creamy tomato soup nestled cozily with a dollop of pesto and fresh Parm shavings. Folks, I made it happen and it was everything I thought it could be.

I don't make soup very often because Mr. H claims he doesn't like it. I threatened to make this for a few days and every time I brought it up he'd snarl at me. But faced with a big hearty bowl of soup, he'll eat it, happily. Cause he ain't gonna get nothing' else. ha ha! Truthfully though, he liked this soup- we all did. I took this soup and all the fixin's over to my in-laws' house and my father-in-law went back for seconds! The Olivia's Crouton floaters were a hit and added a nice balance of textures to this creamy soup.

This soup was thick and creamy, a bit garlicky and had great tomato flavor. It was simple and satisfying and so were these croutons. I was sent 2 different flavors- Parmesan Pepper and Butter & Garlic, their two most popular flavors. What I liked about these croutons is that they actually tasted like bread and olive oil and seasonings. They aren't doctored up with anything artificial and don't contain any preservatives. They also received awards for winning taste 2 years in a row. This is no ordinary crouton people.

Olivia's Croutons were originally made at home in their kitchen in Vermont. As the popularity of their croutons increased and their business grew, they were forced to find a larger commercial space to produce their products. That eventually led them to the big beautiful historic barn where they set up kitchen and the house in which they call home. All this on 50 acres of land--I think I'm in love! Did I mention that on this land they also grow their own wheat for their croutons? Yeah you read that right, THEY GROW THEIR OWN WHEAT! So not only are the croutons essentially homemade, but they're home grown! Isn't that impressive?!

If you happen to make this soup I suggest you top them with Olivia's Croutons. If soup is not your thing, toss them into your salad or make one the recipes found on Olivia's Croutons website. Either way, I hope you'll give Olivia's Croutons a try and taste a little bit of "wholesome, all natural, uncomplicated" taste. Place your Order Here.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup from Monica H

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or sliced
  • 2- 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained (reserve the liquid)
  • 1 Tbsp. basil puree or fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup reserved tomato liquid (from the cans)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper


In a large pot over medium high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook til translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir. Cook for another minute til fragrant. Add the drained diced tomatoes, basil and thyme and cook, uncovered, for another 10 minutes until the flavors meld together.

Add the reserved tomato liquid and chicken broth. Stir and lower the heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. In small batches, puree the chunky soup in a blender or use an immersion blender til the desired consistency is achieved. Stir in heavy cream til well incorporated. Re-season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Garnish with basil pesto, Parmesan shavings or Olivia's Croutons if desired.

Thank you Francie for giving me the opportunity to try Olivia's Croutons!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Walkers Shortbread Winner and Discount Code

I am pleased to announce the winner of the Walkers Assorted Shortbread Tin is #41- Rebecca Lynn from Romancing The Palate! Congratulations you lucky girl- you are going to be in shortbread heaven! I'm sure these would be perfect with that creamy oolong tea of yours!

Please email me your address so I can forward it to the folks at Walkers and they can ship this fabulous prize out to you!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And because Walkers is so generous and they want you to enjoy their shortbread, they are offering all of you 20% off your entire purchase at until May 31, 2010!

Be sure to enter Promo Code: lickthebowl at check out to receive discount.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meat and Potatoes

I've made this a handful of times already so I figured it was about time to blog about it, don't you? My husband loves LOVES this pot roast. Like seriously, I think he and this pot roast have a love affair going on. And it's not a mini one. Whenever I make this he walks up to the crock pot, removes the lid, lowers his face into the steamy pot and inhales all the meaty aromas rising up to meet him. If you have a meat lover in your family, this roast is for you!

Since the first time I've made this, I've heard nothing but mmm's and aah's over this pot roast. And the best thing is it could not be simpler. Well I guess the only thing simpler would be to have someone else make it and invite you over for dinner, but other than that it's a cinch. This roast gets it's flavor from 3 seasoning packets- Ranch dressing, Italian dressing and Brown Gravy mix. You add the roast (I've used eye of round and rump roast- both are fine) to a crock pot, then sprinkle the seasoning packets over it, then pour water into the crock pot. Turn it on and a few hours later it's done!

The water, meat juices and seasonings meld together into a wonderful gravy that is killer over mashed potatoes. I've made this about 5 times now and while it's always delicious, sometimes it's a little more tender than others-- almost to the point of it falling apart. This particular roast held it's shape and made for nice slices. It's hard to describe the flavor of the gravy, but it's a little tangy and salty, beefy and savory. Just go make it and see for yourself! Thanks Denise for sharing this recipe.

3 Packet Crock Pot Roast and Gravy

from Keeper Worthy Recipes

  • 1 Beef Roast, any kind, sized to fit your crock pot
  • 1 package Ranch Salad Dressing mix
  • 1 package Italian Salad Dressing mix
  • 1 package Brown Gravy mix
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Place roast in crock pot. In a bowl combine the envelopes of mixes together. Sprinkle on top of the roast. Pour in 1/2 cup warm water. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or until tender.

The gravy is nothing but thickened roast juices. Transfer the pot roast juices to a small pot and whisk in the cornstarch and water slurry (1 Tablespoon cornstarch and 2 Tablespoons of COLD water). Bring to a boil to activate the thickening agents of the corn starch. Serve over pot roast.

NOTE: The low setting on my crock pot doesn't work very well so I cooked this on HIGH for 4-5 hours.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Walkers Shortbread Giveaway (Closed)

I recently did a review of Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread and I while I thought they were all so buttery and delicious, you didn't get to taste them. I thought it would be nice to have a giveaway and the gracious people at Walkers agreed to spread the buttery goodness! So that means one of you will win this tin of Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread.

This red tartan tin is filled to the brim 6 different types of shortbread. It includes over 28 ounces of Chocolate Chip Shortbread, Shortbread Fingers, Rounds, Triangles and Ovals as well as Butterscotch Shortbread Rings. After you're done consuming this assortment of shortbread you can reuse the tin. It's the gift that never ends :-)

Thank you Walkers for sponsoring this giveaway!

To enter this giveaway:

  1. Please take a moment to visit the Walkers website.
  2. Tell me which Walkers products you have tried or would like to try.
  3. Answer this question, "What is your favorite way to enjoy shortbread?"

This giveaway will end Monday, April 26th at 11:59 pm CST. One winner will be chosen at Random and revealed later next week. Please be sure I have a way of contacting you if you win.

Good luck!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Walkers Shortbread Review

I was contacted by the generous folks at Walkers Shortbread a few weeks ago and they asked if I'd like to try out their new line of Homebake "Melt in the Mouth" Shortbread. I love their traditional shortbread, so of course I said YES!

One of the things that I appreciate and admire about Walkers Shortbread is that it contains minimal ingredients. When I say minimal, I mean just the basics: wheat flour, butter, sugar and salt! How many cookies on a typical grocery store shelf have just 4 ingredients? Not many I'm sure. There are no stabilizers, or fillers, no chemicals or artificial flavors or colors. NONE and I think that's pretty awesome, don't you?

After agreeing to sample their shortbread (my job is so rough!) they sent me 5 different varieties. Of course I got to sample their new line of Homebake Shortbread which includes Shortbread Fingers, Shortbread Triangles and Shortbread Rounds. I also received their traditional Pure Butter Shortbread Highlanders and the Pure Butter Chocolate Chip Shortbread. yum!

Mr. H and I both tasted these one at a time and wrote down our tasting notes. I've listed them in order of preference, though all were delicious.

1st Place- Walkers Pure Butter Shortbread Highlanders

We liked these the best because they had the perfect balance of butter and sweetness. The edges are rolled in demerara sugar which gives them a little extra crunchiness. We liked that a lot.

2nd Place- Walkers Homebake Recipe Shortbread Rounds<>

These were very similar to the Highlanders just without the demerara sugar. They were buttery and not too sweet and had a firm texture but were not hard. These are a great basic shortbread cookie and really did "melt in the mouth".

3rd Place- Walkers Pure Butter Chocolate Chip Shortbread

In addition to wheat flour, butter, sugar and salt, this shortbread cookie has sweet chocolate chips in it. These were really buttery with little pockets of sweetness scattered throughout. Mr. H really liked these but wished they were more chocolatey.

4th Place- Walkers Homebake Recipe Shortbread Triangles

These were the prettiest of the shortbread we had, but they were less sweet and buttery than the others. They were also the lightest and crunchiest of all.

5th Place- Walkers Homebake Recipe Shortbread Fingers

I was attracted to these fingers because they appeared to be the most homemade. I liked the lightly sugared tops and thought they resembled something that could come out of any one of our kitchens. Of course these were buttery just like the rest of them but they had a saltiness to them that the others didn't. They also seemed to be the most crumbly and sandy in texture.

The next time you come across a box of Walkers Shortbread, I hope you'll give them a try. I can say, without a doubt, that these will become a staple in my pantry. How can you resist that red tartan box?

Thank you Walkers!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Going Bananas!

I'm still a little sick so I haven't been baking or cooking much this past week. I am doing and feeling better but I'm not running on all fours yet. I have a nagging cough that won't quit and I'm still pretty congested. I've been self medicating myself with little pills in all shades of the rainbow and drinking a few elixirs including but not limited to the all wonderful Alka-Seltzer Cough & Cold! And that is my excuse for the lackluster photos of this cake. blah.

The good thing is that I've regained my sense of smell, which means I've also regained my sense of taste! We've eaten nothing but sandwiches, soup and breakfast type foods for the last week. Luckily we went to my mom's last night where Mr. H and I had a real meal with the family. Thank you Mom! And I baked dessert--no surprise there :-)

I baked this supremely moist banana cake with a chocolate glaze from Southern Cakes. It was this month's choice for The Cake Slice Bakers and it was delicious! I'm not really into baked desserts with bananas so I wasn't that excited about this one but it proved to be a favorite by my family. It was supposed to be a layer cake but I wanted to bake it into my new silicone pan. I found it this weekend at a discount store and couldn't pass up the great price. It's made by KitchenAid and is called the Fancy Flute. I've never baked a cake in silicone but it turned out great.

The cake was really good and very moist and tender despite me being short on the amount of bananas called for in the recipe. In place of the missing bananas I added a little apple sauce. The batter was simple to mix up and it was in the oven in no time. Since I chose to bake it in my new Bundt type pan, I didn't want to frost it and cover up all the pretty detail. So I quartered the recipe and thinned it out enough to pour it onto the cake, like a glaze. Unfortunately it didn't set up like a glaze and stayed wet like a frosting should. It was super tasty though- like thick and creamy chocolate milk. So good! I would like to make this again though as the recipe was suggested with the full amount of bananas and frosting. mmm!

Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting

from Southern Cakes

Printable Version

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, softened
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1½ cups mashed ripe banana

Chocolate Frosting

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk or half-an-half
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the cake, heat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a fork to combine well.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat well, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and then the vanilla. Beat well for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally until you have a smooth batter.

Using a large spoon, stir in half the flour just until it disappears into the batter. Stir in the buttermilk and then the remaining flour the same way. Quickly and gently fold in the mashed banana and then divide the batter between the 2 cake pans.

Bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched lightly in the centre, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pans on wire racks. Then turn out onto the racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the butter, cocoa and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring often for about 5 minutes, until the cocoa dissolves into a dark shiny essence. Remove from the heat and stir in the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Beat with a mixer at low speed until you have a thick smooth frosting.

To complete the cake, place one layer, top side down, on a cake plate and spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly over the top. Cover with the second layer placed top side up. Spread the rest of the frosting evenly first over the sides and then covering the top of the cake.

NOTE: For a bundt/tube cake bake at 350F for 55-60 minutes.

In other banana related news (ha ha!) I made a banana pudding pie for my grandpa's belated birthday. They were in town this week to visit my cousin and I knew he would love this. And he did! Isn't he the cutest? Love you Grandpa!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Isn't She Lovely?

Ah, isn't this a beauty? Every year for my sisters' birthday I make her a special strawberry cake. I usually make her a strawberry layer cake topped off with a strawberry flower using this recipe. But this year I wanted to make something a little different, just as pretty and much simpler.

To hull the strawberries, I used a new gadget from Chef'n called the Stem Gem. You push in the green stem, which pushes the prongs out. Then you insert it into the stem of the strawberry and let go of the button. The gadget holds the stem tight, then you twist it and pull it out. It was pretty effective at removing the hull and nothing more.

You see, in a matter of 10 days there are 3 birthdays in my family and I usually make all the cakes. I'm happy to do it, but I get tired of making batches of frosting. So this year, my father in law got a banana pudding cake, my sister received this strawberry shortcake and my mother in law got a pretty glazed Bundt. That recipe will come a little later, but for now here's a little strawberry goodness.

This recipe comes from Sky High: Irresistable Triple Layer Cakes from Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. I've many many cakes from this book and they've all been delicious. I remembered The Food Librarian made this cake so I visited her blog to read her notes on it. The original recipe called for Rose Water and vanilla to macerate the berries in. I just wanted to use sugar and Mary agreed that was a good idea. I also wanted to bake the cake in 2 larger pans rather than 3 6-inch pans and it just so happens that Mary made it again and did the same thing recently. Good minds think alike, I guess :-)

This cake was light and fresh. It was creamy and dreamy. The berries were bursting with sweetness and as Mary says, "it's like eating a cloud of summer". My sister and the rest of my family really liked this cake. My mom liked it so much she had 2 big honkin' pieces. (Sorry mom, I ratted you out!) Mr. H was hesitant because it didn't have chocolate, but later that night he said he thought it was good. The only thing that would make it better was if it were chocolate cake instead of vanilla and chocolate mousse instead of whipped cream! Guess you can't please them all.

Strawberry Shortcake adapted from Sky High Cakes


  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup vanilla sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) buttermilk

Fresh strawberry filling:

  • 2 pints strawberries, small if possible
  • ½ cup vanilla sugar

Whipped cream:

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar


  • a few whole strawberries, sliced in half if desired

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease the bottoms and sides of 2 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each with a round of parchment or baking paper and grease the paper.

For the cake:

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add these dry ingredients to the batter, alternating with the buttermilk, in 2 or 3 additions. Beat well. Divide the batter among the prepared pans.

Bake the cake layers for 18-23 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes then invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper and allow to cool completely.

For the filling:

Wash and hull the berries and cut them into thin slices. Place in a bowl and add the sugar. Stir to coat them well, cover the bowl, and let the berries macerate at room temperature until they exude their juices, about 1 hour.

For the cream:

In a large chilled bowl, with chilled beaters, whip the cream with the sugar until stiff – there will be about 3 cups.

Assembling the cake:

Place one cake layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with half of the fresh strawberry filling, spooning it over the entire layer and making sure any juices go onto the cake layer and not the plate, if possible. Top this layer with half of the whipped cream, spreading it evenly over the berries. Repeat with the second cake layer, using up the remaining berries and whipped cream. Garnish with whole berries if desired.

For best flavor, cover the dessert with a cake dome or loose plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours before slicing. Serve with the remaining strawberry filling on the side.

Serves 8-10
Who knew donkeys liked strawberries?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The New Chicken Soup

Before I talk a bit about this recipe, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for your prayers and well wishes for my cousin. He was released from the hospital on Sunday and is staying with my aunt (his mother) while he fully recovers. But he is doing much better than expected and we think he'll make a full recovery. Thank you all so very much for your positivity!

I woke up with a sore throat on Friday and have been feeling like poo all weekend long. ugh! I've mentioned before that I'm a part time nanny and every time that the little man gets sick, so do I. It's so frustrating because I'll be with the sick kid all week long and by the weekend, I'm feeling miserable and doing nothing but sleeping, building up mountains of Kleenex and drugging myself up just to feel somewhat like a human. And doctors don't work the weekends, so what d'ya do?

I haven't been cooking much this weekend simply because I haven't had the energy. I did manage to whip out a pizza for dinner last night but that doesn't require much effort. Mr. H has been taking care of me and putting up with take out. He's even made breakfast a couple times and cleaned up- what a man! I was wanting something warm and comforting for dinner and thought of this meal that I made a couple weeks ago. I found it on Cassie Craves and I've made it a couple times now. It's loaded with bacon and garlicky goodness and gets even more flavor from the red wine and chicken broth that it's cooked in. The chicken gets really tender and falls apart and the veggies retain their texture. It's really simple and it's delicious and perfect for when you're feeling under the weather. I just wish I had someone to make it for me :-)

Crock Pot Coq Au Vin adapted from Cassie Craves

  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed (or 1 medium onion, chopped)
  • 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into halves
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Cook bacon in medium skillet over medium heat. Drain and crumble. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Layer ingredients in slow cooker in the following order: onions, bacon, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, thyme, pepper, chicken, wine and broth. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours.

Remove chicken and vegetables to a plate. Ladle 1/2 cup cooking liquid into small bowl; allow to cool slightly. Turn slow cooker to High; cover. Mix reserved liquid, tomato paste and flour until smooth. Return sauce mixture to slow cooker and stir. Add the chicken and veggies back to the sauce being sure that everything gets covered in sauce. Cover and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until thickened.

Serve over mashed potatoes.

NOTE: I left the carrots out of this recipe simply because I didn't have them. This is much better WITH the carrots.

Wontcha join me for a bowl?

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