Archive for the ‘Chew & Review’ Category

Chew & Review- Gilbert's Craft Sausages

If you haven’t noticed lately, it is summer here in Chicago. In fact, just yesterday we marked the meteorological arrival of summer, and what better way than to mark the first day of summer by arriving to work dripping sweat from head to toe. The best part about Chicago in the summer is everything (besides the literal dripping of sweat), but backyard BBQs will always hold a special place in my heart. Growing up in a big grilling family (albeit well-done grilling family, which I’ve since changed, sorry Mom!), it was always a treat when Dad fired up our antique charcoal grill and went to town. I’ve continued this tradition, always grilling on a charcoal, but also having recently turned 35, my totally fabulous, amazingly wonderful parents gave me a tiny gas grill in my shower of birthday presents, and I can’t wait to try it. Look at how cute this thing is:

You know what’s made for a grill, whether it’s charcoal or gas? Sausages. If you think about it, they’re basically the perfect grilling food. In fact, I think they deserve “the most portable of all grilled foods” award, which is now a real thing. You can eat them in a bun, you can also grab one right off the grill and pop it in your mouth, which no one ever does with a hamburger. You can also slice them and add them to other recipes. No one does that either with hamburgers. So, sausages, yeah – summer’s best grilling food.

I recently had a chance to try out Gilbert’s Craft Sausages, a local Chicagoland company, and The Official Chicken Sausage of Wrigley Field. You know, where the Cubs play? Kind of a big deal. Perhaps you’ve peeped their sign over in right field – fancy (…that is right field, right?).

 
gilberts sausage

 

After a few conversations with GCS regarding me throwing an extravagant June backyard bbq which never quite materialized, the good folks at Gilberts rush ordered me a cooler full of sausage when it looked like I’d be able to get my act together for a Memorial Day sidewalk cafe bbq affair over at the Main Squeeze’s place. “Cooler full of sausage” is practically my favorite four word phrase in the English language, so I was beyond pumped to get a variety pack of flavors.

Gilberts Sausages

So one of the coolest things about Gilbert’s sausages, besides the awesome packaging and logo font I’m totally obsessed with, is that they come individually wrapped. Have you ever opened a package of hot dogs or sausages, eaten a couple and then when you opened them later in the week, they were just…gross? That doesn’t happen when your links are on lockdown tighter than George Bluth in prison.

No Touching Gif

As was the case with the whole thrown-together theme of the bbq, we threw the sausages on the grill. Another favorite thing about these links? They’re all fully cooked, so no worries if you like the lightest of char on your sausage.

Gilberts Sausages (14)

At this point into the evening, thanks to a “cooler full of beer,” a close cousin to the “cooler full of sausage,” we were getting our sausages all mixed up, and instead of the neat, tidy, labeled affair I had in mind, the sausages looked like this:

Gilberts Sausages (17)

Obviously still delicious, though hard to discern a particular flavor you’d wanted to try. Whoops.

Gilberts Sausages (11)

Out of this sausage soiree, I tried the Caprese (with Mozzarella, Basil & Sun-Dried Tomatoes) and the Froman (the uncured beef frank). The Caprese was light, but with a good amount of the tomato-basil flavor coming through. I was a HUGE fan of the Froman, which doesn’t surprise me, because I adore all-beef hot dogs. While those were the only two I tried during my semi-disastrous unlabeled sausage fest, thankfully I had the mental fortitude to save a few packages back and take them to the grilling great himself, my Dad. We had the Beef & Bleu and the Chicken Bratwurst.

Gilberts Sausages (1)

Now THIS is how you keep ’em separated, folks.

Gilberts Sausages (10)

Behold! The Beef & Bleu Cheese, topped with a swath of avocado spread, because everything’s better with avocado. This was even better than The Froman, with the definite telltale zing of blue cheese, but not so much to be overpowering. The chicken bratwurst was equally as delicious, and so much better for you than eating a standard brat. It tasted almost exactly like the real thing – I’ll definitely be stocking up on these for lightened up summertime bbqs.

I came home from the trip to Mom & Dad’s with leftovers, because they’re the kind of awesome people who send you away with tons of food. I whipped up some of these leftovers for Main Squeeze, but I really couldn’t decide whether to give him the Chicken Brat or the Beef & Bleu, because really, I wanted them both. We did come up with a compromise:

IMG_8878
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The Bratsage, aka Bleuwurst, aka frankensausage. It was a true delight.

Here are a few more pics of the sausage party:

Gilberts Sausages (19)

Gilberts Sausages (2)

The full sausage lineup from Gilbert’s includes:

  • Caprese Chicken
  • Chicken Bratwurst
  • Beef & Bleu
  • The Froman (Uncured Beef Hot Frank)
  • Kale Chicken
  • Bourbon Apple Chicken
  • Beer Bratwurst
  • Beef & Cheddar
  • Chipotle
  • Aloha Chicken

You can find their sausages at tons of stores around Chicago, including Jewel & Mariano’s. You should really take a look at their site, because it’s FULL of awesome recipes you can make with their sausage, other than just slapping it in a bun. They’re also active on social media, and I recommend following them everywhere so you can surround yourself with sausage.

Standard disclaimer: these sausages were provided to me gratis from Gilbert’s Craft Sausages. However, I would completely and totally buy them with my own money, because they are delicious, and I especially love that they’re a new hometown favorite. My first purchase is going to be the Aloha Chicken, fyi. If you want more details on the flavor of these sausages, check out my blogger friend Jeff’s review on Make it Like a Man.

 

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I’ve been meaning to tell you something. I’m kind of on a low-calorie, but more importantly, low-carb(ish) diet. I’ve been making just TONS of zoodles, and making Main Squeeze eat quite reasonable, healthy dinners. Don’t worry, he’s lost 5 pounds, and wasn’t even on this low carb train. Unsure of my exact scale progress, I’d call it infinitesimally slow to quite infinitesimally slow. Ughhhh.

Naturally welcoming any opportunity to stuff face with carbs for heaps of internet fame, I gleefully accepted Giovanni Rana’s offer to participate for the second year in their annual Ravioli Challenge – you know, the one where they send the blogger crew amazing, delicious ravioli, and for every time we (and our adoring fans – hi, Mom!) use the hashtag #RanaRavioliChallenge, they’ll donate a pound of pasta to our local food bank, in my case, the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

Due solely to the fact that I am on low-carb(ish) diet, I decided I couldn’t eat all four bags of ravioli they sent me by myself, so Main Squeeze and I hosted a ravioli dinner party. We dinner party quite well.

Rana Ravioli Party

Rana Ravioli Party

And, oh yeah, it was kind of a St. Patty’s Day party as well.

So, onto the ravioli. IT’S SO GOOD. It has REAL CARBS in it. And CHEESE, GLORIOUS CHEESE. And, dude, the PESTO SAUCE. Pesto sauce is what 97.6% of what my dreams are made of.

Rana Pesto Sauce

Rana Ravioli Pesto

We tried the mushroom ravioli, spinach and cheese, and just cheese. We also made homemade Bolognese, which I’ll be revealing as a recipe sometime soon(ish) on this very blog.

Ravioli with Bolognese

It was a triumph. Additionally, we left the cheese ravioli alone for those who wanted to choose their own sauce adventure, and I have to add, it was just as delicious sans sauce, as with, which I believe is a true testament to how top notch those carbs are.

I’m not the only super famous blogger who participated in this challenge. Take a look at some of the other blogger babes (lots of cool ladies from the Chicago blogger crew, too, yay!) who rocked this ravioli challenge, and don’t forget to give ravioli the righteous attention it deserves on its name day, and get your hashtag on – #RanaRavioliChallenge.

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It’s no secret around these parts that I love quinoa. I am still unclear as to exactly what the hell it is, but it’s weird and kind of crunchy and kind of AMAZING. Oh, and it’s good for you, so it’ll balance out my new diet of cakes, Double Stuf Oreos, and all savory foods covered in ranch. It’s a slippery slClark Griswold Saucer Sledope to the holidays, kids, and at this point, I’m like Clark Griswold on the saucer sled, greased with EZ cheese, racing toward a fluffy pile of cheesy potatoes. Pants…barely fitting.

CedarLane Natural Foods recently sent me their amazing new Quinoa & Vegetable Enchiladas to sample, and these babies are tasty and delicious. They come frozen, so they’re super easy to pop in the microwave and enjoy al desko. They’re filled with quinoa, black beans, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, with roasted Anaheim peppers, tomatillos, corn, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, yellow squash, black olives, and zucchini. Oh, and they’re topped with a crazy yum Poblano Crema sauce and more cheese! More cheese is my favorite, guys.

Quinoa-Enchiladas

Quinoa Enchiladas

They clock in at 340 calories with 12 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, 7 grams of fiber and are vegetarian and gluten-free, for those of you who care about such things, which, fortunately, I do not.

Quinoa Enchiladas (2)

I think one of my favorite things about these (besides their overall deliciousness) is that they have black olives. I’ve been known to enjoy a good black olive or two in my day, ever since I was a little kid, stealing them from the relish tray at holidays, popping them onto the end of my fingers with my partner in crime, my brother. Black olives are where it’s at.

CedarLane Quinoa Enchiladas

So – the hard question – would I recommend these enchiladas to my gracious and loyal 2-4 readers (Hi, Mom!)? Yes!! Definitely. They are super good, and I didn’t miss the meat whatsoever. They’re really scrumptious and the sauce is delicious – not too spicy, but with a little kick. They have a ton of vegetables and good ol’ quinoa, so you’ll feel better about eating these than an entire pack of Double Stuf Oreos in less than 30 hours by yourself. Ooops.

For my Chicagoland peeps, you can find CedarLane Natural Foods at Jewel and Mariano’s, and there’s a store locator on their website. To keep up with their social stuff, follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Oh, and while you’re at it, if you want to keep up with my adventures in food, go ahead and follow ME on Instagram. I’m on there, hashtagging the ever-loving crap out of all the food I’m eating…it’s a LOT of food and a LOT of hashtags.

Disclaimer: CedarLane Natural Foods sent me their Quinoa & Vegetable Enchiladas (in a lovely box to my work) to sample, but all opinions are my own. Disclaimer Dos: Cedar Lane is also really great song by one of my favorite bands, First Aid Kit:

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I don’t think it’s exactly a secret the grocery store is one of my favorite places. Having grown up the daughter of a grocery store manager, it only makes sense that I feel quite at home in the aisles of Jewel. I like to think all that time spent in the supermarket gives me a sixth sense about new products I’d like to try, and there’s no aisle I’m more familiar with than the frozen “Meals for One” section. Since adhering mostly the Weight Watchers Simple Start/Core Foods program, I’ve tried to eat more fresh foods and rely less on frozen meals for lunch, so these days I’m typically zooming through this aisle, past the green Healthy Choice boxes, the red Smart Ones and the white Lean Cuisines.

Recently I noticed a new line of products (just past the sea of green, red and white) from Jimmy Dean that looked pretty good, and sold me with their low calories. Additionally, for the most part, they used mostly Core foods ingredients, so I didn’t have to worry that I was veering too far off the nutritional course.

Jimmy Dean Delights

Jimmy Deans Delight Golden Roasted Turkey

I had a chance to try three of the new varieties of the Jimmy Dean Delight bowls, including the Southwest Style Grilled Chicken, Hickory Smoked Ham and Golden Roasted Turkey. I really liked the Hickory Smoked Ham and the Golden Roasted Turkey, and for 250 calories or less, there’s a lot to love. I think one of the highlights was the sauce in each of these dishes – not overwhelming in quantity, but delicious and certainly added to the flavor. I love ham, peas and potatoes together, and ham is not a protein usually featured in frozen meals.  The turkey dish seemed like the filling of a pot pie, and was my favorite of the three meals. The Southwestern Chicken was good, but not as good as the other two. If I bought it again, I’d definitely jazz it up with hot sauce and sour cream.

Jimmy Dean Delight Golden Roasted Turkey

 

In the realm of Healthy Choice, Smart Ones and Lean Cuisines, I think the Jimmy Dean Delights line is a serious contender. Inventive ingredient combinations and well-executed flavors make these frozen meals worth a try, and I’ll be adding them into the rotation.

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Smart Soup? You might as well just call this soup brilliant. At the beginning of the year, the wonderful people at Smart Soup reached out to me to see if I would be interested in trying their line of flash-frozen soups in conjunction with their (also brilliant) campaign to donate “Meal for Meal” to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Until February 28, 2015, Smart Soup will donate the cost of a meal to the GCFD. Great soup for a great cause – of course I was excited to try it.

And just like that, a box of soup arrived to my office!

Smart Soup Variety Pack

Yay soup! Soup is great, but what I noticed right off the bat is how amazingly low in calories these soups are. For the consistently “on a lifestyle change” blogger, low-cal lunch options are my favorite. All of the varieties of Smart Soup are 160 calories or less, and are 3 grams of fat or under. The line of soups was created by Anne Chong Hill, who was inspired by her childhood in Brunei where she grew up eating flavorful ethnic dishes. As an adult, Chong Hill was diagnosed with hypertension and sought to change her lifestyle by creating healthy meals she and her family would enjoy. Each flavor of Smart Soup is inspired by Anne’s childhood and travels, and all of their products are vegan, gluten-free, all-natural with no preservatives and are American Heart Association Certified. Definitely smart.

The first flavor I tried was the Vietnamese Carrot Lemongrass.

Smart Soup Vietnamese Carrot Lemongrass

The soup has sharp, layered flavors with vegetables – potatoes, carrot, edamame, ginger and coconut. The flavors are fantastic, and unique – I wish I could cook like this at home for so few calories and fat. I paired this with a side salad, but the portion is generous enough to eat as a lunch alone. The pureed soup is thick and satisfying. Definitely zippy, zingy, and I didn’t need to use my trusty salt shaker.

The next flavor I tried was the French Lentil:

Smart Soup French LentilThe lentil had definite curry undertones, and didn’t have the zip of the carrot soup, but was still flavorful and also didn’t need the salt shaker.

The next flavor I had was the Greek Minestrone:

Smart Soup Greek Minestrone

Totally delicious, super low in calories (110!) and full of veggies and flavor.

Next up was the Santa Fe Corn Chowder:

Smart Soup Santa Fe Corn Chowder

This soup has so much flavor, and was my personal favorite. I love Mexican-inspired food, and I think this would be even better with a touch of cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

The last flavor I tried was the Thai Coconut Curry:

Smart Soup Thai Coconut Curry

Really bright flavors in this red curry soup made with coconut water. The bamboo shoots and water chestnuts give it great texture and crunch, and the bits of mini corn on the cob will remind you of the movie Big (or at least they always do for me).

I highly recommend this soup for anyone watching their weight. In fact, because these soups are all vegan, they fit in seamlessly with the Weight Watchers Simple Start plan! So eat up, Simple Starters, and calorie-counters alike!

Smart Soup is available in Chicagoland at Costco. Remember, for every unit purchased until the end of February, they’ll donate the cost of a a meal to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

To learn more about Smart Soup, visit their website or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

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I’m not quite certain how this blog turned 4 years old (Um, what?!? This blog is 4 years old?!) without me talking to you about my absolute, unwavering, unconditional love for Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe's LogoHave you been to a Trader Joe’s? If not, let me paint a picture for you: Imagine yourself in a magical land of grocery items, many of which are specialty items, unavailable at your local grocery haunts. Now imagine all the employees are super happy to see you and are actually helpful in a friendly way. Sounds good, right? Absolutely, now imagine yourself walking through a magical aisle of wine – wines of an astounding variety, wines with super cheap prices ($2.99), wines that magically end up in your cart and typically add up to at least a case. Apply this scenario to almost every aisle in Trader Joe’s, and you could understand how it’s one of my most favorite places to shop for my most favorite of all things: food.

We’ve arrived at late September, and around this time of year everything’s coming up pumpkin/pumpkin-spiced. Not to be outdone in the fall pumpkin explosion, Trader Joe’s had a big sign near the entrance stating they’ve stocked over 50 pumpkin/pumpkin-spiced items throughout the store. Yes, you could tell walking down the magical aisles – lots of pumpkin stuff. Lots of pumpkin stuff I’d love to eat. Lots of pumpkin stuff I also probably can’t be trusted around.

Then I stumbled on these little gems, which somehow also magically ended up in my cart:

Trader Joe's Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls - Dining at My Desk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINI GINGER PUMPKIN ICE CREAM MOUTHFULS!! Rejoice! Since I’m TPALD and BATPALD, pre-portion controlled snacks are always a winner, and I’m actually really good at following the recommended serving sizes when food comes packaged as such. In case you’re wondering, here are the nutritional stats:

Trader Joe's Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls Nutrition & Calories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not bad at ALL for little ice cream sammies! Here’s how they really look:

Trader Joe's Mini Ginger Pumpkin Ice Cream Mouthfuls2 - Dining at My Desk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These particular mini mouthfuls look like they may have melted a little on the way home, but they tasted FANTASTIC! They’re a gingersnap with delicious pumpkin ice cream inside. It was love at first bite for me, and I’m particularly excited to be dog sitting, meaning I don’t have to share these with anyone this week. I did think as I chewed along, that the ginger overpowered the pumpkin ice cream just a bit, but they were still delicious nonetheless.

Would I buy them again? You bet! I’m not sure how long they’ll last at Trader Joe’s, so you might want to head over and scoop some up. I imagine they’d pair nicely with any fine Charles Shaw variety. #TwoBuckChuck

 

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