What To Eat With Miracle Berries

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Yesterday, 250,000 people received a gift of “miracle berries” from Cards Against Humanity during their 10 Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa. Being a miracle berry fan for a good amount of years (yes, I’m pulling the Hipster card on miracle berries), I’m thrilled that others are being introduced to this fun activity.

First of all: What are miracle berries? Miracle berries (Synsepalum dulcificum) are a berry native to Africa. The berries coat your taste buds, blocking certain taste receptors (like sour and bitter), making anything you consume taste sweeter than it would without the berry. The effect lasts up to an hour. (I find it lasts around 30 minutes on average.) What you received in the mail is not the berry itself–it’s the berry plus cornstarch, made into a tablet.

While the people who manufacture/sell the berry tablets may tell you this can serve as a daily supplement and a way to live a healthier lifestyle (your vegetables taste sweet and you don’t want to eat as much candy!), I think these are best used for tasting parties. Invite your friends over and have everyone bring a sour or bitter item that they’d like to try on the berries. Then, pop the pill (this sounds way worse than it is), and get tasting! We’ve found that as soon as people try one thing, they start to ravage the spread, wanting to know what everything tastes like. Once the spread is gone, they’ll move onto your pantry and fridge. You’ve been warned.

Below are some of my favorite items to try with miracle berries. These have been tested and approved–they’re musts at your party! But a word of warning: A lot of these foods are acidic or harsh on the stomach, but they won’t taste that way. Although it will be tasty, you’ll still be consuming larger amounts of lemons, limes, vinegar, and other sour/bitter items than you’re used to. Use moderation and keep some Tums/Alka Seltzer nearby!

  • Limes and Lemons (These are just amazing, Particularly limes. It’s my go-to favorite with miracle berries.)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (It’s sweet and not harsh at all. But that doesn’t mean you should chug large amounts! Read the disclaimer in the paragraph above!)
  • Guinness (Tastes like a chocolate shake. Any Porter/Stout will be ridiculously good.)
  • Cream Cheese (Tastes like cheesecake.)
  • Strawberries (It’s like you dipped them in sugar, but you DIDN’T! Magic.)

The following is a list of other suggested foods to try from various sources, including Cards Against Humanity, Amazon, and blogs/forum posts. I can’t vouch for the deliciousness of all of these, but it’s at least a starting off point for your tasting party!

  • BBQ sauce
  • Bitter chocolate
  • Blackberries
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cranberries
  • Granny Smith apples
  • Grapefruit
  • Grapes
  • Ketchup
  • Kiwi
  • Mustard
  • Oranges
  • Pickles (or anything pickled)
  • Pineapple
  • Pomegranate
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Salt and Vinegar chips
  • Sour Candies (warheads, sour patch kids)
  • Sour Cream
  • Stinky cheese (bleu cheese and goat cheese, specifically)
  • Tabasco (or other hot sauces)
  • Tea
  • Tequila
  • Tomatoes
  • Tonic water
  • Vinegar
  • Watermelon

What are your fave foods to have with miracle berries? Let me know in the comments! Didn’t receive the berries from Cards Against Humanity, but still want to try it? You can find them on Amazon!

What Type of Cupcake Pan Should You Use?

 

KitchenAid Muffin Pans

I have a growing collection of cupcakes pans, and while I often will grab the first one I see, sometimes I want to be more specific with the pans I use. If I’m baking cupcakes for others (and especially if it’s for a special event), I want to make sure the cupcakes are all evenly baked and the best they can possibly be. I’ve wanted to test the differences in my pans for a while, and I was recently given the opportunity to test the KitchenAid Professional grade muffin pans. It was the perfect chance! I could finally tell what was best: dark non-stick pans, shiny pans, or a more designer brand, like the KitchenAid Pro.

Now, I tried to be as scientific as possible, but there are a LOT of variables when cooking cupcakes. I used a basic vanilla cupcake mix I’ve made before, I used white cupcake liners so I could see the results more easily, and I tried to fill all of the cups as evenly as I could. However, one of the cake pans got a bit warmer than the others based on where they were sitting on the stove, and their location in the oven could have also affected the results (although my oven heats pretty evenly). I would have to repeat this test a couple more times to make sure things were truly accurate. Now that that’s all out of the way: on to the results!

Cupcake Comparison

Straight out of the oven and onto the cooling rack. I placed a few cupcakes from each pan here. On the left, we have the KitchenAid Pro. In the middle, we have the light colored shiny pan. And on the right is the darker nonstick pan. (The KitchenAid Pro is also a dark nonstick model.) You can see that overall, they look very similar. The cupcakes all turned out the same color, and all rose relatively the same. But when you look closer, you can see some minor differences. The shiny pan cupcakes (in the middle) did not rise as evenly as the nonstick pans on either side of them. They also have more browning/discoloration around the sides and bottoms. The nonstick pan cupcakes (particularly the KitchenAid Pro ones on the left) are more even. The cupcakes are all around the same size and same color.

Cupcake Comparison 2

Again, we’ve got KitchenAid on the left, shiny in the middle, and nonstick on the right. You can see that the cupcakes from the shiny pan were a tiny bit lighter on the top/sides…

Cupcake Comparison 3

…Yet, the bottom was not the lightest. The KitchenAid cupcakes had the most even coloring, with only a bit of browning on the bottom. The other two pans were significantly darker.

Overall, there wasn’t a huge difference. Once these are frosted and put into a box, no one’s going to be able to tell which ones were from which pans. They all tasted the same. (I tasted all three for you, dear readers. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.) The real difference is in the subtleties. If you’re a professional baker or making cupcakes for someone with a refined cupcake palette, you may want to get the KitchenAid Pro pans. (Plus, overall, they feel and perform very well. They’re easy to clean, and they look and feel very nice. And I feel fancy using something from their professional-grade line!) If you don’t bake cupcakes often and would rather get something a bit cheaper, I’d still make sure you get a dark, nonstick pan. The cupcakes looked a bit better than the shiny pans, and the pans overall hold up better and look nicer than the shiny ones.

Do you have a cupcake pan preference? Have you tried the KitchenAid professional-grade pans? Any great cupcake baking tips? Let me know in the comments!

An Interview with Cary Elwes

Cary Elwes

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Cary Elwes while he was in town promoting his new book, “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.” In between observing the Princess Bride costumes at the EMP and picking up Westley’s sword for the first time in 27 years(!), he answered a few questions for us.

If your character was a cocktail, what would that cocktail recipe be?

Well, there is a wine out there that has been licensed through Act 3 Communications, which is Norman Lear’s company, and so you can actually purchase wine that has Westley and Buttercup on one of them, and Vizzini on the other one, so there are wines available–without Iocane powder in them. You’ll have to go to the Princess Bride website, and you can find them there! (It looks like the wine may no longer be available, but you can see the bottles here.)

You mentioned earlier that you hear a lot about Princess Bride weddings. Can you share some of the stories and tips you’ve heard about the Ultimate Princess Bride Wedding?

Sure, well, I’ve seen a number of photographs over the years, and people have these menus that they make and very stylized things that they’ve decided to serve their guests, and obviously, folks mimicking these dresses (pointing to Buttercup’s wedding dress in the EMP), and clergymen, and offering peanuts to folks, it’s great fun. It’s a celebration. Of Twue Wuv. (Check out my Princess Bride Wedding Pinterest Board for some great pics and ideas!)

I hear you mention some fun times out partying and drinking with everyone off set and after hours in your book. I was wondering if you had a specific story in mind you’d like to share? 

Yeah, sure. Well Andre, poor guy, was in a lot of pain, he had terrible back problems, not only from carrying all the weight around, but from wrestling over the years, and the only way he could deal with the pain that he had was to drink, so, when we wrapped the movie, after the New York premiere, he took me out drinking. And that was quite an event–but you have to read the book to check it out. It’s quite funny.

You heard the man, read the book! (And lucky for you, Amazon can get you a copy before Christmas!) I can’t wait to read it–after hearing him chat just shortly about some of the behind the scenes stories, I need to know more!

Are you a Princess Bride fan? Will you be picking up the book?

Gift Ideas for Book Lovers

Bookworms and writers can be intimidating to shop for: their impeccable taste usually makes them your go-to for book recommendations. I’d suggest staying away from specific books (unless you get your hands on a first edition of their favorite title), and instead focus on gifts that celebrate their love of the written word. Here are some gift ideas they’re sure to love!

Paddywax Candles

Paddywax

 

Paddywax creates beautiful (and great smelling) candles inspired by classic authors. This Charles Dickens candle (with tangerine, juniper, and clove) is perfect for Christmas! $23.

Gourmet Grammarian Plate Set

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Correct your grammar while you dine with this fun plate set! Perfect for teachers, writers, editors, and anyone who wants people to write good. $49.99.

Library Card Tote

Library Card Tote

 

Carry your books with this cute tote, created to look like a library card. When you purchase this tote bag, a book will be donated to a community in need! $20.

Book Scarf

Secret Garden scarf

 

Storiarts creates a variety of gorgeous infinity scarves featuring text of classic books. I particularly love the Secret Garden scarf–the color and the classic illustrations amongst the text is just beautiful! $42.

Banned Books Pouch

Banned Books Pouch

Show off your rebellious side with this pouch. It lists famous banned books, and it’s a great spot to store pencils, pens, or reading glasses! When you purchase this pouch, a book will be donated to a community in need! $12.

Literary Tea Blends

Harry Potter CollectionPurchase some loose leaf tea blends inspired by literary characters–perfect to cozy up with while reading! From $13. You can also enter to WIN the collection shown above: Four tea blends inspired by the houses of Hogwarts, along with a tea cup and tea filters! ($60 value.) Enter below!
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Gift Ideas for RPG Players

I had the pleasure of joining the Dungeons and Dragons podcast to chat about some fun gift ideas for the holidays. You can listen to the podcast and check out some of my suggestions here. Want some more gift ideas for your dungeon master, adventuring party, or a friend who loves RPGs? Any of these are guaranteed to be a critical hit!

Mead

Mead

Why give a boring bottle of wine when you can give a bottle of mead? The honey wine will be more in-game appropriate. Sip some IRL while your characters sip some in the tavern! I particularly enjoy the meads from Northwest Mountain Winery. They have a sweet mead made from raspberry honey, and a “fire-breathing mead” made with jalepenos that’ll be perfect for the Dragonborns in your party. $20.

D20 Underwear

D20-Cheeky

Gain Charisma just by wearing this underwear! The cheeky panty has a rhinestone D20 on it. $15.

Eye of the Beholder Dice Bag

Beholder

Store your dice in style with this Beholder dice bag, designed by Scott Kurtz. The eye stalks are poseable and act as drawstrings. I mean, how ridiculously amazing is this? $20.

Fireball Truffles

Edible Fireballs

These gorgeous truffles are fun to bite into! Between the pop rocks and the heat from the chili pepper, it’s an adventure in chocolate. Your friend will love the homemade touch! Recipe here.

D20 Mini Cake Pan

D20 cake pan

This is the gift for RPG lovers and bakers (cough, like a certain Geeky Hostess you may know, cough). It looks like there may be a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you can make cakes and rolls in the shape of a D20! On sale for $10.

Plush Gelatinous Cube

Gelatinous Cube

Snuggle up with this adorable gelatinous cube, made by Weregeek! $19.

Surprise Balls

DnD Surprise Ball

Invite your friends to a special holiday game of Dungeons and Dragons by giving them surprise balls with instructions and information (as well as a set of dice!) DIY Instructions here.

Dungeon Mistress Print

Dungeon Mistress

This beautiful print is the perfect gift for the Dungeon Mistress in your life. The prints are limited edition and hand-numbered! $25.

 RPG Tea Gift Basket

RPG Collection

Enjoy a hot cup of tea based on your favorite RPG class with this basket of goodies from Friday Afternoon Tea. The set includes 2 ounces each of the RPG character class blends as well as a Friday-green teacup and a pack of 100 T-Sac filters, wrapped all up in a gorgeous giftable basket! $75.

Win an RPG Tea Gift Basket! Enter below. A winner will be chosen on Thursday, December 18!

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DIY Gift Idea: Surprise Balls!

DnD Surprise Ball

Surprise balls are one of the ultimate DIY gifts. Seriously. These gifts are like mini parties in one: your recipient has the joy of unwrapping their gift and getting multiple tiny surprises, while covering themselves with colorful crepe paper! Plus, you look like a wonderful and creative human being, and it only took you a few bucks and a few minutes! Win-win.

The premise is simple: Start with your largest gift in the center and wrap around it with crepe paper streamers. Continue to wrap the streamer around, working it towards a ball-shape, and pause every once in a while to add another small gift. Continue to do this until all gifts are fully wrapped inside of the ball. That’s it!

Surprise Ball Steps

The fun, though, is coming up with ways to decorate and theme the ball. You can change the color of the streamers throughout by taping two colored streamers together, you can dress up the front with washi tape and stickers, or you can create a replica of a round object and theme the gifts inside appropriately.

Harry Potter Surprise Ball

Here are some ideas for geeky surprise balls:

HP Ball Contents

The Golden Snitch

Using gold crepe paper, create a surprise ball and add wings to the back. Fill with Harry Potter-themed goodies! These can include:

  • Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans
  • Gold from Gringotts Bank
  • A Time Turner
  • Pins, stickers, and other accessories in the recipient’s house colors
  • Favorite quotes from the books

DnD Ball Contents

The Dungeon Master

Invite your friends to a Dungeons and Dragons game, and give them everything they’ll need to start their adventure! This can include:

  • A set of dice
  • A miniature
  • Riddles or puzzles
  • Clues that will help them during the campaign
  • “Coupons” they can cash in during the campaign. For instance:
    • Redeem this slip of paper for: One re-roll. (Can be given to another player or NPC.)
    • Redeem this slip of paper for: One random item from the Trinkets page.
    • Redeem this slip of paper for: Advantage or Disadvantage on the roll of your choice. (Can be given to another player or NPC.)

Here are some other fun ideas:

  • Put a bunch of stocking stuffers/candies in a surprise ball with black crepe paper streamers–it’ll look like coal!
  • Make a pokeball-themed surprise ball with mini Pokemon goodies inside!
  • Know a sports fan? Put sports-themed goodies (or a note saying you’ve got tickets to the big game) inside a surprise ball that looks like their sports ball of choice!

What type of surprise ball do you want to make? Let me know in the comments!

The Ultimate Monthly Subscription Box Round-Up

I love getting monthly subscription boxes–it’s a fun surprise you get each month in the mail! The amount of subscription services available has grown like crazy over the past couple years; there’s really something for everyone out there. Here are some of my fave subscription box services along with information on one of their previous boxes. Sign someone up for a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, or start the new year off right by treating yourself once a month!

Birchbox

Birchbox

Price: $10/month

Description: “Birchbox delivers high-end beauty, grooming, and lifestyle samples once a month, customized just for you.”

Items in August 2014 Box: 

  • Acure Organics Brightening Facial Scrub (Full Size $14.99)
  • Atelier Orange Sanguine Cologne Absolue (Full Size $65-105)
  • LAQA & Co. Sheer Lip Lube Pencil (Full Size $18)
  • Marcelle BB Cream Golden Glow (Full Size $27)
  • Supergoop! Forever Young Hand Cream (Full Size $11-29.50)

Notes: Birchbox is the only monthly subscription box that I’ve consistently paid for. The contents of the boxes can be hit-or-miss, but I’ve found that even things I don’t think I’ll love end up being terrific once I’ve tried it. The only problem? I’ve gotten hooked on some higher-end products and ultimately ended up buying full-size versions. (I love anything from Beauty Protector and Eyeko now, and had to have No. 4’s Volumizing Shampoo after trying it.) Luckily, reviewing the sample products you receive in your box gets you points which turn into Birchbox.com store credit. If you review each item each month, your box ends up paying for itself. This is great for anyone who loves to try new makeup/hair trends, pamper themselves, or just learn more about grooming products in general. Get it here.

 

Candy Japan

Candy Japan

Price: $25/month

Description: “Japanese candy surprises in your mailbox twice a month. Free shipping even to United States.”

Items in August 28 2014 Box: 

  • Chocolate CalorieMate
  • Baby Star Yakisoba Snack
  • Soft Ramune Balls
  • WakuWaku Zukan Gummies

Notes: If you like Japanese culture or (like me) you just love candy, this is a great box to try. For $25, you receive 2 shipments each month. The shipments include some interested Japanese candies and snacks, and shortly after the package is sent, you receive an email with information on the candy and some info and fun pics from the shipper about his time in Japan. It’s like you have an awesome pen pal who doesn’t expect you to send anything back! Get it here.

 

Dottie Box Dottie Box

Price: $20/month

Description: “A Dottiebox is a box curated every month for women. We feature high quality handmade items, small businesses, and indie brands.”

Items in September 2014 Box: 

  • Lisa Leonard Designs tote bag ($15)
  • Thunder Crafts hand stamped cuff bracelet ($12)
  • Scarlett Kitty fru fru fizzy bath bomb ($5)
  • Einvite.com stationary sampling ($5)

Notes: This box is a great way to get to know new indie businesses and Etsy shops. It’s also a great gift idea for a woman in your life that you may not know super well. (The contents of the box is all pleasing and not too personal.) Or, get a couple of these boxes and keep the contents on hand for impromptu gift giving opportunities. The tote bag and bracelet were both great quality and would make nice gifts on their own. The bath bomb ended up getting a bit greasy in travel, so I wouldn’t necessarily be able to give it as a gift, but it’s still usable for myself. Get it here.

 

FabFitFun FabFitFun

Price: $49.99/season (Get $10 off with code TT10.)

Description: “Over $200 in Beauty, Wellness, Fitness and Fashion Finds for only $49.99 per season!”

Items in Summer 2014 Box: 

  • Sonya Dakar Flash Facial ($95)
  • pur~lisse pur~protect SPF 30($55)
  • Thursday Friday Away Mini Clutch/Makeup Bag ($35)
  • Balanced Guru No Frizz Oil ($25)
  • FabFitFun Water Infuser BPA-free Water Bottle ($15)
  • Zoya Nail Polish ($9)
  • KISSTIXX Lip Balm ($5.99)
  • POPchips ($1.29)
  • Skintimate Shave Gel ($1.99)
  • Always Xtra Protection Long Daily Liners ($1.50)
  • Slimfast “Have Your Cake…” Meal Bar ($1)

Notes: FabFitFun is like a MEGA subscription box. It’s a bit more expensive ($50), you only get it 4 times a year, and it’s FULL of stuff. The products vary quite a bit: this one had higher end beauty products along with items you could find at your grocery store. It was a fun chance to try some new things (I ended up really liking the Flash Facial and KISSSTIXX lip balm, for instance), but it would be tough to guarantee you’ll love everything in the box. (I wouldn’t normally spend $35 on the clutch that was in the box.) However, for the price, the box is definitely a good deal. Get it here.

 

Flaviar

Flaviar

Price: $48.99/quarter (Other options available)

Description: “Try & discover drinks you otherwise wouldn’t and save a fortune compared to buying full bottles.”

Items in Star Spangled Bourbon Box: 

  • Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon (45 ml)
  • Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon 12 YO (45 ml)
  • Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon (45 ml)
  • Booker’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon (45ml)
  • Willett Pot Still Reserve (45 ml)

Notes: If anyone is ever looking for a gift idea for me, one of these tasting kits is it. A Flaviar kit comes with 5 glass test-tube-like bottles that hold 45 ml each of a different spirit. The tasting kit comes complete with instructions on holding a tasting (it comes with enough for 3 people), trivia and important info on the spirits you’re about to taste, tasting notes, and even a link to a soundtrack to play while tasting. It’s a mini, delicious party in a box. You can select and purchase tasting kits whenever, or you can sign up to have them sent quarterly or monthly. (P.S. This makes a fantastic host/hostess gift, and you may even be invited to try it out with them!) Get it here.

Julep

Julep Maven

Price: $24.99/month (Use code TREAT for a free Welcome box, just pay $3.99 shipping!)

Description: “Each My Maven Box includes over $40 worth of new beauty innovations and/or limited-run nail colors. We create at least five new boxes every month—one for each Style Profile, plus monthly exclusives. If you have a fully customizable subscription, you can personalize your box by picking exactly what you want.”

Items in September 2014 Box: 

  • “Erin” Nail Polish (Oyster grey creme)
  • “Mary Lee” Nail Polish (Oxblood satin)
  • Plush Pout Lip Crayon in Magenta Plum
  • Two candies

Notes: Julep Maven boxes allow you to choose from a collection of new nail colors and beauty products. Their products are quality and exclusive to the Julep brand. (And I love it because it started in Seattle!) I only get this every few months, because I quickly got more nail polish than I knew what to do with. Each box also comes with an extra treat (past boxes have included candy, flower seeds, rings, hair accessories, etc.) and a cute card with an inspirational quote on it. Get it here.

 

Kitchen Box

A Kitchen Box

Price: $30/month (Use code “geekyhostess” for $10 off a new subscription or gift subscription)

Description: “The subscription for food lovers and home cooks who want to stay inspired: a curated food, art, and music experience designed to inspire creativity in the kitchen and encourage you to try something new every week.”

Items in the “Farm to Table” Box: 

  • Fall Soup & Salad Recipes by Andrea Bernis
  • We Got The Beet Postcard by Andrea Bernis
  • Organic Whole Grain Emmer Farro by Bluebird Grain Farms
  • Portland Farmland Honey by Bee Local Artisan Neighborhood Honey
  • 3.5″ Pairing Knife by Tovolo
  • Flour Sack Towel
  • Music Downloads

Notes: A Kitchen Box is the ultimate gift for a home cook. Each box has a theme (mine was “Farm to Table”) and includes recipes, art, songs, and ingredients to help you create meals in that theme at home. They also include a favorite tool of theirs (my box included a fantastic pairing knife) and a flour sack towel each month. The contents of the box were beautiful and thoughtfully curated, and left me inspired to cook. Plus, with each box purchase, $1 is donated to RVOO Orphanages of Kenya, to help change the life of a child. Get it here.

 

Loot Crate

Loot Crate

Price: $13.37 plus $6 shipping/month (Save $3 with code GEEKYHOSTESS)

Description: “Get a box full of fun and unexpected gamer gear every month – valued at over $40(USD)!”

Items in August 2014 Box: 

  • TMNT Full Figure
  • Funko POP! Groot Exclusive
  • TMNT Mask Glasses
  • Sonic Air Freshener
  • Shoe Lightning Bolts
  • Deadpool Magnet
  • Monthly Loot Crate Pin
  • Bonus Digital Loot

Notes: Loot Crate, if you couldn’t gather, is for geeks and gamers. It focuses on a variety of fandoms new and old, with collectibles, t-shirts, toys, digital content, and more in each box. I often find one or two things I like in each box, and end up with other goodies I hang onto for gift giving opportunities. This was one of my fave boxes: I love the Groot exclusive, the TMNT glasses, and shoe lightning bolts specifically. This is great if you’re a collector or love toys. It would also be great for a family with a few geeky kids (and maybe a geeky grown-up or two): you can all split the contents each month (or keep the toys as prizes to reward good behavior). Get it here.

 

Love with Food

Love with Food

Price: $10 plus $2 shipping/month (Get your first month free, just pay $2 for shipping!)

Description: “A subscription of 8-10 delicious, all natural or organic, surprise snacks delivered monthly.”

Items in September 2014 Box: 

  • Simply So Sweet Chili Tortilla Chips
  • Lemon Rosemary Seasoning
  • Hemp Rules Roasted Hemp Seeds
  • Green Superfood
  • 5 Spice Caramels
  • Maruso Ghost Soy Sauce
  • Rich Chocolate Cookie Thins
  • Churro Kettle Corn

Notes: If you’re looking for new yummy and healthy snack ideas each month, this box is a must. For only $10, you get 8-10 different items in the box, and Love with Food donates a meal to a hungry child in the US. I like that you get a mix of pre-made snacks and ingredients to use in your next meal–it adds a bit of adventure to a variety of eating occasions throughout the month! Value-wise, I think this is one of the best subscription boxes out there. Get it here.

 

Mantry

Mantry

Price: $75 plus $10 shipping/month

Description: “Mantry (the modern man’s pantry) is a food-of-the-month club that helps you discover American Artisan Food and what to do with it.”

Items in August 2014 Box: 

  • Three Jerks Jerky Chipotle Adobo Jerky
  • We Rub You Korean BBQ Marinade
  • Olo Foods Olo’s Chipotle
  • Grey Ghost Bakery Cinnamon Pecan Cookies
  • Steven Smith Teamaker Big Hibiscus
  • Maya Kaimal Butter Masala

Notes: If you are serious about good, artisan food, then Mantry’s for you. The price point’s a bit steep for me, since I can be picky and am not guaranteed to love everything each month, but if you have some extra income or really want to try the best of the best, then subscribe. The crate it comes in each month is a huge added value: I now use my crate to hold important papers/things on the side of my desk.The Mantry I received was inspired by food trucks around the country. The Big Hibiscus tea is one of my new faves, and Mr. Geek and I both loved making the Butter Masala chicken. We’ve had this box for a couple months and still haven’t tried everything in it: it’s awesome that many of the items can be saved for a while, so you’re not pressured to use them immediately. Finally, although it’s called “Mantry,” it’s definitely not just for men. Any food lover will have a blast going through the contents and putting together some new recipes. Get it here.

Do you have a fave subscription box I haven’t included? Let me know in the comments!

Recipe: Edible Fireballs

Edible FireballsTruffles are one of my go-to treats for the holidays. They’re a delicious treat that would be considered a bit of a luxury when bought from a chocolate shop. Once you get the hang of the recipe, it’s a lot of fun to create custom flavor and presentation combos to suit the recipient. These fireball truffles were created for a Dungeons and Dragons lover. The truffle, named after a popular spell from D&D, has a hint of spice and a bit of a kick from the Pop Rocks. Use them to butter up a new DM or make them for everyone in your adventuring party!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream,
  • 2 12 oz. bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • red Pop Rocks

Directions:

In a medium-sized saucepan, mix the cream, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon together over medium-low heat. Heat until it starts simmering.

Turn off the stove and start adding 12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips into the mixture. Stir until the chocolate has melted and everything is smooth and mixed together.

Pour the mixture onto a wax paper lined pie plate or shallow casserole dish. Place in the fridge to chill for 1+ hours or until firm but scoopable.

Remove the plate from the fridge and roll the truffle filling into small balls using a spoon and your hands. Sizing of the balls is up to you, I’d recommend sizing them somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. Place the balls on a plate covered in wax paper and place back in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Place the other 12 ounces of chocolate in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir, then microwave in 10 second intervals while mixing in between until the chocolate is smooth.  Microwaving for longer can result in burnt chocolate. Trust me–you don’t want that. (If your chocolate stops melting/mixing and starts looking clumpy/gritty while smelling bad, you’ve burnt it.)

Pull the truffle balls out of the fridge and dip into the melted chocolate. (Use a fork to fish the truffles out of the chocolate so any excess can go through the tines.) Place the dipped chocolates on a wax paper lined plate or cookie sheet.

While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle red Pop Rocks on the top.

Place back into the fridge until you’re ready to serve!

 

Review: Is a Ninja Blender Worth It?

Ninja Blender
Blenders are a tough sell in my household. I had to convince Mr. Geek for a while to let us keep one in our small kitchen (counter and storage space are both at a minimum), so when I was asked to review a Ninja Blender DUO with Auto-iQ, I thought it would be a tough sell. Surprisingly, he was down for it. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it’s called “Ninja” or that he heard good things from our friends, but he let me try it. The only (totally reasonable) caveat: We’re not keeping 2 blenders. We’re giving it a try, and keeping the new favorite.

To me, a blender has always been a blender. It does it’s job in a decent fashion, unless I overload the machine or don’t add enough liquid to my smoothies. (Let’s be honest, this happens almost every time I blend something.) I wasn’t expecting anything crazy or different with the Ninja. But I still wanted to compare it. Is it worth the hype and price difference compared to your average blender? The short answer: Yes.

I thought I’d try out the blenders by making “True Love in a Bowl”, a recipe I saw at the Independent Food Bloggers Conference during the Ninja demo. It’s super easy: Just frozen bananas and cocoa powder. You blend them together and it creates a healthy version of soft serve ice cream. You can see the results in the video below:

A video posted by Tara (@geekyhostess) on

The bananas in the Cuisinart instantly got stuck on the bottom, and it just sprayed the cocoa power around for a bit until I adjusted everything. After adjusting, the bananas just got stuck again. I started getting scared when the glass container itself started moving. Yikes! The Ninja has a fantastic thing called “Auto-iQ,” where it adjusts the speed and intensity of the blending on its own to blend things thoroughly and consistently. I was able to press the button and walk away and know that eventually it would be blended to my liking. I did go in to adjust the bananas at the same time I did so for the Cuisinart, but it didn’t really need it.

Other noticeable things about the Ninja: Everything about it is really stable. The base suctions to your counter, the lid locks on, and when you turn it on, you’re not afraid anything is going anywhere. While I was afraid I was breaking my Cuisinart, I felt safe with the Ninja. It’s loud, but in a powerful way, not a scary “it shouldn’t be making this much noise” way. The model I received also came with smaller smoothie-sized cups and a food processor, so you’re set for a variety of tasks. Clean-up is easy–you can put everything in the dishwasher, and the base just needs a quick wipe-down.

In case you couldn’t tell, I really liked the Ninja. I’ve been stocking up on smoothie supplies and can’t wait to keep playing with it. If you’re interested in getting the some one I have, you can find it at Amazon.com. (This particular listing doesn’t include the food processor attachment, but has everything else!)

Do you have a Ninja blender? What awesome recipes should I try blending up next?

Geek Fit Review: ClassPass

ClassPass

At the beginning of November, I had the opportunity to sign up for and try ClassPass, the monthly fitness class membership. You can sign up for unlimited classes near  you offered from a variety of studios, and for only $99 a month.

The user experience is very slick. When you sign up, you see a site similar to the one pictured above. It lets you sign up for classes, learn about studios, and see the classes you’ve already taken. Once you sign up for a class, you have the opportunity to add it to your Google Calendar, and it sends you a reminder email with any important info you’ll need to know before the class begins. This is great for when you’re trying new workouts–it tells you the type of clothing to wear, and if you need to bring anything special with you.

I had grand plans of exercising daily with ClassPass, but I was out of town for the second half of the month and busy prepping for my trips before that. Because of this, I only attended 4 classes. However, I loved the classes I attended and learned a lot about my preferences thanks to ClassPass! The 4 classes included:

Barre3: My favorite go-to for barre classes. Still love it! It leaves me feeling renewed, relaxed, and energized.

Antigravity yoga: This was fun, but probably isn’t going to become a regular class for me. I enjoyed wrapping myself up in the aerial silks, but some of the positions left bruises and marks from the silks and hanging upside down for long periods of time just wasn’t really for me.

Power45: This is Flywheel’s version of Barre. The instructor definitely acts more like a spin instructor than the Barre3 instructors I’m used to: They’re loud, encouraging, and fast-paced instead of calm and relaxing. This class was tough but fun. I could see making this a regular part of my workout routine and constantly pushing myself to be able to hold the exercises for longer and do better. Bonus: Everyone in this class was SO nice. People started conversations with me before class started and everyone was positive and encouraging throughout and after the class.

Fly 45: I tried my first spin class and LOVED it. Thanks, Flywheel! It was tough and I was drenched with sweat and bright red, but the instructors was amazing and they keep you motivated and uplifted the whole time. I felt like I was dying, but in a fun way. That’s a thing, right? I look forward to doing more spin classes, as long as I don’t have anywhere I have to be immediately after. Like I said, you get drenched.

I would definitely recommend ClassPass to folks who want to try a lot of different fitness classes and have the time to go to enough to make the cost worth it. If you’re traveling for half the month like I was, it may not make a lot of sense, unless you’re going to another ClassPass city. If that’s the case, you can continue taking classes there!

If you want to try ClassPass yourself, visit classpass.com and get started! (If you have a fitness-loving friend, it also makes a great holiday gift. Get a month for each of you and schedule classes together for a built-in workout buddy!)