Nuts.com Products (and Recipes)!

Hi guys! I was so excited to receive an email from a representative from Nuts.com asking me to tell you all about their great products. They were kind enough to send me a couple of their products to try out (yay free stuff!).

First up, black walnuts!

Now, black walnuts are like regular walnuts, but with a much more unique flavor. They’re also full of great health benefits; they contain more protein per ounce than any other tree nut, and they are very low in saturated fat, and high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (those are the good ones, they help maintain good cholesterol!). They come shelled and ready to go in the package, and I decided to make some pumpkin muffins and toss some of these in there! (I apologize for the lower quality photos, I forgot to bring my nice camera home so I had to make do with my iPhone camera)

These were really good! We used some pumpkin muffin mix that we got from Trader Joe’s. The muffins were fluffy and moist, and the walnuts provided a great crunch (I also added some chocolate chips, because a little chocolate never hurt anyone right?) I liked the walnuts in the muffins, but be warned, they are a little bit of an acquired taste. I probably wouldn’t eat them by themselves, but the unique flavor works pretty well when you put them in other things.

Next, pine nuts!

I never thought to eat a pine nut on its own, but I tried one and it actually tasted really good! It kind of reminded me of a sunflower seed. They have a great flavor that goes well in any kind of dish, and toasting them brings out even more nutty flavor! Like the black walnuts, these are also high in monounsaturated fats, which are great for heart health. They also contain nutrients that naturally increase energy levels (because who couldn’t use a little energy boost?). Anyway, the first thought that popped into my head for how to use these in a recipe was in pesto. But no, that’s too expected. I had to do something different. I didn’t want to blend them up into a sauce—I wanted to showcase them and their flavor. So I decided on a pasta dish with fresh tomatoes, artichokes, garlic, and basil. Heres the recipe! (Again, low quality pic, sorry 😦 )

Pasta with Tomato, Artichoke, and Pine Nuts

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What you’ll need:

  • 1 package Tinkyada Brown Rice Spaghetti (or whatever spaghetti you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • one 8.5oz can of artichokes, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • a little bit of oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan

How to make it:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté the pine nuts and garlic until light brown (I didn’t use all the oil for this step, just enough to toast the nuts and cook the garlic)
  3. Add the rest of the oil, tomatoes, artichokes, basil, and oregano and let it simmer for a little bit, and season with salt and pepper
  4. Toss in the pasta, and serve with grated parmesan

This really was such a delicious, fresh dish, and it allowed you to really taste the pine nuts. I can’t express how much toasting the nuts brings out the nuttiness; it was just so good. I will definitely be adding this recipe to my regular lineup.

Finally, the kind folks at Nuts.com sent me some gluten free snacks to try out. I got roasted chickpeas, veggie chips, and half-popped popcorn.

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The chickpeas were really really good. I’ve been wanting to give chickpeas a try as a healthier alternative for a snack, and they exceeded my expectations. I’ve been sitting in my dorm snacking on them since I got them. I think they taste kind of like a cross between a peanut and a sunflower seed. It’s great. Some friends on my floor had a little sampling session in the hallway and they liked them too! So the chickpeas have been college student approved. Now the next two snacks were kind of a toss up; I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about them. I’ll talk about the veggie chips first. I didn’t think I was going to like them that much. Well, correction, I knew I would like the sweet potato chips, I wasn’t sure about the carrots, squash, taro, or green beans. Yes, I said green beans. Someone made green beans into chips. And surprisingly, I liked them. And everything else in it for that matter. They each have a unique flavor, and I really like it. As for the half-popped popcorn, the name is literal—it really is only popped halfway. I was imagining the weird pieces of popcorn that don’t get fully popped when you microwave the bag. But these were not that. They are delightfully crunchy in just the right way. I really enjoyed them! I’m happy to have these great snacks as options for hanging out in my dorm. I might just have to order more when I run out!

I’m so happy that I got to try these products, and a big thank you to Nuts.com for sending them to me! They’re definitely worth a try!

Although I was not paid for this review, I received free samples of Nuts.com products. However, everything I’ve said in this review is my honest opinion and reflects my own personal experiences.

Life Update!

Hey everyone! Since the last time I posted, I have officially become a Blue Hen (complete with cool, yet slightly culty, induction ceremony)!

udel induction ceremony

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, but college has been keeping’ me pretty busy. I’ve been at the University of Delaware for about 5 weeks, and it’s been awesome! I’ve met a whole bunch of great new people, and I’m enjoying all my classes. It took quite a bit of adjustment in the beginning (it was weird to think that I live here now), but I’m mostly used to it! I still miss my family (and my cat) a lot though.

As for the food, I’ve been doing pretty well. Most of the time I eat at Caesar Rodney Dining Hall (I talked a little bit about it in this post), since it’s the most convenient because of the gluten free station. I can also order a meal ahead of time from Russell Dining Hall, which is literally 5 steps from my dorm room, but I either always forget to do it in time or nothing in there is any better than what’s in Rodney. I have ordered from Russell a couple times, but I’ve found that I like the food in Rodney better. One day I ordered pasta with meat sauce from Russell (which I was really excited about, since we all know I love pasta and I hadn’t eaten any since I moved in), but when I got it, the pasta had all completely fallen apart. I had a bowl of pasta mush. But that has been my only bad experience here with food! The quesadillas from Rodney are literally fantastic. How can you go wrong with a good ol’ gluten free tortilla filled with chicken,  black beans, and melty cheese??? Answer: you can’t. I’ve also eaten at a couple restaurants on Main Street, like California Tortilla, Honeygrow, Home Grown, Panera, and more (there’s literally so many options on Main Street). All have been great; maybe if I get some time soon I’ll write a full review on a couple of them. Also, for the times I just don’t feel like leaving my room or I don’t like anything in the dining halls, I just eat a frozen meal or a can of soup in the comfort of my own room.

Overall, college is pretty fantastic so far. I can’t wait to share some exciting college stories with you all soon. 🙂

Europe Days 5-10: Italy, France, & Spain

Ok guys, I suck and I’ve completely procrastinated writing my next Europe post (I really have a good excuse, I’m getting ready to head off to college!), so to avoid even more delay, I’m gonna just knock it all out in one post. Prepare for a very long European food whirlwind.

So after our leisurely day at sea, the week of back-to-back ports began. First up was Sicily, Italy. We chose the Taormina On Your Own cruise excursion, so we took about a 45 minute bus ride to Taormina (with beautiful views) and were able to just wander around town. This was such a beautiful little place, with stunning scenery. I mean look at this:

Seriously, just amazing. Taormina was very close to being my favorite place, but not just for the scenery. We went to lunch at a nice little restaurant called La Botte. Our tour guide told us they have gluten free pasta, and when we got there and told the waitress I would be ordering gluten free, she said it would be a little longer because they have to boil new water (which means they didn’t cook it in gluten-y pasta water, yay!!). I ordered Penne ala Norma, which was GF penne with tomato sauce, aubergines (aka eggplants), ricotta, and basil, along with the necessary bottle of house white wine for everyone to share.

First impression of the dish when they placed it in front of me: what are these french fries doing in my pasta???  But I soon remembered they were eggplants, and when I took a bite, I think I went to heaven. This was the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in my life. The pasta was perfectly cooked, and I have no idea what they make their GF pasta out of in Europe but it tasted like I was eating regular pasta. There was some toasted parmesan around the edge of the plate and I could’ve eaten that straight out of a bowl. Everything about this was perfect, and I was so sad that I was too full to finish it! 😦 We of course had to end the afternoon with a delicious chocolate gelato pop from a cute place on the street, where all the pops are “senza glutine”!

For dinner that night back on the ship, I got vegetable spring rolls and seared tuna as appetizers (two appetizers is a necessity on cruise ships), veal parmesan with spaghetti as my entree, and of course, chocolate melting cake for dessert! It was all delicious, except the seared tuna was a tiny bit bland.

Next day: Naples. We did a scenic drive of the Amalfi Coast and spent about an hour and a half (which was definitely not enough time) in Sorrento.

This was also a really pretty town! Now, we knew with only an hour and a half, eating somewhere would eat up (haha) most of our time. But we were in Europe, so we were going to eat. So we went to Ristorante Tasso for some gluten free pizza! I got the Calabrese pizza, which had tomato sauce, mozzarella, and spicy salami. It was so good! A little soggy, so I had to eat it with a fork and knife, but undeniably amazing. I didn’t finish it, but I brought it with me and finished it in the cruise terminal, where I also bought a cappuccino and a bag of gluten free Italian pasta to bring home! We also of course got more chocolate gelato while we were in Sorrento.

Dinner that night I was a little wild. As my first appetizer, I got braised ox tongue. Sounds gross, I know, but it was actually really tasty! The sauce was ridiculously flavorful. My other app was broccoli cheese soup, which was amazing. Closest I’ve ever gotten to Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, so I was very happy. My entree was salmon cakes, which were very tasty and herby, and a s’mores parfait for dessert, which was more like just a glass of chocolate mousse and marshmallow. That night we also enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the ship!

Next up was Rome, the crazy busy day. Rome was not our favorite place. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful and the sights were amazing, we just didn’t really get a chance to enjoy it because we were rushed way too fast through it all. We saw the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Coloseum. It was just a lot to do in such a short period of time, and we didn’t get enough time to appreciate it. For lunch, we went to Ristorante Naumachia, and I got a Caprese salad, which was very good. Not a lot of gluten free choices here, but we were pressed for time.

Dinner that night featured a cruise staple: escargot. Those delicious, buttery lil balls of flavor along with fried shrimp were my appetizers, and my entree was a seafood pasta dish with calamari, salmon, mussels, scallops, and shrimp. For dessert I ordered cheesecake, but instead I was given bananas and strawberries in a caramel sauce (I thought they maybe couldn’t make the cheesecake gluten free for some reason).  I missed my cheesecake, but this was pretty good too.

escargot

Stay with me here, only three more days to get through! The next day was Florence, which was the consensus favorite of the whole trip. Especially after being in such a hustle bustle type city like Rome, Florence was just calm and beautiful and relaxing. We did a little walking tour for about an hour, then we were off on our own to shop and wander. We went to lunch at a restaurant our tour guide recommended called Casa Toscano. I got GF penne with mushroom sauce and bacon. I was expecting a white or brown kind of sauce, so I was surprised when it was a tomato sauce. Either way, it was delicious! We spent the rest of our time just walking around and buying some souvenirs, and obviously eating more gelato.

When we were back on the ship and dinnertime rolled around, I got alligator fritters (may sound weird, but very delicious) and lobster bisque (WOW this was fantastic) as appetizers. For my entree, I got chicken cacciatore, which was pretty good but not great. For dessert, I got the melting cake, AND apparently the night before (when they brought out the wrong dessert to me) we had left before our waiter found my actual dessert.  He had brought my cheesecake out but we were gone! So he kept it in the refrigerator over night, and I got two desserts. 🙂

The next day we were in Marseille, France, and we did a bus tour with some free time to walk around. The town was beautiful; I really loved it. Again, I just wish we got to spend more time there! We didn’t end up eating lunch here; we just went back to the ship and I headed up to Cucina del Capitano for some GF spaghetti with pomodoro, grilled chicken, eggplant, onions, and peppers (the same thing I got on the first day at sea that I loved).

My appetizers at dinner that night were clam chowder and crab cakes, which were both amazing. Continuing with the seafood theme, I then got jumbo shrimp as my entree. And for dessert—surprise!—melting cake. (Why didn’t I take any pictures of my food this night???)

Our final cruise day was spent in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. This was the surprise stop, because we didn’t think we were going to love it as much as we did! It was really beautiful, and we had a great time just walking around town. We went to a restaurant called Sa Casa for lunch, which had gluten free items marked on the menu. This was a tapas restaurant, so we all shared what we got. My mom and I split the zucchini carpaccio and goat cheese salad, and I gave my dad’s chorizo and mussels a try. Everything was amazing! Palma turned out to be an awesome place.

For my last cruise dinner, I ordered frog legs and steamed mussels. It was my first experience with frog legs, and it was actually very good! For my entree, I got prime rib, which was so juicy and delicious. My last dessert of the cruise was carrot cake, which was kind of a toss up because I’d never had it before, but I loved it! I ended our last night off later with a piña colada and a comedy show.

We were so sad to wake up the next morning to have to get off the ship and get on our plane. But we had a short layover in London to hang out and eat lunch in the airport. With this came the challenge of finding something for me to eat. But there was a little cafe that had some pre-made meals, so I got mushroom risotto. It was surprisingly good for airport food! When we got on our plane to take us back to America, we also got a meal. This time we called far enough ahead to get me a gluten free meal, so I had chicken with gravy, potatoes, carrots and green beans, a salad with Italian dressing, a fruit cup, and a really super delicious and soft gluten free roll! My experience with airport and plane food was better than expected.

Overall, this was a seriously amazing trip. I am so thankful to have been able to have this incredible experience, and I hope I get a chance to go back at some point! Hopefully, if you’re ever visiting any of these fantastic places, I have given you some good options to try out and enjoy. 🙂