Thursday, June 30, 2016

3 Secrets to Cooking the Tastiest Food You've Ever Eaten

June is a busy month, full of fun and memories!  It marks graduation, the start of summer, weddings, vacation season.  But did you know that June is also National Dairy Month?  While we fire up our grills in preparation for the summer cooking season, June is the perfect time to incorporate a food group that tastes great and is great for us:  dairy.

Many of us (my family included) eat butter and cheese as part of our weekly meal rotation.  But we often forget to consider that many butters contain additives (such as growth hormones, preservatives, and dyes) that can be harmful to our bodies.  What if I told you there was a way to sidestep those potentially dangerous chemicals, embrace all-natural great taste, and take your baking and cooking game to the next level in honor of National Dairy Month?

I recently discovered Finlandia Cheese []—a brand that has been crafting some of the highest quality cheese and butter for over a century.  We had a great experience putting Finlandia ingredients to the test this week!  Here's how my samples arrived, all sealed up in a cool pack so they stayed nice and fresh!

We were going to make a yummy dessert, like pound cake or banana bread, but the end of a long week found us hungry for something more savory and substantial.  The boys voted for grilled ham, turkey and cheese sandwiches!  Finlandia Swiss Cheese (#finlandiacheese) slices are the perfect choice for this quick and easy snack/meal! 

Construction was pretty basic, we added just a little bit of horseradish and mustard spread to the bread to give the sandwiches a little kick.  Findlandia Salted Butter (#finlandiabutter) spread on the outside of the bread added a nice buttery taste and helped the bread toast up rather nicely! 

The end result?  I think you can tell my boys were super happy and full! 

The easy meal prep and gooey, stringy deliciousness of the grilled cheese sammies inspired me to try some new recipes (I'll post pics later) and share a few secrets to help you create some of the best-tasting food you and your family have ever eaten!
Great dishes are a sum of their parts.  I used to go for the cheapest brand of everything. I am learning that in order to create really great dishes, all parts should be delicious alone AND in your culinary creation.  When I tried Finlandia for the first time, I was really surprised!  Not only are their cheeses and butter all-natural and hormone-free, but they taste incredible.  Seriously.  You can taste the difference. Imported from Finland using milk produced by well-cared-for cows, Finlandia Butter is rich and creamy.  It tastes so much better than any butter I've ever tasted.  And you could eat Finlandia Cheese straight from the package—no crackers needed.

Life moves fast, and most of us don't have time to research every single product we consume.  Which is hard for me, because I like to research things.  Even when it's not necessary.  I have this thing about fact finding.  However, when it comes to products like cheese and butter, which we eat almost everyday, it's important to be aware of what we're putting into our bodies.  Finlandia Butter is made from pure, hormone-free milk, which comes from happy cows that live on family-owned farms in Finland—the greenest country on Earth.  No hidden chemicals, no factory farms—just pure, creamy goodness.  I love this!! It makes me want to meet the cows and farmers and thank them for caring about us!

Getting your family involved in the kitchen can help create lasting memories and start an important conversation around nutrition and health.  We don't do that enough at my house. But now that my boys are getting older?  I realize they need more practice so they can eat something besides cereal when they go off to college.  Baking sheet cookies?  Get out the cookie cutters and let your kids create the shapes.  Cooking a grilled cheese?  Let your significant other butter the bread.  If you're in need of some culinary inspiration, check out the Finlandia Cheese Facebook page.  Good stuff there!  And if you need to know where to find Findlandia products, you can go here:

Got any baking secrets of your own?  I'd love to hear about them!  Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

**Disclosure:  As always, this review is based on my own honest opinions.  I did not receive compensation for this post, but did receive Finlandia products to help facilitate the review.  Just keepin' it real, Y'all!***

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


With the arrival of warm weather and rising temperatures, many of us are spending a lot more time outside with our kids.  For those of us who endure cold winters, it's easy to be so excited about the beautiful weather that we forget to be mindful about staying hydrated.  Doing that in a healthy way isn't always easy.  So I am excited when my family finds an alternative to sugary drinks that are full of harmful preservatives.
The key is to find something that, in addition to being healthy, also tastes good, right?  We started looking into all of the sport drink alternatives and discovered a way to provide the same (or better) hydration from something natural, organic and packed with loads of nutrients!

Coconut water! I know, it's been around awhile.  I'm on the late train this time.  But seriously, do you know how good coconut water is for you?!?  It's all-natural and loaded with super-food powers, so it should be a no-brainer, right?  But what I found is that there are sooooo many different coconut waters out on the market that I was confused about which ones were best for my family.  Not to mention that some of them don't taste very good, so I had to do some homework to find one that my family would actually drink.

I recently partnered with Harmless Harvest, the first ever Fair-For-Life certified coconut water, to share insights on how to distinguish a premium coconut water from the rest. Here's why I think Harmless Harvest reigns supreme:
  • It maintains its unique, 'straight from the coconut' flavor thanks to its multi-step micro-filtration process 
  • Has a longer shelf life without extra additives or preservatives 
  • Is a hydrating all-natural alternative to sports drinks and juices
  • Contains vital nutrients that occur naturally in Harmless Harvest's specific young, green coconuts
The Taste Test Results

When I located the Harmless Harvest Organic Coconut Water in the refrigerated drink section at my local market, I was surprised to see that the liquid inside was pink!  Then I read the label, which explains that coconut water contains varying levels of antioxidants, which can sometimes account for the pink color.  Who knew?  

Upon tasting Harmless Harvest, I was surprised to find the flavor was actually different and sweeter than other coconut waters I have tasted. It has a "toasted coconut" vibe that made it more flavorful to me.  It definitely tastes better cold than it does at room temperature, at least to my.  The boys didn't notice a difference one way or another.  One of my sons liked it enough to drink the whole bottle and is looking forward to using it as a replacement for Gatorade for his games and sports activities.  The other didn't seem overly impressed.  He didn't hate it, but he didn't love it either. The Husband liked it a lot and thinks he will be using it in his smoothies! 

To help my readers become coconut water connoisseurs and pick the best product available, Harmless Harvest [] has shared a few, expert tips:

Age is nothing but a number, right? Not in coconut terms. As coconuts mature, the essential nutrients found in their water begins to seep into the meaty white layer, depleting the coconut water of it's rich contents. Mature coconuts are great for making coconut oil and other coconut products, however, the young coconuts are the ones which have the most nutritious coconut water. Many companies sell you the water from mature coconuts. At Harmless Harvest, they use only young green coconuts which are loaded with the nutritious water that benefits our health.

Doesn't all coconut water taste the same? NO! There's no need to add any sweetener to the already delicious flavor of young coconut water. Many companies will add a flavor or sweetener to mask the dull taste of mature coconut water.  If there is an acidic taste to the beverage, chances are the preservative citric acid was added.  A fresh batch of organic coconut water has a distinct taste, a slightly vanilla-almond flavor. So remember, just say no to that citric taste.

Fresh coconut water reacts delicately with sunlight and heat, this is why it must be kept cold at all times.  Many companies will use extreme heat to kill natural bacteria (which also kills the good enzymes) to extend shelf life. Instead, Harmless Harvest uses their proprietary Multi-Step Micro-Filtration Process to avoid the use of heat or citric acid additives, preserving the optimal flavor, fragrance and nutrients of their critically acclaimed coconut water. So note, if you see a coconut water hanging out in a non-refrigerated aisle, turn back and walk away.

Did you know coconut water can naturally turn pink? Coconut water is clear when bottled but contains a variety of antioxidants which can turn pink once they interact with sunlight. Harmless Harvest could mask the color change— but instead, they fully embrace what naturally occurs in their coconut water. Go ahead and drink pink!

Truly great coconut water is found in rural tropical areas, which are vital to the future of our planet. Harmless Harvest's ecosystem based business focuses not only on delivering the best organic products to consumers, but also cares for the welfare of the farming communities at the source of the product, and uses sustainable farming practices to ensure a better tomorrow.

For more information on how Harmless Harvest became a leader in this industry revolution, check out their recent article in INC. Magazine below:

INC. MAGAZINE ARTICLE: 'Winning the Hyper-Competitive Coconut Water Wars'
I'd love to hear your experience tasting different coconut waters, and which one you absolutely love! Share your thoughts in the comments below.