Archive | September, 2013

Review: IÖGO 0% yogurt with stevia extract

29 Sep

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Disclosure:  This post is sponsored by IÖGO (Ultima Foods Inc). I’ve received a product sample and compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Last week, I received a delicious delivery at my doorstep. Inside a (cold) black shopping bag with a IÖGO logo was a package of IÖGO 0% yogurt with stevia extract. The flavours: raspberry, blueberry, vanilla and mango-passion fruit. As if the flavours didn’t sound tasty enough, I saw that there was no gelatin in this yogurt, like all IÖGO products! What’s gelatin you ask? It’s a common ingredient that is derived from the collagens of animals. Ew.

So no gelatin and no artificial flavours or colours? The folks at IÖGO had my attention. To top it all off, they sweetened this yogurt with what I think is one of the products of the moment, stevia extract.

Stevia extract is a 100% natural origin calorie-free sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant. It has an intensely sweet taste and zero calories. When used in small quantities, stevia extract can replace some of the sugar generally used in food products.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with alternative natural sweeteners, so I couldn’t wait to try the product.  I set myself up with a little taste test station and to be fair, I tried each of the yogurts twice last week.

The verdict…

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Vanilla:  This was the first yogurt I tried and it took me few bites to really get into it. I’ve found that products sweetened with stevia need to coat your tongue first to allow you to appreciate the flavours. I would definitely enjoy the vanilla yogurt with some fresh fruit.

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Raspberry: I enjoyed this flavour and I could taste the raspberry in it, which I really appreciated. The colour of the yogurt was natural. I would definitely eat this again.

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Blueberry:  This flavour was also true to its name, with small pieces of blueberry in the yogurt. This tasted the most like other blueberry yogurts I’ve tried, so I would call this a “comforting” flavour if that makes sense!

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Mango-Passion Fruit: I was most intrigued by this flavour, as I’ve never had mango and passion fruit together. The result was a tangy yogurt that ends with sweetness. I would enjoy this flavour at the end of a heavy meal, as it would make for a light and tasty dessert.

Was it love at first sight/bite? Yes, I would definitely recommend IÖGO 0% yogurt with stevia extract to those who want to include a packaged fruit yogurt in their diet that is 0%, doesn’t contain any gelatin (yay!) and is flavoured by natural sources. I have a lot of respect for IÖGO as I like that they are working to bring fresh, new yogurt products to Canadians. This particular product retails for about $7.99 in grocery stores in Canada.

For more information, check out: http://www.iogoStevia.ca/

Have you tried IÖGO yogurt or others with stevia extract? What did you think?

Review: McDonald’s New Signature Veggie McWraps

16 Sep

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Disclaimer: I did receive compensation from McDonald’s Canada for this post, however all opinions expressed are those of myself, my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and my friend. 

My husband and I are always on the go. We are often out and about and we do love the occasional road trip (Montreal anyone?). As a vegetarian married to a meat-eater, I’ve found that over the years there are only a few quick service a.k.a. fast food restaurants we can visit that have good meal options for both of us. When I say a few, I’m being generous, there are only two places that I can think of immediately and both have veggie burgers as their star vegetarian attractions. What about the salads you say? Please. Stop. I want a real meal and there really is a certain joy that comes from eating on the road out of a paper bag. Which brings me to a piece of research provided by McDonald’s Canada…

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So I pretty much jumped out of my chair when I heard McDonald’s Canada released two new Signature Veggie McWraps (new vegetarian items excite me, what can I say!). I ate meat until I was about 14 years old and I loved McDonald’s when I was growing up, actually I still do. To me, McDonald’s means happy times and fun moments, like the incredible birthday parties I used to have there (the little hats and the birthday cake with the M on it were the coolest!). Now my fun moments are with my nephews, watching their eyes light up while they have a Happy Meal. To know that I might have a chance to eat with them instead of just having a coffee was very exciting indeed.

Knowing that I’m vegetarian, McDonald’s Canada challenged me to try their new Signature Veggie McWraps. I learned that the Veggie McWraps had been customized to suit Canadian palettes by McDonalds’ Director of Menu Innovation, Anne Parks. For example, Canada is the first country to use a whole-wheat tortilla.

I’ll review them in the order that I tried them in, with additional comments from my sister-in-law (she also eats seafood), brother-in-law (he will eat anything!) and my friend (who eats chicken on occasion) just to give you all a few opinions. Really though, you’ll just have to try them!

Wrap #1 – The Santa Fe Veggie McWrap

Ingredients: This wrap contains fire-roasted corn, black beans, a blend of real cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, tomato, red onion, iceberg lettuce, crunchy tortilla strips, chili lime glaze and southwest sauce, served in a whole wheat flour tortilla.

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Was it love at first sight/bite?  Yes! I was immediately intrigued by the packaging (I started my career in printing and I’m obsessed with cool packaging). I loved how interactive the packaging was, asking me to tear around it to release the wrap. Cool concept. I took a peek inside the wrap and it was filled with good looking ingredients and lots of colours and textures.

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I dove in and I immediately liked the crunch of the veggies and tortilla strips. The chili lime glaze and southwest sauce kicked it all up a notch and I liked the light lingering heat that was left on my tongue. I think it’s spicy enough to satisfy those who want a little kick but not so much that it will turn people off. The tortilla held everything together nicely and I was able to taste that it was whole wheat, which was great. There was a good balance of flavour and I was able to enjoy the ingredients to the very last bite. I appreciated the fact that my last bite wasn’t just a mouthful of tortilla!

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I enjoyed the southwest sauce that was used in the wrap, it reminded me of the sauce used in a delicious McSkillet Burrito I had tried at the McDonald’s flagship restaurant in Chicago a few years ago. They were able to make that vegetarian and it was a flour tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, potatoes, cheese, roasted red and green peppers, onions and salsa roja. Filling and delicious with a spicy kick. Yet another awesome menu item that we should have here….can you hear me McDonald’s Canada? : )

My Feedback:

If McDonald’s could give me an option to add sautéed or crispy tofu to this wrap, I definitely would. I really enjoyed the flavours in this wrap but adding a bit of extra protein would kick this up a notch for me. In terms of the packaging, I would like to see the bottom end of the packaging come up a bit higher, as I think too much of the wrap is exposed when you remove the top cover. I ended up having to support the wrap so all of the tasty toppings wouldn’t come out in my first few bites.

Would I eat it again?

Absolutely. There was a spicy kick in it that I really enjoyed. I’m looking forward to eating this again.

 

Wrap #2 – The Mediterranean Veggie McWrap

Ingredients:  This wrap includes two exciting ingredients that have never been on McDonald’s Canada’s menu before: hummus and real feta cheese. Yes, that’s right, I just said hummus! Other ingredients include tomato, cucumber, red onion, iceberg lettuce, crispy lemon-seasoned onions and a creamy Mediterranean sauce, all served in a whole wheat flour tortilla.

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Was it love at first sight/bite?  A few days after trying the Santa Fe, I went back to try the Mediterranean Veggie McWrap. Once again, I was really excited when I unwrapped the box and I realized that it was because it felt like I was opening a present….a vegetarian present : ) My first bite was filled with crunchy lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion and feta, one of my favourite combinations….yum!  As I went deeper into the wrap, I tasted the crispy onions and I really liked them. The sauce wasn’t overpowering and I could enjoy each ingredient, which I appreciated.

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My feedback: Again, an option to add sautéed or crispy tofu to this wrap would be great. Alternatively, throwing some chickpeas in for extra protein could work?

Thoughts from others on both the Santa Fe and Mediterranean Veggie McWraps:

Santa Fe:

Sudha (my sis-in-law) – “I felt that all of the ingredients were overpowered by the southwest sauce, which made the wrap a bit soggy as well! Perhaps I should try it with the sauce on the side?!”

Craig (my bro-in-law) – “I enjoyed it and would eat it again.”

Mediterranean:  

Kanika (friend) – “Good to see veggie options at McDonald’s. The Mediterranean Veggie McWrap was filled with fresh toppings and I thought it was full of flavour and healthy. I’m hoping to see more vegetarian options at McDonald’s soon!”

Sudha (my sis-in-law) – “I prefer the Mediterranean one over the Santa Fe! It was very refreshing and the best surprise was the addition of flavourful crispy onions!”

More comments from Sudha (my sis-in-law) – “How will they maintain consistency of the wrap? Would it taste the same every time? It is easier when a protein is involved as it is literally the “star”; with veggies, one has to make sure there is a balance!”

Craig (my bro-in-law) – “I enjoyed this one too and I would also eat it again. I actually enjoy all of the McWraps on offer.”

And that’s a “wrap” folks : ) (Pun fully intended).

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As an added bonus to the readers of Milk & Eggs, McDonald’s Canada shared a few original vegetarian recipes that were developed by their Director of Menu Management. These were a few of my favourites. Enjoy!

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Have you tried the new Veggie McWraps? If so, please let me know what you thought of them or if you have any vegetarian suggestions I can pass on to our friends at McDonald’s : )

Day Tripping: Peaches, Pizza and Preserving with Farmers Feed Cities

2 Sep

Peaches at Quiet Acres Farm

The most wonderful time of the year is almost over….peach season in Ontario is coming to an end! I’m obsessed with peaches and as soon as the season hits, I’m one of the first in line for delicious Ontario peaches. The peaches from our neighbouring country to the south are fine for baking or in pinch when I’m desperate for one in the middle of winter. Ontario peaches however are a thing of beauty. I didn’t always appreciate them and actually when I was growing up I preferred nectarines, since they didn’t have “furry skin” but that all changed when I met a beautifully ripe Ontario peach a few years ago and I haven’t looked back!

Last summer, I had the opportunity to join a wonderful organization, Farmers Feed Cities, on a farm and vineyard tour in Niagara-on-the-Lake with a group of food bloggers and journalists. Farmers Feed Cities is committed to supporting Ontario’s farmers and helping the public to understand their importance. The goal of this farm and vineyard tour was to give us “city folk” a chance to understand and appreciate the contributions made by Ontario farmers. We only experience the end product at our local grocery store but behind the scenes, there are so many people and processes involved to get product from the farm to the market and finally to our dining tables.

We started our day off visiting the fruit and vegetable growers at Quiet Acres Farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is just over an hour away from Toronto. Our first stop was a visit to their peach orchards and they looked like they went on for miles and miles. Rows and rows of peach trees with beautiful fruit hanging down, just ready to be picked. We sampled fresh peaches and cherries, straight from the trees and maybe it was the setting but they truly were the juiciest and most delicious fruits I had ever had!

We then took a tour of their peach processing facility, where all peaches are sized, sorted, washed and packaged for grocery stores. One thing I really admired was that no peaches go to waste. They are all sorted and graded and if they don’t make the cut because they rotted on the tree, they are put into piles around the orchard that compost down and get returned to the soil.

Next, we paid a visit to their garlic and potato barn. The owner opened the doors to a huge, dark barn and asked us to all look up. There, in an attic-type space were bundles of garlic! Down below, there were baskets of potatoes, covered up so that the light wouldn’t harm them. I had never seen anything like it and as much as I call myself a “vegetarian foodie” I realized just how little I knew about the growth and handling of some of my favourite fruits and veggies.

Garlic barn

Potatoes, potatoes, everywhere...

We ended our tour of Quiet Acres with a visit to their fruit and vegetable stand for a little shopping. Everything they sell is grown on-site, so you can imagine just how beautiful all of the produce is. If you can’t, don’t worry, I’ve included a few pictures : )

Our next stop was a visit to Southbrook Vineyards, a company that is close to my heart as I used to frequent their Richmond Hill location, where they had a pumpkin patch and sold fresh pies throughout the Fall season. Sadly, the Richmond Hill location is closing this year, but fear not, their beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake location is going strong! We had a great tour of the vineyard and ended off with a delicious outdoor luncheon with fresh salads, pizza and wine (of course!).

Wine at Southbrook Vineyards

Beautiful fresh salads at Southbrook Vineyards

Fresh pizzas at Southbrook Vineyards

A glorious lunch at Southbrook Vineyards

We ended the day with a lesson in canning and preserving the beautiful peaches and cherries we had tasted on our tour. Lynn Ogryzlo taught us all about how to can Ontario peaches and cherries so that we could enjoy these beautiful fruits and bring back memories of a sunny, warm day by opening up a jar of home-canned fruit, even in the middle of winter!

Preserving with Lynn Ogryzlo

If you’re reading this, please do support our Ontario farmers, they work so hard and they are a huge part of our economy. Even if you can’t visit a farm in person like I did, the next time you’re at your local farmer’s market, please take a few minutes to speak to the farmers and their staff. They’ll appreciate the effort and this simple act will deepen your connection to the food that you’re putting on your table. P.S. I’ll bet your food will taste even better too!

Frolicking in the vineyard at Southbrook Vineyards

Links:

Farmers Feed Cities – http://farmersfeedcities.com/

Quiet Acres Farm – http://www.qa.on.ca/

Southbrook Vineyards – http://www.southbrook.com/

Lynn Ogryzlo, The Ontario Table – http://www.ontariotable.com/about-lynn-ogryzlo/

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