No More Yoga-Smell!

The good folks over at BzzAgent must think I have a body odour issue… They invited me to yet another deodorant campaign!

It’s that, or the guys and gals at Secret think I need to step up my no-sweat game.

No matter. The invite appeared in my inbox and I gratefully accepted. Why? Firstly, because I love BzzAgent. I get free products and samples, they get my (sometimes too) honest reviews… It’s win-win in my books. Secondly, I had just finished the first deodorant campaign and though it would be cool to compare two products from the same company.

I joined the campaign a day before it began, so I didn’t get a choice of product and was sent the Secret Clinical strength clear gel by default. This is actually a good thing, as the previous Secret campaign was for their new clear gel products and makes them easier for me to compare.

This product’s claim to fame:

4X Stress Sweat Protection (vs. the wetness protection required of an ordinary antiperspirant) that goes on dry or clear!

This time around I received one free sample-size of the Secret Clinical Strength clear gel deodorant in their Completely Clean scent. It isn’t an overpowering scent by any means, and it’s not unpleasant, but it’s not sweet or fruity. There are three other scents shown on their site (lavender, sport, and powder), and I’m going to assume they’re as understated as the one I tried. One star here for a nice scent.

To check their ‘4X the strength’ claim, I did the same ‘yoga test’ as I used for the other deodorant. I showered in the morning, put in the deodorant, went about my morning, did yoga, then skipped my shower and continued my day. The next day, I didn’t start my day with a shower, I skipped putting on deodorant, and I did the same routine as the day before, yoga included. Since this deodorant is supposed to be extra-strength, I ramped up the intensity of my yoga sessions for both days. On the first day I was pleasantly surprised to see no sweat stains, feel no wetness, and to not be stinky! Awesome! I could have ended this part of my test here, but I wanted to compare the product to their ’48-hour’ protection claim from the Scent Expressions line I had tried. The next day in the morning I skipped putting in deodorant and went about my day. Now, if I had been planning to leave the house I would have reapplied the deodorant, but as I was just hanging out at home with the little one I felt I wasn’t too smelly. After my yoga session, I did my check again. I was amazed to see only a small sweat stain, but I needed a shower. The clinical strength deodorant fared better against the 48-hour offering in terms of sweat stains and wetness but held up equally well in regards to keeping me from smelling like a gym sock. I’m giving it a star and a half for keeping me dry during a normal day and then some. I put on deodorant every morning anyways.

The clear gel deodorants from Secret all come in the same type of packaging, so I used the ‘one click, two swipes’ method from their previous campaign to test against their Scent Expressions line. As you can imagine, it works exactly the same. It also ensures that the product lasts about as long as my normal stick of solid deodorant. One star there.

The final star goes for not leaving any marks (white or wet). As a clear gel, I’m not surprised that there were no white marks on my shirt, but I was also happy to see that the gel didn’t leave any wet stains (another brand did).

Verdict: 4.5/5 So there you have it. This deodorant doesn’t exactly live up to its ‘4X the protection’ claim, but it’s close and it definitely does its job well. I can feel confident that whatever yoga session or meeting comes my way, there will be no embarrassing sweat stains for this girl! Next time I need a new deodorant, I’ll be picking up the lavender-scented one for sure! Thanks, Secret!

**Please note that the opinions above are my own and are not influenced by BzzAgent or Secret. I received one free sample sizes deodorant from Secret by signing up for the campaign through BzzAgent.

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Short and Savoury

I made my first official update to one of my posts today!!!!!!!!! (A Healthy Alternative)

That makes me happier than it should, huh? I think my over-enthusiasm is well-founded. Updating a review with modifications for the recipe makes your lives easier, if you choose to give that recipe a try, and keeps my favourite recipes in constant rotation here at home. Double win if you ask me.

You didn’t?

Oh.

Well then.

Today’s post is a short one. I had an appointment last week, so hubby was in charge of dinner. I gave him semi-vague instructions (sausages, potatoes, salad), but he came up with a delicious and flavourful meal. The sausages are from my favourite butcher at St Lawrence farmer’s market and were done on the grill (as usual). The salad was also simple, but super yummy (carrots, cucumber, red pepper, Kraft Creamy Cucumber dressing). The wow factor for the meal, though, were the potatoes. Hubby found this recipe for Garlic Roasted Potatoes from Ina Garten on the Food Network site, and they were amazing!

 Dinner 
Yield:

  • Original Yield: 8 servings
  • Actual Yield: 6 servings (hubby halved the recipe and we had one portion left over)

Prep Time:

  • Original Prep Time: 10 minutes 
  • Actual Prep Time: 15-20 minutes (hubby can’t remember exactly)

Cook Time:

  • Original Cook Time: 45 min – 1 hour 
  • Actual Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

Notes or comments:

  • I think the quicker cook time is due at least in part to the recipe being halved. I could be wrong though.

Verdict: Success! This is a simple, yummy, and (apparently) quick side dish. Replace your ordinary potatoes with these next time you get the chance. It’ll be worth it, trust me!

Garlic Roasted Potatoes  

**Please note, the recipe for Garlic Roasted Potatoes is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Ina Garten/The Barefoot Contessa, the Food Network, Kraft, or any other third party.

Picky Eaters

I am not a picky eater. If it’s food, I’ll probably eat it, and if I don’t know if I like it or not, I’ll try it at least once. I admit that there are foods I’m not a fan of, but that list is tiny. I’ll also mention that vinegar and I are NOT friends (I don’t like the taste and foods with a substantial amount of vinegar make me sick), so anything pickled is out (so are things like Salt and Vinegar chips). So pickled things, organs (I tried heart once and never again!), and maybe one or two other things. I’ve always enjoyed unpopular foods such as Brussel sprouts, spinach, and wheat berries.

My hubby, on the other hand, is much more picky with food than I am. Some of it is a texture thing, which isnt something he can control (if it’s wet and not “supposed” to be, such as liquids scrambled eggs or dark meat from poultry, he won’t touch it). Other things he just doesn’t like; seafood (crispy, breaded white fish is an exception), leafy green vegetables (the ever-popular kale, chard, collard greens, etc), lasagna with chicken, eggplant, most squash…. It’s not the biggest list, but it can be tough for me, who loves those foods. Neither of us thinks it’s smart to cook two separate dinners. Lucky for me, we almost always find a way to compromise, such as using half the amount of spinach in a recipe, or doing a breaded fish with homemade crust.

We’re also lucky, as so far, our little one seems to have acquired my love of food; while my friends tell me how their babies refuse to eat anything green or don’t like carrots and bananas, my baby will eat anything we give her. We haven’t even come across having to try things multiple times with her, as she just eats what we give her. Sure, she gobbles up the strawberry-banana purée a lot faster than the not-as-sweet beet-carrot-quinoa mix, but she eats it all the same. We’re hoping it continues this way.

One food that many people seem to dislike is mushrooms. Both hubby and I absolutely love them and we use them often in our dishes. Pair mushrooms with cheese and were in heaven! As you can imagine, when I came across this recipe for Mushroom Asiago Chicken from The Midnight Baker, I popped it on our weekly menu asap. It turned out absolutely amazing (it’s no wonder, as the recipe has won a couple of awards!). Go make this now!

 Mushroom Asiago Chicken 
Yield:

  • Original Yield: 4 servings
  • Actual Yield: 2 servings (we skipped on having a veggie… Bad us…)

Prep Time:

  • Original Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Actual Prep Time: 25 minutes (slicing mushrooms should be done on a mandolin…)

Cook Time:

  • Original Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Actual Cook Time: 35 minutes

Notes or comments from the author:

  • In the ingredient list, the oil is given as being 2 tbsp when it should really be 2 tbsp, divided.
  • Judith mentions that you can use Parmesan or Romano cheese if you don’t have Asiago. I will vouch that using Parmesan works amazingly well.
  • A commenter on the blog had substituted the chicken for boneless pork chops and apparently got amazing results. Versatile recipes are awesome!

Verdict: Success! This recipe is one to keep and use again and again. This would make an amazing dish to serve at a fancy dinner party (it’s super easy too), or for a romantic dinner for two. You can serve it with veggies (asparagus or broccoli would be a good match) and pasta, arborio rice, or even a mild mashed potato (skip the bold flavours and let the potatoes absorb the sauce!).

 Mushroom Asiago Chicken 
**Please note, the recipe for Mushroom Asiago Chicken is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by The Midnight Baker or any other third party.

Unleashed Evil

I was going to post my review of another delicious recipe today, but in light of the terrible and heartbreaking events happening in Paris now, I will instead dedicate this post to the innocent victims and their families. And it had to happen two days after the day of Rememberance for the end of the First World War.

 

Peace for Paris
Peace for Paris by Banksy
 
I don’t have the words to describe what I feel when I hear of these attacks. It’s not the first of them and I’m sad to think that these aren’t the last. The amount of hate, pain, intolerance, rage… And more in this world makes me worry for our future. What kind of world will my little one live in?

On the other hand, I see the articles about the Parisians that have opened their homes to those that needed a place to stay. You see donations of food, clothes, medication, money… not only now but with every disaster or calamity. That gives me hope.

All of this reminds me that although evil does and will always exist, we need to focus on and try to be the good, the hope, the love that this world so desperately needs. Cliché? Maybe. True? Definitely.

Holidays Equal Cookies

Everyone has at least one dominating thought that pops up the moment someone mentions holidays. It could be a dish your mom always makes for dinner that evening (Thanksgiving and Christmas mean stuffing!!!!!!!!), or it could be a tradition (breakfast in bed, a fun dessert). For me, there is one overarching thought that comes to mind when I think of any holiday, and that is… Cookies!

Cookies are always a good idea. Shortbread cookies, sugar cookies, gingerbread, chocolate chip, soft-baked, crispy… Gimme a cookie and I’ll be good. Pinterest is filled with hundreds and thousands of different kinds of cookies, and I have a good number of those pins on my baking board. I also have a number of amazing cookbooks devoted to baking (and a couple specifically about cookies!). Needless to say, whenever any kind of holiday, or special occasion, comes around, I’m ready to celebrate with any kind of cookie you desire. 

Butter Cookies Hallowe’en was just a couple of weeks ago, and hubby, little one, and I were invited to a get-together by a friend of mine. I offered to bring cookies, of course. I didn’t pick a recipe from Pinterest this time, although I’m sure it’s on there somewhere. I found the recipe for these Butter Cookies in my Ricardo: Best Cookies book, which I then found on the site here.

These cookies were delicious! They were yummy plain and even yummier iced. I made my own icing, as per usual. It’s super simple: 1 cup of icing sugar, 2 tbsp heavy cream, 2-4 tbsp milk or water (for your desired consistency), 1 tsp vanilla or other flavour extract. Whisk together. I added some food paste to get the colours I used (I had orange pumpkins that aren’t in any of the pictures). I put my icing into a piping bag and pipes a border around the cookie before flooding it, but you can easily just dip the cookie into the icing as well.

It also helps that they were super easy and require only a few ingredients you most likely already have on hand. If you’re looking for a basic cookie recipe that can be used for any occasion, this is it.

 Butter Cookies 
Yield:

  • Original Yield: 4 dozen
  • Actual Yield: 4 dozen

Prep Time:

  • Original Prep Time: 25 minutes + 1hour cooling time
  • Actual Prep Time: 30 minutes + 1hour cooling time

Bake Time:

  • Original Bake Time: 12 minutes
  • Actual Bake Time: 12 minutes

Notes or comments from the author:

  • This recipe says to put the dough in the fridge for 1 hour. You can speed things up by popping the dough in the freezer for no more than 15 minutes.

Verdict: Success! This is a recipe in keeping around for sure. It’s simple, yummy, and you can use different flavours to make them your own. Why not try orange and vanilla with a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon for something Christmasy, or strawberry with some cocoa powder for Valentines?

 Butter Cookies

**Please note, the recipe for Butter Cookies is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Ricardo Cuisine or any other third party. 

Getting Naked… With Herbal Essences!

The folks over at BzzAgent sent me a campaign invite for the new Herbal Essences shampoo line, and I just had to get in on it. Why? Let me give you some background on hair care in my world.

My hair has always been sort of on the boring side. I’d get it cut once in a year or three, I used just shampoo until I was about 15 (conditioner was some magical substance), and it’s been up in a pony tail or down and in my face for about 95% of my life. I used to think braids were a fancy hair do.

I think I remember mentioning that I lived under a rock for about 16 years?

Anyhow. My hair routine was revolutionised when I discovered conditioner (remember that rock? Here it is again), and some time later, I went to a salon for the first time for a haircut. I was about 18 at the time. Fast forward to a few years ago, and my hair needed help, so I turned to more natural, organic shampoos and conditioners that were paraben and SLS free. I tried out several options from the Live Clean and Yes To Carrots, and I liked all but one of them (it wasn’t right for my hair), but none seemed to help my hair look or feel healthier.

I mentioned this to my hair dresser and she suggested a salon brand, Redken, that’s done wonders for my hair. Seriously. My hair has never looked better. So when I saw the campaign for the Herbal Essences line, I was actually a little on the fence about testing it out, but then I realised that I had a great baseline as a comparison, so I went for it.

The Herbal Essences Naked Collection products leave zero residue and are free of silicones, parabens and dyes

Infused with white grapefruit, mint extract, guava, white tea, pineapple and more, hair will smell as good as it looks

Herbal Essences Naked Shine 
I chose the Shine line of products and waited for them to arrive. I received three products: shampoo, conditioner, and dry shampoo. I decided to put the dry shampoo to the test right away and have used it about 5 times since. I used the shampoo and conditioner about 10 times. I’ll review each product separately where applicable, and give the line an overall rating. Also, BzzAgent didn’t ask for a blog post this time, but I figured I’d do one anyways!

Let’s get to it!

Here’s the new product’s claim to fame:

  • The Herbal Essences Naked Collection products leave zero residue and are free of silicones, parabens and dyes
  • Infused with white grapefruit, mint extract, guava, white tea, pineapple and more, hair will smell as good as it looks

Let’s start with the first point… I’ll divide it in two for a max of two stars. My Redken shampoo and conditioner leave no residue in my hair, and I love how that makes my hair feel. After the first few washes, I didn’t feel any residue leftover in my hair, but after the 8th or 9th wash, I did notice my hair felt a bit more weighed down than before. I used the Redken line once and returned to using the Herbal Essences line, and my hair felt amazing again. I give this component a half star, for almost living up to its promise and for doing much better than other brands at keeping residue at a minimum.

The second part of that claim is that the products are free from silicones, parabens, and dyes. The shampoo has all three ingredients at 0% marked explicitly on the front of the bottle, while the conditioner and dry shampoo have 0% parabens and dyes. From what I know, conditioners don’t usually contain silicone. The dry shampoo contains natural tapioca starch, which is a great bonus. One star, for telling the truth.

The second claim talks about the ingredients and their lasting scent. The Shine line contains white tea and mint… And it smells divine. It’s crisp, fresh, sweet, and not overpowering. I’d use the products just for the scent! The dry shampoo leaves the scent in the longest, as I could smell it for the entire day after using it, while the shampoo and conditioner leave a gentle scent for a short while. I’m also going to note that my hair doesn’t keep scent in it for long, so others may have a different experience. One huge, shiny, bright star here for the delicious scent. I can’t comment on those of the Moisture or Volume lines, but if the Shine line is anything to go by, they’ll smell amazing, too! (You have no proof that I’ll be looking for them and giving them a good sniff next time I’m at the drug store…)

The second part of the second claim is that your hair will look amazing, and from my gushing review of the scent, you’d think my hair would be salon-perfect after every wash, right? My hair looked equally as shiny and healthy when I started using the shampoo and conditioner, although it wasn’t as soft as when I used my Redken products. I also noticed that over time, my hair became a bit more dull (I’m thinking the minor residue was the issue), although I will admit that my hair was never shiny to begin with. This is still a huge improvement over other hair care products I’ve used in the past. The dry shampoo did its job amazingly, and kept my hair looking clean and with extra volume for two whole days. It did leave a bit of white residue that did NOT want to be brushed out no matter how hard I tried, however, which was a small downside. Overall, I’d give this claim half a star.

My last star comes from the line as a whole as compared to the more natural and organic products I’ve used lately. Unlike many of the ‘natural’ hair care products (such as Yes To Carrots, Live Clean, Burts Bees, etc), the Herbal Essences Naked lines are not SLS-free. SLS is the stuff that makes your soaps and shampoos (and other cleaning products) foam into a rich lather. It’s been said that it is a carcinogen (both proven and disproven many times) and is a known skin irritant, especially for those with very sensitive skin. I try to avoid it when possible, but I don’t go out of my way to do so. Also unlike many of the ‘natural’ products, it’s dye-free. It’s nice to see that useless extras like harmful dyes can be omitted in these products (does it really matter if your shampoo is blue or red or lime green?). In my opinion, the Herbal Essences Naked line is a better alternative to the chemical-laden (all if this stuff is made of chemicals, I know) drugstore hair products available, and about the same as the ‘natural’ products available. It’ll get another half-star for this. I will add, though, that the dry shampoo is quite a bit better than the others available, and I’ll give that specific product a whole star.

Let’s total up the stars…

3.5/4 for the dry shampoo. Not bad! Would I buy this product if I was out buying a new shampoo and conditioner? Maybe. Dry shampoo? For sure. I’ll keep using it all until the bottles are nice and empty! And once the dry shampoo runs out, I’ll be buying myself another one. The new Herbal Essences Naked line is definitely worth a try, and I’d suggest swapping it with your Pantene or Garnier any day (don’t tell them I said that!). Herbal Essences Naked  

**Please note that all opinions and views are my own and are not influenced/endorsed by BzzAgent, Herbal Essences, or any other third party. I received three full-sized products for this campaign from Herbal Essences by signing up for this campaign through BzzAgent.

Cooking With A Criminal

Sometimes while browsing Pinterest boards, I find a pin that’s totally out of place. I’m sure you’ve all seen it before, too. Shoes on the Food & Drink board, puppies under Women’s Fashion (not Cruela De Ville style!), or a cupcake mixed in between pins of pillows and Home Decor. A few months back, I found this pin that made me laugh on the Food & Drink board, and I’ve seen it since several times. It makes me smile and shake my head, but it’s so very true. Snoop Dogg, the famous, weed-smoking rapper, cooking with homemaker extraordinaire Martha Stewart… And it’s the rapper who has never been in prison.

Right next to that pin was another pin regarding Martha, although this was a bit more complimentary: her Pork Paprikash. I have never made a recipe by Ms Stewart before, but as we had 4 pork loins waiting in the freezer, I decided to give this dish a try. And I’m thrilled that I did! It was flavourful, comforting, and there were leftovers!

I’m not really a Martha Stewart fan, but I’ll be less reluctant to give her recipes a try from now on. We all need some variety in life, right? Besides, I can’t always post reviews of recipes from Damn Delicious.

 Pork Paprikash 
Yield:

  • Original Yield: 4 servings
  • Actual Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time:

  • Original Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Actual Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time:

  • Original Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Actual Cook Time: 17 minutes

Notes or comments from the author:

  • Ms Stewart suggests serving this dish over buttered egg noodles, and it certainly is a winning combination, although it would work just as well over arborio rice or couscous. You could also serve it with naan.
  • Hubby chopped the whole tomatoes up in the skillet as the dish finished cooking… We didn’t want giant tomato pieces on our plates. Using a can of diced tomatoes here may be a smart substitution choice.

Verdict: Success (with modifications)! This is a delicious recipe that we will be making a few times this winter, I’m sure. The paprika adds that warmth and spice you want in a comforting dish that helps you forget about the blizzard outside, and the sour cream gives the dish a creamy, tangy flavour that’s just a little bit special. It may not be ready in under half an hour, but it’s definitely worth the bit of extra time it takes, and it’s still a dish that will be on the table within an hour. You can double the recipe and freeze the leftovers for a quick dinner option!

 Pork Paprikash

**Please note, the recipe for Pork Paprikash is in no way mine. The views and experiences above are mine and not endorsed/influenced by Martha Stewart or any other third party.