Sharing o’ the Green

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Tea, Wellness

What is it about mints and gum that prompts people to share? I can’t remember a time that I’ve been out with a group of friends when I haven’t had an open tin or pack offered to me. It’s like the universal gesture of amity and goodwill. In this spirit of generosity, I will share with you my sweet secret for healthy teeth, fresh breath, and a strong jaw: Green Tea Chewing Gum from Spry.

As I’ve written about before, I am a stickler for oral hygiene, but I’ve had my share of dental issues over the years. One hygienist I spoke with said she’s seen patients who are meticulous about brushing and flossing, but have new cavities with every visit, while others never floss and don’t brush regularly, yet enjoy a mouthful of flawless pearly whites. Genetics, diet, and lifestyle all play a factor, but you can tip the scales in your favor by chewing gum daily.

Not all gums are created equal, however. Some contain sugar and are little better than candy, while others are filled with artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose. Spry uses xylitol, a naturally-derived sweetener that reduces cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect teeth and gums while neutralizing unpleasant odors.* I also find that Spry gum is slightly tougher than most other chewing gums I’ve tried, which is great for strengthening the teeth and jaw.

Beautiful on Raw gives a concise explanation for how thorough chewing can inhibit bone loss and increase density by applying stress to the teeth and jaw, which draws bone-building minerals to the area. It also increases the flow of calcium-and-phosphorus-rich saliva to help prevent tooth demineralization. I have a friend who is primarily interested in how chewing gum regularly can change the shape of one’s face, giving it a more attractive structure.† In any case, the practice is so easy and the benefits so numerous that it’s time to get busy chewing!

I like to chew gum for 5-10 minutes after I eat and 45 minutes to an hour on my nightly walk. I simply pop a piece in my mouth before I head out the door, then discard it when I return. This way, I get in a good amount of daily exercise without offending anyone by chewing in social situations.

But why green tea? Simply because it tastes great! Sugarless gums all seem to come in standard flavors of peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, and fruit, but the Green Tea version from Spry has an almost floral note that is refreshingly unique. You won’t need mint to freshen your breath when xylitol is on the job.

This St. Patrick’s Day, instead of looking over a four-leaf clover, turn over a new leaf and start chewing on the idea of deliciously improving the health and beauty of your mouth and jaw with Spry Green Tea gum. Then pay it forward by sharing o’ the green.


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Spry Green Tea Chewing Gum

 

Spry gum can be found at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and The Vitamin Shoppe, but many stores don’t stock the Green Tea flavor, so look for it online from Xlear and Amazon.

 

*Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and cats, so NEVER leave an open purse or container of xylitol-sweetened gum within reach of your pets.

†For this purpose, he recommends Falim gum, which is quite tough to chew. I tried it once and could definitely feel the stress on my teeth and jaw, but I didn’t enjoy the taste or the level of difficulty involved.

 

Poppin’ Mad

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Savories, Snacks, Sweets

When popcorn lover Josh Chaney mastered his great grandmother’s secret 100-year-old vegan caramel recipe, he got a crazy idea: what if you made caramel corn…and froze it? The result was an extra crispy treat that could be stored in the freezer and remain fresh-tasting indefinitely. Along with his partner Sulmaz Rahimpour, the “Mad Popper” began experimenting with a variety of sweet and savory combinations, which culminated in the opening of California Frozen Poppers.

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shabang

The whole ShaBang: cheddar, chile and lime.

The first thing you notice upon entering is the large chalkboard that lists the shop’s profusion of popcorn choices. I was given a chilly reception—in this instance, a good thing—with samples taken from a case typically used to serve ice cream. Spicy flavors like ShaBang, featuring cheddar cheese with chili and lime, are equally enticing frozen as candy-coated versions like Caked, a colorful confection that lets you freeze your cake and eat it too.

caked

“Let them eat Caked!”

Josh told me that his corn is air-popped and contains no oil or water, so only the topping freezes when it’s put in cold storage. This means that the popcorn can be thawed and refrozen a virtually unlimited number of times and will still taste crisp and delicious. When I asked how long the popcorn would last in the freezer, he didn’t know, because he’s had a batch on ice for six years and counting that continues to taste as fresh as the day he made it.

omg

“Like, OMG!” You’ll like OMG!

California Frozen Poppers sends its popcorn all over the country, but no special shipping or cold packs are required. It can be enjoyed at room temperature, or frozen upon arrival for an icy indulgence that will—theoretically—far outlast your restraint. In fact, your primary predicament will be choosing from their overabundance of offerings, including sweet, cheesey, nutty, and seasonal flavors. Standouts are Hefty Melons, which tastes like a spicy watermelon Jolly Rancher, and OMG!, a jaw-dropping medley of chocolate, caramel, sea salt, and peanut butter M&Ms that is NSFW (Not Safe For Waistline).

With specials and samplers, vegan and gluten-free options, and a constantly evolving lineup of flavors, you’d have to be mad not to pop over to California Frozen Poppers and get a taste of this cool concept.

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California Frozen Poppers

 

 

Tea Drops – The Cutest Tea You Will Ever Drink

Author: Kirsti Kay, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Philanthropy, Tea

rose-earl-grey-tea-dropsForget your single origin oolongs, your hipster matcha tea shops, and your precious high tea at fancy hotels. I have discovered the cutest tea in the world and you can drink it in your own home, wearing that dirty Aerosmith t-shirt while binge-watching Santa Clarita Diet. It’s called Tea Drops and it will make you wonder why you ever bothered with tea bags or fumbled with a messy tea ball.

Tea Drops are individually packaged organic teas pressed into darling little shapes that steep instantly in hot water and contain just the right amount of pure organic cane sugar—a self-contained Cute Bomb! Simply put a Tea Drop in your favorite teacup and pour boiling water over and you have a delicious cup of perfectly measured, sweetened, spiced tea.

Founder and CEO Sashee Chandra grew up in a tea drinking household, but discovered when she started working in the real world that making tea the old-fashioned way was inefficient, especially in the fast-paced environments of today’s companies, so she created a way to make a fancy tasting cup of tea quickly. By shaping tea into fun shapes with sweetener and spices, she created the perfect cuppa for the girl (or boy) on the go. By packaging her tea in biodegradable and compostable wrapping and boxes, Sashee gives us even more reasons to go on a tea spree.

tea-dropsWith flavors like Cardamom Spice, Citrus Ginger, Sweet Peppermint and—my favorite—Rose Earl Grey, there is a tea for everyone. Tea Drops are made from organic tea leaves (not instant tea), so there is some sediment that will linger at the bottom of your cup, but it is perfectly fine to drink. Many enjoy drinking the sediment as part of their tea experience, but you can always leave the last sip if that’s not your thing.

If the adorable shapes and unique flavors aren’t enough to get you to take the plunge, Tea Drops also donates a YEAR’S SUPPY OF CLEAN WATER to a person in need with every order, no matter how small! Without water, there would be no tea, and without tea, there would be no scones or jam or clotted cream, and without scones or jam or clotted cream, there would be no happiness, so it’s so nice to know that by soothing your soul with beautiful tea, you are helping people at the same time. You can also donate $25 through the company’s website to Thirst Project, which provides a lifetime of water to someone in need.

With so many reasons to try Tea Drops, why not join the #CommuniTEA today?

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Tea Drops

 

Click here to learn more about the partnership between Tea Drops and Thirst Project.

 

Order of the Purple Hearts

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Sweets

sjaaks-lavender-heartsFebruary 14th is still a week away, but I’ve already received my order of purple hearts from Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates. These foil-wrapped confections put the “V” in Valentine’s Day with a vegan truffle center that’s infused with lavender.

I’ve written before about the fact that Kirsti and I don’t do subtle when it comes to flavorings, particularly floral ones, and these chocolates don’t disappoint. The lavender is distinct and tastes like the true essence of the herb. Blended with a creamy ganache made from all organic ingredients, including dark chocolate, cashews, almonds, and coconut oil, these dairy-free delights make a thoughtful gift for animal lovers, organic-vegan-chocolate-lavender-heartpeople with dietary restrictions, and those who simply enjoy singular sweets.

Sjaak (Dutch for Jacob) is pronounced like Jacques, the name of the company’s Netherlands-born owner, who is committed to compassion and sustainability through the family’s organic, fair trade, vegan products. Their variety of Valentine offerings includes both Cherry and Raspberry Hearts, but it’s the Lavender that will have you writing purple prose to its flowery flavor. So if you want to give a gift from the heart, don’t just pay it lip service. Order today and stock the Sjaak’s.

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Sjaak’s Lavender Hearts

 

Lavender Hearts can also be purchased in bulk.

 

Essential Soil

Author: Kirsten K., Beauty, Fragrance, Wellness

terressentials-super-protection-deodorantYears ago, when I developed a sensitivity to deodorant, I tried virtually every brand on the market before finding one that actually worked and didn’t make my underarms feel like the pits. This miracle product was the Super Protection Deodorant from Terressentials, a small company dedicated to environmental responsibility and 100% natural and organic body care. I could devote an entire post to my regard for this roll-on were it not for the fact that underarm deodorant isn’t a particularly swoon-worthy topic. Fortunately, I discovered that Terressentials also makes an unconventional hair wash that functions as a Shampoo Worthy Of Our Notice.

Always on the lookout for simple, natural hair and skincare solutions, I jumped on the “no ’poo” bandwagon a few years ago, using a baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse to clean and condition my hair. Apostrophe slang aside, I loved how this crack combo cleaned my scalp without weighing down my waves, but when I read several articles about the harsh effects of baking soda, I knew I had to find a fresh fix.

terressentials-lavender-garden-pure-earth-hair-washAfter trying several different products and conducting a few disastrous homemade experiments (turns out you have to SIFT the rye flour), I spied Terressentials’ Pure Earth Hair Wash while on a deodorant run at my local health food store. I’d seen this product before over the years, but had dismissed it as not suitable for my scalp, which tends toward oiliness. However, in the interest of research, I decided to try the sweetly-scented Lavender Garden.*

This wash takes some getting used to. Composed primarily of organic aloe vera and bentonite clay, it contains no soap or detergent and does not foam up. You must massage the mud-like paste into wet hair for 2-3 minutes to make sure it comes in contact with all parts of the scalp. It’s also recommended that you repeat this process the first few times you use it in order to thoroughly clean your hair.

terressentials-pure-earth-hair-washWhile it may seem like a paradox, washing with dirt actually works! Without harsh cleansers or heavy conditioners, my hair was squeaky clean and untangled with ease, while the essential oil fragrance surrounded me in scents of lush lavender, sweet orange, and rose geranium. Just a dab of unscented hair gel to tame frizz and flyaways and I was good to go.

When it comes to pure and natural hair care, sometimes you have to get your strands dirty, so dig up this essential soil and bring your shampoo down to earth.

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Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Wash

 

*It turns out that Lavender Garden is recommended for normal-to-dry hair, but it works well for my scalp.

The Royale Treatment

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Food, Food & Drink, Spirits, Sweets

It’s almost the middle of January, but I’m still “toasting” the New Year with champagne…

kir-royale-brunch-jam-1When my sisters and I were young, Santa would fill our stockings with all types of tiny treasures. Once I was old enough to make my own money (and learn the sad truth), my mother and I began a tradition of exchanging stocking gifts on Christmas morning. These petite presents can include scented candles, jewelry, ornaments for the tree, candy and food items—anything that will fit inside an oversized sock. This past December, as I was perusing a gourmet foods section looking for stocking stuffers, I spied four of the greatest words in the English language ever assembled together: Kir Royale Brunch Jam.

kir-royale-brunch-jam-2Let’s parse this phrase by working backwards. When it comes to jam, I’m with Joey Tribbiani—forget the knife, get the spoon. Or just forgo utensils altogether. Luscious and fruity, it turns plain toast (and bagels and scones) into a tasty treat. Then there’s brunch, the breakfast that allows you to sleep in. So considerate and delicious with its generous assortment of sweets and savories. Royale means that this fruit spread is fit for a (French) queen, and, when paired with Kir, it refers to a classic cocktail featuring champagne and blackcurrant liqueur. No modest mimosa, this spirited sparkler elevates even a meager meal to a regal repast.

Containing whole blackcurrants, real champagne, and crème de cassis, this juiced jam from Stonewall Kitchen looks like candied caviar on the brunch buffet. At just a few dollars a jar, anyone can indulge in the lifestyles of the rich and famous, so give yourself the Royale treatment and enjoy champagne wishes and kir-infused dreams.

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Stonewall Kitchen Kir Royale Brunch Jam

 

Kir Royale Brunch Jam is not currently (or currantly) featured on the Stonewall Kitchen website, but jars can be found online and in select stores. As a brunchtime alternative, try Bellini or Mimosa jam.

 

No Pleasure Without Champagne

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Spirits, Wine

wondermade-gold-champagne-marshmallowsI believe there is no pleasure that can’t be heightened with the addition of champagne. This celebratory drink tickles the senses and delights the spirit, especially during the holidays, when it symbolizes fellowship and festivity. Creative culinarians are finding new and inventive ways to incorporate champagne into all manner of sweets and savories, but the folks at Wondermade have given new meaning to sparkling wine by gilding their lily-white champagne marshmallows with 24 karat gold.

gilty-pleasureWondermade artisan marshmallows are handcrafted with pure cane sugar and “100% sweet magic air.” I have no doubt that there is wizardry involved, because they have achieved pillowy perfection with these scrumptious squares, which come in flavors ranging from bakery sweets (Sugar Cookie and Gingerbread) to boozy treats (Bourbon and Fireball). But I prefer to pop open a box of Gold & Champagne Marshmallows at this time of year to dress up a cup of rich hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night. Served in a gold-rimmed demitasse, this “gilty” pleasure is the definition of decadence.

Offer a gold plated dessert on your holiday buffet by setting out a platter of glittering marshmallows—perhaps alongside a chocolate fondue or fountain—and even the teetotalers and designated drivers in attendance will be able indulge in a bit of bubbly. So whether you raise a coupe, cup, or cube this New Year’s Eve*, say “Cheers!” with champagne and you’re sure to have a wonder-ful night. Happy Swoon Year!

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Wondermade Gold & Champagne Marshmallows

 

Wondermade marshmallows are also available at select Lolli & Pops stores. Flavors change seasonally, so check back throughout the year.

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*It may be too late to acquire a box of Wondermade marshmallows in time for midnight tonight, but Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. ❤️

 

Trial by Fire Tongs Punch

Author: Kirsten K., Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Recipes, Spirits, Wine

Christmas has forced me to face my fears on more than one occasion. When my father was no longer able to hang lights on the outside of the house, I had to conquer my fear of heights to get on the roof and do it myself. Ditto for climbing to the top step of the ladder in order to place the angel atop our 13-foot tree.

feuerzangenbowle-1As the granddaughter of German immigrants, I enjoy many German Christmas traditions, so when I read about Feuerzangenbowle (FOY-er-TSAHNG-en-bowl-uh)—literally, “fire tongs punch”—I knew I had to try it…but I am scared of working with fire.

I have always had an anxious relationship with fire. One year at a family dinner, tissue paper from a gift bag fell into a candle flame on the table and caught fire. I panicked and dumped an entire pitcher of water on it, dousing my sister in the process, which led to yelling (and slapping). Fearful of starting a fire in my own fireplace and burning the house down, I prefer to enjoy one at Kirsti’s, where her husband Aaron is master of the hearth and assumer of the risk.

But I really wanted to try this punch.

The practice of setting fire to a rum-soaked sugar cone suspended by a set of specialized “tongs” over a bowl of mulled wine has a long history in Germany, but gained in popularity after the release of the 1944 film Die Feuerzangenbowle, which has become a cult classic. The sugar cone caramelizes as it burns, dripping into the punch bowl to sweeten a blend of red wine, citrus, cinnamon, and spices.

It’s a showstopper at parties with a large cone set aflame, but I wanted to start small, so I purchased mini sugar cones and tongs for experimentation. My first couple of attempts were failures, since the rum I’d acquired did not have a high enough proof to catch fire, but I was assured by subsequent research that Bacardi 151* would satisfy all my flaming needs.

feuerzangenbowle-2With tools and ingredients on hand, I set to brewing. I began with just a cup of wine, adapting the recipe (below) for one person. Once the tongs and sugar cone were in place, I poured the rum over the sugar. Then, with the longest match I could find in one hand and a fire extinguisher in the other, I lit the cone.

The flame started small, but quickly shot up higher than I’d expected, giving me a moment of panic, but it subsided as the sugar began dripping into the pot. In less than a minute, the punch was ready to drink—and it was delicious! Of course, you have to like mulled wine, which I do, but the addition of caramelized sugar makes this a sweet holiday treat.

Since my trial by fire tongs punch, I have made these seasonal spirits several more times, both on the stove and in a special mug with attached tongs. I no longer fear the flame and feel ready to tackle the larger version at a future holiday gathering. Until then, you can find me sitting by my (virtual) fire in front of the tree getting punch drunk on Christmas cheer. Fröhliche Weihnachten!

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FEUERZANGENBOWLE (adapted from German Deli)

feuerzangenbowle-32 bottles of red wine (Burgundy or Merlot works best)
4 thin slices of orange
4 thin slices of lemon
juice of 2 fresh oranges
juice of 2 fresh lemons
½ tsp. fresh orange rind
½ tsp. fresh lemon rind
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. cloves (optional)
1 large sugar cone
1 cup of rum (at least 151 proof)*

Equipment:
1 heat and flame-proof glass punch bowl, and
1 stainless steel bridge (tongs), or
Hot Pot Feuerzangenbowle Set
Long match or lighter

feuerzangenbowle-4Directions:
In a large pot, add both bottles of wine and all ingredients except the sugar cone and the rum. Simmer the wine, fruit, and spices over low heat for about 15 minutes. Don’t boil the wine—it should be hot, but not scalding. Carefully add the hot wine (including fruit slices and whole spices) to the punch bowl. For dramatic flare, place the punch bowl in a dimly-lit room. If you have a Hot Pot set, light the candle below the punch bowl to help keep the wine warm. Place the stainless steel bridge across the top of the punch bowl. Unwrap the sugar cone and place it on the bridge. Slowly pour the 151-proof rum onto the cone, rotating the cone until it is soaked with the rum. When guests have gathered around, light the sugar cone with the match or lighter.* The sugar cone will dissolve as the burning rum heats up the cone. The caramelized sugar will drip into the punch to sweeten it and the rum will enhance the flavor.

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*Use extreme caution with alcohol at this proof, as it is highly flammable. When you light the sugar cone, do so from a distance with a long match or lighter and make sure there is sufficient space for the cone to flame upwards (i.e. away from hanging light fixtures or decorations). Do not put your face near the cone or look down on it from above as you light it. Bacardi 151 comes with a stainless steel flame arrester over the opening to prevent the rum from igniting inside the bottle. It can be found in select liquor stores and is available for purchase online.