Posted in Couponing, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Circle with Disney

Thanks to McCormick Spice company, I was gifted a $50 Amazon gift card for taking part in their online customer advisory surveys on Christmas morning! Bonus points for the perfect timing but I’m still partial to Epicure at this point.

I went on after seeing a Facebook advertisement for Circle. I was super surprised at the genius in what it said it could offer: a simple plug-in and go device that can control the internet for every other device in your house.

I don’t think I’m alone in this battle: I am constantly nagging my kids (ages 11 and 14) to get off their electronics. Even though I limit their screen time, it seems like as soon as I allow it there is this turn. It’s like crack for kids. (Disclaimer: Not that I really know what crack is like!) This drug-like system that takes them away from this physical world and transforms them into comatose hybrids that look like my children. They then react quickly when I tell them to remove themselves from their alternate realities (how many tabs and screens can you have open at once – no wonder the internet is dragging!!!) It seems easier to let them have it than fight for their attention to real life (dinner, chores, homework, lessons, appointments etc.). Yet being the good mom that I am, I don’t back down from a challenge most times. I’m here to raise good people on planet Earth – not some Matrix they are not old enough to choose to be in at their every whim!

So being the frugal person who doesn’t drop dollars like it grows on trees (or falls like snow in Canada these days!), I went on to Circle’s website to really discover if I could entrust them with my money, internet and sanity.


I was delighted to discover that not only can I limit the internet for each device, there were SO MANY problems that were solved with this little square box (love the irony of it being called Circle!).

Here’s what I thought were some super cool things Circle can do:

  • Everything is controlled by an app on my cell phone
  • Every device can be assigned to a specific family member or user (kids’ friends beware!)
  • Each user has their own “rules” that you can assign
  • Rules include limiting internet times per day and for bedtimes
  • Certain apps/websites (Facebook, YouTube, Minecraft, Netflix, Instagram, etc.) can have set limits per day – that means no binge watching Vampire Diaries all night kiddos
  • Limits can be different on weekdays and weekends
  • Ultimate pause button exists on the app & for each user – When I call for dinner, I will definitely get a quicker response!
  • Rewards can be granted such as extra time, later bedtimes, etc.
  • Chore apps can be linked to Circle to ensure that beds get made before electronics are allowed (I’m going to enroll in a few of these apps too – what a super great discovery!)

So I figured – what the hay! I have $50 in free “play money” & I have free Amazon Prime 2-day shipping, so for out of pocket $62.99 I was willing to gift myself some possible sanity. (Currently Circle retails for $129.99 Canadian but is on sale for $99.99 on
Set Up

It arrived in the guaranteed time and I quickly tore open the package. It was so cute and somehow in a Tiffany blue box. (Good play Disney, good play for those moms you target so well!).

The best thing is that it is literally a plug-and-play device. The installation was so simple and it walks you through everything on the app. It was the easiest thing – exactly what was promised. Within 3 minutes, Circle was working, app was installed and the basic setup had begun.

How many devices do you have in your household? Be a little patient as Circle will recognize them all (Apple or android, it doesn’t matter, plus printers and more I discovered!). The names they come at can be cryptic but that’s not Circle’s fault. I figured out the printer by looking at the manufacturer (Canon). Honestly I really didn’t have to do anything – this little square box had already won my heart for how much work and think-less process / system it has. Thank you on behalf of parents everywhere!

A bonus feature the actual device has is temporary backup power. Not for power outages, silly! If your kids are smart, they might think to pull the power cord in order to deactivate Circle and gain some extra screen time behind your back (oh because your kid is such an angel…..). Don’t tell them, but it sends a message to the app letting you know it happened. Ha ha! Good play Disney, good play! Win for the parents again.

As parents, we can get caught up in the internet too. So we can actually be a user and set limits (“rules”) for ourselves as well. Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram/etc. won’t suck us in for more than ____ hours a day if we set up limits in our user profile.

So as I sit with my morning coffee, I’m waiting for the bustle of my children to start. 8am on weekends is when Circle allows them the internet (they need their sleep!) and I expect my 14 year old won’t venture out of her bed until she hits her limit and gets upset that she doesn’t know how this episode of Riverside ended. Well, it’s her own darn fault… maybe looking at nail polish designs on Pinterest for 10 minutes beforehand wasn’t such a great idea now, was it?

I’m raising good people, and part of that is letting them discover within limits how to make choices for themselves. It’s kind of like teaching them the currency of time: you should budget accordingly so that you don’t end up with a zero bank balance before the end of the day (or pay period /month) wondering where it all got spent.

With Circle, I think my family will have definitely less arguments over screen time plus it will give my mind and voice a much needed nag-break. It’s a great tool to separate the rules, rule maker (um, parent) and the choices and self-control growing kids have themselves. Well done, Circle.

Please Note: No company sponsored this post. The money was spent by me and was an actual personal purchase.

Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Food Magazine Review: Milk Street

I have to confess that as much as I am tech savvy, I’m still in love with traditional print. The ability to bring things to read without requiring a cord or battery is still brilliant in my mind.  I also love turning the pages and the whole experience of knowing that it will never require downloading and can be recycled in some way or kept as a reference for later and possibly repeated use.

Meet what I consider the Foodie version of Nutrition Action Newsletter: Milk Street.  (As a backstory, the Nutrition Action Newsletter was my favourite until they stopped producing a print version early last year to many nutrition experts’, including myself, discontent.)

What Milk Street does is take the approach to be ad-less.  That’s right – it is all CONTENT and absolutely NO advertisements.  The editor retains complete control of content and doesn’t have to play nice with the big box businesses of food.  Consider it the high-end, grassroots magazine that allows the best recipes and so much knowledge of how to cook well at home (and yes, at times, gourmet).

I stumbled upon the “Charter Edition” (read: FIRST EVER ISSUE published!) in Chapters when I wanted to find some cottage magazines to inspire my best friend while taking a much needed vacation.

My May-June 2017 Issue set my opinion in stone for future editions and so I thought to share this with others who might appreciate the fun & experience of cooking at home.

Christopher Kimball’s obvious experience and depth of knowledge plus passion is displayed in every page and picture.  The once in a while caricatures bring a New Yorker edge to the magazine, the quality of paper makes you feel like you stepped into a stationary heaven and the content…. well have a look at the table of contents that really is a Recipe Index AND my favourite parts: Every Issue “staples”.

The editor founded Cook’s Magazine in 1980 but is back to the new approach of The New Home Cooking – It’s a Professional Home Economist’s dream!  It not only inspires you with recipes that range from beginner/easy to more advanced, but as well explanations of the basic WHYs of food science along the way.

There are even step-by-step PHOTOS that teach you how to make the recipe, showing exactly how whipped egg whites should look with “gentle peaks” and WHY this consistency is important!

The Book Reviews are more about history, memoirs and stories behind food rather than cookbooks galore.  There are tidbits of mini stories, creative ingredient ideas and frugal tips along the way.  Plus reviews and explanation of equipment to consider in your kitchen.  A great balance to all the recipes, all issues also include Cocktails & Wine sections.  Because a great cook always knows that food needs a drink to compliment it.

This is a well-thought out master plan “that’s both simpler and smarter”, even touts the editor.

This is a magazine you should try out.


  • Easy for the average cook to follow
  • Great recipe ideas
  • Digital option included with subscription
  • Background Stories included with a recipe
  • Global flavours represented often
  • Explanation of ingredients – completely assuming they are teaching you
  • Paired with a public television show and public radio show
  • Online video recipe guides


  • American / Published in USA – Increases cost & content might sometimes (not usually) reflect that (Canadian order site
  • Cost without advertisements increases what you pay
  • It is paired with its own private cooking school (so it does have a pseudo & inadvertent advertisement for a company)

Final Verdict – Thumbs Up!  I don’t mind paying a premium at times for amazing content and no fillers!  (Kind of like Epicure spices, ūüėČ )

Note: These opinions are my own.  I have no way been endorsed or asked to write this review.  I purchased the magazine myself and have no affiliation or kickbacks to suggesting this magazine.

Posted in Gluten Free, Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

I’m officially… a Love Bug.¬†

Being a mom of two girls has had its challenges. In the beginning, I thought if they could wipe their bum and sleep through the night it would just be smooth sailing from there.


It’s ok. You can laugh at me too. Every stage with child rearing has its benefits & struggles.

Starting daycare or school is thought to be the ultimate in breaks. We get our life back, we get to go back to work, no extra daycare costs …. um, no!

Having another set of hands and feet other than our own is even more complicated when we can’t be with them constantly to take care of them.

That’s when I discovered Lovable Labels. I purchased a set for each of my daughters.


(And one package has lasted until now!)

It was a Canadian company that made my life easier. ¬†No more worrying about what wouldn’t be making it home that day (1 mitten, new indoor shoes, the expensive lunch thermos, etc.). ¬†With Costco dressing many kids in durable snowsuits and backpacks, there’s bound to be a mix up of who’s is who’s.

Lovable Labels are made for a lifetime of use and stand up against the toughest kids.  They are:

  • Waterproof
  • Dishwasher Safe (Tested and true by this Professional Home Economist!)
  • Microwave Safe
  • UV Resistant
  • Peel & Stick (Except for the Iron-ons & non-label products)
  • Laundry Safe (Clothing labels only)
  • Bleach Safe

So I’ve been using these labels ever since. Well, mostly my kids’ stuff but there are tons of uses for adults too including work lunch containers (no missing leftovers from the lunch room fridge!), seniors in long-term care/nursing homes, sports (hockey, soccer, basketball, etc) equipment, students sharing dorm rooms/bathrooms etc. ¬†Plus there are household labels (see my Top 5 list below!) that help homes stay organized inside (kitchen, office, crafts) and outside (recycling, compost & garbage bins!).

I even used them to do a fundraiser for the charity I work with, NSTEP, a few years back.

Recently I wanted to run a free promotion for my business, Nutrition Bites. As a Mompreneur, I have a home-based business but use expos to showcase as my temporary storefront. This season I was booked back to back at VegFest London and Whoa Mama! Marketplace. Many of my clients are parents & children. So what better way to advertise & market healthy eating to kids AND help out parents than to offer customized Lovable Labels to them as they walked by!!!?  I thought it was a very useful idea!

Here’s what my custom Nutrition Bites Lovable Labels looked like:

I attached them to a sheet explaining what they were & how to use them. You should have seen the kids light up! FREE stickers for their lunches? One girl took a few extras to share with her friends.

It was my little part to be marketing HEALTHY messages to kids and go up against the giants that unethically use millions of dollars trying to get low-density nutrition/foods into your kids all day long! (Can you tell I’m a bit passionate about health for kids & communities?!)

One of the best parts of ordering from Lovable Labels was their personalized touches:

A handwritten note to me!

After that I couldn’t help but be even more of a “Love Bug” unofficially of Lovable Labels. ¬†Who takes the time to appreciate a customer’s orders? ¬†This small, Canadian company sure does!

So I decided to support their company by registering to be an official Lovable Label Love Bug.  It was pretty easy, and within a few weeks my  Welcome Package arrived so I could share my love. All I do is be me: share my love of Lovable Labels with others.

What do you get?

  • Giveaways (FREE stuff for you!) – Seasons, themes, etc.
  • Cool ideas on how to use Lovable Labels from me, Sandra, aka Nutrition Bites

What I get?

  • Monthly Incentives & Free Products to review – No clue what these are yet but I plan on sharing them with my followers & Nutrition Bites customers somehow! ¬†(Check out #1 on my Top 5 list below!)
  • Welcome Package to launch my love to you and the rest of the world – GIVEAWAY from me!
  • Content ideas for my blog, social media and home to get creative with Lovable Labels

So with all of the uses for Lovable Labels, I’m going to share with you MY list of the top 5 products I love.

Top 5 List of Lovable Label Products

From a Nutrition Consultant & Professional Home Economist

1.¬†Lil’ Dose of Love Labels: Tutti Frutti

An extra little gift for being Customer of the Day (another sweet thing Lovable Labels does that I had no clue about – who doesn’t love FREE stuff and surprises!?) were these amazing labels. ¬†Their website talks about giving kids positive messages in their lunches & backpacks but I thought – wow – exactly what I believe in – using FRUIT, not candy, to market to kids. ¬†Plus the punny food humour is sure to make any kid-at-heart smile!

2. Allergy Alert Labels

Food allergies can be deadly for some. ¬†Most are aware of this fact as schools, daycares and camps are trying to protect those that have severe allergies. ¬†These labels help to remind others when you can’t be there, to not give your child certain allergens. ¬†Allergy Alert Labels can also just be used for those wanting to have a certain lifestyle – like vegetarianism, veganism, gluten-free, etc. ¬†And if your child has diabetes or other conditions that require a modified diet or lifestyle, the medical alert label will help you define that for others simple with a “peel & stick”.

3.  Canning Labels & Pantry Labels 

Keeping healthy can start by being organized in your kitchen. ¬†With personalized Canning Labels (which also help to make great gifts or for small farmers’ markets!) and an extensive pack of 88 Pantry Labels (almost ALL are very healthy staples to have in your home!), you’ll be sure to stock your home and others’ with healthy foods to nourish your bodies and busy lifestyle.


4.  Date It! Labels  & Write-On Labels  

These labels allow you to write & personalize AFTER you receive them in the mail. ¬†Date It! Labels are perfect for food safety at home. Ever ask yourself (or someone else asks you), “When were those leftovers made? ¬†Are they still good?”. ¬†Well less work for you and this way you can customize with some Retro, Mayan, or Country styles without having to personalize before you actually make those pickles, roast or banana muffins.

5.  Outdoor Bin Labels 

As a person that has moved a lot in my life, these stickers were my gift to me (along with a local newspaper subscription) when I began my new life as a single mom. ¬†No more chasing a black garbage can down the street to wonder if it was actually mine (Notice how almost everyone has the same one these days!). ¬†No family name needed, just the address to keep your identity private but your bins easy to identify. It’s kind of like a “Return To” if found, during windy days. ¬†And it looks way better than the spray-paint or sharpie method that’s bound to wear off during our harsh, Canadian winters!



BONUS #6 – Don’t forget where Lovable Labels started – their personalized labels great for lunch & drink containers as well as clothes, shoes and bags. ¬†I suggest their healthiest theme, Fruition, to (subconsciously) market fruits & veggies to your kids (and maybe you or your spouse!)



I thought I’d start it of right by sharing the love right away with fellow bloggers & Nutrition Bites followers.

I’m giving away THREE different items from my Love Bug Welcome Package & my Nutrition Bites Promotion:

  • “Blogging is Bliss” & “I love Blogging” Labels/stickers
  • Lil’ Dose of Love Labels: Tutti Frutti (A sampler!)
  • My “personal”-ized favourites #NutritionBites Lovable Labels

Visit my Nutrition Bites Facebook Page to comment to win!

Find the blog post and follow the easy instructions! (Contest not in affiliation with Facebook in any way.  Open to age of majority in Canada. Contest deadline: December 18th, 2016 at 11:59pm.)

Stay tuned for more creative ways to use Lovable Labels and giveaways for my followers – YOU!

Follow me on Social Media:

Facebook:   NutritionBitesCanada

Instagram & Pinterest: @NutritionBites

Twitter:  @NutritionBites8

Blog (this is it!):


Posted in Farm, Fruits, Healthy, Home Economics, Local, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Starfrit Cherry Pitter

Cherries are in full season, but my “season” started months ago. ¬†I undertook a project ¬†with 20 Valley Harvest Farms. ¬†I have been responsible for many things including designing unique recipes that highlight not only cherries, but whole food, local and Canadian ingredients (Professional Home Economists can be a great source for recipe writing!).

So with so many recipes to design, test and re-test I also indirectly tested out several ways to pit cherries for the average consumer.

I first tried home hacks and methods that required only household items.  You can read that post here: Cherry Pitting: Home Hacks on Trial. Even though I am against having too many appliances and gadgets in the kitchen, I went looking for a possible way to get through pitting tons of cherries so I could focus on the recipes (especially when a test completely fails and I need to re-do it fast!).

So I research and find the single, stainless steel cherry pitter. ¬†One was at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $18.99. ¬†I also found the Starfrit Cherry Pitter. ¬†With the option of “6 cherries at once”, I was very interested. ¬†It was plastic so I was a bit hesitant, but with the price tag of $14.99 at my local Canadian Tire, I considered it for 3 weeks. ¬†(Now when you search during the season, a ton more pop up when searching online.)

After buying out of season cherries from Washington (USA), spending tons of money and losing lots of time for the other tasks I needed to complete for 20 Valley Harvest farm promotions, I bit the bullet and pulled out my wallet.

Did you know that the average recipe development cost charged to companies is about $350 PER RECIPE?! It’s not just the time, but the cost of ingredients, appliances and even energy – electricity for stoves, appliances – add to the cost of a recipe to be developed and tested.

Being frugal, I thought I’d attempt the Starfrit one since it was cheaper and the idea of doing 6 cherries at once compared to the traditional, one at a time, made me travel to Canadian Tire. ¬†When I asked, the employee didn’t even know where to find it and she said they must not carry it. ¬†I thanked her and noted her lack of confidence of an obviously, not well requested item. ¬†So I kept searching the aisle for my solution to my “bloody” cherry hell (I mean problem….). ¬†Well, low and behold, after searching inch by inch, there it was… quietly sitting there with no indication of how purposeful it really was.

So home I went, with a lighter wallet and a hope that this weird contraption was going to make my life easier.

So instead of just showing you photos of how it went, I thought I’d use my daughter to film a quick impromptu video of how the Starfrit Cherry Pitter works from beginning to end. ‚Äč


‚ÄčPHEc Tips to get the most out of this gadget:

  • The fresher the cherries, the more likely the pit will not stay attached to the tiny flap of skin.
  • Not just for pies, it’s a great way to make maraschino cherries for cocktails, garnishes and additions to salads.
  • A great tool if you are also going to dehydrate/dry these into cherraisins (I made up the word and pronounce it “sher-raisins” or “chair-raisins” – which do you prefer?).
  • Store with your canning gear and put away for the season, or with your colander for reminders when washing other fruits, berries and veggies.

Here’s what I think after testing out the Starfrit Cherry Pitter:


  • Easy to use – It has the same action as a stapler and a child can do it without help.
  • Dishwasher safe – It comes apart to clean all three parts and no handwashing required.
  • Quick – Less work and mess than home hacks, plus this type does 6 cherries at a time!
  • Easier than other pitters – For people that don’t have good hand and finger coordination (Ex: Persons with MS, arthritis, fibromyalgia, advanced or very young ages) – no balancing or strong grip required.
  • Compact – It stores flat with a small locking tab that keeps it flat for storage.
  • Encourages healthy eating – Mr R Ginger ate an entire bowl in 5 minutes when I offered him “some” since they were already pitted. ¬†I’m sure children and everyone in the family will do the same (we never got a chance ūüėČ ).


  • Cost is more than home hacks or commercially prepared ones
  • Space – You’ll need to store it somewhere when not in use.

Final Thought:  Yes, I do recommend this item.

IMG_6374If you are picking cherries or making jam or pies, this is a great and healthy alternative to home hacks or commercially prepared with added sugar (10% for those buckets of pitted cherries seasonally available usually).  This became my go to for my recipe testing.  It has held up great under many dishwasher runs, two kids using it and the countless cherries sacrificed for 3 unique recipes designed by Nutrition Bites for 20 Valley Harvest Farms.

I’m not all for new gadgets, or spending money (frugal PHEc here!), but this saved me time and made it easier to enjoy cherries more this season. ¬†I’m happy to have it in my home, and I know next year I will be ready to pull it out. ¬†This cherry pitter is totally worth not looking like a red-handed, mass-murderer during cherry season when you are up for serving delicious pies, tarts, jams, salads and cakes quickly!


Note: All opinions are my own.  This was not sponsored by Starfrit and I have not received any compensation or free items to recommend this product.

Posted in Couponing, Healthy, Home Economics, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Service Review: Loblaws Click & Collect Grocery Service

NOTE: New blog post coming soon on my second attempt at using Click & Collect. Here’s a hint…. Use this code to receive $10 off your groceries with the service:¬†

Loblaws’ super idea of Click & Collect might send consumers walking right back to the Superstore.

Having to drive by Loblaws each week, I have noticed that these pick up parking spaces are completely empty. ¬†Being someone who is picky with selecting the perfect peach (PHEc Tip: Smell them, if they don’t smell like a peach, put it back!), I was hesitant. ¬†Cue in a super busy day, some staples that are needed (who can screw up picking out a carton of milk), and I go online before 6am to see if this can help with a stressful life.

It looked so easy: “Shop Online. Pick up in Store.” I set up an account easily, hopefully to add my PC Points/Plus at the end upon checkout.

So “click” I did, and the webstore was beautiful. ¬†It had a billion items (probably) and a tab for Flyers & Deals. ¬†Swoon…. I was in love.

Then I tried finding my 2% Natrel Lactose-Free milk. ¬†It’s not their best seller so then I had to go into the Milk & Dairy section. ¬†There were still 78 items/options so I discovered “Search” in the top left corner. ¬†That made it way easier. ¬†Next item for me, butter. ¬†(Yes, I know you are going to say something. ¬†Everything in moderation and a good baker knows the value of butter at times.) ¬†That’s when things really started to make me rethink: ¬†$6.99 for 454g of salted butter. I know butter has increased in price over the past 5 years. ¬†But a frugal PHEc wouldn’t pay that unless company was coming and I was in a pinch.

This showed me one complete downfall to this Click & Collect personal shopping service: No price matching! ¬†Then I wondered….. I bet there is no couponing too! ¬†Gasp!

For the average consumer in London, Ontario (one of the wealthiest cities in Canada, I think), this is definitely a “First Class Digital Experience” (seen on the back of the paper flyer I picked up in-store). Add the unadvertised $3-5 fee that the web store requires you to pay for the service to the Loblaws luxury (um, higher) shelf prices with no options for price matching/couponing, and I emptied my virtual cart. ¬†This just wasn’t for me. ¬†It could be for you. Here’s a list to summarize my thoughts so you can decide yourself:


Convenience – For busy nights, parents with screaming children, and for rushed lifestyles.

Valet for Groceries – Easy for people with mobility issues but can use a car.

Fun – Yes shopping online seems to be a hobby of some these days.

Cart Starter Options¬†– Have a personalized shopping list ready every time you log on. It makes it easier to search and select the items, so even less time “shopping” for the items you usually buy.

Payments upon Pickup – No payment ahead of time but you do need a credit card to “secure” the order. ¬†You can use debit instead of a credit card since you don’t technically pay when ordering.

Sales – Clearly marked and the same prices as the flyers.

Prices РOption to view products from Low to High prices to find a cheaper alternative of a similar food.

Personalize Pickings – You can specify if you want ripe fruits, or certain details to make sure it’s just how you’d pick it out.

Social Sanity – For those who hate busy times or crowed places, it can make grocery shopping peaceful.

Substitution Options РAllow substitutions or not.  If you do, you can specify if it has to be from the same brand, or never for a higher price.  You can decide at your car to take the item or not (it says). This personal preference can be saved on your account for each category РMilk vs Fruits & Veggies.


Cost РHigher prices are usually at Loblaws compared to its sister stores like No Frills & Superstore.  (Consider using Superstore instead which traditionally has the same products for a bit less.)

Minimum Purchase Required РYou need to spend at least $30 to use the service.

Fee – Additional fee of $3 at less busy times and $5 after 5pm and on weekends.

Price Matching – No option for this, leading to an increased cost for the money savvy shoppers.

Coupons – No option for this.

Bags РIt does ask in a text box (not a more visual drop box) if you are using your own bags. Obviously if you do not specify you could be charged the 5 cents per bag.  Another added cost.

Substitution Options – If you gave permission for them to substitute, you wouldn’t find out until you “collected” your order. ¬†Plus if that was a necessary item, it might be not worth the extra costs, when you realize you went home with an unavailable item and the rest of the required $30 minimum of food.

Select Locations – Definitely not available at it sister store, No Frills. I’m not sure if EVERY Loblaws has this option. (Let me know if it’s available at locations near you.).

Personally, I’ll just keep sticking to the “Go & Grab” method of grocery shopping instead of “Click & Collect”. ¬†It might be a busy day ahead for me, but at least I will get some walking and weight lifting (carrying the bags myself) in for my daily physical activity. ¬†I think I’ll save my family a lot of money, since I’m not choosing the “First Class” experience.

Frugal Tip: Sign up for an account, check your email and you receive $5 off your “next” order. Consider it free valet (the Click & Collect fee for busy times) for one day!

*Please note that I have not used this service, as explained above, to completion.  It is possible that some details might change if I had been able to complete the entire service.

Posted in Gluten Free, Healthy, Home Economics, Ontario, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Tenota: Product & Service Review

How many memories do you have of a warm beverage and a special event or friend that shared that moment?  It seems like tea and coffee have always been a way to come together, have a conversation, share stories and keep not just our bodies warm on cold nights, but it seems our souls.

I have grown up on tea and coffee since I was a little girl.  On my dad’s knee at the Italian neighbour’s home stealing the milk foam off his cappuccino. And my mom, she brought the English heritage out – but it was black tea  with either milk and sugar or lemon and honey.

There is a reason why there are cafes seemingly on every corner, in every city or town.  They are more the norm than the watering holes, being way more acceptable for all ages and types of social interactions and meetings.  We, as a society here in Canada, usually meet up for a beverage with friends to catch up.  Ahhh, but what happens if you live far away, don’t drive or can’t make your schedules match up?  My friend Kathryn and I, friends from good ol’ University of Guelph but now living a 3 hour drive away, schedule “coffee chats” where we brew our own at home and set up a time to chat.  We also send each other small, sentimental things in the mail that make the other smile and remind her that we care.

So when my friend Allison told me of her family company, Tenota, and wanting my opinion on their product, I first thought, “I want to send one to Kathryn! What a great idea!”: a service sending tea with a personalized note attached, literally! 

 Obviously, I wouldn’t be the one receiving the tea to taste if I sent one to my dear friend, so Tenota sent me one to try.  (I’ll be sure to send one to Kathryn with the great promo code Tenota provided for me and my followers (keep reading to find it!).)

tea notes pic.jpg

I was lucky to receive my foodie gift in the mail quickly.IMG_3404

The rustic and sturdy kraft-paper envelope with printing reminded me of an old fashioned printing press.  First impression: cute, quality and a home-y feel.

Upon opening the envelope, I was greeted with the tenota graphic: (the latin word for tea).  Cute touch.

IMG_3405.JPGte notes te pic


I pulled out the card. One side had a cute note saying “Someone sent you a gift!”IMG_3406

And the other side said “Tenota tea notes…. Tea with a message”. The wintery weather and Canada Post handling of home delivery I think played a big part in a tiny bit of smudging…. but honestly it just looked even more rustic and handmade.


And drum roll for the presentation….IMG_3410.JPG

The personalized note attached to the tea bag was adorable!  It was a note within a card, within a package, with a gift!  Something perfect to send to a best friend far away,  grandma in her retirement home, a sick relative, a pick me up for a new mom or sick colleague.  And honestly, what about the foodies in your life?  I’m thinking of all the people I know who love tea and love receiving gifts in the mail (who doesn’t?)!

The cute pyramid tea bag was definitely an additional highlight as all I can think of is those gourmet teas at Starbucks that I order.  For some reason a 3D tea bag resembling the Egyptian pyramids always makes me feel spoiled and a bit like royalty compared to the run of the mill 2D circle or square normal options.

Taste Test

So then came time to taste test “Long Life” tea that came with my Tenota delivery.  I followed the instructions exactly as given on the tea note/tag.

The green and white teas were blended with herbal and fruit additions.  The tea was creamy with a definite flavour of pear and a note of spice.  The white tea definitely took the spotlight with the green tea adding a bit of depth.  The orange peel, though minimal in amount, definitely gave a strong but fresh flavour with fennel seed adding a “bite”.  I’m assuming due to the high quality of the product.

I added honey as I was sipping it alone but it would pair well with a sweet or savoury scone. I’m thinking something more of the cranberry variety (with the pear flavour in the tea complimenting the tart berry) yet perhaps a blueberry pie slice would pair well with the orange to balance it out.

One surprising ingredient was the calendula petals.  I don’t think I have ever had them in a tea, so I can’t say that I know what I’m tasting and looking for….. but I’m assuming it added a bit of a light floral taste.

That night I was on the run, so I had to leave the last sips in my cup.  Upon my return hours later, I though “Hmmmm I wonder if it would taste great cold?” (PHEc tip: Making iced tea at home can involve gourmet flavours at a minimal cost!)  It was still so flavourful and sweet, that this would be a great blend to send year-round to those iced tea lovers.

All things considered, I’m jealous of Allison’s family company, Tenota.  A simple idea with attention to detail that delivers a delicious tea gift made from quality ingredients, historically reminiscent packaging with a personalized message that would bring warmth to any heart and home in Canada. 

I highly recommend their products as well as this sentimental service to spread cheer and smiles across the miles.  Don’t wait for a special occassion to surprise someone or let them know you are thinking of them.  But if you need an excuse, January is Hot Tea Month and February brings us the day celebrating the most historic sender of notes – St Valentine!

And to help you even more, Tenota is offering a special promo code to my followers!  Visit my Friendly Support page to get the code for 20% off any order at Tenota!

te notes te pic
Te: The latin word for tea.
Posted in Gluten Free, Healthy, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Sol Cuisine Sprouted Quinoa Chia Burgers

A quick post after a very hectic personal life was necessary tonight. 

A busy night of kid activities led us trying this product. 

My little one has been begging to be in a blog post ever since the older one was featured in one trying NuPasta. 

We had NO burger buns and tried them right out of the microwave. It took over 3 minutes: a bit more than the two minutes on the instructions but I won’t split hairs. 

My little one did manage to quickly split …. 
… the burger and the blog post.  

Don’t you love the IKEA kid plates. She sets the table (chore charts are a parent’s best friend I tell you) so sometimes we dine on plastic. 

The results were unanimous. 


We didn’t like them all that much. 

Green plate: I ate mine.

Yellow plates: The little one had one bite and chose carrots, an apple, cheese and whole wheat toast instead. (NOTICE: 3 food groups and everything she can make herself. Mom only makes dinner once and needs to feed herself too!) 

The big one took one bite and opted for oatmeal and fruit juice. (She’s been heavy on the fibre lately so I know she’s getting her veggies and fruits during the rest of the day.)

This product has a very noticeable quinoa crunch with the old fashioned veggie burger taste. 

Microwaving is not optimal as a cooking method. They were kind of soggy in the middle but dry and crispy on the edges. 


  • Quick and easy to cook
  • Vegan
  • Gluten free
  • No soy filler
  • Source of fibre
  • Source of iron
  • Made in Canada (but not all are Canadian ingredients)
  • Ingredients (except modified cellulose) are real food ingredients


  • Cost – Expensive at over $6 for 4 (71g) patties 
  • Very veggie taste – not a good hamburger alternative/swap
  • Not kid friendly 
  • Texture is crunchy and soggy
  • Nutrition facts table does not give a great display of the healthy fats possibly present
  • Lower in protein than I expected
  • Required to be in the freezer, not the fridge & cooked thoroughly. 

So this is a thumbs down, no thank you, will not buy again product. 

I was highly disappointed in the product but truly bought it myself with the hopes it would shine bright like the package. 

I ate it. It’s not terrible, but being the omnivore that I am, it’s definitely not as delicious as my regular beef, chicken or venison alternatives. It’s definitely not a product you serve at a BBQ thinking “those (traditional) people won’t know the difference”.  

For those of you on certain diets (vegan, gluten free) or allergic to soy, this product is something you might want to try if it goes on sale. Or clearance. 

It’s just not my cup of tea. 

Posted in Healthy, Home Economics, Kid Friendly, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Epicure’s Silicone Waffle Mold

I have been a customer and fan of Epicure products for over 11 years now in Ontario.  And I usually buy something when invited to a “party”.  This is the one at-home or book party that sells stuff that I can afford AND I use!  It was originally a Canadian ‘spice blend for dips’ company started in BC by a woman named Sylvie. The products have always been no or low sodium and NO MSG. And they have never used fillers – so most products can be gluten-free.  As well, many are kosher.  The products have expanded to other food products and kitchen utensils and cookware.  Pampered Chef is my go-to only for their stoneware and mini spatulas.  Everything else is Epicure!

So at my new neighbour’s Epicure party, I bought the Waffle Mold, Square steamer (the pan one is amazing, so I wanted the larger one for family portions), Oh Canada! Dry BBQ Glaze, and the Chipotle, Bacon & Cheddar spice blend.
My younger daughter is in love with toaster waffles and I hate buying them: they can be expensive, the box takes up too much room in the freezer, they don’t taste fantastic and they are not very healthy.  I also did not want another appliance that only does one thing, so no to a waffle iron in this kitchen!
Even though I’m kind of a “path less traveled” girl, I followed the recipe that came with the silicone pan! (SHOCKER!) Truth be told, I didn’t have whole wheat flour in the house (I’ve been using up and cleaning out my cupboards!) – so I threw caution to the wind and followed the norm.

The recipe was super easy to make (5 minutes only!) and my oven baked them in less than the 12 minutes suggested – I’d say 11 minutes is good at 420 F in my oven.

One thing I realized is that the batter makes 12 waffles but the mold only holds enough batter for 6.  Ugh.  Based on my food science knowledge, I knew that the baking powder and rising would diminish a bit since the batter was standing around for the first 6 to bake.  (Advice: Either split the recipe in half, or buy two molds so you can be done in 11 minutes instead of 22 plus cooling time in between.)

The waffles came out a bit crispy the first time due to me following 12 minutes baking time and the 425 F suggested temperature.

I didn’t mind.  I had berries in the fridge from my stop in St Thomas the week before.  I would have used greek yogurt (it’s like my healthier alternative to whipped cream!) but my older daughter cleaned us out of that – so a drizzle of maple syrup and, POOF!, it was gone!

The second time, I reduced the temperature to 420 F and tried a bit more batter.  My little one was sick yesterday with a fever, so I thought she might not like the holes that go through the waffles (as suggested and I love!). I filled the batter with more than the suggested 1/4 cup per waffle and ta dah – no holes on one side.

This is great for those kids that love filling the holes with syrup, jam or nutella and it won’t fall through the waffle onto the plate. But low and behold, my younger one wakes up and I give her a choice.  Welcome to Parenthood: My predicted outcome was wrong!  She decided to take the one WITH the holes in it!  She loved the fluffy texture and taste, but the poor wee thing was too sick to really enjoy or finish it, and I sent her to snuggle up on the couch and rest.

Which do you prefer?

Waffles - Holes or No Holes

(Comments are always welcome, opinions make it more interesting!)

I prefer the hole-y one! Less white flour and great spots for the berries to not roll around on my plate!

Kid friendly tip: Use blueberries and raspberries to play tic tac toe with your kids or between siblings. Play with your food! (Just be sure to wash your hands first ūüėČ ).

Home Economics tip: The great thing that I do (and is suggested by the included recipe card) is to freeze leftovers and pop in the toaster to reheat!  A great way to have a leisurely morning breakfast one day and enjoy the baking when it’s a grab and go day (we all can’t be stay-at-home parents that scour Pinterest for new ideas every day)!

Verdict:  Yes, I would definitely recommend this product!


  • Easy to make
  • Easy to clean and store (silicone folds up and still retains it shape when you go to use it!)
  • Great basic recipe that comes with it
  • Great alternative to a heavy and expensive waffle iron
  • Can help reduce food costs if you Cook Once, Eat Twice (by freezing extras you make and retoasting later!)
  • Healthy alternative – you control the ingredients & can change the tastes (ideas on card for making waffles sweet or savoury)


  • Recipe card makes batter for two molds – suggests to buy two (business trick!)
  • You have to push the waffles out, they do not slip out like a silicone muffin tray (but now I’m trying to find negatives and complain – it wasn’t bad at all and they never broke!)

This is one company that I truly believe in and stand behind. Great tasty products, great responsible company and Canadian! 

(Edit: Since the original post I have decided to be an independent Epicure consultant. Nothing else has been edited other than the following website.). 

Visit my Epicure website ( ) for more info.  I’m sure you will see more Epicure products on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. That being said, I try to not ever limit a person to my recipes and food tips based on the products (not everyone is going to have them in their kitchen).

So go get messy in the kitchen and try something new this week – you might just find a new favourite (with or without a new product).  And perhaps it’s just the tip of freezing leftover pancakes and waffles for a later day.  (Be sure to wrap individually in wax paper or saran before storing in a freezer bag or container!)

Posted in Gluten Free, Kid Friendly, Product Testing

Testing out NuPasta’s Gluten Free Pasta

NuPasta Instagram Em

So I was doing some foodie research and on a local market’s Facebook page (Remark in Hyde Park, London, ON) was this NuPasta featured on a post.  Someone was given a sample to try and said she liked it. It was gluten-free AND low-calorie, high fiber?  And it tasted good.  I have loved functional foods and food inventions since I was in my classes at the University of Guelph.  So, being the knock-on-door, take initiative type – I emailed the company.

They were happy to provide me a sample as they were just starting to come on the market to consumers.  Before I received them, I started researching the main ingredient (konjac flour).  It came from a natural source (made from a root of the konjac root) and then blended with soy flour.  Konjac flour has a soluble dietary fibre called glucomannam.  So for anyone new to food science – soluble fibre will expand with water (think oatmeal not lettuce).  This is how NuPasta is 95% water and 5% fiber and hardly any calories per serving compared to pasta (1/10th says the card).  And hence it is not made from the usual gluten-free starchy (re: carbs/calories) flours (potato, rice or tapioca), and finally we have a gluten-free product (no certification yet) that is NOT high in calories and carbohydrates.

I received the packages in the mail.  Yes, pasta in the mail.  It is shelf stable until opened!

NuPasta Packages

Then I read the information it came with.  This sounded so easy a baby could cook with it.

Babies usually need to be in the oven for 9 months, and they don’t rent them for foodie experiments so call in my oldest “baby” who is 11 years old.

Emily Mulberry

So we were on a mission…. see if this kid (who does have food skills because she has a parent teaching her at home) could make this without really cooking.

(Warning: Parent Trick for Picky Eaters)

But I tricked her… even though she is not usually a picky eater (the younger one takes the cake on that one!), it was getting her involved in cooking that would even distract her from asking “what is it made with”.

She picked spaghetti over the fettuccine and angel hair options we were given.


“Step 1. Drain the water in the pack, rinse NuPasta under cold water for a short while, drain excess water and NuPasta is ready to use.”

This was super easy except getting into the packaging.  We did have to use a knife to cut the clear film top as the edges didn’t help to pull it off.  Other than that, super easy.

Draining NuPasta

“Step 2. Prepare the topping and sauce.”

Emily loves butter and grated cheese on her pasta, myself – tomato sauce for this saucy Italian-Canadian.  So we decided with not much time before a cheap movie theatre night, we were going to use the microwave method and KISS with NuPasta.

Toppings and sauce for NuPasta

“Step 3. Mix topping, sauce, and NuPasta and heat with a skillet or by microwave (use proper microwave container).”

 Splitting NuPasta       IMG_0620


“Don’t over-cook or NuPasta can become chewy; its nutrition value will remain unchanged.”

So we tested it out and with heavy bowls and no bulky additions to it.  We gave it 2 spins of 35 seconds and it was warm enough to eat right away.  This obviously depends on your taste, microwave, bowls and other added ingredients.  It was not chewy at all for us.

“If you wish to serve NuPasta cold, pre-chill the pack for 2 hours then do the drain and rinse.  You can cut it into shorter strands and add to salads or other cold dishes.”

We didn’t do this, put think of the possibilities if this comes in rotini or penne?  A great summer pasta salad recipe without the cooking on a super hot day before a picnic – NuPasta would definitely be considered convenient!

“Since NuPasta is sodium-free and sugar-free, add seasonings to your own liking.” 

This is a huge advantage for anyone trying to have convenience foods that are not preserved with lots of salt/sodium.  That would be anyone following a DASH diet for cardiovascular diseases.  As well, sugar-free means that this would be a great product for perhaps patients trying to control blood sugars (diabetes, hypo/hyperglycemia, etc).

But the disadvantage of this is about to be revealed….

Emily wanted her butter and freshly, grated cheese on top.  She threw some cheese on mine too. (So yes now we had sodium added in, so be careful what toppings and sauces you choose.  Read food labels!).


So here is her honest to goodness reaction…..

IMG_0617 IMG_0615   IMG_0616 IMG_0613

She said it tasted bland. I was so disappointed.  So I dug into mine.  I had an idea after I had my first taste.

I said to her to try mine even though I knew she “didn’t prefer tomato sauce”.

Low and behold….. “that’s so much better” she said.  We agreed it was a great product with additional flavours and toppings.  And ta dah, I even got her to eat tomato sauce which she usually doesn’t.  I even said a thai-based sauce would be great with NuPasta.  Think stir fry frenzies for gluten free noodle lovers.  (It does have that kind of consistency if you’ve cooked with those type of noodles that come soaked as well.)

So the verdict is:

Yes, I would recommend this product.  It is very kid friendly too. My guinea pig agrees too. Cheers to that (forks will have to do.)


I would like to do my own research more carefully on glucomannam for the science geek that I am. I know that some soluble fibres in products (ex: inulin) can cause GI upset in some people if taken in high quantities.  The little bit of searching I did show that if taken as just as a supplement, lots of water is required with it (due to its high water absorption ability).  Since it is cooked and soaked/stored in water, I can’t see NuPasta having this safety issue at all.

Update:  New study showing components of glucomannam & chitosan can help people feel full longer leading to a possible weight management strategy. 

Link here to news article & study reference:

Plus consumers are really different tastes.

As a Professional Home Economist that loves experimenting in the kitchen, I would encourage you to try it if you are looking for a pasta alternative for whatever reason.

Highlights of this product:

  • Gluten-free AND low-calorie (hard to see that together on the food market shelves right now)
  • Super easy to prepare
  • Kid friendly
  • No cooking necessary
  • Convenient – pre-cooked AND shelf-stable (ready to use)
  • Sodium/salt free
  • No added sugars
  • Very versatile – flavours, sauces, extra ingredients can be added; hot/cold options



So one last thing to touch on.

It is something that I find I have a major issue with, with many blogs out there with posts about new product testing:

This is absolutely a product review.  By ME.  I was not asked by the company to do so.  I will never sell out my true self.  My opinion of a product will never be anything but super honest.  If I ever try a product I do not like and asked to write about it – I’d prefer to not write at all.  My mom taught me best – If you do not have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  So with that in mind, this and ALL reviews (ever) will be my opinions alone and will never reflect anything but (unless a quote from someone else who was helping me).  Companies should want the feedback (good and the not-so-good) to improve their product for their customers.  A fluffed up opinion to market a product rather than reflect the honest truth will never make a product or that company successful in the end.  We all have to sleep at night.  I’d like to make sure I keep my little bit of space here, free for me to be me. It’s the only person I can be.  )

So happy looking and cooking for new food products too.


Posted in Gluten Free, Healthy, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Foodie Fun Pen Pal Exchange

Genius ideas for foodies: penpals that exchange food through mail! ¬†Ok this is fantastic. ¬†I love getting mail that isn’t bills (who doesn’t?) and I love surprises and trying new things including FOOD.

So even though I cannot post my box contents until “Reveal Day”, I thought I’d share the blog and website that you can go to, to participate in the next month or exchanges. ¬†It’s simple rules and I honestly can’t wait to do it again (and I haven’t even opened my box yet!). ¬†It’s so nice to know that you are shopping for another foodie. ¬†I get to share some of my fave products as well as learn about some new products. ¬†This first time, I was paired with a vegan from Toronto.

Here is where you can sign up for next month (no time commitment so I probably won’t do it for a couple of months until I am more “free” to enjoy and blog about the experience again.

I thought you might like to at least look into it. ¬†It’s well organized and minimizes cost (avg cost of food is $15 and shipping varies depending on what you are sending (think light!) and the size of the box/container you are sending it in (smaller is cheaper) as well as where it is being shipped to (you get paired with people closer to you and definitely in the same country USA vs Canada vs England).

Well, keep your eyes open next week for my post to reveal what I was sent.  I gave my penpal no restrictions so it will be interesting to see what I received and get to try!

Eat healthy and be happy!