About Catherine

Catherine has been blogging since the 1990s, and has cooked in kitchens on 3 continents. She loves incorporating ingredients from her travels across the US and world... with varying degrees of success. Join her as she makes messes in the kitchen and tries to clean them up.

Balance your gut with prebiotics from IsoThrive

IsoThrive
Samples provided for review. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any condition and is not intended as medical advice. 

As someone with a variety of food allergies and sensitivities, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to balance my bacteria. I love kefir and yogurt, but a lactose intolerance means that those aren’t the right fit for me.

Enter IsoThrive’s prebiotic nectar. It’s non-allergenic; the small packets – taken once daily – can either be added to water, or drunk straight out of the container. They taste fruity and sweet, but not unpleasantly so.

Question: what’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics? Probiotics are live bacteria that help with digestion; prebiotics are food for the bacteria already in your gut.

Some more about the logic and approach of Isothrive:

“1. Go where probiotics can’t
Most probiotics are neutralized in our stomachs and never make it to our lower digestive tract. To heal GI issues, the whole digestive system has to be re-balanced. A daily dose of fermented microFood like ISOThrive fuels the good bacteria to tackle the organisms that cause acid reflux, constipation, bloating, and gas.

2. Rebalance our diets the ancient way
Most modern diets lack nutrients to feed our “good” bacteria—more particularly, a very specific type of microFood that our ancestors got by eating lots of fermented vegetables or sourdough breads made from heirloom wheat. ISOThrive adds back this bacterially fermented food to rebalance our diets and keep our bacteria happy. (And, no, the sauerkraut on your hot dog or the kimchi on your bibimbap won’t get you the the microFood you need—you’d have to eat several cups of fermented veggies every day to get the same amount of microFood in one 1/4 teaspoon of ISOThrive microFood!)

3. Prep our bodies to prevent disease
Because the modern Western diet is so deficient in specially fermented microFood, our starving “good” gut bacteria are “breaking bad”—adapting to use other energy sources (such as our gut lining), and making us sick. Fermented microFood restores this imbalance, enhancing immune function and staving off disease.”

I’ve been taking the supplements about a week now, and am cautiously optimistic – my digestion does seem to have improved, though I started a probiotic vitamin regimen in the week leading up to taking Isothrive.

All in all, if you’re having problems with food sensitivities and nutrition absorption, I recommend trying Isothrive to see if it works for your system.

Soup for You with Soupman

Soupman

Samples provided for review. This post contains Amazon Associates links.

So, you know that episode of Seinfeld where there’s a soup vendor whose soups are perfect, but his rules about ordering are … a bit strict?

Thanks to Soupman Soups, you can taste those soups without needing to memorize a very precise order of operations. Yes, the Soup Man is actually a real person!

How are the soups, you ask? Surprisingly tasty! As you can see above, the soup comes in tetra packs – generally not renowned for peak flavor. However, the soups are well-seasoned, and complex for a prepared soup.

Right now, there are five flavors available: Crab and Corn, Chicken Gumbo, Chicken Noodle, Lentil, and Lobster Bisque. On the pack of each box is a serving suggestion – for instance, use the crab and corn chowder to make a quiche. I never would have thought of that!

Soupman quiche

To make the quiche, you need a pastry shell, an egg, and whatever additional fillings you want – I added some cooked shrimp and corn to add more volume, then added the soup and baked at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to set. The quiche was delicious!

You can find Soupman online, or at grocers near you like CostCo. With Soupman Soups, there will soon be Soup For You!

De-lite-ful Muffins from Garden Lites

Garden Lites Muffins

Samples provided for review

Eating souffle always makes one feel fancy. Eating a veggie-packed souffle makes one feel fancy and smart.

Garden Lites are small, tasty cakes that are packed with vegetables and low in calories. My personal favorites: the Superfood veggie cakes. Each cake is 30% of your RDA of Vitamin A, and made with brown rice, carrot, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, bell peppers, and zucchini.

The chocolate muffins are a delicious guilty pleasure. The first two ingredients are zucchini and carrots – but they’re good enough to be an actual dessert, despite having 50% of your RDA of Vitamin A. The Garden Lites website has a recipe for divine mudslide cupcakes using the chocolate muffins, but I like topping mine with almond butter and flaked coconut.

The cakes are absurdly easy to prepare: simply microwave for a minute or so. They’re a bit salty, so enjoy them in moderation.

Garden Lites are available at Whole Foods, CostCo, and other grocery stores. I recommend them!

Riding ballsy with Balls Vodka

ballsvodka (1)

Sample provided for review

Some days demand an after-work cocktail to take the edge off. This week, I made myself a twist on the Bloody Mary with what I had in the fridge, and Balls Vodka. Balls vodka is 80 proof, distilled 4 times, vegan, gluten-free, and under 100 calories per serving.

ballsvodka (2)

 

The Balls-y Mary

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot of Balls Vodka (2 oz)
  • 2 cans of V8, or other tomato juice
  • Dashes of: black pepper, hot sauce, celery salt, garlic salt, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and horseradish
  • Olives and pickle to garnish

Directions:

  1. Fill cup with ice. 
  2. Add vodka.
  3. Season tomato juice to taste. Pour into glass.
  4. Garnish as you deem fit.

Where will you go with Bibigo?

bibigo-authentic 

Samples provided for review. This post contains an Amazon Associates link.

Ever read a book that changes your life?

I did, and mine was about dumplings.

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken is a memoir by food writer Laura Schenone, who decides one Christmas to make an authentic family ravioli recipe. When she finds an ingredient on her grandmother’s recipe card that seems out of place — where in northern Italy would you find Philadelphia cream cheese? — she begins a search that makes her learn more about dumplings, Italian cooking, and her own family than she ever thought possible. It’s a really well-written food history that’s also a family history, that’s stayed with me for several years..

There’s one passage in particular where she talks about all the countries that have their own dumplings, and how universally loved they are: no matter what country you’re in, they taste like home, and like love. After all, dumplings are tricky to make, and take time and care to prepare. Dumplings are a special-occasion food.

Having lived in Ukraine and South Korea, I have tried many different kinds of dumplings, each delicious in their own way. When Bibigo offered to send me samples of their dumplings — ready-made Korean food for a Western audience — I wanted to see how their potstickers compared with the mandu I remembered from street vendors in Korea.

bibigo (2)

Unlike the dumplings I had in Korea — which were usually filled with things like kimchi, rice noodles, meat, ginger, and green onions — these were adapted to Western tastes. They come in Pork and Vegetable, Chicken and Vegetable, Chicken and Cilantro, and BBQ Chicken flavors.

Despite the difference in fillings, seeing the charming little dumpling shapes took me back nearly a decade, to my travels through Asia.

bibigo (1)

The potstickers and wontons are fully cooked, can be found in the frozen food section of select supermarkets, and are ridiculously easy to prepare: just microwave, boil, or fry them for less than 10 minutes. Here are some potstickers I microwaved for a quick lunch, with a side of dipping sauce.

bibigo (3)

If you want to get a bit more greens with your dumplings, try adding chopped scallions, along with Sriracha and oyster sauce, for additional flavor. You could also serve them with a side of fried garlic and bok choy in soy sauce, to get your vegetables.

bibigo (4)

However you prepare them, Bibigo wontons and potstickers are delicious, filling, and easy to cook — all the taste of a special treat, without all the fuss and hard work. I highly recommend them!

Look for Bibigo products in select supermarkets — and at your local Asian market. You can also follow them on Facebook and YouTube!

Healthy happy hour with SOYJOY bars

SOYJOY

Samples provided for review.

When I get stressed, I snack. My go-to vices are white cheddar popcorn, and anything that combines peanut butter and chocolate. When SOYJOY offered to send me some fruit and soy bars for their Perfectly Paired challenge, I jumped at the chance to try to build all-natural recipes for a Healthy Happy Hour.

soyjoy (3)

SOYJOY bars are made from ingredients you can actually pronounce. Take a look at that banana SOYJOY label: soybeans, raisins, dried banana and pineapple, butter, sugar, corn starch, eggs, salt, and flavor. And they’re each only about 100 – 200 calories!

soyjoy (1)

I decided to host my own Healthy Happy Hour, so that my friends and I could each try some healthier snacks. Here’s what I came up with!

  • SOYJOY granola: 1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt, 1/2 cup chopped strawberries, topped with 1 chopped Blueberry and 1 chopped Berry SOYJOY bar
  • SOYJOY berry crumble: 1 cup chopped strawberries topped with honey, cinnamon, and 2 chopped Strawberry SOYJOY bars, baked at 450 degrees for 15 minutes
  • The Elvis: 2 100-calorie dark chocolate bars, broken in half and topped with banana slices, 1 tsp. peanut butter, and 1/2 a Banana SOYJOY bar

And because it’s not a happy hour without a cocktail: I also combined the fresh-squeezed juice of one grapefruit with 2 oz tequila in a glass with a salted rim, for a variation on a Greyhound. Grapefruits are rich in vitamin C, and have many other health benefits!

Feeling inspired? Now one lucky Cooking Catastrophe reader can win a SOYJOY prize pack of their very own!

soyjoy (2)

Enter to win a SOYJOY prize pack!

One lucky reader (within the continental US) will win:

  • A collection of SOYJOY bars
  • $25 to create a SOYJOY recipe
  • Appetizer plates
  • Inspirational cocktail napkins

Just leave your entry in the Rafflecopter widget below by Friday, May 30th, 11:00PM PST – we’ll then randomly select one winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Easy weeknight meals with Lee Kum Kee Ready Sauces

Lee Kum Kee

Samples provided for review.

In addition to sending me chili sauces for review – more on that here - Lee Kum Kee also sent me some Ready Sauces to try, specifically Broccoli Beef, Kung Pao Chicken, Mongolian Beef, and Orange Chicken. A photo of their Kung Pao Chicken is below.

chicken (1)

I’m always looking for ways to save money by cooking at home, and these sauces were all delicious and easy to use: all I had to do was dice some easily-accessible ingredients and fry them up. I made a big batch of chicken and beef dishes on Sunday, and was enjoying home-cooked meals with rice and pasta all week long.

chicken (2)

My favorite was the orange chicken, which I enhanced by adding the fresh-squeezed juice of 1 orange, along with garlic and ginger — you can see those big chunks of garlic and ginger in the photo above. Those ingredients really made the flavor of everything pop!

beef (1)

I also found myself really liking the Mongolian beef — it was a bit spicier than I expected, though not unpleasantly so. As you can see from the photo above, this is REALLY simple to make: just 3 ingredients!

To make my meals more nutritious, I had vegetable stir-fried rice as a side with most of these dishes. I’ll share the recipe for that below.

chicken (7)Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 large onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 5 scallions, diced
  • 10 sprigs cilantro, leaves only
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • one 1″ cube of ginger, diced
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Olive or sesame oil, to taste

Steps:

  1. Fry carrots, bell peppers, and onions in oil for 5 minutes, until the bell peppers start to soften slightly.
  2. Add scallions, cilantro, garlic, and ginger. Fry for 2 minutes, until aromatic.
  3. Slowly add the rice, a handful at a time, so that it doesn’t clump. Stir carefully with a wooden cooking spoon.
  4. Add pepper, soy sauce, and oyster sauce. Cook an additional 10 minutes, until the carrots soften and the flavors are thoroughly mixed.

Everything I tried from Lee Kum Kee was delicious. Combine their Ready Sauces with some protein and boil some noodles with frozen vegetables for a complete, hot weeknight meal you can make in less than 40 minutes!

Look for Lee Kum Kee Ready Sauces in a grocer near you, and be sure to check them out on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube!

Totally porked out Annie Chun’s Pad Thai

AnnieChunsLogo

Samples provided for review.

As I mentioned earlier on this blog, Annie Chun’s recently launched their “Next Noodlepreneur” contest, closing April 21st. Participants submit creative ways they’ve added to Annie Chun’s noodle bowls, and can win gift cards and prize packs to continue daydreaming up new meals and flavor combinations.

I decided I wanted to get in on the fun, so Annie Chun’s sent over some noodles for me to noodle on.

noodlepreneur (2)

I received Korean Sweet Chili, Hot & Sour, and Pad Thai noodles. I love everything peanut-related, so I decided to make a totally porked out version of Pad Thai, with Annie Chun’s noodles as the base.

noodlepreneur (3)

Ingredients:

  • Annie Chun’s Pad Thai noodles
  • 1 cup ground pork, cooked with 1 tsp hoisin sauce and whatever vegetables you have on hand (I used chopped carrots and water chestnuts)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 lime, juiced

Steps:

  1. Combine dry toppings from Annie Chun’s Pad Thai noodle bowl.with 1 cup hot water and noodles. Microwave 90 – 120 seconds, depending on your microwave.
  2. Fry 1 egg sunny side up. 
  3. In a serving bowl, combine cooked pork, Sriracha, peanut butter, lime juice, and chopped peanuts and sauce from Annie Chun’s noodle bowl.
  4. Drain cooked noodles, and add to serving bowl.
  5. Add egg while yolk is still slightly runny. Stir to combine.

noodlepreneur (1)

Here’s my finished Pad Thai. I ate this all within 10 minutes — while the combination of hoisin and tamarind took a few bites to get used to, on the whole, the flavors balanced nicely, and I consider it a success!

Feeling inspired? Head over to their Facebook page and post your recipe and photos of your completed meal by April 21st! Good luck, future noodlepreneurs!

Sriracha deviled eggs with Lee Kum Kee

Lee Kum Kee

Samples provided for review.

Easter is right around the corner, and with it, excuses to make lots of egg recipes. Having spent the past year in the South, my mouth waters at the prospect of indulging in delicious deviled eggs again!

Lee Kum Kee sent some of their chili sauces for review. As soon as I saw their Sriracha and Sriracha Mayo sauces, I knew I was going to have to try to make Sriracha deviled eggs!

eggs (2)
eggs (3)

Ingredients:

  • 1 scallion (white part only)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Black pepper (to taste)
  • 5 sprigs of cilantro (leaves only)
  • 3 tablespoons Lee Kum Kee Sriracha Mayo
  • Lee Kum Kee Sriracha (for garnish)

Steps:

  1. Hardboil 6 eggs. Older eggs work better for deviled eggs!
  2. Allow eggs to cool completely. I usually put them in a bowl full of ice, or just put them in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  3. While the eggs are cooling, slice the cilantro leaves and white parts of 1 scallion fine.
  4. Once the eggs have cooled, remove the shells, cut them in half, and scoop out the yolks into a separate bowl.
  5. Whisk together the yolks, Sriracha Mayo, scallions, cilantro, pepper, and lime juice until completely blended and not lumpy – about 5 minutes.
  6. Once the yolks are completely smooth, spoon them back into the halved eggs.
  7. Garnish with additional Sriracha, scallions, or cilantro to taste. Put them on your favorite serving dish and enjoy.

Sriracha deviled eggs

Be sure to set some aside for yourself – these tend to go quickly!

Look for Lee Kum Kee Chili Sauces in a grocer near you, and be sure to check them out on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube!

Use your noodle with Annie Chun’s “Next Noodlepreneur” contest!

AnnieChunsLogo

Annie Chun’s is known for its quick, healthy Asian-inspired meal options that are all-natural and use no preservatives. I’ve picked their noodle bowls up in the past when I wanted a quick, filling lunch while working away on new projects.

To celebrate March as Noodle Month, Annie Chun’s launched their “Next Noodlepreneur” contest — now extended for an additional two weeks! Participants submit creative ways they’ve added to Annie Chun’s noodle bowls, and can win gift cards and prize packs to continue daydreaming up new meals and flavor combinations.

Have great ideas of ways to use Annie Chun’s noodle bowls as your blank canvas? Head over to their Facebook page and post your recipe and photos of your completed meal. Good luck, and happy noodling!