Category: blogging (Page 3 of 6)

North Iowa Bloggers Taste Test Lay’s “Do Us A Flavor” Chips

Strange chip flavors brought the North Iowa bloggers together this week.

We haven’t gathered for a while and probably have the cappuccino-flavored chips to thank. Tasting them made a great excuse for us to get together, so I guess the cappuccino chips have that going for them.

Beth of It’s Just Life hosted the party in her home and spoiled us with sangria, homemade hummus, fresh fruit, and pretty salads. We enjoyed one of those rare, windless North Iowa evenings out on the deck.

I contributed Amanda Paa’s Summer Squash Peach Kisses (pictured on the bottom left) from her new Smitten With Squash cookbook. They are a perfect summer appetizer to bring to a gathering, especially if there are guests attending who can’t eat gluten.

Shopping for the ingredients proved to be interesting. I originally planned to bring a wine cooler to pair with the chips along with the Peach Kisses. At the store, I loaded my basket with fresh vegetables and a Malibu cranberry rum cooler. The man behind me in the checkout line curiously eyed the contents of my grocery basket and commented, “Malibu and vegetables! That’s interesting.” All I could do was nod.

I forgot to bring the Malibu coolers to the party which was just as well. If you enjoy drinking sunscreen, this is the drink for you. 

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Val Plagge brought a crock pot of sweet and savory ham balls, a food I’d never tried before (top middle). When I asked her where she found ground ham, she was like, “Well, we do raise hogs on our farm so. . . ”

Beth set out an elaborate potato chip taste testing station complete with smiley face voting stickers. Here’s what I thought of the four new flavors listed in the order of which we collaboratively ranked them:

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Wasabi Ginger: Lay’s accurately captures the flavors of wasabi, pickled ginger, and an onion note without tasting too artificial. Those who did not like pickled ginger (or ginger in general) did not like this flavor, though everyone seemed to like the wasabi flavor. I enjoy eating both the wasabi and pickled ginger garnishes when I order sushi so it was a win-win. I would buy my own bag.

Beth feels as happy as I do about the Wasabi Ginger chips.

Beth likes the Wasabi Ginger chips as much as I do.

Bacon Mac & Cheese: These chips tasted mostly of bacon and a little of cheese. The bacon flavor tasted artificial and reminded me of the Bacos and TGI Friday’s Cheddar Bacon Potato Skin Chips I ate as a kid. The “mac & cheese” description is probably overstated. Still, there’s nothing terribly objectionable about the chips unless you don’t like the flavor of Bacos. . .or bacon.

Cappuccino: We were most intrigued by these cappuccino chips. When I first spotted them in the store, I was aghast. Did Chad Scott submit the flavor as a joke and then Lay’s took him seriously? Turns out Chad just really likes coffee

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This is how Donna and I feel about cappuccino chips.

The chips taste like cheap vanilla coffee creamer mixed with misery and Ron Burgundy’s tears. And possibly death.

All of these flavors swished around in my mouth and I struggled to swallow them. I learned that “cappuccino” doesn’t refer to my favorite type of cappuccino crafted with espresso and lots of foam. Rather, it means the cheap, cloyingly sweet gas station cappuccino that squirts from the scary machines that keep on squirting long after you’ve stopped pushing the cappuccino button. That kind.

Some of my companions said that the chips tasted less terrible than they anticipated, while others liked the cinnamon note. One admitted the chips grew on her as she kept eating them and described them as “dessert chips.”

I just wanted all of these chips to burn. And while the chips were in my mouth, I wanted the whole world to burn.

I spotted a small bag of cappuccino chips at a Casey’s General Store in case you want to taste them for yourself but not commit to a full-sized bag.

Mango Salsa:
As if it couldn’t get worse than cappuccino-flavored potato chips, you’ve got Mango Salsa chips. I initially predicted I would prefer this flavor because I like sweet and spicy mango salsa. Do not be deceived.

Hampton blogger Katy most accurately compared the chip to something straight out of Bath & Body Works. We all agreed and the only thing I could taste was tutti frutti mango reminiscent of a pre-teen body splash or Scentsy wax melt. This was the only flavor I did not go back to for a second taste.

And that’s a wrap! The North Iowa bloggers tried all four varieties of these chips so you don’t have to. See Donna & Beth’s posts for more thoughts on the chip tasting.

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Sara Broers was fishing in Colorado, but here in spirit.

Have you tried any of these new flavors? What did you think?

Meet my fellow taste testers:
Amy, Modern Rural Living
Beth, It’s Just Life
Donna, Donnahup.com
Katy, Learning As I Go
Laura, All Things Travel
Sara (in absentia), All in an Iowan Mom’s Day & Travel With Sara
Val, Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids

Our First County Fair: Cake Decorating & Pork Sandwiches

When North Iowa blogger Val of Corn, Bean, Pigs & Kids asked me if I wanted to team-up and compete in the Franklin County “Cake Wars” decorating contest, of course I had to say yes.

I warned her that my cake decorating abilities were very limited.

In culinary school in Moorhead, MN, Mrs. Kraft patiently tried to teach me how to pipe little rosettes and shell patterns with a piping bag with mixed success. And I can put sprinkles on things. Basically, sprinkling sprinkles was what I was bringing to the cake decorating table. Fortunately, the competition was not cutthroat, but focused on cultivating fun.

On Saturday afternoon, the fair was extremely busy. We enjoyed grilled pork tenderloin sandwiches and apple pie at the 4-H food stand.

The first part of the cake contest sent us on a scavenger hunt around the Franklin County Fair to earn points to purchase cake decorating supplies. Every team was given a small cake, white frosting, funfetti sprinkles and a single knife.

I let Val take the lead. She knew her way around the fair and I’d seen her amazing Curious George banana cake she made for her son’s third birthday. We were also excited that Donna of Donnahup.com joined us for the afternoon. She cheered us on and took some fantastic photos.

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We based our cake design on the 4-H theme. It’s a good thing Val piped the letters because if I had tried, they would have looked like blogs. I was so impressed with the cake decorating skills of our competition, too. Some teams thought outside of the box and cut their cake into shapes.

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In the end we won our snazzy green participation ribbons which were the perfect icing on the cake of my first county fair experience.

I like to call us Green Ribbon Winning Cake Decorators.

A “Thanks for Reading” Giveaway

Dear Readers,

Thank you for connecting with me through my blog and social media channels. I appreciate you for taking the time to read my posts and banter with me.

This blog has been my labor of love for all things food and writing. Since I began blogging in 2011, Jake and I have experienced a lot of life changes and lived in three different states. I’m honored you have joined me as we move around the Midwest. As a small gesture of gratitude, I am giving away two of my favorite things from my newish hometown of Mason City, IA where we’ve lived for almost one year.

One reader will win one 12 oz. bag of coffee beans (Alley Cat House Blend) from my favorite local coffee shop Coffee Cat and a mug made by the owner of Market 124, my favorite local gift shop that features Iowan products. I can have the coffee shop grind the beans upon request.

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Enter the giveaway below through the Rafflecopter box between today 06/27/14 and 07/05.2014 at noon.

The Rafflecopter box below will give you an entry for each action: Leaving a comment at the end of the blog post, following me on Twitter, and/or liking my Facebook page. Many of you have already done at least one of these things which gives you an easy entry or two. A random winner will be notified on Facebook or by email and must respond within 24 hours to claim prize or another winner will be chosen. I will ship the prize anywhere in the United States.

Thanks for reading and happy coffee-drinking (or tea),

Jeni

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by jenieats.com and is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Coffee Cat or Market 124. The giveaway runs from 06/27/14 – 07/15/14 at noon. A random winner will be notified on Facebook or by email and must respond within 24 hours to claim prize or another winner will be chosen. Open to U.S. residents only.All entries will be verified.

Our Favorite Summer Flavors Featured on Travel Iowa

Thank you Travel Iowa for featuring some of our favorite summer flavors from around the state!

The Iowan Food & Lifestyle bloggers live in various parts of the state and write about everything from cooking to DIY projects. But what we all have in common is that we love to explore Iowa and share our favorite experiences.

Brats, mason city farmers market

Find out what we highlighted as some of our favorite Iowa summer flavors in Travel Iowa’s latest blog post.

What would you add to the list?

Liebster Award Tag!

leibsterawardThis is a long overdue thank you to Cristen of Food & Swine for nominating me for the Liebster Award, a virtual way for bloggers to recognize other bloggers. According to the official rules, any blog with under 1,000 followers or subscribers is eligible for the Liebster.

Nominating blogs for the Liebster Award is essentially like playing tag. Bloggers can choose to pass it on if they wish, but they are certainly not obligated to participate.

I’ve connected with Cristen more recently through Iowa blogging networks (she wrote about the Bauder’s Pharmacy Peppermint Bar at the Iowa State Fair in my post compiling Iowa bloggers favorite hometown foods). As a new Iowan, I’ve appreciated her warmth and friendliness and enjoy following her blog in which she shares about her family, raising hogs, and cooking adventures. This week, I was thrilled to learn she is an award winning bread baker, having won multiple blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair.

Like Minnesota and North Dakota, I’ve thankful to have found a hospitable group of local bloggers, many of whom I consider friends and enjoy collaborating with.

Cristen’s Questions For Me:

  • What drove you to start your blog and when did you start it?

I had always read food blogs but was too afraid to start my own. After I made arrangements to travel to Puebla and Queretaro, Mexico with two friends, I vowed to start a blog and begin by writing about our trip. I was inspired by Twin Cities food writers and bloggers and realized I also wanted to contribute to the discussion.

  • Who or what inspires you in the kitchen?

A childhood watching Julia Child and Two Fat Ladies and reading cookbooks like novels. Now, I love exploring these food fascinations in my own kitchen. I am also inspired by recipes and techniques I see on food television, magazines, books, and blogs. My husband and I live in a smaller city and can’t just run out for Korean and Indian food so I’m inspired to learn how to make more foods.

  • How much time do you spend on your blog per day?

It depends on the day. Typically, I’ll spend about two hours a day chipping away on posts and commenting on other blogs. If I have the time and hit a writing groove, I’ll spend more hours.

  • Who convinced you to finally start your blog?

My family and friends have been very supportive of my blogging, but I think I had to convince myself.

  • What are your three top favorite personal recipes you’ve ever featured?

How I baked a cheap ham, (more for the commentary than the recipe), Korean Chap Chae and Lefse. As an honorable fourth, Stu’s recipe for a crock pot corned beef & cabbage meal.

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  • What topics would you like to cover more in your blog posts?

Local travel and exploration. I embarked on a lot of road trips and detours when I lived in North Dakota and would like to continue to explore oddities, small town cafes, dive bars in Iowa and Southern Minnesota.

  • What is one skill you wish you had?

Gardening.  

  • Where do you see your blog in 5 years?

I would like to have grown my readership and continued to connect with my readers and other writers. I also hope to remain true to my mission to write the blog I want to read. It would be a dream come true if blogging led to travel opportunities.

  • What is one dish or baked good that you’d love to master?

I would like to make better Indian food.

  • If you could cook one meal for anyone (alive or passed) who would it be for and what would it be?

My mom passed away from cancer in 2008 and never really got to try my cooking. I would love to make her knoephla soup and strawberry pie with a homemade crust.

  • What is your advice for someone thinking about starting a blog of their own?

First and foremost, be authentic.

If you see yourself blogging long-term, invest in a self-hosted WordPress site. I spent my first three years on Blogger before transferring everything to my own website. I am grateful for those who assisted me with this process (most especially Mike at Tela) and wish I had moved sooner.

Choose your blog name wisely so you don’t have to rebrand later, but don’t let this stop you from getting started.

Connect with local blogging networks, always consider bloggers as friends instead of competition, and don’t be afraid to use social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Google +. Once you publish, you’re out there, so go for it.

Eleven Random Facts:

  1. I have an irrational fear of bugs and insects.
  2. My favorite color is pink.
  3. I didn’t watch The Goonies until the end of my senior year of college.
  4. I finally visited the iconic Spoonbridge & Cherry sculpture in Minneapolis when I was 26.
  5. I don’t like frosting.
  6. The best concert I ever attended was Colin Hay playing The Pantages Theater in Minneapolis, MN in 2006.
  7. Most everything I cook at home is spicy.
  8. If I could travel anywhere tomorrow, I would like to see the redwood trees in northern California.
  9. One of the most interesting and impactful experiences of my life was living at a homeless mission in San Bernardino, CA during a May term.
  10. Growing up, my family spent a lot of time in Laguna Hills, CA and Cuyahoga Falls, OH visiting relatives. My grandparents have since passed away and my aunts and uncles moved.
  11. I like washing dishes by hand. And, just like my grandma, I find it relaxing. If I’m invited to your house, I’ll probably wash your dishes, too.

Liebster Award Tag!
I’d like to recognize the following blogs. Whether or not these bloggers have more than 1,000 followers, I don’t know but I look forward to reading whatever they write.

  • Feisty Eats: I’ve followed Sarah since I lived in North Dakota. She also shares a variety of recipes and her inspiring health journey. I feel like we’re kindred spirits in that we get joy from pet ownership.
  • Katey911: Katey is also a North Dakota blogger. I had the pleasure of meeting her briefly before moving to Iowa. She shares her thoughts on life frankly and authentically.

My Questions for My Nominees:

  1. What’s your blogging mission?
  2. What drove you to start your blog?
  3. What would you like to write about more often?
  4. What always makes you laugh?
  5. What are your top three personal favorite blog posts (not necessarily the ones that get the most views)?
  6. If you could see any musician perform live, who would that be and why?
  7. What’s your favorite hometown food or restaurant?
  8. How do you fight writer’s block?
  9. What advice do you have for new bloggers?
  10. What are three essentials you always stock in your fridge?
  11. Who’s one of your childhood heroes?

Liebster Award nominees can participate by doing the following :

  • Thank the blogger who presented you with the Liebster Award and provide a link back to his or her blog.
  • Answer the questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself, and create 11 questions for your nominees.
  • Present the Liebster Award to several other bloggers who have blogs whom you feel deserve to be noticed.
  • Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been nominated or email them.
  • Upload the Liebster Award image to your blog.
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