Review: Hello Flavour Influenster Box

I got the opportunity to receive the Hello Flavour Sample box complimentary from Influenster for testing. All the opinions in this post are my own.

Lately, Influenster has been sending me make-up samples and with my decline of wearing makeup it was getting a little annoying reviewing things I really don’t use on a regular basis. So, getting a box of spices was a breathe of fresh air because I love love LOVE cooking and of course it’s no secret I am an avid baker.

Spices

In the box I got some kitchen staples: Cinnamon and Allspice, and some new things to try: Harissa and Black Garlic.

The box came with some recommended recipes, I decided to give the Harissa chocolate cupcakes a try. The recipe seemed like a pretty solid chocolate cake recipe just with the spice. I was curious to see how this spice that I would typically use on chicken will pan out in a chocolate cupcake…

20181218_133309.jpg
20181218_135619.jpg

As expected, the batter was a nice texture that mixed and scooped well. It didn’t quite make the 24 cupcakes but I made a few of them a little big. After they cooled I decked them out with my own homemade icing and some red sugar to symbolize the kick in the cupcake.

20181218_152618.jpg

The Verdict: the initial bite isn’t bad, you just taste chocolate. However, then the aftertaste comes and it’s a disgusting sour mess. I made it through 2 bites of the cupcake and gave up. I thought that since I’m not a huge fan of eating sweets, it may have just been my taste buds so I got my boyfriend to try one when he got home. Same verdict, they were gross.

At this point it was a challenge for me to find someone who actually liked this cupcake. I brought them to work the next day and got all 6 of my coworkers to try one. Each person had one bite, and then proceeded to lick off the icing before disposing of the cupcake. (At least my icing is good baha)

To summarize: These cupcakes were gross. I tried to like then, I tried to find someone who liked them but the end result was these cupcakes ending up in the green bin.

I bet that spice in something appropriate would be delicious, it smelled great in the package. I’m disappointed that I wasted my sample in those cupcakes.

Next up I tried the Black Garlic Spice

I’ve cooked with real black garlic in the past, it has a very unique texture and flavor to it so I was very curious if this spice would be able to hold it’s own. The recommended recipe was to make a sauce for ice cream………………….. After the cupcake incident I decided to use one of my own recipes to try out the spice.

I chose one of my favorite cook books: The Bobs Burgers Burger Cook Book!

20181218_140947.jpg

I chose to make the “Bet it all on Black Garlic Burger” I’ve tried it with the real black garlic and it was indeed… Exceptional Mouth Feels…..

Bet it all on black garlic burger

Instead of using real black garlic, I substituted the package of spice in the mayonnaise. I also had to adjust the greens to kale just due to availability at the market.

20181218_180548.jpg

The Verdict: ……. Exceptional Mouth Feels. Now it’s definitely not as good as the real thing BUT for a dried spice it did capture the unique smell and taste of the black garlic without the mess of dealing with the actual garlic.

I will buy this spice, this is definitely a new staple in my spice cabinet.

20181218_181120.jpg

I didn’t go into depths for the Cinnamon and Allspice because I think we all know what those spices are like and what recipes they work the best with. I am so relieved that I used my own recipe to test the black garlic as opposed to the recommended one because I would have been quite disappointed if both samples were wasted.

I get it that Hello Flavour is trying to have innovative and different recipes… But I would think they would make and test out a recipe before promoting it? Just my thought on it.

Understanding Mononucleosis

So to say that the past couple of months have been challenging is an understatement… It all started at the beginning of October; we tragically lost our little girl Clover at the age of 2 and a half. (She’s below helping me mow the lawn back August <3 )

Clover

Next up: about a week later my father in law was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Then of course the #3 was that I caught Mono… Grown woman caught the “kissing disease” I was thrilled. After a quick scan of the internet to better understand what is going on in my mouth and body I realized that there’s really not a lot of information available..

Things I learned from the internet:

  1. It’s spread by saliva.

  2. You get a fever.

  3. You get tired.

  4. You’re gonna be tired for awhile.

  5. Sore throat and headache.

Understanding Mono

Things I experienced:

  1. My throat was on fire.

  2. My lymph nodes swelled up so big it felt like there was 2 golf balls in my neck. It horrifically restricted my vocal cords.

  3. (TMI) I was producing so much phlegm every few hours I had to vomit to relieve myself. It was easy though- just took a deep breath, and away we went!

  4. Oh yeah I was tired… One day according to my Fitbit I slept for 16 hours.

  5. My head was on fire and no amount of drugs helped. Ice pack would bring some relief.

  6. The flu like symptoms (fever) were the easiest part of the whole experience.

  7. No brain power, couldn’t even read… I spent a week and a half playing idle games on my tablet when I wasn’t sleeping. Killed me.

Things I learned from my doctor and nurses I worked with:

  1. Yes, it is spread by saliva but it can be contracted as easily as touching a shopping cart. (infected person touches face then touches cart; I then proceed to touch cart and touch face) This realization on how easy it spreads was a relief, because looking at the internet information made me more confused and frustrated than anything: how did this happen? I don’t share drinks, I don’t kiss random strangers… How did this happen?

  2. You essentially have tonsillitis without being able to medicate it with antibiotics. The only thing you can do to recover is rest and hydration because it’s viral and not bacterial.

  3. Working an 8 hour day is impossible, and I was immediately pulled from work.

I couldn’t believe the extreme symptoms from Mono, with no ability to mediate it aside from some pain killers. The information available really sugar coated the whole experience- it was a personal hell.

I wanted to take some time to talk about it because it was so much more extreme than anything that is available on WebMD or whatever you choose to use to try to diagnose yourself while you wait at a walk-in clinic.

The biggest thing I learned through the whole experience was rest and hydration is the most important thing. Even after my energy came back, I could only do something for an hour or two before I needed a rest.

I was so lucky that I started to feel human again after about a week and a half when my taste buds came back I thought I was in the clear. Unfortunately, my doctor didn’t feel the same way. Giving that it’s a serious viral infection she only wanted me to start back up at work 3 days a week.. So for the rest of 2018 I’m only working Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s to give myself a day to recover after a day at work. It’s a weird feeling after working full time or very close to since I was 16, and I can’t take advantage of the days off like I would like to… But it’s giving me time to reflect and brainstorm life. I’ve been told by loved ones and physicians who barely know me that some of these extreme symptoms may have come on because I push myself too much… That was really food for thought because I’ve always been proud of my busy lifestyle. I guess as you get older it’s not as easy to keep going in all directions.

The rest of this year I’m going to work on improving myself physically and mentally and hopefully something like this won’t happen again.. (thankfully you can only get mono once in your life) I still can’t exercise much so I’m considering taking up light yoga and meditation.

One last thing I will say as well, I am so grateful to have a family doctor. In Nova Scotia it’s a rarity right now- most are stuck on wait lists because our family doctors are retiring faster than they are being recruited. I don’t know where I would be without her right now and as much as I know I need to tone down the amount of things I take on, I’d really like to help with attracting family doctors to Nova Scotia in the future.

Wedding Donuts

One of my brides this year wanted to do something a little bit different. She wanted donuts for her wedding day. I am always up for a new challenge so I was happy to accept!

Since I don’t normally bake donuts myself I ordered them from a local bakery in bulk and just took on the decorating and display. I was incredibly happy with this choice. The donuts were consistent and took to the icing quite well and due to their stickier nature I was able to transport them right on the stand.

Wedding Donuts

The recipe I used for the glaze was simple- icing sugar and milk. I combined those 2 ingredients together until I got the thickness I needed to dip them. I was hoping for a dark burgundy for some of them, unfortunately the icing didn’t really take to the colouring… But I was still happy with the overall look of the display!

Wedding Donuts

To keep some dessert tradition in place for this event we also did a “donut” cake for cutting. I matched it to the pink/burgundy donuts and garnished it with some silk roses.

"donut" cake for cutting

I’m hopeful this dessert choice will trend as it was so much fun! I’m personally not a big sweets person (to eat) but if I showed up at a wedding that had donuts I’d be thrilled!

Friends Cupcakes

I got the honor to do a batch of FRIENDS inspired cupcakes!

These were for a bachelorette party which was a nice change of pace from doing * ahem * body part cakes for these sort of events.

This post contains affiliate links for some of my favorite products.

FRIENDS inspired cupcakes

We went with some awesome quotes- my favorites were “PIVOT” and “It’s the humidity!”. I am a huge FRIENDS fan and the Pivot episode is easily my favorite, I still die of laughter every time I watch it.

The humidity quote spoke to me, not only because I have the same issue as Monica when it comes to my hair, but making these cupcakes was in a classic Nova Scotia humid summer.

FRIENDS cupcakes

Below is a few items I used to make the cupcakes.

Pizza Cake

One of my best friend's birthday just went by, so I got to make him a cake to celebrate! We chose a pizza inspired cake as it's his favorite food.

This post contains affiliate links for some of my favorite products.

20180824_204928.jpg

It's a 10" chocolate cake with a nice "bread" or crust coloured icing. To get the cheese to look real I stuck a chunk of fondant through a cheese grater. Overall this was an easy cake to make, I am very pleased with how it turned out. It was a perfect addition to our celebrations! 

Racap: Wedding Season 2018

Now that it’s officially fall it brings “wedding season” to an end. Sure there’s always a few straggler fall and winter weddings but there’s no doubt that the season is summer.

Looking back at this season, it was my busiest yet and by far the most challenging! I took on new ideas and experimented with lots of different techniques. I am incredibly pleased with every cake that came out of my kitchen.

Succulent wedding cake

My largest project this season was without a doubt the couple who wanted an individual cake on each guest table. They had a 2 tiered cake for themselves and the wedding party and ten (10) individual cakes to pass out. I found it funny that their wedding planner had no idea their intentions for the dessert so when I showed up with the load she was very surprised! Needless to say she was a great planner and was quick on her feet to arrange a plan.

Individual wedding party cakes
Donut tower

The most unique wedding I did was these delicious donuts! To keep consistency I ordered the donuts from a local bakery and decorated them to match the wedding colours. For the bride and groom to cut I had a bundt style cake that matched the donuts.

Donut cake

My last cake of the season was by far my favorite. But there was no competition really since it was for one of my best friends. She wanted carrot cake with cream cheese icing and although I’ve been known to compare cream cheese icing to translucent sludge I was definitely able to accommodate to her request.

Carrot cupcakes

The wedding was very intimate and matched the couple’s personality perfectly. I was so honored to be a part of their special day. My phone is full of smiling faces from that evening. It was perfect.

I am starting to book for next year now, getting pricing sorted out for the new year. I am very excited to see what 2019 couples will bring to the table!

Review: Bap House Korean Kitchen

I snuck away from my kitchen over the weekend to check out one of Halifax's new restaurants with some good friends. We tried out Bap House on Quinpool Rd. 

It was a little tricky to see at first, Quinpool can be a little congested but once you know what you're looking for you can distinguish it from the busy street.

Immediately when we walked in we were greeted by a very enthusiastic woman, I'm assuming she was the owner. She took the time to tell us about the menu, how the food is prepared and even how to eat it in an authentic Korean manner.

The menu is short and sweet. They serve Bibimbap as the main course, however due to the nature of the bibimbap you could easily have a different dish every time you visit. The dish is completely customized to your pallet. 

Bap House Menu

This restaurant takes a lot of pride in their food, they don't use any MSG, the veggies used are the ones locally in stock for the season and it's all made fresh.

The presentation of the meal was right out of a magazine, all 4 of the dishes we ordered were arranged just like this.

The presentation of the meal was right out of a magazine, all 4 of the dishes we ordered were arranged just like this.

I ordered the noodle Bibimbap combo which came with Miso soup and I got the dish with beef, egg and spicy sauce- we were instructed to mix it up with the chop sticks and consume it with the spoon (thank goodness I am terrible with chop sticks)

Everything about this meal was delicious, the spice wasn't overpowering so you could genuinely enjoy the taste of every ingredient and the woman came back to check on us a number of times.

She was even generous enough to make us a set of dumplings for free to sample. Let me tell you I could easily eat 20 of those things- Delicious.

My sole critique was that my ahem... hearty North American tummy was not filled by this delicious dish, I could have easily eaten 3 more bowls however for the $14 before tax and tip price tag that really wasn't a good idea. I would recommend coming to this restaurant if you need something to get you between lunch and dinner, around 2PM when you need a snack. Since the food is preservative free and fresh there's no guilt for having a mid afternoon snack here.

Life is a Picnic: Marriage Survival Kit

One of my best friends is getting married this month! Lots of work has been put into the big day. Her and her fiancee have been together for years and years so when it came to choosing a gift for her bridal shower it was a little tricky- these aren't your traditional bride and groom. They are quite established and don't need anything. They honestly didn't even bother with a registry. So I wanted to get them something they could use along with something thoughtful, I headed over to my favorite site Pinterest and started doing some research.

Life is a Picnic: Marriage Survival Kit. I made the card envelope into the title of the gift.

Life is a Picnic: Marriage Survival Kit. I made the card envelope into the title of the gift.

I stumbled across Creative "Try" Alls Blog where they had an adorable picnic inspired themed bridal shower gift.

I loved it so I took it and ran with it! (Of course tweaking it and making it my own)

I used a fabric cooler to pack everything together- my main focus was making sure everything had a useful purpose and a meaningful one.

 

Marriage Survival Kit

I filled it with 4 picnic related items plus a book I grabbed off Amazon.

1. Sandwich containers with a note: Fresh is Best, Don't Let your Love Go Stale.

2. 2 Water bottles and;

3. Crystal Light Lemon Lime water flavoring (Because I couldn't find the lemonade mixes ANYWHERE in the grocery store...) and a note: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade.

Marriage Survival Kit

4. An Ice pack with a note: Keep Your Cool

Marriage Survival Kit

Lastly I found this adorable book on Amazon and there's a link below if you'd like to check it out (I may receive a small commission if you purchase the book from my link.)

Marriage Survival Kit

The thing that I loved about this book was that it wasn't just about "advice" but it also intergrated well wishes and happy thoughts. Since I, nor most of the rest of our friends group are not married yet I wanted something that would be mainly about wishing the couple well and something that they could look back at and smile. This book was the winner of that.

Marriage Survival Kit

All together this made an adorable and affordable gift with TONS of usefulness.

Practical Bridal Shower Gifts