Flavor Your World!

Today we celebrate National Ketchup Day! Are you someone who loves ketchup? Or do you hate it? Or do you like it every now and then? If you’re like my 9-year-old, he likes to drown his fries, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and burgers in ketchup. However, he drowns his food in the plain ol’ boring everyday ketchup. Us adults in the house like to spice things up from time to time and we use Hela ketchup! If you were reading our blog early on, you’ll remember we made meatballs with the original Hela Curry Spice Ketchup! Those were soooo good! And if you want a refresher for the recipe or you’re new and haven’t seen it, you can find that recipe here. And just for fun, to water your mouth, some pictures from that blog post below! Muhahaha!

But hey! The Hela ketchup is not just for beef, it’s great on any grilled meat – hotdogs, steak, bratwurst and more – even pizza! Hela comes in a variety of flavors and heat! From BBQ Sweet N Zesty to Bold & Spicy Chili, there’s something for everyone to try! Hela, based in Germany since 1905, is a family owned spice company. Since 1963, they have been manufacturing delicious table sauces.

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What’s great to know is this: most Hela sauces are gluten-free, lactose-free and are suitable for vegetarians (Source: Hela Website). Please refer to specific product information, depending on the sauce/ketchup. Many of their products are also Kosher. Just be sure to reference the packaging to be sure!

Hela creates some amazing flavors for your taste buds. Their special seasoning and unique taste make their products incomparable to other ketchup brands and sauces out in the market today. For instance, the Hela Bratwurst Sauce pictured above, has a fine-fruity spiciness and tastes great with more than just bratwurst! Dip your fries and other side dish items in the mouth watering tasty goodness!

Now, after trying Hela, you’re going to want to replace your regular, old, boring ketchup for this! We triple hotdog dare you, with Hela sauce on top!

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Let’s Get Refreshed!

First off, we are all well and we are still here! It’s been quite a time since we posted last, but we hope to change that! We’ve had a lot of changes and projects going on over here and it’s now time to settle down a bit and come back to why we are here in the first place! To share the love of gourmet products and food your way! So let’s get REFRESHED and start this journey where we left off!

Secondly, stay tuned… soon we will have someone else helping out here with some blog posts and such! We can’t wait to keep up with everyone again and sharing what we love most – ALL THINGS GOURMET!

So without further ado, how about I share a little recipe today? The weather here in Michigan is HOT HOT HOT… like, we had winter winter cold cold and then SNAP, maybe 24 hours of spring and then we have been slapped with hot summer-like days in the face, literally! Earlier this week the car thermometer read 97°F as the outdoor temp! I don’t mind the heat, but someone please take the humidity!

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Now… time to get refreshed with all this heat and humidity! WE LOVE our Hero Nectar, and there is no better time to get refreshed with all natural ingredients than now in this heat!

Peach Hero Nectar Summer Spritzer

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Peach Hero Nectar
  • 2 cups lemonade
  • 2 cups peach flavored sparkling water

Directions:
Mix all ingredients together in a large glass pitcher. Place ice and fresh raspberries in a glass. Pour mixture over ice and raspberries! ENJOY! 

You can totally mix and match this recipe up and add your own flavor and twists – that’s the beauty of these recipes! AND… if you get a chance to make this recipe, please do share with us! We’d love to see your pictures or your concoctions! And tell us what you put in your recipe!

Taking a Walk with Mr. Stanley.

I love mint. I also love dark chocolate. I love these Magnificent Mint Chocolate Walking Sticks made by Mr. Stanley’s. So you’ll find me walking around with these from time to time. I can’t just eat one either, I must have like 3 or 4, maybe more (yes, more)? I am addicted to anything minty and anything dark chocolate, so when I found these little treat sticks, I knew I was in trouble! These are perfect for me when I am running errands and I’m trying to get out of the house, but I also want something minty – but not gum. I can grab these little sticks and get the kids in the car and away I go! They are not messy, no wrappers to deal with, since I grab them straight from the box. I’d show you the inside of the box, but it’s – uh… empty! (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!) The box itself states, “Tasty Twists of Pure Chocolate Indulgence”, and I have to agree… they are tasty twists of pure indulgence!

If you are not a fan of mint or you like a different flavor, these little sticks come in orange flavor as well!

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I love Mr. Stanley’s classic packaging with the stripes and fun fonts! When I grabbed this box off the shelf at the store, I sort of felt like I was getting myself ready to have some fun! And I have! Because not only did I find the Magnificent Mint Chocolate Walking Sticks, I also found the fun Chocolate Matches with Popping Candy! Seriously! How fun can we make candy? I found the white chocolate matches – and not only do I think they are fun and funky, my kids love biting into them and feeling the little popping pops in their mouth!

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The Chocolate Matches come in a fun box that, why yes, resembles a box of matches! These are matches the kids CAN play with! I am not endorsing any such thing, but these chocolate matches are sure not to spark any flame or fire! But they will spark curiosity fun with kids and candy lovers alike!

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The chocolate matches are probably double the size, maybe a little more, than the mint sticks. But either way, they both are delicious and tons of fun to eat and share! And not to worry, the popping candy in the matches aren’t obnoxiously poppy, they are just enough pop to make you think of the popping sounds and start of a wood fire!

While I have the white chocolate matches, these also come in different varieties: milk chocolate & salted caramel, and Earl Grey dark chocolate matches! Note that these other flavors do *not* have popping candy, but they do have some unique flavors! So there you have it! Some delicious fun from Mr. Stanley’s! These are fun for any occasion, or no occasion at all! Just get them and have fun! But they do make great gifts for young and old, and their fun and classic packaging makes it so inviting to open up and share! Not all gourmet chocolate is this fun!

 

Getting Saucy.

What better way to celebrate National Spaghetti Day than to introduce to you all a recipe for some homemade pasta sauce? I am getting tired of the same old watered down, store-bought, flavorless pasta sauces. Making your own homemade sauce is the most simple thing to do and it’s not very time-consuming at all. I have to admit, when I did pull this recipe, I didn’t realize that the sauce DOES need to simmer for about 2 hours, but it turned out fine – my husband and I weren’t quite hungry at the time I was making the sauce, and the kids wanted something else besides spaghetti, so we fed them and patiently waited for our sauce to simmer. And it was WELL. WORTH. THE. WAIT!

The following recipe was taken from AllRecipes.com and I have adapted it just a bit. I used Italian sausage instead of using ground beef. I figure, go big or go home. Spice up your life a little bit! And I’d like to introduce to you Oro Di Parma Tomato Paste. I used this tomato paste with the recipe below.

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This tomato paste comes four different ways: triple concentrated, seasoned with vegetables, seaonsed with basil and spicy hot. I also used Oro Di Parma Chopped Tomatoes for my chopped tomatoes required for the recipe. So without further delay, I will provide the following recipe with my changes!

Easy Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion
  • 2 1/2 cups Oro Di Parma Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 1/3 cans (6 ounces) Oro Di Parma Tomato Paste (these tubes are 7.02 ounces, it’s triple concentrated, so I used about 4 ounces, just over half a tube)
  • 1 (4.5 ounce) can sliced mushrooms (I actually used a full 8 ounce can!)

Directions:

  1. Brown Italian sausage over medium heat. Drain off fat.
  2. In a large pot, combine Italian sausage, salt, sugar, oregano, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and mushrooms. Simmer at a low heat setting for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Cook pasta accordingly to package directions. Drain. Serve sauce over spaghetti.
  4. Enjoy and Happy National spaghetti Day!

 

As with all sauces, at least when it comes to pasta dishes, the longer it sits, the better it tastes. I made this the other night and I had leftovers and the sauce was even better the next day! Use this sauce for making lasagna as well! And as with all sauces, it will take time to tweak it and make it your own. While this tomato sauce came out excellent, there are a few things I’d maybe change-up for next time. I might add some fresh chopped garlic, more fresh items and what not, but delicious!

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Thank You for the Fun #TravelingSanta!

As promised, we wanted to share our love and fun of #TravelingSanta!

The children will miss #TravelingSanta until next year! Thank you #TravelingSanta for the fun we had this past Christmas holiday season! Farewell, until we meet again!

We hope you enjoy our little video of the adventures we all had together!

German New Year’s Traditions.

We are almost to the New Year, we are about to ring in 2018! With that, I thought I would look into some German New Year’s traditions to share with you all. There are actually several things that popped up in my search, so here are just a few of them that I thought I would pass your way! Interesting stuff! For instance, Germans called New Year, “Silvester“.

Cast Some Lead.
Say what now? Yes. Go melt some lead. Many people will melt a small piece of lead or tin over candlelight in a spoon or small pot. After being melted, the lead is then immediately cooled in cold water. As the shape sets quickly, people will interpret the shapes and symbols to predict how the New Year will be predicted for that person.

“Dinner for One”.
Known for its line, “The same procedure as every year, James!”, this is a British Cabernet sketch that has become a cult classic in Germany. It’s a short skit about a tipsy butler and Miss Sophie, a woman celebrating her 90th birthday. The guest list includes imaginary friends, all of those who have died off. If you are interested in watching it, here you go, all in German:

Fireworks.
Grab some fireworks and go make some noise! A LOT OF NOISE! Send the old year out and bring the new one in with lots of noise in the form of fireworks! In traditional days before fireworks, bringing the noise would mean bring your drums and maracas out!

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New Year’s Cards.
In Germany, and many European countries, sending a New Year’s card is done to wish your friends and family a Happy New Year. This is called Neujahrskarte. A lot of times these cards are used to tell friends and family about the past events in the last year. Germans prefer to send a Neujahrskarte over a Christmas card.

Fondue.
Get your cheese melt on and dip meats, veggies, breads and what not in some oozy gooey hot melted cheese! Germans will enjoy a nice traditional pot of fondue to celebrate the New Year.

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Have a Beverage.
Several types of beverages served during this time of year can be the Feuerzangenbowle (aka “flaming fire tongs punch”), as seen below that we did earlier this fall, and then Glühwein, or hot mulled wine. Grab a glass of Sekt (German sparkling wine/champagne), beer or wine.

So no matter where you are, we hope you are going to have a safe and happy New Year’s celebration! What are some of your favorite traditions? Share with us!

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Thank you to the following sources for the information:

Travelin’ Man.

Well, Christmas is almost here and I have to say some fun has been had leading up to the big day! Between sharing stocking stuffer and gift ideas with you all here, our Riegelein #TravelingSanta, all the way from Germany, has been having some fun of his own on Twitter. He’s been seen all around our lovely Mitten State and he’s taken residence in my home, car and lodging wherever my family goes! He refers to my family as his host family, which really is kind of cute. While he’s fun to travel with, he can be a little difficult at times as he doesn’t care much to be in the sun too long, nor does he like to be near heat.

So as we all prepare to get our final holiday to-do lists complete and shopping done, I thought it would be fun to recap a little bit of what #TravelingSanta has been up to and then maybe share what’s up next for #TravelingSanta.

#TravelingSanta had some reflecting moments in Cadillac, Michigan.

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#TravelingSanta got to learn the game of hockey during his stay with us. Although we are NOT a travel team, we still do travel quite a bit. This time he was in Holland, Michigan with us at Griff’s Ice House West.

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#TravelingSanta in Holland, Michigan at Griff’s Ice House West.

#TravelingSanta is having a good time in the car with us, his host family, on the way to St. Ignace, Michigan where yes, again, hockey! This was the Battle at the Bridge hockey tournament.

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During Thanksgiving break, #TravelingSanta went for a hike, did some chores around the house and gave some advice to those who needed turkey help.

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#TravelingSanta celebrated National Gingerbread Cookie Day.

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#TravelingSanta helped us pick out our Christmas tree this year.

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#TravelingSanta enjoyed our first big snow storm of the season!

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And #TravelingSanta asked me to share some photos of him and our Elf on the Shelf, Buddy. They’ve been talking with each other quite a bit lately. They are good friends and they are keeping very close tabs on my boys, making sure they are behaving!

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And last but not least, only seen here, #TravelingSanta wanted me to share these photos of him with some of our many ornaments from our White House Christmas Ornament collection from the White House Historical Association.

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So what’s next for #TravelingSanta? I’m not sure yet, I guess we shall just have to wait and see what Christmas holds for all of us! Stay tuned to Twitter and see what happens! So far he’s been a really great guest and he’s kept my kids occupied, however, one child in particular keeps giving him some kind of crazed look… so not sure what that is all about!

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#TravelingSanta enjoying some chocolate and cookie samples.

“It’s The Mozart Chocolate!”

I had the opportunity to help pass out chocolate samples and make some custom chocolate bags for customers this weekend at a local grocery store just down the road from my home. There was a variety of chocolates to be sampled, along with cinnamon stars and some non-alcoholic glüh-punsch. But it was the chocolate that people were eyeing the most as they walked into the entrance of the store.

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One particular chocolate brand caught the eyes of several people walking past our samples. Just about every person who recognized the packaging and the image on the front all said the same thing, “I know that chocolate! It’s the Mozart chocolate!” If you are a chocolate connoisseur, you may recognize the red packaging or the famous face of the composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then you know Reber Chocolate Specialties. And if you know Reber, then you know the Genuine Reber Mozart-Kugeln!3510-Mozart-Kugel It’s a delicious and exquisite piece of chocolate! The Reber Mozart Kugeln has a creamy hazelnut chocolate nougat filling with freshly ground almonds and pistachio marzipan, enrobed twice with milk and dark chocolate. If you have never had one, you need to go find one! It’s amazing! You don’t have to take my word for it, if you were with me on Saturday, you would have heard people raving to their family members about the Reber chocolates they enjoyed while visiting and traveling throughout Europe.

Above I added a stock photo of the Mozart Kugeln, and to show you that YES, it really does look like that on the inside, I shall provide you proof of my dissected confection! You can truly, actually SEE the milk chocolate under that top layer of dark chocolate!

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Reber has been around for 150 years making their confections of sophisticated taste. With a long history in Munich, Reber’s products are all made without artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Reber uses the best ingredients for all their products, from fresh pistachios to the finest praline. It was so fun listening to people talk about where they were when they were enjoying their Reber chocolate! Some people found Reber in Germany or Austria and others found the delicious confections in airports and shops along the way. There was a woman from out-of-town visiting her parents and when she saw the Reber packaging, she immediately started sharing memories of her past adventures overseas and how she tried this chocolate and she absolutely enjoyed it. I have to say, I really enjoyed being a part of conversations of the people who came in and out of the store this past weekend! It’s really neat how something like chocolate or other food or beverage item can bring memories back to people.

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Reber has a variety of different chocolates to choose from besides the Mozart Kugeln, they do offer chocolate bars and other specialty chocolate pieces with varying fillings. There are many things to choose from when it comes to Reber! There is something to please everyone! Earlier this year I did talk about the Reber Fascination Box, that is a great gift to give anyone: boss, family or friend! So you have options to choose from when it comes to Reber! Perhaps you have never tried it – if you haven’t, it may become a new favorite! Perhaps you may pass this along to a friend, loved one or co-worker and maybe you’ll remind them of some special moments in their life!

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The History of the Cinnamon Star.

It’s a common holiday item that can be seen on store shelves or fresh out of the oven in kitchens. Have you ever wondered what is the cinnamon star, also known as zimtsterne in German, all about? And did you know at one point cinnamon stars were considered illegal in Germany? And speaking of “points”, the traditional cinnamon star has 6 points! Let’s dig into the history of the cinnamon star!

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The cinnamon star arrives during the Christmas holiday season and is offered during the Advent season. Made with almonds and cinnamon, these little stars are full of flavor. Back in the 1600s, cinnamon in Europe was expensive and a rare spice and almonds had to be imported. Food items such as these were usually considered reserved for royalty. Since cinnamon and almonds were expensive and scarce, this helps offer a reason as to why these two staples were only enjoyed one time a year at special occasions like Christmas. Traditionally these zimtsternes are baked before Advent, stored and shared during the holiday season. (Source: The Spruce)

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And so what is this about cinnamon stars being illegal in Germany? I stumbled upon this NPR archive when searching for the history of cinnamon stars. Well, back in 2006, a scientist in a government food safety lab smelled something strange. The scent was bitter and strong and it turned out to be coumarin.

Medical Definition of coumarin: a toxic white crystalline lactone C9H6O2 with an odor of new-mown hay found in plants or made synthetically and used especially in perfumery and as the parent compound in various anticoagulant agents (as warfarin); also : a derivative of this compound (Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online)

Coumarin found in cinnamon can have a toxic effect on the human liver. The scientist at the government food safety lab found coumarin levels up to 40 times higher than what is traditionally allowed. By the time it was discovered how much coumarin was in the Christmas cookie, many of them were already packaged and placed upon store shelves waiting to be purchased. Officials hemmed and hawed on what to do about the situation and in the end decided to alert consumers not to eat too many or too much of any food with cinnamon in it. You can bet that political lobbyists have had their way and sway within the German government. Coumarin levels in German food was supposed to drop to legal levels after that particular holiday season. Rest assured, cinnamon stars are no longer illegal in Germany, but what an interesting turn of events that happened just over 10 years ago! (Source: National Public Radio)

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Take it from me, and my little elves, we all agree that the cinnamon stars are delicious and we promise not to eat too many at one time! As most traditional treats I’ve been posting about this holiday season, these cinnamon stars are delish with coffee or tea! These specific cinnamon stars are made by Wicklein.

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Melting Away. Literally…

It’s cold and snowy out. Or maybe it’s cold and rainy out where you live. Or maybe it’s just cold. Or maybe you’re just in a blah mood and need a pick-me-up. You don’t really feel like tea, but you don’t really want coffee. The next best option for a happy medium to enjoy would be hot cocoa.

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The next time you want to prepare yourself a nice cup of hot cocoa, reach for the following item: Butlers Chocolates Hot Chocolate Drink.

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Without the obvious risk of myself repeating myself, but in a different way…

How are you going to enjoy National Cocoa Day, which happens to be TODAY? I’ll tell you how: Butlers Chocolates Hot Chocolate Drink.

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I have to admit. I was skeptical. What was this going to taste like? Does this really work? Does it really taste good? It seems a little too good to be true. Yes, I am that crazy lady who stashes the Butlers Chocolates in her cupboard and hides the stuff from the children, and well… now I have something else to hide! Yes! These little pucks of chocolate joy are AH. MAZE. ZZZZING! A cup of smooth, hot, chocolate silky delight is only a matter of minutes away on your stove top. Simply heat some milk or cream on the stove top and add one (or two) of these chocolate discs? Pucks? Awesomeness? Let it melt thoroughly, pour into a mug and ENJOY! Sit back and just MELT AWAY with this hot cocoa! I truly do not use words such as “divine” – very often. Today I shall. This hot chocolate beverage is DIVINE! After you prepare yourself a cup of this divine mixture, you will then realize why this might be hidden away from the children… would they appreciate this deliciousness? Is that even a word? I guess it is, because by the time you read this – I’ve spell checked myself! 😉

 

If you have just come in from the cold – maybe you were sledding, skiing, snowmobiling, building a snowman, shoveling your driveway… and you’re freezing cold… time to make up some of this hot chocolate drink. You’ll melt away as you sip this and defrost yourself inside!

 

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If you’re looking for some facts and information, and actual sources cited where it is explained that cocoa is nutritious for you, look no further than this link from the Michigan State University Extension. Cocoa is known for having antioxidants and being good for heart health. Cocoa can also help aid with memory and of course… MAKES YOU HAPPY! So check out that link from MSU Extension and get the lowdown on cocoa today!

This morning we’ve got a winter storm warning in our area, hoping that people drive safely today and when I am all set and done with being out and about today, I will come home and enjoy some peace and solitude in the form of hot cocoa!

 

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