Friday, May 22, 2015

National BBQ Month: Stubb's BBQ Sauce [Giveaway]

May is National Barbecue Month! May is perfect month for barbecuing because it is just warm enough to enjoy being outside, but not too hot yet that being outside becomes uncomfortable. At our house, as soon as it's above 40 degrees, we grilling almost every night. Stubb's is celebrating National BBQ Month by bringing you the recipe below and a giveaway for 4 FREE coupons for Stubb's BBQ sauce!


Craft-made Stubb's BBQ sauce is the leader in authentic BBQ sauces, rubs and marinades. This is one of the few nationally available BBQ sauce brand that is Gluten-Free Certified (carrier the Gluten-Free Organization Cerficiation seal) and contains no high-fructose corn syrup. Most of the time, high-fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient in national BBQ sauce brands. Stubb's is also working with the Non-GMO Project to verify its line of sauces. It is great to see a company put effort to making the ingredients healthier and more natural.

Stubb's has a great selection of recipes to incorporate their BBQ sauces into every day family recipes. My favorite recipe is the Spicy Shrimp Kabobs. I love grilled shrimp and I love grilled pineapple. Pairing these two together with Stubb's BBQ sauce is a great recipe for a weekend grilled dinner or a family gathering. Of course, you can substitute any of the other Stubb's BBQ sauces if you prefer less spiciness.

Spicy Shrimp Kabobs

Ingredients
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
1/2 Stubb's Pork Marinade
8 wooden or metal skewers

Directions
1. If using wood skewers, soak in water for at least 15 minutes.
2. Thread shrimp, pineapple, and red bell pepper in an alternating pattern on the skewer.
3. Prepare grill for direct high heat cooking.
4. Oil grates and place skewers directly over the heat.
5. Grill for 5-10 minutes total, basting with Stubb's Pork Marinade, flipping often until shrimp are pink and cooked throughout (shrimp cook very quickly over direct high heat). Baste the skewers after each flip.


Enter below for a chance to win 4 FREE Stubb's Coupons.

Please use the Giveaway Tools entry form. Open to US only. All entries will be verified. Duplicate, incomplete and invalid entries will be deleted. 

Giveaway
4 Stubb's BBQ Sauce Coupons ($15 ARV)


Disclosure: I received the product to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are honest and are my own. All Natural Katie is not responsible for companies/sponsors who fail to ship the prize.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Have You Heard of Yacon Syrup? [Review]

When I was pregnant and reading about pregnancy nutrition, I realized the harm that granulated sugar does to our body. I avoided sugar (granulated, cane, etc.) throughout my pregnancy, using more natural forms like honey. When my toddler started eating solid foods, I also limited the amount of sugar he eats. The only white sugar he consumes is organic cane sugar that I add to healthy muffins and cookies in a reduced amount. Otherwise, I use raw honey or organic maple syrup as a natural sweetener. Yacon Syrup is a great natural substitute for sugar or molasses and is full of prebiotics and fiber.


Organic Yacon Syrup     
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

The Good
The Not So Good
Pure and concentrated
USDA Certified Organic seal not present
Natural sugar alternative
Comes in a plastic bottle





What is Yacon Syrup? Yacon Syrup is a natural sweetener that is extracted from the yacon plant that grows in the Andes Mountains. This plant and its sweetener were originally used by the Incas. Today, people in Peru eat yacon for its nutritional properties: low calorie and low sugar contents. Yacon syrup is extracted from the roots of the yacon plant. The syrup contains 50% fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which do not increase blood glucose. The syrup is made with an evaporator, similar to how maple syrup is made. Yacon syrup is thick and dark in color, having a taste of molasses and caramelized sugar. The syrup does has a rich, sweet taste to it, so a little goes a long way.


Yacon Syrup is great for those who are eating a vegan diet and are avoiding honey and cane sugar (which might not necessarily be vegan if not grown in vegan soil). I recommend reaching out to Peak Fusion to ensure the yacon plant is grown in vegan soil.

The description states that the syrup is organic, though there is no USDA Certified Organic seal nor is there a certifying agent stated. I hope Peak Fusion gains this certification and adds it to the label.

Usage: Yacon Syrup can be substituted for most, if not all, sweeteners. Granulated sugar (whether white or brown sugar) has a specific role in some baked goods and recipes, so you might want to experiment with the substitution. Otherwise, I can see replacing granulated sugar, natural liquid sugars (like honey and maple syrup) with yacon syrup. Yacon syrup is pretty concentrated, so start out with a little bit and build up. For baked goods, it might take some experiments to determine the right substitution amount.

I have not yet tried yacon syrup in baking, but plan on using it as the molasses substitute (1 tbsp) in my healthy muffin recipe. Yacon syrup is about the consistency of molasses, especially out of the refrigerator. Yacon syrup is also sweeter than molasses, so I would start off with 1.5 tsp.

Results: I used yacon syrup to sweeten tea, yogurt and oatmeal. Just 1 teaspoon was enough sweetener for one medium cup of tea, 1 cup of yogurt, and 1 cup of cooked oatmeal. I try to limit how much sugar, even natural sugar, I consume, so 1 teaspoon was more than enough sweetness for me. The syrup melted well into the hot tea and hot oatmeal. It also mixed well into the yogurt, but I had to try to drizzle it so I avoided a big glob of syrup.

My Thoughts: Yacon Syrup is okay. The syrup is a good substitute for sugars and other sweeteners and I like that it does not cause a spike in glucose. The flavor is pretty strong when taking 1/2 tsp by itself (I did try that!). The flavor is not as prominent when mixed in with other items. In the end, it is a sweetener and made from 50% fructose, so consuming it in small moderation is best for health.

I received some recipes for the yacon syrup. The marinade recipe caught my eye, though once I read how much yacon syrup would be required (3/4 cup), I realized the marinade is a little expensive for my taste. The bottle comes in size 8 oz, which means I would use almost all of the bottle to make a marinade that would mostly not be consumed. I will probably stick to using this syrup in small amounts since an 8 oz bottle costs almost $20.

If you are comfortable with the cost, give the yacon syrup a try!




Disclosure: I received the product to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own and are honest.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

BakeitFun Silicone Baking Mat [Review]

Silicone baking mats seem to be flooding the kitchen accessories market. Silpat is not the only brand of non-stick silicone baking mats available. Several competitors are offering silicone baking mats that rival the high quality of the classic Silpat mats. Easy to clean, easy to use, and multi-purpose, a silicone baking mat is a must have kitchen accessory. The secret to silicone baking mats is that they are non-stick, which makes them easy to clean. BakeitFun premium silicone mat is professional German grade mat that will save you time and money and make baking fun again!


BakeitFun Silicone Baking Mat     
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.

The Good
The Not So Good
Easy to clean
Not recommended for broiling (500 F)
Non-toxic, food grade silicone
Can stain when roasting vegetables
Affordable




I received the BakeitFun Silicone Baking Mat to review. The inside of the baking mat is made from reinforced fiberglass mesh covered with premium food grade silicone, which provides great heat distribution. This mat is offered in several different colors, hence the name "bake it fun." I like that silicone baking mats are offered in different colors. It makes it fun to use them and brightens my day.

The size of the baking mat is 16 1/2" x 11". This is the half sheet size baking mat. It fit my half sheet baking pan, but not exactly to the edges (see photo above).


BakeitFun silicone baking mats can withstand temperatures from -40 F (-40 C) to 450 F (230 C). They can be used straight out of the freezer and taken to the microwave or oven. You can pretty much cook anything in them up to the broiling point. The broiling point on my oven is 500 F, so I would probably not use the mat at this high temperature. I have broiled with the mat a couple of times for just a few minutes, but I do not plan on doing this very often.

Usage: The silicone baking mat goes directly on the baking pan or cookie sheet and whatever is being baked goes on top of the mat. The mat is made with non-stick, FDA food grade silicone, so nothing sticks! I can attest to this because I have baked a lot of items on this mat: scones, cookies, roasted potatoes, roasted root vegetables, bread, etc. After cleaning the mat, air dry and store. I like to roll up the mat and put a rubber band around it. I keep the rolled up mat in a drawer.

Results: The silicone baking mat does a great job of baking and roasting foods and baked goods evenly. I have not experienced any issues with burning (aside from when I kept the item in the oven to long). That foods that usually stick to my non-stick baking pans, came right off the BakeitFun silicone baking mat. The mat was also easy to clean. When I was baking bread or cookies, I did not even need to clean that mat with soap!

I have noticed that when roasting vegetables on the mat, the mat does get stained a light brown color, which does not come off with soap and scrubbing. However, this is only an aesthetic issue and does not impact the use of the mat. The seasoning from the potatoes below came off. Some of the brown stain remained.


When baking items that are oily (roasting vegetables) or buttery (cookies), it does take extra soap to clean the oil off. A few times, I have had to go back and re-clean the mat to get all of the oil off.


Even with some of the caveats above, I would still choose a non-stick silicone baking mat any day. Most of the time, I do not even need to clean the pan underneath the mat. And nothing sticks! Silicone baking mats are a great eco-friendly alternative to non-stick baking pans that can potentially leach toxic chemicals into foods. BakeitFun silicone baking mat is affordable and durable!



Disclosure: I received the product to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own and are honest.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Baby More Co. Baby Wrap [Review]

Baby wearing is near and dear to my heart. I read about the benefits (for mom parents and baby) of baby wearing when I was pregnant. After giving birth, I saw firsthand those benefits and still do. To this day, I still wear my 2 year old. Baby wearing is a great way to calm a fussy baby, get a stubborn napper to nap and keeps mom's hands free to do other stuff. Baby wearing can be done using many different carriers like a soft structured carrier, a wrap, a sling, etc. Baby More Co. baby wrap is a soft stretchy wrap that is a must hand accessory for any new mom.

 

Baby More Co. Baby Wrap     
Rating: total green check marks out of 5.


The Good
The Not So Good
Material is stretchy
Conventional cotton
Better for newborns and babies
Doesn't work as well for toddler
Affordable




Baby More Co. baby wrap is a solid piece of fabric that you wrap around yourself and your baby. The piece of fabric is a long rectangle with tapered ends for easier tying. This fabric has a little bit of stretch, so that you can get the right tightness to keep the baby safe and close. One of the intimidating parts of a baby wrap carrier is that the fabric is really long. This is common among all baby wraps. The fabric is long so that it fits most sizes of women (and men) and can be tied using different ties.

I have two other baby wraps: one by a popular brand and one by a lesser known brand. Both fabrics are pretty thick and do have some stretch to them. The Baby More Co. fabric is a little bit thinner than those, but that does not necessarily mean it is a bad thing. The thinner fabric is easier to maneuver while tying around your body. And, it is also better for the summer months when the thicker fabric might get too hot.

My first experience with a wrap was when my son was a newborn. The soft structured carrier was too big for him, so I used a wrap to keep him close. I liked carrying him in the wrap when I was doing chores around the house because I could move easier. That is one of the things I also like about the Baby More baby wrap. The fabric is soft and the stretchiness of the fabric allows the wrap carrier to move with you.

Baby More Co. baby wrap is designed for newborns to 35 lbs. I would highly recommend this carrier for a newborn baby or a smaller child, maybe up to 18 months. I tried this baby wrap with 2 year old son. I found it to be uncomfortable.

THE EXPERIMENT:
wearing a 27 pound toddler, front carry, while shopping


We left one store and needed to walk a few stores down to our next stop. I attempted to put my 2 year old son in the baby wrap in the parking lot, outside my car. It did take a little while to hold him while I tied the wrap around me. Plus, the ends kept hitting the ground. Trying to tie a wrap around yourself while out is usually difficult, so it is recommended that you tie the wrap on yourself at home and leave it loose until you get to your destination. Once I finally got him in, I tried to tighten the wrap as much as I could, though this was difficult with a squirmy toddler.


Results: I walked about 500 feet to the next store and wore him while I picked up a few items. While I was walking to the store, he was bouncing up and down a lot because of the give of the stretchy fabric. This was a little bit uncomfortable for me. The fabric kept pulling on my shoulders with every bounce. Aside from this, he was secure on me and he felt comfortable being worn (meaning that he stayed quiet and put).

 

Lessons Learned: Next time, I tried tying the wrap tighter and making sure it was as tight as I could get it. I also wore him higher, which was better on my lower back. However, he was still bouncing up and down when I walked. The Baby More Co. baby wrap would be better for a newborn or smaller child. Once you get into wearing a toddler with a wrap, you either need to select one that has less stretch or no stretch at all to ensure the toddler stays mostly in place. Wearing close to 30 pounds bouncing on the front of you is quite different than 15 pounds. I will try the hip carry next time to see if I can get a better fit.

There are many different ways to tie a wrap. Do some research online and try out the different ways. The tie that is usually recommended in the instructions that come with the wraps was not my favorite because I could never remember which way the ends went. Once I found the kangaroo tie, I was hooked. It was easy to remember and quick to do.

If you are looking for a newborn baby wrap or an infant baby wrap, I recommend Baby More Co. baby wrap because of the affordable price and the quality fabric. I would not recommend a wrap for a toddler or older child, even though most are designed to go to 35 pounds. Soft structured carriers are better for toddlers and older children. I will keep this carrier and use it if we have another baby.




Disclosure: I received the product to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own and are honest.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Limber Stretch Hip Hugs Belt [Giveaway]

There have been many times where I need to take my keys or my cell phone (or even some cash) with me on a run. When I ran my last 15K race, I borrowed my husband's running belt. Ever since then, I have wanted a belt for myself! I love being able to store a good amount of items and carry them on m hips. The Limber Stretch Hip Hugs belt can be used for running, hiking, exercises of any kind, and even like a modern fanny pack!

I received the Limber Stretch belt in size small. My usual pant size is 2 and the size Small fits very well. The belt is form fitting and lies flat again the body. As a comparison, my husband's running belt by another brand is a size small and he wears size 34 pants. His belt is a little lose on me, meaning that when I run, it moves up and down. Running belts should fit very snug on the hips so they stay in place when you move.

I love the bigger width of this belt. It is tall enough to fit my iPhone and even has a special pocket for it. Otherwise, there are lots of pockets throughout the belt so you can store just about anything in this running belt.

Enter below for a chance to win a Limber Stretch Hip Hugs Belt (3 mats in different sizes) below.



Please use the Giveaway Tools entry form. Open to US only. All entries will be verified. Duplicate, incomplete and invalid entries will be deleted. 

Giveaway
Limber Stretch Hip Hugs Belt ($29.99 ARV)


Disclosure: I received the product to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are honest and are my own. All Natural Katie is not responsible for companies/sponsors who fail to ship the prize.


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