How-To Never Have To Clean Your Grill Again

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courtesy of 5WPR
courtesy of 5WPR

The Cookina Reusable Grilling Sheet is the perfect tool to make your summertime grill season as painless as possible!

I always use parchment paper and liners when baking; it saves so much time in the cleanup process. I seriously hate doing dishes. The dishwasher is one of my favorite kitchen appliances, but certain items aren’t dishwasher safe– namely the grill. And since cleaning the grill can be cumbersome, I’m so grateful to have these Cookina Reusable Grilling Sheets to avoid that messy process.

When the sheets came in the mail (sent from Cookina’s reps) I was super excited. I thought the packaging was really cool. Not the box per se, but the fact that it comes rolled up and with a reusable metal ring to help you store it neatly and discreetly among your other grilling accessories as well as a scouring pad to help you clean it.

After grilling chicken wings, chicken tenderloins, sausages and vegetables, I have to say that i’m pretty pleased with the sheets. While it was harder to get grill marks on my food, the food was evenly cooked. And afterward the grill grate was still perfectly clean.

My only unanswered question is about how long the sheets last: how many uses one can get out of one sheet? I think they’ll last at least an entire season of grilling if not longer. Either way, the price is worth sparing yourself the grief of cleaning the grill grate for the time being.

I absolutely recommend the Cooking Reusable Grilling Sheets. They are available at Home Depots, Ace Hardware and the Cookina website. I have posted an affiliate link below to purchase. I think this is the best price you’ll find.

I’m so glad to have the sheets. I’m not a grill master, but I imagine this is going to make grilling meats and veggies that much simpler.

Thank you for purchasing your Cookina Reusable Grilling Sheet and Baking sheet using the link below. This keeps this blog operating. I appreciate your support!

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TACO TUESDAY… My Simple Ground Beef Tacos Recipe

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CC gnokii
CC gnokii

If you follow me on instagram, you probably know that I take Taco Tuesday seriously. Not really, but I do love tacos. My mom used to make something like this when I growing up. But a few years ago, I stopped buying taco kits and started making my own seasonings. Its so much better. And I can control the sodium content and there is no secret high fructose corn syrup, etc.

No I’m not claiming that these are authentic Mexican tacos, but I promise you that they are YUMMY! Tried and true! I intend to make a video for the guacamole– so stay tuned.

Anyway, this recipe is SUPER simple– as all of my recipes are. Enjoy!

 

Dine With Dani Tacos (serves 4)

[please read the entire recipe before you shop and again before you begin cooking]

 

Meat Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp taco seasoning (see large batch recipe)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ white onion diced
  • 1 minced garlic (or one tbsp from the jar)
  • 1 bell peppers diced (optional)
  • 1- 1.25 lb ground beef (90% lean or more)
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)

 

Serve with:

  • corn taco shells [3 per person]
  • arugula [to taste– just a few leaves per taco]
  • shredded cheese [to taste– likely a tbsp per taco]
  • sour cream [to taste– likely a tsp per taco]
  • salsa [to tast– likely a tbsp per taco]
  • cilantro [to taste] (chopped fresh or dried)
  • guacamole [to taste– likely a tsp per taco]

 

Taco Seasoning (large batch):

  • 1-cup chili powder
  • ¼ cup garlic powder
  • ¼ cup onion powder
  • ¼ cup red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup dried oregano
  • ½ cup paprika
  • ¼ cup cumin
  • ⅛ cup course sea salt (to taste)
  • ⅛ cup course black pepper grinds (to taste)
  • [dry whisp together in a bowl, store in a resealable container, will last forever!]

 

Tools:

  • bowl
  • stove
  • oven
  • pan
  • spatula
  • whisp
  • baking sheet

 

STEPS:

  1. Dice one half a white onion (and 1 garlic clove, optional: one bell pepper)
  2. In a pan heat 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat.
  3. Saute the diced onion (and optional whole bell pepper)
  4. Preheat oven on 350 degrees.
  5. Once onions are translucent (and peppers softened) add a tablespoon of minced garlic
  6. When garlic is fragrant and toasted, add 1 lb of ground beef.
  7. Salt the beef (onion, pepper, garlic mixture) to taste while still pink.
  8. Raise heat to high and brown ground beef constantly moving around with the spatula (or spoonula) .
  9. When beef is brown, turn off heat and stir in 3 tbsp of the DineWithDani taco seasoning.
  10. On a baking sheet, arrange shells in an overlapping pattern and heat in the oven for five minutes.
  11. IF your beef was less than 90% lean, drain off half of the liquid fat.
  12. SERVE!

 

Re-gram’d my own gram! Happy Taco Tuesday! #upgram #recipe #dinewithdani #foodblog #simplemeal

A video posted by Dani Styles (@dinewithdani) on

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My First Time at The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

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I was credentialed for the 2015 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival for the first time ever! This was huge for me because I’d never even attended as a civilian, and now DineWithDani is part of the press to cover the event. My how things change!

Anyway, it was a very rainy day in midtown. After checking in at the Loew’s Hotel and walking the few blocks to the festival grounds, patrons were scuttled into nearby parking garage until the storm [sorta] passed. Those of us waiting in the covered garage were allowed first entry when we the gates finally reopened– after all we were the first there.

I’ll admit a little bit of unwarranted disappointment when I first entered. I saw an area of booths to my left in the mud (um, no) and then I saw a tent full of liquor and sweets. I couldn’t fathom people paying hundreds of dollars for this, but once i got thru the liquor tent, I found two others behind it with all the good stuff!

*sigh* ahhh. This was what the hype was all about. My first bite of real food was an oyster with pot-liquor shaved ice on top. What? Wait, you froze pot liquor and now you’re gonna shave it on top of an oyster? How did you know this is what my heart desired when I didn’t even know? It was everything!

After that I saw barbeque joint after barbeque joint, from one end of the tent to the other. Places from right here in Atlanta to South Carolina to Texas. It was amazing. And they were all decent too. The stand out for me was One Hot Mama from South Carolina. Yes, please! Next time I’m there– that’ll be a stop on the road.

There were chocolatiers, bakeries, new american cuisine, new southern cuisine, indian, italian, and more, serving combinations I couldn’t even imagine. I was blown away by One Flew South. I’d heard good things and they were happily confirmed with some type of fava bean, chicken cracklin-something that made me dance. I ate at that booth twice!

There were bourbon companies, tequilas, beers, vodkas, wines. And I. Was. Lit. About halfway through. If you’re not into the food, no worries, there is plenty of booze to keep you occupied. But then, why wouldn’t you be into the food? The tasting tents are the best part of the festival right? WRONG!

The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival offers VIP experiences like cooking demonstrations, dinners, book signings, parties, trainings, etc. I heard so many wonderful things about those that I can not wait to attend next year! Hopefully as credentialed media so I can actually interview the amazing chefs who come from all over the country. And maybe even as a presenter! I met a group of ladies, The Cocktail Bandits, who presented this year. I’m already in love with what they offer. So I now know that the standard is pretty high! Much like the ticket prices.

I won’t pretend that this festival is in everyone’s reach. A day pass is more than $100 for the tents alone. The VIP experiences come at a VIP premium. But if you want to make it happen, you won’t be disappointed. For some food festivals you have to pay to enter and then pay for tickets to get the food. At the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival all of the samples/small plates are included in your ticket price. No surprises, no tickets, no long lines to re-up when you run low on tickets. I actually think I prefer this model because I know what it will cost up front to have the full experience.

I’ve made a slideshow of photos provided to me because my camera got wet. Womp womp. But I posted a few iphone videos on the official Dine With Dani facebook page from the festival grounds. I got all made up that morning, but you’ll can see how frizzy my hair got in the rain, how runny my makeup was from the steam and how glossy my eyes were from all the bourbon.

Anyway, when you see tickets go on sale for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival– be sure to grab them. It’s totally worth it. Wear comfortable shoes, check the weather report before leaving the house and if you have a wine glass lanyard– bring it! Trust me, I’m an expert now!

AFWF 2015.

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How-To: Big Brunch/Tiny Kitchen

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In all the confusion, I took no photos. This one is from Clemens & Vogelsang (Lumberjack Breakfast)
In all the confusion, I took no photos. Clemens Vogelsang (Lumberjack Breakfast)

This year I celebrated my birthday all weekend in small patches. I didn’t hit a landmark number like 21, 30 or 40. So I thought that hosting something at home would be an easy, low pressure option. When I hosted my “Globeleza Party” for Brazilian Carnaval in February, the hardest part was getting our tiny apartment ready for our 20 guests. Of course I worried that people wouldn’t like my feijoada, but I wasn’t stressed about food prep– I knew exactly what to do.

This year I decided to cook my favorite meal of the day: brunch. I kept the menu simple, but for some reason I STILL got behind. I invited everyone over for a 1:30pm meal followed by pool time. BUT we didn’t actually eat until after 4pm– so we missed the sun at the pool. I was so embarrassed. Thank goodness for my love who managed the grill and for my girl Gretta who kind of took over in the kitchen while I hosted my guests. Apparently I can drink and cook at the same time, but I cannot TALK and cook at the same time. Ah ha!

Anyway, this experience reiterated some things I knew all along, but clearly didn’t adequately consider for this event. Key learnings: (1) Timing is Everything. (2) You WILL Need an Assistant.

I knew that I needed to do SOME food prep ahead of time. I purchased the ingredients early on Saturday morning and that night I chopped five pounds of potatoes. But I didn’t anticipate that everything else would take forever. Cooking brunch for me and my love takes NO TIME. Cooking for 12 people is a bit more. I should’ve known this, but the concept clearly didn’t register completely. So this is what I will do next time:

MENU (recipes coming soon):

french toast

roasted herbed potatoes

assorted chicken sausages

roasted mini bell peppers

spicy scrambled eggs

scrambled eggs with veggies (mild)

mixed fruit

 

The Night Before:

  • wash and chop potatoes
  • wash and prep peppers (remove stems, seeds and such)
  • wash fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint)
  • thaw veggies for the scrambled eggs (that makes it easier)
  • slice bread (the bakery should be able to do that for you at purchase, but just in case they can’t)
  • chop fruit (remove stems, seeds and such)
  • PLAN where you will serve the food–  I generally set up the food in the kitchen so people can serve themselves and all other space in the small apartment can be used for seating and dining

The Morning of Event:

FIRST begin your potatoes

  • 1(a) herb and spice them with olive oil
  • 1(b) place in oven for roasting (the thinner the layer, the faster they will cook)

SECOND fire up grill and cook sausages (you’ll need the oven and stove top for other things)

THIRD mix the fruit in special bowl and add any special ingredients if you choose [like fresh mint], cover and re-refrigerate

FOURTH roast your mini peppers

FIFTH begin your french toast

  • 5(a) make your french toast batter in a big bowl
  • 5 (b) soak your bread (multiple batches at once)– I had to use disposable roasting trays to accommodate all the bread
  • 5(c) grab every surface you can cook on and heat butter for cooking– I had a nonstick pan on each eye of my stove (i should have also used my electric cooktop too)
  • 5(d) as each slice is cooked, place and stack it in a roasting pan

SIXTH once the potatoes are done, turn the oven down to 200 degrees (or as low as 150), cover and place all cooked food (so far) in the oven to keep warm until you are ready to serve.

SEVENTH begin your eggs

  • 7(a) set up two nonstick pans on the stove
  • 7(b) whisp both batches of eggs together with your fresh herbs
  • 7(c) with a little olive oil and salt, saute mixed veggies in one pan
  • 7(d) when veggies are done, pour half the eggs over the veggies and scramble
  • 7(e) add cayenne or whatever spicy ingredient you choose the remaining eggs, whisp again, then scramble in second pan.

Yes, it seems like common sense, but without an exact game plan, you might find yourself behind the eightball as guests begin to arrive. Especially if some of your friends come early “to help”. And remember, you don’t want the food to be kept warming in the oven for a long time– the texture of breads and meats will start to seem stale. So it is important that you time it right. I say about 1.5 to 2 hours ahead of time, put your potatoes in the oven. They can warm for a while and still be good. 

I hope that these key learnings will make your big brunch more successful than mine. I’m looking forward to a do-over pretty soon! Anyway, happy dining. Remember: life is good, so eat it up!

 

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Get Your Passport… It Is Time For Your First International Trip!

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from the monitor on the plane
from the monitor on the plane

GET YOUR PASSPORT! IT IS TIME FOR YOUR FIRST INTERNATIONAL TRIP!!!

So you’re ready to take your first international trip? I went to mexico at 17, the same year as 9/11 (don’t do the math) and I didn’t need a passport– just parental permission. But now, a passport is needed to leave the U.S. period. And my passport never saw a stamp until 2014. I held on to it for years. And I was so proud and cheesing from ear to ear when the Brazilian government official stamped my passport and said “bem-vindo”. Actually i think he said “welcome”, but whatever.

If you don’t know where to start for your first international trip, I’ve got ten steps for you!

  1. Get a passport. I know that may seem like common sense, but you won’t believe how many people say they want to go to London or France or Japan, but they never take the first step to invest in a passport. In the grand scheme of travel expenses, its probably one of the best and cheapest investments you’ll make. $135 + cost of photo. PS- don’t expect your photo to be good.
  2. Pick a Country (and maybe a city). If you’re like me and lust after everything on the travel channel or inside national geographic, the choice could prove difficult. So for this I say follow your heart and go big. If your heart is torn, talk to friends and family, or whoever you intend to travel with. Actually, finding a travel companion can be harder than picking a location.
  3. Do Your Research. Common questions to have answered early that could change your decision: What language(s) do they speak? What kind of food can you expect? What are some local customs? When is the best time to travel? What’s the weather like? Does my church or alma mater offer group travel with excursions? How much is average for airfare and accommodations? Do I know anyone who has been? Do I know anyone who lives or lived there? Does our government discourage or regulate travel to this place? Does it require an entry visa in advance of travel?
  4. Apply for a Visa. Not all countries require an entry visa, but that should be part of your research. Is a visa required? How much does it cost? How long does it take to approve? How long is it valid? What are the requirements for approval? Some countries will give you the visa when you get there (aka the stamp in your passport) but others require advanced application. For Brazil, the process of gathering materials for the application and awaiting the response made me kind of anxious. It was all worth it.
  5. Book Airfare. Some visa applications require you to have your airfare already booked. And if you don’t need a visa, book it as far in advance as is feasible for you. Consider your financial, personal, social and professional obligations at this time.
  6. Book Accommodations. In your research, you already found out what prices were common, but you should remember that hotels are not your only option. Airbnb is blowing up. Hostels are getting better and better. And truthfully, depending on how exotic or remote your chosen location, those may not even be options. So be open minded.
  7. Make a List of Activities. When you pay the premium to travel internationally, staying in your hotel or laying on the beach all day probably isn’t the best use of your time. Go see something historic. Go do something philanthropic. Go learn something new. Your vacation will be better for it. And if it goes badly, at the very least you’ll have an interesting vacation story. But just keep in mind the cultural customs and try not to piss off the locals.
  8. Don’t Piss Off the Locals. Travel blogs, books and more can give you the do’s and don’t for nearly wherever you want to go. If the city you want to visit expects one to dress modestly, do that. If the city you’re visiting is one where people smile and say hello to strangers, try that. Most importantly: if they speak another language and you hit a wall of communication do not, DO NOT yell in english at the locals expecting them to understand.
  9. Prepare for the Expected. There are a few things that will keep coming up in your research, like the suggestions to learn to say a few phrases. If you leave your hotel, you’ll need them. And avoid high exchange rates by exchanging your money at your bank before you leave. Speaking of money, a flesh tone money belt to wear under your clothes may not be a bad idea– just don’t open it on the street. Again, most of the “common sense” international travel tips will come up in your research.
  10. Embrace the Unexpected. Some people say to prepare for the unexpected. That oxymoron doesn’t fit with international travel. No matter how much research you do, you’ll never be prepared for everything that comes your way. So just do your best to go with the flow. You’re on vacation now!
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Beer Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Orlando

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I had the pleasure of dining at Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. The chef’s special menu was paired perfectly with five different brews by New Belgium. Chef Will Walters did amazing job, the hotel staff treated us like royalty and after a great meal, it was nice to go up to a tidy, comfortable room. Enjoy this recap. 

 

 

 

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My Acai Protein Smoothie Recipe

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my acai protein smoothieA few years ago, smoothies became the snack du jour. They were touted as diet food (meal replacements) and soon smoothie shops started popping up everywhere. We were paying $5 and $6 for fruit blended together. And ultimately all we did was increase our sugar intake.

After a few studies regarding the myths and facts about smoothies, we got smart! The public demanded that smoothie shops add veggies, yogurt and/or protein to the mix. Home electronic companies jumped on the bandwagon and started marketing “smoothie makers”. So now everyone has a bullet or ninja at home to make their own.

I don’t have either of those, but my blender is no slouch! And I make some amazing smoothies with it. Remember: when it comes to cooking, its not all about the tool– its about the ingredients.

Anyway, I call smoothies my frenemy because they are so yummy (friend), but so sugary (enemy). So I like all frenemies, I take them in small small doses. And what do I put in mine? Seriously only a handful of quality ingredients. And NO ice.

The DineWithDani Acai Protein Smoothie/Vitamina

1 cup plain greek yogurt (flavored yogurt has too much sugar and the texture ruins the smoothie)

1 pack of Sambazon Acai puree (it says sweetened, but its really not sweet- and if you have another brand– it’ll work)

1 frozen banana (when bananas are on the way to being overly ripe, I peel them and freeze them in a ziplock bag for smoothies at a later date)

0.5 cup of almond milk (you can use cashew milk, skim milk, lactaid or whatever you have)

1tbsp of honey (I choose raw honey and honestly it isn’t just for sweetness, it really affects the texture of your smoothie)

optional: one serving of protein powder

optional: two large kale leaf OR one extra-large collard green leaf (cleaned)

 

smoothie ingredientsClick below for additional notes…

(more…)

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A Summer Sensation in Orlando… Get Your Tix NOW!!

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Summer Sensation - Josh ThompsonEvery year my Memorial Day weekends have been a fixed series of events that include the Atlanta Jazz Festival, a family cookout and a day of rest! This year I’ll be deviating from that formula completely by traveling to Florida to attend the Summer Sensation at the Hyatt Regency Orlando!

This year the hotel has packaged a holiday weekend stay that includes pool parties with mermaid lessons for the kiddies, an Italian-American barbecue with their acclaimed chef and a concert featuring some of the hottest up and coming country music artists!  On Sunday May 24, Josh Thompson, JT Hodges and Nikki Lane will heat up the night at an outdoor concert on the hotel garden terrace. I’m not the biggest country music fan, but I have to admit after doing my research that these acts are pretty good. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we started hearing their names everywhere!

I love to travel, so the opportunity to check out a a new city and hotel is always a thrill. Although I’ve been to Orlando, I rarely stay in a hotel there. So I’m excited to see what the Hyatt Regency Orlando is bringing to the table. You all know that I’m a bit of a hotel snob. I look for comfort (that includes cleanliness and ambiance), style (well designed with nice fixtures) and service (room service and more from a friendly accommodating staff). Of course value matters, but that is subjective in each city. I’ll let you guys know if they bring it!

Anyway, what I’m most excited about is the food! Is that bad? The reviews of Chef Will Walters are pretty impressive. So I hope he’s given free reign to get dowwwn(!) at this barbecue– my mouth waters just thinking about what it could be. I love Italian food. And as a southern girl, barbecue is in my blood (low country style of course). So I’m curious to see what he comes up with!!!

I don’t have any little ones, so I’m a little jealous that I can’t attend Mermaid Academy in the grotto pool, but I’ll survive as long as I can hang poolside for a little while. I’m really anxious for summer at this point!

Anyway, facebook me or tweet me @DineWithDani if you’re (going to be) in Orlando for Memorial Day! And let me know if you’re coming the Summer Sensation! Its going to be a good weekend! Click here for tickets!!

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The Coffee Nerd… My Official Coffee Handbook/Cookbook

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image001I’ve never been a morning person, but I have an unconscious routine each morning, which unfortunately includes hitting the snooze button at least once. I get up, I brush my teeth and head straight to the kitchen. Not to grab breakfast, but to begin a completely necessary ritual: My Daily Coffee.

 

I don’t start my day without a cup of joe. Whether I’m in the mood for instant (I’m a fan of Starbucks VIA) or espresso (I have a kettle for that), I start that process almost as soon as I wake up. The best is when my love is home and gets the morning going with the french press. Good times.

 

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a book that details everything I could ever need to know about something I already love! The Coffee Nerd should be call the official coffee handbook. It’s perfect for those like me who love it and even those who don’t really get the big whoop. Those people would be surprised at how many different flavor categories there are in the bean world. Not to mention all the different drinks you can make!

 

This book lays out flavor palettes and how they are affected by the various roasting techniques. It even gets into all the different ways to brew it– including all the fancy shmancy beverages you see on coffeeshop menus. There is even a glossary for quick reference in the future.

 

If you are even the least bit curious about what makes a great cup of coffee, this book would be an excellent addition to your cookbook collection. While, no, it is not technically a “cookbook”, it does offer measurements for grinds-to-water ratios (milk, cream, etc)– so you can experiment at home. Or you can read up about something and go let a barista (a professional coffee maker) do what they do best. Your choice!

 

And if you’re like me, pick up this book and find a whole new bag of reasons to love coffee. You’ll be able to confirm what you suspected about it and discover things you didn’t know.

 

Its an easy read because it gets right to the point! Much like a good cup of coffee, it will energize you to get out there.


Author Ruth Brown, an Australian-born journalist and writer, currently works as the arts and entertainment editor at The Brooklyn Paper, and previously worked as an editor and reporter at Willamette Week in Portland, Oregon—a city known for its coffee.

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Pasta Chips… Italian-style Snacks on-the-go

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past chips

If you’ve been following Dine With Dani over the years– you’re probably aware that I love Italian food. Its something about those specific combinations of flavors that gets my inner glutton completely giddy.
When I heard about the NEW snack food Pasta Chips, I was really excited. I got a box in the mail with four different flavors to try. Marinara, Alfredo, Garlic Olive Oil and Mediterranean Sea Salt. I put tasting them on hold for travel to Orlando (more videos to come), but when I finally opened them– I was pleasantly surprised. I wished I had taken them on the road trip with family.

 

For me, Pasta Chips are more like crackers. The texture is thick and they crunch more than crisp– if that makes sense. Each bag makes a suggestion for how to serve them. Suggestions include eating with cheese, with sliced veggies, with mini meatballs, etc. But truthfully, its pretty much everything I can do to NOT eat them directly from the bag!

 

PastaChips-NewRenders-GOOI think these may be my new go-to for parties and platters. My favorite flavors are the Marinara and the Garlic Olive Oil. I’m looking forward to trying the spicy tomato. They really do taste like pasta with sauce! And when served with charcuterie, they become magical. See for yourself! They are now available at all major grocers.

 

QUICK FACTS:

  • Made with All Natural ingredients – Premium Semolina Flour and Farro
  • Oven Baked – Thin and Crispy
  • 120 Calories and 20% less fat then leading pita chip brands
  • No Cholesterol
  • Kosher Certified

 

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